Wednesday, May 10, 2023

I Am On Holiday

If you wondered why I haven't posted the last few days after doing one review a day this year, I'm currently on holiday, driving and tent camping in the Southern United States.

I've been posting daily updates on my trip at my Mastodon, if you're interested.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Arcade Fighting Game Review: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat was an influential arcade fighting video game by Midway Games that took elements of previous fighting games and put its own spin on things to create something uniquely its own.

Like most arcade fighting games, the plot of the game was simple. Many fighters compete to become the champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament. The playable characters included the sunglasses-wearing Johnny Cage, ninjas Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the cyborg Kano, the lightning god Raiden, the spandex-clad Sonya, and the Bruce Lee-inspired Liu Kang. Once all of these fighters are defeated, two boss fights await. Goro is a four-armed behemoth, and Shang Tsung can take on the form of any and all of the fighters in the tournament.

Mortal Kombat set itself apart from the competition by having realistically depicted backgrounds and characters for the time. The characters were created using live-action actors who performed the various fighting moves which were then digitized into the game. The one exception is Goro, who had a monster-like appearance that was accomplished via stop-motion animation. The game was also famous for its over-the-top gore, as hits would spill copious amounts of blood, some stages contained elements that would impale fighters, and special codes could be entered to finish fighters with a gory finishing move. This game, along with other games from the time such as Night Trap, were the subjects of congressional hearings in the United States that led to voluntary video game ratings which still appear, albeit from a different rating board, on video game boxes today.

The voices are iconic, from the deep tones of the announcer to the grunts and screams of the various fighters. They are a big part of what made the game memorable. The music is also fantastic, and the remixed dance-style track from the Sega CD version is still used today, especially as memes on streaming sites.

Mortal Kombat is a great game that is still fun to play today. While its small amount of characters makes it not as re-playable as Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, it is still a blast to play. The voiceovers, music, and over-the-top violence that looks rather tame today are a big part of what shaped the culture of the 1990s in the United States. It's worth playing at least once, to see where many of today's fighters got their inspiration.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Platform Game Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog appeared on the Sega Master System and Game Gear in a pared-down 8-bit version of the 16-bit platform game classic.

The size of the sprites is smaller, the resolution is lower, and the colors are muted due to the differences in hardware. However, despite the necessary downgrades, Sega still managed to make Sonic the Hedgehog still look close to its bigger sibling.

Sega may have never advertised that the Sega Master System had blast processing, but the console still offers quite a bit of speed, especially compared to its mustached competition. All of the hallmarks of a Sonic game are here too, from Sonic rushing through levels to rescue animals from the mad roboticist Dr. Eggman Robotnik to collecting chaos emeralds. This time though, the emeralds are hidden within stages rather than sealed off in bonus rounds.

The music is vastly different than the 16-bit game, but it still remains fantastic. The Sonic the Hedgehog 3 music might have had its similarity to Michael Jackson's songs but the music in Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Gear bears a similarity to the songs of his sister Janet. It's very 1990s, and very good.

Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Master System and Game Gear is well worth playing. It's quite different from the Sega Genesis game but is recognizable enough to feel like a Sonic game. The stages are designed well, the music is fantastic, and the graphics manage to do a great job of representing the 16-bit style of Sonic the Hedgehog on an 8-bit system. Sonic Origins Plus includes the 8-bit Sonic alongside its 16-bit brother, so it is now easy to get a hold of this game to give it a try.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Point-and-Click Adventure Fan Game Review: Broken Sword 2.5 - The Return of the Templars

Broken Sword 2.5 was a fan game based on the Broken Sword series with support from the original creators of the series, Revolution Software.

The game is in the traditional two-dimensional style of the first two Broken Sword games, as well as the fifth. It has voice acting by fans which works well and sounds similar to those in the series proper. George and Nico are the most important, and the voice actors in these roles hit all the right notes. George Stobbart's customary voice-over reciting the events in the past tense is here and is handled excellently.

The game uses a lot of the assets from the official games, with permission, so they look like the first two games in the series. The original assets are a bit of a mixed bag. They all contain great artwork, but some, especially that of the tramp, don't quite fit in with the high quality of the other assets. The game also has three-dimensional cutscenes, akin to those in Broken Sword 3, which is a shame. The hand-drawn quality of the first two games was a big draw for those titles, so it does take away somewhat from the classic feeling the rest of the game evokes.

The puzzles are pretty good. Thankfully there are no goat-on-a-tether puzzles here. The storyline mostly works as a story in-between the first and the third games, with the exception of the inexplicable addition of a character with a very final end in a previous title.

Broken Sword 2.5 is a well-made fan game that uses a mix of original artwork, with permission granted from Revolution Software, mixed with new fanmade artwork. The artwork new fits in with the original for the most part, with the exception of a character or two as well as three-dimensional cutscenes. It has a story that works for the most part as well, with the exception of a baffling inclusion of a character from the past. All in all, it's worth trying out if you're a fan of the Broken Sword series. It's available to download free from and to play through with ScummVM.

Final Verdict: 3½ out of 5

Monday, May 1, 2023

Open World Action-Adventure RPG Review: Lost Judgment

Takayuki Yagami returns as a private detective in Lost Judgment, Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio's sequel to its action-adventure RPG, Judgment.

The Yagami detective agency goes to Seiryo High School on a small case that opens up much wider when a former student accused of bullying is murdered. Takayuki Yagami becomes an advisor for the Mystery Research Club so that he can investigate while having a legitimate reason to be on school grounds. He is once again aided by his partner, ex-yakuza Masaharu Kaito, as well as tech master Makoto Tsukumo and former theif Fumiya Sugiura, who have set up their own agency in Isezaki Ijincho named Yokohama 99.

The game takes place immediately following Yakuza: Like a Dragon, so Lost Judgment includes the usual Kamurocho as well as the area created for the former, Isezaki Ijincho. Since Yakuza: Like a Dragon had such a huge impact on the future of the series, it is really interesting to see what the yakuza characters are up to now without their clans.

As the story progresses, Tak comes face to face with a formidable villain that is just as skilled at both fighting and investigating as him, if not more so. This aspect was the best part of the game, as the villain was one of the best that Ryo Ga Gotaku Studio has ever produced. It also gave Takayuki Yagami, the Sherlock Holmes of the Judgment series, his own Moriarty.

As opposed to the turn-based combat in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Lost Judgment features the direct-controlled brawler combat for which the Like a Dragon series became famous. Like in Judgment, Tak also uses his private investigator skills such as lock-picking, investigating scenes, and tailing suspects, to accomplish his tasks.

The school setting allows for a lot of minigames that Tak can participate in due to his role as a school advisor, including photography, dancing, competing in Virtua Fighter 5, robot fighting, and boxing. School missions will also unlock decidedly not school-friendly areas where Tak can date, race motorbikes, challenge gangs in skateboarding contests, and gamble.

As this is a Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio game, there are also a bunch of substories. Many include the wackiness for which the studio has become known. There are also more serious substories, especially regarding the Mystery Detective Club. It is well worth playing through that storyline, as the mystery of the identity of the Professor is one that is intriguing, has many unexpected twists and turns, and the payoff is well worth the effort put in to get to the finish line.

The Judgment series continues to be a worthy spin-off of the Like a Dragon series. Lost Judgment is better than the original game, with a more compelling villain, a memorable storyline, fun minigames, and fantastic substories. The morality of the ending is definitely up for debate, but the path to get there is well worth it. Lost Judgment is not just one of the best Ryu Ga Gotaku Studios games, but it is also one of the best games ever produced.

Final verdict:
5 out of 5

Yakuza: Like a Dragon ReviewLost Judgment: The Kaito Files Review Coming Soon