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 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.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pigs in Space (Atari 2600)

Pigs in Space

Pigs in Space, a collection of 3 games was the last game to be released in Atari's children's line. It's based on the skits of the same characters from the old television show, The Muppet Show. 

I was never a fan of the Muppet Show, but I do remember watching it growing up and I remember some of the Pigs in Space skits. The three games on the cartridge are variations of other well known games released around the same time. Each game features a different Muppet character.

The first game is called Chicken Invaders and as you can guess is a take on Space Invaders. The game has you take control of Captain Link Hogthrob. Chickens are invading planet Cluck and it's your job to stop them. Moving left and right on the bottom of the screen, you shoot (or throw) sausages at the chickens. You have to dodge the chickens eggs that they drop at you. If they hit you, you turn into a chicken yourself. At times during the game, Gonzo will cross the top of the screen in his spaceship. Shoot him for an extra bonus.

Gameplay here is no different than Space Invaders, except that perhaps the movement here is a little more sluggish than I remember last time I placed Space Invaders on the Atari.

The next game is called Pastaroids and you take control of First Mate Piggy. Your objective is to get her back to the Swinetrek ship. To do this you must enter the pastaroid field and dodge oncoming pastaroids (i.e. meatballs) and noodles. If you've never played this game, just think of this as another version of Frogger. Pretty much the same thing, only less fun. This is the weakest of the 3 games in my opinion.

The last game as part of the Pigs in Space package is Escape from the Gonzoids. You take control of Dr. Julius Strangepork inside the Swinetrek and your objective is to navigate the ship through each level (which is an abandoned pizza mine?), shooting (or avoiding) the attacking Gonzoids. Your ship is equipped with a Boomeray, a shot that goes vertical and then curves off to the left or right depending on the direction you press on the joystick. Your ship's movement is sluggish and it takes a bit of time to get used to the controls. Plus if you touch any part of the red walls you instantly lose a life and have to start all the way at the beginning of the level. As you advance your way through the mine, your score will constantly roll and get larger. Shooting the enemy robots grants you additional points added to your overall score.

This isn't the best Atari 2600 game I've played, but at least it does offer some variety. Escape from the Gonzoids is my favorite of the three games, followed by Chicken Invaders and then finally Pastaroids. The first and last games offer a bit of a challenge, but I've always thought Pastaroids was rather easy and I would grow tired of the game very quickly.

If you're looking to purchase this game for your collection, beware that the purple label on the cartridge is hard to find in really good condition. At lot of times you'll find the label to appear oily looking. The game isn't common, but it's not rare either. Prepare to pay anywhere between $8 and $12 on the secondary market for a loose cartridge.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Time Cruise II (PC Engine)

Time Cruise II
HuCard, 1991

When many people think of pinball games on the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16), games like Devil's Crush or Alien Crush come to mind...however Time Cruise is a great game in it's own right and one of my first exposures to video pinball.

In the US the game was just called Time Cruise, however in Japan the Roman numeral II was added. When you boot up the game, you get the title screen on the left. Doors open up, revealing different areas. Oddly enough this is the US title screen. Once the screen goes black, the large "II" appears and then the game title.

On this screen you have 3 options. Play, Practice and Option. The option screen basically lets you choose a different controller layout, but unfortunately it's not choosing different buttons. Nope, it lets you choose an option to use multiple controllers. It's a very odd set up and I should have taken a picture of this option so you could better understand what I'm trying to describe. The default controls: left on the D pad and the II button control the left and right flippers. Pressing the I button will shake the table. Over pressing this button could cause a Tilt and forfeiting your ball.

What helps make this game stand out from some of it's pinball competitors on the PC Engine/TG-16 is the sheer size of the table. The table is basically comprised of 7 screens. The middle section is three screens tall, while the side tables are made of two screens.

This large layout gives you plenty of things for the ball to hit and ricochet off of to net you some big points. The game changes screens quickly as the ball moves around and its usually pretty easy to follow the ball. If you're wondering why the game is called Time Cruise, at the top of each section are these silver warp gates. You first have to activate them by hitting the trigger about 5 or 6 times with the ball. A path will then illuminate to the gate letting you know it's ready. If you can work the ball over to the now active gate, you'll be transported either into the future or into the past.

One of the areas in the future is this table that you have to move to roll your ball to the hole in the green area. Obviously is game was released far before there was motion controls, so to move the board you manipulate the X and Y axis. Do it before the time runs out and you'll earn an extra ball and add some serious points to your score. I used to be able to work this table pretty easy, but I've become rusty.

One of my favorite warp tables is this caveman golf area. You are a small caveman and you have to golf the ball over water hazards and keep the ball from going into the bushes, labeled OB (for Out of Bounds I assume). You have a gauge at the top of the screen that measures how hard you hit the ball. If the ball falls into the water, you start over where you are. However if you hit it out of bounds, it takes you up one level. Make your way to the bottom and successfully hit it into the hole and you'll earn an extra ball and a lot of points. With practice, this isn't very hard, but it's a lot of fun.

Another warp area set in the past is this medival themed table. As the ball ricochets off the treasure chests at the top, they open to reveal gold inside. If you hit all 6, they close and you get a new point tier (represented by the roman numerals in the background). The chest in the middle is actually a little monster that moves around the screen.

The bottom portion of the table has 6 swords. The color on the handle changes as the ball hits them. Hit them all and you'll illuminate another roman numeral in the background. The sides of the top and bottom tables are lined with pink jelly creatures and white masks that act as bumpers.

my high scores from my recent play (CJH)

Overall this game is a lot of fun and it's still one of my favorite pinball games on all retro platforms. The music on the main table is very forgetful unfortunately, but better in the warp areas. With the large size of the table, there are several open areas that are kind of bland. What I mean is there isn't much going on in the background. No moving pieces to look at in the background as Alien Crush or Devil's Crush has for example. Those tables seem more organic where as Time Cruise is more inorganic (if that makes sense).

Both the US and Japanese versions of Time Cruise will run you at least $50.00 on the secondary market for a complete copy of the game. That price is a little steep if you ask me, but if you like video pinball and you've never played this game then you need to pick up a copy in some way shape or form.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Retro Store Visit: Joe's Classic Video Games - Rock Hill, SC

One of the things I like to do most when I travel is to search out and visit local video game stores. I'm surprised at how many I've been able to find (and visit) all over North and South Carolina where I work and live. While some of my visits have been better than others, it's still fun to always come back to the blog and share my thoughts and opinions of said stores.

Right in my backyard of Rock Hill, SC is a really cool store located in historic downtown, Joe's Classic Video Games. What sets this store apart from the others I've visited is the fact that they also refurbish and sell arcade machines. It's always fun visiting their store because you'll never know what cabinets you'll run across. On my latest visit they had a very nice Neo Geo cab that had the 1 in 161 MVS cart installed for $899. I also spied a very nice Dynamite Cop and original Rolling Thunder cabinets.

While their presence on the web may not be as slick as other sites operated by retro game stores, you can easily check on what arcade machines they currently have available for sale as well as machines they are currently working on.

In addition to arcade games, they of course have a wide selection of games for systems ranging from the Atari 2600 and Sears Intellivision to more modern systems like PS3 (and everything in between!). They also carry consoles, including clone consoles like the Retro Duo as well as supplies. I had my girls with me on my recent trip so I wasn't able to take photos of the store, but I'll make sure to do that the next time I pay them a visit. Look for a future post.

On this visit I walked out of the store with several baseball games. If you read my previous post on the Famicom Baseball game, then you'll know I've been in a baseball kick so the games that I usually don't notice were the games I was looking for on this particular visit.

It's nice to be able to walk into a local store and have so many choices. This haul is a pretty good representation of the different platforms that Joe's has to choose from. Also a nice thing about the shop are the prices. Most of the prices are very reasonable, though there have been times where I've found copies of the same game that are price differently. Sometimes I can't tell why when other times I think they are priced different due to the overall condition of the cart, sticker, booklet, etc. I personally like this touch as there are times I'm willing to pay a few dollars more if the game is in better condition.

All but two games in my haul were baseball games, so if you don't care for baseball then check out Super Puyo Puyo for the Super Famicom. My oldest daughter was helping me go through their surprisingly large selection of SFC games and Super Puyo Puyo caught her eye. I told her it was a color matching puzzle game and she asked me if it was anything like some of the games she plays on her tablet. I told her "yes" and she asked if we could get it. Priced at a reasonable $6 I let her add it to the stack. Another genre that I really enjoy and often look for is pinball. I don't often look through Playstation 1 games, but my girls were flipping through them and I saw KISS Pinball. I've actually been looking for this game since I learned of it's existence so I was very happy to find this. 

On the baseball front, Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball for the Sega Saturn was stuck away at the bottom of a small stack of Saturn games in their display case. It was only $5 and it was complete (with the foam block!). The jewel case was beat up, but aren't most Saturn cases when you find them in the wild? For the Sega Genesis I found two games, Cal Ripken, Jr. Baseball and R.B.I. Baseball '94. The first was missing it's instruction bootlet, but the latter came complete. Both were cheap. I also grabbed a loose copy of Cal Ripken, Jr. Baseball for the Super Nintendo since it was like $2. It'll be fun comparing these two games to see if one is better than the other. The lone NES game is Major League Baseball and the loose Genesis cart is World Series Baseball. I don't normally buy loose Genesis carts, but it was a only $1 and I figured I may be able to make my own case using The Cover Project.

All-in-all this is a great shop and has a feel that other shops I've visited just don't have. Great selection of games (and more) and even if you aren't in the market to buy yourself a full size arcade machine, it's still cool to check out their selection in person. If you ever find yourself in the area I urge you to stop by downtown Rock Hill, SC and pay Joe's Classic Video Games a visit.