bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: Patapon (PSP)

Pata-Pata-Pata-Pon! Get used to that phrase as its going to be stuck in your head for a long long time, however, its one of those things that you just won’t give a damn about and find yourself smiling at when it does manage to randomly rise to the surface as you make your way to the bus stop or some other activity that requires walking.

This is because Patapon, the latest game from LocoRoco developers Pyramid is just as charming and addictive as LocoRoco was.

The game takes the same 2D visual styling that everybody grew to love from LocoRoco, but the palette changes this time around. Instead of larger than life primary colours, everything in Patapon is more of a silhouette which seems to fit in well with the games themes of a minority struggling back to their former power.

The game plays out in a strange rhythm-action, real-time strategy hybrid. In effect you tap out different rhythm’s on the PSP’s face buttons in order to command your troops to do certain actions, whether its walk forwards, attack, defend or one of a few others. As you tap out these commands, you chain them together in a combo until you eventually reach “Fever” mode which makes your attacks stronger. However, it is Fever mode that causes the most problems with the game as your Patapon tribe begin to shout out random noises which leads to distraction and you losing your rhythm, lose your rhythm and you lose Fever mode, starting you back off with the need to re-fill your combo. This also affects other things, such as the ability to summon miracles using the Don drum (placed on the X button) as you need to be in fever mode to do this, adding some difficulty to the game, thats not saying, however, that the game is easy, as it really isn’t.

Theres no way to describe what makes Patapon so difficult, other than by saying the game can be incredibly vague at times. Early on in the game your required to find and discover a rain miracle and the Don drum as you need both to progress across a red hot desert. You’re not informed as to the location of either, meaning you find yourself randomly marching across the locations you’ve already traversed searching for anything that may give a clue, its only when you notice a totem-pole at the start of the first area and tap out the markings on it, causing it to rise a little that you believe you may have discovered something, keep doing this and your eventually rewarded with one of the two parts that are needed, and also opens up the area you can find the second part. Now I’m not one who likes their hand being held throughout a game, but Pyramid have made this particular part of the game unnecessarily vague and therefore difficult and frustrating, especially for a moment that is so early in the game.

Yet despite this, somehow you find yourself drawn back to the game time and again to try and discover the secret to this particular bit so you can move on and absorb more of the charm that Patapon has to offer.

Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday Sexy Parodius

The past few #ThrowBackThursdays have been my playthrough of Final Fantasy IX, but this week marks the cut off for the current Retro Game Club title that we played throughout July. The game that was decided upon was the Parodius series, with us being able to choose any version and release that we wanted to. I was excited about this one as I thought it gave me an opportunity to get the SEGA Saturn down from the loft and play the copy I have for that, unfortunately the disc appears to be missing from its case so my next best option was loading the PSP collection onto my modded PSP and give those versions a go.

I played each of the five games on offer for about half an hour each before settling on one title to focus on, which was Sexy Parodius. Originally released in the arcades in 1996 it was also ported to the PlayStation and Saturn. For those that aren’t aware, Parodius is based upon another Konami license: Gradius, and to my untrained eye there is very little difference in either games mechanics. Visually they both differ greatly (although Gradius’ Vic Viper is a playable character in all Parodius instalments). There seems to be some sort of story attached to Sexy Parodius, but its told in title cards before each level/mission and, in this vision, is all in Japanese, which despite my best efforts on the Drops language learning app on my phone, I can’t understand the language save for a handful of words (I can say “bread”).

As you shoot your way through each level you can collect power up devices that gradually increase your characters capabilities, whilst different coloured bells give you special one use attacks (the trick is to shoot the bell before collecting it to change its colour and thus change what attack you’re rewarded with).

I’ll say now though that I’ve not made it particularly far. I’ve no idea how many levels there are but thankfully you seem to get infinite continues, however prior to sitting down to write this I’d only made it as far as the Medusa boss, which a quick Google reveals is called the “Castlevania level”, which I suppose makes sense. Each mission sets you the task of collecting something particular items, failure to do so results in different completion paths much like the branching roads in games like OutRun.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of SHMUPS, but the genre has never really clicked with me, I’ve tried stuff like this, Ikaruga, Giga Wing and many others, however I struggle to control my craft properly, ducking in an out of enemy waves or their fire and so my progress is often hampered. I’d have no doubt eventually reached the end of Sexy Parodius if I’d have kept at it for another few weeks but I’ve now ran out of time and we’re discussing the next game we’re going to play. I’m not saying Sexy Parodius is bad, I can see that its not, its just that its not for me.

My Final Fantasy IX playthrough will return next week.

Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday: King of Fighters ’94

Beat-em ups and I don’t generally get on, its definitely a genre I’ve struggled to be good at over the years despite me actually quite liking them. I did get good enough at Soul Calibur, Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to win bouts amongst friends, but taking the latter online I was always absolutely steam rollered. Games like those by Capcom and SNK have always left me struggling to even do the most basic of moves consistently, but games like Street Fighter are always used as a barometer for how much of a gamer one is, not that I buy into such things nor care about carrying the title of “gamer”, especially in the now toxic, post GamerGate world we are in today.

So why have I done a #ThrowBackThursday for an old-skool 2D fighter by one of the masters of the genre? Well, because I decided to have a play of it via the SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 release on PSP. I’d never played an SNK fighter until I bought an import Dreamcast back in 2006 or something and it had a copy of King of Fighters 99 Dream Match bundled with it. But ’94 is where it all began after SNK had decided to launch a new series featuring characters from their other fighting games, thus King of Fighters.

Unlike other fighters where you pick one brawler to fight through a series of one-on-one until you reach the end credits, KoF’94 tasks you with picking a themed team of three, seperated into countries. I always went with Team UK which features Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury), Yuri Sakazaki (Art of Fighting) and King (also Art of Fighting). You pick the order they then appear. When one is defeated the next joins the fight, and likewise for your opponent, in a winner stays on manner, health is slightly replenished at the end of a round and you go again.

As I’ve said before I’ve always struggled with these sorts of games, doing quarter circles and the like have always been a challenge for me, I’m not entirely sure why when others find it so easy, and I can do them, just historically not on a consistent basis and thus I’ve nearly always abandoned the fighter of the moment. Now this version of KoF’94 doesnt make things easy by locking away its commands list as an unlockable but thankfully we all have search engines available at our finger tips and after laying out the light and heavy punches and kicks in a way that felt more natural to me (which I think is similar to Tekkens layout (however Tekken uses left and right kick/punch rather than Light and Heavy)) I was able to start pulling off 2 moves each for Mai and Yuri, although King I’m less accurate with. I’ve since begun to be able to use the dodge button (located on the left shoulder button) but quite often forget its there and have learnt how to fill the Power gauge but I’m yet to know how to use it.

That being said, I’m still pretty awful. Normally I can make it through a few stages in single player Arcade Modes on these games without loads of practice, and with Soul Calibur and Tekken I’d regularly see the end credits and unlock more things, but here its rare I get beyond Stage 1 and I’v’e not made it out of Stage 2 despite spending all weekend jumping on the game for a quick bout when my eyes would need a rest from my current book.

Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday – Monster Hunter Freedom 2

I’ve quite liked Capcom’s Monster Hunter series for a while now, the one I got into the most was 2018s Monster Hunter World which was the original inspiration for me running a blog, prior to that it was Tri on the Wii. I’ve mostly bounced off the PSP releases even though I can see their merit (and they’re very similar to Tri) but having recently bought a new PSP I’ve gone back to Monster Hunter Freedom 2.

Whats amazing to me is just how different it all feels going back to the “old style” Monster Hunter after spending a good chunk of last year playing World. I found the PS4 game to still be quite difficult but now I see just how much more streamlined it is and how much it holds the players hands. Freedom 2 expects you to find everything for yourself.  For the first hour I was accepting quests from the Gathering Hub and then wondering why I was having my arse handed to me, it then clicked this was the multiplayer area of the game and I’d have to find the single player stuff elsewhere so left the Gathering Hub and found the village Elder outside whom sent me to gather Mountain Herbs and a few other bits (I decided to skip the Training School). I’ve now gotten onto the 2 star quests and discovered the Pokke Farm etc, its weird not having the floating green bug from World point EVERYTHING you can gather out to you and its weird having to have items in your inventory before you can combine them rather than being able to do so from your Item Box (and having to remember the recipes yourself). But I’m getting there and am enjoying having a Monster Hunter I can carry with me, on a rather lovely screen (I tried the demo of one of the 3DS games and found it all a bit too cramped).

Most of all though I’m enjoying the challenge of the combat, whilst I still wouldn’t say World is an easy game (I know some would) I’m finding that having to time my attacks and knowing when I can go all out on a combo attack, knowing that one false move will leave me completely exposed and put me on the back foot. I do miss World’s tracking though, following footprints, checking scrapings, dung etc to lead me to the bigger beasts in that game, and I am wondering if there will be moments where bigger creatures fight each other and I’m hoping beyond hope that there isn’t anything like Tri’s Qurupeco in this as I abhorred that creature!

Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday – OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast

I’m a bit of a racing game nut, one of my earliest memories of playing a game was visiting a department store as a kid on the annual trip with my Aunt to visit Santa and seeing and playing a Super Nintendo demo pod with F-Zero running. Prior to that I had one of those Tomy chase the lights toys with the steering wheel and gear stick, I think I wore that out. There were also our family holidays to Jersey, where the hotel had a cocktail cabinet of Rally-X, and Mablethorpe, where there was all sorts of goodies to play but I definitely remember sitting in an OutRun cab and pretending to play it whilst begging my Dad for some change to play it properly.

So its with that particular memory in mind that I’m drawn to OutRun 2, I’ve played it in the arcades, on the original XBox and OutRun Online Arcade on XBox 360 (plus various versions of the first game over the years) and now I’ve happened upon finding a copy of OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast in a local charity shop for the absolute bargain of £2! I spent the following day digging around for my PSP and had to order a new charge cable as my daughter had lost my old one when she borrowed it to play Persona 3 Portable. But now, with the lovely weather we’ve been having, I’ve sunk some real time into SEGA’s handheld racer and what a conversion it is!

Very few types of games consistently send me to that happy zen like place like a SEGA blue skies racer: OutRun, Daytona, SEGA Rally, even Crazy Taxi, no one other than SEGA has been as good at this sort of game for so long. One of gamings greatest pleasures is also one of its simplest, initiating a long slide round a corner in an expensive sports car whilst soft rock blares out of the speakers. Magical Sound Shower, Splash Wave etc.

None of that would matter though if the OutRun 2006 didnt control well or work well on the PSP, thankfully it does, mostly. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with the controls, its as intuitive as you’d expect from an arcade racer and getting your car sideways through traffic is as simple as letting off the accelerator, tapping the brake, turning and getting back on the power, then just tapping the direction you want to travel in to avoid hitting any cars that come you way. Thankfully, this isn’t Burnout and OutRun 2006’s roads are the worlds longest one way system.

Performance wise theres a minor niggle of a less than perfect frame rate, but if your PSP is modded (which is incredibly easy to do now days) then you can “overclock” it and eke out that tiny bit more performance which allows OutRun 2006 to truly shine.