Archive for the ‘360’ Category

You (really) need to play Eschatos

August 26, 2015

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Maybe you’re thinking: Scrolling shooters, eh. This one doesn’t even look that great… the graphics are pretty Dreamcast, the action looks junky, whatever. And in response I could explain that I had the exact same reaction and, you know, try to explain the details about why I ended up playing Eschatos anyways.

Well, forget all that noise. All of it. Eschatos hits Steam tomorrow, and you should play it, because Eschatos is the fucking greatest.

Reasons why Eschatos is the greatest like wow:

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1. Eschatos is every scrolling shooter rolled into one

Eschatos exists in a universe where scrolling shooter subgenres didn’t break apart and become endlessly specialized; it can’t accurately be called a traditional shooter, manic shooter, or bullet hell. Eschatos is all of these and also sometimes it is Galaga.

2. Eschatos has the best soundtrack of any game not named Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross

Very few games are elevated by their soundtracks, but composer Yousuke Yasui has created an energetic, emotional soundtrack that stands as one of the best in the medium. It really hits you in the feels and it even makes the shooting more shootier.

3. Eschatos is fully 3D and that’s crazy

This seems like a minor point; there are a lot of scrolling shooters with 3D graphics. But Eschatos takes this a step further, with dynamic camera angles that highlight the action. They’re skillfully integrated, making Eschatos feel cinematic without interrupting gameplay. These camera angles will blow your mind and you will enjoy shooting things like never before.

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4. Eschatos never stops

Eschatos doesn’t have discrete levels. Instead it has one continuously flowing stage, a choice which lends the game a sense of narrative design that other shooters lack. Players are always playing instead of sitting through “fade to black” moments. Think of the intro to Half-Life and how much you enjoyed looking around that tram as Gordon Freeman, and then imagine that’s not boring and instead is great. Eschatos is like that. There are no breaks; you are always playing.

5. Eschatos has the single most serene moment in any videogame, ever

Eschatos’ narrative strengths and Yasui’s compositions work together to create one perfect moment halfway through the game. Haunting music begins as the player’s ship blasts off from Earth’s atmosphere and into the depths of space, the planet Eschatos looming in the distance. It’s a singularly beautiful moment that I look forward to every time I play.

6. Eschatos’ shield mechanic cuts through the bullshit

A lot of scrolling shooters have a gotcha moment that takes you off guard and generally just ruins your day. “That’s not fair!” you scream, as rain falls outside your window and world hunger continues to be real. But Eschatos actively refuses to be unfair. The player’s ship has a shield which can actively cut through the most difficult waves of bullets, giving Eschatos a sense of freedom that other shooters lack. It’s not completely do or die; you can improvise your way out of certain death. Don’t rely on the shield too much, though—it can only help out so much before it needs to recharge.

7. Eschatos is loaded with content

Eschatos doesn’t mess around, because Eschatos is the real deal. There are three game modes, all incredibly fun, with a bunch of difficulty options ranging from “actually easy” to “this was programmed as a cruel joke.” Eschatos also has a system of progressive score-based unlockables that let you tweak the game’s graphical effects to your liking. Oh, and there’s an endless mode in case you never ever want to stop playing Eschatos.

8. Eschatos actually makes you think about what you’re doing instead of holding the shot button like a big dumb baby

In most modern day shooters, you might as well hold down the shot button constantly, because it covers the whole screen and there’s no reason to do otherwise. But Eschatos’ system of weaker wide shots versus more powerful narrow shots (and let’s not forget the shield!) encourages players to switch between shot types to take out enemy waves. There’s a sense of puzzliness to it too, and it’s really satisfying to work out which shot works best in which situations.

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9. Eschatos’ scoring mechanics don’t require a technical manual to understand

If I’ve got to browse online forums to even figure out how a shooter’s scoring system works, then that shooter is doing it wrong. Eschatos’ scoring is simple and fun—you get bonus points and a point multiplier for killing all the enemy waves as fast as possible. Boom, got it. If that’s not enough for you, there’s an Advanced mode that introduces a lot of quirky mechanics and score candy.

10. Eschatos’ boss battles are short, sweet, and to the point

I hate boss battles where you spend half the time not even damaging the boss, because he has to do some stupid garbage attack before you can even try to take him out. The bosses in Eschatos are all incredibly fun without having neverending health bars or snooze-worthy gimmick attacks. And that final boss. Oh man. I think he may be the best final boss.

11. Eschatos’ graphics are actually kinda good, really you guys

I know, I know. Dreamcast visuals, etc. (Or, god forbid, N64 visuals?) But there are really a lot of great explosions and particle effects in this game, the outer space scenery is unbelievably gorgeous, and the alien designs actually look alien. Plus, the graphical style is like a 3D update to what shooting games looked like in the ‘80s. Eschatos appreciates the genre’s history without being all “hey guys am I retro yet?” about it.

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12. Eschatos comes with two other totally amazing games

Okay, so I don’t know if this holds true for the Steam release—but publisher Degica Games have hinted that they’re going to release the award-winning Judgement Silversword and Cardinal Sins at some point in the future. These Wonderswan Color(!) games are almost as good as Eschatos, and really blew away all my expectations for what a handheld shooting game could be. They don’t feel quaint or compromised at all; they’re really some of the best scrolling shooters you’ll ever play. And, finally:

13. Eschatos really makes you think about life

Like, wow.

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Breaking into scrolling shooters

August 19, 2015

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I love, love, love scrolling shooters. A while back I even wrote a massive post about scrolling shooters — I wanted to pick apart the genre in a scholarly way, highlighting notable games and asking questions that would get people thinking about them on a deeper level.

Well, I feel the need to add onto that article. Many of the games I listed in my original article are super rare and super expensive, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to appreciate them theoretically. More than any other genre, scrolling shooters live or die by the fundamental “fun-ness” of play. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite affordable and available shooters. These are shooters I would vouch for no matter what, but they’re also fun and accessible picks that won’t put a hurt on your wallet.

– PC –

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Cho Ren Sha 68K

I’m not much for classics, but Cho Ren Sha is everything you need and nothing you don’t. Every element feels perfectly balanced, as if the creators knew exactly what they wanted before they started programming. Colorful enemies, blazing-fast gunfire, powerful tunes, and a brilliantly simple powerup system (choose: bomb, powerup, or shield!) come together to make for one of the all-time greats. If Cho Ren Sha has a fault, it’s that it only has one background… but hey, it worked for Galaga.

Price: Free

Alltynex Second

Spaceships with gimmicky weapons are a time-honored scrolling shooter tradition, and Alltynex Second brings the heat with *three* separate gimmick weapons in one ship. Normally that would be enough to tank a game under its own excess, but Alltynex Second pulls it off wonderfully. The homing shot takes out small enemies, the power beam tears through bosses, and the laser sword cancels enemy bullets as it hacks away at their mechanized faces. There’s more than a little bit of hack-and-slash DNA in this one, and cutting apart enemies piece by piece never loses its appeal.

Price: $8 on Steam

Crimzon Clover: World Ignition

“World Ignition” is more than just a flashy subtitle. When Crimzon Clover exploded onto Steam, scrolling shooter fans went totally bonkers. That’s because Crimzon Clover nails every aspect of bullet hell design—hardcore action, non-stop explosions, over-the-top visuals, and an endless supply of glittering point items. There’s a wealth of content, with four different arcade modes and two novice modes for people (like me) who just aren’t that great at bullet hell games. Crimzon Clover demonstrates yet again that a one-man indie can outperform even the biggest studios. If you want to experience for yourself the intricacy and adrenaline of bullet hell shooters without the costly import prices, Crimzon Clover is unmissable.

Price: $10 on Steam

Also try: Danmaku Unlimited 2, Hydorah, Jamestown, and Kamui

– Xbox 360 –

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Score Rush

Score Rush combines all the best elements of Geometry Wars with the kaleidoscopic gunfire of a bullet hell. Twin-stick controls, 4-player multi, and tons of psychedelic particle effects make this an incredibly fun and accessible shooter. It’s just about the only scrolling shooter that you can have an entire room of friends playing in no time. Such is Score Rush’s simplicity and curb appeal—when I think of no-brainer 360 purchases, Score Rush is at the top of the list.

Price: $1 on Xbox Live Indie; Free on PC

Raiden Fighters Aces

Raiden Fighters Aces offers a rare glimpse into what scrolling shooters looked like just before bullet hells changed the genre completely. There aren’t any intricate patterns of slow-moving bullets here—In Raiden style, the action is blisteringly fast, emphasizing twitch reflexes and wide dodges in order to avoid enemy sniper shots. All three Raiden Fighters games are included on-disc, and between them there’s a massive number of playable ships, each with their own weapons, stats, and bombs. And that soundtrack, holy crap. What it lacks in melody it makes up for in raw intensity.

Price: ~$15

Deathsmiles

I could tell you all about what a great developer Cave is and blah blah blah but instead I’ll say that this game features a giant rotting cow named Mary as an end of level boss, and I think that really says everything right there. Deathsmiles’ Halloween motif leans cutesy rather than gory, but underneath the cheese is a smart shooter that cuts through the typical bullet hell crap. Level select, per-level difficulty select, and simplified bullet patterns mean that you don’t have to be an absolute monster to beat Deathsmiles. Even so, there’s more than enough for players to bite into as they gain skills and start chasing high scores.

Price: ~$10

Also try: Akai Katana, Ikaruga, and Chronoblast

– Playstation 3 –

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Zanac X Zanac

Allow me be a crazy person for a second and tell you that one of the best scrolling shooters on PS3 is actually an enhanced port of an NES game. Zanac is a thing of subtle beauty, by which I mean it’s actually kind of hideous and could easily fool you into thinking it’s total garbage. But oh man, don’t tell that to Zanac. Because Zanac hears. What sets Zanac apart from other scrolling shooters is that it features randomized waves of enemies, sent by the AI that is Zanac. How many shots you’re firing, what powerups you pick up; everything is analyzed by Zanac and every game of Zanac is customized to kill you, specifically. The powerups in this one are just incredible—absolutely top of class. Plus there’s a really sweet challenge mode that could keep you playing, like, forever. Oh, and also a really good Playstation version included called Zanac Neo. Yeah, there’s that, too.

Price: $6 on PSN

Under Defeat HD

Under Defeat boasts the sort of elegant beauty that you’d never expect from a scrolling shooter about World War II helicopter pilots. Every scene is bursting with detail, and the stunning particle effects and dynamic smoke highlight the action across stages of forested gun-emplacements, massive naval fleets, and bombed out military bases. Even though the game takes place in a fictitious alternate timeline, a strong sense of realism makes Under Defeat extremely compelling. The “lean into your shots” control scheme is novel and fun, and the scoring system utilizes the player’s vulcan, cannon, and rocket powerups in a simple and satisfying way. To top it off, this version also includes a widescreen, twin-stick mode with a remixed soundtrack courtesy of the always-great Yousuke Yasui.

Price: $10 on PSN

Gradius V

Gradius V may be the ultimate sidescrolling shooter. I don’t mean that it’s the best, or that it’s my personal favorite. What I mean is that Gradius V seems to carry the entire legacy of the genre on its shoulders as you play—It’s monolithic, majestic, and impossibly slick, with tight level design and spectacular boss battles. It’s also ruthlessly difficult, requiring players to memorize certain routes to make it through. That’s all part of what it means to be a Gradius game. But the system of unlockable continues means everyone can eventually play Gradius V to the end, and really, I’d say this is the best game in the series since the original Gradius codified the genre in 1985. Play them both.

Price: $10 on PSN

Also try: Castle Shikigami 2, Velocity

– Wii (and Wii U) –

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Blast Works

I’m not sure I can call Blast Works a great game; hell, I’m not entirely sure I can even call it a good game. What it is, though, is a uniquely fun game, thanks to an irresistible premise: Blast Works is essentially Katamari Damacy as a scrolling shooter. Every enemy you kill can be latched onto any side of your ship; they contribute their firepower to yours and also act as a giant meat shield. By the end of the stage, you’ll feel like the end of level boss, because your fighter craft will be have a hundred other guns attached to it. All that craziness, plus the game has a robust level and ship editor. Blast Works is fun with friends as well, and… that’s why you bought your Wii, isn’t it? Ah, you were in it for Wii Fit. Nevermind then.

Price: ~$5

Sin and Punishment 2

This game is just bonkers. Sin and Punishment 2 is like a rail shooter, lightgun game, and scrolling shooter fused together and jacked up to eleven. There are a bajillion things to shoot at, and the level designs are truly inspired. There’s an overgrown ruin of destroyed Tokyo, a hoverbike chase on a not so abandoned highway, and a flight down a literal water tunnel, where giant morays and enemy ships burst through the walls of water to attack. That’s to say nothing of the bosses, which are massive, frequent, and phenomenal.

Price: ~$15

Wii Virtual Console

There aren’t many great retail shooters for Wii, but it still has one of the best collections of scrolling shooters on any system thanks to the Virtual Console. There are sooo many great and otherwise hard to find games; hell, it was the Wii Virtual Console that got me deeply into shooters in the first place. Take to the skies in your mech and blow apart neo-feudal Japan in MUSHA; headbang hard with the heavy metal soundtrack and awesomely mythological monsters of Lords of Thunder; destroy cute-em-up baddies as a Turbografx-16 videogame system itself in Star Parodier. And while you’re at it, definitely try out Gate of Thunder. It’s my favorite sidescrolling shooter of all time.

Price: $8-9

Also try: Blazing Lazers, Fantasy Zone, R-Type and R-Type III, and Soldier Blade

Those are my personal picks for fun, affordable scrolling shooters. Hopefully you discovered a new favorite or added something to your never-ending list of games to check out. Narrowing down this list was tough; scrolling shooters are a huge genre dating back to gaming’s infancy, and I had to cut a few of my absolute favorites. Maybe I missed a few of your favorites, too.

On that note, I’m gonna turn things around and ask you: What’s your favorite scrolling shooter?

Gems of this generation: part 3

October 11, 2013

GemsHugeFixedHere’s the final part of a three-part article detailing, in no particular order, my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii console generation. For part one, click here; for part two, click here.

Writing this list was incredibly difficult. Really, it was. There were too many games to choose from, and in some cases the cutoff was extremely close. I thought about reducing the list to ten a couple of times, and I thought about switching out some games for others.

But here we are, the final five. Keep in mind that these aren’t the top five best games of the list, but a sampling I thought would make for a compelling closer. This entire three-part article consists of favorites, games I’ve played a whole hell of a lot and keep coming back to. All fifteen are incredible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to post a comment and tell me what you think, or recommend a few games I should play. Because there really are too many for any sane person to parse through, and I rely on recommendations as much as anybody else.

No more waffling. Here are my final five gems of this generation. Enjoy.

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Gems of this generation: part 2

October 10, 2013

GemsHugeFixedHere’s the second part of a three-part article detailing, in no particular order, my favorite games of the 360/PS3/Wii console generation. For part one, click here, for part three, click here.

There’s nothing worse than a definitive list, one in which every entry is prescribed in advance, where the audience can yawn out each selection before they scroll downward. I feel that way about a lot of aggregate “best of” lists, whether they’re taken from Metacritic or individual review sites. Some of the soul gets squeezed out, and all that’s left is a too-obvious, pseudo-objective tallying of all-time greats.

The candidates from this generation are clear to anybody who plays games regularly. Grand Theft Auto, The Last of Us, Halo, Skyrim, Uncharted, Bioshock, Call of Duty, Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and Fallout, with maybe some surprise appearances from Dark Souls, Journey, or Xcom.

All solid games, by critical and popular consent. But they make for tame lists, because you know what you’re getting going in. I don’t say this to elevate myself above that – my list has a number of very obvious picks – but I do think that the individual experience is much more interesting.

I’d much rather read what one player thinks are the best experiences, and their reasons why, even if they list many of the same games. You develop more of a feel for the games and the person playing them. You get an idea where that player is coming from, and to what extent their perspective is valuable to your own experience.

I hope you’re enjoying this list, whether or not you agree with my picks. Hopefully there’s something here that you like, or something great you’ve never played before. But mostly, I hope it’s just fun to read through, and not entirely terrible or predictable.

And now, onto part 2.

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Gems of this generation: part 1

October 9, 2013

GemsHugeFixedThis is the first part of a three-part article detailing, in no particular order, my favorite games of the 360/PS3/Wii console generation. For part two, click here; for part three, click here.

With one next-gen console out and two on their way, players wait breathlessly for a revolution. Who will win the coming war: The PS4, riding popular support and increased graphics capability? The Xbox One, wooing the masses with all-in-one media integration? Or the Wii U, promising new play experiences in fan-favorite franchises?

The answer is who cares. New consoles take time to get going. That shiny newness wears off, leaving players with a lack of games to play.

But take heart! Those black and white boxes you’re stuffing into brown boxes – they have games. Good games. Great games. Exciting, wonderful, spectacular games.

I’d like to celebrate fifteen of my favorite games that came out over the last eight years, games that elevated this generation above shoehorned waggle, red rings, and network hacks. I hope you share some of your favorites with me as well. Or, you know, make an angry post about my glaring omission of your favorite game. That’s cool too.

These are all fantastic games, so be aware that I’m posting them in no particular order. Here’s part one, featuring the first batch of five games. Stay tuned for parts two and three!

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360 review: Dodonpachi Saidaioujou

June 28, 2013

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In a rare move for developer Cave, Dodonpachi Saidaioujou1 moves not toward increased complexity but pared-back simplicity, a straightforward bravado borne of its status as the original innovator, the series that started this whole bullet hell business.

This is bullet hell in its purest form, a glowing neon blur of explosions and flak, skillchains climbing into the thousands, zen focus terminating in split-second panic bombs. Patterns are stripped down, basic, predictable even, but they move with unrelenting speed. If this isn’t Cave’s hardest game, then it’s damned close to it.

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360 review: Tomb Raider

May 10, 2013

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Tomb Raider isn’t buggy, broken, or bad. It’s not unplayable or unenjoyable. There’s a solid game here, and the core mechanics are some of the better third-person shooting mechanics around. I really appreciate its fluid cover system, and Lara’s bow is an interesting and versatile weapon.

But Tomb Raider radiates wasted potential. There’s a spark here of something unrealized, a lack of foresight that makes the game fall flat. It’s a problem of authorship. Tomb Raider makes its central theme incredibly clear before bungling it in the worst way, creating an incredible disconnect between what the story’s saying and what’s happening in-game.

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360 review: Bioshock Infinite

April 26, 2013

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Swirling cumulus clouds surround the floating city of Columbia. Candles burn for the prophet as dust motes swirl around Elizabeth. She’s prancing between fairground stalls, past red banners blown by the wind. Every one of Bioshock Infinite’s graphical flourishes is ideally realized. Just so.

Likewise, Infinite’s plot is smartly designed. We’re baptized into another world, as startled as our player character, Booker DeWitt. The game grabs you with initial mystery: Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt. If Infinite excels at one thing, it’s the liberation that comes with a blockbuster game treating players as if we can follow a plot.

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XBLIndie review: Chronoblast

March 6, 2013

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Chronoblast consists of five stages of bullet hell shooting supplemented by a scoring system based around chaining quick kills together. Your ship’s rapid shot quickly kills small enemies, while the laser maintains your chain when held on larger enemies. You earn supers, which cancel all onscreen bullets and give your ship a boost of firepower.

If those mechanics sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been directly lifted from Cave’s Dodonpachi series and reassembled into a $1 XBLA Indie download. Chronoblast feels short on new ideas, but succeeds in providing a solid alternative to expensive import shooters.

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360 review: Ginga Force

March 1, 2013

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Ginga Force* starts off a bit of a mess. Your ship feels underpowered. You can shoot two weapons at once, but doing so quickly drains their energy. Your main weapon loses energy automatically anyhow, exacerbating your helplessness. There’s a nifty shield, but rarely enough bullets onscreen to justify using it.

As you work through the first few stages, you can unlock and purchase new ship parts with money dropped by enemies. They change the look of your ship, but functionally they’re a little underwhelming. A different narrow shot here, a different wide shot there. It feels a little tedious. Keep playing.

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