Mega Man 9 — Issue 41

Blue Bomber relives glo­ry days in No. 9

Ah, Mega Man and Dr. Wily. Capcom’s con­tri­bu­tion to video game rival­ries have bat­tled through numer­ous episodes in the 8‑bit, 16-bit and first PlaySta­tion era. These infa­mous icons have tak­en their bat­tle of good vs. evil to anoth­er bat­tle­field: next-gen­er­a­tion con­soles. Like many fans of the Blue Bomber, I won­dered how Cap­com would present Mega Man and com­pa­ny to a new audi­ence while keep­ing ded­i­cat­ed fans like myself invest­ed in new adven­tures. Mega Man 9 hit the spot.

Mega Man 9 is exact­ly like pre­vi­ous Mega Man games of the 8‑bit era: Easy to play. Using the PS3’s d‑pad made me feel that I was play­ing on the NES with sim­pli­fied con­trols. When Mega Man defeats a Robot Mas­ter, he acquires that boss’ weapon which — along with his Mega Buster — make up the meat of his con­trols. I have only two issues with this fea­ture: You can­not use a charged Mega Buster blast like in Mega Man 4; and, you must acquire weapon pow­er-ups to keep the spe­cial weapons run­ning prop­er­ly. Mega Man does have help in his lat­est adven­ture with his help­ful canine, Rush, and allies Eddie, Beat and Roll, who sup­ply spe­cial gad­gets in exchange for screws via their shop between stages. Sav­ing all col­lect­ed screws when pur­chas­ing cer­tain items is a smart move. 

The graph­ics in Mega Man 9 are 8‑bit qual­i­ty and nos­tal­gic, which I com­mend Cap­com for doing. It looks like Mega Man of yes­ter­year, which is always a good thing. The music was also a win since it stayed with each stage’s design. 

I felt that as an old­er gamer, Mega Man 9 was not only sim­ple, but also fun. I didn’t have to wor­ry about time lim­its or oth­er friv­o­lous things that would induce rage quit­ting. Every­thing was Mega Man ori­ent­ed, just as it should be.

Mega Man 9 is a game for not only Mega Man fans, but also for those who want to expe­ri­ence 8‑bit gam­ing on a next gen­er­a­tion con­sole. Who­ev­er said that gam­ing clas­sics can’t keep atten­tion like new­er triple‑A titles obvi­ous­ly have not played a clas­sic series like Mega Man and cer­tain­ly haven’t run into Mega Man 9. 
Car­ry on, Blue Bomber. Car­ry on.

Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus — Issue 41

First time’s a steal for Sly Cooper

Ever since the now-Sony Inter­ac­tive Enter­tain­ment intro­duced the PlaySta­tion 2 to Amer­i­can gamers in 2000, the news sur­round­ing the new gam­ing con­sole ranged from a strong suc­ces­sor to the PlaySta­tion name to the “Dream­cast Killer,” refer­ring to Sega’s bow­ing out of mak­ing gam­ing con­soles for the home mar­ket. While this was true, Sony was build­ing up a rela­tion­ship with a lit­tle-known gam­ing stu­dio called Suck­er Punch to intro­duce a char­ac­ter that would suc­ceed Sony’s oth­er well-known char­ac­ter, Crash Bandi­coot. The result: “Sly Coop­er and the Thievius Raccoonus.”

Though we’re jump­ing into the remas­tered ver­sion for the PS3, the base game is a result of what would hap­pen if you put anthro­po­mor­phic ani­mals togeth­er with Ocean’s Eleven and Splin­ter Cell games. The sto­ry is that Sly Coop­er along with his team of Bent­ley Tur­tle and Mur­ray Hip­popota­mus are try­ing to recov­er the Thievius Rac­coonus, a scared book passed down in the Coop­er fam­i­ly that records skills and tech­niques used to steal valu­ables from oth­er thieves. 

At age 8, Sly was to inher­it the book, but a group known as the Fiendish Five appeared that day, killing his moth­er and father and tak­ing all the pages of the Thievius Rac­coonus, scat­ter­ing them across the world. Now old­er and wis­er, Sly, Bent­ley and Mur­ray begin their quest to recov­er the Thievius Rac­coonus and destroy the Fiendish Five. 

The game­play takes time to adjust to, but it is sim­ple. You can either use the d‑pad or left ana­log stick to con­trol Sly while using the square but­ton to use his cane to strike, and the X but­ton to jump and dou­ble jump. Sly also gets some help look­ing around his sur­round­ings with the help of the in-game cam­era by using the right ana­log stick. 

You pick up var­i­ous objects such as coins, extra lives, and bot­tled clues to cre­ate gear, solve puz­zles, and learn new skills. Sly also has a spe­cial sneak­ing tech­nique that acti­vates in times of need. Fair warn­ing: Sly does not have a life bar. If he falls in water or gets hit by an ene­my, you will lose a life. This adds to an already chal­leng­ing set­up. The graph­ics are well drawn and appear crisp in every lev­el while the cut scenes pay trib­ute to the Ocean movie series. Suck­er Punch took great care in the lev­el design, which made the game seem more like an ani­mat­ed movie. 

The music was ener­getic and relaxed enough for me to take my time play­ing espe­cial­ly when Sly per­formed a sneak­ing maneu­ver. The music was so top tier that I’m sold on a sound­track CD to make a playlist. Voice act­ing was excel­lent with Kevin Miller as Sly, Matt Olsen as Bent­ley and Chris Mur­phy as Mur­ray, adding to the theme of expert thievery. 

Sly Coop­er and the Thievius Rac­coonus is a game that aims high and grabs replay val­ue and fun. If you want to escape bore­dom and pull off a caper with the Coop­er gang with great rewards and brag­ging rights, jump into the adven­ture instead of try­ing to be a real thief. 

It’s a steal of a game.

The Punisher — Issue 40

The Pun­ish­er makes good in dig­i­tal crime cleanup

Before Mar­vel vs. Cap­com became a rel­e­vant name to gamers, the com­pa­nies col­lab­o­rat­ed on oth­er games. Those games became essen­tial clas­sics to devel­op gamers who spe­cial­ized in sin­gle-com­bat titles. In 1994, Cap­com and Mar­vel brought a Final Fight-style game to the Gen­e­sis that starred comics’ most infa­mous anti-hero: Frank Cas­tle aka The Punisher.
The game fol­lows the sto­ry­line of the clas­sic Mar­vel comics series. Frank Cas­tle, a dec­o­rat­ed vet­er­an Marine, was enjoy­ing a day in the park with his fam­i­ly when they unwit­ting­ly became wit­ness­es to a mob shoot­ing. As a result, Cas­tle and his fam­i­ly were mas­sa­cred, him being the only sur­vivor. Cas­tle became deter­mined to get pay­back by any means nec­es­sary. With fel­low war­rior Nick Fury (of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Cas­tle begins his war on crime against mob boss Wil­son Fisk aka King­pin, who caused the death of his fam­i­ly and many oth­er innocents. 
The game plays sim­i­lar­ly to “Final Fight” and “Cap­tain Com­man­do.” You can choose to play as either Cas­tle or Fury and can team up in mul­ti­play­er. You start off with the basics, pro­gress­ing to com­bos and var­i­ous weapons such as hand­guns, auto­mat­ic rifles and katanas. There was lib­er­al food and oth­er pow­er-ups such as cash, gold bars and dia­monds that increased my score and restored health since the amount of ene­mies com­ing at me was nonstop. 
The graph­ics were pleas­ant enough, although they attempt­ed to copy arcade cab­i­net-qual­i­ty with lit­tle suc­cess. I will give Cap­com cred­it for mak­ing the graph­ics comic­book-like. it was like read­ing an actu­al issue of the comics includ­ing cap­tions “BLAM!” “KRAK” and BOOM!” instead of play­ing a rushed paint job of a pop­u­lar com­ic series video game. The music of each stage was also decent as Capcom’s sound team deliv­ered, keep­ing things close to what the Pun­ish­er feels like. 
With the work Cap­com put in, the atten­tion to detail made me want to pick it up to play as a return­ing com­ic book fan who knew about Cas­tle and Fury but want­ed to learn more about the King­pin and oth­er Mar­vel vil­lains such as Bush­whack­er and Bonebreaker. 
The Pun­ish­er is the first suc­cess­ful par­ing of Capcom’s know-how with Marvel’s leg­endary vig­i­lante who wastes no time dis­pens­ing his brand of jus­tice on crim­i­nals. Play­ing through this isn’t exact­ly punishment.

Watch Dogs — Issue 40

Watch who watch­es soci­ety in sur­veil­lance thriller

I am sort of a tech geek. While I do not have the lat­est gad­gets in gam­ing or mod­ern liv­ing, I love to have knowl­edge about the lat­est in dig­i­tal secu­ri­ty. Dur­ing the height of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, I spent time off binge-watch­ing the USA net­work show “Mr. Robot.” The pro­tag­o­nist, Elliot Ander­son, was not a social but­ter­fly, but if he want­ed to know some­thing about some­one, all he needs is their dig­i­tal details and he would either help or hin­der them. Before Mr. Robot took form, Ubisoft in 2014 devel­oped a game that applied action-adven­ture ele­ments and mixed them with cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and per­son­al pri­va­cy issues involv­ing big tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. Watch Dogs was born of that curios­i­ty.
In Watch Dogs, you take on the role of hack­er Aiden Pierce, who in 2012 was col­lab­o­rat­ing with his mentor/partner Damien Brenks on an elec­tron­ic finan­cial heist in a fic­tion­al Chica­go hotel. Unknown to the hack­ing duo, they tripped off an alarm set by anoth­er hack­er, which forces Aiden to take his fam­i­ly out of the city.
While on the run, they are pur­sued by hit­man Mau­rice Vega in a car chase that kills Aiden’s niece. Enraged, Aiden, along with partner/fixer Jor­di Chin, sets off to find Vega and his employ­er while uncov­er­ing a hideous con­spir­a­cy behind the pop­u­lar CtOS (Cen­tral Oper­at­ing Sys­tem) that has Chica­go heav­i­ly depen­dent on it.
Watch Dogs is sim­ple to play yet requires some prac­tice to be famil­iar with. Using the ana­log sticks to con­trol Aiden’s move­ments and the in-game cam­era was dif­fi­cult at first; how­ev­er, with enough prac­tice, you will have him almost invin­ci­ble. The menu for Aiden’s col­lect­ed items as well as dri­ving sce­nar­ios are like Grand Theft Auto, which I found frus­trat­ing but not unplayable. Aiden’s main weapons are a col­lapsi­ble baton and a portable device known as the Pro­fil­er. The Pro­fil­er picks up NPC info that could be used to loot or embar­rass them, depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion. Also, you scan scale ver­ti­cal walls and crouch behind walls to hide from ene­mies. I espe­cial­ly like the abil­i­ty to hide because it’s well done in its appli­ca­tion. Dur­ing the first mis­sion of the game, I found Vega and roughed him up, hacked the base­ball stadium’s pow­er grid to cause a black­out and snuck away from the police. With the well-prac­ticed con­trols, it was easy to make this sequence work and get on with the rest of the game. That’s how smooth it should be.
The graph­ics in Watch Dogs are sharp and do well in tak­ing advan­tage of Ubisoft’s Dis­rupt engine, which pre­sent­ed the city of Chica­go and its land­marks with great care and detail. Anoth­er detail I liked was the abil­i­ty to set the time for Aiden to rest. The rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the day and night cycle was per­fect. Watch Dog’s music is a nice mix of adren­a­line and house music and con­tributed well to the over­all atmos­phere.
Watch Dogs is great to play if you want to act out your vig­i­lante hero fan­tasies, legal­ly, of course. Watch Dogs will not dis­ap­point, although I would rec­om­mend using a strat­e­gy guide to help make your first playthrough more enjoy­able.
For those who are inter­est­ed in cyber­se­cu­ri­ty like I am or want to expe­ri­ence con­trol of a city by tech­nol­o­gy, get to hacking.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 — Issue 39

Gun­dam sec­ond game not yet there

Pre­vi­ous­ly, I reviewed Dynasty War­riors: Gun­dam 3, which set the stage for me to try the oth­ers in the series. Lit­tle did I know, I would be learn­ing a valu­able les­son: Not every pop­u­lar fran­chise will always have best-sell­ers. An excel­lent exam­ple would be Dynasty War­riors: Gun­dam 2.

Gun­dam 2 fol­lows the same ros­ter of char­ac­ters in var­i­ous entries in the Gun­dam uni­verse, includ­ing some char­ac­ters and mobile suits that were only fea­tured in Gun­dam movies. To com­pen­sate for a lack of a sto­ry­line, DWG2 has two modes: Sto­ry, where you can play as one of a select group of char­ac­ters from their respec­tive Gun­dam series; and, Mis­sion, where you choose a char­ac­ter with var­i­ous mis­sions set in the uni­ver­sal cen­tu­ry time­line and you can inter­act with var­i­ous char­ac­ters from oth­er series. As you move along, you gain expe­ri­ence points to increase your lev­el and col­lect var­i­ous mobile suit parts. There is also a chance to earn new skills just like DWG3 as you advance to high­er levels.

Gun­dam 2 also spe­cial mis­sions where you can fight against oth­er oppo­nents to earn licens­es to pilot dif­fer­ent suits, earn the trust of oth­er char­ac­ters to fight beside you and acquire high­er-lev­el parts for mobile suits. The mobile suit lab and ter­mi­nal fea­tures help you to keep up with chang­ing events and cur­rent devel­op­ments with dif­fer­ent mobile suits.

What I like about Gun­dam 2 is that every char­ac­ter is legit in the Gun­dam uni­verse, which made me won­der if I saw the actu­al Gun­dam series with that char­ac­ter. Also, the open­ing cin­e­ma was high qual­i­ty, show­ing off the minor suits such as GMs and Zakus, who were observ­ing the OG RX-78, Strike Free­dom and Nu Gun­dam suits doing bat­tle while the Saz­abi and Psy­cho Gun­dam lurked in the shad­ows. Addi­tion­al­ly, I also appre­ci­at­ed Nam­co Bandai, Sun­rise and Koei retain­ing the orig­i­nal Eng­lish voice actors to reprise their respec­tive char­ac­ters; this gives DWG2 the need­ed cred­i­bil­i­ty as an offi­cial Gun­dam video game.

How­ev­er, despite the good, the bad parts stick out like sore thumbs. When I try to fight in oth­er bat­tle­fields, I’m restrict­ed in mov­ing, which weak­ens my attacks, and leaves me vul­ner­a­ble. Also, the in-game cam­era was VERY unhelp­ful, espe­cial­ly in boss fights with giant ene­mies where I was pilot­ing my mobile suit on low ener­gy while run­ning and avoid­ing attacks by giant ene­mies like Psy­cho Gun­dam, Big Zam, and Queen Mansa. I also found cer­tain parts of the game have unre­al­is­tic time lim­its to fight ene­mies to achieve cer­tain objec­tives. Final­ly, I found the biggest insult to me as a Gun­dam fan was the graph­ics; these feel like cheap knock-off paint jobs of Gun­dam and low­er-rank mobile suits alike. To be fair, the asso­ci­at­ed pilots look like their ani­me coun­ter­parts, but the suits were not giv­en the same treat­ment. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I would also be remiss if I did not include the LONG wait to obtain skills, unlike in DWG3. I could unlock and pur­chase new skills in addi­tion to lev­el­ing up char­ac­ters more effi­cient­ly via train­ing ses­sions in the lat­ter game’s shop.

There are hits and miss­es that the qual­i­ty assur­ance teams should have noticed, but there are bright spots such as music and voice act­ing being excel­lent. I would still play Gun­dam 2 when I have free time, but Bandai Nam­co did such a rush job on it that I feel jus­ti­fied almost not rec­om­mend­ing it. I’m just glad that DWG3 is a far supe­ri­or prod­uct and sticks to the essen­tials that make Gun­dam, well, Gun­dam. Dynasty War­riors: Gun­dam 2 is on the way but not quite there.

Yakuza: Dead Souls — Issue 39

Yakuza and zom­bies mix well

In my vast inven­to­ry of inter­ests, mafia movies are one that would make me curl up on a week­end after­noon with pop­corn, drinks and oth­er treats in hand. While I know that some famous mafia movies and tele­vi­sion series are being devel­oped into video games, Sega’s Yakuza series is already a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of action, adven­ture, and the mafia. I was thrilled to com­bine my love for the series with zom­bie ele­ments in Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Set a year after the events in Yakuza 4, an unknown dis­ease out­break in the dis­trict of Kamurochō has affect­ed its res­i­dents, turn­ing them into zom­bies through bites. As a result, the Japan­ese Ground Self-Defense Force has been called in to assist with the slow and expand­ing quar­an­tine. Dur­ing this chaot­ic time, cer­tain ene­mies of the Tojo clan have arisen to take advan­tage of Kamurochō’s suf­fer­ing. The fate of Kamurochō and Japan rests in the hands of four men: Shun Akiya­ma, a loan shark try­ing to save his sick recep­tion­ist; Goro Maji­ma, a feared yakuza and con­struc­tion com­pa­ny own­er who is fight­ing his own infec­tion; Ryu­ji Goda, a dis­graced yakuza and takoy­a­ki chef whose clan has a tie to the out­break; and, series pro­tag­o­nist Kiryu Kazu­ma, who runs a children’s orphan­age and returns to Kamurochō when his adop­tive daugh­ter is kidnapped.

Dead Souls is an open-world game that com­bines action, adven­ture, and sur­vival hor­ror ele­ments. The plot is one akin to samu­rai movies where there are four chap­ters with four parts for each char­ac­ter with the final chap­ter reserved for Kiryu. Con­trols for move­ment and the game cam­era are sim­ple with the ana­log sticks. You will also be giv­en “mem­os,” a list with spe­cial sec­tions to teach you basics such as using weapons, eva­sion, and close quar­ter com­bat, which help when fac­ing off against the legion of zom­bies. I appre­ci­at­ed the abil­i­ty to lev­el up each character’s attrib­ut­es through use of soul points that upgrades abil­i­ties to car­ry more items, improve knowl­edge of zom­bies, weapons mod­i­fi­ca­tions and pro­tec­tive gear, and mas­ter advanced close quar­ter com­bat techniques.

As the game pro­gress­es, your cur­rent char­ac­ter will be assist­ed by three NPCs: Reiko Hasekawa, a researcher who offers infor­ma­tion and rewards for com­plet­ed tasks; Gary “Buster” Holmes, a firearms expert who helps the pro­tag­o­nists and their tem­po­rary com­pan­ions with gun train­ing; and, Ren­ji Kamiya­ma, weapons sell­er and mod­i­fi­er of weapons and pro­tec­tive gear who can also be used as a pawn­bro­ker to buy rare items.

I also appre­ci­ate the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of var­i­ous zom­bie ene­mies; that orga­ni­za­tion method can help you plan the appro­pri­ate strat­e­gy or sim­ply avoid con­tact with them. While you’re run­ning around Kamurochō, pay atten­tion to the music. It’s one of Sega’s best sound­tracks in the mod­ern era and puts the Yakuza series among Sega’s go-to ros­ter of great soundtracks.

The graph­ics are OK for the time when it released. It’s good for an open world game, though there’s room for improve­ment. Though, com­pared to oth­er games at the time, Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly out­shine the com­pe­ti­tion; it just mere­ly com­petes. The only real prob­lem I have with Dead Souls is the inclu­sion of sce­nar­ios where you must chase down peo­ple while fend­ing off zom­bies. I know a yakuza got to make his mon­ey, but Sega was putting these char­ac­ters in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions with­out any pro­tec­tive gear, which is slight­ly unrealistic.

Dead Souls is great to play on a day off or slow week­end, though I would offer two pieces of advice: Do not play late at night, and do not play while COVID-19 is still around. It’s a nice attempt to mix mul­ti­ple gen­res. I can say this with no doubt: Sega’s got a smash hit ready to secure all bags and show its com­pe­ti­tion why it does not pay to under­es­ti­mate the Yakuza.

Fun Facts:

* Yakuza is the term giv­en to transna­tion­al crime orga­ni­za­tions based in Japan. They are also known as” boryoku­dan,” which the Japan­ese police advise for pub­lic media to use when cov­er­ing yakuza-relat­ed sto­ries. The yakuza also call them­selves “ninkyo dan­tai,” or chival­rous groups.

* Accord­ing to Japan’s Nation­al Police Agency as of 2020, there are at least 25,900 active yakuza mem­bers, despite rigid leg­is­la­tion aimed to com­bat yakuza involve­ment with the Japan­ese pub­lic. These mem­bers are account­ed among the three major yakuza fam­i­lies: Yam­aguchi-gumi, Somiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai.

* Yakuza groups have been known to oper­ate in major U.S. cities and use Hawaii as a hub to con­duct var­i­ous legal and ille­gal enterprises.

Gundam Versus — Issue 38

Gun­dam soars in top-notch mecha simulator

I’m a HUGE Gun­dam fan. Next to my love of Mega Man, Gun­dam is my sec­ond great­est obses­sion. Because of lim­it­ed space, I’ll have to be con­tent with the lim­it­ed Gun­dam merch that I have amassed. The lat­est addi­tion was giv­en to me for my recent birth­day; it made me recall play­ing a Gun­dam arcade fight­ing game at Nashicon 2016. Would it serve to sat­is­fy my hunger for giant robots caus­ing mas­sive dam­age and beat­ing them­selves to obliv­ion? “Gun­dam Ver­sus” for PlaySta­tion 4 gave me my answer.

Gun­dam Ver­sus has some unique advan­tages going for it as a fight­ing game. Its source mate­r­i­al is based on a uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­nized ani­me series. Unlike oth­er fight­ing games, it does not have a sto­ry­line, allow­ing you to jump straight to the action with­out know­ing back­ground sto­ry. That sold me as some­one who knows a series’ back­ground, not need­ing knowl­edge about spe­cif­ic char­ac­ters’ background.

The abil­i­ty to choose a series favorite from a ros­ter of more than 90 mobile suits from var­i­ous Gun­dam works ensures that you are not lim­it­ed to char­ac­ters in Gun­dam series only aired in the U.S. Each stage is open area, allow­ing you to plan offense or defense with the ben­e­fit of hid­ing or run­ning from your oppo­nents while recov­er­ing from attacks. Also, you can have two addi­tion­al char­ac­ters to back you with one serv­ing as a strik­ing part­ner to tag team oppos­ing forces with the per­fect tim­ing. They are avail­able to have a train­ing ses­sion to get you famil­iar with your cho­sen suit.

Those who are not accus­tomed to run-and-gun gam­ing will get frus­trat­ed and want to quit play­ing. The open bat­tle­field requires a 360-degree view, which the PS4 con­trols are decent enough to help han­dle the action. While Gun­dam Ver­sus made an hon­or­able attempt to include all Gun­dam ele­ments, some open­ing themes were played on repeat way too much and that took away the focus from game­play and placed it on the music. Music for the game is top notch, which is to be expect­ed from the Bandai Nam­co sound team. This was the first time the team did an inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Czech Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra for the open­ing visu­al. That adds some fla­vor and extras to the pre­sen­ta­tion. While I was dis­ap­point­ed that the game didn’t offer an Eng­lish dub track, the orig­i­nal Japan­ese audio for the Gun­dam fran­chise ensured that Ver­sus has the appro­pri­ate Gun­dam feel.

A down­side is that cer­tain series I liked and want­ed to use suits from are stuck as paid con­tent, which left Gun­dam fans like me at Bandai Namco’s mer­cy regard­ing afford­able pricing.

Gun­dam Ver­sus is a tes­ti­mo­ny of how ani­me, sci-fi and fight­ing games have merged to cre­ate a prod­uct that is playable for every­one, regard­less of fan­dom knowl­edge. As a Gun­dam afi­ciona­do, Ver­sus is well worth the time spent play­ing and is the next best thing to own­ing a Gun­dam or mobile suit. I wel­come this new addi­tion to my Gun­dam col­lec­tion as I con­tin­ue my quest to build a mas­ter­piece col­lec­tion of all things Gundam.

Final Fight 2 — Issue 38

Cap­com brawler takes fight worldwide

As a child of the ear­ly ’90s, Final Fight not only increased my addic­tion to arcade games, but also intro­duced me fur­ther to Capcom’s sky­rock­et­ing rise as a game devel­op­er. I dived into Final Fight 2 to relive my arcade glo­ry days.

In Final Fight 2, time has passed since Mike Hag­gar, Cody Tra­vers and Cody’s friend Guy defeat­ed the Mad Gear gang, restored peace to the streets of Metro City and res­cued Haggar’s daugh­ter Jes­si­ca from the Mad Gear’s leader, Bel­ger. That peace is short-lived when the rem­nants of Mad Gear return under a new leader and kid­nap Guy’s fiancée, Rena, and Guy’s sen­sei, Genryusai.

With Cody away on a trip with Jes­si­ca and Guy away on secret train­ing, Hag­gar is joined by Rena’s sis­ter, Maki, and Haggar’s friend Car­los Miyamo­to on a world­wide quest to crush the Mad Gear and res­cue Rena and Gen­ryu­sai. FF2 has a lot going for it; it’s a direct sequel nev­er released in arcades with a lot of new mate­r­i­al despite no new gen­er­al mechanics.

FF2 has an expand­ed bat­tle­field with Hag­gar, Maki and Car­los start­ing their jour­ney in Hong Kong and end­ing that jour­ney in Japan. The main pro­tag­o­nists make their way through sev­er­al locales in Europe in their search for Rena, all the while sur­round­ed by improved graph­ics over the first game. The back­grounds are high qual­i­ty, and the sprites are well-drawn and crisp for each char­ac­ter with a lot of atten­tion to detail.

The atten­tion to detail also shows up in the con­trols. Over­all, con­trol is sim­ple even though each char­ac­ter has a unique fight­ing style. Hag­gar still has his pro wrestling moves, Maki makes use of Nin­jit­su and Car­los prac­tices mar­tial arts and sword skills. Though they are gener­ic in exe­cu­tion, it’s fun to see how each char­ac­ter oper­ates dur­ing the fight.

Pow­er-ups are still obtained via smash­ing var­i­ous objects and range from steamed Chi­nese buns to a pair of shoes that can increase health or score points. Find­ing either a Gen­ryu­sai or Guy doll will give an extra life or invin­ci­bil­i­ty. As for the music, it is arcade per­fect just like its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s a nice sound­track of ear­ly Cap­com brawler, and it fits the action per­fect­ly in each of the game’s locations.

As much as I enjoyed FF2, the game does have some flaws. While each char­ac­ter has their own awe­some spe­cial moves, using them does cost health. That’s annoy­ing when you’re try­ing to use more pow­er­ful moves to defeat boss­es and try­ing not to die at the same time. Also, dur­ing the timed bonus stages, con­trol is hit or miss when strik­ing objects; if it’s not done per­fect­ly, you lose the bonus points. I also got frus­trat­ed when I couldn’t take the weapons I found into oth­er areas. That cheap­ens the use of the weapon and makes it use­less short­ly after pick­ing it up. And, the chal­lenge lev­el is ridicu­lous. I need­ed a cheat code just to get to the real end­ing in expert mode. It’s too easy to die and tak­ing hits from off-screen ene­mies is terrible.

Final Fight 2 placed the series in the ranks of Capcom’s top-tier fran­chis­es. While it hasn’t seen the lev­el of push of say, Street Fight­er or Res­i­dent Evil, the beat-’em-up is fond­ly remem­bered as one of Capcom’s crown­ing achievements.

Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers 2 — Issue 38

Fur­ry duo return in sol­id fun

In a pre­vi­ous issue, I reviewed Disney’s Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers for the NES. I reviewed the game as a nod to the times of the late ’80s and ear­ly ’90s where you knew the ins and outs of your favorite shows, includ­ing the open­ing and end­ing theme songs. With the arrival of Dis­ney+ and Capcom’s re-release of Dis­ney After­noon-themed games for cur­rent con­soles, I heard that Disney’s dynam­ic duo had anoth­er game for the NES. I reviewed Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers 2 to see if it would jump start my care­free kid memories.

Res­cue Rangers 2 starts off with our fur­ry heroes and their com­rades enjoy­ing a well-deserved rest after stop­ping their noto­ri­ous arch neme­sis, Fat Cat, in the first game. How­ev­er, like most great vil­lains, Fat Cat was able to mas­ter­mind his escape from prison and acquire the leg­endary Urn of the Pharaoh to re-launch his fiendish plans. With Fat Cat on the loose and hav­ing evil spir­its at his dis­pos­al, the Res­cue Rangers are the only ones stand­ing between Fat Cat and world peace.

Res­cue Rangers 2’s game­play is exact­ly like the orig­i­nal; you can choose either Chip or Dale to bat­tle through sev­er­al lev­els to do bat­tle against Fat Cat’s legions of hench­men who are deter­mined to stop our heroes from sav­ing the day. Chip and Dale can jump, duck and used pint-sized box­es to throw either hor­i­zon­tal­ly or ver­ti­cal­ly to defeat ene­mies. These box­es have var­i­ous pow­er-ups, such as acorns, to replen­ish health, extra lives or Res­cue Rangers plaques that can earn Ranger icons. These icons will give the char­ac­ter of your choice an extra heart.

The con­trols also remain the same from the first game. Res­cue Rangers vet­er­ans will be famil­iar with the con­trol lay­out, but new­com­ers will go through trial 
and error until they are comfortable.

All the lev­els and back­grounds were done with great care, mak­ing me believe that I was play­ing an actu­al episode of Res­cue Rangers. I com­mend Cap­com for let­ting Dis­ney ani­ma­tors work their mag­ic on heroes and boss char­ac­ters, ensur­ing that the boss­es pro­vid­ed a chal­lenge with­out los­ing Dis­ney elements.

As much as I enjoyed Res­cue Rangers 2, it’s not with­out some flaws. I stat­ed ear­li­er that con­trol­ling either Chip or Dale would take prac­tice; that is impor­tant since dur­ing stages, you can­not go back to a low­er lev­el to pick up items with­out los­ing a life. That makes things unnec­es­sar­i­ly tough. Also, the Res­cue Rangers’ roles were dras­ti­cal­ly from the first game. The first game incor­po­rat­ed Mon­terey Jack, Gad­get and Zip­per into find­ing hid­den paths, scout­ing for ene­mies, and back­up and reach sup­port; they’re now reduced to back­ground scenery with lit­tle screen time.

Audio-wise, the music sounds dialed-in like the music from “1945,” show­ing that Capcom’s devel­op­ment starts strong but becomes weak in cer­tain areas. Final­ly, the chal­lenge lev­el is high, but I advise play­ers to have spe­cial cheat codes enabled if they want to fin­ish this game. You shouldn’t have to use them, but they are a must here.

Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers 2 has deliv­ered, keep­ing intact all the ele­ments that made it a Dis­ney favorite but, unfor­tu­nate­ly, keeps some of Capcom’s bad habits as well. The Dis­ney After­noon lives on in this small but sol­id sequel.

Devil May Cry 5 — 4Q2020 issue

Fifth time’s a charm: DMC 5 hunts down payoff

Dev­il may cry.” To some, it sounds like the lat­est quote from one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. To me, it’s one of Capcom’s biggest fran­chis­es that does not involve “Street Fight­er” and “Res­i­dent Evil” that is a labor of love to play. Nero and Dante are back along with some new faces to raise more demon­ic hell across next gen gam­ing con­soles with the hack and slash style of gam­ing that put it on the map. I wait­ed five years to play the fifth install­ment of this series and the kick-ass pro­mo­tion­al song “Dev­il Trig­ger” helped move that wait right along. In April 2019, me and EIC Lyn­d­sey were on a spur-of-the-moment gam­ing shop­ping spree and not only did we pick up a PlaySta­tion 4 Pro, but also we picked up a boun­ty of games includ­ing DMC5. Could it sur­pass pre­vi­ous suc­cess­es that defined the series?

In DMC5, years after the events in DMC4, Nero has got­ten Dante’s bless­ing to jump in the demon-hunt­ing busi­ness but one May night, Nero is accost­ed by a famil­iar foe who has not only tak­en the demon sword Yam­a­to, but also Nero’s demon­ic arm. Vow­ing vengeance, Nero pur­sues the foe to Red­wood City where he is intro­duced to a new evil known as Urizen. He, Dante and fel­low demon hunters Trish and Lady are swat­ted instant­ly by Urizen. Now hav­ing a HUGE chip on his shoul­der, Nero returns with a new arm and part­ner in crime, Nico, and sets out on his sec­ond adven­ture filled with old and new allies and ene­mies while mak­ing his name as a mas­ter demon hunter to sur­pass his infa­mous uncle.

Game­play in DMC5 fol­lows the same high-speed action for­mu­la found in pre­vi­ous games in the series. Con­trol­ling Nero, Dante and the newest char­ac­ter V is per­fect. Nero still has his trusty sword Red Queen and revolver Blue Rose, but instead of his Dev­il Bringer he uses a pros­thet­ic arm called a Dev­il Break­er, which was devel­oped by Nico. It has extra punch than the Dev­il Bringer and can be upgrad­ed after bat­tles with var­i­ous bosses.

Dante has his dual pis­tols Ebony and Ivory as well as his usu­al swords Rebel­lion and Spar­ta, but also has five addi­tions: Cav­i­lare (a motor­cy­cle that when sep­a­rat­ed, becomes a buz­z­saw-like weapon); Bal­rog (yes, THAT Bal­rog), gauntlets and boots that increas­es Dante’s melee pow­er ten­fold; KalinaAnn2, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Kali­naAnn used in DMC3; and, Dr. Faust, a hat that shoots out red orbs when worn.

V has some tricks up his sleeve with his famil­iars Grif­fon, a demon hawk capa­ble of fir­ing light­ning bolts and pro­jec­tiles; Shad­ow, a pan­ther-like famil­iar that is melee com­bat ori­ent­ed, using its body to form blade and nee­dle weapons; and, final­ly Night­mare, a golem-famil­iar that moves slow­ly, but packs a MAJOR punch against giant ene­mies. I should also note that Night­mare can change his height to titan-lev­el and use a huge laser beam to destroy ene­my boss­es, which allows V to use his Roy­al Fork cane and its copies to land the fin­ish blow.

Anoth­er fea­ture I liked in DMC5 was the train­ing ses­sion that allows you to learn and prac­tice avail­able skills before pur­chas­ing them, allow­ing you to decide whether to buy or hold off.

The RE5 engine brings every detail to life, com­ple­ment­ing Dol­by Atmos sound’s abil­i­ties, which made me think I was play­ing a 3D movie instead of a video game. The voice cast is a mix of well-known and new voice actors led by Reuben Lang­don, John­ny Yong Bosch and Daniel South­worth repris­ing their roles as Dante, Nero and Vergil, respec­tive­ly. Stephanie Sheh returns as Kyrie but in voice form only. I also give kudos to Bri­an Han­ford for voic­ing V and Faye Kingslee as Nico. Brad Ven­able as Grif­fon stole the show, and Kate Hig­gins (Bleach, Code Geass) and Wendee Lee were excel­lent as Lady and Trish.

The only neg­a­tive thing I have about the game is the cam­era con­trol. It has improved GREATLY, but it still takes some time to mas­ter­ful­ly plan a character’s next move. The pow­er-up sit­u­a­tion that occurred in DMC4 was fixed, but you still need to con­serve your red orbs, espe­cial­ly if you use Dr. Faust.

DMC5 is wor­thy of replay because of its excel­lent blend of action, dra­ma and envi­ron­ment. Cap­com is doing this series right again and while I don’t agree that milk­ing a fran­chise is the best busi­ness deci­sion, DMC fans can begin to for­give Cap­com for its lack of judge­ment for DMC: Dev­il May Cry. Let the heal­ing begin.

Fun facts

  • Reuben Lang­don, John­ny Yong Bosch and Daniel South­worth have a con­nec­tion to the Pow­er Rangers fran­chise. Bosch was the sec­ond Black Ranger in Mighty Mor­phin’ Pow­er Rangers and the Green Ranger in Pow­er Rangers ZEO and Pow­er Rangers Tur­bo, while Lang­don did stunt work and South­worth played the Quan­tum Ranger in Pow­er Rangers: Time Force. All have pro­vid­ed voice and motion cap­ture work for the DMC series.
  • South­worth and Wendee Lee had dual roles as Urizen and Eva, Dante’s and Vergil’s mother.
  • If Red­wood City looks like Lon­don, you are cor­rect. Cap­com sent the DMC5 devel­op­ment team to Lon­don — specif­i­cal­ly Mid­hurst in West Sus­sex, Rochester, Kent, Can­ter­bury and Leeds Cas­tle in Kent — for inspi­ra­tion in design­ing loca­tions in the game. Var­i­ous mod­els and clothes were acquired and scanned in Lon­don and Serbia.
  • In addi­tion to the RE5 engine, Cap­com used Microsoft’s Sim­ply­gon graph­ic soft­ware to assist with graph­ics and the inter­mis­sion graphics.
  • The most notable song of the game, “Dev­il Trig­ger,” by Casey and Ali Edwards, has had more than 2.8 mil­lion views on Cap­com Japan’s YouTube chan­nel. Ali Edwards was also the lyri­cist and vocal­ist for the game’s end­ing theme “Lega­cy,” with com­po­si­tion by Kota Suzuki.