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Webmaster's Blog

Gale Racer (Saturn)

CRV (talk) 05:33, 3 August 2016 (CEST) [permalink]

Seen here: Chicago's world-famous palm trees

The first game released for Sega's System 32 arcade hardware, Rad Mobile was pretty impressive when it came out in 1991. It would be three years until there was a home machine powerful enough to contain it. Enter Gale Racer for the Saturn.

Does it succeed? Not really, in all honesty. It's an early Saturn game, and it shows. The draw distance is lower, and the frame rate just isn't as smooth. They also decided to turn the other vehicles into 3D models. The whole thing has kind of a janky, held-together-by-duct-tape look to it.

The moon from Sega CD Mansion of Hidden Souls (left) appears as an emblem in Gale Racer (right). That may be because Gale Racer was largely outsourced to Mansion developer System Sacom.

The gist of Gale Racer, and the original Rad Mobile, is that you're driving across America, trying to claw your way to first place. While Rad Mobile moves seamlessly from locale to locale ala Out Run, Gale Racer pauses the game between stages to show you your time and load the next section. This really changes — some might say even ruins — the flow of the game.

There is one thing that hasn't changed: Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic made his first appearance in Rad Mobile, and he's still here, hanging from the rearview mirror. In Gale Racer, however, you earn mascot characters as you race. Earning enough mascot characters will turn Sonic into Tails and other characters in the Sonic universe.

Sega of America was at one time planning to release this in the States; they name-dropped it in a press release announcing the Saturn's early release. According to an issue of GameFan, the US version was supposed to "be completely repaired to mimic the arcade game perfectly." Not sure what they were planning to do to fix it, but obviously nothing came of it.

Credit to the creator/uploader of the video above

Change of Heart: Secular Developers Turned Christian

CRV (talk) 05:36, 30 January 2016 (CET) [permalink]

A joke, circumstance, opportunity, a calling. Whatever the reason, some secular developers switched to, or at least tried their hand at, making Bible-based video games.

Wisdom Tree

Wisdom Tree logo

The most well-known example grew out of Color Dreams, a publisher and developer of unlicensed games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Color Dreams founder Dan Lawton allegedly came up with the idea of doing religious games as a joke.

Early on, Wisdom Tree took the older, more violent Color Dreams games and inserted family-friendly, Bible-related content. Sunday Funday: The Ride (NES) is basically a hack of Menace Beach, while Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Joshua & the Battle of Jericho (NES, et al.) were based on Crystal Mines. Since then, Wisdom Tree has put out a number of original educational and entertainment titles and continues to sell them on its website. Color Dreams is still around, doing business as StarDot Technologies, making surveillance cameras and related equipment.

See also:


Credit to the creators/uploaders of the videos above

Japanese-Developed Digitized Fighting Games

CRV (talk) 00:58, 24 December 2015 (CET) [permalink]

The success of Midway's arcade blockbuster Mortal Kombat birthed many imitators. Would you believe some of them came from Japan?

Reikai Doushi (1988, Arcade)

While Mortal Kombat was the breakthrough hit that influenced a lot of games, it was not the originator of the digitized fighting form. Neither was Pit-Fighter. No, that honor goes to this little number by Home Data (now Magical) featuring a colorful cast of grotesque Chinese puppets.


Floating Runner (PlayStation)

CRV (talk) 23:11, 5 September 2015 (CET) [permalink]

Hey, it's a 3D platformer that came out before Super Mario 64 and before analog control became standard on consoles. That's something, right?

In Floating Runner, you lead either adorable bounty hunter Lay or adorable priestess Cress on a journey to find seven crystals to save Crystal Land. As adorable as this game may be, it's marred by a lot of annoying little things, and they're not all attributable to the growing pains of the genre. Let's list them... (Plain old paragraphs are so cliché.)

1a) Your default weapon shoots in an arc, and you have a projectile limit. If too many fall over the edge of a platform, you have to wait a second or two for those to dissipate before you can shoot more.
1b) Other weapons are available, but you actually have to find them at their particular location in one of the worlds. And they also shoot in an arc. And they use gems that enemies leave behind, which you lose when you die, which is often.
1c) You can also stomp on enemies, but they tend to move around a lot.
2) You have but two camera angles that you can switch at will - an overhead angle and a slightly higher overhead angle, which is only useful in maybe a couple situations.
3) When you continue, you only have half your health, and there aren't too many health potions around. (Yet the first stage has five!)
4) The stage layouts can be disorienting. (The camera might play a role in that.)
5) Jumping from platform to platform can be tricky.
6) The game just feels tedious after a while.
Floating Runner manual

But it's not all bad. The stage select system is unique - at the end of each world, the crystal cycles through different colors representing the other worlds. The frame rate is brisk. On a personal note, I find the game charming, despite its faults, and I don't have any desire to get rid of my copy. It's an interesting historical footnote. The music is nice, and I like the mix of flat-shaded and texture-mapped polygons.

Just who developed this historical footnote of a game? If you dig around the disc, you'll find a T&E Soft copyright and credits (none for sound, though). These don't appear in-game, and there's no other mention anywhere that the average player would see. The staff names suggest this was done at T&E Soft Osaka (which was computer game company Xtalsoft once upon a time), where Red Alarm and Blaze & Blade were also made.

Finally, let's take a moment to look at the Western packaging, especially the inside of the case. Yuck! At least someone had the good sense to use the Japanese art on the disc and inside the manual (see right).

P.S. I don't pay much attention to Games Done Quick stuff, but I was impressed by this speed run.

Panzer Dragoon Mini (Game Gear)

CRV (talk) 16:35, 24 June 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

Panzer Dragoon Mini title screen

Towards the end of the Game Gear's life in Japan, Sega rebranded it the Kid's Gear in an attempt to market the system to children. One of the handful of titles released under this brand was Panzer Dragoon Mini. Besides maybe the dragons, there's nothing particularly cute here. This is Panzer Dragoon — stripped of just about everything anybody would have liked about the Saturn games.

After you choose one of three dragons to control (not ride, apparently), it's on to the action. You make your way through several stages shooting enemies, with either your regular shot or a lock-on laser. (There's no berserk attack despite the game coming out after Zwei.) Sometimes the camera shifts to the side, but that's about as interesting as things get. There are mid-bosses and end bosses, but their attack patterns primarily consist of moving back and forth spraying bullets.

The backgrounds and especially the sprites look nice, but the ground is made up of boring, rolling stripes. It goes without saying that the music isn't as good as the Saturn versions, but Hitoshi Sakimoto should be commended for producing these pleasant arrangements.

[CORRECTION: Hitoshi Sakimoto's works list says he only created the sound driver, so we don't know who actually arranged the music.]

Spoiler - here's the exciting ending:

There are no credits, so it's more difficult to pin down a developer. Evidence (as identified here) points to Rit's as the culprit, a company that made some original RPGs, most notably the Dragon Master Silk series, and worked on many of the old Shining games.

Some images from SMS Power!

Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini

Pinball Spirits (Windows)

CRV (talk) 04:48, 14 May 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

I like me some video pinball; I've amassed a decent collection of video pinball games. So when I found out about a pinball game that involved GDRI veteran Opera House and only came out in Japan, I was interested. Actually, even if it isn't great, I want it.

But good luck finding it - not only is Pinball Spirits a Japanese exclusive, it's available only for Windows. There's a copy on Amazon Japan for under $60 US. Enjoy the cover shots at the link because that's all you're gonna see.

Such is the world of Japanese Windows games. They seem to be among the most poorly documented and poorly preserved, unless there's something going on that I don't know about (which is possible). At least shopping sites like Amazon have games listed.

There's more than just eroge. Did you know Konami released games like Henry Explorers (Crypt Killer) for Windows in Japan?

Fun fact about Pinball Spirits: It was produced in cooperation with the non-profit Tokyo Pinball Organization. Read more about them here.

Hyper Rally (PlayStation)

CRV (talk) 04:48, 12 May 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

The 32-bit generation was one abundant with rally racing games, from Sega Rally to Colin McRae Rally. Then there's Hyper Rally.

I've watched videos on Nico Nico Douga, but I will bite my tongue since I have not played the game. I do like the music; it sounds like '90s-era, T's Music buttrock, as heard in games like Lords of Thunder. Cross-referencing names in the credits with VGMdb, it is T's Music, so kudos for that at least.

Hyper Rally turns up on the website of Triad, a company headed by Minoru Yuasa, who worked as a sound producer and composer on many Telenet games. However, I can't read most of the rest of the names in the credits, so I can't determine their involvement at this time. (I can't figure out kanji.) Satoshi Hatsuya was the game's director and a graphic designer. He also worked on Steel Empire for the Genesis.

Credit to the creators/uploaders of the above videos

Sega on Nintendo: Sega Arcade Games on the Famicom/NES

CRV (talk) 04:26, 29 January 2015 (CET) [permalink]

After Burner & After Burner II Tengen released After Burner in the US, and Sunsoft released After Burner II in Japan. Neither live up to their arcade counterparts, but they're both arguably better than the Master System game. As for the Nintendo releases, some places suggest one is a modified version of the other, but I'm not so sure.


Five Westone Games That Aren't Wonder Boy

CRV (talk) 04:21, 7 December 2014 (CET) [permalink]

Westone Bit Entertainment logo

Westone Bit Entertainment and related company Bit Angel filed for bankruptcy on September 24, 2014. Most know Westone for the Wonder Boy and Monster World series, but they did so much more. Let's take a look back at five of their notable titles:

1) Jaws (NES) The shark that terrorized moviegoers years earlier made its way to the NES, courtesy of American publisher LJN, contractor Atlus, and subcontractor/developer Westone.

According to an interview with Westone president Ryuichi Nishizawa, development took about two months to complete with a crew of three people. The final product is very much an old-school, arcade-style game that's rather easy once you get the hang of it, not to mention incredibly short. If it looped and got more difficult like many old arcade games, that might have been an improvement.


Abadox (NES)

CRV (talk) 03:33, 1 November 2014 (CET) [permalink]

Parasitis has swallowed the planet Abadox, and Princess Maria. Your task is to make your way through Parasitis' body, save Princess Maria, and keep the rest of the universe from being consumed.

It's clear from looking that this is another shooter, and it's clear to shooter fans that this one's influenced by Konami's Life Force, what with its "organic" theme. The stages even alternate between horizontal and vertical perspectives.

Many people have complained about Abadox's difficulty. I'm reluctant to agree it's as hard as they say, but it can be frustrating. Like some other shooters, one mistake can cost you all your power-ups, and it's a chore to get them back. At that point, you might as well start over. (The game's not that long.)

Most of us can agree, however, that Abadox has a great soundtrack. It was provided by Kiyohiro Sada, who once worked for Konami. The game's director was Atsushi Okazaki, who apparently also had a stint at Konami. Neither appear to have been involved with Life Force.

The game was produced by manga artist Go Nagai's Dynamic Planning, but God only knows what that means.

As far as I can tell, the programming and graphics were done by I.T.L. The only graphic artist credited is Hidenobu Takahashi. It is unconfirmed whether this is the same Hidenobu Takahashi who directed Grandia.

Credit to the video's creator

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