Monday, August 11, 2008

Fantasy Zone Complete Collection - M2's Final Battle?!

Fantasy Zone Complete Collection is the 33rd entry in the Sega Ages 2500 series, which you may know as the best old game compilation series ever. I wrote about the 32nd entry, Phantasy Star Complete Collection, back in April. While other developers tend to view compilations as shovelware at worst and a quick buck at best (the distinction is tenuous), developer M2 has always gone out of their way to present old games in the best light possible.

Fantasy Zone Complete Collection, sadly, looks like it's going to be the last Sega Ages entry ever. Unfortunate, to be sure, but worry not! M2 is clearly bringing their A-game to this loving tribute to one of Sega's most underappreciated franchises.

Along with Outrun and Space Harrier, Fantasy Zone is the Sega game that seems to best represent the often romanticized design attitudes of the nearly-dead game giant. It's Defender with gorgeous graphics and FM samba on the soundtrack, a two-way scrolling shooting game with a joyous sense of creativity and a slowly creeping tinge of the bizarre. How else do you explain the series protagonist, Opa-Opa, a pastel-colored creature with cherubic wings and tiny bootsies protruding from his underbelly (the wikipedia entry describes him as a "sentient spaceship")? The answer frequently offered up by the collective consciousness of People Who Play Video Games is "drugs, dude," but who can say for sure what the mysterious pseudonyms representing the Japanese men responsible for crafting '80s arcade games did in their spare time? I'm not going there.
So what's M2 offering up in this collection? In their Phantasy Star Complete Collection, they let you adjust the game difficulty for all of the games on the collection, offered options to increase walking speed and a turbo button for speeding through battles. Those features, in addition to the lavish display options and archival materials that have become a Sega Ages standard, made a bunch of beloved-but-crusty RPGs playable in a reasonable amount of time, and appreciable to a modern audience.

Fantasy Zone Complete Collection is a lot more ambitious. After releasing Fantasy Zone to the arcades on their workhorse System 16 board in 1986, Sega followed up with a sequel for their decidedly non-workhorse Mark III console, entitled "Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa," eventually porting it to the Mark III-based System E arcade hardware. What M2 is doing is slightly insane, and mostly incredible: they've developed a new System 16-based version of Fantasy Zone II, the version that should have existed but never was. In 2008!

It looks wonderful. The remake's official homepage as part of the Complete Collection can be found here, with screenshots and information aplenty. The other relevant piece of info about the game is that cult-favorite game composer Manabu Namiki (Trauma Center 2, various Cave shooting games) will be handling the sound design for the remake. And, y'know, it'll be $30 at Play-Asia. I'm psyched!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Update for a Rainy Day

Note: I started writing this at about 5 p.m. earlier today. Blogger was going through maintenance around then, and the end result was that I lost about half of this entry. As a good friend of mine pointed out, "I put all my chickens in the chicken box."

I'm sitting in the library, waiting for a sizable thunderstorm to pass on by. Colorado Weather Rules dictate that this will be within the next thirty minutes or so, which means it's time for me to link you to fun stories from around the internet. Pretty much what I usually do here, these days., the Palatial Estate of Tim Rogers (formerly held by largeprimenumbers and insertcredit, in that order), is currently in the throes of the "Action Button Dot Net Manifesto." It's billed as the "twenty-five best games of all time," with Tim Rogers writing twenty-five monstrously long reviews, uploaded three-at-a-time every Wednesday. The criteria for making it on the list?
The choices on this list — save for one — are not made with the intention of riling anybody up. We have chosen simply and mathematically and scientifically. The criteria for a game’s inclusion — well, the criteria are actually pretty dodgy and antisocial, though let’s just pretend that we picked games that we really love — a lot — and that possess a clean aesthetic, self-assured graphical and sonic presentation, streamlined mechanics, and common-sensical level design.
As with all things written by Tim Rogers, you should probably not take him especially seriously, because if you do then you will probably say something stupid in a Kotaku comment section or worse. My advice is to read all the articles out loud, angrily, preferably in the company of friends. Every review so far mentions Godhand in some way, with the reservation that it is not in the list. I wonder.

-Braid came out on the Xbox Live Arcade today. I've only played it for about an hour so far. While not confident enough to emphatically recommend a purchase right now, I would strongly advise checking the trial out, if you get the chance. If you figure out how to get all the puzzle pieces in the first world, I think you'll be sold. Jonathan Blow, the game's designer, put up a walkthrough for the game over here, whose contents say more than I can about the game at this point, really.

-Edge has a pretty fantastic interview with Thunder Force VI director Tez Okano about his work on Segagaga, which you can read here. The anecdotes are fucking great:
"I was involved in every aspect of the game. I designed the game but also supervised the program, the sound, the graphics – everything. I was director, producer – everything from just one being: me! I was also in charge of promoting the game. You have to understand that we – no, I – had just about ¥30,000 (£142) to promote this title! I used ¥20,000 (£94) to get a mask made that I could use to go and promote the game everywhere! This mask was made by a true professional pro-wrestler. In many ways, the game established some industry firsts in terms of budgets alone!"
Also, I have to link the final shooting game segment, which is mentioned a couple times in the interview. Hearing about it is one thing, but seeing it? Yeah, you pretty much have to.