Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fighter's History and Current Events

It took a while, but Microsoft finally fulfilled the promise it made with the Badlands promotion, and gave me the three months of Xbox Game Pass I wanted. They did it in a weird, roundabout way, giving me Microsoft Rewards points that I could redeem for the subscription, but whatever, I'm happy.

Speaking of happy, I've been making the most of Pseudo Saturn, playing games I either haven't experienced on the Saturn in over a decade, or never tried at all. I haven't worked up the courage to play the bizarre Mr. Bones, but perhaps I'll get to that one someday. I did give the semi-sequel to Dark Legend, Fu-un Saiki, a spin, along with Fighter's History Dynamite. I had as much fun ridiculing it as playing it back in the 1990s, but I gotta say, I'm enjoying it without irony now that I have a few more years under my belt... and more than a few pounds hanging over it.

Just thought I'd let you know what's going on in Kiblitzing-ville at the moment. Hopefully I'll have a more substantial update for you in the near future.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nomad, Bro?

This comes as a surprise... Retro-Bit, the makers of the Super Retro-Cade I reviewed last year, is releasing its own version of the Nomad. That's the portable Genesis Sega launched at the tail end of 1995, and while it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, my personal experience with the original Nomad was, um... less than impressive. A milky, low contrast screen and a cartridge slot which can't keep a solid grip on games does not add up to a quality handheld gaming experience.

Hello... Newmad.
(image from Segabits)
That was nearly twenty five years ago, though. We've got the technology to do a portable Genesis justice now, right? I guess we'll find out once the system is released, although judging from Retro-Bit's past track record, that might take a while. They announced a series of Sega-inspired USB and Bluetooth controllers at last year's CES show, and those still haven't been released... although at least now, we have a solid launch date for those. Expect the joypads to hit stores by the end of February. Special thanks to GameTyrant for the scoop.

Before I go, I should probably offer a correction... the Pseudo Saturn Kai software that I mentioned in my last post has a higher compatibility rate than previously suggested. Before you break out the tar and feathers, let me just state in my defense that I based my comments on the software's official compatibility list. However, that list hasn't updated in a while, and some games that were marked in red actually work just fine with the latest version of PSK. In way of examples, I spent an hour with Saturn Bomberman last night, and didn't have any issues with it. Just something to keep in mind if you're on the fence about installing the software.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Three Warps to Saturn

Violent coughing to come again!
After a month without phlegm flew by
We now declare the return
of that cold you thought you left... 2018!

Seriously, though... urrrrgh. I thought I was done with all that icky cold business from December, yet here I am sucking down cough drops and bringing up mucus, just like I did last month.
The Action Replay, an essential ingredient in
any Saturn owner's collection.
(image from estarland)
Yet despite my illness, I found the strength to pick up my Action Replay from the post office and hack it to run Pseudo Saturn Kai, a software backdoor that lets you run burned Saturn games without the need for a costly mod chip. Some things I learned from that experience...

 A "swap trick" is necessary to install Pseudo Saturn Kai, but it's not as tough as you've been led to believe! You'll need to open your Saturn first, then tape the lid button near the back of the system closed. After that, you pop in your burned disc, turn on your Saturn, wait for the intro to finish, and swap to an official disc. When the blue Sega logo appears, hit the reset button on the system, wait for the introduction to finish, then swap back to your burn. 

Look, I'll just let a professional explain how this works. It's probably smarter to listen for changes in the drive's motor speed than to watch for visual cues, but the window for swapping discs is incredibly generous. If you've been playing video games for a while (and you have, if you're at all interested in the Sega Saturn), you've got the reflexes to do this.

• Once you've got Pseudo Saturn Kai running, just select Pseudo Saturn Kai Lite from the menu that appears... it's the only version of the software that will fit on an Action Replay. (There are more advanced flash cartridges available for the Saturn, but they're also less common and more expensive. I'll just assume you're using the old storage-tighty whitey.) Press A, then when prompted, press A, B, and C together. Now leave the Saturn alone for about ten minutes! Don't reset it, don't unplug it, and get all the kids and pets out of the room while you're at it. No sense taking chances, right? Once the cartridge has been flashed, you'll be given a "write verification success" message at the bottom of the screen. Now you can press start and choose reset from the menu options that appear.

(Special thanks to the folks at PPCenter for explaining the process to me in a tutorial, so I could explain it to you. Also, I assume no responsibility for damage done to your cartridge or console. That probably won't happen, but I should mention this anyway as lawsuit repellent.)

 Here's the disappointing part. Pseudo Saturn Kai won't run every game in the Saturn library, and that includes heavy hitters like Metal Slug (ow), Saturn Bomberman (...OW), and Radiant Silvergun (OW! OW!). Most games will work... just not all the ones you probably wanted to play. Why a Saturn would have trouble playing its own games is kind of bewildering, but there's probably something about the Keebler magic Pseudo Saturn Kai is using to bypass the Saturn's security that makes this an issue. If you want a more consistently reliable (and expensive) Saturn hack, consider the Phantom Modchip instead.

It sure is! And it's deeply sad that we're still
having debates about this after all these years...
The Action Replay arrived just in time for me to try the recently released English translation of Linkle Liver Story. That's the action RPG from the developers of Crusader of Centy... and in all honesty, a name that will never not annoy me. The title is frustratingly stupid, but the game itself is quite pleasant, a Zelda-like action adventure that runs at a brisk pace and features charming quasi-furry characters. I'm already enjoying it way more than Shining Wisdom, and an English translation that doesn't mess with the game's balance or inject pop culture references that will seem as old as dirt twenty years from now is icing on the cake.

I'll be covering more Saturn games in the future... because even I'm sick of hearing myself talk about the PSP at this point.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy Irthday to Me!

Er, sorry. Cake got slightly squashed in transit. Anyway, my aunt was kind enough to take me to Tucson for a birthday shopping spree, and here's a little of what I picked up while I was there.

I had to get some PSP games, of course, so this is what I managed to find for a reasonable price. From left to right, we've got Metal Gear Acid, Yugioh 5ds Tag Force 4, Metal Gear Portable Ops, and Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. You didn't know I was a fan of Metal Gear, did you? That's because I'm not, but these games fill a gap in my collection. Besides, I got Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops Plus in a previous deal, and I understand that even though it's a standalone release, it drops a lot of the content that was in the original game. Konami needs to work on learning its mathematical operands, apparently.

My only explanation for the Yugioh game is that the Craig of the Creek episode Bring Out Your Beasts made collectible card battles look more fun than the actual Yugioh cartoon series ever did. Ratchet and Clank needs no explanation, as that was a solid series of platformers from the start, and I wanted to give the trimmed down handheld extension a shot.

Nestled in the middle of these four PSP titles is a GameCube memory card, weighing in at a beefy 1019 blocks of storage. Standard GameCube cards barely hold anything- even the Game Boy Interface is a tight fit on a 59 block card- so this was a long overdue addition to my collection.

As you may already know, I bought a Sega Saturn last month. However, since a Sega Saturn is not much fun without games, I picked up a couple of cheap-ish titles at Bookman's. (Oh, for the days when Saturn games actually were cheap! I bought a new copy of Sega Rally Championship for five dollars back in the 1990s. Good luck finding it for that price now.) Judging from what I've played of the slippery and imprecise Sonic 3D Blast, I'm still not going to have much fun with this system, at least until I get an Action Replay with Pseudo Saturn installed on it. At least it'll make a good swap disc until that happens.

By the way, can I just state for the record that I kind of hate the long boxes Sega used for these games? They're nearly twice the height of the disc, and have this annoying tendency to fracture under even small amounts of stress. You'll notice that Sonic 3D Blast came in a standard DVD case... I don't know who was responsible for this, but frankly, I can't blame either Bookman's or the previous owner for making the swap.

Finally, I found a couple of Kirby games in a pawn shop on the way out of town, hidden in a pile of DS cartridges wrapped in tiny plastic bags. Kirby's Dream Land 2 is no big deal... I'm pretty sure that's included in Kirby's Dream Collection, which I already own. However, I hit the jackpot with that seven dollar copy of Kirby: Planet Robobot. I've been wanting that game for a while, but I could never bring myself to pay the forty bucks Nintendo wanted for a digital copy. Thanks to this lucky find, I can have both the game and thirty-three extra dollars in my pocket!

So, how's the game? It's very similar to the last one, Kirby's Triple Deluxe, but with a technological motif. There are no psychedelic fruits that give Kirby powers far above those of mortal pink puffs... now, he climbs into mechs, which give unprecedented weight to the control and can scan enemies for new abilities. Yes, Kirby could already steal powers from his foes, but the robot takes this ability to the next level, with flamethrowers, blasts of electricity, and plasma swords many times larger than anything he could conjure up on his own. Beyond that, it's just more Triple Deluxe... not that I'm complaining.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Street Fighter EX Minus Street Fighter

One quick thing before the main event. I played a couple more hours of Ori and the Blind Forest, and it made a mystical transformation from a coma-inducingly dull Metrovania to a mean-spirited masocore platformer with more pointy objects than a cenobite's face. It's like someone from Moon heard my complaints from a few days ago and growled, "Oh, you want it more INTERESTING, huh? Oh, I'll make it plenty interesting!" 

Pulling thorns out of my keister is... is not the kind of "interesting" I wanted. My subscription to Microsoft Game Pass lapsed at the end of the month, which is probably a mercy in disguise because I won't have to finish removing the blight from the Ginso tree, only to be drowned by it thirty-seven times. So with that I bid Ori and the "if you keep doing that you'll go" Blind Forest goodbye. Don't let the door hit you in the thousands of razor sharp nettles on the way out.

Characters like Allen Snider have taken an
expected step up in visual quality... although
their taste in clothing remains questionable.
(image from YouTube)
Okay, now what was I going to discuss? Oh yeah, my latest purchase! During the soon-to-expire holiday sale on the Playstation Network, I picked up a copy of Fighting EX Layer. That's the spiritual successor to Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha, one of my favorite games on the Playstation and a title I find myself going back to from time to time on my hacked Vita. Feel free to read VGJunk's uncharacteristically warm review of the game if you haven't already tried it yourself. Then rectify that oversight and, uh, try it for yourself.

Fighting EX Layer is more of the same... and yet less, because the Street Fighter cast have their own 3D fighting games now and don't really need to be here. What you get instead are oddballs like beefy bouncer Jack, salaryman-turned-circus freak Skullomania, and talk show host by day, ruthless assassin by night D. Generes Dark. Are they as useful as classic Street Fighter characters like Guile and Cammy? Not really, but they have their own off-brand charm, and they beat the pants off some of the later additions to the Street Fighter cast. Come on, Laura, Necalli, and F.A.N.G.? Get outta here with that crap.

This isn't a bad consolation prize, though.
Bring on the Bogard, baby!
(image from Playstation Lifestyle)
It may be missing the star power of the Street Fighter cast, but Fighting EX Layer is a solid game in its own right. The constraints of Arika's modest budget are obvious... FEXL looks like it could just as easily have been pulled off on the Xbox 360, and the arcade mode is thinner than I would have liked; just an eight fight contest ending with superhuman samurai Garudo. However, the heart of the Street Fighter EX series still beats within this release. You can still chain together super moves for a humiliating beatdown, and each stage still has catchy tunes provided by Shinji Hosoi, the most unappreciated video game musician this side of Hitoshi Sakimoto.

There's no question Fighting EX Layer is lean on content, and no, the "Gougi" system which briefly boosts your character's abilities based on your performance doesn't really fill that gap. (Didn't we already do this before with Street Fighter X Tekken? Didn't everyone hate it?) You could probably get more mileage from your money with Mortal Kombat XL or Killer Instinct, which offer dozens of characters and styles of gameplay for a fraction of the price. Having said that, I can't help but wish the very best for FEXL, not only for the warm nostalgia it provides, but because it feels like a labor of love rather than a cold, calculated attempt to wring money from the fighting game community. You know, like what some better known entries in the genre have become. Cough, cough. Cough.