Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding Weekend News 06.29.03

Right. I’ve spent most of this week doing interviews and resume sending so I haven’t had much free time. I’ve just learned my fiancee is going nuts back in the UK, and I realized no matter what I write, it’s going to be a let down compared to last weeks Adam Ryland interview. So I guess it time for me to do an ACTUAL news update. Scary I know. But that’s life. What’s that? The phone is ringing? Oh wait, that’s just Alex phoning it in…

Star Wars Galaxies launches

My best friend spent a good part of yesterday figuring out what he was going to play in this game. I think he’s going as a Bothan scout, but who knows. Half the words that came out of his mouth made me realize how he feels when I talk Sakura Taisen or Shin Megami Tensei. The only words with either of those games he probably recognizes is “Nyarlathotep.”

I really want to insult this game with something like, “If you’re a geeky acne-ridden social retarded deviant, but just can’t couldn’t sit down at the Battletech table at your local High School Cafeteria, or you had to much trouble doing the cyber sex that seems to be required when you play Everquest, or maybe you just wanted some droids and midget furries to kick around, well now you’re in luck!” But I can’t because my best friend likes Star Wars and thus he might be offended. Of course, he doesn’t own any of the movies, wait in line for weeks on end for a ticket to a film he’s just going to bitch about for years after seeing, or sign up as a Jedi for his religion, so I’ll say this: Star Wars fanatics are the creepiest bunch of psychos ever. And this is from a guy who went to Botcon and was asked questions like “Whom is Arcee f*cking: Hot Rod or Springer?” That’s right. I said WHOM. It’s called an English Education degree people and I USE IT. Except in regards to my patented run-on sentences. As you can tell, I really hate Star Wars.

Beta testers were heavily divided on their feelings in this game; most feeling it was released months too soon. Some really enjoyed the online ability and the chance to find other hermits who jacked off to Carrie Fisher in “Return of the Jedi,” conveniently living in denial of the fact she’s not very pretty at all, and instead focused on the fact the only time it’s the most naked skin on a girl they would ever see. Seriously though, the game’s customization abilities is nothing to sneeze at, nor are the exclusives you got for buying the collector’s edition or being one of the first to buy this game. However it doesn’t change the fact that beta testers called this game, “a fairly discordant mess,” or “This is one of the first betas (of many) that I haven’t needed to LOOK for bugs…they jump out and smack you!” So are those beta testers just really jaded? Sadly no, because even hardcore SW fans have said there are bug issues. But the game came out a few days ago, so it’ll be the online players who decide if Sony has once again sent something out before it was fully ready to go, or if the game only needs a minor path or two.

Of course, most players never got a chance to find out. See, thanks to the crippling illness that I’m going to have to call “Star Wars Madness,” and Sony’s underestimation of it, the servers died the first day out due to overloading. And that’s AFTER Sony installed a few more servers for that first day blow out. So yes, within minutes of the game being declared open and people were allowed to play, it died. Many players encountered error messages just trying to register their game. And hardware problems began being reported a plenty.

Sony and Lucas Arts have been quick to down play the problems, pointing out correctly that it’s all due to the massive popularity of Star Wars, but then also ignoring the actual problems with servers and hardware.

And there’s only 1,400 people currently playing. ONE AND A HALF THOUSAND PEOPLE. There’s more people still playing Phantasy Star Online on the damn Dreamcast than that. Look, I’m sure this is a great game for those into Multi-player online RPG’s or Star Wars or whatever, but that little people shouldn’t crash a system. Especially when the creators of Everquest are involved. This just speaks of shoddiness and laziness to me. I know two Beta testers personally. Both have mixed feelings on the game. Both agree Lucas Arts and Sony just should have delayed it another month instead of allowing this first day “Oops” to happen. Still, it’s news, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity. You’ll still never catch me playing it though.

SONY SPONSORS OZZY!

SCEA continues their brainwashing of the world by teaming up with another agent of Satan: Ozzy Osbourne. Okay, I don’t mind either, but it’s just fun to mention Satan and bat-eating whenever Ozzy comes up.

Ticketgoers will get the chance to play PS2 games at the concert, which is meant to prevent brainless headbangers from taken advantage of the mass of drunken scantily clad and drugged up chicks in the audience that normally would allow their inebriated state to override their aversion to most of their fellow concert goers. Thankfully seeing these people playing games like Primal and Tomb Raider will instantly sober them up and prevent any horrible breeding accidents from occurring. Speaking of Primal, concertgoers get a chance to win a copy of that game, along with and PS2 jacket. Cause once again, nothing says Chick Magnet’ like a Jacket emblazoned with a PSX logo and also Ozzy’s face.

Seriously though. Good PR move for the unstoppable Juggernaut that is the PS2.

River City Ransom comes out for the GBA 11/16

Just buy the game you bastards.

Nintendo Sponsors…some other tour?

Okay. Maybe it’s because I was in England for a year. Maybe it’s because I listen to Henry Rollins, Sisters of Mercy and Gwar. But to me it appears once again Nintendo gets boned.

Nintendo announced it’s doing a 25 city tour that will feature all sorts of Game Cube and GBA games. Oh and allow the hit stylings of, “bands like Evanescence, Cold, Revis, Cauterize, and Finger Eleven.”

Who? No, seriously. Who the f*ck are these guys? I admit I was stuck with crap like Robbie Williams, Busted, Will Young and S Club Juniors, so I’m probably out of the loop. But still: WHO?

Now for an actually important story.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board has announced several upcoming changes to the rating system it uses for games sold in the US. The changes include bolder labels intended to draw consumer attention to content descriptors, the short standardized phrases that alert buyers to content elements that may be of interest or concern. Four new content descriptors are also being added to the 26 already in use: cartoon violence, fantasy violence, intense violence, and sexual violence. Effective September 15, the ESRB will require the placement of the new labels on game boxes and the use of modified logos for the “Mature” (17 and over) and “Adult” (18 and over) ratings that clearly specify the minimum recommended age for those categories.
“This change is designed to ensure that parents can’t miss the critical content information printed on game boxes, which frequently provides greater insight into why a game has received its rating,” said Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB. “To get the most from the ESRB rating system, parents should check both the rating symbol on the front of the game box and the content descriptors on the back. When parents check the rating and the content descriptors, they know exactly what they’re getting.”
Credit: Gamespot

Jesus. This is like the comic code authority. But it hasn’t gone away. I’m all for keeping six year olds from playing really violent games or nudie hentai games, but I swear I’ve seen the above four descriptors before.

And what if you have a GI Joe video game. Is that cartoon violence? Is it Intense violence? Who decides these things? Remember this is America. A place where Christianity is actually still taken to extreme levels. Where Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering have been defamed as Satanic. Where people actually buy Chick tracts. Parents actually concerned about what their kids are playing don’t need ratings. Resident Evil is not going to have box art or Mr. Rogers riding a pony. But Mr. Rogers is dead so they could probably show him eating that pony. But the point remains, just by looking at a game, you should be able to tell what you’re in for. Is our society’s parenting that bad that they need a nameless faceless organization telling them how to think and raise their kids? Good parents aren’t going to give little Timmy Grand Theft Auto as a present for finally being toilet trained. They’re going to give him Bear in the Big Blue House or a hug. And by the time the kids hit teens anyway, a parent’s not going to know if their kid has a crystal meth lab at a friends house or a secret stash of porn, much less if they have a GASP, Adult video game. Teenagers are sneaky by nature, and putting a big This ain’t for you label’ on something isn’t going to prevent a kid from playing it. Unless they’ve been raised by a cult. It’s going to make them want it more.

Sorry, the above rant is kinda pointless and rehashed. I just hate ratings systems. What’s R over here is for 10 and up in England. Clockwork Orange was censored over in the UK while a Levi’s commercial featuring rat headed people stealing cats is banned in America. Censors get too zealous sometimes. Like me and praising Persona.

RETRO NEWS!

Well yeah, it’s about another convention. But it’s the CLASSIC GAMING EXPO! Now if Chris and Joe got to go to E3, 411 should foot my ticket to Las Vegas for this. After all I am’ the premiere Retrogamer of all Retrogamers. (Sorry, Bebito’s been telling me to be a lot less humble and more of an egotistical jerk.) Plus he should come too. Who wouldn’t want a CGE report from 411’s non-Scott Keith Keith cash cows?

The Classing Gaming Expo is August 9-10 in Las Vegas, and will feature Allan Miller (Cofounder of ACTIVISION), Warren Davis (Creator of Q-bert), and Tim Kelly and Jay Smith; two guys I don’t really know but they did graphic programming. Hooray.

At least there will be Amiga’s “IT came from the Desert,” some people that still remember the TG-16, and that love Shining Force as much as I do.

Cheap Plug time

First up, Say hello to the new guy! Jeff Watson debuts with a new column, taking the Friday news slot. He’s actually hard core news without the insane biased commentary that you’ve come to expect from the rest of us. Good to see one of us doesn’t beat the word Journalism into the ground like a drunken Irishman beating his 14 kids because his dole check didn’t arrive on time and so he actually had to sober up for five minutes of his worthless life. Yeah. The Irish suck baby! Who’s got a problem with that? Okay, so I got some emails from Brits complaining about how much I bashed their country and asked me to bash someone else’s country for once before I send their tourism industry into an even bigger toilet than it’s in now. Okay, so I didn’t get anti hate mail from brits and just felt like bashing Ireland. Ireland sucks.

Bryan Berg is a weener since he only gave me a silver medal this week after once again being the only guy here that lines up exclusive interviews with people in the industry. Just kidding. I’m above paltry ego boosting awards. His column rightfully rips on pay video games sites, because they suck. And he just had his three-year anniversary. Hopefully he didn’t give her a SILVER MEDAL FOR GIRLFRIENDISM. Just kidding. I’m in a really sarcastic mood today. Bryan Rules. I love Bryan. At least I’ve been on MSNBC…

Lee Lee kisses my ass at least three times in his column. The man loves me and thus I love him. But in a non sodomizing way. Which is now legal thanks to the Supreme Court. Still doesn’t mean I want any part of it. My Anus is Virginally pure baby! Read Lee. Read Lee or die. Die like Lupi Valez did. (Bonus points if you can remember what famous TV show pilot that very subtle pop culture reference is too.

And of course, Bebito Jackson. And I still think Hoochie is a better gimmick than the rumour monkey’s bitch…if only because I’m against bestiality and Mrs. Jackson has to be annoyed with poor Bebs wearing a gimp mask and getting whipped and beaten by a dominatrix monkey making You worthless sniveling worm. Remove the lice from my head and eat them like a proper simian!’ noises. Next week, Bebito will be selling videos of these depraved acts on Ebay. Kids, make sure they have the appropriate ESRB label or your parents will think it’s just Disney Cartoons.

My Interview With Adam Ryland. Yeah you’ve probably read it a few times. But this is a reminder for the very cool contest I’m doing in honour of me being in EWR 4.0. Design my stats for 3.0 Winner gets a free video game from me (No it’s not EWR. That game’s already free.). Just pick a console other than the Neo-Geo or some import system like the Wonderswan that you want a game for and you’ll get one. Lee’s already forced me to reveal if you choose the PS1, you get Persona 2:Eternal Punishment, and the other games are just as good. You have until the end of July, so get cracking! I want to be able to do a column for every day of the week when this ends and now I’ve only got enough for 2-3. MORE MORE MORE!

News Bytes (See, I spelled bites as Bytes. It’s a lame video game pun. LAUGH YOU BASTARDS!! LAUGH!!!!

Street Fighter Gallery opens in Japan. Women dressed and Chun Li greet you at the door. And people wonder why video gamers have a rep for being losers obsessed with sex.

Columbia House starts selling video games. Prediction for next year: Many under 18 year olds will sign up, get the discs and never pay knowing minors can’t actually enter into a contractual obligation and will continue to sign up again using obviously fake names like Richard Less and Seymour Butts. Columbia House will stay too stupid to notice. And kids will get their hands on BMX XXX through mail order, thus once against proving how f*cking useless it is to have a Video games rating board.

Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness is considered to be so bad that even in the United Kingdom where it’s okay to publicly whip out your dick and masturbate over her image because most of their women are fat snaggletoothed crones with a liver the size of Andre the Giant’s (Except Elisa. She’s very attractive.) that Eidos stock fell by 10% the day it came out in America. Oh and the EEC has not given final approval to allow the game to be released in Europe yet because one of the five language translations is as bad as the game itself. Which means Lara saying “I’m a whorish tart” in English comes out like UGFVT^&^*&*&4747′ in Spanish or German. Nice to See Core Designs and Eidos are still the champions of quality. And of course the UK’s Official Playstation Magazine will give this game a 10/10 because it’s got a chick with boobs in it.

Shin Megami Tensei 3 is still not announced for a US release even though Atlus message board on their US website is pretty much nothing but “Give us this damn game.” Alex predicts they will eventually release the game two years after it was considered cutting edge in Japan and then half the game will be missing or one of the characters will be changed into a Ballerina and will pirouette crazy across the screen. Okay, only Persona fans will get all the in jokes that were in there meaning if you got any of them you’re either super cool or you’re a pathetic obsessive gamer geek. I haven’t decided yet.

QUESTION TO THE READERS
Okay. Why are goth chicks either really fat and ugly and actually think that if vampires exist that one would come and turn them into a vampire as well so they can live a life of dark morbidity and forget that the fangs couldn’t probably penetrate all that blubber…or are actually super hot? Why does no other subculture seem to have things that black or white. God I’m dreading my Trip to Madison’s “The Inferno.” There’s going to be so many overweight BDSM freaks that there won’t be any oxygen for the people who don’t ingest a box of Ho-Ho’s as a morning snack. Discuss.

ALEX FIGHTS THE MAN!
Bebito and I (Yes, Beb’s you’re going down with me) have been trying to get some people whose work we enjoy posted on 411games. For whatever reason, Chris hasn’t responded. Hey, he’s busy and has a life. So maybe he just forgot. So I’ve taken it upon me to post a Mega Man Network Transmission Review by my good friend LiquidCross in here. Hey! It’s a Gamecube game! And a Mega Man game! This is prize shit. And we can always use some more reviews. So here it is.

MEGA MAN NETWORK TRANSMISSION
System: Nintendo Game Cube

Introduction/Story

Mega Man makes his first outing on the Nintendo Gamecube with Mega Man
Network Transmission.
This game takes place a month after the events in the
first Mega Man Battle Network game, so if you’ve been living under a rock
and haven’t finished that game yet, you may want to. It’s not absolutely
necessary, though; MMNT is still a highly enjoyable game on its own. The
backstory just makes a lot more sense if you’ve completed MMBN.

The year is 200X, and in this lovely future, just about everyone carries a PET
(PErsonal Terminal); think of it as a very high-tech
PDA/cellphone. Many people also have Navis (short for Net Navigators)
living in their PETs. These Navis are sentient AIs, and often keep their
operators company, as well as helping them with a variety of tasks, such as
helping them with homework, virus busting, running errands on the internet, etc.

Anyway, the problem is that some shadowy virus known only as “Zero” is running
rampant on the internet. Rather than damaging computer systems, however, this
one directly attacks Navis and screws with their core functions (i.e., making
them go crazy, controlling them, etc.). It’s up to Lan and his Navi,
MegaMan.EXE, to put a stop to this.

Gameplay

Seeing as how it’s Mega Man’s 15th anniversary (in the US, anyway), it’s only
fitting that his next-gen console debut be a side-scrolling platformer. Unlike
the Battle Network games, where you control both Lan and MegaMan.EXE, Lan
only has a supporting role here; you talk to him, and see him in his room, but
“jacking in” at various locations is done via the map screen. All the action
takes place on the internet, with MegaMan.EXE running around blasting things.
Capcom did the right thing by letting you use the D-pad to control MegaMan.EXE
here; you can also use the analog stick, but I don’t know why the hell you’d
want to. Analog sticks are horrible for side-scrollers.

Word to the wise: this game is tough. When you start the game, you’re
pretty damn weak. MegaMan.EXE’s Mega Buster (his arm cannon) sucks ass. It does
jack squat for damage, and fires rather slowly. Luckily, later on in the game,
you can upgrade it in three different ways: rapid (speed of firing), attack
(damage inflicted), and charge (upgrading once will give you the ability to
charge, upgrading more will enhance it).

If you don’t want to rely on the pea shooter on MegaMan.EXE’s arm, then you’ve
got a plethora of Battle Chips to choose from. Just like in the MMBN
games, you’ve got a Folder full of 20 chip types you can use in combat. You’ve
also got a Pack, where you store ALL the chips you’ve collected (there’s a total
of 137 different kinds!). The strategy lies in deciding which chips you want to
take with you into the internet by swapping them in and out of your Folder. New
chips can be earned by downing enemies, or by buying them at various stores.
Money (in the form of Capcom’s ubiquitous “zenny”) is found scattered througout
the internet.

At the top of the screen is your “Custom” meter, which slowly charges over time.
When it’s full, pressing the “Z” trigger will open up your Chip Menu, where you
can select up to five Battle Chips. Lan sends you chips at random, so be
prepared; you may not always get the ones you want right away. After selecting
them, they’ll appear at the bottom left of the screen. The “L” and “R” triggers
will switch between them; the “Y” button uses the active chip. Chips consume MP,
which is the green bar next to your lifebar. MP also recharges over time. A nice
touch is “Standby Mode;” pressing “X” will freeze the game so that you can
switch chips without distraction (much like the weapon select screens in the
original Mega Man and Mega Man X titles).

Even though you can only have 20 different types of Battle Chips in your Folder,
you can have more than one of each chip; for example, you start out with over 20
Cannon chips. This comes in handy if you want to pummel an enemy with powerful
shots. If you ever run out of a chip, don’t worry; when you complete a level
and/or jack out, your chips are refilled.

Unlike the MMBN games, you have more than one life (in this case, they
call them “Backup Chips”). However, if you do get killed, you start at the last
warp point you came through, which can get annoying.

Boss battles are apparent, naturally. These are marked by pink warp gates, and
if you touch one, Lan will ask if you’re ready for battle yet. This is a good
time to get your chips arranged properly. Once you’re ready, you’ll be
teleported into the boss’ room, a brief cutscene will ensue, then it’s time to
throw down!

One more thing to mention: Program Advances. If you select certain chips in a
certain order, they’ll “merge” into a much more powerful chip. This chip is
temporary; once you use it, it’s gone, as are the chips used to make it (again,
leaving the stage will refill them). A list of Program Advances you’ve found
appears in your Library, in case you forget specific combinations.

Graphics

As you can see, everything’s rendered in full 3D, with cel-shaded characters and
enemies (ignore the Japanese text in the screenshots; Capcom USA just never got
around to updating the shots on the official US page):

border=”0″> src=”http://images.capcom.com/games/mmnt/screenshots/sshot4.jpg” border=”0″>
border=”0″> src=”http://images.capcom.com/games/mmnt/screenshots/sshot11.jpg” border=”0″>

The graphics looks pretty slick, and everything moves smoothly; I haven’t run
into any graphical glitches or slowdown as of yet. The backgrounds are very
reminiscent of the inside of a computer, with cooling fans, keypads, and all
manner of electronic things stuck in random places. The cutscenes are cel-shaded
as well, and look fantastic, especially the opening cutscene of MegaMan.EXE
facing the final boss of the first MMBN game.

Sound

This is probably the game’s biggest flaw. The music is cool, but the sound
effects are honestly nothing special. The sound of MegaMan.EXE’s Mega Buster in
particular is pretty weak. The voices are thankfully still in Japanese, with
English subtitles (c’mon, we all know how bad Capcom dubbing is after suffering
through the anime cutscenes in Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4!).

Overall

If you’re looking for a challenging Mega Man game, this is it. Hardcore fans of
the series (like yours truly) will love this title, as it provides a challenge
rarely seen in video games these days. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with classic
side-scrolling Mega Man action. Newbies to the Mega Man world are probably
better off starting with something a tad easier, so this game doesn’t put them
off entirely.

If you were expecting a 411′ or some points, it’s not here. Liquidcross has also requested not to have his email on here because he’s a xenophobe. No, not the kind Ripley kills. Those are Xenomorphs. He just hates spam.

If you’re still reading…

Same deal as with LC. But this is for good ol’ Charles Platt. He’s a fun read too.

Hardcorpse: The Death of a the Gamer Lifestyle
by
Chuck Platt

I have an admission to make. I’m not proud of it. I can’t believe it myself
but underneath my television, next to my Gamecube, lies my copy of Legend of
Zelda: The Wind Waker, half played. I know in some part of my brain that I’m
missing out on a good, if not great game, another Shigeru Miyamato product
to lose myself in. Then why do I keep making excuses, playing my Neo Geo
Pocket Color, and even, god forbid, read instead of throwing myself into
it’s first-party goodness? Why are Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, and too
many other games tossed aside? I was a hardcore games, once. So how did I
get here? Some of the answers might surprise you.

In every gamer’s lifecycle there are two givens: a stack of games and a few
magazines. Each one of these components in the gaming food chain has lead to
my apathy, and most probably, the apathy of others. It might seem odd, but
the two groups with the most to gain from the hardcore gamer are the very
cause of his death. My first whipping boy will be the game companies
themselves.

On the outside, it would seem that a company would seek to create a cult of
followers for it’s product and cultivate these zealots to keep them happy.
Yet it seems that, especially in enthusiast circles, companies, video game
or not, want to sell out the cult they so eagerly developed for wide appeal.
Ask wrestling, miniatures, collectible card game, and comic book fans how
often a company has sold out it’s grassroots support for a shot at the
mainstream. Thus, Sony has no reason to care about quality now that everyone
and their dog has a PS2 (I don’t but I’m not the Sony type.) If a company
can make more profit churning out crappy games, they will. And, as long as
there are mainstream gamers, more Grand Theft Auto, Madden, Tony Hawk, and
Tomb Raider is coming your way. Not that those are bad games, but they are a
symptom of why good and great games get left in Japan, of why difficult or
quirky games go unpurchased, and of why the racks of games at most stores
look like an algebra problem (too many numbers, too many X’s)… the current
state of the gaming media.

Oh the halcyon days of decent game magazines. Remember when the editors were
obsessive geeks, counting frame rates and ripping developers for lack of
innovation? When you read a review and KNEW that the reviewer had tread
every inch of game play? Hell, I wish it read like the staff on some of the
magazines now know that there is a country called Japan and they make the
majority of games there. Seriously, the toilet humor, pseudo- Maxim
editorial style of Incite, the worst game magazine EVER, has become the
standard. EGM, GamePro, and Game Informer are all but unreadable, filled
with meaningless tripe and not a whit of actual incite into the games they
cover. PLAY, which I actually like, sullies itself with Dave Halverson’s
constant mention of videogame characters having nice boobs or butts. For
those who don’t know, and I feel sorry for you, Dave was the editor of the
greatest game magazine in the history of our species, Game FAN. In the pages
of Game FAN you could expect multipage reviews of quality games, previews of
import games that had no chances of a domestic release, and stunning art and
layout. That was a staff that cared about games, not getting themselves over
by talking about how cool they were. Of course, the way they wrote let you
know, anyways, but being an completist, elitist, quality junky was treated
like a good thing. Hell, even Next Gen had an editorial direction. It was an
evil, X-Box, PC, and networking future, but it was a direction nonetheless.

Maybe I’m just bitter, but I can’t seem to find any energy to play much
anymore. Is it the game media or the manufacturers? Is it just me? Oh wait,
Wario World is out soon. Sweet! Ummm, so what was I talking about?

Wasn’t that good? No email for him either, just because he never said whether he wanted it on our not.

YOU MUST HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF…SOMETHING WITH A REALLY GOOD ATTENTION SPAN!

Last up an ADVANCE review from Good ol’ Alex mark 2. I mean Alex Williams. I’ll probably be giving him complete control of ADVANCE (sans the retrograding label) if Chris allows it due to real life time constraints. Here’s hoping as he’s a good kid. And he likes Ikaruga. Even if he wouldn’t kill for a copy of it…

Review: Sega Arcade Gallery (GBA)

Four classic Sega titles now on the GBA. But can you see them well enough
to play them?

Game: Sega Arcade Gallery
System: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Compilation (Action Racing/Shooting)
Developer: Sega
Publisher: THQ
Released: 5/21/03

I’m sure that in some gaming circles, it’s quite fun to bash Sega games
and Sega as a company. “Haha, the Dreamcast is dead. Haha, they’re losing
money. Haha, their mascot games are lame now,” is what I hear a lot when
I go around certain message boards. My answer to the Sega bashing is “Why?”
Sega may have made some mistakes over their company history, but that hasn’t
kept them from pumping out quality games that are new, original, and are
actually addictive.

Today’s review is going to focus on four such games that were recently
released on a compilation cartridge entitled “Sega Arcade Gallery”. These
four titles, After Burner, Space Harrier, Out Run, and Super Hang On, may
be nearly 20 years old, but they still retain the replay value and fun
factor that made them so much fun to begin with. And NOW, you can take
these four titles with you wherever you go! But the question of the day
is: Do these titles translate well onto your GBA? Read on to find out!

(NOTE: For the purposes of this review, each game will be looked at
separately, rather than breaking the entire thing into Gameplay, Graphics,
etc. Each game will garner a separate mini-review, and at the end, I’ll
give a score to the overall package. This is to ensure each game gets the
attention it deserves.)

————
AFTER BURNER
————

Strapped into the cockpit of your F-14XX, it’s your job to shoot down
the enemy fighter jets. Not much of a story, but you really can’t expect
much of one from a 1985 arcade game, now can you?

Use the control pad to move your plane Up, Down, Left, and Right. Controls
are inverted (Up is Down, Down is Up), but that can be changed in the options
menu. Use the A Button to fire your machine guns when you line up your
crosshairs with the enemy to shoot them down. Or, when you see a white
square appear around an enemy, press B to shoot homing missiles. Be careful
though, for your missile supply is limited. (They will be refilled if you
progress far enough.) Pressing L will center your craft on screen, while
R will speed you up. Pressing both L+R will let you perform a barrel roll.

Gameplay-wise, it’s a bit difficult to maneuver your plane when you
try and dodge planes and enemy fire. Even when you move left and right,
you never move that far from the center of the screen. This fact is complicated
further due to the small screen on the GBA. Not only is it difficult to
maneuver through enemy fire, you can’t even SEE half of it coming at you.
It will look like sometimes your plane will randomly catch fire and crash
or self-destruct when you think you’re clear of the missiles. (NOTE: This
fact might be null on the GBA player, but I do not have one to test that
theory out on.) Luckily to make up for this, you’re given 5 continues right
off the bat.

Graphically, the game is practically arcade perfect. Every sprite is
converted faithfully to the GBA. Unfortunately, many of these sprites are
VERY small, and difficult to see. You’ll be squinting your eyes looking
for enemy craft to blow up, only to realize that your plane has, once again,
self-destructed.

All the music and sound have been kept from the arcade as well. The
light-rock tracks serve the action very well. The game also supports voices,
as a “Warning” voice warns you of incoming fire. It helps a LITTLE, but
not much.

This game, like the others, doesn’t support too many extras. While you
do have a Sound Test and Music Test option, you can’t change the difficulty,
or the number of lives/continues you start with, which I find displeasing.
Overall, while the game can provide you with a few fun-filled hours, it
seems that the translation is more than the GBA can hold.

Gameplay: 6
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 7

————-
SPACE HARRIER
————-

Step into a mystical world full of dragons and other monsters. Using
your trusty gun and jet pack, you must fly through 18 stages of mayhem
as you shoot down the evil that threatens your home.

Again, use the control pad to move Up, Down, Left, and Right. Like After
Burner, the controls are inverted, but can be changed. Both A & B fire
your gun, while R speeds you up.

Each stage is filled to the brim with not only evil creatures, but also
nasty obstructions that you have to avoid. (Trees, pillars, clouds, etc.)
Enemies will come at you in a pattern each stage. Things become much easier
when you recognize the patterns. At the end of each stage, you’ll face
a boss character, whether it is a two-headed dragon, or a huge mass of
Easter Island heads. You must kill them in order to advance. Also, Stages
5 and 12 are Bonus stages where you ride on the back of a dragon (who looks
like a big cat for some reason). Fun stuff.

Maneuvering is MUCH more forgiving here. You can move your character
anywhere on screen to avoid pillars and the like. Some enemies might appear
a tad small, but enemy fire is HUGE in comparison. You’ll know when giant
blue bullets and massive fireballs come at you. You WILL be able to tell
what you are doing on the small screen, which is a huge plus. For some
reason, at the start of the game, you have infinite lives until the timer
at the top of the screen runs out. After that, you have 5 lives, and five
continues to use.

Again, the game is translated flawlessly. Graphically, all the sprites
made it in tact, and are more easily recognizable on the GBA of the two
shooters. Musically, the game only has one or two tracks that play during
the action levels, but there are a few varied boss tracks at the end of
each level.

Again, Sound & Music tests are your only real options here. Even
so, this is the game out of the collection that you’ll probably be spending
the most time on, given the colorful visuals and interesting concepts.

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 10

——-
OUT RUN
——-

Here’s the first racer out of the bunch. The goal isn’t to come in first
place, or pass the other cars. You’re simply on a high-speed joy ride that
lasts until time runs out.

Controls are fairly simple here. Press A for acceleration, B for the
brakes, and R to switch from Low to High gear. Left and Right will steer
the car, and Down will center you out. There are two more control schemes
you can select in the Options menu.

This highly addictive racing title’s goal is simply to get from Point
A to Point B. To do this, you’ll need to avoid the other cars and trucks
on the road, avoid the many billboards and other objects when you accidentally
get off the road, and negotiate many hazardous turns. You’re given 80 seconds
to start off with. After you start, you’ll need to get to your destination
as fast as possible without running out of time. Luckily, there are Check
Points breaking apart each section that will give you extra time. An interesting
thing about this game is that there are multiple paths to get to the end.
Every so often, the road will split into two, and you’ll have the option
of going either left or right. Each path will give birth to different scenery,
as well as making nearly every drive a unique one.

The controls themselves are pretty responsive. While there’s no driving
wheel to speak of (On a handheld? Please…), moving left and right doesn’t
take a lot of effort. You might have some trouble on the hard left and
right turns, but once you learn to adjust with the Brake button, you’ll
be set.

Again, the graphics have been ported 99% exactly. The other cars and
roadside obstacles are big enough so you can see what you’re doing. There’s
no random crashing here, although the crashes that do happen are extremely
hilarious. (You car flips over 5 times, dumps you out, lands about a mile
away, and yet you get up and continue driving. If only those were real-life
physics…)

The sound and music have also been ported faithfully. A nice feature
is that before each race, you’re given the option of choosing between three
tracks to listen to while driving. This makes the game’s life a bit longer
considering the music doesn’t get overly monotonous immediately.

Options = Music & Sound Test. Not much else other than the different
control schemes. Other than that, the game is a wonderful alternative to
the other racing titles out there. And it’s over 15 years old!

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Fun Factor: 9

————-
SUPER HANG ON
————-

The last game of the bunch, and it’s another racer. This time, you’re
on a motorcycle, and once again, you need to reach the end before time
runs out. Think you got the right stuff?

Controls for this game are also easy to learn. Press A to accelerate,
and B to Brake. Left and Right steer, and Down centers your steering. L
will slow down the steering response, and R will give you a speed boost
when you reach the top speed of 280 MPH. Like Out Run, the controls are
responsive on the GBA.

To be honest, this game is remarkably like Out Run, only with motorcycles.
You begin by choosing one of four courses (each one with a different amount
of stages), and then get down racing. Your goal is to get to the end of
the race before time runs out. You’re given 50 seconds to start off with,
and you HAVE to make each second count. You’ll have to avoid the other
bikers, and the various objects you’ll find off road. The speed boost is
a unique feature, allowing you to go even faster on straight roads. Just
don’t be stupid and use it on a hard turn. It can lead to trouble, believe
me.

Again, the graphics have been ported faithfully to the handheld, and
you are able to see what you are doing clearly. Also, music and sound have
been ported faithfully as well. Like Out Run, you’re given a choice of
music at the beginning of the game. You get to choose between four songs
this time.

The main options, aside from two extra control schemes, are the same
as the other titles. (Looks like Sega & THQ didn’t spring much for
extras, huh?) In any case, this is another fun title out of the collection.
If you like motorcycles and mock racing, I highly recommend it.

Boy this review is getting redundant rather quick, isn’t it? Let’s wrap
this up so we can all go home. (Unless, well, you ARE home and…well…never
mind.)

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 9

——-
OVERALL
——-

Overall Gameplay: 8
Overall Graphics: 9
Overall Sound: 8
Overall Fun Factor: 9

The 411: These four classics are a welcome addition to any retro-gamers
library. While not all of the games look and play like you remember them,
there should be at least one or two that you will play on a consistent
basis. This compilation is worth at least a rental, but if you love Sega
games, it’s definitely a buy.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5

Jesus People, it’s PAGE TWELVE! GO OUTSIDE!

And that’s the weekend news. And so it’s not the norm. You got a hodge podge from FOUR different writers, you got to see Alex do something other than my usual Retro stuff and all the other exclusive stuff that usually get from me. That just means you’ll be hoping next week you get the usual as humans generally fear change. But ooh! This was different! DIFFERENT! Spooky spooky spooky! Let the emails of Alex, are you on PCP this week?’ commence.