Review: SEGA AGES Columns II: A Voyage Through Time (Switch)

Columns II artHoo boy, I’d forgotten how very hard the Columns series of games can be. But yes indeed, this port of Columns II: A Voyage Through Time ($7.99) from the SEGA AGES lineup comes highly recommended if you want a match-3 game that’s constantly entertaining while you get used to the ropes. Also included in this solid M2 port is a a Mega Drive/Genesis port of the original Columns, so you can get schooled by the AI in two games. The coolest thing about the sequel is M2 has wisely added a tabletop mode feature where the co-op play switches Player 2’s screen 180 degrees for face-to-face battles, quite a nice thing to see as an addition.

The game lures you in with some gorgeous art (a bit of lovely Mucha-like imagery for the senses is the first thing that greets you), but even at the easiest setting the game will beat you like an angry drummer or a polite Gene Krupa doing a rapid fire solo. Nevertheless, when the pace gets speedier you’ll be beaten like an egg here as you learn to play. This turns out to be a good thing, as the only means of seeing more here is by getting better. It’s funny that I’m using “git gud” for the second time this week, but like the last time, it fits the case. It’s a game that masters will appreciate, but those who haven’t the skills down will find themselves going to until (and past) the ending. Like it should be, coming back to the game that was giving you grief to one where you’re seeing how the AI responds to a better player doesn’t ever get old.

Columns II gems

Uh-oh, unless you can clear some gems out…

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Review: SEGA AGES Ichidant-R (Switch)

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“It’s a puzzlement…” (but a good one!)

ichidant_R coverAh, so that’s what it is – an arcade game that’s neat to play whether online on off, but playing with a friend is better overall when you share the fun. I actually have the Mega Drive import version of SEGA AGES: Ichidant-R ($7.99) here in the collection, but the Japanese was daunting and I’ve not touched it in a few years (Well, I know a little of the language since, but I need to practice more). Thankfully, finally getting the chance to play this (thanks, SEGA!) has made for quite the appreciation for its inclusion in the ongoing SEGA AGES lineup. In a great touch, there’s a Japanese Mega Drive port included in the price, so now I’ve been playing it and having a blast thanks to getting a handle on how to proceed flipping back to the new English arcade version when I run into a mini-game I have trouble with if the language barrier stops progress.

Some will think of the US Sega Genesis and Bonanza Bros., but that was a more  a straightforward side-scrolling shooter with the same quirky art style here (and some major story changes from the Japanese version that changed the main characters from criminals to detectives).

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It’s the 90’s again (time travel works!).

Anyway, Ichidant-R is an arcade game where the same two characters get a medieval makeover and the setting is now changes to a castle where there’s a princess to be rescued. The gameplay also changes into a mini-game filled fun-fest that, thanks to it’s timed nature, keeps the pressure up throughout. While it’s a great game, having a friend to face off with makes this all the more enjoyable. M2 keeps it as the original arcade version, but adds the usual choices of scan lines and screen fit scaling if you want them as well as a few backgrounds to choose from. I played with then off because the game looks better without them, I think – but it’s your call if you like them.

Every mini-game requires quickness and most are fun to play, but the tense time limit sometimes makes figuring out what to do in a few seconds pretty tricky until you calm down and zen out a bit. Here’s a little sample of that to expect. The game rolls out and mixes up quite a few games randomly, but I want to save the fun for you to discover. For newbies, think of it as a Warioware or similar game, bit released long before. Yes, one caveat is the puzzles will get old for those who get too jaded to this stuff, but to me, the fun here never gets old with a game you can go to for some quick fun in short bits. I’d write more, but this one’s a no-brainer because the games adds some cool cleverness to the genre and is a more than recommended buy if you like these these types of games.

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Ray Milland would probably have hated this mini-game (ha-ha)

Score: B+ (85%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

Capcom Home Arcade: Someone’s Dream Collection, With Caveats


(thanks, Official Capcom UK!)

Hmmm. I kind of have no idea how to feel about this other than agree that yes indeed, those gorgeous Sanwa sticks and buttons and what is looking like rather sturdy construction will insure that the Capcom Home Arcade will indeed find a niche in the homes of collectors and Capcom and/or arcade enthusiasts who’ve always wanted such a product. On the other hand, that price point more or less assures that this one will be out of reach for those gamers who may want this set of classics sans the fancy design as a far less expensive physical console disc or game card or as a basic digital download.

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Oh, it’s an exercise in ego, but it’s kinda cool to look at, that’s for damn sure.

Granted, perfect arcade ports (or hopefully flawless ports) do exist for folks running emulators on all sorts of devices, so the lure of an arcade setup going for less than an arcade machine is going to be a big draw. But I can’t see Capcom committing to this as the sole way to play these games as while it’s probably going to sell out as a collectible (and yep, make a load of cash for eBay sellers who snap up as many as they can charge up on a few credit cards so they can resell them at a massive markup), it’s just not a very good idea to make these titles exclusive to this device. Yeah, some folks say *any* publicity is good publicity, but I disagree when much of that noise is of the negative variety that may eventually hurt any traction this item needs to be a success outside the collectible marketplace.

As usual, we shall see what happens as that October release date approaches, but if some of the brutally salty responses to that UK trailer are any indication, I’m betting that we get some sort of compromise where anyone who wants to play this collection gets to on their console of choice. Well, hopefully that’s one outcome that should please the gaming masses to some extent. Yeah, I’d want one if I could afford it and yep, we also got some of those licensed Marvel titles to make an appearance in the near future (he said, remembering how hilariously fun The Punisher was back in the day).

-GW

Random Film of the Week: ALIEN³

(Thanks, THX1968!)

 

Alien 3_bI think it was sometime in mid-to late 1991 when I first saw the teaser trailer to ALIEN³ and had my eyeballs pop right out of my head followed by my jaw hitting the floor way too hard in the theater I saw it in. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know how hard it is to clean sticky goo off your eyeballs after they’ve rolled underneath a movie theater seat? Trust me, it ain’t easy. That and yuck-o, stale popcorn and half an old hot dog have the tendency to rather easily get into a fallen jaw if you let it sit down there for more than a minute flapping away in shock mode. Hey, I was busy trying to find my darn eyeballs, thank you much.

Needless to say, I was kind of shocked by this news that we’d get a third film in the franchise and it was coming in under a year. I wasn’t sure I liked the “On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream” tagline at all and yes indeed, I thought bringing that cranky xenomorph to Earth was a bad (not a bad-ass) idea for a few key reasons. Although at that point, I was kind of screaming myself.

It seems 20th Century Fox may have agreed (or at least was pulling a fast one on us because they didn’t really have an idea about the film they were planning to make), as a few months later, this was the follow up trailer:

 

(Thanks, Media Graveyard!)

 

After gathering up my eyeballs and jaw again and handing a few people in the theater their eyeballs that rolled under and around my seat (which was quite interesting as I had to wait until the guy who picked up one of my eyeballs by mistake returned it or today I’d be the Jane Seymour version of myself or something like that), I took time to take in the trailer. Bald Ripley. Bald bad men, some bald men screaming and running, NO weapons at all and a reused music cue from the previous film had me both puzzled and really curious as to how the helllllll Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character was going to get out of this new mess. That said, the art direction and sets looked solid and that finale bit with the Alien getting too close to Ripley had me intrigued as hell, as did my wondering who the heck was this David Fincher guy directing the film.

There were other trailers and eventually TV spots that arrived before and after the film was released, but I was sold before that point to the point that even if I didn’t like the final product, I had the feeling it would be really interesting and maybe even impressive.  Let’s just say I kind of got my money’s worth more on the visual side of things and a temporary gumball substitute for an eye after I picked up the first round object that I could touch after they popped out again.

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Review: Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PS4)

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How great is UFO Interactive’s Raiden V: Director’s Cut? So great that I went and grabbed the previous installment on the PS3 (which just so happened to be part of this past weekend’s PSN Flash Sale and was $2.99 very well spent), slightly kicking myself (ow!) for missing it a few years back. I’d been cutting back on arcade shooters for a while, but something about this well-aged series has always drawn me to it. It’s probably because it brings back certain good memories, but it also helps that it’s been a consistently entertaining set of games despite some lesser console versions not being as fun.

This newest installment is more polished visually and aurally and thanks to its busy color palette and tons of explosions, it really looks and feels a hell of a lot busier to the eyes and reflexes. There’s so much going on that I found myself laughing out loud (to no one in particular, as usual). Skilled developer MOSS has reworked the traditional vertical arcade game screen so it’s packed with information to the point of distraction should your eyes float to the left or right of where the real action is. But you won’t let that happen, right?

Hey, the future of the planet is at stake, pal – eyes on the prize and all that.

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Raiden V: Director’s Cut Blasts Onto PS4, PC

 

Raiden V_Moss

Holy Cats – bullet hell pioneer Raiden is a quarter of a century old. Actually, it’s 27 if you go by purely chronological order, but I believe the series took a tiny bit of time off between installments and developer changes. Anyway, UFO Interactive and developer MOSS are finally jetting out the PS4 and Steam versions with added content (it seems Xbox One owners who got this last year are missing out) as Raiden V: Director’s Cut .

 

 

If you’re a longtime fan, well you know the drill in this arcade shmup: earth gets invaded by a fleet of alien ships and it’s up to you (solo play) and a partner (if you go co-op) to take out the trash before it blows all over the globe. Actually, those aliens end up invading a few global spaces, so it’s up to your fast reflexes and non-blinking eyes to get the job done.

Game Modes:

•Story Mode – All new story full of twists and turns! The story alters depending on your performance!
•Boss Mission – Defeat bosses under special conditions and compete in the leaderboards!
•Gallery – Dozens of character, concept, and game art waiting to be unearthed!

Features:

Tag in a friend and unleash devastation on your enemies!

Extreme Graphics – Full 1080P support to bring every explosion, missile attack, and Boss Kills to earth-shattering realism on HDTVs and monitors!

Tri-View HUD – New levels of frenetic, heart pounding, pulsing action as real-time game status changes, command center data and gameplay simultaneously update you on the action and your performance!

Fully narrated storyline for the first time in the series!

Fight your own path through a branching storyline!

Choose between three different ships to pilot, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and outfit them with nine different weapon types!

In addition to the game currently available on PSN, gog.com and Steam, you can also download some really nice free themed wallpapers for your PC here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get some eyeball exercise with a side of reflex action testing (or, I’m downloading this as we speak, folks).

-GW

Sega 3D Classics Collection: A Throwback That’s A Keeper For Nostalgic Fans

Sega 3D CC_3DS Longtime Sega fanatics have probably been wondering when the company would get to revisiting some of it’s well-aged classics outside the usual suspects and come April 26, those fans who (paradoxically) own a Nintendo 3DS will get to dive into Sega 3D Classics Collection for the more than reasonable price of $29.99. The retail and eShop release will contain nine games total:

7 Classic Games:
Power Drift
Puyo Puyo 2
Fantasy Zone II W
Sonic The Hedgehog
Thunder Blade
Galaxy Force II
Altered Beast

2 Bonus Games:
Fantasy Zone II
Maze Walker

In addition, you can disguise (or try to disguise) your 3DS with a set of Sega-themed stickers that will come included with launch edition copies of the game. Or you can save that sticker sheet for future use or even slap them on all the actual Sega consoles in your collection. Of course, if you’re a collector, those stickers will stay stuck to the paper they come on, right? Yeah, I figured as much. Me, I want this for Maze Walker, Galaxy Force, the two Fantasy Zone games and Power Drift, but everything will get played to death at some point. As much hard work went into getting this set of games out, it would really be nice to see a follow up at some point just to get Space Harrier II, After Burner and a few other classics onto the 3DS in that eye-popping 3D. As usual, we shall see…

Humble NEOGEO Bundle: Instant Arcade For Your PC? Yeah, That’s a Buy

humble neo geo bundle 

If you just got a nice and nostalgic heart flutter when you ogled that logo above, go pop an aspirin (drink a nice big glass of water with that!) and have a seat. Humble Bundle and SNK/Playmore are teaming up to bring you (at least) 21 NEOGEO arcade games for less than what you’d drop in an arcade during the 90’s on a gaming binge. Seriously. Ten bucks (and you should pay MORE, frankly) gets you those 21 DRM-free games pictured on the page, some excellent game soundtracks you can listen to as you bop down the street or drive around in your vehicle of choice, and the promise of MORE games dropping into your Steam account in a week. $167 worth of games for a tenner is pretty fantastic, but it gets better if you happen to use Firefox or Chrome as your browser. Why? Well, you can sample all but one of the games in the bundle for FREE, that’s why!

Once you’ve had your fill, whip out that wallet and get to the buying and supporting charity part. Humble appreciates the business and you need a ton of fun classics for that backlog you’re growing, right? Yeah, I thought so. If you’re REALLY feeling generous, you can pay $40 or more for all of those games (and games to come) and get an NEOGEO 25th Anniversary Limited Edition METAL SLUG SV-001 T-Shirt sent to you in the mail. Pick your poison and then pick some time out to play with your new games library. Whatever you do, pick quickly as this sale is only running for the next dozen days.

Star Wars: Battle Pod – New, Yet Nostalgic, Now In Arcades!

 

Star Wars Battle PodWait, who’s still got an arcade near them? And I don’t mean a mascot character “pizza” chain (yuk!) or a psuedo-pub grub hub with over-sized tablets posing as arcade games. All kidding aside, as soon as I saw that Star Wars: Battle Pod trailer above, I got a hearty laugh because it’s pretty much a far better-looking version of Namco’s classic 1991 arcade game Star Blade. Given the relatively short length of the experience, the specialized cabinet and its unique screen that allows for flawless immersion, the chances of seeing a home version of this game would normally be zero. On the other hand, with VR technology finally getting some sort of roll out within the next year or so, I could see this as some sort of pack-in or downloadable digital game to keep Star Wars fans happy.

In other words, it’s your move, Bandai Namco… Um, let the Wookie win?

The Internet Arcade: Your Monday (and Every Other Day) Just Got A LOT Less Productive…

Internet Arcade (Partial) 

Holy Cats. And here I thought archive.org was a disorganized mess of free movies and music files of assorted quality plus the home the not so perfect Wayback Machine where one can dig up archives for old websites no longer online. Well, the Archive’s Jason Scott has compiled over 1000 classic arcade games running on the MAME/MESS/JMESS emulators (which were cooked up by many other creative folks) and you can lose a week playing as many as you can for FREE.

The catch? Well, you’ll need the latest version of your current browser, meaning you’ll be online when you’re supposed to be working hard on those spreadsheets or whatever. However, be warned that Firefox works the best over anything else, meaning you Chrome and Safari users may have issues with running this perfectly. So, yeah… so much for getting to do important stuff like walking the dog, raising a family or stocking your zombie-proof shelter. Also, a controller is recommended, as keyboard controls are going to be funky on many titles. That’s being tweaked as we speak. Finally, the sounds and music will be a bit garbled on some games. Crank down the volume if you’re using headphones so your eardrums don’t crack when some high-pitched MIDI tune blasts them.

I’ve scanned that list of games and my eyeball popped out of my head a few times. If I had a controller with me here at the away office, I’d be playing some BLASTER, Q*Bert, Crystal Castles, Crazy Climber, The Three Stooges and way too many others to list here. This is a work in progress, so it’ll be fiddled with and fixed as time passes. I’m NOT going to go back to that page today at ALL or else I’ll get nothing done at all. YOU can boogie on over there yourself just to ogle all the awesome marquee art. Consider this your museum trip for this week. Yes, another excuse to call gaming educational is always a great reason…