While I wouldn’t consider myself a massive fan of the short-lived Evolution series, I have managed to accumulate a respectable collection of related products, perhaps everything released in North America, as a matter of fact. Continue reading Collecting the Evolution Series→
My memories of the experience are faint, but I can still recall renting Evolution Worlds from the local Blockbuster in the final months of junior high. Although I spent hours dungeon crawling, I never managed to complete the game. Even after purchasing a copy and replaying it a few years later, I failed to reach the finale. Since these playthroughs, I’ve viewed the game through a nostalgic lens, joyously recalling days gone by, and looking forward to that point in the indeterminate future when I set aside time to play it again. Well, last year was supposed to be the year I replayed it, as I was cherry-picking those games I always wanted to play or return to. I wound up not getting around to it then, but it was top of my list this year. After fifteen years, I’ve finally beaten Evolution Worlds! Continue reading Evolution Worlds [GameCube] – Review→
Having completed Jet Grind Radio for the first time, nearly twenty years after its original release and in spite of my awareness of its cult popularity, I’m nonetheless impressed by how fresh it remains. The team at Smilebit encapsulated a period of pop culture history so well: tonally, stylistically, and with such zest, that the game has eluded a potential fate of mere time capsule and is instead, timeless. It’s not without fault, however. In contrast to the vivacity of its aesthetics, the act of playing was oftentimes tormenting. An inadequate method of camera control compounded grievances I had with skaters’ rigid movement, momentum, and their flippant adverseness to grinding. With adaptation, I was able to compensate for these shortcomings and enjoy the otherwise exciting combination of skating and graffiti tagging gameplay. Continue reading Jet Grind Radio [Dreamcast] – Review→
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
It doesn’t matter who you are, you have an opinion on KISS. Or more realistically, you have an opinion on Gene Simmons. The group and the man are undoubtedly rock legends, but both can come off as cheesy and/or abrasive. I’m not a big fan, but I can appreciate the work they’ve done. With the exception of KISS: Psycho Circus. From what little I’ve played, it’s a gothic first-person shooter with bad controls and little narrative direction. It’s based on the comic book series Todd McFarlane concocted with Gene Simmons. Beyond the requisite amount of time I played to check it out, I haven’t touched it. I’d like to give it a fair shake sometime down the road, but then again, maybe not.
KISS: Psycho Circus was originally developed by Third Law Interactive – a team of former Ion Storm employees – and released on the PC in North America on July 18, 2000. The Dreamcast port was handled by Tremor Entertainment and it was published on October 29, 2000 by Take-Two Interactive. Both developers seemed to flounder within a few years, neither putting out anything truly notable.
Shenmue definitely has a reputation that precedes it. At the time and for many years afterwards, it was reportedly the most expensive video game ever produced. With respectable sales that weren’t near the expected numbers, it assisted in ending Sega’s home console development. Nonetheless, the game received high praise critically and is routinely cited as an influential video game. Shenmue has always been on a personal bucket list of mine and I’m finally able to check it off.
Before being consumed by Virtua Fighter, Yu Suzuki was a titan at Sega. He was the major figure behind a plethora of the company’s marquee arcade titles in late 1980s. Space Harrier, Hang-On, OutRun, After Burner – this guy had a knack for designing video games. I’m not intending to short shrift Virtua Fighter either. It’s one of the most respected fighting game series and has a dedicated fan base. Shenmue is Yu Suzuki’s magnum opus however, and it oozes his passion. In the manual, in the credits, in the way he describes the game – the fictional world and gameplay elements that comprise the game were undoubtedly personal muses for the man.
Shenmue takes place in Yokosuka, Japan during the winter of 1986. The game is a tale of revenge, following Ryo Hazuki as he tracks down the mysterious man who murdered his father. Ryo’s father, Iwao, was a master martial artist whose dojo was in a remote suburb of Yokosuka. Iwao’s murderer, Lan Di, is a mysterious Chinese martial artist who had an unknown grudge against Ryo’s father. Not only that, but Lan Di’s ties to a Chinese criminal syndicate further complicate the affair as Ryo investigates the mysterious Chinese man.
Exploration and puzzle solving are the primary focuses of Shenmue’s gameplay, although there is a minor emphasis placed on brawling. Knowing practically nothing of Lan Di, Ryo takes to the neighborhoods and shops of Yokosuka to find and follow up on any leads he can. Interacting with dozens of townsfolk, it was easy for me to get immersed in the day to day heartbeat of the city. Ryo’s leads introduced him to friends and foes from practically all of the storefronts, and since the game had a strong adherence to portraying a realistic setting, I’d have to make sure to check in with individuals at the corresponding hour of the day, or night.
I was dead set on making a physical map of the shopping district and outlying neighborhoods, but by the time I sketched it out, I was familiar enough with the areas to abandon the prospect. The neighborhoods contained little to experience but the shopping district was densely packed with unique individuals and storefronts. To an outsider, such as myself, it was a joy to experience what this slice of Japan might’ve been like in the late 1980s – minus Ryo’s Sega Saturn.
The puzzle solving aspect of the gameplay revolved mostly around locating the proper individual to speak with. Then, utilizing the information they provided with Ryo. Be it an area to check or another individual to speak with. I didn’t find monotony in constantly seeking someone out, only to be pointed elsewhere. It didn’t seem like it was filler content. For the most part, every lead advanced the plot, if only slightly.
One related point is what I interpret as shoddy localization. The game is fully voice-acted and everyone will respond to Ryo if he prompts them. However, a lot of the dialog doesn’t sound natural. It’s as if the script was translated directly from the Japanese original with no localization. Translating the game is one part of the localization process, but another would be making it so the characters speak realistically. Some lines of dialogue didn’t make functional sense to me. Then again, the game contained a friendly Jamaican hot dog vendor named Tom, and he doesn’t make a lot of sense either.
The third pillar of the gameplay is the action sequences. I’d break these down into two categories: brawling and quick-timer events (QTEs). Both were infrequent, but an important aspect nonetheless. Brawling was reminiscent of the fighting system from Virtua Fighter – deep and very precise. Ryo had a wealth of moves at his disposal, but I was able to meander on by button mashing. This was helped by the fact that there were about twelve fights across the entire game. QTEs are now commonplace in video games and we have Shenmue to thank for that! They were pioneered in the game and allowed the player to experience a handful of exciting action sequences and actually feel some involvement. They were also infrequent.
After a dozen or so hours, I had brought Ryo to the end of his quest in Yokosuka. Shenmue ended with a slew of events, beginning with Ryo getting a job at the Yokosuka docks. This entailed me operating a forklift for about a week of in-game time which translated to a few hours. It was a decidedly dull climax to the game, but it was far from over. At the docks Ryo got a better understanding of the criminal syndicate Lan Di was aligned with.
Eventually, Ryo was too late to confront Lan Di who was already heading back to China. Ryo’s story was just beginning, but I wasn’t left unfulfilled. Shenmue capped off with an exciting motorcycle ride through the nighttime Yokosuka highway system. The goal was to reach the docks which lead to an epic brawl against 70+ gang members. Ryo intent on pursuing Lan Di to China and many of the interactions with Ryo’s friends and family were heartfelt.
With Shenmue off my bucket list, I’m anxious to begin Shenmue II on the Xbox. The series was originally proposed as a trilogy so my journey with Ryo will end with an unfulfilled cliffhanger upon completion of the second game. Heck, I’ll probably convert into one of those crazies trying to get a grassroots effort started to develop Shenmue III. It wouldn’t be a surprise. The game came out nearly a decade-and-a-half ago and it still feels modern. Its combination of storytelling, setting, and gameplay meld together to form one of the most realized and worthwhile video games out there.
After playing a little bit of Mars Matrix my friend and I moved onto another arcade port for the Dreamcast, Charge ‘N Blast. Originally developed by Sega, it was published for the Dreamcast in 2001 by Xicat Interactive. We played through a few stages of the game and grew tired of it fast.
We viewed our characters from behind their backs at all times, always having tunnel vision. But then again, all the action was directly in front of us too. Enemies advanced towards our characters, which were locked onto a horizontal plane. The only movement we could muster out of them was a strafe, shifting them to the left or right, which we had to do often to dodge enemies.
There were three characters we could pick from, each with different weaponry. Each character had three weapons that were attributed to different buttons (X, Y, and B). As the title suggests, we had to charge our weapons to blast the enemies. Using the analog stick we moved our cursors around the screen targeting enemies. And to fire our weapons we pressed one of the three buttons (selecting a weapon) and once it was charged pressed the A button to release, hopefully nailing the enemy. This was confusing at first, but even after getting used to it, still cumbersome.
Charge ‘N Blast grew stale quick. Lacking much of a setup, there was nothing but the quality of the gameplay to keep us interested, and we didn’t find the mechanics all that fun. However, I will return to the game and complete it as it seemed easy, and probably short.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been a fan of shoot ‘em ups. Perhaps it’s because my dentist has had a Galaga arcade cabinet forever, and I’ve played on it since I was young. I was anticipating playing Mars Matrix for the Dreamcast, but after a friend and I played it for a little bit, I’m cool on it.
Ever since the days of Galaga, shoot ‘em ups have become a little more complicated. Mars Matrix falls into the subgenre of the bullet hell shoot ‘em up. These games are typified by the insane amount of enemy bullets on-screen, literally hundreds to thousands, making it seem impossible. But it’s really not. With Mars Matrixit seemed my friend and I had to focus on dodging more than aiming at specific targets.
After a bit of setup, we picked our ship, determining our standard weapon. Each ship’s standard weapon was different and we had the choice of mashing the fire button, or holding down an auto-fire button. This option was nice as it allowed us to focus on dodging. We also had a strong laser that had the same options. Lastly we could hold our fire button to create a barrier that would absorb enemy bullets and then fire them back, which proved useful when bullets covered the screen.
Even though bullets covered the screen the majority of the time, I still thought the game looked rather poor. I’m not a technical wizard or anything, but Mars Matrix looked awfully blurry and I assume the game has a low resolution, causing this.
There were a few different modes to select from; some multiplayer, some not, but what might bring me back is the shop. As my friend and I played we built up a cache of money that we could spend to unlock features in the shop. These honestly didn’t seem that great; unlocking Score Challenge stages or the ability to play with more lives, but it’s something else to do besides simply playing the game.
My friend and I were only able to reach the second stage (out of six) and we really didn’t have a great time with the game. I will give the game a second chance and hopefully beat it, but I really don’t think I (or we) will have the drive to see it through the next time we play it. Mars Matrix was developed by Takumi Corporation and originally published by Capcom as an arcade game in 2000. My friend and I played the Dreamcast version which was published by Capcom in 2001.