Earthworm Jim sure was a hit on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but sadly couldn’t get anywhere near the popularity of the system mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. And one of the major reasons why the Sonic games in the 16-bit era were so awesome (and why they trounced the Mario counterparts) was the really cool music. From the original Sonic game to Phantasy Star Online, Sonic Team has always been known for great music in their games. The Sonic song I picked for this week is Aquatic Ruin Zone from Sonic 2, it was my favourite song in the game when I played it on my trusty SEGA Mega Drive II back in the day.
Composer: Masato Nakamura Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Song: Aquatic Ruin Zone
Heavy Rain’s promise of “interactive drama” sure sounded interesting to a gamer like me, who appreciates great story and characters above anything else in a game. I knew that the gameplay would be comprised mostly of quick-time events, a much-hated feature of modern gaming, but I knew they could work well in such a setting. And they do. It’s not a conventional game and should not be expected to be such. It’s mostly about decision-making and quick reactions, but, at the end, the outcome depends fully on your actions, just like any other game. The many different endings available and the fact that any misstep from your part can change things drastically are the main draws of the game. It reminds of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book – or rather, movie.
Game: Heavy Rain Developer: Quantic Dream Platform: PlayStation 3 Original release: 2010 Territories: All
Above all, Heavy Rain is a unique experience – even that fact alone sets it apart from most modern games that tend to borrow from and influence one another heavily. The whole setting and the way events unfold heavily remind of a blockbuster thriller movie, and that is an effect the developers have deliberately aimed for. Despite the fact that there are some details that don’t make much sense, most of the time the suspension of disbelief works fine, and the game often has you at the edge of your seat, anticipating what will happen next. The quick-time events, of course, also contribute to the feeling of pressure and anxiety, which all the more connects you to the characters you control on your screen, as they’re desperately trying to prevent another murder of the Origami Killer, but are running out of time.
I occasionally try out demos, mostly on the PlayStation Network. Very rarely has a demo made me buy a game (the awesome early PS3 action-adventure Folklore comes to mind), but they’re a fine addition of the current generation, a real step forward from the years before when we only got demos rarely, through game magazines or the rare inclusions of a highly anticipated game’s demo in a previous game by the same company (think Metal Gear Solid 2’s demo in Zone of the Enders).
With this article, I’m starting a new section of the site, where I’ll share my quick impressions from demos I have found to be notable. And the first one I’ll write about is Retro City Rampage.
Game: Retro City Rampage Developer: Vblank Entertainment Platforms: PC, PlayStation Network (playable on both PS3 and PS Vita); Coming soon: Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare Original release: 2012 Territories: All Price: $14.99
There is one superhero I simply cannot ignore in this mini-series. One that originated in games, and subsequently even got his own cartoon! It’s Earthworm Jim, the amazing creation of Shiny Entertainment, and one of the staples of the 16-bit era, at least for me. With its incredible humour and charm, Earthworm Jim achieved a level of characterisation few games had by then. I wish there were more games like it, but some things are really, sadly “once in a lifetime.” At least there is still some hope for a new Jim game, and even though the first two pieces of brilliance were followed up by the mediocre 3D version, the creators just might give us something great again. Anyway, the Earthworm Jim song I picked today is surely familiar to anyone who’s booted it at least once – it’s New Junk City.
Composers: Mark Miller; Tommy Tallarico (SEGA/Mega CD arrangement) Game: Earthworm Jim: Special Edition (SEGA/Mega CD) Song: New Junk City
For the longest time, I thought that the main character in Tokyuu Shirei Solbrain was just the Japanese take on RoboCop. It was weird that he’d use his fists to fight instead of a pistol like the real RoboCop, but hey. In the English version, called Shatterhand, the character didn’t look remotely like RoboCop. Anyway, here is another awesome 8-bit tune, the Factory stage theme from that game.
Composers: Iku Mizutani, Koichi Yamanishi Game: Shatterhand / Tokyuu Shirei Solbrain Song: Area B: Factory
The first Uncharted was pretty cool, and the second one was even better. I expected the third game to be as good as its predecessor, but I also knew that there really wasn’t that much room for improvement for the series. Uncharted 2 had pretty much reached a peak, which would be a tremendous challenge for Uncharted 3 to overcome. But credit must go to Naughty Dog – they tried. The third game introduces some new and exciting details that make it seem more polished. It comes even closer to the blockbuster movie feel. But there were also several aspects where it couldn’t live up to the high standard set by Uncharted 2.
Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Developer: Naughty Dog Platform: PlayStation 3 Original release: 2011 Territories: All
Uncharted 3 is a fun game, definitely a pleasure for the player. There is pretty much never a dull moment, even more so than in the first two. There are exciting new environments like a London pub, a shipyard, a cruise ship, a desert…, further showcasing Naughty Dog’s talent in the graphics department. The relationship between Drake and Sully is further developed, with some most curious episodes. The villain is, unfortunately, rather lame (like in the first game), but Drake’s group of friends gets a pretty cool new member in Charlie Cutter. The story, as a whole, is nothing special, and the lack of a strong villain presence makes it less impressive than the second game that at least had that. Overall, however, the game will impress you with its numerous breathtaking moments.
Spider-Man’s NES game was not quite top-notch quality, but another Marvel hero, Captain America, had an awesome entry on the 8-bit system, created by Data East. Iron Man and Vision had been kidnapped by The Mandarin, so it was up to Cap and Hawkeye to save their Avengers teammates. It was a relatively long and considerably difficult game, the last couple of battles being especially excruciating. The coolest part was probably the ability to switch between Captain America and Hawkeye once you passed the same level with both in succession. Anyway, Hawkeye’s theme was my favourite from the game.
Composer: Momoi Miura Game: Captain America and the Avengers (NES) Song: Hawkeye’s Theme
Speaking of superheroes, here is a song from the only Spider-Man game on the NES, Return of the Sinister Six. That game was incredibly difficult, the controls were a bit off sometimes, but one just couldn’t help playing and enjoying a superhero game as a kid. The music is the thing I remember most fondly, and this is my favourite tune – the one playing during Sandman’s stage.
Composer: David Whittaker Game: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES) Song: Sandman’s Stage