Sunday, October 25, 2020

Acclaim Got A Few Things Right: A Look Back At Trog


As often as we as gamers heap ridicule on Acclaim, we also need to recognize that when they made good games. Many of these were ports of Midway arcade releases, and one of the best was their NES port of Trog. This video takes a look back at the 1990 release of the uber-charming Pac-Man clone.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Dear Konami, We've Been Here Before...

To Whom It May Concern,

You've been around for a long time, and you have given many a gamer iconic moments galore. You made a campy story inspired by old Universal Pictures movies about a guy with a whip venturing into an Eastern European castle to kill a bunch of monsters into one of the most important franchises in all of video games. You let a guy make an action game where being quiet was as important as stopping a mech that fire nuclear weapons from doing so. The accolades go on and on, but they haven't been coming in a really long time. You turned all of your iconic franchises into branding for pachinko machines and microtransaction-laden mobile games. Recently you seemed to want to get back to producing new video games and even published an indie game called Skelattack.

This a very good thing, but it's only one very good thing. You did release the latest game in the legendary Contra series, Contra Rogue Corps, in late 2019, but it really is as bad as many gamers with a much bigger profile than I have said it was. It's muddy, uninspired, and does too much to be something that isn't Contra. I should be upset with you, and in all honesty I am. I am willing to forgive you strictly on the fact that a better Contra game was released in the Summer of 2019. Indie publisher The Arcade Crew released Joy Masher's love letter to Contra Hard Corps in the form of their retro-centric run and gun action masterpiece, Blazing Chrome in July of last year. It outshines Rogue Corps in every conceivable way. It relishes in it's old school look, allowing gamers to bask in it's brutal yet fair difficulty, and it controls as tightly as both 16-Bit Contra titles did almost 30 years ago.

For all accounts, you could have licensed this game and released it as a new Contra game and been celebrated in the same way you were when Arc System Works developed Hard Corps: Uprising all those years ago. You didn't though, and you'll use the apparent failure of Contra Rogue Corps as an excuse to skulk back into the shadows of gaming and use your back catalog to sell pachinko machines. You actually never really stopped. This stands as an indictment of how you pushed us all away and left us all dusting off cartridges and PS1 discs and thinking about gaming before you threw us away, Konami. Honestly, you should be ashamed, but you aren't. You feel no contrition for the treatment you have levied at gamers who have loved your work since the days of Scramble and Frogger. One day you may truly decide to change and treat gamers and the franchises you created with respect, but based on the last Contra game, I'm not so sure.


A Gamer Since Time Pilot '84

Friday, August 28, 2020

I Got A Thing In The Mail That Was Pretty Cool: Streets Of Rage 4 Classic Edition


After several months, I finally received my physical copy of Streets of Rage 4 and was so happy with the package that I decided to share my thoughts with the world.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Retro-Bit Pays Tribute To A Legend With The Metal Storm Collector's Edition

 I thought I posted this here in January, but alas, I had a brain fart and forgot. I received this fantastic collector's edition of Irem's Metal Storm. Retro-Bit knocked this package out of the park. It's still available from Retro-Bit if you want to get a copy of one of my absolute favorite video games.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Was Mighty No. 9 Really That Bad Or Was The Hype Too Strong?

Keiji Inafune left Capcom in late 2010. For a few years Comcept, Inafune's new company, drifted aimlessly about the industry. The developer had one finished game under their belt, but it was the tragically mediocre Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. That game was panned by many as the weakest game in Tecmo's venerable Ninja Gaiden series, and quickly hit bargain bins (I bought a new copy for $8 less than a year after it's release). This didn't stop gamers from revving up the hype machine when Inafune launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a spiritual successor to the legendary Mega Man series. What began as an indie title that paid homage to one of the greatest action game franchises in gaming history devolved into something far different. It was much uglier than the launch trailers demonstrated, and was often delayed. The final product, Mighty No. 9, was railed by critics and gamers en masse, and much like Yaiba, quickly fell into bargain bins (again, I got a new copy for under $10).

 Who was to blame for the disappointment that we as a gaming public felt when Mighty No. 9 shipped? Was it Inafune, who promised the moon and handed us a Styrofoam ball? Was it possibly the fault of gamers who essentially set themselves up for a monumental disappointment? My theory is that the game was mediocre to the point of it being painful to some. You want proof of that, just go here. It was almost like a cute blond pop star that was marketed to the moon and back,  then the world heard them perform live and realized they couldn't sing.

When Inafune announced the Mighty No 9 Kickstarter campaign, we were all overcome with excitement. Even a hardcore cynic like myself was looking forward to getting my hands on what some were touting as "Mega Man's weird artsy little brother" and honestly, who could blame them? The first trailer was full of vibrant characters that had all the attitude and energy of Inafune's previous work with Capcom. We even got an amazing bit of footage featuring early gameplay. Then we found out that Inti Creates was involved in the project in a big way. This didn't scare me much since they had worked on Mega Man games in the past. Then something changed. That something was the involvement of a major publisher, Deep Silver.

Much in the same way Comcept has had a spotty history as a developer, so has Deep Silver's existence been as a publisher. It may seem unfair to blame a publisher for the sins of a developer, but when it comes to the production of video games, they tend to feel married to each other. Much in the same way that Acclaim garnered a reputation for releasing absolutely abysmal games though they didn't develop those games themselves, Deep Silver has become known for being incredibly hit or miss when it comes to their releases.

Without the stigma attached to it, Mighty No 9 is a serviceable video game. I find myself enjoying my time with it in a way that I probably wouldn't have if my love for Mega Man completely clouded my judgment. To be fair, it may have at one point, as my time with the demo released for the Xbox 360 left me wanting something more. The finished PS4 port that I bought was solid. It was far from prefect, but most of the gripes from reviewers were about cosmetic issues and they thankfully don't break things as far as gameplay.

Inafune promised so much in terms of this game and everything came up short. It's really disappointing too, because there was so much potential for an amazing piece of gaming to happen with Mighty No 9. Instead, we ended up the most pedestrian of Mega Man knockoffs and a man who's reputation, which was a tad bit over hyped to begin with, suffering more damage. It is a shame too, because now we'll probably never know how truly good Mighty No 9 could have been beyond the okay, but not breathtaking game that we got.

Here's to hoping the next actual Mega Man game will be good.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Double Dragon IV: 1987 Called And It's Proud Of Your Glow Up

1987 was a good year to be a gamer. We got The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania II, Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!, Mega Man, and After Burner to name a few. Some of my personal favorite games and series were brought to America for the first time during that year, as I played Castlevania and Mega Man during that year. We also got hit with the most important release in the Beat-Em-Up genre when Technos blessed the world with Double Dragon. For a few years the series went about it's business with solid releases, a few duds, a masterpiece on the Super Nintendo, and an absolute nightmare of a film.

It then disappeared for a number of years before the 2012 release of a homage of sorts in the form of Double Dragon Neon. We then get more crickets until the 2017 release of the latest entry in the series, Double Dragon IV. Where Neon serves as fan services for lovers of the original game and the 80s in general, Double Dragon IV is a revival of everything that makes the Double Dragon games, in particular the NES and Sega Master System ports of the original, such a joy to play. We're in an age where what's old is apparently new and sexy, as long as it fits the right suit, but Double Dragon IV doesn't wear it's retro like an accessory, but rather like the skin it was born in, for better or for worse.

Story wise, there's a weird post-apocalyptic thing about nuclear war and the titular Double Dragon brothers setting up martial arts schools around the world to help keep the peace. it's also odd that this game takes place after the events of Double Dragon II, which leaves me to wonder how the series unfolds chronologically. I'm also left wondering if Double Dragon still exists in the same universe as River City Ransom as we've been led to believe based on earlier Technos games, but that's besides the point. Back to DDIV, a new gang, The Renegades (a nod to the spiritual predecessor of Double Dragon), attempt to take out Billy and Jimmy. There's a shadowy return of the Black Warriors gang, a kidnapping scene that looks like a pixel-for-pixel rehash of the opening to the original 1987 game, and a lot more I won't get into for fear of spoiling the story. The story as a whole feels all over the place, but if dropped into a manga or anime, the twists and turns would be quite welcome. Here, they may prove a bit ridiculous for a single Beat-Em-Up.

The gameplay is solid, with controls being responsive and hit detection being precise. The difficulty is nothing to trifle with, though. Enemies gang up on you and will whittle your health to nothing in quick fashion if you aren't careful. Easily the most cringe-worthy parts of the NES Double Dragon games were the platforming portions. Many a gamer can remember the conveyor belt section of Double Dragon II or the caves in the original and how ridiculously bad they handled. Thankfully, the control is much better this time around and as a result, jumping isn't a nightmare. This is indeed a good thing since there's a lot more of it than in the older games in the franchise. This game is old school hard, and sometimes it feels much more fair than others. I almost forgot to mention that a 2 player duel mode is in the game as well. It's a definite throwback to the first  NES Double Dragon game and is a great little nostalgic bonus for folks who remember that being the only piece of two player action in that port of the game.

Though it has been out for about a year, I only recently purchased the game thanks to a physical Double Dragon IV had reversible cover art and the limited edition came in a big NES cartridge style box and dust sleeve. Cool touches for such a cool looking package.
release through Limited Run Games. If you have never heard of them, don't worry, you will soon. They have developed a bit of a cult following for the care they take in releasing physical copies of select digital only console games. It's certainly a cool concept and I can't wait to see what they have on the horizon. My copy of Double Dragon IV has reversible cover art and the limited edition came in a big NES cartridge style box and dust sleeve. Cool touches for such a cool looking package.

Will Double Dragon IV return the series to ubiquitous gaming status like the series' earliest entries some thirty years ago? I doubt it, as gaming has gone from punching folks in the face to shooting them, but rest assured that titles like this one will continue to keep the fight going for years to come.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

When Everything Gets Remastered, What Actually Matters?

It's time to face a hard truth: a lot of our favorite games have aged like mayonnaise. Hell, the first two
years of the PS1 are an example of this. Games with outdated controls, ugly graphics, and other relics often necessitate these games being remade to justify them being playable after their console has been rendered obsolete. It may seem like a hypocritical statement by me, a guy who actively avoids most remakes, but in some cases a game getting a fresh coat of paint could be a great thing. One of my favorite games a few years ago was Wayforward's remake of the classic NES game Ducktales. This year, Lizardcube's breathtaking re-imagining of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap holds that spot and I'm not alone in loving that game. The issue with this trend of spitting out remasters and remakes comes up with the glut of games that got the treatment only a few years after their initial release.
 I knew something was fishy when I saw remakes of Deadpool and DmC: Devil May Cry. Both were released initially in 2013 and saw a re-release in 2015. The dust from the fanboy outrage that we saw from fanboys yelling about Ninja Theory's design decisions regarding the latter's main characters hadn't even settled and the game was getting reissued. That makes no sense to me, but I'm not the decision maker with these publishers and it is abundantly apparent that a slight resolution update is enough for some gamers to give Activision, Capcom, and other publishers top dollar for the same game twice. It's pretty similar to what happens with yearly sports game releases, where we get a minor update and gamers flock to purchase essentially the same game for full retail price every year.
 While I'm very much on team "Stop selling us the same games over and over!" I must admit I've fallen for it. I bought the Zone of the Enders HD Collection and even covered it on this site. I was disappointed with the result, because there was nothing special there. I am excited about getting a copy of the HD remaster of Okami and the complete remake of Shadow of the Colossus has me over the moon with the possibilities of the reworked controller scheme. The thing with the latter of those is that it isn't the same game with a fresh coat of gloss; it's allegedly an all-new experience. I hope I don't get scammed, but I want this in my hands.
 I'm confident that Sony won't push out a subpar remake of one of it's most critically acclaimed first party releases ever, because to be fair, they aren't Activision, Konami, or Capcom. Okami might be the only time Capcom doesn't mess something like this up, as they're about to push the first three
Devil May Cry games out on us again along with a third Mega Man Legacy collection. Konami basically just throws Metal Gear Solid games at us with little actual care since they're a joke now. I just heard that Atlus is readying a remake of its 2011 puzzle game, Catherine. Yeah, we're definitely living in a world where the phrase "everything old is new again" is very true, for better or worse.