Reviews by AkaRai
An Improvement Over It's PredecessorAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Streets of Rage™ 2
Streets of Rage 2 is very similar to the original, but improved in every way. The graphics are improved, the combat has improved, all of the enemies are named and have visible health bars and the number of playable characters has gone from three to four.
Mr. X is back, and this time he's kidnapped Adam from the first game. Axel and Blaze return from the first game to rescue him, along with Adam's brother "Skate" and Axel's new wrestler friend Max Thunder.
If you enjoy beat 'em ups, and you enjoyed the first Streets of Rage, there's absolutely no reason not to pick this one up.
A Memorable ExperienceAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of ShadO DNS
Shad'O is a compelling tower defense game. While it doesn't break the mold or offer much in the way of innovation, it more than makes up for this with a fantastic presentation and story.
Nine year old William is trapped within his own mind, and his enemy is forgetfulness. He has to gather light and summon companions to battle forgetfulness, clear the fog from his mind and regain his memories. As the story progresses, we learn just what William is so afraid of.
Beyond the compelling story, Shad'O's strength lies in it's art style and beautiful graphics. The game is often a delight to look at, and clearly they had a great artist working for them on this game.
Put simply, if you like tower defense games, you'll enjoy Shad'O. It has a more compelling narrative than they usually do, some would even call it artsy.
Classic Beat 'Em Up ActionAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Streets of Rage™
Back in the day, Streets of Rage was the first game I ever completed on the Game Gear. Since then it's seen numerous releases on various systems, and several sequels.
Similar to other beat 'em ups like Double Dragon and Final Fight, Streets of Rage has you travel through level after level fighting various thugs and criminals, each area ending in a boss, and picking up objects in your surroundings to use as weapons.
The plot is simple enough, a crime syndicate has taken over the city, and controls most of the local government and law enforcement. Three young cops -who happen to be expert fighters- quit the force to take matters into their own hands. You choose between Adam who moves slowest but has the highest attack and is a boxer, Axel who has medium stats but a poor jumping ability and is a master martial artist, and Blaze, who is a master of Judo and has the highest jump and speed but lowest attack (actually some of her attacks do more damage than the other two.)
If you like 16-bit arcade beat 'em ups, Streets of Rage is unlikely to disappoint you.
Gotta Go Fast!AkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Sonic the Hedgehog CAP
An extremely strong start to a series some would say has seen better days, Sonic the Hedgehog is the essential Sega classic game. The game that made them a household name, their most enduring mascot character. Sonic the Hedgehog is simply a must-have for Sega collectors.
The evil Dr. Robotnik is capturing animals and turning them into robotic slaves. It's up to Sonic, The Fastest Thing Alive to stop them and thwart Dr. Robotnik's evil plans. This game was known for it's great graphics for the time, and fast-paced gameplay. Sonic can survive most any hit he receives, so long as he still has rings. Whenever he's hit, all his rings pop out, but if he manages to recollect them he can survive another attack. Various power ups make Sonic all the more deadly.
If you're collecting Sega games, this game is pretty much essential.
Save the ChirpsAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Flicky
Flicky is a fairly simple Sega arcade game, where you play as the title character, who is a flightless bird trying to save baby bird (called Chirps) from house cats and iguanas. The object of each level is to safely gather up the Chirps and lead them to the exit without getting eaten by the cat or iguana. Enemies can be killed by throwing items at them.
Honestly, that's all there is to the game. There's nothing wrong with the game, but as many old arcade games it does become repetitive after a while, and it's the sort of arcade game where upon completion, it starts over with a higher difficulty.
Personally I'd pass on it, but if you're looking for a Sega arcade classic comparable to Pac-Man, this is your game.
An Imaginative Adventure For All AgesAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Scribblenauts Unlimited (NA)
Honestly, I was largely unaware of this series before this release. My girlfriend wanted a copy, and while I was initially turned off by the art style, I grew to appreciate the game while playing through with her, somewhere around the point she decided to create a giant, flying, super fast, ridable porcupine with a hat and mustache.
A lot of effort was put into this game, and it shows. The puzzles feel a little on the easy side, but that may be in part due to how broad your options are. If you can imagine it, you can create it in this game.
The protagonist Maxwell's parents were adventurers, and give him and his sister a magical globe that allows them to travel anywhere on the planet, and a notepad on which anything written will become reality. Essentially you can type in any object, and describe it in fairly detailed terms, and it'll poof into existence before your character. You can edit it further if needed too. Upon venturing out of their house, Maxwell and his sister Lilly play a prank on a hungry old man, and give him a rotten apple. In anger, he curses Lilly to turn into stone, and the only way to save her is to collect starites by helping people.
You help people using the magical notebook, and aside from mini-games (and within many of the mini-games as well) this is how the vast majority of the game is played. Someone has a problem, and you open up your notebook and create something that solves it.
It's simple enough, but it's open-ended and fun watching your creations come to life. It's well-crafted and fun for all ages. I can't comment on how well it compares to other versions of the game, but I thought Scribblenauts Unlimited was a quality product.
Right Game, Wrong TimeAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Ristar
Ristar had all the makings of a classic, and could have gone on to become a franchise in itself, but it was released for the Genesis just three months before the Sega Saturn came out. Had it come out sooner, more may have been made.
For what it's worth, Ristar is a lovely, well-crafted, fun game, developed during a time when the market was flooded with cartoony mascot characters. Ristar was an anthropamorphic star whose primary gimmick was his stretchy arms, which he could use to climb and swing, as well as grab enemies and slam himself into them to attack.
The story varies between releases, but in both versions Ristar is trying to save the Valdi star system from the evil space pirate Kaiser Greedy, who is using mind control to bend the populous of the planets to his will. Ristar travels through six planets -each with two levels and two bosses a piece- before finally confronting the main villain.
It's a genesis classic, and is you like side-scrolling platforming action/adventure games, you can't go wrong with Ristar.
Improving On a ClassicAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Golden Axe II
Golden Axe 2 is extremely similar to the first game. The same three characters return to once again take The Golden Axe out of the hands of the story's villain. Mounts are back, many of the same enemies return, and the little thief gnomes are present too.
That said, there are differences. Many of the attacks were changed to improve gameplay, the controls were improved, and in a few places the game got a cosmetic upgrade. Spells return, but the elements have changed and with them come new flash animations.
If you really liked Golden Axe, there's no reason you won't like it's sequel, though it is basically more of the same. If you for some reason didn't like Golden Axe, then this game will do little to change your opinion.
Hack n' Slash Arcade ClassicAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Golden Axe
The Conan the Barbarian inspired kingdom of Yuria is in danger, as the evil -and now classic- villain Death Adder has kidnapped the king and his daughter, and is in possession of the magical Golden Axe the title refers to. To stop him, you pick between an axe-wielding dwarf in green, a blue loin cloth clad barbarian with a broadsword, and a beautiful longsword-wielding amazon in a red and silver bikini.
In it's day, Golden Axe delivered a very enjoyable co-op adventure that was since repeated and emulated in numerous other games. While other games improved on the formula, Golden Axe was undeniably fun. Beyond the typical hack and slash, each character could use a magic spell to clear the screen if they were overwhelmed, and the addition of mounts contributed a lot to how fun this game was, as you could knock enemies off their mounts and get on them, and in turn they could knock you off and take it from you. The enemies thrown at you do get increasingly repetitive as the game progresses.
Golden Axe is a must have for collectors of Sega arcade classics.
16-Bit Coop Doesn't Get Much Better Than ThisAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Gunstar Heroes
Put simply, Gunstar Heroes is a classic, with great designs, great humor, and extremely enjoyable fast-paced, frantic action. The plot varies depending on which version of the game you play, but to boil it down, in either version of the story you play as Red and Blue, two of the Gunstars, are aided by female gunstar Yellow, and are betrayed by Green. Nearly everyone in this game has a color-themed name. As Red and Blue, your mission is to collect four gems to try to prevent the return of Golden Silver.
The plot is of minor importance, the draw here is the gameplay. In particular the boss battles are considered the game's highlight, but it's fun all the way through. Controls are fluid, and combat is frantic. It's a run and gun game, with four weapons to choose from which can be combined allowing for a total of 16 possible unique weapons. You can also attack enemies with close-range attacks and even grab and throw enemies.
Looking for a 16-bit era classic? This is it.
A Classic Treat For Comic & Beat 'Em Up FansAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Comix Zone
If you've ever played Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage, this game plays very similarly. The fittingly named Sketch Turner is a comic book artist sucked into his own work by the villain of his comic. He has to traverse the world he's created, as it's altered by his villain, who frequently draws in more enemies for him to face, with little more to help him than a trusty pet rat.
Comix Zone is a stylish side-scrolling beat 'em up with 90's comic book inspired designs that sees you pummeling foes, and then moving from one panel of a comic to another to complete levels.
It's a lot of fun, but some may find the difficulty a bit frustrating, and there's not much variety in the combat. If you want a classic Sega beat 'em up, and you like comic books though, this is your best bet.
Unappreciated Sega ClassicAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of VectorMan
If you're looking for a good game from the Genesis era, look no further. Vector Man was one of my favorite games on the console growing up, and I played it to no end.
It's the future, and mankind has left a very polluted Earth to colonize the galaxy. In our place, we left "orbots" to clean up our mess. A nuclear warhead is accidentally attached to a powerful orbot who promptly goes insane and renames himself Warhead. He declares war on humanity, and swears to destroy them when they return to Earth. Vectorman was an orbot assigned to destroy trash by hurling it into the sun, and thus was away when Warhead took over, and as a result is the only orbot not under his control.
If you took Wall-E, Earthworm Jim and Beast Wars and tossed them into a blender, VectorMan is roughly what you'd get, and it works. It's a side-scrolling action platformer where you fire an energy weapon and collect power ups to shoot more powerful shoots, the sort of game referred to these days as a "jump n' shoot" game. When the game first came out, the graphics were outstanding, and all things considered I think they hold up reasonably well, the sound design in this game is fantastic as well, with Vectorman making some very satisfying firing noises as he destroys his enemies.
Rise From Your Grave!AkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Altered Beast
Altered Beast is an arcade classic, which was originally ported onto the Mega Drive and Genesis, and has since been emulated in a ton of different formats over and over again. There was even a PS2 remake that saw somewhat limited release.
You play as a one of two buff adventurers brought back to life by Zeus to rescue Athena from an evil wizard who among other things can turn into a bipedal rhinoceros. Along the way, by defeating white wolves which pop up throughout each level, the player can transform, first becoming larger and more powerful, and finally becoming a monster of some variety, ranging from a werewolf, to a dragon to a werebear.
The game is somewhat repetitive and short, and I found the difficulty ramps up near the end, but it's still mostly fun along the way. Unfortunately it hasn't held up as well as some other arcade classics, but it's a must for any fan of classic Sega games.
Great Presentation, Slow, Plodding GameplayAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Confrontation
Confrontation feels like it wants to be Dawn of War 2, put frankly. I'm hesitant to say it's a bad game, because it's not fundamentally broken in any way, and I had fun with it for a while, and all the mechanics work and are fairly standard, but the levels have a tendency to drag on, and the combat does get a little stale after a while.
For what it's worth, they seem to have a great license they're working with here. The designs of the characters look great, and there is an army painter to customize your army's look, but it's a little on the basic side.
The leveling up system is fine, and there are plenty of interesting abilities to learn and use, but there isn't much in the way of loot throughout the game. Most of the time what you collect is either points to upgrade your characters, or bandages to heal them, and personally I rarely had a need for bandages as your characters regenerate quickly after battles (though I definitely don't recommend charging into a new battle until you've healed.)
In short, if you really love real-time tactical RPGs, and this game is on sale, you might want to consider picking it up, but I'd definitely look up some gameplay videos first, because this game isn't for everyone.
An Experience Not To Be MissedAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of BioShock DNS
From the moment the game begins, everything about the presentation is perfect. Rapture (the underwater city in which the game takes place) feels like a living, breathing place. A beautiful, ruined paradise I'd love to vacation to, if not for it being filled with murderous psychopaths.
It takes a really good game to get me to enjoy a first-person shooter, and I absolutely adored Bioshock. An extremely wealthy eccentric has created an underwater city with no rules, and filled it with some of the brightest minds. Without any rules or morality holding them back, genetic modification became the order of the day, and the city descended into chaos. The surviving inhabitants are crazed "splicers" who aren't fond of strangers, and want to gut you for everything you have.
Considered a spiritual successor to System Shock, Bioshock boasted a fairly open-ended combat system, allowing you to hack robots to fight for you, rely on various plasmids to genetically alter yourself and fire various effects which work similarly to spells, or just mow them down with guns. It offers a compelling narrative in a truly fascinating setting. I honestly can't find fault with this game.
Retro Sci-Fi Tower DefenseAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Unstoppable Gorg
Do you like retro-futuristic campy 50's sci-fi? Do you enjoy tower defense? If you answered yes to both, you'll likely find enjoyment in Unstoppable Gorg. The Earth is under attack by a cheesy race of malicious aliens. You defend against this invasion with an assortment of upgradable satellites. In between are numerous cut-scenes usually presented as a news reel, and this is half the fun of the game.
Everything is pitch-perfect as far as presentation. You almost feel as if strings should be visible above all the UFOs and satellites, but that probably would have been difficult given one of this game's core mechanics.
Like a traditional tower defense game, you put your defenses on spots along a grid, what's different is that you can rotate this grid to put your defenses where they can do the most damage, and change this freely as you play.
It's a charming little game, and as I said to begin with for it's price and length, if you enjoy 50's sci-fi and tower defense games, you can't go wrong picking this up.
A Treat For Warhammer 40k FansAkaRai | Jan. 6, 2013 | Review of Warhammer 40000: Space Marine
A fun ride all the way through, Space Marine puts you in the role the game is named for, of the Ultramarines to be specific. These are the characters other games like Starcraft, Warcraft, Halo and Gears of War got their inspiration from.
Space Marines are an unstoppable force, humanity's best defense against the horrors that await in a universe where there is only war. Outfitted with heavy armor, and augmented to be far larger than a normal human, you may feel like you're controlling a tank until you get used to it, but given what you're playing as, it makes sense.
Combat is always delightfully over the top, and you fight with a number of exotic, entertaining weapons, including chainswords (chainsaw swords) power axes and power hammers (which spark with electricity and destroy everything in their path) plasma rifles, and lascannons to name a few. Your default weapons, bolters -which you will encounter several variations of- essentially fire rounds which are rocket propelled missiles fired as if out of an assault rifle. Everything about this game is over the top in a wonderful way.
There is a little variety to the combat with some assault marine (jet pack) segments, but for the most part you're just pouring lead and slicing up hordes of vicious enemies, so some people may find it repetitive after a while. Probably the best example of how wonderfully over top the game can be is how you heal. There are no health packs, and while you have a shield, health doesn't regenerate. You get health by first stunning an enemy, and then executing a special kill on them. While I found this generally very entertaining, it was also a source of occasional frustration, as you don't heal until the execution animation has completed, and until then you're still open to fire, so there were numerous times I found my character killed because a squig blew up next to him while he was midway through executing another enemy.
That said, the campaign is a fairly decent length, and this game will delight 40k fans, and it's enjoyable enough that you don't need to be familiar with the series to enjoy it.
Calling It a "Teen Version of GTA" Doesn't Do Bully JusticeAkaRai | Jan. 5, 2013 | Review of Bully: Scholarship Edition
While there are many obvious parallels to be drawn between Bully and Grand Theft Auto -such as the numerous morally dubious decisions you make and the various cliques in the school standing in for rival criminal organizations- Bully is by and large a different game.
Bully has a few RPG-like elements wherein you can improve your combat abilities and other stats by going to class and doing well -each unlocking abilities in different areas, like science helping you with some weapons, gym helping you with combat, and art basically helping you with girls- and completing quests.
Jimmy is kind of a troubled kid. At the start of the game, his apathetic mother and step-father are dumping him off at the unimaginatively named Bullworth Academy, as he's been expelled from numerous other schools. Bullworth is tightly divided between the school's various cliques. The nerds, the jocks, the greasers and the preps (and later on the townies.) Bullying is extremely common there, and all but encouraged by the staff. Jimmy may be a jerk, but he looks poorly on bullying, and rather than simply joining one of the cliques, works his way through them, bullying the bullies and earning their respect.
Personally, I think my favorite aspect of the game was the outstanding soundtrack, which made segments like Halloween night, sneaking into the girl's dorm on a panty raid, and fighting the football team in a stolen mascot's uniform all the more memorable. Bully offers an entertaining experience that you'll enjoy even if you're not a fan of the GTA series, as I personally am not.
Arcade Classic on SteamAkaRai | Jan. 5, 2013 | Review of Crazy Taxi
I'd definitely say it's better with a controller, but if you enjoyed it on the Dreamcast or in the arcade, then this faithful port will appeal to you.
For the few who haven't heard of this game, Crazy Taxi has you pick a driver, and blast through the streets of San Francisco listening to Offspring trying to get passengers to their destination in as timely a fashion as possible, traffic, roads and pedestrians be damned.
There's not much in the way of a story or progression here, though there is a challenge mode to give you something more to play with, but it was originally an arcade game. For what it offers, it's fantastic. Gameplay is fast, frantic and fun, and your taxi controls well. If you're not a fan of Offspring the soundtrack may irritate you, but being a big fan that was part of what made me enjoy this game so much.
Beautiful, Stylish Action PuzzlerAkaRai | Jan. 5, 2013 | Review of Trine
Trine is an action/puzzle game that delivers an experience most close to Lost Vikings in tone. Taking place in a fantasy setting, you play as three characters each with unique skills, trapped by a magical artifact called the Trine to share one body. You alternate between the three of them to defeat monsters and solve physics based puzzles.
The stalwart knight can block projectiles and attacks with his shield, and attack with his sword or hammer, and can lift and throw extremely heavy objects, the lithe thief can traverse areas with her grappling hook and shoot objects and enemies with her arrows, and the absent-minded wizard can create boxes and planks of various sizes and lengths to serve as platforms, weight down switches, or drop on enemies. He can also levitate many objects to various effect.
I can honestly say throughout the adventure I never felt bored, and the game neither felt too short or as if it was dragging on too long. Very rarely did a puzzle frustrate me. Everything plays fluidly, the soundtrack is lovely, the way the characters move, everything from the ground up appeals to me about this game.
Spore's Answer to DiabloAkaRai | Jan. 4, 2013 | Review of Darkspore (NA) dns
Put simply, Darkspore is a dungeon crawler that uses the Spore creature creator, resulting in alien, extremely customizable (and for some reason often hunch-backed) heroes to fit with weapons, armor and new body parts, and sent out into alien planets to battle hoards of alien parasites.
You control a team of three heroes at a time -which you can swap between at well if one is taking damage- with various elemental affinities and play types to try to cleanse the universe of a plague wiping out all life as we know it. Early on the game is quite compelling boasting a wide-range of heroes with different playstyles and unique and interesting abilities, including teleporting around the field, summoning pets to fight by your side, or manipulating time to various effects.
The problem is, as different as the characters all look, many of them play effectively the same. Several have abilities that cause an object to fall from the sky and hit an enemy, many share the same weapon type. This is compounded when you unlock higher level heroes, as the game tells you there are 100 to unlock, but after the 25th you come to discover the remaining 75 are slightly altered versions of the first set.
That aside, the combat is fast, fun, and frantic, and if you love collecting tons of loot and high levels of character customization, you'll probably have a lot of fun in the character editor affixing the seemingly endless number of items you get to your heroes. Unfortunately, at a certain point it all starts to feel very repetitive, despite some very impressive boss battles and interesting locales.
If You're Looking For Weird, Look No FurtherAkaRai | Jan. 4, 2013 | Review of Zeno Clash
Independent Chilean developer ACE set out to make a game that combined elements of first-person shooters, RPGs, sandbox games, and melee beat 'em ups. Soon into development they realized this was too ambitious, and scaled back dropping the RPG and sandbox elements. What remained was a tight and -if you're looking for something different- compelling adventure.
Set in the world of Zenozoik, the main character Ghat is on the run from his family, after falling out of favor with his mysterious parental figure "Father-Mother" along the way encountering numerous bizarre characters, and a forest full of insane people. The narrative may not be quite as clever as it seems to think it is, but it is nonetheless compelling.
Combat is fun, fast and fairly intuitive. The game does have some problems with auto-lock ons, and it unfortunately becomes near unplayable with a 360 controller (at least on steam) as you're no longer able to effectively move the camera.
This game is not for everyone, but if you like weird, alien worlds, Zeno Clash is worth a look. My one complaint is that the game is somewhat short, and can easily be completed in around 4 hours. The inclusion of an arena dungeon mode lengthens this out somewhat, but it will probably only appeal to trophy hunters.