Monday, January 28, 2019
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
The franchise starter was, at the time of its release, fairly unique when compared to the rest of the Genesis library of games. That said, much of the DNA found in Streets of Rage can be traced back to other games in the genre, namely Final Fight and Double Dragon. Even the screen-wide AOE special attacks seen in Golden Axe worked their way into the gameplay. Additionally, another nod to this fantasy beat'em up predecessor comes in the form of some enemy types (especially bosses) towering over the player characters. Either Mr. X is ten feet tall like the Death Adder or Blaze, Axel and Adam are all midgets. One thing that helped Streets of Rage stand apart from other beat'em ups was its excellent soundtrack. Even the sequels never quite matched it in terms of quality.
The last entry in the Streets of Rage series is a bit of an oddball. The plot of the games had been pretty silly up to that point, but the replacing-people-with-robots throughline of the third installment feels specifically like a jumped-the-shark moment. Gameplay-wise there are some improvements to the formula such as the ability to dash left and right or roll up and down with a quick double tap on the D-pad. Powerful melee attacks can be used without health loss this time around provided the player lets a special energy bar refill between uses. In theory this sounds like a good thing except for the fact that some bosses are reworked to pretty much force the constant use of special attacks in order to be defeated.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Golden Axe initially came out as an arcade machine in 1989, but was quickly ported to the then new launched Sega Genesis (also known as the Sega Mega Drive). The home console version boasted two additional levels, but oddly enough lacked some of the polish and flare of the original arcade version. For example the eyes of the gigantic turtle and bird, that help by conveying the player(s) on their backs from one area to another, don't animate giving the impression that they are lifeless entities rather than semi-divine forces of nature. The corpses of slain enemies also quickly vanish in the Genesis version, whereas in the arcade they remain but take on a earthly brown hue. The final boss gets a more interesting intro in the arcade version of the game as well; snakes slither into a pile of corpses then coalesce into a supernatural executioner rather than simply having him barge through a door at the top of the screen.
There were a few other entries in the Golden Axe series, including a one-on-one fighting game and a pair of Zelda-style adventure games. Much later the licence would be contracted out by Sega to a third-party developer resulting in Golden Axe: Beast Rider. Suffice it to say, the game was not good. I will return to it at a later date, but next I want to talk about another Sega beat'em up series with a more contemporary setting.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
I don't really have a good way to wrap up this post, but I'd like to bring it to a close with a quote from "Blood Meridian." It's one that I think sums up every quarrelsome video game forum thread or bickering string of Youtube comments. "Man's Vanity man well approach the infinite in capacity, but his knowledge remains imperfect."
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
|"Crematorium Ash" is the only |
color scheme that isn't murder on my
If you're not familiar with the Shrouded Isle, it's basically a resource management sim with a unique twist. The resources are a collection of socio-religious traits associated with an isolated community of fanatical cultists. Their particular brand of faith is centered around the deity Chernobog. The game's take on the "black god" has less to do with the actual entity originating from ancient slavic folklore, and instead opts for a more of a Lovecraftian vibe akin to Cthulhu. Pseudo-theological nitpicking aside, tribute is paid in the form of seasonal human sacrifices (four a year!). Since the game is set over a period of five years that means a total of twenty victims are needed to make it to the end. Candidates for this dubious honor are drawn from a pool of individuals divided into five families. Considering each family only has four to eight members, it's safe to say that a large chunk of the community is going to be ritually exterminated over the course of the game. Sacrificing members of the same family back-to-back though tends to cause rebellions which turns into a "game over" screen if not righted after one season. Additionally, sacrificing individuals who only have minor vices (rather than major ones) also causes a great deal of unrest. The only way to really regain lost approval is to put one of the offended family's surviving members in an administrative role. Now here is where it gets especially tricky. The game also has five other stats (outside of the five that track the disposition of each family). They are labeled "Ignorance," "Fervor," "Discipline," "Penitence," and "Obedience." If any of these indicators drop below a certain threshold that's also a "game over" unless redressed by the end of the next season. Unsurprisingly, putting a person in command depletes these resources faster if if the leader has a major vice rather than just a minor one.
|Hmmm...who to sacrifice?|
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...
I must have failed two or three times by the end of the second season (literally only ten percent of the way to completion), as well as had another half-dozen attempts in which I only made it slightly farther. Eventually though I managed to get over that early-game difficult hump at which point I was coasting on easy street to the conclusion. Maybe I just lucked out and happened to click in all the right places, or maybe the procedural algorithm that assigns virtues and vices to each cultist in the beginning decided to be nice that time around. I don't know which it was. It might have been a combination of both. Regardless, I think I would have prefered if this game had placed more emphasis on the story elements. I especially liked the little decision-making interludes that were peppered throughout the game. To me they were a lot more flavorful and consequently more memorable than watching a bunch of abstract meters and gauges rise and fall.