December 23, 2007
Blackhole Assault for the Sega CD is another in a long line of games that I would have liked to like. I’m just a sucker for good looking graphics of the 16-bit console era, such as this space station against the backdrop of a Jovian moon:
In the next scene, the camera angle changes and moves slowly up the station, giving a feeling of depth to the lunar backdrop:
Unfortunately, the graphic style of the story scenes is perhaps the only redeeming quality of the experience. I had no idea what kind of game to expect going into this. It turns out that it’s a pure 1-on-1 fighting game. It seems that in the 22nd century, earthlings are trying to excavate resources from the rest of the solar system. Exploratory missions are disappearing “one bye [sic] one”, however, and at least one military commander is calling it like he sees it. “How can those fools say these are accidents when they’re obviously alien attacks?” I can relate– I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said the same thing in the course of my daily affairs. But earth has a powerful weapon to deal with these alleged alien attacks: Cybernetic Anthropomorphic Machines or C.A.M.s for short. And these C.A.M.s have to take on powerful alien robots one-on-one at scenic locations throughout the solar system.
Above is the Phobos level. Like I said, the game is pretty. I just can’t abide the poor, clunky gameplay, even if we are just dealing with giant robots. Fortunately, the game features an exhibition mode which allows players to customize matchups with any of the available robots and any of the game’s 10 backdrops. Further, this mode can be configured for computer vs. computer, which allowed me to cycle through all 10 backdrops for screenshot purposes.
One more pretty screenshot– this one is called ‘Asteroid’. The backdrops really do work better in motion, though.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Fighting Games,Sega CD Games | Comments (0)
March 24, 2007
At long last, I’m working Sega CD games into this mix. I have at least 1/2 dozen Sega CD games in my pile that aren’t yet in the MobyGames database and a whole bunch more that are missing screenshots. I guess I have been a little hesitant to go to work on this matter since I know it can be a bit tedious to set up the Gens emulator for Sega CD emulation at first. You need to install ASPI drivers for CD reading, which I did, but still no luck. However, I went the other route which is to rip an ISO + series of MP3 files for the game to play from the HD. That worked splendidly and I can now cover my collection of Sega CD titles for this experiment.
And what a collection! Let’s kick it off with Revengers Of Vengeance. I’ll give you a few moments to re-read that title a few times. Revengers Of Vengeance. I found this in an eBay store while purchasing some other games. I had absolutely no idea what to expect as the CD-ROM surface (all I had to go on) doesn’t really give any clues. It bears an MA-13 rating from a system called V.R.C. which predates today’s omnipresent ESRB.
I think the game may bear the alternate title of Battle Fantasy; at least, that’s the title that Gens shows in the window title bar. The game is definitely fantasy in nature and kicks off with an awesome scene of griffons in the shadow of a castle:
From there, the game goes on to explain, rather generically and matter-of-factly, that the Devil King — who goes by the name of Venum — has gained the infinite power of evil. Despite that, it’s implied that you somehow have what it takes to bring this villain down. By what manner of gameplay will you achieve this feat? Well, that’s where things get tricky.
From what I can tell, this game represents a genre mashup of a 1-on-1 brawler game and a role playing game. So in addition to being the first Sega CD game in Gaming Pathology, it’s also the first RPG (or RPG-like game). Not that I have any aversion towards RPGs (although one brief evening of gameplay wouldn’t be enough time to do justice to the nominal RPG). But I suspect that the RPG genre as a whole tends to be quite popular with the type of hardcore gaming nerds that contribute heavily to MobyGames. Thus, the genre already has good coverage in the database.
But I digress. Aside from the options screen, there are 3 places to go from the main screen. The first is The Tournament. This allows you to select from among 10 unique fighters to battle it out with other characters against colorful, fantasy-themed backgrounds. It’s pretty tough, too, even on the easiest level:
Another route is the Arena Of Death which has the most curious logo of 2 Sega Genesis consoles fighting with each other. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this mode is for. All I could do with it was create fighter characters with custom stats and the pit them against each other in an automated battle.
“The Quest To Destroy Venum” is where the RPG element comes into play. You begin in an RPG-style town:
You have a supply of gold and you can purchase dresses and perfume in shops, or coffee or cola at the village Starbucks franchise (serious about the coffee purchase, though at a nameless pub). When you leave town, you are shown this map of locations to warp to:
I head to the waterfall since that sounds like a pretty background. I get my mythological rear handed to me in the first battle. Even afterwards, I am awarded an amount of gold and experience points and sent back to the original town. Ostensibly, I need to spend some time leveling up and perhaps equipping myself before I can possibly hope to have a chance in this game. I also spy a fitness club in town.
During the Quest mode, each of the 10 characters appears to be following its own storyline with corresponding cutscenes. It occurs to me that a lot of beat-em-ups try to have storylines for each fighter, but that storyline is only fleshed out in the character’s brief ending sequence. This game has a full storyline from the get-go and tries to carry the concept even further. (Come to think of it, Criticom also had a storyline cutscene inaugurate each character’s quest, but… look, I’m sorry I even brought up that game again.) Some character backstories are more involved than others. One, though, for an absolutely enormous were-rhinoceros creature is quite simple: he simply wants someone — anyone — stronger to challenge in a fight. Maybe the infinite evil dude will fit the bill.
I have located cover art scans on other websites that evidence that this game must have been released in the U.S. Given that, it’s curious that the name entry box has a bunch of Japanese characters to choose from when writing one’s own name. I don’t know what any of them mean but I feel obligated to use a few since they’re on offer:
I see from this review at Sega-16 that a) I really suck at the fighting sequences, and b) I’m missing one genre– a vertical shooting type of game. I’ll need to devote some more time to this title some night.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Fighting Games,RPG Games,Sega CD Games,Shooter Games | Comments (6)
January 14, 2007
I was replaying Criticom this evening in order to gather a diverse selection of screenshots for the MobyGames database. I just wanted to give special notice to the game’s AI which — at least in the first few levels — can be pushed off the edge of the arena by rapid, repeated jabs or kicks.
Still, they worked hard to flesh out a superfluous sci-fi storyline.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Fighting Games,The Big Picture | Comments (0)
January 13, 2007
Perhaps I’m a slow learner, maybe I enjoy pain, or it could be that I’m simply quick to both forgive and forget. I’ve already disregarded the not entirely pleasant experience of playing one fighting game on the Sega Saturn. No reason that I should allow that to stop me from trying more of the same genre on the same platform. Plus, there’s that ever-present goal of getting all of this data — good or bad — into MobyGames. With that, let’s delve into Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge.
This game is one in a franchise of Darkstalkers titles from Capcom. Actually, one of the arcade versions of this series, available circa 1995, remains my second favorite fighting game of all time (second only to the original Fatal Fury, but only on the Neo-Geo; accept no cheap SNES substitutes). I always enjoyed the premise of this game– a bunch of mythological creatures and monsters battling it out. This allows for legendary match-ups such as Dracula vs. Frankenstein:
Of course, that’s not actually Dracula or Frankenstein. It’s the Capcom characters, Demitri and Victor. (And of course, purists know that the monster in the Frankenstein tale is not named Frankenstein, rather he was named Dr. Frankenstein’s monster; ironically, the good doctor’s first name was Victor; I first learned that in 10th grade world history class of all places). I found myself wondering this evening why Capcom chose to invent one-off properties instead of using the real deals. I realized that having their own set of slightly unique characters is eminently more copyrightable than stock folklore characters already in the public domain. Further, they don’t have to contend with horror genre fanboys complaining about glaring incongruencies when contrasted with popular legend, such as the fact that the vampire shown above looks less like a sophisticated count and more like a rather sinister Superman with a dinner napkin tucked into his shirt for the sloppy feast.
Whatever. I still find the Darkstalkers characters very interesting. Thanks to the magic of Wikipedia, it’s easy to research the characters and what the characters are supposed to be based on. Some are easy enough to guess, like the vampire, the werewolf, and the Frankenstein monster. But what about the skinny zombie whose body produces any number of sharp edges and also bears a Union Jack? Or the ghostly samurai warrior? (As an aside, I have never understood why some characters in these fighting games get weapons and others don’t; then again, they all seem to be able to fire magical projectiles so maybe it all evens out.)
I had not seen this character, Donovan, in the arcade incarnation I once frequently patronized. This guy has a little girl that follows him around on the sidelines. It’s all very weird. More notably, if you mash enough buttons, you can invariably summon this attack:
Just like the chandelier attack prominently featured in any number of castle movies, the preceding attack works best if the opponent is conveniently located underneath the foot.
I’m pleased to report that this is a great Saturn game. Despite the inherent A/V lag I experience due to my capture setup, the controls are very responsive (thus further evidencing that perhaps Criticom was just bad). My only gripe with this game is load times. I’m so glad I missed this the first time around since I was out of gaming during the original PlayStation/Saturn days.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Fighting Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (0)
December 31, 2006
I have quite a bit of free time during this week between Christmas and New Years Day and I am using it to get into the groove of playing and writing up one game per day. I think I have the Windows thing locked down but I also have a lot of Sega CD, Saturn, and Dreamcast games to work through. I can’t say I’m necessarily looking forward to the Saturn part of the exercise, for it means that I need to dust off my old Saturn console, hook it up to my ATI video capture card and fight with it until both audio and video come through into my computer, and then hope beyond hope that the old gaming unit still agrees to play the old, used, possibly battered and scratched Saturn CD-ROMs. And don’t even get me started on the screenshot workflow.
But somehow, I managed to get it all hooked up. So here’s the first Sega Saturn game of the Gaming Pathology experiment– Criticom. The game title seemed somewhat familiar even though I don’t remember ever playing it. When I started watching the low-grade, 1995-era FMV, I realized that I had already watched all of the FMV files from this game thanks to my efforts to reverse engineer the dominant Saturn FMV format. So the entire game is already spoiled for me. Everything except for the actual gameplay, that is.
Criticom is a one-on-one fighting game with a sci-fi/fantasy backstory. Basically, there is some crystal artifact (I think this might be the game’s namesake) that is the source of a huge amount of power. This game is about 8 different fighters brawling to decide who gets the crystal.
The option screen explained what the controls were — 2 jab buttons, 2 kick buttons, and 2 ‘special’ buttons. I didn’t pay too much attention since I planned to just mash buttons, as is my custom on games like this. For my first match I chose the character Demonica. Even though the narration explains that not much is known about her, I have to admire her sheer courage for approaching hand-to-hand combat with almost no clothing.
Further, I must give the game credit for fleshing out its storyline and individual characters so well, each with its own animated FMV intro sequence. Even though the narration is read with the same emotion and cadence as you would expect from the narration at an elementary school Christmas production, the creators took pains to give each character depth outside of the fighting ring.
Speaking of the ring, that’s exactly what the combat arena is– a big circle sitting high up, sometimes atop fire or lava. If you fall, it’s match over. There are no rounds; rather, after your fighter’s energy meter is depleted, you get one more refill. And there is a configurable time limit for matches. So, in essence, a match can be won by KO, TKO, or knocking an opponent out of the ring.
So, I’m not very good at this. I mash buttons but don’t get much response from Demonica. She can’t possibly blame it on being too cold due to her ensemble since there is lava just below the ring. I get wiped out pretty quick, into the (hot) drink. That’s okay– there are plenty more characters to choose from. An unusual facet of this brawler is that more than half of the fighters are female (Exene, Demonica, Delara, and Yenji). There are 3 male fighters (Dayton, Gorm, and Sonork), and one presumably asexual robot named S.I.D. (sentient intelligence drone, if memory serves). I try the robot next:
S.I.D.’s intro (as read by the dispassionate narrator) explains that the S.I.D.s wander the land looking to kill carbon-based life forms. You would think that they would be better at it by now. What I’m saying is that I didn’t have much better luck playing him. I think one problem I might have is delay resulting from sending the Saturn A/V signal through my computer for presentation, which would account for the lack of responsiveness from the controls. Still, I think the game could have used a practice mode. I tried my luck with one more character — Yenji, sort of a futuristic ninja lady — and actually won a match, but only because my opponent tripped and fell out of the ring and into the abyss.
I remember using a separate video player to watch all the endings for the various characters. The most amusing one is for the S.I.D. robot. He claims the crystal, runs a robo-scan for analysis, recognizes its practical worthlessness, and tosses it aside.
Now that I have enough data for a MobyGames entry, I can finally do the same with this game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Fighting Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (2)