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Mini Podcast: The Legacy of Shinobi

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For this week’s mini podcast Fred tackles the Sega franchise Shinobi, and more specifically the Joe Musashi games from the earliest years of the franchise.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut Review

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Jam’s Take

rb_boxWith the ever increasing improvements to video games – top of the range PCs with graphics cards that are able to show realism that get closer and closer to the real thing – as a gamer you really start to question how games could get any better. Then comes along a game called Rock Boshers that shows us that the evolution in gaming of not necessarily going forward, but backwards.

Rock Boshers is very much a love letter to the ZX Spectrum gaming days. The game happily advertises that it pulls from a palette of just 15 colours and even mimics the music the old micro computers from the eighties was capable of. Rock Boshers is not the first game to give love to the old microcomputer, the ZX Spectrum still gets a lot of love to this day with homebrew games being regularly released (Retro Gamer magazine which is a popular read in the UK, discusses popular homebrew released every month). Rock Boshers is one of the few ZX Spectrum inspired games as far as I am aware that has made it to Steam and even the PS4 and PSVita (the latter being the version I’ve reviewed).

rb1If you enter into Rock Boshers and have never experienced a ZX Spectrum (if you live outside of Europe this is very likely) you would be forgiven for being rather confused. Gamers that have some familiarity to this system or are just curious about the system will find a lot to love in this game. I was sold, straight away when first booting up the game I was greeted with an old fashioned ZX Spectrum loading screen. Fortunately the game loads instantly unlike the original system but this was a great touch by the developers. Then I was greeted by the title screen and what I heard was a soundtrack clearly inspired by ZX Spectrum games like Robocop (who’s music can be heard on our recent soundtrack episode). Before even starting the game I said to myself this was already worth the price of admission (I’d buy that for a dollar).

When you begin the adventure you are introduced to one of the most bizarre but brilliant stories. You play a Young Queen Victoria whose disguised herself a top hat and travelled to Mars in search of adventure. Soon after arriving you are captured and forced to ‘bosh’ rocks in the martian mines. What follows is a daring escape and revolution, filled with plot twists and turns with a lot of humour thrown in for good measure. The humour is very British with many of the jokes referencing scones and tea. The crazy plot very much reminds me of several games programmed on the original ZX Spectrum many of which where programmed by a very small team of developers. The game throws in several pop culture references to other games and regularly pokes fun at how other games play as well as itself.

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Jumping into the gameplay Rock Boshers mostly plays out as a twin stick shooter with puzzle elements. In true retro fashion most levels are displayed on a single screen (though the ZX Spectrum did have scrolling in the majority of its games). Your character Victoria is a very small sprite. At the start of some of the levels it was difficult to find where my character was on the PS Vitas screen especially when most levels are filled with various sprites and similarly coloured objects. Most levels allow you to talk to other characters who deliver short witty lines of dialogue. The controls are very simple and its not too difficult to know where to go in the game. Your main barrier is the difficulty. While the game starts of simple enough with some basic levels to get you used to how the game plays, it quickly get challenging and failing at any point will require you to start right back at the beginning of the level. Some levels took me multiple attempts to conquer. But once I did it brought back some of that relief I used to feel when playing games from the eighties. The levels are very short each taking no more than five minutes or even less. The game regularly mixes things up and just flat out surprise you with what you will end up doing in certain levels. Out of the 24 levels you experience not one feels the same.

rb3The developers have done a fantastic job trying to replicate the feel of a ZX Spectrum game on a console, a feat which is very difficult to achieve. The colour palette is appropriately limited, the sprites are simple and the music and sound effects are identical to the limitations of the Spectrum. The developers clearly set out for that authentic old school gaming experience (minus the long loading times and cassette tapes). Of course you won’t have the elephant skin keyboard but the use of the PSVita, PS4 controller or PC keyboard should not distract you from the experience.
There will of course be gamers that will look at this game and think it looks like complete crap but you really have to remember this is deliberately designed that way.

The game isn’t very long. There are only 24 levels but you can replay any of the levels later to find all the collectables and improve your times for the online leaderboards. When I finished the game I was definately left wanting more. This is a sensation I have not felt in quite a while with a video game. There are also four arcade games to unlock which are all also re worked with classic ZX rb4Spectrum design. One game, Aqua Kitty, is available with more modern graphics on the PSN store and it was utterly brilliant to see it get the ZX Spectrum downgrade treatment. It would be fantastic to see the developers do more with this in future projects.

Rock Boshers is a game that really can only be rated in one of two ways. You will either love it or just ‘meh’ it. If you have an appreciation for the ZX Spectrum or have ever just been curious into how the games used to play (with the horribly long loading times cut out of course) you will love Rock Boshers. It is a love letter to retro and its genuinely impressive to see how far this game has come since its first appearance, as a game made in GameMaker for PC. Even if you have little nostalgia for the ZX Spectrum you may be impressed by just how different the game is from even modern indie titles today. For me Rock Boshers is fantastic, it felt like a breathe of fresh air, a wonderful trip down memory lane and a game I will be coming back to frequently to experience again. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some rock boshing to do.

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

Fred’s Take

rb_titleHaving not grown up in Europe like Jam has, I’m at a bit of a loss as to what distinguishes certain microcomputers from the 80s (despite a lengthy podcast about it and Jam’s consistent reminding me), but even I know what makes a ZX Spectrum game.  I have not played a lot of these games myself, but with a color palette of only 15 they are vibrant, bright, and honestly often bastardizations of the original source material (truly sorry if that line offends).  Couple that with a limited sound chip and most developers on the ZX Spectrum seemed to waste its true potential, often focusing on other ports like the Commodore 64 or even Amiga to flex, but the aforementioned Robocop and several others prove that a lot can be done with a little on this delightful machine.  Rock Boshers not only knows this, but has completely recreated a game that could have easily existed in the 1980s and would be on that long list of favorites that Jam mentions that I know nothing about.  Thankfully it came out now and on a platform I have so I can appreciate the greatest ZX Spectrum game to release this year.

From the moment you boot it up, complete with an optional 2 minute initial load time, this game is a true testament to the days of the ZX Spectrum.  I have no idea whether or not it could actually run on that computer, but the details are so precise that I would have to ask the developers to get any more insight.  The story of a mission to Mars gone awry is nothing new, but the almost empty and isolated nature of the fantastic soundtrack in ZX style presents some of the best sci-fi chiptune since Metroid.  Rock Boshers itself is your basic puzzle room game that slowly introduces more and more complex mechanics that by around level 15 (of 24) your focus aggressively shifts from what you are supposed to do to actually having the skill to pull it off.  Along with the focus comes a heavy ramp in difficulty, but that just makes the final act of the game intense and rewarding up to the game’s very self aware last fight.  Make no mistakes about it, you feel a strong sense of accomplishment as you see the simple message of the game’s completion and unlike Jam I wasn’t left wanting more, I needed a break.  That’s not to say the game was bad by any means, just that in my old age my skill was tested quite enough from Rock Boshers for 2014.

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It seems like every day there emerges a flood of indie games that want to re-capture the glory of yesteryear and the scene is definitely going through an iterative shift from the Atari 2600 through each console generation (which I’m sure begs a blog post).  Of these games, the look is easy to nail but the feel is a hairier task, and only a select few each year do a good job at capturing it.  While the indie scene is currently knee deep in the 16-bit era it’s refreshing to see a team like Tikipod jump into one of the more obscure worldwide platforms, remain blatantly British, and come out with something any gamer can enjoy.  Rock Boshers is that accomplishment and anyone who considers themselves a retro gamer needs to take a sneak peek at a generation forgotten – and the case of the US, completely removed.  I hope that the attention to detail and painstaking measures to keep the look and feel of Rock Boshers authentic is not only consistent for developers Tikipod, but that more developers looking to capture the retro style take note of this teams impressive effort.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

This was played by both reviewers on the Playstation Vita and no review codes were provided by the developer (although we didn’t request them, Jam just thought it was pretty cool).  Rock Boshers DX Directors Cut is available on PSN for PS4 and PSvita and also on PC for $6.99. If you head over to the developer’s website (Tikipod) they also have the original version of the game available for free. However, if you enjoy this game definitely support the developers by buying the game on PSN or PC.

Written by jamalais

December 30, 2014 at 11:38 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS4, PSP, Reviews

Tagged with ,

My PSP Friend: A handheld Fan’s Piece

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The PSP, the portable console that really failed to catch a audience in the west. In this article I come out and defend the poor console which seems to receive a surprising amount of hate in the gaming community. Ok, so the little analogue nub is a bit irritating and the battery life is a bit naff and there are some questionable models of the console that are just flat out awful.

pspModelsA little background on my experience with the console. I avoided this system like some handheld plague mostly due to the horrific world of mouth the console received from my brother who owed the system as well as the gaming media itself. Its not hard to find some entertaining YouTube video that pokes fun at the attempts Sony made to market the system and how it was destroyed by the Nintendo DS in sales. Anyway, one fateful day I was visiting my parents and on clearing some junk from my old bedroom I came across my brothers PSP model 1000 which was so unloved it was shoved behind the radiator and just left there. Since by this stage in my life I was doing incredibly long commutes on the train on a daily basis which would take up to five hours of my day I was desperate to fill the void of boredom. IOS games at this stage were starting to be a big thing but they just didn’t do it for it. Try playing Bejewelled for 5 hours, you will have the most creepy nightmares you never thought possible, or maybe that’s just me. So I refurbished the poor PSP, gave it a new battery, brought a large memory card off ebay at a incredibly cheap price and then proceeded to load the system with PSone nostalgia. I owned a lot of games already as I owned a PS3 by this point. From there the rest is history, my train commutes suddenly flew by as I listened to podcasts and played PSP. Some time later I managed to acquire a red PSP model 3000 which is lighter and just runs better. I also started to enjoy games for the console itself as opposed to just sticking to the oldies. Despite owning a Psvita I still find myself reaching for the console everytime I go away, have work trips or just want to play on the sofa while my partner waches something on telly. So yeah I dig the PSP

Even with more modern handhelds now on the market like IOS and android mobiles, the 3DS and even PSVita, let’s see if I can convince you that the PSP is a console still worth adding to your retro collection.

Number One: It’s very cheap right now

dollar-bills1As most collectors know the consoles go through their traditional pricing cycle. They start expense and with time slowly get cheaper, then once the console and games start to become uncommon the price begins to rise. Well collectors the prime time is now to nab the PSP deals at most retailers are selling the consoles and even the games for a very cheap price to make room for the new consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One. Car boots, charity shops, Craigs list are more stocked with the system and games because for similar reasons people are getting rid of stuff to make room for the new. This is especially the prime time to pick up those rarer games like RPGs before they spike in price.

Number Two: Games for every gamer type

Something that really stands out on the PSP over other platforms is just how unique a lot of the games are and how wide spread the genres are. There really is something for every gamer here, you won’t see tons of FPS here flooding the catalogue. Yes, a lot of the games are dumbed down ports available on better systems at the time but believe it or not some PS2 games were ports of PSP games.

psp_stackHere’s a quick rundown of some of the systems great games just to name a few:

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – action RPG
Disgaea series -JRPG
Silent Hill Origins –survival horror
Lumines – Music Puzzler
Motorstorm: Artic Edge – Racing
Daxter – Platformer
Resistance: Retribution – Third person shooter
Patapon – Rhythm Strategy
Half Minute Hero – Awesome speedy RPG (probably my favourite game on the console)

There are a surprising amount of hidden gems on the consoles too. There are many experimental games on the consoles that developers took a chance on before deciding whether they were worth releasing on other consoles. Since the console obviously didn’t do that well most these games never saw a console release leaving a huge catalogue of hidden gems you can only find on this device.

Number Three: Its like a portable PSone

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Though I understand graphics are not everything especially when it comes to retro gaming. My nostalgia for this system reminds me very much of the launch of the PSone. Yes I am aware the PSone slim had a LCD attachment turning the system into a kinda portable device. Here in the UK I have never seem anyone lug around a Psone. The PSP was one of the first handhelds to do 3D gaming well and it looked amazing on a portable device. Of course compared to consoles they did not look amazing. But it was different and stood out as something a bit different especially when compared to the handhelds main competition the Nintendo DS. It really felt like you were playing a more refined PSone in your hand. Some will debate the graphics at times are on par with even the PS2 but that is very much up for debate.

Number Four: Load up on those games for on the go.  Good times!

memoryThis probably speaks more to those who travel a lot like myself. One of my favourite things about the PSP is you can shove a massive memory card in it for a small price (I go for the 32Gb) and then you can just download literally tons of games onto it. Yes the Playstation store is now dead on the PSP and you no longer go to the store to buy games but if you own a PS3 or PSVita and buy any PSP compatible game through the store you can still download it to the PSP. For reasons unknown there is still some PSone titles that are compatible with the PSP and not the PSVita. I have over thirty PSone games that are ready to play all loaded on the PSP so if I have a long journey, or I am going away on holiday I know I will unlikely be bored as I have plenty of choice from the download catalogue. Also if you are good with emulation this system is widely considered one of the best handhelds to play emulated games on having hundreds of games at your disposal. Emulation also allows you to play games from other systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis and the SNES.

Number Five: That cool standby feature

pspsleepThis point is so awesome it deserves its own spot. By far one of my favourite things about this system is how you can literally pause whatever you’re doing in any game at any time by flipping the standby switch on. Say you have to change trains, take a phone call, go to work whatever. You can leave the PSP in your bag for several hours and continue exactly where you left off later. This feature alone has allowed me to replay games like Final Fantasy 7 and other long games which have awkward save features all the way through without having to turn the system off early because something has come up. Imagine you’re on the last boss or watching some stupidly long cutscene but you have to go because something came up this feature saves your bacon. Of course this feature has become more popular in more handheld devices like the 3DS and continues to be a feature on the PSvita but it’s certainly a lesson the modern consoles can learn from.

Conclusion

So there are a few points I missed about the system such as it can play movies and music. To be honest most of that stuff is not what retro gamers look for in a system and a lot of the features such as the Playstation store and viewing comic books have now been shut down on the system.

At the end of the day the system stands out as very unique by itself. If you’re a fan of the PSone era of gaming this system is an absolute must. To most gamers I recommend the system the same why I got into it, find a cheap model, test the water with the games and let the good gaming times roll. Maybe I convinced you, but more likely I probably displayed what a fan boy I am for the forgotten portable.

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Written by jamalais

December 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Blog, PSP

Retro Game Night: Night Slashers X

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This week, and for the first time ever, we are using emulation to capture a Beats of Rage engine remake, Night Slashers X. This was originally a 1994 Data East arcade beat-em-up that got ported over with extra violence on the open source brawler engine, Beats of Rage.  This also marks the first video in full 1080p HD!  Watch for more HD videos, most of which should be in 720p or 1080p in the future.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 16, 2014 at 10:15 am

Podcast: Ghouls, Ghosts, ‘N Goblins

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This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer).  Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend.  Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.


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And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:

Review: Velocity (Ultra)

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velocity_boxVelocity is one of those games that I remember first trying on my PSP on long commutes between London to Cambridge and had I not played this game I probably would have gone insane with boredom.  It released for the Playstation Network as a mini back in 2012 and then later given the HD make over and released for the PS Vita as Velocity Ultra.

Velocity is a space ship game that impressively mixes shooting, puzzles and speed all into one.  Set in the year 2212 (which is rather clever as this game was released in 2012) the star Vilio has exploded causing a massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) field, cutting the power in nearby colonies. You pilot the Quarp Jet, a teleporting spacecraft, and your job is to rescue survivors while also shooting down the invading aliens. The story is presented in nice little graphic novel style panels which are short and to the point.  Velocity has fifty missions which are all pretty short – around five minutes, sometimes less – making this a perfect game for short bursts, but with its incredibly addictive nature it is very likely you will play much longer.

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Velocity is fairly colorful with simple 2D sprites; it won’t blow you away but everything looks clear and recognizable. The game really shines on the Vita with the updated HD graphics and use of the lovely OLED screen.  What starts as a simple vertical scrolling space shooter with the main hook being you can teleport your ship anywhere on the map. Not too long into the game you can also lay a warp point on the map what allows your ship to instantly recall to that point no matter how far you have progressed. You have three lives to complete each level should you need them and once you have finished a level you are awarded a medal and experience. You gain more experience by saving survivors, finishing the level quickly and getting a high score. The best part is you don’t have to do all three at once to get the highest amount of experience per level; you can take your time and save all the survivors for one playthrough, then replay the level and concentrate on finishing the level as quick as possible. It sounds like re-playing the levels again would get boring but it doesn’t because the levels are so short and fun you will no doubt welcome the challenge to do better on a second playthrough. Experience unlocks new levels and if you have the PS Vita version you can post your scores on the online leader boards.

vel_2The levels are mixed into three gameplay types.  Some levels are focused on puzzle elements that require you to break colored locks in a numbered sequence to release the same colored force fields. Hitting the locks in the wrong order will cause the process to reset and you have to try again from the first lock. There is usually more than one colored force field in each level so you need to keep track of what locks you have broken. Should you get stuck a handy mini map shows you your progress in the entire level so far. Other levels focus more on the shooting, where you take down alien space ships while they fire a barrage of bullets at you. You’ll find the shooting and puzzle elements tend to mix together quite a bit. Finally you have levels that require you to boost as fast as possible through them with a limited amount of time to complete the level.  All levels also focus on you rescuing survivors and you have to save a certain amount to complete each level. This mix of gameplay keeps things interesting without getting too repetitive or tedious.

vel_3Velocity is not a long game overall. I played it in short game bursts on the train and lunch breaks and it took around a week in total to see everything the game had to offer. Even after finishing the game I still found myself re playing levels to improve my score and get the highest rating possible on each level. This is an incredible space puzzle shooter that you will want revisit again and again. It leaves a memorable  impression and stands out when compared to other space shooters. Though it can be played on the PS3, I found it to be the perfect addition to any handheld (PSP or Vita) and a great game to play in short bursts. Hardcore bullet hell fans may find this game a lot slower paced, but that’s clearly not the genre developer FuturLab was aiming for.

Note: The PS Vita version of this game (Velocity Ultra) doesn’t add much in terms of gameplay save for allowing you to use the touch pad. The graphics have been reworked and look incredible on the PS Vita.

Final Score: 5 out of 5   (You can see our review policy and scoring details here.)

Written by jamalais

April 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Posted in PS3, PSP, Reviews, Vita

Tagged with , ,

Podcast: Shmup Game Club

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This week we are joined by listener Jason (@albirhiza) to discuss our Shmup Game Club: Giga Wing 2, Velocity (Ultra), Radiant Silvergun, Power-Up, and Sine Mora.  Campaigns, tactics, high scores, and more are covered as we dissect some of the more contemporary additions to the genre.


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Podcast: Final Fantasy VI Game Club

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This week Fred and Eli (@Sodoom) discuss what many believe to be the best 16-bit RPG of all time: Final Fantasy VI (better known as Final Fantasy III on the SNES in the US).  We discuss the combat system, characters, plot, and most memorable moment on this truly timeless RPG.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 1, 2014 at 11:35 am

Killzone: Getting Caught Up With the Story

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Normally we solely talk retro on this blog but with the upcoming PS4 I just can’t help but get everyone acquainted with the story of Killzone.  While I’ve been a hardcore fan since the second game (I played the original but didn’t much care for it), most people managed to skip the series due to its long development delays, similar aesthetic to other shooters of the time, and much better marketed titles from both Sony internal (Resistance 2) and competitor Microsoft (Gears of War 2).  It really is a shame because Killzone 2 is quite distinct from other shooters of the generation, but I will get into that later in the article.  The focus of this is to get you caught up with the story and elements of each game in the series, so that you can jump into the latest iteration, Shadow Fall, at the PS4 launch without having to worry about everything that came before it.  Given that Killzone covers three console generations now (PS2-PS4) and almost 10 years, it’s got quite a lineage for a series with three main titles and two portable side stories.  Unlike most game franchises, the Killzone series stays mostly progressive with story and each new iteration directly follows its predecessor in the timelineso Shadow Fall takes place at the tail end of the current franchise.  I have each game listed below along with a story synopsis and notable gameplay elements and updates to each in the order they take place in the Killzone universe.  Without further ado, I give you the Killzone story so far:

Killzone

kz_ps2_2It all starts in the distant future where nuclear fallout has all but obliterated Earth and space exploration and colonization has become a lucrative business.  Of these colonizing companies is the Helghan Corporation, which reminds me of the ethical compass of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from Aliens and the dress code of the Third Reich.  The conflict first begins with Helghan discovering Alpha Centauri, a system with two planets: Vekta, an Earth-like planet rife for colonization, and a decayed shell of a planet, Helghan, both named after connections to the company.  Conflict breaks out as rivals begin to notice the value of Alpha Centauri, necessitating the formation of armies – the Helghast Army of Helghan and the United Colonial Army (UCA) of the United Colonial Nations (UCN) – and leading to the historical First Extrasolar War.  War breaks out when the UCN embargo Helghan from sole colonization of Vekta, which they ignore, and thus get invaded by the UCA.  In the end the UCA emerge victorious and colonize Vekta, banishing the Helghast to Helghan.  With this dichotomy in place, the UCN create an extraordinary military force known as the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA, think Colonial Marines) to protect Vekta should the Helghast decide to retaliate.  Instead of fighting back, Helghan colonizes the harsh industrial planet named after the company and eventually members of the Helghast are born with the ability to breathe the atmosphere of both brutal Helghan air and traditional oxygen.  An aggressive leader with all the traits of Adolph Hitler and from the bloodline that can breathe both atmospheres named Scholar Vasari uses a staged assassination attempt and charm to rise above the ranks and take leadership of Helghan, declaring a new world order known as the Helghan Empire.  As you can probably tell, this is no longer just a corporate mantra but now an entire people.  After preparing a sizable army, Vasari calls for a blitz assault of the ISA on Vekta and starts the Second Extrasolar War.

And that’s just the story before you begin playing.  Killzone tells the story of ISA Captain Jan Templar as he fights off the oncoming Helghast forces invading Vekta.  After fighting in the outskirts of the main ISA headquarters, Templar is forced to fall back into the base only to find it overrun by Helghast forces.  Eventually he will fend off the troops long enough to evacuate alongside fellow soldier Marshal Lugar, who saves his life.  During the evacuation another lone solider named Ricardo Velasquez (remember him, he comes back again) assists a platoon from escaping large Helghast resistance, requesting the assistance of Templar and Lugar.  It is at this time the two leaders also discover and set out to find traitor General Stuart Adams, a Helghan spy that lowered the alert system and defenses long enough for the Helghast forces to invade.  As the game continues you take out strategic points across the various armies and interact with several spies, counter-operatives, and even an unnecessary side plot with another army.  In the end, Adams and his troops are subdued, the main station of Vekta is destroyed, and both Templar and Lugar escape.

Relevance:  Killzone had great graphics for the PS2 and the HD remake on the PS3 is also no exception.  Unfortunately for developer Guerilla, the gameplay kinda sucked, the movement and shooting was complicated and clunky, aside from enemies the environment was sparse, and it just wasn’t that fun to play.  It did, however, set up a pretty rock solid storyline and although the main campaign story was recycled and predictable, I will go on record saying I rather enjoyed the overall plot that has nothing to do with actually playing the game.  I hate to admit it, but you should probably skip this one, it requires more patience than one really needs to offer an experience like this.  Like all HD remakes, the PS3 version may look a lot better, but the gameplay remains mostly identical.

From there the series has two side tangents, both on portable consoles.

Killzone Liberation

kz_lib_boxAs a serviceable third-person shooter for the Playstation Portable (PSP), Killzone Liberation takes place two months after Killzone.  You once again control Templar as he seeks out multiple hostages taken by new Helghast leaders General Armin Metrac and right hand Colonial Cobar, both assigned by Vasari to capture key targets in the war on Vekta.  As you progress through the game the writing on the wall steers to the Helghast upping tech to attack the ISA and both Lugar and Velaszquez (now known as “Rico” for short) make cameos.  At the end of the 4th mission, the final one on the UMD, you discover that upon the defeat of Metrac, Vasari now plans to use nuclear weapons against the ISA and that there is a traitor in Templar’s midst.  A fifth mission available as downloadable content epilogues the game with Rico Velasquez being wrongly accused as the traitor and it is discovered that it was instead another solider you worked with throughout most of the game (although he was forgettable).

Relevance:  This game was much more gameplay than story, an interesting juxtaposition from the original.  I recommend checking it out if you wish – it is compatible with Vita – but going into it with the open mind that it was a dated attempt to utilize Sony’s portable and did it better than most.  It will be a lot of work for a storyline I just summed up in a paragraph and requires a piece of paid DLC to fully appreciate.  Granted, I give props to Guerilla, who did develop this iteration.

The only jump in development/release dates comes next with the recent Vita release Killzone Mercenary.

Killzone Mercenary

It’s kind of a throw away plot that has little to do with the universe.  Oh well, here we go.  You control mercenary Arran Danner (what is with Guerilla’s names?), a former UCA soldier turned merc that works for whoever has the highest paycheck.  During an extraction mission of an ISA diplomat, things go wrong and you end up protecting a little boy as you unfold a plot to use biological warfare on Vekta.  You discover that the ISA forces have a way to wipe out the entire Helghast army on Vekta in one fell swoop, but the ethical reality of genocide is too much for this mercenary to bear.  He joins forces with the Helghast, eliminating the weapon and extracting the boy, all while keeping their identities safe.  At the end it is discovered that Vasari did, in fact, acquire a nuclear weapon in the midst of this conflict.

killzone_merc_box

Relevance: Almost none.  The story is throw away, the concepts already revealed in the release of Killzone 2 and it seems this was developer Guerilla’s alternative team showing off their talents at creating an FPS experience on the Vita without damaging the Killzone cannon.  While I must admit it adds almost nothing to story or cannon, it is one of the best and most fun games on Sony’s handheld, so just go into it to have fun instead of revealing plot.

Now back to the console trilogy.

Killzone 2

kz2_1After the war on Vekta begins to take a back seat, a full blown invasion of home world Helghan takes shape with the ISA forces hoping that the elimination of leader Vasari will essentially “cut the head” off the army and discontinue the attack of Helghast forces.  You now take control of Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko, a special forces operative, as they begin the invasion on Helghan.  During an assault on the anti-air measures of the capital city Pyrrhus, Sev discovers that the Helghast have been able to harness the natural Helghan (planet, not army) resource of Petrusite, allowing for arc towers that can basically zap and destroy any solider or armament against them.  As they attempt to take out the Tharsis Refinery on the outskirts, Colonel Radac (your nemesis for the game) kidnaps key members of Sev’s group.  It’s not all bad news, Sev does discover the details behind Red Dust, the nuclear weapon, and manages to steal the launch codes before breaking out and escaping with his team.  Everyone extracts to the New Sun, an invasion ship of the fleet that assaulted Helghan.  Radac predictably finds his way on board, kills a key member of Sev’s team (playing the game reveals more background on character Garza) and steals back the codes, however the dying member Garza manages to crash the invaded New Sun into the Tharsis Refinery and ruin most of the arc tower plans.  The game wraps with Sev and Rico invading the Helghan capital to capture Vasari, but being somewhat delayed by the triggering of Red Dust on the city.  The two continue into the capital, fight a ridiculous boss battle with Radac in the process, and the gloomy words of Vasari convince Sev to kill the Helghast leader instead of taking him into custody.  As the sun sets over Pyrrhus a massive Helghan fleet is revealed and ready to take out the ISA.

Relevance: Killzone 2 is a hell of an experience.  Relatively long compared to other first-person shooters, roughly 12 hours, and with an enemy AI and “killbox” level design that forces you to play hyper aggressive, it’s unlike most games of its times.  Couple that with gorgeous graphics, cool weapons, and a cover system not unlike that in Gears of War and there’s little reason to give this one a try.  It was somewhat forgotten with an early 2009 release that put it outside the holiday season, immediately following Resistance 2, and in direct competition with Resident Evil 5 (not to mention Gears of War 2 just went up against Resistance 2 at the end of 2008).  Of the games released on the Playstation 3 platform, I still consider Killzone 2 one of the top 5 games to try on the console despite it’s ridiculous final boss battle.

kz2_vasari

And finally…

Killzone 3

Opening immediately following its predecessor, the goal is now to get Sev, Rico, and the rest of the ISA forces off Helghan and out of the eye of the storm that is retaliation.  Next in command of the Helghan forces is Admiral Orlock, a man not unlike Vasari in his ability to use rhetoric and propaganda to get his way from the Helghan senate.  Not in his court is Jorhan Stahl, head of Stahl Arms Corporation and responsible for the largest number of military resources on Helghan.  It is clear that these two men don’t get along and there may be some competition for the “throne” of leadership.  Sev and Rico attempt an extraction and some botched plans and assaults later the two are marooned and separated on Helghan, lasting more than 6 months on the run.  In the meantime, the senate grows weary of Orlock’s leadership and the suggestion is made that Stahl take leadership.  While it doesn’t happen, Stahl withholds prototype weapons from the Helghan army and decides to use his own private forces to hunt down the lone soldiers in direct competition to Orlock, who has been hunting them for half a year.  In the meantime, Sev makes his way to the Helghan jungle (an interesting level), speaks with Vekta leadership, and a cease-fire is negotiated to extract the soldiers.  Stahls men find Sev and capture him, resulting in Rico and a few of his men saving him (this is now par for the course).

During the escape, Sev and Rico discover a plot to eliminate all of Earth’s forces from Stahl, using a prototype weapon.  As a result they go about infiltrating and destroying Stahl’s forces before attacking the man himself.  This entire conflict takes place in space, specifically in the Helghan orbit, and involves some interesting space combat, physics, and an eventual push to Stahl himself.  After a brief battle, Sev drops a massive Petrusite nuclear bomb on Stahl’s cruiser to eliminate any chance he will be a threat, resulting in a nuclear fallout that wipes most of Helghan.  After some reflecting on killing millions of people all at once, Sev and Rico return to Vekta and a post-credits scene shows two Helghast soldiers investigating an escape pod on Helghan and stating, “Welcome home sir,” implying that Stahl may very well be alive.

killzone3

Relevance:  Killzone 3 was a bit gimmicky.  It had 3D, jetpacks, and plenty of crazy weapons on its side, but in the end it just wasn’t as strong as its predecessor.  Still, it was quite enjoyable and many liked the new lighter feel of your fighter and his ability to act a bit more like a Call of Duty soldier (which I felt was a step back).  Multiplayer continued to thrive and with long battles, massive maps, and rotating objectives, still stands strong today as an exclusive multiplayer shooter.

And that’s the story at this point.  With the preview coverage I’ve seen on Killzone Shadow Fall up to this point I think it’s safe to assume that much like the other iterations, it will be a visual masterpiece with the jury still out on gameplay.  Here’s hoping it plays as good as it looks.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Podcast: Generation in Review

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lastgen_post

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

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