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Revenge of the SHMUP! Vol.2

The Shoot 'em-up genre is without any doubt one of the best genres in gaming. Though in recent times the genre has strayed off it's righteous path. For a long time it was a fundamental genre in gaming that was revered by countless gaming souls and developers that dedicated themselves to this once glorious genre. This must not be forgotten at any cost.

Continuing from my - last entry - There are just too many SHMUPS that deserve their revenge. So you're probably wondering: "Panzer-senpai what are some more of the best games the genre has ever seen?" And this is why I've decided to continue honoring the best gaming genre of them all -

The Revenge of the SHMUP continues!


Vasara婆裟羅Visco (2000) Arcade

Influenced by the Musha/Dennin ALESTE games. Vasara takes place in an alternative reality where high-tech machinery meets Japan's feudal period. As you would expect from this well-known Japanese period. Your main opponent force in the game will be the Tokugawa Shogunate.

In Vasara you can choose from three samurai warriors, each one with his/her own unique katana and special attacks. Depending on what character the 1P chooses, you will start the game on a different stage.

The main gameplay feature in Vasara is that each character carries a katana with them, which you can use by holding the [A] button. The name "Vasara" actually comes from your katana's special attack. Besides being a strong short/middle-range attack. your katana has the primary function of being able to destroy enemy bullets. A move which you will have to master in order to successfully beat the game.

Every time you destroy an enemy they will drop energy crystals which will increase your Vasara gauge. Once your gauge is full you will be able to unleash your powerful Vasara attack. If you destroy various enemies with your katana attacks, you can pull off chain combos which will which will yield you a higher score and more energy crystals.

At the end of a level you will get graded depending of how many enemy units you destroyed. But more importantly how many important enemies "Bushous" you destroyed. Taking down all Bushous is important to get the best ending in the game.

In the typical Visco tradition (and which a lot of people dislike) you will have to totally beat the final stage in just one go with just your available remaining lives. No matter how many credits you have, you won't be able to continue from where you were destroyed like you can in any other stage. If you do continue, you will do so from the beginning of the stage and try to do better this time.

The reason why many people dislike this practice is because while the final stages themselves aren't that bad, Visco last bosses have always characterized for having cheap attacks and taking an ungodly amount of damage before they go down. So it's obvious that many people would consider this to be nothing more than a last minute cheap shot at scamming more coins from the players. The only way of getting around this is by continuing while another player is still at the game. That's the only way to continue from where you left. But in any case the game does what it's set to do: get more credits off players.


Vasara 2
婆裟羅 2」Visco (2001) Arcade

Released a year later. the sequel follows the steps of the original very closely but it does have it's set of differences/improvements:

There's now four characters to choose from, plus a secret unlockable character for a total of five playable characters. A course selection has been added: Easy (6 stages) and Difficult (12 stages).

But the most important change in terms of gameplay is that you no longer have a separate smart bomb attack. This time your Vasara attacks will act as your only special attack in the game, and you can keep a stock of them which you can use with the button. The combo system has also been improved. so you can now pull off longer combo chains which will increase your score drastically.

Another nice improvement is that the difficulty has also been enhanced over the original. Save the last couple of stages, Vasara was pretty much a walk in the park. The slow enemy bullets were no match for your powerful katana attacks. In Vasara 2, the ammount of bullets coming at you has been increased considerably. That plus the improved combo system, really encourages you to take a much aggresive approach in the game and use your katana as much as possible.

The graphics as it fortunately seems to be the norm for all feudal Japan-based SHMUPS are incredible detailed and have a great sense of flair. The anime character design is also remarkable and overall the presentation is of very high quality. The sound is just as remarkable. There are several voice samples in both games which sound really great, and the cool upbeat tunes inspired by traditional Japanese music serve to set the mood of the game perfectly.

Finally, the best detail of them all is that both games have English subtitles. So you can understand the background story and all what's being said.

The Vasara games are really some of my favourie SHMUPS. I just can't get enough of these feudal Japan-inspired games, because almost all of them are of very high quality and this is no exception. It's just unfortunate that nobody took the chance to grab these excellent games and port them to any console in a compilation package.


The Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross II超時空要塞マクロスII」Banpresto (1993) Arcade

Banpresto was like the official developer of anime games on the Arcades. Almost every anime-based game released on the Arcades was developed by them. So it was fortunate that outside of few exceptions they did an excellent job at it.

So Banpresto continued their anime crusade on the Arcades with The Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross II. The sequel to the first SDF Macross Shoot 'em-up game based on the feature anime movie "Do You Remember Love?".

The first and most obvious difference from the first game is the change from a vertical to an horizontal scrolling perspective. However that wasn't the most drastic change implemented in Macross II.

The main gameplay novelty that was implemented in Macross II is that you don't just need to get to the end of the level and beat the boss to clear a stage, like it's the usual norm. This time you must reach a "clear score" requirement within a certain time limit in order to successfully clear a stage and proceed to the next.

Surprisingly enough, getting destroyed won't result in a game over. You can keep getting destroyed indefinitely and the game won't end until the time runs out. However, getting hit even once can seriously mess up your chances of achieving the clear score in a stage. since if you're underpowered you just won't be able to take down fast enough but the weakest of enemies. So like in any other SHMUP, you're more than encouraged to avoid getting hit or destroyed at all costs.

This new gameplay mechanic worked like a charm in Macross II. It really encourages you to truly master the stages and destroy all the enemies and pick up all the items you can. Quite simply because you really have to do that to actually be able to beat a stage. You won't be using your smart bombs only when you're in a pinch, but also to destroy key enemies that can drastically increase your score, or to take down the bosses faster so that you can have more time to keep going. You will also be in the hunt for hidden Min-Mei dolls and medals which will further increase your much needed score.

Indeed this new score clear mechanic served to give the game a totally different perspective from other SHMUPS. By pretty much forcing you to do all the stuff most players would normally ignore. it makes you appreciate the game better, making it more fun in the long run and giving it more depth and a very high replay value in the process.

That's not the end of the additions though. A course selection has also been implemented. You can select between three courses: Beginner, Medium and Expert. Each one with three stages.

What really makes this cool is that every course has it's own set of unique stages. And since all of the stages in the game look amazing, you will want to play through all of them. Also, no matter what course you select, the final stage will be the same for all courses. Good thing that the final stage is the most amazingly looking of them all.

There's also a cool 1P vs. 2P mode where you can compete against another player to see who can achieve the highest score.

I only really have two main complaints about the game: First, is that you can only transform between Fighter and Gerwalk this time around, since the Battorid form now works as your smart bomb. That doesn't really affect the game at all though, and it's more of a personal taste.

The second, and which is a real complain. Is that the final stage is hellishly difficult, and it's made even worse by the fact that there isn't any sort of continue in it. That's right, once you get to the final stage and you lose, you will get a special game over screen and that's that. You won't be able to continue.

So basically this means that you will have to do a perfect run through the most difficult stage in the game and then beat the most difficult boss in just one go with no chance of re-trying. And while doing this is very possible, the real problem is that memorizing the stage will take you a whole lot of time, since if you fail you will have to do a full course before you can try again.

In the technical aspect, Macross II is simply gorgeous. The visuals are stunning with a lot of attention to detail. The game's presentation is among the best on the Arcades. The music and sound effects are also top-notch, though the music in some stages is a bit behind the tunes from the first game.

There's a good and a bad side when it comes to games like these that just aren't totally forgotten into oblivion quite simply because of their popular source material. The good side is that they usually won't get lost on some warehouse collecting dust because there will be always people looking to get them. This means that unlike countless other lost Arcade games, you actually have a good chance at finding it. The bad side is that since the source material is popular and the demand is higher. it also means the price is expected to be higher. Macross II cost me more than €100 + S&H (which also cost me quite dearly) importing it straight from Japan. And that was like 7 years ago, so it is very probable for the game to went up in price. But of course I'm no certain.

SDF Macross II ranks among my favourite SHMUPS of all time. The clear score mechanic is one of the best implemented gameplay mechanics I've seen in a SHMUP. And the game is simply beautiful in all aspects.

While thanks to other lesser developers, anime-based games have gained an ill repute all around. Banpresto alongside other selected developers have always done their best on their end to do justice to their source material. And fortunately, the result is more than often brillant games like this one.


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Lost Treasures of the Videogame World Vol.2 (cont)

...continued from last post.


Princess Crown
プリンセスクラウンAtlus/SEGA (1997) Saturn

1997 was a great year for RPGs on the Saturn. While the Playstation was getting Final Fantasy VII. The Saturn got Grandia, Shining Force III, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, Langrisser IV, and of course the Atlus/SEGA joint effort: "Princess Crown" all within the same year.

In Princess Crown you take the role of the young princess "Gradiel", who wants to become a good Queen like her mother before her. After listening to some of the pleas from her people. Gradiel decides that to be a good ruler she has to leave the comfort and seclusion of the royal castle to travel so she can known better and see for herself her people and their troubles.

Gradiel listens to the requests of her subjects.

Princess Crown is a side-scrolling RPG. You can move Gradiel left and right as in any side-scroller You can also press up on the control pad to enter doors or road deviations. One thing that makes the controls feel limited is that you can't jump outside of battles. Although it would have served no real purpose if you could.

The most outstanding feature of Princess Crown were it's jaw-dropping 2D graphics that further proved the superiority of the Saturn in terms of 2D gaming. The sprites in the game are twice the size of what you'd normally expect in any game outside fighters. The animation and attention to detail of the main characters and enemies are nothing short of impressing.

Now Gradiel gets to know her own countryside.

Ironically, Princess Crown's biggest asset turned to be a double edged sword. While the game sprites are twice the size and twice the quality of any other RPG or side-scrolling 2D game of the time. They also stand out twice as much. which means that every time they get re-used throughout the adventure it really hurts the game's presentention more so than they do in other games.

Normally it would be unfair to even consider this a flaw. Since I really doubt that there's a single RPG out there that doesn't re-use it's graphics. But it's just not quite the same with Princess Crown. In any other RPG I couldn't care the less that the townsfolk all look the same in every town. because they're all irrelevant looking to begin with. But it's just because Princess Crown is so on another graphical level that you can't help but feel that the game deserved to have been above the common norm.

This is a Princess that doesn't need rescuing.

Another issue is the overpraising the game seems to get from many of it's fans. While the game is indeed a good RPG. Princess Crown was really more of an alternative take on the genre than anything else. So it's just not on the level of other full-fledged RPGs on the system. Yet because of it's high regarded cult status Princess Crown is the most expensive Saturn RPG in Japan. With a price tag of US$70 and above.

In this aspect Princess Crown is hardly to blame, as the game does do what it was intented to do. And it's just the fans of the game who level the game above what it really is.

Gradiel is so ~kawaii~ yet so deadly.

Princess Crown was ported to the Sony PSP on 2005 and it's already on the "Greatest Hits" budget price. Which makes it the ideal version to get for most people due to the high price of the Saturn version. Unfortunately from what I've heard the PSP version suffers from many of the issues often found in many PSP ports: no added wide-screen support, longer loading times and slowdown.

Princess Crown is a very good alternative RPG that is undoubtedly worth playing. However it is not the big forgotten epic game that many people try to make it look like.


Wonder MomoワンダーモモNamcot (1989) PC-Engine "HuCARD"

I really enjoy talking about old wacky Japanese games. Even when many of them are not what you would call "great". I still love how the Japanese have always implemented all sort of weird and innovative ideas in their games.

Wonder Momo is basically a side-scroller Beat 'em-up. but it is quite far from being your conventional Beat 'em up game. At least to where it's design and setting are concerned.

It's the Wonder Momo show!

In Wonder Momo you literally play the role of "Momo" a young actress working on a live stage play at the Namco Theater. (yes you heard correctly; the "Namco Theater") Momo plays the role of herself; a lovable young lady who enjoys taking walks and kicking punks left and right. But when things get too though she can transform into the high-kicking, hula hoop-throwing super-heroine "Wonder Momo" who has vowed to kick-ass in the name of justice.

While the game does play like a common (and not really good for that matter) Beat 'em-up. the most curious aspect about Wonder Momo is that all the action happens on the floor of a live theater play. Complete with a full viewing audience seemingly comprised of only male otakus, cheering at every move the moe~moe friendly Wonder Momo performs.

Take that punk! It's "Momo Time!"

The levels in the game are divided in "Acts". Since all of the action actually happens on stage. The levels themselves are only as long as the theather stage floor allows. Meaning they're very short. Momo can move left and right along the stage where she'll go on defeating enemies until the level boss appears.

Once per level, a whirlwind will appear on the stage which will allow Momo to transform into Wonder Momo. As she goes around deating enemies, her "Wonder Meter" will increase, which will allow her to remain as Wonder Momo for a longer period of time.

Getting to know Momo better.

Momo also has to be wary of some nasty paparazzi photographers that can't wait for a chance to take a shot of Momo's underwear. If they succeed in their task, Momo will get stunned for a couple of seconds.

Like with Valkyrie no Densetsu, I never played the original Arcade version of Wonder Momo. But it seems the game has suffered from the same portng issues:

As expected, the graphics have been downgraded with a lot of detail getting lost in transition. All of the voice samples found in the Arcade version have been removed as well. There also seems to be a lot of edited/removed stuff. The difficulty setting was also dropped a bit, from what I've heard.

Hyah! Grab Fencer takes it in the face.

On the plus side, the PC-Engine version has gained some nice intermission pictures between Acts. where you can get some nice info about lovely Momo.

Wonder Momo's premise is certainly very unique and amusing. Worthy of playing out of curiousity alone. However "in my opinion" the game itself is not really good-enough like to warrant bothering tracking it down outside of the collectible factor.

Take out all the pressure form live-acting.

Since the PC-Engine has always been "somewhat" popular here in France. (as popular as an otherwise unknown console can get anyway) I know Wonder Momo was still a dirt-cheap game not too long ago. However in recent times for some reason I ignore, (maybe Namco X Capcom had to do with it, but I'm uncertain) the game seems to have increased it's popularity. And I wouldn't be surprised if the game now goes for around the US$30 mark. Which is just not worth it, unless you're on a crusade to own all Namco games released for the PC-Engine. But for that price, you're off better getting Valkyrie no Densetsu.

Lost Treasures of the Videogame World Vol.2

Well, it's time to continue our treasure hunting quest in the deep dungeons of videogaming.

More hidden games await you.


Valkyrie no Densetsu「ワルキューレの伝説」Namcot (1990) PC-Engine "HuCARD"

Valkyrie no Densetsu is an Action/Adventure game with some light RPG elements added to the mix. It was first released on the Arcades in 1989 then ported to the PC-Engine in 1990. It is also the sequel to Valkyrie no Bouken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu for the Famicom, released in 1986.

In Valkyrie no Densetsu you'll be taking control of the brave warrior Valkyrie, whom her Goddess has just given her licence to go and kick the ass of the evil Kamooz who has just stolen the Golden Seed. and whose minions are terrorizing the land and it's inhabitants.

Like these punks are a match for the Warrior Maiden.

The game doesn't deviate much from the basic Action/Adventure premise. You'll be hacking your way through hordes of enemies with your sword attacks, occasionally using the magic spell or two. There will also be plenty of platforming action waiting for you. Due to it's Arcade nature, the action pacing is faster and more linear than the usual Action/Adventure game, which is something welcomed in Valkyrie no Densetsu.

Although I have never played the original Arcade game. from the pictures I've seen and the info I've gathered, it seems Valkyrie no Densetsu suffered many changes on it's way to the PC-Engine.

There'll be plenty of platforming action awaiting for you.

Naturally the graphics have been toned down quite a bit from the Arcade original. Many background objects and details have been removed or altered. Due to the PC-Engine's lack of scaling capabilities, the overall area point of view has been zoomed in quite a bit. It also seems to be lacking the few voice samples found in the Arcade version.

Fortunately not every change has been negative: For the PC-Engine version Namco tried to give the game a more "console" Action/Adventure feeling. Adding a status screen where you can see your EXP and the magical items/spells you're carrying.

The bosses sure ain't gonna make your life easy.

In the Arcade version, Valkyrie no Densetsu was actually a 2-player game. with Valkyrie's partner being a lizard-like creature named "Xandra".(who later went to have his own game on the Super Famicom) However the PC-Engine version is a 1-player only affair, which seems better fitted for this version and serves to strengthen the console feel Namco was aiming for.

While the graphics were toned down considerably from the Arcade version, it still looks fantastic for a PC-Engine game. Namco clearly did the best it could with the system limitations. The colours look vibrant and the sprites are very well drawn. Valkyrie herself has some hilarious animation, specially when she gets hit, stomped or defeated.

The golden seed is returned, but the quest is not over.

It seems Valkyrie is one of Namco's predilected characters. Since she continues to make cameo appearances in many of Namco's games. But of course another Valkyrie stand-alone game would do the character more justice.

Valkyrie no Densetsu has aged extremely well, and it's still a blast to play through. Which is undoubtedly the best aspect about the game. It is undoubtedly one of the best games for the PC-Engine. A must-play.

Mugen Senshi Valis夢幻戦士ヴァリスTelenet (1991) PC-Engine "Super CD-ROM²"

Game remakes nowadays seem to be more popular than ever. So it is not surprising for many a gamer to believe that they're a somewhat recent gaming trend. However, remakes are a very old practice in gaming. As there have been game remakes ever since the late 80's.

Valis was a gaming series that became somewhat popular in the late 80's and early 90's. By 1991 the series was already on it's fourth and final installment. Meaning the series is rather "old-$tyle" when it comes to their gameplay design.

Meet Yuko, the schoolgirl cosplayer--err Fantasm Soldier.

Mugen Senshi Valis: The Legend of a Fantasm Solider for the PC-Engine CD is actually the remake of the original Mugen Senshi Valis: The Fantasm Solider developed by Riot and released in 1986 for various gaming platforms.

The Valis games were really an "acquired taste". In fact, the series was lauded more because of it's great anime-based design and storyline that was on par with any TV anime show of the period, than because of it's qualities as videogames. This was hardly surprising though, given the reputation of Nippon Telenet which were already renown for using their great artistic anime designs as their main selling factor. Given that their games were more than often of rather poor quality.

Geez, you can't walk through the streets of Japan anymore without running into demons.

I myself have always thought that Telenet got into the wrong business. I'm pretty sure they could had been a terrific anime studio rather than just the average game developing house they were most of the time.

That said, overall poor gameplay design and awkward controls were the main issues that kept Valis from becoming a great gaming series. Fortunately, all of that changed with the remake of the original Mugen Senshi Valis. It's just a shame that a real improvement only happened at the end of the series.

I've got the power!

In Mugen Senshi Valis you take the role of "Yuko Asho" an 80's Japanese schoolgirl gone Fantasm Solider (and later Goddess) whom with the aid of the legendary sword of "Valis" must defend the three worlds (Dream, Spirit, Earth) from all kinds of evil plots.

Valis is an side-scrolling action game. You can move left and right, jump, slide and attack with your Valis sword. As you go on defeating the boss enemies, magic spells will become available for you to use.

Nothing can match the power of the Valis sword.

Gone are the lame gameplay mechanics and awkward controls of the past games. Yuko now moves and attacks very smoothly. The enemies in the game, although no the best designed. don't move or attack awkwardly any more. More importantly; the bosses in the game aren't the cheap awkward bastards that they were in the past games.

This Mugen Senshi Valis remake is the game that Valis II should have been. "Laser Soft" who were given the series from Valis II till IV totally wasted their potential. And in three games they never did anything to improve their gameplay. So it was hardly surprising that when Riot reclaimed their game to do this remake, they totally beaten all of the three Laser Soft efforts with just one try.

There's nothing like a bad-ass anime chick.

If only Valis III and IV had played like this remake, I'm pretty sure Valis would have been standing now as one of the best cult gaming series around. Unfortunately that is not the case this time. But on the positive side; I'm just glad that there was at least one Valis game that any gamer can enjoy throughoutly, and not just the die-hard fans of the the series.

Mugen Senshi Valis has the peculiarity of being the first, the last, and the best in the Valis series. It is among the best Action side-scrolling games for the PC-Engine CD. and it's one of the best games you can play on the system.

Read Review


Star Cruiser
スタークルーザー Masaya (1990) Mega Drive

Originally developed by Arsys Software for Japanese PCs in 1988. Star Cruiser was ported to the Mega Drive two years later by the fan-favourite Masaya.

Star Cruiser is a very unique kind of game: It's a mix of space-sim/adventure/RPG. The game is played totally from a first-person point of view. You can explore various planets in the typical dungeon-crawling RPG $tyle, where the game plays a bit like a pseudo First Person Shooter. You can also sail to the stars to find new planets and engage in heated space fights. In this section the game plays like a space-sim.

Ah, to travel the "sea of stars" mankind's dream.

The storyline progression and character interaction is also handled in the typical RPG $tyle. And just like in a RPG you will need to constantly improve your equipment. more importantly, your shields so you can have a better survival chance as you keep progressing through the game.

The controls can be rather awkward, and it takes a bit go get used to them. Basically you shoot with the [C] button. the button will change your weapons and the [A] button will lock your view so you can strafe. In space the [A] button along the d-pad will allow you to speed or retreat in the direction you're facing.

There's lots of places to travel in space.

Star Cruiser has the distinction of being the first-ever Mega Drive game to use polygons. But as you can probably tell by it's 1988 original release date. The visuals come as far from being impressive. The game actually uses polygons on 2D backgrounds so it is not really a fully 3D game.

The polygons in the game are actually "raw". Meaning they have no textures on them whatsoever, which obviously makes everything look not so pretty to say the least. Even worse it is when you actually get to see some "polygon people" which now I find hilarious looking.

W-what the hell is that!? Ah, it's a "polygon man"!

Where Star Cruiser succeeds in giving you a good feeling of space traveling. Undoubtedly the best part of the game is when you're in space. You can travel to far-away locations in an instant thanks to it's warp traveling system. The fighting is also done way better in space.

In my opinion the game would have been way better if it was more about space and less about on-land exploration where the game can become really sluggish. I would have preferred that planets only served as bases where you could talk with people, continue the storyline and resupply.

This is not really the best part of the game.

Star Cruiser is indeed a little rough around the edges and it really hasn't aged well. It is the kind of game that hardly any modern gamer will have the patience and dedication to play through it nowadays. Regardless, Star Cruiser was a very unique game for it's time, and it's one of the least known and most overlooked games for the Mega Drive.

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Arrgh...! Is it just me or the blog space has been reduced significantly?


THE BEST of the MEGA-CD Vol.2

Continuing with the Mega-CD goodness, I want to feature some games I've rarely, if ever see getting mentioned around.


The Heroic Legend of Arslan - SEGA , 1993

Based on the manga of the same name, Arslan Senki tells the tale of the castaway Prince Arslan as he strives to retake his lost kingdom of Palse. The main theme of the series seem to revolve around large-scale warfare in a fantasy realm inspired by the ancient Middle-Eastern/Asian kingdoms.

Being a turn-based Strategy/RPG game. Arslan Senki doesn't deviate from the basic genre formula: You move your characters next to the enemy then attack. Ranged characters can attack from affar.

The main gimmick of the game is that you don't have direct control over the game's main character Prince Arslan. Instead you can only set him up with a basic set of commands like defend, retreat, attack etc. that he will proceed to carry on his own every turn.

I guess developers did this to make him feel like his own character and the one you must defend, since if he dies it's game over. Of course this also ends up making him a deadweight in your party.

The main problem with Arslan Senki is it's depth, or should I say lack of any. There are no items to use or levels to be gained, nor special attacks of any kind. Thus making Arslan Senki a very simplistic game. Your characters do have their own set of stats, but they don't really account to anything in the game.

But the real flaw of the game is that since there are no other variables for you to depend on, some of the hardest scenarios against powerful enemy units can end up becoming a simple matter of luck, where the deciding factor will only be if yours or the enemy's most powerful characters happen to hit or miss the most.

The graphics are very nice in Arslan Senki specially the battle animations which are very detailed and nicely animated.The character design is also excellent, thanks to it's source material.

Ah, if only Dark Wizard has had the graphics and animation of Arslan Senki. and if only Arslan Senki has had the gameplay depth of Dark Wizard. But I guess you can't always have everything.

Despite it's flaws Arslan Senki is not a bad game at all. It is clear that the developers tried to give it a more straightforward feel to match the movie. And the game does give you many interesting scenarios to play through. However it is also painfully evident that Arslan Senki had a lot of potential that went wasted due to it's simplistic nature.

In the end Arslan Senki is still a decent and overall enjoyable game for fans of the JSRPG genre.


Illusion City - Micro Cabin , 1993

I love cyberpunk, it is my favourite setting. A neon dark hi-tech future where powerful mega corporations rule the show. So you'll have a bunch of outcast doing all sorts of cool stuff to sabotage them. What's not to like? Well,apparently most gaming devs disagree with me, because despite the highly appealing factor of the setting it is rarely ever used.

The story of illusion city is pretty interesting: In the year 200X one of the biggest and more important metropolis of Asia "Hong Kong" was hit by an unknown catastrophe. The whole city was totally razed down as rumours of it being some sort of demonic attack began to float around. Worldwide survey teams were sent to the city but none ever came back.

One of the world's fastest growing and powerful private companies "SIVA International Information Group" renown for doing many research functions for China was contracted to survey the city and quash all the confusion and rumours. However by faking reports and hidding information, SIVA was systematically fooling the country of China. Eventually through their cunning and ever growing power they managed to take control over Hong Kong, winning the autonomy rights over China and the U.K. And so the reconstruction work began.

20 years later Hong Kong is one of the most ultra-modern cities on the world, with the omnipotent SIVA tower as it's flagship building. While the city has prospered thanks to the many mega corps. it hosts, SIVA rules over it with an iron hand. Only high-cla$$ citizens known as "inner" are allowed to live within the city. Although the inner city has been artificially reconstructed, the outskirts and the underground are still plagued with the residues of the catastrophe, which causes many people to become deformed, or "demons" as they are known. And is where the third-cla$$ citizens known as "outer" are forced to live.

The two main characters of the game are two orphans from the catastrophe. They are Tienren (the Bladerunner-esque obligued character) a "Diver" which is a kind of private detective/demon hunter for hire. And Meihang who is a member of the special police forces. They both grew up together under the care of the old master Shyuu.

Now the year is 202X. Demonic attacks are becoming more and more frequent and strange occurrences are starting to happen. Could this mean the return of what once destroyed the city? But what really happened 20 years ago, and what is the mystery behind the powerful SIVA corporation? It will be up to you to unravel the mystery surrounding the city which is now known as Neo Hong Kong - the Illusion City.

Due to it's PC origin, Illusion City is a bit more deep than your usual JRPG. There's lots of menus, sub-menus and sub-menus in the sub-menus. Not to mention that investigating around to carry on the storyline is also a bit more complex than the common JRPG. It was also one of firsts JRPGs to require to outfit the main character with ammunition in order for him to attack since his main weapons are guns.

Of course all of this is a big plus for an RPG. But unfortunately it is also make the game awful hard to play for non-Japanese speakers and even seasoned importers. I've played and finished a lot of Japanese RPGs, they rarely pose a problem to me. But Illusion City was one of the few games that actually made me look around Japanese websites for walkthroughs because the game can get rather obscure at times. It is the kind of game that you have to get totally into to get through all the Kanji. Which is unfortunate since it is an excellent JRPG with a great storyline.

A curious thing about Illusion City is that it has this "dotted" old PC game look. Even more the game moves dot-by-dot (or pixel by pixel?) which is rather strange to look at nowadays. Despite that, the game has very nice detailed graphics. Plus a killer and moody soundtrack.

Illusion City is a highly regarded "cult" PC game in Japan. And it's pretty easy to know why as it has all the requirements of an excellent RPG. The game was released in 1991 for all of the mayor Japanese PC systems of the time. then it was fortunately ported to the Mega-CD in 1993 so that us console players could enjoy it.

While the game is just too difficult for non-Japanese speakers to enjoy, it's still remains one of the best RPGs to ever grant Mega-CD.

Version comparison screenshots:

Sharp X68000




The Space Adventure: Cobra - Hudson Soft 1994

The name is Cobra...A pirate, a renegade a master of the universe...He owns space, cruising the stars with Armaroid Lady riding shotgun. Wasting the Galaxy Patrol and leaving a path of destruction is his favourite sport. The price on his head is out of this world but he slips the noose every time. Nobody is gonna bring this guy in alive...nobody.

They thought he was dead, but they thought wrong. He's biding his time on Earth, waiting to exact his sweet revenge. They wanted to play hardball, and now it's his turn at the bat. No one messes with the one...

He has just one thing to say: if ya play with fire, yer gonna get burned... The name is Cobra...The Legendary Bandit.

Based on the manga/anime by Buichi Terasawa, The Space Adventure is an Adventure game that follows the exploits of the space pirate Cobra, one of the most bad-ass characters ever created.

The game was originally released on the PC-Engine CD in 1991, then surprisingly localized for the Mega-CD three years later in 1994. It is also the sequel of the first Space Adventure game, released on the PC-Engine in 1989.

The story begins three years after the events of the first Space Adventure game, where Cobra was believed to have died. However after arriving late to meet his partner Armaroid Lady at the Crazy Horse bar, Cobra comes across the sexy bounty hunter "Jane Royale" who after finding Cobra suspicious decides to follow him.

It turns out Jane herself is being chased by the infamous Pirate's Guild, the most powerful criminal organization in the galaxy. Jane is one of the triplet daughters of the legendary pirate Nelson, who tattooed in their backs the map to a secret treasure so huge, you could buy an entire planet made of gold with it. Unfortunately the map can only be deciphered when all of the three tattoos come together, and thus the triplets were separated at birth. So Cobra decides to aid Jane in finding her lost sisters before the Guild does.

But is Cobra really after the treasure, or after the treasure beauties? There's only one way to find out...

The real charm of the game comes through the main character Cobra, who like I mentioned is one of the most geuine bad-ass characters around. His dialogue and one-liners are always amusing to listen, and are further complemented with an excellent voice acting.

Despite the Japanese nature of the series, their art $tyle is more reminiscent of western comic-books of the 60's-70's than Japanese anime/manga. You won't find any spikey blue-haired character or big-eyed anime girls around. So even people that aren't into Japanese anime can find The Space Adventure appealing.

Just like the source material, The Space Adventure is also a more adult-oriented Adventure game. There's plenty of cussing, and they never spare any chance to throw scantily-clad women at you, specially a very good look of their behinds.

Apart from some pacing issues and an ending that could've been more rewarding, The Space Adventure is a great Adventure experience. The storyline has some very good plot-twists and dramatic moments waiting for you, not to mention plenty of action. It also gives you a chance to know better one of the coolest characters you can find.

The Space Adventure is a game that will certainly appeal fans of the Adventure genre on the Mega-CD.


Since I only featured three games this time, I'll probably add another game or two to this post later to complement it.

(if blog space allows it that is) :x

Lost Treasures of the Videogame World

Sometime ago I did another blog post about some lesser known/obscure games. Since the mayority of games I play seem to fall within that category, I feel like continuing to talk about more of these lost treasures of gaming that don't usually generate much talk around them.

Due to GameSpot's extremelly limited blog space capacity I really can't feature many games in a single post. So I will try to do more posts like this regularily to keep talking about many great games that might be unknown for many of you.


Assault Suit Leynos - Masaya , 1990 Mega Drive

Assault Suit Leynos, which was localized as "Target Earth" is a side-scrolling shooter and was quite simply an outstanding game for it's time.It is a game that should had become a main referent of the system, but that for some reason unfortunately isn't.

Even from the great intro that serves to set up the story and the mood of the game right about when the action starts. You could tell that this game was going to be something else. And it was.

Leynos just totally defied the simplistic game structure of the time, where you were only put to traverse through a level to fight the level boss then rinse and repeat. Leynos' campaign is actually set up like modern action games. You'll be in constant chatter with other characters and you will actually get mission updates or status changes.

When you first start the game in the first level you'll undoubtedly think that you should be heading right through the stage but you actually must stay and defend the base from an incoming enemy warship. The second level will have you escaping the level in a hurry and boarding a space shutter before the enemy totally overwhelms you. The third level will have you defending the shutters that are just preparing to enter the Earth's atmosphere, then right before they do you must return to a shuttle least you get burnt to a crips. Then on the fourth level you'll be dropped from the shutter right to a hot zone to infiltrate an enemy base and destroy it's reactor. And so the game progresses.

Although I'm sure for many of you that sounds like nothing special. That kind of integrated plot and campaign structure just didn't existed before in Arcade or console action games, and it is undoubtedly Leynos' biggest achievement.

Leynos was so ahead of it's time than two years later players were once again wowed by the release of Leynos successor "Assault Suits Valken" (localized and somewhat butechered by Konami as "Cybernator") for the Super Famicom, and which used the same plot development and campaign structure, which involved characters like never before.

Leynos was fortunate enough to get a good and worthy sequel on the SEGA Saturn console. However Valken didn't shared the same fortune, and in turn got a bad strategy sequel on the Sony Playstation that had nothing to do with the greatness of the original, plus a terrible Playstation 2 remake.

Assault Suit Leynos was a groundbreaking game that was well ahead of it's time. It's campaign felt like no other before it. And while gamers who didn't had the pleasure to experience such a fantastic game upon it's release will probably don't be impressed with it anymore. I'm sure they still can admire the genius behind great games like this.


Shura no Mon - SEGA , 1992 Mega Drive

I've always loved Japanese Adventure games. I've been playing them since I didn't knew what I was doing. One of it's once popular sub-genres was what the Japanese themselves label "Adventure Simulation" which uses Adventure-type action commands to carry on the action that in other genres you normally do through controller sequences. Shura no Mon belongs in this particular sub-genre.

The game seems to be based on the manga of the same name. Though I've never seen anything of it myself, the series seems to fall within the typical Japanese sports-drama category. The series follow the exploits of Mutsu Tsukumo, a young martial artist who wishes to become the best martial artist in the world.

In Shura no Mon You will engage in 1 vs.1 fights. You can move Mutsu around with the controller, which is important to dodge or pull out some moves, but all of his actions will be performed through action commands. The best fights in the game end up in heated strategic matches.

Before your opponent attacks you will get a quick hint of what technique looks like he'll be using next. You will then proceed to choose what you want to do. You can attempt to counter the attack with another move, block, or evade it. Of course you can also attack first. To the sides of the screen lie yours and your opponent's power balance bars, which will go up faster if you stay still. The higher it is, the more power your attacks will have and the more your chances will be to evade or counter successfully.

The game will probably please fans of the original manga, or just anime/manga fans in general since it's filled with tons and tons of minutes long story sequences, which are very well done by the way. A very cool thing is how the game seamlessly integrates these story sequences with the on-going action, just like you'd normally see in an anime/manga.

Unfortunately the game, but more importantly the commands themselves are comprised nearly entirely of Kanji and Hiragana characters which will hard to impossible to understand for those who can't read Japanese or aren't seasoned importers. Even the passwords in the game are written mainly in Hiragana characters. However it is possible that with some effort anyone could learn the ins and outs of the game with just trial and error and memorization.

Shura no Mon is a pretty good Adventure/Sim. The game is quite long (mainly due to the seemingly never ending story sequences) The animation is well done and the battles get better and better as you go gaining more special moves and more challenging rivals.

If you're within the extreme minority that enjoys these types of games, Shura no Mon will certainly not disappoint.


Momotarou Katsugeki - Hudson Soft , 1990 PC-Engine

Momotarou "Peachboy" is a Hudson character that surprisingly has starred in dozens of games ranging from JRPGs to Board-type miscellaneous games. While I really ignore the quality of the rest, one of his finest games was Momotarou Katsugeki (which roughly translates as Peachboy: The Action Picture) released for the PC-Engine.

Momotarou Katsugeki is a charming side-scrolling Action/Adventure platformer. The game is the standard platforming affair. You can jump, crouch and attack using your sword. You also carry an inventory where you can use health replenishing and other special items. There's also a status screen where you can check your overall status and everything you're carrying.

Along the way you can enter towns to rest, buy weapons and supplies and chat with the townfolk. Some characters will also have some mini-games for you to play.

While the first stage is very simplistic in terms of platforming action, the game gets progressively more complex and challenging in that aspect. Although it never really get to the level it can be considered difficult.

Momotarou Katsugeki is also one of the best looking games PC-Engine, thanks to it's distinctive artistic $tyle. The game makes good use of traditional Japanese humour. Momotarou himself is hilarious to look at. It is also filled with nice animation other nice small details. Like everytime you pick an item this old man announcer will pop up and comments on what you just picked up. If there's something to complain is that I wish the game had used a more Japanese traditional music approach for it's soundtrack instead of just the typical generic platformer music.

Momotarou Katsugeki is a good example of a lost treasure. It is a very enjoyable platformer, clearly among the best for the system. It is one of the best imports you could find for the PC-Engine.


Super Dodge Ball - Technos Japan , 1996 Neo*Geo

Technos of Japan, creators of the Nekketsu/Kunio-kun series, brought back one of their cla$$ic franchises back to the Arcades with the release of Super Dodge Ball on the Neo*Geo, nearly 10 years since the release of the original Dodge Ball.

This time around instead of national or school teams, you'll be taking charge of one of the seven gang teams that will be duking it out with each other.

Super Dodge Ball is still the deepest Dodge Ball game when it comes to gameplay mechanics. You can pull off all sorts of special moves by using fighting game type commands. You can even pull off special counters. You can also charge your Power gauge bar and perform very powerful super attack. Of course you also taunt your rivals to lower their own POW gauge.

Feints are also implemented better than ever, as you can now fake even special moves to confound your opponent. As it is the norm, if a character gets K.O. you don't lose them permanently. they will move to yours or your opponents side and try to give that team a hard time. Ths time around characters on the sides can perform all of their moves but super attacks, making them more deadly than ever. Something new in the game is that you can actually recruit your opponents to change your lackluster teammates.

If there is something to complain about the Super Dodge Ball gameplay is that some design flaws can serve to make the game unfairly cheap. Super attacks for example are just too powerful and cheap since they're night impossible to dodge or counter. Another and probably the biggest issue is that when one of your characters is down on the ground they take too long to get up, worst is that since you can't swap player control while being in this position, that means that you're totally helpless in this situation and your opponent can just pound your character into oblivion without a single thing you can do about it.

Graphical-wise the game is gorgeous. The character animation and attention to detail is excellent. The only downside is that only the 7 main characters (though one is the same character hilariously disguised as a woman) are unique. The rest are just palette swaps of the same characters.

Dodge Ball games are perhaps the most overlooked sports games around, which is a shame considering their amazingly fun and fast paced Arcade nature. However despite being very fun and amusing games to play, they lack the rich and deep options found within all of the other more serious sports games. So far all of the Dodge Ball games have feature simple campaigns and tournament modes of play. which can't help to get tiresome after a while. therefore discouraging you to play them for longer periods of time.

Super Dodge Ball is an amazing game and still the deepest and more over-the-top Dodge Ball game of all. It is among my Top-Ten games for the Neo*Geo and it's just a must-play for the system.


- SEGA , 1993 Mega Drive

Ex-Ranza which was localized as "Ranger-X" is an impressive side-scrolling mecha shooter for the Mega Drive. In spite of getting very positivie reactions from the media at the time, it went overlooked nonetheless by most of the gaming public.

You will take control of the powerful bad-ass mecha "Ex-Ranza" who is on a mission to kick all the robotic ass he is able. Surprisingly, Ex-Ranza will not be alone in this task. He will get the support of his back-up vehicle "Ex-UP".

The controls in the game might take a bit getting used to for some players but they're hardly complicated. Pressing the [A] button will make you turn and shoot to the left. while pressing the [C] button will make you turn and shoot to the right. Pressing the button will fire your currently selected special weapon.

Pressing up on the D-pad will make Ex-Ranza hover and stay in the air. To the bottom right of the screen you have the heat meter of your thrusters which will indicate for how long you will be able to stay in the air.

Your vehicle partner Ex-UP is not just for show. Besides serving as a back-up firepower you can also ride on it to gain higher speed or go through some hazards that hurt Ex-Ranza, like water. But that's not all, you can also combine with Ex-UP which will grant you a homing shoot.

The game also makes use of the Mega Drive's 6-button controller for controlling Ex-UP. Just like with Ex-Ranza, pressing the [X] button will make Ex-UP move to the left while pressing the [Z] button turns it to the right. Pressing the [Y] button will change your special weapon. Of course the game can be played fine with the standard 3-button controller. However to actually control Ex-UP on it's own, you'll have to crouch then move the D-pad diagonally. Also to change the special weapon you're using you'll have to combine with Ex-UP then press the button.

Ex-Ranza is also a technical treat of the Mega Drive, as it is clear the game had big production values. The developers managed to beat the limited palette of the Mega Drive and the result is obvious. Some of the enemies you'll be fighting are huge and their sprites are very detailed. The game also makes good use of some special effects like multiplex scrolling for impressive results.

As it was the case with Assault Suits Leynos. Ex-Ranza is a game that should be a main referent of the system, but for some strange reason it passes by unnoticed in favour of other games. In any case Ex-Ranza is a great and challenging game that Mega Drive owners would do wrong to ignore.


BLAST from the PAST: Revenge of the SHMUP! (with vengeance)

Dangun Feveron - Cave , 1998

With the dawn of manic SHMUPS that were bought to us by Batsugun in 1993. New challenges and more intense experiences were open to us SHMUP fanatics. Cave with titles such as DoDonPachi and Progear no Arashi among others, consolidated as one of the best exponents of this particular sub-genre.

It's seems Cave was looking for something fresh, something of an alternative to DoDonPachi, but without giving away any of the deep engaging gameplay that characterized the DonPachi series.

And so it comes forth Dangun Feveron, a 70's disco-themed manic SHMUP in the vein of the DonPachi series.

There are three different Fighter-type spacecraft, each one with it's own shooting type and speed:

Type A - Weapon: [Straight Shot] Speed: [Fast] Pilot: Stephanie.

Type B - Weapon: [Spread Shot] Speed: [Normal] Pilot: Afro

Type C - Weapon: [Wide Shot] Speed [Slow] Pilot: McCoy

After you select your Fighter-type, you can also select three different sub-weapons types: A - [Lock-On type] B - [Bomb type] C - [Roll type]

If Cave is good at something is at creating deep scoring systems for their SHMUPS. Dangun Feveron uses a scoring system called the "Capture Score System". As you go on destroying enemies these icons called "Disco Men" will come up and then move slowly towards the bottom of the screen. You must attempt to catch them all in order to build your scoring combo link. If the Disco Men got past you and hit the bottom of the screen, they will bounce once and if you still don't manage to catch them, they will disappear completly. If you fail to pick up even a single Disco Men, it will reset your entire combo link to 0.

Of course Dangun Feveron's scoring system goes deeper than that, however since I don't own the game and haven't seen it again in years, I really can go very deep in this one, since my memory isn't really that fresh about the game anymore.

Since the game has a musical theme, you know a good soundtrack is a must, and from what I remember Dangun Feveron doesn't disappoint. (if you don't dislike Disco-type music at least) However for a game where music is very important I felt the main music wasn't loud enough. Maybe it was just that one Arcade I played the game at, but it seemed to me the music volume was too low compared to the special effects, and I actually had to really pay attention to really appreciate the music in the game.

Dangun Feveron is an excellent SHMUP as it's the usual with Cave, and it's worthy of being remembered. Unfortunately, the game is just one of those odd-games that you may see once if you're lucky but never see again after that. The PCB for what I know seems to be on the rare and pricey side, however I really don't know for how much it goes.

Gunspike - Psikyo , 2000

The year is 20XX A.D. A weak economy wreacks havoc in the world...Terrorism is rampant. With warfare spreading to every city, people live in constant fear...But that's where you come in, as you lead the members of an elite counter-terrorist unit called the Anti-Robot Special Force, whom equipped with a deadly arsenal and their high-powered Mootor Boots are set to kick all the ass they are able.

The character rooster is comprised of an stellar Capcom All-Star cast: Nash and Cammy from the Street Fighter Zero series. Arthur from the Makai-Mura (Ghost N' Goblins) series. Shiba from Roosters in the Wonder 3 Arcade multi-game. Bulleta from Vampire Savior. Simone, the original character for Gunspike. And last but not least, Capcom's game icon: Rockman.

The gameplay in Gunspike is very fast and simple, and not without it's quirks. A balanced use of your character's 4 diffrent main attacks is the key to survive through the game's 10 stages. 8 of which will be ordered randomly.

Rather than scrolling through the stages, you are put in arena-like stages where you will have to destroy all of the enemies and then the stage boss (or bosses) in order to clear them.

If you manage the heroic feat of finishing the game without losing a single life in dfficulty 4 or higher, a new round game will open up where the game will show it's true worth and difficulty. However, only elite players will ever access to such challenge reserved specially for them.

Gunspike is the perfect example of the type of game that you wanted to play at the Arcades. It's flashy, fast, simple and amazingly fun. Developed for the Naomi board, the game was translated perfectly to the Dreamcast console. Due to the game's look and design, the game is often taken as an action game rather than a SHMUP. So most of you console-lubbers, accostumed to 10 hours action games, might find a straight Arcade port like this not up your alley.

Twinkle Star Sprites - ADK , 1996

Developed by ADK, Twinkle Star Sprites is by all accounts a very unique game to this day. It can be best described as a mix of a Shoot 'em-up and a Versus Puzzle.

You pick your character from out of a colourful cast and duke it out against a human or CPU controlled opponent on a half-split screen, just like you would in any V.S. Puzzle.

You move, shoot and use smart bombs like in a normal SHMUP. And just like in one there'll be lines of enemies coming at you. As you keep destroying them you will be sending your opponent a series of balls of fire which act like punishment attacks in a V.S. Puzzle game. If you can shoot off these balls of fire you can send some invincible enemies or even a "Boss" enemy to your opponent's side of the screen, which will make his/her life a whole lot more complicated. Your main objective is to shoot down your rival, so whoever wins two of three rounds wins the game.

Along the rest of the developers that have innovated within the SHMUP genre, ADK has proven how flexible the genre can be should you put some effort into novel ideas an innovation. Twinkle Star Sprites successfully combines the tight and twitchy gameplay of the SHMUP genre, with the high competitive mechanics of a V.S. Puzzle. The result is a very unique game.

Twinkle Star Sprites is available for the Neo*Geo MVS, AES and CD. It was also ported to the SEGA Saturn and SEGA Dreamcast. The game is also included in it's sequel "La Petite Princesse" for the Sony Playstation 2.

Sexy Parodius - Konami , 1996

What better way to end the post than with one of my all-time favourite SHMUPS: Sexy Parodius.

For the uneducated, the Parodius name is the mix of Parody + Gradius. As it was meant to be a parody of the original Gradius series, and later other Konami franchises.

Sexy Parodius is the last and arguably the best entry in the series. The "Sexy" in the title comes from the light sexual overtone of the game.

This time around main Parodius characters Pentarou (a.k.a. the blue God of death) and lecherous Takosuke have turned the Parodius team into a public mercenary agency in order to help those in need, for a modest fee.

The main gameplay addition in Sexy Parodius is it's new objective-based structure. Since you were hired by your employers to do a specific task, in every stage you will given a main objective that you must fulfill in order t successfully clear the stage and satisfy your employers. Mainly this can be either to collect a set amount of objects or defeat a set amount of specific enemies.

Depending of whether you succeed or fail your objectives, you will be treated with either a victory or fail scene at the end of each stage. Also depending of your results you can go through the main route of stages, or through an alternate one. And if you manage the honorable feat to clearing all of the stages successfully, you will be treated with a sweet extra level for your trouble.

Parodius has always been an excellent Shoot 'em-up series that doesn't ask anything of the original Gradius series that inspired them. And in some aspects it's better than Gradius, since it seems it's off-beat premise gave developers more gameplay and design liberties.

Sexy Parodius is clearly the pinnacle of the series. The new mission objective structure gives the game a whole more variety, challenge and replay value. In addition, the excellent graphics and sound as well as it's unparalleled charm, make Sexy Parodius not only the best of it's series, but one of the best SHMUPS of all time.

Sexy Parodius is available for the SEGA Saturn, Sony Playstation and Sony Playstation Portable in the Parodius Portable Collection. It is quite simply a must-have for any fan of the genre.


Unfortunately there's too many great SHMUPS that deserve a mention, and too few blog space. And while the revenge might never be complete, those glorious games of old will never be forgotten. Then someday, maybe someday the SHMUP genre will rise again and their revenge will be fulfilled.

Blast from the PAST: Revenge of the SHMUP!

Once upon a time Shoot 'em ups reigned the Arcade realm supreme as far as the eye could see.

During this golden era, the SHMUP genre was in a continuous upward spiral. Developers were constantly improving, releasing better and better games with improved gameplay mechanics and innovative ideas. The number of quality releases was mesmerizing and it was just an unrepeatable time for the genre.

Now the state of the SHMUP genre is totally different. The best developing houses like Compile, Raizing/8ing, Cave, Psikyo, Konami, to just mention some of them. They're all gone or just don't cut it anymore. The genre has become stagnant and lethargic. Whatever few games that manage to come out nowadays seem to have their developers focusing only in eye-candy graphics and filling the screen with bullets, as if that was all it takes to make a great game. But the sad reality is that most of nowadays SHMUPS have uninteresting and generic gameplay, inferior even to the average games of yesteryear.

The innovative ideas and premises seem to have died out completely. And at least right now there isn't any developer that you could say it could stand up to carry the torch and do the genre justice. Indeed, the future looks dire for the genre.

But to re-live the glorious days of old, the glorious noise and images of dozens of games coming at you simulaneously as you tried your best to concentrate and make your last coin last just one more minute. Indeed the cla$$ics don't want to die. They don't want to be forgotten in the annals of history. They want to be remembered, and they want their revenge.

The revenge of the SHMUP!

Guwange - Cave , 1999

The day I played Guwange at the Arcades for the first time I was truly surprised indeed. The developers at Cave had already consolidated themselves with the DonPachi series, plus games like ESP Ra.De. and Dangun Feveron. With Guwange they sought to give manic SHMUPS a new face.

Set in feudal Japan, you won't be flying an aircraft this time around. So you will have to walk your way through demon-infested Japan.

You can select from three different Japanese characters, each one with their own preferred weaponry and their own guardian spirit.

The gameplay is pure manic SHMUP goodness. Holding down the [A] button will let you control your guardian spirit as you walk around. Your spirit can either destroy or slow down the tsunami of bullets that will be heading your way, turning them colour pink. Mastering this technique and moving fast around slowed down bullets is the key for surviving. The game also had a really great combo scoring system.

I really love SHMUPS based in feudal Japan. It seems they have for norm being super-detailed. Not to mention the use of beautiful traditional Japanese music. Guwange of course doesn't disappoint in this aspect.

The graphics are superb. the game is filled with lots of background detail and truly great enemy design. The soundtrack is no less impressive. traditional Japanese tunes fit the mood of the game perfectly.

Needless to say I really miss playing Guwange. It is truly a gorgeous game with amazing gameplay and musical score. Like with countless Arcade cla$$ics, it's truly a shame it was never ported to home consoles.

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kingdom-Grand Prix - Raizing/8ing , 1994

Talking about the innovation which nowadays SHMUPS lack. The SHMUP masters at Raizing started innovating the genre since their second released game, way back in 1994.

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen, from here after referred as "Kingdom Grand Prix" mixes the tight shooting action of a SHMUP with the speedy competitive gameplay of a racer with impressive results.

You can choose from within eight different characters/competitors, four who are returning characters from the original Mahou Daisakusen. Each competitor has their different attributes such as speed, shooting power and smart bomb.

The gameplay in Kingdom Grand Prix is ingenious. Besides dodging bullets and shooting off enemies like it's the usual SHMUP business. You must also worry about beating your competitors and winning the race. Which is no easy task to do with the no small amount of enemies that will try to slow you down.

The speed meter on the down left corner of the screen shows how fast you're going. There's two ways that you can speed up: the first way is your position. The higher you are on the screen the faster you will go. Of course this can be quite daring, as you will not be able to see the upcoming enemies or bullets. The second way is holding down the [A] button, this will work like your acceleration pedal. This is tricky since the [A] button is your shot button, so you will not be able to shoot enemies while you're speeding up. So in order to survive as well as to actually win the race you must do a good balance of shooting and speeding.

Fortunately, hitting your vehicle/character against enemies doesn't destroy you, so you only have to worry about their bullets. Since you're competing in a Grand Prix tournament, you ultimate goal is to obtain enough points to win the first place.

Kingdom Grandprix plays as good as it sounds. It mixes two unlikely genres together to create a very original and amazingly fun game.

I was fortunate enough to scavenge the old PCB here in France. But fortunately the game was released for the SEGA Saturn console in 1996, which would the optimal version to get. It's a truly great game to own for any SHMUP fan. And it's a genuine amazingly fun game regardless of if you're a fan of the genre or not.

Dragon Blaze - Psikyo , 2000

Throughout the years, Psikyo proved to be a very competent SHMUP developer.Their Gunbird and Strikers 1945 series were excellent. Not to mention the great game that was Gunspike. Dragon Blaze released in 2000 was one of their last released games.

You can choose from three different characters in Dragon Blaze: Quaid with his Fire Dragon, Sonia with her Aqua Dragon, Rob with his Thunder Dragon, and Ian with his cool Skull Dragon.

Dragon Blaze uses the 3 buttons: [A] button shoots, releases your special power, and the [C] button uses the "dragon shoot" which is the special mechanic of Dragon Blaze.

Using the dragoon shoot will allow you to separate from your dragon, making your character fly around on his/her own. Pushing the [C] button again will make your dragon return to you.

You can use the dragoon shoot in various ways: first you can use it as a strong thrusting attack. whenever you separate from your dragon it will launch doing a forward short range attack. Any enemies killed this way will drop gold coins which are worth double than the standard silver coins dropped by the enemies.

You can also use your dragon as an auxiliary firepower. Once separated, your dragon will remain in the same place. You can then use this to your advantage to deliver extra damage, or to let your dragon deal the damage to the enemy while you concentrate completely in dodging attacks. Since your dragon is invincible, you only have to worry about your own safety.

At first glance Dragon Blaze can seem like Gunbird with a medieval fantasy theme. However Dragon Blaze is a pretty good SHMUP on it's own. The dragon shoot was a really good addition and it gives chance to use more varied shooting tactics.

With an excellent presentation and challenge, Dragon Blaze along with Cybern, are clearly the best dragon-based SHMUPS out there.The game was fortunately released on the Sony Playstation 2 console in Japan and Europe.

Armed Police Batrider - Raizing/8ing , 1998

In 1994 SNK innovated the fighting genre with the release of their King of Fighters series, which incorporated 3 on 3 team matches, as well as being the first important cross-over game.

Raizing/8ing always looking for something new to add to the SHMUP realm, decided to adapt K.O.F. ideas to their Shoot 'em up game and so Batrider was born,

You can choose from three different teams consisting of three members each: The Police Team, the Psychic Team and the Criminal Team. You can also choose Team Edit mode, which allows to form your own trio from all of the available characters.

Each character in the game has his/her own unique aircraft, and each aircraft has it's own attributes, options, shooting type and special power. If a character gets shot-down the next character in the team will take his/her place until all three get destroyed, then it's game-over.

Depending of what button you use to select your team/characters ([A] [C] or [Start]) your aircraft will have a different attribute focus: Normal, Option, Bomber and Speed-UP.

Your special power, rather than being stock-based as with most SHMUPS, is ammo-based instead. That means that as long as you have the minimum ammount of ammo required you can pull off your special power. However you must have a set ammount of ammo in order to do your special power at full power. So if you pull off your special power with less ammo, it will have less power and lasting value. Also, not pressing the shoot button will pull out your Aura shot, which is another type of special power.

Batrider is a hellishly difficult game, though it doesn't really appears so but you will eventually notice. It is almost impossible not to get shot-down while playing on your own. The only way to go through the game without getting destroyed constantly is a great 2-player coordination, specially in the use of special powers, which are the key to survive in the game.

The graphics and sound in Batrider are also remarkable. The rough futuristic cyberpunk theme comes alive with an incredible attention to detail and background action. Not to mention the great and distinctive art $tyle used in the game. The enemy and specially boss design is simply terrific.

The music is Batrider is just as good as the graphics. The game soundtrack along with Batsugun remain my favourite Raizing/8ing soundtracks. And who could ever forget track names such as "Lets Ass-Kick Together!"? Of course the sound effects are also top-notch.

Despite already excelling in everything, there's yet another aspect where Batrider also excells. And it's the sheer amount of secrets and unlockables it has. Batrider has to be one of the most, if not the most secret and unlockable-filled SHMUP of all time.

By imputting the ever popular "Konami Code" you can unlock another set of "9" characters from other Raizing games. Most notably the Mahou Daisakusen and Battle Garegga cast. If that wasn't enough, they come with their own special features, like the formations for the Battle Garegga characters.

There's also different courses, Boss-Rush mode, secret and special Boss-battles and more!

Batrider is the ultimate Raizing/8ing SHMUP, and one of the best SHMUPS ever conceived. This is truly the stuff of Gods we have here. Batrider is simply amazing in all aspects.

I actually imported the PCB from Japan for the modest price of US$200 a pop, plus S&H.

The Game Paradise: Master of Shooting - Jaleco , 1995

Now this game has a kick-ass premise: A videogame villain has taken over an entire Arcade establishment. Unfortunately for him, the female attendant isn't willing to take any nonsense on her turn. So what does she do? Easy, she opens up the Arcade boards with a screwdriver and brings out all of the Jaleco SHMUP heroes to her aid. The five available characters come from Jaleco games Exerion, Formation Z, Butasan, Plus Alpha and Momoko 120%.

What's so cool about The Game Paradise is it's amazing all-Arcade theme. You'll be travelling through the Arcade establishment, fight Arcade-related stuff such as coins and Arcade cabinets and even go inside Arcade games themselves.

The game is a Jaleco's fan wet dream, as it's up the roof with fan service stuff. As you travel through the Arcades, you'll notice tons of Jaleco games, characters and posters in the background. Of course some games like the infamous Rival Turf, make me wonder if Jaleco really had to reminds us about them...

Funny enough, The Game Paradise could have been even better maybe if had it been based off another most prolific company than Jaleco. I mean, seriously, has there ever been such a thing as a Jaleco fan? like ever?

However if you're the only Jaleco fan on Earth, this is the ultimate Jaleco fan game, besides being a very good SHMUP with good graphics and production values. The Game Paradise game was ported to the SEGA Saturn console with a lot of extra stuff added, making it a worthwhile purchase.

-- blog post limit overload --


Can you become a Princess Maker? part deux

Princess Maker: Faery Tales come True - aka "Princess Maker 3"

Princess Maker 3 marks a big departure in the series as the developers decided to turn it into a full Simulation game, discarding the adventuring and RPG elements that were present in the previous Princess Maker games.

The main premise of the series has also somewhat changed in Princess Maker 3. Now your daughter is actually a little faery who wished to become a human, but not just any human, a human Princess to be precise. (talk about some wish!) The Faery Goddess listened to her plea and granted her wish, although only half-baked'ly. As she did turned her into a human, but for some reason left the task of making her a princess to you. (how convenient isn't it?) Your daughter's default name is Lisa Anderson.

Like your daughter, the main interface now looks more slick.

This time around you're not stuck being the retired hero and you can actually choose your own personal background from within 6 different ones: Retired Knight, Merchant, Fallen Noble, Priest, Street Performer and Traveling Bard. Your daughter starting disposition towards you is greatly influenced by this. A daughter from a rich merchant starts all arrogant and snobby, while a daughter from a street performer will start pressed for money. Her stats and parameters will also start accordingly to your profession.

What's even cooler about this is that it doesn't only adds more to the depth and variety of the game but also adds to the challenge. A daughter from a retired knight or fallen noble will not have it that hard to become a Knight herself, or a General or some other top spot, since her monetary status will be very good and many of her important stats will be predisposed to increase at a higher rate or decrease at a lower rate due to your profession and her privileged upbringing. However turning the daughter of a street performer or bard into a Princess or even a Queen will be quite a challenge.

The list of Jobs and lessons have been seriously tweaked and only a few remain from Princess Maker 2. They're also now filled with events and sub-events where your daughter will ask for your opinion on what should she be doing. She will also get tests done by her teachers or even square off against some of her c/lassmates. She can also gain a rival for almost every c/lass she gets good at. While for the jobs, she will get incentives like extra money or items by her patrons if she does a really good job, and there can be special occurences as well. The animations are still there, but now they're 2D sprites over 3D backgrounds. Fortunately, they're still as good and hilarious as ever.

The animations are still as amusing as ever.

Your daughter's disposition plays a big role in Princess Maker 3. If she becomes spoiled, she will refuse to do mundane work, and should you still force to, the little brat will disregard your orders and just stay at home. But if she's pressed for money she will work harder and more diligently until you get out of the red.

Like I mentioned previously, Princess Maker 3 now is a full Simulation game. Which means the days of sending your daughter to venture outside of town to fight monsters and claim loot are over. So since there's no fighting at all in the game, it means all fighting stats and parameters are gone. There's no HP,MP, Fighting/Magic Skill stats, and "Constitution" has been changed to "Stamina". There's also no fighting equipment.

While this may seem like a real step back from Princess Maker 2, it isn't really. The game was designed from the ground up to make do without it, and it did so excellently. The exta depth and interaction given to your daughter and the job/lessons she takes more than outweight the lack of adventuring.

Your stats are now a lot more tricky to handle.

Personally, I don't consider the loss of adventuring a big loss as it's the fighting in itself. In the previous Princess Makers games I always enjoyed to raise my daughter to become a Hero or General. In Princess Maker 3 while these endings are still available, I just don't see the point. Raising a General out of dojo lessons alone just doesn't feel inspiring enough to me. On the other hand you're now motivated more than ever to raise your daughter a princess as an actual end-game goal, which can also be considered something positive.

I'm also glad that they kept the great ending variety. There's over 60 different endings in the game, many of them which require special events or actions to be performed.

The festivals on the other hand have been seriously toned down, which is in my opinion the only real downside of the game. While in Princess Maker 3 you actually have 3 different festivals: New Year festival in January, Cherry Blossom festival in April and the c/lassic Harvest Festival in October. These festivals only consist on the single event of having your daughter stand along other girls doing nothing. So compared to the contests available in Princess Maker 2 or even in the original, they're a total letdown.

About the only cool thing about these festivals is the cameo appearances by the previous Princess Maker daughters: Maria and Olive, plus your rivals from Princess Maker 2: Anita and Patricia.

The Harvest Festival is very uninteresting this time around.

While Princess Maker 3 lost something in transition it also implemented a lot of things that make the game feel unique and a challenge to even the most seasoned Princess Maker 2 players.

Princess Maker 3 was first released on the Playstation in 1996. But I would recommend you to avoid that version, since it's missing all the extra stuff that was added for the SEGA Saturn and Win95/98 PC versions. Also from what I heard, the PC version doesn't run on Windows XP at all.

This trilogy is by no means the only set of Princess Maker games available. Princess Maker: Legend of Another World was released for the Super Famicom in Japan not long after Princess Maker 2. But I never did go around playing that version myself.

Due to the series popularity in Japan and Asia, many Princess Maker spin-off games were released for the Playstation and PC. These range in the Puzzle, Quiz and Board type games.

Princess Maker 4 and 5 have been released not long ago for the PC, PS2 and PSP. And there most probably be a Princess Maker 6.

After Princess Maker 3 however, the series lost most of it's appeal to me. The former great Gainax artistic design now looks like your generic modern anime design. The adult innuendo has all been removed and the games have been cute'ned up to a level that they now look like something aimed to be played by girls. Something that the previous games tried to avoid at all costs. But if the series ever go back to it's roots, I would certainly get back to them in a heartbeat.

Overall, my personal favourite game in the series is Princess Maker 2. While the orginal Princess Maker is still by all means a good game, it has nothing that Princess Maker 2 doesn't do a lot better. And compared to Princess Maker 3 which I consider to be at the same level of quality. The fighting elements, the better Harvest Festival as well as all the little details and secrets makes Princess Maker 2 the big winner for me. Plus it has that retro feel that I find so charming.

This is all the Princess Making you will need.

I personally would recommend anybody interested in the series to download the DOS English beta version of Princess Maker 2 first. This is to help you understand and get into the series, specially if you're not used to play Japanese Sims with Japanese menus.

Then if you find yourself liking the game, (whch if you enjoy Simulation games you will probably love) then you should go after the Dreamcast Princess Maker Collection which contains the newest PC versions of Princess Maker 2 and 3 and a bonus Image Gallery. It shouldn't go above the $30 range, and it gives you two of the best Japanese Sims with uncanny lasting appeal and replay value.

But even if you don't want to download the English version, the Princess Maker games fortunately have a very small but determined fan base who have created various fan sites on the internet, in both "English" and Japanese with a lot of in-depth information about the Princess Maker games. From full menu and stats translations, job/school descriptions to ending requirements.

Princess Maker is just a series no Simulation game fan should miss.

Can you become a Princess Maker?

Continuing along with the c/lassics. I want to talk about one my old favourite game series that I haven't mentioned before in this space: "Princess Maker"

Princess Maker is a series of Japanese Simulation games created by Gainax who are best known for their Anime works like Evangelion and such. They are a long living game series that continue to be highly popular all over Asia.

The games put the player with the daring task of raising a young daughter from the tender age of 10 years old and until she comes to adulthood at 18. Your guidance in this key timeline of her life with undoubtedly determine her future.

The basic premise of Princess Maker is that you were a valiant hero who vanquished evil and saved the Kingdom. For this, the King rewards you with a place to live within the realm and a yearly pension from the state treasury.

But that's not all. You're also presented with a little orphan girl who therefore is put under your care for her rightful upbringing. After all, what better person to raise this child than the hero of the Kingdom? After this, you retire to your new home with your daughter. Both will have a lot to learn from each other.

How could you possibly say no to this little face.

How you raise your daughter is entirely up to you. Ideally like the title implies, you can aim to raise her into becoming a Princess. Your daughter will be forever grateful to you and she will live happily ever after. That would certainly be a good outcome for your daughter, but it's just one out of the countless future possibilities that await her. As she has the potential to become anything her honored father wishes her to be.

Will she follow afer your footsteps and become a traveling Hero renown all across the land? Maybe a powerful Wizard or a great General that will defend the Kingdom. Why not go beyond the title of Princess and try to make her Prime Minister or Archbishop. If you're truly dedicated you can aim for the highest spot and make her the ruling Queen of the Kingdom. Wouldn't that be something?

But what if neither of you want to carry the pressure or just aren't interested in aiming for such prestigious and so hard to get status? If that's the case, your daughter also has the possibility of doing what she loves the most as a profession. Writer, Teacher or Judge are just some of the many professions your daughter can do to become a productive member of society.

Of course the door to evil, lust and excesses is also open to her. Should you choose to raise her this way, she can become anything from a petty bandit assaulting pedestrians, to a crime boss ruling the city. A shameless high-c/lass prostitute or a Con-Artist. But if evil has totally taken over her heart, then maybe she can become the Queen of Darkness herself and rule over underworld.

But even as much as those life prospects in your opinion may or may not seem dreadful for your daughter. There's even a worse door that is also opened to her: the door to failure. As even being Crime Boss requires work.

If you were a terrible father who never took the time or just didn't know how to properly educate your child. She can end up being something on the likes of a plain maid doing housework for a meager pay. A frustrated divorced woman whose husband has just left her, or a cheap prostitute hanging around the streets at night. So much for the daughter of a supposed hero.

Your guidance will determine your daughter's outcome.

In how you choose to guide and educate your daughter lies her fate and future profession. There's over 60 different endings for your to discover, so actually making your daughter a princess is far from being your ultimate goal in the game.

Like many many Japanese Sims, Princess Maker main focus is that of stat building and management. While many of your choices and actions can help define your daughter's future. Her numerous stats are the main factor which will determine if your daughter ends up being a Ruling Queen or a Tavern Wench.

You can increase or modify your daughter's stats in various ways, but the main two are through work and schooling. As you will soon discover, your annual pension is insufficient to give your daughter a proper education. Not to mention that she also has to eat, get dressed, have birthday presents etc. Needless to say as with real life, money is a necessity in Princess Maker. And so your little girl will have to work and learn the hardiness of life at such a young age.

There are plenty of jobs your daughter can do, depending on what attributes you want her to increase. They range from farming and masonry to baby sitting and hair dressing. At the beginning only a set of jobs fitting for a 10 year old girl will be opened to her, but as she grows up more jobs appropriated to her age will become available. You can even send her to work at the "Sleazy Bar" and make a lot of money. But then, she will lose the faith, morals and temperament she worked so hard to learn when she was young. So she probably will become a woman of ill repute. Nevertheless, the choice is yours to make.

Grave keeping is certainly a normal job for a little girl.

Of course your daughter will only get paid if she performs well at work. On days where she messes up or plainly refuses to work, she will only gain the experience from it, but no dinero.

Kids must not relegate their studies and your daughter is no exception. If you want her to be something in life then you will have to make her study diligently. The lessons she can attend to are very varied. Lessons like fencing will teach her how to fight. She can get in touch with her artistic side with the poetry and dancing lessons. Or she can take theology and increase her faith and morals.

Generally the jobs and lessons you take will increase a set of stats but decrease others, although this is not always the case. The game progresses on a month by month basis. You fill your daughter's schedule with the activities you want her to do for the month and then they will be carried out.

Every action your daughter performs raises her stress level, which is not a good thing for a girl of her age. If her stress goes up too much against her constitution, she will become rebellious and will often refuse to work. In addition she can run away to town and spend her money recklessly or even run away for an entire month wasting it for you. In the worst case scenario your daughter can get really sick and will force you to send her to a sanatorium or else she runs the risk of dying.

To prevent this, it is a good idea to give her some free time to relax, which will greatly decrease her stress. Although this will lower your daughters feelings towards you a bit, since she goes off to town without you, so I guess it makes her become less attached. Ideally you want to go on vacations with her. specially to the beach in summer which will decrease her stress considerably.

Your daughter must also learn the art of ass kicking.

You can't just give her free time or go on vacation every month though. You will not make good progress this way. If your daughter becomes rebellious but you have a very good relationship with her, you can reduce her stress significantly by scolding her.

You can also send your daughter to venture outside of town to fight monsters and find treasure. (after you outfit it properly for the task of course) In October the annual Harvest Festival will take place and you can inscribe her to participate in various events and test what she has learned.

The Princess Maker Series:

Princess Maker 1

The first entry in the series and understandably the most basic. Your daughter's default name is Maria Rindobagu, a war orphan.

There's a good job selection but only 3 school lessons to take: fighting, magic and dancing. They don't have any animations, instead different portraits of Maria will indicate how is she performing in her tasks.

There's a big area for Maria to explore, but it's strictly linear and devoid of secrets. The Harvest Festival also has 2 events for her to participate: Combat Tournament and Beauty Contest.

The graphics and presentation of the game have been enhanced since the 1995 PC-Engine CD version. There's also a newest Windows 98/XP PC version called "Princess Maker Refine". The game has also been released for the PS2. However the core game has remained the same than the PC-98 original in all of the newest versions.

Screenshot comparison:

Original PC-98 version.

PC-Engine CD version.

The PC Win98/XP "Refine" version

Princess Maker 2

A totally overhauled sequel. Princess Maker 2 improved over the original in every possible aspect and then some. Your daughter's default name is Olive Oyl, and she's been entrusted to you by the Gods.

To begin, your daughter's birth date now besides defining her starting stats also attaches her to a certain God. This God will be the one that puts her into your care and will be her patron deity throughout her life.

Making Princesses since 1210.

You can now choose various diet regimes for your daughter. "Robust" for example, will increase her constitution on a monthly basis, but she will also gain weight as well, which will eventually make her chubby and her dresses will not fit her anymore.

The number of school lessons available has increased considerably and new jobs have been added. They are also now fully animated as well, with some animations being hilarious.(specially when your daughter fails at work) If your daughter is truly dedicated at honing her skills. a deity may come and visit her to commend her for her hard work and grant her their favour increasing her skills.

There's 4 areas for your daughter to explore and they are filled with secrets and stuff to do. The traditional Harvest Festival now has 4 events open to participate: Combat Tournament, Art Exhibition, Dance Party and Cooking Contest.

Your daughter battles Anita at the Combat Tournament.

It will take too long to go into detail about Princess Maker 2 as it's a very deep game with tons of secrets. But undoubtedly the best thing about the game is it's sheer variety and amount of secrets that complement perfectly the already amazingly addicting gameplay of the original.

While the original Princess Maker became very popular throughout Asia. Princess Maker 2 was a massive hit and has been ported to 12 different systems over the years. Which makes it one of the most ported games in history, which is quite something for a game that is almost unknown in the west.

Princess Maker 2 English beta version

Princess Maker 2 was actually set to be localized for PC by a developer named Soft Egg. But the game was just too much for western audiences. The fact that you can send your daughter to work as a bar hostess, make her a prostitute or even get her to marry you. This among many, many other explicit stuff that caused the media to the catalogue the game as highly offensive to women and sexist. Eventually Soft Egg yielded to the pressure and the game was canceled.

The English DOS beta version did actually exist and was eventually leaked to the internet. It has since then been distributed as "Abandonware" and you can download it free off the internet, although from what I heard Soft Egg wasn't too happy about this.

I downloaded the beta version a long time ago on my old PC, so I know by first hand that it works perfectly. I could never get the sound to work though. Supposedly I had to download some DOS emulator to get it work, but I never dared to as I thought it wasn't worth it just for one game.

If I remember correctly the game is about 90% complete, with the only stuff missing being a couple of vacation pictures that were supposed to be re-edited but were never finished. Some missing text for some of the rare endings, and some typos here and there. Other than that, the game is pretty much complete. Best of all it's less than 10MB in size if my memory doesn't fail me.

Picture from the Princess Maker 2 DOS English beta version.

If you're interested in the Princess Maker series or in Sim games in general, I highly recommend you to look for it and download it. I don't think it will be too hard to find. It's truly an amazing game with incredibly lasting appeal and replay value. And just one of those games that never gets old.

Princess Maker: Faery Tales come True - aka "Princess Maker 3"


BLAST from the PAST: BEST of the MEGA-CD Vol.1 (cont)

...Continued from last post:

Rise of the Dragon - Dynamix 1993

A cyberpunk Adventure game originally from the PC. Rise of the Dragon was the game that personally initiated me in the Adventure genre.

We all know most cyberpunk games are heavily inspired by the film Blade Runner, since it popularized the cyberpunk theme. So the real question for games should be on what level do they take their stuff from the cult film. Fortunately, Rise of the Dragon while indeed draws deeply from Blade Runner, it doesn't go so far as being a total rip-off.

You take the role of William Blade Hunter (for real) your cliched wasted cop turning private detective, only funnier and witty. The place is Los Angeles 2053, and the daughter of the mayor has died after trying a new designer drug. but not before mutating into a horrible creature. The mayor devastated, charges you with the job of finding what really killed his daughter and what is behind this new drug.

For the Mega-CD, the game improved over the PC version by adding full voice acting. This greatly enhanced the feel and immersiveness of the game. Most notably the main character Blade is voiced by Cam Clark, who does an excellent work along most of the rest of the cast.

Rise of the Dragon has a rather rustic design, like most of the old western Adventure games. I remember the game was a pain for me to play back then, since some puzzle solutions were very obscure and my English wasn't good. But the game does have many ways to advance throughout it as well as multiple puzzle solutions.

The game has some Arcade action shooting sequences that kinda deviate from the main experience. But thankfully these are few and not long, and can be skipped altogether.

Rise of the Dragon made me love the Adventure genre from there after. A very immersive and moody cyberpunk game, though it does have a very old feel to it by now. More because of it's dated design and interface than for it's graphics or sound. Regardless, the game is highly recommended for Adventure fans and Mega-CD owners.

Sonic CD - SEGA 1993

Labeled by many as the best and deepest Sonic The Hedghog game. Sonic CD made a blast into the Mega-CD with it's novel time-traveling gameplay mechanics and rockin' hard Red Book CD soundtrack.

In Sonic CD you can travel to three different versions of the same level: present, past and future. Each one with a different look, level layout and music. Depending on the actions you do in the past you can affect the outcome of the future, and get either a "Good Future" where there are no enemies. Or "bad future" where Dr. Eggman and his robots rule supreme.

The highly praised game soundtrack was the subject of some controversy at the time. While the Japanese and European versions of Sonic CD featured the original soundtrack chosen by Sonic Team. SEGA of America requested Spencer Nilsen to write a custom soundtrack for the game.

The problem then, was that some of the music in the US version of the game don't really fit well with the stages. The song "Sonic - You Can Do Everything" was replaced by "Sonic Boom" and the song "Cosmic Eternity - Belive In Yourself" was totally removed.

For that reason the original soundtrack is rated higher than the US version one, since it's just the music that the developers planned for you to be listening to.

Sonc CD is an excellent platformer and a flagship title of the system. Best of all, to my knowledge the game has remained relatively unexpensive to this day and one of the easiest games to find. A must-have purchase really, Sonic CD just has to be in eveybody's Mega-CD collection.

Watch Intro

Weird Japanese Game Award

Weird Japanese games are a fact of life of any console with enough developement interest. While these types of games usually come in numbers. Unusual games that are actually good are scarce and so they stand out the most.

This volume best weird Japanese game award goes to:

Mahou no Shoujou "Magical Girl" : Silky Lip - Riot 1992

So lets see what we have here: "Magical Girl: Silky Lip" a game by Riot/Nippon Telenet. Well known developers for many sub-par games covered in mantles of great and charming anime artwork. Designed specially to entrap gamers into impulse buys based solely on the looks of it.

And wouldn't you know it? the main protagonist of this game is Lip. A kawaii pig-tailed school girl that wears a short as-it-can-be mini-skirt and white nylons. A character totally designed and aimed to enthrall young otakus.

Even more, the back cover of the game doesn't even feature any in-game screen shots. A despicable practice done by some publishers. Instead, it features a full picture of our heroine in all of her mini-skirt glory. What a surprise.

With all this, anybody who doesn't fall right in for the cute protagonists would probably stay as far away as possible from this game screaming "run for it it's a trap!" But fortunately, that's not the case this time around.

A rather popular Mega-CD game, Magical Girl: Silky Lip is an Adventure /RPG game that takes a basic Adventure games mechanic and turns it into a unusual gameplay premise.

As mentioned previously, the main protagonist of the game is Lip. Your regular otaku deathtrap. She is a student of magic in the demon world. Lip has been summoned by the supremacy King of the demon world. She has been candidated to become the next term Queen. But first, customs dictate students must spend a year living in the mid world (our world) in order for their character to be judged and see if they're worthwhile, in this case, of Lip being the next Queen, since she's not the only candidate.

The name of our heroine is actually an acronym that stands for: (L)anguage (I)nteractive (P)icture. Which is the name of the gameplay system used on this game.

Basically it works like this: You have 3 main attributes: Angryness, Sadness and Joy. Every time you enter into a relevant conversation with another character you can reply them in an angry, sad or joyful way. Depending of the type of answer you pick, you will increase such attribute and decrease the opposite. If one attribute gets to 0, you can no longer pick that type of answer until you increase it's attribute again.

You will be judged accordingly to how well you carry on your conversations in hopes to increase your rank level and qualify for term Queen.You will also get engaged in a few JRPG type battles, in which your first enemy is a perverted street exhibitionist.

The game progresses in chapters as it was a TV anime show. And just like one, each chapter has an opening intro and ending credits. The mid world city that Lip gets send to, is a quite big sandbox type area, though not as interactive as it could have been, it's still very nice indeed.

Overall, Magical Girl: Silky Lip is as niche a game as it can be. With extreme limited appeal to everybody but avid importers. If you frequented import stores back then, it's most likely you saw this game at least once around . (I used to see it frequently, but it's not the case anymore) However, the game does well what it aims to do, and it's a very pleasing Adventure game if you can dig it's premise.

The next year, in 1993 Riot released another game in the same s/tyle than Silky Lip: A-Rank Thunder: Tanjouhen. A more dark Adventure game that uses a variant version of the LIP system. The game although decent like Silky Lip, with more potential even, it's incomplete. As it was meant to be the birth chapter of a series but ended up as the only game released. So the game is like only the CD 1 of a multiple CD game so you understand.

In 1994 Magical Girl: Silky Lip was set to hit the PC-Engine CD, bu it was eventually cancelled. From what I've heard, Silky Lip has been recently remade for PC with a more "mature" overtone.

Watch Opening - Watch Ending

Hall of Shame

We all know there are bad games, and there are really bad games. I've bought many really bad games for the Mega-CD. Sometimes I fell for the cool-looking cover, other times for blind-faith in developers I had faith into. But if my experience can save others from the same displeasures and disappointments I experienced, then at least something good came out of it.

This volume Hall of Shame award goes to:

Annet futatabi - Wolf Team 1993

Ah, Wolf Team. A developer subject to a lot of different opinions. But they were certainly one of the most inconsistent developers around when they still existed. Making 1 good game for every 3 crappy games they released. Though all of their games even the good ones were of an acquired taste really.

As you can tell by the title, the main protagonist of the game is "Annet Futatabi" from the great Mega Drive Action/Platformer game "El Viento". Platforming days are over for Annet unfortunately, and she now stars in this sub-par beat 'em up along with her foster father "Earnest Evans" who also starred in his own Platforming game.

Annet Futatabi is one of the poorest beat 'em up games I've played. And let me tell you I've played a lot of awful SNES ones.

The hit detection is one if not the worst I saw until then since Double Dragon II. The graphics look ancient and the animation even more. It's almost non-existent level but to the most basic moves.

The game just has an overall broken feeling from the minute you start playing. And the fact that is a rather long beat 'em up game doesn't really help it's cause, since the game is more of a chore and than a fun experience.

Ultimately the worst thing about this game is that it wasted the opportunity for another El Viento game. Instead, we got stuck with this broken beat 'em up game that importers should avoid at all costs.

It's not really funny how the worst games I bought for the Mega-CD were from either one of these two developers: Wolf Team and Riot. which shared one common publisher: Nippon Telenet. One of the most questionable publishers for many Japanese gamers, but a cult publisher for a selected minority.

This is really unfortunate because Wolf Team along Game Arts were the most supportive third party developers for the Mega-CD. Releasing a lot of games for the system. But sadly, unlike Game Arts, all of Wolf Team games for the Mega-CD were just average at best. They were definitively better on the core Mega Drive.

Sometimes I wonder if Wolf Team (along with other Nippon Telenet developers) would have been happier and more successful as an anime studio rather than as a game studio. Since it seems their artwork designs were always top-notch and just plain better than their gameplay ones.

Well, that's it for the first volume of the best of the Mega-CD.

'till the next one!