Thursday
Dec092010

Quarter Circle Forward: Raiden Fighters Aces

There's always that one single title that truly defines a gemers love for a particular type of game. When it came to RPGs, the one that hooked me was Final Fantasy Legend II for the original Game Boy, spurring an intense love for the genre. RPGs were my bread and butter which sustained me almost entirely on their own, until that fateful day in 1998. I made my way to the absolutely massive arcade in Les Galleries de la Capitale, located in downtown Quebec City and it was there that I discovered the game that would make me question my RPG loyalty, and entrance me with a whole new genre: The 'Shmup. And that game was Raiden Fighters.

Three generations have passed since then, each with the hopes that there'd eventually be a home release. Finally, after 10 years, hope: a lone trailer on Xbox Live in 2008 for Raiden Fighters Aces, a compilation containing Raiden Fighters, its 1997 sequel Raiden fighters 2: Operation Helldive, and the 1998 follow-up, Raiden Fighters Jet. Then... Nothing. No announcements, no advertisements, no mention of the game at all, outside of a Japanese release. In North America, the 'shmup used to be all but dead, and the prospects of new Japanese arcade 'shmup releases were bleak at the very best of times. Eventually, Raiden Fighters Aces became forgotten, and the months turned into years.

 

All of a sudden, whilst looking for a review of a completely different game at random one day with Raiden Fighters being the very last thing on my mind, I stumbled upon a review for Raiden Fighters Aces and balked. Loudly. There was nothing to indicate its release at all, and I was fast to secure the last copy at my local retailer. Not only is it worth more than its weight in gold, it was also a steal at just 20 bones. Considering it was a full-priced retail release for a Yen-cost-equivalent to a whopping $70.00 in Japan, we're really getting quite the bargain.

 

All three games are vertical-scrolling shoot 'em ups that fall somewhere between standard and bullet hell in terms of enemy fire and patterns. With each, you have the choice to select from a multitude of creatively designed aircraft, each with unique weapons and attributes such as speed and firepower. You'll find yourself up against your typical assortment of enemies such as tanks and planes with larger variants requiring more effort to destroy. Of course, at the end lies the main objective, a massive oversized boss machine that will fire all kinds of death at you while you try to take it down. In addition to the actual games main arcade mode, additional boss rush and expert modes are available, which keep the good times rolling.

 

To aid you in your endeavors, you can pick up L or M icons which give you your choice of missile or laser power ups to increase your default firepower. Certain planes will force you to choose between one or the other with more powerful or wider-shooting default guns while others will allow you to have both at once with less guns. Finding the one that's just right for you can be a challenge, but once you do, you'll be laying waste to your enemies in no time at all. But lasers and missiles are just one way to jack up the pain; you also have massive bomb attacks that can vary depending on your plane, and Slave Fighters, which will flank and assist you an varying ways. With Slave Fighters, you can only have two with you at a time, but if you continue to collect Slave Fighter tokens throughout the game, they will change formation and will eventually seek out and attack your foes at point blank range.

 

When it comes down to difficulty, Raiden Fighters Aces is pretty hard. You can scale down the difficulty, but of course, some of the challenges (read: achievements) can only be done on normal difficulty or higher. Adding to the difficulty is the lack of any sort of extend score. This means that when you start any of the three games here, it's win or bust: you'll be left only with three lives and however many credits you start out with (default 3). The scoring is pretty straight forward; with the medals you collect increasing in value as you consecutively collect more and more of them. In addition, you will obtain a bonus score in conjunction to how many you have collected in total. Then there's Raiden Fighters Jet with it's unique “medal collection” mechanic. There will be certain medals that sweep up and absorb smaller medals on the field; this “sweeper medal” will increase in size and value as it collects more smaller stray medals, allowing for a massive score if you can grow it enough. You can also gain secret scores in all of the games by meeting certain conditions. More often than not, a fairy will appear, distributing bombs and allowing for a 100,000-point bonus if it is actually collected. They are susceptible to your gunfire though, so watch where you shoot!

As far as presentation goes, it can be hit and miss, depending on your tastes. There's an overall heavy techno groove going on here, and while I'm all for it, many others might not share my enthusiasm. The sound effects are pretty slick, and the sprites and 2D elements here are really smooth and well-defined. The special effects like the lasers on the Raiden Mk.2, for example, are jaw-droppingly awesome, often looping and snaking all over the screen with satisfying destructive force. Everything is well animated as well, making it quite pleasing to look at compared to most 'shmups from their time. Finally, there's the text bits. Riddled with terrible English, this can be a plus or a minus, depending who you are. In my case, I'm the kind of person that loves this kind of thing, but again, many probably don't share that taste.

-Ser

Tuesday
Dec072010

Bullet Heaven Episode S202 - Solar Striker

In this episode of Bullet Heaven, we take a look at Nintendo's only first party shmup, and the earliest shooter on the then-fledgling Game Boy handheld: 1989's Solar Striker! How does this early portable shooter stack up?

Starting with this episode, Bullet Heaven will be using a new rating format with a rating wheel and Picture-in-Picture! Also new to Bullet Heaven henceforth is brand new art at the end of every episode of the show!

-Ser

Tuesday
Dec072010

Thank you all so very much!

After a successful contest & gracious words from our kind listeners, we were placed within the new & noteworthy section of iTunes today. This means a great deal to us & we want to thank all of you for taking the opportunity to review us, we do this because we feel that we have an opinion & we take the time to produce that opinion & when we've been given such positive notice, it just gives us a whole new drive to keep going to get better & better at delivering our best for the podcast & website.

Thank you guys again & please keep the reviews coming, you can find the show on iTunes or Zune as well as you can find it on the website at www.presspauseradio.com so again we can't extend our thanks enough. Join the forums & get a chance to reply or talk with us directly & stay tuned for more shows!

-Press Pause Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

A Final Retrospective on the Blue Rodent



Chances are if you're a Sonic fan you got pretty excited about "Project Needlemouse" when it was first announced. Chances are you were even more excited to play Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode One after downloading it. There's also a good chance you enjoyed the game, regardless of the fact that it reeked like last weeks recycled newspaper being delivered in place of a fresh headline. Like myself and many others who were expecting the remake of what Sonic used to be, involving two dimensional innovations and brand new zones as the series progressed, you've either settled with the fact that you just paid fifteen dollars for the same game(s) you played in the 90's, or you didn't get the game at all.

We'll say it once and we'll say it again -- Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode One is a great game. It's not a glitched out piece of garbage or something that would make you drop your jaw in disgust. The game is awesome, but in all honesty it still didn't feel like the big deal Sega was so ecstatic to present us with. This was (as I said before) a completely rehashed blend of everything we've seen in Sonic throughout the years. Like many other fans out there we [at Press Pause Radio] were personally thrilled for the general release, but disappointed when we realized we had just played through something we already dominated decades ago, as opposed to this flashy new "rebirth" we heard so much about. The funniest thing is how those folks who were buying digital copies of the original Sonic in order to "protest" the new Sonic 4 project -- weren't really missing much after all.

Sonic still has a gambling problem...

Perhaps our slightly sour reactions of the game come from the fact that we're stuck with such a steep price tag for something so familiar. We loved the classic Sonic games, but we're still crying out for a new twist that doesn't involve strange concepts or unplayable control schemes. Take Sonic Colors on the DS for example, classic Sonic mixed with unfamiliar zone atmospheres and new abilities thanks to the wisps. So we see a few cheesy cut scenes here and there, but they can be skipped if you're not too fond of them. The game was an overall success, leaving most fans with a level of satisfaction they initially wanted from Sonic 4, also proving that Sonic Team is still quite creative. 

Anyone who's played Sonic 4: Episode One (including myself) is probably going to recommend that you try it, but still admit it's not exactly the golden Sonic revival we've been waiting for. Again, we're only one "episode" into this boat, so the folks at Sonic Team and Sega could really surprise and impress us for a show we couldn't afford to miss -- even if it costs us another fifteen bucks. In all honestly if future episodes contain loads of creative new ideas and concepts, it would probably make up for the mediocre reception of this entire redo. So here's to a decent start with hopes of great improvement, along with constant kudos to Sonic Team for trying their best to keep the spirit alive.

-Sean B.

Tuesday
Dec072010

Quarter Circle Forward Review: NBA Jam

 
This past fall, EA Sports announced they would be resurrecting the arcade classic NBA Jam for the Xbox 360, and with it my long lost love of basketball. When the original game was stealing my quarters as a youth I was a huge fan of the sport, often playing games of 21 at a nearby court. It has been almost fifteen years since I last knew current teams and rosters of the National Basketball Association, and now the remixed and repackaged NBA Jam is ready to make me a fan all over again.

With the utter failure of NBA Elite still fresh in the minds of many sports game enthusiasts, EA has been desperately trying to keep their fans at bay. This is the main reason why NBA Jam is now available as a full priced retail disc. The original plan was that a small portion of the Nintendo Wii version of Jam would be included as a bonus with the doomed Elite. When this was first announced, a large portion of consumers were pre-ordering the successor to the NBA Live series only to have a online NBA Jam for the Xbox Live Arcade service. Now that that is no longer a possibility, we now have a ported version of the game that was released on the Wii earlier this fall. While playing Jam, I still found myself wishing that it would have been a fifteen dollar downloadable game as opposed to a fifty dollar game. However I still feel that the money is well spent, so long as there is a built in multiplayer component in some shape or form.


 The new version of NBA Jam brings back all the components that made the original arcade game so amazing. Tim Kitzrow returns to add the classic lines and announcing that made the action so crazy and memorable. Backboard breaking dunks and gravity defying moves are bigger and better than they have ever been. The game even seems to be easier than the arcade versions of it’s past. Rubber-banding AI is not as noticeable, and it even seems as if shoving is more frequent and easier to use on defense. On the negative side, goal-tending seems to happen far too frequently and the player’s computer controlled partner is often not competent enough to finish an alley-oop attempt or play decent defense. The addition of online multiplayer does fix most of these problems, it is just unfortunate that the computer is not as smart as it should be in this type of sports game.

This full retail version also includes the various game modes that were available on the Wii version, which are all a part of Jam’s Remix tour. Remix features dozens of NBA Hall of Famers, who act as boss battles through various parts of the tour. However consumers should be advised that this purchase should be made only if the multiplayer is a strong selling point, or this can be a party game for get-togethers and multiple gaming nights. It simply is not enough for just a single player experience. As a downloadable game it would have been the perfect game, and certainly game of the year material. However for a full price tag, it’s purchase price can only be justified if it is played frequently online or against friends.

Personally I found myself feeling like a teenager again as legends such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were playing alongside current stars Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. I really never would have imagined that this type of excitement would ever return to a basketball game. EA Sports have successfully brought back the feel and playability of NBA Jam, which has rekindled the flaming basketball inside of my heart. Now if only we could get a remake of NFL Blitz; I’m sure after this anything is possible.

 

 -Toast

Monday
Dec062010

Bullet Heaven Episode S201 - Kolibri (Sega 32X)

It's the season 2 premier, anniversary episode of Bullet Heaven! In this episode of Bullet Heaven, I take a look at the obscure Kolibri for the Sega 32X. I have just five words for you: Humming Birds and Particle Beams. Make sure to stay tuned after the show for a special surprise! BULLET HEAVEN IS BACK!

-Ser

Saturday
Dec042010

Awesome announcement from our friends at Pokemon Podcast!

Our friends at Pokemon Podcast have started to get their merchandise in order, (we're still lagging & we apologize). You can find them on our friend's section & go listen to their podcast as well you can take the chance to visit the best independant site covering Pokemon on the web!

Finally! After months of talking about exclusive Pokémon Shirts, we finally have some made! You can jump over to our very basic store and pre-order one! All Pre-Orders will ship on December 16th. Right before the holidays. So you can get your shirt in time for Christmas (a good gift). Now these shirts are limited to 100... so in other words... once they are gone, they are gone. 

Here is the official description:

The first Official PKMN Podcast Shirt. This is limited to 100. The shirt was inspired by the swirl on Poliwhirl's/Poliwrath's belly. Now you too can have a swirl of awesomeness on your belly.

IMPORTANT: Right now we are taking PRE-ORDERS. Your shirt will ship on Thursday, December 16, 2010. We get full stock on that Wednesday. Be one of the first people to get one!

To take care of this shirt properly, please wash it inside out. Do not put it in the dryer, hang dry preferred. 

These shirts have nothing to do with Nintendo and/or the Pokémon Company. All the design work is custom artwork made by Steve Black Jr. © All Rights Reserved.

Thanks to @LLbrettJ for modeling it!

Thursday
Dec022010

Quarter Circle Forward - Ys: The Oath in Felghana by Ser Flash

 

When it comes to classic RPGs, not too many people these days are familiar with the Ys (Pronounced like 'East', but without the 'T') series, originally created for the Japanese NEC PC-8801 in Japan all the way back in 1987. The series was characterized by its super streamlined Action RPG game play and past-paced action. Ys would later make its way to many other platforms, including the X68000, MSX2, Sega Master System, and Nintendo's Famicom but most prominently, the PC Engine CD. It would subsequently be released in North America and Europe for the TurboGrafx CD.

 

Though it never made a name for itself like say, Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest did, the people who would play the original games in the Ys series often came back for more adventures with Adol the Red. However, unlike its wild popularity in Japan, while Nihon Falcom's flagship title saw critical acclaim overall, it garnered only mediocre sales, likely due to the fact that Nintendo and Sega had most of the market cornered when the TurboGrafx 16 was relevant. As a result, North America would only see one more Ys title before the release of Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable in 2004.

 

While Y's: Book I & II on the TurboGrafx CD were both of the same style (not to mention being on the same disc, back to back) the third game in the series, Ys III: The Wanderers from Ys, was a radical departure from the lot. Released in North America on the TurboGrafx CD, Super NES and the Sega Genesis, Wanderers would nix the classic overhead 'bump-n-slash' mechanic from the first two games, instead opting for a strictly side-scrolling view. Player now also had direct control over swinging Adol's sword and of course, jumping. This meant that instead of pure exploration, Ys III was more of a Platformer. However, it didn't make Ys III and less great. It had a no-nonsense approach to its gameplay and introduced many new characters to the series. It also had great story, decent voice work, excellent music (at least as far as the TurboGrafx version is concerned) and an epic final boss.

  

Because of the radical departure in its game play though, fans of the original games call this game the 'black sheep' of the series, much like Zelda II: The Adventures of Link on the NES. Not only that, but when stacked up against other instalments in the series, fans often call it the worst of the lot.

 

Fast forward to the year 2010. Advances in technology have made it possible to take the console experience with you on the go with the PlayStation Portable. The PSP is home to many quality RPGs, like Final Fantasy, Valkyrie Profile, Breath of Fire and even the acclaimed Lunar. And, in 2004, Ys made a return to form with the excellent Ark of Napishtim, published by Konami. Though the port from PS2 to PSP was botched and marred by horrific loading times, the experience was still one worth having, thanks to engaging characters and challenging gameplay. However, this would not be the last we saw of Ys, past or Present.

 

This year, we have seen two releases in the series from the excellent publisher, XSeed Games; The newest installment in the series made exclusively for the PSP, Ys Seven and a remake that pulls out all the stops; Ys: The Oath in Felghana.

 

Oath is a completely overhauled version of Ys III but at first glance, you'd never notice. Changing views from a side-scrolling to quasi-isometric perspective, Adol now has free range over his movement. There are still devious platforming elements, but the 3D engine adapted from Ark of Napishtim runs brilliantly and makes for a very playable experience. The game's no-nonsense classic hack and slash game play returns as well, but the challenge has been ramped up considerably. Don't think that this game is going to be a walk in the park. Even at a high level, the massive bosses in this game will likely wipe the floor with you like a red-headed mop, often multiple times in a row, before you set out to become stronger yet again. And even then, you'll likely only get past your opposition by the skin of your teeth!

 


 

To make things even more difficult, you can't sock up on curative items in this version of the game. Instead, enemies will drop health pickups, mush like in the Zelda series. There are items which will auto-revive you, but they will be prohibitively expensive until the very end of the game. There's also an item that will recover your HP when you're standing still hidden in the game as well. However, the added charged attacks that you have access to later in the game will allow you to recover your HP when used at a certain point in the game. Until then though, when fighting bosses, the health you start with is the only health you'll have.

 

New to this version is a comprehensive upgrade system, which allows you to power up each piece of weaponry and armour that you find. Using a material called Raval Ore , you can boost your arsenal by two levels, at which pint it reads 'Max'. This is critical in order to make the fastest progress.

 

 

On the presentation side of things, it was really nice to hear the amazing remixed versions of the classic music in the third game again. This soundtrack shines as one of the best I've ever heard, with rocking tunes and throbbing beats throughout. It lends itself the the past-paced nature of the game. The 2-D character sprites and huge 3-D bosses, not to mention the backgrounds as a whole, are richly detailed and pleasing to look at. The character design is top-notch stuff as well, and each person you meet has a colourful personality. Most notably in the game, in stark contrast to even Ys Seven, is a story chock-full of voice overs. Most of them are fantastically delivered too, with only the odd one out sounding hammy or fake. With the addition of so much voicing comes additional story elements and even a few twists from the original title, so fans of the original Ys III will still get a new story in the end!

 

If you're into Action RPGs in specific, you can do a lot worse than Ys: The Oath in Felghana. This game is one that you shouldn't pass up, even if you've played the original game. You can get the standard version for only $29.99, with a deluxe boxed version including a CD Soundtrack and a 2011 art calendar with gorgeous art for $39.99.