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.

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.

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax — 3Q2020 issue

Ani­me fight­er cre­ates clash of titans

If you’re a fight­ing game enthu­si­ast like myself, you’re hap­py to see the com­mu­ni­ty enjoy­ing main­stream suc­cess now in the esports land­scape. For many years, it was rel­e­gat­ed to a fringe activ­i­ty, some­thing only nerds with noth­ing else bet­ter to do and a lack of hygiene were known for enter­tain­ing. Now, it’s all over the place and there’s mon­ey to be earned. But this is now a pro­fes­sion­al-grade enter­prise and ani­me games are tak­ing cen­ter stage. One of the best? Denge­ki Bunko: Fight­ing Climax.

The game series that I lov­ing­ly refer to as that “all-star ani­me fight­ing game” is a blast to play. You choose from 19 playable and 30 assist char­ac­ters from var­i­ous ani­me series who team up in duos to fight each oth­er. Even if you’re mild­ly into ani­me, there are some well-known stars of the medi­um and some obscure names that will make you do a lit­tle research. For instance, your favorite edi­tor is an ani­me junkie and has seen or heard of most of the series with some stand­out selec­tions that she’s per­son­al­ly watched: Oreimo, Boo­giepop Phan­tom, The Dev­il is a Part-Timer and Torado­ra. There are oth­ers like Sword Art Online that are main­stream enough to draw in even the newest ani­me watcher. 

So, how does it play? Much like you’d expect an ani­me game to play: Super floaty physics and off-the-wall attacks that feel like they do a ton of dam­age but prob­a­bly don’t in terms of fight­ing games. The game feels good once you start play­ing, and like most games of the genre, there are lev­els to the play sys­tem. You can come in on the ground floor of fight­ing game knowl­edge and be able to play and then there’s com­pet­i­tive fight­ing game-lev­el of play that requires inti­mate knowl­edge of the game’s sys­tems. That range serves the game well as a draw for mul­ti­ple groups and it’s a tes­ta­ment to Sega’s devel­op­ment prowess.

The voice act­ing, a major part of a project like this, must be top notch and it is. Because Sega gar­nered most of the ani­ma­tions’ voice actors, there’s a high lev­el of con­sis­ten­cy and gloss over the game’s audio. The back­grounds are also faith­ful to the dif­fer­ent ani­me series, so expect to be wowed with the pro­duc­tion values.

Over­all, if you’re into ani­me enough to go to con­ven­tions reg­u­lar­ly or just hav­ing a pass­ing inter­est, Denge­ki Bunko: Fight­ing Cli­max is a good buy. Yes, it’s got that “super ani­me” feel to it, but there’s a sol­id engine and mechan­ics wrapped up in an extreme­ly gor­geous pack­age that deserves to be played here. This fan­cy fan-ser­vice fight­er is enough to make an otaku like myself sit up and take notice.

ChuChu Rocket! — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamefaqs.com

An epic cat and mouse game

Cats in rock­ets try­ing to kill mice. As well as being weird, the age-old con­cept of a cat-and-mouse game is sur­pris­ing­ly addic­tive. In the form of the Dream­cast’s ChuChu Rock­et, the con­cept man­ages to jump the bar­ri­er of weird and branch into the realm of entertaining.

The game of cat-and-mouse is sim­ple: Lead mice to safe­ty in your rock­et with well-placed arrows while avoid­ing cats that oth­er play­ers will send to hunt the mice. The more mice you have left alive at the end, the bet­ter. It’s not hard to get start­ed once you have that basic under­stand­ing of the game, and it quick­ly becomes an addict­ing exer­cise of fran­tic fun to keep mice alive.

The fun thing about ChuChu Rock­et is the sheer ran­dom­ness of every­thing hap­pen­ing on the play­ing field. There are so many fac­tors that can affect your mice total at the end of a round that it’s impos­si­ble to win by tal­ent at mov­ing rodents alone. One must con­sid­er the fact that only three arrows can be placed by a char­ac­ter at any giv­en time. With lev­el lay­out also tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion, the idea that you can be in the lead for five sec­onds and that be enough to win is a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. Throw in the pow­er-up aspect and con­stant­ly chang­ing con­di­tions of the match area and there is a real recipe here for dis­as­ter dis­guised as fun.

It’s a good thing that the game is so fun to play because the graph­ics and the music sure aren’t going to draw you in by them­selves. The game looks like a 1999 game, which isn’t to say it’s hor­ri­ble, but it isn’t pret­ty, either. The graph­ics date them­selves might­i­ly, but that’s not real­ly any­thing to be ashamed of, since ChuChu Rock­et does­n’t exact­ly need to get by on the qual­i­ty of the scenery. The music is noth­ing to write home about, and frankly, I played with it turned off for the major­i­ty of the time that I’ve owned the game. It real­ly adds noth­ing to the over­all expe­ri­ence and after a short time, it becomes rather irri­tat­ing. But, like the graph­ics, it isn’t real­ly what you came here for.

What you’re going to take away from ChuChu Rock­et depends on what you’re look­ing for. In this day and age, 15 years after its orig­i­nal release, you can take a sol­id par­ty game from this that’s a high­ly quirky title wor­thy of many replays or you can see a weird 15-year-old game about cats chas­ing mice with ques­tion­able game con­di­tions attached. Rat infes­ta­tion issues aside, ChuChu Rock­et is a great rat race into nostalgia.