ron, Nov-02 2007

Spiky VC Friday

The leaves are brown, the ground is cold
I poke my nose but find no gold

Alien Soldier

Here we have a side-scrolling action game (i.e. with just minimal platforming) for the Megadrive in a sci-fi setting where you can rip through mostly organic enemies with an arsenal of mostly ranged weapons. You can switch between them at any time to adapt to changing situations, and you'll have to as there is an emphasis placed on boss battles. They happen all the time, basically. Also, your main guy has very flexible movement, can run on the ceiling or dodge quickly across the screen, not taking damage from whatever he happens to pass through. This, in combination with a generous and replenishable health bar and selectable difficulty, makes the game quite forgiving.

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island

As we're used to from Sonic games, the blue hedgehog you get to control again runs around a lot, collects rings and, as occasionally as accidentally, bounces enemies to death with the combined jump/win button, and all that in areas that vaguely resemble videogame levels.
This particular Megadrive installment comes with another ridiculous stab at story-telling and character development and is set in an isometric perspective, which makes things interesting mostly because the higher you are above the ground, the harder it gets to judge above where you are. There are also some segments where you still collect rings in a sort of tunnel-vision perspective, but even when we take these into account, the "3D" in the title must still be a slight exaggeration.

Art Of Fighting

After the recent addition of the NeoGeo to the Virtual Console rotation, we find ourselves flooded with one-on-one fighters hailing from that system. Art Of Fighting is one of them, one of the more blatant and uninspired clones of the real deal to be exact. The sprites are huge, experts of the genre can hit the ground running because most of the moves still work the same here.
The major addition to the game mechanics seems to be taunting, which is completely without function if you play against a human opponent (which is how these games should be played, by all means).

Samurai Ghost

This TurboGrafx action platformer lets you control a warrior who is tasked to traverse the tiniest moving platforms that were available while swinging a sword to fend off deadly dust particles and, sometimes, proper enemies as well. The sword-swining mechanic is somewhat unusual in that you can flail the sword around in ways that clear off the ambient annoyances in specific directions and arcs around your character.

Alien Soldier is the best side-scrolling sci-fi on-foot action to happen to the Virtual Console this side of Super Probotector, and we'd recommend it. It has good looks, amazing depth (for the genre), lots of stuff going on, and it's still easy enough to get into to even let novices have some fun with it.
Sonic 3D is just like any other Sonic game: it's colorful and moves around when you poke it. You can use that to your advantage, say, if you need to distract small children or your pets, but if you're looking for a gaming experience, it fills that function even worse than the straight 2D Sonic games. Cult-trash. Skip.

If you don't skip Art Of Fighting, there'll be bad weather tomorrow. With no functional own ideas, and an even more rudimentary single-player portion, you really don't need it if you can have Street Fighter 2 proper.
Samurai Ghost is complete visual overkill wrapped over a very simple game idea, but it's not just that neither component came out very well, they are also fighting each other. It's one of those games that suffers from big-sprite syndrome, where the developers where so proud of their tech that they forgot that gamers would probably rather be able to see where they are supposed to be going, instead of where they currently are. The gameplay concept went completely to waste, but at least your heroine's animations stay true to the "flailing around" ideal. While some of the backgrounds animate in seizure-inducingly insane ways, the actual enemies just float around in a static pose, which just stacks on top of all the other weirdness on display here. Do not expect amusement, okay?

Summary: Alien Soldier is totally worth getting. The other three releases this week are best avoided.


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