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The Shantae series as a whole is a wonderful symbol of endurance, and of holding on to the things you believe in.
I’m not talking about the narratives of the games themselves — though for sure this theme certainly makes an appearance numerous times throughout Shantae’s career to date — but rather the fact that series creator Matt Bozon and the team at WayForward have always believed in the quality of these games, even during difficult times.
It’s gratifying to see that, at the time of writing, the Shantae series as a whole is finally coming to see some mainstream acceptance and appreciation with its latest installment 1/2 Genie Hero. But this doesn’t mean the earlier games aren’t worth checking out. Quite the opposite, in fact… so let’s go right back to the beginning.
Continue reading Shantae: You Stay
What happened to ninjas? I feel like they were unironically cool in the ’90s, and that they were everywhere.
Perhaps they simply learned that being highly visible is not an especially desirable characteristic for a ninja, and thus deliberately relegated themselves to the world of overly tryhard “wacky!” memes alongside pirates, dinosaurs and zombies. Put them all together and you get LOL SO RANDOM, yo. And these days, everyone wants to ignore that nonsense. The perfect cover.
Anyway, here’s Shadow Dancer for the Mega Drive, a 1990 release from Sega and one of the first games I ever played on the system.
Continue reading Mega Drive Essentials: Shadow Dancer
I have spent more time than is probably strictly necessary pondering who my first “video game waifu” was.
My initial reaction was that it was Sophia Hapgood from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and to be fair that would be an eminently solid choice for a first digital love. But I had a feeling there was someone special before that… but who?
Picking up a copy of puzzle game Soldam for Nintendo Switch, which I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at soon, reminded me that ah yes, it was Rit from Jaleco’s Rod-Land.
Continue reading Rod-Land: “So Cute… It’ll Make You Puke!”
Elevator Action is an established classic of the ’80s arcade scene, and saw a wide variety of ports to most of the popular computer and console systems of the period.
While the original game is still relatively well-known today, many people remain unaware that Taito followed it up with an official sequel in 1994, some eleven years after the original game’s release.
These people are, of course, also unaware that Elevator Action Returns is an absolutely awesome game, even from a modern perspective.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Elevator Action Returns
Have you heard the tale of FromSoftware, dear reader? Legend has it that long ago, in the dim and distant past, these renowned scribes were more than just “the people who made Souls games”.
Joking aside, the company’s past output is quite a bit more diverse than you might expect if you only became aware of it in the last couple of console generations. In particular, the first two PlayStation eras represented FromSoftware at its most experimental, with its games running the gamut from Souls’ spiritual predecessor King’s Field to mech sim series Armored Core.
Perhaps the most surprising of FromSoftware’s games from this era, though, given their present reputation for “dark and moody”, is a rather peculiar PlayStation 2 game released in Japan and Europe as Kuri Kuri Mix, and The Adventures of Cookie and Cream in the States.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Kuri Kuri Mix
Sega’s Mega Drive console — or the Genesis to those of you in the States — was a wonderful machine.
In many ways, it started the process of making gaming “cool”, and laid the groundwork for Sony’s solid efforts to make our whole form of entertainment a lot more mainstream with the first PlayStation. But more importantly, it played host to a wide variety of absolutely fantastic games.
One such title was Game Arts’ Alisia Dragoon, an unusual action game that combines elements of disparate genres to produce an extremely memorable, enjoyable and addictive game that still holds up well today.
Continue reading Mega Drive Essentials: Alisia Dragoon
I’m a big fan of unconventional JRPGs that buck the trends of the genre.
That’s not to say I don’t have any love for good old “ATTACK, MAGIC, ITEM” — quite the opposite, in fact — but when something combines the strengths of the JRPG genre (strong characters, heavy focus on narrative, over-the-top drama, colorfulness) with some fun mechanics from another type of game altogether, I sit up and pay special attention.
Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone, then.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Continue reading From the Archives: Secret of the Elemental Stone
This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
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Nier creator Taro Yoko has some strong opinions about how to keep games interesting.
Last time, we heard how he felt that modern triple-A games were often fun for the first twenty minutes, but that he frequently became concerned these initially impressive titles would become tiresome after twenty or more hours. It was this mindset that caused him to design the original Nier with so many unusual features to it, and many of these — and more — have carried across to Nier: Automata.
Today, then, we’ll take a look at Nier: Automata’s mechanical aspects — and how Yoko’s collaboration with Platinum Games has helped him to realise his vision better than ever before.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Creating a Game That is “Unexpected”, That “Keeps Changing Form”
Speak to anyone who claims to be a fan of Konami’s Castlevania series and ask them what their favourite entry in the series is, and doubtless each one will give you a different answer.
Some will prefer the purity of the NES originals. Some will cite Symphony of the Night’s genre-defining nature. Some will extol the virtues of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS titles. Some even have a soft spot for the 3D Nintendo 64 installments in the series.
One title you won’t hear a lot of people cite as their favourite Castlevania, however, is 2010’s Harmony of Despair, a digital-only game that originally released on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 platform — not typically a hotbed of Japanese games — and which subsequently came out on PlayStation 3 a year or so later, featuring a number of enhancements.
It’s a game that wasn’t received all that well on its original release, primarily because it deviated fairly dramatically from the Metroidvania format we’d come to expect from the series by this point. But although this game is far from your typical Castlevania of the era, it remains worth a look, particularly as its age means you can now pick it up pretty damn cheap.
Continue reading Harmony of Despair: Castlevania’s Red-Headed Stepchild
The idea of a “construction set” for a video game being sold as a standalone product is something we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years, but it used to be a common sight in the earlier days of gaming.
Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, titles such as EA’s Racing Destruction Set, Interplay’s The Bard’s Tale Construction Set and SSI’s Unlimited Adventures allowed players to try their hand at game design without needing to know any of that pesky programming, albeit within the constraints of an existing game’s framework in most cases.
The concept of “programming-free game creation” was later expanded on by companies such as Clickteam (Klik and Play, Games Factory, Multimedia Fusion, the latter of which is still used by many indie developers today), YoYo Games (GameMaker) and ASCII/Enterbrain (RPG Maker) — these packages were more “general purpose” and could be used for a wider variety of projects, but became quite a bit more complex as a result.
Given Nintendo’s love of making “toy-like” games, it was entirely appropriate that it would be the one to mark a triumphant and high-profile return to the standalone, more constrained and accessible “construction set”. Super Mario Maker was the result, and it’s one of the Wii U’s most interesting titles.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Super Mario Maker