Here it is, what I anticipate will be the final Subspace Brief Facts! We’re going out with a bang – Psychic Killer Taromarou!
Psychic Killer Taromarou is one of the rarest and most expensive games out there. Nobody should pay for it – but if you can find a way to *cough* acquire it *cough* it’s worth a look. It has the kind of bizarre late ’90s charm that only the Saturn could bring. Watch the vid! And watch this page for my next foray into the the exciting world of VIDEO!
Developer: Sega AM1
Yippie Ki Yay, Mr. Falcon. In 1996, Sega unleashed Die Hard Arcade – an international joint effort from the minds of two of its better known development teams, Sega AM1 and Sega Technical Institute. As its name would strongly suggest, Die Hard Arcade is an arcade beat ’em up based on the Die Hard franchise. A solid early entry in the 3D brawler genre, Die Hard Arcade is as fondly remembered for its absurd blend of pro-wrestling moves and gunplay as it is for its wonderfully rectangular rendition of Bruce Willis’ head.
But, for some reason, in Japan, Die Hard Arcade wasn’t a licensed property. There, it was called Dynamite Deka, which translates roughly to “Dynamite Detective” or “Dynamite Cop.” It’s basically the same game, but all references to Die Hard have been removed, and John McClane is now “Bruno Delinger.” I have my guesses as to why they went with “Bruno.”
But this post isn’t about Die Hard Arcade. We’re here to talk about its sequel, Dynamite Cop. Which is kind of what Die Hard Arcade was called in Japan. And, if you want to get technical about it, in Japan, Dynamite Cop is known as Dynamite Deka 2. What we call Dynamite Cop is an English localization of the game basically called Dynamite Cop 2 in Japan. Have fun keeping that straight. But whatever – it’s the sequel to Die Hard Arcade, minus the Die Hard, but suspiciously high on the Willis factor.
Released to arcades in 1998, the game is perhaps best known for its 1999 Dreamcast port, which is what we’re covering here. Dynamite Cop’s plot is charmingly stupid – and I mean that in the least pejorative sense. Modern day pirates – and we don’t mean the actual terrifying Somalian kind –
– we mean a group of nautical themed lunatics with a skull shaped island fortress and an actual wooden pirate ship –
have kidnapped the president’s daughter. You have to rescue her. This is actually the plot of the first game, except on a boat. These are, in fact, the same bad guys from the first game. They’ve just decided to become pirates. Yep.
The player controls one of three Dynamite Cops – Bruno Delinger, the aforementioned McClane/Willis stand in and all-round baddass; Eddie Brown, a Navy Seal who seems to specialize in Muay Thai; and Jean Ivy, another Navy Seal who uses a weird mix of kung fu and pro wrestling.
Core gameplay is pretty straightforward. You’ve got three buttons – punch, kick, and jump – which can be combined with directional inputs to perform more advanced maneuvers. Truthfully, you only need the basic button combos to succeed, but if you start experimenting with more elaborate inputs (particularly after grappling with an opponent), you’ll find that the move list is surprisingly deep. On top of it, after picking up the glowing powerups that emerge most enemies, your character can get LUDICROUSLY violent. Observe:
But the real joy of Dynamite Cop comes from the weapons. You’re rarely more than a few moments from obtaining a gun, but why stop there? You can beat up your foes with…
And, my personal favorite, hand-launched anti-ship missiles!
I really only stopped listing weapons because I got tired of making gifs. Dynamite Cop’s full arsenal contains everything from shish-kebabs to laser guns. If the spectacle of violence can truly be silly, this is as silly as it gets.
That commitment to silliness and spectacle is really the only reason to play Dynamite Cop – but it’s a DAMN good reason. Dynamite Cop is merely a competent brawler, but it’s a competent brawler that’s got an arcade thrill ride standing proudly on its shoulders. This isn’t a game which wants you to master the intricacies of its move list, it’s a game that wants you yell “HELL YEAH” after you kick a dude in a shark costume in the nards 10 times and run over his buddy with a motorcycle. Because it adheres so fastidiously to its high-impact ethos of ridiculous violence, it’s difficult for me to consider Dynamite Cop anything other than an unqualified:
Dynamite Cop is short; a successful play-through only takes about an hour or less. That being said, each of its three routes are worth replaying multiple times, if for no other reason than to use every single absurd armament at your disposal. I give it a “YOU CAN THROW SLOT MACHINES AT A CRAB MAN” out of 10.
Special thanks to Mark Del Rossi, who was the best Player 2 this author could ever ask for. Even though he shot me with multiple hand thrown missiles.
It’s time for another Subspace Brief Facts! I don’t know if there’s much else to say about Snake Rattle ‘N Roll other than “it looks great and it’s annoyingly difficult” – but somehow I squeezed a five minute video out of this! Enjoy!
It’s difficult to cover something that’s been done to death, but I’ve always wanted to do something on Symphony of the Night. Hopefully I’ve provided something somewhat new and original by exploring a very specific aspect of the Saturn version of Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight– the ability to play as Maria Renard. Enjoy!
You’ll also note that there’s a decent amount of footage from Dracula X: Rondoof Blood for the PC Engine. Here’s some fun little gifs I ripped from that game while recording:
And here’s Maria and Richter’s’s official concept art, which can be found on the Saturn disc:
And because I’m such a (tragic) prince, here’s the audio for the music used in the video:
As usual, the game was played through a Framemeister. I used Chris Genthe’s upscaler settings – you can find all of his videos here. I’ve embedded his Saturn video below:
I’m a big fan of Chris’ settings for 1080p output. Give them a shot!
On a somewhat sad note, you will also see that this video is dedicated to the beloved memory of my recently departed corgi, Gizmo. Among many other things, Gizmo was my “games dog” whenever I had to verify shipment of Saturn imports, I’d always try to make the photo more entertaining by throwing in Gizmo.
This one was a doozy! Deep Fear is one I’ve been meaning to play for a while, so I figured it would make a great installment for the 10th Brief Facts!
As you’ll be able to tell from the video, I played through the Japanese version of Deep Fear. While all the text is in Japanese, it’s not too difficult to fumble your way through the game; your objectives are fairly straightforward. Notably, all the voice acting in English. Hilariously awful English. It’s like they got their American accounting interns to do all the VO in one take.
I also think this game has the most righteous Engrish tag line ever:
“Hereafter we will have desperate days with nowhere to escape.” Why even bother trying, then, one wonders.
I’ll update this post in the coming days with some more media. In the meantime, enjoy this charming misspelling:
Thanks for watching – and to all you videophiles out there, sorry about the jailbars!
It has been FAR too long – I hope you’ll find that this video retrospective on Gain Ground SX for the PC Engine CD was worth the wait!
Gain Ground SX is an obscure port of an obscure game for an obscure system. Nevertheless, I would HIGHLY recommend it to any TurboGrafx, PC Engine or Sega enthusiast. If you’d rather go the Genesis route, you can grab that port on Steam for about $2.99.
As noted in the video, the music is absolutely spectacular – but don’t take my word for it. Have a listen!
I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t give a quick shoutout to to the the team over at Hardcore Gaming 101. I wouldn’t have even known about the existence of this port if it weren’t for their wonderful book, Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 1. It’s a superb book, and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in Sega.
Sega 32X CD, 1995
Developer: Sega Studios
What, you were expecting Indigo Prophecy? About ten years to early, pal. We’re taking a look at one of the few games to utilize all the power a Sega Genesis could conceivably muster – A 32X CD GAME! Fahrenheit is one of just six such titles, and probably the best of the bunch. Take a look!
As noted in the video, Fahrenheit received a standard Sega CD release as well. Actually, it was sold in the SAME package as the 32X version. Here’s the intro from the Sega CD version:
Compare it to the intro for the 32X CD variant:
The visual improvements are quite apparent!
I’ll be updating this post after the holidays with some more video. In the meantime, enjoy the smooth sounds of LOU NADEAU. WATCH OUT, STAN BUSH.
Fatal Labyrinth Sega Genesis, 1991 Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
At somewhat of a loss as to what to cover after two solid weeks of playing and re-playing Zombie Revenge, I noted that I really hadn’t covered any Sega Genesis games. Sure, I’ve played through Time Gal and scratched the surface of Silpheed, but those are Sega CD games, so they don’t really count. As such, I put out the question to the Internet: “Can anyone recommend a weird/obscure Genesis RPG?” At the suggestion of several members of NeoGAF’s Genesis/Mega Drive community, I decided to check out Fatal Labyrinth.
I was not disappointed.
Released to North American audiences in 1991, Fatal Labyrinth puts the player in shoes of a voiceless cipher of a protagonist. His quest? Retrieve a holy goblet from from a red dragon who sits atop a 30-story castle. No princess to rescue for our nameless knight. Guess he drew the short straw on career day.
Fatal Labyrinth is a roguelike, in the classic sense of the term. While there’s a healthy debate as to what exactly constitutes a roguelike these days, as applied to Fatal Labyrinth, you can take it to mean the following:
1. Fatal Labyrinth is primarily comprised of procedurally-generated “random” levels. With the exception of a few select areas, each floor of the dragon’s castle (cleverly named “Dragonia”) will be randomly generated on each playthrough. Exit locations, secret doors, and item locations will change every time you load up Fatal Labyrinth. In short, you’ll probably never play the same set of levels twice.
2. Movement is turn-based and aligned to grid. Enemies only move when you move, and vice versa.
3. Combat is in no way based on manual dexterity. You simply fire your weapon or move your character into a monster and hope that the dice roll in favor of a hit.
4. The properties of most items will remain unknown until discovered by the player. By way of example, in your travels, you may find a yellow potion. Until you use that potion, by either drinking it or throwing it at a monster, you’ll have no idea what it does. It may cause blindness, it may heal your wounds; you won’t know until you observe the results. To further complicate things, the properties of yellow potions will change with each playthrough as well. In other words: you need to relearn what special items do each time you start a new game.
5. Most roguelikes also feature permanent death – only one shot at glory. Fatal Labyrinth eschews this in favor of a checkpoint system, allowing you to restart at checkpoints placed roughly every five levels. There’s a catch, though: everything you’ve encountered up to the point of your death will be randomized again with each continue.
As far as I can tell, Fatal Labyrinth is one of the first roguelikes released for a game console. In fact, I can’t think of any console roguelikes that predate it. [UPDATE – I am told that there is no way this is THE first roguelike released for a home console. At bare minimum, Cloudy Mountain for the Intellivision, Gateway to Apshai for Colecovision, and Fatal Labyrinth’s predecessor, Dragon Crystal for the Sega Master System precede it. Let no one say that I have spread misinformation!] While it lacks the complexity of some of its genre contemporaries and forebears (it’s nowhere near as variable as NetHack, or perhaps even Rogue itself), Fatal Labyrinth has a pick up and play appeal that is undeniable. It’s a great game to pick up if you’re in the mood for a mindless, randomized dungeon hack. Plus, you know, it actually has GRAPHICS, which most roguelikes didn’t have at the time.
Fatal Labyrinth has some interesting quirks as well. For starters, the levels are littered with gold coins. Certain enemies will even steal your gold coins. There are even enemies that mimic the appearance of gold coins in an attempt to ensnare your unsuspecting hero. Despite this, there are no shops in the game. Gold coins cannot be exchanged for anything. Acquiring wealth provides no discernible benefit to the player. That is… until you die.
You see, in lieu of a conventional “game over” screen, Fatal Labyrinth treats you to a look at your character’s funeral service. The amount of mourners present is directly related to the amount of cash on hand you had when you died.
This is equal parts amusing and horribly depressing. Just remember kids: It doesn’t matter how many monsters you slay, people will only miss you if you were rich. So try and die wealthy.
Equally entertaining are Fatal Labyrinth‘s hunger mechanics. As is the case in may roguelikes, your hero must eat. So long as you’ve got meat in your belly, you’ll slowly regain health. Conversely, if you’re running on an empty stomach, your health continually depletes.This, of course, means that you’re constantly searching for things to eat. Food is not difficult to find in Fatal Labyrinth, but there’s a catch: you can’t be a glutton.
If you fill your food stores to 4/5 of their maximum capacity, your character will announce that he has eaten too much, and begin to move at a slower pace – monsters will get two actions for every step your portly protagonist takes. This will persist until you’ve digested down to an acceptable level. Making things even stranger, if you EXCEED your maximum food capacity, you will DIE. You can actually EAT YOURSELF TO DEATH.
If nothing else, then, Fatal Labyrinth teaches us two very valuable life lessons. First: Don’t overeat. Second: If you must overeat, make sure you are rich, so people will mourn your passing. Nobody likes poor, dead fat people.
Positive characteristics aside, I can’t imagine that Fatal Labyrinth impressed too many Genesis owners back in 1991. The first thing one notes when booting up Fatal Labyrinth is its spartan visual presentation. Its tile based graphics are anything but flashy, and would probably look more at home on a Sega Master System or a NES.
This isn’t a game that puts that the Genesis’ vaunted “blast processing” to any great use, either. Aside from its color palette, there’s nothing 16-bit about Fatal Labyrinth, and I imagine that more than a few Genesis owners weren’t too thrilled with that fact (particularly where Sonic the Hedgehog hit the Genesis two months earlier). The whole ROM only takes up about 128k.
There’s an interesting reason for that, though: Fatal Labyrinth was originally designed as a downloadable game. While US audiences wouldn’t be able to take their Genesis online until the launch of the Sega Channel in late 1994, Japan was a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of online gaming. In 1990, Sega of Japan released the Mega Modem, a console peripheral which allowed players to engage in rudimentary online gaming, and even download games to their console. For more information on the Mega Modem, check out this fantastic little video from Greg Sewart of the Player One Podcast:
Fatal Labyrinth’s relative simplicity and small size is likely attributable to the fact that it was designed to be transmitted over phone lines at 1991 download speeds. While Fatal Labyrinth may have seemed less than impressive as a retail release, I have to imagine it seemed AMAZING to any Japanese kid that MAGICALLY RECEIVED IT OVER THE PHONE.
If anything, Fatal Labyrinth stands as a testament to Sega’s legacy of bringing new concepts and ideas to the home console market. As a console roguelike and a downloadable game, Fatal Labyrinth is sort of a pioneer two times over. On top of that, its fundamental mechanics are sound, and you can play through it in about two to three hours. As it can be picked up for relatively cheap these days, I’d recommend it to any Genesis enthusiast. There’s even a version for Steam that you can pick up for the low, low price of $2.99. Give it a shot!
I finally get to the Dreamcast with our first video review! Wanted to have this out for Halloween. Unfortunately, real life got in the way. Enjoy!
Update – 11/7/2015
The background music for the video comes straight from the game disc – I just recorded some video of the sound test mode and ripped the audio. In order to create this video, I extracted some of the game’s music – In case you ever had a hankering to give it a listen….
Nearly 18 years ago, I received Dragon Forceas a birthday present. I finished it inside of a month, and it quickly became one of my favorite games of all time. It was the first game I wrote about when I launched this site, and I’ve been dying to play its sequel since its initial release back in 1998. Unfortunately, Dragon Force II never made it out of Japan. If you didn’t understand Japanese, your chances of booking another enjoyable vacation to Legendra were slim to none.
But that was then. Now, thanks to some very talented folks who know FAR more about the Saturn than I, Dragon Force II is readily playable in English. Saturn fans have been emulating the game since the full translation became available to the public this past April, but I have yet to see any accounts of anybody playing it on a console. Yesterday, I sat down and did just that: I got Dragon Force II running on the Sega Saturn I’ve had since 1996. Miracles do happen folks.
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide detailing exactly how I got Dragon Force II playing on real hardware. Gameplay video and screens follow at the end of the post. To avoid any confusion here, let me make it clear that I had no part in creating the Pseudo Saturn, nor did I have anything to do with the Dragon Force II translation project – I just connected a few dots and got the game running on my Saturn. I’ve done my best to attribute credit to all appropriate parties – if there’s anyone I’ve left out, please let me know, and I’ll update this site accordingly. In short: if you like what you see here, don’t thank me, thank (1) the people who dedicated years of their lives to translating this Saturn classic, and (2) the people that continue to devise new ways for us to enjoy our favorite systems long after they’ve gone the way of the ghost.
STEP 1: GET A PSEUDO SATURN
First things first: you’ll need a way to run burned discs on your Saturn . While there are a couple of ways to skin this cat, my weapon of choice was the Pseudo Saturn.
“Where do I get one of these fantastic devices,” you ask? Well, you might note that the Pseudo Saturn looks remarkably similar to an Action Replay 4M Plus – that’s because it IS an Action Replay 4M Plus, albeit with custom firmware installed. If you’ve got an AR to spare, you can try creating one yourself, by downloading the firmware and CD Installer and following the instructions included in Cyber Warrior X’s GitHub post. Please note that this also requires a hard-modded Saturn or some other less convenient method of playing burned discs. I didn’t have an AR to spare, so I just bought one with the firmware pre-installed from a friend I met on this wonderful Facebook group (thanks, Ke Kona!). If you keep your eyes open, I’m pretty sure you could find somewhere to purchase one as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE 1: Installing the Pseudo Saturn firmware may just nuke your AR. If you’re going to try to make a Pseudo Saturn yourself, do your due diligence here: Take to google and make sure that your particular AR is Pseudo Saturn compliant. I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself unless you’ve already embraced the risk of losing your AR.
IMPORTANT NOTE 2: Once you’ve made an AR into a Pseudo Saturn, it will no longer function as an AR. No cheat codes, no save storage, nothing. Zip. Nada, Zilch. Got it? It will, however, still work as a RAM cart. Folks are said to be working on a version of the Pseudo Saturn which will re-implement these features, but as of right now, this is as good as it gets. This means you will be using your Saturn’s internal memory to save games. Stock up on batteries.
STEP 2: GET A COPY OF THE JAPANESE VERSION OF DRAGON FORCE II
Listen, how you do this is up to you. You can buy it yourself or grab it some other way. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, you filthy pirate.
STEP 3: DOWNLOAD THE DRAGON FORCE II TRANSLATION PATCH
The talented folks over at Verve Fanworks have been working on this project for years now, and it recently saw its first full release back in April. They deserve all the credit in the world for fulfilling our dreams and making Dragon Force II playable in English. If you use their patch, be sure to send them some love. While I have yet to play the game to completion, it’s already clear that this is light-years beyond your typical fan translation – right up there with any professional localization.
You can download the files you need right here. You might note that there are two patches available; just grab both of them for now. The rest of the instructions contained in this post are adapted from the readme file posted on Verve’s download page. Please feel free to follow that document from this point onward (ignoring any emulator specific instructions) if you’d like.
STEP 4: DOWNLOAD MORE STUFF
To apply the translation patch, you’ll need to grab some more software (don’t worry, it’s all free):
IsoBuster – This will be used to rip a disc image from your Dragon Force II CD.
It’s time to extract some data. Put your Japanese Dragon Force II disc into the disc drive of your choice and open up IsoBuster. Once in IsoBuster, right click on the the top level CD icon, and select the following option (click the image to view full size):
After you select a directory to which to save the disc’s contents, the extraction process should commence. When the process is 99% complete, you’ll receive an “unreadable sector” notification; don’t worry though, it’s not going to be an issue. Just check “Omit Sector” and “Always apply Selection,” as indicated in the image below. Click the “Selection” button and you’ll be good to go.
This should leave you with a file called “Track 01.iso”
STEP 6: FIGURE OUT WHAT VERSION YOU HAVE
Open Track 01.iso in your the Saturn Region Patcher. You should get a screen that looks something like this:
There were two versions of Dragon Force II released to the public; V1.006, and a revision, V1.007. As you can tell from the image above, I have V1.006. You’ll be fine to proceed with either one, just be sure that you’ve downloaded the version of the translation patch that corresponds to your version.
STEP 7: PATCH AWAY!
Open up Delta Patcher (not Delta Patcher Lite, which should have also came with your download). Select Track 01.iso as your “original file” and select the corresponding version of the patch as your “XDelta patch.”
Click “Apply Patch.” Congratulations, you’ve now got a translated disc image!
STEP 8: BURN, BABY, BURN
Now, all that’s left to do is burn your disc! I used the method for burning Dreamcast games set forth here. Though we’re dealing with a Saturn game here, that shouldn’t cause any trouble – my copy of Dragon Force II has worked flawlessly thus far, as has every other Saturn game I’ve ever burned.
STEP 9: SAVE LEGENDRA
There you have it. If everything went right, you should be able to just pop the disc in your Saturn and enjoy!
As promised, here are the screens and video. There will be more to come in the future!
I hope you’ve found this exercise entertaining and informative – shoot me a line on Twitter or Facebook with any feedback or comments!