Sonic the Hedgehog – Looking Back

Hello everyone! With the looming announcement of Sonic’s big anniversary adventure sometime this Friday, I’ve been thinking about the series. Sonic is a franchise I grew up with and have a close connection too, which is evident from my work on the Sonic Retrospective series. I want to talk about how I started playing Sonic and what I am hoping from the anniversary game.

Continue reading Sonic the Hedgehog – Looking Back

Mega Man 8 – Classic Series Retrospective

Mega Man 8 is a very interesting game in the series, as it is the first one in the classic series to land on the PlayStation One console. How does the massive jump from the SNES too the PS1 effect the Classic series formula?

Interestingly enough, very little. If Mega Man 7 was the celebration of the series up to that point, then Mega Man 8 is the graphically impressive title that does very little to change the series formula outside of continuing to take elements from the X series.

Continue reading Mega Man 8 – Classic Series Retrospective

Update – Retrospectives and Other Articles

Hello everyone!

Just want to let you all know that I am very thankful you all have read my Retrospectives. It has been great so far writing them and I hope you all have enjoyed the work I put into them.

So, what is happening going forward? Well, the Ratchet & Clank Retrospective will be concluding soon with a Retro on Into the Nexus later today, as I cannot cover the PS4 game as I do not own a PS4. When I get one, the Retrospective will continue with me covering the PSP games and closing things off with thoughts on the Movie and PS4 games.

I will also be posting the Retrospectives I have up on NeoGaf on this site soon in an edited form. They will pop up in bulks, so hope you enjoy a second look at some games I covered.

Lastly, the MM Retrospective and Spyro Retrospective will continue and will be more frequent. The former will be daily while the later will be weekly.

So, thank you all for your time and I hope you ahve a great night.

PlayStation Vita/PSP Retrospective – Sony’s Fighter Entering the Handheld Ring

The PlayStation brand has been famous for being home to a series of great and successful consoles. Many cite the PS2 and recently the PS4 to be strong examples of Sony success in the console market and they are right to do so; both are great systems. But they also put their hat into the handheld ring and it all started with the Sony Walkman from the 90’s.

This device allowed you to listen to music using cassettes and later audio CD’s to play music. These were the precursor to the iPod and Sony being the first one to take that step should be noted.

They also tried having memory cards with LED screens, which would allow you to play mini games and offer interaction based on the different games. However, this was exclusive to Japan PlayStation Ones and the Sega Dreamcast took this concept to its logical  conclusion.


Now fast forward to 2004 and Sony is on stage, announcing something called ‘PlayStation Portable’. This blew everyone’s mind, as it was a pocket PlayStation. It would house console experiences and be a multimedia monster. The device had a lot of features that would make it more then just a games system; web browser support, music and video player, support for UMD Disks that house movies and TV shows, support with PS1 Classics on the PlayStation Store, and the ability to play digital versions of PSP games on the PlayStation Store.

This continued with the other revisions of the PSP, with the PSP 2000 having a faster CPU to offer games a graphical boost. Titles like Mega Man Maverick Hunter X and the GTA titles benefited from this addition with less slowdown and more stable frame rates.

We also got something called the PSP Go and this was ahead of its time. The device had no ability to play UMD Disks, the retail format for PSP games. So, you had to buy every PSP game digital going forward. But the device had 32GB built into the system’s memory so you would not have to run out and get a Memory Stick DUO just to play some games. This version of the PSP looked more like a phone, with the ability to slide is controller out and fit nicely into your pocket. Many loved this in hindsight but it did not do well during its launch. It stands as a case of technology being far advanced but the mass market not grabbing on to it.


Lets talk about the games on the PSP now, as they come from all places. The system got a lot of western third party support, and this is major. Many cases, the handheld systems get support from Japan and not the west. What does this man? It means we saw games like Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, Star Wars Battlefront and in the future Assassins Creed land on the system.

This continued with smaller western studios putting out games like Dead Head Fred and even major western Sony studios putting out games like Daxter and God of War: Ghost of Sparta on the platform. I loved this about the PSP and one element it will be remembered for; its strong western support.

The system got a lot of Japanse support too, with that being some of the best of any handheld ever made. Role Playing Games flooded the system, new and old, from developer/publisher large and small. We also got some of the best games from Square Enix like Crisis Core and KH Birth By Sleep on the system because of that strong support.


Lets move on to the PlayStation Vita next, as this will likely be Sony’s final fighter in the handheld ring. The system was announced under a code name but it blew people away with its announcement in 2011. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4 were shown running on dev kits of the hardware and titles from western studios like 2K were promised, showing that it would have great support at launch.

Fast forward to Fall 2011 in Japan and Early 2012 in US/EU, the system launched with a massive line up of games. High rated titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Rayman Origins joined the likes of Uncharted Golden Abyss and Wipeout for the systems big opening day. People loved the system and this launch showed promise of games like the PSP game across JP and Western releases.

But, things did not go that way for the system. After the launch, some ugly truths were shown about the Vita. It would need Memory Cards to hold digital games, not carrying over the built in space that the PSP Go had. In addition to this, the launch blew Sony’s load, with the system having game droughts across 2012. This was fixed toward the end of the year with first and third party support, but the message was sent; ‘Vita had no games’. That statement never left the Vita despite 2013 onward forever shattering that statement and people started not buying the system.

Sony did try in 2012 and 2013 to sell the system, with some strong first party support all around and getting some big names like Assassins Creed and Call of Duty on the Vita. But that wasn’t enough. The system still has under 12 million units solid as of 2016.

But the system is still going strong, and that is due to the games. The Vita has many, many games.


Lets start from the beginning, as we have a lot to cover here. Sony offered strong first party support from 2012 too 2014 for the platform and these games are some of the best in Sony’s history.

At launch we got a solid Uncharted adventure that looked great and the story was enjoyable. In addition, we got as of this article’s release, final Wipeout game and its amazing. It has tons of content across new content built for the Vita and support for every stage and craft that the PS3 Wipeout HD and DLC pack Furry has. Meaning, you walk away with a content rich racer that will offer hours of fun.

A little after launch we got a game called ‘Gravity Rush’ developed by Studio Japan’s Siren team. This was originally a PS3 game but they put it on Vita to take advantage of the system’s gyro controls. The end result is one of the best new IP’s to come out of Sony in some time and it is getting a PS4 sequel in 2016.

In 2013, Sony released a game called Tearaway, developed by Media Molecule. They made the LittleBigPlanet series and Tearaway is a masterpiece in many respects. I wrote about this title in the past, so will just past a quote I wrote about the title here:

“Tearaway in many aspects, feels like a great Nintendo game to me. The world, the character designs, the music, and the creative elements; it screams Nintendo. And that must be a factor to why I love the game so much, as I grew up playing Mario and Kirby. Going into the gameplay, it is a mixture of LBP creative elements but also more in line with a game like Banjo Kazooie or Mario 64. Its core gameplay mirrors those 3D platformers; you run around, jump around and collect everything in sight. The difference is that unlike those great platformers, platforming isn’t the major focus. Like how LBP has the skeleton of a 2D platformer but it was more of a creative tool set, Tearaway has the skin of a 3D platformer but its core mirrors adventure games. You complete simple tasks, take pictures, draw objects and more to solve the NPC’s problems and that is what pushes the game forward. The game does have platforming and by the final world things kick into high gear with more challenging level designs but that isn’t the focus with Tearaway. Its about interacting with the paper world around you and to be honest, I’m glad the game focuses on its strongest aspect.”

We also got a game called ‘Soul Sacrifice’ released on the Vita in 2013 as well, with it being a co-developed title with Studio Japan and Inafune’s Concept studio. It was a Monster Hunter-like game where you explore different locations killing X amount of things but the core gameplay is different and the story is very strong. Very strong game that got stronger with its Delta release in Early 2014.


Next up is the Japan developed titles from third party studios, as they took the torch from Sony in some respects in 2014. In 2013, we got the release of Persona 4 Golden by Atlus and P-Studio. They originally wanted to release this on the PSP but the constrants they faced with bringing Persona 3 to PSP pushed them to work with stronger hardware. It was an expanded remake of the PS2 Classic and to this day, many consider it one of the strongest releases on the PS Vita.

This strong JP support continued in 2014 with many interesting titles. We got the Danganronpa series coming out, with the first game releasing early in the year and its sequel coming out Fall of 2014. It was a puzzle/visual novel title that had a warped sense of humor, some strong characters and some great music. The series found its home in the west on Vita and two more games, one released and the third mainline game coming out in Japan 2016, on the way to Vita in the future.

Then we got a game called Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment released on the Vita. This game is based on the anime and light novel of the same name, but it does a lot more then expected. It is a honest attempt at making a role playing game with MMO elements, not unlike Final Fantasy XII or Xenoblade Chronicles. For a licensed title based on an anime, that should be noted.

The game started life on the PSP under the title ‘Infinity Moment’ in Japan and when they wanted to make a PS Vita title in the series, they decided to take the PSP game and build a whole new game around that. The end result? We get two games in one with Hollow Fragment in many respects; the main story of Infinity Moment with the Alicard portions of the game and the Hollow Area section being built for the ground up with Vita hardware in mind.

I really enjoyed this game and while the story is infamous for its poor translation, I liked how they continued the story from the anime at arguably its strongest point. Was a real surprise for me and one of my first JRPG’s on the system for me.

This strong JP support continued into 2015 and 2016 with many developers throwing their hat into the Vita ring. Atlus continued supporting with Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Bandai Namco supported the Vita after the strong success of Hollow Fragment with many titles, other JP studios like Gust and NISA put games out on the system and more. The Vita lacked major support from Square Enix, but that wasn’t needed; other studios took the role they had on the Vita.


Lastly is the indie support the Vita has gotten since 2013 and it has helped form an identity for the system as the best way to play many indie titles.

Early indie games on the system include titles like Guacamelee and Mutant Blobs Attack by studio DrinkBox but more indie developers released their games on the Vita due to the audience buying many indie games in droves.

Sony not releasing many first party titles and the long software droughts left empty places where indie developers and JP studios could put out their games for Vita owners to buy and that is exactly what happened.

From ports of older titles like Limbo, Splunky, and Fez too original recent titles like Steamworld Dig and Severed; the indie scene continues on the Vita and with movements like Cross-Buy making indie titles even more attractive, we have a large collection of games many can love and enjoy.


Sony’s run through handhelds has been interesting to say the least. From the humble origins of the Walkman too the PlayStation Vita, the Sony brand of handhelds have been all over the place.

While we may not see another handheld by Sony in the future, the ones we did get are fantastic pieces of hardware that many love and enjoy.

Mega Man X5 – X Series

This continues my Mega Man Retrospective and this is a major game in the X series; this was supposed to be the conclusion to the X Series originally. So, this game tries to wrap up a lot of loose ends that hanged since day one.

How does the game compare to other Mega Man X titles and is it a solid conclusion to the series? Lets find out!

But first, this WILL contain complete story spiolers, so please read ahead with caution if you never played this before.

Development:
Inafune had little part of X5’s development, telling the team ‘Finish the series off with this title’ making the team push for the game to cover everything; the series connections to Mega Man Classic, how the future series of Mega Man is set up (MM Zero), and in general, trying to make a fun final game for fans of the X Series.

The team behind the game includes the following:
Director – Koji Okohara
Designer – Toyozumi Sakai
Artists – Haruki Suetsugu, Ryuji Higurashi
Composers – Naoto Tanaka, Naoya Kamisaka, Takuya Miyawaki

But Capcom commissioned for a sequel game, MMX6, to release a year later after MMX5. Will be covering that with great detail when the time comes, but for now, lets just say they had little time to work on it compared to X4 and X5.

Localization of the game is something to note here, as the Mavericks you fight have original names for the NA/EU releases instead of translations of their Japanese names. This is thanks to Capcom voice actress Alyson Court, who was involved in the game’s localization, came up with names for the Marvicks as a tribute to her then-husband’s love of the rock-band Guns & Roses. This lead to some really fun names for the different Mavericks: Grizzly Slash, Duff McWhalen (amazing name by the way), Squid Adler, Izzy Glow, Dark Dizzy, The Skiver, Matterx, Axle the Red

The game released in November 2000 in Japan and in February & August in 2001 to lukewarm reception. But the series continued and we got three more mainline X titles despite this originally being a conclusion title for the series.

Story:
The game takes place a few months after the events of Mega Man X4, with the Repliforce ending and Earth being in piece. The rest of the story summary is from the detailed and well organized Mega Mega Man X5 Wiki:

“The repair of the space colonies damaged during the war was almost complete, the only space colony remaining being the giant colony Eurasia located in a Lagrangian point. As it was quite old, it was planned to receive extensive renovation. However, one day someone had occupied Eurasia and took control of it, scattering a virus in the colony and using its artificial gravity systems to set it on a collision course towards Earth. Within 16 hours, Eurasia will crash and cause great destruction, in the worst case extinguishing all life from the planet. The Maverick Hunters plan on using the large particle cannon Enigma to destroy Eurasia before it happens. The Enigma cannon is somewhat old and needs to be upgraded. Signas, the Hunters’ new commander, orders Mega Man X and his comrade Zero, as they race against time to collect the four parts necessary to upgrade the Enigma and stop Eurasia before it’s too late. To make things worse, Sigma scattered the Sigma Virus all over the world and the parts needed are being protected by Mavericks.”

So X and Zero head out to get the parts needed for the cannon and ship, with the goal of taking out the Eurasia Ship to prevent further damage to the Earth. Where things get interesting, is based on if you play as X or Zero. X has interactions with the Mavericks and it is very interesting; some Mavericks like Squid Adler KNOW X from past events or others honorably push X to fight them for the part like Grizzly Slash and Duff McWhalen. I enjoyed encountering the bosses just to see what the Maverick will say. Its also interesting to note that The Skiver was part of the Repliforce, showing that continuity is important to the series. The story also explores Zero’s past with Wily, as the Simga Virus WAS originally the Zero Virus, just transferred. This causes Zero to be immune to its effects and gets stronger the more he takes in. Depending on if you use the shuttle or not and it succeeds, this leads to Zero being activated how Wily intended and him becoming ‘evil’.

The end of the game depends on if destroy the station or not but how it plays out is interesting. If Zero isn’t evil, X just lives on and fights another day. But if Zero is evil, not only does X recover from his fight but we get Zero being dead, X forgetting everything about his friend & even seeing some hints toward the Zero series.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it isn’t super interesting over all. I enjoyed the boss encounters and the end-game story stuff but the text boxes and long stills were a step down for me compared to the FMV’s that X4 had.

Gameplay:
Well, its more Mega Man X in many respects. X has his Mega Buster and Fourth Armor from MMX4 (if you play as him from the start) and Zero has his Z-Saber and Z-Buster (if you start the game as Zero). Both can dash on ground & mid-air, wall jump/cling, and have basic attacks (X = Cannon Attacks, Zero = Melee Attacks).

What is different is the smaller things. One thing is a time system, where once you select a level, you lose one out of 16 hours. If you lose all your hours, you HAVE to fire the cannon/fly the shuttle. But with 8 Mavericks and two fights with a new character, you still have 6 extra hours for backtracking and stuff, so this isn’t that big of a deal.

Hostages are a new system though, as if you save enough in the stages, you can increase your health or weapon energy. This is a much larger mechanic with X6 though…..an annoying one I must say.

The armor system is different too, with X having three armors to collect, but unlike past games, you need ALL FOUR PARTS for them to work. Meaning, you have to get every part to even use the thing. This is very, very annoying and makes them useless until you reach the halfway mark. Will touch on why this is annoying when I talk about the stages. But anyway, you have three armors; Falcon (ability to fly for 10 seconds in the air), Gaea (greater defense and ability to move on spikes but no air-dash) and Ultimate Armor (ability to use the powerful air dash Giga Attack). Zero even has an armor and like the Ultimate Armor, you can find it in Simga Stage 3.

Stages:
The stages in X5 are varied, ranging from a stroll through a sunken ship, racing on a jet ski to a hidden base, and exploring a location filled with literal guns & roses (ha); the level variety is on point and makes each one fun.

Squid Alder’s level is fun if you are just going through it for example, as it’s a high speed bike section during the introduction that leads to a platform heavy puzzle area where you are hit/shoot pillars into switches to continue. If you want to get the head armor piece to the Falcon Armor…….you will be here for a very long time due having to collect little spheres. This stage was the reason I never bothered collecting the armors outside of the Ultimate Armor. Otherwise, fun stage.

Also enjoy the fire level in the game where you fight Matterx; it has you hide behind rock pillars to avoid insta-death fire blasts and it is fun to avoid all the attacks plus it makes great use of the wall cling ability.

The fights themselves are sadly not that rewarding if you are going in weakness order. They get locked in place after you hit them with weakness attacks and it makes the fights very easy. I tried fighting a few of the Mavericks with only the Mega Buster and they presented fun patterns. Duff McWallen is a great one for example, as he shoots pillars of ice that make a platform you run across. And during the mid-fight, you have to avoid them being shot at you rapidly toward the wall with spikes. So if you want a challenge for X, do not use the weakness for the bosses.

Boss Weapons:
Items you get from the bosses are good; you get the Slasher which can be charged into a shield that attacks foes for a bit, Izzy Glows weapon is a movable missile, and you have the Goo Shaver which shoots a sliding across the floor. But two weapons I want to highlight; the Electric Ball and the Time Stopper. Yes, the Mega Man 1 and Mega Man 2 weapons are in this game and function almost 1-to-1 the same. Even two bosses heavily mirror Mega Man 7 and Mega Man X1 bosses.

Virus/Sigma Stages:
Then we have the Tower Levels, which are complete re-creations of past Mega Man locations. Virus Stage 1 is a remake of the Bubble Man’s Stage from Mega Man 2….

…..With the boss of the level being the YELLOW DEVIL! Yes, the X Series has its own Devil fight and is just as long and difficult like past Mega Man Classic games. But the final form of this thing is Wily Machine Six.

The next Virus Stage is a re-creation of Sigma Stage 1 from Mega Man X with it concluding with this guy from Mega Man X (link to image). It’s the same exact fight as well.

We have two more Virus Stages, with one concluding with a fight with Zero and the next one having the vanishing blocks from past Mega Man Classic titles. It concludes with a fight with Sigma.

Overall, the level design is strong here and despite some really annoying bits here and there, I had fun running through the game as X. Yes, I said X as I didn’t play as Zero for this run of the game. I completed most of the game as Zero with my X Collection copy a few years back and decided to try the game out with X and I made a good move, as you can lose Zero. This is a problem that I need to bring up; if the shuttle fails, you lose the ability to play as Zero. And this is randomized after you collect all the parts of the shuttle. One way to avoid issues is either collect three pieces of the cannon and keep firing it until you get it to work or just play the entire game as X, with you collecting heart tanks with him.

Presentation:
The anime cut-scenes are gone but that does not prevent the game from being a great looking title. The levels have a lot of detail and the sprite work is very well done. The Pre-Rendered bits here and there look nice to me honestly too. The music is filled with great remixes from past MM Classic and MMX tittles with the new tracks being really great inclusions. Some of the new tracks like the Boss Theme are personal favorites to me.

Opening Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYlf…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Into Stage X: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwnR…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Intro Stage Zero: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-8s…-Eu244&index=5
Grizzly Slash (Crescent Grizzly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyIF…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Squid Adled (Volt kraken): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmq…Eu244&index=10
Duff McWhalen (Tidal Makkoeen): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLfR…Eu244&index=12
Shadow Devil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axwD…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Boss Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHkk…Eu244&index=19
Zero Virus Stage 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9578…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Zero Virus Stage 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duPo…Eu244&index=24
Dr. Light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKzw…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Zero’s Death: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XNc…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Sigma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3fi…Zoub84l0-Eu244

We even have a few unused tracks too.
Deep Sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMSW…Eu244&index=32
Dr. Light Beta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUTL…Eu244&index=33
Zero’s Death Beta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g02o…Zoub84l0-Eu244

Overall:
This is a fun action platformer that while having some issues, is still a great time for people that are fans of the X or Classic Series. The game really celebrates the entire Mega Man series (from 2000) and it is a game I recommend playing.

Mega Man 5 – Classic Series

The Mega Man Retrospective continues! After the release of Mega Man 4, we got Mega Man 5 a year later and this game is a more ‘simple’ sequel compared to Mega Man 2 and 3. It has less new features, but it sticks with what works and it ends up being a great time because of that.

Development:
Right after Mega Man 4 release, development soon followed on a sequel game. Inafune continues working with the series but for this title, citing that he feels Mega Man 5 was one of the more easier games in the series. In his own words, he did not want to “make an unreasonable game, an affront to the players”.

The Team Behind Mega Man 5 includes the following:
Director – Ichirou Mihara
Producer – Tokuro Fujiwara
Designer – Ichirou Mihara
Programmer – Tadashi Kuwana
Artists – Keiji Inafune, Hayato Kaji, Naoya Tomita, Kazunori Tazaki, Kazushi Ito
Composer – Mari Yamaguchi

Considering they felt they stretched the core foundation as far as they could at this point, they just made everything ‘better’. Mega Man’s slide remained the same but they gave his charged shot more power thanks to Mega Man 4 sudo-villain, Dr. Cossack, upgrading his Mega Buster. He also made a little bird robot named ‘Beat’ which can help Mega Man attack foes when he is close to them.

Some interesting information about Mega Man 5 is that the robot masters featured in the game, are all based on creations over 130,000 gamers sent to Capcom thanks to a collaboration with Nintendo Power. This continued for a number of titles (just like Mega Man 3 and 4).

The game released in December 4th, 1992 to solid scores and solid well for Capcom. One would thing this would be the final NES Mega Man title around this time period but we got Mega Man 6 a year later, which I will touch on when I make the Retrospective on that title.

Story:
After the events of Mega Man 4, Rock and Dr. Light are relaxing in his lab but when they go outside, what appears to be Protoman captures Dr. Light and Mega Man follows suit. Protoman is causing havoc across the world and goes after a series of robot masters Protoman took in; Star Man, Gravity Man, Gyro Man, Stone Man, Crystal Man, Charge Man, Napalm Man, and Wave Man.

After defeating them, we head to Protoman’s base of operations and it functions like the Dr. Cossack levels in Mega Man 4. After fighting Protoman, the original Protoman appears and we learn that the one causing all the problems is a creation from Dr. Light called ‘Dark Man IV’.

We then head through Dr. Wily’s Fortress and take him out, saving the day. Dr. Light escapes and Mega Man saves Dr. Light. All is well with the world, with Protoman watching over Dr. Wily’s base being destroyed as Mega Man & Light escape.

Simple story and one that continues the ‘Wily is not the main villian…..nah, we are just playing around. Take out that guy yet again.’ It makes up play through more levels, so cool with that set up.

Gameplay:
Well….its more Mega Man Classic. Jump and shoot action with abilities from past games feeling good here. The charged buster shot is very powerful and makes fighting through the robot master levels & fighting them much easier compared to past games. We also get a little bird named Beat, which can attack foes that come close to Mega Man. He is very useful for fighting bosses and its a good idea to find him! You do so by exploring the different levels for M-E-G-A-M-A-N-V letters.

Level gimmicks this time out continue to be interesting like past games, with Gravity Man having, well, gravity gimmicks that are tricky but fun to get through. My personal favorite robot master stage was Wave Man’s level, were you get to ride a water craft until you get to the boss encounter.

The fights themselves are fun and enjoyable, with different patterns like other Mega Man titles. What makes this fun is how the level gimmicks translate into the boss stages. Gravity Man pushes upside down and right side up as you fight him, so Mega Buster or Weakness, you have to watch your surroundings and movement.

Some of the robot master powers are fun to play with, like the Star Shield though that isn’t very effective. This mirrors the other powers, with them far less useful due to the stronger Mega Buster outside of Robot Master fights. This gets fixed in later games but it is a small issue here.

We see that happen in other Mega Man games with Underwater fights, but its nice seeing the robot master bosses having new ways to fight them. The only downside is that they are very easy to fight, as thanks to Mega Man’s powerful Charged shot, you can kill them quite fast compared to normal Mega Buster shots.

Tower Stages:
The Tower stages follow Mega Man 4 with them being easy but still very rewarding to get through. The first fortress has a nice haunted feel with the location being set in a drab castle.

The second level is more high-tech with a lot of gimmicks to interact with. Spikes and Conveyor Belts common in this section.

The final two Protoman castle levels is on the a rooftop and one where you fight the fake Protoman himself.

The Wily Fortress is composed of four sections. The first one is a tricky section, with spikes being common and having you jump on spinning wheels.

The second area is set in a pipe system flooded with water. This is a fun section, as this wasn’t explored in past castle stages. The final two levels is a BOSS RUSH, with two fights with Wily. This part of the game is enjoyable due to the Wily fights being rewarding battles, with the final one being against this big tank with a skull design. The weakness for this? Spoiler: Super Arrow

Overall, this was a fun set of tower levels to go through.

Presentation:
Did you enjoy the presentation of Mega Man 4? Well, its more of that! The game has bright colors and more space-like locations compared to past games, and I love space levels.

The robot master designs are great as well and show a lot of personality.

Musically, we got a few nice tracks though I prefer the other NES soundtracks over this game.
Crystal Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNMI…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Gravity Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPiK…A8D0FA&index=4
Charge Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C75Q…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Wily Fortress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5YI…8D0FA&index=21
Evil Protoman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZS5…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Protoman Fortress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cuD…DA338C7EA8D0FA

Overall:
I had a great time playing this for the first time! The gameplay is more Mega Man and after having some issues with Mega Man 4, having a more calmer and relaxed pace with this ones easy difficulty was nice. I enjoyed revisiting Mega Man 4 and honestly prefer that to this, but I enjoyed my time with Mega Man 5 a great deal. Highly recommend this if you want a fun adventure with the Blue Bomber.

Ratchet & Clank A Crack in Time – Future Series

This conclusion to the Future Series continues this Ratchet Retrospective! Releasing in 2009, this concludes the story Tools of Destruction and A Quest for Booty tried to tell. Will Ratchet find the Lombaxs? Where IS Clank? And why is an old foe returning?

Lets read this retrospective and find out.

History:
This game was announced early 2009 with a really impressive teaser showing a small orb moving through a clock with a lot of gears, closing with a picture of two Lombax’s and an older Lombax warrior turns to the camera, saying “Are you ready?” before flying off and the logo hits the screen; Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.

The title was planed to be a strong conclusion to the Ratchet series as a whole, with the plot lines introduced in the earlier Future titles being wrapped up and Insomniac wanting the origins for both Ratchet and Clank to be resolved by the end of this adventure.

New mechanics were introduced such as the hoverboots to push for faster navagation across larger maps, time-based puzzles for Clank and open space exploration to really hit that exploration feeling home. It was also the first time in the series were we got a new composer making music; Boris Salchow takes the help of A Crack in Times score.

People were impressed with the title when it was demoed and showed off, with it having a successful launch in 2009. It got some of the highest scores in the series history (next to the PS2 titles) and people to this day regard it as one of the series best adventures alongside Going Commando/Ratchet 2 and Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3.

Story:
The plot continues where Quest for Booty left off, with Ratchet and Talwyn finding out where Clank is and learns that Dr. Nefarious from Ratchet 3 is with him. So, Ratchet rushes to the Polaris Galaxy with Captian Quark joining the ride while Clank wakes up inside this place called the Great Clock, where Dr. Nefarious is causing havok looking for the robot. He stuns Clank and leaves, letting him wake up later and him meeting Sigmund (voice by Nathan Drake himself; Nolan North!).

Ratchet & Quark crash land on a jungle planet where time is all out of wack and after various events happen, Ratchet sets off to explore space to find another Lombax, named General Azmith.

The story is less humorous compared to past titles but that is fine, as this serious story where Clank and Ratchet learn about themselves and their history was enjoyable. Ratchet learning where the other Lombax’s are and Clank discovering he wasn’t just an mistake in a robot factory are just some of the plot lines explored in this game.

I also love Nefarious coming back with Laurence, Quark stealing the show whenever he is on screen and Azmeth being a strong character; he has motivations for his actions and its nice seeing Ratchet have a father-figure for a significant portion of the game. It also helps that he is one of the best boss fights in the series and his introduction was very impressive.

I liked this story but it is not my favorite in the series; that honor still goes to Up Your Arsenal.

Gameplay:
Will say this right now, the jump from Tools of Destruction/Quest for Booty to A Crack in Time is HUGE. Everything and I mean everything got improved. But lets take it one step at a time.

Lets go over one big thing first; the game is called Ratchet & Clank, but they don’t meet up until very late in the game. But both still get a lot of screen time with Clank having lengthy puzzle sections and Ratchet taking up a good 60% of gameplay time.

Okay, now we can go over Ratchet’s gameplay. His control feels very tight and responsive compared to Tools, with things feeling far more ‘instant’. Not to mention some smart choices (wrench throw being more instant, gadgets mapped to the D-Pad) makes ‘small’ things feel better then before.

Ratchet’s combat is better then ever, with a great line up of weapons to play with and every tool being great to use. The ‘Devices’ are gone and the popular ones like Mr. Zurkon and the Groveatron become full-on weapons now. We also get special Constructo Guns (Blaster, Bomb, Shotgun) that can be upgrade with mods you find across the level; you are pushed into platforming to get more tools to mess around with and that is a smart design choice.

Other fun weapons include the Sonic Eruptor which is like a Shotgun but it being a living creature using a mating call for a powerful attack and a fun black-hole gun that summons a Cathulu tentacles to pull your foes into a void-less sky. We also get the Spiral of Death, the first fan-made weapon to ever grace the series; its cool that this appears in the Ratchet Movie as well.

So, the weapons are fun and core gameplay is better then ever. What else is there to cover for Ratchet? Well, the level designs are far more closed in, with exploration pushed but not enough. Tools had large levels to explore with Crack in Time having smaller locations for main levels. This is fixed with the moons you can explore though.

We also get to tap our inner Sonic the Hedgehog with Ratchet’s hoverboots. They allow him to hover in the air (replacing Clank) and being able to go very fast across large landscapes. Very useful to get from point A too point B very fast. We also get a few parts where these shine, like its introduction level where Ratchet spins, bounces and flies across large gaps of level; very fun and made me think of the Sonic series at points.

Ratchet can explore space now with his ship and once you are in space, no load times for bouncing between the moons. This means that you could visit each moon and get everything without jumping into a loading screen! But the moons offer little challenges like races with your hoverboots, small platforming levels and combat waves to get through.

You are rewarded with Gold Bolts (buy costumes), Mods (used for Constructo Weapons) and Zoni (little creatures that can upgrade your ship). These are great rewards and with the iconic arena returning from past titles, you have a lot to do with Ratchet. His ship also has a few combat sections but they are very minor; very simple gameplay wise and not really that engaging.

Clank is interesting though, as his gameplay is completely different from ANY gameplay style in the series then and now. You have Clank being able to push his time abilities from Tools even further by making copies of himself and you can ‘record’ actions they do. So, you can have copy A step on switch, copy B defending copy A from foes, copy C running toward the exit. That is just one of the many puzzles you will solve.

Clank also has a staff that can be used for fighting, time bombs that freeze everything for a short while and a great triple jump. He is far more useful then any other incarnation of Clank and his levels are a great way to break up the action.

Presentation:
This game looks great to me, with bright colors, detailed locations and some impressive animation. That is the one thing I took away, as Ratchet has far better animations compared to his ones in Tools of Destruction. Cut-scenes are also very impressive too and feel like literal movie clips.

The game also has a really nice touch; weapons movies that have an animated Ratchet react to different weapons being used when he gets them. They are funny, well animated and are very funny!

Musically, its just okay. With the main series composer being gone and replaced with a new guy, the series got a more movie-based score. I did like a number of the tracks though and they do fit nicely when you are playing the game.

Main Menu Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvXa…PKZGOX19AOCWn1
The Caretaker’s Awakening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO_k…AOCWn1&index=4
Lumos – Krell Canyon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_wg…CWn1&index=114
Nefarious Space Station – The Battle for Time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT75…PKZGOX19AOCWn1
The Great Clock – Heroes Collide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY32…CWn1&index=192

Overall:
This is a great action platform that could of been a nice conclusion to the Ratchet series. A lot of lose ends got wrapped up, the ending is heartwarming and I loved the character growth everyone got here. Not to mention we got strongest gameplay for the series since the PS2 Era Ratchet titles.

Fantastic game and while not my favorite game in the series, very close to Ratchet 3 and 2 to me.

Ratchet & Clank Quest for Booty – Future Series

The Ratchet Retrospective continues with this smaller downloadable adventure starting the iconic Lombax and some of the new characters introduced in Tools of Destruction.

This game was one of the first ‘big’ downloadable titles during the PS3 Generation and was an interesting case of Insomniac making two titles in a single year; this and Resistance 2. Very impressive game and hope you all enjoy this Retrospective.

History:
This game started production right after work on Tools of Destruction wrapped up and Insomniac ran into a bit of trouble. They were working on Resistance 2 while Tools of Destruction was being made and needed more hands on deck to get the game released. So, this meant the full sequel to Tools of Destructionwould release in 2009.

However, Insomniac wanted to try something new; a small-scaled Ratchet game using the engine Tools of Destruction used as a base. Add in some small mechanics that would be used more in a later game and you have a good excuse to release a small Ratchet title.

This is a landmark case for the studio, as it was the first time Insomniac released two games made by them in a single year; Resistance 2 and this. When the game came out, it got great reviews with the only major issue being the games length. Overall, it was a nice ‘taste’ for what we later experience with A Crack in Time.

Story:
This game takes place after the cliffhanger ending from Tools of Destruction, with Clank being taken by the Zoni, forcing Ratchet & Talwyn to hunt down Clank. They end up butting heads with the colorful pirate characters from Tools of Destruction and it ends up escalating into Ratchet taking out the pirate foes yet again.

What makes this story enjoyable despite its short length is how it allows everyone to ‘breath’ a bit more. The tone is much lighter compared to Tools and we get to experience more of the world of Ratchet here. He has the option to engage in dialog trees with people, make some moral choices (but not many) and bond more with Talwyn, as she will not appear in A Crack in Time.

The pirate characters shine a lot here as does the general setting of the game. They are funny and Stinky Pete (one of the pirates) narrates the game, not unlike Quark’s narration in the recent Ratchet 2016 reboot.

Overall, I really enjoyed this plot, even if its simple and not much happens in the grand scheme of things. We do learn where Clank is and find out that we will be seeing a familiar face that we all enjoyed in Ratchet 3/Up Your Arsenal.

Gameplay:
This is interesting, as I could just copy-and-paste what I wrote about Ratchet in the Tools Retrospective. But I won’t as despite the gameplay being very similar to Tools, a decent amount has been added.

One thing is the lack of focus on combat, as Ratchet loses most of his weapons after the intro level. This leads to the game having a greater focus on core platforming and this is a great move. Tools had the series return to platforming and this game pushing that fact was a smart choice.

The level designs supports this, with more difficult platforming challenges to face, simple puzzles to solve and doing some new things with Ratchets Wrench. It has been his stable tool since day-zero and it finally getting some upgrades was great to see. It has a tether that can pull down objects/move platforms and can pick up small objects/throw them.

One example is that you are exploring a dark cave and you pick up a lighting bug with your wrench, allowing you to see what is ahead of you. This small change mixes up the gameplay in fun ways. The game does have weapon-based combat but its far more limited. You don’t level things up anymore and you do not have new-game plus like every other title.

But that isn’t needed here, as the game is very short. I beat this in 2 hours and while you have the ability to play on Hard a second go around, its kinda pointless.

Presentation:
This game looks just as great as Tools of Destruction looked but I noticed a lot of smaller upgrades over that game. Ratchet’s movement feels ‘smoother’ and his animations are more refined. Not to mention the frame rate feels more stable, hitting a 60FPS more often then Tools of Destruction or A Crack in Time. The style of the game is fantastic too, with the pirate motif being a great excuse to have different-styled locations for the series. More dark caves, haunted locations and rougher islands to explore for example. I love that and a later game ‘Into the Nexus’ does something similar that I appreciated there too.

David Bergeaud returns to compose the games score and it is solid. Enjoyed a lot of the games tracks and they added to the atmosphere of the different levels.

Main Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOPi…swf7DF&index=2
The Azorean Sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jASC…swf7DF&index=3
Hoolefar Turbines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCX4…mTzZlvB8swf7DF
Mysteries of Hoolefar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQLK…swf7DF&index=6
Slag’s Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx4a…mTzZlvB8swf7DF
Climbing Darkwater’s Fleet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bV…wf7DF&index=16
Sprocket’s Rage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTmq…wf7DF&index=28
Credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcPB…mTzZlvB8swf7DF

Conclusion:
This game is a good case for giving a mouse a cookie. You take it and really enjoy it, but you want more. Here, you DON’T get more, but what you DO get is very enjoyable and a great way to kill a few hours.

I enjoyed this smaller Ratchet adventure a lot and if you never got it on its own, it comes bundled with the retail version of Into the Nexus via Download voucher. Fitting that the two really outlandish Ratchet adventures in one ‘collection’ but point still stands. The US only got the game via Digital Release, while other regions got limited retail runs of the title. Thank you NeoGaf Member televator for pointing this out to me, as I knew this but forgot to mention that before this point.

It is a fun adventure and a great lead-in for the future game, A Crack in Time. Many regard that is one of the best Ratchet games of all time and very excited to tackle that very soon.

Ratchet & Clank Tools of Destruction – Future Series

Today was hectic with Retrospective stuff but that is not stopping me covering the dynamic Lombax and Robot from going on another adventure! As of 4/29/2016, the series had its first movie air in western markets and going to celebrate that with a Retrospective covering this game; Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

The game is part of my on-going Ratchet & Clank Retrospective series!

This game is the very first PS3 game for the series and one that really made me want a PS3 back in 2007 when it came out. Lets go into the galaxy of space and see where the hunt for the Lombax’s takes us.

Development History:
The game started development not long after the 2005 release of Ratchet Deadlocked and Insomniac had two studios at this point in time; one making an upcoming PS3 Launch title that will help sell the system (Resistance Fall of Man) and another making the Ratchet & Clank series.

Now that Deadlocked finished production, the Ratchet Team started work on the series jump to the PlayStation 3. They really wanted to make the hardware sing and from current work with Sony on the at the time upcoming Resistance, they had a good idea how to make games for the system.

They pushed for a ‘Pixar’ look for Ratchet & Clank and this affected the direction of the storytelling; instead of the game being focused on being a comedy with some fun story beats, we get a more tone-downed adventure that has the series humor but the main point is the plot. They wanted to give Ratchet & Clank important backstory from their origins never covered before and the PS3 series, dubbed ‘Future’ was a sign that they wanted the Ratchet series to have major story telling elements.

That wasn’t the only focus though, as they wanted to return to having a tight ballence between action combat (shooting) and the platforming that the original game & Ratchet 2/Going Commando had. The idea of having powerful gadgets used in combat called ‘Devices’, some fun gimmicks that would use the motion controls of the PS3 controller well and bring back space travel from Ratchet 2; all of these were goals the team had in mind.

The game finally released in Fall 2007 for the PlayStation 3, with Naughty Dog’s own title “Uncharted: Drakes Fortune” coming out not long after. Both games did very well sales and review wise and started a new trilogy of games for both franchises. Ratchet continued on PlayStation 3 with two other games in the Future Series, two spin-off titles and an Epilogue to the Future Series; all of which will be covered in the future.

Story:
The story is very important to the series, as the franchise is known for being a fantastic Pixar-like adventure for a long time. But here, they really try hard to acomplish telling an epic tale for Ratchet & Clank.

The story begins with the Lombax and his robotic pal working on building some hoverbike and then they hear Quark sending a message that he is being attacked. After crash landing in the middle of a city, Ratchet & Clank blast their way from waves of foes until they get cornered by Emperor Taceon who wants to kill Ratchet due to him being the last Lombax.

They high-jack his ship and crash land on another planet. As the adventure continues, Ratchet begins to learn more about his race as a Lombax and Clank starts seeing these odd creatures that have strange powers.

The story here is good, with Ratchet & Clank bouncing off each other well all the while the new characters like Cronk and Zeffer being great additions to the cast. Really love the Smugger, as he is more or less a funner version of Moneybags from Insomniac’s own Spyro series. The last character I want to highlight is Talwyn Apogee, as she is a great addition to the series. She is funny, smart and gets into the action often (fighting alongside Ratchet, Clank, and her warbots Cronk & Zeffer). She appears in later games and I hope she appears in this new reboot series that Ratchet 2016 starts.

My only gripe with the story is that the comedic ‘edge’ is softer then before. I mean, the game is still funny at points but you can clearly tell that the humor is used more sparingly compared to past games in the series. And that is fine as long as the story is good, and it mostly is. But the ending concluding on a cliffhanger and Ratchet being a jerk to Clank (like the first game) but only without a decent reason was destracting for the few times that happened.

Good story overall though.

Gameplay:
Its a return to the style of gameplay we got with Ratchet & Clank 2; tight controls, great line-up of weapons to play around with and some great platforming sections that remind me of parts of the first Ratchet & Clank at points.

In many respects. Tools of Destruction feels like a ‘proper’ sequel to Ratchet 2 more so then Ratchet 3. Ratchet 3 focused very heavily on its gun play while Tools of Destruction has a larger focus on platforming (though you still do a lot of shooting). My main point, is that the balance is done stronger here.

But the gameplay can be broken down into a few sections:

Ratchet has the great gameplay from Ratchet 2 and Ratchet 3. The gun play is a lot of fun and the set pieces that Ratchet goes through are very impressive. Grinding on long rail sections avoiding trains and the camera panning all over the place, the camera going top-down and side-ways during the intro stage, and the levels having a lot of location theme choice (planet with dinos, large city that has a ton of flying cars all over the place, a lost jungle that has you fighting various creatures, navigating across floating asteroids, and fighting across two pirate bases. Will cover the weapons and other stuff in another part but Ratchet controls great here and for greater reference to the specifics to his control, give my Ratchet 2 and 3 Retrospectives a read.

Clank has a lot of new abilities in this game but his solo-gameplay is a bit weak. His new Zoni powers allow him to fly in the sky, slow down time and break down walls with a powerful laser. Ratchet can use two of these powers at different points in some planets and they are very fun. But Clank’s solo gameplay is weak compared to past games. He controls the same and still controls an army but this time, its of Zoni. They can repair things, attack foes, hover in the air, and even allow Clank to slow down time with holding the R1 button.

That sounds like a lot of fun, but it really isn’t anything that special. If anything, it lacks the charm of Clank controlling little robots in Ratchet 2 or the odd concept of working with a AI controlled monkey. Also no Giant Clank this time out too. Overall, his functions are fun, but not on the level of past games.

Ship Combat is where things get interesting. Unlike in Ratchet 2, its not all-range mode Star Fox but linear Star Fox like some stages in SF64. And they are a visual highlight with amazing effects filling the screen and the controls working very well. If you are a fan of Star Fox, you might have some great fun with these sections. Otherwise, they are a nice inclusion but don’t really add or take away from the game.

The gadgets Ratchet has a few new gadgets like the Gyro Bike, New hacking tool and the Pirate-Guise. Gyro Bike is a Monkey Ball-like mode that has you rolling around and its fun. Its mainly used for some tricky platforming sections and its underused but when it is used, it can be quite fun to play with it. The Hacking Tool allows you to get through locked doors or activate things and you do this from either moving the left stick or tilting the controller. You control this little ball and have to help a ‘power surge’ move to the end goal. I had a lot of fun with this motion controls or not honestly.

The Pirate-Guise is very simple but very funny; Ratchet turns into a little pirate that dances to open some doors and its fun! Used more for laughs then anything else but still, a nice addition to the game and a cool successor to the Tera-Guise.

The line up of weapons are great here, but we get some recycling of old ideas in past Ratchet games. We have another whip item but its electric this time. We have a shot gun but this time it shoots crystals. We have a pistol but this time it shoots fireballs. They play with traditional weapons we see all the time ‘slightly’ different and that is cool.

But the creative weapons, that is where things get nuts. We have a bee nest we can plant on the ground to sends little insects to kill everything, a Disco Ball called the Groveatron that makes EVERYTHING dance, health absorbing grenades that can give you needed Nanotech and the Plasma Beasts that are little blobs that can follow you when fully upgraded and slam into other creatures. And of course, Mr. Zerkon. This lovely robot spouts one-liners as he kills everything in his path. Love this guy and he appears in many future games.

But some weapons are not ‘really’ weapons; they are called ‘devices’ due to being very overpowered and can only buy X amount of them (none of them upgrade outside the Groveatron but you need a lot of money to get that). That is a smart move on Insomniacs part.

You also have an upgrade tree where you use a new currency called Rareatainum that is very common and can give added upgrades to your weapons. If you loved the custom mods from Deadlocked, this is a similar deal here but more indepth. It gives you options on how to upgrade your weapons and later games like Into the Nexus and Ratchet 2016 refine this upgrade system further.

Presentation:
This game looks amazing, it still looks great in 2016 like it did back in 2007. The game has such a bright and vivid art direction that screams ‘Pixar’ or ‘Disney’ in many cases and the squash-and-stretch that the PS2 games had comes across here but thanks to the stronger PS3 hardware, the game looks much better then the PS2 games. And the PS2 games looked fantastic.

The musical score though, takes a step down compared to the PS2 games. Its still great stuff, but not on the level of Ratchet 2’s or Ratchet 3’s soundtrack. I really enjoy it though and its one of the final times the series musical composer took reigns of the soundtrack. David Bergeaud made the soundtracks for every Ratchet game at this point and did amazing work on the PS2 titles. While his work here is more ‘movie’ like, is still sounds great.

Kerwan – Metropolis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yKG…pzev02&index=3
Kerwan – Grind Rail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQX-…e1Z2IeLgpzev02
Kortog – The Docks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxuk…zev02&index=12
Voron Asteroid Belt – Space Pirate Territory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6C3…zev02&index=17
Mukow – Imperial Fight Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIXx…zev02&index=20
Apogee Space Station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or5-…e1Z2IeLgpzev02
Ardolis – Pirate Base 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZieK…zev02&index=31
Viceron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0M3…zev02&index=45

Overall:
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is one of the stronger games in the series and it does a lot right. Great gameplay, amazing production values and tight controls all make it a treat to play. And this is only the first PS3 adventure of the series, with two more being covered very soon.