In the case of this retrospective, the focus will be on the original arcade version due to the plethora of ports released in the years following.
During the mid-80’s, video games began to ripen with several developers experimenting and understanding the essentials in delivering a successful title. From Sega’s Outrun, Taito’s Darius, and Konami’s Salamander, these had been risky games, yet returning with financial and critical success. Additionally, inspiring others to improve and expand upon these titles. Namely, there was one small company establishing this within the Beat em’ up genre, Technos Japan, a company formed by members of Data East (Burger Time, Crude Buster, and Magical Drop series).
After the completion of Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in Japan), demand for a follow-up began. Rather than create a direct sequel, series producer Yoshihisa Kishimoto inspired by his love for the films Mad Max, Enter the Dragon, and the anime/manga series Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) decided to produce a co-op beat em’ up with a more cinematic approach, Double Dragon.
Double Dragon, developed by Technos Japan and published by Taito was released on Arcades in Summer of 1987. The game follows 2 brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee on a quest to save Billy’s girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors. The Lee Brothers traverse through 4 levels fighting their way among the toughest of the Black Warriors members, including Williams, Linda, Willy, and Abobo. Personally, the enemies seem inspired by The Warriors though it might be myself thinking this comparison. Likewise, there’s an Easter egg from another game appearing in the first level, the car used in Road Blaster, another title Kishmoto worked on. However, there is a twist in the end of the
game when playing with a friend…
Graphically, there is a fantastic display of colors used to display the detailed sprites. Notably, the backgrounds throughout the game. Particularly, no two backgrounds are the same in comparison to other games. I applaud the efforts Tecnhos placed inside the game. The rich colorful graphics are a testament to why Double Dragon stands above the rest.
However, I met the gameplay with mixed results. Notably, serving as a technological and spiritual successor to Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun), Double Dragon inherited the former’s button layout, 4-way joystick and simplicity. Furthermore, there are hidden attacks initiated when combining the jump button with either kick or punch button. Additionally, the Lee Brothers move at a quick pace, giving players a rapid advantage in deciding attack moves. Nonetheless, the AI is cruel and merciless. Equally, there is a significant amount of slowdown present throughout the game resulting from the multiple 8-bit microprocessors inside the hardware.
Despite the mixed gameplay, the unfavorable portion of the game stems from the music. To begin with, I agree that the music is memorable, yet during the playthrough I felt as though there was something off about the composition and unbearable for my ears at moments. Yet, there is an arranged soundtrack, which in my opinion is a superior arrangement, with its 80s production, which I grew loving after listening to the tracks repeatedly.
Overall, Double Dragon launched the Golden Age of Beat em’ ups influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight. Improving on Renegade, DoubleDragon’s enduring legacy is the game’s ability to cooperatively play together.
Additionally, various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II and the ill-fated Double Dragon V.
Recently, a sequel, Double Dragon IV (Based of the NES chronology), which I found personally to be an insult to the DoubleDragon fanbase despite several original members including Kishmoto working on the title. The game serves as a disgraceful example of companies cashing in on people’s nostalgia.
But in the end, even with the multiple issues I may have with the franchise, there is no denying its legacy as a classic. All in all, Double Dragon resides as the one of the greatest beat em’ ups created.
Shenmue, Sega’s most ambitious game and Yu Suzuki’s magnum opus. A game with a strong cult following in the years following its released and one of the killer apps on Sega’s swan song, the Dreamcast. The game meant to save Sega from impending doom eventually factored in Sega’s departure of the console wars with its $47 million budget. Furthermore, Shenmue is one of those games that people either love or hate, as a result of how detailed the game’s world is and mesmerized the player with the world. Often regarded as the pioneer of modern games inspiring the likes of Resident Evil 4, Grand Theft Auto, and Sleeping Dogs.Shenmue is accredited for the push in making open world games with its luscious world, NPCs that interact with you, and night and day systems.
Development of Shenmue
Development of Shenmue started back in 1993. As Yu Suzuki traveled to China in order to research for Virtua Fighter 2 As a result of his fascination with Chinese culture, it inspired to keep those items that interested him aside. After the release of Virtua Fighter 2, Suzuki decided to embark on his biggest project.
Even more, he states that the purpose of an arcade title is to grab the player’s attentionfor 3 minutes, but Suzuki wanted to see if he can develop a console game that would grab the player’s attention for a longer length of time. With this in mind, frustrated with the flaws he noticed with the JRPG genre and combined with his research in China he began playing 80s adventure games and early 90s JRPGs to steer him in the right direction.
As a result, set with what he wanted to do with his next title, a JRPG. So much that, he decided that the platform that would suit his needs would be the Sega Saturn where it did great in Japan but disappointing in the US and Europe. Above all, he needed to test out what the capabilities of the Saturn in full 3D something that several developers struggled to accomplish on the Saturn. In the end, he named this prototype, The Old Man and the Peach Tree.
Set in 1950s China, Taro asks an old man if he knows a Master Ryu. The Old man tells him if Taro can give him a peach, he will tell him where Master Ryu’s location is. In the end, after the trials that Taro goes through he realizes that the old man might possibly be Master Ryu himself.
Eventually, Suzuki confident with all the research in The Old Man and the Peach Tree decided to fully embark with his vision. For this reason, a proposal for a full 3D RPG based on the Virtua Fighter series using the game’s engine with the objective of having fully-voiced cut scenes, the ability to fight multiple opponents, and have a cinematic approach would eventually be titled, Virtua Fighter RPG: Akira Story.
With this intention, Suzuki began working on the plot and approach different ways to develop his masterpieces, he created a 4-step process. For a start, Suzuki divided the general theme of each plot in 4 different acts. Next, he wrote a 4-orchestral suite in order to suit the game’s overall mood and brought in composers to critique his work. Afterwards, instead of bringing in game developers which he believes would make the game too literal, he instead brought in screenwrights, film directors, playwrights, and others for something he titled, Bordered Development. Eventually, the game’s general direction arranged by both the developers and additional resources Suzuki brought in and concluded to illustrate the 4 general plots in 11 chapters and illustrate each of them.
Incidentally, the footage released of the Saturn Virtua Fighter RPG is amazing! The prototype displays what could have been the true capabilities of the Saturn in full 3D in real time. Yes, the Saturn whose full 3D capabilities developers underutilized. Indeed, the game is great and worthy to be the Saturn’s killer app which would have spanned across 8 discs for the first chapter.
Unfortunately, due to the low sales of the Saturn outside of Japan, the other branches of Sega discontinued support for the system in the late 90s and this caused Suzuki to switch his game towards Sega’s next console, the Dreamcast. On another note, seeing that the next console met the requirements of Suzuki’s next game, he demanded that Yamaha, the makers of the sound chip for Sega’s new console upgraded from 32 to 64 channels and he contributed to the development of the Dreamcast and its arcade counterpart the Naomi. In the end, this brought along Guppy.
Overall, Guppy’s goal to offer 45 hours of gameplay is a combination of cut scenes both cinematic and real-time, exploration, and combat. Realizing that this might have been too ambitious for the player at the time, Suzuki forced to cut back on his goal and decided that each of the 11 chapters of the game split into individual games. Therefore, in order to make this game the killer app for the Sega Dreamcast, deciding to switch the premise of Virtua Fighter RPG into a new IP, Project Berkley aka Shenmue ~Chapter 1: Yokosuka~.
With this in mind, in order to show off the capabilities of Sega’s new console at its unveiling, Suzuki sent 5 of his team members to make a tech demo for the event. As a result, the stunning audiences amazed to see the tech demo produced by AM2, The Tower of Babel, which used 1 million polygons running at 60 fps.
Afterwards, The Dreamcast launched in Japan in 1998 with Virtua Fighter 3tb being one of the launch titles. Not to sway off topic, but this wasn’t a trueport as AM2 did not work on this, but left audiences with a surprise, a bonus disc that included a preview of Project Berkley.
During this time, AM2 working on getting the final touches into the game. Additionally, there were several delays to the game due to several critical flaws in the game, including several NPCs stuck inside a building at one time in the game since several of them are programmed to follow a real schedule like people would in real life. Additionally, the animals suddenly become bipedal and that should be a sign that maybe a there needs to be more debugging. In the end, after the long wait, Shenmue stepped into the ring to show off the Dreamcast’s capabilities.
The Main Review
Shenmue was released in Japan on December 29, 1999, the US in November of 2000 and a month later in Europe. Shenmue is an open-world game where players take control of Ryo Hazuki in his quest to enact his revenge on Lan Di for the death of his father. The game takes place in 1986 Yokosuka, Japan, where players explore the city throughout the day and night looking for clues on Lan Di. During his quest Ryo, can partake in numerous activities including exploring Yokosuka, playing games in the arcade, perfect his martial arts, beat some thugs, engage in quick time events, and spend his money on gambling and cute figurines.
In terms of content, Suzuki emphasized that Shenmue is not an RPG but FREE. Yes, FREE which stands for full reactive eyes entertainment. But the game seems similar to a noir PC point and click adventure game that transited into 3D that featuring elements of beat em up, quick time events, and racing into the mix. The game is highly revolutionary for the time for its highly-detailed world and how it lets players engage so well in this world which gave non-Japanese players an insight of how life in Japan during the mid-80s. Still to this day, the game blows my mind away at how much detail was placed onto 3 GD-Roms!
As mentioned before, Ryo’s main goal is to search for his father’s killer, Lan Di. But there are several subplots that occur throughout the game. First of all, he needs to find any info about the car Lan Di drove, if anyone received any information regarding the vehicle, searching for anyone in the area that is fluent in Chinese, earning some money to go to Hong Kong, stopping some thugs that are terrorizing the harbors, and what is behind those Dragon mirrors.
In terms of gameplay, its simple the overall premise is to look for clues by doing certain tasks, talking to certain people, and looking around the city all this being written inside Ryo’s journal as a reference guide throughout the game. The fighting engine in this game is top notch and feels similar to those who have played Virtua Fighter. The forklift racing and motorcycle segments are straight out of Virtua Racing and Hang-On. Finally, the quick time events credited towards a non-AM2 game, Dynamite Deka/Die Hard Arcade.
There are several great segments in the game that often show off the best of what Suzuki intended during the game’s lengthy development, including how much emphasis placed into the player by letting them explore even the smallest of details. The driving forklifts whether it be for racing or for working were also among some of the memorable parts of the game. Wasting time playing Space Harrier, Hang on, Darts, and QTE boxing. Even how Ryo can interact with the NPCs even though they can be quite rude, but Suzuki states he wanted to have the players experience each NPC differently, “What I did not want players to experience while having a conversation with an NPC is repetition. Getting the same answer to your question over and over is boring. And that is what happens in some games. In Shenmue, the conversation system is adjusted accordingly,” he concludes. Finally, the best portion of the game is the fighting segments, including the 70-man battle near the finale of the game.
In contrast, there are multiple parts of the game that might turn off several players including myself who at one point was not convinced to finish the game. In spite of all the praise Shenmue deserves, it features several flaws that outright making this unplayable for some. Particularly in the beginning portion of the game features mundane task that Ryo needs to accomplish that might turn off players so it’s recommended to find a guide to finish the beginning part of the game quickly. Asking people if they know Chinese or if they’ve seen sailors? These would of worked in 2D point and click adventure games, but not in this type of game. Not only that, but the world might be too realistic for others, though this is a subjective complaint since a fraction of people might enjoy this sense of realism.
Graphically, the game looks amazing, especially in VGA mode where it shines as one of the Dreamcast’s finest gems. The models in the game still look great and I cannot complain at this point. The buildings, environments, and people might look sharp around the edges, but it’s no concern of mine.
Then, the controls are great overall though, at the moment it seems awkward when trying to turn around as it seems slow. They are amazing when it comes to the fighting scenes where they’ll feel akin to the Virtua Fighter series. The controls in the driving portion of the game are also a great feeling akin to Hang-On and Virtua Racing especially with the analog stick.
Finally, the music is atmospheric but it suits the game very well! Being composed by a plethora of composers, including Sega legends Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and Yuzo Koshiro. When composing the music, Mitsuyoshi mentioned this, “What I tried to achieve for Shenmue was not Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s music. Rather, I tried to find the melody that lies in the sound effects themselves, something that used sound effects for melody and rhythm… With Shenmue, I’m creating the total opposite. It’s music that you do not notice, but if it wasn’t there, the scene would feel barren. It’s very nuanced, detailed work, and very challenging in many ways. But in part of the large scale of this project, it did afford me several of opportunities to experiment. As a composer, I feel like I leveled up in a way.” Indeed, it does feel that way transiting from Arcade music to console gaming since the overall soundtrack to Shenmue is fantastic. Koshiro on the other hand felt very honored to be among the presence of Suzuki and Mitsyoshi as he noted, “I had met Koshiro once before when we shared the stage at a Roland event. After that Suzuki asked me, “Do you want to try working with Koshiro?” And of course, I did! I’ve long admired Koshiro and thought he was cool. I’ve followed his work closely for the last 10 years.” Even the symphonic arrangements of the tracks are beautiful. They truly convey the atomsphere the game is attempting to display to the player.
The game does not stop there as there were a plethora of content released prior and attached to the game. Prior to the release of Shenmue, Sega released What’s Shenmue? This serves as an additional demo of the game. The plot begins with Ryo looking for Mr. Yukawa, Senior Managing Director of Sega at the time where he saves him from thugs who wanted a disk from him. Only in the end, to realize that Mr. Yukawa, dreaming the whole time needed to ship all these Dreamcast units for the sake of Shenmue. Additionally, the game came with a Passport disc, which includes an assortment of goodies, including a sound test to listen to your favorite tracks, an insight look at all the people that you’ll interact with in the game named after random employees at Sega. Eigo Kasahara, Planner for Shenmue added this, “With the Shenmue Passport players can learn about the details and connections that we couldn’t show in the game. There’s a great deal of hidden relationships, for example.” Going to show how far the development team wanted to go with the game and how the players interacted with the each of the NPCs.
Shenmue’s Connection with Suzuki’s previous work
As mentioned in the previous article, Shenmue is a melting pot of numerous Suzuki’s titles. This comes into play when considered countless gameplay mechanics seen throughout the game. First, the Virtua Fighter series playing a significant role in terms of the characters and fighting mechanics since this began as a Virtua Fighter spin-off. Following suit, Virtua Racing plays a role in contributing to the racing portion of the game specifically the forklift races. Then, Hang-On plays a role when Ryo uses the motorcycle to rescue Nozomi near the end of the game and appearing as one of the games you can play in the arcade. This next one will be a bit peculiar to understand at first, but trust me it works, Swords of Vermillion plays a role in possibly influencing the multigenre aspect of the game as both games try to deviate themselves from the typical RPG norms. Finally, Die Hard Arcade, the only non AM2 game, plays a major role in QTE as during certain portions of that game, there were QTE that the player did.
The Legacy of Shenmue
Lastly, Shenmue contributed to multiple norms still seen in today’s gaming. In theory, it’s the game that brought together aspect of the retro gaming and began filling in the molds of modern gaming that were slowly being set at the time. Notably, the magic weather system unlocked after beating the game which used actual weather data from Yokosuka during 1986.
Let alone, its responsible for making QTE more acceptable in gaming as we’ve seen in titles like Resident Evil 4, Asura’s wrath, and Heavy Rain owe they’re thanks to Shenmue.
Moreover, the game is responsible for making an open world/Sandbox games become the norm when games like GTA 3, Just Cause, and Batman Arkham series feature an open world for the players to explore every crook and cranny. To say nothing about having fully dialogue NPCs would not give Shenmue credit it deserves.
On the other hand, it has additionally earns the honor of making sure developers know what sells and what does not as the game is infamous for being the utmost expensive game of its time utilizing over $47 million budget, which might have put the final nail on Sega’s coffin back in the early 2000s despite it selling 1.2 million copies.
Altogether, Shenmue is an experience that requires several hours of patience. For those willing to stay until the end, their patience rewarded in realizing the effort put by Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2. The game is an absolute masterpiece and a marvel of its time. As a result of the tremendous effort put forth by a multitude of people throughout its development, inspiring a new generation of gamers and developers to follow in Shenmue’s footsteps and do something as ambitious that will pull a player away for a bit to seek a story filled with adventure, emotions, and excitement that several people look for.
Shortly after, Shenmue II released on the Dreamcast in 2001 only in Japan and Europe, which fixes several flaws of this game. The game also uses the player’s save file from Shenmue I that benefits the player throughout the title. Sadly, U.S Shenmue fans there was no US version thanks in part of the unexpected discontinuation of the Dreamcast in 2001. Hence, several people importing copies from Europe. But, not until 2002 when released on the Original Xbox that US Shenmue fans felt a bit rejoiceful.
On another note, after a long delay, on July 2015 Shenmue returns with the third game being developed thanks to the vocal fanbase that kept pushing for the return of Ryo and finish the story.
The game itself is still affordable but in the aftermath of the announcement of Shenmue III, the prices of the first game rose but stabilized after the hype calmed down a bit. Currently, it goes for around 25-40 dollars online as of the time of this review. In essence, it’s worth purchasing if you’re the type of person interest in Kung fu movies, history, retro gaming, and Sega’s attention to ambition. In the end, Shenmue is a game that will leave a lasting impression for those with strong patience. Hypothetically speaking, it’s an inspiration for those willing to go above and beyond the norms and willing to go forth with their dreams.
Sources (Shoutout to the Shenmue Dojo for it’s dedicated contribution to the history of this game being archived online)
For hardcore Shenmue fans, the day is rapidly approaching when the events of Shenmue occurred. Personally, for me to discuss about Shenmue, it’s important to discuss about Yu Suzuki’s history in game development prior to Shenmue. Because if it weren’t for certain games, Shenmue might not have existed. After all, Shenmue is a melting pot of all his prior experiences put into one enormous game. Taking bits and pieces of those games and combing it into one conglomerate.
Yu Suzuki, the man highly regarded as Sega’s Shigeru Miyamoto is responsible for many Sega classics, including Outrun, Virtua Fighter, and Shenmue. During his first year in 1983, he programmed Champion Boxing released in Arcades and SG-1000 the same year.
The Super Scaler Days
But it wasn’t until 1985 when his career began to kick off. His interest in Motorcycles would pay off in the development of his first arcade hit, Hang-On. Suzuki, a man who combines both a business and creative perspective to games by making them appeal to both the casual and hardcore audiences, by developing a cabinet that would emulate the experience of riding a motorcycle. The game would be the beginning of AM-2’s success. The game also debuted the Super Scaler series, which displayed pseudo-3D graphics which were 2D sprites being scaled.
Furthermore, Yu Suzuki clarifies his intentions on how the Super Scaler games worked, “My designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D.” This would foreshadow the trends that were to come.
Following suit, Yu Suzuki returns to the drawing board shifting of reality and taking a sci-fi approach for his next game, Space Harrier. However, the game’s original direction was to use Jump jets, a concept used in a future game. The game takes inspiration from The Neverending Story,Space Cobra, and the artwork of Roger Dean. In addition to be a Super Scaler game, this also introduced the first time that an analog flight stick used for movement which became big in PC gaming.
Next, Outrun, the first driving game debuted almost a year and a half after Space Harrier. Outrun was the accumulation of Cannonball Run using Europe as the main inspiration and a Ferrari Testarossa. The object of the game was simple, driving around 6 gorgeous tracks before time runs out. The game was unique for not only being a super scaler title, but additionally offering a radio station prior to starting the game which was unheard of at the time and its cabinet based off a Testarossa. The game’s legacy is still being seen today as it’s influenced many racing gaming including Gran Turismo, Forza, and Daytona USA.
Then in 1987, After Burner II debuted worldwide. Why talk about the second game rather than the first? Because the first saw release only in japan and the latter worldwide. One way to summarize the game is Top Gun the video game. This game debuts the Sega Board X succeeding in many ways that Hang-On and Outrun Boards could not. A technical milestone debuting with After Burner was the sprite rotation. The game’s premise was to survive 18 stages of enemy fighters and landscape obstacles using your wits, machine guns, or lock-on missiles on your F-14. After BurnerII‘s mechanics would inspire future titles including Star Fox, Panzer Dragoon, and Rez.
Afterwards, taking a break from flight simulators he returned to racing games with Power Drift in 1988. This kart racer that predates Mario Kart has players driving on tracks with many hills and bridges, the camera rotates with the player as they turn corners. This is one of Yu Suzuki’s underrated titles as this don’t not see as many ports in the US but immensely popular in Japan and Europe.
Trending New Nerritories
However, before developing his next arcade hit, he decided to make a short turn into the console gaming scene for a multi genre RPG, Swords of Vermillion on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. In this case, Yu Suzuki was the producer of the game and took a different approach than use the traditional RPG formula, foreshadowing one of his future games. There are several different modes in the game, Town mode where the player roams around in your typical RPG fashion, dungeon mode akin to Phantasy Star, Battle View where the player engages in free combat against enemies, and boss mode where the player fights the boss in a side scrolling perspective. The game being a big player in the early days of the Genesis used in the Genesis does what Nintendon’t campaign.
Once Sword of Vermillion finished, Suzuki returned to the arcade scene with G-LOC in the start of the 1990s. In general G-LOC, refers to G-force induced Loss of Consciousness, can be seenas the spiritual sequel to After Burner, using the premise of destroying enemy fighters with a Harrier, the game is famous for using pre-rendered 3D graphics and heavy sprite rotation similar to its spiritual predecessor. The game also featured a cabinet that rotated 360 degrees known as the G-LOC 360.
The Beginning of 3D
In light of Suzuki’s experience in game development, he was also a great hardware engineer. Wanting to enter the realms of 3D, Sega began researching the capabilities of 3D gaming with Namco and Atari already setting foot. Yu Suzuki and AM2 began developing for their own 3D capable arcade of their own. Under those circumstances, teaming up with Fujitsu using their TGP MB86233 DSP developed the Sega Model 1.
Furthermore, with the development of the Model 1 needed some games to coincide with it. In 1992, Virtua Racing debuted to arcades on the Model 1 setting a milestone in 3D gaming for its constant 60 fps, amazing 3D graphics, offer multi-cabinet support to play against others, and multiple camera angles. As Suzuki describes it, it’s a classic F1 racing game which also serves as a predecessor to future racing games to come.
Suddenly, a year has passed and Yu Suzuki has generated another technical marvel, Virtua Fighter. In retrospect, Suzuki wanted to create a fighting game that would beatStreet Fighter II. Rather than using traditional 2D sprites, AM2 decided to go for a 3D approach using several techniques they learned with the Model 1 already, “3D graphics in games were very primitive. You could only make models from triangles, which didn’t even have textures. … There wasn’t the opportunity to make graphics that were really beautiful, and because of that I decided to spend all my efforts to make character movements correct and realistic.” For the most part, Virtua Fighteris the grandfather of 3D fighters due to its almost lifelike movements and building the mold for future 3D fighters including Tekken and Dead or Alive. The game also the inspiration for Sony to move forward with 3D graphics on the PlayStation.
The Model 2 days
Regardless of the success that Sega was having with the Model 1, time was limited before someone could produce a Virtua Fighter/Racing killer. Already having some of the ingredients for their next arcade board, Suzuki teamed up with Lockheed Martin, a company that’s known for making military equipment for space and aerial technology deciding to buy chip using their latest technology to see how they would come into play in video games.
Originally set for the Model 1, adding in the technology from Lockheed cut short but eventually added on to what now be the Sega Model 2. One of Sega’s most popular arcade boards introduced texture mapping, filtering, and anti-aliasing. This was undeniably a powerful graphics card on the market outdoing PC graphics cards until 1998.
Correspondingly, there needed to be games to display the capabilities of the Model 2. Though Daytona USA paved the way for what the Model 2 was capable of, Suzuki’s debut game would not be until 1994 with Virtua Cop. In fact, it was one of the first 3D light gun games released at the time, which advertised as the “world’s first texture mapped, polygon action game.” The game revolutionized the genre with headshots and positioned body targets influencing not only Light games, but First person shooters, particularly Rare’s Goldeneye.
Shortly after Virtua Cop, Suzuki and his team concurrently developed the sequel to their arcade hit, Virtua Fighter for their new arcade board. Virtua Fighter 2 not only improved the mechanics of the game, but as well as the technical aspects of the game, including 60 fps and motion capturing which prior to its release, used primarily in the health care industry. The game was a massive success with ports released on the Saturn, Genesis, and PC that could not even match the graphical capabilities of the arcade version.
Striving Ahead of the Game
Immediately, Sega returned to the drawing boards and preparing for its next arcade. Once more, teaming up with Lockheed and Mitsubishi to create the best 3D graphics on any gaming platform, the Sega Model 3. Despite many delays during development, this was the most powerful gaming system out there! The board was a huge success and releasing more Sega influential arcade hit.
As an Illustration, Virtua Fighter 3 was one of the games that debuted with the Model 3 back in 1996. The game introduces multi-level areas (like DOA 2) and a dodge button, but graphically is where the game shines! The game’s praise focused on graphics that compared to the CGI graphics used at the time.
Where does AM2 go from here?
All things considered, it’s because of the games and hardware that Yu Suzuki worked with is where he could combine all those efforts into one giant masterpiece. Not only that, but because of how capable Suzuki and his team were it was only right to keep pushing the limits of what was possible in the realm of video games. Though AM2 would finally see the true challenge in making video games right after Virtua Fighter 3 where they return to the console gaming market to make one of the most ambitious and influential video games yet…
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter II, but also another franchise serving as a spiritual sequel and former rival to Street Fighter, SNK’s Fatal Fury. Developing during the same time as Street Fighter II by former Capcom employees, Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto, who produced and directed the original Street Fighter back in 1987.
The Fatal Fury series was one of SNK’s biggest franchise on the Neo Geo which starred the Bogard brothers, Terry and Andy with their friend Joe Higashi on their quest for revenge against Geese Howard, responsible for the death of their adopted father a decade prior. The trio fights their way through the King of Fighters tournament against many opponents, including Duck King, Raiden, Tung Fu Rae, and Billy Kane (a tournament and cast of characters later appearing in SNK’s biggest IP).
Important to realize that releasing this after Street Fighter II it was not well-received. With this in mind, it was attack for being an inferior clone of SF II. When in fact, Fatal Fury is the spiritual successor to Street Fighter incorporating ideas cut from Street Fighter to Fatal Fury. While Street Fighter II, empathized a faster-pace and combo-based fighting system, Fatal Fury was more about timing of special moves.
For instance, one of Fatal Fury’s strengths relies in the storytelling. While SF II did not connect the events of the original. Fatal Fury’s storytelling made players empathized with Terry and Andy’s quest for revenge and connecting audiences to the world of Fatal Fury by releasing a variety of media providing back stories and other details surrounding the game’s lore. By the same token, using cut scenes in-between matches helps narrate the plot.
Furthermore, the game utilizing extensive use of the Neo Geo, the game incorporated lane switching to attract customers. Regardless, the issues stem from crudely implementing this feature. Finally, the game emphasizes playing cooperatively with a friend instead of fighting them one-on-one something Street Fighter would not return to until the Street Fighter Alpha series.
Whereas graphically, the game still holds up well, it’s no Real Bout Special nor Garou but the graphics are average for a 1991 Neo Geo game.Offering a variety of colors, making the game seem lively.
As a matter of fact, refining the controls than the spiritual prequel. The specials are simple to perform yet, improve in future titles.Requiring accurate timing to perform these.
However, the music is a clear victor! As a matter of fact, SNK is noted for fantastic music in their games. Lead composer Toshikazu Tanaka, the man responsible for several tracks mentions, “the game has an impact that sets it apart from other games, creating sounds that will stick in the player’s memory. So with Fatal Fury, I wasn’t aiming merely to surpass Street Fighter II, making sure the quality was a step or two above the competition.” For instance, “Geese ni Kissu/ A Kiss for Geese”, used when fighting the boss Geese Howard is embedded in the SNK lore, rearranging and covering it in future titles Geese Howard appears in.
Of course, Street Fighter II raises the bar for fighting games and improving from the prequel. Hence, giving people the opportunity to show off one’s skill in the game with fast gameplay and a memorable cast of fighters.
A point often overlooked, Fatal Fury is the forgotten step-brother to Street Fighter. Additionally, several elements of each game parallel one another. For instance, Terry and Andy Bogard are improvements of Ryu and Ken. In a general sense, Terry is more fleshed out version of Ryu, whom felt dry with his goal to become a skilled fighter. On the other hand, Terry is just a man who wanted revenge on his adopted father’s killer yet, has a human side that Ryu lacks. As an illustration, Terry is able to bring hope to the people of Southtown, making new friends and rivals, and eventually, a father figure.
Notably, Andy is a detailed Ken Masters. For instance, Andy sees his older brother as his rival and desires to become the stronger of the two. Later on, gaining his own student. To clarify, Andy does not play like a copy of Terry, gaining his own fighting style. Thus, proving his own against the Main character syndrome.
In short, Fatal Fury is still worth a play through. The game not only improves from the original Street Fighter but adds content that shoves the former aside. While Capcom released minor revisions of SF II, SNK would create true sequels that not improved the original, but also changed the formula keeping it relevant in the competitive fighting game market of the 90s. At the same time, SNK paid tribute to the game that started their rise in the industry as Terry returns in King of Fighters XIV featuring an homage to original attire.
Requiring a strong tolerance for early 90’s fighters, but in the end coming with a great reward.
With the unexpected discontinuation of the Dreamcast in 2001, Sega fans were wondering how Sega would go through their plans on operating as a third-party and what would be of all their IPs. Thankfully, Sega blessed the Xbox as the unofficial spiritual successor to the Dreamcast. For Sega fans, the Xbox was the console of choice. While the PS2 received the popular Sega IPs and Nintendo stuck with the IPs appealing towards kids. Not to mention, several titles in development for the Dreamcast including Halo, Fable, Ninja Gaiden, and Jet Set Radio Future. Although due to the short lifespan of the Dreamcast they eventually move to the Xbox. Releasing a tremendous amount of titles on the Xbox in their early days of being a third-party developer. However, none stood out than the final installment of the Panzer Dragoon series and possibly the best game on the original Xbox, Panzer Dragoon Orta.
The fourth and final installment of the Panzer Dragoon series, Panzer Dragoon Orta released on the Xbox in December 19, 2002 in Japan and January 14, 2003 on North America and developed by Smilebit whose name should be familiar with on Sega titles for Xbox. With this mind, they developed several outstanding titles during the Xbox days, including Jet Set Radio Future and Gunvalkyrie. Though Team Andromeda, the team originally responsible for Panzer Dragoon disbanded after the release of Saga, plenty of staff returned.
A fair warning to those interested in playing the game, to truly appreciate and understand the events that unfold during the game, I highly recommend playing Panzer Dragoon Zwei and Saga.
The story takes place decades after the events of Panzer Dragoon Saga. The protagonist Orta is a half-drone half-human imprisoned by the Seekers. Suddenly, the Empire attacks the Seeker’s village with their state-of-the-art weapon, dragonmares, genetically modified dragon-like creatures which is possibly the strongest weapon they’ve created. All of a sudden, a dragon appears to Orta and chooses her as its rider. Along the way, Orta meets with a drone, Abagg who appearance plays a significant role at another time, and Mobo, a wormrider whom Orta befriends. With this in mind, it’s up to Orta to save the world from the clutches of the Empire.
In the first place, Orta ditches the RPG adventure formula Saga debuted, and returns to the classic on-rail shooter that began with Panzer Dragoon and continued with Zwei. For veteran players, the weapon system has return shooting down enemies with a gun or lock-on to enemies with the dragon’s laser. Additionally, a berserk attack returning from Zwei, unleashing a fury of lasers to enemies . Returning from Saga, is the option to transform Orta’s dragon into different forms: Attack and Speed forms, and also the ability to fly to different areas during boss battles and observing what is safe. Furthermore, throughout the game, players can level up their dragon by finding power stones that giving the dragon experience points, collect a certain amount and the dragon levels up. Another mainstay is the ability to look forward, behind, left, and right since enemies can appear from anywhere.
Unlike the original or Zwei, the game has 10 levels instead of the 6 thanks to the capabilities of the Xbox. A majority being flying-based levels, yet fans of Zwei will appreciate the one ground-based level to spice the game up. Even though the game has 10 level, it’s a short game, on the other hand beating it is another story. The game’s core problem is how difficult it is even on Normal,even on easy, I struggled at times. Though the game is short, that’s not the purpose of it, instead beating it multiple times for reasons I will state later.
According to an interview with Akihiko Mukaiyama, director of the game for the website, The Next Level, the first goal in mind was to revive the series, next deciding on what genre the title would be. In another interview with Japanese video game magazine Famitsu, he mentions their plans to bring it on the Dreamcast yet, it did not meet the team’s technical specifications. The team had a multitude of ideas on the game. Whether it returns to an RPG, a simulation game, or return to the classic 3D shooter known throughout the series. Though, Mukaiyama mentioned that he did plan on producing another RPG. In the end, voting to return to the classic on-rail formula. Explicitly, key artist Takashi Iwade and Kentaro Yoshida envisioned Orta as a combination of the three. Also, the leap from 32-bit to 128-bit also gave developers further challenges to work with. One feature that they could finally implement was the ability to switch dragon forms in real-time, which was not possible and inspired by Magic Knight Rayearth.
The idea of making a female protagonist came from the fact that it represents an innovation in a series. the fact of having one is special in terms of the story. The word “Orta” has different meanings, in Panzerese (language spoken within the series), it means rebirth and dawn, while in German, it also refers to “the tip of the sword” according to Mukaiyama.
Graphically, it’s an incredibly gorgeous game I’ve seen on the Xbox, correction, the entire 6th generation, unlike Shadow of the Colossus, Orta can run 480p, 16:9 Widescreen, and 60 fps with no slowdown (sorry, no disrespect to Team Ico, except let’s face it, the PS2 is an under powered machine yet you and Polyphony Digital were a few developers to TRULY harness the console’s power). The game’s speed is fluid and never feels out of place making it feel like the best roller coaster ride experience. Yes, several games on the Xbox that output at 720p and 1080i resolution aside from, paling in comparison to Orta. Everything in the game is rich, detailed, and emphasizing quality over quantity with everything polygon making a difference. Whether it be the appearances of past enemies or the light show that happens when the dragon performs its berserk attack. The leap from the Saturn proved wonders,astonishing players. Playing the game with component cables and watch how staggering it’ll be.
Even the FMV scenes remain breathtaking. Smilebit truly pushed the limits of the Xbox! Seeing this game in motion proves my point.
Don’t believe me, IGN’s Hilary Goldstein backs me up on this, “If I could give this game an 11 in graphics, I would. Actually, forget the number you see below. Consider it an 11. This game is unbelievably gorgeous and the screenshots don’t do it justice. If this is the tip of the iceberg for Xbox, I pray I never go blind.” Even today, the game still shines as one of the greatest games of the 6th generation and I highly doubt people will complain about the graphics.
The music is also another addition to the game thanks to returning composer Saori Kobayashi and new composer Yutaka Minobe. The game has the atmospheric mood which fits the game’s world perfectly, having tribal influence mixed with electronic music and orchestrated music similar to the first game. No track seems out-of-place and feeling intense throughout. The ending song is absolutely stunning! The best of all is listening to this on Dolby Digital 5.1.
As mentioned before, the game is short, except not the cake walk many were expecting. In fact, that’s the fundamental point of the game, to replay the game multiple times, why? Because
another returning feature from Zwei is Pandora’s Box. But unlike Zwei’s Pandora’s Box, this one is deeper than its predecessor, it features cut scenes from the previous games which unfortunately still in their original format and let’s not forget that the Saturn’s stock video encoder is not necessarily the best. Additionally, there is concept art from the series to unlock, bonus levels featuring Iva’s story, a boy from the imperial city, bonus games involving Orta and Mobo, and an encyclopedia offering heaps of information regarding die welt von Panzer Dragoon. But Pandora’s Box has it mainstay features returning from Zwei, which works similarly to a debug
mode with features including playing with the blue dragon, playing with Azel from Saga, and having infinite health to name a few. Finally, completing the game once on either difficulty, unlocking an enhanced port of Panzer Dragoon.
For those also interested in collecting there is a white Panzer Dragoon Orta Xbox released exclusively in Japan that comes included with the game, HD AV Pack, component cables, Orta’s soundtrack, and a dragon necklace. In essence, a prototype Xbox 360 with its all-white design. Releasing 999 units of this console and selling around 800-1000 dollars online.
Overall, the game is an absolute must for the 6th generation, it not only showed what Sega’s potential during their post Dreamcast years. One of the final entries Sega made before they finally died (to us the fans) when they merged with Sammy in 2004. With this in mind, Smilebit mentions in countless interviews that they’re proud of all their persistent work done with the game and how thrilled they were to revive the series even if the market was in their favor due to the raise of FPS and GTA clones.
The game truly pushes the limits of the Xbox and The game itself is still affordable though, it’s slowly rising in price as of the time I’m writing this, it goes for around 8-20 dollars online. This is also compatible with the Xbox 360 though the PAL version has minor issues that, thankfully an issue that many can work around.
Above all, I was overjoyed finally able to play this.Even though it’s a shame seeing that this is the last game in the franchise as Sega stated that they do not recognize a market for a future titles and that’s unfortunately true.
There is a spiritual successor titled Crimson Dragon which was a launch title for the Xbox One developed by the original creator of the series Yukio Futatsugi, who also worked on Phantom Dust, with other members of Team Andromeda, although it did ok to say the least with critics and there was a spin-off for Windows Phone still assuming Sega noticed how this did and decided to stay away from Panzer Dragoon.
This is a type of game intended for the player to dive deep into, to understand the Panzer Dragoon lore, for us to truly appreciate what Smilebit was trying to accomplish. Thank you much Smilebit and Sega for bringing to fans what fans wanted and went against the norm of a changing market continuing to bring quality entertainment for a loyal fan base.
It’s the year 2000, the start of a new millennium! The good news is we’ve survived Y2K! Well, several of us. The late 90s and early 2000s were a difficult time for several Japanese game developers like Sega, SNK, and Data East. Struggling to survive by making staff cuts and developing that one game that could save the company.
As the 90s progressed, it seemed that 2D games were put aside for 3D based games that we’re rapidly taking over with titles like Super Mario 64, Virtua Fighter 2, and Tomb Raider impressing audiences for their remarkable 3D graphics (for the time). Consequently, forcing multiple companies to either enter the 3D Market or leave.
Even more, with SNK competing in the console market with their AES (Advance Entertainment System) were trapped with which direction to go into. The AES was not selling well since it’s $400+ price tag was not meant for the middle class consumer. Not even their cheaper Neo Geo CD was selling enough, despite its cheaper price tag. Add to that, even the smallest amount of 3rd party developers halted development for Neo-Geo or left the gaming industry entirely. So by 1997, SNK announced the discontinuation of the AES, yet games were still being developed until 2004.
As a result, SNK decided to enter the 3D market with the successor to the Neo Geo, Hyper Neo-Geo 64. Unfortunately, that failed to attract arcade goers competing with the likes of Sega’s Model 3 and the Namco System 12. Releasing merely seven games during its life span.
Despite that, the releases on the MVS during this time (1997-1999) are among the best SNK released with titles like Last Blade, King of Fighters 98, Metal Slug X, and Garou: Mark of the Wolves were not successful enough to turn a profit.
Accordingly, SNK even attempted to jump into the handheld market, which was (and still is) monopolized by Nintendo with the release of the Neo Geo Pocket in October of 1998.
Though initial sales were promising, it was not enough as a few months after its release, Nintendo released the successor to the Game Boy, the Game Boy Color. Thus, SNK went back to the drawing boards and released the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1999 worldwide. With promising sales, fantastic third-party support from Capcom, Sega, Namco, and Taito. Moreover, expectations made it seem like SNK would be seeing green again.
Unfortunately, the optimism was temporary when Aruze acquired SNK in the beginning of the century. Having no faith in the SNK’s game developers, Azure reduced funding to the company. During this time, the developers at SNK noticing the writing on the walls knew, this was the end. But they were not going to leave fans without sending them a thank you gift for all their support.
The King of Fighters 2000 released in the arcades in March 2000 is without a doubt, the last game developed by the original SNK team and the other game published by SNK that year (the other being Metal Slug 3). The second game in the NEST saga beginning a year earlier featuring K’ as the saga’s main protagonist in his quest to defeat the NEST cartel from taking over the world. Zero, a former member of the NEST plans to destroy the organization using the Zero cannon. K’ and friends must stop Zero before it’s too late.
Secondly, improving on the striker system that debuted in the previous game. This time around, summoning strikers can accomplished at any time making it more convenient for players. Furthermore, players are able to select regular strikers which are any of the playable characters or another striker featuring excellent fan service! With appearances of characters from Garou, Last Blade, Samurai Shodown, and Metal Slug leaving fans content.
Next, like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!” As the years pass, the KOF formula remains intact. The controls are fantastic and feeling at home with previous titles.
On another note, graphically the game is on-par with the previous games in the series despite, it feeling like a quick copy and paste job with minor editing in between. Though they still fit the game’s setting feeling bland, which seems is one of my complaints of the entire NEST Saga. The new characters however like Seth, Kula, and Vanessa are a breath of fresh air balancing out the young cast.
Moreover, one of the game’s best features is by far is the soundtrack. Undeniably, the best King of Fighter’s soundtrack ever made! New tracks including Beauty and the Beast, KD-0084, Terry 115, Arashi no Saxophone 4 are wonderful additions, yet none compare to the track fitting of the situation felt by fans and SNK alike, Good-Bye ESAKA or as referred to by fans Good-Bye SNK. The track gives off that “Goodbye” feeling being felt among fans around the world. Overall, the arranged versions are the excellent surely leaving fans satisfied one last time.
Sample of the game’s music
Nonetheless, Playmore ported this to multiple systems, including the AES, Dreamcast, PS4, and PlayStation 2 including a standalone release and another bundling KOF 2000 and KOF 2001 together. The former eventually being released on PSN in Japan in 2015 exclusively in Japan and a year later on the PS4 worldwide.
An Xbox version was in consideration, but eventually cancelled. The AES version being a straight conversion of the MVS one that includes a Single fighter mode, survival, unlocked Kula from the start, and training mode.
The Dreamcast and PS2 ports are nearly identical except the sound effects and voices are clearer, a gallery mode, arranged soundtrack, additional strikers, and a bizarre puzzle game exclusive to the Dreamcast version.
There is a re imagined version for the Game Boy Advance titled King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood which uses borrows music, stages, and sprites from KOF 2000, but has a completely different plot.
Afterwards, it seemed like SNK’s luck was turning around, the anticipated crossover with Capcom, Capcom vs. SNK and the sequel, Capcom vs SNK 2 were successful, but unfortunately Capcom ended up winning a majority of earnings since they developed both titles.
Despite all the internal problems SNK was having, SNK headed to E3 to present audiences with the future of the Neo-Geo Pocket Color and promising a series of excellent titles like Last Blade, Cotton, Faselei, and Metal Slug: Second Mission to consumers.
Unfortunately, despite the positive reception of SNK’s E3 appearance, their promises fell short. Aruze not interested in helping SNK rather, exploit their beloved IPs to help their slot machine and pachinko business announced weeks after SNK’s appearance at E3 that SNK would stop all production of the NGPC and future title in the US and Canada.
Sadly, all the games announced for the NGPC at E3 that we’re shipping to retailers nationwide were either sold to recycling firms or sent back to Japan. Eikichi Kawasaki, founder of SNK left the company after Aruze’s betrayal and went on to form Playmore the following year.
With of the key players out, Aruze noticing this as an opportunity to remove SNK indefinitely. Finally, October 2001, Aruze approved SNK’s bankruptcy. Beginning to auction out a plethora of SNK’s IPs which Playmore bought back while licensing major IPs including KOF, Metal Slug, and Sengoku to other companies during this time. On the final day, SNK wrote this message on their website, “Dear All NEOGEO fans/customers, it is with deepest grief that in the Autumn of 2001, SNK will close the company history in its business. It was all of your favor and encouragement which made our passion running to make better games for SNK fans. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank and every one of you for your continuous help and assistance rendered to SNK since its incorporation in Japan July in 1978. Without your support, SNK Corporation would not have been possible throughout 23 years of operation. With all our heart-felt gratitude, thank you once again!” and just like that, SNK was no more.
However, SNK returns to the living when Playmore regained the rights to use the name SNK and became SNK Playmore in 2003. Resurfacing by releasing new titles to the Neo Geo including KOF 2003, Samurai Shodown V, and SVC: Chaos. Eventually, SNK Playmore sued Aruze for unauthorized usage of their IPs during the time of acquisition and awarding SNK Playmore with 5.64 billion yens.
Although SNK Playmore is around today, recently acquiring SNK was no other than Ledo Millennium in August 2015 hoping to use SNK’s IPs in a similar way to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. At the same time, having built a great relationship with Sony, SNK has begun it’s comeback by releasing many of their classic titles to the PS4, Vita, and PC with a considerable amount of success. As a result, promising fans with new titles, including a new KOF, Samurai Shodown, and hopefully a new Garou.
As of December 1st 2016, SNK Playmore will now return back into SNK, promising audiences with the intention to return to producing quality titles as they did back in during the Neo Geo days.
Conclusively, this is a game comes highly recommended to KOF fans. Sure, this isn’t 98, 2002 UM, nor XIII. At the same time, this was the last game developed by the original SNK team which means something for hardcore fans of the series. In contrast, KOF 2001 and 2002 published by the Korean based company Eolith are not so memorable. It’s a worthwhile addition and a solid fighting game.
The run and gun is the genre filling countless testosterone-induced boy’s joy with dreams of saving the world with only their guns and explosions. Starting with Ikari Warriors and Contra following suit in the mid-80s, the genre continued to impress audiences in the 90s with Gunstar Heroes, Sunset Riders, Alien Soldier, and Nazca’s (a company made up of former Irem developers) Metal Slug.
After the success of the first Metal Slug, SNK purchased the company before releasing Metal Slug 2. The game suffered from a tremendous amount of slowdown and several other issues. Nazaca responded to this updating MS 2 into Metal Slug X.
But fast forwarding to the year 2000, various arcade companies were on their last legs in an era where 3D has taken over the market. Correspondingly, SNK was noticing the writing on the walls that the end was near. As a result, Nazca prepared for the inevitable. Making sure they said their goodbyes to audiences worldwide by releasing the fourth installment in the Metal Slug series and the magnum opus of the Run and Gun genre, Ladies and Gentlemen, Metal Slug 3.
Metal Slug 3, released on the Neo Geo back in March of 2000. This was Nazca’s swan song and one of the final games SNK released before their bankruptcy the following year (The other being King of Fighters 2000).
After saving the world from General Morden and the Mars People, Marco and the gang return ending Morden’s Army. But a strange phenomenon occurs when the enemy is beyond organized than they originally conceived. Leading Marco and the gang to find out the real perpetrators behind this.
If you’ve played previous Metal Slugs, fortunately you’re in luck! the controls have not changed since the first game. Equally important, the option to choose from 4 characters: Marco, Tarma, Fiolina, and Eri is still here too. Though, there is no difference between any of them, it’s just a matter of personal preference until the second act of Mission 5.
Additionally, as with previous entries in the franchise, the game offers five different levels. At the same time, the game offers players the ability to choose from numerous routes in the middle of each stage,concluded by fighting the same boss at the end of each stage. This was trending in the genre since Hard Corps. This is probably what makes this game unique is that it offers players outstanding replay value.
Whether its fighting yetis and zombies while riding on an elephant that blows fire out of his trunk, up in the sky with an ostrich killing hundreds of people, destroying enormous snails and weird beetles, and diving underwater on a sub and killing giant crabs. In either case, all the different routes have their own unique flavor, making players appreciate how much effort Nazca put into the game.
Interestingly,the game borrows from aspects of the levels from unused levels from Metal Slug X discovered inside the game’s debug menu. At the same time, the last level is split into 4 different sections which makes for one satisfied experience but, I won’t spoil that.
Moreover, Metal Slug 3 introduces players to new items, slugs and transformations that will travel beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Firstly, the game introduces a few new slugs, countless that are exclusive to a certain route, including an ostrich slug, a submarine, a drill slug, a rocket ship, a Jetpack, and my favorite one, an elephant slug that can blow fire and electricity out of its trunk!!!
Additionally, new items debut here, including the Thunder cloud, which is a cloud that targets enemies and shoot them down with lighting, Utan, a baby monkey in diapers with a Uzi, and mobile satellite which is somewhat similar to Thunder cloud.
Not to mention, the debut of the best transformation in the series, the zombie mode, once a player becomes infected by zombie ooze, they transform into a zombie. As an illustration, the transformation makes the characters slow but immune to weapons. The player can only have their pistol and their grenade which is now a screen covering wave of blood, an amazing idea! Yet the only circumstance that can kill the player is zombie ooze.
The bosses are outrageous! Giant Hermit crabs with tanks, something that came straight out of 2001: Space Odyssey, and an ancient statue that releases dog spirits, needles, and turning the hero into coins. Even with an over the top design, comes remarkable power! Even the deaths as gruesome as they are, remind of something that came out of the cartoons of the yesteryear.
Be ready to die several times thanks to the game’s extreme difficulty. In other words, level memorization is critical to receive the best score concluding each level. When playing the original arcade version, be ready to bring your monthly allowance since you’re going to spend a heap-full of quarters.
Next, one of the best features of Metal Slug series is the stunning sprite work. As a matter of fact, Nazca put much time and effort ever since the game debuted in 1996. The Metal Slug series, often regarded for its highly detailed graphics and fluid animation. Though the game recycles from the previous entries, it’s not to say that it is awful. In fact, everything exhibiting fantastically within the game’s world.
Another key point, the music developed by Noise Factory (Rage of the Dragons, Sengoku 3, and KOF: Maximum Impact) is absolutely fantastic! The game borrows older tracks from previous games, but they added in major POWER and instruments fitting in with the overall vibe of the game.
Furthermore, hardcore Metal Slug fans will notice certain tracks pay tribute to Nazca’s final entry during their days with Irem, Gun Force II, which fans consider as the spiritual prequel to the series. But the newer tracks are among the BEST the series has to offer! Combining that heavy rock and military movie soundtrack, keeping the player motivated throughout the game. Notably, Tracks including the Yeti cave, the underwater stage, the space section in mission 5 and the beginning of the last mission are among the top compositions from the game.
Marine Diver (Submarine Route in Level 1 bears a striking resemblance Gun Force II BGM C
All things considered, this game sets the bar high for the run and gun genre, a true definition of a magnum opus. Even if Nazca having gone their own ways, left players extremely satisfied. No other run and gun game after this has been able to emulate the impact that Metal Slug 3 brought forth. Even the rest of the series pales in comparison to this masterpiece, though I will admit I haven’t played 6 nor 7.
Above all, Metal Slug 3executes this remarkably! not only improving on the foundation beginning with Commando, Contra, and, Gunstar Heroes but finds ways to present it in an original way, bringing in new ideas that were not regularly appearing in a run and gun games before. Nazca not only took cues from other run and gun games, but also borrowed from games they previously worked on during their days with Irem including: In the Hunt,Gun Force II, Armored Police Unit Gallop, and even R-Type.
I cannot stop praising the game hence, I’ll finish here.
There is no logic to not attempt this game, it’s basically committing a crime against gaming. Unless you absolutely find this type of genre mundane, there’s a special place for haters!
The game being ported to a plethora of different platforms, including the standalone ports on the Neo Geo AES, PS2 (JP and PAL only), Original Xbox (PAL and US only which contain mini games notably “Fat Island” where the players compete to determine which player can gain weight. “Storming the UFO mothership” is a minigame where the player play as one of Morden’s men and kill off several aliens as they can from the last level.That is to say, both ports offer unlimited continues,yet at the same time PS2 port has the player continuing where they died at, identical to the arcade. Whereas, the Xbox port makes the individual restart at the beginning of the level, making Ninja Gaiden Black strike as child’s play compared to this possibly turning people off. However, the Xbox version is only in 480i, but has a patch that brings it to 480p. Not to mention, the Xbox 360 version, in contrast, does not feature the mini games mentioned above, but offers online multiplayer and upscaled graphics. Next, the Metal Slug Anthology for the PS2, PSP and Wii which is an emulated version of the AES port and only in 480i. By and large, there also on the iOS, Android, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii Virtual Console (AES Version), Steam, Mac OS X, and Linux.
For the most part, there’s no excuse to not try the game at this point. Its affordable with the sole exception for the MVS cart fetching around out $150. In the event that you’re a bourgeoisie, by all means invest on the AES version which will be a substantial fee of $1500 or higher depending on what region the game originated from. I cannot recommend this game enough, it’s simply fantastic showing how something simple can be created into a masterpiece.