Saturday, November 27, 2010

Level Up: BEN

Monday, November 15, 2010

Level Up: Streets of Rage 2

There are some beat-em-up series of the late 80’s and early 90’s that are just truly memorable: from Double Dragon, to Final Fight and even today’s subject, Streets of Rage (known as Bare Knuckle in Japan). The big difference between Streets of Rage and the other two I mentioned is that the others were designed as arcade games and eventually ported onto game consoles, causing two possible things: 1, there would be a lot of differences that people would complain about and 2, that the “original” games would eventually be loss, since they were far less accessible. Did Streets of Rage use this to their full advantage? We’ll find out as I review Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis.

The game starts off one year after the events from the first game, with Adam Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding celebrating the anniversary their victor over Mr.X. The next morning, Axel gets a call from Eddie Hunter, the younger brother of Adam, better known as Skate. It seems Adam was kidnapped by Mr.X who is seeking revenge. After that, Skate, Axel and Blaze set off on a rescue mission to Mr.X’s hideout. Oh, and this wrestler, Max Thunder, tags along. Really there’s not much info on him, it just says he’s Axel’s friend and helping them out. I guess it makes sense, cause if I were Axel and I had a friend the size of Max Thunder, I’d probably want him along too. Anyways, the story is a classic revenge plot, but cheesy in such a way that just works in early 90’s video games. Wait a minute, why am I even talking about the plot? It honestly doesn’t come up in game, it’s easily missed and doesn’t hurt or help the game. Um, yeah… next?

Once I said “Beat-em-up” at the start of the review, you should have already had a basic idea of how this game would play: you walk around, punching enemies and move on. The controls are pretty good safe for the jumping, which is really slow and seemed to have a delay (don’t worry, I don’t remember any point where jumping became crucial). Other than that, the controls are pretty responsive, the characters move well in the directions you chose (though up and down is a little stiff) and the hit detections is pretty accurate. You also have a button you can press to use a special attack. Although it will use up some of your life, it’s pretty good at getting rid of enemies circling you. You also have a few other special moves you can do by pressing the right button combinations, but don’t worry if you don’t know them, they are far from necessary.

Using all your skill, you’ll travels far and wide to recover Adam. Sure, you may start off on a street of rage, but eventually you’ll be fighting in an amusement park of rage, a baseball stadium of rage, a boat of rage, a beach of rage, a factory of rage and an office building… of rage. Yeah, maybe the “Bare Knuckle” title was better after all (also invites less comparison with Street Fighters). Speaking of the names, every enemy in this is named. The main reason I bring this up is because a lot of the recolors (something I’ll get in soon) are named after a theme. Now, this may sound good when you start with someone named Storm (not the X-men), who sounds like he could destroy a tiny village, but eventually you’ll have to get names like “Fog”. Really what’s he going to do, summon Silent Hill? At least there isn’t any one named 60% chance of rain; that would be too terrifying.

As I’ve just mentioned, most of the enemies are recolors of other enemies seen earlier. Most of the designs are nothing too uncommon to beat-em-ups: normal guys in jean vests, shirtless bald guys, fat guys bouncing around, hot but bad-ass looking women, martial artists and dudes with Mohawks (seriously, that last one is a staple in the genre). They are recolored, but sometimes not enough to make a difference. Also… why have them? They aren’t stronger or any different and you still beat up a illogical amount of the same person… Though, this game is not devoid of any originality; most of the characters introduced as bosses are really unique and are well designed. Also, this is one of those advantages of starting out on the console: no odd downgraded look. This game looks like what this game should look like.

If it doesn’t sound like I’m overly impressed with this game, it’s probably because it’s not the game itself that makes it fun, it’s the genre. If you’re a fan of beat-em-ups, you WILL like this game. It plays it a little safe, yes (with the omission of the different endings seen in the first game) but while still keeping things interesting enough. The challenge is what’s really well done: it’s just at that level of difficulty that, if you lose, you are going to want to play again just to get a little further. If you just play it for the first few levels, you might not be overly impressed by it, but if you get into it, you REALLY get into it. I suggest you check it out: it’s available on the Virtual Console, X-Box live arcade and a few collection games (including the Japanese Sonic Gems Collection, which I forgot to mention). It’s a perfectly balanced representation of a genre of gaming that I really enjoy, and there is a reason this instalment is the highest rated one of the series. I give Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis 8.5 Levels out of 10.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Level Up: X-men: Mutant Academy 2

Some of you may remember that, roughly a year ago, I reviewed the awesome, but unreleased game of Thrill Kill. As I’ve said, nothing could keep that game from being released anyways, proven not only by the fact that it was released online, but also that parts of it appeared in other games. This is mostly due to the fact that its developers, Paradox Development, still had a right to the engine they made for the game; it was just the gory content that was banned by EA. The best example of its legacy would be Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, which is pretty much a re-skinning of Thrill Kill (and a game I would LOVE to get my hands on), but the X-men: Mutant Academy series also uses its engine (though the game play has drastically changed). It’s also worth mentioning now that all those titles were produced by Activision (giving me another reason to why they’re my favourite company). So, let’s take a look at a game that uses the Thrill Kill engine, X-men: Mutant Academy 2 for the Sony PlayStation.

Have I used the term “standard 2D fighting” enough that you guys know what I meant by now? This is basically it, which is odd since the graphics are clearly 3D. Despite removing most of the awesome game play elements I like from Thrill Kill (3D roaming and kill meter) I was really surprised to find that this game FEELS like Thrill Kill. Whenever you move, hit or throw someone, it really looks the same way it would have in Thrill Kill. Anyone that has played that has played it would notice it right away in X-men: Mutant Academy 2.

There are also still meters in the game that fill according to how much damage you do to you enemy, but not quite like the kill meter in Thrill Kill. You have three different meters, which will fill depending on which attack you’re using. Once they’re full, you can press the corresponding button combination to launch a special attack towards your adversary. Also, don’t worry about not remembering the combo for the meter attacks, they are clearly displayed for you before each fight and are really easy to pull off. As a matter of fact, a lot of the moves in this game are really easy to pull off, which as always, is something I like to see in fighting games.

Here’s one last cool game play feature: while you’re playing, you’ll notice you have a red section to your health meter after you get damage. That section is health you get back over time. Though the section does get bigger the more damage you take, it still goes down, so it’s not unlimited. Also, if the green part hits the end, you still get K.O.’d. Still, knowing how to properly use this can mean the difference between your loss and a come from behind victory.

*Mystique: lick my boot*

This game has a good-WHOA, WHAT DID SHE SAY? *Mystique: “lick my boot” x2* Hehehe, sorry, Mytique has just been my favourite X-women ever since the second movie and-THAT GETS ME to my next point: the characters. Normally I have to describe them to you, but I mean, come on, this is an X-men game, these guys are pretty widely known. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Sabre-tooth: you know these guys. They also added a lot more from the previous game, which is good, cause X-men has a lot of diverse characters and I think the selection in this game represents a fair microcosm of them. Though this does make me wonder: why are X-men fighting other X-men? I mean, I get things like Wolverine against Magneto and all that, but what does Cyclops have against Beast? This is really never explained, and as much as tried, I just couldn’t go a long with it. While I’m at asking questions relating to characters: why can’t Mystique change her look? That fighting element is used in other games, look at Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung. Sorry, some things just really bug me there.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about X-men: Mutant Academy 2. It’s definitely no Thrill Kill, but still really good for a 2D fighter, especially since it has the X-men licence. The game’s look can be a little iffy, the character’s sayings can get old quickly, the music can be boring and there’s the complete lack of a plot for this super hero game, but I think the solid game play should compensate for all of that. Mix it with the unloackable content, the Thrill Kill engine and the fact that-come on- it’s X-men, and you got a pretty decent game. I give X-men: Mutant Academy 2 for the Sony PlayStation 8 levels out of 10.