The Simple 2000 series for PlayStation 2 remains a continual source of fascination for me — particular as a surprising number of these odd games made it west via 505 GameStreet.
Deep Water, also known as The Daikaijuu, is an open-world game about pootling around in your boat blasting sharks and cannon-toting pirates. Supposedly there are also sea monsters, too, but I couldn’t figure out how to find them…
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.
The late 2010s are often described as one of the most gleefully experimental periods in gaming history, with a wide variety of independent developers from all sorts of backgrounds doing their best to push the boundaries of gaming conventions in both mechanical and narrative terms.
There’s no denying that the rise in phenomena such as digital distribution and crowdfunding has enabled developers to work on games that many would have thought commercially unviable in years gone by. But this period is far from the only time in gaming when developers have had the freedom to experiment in this way.
D3 Publisher’s Simple Series, which originated on the PlayStation platform in the 1990s and continued right up until the Wii U era, provided a variety of developers the opportunity to spread their wings and get creative. The only caveat was that the games would almost certainly have miniscule budgets, and they would be released at a low-cost price point. Beyond that, anything would fly.
Here’s Paparazzi, originally known as The Camera Kozou (The Camera Apprentice), a PS2 game about taking photographs.
The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more and suggest some categories here!
Today’s category suggestion is brought to you by my dear friend and talented pixel artist Mr Chris Caskie, aka MrGilderPixels. Check out his site for progress updates on his awesome wooden pixel art standees and wall plaques, and order some of his past work or commission a pixel art avatar on his Etsy shop.
Since we’ve looked at a bunch of short-form arcade-style games throughout the year, particularly shoot ’em ups, Chris suggested I should highlight what I thought was the most interesting or distinctive scoring system in the games I’ve played. So let’s do that!
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.
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 Seriesfor PlayStation 2, and this is the version we’re concerned with today.
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.
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.
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.