They really had a good thing going here. For an hour or so, there's some true wonder to unpicking the gorgeously filmed, intriguing trio of movies that has been put together here. The fims - Ambrosio, Minsky, and Two of Everything, are all gloriously shot and composed. Whilst you can see the cracks at some points, it's oh so easy to fall into Immortality's facade of the lost old media - The giallo inspired and notably horny Ambrosio in particular being an utter delight. And it's all filmed so well and with a degree of authenticity that just feels so right.
And those initial few hours, where you're both trying to piece together the plots of these movies, noticeing the flaws and trying to figure out the threads and what overarching story really is about is pretty great stuff. When clicking on each weird item in the background can send you to god know where. And the prospect of this all tying together with some cool allegorical narrative or whatever, some light horror and so on - god it could work.
Shame the narrative that you uncover is absolute trash. It is a very bleh fantasy/horror thing that I would feel would fall flat on your average creepypasta site - and it still could have worked even if it was mostly invested in exploring that immortality of art/people in cinema, the aspect of lost media "reviving people" so to speak but no. Its way too bogged down in the very literal mechanics of it's bad storyline and I hate it. It's bad enough to retrospectively make me feel like an idiot for wanting to pull on the threads, and care way less about the pretty well built up and interesting character relationships you learn through the snippets.
There's also some good old gamey issues to get in the way. Searching through clips, especially at the point where you'd probably just before getting to the big storyline hooks, is a pain in the arse, and bizzarely this point and click game works best by far with controller. It's also pretty buggy and in general way more finicky and less responsive than it should be. It detracts a fair bit from an otherwise incredibly immersive experience. The music is also quite bland and is constantly repeating the same shot clips as you go over the movies. And you can't turn it off because you need it for the sound cues to know how to find a lot of the secrets. Yay.
And its such a damn shame. It's probably the best looking FMV game ever released. The performances, particularly from Manon Gage and Hans Christopher, are spot on, and the way each of the movies captures their respective spheres of cinema - Giallo (mixed with hitchcock), 70s Neo-Noir and late 90s cheapo indie is absolutely spot on. And maybe if it was edited more consicely, the game more directed in terms of getting you to the right clips at the right time, and less navel-gazing in terms of it's very bad overarching narrative, it could have been incredible.
It's a better game than it's progenitor Her Story on account of the game not being so focused on a twist you'll work on in the first two seconds, and god knows it's better than Telling Lies, a game so shit even annapurna didnt try to push it, but I do think the end result is still a failure. Barlow has got the technical side of an FMV game absolutely down pat now though, and I think if he was given a competent writer, maybe then, this long project can bear some truly great fruit.
Any person who downloads and uses the emulator MAME has seen its initial games list screen. For some fucking reason, instead of booting to the games you can actually play, you start off with this enormous, impossible list of games that it can emulate. On a pure numerical basis, it can emulate 39,000 different roms on the build i've got on my PC, probably way more if you mess about with it. Sure, you can ignore the vast, vast majority of these as either semi-duplicates of the same thing, some trash MAMEdev bizzarely puts their time into (yes, there are over 100 different variants of Deal or No deal gambling machines supported, i have no idea either), and an awful amount of truly terrible games no one cares for.
But the thing is, even if you recklessly discard 95% of that ludicrous figure, the amount of games left is still enormous. The history of Arcade games alone at this point is large enough to make games that brought joy to so many reduced to nothing more than a list entry, flashing by for a few frames as you scroll along for something else. If you're an arcade game in SNK, Sega, or Capcom's pantheon you may be lucky enough to get in a compilation or so. If you're ridiculously lucky and M2's Founder loves you, you might get a bespoke ultra-high quality re-release - and most of those would amount to commercial failure if they actually had to answer to investors.
And then there's Hamster.
As I write this, it has been almost exactly 300 weeks since the Nintendo Switch's launch. And on every single one of those weeks, at midnight JST on Thursday, the ever dilligent, plucky Hamster Corporation has released a title to their arcade archives lineup of games, sometimes multiple. Right now there are 344 games available in total in the series. For comparison, the might of every other developer and combined for the Wii Virtual console was able to put together 75 Arcade games. And only around 400 games all together, the rest all for consoles that shared emulation. On Switch and PS4, Hamster has almost matched the entirety of that catalogue, emulating at this point dozens upon dozens of different models of Arcade Hardware. It is an absolutely insane production rate, and with it, Hamster are ablet to turn the spotlight on those games that fly with the scrollwheels, give them a chance in a spotlight. As you'd expect Hamster's cuts are often deep, with the likes of UPL, NMK, Video System and Nichibitsu among many others getting the spotlight.
And the thing is, it's also good emulation. The existence of MAME (itself a god-tier games preservation project) threatens to make ACA irrelevant. But it doesn't. Whilst not up to quite the ridiculous standards of M2's work, ACA games almost always turn out to be "slightly better than MAME" thanks to online leaderboards, bonus caravan modes, often hashing out the emulation bugs that MAME will have for the game in question and if the game has some quirk, like say with Thunder Dragon 2, where the ship selection is based on 1P/2P side of the cabinet, will contain a function to simplify and generally make things more comfortable. There's a template that's always followed because of course there is, they're pushing out one a week. And at £6 a pop, you definetly get your money's worth.
But there's more to it all than that. If Hamster was doing nothing more than shitting out all these titles to modern platforms, it would be a great service they're providing, but not an amazing one. What makes Hamster special is their revereance.
Every week, on Thursday night, Hamster puts on a stream on youtube. It will usually run for over 4 hours. And they are absolutely joyous. The first two or so hours of every stream consists of discussions with their original developers, many of which have seemingly been dragged out of retirement just to talk about some weirdass tennis game they made in 1988 that two people remember. And it is extensive, with their most recent talks with the staff on Metal Black lasting over two hours, and they'll dig up some truly wild unseen dev materials to talk over too. Absolute peak games preservation content, and what's more, everyone involved seems to be having an absolute whale of a time. The staff at Hamster seemingly have an endless well of enthusiasm for each and every game they port, and are just as excited about a mid tennis game as it's biggest fans 30 years ago.
After the dev details though, comes the truly fun stuff. After a playthrough of the game, they'll proceed to go through the leaderboards of the title. On every console, for both high score and their additional caravan mode. And for every single person that makes it into the top 100, they will bash a drum, ring a tamborine, and shout "NICE PLAY!!". 400 TIMES.
This of course, makes for a rush, as in the twelve or so hours between the game's launch and the stream there's a mad dash to learn some janky arcade game from the early 90s. And it with everything else, all comes together.
Even if it's just for one day, Arcade Archives gives these games, mostly reduced to footnotes, one time in the sun. A few days where tales of the game end up on twitter, a few hours where a bunch of maniacs are grinding out it's scores.
However fleeting, even if just for a small circle of arcadeheads, Hamster raises these forgotten titles to the status of subjects of unconditional, infectious love and enthusiasm. And in the online era, all those streams documenting it are preserved - documenting a celebration of the joy of the forgotten for as long as we'll last.
I absolutely adore it all. Of course not all the releases are as amazing games as Thunder Dragon 2, NMK's eternally underappreciated masterpiece. But that's just my opinion, and with Arcade Archives, I truly get the feeling that with every release they are dredging up someone's favourite game, and they treat it as such. They truly highlight there is more to games preservation and history than the game just being there to play.
Long live Hamster.
They had something here. A legitimately extremely neat arcade racing experience with a unique yet intuitive handling system that honestly works really nicely, and some good vibes. There's a solid take on ridge racer and the Initial D arcade games here, pretty much. And hey there isn't much content (a mere 5 tracks in the base game), but that never stopped virtua racer, daytona USA and Wipeout becoming classics.
And if Inertial Drift just recognised that, it'd be fine. Quite good even. Just a super short campaign like R4 or just a bunch of straight up races would hit the spot just fine. But instead, in what must be a desperate attempt to squeeze the content juice out of this game, it introduces an unbeliveably horrible progression system, with a dire story mode that forces you to race each track at least FIVE TIMES to progress, and the events aren't even good, the first stage literally consisting of a tutorial then three time attacks then a race against one other driver. WHY. There's also a seemingly endless list of dull challenges required to get your hands on all the cars, and generally turning a game that should be a quick, hour or two's riot into a checklist.
There's just no need. Put together the right configuration of say, 5 well balanced arcade races here (like Daytona USA, power drift, outrun, etc...) and i would gladly spend way longer in it than the abysmal story mode and challenges combined. Sometimes, less is more. And pulling wool over my eyes to pretend you actually have more is even worse.
Every Jackbox pack got the;
- New version of one of the mainstays which is better in most ways but has one very stupid decision
- Game which is one joke
- Anxiety inducer
- Actually great newcomer they will drop immediately
- Game which is one joke
- Anxiety inducer
- Actually great newcomer they will drop immediately
I like plenty of these things at this point but it is truly getting old how after 9 times Jacky is still lacking a combined launcher and the packs still fail to put it all together is getting more and more annoying. To get one good pack of these games you need at least 3 installed - and being the one to suggest switching them in the middle of your game night is definitely cause for people to spam the 🤓 in the voice text.
Please Jacky just get a dang launcher or make a pack that has both quiplash, fibbage, good trivia and champd up/ tee ko it shouldn't be this hard.
Gunvein is a lesson. Even in shmups, arguably the most gameplay driven, distilled form of the videogame there is, you need a bit of flavour. I can safely say Gunvein is a very competent, aggressive shmup. But I can also safely say it's dull and forgettable.
It uses a clever selection of influences as a skeleton for a strong core gameplay loop, decent stage design, and good (if derivative) bosses. The big influences here to me feel like Shinobu Yagawa's games at cave - Ibara, Muchi Muchi Pork and Pink Sweets - with a heavy emphasis on aggressive bombing, score extends and some element of deleberate deaths thanks to a limited life stock. Throw in a scoring system that encourages quick killing absolutely everything you can and it's easy to get into the swing of things the game wants you to.
I would say the gameplay isn't quite there yet though. Difficulty balance is very weak, with the hardest part of the game by far being the stage 3 boss, and stages in general being a bit too easy compared to the bosses. The game's hitboxes are also a bit wonky in that both the ship and bullet's are absolutely tiny - and i do think it should have picked one or the other because you can really just sweep through whole bullet curtains and just scramble dodge without thinking way too much. I get danmaku needs lenient hitboxes but this is a bit too far. Ship balance is also wonky, with the only fun ship - type C - having the good old technical character problem of technically being balanced, but has to really work for it, being more aggressive and effectively multitasking to get the same results Type A and B do with far safer, simpler gameplay - both in scoring and survival.
But it would be easy to overlook the issues if the game had any fucking sauce. Even if I pick some of the most bland shmups out there, lets say; Rolling Gunner, Strikers 1945, Tatsujin - it is absolutely blasted out of the water in terms of thematics, character, story, and just a general feel. Gunvein feels utterly anonymous. The 3 pngs of those characters in the cover there is literally all the character you get. The game doesnt have an ending or any story at all, there's no motivation behind anything, and the aesthetic is this really bland neon-sci fi stuff. It just feels very disconnected from anything. It's just five levels and bosses and the bosses dont even explode with majesty. That aforementioned 3rd boss is positioned as a rival fight (and is also takes a lot from battle garegga's black heart)- a shmup staple where you fight a ship similar to your own, and in a vacuum its a fun fight, but the lack of build up, payoff, pacing and just a reason for it at all makes it feel hollow when this is frankly a really easy trope to turn into something that, for lack of a better term "goes hard."
If the gameplay was absolutely top, top tier it could maybe get away with it. But whilst it's good, all but a few of the cave and raizing games it imitates have better gameplay and every last one of them has better themeing and flavour. Even Deathsmiles 2. In the realm of indie/doujin shmups it fares better but when Rolling Gunner eats your lunch for flavour, aesthetics and thematics, the likes of cambria sword, SF BELUGA, Ikusaaaaaaan, Zeroranger and Blue revolver make Gunvein look particularly souless.
Roguelike arrange is also a huge meme. Its bad and feels pretty desperate to get some more modern gamers on board.
The bright spot of Gunvein is it's tutorial, which legitimately teaches the danmaku concepts of streaming, cut backs and hitboxes very well. It's a shame I can't reccomend this to a new shmuper though, it's so fucking dull.
I wish I could just grab the artists from Drainus and the lead game designer from this and smash them together. Each game has like the opposite half of the games' issues! AAAA.
Apparently this little guy, this dubious creature "Tricycle-San" is the inspiration for Sonic's Chao. I love him. He can also do sick tricks, bounding into the walls of the labyrinths he finds himself in to kill enemies and yeet bricks on the other side, all in the aim of being able to collect flowers for a girl.
The wall-riding may legitimately be the only thing that seperates spatter from Rally-X, but for the standards of early Arcade games its a fairly radical piece of tech. It's a dodge roll and offensive move combined that can also technically be a projectile if used at the right moment, and in response to it's power the game is constantly spawning enemies every few seconds - encouraging fast, offensive play to get all the flowers before things get truly out of control.
Its fun! There's very little more to the game than that but like so many of Sega's 1980s arcade games it leans hard on expressive presentation and a simple hook.
I've been mostly playing this on the new Mega Drive version - a conversion that is so on point that it loops back around to being kind of pointless because there's so little difference between it and the original. But it seems like it was mostly made for fun, truth be told, getting it's original artist back to put together some actual box art and flexing the power of Stephane Dallongeville's new devkit for Mega Drive that M2 have built this upon. A tribute to a game that is certaintly mostly forgotten, but frankly, deserves a fair bit of love.
After 30 years in a "nearly done" pile at Mindware, the Mega Drive Version of Star Mobile sees the light of day through the Mega Drive Mini 2. And you can kind of see why it was never released.
Don't get me wrong, it's cool. There's something inherently neat around a long-abandoned game finally getting finished off after so long, and compared to it's other versions, (star mobile was actually released on PCE CD and the X68K), it's easily the best looking and sounding. There's a lovely ambience to the whole thing, with relaxing music and graphics depicting various constellations in the background - there's a big vibe of the sorta PC game your dad would be really addicted to in 2002, and to an extent the sort of phone game Gen X-ers like nowadays. Very comfy, easy to understand, with just enough of a puzzle hook to keep it engaging.
And the puzzle gameplay is fun. Ish. It is almost entirely down to balancing scales with 5 different types of weight. Now, that is really simple on it's own as you can almost universally just put the heaviest weight on the lighter scale to not get a game over. Almost by definition, the game needs something else to actually constitute puzzles, and it's there, but also not really. Essentially, if you sandwich any weights between two of the same type, they all get deleted and added to your total weights target, but also their weight removed. This feature can both be used tactically, and also serves as a risk - if you accidetnally cause a sandwich you can easily flip the whole scales - which can cost most of your health in one fell swoop. It's good
There are a few other things, but they are sadly almost entirely score focused - having the scales perfectly balanced at end round and sticking weights of the same type. And that score focus doesn't really work in a game that is so much about endurance, having seemingly endless levels - because the score pretty much comes down to how far you end up going more than how good you are at making it perfect, and making it perfect is a lot harder and far more liable to tip the scales.
But y'know, it's cute. As an MD mini bonus addition, it's a nice little thing that has great presentation and music, and again, finishing off an old abandoned product is cool. But this shit would have absolutely bombed as a full priced cartridge in the early 90s - surely would have tanked. The only document i can find regarding the cost of the PCE CD version's price puts it at 6600 yen, and the MD version would have likely cost more due to being a cartridge.
Yeah i can see why this didnt take off. You can easily make an argument that this game's real home would be in the preinstalled software of a turn of the milennium PC.
But it's nice yknow. And when the game costs effectively $2 in a bundle of 60 games, its far easier to swallow. A lovely slice of unearthed MD history from one of it's most best devs (Mindware also worked on streets of rage 2 and 3, and Slap Fight MD). And that's just nice.
Signalis has lived rent free in my head since the moment I started it. It is both a game I want to go on about endlessly, dissecting it's thousand details and it's lineage of inspiration - and a game that I think everyone should just straight up play for themselves. Brilliant in worldbuilding and aesthetics, strong puzzle-boxy game design ripped straight from Resi 1/2, Surrealism that both comes in spades and is perfectly balanced to keep you on your toes, and a story that slowly forces its way under your skin, unravelling in a manner that is currently living rent free in my head.
I would concede that Signalis appeals particularly to my sensibilities - theres a bit of the thing, bit of lynch, bit of alien, and a whole lot more. But it's reference and reverance is never out of line and never takes away from what's an insanely compelling experience. It is a game that uses the best of the past to set a baseline for a good horror game and set up the game language, only to twist the knife.
Its not flawless, but to even broach the flaws feels like doing a disservice. Like, there's little niggles with the difficulty, enemies, and one or two puzzles in retrospect. But Signalis is such a ridiculously compelling game that it never really matters, it was never something I was thinking about actually at the time. Only progressing onward, unpicking it's puzzle box levels and slowly unravelling it's story.
Easily game of the year, and one of the best horror games in a long, long time. This game made me buy a damn book, play it.
Incredible presentation brushes against great music, fantastic technical use of the mega drive hardware, and solid enough gameplay to make for what would be an extremely compelling and well-aged shooting game if it weren't for being stupidly long and have interminable pacing.
I would of course, be talking about Musha Aleste. And Thunder force IV. or Gleylancer. or Zero Wing MD. And Gynoug, or, sadly - Battle Mania Daiginjou.
It is probably the most annoying trend in the STG genre. You cut out the dead air, tanky boss health bars and endless, boring waves of zako that make up 50% of the game and you've got a great STG here - and in every other game i've mentioned.
BMD does sidestep the problem a little bit thanks to the levels themselves being fairly varied, with a combination of vertical and horizontal scrolling stages, and some pretty cool environments. The adorable story-cut ins between each stage also give nice breaks. But on the other hand, the general shooting is super simplistic and below par, and it's ridiculously easy on it's default settings by STG standards (I blind cleared it without a sweat.
Even if you ignore the lightning fast STGs of the arcade of it's era (Batsugun and Thunder dragon 2 released the very same year), BMD and its ilk are still simply outmatched by the console STGs of it's era that just decided to not waste your time, regardless of technical competency. Slap Fight MD eats their lunch, and - weird as it is - biohazard battle shows how this breed could have been so much better with respect for the player's time.
Its still easy to appreciate the art and the sheer joyfullness of it. It's got some of the best sprite art on the MD, and is absolutely worth a lone playthrough. But I sadly can't reccomend it any more than that.
Valkyrie Elysium has one of the absolute finest combat systems i've seen in a game in a long time. A beautiful insection between the systems of Platinum and Kingdom Hearts, with bountiful options and ways to extend attack chains into this beautifully flowing thing. The sort of thing where you see a new group of enemies in the distance and think "let's go" even if it's the same bunch of mobs you've seen many times before.
It is such a bright, shining centerpiece for the game. Probably the best action game combat in a decade. All the game needs on top of it to be honestly a straight up game of the year is competent mission design, a decent story, and fair production values.
Just about everything but the combat and visuals in Elysium is a notch below mediocre, and it threatens to ruin the whole damn thing. In so many ways it feels like it's a mid-budget game plucked straight from 2002, where action games like this were yet to work out things like quest design, level design, enemy variety, story structure, pacing, RPG elements...
I hate to say it but just going about the levels in Elysium is misery. The balance between linearity and open levels is as bad as it could possibly be, where it may as well have been liner with how corridor-y it is, but also offers just enough alcoves and off routes to both get lost and to hide trinkets down to waste your time. There's also bafflingly bad detective/tracking sections which require you to follow the slowest butterflies to a location, which you'll have to resummon, which yes has a 7 second unskippable animation, what the fuck? Oh, and you'll need to do some truly painful searching around the maps to find the mcguffins to achieve the true ending.
Well that is, if you care. The story isn't bad so much as barely anything happens, and your objectives for the first 80% of the game are unclear, and the game fails to really bring up consequences and honestly, what the core conflict even really is until really late on. Granted, you can kind of see it all coming anyway. There is some neat twists on norse mythology and stuff buried in here somewhere, and the true ending actually goes hard, but yeah. Not worthwhile.
Also for a war between gods which literally is about the fate of the world, the production is so barebones. There's no sense of scale at basically any point, the cast is tiny (there is legitimately one living human shown) - it's hard to articulate, but the drama it's going for just doesn't really pay off.
But fuck it, it's worth it. The combat is that good. The smorgasboard of dealbreakers just drift away when you're knee deep in some ridiculous aerial combo where you summon 2 dudes, ending with a spell that sets you up for another into a perfect parry launcher-thing.
It's just clear the budget was just not there for basically anything else.
Aside from a shit weapon selection, legitimatey the best kart racer out there.
A modding scene so powerful it could only be down to the sonic community is a lot of that - turns out blasting past your friends as Mido from zeroranger, blasting the "o-ok lets go" sample from Third Strike on a fucking Collums 3 inspired map is way more fun than anything mariokart has ever been able to manage.
But maybe the key to SRB2K is how just smooth it all is. A lot of games who's power relies on Mods are such an absolute pain in the arse. In SRB2k you just put the files anywhere in the folder, and if you dont have them it will download them like a TF2 map when entering a room. And those multiplayer rooms are so malleble and allow options like just straight up pausing the whole thing.
When i first heard about SRB2K i thought "damn this is going to be frustrating", but the user experience is just wonderful, really. And thats such a great thing for any "mod platform" game to have.
The only really contentious thing i'd say is the handling, which I like as it leans way more towards super mario kart than mario kart wii onwards, and makes it easier to appreciate the more technical track designs as even basic tracks are quite hard to drive. Compared to modern mario kart which is so easy to drive its a joy, and its nice to actually have to think whether to drift or not in a kart racer again.
Very, very few complaints. Remarkable fan project and probably the best sonic game.