Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Archive for the ‘3DO’ Category

Policenauts Review

leave a comment »

policenauts_boxPlatform: PC-9821, 3DO, Playstation, Saturn (Japan Only)
Released: 1994-1996 (depending on platform, Japan Only)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? No
Price: Unavailable, game never sold in US or UK

Fred’s Take

Building off of what Kojima had started in Snatcher, I feel that Policenauts is an attempt to revise the mistakes and setbacks of that original attempt and create a spiritual successor that flows more like a game.  Technically, I guess that’s what Policenauts is, unfortunately the solution appears to be making it a point-and-click adventure and adding in more (and more frustrating) shooting sequences.  While I have to commend the efforts by having a more genuine story – although the similarities to the first two Lethal Weapon films is undeniable – that flows naturally and keeps you intrigued, this game has so many walls to break through to get to that story that it’s best read in a walkthrough or watched on YouTube.  For this reason, and the countless other reasons that prevent most of us outside of a Japanese speaking region, I can’t recommend Policenauts as a coveted loss treasure we never got.

policenauts_1This title is as 90s action as it comes with a trash-talking young detective, a near-retirement aging partner, and a whole lot of explosions and shooting.  Initially you are introduced to Jonathan Ingram, a former police astronaut (policenaut) of the first space colony Beyond Coast, that was lost in space for 25 years and has now returned to Los Angeles two and a half decades younger than everyone he left behind.  This includes is wife, who as the story begins has long abandoned him, remarried, and now has a daughter Ingram’s age, and his former partner Ed Brown who sits behind a desk as a forgotten head of the Beyond Coast PD vice squad.  The entire game is based around finding the husband of Ingram’s ex-wife Lorraine, who works as a salesmen and scientist for the Tokugawa Pharmaceutical company.  Jonathan reluctantly takes the case, heads to Beyond Coast, and attempts to solve the mystery with the help of Ed, which almost immediately transforms into Lethal Weapon.  There’s a lot more to the story, but frankly story is all this game has going for it.

policenauts_2Unlike Snatcher the shooting sequences are free form, intended for the use of a mouse as it was originally developed for the NEC PC-9821, an early Intel 386 microcomputer in Japan.  Most ports are on consoles, and although it supports mice on those consoles, mouse accessories are extremely rare and expensive these days and no light gun support except for the definitive Saturn version.  As a result, the shooting portions become your biggest roadblock to seeing this game to the end.  If you are playing in English, which most of us US/UK gamers need to, there is only one fan translation available and it’s for the Playstation.  This means that if you play on real hardware, which I attempted to, it’s going to be near impossible to find a mouse and it’ll be riddled with bugs and glitches that will randomly freeze the game on a regular basis.  Unless a Saturn translation, which does support light guns, ever sees the light of day there is no reason not play this game on an emulator with your mouse returning as the ideal input device.  Even then, you will find the shooting sequences to be frustrating tests of skill that seem counter to the type of person who will play a point-and-click adventure and resulting in frustration over lost time.  Please make use of save states like Jam and I did, there’s no reason to feel like less than a gamer at the expense of getting stuck 10 hours into a 12 hour game.  I should also take this time to point out that Kojima still doesn’t know how to split up a game because out of 7 acts, a prologue, and an epilogue, the split is 6-7 hours for Acts 1 and 2 and about 5-6 hours for the rest of the game.  These are all the obstacles you have to accept and overcome, but in doing so results in a zany tale mixed with just enough science fiction and humor to keep me hooked.

policenauts_3Much like Snatcher before it, your enjoyment of this game is directly related to your interest in the story.  If you were a fan of 90s action films or hybrid science fiction to the likes of Terminator or even Demolition Man, it’s not hard to hold your attention with this guided buddy cop drama.  While it may seem it at first, this game does not take itself seriously and thus Kojima and his team were able to have some fun with the events that unfold.  Sometimes it works, like when Jonathan eats Beyond Coast food for the first time or the discovery of what’s really going on with Tokugawa Corporation, and other times it really falls flat for me like the numerous times you’ll be grabbing boob and slapping butt.  Oh well, I guess I can chalk it up to the quirky perversions of a writer and developer that definitely thinks outside the box.  It may not be as easy to ingest as Snatcher, but there’s value hidden under Policenauts’ initial barrier to entry.

Final Score: 3 out of 5    (review policy)

Jam’s Take

Yes, that’s right, Hideo Kojima did actually make another game that wasn’t part of the ever growing Metal Gear Solid series. I originally didn’t even know Policenauts was a game, I just thought it was some anime production Kojima had a hand in. Unlike Snatcher, this game failed to capture a cult following in the west.

policenauts_4In Policenauts you play as the blue haired mullet private detective known as Jonathan who is struggling to find a case to get stuck into. Fortunately for Jonathan his ex-wife comes knocking and now Jonathan is on a mission to look for her missing husband Hanzo Kojo. What follows is story full of various twists and turns along with another set of colourful characters complete with excessive back stories. Initially I had some interest in the story there appeared to be this intriguing mystery behind what was going on. To my disappointment the story (which is the biggest draw to this game) failed to maintain my interest. Some of the twists and turns in the plot were just far too predictable especially if you have played other Kojima games. I also didn’t find the character of Jonathan particularly likeable, his drive to continue his investigation seemed questionable, at times he was far more interested in ogling random womens’ boobies than actually pushing forward. I spent most of the game thinking it would’ve been a lot more interesting to following the plot from the prospective of Jonathan’s old partner Ed, who appears to have the most interesting back story of all the characters in this game. I couldn’t help but think there was a missed opportunity for Ed to make an “I’m too old for this shit,” line but I guess we can’t have everything.

policenauts_5At this stage of the review you may be questioning why am I critiquing this game like a film. Well friend, it’s because that’s practically what Policenauts is, a nice but long twelve hour story experience. Of course there is a little more than just sitting and watching the game. For the majority of the gameplay you will be pointing and clicking on options, look at this, investigate that, show something to a character, etc. The game is a very linear experience, you will enter one area carry out an investigation and move on. If you’ve not gained the correct information from the scene you are investigating your character will inform you. This proved quite useful as it prevents the usual travelling around clicking on everything in an attempt to advance the story only to have you give up and use a walkthrough. It still doesn’t change the fact though that you will be spending a lot of time constantly clicking on various options until the story finally advances. A lot of the time you will know the solution but because your not playing the game the way it wants you to play it, it can become a rather dull experience. The game will throw the occasional puzzle at you but they are far too easy, one of which is a simple spot the difference.

Then there are the shooting segments. Basically these are point-and-shoot sections but they are incredibly loose and frustrating (unless that was the fault of the emulator I was using). Like Snatcher these segments were few and far between.  In fact, after the prologue you don’t really do any shooting until half way through the game.

If you love anime you will probably love Policenauts as the game features several fully animated cutscenes. The style reminds me of the anime series Dominion: Tank Police, which is set in the not too distant future but technology has of course advanced to the point of police flying around in space man type mechs. One thing to note on this style though is how I still can’t get over why some people in anime-inspired universes have blue hair. Do they dye it? Marge Simpson does apparently. Oh sorry, back to the game.

policenauts_6

The game comes complete with full Japanese voice acting. No English version currently exists so you’re gonna just have to put up with a lot of subtitles. Obviously remember this is a Kojima game so you’ll be sitting watching the game more than actually playing it, so the waffly diaolgue where a character talks about their oh so tragic back story can kind of drag at times. Also if you ever wanted to now how to say some of the most offensive words in the urban dictionary this game provides that opportunity, so consider it a learning tool I guess.  The music was actually surprisingly enjoyable, some more Snatcher inspired smooth jazz, but unlike Snatcher it really suited the setting of the world and made for a great addition to the movie like feel.

policenauts_7To conclude, Policenauts intrigued me from the start but failed to maintain my attention throughout the experience. The story felt predictable with no real surprises and the shooting segments, though very infrequent, were incredibly awkward to control. Policenauts to me is better remembered as a cameo appearance in the form of a poster on Otacon’s wall in Metal Gear Solid than a game that you need to experience. The game has its moments that will make you chuckle but I just didn’t get sucked into the story or the world. For a game where the story is the main focus that is essential in determining whether you enjoy it or not. If you like anime and like buddy cop-esque storylines, then you may enjoy this title. For some reason this game just really made me want to go back and watch Lethal Weapon instead.

Final Score: 2 out of 5

Did you know that we talked about the entire game as part of our Snatcher/Policenauts game club?  Check it out here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Retro Game Night: Crypt Killer and Mad Dog McCree

leave a comment »

This week for Retro Game Night we go all light gun shooters (yes, they can be captured and streamed).

First up is arcade 3D shooter Crypt Killer, which was horror themed and moved from arcades to Saturn and the PS1 (Saturn version shown).  Sorry about the sound on the game being much louder than my voice, it was live and no one told me.

Next up is the 1990 “classic” Mad Dog McCree, one of the first laserdisc arcade games that was almost perfectly ported to the Nintendo Wii.  Here it is in all its glory (and in 720p!)

If you want to check out Retro Game Night, we do it every Friday night at 11:30 pm est on our Twitch channel (twitch.tv/gh101).  You can also follow us for random live broadcasts and check that page for our ongoing replay of Resident Evil HD Remaster on the PS3, which comes to the US on January 20.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Primal Rage Retrospective and Comparison Video

leave a comment »

Primal Rage was one of the more notable Mortal Kombat clones in arcades in 1994.  The popularity of this Atari Games fighter secured multiple ports to the home consoles of the time, a true cross-gen title that was on most portable, 16-bit, and 32-bit CD consoles.  GH101 looks into the history, gameplay, and home console versions of this dinosaur brawler.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Podcast: Ready, Aim, Fire!

leave a comment »

lightgun_post

This week Fred and Jam tackle the wonderful world of light gun shooters.  What started as a mere carnival game evolved into one of the more interactive – and for some of us fun – genres that has not withstood the test of time.  With the advent of newer screens, the technology that made light guns possible is now ruined by delays of no more than a fraction of a second.  In this episode we discuss the history, technology behind, and our fondest memories of the games that utilized the light gun peripheral.


Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Test Your Might

leave a comment »

90_fight_post

This week Fred and Jam are throwing around fighters of the 90s (that aren’t Street Fighter II or Tekken, we did a show for those already).  In the 1990s, the fighter genre was the most popular type of game available (like First Person Shooters today), and among those that have withstood the test of time there were plenty of others that played the field.  From Mortal Kombat to Soulcalibur you had plenty of arcades (and home ports) to drink your quarters in arcades.


Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

Version: Doom

leave a comment »

I was gonna write a retrospective on this, but honestly in podcast form we’ve covered Doom not once, but twice!  From those episodes came a project that has taken six months and over six hours to put together in one near 15 minute video.  I compare the PC, 32x, Jaguar, SNES, PS1, 3DO, Saturn, and GBA versions of Doom so you don’t have to, complete with bad language and snarky remarks (sorry parents).  Check out this version of Versions for Doom, but fair warning: there is some adult language.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: One Disc to Rule Them All

leave a comment »

cd_post

This week Fred (@spydersvenom) and Jam (@Jamalais) are celebrating the compact disc, or CD.  Aside from the various movie and music industry uses, commercial CD video games changed the face of gaming and drastically increased potential content in retail games.  Join us as we make new site announcements and celebrate one of gaming’s most pivotal technology upgrades.


Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

March 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

PC Gamer Replays Hell

leave a comment »

In the mid 1990s PC gaming was a bit of a wild world.  Consoles were clearly embracing the 3D as an up and coming technology – Star Fox, Virtua Racing, and Donkey Kong Country were just a taste of things to come – and PC developers all had various approaches to making the next big thing.  During this time a series of point-and-click adventures, often with embedded action sequences, made their way to your Windows 95/DOS platform that featured voice acting from stars, adult themes, and horrible early 3D renders.  

hell

Some of these games caught on and have quite the cult following.  Sometimes it’s quality, like Tim Schaefer and LucasArts’ Grim Fandango, and other times it’s the creator’s reputation, like Roberta William’s Phantasmagoria.  Still others are a complete anomaly, like D.  One of the more buried projects that released was Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, and before you think of it as a victim of circumstance it really is a terrible game.  Your guard should always be up when words like “cyberpunk” and “thriller” are in the title instead of the description and the big sticker that proudly announced voice work from Dennis Hopper was a red flag even back then.  I spent a lot of time and chunk of change getting my hands on a copy of this game for the 3DO – I tend to grab old PC games on this console because it’s easier to just drop the game into my 3DO than try to get it to work on a Windows 7 device.  Needless to say after one hour it was a dust collector in my game closet.  Fortunately for all of us, Richard Cobbett over at PC Gamer covered the entire campaign and gameplay in a more-words-than-it-deserves addition to his Saturday Crapshoot series.  If you don’t know this game, this well written piece is a much better way to experience Hell and I chose to cover it because there’s no way I’m ever going to review it.  Check it out!

Written by Fred Rojas

January 30, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Buying Guide: 3DO

leave a comment »

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Historically the 3DO, most commonly associated with Panasonic’s license because it had the largest manufacturing numbers and advertising campaign, is the most expensive video game console of all time.  Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts (EA), formed the 3DO company for software development and developed a hardware spec that could be licensed to companies for manufacturing, much like companies have done with VCRs and DVD players.  Unfortunately since the profit for manufacturers had to come from the sale of the hardware itself – all other consoles were sold at a reduced price for a loss and software sales would close the gap for profits – and the 3DO sold for the staggering price of $700.  As a result, few consoles were actually sold and three companies (Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar) had already manufactured units that weren’t selling.  This balance of supply and demand results in the 3DO being the much more reasonable $100-$150 on the used console market these days, but few know what actually came in the box.  Here’s what you need to get it working:

  • AC cord: Since it was manufactured by multiple companies and doesn’t require an AC adaptor, a simple AC cord with a two-pringed circle end (looks like a figure 8) can be used.  Replacement cables can be found at Walgreens or RadioShack for roughtly $3-$5.
  • A/V composite cables: These cables are just your standard yellow/white/red composite cables that plug directly into the ports on the back of the console.  Again, due to the multiple manufacturers there is no console specific A/V cable.  Replacements can be found everywhere for $2-$10 and I grabbed mine from unused composite cables in DVD players and other HD compatible devices.
  • Controller: Even though the plug port looks like an Atari 2600 or Genesis port, you can only plug actual 3DO controllers into it.  Almost all of the controllers look like a 3-button Genesis controller and each controller has a controller port on it for daisy chaining additional controllers (the 3DO only has one controller port).  Controllers are pretty easy to find still and you can pick one up for about $10-$20 online.  There is a 6-button controller out there, which like so many other consoles was only released because of a Street Fighter II port and isn’t worth the high price due to rarity.

Optionally the only accessory you may want is the light gun peripheral, the “gamegun”, for a handful of FMV shooters (Mad Dog McCree, Who Shot Johnny Rock?) and a mouse for certain PC ports like Myst.  Be warned, rarity makes these peripherals an expensive endeavor that may cost close to or more than the console itself.  I could easily find most of the poor light gun games on the 3DO on the Sega CD as well and they only suffer slight quality loss and are much less expensive.  The one thing you may want to pay attention to is the console type you buy.  Like other CD systems, there are both top loading and slide tray versions of the 3DO and you may want to consider dropping the extra scratch for a top loader for reliability.  Here are the different manufactured types:

  • Panasonic made two models in America, the FZ-1 and the FZ-10, and the FZ-10 is definitely the recommended model with a lighter and slimmer design and a top loading CD tray.  There was also a model, the ROBO, which was only sold in Japan and had a slide loading 5-disc CD tray.
  • Goldstar only had one model in America, the GDO-101M, and it looked almost identical to the FZ-1 and featured a slide loading tray just like that model.  Although reliable, the Goldstar is nearly impossible to find parts for so a broken belt on the tray means a required replacement console.
  • Sanyo only made one model, it was only sold in Japan, and it has a similar design to the FZ-1 and the GDO-101M.  It is probably the most rare of the consoles.

Since the 3DO is region free and will play any 3DO disc, you can really pick up any version you want but the price increase can get out of control.  I don’t trust drive trays of the 90s personally so I’ve only ever owned an FZ-10 and I’ve never had one stop functioning.  A complete console should run you $70-$100 online and hopefully even less than that if you can find a used console in a store or at a convention.  video coming soon – ed.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Review: Sewer Shark (Sega CD)

leave a comment »

Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1992
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Sony Imagesoft
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $0.87 (used), $20.00 (new) (pricecharting.com
Price: $3-$10 (used) – Since this game was a pack-in, almost never seen sealed outside console bundles
Other Releases: 3DO
Digital Release? No

Sewer Shark is another converted game from the canceled Hasbro NEMO console and was intended to be played using a VHS (just like Night Trap) although how they were going to do it is completely beyond me.  Most of the games I covered last week were good concepts that resulted in okay launch games that were flawed either by long load times or just not fully fleshed out.  I would argue that among the launch window titles, Sewer Shark is the exception.  It is a complete video game that utilizes the video functionality of the console and combines it with simple gameplay mechanics to make a solid experience.   

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the surface of Earth is unlivable and creatures are forced underground to dwell in drab conditions.  Not only that but the creatures of the sewers have mutated, causing larger sizes (scorpions and bats) and hybrids (ratigators – a hybrid of rats and alligators) that make sewers a dangerous world to trek on foot.  As a result, little ships that can navigate the sewers, known as Sewer Sharks, navigate the tunnels to get people around, hunt for food, and offer a promise of the one haven left on the planet: Solar City.  In Sewer Shark you play a new pilot recruit (nicknamed “sewer jockey”) that has the overall goal of retiring in Solar City.  Unfortunately almost every jockey that attempts the trek dies in a sewer crash or by the hands of some mysterious danger in Sector 19, the final stretch before Solar City.  As best put by your co-pilot Ghost in the beginning, you receive, “a name, a boss, a friend, and a reason to live…a million pounds of tubesteak, that’s all you gotta deliver today hotshot!” in order to make it to the end.  This is important because the game has a very simple task – navigate the sewers, kill enemies to collect points (pounds of tubesteak), and once you hit a million you get the final encounter.  It’s a pretty decent setup and definitely a concept not overused in games at that point, unfortunately to collect all this information you have to read the manual and play close attention to the introduction that can be skipped by simply pressing start. 

In terms of how to actually play the game, you’re basically given coordinates by various people that come in sets of 3 and give your required sewer turns in clock directions.  Here’s an example: six, twelve, niner – this means you need to take a down turn (six o’clock is straight down), an up turn (12 o’clock is up), and then a left turn (left is at nine o’clock) in that specific order.  This is the randomly generated safe path for the sewers, miss a turn or take the wrong turn and you will most likely crash and burn (in the first two sets you may live if you make a single wrong turn).  Turning isn’t as complicated as it seems, the indicator at the top of the screen will flash when a turn is coming up and when you see the turn you want, hold B and press that direction to turn.  While you’re juggling turns you also need to shoot enemies on the screen using the target reticule and in the later parts of the game launch CO2 flares when your levels get too high (you’ll be verbally warned, like seen in the video, and you just tap the C button once).  Later in the game there will be enemies that will kill you if you don’t take them out, enemies that drain your energy (which will also kill you if you run out), and there’s a twist that requires you to take visual cues from the screen for your turns.  To prevent your energy from running out, you need to jump into recharge stations (again, you’ll get a verbal cue) that are either at 3 or 9 o’clock and are indicated with a green light on the ceiling, you have to quickly punch in the direction (there will be no turn indicator) to take the side route and get more energy.  Like all other concepts in this game, you should be fine if you miss the first one, but after that you’re tasked with perfection.

This game does a great job at following the basics of game design: introduce all of the mechanics and gradually make the game harder to test the player.  Unfortunately many people would find this upward battle to be incredibly boring (on a good day you’ll be doing this for at least an hour of consistent gameplay, but I’ve logged at least 10 cumulative hours to beat it), so you get an interesting plot with some mystery to it.  I will warn you that every explanation and plot point is dumb and you can actually guess the biggest mystery from the back of the box of certain versions, but until that is revealed it holds your interest well enough.  It’s really a game that tests your reflexes, memory, and ability to keep an eye on multiple parts of the screen at the same time.  By the end of the game I found myself getting a decent rush to see if I would make it to the end.  Apparently Sega also felt this game had good potential because it became the official pack-in game for the Sega CD Model 2 and is easily the least rare game on the console – you’ll be able to pick it up for a few bucks and is usually in stock at any used game store that stocks Sega CD games.  I just like that it was the first game that looked and played like a cartridge console game and finally gave hope that one day CD games would be indistinguishable between cartridge games.  Of course I don’t think we ever got there but CD games did become the norm only a few short years later. 

Sewer Shark is among the many full motion video (FMV) games to be criticized and blamed for the negative connections to the Sega CD, but that is definitely misplaced with this game.  It may not be perfect, but it is interesting and well worth checking out if you ever pick up a Sega CD, especially since you’ll see hundreds for sale in your search for other games.  For those just curious, I’ve provided gameplay video below of the entire campaign from start to finish (roughly 40 minutes).  I should note that near the end I do die and I stopped recording because I never knew that simply pressing start during the credits would allow you to continue at the beginning of your current call sign section (there are four).  As soon as a cutscene allowed me to, I started recording again and I’m glad I did because for the first time ever, I beat the game. 

Written by Fred Rojas

November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 554 other followers