Many gamers, me included, always thought that NiGHTS: Into Dreams for Sega Saturn was one of those games that were perfect just the way they were and didn't need a sequel, and so, Sega and Sonic Team were quite hesitant to mess around with a title that was so dear to many. Finally, over ten years after the original game hit the market, a sequel for Nintendo Wii was released.
I took my time before I picked this game up. I didn't know what to think and it didn't seem to sit well with most of others out there, so I waited until it dropped in price. When it finally did, I bought it thinking "how bad can it really be?". It turns out it's not that bad at all. On the contrary, it's pretty good. Taking Wii's limited resources into consideration, Sega did a fine job when it comes to gameplay. There are however few major flaws and before I start praising the good, let's take a look at the bad.
NiGHTS: Into Dreams was a simple game. There's a story noone really cares for, you start the game and you play. You fly around and collect stuff. It was fast, colorful and impressive. When you look at the gameplay from the Wii version, not much has changed. The main thing that makes me want to toss the game disc across the room however, is the storytelling part. Before you even get to play, you have to listen to a rather lenghty introduction. You can't skip the boring talk and it's pretty annoying. Same goes for every new level opened. Before you get to play, there's always a sequence explaining why you have to do what you're about to do, which is fly around and collect stuff.
The story is rather shallow, taking more or less everything from the first game, and while the first game was all about booting the disc, pressing start and playing, the Wii sequel is about seemingly endless cutscenes spiced with brief moments of gameplay. You can skip the cutscenes on your second play-through, but that's no good if you don't want to listen to all the babble first time around. Second thing that I could and will complain about are the game physics. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with them. I was just surprised when I saw the game ads specifically mentioning the physics engine used.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams uses PhysX engine by Ageia [nowdays owned by Nvidia] which is also used by Unreal Engine 3 in such games as Gears of War or Unreal Tournament 3. In those games you can actually see the impact of advanced physics simulation on the gameplay. In NiGHTS' case however, you can't really tell that it uses a physics engine. At first glance, everything moves just the way it did back in Sega Saturn days. From what I can gather, PhysX was even meant to be a selling point for NiGHTS or at least an important asset.
Now for the good. When you finally get to play, you'll notice the game did recieve a graphics boost but everything else remains rather unchanged. In other words, if you liked the old NiGHTS, you should like the new one nearly as much. The gameplay is really solid, but I recommend using the GameCube or Classic controller. Wii's own controls are a bit off if you ask me. Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Music in this game is simply superb. I could wander around the level selection area just to listen to the tune played there. Same goes to game levels.
If you're a fan of the original game and you're not discouraged by the presence of lenghty and annoying cutscenes, you should get this game. I can only assume that you will play through it once, and after that the cutscenes can simply be skipped after you've endured them during the first pass. Sega could have tried a bit harder and some of the things seen in the game seem a bit rushed, like the level select area, which is a bit lifeless and bland, and can be a turn-off right fron the start. If you get past the initial annoyance, the game turns out to be a splendid sequel retaining everything the original game had in terms of gameplay.
It's been a while since the last time I bought a title for MegaDrive and it certainly has been a while since I have played a Shinobi title, but all that is about to change because another package is here and inside it is a nice and new copy of The Super Shinobi II, also known as Shinobi III in US and Europe.
For some reason, people of a far away country called Japan, thought it would be cool to put a "the" in front of the title but, if you're anything like me you'll think it's stupid. And it is, so after that compelling argument, let's agree that from now on I'll omit the definite article and start refering to the game as Super Shinobi II.
Super Shinobi II is the last game in the series to be released for the MegaDrive and aside from being a kickass ninja game it actually has a pretty interesting development history. The final game was released in mid '93 but Sega was done with the title already towards the end of '92. Why the delay? Apparently, after sending the finished product to various gaming magazines, Sega wasn't pleased with the feedback they got from the reviewers and even though the game was ready to ship, Sega decided to go back to the drawing board.
Previous Shinobi games released on MegaDrive scored much higher and Sega wasn't willing to compromise the quality of the series. This was back in the days when someone still cared about us, customers and gamers, and so more time and effort was put into redesigning and polishing the game. What was the result? Let's just say that Super Shinobi II [aka Shinobi III] is considered to be the best installment in the series to date. Despite the fact that leap in quality of the '93 release compared to the first version was huge, many European game reviewers stuck to their initial scoring and thus one of the greatest MegaDrive titles went by largely unnoticed on the old continent.
But, who gives a damn about the reviewers anyway? It's 2009 and the game is still more fun than many other crappy titles that get published today. What would you say now, Mr Reviewer from 1993? There has to be a market for re-releases of Super Shinobi II, since it got its share of ports on platforms including Wii's Virtual Console, PlayStation 2, PSP and is still to be ported to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as a part of Sega MegaDrive Ultimate Collection.
That's some history lesson, but what of the story, gameplay, graphics and music? The story is your garden variety plot that includes a menacing crime syndicate of Neo Zeed trying to take over the world yet again. As a respectable ninja warrior you can't allow that to happen and using your Oboro Ninjitsu techniques you send the bad guys home, crying. Your target is the mysterious Neo Zeed leader known as Shadow Master, a name that is sure to strike fear into any heart that's not as brave as yours.
It's not about the plot though, is it. It's about running around and kicking ass, and you'll do plenty of that in the game. Super Shinobi II features almost flawless controls with silky smooth gameplay that will blow your mind. There's a decent number of attacks and stunts to pull off, plus a couple of ninja spells that can be executed if things get too hectic. The game is fast, and when I say fast I mean really fast. The controls are intuitive enough to scale the learning curve down to minimum though.
The gameplay by itself is really impressive but the graphics are even better. Not counting Treasure's titles, good luck trying to find another hack 'n slash game that looks as good as Super Shinobi II. The artists really tried their best to varry the experience. There's running around in the forest, there's riding on a horseback, there's gliding on water using some surfing powerboard ... you name it. Boss design is impressive and you can really tell that Sega tried to push the hardware to its limit.
The musical score features a couple of catchy tunes, played in the typical metalic tones of the Yamaha chipset. I can't really say that the game has instantly memorable tracks, but the score is solid and I had no real complaints. I did however make use of the digital sound processing presets on my WonderMega to give the sound some extra depth and boost.
After recieving a sequel for the Sega Saturn called Shinobi X [aka Shinobi Legions in the US] in 1995, Shinobi series had to wait until 2002 for the next installment, when first proper 3D Shinobi title was released, followed by a sequel featuring a female lead two years later. Those titles differ greatly from what Shinobi games looked and played like when the series first appeared, and it's Super Shinobi II that is the last and the very best game with the well known 2D design and feel.
Is it worth getting the MegaDrive release when there are the emulated or ported versions? If you own a MegaDrive or any other compatible platform, I'd say it's always better to own the real deal. The game isn't that hard to find and it's relatively cheap when compared to other titles of equal quality. Don't wait until someone figures out the game is actually worth some money and the prices will skyrocket. If you want to get it, get it soon.
It's 4:00 AM at this very moment so I'll just wrap this entry up and try to get some sleep. After all, you can't fight evil crime syndicates and the likes of Shadow Master if you're too tired to count your shirukens. That's it for today then.
Oh no! Did my phone have a terrible accident and got all busted up as if a bunch of 11 year-olds high on sugar got a hold of it? No. I dont't know what happend and it's not my phone. I found it right in front of my building when I went out shopping this morning. Man, this phone sure took a beating. Being a smart dude I had to investigate and check if there's anything left to salvage.
It turned out that the memory card is in one piece and is still fully functional. Someone unleashed a whole world of anger on his Sony Ericsson W350i and left it out in the rain, and that's how I got my two gigabyte Memory Stick M2 micro.
It must have been a hundred times already I said this, but I am going to say it again: Supermarket deals rock and there are no two ways about it. Not too long ago I was able to get Guitar Hero III: Aerosmith bundled with Les Paul controller fitted with a neat faceplate for only 299 Swedish kronas [about 38 US dollars]. This time, the very same supermarket decided to cut the price of "Legends of Rock" bundle.
After I spotted the ad, it didn't take too much time for me to decide I wanted this nice set. After all, you get a new game with tons of songs and another Les Paul, this time with a regular faceplate [shiny black surface, perfect for fingerprinting]. The "Legends of Rock" bundle had a bit higher pricetag but at 399 Swedish kronas [roughly 48 US dollars] it was still a bargain. The game by itself sells for more than that.
Like last time, the store had all possible versions on sale, but again I chose to go with the Xbox 360 one. Supposedly PlayStation 3 version has some controller issues, Wii version doesn't have downloadable content and on top of that if you're out of luck, you can buy the version with mono sound. I wasn't interested in PC or PlayStation 2 versions so the choice was obvious. Yet again, Microsoft's machine came out on top. Way to go.
So what's in the box this time? I could say "the usual" because the contents is very similar to the Aerosmith bundle. Again, we get the Les Paul controller, guitar belt, two sets of stickers to pimp your guitar with and of course the game. There's also a pink manual explaining how to sync your controller with the console but who needs a manual for that? Not me, because I'm awsome.
I really enjoyed the Aerosmith edition but it had one major problem: almost all of the songs came from band's discography which, if you're not a rabid Aerosmith fan, can be quite a drag. I guess I could say that I like Aerosmith enough to enjoy all of the songs they put on the game disc, but I would much rather go for diversity. Well, "Legends of Rock" is all about diversity. It features over 70 songs by various artists and if that's not enough for you, you're impossible to please.
What bands can we rock with this time? Slayer, Kiss, Tenacious D, Scorpions, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sex Pistols, Weezer, Muse, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones ... You name it. The list just goes on and on. After you've unlocked all of the songs in career mode, there's just as many waiting for you in the store. In case you don't know how this works, in Guitar Hero you earn money by playing concerts, the cash can later be spent on various things like new characters, clothes, new guitars and of course new songs. It's fairly easy to earn enough cash to unlock an impressive number of tracks and that is a huge plus.
Every Guitar Hero game comes with a bunch of characters for you to choose from and play as. Legends of Rock has the exact same lineup of standard characters as the Aerosmith bundle, which makes sense because it's a part of the GH3 line. The only thing that bugged me was the lack of official characters for the artists. There are only two real artist models in the game: Guns 'n Roses' Slash and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. I don't know if it was a question of licenses and money, but I'd like to see more familiar faces.
After Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock came out, I read about the complaints many people had concerning the difficulty level. I thought the Aerosmith game was nicely balanced, but when I played Legends of Rock on normal setting, I instantly knew that this game meant business. I guess Neversoft tweaked the difficulty for Aerosmith and World Tour, so if you're getting Legends of Rock, know that it's not going to be easy to reach the expert mode.
Obviously, the game has some serious replay value and if you ever come across a nice, cheap bundle, no matter what the platform, I suggest you invest some money and later time in this game. It's a bucket of fun. And you might just get all jazzed up about starting to learn an instrument.
Before I finish this entry I wanted to include some videos so that you can get a clear picture of how things look and how it works. I'm sure most of you already knows this game well enough to pick up a controller anytime and start playing, but still, It's fun to watch someone else have go at a harder difficulty. Here's one of the coolest songs on the disc: Knights of Cydonia by Muse.
Knights of Cydonia is not only a kickass song, but it also has one of the coolest videos out there. Since I'm such a nice guy, I'll share the original music video with you aswell [simply because someone has already uploaded it and it doesn't require too much work to link it]. And that's the director's cut! Spot the difference between this one and the regular edition [which you'll have to find on your own, because I cant't be bothered].
That's it for today, good folks. I guess it's time let my fingers rest after they've done a magnificent job of beating the whole game on easy and half the way through on normal. Rock on!
What's the thing you love most about Christmas? Is it being with your family? Is it the obscene amounts of delicious food and sweets? Is it the christmas spirit? It's the presents, isn't it. Yea, for me too. No matter whether you get them of buy them yourself, Christmas has to be celebrated with tons of presents and here are some of the gifts I got for myself this season. A bunch of Andreas comics, including first four Capricorne albums and the final Rork album, and NiGHTS: Journey of dreams for the Wii, plus SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos for the Xbox.
I'll talk about NiGHTS soon enough, but this time I wanted to focus on SVC Chaos. I absolutely adore SNK, their platforms and I don't think I would be lying if I said I love each and every one of their games. SNK are the true kings of 2D and they have proven it time and time again, even now when Capcom has moved to 3D with their Street Fighter IV, SNK's King of Fighters XII will be all 2D, hand drawn, mindblowing hi resolution monster of a game with some serious attachment to the old school.
Getting back to SVC Chaos though, you might remember the famed Capcom vs SNK series which had some great success, especially with the arrival of second installment. This title gathered fighters from several Capcom and SNK games and put them together in one great game. It was developed by the Capcom and being lazy bums, the developers just took the sprites of all possible characters and put them in one game. The gameplay system was almost flawless, but the character sprites were sometimes mismatched because of different resolutions and art styles.
In 2003 it was time for SNK to try it their way and so, they had developed SVC Chaos, a game build from ground up, again, featuring fighters from both Capcom and SNK titles. What SNK did that Capcom didn't however, was to redraw every single character so that they would match. Every Capcom fighter present in the game got a new sprite drawn by SNK artists and if you ever played this game, you know what a fantastic job SNK did. Even though there are precious few stages in SNK's production, the sprites make up for it.
Since the game was released by SNK Playmore, not only did it use their sprites, it also used the four button system, even for the Capcom characters. This change, however shocking it might be for Capcom fans, did not make too big of an impact on the gameplay complexity. On the contrary, decreased number of buttons and much more faster battle pace than what was seen in Capcom vs SNK 2 made SVC Chaos come on top. If you own an Xbox or a PS2, aswell as an arcade stick, it would be a sin not to own this title.
SVC Chaos was one of the last titles released for the Neo Geo [the absolute last one being サムライスピリッツ零 Special / Samurai Spirits Zero Special, released in 2004]. It's clear that SNK cared for their platform up until the very end and ensured it gets the highest quality games possible. SVC Chaos might not be as colorful and as impressive graphically as some other titles out there, but once you try it, you'll see why it is safe to call it one of the best fighting games out there.
To show you just how fast the game is and how complex it can get, here is a combo video [of a questionable picture quality, unfortunately] for all of you to enjoy. It was snatched off YouTube so if you're not one of the cool people with a Nico Nico account, you can look for SVC Chaos combo videos there. If you do have a Nico Nico account, click on the thumbnail above and enjoy the show.
So that's it for this time. I feel a cold creeping up on me so I've decided to fight off the germs with some gin to disinfect myself from the inside, some lemons to provide the much needed vitamins and some tonic to add flavour. Let's hope this will be enough because I'm not in the mood to get sick right now.