Sep 13
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

Those who frequent Twitter may have come across @SEGACDGames, a rapidly growing account featuring spoof box art for SEGA’s ill-fated add-on.

The choice of format is a stroke of genius – the SEGA CD (aka the Mega CD) had a rather eccentric library, comprising of low budget FMV games, platformers starring quintessentially ‘90s heroes, terrible movie tie-ins, and numerous games with endorsements from long-forgotten celebrities.

Many of these never made it to Europe, which only makes the SEGA CD’s line-up even more intriguing. Today we’re looking at five of the weirdest games the system had to offer.

Panic!

Known as Switch in Japan, Panic! was billed as a point ‘n click adventure. That was pushing the definition somewhat – like many of the FMV games of the era, the whole thing was nothing more than a trial and error memory test.

After being sucked into their TV, Slap and his dog Stick had to find their way out by interacting with numerous everyday objects. Each button press generated a different animation, with some Monty Python-esque humour on display. Statues would flap their arms and fly away, elevators would grow and shrink and size, while messing around with a vacuum cleaner prompted it to suck up the backdrop, leaving nothing but a white screen.

Pressing buttons in a correct order was the only way to progress; there was no inventory, puzzles, or anything of the sort. A point ‘n clicker in the loosest sense.

US magazine GamePlayers wheeled out the good old “The developers must have been on drugs!” line for this one. Generally, though, critics found it to be rather pointless.

3 Ninjas Kick Back

The movie on which this platformer is based was a critical and commercial failure, making only $11m back on its budget of $20m. The game itself didn’t fare too well either. It wasn’t terrible; just an incredibly bland 2D platformer that offered nothing new.

Knowing that they had a possible flop on their hands, Sony Imagesoft (the Japanese giant had a small presence in the industry prior to launching the PlayStation) even made the decision to throw in fellow movie tie-in Hook to sweeten the deal.

Now here’s the weird part. Occasionally the action came to a standstill and Grandpa Mori Shintaro – the franchise’s equivalent of Mr Miyagi – popped up in the corner of the screen to explain objectives. He appears utterly confused by the whole thing. Bewildered, even. Think along the lines of Patrick Moore on GamesMaster after being asked yet another question about Zelda III.

Shame there wasn’t a cheat code to make Shintaro randomly pop up and yell “Toasty!”

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Sep 11
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Coming as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Destiny 2 is the UK’s new no.1. It had the biggest launch of 2017 so far, beating previous record holders Horizon Zero Dawn and Ghost Recon Wildlands.

There’s a slight sting in this tale, however. Physical sales were down an estimated 58% over the original Destiny, which launched three years ago. According to leaked figures, D1 sold 417k copies at launch whereas D2’s week one sales were 175k.

There are a few explanations for this shortfall. Firstly, digital sales aren’t included in the UK chart – it’s likely digital pre-orders far exceeded that of the original, with many eager to play the moment servers went live.

Secondly, the PC version isn’t due out until next month. And thirdly, the original Destiny launched on a Tuesday, giving it an extra day to generate sales.

We’d wager that some gamers have simply chosen to wait for a ‘complete edition’ instead, due to the franchises’ DLC oriented nature. The lack of pre-launch reviews may have also had an impact.

Despite all this, Destiny 2’s launch shouldn’t be marked down as a failure – Bungie reported 1.2m players were online concurrently over the weekend. US sales are yet to be revealed too, which could show an all-together different story.

The UK top 40 saw a few other new entries this week. Sony’s Knack II made #12, Capcom’s Monster Hunter Stories arrived at #21 – while also topping the 3DS chart – and the Switch’s Binding of Issac: Afterbirth debuted at #36.

As for other occurrences of note, ARK: Survival Evolved and Everybody’s Golf have both left the top ten after just one week on sale, while Yakuza Kiwami has left the top 40 entirely. It won’t be long until Agents of Mayhem suffers the same fate – Deep Silver’s colourful shooter is currently clinging in at #39. Only a sub-£20 price drop can save it now.

Sep 07
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Nine new Switch games make their merry way to the UK eShop this week – an unprecedented amount, trouncing even the console’s launch line-up.

LEGO Worlds (£24.99) and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ (£35.99) are both tardy conversions. We weren’t entirely smitten with LEGO Worlds on PS4/Xbox One – the toolset gives plenty of potential to build structures wild and wonderful, but the exploration aspect – which is structured similar to No Man’s Sky – is sloppy, and too random for its own good.

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ may be less familiar to Nintendo fans. It’s a remake of a popular PC dungeon crawler/Roguelike from 2011, which caused a degree of controversy due to its biblical storyline. It plays like a twin-stick shooter, with the idea being to escape from a basement. US gamers received it back in March where it gained numerous 8/10 reviews. If you can swallow the step price tag, it’s worth your time.

Whereas the above two titles are available both at retail and on the eShop, the following are download only.

Our NeoGeo title for this week is Blue’s Journey (£6.29), a colourful platformer from 1991. It looks visually crude when compared to later NeoGeo releases, so we’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably showing its age. Might be an idea to wait for Top Hunter’s eventual release.

Next up is a surprise release of Double Dragon 4 (£8.59). Unlike DD Neon, this instalment uses authentic 8-bit sprites. Reviews of the PS4 version from January were far from positive, resulting in a shameful 49% Metacritic.

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Sep 06
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Plenty of jokes have already been made about Sony’s decision to launch Knack 2 on the same day as Destiny 2, one of the most anticipated games of the year. While Sony’s timing is open to scrutiny – few new releases are out this week, seemingly because of Destiny 2 – it’s unlikely to harm Knack 2’s sales overall.

Not only has this unexpected sequel gained some surprisingly high review scores – including an 8.5 from God is a Geek and an 8.25 from Game Informer – but it’s aimed at a different demographic to Destiny. It may even manage to break the UK top five next week – Sony is on a roll with their PS4 exclusives currently, as seen with last week’s Everybody’s Golf.

So, Destiny 2. We were expected to see a handful of reviews on launch day, but the actual number was a big fat zero – servers didn’t go live until a few hours before launch. This lack of reviews isn’t too concerning – initial impressions are mostly positive. It apparently feels much more MMO-like than its predecessor, and it’s also a contender for one of this generation’s best looking – and best sounding – games. Eurogamer has their review planned for next week, and you can expect other outlets to follow suit. Some sites may even wait until the first raid goes live.

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Sep 06
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Last month Retro Gamer magazine teased the return of a classic ‘90s gaming mag. Making good on their word, the latest issue – #172 – comes packaged with a 52-page Super Play tribute magazine.

Super Play is regarded as one of the finest Nintendo magazines of its era, mostly due to its focus on import gaming and love of JRPGs. Indeed, it has been attributed to introducing a whole new audience to the genre, daring to put the likes of Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana 2 and Chrono Trigger on its cover. This was during a time where most publications relied on over-hyped licensed games and movie tie-ins to fly off newsstands.

Retro Gamer’s one off special brings the original Super Play team back together, complete with a cover illustration from Wil Overton. The SNES Classic Mini is the focus, with Star Fox 2 being the cover game. The long-lost SFX shooter gets the preview treatment (no review, sadly – blame NDAs), along with a developer interview.

The remaining SNES Classic Mini games are all reviewed in full, with those only found on the Super Famicom Mini appearing in the Import Reviews section.

Even by simply flicking through the pages it’s easy to tell that an incredible amount of thought and effort has gone into this, with the colourful page layouts and jaunty ‘90s writing style mimicked to perfection. It even has a couple of pages dedicated to the anime scene – a former Super Play staple.

While we’d love to see more one offs from Retro Gamer (Future Publishing’s acquisition of Imagine has obviously opened new doors), it clearly takes an incredible amount of planning. All that hard work wasn’t for nothing – this mini mag is a delight to behold.

Retro Gamer #172 hits newsagent’s shelves tomorrow, priced £5.99.

Sep 04
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the UK’s number one for the second week running. With the almighty Destiny 2 launching on Wednesday, it’s unlikely to make it for a third consecutive week.

The Ubisoft-published Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle barges in at #2. Chart-Track reports the difference in sales between Kingdom Battle and The Lost Legacy was narrow.

We can only speculate figures (actual sales totals aren’t provided), but we’d guess by a few hundred copies, or thereabouts.

Codemasters’ F1 2017 fall to #3 during its second week of release.

The evergreen GTA V drops once place to #4, and then at #5 it’s good old Crash Bandicoot.

Positions #6 through to #8 are held by fresh faces. Everybody’s Golf takes #6, ARK: Survival Evolved enters at #7 – with the Xbox One version being the biggest selling – while SEGA’s PS2 remake Yakuza Kiwami shows up at #8.

Overwatch: Game of the Year Edition is at #9, up all the way from #21. Then at #10 it’s the popular Xbox One pack-in Forza Horizon 3.

Madden NFL 18, Rainbow 6: Siege, Fallout 4 and Dishonored 2 all leave the top ten, meanwhile. Also spare a thought for Deep Silver’s Agents of Mayhem, which tumbles to #29.

Dead Alliance from Maximum Games and Capcom’s Resident Evil Revelations HD managed to make top 40 appearances too, albeit at a lowly #39 and #40 (respectively).

Sep 02
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

If animals could talk, would we still eat them? It’s an age-old question that’s often discussed. The common response is that if an animal could talk, it would possess a similar level of intelligence to that of a human. It wouldn’t be merely content to graze in a field; it would have questions about its existence – a desire to survive, form friendships, and live its life to its fullest.

Toby Fox’s indie hit Undertale poses a similar question. If a monster doesn’t want to fight, would you still kill it? Before handing you this moral quandary the opening to this role-player throws a curveball. The first enemy our human hero encounters, after tumbling into an underground monster-filled world, spares them no mercy. It’s a kill or be killed situation, and after a swift battle, the protagonist is left injured. A mild-mannered creature known as Toriel comes to their aid and after teaching the basics – her name is a wordplay on ‘tutorial’, see – she reiterates that the world is a dangerous place.

More importantly, though, she teaches the importance of showing mercy.

After leaving Toriel’s cosy abode – on a quest to meet the King and return to the surface – it soon transpires that the majority of critters our hero meets pose little threat. Most are either intrigued by the very presence of a human or downright terrified. It was humans that forced monsters into their underground domain, a story that has been passed down for generations. As such, humans are seen as being both strong and powerful. Some monsters don’t want to fight, while others only attack as a means of self-defence. Others just want to talk; a few even want to flirt.

And so Undertale is less about fighting and more about befriending. During the turn-based battles, the ‘Act’ screen features different options depending on which monster you’ve run into. The idea is to try and show empathy and understanding, using prompts, body language and speech bubbles to work out what the opposition requires to bring a conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

If this sounds fascinating, perhaps even revolutionary, that’s because it is. A degree of trial and error is called for, sometimes with humorous results, and once you’ve learned how to leave a monster be, the same trick can be applied to all future encounters. It’s a good job, then, that every area has unique monsters. They can also attack in pairs, altering their attack formations.

The battle system always gives the option to bludgeon enemies to death during an encounter, requiring a well-timed button press to a perform critical hit. Play Undertale this way – affectionally known as ‘The Genocide Route’ – and you’ll find it no different to any RPG, save for the fact that enemy attacks must be dodged via Wario Ware style impromptu mini-games. Play it either neutrally or pacifistically, however, and you’ll be treated to one of the most heart-warming gaming experiences.

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Aug 31
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

While the assortment of new eShop releases is smaller than usual this week, the fact that a new Mario game is amongst them means it’s still a more exciting week than most.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (£49.99) has surprised many – it’s smart, unique, delightfully silly, and very pleasing to the eye.

The current Metacritic score of 85% places it just outside the ten highest rated Switch games released so far, and a few positions higher than Splatoon 2 (with 83%). Not that this means a great deal…aside from the fact that Kingdom Battle is another reason to purchase a Switch.

Joining the unlikely crossover on the eShop are Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack (£31.49), League of Evil (£7.19), ACA NeoGeo Zed Blade (£6.29), and Sky Ride (£6.29).

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack features the 3DS’s Azure Striker GUNVOLT and Azure Striker GUNVOLT 2 in one package, complete with all DLC and a few improvements such as a new UI. It hasn’t seen a complete visual overhaul, though – only certain aspects have been given the HD treatment.

League of Evil meanwhile is an 8-bit style action game with a level designer. It originally released on mobiles back in 2011 where it gained a cult following. Nintendo Life reports that it’s more than deserving of a Switch conversion, praising the tight controls, bold visuals, and challenging difficulty level.

Sky Ride is a conversion likewise, this time of a PS4 title. Despite the reasonably accomplished visuals, it’s apparently a bit of a mess. We’re talking Vroom in the Night Sky level of awfulness here.

A demo of VOEZ also hits the Switch this week, while Shantae: Half-Genie Hero gets new DLC, titled Pirate Queen’s Quest (£8.99).

Over on 3DS there’s just one new release – Parascientific Escape – Crossing at the Farthest Horizon (£4.99), the third instalment in Circle’s well-received puzzle/adventure series.

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