Sky’s the limit in Skies of Arcadia Legends (Gamecube)

Panzer Dragoon Saga and Final Fantasy had a child and it’s name is Skies of Arcadia. (Actually, technically, Phantasy Star should replace Final Fantasy here since the Skies of Arcadia studio was made up of ex-Phantasy Star and ex-Panzer Dragoon staff. Without having played any Phantasy Star though, I feel more comfortable comparing this with Final Fantasy.) Nevertheless, this child of two franchises peddles more child-friendly content than either of its parents. The exploits of a few teenage Robin Hood-like pirates facing a cartoonishly evil empire covers most of the plot. As you mighr expect, there are definitely aspects of Skies of Arcadia Legends that are a bit formulaic and a little bland, especially in the story and characters. Continue reading

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Gradius III (PS2) – only masochists need apply

While writing my recent post about the music of Gradius, I felt the need to experience the music in context. I’ve spent at least some time with each game in the series, but Gradius III has my favourite soundtrack and was the one I really wanted to sink my teeth into. Who could have known that such easy listening would accompany such a difficult game?! Gradius III is one of the hardest, most gruelling games out there, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Beyond a staggering difficulty, Gradius III sports some utterly baffling game design. But there’s a solid core of enjoyable gameplay in all the Gradius games and, thanks to that steady foundation, I was eventually able to “complete” it. Continue reading

“The game literally no one asked for.”

Man, do I love the internet sometimes. With the recent rumours about a potential Star Fox racing game being made by Nintendo’s Retro Studios, a few naysayers have cropped up denouncing the idea. As if the Star Fox fanbase didn’t have enough to be angry about already: Slippy got a girlfriend, and the fans’ demands for a spin-off series, Falco’s Driving Instructor School, have been totally ignored to this day! In all seriousness, I believe that creators are more likely to excel when they aren’t constrained by a fanbase who only cheer when something is returning, and boo at the smallest signs of change. Continue reading

How I lost control, part 2

I detailed my gripes with the Dualshock controllers waaay back when in part one, so if you want to know more about my quest for a Dualshock-killer, go read that. Now then, here’s my long overdue review round-up of three Dualshock alternatives. All of these were purchased with the intention of replacing the Dualshock and its tragic excuse for a directional pad. So, to put these controllers to the test I played a pair of classic PS1 shoot ’em ups, Gradius Gaiden and Harmful Park, that require pixel perfect moves with a d-pad. Continue reading

Gaming’s greatest mystery? The lyrics of 1080 Snowboarding’s title song

I do enjoy me some 1080 Snowboarding. This was a fixture for many years in my house as a youngster. It’s a mighty fine racer that shows absolute dedication to nailing the feel of racing on a snowboard (not that I would know), and features slightly out there tracks that are designed around the boards’ unique handling. As a racing game, it falls right in the middle of that arcade/simulation game spectrum. Besides the racing, I was also impressed by this game’s presentation. The music isn’t the best, but it was so rare to hear vocals in an N64 game! OK, so “hear” may be a strong word in this case, and that’s where our mystery comes in… Continue reading

Things I love about… Lords of Thunder (TurboGrafx-CD)

I have a new year’s resolution: write more posts for the blog. And to achieve that I’m going to write shorter posts. I really outdid myself with my last post, and I think it partly explains why I’ve not been around. So with that said, let’s keep it brief(er than usual) here! Despite being busy these past weeks, I have somehow managed to play a crapton of games this Christmas/New Year break, including paying my old friend, Lords of Thunder, a long overdue visit. I’ve loved Lords of Thunder ever since it came out on the Wii’s Virtual Console service in 2008. After my Wii stopped working normally several years ago, I’d not been back to it. After some experimentation I was able to successfully initiate a Wii U transfer, which rescued my VC games and (to my surprise) all the save data too. That wasn’t the only surprise though – I was completely unprepared for the frankly incredible loading screen that accompanies a Wii to Wii U move.

Anyway, one of the first games I redownloaded on the Wii U was Lords of Thunder. As the title of this post states, I love it, and you’re about to read just some of the things I love about it. Continue reading

The melodic music of Konami shooters

For the past several weeks I’ve been in thrall to the Gradius series. The strategic power-up selection, the challenging levels, and the reward of downing a powerful boss – it’s a joy to play these games. Alongside Gradius there are also spin-offs that share the same DNA, most notably Salamander/Life Force and Parodius.

This post is dedicated to these games’ amazing tunes, all courtesy of Konami’s esteemed composers. Konami are perhaps best known music-wise for the Castlevania series. but Gradius is a neglected well of wonderful melodies and beautiful tunes. It’s unfortunate that Konami neglected the series after the mid-2000s, and that Gradius never had a talent like Michiru Yamane attached to the series to expand and extend its unique musical identity into the present era.

What makes the music of Konami’s shooters so special? TV Tropes has a great phrase that explains:

The bulk of Gradius’s most crowning songs accurately convey some sort of cosmic wonder.

This is a great way to kick us off, so I suggest we see how this bears out in practice! Continue? Continue reading