Sunday, 5 March 2017

Retrospective: Irem's GunForce Games

It's time for a look at GunForce 1 & 2 by Irem. They were a pair of run-and-gun games in the tradition of Contra, and would lead to the creation of the Metal Slug series.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The History of Nintendo's Super FX Chip

It's time for a look back at when Nintendo first dipped its toes into the world of polygons.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Taito WOWOW: The Console That Never Was

A look back at when Taito was considering creating a home console of their own, which would make use of satellite technology.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Brief Rolling Thunder Series Retrospective

Namco was one of the kings of the arcade and one of their best series was Rolling Thunder. This video takes a look back at it.

A Look Back at Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra

Waxing nostalgic about this classic CRPG.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Pokemon: 20 Years Late to the Party

Most people have this or that popular game series that they've never played before. I'm no different. In fact, there are quite a few big name series that I've not played. One of the most notable of the bunch is Pokemon. When the series first started, I was already in college and the game just didn't interest me. My priorities were different, there were a lot of really good RPGs already gobbling up my time (FFVII, Suikoden, and Wild Arms to name a few), and I pretty much wrote off Pokemon as a game for kids since most of the people playing it were tiny little rug rats.

Now, a good 20 years on, I finally decided to actually try a game in the series, and started with Pokemon Red, as I figured I might as well start with an early game and go from there if I decide to explore the series further.

So far, the experience has been alright. It's quite obvious that the game is geared toward a younger audience. The battle system is very simple, even compared to other RPGs at the time. The main challenge has come in figuring out which creatures are strong or weak against which other creatures. It actually reminds me of the Shin Megami Tensei games where combat has a similar underlying premise much of the time. There's a little bit of a learning curve in these sort of battle systems (assuming players don't take the easy way out and just download a chart detailing what beats what), but once one gets the hang of it things get quite fun exploiting enemies' weaknesses.

While there is that basic similarity in the two games' combat systems, one thing that Pokemon has which SMT doesn't is this underlying sense of optimism. SMT is just dark with it so often focusing on demons and angels fighting for control, and neither of them being particularly good choices for humanity. While it's not Warhammer 40K levels of grim dark, the world of SMT is not a happy place. Meanwhile, things are smiles and sunshine in Pokemon. Ash is out exploring the world, trying to discover as many pokemon as he can while challenging other collectors of these creatures, striving to be the best at what he does.

Maybe the two games are reflections of their audiences with Pokemon having generally younger players full of optimism, while SMT fans tend to skew older and developed a thick shell of cynicism. It is what it is, but I couldn't help but dwell on this difference for a time.

So far, I have been enjoying my time with the game. I'm definitely taking a more casual approach with it. It's a lot simpler than I'm used to when it comes to these sort of games, but I've been enjoying exploring the game world and trying to find all these different creatures that have since become so popular in video game lexicon. My first pokemon was a Squirtle, which I thought was adorable, and I was quite pleased to be able to capture an honest to goodness Pikachu early on in the game. Now I'm starting to see some of these guys evolve into stronger creatures, which is pretty exciting if I do say so myself.

There's still a ton I have to do in the game, collecting a bunch of badges, never mind pokemon. So, I'm going to be busy for the next while. The game hasn't made me into any sort of Pokemon true believer or anything, but it has proven enjoyable enough. It's certainly made me curious enough to try other, slightly more current installments in there series somewhere down the line.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Paladins: The Poor Man's Overwatch?

So, Hi Rez studios has had a new team-based FPS in beta for quite some time now called Paladins. Two groups of five compete against each other, usually battling over control points and / or payloads that must be escorted until one of the teams emerges victorious. It's pretty standard stuff for the genre, but one thing in particular is very difficult to ignore in the game: its characters.

While aesthetically, they're reasonably unique, or at least so much as this is possible without them feeling completely out of place in an FPS, they have a lot of moves very similar to those in Overwatch's roster. We could be here all day making comparisons. Whether its Reinhardt, Roadhog, Pharah, Reaper, or Torbjorn, or others, you'll finding a very noticeable analog running down the corridors of Paladins.

What's resulted is a mix of people taking pot shots at the game for being so similar, and others embracing it as an alternative since they don't want to play Overwatch for whatever reason, but still would like a similar experience. Personally, I find it difficult to go after Hi Rez too hard. It's not uncommon for certain types of characters to become archetypal over time in a genre, with variants slowly making their way into a number of games. We could just as easily point a finger at Overwatch for doing the same thing. After all, how many of its characters bare a striking resembles aesthetically or gameplay-wise to the cast of Team Fortress 2? Quite a few.

This isn't to say that two wrongs suddenly make a right, but as genres of games develop or a certain period in its development really begins to take form, similarities will begin to take root across a number of games in said genre. Whether it was the legions of fighting games that copied ideas from Street Fighter II in the 90s, 3D platformers taking cues from Super Mario 64, or everyone hopping on the hotkey-based MMORPG in the wake of World of Warcraft, there have been plenty of times where we've seen this pattern of several games in a genre absorbing, and sometimes quite blatantly, ideas from their peers. It's the nature of the business.

While Paladins has obviously taken several ideas from Overwatch, it still feels just different enough not to come off as an obnoxious clone, and for the most part it's proving to be reasonably entertaining, even with the game still in beta. I'd definitely recommend folks take a look at the game if they're curious. It's certainly worth one's time.