The PS2 was a delightful period of experimentation for a lot of developers. And the fact that the only option for distribution was on physical media helped these titles get both noticed at the time, and fondly remembered long after the fact.
2000’s Sky Odyssey isn’t a game I ever played back in the day, but having familiarised myself with it for the first time recently, I have discovered it to be one of those titles for which a simple, offhand mention tends to trigger a gushing torrent of effusive praise from anyone who was there first time around. This is a game that people loved back in the day — and yet it’s mostly unheard of today. The very definition of a hidden gem; a forgotten classic.
The advantage of its underappreciated status, of course, is that it means you can pick up a copy for 50p down your local CEX, enjoy a fine, fine addition to your PS2 collection and still have change for an overpriced cup of shopping centre coffee. Let’s take a closer look. At the game, not the coffee.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Sky Odyssey
Ah, what could possibly be better than the charming jank of the Simple 2000 series on PlayStation 2? Why, the Simple 2000 Ultimate series, of course!
Yes, indeed, not content with 123 volumes of low-budget, experimental and weird titles, D3 Publisher decided to put out another range of 34 games under the “Ultimate” branding. Exactly what makes these particular 34 games “Ultimate” isn’t terribly clear, although they are prime examples of what the Simple Series has always been about.
And, just like the main Simple 2000 series, we got a random selection of Simple 2000 Ultimate games in Europe, once again mostly published by 505 GameStreet. Here’s a particularly fine specimen: Fitness Fun, also known as Love★Aerobi or Love★Aerobics in Japan.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Fitness Fun
SNK is primarily known for its fighting games these days, but in its earlier years it was known for a number of solid (and influential) shoot ’em ups.
While Alpha Mission (also known as ASO: Armored Scrum Object in Japan) isn’t the company’s first shoot ’em up by any means, it is an important one and forms the first in a loose “trilogy” of titles that we’ll explore over the course of the next few articles.
Drawing inspiration from Western RPGs, of all things, this is a fun but challenging vertically scrolling shoot ’em up that any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to become intimately acquainted with.
Continue reading SNK Essentials: Alpha Mission
“Exergaming” has been around for a while now; I can recall working up a sweat in Dancing Stage (aka Dance Dance Revolution) on PlayStation 1 back in university.
It was arguably Nintendo who really popularised the concept in the Wii generation, however, with Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus and subsequently Wii Fit U all setting a great example that a number of other developers and publishers strove to emulate. Exercising at home could be practical, said these games, and it could be fun, too!
The Wii and Wii U generations are behind us now — though I know some people are still religiously using Wii Fit, and all credit to them — so it’s time we had a successor, right? Enter Fitness Boxing for Switch.
Continue reading Fitness Boxing: Switch Fit
Atari may be a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of its former self considering the number of hands the brand has passed through since the ’90s… but it’s fair to say that it still has a hold of my heart.
The Atari 2600 was just slightly before my time — I grew up with the Atari 8-bit home computers before moving on to the ST — but I’ve always been interested in and respected the deep roots video gaming laid down in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Consequently, I’ve jumped on board with most Atari 2600 compilations that have been available for platforms over the years… and had a great time with them.
The latest to appear is Atari Flashback Classics for Nintendo Switch. Boasting 150 games that were originally distributed across three separate releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it certainly seems to offer astounding value for money on paper. But how is it in execution?
Continue reading Atari Flashback Classics: Know Your Roots
I’ve always enjoyed games that subvert your expectations in one way or another — be it narratively, mechanically or both. And Tecmo’s Mighty Bomb Jack from 1987 is nothing if not charmingly fast and loose with the definition of what you might expect from a NES-era platform game.
I wasn’t familiar with Mighty Bomb Jack back when it was “current”, but I did have a soft spot for Elite’s solid Atari ST port of the 1984 original arcade game. That was a much simpler game; what Mighty Bomb Jack does is take the base mechanics from its predecessor and apply them in an interesting and unusual new way.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Continue reading NES Essentials: Mighty Bomb Jack
One of the things I find kind of interesting about how gaming culture in general has developed over time is how people feel about “arcade games”.
Back in the 8- and 16-bit eras of computers and consoles that I grew up with, the seemingly unattainable dream was to have “the arcade experience at home” — or, well, more accurately, an authentic arcade experience at home. This was kind of strange when you think about it, because a lot of home computer and console games already offered experiences of greater complexity, depth and duration than your average quarter-muncher, but still the dream persisted.
Once we got to a stage where our home gaming hardware was more than up to the job of providing an “arcade-perfect” experience, however, many people had become so accustomed to those longer, deeper experiences that the dream of “arcade games” kind of fell by the wayside for a significant proportion of the gaming audience. And consequently, I suspect a fair few people missed out on highly enjoyable cheese like Sega’s Ghost Squad.
Continue reading Wii Essentials: Ghost Squad