In Japan, the PlayStation 2 era was a fantastic time for budget-priced, arcade-style releases.
D3 Publisher is the indisputed master of janky but charming budget fare in this period of gaming history thanks to its expansive Simple Series, but they didn’t keep this knowledge and experience to themselves. They actually collaborated with Sega on a project dubbed “3D Ages” (“Sega D3” backwards) which ultimately resulted in the Sega Ages 2500 collection — a range of games that retailed for 2500 yen each (about £17.50 in today’s money) and encompassed a variety of remakes of Sega’s classic arcade and console titles.
We didn’t see a lot of these games in the West, but we were fortunate enough to get a cool compilation of them bundled together on a single PS2 disc in the form of the Sega Classics Collection. So let’s take a look at exactly what’s on offer, beginning with Monaco GP.
Continue reading Sega Ages: Monaco GP
While the Neptunia series is primarily known for being RPGs, developer Compile Heart’s frequent collaborator Tamsoft has had a number of shots at bringing the franchise into the real-time action realm.
Over time, the scale and ambition of these “action Neptunia” games has expanded considerably, with Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online marking the most convincing realisation of the formula to date at the time of writing, blending elements of the mainline Neptunia games with an appealing and enjoyable real-time combat system.
Let’s look at how “action Neptunia” has evolved over time, and how Cyberdimension Neptunia refines the formula.
Continue reading Cyberdimension Neptunia: Action Neptunia’s Latest Evolution
The Neptunia series is not only one of the most remarkable success stories in Japanese gaming, it’s also one of the most interesting, diverse franchises out there.
From its humble beginnings as a low-budget RPG with an atrocious critical reception to its current, widely recognised status inextricably associated with Sony platforms, even the most hardened cynic has to admit by now that there’s probably something to this series.
A big part of what has kept Neptunia fresh and interesting over the years is the fact that it’s not afraid to step outside of its traditional RPG comfort zone and experiment with gameplay styles. And, since we already explored the history of the mainline series when we dove deep into Megadimension Neptunia V-II back in 2016, it’s these spinoff games we’ll be looking in more detail today.
Continue reading Cyberdimension Neptunia: Introduction and History
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.
And this is a shame. Because Party Girls is fun.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Party Girls
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