Monday, November 8, 2021

This Is The Best Konami Game You Probably Never Heard Of...

 I know Konami is an utter shell of its former self, but there was once a time where Konami made magic. Every game they released (with a few exceptions) was an absolute banger. The tragedy in this high reputation is that some of their coolest titles never got released outside of Japan. While some have seen life in other regions because of a number of "Anniversary Collection" releases ported to modern platforms by the fantastic team at M2 and the obscure yet brilliant Getsu Fūma Den has received a second life in the form of a sequel, a shmup masterpiece from 1991 has seemingly been lost to time. 

 Crisis Force starts with seven monsters who sank the ancient continent of Atlantis awakening to attack Tokyo. This series of events leads to twins Asuka and Maya learning their truth: their archaeologist parents found them in an incubator in a ship belonging to an ancient civilization. This revelation gives way to them learning that they are the key to defeating these monsters and saving the world. The story is pretty generic, but story in games like this doesn't matter much, but as a justification to blow stuff up it's serviceable. The thing about blowing stuff up is where Crisis Force absolutely shines, though.

In the "blowing stuff up" department, Crisis Force is exceptional. Unlike other Konami titles, Crisis Force uses a traditional power up system that works much better here than the systems of the systems of their other games, which definitely works better in this much faster environment. Another interesting gameplay tweak is the ability to cycle through and power up three different shot types on the fly (this mechanic will be revisited in Konami's 1992 shmup Axelay) and after collecting a number of blue gems your ship becomes momentarily invincible. This invincibility can be extended by continuing to collect the blue gems and can help put a major dent in any boss' health. If there is a downside to the gameplay, it is probably the slowdown that occurs when too much happens on screen at once. Otherwise, this is easily one of the best shmups we never got in the US and sits alongside Summer Carnival '92: Recca as a masterwork in terms of providing a sense of speed and overall frenetic gameplay.

Crisis Force has one of Konami's best soundtracks. That's saying a lot considering lots of other game soundtracks for their titles in the 80s are some of the most sought after vinyl releases in all of the young but growing soundtrack album collecting space. The music gets you in the perfect mood to do what you're meant to do in a shmup: dodge bullets and blow stuff up. If you can find a physical release of the soundtrack somewhere and are into video game soundtracks, you should totally seek it out.

There was a time when Konami truly rarely missed. Not releasing Crisis Force outside of Japan is an absolute crime. That it hasn't seen a release on any of their classic collections is almost inexcusable. Crisis Force is easily one of Konami's greatest games and definitely qualifies as one of the best shmups you probably never played. Seeking out a cartridge on the Famicom is incredibly pricey and the only reason I have a means to play this on my NES is a multicart given to me last Christmas (Thank you Ariel). I'm a strong proponent of playing things anyway you can, so track down this bit of magic from 1991 and save the world.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Retrobit Knocks It Out Of The Park Again

 Retrobit continues their strong run of retro reissues with Undercover Cops, the Super Famicom port of Irem's 1992 Japanese exclusive arcade Beat Em Up. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a collector's edition of the title and wanted to show it to the world as I opened it.








Monday, October 18, 2021

Take Care Of Your People

 The following is a short video I made while thinking about how many people I know uses video games as an escape. For many, life can feel like a trap. They may use video games as a way to avoid what they're going through. Check on those in your life. They may be going through a quiet crisis that they can't speak of with anyone. You never know what simply asking someone if they are okay could mean to someone who feels completely alone. 

If you're in the midst of a crisis, help is available. You're not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

How Natsume and Limited Run Games Saved Me A Few Hundred Bucks

 I've yelled about the resell market for retro games for years, and things aren't getting better, but thanks to Limited Run Games, I was able to get two cult classic NES games and saved several hundred dollars in the process. Natsume in the days of the NES were spoken of in the same way that Sunsoft, Irem, and Tecmo were. Natsume developed a number of titles for other publishers, but only published two for the NES: Shadow of the Ninja and S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Squad. Both titles are relentless and masterfully crafted action games. Shadow of the Ninja ranks up there with Sunsoft's Batman and Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden II as two of the best games of this type: straight to the point fast paced side scrolling action platormers. S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Squad is an old school shmup of the most aggressive order. It isn't particularly brutal, but it's definitely a challenge. Much like the Metal Storm unboxing video, I was given the chance to open a classic title in an age where that privilege can cost an obscene amount of money.


Oh yeah, I'm back to providing you awesome folks with a chance to have official 8-Bit Animal merchandise. if you're interested in getting a t shirt or a hoodie (with more stuff on the way), hop on over here, and get in on the greatness.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Gaming On The Run (From Mother Nature)

 Sixteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As I was leaving for what I thought would be at most a week, I grabbed my PS2 and a few games. When it was clear that I wouldn't be going home anytime soon, I went to the Walmart in the town I evacuated to and got a small TV and on a whim I bought a new game, Killzone. The little tv had a headphone jack and I was able to quietly play video games and be grateful that my family was okay in the aftermath of that disaster. 


Fast forward sixteen years to the day and once again I was evacuating, this time it was Hurricane Ida. Just like in 2005, I brought a console (a PS4 this time) and a small selection of games, and just like last time I had a small tv so I could find a corner and game in peace. This may seem frivolous, but it gave me peace when home was surrounded in chaos. While there, I went to Target and picked up a few things, including the last copy of Hades in the store. That, plus the other games I brought with me, gave me normalcy.

For many, video games still aren't viewed as anything other than a kid's toy. Many gamers use what happens on their screen of choice to quiet the loudness that sometimes surrounds them and fills them with anxiety. Some may use something as mundane as Angry Birds or in my case at many points, a shmup like Giga Wing to help them escape the hamster wheel of their day to day life. While this may not feel okay to some, sitting on your couch with a video game in the same way many spend time with a book is not so different.

In terms of both storms, I was lucky. I know people who lost everything in those hurricanes. Little things like engaging in your hobby of choice can be the thing that keeps lots of people from flat out losing themselves in the fog of that uncertainty and grief. A game of Ikaruga or starting my first few runs of Hades kept me calm while I waited to hear from my family who had to escape the storm. Everyone is okay, and Hades has more than lived up to the hype and Game of the Year honors it received in 2020. It may seem childish to see a grown man bring a game console and games with him, but finding a way to be your own peace is absolutely priceless when nature is trying to reclaim it's space and you just want to get out of her way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Play What You Love, Even If You Have To Bootleg It!

I was originally just going to talk about the wildly inflated prices of retro games in the resell market, but in the process of preparing to write this I had an epiphany. One of the things that many console gamers have complicated feelings about are bootleg games. For many, using emulators shows disrespect for the games that we grew up on. I admit I used to be one of those snobbish gamers who thought I was above such seemingly seedy acts. I would see those plug and play things made to look like a Nintendo 64 controller that contained cheap variations of NES games that often crashed seconds after starting them and would be troubled. It's not that simple, though.

I have a stack of bootleg Dreamcast games because collecting for that console is an expensive nightmare. Have you seen how much a copy of Giga Wing goes for on eBay? The barrier for entry to owning older consoles has become increasingly high if you didn't keep them from years gone by or have been gifted them and it's honestly inexplicable why unless you have observed the manufactured scarcity tactics of some companies or the hoarding antics of collectors looking to flip "rare" games for profit.

While this isn't exclusive to retro games, I know it isn't unique to to just gamers. When things become trendy, the average person typically gets forced out. That's what's happening with retro gaming right now. The price hikes have made it virtually impossible to get certain games. A year or two ago I received two reproduction carts for Christmas, Little Samson and Panic Restaurant. Both were late life NES releases from Taito and because they didn't sell huge numbers, the price was never low. The current prices for those games sit around $1,200 for Panic Restaurant and a whopping $3,000 for Little Samson. There is no earthly way I was going to be able to get a legit copy of either, and while rarity is a valid driver of price, there's nothing happening that tells me that I shouldn't just find a rom site or buy a reproduction.

Nintendo recently went after and was successful in getting a website shut down because they had the audacity to make games that the gaming juggernaut couldn't be bothered to make available through their proprietary devices easily available and accessible. I have a version of Donkey Kong on the NES that added in the missing level that for some reason Nintendo left out of and still refuses to add to their official NES release. Those of us who love gaming and appreciate the older games that could be lost to time should be able to play these titles without having to pay through the nose for titles that one could get for a song a few years ago. We deserve better.