Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Zombie Apocalypse (PSN / XBLA)

Zombie Apocalypse
Nihilistic Software
Konami, 2009

I'm running a little behind this Halloween season finding games to play, but for some reason this twin stick shooter from 2009 (available on both XBLA and PSN) came to my mind. According to the Achievements I've unlocked in the game, I don't believe I've played this since 2009!

At the beginning of the game you get to select one of four playable characters. As far as I can tell, all four play and control the same. Your basic weapon is an assault rifle that has unlimited ammo and your secondary weapon is a chainsaw. The chainsaw has two forms of attack...standard "hack 'n slash" and execution. The latter attack grants you more scoring multipliers, but leaves you open for attack.

The left analog stick controls your character while your right analog stick fires your weapon. You can wield your chainsaw using either the left or right triggers. The left puts the chainsaw in execution mode, holding it above your head until you drive it right down onto an enemy. Holding in the right trigger you can run around with your chainsaw running at full speed.

Periodically other weapons will drop that have limited ammunition. Shotgun, twin pistols, molotovs and mini chain guns have all dropped during my gameplay.

Survivors will also appear from time to time and if you can defend them while a helicopter flies in above and drops a rescue ladder, you'll be rewarded with a large chuck of points as well as a bait. The bait is none other than a stuffed teddy bear. Throw it and you'll hear the beat say "I'm full of love...and C4"...then explodes. These come in handy when you've overwhelmed or if you need to divert the attention of a horde while you are trying to rescue someone.

I should also mention that while you don't have a life bar, it's not instant death if you are touched. You can spin the left analog stick if a zombie(s) grapples you and if you're quick enough you can escape their grasp.

There are 7 different areas and a total of 55 levels. You'll fight in a graveyard, an airport, a small town, carnival, vehicle junkyard and an industrial plant. Each level has a hazard of some type that if you can get zombies close enough to and shoot them into that direction results in more points and a bloody death.

As you advance through the game the difficulty ramps up. You are faced with hordes of special zombies mixed in with the regular zombie fodder. They may be big construction workers that you can escape their grapple, or an old granny zombie that flings knives at you. Get hit with a knife and it's instant death.

The game plays and feels like Robotron 2084...with zombies. It's a fun game in short spurts and I'm sure it's even more fun playing co-op or online. My Xbox Live subscription isn't active, but I can almost guarantee that this game may be getting some play this evening for Halloween.

Despite the different playable characters, different weapons and zombie types in the game I find that there just isn't enough in this game to keep my attention. Once you get 15 levels into the game it's just more of the same. The daylight may have been replaced with night where you have limited sight, but it's still the same game. If you like twin stick shooters, zombies or bloody games then this may have something to offer you, otherwise the game just falls into obsecurity in a crowd of better horror themed games. The game did get a sequel, Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, but it doesn't appear to be an active download in the Xbox store.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

d_skin Protective Disc Skins

Growing up in the age of video game cartridges, you really didn't worry too much about damaging your game. Yes, you had to keep the cartridge contacts clean and I can remember the various cleaning kits that used to be on the market.

Then ushered in the age of video games being on compact discs. While this afforded many advantages when it came to the games, it also brought along new worries of your games being damaged easier.

Long before I ever heard of disc rot I was worried about scratching my discs to the point where the game would mess up or just not load all together. When I started down the road of importing games from Japan for my Sega Saturn for instance, I paid good money for some of the titles I still own in my library. While I'm generally really careful with my games, I was still worried about scratches and was looking for something to help me out.

I honestly don't remember where I first came across the company called d_skin (this was before social media was the norm), but they had a product that I thought was too good to be true. Protective Disc Skins, a piece of plastic that had a semi-rigid plastic edge that clipped onto your discs. If the protection was enough, d_skin claimed you could leave the skins attached to the disc while you played it in your DVD or game console. Was this true? I had to find out for myself.

The skins were sold in various quantities at most major retail stores. I only have a few so I'm guessing I must've bought a 5 pack when I first tried them out for myself. I really thought this product was too good to be true. I had to give it a try first hand for myself to see if they lived up to how they were advertised.

I don't know of all of the skins had a bright, neon orange edge to them or not. Upon taking the sleeve out of the packaging I thought it looked pretty cheap and fragile. The plastic in the center does appear to be thin and if not careful I would imagine would wrinkle pretty easy. There is a hole in the center that perfectly aligns with the center of the disc. The edges are about as thick as a CD and easily clip onto the edges of the disc. That's it. That's all they do...they clip onto your disc. 

Once attached to your disc, I have to say the skin looks pretty good. I would have preferred the edges being a differnet color...white, black or just clear...but the orange has grown on me. The skin comes off just as easy as it went on, but I don't see it just falling off the disc on it's own.

I've used these skins on both DVDs and games and in each case found zero issues. The DVD movie played fine in a few different players and the Saturn and PS2 games I tried played w/ the skin with no problems.

Truth be told I really forgot about this product. At the time I discovered them I didn't own many games that I deemed necessary to protect. Like I said early, I'm pretty careful with my stuff and just didn't see the need. However I recently came across some games in my library w/ these skins on and it got me to wondering if I should invest in more of these or something similar. I've added several pricey (import) games to my ever growing library that I would be devastated if something were to happen to them.

So, what's your take on this product? 1) have you ever seen them before? 2) If yes, how well did they work for you? If no, would you be up to using a product like this? I'm not sure if d_skin is even in business anymore. I could only find a few Amazon sellers that had this product in stock so I'm going to guess it didn't sell very well and has fallen to the wayside. Would you use something like this on your more expensive disc based games in your collection? Why or why not?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Demon's Crystals (Sony Playstation 4 / PSN)

Demon's Crystals
Badland Games
Badland Games, 2017

I'm not a huge fan of digital download games, but while setting up my PSN account on my somewhat newly acquired PS4, I browsed the store before I powered down the console to see what games were available. I ran across Demon's Crystals in the sale category. It was only $2.49 and when I realized it was a twin stick shooter, I decided to give it a try. Having the 1 TB model PS4 I'm not as concerned about downloading games as I am on my Xbox One that has a smaller (already full) hard drive.

The game plays like your average twin stick shooter. Think Smash TV or Robotron 2084...just controlling a demon girl with a graveyard or castle level design. You get the chose from 1 of 4 different characters...

I initially chose to play as Adora, hence her level is much higher than the others. At the time I didn't realize your character would level up as you play the game. I find this to be a nice addition as it'll add to the replayability of the game. I noticed there was a trophy/achievement for getting all 4 girls to at least level 30.

Each "world" consists of 10 levels, with each level having 3 rounds. The first level takes place in a graveyard. The goals for each round vary, from destroying a set amount of enemies to collecting a set amount of diamonds to both requirements.

The left analog stick controls your character, while the right analog stick fires your weapon. If you've played any twin stick shooters, then this control scheme should be familiar to you. During the game, additional weapon icons will appear. I picked up spread guns, homing bullet guns, rocket launchers and a freeze ray. Other items will also randomly appear such as screen clearing attacks like lighting or hellfire as well as hour glasses that give you additional time to meet your objective(s).

The environment on each level is somewhat destructable. I'm not sure the purpose of this, other than each destroyed building, etc. nets you a small amout of experience points. Once you destroy say a tombstone, the rubble is still there and you must navigate your character around this otherwise you will run into it and your motion will halt.

The 10th level was a boss fight. The first boss (and only boss I've fought thus far) was pretty cool. Not overally hard once I figured out his attack pattern.

As you kill your enemies, you are awarded a certain amount of experience. I found as I leveled up my character I was plowing through the enemies in the 1st world. However the difficulty took a big step forward with world 2, a castle.

Demon's Crystals doesn't really bring anything new to the table. However at only $2.49 (normally $4.99) during the month of October (at least on the Playstation Network), the theme fit the month of October. My 6 year old daughter enjoyed playing the game too, though the controls did throw her for a loop a bit.

The game offers co-operative play online, as well as a survival mode where you compete to see who can stay alive the longest and rack up the highest score. I haven't tried those modes yet, but I do plan on checking them out. In the mean time, I'm going to keep coming back to this game - trying to level up the other characters. This is one of those games that is perfect to play when you don't have a lot of time to sit in front of the TV. If you're a fan of twin stick shooters, you may want to give this one a look.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Retro Store Visit: McKay's - Greensboro, NC

McKay's, formally known as Edward McKay; this second hand store pretty much sells everything a media junkie would be interested in. From books, music (cassettes, CDs and vinyl) to movies (VHS, DVD, Bluray) to of course video games. That's why you're here, correct?

While I visit Greensboro, NC a few times a year for work I've never taken the time to visit this location in the past. A month or so ago I found myself grabbing a bite to eat across the street at Kickback Jack's and had time to browse the store before they closed. Let's take a look at their video game corner shall we?

Immediately after walking into the store, there are glass cases on both sides of the door. This is the case to the right of the door. Here you have a selection of consoles for sale, mostly 6th and 7th generation stuff. Some of the more pricey or sought after games were in this case too. I only briefly glanced in the case, deciding to head down to the next level of the store. There was another section that had some really common and inexpensive retro games on the wall near the entrance. I didn't take a picture because the selection was really sparse on my visit. Mainly loose Game Boy, NES, SNES and Genesis carts.

There is a ramp that takes you down to the lower portion of the store and you are greeted by a sea of bookshelves. This is where I'm sure most people spend the majority of their time browsing and shopping. There is so much stuff to look at you have to give yourself a good hour to make it through everything. I noticed the games were all situated in one corner of the room so I made my way back there.

The far wall was lined with so many original Xbox and Playstation 2 games. They had a lot of duplicate titles, especially of sports titles, but I was amazed by the sheer volume of games. I believe this was their "mark down" section as a lot of these games were really cheap too, we're talking $5 or less. I grabbed Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball for $4.

On the opposite side of the marked down area was a section of shelves that housed their Playstation 1 games as well as Nintendo DS, 3DS and Sony PSP games. There were a few straggler Dreamcast games above the Playstation games.

There regular OG Xbox section was about 4 shelves full and had some good titles to choose from. Most were below eBay pricing, which was refreshing to see. I grabbed a copy of Dragon's Lair 3D for maybe $6? Their selection of GameCube games wasn't as large and sadly I didn't see anything that I wanted.

Up until recently I really haven't paid much attention to the Wii, however that is starting to change a bit. As you can see they had a good selection of Wii games, but again nothing that I wanted.

Lots of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games to choose from. I've got a decent sized 360 library already so there isn't much I'm looking for that I don't have already. I was hoping to find something for the PS3 that interested me, but I was starting to run low on time and I still had more to look at.

The more current stuff was grouped together into one section. I've haven't owned a PS4 for long so I'm still trying to figure out what I need to keep an eye out for. I was really hoping to find something cool for the Wii U. Despite it being a commerical failure for Nintendo, I have to say it's one of my favorite gaming systems. I'm always looking to expand my Wii U library, but the offerings here were slim pickings.

I didn't walk away completely empty handed as I bought two OG Xbox games as well as a vinyl album. I quickly flipped through their records before leaving and found Stryper's In God We Trust and I simply couldn't leave it behind! Now that I know where McKay's is located in Greensboro I will most definately have to pay them another visit next time I'm in the area. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tenchi o Kurau 2: Sekiheki no Tatakai (Sega Saturn)

Tenchi o Karau 2: Sekiheki no Tatakai
(Warriors of Fate II)
Capcom, 1996

I enjoy a good beat 'em up (or hack 'n slash) as much as the next guy. There isn't a shortage of these types of games, but finding the truly good ones can take some work. In some cases, some of the better games of these sub-genres didn't even make out of Japan. Tenchi o Kurau 2, better known outside of Japan as Warriors of Fate II is one of those games.

Prior to Capcom releasing this game on home consoles (Playstation & Saturn in 1996), the game began it's life in the arcades circa 1992. I hand very fond memories of playing this game in the arcade the summer before my senior year in high school. I was working at a theme park, Paramount's Carowinds and situated right across from the burger stand I was stationed at was the park's largest arcade. On my breaks or after my shift was over, I would head on over to the arcade and drop a few dollars into various games. Warriors of Fate II was one of my favorites hands down.

So what made this game so much fun? Well for starters the arcade version was 3 player co-op (the home ports were just 2 player co-op) and there were 5 characters to choose from. While most of them play somewhat the same, each character does have their own differences in combat. For my most recent play through, I chose Chou-Un. He's the guy in the middle with the blue armor. Each character as a Street Fighter type move that you can pull off. Chou-Un will slash forward, ending in a upper cut using his sword. Reminds me of one of Ken's moves from Street Fighter.

The game isn't your standard fare beat 'em up however. Some of the characters you can select are unarmed and play more like Hagger from Final Fight, while others have a slightly more ranged attack thanks to their weapon. Like most games of this type, there are other weapons that you can pick up from fallen enemies or from breakable containters. 

Unlike other games (outside of Knights of the Round, another great Capcom beat 'em up) you can ride on the back of a horse. When mounted, you have a longer range weapon to attack with. Pressing back then forward will make your horse rear back and then you lunge forward with a more powerful attack. Pressing the jump button will let you change directions of the horse. You can also attack from behind you with a backhanded attack, but it's a much slower attack.

The enemies you fight are pretty standard fare at the beginning of the game. You have grunts, soldiers and bowmen. However as you advance through the 9 levels of the game you are introduced to more formidable enemies. These Chun-Li looking girls are little quicker than most of the male characters and if you aren't careful, they'll unleash a flurry of knives at you. You never encounter one of these females alone either, they are always paired in threes it seems.

That's the other thing that makes this game stand out to me. The number of enemies on the screen at the same time. I swear there were times were I'd count 10 or more enemies all on the screen at the same time. Thankfully the Saturn hardware is more than capable of keeping the game running with zero slowdown. Perhaps for this reason alone Capcom never tried to port this game to the Super Famicom or Super Nintendo?

The boss battles weren't anything special, but they were always fun. Most of the time the bosses you'd fight would have a good bit of health, as you can see in the above image. Kyo-Cho had two and 1/2 bars of health...not to mention a fairly large mallet he attacks with.

The level design and backgrounds are pretty impressive. Being that the game takes place in China the scenery from level to level doesn't change that much, but Capcom did a good job overall. From the forest at the beginning, to fighting in rivers, barren battle grounds to storming the enemies stronghold. The area in which you fight Kyo-Cho, there is a torch in the background that the game prompts you to pick up. Once you've picked up the torch, the entire area is engulfed in flames. Very nice touch Capcom. 

Did you notice the enemy (from the above flame screenshot) lying on the ground in half? There are several times in the game where you can cut an enemy in half, decaptitate them or just cause them to explode from a blunt hit! Each attack does cause a bit a red blood to spirt from the enemy as well. 90's gaming was oh so good when you didn't have to worry about game ratings, helicopter parents and such.

As with games like Final Fight, inbetween select levels you would be treated with a mini game of sorts. The first game put you against another playable character (I think) in who can clean off their plate the fastest. It's a button mashing fury in order to make your character gnaw away at the meet and meat buns on the plate. I can never win at these type of events unless I'm mashing away on an actual arcade cabinet.

Warriors of Fate II is an awesome beat 'em up game. It has that Capcom feel, very polished and very much fun. With the 5 different characters to chose from and 9 pretty long levels, the game offers a good bit of replayability.

The Saturn version of the game seems to go for around $65-$85 on the secondary market, depending on how complete the game is. The Playstation version can be had for just over $50 complete in most cases. I don't know if it's as arcade perfect as the Saturn version is, but I'd love to know.

If you're a fan of 90's arcade style Capcom games, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this game. I really don't think you'll regret it at all.

2,932,259, not a bad highscore after completing the game

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Golden Axe: The Curse of Death Adder (Sega Dreamcast)

Golden Axe: The Curse of Death Adder
Open BoR
Sega Dreamcast

The Golden Axe series is one of my favorite video game franchises of all time. Despite my love of Nintendo growing up, this Sega classic store many quarters from me in the glory days when arcades were spotted all over the U.S. inside shopping malls and at skating rinks. The only Golden Axe game not to receive a home port, The Revenge of Death Adder, was by far my favorite game. I know it's available via MAME, but oh how I wish it had been ported over to one of the many home video game consoles. 

While I may not be able to play Revenge of Death Adder, how about The Curse of Death Adder? Never heard of it? Me neither until about a year ago. While doing some research on Senile Team's Beats of Rage, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of side scrolling beat 'em up and hack 'n slash type games. One of which was this "new" Golden Axe game. I purchased this from an Etsy seller for about $15. I'm sure there are people reading this that are already rolling their eyes and thinking how I wasted my money. We aren't here to debate that. We are here to look at the game itself.

Let me start off by saying I believe I have an early version of this game. I say that because during my own research about how this game came to be made, I've noticed there are 2.0 and 3.0 versions of the game that can be downloaded. The screenshots for these games look more polished and appears to offer more than one playable character.

Now that is out of the way, it appears the story for Curse takes place after the events of Revenge of Death Adder. I didn't expect a backstory, let alone for it to be told once I booted up the game.

The title screen offers a few options for you to chose from. The Movie Option is set to "disabled", but it doesn't appear that you can change this setting. 'Options' takes you to a screen where you can alter some of the audio and video settings. 'How to Play' gives you a basic tutorial of how to control your character. 'Hall of Fame' is basically your high scores.

One you choose 'Start Game', you get to chose from Story, Beginner or Battle. From what I can tell, Story and Beginner is the same game, but Beginner mode seems to deal out a little more damage to enemies and you take less damage.

On the Select Player screen you have one option, Stern. The Ax Battler wanna be from Revenge of Death Adder. This is another reason why I think I've got an early version of this game. Once you've made up your mind of the character you want to use (!) the game pauses for a quick second to load the game.

The Story mode starts you out with 3 lives and 4 credits/continues. You can control your character with the d-pad or the analog stick. The A button attack while the B button makes your character jump. No longer can you do a more powerful attack by pressing the attack and jump buttons at the same time. Now you just have to do a quick double tap on the d-pad in the direction you want to attack. In Stern's case, this causes you to do a uppercut swipe of your sword. If you can make contact, this attack deals some good damage. Thankfully the classic Golden Axe yells and screams are present when the enemies are attacked. You even get some red blood spurting when you attack enemies (including roadblocks and treasure chests?).

The Y button summons your magic, but even this has been changed from what you may be familar with. You don't have a magic gauge this time around, so don't expect to level up your magic. I believe you can carry more than one vial at a time, but the earth magic is basically worthless. It's not a screen clearing attack anymore, in fact the little geysers Stern summons can actually miss the enemies if they aren't in the right place on screen! At times it'll help you get out of a pinch you may find yourself in, but for the most part I forgot I even had magic. 

You immediately start out in a familiar area. Do the guard sprites ring any bells? Any Capcom bells? Yes, the enemies you'll encounter in the first episode have been lifted from Capcom's awesome game, Knights of the Round. I'm pretty sure the foreground as well as those barricades are from KotR as well. You know what, I'm OK with that because it just gives the game a varied, but familiar feel.

Some of the more traditional Golden Axe enemies are included in the game, even some of the beasts. Sadly you are not able to ride these beasts. When you attack them, they have what I think is a new animation where the beast falls back with it's rider. I guess it was asking too much to be able to ride some of these classic Golden Axe beasts.

The game is broken up into different episodes and the first episode is quite long. What I thought was the final boss with these two Green Man enemies turned out to just be an early mid-boss. I was expecting the next scene to open up to a campfire with the little gnomes running around that yield magic vials or food when attacked. Nope, you just move onto the next area.

This area looks really familar, but I can't tell if it was lifted from Knights of the Round or another game. I do know that the large armored villian on the horse as well as the knight in the bottom picture can be a royal pain in the butt to defeat. One thing I noticed is that your attack has a rather short range and some of your enemies have larger swords, staffs or axes they attack with. This means that attacking them head on, being on the same plane, wield lots of damage...to you! I found that if I attacked them from a plane just above or below them while pressing in their direction would let me score some hits without having to worried about being carved up. Of course this strategy doesn't always work and there are times there are so many enemies on the screen you'll likely take some hits.

Once I finally made it past the first episode, you're taken to what the game calls the Wastelands for the 2nd episode. You are immediately greeted by skeletons...great. However these aren't the skeletons from Golden Axe, these are from yet another Capcom game: Dungeons & Dragons. I'm "happy" to say that these skeletons are just as much a pain in the butt as the skeletons from Golden Axe. At least these move a tad slower and don't jump around as much.

I was also greeted by another new enemy in the Wastelands, an ogre. I don't recoginize this character sprite, but I assume he was lifted from another game as well. If you know what game the ogre is from please leave a comment below.

While playing the game and collecting pictures for this post you can see I'd pause the game to snap a picture. One more than one occassion I accidentally moved the curser from Continue to End Game. I was at the end of the 3rd episode, potentially near the end of the game and I accidentally ended my game. I was too tired to start over, but hey, at least I didn't spoil much more of the game for you!

I did decide to check out the Duel option however before I called it quits for the night. I was hoping it wasn't a one on one fighting game like Golden Axe: The Duel.

This mode pits you against waves of enemies, one battle at a time. There are 15 battles I think before you get to the end. Sometime happened to my game when it was loading the 15th battle so I'm a little in the dark here. This was on the only glitch I experienced while playing the game and I've put several hours into it.

I know there are some people that frown on this time of game, but I for one found it to interesting and a lot of fun. I grew up playing beat 'em ups and hack 'n slash games like this and with today's modern gaming scene it's not often we get games like this anymore. Did I overpay for the game? Probably, considering it's a free download...however I'm not well versed in downloading and burning games like this. I can't say I'd buy many more of these type of games, but being the Golden Axe fan that I am I had to quench my curiosity and give this game a try. Download it or pick up a physical copy if you like this genre.