Tag Archives: space

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – R-Type Dimensions

Turns out, R-Type Dimensions is two games in one, specifically these–R-Type and R-Type II. Evidently, they are considered coin-op classics, but I’ve never played them, both in the arcade or on other consoles, if they ever came out for other consoles; I’m too lazy to look it up. That is…until now. By that I mean I played the games, not looked up more info on them. Eek, this whole first paragraph could sure use some editing.

Together, with these two games, you’ll be able to fight through all 14 Bydo-infested stages, whatever that means. I’m guessing the story is this: there are aliens, and you must explode them into bitty bits. You can choose your graphics too, either playing in the original 2D art or all-new 3D graphics, and you are able to swap back and forth on the fly, kind of like in The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition and Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Also, there are two different modes to go at it–classic and infinite–for either the single player or multiplayer missions. I only played through the first few levels of the single player stuff for both games before I decided enough was enough.

It’s a shoot-em-up, and a horizontal one at that. You hold down the fire button and destroy everything coming at you, occasionally picking up a power-up or two to help improve your weaponry. Actually, that’s not completely true, because if you hold down the fire button you get a charged shot, so it is more accurate to say you constantly mash the fire button…unless you need a charged shot for some of the bigger enemies. I found controlling the ship to feel sluggish and slow, which make dodging incoming bullets a bit tricky. If I’m controlling a high-tech spaceship, I want to feel like I’m zipping around with ease; alas, that is not this game, and it just constantly felt like the ship was sinking in invisible mud.

The new graphics do look sharp and crisp, but they also seem somewhat strange at times, like they don’t belong here. An alien lifeform sitting on your bedside table. It’s hard to quantify. The animations are nice, and the backgrounds have a lot going on in them, but there’s a certain lack of style missing to the game’s 3D graphics that just makes everything look a bit plain vanilla. For R-Type Dimensions, I actually prefer the original 2D art, and I love being able to switch back and forth at my discretion.

The end result is a challenging yet well-crafted recreation of two of the supposedly greatest shoot-em-ups ever made–not my words. There’s no denying that both titles are products of the genre’s formative years and, in terms of both graphical splendor and range of game mechanics, they falter next to other shmups I’ve previously played and uninstalled from my PlayStation 3, such as Steredenn and Sky Force Anniversary. However, some may still find a lot here to like, and I could see this being an excellent co-op experience, something to sit back and chat over while blasting away at Bydo enemy after Bydo enemy. Good luck on those boss fights; I couldn’t take down a single one myself.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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Space is totally the place for Starlink: Battle for Atlas

I’ve been itching for a space game lately, and two kept floating in front of my eyes as top choices–No Man’s Sky and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase one of these until I rung Mark of the Ninja: Remastered completely dry, which I did recently, and so it was upon me–the decision. Also, part of me felt guilty about purchasing a new game when I knew that I’d be picking up Spyro Reignited Trilogy in just a few days. Anyways, I went with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the digital non-toy version, and I’ll explain my reasoning below.

No Man’s Sky is a big game, possibly endless, and it’s gotten a number of major updates since it originally launched to help expand it into something more. This is both cool and daunting. To me, it feels both a little too open and a little too much to take on; I love the idea of flying around a planet, examining the flora and fauna, and getting into a few dogfights, but that game now also wants you to be creative and build bases and really show off your imagination. I’m not ready for that, with my limited gaming time and attention. All I really want is a checklist of things to do, and the ability to go forward and do them. So far, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is accomplishing that greatly.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure title developed by Ubisoft Toronto and published by Ubisoft for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game also features optional toys-to-life elements. For those not in the know, toys-to-life uses physical figurines or action figures to interact with the game of choice. These toys generally use near field communication, radiofrequency identification, or image recognition data protocol to determine the individual figurine’s proximity, and also saves a player’s progress data to a storage medium located within that piece. However, toys-to-life has been losing popularity over the years, so to ensure that the game is consumer-friendly, this aspect of the game was made optional, meaning that players can play the game digitally without purchasing any of the toys. That’s what I did as I do not need to clutter up the townhouse with plastic stuff.

Right, let’s get to it then. Starlink: Battle for Atlas has a story y’all. After an amnesiac alien fell to Earth, a secretive benefactor named Victor St Grand forms the Starlink Initiative to search for its origins, leading them to the Atlas system. Alas, Victor St Grand goes and gets himself kidnapped, and you, as part of a group of heroic interstellar pilots, are now dedicated to free the Atlas Star System from Grax and the Forgotten Legion. This will involve traveling to a number of unique planets, pushing back the Legion, and growing alliances with allies to bulk up your chance to take down Grax for good. The story, so far, is well told, through a mix of CGI cutscenes, art stills cutscenes, and solid voiceover work. Also, this has been driving me mad since I started playing, but I finally just figured out that the character Kharl Zeon is voiced by George Buza, mostly known to me for his work in the early 1990s on X-Men: The Animated Series as Beast/Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy. That’s one iconic voice.

Swapping is a thing you do a lot in Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I’m mostly only swapping out my weapons based on enemy types or a specific puzzle to solve; I prefer to stick with one pilot, namely Razor Lemay, a trained fighter pilot and self-professed metal-head, and one ship, namely the Zenith, and level them up as much as possible instead of having a bunch of lower-leveled pilots and ships. This may or may not put me at a disadvantage later, but so far it hasn’t been a problem on the default difficulty. For weapons, I really like the Flamethrower and Shredder, and Razor’s pilot ability, which is called Power Chord, can clear an entire screen of enemies in all its beautiful Guitar Hero-esque glory. Playing digitally makes this quick and easy; sure, having the toy in front of you to reflect these changes might be neat at first, but I could see it also becoming cumbersome to change things around every few minutes, especially in the middle of a big battle.

Everything is pretty chill in Starlink: Battle for Atlas, all in all. You can zip around a planet, scan animals, collect strange fruit and resources, upgrade refineries and other buildings, clear out imp hives, protect something as hacking begins, do missions for strange, alien-people, and simply discover everything there is to discover. If you want, at any time, you can fly up into space and go to another planet or get into some Colony Wars-like skirmishes, taking down raiders with style. Each planet contains a list of things to do, and the more you do, the more that planet’s people like you and will support you in taking down Grax. Honestly, it’s been a great game to pop into for an hour or so, do a few things, and see that you are making progress, inch by inch.

Currently, I’m trying to gain support from a bunch of planets before I take on the Dreadnought, a large enemy ship that Victor St Grand is hiding out in. I’m sure he’d like my help as soon as possible, but I’m not in a rush. Thankfully, neither is Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and there’s always something else to do if you don’t want to take on a campaign mission. Heck, at any moment, you can even generate a random mission to do…though they are mostly fetch quests or something easy like that. I do wonder how much I’ll play after completing the storyline and checking off each planet’s list of things to accomplish; I’d love to try out some other pilots and weapons, but not enough to max out each one. Or maybe I will…later in 2019. For now, I’m having a great time zipping around these strange, new lands.

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #59 – Jetpac

Rebuild your rocket
Collect parts, fuel–defend it
Love the wraparound

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: G-Police

When I think of Colony Wars, I think of G-Police. Conversely, when I think of G-Police, I also think of Colony Wars. Which I’ve already covered via this blog post tag, sadly. Though I do have a retail copy of Colony Wars: Vengeance somewhere among my small collection of PlayStation 1 games, though I don’t know if it better than the original. I hope to try it out…one day. Anyways, the two simulation shooters for the PlayStation 1 share the same space in my brain, and that space is the zone designated to sci-fi games where you pilot a futuristic spaceship of sorts. I have to imagine that I traded both in at the same time, forever marking one of the darkest days in the history of me.

G-Police takes place in 2097, when most of Earth’s resources are depleted. Because of this, humanity is beginning to form colonies on other worlds. So, basically, our future future. You are a man named Slater, a member of the futuristic government taskforce known as the G-Police. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that stands for governmental-police. Or maybe grassfed. His role is to maintain order on Callisto, one of Jupiter’s moons, as well as discover the truth behind his sister’s mysterious death. Because there has to be something else driving him forward besides him driving forward his g-copcar after criminals. I honestly don’t remember much of this murder mystery plot, as I was more strangely focused on doing cop-like things, such as escorting people to safety and…uh, other tasks.

Speaking of Slater’s g-copcar, it’s actually a vertical take-off and landing aircraft called the Havoc. You end up piloting this VTOL piece during the game’s various missions. Some missions require the gun-ship to drop bombs on enemies below while others are straightforward dogfighting sessions. Other mission objectives include escorting ally ground units, preventing smuggling, bomb disposal, and scanning for suspect vehicles. Sounds like there were 35 missions in total, as well as a bonus training mode, but I definitely never beat G-Police, just like how I never beat the original Colony Wars. I did, however, play their early levels over and over again because I enjoyed them that much. Also, the difficulty ramps up quickly.

I do remember the Havoc being a pain to control though. Every button on the PlayStation 1 controller was used to maneuver the heavy-as-heavy-gets thing. You could thrust forwards, backwards, up, and down, as expected, and you could also hold your altitude by holding the upward and downward thrusts. This was ultimately tricky on the original PS1 controller, but vital for making it through the missions in one healthy, whole piece. Unfortunately, and this was just kind of before its time, you were not able to move left or right without turning, what we now know as strafing. I have this really strong memory of lowering the Havoc to street level and watching citizens and vehicles going about their way.

That said, the Havoc had weapons. The selection was robust and expanded as you progressed through the missions. Missiles were your main mode of enforcing the law, with a good balance between strength and tracking enemies on the map. Locking on to objects also scanned them, with some missions requiring you to look for contraband cargo and the like. I enjoyed these, and this is one of the earlier signs that I preferred less violent gameplay means when possible, which is why I’d always lean towards stealth over guns blazing in the years to come. Certain missions also outfitted you with special items, ranging from bombs that can perform an EMP blast to shut down fleeing vehicles or a flare launcher to mark a location for SWAT teams on the ground to move in on. Y’know, cop stuff.

G-Police was heavily inspired by Blade Runner, but I didn’t know that at the time I bought it. Why? Well, I didn’t end up seeing Blade Runner until only a handful of years ago. I know, I know–my bad. There’s plenty of futuristic city stuff to eat up, like advertising blimps, hovercars, and neon lights. Lots of green and orange-red in your HUD, which is pretty close to what it is like in Descent, though I’m only now making that connection. You could also pull the camera out and play from a different perspective, but I mainly stuck to the first-person, inside-the-Havoc view. Graphically, G-Police was not a stunner, with a dark, oppressive environment and pop-up around every corner, but the thwumping techno-driven soundtrack helped alleviate some of these limitations.

However, in the end, G-Police was another take on the Colony Wars experience, and that was enough for me to hand over my hard-earned cash from washing cars and watering lawns and procure a copy. Alas, I never got to see it all the way through before giving it up for in-store credit, but I still remember its earliness fondly. I should find a full YouTube playthrough of it for my next marathon drawing session.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Longest Night’s stargazing results in emergent music gameplay

gd longest night final impressions

I’m really excited about Night in the Woods. I mean, yeah, I was excited before, after playing Lost Constellation early last year and seeing what these cute animal friends can get up to and the staggering amount of imagination and creativity to everything surrounding them and their antics, but now I’m even more excited. Unsurprisingly, this all stems from my recent dip into Longest Night, which is actually the first of the two supplemental experiences from Finji, though I’m tackling it second. You know I never like to follow anything by the book…unless it is the Metal Gear series in order of release.

Longest Night is less game and more short story. Or short stories, rather. Snippets of fake history. A gang of four friends–Mae, Bea, Gregg, and Angus–gather around the campfire and trace constellations in the dark sky, bringing to life these legends of old. It’s a classic tradition as part of “Longest Night,” which is equivalent to Christmas or the Winter Solstice in this world. It’s become a part of life, and the older one gets, the further from it they go, which is why no one around the campfire remembers how to make any of the constellations, something they used to do all the time as little kids.

To learn about these historical figures dripping with lore, like Ibn, the First Singer, Quinona, and Tollmetron, you have to trace matching stars to one another. Linked stars all share similar audio clues, so match all the chanting ones together, all the ones that sound like bells, and so on. It’s easy to figure out, if you know that you’re supposed to figure these sounds out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize you could click on them and draw lines to other stars; I thought the whole point of the game was simply to swipe your cursor around, making pretty tunes and enjoying the cackle of a campfire, but eventually I got the feeling I was missing something and started clicking.

Like I said, I spent far too much time simply losing myself in the stars, adding my own beats to the already catchy and, on purpose, looping soundtrack. I didn’t want to trace the rest of the constellations, knowing this dream would come to an end. Here, have a taste of my cursor-moving skills:


To be real, I don’t even know what Night in the Woods is about. I’m being ignorant on purpose; I want to be completely surprised, not just in terms of story, but also gameplay, much like I was going into both Longest Night and Lost Constellation. Sure, a part of me would like to see elements from these incorporated in the bigger adventure, like creating your own snowmen and music beats, but they could also scrap all of this and do something completely different, something totally unexpected, and I would still be content. From a few GIFs that I couldn’t help not look at, it seems like an adventure game with some varying and stylized action scenes here and there. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too. Lots of oranges and blues, falling leaves. Ahhhh.

Now that I’ve played both of Night in the Woods‘ supplemental side stories, all that’s left to do is wait for its final release. Which is somewhere in 2016. Until then, I’ll be staring up at the stars, humming along to a song that never ends.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #9 – Longest Night

2016 gd games completed longest night

Stargazing to learn
The constellations of lore
Night in the Woods soon

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.