Category Archives: Essentials

A collection of articles highlighting noteworthy or interesting games from the libraries of lesser-appreciated, rarer or retro systems, and in specific genres.

Wii Essentials: Ghost Squad

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.

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Wii Essentials: Wii Play: Motion

The poor ol’ Wii gets a lot of crap for its numerous minigame compilations, when in fact these releases were a significant part of the system’s appeal.

Minigame compilations provided accessible ways for people less accustomed to games to get accustomed to the Wii’s unusual control scheme, great packages to entertain groups of friends on social occasions… and brilliant opportunities for developers to get a bit weird and creative.

One of the best examples I’ve come across is 2011’s Wii Play: Motion, one of the lesser-known entries in Nintendo’s Wii [x] series, and a game that most people know as “the game you got free with a Wii Remote Plus for a while”.

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PS2 Essentials: TimeSplitters 2

Yes, yes, yes, I know it’s also on Xbox and Gamecube, but I’ve always thought of TimeSplitters as a PlayStation thing, so that’s where it’s getting categorised today.

Ahem. Anyway. TimeSplitters 2 is, unsurprisingly, the follow-up to the excellent TimeSplitters, a game developed by ex-Rare folks who previously worked on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64.

The original TimeSplitters has aged very well. Its sequel is even better. Let’s take a closer look.

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PS2 Essentials: Ace Combat: Squadron Leader

The Ace Combat series is a jewel in Namco’s crown that people sadly seem to forget about quite often — though hopefully the seventh installment due early in 2019 will rectify that to an extent.

The series mostly stretches across the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, with a less well-received (but still enjoyable) spinoff installment in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. For most, the series’ peak was with its PS2 installments; opinion varies as to which one of these is really “the best”, but they’re all very much worth your time.

At the time of writing, we’ve already talked about fourth installment Distant Thunder (aka Shattered Skies), so today let’s take a look at the fifth game, known as Squadron Leader in Europe, and The Unsung War elsewhere. It’s a good ‘un.

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Taiko no Tatsujin Drum ‘n’ Fun: Plastic Drums and Music Most Definitely Mix

A little while ago, I offered my first impressions on the demo version of Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! for Nintendo Switch.

I came away from the experience less than enamoured with the game’s motion controls, but starting to understand the appeal of the game when I switched to playing with buttons.

Despite my slightly tepid response to the demo, I came to the conclusion that this was still a game I wanted to support a Western release of… so I splurged on the £90 game-and-drum bundle which comes with a standard copy of the Switch game, and the HORI-made USB drum accessory. Let’s take a closer look!

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Shmup Essentials: Murasaki

As we’ve discussed on numerous previous occasions, the shoot ’em up genre is a lot more diverse than you might think.

Over the years, we’ve seen this initially straightforward genre blossom into something that encompasses a wide variety of distinct mechanics: the precise navigation of danmaku games, the pattern recognition and twitch reflexes of twin-stick shooters, the emphasis on memorisation and “risk versus reward” of Gradius-style games and plenty more besides.

One of the most interesting ways in which developers have experimented with the genre as a whole is through combining it with other genres. To date we’ve seen attempts to blend it with fighting games (such as the Suguri series), platform games (such as Rabi-Ribi) and even puzzle games. Murasaki, a 2014 release from Japanese doujin circle Katatema, falls into the latter category.

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PS2 Essentials: Auto Modellista

Even today, Capcom’s 2002 racing game Auto Modellista stands out as a bold and striking experiment.

By combining relatively conventional arcade-style racing gameplay with an eye-catching cel-shaded visual style, the game successfully distinguished itself from many of its peers — though sadly, relatively mediocre reviews, mostly focusing on the game’s handling and its attempts to straddle the line between deep simulation and arcade racer, meant that it sold fairly poorly.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out by any means, however — particularly if you are someone who, like me, enjoys the customisation aspect of deep sims but hates “realistic” handling. Let’s take a closer look — and keep an eye on Sunday Driving for the next few weeks to see the game in action for yourself!

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