Dracula II: Noroi no Fuuin

Reviews
Castlevania II - Title Screen
Famicom Disk System/NES
08/28/1987 (Japan), 12/1988 (US), 04/27/1990 (PAL)
ドラキュラII 呪いの封印
Dracula II: The Cursed Seal
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Almost one year after the original Castlevania/Akumajou Dracula game, the same team is back to give us a direct sequel on the Famicom Disk System/NES. The nonsensical Japanese naming convention for the series begins here, since instead of calling this "Akumajou Dracula II", Konami went with just "Dracula II". The same basic Castlevania action is still here though, and it feels pretty much the same in your hands as before. But it's 1987 now and Dragon Quest has been released in Japan, so what kind of action game would this be if it didn't have RPG elements? Japanese ads referred to it as an "RPG Horror Action" game, and the timer and score that were present before are now gone. But even though the flow of the game is significantly different, the story is very much a direct continuation. And just like before, it's only really explained well in the manual. Continue Reading

Persona 5

Reviews
Persona 5 - Title Screen
PlayStation 4/PlayStation 3
09/15/2016 (Japan), 02/14/2017 (US and PAL)
ペルソナ5
An eight to ten year gap between mainline games in the Shin Megami Tensei family (Persona included) is not unusual. Persona 4 was a PlayStation 2 title released in 2008, basically two years into the life of the PlayStation 3. This odd release decision didn't stop P4 from successfully continuing the Persona legacy of being a cult RPG favorite in the west, that the series had really maintained since 3. Persona 5 was almost released in the same way: It was announced for release on the PlayStation 3 in 2014 (the same year that the PlayStation 4 launched in Japan), but the following year saw the platform changed to both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. We'll never know how things would have gone for P5 if it had remained only on the PS3, in an era where it's becoming an increasingly ridiculous idea for your average gamer to keep anything older than the current generation of console hardware hooked to their TV. Continue Reading

Double Dragon

Reviews
Double Dragon (Famicom) - Title Screen
Famicom/NES
04/08/1988 (Japan), 06/1988 (US), 1990 (PAL)
双截龍 (ダブルドラゴン)
Yoshihisa Kishimoto and his team significantly evolved the beat-em-genre with Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun/Renegade in 1986. Technos Japan naturally wanted them to make more of these games, so they were tasked with just that. June 1987 would be the arcade birth of not only an even bigger success for Technos Japan than Kunio kun, but also the birth of another beat-em-up franchise and further evolution of the genre: Double Dragon. Originally envisioned as a direct sequel to Kunio kun, Kishimoto was given two mandates: This game should allow for 2 players simultaneously and have a bigger international appeal. Given that Kunio kun had to be visually gutted in order to sell it overseas as Renegade, a direct sequel was pretty much out of the question. So instead of taking inspiration from the Tsuppari genre and his own high school fighting experiences, Kishimoto pulled from another source that was dear to him: Bruce Lee. He particularly loved "Enter the Dragon", and so he came up with not only the title of the game but also the names of the protagonists (Billy and Jimmy Lee) from these sources. Continue Reading

Nioh Beta Surprises

Blog
Nioh Beta - Onryoki
After missing out completely on the alpha demo, I decided to give the beta demo of Nioh (Team Ninja's divisive Dark Souls-like title) a try before it expired. I was very into the aesthetics and general idea of the game (I'm interested in this period of Japanese history) from the time I first saw footage of it, but I was a bit dubious as whether or not the game would actually feel good. Souls-likes in general don't have a very good reputation for feeling very good, and the Nioh alpha produced some very mixed feedback. I fully expected to pick it up for a little while and then put it down after spending enough time with it to figure out I just didn't like the way it felt. Well it turns out that I was wrong, because I played it all weekend! Admittedly I'd been feeling hungry for a new Dark Souls experience (I need to get to playing Dark Souls 2 and 3, but won't have time for them for awhile due to a few big games I've been wanting to play coming out soon), and while it took care of that it also did some very different and interesting things. Be warned though: If you found Dark Souls too obtuse or frustrating, you'll probably think the same thing about Nioh. The atmosphere may be different, but ultimately you get satisfaction the same you do in Dark Souls: By overcoming what seems to be a very high level of difficulty through actually getting better at the game and a little perseverance. Continue Reading

Vanquish

Reviews
Vanquish - Title Screen
PlayStation 3/XBox 360
10/21/2010 (Japan), 10/19/2010 (US), 10/22/2010 (PAL)
ヴァンキッシュ
Both PlatinumGames and Shinji Mikami had a lot of eyes on them in 2010. Platinum was still a young studio with only three releases to their name, and were already showing a trend of developing games that were critical darlings but commercial failures. Famed Director Shinji Mikami (primarily of Resident Evil fame) had been out of the spotlight for awhile, the last game he directed being the 2006 PlayStation 2 beat-em-up God Hand with Capcom funded Clover Studios (whose staff largely became PlatinumGames after they were shut down). He had left Capcom completely after that, announcing that he was opening his own small studio called Straight Story. This studio would prove to be nothing more than one established to work with Platinum (as a contract employee) on a single game though, that game being Vanquish. There were many who were very curious as to how Platinum's next title, and Mikami's first non-Capcom affiliated title, would turn out. Continue Reading