All posts by Pete Davison

Former games journo (GamePro, USgamer) and expert on all those Japanese games and visual novels the mainstream press likes to go "ew, pretty girls" at. I write things at great length.

Azure Striker Gunvolt: An Electrifying Action Platformer

As we’ve already seen, one of Inti Creates’ biggest strengths as a developer is its ability to understand what made the games of the past great while simultaneously updating them with modern conveniences and conventions.

Azure Striker Gunvolt, a relatively new series from the company but one which has already gone on to be popular and well-received, is a great example of this philosophy at work. Adopting a pleasingly chunky but detailed late 16-bit pixel art look and combining it with delicious 2D art, excellent storytelling and a well-crafted world, the game provides an excellent experience, whether you enjoy it on its original host platform of the 3DS, its port to PC or its most recent incarnation on Nintendo Switch as part of the Azure Striker Gunvolt Striker Pack alongside its sequel.

Let’s take a closer look at where this game from and what makes it tick… or rather buzz, perhaps.

Continue reading Azure Striker Gunvolt: An Electrifying Action Platformer

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Namco Essentials: Tank Force

While they’ve fallen a bit out of fashion in more recent years, tanks have been an important part of the gaming landscape pretty much since its dawn. (Then, of course, they trundled right over said landscape, flattened it and blew it up.)

Indeed, one of the earliest competitive games — Atari’s Combat for 2600, released in 1977 — is most well known for its highly enjoyable two-player tank battles, though the game’s myriad modes also incorporated a variety of other vehicles.

Namco got in on the tank battle action in 1980 with its arcade title Tank Battalion, subsequently followed up by spinoff title Battle City for Famicom in 1985. Then, finally, we come to 1991’s Tank Force, the game that we’re concerned with today — and an underappreciated arcade title that is well worth your time to check out.

Continue reading Namco Essentials: Tank Force

Waifu Wednesday: Call

I have a bit of a thing for robot girls, I won’t lie.

It’s perhaps more accurate to say that I have a bit of a thing for certain types of robot girls, particularly those as depicted in Japanese video games and anime. I am, to be specific, a fan of robot girls who speak Japanese in a voice that simultaneously sounds kind of emotionless but also infused with urgency; a fan of robot girls who deliver their lines with a delightfully percussive, clipped tone; and, of course, robot girls who are cute.

I most certainly, in short, have a bit of a thing for Call from Mighty No. 9.

Continue reading Waifu Wednesday: Call

PS2 Essentials: Paparazzi/The Camera Kozou

The late 2010s are often described as one of the most gleefully experimental periods in gaming history, with a wide variety of independent developers from all sorts of backgrounds doing their best to push the boundaries of gaming conventions in both mechanical and narrative terms.

There’s no denying that the rise in phenomena such as digital distribution and crowdfunding has enabled developers to work on games that many would have thought commercially unviable in years gone by. But this period is far from the only time in gaming when developers have had the freedom to experiment in this way.

D3 Publisher’s Simple Serieswhich originated on the PlayStation platform in the 1990s and continued right up until the Wii U era, provided a variety of developers the opportunity to spread their wings and get creative. The only caveat was that the games would almost certainly have miniscule budgets, and they would be released at a low-cost price point. Beyond that, anything would fly.

Here’s Paparazzi, originally known as The Camera Kozou (The Camera Apprentice), a PS2 game about taking photographs.

Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Paparazzi/The Camera Kozou

Mighty No. 9: “Better than Nothing” – The Game People Love to Hate

Mighty No. 9 is an interesting tale from 21st century gaming that has doubtless been very influential… though perhaps not in the way that was originally hoped for.

One of the earliest success stories of the crowdfunding boom in the early 2010s, the Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No. 9 promised something a lot of people were hungry for: a new Mega Man game in all but name. And oh boy, people were hungry for it; the campaign smashed through its initial $900,000 goal within days of its announcement, and the final total raised through crowdfunding cleared $4 million.

It was a game that should have gone down in gaming history. Instead, its lasting legacy was as an example of how not to manage a crowdfunding campaign, and a final product that had a somewhat mixed reception. But was it actually that bad?

Continue reading Mighty No. 9: “Better than Nothing” – The Game People Love to Hate

N64 Essentials: Wave Race 64

Some of my fondest memories from my formative years have the Nintendo 64 as their focal point.

Whether it was indulging in loud-mouthed, profanity-laden four-player GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Duke Nukem 64 deathmatches or just me and my similarly non-sporty school friends desperately trying to understand the appeal of the World Cup through the use of EA’s imaginatively titled World Cup 98, this console holds a special place in my heart.

And yet somehow up until now I’d never played one of its most well-respected games: Wave Race 64. And now I am kicking myself for not checking it out sooner.

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Blaster Master Zero: Retro, Reimagined

Blaster Master Zero for Nintendo Switch and 3DS is an interesting game in more ways than one.

Not only is it a loving remake of a very fondly regarded title from back in the NES era, it also incorporates elements of the Famicom game that was heavily reimagined to become Blaster Master. On top of that, it even acknowledges elements of the Worlds of Power novelisation of Blaster Master — which, in itself was something of an interesting curiosity in that it was later retconned into being “canonical” so far as the rest of the series is concerned.

None of this is required to appreciate the fact that Blaster Master Zero is a great game, mind you, but delve a little deeper into the lore and you find out all sorts of fascinating things.

Continue reading Blaster Master Zero: Retro, Reimagined