Tag Archives: Streets of Rage

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – 99Vidas

So, on the PlayStation 3, each game gets its own like…splash screen, music, or audio cue when you land on it in the menu selection column. This is both neat and sometimes annoying. Case in point: when you go to play 99Vidas, our topic du jour, you get this screamingly high-pitched voice saying what I think sounds like, “Oh my gawd!” Except it’s more like ohmygawd as in one word, and something about it drives me batty. Other games on my list that also play a really ear-bleeding audio bit include Quantum Conundrum, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and Siren: Blood Curse. These are not deal-breakers, as they actually push me more to play these games, because the faster I play ’em, the quicker I can remove ’em from the list.

Anyways, 99Vidas, which I believe is Portuguese for “99 lives,” is a side-scrolling beat-em-up developed and published by QuByte Interactive. The game is clearly inspired by classics of the genre, such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage, all of which I played back in the late 80s, full 90s, and somewhat recently. 99Vidas features six playable characters from the start–and more unlocked via multiple sessions–though I only played as King, who seems like the generic go-to dude for punching and kicking. There’s a single player story-driven campaign, as well as multiple cooperative and competitive game modes, for up to four players, which can be played either locally or online. I will admit here and now that I only stuck to the story mode for my brief time with 99Vidas.

Each character has unique attributes, like speed and strength, along with an elemental alignment (fire, water, wind, lightning, and so on), which affects their regular attacks, combos, and special moves. I believe King’s special moves are water-based because at some point I summoned a giant tidal wave to clear out multiple enemies. 99Vidas has a more modern take on the brawl-heavy genre, with characters gaining experience points by defeating enemies and collecting special items that can then be used to upgrade their abilities, combos, and unlock new moves. This makes all the repetitive punching and kicking less…repetitive, but you still end up doing a lot of the same combos because once you find one that works it continues to work as your character grows stronger.

Believe it or not, there is a story in 99Vidas, and it’s a bizarre one. Some might even call it bombastic. The game starts when an artifact known as the 99Vidas goes missing. Uh oh. Now, this artifact is believed to hold immense power possible of covering the Earth in darkness and chaos. Double uh oh. The Guardians of the 99Vidas, granted the Power of the Elements, are bound to live through the ages to protect this artifact, which means it is your responsibility to face these forces of evil, defeat the Evil Boss and his six henchmen, and retrieve the legendary 99Vidas. More or less, go beat up everyone in your path and retrieve the shiny trinket.

99Vidas seems like a perfectly fine and perfunctory beat-em-up. It has some modern elements to it to keep things fresh, but I found myself getting bored playing alone, doing all the punching, kicking, and combo-ing, and the boss fights can be a wee bit difficult if you are running this solo. I got a few levels deep into the whole affair, but it hasn’t really drawn me back in. Others might really dig it, but I for one am now happy to remove it from my PlayStation 3’s library.

Ohmygawd!

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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Charlie Murder is pure punk rock punching and kicking

Charlie_Murder_screenshot_8

Charlie Murder is one of the two free games given out last month on the Xbox 360 for Gold members, and I nearly forgot all about it, ending up downloading it on its last available day, a few hours shy of midnight. Whew. Thankfully, it’s a small game, somewhere under 400 MB, and so it didn’t take very long to go from Microsoft’s server to my hard-drive. Skip ahead a few more days, and I actually got to play a wee bit of it, enough to put some thoughts in my head, which I’m now sharing with y’all.

Let’s see. Charlie Murder from Ska Studios is…well, I don’t really know what’s happening story-wise at the moment. The game begins with our titular character in Hell, but only briefly; see, a paramedic is actually resuscitating Charlie, though I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Seems like the streets are now overrun with denizens of Hell because the end times are upon us. Three cheers for that. Now back on his feet, Charlie and his friends (if you have friends to play with, that is) must fight off this stirred evil. There’s also some story stuff about Charlie’s band, which I’m only just beginning to glimpse, though I imagine it is either going to be of the “rise to fame” or “fall from grace” ilk. We’ll have to wait and see on that for now, and I’m definitely more interested in that than anything else.

Charlie Murder‘s a brawler, a 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up, which, to be honest, is not a genre that really excites. Sure, over the years I’ve had some decent fun with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, Streets of Rage, Shank, X-MEN Arcade, and so on. Heck, I’ll even openly admit right here, right now, that I put many hours into the demo of Fighting Force because, in 1997, I just couldn’t stop hitting men with broken bottles. But for the most part, walking left to right and beating up generic goon after goon with fists or a range of weapon types until you can move on wears out its welcome real fast with me. Especially the part where you repeatedly mash the X button. Alas, that gameplay style seems to still exist here in Charlie Murder, but at least the game has personality, as well as some RPG elements to freshen tactics up.

There’s just one problem–I can’t read any of the text in this game save for the colored button prompts for quick time events. It’s tiny and scribbly, and yes, I’m wearing glasses and even sitting pretty close to my television. See, a big part of the game is using your smartphone, checking in on a Twitter-like app to see who is messaging you and how many followers you’ve gained, as well as reviewing your inventory, buying skills, and selecting which special powers to assign to what buttons. Y’know, key elements to make Charlie stronger and more unique, and I’ve ended up going on guesswork alone, hoping that this shirt is better than the other one based on some iffy color cues. Like, I know this is a bad image to begin with, but this is more or less what is like to be me and see the game and its text as I’m playing. Insert a grumpy face emote here.

So, that’s a bummer. Thankfully, the game has style out the wazoo, and you wouldn’t be wrong for immediately thinking of Jhonen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics and Invader Zim series. Muted colors save for greens and purples and dark, quirky humor work pretty well here, especially that one part where Charlie had to rough up a man in a hamburger costume at a fast-food joint. You can change how your character looks with clothing and tattoos, which is always a plus in my book, seeing your actual equipped attire reflected on the person, and it seems like there’s plenty to spend on, though money does not come fast or free, which might mean grinding, and now all I’m doing is frowning.

But yeah, this indie brawler is nice to look at and listen to, I just worry that playing by myself, especially unable to read most of the stats on weapons and gear, is not going to be a lot of fun. You can join up with other people online, which I tried once and got immediately booted, so there’s that option, but I don’t suspect I’ll be back to stop this punk-rock apocalypse from happening any time soon unless I magically receive two more Xbox 360 controllers and three new ready-to-go friends. It’s competent, but conventional, and I’m sorry if that hurts to hear, Mr. Murder and friends.

Games Completed in 2011, #7 – Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game

I grew up on a decent diet of beat-em-up titles, such as Streets of Rage 3, Double Dragon, and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. This genre was perfect for me at the time, a boy not very interested in reading or learning about stats, as well as a kid often mooching off friends’ systems on the weekends, and brawlers like such were made for two players. Beat-em-ups are as simple as their namesake, and all I knew was that there were some bad guys that needed beating up and mashing the buttons often worked well. Good enough for me, and–many, many years later–good enough for Scott Pilgrim.

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game is, besides a mouthful, a downloadable 2D side-scrolling brawler. It’s based way more on the book series that inspired the movie than the movie itself, which is a golden surprise to many, I’m sure. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is brimming with videogame tropes and nods, even more that Edgar Wright could fit into the theatrical release, and a good number of these references make their way into the game. And what a game it is. First, we have sprites and animations done by the legendary Paul Robertson; second, we have a bouncy, chiptastic soundtrack from Anamanaguchi; and third, we have a strangely fun mix of River City Ransom and The Simpsons Arcade Game.

SPVTWTG is also extremely difficult. I think that should be evident from the fact that I downloaded this around the time the movie dropped (early Fall 2010), and only got around to finishing off Gideon last week…on the EASIEST difficulty. The game starts out really hard, gets easier once you’ve gotten some EXP and food to go, and then gets hard in a cruel way for the final boss battle. Some of the designs in here are pretty retro, like having to start an entire level over again if you lose all your lives. It’s not enjoyable, but it makes sense.

SPVTWTG, like many brawlers, features co-op play. This is good and bad, and I’m speaking from experience here, as playing with a second character does not necessarily make things easier. Why? Well, Scott can punch Kim or accidentally pick her up or have to constantly reanimate her fallen body. It can be a distraction, and yet it can also be a blessing, but the majority of time the two characters end up hurting each other more than helping. We can also blame the lackluster d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller, which doesn’t make manuevering like sailing on butter. Because of this, the final boss level became extra frustrating, and I eventually had to tackle it solo (sorry, Tara!) after I had leveled Scott up as far as he could go and discovered the secret code for the Sword of Love.

I still don’t understand or love the RPG elements here. Gut Points and Heart Points and shopping for EXP instead of getting it from kicking evil henchmen’s asses. It’s a little odd, and sadly encourages grinding for coins. Thankfully, the punching and kicking and throwing and hyper combos are a lot of fun, and the enemy designs extremely varied. I personally loved all the crazy robots in the Techno Base level, even if I was sick of fighting them at that point.

So, I’ve beaten this once, with Scott. Supposedly, if you complete the game with the remaining characters (Kim, Ramona, Steven) you’ll unlock Nega-Scott as a striker. Don’t know if that’s enough incentive for me to try again, especially considering how long it took me to do this one time. We’ll see…

Games Completed in 2011, #3 – Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection

This collection of just under 50 Sega Genesis games could’ve used a better title. As is, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is misleading. I mean…is this a gathering of only Sonic games? Or are these games handpicked by the speedy, blue hedgehog himself? And if that, where is Toe Jam and Earl or Mortal Kombat or Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure? Okay, maybe I don’t really give two cares about that last one…

Regardless, this is a good deal. You get a lot of games for an excellent price ($18 used, I think?) rather than buying a lot of them individually on XBLA for 400 MP a pop. Eek. However, for a lot of these games, no one should waste their money. Going in, I’d heard of a good number, played a few in my childhood over at friends’ houses, and experienced the rest as brand new things in 2010/2011. A lot are just meh. Can’t say it any straighter. Bonanza Bros. is ridiculous and a mess strategically. Sonic 3D Blast should come packaged with Advil. Controlling the helicopter in Super Thunder Blade is broken. I jumped to my death quickly in Space Harrier and never went back to it.

I only had a good time revisiting more familiar titles, such as Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Sonic II, Beyond Oasis, and Ecco the Dolphin. Tara and I played some of these together, but as is usual with older games, frustration reigns supreme. We’d get more mad than glad during split-screen Sonic the Hedgehog 2 versus adventures. I was most surprised to find myself really enjoying generic platformers like Dynamite Headdy and Kid Chameleon.

Honest disclaimer: I have not beaten every single game in this collection. Not even close on most of them, nor do I really want to. So, the reason I’m considering this one completed for 2011 is based off its Achievements. I’ve unlocked them all. Woo-hoo? Woo. They’re split down the middle between super easy and soul-crushingly difficult. I’ll discuss them greater in another post, devoting way too many words to the Achievement for Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. How I will forever hate that one.

If you’re looking to do some retro gaming and have everything you wanted from the SNES generation on your Wii or Nintendo DS, then this one’s worth a spin.