On December 7
, Konami held an event at the Drake Hotel on Queen Street West in Toronto. It was a small, intimate, holiday preview for the press to let them know about some of the titles that were dropping imminently in the next few months. For the die-hard Konami fans, let’s get this out of the way straight off; there were no appearances put in by Silent Hill, Metal Gear Rising or, for the RPG nuts, Suikoden. However what was on show is going to make old school gamers rub their hands together in anticipation. We had some hands on time with three titles in particular that are going to be noticed by the older gaming set, and here are our impressions.
Has it really been 18 years this game first hit the arcades with its massive, six stick cabinet? It’s a sign of just how long gaming has been a part of our popular culture that games like this can actually make people feel old simply for being able to claim they played it when it first released. This is classic, side-scrolling beat ‘em up style gameplay like we haven’t seen in years, and it’s a seemingly perfect port (with an HD facelift to the interface to keep the text sharp and easy to read) that even goes as far as including the original Japanese version of the game for the die hard purists out there.
There’s not much to say about the game, it’s X-Men, it’s controlling Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus or Dazzler in their fight against Magneto, or, if you’ve got the friends available, all six at the same time. The only caveat to all this is that while the game supports online and local co-op modes, the 360 version will only support 6 players online, with up to four players locally. The PS3, thanks to its Bluetooth wireless controller system will support six players either locally or online. If you’ve actually got six friends to play the game with in real life, or simply want the peace of mind of knowing the feature is there, get the PS3 version. The game is going to release on the Xbox Live Marketplace on December 15
, while the PS3 version still has no formal release date, though its hoped that it will appear on the Playstation Store in February. It will be 1200 MS Points, or $9.99 on the Playstation Store.
Hard Corps: Uprising
They call it “Hard Corps,” but really, we’re talking about Contra. Taking a page from Contra: Hard Corps which appeared on the Sega Genesis way back in 1994, this game plumbs the lore (if an essentially brainless, side-scrolling shooter with an 80s pedigree can be said to have any) of the Genesis cartridge with a look at how Contra: Hard Corps villain, Colonel Bahamut, begins an Anakin Skywalker-esque fall from grace from his original position as a revered war hero. The game is considered a spiritual successor rather than full-on Contra sequel, mostly because of tweaks to the mechanics that might anger the ultra-hardcore purists, such as the addition of a dash button, a life bar capable of sustaining multiple hits, and, most telling of all, a “Rising Mode” which allows players to accrue XP and purchase weapon upgrades among other things.
The result of all this is a single or two player shooter that manages to keep the spirit of the original series intact, but with enough concessions made to the current generation gamer that they won’t be put off by the ridiculous levels of difficulty coded into old school games. Well, they won’t be put off at first, anyway. A cursory playthrough of the opening levels of the game reveals that the feel of Contra is still there, and after a few minutes of relative calm, the same brutality and sadism that was de riguer in old school shooters makes a quick return after the first boss fight. Dodging, shooting and pattern memorization are all in full effect here for any hope of survival, so for the grumpy old gamers that complain about how the young un’s have it so easy these days, this, like other reboots such as Capcom’s Bionic Commando: Rearmed are the perfect gift for that trash talking young gamer in your life that thinks he’s got Mad Sk1llz.
Of particular note about the game is the art direction. The game is being created by recent Japanese development darling Arc System Works, best known for their Guilty Gear and BlazBlue games that are pretty much the Freakin’ Text-book Definition of anime. The end result is a game with a classic anime look that, had it been released 15 years ago, would have been one of the biggest hits of the then nascent anime-lusting-nerd-market. For fans of good, 2D, digital anime artwork, this is definitely worth a look. And for people that just want to play more Contra, pencil this in. There’s no firm release date, the Konami representatives told us that they’re shooting for a February or March release on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.
Rush’n Attack: Ex-Patriot
This is one of those titles that, at first, made me wonder, “Why? Why would you bother to dig this game up again?” The original Rush’n Attack (known as Green Beret in Japan) hit arcades in 1985, at the height of the Cold War, and was a meditative, introspective piece about democracy, self-determinism and free will through running around with a knife and stabbing communists. Repeatedly. The new game, unlike its companion, Hard Corps, is more truly a spiritual successor to its namesake, largely jettisoning the simple, “run to right and stab everything” side-scrolling action of the original for a 2.5D, polygonal adventure that cribs heavily from the Shadow Complex playbook, right down to using the Unreal 3 Engine to power it.
Whereas the original was a simple, Rambo-esque plot of “Guy kills half of Russia to rescue four P.O.W.s,” the new version now introduces a story of the Tunguska Event, interstellar blue crystals harvested covertly by the Soviet Union, and special operations personnel in need of rescue after a failed attempt to determine why the Russians were harvesting said space rocks. You don’t just run from left to right, you climb up, down and have a variety of objectives to complete… but you’re still also using a Big Ass Knife™ to repeatedly stab enemies when you find them. Rush’n Attack is definitely looking interesting as it strays dramatically away from its familiar roots, and is even developed by Vatra games of the Czech Republic, rather than a Japanese team. The essence of the original game is still in there, with the killing of Russians, use of the knife and temporary weapons, you gain access to from time to time, but the new look, modernized play mechanics, and attempt to tell a story besides “You American, They Russian, KILLKILLKILL!” mark this as a very brave re-imagining. Hard Corps is definitely the safer of the two games, since it feels and looks remarkably like a Contra game for the 21
century, whereas Rush’n Attack: Ex-Patriot is definitely taking some risks. Like Hard Corps, the game is slated for a release on both the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Store sometime in the February/March period.