Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shenmue 2 and Kowloon: Preserved in Gaming

I was looking at Asian urban decay on the net today, and I came across pictures of Kowloon the Walled City. I remembered the city from Shenmue 2, but little did I know, the city no longer exist in the real world. Kowloon, was once a sprawling location in China nicknamed "the City of Darkness." In 1993 the infamous city was demolished due to it's lawless nature and network of criminal activity.

The city now exists only in the photos, videos, and memories of people who lived there or visited. I read it described as a chaotic world unto itself, akin to a cyberpunk landscape not unlike the world of Blade Runner. Sadly, I will never be able to go there. However, that is why a game like Shenmue 2 is so special to me. Kowloon exists there, preserved in 1987 (the time Shenmue's story occurs) forever for curious people to explore and behold. I cannot think of a better game to preserve it's glory either, as Shenmue's creators were meticulous in their efforts to recreate the time and places represented in the storyline.

Video games give us the chance to do things we could never do otherwise. I could never be a ninja or fight a dragon, but gaming allows me to do those things in a virtual world. What makes exploring Kowloon so special in Shenmue? It was a real place that can explored virtually for generations to come. You can explore Nazi Germany in Call of Duty, but are you really exploring or just wandering around killing enemies? Sega made the city as true to life as possible. When you play that section of the game, the city is crime ridden and it looks like another world.

If you haven't played the game or even if you have, this section of the game is worth another look if only to see a part of world that no longer exists preserved perfectly in 1987.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leaked Games You Should Play

Cancellation is a sad word for gamers. I have lamented the loss of many titles like Castlevania for the Dreamcast and most recently the highly anticipated, Duke Nukem Forever. Sometimes, through various means, unreleased games get leaked to the masses. This offers a rare chance to play something you weren't meant to ever see in the first place, for good and possibly bad.
Trying to compile a list of every leaked game would be insane, so I can only point you to a few interesting prospects. (Note: These are all in complete English and playable)

Rent a Hero
This interesting adventure title is for the original Xbox. This wacky Sega game was canned after low retail orders showed there was little to no interest in the release. Rent a Hero was based off of the Sega Dreamcast version with some minor improvements made for the transition to the Xbox including a complete English translation. You will need a modded Xbox to play, but it is worth the effort as it is very strange and original.

The NES Earthbound prequel was ready to go out the door when it's release was canceled. It was cited that Nintendo didn't feel it would be commercially viable so close to the Super Nintendo's release in America, and axed the game. A few years ago, a finished prototype emerged, and fans have been enjoying the "lost" Earthbound ever since. Don't miss out on this unreleased classic.

Princess Maker 2
This game was originally going to be released for the PC in the Nineties. It is a great parent simulation developed by anime studio, Gainax. Unfortunately, the game was never released to retail in America. It was leaked however, and it is a fine game if you download DOSbox to enable play on modern versions of Windows. The creator of the English translation has shared his view that no one should download this version of the game, but I think it is a crime that this title was never released commercially (with the exception of a special copy given as a gift to the Japanese director of Princess Maker 2 from the translator himself.) It is the only Princess Maker of the series to receive a full English translation. Also, people will tell you the game is creepy, but it is not at all. In fact, the game is pretty wholesome by design as you can be a shitty parent, but your girl will die! No one should want that, so being a good parent is a must.

These are a few lost games that have been leaked for us lucky gamers that love obscurities and rarities. For even more fun look up the unreleased version of Sonic 2. It is almost completely different when compared to the one Sega actually released!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dude Looks Like a Lady: Weird Fan Art from Japan

In Japan, fan art can range from really incredible and official looking to off the wall utter insanity. Today we will take a look at the latter of the two. Fighting game fan art is really popular there, but some folks wanna see their favorite male character as a female for some reason. Enjoy this odd look at gender bender fan art from Pixiv.

Jedah and Terry Bogard
Ragna the Blood Edge

Sol Badguy

Ryu, Ken, and M. Bison

Friday, July 23, 2010

Super Street Fighter IV Dojo Edition Back In Stock

The Capcom store has restocked the Xbox 360 and PS3 Super Street Fighter IV Dojo Edition. This special edition has been sold out for awhile, but now there seems to be more in "limited availability." Grab this up if you didn't have a chance, it is an amazing special edition unlike any this writer has ever seen. Here is what is included:

  • Super Street Fighter IV game
  • SSF 4 duffel bag
  • Dudley t shirt
  • Ibuki water bottle
  • Juri memory stick with comics, art , and more
  • headband
The price is 79.99.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fan Translations: The Past, Present, and Future

Many games never see the light of day in America and reduce fans to tears in the process. In the older console generations, hundreds of awesome RPGs and adventure titles would be considered "too Japanese" to even consider releasing in the US or Europe. Upset fans eventually started to take up the mantle of translating and hacking import games to be presented in their own native language. These days gaming enthusiasts can usually find someone working (or attempting) to translate almost any niche title America was denied in the past. It is good times that we live in.
Picture is from the translation of Segagaga in progress courtesy of James Howell.

Let's take a trip to the 16 Bit and 8 bit era...


My first experience with fan translations came around 2000. I started to take a growing interest in games I saw in the import section of Gamefan and online, so the hunt began for English versions of these mysterious gems. Soon I had an English rom of Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana. The game blew my mind! The translation was good and made me wish for a commercial release ( I am still waiting BTW.)
Fast forward to today and I have played many great fan translations on all manner of consoles. Here is a brief look back at some early fan translations:

SD Snatcher As far I know, this is the first fan translation. The game is a mini MSX version of Kojima's brilliant Snatcher, which originally appeared on the Sega CD. The translation was modified this year to fill the opening sequence. Overall this is a cool game and a must download for fans of Snatcher or RPGs in general.--->
Final Fantasy V This unpopular title was originally released on the Super Famicom in 1992, then skipped for US distribution until Final Fantasy Anthology came overseas many years later. Fan group RPGe translated Final Fantasy V to English and gave many gamers their first look at the "lost" title in the series. It has been released several times since then on platforms ranging from the PSX to the GBA, but as this was one of the first full RPG translations, it still remains very memorable to players even today.---->

Seiken Densetsu 3 Another early triumph over the cruel bastards at Squaresoft that decided to pass on an English release. The only Mana game to never be released outside Japan, is also the best (go figure.) The graphics are stunning, the music is amazing, and Neil Corlett's script is excellent. You need this translation if you like video games.----> Home Capcom's Famicom RPG is a creepy horror game that some say is an early idea for Resident Evil (although I have also heard it is based off of a Japanese movie) that deserves your attention. Gaijin Productions did a nice job finding this obscurity and placing it into English. Remember, Capcom and Famicom almost always means joy for the player.---->

With emulation being possible for pretty much any system imaginable, fans have pulled off some amazing projects. There have been so many great and recent fan translations released, that it is tough to narrow a few, but here are the true stand outs:

MOTHER 3 Simply put, this game rocks! Earthbound fans were very sad when Nintendo passed on official distribution of Mother 3 in the states. The game is amazing, and the fan translation is equally amazing. This is one of the best games ever made for the GBA, and it should be a sin that Nintendo kept this baby in Japan, but that is how big business goes sometimes. Check out the translator's site for tons of information on this masterpiece.----> Innocent Sin Persona fans clamored for a translation to this PSX classic since playing Eternal Punishment and wandering just what the hell was going in with the missing plotline. Expert translator Gemini saw fit to bless us with an exceptional translation for what maybe the most interesting prequel in gaming. Rumors say Sony passed on official release of this game to due to themes like Neo Nazis, homosexuality, and Hitler. You shouldn't pass on this translation, as it is one of the best ones available.----> This is Hideo Kojima's only big title to never be released outside Japan. Policenauts' gritty story follows a washed up space cop on a job that leads him back to his past. The translation for this game took an immense amount of time, but it was well worth the wait. The game reminds me of a cool retro anime, and also Snatcher since it is also from Kojima-san. The translation is for the PSX version only.---->
Namco X Capcom Ever wanted a strategy RPG with Ryu from Street Fighter beating the shit out of Klonoa? Then this is your dream game! This odd PS2 collaboration between Capcom and Namco, which features tons of characters from each universe duking it out in a manner similar to last year's DS hit Endless Frontier, will rock your fanboy world. The script on this one isn't the best, but this game is really cool for fans of both companies so I still recommend it.----> of Innocence This is a very intriguing fan translation as it for a modern portable system, the Nintendo DS. Tales of Innocence only came a few years ago, but a team saw that it would be left in Japan and decided to step up and translate it for the fans. The game is a main series Tales title, so the story and world design are great. The team, Absolute Zero Translations, also went out of their way to fix glitches included in the original game. Amazing job guys!---->

The future could be a very interesting place for fan translators. Recently the translation of Ys: The Oath of Felghana for PSP was purchased by Xseed. I hope more publishers pool the talents of fans and developers to make quicker and easier localizations available. I know smaller companies are open to this, but how long before the big companies like Nintendo and Square Enix give in?

As pictured above, the long awaited translation of Segagaga is slowly underway. Here are some more translations to keep an eye out for in the near future:

Samurai Shodown RPG The translator Deuce, also responsible for the Ys translation, is working on this one. Progress seems to be coming along, so hopefully this one releases by the end of the year. This is one of those "lost" RPG classics that deserves more attention. Sadly, he chose the super obscure Neo Geo CD as the platform of choice for the translation. On the bright side, it is the best port of SamSho RPG.
ASH Archaic Sealed Heat This is a cool looking Nintendo DS RPG that seems to be out of the translation phase. Beta testing began some time ago, so it shouldn't be too long before we get some official word on the patch's release. Try GBAtemp's forums for news or google the English patch for more details.
If you do intend to download the newer DS game translations, please try to buy the Japanese version from a retailer. These companies need your money to survive, so don't be a dick and just pirate new games to save a buck. If you like a game vote with your dollar. Maybe this will convince the company to release the next game in the US if sells are good enough.

In closing, I am eager to see what happens with fan translations. Really great games like Mother 3 are now available in English through unofficial channels, but it is interesting to think what cult classics and obscure gems could look like re-released legally on platforms like the Wii Virtual Console or Steam. My personal hope is someone gets these game companies on board with Xseed's plan of hiring fans for fans. I guess it all depends on how well Y's: Oath of Felghana sells in the US.

Now if only the Sega Saturn game Wachenroder was easier to hack and translate, I have wanted to see this game in English since it was released in the late 90's. Hopefully one day it will happen!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hidden NES Gems Part Two

As I promised, here is the follow up to my look back at the obscure gems of the NES library that deserve your attention.

Willow- Only Capcom could make a wonderful game based on a movie about a midget in tights traveling with a surly Val Kilmer (actually the movie is kinda cool too if you like fantasy flicks.) The game is a RPG in the vein of Zelda, but not quite as good. The soundtrack and graphics are very impressive for the NES era, and show what a movie to game transition should be...yes I am looking at you, Total Recall. The controls are a little odd in this one, but aside from that, it comes highly recommended. For more Willow and Capcom magic, check out the kickass arcade game on MAME.Shatterhand- Do you like bad box art? If you do, then this game is for you buddy! In all seriousness, this is one of those truly awesome games hidden behind a very shitty cover box. Shatterhand follows a cop in his efforts to destroy every robot and cyborg he comes across. The gameplay is a mix of Mega Man, Bionic Commando, and a little Ninja Gaiden. Each stage is selectable in whatever order you choose, and the difficulty is just enough to make the game fun but not overly painful. The graphics are descent and the music rocks. This one is also really cheap on eBay, go get it now!Summer Carnival '92 Recca - The title is a mouthful, but it is a true shmup classic. It was sadly only released for the Famicom in Japan. Recca was also only released in limited quantities as it was created for a gaming competition, so it is a very expensive and rare title to come across even overseas. It is beyond obscure, but everyone should know this game, because it is the best shooter on the NES. The game plays very fast and it is insanely hard. The frantic shooting frenzy is matched by an equally bumping techno soundtrack. Recca is hard as nails, but this shouldn't stop a shooting game fan from owning it. The developer went onto work for Cave, the company known today as the "bullet hell" masters. An original copy can be quite expensive, but sites like GameReproductions have very reasonably priced repro carts available.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Link Hates Navi Too

Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is a wonderful game with one annoying character: Navi. Hey...Hey... Listen...Listen...Listen...Link...Listen...SHUT UP ALREADY!! Good to see her get what she deserves.

As seen on Deviantart via Udoncrew.