Vixen 357: Super Fighter Team Surprises Yet Again

vx-productWell, this came out of left field, folks. Super Fighter Team is localizing and publishing developer Masaya’s 1992 turn-based strategy/RPG Vixen 357 for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.I actually have the import Japanese version here, but other than about an hour of messing around with it many years ago, I haven’t really dove into the game because my Japanese is quite terrible and usually involves a lot of looking stuff up and figuring things out as I go. Well, it looks as if sometime later this year I’ll be able to fully enjoy this somewhat unknown tactical gem thanks to SFT’s Brandon Cobb, who I should probably interview again at some point on they hows and whys of this latest production.

Pre-orders for the game will run you $63 in the US and $70 everywhere else and yes, that cost includes shipping. Oh, and the game cartridge, manual and a sturdy cardstock box. Yes, I did place a pre-order and if you’re interested, so should you, as this one’s guaranteed to sell fast. I can think of a few folks who’ll also be on this newest SFT release in a heartbeat, so I’m hoping we’re all happy campers in front of out respective TV’s when this sly Vixen finally ships out sometime this year.

-GW

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Head to Head (Sort Of): Fast Striker vs. FullBlast (PS4/Vita)

I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?

Fast Striker 01

Pretty, isn’t it? well, it’s also PRETTY FREAKIN’ HARD to an old gleep like me, but I keep playing these shmups because I used to be better at them back in the day.

fast striker PS4First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.

There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):

 

 

Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:

 

 

In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.

fast striiker LE

You’ll want to be a Fast Striker if you need this nifty Limited Edition exclusive from Play-Asia. Better pre-order this now before the scalpers snap them up to resell at ebay prices (ugh).

 

Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).

Score: B (80%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

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Review: Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality

Rick and Morty PS4Developer Owlchemy Labs really has a decent handle on this VR stuff, so Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality ($29.99) is pretty much a no-brainer for fans of that popular show who just so happen to own a PlayStation 4 and PS VR setup. The game’s about as as insane as the show and the VR is pretty neat and designed to be a good deal less frantic on the eye holes (meaning those of you who get a bit woozy from VR can rejoice).

While I’m not as much into the show as some of its more avid fans, a well-made game will always catch my eye (ow), particularly one with the totally offbeat (and not for the young kiddies) humor the show excels at. So, yeah, if you’re new to the show, have wee ones and this game pops up as a request (because some kids can be cooler than their parents, or at least get away with watching cartoons out of their age range), you may want to play it for yourself and have your jaw hit your shoes a few times before you let those kids take it for a spin. Oh, you’ll very likely laugh your ass off in the process of checking this out. But that’s a good thing, correct?

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Review: Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS)

Radiant Historia PC

In a weird way, history is more or less repeating itself with the release of the brilliant remake/remix that is Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. The original game popped up near the end of the Nintendo DS life cycle and received pretty solid reviews overall, and this newer title slides into the eShop and at retail as Nintendo is slowly but surely planning to phase out the 3DS line (despite the handheld pretty much being the showcase for portable JRPGs in my humble opinion). Does Atlus have a hit the second time around with the same impact?  In short, yep.

If you’ve never played the first game, this one’s a must. If you’ve played the first game and are on the fence, I’d still recommend this for a few good reasons. There are new story elements, a great ‘Friendly’ difficulty setting, a new character with her own storyline (which is actually a fun excuse for assorted dungeon running exploits), full voice acting for all the main characters, sharper visuals, and all-new character portraits. The latter seems to be something a few fans dislike, but as we’re in the age of DLC, you can feel free to spend a few extra bucks for those original images and exchange the new art for the old if you like.

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Mega Cat Studios Keeps The Classic Game Flame Burning Bright

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Well, wow. “Meow You’re Playing With Power!” Thanks to PA-based Mega Cat Studios, collectors and gamers who own a Nintendo Entertainment System or equivalent now have three NEW games to snap up this Halloween (or heck, anytime they want provided they’re in stock). Here’s what’s new and ready to ship:

Creeping It Reel is an NES chiptune album with NES rendered, officially licensed Dancing Pumpkin Man dance moves and a fully playable pachinko game full of treats.

 

 

Creepy Brawlers marries monster movies & boxing to the NES.  An achievement system, counter attacks and enemy evolutions to keep the scares high and health bars low. This one’s also available in a Limited Edition if you like your games extra collectible.

 

Justice Duel is a four player couch co-op action game with a full featured single player campaign, mech-eagles in top hats and an array of weapons. As with Creepy Brawlers, you can also nab a Limited Edition if you’re into adding variants to your library.
I haven’t unearthed my NES in a long time, but it’s very likely going to get dug up and placed near the TV soon. Thankfully, I have a CRT in the living room so I don’t need to worry about fiddling with assorted connection methods for my HD set. Hey, some games were made to be played in true nostalgic fashion, I say.
-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Black Mama, White Mama

BMWM_AV041Okay, it was Pam Grier‘s birthday last week and I only know this because I overheard some OG’s doing some paper bag stoop drinking talking about the lady today while I was out shopping. They were trying to recall the names of two movies she was in back before she became a bigger name star and you better believe yours truly stepped in to inform them HIT MAN and Black Mama, White Mama were the movies they were looking for.

I don’t think I’d seen a more grateful group of old guys since Prohibition ended and even better, when I told them both movies had been restored and can be bought online AND they both pop up on TCM on occasion, I ended up getting a free beer for that information. Yes, it was still sealed – I don’t do that passing around stuff with former total strangers. Unless it’s some Thunderbird or Night Train. That stuff can kill germs from 50 paces and tastes like someone put a heaping spoonful of sugar into a pint of paint thinner (yum!).

Anyway, I got back home, tossed the groceries I’d bought aside like Frank Cannon used to do on that old CBS show (much to the surprise of the groceries) and got to this review of Arrow Video’s chock full of fun Blu-Ray released a little while back. Black Mama, White Mama is an excellent exploitation flick with Grier and the still stunning Margaret Markov that takes the plot of The Defiant Ones, adds a dash of Caged!, and sets the whole shebang in the (literally and figuratively) steamy Philippines (doubling for a never-named Latin dictatorship of some sort). The results are a sexy, sassy potboiler/revenge flick complete with copious female nudity, sudden (but expected) violence, and the always entertaining Sid Haig in a colorful role as a really bad man. Continue reading

Arrow Video July Releases: Hot Summer Nights, Indeed

While there are only a mere three releases in July from Arrow Video through MVD Entertainment, they’re all worth nabbing thanks to being a nice set of eclectic films to watch. Amusingly enough, all are about women in trouble and/or various states of undress for plot purposes (of course). A classic sex comedy, a weird, unintentionally funny sex drama, and a killer Japanese film set that’s one of the ultimate revenge flick compilations of the era all await your eager eyeballs and shelf space.

The Swinging Cheerleaders AV058First up: on July 5th, say hello to The Swinging Cheerleaders (MSRP $34.95, Blu-ray + DVD, MVD Shop or Amazon pre-order)

They gave it all for their team…

 

Jack Hill spent the seventies specializing in tough female characters. He made movies about girl gangs (Switchblade Sisters) and women in prison (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage), turned Pam Grier a star with Coffy and Foxy Brown, and contributed to the Cheerleaders line of drive-in favorites with The Swinging Cheerleaders.

 

Kate, an undergraduate at Mesa University, goes undercover as a cheerleader for her college newspaper in order to expose ‘female exploitation in contemporary society’. But instead of oppression she finds love, friendship and a bigger fish to fry: corruption in the football team, headed up by the coach and his pals.

 

A favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who screened it at the very first Tarantino Film Fest, The Swinging Cheerleaders features a cast of cult favorites including Colleen Camp (Wayne’s World, Game of Death), Rainbeaux Smith (Caged Heat, The Incredible Melting Man) and future Playmate of the Month Rosanne Katon.

 

BONUS MATERIALS
– Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
– High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD Presentations
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, recorded exclusively for this release
– Brand new interview with Jack Hill
– Archive interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor
– Archive interview with Hill and Johnny Legend
– Q&A with Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012
– TV spots
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
– Illustrated booklet containing new writing by Cullen Gallagher (first pressing only)

 

But wait, there’s more!
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Blu-Ray Review: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood


AmericanHP_AV043Having seen my share of horror oddities on TV, in theaters an via assorted video formats since the 1970’s (okay, late 60’s if you count those Chiller Theater and Creature Feature reruns), I have to say Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is way up there as one of the more bizarrely unfocused storytelling-wise but visually striking genre films I can recall. Thanks to Arrow Video, the film has been lovingly restored and presented as one of the three films in its must-own American Horror Project Volume 1.

Director Christoper Speeth‘s unusual flick is a loosely (VERY loosely) plotted tale of a family who’s invested in a run-down carnival that has some pretty grim secrets underneath its dilapidated thrill rides. Some viewers may note slight similarities to Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead and certain silent films the movie itself spotlights at certain moments. While the film does suffer from a number of continuity issues no editor could fix thanks to many shots being done in a single take, the production design and overall tone here makes this one well worth watching. Trust me, if the bizarre found object set design doesn’t hook you in, it’ll be the general weirdness and downbeat tone you can feel from the outset that work their magic on your eyes and brain. Did I mention you also get to see singing ghouls and cannibalism by said ghouls here? Nope? Well, yes indeed you do.
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Blu-Ray Review: The Premonition (1976)


 

AmericanHP_AV043As with The Witch Who Came From the Sea, the second film in Arrow Video’s mostly great American Horror Project Volume 1 collection isn’t really a traditional genre flick at all. Robert Allen Schnitzer‘s 1976 film, The Premonition is more of a visually intense psychological thriller with a supernatural theme running through it.

Don’t go into this one expecting gallons of blood and guts all over the walls and floors, folks. The film is a more deliberately paced thriller with a somewhat complex “child in danger” plot that seems to have been rewritten over another idea for a competent family drama of the week TV movie. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: The Witch Who Came from the Sea

AmericanHP_AV043Arrow Video and MVD Visual are giving horror genre fans a true trio of rarely seen treat with its new American Horror Project series. Volume 1 (limited to only 3000 copies) contains three films from the 1970’s restored as best as possible and packed with loads of must-see bonuses that make this collection well worth the cost. Each of the films here is such a revelation of both great, bizarre and bad elements that I’ll be covering them in separate reviews starting with (in my opinion) is the best of the trio.

Matt Cimber‘s 1976 film The Witch Who Came From the Sea is both amazing and disturbing on a few levels. A startling performance by Millie Perkins (best known to classic film fans for The Diary of Anne Frank) and lovely cinematography by Dean Cundey make this one of those films that creeps up under your skin and stays there for a while. Molly (Perkins) watches her young nephews during the day, filling their heads with tales of their seaman grandfather’s heroic deeds and pumping them up with admiration for sports stars they see on TV. At night she works as a barmaid in a dockside dive, sometimes sleeping with her boisterous boss, Long John (Lonny Chapman). That’s not her biggest secret, however. She was a severely abused child who descended into a quiet madness during her years of torture who’s now a serial killer with specific men as her targets. Continue reading