Although my playthrough of Phantasy Star II sputtered to an end well before that game’s completion, my appetite for an older JRPG hadn’t been satiated. There was no shortage of such game on the Sega Genesis Classics compilation I was playing, and with most of them still new to me, I decided to stick with it for the time being. Continuing on with the next entry in the Phantasy Star series – Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom – was an option, but I went ahead and placed it on my backlog. Instead, having learned that Phantasy Star II was the first JRPG released on the Genesis, I thought I’d follow it up with the next chronologically released JRPG (available on this compilation). That game, which debuted half a year later, was Sword of Vermilion.Continue reading Sword of Vermilion [Sega Genesis] – Review
My recent playthrough of After Burner on the Sega 32X was at times frustrating, but ultimately satisfying enough to soldier through and beat it. Intending to record let’s plays for my heretofore untouched Sega Master System, I thought what better game to start with than its port of Sega’s arcade classic! Having spent about an hour with it across a few sessions I realize now there may have been better alternatives. Unlike the Sega 32X version which was fast-paced and responsive, this port was riddled with choppy performance that ultimately created unintended challenge, stripping most of the fun that could’ve been had. Continue reading After Burner [Sega Master System] – Review
Having recently completed After Burner for the Sega 32X (truly a port of After Burner II), I thought what better game to start playing my basically untouched Sega Master System than its port of the classic Sega arcade game! Well, there may have been better options. I lasted all of two videos before throwing in the towel. Heck, most of the second video I do little more than cheese it. It’s not a great version and my impending review will elaborate further on my thoughts regarding it.
My interest in the Sega 32X has evolved from something of an ironic curiosity to that of a genuine fan. Completely disregarding the business sense the unpopular Genesis add-on made, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t host some solid games. Its limited library of about forty is one of the prime drivers of my interest: the smaller library should make it easier for me collect and play each title. So when I came across After Burner for a fair price at Game Cycle of Pittsburg, Kansas, I had to jump on it. Continue reading After Burner [Sega 32X] – Review
It’s been a while since I’ve recorded a let’s play but I picked up After Burner for the Sega 32X over Memorial Day weekend and that gave me a good reason to do another. This is truly a port of After Burner II, despite the name (Japanese box art included in this post). I enjoyed it, although I did find it quite tough. Admittedly, reaching the end took longer than it should’ve and my output isn’t as entertaining as it might otherwise be, unless you like seeing failure over and over again. Nonetheless, my playlist is featured below with a write-up to follow soon.
Having completed Doom on the Sega 32X, I decided to spend some substantial time with the only other 32X game in my possession: Virtua Racing Deluxe. Originally released as an arcade game in late 1992, it is one of video game’s polygonal pioneers. Nowadays, it looks extremely primitive, although it’s still a joy to play. As it originated in Sega’s AM2 division, this is no surprise; they were led by Yu Suzuki – one of video game’s greatest designers. Released in late 1994, the 32X version is scaled down graphically, but expands upon the arcade game in content.
I don’t have any nostalgia for games with this sort of graphical fidelity and the few that I’ve played retroactively have been unpleasant. Those that I have played seemed to have been notable only for their choppy graphical prowess at the time and were otherwise unenjoyable. I was blown away then when this game not only moved at a fast clip, but was highly responsive and a blast to play! It’s a stepdown visually when compared to the original but still remains palatable. It also features significant pop-in, but it wasn’t so abhorrent that it impacted my performance.
There were five stages to race on and three vehicles to choose from – two more of each than the arcade game. Each of the stages and vehicles required a different sort of finesse to achieve greatness. Lacking a career mode, the motivating force for solo play was high scores, or rather, best times. Placing first in the field of sixteen was a tall order, and my best after an hour is second place. The responsiveness of the vehicles and the limited time involvement required saw me continuously attempting to best my computer opponents. A split-screen multiplayer mode is available for two players although I haven’t tried it yet. My biggest fear is slowdown which, to be fair wasn’t an issue in my solo sessions.
The enjoyment I had with Virtua Racing Deluxe came as a surprise to me. I had doubts about it based on my past experience with primitive polygonal games. Any doubts I had were erased when I grabbed the controller. It was as fast-paced and responsive as any other racing game of the time period, and perhaps more so. Although my exposure to the 32X library is limited at this point, I feel confident in asserting that this is one of the premier titles on the platform.
Light-gun style games are almost always lacking in content, but feature-rich in replayability. Ghost Squad for the Wii is no exception. It was originally developed by Sega AM2 and released into the arcades in 2004, but was ported to the Wii by Polygon Magic in 2007. I just played through it with a friend and it literally took us less than a half-hour. There’s a handful of reasons to replay the game, but with the exception of one, they’re hard to justify actually do so. That said, this brief experience was a blast as the game was well-executed. Continue reading Ghost Squad [Wii] – Review
One of the facets that draws me towards collecting video games, or as some might simply put it, buying a lot of video games, is finding superb games that have been more or less forgotten. Finding a hidden gem in the bargain bin makes me feel like a connoisseur of the medium. Even if I don’t play all of today’s “instant classics” I feel I’m doing my part by shining a spotlight on the good, perhaps overlooked, games of yesterday. One such game is Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball for the GameCube.
Originally released into Japanese and European arcades in 2001, it was ported to the GameCube a year later. Sega AM2, whose games I continuously find myself playing and writing about – Power Drift and Shenmue recently – developed this game as well. In short, it’s a fast-paced simulation of two-on-two beach volleyball. There are a few modes that can eat up some of your free time, but the one that’s most important is multiplayer.
Enjoyable with up to three friends locally, the multiplayer proved to get raucous quickly. The game takes the bump, set, spike formula of volleyball and presents players with an intuitive user-interface and simple controls that make it easy to grasp. Couple that with the fast-paced flow of the game, and it can wind up growing on you. Speaking personally, it only took my friend and I a few matches to get hooked. After a few hours, we had learned the ins and outs of all the ways to receive and attack the ball to keep volleys going for a long time. We found it to be so enjoyable, we had to force ourselves to quit, hours after midnight this past Friday.
The multiplayer is definitely the draw in my mind, but there’s a brief diversion in the single player modes. The world tour is the primary draw and in it, I was able to customize a team and take them through eight rounds of tournaments. My partner started off unable to assist in any way, but as we lost and lost I earned experience to put into her various abilities. By the final tournament, I was the weakest link on the team! I wish this mode could’ve been played cooperatively; it’d eliminate the teambuilding element, but it’d also eliminate working with a brain-dead partner. There’s an arcade mode that I haven’t dabbled in yet, as well as a tutorial mode that further cemented what my friend and I had discerned on our own through hours of play.
Discovering games like Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball has made collecting video games an enjoyable hobby for me. It’s even better when I find a gem that can be enjoyed with others, such as this one. The fast-paced action and intuitive adaptation of the sport will make this a go-to game for my multiplayer sessions. Which is the game’s main draw, as there’s little reason to play solo other than unlocking costume parts that harken back to Sega’s past. Regardless, this is an older game that’s worth a look for fans of local multiplayer.
For a month or two, Power Drift sat in a backroom corner of PJ Gamers. Not functioning, there wasn’t a reason to place it alongside the likes of Gyruss or Star Wars Trilogy Arcade. It was around this time that I was experiencing Shenmue II and developing an appreciation for Yu Suzuki. Being one of his lesser known games, I was interested in playing it. Released in 1988, I’d only recently read about it in a Retro Gamer profile of Yu Suzuki. Thankfully, it’s operational now, and although it lacks the fun hydraulic cockpit (it’s a stand-up cabinet), it’s unique.
What makes it unique amongst other racing games that could’ve been found in an eighties arcade are the roller coaster-inspired race tracks. These tracks feature massive climbs and drops and every turn is an opportunity to kick out the rear wheels and drift around competitors. The visuals helped sell the roller coaster feel of the tracks thanks to a sprite-scaling effect. As the name implies, the sprites grew and shrunk seamlessly as I played the game. This was doubly impressive as the game ran at a very fast clip. Watching the tracks rise, fall, and twist was mesmerizing – like watching a snake slither in the sand.
As with most arcade games, it didn’t take me long to understand what to do and how to do it. Progressing in the game became tough quickly though. I forewent ever hitting the brakes and instead began massaging the gas pedal around corners. Falling off ledges and colliding with other drivers was the key to success. The latter was challenging; I didn’t feel like I had the level of control over my racer as I’d like. Of course I also was zooming around stages NEVER HITTING THE BRAKES! Sometimes the hit detection seemed a little dodgy too, perhaps forming my opinion of the controls. It’s clear that to get a higher score and experience more stages, I’ll need to evolve my strategies. It’s a fun and unique game, especially to watch, but the loose controls took me a while to adapt to.
I could go into excruciating detail about the narrative and highlight all of the major plot points of Shenmue II, but I won’t. Actually, I can’t say that I won’t because I did and I’m just not publishing it. What I wrote was a two page article that read more like a set of game notes. I dove fairly deep into explaining the three major sections of the game and even then, I barely scratched the surface. What you as someone who is unfamiliar with this game needs to know is that Shenmue II is narratively rich, yet ultimately unfulfilling. Narratively speaking, that is. It’s still a joy to play.
In short, the game picks up directly where the original left off. Ryo Hazuki has travelled to Hong Kong to exact revenge on the mysterious Chinese man who murdered his father. Ryo investigates the Wan Chai and Kowloon areas of Hong Kong in a similar manner as he did in Yokosuka. He follows up on leads by asking residents, gets into street fights and other scuffles, and finds odd jobs to pay his bills. All this eventually culminates in a trip to a remote village where an event that has been foreshadowed since the beginning occurs. The beginning of this sequence had my friend and I sit straight up as we knew what would follow was very important. However, eleven years after its original American release, the cliffhanger ending is still unresolved and the current stopping point for this ill-fated trilogy.
As I mentioned, the structure of the game is identical to its predecessor, although elements have been improved. The primary emphasis was still on investigation and completing odd tasks and I found their resolutions very rewarding. Brawls and QTEs were still a large part too, but they seemed less prevalent. I find it peculiar that the fighting system appears to have such depth and yet it was hardly utilized. This made it a little tough for my friend and me towards the end as the rising action and climax consists of dozens of easy and tough fights. Needless to say, we relied very heavily on simple punches and combos.
And what a climax! These last few hours were simultaneously tumultuous to play and epic to witness. Kicked off by a stressful quest to raise money, my friend and I spent a solid hour gambling and resetting the game when things didn’t go our way. This was followed up by a convoluted trek through 18 floors of a massive 40 floor building. The dozens of fights Ryo had provided closure for the events that took place in Kowloon and they eventually led to a climactic scene where Ryo caught up with Lan Di. Although nothing transpired between the two, he now knows that Ryo is after him. Afterwards, the chance encounter that had my friend and I sit at attention was drawn out, torturous, and a great opportunity for two characters to become acquainted before finding out their destinies lie with each other.
I’m doing it again. I’m trying to delve into the narrative and I just need to stop. There’s a reason this series has such a zealous fan base. Shenmue and Shenmue II are fantastic examples of the narrative-driven single player video game. An epic coming of age tale coupled with exploration, investigation, and action. The blend of gameplay elements kept the game fresh and despite a few tumultuous sequences and the occasional camera or control issues, Shenmue II was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The passion of Yu Suzuki and his development team shines through in this game as it did in the original. Now, what about Shenmue III?