It was a brief comment in Dave Halverson’s review of Dragon Quest VIII from the November 2005 issue of Play Magazine, and not especially relevant to the full review, but it’s stuck with me ever since: “…given the detail, that the lead character is not dynamic to steps and slopes does take a bite out of the realism.” I wouldn’t say I’ve paid attention to the functionally irrelevant detail of characters walking on stairs in every game I’ve played since, but sometimes I notice. In Shenmue III for instance, whenever the protagonist Ryo walks up or down a flight of stairs, his feet hit every step. Every. Step. I know relatively little about the rigors of game development, but it seems ludicrous to offer such attention to detail for something as banal as navigating a flight of stairs. And yet, Shenmue III is in many ways a game about embracing the banal, for better or worse. Continue reading Shenmue III [PlayStation 4] – Review
Released for the Nintendo DS in September 2008, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is one of the most unique games in the iconic series. Unlike almost every other entry in the franchise, it eschews fast-paced platforming in favor of turn-based battles. This is unsurprising considering BioWare, the Edmonton, Alberta-based developer responsible for it, is best known for their various role-playing games. It features a few trademarks associated with their gameography but plays more like their spin on the Japanese RPG. Continue reading Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood [Nintendo DS] – Review
One of more than 50 games included in the Sega Genesis Classics compilation, Fatal Labyrinth is unique among its brethren. It is the only roguelike dungeon crawler with role-playing mechanics, and clocking in at only a few hours, it was just what I needed to fill the gaps between other games. Its narrow focus left me wanting, however. Continue reading Fatal Labyrinth [Sega Genesis] – Review
When I begin the process of writing a review for a game, the first thing I do is create a blank Word document and save it. Most of the time, I find writing process arduous and this small act reminds me that when I’m done, I’ll have accomplished something and it will have all been worth it. Well, when I got started on this review, my computer asked if I wanted to create a copy or overwrite the already existing file. It took me a second to realize that I didn’t start a day or two ago; no, it was referring to the review I wrote when I originally played Phantasy Star back in early 2012. I couldn’t help but chuckle and feel a sense of relief: my work was already done! Continue reading Phantasy Star [Switch] – 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
Even though I passed a never-ending supply of racers playing Hang-On, my true race was against the clock. I had little room for error, maybe one or two mistakes if I hoped to complete each stage before time ran out. Skillfully managing the throttle and brake, especially when cornering, was the key. Before long I was weaving in between racers and passing them in corners, making good time. Stages lasted about a minute and segued immediately into the next until the five-stage course was complete. In one sitting, it’s about a forty-minute game and not too challenging on the default difficulty. I made plenty of mistakes, often cornering too quickly or misjudging a racer’s proximity, but usually finished with ample time on the clock. When I was in a groove and listening to the hum of the motorcycle, the sounds of passing racers and squealing tires, it became a Zenlike, albeit monotonous, experience. Although my playthrough lacked much excitement, I’m glad to have finally spent material time with Hang-On. It’s an enjoyable racing game that tests one moderation, and patience.
Astro Warrior is, ostensibly, a ten minute game. After devoting multiple hours to it these last couple of days, I finally completed it last night. Understandably, I was over the moon. Developed and published by Sega in 1986, it’s a shoot ‘em up where success was predicated on quick reflexes and memorization. With each session I hoped to reach deeper into space, witness another wave of enemies and figure out how to overcome them, eventually doing well enough to complete the game. While the game was only three stages long the impressive enemy variety kept me on my toes. Inevitably, as failures mounted, I grew frustrated. Power-ups were generated by shooting tiles and I had my preferred arrangement. So, when I prematurely lost a life and reverted back to basics, I angrily hit the reset button. My experiences ultimately resulted in a magical final playthrough and an adrenaline rush that postponed my bedtime considerably. So much for a ten minute game.
My expectations for Parlour Games were low but I’ve come away pleasantly surprised. Developed by Compile and published by Sega in 1988, it’s a collection of various forms of billiards, darts, and bingo. While each game supports four players (impressive!), I played each versus the computer. In both billiards and darts I found the level of challenge fair; I won some, the computer won some. Although I lacked a manual (and didn’t bother reading it online) billiards was easy to understand. On the other hand, in darts I remained perplexed on how to accurately throw the dart. Nonetheless, I enjoyed both and appreciated the multiple game types. Bingo was… bingo. Inherently designed around luck, bingo was a total bore without human opponents. Granted I won, but I don’t even know how considering I never completed a full line! This is a robust compilation of party games with billiards and darts both offering respectable variety and enjoyment. I can’t say it’d be at the top of my party game list, but if we’re playing retro games, it’d be in consideration.
Like Shanghai, there’s not much to discuss when it comes to Rocky. Based off the popular film franchise, this 1987 Master System game was developed and published by Sega. Assuming the eponymous star, I needed to outclass three rival boxers to succeed. Rocky moved automatically, although I had a modicum of influence. The same is true for the type of punches I threw. Although I didn’t play much I found it quite confusing. A different training minigame took place before each bout and granted a helpful buff if I overqualified. Simple at first blush, I was able to button-mash my way through the first fight and two minigames. This tactic failed me in the second match and that’s ultimately where I tapped out. For such a simple game, the manual implied a convoluted level of control, something I didn’t grasp and didn’t care to. If I did, I would only have to outwit one more boxer to reach the end. It’s a tough, short, and good looking game that I didn’t find enjoyable enough to keep on fighting.
There’s not much to say about Shanghai. It is solitaire mahjong and I’ve found it relaxing and enjoyable. Developed by Brodie Lockard, it was originally published by Activision on nearly every home computer in the mid/late 1980s. This version was ported by Sega and released in 1988. My sole objective was clearing all mahjong tiles from a randomly assembled pyramid by matching up “free” pairs. A tile was “free” if it had no tile on top and a free space to its left or right. For the most part, it was a game of hide and seek embellished by the quantity of tile designs and somewhat indistinguishable assemblage. Thanks to a helpful pair-finding option, I never grew frustrated when my search for a match persisted. Even after continuous losses, I was eager to dive back in and start fresh. It was oddly satisfying to locate pairs and watch the pyramid disappear. Plus, the soundtrack was quite invigorating! Easy to learn and endlessly replayable, Shanghai is worth checking out.