Tag Archives: Playstation 2

Fantasy Zone II Review

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Not too long ago I finally managed to snatch up a gem. It’s probably no surprise that this is a gem. In fact, if you have a means to play this one, you should probably stop reading, and go buy this right now. It really is all of the good things you’ve heard. It will please Golden Age fans. It will please shmup fans. It will please hardcore SEGA fans. If you dig video games at all, period. You’ll probably dig this game.

PROS: Colorful graphics. Great characters. Wonderful music. Pure joy.

CONS: Very difficult. But don’t let that stop you.

CONTROL STICK: You’ll want to use this (Or a Genesis Arcade Stick) over the stock pad.

Fantasy Zone II is the sequel to Fantasy Zone, a game I have yet to acquire on the mighty Sega Master System. It’s regarded as one of the earliest examples of a cute ’em up. A shoot ’em up where everything is bright, cheery, colorful, and cartoonish in aesthetics. You’ll notice this the second you see the title screen. Your ship, the Opa-Opa is a cute little pod with bird wings on it. Enemies are everything from flowers to flying turtles.

The game is a mixture of both Golden Age arcade shooter conventions, and the side scrolling shooter arcade games that followed. Every level sees you going along a backdrop that continually circles around itself. Basically, you’ll spend a ton of time blasting enemies with your lasers, and bombs. One button shoots the laser guns, the other drops the bombs. So you’ll cycle along the play field killing enemies, and then collecting the money they drop upon their deaths. Before long, you’ll discover some of the larger stationary enemies will open warp doors. These doors will take you to new sub-levels that basically work the same way. Every level has a store hidden within it too. Here you can upgrade your ship with new weapons, and abilities with the money you’ve collected.

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Once you’ve defeated every stationary enemy in the level, the door to the boss room opens up to you. Ideally, you’ll want to enter these encounters fully beefed up with extra power ups, and weapons. Because the boss encounters are where the game gets very challenging, very quickly. That isn’t to say the levels themselves don’t get difficult. They do. In a lot of ways they feel like an even harder version of Defender. Defender is a notoriously difficult arcade game. As every board just throws more, and more at you as you play. Fantasy Zone II, also does this. But on top of that, every enemy has its own attack pattern, and often times you’ll find yourself going after three or four enemy types at the exact same time.

The other major element of difficulty is in the power up system. Many of the upgraded lasers, and other items are timed, or give you a limited number of shots. So if you don’t hurry up, or you waste them on low-level grunts, you won’t have the extra might for the boss encounter. Moreover, if you lose a life, you’ll also lose any powers you purchased from the shop. Which means you’d better spend another ten minutes grinding money out of grunts so you can re-buy those power ups before fighting the boss.

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Here’s the crazy thing though. While all of this sounds like the kind of thing that would make you rip your hair out, and smash your Master System, it won’t. This game is quite honestly one of the hardest games you’ll ever play. Well unless you happen to eat, sleep, and breathe shmups. Then it may not crack your top ten. But for the rest of us, this game can be downright brutal. But it’s also downright compelling. Just like Defender did for so many of us growing up, Fantasy Zone II can be very addicting. Quite frankly, it is one of the most fun games ever. True, you’ll die, over, and over again. But you’ll probably play it fifteen times before giving up, and playing something else. Considering you’ll get better the more you play, that can add up to a couple of hours a session.

And as you improve, you’ll get to see more of the aforementioned boss encounters. Which just seem to add more craziness to the stew with every reveal. You’ll fight a killer space log in the first stage. Later in the game you’ll see the dragon boss from Space Harrier. There’s also a Mega Man styled boss rush for you to contend with at the end.

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As tough as this all sounds, things can be mitigated if you have the right tools for the job. Namely, a better option than the Master System’s stock game pad. I recommend using either a Genesis game pad, the Sega Control stick, or one of the arcade stick controllers that came out for the Genesis. It makes things much easier to play, as the stock pad’s D-pad just doesn’t have the precision required. Beyond control issues with the stock controller, I really don’t have much to complain about. Again, there is a high difficulty on display, but it’s also fair. When you die, you’ll know it was a lack of talent on your part nine times out of ten. It’s very rare, I’ve felt a death was cheap, or a fluke. I don’t think I ever ran into severe slowdown the way I have in some other games on the console either.

One of the other really great things about Fantasy Zone II is the soundtrack. These are some of the addictive chip tunes ever played back on the Sega Master System. If you have a modified console with the FM Sound Unit, or the Japanese Mark III with the FM Sound Unit accessory the soundtrack is even better.

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Fantasy Zone II isn’t the cheapest game you can find for your Master System these days, but it’s worth tracking down a copy. It isn’t anywhere near the cost of something like Power Strike (Aleste). But it’s going to cost you more than something common like Out Run, or After Burner will. If you don’t own a Master System, or a Mark III, or a Power Base Converter for your Genesis, there are alternatives. The game was ported to the Famicom, MSX Computer, and was also re-released on the Wii Virtual Console. If you have a PlayStation 2, there was a remake as part of the Sega Ages line. Sega also updated the game, and released it to the Arcades. Subsequently there is a version based loosely on that version for the 3DS. Fantasy Zone II comes highly recommended.  If you’re building a vintage Sega collection, or you just love old school arcade games this should be on your radar.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Tac-Scan Review

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Arcades were always experimenting in the early days of gaming. A number of games not only tried new things with game play, but with graphics technology. Atari made a number of games utilizing vector graphics instead of the more common place sprites. Asteroids, Lunar Lander were classics in their own right, but Tempest became a huge hit thanks to using the vectors to create a 3D visual effect. Of course the Star Wars Arcade game, and Battlezone took things even further. But Atari wasn’t the only company experimenting with vector graphics.

PROS: Fluid controls. Sharp graphics. Unique mechanics.

CONS: Short. Visuals haven’t held up as well as other vintage classics have.

CUT: The console port doesn’t have the transitions. Presumably due to technical limits.

Sega put out several vector based games. Among them was Tac-Scan. At first glance Tac-Scan may seem like a typical Golden Age shmup. As in other early shmups like Space Invaders, Galaxian, and Galaga the ultimate goal of the game is a high score. But Tac-Scan does a number of things that set it apart from the rest of the pack.

Tac-Scan gives you lives, but in a very different way. Instead of you having a set number of attempts, it puts them all on the line right away. You start with all of your lives flying through space in a Tac formation. Hence the name of the game. But it doesn’t end there. Each of your ships can be individually destroyed by enemy forces. Run out of ships, and you’ll see a Game Over screen. You shoot down enemy ships like in other games, however there are also mother ships you can destroy. Not only do these give you bigger point bonuses, but extra lives for every one you blow up.

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These lives are given to you in between waves. You’ll go through a sequence where you have to almost catch your reserved ship. As it falls down, you move your formation into position, and try to let the ship land into one of your open slots. This leads into the next wave. The interesting thing here, is that every second wave changes the perspective of the game! While Tac-Scan starts out as an overhead shooter, it changes to a third-person perspective during these waves. It feels like going from something like Galaxian into something like Gyruss seamlessly. After blowing away the following waves, you go through a wormhole, and back to the top down perspective. As this cycle repeats, the game gets faster, and it throws more enemies, and obstacles your way.

This continues until you can no longer replenish any ships in your formation. At which point you record your score, and either walk away or resolve to do better. But beyond the innovative transitions, the game also uses a paddle controller! This is interesting because so often the paddle was relegated to Breakout, and the games that built upon its core game play. Arkanoid, Circus Atari, Warlords are but a few such games.

But Tac-Scan is one of the only arcade cabinets that used one in a completely different genre. Not only did it use a paddle controller in a shmup setting, it did so with flying colors. Tac-Scan controls like a champ. Your ships steer around at high speeds, without a hiccup or a hitch. Everything feels smooth as you glide your ships along. When you finally lose, you never feel like you lost due to bad controls. You will very much put all of the blame on yourself.

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Sega didn’t end with an arcade cabinet however. They also ported the game to the Atari 2600. The VCS version doesn’t have the stylized line graphics of the arcade original. And to get any semblance of the game working on the console they omitted the third-person transition. But even though it takes a hit in the realm of visual fidelity it absolutely nails the game play.

The 2600 port uses the Atari paddle controllers, and the transition feels nearly flawless. Again, your formation flies smoothly, with little to no slowdown. Surviving wave after wave of enemy ships with any of your ships intact is still quite the challenge. The difficulty curve is well crafted as well. Early stages let you get a handle on the controls because the pace of the game is slow, and ships take long pauses in between firing. Surviving the first two or three waves will seem pretty feasible. The following stages increase the travel speed, and enemy accuracy a couple of notches. Eventually, everything becomes insanely fast, and requires every ounce of your hand, and eye coordination.

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Being that it is a high score game, it might not hold your interest the way some later shmups  may. Things like R-Type or Gradius where there are a set number of stages to complete, and an ending to experience may sate some players more. But there is something to be said for the days when getting the high score was king. It brings out a level of competition among players, and it’s something that can still be compelling today. It’s one of many reasons why a lot of Golden age games have stood the test of time.

Tac-Scan has the honor of both standing the test of time, and yet also becoming one of the more esoteric games of its heyday. Which is a shame, because it is such a good game. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to the arcade version you should really check it out. It uses vector graphics in a unique way while still being a very fun challenge. Alternatively if you have a PlayStation 2 you can track down the Sega Genesis Collection. Tac-Scan is an unlockable game in that collection. The only downside is you will have to play the game with a thumb stick, which isn’t quite the same as using a paddle.

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The Atari 2600 version, again, is pretty terrific. Despite the fact that it is missing a chunk of content, and doesn’t look as nice, it manages to be a pretty faithful port. But whichever way you decide to add the experience to your game collection, you’re in for a great time. It’s too bad that Sega let a lot of their earliest games fade into obscurity. This is one of them, and it is also one of the best games they ever put out. I would put it up there with things like After Burner, Out Run, Alien Syndrome, and Space Harrier. It is that memorable.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Roadkill Review

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Grand Theft Auto 3, and its expansions were some of the most influential titles in gaming. Many titles have come out over the years trying to ride the series’ coattails. Some titles have actually tried to dethrone it. Outside of the Saints Row series, few ever came close. But there were other titles that simply took some of GTA 3’s better elements, and implemented them into entirely different experiences. Roadkill is one such game.

PROS: The best elements of car combat games, and open world adventures. Humor.

CONS: A very threadbare multiplayer mode. Nothing is done on foot.

MORE COWBELL: Remember that SNL skit from 2000? You’ll be reminded of it often.

Roadkill is truly an underrated gem you should buy if you collect old games. It’s an experiment in merging the open world play of GTA3, with the exhilarating  car combat of the Twisted Metal series. Throughout the campaign you’ll drive all over a pretty large map, going on missions, heading to shops, or even just goofing around. In many ways you’ll feel like you’re playing a GTA game. Except that you’ll be in a car the entire time. You’ll never step foot outside of your vehicle the entire game. Aside from FMV cut scenes.

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The game opens up with an FMV of your character driving through a wasteland to the tune of Don’t Fear The Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult. Which will remind almost everyone of Christopher Walken exclaiming “I’ve got to have more cowbell!”. The song is played a lot throughout the game, so much so that you’ll probably need a month long break from hearing it upon completing it. The set up is that the world has been through an apocalypse. A disease has wiped out large swaths of the human population. In true Mad Max fashion, different clans of renegade gangs have all risen to power. Each laying claim to different parts of the world.

You play as Mason Strong. Yes, your character is named like a mid 1990’s Cinemax movie protagonist. But once you get over the cheesy moniker, the game begins to pick up the pace pretty quickly. You’ll end up joining one of the gangs to rise through the ranks, and fight your way to the top. All so you can take down one of your age old rivals. You start this quest by going on missions. Some of these move the story along, while others are side quests that can get you new vehicles, and upgrades. Many of the missions consist of the typical objectives you’d expect. Sometimes you’ll be told to blow up a certain target. Or win a specific race. Or get to a certain place within a designated amount of time. Roadkill employs a GPS mini map like its contemporaries as well.

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As you play you’re going to find there is a pretty wide variety of weapons you can get for your vehicle. Machine guns, rockets, missiles, mines, sniper rifles, and more. Many of them have both primary, and alternate firing modes.Your car also has different stats that can be levelled up by three grades. Defensive armor, handling, speed, are among them. You can find the majority of these in the various shops in the game.

You can also choose to goof around, and run over pedestrians at your leisure. Or explore the town of Lava Falls, at your own pace. Doing this might even be preferable sometimes, as some items, and upgrades are hidden throughout the world. Some of which can actually help you a lot much later in the game. But exploring also has the risk of running into enemy gangs. Which can get very hectic as you can quickly become outnumbered. The good news is that this ties into Roadkill’s reputation system. The more of these fights you win, the more likely it is that other people will join your cause. Get a big enough reputation, and you’ll have priority in the area.

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There are three main cities you’ll venture through in the campaign. Each with its own unique style, and theme. The first is Lava Falls, a city built on a dormant volcano. The second is Blister Canyon. This area is a city built in desert canyons. Finally, there’s Paradise City which is a bustling metropolis.The mission difficulty increases as you unlock these areas. Doing so is similar to Grand Theft Auto 3’s system. Where getting enough experience will open up the road ways between cities. You can also go back to previous regions to look for items you may have missed, or to play earlier missions you may have skipped.

This might not sound very original, and admittedly it isn’t. But Roadkill’s take on these open world tropes are a good time. Especially the driving, and shooting. Which they should be. Roadkill is inspired by car combat games like Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8, and Interstate 76. So when you run into enemy gangs, they too will be driving around in battle cars. Fortunately driving around the world is a lot of fun thanks to some pretty nice steering controls. Driving feels much tighter, and precise than in other open world games. Yet you’ll still be able to go E-braking for quick turn around time, or power slides. The hit detection is pretty solid, and the gun play is satisfying. The cars also have some pretty cool damage modeling.

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Obviously, being an older game it isn’t going to wow you after playing the most recent GTA, or Saints Row. But it’s still pretty great. Doors, bumpers, hoods, and other body parts go flying off of vehicles in firefights. Cars, and trucks catch fire. Seeing as how you spend the entire game in a car, these are also visual cues for health beyond your health meter. You can see when you’re doing well. You can see when you’re pretty screwed.

Graphically the game keeps pace with most open world games of the era. Geometry is about as complex as in GTA3. Buildings will look pretty simple by today’s standards when revisiting it. But it isn’t any worse looking than the lion’s share of AAA games from the time. The textures are generally pretty good, and some of them even hold up decently. There is a short draw distance however in all three versions of the game. So expect to see some pop in. None of the versions really come out a decisive victor in this regard. The Gamecube, and Xbox versions have a hair better performance over the PlayStation 2 version. But the difference is so minimal you would have to really go out of your way to notice it. There’s virtually no difference here.

Audio really shines here though. The game has some of the most entertaining voice acting of its time. There are even a few names you might recognize like Dameon Clarke (of Dragonball Z, and Borderlands 2 fame) or Laura Bailey (Bioshock Infinite). Some of the funniest stuff here are the radio station voiceovers. These segments lampoon not only talk shows, but news segments, and relationship advice shows too. The relationship advice show parody is by far the funniest one. On top of that, the lines in the story, as well as the random pedestrian NPC’s dialogue are delivered fantastically. If you’re the type who pays attention to small details, Roadkill will make you laugh. Listening to the stations is also a great way to learn more of the game’s lore. Show hosts will often reference the outbreak that threw the world into chaos, or discuss events that involve the characters your working for or against.

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The game also boasts a classic rock soundtrack. It does have a pretty good song selection for what is there. Unfortunately there are still far too few songs to carry you through the campaign. As I said before, by the time the end credits roll, you’ll want a month long break from Don’t Fear The Reaper. But the other tunes will also get old fast. Which is too bad because they are classics. The upside is it does give you an incentive to listen to the voice acting performances, which again, are pretty well done.

When you finally do complete the campaign, there is a multiplayer mode you can play. Up to four players can join in split screen death matches. Regrettably, there isn’t very much to experience here. The mechanics are there, but there isn’t enough content to compete with the games that inspired it. The mode plays almost exactly like Twisted Metal. Drive around, racking up frags. Simple. While this might be fun initially, it won’t take long to run through the 11 maps. Which are repurposed assets from the campaign. There are a fair number of interesting vehicles for you to use. But again,  If you’re coming into this game for the multiplayer, you’re really better off sticking with a multiplayer focused car combat game instead. Roadkill’s take on it is fun, but brief. Which is the most disappointing thing about it since it feels like a missed opportunity for an otherwise great game.

Earlier I said Roadkill is an underrated gem. It really is in spite of its shortcomings. The single player campaign is great. You can spend a long time tracking down every last vehicle, and upgrade. That’s in addition to the meaty campaign. The multiplayer may only be a touch it once experience, but aside from that, and some draw distance pop in there isn’t much to complain about. Roadkill is a fun ride, and at least at the time of this writing is a relatively inexpensive game. If you’re looking for something familiar, and yet somehow unique to add to your collection pick it up.

Final Score: 7.5 out of 10

Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield Review

Ask many modern gamers if they’re familiar with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series, and a lot of them will bring up Vegas, and Vegas 2. While in their own right they were solid games, they were a far cry from where the series began. Rainbow Six started out as a tactical shooter, one of the earliest departures from the death matches, and flag capturing rounds of Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament. Based loosely on the late Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six novel, these games had more variety than their contemporary versions.

PROS: Solid mechanics. Fun multiplayer. Strategy, and action meld nicely.

CONS: PC Multiplayer is mainly LAN nowadays. Console Multiplayer is mainly split screen.

AWESOME: The gold edition includes the Athena Sword expansion pack.

Tom Clancy’s books had been adapted into many hit movies. The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger were turned into theatrical thrillers. Video game adaptations were also inevitable. Red Storm Entertainment was partially conceived by Tom Clancy, and one of his earliest books, Red Storm Rising was adapted into a game for 8-bit computers like the Commodore 64, and Atari ST by Micro Prose. Years later Red Storm Entertainment would become a competent studio, making games based off of Tom Clancy’s novels as well as original games. When First Person Shooters were hitting their stride, Red Storm gave the world Rainbow Six.

The earliest Rainbow Six games took a different approach to the FPS. Instead of throwing you into a giant labyrinth to explore, or an arena to battle in, they went tactical. Maps were shown from an overhead view before each mission, and you could select a number of characters to put into teams. From there you could mark entry points to the level for each team, and would be tasked with sneaking in, subduing enemies, and rescuing hostages. The games also had a very strict damage system. Getting shot by a terrorist or other nefarious enemy would impede your movement. A second shot would be fatal. You could then control one of your NPCs. If all of your crew perished, or if a key target died you would fail a mission.

Rainbow Six 3 is the apex of these titles. Rainbow Six 3 takes all of the game play foundation of the originals, and builds upon it. When you fire up Rainbow Six 3 you will be greeted with a number of tabs. You can play through the single player campaign, play a single solo mission, or hop on for some multiplayer. The campaign opens up with a brief prologue describing the end of World War II, and how two high-ranking officials of the NDH puppet state of Nazi Germany, and Italy made off with untold amounts of loot. Sixty years pass, and suddenly there are attacks happening around the world. The  counter terrorist team, Rainbow is contacted to investigate, and thwart these attacks. The team follows a trail of attacks on banks, energy sources, and other interests that ultimately lead to South America. It is revealed that one of the two World War II war criminals is using the stolen money to try to resurrect a Fascist empire.

Along the course of 15 stages, Rainbow goes through all kinds of environments. Snow capped mountain towns.  An oil refinery. A shipyard. A penthouse. Just to name a few. Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield’s game play will start each mission with a detailed briefing. Each of the stages will have different objectives. Sometimes you’ll have to rescue a key person, or save multiple hostages. Other times you’ll have to kill every bad guy in the map. Before the mission begins you have the option to plan your course of action.

Players can first go to a screen where they can select which members of Rainbow to put on each of the teams.  Similar to the first game. From there each soldier’s load out can be configured in the gear room. Each soldier can have access to a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a few gadgets. There are many weapons, and gadgets to choose from. Rifles. Shotguns. Machineguns. Explosives. Heartbeat sensors. Infrared goggles. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll want to be careful when choosing load outs too. Because each mission can be easier or harder depending on the gear you choose to bring along.

Once you have your members, and equipment sorted out, it’s time to make a plan of action. The overhead view of the map is then displayed in vectors with icons for certain pathways. One can even see plans for each of the floors, and elevations. After surveying the entire map, players then choose entrances for each team to enter. From there it’s time to deploy your team, and make the best of your decisions. You can also let the game decide everything for you, if you just want to jump in, and play. But this won’t necessarily give you the best setup for the mission at hand.

Each group enters the stage, and proceeds to attempt to complete their objectives. You will find icons come up on interactive objects. When this happens you can press or hold the space bar (or another key if you change your binds) to do just that. There are all kinds of interactive moments. Mundane things like climbing ladders, to the more advanced stuff, like giving your NPC’s commands. In the case of opening or closing doors, This will kick them wide open. If you need to be more discreet, (9 times out of 10 you’ll want to) You can use the wheel on your mouse to slowly open it or close it. You can also use the Q, and E keys to peek around corners. This is a must. Because terrorists love to flank the doorways in this game. You’re definitely going to want to ensure your safety when entering areas.

You’ll also want to use some of the specialized gear for the same reasons. Heartbeat sensors give you a rough estimation of where hostile threats may be ducking out in a room you are about to enter. Night vision is useful in darker rooms or other areas. Putting silencers on your guns also makes it a little bit harder for enemies to know where you’re shooting from. Of course, there are the big loud weapons too, as I’ve already mentioned.

If things do go awry, and you end up getting killed, you can take control of one of your NPCs to try to complete the mission. In this regard they can also act as extra lives. But don’t get too comfortable with that idea either. Losing everyone in the mission isn’t the only way you can lose. If an objective isn’t completed, you fail. If time runs out, you fail. If the mission involves rescuing hostages, and even one of them dies, you fail. Rainbow Six 3 can be very difficult. Especially on the higher settings where the AI improves a lot. Also keep in mind the game puts in a fairly respectable attempt at realism in terms of ballistics. Your cross hair will widen farther, and farther in size if you aren’t in an accurate shooting position. So you can’t run, and gun the enemies, and expect to hit them. Many times your shots will miss if the cross hair isn’t positioned as tiny, and knit together as possible. You’ll also be killed in two bullets MAX. So stealth, and accuracy are key.

After every stage you have the option to either accept the outcome or re-do the stage. This is because if any of your characters die during the mission, they’re gone forever. Replaying the stage gives you the chance to succeed without losing anyone. Though you still very well may. Accepting the outcome moves you onto the next stage.

AI is about the only area that isn’t quite up to the bar set by the rest of the game. It is very good most of the time. Usually bad guys will use cover properly. If you’re using a shotgun to kill a terrorist, others will hear it, and give them back up. They’ll react to footsteps. They’ll run away if they feel out classed. Sometimes they’ll actually surrender, and you can arrest them. Unfortunately, the AI is also pretty inconsistent. Sometimes you can shoot one terrorist, and his comrade who is standing six inches away won’t react at all. Other times, a terrorist will go from not being able to hit anything one round, to becoming a crack shot the next. It makes for some unintentionally funny moments in a game that truly tries to be serious.

Once you’ve completed all of the missions there is still a lot of fun to be had. The game allows you to play individual stages with custom settings. Lone Wolf tasks you with trying to beat the stage using only one character with no NPC backup. Die, or fail to complete an objective, and it’s game over. Terrorist Hunt of course, peppers in however many terrorists you select, and it’s up to you to clear the level of them. Hostage mode tasks you with rescuing the hostages. You can also do individual story missions here.

Multiplayer in Rainbow Six 3 is a lot of fun provided these days you can get some workarounds going. Regrettably, Rainbow Six 3 is one of the games that used Ubisoft’s old account system which was replaced with Uplay. As such there aren’t anymore official servers for it. Thankfully, the game was coded with LAN support. So there are a number of ways you can still play this gem with friends. The first is the ever common P2P (Peer to Peer) way. Most homes these days have a P2P network set up, and don’t even realize it. If you have more than one computer in the house, networked through a router you can play multiplayer. Each person with a copy puts it on their respective computer, one person hosts, and everyone else can connect locally.  This is why the game was a popular choice for LAN parties (gaming parties where everybody brought their computer to a mutual friend’s home or other venue).

But if you don’t have the luxury of the time to organize a LAN party, there is a second way. You can use tunneling software to simulate a LAN over the internet. I’m not going to include a walk-through in this review, as explaining it is rather laborious. but I will say with a little tinkering it can be done. Everyone will need the same software, but once you have it the software simulates a local network by giving everyone a simulated IP. It’s generally secure, but there is one thing to be aware of. There is a security risk in that other players can possibly see your machine’s contents. So if you do go this route be sure it is only with friends you can trust.

Once you have everyone set up, you can play either Cooperative modes or Adversarial modes. Cooperative modes are essentially the same as the custom single player modes. Except that there will be a number of you playing together. Adversarial modes are mostly very different. There are death match modes for single, or teams. These act more like a Last Man Standing game type as they go on until one man or team is left. More interestingly, is a bomb mode, where one team of bad guys tries to set bombs, while the other tries to disarm them. It’s similar to the mode found in Counter-Strike. There is also a variation on Team Fortress’ Hunted Style. In it there is a downed pilot one team needs to lead to an extraction point on the map. The other team needs to kill the pilot before he can get there. Finally, there’s a variant of the cooperative Hostage mode, where one team controls the terrorists, and has to stop the other team from rescuing them.

Overall the game is still a blast some eleven years later. Don’t let the antiquated graphics fool you.  The game’s fuzzy skyboxes, and lower geometry may not look that impressive today. But there is a lot of fun, and challenge to be had here. The audio also excels. The score is right out of the sort of Hollywood thrillers other Tom Clancy novels were converted into. Sound effects are well crafted. The game was also one of the earliest to support 3D audio cards like the SoundBlaster Audigy. Being an older title it’s also an inexpensive title, that nearly anyone today should be able to run.  Considering the minimum requirements were an 800mhz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and 32MB of Video RAM on DX8.1 I think it’s safe to say, that old laptop you have in the cellar can handle it.

Although I should mention the game was ported to consoles. The Xbox actually saw two versions of the game, Rainbow Six 3 Raven Shield, and Rainbow Six 3 Black Arrow. The latter of which added a couple of new modes to the game. The PlayStation 2, and Gamecube received a port simply titled Rainbow Six 3. The key differences between these ports, are that the Xbox supported more players online, and had a few minor enhancements added to the visuals. It also received Downloadable Content like new multiplayer maps. The PlayStation 2 supported fewer players online, while the Gamecube had the online modes completely cut. Oddly enough however, the PlayStation 2, and Gamecube did feature two player split-screen. So if you were to want to revisit a console port today, those would be the ones to nab.  The other reason would be the console versions replace some of the PC versions multiplayer maps. So if you’re curious you can certainly track them down. They are ridiculously cheap should you decide to go that route instead.

No matter which version you pick up though, Rainbow Six 3 is a far cry from the norm. It combines some strategy elements into team shooting. Something all of its subsequent sequels thus far have seemingly abandoned. If you weren’t around for it when it came out, or missed it for some reason, check it out.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Dokapon Kingdom Review

Have you found yourself enraged at the end of a Mario Party title? Have you had a round that ended in the lowest amount of stars yet you won the most mini games? Do you love vintage JRPGs like Y’s, Dragon’s Quest or Final Fantasy? Do you miss the exploration, and random battles of the series’ earlier mega hits? Fans of Nintendo’s party board game series’, and fans of RPGs will love, and hate this highly overlooked gem.

PROS: Turn based battle system. RPG classes, and Mario Party-esque items.

CONS: The week-long grudges resulting from the underhanded actions during gameplay.

WEIRD RESEMBLANCES: The king looks suspiciously like the Thundercats’ Snarf.

The game was originally on the Playstation 2, and was ported to the Nintendo Wii this past generation. Dokapon Kingdom is an odd combination. One part of it is a board game in the vein of Nintendo’s Mario Party series. The game takes place on a huge board that goes throughout many lands, and kingdoms. Players spin a dial, which like the dice in Mario Party, determines the number of spaces you can move. Some of the spaces allow you to get magic items, weapons, or gold. Other spaces are shops allowing you to spend gold on items, or weapons that you rarely find on item spaces. There are also town spaces that players can own, and profit from. This gives the game a welcome element from Monopoly.

From here however things begin to veer into the other part of Dokapon Kingdom, a Role Playing Game. It has elements in common with a lot of the earliest JRPGs, and even some WRPGs. Players can choose a class at the beginning of the game. Thieves, which have a higher propensity to take items from other players, or NPC enemies. Warriors, which have a better set of stats for doing melee damages against players or NPC enemies. Then there are Magicians. Magicians will be better at casting spells, and ranged attacks. As the game progresses, other classes will open up, allowing players to decide if they want to switch or continue with their current character.

There are three modes in Dokapon Kingdom. Up to four people can play in either one. The first mode is the Story mode. Story mode sends players on missions throughout the board game, trying to find very specific items, or reach certain events, and getting back to the king. This is in addition to the normal board game objectives like commanding towns, finding items, and leveling up your characters. The story mode can last months of in-game time. Playing this mode is truly going to appeal to you if you are a big fan of RPGs. It favors a lot of exploration, and choices. That isn’t to say the other modes won’t, but this mode will also give you more of the lore of Dokapon Kingdom. Because this mode is so long, you and your friends will want to save often, and will probably spend several scheduled play sessions trying to finish it.

When I say scheduled play sessions I really mean scheduled. The game will require you to set aside a good 20 or more hours to complete depending on how you or your friends choose to play it. You can also go through this mode on your own, but as you play it, you’ll see the game is suited more to a multiplayer experience. This leads into the second mode.

In Party mode, players can decide how many weeks the game will last. So rather than having to play through the entire storyline, the game can be limited to a number of weeks. In this mode, players can also decide what level to start their characters on. Higher levels will give players more weapons, spells, items, and stats to begin with. This can be a lot of fun because clearing the earlier towns goes by very quickly. This lets even the most novice players feel like they’re able to progress through the game, and see what it’s like to have a leveled up character.

The goal of either mode is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. The game structure will have you trying to level up by landing on random spaces to fight lower level enemies. Then eventually taking on town spaces. Town spaces are usually held by a boss. Defeating the boss allows the player to own the town which gives the player the ability to upgrade the town. Upgrading the town rewards the owning player with more money. The player can also collect money from his or her competition who land on the space. Players who land on the space can try to get out of owing money by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors against the NPC Mayor. If they lose however then all of the town, and shop spaces are locked for a number of turns as the kingdoms put a bounty on that player. Players can also try to rob stores with a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, with the same result if they lose.

As you go through the game in either mode, leveling up your characters, and getting to newer areas the Mario Party aspect begins to pour back in. Players can attack not only NPCs in towns with items, but each other as well. They can booby trap spaces or cast spells on other players. They can send NPC characters to sabotage other players. They can even battle other players by landing on the same space. Sometimes NPC’s show up to sell you an item, challenge you to a mini game, or hurt one of your opponents for you.

The third mode is a mode called Battle Royale. It has three variants. The first is Kill Race. In this one the king will give a limit of kills, and players will have to keep battling each other throughout the board game until someone hits the kill limit. The second is called Shopping Race. This just transplants one of the missions from the main modes . The player who can land on the shop space, and buy the item the king wants, and get back to the castle to deliver it first wins. The final one is a Town Liberation Race. This mode assigns a random town on the board. The first player to get to the town, and defeat the boss there wins.

Dokapon Kingdom has a simple, but challenging battle system. It starts out with a card draw. Players can decide which card they want, which determines which player or NPC will start the battle. When the battle starts the attacking player can choose to try to attack directly, use an air attack, or try to steal an item or gold. A defending player can try to block an attack, evade an attack, or give up. Depending on what items you’ve used, or how high you’ve leveled certain attributes of your character class your odds of victory will change. The turn based battles are a lot of fun. The exaggerated attacks look cool, and the various enemy designs are great. Sometimes you will also be surprised when a seemingly innocuous bad guy clowns you.

Visually, the game isn’t a technical marvel when compared to the many JRPGs of the PS2 era. But it’s still bright, and colorful to look at. There isn’t any slowdown to speak of, and in all of the time put in I never ran into a crash or a freeze. The audio is a little limited, and you’ll probably tire of the same three or four tracks. But that is a fairly minor complaint when compared to how good everything else seems to be. One could complain about the battle system’s partial randomness or the fact it boils down to three main options, but that also helps it maintain the right challenge for a party game. Besides this, factoring in some of the items, and spells you can place before a battle mixes it up.

The Mario Party aspect really begins to show its head when you attack a player fighting a boss with an item. Or when you cast a blistered foot on someone, forcing them to only spin a 1. Or when you poison someone, draining their health between turns. Killing another player also lets you do some nasty things to them. You can change their name, draw on their face, or make them wear an embarrassing helmet. Or you can take their money or towns. Dying in this game isn’t permanent either. But it will impede your progress as it forces you to lose a certain number of turns. When you do get back into the action you will either start at the beginning or at the last shrine space you visited. You can also try to use hotel spaces to regain some strength, or go back to the beginning of the game to heal. Shrines are also a great place to heal.

While at the beginning space you can also customize your character with new haircuts, items, and even change classes. Some of the newer classes include Clerics, Spell-swords, and Alchemists which are spins on the Magician class. There are also Ninja, and Monk classes which beef up the Warrior class. There is also an Acrobat class. This one is sort of weird. But very entertaining. The new classes show up when you’ve leveled up to a certain point, along with meeting certain conditions. This is also where you will want to bring certain items to the king for bonuses, and where you will probably head when you lose a battle against a friend.

The game does feature mini games too, although they are on designated spaces rather than automatically happening on turn cycles. Winning these can result in a lot of money or special equipment so you may want to try your hand at them.

You might ask yourself what you can do when the game is nearing its end, and you’re in distant last. In this case you can take a page out of Star Wars, and become a Sith Demon Lord. I’m not kidding, there is a space that lets you make a deal with this world’s Emperor Palpatine equivalent. It takes all of your money, and items in exchange for dark powers. Powers that can do everything from putting bosses back on towns, costing your friends millions. To fighting them ranged with spells. To changing spaces to detrimental ones. Of course eventually these powers wear off after a certain number of turns. But it’s a desperation move players on the losing end can utilize to level the playing field again.

At the end of every week the game will show a flow chart of each players progress, or regression. At the end of the game the king will congratulate the best player, and give the worst performer a mildly potty mouthed reward. A more story driven ending is in place for those who choose to play through the story mode. But either way Dokapon Kingdom is a game that will make you, and your friends laugh together, cry together, and possibly attempt to kill each other. Whether you love playing games like Final Fantasy, and Ultima. Or you love playing Mario Party, and Just Dance with your friends. Dokapon Kingdom proves that you can converge seemingly distant genres into a fun, and competitive middle ground.

If you can find an affordable copy for your PS2, or you happen to stumble upon an uncommon copy in the slowly fading Wii section of your game store pick it up. Those who don’t normally play RPGs may need a little time to get up to speed. But it’s still nothing so complicated it requires a dungeon master’s guide. It’s worth the many late night skirmishes with your favorite friends, and your favorite beers.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.