The shoot ’em up genre is one in which it is quite difficult to innovate.
This has, of course, led to a number of games over the years that can quite reasonably called knock-offs of other, popular titles that became well-established, though that doesn’t mean that said knock-offs aren’t interesting in their own right.
One such example of this being the case is Warashi’s Shienryu, a game which unashamedly draws great inspiration from the legendary Raiden series, and which was originally released for arcade, Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. It was subsequently bundled in with an all-new sequel, Shienryu Explosion, as part of D3 Publisher’s Simple Series for PlayStation 2, and this is the version we’re concerned with today.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Steel Dragon EX
In many cases the games that are part of D3 Publisher’s sprawling budget-price Simple Series are enjoyably experimental, while in others they simply represent traditional gaming genres brought up to date with modern (for the time) visuals and sound.
Bust-a-Bloc, or The Block Kuzushi Hyper as it was known in Japan, occupies a space somewhere between these two approaches: it’s an adaptation of one of the oldest types of game around, but it adds some interesting and experimental twists on the formula to make it surprisingly distinct from its peers in an incredibly crowded genre.
As you can probably determine from its title, Bust-a-Bloc is a Breakout-type game in which you hit a ball with a paddle in order to destroy blocks — indeed, this genre of game is simply known as “block kuzushi” (block destruction) in Japan, so the title is another example of the Simple Series’ charmingly literal title scheme — but it’s the game’s few additions to the formula that make it noteworthy, and well worth spending some time with.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Bust-a-Bloc
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
One of the most charming things about D3 Publisher’s Simple Series is its straightforward naming convention, which brings to mind the good old days of Atari 2600 games called imaginative things like “Combat”, “Golf” and “Dodge ‘Em”.
As such, with a game called The Helicopter — or the even more literal Radio Helicopter, as it was known in Europe — you pretty much know what you’re getting into before you start.
What you might not know, however, is that this simplistic-sounding, low-budget game is actually a ton of fun.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Radio Helicopter
Shoot ’em ups, being one of the oldest genres of gaming there is, have been a pretty constant presence in every major generation of gaming hardware.
The early years of the 21st century were no exception, offering us a wide variety of top-notch shoot ’em ups of all types, including bullet hell, traditional side-scrollers, vertical scrollers and full 3D efforts.
Psyvariar by Success Corporation, a company today primarily known for its Cotton series and puzzle game Zoo Keeper, is a particularly solid example with some interesting mechanics, and a game that remains eminently playable today.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Psyvariar
One of the most interesting phenomena of the early PlayStation eras was D3 Publisher’s “Simple Series”, a range of low-budget — and budget-priced — titles produced by a wide variety of external developers.
The series began on PS1 with some pretty straightforward interpretations of concepts such as mahjong, tennis or racing, but over time gradually expanded to take in role-playing games, dating sims and even enhanced ports of arcade games.
By the time the PlayStation 2 rolled around and the Simple 2000 subseries launched — so named because each game cost 2,000 yen (a little under £14 today) in its native Japan — the range had become a great place to find fascinating (but often flawed) games that, by virtue of their low budgets, could afford to be a bit experimental. Essentially, they fulfilled the function that the digital-only indie scene does today, only you had to buy them on disc because digital games weren’t yet a thing on consoles.
And so it was that we found ourselves face to face (or, well, face to ankle) with Tamsoft’s The Daibijin (The Gigantic Beauty), localised for Europe as Demolition Girl.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Demolition Girl/The Daibijin
One interesting contrast between Western and Eastern role-playing games is the way they each handle their core “rulesets.”
Western RPGs tend to follow a model that is somewhat closer to tabletop role-playing, whereby all the rules are set out clearly in front of you from the outset. You generally spend the entire game applying these rules in different ways, gradually growing in effectiveness (usually through increased likelihood to succeed at various challenges) as you proceed.
This is perhaps a side-effect of the fact that Western RPGs have their roots very much in Dungeons & Dragons — in fact, many early Western RPGs quite simply were Dungeons & Dragons games — but even today with franchises like The Elder Scrolls, we see what are often some relatively straightforward rules being applied consistently throughout the entirety of a game.
Japanese role-playing games, on the other hand, play things a little bit differently.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Continue reading From the Archives: Layers Upon Layers