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.

Airwolf — 4Q2020 issue

Let this low-fly­ing mess stay grounded

As a child of the 1980s, there was one major require­ment I had to know: the major prime time action shows and what nights and net­works that they came on. Two of those shows were Knight Rid­er on Fri­days on NBC and Air­wolf on Sat­ur­days on CBS. These two shows were so pop­u­lar that Acclaim Enter­tain­ment was able to get license rights from Uni­ver­sal Tele­vi­sion to devel­op video games for both shows. In a pre­vi­ous issue of GI, we reviewed Knight Rid­er for the NES in the Tor­ture of the Quar­ter sec­tion. Could Air­wolf break this curse of pop­u­lar shows turned into hor­ri­ble games? It was time to find out.

Air­wolf fol­lows the plot based on the TV show in that you take the role of Stringfel­low “String” Hawke, who is giv­en a mis­sion by the CIA to res­cue pris­on­ers of war from unknown ter­ror­ist groups using the top-secret heli­copter known as Air­wolf. As String con­ducts the mis­sion, he finds out that one of the pris­on­ers being held is his long-lost broth­er who was declared miss­ing in action dur­ing the Viet­nam War. This gives him added incen­tive to car­ry out his giv­en mission.

Airwolf’s game­play is a sim­u­lat­ed first-per­son view that was applied to the Knight Rid­er game. You have the view of Air­wolf that is clear enough to see your ene­mies and to attack ene­my strong­holds such as air­craft tow­ers, pris­on­er camps and repair depots. How­ev­er, this is the game’s Achilles’ heel. Con­trol is not flex­i­ble when you need it to be dur­ing dog­fights with ene­my air­craft. You’re required to shoot first or destroy air­craft tow­ers if you don’t fire your lim­it­ed mis­siles with pre­cise tim­ing. The inflex­i­bil­i­ty rears again when you land at a pris­on­er camp land­ing gen­tly and still die.

The graph­ics were OK, but they were akin to flight sim­u­la­tor games that were high­ly pop­u­lar dur­ing the ’80s. To give Air­wolf a frac­tion of a chance for a good review, I found the debrief­ing scene excel­lent, giv­ing me the appro­pri­ate data of destroyed ene­mies, res­cued pris­on­ers and inter­cept­ed missiles.

Sad­ly, I was ENRAGED that Acclaim could be this slop­py with a fran­chise such as Air­wolf. Don’t get me wrong, Acclaim did go on to make bet­ter video games based on pop­u­lar fran­chis­es, but like Knight Rid­er, Air­wolf failed to show me any redeem­ing rea­son for replay.

Air­wolf — like Knight Rid­er — are games that are rec­om­mend­ed only for the diehard fans of the ’80s that want to relive the action-packed nights of their child­hood. While I loved both shows, unfor­tu­nate­ly their action-packed for­mu­la that pro­duced major rat­ings for TV did not trans­late well into video game for­mat. Acclaim did learn well from these mis­takes, but they gave the first Mas­ter­Class les­son in video gam­ing of being care­ful with pop­u­lar fran­chis­es. If you want my advice, skip both games and play them on read­i­ly avail­able emu­la­tors; you’ll save time and hard-earned money.

Fun Facts

  • Air­wolf was cre­at­ed by Don­ald P. Belis­ario, who was known for pop cul­ture-wor­thy shows such as Quan­tum Leap, Mag­num, P.I., JAG and NCIS, which is still air­ing on CBS.
  • The actu­al Air­wolf was based on a Bell 222 heli­copter designed for cor­po­rate trav­el, emer­gency med­ical trans­port and util­i­ty trans­port. A full repli­ca of Air­wolf was on dis­play at a Ten­nessee avi­a­tion muse­um but has since been sold to a pri­vate col­lec­tor in Bel Aire, Calif.
  • There were numer­ous ver­sions of Air­wolf made for var­i­ous home sys­tems, but a side scrolling arcade ver­sion was devel­oped by Japan­ese devel­op­er Kyu­go in 1987. Acclaim released the NES ver­sion a year lat­er, after the show went off the air four years earlier.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse — 4Q2020 issue

Drac­u­la slays in thirds

Castl­e­va­nia. The name alone is well renowned to vet­er­an gamers world­wide as one of Konami’s mas­ter­piece fran­chis­es, hav­ing expand­ed from the NES to var­i­ous gam­ing con­soles and a glo­ri­ous revival in ani­me form thanks to Net­flix. As a video game vet­er­an myself, I know of the many bat­tles between the GOAT vam­pire hunt­ing Bel­mont fam­i­ly and the infa­mous prince of hor­ror mon­sters, Count Drac­u­la. Ever since I was exposed to the first Castl­e­va­nia game, I fell under its spell, want­i­ng my chance to place a stake into Dracula’s chest. I final­ly got my chance to do so when I got my first game, Castl­e­va­nia III: Dracula’s Curse for the NES.

In Dracula’s Curse, you take on the role of Trevor C. Bel­mont, fore­fa­ther of series hero Simon Bel­mont, who is called upon to save his vil­lage of Warakiya from Drac­u­la and his res­ur­rect­ed army of dark­ness. Trevor has one small but pow­er­ful advan­tage with him: the abil­i­ty to trans­form into three part­ner spir­its: Alu­card, Dracula’s for­got­ten son; Grant Denasty, pirate ter­ror of the seas; and, Sypha Bel­nades, vam­pire hunter/mystic war­lord. Along with this shaper-shifter abil­i­ty and equipped with the mys­tic whip and Pol­ter­geist ax bequeathed by the Pol­ter­geist King, Trevor sets off into the night ready to do bat­tle against Dracula.

Game­play is basic like most action-plat­form­ing games with sim­ple moves such as mov­ing left and right with the con­trol pad, jump­ing with a but­ton, and attack­ing with basic weapons by using com­bi­na­tions for spe­cial weapons. These con­trols have spe­cial des­ig­na­tions for Grant, con­trol­ling how high he can jump and climb walls, and for Alu­card, who can trans­form into a bat. To give this team of vam­pire hunters an extra advan­tage, Trevor can upgrade his mys­tic whip to a long-ranged chain whip and can use var­i­ous Warakiya items such as the ban­shee boomerang, bat­tle ax and a pock­et watch that tem­porar­i­ly freezes ene­mies. Sypha has her mag­ic staff as her main weapon in addi­tion to using ele­men­tal orbs that can pro­duce fire, ice and thun­der attacks. Grant has use of the dag­ger, but he can only use the mys­tic ax as his sec­ondary weapon. Alu­card has use of a destruc­tive ball that can be upgrad­ed to shoot three directions.

While I appre­ci­ate these effec­tive tech­niques to dis­patch the undead, there were flaws such as learn­ing to time each attack or risk falling off a stage. Also, whichev­er part­ner spir­it Trevor teams up with, the part­ner takes dam­age, cre­at­ing a strug­gle to sur­vive in cer­tain stages. I also learned that you col­lect stone hearts to pow­er weapons and if Alu­card is your part­ner, he would turn into a bat. That’s fine but that skill eats up your hearts and if you run out, he could turn back into human form putting him and Trevor in a MAJOR bind.

Adding to the frus­tra­tion, there is a time lim­it to com­plete each stage, adding either chal­lenge to game­play or mak­ing you curse and smash your con­troller to pieces.

A word to the wise: Dracula’s Curse is chal­leng­ing but LOOK hard for spe­cial items such as leg of were­wolf, which refills your life meter; and, the invis­i­bil­i­ty potion that also gives tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion to give you the upper hand. Also, if you must go up a row of stairs, ALWAYS press up on the con­trol pad to walk oth­er­wise you will fall and lose a life.

The game’s music is excel­lent, stay­ing true to the series’ theme of clas­si­cal hor­ror. If you heard a Castl­e­va­nia theme before, you won’t hear any­thing new here. This isn’t Castl­e­va­nia IV just yet, after all. The replay val­ue is there although it will require you to have patience to and excel­lent strate­gic skills when choos­ing paths to take and part­ner spir­its to work with.

Castl­e­va­nia III: Dracula’s Curse is an exam­ple of how Kon­a­mi built a respect­ed fran­chise in its ear­ly days with­out dis­re­spect­ing their devel­op­ment staff and let­ting them do what they do best. Dracula’s Curse is good but not with­out its quirks and flaws. If you love old-school plat­form­ing in the Castl­e­va­nia con­trol vein, jump in and part­ner up to take on Drac­u­la once more.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 — 3Q2020 issue

Gun­dam, Dynasty War­riors car­ry on tradition

Gun­dam, what a strong sound­ing name.”- Lacus Clyne, Mobile Suit Gun­dam SEED/SEED Destiny

Next to my love for Mega Man, I’m also a fan of the Gun­dam series. Since 1979, the space mecha ani­me has brought thought-pro­vok­ing per­spec­tives on issues of human­i­ty and war, and has cre­at­ed a stan­dard for all sci-fi series, espe­cial­ly ani­me with sci-fi and mecha ele­ments. Through var­i­ous series, mer­chan­dise (includ­ing video games for var­i­ous con­soles) and oth­er media, Gun­dam and its stu­dio, Sun­rise Inc., has secured its place among the GOATs of glob­al pop cul­ture. Lyn­d­sey and I have also tak­en a lik­ing to the Dynasty War­riors game series. I thought: “What would hap­pened if a Dynasty War­riors game was made with Gun­dam ele­ments?” I got my answer in Dynasty War­riors Gun­dam 3.

In DWG3, you play as a cho­sen indi­vid­ual who has been select­ed to a pass a test of skill and deter­mi­na­tion. Your requests come from a mys­te­ri­ous Gun­dam suit that asks why humanity’s exis­tence in the uni­verse should con­tin­ue. This test is con­duct­ed in four orig­i­nal sto­ry arcs that pair char­ac­ters from var­i­ous Gun­dam series such as the MS Gun­dam, Gun­dam Wing, G Gun­dam, Gun­dam 00, Gun­dam Uni­corn and oth­ers who have hero­ic, vil­lain­ous or neu­tral opin­ions to this mys­te­ri­ous Gundam’s test. These arcs also con­tain side mis­sion that explains each rep­re­sent­ed series’ his­to­ry, rein­force a group’s cama­raderie or dis­plays each mobile suit’s spe­cial abilities. 

Con­trol of these suits is easy whether you use the PlaySta­tion 3’s ana­log sticks or con­trol pad. Shoot­ing and melee attacks are flaw­less, and good con­trols help to pull off some dev­as­tat­ing com­bos to dri­ve oppo­nents back for a moment. In true Dynasty War­riors form, your char­ac­ter will have a part­ner or part­ners with sim­i­lar abil­i­ties and less­er suits to help take down cer­tain key areas of stages. I’m sug­gest­ing three pieces of advice when play­ing: Plan to take places such as repair hang­ers, suit fac­to­ries and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers ASAP; know when to team up with your com­rades to take on stronger suit; and, keep an eye on your side map to avoid being lost. 

At the end of each stage, your char­ac­ter will be shown how many expe­ri­ence points he or she earned and how much gold was col­lect­ed. These ele­ments help you to earn new skills and more stronger suits. To help your char­ac­ter out, there is a tuto­r­i­al stage with prac­tice mis­sions that will help them earn more points or to refresh basic skills. 
The graph­ics were designed as if you are play­ing in an actu­al Gun­dam episode with spe­cial detail giv­en to the suits and their sur­round­ing envi­ron­ments. Nam­co Bandai and Koei did a great job with keep­ing the game’s for­mu­la sim­ple: Keep Dynasty War­riors ele­ments intact while adding Gun­dam elements. 

The sound is on point with the addi­tion of Dol­by Dig­i­tal Sound ensur­ing that every sound effect stays true to Gundam’s lega­cy of high-lev­el ani­me action. Cred­it should also be giv­en to the Ocean Group for assist­ing with voice cast­ing, which includ­ed some of the orig­i­nal ani­me Eng­lish voic­es per­form­ing their respec­tive char­ac­ters for the game. The replay val­ue of DWG3 is very high and is per­fect for a Gun­dam enthu­si­ast or for a friend­ly scrim­mage at your local ani­me convention.

Gun­dam is and will always be the absolute stan­dard bear­er in sci-fi mecha ani­me. DWG3 is an exam­ple of how to build an ani­me mas­ter­piece and present it for a dif­fer­ent medi­um. With its 40th anniver­sary, the Gun­dam name has earned the respect of many ani­me fans new and old with a qual­i­ty title such as Dynasty War­riors Gun­dam 3 to car­ry on the Gun­dam tradition. 

Fun facts

  • Gun­dam was not Sunrise’s only smash hit. They con­tin­ued the trend with the Big O, Cow­boy Bebop, Out­law Star and Code Geass, dis­play­ing Gun­dam design traits in each of those shows.
  • Gun­dam has made its Hol­ly­wood appear­ance recent­ly in the movie “Ready Play­er One” and will do so again in a live-action movie being devel­oped and co-pro­duced with Leg­endary Pic­tures (Pacif­ic Rim, Poké­mon: Detec­tive Pikachu, Hang­over trilogy).
  • Brad Swaile, Richard Cox, Bri­an Drum­mond, Michael Adamwaite and Kir­by Mor­row are five mem­bers of the Eng­lish voice cast that reprised their orig­i­nal respec­tive roles. Swaile and Cox played Amuro and Kai in the orig­i­nal Gun­dam and returned to voice Set­suna and Allelu­jah in Gun­dam 00. Mor­row and Swaile also played Trowa and Qua­tre while Drum­mond voiced Zechs/Milliardo Peace­craft in Gun­dam Wing. Adamwaite voiced Rib­bons in Gun­dam 00.

J‑Stars Victory Plus — 3Q2020 issue

Jump into this fan­tas­tic ani­me series brawler

If you’re a man­ga afi­ciona­do like me, you’ve heard of Shon­en Jump mag­a­zine. For 50 years, Japan-based pub­lish­er Shueisha Inc. brought to the world to leg­endary char­ac­ters such as Son Goku, Mon­key D. Luffy and Naru­to Uzi­ma­ki. With these char­ac­ters and their respec­tive series, they became overnight hits in Japan with var­i­ous movies, mer­chan­dise (includ­ing video games) and sep­a­rate graph­ic nov­els. It was only a mat­ter of time that the SJ phe­nom­e­non would branch out to the rest of the world being pub­lished in var­i­ous lan­guages includ­ing Eng­lish. Shon­en Jump, undis­put­ed­ly, has become the stan­dard of intro­duc­ing new ani­me and man­ga series. J‑Stars Vic­to­ry VS+ is an exam­ple of that standard.

Pub­lished by Nam­co Bandai and co-devel­oped with Spike Chun­soft, J‑Stars takes more than 50 char­ac­ters from 32 series with­in the Shon­en Jump uni­verse and pits them against each oth­er in var­i­ous loca­tions with­in each SJ series. The sto­ry mode con­sists of each SJ char­ac­ter prepar­ing for the “Jump Bat­tle Tour­na­ment,” devised by the god of Jump World to deter­mine its strongest cham­pi­ons who will defend it from evil forces pos­ing as strong fighters.

With­in the sto­ry mode there are four arcs: Dynam­ic with Luffy, Hope with Naru­to, Inves­ti­ga­tion with Toriko and Goku and Pur­suit with Ichi­go. Regard­less of the arc you choose, your char­ac­ter and their respec­tive com­rades will face off against oth­ers to obtain essen­tial parts for your pro­vid­ed ship and badges required to enter the tour­na­ment. I like the sto­ry mode, and I also like that the arcade ver­sus mode is an option when you just want to pit char­ac­ters against each oth­er to see who would win. 
Con­trol is sim­ple, which has your char­ac­ters roam free dur­ing bat­tle to pull off their sig­na­ture moves along with a Drag­on Ball-styled map to track the battle’s progress. How­ev­er, the down­side is the game cam­era: It moves wild­ly about and con­stant­ly requires adjust­ment. At the end of each suc­cess­ful bat­tle, your char­ac­ters not only gain expe­ri­ence points, but also gain cur­ren­cy called “jump coins,” which upgrades skills and cloth­ing and unlocks var­i­ous theme music and addi­tion­al char­ac­ters to strength­en your team. 

All of the sound in the game is cour­tesy of Nam­co Bandai’s excel­lent sound depart­ment and the use of Dol­by Dig­i­tal. There isn’t an Eng­lish voice track in J‑Stars, but the Japan­ese voice track for each char­ac­ter is per­formed per­fect­ly, as if you’re watch­ing a Shon­en Jump ani­me. J‑Stars Vic­to­ry VS+ is per­fect for an ani­me con­ven­tion tour­na­ment or if you want to spend a day with friends immers­ing your­selves in Shon­en Jump lore. 

This ani­me-infused brawler is anoth­er tes­ta­ment to Shon­en Jump’s recog­ni­tion of being a leader in glob­al pop cul­ture and how ani­me and man­ga are quick­ly becom­ing visu­al arts that aren’t just for kids.

Fun facts

  • J‑Stars Vic­to­ry+ was billed as the “ulti­mate Jump game,” com­bin­ing past and new­er jump titles.
  • Unlike “Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com: Cross Gen­er­a­tion of Heroes,” licens­ing for all the Jump char­ac­ters was not a seri­ous issue. Accord­ing to pro­duc­er Koji Naka­ji­ma, the real prob­lem was deter­min­ing actions for char­ac­ters that do not fight. Solv­ing this prob­lem required numer­ous nego­ti­a­tions with Shueisha and the respect­ed licensee for each series to deter­mine what was and was not accept­able for those characters.
  • J‑Stars Vic­to­ry VS + intro­duced the “new class” of SJ series such as The Dis­as­trous Life of Sai­ki K., Gin­ta­ma, To Love Ru and Reborn!. These titles have been licensed for North Amer­i­ca by var­i­ous ani­me and man­ga distributors.

Mega Man X Collection — 2Q2019 issue

A mega col­lec­tion of Blue Bomber greatness

I’m a huge Mega Man fan. If allowed to, I would dec­o­rate GI head­quar­ters in every room with gear resem­bling Capcom’s infa­mous Blue Bomber. After Mega Man’s last adven­ture on the NES, I found that dur­ing the tran­si­tion from 8‑bit to 16-bit gam­ing a new char­ac­ter known as Mega Man X would appear, giv­ing the Mega Man series a new chap­ter set years after the orig­i­nal. While I played a few MMX games when it was on SNES and PSOne, I real­ized that I liked the X series but won­dered if Cap­com would do a col­lec­tion for the PlaySta­tion 2. My wish was grant­ed in Mega Man X Collection.

MMX Col­lec­tion is sim­ply as adver­tised: A col­lec­tion of the first Mega Man X games released. It con­sists of MMX and MMX2 from their SNES debut; MMX3 — anoth­er SNES game that was port­ed to PSOne; and MMX 4, 5 and 6, which were released for PSOne. There is also an unlock­able game, “Mega Man Bat­tle and Chase,” an exclu­sive nev­er released out­side of Japan.

In each MMX game, you take con­trol of “X,” a new ver­sion of the Blue Bomber cre­at­ed by Dr. Light years after the orig­i­nal Mega Man. X is a more pow­er­ful ver­sion of our blue titan but with free will. 100 years lat­er, after Dr. Light’s death, X was found by Dr. Cain, a robot­ics expert who devel­oped robots based on X’s design known as “reploids.” How­ev­er, this began a rise of rebel­lious reploids, known as mav­er­icks, which led to the for­ma­tion of a group known as mav­er­ick hunters to stop them. Alas, the mav­er­ick hunter’s leader Sig­ma became a mav­er­ick (and the series’ main vil­lain), forc­ing X to team up with anoth­er mav­er­ick hunter named Zero to stop Sigma’s plan for glob­al domination.

Con­trol of X is sim­ple as any reg­u­lar side-scrolling game, espe­cial­ly with the option of switch­ing between the ana­log sticks or direc­tion­al but­tons. X’s main weapon, the X‑Buster, and oth­er weapons he acquires from a lev­el boss can be pow­ered up in addi­tion to find­ing upgrad­ed boots, hel­met and armor via secret areas in each lev­el. Using a sub screen, I appre­ci­at­ed that it was under­stand­able and sim­ple in orga­niz­ing items and weapons since, in oth­er side scrolling games, look­ing for need­ed items is time con­sum­ing and morale-drain­ing. Zero is also playable in MMX 4, 5 and 6 where con­trol­ling him is a guar­an­teed good time as he is not only equipped with his own Buster weapon, but also his sig­na­ture Z‑Saber cuts ene­mies down to size.

The graph­ics have been refreshed, ensur­ing that a thought­ful bal­ance of action-adven­ture and ani­me-styles ele­ments are intact. Capcom’s music depart­ment did an awe­some job remix­ing each game’s sound­tracks. With the amount of detail put into this game, the replay val­ue is high, espe­cial­ly if you’re want­i­ng to get deep­er into the Mega Man lore.

The Mega Man X Col­lec­tion is the per­fect answer for a devot­ed fan­base of the Blue Bomber. While the MMX series may be in ques­tion, I hope Cap­com hears Mega Man’s fans’ calls to con­tin­ue his leg­endary return to gam­ing as the MMX col­lec­tion is a great way to con­tin­ue Mega Man X’s hunt.

1942 — 2Q2019 issue

Pacif­ic bat­tles fly in 8‑bit form

Capcom’s warfight­ing 1940 series reminds me of the good times when arcade gam­ing ruled my week­ends and I was for­tu­nate to find some rare gems that lat­er became gam­ing clas­sics. Dur­ing that time, I played 1942 in the arcade and on the NES and walked away from this expe­ri­ence with some valu­able infor­ma­tion: 1. The first game in a series may or may not guar­an­tee future suc­cess; and, 2. The cre­ators of some of our favorite games had to cut their teeth on low-tier games before they received the big breaks that made them what they are today. One of those games is 1942.

1942 is a ver­ti­cal-scrolling shoot­er that takes place on the Pacif­ic front of World War II. You take con­trol of a P‑38 Light­ning plane assigned to go to Tokyo and destroy the Impe­r­i­al Air Force fleet.

Game­play of 1942 is sim­ple: You can move either ver­ti­cal­ly or hor­i­zon­tal­ly. Con­sist­ing of 32 stages, the P‑38 will be chal­lenged by Ki-61s, A6M Zeros, and Ki-48s with a long-range bomber known as G8N as lev­el boss­es. To give the P‑38 Light­ning a fight­ing chance against these planes, it can do air rolls or ver­ti­cal loops. If you time your attacks right, some planes will drop upgrad­ed fire­pow­er or an escort team of two small­er fight­er planes to com­bat the relent­less assault from planes that WILL attempt to knock you out of the skies, espe­cial­ly if you’re just tak­ing off from your air­craft carrier.

While I liked 1942, there are some issues that annoyed me. Tim­ing of move­ments, includ­ing the ver­ti­cal drops and air rolls, must be pre­cise because of the high chance of being shot down by ene­my planes. Also, you must watch for attack­ing planes in front and behind as the Ki-48s are mas­ter­ful at get­ting the unsus­pect­ed into close-area shootouts, which will reduce the num­ber of lives quickly.

The music qual­i­ty of 1942 is an acquired taste as the repeat­ed use of a snare drum made me think that Cap­com phoned in a lack­lus­ter drum beat, which made me turn the vol­ume down to con­tin­ue play­ing. The chal­lenge is decent since you will be on your toes to avoid ene­my fire non­stop. It has strong replay val­ue and would be a great time-killer as a nos­tal­gia trip for arcade vet­er­ans. Also, it’s a great exam­ple for those who want to know how side-scrolling games played a major impact in the gam­ing world.

1942 serves not only as an icon in gaming’s hall of fame but also dou­bles as one of Capcom’s entries into the gam­ing world. It helps that 1942 was the start of look­ing at Cap­com as an up-and-com­ing game com­pa­ny want­i­ng to expand beyond its home of Osa­ka, Japan.

Fun facts:

    • The P‑38, Ki-61, A6M and Ki-48 were actu­al war planes used heav­i­ly in the Pacif­ic Con­flict between the U.S. and Japan. The com­pa­nies who built them — Lock­heed Mar­tin, Kawasa­ki, and Mit­subishi — are well-estab­lished in the defense indus­try and con­tin­ue to play vital roles in var­i­ous areas of aero­space technology.
    • 1942 was Yoshi­ki Okamoto’s debut game for Cap­com. He was also the orig­i­nal game design­er of Konami’s Gyruss. Because of inter­nal dis­putes involv­ing pay, he was fired from Kon­a­mi. After 1942’s suc­cess, Okamo­to remained at Cap­com where he played an impor­tant role in pro­duc­ing Final Fight, Street Fight­er II and Biohazard/Resident Evil. He retired from game devel­op­ment for con­soles in 2012 and is cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing games for var­i­ous mobile devices.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm — 3Q2018 issue

The ulti­mate beginning

Naru­to Uzi­ma­ki. From 1999 to 2017, Shon­en Jump Magazine’s hyper­ac­tive nin­ja knuck­le­head had a major impact on the geek cul­ture scene as well as ani­me and man­ga. From graph­ic nov­els, to oth­er nov­el­ty mer­chan­dise and video games, many ani­me fans world­wide fol­lowed his rise from out­cast of his nin­ja vil­lage to its leg­endary sav­ior. Dur­ing Naruto’s rise, there were many video games for var­i­ous sys­tems that fol­lowed every adven­ture of our blonde, blue-eyed hero and his friends. I got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play one of the Naru­to-based games after a recent game shop­ping expe­di­tion when I found Naru­to: Ulti­mate Nin­ja: Storm.

Ulti­mate Nin­ja: Storm is a hybrid con­sist­ing of fight­ing and role play­ing game ele­ments. Free Bat­tle mode allows you to choose one main fight­er with two back­up char­ac­ters against anoth­er play­er or the console’s choice of char­ac­ters in var­i­ous stages tak­en right out of the Naru­to uni­verse. Free Bat­tle also allows you to earn extra cash if you defeat their oppo­nents using var­i­ous moves known as nin­jut­su. The extra coinage will be need­ed in the role play­ing mode, Ulti­mate Mis­sion Mode, dur­ing which you con­trol Naru­to in var­i­ous mis­sions that involve episodes 1 to 135 of the ani­me series. 

I found every­thing from the cin­e­mat­ic intro to actu­al game­play excel­lent. Nam­co Bandai brought their expe­ri­ence in mak­ing games like Tekken and Soul Cal­ibur and com­bined it with Masashi Kishimoto’s guid­ance in devel­op­ing the per­fect exam­ple of a video game based on a pop­u­lar ani­me fran­chise. Every stage, land­mark and char­ac­ter are por­trayed per­fect­ly in the game mak­ing me as if I was trans­port­ed to the Hid­den Leaf Vil­lage. The con­trols are easy and will help you pull off some up-close cool com­bos when cer­tain but­tons are dis­played. They’re also great dur­ing the explo­ration of Ulti­mate Mis­sion Mode as you’re try­ing to find hid­den items and mis­sion locations. 

Anoth­er cool thing about the game was that the music from the ani­me series was not only kept intact, but also was done in Dol­by Dig­i­tal Sound. The voice act­ing in the game is high cal­iber thanks to Nam­co Bandai work­ing with Viz Media and Stu­diopo­lis Inc. to bring togeth­er the orig­i­nal Eng­lish voice actors to reprise their respec­tive roles. Even with the excel­lent Eng­lish voice act­ing, you can also play the game in Japan­ese with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles for a more authen­tic feel. Any­one who has not played a Naru­to video game will find it per­fect for either a hot or rainy-day after­noon, or a friend­ly fight­ing game tour­na­ment at any ani­me convention.

Nam­co Bandai did an awe­some job of bring­ing Naru­to to the PS3 in addi­tion to pub­lish­ing addi­tion­al games based off this icon­ic fran­chise. For now, Naruto’s jour­ney to be hok­age has end­ed suc­cess­ful­ly, with a son ready to take up his own chal­lenges. Ulti­mate Nin­ja: Storm is a great start show­cas­ing Naruto’s ear­ly adventures.

Devil May Cry 4 — 3Q2018 issue

Dev­il’s in the details: DMC4 a nice break from Dante

Capcom’s “Dev­il May Cry” series is a game that has basi­cal­ly rede­fined the term “hack-and-slash” in video games. With the first three games using hack-and-slash style as well as action-adven­ture ele­ments, I won­dered what new sur­pris­es would the fourth install­ment of the series bring and to which system? 

DMC 4 fea­tures demon-hunter extra­or­di­naire Dante, but the sto­ry and main char­ac­ter has changed for a more intense expe­ri­ence. Tak­ing place in a remote island town called For­tu­na, you assume the role of Nero — a younger ver­sion of Dante — who is a mem­ber of the Order of the Sword. The Order of the Sword is a mil­i­tant reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion formed to destroy demons based on the actions of the Demon-Knight Spar­da, who rebelled against the demon under­world to pro­tect human­i­ty. At a recent cer­e­mo­ny to hon­or Spar­da, Dante smash­es though a sky­light and kills the priest lead­ing the cer­e­mo­ny, set­ting off a chain of events that would not only put Dante and Nero on a col­li­sion course with each oth­er, but also would lead both demon-hunters through a greater mys­tery to find out the true inten­tions of the Order and to stop a more vicious plot of a demon-invasion.

While Dante’s role in DMC 4 is not as the main char­ac­ter, he does still play a key role in the game as a playable char­ac­ter in cer­tain scenes. Nero is not to be tak­en light­ly either as his arse­nal con­sists of his Dev­il Bringer arm, his mechan­i­cal sword Red Queen and his dou­ble bar­rel revolver, Blue Queen. Nero can gain an extra advan­tage to accom­plish his mis­sion by gath­er­ing “Red Souls,” DMC’s orig­i­nal game cur­ren­cy, and “Proud Souls,” a new cur­ren­cy. After a mis­sion is com­plet­ed, Pride Souls can pow­er up Nero’s tools rang­ing from extend­ing the Dev­il Bringer’s reach to more pow­er­ful shots from the Blue Queen. The con­trols for Dante and Nero are easy to use thanks to the PS3’s Six Axis controller’s built-in ana­log fea­ture, which I found help­ful with cam­era issues from time to time. 

The excel­lent detail that is used in each lev­el comes to life in the back­ground and cin­e­mat­ic scenes. These were done with high def­i­n­i­tion tech­nol­o­gy that will make you feel like you are play­ing with a mas­ter­piece of art instead of a video game. Capcom’s sound team brings their A‑game again. Each sound and vocal effect com­bined with Dol­by Dig­i­tal Sound gives an orches­tral qual­i­ty to the game. Cap­com did a great job in voice and motion cap­ture for DMC 4. John­ny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Street Fight­er IV) brought Nero to life and Reuben Lang­don repris­ing his role as Dante.

Dev­il May Cry 4 shows what Cap­com is capa­ble of doing when they let their devel­op­ment team do its job: make their games enjoy­able. DMC4 is a chal­leng­ing, but enjoy­able way to kill free time when you want to get your demon-hunt­ing on. The replay val­ue is strong espe­cial­ly if you are a vet­er­an DMC play­er; this game is worth your hard-earned cash.