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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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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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

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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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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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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Podcast: Game Club – Ico

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This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team Podcast to discuss our February game club title Ico.  We cover development, Team Ico studio, the campaign, and significance of this artistic early PS2 title.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

Perspective: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 1 & 2 (PS1)

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persona_box Persona2_box innocentsin_box

I’ve only just begun Persona 3 with about five hours under my belt, but already I can tell I’m going to like this game. It’s a massive hybrid of so many genres woven together in a nice JRPG shell that sucks you in and gets you hooked, fast – just one more day, am I right? I’m glad to see that, too, because having just completed both Shin Megami Tensei Persona and Persona 2 (both Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment) I was beginning to fear I was missing something. That’s because by all accounts the first two installments in the Persona series (Persona 2 was split into two games and up until recently Innocent Sin was never technically available in the US) are a dated, rough ride through all of the confines and setbacks of traditional JRPGs along with a steep difficulty and very complex battle system to boot. From the start, both games are a daunting task and none of the remakes update the gameplay at all. In the end I only made it through with step-by-step instructions in a strategy guide, lots of patience, and a little luck. This is not what I signed on for and given the current landscape of this genre it appears that for most gamers the PS1 outings of Persona are caught between two amorphous worlds (much like the characters themselves) when the genre was drastically changing. After somewhere between 150-250 total hours to complete (there is no game clock, I’m completely guessing), a total of five different games, and an incredible hunger to extract the draw of the early iterations of the series I must issue a strong suggestion to bypass Persona’s roots and start with the third title, you’ll be thankful you did.

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