Shiritsu Justice Gakuen: Nekketsu Seisyun Nikki 2 — 2Q2015 issue

Rival Schools 1.5 is still fun

We here at GI are strong pro­po­nents of any­thing Japan­ese, fight­ing games and edu­ca­tion. So, you can imag­ine the delight that is a gen­er­ous mix of all three. To that end, it should be obvi­ous by now that we love Rival Schools and its over­all series Project Jus­tice. Despite the fact that it comes from the brain trust known as Cap­com, we’re still entranced by the con­cept of Japan­ese high school stu­dents fight­ing to save themselves.

The mid­dle game in the series, Rival Schools 2, is an inter­est­ing addi­tion to the fam­ily of fight­ing games. It’s nei­ther a true sequel nor a spin-off of the orig­i­nal game. It’s an adden­dum, which Cap­com is noto­ri­ous for push­ing on the gen­eral buy­ing pub­lic. It’s more of the orig­i­nal game — which we love — with some upgrades thrown in to make it worth import­ing. This ver­sion was never released in Amer­ica, thus there are modes that you will never see. That makes import­ing the game worth the time and trouble.

RS2 is your stan­dard fight­ing game, which doesn’t make it unique. How­ever, the inclu­sion of the board game mode and the char­ac­ter cre­ation mode that plays out like an eroge sim­u­la­tion are some of the good­ies that we’re miss­ing out on in the U.S. There’s also the addi­tion of three new char­ac­ters: Ran, a pho­to­jour­nal­ist who uses her cam­era to attack; Nagare, a swim­mer; and, Chairperson/Iinciyo, who leads the charge for Taiyo High School stu­dents to defend them­selves. Other than these gifts, there’s not much dif­fer­ent here than the first game. You’re still fight­ing to defend your cho­sen school, and there’s still fun to be had in a slightly deep fight­ing game sys­tem. There’s not too much dif­fer­ent aesthetics-wise, in that there are a few new stages and new stage themes. The older stages are still here and it’s fun to play against the new­com­ers with older char­ac­ters or a cre­ated character.

I have two caveats with rec­om­mend­ing the game to oth­ers. The first is the fact that it’s in Japan­ese mostly and read­ing is a must to get through the char­ac­ter cre­ation and board game modes. That’s a bit much if you’re not into the lan­guage or know enough to nav­i­gate through menus. The other issue is the fact that, as usual, Cap­com has seen fit to deny Amer­i­can gamers the best of a series, short­chang­ing loyal money-spending fans who would pay a high price for the good­ies of the char­ac­ter cre­ation mode and the board game mode. The dirty truth of it all is Cap­com has never thought highly of its Amer­i­can audi­ence. We’re not going to see some­thing awe­some like either mode because “we just wouldn’t get it any­way.” A fun fact is that both modes were to be included in the first game but were left out in Amer­ica because it would have been too much trou­ble to include them for Amer­i­cans, accord­ing to Cap­com of Japan. But we’re smart enough to make cash grabs off of for mul­ti­ple ver­sion of Street Fighter, though, right?

The moral of this story is that Rival Schools and its fur­ther sequels all deserve to be played by a wider audi­ence. Although it’s a slight rehash of the first game, RS2 was deserv­ing of respect and a proper intro­duc­tion to the Amer­i­can audi­ence. Thank­fully, we were allowed to see the next sequel, Project Jus­tice. Here’s hop­ing for a class reunion.

Mega Man X54Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of http://www.GamesPress.com

Duo team attack finish

MMX5 takes place sev­eral months after the events in Mega Man X4, dur­ing which the giant space colony Eura­sia has been taken over by an unknown reploid known as Dynamo as it was under­go­ing exten­sive repairs. As a result, a com­puter virus infected Eurasia’s grav­ity con­trol sys­tems, send­ing it on a col­li­sion course with Earth. At the same time, Sigma and his new band of Mav­er­icks have taken con­trol of var­i­ous areas that have equip­ment capa­ble of pre­vent­ing Eurasia’s fall, and he has also launched his own virus across the globe. X and Zero, under orders from their new leader Sig­nas, must go to those areas to acquire the equip­ment needed to stop Eura­sia, and send Sigma back to the scrap heap once more where he belongs.

MMX5’s game­play remains the same as any reg­u­lar action-adventure game. You can chose between using X and Zero, who each have unique abil­i­ties. I chose Zero because of the option to use his Z-Saber and Z-Buster as more effec­tive com­bat tools, and also because of his stronger jump­ing abil­i­ties. MMX5 allows both char­ac­ters to be swapped out dur­ing the stage select screen, pro­vided you choose before time runs out. This adds fresh­ness to the game­play, keep­ing the game from being too mun­dane or too com­fort­able for a cho­sen character.

I liked the fact that there are new armors in the game that X can start off with. The Gaia armor from MMX 4 is less pow­er­ful but still gets the job done. You can find other armor sets that will give you an advan­tage, with good old Dr. Light pro­vid­ing insight about them. He has also made a spe­cial armor for Zero that you will find later on. I also want to note that if play­ers pay close atten­tion, there will be some back­ground scenes in MMX pay­ing trib­ute to clas­sic Mega Man and Mega Man X games.

The plot of the game, while a good sto­ry­line point with stop­ping Eura­sia, may frus­trate you because you would have to defeat the first four Mav­er­icks and later be told that two were devel­oped simul­ta­ne­ously with­out pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of both plans. I also ques­tioned the developer’s method of stage plan­ning when they placed Dynamo in nearly every mid bat­tle to delay either X or Zero with­out any strong chal­lenge, and I ques­tioned why, dur­ing Duff McWhalen’s stage, it takes a huge amount of game time to fight off a sub-boss that required run­ning and fir­ing just to keep it at bay.

Despite some frus­trat­ing issues, MMX5 is a great game to kill time with and shows how — with proper care and fresh ideas — a gam­ing fran­chise can still be rel­e­vant. Get the pic­ture, Capcom?

Mega music

Cap­com always had a cre­ative knack for nam­ing Mega Man adver­saries. Mav­er­icks in X5 are based off of the orig­i­nal band mem­bers of the rock group Guns N’ Roses.

Griz­zly Slash — Slash
Squid Adler — Steven Adler
Izzy Glow — Izzy Stradlin
Duff McWhalen — Duff McK­a­gan
The Skiver — Michael Mon­roe
Axle the Red — Axl Rose
Dark Dizzy — Dizzy Reed
Mat­trex — Matt Sorum

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature — 4Q2014 issue

A life that’s sec­ond nature

A life of farm­ing is never sim­ple. Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you: It’s a tough, tough job that requires before-dawn ris­ing and at-dusk retir­ing that repeats itself over the course of many a day. There’s also the fear of Mother Nature wreck­ing your liveli­hood and out­side forces such as other humans steal­ing from you and run­ning you into ruin. But, thank­fully, you can avoid all of that and expe­ri­ence the joy of liv­ing off the land at its finest, dig­i­tally if you so choose, thanks to Natsume’s Har­vest Moon: Back to Nature. And, if you play your cards right and take time to pull your­self away from dig­ging up your ground, you can find your­self a cer­tain Mrs. to share the farm­ing duties with as well.

Back to Nature is the best game in the long-running series. I say this with con­fi­dence because it’s one of the only titles in the series to have been remade mul­ti­ple times with the same setup, just dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Every mod­ern Har­vest Moon title takes its cue from Back to Nature, as well. The main goal, which stays the same through­out the series, is to take a farm that’s fallen into dis­re­pair and make it into a prof­itable bas­tion of hard work and suc­cess. Your char­ac­ter works to accom­plish this by pulling up his boot­straps and putting in a lit­tle elbow grease with lit­tle to no help from any­one else, aside from the gnomes he meets tucked away in the crease of the town.

Speak­ing of the town, you’re tasked with meet­ing folks and forg­ing some type of rela­tion­ship with them so that you are con­sid­ered neigh­borly. The town’s set sched­ule makes for inter­est­ing inter­ac­tions and a type of sched­ule plan­ning not unlike Ani­mal Cross­ing. While you’re work­ing to save your farm and chat­ting up the towns­folk, you’re given a third task of find­ing a suit­able lass in town to wife up. If you can man­age to put a ring on it by woo­ing your intended (there are five lovely ladies that you can choose from to pur­sue with vary­ing likes and dis­likes), you’re all but guar­an­teed to earn your place in the town and be allowed to stay.

Back to Nature is deep, extremely deep. So much so that it takes quite a bit of time just get­ting the farm up and run­ning in a proper man­ner that you might make money to sus­tain it. And that’s mis­sion accom­plished for Back to Nature: Get you involved and think­ing hard about what it is you want to accom­plish in your town. That level of inter­ac­tion is sim­ple to begin with, and with decent con­trols it doesn’t get too much harder to main­tain. It’s one of the things that I love about Back to Nature. It doesn’t press too hard about mechan­ics and there’s a wealth of infor­ma­tion within the game about crops and car­ing for ani­mals that can help you main­tain a com­fort­able way of life within the game. But some­times, the level of com­fort you want isn’t always within reach.

While I praise the con­trols, the effect isn’t always ben­e­fi­cial for you. The game is hard in the begin­ning, some­times too hard for its own good. Take, for exam­ple, the fact that you arrive in town with basi­cally noth­ing but the clothes on your back. You’re expected to suc­ceed and set­tle down there but you have noth­ing tying you there very much. What’s to say that your player char­ac­ter doesn’t decide that it’s too much, packs up shop and goes home? It’s not very real­is­tic with some of the things you’re tasked with doing, and start­ing with absolutely no money and try­ing to rebuild a farm is impos­si­ble with no cash flow.

My next prob­lem comes with the cash oppor­tu­ni­ties afforded in the game. With­out cheat­ing, it is nearly impos­si­ble to become suc­cess­ful and well off. This leads into a larger prob­lem with the way time is struc­tured in the game as well. While the time aspect has to be dif­fer­ent than real time, an entire day should not pass within nearly 30 min­utes. It’s extremely hard to get much accom­plished in the early going and it demands that you must have a rou­tine in place quickly or risk being left behind. Sure, you’re given a year or two to get things together but it’s hard to make things work on the farm, court a girl and par­tic­i­pate in town activ­i­ties all at once in the short amount of time that passes as a day.

Cou­ple it with the sched­ule given to the town and there’s a time man­age­ment prob­lem just wait­ing to hap­pen. The con­trols some­times leave a lot to be desired, too. More than once I’ve had a bucket that I’ve filled with good­ies from my plot of land empty just far away enough from a bin that it went wasted. And more than once I’ve been angered by loss of income because it’s on the ground and not able to be reclaimed. But that’s a fact of life in Har­vest Moon titles, I suppose.

Oth­er­wise, Back to Nature is a great sim­u­la­tion of farm life. It’s a good way to play a dat­ing sim and life sim all at once with very lit­tle con­se­quence for poor choices. Get­ting back to nature is an idea all of us need to think of at least once, even if it is to dig­i­tally pair off and make a fast dollar.

Back to basics

Back to Nature, released in 1999 for the PlaySta­tion One, has been remade sev­eral times. The first remake was released for Game Boy Advance as Har­vest Moon: Friends of Min­eral Town in 2003. Friends of Min­eral Town was expanded with a side story, More Friends of Min­eral Town — which allows play­ing from a female farmer’s per­spec­tive — in 2005. These were later ported as Har­vest Moon: Boy & Girl for PSP in 2005.