Thursday, January 23, 2014

Double Dragon, Lucifer Ring, and the Toukiden Demo  


Games: @MonkeyPawGames have been bringing some interesting things stateside for a while now. Although they don't translate everything they offer (a huge bummer) it's still great that they're doing what they're doing, and their titles are usually quite affordable -- if nothing else, I appreciate the fascinating peeks into past generations and previously-unavailable titles. 

Right now they're doing a "Retro Rush" promotion featuring six titles to be released on PSN, one a week. The first two are already out, and my impressions are below. 


Double Dragon (PS One, 1995)

When I started Double Dragon, I was a bit confused… I wasn't sure what entry in the series it was, but the mystery was soon solved. It's apparently a companion piece to the live-action movie that I forgot ever existed. The opening intro made up of film clips is mind-blowing in its awfulness (Alyssa Milano! Is that you?!?) and the game isn't much better.

Essentially, it's a cheapie Street Fighter clone starring characters I don't recognize. They don't exactly look like the characters from the movie, and they don't look like the other entries in the series, so… Yeah.

It's not the worst fighter I've ever played, but it certainly feels it's age and the AI is brutal. Since the menus are in Japanese, I wasn't able to figure out which settings to change. I had to play on the normal difficulty and I got my clock cleaned repeatedly. Granted, I'm no pro when it comes to fighting games, but I can usually hold my own. Not this time, though.

I didn't stick with Double Dragon long. Between the janky controls, steep difficulty, long loadtimes and questionable inspiration, there wasn't much to keep me playing.


Lucifer Ring (PS One, 1998)

Now this one was a pleasant little surprise. It's a third-person action game which uses the old-school beat-'em-up system of locking you in a small zone until you defeat the enemies that run in, but there are little twists and little sparks of ideas happening as the game progresses.

The main hero, Nash, looks like a Dragon Ball Z descendant, but there are no super Saiyan moments, nor any kamehamehas. As he goes through the five levels of the game, he fights various monsters with a sword. Thematically, it feels like Castlevania a bit, really. The interpretations of some famous mythological beasts such as the centaur are neat, and one battle seems like an ancient (way easier) rendition of Ornstein and Smough from Dark Souls. Each level has good variety and there are neat little elemental sword pickups along the way.

The graphics are super blocky, but the aesthetics are heading in the right direction, and the whole game has a great feel to it… It really seems like the devs were trying hard and doing the best with what they had technology-wise at the time. Despite its simplicity and crudeness, I got sucked in immediately and didn't move from my seat until I finished it. I frown heavily on the 3D platforming that happens in a couple of sections because the technology to effectively portray depth was not up to snuff at the time, but those sections are small in number, and there are continues which start the player at the exact area where they died, so the frustration factor is low.

It's old, it's rough, and it's only starting to foreshadow the kind of games we would be treated to in later generations, but the spark of something cool is going on in Lucifer Ring, and players interested in old software would be smart to pick this one up and give it a spin. As a bonus, the menus are in English and there is a key configure menu, which I greatly appreciated. Play on Easy and absorb some history.


Toukiden (Vita demo, 2014)

Tecmo Koei is getting into the Monster Hunter business, and the free demo for their attempt is now up on the Vita store. 

From what I saw, it's infused with a heavily traditional Japanese flavor -- the characters look like samurai, and the enemies are Oni. The core of it is unmistakaby MH  though. It has a town, a little mission area with a girl at a desk, different weapon varieties… The similarities are obvious, but I guess that's alright since Capcom currently has no plans to bring out another MH and I'm jonesing pretty hard.

Out of all the MH clones I played so far, this one seems to be the best based on the demo slice. The graphics are nice, the weapons seem interesting, and the general structure is familiar, which isn't a bad thing. Of course, the jury is still out until I can check out the full version, but it didn't immediately turn me off, which is more than I can say for some of the other clones I've dipped into. 

We'll see. 


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