Retro Replay — Vampire Darkstalkers Collection — 3Q2020 issue

A bit­ing good collection

Col­lec­tions come a dime a dozen these days. Every­one wants to have a pack­age of their best fight­ing games and then upsell them for the next cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions since the cur­rent con­sole might not have back­ward com­pat­i­bil­i­ty. Cap­com is no stranger to this, hav­ing released sev­er­al Street Fight­er col­lec­tions over the years. The final game series to get this treat­ment was Dark­stalk­ers aka Vam­pire in Japan with the Vam­pire Collection.
For those who are unini­ti­at­ed, Cap­com does make fight­ing games beyond Street Fight­er: Vam­pire doesn’t get as much due and press as Street Fight­er but is just as good. But let’s get into the meat and pota­toes of why you’re here: Is the col­lec­tion any good? I can resound­ing­ly answer yes. It’s every­thing you’d want of the Vam­pire series, includ­ing games that nev­er made it to the U.S.

Mak­ing up the col­lec­tion are Vampire/Darkstalkers, Vam­pire Hunter/Darkstalkers 2, Vam­pire Savior/Darkstalkers 3, Vam­pire Hunter 2, Vam­pire Sav­ior 2 and what Cap­com calls a hyper ver­sion of Sav­ior 2, which pits all ver­sions of the char­ac­ters against each oth­er. In those five games is a deep fight­ing game engine with great mechan­ics and an inter­est­ing sto­ry­line that invokes mon­sters of mythology.

The game­play style didn’t change too much between games but it’s unique and has char­ac­ter enough to encour­age even the most hard­ened street fight­er to come back and learn more. There are advanced tech­niques such as Dark Force and chains to learn as well as movesets that require some con­troller gym­nas­tics to mas­ter. The char­ac­ter design in each of the collection’s games is a bit wonky from the age of Capcom’s over­styl­ized car­toon­ish era of hand-drawn sprites but it doesn’t look terrible. 

The best thing about the series — oth­er than the game­play — is the sound­track. Hunter 2 and Sav­ior 2 nev­er made it to the U.S., and Dark­stalk­ers in gen­er­al didn’t do as well as Cap­com would have liked. And that’s why this col­lec­tion is a must-buy item. You won’t see this in Amer­i­ca, and it should be. The games are pre­sent­ed in their orig­i­nal form with all ver­sions avail­able. This pack­age is worth find­ing and importing.

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.

Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition — 3Q2018 issue

Father of fight­ing games gets super upgrade

Gone are the days of roam­ing a local arcade to play the throng of would-be chal­lengers and pre­tenders to the throne of the best local fight­ing game cham­pi­on. In its place are home con­soles designed to push the pow­er of the arcade. Fight­ing game fran­chis­es have had to keep up or suf­fer irrel­e­van­cy or, worse yet, extinc­tion. The ear­li­est king of the genre, Street Fight­er, has had a chal­lenge of sorts: con­tin­ue for­ward or go the way of its ride-a-longs of the ‘90s. Super Street Fight­er IV attempts to con­tin­ue the tra­di­tion with most­ly success.

Super SFIV, at its core, is a fight­ing fan’s dream. A robust engine with plen­ty of options for either the novice or the advanced, SSFIV makes play­ing a fight­ing game easy. Even if you haven’t played since the hey­day of SFII, there’s a lot of com­pelling con­tent here to draw you in and get you start­ed in the world of com­pet­i­tive dig­i­tal fight­ing. Var­i­ous modes are here, ready for a deep dive, and there are more than enough new char­ac­ters and old stal­warts to make fight­ing inter­est­ing. The gen­er­al rule of thumb is, if the char­ac­ter was in SFII and its deriv­a­tives, SFIII or SF Alpha, there’s a good chance they are avail­able for play in SSFIV.

Fight locales asso­ci­at­ed with many of the char­ac­ters are avail­able with a great sound­track accom­pa­ny­ing them. SSFIV does an excep­tion­al job of remind­ing more expe­ri­enced fight­ing enthu­si­asts of the Street Fight­er ori­gins and piquing the curios­i­ty of new­er fight fans. The con­trols also hear­ken to the old days, so much so that it’s easy to pick up and play and learn about the dif­fer­ent sys­tems afford­ed to each char­ac­ter. Most new char­ac­ters will play like an old­er char­ac­ter on the ros­ter so it’s easy to learn the nuance of fight­ing with a new­com­er if you’re expe­ri­enced with pre­vi­ous SF games. If you aren’t expe­ri­enced, there’s a great tuto­r­i­al mode that runs through com­bo and movesets of each char­ac­ter to teach the basics. That var­ied lev­el of depth goes a long way toward replay value.

My one gripe out of all the love­li­ness that is the mixed nos­tal­gia fest of SSFIV is that it’s Cap­com being Cap­com as usu­al. For the unini­ti­at­ed, Cap­com gained a rep­u­ta­tion in the ’90s for hav­ing a sol­id fran­chise in Street Fight­er II but not being able to count to three. The con­stant upgrad­ing and reis­su­ing of SFII got old quick­ly. And, quite frankly, Cap­com hasn’t learned its les­son because Street Fight­er IV should not have mul­ti­ple retail ver­sions of its upgrades. Arcade Edi­tion should have been an update that could be bought dig­i­tal­ly and down­loaded to patch the game up to what­ev­er ver­sion Cap­com want­ed con­sumers to have. Even when the orig­i­nal ver­sion was released, the capa­bil­i­ty was there. This just screams of cash grab and Cap­com being igno­rant of tire­some tac­tics wear­ing on the fan base. The fact that Ultra Street Fight­er IV — one more ver­sion beyond this one — exists is proof pos­i­tive of this.

Oth­er than the fias­co of mul­ti­ple ver­sions, Cap­com has a sol­id win­ner on its hands with the fourth entry in the long-run­ning series even as it fades into the back­ground in favor of SFV. If SFV is not your cup of tea, but you want to stay cur­rent with the world of Street Fight­er, SFIV is a good bal­ance and at the right price now to delve into the world of Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li.

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.

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory — 1Q2017 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of GiantBomb.com

Max­i­mo con­tin­ues the quest to res­cue the princess

I have a love and hate rela­tion­ship with Cap­com. For every game they devel­op and pub­lish that will be a smash hit by being more cre­ative and stick­ing to the basics, they churn out five or six copies of the same game with­out break­ing any new ground (i.e. Street Fight­er V). I won’t even men­tion how they stud­ied the Kon­a­mi code of dis­pos­ing of one of their great­est game series and its leader. With this view of Cap­com off my chest, let’s look at a game that is orig­i­nal and has become a suc­ces­sor to the clas­sic games Ghosts ‘N Gob­lins and Adven­ture Island: Max­i­mo: Ghosts to Glory.

You take the role of said char­ac­ter, Max­i­mo, who, after return­ing from a bat­tle to pro­tect his king­dom, finds out that his main lady Queen Sophia is cap­tured by his once-trust­ed advis­er, Achille. To make mat­ters worse, Achille has devel­oped a drill that has pierced the under­world, allow­ing him to cre­ate an army of undead mon­sters to ter­ror­ize the king­dom. All is not lost as is seems that as Max­i­mo was free-falling, the Grim Reaper makes a deal for him to return to the liv­ing world in exchange for return­ing the lost souls to the under­world. Max­i­mo accepts and begins his quest to free Sophia and restore the peace tak­en by Achille. 

Max­i­mo retains the ele­ments from Ghosts ‘N Gob­lins and Adven­ture Island but allows free­dom to explore all of the stages thanks to its 3D design. Max­i­mo has the abil­i­ty to run, jump and crouch to avoid ene­mies and is eas­i­ly con­trolled with use of the ana­log con­trol stick. Max­i­mo is also ready for bat­tle with his trusty sword and shield, which can be thrown at approach­ing ene­mies and capa­ble of wip­ing out all ene­mies on the screen if the right pow­er-ups are applied. In addi­tion to his sword and shield, Max­i­mo has his armor which, if all the parts are gath­ered, he becomes invin­ci­ble for a brief period. 

A heads up: Make sure that Max­i­mo keeps his armor as long as pos­si­ble since like Arthur in Ghosts ‘N Gob­lins, if Max­i­mo takes too many hits, he would be down to his box­ers, which would lead to his death if he takes anoth­er hit. Also, con­trol­ling Max­i­mo is not dif­fi­cult, but some prac­tice is rec­om­mend­ed to get adjust­ed to mov­ing around. 
The stages are excel­lent­ly designed and guar­an­teed to make you feel that you’re in Maximo’s world. The game’s music is an enjoy­able mix of orig­i­nal and remas­tered tracks from the orig­i­nal Ghosts ‘N Gob­lins. The chal­lenge lev­el is ridicu­lous­ly high, guar­an­tee­ing great replay value. 

Max­i­mo: Ghosts to Glo­ry is one of those type of games that will please fans of old-school adven­ture gam­ing who want to play the genre with the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy. In my opin­ion, Max­i­mo is also a exam­ple of what Cap­com can do when they allow cre­ativ­i­ty to flour­ish instead of always milk­ing their gold­en fran­chis­es to death. 
Well done, Cap­com. Well done.

Magical Tetris Challenge — 1Q2017 issue

When Tetris and Dis­ney col­lide

Mess­ing with an old and uni­ver­sal­ly loved favorite such as Tetris is a risky propo­si­tion. You can get it right or mess it up hor­ri­bly, where it is for­ev­er known as the “messed up ver­sion of Tetris.” Luck­i­ly, Mag­i­cal Tetris Chal­lenge by Cap­com man­ages to dodge that label and add a few ele­ments to the main game to refresh an old­er title.

Mag­i­cal Tetris is, at its core, a fun game with lots of charm to spread around. There are mul­ti­ple modes to choose from and the vari­ety helps the replay fac­tor long after the nov­el­ty of com­bo­ing wears off. The sto­ry mode is the oth­er mode most played at GI, and is based off the new Mag­i­cal Tetris mode. While I’m not fond of the cliffhang­er by dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el method, the sto­ry is ser­vice­able and moves the action for­ward with a nice added Dis­ney touch. Main­stays such as Mick­ey, Min­nie, Don­ald and Goofy fill out the cast, though you can only play as these four.

Mag­i­cal Tetris earns its bread and but­ter in the way it builds on the Tetris for­mu­la. With Tetris in the name and designed to appeal to a mass audi­ence using that, Mag­i­cal Tetris starts out with the basics: Cre­ate and clear lines using sev­en let­ter-shaped pieces. Clear four lines and you get a Tetris.

Ah, but here­in lies the addi­tions to Mag­i­cal Tetris and where the basics end and advanced play begins: For every line cleared, a small amount of ener­gy is added to a mag­ic meter. Fill up the mag­ic meter and you get what we’ve termed at GI as a break­down: All pieces restruc­ture to cre­ate a neat space and a large por­tion of the well where your pieces fall is wiped clean. Also, clear­ing lines cre­ates com­bos, which can be coun­tered until a piece is shaped 10 by 10. Com­bos and coun­ters cre­ates a back and forth, dur­ing which odd­ly shaped pieces are cre­at­ed and fall into the play field. By set­ting up the pieces in a decent shape in your well, you can achieve what is called a pen­tris, or five lines cleared
simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

Com­bo­ing and coun­ter­ing makes the game­play fun and adds an increas­ing lev­el of com­pet­i­tive­ness and urgency to every match. Even if you’re not the most Tetris-com­pe­tent gamer, Mag­i­cal Tetris does an excel­lent job invit­ing all skill lev­els in to learn and get bet­ter. The basics are quick­ly explained and the advanced tech­niques are made plain as you go along. That helps in the fran­tic atmos­phere of a spir­it­ed two-play­er human match, where any­thing and usu­al­ly every­thing can happen.

The game shines in its visu­als, which ben­e­fit from that Dis­ney touch. The game is bright and col­or­ful and designed in the way of Dis­ney games and ani­ma­tion, mean­ing it’s top-notch through and through. The graph­ics are still good for an N64-era game and haven’t aged bad­ly. The sound­track has aged well, too, and is still one of the best of the era. Each character’s stage is mem­o­rably themed and stands out enough for you to remem­ber it well after your game is over.
Hav­ing played the major­i­ty of the Tetris spin­offs and cre­ations out on the mar­ket for the past 30 years, I need to have some­thing that push­es me to play. Mag­i­cal Tetris suc­ceeds in adding to the Tetris for­mu­la just enough to buy its way in to my library and stick around through charm and abil­i­ty. This is an excel­lent Tetris spin job.

Devil May Cry 3 — 1Q2017 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of GiantBomb.com

Dance with the dev­il in Dan­te’s rebound adventure

When I final­ly got my own copy of Dev­il May Cry 3, I read that it brought back the melee action that made the first game awe­some to play, but it raised the bar for future install­ments of Capcom’s demon-slay­ing series. Was the praise heaped upon DMC3 well deserved or was this anoth­er way of Cap­com milk­ing a great game series dry for more cash? I got my answer in Dev­il May Cry 3: Dante’s Awak­en­ing, Spe­cial Edition.
Set as a pre­quel to the orig­i­nal DMC, we find our fear­less demon hunter Dante begin­ning to set up shop when a mys­te­ri­ous man named Arkham arrives with a invi­ta­tion from Dante’s broth­er, Vergil. This “invi­ta­tion” turns into a demon-style, reveal­ing that Vergil has not only helped in res­ur­rect­ing a ancient demon­ic tow­er, but also he wants Dante’s amulet to open a por­tal to con­nect the human and with the demon worlds. Dante, of course, is not pleased and sets off to stop Vergil and his plans of world domination.

DMC3 starts from the begin­ning as an explo­sive non­stop melee with brief but impor­tant tuto­ri­als for play­ers to mas­ter Dante’s moves and his sig­na­ture weapons. In addi­tion to the tuto­ri­als, four dif­fer­ent com­bat­ive arts called “styles” are avail­able to Dante, giv­ing him var­i­ous abil­i­ties to increase the pow­er of var­i­ous guns, strik­ing weapons, dodge attacks, and unleash­ing hand-to-hand com­bat with dev­as­tat­ing results. Once Dante defeats a cer­tain boss, he will be able to use them in the form of unique, var­i­ous weapons. There is a lock-on fea­ture to direct­ly tar­get ene­mies that, with prac­tice, will be a valu­able tool to rip ene­mies apart. Also in the spe­cial edi­tion, there are two modes of play: Nor­mal, which is basic DMC speed; or, Tur­bo, where EVERYTHING is clocked up 20 times the nor­mal speed of the game to test your skills. Also, you can play the game not only as Dante, but also as Vergil, who has some seri­ous weapon­ry and moves that would make Jubei Yagyu be in awe.

The game music fits each lev­el with a Phan­tom of the Opera type of feel while the bat­tle scenes uses an electronic/heavy met­al beat that heats up the bat­tles. My only issue is that it’s repet­i­tive every time I fight ene­mies, but it’s well done nonethe­less. The voice act­ing in DMC is top-notch thanks to Reuben Lang­don as Dante and Daniel South­worth (Pow­er Rangers: Time Force) as Vergil. Both actors did the motion cap­ture and voice work for their respec­tive characters.

With the good comes the bad, how­ev­er. While I appre­ci­ate the use of ana­log con­trol in addi­tion to mov­ing the screen cam­era around, the con­trols are tank-like. That is frus­trat­ing because if I’m sur­round­ed by ene­mies, I’m easy pick­ings. Also, the auto­mat­ic fir­ing abil­i­ty of Ebony and Ivory is still in DMC3 but it requires rapid press­ing instead of the flu­id ease found in the first game. I also had to stock up (and I mean STOCK UP) on red orbs to pur­chase pow­er ups for Dante and his weapons or learn new moves since the game was try­ing to do a stick-up job every time I need to make some upgrades. For­tu­nate­ly, I could replay each mis­sion to get more orbs or lev­el up.

DMC3 lives up to its high praise guar­an­tee­ing plen­ty of chal­lenge and replay val­ue when you just want to get medieval on things but legal­ly. This Spe­cial Edi­tion is a no-holds barred adven­ture in demon-slay­ing with the best in the busi­ness. If Cap­com wants to do a movie for Dev­il May Cry, I’m for it, but do it right; in oth­er words Cap­com, stick to the sto­ry and the pay­day bonan­za will take care of itself.

Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny — 3Q2015 issue

Onimusha 2 has ele­ments of sat­is­fy­ing sequel

Pre­vi­ous­ly, I reviewed the first game in Capcom’s crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed series Onimusha, where his­toric fig­ures and moments in Japan­ese his­to­ry were mixed with action/adventure gam­ing, third-per­son com­bat and brief moments of puz­zle solv­ing. After play­ing the first game, I won­dered if the sec­ond install­ment would keep the suc­cess­ful for­mu­la and raise the bar for future install­ments. When I received Onimusha 2: Samu­rai Des­tiny, I put on my cus­tom-made samu­rai armor and pre­pared to have my ques­tions answered.
Onimusha 2 con­tin­ues the plot of cho­sen war­riors work­ing to pre­vent Oda Nobuna­ga from uni­fy­ing Japan through the use of demons called gen­ma. Set 10 years after the first game, Nobuna­ga has risen to pow­er despite the defeat of his demon­ic bene­fac­tor Fort­in­bras, who was stopped by orig­i­nal pro­tag­o­nist Samanouske Akechi. With Samanouske in hid­ing to per­fect his new demon slay­ing abil­i­ties, it’s up to Jubei Yagu to take up the sword and acquire five leg­endary orbs and use them to stop Nobuna­ga before his dark plans of con­quest becomes real­i­ty and demons become the dom­i­nant species of Earth instead of man.
Game­play in Onimusha 2 remains the same but does have some new ele­ments. Dur­ing com­bat with ene­mies, you can still fight through ene­mies, but if timed cor­rect­ly, Jubei can per­form “Issen” (light­ing slash) on var­i­ous ene­mies, allow­ing him to con­tin­ue for­ward, giv­ing him a brief minute to defend him­self or retreat. Anoth­er ele­ment is the require­ment to solve cer­tain puz­zles to obtain cer­tain items or gain access to cer­tain areas. For these puz­zles, I high­ly advise uti­liz­ing patience and strong mem­o­riza­tion as they have a much stronger effect in Onimusha 2 than in the first game. The final new ele­ment is role play­ing that enhances the sto­ry­line. Jubei can not only inter­act with non-playable char­ac­ters, but also gain allies who will give infor­ma­tion or assist him in boss bat­tles pro­vid­ed he is in con­stant con­tact with them or if his allies are not involved in their own plans to defeat Nobunaga.
In addi­tion to new allies, you will notice that Jubei is nor­mal­ly equipped with his sword, but can acquire weapons such as bows and arrows, a matchlock gun and oth­er weapons that use the pow­er of nat­ur­al ele­ments. Jubei does have two oth­er advan­tages to help as well: The abil­i­ty to tem­porar­i­ly trans­form into Onimusha with enhanced attack pow­er; and, the pow­er to acquire var­i­ous souls with­out the use of a ogre gaunt­let to upgrade his armor and weapons.
The con­trols will not present any lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty espe­cial­ly if the Dual Shock ana­log con­troller is used. You can appre­ci­ate the qual­i­ty of the char­ac­ters’ move­ments in game­play and in the cut-scenes which may make one won­der if they are play­ing a samu­rai adven­ture game or watch­ing a movie.
The music per­formed in this game is excel­lent as Capcom’s sound team always brings their best efforts, guar­an­tee­ing that the music will be a treat. If you enjoy instru­men­tal Japan­ese themes, you’ll prob­a­bly love the soundtrack.
Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Des­tiny did exceed­ed my expec­ta­tions for a game to be con­sid­ered a true samu­rai mas­ter­piece. This not only shows that Cap­com can unleash their bril­liance if they real­ly try, but also shows oth­er devel­op­ers that in order to bring a superb gam­ing prod­uct involv­ing var­i­ous ele­ments of Japan­ese cul­ture, they must will­ful­ly present his­tor­i­cal ele­ments prop­er­ly while craft­ing a high qual­i­ty sto­ry­line. I can not wait to start the next chap­ter of the Onimusha series where the next des­tined hero strikes anoth­er blow to Nobunaga’s ambitions.

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.