Archive for the ‘Rare’ Category
And here’s the wrap up of easily one of the most expensive PS2 games I’ve ever owned. At 4.5 hours with the bonus material, probably not the strongest campaign out, but Michigan is an experimental “out of the box” title that probably will never be repeated again. Either way, here’s the end of the journey:
Also if you wish you can check out the entire playthrough in a full playlist here.
And here’s the third part of the Michigan longplay (for the initial post on this game click here):
Merry Christmas fellow readers. Today we are looking at one of the only true Christmas themed games, which is also one of the most rare 16-bit titles released. Originally developed by then newcomer Funcom, Daze Before Christmas took a whopping year to develop (most games took 4-6 months back then) and was really just a conversion of the developer’s other game We’re Back: A Dinosaur Tale. It eventually wrapped up and publisher Sunsoft decided to release it exclusively to Australia (a PAL region) in 1994, which is why the title is expensive and hard to find. Near the end of the summer of release (most games came out in the summer to prepare for word-of-mouth advertising in the holiday season) an SNES port released in Europe, but only in Germany, which again explains its rarity on that platform. Sunsoft USA had begun work on a US version for both consoles but it was canceled as Sunsoft USA was nearing its closing in late 1994.
It’s really too bad because aside from being super easy, the game is a solid Christmas themed platformer with Santa as the playable character, bright colorful graphics, and a synth Christmas soundtrack. While a legitimate copy will cost you on the upwards of $100+ today (not to mention the mods needed to a Genesis/SNES to actually fit the cart in your console), reproduction carts like the one I got are much more affordable around $30-$40 online. For a game that can be completed by almost any seasoned gamer in about an hour and a very narrow theme that may seem like a hefty price tag, but I’ve seen people pay more than that for a copy of fellow holiday game Christmas Nights so supply does justify the purchase. Either way, Merry Christmas and enjoy Daze Before Christmas. Friendly warning: I get too close to the mic for portions of the playthrough so I apologize for the jet engine breathing.
For this week’s video and Retro Game Night we are playing requested titles Biohazard (Resident Evil) Gun Survivor 2 (Japanese Version) and Michigan: Report from Hell (European English Version). Both titles only released in Japan and Europe so here they are in all your viewing glory. Due to language and violence both of the games and the commentary, viewer discretion is advised. Michigan is continued via additional longplay videos starting with Part 2 here.
In what is easily the two hardest game titles to spell, we are going dark for this week’s Retro Game Night.
First up is user @NeoJakeMcC requesting one of the first ever rogue-likes from the Genesis/Mega Drive: Fatal Labyrinth.
Next up is the relatively rare hybrid between survival horror, first-person shooter, and adventure: Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent.
This week we post a little early and celebrate America’s Independence Day with patriotic video games:
First up is actually a Japanese game, Parodius Da! but it has quite the patriotic boss so it’s here because I love this game and found a connection:
Next up is a rare unlicensed NES game by Color Dreams entitled Operation Secret Storm:
Third on the list is a digital pinball game from the PS1 era, because why not right? Here’s Patriotic Pinball (please excuse my technical difficulties):
And last but not least we close the show with a game so American, so amazing, so awesome it was only released on one console (Xbox) and in one region (Japan). Yeah, you read that right. Since I have no way of getting my hands on it and don’t have a Japanese Xbox to play it on, here’s a great flashback of 1UP’s Broken Pixels show bragging about From Software’s 3rd person uber-American title Metal Wolf Chaos:
Hope you enjoyed those and have a safe and happy 4th of July!
If you’re not familiar with this Playstation 2 title it’s probably because it never came out. On our most recent podcast, we discussed the developer Treasure, responsible for a slew of great and popular titles but the company itself is quite lesser known to those in America. With a resume that spans almost every console from the 16-bit era on, there are some odd releases that Treasure is also responsible for, namely Tiny Toon Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (which will be referred to as DotU from now on and was also at one point Defenders of the Looniverse).
Conspiracy Games, a somewhat obscure publisher that is responsible for a bunch of licensed and lower budgeted projects on the PS2, Wii, and PSP, must have acquired the Tiny Toons license because it was and has developed a few games for the series. Conspiracy specifically works with developers that want to make a game but do not have the financial backing to do so. This title was to be a somewhat large collaboration that had Tetsuhiko Kikuchi (aka HAN), best known for the great Saturn brawler/RPG Guardian Heroes, as director and even its own web site: http://www.dotu.com. Very little is known about the development cycle, struggles, or overall issues about the development of this game, but what started as an early PS2 release in 2001 eventually was delayed 3 years into 2004 (according to IGN) and eventually canceled. Because deals with publishers and developers often result in delayed processes and forced decisions that the creative team does not like, it’s really anyone’s guess why this game spent so long in development and was eventually sapped.
Somehow, a prototype of the game was recovered and released on the Internet for all to enjoy. In order to play this “game” you need to either have a PS2 emulator on your computer (that runs marginally well) or burn the game to a disc and play it on a modded PS2. I have a modded PS2 so I check it out on the latter. Below is a video of the gameplay and pretty much the entire prototype (I was one or two screens from the end), which appears to be simply a demo. It’s pretty interesting that the game seems to support up to four players taking on each other in a hybrid co-op/competitive team game to save the Universe. DotU seems to harken back to the N64 days – at the time of initial development somewhere around 2000 this would make senses until a publisher comes in and explains that the N64 is dead and to release a game is far too great a risk and cost. I don’t even know if the 4 player multi-tap for the PS2 was out yet, but you can see where Treasure would have made great use of it. I wish there was more to this game – I’ve heard this is a nearly completed version, which sounds completely wrong since there’s only about half an hour of content on this disc and half of it is cutscene. Still, had they continued on and increased the dynamic of team play while also adding the challenges of beating the group, I could see this being one of those licensed games we discuss that was “ahead of its time.” As it stands the title remains unfinished and unreleased, lost to the annuls of history and just another holy grail of people like myself that want to experience as many prototypes as possible. If you have the capabilities to play it, especially with multiple controllers, you may want to check out this early knock-off of a Mario Party title. For the majority of you, here’s 18 minutes of a game that never saw the light of day.
Ah March, shmuppreciation is back and in full effect on Gaming History 101. If this is your first time hearing the phrase, shmuppreciation is for the love of the shoot-em-up genre (shmup for short) and is celebrated all March on the site. If you missed Shmuppreciation 2012 I highly recommend you check it out as we provided more than 30 articles dedicated to introducing you to genre specifics and the myriad of popular series in the most triumphant genre of all time.
This year we’re going past introductions and into the intermediate world of shmups, which requires more skill, dedication, and money than the games covered last year. While I would hardly call the games we will be covering obscure by any stretch, these titles are much less known outside of enthusiastic shmup fans. To kick it off we’re featuring the top 5 games worth importing. Shmups are of the most expensive games out there so you can expect a bit of sticker shock even with the games mentioned here. Just keep in mind that you’re currently dropping $60 for day one releases and sometimes even more if you’re into that special edition stuff. The titles in this list are unique because they have not seen a release, even digital, within the United States and thus require some sort of special circumstances to play today. There’s a great list of import games that have released digitally on PSN, XBLA, and Wii Virtual Console as well so be sure to check out our article on those titles as well. In order to play these games you have to either import them or get access to a digital service outside of your region. The links in each title will take you to the games’ review or video on our site.
5. Zero Gunner 2 (Arcade, Dreamcast- Japan Only):
While it’s not a traditional shmup by any means, Zero Gunner 2 is similar to Geometry Wars except that the arcade and Dreamcast title didn’t have twin sticks. In a 3D rendered world, it carries an aesthetic similar to that of Silpheed or Star Fox updated by the graphical prowess of the updated hardware. Ironically the game plays much like a traditional arcade game with a series of enemies attacking you on a single screen and you are taxed with taking them out by flying around the screen and firing in all directions. Now that I think of it, connections could be made to Asteroids without much of a stretch, but there’s no denying the addictive nature that is Zero Gunner 2. – Review with video coming next week.
This title can only be found in Japan but is easy to find in the import market. Dreamcasts require a mod chip or boot disc to load an import game. Typically the title sells for $80-$110 on Dreamcast and upwards of $500-$750 on JAMMA arcade PCB board. The PCB is high in cost due to the rarity and difficulty to emulate properly in MAME.
4. Espgaluda (Arcade, PS2 – Japan Only):
Not only is this title developed by prolific studio Cave, known for shmups of all kinds, but this danmaku title has been adapted to a more general audience. Since “bullet hell” shmups dominate the contemporary market today it is key to get good at weaving in and out of the bright beautiful bullets invading the screen in various patterns. Instead of getting a game over every five minutes in the traditional origins of the genre, Espgaluda is highly recommended because it’s adapted for a general audience. When you get ambushed by bullets, like you will, they slow down to allow easy maneuver between them and getting hit doesn’t net you a death. With a great cyberpunk setting, bright colorful sprites, and an adapted difficulty make this a must buy for those who want to get into modern shmups. I won a contest and received it as a prize, which at the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was. Now I know.
This title can only be found in Japan and is somewhat common in the import market. Playstation 2 requires a mod chip or a boot disc to load an import game, however boot discs can be frustrating due to various security methods in the console. Of course a Japanese PS2 is another (albeit expensive) option. Prices range from $50-$75, making it one of the cheapest on our list, however the arcade JAMMA PCB is more rare and valuable due to popularity and thus sells for around $350 (and much higher) in US import shops and at least 40,000 yen ($450) in Japanese stores.
3. Sexy Parodius (Arcade, PS1, Saturn, PSP – Japan Only):
I do love this title and despite what the name suggests, it’s not very titillating and the best installment in the Parodius series. A long running parody of Gradius, Konami released these games in every territory but the United States and why is anyone’s guess – although the original titles did mock American culture in some levels. As the only title in the series not released outside of Japan it’s a shame that more shmup fans haven’t been able to enjoy this great game, especially because most ports were nearly arcade perfect.
This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common. Saturn can only play imports via Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make it region free) whereas PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console. PSP can play imports naturally and this title is found in the Parodius Collection. All console versions sell for around $35-$60. The JAMMA PCB is also quite common and sells for around $100-$125 in US import stores.
4. DoDonPachi (Arcade, PS1, Saturn – Japan Only):
Cave’s most popular shmup of all time and partially responsible for the love danmaku is every bit as great today as it ever was. Despite its ramped difficulty, the game features amazing explosion animation and unlimited credits as an option in the console versions. It’s a point of contention as to whether the PS1 version and Saturn version differ much, but I can see that argument given the Saturn was designed around 2D sprites and the Playstation around 3D polygons. Personally I do feel the Saturn version is a bit better, however given the larger availability of the PS1 version it’s not worth the extra cost. Many consider this title to be the best shmup of all time and it’s among my favorite in my collection.
This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common and even available on the Japanese PSN. Saturn can only play imports via modchip whereas the PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console. PS3s from any region can get a Japanese PSN account and with prepaid cards play the title off of the Japanese PSN PSOne version. At $75-$100 on both PS1 and Saturn this is a justified expensive import and the JAMMA PCB is quite rare at $300-$500. On the other hand the Japanese PSN version is a meager 600 yen ($7) and definitely the best option (it even plays on PSP and Vita if you go through the annoying process of setting up a Japanese account on it).
1. Battle Garegga (Arcade, Saturn – Japan Only):
Countless lists of best shmups of all time will rank Battle Garegga as number one and for good reason. It feels like the pinnacle of the airplane vertical shmup that was started by the 19xx series but with design choices that are appreciated by those that aren’t purists. It has fast paced action, modified bomb options, and is one of the few shmups from 90s that can be completed without memorizing the game after countless hours of play. It’s not a cake walk either, but Battle Garegga can be successfully navigated by twitch instincts, making it feel more “fair” like the classics. Furthermore the Saturn release, while one of the most costly on the console and in my collection, is arcade perfect and has special features that resemble contemporary shmup releases. If you’re going to get into the Saturn for its great library, especially as a shmup fan, the title justifies its ridiculous cost.
This title only released in Japan and is rare due to its print run and popularity. Saturn can only play imports with the use of a Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make the Saturn region free) that is to this day available at various outlets for $30-$40. This title sells for a staggering $125-$175 average complete – I found mine for $75 at a retro convention in disc only format – and the arcade JAMMA PCB (if you can find it) has sold anywhere from $200-$500.
There you have it, five incredible titles tailor made for shmup fan consumption and almost $500 to collect them all. Still the entire concept of a shmup is that you play them over and over. When you think about it, any one of these titles can take months or even years of your gaming life if you let them. Keep in mind these are titles that never entered our country, never became part of a re-release or collection in the US, and never got released in digital format. When you think about it that makes them obscure and rare for all gamers worldwide and thus justifies the higher price tag. Stay tuned for more great shmup coverage and reviews on the three games we haven’t already reviewed on this list next week!
Instruction Manual: None released outside of Japan
Played it as a child? No
Value: N/A – No official US release, most versions are fan translations and prototype carts have no official price
Other Releases: Yes – This game was updated and re-released in Japan on GBA as Mother 1 + 2
Digital Release? Yes – Although technically not true. Digital fan translations to English are available but not really legal.
Thanks to a strong and devoted fan community and some odd ambiguity with Nintendo’s releases of this series, Mother (known as Earthbound Zero with most circles that play english translations) has got to be one of the hardest series to cover. Having never played Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) I did the traditional completionist thing and started with the original game, which is extremely dated by almost all RPG standards. Mother suffers from everything I dread about going into retro role-playing games: a ton of grinding (or “meat walls”), constant random encounters, no true direction as to where to go next, casual dungeons with incredibly hard boss battles, slow pacing, and a limited inventory system. Not only that, anytime you try to look up help on this game, everyone who’s written about it has played the game a million times and speaks so condescending of people who get stuck that you feel like an idiot. That’s because Mother has a small but incredibly devoted community that feels this game and its sequels are the apex of game design. Despite all these faults, the charm of the writing and what it was doing at the time was enough to keep me invested until the grueling end.
Mother tells the story of Ninten (I believe some translations name him Ness after the name for the character in Earthbound), a 12-year-old boy living in the late 1980s that discovers he has psychic abilities after a paranormal event occurs at his house. Subsequently an adventure unfolds where Ninten traverses several towns and dungeons completing several tasks from finding a girl in a graveyard to saving the world as we know it. Along the way he finds a few friends that join his party and by the end of the game it somewhat emulates the battle structure of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Towns are named after holidays (or at least they are in the english version), what we know of as magic is “psi” powers, and careful attention to what is said must be taken to keep track of where to go and what to do next. Much like other JRPGs of the time period, the map is vast and there’s not much to keep you from exploring so you can get lost easily and die even easier. Since you can only save in towns, this can be problematic and typically the best solution is to grind like crazy and level yourself up. This makes continuing in the game’s relatively meager main plot drag as you consistently stop to grind for an hour or two after getting pummeled in a dungeon or new area. It’s not all bad, though, because just like Dragon Warrior you are simply returned to the place where you last saved and your money is halved, but all progress and items collected remain on your person. As I said before, this game is chock full of charm because of its non-fantasy setting, which makes for hilarious conversions of role-playing conventions. Instead of armor, you wear hats and coats. Instead of swords and shields, you pick up slingshots, baseball bats, and even boards with nails in them. Instead of traditional enemies you will confront hippies, smoking crows, and even weird alien life forms. You gain money for battle, like with most games of the genre, but instead of instantly receiving it you have to get it from your father at the ATM, who is a disembodied voice you only interact with on the phone. All of this ties together to be the ultimate mockery on modern culture: absent working father, mother who lets you risk life and limb to save the world, towns that just shrug off hostile zoo takeovers and zombie-infested graveyards with kidnapped kids.
This is only the beginning of Ninten’s larger adventure and once you start throwing in other factors like transdimensional travel, the game gets complicated fast. I did not play this with a guide, although I wish I had because much like a Sierra adventure game from the nineties, you can get stuck and upon looking up the solution discover that you’ve got a world of backtracking to do for one single item or quest. This is when the bare inventory system becomes a slog on your progress. Since Ninten can only hold six items from the start, holding a quest item along with a couple of healing items makes discovering anything new quite the chore. You will consistently need to store items in boxes scattered around the world (but only in towns, of course) and with the several reasons to be forced back into town (reviving teammates at hospitals, taking/leaving items, saving at the inn) the pace of the game slows to a crawl. It’s not surprising considering this game was developed by a famous Japanese writer, Shigesato Itoi, because the overall plot and dialogue seems well planned out and is entertaining while the gameplay aspects of this title make it hard to recommend. If you can, play this on a portable of some kind in smaller 30-60 min doses over the course of a month or so (it took me just over 35 hours to complete the campaign). I also must admit that I’ve read some things on Earthbound and even listened to a podcast or two discussing the plot and I feel that this game is extremely similar in terms of what happens: you need to find melodies in both, the cast seems to be identical, Gyiyg is the final boss (he’s renamed to Gyiygus in Earthbound). Knowing all that, I’m betting that Earthbound is just an overall better game that tells a similar story, so unless you’re a fan of the series there’s little need to play the first game. I’m sure there will be references, but I know for a fact that each game tells a story that’s self-contained.
Mother released in Japan in 1989 and by that time gamers had already experienced a couple of Dragon Quests and a couple of Final Fantasy titles as well, so it’s hard to say that Mother couldn’t have taken the lessons from these games and applied them to a better design here. This is probably best explained by the fact that Mother didn’t consider itself to have much in common with those games because it’s not taking a fantasy setting and definitely not trying to emulate Dungeons & Dragons. Additionally it was developed in-house by Nintendo (Shigeru Miyamoto was even the producer on it) and they had little experience creating an RPG so the fact that it turned out as decent as it did is admirably. Still, the game is a 10 hour experience begrudgingly stretched to nearly four times that size by backtracking, complicated quests, and endless grinding. Not only that but it feels like you can’t walk more than a few steps in certain areas without being constantly bum-rushed by enemies. There’s also a major balance issue and the fact that quite a few bosses have a gimmick to beating them that you don’t much time to discover. An example of this is a Starman, who is an early boss at the zoo: he can deal nearly fatal damage in one attack, doesn’t seem to be remotely concerned with your attack, and simply needs to be tied up with rope to beat. Unfortunately you may have not discovered the rope on your way to him or not had enough inventory slots to pick it up when you found it. You may not know to use the rope and you’d have to die a dozen times to figure this out. You may get killed by an instant critical hit before even getting a chace to tie him up first. Given the fact that the zoo is in a remote area and to travel to it and reach Starman can take up to 30 minutes each go, this can be an early example of why you would want to quit before too long (and it only gets worse from there). If you hang in there and eventually save the world, the extended ending from the english translation does nicely wrap the plot and feels quite rewarding. Oh well, it wasn’t the most productive mass of hours I’ve ever spent, but at least I can check it off of the “games I’m ashamed I haven’t played” list.
The Sordid Tale of Earthbound Zero
Mother is one of those anomalies that spawns from several frustrating decisions of Nintendo near the end of the NES console cycle. Mother was fully translated and localized by Phil Sandhop and slated for release on the NES in 1991. With the appearance of the Super NES the same year, Mother, which was named Earth Bound for the US, was permanently delayed in the interest of focusing on SNES releases instead. Similar considerations were made for Final Fantasy II and III, which would be SNES games in America and actually FF IV and IV, so just like Mother we never saw those later Famicom titles. It was probably a smart business decision too because Enix decided to ignore this precedence and release Dragon Warrior III and IV in the US after the SNES release and both suffered horrible sales. As a result, we never got Dragon Warrior (Quest) V on the SNES in America. Instead, Mother 2, which was developed by nearly the same team and talent, was translated and also named Earthbound (obviously with a slight title change) and released in America. This title was huge and sold with an equally large price tag of up to $100 on release, which is why it released in a huge box and included scratch-and-sniff stickers and a full game guide (which I’m told was definitely necessary). It also suffered poor sales and along with the comparatively larger fan population in America, the title sells for $200+ for cart only, more than $500 for a complete version and several thousand (as much as $10,000) for a sealed copy.
During the mid-late 90s when fans tried digging up copies of the original to translate for emulation in english, the prototype of the completed english title was discovered and released on the web. It was later confirmed that the copies of Earth Bound in english that were found were, in fact, translated by Phil Sandhop and not Demiforce, the hacker group that discovered the game. This is further backed by the re-release of Mother in Japan on the GBA has all the enhancements and changes from the english version. To help gamers and anyone who looked for the game from being confused by the same title, Mother has been renamed and is better known these days as Earthbound Zero. Of all the unreleased and prototype NES titles I’ve seen and researched over the years, Mother/Earthbound Zero is easily the most “ready to ship” title I’ve ever come across. You have to wonder what the market for this series would be like in America had Earthbound Zero been released. Perhaps more would have played the game and been turned off by the difficulty ramp and discouraged Nintendo from taking the risk to release the sequel. The more likely theory is that it would have celebrated success (it sold more than 400,000 copies in Japan) and more people would have purchased Earthbound (or whatever it would be called) and brought down the rarity from America’s $200 price tag to Japan’s much more appropriate $30-$40.