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Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Review

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When you think of space shooters, the Darius series is probably not the first one you would think of, so it came as a wonderful surprise to to see this title come from out of nowhere and single handedly brought about what could be the renaissance of the space shooter series.  Dariusburst Chronicles Saviours (DBCS) is a love letter to the Darius series as well as anyone who has nostalgia for the shoot-em-up (shmup) genre. This series first started all the way back in 1986 and was infamously known for its merginging of space and the ocean. By this I mean that enemy ships all look like mechanical fish. It has an incredible design to it that you’ve just never seen anywhere else. Although the Darius series has not seen recent titles in the West, it has been living on with a lot of popularity in Japan on the portable and arcade scene.

The DBCS concept is pretty simple: you’re in a small space ship flying through various environments and your goal is to unload bullet hell onto any fishy looking space ship that happens to disturb your casual flight. The main hook of this game is the “burst” feature, which is a super charged cannon and unloads a devastating beam of death once you have acquired enough charge. It’s an essential feature to use against the gorgeous looking boss battles which range from giant mechanical crabs, lion-fish, and swordfish. It felt like quite the trip to the mechanical aquarium for me as I used to be quite the enthusiast of fish in my younger days and seeing some of creatures recreated in this game brought a smile to my face. What I love about the boss battles in this game is how you’re presented with a giant “WARNING” sign before each foe appears, you have this feeling something sinister is around the corner. Despite seeing this screen hundreds of times it never got old for me. If you’re skilled with the cannon, you can time it just right for when the boss decides to give you a stream of its own beam of death, which you can counter and land an even bigger beam of destruction back at the baddie. This moment when I was clever (or lucky) enough to pull it off was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve had in gaming for quite some time. Its not all burst beams though, ships come in different fins and shells and you can pick up power-ups to upgrade your ship along your level.

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Written by jamalais

December 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Bust-A-Move 2 Arcade Edition Review

bam2_boxPlatform: Arcade, Playstation, Saturn, N64, Gameboy
Released: 1996-1998
Developer: Taito/Probe
Publisher: Taito/Acclaim
Digital Release? Yes, but only on the Japanese PSN (of PS1 version)
Value: $3.50-$10 (disc/cart only – all platforms), $7-$15 (complete, all but N64)/$25 (complete N64), $30-$40 (sealed)

Bust a Move 2 Arcade Edition was a popular title released on the Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn and N64. While the concentration of these systems was to move gaming into 3D, Bust a Move was a game that kept its feet firmly in the 2D realm, and it still does to this day. All versions are ports of the very popular arcade game and all versions are arguably fantastic ports, bringing that vintage arcade experience home. For this review I’ll specifically be covering the Playstation version.

bam2ae_2I have always enjoyed the Bust a Move series. I have played the majority of the entries on home consoles and arcades. The most memorable game from my younger days was Bust a Move 2. This was literally in every arcade in my area. It ran on Taito’s F3 hardware and could be found in dedicated arcade cabinets and later the Neo Geo cabinets which were becoming increasingly popular. Bust a Move 2 was one of those arcade game where I would literally watch the demo screen over and over again even after I ran out of money to sink into the cabinet. There was something rather hypnotic about watching, maybe because I have always had a fascination with arcade puzzle titles, or maybe its because I’m a utter fan boy for Taito games, especially the Bubble Bobble games of which this series is a spin off from.

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Written by jamalais

April 29, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Mini Podcast: Bust-A-Move 2

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This month we have been tasked with covering three games and Jam was the first into the gate with his Playstation 1 reflection of Bust-A-Move 2.  The follow-up to the original game, better known as Puzzle Bobble in arcades, this was one of the many instances where home console ports began to catch up with and properly port over the arcade experience.  Jam and his special guest delve into their reflections on this classic cooperative puzzle game.


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Written by jamalais

April 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Taito Legends

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This week Fred is joined by James (@Jamalais) to discuss the arcade classics released by Taito in the 1980s.  They cover the company’s history and many of the staple titles like Space Invaders, Jungle Hunt, Zoo Keeper, Bubble Bobble, Darius, Rainbow Islands, and Rastan.  Return to one of the arcade pioneers of gaming’s golden years.


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Please note: In the show Jam refers to a review for Rainbow Islands that was very close to him.  That review can be read, unedited, here.  (It is in an open document type, so I recommend using Google Docs to view.)

Written by Fred Rojas

February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Operation Wolf (Arcade)

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Operation_Wolf_posterConsole: Arcade
Released: 1987
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
Ports: NES (1989), Sega Master System (1990), DOS (1991), PC-Engine (Japan Only, 1992), Microcomputers (varies), PS2 (in Taito Legends, arcade version), Xbox (in Taito Legends, arcade version)
Digital Release? Yes – NES Version on Virtual Console (no light gun support, see below)

Operation Wolf is a game I can’t help but associate with Pizza Hut.  Taito’s introduction and unique take on the light gun shooter flooded the American franchise so much in the late 80s that I can think of no other place I’ve actually played the game.  Of course being a pizza franchise and not an arcade the difficulty was always cranked to the highest and I swear they timed the machine to play approximately half the time it took to cook a pizza so that families with two kids would each play one credit before the food was ready.  This title brought more realism to the light gun shooter as you play a member of special forces diving behind enemy lines in Cuba to extract five hostages.  Aside from the realistic violence of invading and destroying enemy encampments, this was the first light gun shooter to feature a plot and natural progression as well as a moving, scrolling stage instead of a fixed location.  Did I mention it was addicting too?

Operation_Wolf_cabinetMind you, we are still back in 1987, where arcade games were more about providing a specialized challenge with amazing graphics instead of explicitly drinking as many quarters as you’ll offer.  The cabinet had a large mounted Uzi machine gun that could only swivel slightly with forced feedback to emulate gunfire kickback, pretty nifty for games of that time.  At first glance it seems like a spray & pray title, but as you run out of ammo, die, and get captured you begin to realize you might need a slight bit of strategy.  If you die,  even if you have another quarter in the machine, you will still need to complete the current level from scratch (although you will now have full ammo and life).  Innocent people are thrown into the mix, which you should not shoot, and animals, which you should shoot, for bonus items.  Early on there’s not much penalty (as I prove in the video below) for blasting civilians or missing a vulture flying overhead, but by the final levels your screen will have a literal 50/50 spread of civilians and enemies with these animals being mostly your only source of ammo and power.  I only do one playthrough in the video, but in truth I replayed this game for a couple of hours of fun.  Unlike other light gun shooters before it, this game was less about accuracy and more used the gun as a placeholder for an invisible reticule.  This is why most home ports and conversions don’t suffer from controller porting and in truth this type of game has proven to be just as effective, if not more so, with a reticule and controller as opposed to a light gun (which I cover in the home ports below).

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

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

Space Invaders (Taito)

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It is the world’s most popular arcade machine of all time, caused such a craze in Japan that there was a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins (equivalent to a quarter in US arcades) and grossed a whopping $2 billion worldwide in 1982.  Not only that it skyrocketed sales of the Atari VCS/2600, its “alien” creatures are now symbols representing video games as a whole and the Guinness Book of World Records labels it the top arcade game ever made.  I’m speaking of none other than Space Invaders(Supēsu Inbēdā in Japan), the very first shmup and the arcade game that ushered a new action focus in arcades instead of the previous sports focus.  Whether you played it, or a derivative game like Galaga, this game is so well-known that it still spells gold for developers even today.  It was probably one of the first games I ever played and anytime I see a cabinet I have to plunk down a quarter for a play.  Even Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto (responsible for Mario, Link and plenty of other Nintendo staple titles) admitted that Space Invaders was the game that got him interested in video games.  I know it sounds like I’m singing the praises long after they’re due, but this truly is the ideal example of a game that is both easy to play and addicting as hell.  This is a true video game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Darius Series (Taito)

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Of all the shmups I mention this month, the toughest to actually play the way it is intended will be Darius (pronounced “dah-rai-us”).   This title premiered in arcades in 1986 by developer Taito and featured a super wide 3-screen arcade cabinet.  The first monitor would be centered like you’re used to, but the other two would be at slight angles on either side, using mirrors to create one straight wide view.  As a result the way you play the game is completely different because there’s a lot more to see coming and going around you.  Nowadays you could do a decent job emulating it on widescreen televisions, but no one has decided to do it yet.  Because of this visual mode it doesn’t work all that great on MAME and I highly recommend trying one of the home ports or later arcade ports, which were designed around 4:3 televisions.

Sample screen from original arcade format of Darius

Darius isn’t only significant for having a super wide screen resolution, otherwise it would have died in obscurity as a one-off coin-op.  It breaks the mold of the traditional shmup in many ways, including the fact that the player picks which level to play next.  Much like Castlevania III it is impossible to see all 28 levels in one playthrough, in fact you will only see 7 in any one completion, but eventually you can piece together every level.  Seafood haters out there will also note the interesting crustacean look to the enemies in the series.  Your ship, the Silver Hawk, comes equipped with a cannon, bombs/missiles for ground attacks and a force field, all of which are upgraded by, you guessed it, power-up items dropped by destroyed enemies.  Each level ends in a boss battle, although the size of the bosses isn’t quite the scale as I was used to with other shmups.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm