The 25YL Gaming Department is on a retro game kick. With few new releases dropping, we’ve been dipping into gaming’s past. So with that said, let’s see what’s trending in our own personal zeitgeists this week in another discussion of what We’re Just Playing…
After finishing Luigi’s Mansion 3, I needed something challenging. I briefly retreated to Killzone Mercenary on the Vita. Some of the trophies are tedious and ruthless. I had already completed the main campaign but not on the hardest difficulty. Not sure I will tackle other trophies in Killzone but I will always enjoy revisiting the campaign. If you are a Vita fan, this is a must own game. One of the best bangs for you buck on the handheld.
I recently started God of War II. It picks up right where the original left off. Gameplay is essentially the same. Satisfying hack and slash action with the occasional puzzle. The best part of God of War is everything feels epic. Even for PS2 games that are remastered for the PS3, the atmosphere and voice acting manages to captivate me regardless of some dated graphics.
One thing I will never miss from games of this generation is the awkward camera angles that you cannot control. This makes for plenty of awkward jumps. I wanted a hard game after Luigi’s Mansion but not like this. Besides that, the enemies and huge bosses are the perfect level of difficulty.
God of War ultimately demands your attention. It is not a franchise I can stop playing individually because I will forget all the special moves if I do leave a game for an extended period. I have already purchased the other installments in the series and cannot wait to continue the adventures of Kratos.
This week I picked up a few of Hamster’s Arcade Archives titles on Switch and I’ve been having a tonne of fun with them. At heart, I’m a retro gamer but I try to force myself to play new titles rather than just revisiting the old and familiar. As such I’d been willfully avoiding the Arcade Archives aside from the few that were clogging up my wish-list. Whilst perusing an eShop sale though, I noticed a bunch of them with a hefty discount and I just couldn’t help myself.
The first game I picked up was Metal Slug—quite possibly the king of the run and gun genre. Every time I play this game I’m blown away by how impressive it is. Sheer carnage litters the screen, with seemingly a dozen sprites on screen at all times, with bullets and explosions flying everywhere. The noise is deafening, the gameplay is exhilarating—It’s peak ’90s arcade goodness. It’s also gorgeous to look at, and to this day has some of the best sprite designs ever made. The weird steampunk, World War II-caricature aesthetic never fails to make me grin. It also has one of the best feeling shotguns in a video game, and that’s high praise indeed. If you haven’t played a Metal Slug game before then you owe it to yourself to do so.
The second game I picked up was Double Dragon. My own love for the series was born from the Game Boy port of all things. It was one of the first games I owned and it remains one of my favourite games for that system. I’d never actually played the arcade version before and now I’m kind of glad I hadn’t—it’s bad. The controls are unwieldy, the characters look strangely gangly, and whenever there’s more than three sprites on screen the game grinds to halt. I’ve never seen slow down as bad as in Double Dragon and I’ve played Super R-Type. Perhaps it’s more fun with another person but I think I’ll be sticking with my trusty Game Boy cart in future. Alternatively, I think I’m right in saying that the NES version is available on NES Online, so maybe that’ll be worth checking out.
The next game I picked up was Zed Blade which is a horizontal shooter from SNK. I’ve never been much good at shooters but I always have a great time with them. For some reason Zed Blade is chiming with me more than most and I’ve found myself actually getting half-decent at it. The visuals are nice and clean and as such it’s rarely overwhelming to look at. The enemy bullets are easy to spot and move predictably making them nice and satisfying to dodge. The music is insane. It’s that glorious style of techno that only existed in first half of the ’90s and it suits the action to a tee. Overall, it’s a cracking title and I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of it before.
The last game I picked up was Ninja Kid II which is by far the least assuming of the bunch but it’s also the one I’ve played most. I’ve got an article in the pipeline about it though, so I won’t talk about it here. In any case I’ve been having a great time jumping between these arcade classics. There’s something about the instant hit of gaming adrenaline they provide that’s always fun to revisit.
Conor, I’m curious to see if you’re going to do anything with Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the site. I’m curious about it myself since I am a fan of the series and I just haven’t gotten around to picking this title up yet.
Sean, I’ve had the Metal Slug games on my list for quite a long time, now. I recently played a run and gun throwback indie title called Blazing Chrome, which if I’m not mistaken, hearkens back to the days of Contra and Metal Slug. I had an absolute blast with it, and I think it delivered on that adrenaline shot you’re describing. There’s a brief, skippable prologue, and then you’re jumping right in blasting helicopters from the sky, blowing up robots on hover bikes, and generally laying waste to almost everything in sight. I am planning on playing Metal Slug at some point in my life, and hearing you reconfirm everything I’ve heard about it makes me want to go and download it on my Switch right now.
For me, I haven’t really been playing anything new. Still plugging away at the super long RPG I’ve mentioned in past weeks, and I’ve been playing Dead By Daylight with friends late at night before work. Our own Anth has talked about the mobile game before, as well as the opportunity it gives players to play as The Shape himself, Michael Myers. For me, the gameplay itself is a blast, and I love that it can either be a cooperative stealth game, or a single player slasher, depending on whether or not you’re the survivor or killer.
As a general rule, I am not a fan of microtransactions, but I’ll admit I’ve coughed up a grand total of about fifteen bucks to play as some of the premium killers. The base game already has a pretty solid set of original killers that fill in certain slasher archetypes nicely (there’s a hillbilly, a mad doctor, a wilderness-dwelling huntress, and more), but some of the most unique and cool killers require extra payment. There’s uber-cool licensed characters like Ghostface and Leatherface, as well as really neat original characters like Legion, who—despite being bottom tier—is among my favorite horror villains for their twisted backstory and neat design (it’s essentially a group of deviants who wear masks and commit all kinds of crimes, which means alternate skins are actually totally new characters, which is a neat touch). Playing with friends and trying to survive is a lot of fun, but there’s definitely a sick sense of pleasure to be had from playing as the villain.
This all leads me to the fact that I’m very, very excited about the upcoming Silent Hill DLC, which lets you play as Heather Mason from the third entry, and the one and only Pyramid Head from the classic second game. From what I’ve seen, both look to be very fun new characters, and getting the chance to play as such legendary figures is the ultimate form of fan service. Look, Silent Hill 3 is—to me—just as good as Silent Hill 2 (and much scarier), although 2 undeniably has the superior story. It’s also nice to see a game developer that actually gives a damn about the Silent Hill property, even if it is just in the form of new characters. It gives me hope that it’ll open the door for more figures from gaming’s horror past, especially since they’ve pretty much got all of the big slasher icons besides Jason (although I think playing as The Animals from You’re Next would be dope). Imagine being able to play as someone like the Regenerator from Resident Evil 4 or the Dead Hand from Ocarina of Time. The possibilities are endless, and this latest announcement has me very excited for the game’s future.
Collin, if you haven’t Metal Slug before, you are in for a treat! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it when you do finally pick it up. Blazing Chrome is on my watch list, as is Mechstermination Force and the newly released Huntdown. All have that same gameplay style and all been received positively by all accounts so it’s great to hear you give Blazing Chrome a solid endorsement. Funnily enough, Contra is a name that we didn’t grow up with here in the U.K.—the games were re-skinned with anime robots and known as Probotector. The first game is another favourite of mine on Game Boy. I guess it’s hard to go too far wrong when it comes to running and gunning.
Despite how short games in the genre tend to be (Blazing Chrome took me maybe an hour and a half), I can’t help but feel that you really, really need to fine tune your level design. In a game where you die in one hit from anything, enemy and obstacle placement is absolutely key to making sure it’s fun. Too many enemies in one spot, or ones that pop out at the player and the game comes across as poorly designed and cheap. Too few enemies or obstacles and it’s too easy. It’s just fascinating for me to think about how much time is spent getting every pixel right versus how much time it takes to beat a game in that genre.
It’s something I feel Blazing Chrome nailed down really well. It was challenging but never once felt cheap. And the action was grade A shoot-em-up goodness from start to finish.
I recently played Double Dragon (the NES version) on the Nintendo Switch Online and I have to say, it’s not how I remembered it. I had never beat Double Dragon on the NES, I realized this as I was fighting the final boss, the Machine Gun Guy, who can insta-kill you. Via the power of the Nintendo Switch Online’s rewind function did I defeat him only for my shadow self to show up and be the true final boss of the game. Upon research, I discovered this is actually your brother – TWIST!
I had a memory in my head of what the game was, and I was pretty shocked to see that I forgot, mixed-up, and misremembered about 80% of the game. Part of this was the fact I grew up playing (or watching teenagers play) the game in the arcade. That version—the one you played, Sean—is more colorful, and better animated, but is ultimately a quarter-siphoning scam.
I instantly remembered the infamous dead pixel in the bottom right corner of the screen, sticking out like a sore thumb the entire run of the game. I remembered that you could glitch into walls and trick enemies into offing themselves at certain points.
What I didn’t remember was that those hearts in your display aren’t lives, they’re moves that you learn by progressing through the game. I thought P – 2 stood for Player 2, but in fact that is how many remaining lives you start with.
Stage 3 has music that sounds like it was ripped from a Mega Man soundtrack, that is until it suddenly goes all techno-trance on you out of nowhere. I thought the game was freezing up—if that can even happen on the Switch.
Several parts of the game have the distinct feel of other games. Graphically, certain areas have a distinct Castlevania vibe, while other bullshitty platforming areas will remind you of Mega Man‘s more anger-inducing sections.
I’m not a beat ’em up fan (although I do love Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) but I did play through Double Dragon (again, exploiting save states and the rewind feature) and it was a decent experience. It just wasn’t what I remembered…at all.