Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 33

As we bid farewell to August, the time has come to look forward to the fall and all the work/school activities it brings. A change in seasons symbolizes a new stage in the cycle of life, but one thing always remains the same: video games! No matter the weather, time, or date, gaming never ceases, and our staff and readers keep the torch going year round! Here’s the latest batch of gaming goodness that’s been coming from them for the last thirty days, so read on and see what we’ve been up to!


Last Battle By Ken Horowitz

Don’t ask me why I’ve been playing Last Battle. It may have something to do with the amount of dust it’s been collecting on my shelf seemingly forever, or that I have a masochistic need to feel my eyes bleed, but something prompted me to boot it up. I guess it was part of my traditional run through the first generation of Genesis titles, games that have a certain graphical style that was lost as the console gained steam. It plays like crap and is repetitive as hell, but I still find myself popping it in the ol’ Genny every so often.

At least Last Battle taught me one thing: dodging arrows in a video game sucks as much as it does in real life.

Samurai Shodown By Vince Thornburg

It’s a good day when there are five little things that make it seem easy to forget, but then something else comes along on the same day to make it a satisfactory one. I searched around my local Game Crazy one last time before they completely ran out of anything pre-PSX. I was about ready to leave after finding seven copies of Sonic 1 and the occasional Madden.

Then Samurai Showdown suddenly appeared deep in the pile of games and my hand dug through, a pile that cut the side of my palm on an open Vigilante 8 case. I didn’t care. It was an awesome fighting game for $4! I made my purchase, and the clerk appeared to be unhappy with me. He had just stocked that giant basket of random games and didn’t see it. Too bad! I asked for a bandage and walked out the door.

Like years ago when Samurai Shodown was originally rented (ironically, about three hundred feet from the building that held Video Castle was the Game Crazy) I couldn’t put this game down! There weren’t too many fighters of it’s ilk at the time. Full-on weapons combat with the ability of disarming! A meter that charged up during battle to assist you. The music, the graphics, the difficulty. It’s fun as hell and I’ve been putting it in a little bit more lately and just can’t put it down.

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue By Carl-Johan Brax

Lunar for the Sega CD. What can I say, what a fantastic game this is! After enjoying both the remakes on PlayStation, I was somehow deeply disappointed with the original Sega CD installment. The portrait hairs had different colours to the sprites, there were too few cut scenes, it was annoying when the redbook audio reloads all the time, and the magic system was more unbalanced than a demented Parkinson patient/Risperdal addict. But this is about the far superior sequel, which didn’t have any of those problems.

No, Lunar II, or Lunar: Eternal Blue, let the characters have the same hair colour everywhere, has LOADS of cut scenes, PCM audio that looped, and a magic system that is more balanced than those English guards with big black fur hats. This is how the prequel should have been. Fortunately they fixed it with the remake, but for an inferior game console. Don’t make the same mistake as me and play the remakes before the original Sega CD game. For the second game it is okay, because it is so great anyway and most of its features were standardized for the remakes.

Working Designs didn’t fail with the humour for this game, although I dislike the usage of words like “crap” and “turd.” It deserves major applause for getting this John Truitt as the voice actor for Ghaleon. There is no-one better than him. John Truitt for president 2008! He is neither black nor woman, but he will do well anyway, because he will be the FIRST American president who you can hear in two Japanese RPGs.

Working Designs failed with another thing instead. It forced you to pay magic experience for each save. It contradicts itself in the manual when it tells you to save often but not so often you waste magic experience. Well, if you made it optional to NOT waste magic experience when saving in this game, I would have done that, but now I have to beat the game in one sitting instead. Victor Ireland NOT for president 19XX !!!

Mortal Kombat By Alex Burr

In my younger days, this was one of those games that my parents never allowed me to play, even with the constant whining and lack of blood featured in the SNES version. So, needless to say for the last ten to twelve years, I have never been any good at it. I just picked it up last week at Game Hits, and started feeling my way around it, and it’s not too bad. I really like this game, but I get the feeling that the sequels were better, and I still can’t figure out the “test your might” bonus level. I still haven’t beaten the game yet, but I think it might be worth a marathon if I have to to get it done. I just bought the sequel, and I feel like it’s a book series – I have to get through the first one to see what happens in the second one. I’m genuinely excited.

Rise of the Dragon By Joe Redifer

True story: I once borrowed this game back when it was new from a friend. I lost it. I have absolutely no idea how this occurred. I still have the box and manual for it. For some reason my friend didn’t seem to perturbed about it, thankfully. I bet this game was stolen by the same joker(s) who stole several of my Saturn games. I am simply not a guy who loses stuff. I will find you!

Anyway many months ago I reacquired this game for my own selfish interests. I booted it up, made sure it worked and on the shelf it went. Recently I purchased the fine movie called Blade Runner for the Playstation 3… errr I mean Blu-ray. I decided that I wanted to go and play the games that totally rip off Blade Runner with wild abandon. I had read somewhere on Sega-16 that Rise of the Dragon gives way more of a Blade Runner feel than Snatcher could ever possibly hope to achieve. Since I had never played the game for more than ten minutes, I decided to give it a try.

First of all, the main character’s name is Blade Hunter. Yeah. With a name like that, the game already seems like a cheap rip off from China. However that’s about where the similarities to Blade Runner end, other than taking place in the future. The game is a digital comic that requires you follow an exact pattern if you ever want to see the end. Ask the wrong questions? Screw you, you are not allowed to ask them again. The game cannot be completed. The designers of this game really hate you and really hope to cause you great distress. They do not want you to enjoy the game. Unbeknownst to them, you can actually enjoy the game if you use a guide or perhaps save before talking to ANYONE. The problem is that you never know if the conversation is a key one until later in the game. Oh well, I’ll try again!

Contra: Hard Corps By Sebastian Sponsel

Sometimes you are just fed up! You know this situation: You are sitting at your computer in vain, trying to get a paper done, but you don’t make any progress! It doesn’t help that the guy living in the flat above has been playing the same guitar riff for about half an hour straight (and keeps getting it wrong!). Neither do your neighbors, who are listening to some Russian metal band that doesn’t know that “thrash” and “trash” aren’t the same thing! This keeps going on, and you feel anger and frustration building up until you are on the verge of exploding in a violent fit of untamed rage!

There is one good remedy for that: Blow some shit up!

For these fast, furious and explosive moods you need some fast, furious and explosives to let off some steam! Gunstar Heroes is nice, but too comic-like, too cheerful, and the constant boss fights of Alien Soldier are too tiring. No, what you need is grim and gritty non-stop action, plowing through hordes of minions while explosions shatter the screen while you are hunting and taking a mercenary named Deadeye Joe down with a Rayban-wearing wolfman-cyborg named Fang who’s got a Gatling for a right arm! Does it get any more badass than that?

Fifteen minutes later I’ve calmed down. I don’t notice the trashy metal anymore, the beat of the game is drowning it all out. But nevertheless, I’m gonna play more for a while, running and gunning and enjoying the adrenaline rush.

How would Jay and Fang put it? “Lock and Loaded! It’s payback time!”

Air Buster By Edward Figueiredo

Talk about games with cheap deaths, and you’ll certainly have someone mention Air Buster for the Mega Drive. Not that the game is cheap. On the contrary, it’s a fast, colorful burst of shooter action that leaves you wanting more every time you play it. However, as I mentioned, deaths are cheap in this game, especially when you play it for the first time. It’s really common to see your lives vanish like the very useless blast of lightning your ship fires when holding and releasing the A or C button.

The other aspect that makes this game challenging are the stages with no gravity, which have you moving all the time in order to avoid dying against walls and incoming enemies. Nice stuff that gets more fun if you have a friend to play with – a feature that’s rather rare during the 16-bit shmup era. Another praise I could give to this game is the almost complete lack of slowdown while playing it alone (don’t know if it happens in tag mode though) and the music. My favorite tune is the one from level three, where you fly up the sky and reach the stratosphere to battle the boss.

I just don’t like the fact that Kaneko decided to force that waiting screen on us in the beginning of every stage, as if the game was loading… If you’re into shmups and is eager to destroy everything – like me – that’s prone to give you some shooting anxiety.

Battle Squadron By Damien Jennisen

It’s been far too long since I’ve done some serious playing. Life and all things concerning it have a horrible tendency to get in the way of fun pastimes, and this was no exception. So, when things started to wind down a little and I finally had a chance to get back into playing some games, what was the first game I plugged in? Battle Squadron.

Yes, the Amiga game ported to the 16-bit wonder, and I am happy to say that none of the difficulty has been taken away from it. The game is still monstrously hard for a vertical shooter, to the point that I’d say that it has the Hellfire Syndrome “die once and you might as well start again.” The music has taken a heavy hit compared to the glorious Amiga soundtrack (but it’s still an awesome track) and graphically it is only slightly inferior, but I am happy to say that this game can still knock me down not even halfway in, even when I lower all the difficulty parameters to the lowest settings. And the higher ones? Just forget it. When a game gives you options to alter just how many bullets are on the screen, you know that it’s going to be one rough ride. The weapons simply do not scale compared to what you have to fight and it’s a mad effort just to survive long enough to get a bomb to use to clear SOME of the screen of its enemies. And did I mention that getting hit powers down your weapon?

So why play it, especially as one to warm me back up to the Mega Drive? Well, for one, even though it’s hard, I love the game and enjoy it tremendously. I’ve loved that genre of games ever since I played Tyrian, and it’s a type of game that I am sad to say is rarely made well in this modern day. Secondly, it reminds me that while many other games have come in my life, only the older machines can truly kick you down to size and tell you “I am a truly hard game.” No sissy save points for me, time to train up my gaming skills back to what they were before. So load up the laser cannons and let’s get ready to kick Barrax butt… if they have butts.

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