Monday 28 February 2011

Gaming Remakes: The Ugly, The Bad and The E14

Remakes. Specifically, remakes that are re-released on the Arcade systems (Xbox Live, Playstation Network). Sometimes the developers of the remake get it absolutely spot on. Sometimes they very much do not hit the mark at all. Sometimes, it's not clear whether they're playing in the same ballpark. Nevertheless, here are some of all of those different types of game remakes.

The Ugly - Ultimate MK 3

Released originally in 1995 in arcades (or 'coin-op'), UMK3 was also released on home consoles (which is where I first experienced it on Super Nintendo - thankfully, the censorship that had been present in the first Mortal Kombat on Super Nintendo was no longer in place by this point, and you could experience exactly the kind of game that should always have been there).

The appeal of UMK3 for fans was the coming together of a ton of Mortal Kombat universe characters without the annoyance of having to also choose from DC characters like the unusual Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, including such greats as Cyrax, who was a particular favourite of mine. In arcades (and also on the SNES and Genesis), the game was awesome, and everything about that game worked, from the game modes to the controls.

Fast forward 11 years, and the game was emulated for Xbox Live Arcade in 2006. I first discovered it in 2007, when I purchased my Xbox 360 and spent my first Microsoft points on UMK3 among other things. I learned a lesson that day: download and play the fucking trial first. For the love of fuck, I cannot stress that advice enough. If you take nothing else away from anything I ever tell you, please take that advice away. Trials are there for a reason.

This game was a complete and utter clusterfuck from the off. The controls were atrocious (D-pad controls are not designed for an Xbox 360 controller, and I sincerely hope that the re-design in early March fixes a lot of these issues), and though the graphics were identical, the game didn't really measure up to the test of time.

As if that wasn't enough, the difficulty curve was atrociously bad, and just punished you if you didn't know what you were doing. You would be getting used to the controls, and maybe pulling off three hit combos, and your opponent can do eight or nine hit combos without so much as a bead of sweat dropping off their proverbial brow. Most damningly of all, they de-listed the game on Xbox Live, and I've got achievements earned that I can't get rid of, meaning that it is responsible for me never being able to 100% all my games. Now, fair enough, it's unlikely to happen regardless, but I can only take some small comfort in blaming this game for that.

The Bad - Sensible World of Soccer

Like UMK3, this was one that I downloaded purely on my nostalgic memories of playing the original, which in my case was for the Amiga. With a keyboard, the game worked incredibly well. For the time, with all football games having to choose between isometric perspective and top-down perspective, SWOS (man, we're all about the acronyms today) was undoubtedly the better of the top-down games available. The game also included completely editable leagues and teams, giving the user complete and utter control that hadn't really been replicated fully until the more recent Pro Evolution and FIFA games.

However, as I've previously covered, there is a fundemental problem with the controller on the Xbox 360; it's not built for D-pad games. Cue hours and hours (and I do still go back to it every now and then in a vain attempt to try and improve my lot) of frustrating attempts to fucking score more than one goal in a game. Half the time, genuinely I find it difficult. Besides this, the controls consist of the D-Pad/analog stick and one button. One.

In addition to this, regrettably the game just doesn't stack up against the more contemporary offerings. Although price point is a major sticking point for someone to take FIFA over something like SWOS, the full price game has the advantage of the official Premier League License as well as having the correct names of players and teams. They're also the correct players and teams from this year, by the way, not 1996. All well and good having the teams for when the game was first released, but for the sake of continuity it would have made sense to at least have the correct teams and players.

The E14 - Bionic Commando Rearmed

Released for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Bionic Commando was one of those classic side-scrolling shooters. The thing that made this one different from others like Metroid or its ilk was that the protagonist Nathan Spencer had a bionic limb that could shoot out to have him grapple to ledges up and across. Moreover, it was overtly controversial for the time, with the leader of the opposition looking ever-so-slightly like a certain Mr. Hitler.

What the remake did well was keep the formula that made the original game great, while at the same time updating it sufficiently for the new age. With a 3D character overlay and a complete soundtrack overhaul (a particularly good one, no less), the game gets just enough to update it for the modern day without compromising it in any way, while at the same time keeping that retro flavour. The music is a huge help in this, retaining some 8-bit sensibilities but still sounding fresh.

Regrettably, GRIN, the studio responsible for Bionic Commando: Rearmed is no longer in existence. However, members of the studio formed Fatshark, who are ones to watch in the future.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is available for purchase from the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace, as well as Playstation Network and Games for Windows Marketplace. Sensible World of Soccer is available on Xbox Live Arcade only. Thankfully, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is no longer available, but there is a new Mortal Kombat game on the way, which looks awesome.


The true story of the last warrior...

The name 'Samurai' is synonymous with the ultimate warrior. With their elaborate armour, fierce swordsmanship and code of honour, the samurai have become iconic figures whose influence can still be felt today. From Kurosawa's epic Seven Samurai to the figure of Darth Vader in Star Wars, to Manga comics and video games, the figure of the fighting samurai still inspires us today. In John Man's new book, we discover the truth behind the legend.

From his birth in the shadow of the great volcano Sakurajima, to his glorious death by ritual suicide and disembowelment, Saigo Takamori was the ultimate Samurai leader. His fall brought about the end of hundreds of years of Samurai tradition and in many ways marks the birth of modern Japan. Saigo was a man trapped by paradox: a faithful servant to the emperor, and yet a leader of rebel troops; a mighty Samurai warrior, and also a master of Chinese poetry. His life, and ultimately his death, offer a window into the hundreds of years of culture and tradition that defined the samurai.

Thanks to our friends at Bantam Press, we've got five copies of John Man's Samurai to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 7th March, making sure to put "Samurai" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Samurai" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for £14.00

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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