March 8, 2008
The second installment of the Panzer Dragoon series was the single reason for my interest in the Sega Saturn. Even though I now understand that the full official title of Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei simply means Panzer Dragoon 2: 2 (II = 2 in Roman numerals, zwei = 2 in German).
Still, I have always had a major soft spot for this game, regardless of the fact that I have almost no clue what on earth is even going on in this game. The story has something to do with an adorable little mutant dragon and the human who just can’t bring himself to exterminate the precious little monster even those that is his village’s custom.
One day, the human is taking the dragon out for a spin, seeing if it can fly, when wouldn’t you know, a giant ship wipes out his village with a column of energy, Independence Day-style. He survives since he was outside the village and goes down to investigate and also beat up on some of the invaders raiding the village. The action becomes a third person shooter where your dragon just runs along a pre-scripted path but you are free to swivel 360 degrees and fire anywhere. At one point during the village battle, the ship overhead sees fit to drop a boulder in your direction. What an odd weapons system.
In the end, he gets whacked aside by the invading forces and sets out on a quest. Like I said, I’m never quite sure what’s going on or why, or who’s fighting whom. In the second level, you are racing through a canyon. At various junctures, another rider is cruising next to you. He seems to be fighting the same enemies as you and I don’t think you can hurt him.
After the canyon, there’s a brief real-time intermission where your ride takes off and glides to the ground below. It’s very tranquil and well animated. Then, it’s back to business– invading a fortress. The confusing part about this is that there seems to be other forces that are invading at the same time, so it’s not all up to you.
Whatever. I still like the game. And now MobyGames will have a proper set of screenshots. Plus, I think I have a strategy for capturing good screenshots from Saturn games (and PS1 and PS2 games) through my DV bridge, purchased about a year ago.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (0)
July 17, 2007
I have had a lot of trouble capturing Sega Saturn screenshots via DV hardware. Actually, that’s an understatement– I have had absolutely no luck capturing thus far. That was with the standard composite cables that came with the unit. My last ditch effort was to procure an S-video Saturn cable, which arrived today. Works beautifully:
I’m in business now. This is great news since I currently have 26 Saturn titles on my master spreadsheet that are missing screenshots in the database.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Sega Saturn Games,The Big Picture | Comments (1)
July 4, 2007
It’s Independence Day here in the U.S.A. and I thought it would be apropos to play the Sega Saturn version of Independence Day (having already covered the Windows version on this blog). However, my Saturn console disagreed. But since the unit was already hooked up, and since I have more than enough Saturn games yet to play, I’ll try a recent acquisition– Defcon 5.
Regrettably, this post will be done entirely without the help of visual aids. I don’t have the capacity to capture from my Sega Saturn on my new PC. I did take the time today to finally crack my new DV capture bridge, purchased some months ago along with the new PC. However, it does not capture from the Saturn. I’m still working on solving that problem (GameCube/Dreamcast/PS2/VCR, no problem). The disc also has FILM files for FMV. Regrettably, none are anywhere near interesting enough to commit to YouTube.
Moving on to the actual game, the affair starts off with an overwrought intro FMV characteristic of the early days of CD-ROM games. I fear that this is a prelude to interactive movie-style gameplay. The story has something like — let’s see if I can synopsize this correctly — a mega-corporation that does interplanetary mining has a bunch of space stations to protect their mining operations from alien threats. Thing is, no aliens have ever been encountered in the history of human endeavor, so these stations are really just a paranoid measure whose continued operational costs are increasingly difficult to justify to the beancounters. Budget cuts demand that these stations will go unstaffed in 60 days and will need to have their software upgraded so that they can operate autonomously. The lead engineer — excuse me, cyberneer — on the project got killed upgrading the second to last station. Your job is to upgrade that last station’s software.
Great, so this game simulates the menial, trained-monkey action items performed by futuristic IT peons. However, wouldn’t you know, just as you are trying to carry out your upgrade mission, unidentified spaceships start closing in on this last space station. Could they be the fabled aliens whose appearance might have justified the space stations’ operating budget?
Personally, I tend to think the so-called alien threat really consists of disgruntled, laid-off space station employees in disguise, Scooby-Doo-style.
Anyway, the gameplay consists of Wolfenstein 3D-type gameplay as you wander around this station while a digitized voice implores you to find the control center to upgrade the software. The graphics are primitive by 1995 3D standards but I’m relieved that it’s not a pre-rendered FMV maze. That relief trend sharply reverses as I begin to navigate the corridors. Either my character is a stereotypically, grotesquely obese IT knowledge worker, or there is horrible hit detection in this game– it’s almost impossible to walk between 2 support posts that are more than a meter apart from each other. Plus, you bounce backwards slightly but sharply when you contact an object which makes walking a tedious exercise.
I had a weapon and I know I was supposed to encounter aliens in short order because that’s what the nice lady computer voice kept foreshadowing. But I just didn’t stick around long enough. I later examined the instruction manual that saw fit to publish a 12-step walkthrough for how to complete the first tedious task in the game.
This is what happens when IT employees carry their professional experience over to game development.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (0)
January 27, 2007
Actually, this game is merely entitled D (Sega Saturn version). No subtitle. I just added that to the post title in an effort to make it less confusing. You might think it’s the same as one of the sponsors of Sesame Street, but the content of the game is actually quite orthogonal to that of a kids’ television show. Let’s dive right in with a representative screenshot:
Admittedly, the foregoing screenshot has been significantly brightened so you have a fighting chance of making it out. But I suppose such effect does undercut the dark nightmare scenario portrayed throughout the story. The screenshot depicts Laura, our protaganist who is also attending art school in San Francisco, discovering a skeleton long ago impaled upon a wall of spikes, a surprisingly common facet of the decoration in the area she is exploring. Thing is, her dad runs a mental institution in Los Angeles, but went nuts himself and started killing everyone. The police don’t feel like tackling the situation. So Laura makes her way from San Francisco to Los Angeles to figure things out. That’s pretty much all the backstory you get. Remember, Laura came all the way from San Francisco for this family reunion. The only reason I point that out is that the game thought it was pretty interesting. Literary criticism is a bit out of my league, but that’s okay since proper literature is probably beyond the reach of whoever wrote this story. They tried to set up this taut thriller of a storyline but threw in some completely superfluous details, to say nothing of the breaks in pacing during the intro sequence when the cinematic editing repeatedly cuts to Laura’s automobile speeding along the freeway. To get from S.F. to L.A., in case that wasn’t clear before.
If it seems like I’m harping on the cinematic and story elements pretty hard, that’s because that’s really all there is to this game. It’s another entry into that wretched genre called the interactive movie, published in 1995 during the rise of such games. Perhaps I’m somewhat prejudiced at this point but my stomach churned at the thought of playing this game. But I suck it up for the sake of the experiment.
The game is somewhat like a horror version of Myst in that you are given very little backstory or context; you’re just plunged into some alternate universe where you’re forced to bumble around, look at stuff, touch things, and just try to figure out what’s going on. Sure, the game allegedly starts in a hospital. But as soon as you set foot inside, you touch an amorphous blob and are whisked off to… well, you don’t know. Your dad’s head appears and urges you to return home. And here comes an interesting facet of the game: You have 2 hours to finish:
Check that out! How many programmers have written analog clock programs? How many of them have actually had occasion to use them in a commercial application? Hats off to the developers in that regard. Getting back to the gameplay, if you don’t finish in 2 hours, it’s game over. The game consists of moving from pre-defined location to pre-defined location where the movement is all pre-rendered FMV. There are occasional items to pick up and use. There are likely opportunities to die a horrible death. I came close to one, but the game was merciful. This time. Laura also has a compact case that she can look at to gather clues. I get the impression that you can only use it 2-3 times per game before it shatters.
BTW, no pausing. You could claim that D is similar to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! in that respect. I suppose you could technically qualify this game as a real-time interactive movie since it enforces that 2-hour deadline at all times. Not only can you not pause but you can’t fast forward through any animations, not even drawn-out ones that you accidentally triggered a second time, like trying to open a locked door.
I gave this game a fair shake and played until I got hopelessly stuck and the compact wouldn’t surrender anymore clues. Based on what I saw, I think Laura is going to be another character like Claire from Resident Evil: Code Veronica due to the fact that, no matter how many gruesome sights and impaled corpses she witnesses, she will never grow desensitized to the horror. You might think Laura might come to expect disconcerting things in this place.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Interactive Movies,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (1)
January 19, 2007
It’s Friday night; it has been a long, sick week. I’m going to take it easy tonight, hook up the Sega Saturn console to the real TV to eliminate lag, and shove through that Batman Forever arcade game. And if I have time, maybe a little Clockwork Knight while I’m at it.
Followup: More thoughts about playing Batman Forever:
- The game is just fine when played on a lag-less setup as it was meant to be, and quite fun. I may also take this opportunity to play Astal, one of the most sensory-pleasing action games ever produced.
- I still don’t understand half of what’s going on in this game. But I guess as long as the action keeps coming fast and furious, who cares? I have, however, figured out that the copious bat symbol powerups are not for health.
- The game action can sometimes wander up to the top of the screen to where it is obscured by the power meter. Bad form.
- Halfway through my continues, the game switched me from using Batman to playing Robin. Not sure if I accidentally chose that. They’re both equally capable in this game. Of getting hurt, at least.
- One level pits you against yet another horde of enemy thugs against the colorful backdrop of a high society party where the people appear fairly unimpressed as though the mighty battle is all just part of the evening’s entertainment. The game portrays this audience with digitized actors, common during the epoch just preceding the interactive movie genre.
- Hey! The audio cut out! Not sure it it’s the game, the console, the TV, the cables, or my ears. On top of that, soon afterwards, the game gets into a state where an arrow is constantly beckoning me to move to the right, but the game will not allow me to go further. I understand that game houses are under tremendous pressure to get these licensed games out by the time the movie is in theaters; perhaps this is the end but the devs had no time to add a proper ending sequence?
Followup #2: Clockwork Knight is even better in a lag-less condition. At its core, it’s just a side-scrolling platform game. But there’s boundless creativity on display. However, there is also a gambling feature that makes typical Vegas games sound sane. You can collect coins throughout the game. For what purpose? I wasn’t sure so when I was first offered the opportunity to gamble them between rounds. So I figured I had little to lose. At one game I wagered 15 of my coins. They call the game a type of roulette but it’s really more of a 7-box Monty. 2 of the boxes have a coin while the other 5 are jokers. Keep your eye on the boxes with coins because all 7 will spin around quickly. The graphics on the Saturn make this pretty much impossible to track visually so it’s basically a game of chance when the “wheel” quits turning. Anyway, I guessed right on this round. Having put 15 of my coins in play, the game offered me a winning of 1 coin or the chance to let it ride and double my winning! Grrrr… Does this have a basis in conventional gambling? Can you win back a fraction of the money you wager on a single game? Is there such a thing as 1-to-15 odds?
I eventually discovered what the coins are good for: 20 are worth a continue, which I would have almost considered priceless in this game. Notwithstanding, Clockwork Knight is a very enjoyable and visually engrossing romp.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (0)
January 18, 2007
I’m still feeling fairly braindead today and I require an equally braindead game. Let’s check the big list… a-ha! Batman Forever: The Arcade Game for the Sega Saturn sounds like it would fit the bill. An arcade game, by definition, doesn’t ask for much thought investment. And how do we know that this is a certified arcade game? Observe the following card:
Yes, it’s the classic FBI anti-drug warning that was omnipresent in all arcade games, at least in the early 1990s. It’s the reason why any arcade devotee of the era knew exactly who was in charge of the FBI at the time. I’m hard-pressed to recall any home console game that used the same screen.
Structurally, the game is similar to brawlers like Double Dragon and Final Fight, so I should enjoy this. At first, it’s quite challenging even though the default difficulty setting is ‘easy’. Of course, I need to account for the input lag in my Saturn setup. Still, the game does not disappoint in the braindead department. You choose from either Batman or Robin (or both in 2-player mode) and walk from left to right while punching, kicking, and jumping while kicking.
Dispatching just about any enemy rewards the player with a powerup and you had better collect them all. Many are health powerups, and the health runs out rapidly. Other powerups include a variety of special weapons like batarangs; a bat grappling hook that allows you to swing around the screen and knock out all the enemies; and a rather curious offensive option where you levitate and release a huge amount of raw power to flatten the enemies on the screen. The players can also pick up and throw various items on screen (like large, non-descript, grey blocks).
Overall, Batman Forever is a quite challenging game. But then, I must keep in mind that it is an arcade game at its heart. As such, it retains that same token-eater gameplay quality. I might hook my Saturn up to my real TV one day in order to play the game properly, and without delay. You don’t get infinite continues in this game (that number is configurable between 3 and 7).
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Sega Saturn Games | Comments (2)