Hokuto no Ken 2: seikimatsu kyuuseishu densetsu

Hokuto no Ken 2 - Title Screen
04/17/1987 (Japan), 04/1989 (US)
北斗の拳2 世紀末救世主伝説
Fist of the North Star 2: Legend of the Century's End Savior
Fist of the North Star
Marking the third Hokuto no Ken game released in a single year's time, Hokuto no Ken 2 is a followup to the first Shouei System developed game on the Famicom. Not only did the inferior of the two Hokuto no Ken games get the sequel in this case (the more deserving one being the Master System/Mark II game), but this one is also based on the second half of the series (taking place several years after Raoh's defeat). Popular opinion is that the second half was a mere shadow of the first, with weaker supporting characters and a far less engaging story. It also bears the same subtitle that the anime adaptation of Hokuto no Ken did from the beginning: "seikimatsu kyuuseishu densetsu" ("Legend of the Century's End Savior"). On top of getting a raw deal in terms of the source material, Hokuto no Ken 2 also had the misfortune of being released on the exact same day as the Famicom port of a genre-evolving beat-em-up: Nekketsu Kouha Kunio kun (Renegade). It's no wonder that these early Hokuto no Ken games have been largely forgotten. Continue Reading

Spartan X

Spartan X - Title Screen
06/21/1985 (Japan), 10/1985 (US), 04/15/1987 (PAL)
Kung Fu
We often assume that simplistic games don't have a very rich history, but Spartan X is a perfect example of why this isn't true. It acted not only as a door to a brand new genre that would rule a large portion of the late 80s and 90s, a potential pathway to multiple world-changing games, a licensed game (sort of) and a transitional game for some notable individuals. When playing "Kung Fu" (the name that it was released under in the US) on my NES as a kid around 1988, I was unable to get past the third floor and would think "This game seems a little primitive..." (little did I know at the time how old the game itself actually was). I truly had no idea how significant what I was playing actually was. Continue Reading

Danganronpa: kibou no gakuen to zetsubou no koukousei

Danganronpa - Title Screen
ダンガンロンパ 希望の学園と絶望の高校生
Danganronpa: A Hope-Filled School and Despair-Ridden Students
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Since Danganronpa mania didn't sweep the west until 2014 when it was re-released on the Vita (or possibly even when the anime was aired in 2013), many forget that it began life way back in 2010 on the Vita's predecessor: the PSP. Though its original platform and release date do nothing more to explain its uniqueness. It borrows from so many pieces of media and genres of games that it makes one's head spin, and merges things both western and Japanese. But there is a very good reason why it caught fire in the west as it did: It takes the best parts of everything involved and mixes them all together. Continue Reading

Kamen Rider SummonRide!

Kamen Rider Summon Ride! - Title Screen
Playstation 3, Wii U
12/4/2014 (Japan)
仮面ライダー サモンライド!
Despite the average quality of Kamen Rider games over time, I've always been very forgiving of them. Many have had good intentions despite execution, and some have been legitimately good games. Surprisingly few of them have been flat out lazy efforts that were pushed out to try to cash in on a trend. That's why I was a little skeptical of Kamen Rider SummonRide! from the very beginning. No attempts were made to hide the fact that it was Japan's version of Skylanders: A simple 3D beat-em-up that earned its immense western popularity based on placing a physical toy representing an in-game character onto a base that read data into the game. Each figure retained level and attribute information for that character, and they could be switched at will by the player. The use of actual toys in a game was something unique to the gaming world at that time, and created not only an interesting in-game experience but also added a physical collecting element for those who chose to pursue it. At the time that I first played Skylanders, my only really issue was with how simple the game itself actually was. It was a 3D beat-em-up distilled down to its most basic form. Continue Reading

Bastard!! -ankoku no hakaishin-

Bastard!! - Title Screen
Super Famicom/SNES
Released: 01/28/1994 (Japan)
BASTARD!! -暗黒の破壊神-
Bastard!! -The Dark God of Destruction-
Though it may not seem like it to some, Bastard!! is one of Shounen Jump's best selling manga series of all time. Having debuted in 1988 and still running today (no matter how infrequent), this dark fantasy gained popularity over the years despite itself. Manga featured in Jump publications are typically crated to appeal to either a young or extremely broad audience. Bastard!! broke the Jump mold its copious amounts of sex and violence, but was not punished for it whatsoever in terms of sales., While all of this may be unusual for a Jump published work, it is somehow appropriate for a dystopian and highly heavy metal influenced work. And when I say it's heavy metal influenced, I mean that in every possible way. The main character, Dark Schneider, is named for German heavy metal vocalist Udo Dirkschneider (of Accept and U.D.O.). The world itself is named Metallicana (obviously a play on Metallica), and more characters and spells than you can count have names that are references to well known heavy metal and rock musicians: Lars (Lars Ulrich of Metallica), Bon Jovina (Bon Jovi), Guns N' Roses, Whitesnake, Anthrax and more. We even get into the more obscure with the character Dai-amon (a reference in both name and appearance to heavy metal vocalist King Diamond, of both Mercyful Fate and his own solo work) and Abigail (most likely a reference to one of King Diamond's most well known albums of the same name). Continue Reading