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Klonoa: Door to Phantomile Review

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Some titles just never seem to fair well in the West. Klonoa is a cute cuddly anthropomorphic animal, he kinda looks like he’s a cross between a dog, a cat and maybe a rabbit. In Japan this cute fella was incredibly popular and his Playstation game rocketed to the top of the charts for sales. Then Klonoa made his happy debut in the West and things just didn’t seem to fair well for the poor guy. The problem you see is we are horrible people over here in the West. Gamers here are hungry for blood like vicious hyenas, and that’s why games like Tomb Raider did well. If we have a platformer it better have attitude like Crash Bandicoot or be in 3D like Spyro the Dragon. Klonona failed to perform well and in turn the game become very rare and sought after to Playstation collectors in the West. I was lucky enough to rent this game back in 1998. Fortunately with the power of PSN, I was able to download the game to my PSP and see what this cuddly adventure has to offer and what we folk in the West failed to see.

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Written by jamalais

June 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Old Console, New Hardware (Part 2)

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This week the mod conversation continues as the guys move into the CD-based consoles and the wonderful world of modchips.  There were many ways to get different things done in the Playstation era and beyond.  Finally the show wraps up with soft modding and the various things that can be done from consoles only a few generations old.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

Altered Beast Review

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Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots.  Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising.  I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home.  I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game.  When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly.  In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past.  This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.

altered_beast_arcade_beast_modeThe premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped.  Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level.  Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time.  Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less.  Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span.  When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.”  Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first.  Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme.  While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much.  That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series).  Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

Tomb Raider Anniversary Review

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The original Tomb Raider was more than just a 32 bit title that launched a strong Playstation franchise, it was a cultural phenomenon.  For those that have ever played it, especially if you’ve recently gone back, it’s rather difficult to appreciate that game without the amazing strength of nostalgia.  Fortunately when Crystal Dynamics took over for the franchise with Legend the company’s second project was to remake the original.  As the following reviews will attest, it was a good faith effort to not only switch up the mechanics and polish the weaker points of the first game, but ultimately the need to keep many of the levels and designs intact tarnish the experience.  Crystal Dynamics played it safe with how little it tweaked of the original formula and what resulted was a game that feels so updated and tight at some points and so sluggish and archaic at others.

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Written by jamalais

December 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Ongoing Series: Tomb Raider Anniversary

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For the November game club we are playing through Tomb Raider, both the original and anniversary. Fred is tackling Anniversary. By popular request two versions of each video is being uploaded: one with and one without commentary. This has commentary, so if you wish to see the one without simply go here.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

Legend of Zelda Review

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The Legend of Zelda series has transcended time and now acts less as a genesis of the 80s and more as one of Nintendo’s long running trains through time.  Like all trains, many have gotten on and gotten off over the decades and thus the original is no longer that paramount flagship title that gave way to action RPGs that it used to be.  In fact, these days I can’t imagine how one not familiar with the game could get started without a guide.  Where would you go?  What would you do?  How long until you eventually enter the first dungeon that read “level one” and would you know that it means first dungeon instead of top level of the dungeon?  On the other hand there are that other half of the gaming populous that is acutely familiar with all of the intricacies of what was our first true digital adventure.  I myself know exactly where every dungeon is (on the second quest too), know exactly where to bomb a wall or burn a bush, and could navigate the lost woods with my eyes closed.  That’s because I’ve done it so many times that the very movements of my average run are more muscle memory than anything else.  It was one of the first games I played and one of the best.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 27, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Donkey Kong Country SNES Review

Dkc_snes_boxartPlatform: Super NES, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance – Note: Portable versions have compromised graphics and performance
Released: 1994
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Digital Release? Yes, 800 points on the Virtual Console for Wii and Wii U (optimized for Wii U)
Value: $18.52 (SNES)/$6.51 (GBC)/$10.00 (GBA) – cart only, $38.97 (SNES)/$16.24 (GBC)/$20.00 (GBA) – complete, $80.00 (SNES)/$53.07 (GBC)/$51.00 (GBA) – sealed – According to Price Charting 

Donkey Kong Country (DKC) on the SNES is a game held in high regard by a lot of Nintendo fans. Developed by Rare, who at the time was a second party developer to Nintendo and consistently releasing new and unique IPs, which only got better when it came to the follow up console the N64. Nintendo was quite happy for Rare to develop a game starring Donkey Kong, who up to this point was just sitting on Nintendo’s shelf not really doing a lot (development on this title began before the Gameboy re-hash of Donkey Kong ’94). Rare came up with an idea for a platformer that proved to be very successful and led to two additional sequels being developed on the SNES and then a 3D iteration on the N64.  It is now time to peel back a banana and see if this SNES game still holds up today.


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Written by jamalais

April 17, 2015 at 11:39 am

Posted in Reviews, SNES, Wii

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Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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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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Monster World IV Review (English Translation)

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mw4_boxPlatform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Publisher: Sega
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)

The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here.  [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here.  Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]

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Written by jamalais

April 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Resident Evil HD Remaster Under 3 Hour Speedrun

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Completing a longer game in a speedrun can be not only an accomplishment but also quite rewarding.  In the case of Resident Evil, completing the game in a speedrun is literally built into the programming with the expectation that after you’ve explored the game a couple of times you will jump right into it.  The recent Resident Evil HD Remaster came out and while I found the game quite difficult in my recent playthrough and it took me over 11 hours to complete, I dared leap into an under 3 hour speedrun (albeit with the gracious help of a guide from GameFAQs).  I also decided to capture it and offer voiceover so that you can not only enjoy watching a speedrun, but see what is done and why to somewhat bend the timeline of the game to be as short as it is.  I’ve embedded the first video below and you can see the entire playlist here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 2, 2015 at 11:00 am


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