Friday, 15 November 2013

Retrospective: SEGA Rally


Are you tired of SEGA week yet? Tough. Its still going. I think Tuesday is the last day for it, but Im not sure. If anything, doing this has allowed me to relax and enjoy my gaming for a change. I'm usually ploughing through games and delegating my time for games I'm looking in to or reviewing. This week has been a joy and so the articles continue! My new AV cable came for my Saturn yesterday so I duly replaced my Dreamcast with it. I don't know why, but I dusted off my copy of SEGA Rally. Last time I had my Saturn set up it wouldn't work. The disk doesn't have much in the way of damage or anything so it left me baffled at the time. Popped it in last night and it worked. Tears of Joy! Today then I'm going to do a short post on the a few console releases of the series

Thursday, 14 November 2013

SEGA Shooters: Vanquish & Binary Domain

"Do me a favour, plug me into a Sega"
Unfortunately, I don't mean the kind of shooter in the pic above, Sorry. As we continue with SEGA week, I think its time to have a look at a couple of SEGA's current gen shooters. Binary Domain is a traditional Third person shooter developed by the Yakuza Team while Vanquish serves the other end of the spectrum with an arcade style developed by Platinum Games. I was considering a review for each one last week, but I wouldn't want to overload myself with too many reviews in a week as I still have some articles planned for the rest of the SEGA week. Instead I'm just going to kinda retrospective them both within the same article as it'll also show just how much they contrast even though they are both third person shooters. While both feature story's based within the near future, they each go in a different direction. Vanquish Sets itself upon a space station used for harvesting Solar energy that has been occupied by Russian nationalists and had its power unleashed as a weapon onto unsuspecting cities. You play as a DARPA agent and its your job to prevent anymore attacks and rescue an important scientist. Binary Domain, on the other hand, is a little more down to earth. The story revolves around 'Hollow Children', androids that look like humans but also seem to be unaware that they are actually androids. This is against a treaty signed by the nations of the world and some evidence points toward a Amada corporation based in Japan. You play as Dan Marshal and, with your Rust Crew team, set out to find out whats going on. To be honest, I much preferred the story for Binary Domain of the two. At times it comes across as a little Blade Runner in its execution, plus with The Yakuza Team being behind it your pretty much guaranteed a decent narrative (Yakuza 3 is testament to that) The down to earth aspect always helps with making it more beleivable. hats not to say Vanquish has a bad storyline, it doesn't, but its just not as deep or involving as Binary Domain. Shinji Mikami stated that the game design of Vanquish itself was inspired by Casshern, an anime series from the 1970's, which is probably why the execution of the story gave me an anime vibe while playing through it. Either way, both stories aren't going to win any awards but you'll be happy with whichever you choose.
Even with both games being shoe-horned into the same genre, they both play radically different. Sure, both games feature a cover system/ammo cache/stores for upgrades & weapons/limited amount of weapons to carry and more staples of the genre. Its Vanquish here though that deviates the most of the two. Vanquish plays quite a lot differently to most Third-person shooters, never mind Binary Domain. It has a fast-paced style of gameplay reminiscent of 2D bullet hell shooters, while also chucking in the odd beat 'em up elements and an original sliding-boost mechanic that adds to the game's fast paced gameplay. A bullet-time mechanic also comes into play when activated, using your boost meter to slow time and allow you to even the odds. A score is tallied up between sections in levels and a boss has to be conquered too, all adding up to feed the old-school arcade vibe you'll feel as you fire the game up. Binary Domain treads a more traditional path when it comes to its mechanics though, playing out as you'd expect most other shooters to do. A major part of the game is the Consequence System. Trust plays a part in the story mode on how the squad views the player. This affects both the storyline and the gameplay, where the characters behave differently depending on trust levels. Voice comms can also be used in an old-school Socom kinda way. Both games play well, but where Binary Domain plays like a traditional game, Vanquish plays more like a traditional SEGA game.
Both games offer up some nice visuals. Binary Domain goes for a sharper, cleaner image while Vanquish seems more detailed and packed with effects. Its difficult to judge on which is the better of the two with regards to graphics & sound so Ill let this excerpt from Made2Game do the job - Vanquish likes to wow the player with huge amounts of excellent effects and visual filters to accentuate the action. Some nice design touches include the game being set within a cylindrical space station that allows the player to see the world stretching out in front and indeed above them in more than a slight nod to Halo, along with some excellent enemy design - the transformer-style movements that some of the larger bosses use to transition between different phases of attack patterns in particular can be quite spectacular to witness.
In contrast, Binary Domain lacks much of the in-your-face flashiness of Vanquish; indeed, on the surface it actually comes across as quite a sterile looking game. Happily though, this style actually complements the tone of the game well, with huge corporate blandness engulfing the super clean and passionless world of future Tokyo. Also, the way that the body armour of the many robo-foes you face falls off as you shoot it looks fantastic as well as giving good visual clues as to the damage you are dealing. The facial animation, seemingly taken wholesale from Yakuza, is excellent, and the way the metal structure of the ‘hollow children’ (what the game calls robots that look no different to humans - think Blade Runner’s replicants) shows through and melds into flesh looks fittingly horrifying. SO its really down to preference on this aspect too.
When it all comes to a head like now in the closing paragraph, its tough to choose one over the other. Both offer such different gameplay that each is worthy of a playthrough. With how cheap they can be had for these days, theres no excuse for not trying them either. If push comes to shove, then Id pick Binary Domain. While its gamplay probably isn't as good, with it coming from The Yakuza Team it more than makes up for that with every other aspect of its design. I still say you should try both though If you don't want to end up like the 'Hollow Child' in the picture above.

Fire Pro Wrestling D

Hooray it's SEGA week! Keeping in the spirit of fond SEGA memories I'm going to present to you something of a passion of mine. WRESTLING, I love wrestling have done since I was child. My wrestling tastes have changed over the years I'm more a fan of the actual mat work than the pageantry of it nowadays. Though I must admit I'm still a sucker for Hogan vs Warrior WM 6!.

Where is this going you ask? A little known title over here called Fire Pro Wrestling!. Seeing only 2 releases in it's 20 year history over these seas, Fire Pro Advance and the god awful Avatar fighting game on XBLA. I'm going to tell you about the Dreamcast title Fire Pro Wrestling D. 

Released in 1998 and seen as one of the series high points Fire Pro D is a wrestling sim at it's finest. Rather than focus on the product as a whole Fire Pro is for the fan who enjoys nothing more than a good match. 

With a small amount of specialist matches the game shines in the ring with the mind blowing array of matches and the customisable and brilliant A.I. Based with mostly Japanese federations there are a lot of wrestlers not known to the casual fan. Fortunately there are a lot of familiar looking and sounding "American" wrestlers someone with half an imagination could figure out!.

Having only released in Japan this title though reasonably import friendly has been navigated mostly through walkthroughs. Now after tons of hard work passionate fans have released a translated version for everyone to enjoy! Visit   for info about this patch after this write up and experience it in all it's glory! 


The first thing you will notice about Fire Pro is that it's sprite based. No 3D models just 100% sprite based goodness on the character models. The ring and arenas are 3D but that's your lot, this often divides most people as they see this as a bad thing "lol mega drive graphics". 

Why this is a good thing is not only do the moves looks very well animated, there is no need to Mo-cap for them so the amount of moves and reactions is astounding!. 
Even with the sprites the wrestlers are usually very detailed and it's fairly easy to recognise the more famous wrestlers you can select.

Entrances aren't much to marvel at and 9 times out of 10 you will skip them, your wrestler steps out, taunts and hits the ring. Victory is just as unspectacular, strike a taunt and the results screen hits. This is all filling to what Fire Pro is about, unlike most wrestling games it's not bothered about the outside of the match just the content of the actual bout!. 

Character edits (more on that later) don't seem out of place and the arena and logo designer both work well and unlike the bigger series created content actually fits in rather than sticking out like a sore thumb!. 


This is where Fire Pro stands head and shoulders above any other wrestling game including the holy No Mercy!. Relying more on timing than button mashing and a unique grappling system ontop of a hit and miss melee system you may find it a touch overwhelming when arriving in the squared circle!

First things first, Fire Pro isn't designed for fist fighting. It's there as an option, you can slam a fist into your foe or drive a boot into his gut but lining up the right plain is a pain most of the time and better used after making your opponent dizzy. 

Instead your assault will be mainly grapple attacks, when you come close enough to each other you automatically grapple. As soon as your hands lock you need to press a button and if you want a direction. Each button and direction combination performs a grapple move from weak to strong. 
To reverse the move you need to press exactly the same button as the other wrestler, this sounds harder than it is, it just takes a bit of thinking ahead and studying the flow of the match.  

 Another factor is there is no HUD and thus no bars or hidden requirements to meet before you can hit your signature move. They are part of your main grapple set and thus can be activated any time during a match, it's up to you when and where you hit it. To counter this it has a higher chance of being reversed at the start of the match and in the case of the American wrestlers where they usually end a match only hit full power when momentum is high and your challenger is vulnerable. When a signature is at full power it has the chance to CRITICAL which basically K.O's whoever gets hit, causes a tap out/KO or busts opponent open and leaves them vulnerable to pin.
Stamina is also a huge factor within a match, rather than taunting all the time you need to pay close attention to your wrestler. Are they sluggish or look tired? You need to let them take a breather be it after a big move or after taking an assault. Just like the actual product sometimes you have to roll out of the ring and grab a breath. Naturally smaller more athletic guys have more Stamina than say Abdullah the Butcher or Big Van Vader! 
The whole point of this is to make the fights more of a simulation. Rare you will have a squash match unless you go out of your way to make it so. It's this combination of elements which create such addicting matches which will make even the most cynical fan mark out at the end! 

Match types aren't as varied as other games in the genre and the stipulations aren't quite as customisable. Matches have to end Submission, KO, Pinfall, Count out or DQ, this means no table matches or Ladder matches. We they do have is cage matches, tag, Japanese death matches involving barb wire, exploding cage matches, handicap matches and Octagon Matches. What that final one means is you can also sim UFC/PRIDE style matches which gives you even more bang for your buck!

The other star mode here is Edit mode, here is where you make all the little tweets to your game to make it suit your needs. From the in depth Create A Wrestler to Create A Title there isn't much here you cannot customise!. For example say you want to recreate a previous Wrestlemania event, you can do that. Create the logo using Logo Editor then apply that to the ring in Create an Arena. Once that's out of the way you need the roster, have a look what's already available if you don't have the full set head over to CAW and get your edit head on!. 

Within the CAW system you have the advanced A.I system. What you have here is the ability to programme any edit or current wrestler to act as they would in real life!. This is paramount to editors and the Fire Pro experience, it's this which makes the game feel so authentic and helps create the legendary matches you will have!. What this tool provides is for example should you make Hulk Hogan you can have him react to a certain degree of damage before he "hulks up" and presents you with some right hands, a big boot and then follows up with the legendary leg drop!. It's that versatile! 

The Title Belt system works well aswell, once you have set one up and decided who should have it or who won it in a tournament the game then keeps a record of who won the titles, how many defences and how it was won. This makes it easier to keep a note of this titles prestige and previous holders which is essential for people running e-Feds. 

Create a Tournament is here which is something far too many wrestling games have missed out. Though it's a minor thing a lot of fans love the Tournament style setting and creates limitless fun with sim'd matches thus not knowing who will rise through the ranks to take the title at the end.

Victory Road is the career mode on offer in Fire Pro D. Either create a wrestler or pick an existing one and hit the road traveling around the world. The object of this is to beat your opponents, win and defend titles and become the G.O.A.T all while unlocking hidden wrestlers!.

Final Thoughts

This game does have problems, they could of put a bit more effort to aesthetics such as better entrances and champions walking to ring with their title. Match type feels limited even for games around it's release and options such as interference not being available do limit it some what. Finally collision detection takes some warming to! As stated going Melee is a pain at times and more often than not is not an option at the start of a match with a fresh opponent!. 

Looking past these criticisms and omissions you have the premier wrestling experience on the Dreamcast!. With enough content to last 2 life times and the ability to have jaw dropping matches what more would you need from a wrestling game?!?. This game is that good that it took another game in the series released on PS2 called Fire Pro Wrestling Returns for it to be bettered!.

Despite playing several editions including the infamous SNES version involving Suda 51 and the dangerously addictive Fire Pro 2 on GBA with it's Ring Management mode, I always find myself back here. Sprite based graphics and solid controls means this gem has aged very well, couple that with the newly released unofficial translation which will no doubt bring the community back to D, you have an unmissable piece of wrestling game history!. Take a bow No Mercy! For your retro gaming fix look no further than Sega Dreamcast's Fire Pro Wrestling D! 


Like this? Also look into Giant Gram2000 and Touken Retsunden 4 for similar Japanese wrestling goodness! 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: The House of the Dead: Overkill EC (Ps3)

 "Are you holding my hand? "Yes" "Let go, I ain't your momma!"
 SEGA week continues with a review for one of SEGA's most beloved arcade series. Except this title was developed with home consoles in mind and hasn't made its way to arcades as far as Im aware. All other main entries started within those arcade cabinets of yesteryear. House of the Dead launched in 1998 with an (unfinished) port released on the Saturn & PC a little later, House of the Dead 2 launched in 1998 too with a port a year later on Dreamcast, House of the Dead 3 launched in 2002 with a port to Xbox in 2003 and  House of the Dead 4 (a interquel of sorts between 2 & 3) launched in 2005 with a port to Ps3 in 2012. So how does Overkill fit into the storyline?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Retrospective: SEGA Saturn

"Face it Pretendo, you weren't worth waiting for."
If you were following my twitter last night you'd have seen a couple of Saturn pics as I did indeed pull out my Saturn to refresh my memory for this retrospective. In truth, I have been neglecting it of late. With authoring here I'm usually busy with playing through games for review or checking on recommendations so Ive not much time for my SEGA consoles. After last night though, I think I may keep one plugged in at all times now as they are a great way to unwind due the vastly different vibe you get from SEGA consoles compared to modern systems. Amusingly though I'd forgotten that the AV Composite cable Id purchased a couple of months ago was for my Mega Drive, Not my Saturn. So I had to Use the RF cable and tune the Saturn in to my TV. I suppose it helps with that old-school vibe (Ive now ordered an AV cable for the Saturn, you only get mono sound through the RF cable after all) or that's what I kept telling myself.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Update: SEGA Week, Expansion & Recruiting!

 "Blast Processing"
As the title suggests, Theres going to be a batch of SEGA articles making there way onto here. Over the next few days I'm going to do a couple of reviews, I wont be reviewing Sonic: Lost World though as Ive not yet decided whether to give it a try or not (really enjoyed Generations so maybe I will), while filling in the gaps with retrospectives and the like. Why? I dunno. I just felt like it was something that needed to be done. There's been some good stuff from SEGA these past few years yet they've failed to market any of it themselves so most people don't know anything about them. Plus, SEGA launched their last couple of consoles in November, so it'd be good to do something SEGA related during November. Actually, I don't really have an astoundingly agreeable reason why. Its probably due to the fact that I'm currently playing through a fair few SEGA games which seem to have sideswiped my plans for a Disgaea D2 review as Its been sidelined for a couple of days. It should make for an interesting week at least, especially for those with not much of an interest in what SEGA have been up to lately. Its safe to say that most of the games that get released by SEGA end up being regarded as niche these days so some may be new to people even though they've been out a couple of years. So what do I have in store?

  • Ive been playing HOTD: Overkill, Alpha Protocol, Binary Domain, Vanquish, Project Diva F, SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection and SEGA Rally. Ill be looking at doing a couple of reviews of some of these during the week (one on Wednesday & one on Friday, maybe Thursday instead), although I'm not sure which games to do, and maybe retrospectives for some of the older ones that I don't review. 
  • I still got a fully working Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast so I may do a post or two on some of these older consoles. I'm considering leaving the Dreamcast out though as no doubt people have probably read enough articles gushing about it. While I can't guarantee mine wouldn't be the same, at least it would be genuine seen as Ive been with SEGA since the Master System. The mainstream press seems to have started some #Trend about the awesomeness of the Dreamcast which I find annoying myself (I bet many of them didn't even buy one when it was actually doing the rounds in the industry and played Ps2 instead) Ill most definitely do a post on the Saturn. Its probably the most misunderstood of SEGA's consoles so that should be an interesting piece.
With me getting a fresh fibre-optic line being installed at my house on Saturday Ill be able to start publishing posts from home again, so I may have an extra one for Sunday. Ill try and not spill over into next week with the SEGA goodies but you never know, Some interesting news may crop up that deserves a full post on (Andi told me the other day that theres a rumour of ATLUS USA may be in talks with the Yakuza devs for a localisation, read into that what you will) If you have no interest or a hatred of SEGA you'll no doubt avoid the blog this week, but why? I may be a SEGA fan at heart, but I still enjoy Sony & Nintendo's stuff even though they were rivals to my childhood consoles. Fanboyism isn't a good thing. It closes your mind to a lot of whats on offer.

Expanding? Well not in the way your thinking. With me posting about anime's Ive been watching lately I thought it might be a good idea to do a post or two on Movies too. Specifically, Japanese exploitation cinema. Probably 90% of my collection of movies on DVD are films of this type. I'm a pretty big fan of Noboru Iguchi & his wacky films in particular. Most people have never heard of most of the films I have or are put off just by the title of the film. Some people get the wrong idea about the film altogether too, for example my brother thinks The Machine Girl is a blue movie which makes me a pervert due to it featuring a schoolgirl on the cover. You can't make this stuff up! That couldn't be any further from the truth with regards to what the film is actually about though. Hopefully putting a few films on a post will sway such confusion and may entice you to give them a go. If you've no interest in Otaku or Exploitation movies then you'll no doubt find most of the films a little too B-Movie for you cultured Hollywood taste. Worth a try though, if you can find them!
Recruitment Drive! Indeed I'm currently looking into getting a few more authors onto the site posting before I burn myself out. Andi pointed it out to me the other day when I said I was going to do a review for Vanquish, Alpha Protocol & Binary Domain all in the same week. He's no doubt right. A review is a lot of work so 3 in 5 days with a couple of posts splitting them up is WAY too much work for one person. Anyone interested? There's not really a set criteria for anyone wanting to give it a go or on the games you would review/preview, as long as your enthusiastic enough! You can get in touch with me via Twitter or on here.