Game Opinion Summaries: Playstation (Part 2)

Okay… after months of work, here’s a huge update to this list!  108 new summaries.
Update 3/26/15: Added images of the games I liked more games in this update, links to gameplay videos on Youtube for the better and more interesting titles, put all opening and ending notes in reviews in italics now (so players and controllers supported, other platforms the game is on, and such are now italic), and fixed some formatting issues.  I also made a few improvements to the text here and there.

Opening Notes

The most important thing to note here is that this is mostly more of a “first impressions” list than it is “reviews”.  These are games I mostly haven’t played for more than two or four hours. Don’t consider the vast majority of these to be reviews; though I’m sure plenty of people on the internet would “review” games after playing them this little, I don’t think that’s right.  But I did make sure to play each game enough to form an opinion on it, and that’s what I wrote up below.

The first PS1 list has 136 Game Opinion Summaries in it.  This new list has fewer games on it, but is longer overall because I go into greater detail about each game. In the first PS1 Game Opinion Summaries list, 17 of the game discussed were games that I covered, but hadn’t played enough to give a good enough picture of.  Some of those I played and expanded my summaries of a while ago, the two Namco Museum volumes perhaps most notably, but there are still several games I need to make myself play sometime.  I’ve gone back and played six of those games again, removed them from the version of the first list on this site, and put the new summaries in this list.  I also added a bit to some of the summaries in the first list that were there, but not detailed enough, such as Namco Museum 1 and 3.  The difference is, those games had partially-usable summaries, I just needed to add a bit to them, while the ones covered again really did not have usable summaries before, but now do.

Overall, this new list has fewer games on it than the first one, but is longer overall because I go into greater detail about each game.  Beyond the six redos, the other 102 summaries below are new. Of the new summaries, 26 are games that I had as of the last list but hadn’t played yet. I played them now, so that I could discuss them.  Six are new redos of games I covered at extremely brief length in the first PS1 Game Opinion Summaries list, but have gone back to, played more, and said more about this time.  The remaining 66 are entirely new reviews, games I didn’t have yet in Dec. ’12.  Yeah, in only a couple of years the “short” part of the original “short reviews” title has been partially abandoned, for sure.  Ah well.  Quite a few of the new games are Japanese import titles — I got a Japanese PS2 earlier this year, and 30-odd import Japanese PS1 and PS2 games for each of them. Expectedly, the new summaries are longer than the old ones.  I’m not (yet) going to go back and rewrite all of the old summaries to make them longer and stuff, they’ll have to do.

Finally, there should have been one more summary in this list, but sadly the first disc of Parasite Eve II isn’t working.  I’ll try to get it fixed, but it was actually the last game I was going to play for this, so there isn’t time to get that done before posting this, if the disc is fixable (I hope it is).

The best PS1 games covered in this update: Galeoz, Tiny Tank, Steel Reign, Need for Speed: High Stakes, Red Asphalt, Egg, Gradius Gaiden, Puchi Carat, Rage Racer, Motor Toon Grand Prix, Roll Away, Wild ARMs, Driver 2, Megatudo 2096, Ganbare Goemon: Space Pirate Akoging!

The worst PS1 games covered in this update (and some of my least favorite games ever!): ESPN Extreme Games, 2Xtreme, Rush Down, VR Sports Powerboat Racing, Turbo Prop Racing, Die Hard Trilogy, maybe also CoolBoarders 2

Table of Contents
(titles covered; * marks redos of games from the first list)

ESPN/espn2 Extreme Games [aka 1Xtreme]
2 Xtreme
Ace Combat 2
Allied General
Apocalypse
Azumanga Danjyaro Daioh (J)
Blade Arts (J)
The Block Kuzushi (J) (Simple 2000 Series Vol. 5) [The Block Breaker]
Bounty Sword First (J)
Breakout
*Broken Helix
Bug Riders
Casper: Friends Around the World
Cleopatra’s Fortune
Cool Boarders 2
Crime Crackers (J)
Crime Crackers 2 (J)
Crusaders of Might and Magic
Crypt Killer
Cybernetic Empire (J)
Dare Devil Derby 3D
Descent Maximum
Die Hard Trilogy
*Dino Crisis
Driver 2
Egg (J)
End Sector (J)
Enigma (J)
Excalibur 2555 A.D.
Extra Bright (J)
Extreme Go-Kart Racing
*Fear Effect
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
Galaga: Destination Earth
Galaxian 3 (J)
Galeoz (J)
Ganbare Goemon: Space Pirate Akoging! (J)
Ganbare Goemon: Kurunarakoi! Ayashigeikka no Kuroikage! (J)
Ganbare Goemon: Oedo Daikaiten! (J)
Gekitotsu TomaLarc – Tomarunner vs. L’Arc-en-Ciel (J)
Gradius Gaiden (J)
Grille Logic (J)
Grudge Warriors
Gu Gu Trops (J) [Gugutoropusu]
Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale
Italian Job, The
Jet Moto 2
Jigsaw Madness
Kowloon’s Gate (Limited Edition) (J)
Kuru Kuru Cube (J)
Kyutenkai: Fantastic Pinball (J)
Legend of Dragoon, The
Medal of Honor Underground
Megatudo 2096 (J)
*Metal Gear Solid
Motor Toon Grand Prix
NASCAR 2000
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Parasite Eve
Poitter’s Point (J) (US title: Poy Poy)
Primal Rage
Puchi Carat (J)
Puzzle Star Sweep
Rage Racer
Rally de Europe (J)
RC de GO!
Red Asphalt
Resident Evil: Survivor
Robotron X
Roll Away
*Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire
Running High (J)
Rush Down
Rush Hour
SaGa Frontier
SaGa Frontier 2
Sentinel Returns
Silent Hill
Slayers Wonderful (J)
Sorcerer’s Maze
Speed King (J)
Spriggan: Lunar Verse (J)
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
Spyro: Year of the Dragon
Starwinder: The Ultimate Space Race
Steel Reign
Street Fighter Collection 2
Summon Night (J)
Summon Night 2 (J)
Syphon Filter 2
Team Losi RC Racer
Tiny Bullets (J)
Tiny Tank: Up Your Arsenal
Turbo Prop Racing
Tyco R/C: Assault With A Battery
The Unholy War
Van-Gale: The War of Neo-Century (J)
VMX Racing
VR Sports Powerboat Racing
Wild ARMs
Witch of Salzburg, The (J)
Wonder Trek (J)
WWF In Your House
XS Junior League DodgeBall
Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule Breed & Battle (J)
*Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories
Zeiram Zone (J)
Zoop

———
SUMMARIES
———


ESPN/espn2 Extreme Games [aka 1Xtreme]


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block).  ESPN/espn2 Extreme Games, later re-released as 1Xtreme, is a 1995 “extreme” racing game developed by EA and published by Sony.  This is a combat racing game.  There are six tracks, all supposedly downhill, and four types of transportation: bike, rollerblades, skateboard, and street luge. It’s kind of like a terrible spinoff of the 3DO/etc. Road Rash game.  This game was quite successful, and got two sequels.  I can’t be objective about this game, or series, though; the 1/2/3Xtreme series is one that I’ve always hated, a poster-child of everything that I couldn’t stand about Sony and its audience.  I remember 1 and 2 Xtreme from the mid/late ’90s.  This kind of “extreme sports” thing was in, then.  I liked PC and Nintendo, though, so despite being a teenager by the time the PS1 released, I had no interest in this game, or the skateboarding and rock-music lifestyle it was pushing; I quite disliked it, in fact.  The live-action-video FMV in the game aims at this audience. It’s pretty bad.

The game is awful, too.  For some reason, this game is considered to be the “good” 1/2/3Xtreme game. I don’t get it, they all seem atrociously terrible to me. of course I did go into this wanting to hate it, so I can’t pretend to be objective, but it did not disappoint. This game and the second one (below) have some differences.  First, in this game, you can use any ‘vehicle’ type on any track. There are 16 participants in each race, so there’s a big field, and there will always be a mix of all four vehicle types in each race.  You can play as any of 16 characters, and each have different stats.  They all control badly, at first at least.  Both games have very similar graphics.  The characters are all sprites, while environments are a mixture of sprite and polygon elements.  While you’re supposedly on a slope, it looks more like you’re going UPHILL than down, stupidly enough.  The characters look terrible, and the environments are ugly and low-quality.  The racing is no fun, and too hard as well.  This game is very difficult, and I have no interest in playing it enough to get even remotely good.  The game has combat just like 3DO Road Rash, so beat up your opponents as you go; the shoulder buttons attack.  I don’t mind combat racing, but the Road Rash format doesn’t work for me, I don’t enjoy it.  The tracks are also overlong, just like they are in Road Rash. Unlike Road Rash, though, there are also many gates along the track which you should try to go through.  You’ve got to aim right in the center to get through them; hitting the gates is annoyingly easy.  Hitting the other obstacles, such as fences and barrels, are also annoying. If you actually manage to do well in races, you get money which you can buy new boards/skates/bikes with.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that, with how bad this game is. There is one amusing thing about the game, though, live-action-video FMV!  Apparently the “1Xtreme” re-release removes the FMV video clips from the game, so get this version.  I mean, why buy this horrendous disaster if not in part to watch the oh-so-’90s “extreme” live-action-video clips?  But otherwise, thanks to an obnoxious “extreme sports” theme, bad controls, awful graphics, simplistic, unfun, and yet overly difficult gameplay, this is a terrible, terrible game.  Only diehard 3DO-style Road Rash fans should even consider this debacle. WHY did this stupid thing sell?  The sad thing is, it’s actually the best game in its trilogy, pitifully enough.  Really though, don’t fall for the people who claim this game is competent.  It’s not, at all.  Also on PC.


2 Xtreme


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block).  2Xtreme is pretty much the same thing as the first one, but maybe worse.  Now made by a Sony internal studio, they didn’t change much of anything.  Even the graphics look like a lot of visual elements were cloned straight out of the first game!  Why did they decide to keep those horrible rock-wall textures?  And the still sprite-based characters still look terrible, too.  They did make a few changes, though.  First, there are only ten racers in each race now, instead of 16.  There’s no visible reason for the downgrade. They did add a character-editor option though, so you can choose which bad sprite you want to play as and then customize their stats and name if you wish.  Also, now each of the different propulsion types are locked to one location.  You snowboard in Japan, bike in other place, etc.  It’s kind of too bad that now everyone on the course has the same vehicle; the mix of vehicle types was one of the few slightly interesting things about the first game.  Otherwise, though, this is the same game again. Tracks still look like you’re somehow sliding uphill; it’s still as much about hitting the other racers as it is actually racing; it’s still kind of hard; controls and gameplay are still terrible; and those gates and obstacles on the tracks are still annoying.  I totally hate it, these two games are two of the worst Playstation games I’ve played.  Of course I’m sure part of that is because of how much I remember hating these games in the ’90s, but had it actually been fun when I went back to this game now, I could have changed my mind… but they aren’t, at all. 2Xtreme is an absolutely atrocious disaster. But hey, if people wanted something “cooler” than Nintendo’s oh-so-kiddy games, then this is perfect!  Play this over Mario Kart, you’re only hurting yourself. [… Sorry, I can’t resist.  As I said, fair or not, I’ve always thought of these two games as poster-children for the PS1 audience…]


Ace Combat 2

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad and Analog Joystick both supported.  Ace Combat 2 is the second average-at-best game in Namco’s popular flight combat series.  A lot of people like this series, but based on playing this, I don’t.  Plane combat games with real airplanes have never interested me much, and this isn’t the game which is going to change my mind on that.  This is a fairly simple airplane combat game.  You choose a plane (you start with two, and can buy more), and set off on a linear campaign of missions, all of which involve destroying enemy planes.  The game is played with an in-cockpit view, but that’s where the simulation elements end: you’ve got scores of missiles, and a fairly simple lock-on system.  It’s hard to hit enemies with guns, but missiles are better anyway. Just get within range with the enemy near the reticule and you’ll lock on, then start firing away.  You can accelerate and brake with buttons, though they only last while you are holding them, as in Rogue Squadron; normal throttle controls would be better.  There’s also a map.  You can’t really lock on to and follow a target, just lock on with your missile onto an enemy in front of you, but there is a map, and the game isn’t busy enough to be unmanageable.  Hold map button, point plane towards enemy, fly forward until you find them.  As you progress it gets harder, but the basic gameplay is simple, and I don’t find it particularly interesting.  The graphics are okay for the PS1, with fairly basic but decent environments and planes.  It would be better with decent controls, though! I do find the game somewhat boring, but the controls with a Dual Shock are by far the worst thing about this game, I’d say.  It’s difficult to get a flight game controlling well on a gamepad’s small analog stick; the genre greatly benefits from full-size joysticks. Making it worse, the PS1’s joysticks are, of course, very imprecise and loose.  Ace Combat 2 has both of these problems, bad, so the controls are twitchy and frustrating.  Keeping enemies on screen is harder than it should be.  If you want to play Ace Combat 2, don’t bother unless you have an Analog Joystick (the Playstation’s big twin flightstick joystick controller), essentially.  I’ll try this again whenever I get one.  I’m sure I’d still find the game not all that exciting, but it’d definitely control a lot better with one of those, and that would make a difference.  But with a gamepad, this is average to below average overall.


Allied General

1 player, saves (3 blocks).  Allied General is a port of the PC strategy wargame of the same name.  The sequel to the classic Panzer General, this entirely 2d wargame is, of course, far better on computers.  Panzer General is a wargame that tried to be a lot more approachable than most wargames; it is a genre that usually is very complex and inapproachable to those who don’t already like the genre.  Panzer General, and this sequel, aren’t like that; they are simpler and easier to play.  That doesn’t mean that there is no depth, though. There are quite a few different types of units, in various categories including infantry, artillery, and tanks.  Each unit has various stats showing its abilities and strength.  As usual in wargames, the game plays on a hex grid, albeit zoomed in too close here because of the PS1’s very low resolution compared to a mid ’90s PC. Of course, this also means that there isn’t an onscreen minimap.  Not good.  The basic gameplay is fun enough, though; just learn your forces, and try to destroy the enemy.  There are little animations when units attack eachother, something you wouldn’t see in a more serious wargame.  I like strategy games, but have never gotten into the full-on wargames, so a simpler one like Allied General is great. However, I just don’t think there is any reason to actually play this downgraded Playstation version over the PC original, or a newer similar title.  And I always did like Steel Panthers a bit more than Allied General anyway, even if it is a bit more complex… but even so, for the hardware this is a fine port.  There’s just no reason to actually play it today.  Port of a PC game.


Apocalypse


1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  Apocalypse is a 3d run & gun action game where you play as Bruce Willis, ’90s action-movie star.  This is a decent but fairly easy game.  It’s an original title, not based on a movie. I’ve only actually seen one Bruce Willis movie, the asteroid movie Armageddon, but he’s been in a lot of films, most notably Die Hard.  This time, it’s the apocalypse, as the name suggests, and only Bruce Willis can save the world from the Satanic armies!  It’s a solid setup for an action game, why not.  Apocalypse is a 3d run & gun action game, and plays a lot like the Playstation games One or Assault: Retribution.  Apocalypse is better than One, but not as good as Assault: Retribution, because I like that game more than most people seem to.  This game is easier than either of those games, though.  I didn’t have much trouble zipping through several levels of the game. Still, this game is pretty good for a licensed game.  As in those other games, Apocalypse is straightforward.  In each of the games’ few levels, you follow a linear path through the stage, killing all of the enemies along the way and navigating some platform-jumping challenges.  There aren’t large open areas in this game; it’s quite linear, with narrow spaces to fight in.  That’s alright, it keeps the game moving. Perhaps in part because of that, and its apparently protracted development, Apocalypse looks fairly nice.  The graphics are good for the PS1, and it’s got lots of shiny visual effects on the weapon animations.  You have a nice variety of weapons to attack with.  Also, Bruce Willis did voice work for the game.  He says a constant stream of voice quips during play.  That’s the game, though; run forward, shoot the baddies, kill everything, and then face the next area. Sometimes you’re running forward navigating platforms while shooting enemies, and other times you’re in a room, killing the enemies or boss.  Don’t miss the jumps and you should be fine, this game really is easy for a run & gun.  Other than the lacking difficulty, though, this game is reasonably fun stuff. Pick it up if you find it cheap.


Azumanga Danjyaro Daioh (J)

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  This game is basically a simpler spinoff of mahjong with the characters from the pretty great early ’00s slice-of-life anime Azumanga Daioh in it.  Anime games are rarely good, and this one isn’t too great either. It is playable, but too simplistic and random.  Think mahjong, but easier; that’s this game. As in mahjong, you get a hand of tiles, here nine.  Your goal is either to make three sets of three matching tiles, or otherwise make one of the special hands that are listed in the manual and pause menu.  Instead of the large mahjong tileset, however, this game uses pictures of nine of the characters as the tiles.  There are also numbers on each tile, but for basic play these are less important than the pictures — all you need to do to get a set of three is have three tiles of the same picture, no matter what numbers are on them.  Much simpler than mahjong!  I’m not clear on what the numbers are for, honestly; that’s explained in Japanese, but I can’t read much of that, and though I’ve played the game, I don’t quite get it. I also don’t know the differences between different tile colors, if there are any.  Ah well, I can’t read much Japanese, so those who can won’t have these issues.  Each turn you can either take the tile the other player dropped or pick up a tile.  You then have to discard a tile, either one of your nine or the tile you drew.  There are no kan, pon, or chii calls in this game, that’s one of the many things simplified here.

For options and graphics, the main mode is a story mode where you choose a main and second character and then face off against a series of opponents, all characters from the show.  You unlock an image or two in the games’ gallery if you beat the game with a character, and more images if you play well, so it’ll take a while if you want to unlock everything.  Unlike mahjong, this is a 1-on-1 game only.  One of your characters appears on screen in a 3d chibi form, and will kick over the tile you discard, drop in the tiles you add, and such. It’s a cute touch.  The two characters you chose will alternate during each match. Just like in mahjong, of course I constantly found myself discarding the “wrong” tile, but you never know what you’ll get next, so predicting which tile I should discard is pretty tough.  Ah well, that’s how this kind of game goes.  Getting a basic win with three sets of three isn’t too hard, but that gets you few points, and to win each match you need to have more of your health points left after five rounds than your opponent does.  Yes, matches are five rounds only, that’s how it works.  The basic game is simple, but frustrating because it’s so easy to lose because the opponent got some great set of tiles in the last round and crushes you even though they were way behind… bah.  But mahjong IS a gambling game, and some of that unfair randomness is still present here.  Overall, this game is okay, but I’d rather play a real mahjong game.  The 2d and 3d graphics look nice, and the game isn’t hard to learn the basics of, and I certainly like Azumanga Daioh and the characters, but the game’s not the greatest.  I’m not the biggest mahjong fan, but dumbing it down a bit doesn’t make it better.  Still, this is an okay game.


Blade Arts (J)

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Blade Arts is a 3d action-adventure game from Enix, sort of like Tomb Raider but Japanese, and IN Japanese.  Yes, this is the first of quite a few import games I’ll be reviewing here.  Blade Arts is a decently good game, but it has a couple of issues.  You play as a warrior guy, and have a decent variety of moves.  In each level you have to find the end by killing the enemies, navigating through sometimes tricky jumping puzzles, and figuring out some puzzles.  Your guy has a sword, and you can use some attack combos.  You’ve got special abilities as well.  These will be particularly useful in the sometimes-tough boss fights.  In addition to all that, there is also a lot of story in this game, so you have to watch many very long Japanese-language cutscenes.  At least they are voiced, but of course I can’t understand a lot of what’s going on.  This is a story-heavy game, and the cutscenes are, frustratingly, unskippable.  This is one problem with the game. Another is the save system. You can only save between levels, so if you die late in a stage, you go all the way back to the beginning… and in some cases might have to spend 15 minutes watching cutscenes before you’re finally back to the game and get another chance to die at the same point again.  Argh!  I quite liked this game at first, but it got really frustrating only a couple of stages in thanks to how long it takes whenever I died.  There may be save points sometimes, but not always.  I eventually gave up on the game in a stage with a particularly long cutscene sequence before a tough and frustrating jumping puzzle; this game has fall damage, so missing a jump can be fatal.  Still though, I’m sure I will go back to Blade Arts.  It’s a good game well worth playing, and it’s really too bad that it wasn’t brought over to the West.  The game plays fairly well, looks like it has a somewhat interesting story with some definite twists and turns, and has a nice mix of action and adventure.  It’s definitely worth a play if you like this kind of thing.


The Block Kuzushi (J) (Simple 2000 Series Vol. 5) [The Block Breaker]

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  The Block Breaker is one of several Breakout-style games in the Simple 2000 line of cheap games, named for their 2000 yen price per game (about $20).  The line is a mixture of fun games and super-cheap junk.  This game is okay, but definitely very low budget.  The Block Breaker feels kind of like a ’90s PC shareware game, in quality and graphics.  It is a fun 2d Breakout/Arkanoid clone with a few unique mechanics.  As usual in this genre, you control a paddle at the bottom of the screen, and have to destroy a field of blocks above.  This is a 2d game, and the graphics are simple and have no variety, but the blocks look nice. The game has no music.  The overall presentation isn’t great.  The only audio is sound effects and some musical fanfares that play between levels.

At first I thought this game was tedious, but it actually is kind of interesting thanks to the ball-manipulating abilities that you have.  If you hit X when the ball hits the paddle, the ball bounces off at increased speed.  If you keep timing your button-presses correctly so that it keeps increasing in speed each time it hits the paddle, you can enable a shot which will go right through the bricks, destroying them without stopping!  It’ll only last until it hits a wall, but you can destroy whole columns of blocks this way, so long as they’re destructible.  You can also angle the ball left or right with the L and R shoulder buttons, which is cool.  With these powers you can quickly increase the ball to a quite high speed, and somewhat control it in the air, things you usually can’t do in this genre.  However, there are few powerups here.  There’s a 1-up, a powerup that makes your paddle longer, a multiball powerup (but the additional balls are small, and you still will lose a life if the main ball falls through the bottom, so it’s not like normal multiball), and not much else.  There isn’t a gun powerup, so once you’re down to that one last block, you just have to keep bouncing the ball around until you manage to hit the stupid thing.  There is a wall of blocks at the bottom of the screen acting as a backup defense line, though, which is nice.  One powerup will replace this with a new line of blocks, it’s helpful.  For blocks, the game has only the basics: normal blocks, shiny blocks that take more hits, and invincible blocks.  The unique element here is the ball modifiers.

Block Breaker has two main modes, Simple or branching.  In the simpler mode, you just play through a linear sequence of levels. I think there are a hundred levels.  In the more complex mode, the game has a Outrun-esque branching mission tree.  After each five stages, you choose which of two routes you want to take, each with different levels. Gameplay is the same in either mode.  The game saves the top 10 scores in each mode. As for a language barrier in this Japan-only release, it is low.  The main menu options are in Japanese, but it’s easy enough to learn them.  The high-score table is in English, and there’s no other text in the game.  Overall, The Block Kuzushi is low-budget, perhaps too low-budget, but I do like it.  I wish the game had more variety and some music, but the ball speed-boost mechanic is cool.  This game has a sequel on the PS2, The Block Kuzushi Hyper; it looks like it mixes this game with some elements from Hasbro’s Breakout remake (below).  Both games are worth a look for a low enough price, for genre fans.


Bounty Sword First (J)

1 player, saves (1 block).  Bounty Sword: First is an interesting and somewhat original strategy game with RPG elements.  This game is a remake of the original SNES Bounty Sword game, as the title suggests. So, because of its SNES origins, it’s a top-view isometric 2d game.  The graphics are improved over the original version.  There is a lot of text and story in this game, and almost no voice acting.  However, the game IS mostly playable even if you don’t know the language, and I like it anyway.  Oddly, when starting the game the game says “Bounty Sword Trilogy” before flipping over to “Bounty Sword First”, but there is only one more game in this series, before its developer shut down or something like that.  With how interesting this game is, though, I’d like to play the sequel.  Bounty Sword is a fairly automated game, in that characters can act on their own, based on the AI settings you give them.  Now, this is an RPG-ish strategy game, but it’s not an open adventure game.  Instead, as in, say, Shining Force CD, you have battles, camps, and menu-style towns, and that’s pretty much it.  You can save in the camp or town in between battles. Each battle is won by killing all of the enemies.  Now, as I said, characters will act on their own.  Once set to attack enemies, they will move around and attack on their own.  Each character has a meter, and when it empties they will take an action, either attack, heal, or such.  They will act on their own, but you can give movement orders at any time, tell mages or healers to cast specific spells, and also change the AI settings during battle.  I don’t know what some of the options do because they’re all in Japanese, but the settings for attack and healing make sense — you can set characters to attack enemies or to not do that (useful for mages for example), and set how low a characters’ health has to get before they automatically heal themselves; lots of characters have healing spells, though you can also use items if someone has run out of magic.  Of course, all spell and item names are in Japanese, so it’ll take practice to learn what things do.  For a game with mostly automatic combat, this game is about as fun as it could be.  I love that characters can move around the map, instead of being stuck in generic menu-style JRPG battles.  The graphics are good, too, for a 2d game.  This game clearly doesn’t push the PS1, but I like its good-quality 2d art.  This game has a somewhat Western/Japanese hybrid art style; it’s not another game with super-stylized anime art, and I like the resulting look.  The main character is a mercenary swordsman type warrior, so you’re not playing as yet another little kid out to save the world, either; this game is clearly a darker fantasy story.  You quickly gather a few allies, and can buy more (mercenary) party members in town.  Towns also have item stores and battle arenas where you can fight extra battles.  Overall, Bounty Sword First is a very promising game.  I’m not far enough into it to say for sure how good it is yet, but I can definitely say that I like it.  The game has good art design, fun if somewhat simple gameplay, and maybe a decent story, particularly if you know the language.  It’s worth checking out!  The game is a remake of Bounty Sword for the SNES, which is also a Japan-only release.


Breakout

4 player simultaneous (with multitap), saves (1 block), supports the Analog Gamepad, Jogcon, and Playstation Mouse controllers.  Breakout is one of several classic Atari remakes published by Hasbro in the late ’90s and early ’00s. I have most of them for PC, Game Boy Color, and Dreamcast, but this is one I hadn’t played until very recently.  Breakout is a 3d polygonal remake of the classic Atari blockbreaking game of the same name, this time from the British studio Supersonic Software.  Supersonic is better known for its top-down racing games, but they did a quite competent job with blockbreaking as well, because this game is solid fun.  It does have a few issues, but is good overall. The main single player game in Breakout is a somewhat short, but interesting and varied, Story mode.  Most levels in story mode involve breaking blocks or other objects with a ball or balls you bounce off of the paddle that you control, as always in Breakout/Arkanoid-style games.  This game does have powerups, as per Arkanoid; grab them when they drop down the screen.  A few stages have other styles of gameplay, though; they try to mix things up with some Crash-esque ‘escape the monster by running into the screen’ areas, among other things. There’s also a story here.  It’s a very basic one of a paddle who has to rescue his friends and female love interest from an evil paddle that has kidnapped them all, so the story is awful, but there are some amusing jokes in the cutscenes; it’s very British, and is amusing.  I also really like the level variety.  Sometimes you’re destroying Egyptian pyramid blocks, others chickens while a Space Invaders-like soundtrack plays, parts of a castle, and more.  Back in the mid ’90s I thought that it’d be great if there was a Breakout-style game with enemies to hit with your ball instead of just blocks.  I actually made a little Klik & Play game like that, though it was sadly lost years ago (stupid me of 15 years ago, back up those KNP games!).  I don’t think any commercial games back then did it, though there is a bit of that in Kirby’s Block Ball.  This game is like that too, and that’s great!  There are even “bossfights”.  The campaign is sadly quite short, but it’s fun stuff while it lasts, and has replay value.  Playing for score is worthwhile in this kind of game.

For negatives, the main one really is the controls.  The games’ length is also an issue, but I think the fun factor and replay value make up for that, but the controls?  If you want good controls here, have a Jogcon or mouse, that’s for sure!  The d-pad or analog stick controls aren’t very good.  Control is somewhat imprecise with analog, and I don’t always feel like the paddle moves where it should, and d-pad precision isn’t the right thing for this kind of game.  What you need is an analog spinner or mouse.  Unfortunately the neGcon isn’t supported, because the neGcon and some neGcon-compatible controllers, the Ultra Racer in particular, would be perfect for this game, but it does at least have Jogcon and Mouse support.  Of course those two controllers are much rarer than a neGcon-compatible one, but they are supported, and should work great.  I’d recommend getting a compatible controller for this one, or get the PC version if you can get it running right.  The other control issue is that sometimes it can be hard to see what you’re doing because of the 3d element of the game.  Fields may be flat, but often blocks are stacked up above where you are bouncing the ball, and sometimes I just couldn’t quite see where the ball was going.  The 3d paddle model also doesn’t look or control quite as well as a 2d sprite would have on the PS1.  You get used to it, but the game does have a learning curve.

Breakout for PS1 has up to four player split-screen multiplayer.  While Pong: The Next Level (released one year before this game, and also developed by Supersonic; play it, it’s good!) had a 4-player single-screen multiplayer mode, an awesome feature that was in some ’70s and early ’80s Pong clones such as 4-player Pong and Warlords but in pretty much nothing else until The Next Level (though I had a 4-player single-screen mode in that KNP game of mine, I thought that’d be cool and I hadn’t heard of those old games that did the same thing.).  Anyway, Breakout doesn’t work like that; instead, it’s split-screen, and the players compete to break their walls of bricks first.  I think that Pong probably makes for the better multiplayer game, but it’s interesting that they tried to get Breakout working as a multiplayer game.  Perhaps they should have had the multiplayer mode play like Warlords, instead; that’s sort of a Pong/Breakout hybrid.  I mean, splitscreen competition to break walls is alright, but it’d be better if the players could directly compete!  Overall though, Breakout for the PS1 is a good fun game.  I’d recommend it to any genre fan.  Also on PC.


*Broken Helix

1 player, saves (1 block).  Broken Helix is a mediocre third person action-adventure shooter with some stealth elements from an American team at Konami.  This game gets decent reviews, but I don’t like it very much, though this genre is one I often dislike, so that shouldn’t be too surprising.  Broken Helix isn’t an awful game, but it has some frustrating elements that hurt it.  You play as a guy voiced by Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), and are going into Area 51 to defuse some bombs set by scientists threatening to blow up the base.  Of course, more is going on than it seems, and after the really annoying timed section at the beginning of the game, you get to make some choices that lead to four different routes though the game with different endings.  Yes, aliens are involved, as you’d expect from any Area 51 game, but this isn’t just a story of evil aliens attacking Earth; instead the game tries to tell a more complex story, though it doesn’t really hold my interest.  The cutscenes are rendered in-engine, and look quite ugly, and the voice acting is average.  As for the gameplay, it’s not the greatest either.  As expected for the PS1, the graphics aren’t great; everything is, as usual, quite pixelated.  Control is alright, but would be a lot better with analog support; it’s really unfortunate that the game doesn’t support the PS1 analog gamepads, which I believe had recently released when the game came out in fall ’97.  As it is, you have to make do with a d-pad and generous aiming assistance.  Hitting enemies in this game is fairly easy, but there is challenge to be found. At the start, you have a 20 minute time limit to defuse two bombs.  I hate time limits like this in games!  I got the base blown up again and again, and it made me want to stop playing, not try to master it.  One bomb you find right away, but the other is a ways in. The problem is, if you get seen by a camera drone three times, the bad guy blows the bombs, game over. You can save in this game, but it is limited — you need to collect CD items in order to save, and each save uses up a CD item.  It’s stupid, I hate limited saving.  You also collect a variety of weapons, healing items, keys, and such, though the inventory system could be better; I wish keys would auto-use when I have the right key and interact with the lock!  There is also a map, thankfully.  You also find robots you can control to go into areas you can’t reach and such.  Enemies start out really easy, apart from those camera drones you have to avoid, but of course it gets tougher once you fight real soldiers and/or aliens and not just near-helpless scientists.  Overall the game plays okay, but forcing myself past that initial timed segment was a struggle, I wasn’t having fun.  I’m sure there is still an audience for this game, though it has aged a lot, but I’m not in it.  Broken Helix has poor graphics, control issues, some frustrating design decisions, and generally average gameplay.  It’s not that good.


Bug Riders

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block).  Bugriders: The Race of Kings is a 3d flight racing game from n-Space.  This is a pretty unique title, and I definitely like some things about it.  The game has plenty of issues, but is so unique and interesting that I like it anyway.  Bugriders clearly was made on a limited budget.  Production values are questionable. Bugriders is set in a fantasy world where people ride giant flying insects in a series of races.  As in most racing games, there isn’t much story here, but that’s just fine.  There is a CG intro at the beginning telling the backstory.  In this world, the next emperor is chosen based on who wins a bug-riding race.  Yes, really.  It’s a good excuse for a game, at least.  There are a variety of characters to choose from, each riding a weird bug, and then it’s off to the races.  Each character has different specs.  The game is organized into point-based championship circuits, so you need to complete several races and do well in them in order to win each championship.  Sort of like in Bravo Air Race (reviewed in my original PS1 list), while this is an air racing game, you can’t go very high into the air, and the courses are somewhat narrow — there are walls, either visible or invisible, that keep you on the course at all times.  Modern air racing games like SkyDrift have much wider and more involved environments.  Of course though, this is just a PS1 game, so you can’t expect too much.  The graphics are average at best, but at least the settings are varied.  It’s not great looking, but for a mid-life PS1 game isn’t too bad.  I really wish the game had analog controls, though! It doesn’t.  I like arcadey racing games, and this one can be fun. Game controls are simple, but since you are flying in 3d space, it can be easy to get turned around.  The narrow paths do usually help with this, but memorization will definitely be required in order to do well at this game.  You can attack as well, and helpfully the shots do home in on enemies in front of you.  Sometimes your goal is kills, instead of just finishing in a high enough position, so it’s good that it’s fairly easy to hit the enemies.  There are also speed-up rings to fly through, and you get special weapons from colored gates.  This is a very dated game, with very “Playstation” graphics, dated gameplay thanks to having to manage to fly through 3d space with nothing but a d-pad and sometimes touchy controls, and memorization-heavy track designs.  Probably partially because of the fantasy setting, unique theme, and simple arcadey racing gameplay, I kind of like this game anyway, though.  It’s far from good, but is definitely entertaining for a while. It’s also quite unknown, but maybe it’ll be a little less so now.

Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp-y5SPb9Pk


Casper: Friends Around the World

1 player, saves (1 block).  This game is a 2.5d platformer from Realtime Associates.  It’s clearly a cheap budget title, and the game is short and easy, but I’ve had fun with it anyway.  Sure, any half-decent platformer fan should be able to zip right through the ~10 levels and beat the game no problem, but it really isn’t that bad, despite the poor reviews!  In the game, you play as Casper, as expected.  Casper’s got a cool transparency effect on his character, which looks pretty nice.  Casper also can float straight ahead, for as long as a meter on screen allows; you can’t fly freely, but that would make the game far too easy.  Lastly you can also shoot bolts of energy at the enemies.  The controls are simple, but work decently well.  Your goal is to get to the end of each level; Casper has some human friends who were captured, and you rescue one at the end of each level.  Somewhat oddly, they’re just waiting for you at the end of the stage.  They don’t seem very captured… eh, whatever, it’s a videogame.  In each level, there are some collectables to pick up, but most importantly, you must find a special item in each level in order to progress.  If you miss it, you’ll need to play the level again, so search around.  In terms of level designs, one nice thing about Casper: Friends Around the World isn’t entirely 2d.  I called the game “2.5d”, and it probably is, but this game has a lot of branching paths that curve around different ways in 3d space.  This game is much less complex than Realtime’s earlier, and great, Bug! titles on the Saturn, but it’s nice to see at least this much of a 3d element in the game!  You can often go up or down to enter alternate routes.  These aren’t always obvious, and I found looking out for the trails or marks fun.  It’s not too hard, but adds some nice variety to the game.  The item you need is often on an alternate path.  Once you find it, you need to play a mediocre Breakout-style minigame.   Beating these is easy, and once you do you’ll be able to play the next level, once you reach the end and ‘rescue’ the level’s kid.  Each level is set in a different place around the world, so you’ll see Brazil, London, and more.  Levels are somewhat short, but the game has a decent difficulty curve.  It’s an easy game, but a few levels in I started dying once in a while, so that was nice.  Overall, this game’s alright.  It’s average to poor, objectively, but I find it a decently fun game for the few hours it lasts.  Maybe pick it up if you like platformers and see it for a few bucks; I paid $3 and liked it.


Cleopatra’s Fortune

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block).  Cleopatra’s Fortune is the PS1 version of this Taito arcade puzzle game.  This is one of the Tetris-inspired block-dropping kinds of puzzle games.  The game stars a cute anime-style Cleopatra, but the gameplay is fairly traditional stuff.  Cleopatra’s Fortune does have some quirks, though.  In the game, various pieces drop from above.  There are two kinds of blocks, stone blocks or treasures.  Treasures look different, depending on their size, but all work the same.  Making a row of stone blocks will also cause the blocks to vanish, though the same is not true for treasures.  The goal of the game is to surround the treasure blocks with stone blocks — left/right/up/down only, diagonals don’t matter.  Wall in treasures with blocks and the treasures will vanish, and then the blocks will follow, and you’ll get points of course.  The game starts out simple enough, but gets much more challenging as it gets faster!  As your score goes up so will block variety, so while at the start you’ll mostly be seeing just one or two block pairs drop, later much larger and harder to place ones will.  This gives the game a definite difficulty curve during each game, something perhaps uncommon in the block-dropping puzzle game genre, but it works.  And that’s the game, basically.  The main mode is an endless mode, but there are a couple of other options, so they did add to the game versus the original arcade version.  This is not a content-rich game, and you can play Cleopatra’s Fortune other ways, such as Taito Legends 2, but still, it’s a very good version of a fun puzzle game.  This was a very late US release on the PS1, coming only in 2003 many years after its Japanese release, but they didn’t mess with the game, thankfully, unlike some other late PS1 games (Mobile Light Force, Sorcerer’s Maze, etc.).  Overall, I like puzzle games, and while simple, Cleopatra’s Fortune is definitely a good game.  I wasn’t sure if this would be worth it since I do have Taito Legends 2, but the new modes, while not major, are fun enough to make this version of the game also worth having.  Arcade conversion, also on Saturn (in Japan only) and in Taito Legends 2 on PS2 and PC (and, in Europe, Xbox).


Cool Boarders 2

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block).  The second, and perhaps most popular, Coolboarders game, Cool Boarders 2 is an awful snowboarding game.  Yes, this is another popular PS1 game that I think isn’t any good at all.  With ugly graphics, boring tracks, frustrating gameplay, and poor controls, I don’t see much of any redeeming qualities here.  This doesn’t surprise me to much, though; I also hated Rippin’ Riders for the Dreamcast, a newer snowboarding game by UEP Systems, the same developer as the first two Coolboarders games and a game that in Japan is a Cool Boarders game.  Considering how much I disliked that game, I saw little hope for UEP’s two PS1 Coolboarders games, Coolboarders 1 and 2.  That caution was accurate.  I know that this released in 1997, but that’s several years into the PS1’s life, shouldn’t we expect something better than this?  Cool Boarders 2 is very basic.  The main mode is boring, unfun racing.  Before each race you do a quick snowboard-jump stunt stage to determine your start position.  Decent idea, but stunts aren’t all that much fun, and the races are probably even worse.  Track designs are pretty bad.  Tracks are long and mostly straight; they don’t feel much like actual mountains.  Each track is linear, with almost no branching paths and little fun.  Turn when the course does and try to stay away from the sides, that’s all there is to it.  It won’t be easy, though, not with this games’ poor handling.  Controls are digital only, and they’re bad and jerky.  This just doesn’t look or feel like a snowboarding game should!  The bad controls are probably the thing I dislike the most about this game, and this series.  And just as in Rippin’ Riders, if you mess up, the awful announcer insults you.  Who thought THAT was a good idea?  You’re just going to make people not want to play your game!  That’s what they make me want to do in both of these games.  These games have some of the worst voice announcing ever.  They didn’t fix the controls in Rippin Riders’, either; one of that games’ biggest problems is that it also controls poorly.  Both games are entirely too hard as well.  Instead of making me want to keep trying, the losing makes me want to quit playing, which is what I did.  Graphically, as I said, this game looks pretty bad.  Yes, it’s improved over what I’ve seen of the first one, but the game still has broken polygon seams between pretty much every polygon.  Watching the polygons jitter all over is kind of painful.  Character and environment models are extremely basic, as well.  Ugly stuff.  Overall, I admit, I haven’t played much of Cool Boarders 2, but when I’m having absolutely no fun at all, why should I?  Cool Boarders 2 has bad graphics, bad and boring track designs, terrible controls, and more.  There are no redeeming qualities to this disaster; maybe it was tolerable in 1997, since better games like 1080 didn’t exist yet, but in a post-1080 and SSX world, there is absolutely no reason to touch this boring failure.


Crime Crackers (J)

1 player, saves (1 block).  Crime Crackers is a FPS/RPG hybrid.  It’s sort of like Robotica (Saturn) or Space Griffon VF-9 (PS1), except in Japanese, with an anime theme, and with more RPG elements, such as experience levels, items, and equipment.  Also this game actually released before either of those titles — this was a 1994 release!  It’s okay but dated, much like those other two games are.  In the game, you play as a team of three space police officers, two of them anime girls and one a sort of human-sized dragon who I presume is male.  One of the girls is the main character, and she’s in the center on the cover as well.  I like that the game has a female lead.  The game has a story, but it’s all in text-only Japanese — there is no voice acting in this game, unfortunately.  So yeah, I’m not clear on much of the plot, but this is a somewhat silly, comedic game, I can tell that much.  The gameplay is easy enough to figure out.  In each mission, you need to navigate your way in first person 3d through a maze, defeat the enemies, and finally kill the boss at the end of the stage.  You control the three characters with one view, and can switch between them with a button press; each has separate weapons and health.  You can save at any time, which is pretty nice.  The first mission has a fairly simple maze of only two levels, but the game gets much more complex as you go, of course.  Floors are mazes of corridors and rooms, basic stuff.  As expected for an early PS1 game, the graphics aren’t that good.  Environments are repetitive, and the corridors don’t look great.  It’s good enough to do, but that’s it.

When you see an enemy, pressing Square button will bring up a targeting cursor, then X fires.  One of the girls has a shorter-range melee attack that doesn’t use ammo, while the other two characters require ammo in order to fire.  The main character can use bomb attacks (with O) that damage everything on screen, as well.  Now, in aiming mode you can’t move forward or backward since the d-pad controls the aiming cursor, but you can still dodge right and left with the shoulder buttons.  This is key, try to dodge incoming enemy fire!  If you don’t, you will take damage quickly.  The controls are clumsy, but no PS1 analog gamepads existed yet, so there was no way around something like this in a 3d shooter.  Triangle opens the menu.  From here you can use items, equip stuff, save, etc.  Item descriptions are in Japanese, but fortunately there are also images of the items, and some descriptions are helpful.  The pills heal a character 100 health, the gun refills weapon ammo, the key is a key to use on a door, etc.  You can use money you collect to buy stuff in a store screen that appears between missions.  You’ll need it, because this game can get difficult, but the game is interesting enough to keep me playing.  The graphics and design may be primitive, but I like this game.  Crime Crackers is a simple but fun maze shooter. If you like early shooters, and particularly Robotica or Space Griffon, as I do, give it a try. Oh, and in addition to the usual nice full-color manual, Crime Crackers comes with a fun little sheet of stickers as well.  There are some game logos, an image of the main girl, and more. Nice.


Crime Crackers 2 (J)

1 player, saves (1 block per file).  Crime Crackers 2 released in late 1997, almost three years after the first game.  Unfortunately, it does not take advantage of the analog gamepads which by that point existed, and still has clumsy d-pad-only controls.  Otherwise, though, this game is a good game that takes the design of its predecessor but improves on it in almost every way.  I mostly liked the first Crime Crackers, but this one is definitely good.  The production values, controls, graphics, story, character roster, and dungeon designs are all improved.  Oddly, this game has a new cast, though the character artist is the same as before; you don’t control the three from the first game again, though they are shown in the manual so they’re out there somewhere.  Instead, you control a new group of Crime Crackers in their spaceship.  The lead is a blonde anime girl, and she’s the captain of the ship and has a pet monkey.  There are also two more girls, a human guy (only playable one in the franchise!), a robot guy, and a few animal-guys.  This game has some nice-quality, fully-voiced anime cutscenes, all fully animated.  The intro is full screen, but cutscenes during the game play in a small window, perhaps to keep this game to only one disc and save money on animation. I wish it was all full screen, but still, the animation is all good quality work and it’s nice to see.  The cutscenes are amusing and add a bit to the game.  Ingame, again you are traveling through 3d maze-like dungeons in first person.  The graphics are definitely better, with more detailed environments, better-rendered enemies, and a lot less fog.  This game looks pretty decent.  Level maps are nicely complex, with plenty of multi-tier areas with overlapping paths; this is a true 3d game.  The map on the Start button is very helpful!  For audio, the game sounds okay, but nothing special.  The cutscenes are fully voiced, but in-mission text is just text. Ah well.

Ingame, your party has four members at a time now.  You start with four preset characters, but the party will change over time.  This game has nine different routes, eight of them available at first and then one final route once you complete all the others.  This means that the choices you make and places you go during the game will determine what areas you see and how the game ends, which is pretty cool.  There is a simple guide on GameFAQs saying what you need to do to get onto each route, helpfully.  There are some puzzles along the way as well, which is nice.  Control is an issue, though.  The main problem with this game is aiming, at enemies above or below you particularly.  The d-pad moves forward and back and turns left and right, L1 and R1 strafe, L2 and R2 look up and down, and Square fires your main weapon while X uses the character’s secondary weapon if they have one.  So, controls are improved over the first game, but using L2/R2 to aim at enemies above you can be difficult.  Some characters have melee weapons, others ranged. Ammo is mostly gone this time, though, which is nice; each characters’ main weapon has infinite ammo.  Each character does have a secondary attack on X that uses Energy, though, and that is limited.  As before, characters will level up as you progress, and there are stations where you can buy items.  Most of them are fairly easy to figure out the function of regardless of language.  There are items for healing health and energy, resurrection pots, new weapons, and such.  Overall, Crime Crackers 2 isn’t great, but it is a fun little first-person dungeon-crawling shooter/RPG.  Once I got used to the aiming I definitely started having fun.  This game seems more approachable at the start than the first game was, but I’m sure it’ll get challenging over time.  This game is worth a look.

Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sktfmk4clnM


Crusaders of Might and Magic

1 player, saves (1 block). Crusaders of Might & Magic is a third-person action-adventure game set in New World Computing’s Might & Magic universe.  The game is somewhat in the style of Tomb Raider, but more action-oriented.  This became a popular genre on the PS1, but not many of the games are all that great.  This one is no exception; Crusaders is mediocre at best.  This game does have a reputation for being slightly better than the PC Crusaders of Might & Magic game, though.  The two aren’t the same game. You’d think the PC game would be better, but no, after playing this one finally, that conventional wisdom is correct — this PS1 game is indeed a bit better than the PC game.  It’s still not all that great, but I found myself kind of enjoying this, which is more than I can say for the PC game, really.  In this game, you play as a mercenary guy who starts out in the enemy’s prison, but quickly gets dragged in to a quest to save the world from evil. Evil plans are afoot, and for various reasons (read: it’s a videogame) you’ve got to save the world mostly on your own.  The game has okay graphics and good-sized levels.  Controls are fairly stiff; this game could definitely control better.  Also, it’s very unfortunate that the game has no analog support, it would play a lot better with analog!  I found myself using the Performance pad so that I could play the game with the analog stick, since it has the analog sticks emulated the d-pad in d-pad mode; improved things a bit.  The controls are still stiff and frustratingly digital in movement, though.  Jumping also can be tricky, jumping puzzles in this game can be a pain. Combat is similarly stiff.  You can attack with your weapon, stiffly, or use some magic spells.  Magic is mostly for healing or ranged combat.  It works, but this game clearly was meant to be more about the up-close fighting than magical combat.  So yeah, the controls could be better.  I do like the level designs, though.  I like their size, complexity, and design; the game has good, and varied, art design, and plenty of variety in its levels.  That’s great.  It’s a reasonably nice-looking for a PS1 game, art-wise.  You can only save at save points, though, so watch out and try not to die, you can be sent back a ways.  Also, it is possible to get stuck sometimes, because the way forward isn’t always obvious.  That’s okay with me, but I can see people disliking that.  Overall, Crusaders of Might & Magic is a below-average fantasy hack and slash action-adventure game, but it’s not without redeeming qualities.  Even if it’s not that great, this game is somewhat entertaining and fun anyway, or at least I thought so.  There is also a PC version, but it’s a fairly different and even worse game.


Crypt Killer

2 player simultaneous, Playstation Justifier light gun supported.  Crypt Killer is a simple, thoroughly mediocre, and dated light-gun game from Konami.  This game got pretty bad scores when it released in 1997, and I can see why, but it’s not all bad.  Crypt Killer is a long and difficult light gun shooter.  As usual in the genre you move a cursor around the screen, if you’re using a controller, or use your light gun to shoot at the screen, if you have a Justifier, and shoot everything that moves.  There are no non-hostile targets in this game, so do shoot at everything.  There is no locational damage or cover system here, so the game is simpler and perhaps dated compared to Virtua Cop or Time Crisis.  The game has some pretty awful graphics, too.  Crypt Killer has mostly 2d sprite enemies in polygonal worlds.  The camera moves around as if it’s your vision, which is nice, but the draw distance is terrible and everything is incredibly pixelated, more so than usual on the PS1.  This is an ugly looking game.  The game does have a somewhat interesting variety of settings, though.  Each of the six levels looks completely different, and have some unique enemies as well, though others do repeat between stages.  There are six base levels, and you can play them in any order.  Each level is made up of three parts and then a boss, and you can choose between two routes at the end of the first and second segments of each level.  There aren’t four entirely different routes in each level, but the branching paths add some nice replay value to a game already long for its genre.  The levels themselves are as long as any in the genre.  Most light gun games from the ’90s have only three or four levels, though, not six or seven as this game has, so Crypt Killer is probably longer than most games like this.  It’s harder, too.  The game has eight difficulty settings, but will be quite hard even on the easiest one, particularly if you’re using a gamepad, thanks to the long levels, frequent enemies, slow gamepad controls (even if you try to speed up the cursor; there’s a setting for this, but it’s of limited help and sometimes randomly reverts to the slow default speed), and three continue limit.  Three continues isn’t enough for a game as long and tough as this! The game doesn’t support saving either, and I know of no codes, so I doubt I’ll ever finish this game.  I’m not that good with light guns either, so even if I did have a PS1 Justifier, I doubt it’d be enough.  Unfortunately, the game does not support the Namco GunCon, which I don’t think had been released yet when this game shipped in mid ’97.  The Guncon and its clones are common, but PS1 Justifiers are much harder to find. With enough practice and memorization this game is probably beatable, but why not play a better light gun game instead?  Crypt Killer is average at best, and I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort.  Overall, Crypt Killer is an average lightgun game that feels a bit dated for a 1997 release, has bad graphics, no saving, limited continues, and bland gameplay.  The graphical and setting variety is nice, though, and it can be fun to play sometimes, particularly if you have the right lightgun I am sure.  It’s probably below average overall, but might be amusing for genre fans.  Also released on the Saturn.


Cybernetic Empire (J)

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Cybernetic Empire is a third-person sci-fi 3d action-adventure game very much in the vein of Tomb Raider.  Developed by Wolfteam and published by Telenet Japan, this game is interesting for several reasons, both for its solid gameplay and because it was the last “serious” game once-significant publisher Telenet Japan published.  Wolfteam had previously been a division of Telenet, but Namco bought a majority share of the studio back in 1995, four years before this games’ release.  I don’t know how that happened, but Telenet did own a third of Wolf Team until ’06, and it looks like the one other non-mahjong post-’94 game Telenet made, Swingerz Golf (GC/PS2) also had some Wolfteam involvement.  For Telenet though, it was a last hurrah.  After this, Telenet regressed to only publishing golf and mahjong games (and licensing out the Valis name to a hentai game developer for some quick cash), before shutting down for good in 2007.  Wolfteam, now known as Namco Tales Studio, have pretty much only made the Tales series of action-RPGs ever since Namco bought them, except for this game (and that later golf game, perhaps).  Despite this, Cybernetic Empire is a quite competent game. It’s impressive that the programmers hadn’t mad anything like this before, it doesn’t show!  Now, this game does have issues, but Telenet’s games always did have imperfections, so that isn’t surprising.  Still, Wolfteam did a good job here.

Cybernetic Empire is a reasonably good 3d action-adventure game that Tomb Raider fans will probably like.  The game has some Resident Evil elements to it as well, I’d say. Of course, the game only released in Japan and does have Japanese dialog, but the game isn’t too hard to figure out, fortunately, though I’m sure there’ll be tougher puzzles eventually.  There’s plenty of story here, as this game takes up a full two discs, but there’s also plenty of gameplay.  There are two playable characters, one male and one female, and you’ve got to infiltrate a secret facility and stop the badguys.  You walk around, get items, shoot baddies, jump on stuff, push boxes around, and the like. The controls are average for this genre on the PS1, so yes, tank controls here.  They’re not the best, as usual, but are okay. You can also swing around with a grappling hook, which is pretty cool!  I love grappling hooks in games, more games should have them.  Fun game overall, apart from occasional language barrier issues and the usual 5th gen 3d issues you get in most games of the time — camera, etc.


Dare Devil Derby 3D

4 player simultaneous (with multitap), saves (1 block).  Dare Devil Derby 3D was one of Supersonic’s first 5th gen games, and this developer of many of the better top-down racing games, including Micro Machines 2 through 4, Mashed, and more, got off to a rocky start.  As usual for Supersonic, this is an overhead-style racing game.  Instead of being strictly overhead like their 4th-gen games were, though, this game pulls the camera back, to a hybrid overhead / behind-the-car view.  DDD 3D’s camera is good idea. and it works great in Circuit Breakers, but here it has some issues.  It’s often zoomed in too close, and it is kind of odd how the camera is sometimes overhead and sometimes more pulled back, too.  Because I usually like Supersonic’s games and love the Micro Machines series I had high hopes for this game, but it disappointed even me at first.  While their later 5th gen titles Circuit Breakers (PS1) and Micro Machines V3/64 (PS1/N64), Dare Devil Derby 3D doesn’t live up to its successors, unfortunately.  Still, this isn’t awful, it’s just not nearly as good as it could have been.

Gameplay-wise, this game is a not quite as good copy of Supersonic’s work on Micro Machines games.  For those who don’t know Micro Machines, the game is a topdown racer.  There are no walls on the road; instead, you just have to try to stay on the road, which is marked by a different-colored strip of ground, or markers on the sides of the track.  There are plenty of obstacles you can run into, and cliffs or pits to avoid, though, and this will be hard!  This is a fast, fast game, and the camera zooms in close. Much like the handheld versions of Micro Machines 2, this game is maybe too hard at times; you’ll need to do a lot of memorization in order to survive.  The controls can be an issue here as well, because this game has digital-only controls.  While Supersonic’s later PS1 games have analog support, DDD 3D doesn’t.  The Dual Shock didn’t exist yet when this game released, but it should have supported the neGcon/wheel!  Disappointing.  The digital controls aren’t nearly as good as analog ones would be.  The skiddy controls are very Micro Machines 2-styled, though, as is the speed, so if you like that game you might like this one.

Graphically, this game looks rough, and early.  DDD 3D has a cartoony art style, and some of it works and some of it looks kind of awful; the character art is… something.  Some of the color and texture choices are poor as well.  Some tracks look okay, but too many are ugly-looking, like the hideous graveyard stage, and the ground is often overly pixelated.  You can get used to it, but it doesn’t look as good as MM V3.  I like the overhead perspective, but the camera feels a bit stiflingly close; I’d like to be able to see a bit farther ahead.  This is a fast game, more like Micro Machines 2 than Micro Machines 1, so this matters.  DDD 3D is a console game, not handheld, there’s no reason that the viewing distance is so short!  Micro Machines-styled games like this always have track designs that absolutely require memorization, but this camera makes it harder.  Overall, Dare Devil Derby 3D is basically an unbranded 3d spinoff of Micro Machines 2.  I do like Micro Machines 2, but have always been frustrated by MM2’s high speeds, it’s a very hard game.  The 3d camera makes this one a little harder than MM2 for the PC or Genesis, and that’s an issue.  Still, I like the Micro Machines franchise enough to think that this game is alright, if you give it some time.  It’s not one of Supersonic’s better games, and it is somewhat disappointing, but it’s not their worst either.  Try it out if you find it cheap.  The first Micro Machines game will probably always be my favorite one in the franchise, though.


Descent Maximum

1 player, saves (3 blocks), Analog Joystick support (NOT the dualshock, the twin=stick joystick!).  Descent Maximum is a PS1 port of the PC game Descent II.  Descent was a very influential title when it released in the mid ’90s, and immediately became a classic, but I never paid much attention to its sequel; seemed like more of the same, really.  And while I liked Descent in concept, I found the game so hard that I didn’t get around to buying the sequel after I finally got the first game in the late ’90s.  I’d played the demo right after the first game came out, but didn’t buy it; I only very rarely bought first-person games like this.  There is also a PS1 version of Descent, but I haven’t played it, only this game. Anyway, Descent Maximum is a solid port of Descent II.  I haven’t played it all that much, though, because I really want to play it with the proper controller — that is, a Playstation Analog Joystick, and I still don’t have one. The game is playable with a gamepad, but it’s just not the same!  Descent is a 3-degrees-of-freedom first-person flying/shooting game, and analog controls make a huge difference.  As in the first game, in Descent Maximum you have to navigate your futuristic fighter craft through many mazelike levels, defeating enemies along the way, destroying the enemy cores, and then trying to escape before each facility is destroyed by the blast.  The catch is, you are floating in the air!  This isn’t a traditional fight game, though.  You move as you do in a first-person shooter, except here you can move in any direction.  It was an innovative concept, and Descent executed on it brilliantly.  This sequel really is more of the same as the first one, though.  It’s a good same, but Descent 2 took few risks.  The Descent games are all very difficult, though, and it’s even harder here on the PS1, particularly if you’re trying to play with a gamepad!  This game was desgigned for a mouse, after all.  A joystick might do, but a d-pad will give you problems, targeting enemies without analog is quite difficult.  You have to actually point at enemies to hit them, there’s no lockon.  The graphics aren’t the best, either.  This is an earlier PS1 game, and you can tell.  Environments are fairly simple in design, and the low resolution doesn’t help either.  It’s fun and engrossing if you get into it, but overall, play this game on the PC; the PS1 port is solid, but the PC original is better.  Also on PC.


Die Hard Trilogy


1 player, supports neGcon (in Die Hard with a Vengeance only) and the Konami Justifier light gun and Playstation Mouse (both in Die Harder only), saves (1 block).  Die Hard Trilogy is a collection of three games on one disc.  These games were never sold seperately, though, only together.  The first game is an overhead-isometric 3d run & gun action game, Die Hard.  The second is a light gun shooter, Die Harder.  And the last is a point-to-point city driving game, Die Hard with a Vengeance.  This game sold very well, and got a best-seller re-release and a sequel… and is absolutely ATROCIOUS!  Seriously, I know I keep saying this in this update, but this is another one of the worst games I’ve ever played for the PS1.  All three games are horrendously unfun, ugly disasters with bad controls almost all of the time.  I know that I’m not in this games’ target audience — I’ve never seen a Die Hard movie, the only Bruce Willis movie (he was the star in the films) I’ve ever seen is Armageddon — but still, this isn’t some accurate movie representation, it’s just a collection of games, atrociously bad games.  Oh, and if you get game over, you’re done; you’ve got to save in the pause menu while playing (“Save to Slot” option) in order to pick up where you left off.  Odd design decision in a console game, so be sure to save, these games are tough.  The 1 block does include all 8 possible saves in that menu, fortunately.  Each game has 15 levels, I believe.  They’re almost a full length total debacle each.

The first game is Die Hard.  In this very ugly looking topdown action game, you run around and shoot all the badguys in each stage, and then move on to the next one.  The first floor is a fairly open basement garage, but the levels quickly become mazes of offices and corridors, and the draw distance is comically short and there’s no map of course.  The game has a few neat touches, such as breakable glass windows on some rooms, but there’s nothing else good here.  Enemy AI barely even exists, collision detection is awful, controls are slow and bad, the level designs get annoying very quickly, the very short draw distance awful, and more.  There are plenty of weapons to use, but it’s never actually much fun, only maybe barely passable for a few moments here and there.  I was ready to be done with this terrible shooting game forever after about floor two or three.

Second is Die Harder. This one’s an awful, and unbelievably ugly, light-gun shooter.  Enemies pop up, Virtua Cop-style targets appear around them, and you shoot them, while trying to avoid hitting the civilians.  Light gun shooters can be quite fun!… but this one isn’t. With a gun the controls are passable, but anyone who attempts to play this with a controller sure won’t have a good time!  Gamepad controls here are ridiculously terrible, basically unusably broken.  I do have PS1 lightguns, but don’t usually have my system hooked up to a CRT, and am hopeless at hitting things with light guns anyway; in decent lightgun games, I’m actually often just as good or better with the controller!  But here the gamepad controls are so imprecise I can’t hit much of anything, not that I really care to try.  This game is essentially a F-grade knockoff of Virtua Cop, design-wise.  Virtua Cop is a fantastic game, just stick to those games and forget this thing ever existed. I’ll be trying to do that.  This has got to be one of the worst light gun games I’ve ever played, in gameplay, controls, and graphics.

Die Hard with a Vengeance is a racing game, and it’s slightly better than the other two games… but it still fails miserably overall.  This is a mission-based city driving game, a fairly advanced concept for a game from 1996.  The city is large, and there are no walls — you need to follow instructions and go to the places you’re told to go.  There is a compass to “help”.  It should have been a map.  It’s nice that the designers were trying new things with this game, mission-based games like this were a new idea, but the game doesn’t work very well.  The objectives aren’t always clear enough, first, which got very frustrating quickly.   Also, the turning instructions aren’t always well-timed, and some come too late to actually make the turn unless you have amazing reflexes. I always have preferred racing games on set courses to these city-driving games for this kind of reason, I like actually knowing where I’m going.  Next, the graphics are, of course, horrendously ugly.  Yes, I know this is a 1996 game, but still, the PS1 has to be able to do better than this!  The city is a sea of messy jittering pixels.  It’s often hard to make out much of anything.  And last, the controls are awful too.  It’s ridiculous how many times just trying to make a turn sent me straight into a building!  Sure, you don’t crash or anything, but you lose time, and time is your enemy in this mode; you’ve got a tight time limit to accomplish each objective. Fail one and it’s game over.  After some frustration with the awful controls, graphics, and directions, I gave up on this, and this unbelievably terrible game.  I guess I hate this game more than most people, but Die Hard Trilogy is a really, REALLY bad game, one of the worst games I’ve played on the PS1.  If you want to play a good Die Hard game, stick to Sega’s pretty good Saturn beat ’em up Die Hard Arcade.  Also on PC and Saturn.


*Dino Crisis

One player, has saving.  My original summary from the first thread, after playing an hour of this game, was “Resident Evil with dinosaurs.”  And really, that’s accurate, as this is a survival horror game with tank controls (it claims to “support the analog controller”, but it doesn’t.).  Still, there are a couple of changes.  First, this game is polygonal 3d, instead of being polygonal characters on CG-rendered backgrounds.  This doesn’t matter all that much, though, because the game still has a Alone in the Dark-style static camera.  Otherwise, this is basically RE with dinosaurs.  Once again, you wander around a building, avoiding or occasionally fighting enemies while solving some mostly simple puzzles and collecting items.  My complaints here are mostly the same as in my thoughts on RE0, REmake, and 2 in other Game Opinion Summary threads.  You can only hold 10 items, so choose what you carry carefully. As before, you’ll have far too little ammo, so you can’t fight all the enemies.  I really hate this!  It’s awful in RE, and awful here.  I want to be able to fight the enemies, because I can’t just dodge them all, but here, it’s quite easy to get stuck with no ammo and some tough dino in front of you.  And what do I do then?  Start over?  I’d rather not!  Seriously, either just make an adventure game, or make an action game; these hybrids which try to make things scarier by not giving you enough ammo just end up being really annoying, for me at least.  Otherwise, this game is okay.  You play as Regina, a soldier in a team, and the dinosaurs have broken loose!  You need to try to save those who you can, accomplish your mission, and stop any dinos who get in your way, not that I have much chance of that with no ammo or inventory space.  Targeting enemies in this game is challenging, too.  It claims to “auto-target”, but it doesn’t always work well, and it’s too easy to waste ammo.  Fear Effect’s much more generous amounts of ammo and “you are targeting someone” icon in the status bar are far better design elements than this, and I didn’t exactly like the combat in that game either.  As for the puzzles, I’ve never played enough of a survival horror game to see if the puzzles get hard later on, but the ones I have seen never seem to be all that hard; these may often be called “adventure” game, but they don’t seem to focus on great puzzles like a true adventure game would.  Too many ‘find the key’ puzzles, with ‘here’s a puzzle with too few clues to make it harder’ stuff sometimes.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, but this has always been my impression of the genre. An adventure game with dinosaurs is a cool idea, but I don’t like survival horror game conventions this game has, including too little ammo, constant backtracking, and not-great puzzles.  Why can’t there be more horror adventure games like Eternal Darkness, and fewer like Resident Evil?  That game is so amazing in all the ways that RE, or Dino Crisis, aren’t!  Ah well.  Also, this is the worst version of this game.  Also on PC and Dreamcast. Either other version would have better graphics, of course.


Driver 2

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported.  The first Driver was a great car-chase driving game, and this game is, for the most part, more of the same.  As in the first Driver, you play as agent Tanner, and have four cities to work your way through.  This is a mission-based driving game in sizable open cities, and generally your task is to either get from one place to another, or follow a person or vehicle across the city.  Tanner is going undercover again to figure out a murder and go after a criminal syndicate.  This is a two-disc game with more CG cutscenes than the first game.  Either way, as in the first game, the challenge will be steep.  Time limits are very tight, people you’re chasing will easily get away if you mess up and hit something, and car controls are somewhat slippery; these cars aren’t the easiest to handle.  When the police are looking for you, watch that radar closely for police viewing ranges, it’s vital!  In some ways this game seems better than the first one, in others worse.  Some of the most important improvements as are to the save system and the beginning.  Driver 1’s insanely hard tutorial mission does not repeat this time; instead, you just start out with the first mission.  Nice!  Also, you can now save after every mission, which is a HUGE improvement; in Driver 1 you can only save every three or four missions, which makes getting from one save point to the next a nightmare when the third or fourth mission of a group is super-hard. I got tired of replaying hard missions over and over, and eventually dropped Driver 1 midway through when playing it on the PC back in ’99 or ’00, even though I’d mostly quite liked it. The improved save system here is fantastic.  The main issues with this game are that it’s not also on the PC and the added on-foot segments.  Driver is a good Playstation game, but the graphics are much rougher than the sharp, fast PC version, and this game is similar.  For the PS1, Driver 2 is very impressive; it’s got huge cities, complex environments, physics, visual effects, and more.  There’s a lot going on here, so the slow feel is understandable.  However, the game runs somewhat slowly a lot of the time, car handling can be frustratingly floaty, the draw distance isn’t very good, and the game has the usual Playstation blocky textures and warping and popping polygons.  It’s really unfortunate that they didn’t make a PC port of this game too, it’d have cleared up those issues, and I’d have been able to play the game long before I did, too.  Oh well.  As for the on-foot parts, they decided to have Tanner get out of the car sometimes in this game, but it doesn’t work very well.  Tanner controls like a car, so you still use X to run forward and the stick to turn left and right.  His handling is quite bad, and this game would have been better if, like the first game, you were stuck in the car all of the time.  The on-foot segments don’t play that well.  Otherwise, though, Driver 2 is a pretty great game.  I wasn’t expecting as much from this game as the first one, because I’d heard it wasn’t as good, but for the PS1 this game does about as well as it probably could, and has some nice improvements over the great, but too hard, first game.  This is a very similar game to Driver 1, and I probably like the first game more, but Driver 2 is a very good game that I definitely recommend!  This is a great fun game, even when it’s being very frustrating.

Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfEF_z0JfcQ


Egg (J)

Egg cover
Egg back cover
4 player simultaneous (with multitap), saves (3 blocks).  Egg is a quite obscure territory-control action puzzle game.  In the game, the player and opponent (computer or human) face off in a battle of eggs.  Yes, each player controls a egg that they roll around the level.  This is a top-view game, and there are a couple of different kinds of mission objectives, but the basic one is territory control.  Generally, you win when you control enough of the map, sort of like in Qix but with different gameplay.  You take over territory by surrounding it with your egg, because as you move, you leave a trail of your color behind you.  Interestingly, this isn’t just an abstract puzzle game, though — in the territory you take over a civilization sprouts forth!  It’s a cool graphical touch.  You’re not just coloring in space, but you are building a nation with a giant egg.  When you roll over enemy territory, you overwrite it, devolve their civilization, and can take over that land for your side.  You heal while on your base territory, but will have to leave it to win, of course.  Take too much damage, either from running into the enemy egg too often or from their attacks, and you lose.  The game has several different victory conditions, depending on the stage.  Territory control is the default, but sometimes, instead, you have to destroy the enemy egg.  This is probably tougher than territory control because of how they can heal.  There are more as well.  This is a fairly interesting game that I’m glad to have gotten.  I had no idea what to expect with this one, and some such games go well and others poorly, but this one’s pretty good!  Egg is a good game that puzzle or classic arcade gaming fans should absolutely get.  It’s interesting, original, and fun.  Highly recommended.  I will write more about this game another time, in a solo review.  It needs the attention, there is nothing out there about this game in English, but should be!

Developers’ Website: http://www.beyondjapan.co.jp/products_e.html


End Sector (J)

1 player, saves (1 block).  End Sector is part card-battle RPG and part sound novel.  Sound novels are mostly-text adventure games; there’s text on screen, and CG-rendered backdrops, but that’s about it apart from images of cards sometimes when someone is talking.  Why did I get this?  This has one of the highest language barriers of any of the import Japanese games I have.  It’s hard to play if you don’t know the language, and it’s not like I love card-battle games like Magic, Pokemon cards, and such either.  And yet I have this thing.  Hmm.  In this game set in a fantasy world, you play as a guy you name.  I’m not sure what the story is beyond that, there’s almost nothing out there in English about this game and the sound novel portions are, of course, impossible to understand.  The term may use the word “sound”, but this is purely text-based, no voice acting here.  This game has lots and lots of Japanese text, and you occasionally make a choice between several different options as well.  Of course, I can’t understand any of it, but can get through it (without knowing what I’m choosing) by just clicking, so the game is playable.  The game seems to have a branching design, but I don’t know how different the various routes are; I haven’t played it nearly enough to say that, if I could even tell.  I do know that you can sometimes lose a match and then keep going, though, which is interesting.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I wonder if it changes the story much afterwards, or if you just lose out on the extra reward cards winning gets?  I’m not sure.  If you hit Start while in the sound novel, a menu opens where you can choose which cards are in your deck and save and load the game, essential features.  You can’t save during a match, only in the adventure part.

Once a battle starts, you go from the adventure mode to a battle screen.  Your guy is on the left, and your opponent is on the right.  The battle is decided when one of the two runs out of health.  From your deck, you are given a random selection of five cards.  There are several kinds of cards, including summon creatures, direct attacks, and boost spells.  Summon creatures can be placed in a grid of six spaces in front of your character; the opponent has a similar grid.  This means you can summon at most six creatures at once.  A cursor on screen lets you select each character to give them orders.  Orders include an attack, where you choose which opponent to target, a boost spell (which you can cast on another character, to give them some kind of stat-up or such), defend, to reduce damage, or one other function I haven’t used yet.  Instead of a boost spell, the main character instead can choose to use one of the cards in your hand, though this means he can’t attack of course.  Once you choose an attack or casting move, a meter appears next to the character.  When the meter fills, the action will occur, then the meter will have to drain before you can select another move.  Defend is the default ability which characters return to once an action is complete, so there is no auto-attack.  You can also check character stats or health by holding shoulder buttons.  It’s an active-time-battle type of system, I guess.  Different types of moves take different amounts of time.  You start out with only a few cards, but quickly start collecting more.  I found the first few matches easy to win, though it starts getting harder after that, so there’s a decent difficulty curve.  This seems like a substantial game with lots of content.

Of course there is a language barrier here, but with experimentation I did manage to figure out the basics of combat.  It is easy to tell summons, attacks, and spells apart, but the specifics of what some things do is hard to guess.  Helpfully there are English names on each card, but that won’t help for things such as their boost spells, or some of the stats; as is common in Japanese games, the menus are a mixture of English and Japanese.  It’s nice that the Save/Load/Card setup menu is in English too.  This game is LOADED with Japanese text, though.  Even during the battles, your character and his opponents talk frequently, and the sound novel sections between battles can be long.  So yeah, I can’t really recommend this game to anyone other than serious card-battle game fans, which I’m not really one of even if I did like Phantasy Star Online III (Gamecube), the PSO card-battle game.  Knowledge of Japanese would help a lot too, thanks to the extensive sound-novel adventure half of the game.  Even so, once in a match this is more playable than I feared; gameplay isn’t too hard to figure out, and the English names on cards and other random bits of text help.  End Sector is okay.


Enigma (J)

1 player, saves (3 blocks).  Enigma is a Japanese adventure game.  The game is clearly inspired by Resident Evil, but this game is more adventure than survival horror.  The camera is pure Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil-inspired static camera angles, and the game has tank controls too of course.  In gameplay, though, while there is fighting, the game also requires a lot of adventure game style item puzzles.  You’ll need to explore, look at everything (sometimes multiple times!), talk to people, and such.  Of course it’s all much harder than it should be, because the game’s in Japanese, but at least the whole game is fully voice-acted.  The game also has a full walkthrough on GameFAQs that tells you what to do to get through the game; it’s very useful!  This is a two-disc game, and that’s because of all that voice acting, the CGI cutscenes, and the games’ many locations.  There are three characters to play as, too, two guys and a girl, each one with a separate adventure.  Enigma has good production values, the story seems interesting from what I can understand of it, and solid adventure gameplay with occasional fights.  The combat’s only okay, not great. You swing your weapon with one button to hack at the enemy, and block with another button.  Blocking is important, use it!  It’s simple stuff though; I don’t think combat was the focus here.  Enigma definitely can be frustrating, as adventure games always are sometimes when you’re not sure what to do, but that’s fine, that’s how the genre works.  Of course it’d make more sense if you can understand the language!  If you don’t, prepare for some frustration.  Sometimes check things twice, for example… it’s necessary.  Visually. Enigma looks good and plays fairly well.  There’s also good replay value too, if you want to play all three characters’ stories.  Decent game.


Excalibur 2555 A.D.

1 player, saves (by password ONLY). Excalibur 2555 AD is a mediocre-at-best 3d third-person action-adventure game. The story is that time-travelling robots have attacked Camelot and stolen Excalibur. So, Merlin created a time-portal spell, and since none of the knights trust it he’s sending his niece Beth to save Camelot and recover Excalibur. Even though you’re in the future, bad things must have happened, because the games’ world is barely any less medieval than any medieval fantasy game would be. Enemies mostly have swords, you spend the whole game in grimy tunnels and mazes of wood and dirt rooms, etc. It’s kind of odd to set a game in the future and then have so little futuristic about it. There’s no explanation in the game for why the world is in the state it is, either. As for the main character Beth, since she’s a female videogame character of course she’s in a implausibly skimpy outfit, though oddly the British version of the game, which I believe is the original, has her with brown hair instead of blonde, and more clothing as well — she has pants in that version, instead of just thigh-highs and… uh, short shorts or underwear or whatever it is, in the US release. I’d actually probably rather have the UK version, it’s kind of silly to be wandering around these future-medieval dungeons so exposed. So yeah, it’s a game inspired by Tomb Raider, except this game is much slower-paced and more adventure-focused than Tomb Raider, or even Crusaders of Might & Magic.

This game is one of those clearly from the early days of 3d. With small rooms, no outdoor areas, clumsy combat, tank controls, constant fetch quests, and password-only saving for no good reason (the PS1 has memory cards!), this game has a lot of issues. It’s not all bad, though; even if this game definitely isn’t great, I did have some fun playing it, though it gets annoying at times for sure. This game has action, but it’s really more of a puzzle adventure game than it is an action game. You’ll need to learn each level in order to beat it, as dying in combat is easy; enemies do a lot of damage per hit. Some enemies can be avoided, though. There’s one nearly impossible-to-defeat enemy in the first level which you actually should just not fight at all, for example; just do the puzzles, and stay out of that room. That’s kind of clever, but also kind of annoying — I want to beat the enemies, not learn after dying repeatedly that actually I wasn’t supposed to fight them! Bah. The clumsy controls really are an issue, too. The games’ tank-style controls (left/right rotate, not move) mean slow movement, and your characters’ walk speed is slow. You can run with Square, but only in a straight line, so it’s only sometimes useful. The inventory is on Select; choose an item with Circle in order to use it in the field, or select several with X to combine them, if they can be combined. Then Circle uses items or jumps, and X interacts. Hitting R1 or R2 go into combat mode. Beth is only armed with a sword throughout the game; other items don’t add to your arsenal. In combat mode, Circle swings from the right, Square swings from the left, and X blocks for a second or two. Timing blocks is central to the battle system, as enemies also block a lot, and you can’t do or take damage while blocking. Blocks only last a few seconds, though, so get used to blocking, then attacking just before an enemy strikes, and the like. Which way you attack matters too, because enemies sometimes are blocking one side but not the other. There are no combos or anything here, though, just button-mashing. You also get magic eventually, but physical combat remains central. Combat may be simple, but it’s not always fair; predicting enemy attacks isn’t easy, and you die quickly. Enemies block a lot too, which makes hitting some of them a matter of chance. And when you die, it’s game over, back to the main menu with you! You’ll need to re-enter the password (or start a new game) to continue, stupidly enough. What happened to a continue screen? Come on!

Excalibur is more of an adventure game than action, though. You’ll spend more time wandering around looking for items and talking to people than you will fighting. Most of the puzzles are basic fetch quests, but it does get more complex once combined items come into play. Some puzzles do require actions, too, such as one early on where you have to lure out a rat with some bait in order to grab it. The rooms in this game are as I said quite small, and 100% of the game is indoors, so finding items isn’t hard, but do keep a lookout for all of them, you’ll need them all, pretty much. The clunky controls and basic fetch-quest gameplay hold this back as an adventure game, though. Overall Excalibur 2555 AD isn’t a very good action game, and is slightly below average as an action-adventure game as well. The game also has largely featureless tunnel environments and not-too-good character models as well. However, running around trying to solve puzzles can be kind of fun as long as you’re not dying, and if you’re used to PS1 graphics the game looks kind of okay, I guess. This game isn’t good, but it could be worse too. I will play it more; I’d like to get farther in. Also on PC.


Extra Bright (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Extra Bright is a fairly average at best shmup/rail shooter game with a great ’90s anime style to it. This game alternates between average shooting stages and fairly nice-looking anime cutscenes that look heavily inspired by shows such as Gundam and Evangelion. They look great! I only wish that the gameplay was as good, but it isn’t. The actual gameplay here is somewhat forgettable, as are the graphics. In the game, you play as a generic guy, and can choose between three anime girl copilots, each with different stats and a different ship design. The main gun is always the same, but you also choose your two secondary weapons between levels. Sort of like in Silpheed (Sega CD), you unlock new secondary weapons as you progress, so try out the new ones! Each one is completely different. Ingame, while the game has a third-person camera behind the ship, you only can move left and right; there is no aiming cursor, you can only shoot straight ahead. So, while the game looks like a rail shooter, it’s more of a semi-3d shmup. This makes the game simpler, but as enemies do move up and down, it means that you can’t always hit the enemies, and sometimes will just have to wait for them to fly to the plane you can shoot on. All levels sort of look like tubes, tunnels, roads, and the such;. you’ve always got a clear path to move on in the middle of the screen. You do occasionally get a branching-path choice, but I think they all just merge together after a while, I don’t think the game has a Outrun-like branching grid. Still, some variety is nice. The graphics are basic, but look okay. Nothing particularly visually complex here, just basic cooridors, buildings, tunnels, etc. most of the game is either just shaded or done with fairly simple-looking textures, so the game has a somewhat plain look, but that’s better than some PS1 games, for sure. The mostly bright pastel colors of the environments look different from your usual shooting game. Apart from the black ‘fog’ in the distance that objects pop up out of, the game looks “Extra Bright” indeed.

As far as level designs go, most are simple cooridors, though the last level is different. I wish more levels were like that one! Oh well. The game also mixes things up by frequently having your ship change paths, when a wall blocks you ahead, or when there’s a gap in the road and you drop to a lower level, and what have you. This movement is all entirely automated, though, so you don’t need to actually dodge obstacles. Still, the hills and path-switches will make things harder for you because you can only shoot straight, so while switching or going up or down you won’t be able to hit much of anything. The game is somewhat forgiving, but you do need to pay attention for when you can actually hit the enemies. Enemies and their fire is your main obstacle. You have a health bar in the game, but only one life per continue. The game does have infinite continues from the beginning of the last level you were on, and the game is kind of easy, particularly on Beginner. There are higher settings, but this isn’t as hard as many shmups, really, if you use continues. One key on higher settings is dodging with the L2 and R2 buttons; they make your ship quickly move right or left. How often you can do this is limited by a meter on the right side of the screen. Another meter on the left side limits how often you can use those secondary weapons. The face buttons fire your main and secondary weapons. It’s a fairly simple game, and definitely is one of those games that shows how on the PS1, 2d gameplay was definitely better for this kind of thing than 3d; Extra Bright is alright, but it’s got nothing on any of the PS1’s better shmups. Compared to top 2d shmups, the gameplay is simpler, the enemy patterns much less complex, and the graphics not as varied or interesting. Still, it’s not all bad. The gameplay is alright, I did come to like it a bit more as I got farther, it’s a bit more interesting in higher difficulties, and I do like those anime cutscenes; there is one every other level, so there are several as you progress through the game. Also your health doesn’t recover much if at all between levels, so if you’re going for a high score you’ll have to be much more careful than otherwise. Overall though, Extra Bright is a somewhat bland and average 2d/3d hybrid shooter with some decent cutscenes. It’s cool to see so many fully animated anime cutscenes in a game like this, you don’t usually expect it. The game itself isn’t great, but it has some charm and is worth a look for shooter fans. I did have enough fun with the game to finish it, at least.


Extreme Go-Kart Racing
— 2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). I reviewed this game not too long ago; see that article for more. This game is a mediocre low-budget drift racing game with kart racer graphics, essentially. It may look like a Mario Kart clone, but this game is actually much more Power Drift than it is Mario Kart. Choose one of a variety of anime-style characters and race. There’s only one championship, and you have to win all of the races to complete it. You’ve got infinite continues, and can save your best times on each track. Unfortunately, the track designs are too narrow, and the game isn’t much fun to play. I finished the game anyway, so it was at least somewhat enjoyable I guess, but it definitely helped that it’s a pretty short game; I wouldn’t have stuck with a long one. There are multiple difficulty levels, if you really want to replay the game, but I doubt most people would. For being a drift-centric racing game with a kart-racer style to it Extreme Go-Kart Racing is kind of interesting, but those narrow tracks get very frustrating, very quickly. The graphics are extremely bland and generic, too. And don’t expect hills, the tracks are all flat. It was kind of worth playing, though — the wide-open final Rainbow Road-style track was actually probably the most fun one in the game! Overall, don’t bother unless it’s really cheap and you’re curious like I was. It’s bad, but not completely a waste of time.


*Fear Effect

Survival Horror Adventure. 1 player, saves, has Analog Gamepad support. This is an action-adventure game on four CDs. It was inspired by both survival horror games like Resident Evil, and stealth games like Metal Gear Solid. I said a little about this game in the first PS1 Game Opinion Summaries thread, but played it a bit more now. In this game, you play as a trio of people who are trying to find a Triad leader’s runaway daughter, for the large profit it’d bring. More is going on than it first seems, though, and later on the game goes supernatural. Even though this is a European game, it’s set in Hong Kong and has a somewhat Chinese theme to it. You play as all three characters, though two of them take up the majority of the playtime. You automatically switch between them as you progress through the game, so you can’t switch back and forth at will, unlike some games such as Martian Gothic (PS1). Fear Effect has prerendered backgrounds with polygonal 3d characters, annoying tank controls, and lots of enemies to shoot. You can stealth-kill them if you sneak up behind them. There’s no radar, you just have to try to watch their head movement, which is tricky because of the messy PS1 3d of the character models. As usual in games with prerendered environments, where you can go is very limited; paths are narrow, and the game is heavily railed and linear. Despite this, it’s easy to miss important things because the very busy backgrounds make telling things you can interact with apart from background objects difficult. Even though an ‘interact’ label appears when you get close to such an object, I’m not too far into the game, and already have had multiple times where I missed important things because I couldn’t tell they weren’t just background objects. It’s kind of annoying.

Worse, though, are the controls. This game has tank controls, with a reverse-direction button, and run and sneak also on shoulder buttons, as in the games that inspired it. This game lets you use the analog stick, but I have a hard time walking in a straight line with the thing! Controls are in no way proportional, and character-relative tank controls on an analog stick are confusing. It’s way too easy to walk into walls when you’re trying to get around them and such thanks to the frustrating controls, and combat is even worse; these controls shouldn’t be in a game with as much shooting as this game has! Fear Effect is part puzzles and part action, but I have issues with both elements. For puzzles, missing items in the backgrounds is the biggest issue, but it’s not only items, but also clues. But how was I supposed to know that those lights were a clue, when backgrounds are so full of useless things? It’s kind of ridiculous! And in battle, moving around doesn’t work well thanks to the tank controls, and even worse, in boss fights the auto-aim that otherwise makees the game playable is disabled, meaning you have to actually aim at the enemy. Even though there is no height component to aiming in this game (so enemies shooting at the floor will hit you at the top of the staircase beyond, for example; yes, it looks silly), This is harder than it should be, and I died probably dozens of times at the first boss before finally beating the guy. Overall, Fear Effect looks nice for the system, but is a bit too busy, and the combat is frustrating and puzzles somewhat obtuse. If you want to play this, using a walkthrough might be a good idea. This isn’t the kind of game I’d usually like, and I don’t like this all that much either, though I’m sure genre fans would, there is some good here.


Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix

1 player, saves (1 block per file), has Analog Gamepad support. Fear Effect 2 is the prequel to Fear Effect. It wasn’t supposed to be the end of the franchise, but a PS2 game was cancelled, so it ended up being that way. This game is, pretty much, more of the same. The graphics are the same as the first game; again, blocky low-res CG-rendered backgrounds with polygonal characters. The gameplay is still a mixture of awkward shooting, annoying timed puzzles (again, using a walkthrough with this game is probably a good idea), and wandering around with some not-great stealth here and there. The controls have been improved, but still should be better. Other than the new story set before the first game, new locations and enemies, and a fourth playable character, the mysterious woman Rain, there isn’t much different here apart from the control changes. This time, the game has a much better analog control option, “3D” mode. It works a lot like the “3D” mode in Resident Evil 2 for the N64, in that it gives you a camera-relative control option which ditches the tank controls. Don’t worry, if you love them you can use that control style as well, but I’d rather use 3D mode. The analog feels better than the first game, too, though you still need to hold a button to run, the stick doesn’t give speed control. It works alright. You have a Roll button too, now, for a dodge-roll, and it’s useful, but combat is still stiff and not as good as I would hope for a game with this much shooting in it.

This game was sold with an ad campaign that focused heavily on oversexed, pseudo-lesbian shots of Hana and Rain. In the game though, it seems that there’s only little bits of hinting at that, and nothing nearly as overt as the ads were. What is here is another story of how our group of protagonists are on a seemingly simple mission which eventually goes supernatural, though maybe less so than the first game? There are a lot of FMVs along the way, as its four-disc length suggests. The story seems okay, but nothing overly interesting. Overall, I don’t like this game all that much, just like its predecessor. It’s not a bad game, but the controls are still annoying — improved, but annoying and too limiting, particularly in combat; the static camera can still be a problem, and combined with the very busy backgrounds it makes figuring out where you can go and what you can interact with a complete guessing game; and the puzzles are still frustrating, with too few clues and time limits sometimes. I can like a somewhat horror-ish action-adventure game — Eternal Darkness is one of my favorite console games — but this game is nowhere near that ones’ level, not in design or gameplay. It’s okay I guess, but I don’t really want to play it much, at least not now.


Galaga: Destination Earth


1 player, saves scores only (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. Galaga: Destination Earth is a Western-developed shooter. The game has a story told in the intro cutscene, but it’s generic stuff. The Earth is being attacked by enemy Galaga forces again, and only you can save it! The game is part shmup and part rail shooter; the gimmick is that the perspective changes during levels, so some sections are classic single-screen shmup areas, others scroll (sometimes right, sometimes up), others are rail-shooter sections, and there are even a few turret-gunner bits. Unfortunately, as most reviews say, this game is thoroughly mediocre. There are a few good things about the game, though. Galaga: Destination Earth has fairly good graphics, variety, and plenty of challenge. The graphics and art design are nice for the PS1. Everything is nicely detailed, and there’s a great variety of settings and enemies. The challenge can be steep here, though. Levels are long, lives limited, you restart the level if you get game over, you have limited continues and can’t save your progress during the game, so completing the game will be quite a challenge. Unfortunately, in addition to the intentionally annoying lack of a save system, another part of that is because of the controls. While the game controls okay in the 2d segments, the 3d rail-shooter controls aren’t as great. It’s way too hard to actually hit the enemies! The game doesn’t even try to help you line up your shots with the enemies, unfortunately. Your targeting cursor is large and directly in front of you, and enemies often move quickly. Panzer Dragoon this game is no, that’s for sure. There are weapon powerups, which you lose if you die, of course; this can be a big setback, your basic weapon is weak. The pickups can be hard to line up with in the rail shooter sections, too. The controls are serviceable, but could be a lot better. The length of the levels gets annoying when you get game over late in a level and have to restart the whole thing, as well. Seriously, this game is too frustrating and too long to not have saving! There’s an excuse in the manual about how it’s more traditional this way, but I’ve always preferred saving in games, and this game needs it. I do like that the game mixes in some traditional static-screen Galaga waves, though. It’s a nice touch. Overall, Galaga: Destination Earth is a disappointing game. The variety of gameplay styles is nice, but the rail-shooter sections are probably a majority of the game, and they are the most flawed. This game might be fun for a little while, but the frustration and mediocrity will set in soon enough. American-made shmups have rarely been great ever since the crash of ’83, and sadly Galaga: Destination Earth is no exception. Also on PC.


Galaxian 3 (J)

4 player simultaneous (multitap required). Galaxian 3 is a space-fighter FMV light-gun game. It looks and plays just like Namco’s earlier title Starblade, except set in the Galaga/Galaxian universe this time. As far as the gameplay goes, though, this game is basically Starblade 2. Just like that game, a CG-rendered video plays in the background, while polygonal enemies fly by on preset paths. Everything happens exactly the same way every time in these games, you just try to memorize it in order to survive longer and get a better score. The added four player multiplayer mode might help with that! That’s easily the best addition here versus Starblade. Each player moves a cursor around the screen and tries to shoot all of the targets they can. There are turrets, ships, vehicles, and more to shoot at, though space fighters are your most common opponents. Some people call these games “rail shooters”, but because you can’t control your ship in any way, I think that’s inaccurate; it’s just a lightgun-style game without a gun, just like Starblade. Just like the graphics, Galaxian 3’s audio is very much like Starblade as well. Once again voices tell you what’s going on as you play, adding to the immersion of the space battle missions you’re going on. Fortunately, they’re all entirely in English, even though this game is a Japan-only release. I like Starblade, and Galaxian 3 is just as good. I didn’t realize how similar to Starblade this game is when I got it, but I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much like that game Galaxian 3 is. The main downside is that the game is the same every time, of course. There are a couple of short missions to play, but they are short, and each mission is identical each time. There are several to play, but once you learn them, there’s nothing more here to do. The multiplayer support and continues make this game a lot easier than the quite hard (two continue limit!) Sega CD version of Starblade, too, though it probably is longer than the PS1 version of Starblade (called Starblade Alpha), since that version has infinite continues. Overall, Galaxian 3 is a good game. It’s a fun lightgun-style spaceship shooter with nice early ’90s CG graphics. I like sci-fi stuff, and this game looks and sounds great! I love that the in-game voices are in English, too. The intro is voiced in Japanese, but once the game actually starts, it’s in English. I know that happens once in a while with Japanese games, but you can’t expect it. This kind of game would be entirely playable in Japanese, but knowing what everyone is saying helps set the scene better. Galaxian 3 is a short but good game that’s well worth getting. Arcade port (it was a laserdisc game in the arcades).


Galeoz (J)

1 player. Galeoz, written in Cyrillic on the case I believe, is a 3d futuristic tank action game. In each level, you’ve got to get to the objective points, defeat the required enemies, and then beat the boss. The first level is entirely linear, but the levels open up after that. Galeoz is actually a good game that is quite a bit of fun to play if you like this kind of thing, as I do. Other than the average-at-best graphics, the game only has one flaw, really: you can’t save in this game and you have limited continues, so repeat play will be required, unfortunately. The game probably would be short otherwise, and this is an early-ish PS1 game, but still, let me save my game! Ugh. Otherwise, though, Galeoz is actually good. This is definitely a tough game, but challenging myself to learn and get better at each level is fun and worth the effort. Your futuristic tank has a nice variety of weapons to use, which you get ammo for by collecting the powerups that litter each level. Ammo is important, so look for it! Some of the weapons are pretty cool. The enemies are fairly average, but they have a nice variety of types, including flying ones, ground ones, turrets, and tougher boss enemies. The first level wasn’t too promising, but after that I really started to like this game. The ice level is particularly cool; it’s got lower water paths and higher up ‘islands’, with nicely jagged terrain and plenty of tough enemies. Each time I play the game I get a bit farther than the last time, as I learn the stages, and the game has kept me coming back. Galeoz is a quite unknown game, but it’s good and well worth playing. Action game fans should absolutely pick it up!


Ganbare Goemon: Space Pirate Akoging! (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Goemon: Uchuu Kaizoku Akogingu (Space Pirate Akoging) is the first PS1 Goemon game. It’s a 2d game in the style of the SNES Goemon games. It’s good, but not as good as the best Goemon games. I like the Goemon series a lot, and this game is pretty fun, but it does have some issues. As usual in the series, the game is set in Goemon’s crazy anime-Edo-Japan world, with giant robots of course. The story is that a space pirate has ended up on Earth, and it’s up to Goemon and friends to stop him. The decently animated intro feels like a space shooter intro, as it shows the backstory of how the pirate and his hapless alien opponent (who you will help, but not play as) ended up on Earth. Graphically, the game really doesn’t look much better than a SNES game, and there’s no voice acting though there is some nice CD audio music. It does use a nice slightly angled perspective and has nice 2d graphics, but it’s no match for, say, Rayman. Also, while it plays well, it’s not quite as fun as the later SNES Goemon games. Also, Sasuke and Yae have inexplicably been cut out of the game for no good reason; instead, two new guys are playable, along with Goemon and Ebisumaru. The two new characters are both somewhat generic-looking men, one a tough bearded guy and the other an old man, and aren’t nearly as interesting as any of the main four, really. It’s also too bad that just a few games after finally adding a playable female character (in SNES Goemon 3), this game (and also the last original GB game) go back to not having one. People seem to have disliked the new characters, and the loss of Sasuke and Yae, when the game originally released, though, because neither one of them ever re-appeared in the series, while Sasuke and Yae returned in most subsequent games.

Still, gameplay-wise this is a good game. Sort of like the first and third SNES games, the game has an overworld and sidescrolling levels, but not a world map like the second and fourth SNES ones. This is a more linear game than SNES Goemon 3, though. Either it didn’t get as much budget as the SNES games, or it got as much but they had to spend it more ways; either way, it doesn’t quite match them. I don’t mind the linear design, it makes it easier to deal with through a language barrier, but it’s not quite their match, and the N64 games pushed the series forward in ways this game does not attempt. The game has towns, topdown explorable areas, and sidescrolling stages. In town talk to everyone and hopefully eventually you’ll figure out how to progress; it can be frustrating, I was stuck in the first town for a while even with GameFAQ’s walkthrough. The top-view explorarable areas are nice, but short. Sidescrolling levels have somewhat dated 2d graphics, without the nice angled view of the overworld, but do have reasonably good level designs. There are also some minigames. The game has that Goemon charm, though, which keeps me coming back for sure. The controls are solid, and it is nice that they made the characters different by giving each one a special ability. They are more straightforward than those in some games in the series, but what’s here is good. It’s no match for Goemon’s Great Adventure, but I haven’t yet seen any of Oedo Daikaiten (below)’s design issues, though some of the jumps you have to make while swinging from things with Ebisumaru’s special ability are annoying, and when you miss a jump you’ll need to deal with the respawning enemies again, which gets annoying fast. I like this game, but the game is unoriginal and a slight downgrade from SNES Goemon 4 and doesn’t come close to Goemon’s Great Adventure (N64)’s greatness. Still, it’s a fun game I’ll definitely play more. Goemon is a great series, and this is a fun 2d game with okay graphics and mostly good gameplay, apart for getting stuck in towns and some frustrating parts in the levels. Also, considering how badly wrong Goemon got off-track in the series’ first attempt at 3d on the PS1 (below), this SNES-style design is a much better idea based on a solid foundation. I like platformers, and this is a good platformer. Still, the best overall 5th gen Goemon games are the two N64 games, not the four PS1 ones. While the PS1 games are mostly okay (Kurunarakoi excepted), the two N64 games are both fantastic! Even so, Space Pirate Akoging is a good game I definitely recommend to Goemon and platformer fans. It’s fun stuff.


Ganbare Goemon: Kurunarakoi! Ayashigeikka no Kuroikage! (J)

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. Goemon: Kuru nara koi is a 3d platformer Goemon game from 1997, and the only fully 3d Goemon game on the PS1. The Goemon series is great, but this game has a reputation for mediocrity that is unfortunately accurate. Kurunarakoi is a mediocre, short, repetitive, and somewhat bland-looking game. It still is kind of fun, though. This game isn’t all bad, despite its definite flaws. As usual, you start out the game playing as Goemon. Of course bad stuff is going on, and you’ll need to save the day again. You unlock Ebisubaru, Sasuke, and Yae as you go, and it’s great that Sasuke and Yae return after their unfortunate absence from Space Pirate Akoging. I don’t know what they were thinking with that one, but they returned to their senses here. The graphics are also average, but not awful; PS1 graphics get a lot better than this, but also a lot worse. The games’ main problem is with its design, though. Kurunarakoi is a 3d platform game, with hub towns that split off into linear platform-action levels that you take on one at a time. I love platformers, but Konami made some bad choices here. First, there are the controls and camera. Of course, getting the controls and camera right can be difficult in 3d games, and this game is no exception. The game has a mostly preset camera, angled forwards toward the end of the stage, but it’s not always where you want it. The action has issues too. Fighting enemies in this game feels a bit like a simplistic beat ’em up. This is a direction many 3d action-platformer games have taken, but the enemies in this game have far too much health; every fight lasts way too long, if you stop to fight. Fortunately, many enemies can simply be walked past. The fighting system is also too simplistic. There are some basic combos, and that’s about it. Platforming also can be tricky — judging jump distance is sometimes difficult thanks to the angled perspective. At least the game does have analog controls, which helps quite a bit. Even more annoying is one of the games’ core design decisions: after reaching the end of each level, you need to walk the whole way back! Yes, right when you finish a level, you need to retrace your steps, moving towards the camera this time. I guess they realized that they had way too little content here and needed to pad the game a bit, but seriously, this is one awful way to extend a game. Even if it’s quicker than the first time, replaying levels like this is annoying. The game really is too short, too; I haven’t finished it yet, but all accounts say that the game is only a few hours of repetition long. The game does have some of that Goemon sense of humor, though, and enough of it comes across through the language barrier that I do have fun with this game. The story is amusing, and I like the characters of course. The level designs are decent, too. With better graphics, a better camera, more content, better combat, and less repetition this game could have been good, but as it is it’s just average at best. As a Goemon fan I find it amusing anyway, though, even if it’s not that great.


Ganbare Goemon: Oedo Daikaiten! (J)


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). This third PS1 Goemon game is partially new, and partially a remake of the second SNES Goemon game, which was the first Goemon game to be almost exclusively a sidescroller. Released in early 2001, Oedo Daikaiten was the first TV console Goemon game after the series’ magnum opus, Goemon’s Great Adventure (GGA) for the N64. Unfortunately, after making that incredible classic, Konami decided to never again make a AAA Goemon game. The idea of an update to the great second SNES game is a fine idea, but why did this game have to have such an obviously limited budget? I’m really very conflicted about this game; on the one hand, it looks like a Goemon game, and sounds like a CD version of Goemon’s Great Adventure. The level designs are solid. But… why is it so CHEAP, both in its surely-not-high budget and in some questionable design decisions? Why did Konami seem to sort of give up on this franchise right after making one of the best platformers ever? It’s very confusing.

Anyway, Goemon: Oedo Daikaiten is basically a remake of the second SNES game with a a few old and many new level designs, a new story, Yae playable (fantastic addition here!), and a CD mix of GGA’s soundtrack for the audio. And yes, it IS just GGA’s soundtrack redone for CD; they saved money by not actually writing new music for this game. GGA has a fantastic soundtrack and I love it here too, but as this game was inspired by the second SNES game, why not redo some of its tunes? Ah well. Visually, the graphics are 2.5d, with sprite-based characters in polygonal worlds, but entirely unlike GGA, this game doesn’t have branching 3d paths. Levels are just a flat 2d plane. Walk to the right to win. This really is VERY disappointing compared to GGA; the branching paths which curved around in 3d space were really cool! The switch to sprite characters makes sense considering the PS1’s lower power and the flat view; I don’t mind this, except that it’s a sign of how the game is less “3d” than GGA, even though both are 2.5d platformers. As usual in Goemon games, the game is mostly a platformer, with some isometric town bits interspersed here and there. Town elements are shorter and less complex than GGA’s towns. They are expanded versus the towns in Goemon 2 for SNES, but you’ll spend less time in town here than on the N64, and there aren’t nearly as many sidequests and the like to do in towns either.

This game also has many fewer levels total than GGA does. Most worlds have only about three stages, a town, and a palace, and the game is almost entirely linear with few secrets to find. Unfortunate. They try to make up for the short length of the game with some frustratingly hard levels, but this just makes it worse, not better. The first level is a remake of SNES Goemon 2’s first stage with only a few changes (that to make it a little less fun; why remove the water?), but after that the rest of the first world is mostly new. Unfortunately, this is more bad than good, particularly for the first castle stage, which now is much longer, and much more frustrating. Steep difficulty curves at the first castle stage are common in this series, GGA was like that, but it’s worse here, particularly thanks to the horrible, and barely functional, bounce pads. See, unlike your average bounce pad, you have to hit the button in order to go high. The problem is, you need near-perfect timing in order to bounce high, and getting this timing right is VERY tough! I still probably fail almost half of the time, and the castle is loaded with bounce pads over instant-death pits. And the boss is tough at first, too. It’s all so frustrating that just beating the first world is a trial. In comparison, the first world in the SNES game is shorter and much more fun. The giant-robot fight there is tricky, but not the stage before it.

Overall, Konami’s PS1 Goemon games all feel somewhat cheap. The first one did little to show that it was a next-gen game, the second wasn’t much fun at all (and must have had a lot less budget than the first N64 game, too!), this third is frustrating and kind of low-budget, and the last is a complete disater design-wise and gameplay-wise is very similar to this game from what I’ve read. I like Goemon, so it’d have been nice if the PS1 Goemon games were even close to as great as the main two N64 games are, but they aren’t even remotely close, and these later PS1 games started the series’ decline. Oedo Daikaiten is partially a pretty good game, and I do like it despite its flaws, but it’s painfully unoriginal compared to Goemon’s Great Adventure or Goemon 2 for SNES, and is downgraded in almost all respects versus those games as well. Really the only advantage is that versus the SNES game, now Yae is playable. That’s great, but is it worth getting this game just bcause of that and because the levels are mostly new? Maybe, or maybe not. I thought so, but it’s a close call; non-series-fans don’t need to bother with any of the PS1 games, really. Still, if you like platformers, maybe check Ganbare Goemon; Ooedo Daikanten out, it’s not all bad. Goemon’s Great Adventure (N64) is my favorite 2.5d platformer ever and this game pales compared to that one, but it’s enough like the earlier, better Goemon games to still be fun most of the time.


Gekitotsu TomaLarc – Tomarunner vs. L’Arc-en-Ciel (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). This game is a very unique platform/racing runner game. It is on foot, as in some other racing games such as Sonic R, etc., but gameplay is not like other games. TomaLarc is essentially Tomarunner 2, a sequel to another game I haven’t played that apparently plays a lot like this one does, but there isn’t anything else out there quite like it. Despite the French name, L’Arc-en-Ciel was a Japanese rock band popular around the time of this games’ release (2000). It’s a group of four guys, and the lead liked the first Tomarunner, so they made a sequel starring his band. If you’re famous, you can get those kinds of things. The game has four modes: a practice mode where you can try out some annoying minigames (mostly unlockable) in Tomarunner hell; the main tournament mode where you go through the five tracks as one of the four band members and take on quite a few crazy opponents (who you’ll never be able to race as in tournament mode, sadly, it’s the L’Arc-en-Ciel guys only most of the time); single-race mode; options; and some unlockable modes, one of which is a team battle and the other information about the characters (the band especially). The options menu is in Japanese, but the first option is save/load. In the options part, the top one is difficulty, second number of laps per race, and I don’t know what the rest are. There is a great guide for this game on GameFAQs which is quite helpful, but the one thing missing are descriptions of the options menu options. Ah well.

This is a third-person racing game with a forced split-screen. The split is a vertical split down the center of the screen, so each player has one side; there is no option for the more standard horizontal split, I don’t think. Player one is on the left, and player 2 or the CPU is on the right. All races are 1-on-1, and no, there is no full-screen option, though being able to see where your opponent is is useful. There’s also some bars at the bottom of the screen showing how far each player is through their current lap. Tracks in TomaLarc are very narrow most of the time, and are full of sharp 90-degree turns. You can move left and right with the d-pad (no, no analog support, even though the back of the case lies by having an analog logo on it), but that won’t get around the sharp turns. To get around them, you have to hold out an arm, and grab poles which are at most corners. L1 and R1 hold out each respective hand, and getting used to this system is central to the game. Not only are they used to get around many corners, but they also help other ways — hold out both hands to go up a pole quickly, quickly alternate between hands to swim faster, hit the correct hand at a yellow bounce pad to bounce off it, and more. It’s an interesting system which takes some getting used to, but it’s nice to see something different. You can also jump, which is useful for some obstacles; fail to jump and you’ll be slowed down, the same as if you miss a hand-grab and run into a wall. There’s also a limited speed-boost Run button, and various weapons you can use (R2) as well. You choose a boost or weapon to take with you at the beginning of each race, but I think you can pick up a few more during the race. Getting used to this game takes some time, and it’s a bit overwhelming with all of the obstacles you have to learn how to correctly get past. Still, the game is interesting and somewhat fun for sure, and there is an option to make running automatic, which removes one button you otherwise have to hold down (sort of a not-endless runner in 3d, I guess? ).

Visually, the graphics are probably a bit above average, and each track looks completely different. Audio is uninteresting generic rock stuff, probably some of it from the band. The variety of opponents is also nice, though I wish you could race as them in the tournament mode after unlocking them; instead, they’re just for single races, and evere then I don’t know if player one can ever play as anyone other than the four band members, while player 2 can only play as the other characters. Or at least, so far that’s how it is for me; you do unlock more characters as you go, though the GameFAQs guide is clear that tournament mode is band members only. Overall, Gekitotsu TomaLarc is an interesting platformer-ish racing game with quite unique controls. You need to learn each track in order to do well at it, so practice will be required, but I’m sure higher-level matches of this game could get quite fun. I don’t like how much you have to use the shoulder buttons, though — I much prefer face or trigger buttons to shoulder buttons, and games that rely on lots of precise shoulder button control frustrate me. That’s one major issue I have with Drill Dozer for the GBA, for instance, and this game definitely has that. You could map those functions to the face buttons, but something’s going to be on shoulder buttons. Still, TomaLarc is mostly a good game. Interesting idea, even if it is a licensed game using the members of some Japanese rock band I couldn’t care less about.


Gradius Gaiden (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block; saves scores and options only). Gradius is my favorite shmup series, which is why I made this game my first, and so far only, import shmup I have for the PS1. Excepting the Turbografx, which I got a bunch of import shmups for, I have generally bought larger numbers of cheaper imports over smaller numbers of games in this usually-expensive genre, but I definitely had to make an exception for a Gradius game! I do have the PSP version of this game in the Gradius Anthology, but a game made for a TV just isn’t quite the same on a small screen. So, I’ve now gotten the real thing. This game cost a little more than most of my import games, but isn’t really expensive, thankfully. And it’s definitely a great game, too. I don’t think I love this game quite as much as Gradius II (TCD) or Gradius III (SNES), but Gaiden is also a very good game. It’s really too bad Konami never released it in the US on the PS1, they absolutely should have! Gradius was a well-known series, and people would definitely have wanted this.

As for the gameplay, this is a shmup, and it plays like most any other Gradius game. This game is plenty hard, and there are multiple difficulty settings and loops if you want more. The game length is similar to other Gradius titles, but it’s tough, so beating it will take practice! This is a horizontal-scrolling shmup. You choose one of several ships, and then fly off to kill the evil Bacterions yet again. Killing certain enemies drops a powerup. As always in Gradius games, powerups are in a bar on the bottom of the screen, and you hit the powerup button to take the powerup currently selected. This game adds the feature to customize the order of the powerups, but otherwise it’s the same as usual. I love Gradius games, and Gradius’s powerup system is fantastic, one of the best around. Gradius Gaiden definitely plays like a Gradius game. Indeed, Gaiden is a lot like previous Gradius games, just with new levels, some new visual effects, and with two player simultaneous support added. There are some cool level settings and bosses, and I like that it sticks with a traditonal Gradius design, though. It could look better and be more original, but what’s here is good. The game has a mixture of classic and new settings, all with good, but conventional, level designs. The two player co-op is great as well, and was a fantastic addition, Unfortunately, co-op has some definite slowdown, particularly when fully powered up. I’m not sure why, I’d have thought the PS1 could handle that.

Gradius Gaiden has solid, but not incredible or hardware-pushing, 2d graphics with great music. Graphically, I think that the sprites might be a little bit too small. If you compare this game to Gradius I, II, or III, the sprites are noticeably smaller here. Perhaps that was done just in order to fit more on the screen, or because of the added simultaneous multiplayer, but regardless, I like the sprite sizes of the earlier games better; the small size is a downgrade. The music is great, though. Of course, the first three Gradius games had exceptional soundtracks, so I would expect this game to sound great, but it does. It’s not quite the iconic soundtrack of the first three games, but I like the music a lot. Still, in terms of presentation, while this game looks nice, it’s not as impressive as it could be. As with the gameplay, there isn’t much innovation or big-budget flair here. While Gradius was one of the major gaming series back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, this game isn’t on that level, commensurate with the decline of the shmup genre after its peak in 1992. In Japan the industry was overwhelmed with shmups that year, and a decline soon followed. Then came the bullet-hell genre, which quickly gained prominence. Howver, Konami resisted this trend, and their Gradius and Parodius series stuck with their traditional gameplay to the end. I at least am quite happy about this, because I much prefer traditional-style shmups to bullet-hell ones! Still, it would have been cool to see a 5th gen Gradius game which actually pushed the hardware. Gradius Gaiden clearly does not.

Overall, while Gradius Gaiden is a very good game, somehow this game just doesn’t grab me quite as much as Gradius I, II, III, or V do. I have this issue with the next game after this one, IV, as well; they seem good… but not quite as great as the early titles, and not as original as V. They’re in between, and while they are also definitely great games, they aren’t quite AS great as the best Gradius games. But this is a fantastic series, and Gradius Gaiden is a good game, and certainly one of the better shmups on the PS1. Pick it up if you can, at least on PSP. Also on PSP in the Gradius Anthology collection.


Grille Logic (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Grille Logic is a challenging logic puzzle game. This game is for people with good spatial reasoning, that’s for sure! Mine isn’t the best, so I find this game quite difficult. I’m sure my sister would be very good at this, but me, I find it frustrating. The concept here is that you have a pair of 5×5 grids. You have to make it so that the arrows in one grid fit into the empty spaces in the other grid while the other grid has arrows of that direction on it. The trick is that the grid rotates, but you are only initially shown the Up-arrow direction. So, at Up maybe the upper left block is blank, but then it rotates to Left, then Down, then Right, and each time the blank block is in a different spot. The Left, Down, and Right arrows will need to be in the spaces on their grid where they will match those rotated blanks. The O button places the current arrow, and the Square button tests by rotating the block and checking if the arrows and holes line up. It’s hard to explain without playing the game, but hopefully that makes sense. I quickly understood the concept, but executing on that is another story! The game has an always-ticking, and often tight, timer, so you’ve got to try to figure out where the blocks should go when the field rotates, probably without actually seeing the rotated positions because by a little ways into the game that will take too long. You do get a bit of time added for each correctly-placed arrow when you test the puzzle. Wrongly placed arrows are removed from the field. Sometimes you have to place the arrows, and other times the spaces; the latter is more difficult. The game starts out not too bad, but gets pretty hard by the second “loop”; loops in this game aren’t shmup-like loops, they’re just what the gameworlds are called. There are about 14 levels per loop. I got through loop 1 fairly easily, but loop 2 is tougher and takes practice, and it’s only uphill from there. You must place the arrows in the order you’re given them, you see. At first you’re given all of the arrows in the same order as the rotation, but in loop 2 it starts giving them out of order, so you have to do the mental rotation just in order to place the first blocks, because the other side of the puzzle always shows the Up arrow hole layout! No way is there time to watch each one rotate. This is where I started to struggle. I can do it, just with this kind of time limit it’s difficult. Still, though, Grille Logic is a pretty cool game. The game has a two player mode, and saves your top five high scores as well. There are no options at all, though, so it’s a pretty bare-bones package. There is a tutorial video, but the text is in Japanese of course; the menus and high-score table are in English. At least the background and music change for each loop you reach. Spatial-reasoning logic puzzle fans should absolutely check this game out and import it.


Grudge Warriors

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Grudge Warriors is a disappointingly mediocre third-person tank action game. This game is sort of like Tiny Tank, but a lot worse. With somewhat ugly graphics, subpar gameplay, at times frustrating controls, and more, this game really isn’t worth it. That definitely disappoints me, because I quite like the tank action genre! There were quite a few good games in this style in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Sadly they then vanished, but not before leaving us good games like BattleTanx, Steel Reign, Recoil, and more. I was hoping that this game would be as good as most of the others like it, but it isn’t; this is one of the least fun games like this that I’ve played. The game does have a few good points, though, including potentially interesting level designs and 11 different vehicles to play as over the course of the game. In each level of Grudge Warriors you need to destroy all of the targets. Levels start out somewhat small, but layouts are multi-level, which is nice. The levels are somewhat complex and challenging. The levels are decent conceptually, and could have made for an okay game, though a bit more direction would be nice; sometimes I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, and was just wandering around aimlessly. I just wish that they were also fun. Decent graphics would be nice, too. This game looks very pixelated, and the texture warping and polygon seams are very visible. The special effects are nice, though, so there is that. Perhaps the worst thing about the game, however, are the controls! You move with the left analog stick, and a cursor tries to auto-target enemies. It sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. The controls are very skiddy and slippery as well, to a quite frustrating degree at times. The game is loaded with narrow platforms and ledges you must navigate and it’s far too easy to miss a jump (from a ramp, there isn’t a jump button) or fall off a cliffside. Movement and targeting controls are worse in this game than in the other PS1 games I have in this genre, and so is the texture warping. It’s easy to die here, too; enemies do quite a bit of damage, and it’s easy to run out of health, particularly with the games’ sometime lack of direction. I did beat a couple of levels, but it wasn’t long before I gave up on this game, it’s just not worth the effort. It’s really too bad, because I like this kind of game and you see almost no games like this anymore, but Grudge Warriors betrays its surely extremely low budget throughout. Though it’s not the worst thing ever, Grudge Warriors probably isn’t really worth playing.


Gu Gu Trops (J) [Gugutoropusu]

1 player, saves. Gu Gu Trops, or however it’s supposed to be Anglicized, is a somewhat obtuse Japanese action-adventure game, I guess. I tried to play this game, but had to give up at the end of the first level because I couldn’t figure out what to do in order to win the level. If anyone could tell me, it’d be much appreciated! I can find absolutely nothing about this game out there in English. In the game, you play as a group of cave-people in a cavemen-and-dinosaurs setting. You start out with only one guy, but pick up more as you go along. You explore around a somewhat top-down polygonal 3d world, killing dangerous dinosaurs, cutting down trees, and collecting items. Some enemies do respawn, so pay attention and keep moving. The first key item I got was an axe, which let me fight better and cut down those trees. Actions take time, and the game has a day-night cycle, interestingly. You can also go into a first-person view, to see farther than the limited overhead distance. This is a quite slow-paced and deliberate game, and might well get boring after a while, but there’s something interesting about it as well. I’m sure that as you progress you get more and better stuff, but as I said, I couldn’t figure out how to get past the end of the area. There’s this block that I can interact with, and it tells me to put an item on it, but none of the few items I have work and I’m just stuck there. Bah. I’m sure if I could read all the text it’d help, but it’s in Japanese, so yeah. If you can read the language and are interested in action-adventure games, though, make give Gugutoropusu a look. It does seem somewhat interesting, and I’d like to play it more.


Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Inuyasha for the PS1 is a generic and average 2d fighting game. Licensed anime games are rarely great, and this one definitely isn’t, but it is playable and somewhat entertaining, so if you liked the anime as I did it might be worth getting for cheap. In the game you can play as most of the major characters, including Inuyasha, Kagome, and the rest. For modes, there’s a standard single player game, training, and versus. You can play with 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 tag team fights; the latter is a nice option to have. The single player mode is a fairly short and straightforward adventure where you choose a character and then fight each opponent. There is a map screen you can move around, but it mostly just serves to let you choose the order you fight some opponents in. Of course, after beating the rest you fight Naraku. This isn’t one of the harder fighting games out there, so on the default difficulty finishing it won’t be that hard, though novice fighting game players will need to practice some for sure to learn some of the moves. The game does easy chain combos through timed button presses; I”m, no good at memorizing such things, though. The gameplay is okay, but it’s average. Each character has several moves, all of which activate with standard fighting game motions. Control is okay; not the best, but not the worst. Controls are nowhere near as precise as a Capcom or SNK fighting game, that’s for sure! They could be a lot worse, but the controls are not as accurate as they could be. The graphics are decent, but again, aren’t a standout on the platform. This is a very late PS1 game and you can tell, as this looks far better than budget PS1 games did in the early days, but it is still fairly average looking overall. The sprites are decent-looking, though. Still, this game really is average all around. The issue really is though, how much longevity does it have:? For me, I had fun with it for a little while, but it didn’t last long; each playthrough of the single player mode is short, and there are definitely better fighting games out there to play in multiplayer. There are a few things to unlock, but that only adds a bit of playtime really. Overall Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale is a very average game which you probably won’t play for very long at all. Still, as a fan of the series, I like having it; it’s okay, and it’s fun to play a 2d fighter with the Inuyasha characters.


Italian Job, The

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. The Italian Job is an okay open-world-style driving game based on the heist movie of the same name. I haven’t gotten around to watching the movie yet, but I presume it has a lot of car chases, because that’s what this game is about, for sure! Obviously inspired by Driver, each stage in the game requires you to get from one point to another while attracting as little police attention as possible. There are several cities you’ll visit, starting with London and then later moving on to Rome and more. There are short cutscenes between stages, telling bits of story. You play as one of a group of criminals who are planning some big robbery, but all you’ll do in this game is drive from point to point, not actually break into something yourself, shoot at people, or what have you. I like driving games more than third-person shooters, so I at least like the game more this way. This game is decent for the platform. It’s not quite as good as Driver, but looks good for a PS1 game, controls okay, and has a reasonable number of missions to attempt. Escaping the police can be frustrating, though. Unlike many modern games police don’t have a visible detection range on the map, so trying to figure out when you’ll be detected and when you won’t is pretty much just a guessing game, and when you do get detected, escaping the police can be quite frustrating! Driver gives you better information about how to get away, but in The Italian Job you pretty much just need to drive around and hope that somehow they lose them. Combine that with the mission time limits, and this is a problem. The cutscenes and story aren’t great, either. Still, this is mostly a good game. Genre fans might want to pick it up.


Jet Moto 2

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Jet Moto 2 is SingleTrac’s second try at a futuristic hover jet-bike racing game. This game is improved over the first Jet Moto, but still is very much a JetMoto game, for both good and bad. And it’s really both. JetMoto is a somewhat weird series with questionable controls, poor graphics, and a significant learning curve. I kind of like this game, apart from the difficulty, but it is flawed. SingleTrac made popular good and games such as Warhawk (PS1), Twisted Metal 1 and 2, and Outwars (PC), but the JetMoto games never achieved the popularity of their other series, though it did do well enough to get sequels. Jet Moto 2 is a racing game with 10 tracks, about the same number of drivers, and a serious difficulty level. At the beginning, only three tracks are unlocked, which isn’t many. There are single player or splitscreen modes. In single player, the game has single-race, circuit, or custom circuit modes, but you need to play standard circuit mode in order to progress. There are also four difficulty settings, but it’s quite tough even on Beginner, until you get good at the game. You have to finish in first place overall in order to unlock more tracks, and this will take a lot of practice. Once you win a circuit the next tier is unlocked, and the circuit now is longer, until it maxes out at 10 tracks. Getting to that point would take a lot of work, even on Beginner!

The tracks in this game are interesting, bumpy, and full of sharp curves. There are also many obstacles in the track on some courses, making memorization essential. After the first three, the game also starts throwing many segments with suspended roads over bottomless pits at you, which seriously amps up the challenge, and frustration. Tracks aren’t the widest, but they try to make up for that with variety along the way. As before, Jet Moto 2 has physics. Your acceleration will vary depending on the slope of the hill and the surface you’re driving over, though I’m not sure why this is the case given that these are HOVER bikes. If you hit something, it’s easy to send the rider flying off the bike. In these bumpy tracks, those gates over the track can be difficult obstacles to avoid. Controls have some depth too. Each bike handles differently, so try several. The game has analog control on the PS1 now; with the first game, only the PC port has it, so that’s a nice improvement. You can lean forward or back (Up and Down on the stick) to help go faster or slower, and L1 and R1 to the sides. Also returning from the first game is the grapple-beam (O button), which attaches to special poles at some turns for easier turning around sharp curves. Look for those poles, it makes getting around those turns much easier! Getting used to the grapple beam might take a while but it’s important. This is a hard game, and doesn’t play quite like other games. The track designs are also more involved than you usually see on the PS1. These things are both good and bad, though; the tracks can be annoyingly hard, and the controls aren’t as good as they could be. I also wish that the tracks were a bit wider, and didn’t have those awful bottomless-pit segments.

Graphically, Jet Moto 2 is a bit improved over the first game, but still is a somewhat ugly-looking game. SingleTrac could make some interesting gameplay, but never did have the best-looking games. This is a very pixelated game, that’s for sure, and the often-jagged terrain emphasizes some of the PS1’s graphical shortcomings. The music is also very generic rock stuff, nothing interesting there. So, the reason to play this is the gameplay, but the gameplay is definitely not for everyone. There is a lot of game here, but I don’t know if I want to put in the time commitment that beating this game would require; having to finish first overall to progress is a high bar, it’d be more fun if you could move on if you finish in the top three for example. That’s easy enough to do, but winning is much more difficult because the AI doesn’t always seem fair. You’ll need to do well in most races to move on. Fortunately the game does let you save between races, but still, the game is too hard. Overall, Jet Moto 2 is a good but overly difficult game that I like, but also find very frustrating. Is it worth the effort? Maybe, maybe not. Could go either way on that. I did have fun, though, when not trying to win. This was SingleTrac’s last JetMoto game, as the third game was by Sony, and the series died after that. SingleTrac did make Streak: Hoverboard Racing, but that game is simpler and not really quite the same thing as this. It’d be interesting to see another JetMoto game sometime; the concept is good, it just needs better hardware and execution.


Jigsaw Madness

1-4 or 2 player simultaneous (3-4 player requires the multitap). Jigsaw Madness is a jigsaw-puzzle game from Nippon Ichi, released in Japan before they became a bigger name. It’s mostly good, except for one unforgivably bad move by the localizers, XS Games, aka probably the worst publisher ever as far as localizations go. In the game, you take pieces and try to put them back together to form an image. There are 150 different pictures, a mixture of anime girls, photographs of objects and landscapes, and more; yes, this game is Japanese. The game has several options as well, including three different numbers of pieces per puzzle. The small size, 24 pieces, is easy, while the other two are pretty hard, though I almost never try to do jigsaw puzzles, so I’m not that great at this. You can also choose to have the pieces either always be right-side-up, or be any direction and you’ll have to rotate them to fit, and can turn on lines that show where the pieces are supposed to go, though they look so similar that this isn’t quite as helpful as it sounds, often. You can’t place a piece in a wrong place, which is helpful. The game keeps track of each player’s correct and attempted incorrect placements. The game even has four player co-op play, which is pretty cool. I’m sure having four people work together to solve the harder number of piece puzzle settings would be fun! There is also two player versus play, with two different variations; here each player has their own puzzle to solve, instead of working together as you do in the main mode. After you solve a puzzle in any mode, you get a score, based on how long you took and how many mistakes you made. This all sounds good, if you like jigsaw puzzles.

So what’s the problem? XS Games, that’s what. I have no idea what they were thinking in 2002, but just like all of their other PS1 games released around that time, there is NO SAVING in this game! Instead, you just have access to all of the puzzles from the start. If you want to try to beat them all or something, or remember good scores, you’ll have to write them down. As in all of the other games they ruined this way, the original Japanese release of this game let you save, so there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for XS games’ unconcionably awful decision. They ruined this game, Sol Divide, Sorcerer’s Maze, Gunbird (“Mobile Light Force”), and more, all by removing the games’ stories (if they had them) and save systems. In this case, they also stripped out the Playstation mouse support that the original Japanese version has. That’s quite mean, this game would be more fun with the mouse for sure! So, if you want a good jigsaw puzzle game for the PS1, import the Japanese PS1 jigsaw games from the same developer. There are two, and both look much better than this broken game. What in the world did XS Games have against allowing people to save in PS1 games? Idiots… They weren’t the only one to do this — Midas & Mud Duck’s EU and US releases of Gubble, for instance, also remove saving support that the original Japanese release of that game has — but they seem to be the worst, and no one did worse things to the stories in their US releases either; see Sol Divide, Gunbird, etc. I like that we got a bunch of interesting 2d PS1 games late in its life, but broken releases like this are almost worse than nothing… It’s sad, because the gameplay here is good, challenging fun. Why did they have to ruin it with pointlessly removed features? And I’ll need to import the Japanese games eventually.


Kowloon’s Gate (Limited Edition) (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Kowloon’s Gate is a creepy horror adventure game set in the walled city of Kowloon, an incredibly densely-packed block of Hong Kong that was torn down in the 1990s, several years before this game was made. It was an infamous and lawless place, built incredibly densely inside of a small old walled Chinese fort in Hong Kong. In the 20th century, Kowloon became one of those fantasy cities with layers of city on top of other layers of city made real before being torn down because it was a major Triad criminal base. This game is a Japanese first-person somewhat Myst-style adventure game, sort of like D or The Mansion of Hidden Souls, except not translated into English. As in those other games, in much of the game you don’t have free movement, but move from point to point between screens, and the game uses detailed, and often creepy, CG-rendered backgrounds. I really like this games’ art design! On each screen you can look for items to pick up, or interact with or talk to anyone on that screen. It’s a fairly standard system, albeit creepier here than usual because of the games’ themes. But that’s not all there is to this game; while some of the time you are in the aforementioned ‘town’ parts, you also explore free-roaming areas in polygonal 3d. The polygonal parts are bland and sparse areas made up of only walls and doors, without the cool visual clutter of the CG parts, but they aren’t bad, just bland. I do wish you could turn while moving, though; you can’t. There are also some weird fung shui-based battles in the polygonal parts of the game. You need to set the five elements correctly to win. This is mostly an adventure game, though, so it is mostly about items, story, and puzzles. You will get items, need to figure out what items to use where, what order to do things, who to talk to when, and the like.

This is a big, four-disc game with two manuals in the case, one for how to play and one with background info, and the limited edition version that I have comes in a creepy cardboard sleeve covered in red Chinese characters that bump up off of a black background and a nice art/story book as well. High production values here! The artbook is great, if you get the game get this version if you can! The story is that the Kowloon Walled City has returned, and you are a (female, I believe) Super Feng Shui Practitioner sent by Hong Kong’s Feng Shui Confrence, entering this phantom city looking to restore order and return the ghost town back to where it belongs. The strong Chinese themes here, including Feng Shui, yin and yang, the five Chinese elements (fire, water, earth, air, and wood), and the like are probably why this game was never localized for Western audiences. That’s too bad, because it seems like a pretty interesting game, and I’d love to be able to read the story! The game is somewhat playable but very Japanese text-heavy, and it’d be better if I could read it of course. The creepy sense of atmosphere that the graphics and music combine to form works regardless of language, though. I like the audio work, it fits the game perfectly. It’s great creepy atmospheric sound! The CG transitions between screens also look nicer than some do in this genre, though the game is somewhat low-resolution; it’s too bad there wasn’t also a PC version of this game. As for the gameplay, it’s obviously hard to play without knowing the language. This is an adventure game after all, and you need to read a lot (voice work is only used sparingly), choose dialog options, and figure out what items go where. It’d take a lot of trial and error to beat without knowing how to read the text, and missing the story would be unfortunate. There some videos of the game on Youtube, so perhaps you could figure it out that way, but still, it’s tricky. Still, I find the game interesting enough that I want to try, at least for a while; these first-person point-to-point-movement adventure games never have been my favorite thing. Even on the PC, I’ve never actually beaten one of them… though I probably would have beaten Timelapse if not for that horrendous impossible sliding tile puzzle. Anyway, Kowloon’s Gate seems pretty cool. The really fantastic sense of atmosphere might be its best trait, but apparently the game is good too — it was popular in Japan, it seems, at the time. I can see why. I know it would be a big job, but it’d be fantastic to play this game in English, it’s good but the language barrier is high.


Kuru Kuru Cube (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Kuru Kuru Cube is a puzzle game with some cute cartoon-style animals, but I can’t figure out exactly how to play it, and there’s absolutely nothing out there on the Internet about this game that I can find other than that it exists. Block-dropping puzzle games like this are usually fairly easy games to figure out, but somehow, this game isn’t at all. The manual is very thin and you’d need to know Japanese to figure out how to play, and there is absolutely no ingame help in any language. It’s frustrating. I did manage to win a few matches despite not quite knowing what to do, though, so I’ll say what I can. In this game, you have a 6 by 6-square playfield, and differently colored squares descend from the top. By hitting the L or R buttons, you rotate the square in that direction 90 degrees, after which the blocks fall to the bottom; there is gravity here. Your goal is unclear, but it seems to involve getting similar-colored blocks in groups of 4 or more, which sometimes will destroy them. Blocks don’t just disappear when matched, though; no, that would make far too much sense. Instead, you seem to need to alternate colors or something. Often even though I’ve got large blocks of one color, nothing will be destroyed. The key seems to be the alternating-colors thing — so try to match any blocks in the playfield of the same color. I only seem to be able to destroy anything when each new pair is a different color, until all the possibilities on the field currently are used up. Or something; I could be playing this entirely wrong. I’ll scan what I think are the relevant manual pages, maybe someone can help! That’d be fantastic. But yeah, by, for instance, putting the white ones together, then red, then blue, then green, then white again, I eventually would manage to get some to destroy. You don’t only need to make cutes; various shapes work. I’m not sure if there are some restrictions on what shape or color you need to use next in order to destroy some blocks, because there are no on-screen indicators about this, even though there probably should be something, particularly if you really do have to not use the same color multiple times in a row. Bah. I need to understand this game better if I want to be able to compete at Normal difficulty; as it is I can barely manage to survive on Easy, but for that I think I’ll need some help translating the manual.

For modes and options, in single player there is a story mode where you play as this penguin guy and fight a preset series of opponents and a pair of endless modes. I’m not sure what the differences are between the two, other than that the music is different in each. In the story mode, there’s a short cutscene between each match, mostly voiced in Japanese. In all three modes you can choose Easy, Medium, or Hard difficulties, and in the endless games you also can choose a starting speed. The game also has multiplayer, where each player can choose a character to play as from about eight choices. The options menu has very little in it; there are a couple of sound-setting options, Save and Load (there’s no auto-save here, manual only; common on the PS1, sadly), and an option to check the high scores. Overall though, this game seems kind of interesting, but I wish it was clearer about what you need to do. An ingame tutorial would have been every helpful; some puzzle games of this era do have one. I know you make blocks of the same color touch to destroy them, and have to alternate between different colored groups in order to keep destroying blocks, but there might be more to it. Still though, decent game, from what I’ve seen of it.


Kyutenkai: Fantastic Pinball (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Kyutenkai: Fantastic Pinball is a 4th gen-esque console-style pinball game from Techno Soft. Clearly taking a lot of gameplay inspiration from the Turbografx hit Alien Crush and its sequels with character art that reminds me of that from Magical Drop, Kyutenkai plays like a not quite as good takeoff of a Crush game. This is an anime-fantasy pinball game with only one table. More tables would have been great and would have improved the game. As it is, you get one three-screen table. For options, there are few. The game keeps track of the top 15 high scores, there are slower or faster speed options as in the Crush games, and there are three different characters to play as, each with a different special ability and different music. You can switch between characters after you lose each life, which is nice. There aren’t any options to have more than three lives, though, and this game isn’t easy; this is a 5th-gen game, not 4th, more options would have been great. The game has 2d graphics, and looks a bit dated compared to later pinball titles; this game is no match for Pro Pinball, visually, it looks clearly inspired by last-gen console pinball games. The game looks okay though, and has decent art design and graphics. I like the scrolling background, it gives the game some variety and makes it look like you are floating above the ground.

As in the Crush games or Kirby’s Pinball Land, each screen has its own set of paddles, and you only lose a life if the ball goes below the bottom screen. I seem to do worse at this game than Alien Crush, though; maybe the gap between the paddles is wider? The ball hits the drain lanes frustratingly often, too. This game is kind of tough, Alien (or Devil’s) Crush are more fun. The three screen layouts are fairly simple, but there are some tricky elements, which is good; pinball needs some trickier shots to keep you playing. Tables have only a few targets per screen. As in Kirby’s Pinball or the Crush games, there are some minigame tables you can access if you do the right things. This game has five of those sub-tables, each accessed from one of the large characters in the screens, and with a different minigame to play for each one. Some are easy, others much tougher. More minigames would have been nice; with only one table, there should at least be more sub-tables. This isn’t a Pro Pinball-like simulation.

The table is simple in design with, as I said, few targets. The bottom screen is the ‘Underworld’ screen, with a devil boy in the middle. His minigame is the easiest one to access. On the upper right is a scantily-clad harpy, who has a minigame I’ve only gotten to once so far (not sure how I did it). On the left are three smaller targets. Getting up from this screen can be frustrating, because hitting the ball up the lanes isn’t easy and a spinner on the demon’s head gets in the way. Trying to activate one of the bonus games might be the best way, and it’ll get lots of points too. On the middle screen, ‘Earth’, is a three-eyed woman, and a snakelike dragon with a bunnygirl climbing it on the right, which has a minigame in its mouth. There are three blinking targets in the middle; match three of the same face to activate minigames. Some are easier to match than others, I’ve found. On the top screen, ‘Heaven’, there are three bells and a few other targets on the top, endlessly spawning things to hit in the center, and a minigame in the thing in the left-side drain. It’s easier to keep the ball on this screen than the lower ones. If you beat all four of the other bonus games, it’ll unlock a fifth ‘final boss’ one. I haven’t gotten to that yet.

And that’s pretty much the game. It’s alright, but I’d much rather play a Crush game or Kirby’s Pinball, they have better table designs than Kyutenkai does. Also, the Playstation can do a much more ambitious pinball game than this. I also prefer the ‘build the bonus multiplier’ focus of an Alien Crush or Kirby’s Pinball to Kyutenkai’s less focused playstyle that seems to be more about just getting points than building up a multiplier, though perhaps I am missing some of its depth. My first impression of Kyutenkai wasn’t very good, but it has grown on me a bit. It’s not a great game, but it is at least average for sure, and perhaps better. Fans of this kind of pinball game should check it out, though better games are out there for sure. Also on the Saturn, though I’ve heard that the Playstation version is supposed to be slightly better. On Saturn apparently the shoulder buttons are only for nudging the table, for instance, while on PS1 the L1/R1 buttons are additional flipper options, and L2/R2 nudge.


Legend of Dragoon, The

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad support. The Legend of Dragoon is a generic RPG Sony made in the aftermath of Final Fantasy VII’s groundbreaking smash-hit success. The game sold well in the US, but Sony never made a sequel for some reason, unlike other PS1 RPGs of theirs like Legend of Legaia or Wild ARMs. This seems like a quite generic game to me, though. Legend of Dragoon is a lot like many other RPGs. The story is a generic JRPG story of a guy who goes on to save the world, his mysterious-girl childood friend, and his other companions. The story isn’t awful, and as this is a four-disc game there is a lot of plot to get through here, but it is very average. Like games like Mario RPG, the game has a timing element to combat, so if you hit the buttons at the right time you’ll do more damage in attacks. Getting used to the tricky timing is essential, as these timed button presses will be necessary in almost every attack you make in this game, excepting only a couple of characters who can’t do them. As in other games published by Sony on the PS1, the game has a horrendous translation that makes actually understanding what’s going on difficult sometimes. Even the menus are pretty badly translated! There isn’t much voice acting, either, even though this game takes up four discs. Mostly just text. Visually, the game uses PS1 Final Fantasy-style prerendered backdrops with polygonal characters walking around on them. In some areas you can explore, while in others you can only follow railed paths, as usual in RPGs with this graphical style. Battles, of course, are rendered in polygonal 3d, and apart from the timing system are quite standard “two lines of characters stand there and hit eachother” affairs with minimal strategy. Most battles are random, unfortunately, though a few areas do allow you to try to avoid combat, which is nice. Of course most of the time it’s just standard random battles. There is no ingame map, but areas zoom out and the game is linear enough that it’s not too hard to navigate, I think, though of course every game could use a map. The otherworld is simple too; you can’t wander around, just walk along preset paths. Overall, The Legend of Dragoon has okay graphics and isn’t too hard to play, but there just isn’t anything particularly interesting here to make me want to keep playing the game. This game is bland, generic, and average. Of those games I listed at the top, I think I might like Wild Arms the most. Definitely not this.


Medal of Honor Underground

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. MoH: Underground is the second console game in this thoroughly average shooter series. As with the first game, this one is set in World War II. The first Medal of Honor game was probably the most popular first-person shooter on the original PS1, but that’s not much of a compliment; unlike the N64, the PS1 was not known for great shooters, beyond it solid port of Doom and such. If this is the best it can do, it’s easy to see why that is. Underground feels like more of the same, just with a new story and character. Rarely for a major console FPS, you play as a female character in this game. She’s a French Resistance fighter, another rarity in this genre. You’ll have plenty of Nazis to kill, though, even if you’re supposedly not a front-line soldier; as with the first game, there’s no reason to be stealthy much. The PS1 MoH games have decent graphics for the system, but very linear gameplay with narrow cooridors everywhere. Just like the first one, this game doesn’t have large areas. It’s probably a hardware limitation, the PS1 has limited RAM. Still, it feels stiflingly limited, most ’90s FPSes on the PC or N64 have much more extensive worlds. In each level, you have objectives to accomplish, which is nice. They are mostly sraightforward goals such as getting to a specific point or killing the enemies, but there is occasional variety. As for challenge, on normal it seems managable even for someone as mediocre at this genre as I am. If you’re better at these games, definitely turn up the difficulty. Most of the gameplay involves exploring the narrow, sometimes mazelike paths of the levels in this game. Where you should be going isn’t always clear, and I did get stuck sometimes, but not in a good way; wandering around an area which I’ve killed all the enemies in because I’m not sure where to go because the game didn’t tell me and there isn’t a good map system is frustrating. I like FPSes to have some thought to their levels, as opposed to just a series of linear cooridors, but I really wish this game had a map, not only a compass. Still, levels aren’t large enough for this to be too bad, if I was actually having fun with the game that is. I’ve never loved the FPS genre, but I do like some shooters… but not this. It’s just too generic, with mediocre graphics, dumb enemies, repetitive gameplay, and very dated design. I like the main character, but nothing else about this game stands out. I don’t much like the newer Medal of Honor games either, but these early ones certainly aren’t going to change my mind about this franchise, or its Call of Duty spinoff series of sorts either.


Megatudo 2096 (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Megatudo 2096, pronounced Megatude 2096, is a very interesting and different 3d fighting game from Banpresto that was only released in Japan. This is a pretty good game with some flaws that a sadly never-to-be sequel could have fixed. This is a fast and smooth giant-robot fighting game, with Gundam-style robot designs. There are 12 playable characters, plus two bosses; you can unlock one boss, but seemingly not the other one. For controls, while the camera is NOT locked, controls are always character-relative. This can sometimes be confusing, when the character is stuck on some edge of the arena in the background, and there are no camera-control buttons; a sequel could have improved here. The camera kind of feels like it’s for a TV show, not a video game. Left and Right more towards and away from your opponent, Down ducks, and Up jumps; remember, character-relative at all times, so when you’re in the background controls will be reversed. Each character has two weapons, a melee weapon and a gun. You can switch with a button. You’ve got two attack buttons, block, circle-jet left and right, and a ‘both action buttons’ button. The gun always shoots at your opponent, though while you are both moving you’ll need to be lined up to hit. The manual has several nice diagrams of how circling around an opponent can work, so it’s clear the designers knew what kind of game they were making — you need to learn how the shots will angle as they move while both characters are zooming around. You can also quickly zoom forwards or backwards by holding both strafe buttons at the same time and pressing left or right (“towards” or “away”). Oh, I HIGHLY recommend changing the controls! By default, the left and right circle-strafe buttons are on R1 and R2. This makes no sense; change it to L1 and R1 for left and right, of course. Circle-strafe around your opponent while you shoot at them is central to this game, and it’s really confusing when both directions are on the same side of the controller. The AI is okay, but sometimes fails to switch modes as often as it should; playing a human would probably be a lot more fun here than the AI is.

Unfortunately, while Megatudo is quite fun, the game has almost no modes: there are only “Story”, which is quite misnamed because there’s no plot to be found in this game outside of the manual, Versus, or Options. Megatudo is, helpfully, almost entirely in English; the options menu is all-English, as is the character select screen, and the announcer is also a native English speaker. The only Japanese I’ve seen in the entire game is the ‘do you want to save’ prompt that appears after you beat the game if you have Auto Save turned on. Yeah, that’s Japanese text, but not anything else, though most of the manual is in Japanese of course. For options, the game has four difficulty levels, and you can also choose how many rounds per match, how much health each player gets (up to infinite), save, change the controls, and view the few records the game stores. It only keeps track of your best times in the story mode (no setting options recorded here, so easy 1-round match times will naturally be better than Pro 3-round ones), and versus win/loss data. You unlock the one unlockable character by beating the game at the top setting, Pro, without losing; I haven’t managed that yet, though you could cheese it by turning on infinite health. Otherwise there’s nothing to unlock here. Also, while the game has a nice CG-rendered introduction showing all the robots (there’s no voice acting during it, the announcer is the only one to talk during the game), the game doesn’t really have endings; all you get for your trouble is a single-screen ‘Congratulations’ message with an image of your mech and then the (English-language) credits. I was hoping for more.

Still, gameplay in Megatudo is fast and fun. This game keeps up a high and stable framerate at all times, which is critical to the game; a lot of 5th gen fighting games don’t have great framerates, and in this genre it really hurts. No problem here. Environments are textured polygons, but the two characters, the mecha robots, that is, are shaded polygons; this probably helps with the framerate, and might help with texture warping as well. The results look pretty nice. Other than some polygon flicker, this is a pretty decent-looking game. The robot designs look prety cool, and definitely have a Gundam-knockoff style. The manual has two page spreads for each character, and while the text is in Japanese, the images of the robots and their pilots, the move list, and the robot specs are all interesting. Oddly, the pilot art is never seen ingame, only in the manual. It’s pretty good, so it’s quite bizarre that it’s apparently entirely absent from the actual game! I wonder what the boss robot pilots are; the manual doesn’t cover those two. This is a somewhat unique game. While the robots are slow and lumbering while moving on their own, with the circle-strafe jets you move quickly and can really zoom around the circular arenas. The two weapons each require different playstyles: with the gun you circle around trying to line up for shots, as if the game is a shooter, while with the sword you race in for some punishing hits, making it feel more like a fighting game. Gun damage is generally low, to make up for how much easier it is to hit with. Special moves are helpful; many work only in one weapon mode or the other, but it’s hard to tell in the manual which are which if you can’t read Japanese. There is a GameFAQs guide which lists all the moves, separated by weapon type; use it.
Overall, this is a good fun game. Still, the game can be frustrating sometimes, because of the sometimes annoying AI, the constant circling around taking shots which often miss, the too-frequent camera issues, those times when I go in for a close-in attack but instead take lots of damage, and such, but it’s a good game overall for sure, or at least definitely above average, and for a PS1 fighting game from this era, above average is pretty good! The uniqueness is great as well; this game isn’t quite like anything else I’ve played. I really wish it had gotten a sequel, to add in the better story, endings, polished controls and camera, and more modes that this game deserves. It’s too bad that it didn’t happen.


*Metal Gear Solid

1 player, saves (1 block per file, 1 block for VR Training data, 2 blocks per (optional) screenshot), Analog Gamepad supported. Metal Gear Solid was one of the Playstation’s most popular games. I’m sure almost anyone reading this knows (and has played) more about this game , and series, than I do, so I don’t know if there is much to say here. This is a mostly overhead-view 3d stealth action game with a whole lot of long cutscenes and voice conversations telling the overly complex story. And Metal Gear stories would just get crazier from this point on, too! It’s kind of absurd. I’ve never liked how much story there is compared to gameplay in the MGS games, or at least the first two of them since those are the only ones I’ve played; I first played MGS2 in 2001, and lost interst midway because of far too many absurdly long cutscenes, with too little gameplay in between. So far this game has more gameplay than that, but it does also have lots of long voice conversations in the codec and regular crazy cutscenes. And as for that gameplay, it’s definitely not exactly the kind of thing I love. MGS has clumsy, not-that-good shooting, no way to control your character Snake’s speed other than Run or Crawl on the ground, and highly pixelated graphics with too few indicators of what you can interact with (it’s easy to overlook stuff among the pixels, and Interact and Punch are on the same button too, which causes issues) and questionable controls that make attaching to walls, knocking on walls, and such harder than they are in some newer games in this genre. Also, where in the world is a walk button? And analog speed control on the analog stick! too! Come on. Of course, this game was one of the earlier stealth-action games, so it makes sense that the genre would improve from this, but yeah, this game has aged in some ways. Still, this probably is good for its time. Stealth was a new genre back in 1998, after all. This game has nothing on 1998’s Thief: The Dark Project on PC, though! And between this and Tenchu (PS1, also from 1998) I have more fun with Tenchu, though I’m not sure if it’s actually a better game. Still, this is a decent game I guess. It has high production values for the time, takes up two discs, has a lot of story (even if it’s overly crazy), and definitely can be challenging. Snake gets a lot of items and weapons to use, and each area is like a puzzle where you have to figure out how to reach your target point hopefully while being detected as little as possible. Of course, these “genetically enhanced” enemies can see like three feet in front of them and only will react to footsteps if you’re running on something loud like puddles, so that helps. The on-screen radar showing their view cones is also a big help; otherwise you just have to guess, which is annoying. I’d never play this game on the difficulties which disable the radar, no way! Anyway, I guess this game is alright, but it’s not my thing and I don’t know if I actually want to play it again or not. Also on PC, and remade on Gamecube.


Motor Toon Grand Prix

1 player (2 player simultaneous by system link only), saves (1 block for save data, up to 15 for replays), neGcon compatible. Motor Toon Grand Prix is a kart-ish arcade-style racing game from Polyphony Digital, the team that would soon go on to make Gran Turismo. I don’t have much interest in that franchise, that kind of game completely bores me and if I really did want to play a racing sim it’d be a real racing sim, presumably on the PC, and not a damage-modeling-free game like Gran Turismo (this is true for the older ones anyway!), but Motor Toon Grand Prix is a pretty good game! This game is actually the second Motor Toon game; the first one was released only in Japan, so they dropped the “2” from the Western release of the game. Motor Toon is a fast game with some unique visual quirks and solid arcade racing gameplay. The cars have this weird warping effect that makes them really look like they are ‘leaning’ into the turns. It’s kind of neat, but the resulting almost drift-like sliding that cars do as they turn takes a while to master. Practice is essential to get around the tracks without messing up. There are also weapons in the game, though driving skill is the most important thing here. Motor Toon may be a “kart” game, but you’ll need to learn the courses and drive well in order to succeed. It’s very different from Mario Kart. And on that note, if you want to play this game well, a compatible analog controller, either neGcon, wheel, or Performance Analog Gamepad, is HIGHLY recommended! It’s not the same at all with digital controls, and this game released before the Dual Shock. Motor Toon is a short game, too. It will take a little while to complete, because it starts out with only five tracks and six characters and you unlock one more track for each difficulty you beat the game on, but despite that Motor Toon feels kind of short, and the lacking multiplayer hurts the game as well. Link cable only, really? This would be so much better with splitscreen! Also, while the graphics are decent and the art design good, the games’ early-ish 1996 release date shows; Motor Toon doesn’t look as good as later Playstation games would.


NASCAR 2000


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. NASCAR 2000 is one of EA’s NASCAR stock car racing games, and like all of their games in the franchise, is a sort of hybrid game, mostly arcade-styled but with a bit of sim to it. First, the good: the game has two player splitscreen, a bunch of cars and tracks, some car settings, and solid, sometimes good graphics. That’s about it for me, though. In addition to being boring because it’s a semi-realistic stock car racing game and I always find this kind of game boring, NASCAR 2000 is a game of compromises. The game requires some strategy, but isn’t a sim. These games that try to be in between sim and arcade usually end up being worse than both, and I don’t think there’s any exception to that here. The game has a good-sized field of cars in each race, but not a full field — there are 16 cars per race. There are a bunch of drivers to choose from, but not all of the drivers from the ’99 season that the game simulates. I was looking for Maine’s Ricky Craven, who was a driver back then, but nope, not here. Similarly, there are over 20 tracks in the game, but not all of the tracks from the 1999 season are here, and some fantasy tracks have been added. Daytona and New Hampshire are missing, for example. And of course, almost all of the tracks are boring ovals. And in the gameplay, you will have to brake in order to get around the turns, and having to brake for every turn definitely isn’t something I’m great at since I prefer racing games where you don’t have to do that, but I’m sure with some practice this game wouldn’t be too hard. After losing badly in my first race on a speedway I turned down the AI difficulty all the way and easily won a road-course race, for example. You can set AI difficulty to between 80% and 120%, and drafting between 90% and 130%, to make the game harder or easier. You can also set race lengths between 3% and more than 100% of normal; I stuck with the minimum here, I have no interest in 200-lap videogame races. It’s telling that the minimum, 3%, is the default setting, it shows how this game isn’t much of a sim. You can also “create a racer”, but all this really means is renaming one of the racers in the game, because you can’t design a car, just choose a car and name the racer. There is a season mode, at least. Overall though, this is a genre game, for fans of NASCAR and oval racing. I am neither of those things; I’ve never cared for watching car racing on TV. As an arcade game this game is very boring, with that annoying braking required on most turns, but it’s not even the remotest competition for Papyrus’s highly realistic NASCAR sim racing games of the ’90s, either. Overall NASCAR 2000 is boring and extremely bland, stick to Indy Racing 2000 on the N64 if you want a fun and arcadey mostly-oval-racing game on a 5th gen console or the Papyrus games on PC if you want a sim. NASCAR 2000 isn’t fun to play, and I can’t respect it as a sim either; I only have this game because it was part of a lot, and am glad I didn’t really pay money for it. Also on PC and N64.


Need for Speed: High Stakes

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad or neGcon supported. NFSHS is the fourth Need for Speed game, and the PC version of this game is probably my favorite game in the series! This PS1 version isn’t quite up to the level of the PC original, of course; it has significantly worse graphics, fewer tracks, simpler damage modeling, fewer circuits, fewer cars, framerate drops sometimes, an overall easier difficulty level, and more. Despite the greatly reduced amount of content, though, NFSHS for the PS1 is still an extremely good game. This game is easily one of the best racing games I’ve played for the PS1, I was very impressed by how good they made this game considering the hardware. I got NFSHS for the PC back when it came out in 1999, so I am quite familiar with that game, and while I had heard that this was a good version, you can never be sure until you try it for yourself… but yes, it’s great! I have played a lot of awful PS1 racing games recently, while working on this, so it was nice to play a great one for once. It’s also interesting because I’m so familiar with this game, but not this version. I listed the major downgrades already, but the core of the game is the same, and that’s great. Pixelated PS1 graphics aside, the tracks look just like they do on the PC.

The game has a total of 11 tracks, some of which have to be unlocked. This is less than the 18 tracks in the PC version; the PC game includes all of NFS3’s tracks as unlockable extras, while this game does not. Still, the tracks that are here are great, and have nice variety. The fantastic course designs are one of the highlights of this game for sure! Of course everything looks a LOT uglier than on the PC, but PS1 racing game graphics don’t get much better than this. The cars in NFSHS control very well. In fact, maybe too well! I’ve always thought of NFSHS for the PC as a tough game because of the slightly realistic handling and the games’ sometimes cruel money and damage system, but this game seems to be easier to control and is much more forgiving. Here, damage is just a percentage. There is visible damage, but you can’t actually break your car. At the end of each race, the cost of repairs for damage done to your car is automatically deducted from your winnings. On the PC you have four separate car areas that each take damage, you choose to do repairs or not, and they are more expensive than on PS1. Also there are only 11 cars, which is a lot fewer than the PC game, though this is somewhat unfair because on PC the game did get some free download cars.

Overall, the controls and simple damage modeling make this game feel less substantial than the PC game. However, console games usually are simpler than PC games, so this does make sense. That doesn’t mean that the game is easy, though. The game may have only six championships to win, instead of 10 tiers of 2-3 championships as the PC game has, but there are still plenty of modes, including splitscreen, hot pursuit (play as the police, and try to catch all the racers!), and more, and three difficulty levels as well. The game starts out easy, but does have a decent difficulty curve and several difficulty levels. Oh, and the music and sound is pretty good as well; I particularly like all the police radio chatter. On the whole, Need for Speed: High Stakes for the PS1 is a fantastic and really fun racing game. It’s well worth getting for sure. Also on PC.


Parasite Eve

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported. Parasite Eve is a fairly interesting actionish RPG with a very cinematic feel to it. It sort of feels like one part Resident Evil-style horror and one part Final Fantasy VII0-style Square RPG, with an original hybrid action/turnbased battle system. Interestingly, you play as a female character, Aya Brea, in this game, and its sequels as well; there are no parties in the Parasite Eve games, you always just play as Aya. It works. This two-disc game has a lot of cutscenes and plenty of voice acting, though the English voice acting is kind of bad, which hurts a bit. The game has polygonal characters in pre-rendered environments, as in RE or FFVII. There’s no Final Fantasy-style overworld here, though, just prerendered environments. Unlike many RPGs, Parasite Eve is set in an alternate version of our world. The game is set in New York City, and Aya works for the NYPD. So yes, not only does the game have a female main character, but she’s not a teenager either! Of course she’s attractive, though, so it follows that trope for sure. Still, most Japanese RPG main characters are teenagers, so it’s nice to see some variety. The ‘real-world’ horror-RPG style of this game reminds me a lot of Aruze’s Koudelka/Shadow Hearts series, though this game released before that series began. Of course, Capcom’s NES game Sweet Home is a horror RPG, and there are probably more. I don’t usually like horror stuff, and some of the creepier elements of this game are off-putting to me, but despite this Parasite Eve seems like a good game, from what I’ve played of it. The story is weird, though. Aya has some kind of weird power, and the villain is always talking about Mitochondria, that part of the cells that make up all life. This is a Square game, and the story starts off strange and then gets weirder and weirder. The game’s plot is loosely inspired by a Japanese book of the same name, but it seems that the story of the game is fairly different from the book. As usual, Square made everything a lot more complex, and it seems that that gets even worse in the sequels, the third game (The Third Birthday for PSP) particularly; even fans of the first two games often don’t seem to like that one, though I haven’t played it myself.

The combat system is good, mostly. There are random battles as you wander around, and also preset ones at certain points. Battles take place in a blocked off section of the world, so there isn’t a separate battle screen. I love this, and definitely prefer this style to pulling everyone into a separate screen. You can move around during combat, which is the main action part of the combat system; this isn’t another one of those games where the characters just stand in static lines and hit eachother, thankfully. You’ve got an ATB-style gauge that controls when you can attack, though, so it’s not entirely an action-RPG, it’s a hybrid as I said. Once the meter hits 100%, hit X and you can choose a target for Aya to shoot at. She’ll then shoot a couple of shots at that target or targets. Yes, guns are your main weapons; there are also melee weapons, but the guns are better. They do need ammo, but many enemies drop some. Aya also has special magic-like powers, first a useful healing spell. You get more as you progress. These abilities use power from a meter that slowly recharges during battle, so you don’t need to worry about limited magic points in this game. Overall combat may be a bit streamlined, but it’s fun. The main frustration is that you don’t have any good dodge moves, so getting away from the enemies can be difficult, particularly while you’re attacking. Enemies won’t just stand there and take your hits, so damage is often unavoidable. It’s fortunate that you do have recharging ability points to help counteract that, but the system could be better. Still, overall, I like this game. I wasn’t really expecting to, but I do. I don’t like some of the horror stuff and combat is somewhat stiff, but Parasite Eve is good overall despite those issues.


Poitter’s Point (J) [US/EU title: Poy Poy]

4 player simultaneous (with multitap), saves (1 block). Poitter’s Point, or Poy Poy, is a very simple overhead-view “fighting” game from Konami. This game is very simple, and feels a bit like a predecessor to Smash Brothers or, more appropriately because of the overhead viewpoint, Power Stone. It’s nowhere near as good as those games are, though; Poy Poy isn’t awful, but it’s far from great. The game basically has two modes, single player gameshow mode, or exhibition matches for one to four players. It’s cool that the game has four player support; that’s quite rare for a PS1 game that isn’t a sports game! The multiplayer is certainly the best thing abotu this game, but today you can play better things than this. Still, it is at least moderately amusing. The single player mode has a gameshow theme, with voiced cutscenes with an announcer occasionally. THere’s a small lobby area where you can save (at the terminal), buy new or upgraded special attacks (at the desk), and start a new game (by going into the door and talking to the guy). Then choose your character, set game settings, and go. I have the Japanese version because it was cheap, and all of the special attack and new-game options are in Japanese, but other than that the game’s quite playable regardless of language. Also, while the lobby stuff is in Japanese, once you get into the character and game settings screens, it’s all in English. So yes, the special-attack purchase menu in the lobby is in Japanese, but the screen where you select a special to use in the match lists them in English. Japanese games are weird with the mixture of languages, sometimes…

Actual gameplay is the same anywhere: it’s simple. In matches, you walk around the screen, pick stuff up, and throw it at your opponents. You can also pick up and throw your opponents directly, but throwing things at them usually works better. There are always four players in each match, human or computer, going around the single-screen stages and throwing stuff at eachother. There are initially eight characters to choose from, but you can unlock more as you progress. Each game is made up of seven or eight stages, each a three-round match on a new map. You can choose fewer or more rounds per stage, if you wish. Players are knocked out in a round once their health heart runs out, so watch your health. Each hit takes out a bit of health. The basic items are rocks and bombs. Rocks have to hit the enemy directly, but the bombs (large or small size) blow up an area. Holding down the throw button will throw a bomb farther, which can be useful. You can also jump, though it’s not always useful, since all arenas are flat squares or circles. The only real use for it is jumping over rocks, pretty much. Some stages also have other things you can throw like logs. You also have those super attacks, based on which one you have equipped (R1 uses the one you have). There are also often stage-specific hazards, such as ice (slippery ground, of course) and penguins in the winter stage, a robot shooting freeze rays in the robot stage, and more. Gameplay is very formulaic, though — grab bombs, throw them at people, and hope they go down before you do. It’s kind of amusing, and there is a bit of strategy, but this game is probably a bit too simple. It is kind of amusing though, and there is some replay value since you can spend your winnings on better super moves. Overall, though, this game’s average at best, I think. I doubt I’ll play it often, but it is interesting to see because this style of simple beat ’em up-esque fighting became much more popular in later titles like SSB and Power Stone. The game also has a sequel, though the second game didn’t release in the US; it did get a Japanese and European release, though.


Primal Rage

2 player simultaneous. Primal Rage was a popular arcade fighting game from Atari Games where you play as a variety of prehistoric monsters, and got ported by Atari Games’ console division, recently renamed from Tengen to Time Warner Interactive, to almost every platform that existed in 1995. There is even a Jaguar CD version! This Playstation version is probably one of the better ones, though it is the only version of the game I actually own so I can’t say that myself for sure. Primal Rage is a fairly simple fighting game, and I never have played it all that much; the dinosaur and giant ape characters certainly do look cool, the basic special-move-and-combo-heavy gameplay has never held my interest for long. Primal Rage isn’t a bad game, but Street Fighter II it is not, either. It doesn’t have either Street Fighter II’s depth or quite the hook of Mortal Kombat. I mean, I love dinosaurs as much as anyone, but this is a fairly simple fighting game, and doesn’t play quite as well as MK. I’ve never played Primal Rage enough to actually get good at it, though; I’ve just played it for a bit here and there and then moved on. With nice graphics and solid gameplay the PS1 version of Primal Rage is definitely good, and one of the better versions. I’m just lukewarm on the actual game. Primal Rage was released on almost every major platform out there in 1995, but this is the only version I have.


Puchi Carat (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Puchi Carat is a port of the very good Taito arcade game of the same name. This game is essentially a two player versus Breakout/Arkanoid-style game. The game has the design styles of a ’90s anime-styled versus block-dropping puzzle game, but the gameplay is ball-and-paddle action, and it’s great! I really like this game, it’s sad that it didn’t get a US release on the PS1. There was a European release, but not American. We did finally get it, and in English, in Taito Legends 2, but the PS1 version has a few added features that straight arcade port doesn’t have. Of course since I got the Japanese version all the text is in Japanese, but I’ve read the story in English before (online and on the PS2) and have Taito Legends 2, so I know the plot. Whatever the platform, I like this game a lot. PuchiCarat is great! I do wish that the PS1 version added more content versus the arcade version, though. What you get here is single player or multiplayer, that’s it. There are some difficulty settings, but not too many options. The single player modes are an endless single-player mode, vs. CPU story mode where you choose a character and then beat all the others, a time attack mode where you try to finish a set number of vs. CPU stages as quickly as possible, and Rapid mode which speeds up the game. The versus modes are the highlight here, as a solo game the game is less unique. Most of these modes are also in the arcade game as seen in Taito Legends 2, though, and of course the graphics are downgraded a bit here too; they’re good, but lower resolution than the arcade game.

But I mostly like this game so much because it’s so fun to play, not because of the some-good and some-bad weirdness. This is a simple but really fun game. As in many versus puzzle games, the game is always splitscreen; you are always facing an opponent in this game. Again, this is an Arkanoid-style game, so you move your paddle back and forth and bounce the ball around. Patterns of jewels (blocks, essentially) come down the screen towards you a row at a time, and if you destroy a large grouping all at once by breaking away their connection to the top of the screen, you will hit the opponent with a quick row. If the ball hits the bottom of the screen, the blocks move down three rows. There are only about ten or twelve rows on the screen, so many hits on the bottom and you will lose very quickly. You lose if the blocks reach the bottom of the screen, of course. The game is frenetic, fast-paced, and challenging. Play is often a constant stream of attacks back and forth, as each player knocks off chunks of blocks and sends rows the other way. Puchi Carat looks like a puzzle game, but it sure doesn’t play like one! For instance, groups of blocks are in different colors, but this is irrelevant; it’s just a graphical detail. This is a classic arcade action game through and through.

The game has a fantasy-anime theme, and each of the characters are an anime stereotype. There are 12 characters, each named for a month’s birthstone, and you’ll need to beat all the others in order to win. The characters are mostly kind of weird, though. Puchi Carat tries to be funny, and it sometimes is, but sometimes it’s just … weird-anime, and somewhat creepy as well. Why does the fairy woman maid have a full-size human husband? Why the incestuous twin sibling alchemists (and yes, the one with pants is a boy even if it’s hard to tell)? The girl is kind of messed up, too… she threatens to eat the cute mascot animal, tear the wings off the fairy woman to use them in alchemy potions, etc. And then there’s the rich girl who steals the clothing of everyone she defeats, because she has an obsession with collecting clothing… that last one is funny, at least. Yes, Puchi Carat has a very odd cast, in both good and bad ways. But overall, this is a pretty good game because of the great gameplay. The idea of a puzzle-styled versus Arkanoid game was a good one, and it worked quite well! It’s too bad that we haven’t seen many similar games since, because this game had a great concept and I’d love to see more games with gameplay like this. Arcade conversion; the arcade version is also in Taito Legends 2 for the PS2.


Puzzle: Star Sweep

2 player, saves (1 block). Star Sweep is a solid and clearly low-budget but frustratingly hard block-dropping puzzle game. It is similar to other puzzle games, perhaps most notably Columns, but is different in several significant ways. As in Columns, all pieces in this game are three-block-long tiles. However, this isn’t a match-three game. Instead, you only have to match two blocks of the same color to destroy them, but the catch is that only star blocks can match, the other blocks on each piece do nothing. Most blocks have one star block, always on one end and never in the center, while some have two star blocks, one on each end. There are only three colors of blocks in this game, but this is a fast, and very hard, game! Matches in this game are usually short and extremely tense. Instead of the usual style of blocks dropping from above, in this game some blocks rise up out of the floor, while you place others with a cursor outline. Blocks can be placed either horizontally or vertically. One button rotates, the other places the current block. If you make combos, you can send blocks to the other player; this is mostly a versus game, either you against a human or AI opponent. I struggle to get much of any combos beyond the most basic ones, though, just staying alive at all is usually hard enough. Sent blocks are large cloudlike blobs that drop from the top of the screen, and pile up on the left and right halves of the field in two piles. Breaking blocks next to them destroys the ones touching that. Naturally the AI is much better at sending mountains of blocks than I am. You can only rotate blocks one way, which is quite annoying sometimes; there are more than two buttons on this controller, use at least three of them! There are two issues here. First, the blocks rising up out of the floor are randomly placed, which means that the floor of the field can and will change, often between the time you hit the button and when the block appears! This mean that I’m constantly placing blocks which don’t line up to the star block I was trying to line them up with because the field has shifted up, and say the other block now has a star block under it lifting it higher, while the one I put down doesn’t. Chance plays a very large role in this game, larger than it does in some puzzle games, for that and some other reasons. Also, I sometimes have trouble telling which color the cursor is; red, white, or blue should be easy to tell apart, but it’s kind of tricky sometimes because the cursor is pale and transparent, not solid-colored. Another major luck element is in how you win matches. Instead of winning as soon as one person’s blocks hit the top, you have three seconds to clear enough blocks so that the top row is empty again. Yes, seconds, not moves. It’s ridiculous, and I can see why puzzle games don’t usually do this; it’s frustrating and helps make this game even harder, since the AI has a much easier time clearing those blocks than a human does. Often it’s just a matter of pure luck — does the game give you the color(s) you need, in the move or two you have before time runs out? If not, you lose again. Argh.

For options, Star Sweep has an Arcade mode, Story mode, endless mode, 2 player versus play, and some unlockable bonus modes. There are four difficulty levels; only the lowest one is easy, the others are frustratingly hard, as I’ve been describing — I’ve mostly played the game on Normal. This game, and the manual as well, are poorly translated, so I’m not really sure what is going on in the story. The manual says that someone destroyed most of the stars (not counting ours, of course), and turned them into colored stardust, or something, but there’s a Star Pig that’s eating the stardust, and if you match the stars they explode… or something. Anyway, that’s what you’re doing in this game. In Story mode you play as a girl who’s off to stop the person who did it, or something? Or maybe not, she could just be trying to play this new ‘Star Sweep’ game and ends up trying to beat those people too. Even though I finished the game, I’m still confused. I’m not even sure if the final boss was the person who did all this; I guess she was, but then why does the game and manual call that person a “him”? It’s probably just a poor translation, but still. The manual does have some character descriptions, but not for the boss woman or her top henchman robot, unfortunately. It’s those two who are really hard to beat, too; the six rounds before aren’t nearly as bad. In Arcade mode you can choose a character (and matches default to best-of-3 instead of 1-win-wins as Story mode is by default), but there isn’t really a story, not that Story mode has much of it either. The game does keep track of the best scores in Arcade mode, best finishing times in Story mode, and more. Just remember to save, it’s not really automatic. Overall, Star Sweep is an okay but hard and frustrating puzzle game. It’s worth a try if you like the genre and see it for cheap. There is also a Japan-exclusive Game Boy version of the game that I haven’t played.


Rage Racer

1 player, saves (1 block), neGcon analog controller supported. Rage Racer is the third Ridge Racer game for the PS1. A significant improvement over its two predecessors, I think this one is, oddly enough, actually my favorite of the four PS1 Ridge Racer games. In terms of graphics, amount content, and multiplayer R4 is far better, since this game has worse graphics, many fewer tracks, and no multiplayer support, but the racing is as good as Ridge Racer gameplay gets, the courses are designed well, and the graphics are okay and an improvement over the first two PS1 Ridge Racer games. The gameplay here is classic Ridge Racer. As usual auto-powersliding is central to the game, you start in last place far behind the leader, and have to try to work your way to the front before the race ends. Winning will be very difficult and requires a lot of practice. As in the previous two games, Rage Racer has only one track, with three variants this time. The variants are more different than in the past though, and the “three” resulting courses are all pretty good. This track is much, much better and more interesting than the original Ridge Racer course! This is a big part of why I like the game, the tracks are fun to play. Still, it is only three variants and that’s all you get. There are a bunch of cars to unlock, but there’s no championship mode or anything, that wouldn’t appear until R4. R4 also would have the first multiplayer mode in the series on PS1, and vastly improved graphics too. But for some odd reason, I had more fun with Rage Racer here than I have with R4. I shouldn’t, considering what I think of the Ridge Racer series in general, like this game any more than the other ones, particularly considering its average graphics and very limited amount of content. But… I do. I like the handling here better than R4’s, and for a mid ’90s racer it plays pretty well. The graphics are also good for the time. This is a fun, classic arcade-style driving game. The controls are good, for Ridge Racer. It’s a fun game to play and I definitely like it, more so than most of its franchise for whatever reason. Rage Racer is a PS1 exclusive, but it was somewhat inspired by the arcade game Rave Racer.


Rally de Europe (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Rally de Europe is a below-average Sega Rally-style racing game. This game makes no attempt to hide what it is; one glance at the back of the box and the Sega Rally influences could not be more obvious. Unfortunately, while this isn’t an awful game, it’s nowhere near as great as Sega Rally is, either. Rally de Europe has average controls, average gameplay, average-at-best graphics, an average number of tracks. I’m not really the right person to review this game, though; I’ve never cared for most rally games all that much. As in most rally games, you’re locked to the track, and can’t leave it. The game looks okay, at least. Of course it has the usual PS1 graphical issues, but the graphics are good. The games’ art design REALLY is copied straight out of Sega Rally, though. Menu and logo art particularly looks exactly like Sega Rally stuff, and the game even has some of the same cars as well (or lookalikes, rather). Gameplay-wise, though, it’s just so bland. You drive forward, turn as per the instructions, and try to catch up to the leaders. Yeah, this isn’t a time-based game as a more realistic rally racing game would be; like Sega Rally or Ridge Racer, it’s a catchup-based game where you start far behind the leader and have to race well in order to maybe catch the leader near the end. I didn’t mind this system in Hydro Thunder, but I rarely like it, here included. I really do prefer a full field all starting together… ah well. This game has pretty bad collision physics, too. Things just sort of stop when they hit eachother, it’s pretty bad. The english for the turn commands is somewhat comically bad, too. Yes, in this Japanese-only release, the “easy right”, etc. voices are English… supposedly. Some of it’s so hard to understand that it’s basically static, and at the end of each race the guy says “Rinish!”. Yeah. Overall I quickly got bored by this game and highly doubt I’ll go back to it much, but arcade-style rally fans who have played all the other PS1 rally games and need another one might find the game interesting, maybe. There are much better rally games than this one on the PS1, but worse ones as well. Rally de Europe is okay but quite unoriginal. This game has a predessor from the same developer, Rally de Africa, which I have not played.


RC de GO!

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. RC de GO! is a fairly good RC car racing game, based more on real RC racing than most such games are, at least thematically; the gameplay is simple and approachable, even if there is a real-world feel to the game. RC de GO plays from a sort of overhead perspective. The camera follows you around the track, but in order to replicate the feeling of a real RC car driver, the camera turns from one set point, as if you are looking around the track from where your unseen driver is standing. It’s a pretty cool idea that I don’t believe I have seen in any other games. The game has a lot of RC car parts to buy, as well, including many shells, and lots of replacement parts. As you win races you can buy new parts with your winnings, and more will unlock as you progress. Standard stuff, but nice to see. Unfortuantely it’s cars only; no RC cars with tank treads here. WHy do no RC car gaems ever have them? The RC car I had as a kid had tank treads, and tank controls too (two vertical sticks, press up on one and down on the other to turn!). It’d be cool to have a car like that in an RC car game someday. That’s a minor complaint, though, and of course none of the other RC car games of this era have that either. What this game does have is good, solid somewhat RC Pro-Am style topdown racing fun. Though the game is easy to play there is a basic physics model, and cars feel appropriately light. The game starts out pretty easy, if you make use of the generous amount of turbo they give you, but does get tougher as you progress. Graphically, the game looks okay. It’s a solidly average-looking midlife PS1 game, with some nice visual work in places but the usual PS1 graphical issues here and there. That camera is kind of neat, though. Overall, RC de GO! is a good racing game that topdown racer genre fans, which I am certainly one of, should absolutely pick up. It’s not an amazing experience, but it’s fun stuff worth a try.


Red Asphalt

1 player (2 player simultaneous by system link only), saves (1 block), neGcon supported. Red Asphalt, which in Europe was titled Rock n Roll Racing 2, is a racing game from Interplay. It’s not by Blizzard, the developers of the first Rock n Roll Racing, but an internal Interplay team instead. Sort of like another Interplay sequel to an outside game, Heart of the Alien for the Sega CD, Red Asphalt isn’t very well thought of, and got mediocre at best reviews. I got th4 game mostly because of how much I like futuristic racing games, really. But actually… it’s really good! Well, for serious genre fans, at least. I like this game a lot, what can I say. Red Asphalt has good art design, average to above average graphics, average to good track designs, lots of tracks, upgrades to buy, a decent story, and more! Just make sure to get out your neGcon, wheel, or Performance Analog Gamepad for this one, because the game GREATLY benefits from analog controls, but doesn’t support the Dual Shock. With proper controller in hand, Red Asphalt is great fun. The game does have a few issues, but they’re relatively minor, to me at least. The intro explains that the racers are a group who are supposedly working together to take down the evil galactic emperor through his own race tournament. The intro is told as a retrospective being told by the main character, so I guess he won? Because otherwise, it’s unlikely he’d be here to tell the story. Kind of spoils the ending, doesn’t it. Ah well.

Oddly, even though the intro claims the six main racers are “allies” against the villains, you’ll spend most of your time blowing eachother up. Each race has seven racers, your six and one opponent leader from the planet you’re on. Your goal is to make enough money by winning races and killing enemy cars so that you can upgrade your car and make it to the next planet. Each planet has about five or six races on it, and there are five planets, with a total of 24 tracks total, a pretty good number for a game from 1997, still a time when many racing games had only three or four tracks. The tracks on each planet are variants, though, not entirely original courses. Some are mostly different, while others just change one small section of the previous course. It’s nice to see the variety of courses as you progress, but I like F-Zero’s cup design better; in this game you play all the tracks in one setting one after another. Yeah, that lava planet looks kind of cool, but after three or four straight races there I wish I could go somewhere else for a while! At least the tracks are all well designed and the game plays great, though. Track designs in Red Asphalt aren’t as over-the-top as F-Zero X or Extreme-G track designs, but still, they are pretty cool at times, and I definitely like the courses here. Branching paths abound, nicely. With a compatible analog controller Red Asphalt controls great. Each of the different vehicle types has noticeably different controls, too, which is nice to see. between the upgrades and cars there is plenty to spend your winnings on.

Red Asphalt is a combat racing game, but this game isn’t exclusively devoted to combat, unlike, for instance, Impact Racing (PS1/Saturn). The racing element is just as important. Each car does have a weapon, though, plus pickups for special weapons. Each car type has one specific main gun which you cannot change. I don’t mind this, it keeps things simple so you can focus on the driving and shooting, not on switching weapons. Main guns are different between cars, to add some variety. The pickups give you a variety of more powerful weapons or turbo. Also key is the recharge area in each track. Your health drains VERY fast when you get hit! You do respawn after dying, but this takes time, so you’ll lose some ground. Do use the Wipeout-styled recharge areas. Red Asphalt isn’t the hardest game, but it’s lots of fun, and will present at least a little challenge for sure. The only real flaws here are that it doesn’t have Dual Shock support and the absence of split-screen multiplayer. Otherwise, it’s a quite good game. Overall, Red Aspalt is pretty good! Futuristic racing game fans should play it for sure.


Resident Evil: Survivor

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad compatible. The Japan and Europe versions also support the Namco Guncon light gun, but support was removed from the US release, sadly. Resident Evil Survivor is a bad first-person “adventure”/light gun style shooter game. The basic concept here wasn’t very good, and the execution isn’t good either, which is why it’s so mystifying that this game was apparently so successful that Capcom thought they should make THREE sequels (Gun Survivor 2: Code Veronica (J/E only), Dino Stalker, and RE: Dead Aim) on the PS2 based on the same flawed concept! No, a light gun shooter where you walk around during the game isn’t a particularly good idea, but that’s what the Survivor series is. You can’t even save your game in progress in this game, it only saves after you win or get game over for good! Argh, that’s awful. And technologically, because it’s on the PS1, this game is even more limited than the PS2 games; I don’t like the one of them I have, Dino Stalker, much either, but at least it doesn’t look as horribly ugly as this game does. RE: Survivor feels like a mostly-railed “adventure” game with light-gun-shooting-with-a-gamepad combat. You walk around in first person through the games’ small and ugly-looking 3d environments. Doors, stairs, and the sort are loading screens, and they are very frequent and too long. Most rooms have one enterance and one exit, or several exits with locked doors that you must do in order, or maybe, at the most, an area with a few different routes for you to take. The branching paths are one of the better things about this game, at least it has that variety, even if what you do in each route is exactly the same. As in Resident Evil, this game has your character taking on a horde of zombies while discovering the mystery of what happened at this evil Umbrella Corporation base. This game has some very dark themes; Umbrella’s program that turned teenagers into test subjects they would eventually murder, or turn into monsters, is a major focus. The voice acting goes back to RE1 levels of terrible, but without as much of the humor value. It’s bad. Unlike RE though, don’t expect to do any actual adventuring here. Items are hard to miss, and you pick them up by just walking into them, and key items automatically activate when you walk into the item that they work on. The only reason to go into your inventory is to change weapons or use a healing item, that’s it. There is also a map, but there’s not much of a reason to ever use it, this game is very linear, and you can’t backtrack back to those decision points and take a different route, anyway.

As for the actual combat, in this light-gun-less American version, you have to use the gamepad. R1 brings up the cursor. You are locked in place while the cursor is on screen, so you cannot dodge a tougher enemy coming at you unless you drop the cursor (let go of R1), move, and then bring it up again. It’s clumsy and doesn’t work too well. At least the game supports analog, though the analog isn’t great; control feels too digital. It’d be much more fun with a gun, but then you’d have to walk around with the little dpad on the side of the Guncon, and that’s no fun, I’ve tried it in Dino Stalker. Normal zombies are all use a couple of ugly, repeating character models, are tediously easy to kill, come at you slowly, and are only a threat if you enter a room with zombies already behind you, where you can’t see them approach. Of course, the game does this regularly, because otherwise it’d be far too easy to shoot them down. There are tougher enemies boss-like here and there, though. If you do die, the game punishes you harshly. This game has limited continues (only four), no saving, and when you get a game over you’re sent back a long way to an arbitrarily determined checkpoint. Ugh! So, overall, Resident Evil: Survivor is a subpar and tedious attempt at a non-railed lightgun game with some stupidly basic adventure-game elements. The combination doesn’t work very well. With bad graphics, unfun and repetitive gameplay, no saving during a game, lots of loading, and more, this game is pretty bad.


Robotron X

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Robotron X is a 3d twinstick shooter, and was the first new Robotron game since the original one in the early ’80s. As in the original, you run around a lot of levels, shooting robots and saving humans. The d-pad moves, and the four buttons aim your shots. Unfortunately, the game isn’t a good classic reboot; it’s fairly terrible. Robotron X is playable, but not much fun thanks to some bad design decisions, most notably the far-too-close-in camera. You can’t see anywhere near far enough! That’s killer in this genre, and this is the top factor that ruins this game. The controls also aren’t nearly as good as analog ones would be, analog aiming makes a huge difference in this kind of game. The graphics are also very bland and subpar. Fortunately, the developers listened to the criticism, and vastly improved the game when porting it over to the N64. The N64 version has analog movement or aiming with the analog stick and a nice new zoomed-out camera option, which is the only one you ever want to use. Play that version if you want to play the 5th gen Robotron game, it’s a fun little game on the N64. Not so on PS1, unfortunately. Midway rarely put much effort into its PS1 games, compared to the N64, and that shows here as much as anywhere. Also on N64 as Robotron 64; that version is much improved over this one.


Roll Away [aka Kula World/Quest]

1 player, saves (1 block). Roll Away is an interesting, and pretty good, puzzle/maze game where you control a ball in a block maze. At first glance I thought that it would play like the marble-maze boardgame Labyrinth (think Marble Madness and such), but it doesn’t; instead, this game is more deliberate than that. Think more Cube (PSP) or Edge (PC/etc), as far as the gameplay goes, except with a ball instead of a cube and a behind-the-ball viwpoint, but this game predates those two. First, graphically, this game looks nice. THere is good use of ransparencies and effects, and the textures and environments look as good as you could hope for. It probably helps that each stage is just a relatively small amount of blocks floating in space over some kind of background image, there isn’t a fully polygonal environment around you that surely would look ugly. The techno-style soundtrack is nice as well, though it’s not memorable. Levels are in full 3d, and you can roll around the sides of the arrays of floating platforms that make up each stage at many corners. You can only go aroun the sides of a platform on endblocks or corners, not anywhere; don’t go rolling into oblivion by accident. I’m not sure why you can roll onto the end of a platform but can’t just roll over the side onto the face you want to get to, but you can’t, and this is key to the puzzles. You can also jump, though watch out, if you don’t land on a platform, you’ll have to restart the stage. Jumps will go over one space, unless there’s noting two blocks in front of you, in which case you’ll fall down, and hope that maybe you land on something. If you miss and fall off the stage, or hit a spike, you restart the level. Your goal is simple, get the stuff and get to the exit, but actually getting there can be hard. This is a challenging, complex title to say the least! The game may start out simple, but levels get very tricky in a hurry. Because each level is in full 3d, you really need to think three dimensionally in order to get anywhere in this game. Move to every side of every block, consider what will happen from that point, and eventually maybe you’ll figure out how to get to that seemingly-unreachable area. Yes, Roll Away is a hard game. It’s a good hard game, though! This game requires a lot of thought, but it’s so worth it. I wasn’t expecting much from this game, butit really surprised me; Roll Away is a great game I highly recommend platofrmer and puzzle game fans definitely should try out. Pick it up! [Note: Apparently the European release of this game costs a good three to five times more than the US version. Get the US release if you can!]


*Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire

Strategy. 1+ players alternating, saves (4 blocks per file). This is a port of the strategy game released on many platforms. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a very long-running grand strategy series from Koei that still is ongoing, though in the West it never achieved the popularity it did in Japan. This first 5th-gen RotTK game still feels a lot like the 4th-gen game it is a port of. It’s probably good for the time, but feels very dated today. This is also a quite complex game, and while I love strategy games, I like more moderately complex games like Civilization or Starcraft more than, say, Europa Universalis. This game isn’t Europa Universalis, but it is a somewhat complex game, made worse by the dated interface. The menu-based interface takes a while to learn, and gamepad controls for game that would be far better with a mouse. The games’ not-that-great battle system also hold this game back. Even so, there is a solid core here for sure. This game has basic SNES-style 2d graphics, unsurprising for a game also available on the SNES, and nice CD audio music. RotTK IV has six scenarios, all set during different times during the Three Kingdoms era of ancient China, between about 180 and 220 AD. Each one allows you to play as any of the factions still alive as of that point, and you can play as as many sides as you want, the idea presumably being for multiplayer, though this game seems far too long for that to be feasible. Other factions are computer-controlled. There are only two difficulty levels, and only a couple of options. Ingame, you will have to manage each city in your empire. This game is all about control and command of cities; the rest of the land might as well not exist, except for times when you fight battles in between two cities. There are quite a few options in the main menu in each city, but you can’t use all of them at first; RotTK isn’t just about managing cities and sending out armies, Officers are key. Officers each have different skills, and you can assign officers to manage a city, assign officers to manage one specific industry in a city of the four that you can put money into improving, and of course have them lead divisions of your army. Managing officer skills, raising officers, and finding the right one for each task adds a lot of complexity here, but it’s frustrating that, say, you can’t use any Foreign (relations) skills unless you’ve got an officer with that skill, and such. I also didn’t see any hints about the max number of troops I could recruit from each city each turn; just had to guess until it let me recruit them. You can also train troops, with an officer of course. If you manage to grow your cities, you can spend the money you make on better weapons, such as horses, bows, siege weapons, and the like. There are more things to manage than this as well, including deception to sabotage enemy cities or pay off barbarians to attack places. One issue with the game is that each city is separate; you can’t manage things empire-wide. Gathering and attacking with armies in a large empire takes time. Having to use a gamepad in this kind of game makes these problems worse.

In battle, RotTK is simplistic and kind of boring. You can only have a maximum of five or six units in each battle, each with one weapon type. Infantry are normal, cavalry can move farther, and archers can shoot multiple spaces, as expected. Battles occur on a single-screen isometric square-grid map with small sprite characters; this is an entirely 2d game, except for the occasional bad FMV video they’ve put here and there to justify the 5th-gen release. You’ve got a couple of options, including a normal weak attack, riskier Charges, and trying to call out an enemy leader into single combat Duels, and you can use some mess-with-the enemy tactics in battle as well as out of it, but Heroes of Might & Magic or Panzer General this is not! The battle maps feel empty with so few troops on them, damaging enemies takes too long, and strategy is limited. Weakening enemy units is a tediously slow process, as you attack over and over, doing small amounts of damage per turn. Numbers and morale are critical. I don’t think you can choose to simulate battles, either, which is unfortunate. Of course, as this game is all about conquering China, combat is central to the game; all that economy-building and city management just allows you to make a better army, you won’t win with diplomacy alone. Overall, I still haven’t played this game nearly long enough to have a strong opinion on it, but it’s alright, I did start having a little fun once I figured out the basics of what to do. However, this game has a lot of issues. It’s a slow-paced game with mediocre-at-best battles, a complex interface that would be far better with a mouse, sometimes lacking information in the menus, and lots of menus. This design was fine back in the early ’90s, but on both PCs and consoles, it has aged badly since; I don’t love most early ’90s PC strategy games either, they also often have interfaces which are quite hard to deal with in retrospect. This is also a VERY slow-paced game. Still, it’s okay, and I can see why the series got so popular. Managing empires is kind of fun, and the Officer system makes this game different from others. This is the only RotTK game I’ve played, though, so I don’t know how it compares to the newer ones. Also on PC, SNES, 32X (Japan only), and Saturn (Japan only). Play it on PC if you want to have fun, a mouse would do wonders for this kind of game.


Running High (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Running High is a fun, but very short and simple, futuristic on-foot running racing game from System Sacom, a developer better known for their adventure games such as Mansion of Hidden Souls on Sega CD. Running High makes a good first impression, but there’s almost nothing to it, unfortunately. The game is VERY import-friendly, though — apart from the control-settings screen, the game is entirely in English. Once you start the game, you can select your character and track. There are six characters, each with different stats. Of course, because the game is Japanese, they’re all in robot suits. Then you choose a track. You start with only three, though one more is unlockable once you beat the first three with all the characters. There is also a difficulty setting. That’s really all there is for content, though. Yes, it’s thin. The simplistic gameplay is my biggest problem with Running High, though. I mean, this game is fun… for maybe an hour. Ingame, the dated graphics will immediately become apparent. This game isn’t exactly one of the better-looking PS1 games, for sure. It’s got some decent art design, but the graphics aren’t great. The game is fast, though, and that’s pretty cool. Your characters run along at high speed, as you try to learn the courses, slow down or slide around corners, and beat up the other players. You can also do a jumping vault move if you hit attack (R1, by default) when an opponent is a specific distance in front of you. Tracks are all fairly flat, though they do curve left and right a lot. When you run into the side you will be slowed down, so learning the sharper curves is important. You slide with the standard powerslide setup, let go of accelerate, hit brake, then hit accelerate again. It’s sometimes useful, though might take a while to get used to. It’s fun to run along, hit the others, and try to make it around the corners better. Combat is important as well, and that vault move is useful. It also lets the AI vault over you just before the finish line, though; skill will only get you so far here, you’ll also need luck. Despite this, on the default difficulty, it’s a bit too easy to win races in this game, and there just isn’t any depth to the game at all. Yes, you can try to learn the turns, but the game is forgiving, and I won races even when hitting the sides quite a lot. Just make any kind of effort and you have a good chance of a top three finish. And why do I have to do the first three races at the same challenge level with all six different characters before I’m finally allowed to play the final track? Yeah, having something to work for is nice, but a championship system would be better than this. That wouldn’t fix the simplistic gameplay, though. I love arcade racing games, but there just isn’t much challenge here, and there are only four tracks too, none with partiuclarly complex layouts! I’d have liked to see more. After zipping through the first three tracks the first time in maybe half an hour, the only reason to keep going is if you want to unlock the fourth track and the one or two unlockable characters you’ll also get. It doesn’t get harder, though, which is a real issue. Overall, Running High is a simple fun game, but it’s very light on content and value. I’m not sure if it’s actually worth it or not. It is a good beginning for a fun racing game, but needed more content and slightly deeper gameplay.


Rush Down

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. RushDown is a horrendous debacle of a 1/2/3Xtreme knockoff from Infogrames, the company that would become “Atari”. Even 1/2Xtreme defenders mostly dislike this game, it seems, and that should tell you something. Still, this game is more just bad than it is objectionably atrocious, honestly. The game has three different extreme disciplines, kayaking, mountain biking, and snowboarding. As the name suggests, this is a racing game. As in the Xtreme trilogy, it’s a point-to-point racer. You’ve got to try to fight the bad graphics, controls, gameplay, and everything else in your quest to be the best extreme athlete. It isn’t worth it. RushDown isn’t a straight clone, though. Unlike that other series, this game is fully polygonal, including the characters. Also, kayaking never made an appearance in the Xtreme trilogy, and it’s kind of neat to see it here — there are very few kayaking games out there. The problem is, nothing here is actually fun. I don’t know if I dislike this game much more than I do 1/2Xtreme, but it does feel glitchier — collision detection has issues here. Control is simple, but getting to the bottom is harder than it should be because of the many annoying obstacles on the track. The controls are simple, just accelerate and turn left and right, but actually staying away from the obstacles is harder than it probably should be. The very ugly 3d graphics don’t help matters, either. Polygon seams, horrible texture warping, super-pixelated graphics, etc., this game has it all. The game has obnoxious music and menus, also. I usually like techno music, which RushDown has, but this isn’t any good. Why do so many songs have the word “RushDown” in them over and over? Ugh. Overall, RushDown is a bad game. Of the three modes, kayaking is probably the best, and snowboarding the worst, but none are good, unfortunately. The game has bad voice acting, often-annoying music, ugly graphics, some of that “extreme sports” attitude I’ve never liked, and mediocre-to-bad gameplay and controls. There’s no reason to actually play this thing, ever, really.


Rush Hour

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Joystick (NOT Gamepad!) and neGcon support. Rush Hour is a top-down 3d polygonal racing game from Psygnosis with a slightly angled foreward view and solid gameplay. The game does have some issues, though I like it overall. Graphically, the game looks okay. The visuals are very pixelated, but you expect that on the PS1. The game has a weird tiny “High Res” mode that plays in an almost postage-stamp-sized window (maybe it’s running a 320×240 game in a 640×480 screen, or something? How odd!), and also a Widescreen mode that fills the screen on a widescreen TV if you go to a stretch mode (on my TV, the second one). There’s also normal low-res 4:3 support of course. This looks like a mid ’90s racing game pulled overhead. It looks okay for the time, so the graphics are kind of bad but look alright for the system. I do like the variety of the track designs, though, and the overhead perspective hides the surely poor draw distance, too. The framerate also seems fine. Music is average stuff, nothing memorable.

Though you are driving normal cars in this game, the physics and handling feel very much like those in a Micro Machines or RC Pro-Am game — the cars are very light and spin out constantly. I like those games, though, so I don’t mind this too much, but you definitely need to be paying attention in this game, almost any hit can spin you around, and there is no margin for error in this very difficult game! Yes, Rush Hour is a very tough game, and that, along with the handling, are probably its biggest issues. The game has three modes, Championship, single race, and time trial. In Championship mode, you play the eight tracks one after another. You must finish in first in each race in order to move on, and have limited continues — only three for the whole eight tracks. You do get a free retry if you finish in second or third, but that’s the only help you get here. There are two car types, the slower and easier Heavy Metal trucks and the faster and tougher-to-play-as sportscars. There are three difficulty levels on top of that, but this game is tough even on Easy! Forget it on the higher settings, I haven’t managed to do anything other than lose badly there. The higher difficulties increase the speed of the game, Wipeout style; reduce the amount of time you have to get to the next checkpoint; and make the AI tougher as well.

The gameplay really is fun if you like the genre, though. The tracks are full of interesting curves, branches, and unique obstacles, warning notices help you with upcoming turns, the different cars handle differently (try them all!) and different surfaces affect your car differently, as well; not all games of the time have that. I really wish that you could move on for finishing in the top three, or that the game used a standard points championship system, though, because ‘first only’ is overly harsh. This game will require quite a bit of practice to beat even on the lowest difficulty level. I’m sure I’ll beat this at least on Easy, though, because I like this kind of game, and Rush Hour’s tracks are fun, varied, and well laid out. There are no weapons or powerups in this game, and sometimes I wish it had them because catching up to opponents can be tough. Ah well. You just need to learn the tracks better and not mess up. For that, a compatible analog controller is VERY HIGHLY recommended! The d-pad controls for this game are extremely touchy and frustrating; use small taps of the pad most of the time, instead of presses, but even with that controls aren’t good… unless you have a PS1 wheel, Analog Joystick, or Performance Analog Gamepad, in which case you’re fine! The analog controls in this game are great, cars control much better. It’s still a hard, hard game, but analog controls makes a huge difference. It’s too bad that this game predates the Dual Shock, that makes playing this game properly harder for most people. Definitely pick this up if you have a compatible analog controller and have any interest in this kind of game, though! It’s challenging, but the good kind of hard, if you have the patience to learn the tracks and drive better each time.


*SaGa Frontier

RPG(2d). 1 player, saves (1 block per file). SaGa Frontier is a JRPG, and part of the SaGa series, which has always had mixed popularity at best. I find the franchise interesting, but have never spent all that much time with the games, unfortunately. I’ll say what I can. SaGa Frontier is 2d, with decent but not great prerendered backgrounds and sprite characters. As usual with SaGa games after the Game Boy, the game is somewhat nonlinear, there are many sidequests, lots of recruitable party members along the way, and you have seven different main characters to choose from. Each main character has a moderate-length story, and if you play all of them it’ll give you a better picture of events. This game is set in an alternate present or future, instead of the usual fantasy setting. It fits the game. There are four races, mostly taken from the Game Boy SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend) games: Humans, Mechs (robots), recruited Monsters, and Mystics. Each are quite different; Mechs only gain skills by defeating other mechs, humans gain skills based on what they have equipped and what abilities you use, Mystics won’t gain most stat points on level-up but instead have to absorb monsters in battle, etc. Combat is traditional JRPG stuff, but with a few unique elements. You can have three parties of characters and choose which one to use before battle. In combat, you can attack with your hands or feet, use your equipped weapon (or spells), or use items during battle. Combat is okay; it’s not the best, but is better than many JRPGs. As in most SaGa games, you’ve got both health and life points. Once a character’s health runs out you start losing irreplaceable life points. You don’t want those to run out, or they’re dead for real. Yes, the SaGa games are often tough, and this one is no exception. You can also set character locations, though you can’t move during battle. Characters can also do combination attacks when aligned correctly. Enemies are visible, which is nice, I don’t like random battles.

The biggest problem here, though, is that as usual in SaGa games, it’s hard to figure out what in the world you are supposed to do in the game. This series always has been extremely obtuse, and game systems that aren’t explained to the player are common, and large worlds you can wander around in without enough guidance to really make it clear where you should be going are an issue too. This game certainly has both of those problems, at least. I like that SaGa games aren’t just your standard JRPG but do some different things, with their seven playable characters per game (from the SNES ones on), open worlds, and more, but I wish the game would tell me where to go! There is no map, no questlog, and often few clues about where you should be going. I’d rather not wander around lost in areas I shouldn’t be with this character, come on! There are 15 cities you can visit (travel is free from each Port), but are given few clues about which ones might be useful to visit in your current quest. So either waste time exploring, or miss out on a lot of your character’s quest and only do the required basics, I guess. If you want to have fun with SaGa Frontier, play it with a guide, both for telling you where to go, and explaining how the game plays better than the thin explanations in the game and manual. You really need a guide to make sense out of this game. You can save anytime outside of battle, though, which is fantastic; save anywhere is so, so much better than save points! Overall, I still haven’t played this enough to actually figure out the story or fully understand the game, but I haven’t seen anything I really dislike either, other than the extremely annoying absence of any ingame map and quest log. Decent game, I think. The graphics and sound are okay, and the game can be fun to play, if I use a guide so I know where I’m supposed to be going and how the battle and skill systems work; I do NOT enjoy aimless wandering in RPGs, it makes me drop them faster than almost anything else. I dislike hidden mechanics too, and this game has those problems bad. Still, I do kind of like what little I’ve played of this game, and want to play more of it, with a guide of course.


SaGa Frontier 2

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported, PocketStation supported (for 2 minigames). SaGa Frontier 2 is still a SaGa RPG, but it is a very different game from the first SaGa Frontier. Gone are the CG-rendered backdrops; instead, the game has beautiful hand-drawn environments with sprite characters. The game world looks fantastic, and is definitely an upgrade ofer the previous games’ muddy rendered backdrops. Gone is the modern-day setting; instead, this game has a fantasy medieval setting. Gone are the Monster and Mecha races too; all characters are human this time. Gone is the open world; instead, this game is much more linear. This game doesn’t have seven different routes, either. Instead, there are only two main story paths, and you can kind of do both at the same time. This game breaks the game up into chapters, and after each chapter you can choose which one you want to do next from a map screen. You can save anytime you’re not in battle, again, which is awesome. The story covers more than 80 years, about a king named Gustave XIII and also a knight, Will, and the many characters connected to them. There are a total of 24 playable characters, never all at the same time; which ones are available depends on the scenario, which makes sense considering how much time the game covers. This game has an interesting story, telling the tale of these characters and the world they inhabit. The SaGa games have usually had more interesting stories than many JRPGs do, and this one seems to be no exception. The game starts with Gustave’s birth, and then moves on to his troubles. He may eventually become a king, but he starts out kicked out of the castle at age 7 because he has no magic. Meanwhile, in the other story track, Will starts out as a would-be ‘digger’, someone who goes to dungeons and looks for magic items. Of course things will scale up a lot over time. Gustave’s story eventually has some city-building and battle-strategy bits, as well as traditional RPG exploration and combat, though most of the game is story and regular RPG gameplay. As in the previous game, enemies are visible in the world, not random; this is how it should be!

The place where SaGa Frontier 2 is the most like its predecessor is in its battle system. Battles are fought with sprite characters on average-looking polygonal 3d environments. Parties are a maximum of four. The attacks you have available depend on what weapons each character has equipped, and weapons all have durability; each time you attack with an item it reduces the durability by one, and weapons will break when it runs out. You do have some actions that are infinite-use, but they, of course, either are status effects or do little damage. So, stock up on weapons. Using attacks builds towards unlocking better attacks on the same weapon, as usual in SaGa games. Weapon attacks use WP, and spell attacks SP, so you’ve got those stats to manage as well, though WP and HP do recover some, HP after winning a battle. Also, as usual in the series, characters have both Health and Life points. Once your health runs out, you use a LP point to get some back, if the party survives the battle. Alternately, you can have all characters use an LP point at the beginning of a turn to get some health back. LP won’t recover except between chapters, so try to avoid this when possible, but it won’t always be; other ways to heal don’t always seem to be available. The HP/LP system always makes these games tricky. You can also arrange party order, and give party members Roles which boost a specific stat. Only one character can use each Role. Then try to use the abilities that the chosen role boosts in battle. There are also multi-character combo-attacks, and party automation options. The battle system is okay, but I find it a bit average. I’m more interested in the story and characters here than the battles, and as this is an RPG, that is an issue. Still, this seems like a good game, and I’ll definitely play it more. The story and characters are interesting, the graphics are great, and combat is okay.


Sentinel Returns

1 player, saves (1 block), Playstation Mouse supported. Sentinel Returns is a sequel / remake to a 1986 British computer game called The Sentinel. No, it’s no relation to Atari’s 1990 Atari 2600 & 7800 game Sentinel, that game is entirely different, and much more conventional. I’ve never played the original The Sentinel game, but it seems that this game is very similar to that one, and pretty much nothing else. The game is kind of like a 3d first-person shooter strategy puzzle… thing. Yes, Sentinel Returns is one weird, weird game! The game has a strange but sparse backstory, but it’s not important (or particularly intelligible), other than to say that this game is kind of creepy. This game has a dark, foreboding atmosphere with music that keeps up a feeling of constant tension. Everything looks strange; I’ve seen it described to a drug-trip look. The world of The Sentinel isn’t a place I would want to be, but it does make for a somewhat unique game setting. The very stylized 3d models and world fit in well with the limitations of 5th-gen 3d.

Gameplay-wise, at first Sentinel probably won’t make sense. It’ll take at least one readthroughs of the manual to get a handle on this game, and there is no in-game help or tutorial at all, so definitely do read that manual. You play as a person controlling a robot in a 3d landscape. On the highest peak in each level, a Sentinel stands. If it looks at you, it drains away your energy. A bar in the top right corner shows if you’re being watched or not (the manual explains the states). The Sentinel can also create lesser minions called Sentries who also watch for you. You can’t just walk around and shoot stuff in this game, though; your robot is immobile. From each position, you can look around and either absorb things in the world, place things (each one costs a different amount of energy), travel to another robot if one is in view, or use some energy to warp to a random spot (for use if you are in trouble). You can only absorb or place things on terrain near you and on the same or a lower plane, so getting to higher terrain is your central focus. You can place trees, which are mostly useless but can help shield you from the Sentinel’s view; blocks which make a higher platform to put a robot on in order to get to higher ground, and robots. Blocks are the key to getting higher, as while you can’t place a robot on higher land, you CAN place one on top of a pile of blocks on another point on the same (or lower) level as you. Of course though the Sentinel is likely to notice this, and will attack and absorb any blocks or robots it sees. You get energy by absorbing things, most prominently the trees which litter each stage, and win each level by reaching the Sentinel’s height and absorbing it (and then building a robot on that point and teleporting, for some reason). Of course though, the longer you spend placing stuff around the stage, the more likely the Sentinel and its sentries will see you and attack. You will be rewarded, though — for collecting higher percentages of each level’s energy you can skip levels, up to four for a 100% complete stage. Once you beat a level you return to the menu with a new stage unlocked. Do save first, though, the game doesn’t autosave. The game has a hundreds and hundreds of levels, so there is no shortage of content if you get into the simple and yet complex gameplay of this unique title.

But is it actually fun? That I’m not sure of. I’ll need to play it more. I wish it was a bit easier to quickly see where the enemies are looking, though. Also, this is a very slow-paced game. Also, the game really is quite simple once you figure it out — just build towers and robots, try to avoid detection if you can, and move upwards! Of course, avoiding detection quickly becomes MUCH easier said than done, so there’s plenty of challenge to be found. Still, every level plays pretty much exactly the same, and there are few new gameplay elements introduced as you go along. Overall, Sentinel Returns is interesting. I really like the unique concept, but the slow, frustrating, and repetitive elements of the gameplay are definite problems. It’s hard to say what I think of this game; it’s okay, but not great, I guess. Anyone interested should absolutely try the game, though. It’s absolutely worth playing for its unique gameplay experience, creepy atmosphere, and challenging puzzle gameplay. This game is scarier than plenty of actual horror games, for sure! I’m sure the game is better on the PC, though, or at least with a PS1 mouse; controlling the cursor with a gamepad works, but would be easier and more precise with a mouse. This is one of the few games that makes me want a PS1 mouse. Also on PC.


Silent Hill

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Silent Hill is a survival horror game, and the first game in what would become a very popular franchise. Clearly inspired by Resident Evil but somewhat different, this game is an action/adventure game with monsters to fight or avoid, lots of action, and some puzzle solving. I’ve always had some interest in this genre conceptually, but just don’t really find survival horror games all that interesting to play and never have; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten even halfway into any game in the genre. I don’t like horror movies, so the horror themes central to the genre does little for me, first. Second, the adventure game elements are overly simplistic; Lucasarts adventure games these are not, that’s for sure. It’s more just about finding keys and notes and then using them in the usually obvious places where they are supposed to be used. And as action games, they aren’t very good. As in most survival horror games, Silent Hill has slow tank controls, poor controls even with the analog stick — this is one of far too many games that basically just maps the d-pad to the analog stick and calls it done, and that never works all that well — and nowhere near enough ammunition to actually shoot all of the enemies. You do get a few melee weapons, but I found actually trying to hit anything with them impossible, so that’s not much help. I’d never finish this game, probably; as in RE, I can’t avoid all of the enemies, and the ammo certainly won’t hold out, it’s quite limited! But of course, I didn’t stick with the game for long. Visually, unlike Resident Evil, Silent Hill is a fully polygonal 3d game. It’s got a larger world to explore, too, making up several blocks of the fictional town of Silent Hill. (As an aside, Silent Hill apparently is supposedly in Maine, but I live in Maine. I can say this right now, there’s no town or city that looks remotely like this here. But is there any town anywhere with crosswalks this absurdly wide, among other things?) The graphics are pixelated and somewhat ugly, but a lot of attention to detail went into designing this world, and it looks good for the platform, I guess. The wall of fog quite close to you isn’t good, though. They make the detail level of the area you can see higher by severely limiting the draw distance. Fortunately, you do have a map to help you navigate. That’s great. It even gets marked with hints and such as you do things, which is great. As for the story, you are a guy who is looking for his daughter in this mysterious foggy town. Of course, sinister forces are at work; this series is well known for its detailed, and dark, plot, though I haven’t seen much of that myself. As I don’t like horror, I’m fine with not seeing it all. Overall, my problem with Silent Hill is that I just don’t enjoy playing this kind of game all that much, I think. For its genre it might be one of the better ones of the time. It’s okay.


Slayers Wonderful (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Slayers Wonderful is the last of five RPGs based on the great anime/manga/light novel franchise, The Slayers. The anime series is one of my favorites, so when I started getting Japanese games, I made sure to get Slayers games. Now I have all four of the console games; there’s a SNES game (The Slayers), two PS1/Saturn tactical Slayers Royal strategy games (I have them on Saturn), and this Playstation RPG. The other Slayers game is a Japanese computer RPG from the early ’90s. Slayers Wonderful here is a very generic JRPG. Anime games rarely are great, and unfortunately this one is no exception. This is a decent but easy game mostly for fans of the franchise. This game is an overhead-isometric RPG with 3d polygonal worlds and sprite-based characters. In battle the characters are polygonal. Either way, the graphics are bland and plain-looking. The chibi sprites look okay, but aren’t very detailed, and the world feels sparse and empty. The game also has fairly awful music which loops constantly.

As in many JRPGs, battles are random, and there are no fights in town, apart for preset fights of course. Slayers is a series about the adventures of Lina Inverse, a very powerful mage girl, and her group of companions. The anime is part comedy and part action, with occasional drama, and it’s great fun stuff. This game has some animated cutscenes, though they are generally very short, maybe ten seconds each; this is only a one-CD game. There are also some static cinema scenes. Then the game switches over to in-engine story, with more important lines voice-acted and others just text. Fans of the franchise should be able to get quite a bit of the humor, which is full of classic Slayers stuff. Figuring out where to go in the game is more difficult, but fortunately there is a useful guide on GameFAQs that tells you where to do. It says little about the story, but that’s fine. Slayers Wonderful isn’t complex, but finding your way around, and figuring out what to do, is just tricky enough to make the guide welcome. One reason why it’s so useful is because of the camera and lack of a map of the current area. The camera feels fairly closely zoomed-in, and because of that and the isometric perspective, figuring out where you’re going can be challenging. You can move the camera around with the L1 and R1 buttons, to switch between eight preset camera positions. I keep feeling like I don’t know where I’m going; the camera is just too close, and this game badly needs a map, but there isn’t one. Without that guide, I’d have quit on this game quite early I think, even though the game is entirely linear. Even as it is, navigating is harder than it should be, though at least you always know the general area you should be in because the game doesn’t allow you to go elsewhere in the world. Another issue with the camera is that getting doors to register that you want to go through them can be tricky unless the camera is directly facing at the door, so the movable camera is a big help. It can also reveal paths hidden by buildings and walls and such, so you’ve got to move the camera regularly. I don’t usually like it when games hide things with the camera like this, and it is kind of annoying.

This is an easy game, too. In the anime Lina is absurdly powerful, though; only the strongest of foes are any threat. This game actually nerfs Lina’s powers in the beginning, in classic videogame fashion, so as to come up with an excuse for not having the characters start at full power, but you still start out with more than enough to wipe out the enemies. Lina gets a lot of magic, and is a decent swordfighters as well. Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadis, the rest of the main group from the anime, are in your party at various points in the game, of course, along with a few other characters including Sylphiel. Parties max out at three, so you’ll never have all four of the main characters playable at once, unfortunately. It really should have had that. Lina, Amelia, and Zelgadis are all mages, so you’ll be using a lot of magic in this game, and that’s great. The magic system is standard stuff; magic points as usual. You get lots of magic points, so you can cast a lot more early on than you can in many JRPGs. You won’t get Lina’s super-strong spell Dragon Slave at the beginning because of the aforementioned opening nerf. Ah well; this easy game would be totally broken, maybe even more so than Slayers Royal is, if it did let you cast it from the beginning, and you do have magic. Ovearll, this game is very average. I like the Slayers-like elments, such as the humor, the eating scenes, and the magic, but the annoying camera, lack of a map, very low difficulty, and very generic look and feel make this game quite average. Series fans might enjoy it anyway, though; I do, somewhat. Lina Inverse makes even average games fun!


Sorcerer’s Maze

2 player alternating, Analog Gamepad support. This game is an Arkanoid or Breakout-style ball-and-blocks game. You move the paddle right and left, and bounce a ball up in order to destroy the walls of blocks above. It’s a simple but fun game, and I like the gameplay. I actually beat this game, unlike the vast majority of games on this list, because it’s pretty fun, and doesn’t take too long. The game has a decent fantasy theme, too; Sorcerer’s Maze is another one of those late budget PS1 releases from XS Games, and like too many of their unconcionably bad porting jobs, is a port of a better earlier Japanese game, this time Prism Land Story. Why games like Sorcerer’s Maze, Mobile Light Force, and Sol Divide actually shipped as broken as they are I have no idea, but whatever idiots decided to strip key features out of these games did horrible things. See the other reviews (in the original list) for more details on those other two games, but in this case, the key removed features are saving (again, as in both of those games, it’s now gone) and mouse and Namco paddle controller support. At least XS Games did add in analog gamepad support, but this kind of game is best with a mouse or paddle, not an analog stick, so that’s small consolation. And seriously, why remove saving from most of your games? It’s one of the stupidest, and most annoying, things you could possibly do to a port! Sure, this game isn’t that long, but who wants to have to leave their console on long enough to play all 101 stages of this game without touching the power, or lose their scores as soon as you turn off the system because the scores aren’t saved? Obnoxious. The basic game is fun, though. This is a fairly simple, and not overly difficult, Arkanoid-style blockbreaking game. As always, break all the blocks to progress. There are various different powerups to help you out along the way, magical-themed this time as per the fantasy setting. Some of the many powerups are pretty amusing, such as the one which creates a full 100 balls, or ones which destroy chunks of the block field. Graphically, this game looks like a budget game indeed. The 2d graphics are fine, and I guess I like the visual style of the game, but it does nothing great; it’s enough, nothing more, and there is slowdown sometimes. The playfield is on the left, and a status bar is on the right. The story is about a princess and her magical cat who are off to save the kingdom by collecting the magic jewels; you play as both characters in two player mode. It’s nice there is a two player mode, at least they didn’t cut THAT out. It’s an alternating mode, fairly standard for the genre. There are ten areas to complete, each with 9 stages and a boss. Thanks to all those powerups, the infinite continues that never send you back, and fairly forgiving stage designs, though, Sorcerer’s Maze is a somewhat easy game. I finished it within a few days of getting the game and maybe less, only getting stuck in a few places. It’s only a few hours long, really. Replay value is debatable, too. It depends on how much you care about trying to get a better score, which of course it won’t save. Yeah, I really need to get an import copy of this one, but this cost a lot less for sure.


Speed King (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). Speed King is a fairly mediocre early PS1 futuristic racing game from Konami. Really, “early” is the key term there — Speed King is a very dated game that clearly is from the early days of 3d racing games. As usual for games of the period, the game has only a couple of tracks, all of which are closely walled in narrow paths with a too-close draw distance and awful graphics. I got this game because I love futuristic racing games and want to play most of them, but for anyone NOT a big futuristic racing game fan, there’s no reason to ever play this game, really. It’s kind of bad. Running High (above) may be super short, but at least it’s fun while it lasts. Speed King, though, has nothing. Well, the game is almost 100% in English, that’s nice, but there’s not much else good to say about this game. Even by mid ’90s 3d racing game standards these tracks are narrow, and you lose speed when you hit a wall. With good controls maybe it’d be okay, but the hovercars in this game have clumsy, poor handling that makes it hard to get around the corners without hitting a wall or two. There is an announcer that tells you which way to turn, as in a rally racer, but he’s not always helpful, and futuristic racing games shouldn’t need that kind of thing if they were better designed. A longer draw distance would be a big help here. In addition to the poor controls, again, this is a very short game. The tracks are short, and there are only four of them. There’s not much to do other than try to win the tracks on various difficulties; there aren’t circuits and the like, just a single race, time attack, vs. one CPU race, or practice. There’s no multiplayer, no circuits, and nothing to unlock. Combine that with the games’ bad, heavy controls and bad graphics and you get a game really not worth getting at all unless you are a huge Konami fan; the game is supposedly set in the same city as Snatcher is. Don’t buy this game just because of that, or at all. Arcade port.


Spriggan: Lunar Verse (J)

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Spriggan: Lunar Verse is a third person action/adventure game from From Software. This is an okay but badly dated game that’s sort of in between Tomb Raider and a third-person beat ’em up. I like the concept here, and it can be fun to play, but the controls and camera are awful. The game is a spinoff of the manga franchise of the same name. I haven’t read it, but I do know of the three good to great Spriggan shmups for the Turbo CD and SNES. This is unrelated, unfortunately. I don’t know what the story is because it’s in Japanese and isn’t clear unless you speak the language, but you’re a guy and have people to fight and stuff to find. The game starts in a bland warehouse, but each level has a different setting, which is nice. Actually finishing levels will take a lot of practice, though. There are no checkpoints during levels, so if you run out of health you start the level over from the beginning. Oh, and most enemies respawn instantly as soon as you leave each room, which is quite annoying. Levels take a while, so this is a big setback. There are only 8 levels, but it’ll take a while. The options and controls menus are in English, which is nice, but of course the cutscenes are in Japanese. Fortunately it’s not too hard to figure out what to do by just wandering around, areas are not large and there is a good map screen in the pause menu. You also collect items as you explore, the usual stuff like ammo, health, keycards, and the like. Gameplay is okay and somewhat addictive, I did want to keep trying. The levels have some variety, I like that the maps aren’t just cooridors but do require vertical movement, platforming, and some tricky jumps, there are some light puzzles, and the graphics are decent.

The bad controls and awful camera are a big problem which make the game a lot less fun, though. The d-pad offers tank controls, while the analog stick moves in the way you point the stick. It’s nice to have both options. However, movement on the analog stick is digital. The stick runs only, and have to hold a button to walk, and can only move in about eight directions, there is no 360 degree movement. So, crazily enough, when trying to navigate the narrow beam platforms that are common in this game, you need to use the d-pad, because tank controls give you precise control of which direction you are moving in, something impossible with the (not-)analog stick. You look up and down, to hit flying enemies and the like, with L2 and R2. You can remap the controls, but it’ll be buttons somewhere, and it’s not good. The camera is also really awful, and constantly fails to follow my movements. YOu can hit Square once to center the camera behind you (don’t double-tap Square by accident, that changes weapons!), but it’ll just get out of line again. The bad camera makes those narrow platforms even harder to navigate without falling off! Using the d-pad helps, but still, the camera is a problem. It also makes lining up attacks harder than it should be. You have several weapons from the start, including both melee weapons and a gun, but the gun has limited ammo and there is no first-person view or targeting crosshair in this game! There also isn’t any autoaim, and if you miss there is no mark showing how far off you are. You just need to try to line up the camera with the enemy and fire away and hope for the best (and that you kill the guy before running out of ammo). It’s probably best to stick with the melee weapons when you can. I found myself constantly missing enemies with melee attacks too, though, because you need to be lined up right with them to hit them, and they are aggressive about hitting you when they can. With time you get used to it, but there’s a big, annoying learning curve here. Overall, the level designs and puzzle elements are the best things about this game, but its issues are significant. This is not one of the better third-person 3d action-adventure games I’ve played on the PS1, but controls aside it’s okay. Really frustrating, but okay.


Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Spyro 2 is very similar to the first game (which I discussed in the first PS1 list), but with new levels and a new, but equally generic, story. There’s not much of anything else original here, though, it’s just more Spyro. I thought the first game was kind of boring because of the often barren levels, relatively small level size compared to 3d platformers on other systems, and above all the games’ far too low difficulty level. This game doesn’t fix any of those problems, unfortunately, and the main quest is still far too easy apart from occasional annoying parts. Combat, bosses aside, is easy; Spyro’s flame and charge attacks are strong. Just learn which attack to use against each enemy type and enemies will be no threat. There is some of challenge, mostly from jumping puzzles, if you want to complete all of the missions in the game, though, so that’s something. At first I thought the game would be a complete pushover, but some of the orb missions are tough. That’s in part because of the controls and stupid instant-death pits, though. Spyro doesn’t control nearly as well as top N64 3d platformers do! Part of that is the controller, I know, because the PS1/2/3 controller’s analog sticks are far too loose and imprecise, but the game doesn’t control as well as it should either. Sometimes the game barely even feels like you’re getting proper proportional analog movement controls, which is annoying and causes some of the challenge. I know this game had to work on a d-pad too, but it needs better controls, and all three PS1 Spryo games are like this. Landing jumps, or perhaps collision detection, sometimes is a bit weird, I miss platforms I thought I’d landed on. Also, like usual on the PS1, the game doesn’t use the right stick; you rotate tht camera with the L and R buttons, not the right stick. L and R work, but since that stick is there it’d be great to support it, it’d be better. Cameras in 3d platformers are often an issue, I know, but it is an issue here, made worse by the sometimes-iffy controls. The game does have an awesome option to put a map of the area on screen. Use it, it’s really helpful!

In Spyro 2, Spyro has been pulled into a new world because the villain Ripto was brought there, and has decided to take over the place. Naturally you’ll need to save the day, everyone else is helpless. The game has several areas, each with a hub, six levels, and then a boss. Each level has a main, stupidly easy mission for a talisman, and three side missions for orbs, those two items being the standard Mario 64 star style collectables you need to save this world with. There are also 400 gems to collect in each stage. You’ll need these to buy upgrades. Some of the orb missions require powers you won’t initially have, so you’ll need to backtrack to get everything. Fortunately the game DOES save what gems and orbs you’ve gotten when you leave a level, which is nice, though enemies and obstacles reset. However, as in the first game, there is far too much boring story in this game, almost all of it voice acted. Why did the people who made the Spyro games think that every single NPC you save needs to talk to you with overlong, boring dialog? It’s like if after getting every star in Mario 64 you had to sit through a bunch of annoying dialog before you could continue! This was a problem in the first game, and it’s just as bad here, just with new characters for Spyro to talk to, including a scientist animal, a faun girl, and a humanoid cat-man. Each world has its own characters as well. There’s solid variety here, including water levels, regular levels, and more. Levels aren’t huge, but are decent-sized. You probably couldn’t expect more from the PS1’s very limited amount of RAM. As in the first game, Spyro 2 looks quite nice. This is definitely a top-tier series, graphically, for the PS1. The gameplay never matches up to the graphics, though. I’m only through the first world so far, but I guess this game is okay; my first impression was bad, but it gets a little better as you get into it. I know that this is a generally easy series, though, so don’t expect a real challenge here. Overall, the game, and series, show the PS1’s limitations off; the PS1 just isn’t quite able to match the N64 in 3d platformers. Still, for the PS1 this game is alright, and I did get a bit hooked once I hit some slightly harder parts, even if some of that was because of the not-great controls.


Spyro: Year of the Dragon

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. This third Spyro game is more of the same. There are a few minor new features, most notably that you can play as other characters in some limited parts of the game, but for the most part, this game is Spyro again. I’m sure series fans are happy that three similar games were released on the platform, but I find this one about as bland as its predecessors. Sadly enough, though, for the somewhat weak field of PS1 3d platformers, this game is one of the better ones on the platform. This might be the best Spyro game; it’s a slightly improved version of the previous games, mostly. This time a villainous Sorceress from the other side of the world has stolen all of the dragon eggs, right after the Dragon Festival where the eggs just… appear. This is all G-rated stuff after all. In the series-standard overly-frequent cutscenes, we learn that there used to be dragons on the other side of the world, but ever since they left a thousand years ago magic has slowly been fading. So yeah, the sorceress is just trying to save magic in her realm, though through villainous means. She also has an underling, a young witch who you’ll see often. So, Spyro has to save the day (and beat up the innocents as much as you want along the way with no reprisal, that IS a weird thing about this series), and of course the 150 eggs are this games’ main collectable, along with gems (money). Each level has 6 missions for eggs, and 400 gems. Also as usual, the game starts out far too easy, and only slowly goes up, and not in good ways; the annoying jumping puzzles return. I like jumping puzzles in 3d platformers, but these games just don’t control as well as they should, and why are there so many instant-death pits in these childrens’ games? While dying is a minor punishment, game over DOES punish yout a bit. And why does the game STILL feel like the controls are often barely analog? Of course, the PS1 analog stick is awful (why did Sony copy the idea of analog, without putting in the effort to actually put a decent one on their controller?), but PS2 games don’t control quite as bad as this, while PS1 games often seem to. I blame the need for d-pad support, probably. Ah well. So, Spyro controls just like before. The four new characters, though, each play a bit differently, and I like the addition, it mixes things up a bit. The first one is a kangaroo; she has a great double-jump and high jump, but her kick attack is much harder to hit enemies with than Spyro’s overpowered-as-always flame and charge attacks. The added variety is nice. Spyro: Year of the Dragon also looks great; this game looks about as good as PS1 games get. Impressive work was done to cover over a lot of the texture warping, though there is some of course. I wish that they’d ditched the constant cutscenes though, why did they think those were a good ideaa? Yeah, they try to make them funny, but there doesn’t need to be so many of them, and they aren’t always funny.

The game has issues, of course. First, the game is still mostly easy, apart for those issues with the controls, jumping, and bottomless pits. Also, the map is gone; there’s no map in this game, sadly! Why in the world would they do that, it’s a horrible change! Yeah, this game isn’t hard to learn, but maps make games better, period. Also, you can only play as the new characters in certain areas designed for them. It’d have been cool if the game let you explore more with each one, as you can with, say, the transformations in Banjo-Kazooie. In addition, this game also has some vehicles you can use… including skateboarding, of course. Almost every game around this time had to have skateboarding in it, and this one is no exception. There are others as well, but really, Spyro skateboarding is kind of stupid. He can fly (kind of), why would you need to do that? And the game is still very bland and simplistic, as well. Insomniac’s Spyro games are very basic games, clearly designed for a young audience. I don’t like the storytelling style of the PS1 Spyro games, and as usual some of the characters are annoying. The PS1 Spyro games do not have the depth, challenge, great level designs, or great gameplay of Nintendo or Rare’s 3d platformers of the era, it’s not even close. Still, this is an alright game, above average for its platform for sure. Flawed, but okay I guess.


Starwinder: The Ultimate Space Race


1 player, saves (1 block). Starwinder is a subpar futuristic action/racing game. As the name suggests this game is set in space, with spaceships, instead of on a track. You have to follow a narrow railed path anyway, though, so no wandering is allowed here. There is a red power strip going along each course, you see, called a Rail, and if you stick close to it you go faster. You QUICKLY lose speed if you get away from the rail. Argh! In a flight racing game, I’d much rather actually fly around, not just stick to the red strip. This game isn’t much fun. The many lengthy CG cutscenes are pretty amusing (“50 minutes of CG animation!” says the box), but the gameplay is poor at best. Oddly, this is a first-person game only. I’d rather have a third-person view. The environments and enemy ships are very basic low-polygon affairs; this is an ugly game. Combat is important here, of course. Shooting is almost as important as flying, in Starwinder. There are both obstacles and opponents to blow away, and you’ve got lasers to shoot stuff with. That’s the basic gameplay. It’s simple, but does get tricky eventually, thanks to all the obstacles and the curving courses. At least you CAN fly around in space, though, unlike CyberSpeed (PS1). I’d rather play Starwinder than that game, at least. The ridiculous, comedic cutscenes make the game worth a look too. I don’t know if it’s actually worth PLAYING, though; maybe just watch the cutscenes on Youtube… actually playing this game alternates between boring and frustrating. Starwainder isn’t completely awful, it can be kind of amusing in short bursts, but it is a mediocre game at best for sure. The numerous absurd cutscenes are by far the best thing here.


Steel Reign

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. Steel Reign is a great tank action game published by Sony. This game is a very good game that somehow is mostly forgotten, and doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact when it released either. I really like this game, though! It’s probably the best tank action game I’ve played on PS1, above games like Tiny Tank or the PS1 version of BattleTanx: Global Assault. It’s not quite the equal of the N64 Battletanx games, or PC and Dreamcast games like Recoil or Red Dog, but for the PS1, Steel Reign is about as good as it gets! I first played this game on that one PS1 demo disc I have, which I mentioned in the original PS1 Game Opinion Summaries thread, so as soon as I saw the full game, I knew I had to get it and did, and it did not disappoint! The game starts with a live-action video cutscene. It’s pretty amusing in that ’90s live-action-video FMV way. Basically, evil forces are attacking, and only one guy in his tank can save the world, and you’re him. The intro is presented as more of a news broadcast than just generic action-movie intro, though, which is nice, makes it a bit more interesting. This game’s mostly gameplay though, not story.

So, this is a tank action game. You can move the tank with the analog stick, and also control the turret independently if you want. Getting used to the controls can be a little tricky, but the basics are simple enough: point at enemies and shoot them. Do watch your ammo, though; most guns have limited ammo. Exploring levels is worth it, in order to find more ammo and health. You’ve got a nice variety of weapons to use. Targeting takes some getting used to, though, as was common on the PS1. You can try either auto, partial-auto, or manual targeting, and there are multiple control options as well. Hitting helicopters, particularly, with manual targeting can be tricky, but might be worth the effort, because you aren’t allowed to move the turret around in full-auto mode, and this can be a problem sometimes. In this kind of game I want full control over my tank, which means learning the manual targeting controls. You can switch during play, though, which is great; you’re not stuck with just one. Levels in this game are good-sized, open levels with plenty of hills and valleys. There’s no flat terrain like Battletanx here! Environments aren’t as destructible as in that game, but still, there are lots of enemies to shoot, and the rolling terrain is great. The game looks nice, good graphics and level designs for a midlife PS1 game. This is a tough game; it will take a while to learn each level, figure out what you should do, and how to approach each area. You’ve got a variety of objectives to complete in each level, almost always about various things you have to destroy. There is a helpful map on the pause menu, use it. If you just charge around you’ll get killed for sure. I think this is a good thing, and like the thought involved here. Figuring out each stage is a fun challenge, and you can save between levels. The game gets off to a great start, I love the first level. It stays good after that, too. Just be careful and take things slowly, and with practice you’ll be okay. Taking enemies out from a distance is great, when you can manage it. There are ten levels, which is plenty for a game as challenging as this one. There are also multiple tanks to unlock as you play through the game, for some variety; though the default tank is pretty cool, the alternate ones do have different weapons. There’s also a two player versus mode. A co-op campaign mode would have been better, but this is nice to see as well, even if the two player limit (and lack of co-op!) makes it nowhere near as great as N64 BattleTanx. Overall, I love this game. Steel Reign is one of the PS1’s best tank games, and it’s a real surprise; I never heard of this game back around when it came out, but I wish I had, because it’s a great fun game with good levels, variety, action, and plenty of fun. This game is much more of an arcade game than it is a sim, but it has enough depth to be interesting. Steel Reign is a great game, play it! Highly recommended.


Street Fighter Collection 2

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Street Fighter Collection 2 is a collection of the first three arcade versions of SFII, ported over to the Playstation. Specifically, this includes Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition, and Street Fighter II Turbo. The collection was popular at the time of its release, but honestly, I’d much rather have the first one; it has Super SFII, Super SFII Turbo, and SF Alpha 2 Gold, three newer games than these. I know many SF fans prefer Turbo, but I’ve always liked Super more, myself. It’s weird that the second collection goes back to older games, instead of releasing these first. Still, for what it is, the games are solid, for the platform. Of course, “for the platform” is an important qualifier here; as always, the game has long load times, reduced animation when compared to the arcade games, and such. Otherwise they’re fine versions of several great classic Street Fighter II versions. Arcade ports also on many other platforms.


Summon Night (J)

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported. Summon Night 1 is the first game in what would be Flight-Plan’s longest-running and most popular series of anime-styled RPG and strategy games. Indeed, even though developer Flight-Plan has shut down, the series is still alive. My first experience with the franchise was with the fantastic spinoff Summon Night: Swordcraft Story action-RPGs for the Game Boy Advance, but the main series that started with this game is a tactical strategy (“SRPG” as many [wrongly] call them) game series. The GBA games are some of my favorite games on that platform, but this main series probably isn’t on that level, not least because it’s not in a language I can understand much of; story and humor are always central to Summon Night games. Still, even as it is, it’s a good game. Basically, Summon Night is a somewhat simpler, anime-styled variant on games like Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s still plenty tough most of the time, though. Summon Night also looks good, sounds great, and plays fairly well. The game is entirely 2d, and the graphics are very good for the PS1; PS1 tactical strategy doesn’t look much better than this. However, it isn’t as deep or complex as a Tactics Ogre or FFT, in either gameplay or plot. I like this game quite a bit, but those who want their tactical strategy games FFT-dark might like it less. I much prefer Summon Night’s 2d over the ugly 3d in FFT, though!

While most games in the franchise are set exclusively in the Summon Night fantasy world, in this first game you play as one of four Japanese high school students. First, you choose your character, either one of two girls or boys. All of the Summon Night games have multiple characters to play as or control, always of both genders, which is great. Then, the long intro cutscene begins. The game starts on Earth, and the choices you make in the Earth section determine which which familiar summon you get; if you know a bit of Japanese the GameFAQs guide will help you choose the one you want, otherwise just guess and get one. This is one of those game with lots of “visual novel-ish” cutscenes, that is, scenes with images of two characters on screen with a background as the characters talk to eachother. It’s cheaper than fully-animated cutscene, important for a game with as much story as this one has. Think GBA Fire Emblem and such, here, except with a map where you can choose which people to talk to during the non-battle sections of the game instead of it all just being a long cutscene. Helpfully, all characters EXCEPT for your character are fully voiced. Knowing Japanese would be a huge help, of course, but with the voice acting for the other characters and the fairly straightforward tactical strategy gameplay, I haven’t run into any major issues yet playing the game. The only challenge is that I have no idea what I’m saying in the times when I have to choose one of several dialog options, but oh well. Just go everywhere and wait through every conversation, and the game will show you where to go next. Battleas at the Event spots. Fortunately, there’s a fair amount of English text on some menus and stats and the like, and also images of weapons. It’s easy to figure out.

Also, even if it’s not too complex, the game presents a challenge. The game may have a somewhat cute anime theme, but there’s plenty of tough battles to be fought here. This is a standard isometric tactical strategy game, with characters that level up and the usual Tactics Ogre-inspired gameplay. Maps are 2d, not ugly 3d like FFT, which is nice. It’s not my favorite kind of strategy game, but they’re alright, and this is a fun one; I’ve never cared for Final Fantasy Tactics, but simpler ones like this or Vandal Hearts are fun. You can attack, use magic or skills, and use items, as usual. You can also switch between Defend (reduce damage when attacked) and Counter (counter-attack, but take more damage); this is the bottom option in each character’s menu during battle. Unlike the later Summon Night games, it takes a while until you are given your summon companion and the ability to summon things, but you do eventually get both. I do prefer the later style of having a summon ally from the start, but this is the first game, they improved over time. As usual in the genre, you start out with only a few characters, but your party grows. Overall, Summon Night 1 is a good game. The game has a very good soundtrack, great 2d and 2d-isometric graphics, plenty of anime-style story and amusement to experience, and solid gameplay. It’s well worth playing, great fun stuff! I only wish it was translated, I’m sure I’d like the story quite a bit. Someone needs to get to this series sometime! Also on Nintendo DS, ported there years later.


Summon Night 2 (J)

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported. Summon Night 2 is very much like the first game, except with new characters and a new story. Otherwise, it’s a sequel that doesn’t stray far at all from the first games’ formula, and I’m fine with that, it’s based on a very good predecessor after all. Summon Night 2 has two playable characters, male or female; this would be how all subsequent games in the franchise go, only the first one has four. As in most of the Tales series, every Summon Night game has an entirely different cast; none bring back the same characters. The characters are also both from the fantasty world, not ‘real’ Japan, again something repeated in all following games. This is a two-disc game, so it’s longer than the first game. Be prepared to wait through a lot of long conversations if you play this game! I expected that though, Summon Night games always have plenty of story. My first impression is that it’s better than the first game. Summon Night 2 is very similar to its predecessor, but the formula is a bit refined and graphics and sound are even better. This really is a great-looking PS1 game; the PS1 Summon Night games look fantastic, about as good as most of those N1 tactical strategy games on the PS2 apart for not having 3d rotateable cameras. Of course N1’s games (Disgaea, etc.) barely looked 6th gen, but still, this game looks nice, every thing is well drawn. I like the art style too; all Summon Night games have characters drawn by the same person, and it’s a good anime art style. The anime video in the intro is high-quality, as well. I love the music too, this game sounds great!

As for the gameplay, it’s pretty much the same, just with new characters, and that now you have your summon companion from right at the beginning of the game. You choose which of the four summon helpers you want in a choice early in the game; for those like me who can’t read much of the text look at the manual to decide which you want, the first character of each name in the ingame list matches the one by their character portrait. In the first game which one you get is pretty much random if you can’t read the text, so it’s nice they made it simpler this time. Your summon companion will be your helper throughout the game, and a party member from the start as well. The four summons in each game always have very different personalities, so choose the one you want. This time there’s a robot, a very quiet bunny-girl in a kimono, a little beast-boy? (not sure on the gender here?), and a brash demon boy. As before, all speech except for your characters’ is fully voiced. Your character is a magician, and your first companion is a guy from the same school or whatever. As for the gameplay, it really is just like the previous game, except with two characters from the first battle and magic from the beginning as well. Those are two nice improvements, though I found I needed to use the magic well from the start, your characters are a bit fragile. I almost always prefer the mage characters in games, so I like this design. Overall, Summon Night 2 seems like a pretty good game. This later Playstation release, from 2001, shows what the PS1 can do with 2d graphics, and the gameplay is pretty good as well. It’s not the most complex game, but there’s enough here to keep me interested, for sure. The only real flaw with this game is that the whole, very long, script is all in Japanese. I want to play this game in English… please. It’s playable in Japanese, but it’d be better for sure if I knew what they were saying. I quite like this franchise, and it’s sad that only three of the games (two for GBA and one for DS) got localized, none of them tactical strategy games. The only English-language-release Flight-Plan tactical strategy game is Eternal Poison for the PS2, which I have not played. I would like to, though; it’s not Summon Night, but looks interesting. Also available on the Nintendo DS, where it was ported years later.


Syphon Filter 2

2 player simultaneous, saves (3 blocks per file), Analog Gamepad supported. Syphon Filter 2 is the second game in this third-person shooter/stealth franchise from Sony. There are six main Syphon Filter games, three on PS1, one on PS2, and two on PS2 and PSP. This game has a main story mode and also two player versus play, though I’ve only tried it so far in single player. Syphon Filter 2 is an okay game, but it’s a clumsy and flawed stealth game and is only okay as a shooter. The story is also convoluted and implausible. The game starts out assuming that the player has finished the first game; there’s no real explanation for why what’s going on is happening. I have the first game, but haven’t gotten anywhere near the end. There should have been some backstory here. Apparently the Agency that Gabe and Lian were a part of in the first game is actually evil, created the Syphon Filter virus, and are willing to sell it to terrorists. It’s up to you to stop them, because apparently no one else who knows about its existence believes that this secret government agency with its own private army that is trying to sell dangerous viruses to terrorists is actually a threat. Yeah, this is bad action movie plot stuff, for sure. This is a two-CD game because of all the prerendered cutscenes, but they don’t look great. The voice acting is mostly awful, too. Sony’s English voice acting in PS1 games is often bad, and this game is no exception. Gabe doesn’t sound like he cares much about what’s going on, or that it’s a dangerous situation at all, even though this game is all about constant tension and fighting. You mostly play as Gabe, as in the first game, but play as Lian for some mostly stealth-focused segments. As a shooter, this game doesn’t do a great job of telling you what you should be doing or where you should go. I got stuck repeatedly in the first level because of lacking instructions. The areas aren’t too huge, but the game can be confusing anyway. Climbing on things, with Triangle by default, is important. Also don’t always try to kill all the enemies, because in some areas they respawn seemingly infinitely, annoyingly. I hate that stuff.

The controls are okay, but could be a lot better. Targeting is automatic, which is good. One button switches targets. Switching weapons could be better, though; hitting Select changes weapons, or holding it opens a weapon wheel (switch with L2/R2). It takes longer than it should. Trying to hit enemies with melee-range weapons is one of the worst things about the controls in this game, as the attacks frequently aren’t quite on target, and you’ll probably die before you’re able to try to attack again because it doesn’t take many shots to take you down in this game. And as for stealth, there are no indications of where guards can see, unlike, say, Metal Gear Solid, so figuring out when you are visible and when you aren’t is difficult, and this is one of the bad kinds of stealth games that has levels where if you are seen once by anyone you fail instantly, go back to the last checkpoint. Stealth in this game is pretty much trial and error, as is figuring out what to do in the shooting-focused rest of the game. Fortunately, checkpoints are fairly frequent, which is nice. This game would be very annoying without the frequent checkpoints, for sure, but it has them. There is an area map in the pause menu, which tells you where you are and objective markers. It’s invaluable! I wish there was in ingame minimap too, that’d be great, but at least you can pause and see it. There is an ingame radar, but I find those somewhat useless compared to a map. Maps are awesome. Visually, Syphon Filter 2 looks fairly nice for the PS1. This is a later PS1 game, and it shows. There’s some nice variety in the level settings as well. That voice acting should have been a lot better, though. Overall, Syphon Filter 2 is an okay third-person shooter with some confusing level designs and poor stealth, with required stealth segments. It’s probably about as good as the first game, I guess.


Team Losi RC Racer


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Team Losi RC Racer is a sort of kart-ish RC car racing game. It’s fairly average, but amusing for a little while. The game has okay graphics, varied course designs, weapons, and a hub world. It’s also very easy and simplistic, but is fun for a little while anyway. The handling is arcadey, but the cars feel very light, like they should. Driving in this game is easy, though. It’s probably good for the younger audience that this game was designed for. You choose an RC car, and then drive around the hub, choosing which challenges you want to face. It’s a simple hub world of cooridors and portals, but it’s nice that it’s there. You can save in the hub as well, and also change modes. In addition to the main mode, the game also has multiplayer (two player only, unfortunately) and a time-trial mode. There’s also an unlockable second, harder race mode, if you beat the first one. Timetrial mode is just for fun, though — you won’t unlock anything there. Too bad, time-trial challenges in racing games can be interesting and tough. The game starts out pretty easy, though. This game is licensed by an RC car company, and the game clearly was aimed at getting kids interested in their cars. As a result it’s not surprising that the game is easy, but it is; don’t expect much challenge from this game most of the time. You don’t need to win races to move on, either; top three finishes are okay. You get powerups in this game by going through gates which litter the courses. Fitting with the over-simplified theme, you don’t actually have to activate most of these; you get a powerup such as a speed boost, shield, etc. by going through a gate, and then it’s swapped out with a different power when you go through another gate. So yeah, this is a simple game. The graphics can be decently nice for the PS1 sometimes, though. The game is usually smooth, but larger open surface areas can have some issues. Overall, Team Losi RC Racer is an insubstantial game, but it’s not that bad. It’s simple and average, and I don’t know how many people today would actually find it all that interesting, but not actually bad. Zipping through a few races was kind of fun for a while.


Tiny Bullets (J)

1 player, saves (1 block per file). Tiny Bullets is an anime-style 3d action-adventure-platformer, in the vein of Tomb Raider and the like. It’s from Sony, but sadly only released in Japan. Fortunately it’s fairly import-friendly. This is a reasonably good game with a lot going for it, if you like this kind of game that is, but it is a product of its time. On the good side, the game is fun, looks reasonably nice, has some good puzzles, and is interesting to explore. On the bad side, it has no analog support for some bizarre reason (this was a 2000 release! There is no excuse!) and the camera is … not good. Oh, and yes, of course you have tank controls. Yes, the controls and camera take getting used to, but that is true for most games like this in the 5th generation. Try to get used to it. In the game, you play as a boy with a sci-fi-anime styled outfit on who is out for adventure and treasure, but finds a lot more than he bargained for. So far the story is fairly conventional, but that’s okay. I haven’t finished the game, but I’m sure by the end he will save the day from the forces of evil… with nothing but his slingshot and various non-weapon items you pick up along the way. Yes, a slingshot is your ONLY weapon in this game. The “Tiny Bullets” in the title refers to slingstones, which you will collect various types of as you progress.

This is a linear game, but you’ll need to do some exploring along the way. Areas are not large, but they feel bigger than they are thanks to the games’ slow movement controls and complex multi-tier environments. A coup0le of hours into the game, I’ve already spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out where to go next. The level designs are clever, and you’ll really need to use all of your moves in order to make your way forward. Fortunately, a controls card that comes with the game shows how to do all 16 move types. Use this as a reference, it’s very helpful! It’s got pictures of the action, and the buttons are listed below. You can jump, slide sideways, grab on to ledges (hold O while jumping), swing on poles, roll, slam the ground, and more. The controls aren’t too complex once you learn them, though. The main issue I have is with attacking — while holding R2, the “use slingshot’ button, you CANNOT move, at all. While the enemies come right for you. Yes, attacking quickly and then moving out of the way is key in this game. Hold R2+L2 for first-person with the slingshot, because aiming without first-person is near-impossible, press X to attack (or O to change bullet type), let go and run. That’s how you fight. It works, but is a bit clumsy. The exploration and puzzle solving are more fun than the combat for sure. Fortunately, they are better. As I said, the controls are slow and somewhat clumsy, but I had quite a bit of fun exploring the environments despite this. You get used to the handling, and environments are varied and look nice for the platform. Of course there’s texture warping, but that’s in every PS1 game.

I like the puzzles, too. One particularly clever one so far involved collecting four panels, then moving a spotlight in a side room to reveal what order the panels would have to put into their places on a pillar they go on. Remember your inventory, items like bombs and keys will need to be activated from the inventory. Not being able to read Japanese makes the game a little trickier, but it’s not hard to figure out, and there’s a great video playthrough of the game on Youtube if you get stuck. So far none of the puzzles involve language, though, so that’s just for the impatient. Overall, Tiny Bullets is a solid game for the PS1. The game has definite control issues, but despite this is a solid, quality title well worth trying. It’s too bad Sony didn’t release it in the West.


Tiny Tank: Up Your Arsenal

1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Tiny Tank is a third-person vehicular tank combat game. Of the PS1 games in this genre that I have, I’d say that this game is better than Grudge Warriors, but worse than Steel Reign; BattleTanx Global Assault is somewhere in the middle there too (though the N64 BattleTanx games beat all of these). Tiny Tank has a humorous theme that reminds me quite a bit of the later 6th gen title Metal Arms. As in that game, you play as a machine in a humorously violent world. Your titular tiny tank moves quickly and is loaded with heavy weapons. You’ll blow up a lot of enemies, but the world is loaded with silly video clips and voiced dialog as well. It’s the future, and evil robots have, of course, taken over the world! You play as Tiny Tank, Earth’s only hope… and the one who helped cause this whole mess. In 2098, Tiny Tank, an irreverent and cute little tank, was created as a PR device, to help convince humans to vote to allow Sentrex Corporation to build an army of robots. The idea sounded good, save human lives, but of course they decided to destroy their makers. Tiny Tank was no fan of the evil robots, though, and after being buried by them for 100 years, he’s back to save the world, with the help of a robot satellite with a female voice that tells him what to do. The enemy robot tank wants to destroy the atmosphere, you see! All that oxygen rusts away at their hardware. Heh. The backstory cutscenes showing outtakes from Tiny Tank’s PR videos promoting the robotic tank army are often funny, too. There is far more dialog during missions than in most games of this kind, but a lot of it is funny stuff. Tiny Tank’s voice lines get repetitive sometimes, but it’s great that they put in the effort to make this game funny.

The humor might actually be the best part of this game, but the gameplay’s not too bad either. You’ve got an objective in each level, generally to destroy something. Levels vary in size and length. The first level took a while to get through, but the second is actually quite short. It’s a bit odd, but the level designs are solid. The game presents a fair amount of challenge as well, which is good. Learning each mission might take a little while, but the good controls help. Tiny Tank controls great. You can zoom around quickly, and Tiny can flip sideways as well. Yes, this tank can sidestep! Tiny has a central cannon and two weapon-pod spots on the left and right of his tank. You can pick up different weapons on each side, and fire each of the three weapons separately. The game has good graphics and art design for the PS1 as well. The game is kind of simple, though; Tiny Tank doesn’t have the depth of Steel Reign. I think the developers focused on comedy and blowing stuff up over a high challenge and more technical and complex levels. That’s okay, and this is a godo game, but I do like Steel Reign even more. Still, Tiny Tank is definitely worth playing! It’s fun stuff.


Turbo Prop Racing

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported. Turbo Prop Racing is an awful boat-racing game from Sony. The game seems to have gotten some okay reviews, but honestly I have no clue why, this is right down there in the very bottom tier of PS1 racing games that I own! Turbo Prop Racing is a really hard and average-looking game with suffocatingly narrow tracks which you’ll pretty much need to memorize in order to do decently at at all and poor controls as well. It’s nearly impossible to avoid hitting the walls constantly, and this game punishes you for it! It’s ridiculous, and no fun. Analog doesn’t help, either. The game has okay but mediocre graphics; environments are narrow and confining, but at least the game does actually does have waves instead of the flat water of many other PS1 water-racing games, but PS1 graphics can look a lot better than this, too. There are also only six courses. Overall, I quickly got frustrated at losing badly in this game, and don’t think I want to put in the significant effort that getting better at the game would require. The mediocre graphics, average controls, and limited amount of content certainly don’t make me want to actually play this game much, either. Awful. Avoid.


Tyco R/C: Assault With A Battery

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. Tyco R/C is another kart-styled racing game for the PS1. This is a decently fun but fairly average racing game. Tyco is a division of the big toymaker Mattel who make RC cars, among other things, so as expected this game is, sort of like Team Losi RC Racer, clearly aimed at kids in both their simple designs and in a definite lack of challenge. This game is perhaps a bit more fun than that one, though. Tyco RC isn’t anything special, but it is amusing if you like arcadey kart combat racing games. Each track in the game has a unique setting, and the track designs are decent. They are quite simple, narrow tracks, but at least there are some obstacles to avoid, weapons or turbos to pick up, and such. The tracks often split into two close-by branches to go around obstacles and the like. The game has a solid sense of speed, which is nice. There isn’t much to this game, though. It’s just a basic, simple little arcadey racing game. Drive forward, avoid the obstacles, shoot at the baddies, and win. Winning won’t be much of a challenge at all, but the game is somewhat fun to play anyway. The game has decent graphics with some nice Playstation visual effects and okay gameplay. This game is not too bad, maybe consider it if it’s quite cheap.


The Unholy War

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad compatible. The Unholy War is a 3d fighting/strategy game from some of the developers of Archon, a classic ’80s game with a similar concept but in 2d. Archon and its clones are great games, so I was interested to try this more modern update. The Unholy War may not be quite as great as Archon, but it is a fun, if imperfect, game. As in Archon, the game has a hex-based strategy map, but instead of watching a little animation, when two units fight, they actually fight in a battle arena, action game style. It’s an interesting mix of action and strategy, and the concept works. The game has two modes, a battle mode where you just fight two teams against eachother without a strategy map, or the main strategy/action game. This is a fantasy/sci-fi game, with a mostly Technos machine race of what seems to be humanity invading an alien world. You can play as either side, either the Arcane aliens, who have lizardman priests, fire spirits, and the like, or the robots (and a few humans). The character designs are varied and unique, and are mostly pretty good even if the polygon graphics are jittery and pixelated. There are seven different unit types per side, and each one controls completely differently in battle.

The first major hurdle with this game is learning the characters, because it will take a while to get good with each one. Some can fly, others can only walk and jump. Each of the 14 characters has three different attacks as well. You jump with X, and attack with the other three face buttons. Each attack uses a bit of power in a meter which refills when you’re standing still on the ground. The stronger abilities use more meter than the more basic ones, of course, but each character is different. There is definite overlap between characters, but each is distinct enough to not be quite the same as any other. All have some kind of ranged attack, but how far they can attack varies widely. The units are not entirely balanced — some are stronger than others. Archon was inspired by chess, but with fighting, and this still has some of that concept. Some units are definitely a lot better against others, such as using flying units against that quite strong rhino-like monster on the Arcane side. There are also a bunch of different battle arenas, and which one you fight on depends on the tile that the defending unit is standing on. The more intricate stages can be frustrating with some units, but this encourages you to use the best unit in each situation. The controls aren’t the best, though. The game controls okay, but compared to Custom Robo, a somewhat similar game in battle, The Unholy War controls worse and isn’t as fun to play. Combat here isn’t nearly as polished as it is in that game, though it can be fun.

Unlike Archon, The Unholy War has a resource-gathering component. Certain tiles on the map will give you AUN, the games’ magical resource. You can then use it to buy units at your base tile. You can then place units on the six hexes surrounding your base. You win when all enemy units are destroyed, or vice versa. In the main campaign mode you don’t get the ability to buy units until the third of the 12 levels in the campaign, but from that point on holding those control points is vital. Still, only basic strategy is actually needed in this game; don’t expect Advance Wars here, or something, you won’t find it. Also, so far the AI seems better at fighting in battles than strategizing on the map, but I’m sure it gets harder later, and there is also a Hard difficulty I haven’t tried. Also, the AI really can be tough in battles, and it’s easy to lose units. Victory is never guaranteed. Overall, I like the gameplay, combat, and art design, but the control issues, basic strategy, occasionally questionable AI, and mediocre graphics hold it back some. Still, it’s more good than bad for sure. I like The Unholy War. It’s definitely a good game, and an interesting update to a classic.


Van-Gale: The War of Neo-Century (J)

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). Vangale is a quite unique 3d … fighting rail shooter game, I guess? Basically, this game is a 1-on-1 versus fighter, except it controls a lot more like a rail shooter or perhaps somewhat Virtual-On-inspired thing than it does a traditional fighting game. You can move all over the screen in this game, you see, while you shoot at the opponents’ giant robot. First, choose one of the eight giant robots available. Each one has a pilot, or by holding Triangle you can use the alternate pilot that you’d normally only see when one robot fights itself. Seven of teh eight base pilots are male, but both alternate ones are female. As the name suggests the pilots are broken up into two teams, so in a single-player game you can switch characters, but only between the four robots on your “side”, and can only use your “side”‘s alternate pilot. For whatever reason you fight all eight in each game anyway, though, maybe just to pad things out to a full game length. Oddly, you can only switch characters at the main menu, so if you want to change, you have to NOT continue after getting a game over. The game will then autosave and then quit. Choose to load game, then choose a pilot (from the current side only), and you’re back to the round you were at. It’s a bit unintuitive, but it does work.

Once the game begins, you can move around the screen with the d-pad, as in any rail shooter or flying game. You can’t actually move forwards or back, really, though; this isn’t a flight game, just a hovering game, basically. When you move it moves both your ship and targeting cursor together; you can’t control the two separately, so control can be tricky. The Dodge button (default R1) will move you around your opponent to the sides, but you can’t move forward or back, while your opponent sometimes will charge you. I wish I could do that too, unless you can and I couldn’t figure out how. Ah well. On the face buttons, You have two attack buttons and a shield. ONe attack button fires your main gun; this fires at the targeting cursor’s location. The other attack button fires a homing attack at the enemy, if you locked on by passing the cursor over the enemy’s mech. The shield blocks, of course. Its use is limited by a meter at the bottom of the screen. While it starts out easy, Vangale on the default setting (3 out of 4) is a very difficult game. It’s also a bit frustrating, though. I REALLY wish that this game had analog control support, because aiming in 3d with dpad-only controls is not great. I often thought I was going to hit the enemy, but then it missed. Some way to lock movement and move the cursor without moving your ship, or something like that, would also have been nice. Also, perhaps an internal camera option? It can be very difficult sometimes to see what I’m aiming at, because my mech is often in the way! Vangale plays from a fixed perspective behind your mech. As for the multiplayer, it is, as it has to be, splitscreen. It works. Still though, this is a fun game, and I like it. Vangale is quite obscure, but this is another one of those obscure Playstation games that is definitely worth checking out. There are only eight characters, and the controls could have used some improvement, but the beginnings of a good games are here. I like rail shooters and fighting games, and this game is an interesting mix of both. Check it out.


VMX Racing

2 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support. VMX is an amusingly awful dirtbike motorcycle racing game which got absolutely atrocious scores back when it released in 1996. I can see why, but this game was easily worth the dollar I paid for it anyway. This is one of those games that I find entertainingly bad. First, the graphics are AWFUL, but they are at least fast and mostly smooth! Sure, this game is comically badly pixelated and ugly, but the sense of speed is great. I like how fast the game feels. VMX Racing has simple, decent arcade racing game control and handling, and is simple and easy to play — that “ultra realistic gameplay” line on the back of the case is a complete lie. What the game is, however, is near-impossibly difficult thanks to a few key serious design flaws. VMX Racing has six tracks, plus three bonus courses you can unlock if you’re good enough. You can play a single track, play pairs of two tracks of similar theme, or play all six tracks in a points championship. There are two difficulty levels, called “125cc” and “250cc” even though your speed is the same either way; cc means engine size, you should have just called them Easy and Hard since actually the engines are the same speed in either one! Anyway, 250 is way too hard to be worth bothering with unless you REALLY want to obsessively memorize this game. Why? Because while the first two tracks, in large stadiums, are doable, the other four tracks are an absolute NIGHTMARE of constant crashing. The key design flaw here is that if your bike so much as TOUCHES any land off of the actual dirt of the track or its sidebar, you crash, instantly. Yes, one blade of grass sends you into an instant crash; it’s not like dirtbikes can travel through grass or anything, right? And the tracks are narrow in this game, too! Each track is a long, narrow winding minefield, essentially. If you go off the track you are instantly reset onto it, and will be up to full speed in an instant because this is a quite arcadey game, but crashes often come in twos or fours, and I quickly fell behind on most of the tracks, though a few are easier. Memorization will be absolutely essential here, if you actually want to try to master the game. The game kind of reminds me of a linescroll-style racing game in its simplicity of design and absolute focus on turns and not going off the track. But most linescroll racers aren’t quite THIS hard. It’s such a crazy-unfair game, I wonder how it actually shipped like this. Oh, as for the controls, even though there’s no Analog Gamepad logo on the back the analog stick works in the game, so I used it. I’m not sure how analog it actually is, but the PS1 isn’t the Saturn, games never use analog sticks on PS1 unless they were designed for them. It seems maybe slightly better than playing with the d-pad. Overall, this is a pretty bad game, but might be fun for a laugh for an hour sometime, so if you see it for a dollar as I did and like racing games, sure, pick it up.


VR Sports Powerboat Racing


2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), neGcon supported. Interplay’s VR Sports Powerboat Racing is another terrible boat racing game on the PS1. Between this and Turbo Prop Racing I’m not sure which is worse, but both are quite abysmal. However, I think this is slightly less broken than the PC version of VR Sports Powerboat Racing, so there is that. Powerboat Racing is a speedboat racing game. The game has 9 tracks about about as many boats. The tracks are all frustratingly narrow; it will take practice to not bounce off of the walls far too often. Environments are all small and constricted by nearby walls, of course. A lot of early PS1/Saturn racing games do these things, probably because of memory limitation problems from developers who didn’t know how to really program for 5th gen consoles (yet). I do like that most tracks have a shortcut, and the track settings do vary, but there isn’t much else good to say about the course designs. The tracks curve around blandly, and are of average length, about a minute per lap. The game is full of jumps, but this is more bad than good — it’s hard to not go underwater after jumps, and this slows you down, annoyingly. Try to learn how to avoid this, but it’s frustrating. This game doesn’t control very well, either. If you use analog controls, the overly precise controls are a pain to get right even if you use a wheel, and forget about the Interact Performance Gamepad — it works, but the handling is so touchy that a single tap of the stick sends you flying into the wall. In digital mode the boats are slightly more controllable, but only slightly. It’s still hard at times to make turns without turning too much or too little. Graphically, this looks like an early PS1 game, perhaps even more dated than its 1997 release date would suggest. One thing I do like is that the water-spray your boats kick up as they turn is transparent. On the PC the water-spray is solid blue, which makes it near-impossible to see while you’re turning in the third person camera. The PS1 version of the game is better for this reason alone! The small environments do the game no favors though, and the boats are small and angular and all look similar. The music is there, but forgettable. For content, the game has three cups, which you do in several difficulty levels. You start with monohull boats, and eventually unlock twin-hulls if you finish in the top three in the first three circuits without quitting the game forever first. That second part will be the tougher challenge, honestly. This game is probably about average in challenge for a simple little arcadey racer like it is, but it’s bad, ugly, and gets boring fast. Overall, I got this game because I was interested in seeing how it compared to the terrible PC version of the game. Thanks to transparent water-spray this version is a little bit better than that one, but unfortunately it’s still an atrocious game no one should actually buy. I like Interplay, but this is one of their worst games I that own. At least it was only fifty cents… Also on PC.


Wild ARMs


1 player, saves (1 block per file). Wild Arms is a JRPG, and the first game in a series that would run for almost a decade. This game is a pretty good traditional Japanese RPG with beautiful, somewhat SNES-esque 2d maps and some somewhat ugly chibi-style 3d polygon battle screens. I love the town and dungeon graphics, this is a great-looking game. There are little animated elements all around, pushing the game beyond what the SNES could do. The way when you walk into a building the roof vanishes and most buildings are seamlessly part of the map is also really cool, it’s such a cool look! I wish the battles were also fought on the game world… ah well. The somewhat wild-west-styled music is fantastic in both battles and the main world, as well. It’s one of the standout features of this game. This is a good game, but the battles do hold it back; I like everything about this game except for the battles, which are extremely simplistic and look ugly. Of course, since this is an RPG you’ll be fighting a lot. Ah well. At least the game does have some variety, and a decent, if mostly cliche, story.

Wild Arms has a sci-fi fantasy/wild west anime setting, which is interesting. The game is set on a slowly dying world, a thousand years after a war with demons destroyed the planet’s ecosystem. The demons are returning, and it’s up to three heroes to save the world. Interestingly, at the beginning of the game, you play short intro sequences with each of the characters, before they meet together to begin the main adventure. The three intros are about equal in length, and you have to play through all three. Of course, the main character is a teenage boy with the special ability to use ARMs, powerful guns from the past, but this game, and the next two Wild Arms games as well, sort of de-emphasize the main character, since you also play intros with the other characters that are just as long as the main characters’ is, and you can switch between the three characters at any time. That’s great, I always like it when JRPGs let you do that. I like not having to play as generic JRPG protagonist guy all the time. The other two characters are a 20-something adventurer and the princess of the kingdom that inevitably gets attacked by demons early in the game (so they have a quest to do). She has special powers, of course. You name all three of them; this game has no voice acting. The setting is interesting, but the story so far is fairly predictable, as of course the demons attack, the heroes do some really stupid things that “unintentionally” help the demons, even though I as I was playing knew something bad would happen if we did these things, and they should have had at least some clues too. Yeah, that stuff is annoying, they should have known better. I know, some of it is the game meeting genre stereotypes, but still, it feels somewhat contrived at times. Despite that, the writing is decent, characters somewhat intresting, and I do like the world, so I found myself getting into this game even if the story is predictable so far. Cliche isn’t bad if it’s a well-done cliche, and this game accomplishes that. The world feels mostly like your standard Japanese fantasy setting, but with some Wild West touches here and there, and plenty of anime stylings. It’s kind of odd, but does work, even if the idea of big castles still being important in a world with guns is kind of nonsense.

As in most JRPGs, this game has an overworld map, towns or dungeons, and battles. The overworld is a mediocre-looking 2d overhead world, but the town and dungeon areas look great, as I said. As you explore the dungeons, the game does have some puzzles, which is great; it makes the game more interesting for sure. Characters also have special abilities that are used solely for puzzle solving. It’s always great to see puzzles in JRPG dungeons, they are sadly uncommon. There are no maps in towns or dungeons, though, and you don’t even have an overworld map at the beginning. As a result, navigating is frustrating; I really, really consider maps important in games with anything mazelike in them, but this game has some somewhat mazelike elements, but no maps. Why did it take JRPGs until the ’00s before maps FINALLY started becoming somewhat common? I wish it’d happened at least a decade earlier, they were needed! Argh, the absence of ingame maps really hurts a lot of JRPGs in this generation and earlier, for me. I highly doubt Skies of Arcadia would be my favorite JRPG ever if it hadn’t had ingame mapping. Of course, this game has mostly random battles, as well. The game starts out easy, but if that means less grinding, that’s not all bad. There isn’t much to fights here. This is one of those boring average JRPG battle systems where two lines of chracters take turns whacking on eachother; I prefer more interesting battle systems. Characters take turns based on their speed ratings within each turn. You can attack, use your characters’ magic for the adventurer and princess or ARMs for the other guy), defend, use items, or use special abilities each character has. These abilities rely on a meter that builds up during each battle. I like meter systems in RPGs, but each character only has 4 abilities max and start with only one, so there’s not as much variety here as in some games, and early on using these abilities isn’t needed too often. Magic, for the two characters that have it, is a compeltely standard magic points system, though the way you get spells and stat ups is a bit unique. Instead of just being given spells for the princess as you go, you will have to find items that allow you to make another spell to add to your repitoire at magic shops, and also items that give you stat ups. So, while the quest is linear, the game encourages exploration and puzzle-solving while you are playing, which is nice, though it’d be nicer if that didn’t mean more random battles. In magic shops, you can choose which of the games’ 32 spells, 16 each for Light and Dark, you want to have. You can choose any spell at any time, but at the beginning of the game can only have a couple of spells, so choose wisely. I like this strategic element, it adds to the game.

Overall, Wild ARMs is a good traditional RPG, well worth playing for anyone who likes a more SNES-style 5th-gen RPG. The battles may be 3d, but the rest of the game isn’t. I do like the 2d parts of the graphics, the great soundtrack, and the adventure, story, and puzzle elements a lot more than I do the combat, both in its ugly 3d graphics and bland gameplay, but despite this, occasional wandering because the game is not always clear enough about where you should be going, and the repetitive nature of dungeon-exploring in this kind of game, I definitely do like this game, and will play it more. Wild ARMs also has a remake on the PS2, Wild Arms: Alter Code F, which I haven’t played. I have played some of Wild Arms 3, which is okay to good, and 5, which seems not that great, on the PS2.


Witch of Salzburg, The (J)

1 player, saves (1 block). The Witch of Salzburg is a creepy adventure game from System Sacom, a studio who made many adventure games in the mid to late ’90s. They developed The Mansion of Hidden Souls games for Sega CD and Saturn and also Lunacy for Saturn. Those three games are all also horror-themed adventure games, except they had US releases, while this game is Japan-only and thus quite hard to figure out — there’s almost nothing online about this game in English. In this game, set in the present day of 1997, a group of Japanese people (seven men and a woman, I believe; not sure on if one is male or female) are visiting a creepy castle in Salzburg, Germany, where some awful things happened back in the 1500s. Back then, a beautiful but picked-on woman killed another woman who was supposedly a witch. She was locked up to be burned at the stake as a witch herself, but mysterious things apparently are still happening in the castle. Naturally, given the genre, the characters won’t all survive this adventure, that’s for sure. You play as a young guy, and will have to figure out what is going on. The Witch of Salzburg mostly uses a top-down perspective, with you moving around a somewhat ugly-looking polygon model of your character in CG-rendered environments, instead of those other games’ Myst-esque first-person, all-CG-rendered design styles. There are some first-person areas, and plenty of CG-rendered cutscenes just as in those other games, but most of the game is third person. As in Lunacy, there is a helpful map of the castle that the game takes place in in the manual, so refer to it if you forget where something is. Character control isn’t great; it’s too bad there is no analog support. This is NOT a survival horror game, though, so you have direct control, not tank controls, and there is no combat here, just exploration, conversations, more conversations, and some item puzzles. You’ll make choices during conversations sometimes, though I of course don’t know what I’m choosing. This game has absolutely no voice acting; it’s text-only, unfortunately. Yes, the biggest issue here is figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing if you can’t read the language. The castle is not hugely large, and what you can actually interact with is for the most part limited in a way that reminds me of those other System Sacom games, but still, constantly wandering around randomly gets old. Figuring out how to save your game is also tricky; I’m still not really sure how that works. And the polygon parts of the graphics, and also the controls, aren’t great either. Still, this is an interesting game. I love the artistic cover on the game manual, for one thing, and as always in their games this game has a great sense of atmosphere, something that was one of the top strengths of their US-released games I listed as well. And while actually playing the game is tedious, particularly if you can’t read the language, it’s not bad. The Witch of Salzburg is an okay game for sure, worth a look if you like this kind of game.


Wonder Trek (J)
[aka Wander Trek]

1 player, saves (1 block per file), Analog Gamepad supported. Wonder Trek is another extremely obscure title from Sony that I can find nothing about in English online. Yes, it’s another interesting title we should have seen that Sony published but left only in Japan for no good reason. So, what is Wonder Trek? It’s an isometric 3d action-adventure-platformer, essentially. You play as a young adventurer stranded in the jungle when your airplane went down. Along with your old man professor companion, you’re on a, um, wonderous trek through the jungle, I guess. I don’t know what the story is beyond that, it’s in Japanese and isn’t clear. Graphically Wonder Trek reminds me a bit of Grandia, as the game plays from an overhead-isometric perspective and has sprite-based characters in 3d worlds made up of both sprite and polygonal elements. It actually looks pretty nice, the style works well.

Wonder Trek has several basic elements, including combat, platforming, story, and exploration. I can’t say where this game goes because I’m still early in it, but you start out in a jungle, and all of the enemies are animals, bugs, and the like — no monsters so far, so I guess they’re going for a slightly “realistic” theme here. However, that only goes so far; that giant pirahna plant boss sure isn’t too realistic! Heh. Nor are the platform-jumping challenges, of course. So yes, it’s a videogame. in the game, you can go around, run or walk with R1 and R2 (the analog stick works, but not for speed control), and jump and attack with face buttons. Control responsiveness isn’t great, unfortunately. Hold down Jump while climbing onto things in order to climb up. Watch out, because you DO take fall damage, and platforming in isometric worlds such as this one is always difficult; as usual in isometric games, I found myself missing jumps sometimes because of the perspective. Ah well. Your guy attacks with a giant hammer. It looks like one of those silly squeeky-hammers, for a somewhat comedic touch. Defeated enemies stay gone, which is nice. This game definitely is trying to have some humor in it; I wish it was in English! That would help a lot for the gameplay, too, because this game is somewhat non-linear. From your starting base camp you can go in a bunch of different directions, and only with trial and error will you find your way through this game if, like me, you can’t figure out much of what’s being said. There’s no help I can find for this game in English online, either. Too bad.

At least the game is playable, though, if you don’t mind some annoying wandering. The actual gameplay is simple enough, and combat, exploration, platforming, and basic puzzles don’t require language. In the pause menu items have pictures as well as text, which is helpful. The Feather items are required to save, so saves are limited — this confused me at first, but you save by using feathers (Use being the default option, on the left, after you select an item). Each save uses the feather. The game does have save anywhere, and it really does save your location, which is great, but the limited saves could be a challenge later on. Oh, Using the sketchbook lets you load a game. Another thing to know is that you only have one life in this game. If you run out of health, or fall in a bottomless pit (in the waterfall-ride sequence, for example), you’re dead. Game over, load your last save. Combine this with the limited saves, and this game definitely can be a challenge, in a bad way. The game is reasonably fun to play, though. Wonder Trek is far from great, but it’s a good game. The game has an interesting world to explore, decent combat and platforming, nice graphics, and more. I do wish that the game had been released in English (particularly for telling me where I should be going next, I’m sure it does this in Japanese to at least some extent), had unlimited saves, and controlled better, but even so, Wonder Trek is a good game definitely worth checking out. This game shouldn’t be as obscure as it is.


WWF In Your House

4 player simultaneous (with multitap). WWF In Your House is a fighting game with digitized sprites. This game is essentially Acclaim’s attempt at a sequel to WWF: The Arcade Game, a popular Midway arcade game that Acclaim ported to home consoles in ’95. This game released a year later, and is very similar just with new characters (10 in total, ~3 of whom appear in the first game), slightly better graphics (apparently), new stage backgrounds, four player play, and much lower review scores. As in that game, this really is a fighting game, not a wrestling game. You win by draining your opponent’s health bar, and win two rounds to take the match. I have always disliked wrestling and know pretty much nothing about how to play wrestling games, but this one is easy to play; button mashing will get you far, and beyond that the game has some basic special moves, Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat-style. Yes, there are projectile attacks and the like. The game is isometric 3d, though, so unlike those games this one doesn’t play on a flat plane; instead, you will wander around the ring. I haven’t played WWF: The Arcade Game, but if it’s like this, it’d probably be amusing for a few minutes, I guess. This definitely isn’t a good game at all, but it could be mindlessly amusing. I don’t know why the game scores so much lower than the first one, but it does have issues. First, there is absolutely no music in this game! Supposedly the PC version has music, but on PS1 there’s nothing. There are (mediocre) sound effects, and occasional not-great-sounding voice samples, but no music at all ever. How odd! Graphically, the game is pixelated and pretty ugly looking. The game also doesn’t support saving, so there won’t be any scores, versus records, or anything recorded. The game is probably too simplistic, too. Fights are messy and feel kind of random, without the precision of the better fighting games. The ‘3d’ depth element probably adds to this. This is a simplistic game, and I highly doubt it’d have much staying power. And the digitized sprites don’t look great, either; it’s kind of hard to tell who the characters are, for those of these guys who I do actually recognize. This game is far too easy on the default setting, too, but it will at least provide a challenge on Hard. Still, the first time I played the game, playing on Normal, I beat the first championship without losing a match! That probably shouldn’t happen. There are three championships to choose from, each harder than the last, but still. Overall, this game is bad, but might be amusing for a group in four player mode. Also on PC and Saturn. The Saturn version is supposed to run worse than the PS1 one does. The PC might have music.


XS Junior League DodgeBall

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block). XS Junior League Dodgeball is an anime-styled dodgeball game released very late in the PS1’s life. The gamplay here is, as usual in dodgeball games, copied straight out of that popular NES/etc. title Super Dodge Ball. I’ve never been a big fan of Super Dodgeball, but it’s decent fun I suppose. This game isn’t as good as the real thing, but it’s alright, kind of amusing for a little while. This is a 5-on-5 arcade-style dodgeball game. You try to throw the ball at the other plaers and hit them without them catching it. When on defense, you want to try to catch the ball as it’s thrown at you. Fail and the character hit takes damage; take enough and they get knocked out, though knocked-out players can still help from the sidelines. It’s a fun arcadey game with solid 2d sprite art for the characters. The game plays okay, but is quite content-light. There’s a basic tournament to play through where you choose a team and face all the other handful of teams, single matches, two player multiplayer, and that’s pretty much it. The game has very little replay value, unless you really like this kind of game. There is one odd thing about this game, though: this game was changed from its original Japanese release. The Japanese version is an all-girl dodgeball game, with no male characters. For the US version, however, half of the characters have been turned into guys (Too bad… ). Amusingly, even though everyone’s in Japanese school uniforms, they have American names and are supposedly “American”. Yeah, right. But hey, on the positive side, this is an XS Games PS1 localization release which they actually didn’t remove saving from, so hey, it’s not all bad! Overall this game is okay, but not that great. Genre fans probably will be amused, but I just don’t care as much for Super Dodgeball and its clones as some do.


Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule Breed & Battle (J)

2 player (alternating versus), saves (1 block). This is a weird one. This game is my only disc-only import PS1 game, and it’s not one I got on its own, but I ended up with a copy so I’ll cover it. This game, from 1998, is the first Yugioh game, but it’s not a card-battle game like I expected. Instead, this game is Capsule Monster Chess, a game from the Yugioh manga apparently, in videogame form, combined with a Tamagochi or Chao-style monster-raising game. So, there are two main parts to this game, monster raising, and fighting Capsule Monster Chess battles. You can raise six monsters, which is also the number you use in battle. You can play with a default team, or raise your own. With the default team I find winning nearly impossible; the first opponent’s monsters are better than mine, I can’t win. This is part-RPG, not only a strategy game unfortunately. As in chess, different monster types move in different ways, either diagonally only, horizontally or vertically only, only one space, chess knight L-shaped moves, and such. You don’t just take enemies by landing on them though, you have to fight. A monster can attack only enemies next to them in the four cardinal directions, so there are no diagonal attacks even though many units can move diagonally. You can also merge monsters during battle to try to create a new monster via monster fusion. You’ll have one less monster, but it will be stronger if you fuse the right ones. Monsters also each have a special ability, some innate and others you can use during battle. Each of the five+1 monsters on your team have a level and RPG-style hit points and attacks, so it’s not exactly chess, it’s a strategy-RPG with chess-based movement for the characters. I wish it was just a strategy game, that would be fun. In order to win, you need to hit the other players’ Golden Egg five times. The Egg can only move one space and cannot attack, so it is very vulnerable. At the beginning of battle, one of your team’s six monsters is randomly selected to be made into the egg; this is annoying, you can easily have a good monster sealed away useless. Five hits and the egg cracks and the other player wins. As in chess each player only gets one move per turn, so you have to choose carefully what to do each turn. Apart from the ridiculous difficulty with the default team (I got tired of trying after losing five or six times straight in the first match…), Capsule Monster Chess seems like it could be fun. However…

However, I don’t like monster-raising games at all. This kind of simple virtual-pet simulator just isn’t the kind of thing that has ever held my attention; I’ve never cared for The Sims, struggled to hold any interest in my Chaos in the Sonic Adventure games, and never was interested enough in Tamagochi to actually try one. I love some actual pets (cats are the best!), but these virtual things are not the same at all. Here you can put different objects in the arenas, try to match the egg type to the right arena type, give them food and toys, and such, to try to improve their stats and such. I presume that if I raise my team well enough I’ll be able to use those monsters in battle and actually win matches, but I find these games far too boring to want to try for long. There are apparently 103 total possible monsters you can raise, but you start with only a few. yugioh.wikia.com has a list of all the monsters in the game with translations for their special abilities, which is nice, but it doesn’t say how to create them via fusions, or any suggestions for monster raising, unfortunately. I can’t find anything else out there about this game in English. So yes, there is a definite language barrier here; battle is straightforward, but all options in the monser-raising mode are in Japanese, and while I did figure out the basics after a little while, I’m sure a translation would be helpful. I’m sure I’m missing some of the things the game explains. You can also look at the monsters you have unlocked, delete monsters from the six you’re raising, play a versus game, and change the (Japanese-language) options. As for the Yugioh element, Monster Capture Breed & Battle does have appearances by some of the Yugioh characters, and apparently does follow part of the story from early in the manga if you play the story mode and actually win battles, but otherwise is only loosely related to the card-game franchise most people know the series for. Overall, this game is only for pet (monster)-raising game fans who also want to play an okay strategy game with those same monsters. I find trying to raise the monsters too boring to want to build up a competent team for the potentially fun strategy game, so I don’t like this game much, unfortunately. That’s too bad, because the strategy game on its own is probably the most interesting thing in either PS1 Yugioh game, for me. But the rest of this really holds it back.


*Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories

2 player (alternating), saves (1 block). Yugioh: Forbidden Memories is a digital card game based on the popular card game, manga, and anime franchise of the same name. This game released after the first anime series, but before the 2001 series that is the popular one that I (and most people) know. I got this game as one of my first PS1 games back in 2006 because it was cheap and I’d watched the first anime (dub) and found it entertaining at the time, but never have played this game all that much because it’s frustrating, obtuse, and not that great. While in the anime the constant ridiculous saves by Yugi just happening to get the exact right card at the exact right time which just happens to combine with other cards he has put down to make some awesome combo attack, in a game like this you’re pretty much at the mercy of the random-number generator and game guides, and it’s not nearly as fun. In addition, the game doesn’t tell you what most cards can do. In many digital card games, the cards describe all of their functions on the card. Not Yugioh. The game is also simplistic, probably too much so; Yugioh is not a deep game. Artificially increasing the challenge by not telling you vital things isn’t good. Combination attacks and card fusions are critical, and hidden; you need to know how the cards can combine or you’ll lose a lot. Before playing, go read some FAQs to learn that stuff. I hate this kind of “hide vital information from the player” game design! It’s terrible in any kind of game.

For gameplay, despite owning this game for so long, and watching most of the first anime series, I never tried to learn how to play the game. Looking at it though, it’s basic stuff. With luck, a good deck, and knowledge of cards’ secret abilities and combinations, you will win. This isn’t a movement-based card strategy/RPG game as Phantasy Star III (Gamecube) or End Sector (PS1) are; it’s simple stuff. You place cards on the five spaces you have to play cards on in the field, and then choose to attack with them, or fuse or combo-attack with them if you happen to have the correct card configuration played. Some cards will get attack/defense bonuses based on what type of card the other one is and perhaps also the card sign you chose, so learn that stuff too. You can play cards face-up or face-down, if you don’t want the opponent to know what card you have played. You can also play cards forewards or sideways, for offense or defense focus; when sideways you can’t attack with a card, but its Defense number will be used when cards attack it instead of Offense, useful for cards with higher Def than Attack. You can rotate cards during your turn. Each card has an attack and defense value on the card. There are also Magic cards wtih specific effects; these, thankfully, are explained on their cards. Naturally, you start the game with weaker cards, and will have to win or fuse better cards by beating opponents and reading a guide to learn what cards you need to combine to get better ones. I’ve never been a collectable card game fan, but do like the more strategy-game-style gameplay in PSO III. This isn’t like that, and I find it less interesting. It’s okay, but I don’t know if I’m interested enough to want to get past the learning curve.

Visually, the game is a mixture of 2d and 3d. Story scenes and cards are 2d, but the board and map are polygonal 3d. It looks average. Audio is average, and there’s no voice acting. The main mode here is a story mode going through part of the series’ story. It begins with a prequel chapter in ancient Egypt, telling the story of how the Pharaoh got stuck inside of the powerful magic item, the Millenium Puzzle. Then it continues to the present day, and Yugi’s journey towards becoming the luckiest card game player ever. Of course, here, card games are serious business! Along the way you can make choices, and what you choose will depend on who you fight. There are apparently 40 total matches, but you can skip lots of them if you want by choosing some of the options. Of course, this will get you fewer chances to get cards. Make sure to save between matches, if you lose it’s game over. The game can be unfair, and apparently enemies don’t always exactly follow the same rules as they should in the card game, so using a guide for suggestions about what cards you should use in battles is a good idea. In addition to story mode, there is also card trading and a bad versus mode. Here two people, each with a deck in a separate save file (the same save file cannot play against itself, for some reason), can play Yugioh, but with not much actually displayed on screen so you can’t see eachothers’ hands; it’s hard to play wnen you probably don’t know what your cards are! Last is the Option menu. “Option” here is singular because there is only one option here, Stereo or Mono sound. Yeah, that’s it. It’d have been nice to have more choices. Overall, I really wish this game actually told you how to play the game. Expecting players to know how to play before being able to get anywhere is bad design! And apparently the fusion stuff is exclusive to this game, and isn’t even in the card game, so a guide really is needed. This much memorization should not be required for a game like this. And even beyond that, this game really is probably a bit too simple; luck and your deck matter more than skill, it seems. This is an okay game, but flawed. Overall, even considering the language barrier, I find End Sector more fun, less obtuse, and more strategically interesting.


Zeiram Zone (J)

1 player. Zeiram Zone is an okay early beat ’em up based on the Iria / Zeiram franchise from the ’90s, which included several live-action movies and a 6-episode OVA anime series. I like the anime, but the movies aren’t as good. This game isn’t great either, unfortunately. It’s kind of fun, but can be frustrating and is bland, ugly, and dated as well. From what I’ve seen of it, the SNES Iria platformer is better than this game. Still, it’s not all bad. In this game, you play as Iria, as expected. Iria is a bounty hunter from space, and as usual she is hunting the near-invincible monster, Zeiram. Short CG cutscenes between each level tell the story as Iria and her computer helper Bob look for Zeiram. The Japanese voice acting in those cutscenes is the only Japanese in the game, so there’s no real language barrier here; the story is simple and gameplay straightforward once you figure it out. Before you get to Zeiram, though, you’ll need to beat your way through numerous weaker monsters. This game is a 2.5d beat ’em up, basically. You’re on a flat plane in a 3d environment, but can switch between two planes in order to fight enemies and dodge obstacles. There are only ever two in normal stages, but many boss fights open things up further, allowing you to rotate around the enemy by repeatedly switching planes. Iria has two punch and two kick attacks and also a block button, and some Street Fighter-style moves can also be done for added variety. That’s a nice touch, many beat ’em ups do not have them.

The game is fun for the first two levels, but then gets frustrating. The third level introduces some mazelike segments where you have to dodge large moving blocks by switching planes at the perfect times. The problem is, you will lose a LOT of health if you mess up and get hit, and this game has limited continues! Yes, you only get five tries before it’s back to the beginning, and there’s no saving in this game either. Iria has a health bar, and there are powerups that refill your health, but you only get one life per continue, and those blocks will drain it fast. The bosses in level 3 are hard as well; it’s easy to get to level 3 without losing much health, and then lose all your continues in that one level. Argh. As for the graphics and sound, this game definitely looks like the 1996 release it is. Environments are low-detail, and textures are not too good. Iria’s model is decent, though, and the monsters are varied and do resemble the weird foes of the anime. Still, the graphics aren’t great. The CG cutscenes also don’t look very good; is that really the best they could do at a CGI Iria model? She doesn’t look quite right. As for music, it’s decent. Not memorable, but it fits the game. Overall, Zeiram Zone is an okay but average beat ’em up. It’s worth playing for Iria or side-scrolling beat ’em up fans, probably, if you don’t expect too much from it.


Zoop

1 player. Zoop is a puzzle game that was released on a lot of platforms. I also have the SNES version of the game. This PS1 version is pretty much the same game, except with better graphics, as you might expect. This is an early PS1 game in one of those great longbox cases, and it is a good game, but I have one major complaint: why didn’t they include saving? This is a puzzle game, being able to save high scores is essential! But for some reason, they didn’t bother with it here. How odd. Based on what I’ve read, the only console version of this game with saving is, in fact, the Atari Jaguar version. If (when?) I ever get a Jaguar, I’ll have to get the game. But anyway, Zoop is a fast-paced and challenging puzzle game. As with many puzzle games, the game has an endless mode, where you play until you lose. There’s also a long 99-level level mode. The game plays on a top-view screen with a grid-like design. You move a shape around a square in the center of the screen, and have to match tiles which approach at you from paths on the four sides of the screen. Sort of like in Magical Drop, you can grab any tiles and then toss them into other paths, in order to set up matches. If a tile reaches the center, you lose, game over. At first the game may seem fun, but it gets very hard quickly, maybe too much for some people. Covering all four sides of the screen thoroughly takes concentration, and probably some luck as well. It’s a frenetic game where you have to constantly grab tiles and toss them where you think they should go. The graphics are kind of crazy, and are super ’90s. There are many different backgrounds which switch as you progress. It’s a good game, and the PS1 graphics are nice and sharp; it’s a good improvement over the 4th gen versions. But why no saving, still? Bah. Ah well. It also would be great if they had figured out a way to get a splitscreen mode working, because puzzle games are always more fun in multiplayer. The Game Boy version actually does have link cable support (though not the Game Gear version, it seems, oddly), but I don’t think any of the console versions have multiplayer. Still, if you see it cheap, pick Zoop up. It’s a tough game, but can be fun. Also on SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Jaguar, Saturn, PC, Mac, and Game Gear.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover

This entry was posted in Classic Games, Dual Impact Gamepad, Game Opinion Summaries, Lists, neGcon, PlayStation, Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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