Review: Archlion Saga (Switch)

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Well, you can’t get lost at all in this game, but you can turn the arrows off if you want a less guided tour of the maps.

archlion sagaShades of the initially underappreciated (and still disliked to this day by some) Final Fantasy Mystic Quest drift through Kemco and developer Hit-Point’s entry level JRPG Archlion Saga ($4.99) and yes indeed, the game will definitely ruffle some feathers among the noisy gamers with unshakeable opinions (too often presented as “facts”) who never seem to think that players new to any genre just might like a welcoming title they can complete without a video walkthrough or wanting to bust controller into pieces against a nearby wall.

That fiver you’re spending gets you a game that can be completed in a few short hours, auto saves whenever you do pretty much anything and is so simple that anyone of any skill level can play it.  It also offers a bit of replay value for those who want to run through it again (you can opt to keep your levels and earned currency). There’s no need to “git gud” here at all unless you overuse the auto-battle option that can actually wipe out your party if you get too careless in the 4th and 5th chapters when and the random battle system decides to slap you with the occasional strong enemy pack. Amusingly enough, if for some reason you feel the urge to grind levels, late in the game there’s a dragon who heals your party at no cost whenever you speak to it. Given that healing herbs drop frequently (you can stock 99 at a time) and you start off with an amulet that restores a few hundred HP in battle, this might not be necessary, but it’s here nevertheless.

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Hmmm… we kinda know how this is going to turn out, but okay, let’s pray along…

“So, it’s a kid’s game, then?” you ask? Sure, you can say that, but it’s one that while colorful and easy on the eyes and ears is a tad gloomy in tone what with the 1000 year return of the evil Serpent and his curse mark dooming the population and you, the Archlion King out to stop that threat with the aid of a few allies. Cue up the handy trailer so you can see what’s what:

One thing the game does that works well is streamlining the story so you meet up with your party members with no aimless wandering about. Your party’s hit points are accumulated into a shared pool with numbers based on equipped gear. Each of the four characters will learn and an use three powerful Skills (the game has no magic points), all with different cooldown times and a few that can only be activated under certain conditions (e.g., after guarding for one turn or after taking certain amounts of damage). Granted, the game is easy enough that you can beat it without any major strategy whatsoever.  That said, it’s just nice to have the option to play with each character’s skills, especially the one that lets you steal items from enemies (which can net you some nifty gear and free healing herbs) or the one that puts most enemies to sleep for a brief period.

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Especially once you start using those Stars to power level, Bram.

While exploring the short maps, you’ll gain Stars needed to unlock doors and chests, but you’ll also earn them by playing the game for a certain period of time without taking a break. Those stars are also used to pull off powerful attacks and double experience gained after battles, so you can pretty much become too overpowered by the game’s final chapter if you like. Of course, NOT using any aids makes the game a bit more challenging. so feel free to experiment. The pixel art here is great overall, particularly the big, colorful monsters and bosses you’ll meet and beat. Sure, the assorted human foes have no facial features, but most of the more mystical beasties do and they’re all excellently rendered. The music is suitably 8-bit sounding bliss that feels just right, but don’t expect a wealth of tunes given the brevity of the experience.

The funniest thing about playing this was I was able to compete it once while waiting for a few downloads to complete (some larger games on PSN and a Windows 10 updates that had me offline for about 4-5 hours). Hit-Point has a few decent ideas here that I think need to be applied to a larger project at some point down the road, but for what it is, this isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours if you’ve got a Switch, five bucks to spend and don’t mind some hand holding in handheld or docked mode. While I won’t call this an “essential” game at all, it’s cheap enough and so user friendly that it feels as if it’s trying too hard to please. But that’s somewhat of a relief in this era of games where you’re forced into that “die, rinse and repeat until you don’t die” loop that can be frustrating for a select few.

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He may be a big scary cartoon jerk, but you can beat the devil out of this devil with relative ease.

Score: C (70%)

-GW

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That Sega Genesis Mini? It Just Got A Lot Cooler

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Well, now. The final set of games coming to the Sega Genesis Mini have been revealed and guess what? It’s 42 titles and not the 40 initially noted. That final dozen include a few excellent surprises such as Tetris, the Sega-developed Japan-only rarity, and Darius, which never got a retail release.

Here’s the list of included titles:

Sonic The Hedgehog
Ecco the Dolphin
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Space Harrier 2
Shining Force
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
ToeJam & Earl
Comix Zone
Altered Beast
Gunstar Heroes
Earthworm Jim
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Contra: Hard Corps
Thunder Force III
Super Fantasy Zone
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Streets of Rage 2
Landstalker
Mega Man®: The Wily Wars
Street Fighter II®: Special Champion Edition
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts®
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Beyond Oasis
Golden Axe
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball
Vectorman
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Tetris®
Darius
Road Rash II
Strider®
Virtua Fighter 2
Alisia Dragoon
Kid Chameleon
Monster World IV
Eternal Champions
Columns
Dynamite Headdy
Light Crusader

I’ll admit to being generally pleased with this lineup (let’s say about 85%) but there are a few odd omissions that leave me thinking that there will be some sort of second Genesis Mini or perhaps an update of some sort in the future. We shall see, I guess.

-GW

Sega Genesis Mini: Finally, It’s Worth Going Back to the Past

genny mini

Welcome back, buddy. Well, soon…

Hey, Sega.

qualitymarkWe have some history together, so I’ll be totally honest here and admit that some of the stuff you’ve done over the years in the post-16 bit era has royally worked a nerve or three. Too many years of seeing and occasionally playing those AT Games systems of often questionable quality that had me hanging on to a couple of your older, better made handheld and home console systems because they simply worked better even after almost two decades of use? Yeah, those are a reminder of the days when stuff was reliable and worked every time it was switched on.

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Derp. Someone forgot to switch his camera out of portrait mode. Eh, consider this a filter like some people use to make their faces all smooth like a plastic doll, OK?

These days, my old Sega Genesis and Japanese Mega Drive still work fine, but of late, they’ve been pouting in a corner because I’ve been all excited about Sega getting fully on board the retro mini console scene with their upcoming Sega Genesis Mini. Set to launch on September 19, 2019 for $79.99, the Mini will pack in a whopping 40 titles that will thankfully, not all be the same games found on those PC and console versions many Sega fans own (and a few of us own those collections on multiple consoles).

Sega of America has wisely put together a neat FAQ that should help you and your wallet see that money will be well spent, so peek below the jump and get ready to watch that credit or debit card pop right out of wherever you keep it.

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System Shock! Piko Interactive Brings It With a Great Retro Games Selection

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Whoa. Good thing I’ve kept that old SNES and a bunch of controllers here.

 
They say time travel doesn’t exist, but seeing this rather cool selection of a dozen upcoming games from publisher Piko Interactive (all available for pre-order NOW) makes me think otherwise. My brain is still doing back flips reading the press release and dang it, although I have every console listed and yep, want each and every game on this list, I wish I still had my Atari Jaguar here for Impossamole and Head Over Heels (as well as the other Jag games I still own sitting in the library).

Anyway, the press release with pre-order links is below the jump, so get to the reading more part and yeah, go broke going for broke, those of you who are thrilled over these new but old soon to be quite collectibles.

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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

SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

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And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: Mega Cats, MagiCats, and Other Critters of Note

Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:

little-medusa-sega-box Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.

As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.

Score: B+ (85%)

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The C64 Mini: Some More Retro For Your Early Gamer Gifting (Or Yourself)

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Remember kids, when you retro-trip, wear proper headgear. Falling too hard can be a hazard to your gaming skills. Or something like that.

 

Remember that C64 Mini post from a few months back? Well, the system is now available and it’s got a fair enough price point ($79.99 US) to recommend if your tastes roll towards the old school and you don’t mind a few quirks from the old days of gaming.  There are a bunch of these mini-consoles out already or coming out this year and next thanks to Nintendo’s success with its shrunk-down NES and SNES systems, so we’ll see how well each does among gamers, collectors and anyone just looking for a simple to get into gift for that special someone.

 

 

Yeah, yeah, the emulation only crowd is chuckling away at these to some extent as they cut themselves a nice slice of Raspberry Pi. But if people who just want a fuss-free gift or just aren’t tech savvy enough to grab some sort of emulation device and swipe ROMs off the internet with relish, I say let them spend their money as they please especially if it makes them happy.

EDIT: Ah, I see one issue I’d read about elsewhere has been addressed. This is a good thimg:

 

 

-GW

 

 

Sega Genesis Classics Switch Bound This Winter

Sega Genesis Classics Switch

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Oh, yeah. It’s SO on this Winter on the Switch.

Hot on the heels of the SEGA AGES™ titles announced last week and set to launch during the Tokyo Game Show, SEGA continues a winter of bringing great classics to the portable Switch. Retro fans can now finally play the Genesis Classics collection on their way to school or work, in their lunch break or basically anywhere on the go! SEGA Genesis Classics has over 50 retro favorites to experience across every genre: arcade action, shooters, beat’em ups, puzzlers and hidden gems, with a raft of modern features. Exclusively for the Nintendo Switch players can now compete in same-screen local coop mode and use each Joy-Con individually if desired. Familiar features like online multiplayer, achievements, mirror modes, rewind and save states are all part of the collection for everyone to revisit and enjoy.

The physical edition of SEGA Genesis Classics is now available for pre-order from U.S. retailers. Details of the digital pre-order will soon be announced.

On one hand this was wonderfully inevitable, but on the other, it’s a case where some stubborn Sega or Nintendo-only diehards will need to pipe down and accept what’s going to be a superb deal when all is said and done. Remember, Sega games new and old have popped up on Nintendo’s systems for quite some time after the company got out of the console business.

I’m guessing that “winter” release timeline means before the end of the year, but I’ll err on the side of “sometime between December and next March” just to be on the safe side. Between this and the upcoming Sega Ages collection, it’s certainly going to a great time for Sega and its legion of loyal fans. Yep, I have this set already on other consoles and PC but it’s still a triple or quadruple dip so that nostalgia thing spreads like fresh butter on hot toast.

-GW

Review: Sega Genesis Classics (PS4)

Sega Genesis Classics PS4Since you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version: Yes, Sega Genesis Classics is worth the $29.99 just for the JRPGs alone, but you’re getting a whole lot of other okay to really decent to superb games for that price. Here’s something to consider before you more jaded gamers turn up your noses at this latest Sega compilation that yes, has most of the same old games you’ve either played to death in the past or just have little to no interest in. Every day there’s likely someone trying out a retro game of some sort and those who’ve never tried anything on the Genesis are going to be very well served here.

Granted, this collection is missing a few titles found on other collections (notably, the PC version which not only has a few more games, it allows users to mod and add other games as an option), there’s online play that’s not quite flawless and a rewind feature that can make certain titles too easy to beat. That said, as an introduction to a classic console, it’s quite the deal at the end of the day.

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Wait. If you leave the phone off the hook, you can’t call your friends over for some couch co-op action! Oh, you need to make more friends? Okay, then.

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