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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For May, 2006

Zen-Ichi Gets Shoot The Core Treatment

May 30, 2006 12:55 PM | Simon Carless

zichi.jpg Excellent shoot-em-up weblog Shoot The Core (which is run by The Postman, who contributed a shmups section to my Gaming Hacks book, incidentally!), has posted a detailed review of Japanese PC dojin shooter Zen-Ichi.

Posty notes: "Along with some of the regular features shown in doujin shmups today such as a replay option, choice of different ships with different abilities, and a crazy scoring system, ZI also is one of the rare titles that has two player simultaneous action! That should be enough to generate interest from any shooter fan, but when you dig deeper into what Zen-Ichi has to offer, you'll find an excellent manic shmup that lures you into improving "fever mode" combos and defeating a completely EVIL final boss." Hot stuff!

The game itself is listed on the Z page of The Postman's awesome PC Shooter Database, alongside a host of other titles. Can anyone else recommend some overlooked dojin shooters?

Nuclear Security Guard Foxed By Game Addiction

May 30, 2006 11:27 AM | Simon Carless

npp.jpg Well, here's the dumb/amusing story of the day - according to the Associated Press: "A security guard at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was so absorbed in playing a hand-held video game that he failed to see an inspector approach during a surprise inspection."

Bizarrely, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty commented: "The issue is not the guard's use of the video game. The real issue is that his complete absorption in the game distracted him from noticing the repeated approach of our inspector. And that shows why this procedure needs to be changed and these video games disallowed."

Sooo... if the game had been less addictive, it would have been fine? Oh, and please suggest the games the guard could have been playing in the comments, of course, this is very important.

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' - Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Fuurai no Shiren

May 30, 2006 9:51 AM |

Title Screen With Tabletop Mountain['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Chunsoft’s roguelike: Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Fuurai no Shiren]

What-like? Roguelike.

Wandering around in a world of hash marks, peroids, and number symbols may be familiar to the longtime gamers here. Entering a room and encountering the letter "D" could cause you to sweat after running though ASCII hell for days. This game would either have been Rogue itself, or a roguelike. When Enix commissioned a spinoff of the Dragon Quest series from Chunsoft, the result was a strange Super Famicom roguelike based on Torneko, the chubby shop keeper of Dragon Quest IV.

Chunsoft is a small development company - so small that they don't even have a Wikipedia entry (remedy this!). Their first game, that commission for Enix, was Torneko no Daibouken: Fushigi no Dungeon (Torneko's Great Adventure: Mysterious Dungeon ), but this article is not about the tubby salesman. This is about their first non-commissioned creation: Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Fuurai no Shiren (Mysterious Dungeon 2: Shirin the Wanderer). Released December 1995 in Japan only, Shiren uses a roguelike structure to create a hellishly difficult action role-playing hybrid.

Dungeon QuoteThe Impasse Valley

Shiren the Wanderer is firmly entrenched in Japanese culture and mythology. In a rain hat and cloak made of grass, Shiren attempts to reach the dwelling place of the Golden Condor at the summit of Tabletop Mountain, beyond Impasse Valley. He isn't the first to attempt this, and the designation “Wanderer” refers to “the men endlessly seeking this place.”

Death is a major theme of the game. Traversing the dungeons (and forests, towns, mountains, etc.) will lead to death in a multitude of manners which are all recorded on the high score chart. The game teaches you how to deal with this, or rather you slowly learn how to approach and survive the multitude of ways to die. It's notable and initially frustrating that when you die, you lose everything: money, equipment, and even your levels of experience.

There are cushions in place to dull the pain these hundreds of deaths. At certain points you can relinquish your equipment to have it return to warehouses throughout the game. There are towns where you can continuously upgrade your equipment in preparation for a run-through in the future. You can also enlist certain characters to aid you in your Wandering. And perhaps most importantly, the levels are randomly generated every time you enter them, without any of the problems that have plagued random levels from other developers (i.e. unreachable areas, impassable walls, blocked exits).

On the Bridge
A Talking Weasel

To keep playing to reach the eventual end is only the original goal. The people in the towns through which you pass remember what you did when you were there previously. While you may die and restart and die and restart, the towns keep going, and visiting them will uncover new surprises about them and their progressing stories. Eventually, you begin look forward to your returns to these towns and start to live for the journey, and not just the destination.

Unfortunately the few Chunsoft games that have made it outside of Japan have been unsuccessful. The company's games are like climbing a mountain: unless you're strong enough and smart enough, you'll fall. Picking yourself up and starting again from the bottom, and maybe reaching that next ledge, are what these games are about. The concept seems foreign to most gamers these days, who are used to having their hands held by game designers, and for whom losing all their “progress” (sad, superficial, numerical progress) is like a slap in the face.

This fall, though, Chunsoft’s Pokemon Rescue Team games are coming out in Europe and the US for both the GBA and DS. I am greatly anticipating these Chunsoft roguelikes, and recommend that you don't let their “children's game” trappings steer you away or lull you into a false sense of security.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]

Defcon Office Mode - The Future Of Stealth Work Gaming?

May 30, 2006 7:49 AM | Simon Carless

defcon.jpg Over at FiringSquad, we spotted an interview with Introversion founder Chris Delay about the firm's upcoming PC indie title Defcon.

The absolute best thing about the interview is Delay's description of the seriously subversive Office Mode: "We're very excited by Office Mode. The basic idea is that a group of work-mates can start the game up in the morning in Office Mode, playing over their local area network."

He explains: "The game takes place entirely in real-time (you can quite easily end the world with nuclear conflict in 8 hours) and each player controls one territory, e.g. North America or Russia. You can hit the Panic key (press escape twice) which immediately removes the game from the screen and places a discreet icon in your system tray." It's like the fake spreadsheet key in those '80s PC games!

.Hack Shows You The World In Your Hands

May 30, 2006 4:49 AM | Simon Carless

hackgu.jpg The ever-trusty Edge Online has posted an interview with Bandai producer Uchiyama Daisuke on the new phase of the .hack PlayStation 2 'network RPG' series, and some interesting points are raised.

Daisuke comments of the 'relative' U.S. success of the game: "I always thought that, in the US, people liked simple stories like in Hollywood movies. The American hero wins at the end after a fight and save the beautiful woman or the world. I was sure that the first .hack would fail, that people in the US would find it too difficult or disorienting."

Yet he concludes: "People understood what we wanted to deliver. And in the end it sold more than 700,000 copies in the US." Of course, this was over quite a few titles, but hey, for iterations using the same engine, it really _is_ quite impressive - a sign of episodic success to come?

Sega 'Tude Extends To Horrible Clothing

May 30, 2006 1:48 AM | Simon Carless

sknuck.jpg The VintageComputing.com site, which is run by RedWolf of 'Game Ads A-Go Go' GSW column fame, has posted a rather fun scan of Sonic merchandise, seemingly dated to the Sonic & Knuckles era.

As RedWolf notes: "My favorite items are the “2 Dudes with Atti2udes” t-shirt and the sleeveless Sonic & Knuckles denim jacket. Real classy stuff." Stuff like this doesn't end up on eBay too often, unfortunately - or fortunately?

Costik Talks Casual Demo Upsell

May 29, 2006 10:46 PM | Simon Carless

drod.jpg Over at his personal weblog, Manifesto Games co-founder Greg Costikyan has interesting comments on PC casual/indie games, specifically commenting: "In general, I think a lot of developers are failing to remind downloaders enough, and therefore having fewer conversions (to paying customers) than they otherwise would."

So, we get Greg's top issues, which are actually pretty smart, and tie in well with Xbox 360 Live Arcade standards: "The first thing a player should see when he starts the demo is a screen that provides an opportunity to buy the full game, with a link directly to a purchase url... The last thing a player should see when he quits out of a demo is a full screen describing all the cool features he gets in the full game--and again, with a live link to the purchase URL." Plenty more hints if you click through.

Plucky Plok Heralds Pickford Brothers' Return

May 29, 2006 5:41 PM | Simon Carless

plok.gif The ever-vigilant Press The Buttons has spotted lots of new information on classic SNES platformer Plok!, thanks to the new 'Zee-3' website from the Pickford brothers, creators of Plok!, now-defunct indie developer Zed Two (Wetrix), and an insanely large amount of other games going back over 20 years.

As PTB's MattG notes: "Surprisingly, Plok's creators still own the rights to the character.  John and Ste Pickford have launched an archive of material detailing their many many games, and fortunately for Plok fans everywhere there is a special archive devoted to the little guy.  Marvel at unused concept art for future unrealized marketing endeavors, thrill at the unreleased coin-op prequel Fleapit, and hope someday for a new proper Plok adventure." Awesome stuff!

The site also has info on the Pickfords' new game, 'Naked War', which is "a fun strategic battle game for 2 players over email", and perhaps a spiritual successor to the lumpen but intriguing Future Tactics, also by the Pickfords - though in using play by email tactics, Naked War reminds of another set of famous UK brothers, the Gollops, and their title Laser Squad Nemesis.

COMIC: 'Our Blazing Destiny': Metal Gear Solid 4

May 29, 2006 11:35 AM |

[Our Blazing Destiny is a new weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games. But mostly the latter.]

So, as promised, we have a replacement comic for the saintly Shmorky's strip, and it's from Persona, whose work you may have spotted in The Gamer's Quarter and elsewhere. And here's Persona himself to explain the premier instalment of what we're hoping will be a lovably random enterprise:

"The first 'Our Blazing Destiny' comic features the new Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer and all the terrifying Raiden-ness that erodes up from it. I mean, did you see the size of that boy's robo-crotch now? He could take out a Metal Gear with that monster!" Ahem.

Tactical Espionage Urination!

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is sometimes a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts, other times a ninja illustrator, but in his heart, a true comic artist looking for his destiny in the sea of stars. His path on the torrid road of comics include a quarterly manga on The Gamer's Quarter and his website on the internet drawing hub Mechafetus.com.]

The Top Ten Game Boy Advance Games?

May 29, 2006 6:02 AM | Simon Carless

screwb.png Courtesy of the British Gaming Blog, there's a round-up of the top ten Game Boy Advance games ever, which seems oddly relevant at this time in history, as the writer acknowledges: "While many of you will toss your consoles aside and bring in your new DSes and PSPs to play on, there will always be those who do not forget these classic consoles and their games, but honour them."

Of course, the best thing about Game Boy Advance games is that you can play them all on the DS, and the countdown even sports some of the recent GBA titles you might have accidentally skipped, like Game Freak's under-rated Screw Breaker ("a simple play style that was easy to learn, but tough to master.")

What's possibly most interesting is a vaguely controversial overall #1 game - Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga ("mixed traditional Mario platform timing with RPG elements to provide what we think is the best.") So let's open things up to the floor - what's missing from the top ten of all-time Game Boy Advance titles, and what should _really_ be number one?

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