Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NA version of Persona 2: Innocent Sin had features cut dropped for localization

When the PSP port of Persona 2: Innocent Sin was announced earlier this year, Andriasang unveiled a few new features added specifically to the port, including the Climax Theatre, complete with new subquests and the ability to download extra missions and create your own quests.

Sound kind of cool? Well, the subquests are still there, but Atlus removed the DLC and mission creation from the North American localization and neglected to tell anyone. The official explanation can be found at Atlus' forums, which includes these quotes:

"As has been the case with other similar games and their custom content features, a number of challenges—technical and otherwise—prevented the inclusion of the basic creation/customization functionality within the Climax Theatre for the North American release of Persona 2: Innocent Sin for PSP System."

"And, before people ask, no, we really can't go into the "why"s and "what happened"s here, but it was not a decision made lightly, and it was not a case of something being removed just because we're the Big Bad Publisher that hates fun."

"The only thing I want to add here is that this [quest creation being in the NA version] isn't true. At no point from the NA announcement to the release was the Quest Creation aspect mentioned in any press releases, Faithful blasts, or website updates."

This does little to clarify the matter. Functionally, it's probably not all that big of a deal, because many players probably wouldn't have used it anyway. (I know I wouldn't.) It's certainly nothing approaching the Snow Queen quest from the original Persona, which was a huge part of the game and was hacked out of the original English PSOne release, but included properly in the PSP version. As noted by them, technically the quest creation was never announced as being part of the NA version, but Atlus should probably realize that a good number of their fans read import blogs like Siliconera and Andriasang, heard about it there, and assumed that it would make it in (like the forum poster that brought up this issue!) But the biggest concern is that Atlus USA did nothing to say contrary up front, thereby committing the sin of omission. It's a no-win situation if they can't include it, but they preferred to go the skeezy route by letting people buy it and find it missing, rather than deal with a minor fan uprising before release and having them swear off purchasing it (though they likely still would've bought it anyway.)

It's especially frustrating in this particular case. Anyone with a bit of internet savvy can either hack their PSP or download ePSXe, patch an ISO and play the fan translated version of P2:IS for free. While this is technically illegal (unless you own the original Japanese PSOne disc), the availability of such an option should, in theory, have given Atlus an incentive to make any products superior to what you could download off the 'net. (And with less loading times, too!) Adding extra features is a good way to do this - silently removing them because fans should be grateful that they're getting it in the first place is not only disrespectful to their consumers but actually a little bit ignorant to the reality of the gaming world.

This hasn't been the first time this generation that this has happened. The DS port of Nippon Ichi's Rhapsody initially had a few extra scenarios taken from the later games, which were advertised on the English web site and would've been the first time English gamers would've gotten to play them. These were removed for the NA release and the web site quitely updated to remove those particular features. NISA was called out on it and eventually apologized. A similar thing happened with Yakuza 3 and its removal of its hostess bar simulation segments and other minigames, which caused something of a shitstorm. This was discovered before release, and Sega admitted to it, sparking calls for a boycott. That didn't work, which was actually good, because the sales were enough to convince the company to localize the sequel, albeit without any stupid cuts this time. The English DS version of Dragon Quest IV was inexplicably missing its party talk function, though it was included in the releases of V and VI. But the only real way for companies to stop this crap is to call them out on it, and here we are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Retronauts Ep. 22 Starring Kunio

Episode 22 of the reborn Retronauts podcast was posted over the weekend, which I guest starred on! We spend a good hour and a half or so trying to wade through the massive lineage of Kunio games, beginning with the brawlers (the sub-average Renegade, the cult classic River City Ransom to its various sequels/spinoffs) through the xtreme-ish sports games (beginning with the rad but sluggish Super Dodgeball, and eventually branching out to most other major sports, including the silly USA-based basketball game, Ganbare Dunk Heroes.) There are a few things I wanted to note, partially because we ran out of time, and partially because the Kunio article on the site needs a bit of updating, so consider this an addendum to both:

-I think I quoted the name of the Japanese gangs as "bousouzuka" when it's actually "bousouzoku". Whenever I get around to revamping the Kunio article I want to include a quick dictionary of some of the terms related to this subculture.

-All versions of Renegade are awful, but the Euro-exclusive, Natsume-developed Sega Master System port is the least awful. Maybe the upcoming 3DS remake will be better, but it sounds ridiculously thin given that it's a retail release.

-Here is a picture of the referenced title screen for Renegade III:

Yes, it is awful. Here's a longplay to show you why.

-And here is a picture of Nijiiro Dodge Ball: Otome Tachi no Seishun:

As you can see, it's more or less identical to the Kunio dodgeball games, but with an all girl squad.

On an unrelated note, seems to be busted and I don't know why...I'm assuming it's something with the domain registrar. In the meantime, the direct URL, will work OK. Same deal with the Castlevania Dungeon - is good to go. What an excellent day for Go Daddy to screw up, right on the 25th anniversary of the series. In fact, hopefully you can view this post through somewhere that isn't just a news reader. I guess we'll see!

UPDATE: Turns out my ISP is having issues with DNS forwarding, or something like that. So if you have Optimum Online like I do you may have issues, otherwise it's business as usual!

Friday, September 23, 2011

What the Heck Happened to Contra: Evolution Revolution?

In November of 2010, Konami of China showed off a brand new remake of Contra (titled 魂斗罗:进化革命, which translates something like Contra: Evolution Revolution) in a department store in Guangzhou.

It's almost a year later and there's no official release, with only these pictures from the forums at Chinese site CSYX as evidence of existence. It appears to be a 2.5D remake with 16:9 with HD-quality graphics, set to be released in the arcades. There are four playable characters, including two brand new ones in addition to the usual Bill and Lance. It also features a few of the niceties introduced in Contra III, like the ability to change weapons or fire off screen-clearing explosives. Its levels also seem to be based off the NES version rather than the fairly short (and overall inferior) arcade release.

So what happened to it?

We don't have any actual answers, of course, other than to ponder its existence and postulate. this site proclaims to have a board for sale, I think, but the legitimacy of that is questionable. Konami of China's website only mention of it is in reference to the mobile version, whose darker graphics look similar to the purported arcade version, although obviously in 2D. It features weapon switching and the bombs, though there are only the standard two characters.

It's strange that Konami's Shanghai division would be involved in any of their big international IPs, considering as far as I can tell, their work mostly revolves around mobile stuff and various behind-the-scenes development work. I've no idea if arcades in China are still viable, but it still seems like a strange place to stick a remake, especially with neither hide nor hair of it mentioned in Japan or North America. It would be very appropriate for the XBLA or PSN, which is always possible - Konami flashed a teaser that something new was coming for Contra back at E3, although that also went much of nowhere. Unless there are severe quality issues, it'd certainly be better than the emulated version of the arcade game that we got back in the early days of the service. Then again, with a few exceptions (the Rebirth series, CV: Harmony of Despair and SH: Shattered Memories to debateable extents), modern day Konami has been mishandling their properties with near-embarassing levels, so who knows what's going on, really.

More pictures of both versions:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Standout Tracks from VGM Poll Thread - Pt. 2

More awesome tracks from our best VGM poll that aren't yet getting enough love to make it on the list! You've still got 9 days to compile and post a list (by 11:59 PM EST on Friday Sept 30th) so please give these your consideration!

Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks - Destination Overworld

I was never a terribly big fan of the soundtracks in the post 16-bit Zelda games, but this track is outstanding. I guess not many people have played/liked Spirit Tracks?

Odin Sphere - Theme

95% of the music on my MP3 player (a four year old Zune, to be precise) is all VGM, which infuriates my fiance. But if there's any one song she actually likes, it's this one. Beautiful soundtrack overall, definitely underrated work from Sakimoto and crowd. Speaking of which, his and his friends' music has been getting little love outside of Final Fantast Tactics. The votes for this, Final Fantasy XII, and Tactics Ogre are crucially low!

Gradius Gaiden - Snowfield

My favorite Gradius theme, outside of maybe Burning Heat from Gradius II.

Command and Conquer - Act on Instinct

Frank Klepack is one of the best Western VGM composers out there, and much of his work with Westwood during the mid-90s is outstanding. Hell March from C&C: Red Alert gets all of the love (and more than a few votes on the poll) but I've always been partial to this one, which is the first song you hear in-game and thus the one I've associated most with the franchise. This version is the one used in-game in the original PC release - the console and CDs use one with voice samples, which I never liked as much, but don't suffer from the compression that this one does.

Crusader: No Remorse - Dimension 2012

Origin's short lived Crusader series had some amazing music by demo scene composer Andrew Sega (AKA Necros). This is one of my favorites...

Crusader: No Regret - The Traveler (Remix)

...and this is my other favorite. This one in particular is a remixed version of the title screen theme, used in the sequel, No Regret. I also learned that some outside group pitched a PSP version to EA back in 2006, which was of course shot down, but Mr. Sega went back and did another remix of this theme.

Freedom Fighters - Battle for Freedom

Jesper Kyd is an outstanding composer who's been around quite awhile. He's mostly known nowadays for Assassin's Creed and Hitman, though I've preferred his work on Freedom Fighters, which features eastern European chanting combined with awesome electronica.

Guilty Gear XX#Reload Korean - The Great Empress (Millia's Theme)

The Korean PS2 release of Guilty Gear XX# Reload had a whole new soundtrack provided by Korean rock band N.EX.T. It has a very synthesized feel similar to the arcade release of Guilty Gear X (whose soundtrack was rearranged for all home ports), but there's outstanding compositions, especially Millia's theme here.

Radiant Historia - The Edge of Green

One of the better traditional JRPGs to come out this generation, Yoko Shimimura does some bangup work on this soundtrack. This here's the boss theme, though the rest of the soundtrack is good. She also did the music for Capcom's PSP game Last Ranker, which has gotten even less votes because no one has played it. (I haven't listened to a whole lot of the soundtrack myself yet either, honestly.)

Xenoblade - Colony 9

Maybe this is too new, considering the English version just came out last month, but Xenoblade is also full of fantastic music, many of the better songs again provided by Yoko Shimomura. This is the first "overworld" theme...

Xenoblade - Gaur Plains

...and this is the second one. Both excellent. The only Xenoblade song that's charting right now is Unfinished Battle, which is a decent song, but lack the "cool breeze" sensation of these songs.

Ys: The Ark of Napishtim - Quatera Woods

Probably my favorite Ys song that isn't Be Careful from Ys III/Felghana.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Falcom JDK Band Performs Live at TGS 2011

My brother who lives in Japan attended the 2011 Tokyo Game Show. He was not very impressed with the show overall, but he enjoyed the live Legend of Heroes music performed by Kotera Kanako and the Falcom JDK Band. I'm told Falcom did a live stream of the entire performance, so there might be better recordings floating around out there than these clips recorded on a cell phone, but I don't see any others on Youtube yet and I figured there were enough Legend of Heroes fans here to justify posting them.

"Cry for Me, Cry for You", the theme song from Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky the 3rd

"Aoi Kiseki", the theme song from Legend of Heroes Ao no Kiseki

"Sora o Miagete," the ending theme from Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky the 3rd

"Way of Life," the Theme song from Legend of Heroes Zero no Kiseki

"Gin no Ishi Kin no Tsubasa", the theme song from Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky SC

Snatcher recording session

Jeremy Blaustein recently posted this incredible photo on his Facebook page, from recording Snatcher, which he has given permission to be shared elsewhere online. It's such a great snapshot from an interesting period in history (the change from cartridge to CD-ROM), that I'm reposting it here. Click the photo for a larger image.

Jeremy Blaustein said:
The only Snatcher recording session photo. 1993. Historic. Most people agree this is the first video game ever made with good voice acting. — with Lucy Childs, Jim Parks, Jr., Ray Van Steen, Michael Blaustein, Susan Mele and Jeff Lupetin.

The Facebook page had tags, so I've had to add letters for ease. For a detailed character gallery, check out out THIS PAGE.

A - Lucy Childs (Metal Gear; Female Employee)
B - Jim Parks, Jr. (Random Hajile; Napoleon; Jean Jack Gibson; Ivan Rodorigez)
C - Ray Van Steen (Benson Cunningham; Harry Benson; Elijah Modnar; Chin Shu Oh; Narrator; Ramen Guy)
D - Michael Blaustein
E - Susan Mele (Jamie Seed; Fortune Teller)
F - Jeremy Blaustein
G - Jeff Lupetin (Gillian Seed; Snatcher)

Although their names weren't tagged, I presume the two ladies in the background, next to Susan Mele, are Kimberley Harne (Mika Slayton) and Lynn Foosaner (Katrina Gibson; Lisa; Telephone Operator). Or possibly the other way around.

Photos like this, taken using actual camera film and then later scanned in, are great. The fashions, the lighting, the texture that genuine camera-negatives give a photo, all add to the atmosphere when conveying that moment in time. I often wonder why we don't see more such photos from such events - perhaps no one thought to take them, or perhaps they're sitting in a drawer somewhere? Regardless, it's excellent to see these things resurface years later.

Snatcher was a defining moment in games for me, from when I first saw previews of the original and then later when I saw previews in GameFAN on the PS1 update, to when I was lucky enough to find someone selling their Sega CD games in a local paper, and then playing it and describing it to friends, none of whom had any idea what I was talking about because no one owned a Sega CD and they were all about the PS1. Their loss I say. And as others have said, the acting really was top notch.

Also, is it just me or does Jeremy look a bit like Ryo Hazuki in that leather jacket? It's worth noting HG101 has a lengthy interview with Jeremy, including his work on Shenmue. Check it out HERE if you hadn't before.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Standout Tracks from VGM Poll Thread - Pt. 1

The video game music poll voting thread has several pages filled with some excellent music. My own list consists largely of 8-bit NES/SMS, JRPGs, assorted mid-90s PC stuff, Castlevania, and some recent indie games. But other votes are widening that range, showing off Euro C64/Amiga tunes, visual novels/eroge, SNK, lots of Shin Megami Tensei, and some more bits of Falcom. I'll be going through and picking out some of my favorites and posting them here for the next two weeks, in hopes to get more people engaged. Remember! If you see your favorite type of music unrepresented and don't vote for it, it's your fault! The rules aren't terribly stringent - you can pick up to 100 songs, but if you can't pick that many, that's fine. You also don't have to pick a top 5 either, though obviously picking those will give it a much, much higher chance of showing up on the final list.

Neotokyo - Tin Soldiers

Someone asked if voting for fanmods was allowed, something which I hadn't anticipated. But I decided to allow it based on the quality of this track, from the Half Life 2 mod Neotkyo, which has already received a number of votes. I don't like the squealing in the beginning of this song, but it gets pretty good around the 2:01 mark, and legitimately amazing around 4:15

Midnight Resistance - Flood of Power

I did an article on these Data East shooters awhile back - how did I not remember how awesome this song was? I'm pretty sure it's done using Hitoshi Sakimoto's Terpsichorean sound driver too, which produced some amazing music on the Genesis.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni - dreamenddischarger

All I know about this series is that they're visual novels done by the same folks as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. I'm also seeing a whole lot of votes for tracks from here. I haven't even listened too all of them, but this one here is one of the most popular. I love the way this song starts off with a violin and somehow morphes into a full out dance rave somewhere along the line. Not that I'm complaining - it's an excellent song.

Monty on the Run - Main Theme

How did I go 30 years on this planet without becoming acquainted with one of the best songs on the Commodore 64? I'm embarassed for myself.

Steins;Gate - Sky Clad Observer

I saw a lot of ads for this visual novels when I was in Tokyo recently, probably because it was just ported to the Xbox 360, has an anime that began earlier this year, and takes place in Akihabara. I've long outgrown most J-pop anime-style intros - the name Megumi Hayashibara gives me cold shivers nowadays - yet this one is still pretty catchy.

It's also worth checking out the VGM of the Day on Youtube, which, as the name states, posts a new track to listen to. Definitely worth browsing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Update 9/13 - Toejam & Earl, Sol Divide, Flight of the Amazon Queen, Teenagent, The Gene Machine, Lifeline

Toejam and Earl is such a befuddling game. Most mascot-type characters of the era starred in side scrolling platformers, while these two goofy aliens starred in a bizarre pseudo Rogue-like, a term I wasn't familiar with when I first played it at the age of thirteen, but nonetheless came to appreciate. Of course, the sequel went a more typical route (though still quite different from similar titles) and isn't as fondly remembered for it. There was a third game for the Xbox, though no one much cared for it.

Picking up the shooter coverage this week is Sol Divide, the one Psikyo shooter that is entirely unlike all of the other games the company put out, and is generally hated on for it. That doesn't entirely mean it's understood - it's an ugly, strange mess of a game that almost flatly deemphasizes shooting over melee combat, but it is an interesting one, at least, especially with the good-idea-bad-execution RPG-type story mode in its PlayStation and Saturn ports. This one did make it to the US thanks to budget publisher XS Games, although it was a dirty hack job that took out half the dialogue, forgot to translate the rest, and chopped out the ability to save your game, making the RPG mode entirely useless.

I'm also putting up three articles from the adventure game book. One of the reasons I'd started playing practically every adventure game I could find was to hopefully stumble upon something that was as good as the LucasArts classics. Sadly, nothing quite reached the same heights, but that doesn't meant there weren't any decent games. Flight of the Amazon Queen is a goofy Indiana Jones knockoff; Teenagent, despite the goofy game, is an eminently amusing game from Poland; and The Gene Machine, the final game by the developers of last week's kusoge, is the funniest take on Victorian England I've ever seen. The first two are easily accessible nowdays, with Amazon Queen being both freeware on the PC and available on the Apple App Store, and Teenagent available for free from The Gene Machine is lost to time, however, but it's well worth tracking down regardless.

Our kusoge this week is Lifeline, which attempts to represent the future of gaming by making you command the onscreen character with words rather than joystick movements. Despite its forward thinking, it totally fails just because the technology isn't even remotely up to snuff. Too bad.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Videogames Electronic Games Thought (And Hoped) We'd Never See

Originally published from 1981 to 1985 (and resurrected later), Electronic Games was one of the first periodicals devoted entirely to videogames (as they wrote it as one single word). In their March 1982 issue (#3) they had "A Humorous Look at Some Unlikely Future Videogames." I'm sure what they came up with was terribly funny in 1982. Some of it still is. But you know what'd be even more fun? Digging their "ridiculous" ideas up now and see how many of them have since been made into actual video games!

Now their descriptions are sometimes awfully detailed and represent to a degree the technological status of 1982, as well as the general state of the industry, so we'll be counting games that follow the same general concept, or even just include the proposed main elements (after all, games have grown more complex in general, and many of the ideas on their own would nowadays be dismissed as overly simple). Do comment, of course, if you know any more fine examples.

Freeway Menace

While not following the "exact" same story premise and they don't (predominantly) take place on the freeway, the Crazy Taxi games would be an almost perfect fulfillment of the basic idea for the gameplay.

The screenshot that I think was supposed to go with it (although it gives the game a different title) on the other hand looks much closer to Carmageddon, while it also resembles the top-down view GTA games in their habit to distribute points for killing pedestrians.

Alien Invaders

Holy crap, that's a risque concept! I still don't think we'll ever see that one in a commercial game, unless you count X-Com.

Nuclear Wargames

I vaguely remember nuclear weapon technology being somewhat of a big deal in Civilization as an optional research, then later the nuclear strike in Command & Conquer as a straight wargame? Nowadays nuclear war in video games sounds almost trivial, doesn't it?

Prom Night Massacre

This is kinda a cool concept, like a slasher movie with one player being the mysterious killer and the other one of the potential victims. Could somehow work as an online game where the two (or more) players genuinely have know means of knowing who's the killer, and that card is dished out randomly at the beginning of each round. I'm sure there must be something like that at least as an optional mode in any game, even if lacking the prom night scenario?

Gang Wars

They really could have foreseen this, couldn't they? Double Dragon, River City Ransom, GTA, Mafia, The Warriors, whatever. Next!

Medflies / Deluxe Medflies

Maybe for Harvest Moon 25: Industrial Edition?

Roman Circus

Gladiator games are legion, too. This started very early on with games like the 1986 arcade 1-on-1 fighter Gladiator, more recently we'd gotten Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance and Colosseum: Road to Freedom, some of the Asterix games, too. Shadow of Rome even tied the fights into a huge epic narrative, sporting the complete package of wild animal fights, gladiator rumbles and chariot races. The latter have been explored quite frequently as well (Computer Circus Maximus, Coliseum, Ben Hur 2000, Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars).

I think putting players in control of the wild animals would be new, though (or maybe there's an unlockable in one of the aforementioned games that I don't know about). The whole Christian convert angle promises hilarity, too.

PADI Scuba Scare

Why hasn't this concept been exploited more often, actually? There are a couple of diving-themed games for 8-bit systems, but most are rather simple shmups. The only true simulation is Sea Rogue, released in 1992, where the actual diving is just one part of the whole expedition you have to plan from the ground-up, including hiring divers, scientists and engineers. The rival here is always CPU-controlled, though.

Afterwards many games have dabbled with stages where you're diving for treasure, from Super Mario 64 to Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), but a modern, competetive diving action/simulation? Hell, yeah!

Teacher Terror

This has been done so many times in homebrew games, only from the opposite angle. The commercial consequence would be Bully / Canis Canem Edit. The teacher perspective, however, would be... quite boring, I think. (Though I'm sure there are enough Japanese teacher-student porn games to make up for it.)

Lynch Mob

This is also kinda contained in GTA (although you're hunted by the feds there, they're just as bloodthirsty as soon as you hit a 2-star wanted level).

Brain Transplant

Done in Life and Death (the sequel carries the even more fitting subtitle The Brain), in an even more macabre manner than it is described here. Take Trauma Center for the less tongue-in-cheek approach.


Political simulations with a focus on corrupt activities are typically set not as close to home, favourably in fictional third-world or communist countries (Tropico series), or in historical settings (Merchant Prince).

The article also has a list of "coming-soons":
Video Horseshoes (almost certainly done as a mini-game somewhere)
JAA Championship Jacks (ehrm... no.)
Potato Yields in Brecklovik, Russia (most definitely not)
Video Coin Toss (mini game in many Soccer simulations. And in Shenmue II, but there you always lose)
Natural Disasters (Disaster Report says hello)
Video Iconoclasm (WTF? There's an indie metroidvania whith the title Iconoclasts!)

Actual game screenshots borrowed from Abandonia (Life & Death 2), Strategy Informer (Shadow of Rome, The Warriors), Mobygames (Sea Rogue) and Game Breakers (Carmageddon).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

GameFAN issue #06

It’s taken a while – in fact page 66 even jokes that it took 6 months to arrive – but GameFAN issue 6 is finally with us. That’s a lot of sixes, isn’t it readers? Clearly the BEAST has willed it to be.

The first thing that strikes you is the stunning, hand-drawn cover art, which is rarity these days. I collect games mags as much if not more than I collect games these days, and very few magazines do anything other than recycle CG assets handed out by PR people. Very few actually commission artists to create the covers. EDGE almost never does it. GamesTM hasn’t done so for... I can’t even recall when last. EGM when I subscribed didn’t even bother with decent CG (their Halo cover looked like an exploded Ribena box). Leaving only France’s IG, Retro Gamer and GameFAN doing anything of merit. And to be fair, most of the time Retro Gamer’s content is so old that they’re forced to produce their own content for covers.

The man behind GameFAN’s artwork (and a lot of imagery at its predecessor Play) is Rob Duenas. He also does the majority of page layouts, and I think it’s fair to say that his work is the aesthetic soul of the magazine. Having spoken with Rob via email on occasion he proclaims his goals: “The biggest treat for me has been growing the retro coverage and drawing the covers. It’s hard work but worth it to bring back original drawn covers to magazines... Lord knows it’s a rarity, most art is just concept stuff from companies or box art.”

A commendable attitude, I’m sure everyone will agree. In fact this issue he takes us through the creation process for the cover, in connection with his regular podcast Sketchcraft, which details all manner of artistry. As he explained: “The Sketchcraft spread I put together on how I made the covers is also a free podcast I make complete with follow along PDF showing 50+ more of my steps. The cast is like audio commentary, just another GF special. Recording Bloodrayne cast this weekend, but the 3DS is up now.”

If you have any interest in GameFAN, magazine design, comics, or creative art in general, it’s well worth checking out the podcasts and associated files. There are two sites:

Also, I should add I’m not affiliated with the website despite my internet name. My using of Sketcz is 70% the nickname Tim Rogers gave me on InsertCredit, 20% East European spelling convention, and 10% Sega’s phenomenal Mega Drive game Comix Zone.

Highlights this issue include a 3 page interview with NG:DEV.TEAM, creators of Last Hope and the to-be-released GunLord, which is coming out on NeoGeo MVS and Sega’s Dreamcast. Gotta love these teams who keep rockin’ it on old hardware. The group says GunLord will be comparable to Turrican, and as a European and Trenz fan to this I’m going to say: hells yeah!

There’s also a ton of 3DS coverage, though being happy with my current handhelds I only skimmed this.

There’s also three pages on Dragon’s Crown, which is excellent. The in-game screens are so exquisite it’s difficult to image them as actual games, as opposed to only static artwork. But that’s Vanillaware for you – taking 2D to new levels. The write up itself is also good, done by new man and Managing Editor James Bacon. It starts with a rundown of Vanillaware history, which is essential for newcomers, and reminds me of the fact that Play before it always used to give the developer the time they deserved in the spotlight, granting front covers to not only Odin Sphere but also Muramasa. Outside of Japan I don’t think any other magazine even entertained such an idea. Those were good times.

Lengthy five page review of the new 2D Bloodrayne by developers WayForward, who are making a name for themselves as one of the few (the only?) Western developer still capable of doing 2D. In fact they’re kinda like a Western version of Vanillaware. And all I can say is thank your deity of choice both companies exist, because gaming would be a lot less interesting without their two-dimensional output.

Three page review of El Shaddai. Well timed too despite the time it took to produce this issue, since the same morning I got my copy of GameFAN I got my copy of GamesTM, and both featured El Shaddai. Both magazines praise it, in fact everyone online also seems to, but I’m still slightly nervous after playing that demo...

Interesting approach to the Journey review – very arty.

Having read the reviews, I want to address an issue I noticed on a forum, regarding a lot of the positive coverage the mag gives. Although the lowest review score this issue was 6.5, and it mostly has high scores for its games, the impression I get is that they’re covering the games they like, as opposed to everything possible. A snapshot of staff favourites almost. Which makes sense considering they run less pages, plus I have to be very interested in a game before I read through a review in another mag giving it a low score (like DS shovelware you’ll see being reviewed – I just skip those).

The challenge for GameFAN seems to be growing its audience and recognition, since what I gather from people I know in the US, it’s not always easy to find stores stocking it. Did you know this was out?

Moving on from modern coverage, this issue also marks the creation of a dedicated retro section, 16 pages long. I haven’t read everything but it’s looking good (I’d also not come across the Macross game before, so reckon I might have to give it a try now). The two-page spread listing top Capcom and Saturn games apparently was going to be some kind of special comic, but it didn’t make it in time. A nice trip down memory lane nonetheless. The Saturn coverage is especially poignant for me because it was a great system, with a selection of truly astounding hardcore titles, and yet it never won the console war. I actually received Keio Flying Squadron 2 in the post recently, and must get around to playing it. Yes, I think if I fell through time I’d like to relive the Saturn era, and use my foreknowledge to guarantee its success.