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Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Mk3

Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Podcast: Data Easy Meets West

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No it’s not a typo (just an inside joke), but we are actually talking about Data East and Data West.  This includes the games they developed, published, and even the pinball titles available.  It may not seem it, but Data East was a limited and significant developer of the mid-late 80s and just about all of the 90s.

Special thanks to Retronauts Episode 88 (1up Run), Brandon Sheffield (and his blog/podcast Insert Credit), as well as Topless Robot for your Data East and extensive Data West information.

Also be sure to check out the ASCII RPG/roguelike Sanctuary, for free, at the following address: http://blackshellgames.itch.io/srpg


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Written by Fred Rojas

June 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Podcast: Castleroid?

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metroidvania

This week we tackle the “MetroidVania” titles in the Castlevania franchise to follow up our initial episode (Devil’s Castle Dracula).  Fred and Jam briefly define MetroidVania as a genre, discuss some titles that originated it, and discuss Symphony of the Night – the most prolific of the series – as well as the multiple portable titles that followed.


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Podcast: Generation in Review

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This week Fred welcomes listener Yuri (@JamesFortengard) and fellow podcaster Isaiah (@i_say_uh) from the Party Chat to discuss the console generation that officially comes to an end on 11/15/2013. They discuss innovations, trends, and passing fads of the longest generation ever in history that awarded gamers with some of the most dynamic experiences to date.


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Written by Fred Rojas

November 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in DS, podcast, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360

Podcast: Silent Evil

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RE_SH
This week Fred is joined by listeners Allen and Jamalais to discuss the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises. They do not get as far as planned, but the initial iterations of each series is thoroughly covered and a sequel is promised.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 30, 2013 at 10:48 am

Podcast: Square’s Swan Song

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If you are going to talk significant JRPGs in America, one of the most influential series is Final Fantasy.  Whether you believe that it was the last game Square may have ever made or that it was simply the last game designer Sakaguchi would be a part of, the massive success of this digital Dungeons & Dragons title started a strong fan base that continues today.  In part one of our coverage, Fred and Eli “Sodoom” team up to discuss Final Fantasy I-VI including development, design, gameplay, and of course Cid.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Review: Final Fantasy IV

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ff4_us_boxConsole: SNES (as Final Fantasy II in the United States – title changed in later releases)
Released: November 1991
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Difficulty: Hard
Price: $24.67 (used, cart only), $70.57 (used, complete), $300.00 (new)
Additional Releases:Wonderswan Color (Japan only, updated graphics), Playstation (Final Fantasy Chronicles, new translation), Gameboy Advance (Final Fantasy IV Advanced, upgraded visuals, new translation/conversion to more closely resemble Japanese version), DS (full 3D remodeling, new dungeon), PSP (Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, updated 2D visuals instead of 3D, includes The After Years and a new campaign Interlude to bridge gap between the events of IV and The After Years)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (SNES version, $8), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $30), iOS/Android (GBA version, $16)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II

Please note: This was originally released as Final Fantasy II in the United States and later re-named to the appropriate numbering system.  The actual Final Fantasy II Japan-only Famicom (NES)release review will be live shortly.

ff4_1Despite the numbering of this game (and Final Fantasy VI) to be completely messed up in the US, Final Fantasy IV is a must play for fans of the series and JRPG genre.  As George Lucas would put it, this is the “definitive version” of the game director (and series creator) Hironobu Sakaguchi originally wanted to make.  It learns from its three predecessors and weaves in a powerful story almost unheard of at this point in gaming.  Originally intended to be a final NES title in the series, budgetary and scheduling issues forced the 80 percent complete title to be scrapped and re-made on the new Super Nintendo (SNES) console with some of the original ideas integrated.  The elemental concepts of the original, heavy story elements of the sequel, and job system of the third (it would be better utilized in Final Fantasy V however) were all mashed together with a new active time battle (ATB) system to create the most compelling game yet.  ATB ditched traditional turn-based combat for a timer that allowed characters to attack at their own pace based on the type of warrior they were.  This continues to be a staple of the series today and even snuck into other RPGs like Chrono TriggerFinal Fantasy IV hit early in the SNES and celebrated mass critical and financial success worldwide and is considered a favorite by many series fans.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Review: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (DS)

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999_Cover_ArtAlso Known As: Kyokugen Dasshutsu (Extreme Escape in English, later re-branded to Zero Escape)Release Date: 11/16/2010
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Arksys Games (US), Spike (Japan)
Value: $17.50 (used – pricecharting.com), $19.74 (new – Amazon.com)
Similar Games: Sweet Home (Faimcom), Clock Tower series (SNES-PS2), S.O.S. (SNES), Corpse Party (PSP)

999_19 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999) is one of those games you’ve always been told to play, but many haven’t pulled the trigger.  Upon the release of the sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, that premiered late 2012 this title has been re-branded as the predecessor and seen a bit more love.  That still doesn’t change the fact that few have experienced this hybrid between classic point-and-click adventure puzzles and Choose Your Own Adventure storytelling.  It’s a very Japanese concept that may not capture many, but those willing to put in the time and effort will find an intriguing mature form of an interactive book.  Yes, you read that right, 999 is basically an interactive work of fiction.

This is probably the biggest hurdle to getting into 999, after that just sit back and enjoy the ride.  You play as Junpei, a young man who awakens on a ship that is sinking and must assist 8 other people to get through a total of 9 doors in 9 hours (see the title significance) in the “Nonary Game” set up by a gas masked kidnapper known only as Zero. Along the way you will see death, betrayal, and plenty of twists concluding in one of six endings – 5 bad, one good. Bring a pen and paper, you’ll need it, and an FAQ upon completing a few endings, it’s a complicated ride to the perfect end. After the tens of hours to get through the entire adventure, the unfolded plot impressed a novel reader like myself quite a bit. If you have 20-30 mins a day for portable gaming, this is a new take on two classic genres of storytelling, and worth it for those that find that kind of thing intriguing.

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Score: 4/5 (see our review policy for what each score means)

Due to the title’s late release only a few years ago, there is currently no historical significance to date.  It was reviewed due to its classic style and was purchased by the reviewer.

Written by Fred Rojas

July 25, 2013 at 11:00 am

Getting It Backwards

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ds_nesVideo game consoles are one of the most interesting electronics items on the market for several reasons. Probably the most prolific is the fact that there are frequent hardware upgrades, which we call generations, that move home consoles forward. Because each new console is basically a piece of hardware frozen in time, the need to innovate and improve on future games demands that they be constantly updated. This works counter to movies or music, which see improvements from new hardware but don’t require the upgrade to enjoy the medium. Imagine if you could play Super Mario Bros. on the Wii but with drastically upgraded visuals or Dead Space on the original Playstation with the juxtaposed setback, this is exactly what we see when we watch Ghostbusters on VHS versus DVD versus Blu Ray. As a result new consoles come out all the time, typically in 5-8 year intervals, and usher in a more interactive experience – it’s important to note that the greatest difference between games and other media is that they are active, not passive experiences – and with it comes a new format for software.

Enter the concern of the consumer. It can be frustrating for both gamers and parents of gamers alike to purchase a new console, especially when it renders an entire collection on an older console useless. As retro gamers I’m sure we see the value in it, but for the majority there’s a want to move forward and never look back. Well, that is until there are enough new games to get me to migrate over. This is another slow start that prevents all but early adopters to purchase new hardware, which can then result in fewer sales. With fewer sales comes more canceled projects on new hardware, which then results in fewer sales of the hardware and the cycle continues until a console is considered dead in the water. Just look at the Virtual Boy, Jaguar, and possibly even the WiiU about this problem; developers have enough to worry about, they can’t also deal with poor penetration rate due to a false start console. One excellent solution to help usher in that awkward period between consoles is the concept of backwards compatibility, or a new console that can play a previous generation’s games.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Top 5 Shmups on Portable Consoles

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Given the frantic and brief nature of most shmups, the genre is perfect for the portable platform, much like it was perfect for the arcade. For one reason or another, these titles can be rare to find on traditional handhelds and even harder to find actually good ones. On the other hand some of my favorite shmups are exclusive to portables (at least in the United States) so we’ve compiled a list of the portable shmups actually worth playing.

5. Space Invaders Extreme (Nintendo DS)

space_invaders_extremeWhen Taito decided it would re-invent the Space Invaders formula I was skeptical. We were told in previews that the game would feature an upbeat techno soundtrack, plenty of screen tricks and explosions, dual screen integration on DS, and a hybrid between modern game mechanics and the original title. Just in case that sounds tempting to you, it’s almost verbatim what no gamer wants to hear when a beloved franchise is rebooting. Somehow Taito pulled it off and with no updates save for that fearful list Space Invaders Extreme was an addicting masterpiece. It released in a few forms on a few consoles but bar none the Nintendo DS version is the one to get. With non-linear level progression and utilization of dual screen to make the DS function more like a vertical arcade monitor, it’s like having Space Invaders on speed. Bonus rounds, boss battles, and power-ups were simple tweaks to the original formula that switched up gameplay without being a specific reason to play the game. Needless to say if you haven’t played Space Invaders Extreme, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the original, you should give this handheld game that’s easy to learn and brutal to master a try. It will keep you occupied for many a train, plane, or bus ride to come.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

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