The Raiden series is a venerable one in the world of video games, albeit one that is not quite as prolific as some series of similar age.
Originally appearing in arcades in 1990, the original Raiden followed the mould of vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups that had been established some eight years previously by Namco’s Xevious and later expanded on by other classics such as Capcom’s 1942 (1984), Nichibutsu’s Terra Cresta (1985) and Konami’s Twinbee (1985).
Raiden didn’t reinvent the wheel, in other words, and it could be argued that its subsequent installments haven’t, either — but the series remains nonetheless a distinctive, noteworthy entry in gaming history, with second-to-latest installment Raiden IV: Overkill being one of the best, most satisfying yet.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Raiden IV: Overkill
Nier: Automata is a fascinating game in its own right, but it becomes even more of an interesting story when you take it in context of everything that led to its creation.
In order to understand Nier: Automata and its predecessors, it is particularly important to understand creator Taro Yoko, one of the most distinctive “auteurs” in all of video game making — albeit one who, until the release of Automata, had largely flown under the radar in stark contrast to his contemporaries such as Hideo Kojima.
Yoko is a creator who, it’s fair to say, has consistently pushed back against the boundaries of what is “accepted practice” in video game development — both in terms of subject matter and mechanical considerations. And the results of his resistance to conventions and norms are some of the most distinctive and interesting — albeit sometimes flawed — creations in all of gaming.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Introduction and History
Sometimes a game doesn’t need to do anything especially new to be a great experience. Sometimes it just has to do what it does really, really well.
Qute’s Eschatos, originally released only in Japan for Xbox 360, then subsequently ported to PC by Degica, very much falls into this category. On paper, it’s an incredibly conventional vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.
When you play it, however, you’ll realise that it’s something really rather special: a shoot ’em up that is both accessible to newcomers and challenging to veterans, and a game that manages to impart a strong sense of “narrative” and progression to its overall experience despite not really having a plot to speak of.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Eschatos
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
Nier is possibly one of Square Enix’s most misunderstood games.
Released to a rather lukewarm critical response back in 2010, this Cavia-developed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action RPG, directed by Taro Yoko, is actually a fascinating game that is well worth your time and attention — so long as you have a bit of patience to deal with its idiosyncrasies.
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: Birds Suddenly Appear Every Time You Are Nier
Shoot ’em ups are one of the oldest types of video game, having been around pretty much since the birth of the medium. So in order to stand out in this modern era, a new shmup needs to either do what it does really well… or do something unusual.
Triangle Service’s Minus Zero, originally released as part of the Xbox 360 compilation Shooting Love 200X in 2009, opts for the latter approach. It’s one of the most unusual shoot ’em ups out there — and one of the most addictive.
It’s a completely abstract game, consisting entirely of geometric shapes accompanied by a background and soundtrack that increase in complexity as you progress, but its main twist on the usual formula is that the only weapon you can use is a “lock-on” similar to that used in Sega’s Rez.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Minus Zero