Saturday, August 28, 2010

Phantasy Star II (1989, Sega, Genesis)

I'm not really a big fan of RPG games. I seldom play them due to their tendency to require you to grind for hours and hours. Yeah, not fun. Anyway, that's not to say that I don't enjoy an "epic" quest once in a while. A few weeks ago, I purchased a compilation for my PS3 called Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. I may cover it in a later post. There are several RPG games on the collection, one of which being my favorite RPG: Phantasy Star IV. But I'm not here to review that game. I'm actually reviewing another game in the Phantasy Star series, one I actually never played before: Phantasy Star II.

In 1989, Phantasy Star II was released shortly after the console launched in the U.S, and was toted as being a video game so advanced, that not even a computer could run it.

The plot of the game is simple, seeing that this is a early RPG. You are Rolf, a agent in the town of Paseo (?)
who has to fix a sentient overlord called Mother Brain (Yes, Mother Brain.). The story is a little deeper than that, but I really haven't gotten far enough to see any details (more on that later.)

The graphics are decently good for the time. Nice colors and detailed anime-like character portraits are the name of the game here, along with creepy looking monsters and bosses. Music seems to get the job done trying to convey the whole "futuristic Sci-fi" setting of the game. I really had some confusion with the whole theme, being a futuristic RPG with weapons like swords and steel bars. Yes, I am aware that there are more modern weapons in this game, such as guns, but the point stays the same.

The gameplay is standard RPG fair, overworld and dungeon exploring with turn-based random battles.
The battle screen is always the same: a blue laser grid-type background with your characters facing forward towards whatever monster your fighting. This is underwhelming compared to PSIV's changing backgrounds, but that game came out in 1994, so I guess it isn't anything I can complain about.

But if you are new to this kind of game, I suggest you stay away. Because PSII's dungeons are excruciatingly difficult. The overworld gameplay isn't too difficult if you are used to RPGs, but the game's dungeon areas will put even the most skilled RPG players in the fetal position. But don't be too scared, a little grinding action will get you through to the game's supposedly awesome ending, although I don't really know because I haven't beaten it just yet.

In general, for a early Genesis title, the game is quite good. Not up to PSIV's standards to be sure, but still a awesome RPG all the same. The brutal nature of the game's dungeons and the need of excessive level grinding is a negative for me, but it isn't a bad way to kill a few weeks.


+ Colorful graphics.
+ Decent in-game tunes.
+ Tried-and-true classic RPG style.


- Tiresome battle background graphics.
- Controller-throwingily difficult dungeons.

Overall: ***7.8 out of 10***

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (2010, Ubisoft, PS3)

As my very few readers probably know, I am a major retro gaming enthusiast. I have been since I was 5 years old, playing Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. 3. As a Retro gamer, I look for obscure hits such as Clash at Demonhead and River City Ransom. Looking around the Playstation Store a few days back, I seen a new downloadable title called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Hearing from multiple game sites of it's retro appeal (and seeing the movie, which is my new favorite) I decided to try the demo. I had trouble with my internet a few days ago, and could not download it, but now I have downloaded it and tried it. And I have to say I was very surprised at what I seen. Very, very surprised.

I was skeptical at first. I mean, I know as well as any gamer, that licensed games tend to totally suck. Games such as Bebe's Kids, No Escape, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park just prove this point. But I decided to try it to play it because I love the Scott Pilgrim Universe (became a recent fan after I seen the film) and I absolutely love it.

The reason I like Scott Pilgrim so much is because it seems like something I would dream up in my head. Hell, The main character, Scott, kind of reminds me of myself. I could envision myself as this character. And I have the same mentality with the game: If I were to make a video game, this is exactly how it would be.

Scott Pilgrim is a very retro-styled video game. The visual style is kinda like a Neo-Geo game, play Metal Slug and you'll know what I mean. The game is like the beat em' ups that were housed in the arcades in the late 80's and early 90's with a few RPG elements similar to another beat em' up, Castle Crashers.
It has support for 4 players, which I have not tried yet (I only have one controller). The presentation to Scott Pilgrim is top-notch, with a 90's arcade-style intro, lots of classic retro game references, and a amazing soundtrack (more on that later).

The gameplay is a adaption of the graphic novels, you can play as Scott, Ramona, Stills, and Kim. The action is similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Uber-chaotic action with friends which you can't tell what's going on. You and your friends take on a army of evil ruffians trying to reach the bosses of the game, the Evil Exes.
You can just button-mash through the whole game like a early 90's beat em' up like Streets of Rage, or you can level up and gain access to Street Fighter-like moves. As you fight, you gain experience points much like a RPG. Gaining levels expands your Life and "Gut" points (The former being your special power) and you can also visit shops and purchase food, rock albums, and books using money you gain by thrashing goons ala River City Ransom.

Mentioning River City Ransom, this game has a lot of references to classic games. Such as the Super Mario Bros. 2-like character select screen, to the Triforce on the Recycle bins you can use as weapons. Whoever designed this game sure wanted to invoke a lot of nostalgic feelings.

The music is phenomenal. It's performed by Anamanaguchi, a band specializing in chiptune music, and they did a tremendous job with their work with this game. It's a fusion between NES-style music and punk rock, and it sounds amazing. If the charming graphics or the adrenaline-rush gameplay doesn't keep you playing, the music certainly will. I'm seriously not joking when I say it's probably my new favorite video game soundtrack.

It's not perfect, of course. The biggest issue is the lack of an online feature. You can only play the game locally, meaning you're gonna need to get some controllers........and some friends. It's not a big issue, the game's probably more fun with friends on the couch anyway. The enemies are a tad cheap at times, being able to hit you in situations where you cannot avoid taking damage. This doesn't happen too often, so I guess it's tolerable. The game is not easy, even on "Average Joe" (easy) mode. This is probably because the game is designed for multiple players. If you go at Scott Pilgrim solo, prepare to grind some levels, you're gonna need 'em.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a retro gamer's dream. Classic brawler gameplay, amazing chiptune/punk rock soundtrack by Anamamaguchi, video game references abound, and a cheap price tag (10 bucks) make Scott Pilgrim a winner. I can't recommend this gem enough.

+ Classic stress-relieving brawler action.
+ Charming 16-Bit visual style.
+ One of the best soundtracks in a Video Game.
+ 4-Player support.
+ On the cheap.

- No online play
- Occasionally cheap enemies.
- Hard difficulty on Solo play.

?: Why didn't this game come out in 1993?

Overall: ***9 out of 10***