Well, colour me excited and call me excitable. This bizarre oddity of a game for the Saturn is on its way, apparently. Pu Li Ru La (I pronounce “pully ruler”). There are those who like to repeat the cliche, “the Japanese are weird”, and amongst people who say this are two groups. The first is the dismissive type, who says this without a grain of emotion, only distaste. The second however says this with a big fat cat grin. If you’re the second type then clearly this is the game for you, and I suggest you get acquainted immediately, settle down and perhaps in time legal developments will even allow you to marry. Regardless, this should – OK, it definitely WILL – usurp Gregory Horror Show as the weirdest game I’ve played this November. Insanity in a jewel case from the looks of things. The video really speaks for itself here so I won’t go overboard explaining.
Anticipation for new arrivals aside, I’m planning to post a review of Gregory Horror Show in the coming days. In brief, it’s a Good Game, but not OMG STOP THE (word-)PRESSES Amazing. Plus I’m returning to the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series after an absence of several years, looking at entry no. 2 on the Playstation for nostalgia purposes and to see if it’s aged.
There’s an unusual theme in the latest Very Very Gaming arrivals – two budget Playstation 2 titles, exclusive to the PAL territories and Japan. It’s not common, but neither Gunbird Special Edition nor Gregory Horror Show saw the light of day in the US while they did see release in Europe. Seems to be more commonplace these days but we’re still talking about a handful of titles, let alone the smaller still subset of desirable titles. Let’s review Gunbird Special Edition on PS2 then, and perhaps we shall see whether the cocky Europeans have reason to gloat, or are they just sanctimonious pricks?
It seems one of the MegaDrive’s defining games and Treasure’s first title, Gunstar Heroes, was almost never released. You have to wonder whether Sega producer Mac Senour isn’t tooting his own horn a bit, since he is basically taking sole credit for the game’s arrival on shelves. Regardless, it was released, and a few hidden gems later (Dynamite Headdy and Alien Soldier – both good and quirky) Treasure revealed Guardian Heroes, their first game on a 32-bit console, in a generation that would see them rotate between Sega’s, Nintendo’s and Sony’s consoles.
I’ve been holding off on writing these impressions because I found that Guardian Heroes took some time to get used to. I was expecting a traditional style beat ’em up, likely in Treasure fashion one with tons of enemies, and I knew from videos to expect some basic RPG elements such as levelling up. All of these elements were ready and present, but what surprised me was the depth and character of the fighting system. This is a fast paced fighter alright, with blocking, double jumping, combos and magic. This isn’t your slow and clunky Streets of Rage or Final Fight (both of which I hold huge amounts of clunky and slow affection for), instead Guardian Heroes is much closer in feel to Street Fighter, by which I definitely don’t mean the original. Continue reading
Exhumed/Powerslave is an interesting game, developed by Lobotomy Software, the company that produced Saturn ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. I’m playing the Playstation version of Exhumed, and as I’m only a few levels in, bear in mind that these impressions may not hold up and I might have more to say about it a later stage. For all I know the game could dive off a metaphorical cliff at this point, into a metaphorical sea of poo. Continue reading
My first importing experience for my first region-free console. Puyo Puyo Sun and Sexy Parodius for the Saturn. And I have learned to never underestimate the politeness of the Japanese.
As well as being meticulously packaged, the parcel arrived in five days. How is it that a parcel from Japan can arrive faster than the bank statement I recently requested from my local bank branch less than a mile from my home?
Yes, that’s a handwritten note promising the recipient green tea. And, true to word, taped behind the receipt was…
Tea. Now that’s how you please an Englishman.
Anyway, more importantly than the truly fascinating arena of packaging – the games! First impressions of both games are really positive.
Puyo Puyo Sun
This game surprised me. I wasn’t expecting too much going into it as I’m not a big puzzle game fan. Turns out this is actually my second encounter with the Puyo Puyo series, to my surprise. Similarly, I imagine, to many Westerners, I played Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine on the Megadrive/Genesis without realising it was part of an established franchise in Japan. Mean Bean Machine had a dull and overly difficult singleplayer mode but it was compelling in multiplayer. So far Puyo Puyo Sun seems to be superior, due to the inclusion of the titular Sun blocks, better music and a much more gradual and accessible difficulty curve.
The aim of the game is to line up your coloured blocks, to make chains of 4 of the same colour, which then vanish from the field. When you create a chain, and preferably combos of chains which collapse into each other, you cause your opponent to suffer under colourless blocks which rain on their portion of the screen. But whereas Mean Bean Machine has a relatively sedate pace, making multiplayer games drawn out at times, the newly added sun blocks give even the simplest chains lots of firepower, drowning your opponent’s screen in stones. It really ratchets up the intensity and makes the game much more party-friendly for it. It reminds me of Panzer Dragoon 1 and 2, and how the inclusion of a small wrinkle in the sequel – the berzerker special attack – adds greatly to the experience, making it hard to go back to the original. I can’t see myself going back to Mean Bean Machine any time soon. Even though the sun blocks are not an essential part of the Puyo Puyo experience, they seem like a great addition so far.
Bizarre bizarre bizarre. And then some. This is a cosmetically very strange and funny game, but the gameplay doesn’t strike me as odd the way the original Cho Aniki does. There is something a touch clunky and repetitive in the TurboGraphx-16 Cho Aniki levels, where it feels like you repeat the same level several times over before you abruptly hit a mini-boss or boss, which are of course always the best and most disturbing elements of the game. Sexy Parodius is very well-crafted and executed by comparison.
The game has a clever method of increasing replayability too, by giving you an objective in each level (these objectives are always the same unfortunately), which, depending on whether you succeed or fail, may result in you taking a different branch through the game. The branches are not as in-depth say as Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64, but they do offer some variety to playthroughs. Plus they help to keep the total length of the game short without making the player feel short-changed on content. As a result a single playthrough isn’t likely to last more than 30 minutes, if you allow yourself the maximum 9 lives. I should add too that the objectives are much tougher to complete if you’re playing singleplayer. They pose a good challenge even on the easiest difficulty level. Two-player mode is very fun and makes the objectives easier, with plenty of scope for failure though.
I expect I will have more to say on one or both of these at a later stage, perhaps a full review. For now let me just say that both of these games are very good and definitely worthwhile purchases at a reasonable price – I paid under £20 in total for the pair, incl. delivery costs, and they are easily recommendable for something similar. Methinks it would be worth a look into the other Parodius game on Saturn…