Friday, 29 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - M is for...

There are times when I find this blog quite difficult to write, times when the words just don't want to come.
There are times (I'm looking at you 'L') when I find it hard to find anything to say about the games that I'm trying to recommend... which is weird, as that's kind of the whole point, but happily that is far from the case today.

A game starting with M, Mille Miglia - The Great 1000 Miles Rally, is what that inspired me to build a Mame cabinet and that in turn inspired me to start this blog.
So here it is, slap bang in the middle of the alphabet, marking the halfway point with ultimate style.

Mille Miglia is special in quite an evasive way; it's difficult to pin down exactly why it feels like one of the best games I've played, it's exactly that - a feeling - and those are always such a bugger to quantify!

Obviously the graphics are beautiful, some of the finest sprite renditions of classic sports cars you'll ever see.
There are ten to choose from ranging across several makes and models; from a D-Type Jag to a huge Merc SSKL and even the beautiful Ferrari 250 GTO. All the cars appear to official licensing too.

Then there's the sound. Mille Miglia has no in game music but each of cars has a unique engine note that is punctured by the squeal of tyre as you throw your vehicle full bloodedly into hairpin bends and unforgiving chicanes.

The tracks are special too - not visually, you view the action from kind of isometric top-down view and, some neat detailing aside, most of the 13 courses look fairly similar as they blur by in the 60 seconds you have to complete each of them.

The quality comes from the track layouts which are always fun and always challenging.
The game's HUD constantly gives you an indication of the next corner to come, and this always flashes up a set time before a corner begins. Because of this, when you get in the zone, you'll be starting your turn before the corner has even appeared on the screen.

When it comes down to it though, the controls are probably what makes Mille Miglia so special.
All the cars handle identically, I suspect this is because it's impossible to have ten different variations on perfection.
You hurl your car into every corner at top speed, tail sliding, tires squealing, emerging through the apex with a huge grin as the game auto-centres in the direction of travel, just in time to be flung in another screeching arc before you can catch breath - Ridge Racer at it's finest never made you feel like this much of a driving god.

Although different in every quantifiable way, Metal Hawk does share some of these less measurable qualities.

In Metal Hawk you control a Helicopter from an overhead view. You can move forwards, backwards, left and right to track down your targets.
The game is given an extra dimension, both figuratively and literally by also having altitude control.
Each level has a time limit and set targets that must be destroyed in this time - they are highlighted with a yellow reticule when on screen and when they're not you are given an arrow to show the nearest targets direction and an indication of whether you need to be higher or lower also flashed on screen.

Unlike some of these Hidden Gems the production standards are pretty damn impressive too - I my have mentioned previously that I'm a huge fan of sprite scaling, I don't know what it is about the effect that gives me so much pleasure, but it always does. In this game it is incredibly smooth and both your helicopter and all the enemies are very neatly realised.

I guarantee that after you've been playing Metal Hawk for a while you start to feel like a bit of a chopper ninja; climbing and diving between targets and picking them before quickly moving to the next, what higher recommendation could there be than that?

Finally, and with another change of genre, we come to Mystic Warriors.

I could simply suggest that if you've played and enjoyed Sunset Riders then you need to play Mystic Warriors. And, now that I have, there may be no-one left reading this... but, assuming you've resisted, I'll add this - Mystic Warriors, made by the same team that put together Konami's western classic, is a better game.

The general controls are pretty similar to those of the better known game, you move left to right flinging shruikens  instead of bullets and the firing up and into the background effect is also retained here. There are melee attacks and magic as a bonus, and a very handy sliding move too.

It's the inventiveness of the levels that sets Mystic Warriors apart from pretty much every other game of it's ilk.
There's a great nod to Sunset Riders near the end of the first level but to take level two as a better example (I wouldn't want to spoil the discovery of anything later in the game) you spend the first half of the level making your way up a snow covered mountain.
You make use of a ski lift at one point and engage in a game of grenade hot potato at another.
Then, having reached the summit, you spend the second half of the level skiing down the other side whilst fighting off waves of goons with your projectile weapon.
It's all very Roger Moore era James Bond only with a ninja instead of a middle aged misogynist - and we all know that the skiing stunts were the best parts of those movies.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - L is for...

Well, it's been a while, things have happened, not particularly exciting things, and nothing pertaining to this blog... but things nonetheless.

So anyway lets get straight back into it, picking up where we left off with, you guessed it, a vertical shooter.

As with every shooter I've listed along the way Lethal Thunder offers something a little different.

And, as with most shooters I've listed along the way, that something is a power up system.
Yeah, truth be told Lethal Thunder isn't much to look at, and there's not masses of variety to the enemies or environments.

But, although it does feature standard power-ups, these only serve to affect the type of fire, the actual strength of the shot is related to how long you've been tapping the fire button.

Along the right edge of the screen there's a power gauge, it fills as you smack away at the fire button as fast as you can.

But this doesn't just relate to the power of your ammo.
Behind your ship is an orb that houses your special weapon. As the power builds so the orb spins faster a faster and it's strength grows too.
I'd love to tell you what happens when you fill the power bar to the top but I'm afraid I just don't know as I have not yet achieved this feat.
If anyone reading this knows then please share. But know that I never want to play you at Track and Field!

Next up is the sprite scaling shooter Lock On.

It's fast, it's frantic, and I honestly don't have much more to say about it.
I have a soft spot for sprite scalers, I think because I first started frequenting arcades at a time when Space Harrier and Afterburner were at the height of their popularity. The sights and sounds of those nailed-on classics will stay with me forever.

Lock On may not have the character and polish of Yu Suzuki's classic but it definitely falls squarely into the Afterburner category - some may even be uncharitable enough to call it a clone.
But that really isn't important.
What's important  is that Lock On is a hell of a lot of fun.
The 'Lock On' mechanic from which it takes it's name is a challenge to use well taking time and precision to line up before letting rip with a missile.

Moreover, everything else happens at such a riotous speed that it's pretty much impossible not to enjoy yourself.

Lastly we have Lethal Crash Race, another of the top down racers of which I am very fond.

This one differs slightly from 1000 Miglia and the like in two ways.
Firstly, you are always travelling up the screen or at a 45 degree angle.
Secondly, there's a few light elements of fighting game elements thrown in to liven things up.

As with fighting games each race is one-on-one and each participant has a stamina meter depletes as you take damage.
Unusually you carry any damage gathered into the next race - survival mode style.

Another similarity is the wealth of characters and cars, 10 in total, each with strengths and weaknesses.
They are all clearly based on famous sports cars, the characterful sprites ensure that each is instantly recognisable despite a total lack of licenses.

Of course, if you didn't recognise them there's always the deliberately, and hilariously, misspelt names to help you out...
Ever fancied a drive in a Lamborjini Daiblo? How about a Dadge Vipre or a Pharari 521TR?
They're all here, and more, in Lethal Crash Race. How could you resist?

Just one near miss for L, Last Resort is a NeoGeo H-shmup that is polished and fun but far too 'R-Type' for it's own good.

Finally, anyone following my budget Mame Cabinet project will be pleased to know that I should be getting the PC this weekend so an update is imminent (Spoilers: I blew up another monitor).

#Mame #Arcade #Hidden Gems

Friday, 8 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - K is for...

Bloody shooters, I'm sick to death of them...

Well, sort of... Obviously I'm not that sick of them because I keep highlighting the damn things here.
It just seems to be the case that when all else fails you're still likely to find a relatively obscure gem in the Horizontal or Vertical shooter categories.

That's certainly the case with the letter K, two of of today's three picks fall into these genres. Each of them with a little extra something to make them stand out.

Breaking with tradition I'm going to go with the best one first:

Kingdom Grand Prix has the potential to be the best known of these game too. It's the middle part of a three game series from the very well respected Raizing Studios.

I love a hybrid game. They're often akin to a developer taking two completely mismatched jigsaw pieces and pounding them with his fist until they somehow mash together. But that usually gives them a special kind of charm in my eyes.

KGP is a hardcore V.shmup mixed with a racing game - it really shouldn't work - but it really does.
The core is very much v.shmup. There are masses of colourful enemies spewing masses of colourful bullets on every level and a boss battle at the conclusion of each.

Unusually for a shmup there's a nice array of characters and craft to choose from, 8 in total, and you can use them to play each level for speed or for points - a combination of the two works, but doesn't seem right somehow. It may be the best way in truth as being first to the finish won't get you many points but shooting everything that moves won't win you the race.

Each of the 7 characters that you don't choose will line up along side you for the race, the do shoot the

enemies but don't expect them to stick around and help you out. You can't shoot them and bumping into them has no real effect - which is also true of most of the enemies in the game - but you can slow your rivals down by hitting them with you special bomb.

Otherwise the racing is fairly simplistic. If your craft is in the top half of the screen you speed up - in the bottom you'll slow down. You can also get an extra boost by holding down the fire button - although obviously this mean you won't be shooting anyone.

As far as I'm aware this excellent and very difficult game is in a genre of one, that on it's own makes it worth a play. But the fact that the unique premise is attached to such excellent gameplay makes it very easy to recommend.

Providing a breaking from the shooting action is Kyukyoku Sentai Dadandarn - known in the west as Monster Maulers.

Yes it's a bit of a cheat to use the Japanese name to squeeze this into the K bracket, but there wasn't a lot to choose from. Hopefully I don't regret it when it comes to list out the Ms.

This is another hybrid of sorts - the first but not the last game you'll see that combines elements of fighting games with those of the boss battle in a brawler.

You choose one of three characters, as per most brawlers, and choose one of twelve locations to do battle against the huge boss character that resides there. The option is there for 2 players simultaneously and if you plough into it with a friend you get access to an extra tag-team move.

The mechanics fall somewhere between the two genres too.
There are a greater array of moves than you'll find in the vast majority of beat-em-ups but it's still pretty restrictive when compared to your average fighter.

The whole thing is capped off with the kind of great Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe that you just don't see enough in videogames anymore.

Back to shooters, the horizontal variety this time, with Koutetso Yousai Strahl.

Yes, that's another Japanese name - but no, I'm not cheating again.

Koutetso Yousai Strahl translates as 'Steel Fortress Strahl' but as far as I can tell the game was never released in the west.

That's a bit of shame really as it's a great H.Shmup that, environmentally at least, put me immediately in mind of the recent Sine Mora from Digital Reality & Grasshopper.

I really am running out of ways to introduce shooters now, but you know the drill: You fly left to right, you shoot bad guys, at the end there's an bigger bad guy - so lets highlight by exception shall we:

Koutetso Yousai Strahl offer you a choice of weapons at the start of each level. You choose one of three main, chargeable weapons, one of three direct-able sub weapons, and one of three bomb types.
The direct-able fire on the sub weapon is neat too. A turret on either side of your ship rotate from front to back in five stages and is activated by pressing the bomb button whilst holding the main fire trigger.

The levels are nicely designed so that any configuration will work, but if you know what to expect you can choose your configuration to optimise your chances.

Graphics are a high standard and bosses are big and impressive as you would expect but I think it's the variation in level design that caught my attention first with the game though.
Each is beautifully drawn and most genuinely add to the experience. Moreover, the level shown in the above screenshot features six, count 'em, SIX levels of parallax scrolling.

#Gaming #Retrogaming #Mame #Arcade

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - I & J are for...

They say the universe needs balance. Well so, it seems, do videogames.

After stretching G out over 4 entries due to a surfeit of quality I've had to combine I & J into one as here the opposite is true.

Straight into it with I, Robot from 1983, the second game in as many posts that I'd played before this Mame project started.

I didn't play this in '83, I don't think I played anything other than Turbo Esprit that year. No, I first played I, Robot a couple of years back after reading about it in Tony Mott's excellent book: 1001 Videogames You Must Play Before You Die.

In case you're wondering, no, there is no connection to Asimov.
Rather than the 3 principles of robotics your protagonist in the game has only one - Don't jump when the big Sauron/Sentinel-esque eye is watching.

The game involves you re-colouring the blocks of 3D floating structures by riding over hem. Re-colour all the red parts blue and you will be able to attack 'The Eye' and win the level.
'The Eye' sits at the top of the screen  and is there to stop you jumping. Which is dashed inconvenient as the levels are fiendishly designed so that jumping is essential  to complete them - so you must time your jumps to take place when The Eye isn't looking.
There are brief shooty interludes in between stages but these are just mild diversions from the core game and do little more than make you think that the designers of SNES FX Chip game Vortex may have been I, Robot fans.

Despite being from the days when I was playing my games on a knocked off zx48 I, Robot presents itself with gloriously colourful solid polygons. It's something of a wonder in this regard and even has an 'un game' build in as an alternative to the main quest. In this 'doodle pad' you can move any of the ingame shapes around and they leave a trail of visual echoes behind them.
It's an effect that wouldn't even pass for a screen saver these days but I'm sure it was something of a talking point 30 years ago. 30 years... Christ, I'm old.

Despite these interjections and elements of platforming, at heart the game if an action puzzler, and its mix of impressive visuals and simple, addictive gameplay mean that it's one of the better examples of the genre you'll find on the format.

What I'm about to say may make you think I've lost my grip, but In The Hunt just might be the best looking videogame ever made.

You're probably looking at that picture and thinking I've lost my marbles - but static images really don't do this astonishingly beautiful game any justice.
Everything from the tiny missiles to the enormous bosses is drawn and animated in mind boggling detail and style.

You should recognise In The Hunt pretty quickly as being from the same team that brought you the Metal Slug games, it's dripping in the attention to detail that helped that series gain wide appeal.
The gameplay is essentially that of a H-shmup with the added ability of being able to stop. You have forward firing torpedo's on one button, missiles that fire upwards and depths charges downwards simultaneously on the other.

The missiles are great for attacking the underside of boats while submerged, but bob to the surface so that the con tower breaks the waves and you can use them to attack helicopters and planes that swoop around or fire at the massive boss ships from above.

Graphics do not make a game, but in the case of In The Hunt they bring so much detail, character, and artistry to proceedings that they become a very important part of the experience.
If the game wasn't so pretty I'd still be asking you to play it, the above and below mechanic and congested enemy patterns offer gameplay rich and different enough to gin a recommendation on that alone.
But it is so, so, pretty that I'm afraid I have to insist you play it.

You may recall that the thing that got me started compiling all these games together was that every message board post or YouTube video that proclaimed to be highlighting Hidden Gems seemed to be endlessly retreading the same games.
Chief among those those games was Juno First - So I guess I'm now part of the problem!

A harsh critic would describe Juno First as a Galaxians clone, and there's certainly some of that DNA in here.
But Juno First uses a distinct style and more immediate controls to set itself apart from its genre forefathers.
The game has a frantic atmosphere that is derived in part from the neon dot-matrix style graphics in which lurid pin pricks of colour pulsate against a stark black background.
This background is in fact split into lanes but they serve no purpose other to give the illusion of movement - which in Juno First is possible in 8 directions - there is a horizon line at the top of the screen, any enemies you fly past without shooting reappear above this line and aren't targetable until you press onwards to bring them into the game zone.

Another neat addition to the genre is the Warp move - tapping the B button instantly disintegrates your ship before recompiling it a moment after. This can be used to great effect to avoid enemies or their fire.

I know these older games with the Space Invaders heritage can be hard to get excited about, but that really isn't the case with Juno First. I, and many others before me, heartily recommend you find that out for yourself.

Strangely, considering the situation, there are a few near misses among the Is and Js.

The prime candidate among them was JoJo's Bizarre Adventure as highlighted by a commenter on Google+. I probably could have got away with including this excellent fighter of it just has the Dreamcast port, but it was recently re-released on XBLA/PSN which, I'm afraid, rules it out.
There's also Intrepid. This is a very old school effort in which you ride elevators to open doors in a side plan of a building and then search inside from a top down view, all whilst avoiding the enemies.
It's a tad too simplistic for a full scale recommendation but it's worth a quick play if you like the real classic age stuff.
Finally there's Journey, which has nothing to do with ThatGameCompany's PS3 arthouse tour de force and everything to do with the band of 'Don't Stop Believing' infamy. I note it here because it has to be seen to be believed.

#Gaming #Retrogaming #Mame #Arcade #Hidden Gems

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - H is for...

After the glut of quality in G you'd think I'd be glad of the limited unknown qualities of H...
But rather than be overjoyed at only having six games to choose from I'm finding it very hard to choose which to leave out!

So I'll start with Hyper Duel, because it's a stone cold banker for a spot.

Yup, we're back in H.Shmup territory - my preferred orientation for shooters in truth.
The H variety tends to be more about shooting bad guys than avoiding their (admittedly very pretty) bullet patterns.

Hyper Duel is kind enough to offer you two different ways to shoot said bad guys, each of them with distinct pros and cons, and each selected in a way so blinding simple you'll wonder why it isn't in every game!

Well, maybe not every game, I can't see it working in Tetris...

Anyway, basically you have two fire buttons. Hold the first and your space ship (one of three you can choose from) will fire continuously.
Hold the second and your space ship quickly and smoothly transforms into a flying mech which then also fires continuously.

It's a simple kind of genius that gives the game a real fluidity. Switching between the forms works so well that after a while you'll speeding through narrow gaps with the ship one second and instantly blasting at bigger enemies with the more powerful mech the next.

The game has a decent array of power-up and super bombs that act differently depending on the form at any given time and on top of that you can pick up little helpers that join the fray alongside you.
Intermittently a collectable appears that alternates between T and G. Grab it when it's G and another spaceship joins in, when it's collected showing T it's another mech that shows up.
They're no mugs either, taking down bosses is noticeably easier when these comrades fight with you.

All of the above is brought to screen with real flair - The enemies come in all shapes and sizes and are all beautifully drawn. There's cool use of sprite scaling and other effects too, as well as a high level of detail that includes - a personal favourite - showers of shell casings falling from enemy guns.
All in all it's as good as just about any H.shmup out there and it would be a crime to ignore it if you have any love for the genre,

Future Sports games are a difficult beast to get right - Fortunately Heavy Smash is one that get's it spot on.

It's a fairly simple effort really.
Select your nation (Why is England always depicted by a British flag?) either through patriotism, careful analysis of their strengths and weakness, or by choosing Australia because it's the only team with girls - Then it's straight to the action in the arena of a super-charged handball court.

With the ball you have jump, shoot, and pass buttons that can be combined for extra moves.
Lose the ball and the latter two have their actions swapped for long and short range tackle respectively - the animation for these varies depending on your choice of country.

The game has a nice balance to it that is tied, when you're playing the surprisingly effective AI, to a well considered difficulty curve.
There's a really satisfying mechanic for 'centring' that adds a huge amount of show boating fun for the more experienced player. This alone moves Heavy Smash towards the sweet spot of easy to play, hard to master that all games should aim for, and that alone should earn it a chunk of your time.

Aside from the dubious decision to include Alien vs Predator way back in the A's, Hot Chase is the first game I've listed in this blog that I'd played before I started this project.

Back when I used to bunk off Friday afternoons and go to one of the three arcades in the town where I lived Hot Chase was a personal favourite.

There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, no-one else was ever playing it. Secondly, it was 20p a pop in the days when 50p was the standard exchange rate for Game Credits.

It's one of those games that realised Outrun had perfected the pure arcade racing experience and rather than try to compete decided to add gimmicks in an attempt to get a chunk of the market.
The gimmick here being that there's a bomb in your car that will go off if you don't reach the check point in time. Clearly a badly drawn explosion instead of the usual grinding to a halt mere feet from the line isn't really a revolution in gameplay terms - so gladly there are other elements added to the mix.

As you race to your goal you will be assaulted by enemy soldiers and attack helicopters, boulders will litter parts of the road and will launch you, Buggy Boy style, into a massive jump.
Occasionally you have to cross an intersection and there's even trains that cross the road - albeit always accompanied by a conveniently placed ramp-truck to help you out.

The game is tough as nails and the animations are occasionally a bit wonky but it was genuinely unique at the time and always fun to play.

Okay, okay... this is a nostalgia choice. Sue me.

In an addition that I might make a habit of, here's a quick summary of the games that didn't quite make the cut:

Hotdog Storm is a really good V.shmup that you should give a shot - it's only failing is that it doesn't really excel at anything, despite being rather good at almost everything - check it out.
Also worth a look is Data Easts Hoops. Give the original a go, not the '96 version or any of the others, it may have ridden the coat tails of NBA Jam but it's very much it's own game and a really fun one at that. Lastly, Horizon is a Moon Patrol style shooter that draws a direct line from the arcade of 1985 to endless runners of smartphones in 2013, give it a shot.

#Gaming #Retrogaming #Hidden Gems #MAME #Arcade

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - G is for... (Pt4)

So finally we reach the end of the surprisingly vast range of games that the G bracket turned up - although admittedly there is one less than I thought because it turns out I was the only person in the world who hadn't played Prehistoric Isle (Masquerading as a hidden gem under the guise of Genshi Tou 1930's).

When breaking this list into genres the first few headings came easily - Vertical Shmups, Brawlers, and so on... then I noticed that three of the games fell into a genre that I wasn't even aware existed...

So without further delay, the final three hidden gems beginning with G all come from the genre that I like to call:

Pinball Hybrids

The first of this odd batch has the potential to be best known. Gunbarich is pretty recent by Mame standards, hailing as it does from 2001. It is a spin-off from the well loved Gunbird games and even features series protagonist Marion.

She is one of two selectable characters, the other being Grutan who may be from Gunbird too but I'm afraid I've played the series too intermittently to be sure either way.

The main crux of the gameplay in Gunbarich is that of an Arkanoid style brick breaker.
Your character sits at the bottom of the screen and directs a rebounding ball as you would expect - the twist in this game is that your characters 'bat' is actually a pair of Pinball Flippers.
Hitting the fire button as the ball reaches you not only fires it back with extra force but allows you to control the ball to some extent as it travels back up the screen.

As you would expects from the guys and gals at Psikyo the graphics are colourful, detailed and overflowing with character. the game starts as a simple brick breaker but more an shooter elements are added as the level progress.

It's a gem amongst gems this one. When fun, creativity and challenge come together under such a gorgeous umbrella - you really can't go too far wrong.

If Gunbarich is Arkanoid mixed with a little Pinball then Gunball (Nitro Ball outside Japan) does the same for Ikari Warriors.

I'm not entirely sure I can do this game justice - Suffice to say if you thought that what your Commando style game needed most was pinball scoring flags on the side of the tanks and the ability to shoot enemies into holes to receive power-ups as reward, then you'll be very happy.

To be fair, it's hard not to be happy playing this game - The bosses in particular tie the two game styles together excellently, proving that there is method to the madness.
The game in general is just mental enough that skill isn't entirely lost and it never overplays the gag. The 'future sports' premise is well realised and gives the whole thing a distinct Takeshi's Castle vibe - albeit a slightly more deadly one.

Grand Cross was the first of these pinball hybrid games that I found.

It's far more pinball than hybrid, especially when compared to the games above but this time there's a little v.shmup mixed into proceedings.

All the usual Pinball trappings appear; Score targets, chutes, multiple levels, and all that standard stuff - but added to the mix are alien ships, power-ups and bosses straight from any shmup you care to mention.

It doesn't really have the physics on board to be a great pinball game but the addition of these elements really raises the fun factor and the two combine better than you would expect - it clearly didn't have the biggest budget in the world either and this really adds to idea that the game deserves to be a genuine cult gem.
A bit more a curates egg than the other two games listed here, but no less worthy of your time.

Last up, a shout out to a gem of a different kind, my girlfriend, Gemma, who insisted I write something about her as she's is a Gem that begins with G (Which is a truism but... moving on...) and apparently she's also the best Gem I've ever 'found'... which would be vomit inducing if it wasn't quite so unbearably true.

#mame #retrogaming #gaming

Monday, 4 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - G is for... (Pt3)

After a bit of a break here is the penultimate set of games from the letter G, and this time I'm looking at a few quality under-the-radar brawlers.

First up, a sequel, Guardians, known to some as Denjin Makai II. The first Denjin Makai is a decent game, but this sequel goes way beyond 'decent'.

Have you ever wanted to punch a Doberman in the face whilst while wearing nothing but a pair of Heihachi Mishima style clogs and natty cod piece gun holster?

Yeah, me too, Guardians is hear to make your dreams come true!

I think the best way to discuss brawlers is by talking about what stops them being dull. Many games in this genre, most of them in fact, are ruined by repetition.
Without the benefit afforded to shmups of attack patterns brawlers have to mix it up in different ways.

Guardians does this in a number of ways. First of which is by giving you 8 characters to choose from, ranging from the aforementioned gun toting half naked wrester, through a half-bird girl, and on to your usual tough guy out for a decent scrap.
All these characters have there own set of moves which can be mixed up into a vast range of combos.

Beyond this, which would be enough to raise Guardians above the crowd on it's own, the game also adds an almost absurd level of detail and humour to the levels and enemies - something of which I am always a massive fan.

There's not a lot of info around about Guardians, but I have seen it described as the best brawler ever made. Play a few levels and you, like me, will find it hard to disagree.

Gaia Crusaders mixes things up by concentrating on diverse combo and magic systems - and it pays off big style.

The game has everything you want from a brawler; diverse enemies, great bosses, beautiful graphics, and varied characters.

On top of that you can add a combo system that rewards experimentation and a vast range of magic attacks that can are 'stacked' into your bank and accessed one at a time.

It has a more serious tone than Guardians but the two games are otherwise quite similar - in quality as well as content. Not a lot more to say beyond that that really. It's a great game but, like many of the best, you have to play it to appreciate it.
One small thing of note that I really love: The weapons are used in different ways by each protagonist.
For example, the way that M98S, the robot, wields a sword, is entirely different from the way it's handled by the Eddie Gordo style character, Fred Sathal.
This also includes the weapons integration into the combos, which is another great touch to a pretty great game all round.

Ganryu is something a little different, it's not a brawler in the usual 'Final Fight/Streets of Rage' mode.

Apparently derived from the a true story about Musashi Ganryuki a famous swordsman who defeated a foe, Sasaki Ganryu Kojiro, with a sword carved from a boats oar.
Having defeated him Ganryuki left Sasaki to die rather than killing him outright - stating that defeat was the lesson, not death - The games supposition is that Sasaki comes back from the dead to avenge himself.

Which is all a bit high brow really, considering the game involves running either left tor right and killing dudes.

You have a choice of character. As well as Ganryuki you can choose Suzame, his female counterpart who is along for the ride for reasons unknown.
Both characters are pretty dexterous, jumping around the stylishly drawn environment with speed and style. The buildings and other backdrops often go three or four levels up, and indeed down, and the protagonists leap about them with ease.

They are aided in this by a secondary weapon, a retractable claw on a chain that can be used both to attack and to swing on selected trees or posts. There is also a wall jump ability which adds to game earning a certain platformy air.
Ganryu may not be the most original product out there. There's some classic Ninja Gaiden in there and strong shades of Bionic Commando... but (whisper it)... Ganryu is probably better.

Big section this and it rounds off with Gun Master.

I hate this kind of writing but here goes: Gunstar Heroes crossed with Smash Bros.
It's a bit lazy but it really sums up what makes Gun Master so much fun.

It's structured in a way that has each individual section serving as both level and boss battle at the same time.

You bounce around these multi tiered levels as a one of two protagonists and battle both your main foe and their minions simultaneously.

You have a good variety of attacks with which to go about this. Standard punches & kicks are supplemented by special moves, throws, and projectile weapons. All of which can be combined and used either on platforms or hanging from beneath them.

It's a decent hunk of game too - with 12 enemies to defeat and then a boss character - and it's difficulty is set at a level that will ensure you won't be blasting through in one sitting.
A bonus is that, apart from the big boss, you can attack the levels in any order you choose - so those not wishing to coin spam can still see all the levels even if their skills are a little lacking.

#gaming #retrogaming #hidden gems #mame #arcade

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Setting the record straight

That title sounds a lot more dramatic than it should - I just wanted to provide a quick update for anyone who's still paying attention.

First up - the project is still on track, there have been no recent developments because I spent the last week holed up with full bed and board in a Hotel near Gatwick. My days were spent filling my brain with lots of fascinating(!) information about project management.

This has negatively effected two things:
1) My output on the 'Mame Hidden Gems' sub-blog.
2) My waistline.

One thing that has changed for the better is the monitor I'm using for the cabinet.

Yes. Again!

The Dell unit I picked up before my trip had a certain 'fuzziness' that I thought would go way with some tweaking and a little time... it didn't.
So yesterday I picked up this rather nice HP MX70.

It's nice and easy to dismantle, has an antiglare screen, and features a flatter tube than either of the previous two units as well.

It's a 17" screen again (about 15 and a half viewable) and this increased size over the old 14" I had is really tempting me to go vertical - I think it's more about giving the finished cabinet a distinctive look than appropriateness for any given genre of game.

I've still a while to ponder this as it's 4 weeks until I get the PC - and even then the whole project will doubtless get held up by the general madness of Christmas.

In the mean time I'll continue to update on any developments and the Hidden Gems posts will start up again (with Part 3 of G) tomorrow - the focus will be on Brawlers.

#MAME #Arcade #retrogaming #Gaming