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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Evolution: The World of Sacred Device Review

Original release:
Japan: December 16, 1999
North America: December 16, 1999
Europe: December 16, 1999

Game details:
1 Player
Standard Controller
VMU Compatible

Evolution: The World of Sacred Device is your typical RPG. If you've played Skies of Arcadia (which you probably have if you're reading this) you'll be very familiar with this. But Evolution is basically about grinding and grinding. (Grinding meaning that you go around killing creatures to gain experience and level up.) It has the same battle mechanism as Skies of Arcadia, Grandia, Final Fantasy, etc, etc. That could very well be a good thing. But in this case I feel that it's a bad thing; it doesn't bring anything new to the genre. If you've played these games before, it'll be a bit boring. It's the same thing over and over. And, worst of all, there's an awful lot of text. When in cutscenes, the game turns into a button masher. This makes the game a little unclear because it isn't a linear RPG. I often found myself clueless about what I'm going to do. I could run around for hours, just to find the right character, the right building and so on and so forth. While you could blame for being lazy and not reading the text, well, there's too much text.

With you, as your sidekick, you have a girl. Her name is Linear, ironically enough. She follows you wherever you go. And, as always, the AI is stupid. She jumps when you jump, she talks when you talk and she makes the game freeze for a split second when jumping. And you can't prevent this. The only option you have is not to jump. The gameplay itself is pretty decent. If you don't mind repetetive gameplay, it's a nice play. I found the different skills and spells interesting. You also focus on different aspects like attacking or healing. I just let my sidekick be the healer and I did the dirty job. Because someone's got to do it.

It features a story. But a very complex story. If you read all of the text it may be a bit less complex... But if I understood it right, you have to find this device. Hence the title ”Sacred Device”. After that Linear gets kidnapped. And, yes, you'll then have to go rescue her.

For me, this was the highlight of the game. Even though the graphics have a cartoon-manga style, they still look pretty good. Lighting effects are great. During the cutscenes, the character models look great and they are designed well. Although, when running around in villages, the colors are kind of vague. They are very similar to Skies of Arcadia.

The music is great. It fits the different environments extremely good and compensates for the repetetive gameplay. But some of the soundtracks are a bit annoying.

If you got tired with Skies of Arcadia (or any other RPG for that matter) and want to try something new but similar, try it out. If you just got the flu and you're staying home, try it out. You might find it entertaining if you like the genre. But as a real conclusion, this is your generic turn-based RPG.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Street Fighter III: Triple Threat Review

This is another CD AGES review, but we still didn't get him set up with an account to post on the blog. I didn't think it would be quite fair if I wrote a review of something that I worked on so much, so he handled this duty.

Game Details:
1-2 Players
VMU enabled
Standard Controller, Arcade Stick
Jump Pak enabled
VGA box

The talented group known as "RDC" has gone for broke with their latest (and 50th) DC release. Out of their efforts comes a trifecta of pure fighting game bliss in one convenient package. Aptly titled Street Fighter 3 Triple threat, The entire legacy of SF3 (New Generation, 2nd Impact Giant Attack and 3rd Strike) is expertly crafted and collected on one content packed disc. CD AGES here once again, and i first would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the group for not only making this dream project a reality, but for also letting me review their marvelous effort :)

Right out the gate, the innovative gameplay features that SF3 has been renowned for are quite lengthy. Lets go over them and analyze a few:

Parry- Also known as "Blocking" in Asia, a parry is an offensive maneuver that nullifies an attack and allows you to counter with an attack of your own. This is the meat and potatoes of SF3.

Leap Attacks- Also known in some circles as a "RIP" attack or a Universal Overhead (UOH). This is an offensive tool available to all characters. This new attack provides you with a means to open up your opponents defenses. Simply put, it's a valuable overhead attack.

Super Arts- A fancy term for super moves, what sets "Super Arts" apart is that a player now must select only 1 of 3 super moves to use in battle. Each Super Art is tailored to a particular style of play, complete with an independent meter size and stock limit.

Dash- A mechanic seen in other fighters from SNK and Capcom, it makes its welcomed debut to the SF series. Can be used to advance or retreat.

Super Jump- Higher jump altitude than a normal jump, many fans of fighting games have seen this mechanic in other fighting titles.

Target Combos- Essentially a type of chain combo, TC's are character specific and unique to each. Some characters have one, some have many, others have none.

Stun Gauge- A gauge seen underneath the life bar, this gauge dictates how much damage a fighter can sustain before succumbing to dizzy state.

EX- Introduced from 2nd Impact onwards, EX attacks are upgraded versions of special attacks. They consume a portion of the Super Art gauge and performed by pressing 2 punch or kick buttons depending on which special move is chosen to EX.

with these great gameplay features mentioned... the truth is, perhaps the biggest contributor in terms gameplay to this trilogy comes from its roster of fighters! In a bold (and quite frankly controversial) move, Capcom chose to drop all previous World Warriors (with exception of Ken and Ryu) in favor of a fresh cast complete with a new protagonist to represent this new generation of Street Fighter! While this decision really hurt the popularity of this series among the fans during it's release, the truth of the matter is that its the reason why this installment has the longevity its earned for itself. Its the brand new legion of fighters that many have chosen to attempt to learn (and ultimately master) what has been a true hallmark to the trilogy of SF3. Gameplay differences between all 3 versions are small yet make major alterations to the flow of battle. "New Gen" definitely feels solid but lacks overall while "2nd Impact" feels like a step in the right direction with the inclusion of 4 additional fighters, EX attacks, throw teching, and a bonus round aimed to teach. The final release known as "3rd Strike" feels completely fleshed out and masterfully updated, with 4 additional new fighters and 1 returning legend in the fan favorite, lady thunder thighs herself Chun Li, bringing the roster up to a respectable 19 characters to choose from. The game also updates the formula of it's previous release with a tremendous re-balance, an overhaul of the throw mechanic, a command update to the "leap attack" as well as modest changes to block and parry mechanics of the game.

So long M.Bison and Shadaloo syndicate! The Illuminati and its chosen leader Gill, are planning to rule the world... not much else here.

Unleashed into the arcades in early 1997 with brand new arcade hardware under its hood (in the form of Capcom's proprietary CPS3 board), New Gen makes use of the new tech in every form imaginable, even in an inspirational sense. Considering that new hardware can lead to broader possibilities for designers to exploit and a fresh start, New Gen does exactly that and more. But lets keep on topic and talk about the graphics of the SF3 trilogy. To say the SF3 series is a powerhouse of 2D animation is an understatement. The graphics alone separates the SF3 series from it's monumental pedigree, making it feel like a whole new world. Animation to just about every action on all characters in the cast is incredibly fluid and painstakingly smooth. Elena's idle stance is almost hypnotic with her insanely fluid Capoeira movement, Dudley's idle stance is impressive to watch as he freely switches from southpaw to orthodox stance in seamless fashion, and Remy's crazy amount of animated movements in random fashion like stroking his hair from his face and hand gestures (i could swear i once saw remy tighten the ring on one of his fingers) leave me in awe. The graphics are easily what set this chapter of the street fighter series apart from the pack and made many take notice especially during their respective runs in the arcade market! If only Capcom continued to the explore and
build upon the realms of 2D animation in their current releases :(

By all accounts it appears that the vibe Capcom chose for the SF3 Trilogy in respects to it's music revolves around a distinct urban underground hip hop type of atmosphere. While New Gen and 2nd Impact have some distinct and catchy tunes, the overall soundtrack feels a bit bland and lacks the proper execution that was heard in 3rd Strike. With that said, 3rd Strike has perhaps one of the most awesome, if not impactful soundtrack you will ever hear in the SF series overall. The audio dept as a whole took a major step forward with the final iteration of SF3. The entire roster was re-voiced to much praise and the entire soundtrack was redone with a better sense of conveying that hip hop sound Capcom was trying to accomplish from the first installment (thanks to their collaboration with a few talented artist and studios). In all honesty the hip hop, jungle, bass like tunes really compliment and add to the atmosphere of SF3.

Its no secret that the "3" series has been known as the least successful point in the history of Street Fighter, Be it due to its new cast of characters, mechanics that were perhaps less user friendly or simply due to its time of release when the arcade industry was on life support. Regardless the reason, one thing is for certain, its biggest accomplishment for the series lies in the proper evolution of the fighting game formula that it's predecessor set to establish. Thanks to this compilation, the stepping stones to achieving a near perfect fighting game will not be lost to the ravages of time and instead be available on our wonderful Dreamcast consoles:)


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Announcing Street Fighter III: Triple Threat for Release on February 7th

This isn't necessarily a new announcement if you've been following the ReviveDC Project since our month of Street Fighter. I've mentioned it several times, but I don't think I've ever divulged too many details. So, this will be the full scoop and include some screenshots. Please note: these screenshots were NOT captured on a Dreamcast. When the game is played on the DC, there will be a task bar along the bottom as the game is based around the XDP web browser. Also note that the XDP team had no hand in this game.

Street Fighter III: Triple Threat is a compilation of all three Street Fighter III revisions; New Generation, 2nd Impact: Giant Attack and Third Strike. All games are preserved in their original state. Nothing was ripped or downsampled in this compilation. Third Strike is the retail Dreamcast version; think of Triple Threat as a companion piece to RDC's Third Strike Arcade Edition release. Sort of how Double Impact compiled the two "irrelevant" versions of Street Fighter III alongside Third Strike. The changes in Arcade Edition aren't things that a new player would be concerned with.

Typically, a compilation disc isn't much to write home about. The menus are usually pretty bare and unimpressive. That's not so for Triple Threat.

Triple Threat's Main Menu

Triple Threat will cover all of the bases that a full retail release would, and take it a step further. It's not good enough for ReviveDC Project to do a compilation disc that's a blank page with start options for all of the games present. Triple Threat also includes unique move lists for each game. This means if you look at a move list for New Generation, you'll see only the character's moves for that specific game.

Alex's New Generation move list next to his Third Strike move list

The move lists were painstakingly double checked thanks to CD AGES, who spotted quite a few mistakes in the original New Generation and 2nd Impact move lists. It would seem that Capcom can't write move lists, as they were taken from the Double Impact manual.

That's not the only bonus here though; the game also includes all of the art galleries that were included with Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 last year. Dreamcaster ripped all of the images from the game, and there were a lot of them. It took me a few days just to sort them. Then they were resized to be viewed on the Dreamcast easily and sorted into galleries for each of the characters

Chun-Li's art gallery

All of the images in each gallery can be clicked to view a larger version of the image. Other extras include game saves for all of the games which unlock Gill in New Generation, Gill and Akuma in 2nd Impact, and Gill in Third Strike.

Since the Street Fighter III games are very technical, how-to-play guides are also included on the disc to help newcomers understand some of the more complex systems of the game. The guides are taken from Eventhubs, and should help greatly in understanding Street Fighter III fully.

Topics covered in the beginner's guides

Triple Threat will be ReviveDC Project's 50th release, so it's only right to make it a big one. Hopefully you all enjoy it a lot; it was a lot of work and it's been a long time coming.