Virtual-On Retrospective: Operation Moongate

This post is first in a series of five. You can access all posts in Robot Related Section linked above, or move between sequential post at their beginning and end

Virtual-On is one of Sega’s hallmark game franchises, developed by Sega’s AM3 department. It had everything the arcades required in 1996; 3D graphics that you wouldn’t see at home, unique controls, flashy graphics and fast paced gameplay. When most of the 3D mecha combat games on the market aimed for slow and emphasized on realistic simulation, like Shattered Metal or Mech Warrior 2, Virtual-On hit the arcades with sharp, colourful 3D models in fast paced third-person action with (relatively) easy controls. This is perhaps the best example of East VS. West mentality when it comes to giant robots. Even in arcades, among other blooming 3D games, Virtual-On stood apart with its excellent presentation and unrelenting game play.


Continue reading “Virtual-On Retrospective: Operation Moongate”

Kinect is dead

Microsoft puts an end to a device nobody wanted.

Looking back at Kinect, it really did become a sort of X32 of the seventh console generation. It was an add-on that was marketed like no other, came in with great hype, sold well at the launch, but then had no good software to make use of it and then whimpered away. That’s all there is to it. While Sega moved away from the Mega Drive for new pastures and managed to mishandle everything until the death of the Dreamcast, and even then we can debate a lot if they have stopped mishandling things, Microsoft tried their best to make it work.

The question whether or not Microsoft created Kinect to counter the Wii’s motion controls can always be on the table to be discussed, and if it was, they really failed at it. At a consumer electronics level, the sort of camera and motion detection games require is just tad beyond out there. Sometimes Kinect lost the sight of people due to their clothing or skin colour, it was a peculiar device in that way. Perhaps it would have been better to deliver some sort of extra attachments with Kinect that would make it clear which part of the body was a hand or a leg, but this sort of idea would’ve gone against Microsoft’s wishes to have the device ready from the box and your body was to be the controller. No bells and whistles attached.

Never mind Microsoft said that they would not sell any Xbox Ones without a Kinect few years back, because that was their normal bolstering. Claiming that the two were one system and nothing could separate them soon came to an end, when Microsoft updated the machine to function without Kinect connected about a year later or so. The PR campaign that both developers and consumers loved Kinect and that there was a demand was mostly just bunch of hot air based on pretty much nothing else but their own hype machine. Machine, which I doubt Microsoft really bought themselves either. They tried, but they failed.

The main point of failure Kinect has is not in the design of the device itself. I’ve seen some seriously impressive prototypes and tech demos in my friend’s tech lab he put up for tests and other purposes tech rats tend to do. Even when you may have capable technology in your hands, it may not be utilised well or is put into use in a wrong field. Gamers and consumers in general may have developed a good eye-hand coordination throughout the years, but eye-body coordination is a totally different thing. A Kinect game overall required very loose controls that people could use. Due to different body types and certain limitations they produce, you couldn’t exactly create a tight game that would require high accuracy body control that would work within the confines of the game. While flicking your wrist to a direction seems almost natural with a pointer, trying to move a giant tub of a boat in a river where you have zero feedback other than what you see is not exactly intuitive.

Even Forza Motorsport 4, which in all fairness looked like an awesome piece, managed to screw its controls in the end. It requires you to have your arms straight the whole time you play the game, and if you’ve ever happened to have a need to keep your arms extended forwards for an elongated period of time, they’ll go sore. This wasn’t the case with either Wiimote’s or Sony’s PlayStation Move, because both of them allowed more comfortable positions of play. Forza 4 almost looks like the only game that didn’t make itself an unchallenging piece in trade for the Kinect controls, but even this has been debated.

In short, none of the Kinect’s games were really worth your time, and consumers didn’t buy it. The only developers that sank more time and money to properly integrate Kinect to their games were those who had a closer relationship with Microsoft. The question just is, how many titles that support Kinect had to bolt it on due to legal agreements with Microsoft, had it thrown together as an afterthought or some sort of combination of both? Without a doubt numerous games were designed Kinect in mind with a passion, but all in all, it seems Just Dance ended up being the best sort of Kinect game out there.

Nintendo seems to be keen on continuing on the legacy Wiimote left them with, though whatever use HD Rumble will have in the end is a topic for another post, but Sony moved into the VR field faster than either of its two competitors. That said, even PS VR has some signs of going downhill with EVE: Valkyrie getting a patch that adds VR-free mode and gets a price drop. Much like full-body motion controls, VR and 3D are things that come and go periodically, and every time they get similar sort of software and support. After the initial burst of interest has gone by, it just lays low and dies down. I hope you didn’t invest into a 3D television.

Nintendo may not have put much emphasize on motion controls this time around, but they’re still there and used. The reason for their existence still is that unlike the Kinect you can add and integrate them into a game relatively easily without trying make them command the whole thing. As said, a flick of a wrist with a pointer in a comfortable position serves better on the long run. However, all these three, body, motion and VR controls, all will fail if they don’t get innovative ways to utilise them and put them into a good use. You can have whatever kind of technology at your hands, but that technology will never go anywhere if the software sucks to the point of consumers vehemently going against it. Kinect will be better used on technology research and development rather than in gaming.

Here’s to you Kinect, very few will mourn you, I won’t be one of them.

Microsoft combining their platforms

For some time now I’ve been expecting Microsoft to return to their native PC market. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is hitting the PC via Windows 10 Store. Similarly, Forza 6’s slimmed down version is getting a release via Win10 store as well.

What does this tell you? This tells you that Microsoft is unifying PC and Xbox One.

The Xbox brand has been less successful than Microsoft wanted it to be. From the very first console, it never dominated the market anywhere to any extend outside the America. The Xbox lost to PS2, the 360 lost to the Wii and Xbox One doesn’t seem to sell anywhere. These have translated into losses very fast, but Microsoft’s vast monetary resources have kept the brand afloat.

Not only that, but the consumer has made clear what sort of OS they prefer. Windows 7 is still the most used OS at 52.34% market share, followed by Win10 and the goddamn WinXP. Nobody liked Windows 8, and it looks like Win10 is gaining foothold because it’s a forced update. It offers something to the hardcore gamers for sure, but that’s a niche audience at best.

UWP, the Universal Windows Platform, aims to run platforms on both PC and Xbox. Seeing how Microsoft is turning Xbox into a gaming machine that can be upgraded in hardware, like almost any PC. Hell, at this point they should do away with the Xbox brand as a console and start selling them as gaming designated PCs. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody has done that either.

On top of that, Microsoft wants to get into the whole Augmented Reality stuff.

It seems they are restructuring themselves harshly, but something doesn’t seem right. They’re not making a clear-cut difference with the console market, but they are teetering on its edge. With the upgradeable hardware they are essentially announcing that their targeted consumer base will be smaller than previously, as most console gamers are not into modifying their hardware in any way.

This weird split won’t push either Xbox side or the PC side if the UWP in the way they are hoping for. Digitally, the UWP acts as one platform, but we always have to remember that there exists a large amount of different hardwares running Win10. For the cross platform to work as intended, all UWP games would need to be tied to the Xbox side of hardware in performance and options. I do not see a scenario where UWP would allow any Xbox game to use the full potential of the PC hardware because Xbox hardware exists.

On top of that, DirectX 12 will be Windows 10 exclusive and that won’t affect anything. Rather, if UWP will utilise it, the Xbox will most likely get an equivalent update to it.

UWP and Win10 Store will function as digital game console, much like how Steam works, and that is what Microsoft will have an uphill battle with. Steam is without a doubt in a monopoly position when it comes to digital platform on PC. Both EA and Ubisoft tried their own thing and failed. GOG is sticking around as a good alternative for older games. Some have expressed the worry that Windows 10 will put games behind a walled garden, forcing people to use certain software to access their games to begin with with always online functionality, but you’d think they already got used to it with Steam.

Xbox as a brand had some root as a console name, and had dedicated fans just like everything else. However, unlike most of Nintendo’s consoles, both SONY and Microsoft were always the hardcore red sea competitors. But now there is an ad floating around with a modified Xbox One claiming that Together we are ONE, and especially mentions how the whole thing goes from the best casual games to a new generation PC gaming. It’s laughable and implies that PC gaming is the hardcore market, which it really is as we’ve discussed previously.While it’s sidestepping the hardcore fallacy, it resorts to casual fallacy with no care in the world.

The Xbox One seems to become a Steam Machine in many ways, an incredibly dumbed down computer for games.

None of this matters if the software they’re offering isn’t  up the task. Microsoft can reorganise the Xbox brand and their PC side as many times as they want to, but without the software to push either one, they will fall flat. Gaming on consoles has always been about one thing and one thing only; games. With Frankenstein’s monster -esque change they’re making won’t benefit the gamers or themselves as long as they intend to mix PC and consoles together.

I see this becoming another failure in Microsoft’s ventures. Zune failed, Microsoft phones failed, Microsoft’s tablets have been failing and now their consoles have failed and are being turned into third-rate PCs. The only reason Microsoft is still around is what made them big in the first place; Windows. The OS installation base is still large and Office is still largely a standard, but with their misadventures and constant screw-ups they are doing their hardest to fuck this monopoly up.

Top 5 games of 2015

Much like last few years, here’s personal Top 5 games of 2015. Like last time, all these games were first played in their actual physical form this year. As the release year doesn’t matter to any reviewer out there either, I’m simply picking from the games I played this year. This post is going out about week before intended, but seeing how I’ll be a bit busy for the rest of the year, I don’t see myself picking up any new games that could affect this post.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)

MonHun4U is a peculiarity on this list. The sole reason I bought a Flanders (N3DS) was to play with my friends who live elsewhere. After the initial whomp of daily playing, things died down a bit, but I kept going mostly by myself with some random players well into the final G-Rank quests.

I have about five hundred hours sunk into the game. I can’t argue against the time I’ve spent on it, MonHun4U is definitely the game I’ve played the most this year and deserves the top spot, even if there is no order with these.

The reason why the game gets the spot, and got all the hours from me, is that it’s challenging and fun. There really isn’t anything like Monster Hunter, and even if the series is not all that popular in the West, it does have a healthy player base. That’s part of the reason I enjoyed this game to the extent I have, most players I’ve met online have been very supportive. Not only that, but it’s a very rewarding game with grinding taking a small eternity, but when you get the equipment set you’ve planned, you’re able to put it into use right away and start messing with harder and stronger monsters.

I started with MonHun Portable on PSP, and the series has come a long way from having stupidly difficult start and controls to a game that’s nicely balanced. Fixed hitboxes help a lot in actually knowing where the monster is going to hit and where you need to hit it back. While I still dislike the fact MonHun is all about animation management than anything else when it comes to the controls, it’s still relatively tight. I would prefer to have more options via cancelling or comboing differently, but that would change the gameplay rather drastically. Monster Hunter X sort of did this, where all the Styles have different kind of gameplay. Aerial Style is damn fun, and I can see myself using it whenever I decide to get it. Most likely I’ll wait and see if CAPCOM decides to bring it to the West, it’s gotten pretty good respond from the fans overall.

Gravity Rush (PSVita)

Gravity Rush was the game you got the Vita for. Now you don’t need to, it’s being remade for the PS4. It’s a very short and very sweet game, which kinda makes me wonder why the hell didn’t they bundle it and its sequel together, because it also feels very incomplete towards the end.

The thing Gravity Rush does the best is flying. You can spend hours end just flying around and collecting things. Sometimes after finishing with a session I could feel my eyes and physical feeling still pulling me towards the skies. It’s absolutely fantastic. Sadly, the rest of the game isn’t really as stellar. The battle system is very basic, more a chore than an enjoyment. Side quests, like with most games, are a chore a well. At least they give you more reasons just to fly around. Nevertheless, once you get inside the game and begin to fly around like its your second nature, using Gravity Kicks to beat your enemies becomes fast and easy. It’s still a chore sure, but at least you know what you’re doing and are good at it.

Gravity Rush could’ve been SONY’s first proper great in-house game franchise, but they fucked that up by waiting far too long with the sequel, and now killing Vita by porting what can be described as its only truly unique game. It’s one of those games that are flawed, but those flaws don’t really stand out too much, mostly because the exact same flaws have become more or less a standard in the industry. It does few things well, and one of them really damn good. Flying and freefalling haven’t been this fun since last night’s dream.

Gravity Rush 2 most likely will be one of the reasons I will end up getting a PS4

Nier (X360)

Nier is a game that I got more or less because I have respect towards Drakengard as a franchise, and because I am having stupidly high expectations for Nier Automata for no good reason. It’s also one of those games where I didn’t go skipping story sequences. Nier and Drakengard games have stupidly expansive story that are both as entertaining and interesting to read about as they are heart crushing.

I never finished the original Drakengard, it is effectively a shit game. Kusoge, if you want to use the Japanese term. I’ve heard the second game improves the gameplay a lot, which is why I’ll be giving it a look at some point next year. Nier is a far better game than Drakengard in ever respect, yet it carries the same generic flaws as Gravity Rush; side questing to the extreme and dumb as hell combat. What makes Nier stand out from the crowd isn’t just because of the story, but how much it shows it was made with love. Effectively, the gameplay is what you’d expect from a 3D action game, in lieu of 3D Zelda. It has a very similar overworld-dungeon structure to boot. The music absolutely gorgeous, definitely one of the best soundtracks from previous generation.

The boss fights require a special mentioning, as they change the rules of the gameplay pretty drastically. I don’t know what good stuff the developing team was smoking at the time, but I want me some. The bosses, and some the minor enemies, have ability to turn the game into a large scaled version of bullet hells, which really makes the game’s bosses to stand out from the generic fodder you kill on the fields and dungeons, for better or worse.

Nier is also one of the few games that actually use video game’s own methods to tell a story. This is slightly spoilerific, so just skip to next bit if you don’t want to know. The main enemies in the game are Shades, and in the tutorial you are taught how to kill these by the dozens. Nevertheless, the fist Shades you meet in the game proper do not attack you, ever.  They are not aggressive, and items these smaller Shades drop are things like used colouring books or other stuff children tend to carry. It’s a very minor, but also very telling way to show to the player a foreshadowing element, where the Shades are not monsters, but human souls separated from their bodies, and you were just slaughtered bunch of innocent children without any provocation. It’s great stuff, and Nier ups the ante to the very end, even having an ending where you can choose to erase your existence, or in real world terms, all the saved and system data from your HDD. The DLC still stays, you don’t need to redownload that.

The reason why Nier also got on the list is that this year there were very little games that did actually tell me I’m on the list dammit! Nier’s not a kind of game I would otherwise put it on the list, as a game it’s pretty generic and even dumb, but as an overall piece of entertainment, including all the sidematerials and the insane shit they have in them, it got a spot. This kind of tells me very few games caught my eye this year, even less had the balls to be extremely good.

There’s something in this opening that I just like

Pitman (GameBoy)

Tetris is the ultimate puzzle game, Umihara Kawase games are the best puzzle-platformers and Pitman falls just under that. It’s Western name is Catrap.

The main goal in the Pitman is to beat all the monsters in a room. You got falling rocks to place, grass to cut and monsters to bump. Rather than trying to explain the gameplay mechanics incoherently in my whisky fumes, just give this video a look.

It’s a very fun game, but also very frustrating at times. It’s a great time sink and something I would recommend everybody to get their hands on, if possible. I think it’s available on the 3DS’ eShop, at least in Japan. There’s nothing much to say about it, all great puzzle games shine in their simplicity like that.

Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker (Famicom)

When I was a wee lad, I ended up playing slew of soccer games as my older brother was part of a team. One of them was Tecmo Cup: Football  Game, which I always had fond memories of. It’s pretty much the only soccer game I remember liking next to Nintendo World Cup, both because they weren’t dull or aimed at realistic simulation, unlike Kick-Off!, which I should revisit after twenty years now that I understand how it work better. Of course, it took some time to find out that Tecmo Cup: Football Game was actually the Western release of Captain Tsubasa. The Cutting Room Floor has a list of differences that happened during localisation.

What makes Captain Tsubasa II an interesting piece that it’s something we could call a cinematic soccer game, derived from the fact that it makes extensive use of Tecmo Theatre, which is essentially a widescreen window on the screen showing actions and story progression. Other Tecmo games used it as well but not to the same extent. Ninja Gaiden may be the most famous example. The biggest difference with how Tecmo Theatre handles cinematics here is that they are completely dependant on the player input during gameplay. Modern games are very much on a lower calibre, where the cinematics play despite the player and only occasionally requiring an input or two. Outside when a cinematic of your action plays out, like Passing to another character or shooting, you’re in control the whole time.

Of course, prior to each match you’re given option to change the layout your team will be in, tactics and so on. If we really want to get into it all, you better be prepared to look closely into how the opposing team is playing and what their weaknesses are. All this becomes important later in the game after you’ve gained new team members and your current ones have levelled up enough. You read that right, Captain Tsubasa II has a level up system which gives a solid feel of progression and encourages you to play evenly rather than just relying on Tsubasa’s Super kicks.

As Captain Tsubasa II is a license game, it is an original sequel to the Captain Tsubasa comic, which had ended at the time. Funny thing is that certain elements appear in late World Youth sequel series. As such, it also carries a lot of elements that appeared in both the TV-series and comics when it comes to how it handles soccer. While it’s not necessarily unrealistic, it is cartoonish and supercharges the most dramatic moments, rivalries and of course, the kicks.

Supercharged would be a good word to describe the game. It feels fast, it doesn’t feel cheap and it simply feels so damn fun. Everything has been laid down so damn well with just the right design. The energetic music adds so much to the game, keeping the tension up and gets you pumped up. There is no one bad track in the whole game as even the damn Password screen theme get you hyped.

This is the key why Captain Tsubasa II is still popular among Japanese; it’s fast and wastes no time to throw you in. The game has got a lot of romhacks that modify teams, events and so on. Even Touhou has a soccer version that is essentially Captain Tsubasa II with a new coat of paint and new scenarios. It captures the gameplay pretty accurately, even if the running animation with the characters is rather awful. However, it adds far too long super moves with main characters, which in the end botches down some of the game’s pace.

Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker is essentially a sport game for those who don’t like sport games. It’s also superior to its predecessor in every regard, which bums me out that this never got localised. It’s an excellent example how to manage cinematics with a solid and simple core gameplay.

Last games on my list have always gotten special spots. Captain Tsubasa II deserves it this time simply by being a damn good and entertaining game.

I really should read the comic one of these days, it’s basically responsible in making soccer a popular sports in Japan, much like how Slam Dunk did with basketball later on.

Those that didn’t make the cut

Unlike previous years, I’ll include a set of games that didn’t make the cut for whatever reasons. If you’re wondering why Schwarzesmarken didn’t get on either of the lists, it’s because I don’t consider Visual Novels as video games.

Metal Gear Solid V (PS3, 360, PS4, Xbone, PC)

The reason MGSV didn’t get the spot is that it was sort of boring on the long run. It forced a TV-series sort of structure, where every mission had opening and ending credits, which was an utter waste of time. I don’t give two damn who made the game, just let me get on with it already. The game had a large areas to play with, but there’s very little do in those empty spaces.

I know the game was released essentially unfinished, and this is also the reason why it feels very unrefined at times. Yet when looking at the time and money that was spent on MGSV, I understand very well why KONAMI wanted it out. Kojima spent too much time to make this a grand scale game, when one of the best part of the series has been that they all have been very tightly designed. I hope that whatever next Metal Gear game KONAMI puts out next will go back to the basics.


This game is also coming to West, and it’s not really worth your money. Well, it kinda is. I also hope they will drop TENSEI from the title.

I really love the Langrisser series, and RE:Langrisser was a disappointment I enjoyed. The most damning thing with it is the battle sequences; they are absolutely retarded. Turning them off actually makes the game very enjoyable, but at the cost of making it very in visuals. The music is tight as hell, and my favourite track Neo Holy War got in. Sure, it’s a Stage Results theme, but it got in dammit!

Speaking outside the fan perspective, unless the game gets a gameplay overhaul and content additions with completely revamping the battle animations, there’s very little reason to buy RE:Langrisser. It feels like a budget game without being one, and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people. Fire Emblem fans may get a kick out of it, as FE belongs to the same genre that Langrisser’s predecessor Elthlead started.

Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox)

I wanted to like the game, but after hearing so many glorious things, my hopes for a great game were crushed. There are games that are difficult and fun, but Ninja Gaiden Black is just a chore. The difficulty it has isn’t really anything that can’t be overcome, but it’s just a damn tedious game with little to no fun factor in it. There are more fun games in my library, and beating the game about halfway through I just gave up and decided to spend more time on games that gave something back as well.

Transformers Devastation (PS3, 360, PS4, Xbone)

I like most of Platinum’s games. They are often fast paced, very well designed and exceptionally well realised. However, lately their games have become stale in what they do, namely with The Legend of Korra and Transformers Devastation. TFD is a very fun game to play, but ultimately it is also very much of the mould as previous games from Platinum. They have a thing they do, and they do it very well, possibly the best in the whole industry.

Nevertheless TFD feels like they are strongly stagnating and close to repeating themselves in an endless cycle. TFD’s lack of revitalisation in what they do is the reason it didn’t get the spot, it’s too much of the same. This is why my hopes for Nier Automata are stupid, because I know it’ll be the best game in the Nier/Drakengard metaseries, but it will also be your run-of-the-mill Platinum game that doesn’t evolve or refine their core gameplay one bit.

Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (PSVita)

The first Senran Kagura was an awful game to play. It’s clunky, on the slow side and overall boring. Shinovi Versus was its first sequal, and is a lot better in every respect. The reason it didn’t get into Top 5 is that Senran Kagura 2 Shinku is a better game. It has better gameplay, better stage design, better tracks, and most importantly, faster load times. Shinovi Versus’ stages average around 45s, ranging from 5s to 1min 20s, all depending how well you know how to abuse the system. More often than not you’ll clear stages in about half a minute. This doesn’t even require you to grind for levels. This means the game should be a very fast paced game, but you’d be wrong thinking that. Loading the stage from the menu and loading the “overworld” after the stage takes 1min 50s, longer if there are more than one story sequence. When playing the game, ~51+% of your time is sitting and waiting for the game to load something. That’s infuriating, especially if you’re in the zone and just want to blaze through. The game takes twice as long to beat because of the load times. Without the long load times, this game would’ve been in Top 5. For a system that uses game cartridges, this is unforgivably awful optimisation.

Top 5 games of 2014

Year is at its end, and it is time to go over the Games of the Year. Unlike with most other people listing theirs, this list will consist of any game I happened to play the first time this year. Why? Because modern market allows almost any game from any year to compete with the new productions thanks to the magic of re-releasing. That, and the overall industry doesn’t seem to give a damn about release dates, as they’re completely glad to give Year of X to titles that were released in other regions year earlier or later.

That said, there listed games are not in order of preference or what is best. As I began compiling this list about six months ago, the listed games are in the order they were played in, starting from very early January.

And oh, this post counts as my Monthly Review. You’ll soon see why.

DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou (Xbox 360,  2013)

Not one of my favourite trailers. Masu Star to yourself, you damn blobs

DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou may be the last DoDonPachi game CAVE said to make, but it’s no less enjoyable than the earlier entries. In these days when good shooting games are becoming somewhat a rarity, DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou is a welcome entry.

There’s very little to actually describe or tell about the game, as anyone who has played a vertically scrolling shooting game can already measure the core gameplay. Shooting game fans will call out now that scoring is inherently what makes the difference in gameplay, but ultimately they all are just about flying towards the top of the screen while blowing shit up as much as possible without dying yourself.

What may split your opinion on the game is how CAVE has move further emphasize on the cute characters in the series, and here it seems to blossom the most as the co-pilot keeps discussing with your operator and commenting on stuff in the 360 Mode. While I don’t personally find anything too negative in this, and even laughed at few things they say, there are those who will curse CAVE’s decision to bring this sort of stuff in.

The problem with any shooting game, especially with vertical scrollers, is that the genre sort of becomes a blob of gray mass if one isn’t well versed with it already. Without a clearly defined design that would allow it to stand out, a shooting game is muddled with generic visuals. SaiDaiOuJou falls into this category, as visually it doesn’t look any more interesting than the numerous other predecessors it has. That said, the visual are rather nice and all that, but they don’t stand out. It just may be that I have played far too many space ship shooting games in my time without being a hardcore fan who wants to one-coin each and every game.

However, how the game plays can’t be argued. With the experience CAVE has under its belt, I would expect nothing less than absolute perfection in function. While there are the occasional hiccups here and there you may not even notice, controls are absolutely to the point and only the player can be faulted for losing a ship or getting a hit. A whole another question is whether or not the game deserves enough time to put into it, but that’s a completely subjective thing.

However, it must be said that for this release CAVE decided to simplify things. Whereas DaiFukkatsu had somewhat complex mechanic bullet cancellation system in it, SaiDaiOuJou simplified things by returning to the core idea of shooting and dodging bullets. Nevertheless, AutoBombing returns from past titles, but some would regard this option a standard nowadays. Hyper System is a sort of mix of past iterations, where engaging the Hyper Mode boosts the ship’s weapons fill the screen with stream of bullets and erasin enemy bullets. Naturally, invincibility comes with the mode. However, here’s the thing; the Hyper Mode has ten levels of upgrading, and any time you engage the Hyper Mode, you lose all upgraded levels. The upgarde levels are essentially multipliers, and the higher the level, the bigger score multiplier is. If you don’t give a damn about your score, this system is a bit moot. The Rank level, essentially the game’s difficulty, is tied to the Hyper System; the more upgrade levels you have, the higher the Rank is. Using bombs and entering Hyper Mode lowers the Rank.

While that previous paragraph may sound a bit complex in text, it’s really something you instantly understand by intuition. Shooting games have the benefit that when they’re well designed from the core up combined with a good visual design that conveys the system, any and all players can understand what the hell all these mean by iconography alone. Because of that the amount of time you need to invest in DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou is relatively small in comparison to some of the more complex brethrens, namely DaiFukkatsu.

Music on the other hand works for the game during the gameplay but is completely forgettable. It’s so generic modern future-y techno. Perhaps that’s what the genre as a whole has become; generic.

Regarding the game Modes, there’s nothing special to mention, but all of them are well executed.

Arcade HD is just that, a pretty looking HD version of the original arcade game. However, this adds a sort of Challenge mode to it, where the player has some 50 tasks to complete in while playing the Arcade HD. They range from doable Kill first boss without dying to bullshittingly tedious Keep a chain through the whole game. Shooting game veterans and achievement hunters no doubt will love things like this, the normal player will just wave their hand at most of them and juts enjoy the game otherwise.

In all honesty, I had no idea what differences the 1.5 Mode had, so the Internet kindly told me to fuck off while telling me the mode was essentially just a generic patch to fix some bugs and tweak the system. Seeing it is its own mode, there was more than enough changes to warrant a separat Mode.

Xbox 360 Mode on the other hand is solely developed for the console. It’s essentially the story mode of the game, and we all know how much plotlines in either shooting or fighting games matter in the end. This is where all those talking heads come to play and the mode with the sleekest visual appearance. In 360 Mode, pretty much all the stuff about Rank and Hyper management is thrown out of window and the player has to keep one energy meter from falling to zero, or its Game Over. Hyper Mode kills make the enemies drop starbits that recover said energy. While otherwise you have a ship selection, the  360 Mode has just one ship. However, that ship is powered with extra weaponry and all that.

Also, Novice Mode is Easy mode the Game. To tell you the truth, I had rewrite this section about seven times because I couldn’t make sense what went into what mode without some extra sources. This is is because the only mode that doesn’t bleed to others is the 360 Mode, but that doesn’t keep the other modes bleeding into it. Ultimately, after having not played the game in some time, it’s far more hazy memory than Tatsujin/Truxton, a contender for this entry. While I personally prefer Truxton from the two, coin toss said DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou and the fact that I ended up playing it far more than Tatsujin.

If DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou would be the last big vertical shooting game, it would be a decent sendoff for the genre for the time being. Much like Godzilla movies, there are times when you need to take a break and let things level down properly to meet the new demand. Nevertheless, DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou kept its place in the Top 5 throughout the year simply because not many else managed to reach its level of quality. I’m not sure if this is a sign of what sort of quality 2014

Space Hunter (Famicom, 1986)

I’ll be straight; there’s two bits of music in Space Hunter and they both are pretty tinny

Space Hunter is a gem of a game, sort of. Hailing from the year 1986, this Kemco developed title will make you mute your TV and put on some high paced techno.

Space Hunter is kind of those games that just work. Despite it showing its age with the only two pieces of music it has, repitition in graphics and rough sprites, the game design is solid with extremely well made stages that not only encourage the player to venture deeper into the stages, but also to take their sweet time with things.

The game’s story is in the manual, as usual for a Famicom title. Set in 2199 after a world devastating nuclear war, humanity cling on robots and cyborgs for their survival. As per sci-fi trope, there is a mechanoid revolt led by De Gaulle and Earth is targeted with asteroids alá Yamato. A 16-years old cyborg labelled with N0. 000837192, called Altiana, does not agree with this and proceeds to kick seven planets worth of ass in order to protect humanity but also to show that not all mechanoids are all that bad.

Here’s the thing; the game is structured much like a non-linear adventure game would be, e.g. Metroid or Symphony of the Night. Initially there’s six worlds to choose from and you are able to select any of them as your starting point. If and when you get stuck on a world, you can always exit it at any time and move to another world. That’s similar non-linear approach Metroid used the very same year. While Metroid was on the Famicom Disc System, Space Hunter was on Famicom Cassette, which allowed saving for Metroid. The key difference between Space Hunter and Metroid is how the areas are structured, where Metroid created one whole world, Space Hunter opted for a more stage like approach akin to Mega Man. The final stage is unlocked after the initial six have been cleared, but every stage has an escape scenario, where a time bomb is ticking down. When the timer hits zero, or the player manages to escape, the planet explodes.

The action in the game is pretty nifty as well. The view is your normal side view outside dungeons, but most of the time you’re controlling Altiana in air, zipping around the scenery with her jetpack powered flight. The game does not use scrolling and plays like the Legend of Zelda in this regard, where the map has been designed to be played screen-by-screen. More importantly, it works extremely well. With this the player can tackle each screen properly without worrying about threats attacking off-screen, but also allows the player to escape any screen he feels like he can’t handle.

While Altiana zips around the screen completely free, all enemy types have their own little way of advancing towards Altiana. Some act like they home in to Altiana, while some simply move around and shoot now and then. Initially, Altiana has a bomb that explodes at infinite horizontal length when she is from the harms way. Thus, the player is required to do split-second decisions at times. Each stage contains items or weapons that are necessary to obtain in order to beat the game, thus exploring the game throughout is highly important, despite some stages having hidden doors that need to be bombed open. These hidden doors can hide stuff like Energy power-ups, but the game is completely beatable without ever upgrading the Energy meter. Extra weapons on the other hand are something you really want to get, as they can change your approach to the enemies drastically. The basic bomb may require player to mix the fast and methodical action, but e.g. Heart Beam allows you to shoot enemies down directly. The boxart shows Altiana holding a Beam Sabre, but you need to pick this weapon up from one of the planets.

In comparison to other games released in 1986 for the Famicom, Space Hunter had to compete with numerous seriously heavy weight contenders. The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Arkanoid, OutRun, Bubble Bobble, Akumajou Dracula and Rolling Thunder rightfully took their place in electronic game history, and in comparison Space Hunter looks and sound archaic. If the game had been released a year or two earlier, it would have been a great hit. While the gameplay is still solid, the music and visuals do betray its nature as one of the lesser releases of the year, but one that still holds up relatively well. Space Hunter sort of fell into the crevice where it wasn’t good enough to be remembered but not bad enough to gain any infamy. There is a minor cult following to it in Japan, but then again almost everything has a cult following in Japan. In 1986, Space Hunter would not have been success in the West without some serious revamping, so it really was better to leave it as Japanese exclusive at the time.  I ended up with my cassette because I tend to buy blind game sets from time to time for dirt cheap, and found this in one of those.

If you can’t tell, I’m rather passionate about Space Hunter and I don’t even know why. Preferences be damned.

Senran Kagura 2 Shinku (Nintendo 3DS, 2014)

Unlike with the blobs in DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou, these are the things that sort of matter as they’re the main focus

While agenda driven people will call the game shit because of its abundance of titular action, Senran Kagura 2 Shinku really is a solid game I really couldn’t put down.

Truth to be told, Senran Kagura 2 Shinku is nothing all too special in terms of bringing anything new to the table. However, it is exactly the kind of game Senran Kagura was supposed to be, at least from the customer perspective. In comparison to the first game, practically everything has been improved to the point that the first game is simply obsolete. If one has access to this title, there’s no reason to get the first one, unless you’re a completionist or care about the story that much.

Essentially, the player controls one of the multiple kunoichis in order to tackle often multi-part stages either alone or with a friend, either AI or an actual friend who bought the game as well. While the two core sides of Senran Kagura intentionally mirror each other, each character has their own weapons, movesets and key differences in gameplay, even thou speed, jump power etc. seems to be universal across the board. It would have been nice to see every character specialised even more, almost to your normal VS. fighting game level.

Comparing the controls to the first , they’re a tad more technical and require just a hint more skill, but that small difference makes this title worlds apart. Y is your standard attack you’ll most likely be mashing for most of the time, but the combo tree now requires you to hold the attack button as well. X works as character specific modifier, to some adding an attack while some have equipment changes. This adds s level of dynamic fluidity to the core gameplay, which most people could ignore if not for the lack proper Guard. Senran kagura 2 Shinku opts for sort of Burst, to loan a term from Guilty Gear, where the character sends a burst of energy to cancel damage and push enemies away. In air this will cause the character to do a ground pound with the same effect. R is reserved for dashing and this move will be your friend in avoiding some attacks. I’ve done some damn nice weaving across enemy attacks when I’ve been top of my gameplay. Holding R will initiate the classical ninja run. However, when locked to an enemy, you will hit the enemy with a wire and essentially home into them. Properly combining this homing with launching finisher can rack you long damn combos. A is a dedicated character switcher, and balancing between the characters and their scroll counts (which allow you to pull off Special moves) is somewhat important. Of course, during multiplayer your friend will be controlling the other character all the time.

Another thing is that the game makes use of the Circle Pad Pro in that it adds some level of camera control. However, the core design of the camera function is actually rather well executed and there is no real reason to get the addon just for this title. I would rather have my fingers on the controls at all times in this one.

Unlike the first game, Senran Kagura 2 Shinku is not a cakewalk. It’s not absolutely horseshit with its difficulty either, but in a good region where the game does feel challenging but fair. Some of the reviewers in Japan did complain that the game was too hard, but far from the true. If the Normal difficulty feels too hard, one can always drop to easier level. However, the hardest difficulty level does up itself to bullcrap level, but this is more because the controls, while significantly upgraded, are still not up to the task. Not to say that the game controls badly or anything like it, but it’s still a far cry from absolutely accurate controls like in e.g. Bayonetta. The controls just would have needed one more notch up to be just perfect.

Outside the core game, there is a Challenge mode, where you have a pyramid made of hexagons. Every stage ups the difficulty with more and more opponents with varing kinds, and the lower you get in the pyramid, the larger selection of stages you have to tackle. Some of them can be insanely hard, but the pyramid is an excellent place to level up.

Oh yeah, Senran Kagura 2 Shinku has levelling up system. It’s nothing special and same as in every game, despite lacking any numbers to show your stats. The stat that matters any is the Friendship level, and you’ll find yourself playing stages over and over with different character combination to increase their Friendship levels.

A welcome addition to the game is proper level of customization. By unlocking pieces of clothing and weapons you can then create your own ninja chimaera of a costume for whatever character you so choose. I decided to change every character’s clothing to something else, and I completely admit putting a bunny girls costume on Homura because it fits her so perfectly. The alternative weapons look pretty damn nifty and of course there are spoof armaments to boot.

Anyways, with the customization you also have sort of posing mode. There’s numerous poses and faces you can choose from and save the pictures for you SD card. As the game has the whole dual character dynamics going on, you can pose your favourites in racy way. Or not. There’s some potential in there, but in all honesty it’s more a curiosity than anything else.

Music is absolutely great. I’m sure this is more dependant on the listener, but I can say that I enjoyed the soundtrack very much to the point of listening to it while working. Especially the arrange soundtrack. Overall, the soundtrack varies from light, everyday tunes to very hard hitting boss battle themes. They’re never intrusive or will overstay their welcome, but dammit if they’re not something I’m happy to own.

No the best song in the game, but it’s nicely hard hitting

The 3D offered here is one of the best I’ve seen on the system. It also helps that the 3D has some use in determining the character placement on the field. This isn’t essential, but it’s nice to see some 3D with decent framerate when compared to some of Nintendo’s own games, which have horrible 3D going on for them. I don’t know why Nintendo kept pushing 3D as the new thing, but very few of their games actually have managed to use it in a non-intrusive way with at least decent framerate. Hell, I expected Game Freaks to get their Pokémon games to look smooth, but they’re just choppy messes. Of course, the 3D here also allows you to oogle the ample ‘talents’ of the characters as much as you can in the posing mode.

Senran Kagura has come a long from its initial, really low quality entry that seemed to rely mostly on the fanservice than anything else. I would have liked to see this level of quality from the get-go, but it seems the series has more life on PSVita anyways in other forms of games. Senran Kagura 2 Shinku saw abysmal sales and I have some doubt whether or not there’s going to be a third entry in the main series for the 3DS in action game genre.

That said, the ending of Senran Kagura 2 Shinku was absolutely perfectly executed. The blend of gameplay, style and everything that the game had been building up to that point created a perfect climax that only a few game achieve. It is without a doubt the game I played most on the 3DS this year alongside Super Out-Run!, which is another absolutely superb game, which deserves a spot in my Top 5 Games of the Decade. Nevertheless, Senran Kagura 2 Shinku is a game that needs to be given a long try, even if you disliked the first game to a large extent in regards of the gameplay.

What I love the most about this game is how lax it is. It allows the player to jump in and jump out at any point, tackle a challenge or two or try to beat a new story stage and be on their way. Despite this, the challenge it throws is often on the spot. Or almost bullshit on the harder level with lower level characters with no ally in play.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360, 2009)

Speaking style and climaxes, I decided to get Bayonetta after playing Metal Gear Rising a bit too much and yearning something more.

Despite not really liking the Devil May Cry series, it feels that Bayonetta is a perfect example how improving a formula to the point of making past games obsolete is the key to move onwards. A lot of most important points in game design and coding has to be almost absolutely on-point in games like Bayonetta, otherwise the whole game will suffer from having a lax core. Bayonetta is not one of those games, otherwise it would be an awful, awful experience all around.

No, Bayonetta is one of those kind of games that throw a bullshit level challenge at the player, but at the same time giving the player all the tools to burn the bullshit down without any of the foul smell as long as the player is up to the task. Senran Kagura 2 Shinku could be Bayonetta level game if the core had been as polished and accurate, and where it becomes a slugfest, Bayonetta gracefully evades this.

One could almost say that Bayonetta has perfect difficulty curve. However, it is a complete waste to play the game on the easier levels at all. As said, the game has pretty much perfect controls and gives the player every tool he needs to solve any situation, but all these tools truly shine and see use when the game pulls the player’s skill through the roof.

Rather than repeating same things other sites have said, let’s talk about P.N.03, a game that was released for the GameCube in 2003. P.N.03 has certain elements that remind a lot of Bayonetta in a far more restrictive format, but similarly once the player masters the gameplay, you might as well bump the difficulty to maximum level and proceed to give the game its ass. Not only that, but the main character Vanessa has similar classy, nonchalant attitude Bayonetta has but also knows know her value. The two design worlds couldn’t be further apart between the games, P.N.03 concentrating on clean, simplistically futuristic white designs (that sometimes look something like Apple could come with in few years) whereas Bayonetta has darker, highly detailed stone structures with fantastic twists to them. However, P.N.03 has more in common with Vanquish thematically.

Seeing how Platinum consists of ex-CAPCOM employess, it’s only natural to see this sort of thing happening. I would rather see this sort of past experiences put into good use rather than wasting them. Exploration of ideas that were not mature enough at the time or didn’t have enough to develop themselves into full bloom is another that we’ve seen to some extent with Platinun. Evolution of ideas and themes has been sort of trademark from Platinum to the extent one could fault them for creating an offering from the company that seems far too homogeneous for its own good. While I agree with the notion that a company should mainly concentrate on what it does best, it should also be noted that a becoming a one-note company may be a death sentence in entertainment business.

GODZILLA (PlayStation 3, 2014)

When discussing Godzilla games, the reality is that none of them are great. There are good games, and Godzilla-kun on the GameBoy is surprisingly well made and the Atari monsters fighters like Save the Earth are not bad by any means. Despite this, all Godzilla games have a niche audience as they don’t really work outside fanbase, albeit the aforementioned Atari monster mash games were party worthy. Nevertheless, truly great Godzilla game has yet to arrive. Often people just want to step into Godzilla’s shows and proceed to destroy anything in their path. It’s a simple concept, but thus far it’s been rather limited is success. The Dreamcast Godzilla games were the closest thing to this idea, but the execution left a lot of desire. The numerous Godzilla strategy games never really were all that good, thou the one on Saturn is probably the best of the lot. With the success of Street Fighter, it was no wonder Godzilla saw few 2D fighting game during the VS Series era. However, SNK’s King of the Monsters was largely more influential to the point almost all giant monster games were modelled after. The aforementioned Atari Godzilla games are a prime example of this.

The 60th Anniversary game of Godzilla, aptly just named GODZILLA, will be a game that some love and some will think is shit because it’s not any of the Atari monster masher games. As such, if you’re looking for this game to be anything like them, you’re sorely going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you go in with an open mind, you’ll soon find a very enjoyable, multi-routed Godzilla simulator that by all means is the Godzilla game people have been expecting. To a point.

How the game is structured is stage based, a thing I wholeheartly welcome. Each stage has four Data collection points, where the player is expected to pose Godzilla for the camera while an unseen soldier takes a picture. It’s sort of fun to try to get the best looking shot possible. The stages themselves contain structures for Godzilla to destroy to oblivion, which is absolutely necessary in order to collect Energy, a thing that applies to G-Force units as well. The main objectives of destruction are G-Energy Generators, which usually end the stage when all of them are destroyed. By chaining these destructions together, Rush bars fills like any other combo bar, and by keeping the Rush bar adding to itself keeps the Energy multiplier rising. x10 may be the biggest multiplier in the game, but it’s essential to keep up in order to reach why you even collect Energy; to get Godzilla over 100m high. In this game, Godzilla grows as he collects Energy, which affects Godzilla’s properties. By getting over 100m height, and using all the Data collection points in each stage in your selected route, you unlock the Final Stage, where at least on the Hard route you fight the Hollywood Godzilla. The thing is, at this point the player Godzilla has triggered the Burning state and is about to explode, much like in Godzilla VS. Destroyah.

Let’s take a moment to realize that this fits both monsters extremely well. Burning Godzilla by logic would leak radioactive materials and irradiate its surroundings like a nuclear bomb that keeps exploding and walking. The Hollywood Godzilla feeds on radioactivity, and would be the better source of food than another, world ending Godzilla?

There are numerous other monsters about as well, not met in every stage. Pretty much all of these are fan favourites, ranging from all three Mecha Godzillas, Millenium series version of Gigan, Mothra’s both forms, King Ghidorah and Biollante. However, G-Force is not helpless. As the Disaster level grows, the more equipment is thrown at the player. Initially it’s pretty normal tanks and helicopters, but escalation Maser Cannons and Super X machines are thrown in. Later on, you will face a stage where there is a time limit (the G-Generators will be withdrawn underground, thus preventing their destruction when time is up) with all three Super X machines attacking Godzilla, entering the fray in sequence.

While the stages gets pretty damn hectic at the latter half of the game simply due to the amount of units thrown at the player, as well as the enemy monster appearances sometimes combined with a time limit, they are rather small. All the smaller stages however are the most interesting ones, as they contain the most buildings to destroy and have the best overall atmosphere all the while the larger stages have very little to destroy and large areas to walk through. However, there is a good balance between stage size and destroyable objects in Oil refinery/ port and is probably my personal favourite because of this. However, finding the most efficient way to move through the city to maximise the energy gain will makes the stages dull. The stages do replicate some of the iconic cities and places from the movies, but they lack variety. Next to this, almost every stage is repeated throughout the game. For example, there’s two variations of the oil refinery, one with thick fog and one with sunlight. That’s it. Even the G-Force unit placement seems to be exactly same between the two.

It’s not really fun to see more city outside the boundaries, to be honest. You know it’s there, but you can’t destroy anything there. There’s a stage, where you can see cars and buses parked outside the stage area, but nothing damages them. Atomic breath even reaches them, but does nothing. Larger areas would be nicer to have, but it would be even better if there was more variety in them with more imaginative places with a level of hazards, like a volcano or beach. Multiple monsters per stage is another thing that should have been a no-brainer. Whether or not the PS3 could handle that is not really the question, but how it should have been executed.

Stage repetition is a problem; you are forced to play through the initial few stages every time you replay the game for a new route. The length of the game overall something many people will be turned off by, as I managed to finish about 50% of the routes in my first four hours of play. The amount of enemies found is also lacking, enemy monsters counting at twelve, three of which are a Mecha Godzilla. The addition of three Super X machines help in this alongside Gotengo, but ultimately the four aforementioned shared too many common tactics among each other. The repetition found in GODZILLA is very much loyal to the form found in the movies, thus it would be highly recommended to play a route at longest per session, otherwise the game may feel like its overstaying its welcome and neither nostalgia of fan obsession will rejuvenate the charm of often visited stages. The tedium is upped with certain unskippable scenes that repeat every single time. They’re not longer than few seconds, but when you have a methodically slow paced with further slowing parts, you just want to mash that Start button and skip all of them. Including forced tutorial, because nobody except three of us read manuals anymore.

This being a cross-generation game, the visuals will without a doubt be superior on PS4 but I wouldn’t give a damn about that. However, whenever there is a huge amount of stuff flying across the screen, like destruction of half a dozen of tanks, seven helicopters dropping from the sky, loads of buildings getting wrecked, Super X flying and shooting at Godzilla all while Biollante decides to spit acid, the console feels a bit overwhelmed by all this. The slowdowns are not uncommon, but I have to say they do have certain cinematic feel to them, allowing the player to take in the action in a very different way, but of course is horseshit when one remembers that this is a game and not a movie.

However, despite that I would be somewhat willing to give leeway with this. GODZILLA is very much a tokusatsu recreation game at its core and the scene is highly important. This is reflected in the control scheme as well. While most of you have learned to control the aim with the camera with the right stick, in GODZILLA the right stick moves only the camera. Nothing is relatively to it, only to Godzilla. If you were to move right, Godzilla would move to his right. Godzilla moves forward with the left stick or D-Pad, but rotates like a tank or Resident Evil character with L1 and R1. All face buttons are use for attacks and general control, and L2 is reserved for Special attack and R2 is more akin to attack modifier. Now that I think of it, I never used R2, it’s that useless. If you’ve ever played Mega Man Legends’ PlayStation version, the controls are somewhat similar. However, these tank controls simply work and you do feel that you’re controlling a giant monster despite sometimes interesting flailing going on the screen at times. Much like the movies themselves, GODZILLA doesn’t concern itself with realism too much.

However, the game holds your hands too much in regards of the controls. For you beam breath attacks, you have three options; normal ground hitting one, a ground sweeping one and then enemy locked version. Outside these three, you have zero control of it, exactly like in any other Godzilla game and this is just awful. This is a lazy to ensure that the breath attack is not overpowered, but the lack of control means you have to control Godzilla in proper position. This would be acceptable if not for the fact that the running tackle homes in. If you’re slightly angled off an enemy in order to rush a building next to it, the running tackle will adjust Godzilla towards the enemy. This makes fine tuned tactical positioning impossible, forcing the player to use over exaggerated, almost 90-degree angle positions, motions and movements. This is especially infuriating against enemies that are considerably larger than you. For example, Destroyah often appears in 100m scale, where Godzilla may be just 70m or 80m. There are multiple positions and points in Destroyah’s attacks moves player could make use of, but because of these hand held controls it’s better to abandon any tactical aspects and just blast away. It’s frustrating to fight an overwhelming enemy and trying to get proper data photo of it while fighting the controls at the same time.

Then again, pretty much every single enemy monster can be caught into a pattern of running tackle > tail whip >repeat. Throw one or two breath beams in there here and there and you’ll beat every single opponent in the game.

Music in the game is, without a doubt, accurate. The game has some original sounding compositions, but familiar tunes are visited and the whole overall atmosphere it adds is what you would except. Same goes for the sound effects and there is nothing to criticize. I would have wanted to see some Godzilla Island references, but I guess even the most Japanese fans hate that show.

The main mode you’ll in be playing is the Destruction Mode, which contains everything mentioned above. Go reread that if you want to.

Second mode is King of the Monsters, which is essentially a series of VS. fights against the enemy monsters. The aim is to finish the fights as fast as possible. Initially you only have Godzilla open, but you can unlock Hollywood Godzilla with pre-order code and Burning Godzilla by getting to the Final Stage. The mode in general is nothing special, but it would have been great if this mode could’ve been a proper VS. fight mode with two players.

Evolution Mode is where you modify Godzilla’s stats, like getting more Temperature gauges, which allows you to use more than one atomic breath in sequence before regeneration is complete. This also opens more attack moves, and all these are dependent on monster parts you somehow gain while beating up enemies in the Destruction Mode.

Diorama Mode is pure fanservice. There are numerous stages set out where you can place monsters in almost as you like in order to replicate a scene or create something completely new. These pictures then can be saved, used and shared, but the models are somewhat restricted and posing is not all too dynamic. Diorama Mode is a nice addition, but the lack of freedom keeps it from being an absolute blast to use. I still see some people sinking hours upon hours to get the best possible picture, but overall the mode’s promise lefts wanting a bit more. However, there’s a catch; all the poses taken via the Data Points translate to poses in the Diorama Mode, so multiple playthroughs with various photos of Godzilla and other monsters is a must.

Monster Field Guide on the other hand is just that; a guide to the monsters in the Godzilla franchise. The thing that makes me all giddy is that the guide seems to be list pretty much all major monsters from the franchise as well as some of the units like Gotengo. It lists differences between series, like Manda’s lenght or Hedorah’s height.

Ultimately, GODZILLA falls a bit short. It’s a remarkable Godzilla game a lot of people have been waiting for since the genesis of home video games, yours truly included, but it feels like the devs finished the initial content but didn’t have any time expand it enough. This may be just my own expectations crushed, however.  If this is going to spawn some sort of upgrade or sequel, all they really need to do is refine the code and add more content in form of more stages, monsters and that play VS. player mode. Godzilla 2, or whatever it is, needs more aliens and other monsters. The growing gimmick could be discarded altogether to boot, as the whole thing really is just about racking the highest score.

Nevertheless, the game is pretty damn remarkable piece of the Godzilla franchise and it’s good to see it getting a Western release, thou as an importer I can say that it has zero language barrier.


Looking back at the niche providers

One thing I didn’t plan during the last console generation was to buy one of the many Xbox 360’s the stores had on their shelves. In the end I never did, but as fate weaved her web I did obtain a 360 from my brother at the cost of moving him and fixing the console. Things kinda go that way sometimes.

The question afterwards was what games would I play on it? The 360 had very little titles that I would have wanted, and vast majority of the titles I saw were shared with the PS3. Games like Lords of Shadow were one of the first titles I turned my eyes on, but I soon grew very tired of seeing dozens copies of same game on two different shelves. The Wii shelf always looked more fresh with more unique titles that drew attention. I remember seeing more people in Wii aisles than the two competitors’ sections As such, the unique games that the 360 had raised their heads over the gray mass of multiplats.

But that’s where I met a point why I would keep my 360 in a good shape and go my way to prevent the Red Ring of Death. It turned out that the 360 had a large share of Shooting games and CAVE continued to provide more as all the way up until DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou. Next to this you have ports of Ikaruga, Rez and Radiant Silvergun, all of which are more or less portrayed the best of the Shooting games genre. I do admit, that all these three are ports of past systems, so the point goes slightly off. Just let’s discuss the machine in its respective generation for the moment.

What is the 360 most known for? First Person Shooters by far. Halo’s Master Chief is essentially and without a doubt Microsoft’s Mario. We can argue whether or not it is a good thing for a console to be recognized as the home of a genre that is most at home with PC.

History seems to remember some of the systems that lost based on their certain flavour in their library of games. I’m specifically speaking of NEC’s PC-Engine/ TurboGrafix-16, SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast. PC-Engine was known, even at the time, as the system that got all the best Shooting games. Hudson’s Soldier series found its home here and one of the best Caravan-style Shooters can be found on the system. Personal favourite would be Soldier Blade.

Man that first stage music sounds nice

In similar essence, both Saturn and Dreamcast continued on the same ideology that the Mega Drive did, that is to have the best arcade ports. Saturn, by all accounts, was the system for the Fighting and Shooting games by far with nearly arcade perfect ports of King of Fighters, Street Fighter Alpha and many Shooting games. Same goes for Dreamcast, which shared many architectural elements with the SEGA NAOMI arcade system, which made porting of NAOMI games to Dreamcast damn easy. This is why games like Marvel VS Capcom 2 were essentially arcade perfect much like CAPCOM’s previous arcade ports on the Saturn.

Sadly, Saturn and Dreamcast were at the era where the arcades began to wither and die out. A system can’t float around with games that do not draw attention to themselves to begin with. The paradigm shift, where consoles steadily became dumbed down computers where at full force at the time, and this also affected arcades. The rising cost of development was also an issue, and even more so with arcade games and their machines.

Where I’m going with this is that the Xbox 360 pretty much continued with this same path during the Seventh console generation. As mentioned, most people know the 360 for Halo and the shooting console. This is pretty apt naming for the system, as we noted how Japanese developers began to put their Shooting games on the system. In certain circles, the 360 became to be known as the system for random Japanese games, like Beautiful Katamari, Culdcept Saga, Deathsmiles, Earth Defence Force 2017, Espgaluga II, Infinite Undiscovery, Escathos, Lost Odyssey, Senko no Ronde and DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu/ Resurrection plus slew of others that don’t really need mentioning. What circles see the 360 is mostly the hardcore ones, as the common folks don’t really pay attention to these. It’s all in the Halo.

But for yours truly, the 360 allows me to put some dosh into new Shooting games that you can’t play anywhere else outside arcades. DoDonPachi Resurrection, Akai Katana and Deathsmiles were localised here in West, whereas DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou, Escathos and few other shooting games were completely region free and thus very import friendly.

I will completely admit that the moment 360 gets relatively easy softmod method to unlock the region, I will be on it like a hungry cougar. Much like the PS3, the 360 has its variety of niche games, mainly shooting games, that I want to play. Unlike with PS3, the region locking on the 360 is miserable fact and a number of Japanese only games enforce it to the full extent. Those, and I’d like to give that Muv-Luv Twin Pack a go just for the kicks of it.

It looks like the losing console always caters the smallest of niches and has only few games that are genuinely great all around. I’m afraid what will happen in a console generation where consoles have games that only cater these small niches rather than going for the Blue Ocean market and expanding and impacting outside the small sub-culture of general pop-culture. For some time it seemed that the Eight console generation would go to that direction, but then I realized that my assumption was pulled out of my ass seeing how early it is to say anything about how this current generation will end up to be like. However, it seems like the traditional shooting game genre will be seeing less and less high calibre games, as the production of them has been decreasing in a steady pace. Perhaps we need a paradigm shift in the genre to make it relevant again. The only question here is What should it be?

The next gen looks grim when it comes to games

The founder of the original Xbox project has some decent insight when it comes to Microsoft’s strange aims for the next generation. Seeing that Microsoft thinks that HDD, Blu-ray format and extremely draconian DRM that would not allow second-hand games is a bunch of good ideas, I have to wonder why they want to be in the console business at all.

Having a console that’s always online is a very, very stupid idea. Now all people are connected to the Internet even during these modern days, and this automatically shuts out a certain portion of the customers that might be willing to purchase your ‘box. The second is that I’m pretty sure this won’t stop a certain group of people from making their modifications to get surround the limitation. The same can be said of the second-hand games, a block that is completely unnecessary and stupid. This shows how much both hardware and software developers are afraid of the current market. They are not making enough profit on barely mediocre games that they need to force people to buy them new. If you want people to buy your games new rather than second hand, then make sacrifices; make them good again with smaller budget and drop the price of the game. God forbid people from making proper business decisions.

BD is a sensible solution. While the media has very little impact on the quality of the game itself (a lot of developers just want to have everything uncompressed on the disc rather than trying to fill it with content that isn’t DLC), thou it will give SONY some royalties. This is just one limitation less that developers have to think of, which is sad as best products, be it comics, films, music or games, have always been produced under a set of limitations.

But forced Kinect? Does Microsoft not realize that Kinect has been mismanaged and there are one or two games that use it to some successful extent. Forcing it on developers is a wrong way to limit the developers, but it can yield interesting and surprising results. Yet, seeing that all this time there only dance games have been utilising Kinect decently, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nintendo always forces their own gimmicks on the developers to an extent, like the 3D screen, but most of the times what they do with the gimmick is pretty open. NES era allowed the developers to create and use their own controllers with the game if they so choose. This was successful move, and the Wii followed suit to a point with the port at Wii controller’s end. Both PS3 and X360 offer very little when it comes to controller variety, and very few games take advantage of these selected few. Arcade controllers are perhaps the most common secondary controller again in a long time, and those are exclusively used by the fighting game community.

There are also few reports that Microsoft is going to emphasize other services than games as is SONY. There’s a really damn good question why you would want to direct your customer to another service where you lose profits. Having a service of TV and films will give the customer and option to NOT use your intended service, which should be the games. I need to emphasize the should part, as it seems that both MS and SONY seem to think that doing an all encompassing multimedia force of extraordinary magnitude will sell like hotcakes. Just like in military, a unit that is made for too many tasks will usually fail. Same with game consoles. Make them be the centre of all your home media, and you’ll fail. None of the consoles I’ve used have been decent media players outside the original PlayStation. Even PS3, at one point the best option for a BD player, kinda sucks at it. There are better choices for all your playback needs, so having one mediocre machine doing it all is going backwards. Then if you own two or more consoles, you get more players and in the end you might end up owning around seven DVD players without a notice, and you only use one.

The current Xbox is not without its problems as well, as the original founder points out. All of these problems are because of poor design from the get-go. Anyone with a working view on design will instantly tell you that all current console GUIs are more or less horribly designed both in usability and in visuals. Useless and stupid warning messages are their smallest problem. The biggest problem with Xbox dashboards have always been that they have no real cohesion and are all over the place. Why do I need to navigate music and films on a damn games console?

I still do disagree with the notion that consoles are competing with tablet devices. However, seeing that most console games nowadays are nothing but computer games adjusted for consoles I can agree that games themselves are doing the competition because the markets have been mixed far too much for their own good. I’m seeing Duke Nukem Forever for 360 going for 8€, but I’m refusing to buy it because it’s a PC game. I do not want to play PC game on a console. There’s a reason why Command & Conquer games work better on PCs.

I was called by a salesclerk today about my Internet and other connection related stuff. He told me that they had a promotion for their customers, where they would be able to purchase a tablet computer for specially low price. Before he got his sales pitch at full force, I declined the offer. He naturally inquired why, and few of my friends began to gaze as I started listing things that are universally wrong with the tablet design from lack of tactile touch to gorilla arms. Besides, tablets are getting outdated faster than conventional laptops at this point. Size is not a problem either, as ultra-thing laptops are everywhere and most likely have longer battery life to boot.

It’s sad to think that companies have decided to get into the fight with every form of entertainment out there and losing in it, while specializing in games is left in the shadows. Without proper priorities from the game hardware and software companies these consoles will crash and burn, and the industry at large will die.

Wii U’s not looking good, SONY’s junk and Microsoft is…

… in pretty damn deep trouble it seems. For some time now I’ve said that Microsoft should concentrate on their strengths on PC and allow XBOX to be their tertiary objective or abandon it altogether. Because Microsoft has done the same thing SONY did ie. concentrating on the damn video games rather than on what they know to do well, their nightmare might come true. Or rather, it might already be in some form.

Let’s go point-by-point.
Are the pads eating the PC markets? Yes, but only if we assume that the iPad and other smart devices are something else than PCs. Pads and smarthphones are not some sort of magical thing of their own, they’re as much PC as laptops. The proper way to put this would’ve been that non-Windows based PCs are eating away from Microsoft’s share.

Are employees really converting away from Windows based PCs? I’ve discussed this with people who work on government facilities, and they do admit that there’s iPads for certain purposes, but majority of the work is still made on machines that have actual keyboard. As such, while iPad is certainly taking its place in the work environment, it’s way too early to say whether or not it will completely replace Windows. Perhaps a sort of paradigm shift is happening, where we are going towards more LACRS devices from Star Trek.

I wouldn't really oppose those, but there will be a lot of people who will never get used to the lack of tactile contact
I wouldn’t really oppose those, but there will be a lot of people who will never get used to the lack of tactile contact. There’s also the position where you type, most of the time is awkward if you’re using two hands

Now the third point is completely true and Microsoft can only blame themselves. The GUI of Windows 8 has got a lot of hate for a reason. For one, it abandons a lot of functions that users expect from Windows. it doesn’t help that Microsoft has emphasized on the touch-screen function a lot, and if you’re a home PC users this functions becomes more or less completely useless. When I gave the retail version of Win8 a throughout testing, it was clunky, rather horrible and felt that everything sank beneath something. Microsoft should have looked back what worked and not remove whatever they liked. Will Windows 8 replace Windows 7 like all other versions have done previously? It’s hard to say, but I’ve heard rumours that this wouldn’t be the case in every institution.

Windows 8 is also the reason why loyal developers are moving away from Microsoft. Technically this point, and all other up to point seven, can be crunched into one sentence that sums it all up; Microsoft dedicated too much of their attention to XBOX and 360 that they forgot where their true business and strengths were. Because of this Windows’ development has taken a hit and clearly the company has lost their sight on what the hell they’re doing. You can see that a lot of Windows’ properties has changed since the XP for worse, thou there are truckloads of improvements as well. Still, we all can agree that something was never right with Vista or 7, and we call agree that as light and efficient as 8’s core might be, it’s functionality is pretty damn awful (unless you train religiously on it.)

It’s no surprise that as Microsoft is losing in their main front, the XBOX series is also suffering. XBOX doesn’t bring in any money and only spends whatever Microsoft has made in the 90’s and early 00’s. There has been some reports about Microsoft making loss with every 360 sold, so if Microsoft would lose their main pillar, ie computer OS monopoly, the company would be in very deep trouble.

If Microsoft won’t get their business together, the worst possible scenario is that Windows loses its place in the work environment and the next XBOX will bomb worse than the PSVita. It’s their third time trying it, and I really hope their get it right. However, the blowing winds tell me that this won’t be the case.

However, while we certainly can judge MS and SONY at this point, the earliest point we can say anything about the Wii U’s success is after the holiday season. I’d put that somewhere around February or March.

Review; Double Dragon: NEON

WayForward, I apologise for doubting your skill to treat us a good Double Dragon game. Still, I believe most of you can understand my initial stand. Double Dragon was a big part of my own childhood to the extent that it was probably the first game I ever played on an Atari 520ST. Having a completely new game of Double Dragon doesn’t just have games to stand up against, but immense amount of nostalgia as well.  Now that’s out of the way, let’s move to the review proper.

Double Dragon is a well established franchise that has been dead for some time now. I say dead because it really never got a completely new game since the 90’s and the GameBoy Advance game was just another remake, thou its tweaked fighting mechanics makes it one of the best DD gamesout there. The franchise has good games, and games that should just be forgottenaltogether. Just like that horrible cartoon that I never saw for better or worse. I kinda liked the movie, thou it had nothing to do with the games and was only good for the same reason ascertain Korean cartoons; a reason to chug down whiskeywith certain apple lemonade to forget what you’ve just seen. Granted, I really liked how the film began with the village burned down, but everything just went downwards from there. Not enough down to get things up thou.

So yeah, there’s twenty five years of history behind Double Dragon series, so WayForward had a pressure on their neck. It’s far too early to see whether or not DD NEON has sold enough to warrant a sequel, but the other fans I’ve already talked to have found this game extremely enjoyable on many levels.

Making this game asks for something special. It’s not enough to take the core template and shove it into a new code. You need to watch at the core idea, the spirit of the game if you will, and recreate it with care. If you go too far from the idea and try to implement something that’s not true to the original core, then you’ll lose something vital and bury that under everything else. DD NEON walks on a very finely sharpened edge, and does slightly waver to the other side of the two.

Double Dragon NEON starts in the way it’s always supposed to; Marian getting punched in the baby maker and taken away. From now on it’s Billy’s and Jimmy’ job to save her from whoever snatched her. The first impression is very good, and the pace game kicks in is very good. I originally showed high concerns on the pace of the game, but I can now say that they were completely unnecessary. The gameplay speed is pretty spot-on. Because of the more lax speed it runs on everything can be observed with haste. However, because none of the moves are canceleable like in fighting games, the player needs to take care when to attack and when to avoid attacks. Some of the enemy attacks can’t be distracted, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself getting knocked back in the middle of your combo. Then again, all attacks are indicated pretty clearly and there’s quite a lot of time to react to them, if you pay enough attention. The pace as a whole might not seem fast, but actually it’s rather hectic in its own lax way.

In your use there’s the normal punch, kick and jump buttons. Grabbing has now itsown buttons, as does ducking/evading, Special Moves and Running. This is where DD NEON falters the most; there’s just too many damn buttons for this kind of simple game. Running could be accomplished with double tapping forward, and grabbing should have been combined with the punch button. Y’know, the traditional way of doing things. Special moves could’ve been done with both punch and kick at the same time. I guess ducking/evading is the only one that is needed… no, not really. Evading can be combined with he jump button; pressing jump and any side at the same time would make the character evade. You’d lose the ability to duck, but that wouldn’t change the game at all. Then there’s the High Five function in the Right Stick. Yes, you can high five in bro-cop mode and that’s awesome. Press all three together near your bro, with combination of directions and hey presto, you have a three button system that has an immense amount of use. Actually, we need to discuss how many buttons are needed in a game at a later date.

Combining the pace and the buttons creates pretty damn satisfying experience. While the enemies are reused, they’re always in something different. There’s Elite Williams, who wear commando gear whereas normal Williams are just your normal 80’s street punks. There’s multiple colour variations of Linda, who’s smoking hot in this game. I mean, her new look knocks socks off. There are also female ninjas, and few different types of Abobos. They never really get old, because there’s always something new in them. Punching these bad guys is immensely satisfying as you practically feel the weight of your attacks being delivered. However, there’s certain levels of floatiness in the jumps and the controls are rather rigid. They’re not really tight because you can’t cancel the attacks as previously mentioned. Having evasion canceling your attacks would’ve been a welcome addition, but it works well without that as well.

Special moves are a nice addition, and the way they’re integrated works with the core of the gameplay without messing with it. There’s two kind of skills; Stances and So.. Sosetsu… Moves. You gain Mixtapes from enemies, from where you gain levels. Every move can be levelled up to level ten, and every move has its own theme in the selection window. After all, the player learns them from Mixtapes. And yes, they looks like actual tapes (C-cassettes to be exact), and that’s just pretty damn nifty.

Speaking of how things look, this game is pretty damn gorgeous. I’m not talking about the graphics, as they’re pretty standard forwhat we’re excepting for modern downloadable titles. What I’m talking about is the design of the world. It’s so over the top 80’s that it makes me laugh. Every enemy has a good flavour of anarchetypical goon in there, and then some. The final boss Skullmageddon is nothing short of Chinese Skeletor, and that’s just awesome as hell. I’m not going to lie; I was still sceptical of this game until I saw a YouTube: video of the final battle and the end credits. The neon colours, the landscapes, everything just clicks properly and works. It’s a cohesive world, of which like we really don’t see much any more. It’s also a damn fun world.

While the game is a parody in many ways, especially when it comes to the tropes of the genre, its really earnest in how it does it all and embraces everything. It’s honest and extremely awesome. It’s honestly awesome. There’s no way around it. There’s some few design choices they could’ve done in the visual department, like the player energy bars; they could have mirrored them to have an even HUD, and the 2nd player bar shouldn’t be there during single player game. Without it you could relocate the flashing PRESS START higher up. There’s also a missed chance to have 1ups as arcade tokens/coins that are inserted in a small animation next to player energy meter. There’s truckloads of references and jokes thrown all around, and…. Well, if I was the bad guy, I WOULD complain in the loudspeaker if the good guys were destroying my helluva expensive plasma TVs on my damn space station.

Yes, this game has a space station level. It’s the second unique area you enter, and it’s pretty damn awesome as well.

I understand if people are complaining because of the selected style, but rather than just wanting yet another serious DD game, this is a welcome change. We need more colourful games midst all these green/brown/grey games we’ve had for some time now. It all complements its parody-like nature very well, even if the game isn’t a parody at all. It’s all rather meta in a weird way, and I hate using the word meta.

I also have to condemn the Game Over screen for being awesome. Just wait ’til you see it.

But what about the sound design?Sounds works very well, voices are awesome and spot on, especially with Skullmageddon (who also sings you the end credits song) and the music is just 11/10. No really, the soundtrack is spot on with everything else in the game. It complements the stages, the designs, and the core. I was so afraid to hear the Double Dragon theme getting a bad version, but we get three different versions of it and they’re all from pretty damn awesome to fuck yeah awesome. Then few songs (no, actual songs) that are so 80’s that I thought I started regressing back into my childhood while hammering a pot stand in the metalworkshop earlier today. You can imagine how my co-workers looked at me when I started laughing like a maniac by myself while having a gas torch next to me and a red hot steel in my right hand and an anvil hammer in my left. For some reason they stayed away from me for the whole day. Their loss, because the soundtrack is just… awesome. You can pick it up from bandcamp for the price you wish, but for this kind of work I’m willing to give some money to the composer.

The version I played was on the 360 because PSN didn’t have it yet and I couldn’t wait enough. Also, I’ve got more controllers in the 360 whereas I just have one proper PS3 controller (and one arcade and the six button one) and I really want to do the High Fives. I’ve yet to see any difference between the platforms.

So, is the game any good?

Yeah, it’s good. I can see why a lot of people really wouldn’t like it, as everything previously said can also be used against the game. It’s Double Dragon alright, and it doesn’t need to be anything more. If it was anything more than it already is, they might as well make a completely different game with different set of ideas and core. NEON is a love letter to the 80’s and to the Double Dragon franchise a whole. It’s well worth the price, especially in this day and age where you pay 60 bucks for a five hour game. NEON is a good change of pace from pretty much every game that has been recently released, and anyone even with slightest of interest on the game should download the demo and give it a go. I doubt you’ll be left emotionless.

Still, there’s things that will bug anyone. For one, you can’t use an arcade controller with it properly. This is an arcade game at its heart, so it shouldn’t be a no-brainer to add support to the controller. You can even remap every button, except the High Five one as its tied to the Right stick. Honestly, the controls are the biggest gripe, but how they work, but they are designed to use majority of the buttons on a controller pad. The controls should’ve been designed with a simpler approach. WayForward always has things like this that hold their games back from being truly amazing. They’re little things, but God lives in he details. It’s not about fine tuning the game, but rather giving attention to certain aspects and not overlooking simplicity. It’s a very Americanized game, if you will. This kind of take on any franchise is welcome breeze, but only once in a while. I wish the next game will be more down to earth and would draw from the original concept art rather than taking its own spin on the whole deal.

Still, because of games like this WayForward happens to be my favourite developer at the moment. They make original games quite a lot, and they all meet the minimum quality quota. Then we have games like Bloodrayne Betrayal and this, which stem from existing franchise, but with a new twist or two while still keeping the heart of the original.

This is one of those games that I’d love to play with my brothers. We haven’t played games together since we were… damn, almost fifteen years ago. Still, I’d believe they’d enjoy this game as well.

Overview review; Guilty Gear 2 Overture

I’ve played Guilty Gear quite a lot. Around the Midnight Carnival era I was playing at low tourney level and I enjoyed the hell out every incarnation of the game, even Isuka. Because of Guilty Gear people slowly stopped playing fighting games with me, and thus I kinda stopped trying to play them for a long, long time. Well, long in Internet years, so that’s something around five to seven years. I’ve played the first Guilty Gear somewhat, but the PAL version suffers from bad PAL conversion. X was somewhat limited in pressed amounts, and XX onwards all games were far more common here anyway.

I enjoyed, and still enjoy, Guilty Gears aggressive gameplay. It has some things in common with Darkstalkers, and perhaps that’s one thing that got me into it in the first place. I wasn’t that good in Vampire Saviour, and I guess I’m the rare cases of being decent in the game rather than being a novice or good at it. I’ve got few friends who got extremely good at GG with me, and I’ve yet to met anyone who uses Eddie better than Mister Zydeniys. Goddammit, this man learned to use all those trap and mind game moves so well, that he could perfect me with two out of four characters I mainly used. It’s also funny to notice that I used Dizzy like a rushdown character, and managed to rack down good damage with few combos that I never really saw in tournament videos. When updated versions hit, especially Accent Core, I had to relearn Dizzy from ground up, but the lack of real life opponents really slows things down. As such, I’m pretty horrible at GG AC/+, but with the PlayStation Network release I hope to give birth to those days once more with few of my friends.

With this, I hope you understand how much Guilty Gear has been there for me.

When I got my (free) 360, one the first games that I wanted to get was Guilty Gear 2 Overture. Why? Because it was Guilty Gear. I knew that it was different, panned by the fandom and most critics. Now, about a year later, I got my hands on Overture. It’s time to get my shit together and see what’s the hassle has been about.

First Impressions
The manuals awesome, in colour and all. It does an excellent job on explaining what the game is about and how the game is played. There’s even a Notes section in the back! Now that’s a royalty these days, and tells that the overall quality of the game is good. Outside Xbox’s horrible green, the artwork is Guilty Gear alright.

The overall visual design is nothing short of spot-on for Guilty Gear. Sure the graphics aren’t high end by any means, but they do their job well enough. The GG series has always had this certain kind well over designed style that uses rock, punk, metal and other musical influences to create rather unique world. There’s a hint of Heavy Metal in there as well. The character design on the other hand suffers a bit. Sol’s new outfit is very good and follows the same line of design his outfits previously were. Ky has his own style as well the way he has been designed is believable. I do miss their original swords, but both of them carry nice redesigns. Valentine is one of the new characters, and her appearance is nothing short of attractive and very Guilty Gearish.

She does look cute, but there’s something familiar with her face…

However, rest of the humanoid characters have rest than… to be honest, Sin’s outfit never looked right for me. I can see what they were going with it, and managed to achieve it, as Sin’s in-game graphics look pretty good, but otherwise it’s rather unimaginative design. Izuna is Guilty Gearified kitsune, so there’s nothing much to talk about.

Overall, they managed to follow the same sense of design as previous Guilty Gears. While we do not really see any familiar faces outside the core characters (and some Di- Maiden of the Grove) all the new characters and places fit well to the overall lore. It’s not just about how everything looks, but also how they’re shaped, how they feel and sound. Sure, some of the Guilty Gear sound effects are used a bit oddly, but the music is there, the characters are there, and the story is there. It’s all Guilty Gear in the coda and shell.

The characters, by all accounts, all in-character. Sol has always been portrayed the exact same way, but here we see his knowledge on the world at large, of Gears and magic, more than in any previous game. Sol speaks of twelve pitches of magic and how the events taking place works outside these twelve points. I love this kind of stuff in Guilty Gear, as it shows the love the developers have towards music. The little we see Ky Kiske tells that he has grown, but still keeps his own mind even as a king. I need to see more to filly say what Ky is like here, but as it stands now, there’s no outside deviations of the characters and their status in the lore is respected. This makes me smile.

Now, let’s speak of the story a bit. It was announced at one point that the Guilty Gear XX series (the least) was non-canon and Guilty Gear 2 was the true sequel to the original, leaving majority of the series outside the canon. They shot themselves in the leg, as Guilty Gear has an interesting and rather vast lore to back it up, and very easy to expand upon, especially after Overture. However, the plot of XX was never concluded and is still open. In a manner of speaking, it’s like a writer has somewhat successful book, and five other sequels to it are massive successes, and the fifth stops at a cliff-hanger ending. Then the writer writes the seventh book, and discards all the previous sequels and makes it sequel to the first one.

It’s important to notice that while the story or the lore has little to do with the gameplay of the series, it’s one of the charms. Outside King of Fighters no other fighting game has tried to create an interwoven universe in-game. As with every game of this kind, the story and its details have been greatly expanded in side materials, from books to radio dramas. Making a GG game without the plot is more than possible, and Guilty Gear Petit games are extremely well made handheld games that are a good example of this. Overture’s status as the true sequel was later pulled back, and it’s good. Nothing that XX has does not conflict with Overture or vice versa. However, now the developers have nothing but loose end in their hands, and I hope if we’ll ever get Guilty Gear X3 and Guilty Gear 3 they’ll make the proper decision and close these leads. This kind of world offers huge possibilities in story, that finishing the current ones would do only good for the series.

The Gameplay

First of all, the game is structured on level/stage/mission based system. Each Stage has an event, and in most cases a Mission in them. Every Stage starts with a cutscene, then goes to the battle if there is one, and then closes the Stage with a cutscene. Very basic, and it works. You can access any Stage you’ve beaten afterwards to get a better score. All in all, very basic and works all around.

The structure is very console game all around and mixing mixing some PC game elements with arcade-ish controls. This is a game that could really exist on consoles only, and the 360 controller is well utilised. Actually, this is the most responsive game I’ve played on 360 thus far. I don’t know why it seems that most other games in my library feel mushy in comparison and not nearly as tight. This makes the game much more enjoyable that it would be. After all, a game could be great in design but it would still be bad if the controls weren’t up to the task.

Now, I didn’t expect a fighting game, and what I’ve seen I was expecting more strategic game that what the first hours showed me. What I got was a pretty cool feeling 3D action game based on tactics, speed and pure brawling. For the moment, I like this. As such keep in mind that I’ve got nothing against the game, but nothing for it either.

To simplify the gameplay, you control one of the main characters, and take over enemy’s control points. The first few fights are nice introduction, and the complexity of the gameplay really needs it. What I mean by complexity is that you need take notice of your own position, your command points’ position, their status, your Servants and cannon fodders’ status and placement as well as the enemy movements. Nothing special if you’ve played RTS games, but you’re not just a commander here; you’re the one on the front line.

There’s your normal attacks, your Tension gauge using attacks, jumps and item uses. You can combo normal into normal, and Special attacks into them. Jump button acts as a side hopping and backdashing button with the left stick, as it should. All is good and decent here. OverDrive attacks take the whole Tension bar thou, and there seems to be no variation from character to character. Running is one of the best thing in this game. You launch your character into a running streak by pressing the Left Stick button, and control then speed by up and down, but you can skid by pressing A and either side. This allows the stages actually resemble cities and the like, and your player character just runs through the streets in an awesomely glorious manner. It’s a bit hard to control first, but when you get how it works it’s just awesome feeling to run through enemies, do a combo, and then streak past them again. Of course, you have to mind your underlings while doing this. As such, a lot of gameplay design points just come together very well and work harmoniously. It’s a sad thing that the fighting isn’t the best part of the game, but it’s enjoyable enough to say that this game hasn’t been a total disaster. I’m actually starting to believe that this game might be pretty damn decent after all.

I’m not expecting you to watch this low-quality video all the way through, just small parts here and there if you’re not familiar how the gameplay actually works

Now, the last of first impressions ends with the fight with Raven. The fight uses the same mechanics as the overall gameplay, for the better or worse. It’s fun and tedious at the same time. The boss fight seems to end when the player managed to pull an OverDrive attack. The engine, while pretty good for the overall of the game, doesn’t really work here. It’s far too inaccurate, thou the lock-on helps, and most of the fight just feels off. Raven has two or three attacks which he repeats over and over again, and the tension of the fight isn’t what I’d want to feel. I’d like to feel excitement and quick controls, and while that’s where the devs have aimed, they failed. Now, you can hop side to side and backdash like in the fighting games, but here they feel completely ineffective. Even the there’s the running and all, Raven’s battle basically takes that away with Slow Field or the like. This isn’t Guilty Gear. Guilty Gear has always been offensive gameplay with lighting fast strikes. Not allowing the player to use the fastest method possible to reach the enemy limits far too much and is not true to the Guilty Gear spirit.

However, Raven’s theme is nothing short of Guilty Gear is spirit. A great boss battle theme overall.

Awesome theme is awesome overall, and really stands out from the first hour

The Design

The battles in Overture are chaotic as hell. I can’t say that I enjoy them as much as I could, the flaw of the game design really comes up after the Raven battle. While it’s clear that there’s a huge strategic element there, it clashes way too harshly with the spirit of Guilty Gear. I have to hand it to the developers that they tried to make them meld together the best they could, but it’s disappointing to notice that your carefully laid plans fail just because you weren’t helping your comrade-in-arms enough. The AI seems to be lacking in this sense, thou the enemy AI is always decent in their plans. This kind unbalance between sides is good mark of incompetence from the developers side, and while they try to give the player as much to do as possible, it always bums the player down when you’re having a good time at beating the enemy, and your AI friend loses, which makes the player lose the round.

Luckily, the game’s difficulty can be changed, and if you can’t seem to beat a mission, just change it to easier level. While some people see this as sort of unforgivable deed, they forget that there’s a fine line between unfair and difficult. Unfortunately, Overture is just unfair, BUT this just varies from mission to mission. When it’s just one against one, the game’s by it’s nature very balanced and fair to both sides.

That doesn’t help much that there’s also fetch quests. While the controls do lend themselves for skidding around fast, the architecture of some stages simply don’t allow that. While I did say that the gameplay inherently allows realistic cities and such to be built, there’s some levels where they could’ve made things a bit larger than life for simple convenience.

Speaking of game balance, it’s quite clear that the gameplay overall has been balanced towards human vs human gameplay. I’m not willing to test the online functionality (because fuck online gaming in general), but it’s a good question whether or not the game was designed as a multiplayer game first or second.

Whichever it is, the design does work in both cases, but the design does limit itself because of this as well. Fighting games are mostly multiplayers, and the best experience can be had in the arcades. This kind of mass brawler alá Dynasty Warriors in VS mode just feels off, and the reason lies in the looseness of the system where it stands on. Whether or not it’s good to have this kind of game design, as it stands on how good the players are, and willingly gimps the player’s side whenever the game designers want to in single player. This would be acceptable if there would be a feeling of empowerment in the game, but the characters stay on the same level of strength throughout the game. Now, in multiplayer this is OK, but in single-player campaign it would’ve been better to allow the player to rise in strength by adding slight RPG elements of some sorts.

Towards the closure

So, is the game any good, you ask at this point. To be honest, yes. I can see why people would call it rubbish. It’s flaws are not as apparent as one could think, and it’s very enjoyable once you get in the right set of mind. There’s the inherent Guilty Gear style that you’ll either love or hate (I’ve yet to meet a person who has opinion in-between) and the fast gameplay feels pretty spot-on.

But there’s so much things that has been missed as well. The fights, to be honest, feel somewhat empty. The stages, while not really sterile, look empty and lifeless if you have the time to look at them. In the fighting games there was always something alive, something to look at. However, the amount of different fields in Overture compensate this, and in a way they show more of the world. The overall architecture doesn’t deviate far from it’s predecessors, and this is why the link between the two different game design styles do create rather cohesive world, even if the first intention was to abolish the XX games.

Would I recommend this game to anyone with a 360? Now that the game has fallen way down in price, I’d recommend it IF the person in question isn’t what you call a “hardcore gamer” (mostly because these people do not exist and are PC gamers in reality. Such person couldn’t really appreciate this game, and most of the charm and fun does come from knowing the backgrounds. A newcomer can enjoy the game just as much as a GG veteran, but in a completely different manner. GG veteran also would rage in a completely different manner and at different things than a newcomer, but those are mostly plot and character related. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend Overture with a careful If in the middle.

I have to ask whether or not this game was really necessary. Seeing that the developers did start to deviate from the normal 2D fighting genre to 2D beat-em-up, this kind of game wasn’t any sort of surprise. Well, it was for reasons already discussed. Overture as a game nobody expected and only few wanted, but it’s a nice addition to the series and to the 360 library. What if they had developed a 3D fighting game instead? No, let’s not go there, we all know that very few games can do transition from 2D to 3D well, and I’m pleased to say that changing the coda how Guilty Gear plays for Overture was a successful decision.

Still, Overture didn’t seem to sell that well, thou it got decent reviews at the time. The reason is most likely the reputation Overture had within the Guilty Gear community was the reason, but it seems that as the time has gone by more people have given it another chance and the 360’s customer base at large have found the game to be to their liking. I admit that I was also one of the people who panned the game even before knowing anything concrete about it due to its initial status in the canon and due to the change in gameplay, but luckily people and change. But I also have to admit that I wanted to see and play the game from Day 1 because it peaked my interests, and that I knew that I can’t judge this game without really playing it myself because of my background.

I’d love to finish this review with Holy Orders (Be Just or Be Dead) as it is my favourite track in the series next to Awe of She, but let’s go with something else this time… yes, this fits well, as Guilty Gear is coming back, even if only as a re-release.

Do you see what kind of boots BlazBlue was made to fill? As with Mario, nothing can really fill the boots of this size. Guilty Gear, much like Street Fighter, Mario, Sonic or any other long living series, Guilty Gear has staying power and a solid place in the game culture. It has a customer base that can only be expanded upon. To abandon Guilty Gear is to kill a golden goose with platinum shine; an awesome golden goose that eats rock and shits metal while singing Queen.