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Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

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Fred’s Take

After long last it appears that Resident Evil, specifically the Gamecube remake from 2002, is making a widespread appearance on modern consoles complete with increased resolution, performance, and controls.  This is significant because the number of people who owned a Gamecube was relatively small and the Wii port had such a limited print run it was a bit difficult to find.  Not only that, but at 12 years old, the game itself has plenty of dated setbacks that most gamers I talk to refuse to put up with.  Thankfully this new version is digital only (no need to hunt down copies), adapted for today, and relatively inexpensive ($19.99 on all platforms).  With all the tweaks made to this game it is so close to being worth the money I can’t see any fan of horror games or the original series not wanting to pick up this new version.  Besides, it’s January, what else is coming out?

If you played the original to death – and pretty much anyone who owned the game back in 1996 did as we waited two whole years for the sequel – it’s a pretty rudimentary journey at this point.  You know where everything is, you probably know most of the tricks, you don’t need to save often, and your completion time will be somewhere in the 3-6 hour mark.  On the other hand, the limited release of this game and the cumbersome systems it can be found on means that you probably aren’t that familiar with it.  This is no graphical coat of paint over the original design, it’s a brand new experience.  The mansion’s layout has been changed, most of the puzzles are different, there are new enemies, and everything is scattered in completely different places.  That doesn’t mean that experts of the original can’t jump in and easily conquer this title from start to finish, but it’s going to take you some time.  Even more impressive is the fact that despite me completing the original at least once a year since it released, this version was able to get some tense and great jump scare moments out of me along the way.  It’s a new Resident Evil and it’s worth replaying.

Suppose you already picked up and played the Gamecube original (or the more rare Wii version), then there may be a bit less that this version has to offer.  Instead of 480p/widescreen (widescreen was only in the Wii version), you do have the benefit of 720p/1080p depending on the version you pick up.  Like many of Capcom’s Resident Evil HD versions before it, this version varies in the benefits of the new resolution from looking incredibly crisp and on par with today’s games and looking like a blurry stretched mess of an upscale.  Lighting is probably the most obvious and appreciated upgrade, Resident Evil is a better game with dynamic lighting and shadows.  Capcom was picky in what it remade and didn’t for this version and the inconsistency shows no matter how well versed you are at visuals.  That said, it’s still as gorgeous a game as it ever was and I didn’t see much of an issue – it looks much better than any other version I’ve ever played.  When you start to break down the differences between the 720p and 1080p versions, however, that’s where the lines begin to blur much more.  In short, just get the version that helps you sleep at night.  Having touched the fully upgraded PC version and compared it to the 720p PS3 version, I see little or no reason to own both, they are essentially the same game, even visually.  There is also a control option that plays a bit more like today’s shooters, but as I attempted a play with them I found myself hiding back into the hole of the classic tank controls.  This may not be the case for you, but to me it appears that Resident Evil is truly only Resident Evil with those tank style controls.  It makes sense, once we had a first person perspective mode Metal Gear Solid just didn’t seem right in The Twin Snakes, am I right?

This game is hard.  Not impossible and I’m not going to compare it in any way to a certain set of games by From Software, but if you are careless about your surroundings and enemies it will cost you.  This often comes in the form of dying after you had gone on a 30-60 minute run and had to re-start a portion all over.  Not only that, but with the new items and locations throughout this game it can be harder to figure out what you’re looking for or what to do next to progress without consulting a guide – which I admit I had to do twice during the campaign and it made me roll my eyes both times I saw the solution.  Pixel hunting and finding that item on the shelf isn’t so bad with the original because I know exactly where everything is and what to do, but that’s not the case with this one and you may be searching for like an hour to find a power cell that’s tucked away in a corner somewhere.  All of these items result in a much longer play of the game.  It appears Jam beat it in 7 hours whereas I was more around the 11 hour mark – although to be fair I only died 2 or 3 times because I was constantly backtracking and saving like a scaredy-cat.  So play however works best for you.  I also noticed that with the difficulty ramp of the Jill campaign, which is the easier of the two and my personal recommendation for you to start with, I am very eager to jump right back in and tackle the Chris campaign.  That’s not normal for me with Resident Evil on the PS1.

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In the end this is a way to bring those exclusive Nintendo titles over to mainstream consoles and share them with the masses.  I’m not sure how popular this version will be, but Capcom has made it as cheap and easy to find as it can within reason – those Wii U complainers will probably be reminded that the Wii version works on their console.  If you’ve never played this version or wish to revisit it after all these years, the price and availability makes one of my favorite games of all time come back to life.  Thank you Capcom.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy and guidelines)

If you wish to see this game in action, feel free to check out our quick look.

Jam’s Take

Once again you have stepped into the world of survival horror, good luck.

remake_jamAs you may be aware I have been a Resident Evil fan from day one. Originally I rented the Playstation original from Blockbuster, I genuinely found the experience to be quite scary and difficult. Yes, the graphics on that version haven’t exactly aged well but the game itself still holds up as a solid but difficult survival horror game. I think I warmed more to Resident Evil 2 in the earlier days because it was a lot easier. Over time though I began to appreciate Resident Evil a lot more.

Resident Evil then received a very impressive remake on the Gamecube. This for some of us was the reason we purchased a GameCube. I remember playing this game late into the night and actually falling off my chair at some of the jump scares. Since Nintendo had a deal with Capcom at the time this version of Resident Evil would remain an exclusive title to Nintendo consoles. But of course time passes and Capcom needs money especially with increased financial pressure on the company. It was no surprise that we would eventually see Resident Evil finally get a release on other consoles including the PC.

remake_4Last year a new remastered version has been released and being the Resident Evil fanboy that I am, I was’nt whiling to wait a month for the digital only release in my own territory. So I imported  a physical copy for PS3 all the way from Hong Kong. Though this version is Biohazard, (the original Japanese title of the game). This review very much represents the digital releases.

Even though I have played the Resident Evil Remake multiple times on the Gamecube and even the Wii version it still felt utterly fantastic booting this game up again and playing through. The opening cutscene remains untouched in terms of graphical quality, but, once you head into that familiar Spencer mansion I was surprised how good the graphics looked compared to the Gamecube version.  The game runs at 30fps on the last gen consoles and looks fantastic. Character models look great and the pre rendered backgrounds look even more detailed than before, it feels like there is less of a fog on the screen. Then again I am now playing the game on a flat screen TV whereas before I was still using a CRT. I found myself just wandering around appreciating the environments as a Zombie was lowly slumping toward me.

remake_1The entire Resident Evil remake campaign remains unchanged. The developers have now offered a easy mode which is available right from the beginning of the game (before I think it was only available when you died multiple times on standard difficulty). The biggest inclusion to the package is the altered controls. Don’t panic if you want to play the game in its original vanilla form with the tank controls you can still do that. To appeal to a new audience the developers have offered an alternative control scheme. Unlike before where you would have to hold down a button to run  pushing on the left analogue stick will make Jill or Chris run in whatever direction you want. These controls really simplify the experience but it kinda takes the tension away. I personally avoided this because I am so used to the original controls, it just felt right that way.

Since the Gamecube lacked online support the HD Remaster has included online leader boards so you can see how ridiculously fast other people have finished the game. You can also compare your scores to your friends. Of course with this being on next gen systems the game also has trophy/achievements included.

remake_5Resident Evil is a survival horror game. Health items and ammo are limited and it’s greatly discouraged to kill every enemy. You have limited inventory space to carry items, so you have to choose your equipment wisely. You get to chose one of two characters Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. You are members of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) hired to investigate some suspicious murders in the mountains. Of course you end up finding a mansion where hell breaks loose and your only goal to to escape. If you want an easier game you’ll pick Jill, but it is encouraged to play both campaigns as the stories play out completely different. As you explore the mansion you will come across Zombies as well as other nasty creatures. In between surviving those experiences there are also puzzles to solve some of which by failing could lead to your death. If that wasn’t enough the game throws a fair few boss battles at you. Should you enter a specific room under prepared this may also lead to a cheap death. Dying is a common place in this game the first time through, it’ll probably take you around 7 hours. Once you have memorized the correct pattern and route you will soon find yourself speeding through once you know what to expect. Nothing beats that first time experience though. You can save but it is limited to the amount of ink ribbons you have in your inventory. I came across a problem here with my copy the game took a very long time to save the game. Whether this is a problem with the import copy or my own PS3 console I’m not sure but looking at footage online it didn’t appear others were having this issue.

Unlike the original game on Playstation the remake does make a lot of changes to the game. For starters unless you get lucky and blow the head clean off a zombie the bodies don’t disappear. In fact if you don’t dispose of them properly they return again from the dead as the more threatening Crimson Heads which can kill in just a few hits. As well as that it is not uncommon for Zombies to bust down doors and follow you into other rooms practically forcing you to fight them.

My favourite part about the remake by far is how it surprises those that have even played the Playstation game to death. Certain memorable scenes will not play out the way you remember them. The puzzles in the game have also been re-worked so even though you may remember what you need to do, the solution now plays out completely different.

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All the audio has been rerecorded for the game in Japanese and English depending on your preference. Since this is the remake there are no infamous ‘Jill Sandwich,’ lines which I kinda miss from the game. The voice acting and script is actually fine in the game. The use of sound in this game is excellent. Your footsteps will change as you run from carpet to marble floor. Lightening will occasionally fire off as you run past windows and on many occasions you’ll feel like you heard something in the dark distance but will just dread investigating further.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is a great horror title. Fans of the series will find reason to buy this again despite it being the same experience on the Gamecube (and Wii). The game still looks incredible and was a joy to playthrough again even though I am very familiar with the experience. Despite the inclusion of a simple control scheme and easier mode this probably still won’t appeal to the mass gamers. If the original Resident Evil games were not your cup of tea this new update will hardly convince you to have another go. If your new to the series and love horror games this however is a must buy.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

Now lets have a moments silence for the S.T.A.R.S members we lost during this game.

Resident Evil HD Remaster will be available tomorrow, January 20, on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $19.99.  This release is digital only.  The 360/PS3 version runs at native 720p 30 frames per second (720p30fps) and the Playstation 4/XB1/PC version runs at native 1080p 60 frames per second (1080p60fps).  Content is identical in both versions.  The reviewers purchased advanced box copies from Asia, where the game released back in November, for this review.  If you’re interested in this version, visit play-asia.com.  This site and review have no ties to the Play-Asia web site.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Now & Then: God of War 1 and 2

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God of War feels like a series that just exploded in popularity but has now been lost in the gaming community abyss. Last year the God of War Collection (featuring the first two games in the series) was released to the Playstation Vita to such a poor reception that a lot of friends were generally surprised it was actually released. Then again the same group of friends were gob smacked that Borderlands 2 also came out on the Vita. Now, it could be argued that this lack of enthusiasm may be due to the lack of interest in the Playstation Vita. But forgotten or not, I’ve played through both God of War games so it’s time to see how they hold up today.

gowhydraI was originally a massive fan of the very first God of War game on PS2. When I was first introduced to the game by a friend I got so into it we played through the entire game together in one single sitting, something that I rarely do with a video game. We spent a lot of the experience just gob smacked by how the PS2 was able to include great graphics and set pieces. Of course a lot of the great visuals are attributed to a fixed camera control and the set pieces being controlled entirely by quick time events (a feature I’m glad has started to disappear in the gaming industry). The game felt like a breath of fresh air. Although the game did not introduce a completely original experience it seemed to take elements that worked with other games like an anti hero storyline, hack and slash gameplay and upgrading your character with orbs. The game was not perfect, even for the time people criticised some of the challenging sections in the game most notably the infamous Hades area where you had to get pass various traps and obstacles. If you were hit just once you died instantly, leading to some massive gamer rage grinding your enjoyable experience to a complete halt. What made God of War stand out at the time was the epic adventure, where you travel into areas no man can supposedly enter (and the game clearly displays this by having dead bodies littered everywhere). You really felt like you were on this impossible quest. Every time you beat a gigantic boss or got pass a deadly trap you really felt a sense of achievement. The bosses were also enormous like the infamous hydra, a fantastic way to open the game and a design feature that seemed to carry over to all future games in the series as well. The game was well received by critics and gamers so it pretty much guaranteed a sequel. The developers seemed confident of this as well as the message “Kratos will return,” appears once the credits have finished at the end of the experience.

gow2It was no surprise that I was anticipating God of War 2 on PS2 even though it was released very late in the life cycle. The game was very much the same experience as the first just with a new story and new weapons (although I never used these I always stuck with the blades). You were once again tasked with another impossible quest. For some reason I found this experience quite bland. Although there were small changes to the gameplay, with new magic spells and new outrageous set pieces. For example, flying on a griffin then jumping onto an enemy one, cutting its wings off and leaping back onto your own. However, it really just felt like more of the same. I think what really disappointed me was the ending, which for the time did what we called a “Halo 2” where it ends on a crappy cliffhanger. I don’t know why but for the time this sort of ending really pissed me off and lead me to avoid God of War 3 on PS3 for quite some time, just because I was acting childish about it. This didn’t stop God of War 2 receiving massive critical praise and selling very well despite its late release.


gow2_vsRevisiting the first game on the Vita was quite a pleasant experience. The in game graphics having been polished up look fantastic on the OLED screen. The game visually looks surprisingly similar to the HD version on the PS3. A notable problem is the cutscenes in the game have not been given the same graphical upgrade. In the original game the cutscenes merged very well with the in game graphics so it almost looked the same. In the HD versions the cutscenes look blurry and worse than the in game graphics. Consequently taking you out of the immersion of the game. This same problem is present in the second game as well. Of course since the poor Vita lacks the extra buttons on a PS2 controller it does mean buttons have been mapped to the touch screen. But you may be pleased to hear they really don’t effect the experience. The back touch pad is only used to open chests, save and interact with objects of interest. The front screen maps two additional abilities which work very well. After playing the God of War games on PSP its refreshing to have the game use two analogue sticks again, something very few PSVita games require with it’s limited library. I was quite surprised that I still got stuck occasionally. God of War likes to throw the odd puzzle section at you and some of them are head scratchers. The rage quit moments are still just as awful to play through if not worse on a portable. One area in particular (the trials of Hades to be specific) has a section where you have to navigate across balance beams and it requires pin point precision, getting touched by a moving blade or falling leads to an instant death. I spent ages here, almost to the extent that I almost quit the game for good. It’s these dreadful sections why most people get put off the series.

gow2_bridgeUpon playing God of War 2 I actually enjoyed it a lot more the second time. Unlike the first game, I haven’t replayed the second game since the PS2. So I was able to enjoy the game for what it was. Though the game still has those moments where you just want to throw the portable across the room (the worst here being the section where the bridge is collapsing and you have to swing to escape). I guess I got more into the story this time through. The first game plays out like a greek tragedy, the second game is basically Kratos being an ass and wanting things his own way (this solidified his anti hero status with the series moving forward). God of War 2 unlike the first has a new game plus feature and just like the last time I played the game on the PS2, I started playing the game again with all my abilities unlocked and just lost interest really quick. The game just lacks any form of challenge in new game plus and is only worth playing if you want to unlock everything. A surprising omission from God of War 2 on the Vita is the game lacks any trophy support, though I understand trophies serve no purpose but for bragging points, it was weird that I unlocked trophies in the first game but not the second. Also trophy support is so common in games nowadays its hard to ignore when it isn’t present.

gow_sagaI really would only recommend God of War on the Vita if you feel you must absolutely have the game on the go. Since the majority of my gaming is done on the go I tend to warm to games like this, but I’m very aware I’m in the minority. If you want the most God of War in HD for your buck the best buy by far is the five game collection called God of War Saga, which is only available in America (it includes all three core games and the two PSP games) – however, if you have a PS3 you can play any region game regardless of where you live, the game is still available very cheap to this day.  Overall, God of War is one of those series to me that I still think out did itself on the first game and ever since then just hasn’t really evolved It hasn’t stopped me buying each iteration but let’s just say my expectations of the new game in development are not high.

Written by jamalais

January 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Review: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition

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Earlier this week I posted a review on All Games for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers completely redone by creator Jane Jensen’s own Pinkerton Road studio.  For fans of the original or those that have never experienced one of the best examples of the point-and-click adventure genre, this version may well be worth checking out.  Click here to be taken to the review.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: NES Remix

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Despite all the piracy and archival purposes of emulation, my personal favorite addition to the gaming landscape was the ROM hack.  ROMs are the name for the entire program contained on a game cartridge and so naturally a “ROM hack” is taking a game we all know and love and changing it.  Nintendo hasn’t really dabbled in this until now – sure, the 1994 World Championship cart and a few SNES competition carts exist, but they are rare and thus hugely expensive.  NES Remix takes 16 established early games from the legendary 8-bit system (listed at the bottom of this review) and runs you through a series of challenges to compete with yourself, your friends on the couch, or the world online.  While it’s mostly just a derivative of WarioWare, this has to be one of the most addictive games for someone who grew up playing the NES.

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From the first series of challenges you can tell that NES Remix is based on the hardest parts of games, most advanced tactics, and interestingly enough exploits and secrets.  You may be tasked with defeating a dragon in The Legend of Zeldaafter which you need to jump three barrels in the opening level of Donkey Kong, and finally racking up 10 1-ups at the end of level 3-1 in Super Mario Broswith the bouncing turtle trick.  That’s the thing about NES Remix, it really hearkens back to your childhood and acts as nostalgia in a simple 10 second package.  In addition, there are “remix” levels where the hacks really come out to play.  You may need to beat the first level of Donkey Kong as Link from Zelda or play a level of Mario Bros in shadows, all of which are odd but fun mix-and-matching that appreciate the core of ROM hacking.  At the same time this also means it’s going to be tough to justify if you didn’t grow up in this era.  The NES is old.  Like, almost 30 years “old”, and I’m curious how many of the millions of NES gamers have returned to the Wii U for a title like this.  In order to properly appreciate this you can’t be much younger than 30 or much older than 40, so it is quite the limited audience.  Countless times within these challenges my wife, who participated as well, would ask me how I knew where the 1-up mushroom was, where the vine was, how to beat Dodongo (Legend of Zelda reference), or how I knew the 3-1 trick I mentioned earlier.  My answer was simple and unforgiving: I grew up with it.

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What was playground legend, something straight out of The Wizard, or a super secret reveal in Nintendo Power is now the rule set for NES Remix, which puts any newcomer or even 16-bit era gamer at a severe disadvantage.  On that same note the lack of explanation to the tasks you’re being asked will often times throw you as well.  Along with the console, these games are old.  Most will recognize and know Donkey KongSuper Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, but how many of those people know the secrets and inner workings of Ice Climber or Balloon Fight?  This makes it difficult to perform the task being asked of you, especially given that none of these games offer instruction manuals or pre-challenge environments with the original game.  There is a video that somewhat explains the tasks at hand – I’m sure Nintendo would also recommend you downloading each game that is conveniently available in one or multiple virtual console iterations – but it’s a basic overview for challenges that are high level.  Again, for me this was no big deal, I was soaking up any game I could get my hands on back in 1987 so I’m acutely familiar with these titles, but even my cousin of only five fewer years knew almost none of these games.  It’s makes for an obtuse combination that I still think best fits those that know the games.

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Therein lies the rub of how to properly review, recommend, and score this title.  While I admit this review is a bit more of a debate and conversation with the reader as to what fits best, I can’t possibly see how you can be all-encompassing with a game like NES Remix.  This title is early NES in a bottle that enjoys, appreciates, and challenges the gamers of those glory golden era titles when Nintendo ruled supreme and video games were no longer a passing fad.  Given my personal past I have no choice but to view this title through the eyes of a gamer who grew up with these games and spent endless hours trying to conquer each one.  For someone like me, NES Remix is a breath of fresh air that takes a handful of classics and allows me to replay them in bite sized challenges that I can’t seem to walk away from.  Not only are these the classic games, but the new (albeit bare bones) challenges allows me to re-visit the past without completing the same task from the last 29 years.  In short, I can’t put this game down, and once I’ve completed all 200 challenges (I’m somewhere in the upper 170s with all challenges unlocked), I’m going to go back to get 3 stars and possibly even try to beat my previous times for each.  While it’s not for everyone, and probably has a more niche audience than you would expect, NES Remix is one of those core games that retro enthusiasts need to download the moment they get a Wii U.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Games in NES Remix:  Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., DonkeyKong 3, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros, Pinball, Super Mario Bros, Tennis, The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion, Wrecking Crew.

NES Remix was purchased on the Wii U eshop for $14.99 and the reviewer was not given a review code.  It has been played for approximately seven hours at the time of writing.  This title is only available on the Wii U and only digitally via eshop.

Review: Strider (2014)

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strider_boxYet another in a long line of modern re-hashes on cult favorites, I went into Strider with a bit more optimism than than other titles to date.  Aside from spruced up graphics the game appeared to be faithful to the arcade original, which my retrospective and the podcast last week contested is the best iteration of the series.  Couple that with the development being handled by Double Helix – a very popular developer with success not only in Killer Instinct 3, but also was purchased by Amazon for an unannounced project – and the open map MetroidVania game design, things were shaping up to success.  Having completed the game, I must admit that just like the anomaly of the original, Strider is a melting pot of prior series staples that gets it right from start to finish.

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The scale of the overall world is massive and can be stunning.

If you sit still too long in the original arcade game, you will die.  Best laid plans are to push forward (ie: to the right) and just attack anything in your path while trying not to fall off a ledge.  In the new game that theme is aggressively applied with herds of enemies so thick they will literally be a blocking point for you at times in the game.  As a member of the Strider clan, Hiryu is able to cut down most adversaries with the greatest of ease and the balance between enemy hit points and his acrobatic abilities result in a fast paced romp.  I never had down time in Strider and felt like a masterful ninja with frantic but controlled moves as I navigated the game’s massive map.  While I can concede to the basic MetroidVania label, I would say the game more closely resembles Rondo of Blood rather than the hybrid genre.  Even when you have a full moves list at your disposal these hiding places are more off the beaten path rather than the wide open areas you uncover in other titles of the genre.  What results is a game that is more linear than anything else, and despite it being a huge map the development team broke it up into different areas complete with a boss battle and new weapon at the core, so basically it’s just like having levels that you can return to.  Strider is no stranger to this method of map design, the original NES title was quite similar and a small following prefer it to the traditional “run to the right” design of the arcade title.  In the end I grew tired of looking too hard for too much because I was having such a blast following the marker to the next step of the main mission that I played it exactly like a linear game.

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Two bosses on opposing sides are no problem for Hiryu.

You will get many weapons and abilities and the pacing is a great way to teach you how to utilize and master each moveset before adding another.  While it probably would look hokey in real life, across the course of the game you go from being a basic jump and slash ninja to a masterful warrior that confidently charges into anything in his path.  While I feel the different plasmas were a foolish way to gate off areas throughout the campaign, there’s no denying the cool nature of them.  With each new plasma comes a new ability for your throwing weapon, the Kunai, that allows the 5-item spread shot to either bounce off walls, set explosives, or even freeze enemies, and assists in maximizing your options for dispatching the little guys that stand in your way.  When it comes to the bosses, however, you will instead be using Cypher techniques to deal the biggest bang for your buck.  These special moves cross the screen and deliver massive amounts of damage, which can be used against basic enemies but the recharge rate is slowed to the point that I never found myself doing it throughout the campaign whereas some bosses cannot even be hurt unless you unleash the technique.  I have to say that boss battles were quite hit or miss.  Some wanted you to utilize a bombardment of blind attacks while avoiding getting hit while others wanted you to learn pattern and techniques that weren’t referenced at all – thankfully someone in QA must have noticed this because a prompt will show on the screen telling you how to overcome them if you’re not getting it.  Strider’s past in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise definitely assisted both the gameplay and art department in how he has been customized and frankly I think the game is better for it.

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Look like anyone you remember?

There is still no denying the fact that Strider was utilized for this game in hopes that nostalgia will garner interest, which is best proved by the fact that I think this style of game has better examples like 2009’s Shadow Complex or even 2012’s Dust: An Elysian Tail.  If you’re familiar with the original in the least you will recognize the familiar setting in a socialist Eastern European land, cold mechanical cyberpunk aesthetic, and great new renderings of familiar faces.  It almost seems as if the Double Helix design team sat in a room with a list of things they loved about the other three games (we don’t recognize Strider Returns as cannon at this site) and in the end walked away with all of them still on the list.  I can’t tell you how new but also similar the game looks and feels in comparison to the original, which is now almost 25 years old, but yet how fun it all is.  I describe the dichotomy of the original being both empowering and brutally difficult and how that was somehow fun back then and now the dichotomy of how this title is both a recycling of the old game and an integration of emerging contemporary genres – it’s not supposed to work, but yet it does.  You will enjoy this game whether you’re familiar with Strider or not, but to have played the original, especially recently, enhances your enjoyment.  I still think it’s a shame that the PSN release of Strider 2 from the original Playstation (which included the original arcade game as well) doesn’t seem to be happening because that would couple this release perfectly.

On paper Strider isn’t doing anything new in the least and the combining of old concepts with a new reboot really reeks of a cash grab.  To my surprise this title feels like anything but, with enough care given to the look and feel that it’s really just a faithful recreation of the original (sans difficulty curve, thank God).  As I try to get hung up on or nitpick the faults there just aren’t enough and to a degree that it really matters.  At $15 the 4-6 hour campaign, which probably doubles if you find everything, is just a ton of fun.  The variety, scale, and clean coding makes for an experience that just works and sets no lofty expectations.  I kind of wish more games came in a package like this because it’s the perfect package for anyone and appeals to everyone.

Final Score: 4/5  (Review Guidelines can be found here)

Strider was provided by the publisher via review code on the Playstation 4.  It is available for $14.99 on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, PS4, Remakes, Reviews, Xbox 360, Xbox One

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Podcast: Guardian Heroes Game Club

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This week we are joined by Horseplay podcast’s Yogi Lopez (@Yogizilla) and freelance retro writer Jam (@Jamalais) to discuss Sega’s gem for the Saturn Guardian Heroes.  A surprisingly deep hack-and-slash with RPG elements and even a fully controlled NPC, this title ushered out 2D sprites and a genre that was much beloved in the early-to-mid 1990s.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: DuckTales Remastered

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dt_remast_boxRelease Date: August 13, 2013
Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Capcom
Price: $14.99
Platforms: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), WiiU (eShop), PC (Steam)

Most HD remakes require a certain degree of love for the original game, especially when you consider a brunt of them just increase the resolution on lower quality assets.  In the case of NES classic DuckTales, this doesn’t really apply.  It was a stunning game that had few flaws when placed up against other titles of its time.  There was much work to do bringing it into modern times and if you are going to do this type of upgrade while still retaining sprites, WayForward is probably the best equipped for the job.  The visual result is spectacular, justifying the somewhat melodramatic title of Remastered in a mere screenshot.  Unfortunately it seems the team was so focused on keeping the aesthetics intact that they spent little time on gameplay.  As a result DuckTales Remastered is a title that will tug at your nostalgic heartstrings before crushing them under the minor, but significant, tweaks of this modernization.

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If you aren’t familiar with WayForward’s previous works, they have grown a reputation for bringing back the past with hand drawn sprites integrated into contemporary gameplay.  It is an astronomical cost in both work and resources, but I have been impressed with everything they have provided before (Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, and Bloodrayne Betrayal to name a few).  Not only that, but this developer has also shown striking success with licensed products as well, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Aliens: Infestation are must plays, so I felt that with Capcom and Disney at its back this was a match made in heaven.  Upon starting up the game it looks like all the time and money sure paid off.  It’s like the cartoon came to life, with solid animation that looks like it leaped off the cells of an animator’s sketchpad.  Environments are bright and beautiful, re-creating the worlds from the NES counterpart to perfectly adjust for “nostalgia goggles” (ie: what your mind remembers of a game versus what it really looks like today).  Touched up with all of the original voice actors and not a flat performance in the bunch, I can’t imagine how this title could ever demo poorly, especially if your previewers aren’t playing.  In terms of visual and audio appeal, WayForward knocked it out of the park.

dt_remast_3Then comes the gameplay, which is where the whole project falls apart.  The technical complication with such gorgeous sprites is that collision detection cannot be properly determined and therefore hit boxes are utilized.  WayForward has always struggled with this on big screen console games, although the portable outings, whether by the benefit of low resolution or smaller screens, don’t seem to suffer the same fate.  When you couple that with the dexterity and precision that DuckTales requires, it can get quite frustrating when Scrooge falls right through a massive boss, receives damage, and puts him right in the pattern to get hit again.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if you hadn’t just played a 20-30 minute level for the forth time, which in contrast had almost none of the challenge these boss encounters or late dexterity tests do, and had to skip through dozens of annoying cutscenes along the way.  Furthermore Scrooge’s jumps and pogos seem a little off, feeling floaty and imprecise when compared to the much older version.  I know many of you readers may scoff at this statement, claiming Scrooge seems to control perfectly with no awkwardness to his movement at all. If you’re comparing it to today’s games, sure, but when you play the NES version and this version back to back, the pixel-counting detail we used to commit to games simply doesn’t hold up in Remastered.  I heard of pogo issues from other reviewers, but I must admit that I didn’t have any problems.  That’s not to say that the game doesn’t perform like an ideal update 90 percent of the time, but in this particular case the devil is in the details.

dt_remast_1Put it all together and you have a game that looks, sounds, and presents itself as the best gift a retro gamer could receive, but after a few hours you’re left hurt and heartbroken.  This truly proves that the best graphics and sound in the world cannot hide the fact that if a game doesn’t play right, it just isn’t enjoyable.  Normally I side with WayForward’s titles, appreciating the full presentation despite the weak collision and amped difficulty, but in the case of DuckTales Remastered I just cannot ignore the flaws.  It’s not difficult in the way old games were meant to be – you would replay frustrating obstacles in an attempt to perfect your run – this whole high risk high reward at a mere boss battle or new area isn’t difficulty, it’s developer trickery.  Still, there is an audience for this game and assuming you can commit to hours of working your way through the levels and overcoming the annoying gameplay tweaks it can be one rewarding accomplishment.  Perhaps I don’t have the time or patience to learn a game inside and out, not for difficulty but rather for flaws, in order to see that coveted game ending.  As a retro gamer my heart tells me I wanted a remake like this – and I can’t stress enough that if WayForward working with Capcom couldn’t pull it off, there aren’t many other options – but now that I’ve tasted the finished product I’m feeling that perhaps the gems of the past should remain that way.

Final Score: 2 out of 5   Please see our review policy for how games are scored and what each score means.

DuckTales Remastered was played via a review copy provided by Capcom and was tested on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms.  I played for approximately seven hours and was unable to complete the game at this time.  A majority of the game was played on medium, however this was adjusted to both easy and hard to assist in determining differences in difficulty. 

Written by Fred Rojas

August 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Podcast: Me Money Bin

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This week Fred and Trees are discussing Capcom’s Disney games.  In the 8-bit era Capcom received the Disney license and created a little game called DuckTales based on the popular Saturday morning cartoon.  Not only was it a mass success, but it was an excellent game that gave way to a whole slew of 8-bit and 16-bit gems on Nintendo and Sega consoles.


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Written by Fred Rojas

August 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

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Originally hitting arcades back in 1993, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom was quite the oddity.  It prominently featured gameplay similar to that of its other brawler brethren, specifically the combat system of Final Fight mixed with the license quality of titles like The Simpsons, but also with the added benefit of being part of the complex D&D story.  Not only was the game addictive but mild RPG elements, power-ups, and branching paths that had you etching a unique campaign were almost unheard of in arcades.  Unfortunately this gameplay style and a long branching campaign required two important things: time and money.  It probably costs somewhere between $5-$10 in quarters to conquer the first game, and probably twice that to take on the sequel Shadow Over Mystara and at least an hour of your time.  As it stood, I never completed this game as a child, either due to lack of time or money, and I always wondered how fun it would be to have this title at home.  Well finally Capcom has decided to bring this classic arcade duo in digital format and finally give free rein to a pair of arcade games that are among my favorite of all time.

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As for the games themselves, they haven’t changed much.  You get unlimited credits, all of the gameplay straight from the arcade, and both games in one.  Not only that, but Capcom has integrated a sort of save system that remembers each level as you complete it.  This is a great benefit over the arcade version because it’s hard to find 1-2 hours (or more depending on how much playing you want to do) without interruption, so now you can quit anytime and pick up at the beginning of the level you left off.  Additionally the controls are left untouched, the four face buttons of whatever platform you choose relates directly to the original 4-buttons of the arcade and I was pleased to see my fight stick gave the game that true arcade feel.  A front end menu system not unlike the ones recently seen in Darkstalkers Resurrection provides a collection of all the loot that can be collected in a checklist format, plenty of challenges to activate as you play, a mostly useless leveling system based on completion of the overall collection, and unlockable art and content.  It all bundles the collection into a nice package for those that enjoyed it in the past.

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Not only did Capcom bring both games together, but it has plenty of additional options to tweak the gameplay to your liking.  Whether you prefer the world of smooth, slick modern visuals or want to try to capture that old school arcade feel the options are there for you.  Display resolutions are available in traditional 4:3 boxed versions, a widescreen perspective, a stretched mode for full screen, and even three arcade views including a zoomed out over-the-shoulder view of the original 4-player dual cabinet.  I don’t know why anyone would want to view the game that way, but now you can at the press of a button.  You can also toggle scanlines, make the graphics smooth or sharp, and even have a modern type bezel art that shows you how close you are to completing challenges.  With online capabilities you now have drop-in drop-out co-op play for up to four people, which can be as open or limited as you choose.  Some of the aforementioned unlocked bonus content is the ability to have mods in the game such as regenerating health or unbreakable equipment, which can make the game more amusing when trying to do a speed run or assisting someone else.  There are even passive options like seeing stats on your friends, leaderboards, and even the ability to make spell and equipment selections on the gamepad in the WiiU version.  While I honestly think the visual options are the only true necessary extra, I was pleased to see that although an inexpensive HD re-release, this wasn’t thrown together.

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To this day I still love Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons games to the point that I dropped around $50 to import the Japan-only Saturn port of this collection long ago.  Now it’s fully localized and available without any sacrifice to the gameplay and at a much lower price.  If you are a fan of arcade games, the D&D universe, or brawlers you definitely need to check out one of the most impressive sprite-based arcade titles to ever release.  Now I may actually get to explore all of the various alternate routes and branching paths thanks to an unlimited amount of credits and time.  Despite the fact that Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara does little more than bring back the two arcade titles to home consoles, the games themselves justify the purchase even if they were nothing more than direct ports of the original.  Thank you Capcom, now my collection of favorite license-based brawler titles is nearly complete.

This title is available for $15 starting today on PSN and Steam, with the XBLA version going live tomorrow.  No information was given on the upcoming WiiU digital release.  A review copy of this title was provided with the main campaign of both games totaling about two and a half hours.  We played approximately six hours of gameplay for this review including online and offline co-op and several replays of the campaigns. 

Written by Fred Rojas

June 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

Review: Darkstalkers Resurrection

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Capcom has continued to make its library as available as possible to the masses, especially when it comes to arcade re-releases from decades passed. This generation marks the first where old school arcade titles can be re-released at low prices, individually, with visual filters, online play, and perform exactly as they did in the arcade. Granted, it’s still a pain to figure out how to find each of these titles – a perfect example being Capcom Arcade Cabinet, which provides several of Capcom’s classic coin-ops that would seem to include Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers – but let’s face it, some games are much more marketable than others. The newest of this tradition is Darkstalkers Resurrection, an HD re-release of sorts, that covers the second and third titles in a series that never quite made a faithful translation to American households.

Night Warriors with smoothing filters on

Night Warriors with smoothing filters on

As for the games themselves, they are not covered in this review so see our Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Darkstalkers 3 coverage respectively, and then continue on. I am aware that a nearly arcade perfect port of Night Warriors did release in the US on the Sega Saturn and Darkstalkers 3 was decent in its US version on the Playstation (and PSOne digital store currently), but I hardly think these platforms, especially if you want both titles, are the best and easiest way to play these games. Furthermore they are not without specific tech-based flaws – mostly visual on the Saturn and gameplay on the Playstation – and Darkstalkers 3 was so updated and altered in the home port that it’s barely the original arcade game. Putting all that aside, with the recent resurgence of the fighter genre, many hardcore fans have fight sticks or specific fighter game pads on their newest consoles that a 360/PS3 version can support. Capcom has also decided to keep this title digital only in the US, which also accounts for the low price point that is much more affordable than the 4,000 yen ($45) disc version in Japan. Now that this game’s presence is thoroughly justified, I must commend Capcom for treating a classic re-release with so much care because Darkstalkers Resurrection is the definitive way to play these games at home.

Darkstalkers Resurrection in the "over the shoulder" cabinet view

Darkstalkers Resurrection in the “over the shoulder” cabinet view

Within each game you have the option to customize your control scheme, which is pre-set to the setup that almost all contemporary fighters use, but it was nice to see you can swap things around. Then it’s time to enter the gameplay options, namely the visual options, where you can get as old school or modern as you like. I was able to turn on smoothing and high textures to make the game look more like a modern cell shaded look and beautifully updated the graphics to something more pleasing to modern day eyes. Those that are hardcore retro enthusiasts can also bring it back to original or even super sharp settings, assuring that every line, sprite, and graphic are isolated like a cartoon drawing. Of course you can adjust the screen to everything from the classic 4:3 arcade cabinet view at the cost of screen real estate, or you can stretch it out to a wide view that fills your large HDTV at the sacrifice of having short, chubby fighters. Couple this with smoothing options, the ability to add scanlines, and just about every other visual filter you’ve come to appreciate in MAME and you can see Darkstalkers in whatever form you feel is best. Capcom also added some interesting perspectives like viewing the game as if you’re looking over the shoulder of another player at an angle; unnecessary but interesting. The emulation is spot on, a crucial feature when dealing with a game as time intensive as a fighter, and you will swear you’re playing the arcade as the game responds with pinpoint accuracy and on par with the smoothest framerates on the market. Even online play benefits from Iron Galaxy’s hit-or-miss track record in this generation with identical fights both online and offline, assuming you both have a solid connection and ping rate. Audio isn’t much of a factor these days unless you’re attempting to mimic complex sound chips that the typical Capcom CP2 title did not have, so the game sounds just as faithful as it looks.

Darkstalkers Resurrection doesn’t just bring these two arcade classics to you without throwing in some bonuses. Like many other arcade fighter re-releases, this title has received the Street Fighter IV treatment with an in-depth tutorial mode that explains the basics, advanced mechanics, and key points to obliterating your foes online. Additionally there are options to spectate online games, a staple at this point, but also a useful mode to upload your in-game replay onto YouTube for fast bragging rights to your best matches, no capture card required. Most significant of these new features is an in-game challenge system that constantly has you performing little in-game tricks to gain XP for unlocking extra content in the game’s vault. These tricks are as simple as “play one match” or “shoot five projectiles” and as long term as winning 50 total rounds. These different challenges have an addictive carrot-on-a-stick methodology to them as they pop up randomly on the sides of the screen – I wasn’t able to find a full list, they just show up in a consistent stream every few seconds – that I was distracted from the overall goal of winning the round or beating the game in the interest of getting my next 5 XP. I’m quite a ways from completing every challenge an unlocking everything, but extras I’ve found so far include concept art, development information, and even videos. It’s just another way to keep you coming back to play this game when you’ve got brief downtime and has an instant satisfaction that the longer termed achievements/trophies don’t provide.

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Darkstalkers 3  also with smoothing on

Darkstalkers was a series of games that provided a cartoon gothic aesthetic to the Street Fighter II formula but also functioned as a test platform for unique twists on the genre. If you weren’t an arcade fighting fan in the mid-to-late 90s, it’s quite possible these titles passed you by without so much as an afterthought. Now that they are back hopefully a whole new generation can play and appreciate the genuine appeal of this franchise. While Capcom made the decision not to include the original or the “remixed” versions of the third title (those are covered in our reviews, linked above), these are the two entries in the series that have fans divided as much as the debate over which title is better, Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3. If you are a fan of modern day fighters, especially from Capcom, you need to pick up this amazing collection that documents an experimental period that made way for many of the staples in modern day fighters.

Darkstalkers Resurrection is available on XBLA and PSN for $15/1200 MS points. A review copy was provided to the site and we completed both games multiple times, including online matches, for a total play time of approximately 8 hours.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

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