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  • The truth can be painful sometimes

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 keving No comments

  • Gimmick! (Sunsoft, 1/31/92)

    Posted on June 10th, 2010 keving 6 comments

    Ah, Gimmick! Tomomi Sakai’s gift to platform lovers everywhere. I’ll never forgive the Famitsu reviewer who gave it 5/10.

    If you’re not familiar with the game, you may wish to view Frank Cifaldi’s annotated introduction first so you can appreciate all the things the new, improved TAS above is doing. Most notable to me was the shortcut in Stage 2 that mostly eliminates that long, boring trip to the pirate ship. Bravo!

    (I’m sorry updates haven’t been more full-featured lately. Lot of personal work occupying my time.)

  • Captain Tsubasa II (Tecmo, 7/20/1990)

    Posted on June 9th, 2010 keving 2 comments

    July 2, 2010. Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

    Japan’s national soccer team, led by astonishing ace striker Tsubasa Ohzora, has laid the rest of Group E to waste, upsetting contender Holland thanks to to their so-called “Mirage Shot,” “Slider Cannon” and “Cyclone” shooting techniques. They have now made their way to the quarterfinals, and bookmakers the world over quiver in their boots as they realize the 300-to-1 laughing stocks may actually have a chance to run away with the Cup.

    Now it’s the quarterfinal round, and only one obstacle dares to stand before Ohzora and his team of spiky-haired phenoms — Brazil, winner of five World Cups and a team whose goaltender is known as the “Dark Illusion” for his dazzling defending.

    The following video is exactly what it’s going to be like.

    Captain Tsubasa II is an improvement over Tecmo Cup Soccer Game in so many ways that it inspired fits of jealousy in me, back in the day, that it never got an American release.

    The little 20-second loops the game’s peppered with are incredibly catchy. I didn’t know until now that the “METAL YUUKI” who did the music for this sequel is the same Metal Yuki (aka Mikio Sato) who now produces the Tokimeki Memorial series for Konami. Quite a career shift there.

  • Chō Makaimura (Capcom, 10/4/91)

    Posted on June 8th, 2010 keving 2 comments

    It’s easy to spot an early-era SNES game. There’s slowdown in places where you wouldn’t expect any slowdown. The Mode 7 effects are a bit janky and look a lot better in screenshots than live. The music is really tinny throughout — an issue Capcom seemed to struggle with all through the console’s life, come to think of it.

    Nevertheless, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a decent platformer, just as hard as any other in the series, and this TAS attempts to get through the game while defeating the absolute bare minimum of enemies — the bosses, and a set of cockatrice heads that must be killed in order to remove a wall blocking your way. The results are pretty spine-tingling, and even though this is a TAS and you know Knight Arthur is never going to die, it’s still thrilling to watch him take this leisurely stroll through the demon world.

    Note that this video begins with the final boss of the first playthrough to save time, since (like with most Ghosts ‘n Goblins titles) you must beat the game twice in a row to get the real ending. Stick around for that ending and you’ll also get to see an interesting bug that was fixed for the SNES release. In the Super Famicom Chō Makaimura, if you reconfigure the button assignments in option mode and then finish the game, Arthur’s movements in the ending will grow more and more haywire, until he finally dies in one part of it. If you beat the game with 0 lives left, the ending is then halted by a Game Over and you have to “continue” to see the rest of it. (Doing this kills the ending music, and the credits roll at the very end is completely silent as a result, which is why it was cut out of this video.)

  • More on Saturn Waterworld

    Posted on June 8th, 2010 keving 3 comments

    A bit ago I wrote about Ocean’s big push for Waterworld, the last major movie license the British publisher was involved with. In it I suggested that the Saturn port (which wasn’t shown around much) was likely not near completion — but it turns out I was pretty wrong on that front.

    Bardamu left a comment on that piece referring to an interview on Planet Virtual Boy with Steve Woita, main designer on the Virtual Boy/Saturn Waterworld and a guy whose career in games dates back to the Atari 2600.

    “We had nothing to do with the SNES version. We only did the VB and Saturn versions. The Saturn version was really a great version of what we wanted to do. We had smart bombs floating in the water that you’d use at the right time and take out as many enemies that were visible out in the world. The water was the best water I’d ever seen in a game at that time, Jason Plumb nailed that down. We also had a weapon that shot saw blades out onto the water, and the blades would skim 5 or 6 times before you couldn’t see them anymore. We had a bunch of very cool weapons in the game. The Saturn version was completely finished and then Infograms took us over and decided not to release the game. I’d have to say, that even by today’s standards, it was one of the best playing and looking games around. […] The Saturn version is a very, very good playing game and I wish I could get that game out there right now.”

    Bardamu also referred me to the above image, showing some better screenshots of the Saturn version in action. It does look pretty decent, admittedly, especially by 1996-era 3D graphical standards.

  • Sharp New Look

    Posted on June 4th, 2010 keving 2 comments

    Yeah, I hope they still love clones!

  • Xanadu Scenario II (Nihon Falcom, 10/1/86)

    Posted on June 3rd, 2010 keving 9 comments

    Xanadu, put out in late 1985 and therefore predating Dragon Quest, is a historical landmark in Japan’s video-game history. The English Wikipedia article on it is remarkably well-written and concise, more so than even the Japanese one right now, but neglects to mention why the game was such a hit in the first place — basically, it’s the first truly great (and truly original) made-in-Japan RPG, one that didn’t simply rip off Wizardry or Ultima wholesale.

    You’ll see a bit of that old-school Ultima atmosphere in the battle scenes and the “Karma” parameter that goes up as you defeat monsters defined as “good” by the programming. (The virtue system from Ultima IV, which came out just before Xanadu, was undoubtedly an influence.) Western gamers will also notice parallels with Legacy of the Wizard, the NES game, which shares Xanadu’s side-view exploration, abstract architecture, and basic premise of collecting crowns and tracking down the legendary Dragon Slayer sword. This graphic style was also inherited by Faxanadu, although Falcom didn’t develop that one.

    I’m linking to a speedy walkthrough video of the 1986 Xanadu Scenario II add-on pack, identical in gameplay to the original, mainly because it has better music. Soundtrack duties in Scenario II were handled by Takahito Abe (who I last mentioned in my Susa-no-Oh Densetsu article) and an 18-year-old Yuzo Koshiro, his first professional credit. To be precise, Koshiro didn’t compose music for this game — Falcom simply bought the rights to the PC-8801 music he had on his demo tape and threw it in. The Scenario II opening, dungeon levels 7, 9 and 11, and most of the boss music is his work. (Abe’s stuff shouldn’t be sniffed at, though, especially the two ending tracks.)

    The opening few minutes will be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with Xanadu previously. In order to play Scenario II, one first had to boot up the original Xanadu disk and start up a new game. You begin in an ersatz castle town, where you visit the king to name your hero and then enter a series of training houses to define your starting parameters. Maxing out your charisma at the very beginning (as seen here) unlocks access to a secret underground shop where you can more fully prepare yourself for the coming expedition, buying potions and level-skipping talismans and such.

    Once you enter the dungeon at the bottom of the tunnel network under the town, you’re prompted to switch disks. At this point you can perform a couple of tricks (again, demonstrated here) that let your character weasel out of the disk-switch prompt and access an Easter-egg battle that nets you the Vorpal Weapon, the most powerful sword outside of the Dragon Slayer. After that, you switch disks and Scenario II begins proper.

    The aim of Scenario II is to defeat bosses, gather crowns, and defeat the King Dragon. The 11 levels of the dungeon can largely be explored in any order; you’re only limited by your current strength and stats. To beat the game the most quickly, a blitzkrieg approach is best — storming up the dungeon levels, nabbing all the top armor and equipment first, then going back down and taking out all the bosses. Your dexterity is so low at the start of the game that you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with your Vorpal Weapon, but with your trusty Large Shield +7 covering your hide, you can afford to be patient.

    By the way, the NEC PC-8801mk2 that Xanadu was developed for uses the Yamaha YM2203 sound chip, with three FM channels and three SSG channels — basically, a standard AY-3-8910 with a bit of FM functionality tacked on. Most of the music uses only the three FM channels, which lend it a barren but oddly charming feel that would influence Falcom’s “house sound” for the next decade.