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
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
Senran Kagura is one of the most consistently misunderstood series in the entire Japanese gaming canon.
At least part of this is due to the outspoken nature of series creator Kenichiro Takaki who, legend has it, only created the series in the first place because he wanted to see breasts popping out of the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D screen of the Nintendo 3DS, and who is credited with “Righteous Boobage” in every installment’s credit roll.
In a way, this is kind of unfortunate, since it causes a significant number of people — and press outlets — to write the series off as nothing more than cheap fanservice. In reality, however, although the game does include a significant amount of cheeky, overtly sexualised content, it’s a great deal more than titillation, featuring a strong ensemble cast, gameplay mechanics that have evolved, changed and improved between installments — and between different host platforms — and an intriguing unfolding story that draws together elements of Japanese mythology and a more creative, fantastic element of what life as a shinobi might be like in modern-day Japan.
Continue reading Senran Kagura Estival Versus: Introduction
“Tits are life, ass is hometown.” So runs the catchphrase of Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki, and the unofficial tagline for the series as a whole.
While Takaki’s sentiments are refreshingly honest in a world of increasing political correctness — indeed, supposedly the only reason Senran Kagura exists at all is because Takaki wanted to see breasts on the glasses-free 3D screen of the Nintendo 3DS — in a way it’s a bit of a shame that so much emphasis has been placed on this aspect of the series. Not because fanservice-heavy media is inherently bad, of course — on the contrary, Senran Kagura represents a good example of how fanservice can be used to create a very distinctive look, feel, style and overall personality — but because for those less familiar with the series, that’s all they see.
And there is one hell of a lot more to Senran Kagura as a whole than just “life and hometown”. So let’s take some time to explore exactly what it is that makes this remarkable series tick, and why you should check it out if you’re not already a fan.
Continue reading Senran Kagura: More Than Just Life and Hometown… Much More