Tag Archives: Import gaming

Splatune & Splatune 2 Review

SplaTUNETitle

It’s no secret that I have been a big fan of Nintendo’s 2015 foray into competitive third-person shooters as well as its 2017 sequel. The subsequent single-player expansion pack was pretty cool too. It included 80 stages. Merely clearing the game lets you play online as an Octoling. But if you make it to completion? Well, then it even features one of the toughest secret boss fights since Capcom and SNK gave us God Rugal.

One of the best parts of the Splatoon games has consistently been their music. Whether you’re talking about Keity Pop & Mari Kikuma voicing the Squid Sisters, (Sea O’ Colors in Japan) Rena Itou & Alice Peralta voicing Off The Hook (Tentacles in Japan), or any number of the game’s many fictional bands like the Chirpy Chips (ABXY in Japan). The music goes beyond simply providing something to listen to during matches, it is used extensively in world-building.

SplaTUNEDisc1

So the music does a good job in the games but how does it fare on its own? In my opinion, it fares very well. Many game soundtracks these days feel like film soundtracks. Either grand orchestrated pieces that may fit a scene perfectly well. Or a collection of real-world musical tracks most of us know, or at the very least have heard somewhere else. These soundtracks hearken back to a time where several things were true. Video game music used to really describe a game’s identity. When you heard Guile’s theme outside of Street Fighter II, you immediately thought of Guile fighting another character like Blanka on the airstrip. Even today, songs like Going Down The Fastway immediately take anyone who has ever played Rise Of The Triad, back to 1995 sitting at their computer eating monk meal.

Outside of video games, throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s if you bought an album it potentially included tchotchkes. Sometimes they might have been replica ticket stubs for a show the album was a recording of. Other times they gave you fold-out posters.  When CDs began to overtake Vinyl records in the 90s these weren’t as common. But now and again there would still be something spiffy showing up with one of them. 15 years ago some of them even tried to mimic the look of a vinyl record by coming in gatefold sleeves. Of course, nowadays CD releases are neither as sought after as the vinyl resurgence nor do they have the prevalence or simplicity digital downloads do.

SplaTUNEDisc2

But video games have also started to see an interest in their soundtracks over the last several years. And while many of them can be purchased on Steam or sometimes directly from their composers, Many of them have been going the film route. With a grand orchestrated score or a list of top 40 hits. Which may make sense for Grand Theft Auto. But it doesn’t make sense for everything. But oddly enough while a lot of soundtracks are available they’re not always available across the board. Sometimes they’re only on digital storefronts. Sometimes only on vinyl, in a very limited number. Or sometimes pretty plentiful, on CD, but not here in North America.

The Splatoon Soundtracks have yet to see a digital release as far as I can tell, and they have no international release so you’ll have to import them from Japan or buy them from a business that has already imported them from Japan. Or from an importer, or from an individual second hand. But it is a worthy endeavor.

SplaTUNE1FeeliesA

No matter what kind of music you’re into, there’s likely going to be a few songs you’ll really like. The first album has a lot of electronic synthpop, New Wave, and Power Pop inspired by the early 90s Pop Punk sound. And this fits very well as the characters in the games are doing battle in malls, skate parks, and other places teens and young adults would be. But the OST also has many Experimental, Electronica, and Post Punk sounding tracks as that fits the campaign nicely. The Octarians are led by a Samurai Octopus DJ after all. The thing is, all of these fit a long car ride, or a commute nicely.  Most of the music here stands out and even the stuff that doesn’t is still pretty good. The stars here are clearly the Squid Sisters, but there are a lot of good songs over two discs. And beyond that, you still get all of the sound effects they recorded.

The second soundtrack continues this trend, but Off The Hook has a blend of Hip Hop and dance genres like Funk and Disco. These tracks are really good and again, stand on their own. One of the especially catchy jams is Acid Hues which those who have played Splatoon 2 may remember from the Splatfest events. You’ll get a wider variety of music in the sequel with tracks like Fins & Fiddles having a Celtic rock band influence, Rip Entry having a very slick bass line that feels like it could hang out with a Red Hot Chili Peppers set, and Tentacular Circus mashing a bunch of effects together before erupting into something that sounds like DEVO had a few beers with Danny Elfman. It goes with the craziness of the stage it’s featured in. But by itself, there’s something captivating about it. Splatune 2 also has a lot of cool Jazz and seafaring Rock. And of course, the highlight for a lot of fans will be the Squid Sisters’ Spicy Calamari Inkantation.

SplaTUNE1FeeliesB

But these albums also give you some of the extra little things I talked about with the albums of old. Splatoon gives you a couple of nice alternate covers you can use to simulate the fictional albums of the game’s universe. Including the breakout Squid Sisters record as well as DJ Octavio’s. Splatune 2 on the other hand includes a polybagged guitar pick with a rather nice Splatoon squid logo on it.

Do you absolutely NEED to get these? No. You’ll be paying more than the price of a typical album, and you’ll have to pay extra for importing them. But if you’re a big fan of the games and you like collecting physical releases of games, movies, and music these are something to consider picking up. Kadokawa has also released other official Splatoon series’ albums. Octotune (which I don’t have yet) includes all of the tracks that were added to Splatoon 2 through updates over the years as well as all of the music from the Octo Expansion pack. Beyond that, they have also done live album versions of the different live shows Nintendo has done over the years.

SplaTUNE2Feelies

Besides giving us a Philip J Fry “I see what you did there.” meme moment, Splatune and Splatune 2 are fantastic soundtrack albums that hearken back to a time long before buying music on iTunes or streaming it through Spotify was how to get your music. With a wide variety of sound and some really cool feelies, these can be appreciated by anyone who likes good music. Though, importing these is still going to appeal mostly to the biggest fans. If you are one of those biggest fans you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not, you likely won’t be disappointed either as the music is really good. Still, it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. Even if that tea is super tasty.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Sin & Punishment Review

Treasure. A developer long known for cult favorites, was one of the kings of shmups. Unsung kings. By the time the Super NES, and Genesis came around, everyone knew of heavy hitters. Gradius. R-Type. Raiden. Contra. But Treasure put out many great games that were under the radar at release, but became sought after later. Nowhere was this more true than on the Genesis. Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, and Alien Soldier went on to be cult classics. Even today they’re popular enough that a loose copy of Gunstar Heroes goes for as much as a newly shrink wrapped release. After the Genesis, Treasure would make games for Saturn, Dreamcast, and even Sega’s rival Nintendo. Sin & Punishment is not only one of the best rail shooters on the Nintendo 64, it’s one of the best you will ever play.

PROS: Fast, smooth game play. High, rewarding challenge.

CONS: Difficulty may turn off some.

MOD: It was a Japanese only release. But it is on the US Wii Shop Channel.

Sin & Punishment never made it outside of Japan. It was released in 2000 at the very end of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan. Though acclaimed, Nintendo never brought it to North America. It was intended to be released here, but due to the Nintendo 64’s decline by that point it wasn’t. If you’re really worried you won’t be able to navigate the game, you shouldn’t fret. You don’t have to know a single word of Japanese. Though you may have to experiment with the main menus to get into the game. Something that takes all of five minutes. Similar to the Super NES, The Nintendo 64 also had different tab placements in the system to prevent games being inserted from other regions. If you don’t mind tinkering with some pliers, you can remove them. This will make your N64 capable of running imported cartridges.

For those unwilling, or unable to mod their console, you can also use a Game shark as a pass through device. Or if you don’t want to go through those steps, and you own a Wii, there’s another option. As of this writing Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel is still around. While you may not be able to play Wii games online, you can still buy them. The Virtual Console section is no exception. So you can skip all of the importing, and modifying should you desire.Be aware though, if you choose to play the game on the Wii (or Wii U in Wii mode), you will need to invest in a classic controller attachment if you haven’t already.

With the lengthy introduction out of the way, I’ll talk about the game. Sin & Punishment takes place in a dystopian future. There is widespread famine, and so new creatures are cultivated for food in Japan. But the creatures mutate into deadlier beings before turning on the populace. A military group called the Armed Volunteers steps in to fight the creatures, as well as another one called the Saviors. The Saviors oppose both the creatures, and the Armed Volunteers. The setup starts out like a standard action movie, but things become more, and more bizarre as you play through the campaign. The three main characters are Aichi, Airan, and Saki. Throughout the game there are in-game cut scenes that give a bit of back story for the characters, and why they’re fighting the Armed Volunteers. Without giving anything away, there is an ulterior plot that is uncovered later. Things do get pretty strange. It isn’t a deep story, but it is an entertaining one for an entertaining game.

As for the game itself, it is an on rails shooter like Star Fox. Through most of the game you’ll be dodging obstacles, and a lot of projectiles while you fire a seemingly endless barrage of fire. There are a wide variety of enemies too. Giant monsters, hundreds of soldiers, ships, tanks, and other vehicles. The best part of all of this is just how brisk, and smooth the game runs. There are only a few moments of any slowdown during a play through. The Bosses are the main attraction in these kinds of games, and Sin & Punishment’s are definitely a big deal. Nearly every stage has a couple of boss fights. Just when you think you’ve conquered a level, you’ll find out you haven’t. Best of all,the game does this without it feeling like padding. In the end it feels like just about the right amount of time. Throughout the game you get to use three main attacks. There is a gun, that has two modes. A free aim mode that does higher damage, and a lock on mode. Locking on is almost like auto-aim in a first person shooter. It makes the game a little bit easier, but it also does a lot less damage to targets. The third attack is a melee attack. If an enemy gets too close, you can double tap the trigger to stab at them.

Environments look pretty nice too when compared to most other games on the Nintendo 64. Textures seem a little bit better quality than in a number of other games, and there are a wider variety of settings. Each stage has its own particular settings, and themes. When you start the game you’re in wheat fields, with tree trunks. Soon you’re in a city. Then under the ocean, a military installation, and even space. While these are almost action game tropes, They’re all done with a unique flair. Some of the special effects are really cool too. There are great uses of colors, and translucent effects.  The main drawback here though is that the models are fairly rudimentary. This was probably to keep the frame rate up to the speed the game play requires. Fortunately the wonderful texture work compensates a lot. It is definitely not an ugly game. Sin & Punishment also has some of the best sound on the console. Voice samples come in pretty clear, explosions, lasers, and pretty much every other sound are great. The music even complements the action very well. It all blends together to make for a great experience.

It isn’t a very long game either. If you’re really good you can beat it in a couple of hours. But rail shooters don’t generally lend themselves to long experiences either. They hearken back to the glory days of arcades, where shorter but more exhilarating experiences prevailed. They are also very difficult which this game certainly is. You can expect to die, and continue many, many times. Even on the easiest setting, you can find yourself running out of continues, and starting all over again. But again, such is the nature of this type of game. The high challenge will make the determined want to keep playing, and the really good trying to beat their time. If the thought of frustration turns you off it might not sound like your cup of tea. But most of the time the game is fair. Most importantly, the game is fun.

Sin & Punishment can certainly sound like an exclusive experience, intended only for fans of the genre. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. The strange story, characters, and dialogue are worth seeing, and they’re built upon a really good arcade shooter. Save for a couple of minor nitpicks over models, and a couple of cheap deaths it’s one of the best games in the Nintendo 64 library.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Bastard!! Review

It may sound like I’m being foul-mouthed for no reason. But I assure you, that is the actual title of this game. It’s a licensed one, and actually a really good one you ought to track down. This game strayed from the standard fighting formula, before it became cool. It’s also an import game you don’t have to learn a foreign language to figure out how to play.

PROS: Nice use of the SNES Mode 7 tech. Fluid controls. A lot of fun to play with friends.

CONS: Relatively light on content. Small roster.

IN MEMORIAM: Justin Carmical.

Bastard!! is based upon a manga, and anime of the same name. In the long running manga series, Dark Schneider is a wizard who once led an army called The Riders Of Havoc. His lifelong battles finally came to an end when he was defeated by the prince of a kingdom called Meta-Lincata. Upon his defeat he used black magic to transport his soul into a child. His four generals end up awakening an ancient demon god, which sends the world into a post-apocalyptic setting. The manga goes much deeper of course, as there were only six episodes of the anime. Still, it’s certainly something manga fans might want to check out (So long as you can read Japanese) as it’s an interesting storyline, filled with a lot of action, and references to heavy metal bands. It’s also very violent, so it certainly isn’t for everyone. The anime series is dubbed in English with some noteworthy voice actors , but due to being so short you may walk away with more questions, than answers.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about a fighting game here. It’s a pretty good one, even for those unfamiliar with its source material. In order to play it however, you will either need a Super Famicom, or you will need to mod your Super NES. Don’t worry, the mod takes no electrical skill whatsoever. You won’t need to break out the soldering iron, or risk ruining your consoles system board. All you need is a pair of needle nose pliers. Take your Super NES, open the cartridge door, and inside you will see two pieces of plastic that line up with any North American Super NES Game Pak. Simply squeeze the pliers over them, gently wiggle them back, and forth until these plastic pieces snap off. If there is any plastic sticking up after this process, you can use a file to wear it down. Once that’s done, you’re set to go. Any Super Nintendo game from any region should then boot up with no trouble.

Bastard!! is a very different fighting game than what most of us are accustomed to. It isn’t the typical two combatants on a 2D plane. Bastard!! instead makes use of 3D space, as well as wonderful use of the Super NES’ mode 7 sprite scaling. The end result is a fighter that has you flying back, and forth through the foreground, and background in some fast paced fights. The game has three main modes. There is a story mode, that takes you through the roster in a ladder. Each victory furthering the story. Obviously if you’re a big fan of the source material, and you can read Japanese you’ll better understand it. But you don’t need to have that ability to enjoy the game. The cinema screens are animated, and give you a general idea of what is going on. At least in terms of the given scene. It’s pretty much like any other fighter in that, you’re going to be contending with each character, and then bosses.

The second mode is a team game, where each player gets to use all six of the game’s characters in a last man standing match. Basically, each character will be unusable after a single loss. The last player with any characters left is the winner. There isn’t much to it, but you might find you enjoy it with friends. Finally, you have the standard Versus mode. In it there is the standard two out of three round set up. The first player to win two rounds wins the game, and you go back to the character select screen. Bastard!! Isn’t run of the mill  from there though, because it plays nothing like a Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat game.

Instead it plays closer to something like Distrega on the PlayStation, minus any rock paper scissors feel. When you start a round, one player will be in the foreground, the other in the background. You can move up, down, left, or right on your plane by using the D pad. You can also switch planes by pressing the L button. Things really go into overdrive with your attack layout. The four buttons on the face of the pad will shoot projectiles in that specific direction. So pressing Y will send them left, A will send them right, while X will shoot up, and B will shoot down.  B, and Y also home in a bit, which means you, and your opponent will constantly have to move.

If upon switching planes your characters bump into one another, you can also get in grapples, and throws which will do a ton of damage. Something else that can potentially do a ton of damage, are special moves. Special moves work a little bit differently than you might be accustomed to. Some characters can simply toggle a special move on or off by pressing R.  Some have moves performed by holding down R, and then moving a projectile at the risk of staying still, thus completely open. Other characters only have special moves that require players to press R, and input the commands quickly upon doing so. Most of them involve combinations of the four face buttons. This means that pulling them off can prove difficult as you’ll have to do so while trying to avoid all of the crazy stuff being thrown your way. There are also attempts to balance some of these moves too. For instance, Di-amon can turn into a bat to regenerate health. But if he takes even one hit while in bat form he is killed instantly.

For its time, Bastard!! had some really nice graphics. They’re a little rough around the edges by today’s standards, but they’re certainly not bad. Characters sprites have a lot of small details like Abigail’s hissing snakes, or the flowing capes of much of the cast. The palettes of the backgrounds change between rounds as well, to simulate the passing of the day into night. Backgrounds feature a lot of digitized art, and photo work, while the ground is made up of scrolling drawings of terrain. The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 features are used to great lengths here. They aren’t the most impressive thing you’ve seen on the hardware, but it’s certainly better than what you might expect.

The audio chip tunes here are also pretty nice. You can tell that Cobra Team had put some serious work into trying to ensure the heavy metal vibe of the anime was included. It isn’t going to be as memorable as the tunes in games like Super Mario World, or Mega Man X. But if you grew up on a lot of old school speed metal like Anthrax, and Megadeth. You’ll probably feel right at home here. Sound effects on the other hand, are what you would typically find in most fighters at the time. Smashing noises, shouts, and screams from the combatants. Nothing terrible, but nothing groundbreaking.

Bastard!! is a pretty fun game. So long as you have someone willing to play it with you. The only real problems with it, are the light content, and the relatively small roster. Even when the game came out way back in 1994 it didn’t have as much content as the competition. 2D fighters were giving players a minimum of 8 playable characters, and averaged closer to 12. Because of that, it doesn’t have much of a single player value once you complete the story mission. You, and your friends might put it down after a few rounds due to the small roster. But it has an intriguing spin on the fighting genre. The focus on projectiles makes for a very different feel, and it runs pretty briskly too. Characters manage to have some nuances despite the similar movement many of them share, and there’s a charm to the absurdity of it all. It’s also fairly easy to find, and not terribly expensive. If you’re a fighting game fan who collects for the Super Nintendo it might be up your alley.

Final Score: 7 out of 10