Had things gone according to plan, a review for No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle would’ve been one of the first articles on this website. I actually still have an in-progress review from over ten years ago, where I started jotting down my thoughts, but alas, nothing ever came of it. Which considering how far I think my writing has come since being *checks notes* twenty years old, it’s probably for the best.Continue reading No More Heroes III [Switch] – Review
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Tokyo Jungle [PlayStation 3] – Review
When I think of Sony’s Japan branch, I think of all the oddball titles they’ve made in collaboration with smaller studios. Games like Rain, Mister Mosquito, or Tokyo Jungle.
Developed by Crispy’s, a seemingly now defunct developer based in Tokyo’s Chūō ward, Tokyo Jungle was published for the PlayStation 3 on June 7, 2012, with western releases following in September of that year. The middle release of their output, it followed MyStylist, their self-described “fashion life support tool” which remained exclusive to Japan following its February 2008 release for the PlayStation Portable. And to my knowledge, their 2014 endless runner Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, made in collaboration with Grasshopper Manufacture, remains their last published work. Oh, and they also revamped Tokyo Jungle for mobile devices and the PlayStation Vita, although that version is shamefully unavailable to play anymore.Continue reading Tokyo Jungle [PlayStation 3] – Review
Red Steel [Wii] – Review
Craving another Wii game following the completion of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, I turned to Red Steel, for some reason. Up until recently I’d never even tried it, but as one of the most publicized games in the lead up to the launch of the Wii, I’ve long been familiar with it. The trailers from that era, with gratuitously animated actors showcasing the capabilities of the system’s unique controller, are hilarious, and Red Steel’s are some of the best. There are a handful of these pre-release trailers floating around, and while they showcased how you interact with the game pretty accurately, they’re just so over the top. When the actors mimic their avatar taking cover by jumping behind furniture themselves, or pause to eat sushi while strolling through a sushi restaurant in game, I mean, c’mon.
This one, apparently from E3 2006, is especially novel now that I’ve completed the game, as it seems like it may be an original proof of concept trailer. First off, the visual fidelity is much too good; richly detailed environments and impressive character animation give off the aura of a pre-rendered trailer rather than actual gameplay. Then there’s the fact the actor is using what appears to prototypes of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. And, of the scenes portrayed, I believe only one appears in the final product. The three other trailers I’m familiar with were clearly produced closer to the game’s launch, and one of them even serves as the game’s attract mode. They retain the exaggerations of the first trailer, with interstitial gameplay sequences lifted directly from the released game. Continue reading Red Steel [Wii] – Review
D [Sega Saturn] – Review
Nearly ten years ago, a friend and I decided to play Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD. We didn’t know anything about it, and at that point neither of us had much experience with similar first-person adventure games like Myst. The plodding movement and crude 3D pre-rendered visuals did little to entice us, but we enjoyed the emphasis on puzzle solving. If anything, it was informative to play through a style of game that was no longer in vogue, and one that showcased an early example of full-motion video. We followed it up with playthroughs of a couple similar games and have dabbled with the genre since then, albeit infrequently. One game in particular has been at the top of our to-do list for years, yet we always passed over it for one reason or another. Well the stars aligned last week, and we finally played D. Continue reading D [Sega Saturn] – Review
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes [Switch] – Review
After completing Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, it’s apparent the game is just an appetizer, a taste of what’s to come for the cult favorite series. As a massive fan of the previous entries, this was a relief. Whereas those games were absurd, comically violent character action romps set in pseudo open world environments, the scale of this entry was decidedly smaller. It played like a straightforward beat ‘em up, and had more in common with Streets of Rage than the frenetic action of its predecessors. When the gameplay failed to captivate, as it often did, the trademark Suda51 kitsch succeeded. Despite a pared down budget, this was still a title with a vulgar script and memorable scenarios. Continue reading Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes [Switch] – Review
The Silver Case [PlayStation 4] – Review
Unsure of what to play next after completing Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, my friend and I knew one thing: we didn’t want to play another eighty hour video game! Scanning the shelves of games in front of us, mulling our options, he pointed out The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. I had recently bought that game’s limited edition, despite the fact that its predecessor, The Silver Case, had been in my collection for more than a year, still unopened. I purchased both in part because they were inexpensive, but primarily due to my appreciation for their idiosyncratic writer/director, Goichi Suda, aka Suda51. Following research affirming the game’s length, and brief discussion on playing a visual novel, a genre neither of us had much history with, from a creator my friend had little experience with, we decided to start The Silver Case. Continue reading The Silver Case [PlayStation 4] – Review
Policenauts, Import Games, and a Weekend of Learning
I set about this past weekend with one objective in mind: play an English-patched copy of Policenauts. In the course of attempting this, my task grew into a more general objective of playing import PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games; or rather, attempting to play them. Often, I’ll set about accomplishing something with a strong desire to see the process through only to have that yearning feeling dissipate and highlight a limited attention span and a quick-to-cave attitude. “Not this weekend!” I thought to myself. Although I remained unsuccessful on one front and only partially successful on the other, I ended the weekend with my head held high, brimming with new knowledge.
This desire to play Policenauts is not new to me, but the realization that it could be an actuality was. As my friend and I have been playing through the Metal Gear Solid series, I’ve done additional reading on the other works of Hideo Kojima. Policenauts is one such title and even though it never released in English-speaking territories, it’s still moderately known and highly regarded. Through this research, I stumbled upon the news that an enterprising group of fans had produced an English translation (circa 2007) and that it had been successfully patched into the PlayStation version (circa 2009). The process of implanting the patch didn’t seem too complex so without any additional thought, I acquired a copy off eBay… and Metal Gear Solid: Integral for good measure.
These games came in the mail this past Wednesday and before getting down to the tough stuff, I set about locating my Swap Magic discs. These are boot discs for the PlayStation 2, specifically the slim version, that allow the play of import and backup discs, with a slight modification to the console’s disc cover. I purchased these a few years ago when I first attempted to play import PS2 games. I went through the entire process of getting a slim PS2, modifying the disc cover, and finding a few games to play, only to fizzle out when I had done all the “hard” work (it was actually pretty easy). After thoroughly disassembling my gaming closet Thursday, I located the Swap Magic discs and was ready to begin processing the Policenauts patch.
Cue Friday night. My weekend had officially begun and I’d sat down at my computer to examine the readme file associated with the patch. Step one was simple: acquire a copy of Policenauts. Check. Step two upped the ante. “Rip your hard copy of Policenauts to the ISO format.” Furthermore, the author recommended CloneCD to rip the discs (it’s a two-disc game) to a .ccd format and then another program: Alcohol 120% to convert the .ccd files to .iso files. I did as he said and was successful in creating the .ccd files, after perusing that program’s help documents. I then attempted using Alcohol 120%. Before installing, it warned of compatibility issues between it and my HP laptop. I disregarded this prompt hopefully naively, and was greeted with a blue screen of death on the post-install restart. Another attempt resulted in the same issue. Through system restore, I brought my laptop back safely and was forced to look elsewhere for converting these .ccd files, read: Google.
The Google searches yielded many options for programs generating .iso files from .ccd files, but I had a hell of a time finding one (a) compatible with my HP laptop, (b) that was free or had a free trial, and (c) looked trustworthy enough to download. The incompatibility between Alcohol 120% and my HP laptop is a known issue with two solid fixes, but I didn’t feel like uninstalling the conflicting program or upgrading to Windows 10 to remedy the issue. Unfortunately, many other similar programs had similar incompatibility with HP products and my urgency to play Policenauts was beginning to waver. Fortunately, my friend demonstrated enough persistence to persuade me and I eventually discovered UltraISO, a program which granted me access to what I needed with its free trial. I now had the .iso files I needed.
The third step was another doozy: “install xdelta 3.” An innocuous enough task with even a link being provided, simple enough one might say. Wrong! Maybe it would be simple for someone who knew what they were doing. I was just following steps and as soon as the path deviated from those steps, I was lost. Whether it was the second step or this one, I had to devise my own workarounds to get to the same end result as the readme documentation. What I needed here was some kind of .exe file, of which there were many variations of, and looking back on it, I just mishandled this and started banging my head against the wall when the solution wasn’t as clear-cut as the instructions lead me to believe. To cut a long story short, I found what I needed.
With that .exe file safely tucked away in the same folder as the .iso files and the English patch, I simply had to execute the patch file and, voila! It didn’t work! But, before getting up in arms, I realized that was a possibility. There was a second patch file for computers running an Athlon CPU, which apparently I’m running, and when that was executed I was greeted with sweet, sweet success! Finally! The patch files had been applied to the .iso files and I could then burn them to blank CD-Rs and test them out in my PS2 using the Swap Magic discs. There was one single issue remaining… the Swap Magic discs don’t work with PlayStation games and backups, only PlayStation 2 games and backups. D’oh!
In a continuing display of naiveté, I realized this only after attempting to boot a CD-R and then an original disc, both unsuccessfully. A little bit of reading clarified this point to me and served as a reminder to always read the instructions fully before beginning a task (there were no instructions regarding this but I should’ve thought ahead). So, how else could I play these patched CD-Rs on actual PlayStation hardware? The readme file for the patch didn’t delve too much into that topic, but I’ve since researched a variety of options but have yet to settle on one. There’s also the simple route of just playing with an emulator, but the few times I tried doing so with ePSXe haven’t been fruitful. I’m in the process of getting that to function currently and will report back with results.
So, my weekend had barely begun when I realized that playing Policenauts likely wouldn’t be a reality. With the Swap Magic discs available and the PS2 already set up though, my friend and I turned towards the stack of import PS2 games we had hauled into the living room. Without too much effort, it was soon clear why I had fizzled out on the import scene when my interest first piqued years ago.
The Swap Magic method of playing import/backup games is pretty simple. It can only be done with a slim PS2 that has had its disc cover replaced with one resembling a toilet seat. Once the Swap Magic disc boots, it’s replaced with the desired disc which then runs as if region locking wasn’t an issue. The disc cover can’t be opened though, or else the PS2 reverts back to the browser, hence, the toilet seat design which allows for easy access. The Swap Magic discs are sold in a pair – one to boot CD based games and another to boot DVD based games.
We had no issues using the CD based Swap Magic disc. We were able to dabble with a few of the CD based games and had an enjoyable time in particular with The Zombie vs. Ambulance, or Zombie Virus as it’s known in Europe. The PS2 did not cooperate with the DVD based Swap Magic disc however. In fact, the system didn’t read any DVDs regardless of region. It was becoming clear to me why I burned out originally: because I ran into issues with DVD based games. We flat lined at this point and moved on to more productive ventures for the night.
After a night of sleep and a morning of garage sailing with my sister, I kickstarted the search for solutions to my DVD woes on Saturday afternoon. Most reading led me to believe that the laser failing to read DVDs (but still retain its CD reading functionality) was somewhat common. Cleaning the laser ruled out the potential of dust or dirt being the issue and the next cheapest option was simply replacing the laser. Luckily, I obtained a second slim PS2 at an estate last year for a pittance; alternatively, a replacement laser was about $12 on Amazon. I made sure to test a variety of CDs and DVDs in this second PS2 before going any further and fortunately, all worked. After watching a few YouTube tutorials on replacing the laser I had confidence that I was up to the task.
Later that night, while watching Dr. Zhivago on the OETA Movie Club, I successfully switched the lasers. It took much longer than it should’ve thanks to the distraction of the movie but there were also a couple of screws that were royal pains in the butt to remove. Once the movie had finished I had the opportunity to test out the modified PS2 and… it still didn’t play the Swap Magic DVD! What’s more, the system successfully played other DVDs. Looking on the bright side, my issues were narrowed down more specifically to the DVD based Swap Magic disc itself. It didn’t look too scratched, although there were minute cosmetic issues with the disc. Getting it resurfaced would either solve the problem or eliminate one more possibility.
Sunday afternoon, once they’d opened, I made the drive to the nearest Vintage Stock with a working resurfacing machine. While waiting I stumbled across an older GameShark for the PlayStation. In the reading I’d done on playing import/backup copies of PlayStation games I saw mention of an exploit that might possibly allow me to play Policenauts. I bought it to be on the safe side but realized when I arrived home that it wasn’t compatible with my PlayStation. Policenauts was again put on the backburner, but I was one step closer! Next up on the docket was testing the newly resurfaced DVD based Swap Magic disc.
To my surprise, it worked! The PS2 successfully read the disc and launched the Swap Magic menu. I exchanged the disc for Michigan, a Grasshopper Manufacture survival horror game that I remembered seeing on X-Play years ago. The involvement of Suda51 may have also had an impact on my purchase too… Side note: this game was released in Europe, but good luck finding a copy for under $40 and let me know if you do! I was appeased after a little while and was ready to try another game when the PS2 stopped booting the Swap Magic disc. It recognized it as a PS2 disc in the browser and would act like it was booting it, only to return me to the browser menu. ARGH! Other DVDs played just fine so I’m led to believe there’s an issue with the disc itself – not the surface of it, but the information that’s written to it, so… yeah.
I can’t explain why it worked once and not again other than just getting lucky, but I’m not going to sweat it. Maybe I’ll get a plan of action assembled for this upcoming weekend, maybe I’ll have these issues resolved before then, or maybe I won’t even bother and just fizzle out entirely here. No, after all I’ve been through I know I won’t take the easy route out, I’m going to see my objectives through. I’ve been constantly disheartened through these two procedures, but I’ve consistently found ways to make something work or narrow my issues down. Whether it’s playing an English-patched copy of Policenauts or playing DVD based, import PS2 games, I can look back at this weekend disappointed that I wasn’t entirely successful, but I can also look back at it and be proud of the work I put in and the knowledge I’m left with. This weekend was a learning experience that things won’t always be as easy as they seem, but that’s no reason to give up. The path to success is lined with trial and error and through that process, much can be gained.
Auto Modellista [GameCube] – Review
Being an avid fan of Nintendo, especially during the GameCube years, I was turned on to cel-shaded games via The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Since then, I’ve had a fondness for the cartoony graphical style used in games as far-ranging as cartoon tie-ins and the uber-violent affairs of Suda51. Auto Modellista was an arcade-style racing game from the time period that I also had a fondness for, primarily because of its art style. Underneath however, was an informative racing game that enabled me to understand crucial racing concepts.
Auto Modellista originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Developed by Capcom Production Studio 1, the game was part of an initiative to support the PlayStation 2’s online capabilities. The other games from this group (Resident Evil: Outbreak and Monster Hunter) outperformed it, and is perhaps why this game was later ported to the GameCube and Xbox. The GameCube was the only version to lack online play, which it might as well now. Despite it including a split screen mode for two, I strictly played solo.
The Garage Life mode is the primary single player mode. Freely using up to thirty cars, I completed individual races and series’ to unlock further challenges, new cars, and customization parts – even for my garage! The customization was light – most every car’s exterior could be customized in areas (bonnet, side, rear, spoiler, etc.) and most had three options. Performance upgrades were unlocked and also very limited, although they were beneficial and necessary to winning. I made sure to focus on events that awarded these first and I breezed through the game in a few hours.
The courses were divided up amongst the familiar circuit design and more unique hill courses. These upward or downward winding courses were set against the backdrop of the Japanese hillside and featured ludicrous amounts of sharp turns. These sections might as well have been a scene from Initial D! They were one of my highlights from the game, particularly due to their uniqueness. With less than a dozen tracks, they didn’t have much competition. Speaking of, the opponent AI wasn’t much to deal with either. The difficulty stemmed more from the performance upgrades and whether I had them or not.
One element of the Garage Life mode that I appreciated the most back in the day was the extensive information the game passed on to me via emails. With every type of car I used, I’d be flooded with emails describing it and the best way to handle the car. The same held true when I received performance upgrades or competed on a new track for the first time. This was the first racing game I played that taught me how to corner and also how to corner in a specific car setup. It was helpful when I later graduated to Gran Turismo 4!
My recent replay of Auto Modellista wound up being a brief sojourn through my memories of not only the game but the video game industry when it was released. I feel it’s indicative of the then growing popularity of cel-shaded graphics and the move towards online play. Despite those elements of the game, at its core, it’s a typical arcade racer with an extra dose of customization and simulation style information. However, it’ll always be remembered for being that cel-shaded racing game.
Liberation Maiden [3DS eShop] – Review
Released on the 3DS eShop courtesy of Level-5, Liberation Maiden is a part of the Guild01 series of games. Each of the four games in the Guild01 series was developed by Level-5, but designed by recognizable Japanese developers. The impact of Goichi “Suda51” Suda and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture is unmistakable on this game. Few others would concept out and help bring to fruition such a nutty game.
The teenage protagonist, Shoko Ōzora, has assumed the presidency of New Japan after her father’s passing. She’s inherited a hell of a mess too. So much so that she takes to the skies of New Japan in a giant mech to combat the troves of enemies siphoning the country’s energy. She gets much assistance from Kira, her second-in-command, who chirps in constantly to feed her status updates and mission objectives.
Controlling Shoko with the circle pad, I could freely move her anywhere in the 3D stages. Pressing the left shoulder button enabled a strafing mode, locking her movement to the sides. She had two types of weaponry; one locked onto enemies as I dragged my stylus across the screen and released when I did. The other was a simple laser that attacked where I touched. I didn’t prefer one to the other and found both equally usable. Finally, there was an added strategic element due to her ammunition also acting as a barrier from damage.
There are five stages in the game, playable via the story and score attack modes, and they’re completed briskly. It took me about an hour and a half to beat and another hour to unlock 90% of the backstory and character bios. I’m partial to Suda51’s work and enjoyed the nutty narrative in Liberation Maiden. More than that though, I enjoyed the gameplay. The bosses that capped off each stage were repetitive and Kira constantly chiming in created a stop-and-go effect, but I enjoyed my hours spent.
No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise – Demo Impressions
No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is an enhanced port of the 2008 Wii game No More Heroes. Originally developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and the notorious Goichi Suda (Suda51), the game was a vulgar, outrageous action game that was actually really good. Heroes’ Paradise was developed by feelplus as they were being absorbed into AQ Interactive. Heroes’ Paradise is set to be published by Konami for the PlayStation 3 on August 16, 2011.
While No More Heroes utilized the Wii Remote only, Heroes’ Paradise can be played using the PlayStation Move or a DualShock 3. Lacking a Move myself, I was only able to play the demo using the DualShock 3.
Playing with a controller was not ideal, but I grew used to it by the end of the demo. My major qualm is with the finishing moves. When an enemy’s health bar is depleted, an arrow pops up and if I had a Move I would swing it in the direction of the arrow. Using a controller I instead had to press down on the right analog stick and then move it in the direction of the arrow. Coupled with pressing L2 to lock onto enemies, this was a little awkward. Playing with a Move seems like a necessity.
Heroes’ Paradise will contain many additions over NMH. A few bosses and side-jobs from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle will be added, as well as a score attack mode. And there are some changes to the original formula too. Special attacks can be saved instead of automatically activating. There has been some streamlining done to the side-jobs as well. I’m not sure if they fixed the awful handling of Travis’ motorcycle however…
With the changes and additions in No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise, it looks to be the ultimate version of No More Heroes. However, having done everything there was to do in NMH and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, I don’t feel like there’s enough difference to warrant my purchase. Heroes’ Paradise will be just as pompous and fun as it was in 2008, and if you haven’t played NMH check it out, but only with a PlayStation Move.