Tag Archives: Arcade

Sign of the Dragon: Double Dragon Retrospective Review

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.

DDRAGON--Double Dragon Japan_Sep28 3_48_33

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

Black_Warriors_gang_from_the_Famicom_Double_Dragon
The Black Warriors taken from the Famicom manual

 

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.

Alex-kunio-kun-series-22271962-480-912
Alex from the Kunio-Kun Series which serves as the spiritual predecessor to DD.

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, Double Dragon’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.

1482946330578
“various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II..”

Recently, a sequel, Double Dragon IV (Based of the NES chronology), which I found personally to be an insult to the Double Dragon 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.

 

generic-beat-up-em-guy.jpg
“…influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight. “

Magical Sound Shower: Outrun Retrospective

Cars, one of man’s greatest creation. Some prefer something affordable, accommodate families, or show off stating, “Hey, I received a  load of money or just borrowed an unconsidered amount to buy this and now acquired massive debt.” Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of owning a luxurious sports car? But have to push that dream aside simply because being an adult means you have a great amount of responsibility in your shoulders.

Can you imagine it, The dream car, your best friend in the passenger seat, and not a single worry in the world? Driving around the world from the comfort of your car. The American pastime seemingly long forgotten.

Luckily, there’s a game that helps remedy this certain itch! 30 years ago, Sega made this dream into a reality. A game that not only inspired people to take a glimpse into the sweet life while raising the standards of driving games. Whether consumers wanted to pass some breezes, splash some waves, or enjoy the magical sound of rain showers. There’s only one way to remove this bothersome itch, Outrun.16032101

Released in 1986 by Sega by the extraordinary talent that is Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2. Previously responsible for Hang-On and Space Harrier a year before. The 3rd game in Super Scaler series, Outrun revolutionized the racing genre since it’s début back in 1986.

History

Inspired by the film The Cannonball Run, where individuals compete in a cross-country race across the US. Planning to unofficially adapt the film into a game,Suzuki met some unfortunate setbacks as someone ruined  the fun and mentioned that the scenery in the USA was dull, which is a clearly deceptive on their part. As a result, focusing his attention to the scenery of Europe. Driving across Europe and recording the scenery during his drive. Thus, serving as inspiration for the world of Outrun. “I started out from Frankfurt, where I hired a rent a car, and I installed a video camera on the car. Driving around Monaco and Monte Carlo, along the mountain roads of Switzerland, stopping in hotels in Milan, Venice, and Rome, collecting data for a fortnight.” Suzuki, a sports car fan, caught glimpse of something over at Monaco, a Ferrari Testarossa. The latest model of the luxury Italian automobiles from Ferrari.

Astonished by this discovery, Yu Suzuki returned to Japan to test the vehicle out himself. According to certain sources, members of AM2 squeezed to a privately owned Testarossa to record and take notes programming every bit of data into the game.

061_-_Ferrari_Testarossa_-_Flickr_-_Price-Photography
Ferrari Testarossa

One of Outrun’s attractions was the game’s fantastic soundtrack. Composed by the legend Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the game offered players with 3 different radio stations which was unheard at the time. “Passing Breeze”, the fusion influenced song that’s the overall mood inspires a laid back ride across the world. “Splash Wave”, the popular rock influenced song for those who enjoy extreme speed and a sense of adventure! Finally, “Magical Sound Shower”, the Latin based song for those who want something a little refreshing while driving around.

 

 

 

In addition, Yu Suzuki emphasizes that Outrun is not a racing game, rather a driving game where players simulate experiencing driving a sports car across luscious tracks. Likewise, it’s understandable to refer to it as such. The objective is to drive across 5 different stages before the clock runs out. Yet, the challenge derives from the player’s driving abilities. At the end of each level, the player can turn left or right at the fork. The left side being easier to complete and the latter poses a grander challenge. There are 5 endings to the game depending on where the player travels too. Punishing players that drive recklessly with a quick game over.

Coinciding with other arcade titles, Outrun’s captivation relies on simplistic gameplay. Yet, mastering will take time and money (well back then).  Hence, requiring a sheer amount of memorization in order to finish the stages as quickly as possible. Making sure players avoid other drivers along the road and efficiently turning to avoid hitting obstacles.

Alongside other Super Scaler titles, Outrun offered multiple cabinets to differentiate the player’s experience. From the deluxe cabinet based off a Testarossa, moving alongside the player turns. But good luck finding a working one these days! Next, the standard cabinet offers a Ferrari without wheels, and the upright cabinet features a mere steering wheel and shift stick which is possibly what’s left of the working cabinets. I won’t lie, I simply love the time and effort Sega put into designing their cabinets. Further indicating  that Sega genuinely cared about the player’s experience making sure they’d return for more.

outrun_1
Deluxe Cabinet

Home Versions

After all, the game’s success caused Sega to release many home versions. Depending on what the consumer owned, they were either blessed or received some poor excuse of a port. Starting off with some honorable mentions before moving into the highly regarded translations.

First off is the Master System port, a suitable place to start for those looking for an excellent racing game on the Master System. The roads in the game are choppy due to the weaker hardware in comparison to the System 16. Additionally, offering players with an FM-based soundtrack requiring modifications to the Master System.

Next, the PC Engine port is an impressive port considering being on a non-Sega system. Also quite possibly the best 8-bit port out there (16-bit/8-bit who cares it’s personal preference on what the PC engine was) having the full features of the arcade faithfully ported over. One minor issue I have is a humming noise from the engine while driving undoubtedly irritating, but thankfully turning it off remedies this complaint.

Following is the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which for the time was a regarded port. This version offers a new music track exclusive to this version “Step on the Beat”. There are some major issues in this port, including the decision to use a dark color palette, making it seem like the developers did not understand the Genesis/Mega Drive’s architecture or were instead careless enough not to improve this. Besides this also based off the Japanese version, ironically though, the PC engine port features the Overseas layout. How exactly did that happen? Thankfully the color issue improved thanks to Pyron, releasing a patch making the colors brighter hence, bringing this closer to the arcade original. Releasing this to a plethora of platforms, including the Sega Smash Pack for PC, Wii Virtual Console, and Steam.

Moreover,moving into the 128-bit generation, there is a satisfying version included in Shenmue 2, Yu Suzuki Game Works, and Outrun 2. At first glance, setting itself off as an excellent translation of the game.Unfortunately, this is not the case as the audio is off due to issues with the emulation. Even more, the Ferrari logo changed into a generic logo due to legal reasons. Other than that, I think this version of the game plays fine. However, if you happen to come across this version go ahead and give this a try if the sound and the minor graphical changes does not bother you.

Finally, the ports released on the Saturn and 3DS among the best, if not, the definitive options to experience Outrun at home or on the go. Beginning with the Saturn version developed by Rutubo Games under the SEGA Ages collection is the definitive home version. Not only is this arcade perfect, the developers went out of their way to make this a fulfilling experience featuring the option to choose between the Japanese and Overseas layout, a wonderfully arranged soundtrack, and smooth 60 fps mode. Yes, 60 frames per second! Enabling this is pure eye candy. However, the U.S version does not include the arranged soundtrack  being packed along with Space Harrier and After Burner II into a single disc.

All things considered, the Saturn port is stunning, at the same time the 3DS version is on par if not, surpassing the Saturn version. Developed by M2 under the 3D Sega Ages collection. Obviously, M2 were not intending to release a cheap port as member regarded this as “the climax of the series”. M2 included a great amount of time and quality into reintroducing Sega’s classics for a new and returning fans alike. Giving players a multitude of options to experience the game in different formats including: 16:9 widescreen, original 4:3, or emulating the deluxe cabinet, rotating screen, noise, and etc. Additionally, the game has a garage mode where players can customize their vehicle to their liking and choosing from the Japanese or Overseas layout like the Saturn port. Returning from the Saturn version is the ability to choose between the original 30 fps or 60 fps. Finally, a highly regarded addition to this version are two NEW songs. “Cruising Line” composed by  Manabu Namiki (Battle Garegga, Castlevania Rebirth, and DoDonpachi Daioujou) is my favorite of the new tracks feeling like a follow-up to Passing Breeze and feeling like a scrapped idea from the original release. “Camino a Mi Amor” the other track having Latin influenced setting  also sounding reminiscent of other mid-80’s Sega arcade titles including Turbo Outrun, Shinobi, and Thunder Blade. Unfortunately for purists, the Ferrari Testarossa is no longer there since Sega no longer has the license to use Ferrari vehicles at this time.

Equally as important is an unofficial version for the PC, Cannonball, a modest homage to the movie inspiring the game’s conception is essentially an emulator that fixes the bugs from the arcade ROM. Enabling certain features like faster frame rate, scanlines, and Japanese/overseas layout. Though the sound emulation is a little off, a fine choice for those craving to experience Outrun on the PC. By the way, did I mention this is free?

Aftermath

All in All, 30 years later, Outrun is one of the utmost influential racing games of all time. There’s something about its simple yet diverse mechanics. Profound than nearly a majority of the competition at the time. Letting the mind wander off and play pretend. Becoming one of Sega’s more well-known IPs, receiving many spin-offs and sequels throughout the past 30 years, some in particular including Outrunners, Turbo Outrun¸ and Outrun 2. Yet there hasn’t been a new entry in the series in well over a decade. Indeed, a punishable crime for neglecting fans of such an incredible IP! To Yu Suzuki and the wonderful folks over at SEGA AM2, thank you for creating such a wonderful game that has inspired countless memories over the past 30 years.

outrun2-05
Outrun 2, the official sequel released nearly 20 years after the original.

Sources:
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/05/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-1/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/06/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-2/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/09/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-3/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/10/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-4/

http://www.nowgamer.com/the-making-of-outrun/
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-03-22-out-ran-meeting-yu-suzuki
http://segaretro.org/OutRun
http://www.retrocollect.com/News/cannonball-an-enhanced-engine-for-the-classic-arcade-racer-outrun.html

Metal Slug 3

 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.

Plot

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.

Gameplay

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.

metal_slug_3_02
Marco, Eri, Tarma, and Fio

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.

slugelephant
Possibly, my favorite slug of all time, the elephant that blows electricity out of its trunk

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.

Graphics

NG_MetalSlug3-12
“Their grenade is now screen covering wave of blood..”

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.

Maneater
“Even the Deaths as gruesome as they are, remind me of something that came out of the cartoons of the yesteryear.

 

Music

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

 

Overall Thoughts

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 3 executes 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.

 

I need more pratice
I need more practice!

 

Sources:
https://tcrf.net/Metal_Slug_X_%28Neo_Geo%29/Unused_Stages