Tag Archives: Sega

Ghost Blade Review

Ghost Blade ReviewGhost Blade (Available exclusively on the SEGA Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
Publisher: Hucast Games
Developer: Hucast Games
Release Date: September 27th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB doesn’t rate independent releases, but I can tell you right now this would get an E for everyone rating as it’s a 2D sprite-based shoot ‘em up, that doesn’t feature any harmful violence except the explosion of thousands of tiny ships.

Plays Like: Ghost Blade is a vertical shooter that pits you against a massive onslaught of enemy ships. Dodge all the bullets you can, and destroy everything that moves. Simple as that. Ghost Blade shares a lot in common with other shooters such as DoDonPachi and Mushihimesama, although is nowhere near as difficult. As a matter of fact, this game is directly aimed to introducing new players to the genre.

Review Basis: Completed the game on Novice and Normal modes.

In 2001 SEGA officially discontinued the Dreamcast in North America, it’s now 2015 and the platform continues to see new releases thanks to the efforts of independent game developers all over the world. Ghost Blade is another in a long line of indie releases that shows the dedication and love the community has for the Dreamcast. Many of the Dreamcast games that get released today are shoot ‘em ups that aim at pleasing fans of the early 90’s, and this release is no different. That being said, it’s not without its controversy too.

Ghost Blade was announced back in April 2013, with pre-orders opening for a limited to 300 (eventually raised to 500) copies of a Collector’s Edition. After that, the game saw one delay after another, and eventually its Caravan mode was completely scrapped before the game was eventually released in September 2015. Sadly those that did pre-order the Collector’s Edition still haven’t had their version of the game released, as only the regular and limited editions (contains the game’s musical soundtrack) are currently in stock. What we’re left with is a five-stage two-player shmup that was delayed by over two years. So as I said, lots of controversy. Controversy aside, let’s see how the game holds up.

Ghost Blade 1The Great:

If you enjoy shooters, you’re going to really enjoy this one. You begin by selecting one of three female pilots, each who controls a different ship. Your mission is to destroy a rogue AI that is out wreaking havoc on everything. Each ship has a different firing system in-place, as well as movement speed. There’s the classic spread shot, a wide shot with a missile-combo, and finally the all-powerful straight laser shot. You also have access to a screen-clearing bomb. The weapon system is rather unique. If you press the A button to shoot, you end up earning stage stars which boost your score, however if you use a focus attack, the X button, all of your firepower is streamed into a forward attack, which also slows your ship down, and that nets you tech orbs. These orbs fill a meter that, once full, grants you another stage-clearing bomb. So it’s nice how you juggle between the two modes of fire, which becomes even more important once you factor in the point system, which I’ll tackle in just a few.

Ghost Blade 2The Good:

  • Novice mode is a complete cake-walk, especially if you use the focus fire and continuously get new bombs. As an added bonus in this mode, if you happen to be touched by an enemy, you automatically deploy a screen-clearing bomb instead of blowing up. If you run out of bombs, that’s when you lose a life. I really thought this was a great way of introducing new players to the genre. Even those who have never played a shooter before should have little trouble clearing the game on Novice mode.
  • Normal mode doesn’t automatically release a bomb, but I still found it fairly simple to navigate the game within a few hours of practice. This isn’t a hard shmup, and that’s ok, because it plays very well. If you’re here for difficulty, this won’t be the shooter for you.

  • The point system is based a combo chain system. The more enemy kills you string together, the higher your combo. If you die, it reverts back to zero, so you really don’t want to do that. This isn’t a game where your main goal is to finish it, as honestly you can do that in under half-an-hour. Instead this is a game that requires you to play it over and over again to chase that ever illusive high score.

Ghost Blade 4+ I hope you enjoy kick-ass music, because you’re going to get it. Rafael Dyll who composed the music for other recently released Dreamcast games such as Last Hope, Gunlord, amongst others, is back to give this game a rip-roaring soundtrack that will stay with you long after you finish the game. I would highly recommend you check out the Limited Edition, because it comes with the game’s soundtrack on a separate disc. There were only 1,000 of these printed, so be sure to act fast before they’re all gone.

  • Graphically the game shines in VGA-mode, although there is a lot of slowdown when too much is going on. There are also times where you really have to pay attention to differentiate between enemy bullets and orbs and stars flying towards your ship. It isn’t too bad after a short period of time, but all of these sprites make the Dreamcast come to a grinding halt, especially if you shoot out a bomb while all of this is happening on-screen. Backgrounds are varied, and detailed, and overall the game looks quite sharp, and runs well for the most part. I should also mention Ghost Blade supports a TATE mode, where you can play on a vertical monitor for the optimal experience.
  • As you’d expect the game supports the VMU, where little icons are displayed, as well as the arcade stick. This is extremely important for those of us that like to relive the glory days of the arcades in our homes.

  • The packaging is classic retro goodness. If you’ve purchased any other games from Hucast you know what to expect. You get a DVD case, which fits nicely with Hucast’s other offerings like DUX and Redux: Dark Matters. You also get a full color instruction manual, and in the case of the Limited Edition, you get a fantastic pressed audio CD featuring the game’s soundtrack. Speaking of pressed discs, the game disc itself is also professionally pressed.

  • Ghost Blade 3The So-So:

    +/- A training mode, two-player co-op mode, and the five-stage campaign is all she wrote for Ghost Blade. While it’s fun chasing high scores, I can see people wanting a little more after a few days with the game. Unless people want to partake in a high score tournament, I just don’t see this being in one’s Dreamcast for months to come.

    Ghost Blade 5The Lowdown:

    Ghost Blade is a brand new Dreamcast game released in 2015, you have automatically get brownie points just for that. Sure there was some controversy surrounding the release of the game, and yes some might say the game can be a little light on content, but it remains a truly enjoyable shooter to play, and that’s key here. New fans to the genre would do well in checking this one out as it makes for a great introduction. I can’t wait to see what Hucast has in-store for Redux 2.

    Final Score: 8/10

    Redux: Dark Matters Review

    ReduxRedux: Dark Matters (Available exclusively on SEGA Dreamcast)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
    Publisher: Hucast
    Developer: KTX Software & René Hellwig
    Release Date: January 27th, 2014

    Parent Talk: Given Redux is an indie release, it was not submitted to the ESRB, and therefore has no official rating.  It’s a spaceship shooter, which is bright and colorful, features no blood or other violence except for countless explosions.  Technically that’s violence, but seriously these are the types of games I grew up with, and children shouldn’t find anything here damaging.  They might find it incredibly hard though, because it is.

    Plays Like: Given this is a remake of DUX it plays pretty much the same.  There’s a charge shot, a standard shot, the ability to absorb enemy bullets, and depending on the difficulty you select, an R-Type-like power pod.  Dodge billions of enemy bullets, and destroy everything in your path.  ‘Simple’ as that.

    Review Basis: Hucast was nice enough to send me a review copy, and I managed to get to the fifth stage, and will return to try and finish the game, but I’ve seen more than enough to review the game.

    Redux: Dark Matters is a Kickstarter success story.  It managed to score a whopping $53,121 dollars, and is a complete remake of DUX, which I happened to have reviewed last year.  While the core gameplay mechanics remain largely the same, the graphics have been completely overhauled, an entirely new stage has been added, and a second, and much more difficult ship has been added.

    Redux1The Great:

    The soundtrack is utterly fantastic.  Being composed by Andre Neuman, with creative input from Turrican and R-Type composer Chris Huelsbeck, you really have to hear the full soundtrack in all its glory to truly appreciate how amazing it is.  I highly, highly recommend you pick up the soundtrack along with the game because this is one OST you’re going to want to have on your mobile device for sure.

    Redux2The Good:

    + Same excellent gameplay as DUX 1.5, yet new at the same time.  You’ve got access to a charge shot, the typical standard shot, directional missiles, the ability to soak enemy bullets, and the power pod.  Sounds familiar right?  It should as this is all from DUX.  The new feature here is that the soak ability no longer just sucks in enemy shots.  Now a targeting reticule appears on all enemy ships within a certain distance of your ship.  Pressing the R-button will then repel the bullets back to the enemies.  It makes everything old feel new again.

    + There’s also an entirely new ship to play as, which ditches the power pod, making the game far tougher as a result.  Instead of the power pod you’re given a spread-like blaster which makes clearing the stages a fraction easier, but dodging incoming bullets virtually impossible.  It makes the game feel distinctly different than playing on Normal with the standard ship.

    + Dark Matters is extremely tough, but never feels cheap.  The slow-paced nature of the game always makes you feel like you can get out of any situation, so when you die, you know you did something wrong.  This challenge is what keeps you coming back for more.

    Redux3The So-So:

    +/- I loved the revamped graphics, new backgrounds, and higher level of detail, but there’s a bizarre blur effect that makes everything appear much more pixelated than DUX 1.5.  It’s not too distracting once you get into the game, but it’s bizarre that the sharpness and contrast appear to have been affected by the upgraded graphics.

    +/- As with DUX it can be a little hard to make out power-ups and enemy bullets once the action really gets intense.  Keep in mind you’re dodging not only enemy bullets, but spaceships, and often the very stage itself.  Sometimes it becomes a bit too overwhelming and can make seeing exactly where you have to go more of a challenge than it should be.

    The Bad:

    – I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t add some sort of splash screen intro in order to explain the story.  Any silly arcade-like storyline would have sufficed.

    Redux4The Lowdown:

    Redux: Dark Matters is an extremely enjoyable shmup.  It has a couple of shortcomings, especially with the new blur effect on the graphics, but the core gameplay is very fun.  It’s challenging without being cheap, the two difficulty settings/ships are unique enough to make the game feel almost like two distinct games, and it’s fun enough to keep you coming back for more.  If you have the chance, I certainly recommend you check out Redux. 

    Final Score: 8.3/10

    Shining Force III Review

    Shining Force IIIShining Force III (Available exclusively on SEGA Saturn)
    ESRB Rating: T
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Tactical RPG
    Publisher: SEGA
    Developer: Sonic Software Planning and Camelot Software
    Release Date: May 31st, 1998

    Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Shining Force III T for teen because of mild animated violence, and mild language. Much like the other entries in the Shining Force, and Fire Emblem series, parents can expect cartoony animated violence, and mature subject matter with mild language. If this game were rated today I’m fairly confident it would earn an E10+ rating since the graphics aren’t realistic and are so primitive by today’s standards.

    Plays Like: If you’ve ever played a tactical RPG you know what to expect. Story progression takes place on a 3D field with sprite-based characters. You can visit towns, talk to countless NPCs and purchase goodies from item shops. Battles take place on a dedicated battle map, whereby both enemy and player units take turns moving on a grid. Depending on where in the environment you place your units, their combat effectiveness increases or decreases. Certain units are also stronger than others, giving way to lots of strategy.

    Review Basis: I played and finished Shining Force III back in 1998, and recently played through almost half the game to brush myself up on the gameplay mechanics, graphics, and overall presentation.

    One of the biggest crimes SEGA of America committed back in the late nineties was releasing only one part of the Shining Force III saga. For those that don’t know, the game is broken down into three different scenarios. In Japan, those that purchased all three could send in their proof of purchase to SEGA and claim the much-coveted Premium disc which included a wide assortment of bonus goodies. So what made the three scenarios so special? It was the way they connected to one another. Save a character in scenario one, he might come back in scenario two or three to help save you when you least expect it. Even the story would be slightly altered based on the actions you performed in each of the different scenarios. This was fairly mind-blowing stuff back in 1998! Sadly North Americans and Europeans would only be teased as both scenario two and three never made it outside Japan. As such, what you’re left with is essentially only a third of the overall experience, but damn what a third.

    The Great:

    The world of Shining Force III is broken down into several main factions. There’s the Destonian Empire, the Republic of Aspinia, which broke free of Emperor Domaric’s rule, and the neutral region of Saraband. You take on the role of Synbios, a young Lord in the Republic. The Republic’s king, Benetram is meeting with Emperor Domaric in Saraband, in hopes of establishing permanent peace treaties between the Empire and the Republic. Things go awry when mysterious masked monks appear in Saraband, and explosions break out in the city. While investigating the explosions Synbios and his entourage are attacked by the mysterious monks. Making their way back to their camp, they see a group of monks with King Benetram, and he’s kidnapping Emperor Domaric. All is clearly not as it seems as when Synbios makes his way back to camp King Benetram is seated on his throne and has been there for a while. So who kidnapped the opposing Emperor and why? With war erupting all around you, a mysterious sect of monks appearing out of nowhere, clearly something sinister is afoot. Only you and your team can save King Benetram and get to the bottom of this.

    The story acts as one giant tease because while entertaining and complex on its own, things get even more interesting when you take into account the second and third scenarios. The second scenario deals with this same story, but from the side of the Empire, through the eyes of the Emperor’s youngest son Medion. It’s scenario three that really brings things together, by following the mercenary Julian, who is actually the true hero of Shining Force III. In the first two scenarios he’s a secondary character that joins both Synbios and Medion. The first two scenarios take place roughly at the same time, but the third pushes the story forward and combines the previous two scenarios perfectly. Characters featured in the first two scenarios return in the third, certain choices you make in the first two games unlock different characters that can be recruited in the third. It’s a brilliant system that was never fully realized anywhere outside Japan, and that’s a crime against humanity!

    For anyone interested, Julian’s initial motivation was to kill a character named Galm, who he believed killed his father. That might sound somewhat familiar to fans of Shining the Holy Ark, as Julian was actually featured in that game. He was the young child that asked for help locating his missing father. Now if that’s not a cool way of tying the games together, I don’t know what is. It’s just such a shame the entire trilogy of games couldn’t have been released . SEGA fans had to wait almost an entire year with no new releases from November 1998 to September 1999 when the Dreamcast hit. It would have been nice to have gotten at least one more entry in the series during that long span of time.

    Shining ForceIII_1The Good:

    + Far less complex than some of its brethren. You don’t have to worry about getting bogged down with countless menus, or thousands of unit stats. Here you simply need to make sure you pit the right unit against an enemy, and position yourself so that you’ve got the greatest defensive and offensive position possible. Simple as that.

    + While the simple interface and gameplay might make you think the game’s a push-over, nothing could be further from the truth. This game can easily kick your ass if you’re not careful. Enemies aren’t dumb, and will automatically attack your units that have the lowest HP, or are the weakest unit based on their type. This means you have to be extremely careful how you position your troops, and the strategy you use to tackle whatever foes lay in your way.

    + Finding secret maps allow you to access areas that not only provide additional enemies to battle, but also a wide assortment of goodies which will make later battles much easier.

    + There’s also great mission variety. Some missions challenge you to defeat all the enemies on the map, others force you to save different characters within a set number or turns, etc. This goes a long way in helping keep battles fresh.

    + The introduction of a friendship system also adds an entirely unique layer of depth to the battles. If two units are positioned beside each other, they will slowly form a bond. At first the units are all allies, but they can become partners, and eventually work their way through the ranks to soul mates. Doing so rewards bonuses in key stats including attack, magic, counter, etc. The catch is that you have to keep these units paired up in order for the bonuses to take affect, which completely changes the dynamic of battles. The downside to this system is that if one unit falls in combat, their friendship ranking is reduced by one level.

    + The soundtrack was composed by Motoi Sakuraba, the famous composer of such hits including the Star Ocean series, the Golden Sun series, and my personal favorite, Shining the Holy Ark. The music is powerful, emotional, and sounds fantastic as each new track fits the tone perfectly. The sound effects are mostly ripped directly from Shining the Holy Ark, which is a good thing as that game was extremely well designed, but some might be a little disappointed by the repeat.

    + Very few would argue that most 32-bit era 3D games haven’t aged too well in the graphics department. It’s true here as well, as the FMV sequences are extremely grainy, 3D environments are mostly made up of low res and low poly count objects, but the sprite-based characters look very nice. This is the one style that hasn’t aged too poorly, all things considered. While in combat the characters are rendered in full 3D, and animate well. You can clearly see and immediately know what’s happening on-screen. The other good news is that there’s almost no loading whatsoever, and the game runs at a fairly constant framerate, which is great.

    Shining ForceIII_2The So-So:

    +/- Unlike the second iteration in the series, Shining Force III pulls players along with the story, removing any free-roaming areas. That means exploration is limited to the area you’re currently in. This is important to note because once you move on, that area is no longer accessible.

    +/- Unlike some other tactical RPGs, there are no permanent deaths, unless you fail to recruit a character before they were killed. This means you can visit a church and revive your fallen comrades. It’s also possible to teleport back to your last visited church, which allows you to restart a battle that wasn’t going in your favor, while retaining the experience gained. This means you can grind levels for all your units at any point, and can be considered both a good and a bad aspect depending on how you decide to play the game.

    The Bad:

    – The camera system takes a very long time to get used to, and even when you do, it’s still very easy to make a mistake when you’re trying to position your units while in combat. You’ll be constantly pressing the L and R buttons to rotate the camera to get a better look at the action, and it can become a bit annoying after a while. Exploration can also be a bit problematic because of the camera angles, as you might miss where an entrance is, or not notice a secret path.

    – The limited voice samples are just awful. The lack of emotion while delivering the dialogue makes Resident Evil sound like it should win an Academy Award.

    – Some glitchy sound effects cut the music every now and then for whatever reason. It doesn’t happen often, but is annoying when it does.

    The Ugly:

    Waiting a lifetime for the three scenarios, and never seeing them appear anywhere else is heartbreaking, especially since the story is so interesting and the gameplay so fresh. What a waste!

    Shining ForceIII_3The Lowdown:

    Shining Force III holds up remarkably well today. While the graphics may look dated in a lot of ways, the gameplay is still spot-on. I can’t stress this enough, but far too few have played this awesome game, and fewer still ever will. Today (2013) the game fetches insane prices on eBay, depending on the condition. You can spend upwards of $150 or more, which is asking a lot for only one-third the story. If you can spot a copy of the game for under $100 I’d say to pick it up in a heartbeat, and if you’re a huge Saturn fan I’d say it’s worthy of $120 since most of us had to pay $89.99 back in 1998 for our copies. Since this game has never been released elsewhere, the only way to experience it is via the Saturn and I think it’s well worth checking out.

    Final Score: 9/10

    Crazy Taxi Review

    Crazy Taxi ReviewCrazy Taxi (Available on Dreamcast, GameCube, and PlayStation 2)
    ESRB Rating: T
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Arcade Racing
    Publisher: SEGA
    Developer: SEGA-AM3
    Dreamcast Release Date: January 24th, 2000\
    PlayStation 2 Release Date: May 14th, 2001
    GameCube Release Date: November 18th, 2001

    Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Crazy Taxi T for teen because of animated violence and strong language. Honestly I’d let my kids play this one if only because it’s so cartoony and over the top. You have nothing to fear here.

    Plays Like: Select your driver, pick-up a fare and get them to their destination as quickly as possible. Swerve in and out of on-coming traffic, drive underwater, do whatever it takes to save as much time as possible and you just might rake up enough points to become a CT legend.

    Review Basis: While I used to play Crazy Taxi for hours on end back in 2000, for this retro review I simply played it for a few hours to remember all the key features. Sadly I didn’t have the time to invest in order to really highlight the advanced features for the video review.

    Crazy Tax is the perfect example to show why SEGA was such a groundbreaking arcade maker. They were always able to take a relatively simple idea, in this case driving, and run wild with it. This is why there are legions of House of the Dead fans, why Virtua Fighter 2 was the top selling Saturn game of all time, and why every single Dreamcast owner should have a copy of Crazy Taxi in their collection. This game was not only one of the smash hits that helped define the Dreamcast itself, but SEGA as a whole.

    The Great:

    Here’s the concept, you drive around an open city picking up fares, once you have one your objective is to drive them to their destination as quickly as possible. That’s it, that’s all. Sounds simple does it? Well, it is. It’s also some of the most fun you can possibly have with a modern videogame. There’s no story, there’s no long open-ended adventure. No, this is about pure arcade action. You see you can get your fares to their destinations any way you want, be it driving under water, through oncoming traffic, anything you can think of. In fact the more daring you are, and the quicker you get your clients to their desired location, the more money you earn and the greater your time bonus is. This is arcade driving at its absolute best.

    Crazy Taxi1The Good:

    + Not only do you have your standard arcade-style gameplay mode, which forces you to constantly pick up new fares in order to keep time on your clock, but there are three, five, and ten minute alternatives which offer a somewhat more relaxed experience.

    + One of my favorite additions to this home version is the Dreamcast City, an entirely new city added for players to experience on top of the Arcade City. While not as refined as the Arcade City, it offers players something new, and remains a blast to play through.

    + Crazy Box mode allows players to learn the ropes, and master some of the more advanced techniques such as drifting. Think of this mode as a mission-based objective mode. It starts off easy enough, but increases in difficulty rather quickly.

    + While it features a simple concept, mastering the game takes dozens upon dozens of hours. You can perform a Crazy Dash, Drift, Back Dash, Back Drift, Stop, and much, much more. This is all done through the simple manipulation of the gas, brake, drive and reverse gear. It still boggles my mind just how complex you can get with Crazy Taxi if you invest enough time with it.

    + Outside of gameplay, the graphics hold up quite well. While the Arcade City is much more refined than the Dreamcast City, both look very nice and detailed. Sure everything might appear just a tad boxy by today’s standards, but they do the job just the same. There is some framerate drops every now and then, but for the most part the game is silky smooth rocking out 60 frames-per-second. Pop-in isn’t usually a problem, except for one major location in the new Dreamcast City.

    + The soundtrack features such excellent alternative rock artists such as Bad Religion and The Offspring, and for whatever reason fits the tone of the game perfectly.

    Crazy Taxi2The Bad:

    – While the soundtrack rocks, the same can’t be said for the voice acting. Most pedestrians say the same few lines over and over again. It gets old fast, but thankfully the music is blaring so loudly that you can barely hear what anyone is saying.

    – The on-screen directional arrow, which highlights where you should be heading takes a little getting used to. In the Arcade City it tells you which direction you should head, as in should you make a left or right turn to get to your destination, but in the Dreamcast City it only points to your overall objective. This means you can’t follow the arrow the same between the two cities and that can be extremely jarring.

    Crazy Taxi3The Lowdown:

    SEGA might not be dead, but they’re no longer the same company in my eyes. Crazy Taxi shows them at their absolute best. They took such a ridiculously simple concept and created something so addictive and fun that 13 years after its release you can still lose yourself to it. That’s a true gaming classic, and while there are have been countless ports to other platforms, its original home is on the Dreamcast. You absolutely must buy this game if you own a Dreamcast, and if you don’t, buy it for whatever console you do have. It’s almost illegal how much fun Crazy Taxi is.

    Final Score: 9/10

    Guilty Gear X Review

    Guilty Gear X ReviewGuilty Gear X (Available on SEGA Dreamcast, and PlayStation 2)
    ESRB Rating: T
    Number of Players: 1 to 2
    Genre: Fighting
    Publisher: Sammy Corporation
    Developer: ARC System Works
    Dreamcast Release Date: December 14th, 2000 (Japan-only)
    PlayStation 2 Release Date: October 2nd, 2001 (North America)

    Parent Talk: While the Japanese version obviously wasn’t rated by the ESRB, the PS2 version was and it earned a T for teen rating because of animated blood and violence. As I’ve said in the past, all 2D fighters feature violence and a lot of them feature animated blood as well. There’s nothing too over the top though. Mortal Kombat this isn’t.

    Plays Like: This one-on-one, four-button fighter is very easy to pick up and play. It features only the bare-bones gameplay modes you’d expect from an arcade fighter. It’s button-masher friendly, yet advanced enough that skilled players will easily find a lot to sink their teeth into.

    Review Basis: Played the PlayStation 2 version quite a lot when it hit the scene in 2001, but this was the first time I had experienced the Dreamcast version. I played through the arcade mode, and tried a few local multiplayer matches.

    Fighting games are the Dreamcast’s bread and butter. They’re the one genre that the system excelled at. It’s pretty obvious too, as there are tons of classic fighters on the system that are still being played today. The problem is that Dreamcast owners want to get the very best out of their system, and as such tend to use the VGA adapter to bump the resolution to a glorious 640×480 progressive, or 480p. Why is that a problem, well mainly because Capcom’s fighters, while VGA compatible, look extremely pixelated while in VGA mode because their native resolution is so much lower than what is actually being displayed. Guilty Gear X changed all of that, because it was designed with 480p in mind, and as a result was the very best looking 2D videogame ever created at the time of its release. ARC System Works showed Capcom up, and no one saw that coming.

    The Great:

    The graphics were, and still are the biggest highlight of Guilty Gear X. People don’t realize just how huge of a leap forward this game was when it came out. With an equipped-VGA adapter the colors were crisper, sharper, and more stunning than any other 2D game. Animation, rain, and even small details like leaves blowing in the wind were a real sight to behold. Fast forward 13 years and the game remains impressive, and holds up better than any other 2D Dreamcast fighter while using the VGA adapter. The sense of style is also fantastic. The only downside is when characters are too far from one another and the background scales back. This causes some minor distortion, but it can be excused because of how well everything else turned out.

    GGX1The Good:

    + Simple to get into fighting mechanics. With only four-buttons (Punch, Kick, Slash, and Heavy Slash) new players to the genre won’t have any problems getting right into the thick of things. Cycling through combos is much easier than in most other fighters, allowing players to appear better at the game than they really are. Air juggling is also heavily featured thanks to the simple combo strings. There are also super moves which require the use of the tension gauge, and even an instant death move that can be pretty tricky to actually land. More advanced techniques include aerial attacks that work similar to that of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 where you can get some major air and continue or begin an impressive combo. There’s also a robust cancel system in place once you get used to the overall mechanics.

    + The move sets are somewhat limited compared to other fighters out there, but that allows you to easily memorize all your favorite characters’ moves. This also encourages players to experiment with some of the more advanced techniques.

    + Great cast of unique characters. Every character feels completely different than the last.

    + The rocking soundtrack is one of those love it or hate it things. I’m in the camp that thinks it rocks, literally.

    GGX2The So-So:

    +/- Limited gameplay modes. If you’re expecting more than just your typical arcade, versus, training, and survival modes, you might be disappointed. There is a fun Recording mode which allows you to save some of your best moves to the VMU, although its use is fairly limited.

    +/- About the only real downfall, if you can all it that, is that Guilty Gear X doesn’t try to do anything particularly new. It plays it fairly safe, and doesn’t really try to do too many new things.

    GGX4The Lowdown:

    Guilty Gear X will forever be remembered for its incredible graphics, tight gameplay, and rocking soundtrack. Sure it’s not the most technical fighter ever released, but it’s still very fun to play, and in my book that counts for a lot. If you’re looking for a fighter you can easily pick up, both the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 versions are excellent choices.

    Final Score: 8/10

    Mars Matrix Review

    Mars MatrixMars Matrix (Available exclusively on the SEGA Dreamcast)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1 to 2
    Genre: Shmup
    Publisher: Capcom
    Developer: Takumi Corporation
    Release Date: April 30th, 2001

    Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Mars Matrix E for everyone and lists animated violence in the warning box. Like all arcade shmups (shoot ’em ups) of the time, the action is 2D sprite-based with a mix of 3D polygons, so you’re going to see lots and lots of ships exploding…mainly yours. This is the type of game I loved when I was younger, classics like Gradius and Life Force were just as violent as Mars Matrix and I turned out just fine…depending on who talk to.

    Plays Like: Mars Matrix is a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up that takes no prisoners. It’s a simple to learn, impossible to master shooter. Make no mistake about it, if you’re new to the genre DO NOT start here. This game will literally destroy you. Gameplay is simple, you have one of two projectiles you can shoot, you don’t explode when smashing into enemy ships, and you can level up your craft by collecting experience cubes. Finally there’s an absorption barrier you can use if the GHB (Gravity Hole Bomb) gauge is full, which protects you for a short period of time, and can also be used to detonate a powerful screen-clearing bomb.

    Review Basis: While I’d love to say I finished the game, that would be a flat-out lie. This is an early bullet hell shmup, meaning there are literally hundreds if not thousands of bullets on the screen at any given time. Like most shooters in the sub-genre, the first level is manageable, but by level two the game hand’s you your ass. If by some miracle you make it to level three, the difficulty only increases from there. I managed to make it to the fourth boss on four stars, which is the default difficulty level. Like I do with most of these retro reviews, I only played for a short period of time to reflect on a classic gem from the past. That said, I have every intention of finish all six stages.

    Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. I thought I had played Mars Matrix before, but apparently I was wrong. Steven sent me the game to review and I ended up playing it for about four hours straight after just wanting to try it out and capture a little footage for my video review. That’s always an excellent sign when a game does that to you. I was stunned by the game’s overall difficulty. Make no mistake about it, this is a shooter for fans of the genre or veterans; newbies look elsewhere. Even on easy you won’t make it very far. Since I have quite a bit of experience with shmups I stuck to the four-star difficulty, and got destroyed time and time again, loving every minute of it. I will be looking for a copy on eBay once I return the game to Steven as I really want to dig deeper into the game.

    The Great:

    Excellent combat system. Here’s the rundown, you can select two different ships or Mosquitos as they’re called here. The red one has normal speed, but a wideblaster or spread-shot weapon. The blue Mosquito is faster, but has a laser shot that only shoots in a straight line. Regardless of the ship you’re using, you can fire a regular shot, rapid fire, or the piercing cannon. The piercing cannon is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal, but requires you get up close and personal with enemies, not always a great idea, although if your ship comes in contact with an enemy it doesn’t mean instant-death like virtually all other shmups out there. Finally there’s the Gravity Hole Bomb (GHB) gauge which slowly fills over time. Once maxed out you can activate an absorption barrier that will both absorb and reflect incoming enemy fire. If you hold down the button until the gauge is completely empty you can release a gravity hole bomb which clears the screen. It might sound like you’ve got enough behind you to stand a chance, but you’re outnumbered about a hundred-billion to one.

    Mars Matrix1The Good:

    + Combo/evolving system. Destroyed enemies typically drop gold Experience Cubes. These cubes not only gives you experience, but act as a combo multiplier. The quicker you collect Experience Cubes, the more your score will increase, but so will your craft’s level. It’s possible to raise your level to eight, and in doing so your standard regular shot will also increase in power, which perfectly ties the two systems together.

    + Heavy emphasis on strategy. While it might not appear as such at first, you can actually project where enemy fire will reflect while using the GHB system. Not only that, but you don’t always have to use the full meter and deploy a bomb. Instead you can simply reflect shots back towards enemies and let go of the button. This way the meter fills up quicker.

    + Lots of replay value. Not only will it take you a long time just to finish the Arcade Mode, but then there’s the Elite Mode, which replaces enemy positions. There’s also a Score Challenge Mode which challenges you to continuously beat your previous high score.

    + One of my favorite features of the game is the store. Everything you do in the game nets you points, and all these points are tallied together and converted to cash. While the prices might seem ridiculously high at first, you quickly realize after an hour of playing that they’re just right. Not only can you unlock the art gallery, which is awesome, but also gameplay features like additional credits (continues), strategies (actual video tutorials showing a perfect play-through of the level), and much, much more. This extends the replay value astronomically.

    + Audio visual presentation holds up surprisingly well even some 12 years after the game’s release. I played this with my VGA-to-HDMI upscaler and the game looked great. Sprites popped from the screen, there were lots of fancy special effects thrown in for good measure, and only minimal slow-down, and slight pixelation here and there. Overall, it’s one highly detailed shmup. The audio is also rocking, with great techno music and strong sound effects.

    The So-So:

    +/- While not really falling in a good or bad category, Mars Matrix is a one-credit scorer. What does that mean, it means that once you’ve used up all your lives your high-score will be registered. It is replaced the second you hit the continue or credit button. The continues basically let you progress just a bit further and practice, but for the high scores to count, you need to go back to the beginning and try all over again.

    Mars Matrix2The Lowdown:

    Most people will find Mars Matrix way too hard, but therein lies its charm. It forces you to keep playing in order to unlock more continues from the store. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. The store adds new gameplay tweaks, there’s the Elite Mode to tackle, and much, much more. For a game released at the tail end of the Dreamcast’s life, it holds up supremely well. If you enjoy shmups, and are just starting to collect for the Dreamcast, this is one you need to have in your collection. It’s fantastic fun that will keep you coming back for more.

    Final Score: 8.5/10

    Sturmwind Review

    Sturmwind ReviewSturmwind (Available exclusively on SEGA Dreamcast)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Shoot ’em up
    Publisher: redspotgames
    Developer: Duranik
    Release Date: April 23rd, 2013

    Parent Talk: As an indie release Sturmwind has not been submitted to the ESRB or any other rating board. It features lots of explosions, and some highly unique and creative enemy and boss designs that the very young might find scary, but anyone over 10 should easily be able to enjoy everything Sturmwind has to offer.

    Plays Like: Sturmwind is mostly a horizontal shoot ’em up (shmup), however there are sections where vertical scrolling takes place. Core gameplay reminds me of Radiant Silvergun in that you already have all your weapons right from the get-go. The main difference is that weapons can be powered up, and act as your health meter. There are 16 levels spread across seven worlds, 20 unique bosses, and hundreds of enemies. In every way, shape and form this feels like a AAA release from Irem, Treasure, or another popular shmup developer.

    Review Basis: Duranik was kind enough to send us a review copy. I played it on and off for about six days until I beat it on easy, now working my way through normal.

    Sturmwind began its life as Native for the Atari Jaguar CD, way back in 1997. From there it switched names, platforms, and was delayed many times. Usually that’s a sign that things aren’t going to turn out so well, but in this case it was mainly because Duranik demanded the best quality possible prior to release. The end result of all those years of development is without a doubt the very best indie game I have ever played. This is an outstanding effort and just goes to show that if you have devotion and believe in something strong enough, anything is possible. Don’t bother reading this review, just go out and pick Sturmwind up right now.

    Sturmwind5The Great:

    AAA quality through and through. There’s no real way of saying it, the video review speaks for itself. This is a game that looks outstanding, as if it’s pushing the Dreamcast to its very limits. There are literally dozens upon dozens of special effects going on at any given time. There are also interactive backgrounds, multi-layered stages, tons of enemies on-screen at once and a rock solid frame-rate. The game warns you when a background comes alive so you don’t accidentally ram into it, and enemy bullets are always clear. If you die, it’s your fault, not the game’s. There’s even a full-motion video introduction! You simply don’t expect to see this level of polish in an indie release like this, no matter how long it may have been in development. This is one game that begs to be played in 480p with a VGA adapter. If you can upscale the image to 720p or 1080p even better. It looks incredible.

    Sturmwind4The Good:

    + Wonderful gameplay. The system is extremely simple, and works perfectly. At the start of the game you have access to all three different weapons, LightBlitz (L), NordWest (N), and Rudel (R). You can switch between the weapons on the fly, and it’s required as each one has its strengths and weaknesses against different situations. When a weapon container drops , you can fire at it to cycle between an additional 1,000 points, L, N, or R power-ups. Power-ups take on the form of a drone, and players can collect two per weapon. Weapons can also be fired behind your craft, and so can the drones. A good strategy is to have the two drones fire behind the ship and your main weapon fire in front, but you can mix and match as you see fit. There’s also a charge shot, and bombs, which wipe out everything on the screen.

    + Weapons act as your health meter. Even if you max out all your weapons, as soon as you get hit whatever weapon you had equipped is destroyed. You also have to be careful when using the charge shot because if you hold it too long it will overheat and explode, causing you to lose said weapon. Lose all three weapons and you lose a life. Thankfully you can fix your broken weapon by finding the corresponding power-up from a weapon container.

    + Strategy and switching. Not only do you have to constantly be switching your weapons for strategic gameplay, like using the LightBlitz underwater because it’s the strongest there, but you have to be mindful of which power-up you grab. Let’s say a weapon container drops and you fire it until it switches to N, but your craft is still using LightBlitz, if you don’t switch to NordWest you will have wasted the power-up. It takes some serious getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the system adds an entirely unique layer of strategy and quick thinking to the game.

    + Wave bonuses are addicting. Shoot every single enemy of a particular wave and you’re awarded a ‘Wave Bonus,’ which you actually see on the screen. If you can shoot all the letters quickly enough before they disappear you’re awarded a star, which acts as a multiplier. Get good enough at the game and you can achieve some pretty incredible high scores.

    + Two distinct gameplay modes, Normal and Arcade. Normal mode features all 16 levels and your progress is saved once you finish a level. This also unlocks a level-select, which is great for newbies as they can continuously replay whatever stage is giving them problems. The Arcade mode features six levels but progress doesn’t save, and there are no continues. This mode is about as hardcore as it gets.

    + Great variety.  Most levels work as you’d imagine, where you fly from left to right destroying everything you see, but every now and then things are mixed up and an entire level will be nothing more than a giant boss fight.  Some levels add horizontal scrolling, and more.

    + Modern touches like achievements really held round out the package. Most of the achievements will keep you coming back for months to come because of how challenging they are.

    + Online leaderboards. While Sturmwind doesn’t support the broadband adapter unfortunately, it does give you an alpha numeric code which can be entered on Duranik’s website where you can compare your scores with the rest of the world. It’s a really nice touch.

    + Incredible amount of content. Unless you’re a shmup guru this game will keep you busy for weeks on end. From the two different modes, three difficulty levels, to the sheer size of the game, there’s always something to do. There’s also the achievements, and global leaderboards that are always teasing you try again tomorrow.

    + While I already talked about the graphics and overall presentation, the audio can’t be left out. The soundtrack is excellent and features a wide assortment of Compact Disc Digital Audio (CCDA) tracks. I had to add in as it’s a selling feature. Most tracks are techno and synth, which is expected for a game like this, but regardless the audio is extremely well done.

    + SD card adapter compatible. Sturmwind is the first commercially available Dreamcast game to make use of the Chinese-created SD card adapter. Players can save their high scores, replays, and even add-ons for the game. This is a feature I’ll have to try out at some point in the future, as I currently do not own the adapter.

    + Like all indie releases on the Dreamcast Sturmwind is region free, meaning you can play it on any Dreamcast regardless of where you happen to live.

    Sturmwind3The So-So:

    +/- When there are dozens of enemies on the screen at once, and explosions going on everywhere it can be somewhat difficult to see if you’re about to smash into a wall. It’s a very minor gripe that plagues even the best shmups.

    The Bad:

    – Oh how I wish there was a two-player co-op mode. This game deserves to be played with a friend.

    The Ugly:

    My voice after screaming at the TV for not being able to magically push my ship out of harm’s way.

    Sturmwind2The Lowdown:

    The Dreamcast was home to some excellent shmups like Ikaruga, Under Defeat, Gigawing, and many others, but there’s just something special about Sturmwind that raises the bar so high. I’m not ashamed to say this, but Sturmwind has become my absolute favorite shooter on the system, and I don’t care what you have to do, you need to play this game. It’s not only one of the best Dreamcast games ever made, it’s the best indie game I’ve ever played, and hands-down the best shmup released this year, and even one of my top games of 2013. Go buy this game, nuff said!

    Final Score: 9.4/10

    Sonic: Lost World Debut Trailer Goes X-treme!

    Sega has admittedly brought back Sonic from the dead with Sonic Colors and Generations, but the franchise is not back to its full glory yet. Enter Sonic: Lost World, a Nintendo-exclusive title for both the Wii U and 3DS. While it’s too early to judge whether this will really put Sonic back on the map, the snippets of gameplay in this trailer is absolutely awesome. Younger gamers will liken it to a Super Mario Galaxy-esque experience, but older Sega veterans will think even further back in time.

    Here’s some gameplay of Sonic X-treme, a cancelled Sega Saturn title which uses a “fish-eye” point of view, combining 2D and 3D elements. Much to my surprise, Sonic: Lost World is obviously heavily inspired by Sega’s past efforts…it’s almost a remake of Sonic X-treme, which actually works really well when combining the Super Mario Galaxy elements into play. I never expected Sega and Sonic Team to look back in this cancelled game with a disastrous development process in order to go forward. It’s a good place to start up a concept from.

    Some Info on Project X Zone

    Project X Zone is a crossover that bears a striking resemblance to the (unfortunately unreleased-in-the-West) Namco X Capcom). Details are scarce for the time being, but information has slowly been trickling out. Other than the fact it is a collaborative effort between Japanese gaming giants CAPCOM, Sega, and Namco, little has been known until now. Famitsuhas recently posted screenshots of some of the characters featured in the game. Here’s what we know so far:

    • The game is a 2D sprite-based strategy role-playing game featuring characters from all three companies.
    • A trailer for the game is supposedly on the way.
    • CAPCOM characters: Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter 0), Mega Man X and Zero (Mega Man X), Demitri and Dante (Darkstalkers and Devil May Cry, respectively), and Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (Resident Evil).
    • Sega characters: Shinguji Sakura and Ogami Ichiro (Sakura Wars), Pai and Akira (Virtua Fighter), Kurt and Riela (Valkyria Chronicles), Ulala and Touma (Space Channel 5 and Shining Force EXA, respectively).
    • Namco Bandai characters: Sanger Somvold (Super Robot Wars), Jin and Ling Xiaoyu (Tekken), Kos-Mos and T-elos (Xenosaga), Yurie and Estel (Tales of Vesperia), Kaito and Black Rose (Dot Hack).
    Information courtesy of Adriasang. You can visit the game’s official website here. The main website will update with new information on April 17th, 2012.

    Sega Goes Through Further Restructuring

    In what appears to be the only news we ever report on Sega, the company has announced continuing poor financials.  The European and American divisions of the company will se restructuring thanks to an expected loss for the year in excess of $86 million.  The company says they plan to remain profitable, but the lowered profits will hurt.  As such the company is cancelling many titles already in development and will instead focus on IP that are a safer bet including properties like Sonic and Aliens.  The press release had a few comments I thought you’d find interesting.

    The Sega consumer business is expected to post operating loss due to the challenging economic climate and significant changes in the home video game software market environment in the US and Europe.

    It is essential to streamline [our] organisation in the field of home video game software, while shifting to a structure that corresponds to a change in environment, including strengthening development in the field of digital content.

    We decided to narrow down sales titles to strong IPs such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Football Manager, Total War and Aliens which are expected to continue posting solid earnings. In accordance with this, we are cancelling the development of some game software titles.

    This is really sad news for an old-school Sega fan like myself.  Sega used to be one of the most daring and creative developers out there, and now it’s just sad to see how far they’ve gone.

    What You May Have Missed

    If you’re ignoring our YouTube channel and updates, you’re missing out on a ton of video reviews.  I’ve been going ga-ga over my Sega Saturn, because honestly, why the heck not.  In-between DeathSpank and waiting for my copy of Arkham City to arrive, I’ve got nothing else better to do.  Ok, I admit it, I just wanted an excuse to break out the old Saturn and review a ton of games for it.  Below you’ll see everything I’ve posted over the holidays and before.  If you’ve already watched them all, well watch them again because I asked so nicely.  That or because you know just how wicked the Saturn is and if you ignore its power it just might eat you!

    Action Replay Plus Review

    Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter Review

    Why the Sega Saturn failed, and how it could have been saved

    Virtua Fighter Review

    Virtua Fighter 2 Review

    Burning Rangers Review

    Sonic R Review

    Mortal Kombat II Review

    Daytona USA Review

    Panzer Dragoon Review

    Panzer Dragoon II Zwei Review

    How to connect the Sega Saturn NetLink adapter online

    Sega Saturn NetLink – A History Lesson on Sega’s First Online Endeavour

    So I hope you enjoyed, and there are many more videos coming up including one devotes to the Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, the original Xbox and more retro goodness including the NES, Genesis, 32X, Sega CD and even some TurboGrafx-16 love in there as well.

    Sonic Generations Review

    Sonic Generations (Available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Nintendo 3DS)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Players: 1
    Genre: Platformer
    Publisher: SEGA
    Developer: Sonic Team
    Release Date: November 1, 2011

    Parent Talk: Sonic the Hedgehog is a classic game mascot. He’s a perfect, family-friendly character, like Nintendo’s own Mario.

    Plays Like: Other Sonic the Hedgehog games, specifically a combination of the original series and the more recent Sonic Colors.

    Review Basis: Achieved S rank on all Acts, completed most of the side missions.

    Note: The Nintendo 3DS version bears significant changes compared to the console and PC versions of the game.

    The media hasn’t been kind to Sonic the Hedgehog. Most Sonic game reviews begin with a clichéd statement about the series’ fall from grace. Well, my opinion is that Sonic has been “back” for quite some time. After a successful line of great platformers on the GBA and NDS, Sonic has returned successfully to consoles with the pleasant surprises like Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and Sonic Colors. Generations arrived in time for the blue blur’s 20th anniversary and Sonic Team did its best to celebrate all that is Sonic. If you’re a fan, Generations is a must.has done its very best to celebrate everything that is Sonic. If you’re a classic Sonic fan, this a must-have.

    The Great:

    A perfect mix of old and new. SG caters to the older, grizzled retro-game enthusiasts who grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis in the early 90s and to the younger crowd who were introduced to SEGA’s mascot with Sonic Rush, Sonic Unleashed, or Sonic Colors. The game is divided into two halves, represented by the two playable versions of Sonic. Classic Sonic looks as you remember, complete with cute, chubby little pot belly. Modern Sonic has more advanced skills, an edgier style, and attitude to match.

    Both play styles are perfected here. Classic Sonic plays similarly to the original Sega Genesis classics, right down to the physics. Modern Sonic finally comes into his own too, fully developing after years of experimentation. The result is a satisfying and fresh platforming game that longtime fans will love.

    The Good:

    + Colorful, expressive graphics. Sonic’s world has never looked prettier. Classic levels enjoy a dramatic makeover, now presented in brilliant current-gen graphics. The retro and modern stages come with unique nuances, but both were given proper effort and dedication. They’re filled to the brim with detail.

    + Great level design. Sonic the Hedgehog’s mission is always to balance the thrill of speed with solid platforming. A quality platformer challenges the player to find the best route to the end. Sonic takes that to the extreme; you must react fast enough to reach convenient pathways. Doing so nets you hidden goodies and handy shortcuts. Every level is layered well, with many alternate paths.

    + Excellent boss fights. Several of Sonic’s old enemies return. Metal Sonic, Shadow the Hedgehog, Silver the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik, and more appear as potential foes. Battles are unique and interesting because they each come with unique rules and gimmicks. Classic Sonic fights Metal Sonic, so the rules and play style for that mimic the original games. The battles against Shadow and Modern Sonic could have been ripped right from Sonic Adventure 2.

    + A celebration. So much of Sonic’s repertoire is found here. Levels are faithfully recreated (including my personal favorite, Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant), and tons of songs throughout the franchise play out.

    + Classic Sonic perfectly represents old-school StH, which should satisfy purists. Sonic is still fast, but the focus is more conservative. He can run, jump, and spin dash his way through intricately-layered 2D levels. The character model and physics are on par to emulate the right feel.

    + Modern Sonic is satisfying and fun, finally solidifying his play style. Compared to Classic, he has a wider variety of maneuvers. His levels are a combination of 3D and 2D elements that come together beautifully. Sonic can use his homing attack and boost abilities to soar to areas that Classic Sonic can’t touch, speeding through areas with amazing speed. Classic Sonic’s levels evoke nostalgia, while Modern Sonic succeeds due to thrill ride levels.

    + Unique level gimmicks. For example, Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors introduces some of Sonic’s abilities from that game.

    + RPG elements. This is the most unexpected aspect. Sonic unlocks abilities by completing missions. These can be equipped after they’re purchased from the store, and bring a wealth of different effects. They dramatically affect the game’s balance, making revisiting previous levels more fun.

    + Sonic’s friends are back, but in the appropriate context—Sonic is the star, while they’re helpers in side missions.

    + English and Japanese voices. The voice work is much better than in previous games.

    + Fantastic remixes of classic songs.

    The Bad:

    – Framerate hiccups. During some intense scenes, the action freezes briefly, but that is debilitating for a game intended to be fast. Across several stages, I experienced an occasional hiccup upon a key moment where I needed to jump or move, which often resulted in losing rings.

    – Camera problems. Though infrequent, the camera can be problematic. During one mission, I had to bounce a music note back and forth by hitting it with Sonic’s homing attack. However, several times the camera shifted behind a piece of scenery, making it impossible to see. The camera also failed to keep up with me in another stage, which is never good.

    – The abilities aren’t necessary. They’re fun to play with, but not essential to the game. I finished all the Acts before I bothered to equip them.

    – Control issues. For several sequences, you need pinpoint accuracy to guide Sonic. Several times trying to make Sonic boost, he instead took off in the opposite direction and vaulted off a ledge. I also found it difficult to drift and turn properly at times.

    – Too dependent on nostalgia. Generations relies on catering to fans. The gameplay and secrets are tailor-made for Sonic lovers, but if you’re new, the attachment won’t be there.

    The Lowdown:

    Sonic the Hedgehog may still fall short of Mario’s AAA standards, but claims of his demise are exaggerated. Sonic Generations is an excellent love letter to fans old and new, and another great notch in the belt for the franchise. After Sonic Colors, Sonic 4, and now Generations, the blue blur is on the right track. If you ever loved a Sonic game, please check out Generations.

    Score: 8.5/10

    Sonic 4 – Surprisingly Fun?!

    I won’t lie, I haven’t played a Sonic game in a very long time.  After Sega left the hardware race, I pretty well gave up on Sonic.  Don’t know why, but honestly Sega hasn’t been Sega since they stopped making consoles.  Lately I’ve been going crazy with Saturn reviews, which you can check out by clicking on our YouTube link at the top right of the site, or check out the Saturn playlist I created (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF683F0069AE1354F&feature=plcp).  The bottom line is, I’ve been reliving some excellent Sega classics, and have been craving for more Sega love.  What’s an old-time Sega fan to do?  Download Sonic 4, that’s what!

    I played for around three hours and I’m having a really good time.  Sure the physics aren’t what you remember from the Genesis days, but this is a beautiful and super fast Sonic played in 2D.  What more could you ask for?  Well, besides better physics…  I downloaded the PS3 version for the low price of $5.  I’m not directly going for the trophies, but have found them to add some depth to the game.  For example, you normally go for the Chaos Emeralds in a Sonic game, well now you score a trophy for doing so.  Beat the first level in under 60 seconds and bam, another trophy.  I like trophies and achievements like this, that make you want to go for them.  Fun and challenging.

    I don’t want to go on and on about this because today has been an insanely busy day for me and COE-related duties.  I was on the phone and emailing tons of PR agents all day trying to secure games for January and beyond.  Trust me, it’s not easy.  So in-between doing this I figured I’d try Sonic 4, before recording some more footage for my next Saturn review.  I know many of you will be able to add your own comments on the game so I won’t go on.  Just know that I’m surprised by how much fun I’ve been having with a new Sega game.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  If you’ve been craving an old-school Sonic, be sure to check this one out.

    For those interested, I finished off the first two zones, got all seven Chaos Emeralds and am going to try and finish the game tomorrow before starting on Sonic CD HD, which I hear great things about.  Really want to see how the HD version translates.  After that, I think I may just pick up Sonic Generations.  Could it be, could Sonic actually be back?

    So what have you all been up to lately?

    When Can We Realistically Expect The Next-Gen?

    There have been a lot of discussions going on recently about when players can expect the next-gen console wars.  We’ve been told the PS3 and Xbox 360 can last for around ten years, but no one really believes that.  Development costs have come down tremendously by reusing assets from previous games and streamlining engines like the Unreal Engine.  So the question is, when can we all expect to plunk down a cool $10,000,000 for the next consoles?

    I always like to look at the past to get a better idea of where the future might lead us.  So let’s start with the NES vs. Master System war.  Keep in mind all the dates I’ll use will be for the North American debuts.  I’m also only going to talk about the main consoles that debuted by companies that still operate today.  Sorry Atari, 3D0, etc.  If there were more than one configuration, I will always take the more expensive one as that’s always considered the “premium” model.

    NES vs. Master System (Winner NES)

    NES debuted on October 18th, 1985 for $249.99

    Sega Master System debuted in June 1986 for $199.99

    The war was completely one-sided with Nintendo claiming virtually the entire North American market.  Sega would challenge Nintendo’s monopoly by doing away with Nintendo’s exclusive contracts and releasing their next-gen system early.

    Sega Genesis vs. Super NES (Winner SNES)

    Sega Genesis debuted on August 14th, 1989 for $189.99

    Super NES debuted on August 23rd, 1991 for $199.99

    Given the two year lead the Genesis had over the SNES, Sega was able to make real inroads and sold a great deal of consoles in North America.  Eventually the SNES would reclaim the number one spot, but only by a few million units.  Sadly Sega would make terrible business decisions over the next few years which would lead to the virtual collapse of their gaming business in North America.

    Sega Saturn vs. Sony PlayStation vs. Nintendo 64 (Winner PlayStation)

    Saturn debuted on May 11th, 1995 for $399.99

    PlayStation debuted on September 9th, 1995 for $299.99

    Nintendo 64 debuted on September 29th, 1996 for $199.99

    We all know how this played out.  Sega killed themselves with their surprise launch, and Nintendo and Sony would battle it out for the remainder of the console war.  Sony would eventually win the console war by a very large margin.  Not to be outdone again, Sega launched their next-gen system early to get a surprise attack on the competition, but this time planned it out with third parties and retail partners.  The next-gen war would also see the arrival of a new challenger.

    Sega Dreamcast vs. Sony PlayStation 2 vs. Microsoft Xbox vs. Nintendo GameCube (Winner PlayStation 2)

    Dreamcast debuted on September 9th, 1999 for $199.99

    PlayStation 2 debuted on October 26th, 2000 for $299.99

    Xbox debuted on November 15th, 2001 for $299.99

    GameCube debuted on November 18th, 2001 for $199.99

    Sega would eventually bow out, even though they had a very successful launch.  Microsoft would make some serious headway into the market and Nintendo would further reduce global sales compared to the Nintendo 64.  Sony, on the other hand, would continue to gain new ground eventually selling over 150 million PS2s.  The next generation would begin with Microsoft’s early launch of the Xbox 360.

    Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3 vs. Nintendo Wii (Winner Wii)

    Xbox 360 debuted on November 16th, 2005 for $399.99

    PlayStation 3 debuted on November 17th, 2006 for $499.99

    Nintendo Wii debuted on November 19th, 2006 for $249.99

    In a surprise turn of events Nintendo was able to reclaim the top spot.  Sony lost almost the entire footing they had previous established because of the high entry price for their console and their inability to showcase audio/visual strengths over the already released Xbox 360.  As of 2011 the Wii sales have slowed to a trickle and now the Xbox 360 and PS3 are virtually neck-to-neck selling around 55 million units apiece.  Nintendo was the first to announce their next-gen plans with the Wii U.

    Wii U vs. Next Xbox vs. PlayStation 4 (Winner TBD)

    Wii U will debut in 2012 for an as of yet unknown price.

    That’s all the information we currently have on the next-generation war.  Take a look back at all this data.  The average console lifespan is around five years.  Meanwhile the Xbox 360 is about to turn six years old, with still no hint of a successor.  The question is, how long will that last?

    With the Wii U scheduled to arrive 2012 in North America, likely summer, it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear about the next Xbox and/or PlayStation at E3 2012.  I would be very surprised to see either machine launch in 2012 though.  My best guess right now is that both platforms will hit sometime in 2013.  By that time PCs will be significantly more powerful and hardware prices should be manageable for both Sony and Microsoft.  I am almost positive we will not see another $499.99 launch from any of the three companies.  I believe all next-gen hardware will be capped at $399.99, although I wouldn’t be too surprised if Nintendo announces their hardware at $299.99.

    So what do you all think?  Could we see a new Xbox and PS4 in 2013?  That would make the Xbox 360 between seven and eight years old, and the PS3 only a year younger.  Do you think 2012 is actually possible?  Use the comments and let’s hear what you have to say.