Posts Tagged ‘namco’

Game 60: Donkey Konga

Posted: June 9, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 539/1001 according to the list

Genre: Music
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Nintendo

Of all the Nintendo franchises to receive a music-based game I bet there are people who would have bet good money that it would have fallen on The Legend Of Zelda to produce some sort of outing with an ocarina peripheral. After all it does heavily feature music and it DID later spin-off a Crossbow Training shooting game.

In the end though the task fell to Donkey Kong provide the means for Nintendo to mass-market a home-console music game periphery drawing inspiration from the successful Taiko no Tatsujin arcade games.

Our Thoughts

To quote a Harry Hill running joke from a while ago: “I like to play my bongos in the morning”. I wondered how long it would be until you made that joke. We had to start somewhere.

So Donkey Konga it is; another game with its own very special controller, and one that took us a while to get. Thankfully it was not too expensive for us to purchase; especially when compared with other games on this list. So expensive that there is a doubt that we’ll ever even get to play it. Steel Battalion, where are you with the proper controller? Any help there is appreciated. Luckily these Donkey Konga bongos will be used again at a later date making it eight quid well spent… unlike the £80 we’re likely to have to shell out to buy the (kick-ass) cockpit controller for Steel Battalion.

An interesting thing to note is how this could be the first music game on the list equipped with a specialist controller meaning it outdates the Hero music franchise. Let’s hope the drums survive to that point, considering our enthusiastic playing. It could be that this is the first game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Sure, it’s quite simple, but the challenge isn’t in using twenty different buttons, it’s in trying to keep up with the song.

In order to play along you bang the drums together, on their own or clap. On a personal note I found it difficult to transition between a clap and the banging of both bongos. It helped when later I discovered that you can slap the right side of the controller and it is registered as a slap. The slap instead of the clap also allows for greater playing stamina since it prevents your hands from getting red raw from clapping. It’s a bit of an awkward mechanic that didn’t fit in as well, although I can see why they’d want it as an extra option. On its own is not too bad, but if you’re not careful your hand starts hurting. You need to hold back. But it’s the only annoying transition. The bongos themselves work well, simple but fun.

They also look fantastic. The cartoon-like wood finish does make like something direct from the game… unlike the awkward chainsaw controller released alongside Resident Evil 4 which was annoying as hell.  Yeah, they fit in the game. The sole issue here is that they feel flimsy. You’re tempted to hit them hard, but then they immediately feel like they’re about to break. The fact that the still work perfectly despite obviously being second-hand shows just how sturdy they are. Also there is no real need to bang then too hard during gameplay as it makes it far harder to transition. Absolutely, despite expecting worse, it seems like we’ll be bongoing for quite a bit longer. And once we are through they will be lovingly stored next to the controllers we have purchased from DJ and Band Hero. The latter of which I hope I will we will get to use for this project soon.

Now, a music game stands or falls with the music they put in, and being the first of its kind (seemingly), this should set a benchmark. And if we can say one thing, it’s that there is a lot of variation in the songs. Yes, but they don’t always work. Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ really had no place in a bongo-based music game. No. On the other hand, Blink 182 is the last band I’d expect to see here, yet ‘All The Small Things’ worked well. It might have helped, though, that I know the song well, giving me a personal best record. Other songs worked surprisingly well too. ‘Lady Marmalade’, ’99 Red Balloons’, ‘Impression That I Get’ and a batch of Nintendo theme songs all were fun to play with. Something to note is that the song list varied depended on the region it was released in. In fact, those of us in the PAL region actually received the fewest number of songs from all three regions. It’s a good enough list anyway, although it’s a shame.

Another thing to note here are the graphics. Obviously, a music game doesn’t need them as much, and they’re not outstanding, but one thing they are is fun. Birds, monkeys and rhinos dance around at the bottom of the screen and balloons fly up if you do well. I thought that happy little chappy was an elephant. Apologies. They’re both grey. He’s still dancing! Very cute too! Who wouldn’t dance to ‘Louie Louie’ played on the bongos? Nobody, that’s who!

In other words, we’ll play our bongos again. Just not in the morning. I prefer to lie in a bit longer.

Final Thoughts

At some point we will be using these bongos to play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. It will be very interesting to see how this specialist controller works on a conventional platform game compared to a rhythm based one.


Game 19: Soulcalibur II

Posted: January 15, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 507/1001 according to the list

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our first attempts at covering a fighting game!

Being a long-time exponent of the fighting genre it was great to see so many included on the list itself, and there are fewer better ways to introduce them than with SoulCalibur II. Having started out in Japan as an arcade game this was successfully ported onto the PS2, XBox and Gamecube with the latter being the best reviewed of the three. Each version also contained an exclusive character with Link appearing on the Gamecube, Heihachi Mishima was on the PS2 and comic-book character made his way onto the XBox.

It was thanks to this game that the Soul series was able to join the ranks of fighting games alongside Tekken, Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter.

Our Playthrough

There is only way that you can play through a fighting game; play every mode in the attempt to unlock all the characters as well as teaching Jeroen who is the true king of beat ’em ups (as other people have found out in respect to Tekken). We will be playing the Gamecube version that I bought in New York with birthday money… the fact that this means I have to keep my Gamecube since it’s unplayable on my Wii does make it slightly annoying.

Our Thoughts

So buttonmasher, your first beat ’em up from the list. So it is. Although I’m not sure ‘buttonmasher’ is entirely appropriate. I tried to use some strategy; I just forgot half the controls at the second session which resulted in you doing the same punch for an entire round. It worked and I changed it around later, made my tactics more varied (which was much appreciated), it made it a lot more fun.

Although, as we can state, right now it’s not a genre I’m as proficient with as you are. Beat ’em ups/fighting games have always been one of my favourite genres. The Soulcalibur series being one I love (except the third one, which was pants).

That leads me to the question that matters here. We can go on about graphics, sound, gameplay, design, story and more of that in a bit, but what my main question is (as someone who knows nothing about this) – what sets the series, and this part in particular, aside from other similar games?

Firstly is the use of handheld weapons. The SoulEdge/Calibur series may not have been the first to introduce them into a conventional fighting game but they were the ones who have made them a real boon. Each weapon comes with a different fighting style (and dare I say personality) which leads to a highly varied gaming experience. Something I’ve noticed with the different characters that we’ve played.

In your conventional beat ’em up everyone has a set radius of attack, when you introduce long-range weapons such as large axes and the Valentine Blade versus shorter range ones like nunchucks and a rapier then you really have to formulate a variety of tactics. This nicely co-insides with a wide variety of characters where each of them has fleshed out back story meaning you can understand their intentions for fighting rather than it being a free for all.

The controls too were very well organised, especially on the Gamecube (less so with the Xbox version) meaning that it is not too much of a stretch to go from a simple vertical slash to a complex throw. The variety of tactics shows itself clearly, and broke me up during our two player games, where my performance depended a lot of what I could do.

The controls were well organised as long as you can remember them. I probably didn’t play long enough to get the reflexes and innate memory. Reflexes are something that develop from a lot of fighting game experience. Bear in mind I’ve owned titles from the Soul, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises.

I guess that’s why (as you said when we were playing) button mashing isn’t rewarded as much in this game. The controls don’t seem to make it easy to execute combos or allow you to be effective that way most of time, while even going into a bit more makes the game better. The effort gone into getting the control pays off soon which means there is a great ‘pick up and play’ quantity even for amateurs. Yeah, it works for players on multiple levels, and the difficulty in the game seems to be able to scale based on that; although some game modes are more difficult than others.

The Weapon Master mode is an interesting side section, especially since it allows the purchase of different weapons for each character which then influences play even more. Such as a weapon which enhances strength but leeches from your health. The game seems to contain a relatively large variety, even if it does not show in all game modes.

Another interesting thing of note is the console-exclusive characters. I mentioned this already in the introduction but this is something that they actually repeated again in SoulCalibur IV so thought it worth another shout out. It’s an unexpected touch, but that makes it interesting. The PS2 really got the bad deal with theirs, since Heihachi Mishima is a stalwart of the Tekken series. If anything Link (exclusive on Gamecube) was the most interesting as they had to invent his attacks basically from scratch. Which means he’s horrid to play as… but worth a go (even if I have yet to actually do so). It’s weird when he whips out the bow and arrow and then follows it up with a bomb. Not something that’d normally fit with the game, but it also seems like it’d be possible to fit it in. But with all of them being different-range melee characters, one focussing on range doesn’t seem like he’d fit and the limited size arenas don’t help that feeling.

The arenas themselves are beautifully made though, such a variety of environments. Made me wish there were more of them. Makes me itch for the sole entry from the Dead or Alive series… now there is a game who knows how to make arenas. That’s for another time

Still, obviously this is a game worth playing for the fans. I’m not sure whether it’s the best for the beginners to the series (where I suppose the Super Smash Bros series would be better), but even then it seems worth a try to get something different.

Final Thoughts

The graphics are beautiful. Some may no longer consider them as realistic as they could be, but they hold up and the art style matches, with the arena being even more promising than the characters you play. The variety is surprising and shows how these games have moved past a simple matter of two characters fighting in a 2D environment, where forward, back, punch, kick and dodge is all you do and where everyone looks the same anyway. With a full storyline with some minor RPG elements, the fighting is almost little more than a gameplay element, which makes the game more fun to play.