Of Axioms and Idioms: Janks for the Memories

It’s funny. When I first started doing these “Of Axioms and Idioms”, they pretty much dominated my output for quite some time. But ever since I decided to focus on other abandoned series, it’s been more and more difficult for me to write new articles in this style. It doesn’t really help that whenever I do end up coming up with a concept for this series, it tends to be accompanied by another idea that the people I look to for input tend to find more interesting than doing another “Of Axioms and Idioms” editorial. And then, by the time I finally see a lull where I can easily opt into finally writing down the idea, the passion I had for the concept in the first place has long since burnt out, leaving me at a loss for words when it comes to revisiting the idea several months down the line. Fortunately, this is not one of those times.

The truth is, I’ve always had an unorthodox interest in video games that can be called… “janky”. You know, games that don’t exactly run as smoothly as their successors or even their contemporaries. Sometimes, if a game is janky in just the right way, it just ends up feeling satisfying to me. I can’t really explain what it is about these games that draw me in… and more importantly, not all janky games are created equally in my eyes. The kind of games I tend to gravitate towards aren’t glitchy and broken, they just feel… stiffer than average. Maybe the animations last too long or don’t chain together properly. Maybe there’s a perceivable delay between when you’re allowed to interconnect actions. Or maybe, the game is just predicated on the idea that once you’ve made a decision about what to do, you have to see it through to the very end before you can make another decision.

I’ll be completely honest: my editor actually helped to inspire me to write about this topic. When I originally came up with the idea for this article, he had given up on Yakuza Kiwami for the second time, while I was thoroughly enjoying Yakuza Zero. The first time he gave up though, he said that he found the combat system to be annoying. Considering the fact that he’s something of an action game connoisseur and he tends to view gameplay as the only relevant aspect of any video game, it was understandable. But this wasn’t the first time he gave up on something due to what he perceived as distracting mechanics: I sold him my old copies of the Bioshock games and Infinite was the only game in the series he bothered to play to completion. However, by the time I was finally getting ready to write on this subject, my enthusiasm for the subject had dwindled significantly. Fortunately, he just so managed to bring up the fact that he gave up on Capcom’s recent remaster of Onimusha, a game I thoroughly devoured earlier this year. While his main gripe – the inability to skip cutscenes – is something that I can agree with (even if it didn’t affect me much in the first place), he also brought up complaints regarding the camera and more notably, the combat. While we have butted heads about the appeal of janky games several times in the past, having a far more recent example is perhaps the best motivator possible when it comes to reigniting my passion for a particular subject.

But in order to properly defend the concept of jank, we need a proper definition of it. In general, the word “janky” typically refers to something that is either of poor quality, generally bizarre or both. In terms of computing, it generally refers to a program being unresponsive or sluggish, generally due to poor interface design of the software itself. With video games, on the other hand, it’s a more of a flexible term. Based on what I’ve seen online, many people use “jank” to describe cases of odd game-breaking glitches, like horses randomly floating in the air, missing textures leading to faceless abominations or fail states triggering for inexplicable reasons. I don’t really agree with this definition for the term, because it makes these errors sound more like quirky accidents instead of the coding mistakes they truly are. Ironically, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, the organizer of an art exhibit based around video games called “Dire Jank”, had a definition that I consider far more valid. She defines jank as “the inevitable disconnect between real life and the systems that simulate life . . . In this era of hyper-photorealism, everything leaks jank. The harder they try to simulate everything, the more weird and broken it all feels.” As far as I understand it, it seems as though she considers it to be an uncanny valley between an ever-increasing emphasis on realism in video games, while still exuding a sense of artificiality that just becomes more and more prominent and disturbing as the gap between reality and the virtual shrinks. Not a perfect definition for my view on the concept, I admit. But it definitely beats “why me die for no raisin?” by leaps and bounds.

But maybe, trying to understand an attribute from an objectively subjective medium like video games is the wrong way to approach the concept. While many people seem to look down on video games that are classified as janky, there are some cases where I’d argue that unorthodox concepts led to some amazing games. For example, early games in the Ys series utilized “bump combat”, a mechanic that relied on players ramming into enemies off-center in order to deal damage without taking any themselves. I think it’s fair to categorize this as a jank mechanic, but I still think it’s fun all the same. Likewise, from what I’ve seen, combat is generally considered one of the weaker aspects of the Yakuza series. Granted, I’ve only played through Zero and am currently playing through the first Kiwami – which I’m told have the best combat in the entire series – but it reminds me of the Virtua Fighter games I’ve played. To put that in perspective, my experience with that series ended with the Dreamcast.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I break “jank” into its core perceivable elements. The most obvious choice is clearly the “stiffness” associated with controls. For a game to properly to be classified as janky, there have to be some pretty significant and unmistakable resistance in the game’s controls, almost to the point where it may not mesh thematically with more fantastical games, both in terms of setting and genre. Granted, this isn’t always an indication of jank: I’d argue that simulator-style games often employ even stiffer controls than the jankiest games out there, but that’s because it comes across as more realistic. After all, people can’t double-jump in real-life, right?

Likewise, I’d say that there’s generally an unorthodox sense of “weight” in the controls themselves. I would argue that this is distinct from “stiffness”, but it’s difficult to articulate why. Perhaps it’s more of an odd sense of gravity: things either become too “heavy” or “floaty” in many jank games, whether it’s the game’s jump physics in general (a traditional pitfall in many games) or even the player character’s abilities not meshing well with the game’s physics engine. Usually, it’s a case where the physics are far too complex to accommodate simplistic gameplay mechanics, leading to weird cases of ragdolling character models and other weird happenings. Of course, when the opposite occurs, it’s easy enough to reconcile the issues most of the time – and when it can’t be, it results in a game that’s not so much “janky” but rather broken.

However, the most recognizable aspect of jank in video games, at least as far as I can tell, revolves around the game’s animations. When animations last too long, there’s almost a sense of lag when it comes them, as if they add a sense that the player’s input no longer registers. I’ll be honest, that’s probably the element of jank that bothers me the most – and it’s probably the most prominent of the three as well. Even before the advent of 3D models and fully-formed animations, there were also games like Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins, which utilized stiff jump mechanics, even when compared to their contemporaries like Super Mario Bros. Of course, in that case, the stilted jump was probably a conscious choice on the part of the developers in order to cultivate a sense of difficulty. I’m not so sure that the more modern issue of stiff controls is quite as intentional. It’s almost as if the player loses control of their character for a moment during gameplay segments. At its worst, it almost feels like it’s removing the interactivity that’s at the core of the medium. Fortunately, most of the time it just leads to me putting myself into inopportune situations, which the game’s AI can easily exploit.

With these three core elements in mind, what then is the opposite of jank? One might assume that silky, smooth gameplay is the answer, but I don’t believe that’s the case. Even the most satisfying video games have a sense of resistance to their controls, operating under the game engine’s gravity and I’d say the vast majority of video games since 1985 have had animations in them. Then what is the opposite of jank in a video game? I’d argue that it’s “noclip”. I became familiar with the concept back when it was essentially a cheat code in first-person shooters, but it basically removes the player character from the game world at large. They can pass through solid walls (as well as floors and ceilings), don’t take damage from enemies or hazards (or even seem to recognize their existence) and are essentially rendered as ghosts, totally incapable of interacting with anything and everything, even the physics engine in most cases. This definitely removes the constraints of the first two elements of jank and to be honest, I do recall a few cases where the character was allowed to move around without the constants of any and all animations that would often wrest control from the player.

Granted, I think it’s incredibly disingenuous to assert that everyone who claims to hate jerky controls and wonky physics in video games simply want to fly through (both figuratively and literally) the entire game space with absolutely none of the consequences of interactivity present. Obviously, they want games that walk the edge between “jank” and “noclip” perfectly… and for the most part, that’s what I want too. I just happen to like playing the occasionally janky game as well. After all, as I said in the past – just because I can acknowledge a game is the best of its type or series, doesn’t mean it’s my favorite.

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Retrospective: Devil May Cry – Part 2

Hello, and welcome to the second part of my Devil May Cry retrospective! The first part covered the original PlayStation 2 games, but now we’ll be moving into the HD era with three more games. Devil May Cry 4 and DmC: Devil May Cry will get the same treatment as the first three games, and I’ll give my thoughts on the recently released Devil May Cry 5. So order another doomed pizza, we’re getting back into the action!

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Turn Based #12: PlayStation 2 Much?

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Turn Based. You’ll recall that almost a year ago, we did an article debating the lost-lasting relevance of Sega’s final home console, the Dreamcast. This time, however, the shoe is on the other foot, as we’ll be discussing the best-selling console of all-time, Sony’s PlayStation 2. Anyone who has been following me for any amount of time knows that I despise the PS2 as much as I loved the Dreamcast. As far as I’m concerned, Sony’s little black box caused the bleakest gaming dark age I had the misfortune of living through and its effects are still felt to this day.

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Look at them. Square, the shape of evil!

Conversely, SNES Master KI has bought into the hype wholeheartedly, considering it one of the best video game systems to have ever existed. As such, he will be arguing the affirmative this time around. Yet despite how much mainstream acceptance his position has among the gaming community at large, I’ll allow him to argue his position first.

SNES Master KI: There isn’t much to say about what makes PS2 great besides the lineup. In addition to having almost every multi-platform game of the sixth generation, it had a huge stable of first and third party exclusives, the latter of which would almost vanish from gaming the following generation. Jak trilogy, Ratchet and Clank 2 and 3, Sly trilogy, God of War 1 and 2, Devil May Cry 1 and 3, Kingdom Hearts, Onimusha 2 and 3, Silent Hill 3, Twisted Metal Black, Zone of the Enders 1 and 2, all generational exclusives. The lineup is what defines the system, not how you view gaming during its generation, and PlayStation 2 has earned its reputation.

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Remember when they could get three games in a series out in one generation?

Icepick: I’d like to note that in KI’s impressive list of titles, every single game in 3D. Personally, I tend to favor 2D games — though admittedly, when I was younger, it was less of a “preference” and more of a “zealous devotion”. Even during the days of the original PlayStation, Sony went all-in on the third dimension and it paid off massive dividends for them every single time. The problem is that the PS2 led to a culling of the style of games I preferred so vast, that it’s barely hyperbole to refer to it as a “2D genocide”.

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Yes, I’m going to get as much mileage out of this picture as I possibly can. Deal with it.

I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but the PS2’s grandest sin was just how much of an impact it had on the gaming medium as a whole. During the third, fourth and fifth generations, each platform had their own respective strengths and weaknesses. Even the Dreamcast — the technical harbinger of the sixth generation — differed substantially from what came before and what came after. The PlayStation 2, on the other hand, had a “grey goo” effect on the entire medium. The Gamecube and the Xbox essentially attempted to ape the successful platform to an exact minutia.

But to make matters worse, while the Xbox and yes, even the Gamecube, outpaced the PS2 in most technical categories, meaning that the PS2’s limitations acted as an albatross hanging around the neck of the entire generation. Imagine an alternate reality where the TurboGrafx-16 hadn’t failed miserably in the West and both the Genesis and the SNES were constrained to the platform’s limitations — it was barely stronger than the NES in terms of hardware. Considering how little of a leap was felt between the two most recent generations, it’s entirely possible that the only reason why the seventh generation was considered the last “big leap” was due to just how far the PS2 held the medium back for its long, unchallenged reign.

KI: First, add Klonoa 2 to the list, it deserves to be there and I forgot it, in addition to being 2D. With that acknowledged, there really isn’t anything that makes the sixth generation consoles substantially more similar than previous generations. Even Xbox, the system most focused on multi-plats, had third party exclusives from companies like Capcom and Sega. Seventh generation was when the non-Nintendo consoles become pretty much the same, and there’s really no reason to blame that on PlayStation 2.

For the technical issue, first of all it isn’t at all fair to imply that PS2 was barely a step above fifth generation systems, in fact it was again part of the last generation where there was a huge, immediately noticeable, no better TV required leap in graphics between generations. That said, graphics aren’t important, especially with retro games, and there were no gameplay limitations caused by PS2. Xbox (and earlier in the generation, GameCube) may have had better looking versions of multi-platform games, but everything played the same and the graphical differences are not something people playing retro systems should be focused on.

Icepick: If you think everything played the same on PS2 and its substantially more powerful competitors, then I’d like to introduce you to a little game by the name of “Sonic Heroes”, which was essentially considered an abomination due to the fact that the PS2 version was substantially worse off compared to the other releases. And that’s an example I can remember off of the top of my head.

Regardless, my original point is that not only did the PlayStation 2 dominate in sales, it essentially dictated the entirety of console gaming in a way that no platform has even done before or since, and in my opinion, what it did to the medium had an unquestionably negative impact on the medium as a whole. When the PS2 took over, it was essentially the first time I gave up on console gaming and just decided to evacuate to the retro niche, with the Game Boy Advance acting as my one window into “modernity” in any form. The people who liked what the PS2 was selling obviously loved the sheer amount of dominance Sony held during the sixth generation, but for the rest of us (no matter how few), the whole generation felt like an unwaking nightmare.

KI: Sonic Heroes was most likely originally designed for GameCube before being ported to other systems, which is why the PS2 version ran so poorly. But the game wasn’t held back by PS2 on other systems, it ran fine on GameCube and I’m sure Xbox. For PS2 dominating the generation, first of all, I have one acronym for you if you think nothing dominated a generation more than PS2: NES. Second, you haven’t given any reason why PS2 is specifically responsible for the turn in gaming you don’t like, it was simply the generation where developers had become confident enough in 3D to use it for almost everything, and hadn’t realized that 2D had its own strengths yet. You’re using PlayStation 2 as a scapegoat for what you dislike about the sixth generation. Did Nintendo or Sega make tons of 2D games when they were supporting their sixth generation systems? PS2 didn’t conquer and eliminate systems trying to keep your favorite genres alive, it just happened to coexist with a mentality in game development that marginalized 2D games.

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Not a 2D powerhouse.

Icepick: For starters, Nintendo had the entirety of their GBA library acting as the last bastion of 2D gaming in the sixth generation, so they more than pulled their weight when it came to keeping 2D alive in the wake of Sony trying to exterminate it. As for Sega, the Dreamcast was the last truly great platform for 2D games and Sega was publishing the Guilty Gear games at that point in time, as well as Game Boy Advance games like the Sonic Advance Trilogy, Astro Boy: Omega Factor and Gunstar Super Heroes.

Meanwhile, Sony’s Western branches were actively suppressing the majority of what few 2D games the PlayStation 2 saw released in Japan, to the extent where various SNK games — Metal Slug 3, King of Fighters 2002/03, SNK vs. Capcom: Chaos and King of Fighters Neowave are the main games that come to mind — were technically “Xbox exclusives” in our neck of the woods, due to SCEA’s anti-2D policies, which only seemed to ramp up after the fifth generation.

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But you can thank your lucky stars SCEA’s policies didn’t keep us away from classics like McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy!

KI: Dreamcast wasn’t a great platform for 2D games, how many 2D games on it made by Sega can you name, and how many 2D ones period that didn’t end up on other sixth gen systems? Game Boy Advance could barely do 3D, it was an obvious exception and not a conscious attempt to save 2D gaming, it had no choice. I’m going to need to see proof that Sony had anti-2D policies, because there were plenty of 2D games allowed on PS2 (Viewtiful Joe series, Alien Hominid, Odin Sphere, North American releases of other games in the series you listed that had Japan/Europe-only entries). It really seems like that aside from not making GBA games for obvious reasons, you don’t have anything that pins 2D’s dark age on Sony or PS2 specifically.

Icepick: Arguing that the “2D support” (scare quotes intended) Sony’s Japanese and European provided to their respective regions makes up for SCEA’s blatant prejudice against 2D games when we’re both American is a weak argument at best. I don’t care what SCEJ or SCEE were up to back when the PS2 ruled the Earth and considering the fact that region locking was still a thing back then, I think it’s safe to say that no American would’ve cared to begin with.

As for great 2D games that were exclusive to the Dreamcast throughout the sixth generation, I’ll name ten. There’s the original Marvel vs. Capcom, the original Capcom vs. SNK, the King of Fighters ’98 and ’99, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future, Giga Wing, Mars Matrix, Bangai-O and the first two iterations of Street Fighter III. Sega also originally produced Chu Chu Rocket, a 2D puzzle game for the Dreamcast, before it was ported to the Game Boy Advance.

Having said all of that, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that the GameCube and Xbox essentially had to play catch-up with the platform for almost the entirety of the generation, effectively forcing Nintendo to give up their unique identity in a failed bid to play catch-up, while Xbox essentially operated at a loss for the entire generation, only to emerge nearly fully-formed in the following generation, knocking Sony down from their pedestal.

But perhaps most important is the fact that you’ve been omitting a very specific trilogy of games that were considered all too important to Sony’s rise in our home territory: the Grand Theft Auto series. Can you honestly say with a straight face that Sony had no hand in the rise of open-world games and what you acknowledge as a downturn in the overall quality of the medium you yourself associate with them?

KI: I’ll concede that there are more 2D Dreamcast exclusives than I realized, but several of them had sequels on other sixth generation systems, showing that Dreamcast dying didn’t kill the series. Sega themselves didn’t focus on console 2D, which I think there only being one given example of a 2D game from them on Dreamcast supports. I still don’t see what you’re basing GameCube trying to catch up with PS2 on, how was it trying to copy PS2 any more than N64 was trying to copy PS1? Moving to discs was done because of how third parties reacted to N64 using cartridges, not to copy Sony, and it had no significant impact on how Nintendo made games.

For Grand Theft Auto, you’re reversing cause and effect. GTA games being timed exclusives on PS2 helped ensure the system’s dominance, PS2 didn’t cause GTA to explode in popularity. And technically they weren’t a downturn in open world 3D games, those barely existed before them. I said they held the genre back for a generation because critics and gamers refused to acknowledge horrible and unnecessary design choices in them. I don’t see how that is PS2’s fault in any way, if GTA3 was a GameCube exclusive it might have drastically altered the console war, but I doubt Nintendo would force them to fix everything wrong with the sixth-gen GTAs.

Icepick: You’re forgetting that the PS2’s original bout with runaway success stemmed from the fact that it was essentially the cheapest DVD player on the market in the year 2000 and the only other platform that could match that claim was the Xbox, which came out over a year later. And it was that early dominance that allowed Sony to make the exclusivity deals necessary to cement the PS2’s dominance for its entire lifespan.

Regardless, my point is that previous generations seemed to allow for several different trends to run parallel to one another, while from the sixth generation on, you’d be lucky to see more than two dominating the industry at any given time. For the sixth generation, the majority of releases either tried to cater to fans of GTA-style open-world games or console FPSes like Halo, leading into the dominance of the Call of Duty franchise, which still boasts an amazing reach to this day.

KI: There were several other trends during the sixth generation. Tony Hawk style sports games, mission based platformers, DMC clones. But we’ve been going at this long enough, time for closing statements. PlayStation 2 has an amazing library, and you never really contested that. What was going on in the industry at the time is not the fault of PS2, trends you dislike would have happened no matter what the dominant platform was. PS2 earned its status with a lineup of games that no console without Nintendo’s support can compete with, and that’s the only thing it’s fair to judge it on.

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Another genre codifier that launched on PS2, and it turned out much better.

Icepick: I’ve said it too many times to count: I personally wasn’t a fan of most of what came out of the sixth generation to begin with. To say that it almost killed my passion for the medium would be hyperbole, but it fits with my sentiment. Genres I loved were nearly smothered by ones I didn’t care for and the only outlet I really had for contemporary games in specific genres was portable consoles, until digital marketplaces took off in the following generation. When I hear people complain about various practices in the AAA market nowadays, I can easily trace the majority of them back to the PlayStation 2 and for that reason, I’d say that its place in gaming history is overrated, to put it mildly.

And as usual, we’ve come to yet another stalemate. I’d ask who you, the audience, agree with, but let’s face it: most people love the PS2 with a blind admiration most would reserve for close relatives, so I’ll just assume that I’m going to lose in the court of public opinion on this argument, no matter what. Hopefully, the next Turn Based will end up being more balanced.

Yearning Japanese: 10 Japan-Only PC Ports

What, were you expecting another GOG wishlist? As much as I enjoy making lists for old PC games that deserve re-releases, I decided I wanted to do something different this August. Truthfully, I had wanted to do another PC port-related topic last year around this time, but just couldn’t come up with enough games, so I had to resort to a second wishlist for GOG. It’s not that I didn’t want to do another listicle based around older PC games that deserve modern re-releases, but it’s nice to branch out and explore other avenues to discuss PC ports – after all, that’s where my PC Gaming Field Guide concept came from. Don’t worry about the GOG wishlist though, I’ve almost got a third one completely figured out and I’m planning on incorporating it into the traditional December wishlist this year instead.

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself – it’s time for me to recap the various PC port-related announcements that have happened in the past four months. For starters, I’d like to apologize for a mistake I made in the April Fool’s list: turns out Tetrobot and Co. did have a console release… on the Wii U. Still, an easy enough mistake to make, considering how obscure that information is and given the fact that the Wii U’s digital storefront’s days are likely as numbered as that of its predecessor, well, it would still be nice to have another more prominent console release, wouldn’t you agree?

Aside from that little mistake, it’s been mostly good news on the PC gaming front, at least in terms of ports. While the Castlevania and Contra Anniversary Collections didn’t bring any of the games on my previous wishlists to the PC, they are still stellar game collections, especially after the recent updates. Back in May, we got announcements that former Nintendo exclusives Blaster Master Zero and Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes are coming to PC – with the latter also being ported to PS4. Better yet, Travis Strikes Again is considered a “Complete Edition”, including two pieces of post-launch DLC in the base package and appears to be coming out on October 17th, at least in Japan. Hopefully that means a North American release isn’t far behind.

Inti Creates also announced that the next game in the Azure Striker Gunvolt series – Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX would be coming to PC and PS4 as well as the Switch and is set to release on September 26th. Then June started off wild with the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection getting a stealth release on PC via Steam on June 7th. Not long after that, Activision confirmed that my (admittedly cowardly and obvious) prediction that Spyro: Reignited Trilogy would be coming to PC (and the Switch) was indeed correct. It’s expected to hit both platforms this September. Nicalis’ take on Puzzle Fighter, Crystal Crisis came out yesterday, along with another Inti Creates’ game: Mighty Gunvolt Burst. In fact, Blaster Master Zero’s announcement seemed to imply that Inti Creates would be bring much more of their back catalog to PC in the future.

But perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that Super Robot Wars is finally coming to PC via Steam. Super Robot Wars V and Super Robot Wars X have been announced to be coming to Steam and considering the fact that the Southeast Asian releases have full English text support, you know I’m definitely going to grab them if I can. Finally, Suda 51 recently revealed that he’s been in talks with Marvelous Entertainment to bring the first two No More Heroes games to “new platforms”. While the interview specifically mentioned the PlayStation 4 – it was handled by Dengeki PlayStation, after all – considering the fact that Travis Strikes Again also hit PC, this could lead to a modern multiplatform release. I’m just hoping that if there is a PC port, whoever handles it talks to Blitworks: their port of de Blob even implemented Wiimote support, which could make the PC releases of the first two NMH games the definitive versions.

Of course, the Epic Games Store has still been buying up exclusives. After revealing at E3 of all places that they’d secured a one-year exclusivity contract on the once-anticipated Shenmue III, they’ve also managed to snatch up former PS4 exclusive Tetris Effect onto their platform, as well as the exclusive PC rights for the upcoming remaster of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Personally, I think I’ll be sticking to the Yakuza games, Puyo Puyo Tetris and the original release of Ghostbuster respectively, thank you very much.

With all that out of the way, let’s get back to the topic at hand. While Japan did have a PC gaming scene back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, it mainly relied on proprietary platforms like NEC’s PC-8800 series, the Sharp X1 and X68000, Fujitsu’s FM Towns series and of course, the MSX architecture. Granted, most of these computers never saw the light of day in the West, so while there was a plethora of games to choose from in the Land of the Rising Sun, they were either completely unavailable elsewhere or, if you were lucky, were simply ported to other Western platforms. However, once Microsoft Windows became the premier computer operating system of choice worldwide, the market for Japanese PC gaming dried up for the most part. Worse yet, the medium became associated with pornographic games, which to be fair, were a pretty prominent offering on the platform even when PC gaming was popular in the region. Most Japanese people would get their gaming fix from arcades, home consoles, handhelds and eventually, mobile phones – leaving PC gaming as a niche product in the region, especially when compared to the West. The thing baffles me is that despite essentially abandoning the platform, several Japanese console games received PC ports that would never leave Asia, with oversight from the original publishers themselves. The weirdest thing about all of this is that many of these games actually had Western releases on console, so one would think that companies would just bite the bullet, slap in the translation and sell them in other regions where PC gaming was more popular – and by extension, where the ports would’ve likely have sold better.

With that being said, I’m going to establish a few simple ground rules. These games had to be released on Windows PC in Japan, but not North America or Europe. The ports could have been sold in other Asian markets, just so long as they never made it to the West in any official capacity, but they do have to have proper Japanese releases. I’m trying to avoid PC ports that were exclusive to other Asian territories for now, but considering how many of those exist, I may delve into that for a future article. Likewise, the ports themselves must have been made with at least some input from the game’s original developers or publishers. Whether they were developed in-house or simply licensed to other companies, these games have to have been made with the intellectual property holders’ consent and knowledge. With all that being said, let’s delve into some hidden treasures from Japan’s PC gaming dark age.

Megami Ibunroku Persona – Be Your True Mind (PlayStation) – Atlus

I’m not going to lie to you, this was actually the game that inspired me to make this list in the first place, so it’s only fitting that it ends up being the first game I cover in this list. Megami Ibunroku Persona – better known as Revelations Series: Persona in North America – was released on Windows PC in Japan on March 25th, 1999, roughly two and a half years after the original release on the PlayStation. This version was published by ASCII Corporation, a company that started life as one of the earliest Japanese branches for Microsoft and is currently a subsidiary of Kadokawa Games.

Honestly, there were a couple of reasons that this game interested me as much as it did. For starters, it was one of Atlus’s flagship titles at the time, and that company is legendary for just how stubborn they are when it comes to supporting the PC – we only recently saw the release of “Catherine Classic” on PC this year and it’s been heavily implied that their current parent corporation Sega had to do all of the heavy lifting to make that happen. I also ended up streaming the original PS1 version of Revelations: Persona a few years back and it wasn’t an unpleasant experience. I’m just not sure about the quality of this port: I can’t find any footage that’s specifically from the PC release, but odder still, no one seems to mention anything about how well the game transitioned onto the new platform. It might just seem lazy to assume that it was a lateral move all around, but with absolutely no information about how the port runs and the fact that it was developed for Windows 95 and 98, I’m afraid that’s just the assumption I’ll have to make.

Rockman DASH 2 – Episode 2: Ōinaru Isan (PlayStation) – Capcom

This was actually a surprise for me. I did hear that there was a PC port of MegaMan Legends 2 in Asia – we only got the first game on PC in the West – but I’d always heard tales that it was developed strictly with the Chinese market in mind – the Taiwanese release supposedly came out in September 2002, a year before the Japanese release. In spite of that, Capcom’s Japanese website had a sales link to this version of the game as recently as June 2011, so this is the real deal. Having said that, I’ve heard that this version has some of the same issues as the Legends PC port that did come out in the West, but I’m kind of surprised that Capcom wouldn’t just plop in the English translation they produced for the original PlayStation release and ship it out to make a little more money in regions that had more of a PC presence. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

The Typing of the Dead 2 – Sega

Now I know what you’re thinking – even my own editor chastised me for including this and called it cheating – but you know what? This is my list, so just deal with it. The Typing of the Dead 2 was a Japan-only PC release based on the third House of the Dead game, utilizing the same typing mechanics as the original Typing of the Dead did with the second HotD game. The character models were even modified so that they were carrying modified keyboards attached to shotgun barrels and wearing giant Sega Dreamcasts as backpacks, similar to the original TotD. The sad thing about this game is that it could’ve easily been released in the West with a few tweaks to the in-game dictionary, considering the game already used English voice acting in its gameplay and a proper English release in Arcades and on the original Xbox to fill in the in-game subtitles. Honestly, I’d love to see Sega bundle this with the original Typing of the Dead for modern PCs, but I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.

The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki (PlayStation Portable) – Falcom

Much like the Rockman DASH 2 port, this is another confusing case. It’s general knowledge that this release was based on Joyoland’s PC port for the Chinese market, which in turn is rumored to be based on an unfinished PC port that Falcom developed for the game internally. Still, the game is still available on DLsite and DMM, two Japanese digital distribution platforms, so I’d be willing to say that it’s official, even if XSEED claimed that there were issues with localizing the game using this version.

Lunar: Silver Star Story (PlayStation/Saturn) – Game Arts

I’ve already mentioned this more than enough times in the past, but Lunar: Silver Star Story is one of my favorite JRPGs of all-time.  So, it’s almost heartbreaking to hear that the game was actually released on PC in Japan years back, roughly 6 months after the American release and published by a company called EJ Corp. The game resembles the PS1 version, boasting better video quality for the game’s various cutscenes but replaces the soundtrack with MIDI files instead of recordings of one of the other version’s soundtracks. In fact, fan site Lunar-NET actually managed to rip the files from this version and posted it on their site. They’re no match for the soundtracks from the console releases, but MIDI music is always sort of nostalgic for me.

There was also apparently a release on PC in South Korea that came out in May 2000 and surprisingly enough, it’s an entirely new port built from scratch, published by a company called Amusement Korea. The weird part is that despite it having redubbed Korean voice acting, they just ended up using the English version’s vocal songs. Honestly, the presence of the English music kind of makes me think about what could’ve been. Imagine if Working Designs had decided to lean into the PC market back in late ‘90s and licensed the Japanese PC port for an English release in the States. At the very least, it would’ve been an interesting turn of events. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t have had to resort to buying an incomplete used copy off of Gamestop way back when.

Twisted Metal (PlayStation) – Sony Computer Entertainment/SingleTrac

Yeah, I honestly thought that this was a crock when I first heard about it. I just sort of assumed that it was a typo referring to a Japanese release of the PC port of the second Twisted Metal game. Nope. This is the real deal, a PC port of the original Twisted Metal made exclusively for Japan and published by Sony’s music division for some reason. It’s pretty cool that something like this exists, especially given how much nostalgia I have for the original TM, but there’s really nothing else to say on the subject.

Suikoden (PlayStation) – Konami

Man, it’s weird how many JRPGs from the PlayStation got ported to PC – especially if you count the ones that came Westward. I’ll be completely honest, Suikoden is probably the game on this list I’m the least familiar with, but I am aware of its cult following. The port came out in 1998, the same year as the equally Japanese-exclusive Saturn port of the game. I’m just kind of surprised that this exists.

Mr. Driller 2 (Arcade) – Namco

Oh man, I loved the original Mr. Driller. There was just something addictive about its gameplay, constantly driller further and further down, while trying to avoid getting crushed or running out of oxygen. I guess I’m just a sucker for a good puzzle game. Mr. Driller 2 looks like it’s just more of the same… which is exactly what I’d want from a sequel for a game like this. The game came out on Windows PC exclusively in Japan on March 29th, 2002 – a year after the first Japanese home release on the Game Boy Advance, but almost two years before the European GBA release …and 3 years before North America got it!

RayForce, RayStorm & RayCrisis (various) – Taito/Cyberfront

…it’s almost eerie how many of these games originated from the fifth generation of video game consoles. The shoot-‘em-up genre has always been popular in Japan, but it can be difficult to stand out. RayForce, the first game in the series (and arguably the most obscure of the trilogy) likely had that issue with its standard 2D sprite-based look. For the game’s sequel, RayStorm, Taito must have decided that shifting to 3D polygonal graphics was the best way to make a splash and it clearly worked, because RayCrisis – which served as a prequel to both games – maintained this look. The PC versions of the latter two games were originally published by CyberFront in 2001, but were later re-released by SourceNext, after their closure. RayForce, on the other hand, had three different printings: first by GameBank in 1997, then by Cyberfront in 1999 and finally by MediaKite in 2003.

Guilty Gear X (various) – Arc System Works

Arc System Works has had an odd history when it comes to the PC. Honestly, it just seems like their recent embrace of Windows is acting as a surrogate for the Xbox, so that ASW is still technically supporting a Microsoft platform regularly. Before they began warming up to the platform, their support for PC would ebb and flow. Maybe the fact that their first PC port was a Japan exclusive is what made them so guarded for so long. Guilty Gear X was essentially the Street Fighter II of the series: the second game that easily eclipsed the original. Meanwhile, “Guilty Gear 2: Overture” came out later and was essentially a spinoff in a completely different genre. The port was released on November 30th, 2001 – literally the day after the PS2 version released in Japan – and was handled by (who else?) CyberFront. Granted, I probably shouldn’t be complaining: CyberFront delivered a port up to their usual standard, so it’s a shame that this version didn’t make it Westward and we already missed out on the Dreamcast version.

Thus concludes a list of ten – well, technically twelve – PC ports that came out in Japan, but not the West. I’m going to level with you: this is probably the most fun I had writing one of these lists in a long time. It’s not that I don’t enjoy portbegging, but the research I did for this article felt a bit more rewarding than previous lists. Maybe it’s because with the traditional wishlist format, finding games is only the beginning, whether or not the game actually gets released on PC is the reward. This time, discovering lost ports was the reward itself and that information was significantly more satisfying than simply making sure I could string together another ten games that I want on my platform of choice to varying degrees.

Having said all that, I’m still doing those two wishlists come December. After all, there are still games that are going unreleased on PC and others that were released on the platform and don’t deserve to be abandoned and forgotten. And that thought alone is more than enough to keep me going at my current rate.

 

Remaking History Three-Peats Itself

I’ve got to be completely honest: I really didn’t expect to do another one of these articles this soon. But after a single game and this catchy title popped into my head, I was determined to come up with another roster of five games to make this article a reality. What’s really surprising is just how quickly I was able to, but inspiration strikes at weird times. The main reason I never felt bad that this series didn’t take off is because for the most part, I can’t really think of many games that deserved to be remade, whether due to their obscurity or how they failed to live up to their potential the first time around. As such, every single Remaking History article could be the very last – so it’s best to enjoy them while I’ve still got ideas.

Of course, this entire series came to fruition simply due to my annoyance with remakes. Much like with film and television, the vast majority of video game remakes are based on games that don’t really them. Typically, they’re handed off to teams that can’t figure out how to improve them or somehow end up producing a product that is somehow worse than the source material. It is a crying shame that for every MegaMan Powered Up or Ys: The Oath in Felghana we see, there is an ocean of pointless remakes out there. As such, Remaking History’s entire purpose is highlighting games that I think deserve to be remade, either because they weren’t so good the first time around or just didn’t age well and could benefit from a modern overhaul.

Last year’s format worked significantly better than that of the first article, so I’ve decided to repeat it for the sake of ease. After listing each game, I’ll be asking three necessary questions that explain each of my decisions. First, what is the game I think needs to be remade? Second, why does it need to be remade and why should the companies that own these games bother with a remake in the first place? And finally, how do I suggest the game be remade? That is, which elements should be changed and which should remain the same from the original version? With that being covered, let’s move on to my first candidate:

Devil May Cry 1 & 2

The pair of games that inspired me to take another crack at this series in the first place.

What?

The original Devil May Cry is the codifier and progenitor of the sub-genre many refer to as “character action games”, inspiring a plethora of titles including God of War, the Ninja Gaiden reboot and Kamiya’s later work, Bayonetta. The brainchild of one Hideki Kamiya, the game’s concept was originally pitched as the fourth Resident Evil game, before it was decided that it was too much of a departure from the series’ status quo… so they just ended up making it into its own franchise instead.

Devil May Cry 2 was the sequel to that game… and that’s really the only nice thing I can say about it. DMC2’s development was so disastrous, that the original director’s identity was never revealed and Hideaki Itsuno was brought in during the final four months of production to salvage the project. Considering the fact that he went on to take a leadership role on all future mainline titles in the series to this day, one can only imagine just how bad the game would’ve ended up without his involvement.

Why?

The original Devil May Cry was an impressive game in its day, but as I often say, it has aged like a gallon of milk hidden under a radiator for a decade. The HD Collection managed to fix the game’s control scheme to bring it in line with future games in the series (and the genre in general), but these were not the only issues the game had. There are also several plotholes in the first game’s story that don’t really add up with the majority of lore as we understand it today, so a remake could easily remedy these problems and expand on the events of the game. Besides, it’s been nearly 18 years since the original game came out: the first Resident Evil got a proper remake six years after its original release!

Devil May Cry 2, on the other hand, was never considered good. Yet, despite the fact that it has very little bearing on the franchise’s lore or development – both the detested reboot from Ninja Theory and the eye-roll inducing anime had more of an impact on DMC5 than the second game did – Capcom refuses to just strike the game from its canon. In fact, it got so bad that they ended up reshuffling the timeline of events before DMC5 was released. Capcom will often put unpopular games in a series at the end of their respective franchise’s timeline and DMC2 was no different. But when the fifth game rolled around, the order was shuffled around and DMC4 became the latest game in the timeline – a feat which took very little effort, given how much the third and fourth game just outright ignored DMC2. In fact, the only reference made to the second game in the lead up to DMC5 was in a Japan-only light novel prequel to the game. If Capcom doesn’t have the guts to outright de-canonize the game, they might as well rework it into something worth remembering.

How?

Well, Capcom did recently knock it out of the park with Devil May Cry 5, so recycling the engine from that game seems like a no-brainer. And while the first two Devil May Cry games technically have more missions than DMC5 did, they’re also significantly shorter. So it would probably be easy enough to just consolidate DMC1’s 23 missions and DMC2’s staggering 31 – though that includes both Dante and Lucia’s campaigns – into a game roughly as long as DMC5. Better yet, it would allow the game’s events to be rewritten to bring them more in line with the rest of the series, particularly given DMC3’s status as a prequel to both games. Considering that the first 3 games are already available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – and DMC1 was recently released on Switch – there’s no worry that the original versions of both games would be forgotten, so there’s really nothing to lose. Best of all, a remake of the first two games (or even just the one of them) would provide hardcore DMC fans with something to keep them busy until DMC6 comes out.

Primal Rage

The best part is, this isn’t even the most obscure game on this list.

What?

Back in the early to mid ‘90s, as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat struggled for dominance over who would be the true king of fighters in North America – both within the rapidly decaying arcade market and on home consoles – there were a slew of imitators trying to get a piece of that sweet financial action. Ranging from good games that did their own part to help push the fighting game genre forward (SNK’s offerings, Killer Instinct and of course, 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter and Tekken) to piss-poor knockoffs that only served to bloat the market and accelerate its decline (far too many to list), there were always so many choices that we never had to refer to games in this style as “Street Fighter clones” – an achievement few other genres can boast.

On the lower end of the quality spectrum (but not nearly at the bottom) lied Atari’s best attempt at breaking into the genre: Primal Rage. Set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world that greatly resembled prehistory, players took on the role of various deities – that greatly resembled giant apes, dinosaurs and even a snake with legs – as they fought for dominance in this new, broken world.  While the game included gory fatalities meant to ape those found in Mortal Kombat and a mechanic involving eating humans to restore one’s health, the game didn’t take itself seriously with Chaos’ moveset relying mostly on toilet humor and one of Vertigo’s secret fatalities involving turning her opponent into a cow. A second game was planned but didn’t see release until several years later in an incomplete state. Its story was, however, used as the basis of a novel called Primal Rage: The Avatars.

Another aspect that I find interesting is the history of the franchise’s ownership. The game was originally released by Atari Games, but when the company went under, it was sold to Williams’ who rechristened the company as “Midway West”. Then once Midway went out of business, the majority of their IPs were purchased by Warner Bros., who as far as I know, currently own the IP.

Why?

It’s basically Mortal Kombat with Kaiju.

…what, you want more of an explanation? Honestly, the concept alone warrants a second look, but the original Primal Rage came out at the worst possible time. By 1994, 3D fighters were beginning to emerge and the stop-motion look pioneered by Mortal Kombat was quickly becoming passé. To make matters worse, the home console releases managed to bridge across both fourth and fifth-generation consoles. This left us with a game that 16-bit consoles (and to a greater degree, contemporary handhelds) were woefully unprepared to bring home the arcade experience in any meaningful capacity. However, the 32-bit platforms didn’t fare much better, due to how new and unfamiliar their emerging technology was to developers. Couple that with the fact that the sequel only ended up getting cancelled due to the decline of arcades in North America and it’s clear that Primal Rage wasn’t long for this world.

Worse yet, the concept itself was underserved by the 2D gameplay. After all, SNK’s King of the Monsters franchise handled a similar theme of giant monsters duking it out, but they used contemporary pro-wrestling video games as a basis for their concept.

How?

Well, for starters, a full-on reboot of the original concepts from both games might be a good way to handle the storyline of a new entry in the series. Ideally, it would be a mixture of Mortal Kombat 2011’s take on previous games with Killer Instinct 2013’s reimagination of existing elements from the first two games.

As for gameplay, I saw they should ditch the 2D fighting style and go for arena-style combat akin to my favorite kaiju-themed fighting game of all-time – Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. While the environments present in the old Primal Rage games wouldn’t be quite as interesting as a variety of cities, it would probably lend itself really well to the follower-eating mechanic and allow the Gods of Urth to showcase their size and strength in inventive ways. Considering the fact that Warner Bros. are likely the owners of the franchise in this day and age, maybe they could even negotiate the King of the Monsters himself to make a guest appearance. Failing that, I’d settle for the cast of Rampage showing up.

Popful Mail

Of course I’m going to put a Falcom game on here.

What?

It’s kind of hard to describe just what Popful Mail is. Technically, it was the only game in its series – but it has four iterations with different stage layouts, gameplay mechanics and even tweaks to the story. The original version that was developed internally by Falcom was released on NEC’s PC-88 and PC-98 line of home computers and essentially played like a hodgepodge between Falcom’s Dragon Slayer and early “bump-combat” Ys games. The only version that came to the West was the Sega CD version, which was developed by Sims and was the most radical departure from the original game. It is also considered by many to be the best version of the game. Originally, there were plans to modify this version into “Sister Sonic” for the West, a spinoff based on Sega’s popular Sonic the Hedgehog series, but fan backlash led to Working Designs picking up the game instead and giving it a proper (at least for the time) localization. There was also a version of the game on Super Famicom also developed by Falcom which more closely resembles the Sega CD version and the PC Engine CD released developed by Hunex was the final console port and the one that most resembled the original release.

Players take on the role of Mail, an elven bounty hunter that is terrible at her job, who is hunting down the rogue wizard Material Muttonhead. Along the way, she meets up with Tatto, a meek mage who was once Muttonhead’s pupil, and Gaw, a cute dragon creature. Once the other two characters join the party, players can switch between them from the pause menu and while they each have their own health meter, if any one of them runs out of health, it’s game over.

It’s really hard to gauge Popful Mail’s status within Falcom’s library. While there was technically only one game, Falcom did produce several pieces of merchandise related to the game and even shopped it around to anime production companies in the hopes that one of them would produce an OVA based on the game. While it’s become more obscure with age, there are still fans out there. After all, I even finally managed to sit down and play the game just last year.

Why?

Falcom hasn’t been as healthy as it is now in years, to the extent where they’re even expanded their staff to a size that would allow them to work on more than one project simultaneously. On top of that, with the conclusion of the Erobonia arc in their Trails series, the next mainline game in the popular series won’t be coming out for some time. While Falcom is currently working on Ys IX: Monstrum Nox and they have been considering turning the one-off Tokyo Xanadu into a proper series, there are several other old intellectual properties they could revisit as well.

While Popful Mail isn’t exactly the most popular game in Falcom’s library, a revival would fall in line with Falcom’s recent pivot towards prioritizing Western audiences more than they did in the past. After all, the Sega CD version of Popful Mail was one of a handful of Falcom games that actually released in the West back in the 90s. And despite only starring in a single game, Mail was considered among the most recognizable Falcom protagonists back in the ‘90s, receiving several drama CDs based on the universe and heaps of remixes in Falcom’s then-yearly Special Box series of music CDs.

While my itch could easily be scratched with a proper re-release, the problem is that the version I played wasn’t even developed internally by Falcom. And while that’s the only version with an existing English translation, it was handled by Working Designs – so the status of the localization’s ownership is in question (and the English dub itself could be an entirely different matter). Falcom would likely be able to work with the original PC-88/98 or Super Famicom versions, but commissioning translations for those versions and porting them to modern hardware could be a risk few localization companies would be willing to take.

How?

Honestly, I don’t see much of a need to reinvent the wheel on this one. Keep the game a side-scroller – that alone would differentiate it greatly from the vast majority of Falcom’s modern output – and perhaps, lean more into the Metroidvanian aspects of the action-RPG. Perhaps streamline the mechanics to make it more palatable to modern audiences, but no drastic changes. Ideally, this would probably be a budget project, so maintaining the shorter length of the original releases shouldn’t be an issue with this new version. Who knows? Maybe a new version of Popful Mail could prove so successful, we could get a brand-new adventure afterwards and Falcom could finally achieve the prominence they wanted for the series back when it first released.

Deep Fear

Okay, I’ll be honest. I got the idea to do this one from an episode of Region Locked.

What?

One of the last games Sega released on the Saturn – and the final game released for the system in Europe – Deep Fear is an odd duck. Clearly reeling from the fact that Capcom’s Resident Evil series dropped the Saturn after the first game, Sega decided to develop their own foray into the burgeoning survival horror genre with Deep Fear. The game was developed with a Western audience in mind and there were even plans to release the game in North America, but this version was likely cancelled due to the impending release of the Dreamcast and the unlikelihood that an American release would recoup the costs associated with it.

Deep Fear and Resident Evil play similarly enough with an emphasis on resource management and fixed camera angles, but their settings couldn’t be any more different. While Resident Evil serves up zombies in derelict mansions and chaotic cities, Deep Fear takes place in an undersea research facility and the monsters are mutated humans and animals that fell victim to an alien parasite. And while the game has plenty of weapons and ammunition, it’s oxygen that’s in scant supply – the mutants detest it. The player is forced to use rebreathers, activate generators and even use oxygen grenades to attack the mutants. And despite the copious amount of weaponry, the player must use it wisely: gunfire reduces the amount of oxygen available in the current area.

But as far as I’m concerned, the controls are the most impressive aspect of the game, especially when compared to Resident Evil 2, which came out the same year. Not only can players move and fire at the same time, but using the Saturn 3D Controller allows the main character to move freely with the analog stick – no more tank controls! Not even Resident Evil 3: Nemesis or Code: Veronica managed to make it past that limitation.

Why?

Truth be told, I’m a sucker for obscure Sega games in general. But the concept behind this game seems incredibly interesting. Honestly, if Sega didn’t have issues when it came to emulating Saturn games, I’d just want a straight up port or remaster of the original game. Unfortunately, considering how they had to effectively remake games like Dynamite Deka, Panzer Dragoon and Virtual On back when they were re-released on the PlayStation 2 in the Japan-exclusive Sega Ages 2500 budget line of games, I doubt that Sega would put the resources in to create a proper emulator strictly for an obscure game few people remember.

How?

Just like Popful Mail, I don’t think there’s much of a need for reinvention here. Giving Deep Fear a fresh coat of paint similar to the 2002 remake of Resident Evil seems like the best solution for a re-release. Replace the laughably bad voice acting with something competent – be it in Japanese or English – expand on the game’s setting and Deep Fear could be a moderate success, given the lack of proper survival horror experiences from mainstream publishers these days.

Star Wars: Dark Forces

To be honest, these lists wouldn’t feel complete without at least one trip down memory lane.

What?

The earliest first-person shooter set in the Star Wars universe, at least as far as I can tell. Players take on the role of Kyle Katarn, who joined the Empire after hearing that the Rebel Alliance had murdered his family, only to discover the truth and become a mercenary allied with the Rebels. One year later, he acts as a spy within the Empire, to investigate new developments. In the process, he discovers the “Dark Trooper Project”, leading to the development of advanced battle droids and super soldier Stormtroopers with power armor.

The game originally launched on DOS, Macintosh computers and, to a far lesser extent, the original PlayStation. Nowadays, it’s available on Windows, Mac and Linux through digital storefronts like Steam, GOG and Origin. For the time, the game was considered revolutionary: it ran on the Jedi game engine, which was built specifically by LucasArts for this game. It allowed various gameplay features that weren’t common in FPSes back in 1995, including stage layouts with multiple floors and the ability to look up and down, as well as adding various non-combat items to players to help them navigate various areas. For example, an air mask that protects Kyle from toxic atmospheres, cleats to gain traction in icy areas and a head lamp which both allows Kyle to see in dark areas, but also alerts enemies to his location.

Why?

Honestly, I always felt that Dark Forces never got its due, back in the day. The series didn’t really take off until its direct sequel, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, where it’s revealed that Kyle is actually force-sensitive and begins learning either the way of the Jedi or the Sith, depending on the player’s preferences. It’s to the point where the entire series is generally referred to as the “Jedi Knight” franchise. Even I fell victim to the hype here – but could you blame me? Jedi Knight let you wield force powers and pick out which color lightsaber you had. That was a pretty awesome sales pitch for a child at age 9.

And while Limited Run Games appears to be planning a huge slate of Collector’s Editions of classic LucasArts Star Wars games – including the aforementioned Dark Forces – it’s not like the game wouldn’t benefit from a fresh coat of paint. The game’s mechanics and features may have been revolutionary back when its main competition would’ve been Master Levels for Doom II, but it just doesn’t hold up when compared to today’s standards.

How?

I guess a proper remake with modern design sensibilities taken into account would be ideal, but I couldn’t tell you which developer could do the concept justice. There’s also the issue that later games in the series were significantly popular, but if it were pitched in the right way – play up the fact that the game takes place during the original trilogy timeline and involved the Empire at its pinnacle – there might be interest for the game. Ideally, we’d be looking at something akin to 2016’s Doom reboot, but frankly, I’d be willing to settle for something akin to the 2013 version of Rise of the Triad: keep most of the design decisions from the original game, but recontextualize it with fluid controls and other changes to emphasize intentional difficulty as opposed to just maintaining problems that would’ve made the game a chore to slog through back in 1995.

And that makes five more remakes I’d like to see. While last year’s article wasn’t quite as successful as the original Remaking History – in the sense that none of the remakes I suggested were actually made – that’s no longer the point of these articles. At this point, I would say that they’ve become more of a mental exercise than a legitimate wishlist: looking back at classic games that haven’t aged well and determining the best route to bring them to modern audiences just feels cathartic in an age where remakes feel like they’re becoming more and more common, but still tend to focus on beloved games that don’t really need them.

Full Steam Ahead: A PC Gamer’s Field Guide to Digital Storefronts

Around this time last year, I wrote an article detailing the various levels of quality one could expect to find when delving into the world of console-to-PC ports. It just felt like a nice little way to give back, considering just how many wishlists I’ve written on the subject in years past. Though I guess it could be argued that even that was self-serving in most respects – after all, I was detailing just the kinds of ports I wanted to see from everyone moving forward. Regardless, it doubled as a nice way to help ease newbies that didn’t want to outright abandon console-style gaming into the PC gaming medium. I guess in that respect, you could consider this article to be a sequel to last year’s field guide and while the topic may be different, it revolves around a topic that is quickly becoming more and more important in the sphere of PC gaming: how to navigate through the ever-increasing number of digital storefronts for the platform.

Of course, console owners wouldn’t need any kind of field guide like this. Their options for shopping are limited: physical copies are identical, regardless of whether they come from Amazon, Target, Best Buy or the local mom-and-pop, and all digital distribution is handled on the console manufacturer’s proprietary online storefront. Yes, whether it’s purchased directly from the storefront or a pre-paid code from another store, all transactions happen in one of three walled gardens – the PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store (no one said these names were original), or the Nintendo eShop – depending on the platform. However, the PC is an open platform and with that comes a certain amount of freedom. While physical copies of PC games are still technically sold at various brick-and-mortar stores even to this day, PC gaming is effectively an exclusively digital medium. With these two factors in mind, it’s no wonder that several storefronts have emerged, each with their own unique perks and pitfalls.

Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, this wide array of choices can be overwhelming. While even console gamers seem to be at least somewhat aware of a few services – mainly Valve’s Steam – others are significantly more obscure, the exclusive purview of more hardcore PC gamers. It only gets worse when you realize that each digital store has its own separate library to navigate and no service is created equally, with some offering far more… Spartan functionality compared to others. These PC gaming neophytes are exactly who I’m targeting with the following field guide. While opting to use a single service may seem like the easiest way to enjoy PC gaming, there are many cases where certain games can only be experienced on a specific platform. As such, being aware of at least some of these competing services can offer a much more expansive experience while gaming on PC, and isn’t that the point of using the platform in the first place?

Of course, claiming that I had strictly altruistic intentions with writing this field guide would be a complete and utter lie. Much like my April Fool’s tradition of writing up lists of PC-exclusive games that should get console ports, this entire concept has a sinister origin. Originally, I came up with this idea as a way to trash the Johnny-come-lately that is the Epic Games Store. When I first had this idea, I originally just intended to tear into the fledgling platform by pointing out just how thread-bare and featureless the platform is and how its attempts at starting a “digital storefront war” on PC akin to the console wars of the past has only led to strictly negative consequences for consumers in general. But then something changed. Not EGS, of course – that’s still a worthless failure. What changed was my mindset. While the entire premise of this article was originally meant to be a thinly-veiled cover story for spending five or ten pages dunking on the Fortnite launcher turned… well, barely anything more than that, I inevitably thought that maybe showcasing that there was more to the PC gaming landscape than the Steam and EGS who currently dominate headlines. So I’ll be denying myself some well-deserved catharsis and attempt to be as neutral as I possibly can. Fortunately, I have a back-up plan in case I end up slipping up: my editor hates PC gaming in general, so chances are he’ll put a negative slant on everything anyway.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to be mainly sticking to storefronts with their own “launcher” programs – with one small exception that I’ll explain once I reach it. That’s not to say that long-running sites like G2A or GamersGate, key resellers like Fanatical or IndieGala and even more traditional storefronts like Amazon, Newegg or even GameStop’s PC game sales are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It’s just that as with modern physical PC game sales, they tend to either be repackaged releases on one of the major players described below or in some cases, older games with depreciated DRM schemes or no DRM at all. My main criterion here is whether any game publishers have referred to the storefronts in question as their own specific platforms at any point – though honestly, I’ll be leaving the Bethesda launcher out of this, simply because they announced that all of their titles that were planned exclusives for the platform will be heading to Steam in the near future, if they aren’t already there. Of course, couple that with the almost legendary instability of Bethesda’s launcher and I feel like Bethesda would appreciate it if I didn’t draw attention to the platform anyway.

I’ll try my best to describe the ins and outs of each storefront covered in this list. After giving a brief overview of each platform, I’ll list off their parent companies, a brief history of each platform and their specialties in the overall PC gaming market. Also, just because I fell in love with the idea while I was brainstorming for this article, I’ll be metaphorically comparing each storefront to an institution that is certainly all too enduring and definitely not in a slow but steady decline into irrelevancy: the humble movie theater. Of course, this is an opinion piece, so I’ll also be listing what I perceive as each storefront’s strengths and weaknesses, whether or not I have an account on said storefront and whether or not I’ve spent money on there. Believe me, there’s a lot of PC gaming that can be had for free if you’re not picky (and that’s just counting the legal stuff!) With all that being said, let’s start with what is certainly the platform to beat in the oncoming PC gaming marketplace war… Continue reading

Retro or Reboot? – Golden Axe

Last year, when I tried to revitalize a bunch of old series I left by the wayside, there was one concept that I struggled to revitalize. Considering the fact that I haven’t done an article in this series in exactly two years – and that one came after a similar two-year hiatus – it’s safe to say that this has been a long time coming. Of course, two things kept me from moving forward with it. For starters, many of the old concepts I revisited had either had much longer hiatuses or just never became actual series, essentially dying after a single article. Far more damning, however, was my inability to decide on a topic. Obviously, both problems have since evaporated and due to a lack of any other ideas, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to revive another series. Welcome back, “Retro or Reboot?” – you’ve been missed.

As I said, I haven’t done one of these articles since 2017, so it feels reasonable to do a brief refresher on just what Retro or Reboot entails. Basically, I take a video game series that has lied dormant for a fair amount of time – let’s drop the formalities on generations and just put it in the ballpark of “at least a decade” – and come up with two pitches to revitalize the series for modern audiences. The first (better known as the “Retro” pitch) will be substantially more faithful to earlier incarnations, combining the best elements of previous games and streamlining some of the more outdated concepts for modern audiences. The “Reboot” pitch, on the other hand, takes the original concept and universe of the old games, but recontextualizes them into a more modern video game genre. Of course, sometimes I just pick out a single modern game that would be a perfect base for a complete reinvention of the IP in question. It depends on the game, really.

Today’s topic – if you haven’t guessed – is Sega’s classic medieval fantasy beat-‘em-up, Golden Axe. Debuting in arcades in 1989 and made substantially more popular through its near-perfect conversion to the Genesis, the Golden Axe series technically enjoyed three follow-ups in the same vein as the original, as well as a few spinoffs that tackled other genres. Of course, no other game in the series could come close to the renown of the original, which is still considered a bona fide classic even by today’s standards, receiving several ports and appearing in several compilations of old Sega titles. In fact, I would be shocked if it didn’t manage to find its way onto Sega’s upcoming Genesis Mini retro console. All the same, even if the names Ax Battler, Tyris Flame and Gilius Thunderhead have been lost to most of us, the iconic looks of “the barbarian”, “the amazon” and “the dwarf” are unforgettable to scores of gamers who cut their teeth in Sega’s halcyon days.

Retro

Before we begin, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Now might not be the best time to pitch a fourth Golden Axe game. After all, Sega has recently given DotEmu and Lizardcube – the companies behind the recent remake/enhanced port of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – the greenlight to create a fourth entry in the Streets of Rage series, Sega’s other prominent contribution to the beat-‘em-up genre. Still, both games were substantially different from one another, in terms of theming and gameplay. One must remember that Golden Axe originated in the arcades, while the entire Streets of Rage trilogy was built from the ground up for consoles, leading to completely different experiences. Besides, if Sega can license out a third Shenmue while still working on Yakuza games internally, there’s probably room for both IPs to coexist simultaneously.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the four major releases in the series. I think everyone’s familiar with the original arcade game – likely through the Genesis version or some other console port – so I’ll just skip over that. After that, the franchise itself took a forked path, though as I said before, no other game in the franchise managed the success and recognition of the original. Golden Axe II for the Genesis barely managed to drop first – barely squeaking out in December 1991 in Japan, with Western releases in 1992 – but the game itself was nothing special: it was essentially a level pack sequel to the first game, with the original cast of playable characters returning (with slightly tweaked graphics) for a brand-new adventure.

Meanwhile, Sega prepared for another sequel to Golden Axe for release in 1992, one developed on their System 32 arcade hardware, the same tech that gave life to Sega’s Spider-Man arcade game and other obscure sequels in popular Sega franchises like Outrunners and SegaSonic the Hedgehog, among others. Titled Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, it’s arguably the pinnacle of the entire series. Featuring a brand-new cast of characters: Stern, a barbarian who is essentially Ax Battler; Dora, a female centaur wielding a pugil stick; the pitchfork-wielding imp known as Little Trix and Goah, a giant who carries Gilius in a pouch and wields his axe. Best of all, four characters means four-player cooperative action. It’s a shame that the game never received any home ports, but it’s definitely a fun game and worth trying if you ever have the chance.

One year later, Sega released one final beat-‘em-up in the Golden Axe series. Simply titled Golden Axe III, it’s easily the most obscure of the console trilogy. The game only received physical releases in Japan and Europe for the Mega Drive. In North America, it was exclusive to the Sega Channel service, though it would appear years later in various compilations and was also released on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Like Revenge of Death Adder, III contains a cast of four brand-new characters, with Gilius Thunderhead acting as a non-playable mentor to the new characters. Kain Grinder and Sahra Burn are essentially homages to Ax Battler and Tyris Flame, respectively. Proud Cragger is a descendant of giants who fights with his bare hands and Chronos “Evil” Lait is a humanoid panther created by the black magic of the new game’s main antagonist, who slashes with his claws. The game also adds several new features, including teamwork attacks and various mobility options like double-jumps and wall jumps, and junction points that allow players to choose their path, allowing for alternate stages. Golden Axe III was certainly the most ambitious of the Genesis games, but contemporary critics felt that the game didn’t offer enough to differentiate it from the previous games and praised Sega’s decision to make it a Sega Channel exclusive in America.

Now ideally, any new retro-themed Golden Axe would pay heavy homage to Revenge of Death Adder for two major reasons. For starters, it never received any home ports and emulating System 32 arcade games is still something of a mixed bag to this day, so the only way to properly experience it would be through the original arcade cabinet – thank you, Galloping Ghost! More importantly, it’s easily the best game in the series. Having said that, it would be smart to implement some of the mechanics found in the third game as well, specifically the ability to perform double-team attacks. While this mechanic isn’t particularly special by modern standards, it would be extremely interesting within the context of a new Golden Axe. One aspect that both the third Genesis game and Revenge of Death Adder share that I would love to see in a new entry would be branching paths, a rarity in the beat-‘em-up genre.

Likewise, multiplayer is a must – but a new Golden Axe game should put equal emphasis on delivering on both offline and online co-operative play. In fact, the main reason I bring up Revenge of Death Adder is that I’d love to see any future Golden Axe beat-‘em-up-style games incorporate four-player multiplayer. On that note, I also wouldn’t be opposed to the “Duel Mode” found in the Genesis games. These essentially allowed players to duke it out in a one-on-one fight against either another player or a gauntlet of computer-controlled opponents, using the standard Golden Axe engine. In fact, imagine the possibilities of a Duel Mode with four players: there could even be team battles or co-operative runs for the single-player gauntlet.

As usual, I’m not exactly picky when it comes to the game’s aesthetic. Granted, in ideal circumstances, we’d see traditional sprites on par with the Sega Saturn or even the System 32 itself – but the majority of the gaming public have long since grown beyond those retro aesthetics and my gut tells me that Sega would view the revival of a franchise like Golden Axe as a potential moonshot. With that in mind, chances are they would either go for the hand-drawn look (like the aforementioned Streets of Rage 4) or the all-too-common “2.5D” style – which didn’t exactly pan out well in the Sega Ages release of Golden Axe back on the PS2. Granted, judging the latter art style based on a game that came out nearly 15 years ago isn’t exactly fair, but neither is life. If you don’t think people will dig that sucker up if Sega announces a 2.5D Golden Axe, I don’t know what to tell you.

Finally, we come to what could arguably be simultaneously considered the most and least important decision regarding a brand-new Golden Axe: the branding. Specifically, what would we call this new Golden Axe game? I’d honestly go out of my way to avoid the “same name” title scheme – simply calling this new game “Golden Axe” could lead to some series trouble, given Sega’s history. Likewise, it wouldn’t technically be “Golden Axe IV” – in fact, Golden Axe III was technically the fourth game in the series. Regardless, given the relative obscurity of the two numbered sequels (and that’s far better than the poor reputation they have among enthusiasts), it would probably be for the best if Sega just used a subtitle. That way, they’ll sidestep the strange way previous games were numbered and as a bonus, avoid drawing attention to just how old the series is.

Reboot

The first major concern with developing a modernized Golden Axe revival is that the traditional genre for the series – the humble beat-‘em-up – would need to be abandoned. Aside from retro revivals (like Arc System Works’ recent dives into Technos Japan’s classic IP library and the upcoming Streets of Rage 4) and low-budget titles that clearly lean on nostalgia (like the Scott Pilgrim game, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds and Fight‘N Rage), the beat-‘em-up genre is essentially no more. While a clear successor has taken up the reins and shows that the spirit of the genre still lives on, the original playstyle itself is simply no longer relevant in the grand scheme of the gaming medium.

Fortunately, Golden Axe has had a few spinoffs in the past that explored different genres. For starters, there was Golden Axe Warrior, which was essentially the Sega Master System’s answer to The Legend of Zelda. After that came Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe on the Game Gear. While there was no indication that this game was linked to the previous game, its gameplay greatly resembled Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, right down to incorporating side-scrolling segments as random encounters on the overworld. There was also Golden Axe: The Duel, a one-on-one fighting game that details the conflict between a new generation of warriors over the titular weapon. The game was originally released in arcades, but also received a home port on the Sega Saturn. And while none of these games were particularly well-received when compared to the mainline games, they do illustrate the IP’s flexibility when it comes to gameplay.

Of course, there is one major hurdle that Sega would have to contend with if they decide to reinvigorate the Golden Axe brand with one of their premier marquee titles: they already tried doing that before… and things didn’t turn out well. Yep, it’s time to discuss the elephant in the room, 2008’s Golden Axe: Beast Rider, an edgy reboot brought to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by Sega Studios San Francisco (formerly known as Secret Level before they were purchased by Sega outright) and was one of the games that ended up sealing their fate as a studio. I’m not going to lie to you: I’ve never actually played Beast Rider – and likely never will, unless I can get it for a laughably low price – but the game’s reputation speaks for itself. While scouring the internet for some gameplay footage, it just appears to be an extremely mediocre hack-and-slash action game that probably would’ve been looked upon kindlier (and probably reviewed slightly better) if it weren’t associated with the Golden Axe name. Fortunately, it’s been over a decade since that game released, giving fans of the series more than enough time to forget Beast Rider, and Sega has really improved the quality on a lot of their output in recent years – so long as Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t the title character – so there could be a good chance that revisiting Golden Axe now could give the series a much needed jump-start back to prominence.

With the series’ past covered, it’s time to discuss the best possible genre for a revival. While the beat-‘em-ups of old have clearly evolved into the modern “character action game” sub-genre, the Golden Axe of yore was cut from a different cloth than the clear ancestors of games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War and the like. The gameplay in the original game was a bit slower and more deliberate than many of its contemporaries, almost emulating the heft of using a melee weapon compared to more agile hand-to-hand combat. In other words, if Sega just decided to hire Platinum Games to plug Golden Axe characters into the Bayonetta engine, the resulting game would feel just as wrong as Beast Rider did. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the first two Bayonetta games, but if Sega decides to reboot Golden Axe again, I want to be left with a game that feels like a proper successor to what came before.

Having said that, I still think that a modern action game would probably be the best way to approach a modern take on Golden Axe – it just wouldn’t be nearly as stylish as Bayonetta and the like. Instead, I’d pitch something with a more grounded combat system, something almost akin to Bloodborne or Sekiro but with less of an emphasis on memorization. Ideally, this new Golden Axe would end up resembling a modern take on Onimusha: slower combat that would force players to read their enemies’ movements and react accordingly instead of just performing smoking sexy styled combos on hundreds of disposable mooks. Back in the original Golden Axe, while individual enemies weren’t necessarily threatening on their own, they could become incredibly imposing in numbers due to the slower combat. Any new take on the series should be able to recreate the tense feeling I had when I was surrounded by three Skeletons while playing the game solo. That’s my most distinct memory of Golden Axe: how later stages would leave me feeling as each step I took could lead me into an onslaught I wouldn’t be able to overcome.

Of course, there are some other unique elements from the earlier games that might be a bit more difficult to incorporate into the action genre. One that specifically comes to mind would be the rideable mounts. While most people are familiar with the dragons and “Chicken Leg” from the first game, the later games added their own monsters to the fray. While the concept may be a little difficult to incorporate into a modern action game, it’s undeniable that they were a core element of the classic games. Perhaps the best way to approach them would be to just not fix what isn’t broken: essentially leave the mechanic itself in the game unaltered from the old days, certain enemies can be found riding them, they can be knocked off and the player can take the powerful monster for their own (and vice versa). Handling it like that would add a risk/reward mechanic to the game, making it more in line with Souls-style games – albeit on a smaller scale.

Meanwhile, Golden Axe’s signature magic mechanic – casting spells at varying strengths based on how many magic pots (or books, in some games) the player has collected at any given moment – would be easy enough to implement into a modern action game. The real question is whether or not it would need to be tweaked: as I recall, the original game forced players to use all of their available magic at one time, but a more modern take would ideally allow players to use only as much magic as they need, effectively using a small attack when overwhelmed by a group of standard enemies, while saving what they can for the far more threatening boss fights. That would allow for better strategy, but it almost seems blasphemous given how the magic attacks in the old games were balanced. Likewise, I’d tweak the thieves who drop the magic pots in the first place. While they would generally only rob the characters of their remaining magic between stages (in what I can only describe as a bonus stage) in the earlier games, a more modern take should have them become substantially more aggressive in standard play instead, adding another risk/reward mechanic by forcing players to choose to chase them down to stockpile magic – or regain any pots that might have been stolen from them – or play more carefully, as the thieves could hypothetically appear at any time, even during a boss fight.

Multiplayer is also a concern: it almost feels blasphemous to pitch a Golden Axe game without even considering cooperative play. The problem is that modern action games generally work best as a single-player affair: even the maligned Beast Rider managed to get that much right. Frame rate is generally a concern when it comes to the genre and while there have been many examples of multiplayer within the genre, a significant portion of them have been relegated to separate bonus modes, effectively acting as minigames rather than a variation on the standard campaign. With that in mind, I’d have to insist on all-or-nothing when it comes to multiplayer. We should either be allowed to play through the entire single-player mode with friends – ideally with both online and offline options – with the game’s difficulty receiving a proper rebalance to account for the additional player, or the game should just be a purely solo affair.

Enough about gameplay, what about the game’s aesthetic? Personally, I’d like to see a graphical style that evoked the classic box arts from the American home releases of the Genesis cover art, essentially aping the style of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, the two artists responsible for much of the artwork I’m referencing. One of Beast Rider’s cardinal sins was just how drab and generic everything looked in-game. Attempting a modernized take on the classic look is a mistake. If anything, Sega should lean into the cheese. As for the music and sound design, I’m afraid that the only thing that would match with this art style would be a suitably epic soundtrack with a full orchestral flourish. Hopefully the composers would be able to sneak in some references to the older games’ soundtracks in there, but chances are it’ll end up being one generic composition after another, similar to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow or most modern gaming soundtracks. I guess sacrifices have to be made to keep everything consistent.

That just leaves one question regarding a potential Golden Axe reboot: who should develop it? Now ideally, Sega should be able to handle development internally, but given the fact that the only studio I can recognize within the company that would have anything involving the skill to develop something like this is the aptly-named “Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio”, and I’m pretty sure they’re busy with more pressing projects. Of course, most people would recommend that Sega reignite their partnership with PlatinumGames, but I’ve got my doubts on that for a few reasons. For starters, PG has recently declared their intention to start self-publishing their own games and the sheer amount of other partners they’ve been working since their exclusivity agreement with Sega ended – Activision, Nintendo, Square Enix – tells me that they likely would want to keep their options open. My primary concern is that a lot of Platinum’s action games have stuck to a specific formula: each evoking the kind of “stylish action” gameplay I’d like to avoid in a proper Golden Axe reboot, regardless of how hilarious the mental image of Gilius Thunderhead doing backflips and spin dashing into enemies with his axe may be. The truth is, I can’t really think of a developer that I’d specifically want to work on this game. That’s not to say that there isn’t an ideal choice out there, just none that I’d can either name from the top of my head or seem remotely possible – like wholly-owned developers from other publishers.

On the plus side, if Sega wants to go with a same-name reboot for the series, this would probably be the best way to handle it. After all, while the stink of Beast Rider has been rinsed away from the franchise’s reputation, if Sega intends to go big with any type of revival, they might as well go all in. All but the most dedicated fans’ knowledge of Golden Axe begins and ends with the 1989 classic, so they essentially have a blank slate to work with here. Sure, references and other nods to the other games in the series could easily be woven into this reboot, but a retelling of the original adventure of Ax Battler, Tyris Flame and Gilius Thunderhead’s journey to wrest the titular artifact from the diabolical hands of Death Adder seems like the safest bet when it comes to attracting an audience.

I wish I could promise there won’t be another long hiatus between now and the next time I write another “Retro or Reboot?” article, but let’s be honest: when it comes to series of articles, I have a tendency to think up new concepts way more easily than I revisit old ones. Of course, with all of the old ones I’ve already come up with, can you really blame me? I just hope I can manage to squeeze out another one of these in less than 2 years next time. Of course, by that logic, chances are you can expect the next one by the end of April 2021. But here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Turn Based #11: A Classic Case of Solve for X

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome back to Turn Based. I’m Professor Icepick and we’ve been planning this topic for almost half a year now.
Back in November, I wrote up a piece on a potential ninth mainline game in the MegaMan X sub-series, detailing exactly how viable the concept was and potential avenues for adapting the gameplay for modern audiences. However, in the process of writing this, I unintentionally offended my colleague, Dariwan. Surprisingly, he wasn’t offended by my clever nickname for MegaMan X himself — “Blue Bummer” will never cease to amuse me — but rather, the sigh of relief I felt when MM11’s take on enhanced weaponry was sufficiently different from how the X games handled it, as that was one of the many trademarks that differentiated it from the Classic games of old.

system_powergear

Outstanding move.

Regardless, Dari and I butted heads on the topic for quite some time and as such, we decided to take the opportunity to do a Turn Based article, one-on-one. To make matters more interesting, this may be the first Turn Based to end with a decisive winner: my usual collaborator on this series, SNES Master KI will be joining us as a judge, to give real-time reactions to how well Dari and I articulate our points. With all that in mind, I feel we should finally get started. As Dari was the one who felt so strongly about this topic in the first place, I’m going to let him start the arguments.

Dariwan: For your information, Blue Bummer DID actually offend me; but there were other things that offended me more. Anyway, I feel like X doesn’t really need to do much at all to “adapt” to modern audiences. I feel like the system is pretty ageless and they can pretty much use the same stuff from the classic X games as a base then slowly try to add a few quality of life things from the later games while avoiding some of the pitfalls (haha) that the later games had. The weapons in X had their own uses, just like Megaman 11 had, and I feel like MM11 actually succeeded in taking something from X that succeeded in the past, even if Classic did it first, they didn’t do it as well or as effectively as X did IMO.

Icepick: My main argument is that simply after Classic led into X, each new sub-franchise managed to depart significantly from the games that came before it. Legends dabbled with action-RPG mechanics in the early days of 3D gaming, Battle Network gave us a unique take on more traditional RPGs, which was further tweaked in Star Force. Even the other traditional platformer sub-series deviated from one another more than Classic and X. The Zero games adopted various new mechanics like leveling up techniques, a rating system that rewarded players for doing well and the Cyber-Elf system which would evolve from a mere collectible hunt into something far more customized. Meanwhile, ZX toyed with the idea of turning into a full-on “Megavania” at times.

357430-mega-man-star-force-leo-nintendo-ds-screenshot-powerful-enemies

Exactly as it was in 1987.

I understand that back when the original MegaMan X launched in 1993, Capcom took to a more traditional approach, simply streamlining everything the same way various other games that had originated on the NES did when stepping into 16-bits. However, at this point in time, if Capcom wants both the Classic and X franchises to coexist simultaneously, they’ll have to do their best to make sure that both of those iterations of MegaMan feel different enough from one another, while staying true to their respective roots. Remember, part of MegaMan’s previous decline stemmed from an oversaturation of the market and that had the added benefit of various MegaMan games existing in totally different genres.

SNES Master KI: While it’s definitely true that the X series diverges less from the Classic series than any of the other MegaMan series, the fact that both series managed to get fanbases that strongly prefer one to the other implies that there were already enough differences. Wall climbing, dashing, major permanent upgrades, and an emphasis on finding secrets in levels are all things that distinguish the X series as its own thing.

There’s another factor at play, even if it wouldn’t be in a just reality. The most recent MegaMan game to be bashed for being too similar, MegaMan 10, that happened because of a cosmetic issue. People were angry that it used the same 8-bit aesthetic as MegaMan 9, even though the level design evolved quite a bit. Even if they play similarly, I think the cosmetic and tonal difference in the X and Classic series would keep them distinct in the eyes of the gaming public. We’re also far removed from the days when we could get both a Classic and X game released in the same year, with how much longer games take to make these days. So I’m not convinced there’s a real threat to the franchise as a whole if both series remain similar, I’ll need more arguments in that area.

Icepick: The similarities between Classic and X as they currently exist aren’t an issue. Rather, it’s the possibility that they could potentially converge down the line. When I said that it was good that MegaMan 11’s Power Gear mechanic differentiated itself from X’s ability to charge special weapons, I meant it was good because the MM11 development team was able to find a way to incorporate a mechanic that was, on surface level, identical to one of MMX’s trademarks, but they were able to maintain the difference between the two sub-series.

The issue is not that the X games need to be changed significantly further from the common template they share with the Classic games. Rather, they have to be careful when it comes to attempting to incorporate similar mechanics that are unique to either variant, due to the fact that unlike later spinoffs, Classic and X are definitely more similar to one another than any other two sub-franchises within the MegaMan brand.

Dari: I personally hated Megaman 9 AND 10 for being 8-bit since everything indie and hipster at the time were going 8-bit and that was such the cool thing but I digress. I feel like X is leaps and bounds over Classic in more ways than one. There is way more use with just the techniques they added in X. Wall jumping gives way to more puzzles than just the “yoku” blocks of Classic. The use of later weapons to get access to other secrets was also used well in X more than the Classic series. I feel like the X series could totally hold its own without any sort of competition from Classic, with Classic just barely catching up with Megaman 11 anyway. I feel like Classic can probably even benefit from having some kind of incorporation and/or fusion of sorts in/from X to help both series in general. Also I feel like Classic and X being the same Megaman would help the story as well and do more for crossovers that Capcom seems to love to do anyway easier.

I praised Megaman 11 for doing something different. I liked what it did with the robot masters, even if I felt like the stages were too long and you never felt like you were done until you finally beat the boss. The difficulty and challenge were still there. and I feel like that’s where Classic Megaman shines. X is more about strategic fighting and finding things, rather than using a dog that may not find what you want because it doesn’t feel like it. (Looking at you, Rush Search from Megaman 7!) I still believe that fusing the 2 Megamen would be fine, but it’d be a fine line to do it right.

RushSearch

If this was in any X game, it would make finding the secrets too easy, but it’d be too annoying and stupid, like it was in the game it originated in.

KI: While I don’t think the Classic and X series are or were on a dangerous collision path, I don’t think combining them is the right decision either. There clearly are people who prefer the Classic style of gameplay, as similar as the X formula is to it. And even if I like the X series more, I’m not going to say those people should never get another game in their style. I’d love a MegaMan Generations game with both Classic and X playable, but not as a permanent thing. So Dari, I’m going to have to ask how your idea of combining them could work without alienating people who prefer the Classic series.

Dari: I feel like they could do kind of the same thing they do between Megaman Battle Network and Star Force or even Devil May Cry and have Classic stages and X stages, like the modern X games are stylized. I think the idea of Megaman Generations would be interesting, but I think that’d stifle the X formula a bit more, since Classic is just getting into the modern age and there’s just some things that Classic can’t do yet that X can. Classic is a bit more…rigid in his movements and his attacks are a bit 2-D (haha) So I feel like Classic may have to evolve a little more before he can take on his X persona. Maybe that’s what ZX was trying to teach us. That Classic needs to evolve more to fit X if he’s ever to become him. I didn’t think something as simple as Megaman could turn so philosophical.

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Maybe this fusion wasn’t a good idea after all?

Icepick: Wow, there’s a lot to unpack there. For starters, it’s been confirmed on several different occasions that the original MegaMan and X are totally different characters: X is essentially like Rock’s little brother. And even if the whole “Rock gets modified into X” fan theory were canon — and it’s been disproved several times — the fact that X retains absolutely none of his predecessor’s memories would make them distinct characters anyway. So that’s one major issue with your argument.

In fact, if anything, X’s more flexible move set is the product of just how much more advanced he is, compared to his older brother. X was built as a super advanced Android, while Rock was essentially the second “Robot Master” in existence, who was modified in order to change his function from his creator’s lab assistant into a super fighting robot, set on keeping the world safe.

I will, however, thank you for proving my point about the line blurring between Classic MegaMan and X. In order to keep both characters distinct from one another, it is crucial that both series offer demonstrably different gameplay to prevent similar mix-ups in the future.

KI: Well, I don’t think the misconception that Classic becomes X can be blamed on any line blurring, since it was the dominant assumption as soon as the character X was introduced. He shares most of his name with Classic and has a similar appearance aside from extra armor, it was really inevitable that people would think X was an upgraded Classic. That aside, I’m not convinced by the idea of making it like Devil May Cry’s multi-character formula. X and Classic don’t coexist, so you’d have to keep snapping the story between time periods to have levels switch between them, which is much more complicated than simply having Nero clear out an area instead of Dante. I’m leaning towards essentially a split decision at this point (X and Classic aren’t in danger of converging, but them converging would be a bad idea if it actually did happen), so I’m going to ask you to both make an argument for your position that I disagree with, no responding to each other this time. Icepick, you explain how the Classic and X series are in danger of converging, and Dari, you give an argument for why they should converge. For the sake of keeping who gets to go first even, Icepick can go first since he’s done it less so far.

Icepick: I don’t believe that the two series are in danger of converging per se, but rather that releasing games that are too similar in each respective series may very well end up cutting into the demand for both of them. As I said before, the oversaturation of the MegaMan franchise in general is a lot of what led to its long hiatus… or at the very least, the shift towards a single brand identity from the release of MegaMan 9 in 2008 until support for the entire franchise evaporated completely for the better part of a decade.

I believe that Classic and X can co-exist fairly easily, but Capcom needs to keep both brands distinguishable from one another in order to make that work. Achieving that goal will be a bit more difficult compared to trying to keep either Classic or X around with any other sub-franchise due to the similarities the first two sub-series shared in the first place. And if we end up with what the market perceives as a glut of too many games that are far too similar to one another with far too little time between releases, it could be disastrous for the MegaMan series in general. In other words, if Capcom decides to keep Classic and X around as the main (if not only) representatives of the brand overall, they’ll need to keep the differences between the two as visible as they currently are, but if they decide to experiment with their existing formulas in a way that remains faithful to what made Classic and X different from one another in the first place, it could only serve to improve the ability for both franchises to coexist in good health.

Dari: In Japan, I think fusing Megaman and X would be easy. Release a manga/comic that explains how Megaman Classic grew up or evolved into X or how Classic entered stasis and got worked into X. release the game and be done with it. In the West though, I feel l like it’ll be more of a challenge. I guess they could possibly have some kind of connecting game that ends up with Classic becoming X or vice versa, as no one said X couldn’t ‘devolve’ into classic. Hell, Capcom could capitalize on that and make like Chibi X as Classic mini games or a little cartoon or something like Sega did with the Sonic cartoons on YouTube.

Actually I like that idea better. Have Dr. Wily finally appear in the X series, have him “devolve” Mega Man X into Classic version and have him do X stages as Classic. I like the way that works. then at the end have him do Classic stages as X or do that as a challenge stage or something like that. Either way the more I think about it the harder it is to make this work in the West. Maybe Megafusing should stay in Japan only, since only Japan can make things like this work.

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So Wily doesn’t like Zero, gives him a reason to be in Megaman X! To destroy his failed creation!

KI: For Icepick’s argument, I kind of feel like we’ve fallen into the typical “depending on what your starting point/interpretation of the argument” draw status we always seem to end up in on Turn Based. I don’t think there’s ever been any real danger of the Classic and X series becoming indistinguishable and there are things from the X series I think need to be implemented into Classic 20+ years ago (why in God’s name do we still have to buy weapon capsules automatically going to the lowest weapon!?). So it’s hard to say to what extent I agree/disagree with you.

For Dari, I really don’t think there’s any way to merge the franchises that would be respectful to the tone of both. As has been established, X isn’t Classic, and Wily emerging to temporarily turn X into Classic really doesn’t fit with the tone of the X games at all. For a one off or once in a while MegaMan Generations game that has the tone of the Classic series something with time travel could work, but I don’t think a permanent merger is a good idea.

With that said, I think we should have one last statement from Dari and Icepick about why their opponent’s idea wouldn’t work (but keep it civil). I think this should be the final shot, so let’s do this. Dari, you can go first to ensure a smooth alternating pattern.

Dari: I feel like X and Classic are too different, too different to ever be friends. (Bad reference, I know) because of that I don’t think they have any reason that converging will be a problem. We’ll have to wait for X9 to rear its head to see what Capcom’s got in their heads to see how X will evolve in his future, but Classic always had the slow and steady approach to everything and MM11 just proved that ever so much more. They even tried something that could have backfired but thankfully didn’t to even the tide up for saying there was such a long hiatus from the series, and also not going 8-bit again (THANK GOD). I think the Shop by itself and the few cosmetic changes Classic got in 11 is enough to pretty much cement that it’s not gonna be indistinguishable from X and they won’t say that X and Classic are the same ever, even in crazy bad Megafan circles. At least no one says Zero is a Megaman anymore.

Icepick: It’s simple. If the gameplay in future Classic and X games becomes identical, then there’s no reason to keep both series active. And given the fact that both of those series are generally the most popular MegaMan brands, choosing one over the other would lead to significant damage to the brand’s sustainability in the long run. The West tends to favor the more grimdark (by comparison) MegaMan X, while Japan likes the cutesier Classic Rockman formula more.

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I’d also want to see ZX and Legends get some love once the franchise is reconstructed.

Add that to the fact that my argument is that Capcom should just, bare minimum, stay the course with both series, and it’s clear that keeping Classic and X separate would only benefit them in the long run, giving them the ability to better cater to both markets equally well.

KI: Well, I think we’ve concluded another Turn Based, which managed to converge into multiple arguments and evade the promised decisive winner. If I had to pick a side, I’d go with stay the course, after the dark days of the MegaMan drought all I really want is a steady stream of MegaMan platformers, and MegaMan 11 was a great start to that. Regardless of your side, let’s just be thankful that we’re arguing about the direction of the series instead of whether it is dead forever, as we would be just a couple years ago. What do you think, do you want the Classic and X series to remain distinct from each other, become more similar, or even become the same series? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned for more episodes of Turn Based!

Top 10 Games I Want Ported FROM PC IV: High Noon at Mega Mountain

It’s funny. Despite the fact that this series of listicles started off as an April Fools’ day gag and in the end, simply seeks to undermine any and all advantages my platform of choice has above all others, I almost look forward to them more than the lists of yore where I was portbegging from a much more selfish perspective. Maybe with all the indie games and whatnot making their way to consoles with parity to PC, I just happen to find it a bit more fun to discover some hidden gems and give them a miniscule taste of the spotlight.

It’s been a pretty mixed bag in terms of PC news this year. On the one hand, the Epic Games Store emerged last December, bringing with it some scummy business practices and free games every two weeks – at the cost of your personal data. No game is safe from Tim Sweeney’s onslaught of buying up the (purportedly “timed”) exclusivity rights to any Western game, big or small. At the moment, I feel a twinge of fear any time a game is simply announced for “PC”: chances are Sweeney could wrap his greedy tentacles around it. I pray he never realizes that Japanese games are generally my thing. I vow never to spend a single cent on the Epic Games Store, but I will continue to steal their free games and will likely only buy any of their exclusive games once the exclusivity period expires – and then, likely at a significant discount. Still, the risk of upcoming titles like the recently-announced “Shantae 5” becoming exclusive to an anti-consumer store like EGS looms at every corner.

But on the other hand, quite a few major titles have been announced (and released) on PC. My crown jewel came first: Catherine Classic – based on the original PS360 release of Catherine – hit PC on Steam, meaning that Atlus has finally fallen, thanks to the efforts of our friends over at Sega Europe. Better still, they’ve implied that we may see more from Atlus’s library hit PC in the future. On top of that, Yakuza Kiwami finally launched on Steam sans Denuvo and Sega even seems to be removing the DRM from older titles as well: Yakuza 0 already had it removed and Sonic Mania has it removed in a beta patch currently. Hopefully, Puyo Puyo Tetris will see it removed as well. Square Enix announced that Million Arthur: Arcana Blood – a game I only knew about due to the presence of Iori Yagami from The King of Fighters as a guest character – will be coming to Steam sometime this Summer. Speaking of SNK, they had some significant announcements on PC. Metal Slug XX came out on Steam at the end of January. SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy released the following month, as I predicted. And the new Samurai Shodown game was finally confirmed on PC in March. Although it’ll release after the initial June release of the PS4 and Xbox One versions… and possibly after the Switch version, which is scheduled for “late 2019”. Either way, not a bad haul.

Although, I think there may have been a price for Catherine (and Atlus) coming to PC, because for once, quite a few games that were previously PC exclusives were announced on consoles this year. It got to the point where I was almost worried that the console announcements would outright dwarf the PC ports. For starters, Screenwave Media and FreakZone Games announced that Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe – consisting of a remastered version of the first game and more importantly, the previously PC-exclusive second game – would be coming to “consoles” worldwide (so far it’s only been confirmed for Switch), while also implying (but not outright confirming) that this new compilation title would also be hitting PC. I decided not to consider putting it on the list because the game’s previous publisher, ScrewAttack Games, totally shot down any chance of AVGN II hitting any sort of consoles. From there, both Evoland titles were compiled into Evoland: Legendary Edition and released on the Switch, Xbox One and the PS4 this past February. On top of that, JoyMasher announced that both Oniken: Unstoppable Edition and Odallus: The Dark Call were being ported to all three modern consoles by Digerati, a publisher that focuses exclusively on indie games. And finally, while doing a last-minute check for this list, I discovered that one game I originally intended to put on this list – RetroRevolution’s METAGAL – was actually released last week on… well, just about everything (even the Vita). Little did I realize that the game was announced for the Switch back in January, while its sequel (prequel?) Metaloid: Origin was announced for consoles back in February. Likewise, I originally intended for Bot Vice to be on this list, but it was announced for Switch awhile ago. But DYA Games – the game’s developer – had one more surprise for me: last week at PAX East, Super Star Path was also announced for the Switch.

There is another announcement that I’d like to discuss, even if it may seem like it’s unrelated to the topic at hand. Konami recently revealed three compilations set for release on all 4 modern platforms, including PC. Konami Anniversary Collection: Arcade Classics is due out later this month and has had all eight of the games included announced. What’s even more interesting is that the other two collections – Castlevania Anniversary Collection and Contra Anniversary Collection – are both set to release sometime this Summer and only announced four out of the eight games on both collections. If it seems pointless for me to bring this up, then you’re clearly not remembering that I requested games from both series in previous PC port wishlists. I’ve got a gut feeling that we might see Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth and Contra ReBirth surface in these compilations, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if Hard Corps: Uprising made it into the Contra collection as well. We’ll just have to wait and see whenever Konami decides to reveal the full line-up for both collections.

The weird part about doing these articles is that many times, just when I think I’m done, a new announcement crops up. Whatever infernal energies allow my wishes to come to fruition are unpredictable at best. Why, two days before this article went live, SNK made one more announcement at PAX East: Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, set to release on all 4 platforms this Fall. Now you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up. It’s simple. Samurai Shodown II – specifically the release on Xbox Live Arcade with online play – was on one of my old lists. So not only am I getting what I asked for (including online play via Digital Eclipse), but an additional 5 games on top of that. Granted, both Samurai Shodown II and V Special already had PC ports available via GOG and the Humble Store, but this package should be much more robust.

But before we get to the list itself, I’ll go over my criteria for these lists. I generally stick to games that were released on PC from 2006 onward – essentially lining up with the seventh generation of video game consoles and beyond – that are not currently available on consoles or handhelds by legitimate means. This means that games that were present on older generations of console are omitted, but the games that were present on Microsoft’s discontinued Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) are fair game at this point. I’ll also be listing the platforms I feel would be the most likely (or at least the best fit) for each game in question. And with that brief recap, let’s get into the list itself.

EvilQuest

I guess you could claim that bringing up this game could be considered cheating. But as this game was originally an exclusive to the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) program – which has since been discontinued – before seeing its only other release on PC, I think it’s fair game. After all, I managed to pick Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection a couple years back under similar circumstances and the service was merely on the verge of being shut down at that point. Now that it’s fully dead, it only seems fair to pick at the carcass with reckless abandon.

EvilQuest isn’t necessarily the best action RPG in existence, but considering the fact that it’s only $2, it’s well worth the cost. I actually streamed the game awhile back at the request of a friend – who actually purchased it for me, so I kind of felt like I owed it to him. Better still, maybe a console re-release would help to fund the game’s sequel, which was greenlit on Steam back in 2017, the last bit of information regarding the game before the developer, Chaosoft Games, went completely radio silent.

Best Platform: While Xbox One might seem like a slam dunk given Microsoft’s current focus on backwards compatibility, the way XBLIG was handled ended up burning a great deal of bridges with small developers. And while Nintendo has a tendency of obtaining the rights to every indie game under the sun, they also have a tendency to curate those acquisitions. That leaves the PlayStation 4 as the winner by default.

Offspring Fling!

You know, it’s funny. This one has been sitting in my queue for years. I kind of expected that I’d never actually have the chance to do a write-up for it, because I kept expecting that it wouldn’t need one by the time I’d actually get around to it. Guess the joke’s on me, eh?

Offspring Fling is essentially one of those single-screen puzzle-platformers where you take on the role of a poor forest creature trying to rescue her babies which have been scattered throughout their home. After picking them up, she has the ability to throw them – which seems counter-intuitive, but necessary to press switches, stun predators and get them to safety. With over 100 levels and a stage editor, the game offers substantial content for its low $8 price tag. I’m actually kind of surprised that the game has yet to hit any consoles yet, especially since it’s been on my backlog since these lists became a yearly tradition.

Best Platform: I have to give it up for the Switch. This game’s been out for nearly 7 years now and while I think it’s probably a long shot all around, Nintendo seems to be the only company that is actively courting independent developers at this point. Of course, considering that the dev doesn’t really have too many newer titles that could be used as leverage, it’s still just a shot in the dark from my perspective.

Skeleton Boomerang

Speaking of obscure games with little chance of actually getting ported, Skeleton Boomerang is another game by ANIM•ACE, the same company that brought us Aliens Go Home Run from last year’s list. While that previous game was more of a modern take on Breakout, Skeleton Boomerang is a platformer where the main character uses boomerangs to fight skeletons – hence the title. Of course, there are many secrets and upgrades that can be obtained and higher scores yield better hauls. What really got me hooked on the game was the soundtrack, composed by one of my favorite chiptune artists +TEK. It’s no surprise that Disco Necropolis – one of the game’s stage themes – became the subject of several remixes.

Best Platform: Considering the developer appears to be on hiatus, I have my doubts that this will ever be ported. But if anyone is going to do it, I’d be willing to bet money this game would appear on the Switch. Chances are, if they really wanted the game, they could just buy the rights to it and farm out a console port to some other studio.

Super Cyborg

I guess I chose a bad time to include this, given Konami’s recent announcement of a Contra Anniversary Collection for… well, everything. Not to mention Joymasher’s Blazing Chrome – a clear homage to the best Contra game, Hard Corps – is clearly going to release in the near future. In other words, fans of Contra and the like are clearly in for some good times in the coming months but adding Super Cyborg to the mix could only make things better.

Super Cyborg is a game that I’d best describe as coming from an alternate reality, where instead of sticking to consoles, Konami decided to make a wholly original Contra game for DOS computers… and they actually put effort into making it worthwhile. Or maybe a world where Apogee was inspired by Super C instead of Super Mario Bros. 3. Regardless, it’s packed with old-school charm, with both fast-paced gameplay and graphics that evoke the EGA graphics of years past.

Best Platform: I think the Xbox One wins this by default. Nintendo tends to go for the most prominent indie games, while Sony has essentially shifted towards commissioning games from independent developers on their own terms these days. Sifting through more obscure titles for hidden gems seems to be Microsoft’s modus operandi when it comes to nabbing indie exclusives these days. …that or just buying out the studios that made them.

Death’s Hangover

Speaking of ripoffs homages to classic video games, my next entry is a Breakout clone developed by Retro Army Limited, the same people who gave us Verdict Guilty. After the Grim Reaper finds that Dracula has stolen several souls, he summons two of the greatest dead warriors he can find. Unfortunately, it’s slim pickings so he’s left with two of the biggest morons who ever lived, Andy and Bob. Giving them new female bodies, the two are tasked with defeating Dracula and taking back Grim’s lost souls. If they fail, they’ll be killed again… so no pressure. With Andy moving a giant paddle and Bob taking refuge within the ball, the two must battle through Dracula’s minions before dealing with the vampire lord himself. The game contains a fair amount of rude humor, but it also comes with a level editor: a pretty nice bonus one doesn’t generally associate with bat-and-ball games.

Best Platform: The thing is, I think this game is equally capable of ending up in an indie sizzle reel for any of the three major console manufacturers. However, since I gave them Verdict Guilty last year, my money would go with the Switch. Besides, they do seem to take risks when it comes to odder titles, so this does seem to be right down their alley.

Tetrobot and Co.

Effectively the sequel to Blocks That Matter – which surprisingly did appear on the Xbox 360 back in the day – Tetrobot and Co. takes place years later. The Tetrobot robot from the first game has become the world’s most popular and reliable robot, leading to several variants. Unfortunately, they’re not perfect: they’re all prone to damage both external and internal. For that reason, a young roboticist by the name of Maya developed a microscopic “little brother” for the Tetrobot line, known as Psychobot. Players are tasked with navigating the innards of the larger robots and fixing them by solving various block puzzles.

While the game itself recommends that it be played with a mouse, there are alternative controls meant for a standard gamepad as well, meaning that the game should be easy enough to port to consoles.

Best Platform: Considering the fact that the Xbox 360 was the only non-PC platform to receive the original game, it seems most likely that the Xbox One would receive the nod should Tetrobot ever hit consoles. The fact that it also has native mouse support doesn’t hurt its chances much either.

Vanguard Princess

You had to know I’d be including another fighting game this year, didn’t you? At first glance, Vanguard Princess appears to be a standard anime-themed 2D fighting game, but its unique blend of mechanics makes it seem more like an homage to several points in Japan’s history with the genre. Players choose a main fighter and an assist character that they can summon at various points in the match. And while the game contains super meters – and by extension, super moves – the combat feels significantly more grounded than most modern fighters, more akin to the earliest versions of Street Fighter II.

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that this one hasn’t already come out on consoles: there’s no netplay, so couch multiplayer isn’t just recommended, it’s downright necessary. Better still, some of the more fan servicey elements are censored by default, only made available to players after downloading a free “Director’s Cut” DLC. In other words, eigoMANGA doesn’t even have to worry about the ESRB.

Best Platform: Much like Verdict Guilty from last year, my odds-on favorite for VP is the Switch. Even these days, the platform is lacking in fighting game representation and it seems like Nintendo is the safest home for a little-known game with any fanservice whatsoever nowadays. How the tables have turned.

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt/Princess Remedy 2: In A Heap of Trouble

Okay, technically this entry consists of two games but that hasn’t stopped me before. In fact, this time, it might be more beneficial to just pack them together: the first game is free on Steam in the first place. Both games are essentially action-RPGs with a graphical style reminiscent of retro computers like the ZX Spectrum. The player takes on the role of the titular Princess Remedy uses the healing arts she learned as a student of the Saturnian healing school to cure people of their rare ailments. But she doesn’t heal them the boring way with spells and potions, she fights them head-on by hurling giant pills and syringes at the physical manifestations of the illnesses themselves. Whether she’s healing an ill prince or saving the people of the aptly-named “Boss Tower”, Princess Remedy is ready to keep her Hippocratic Oath by any means necessary.

Best Platform: I’m going to have to give this one to the Switch again. Nintendo’s had a history of partnering up with the game’s developer Ludosity and I think that’ll work in their favor. I’m not sure if Nicalis would be willing to delve into the rest of the catalog for Nintendo’s sake though.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

If you haven’t guessed by now, action-RPGs are clearly among my favorite subgenres, so it’s only reasonable that I include a second. Like Offspring Fling!, Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale has been on my list for a long time, if only because of its premise. Players take on the role of a young girl named Recette Lemongrass who wakes one morning to find that her home has been transformed into an item shop. It turns out her father took out a massive loan and left Recette in charge of paying it off. But don’t worry, Recette is joined by a fairy companion by the name of Tear, whether she wants her help or not.

The game is essentially balanced between two distinct but equally important halves: running the item shop itself – which includes setting prices, managing stock and creating a welcoming atmosphere for potential customers – and traveling through the world, looking for brand new items to sell in traditional action RPG fashion. In fact, Recette can even hire various adventurers to make exploring various dungeons even easier.

Best Platform: I think the PlayStation 4 is the likeliest contender for Recettear. Granted, I think this one’s another long shot in general, but Carpe Fulgur – the translation studio that published the game on Steam – does have a history of working on games that appeared on Sony’s earlier systems. Not exactly the strongest connection, mind you, but it’s the best I can think up.

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem

Our final game answers a question that I doubt anyone has ever asked: what if Twisted Metal were a traditional racing game instead of a straight-up demolition derby? Fortunately, the fine people at Steel Monkeys (in conjunction with their publisher, Next Dimension Game Adventures Ltd.) decided to answer that question and do a decent job of it. Sure, the game isn’t the prettiest out there and the mechanics can be a little clunky at times, but that kind of fits with the post-apocalyptic setting.

Best Platform: This is another tough one. Steel Monkeys does have history working on older systems from all three current console manufacturers with no clear favorite. Nowadays, it looks like both the developer and their publisher stick to PC and mobile games. As such, I’d probably give this to the Xbox One, if only because Microsoft is the standard torchbearer of the former.

And so, with that, another list comes to its conclusion. Much like the PC Ports wishlists of old, it’s getting harder and harder to find suitable games for these lists. But while the issue with the older lists was my inability to find games that excited me, I take the mounting difficulty that these lists are sure to pose in later years as a challenge: to find more hidden gems currently exclusive to PC (and possibly smartphones, but no one cares about that) that deserve their time in the spotlight.

Retrospective: Devil May Cry – Part 1

The year is 2001, we’re wrapping up the first generation dominated by 3D games and ushering in the second. Over the past five or six years, games of all genres have made the leap to 3D, some more successfully than others. One genre that certainly did not have success was the beat-em-up. Enjoying a lot of popularity in the late 80s and early 90s, the melee combat focused genre practically vanished during late 90s. There were a few attempts to make 3D beat-em-ups (Perfect Weapon, Fighting Force, Die Hard Arcade) but they did not catch on and for the most part were considered very low quality. The genre seemed destined to vanish, it didn’t even have the type of hardcore niche community that shmups had and have.

Then, in Fall 2001 (at least in the West), a game was released that changed everything. A game that showed the beat-em-up wasn’t in a coffin, but a cocoon about to burst open and reveal a new genre that took the concept farther than any could have imagined a decade earlier. The “character action game” genre (or that’s what I’m going to call it anyway, there was never a truly universal consensus on the name) was born, and the super-genre of action games would never be the same. And the game that caused all this was, of course, Devil May Cry. I’ve been with the series since the beginning and love the genre that it codified, so in honor of the long-awaited Devil May Cry 5, I’m going to do my first formal retrospective on the DMC series. So grab your pizza, get interrupted while eating it, and let’s rock, baby!

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