Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Double Up!

Boy! What a week for Video Games! It is like they are releasing sequels to many of my past loves all at once, and two of them arrived at my house on the very same day! Too much! I stole the images in this post from the internet. Sorry, internet!

Mega Man 10 can be very clever. I've mostly avoided reading other people's impressions but I saw a few quotes taking it to task for being "just another Mega Man sequel" and "by the numbers." Which if true is perfectly fine by me! But from what I've played the game feels pretty fresh, or as fresh as a faithful entry in a 25 year old series can be. I think there was some real effort put into mixing things up, as there's less straight platforming and more stages built around puzzle-y gimmicks. Gimmick platforms. Physics gimmicks. This isn't a bad thing as far as I'm concerned. I am cool with gimmicks. The best stages post-Mega Man 3 tended to be the gimmicky ones. Why, Gravity Man's stage in Mega Man 5 was so fantastic it briefly tricked me into thinking the entire game was one of the best in the series! I get the feeling IntiCreates knew they nailed the Mega Man 2 style with the last game so they decided to make the best possible Mega Man 4-7 compilation they could!

OK, maybe that's a stretch. Now that I think about it Mega Man 9 had plenty of gimmicks too -- Hornet Man had those rolled up platforms, Splash Woman had the bubbles, Jewel Man had the swinging platforms, etc. It feels like they play a larger role in 10, though, and I don't think any of them are recycled from prior games. May be mistaken on that though. Ten games! They all run together after awhile, y'know?

Currently my favorite stages are Sheep Man, because it's Sheep Man, and Strike Man, because it's like Mega Man stumbled into a Famicom baseball title from 1984.

Espgaluda may be my favorite game of all time. Some days I prefer Dodonpachi for its buttrock, spaceships, explosions, and relative simplicity. Other days I prefer Ketsui for its excellent scoring system that encourages high risk play. But I think Espgaluda's on top most days. It's probably the easiest of all Cave shooters, which I appreciate because I am not as good at these games as I wish I was. Its character art is pretty ugly, but the stage design is lovely and its scoring system encourages experimentation and Self-Expression...! while still being relatively easy to understand. Perhaps there's a perfect Espgaluda playthrough video out there, but I never want to see it. It's a game that doesn't make me want to cheat to win. It's a rarity!

So I was pretty excited when Espgaluda 2 was released. I waited years for the PCB to drop to a level where I could afford it, but unfortunately that never really happened. Once the Neo Geo died its collectors had to move on to something else, and they chose Cave games. So now Cave PCBs sell for twice what they used to and newer releases rarely drop below $600. Once upon a time I paid $275 for Ketsui! That was a good time. Now you'll be lucky to find the game for less than $900.

But as good as the past was it is not as good as the present. Now Cave games are getting console releases! And some of them are region free. Some of them are localized! I never thought I'd see the day. Espgaluda 2 is the fourth Cave shooter released for the 360. Ketsui, Guwange, and Death Smiles 2 are all coming sometime this year. Seven Cave games on one console! Don't listen to the old folks: this is the best console generation of all times.

Unfortunately Espgaluda 2 is not the best of all games. I will not say it is bad. I am sure there are folks who love it. But after spending two days with it I am ready to give up. This is very much a game that's Not For Me. It's the hardest Cave game I have ever played, and maybe the most confusing when it comes to mechanics. I have read numerous posts on message boards explaining the scoring system and I am still at a loss. It's like they were all written in a foreign language. Which they kinda were, since half the terms used are Japanese. Maybe if I had a better grasp on the game's systems it wouldn't seem so difficult, though that's unlikely, since I've seen plenty of seasoned players griping about the difficulty. My main issue is the boss fights, which last an eternity. Perhaps there's some trick to clearing them faster? Maybe I should watch some more replays? Maybe I will understand them this time, unlike my previous attempts, where I just sat there with my brow furrowed and my mouth hanging open, wondering what the hell was going on?

The game has many modes, half of which are for novice players, but unfortunately those are too easy. I one-life-cleared one of them. Maybe two! It's all a blur right now. I'm going to wait a few more days, hope someone writes a quality guide to Black Label (which is an all new mode and seems maybe a tiny bit friendlier than the arcade version?), and give the game another shot. I doubt it will ever click, though. I should just go back to focusing on Mushihimesama Futari. Gotta get that one credit clear!

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