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.

Waifu Wednesday: Vert

Everyone has a favourite in the Neptunia cast, but even if she’s not top of your list, it’s hard to dislike Vert.

The blonde-haired, big-breasted goddess of Leanbox personifies Microsoft’s Xbox platform as well as embodying the anime trope of “beautiful foreigner” thanks to her physical characteristics.

And as with the rest of the Neptunia cast, there’s a lot more to her than first appears, too, making her a delight to get to know and spend some time with.

Continue reading Waifu Wednesday: Vert

Shmup Essentials: Muchi Muchi Pork

Although rather less active than it once was, Cave was once an extremely prolific producer of some highly varied and creative shoot ’em ups.

Some of their series — such as DoDonPachi, Espgaluda and Deathsmiles — managed to attain mainstream appeal, or at least the closest thing an arcade-style shmup can get to “mainstream appeal” in this modern age. But others are largely unknown for one reason or another.

Muchi Muchi Pork very much falls into this latter category.

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Puzzler Essentials: Zoo Puzzle

You’ve almost certainly played Zoo Keeper at one point or another over the years.

Originally developed as a Web-based game by Tokyo-based animation studio Robot Communications, Zoo Keeper was subsequently ported by developer-publisher Success to a variety of platforms over the years, including Nintendo DS, 3DS, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android and PlayStation 2.

The latter of these, inexplicably rebranded to the even more generic-sounding Zoo Puzzle (or, more accurately, the questionably punctuated Zoo “Puzzle”) in Europe by publisher 505 GameStreet, is the one we’re primarily concerned with today.

Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Zoo Puzzle

PS2 Essentials: City Crisis

While a whole ton of late ’90s PC games have been updated and rereleased through services like GOG.com and Steam in recent years, one which I haven’t had the opportunity to play for a long time is Maxis’ SimCopter.

A fascinating new angle on Will Wright’s SimCity, SimCopter allowed you to take to the skies above either some predefined cities or your own SimCity 2000 maps and take part in a variety of missions ranging from yelling at speeding motorists to dealing with the aftermath of the notorious and iconic SimCity Disasters. Or indeed, tracking down the secret Apache helicopter, setting half the city on fire and then dealing with the carnage you created yourself in exchange for a fat paycheck.

I absolutely adored SimCopter as a kid — and not just because it had Ride of the Valkyries on the soundtrack — but the fact I 1) can’t find my original boxed copy and 2) probably wouldn’t be able to get it running on my current PC anyway makes me sad. Which is why I was so excited to discover Syscom’s City Crisis for PlayStation 2.

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Everybody’s Golf: First Impressions

I’ve been intrigued by golf games since Leaderboard on the Atari 8-Bit, and I sank a fair few hours into Microprose Golf on the Atari ST, wowed by its then-revolutionary 3D polygonal courses.

However, the games that truly cemented my love of this genre of games — although not the actual sport itself, which I find impossibly difficult to play and rather tedious to watch — were Camelot’s Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64, and Bottom Up’s Tee Off on Dreamcast. I didn’t play the Everybody’s Golf series on the early PlayStations — my first encounter with it was the Vita game — but I’m certain it would have appealed to me, because it tickled those same happy places that Mario Golf and Tee Off did by providing friendly, accessible and surprisingly fast-paced arcade-style golf action.

With that in mind, then, let’s take a look at the new PS4 installment, the latest in the line of long-running series to ditch numerical suffixes and subtitles in favour of just being called what it is.

Everybody’s Golf, then.

Continue reading Everybody’s Golf: First Impressions

Waifu Wednesday: Hanako Ikezawa

In this new weekly series, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most memorable, interesting, attractive, sexy, badass and just plain awesome female characters in Japanese gaming, as well as highlighting some great fanart.

And what better place to begin than with Hanako Ikezawa from Katawa Shoujo, my favourite character from the game that truly got me into visual novels and the Japanese style of interactive storytelling once and for all — even if the game in question itself was actually developed as something of a worldwide collaborative effort.

Hanako is a character that I found to be deeply relatable, enormously sympathetic  and highly memorable; she’ll always occupy a very special place in my heart, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Continue reading Waifu Wednesday: Hanako Ikezawa

Shmup Essentials: DoDonPachi Resurrection

My first encounter with DoDonPachi Resurrection — also known as DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu — was in its iOS incarnation.

I’d never really played a danmaku shooter before, so it was to be a new experience to me, but I’d been assured by people whose opinions I trusted that I would have a good time with it. Those assurances turned out to be emphatically true — which is just as well, because at the time I originally purchased it, DoDonPachi Resurrection was rather expensive for a mobile game.

Since that fateful initial encounter several years back, I’ve since sought out the various other versions of this game, and have found it an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience whatever form it takes — and absolutely one of Cave’s finest games to date.

Continue reading Shmup Essentials: DoDonPachi Resurrection

Puzzler Essentials: Detonator

You can make games about pretty much anything.

Demolishing buildings, for example, is a theme that we’ve seen a few times over the years, most notably in Midway’s classic arcade game Rampage, though you might not think this inherently destructive activity is the best fit for the rather cerebral puzzle game genre.

You would, however, be wrong, as Kadokawa Shoten’s PlayStation 2 puzzler Detonator aptly demonstrates.

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PS2 Essentials: Party Girls

Party Girls is an interesting anomaly in D3 Publisher’s Simple Series in that its Japanese title is much more interesting than its somewhat generic sounding localisation, rather than the other way around.

Party Girls? Eh, pass, sounds like shovelware. Mogitate Mizugi! Onna Mamire no THE Suiei Taikai (Fresh-Picked Swimsuits! The Swim Meet Packed with Women*), on the other hand? Sign me right the hell up.

This situation wasn’t helped by Western publisher 505 GameStreet’s rather generic-looking cover art for the game, which looks like it was knocked up by an intern messing around with WordArt on their lunch break. And consequently, I’d be rather surprised if you ever played Party Girls.

And this is a shame. Because Party Girls is fun.

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed: Driving Into Dreams

There have been a number of attempts to dethrone Nintendo’s Mario Kart over the years, but none of them have been successful, at least in the multiplayer sphere.

There is one aspect of Mario Kart that has pretty consistently sucked over the years, though, and that’s the single-player offering. Offering little more than predefined Grand Prix championships, one-off races or time trials even in the most recent installments, Mario Kart has always struggled to provide anything of real substance for the solo player. Which is fine, as the series has always been known for being best experienced with at least one friend, right from its inception in the 16-bit era.

This has, however, left a decent-sized gap in the market for other developers to come along and offer more robust solo experiences in kart racing titles. And one game that succeeds admirably in this regard is the cumbersomely titled Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed from Sega.

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