Rising Star Games are responsible for bringing a number of cult Japanese games over to UK shores, and we're immensely grateful for the chance to play a number of classic titles that would otherwise have lingered miserably beyond our reach. Apparently Atlus demanded far too much money for the publishing rights to Catherine (seriously, Rising Star still can't believe that they didn't secure it), but even without the disturbing puzzler, they've still got an exciting and varied lineup set for the rest of the year.
Naturally I just had to pop my head around the door and see how they're getting on. The word 'niche' comes to mind... but there's nothing wrong with being great at what you do. Come join us in our niche. It's warm in our niche.
Cave make brilliant arcade shooters. It's literally all they do, in fact, it's all they are. Deathsmiles Deluxe delighted hardcore SHMUP fans when it released last year, and Rising Star are convinced that DoDonPachi Resurrection's vertically-scrolling shenanigans will deliver an even more technical and satisfying experience when it launches on the Xbox 360 this November.
With Rising Star's inestimable Product Manager Yen Hau backing me up as my wingman (and doing most of the heavy lifting if I'm brutally honest), I dove straight into the fray. The action is as technical and intense as it's ever been, revolving around stringing together large hit combos for extra points, weaving through insane amounts of incoming firepower and doing battle against enormous transforming robot girls. The visuals have been perfectly optimised for the Xbox 360; with brutally fast and visceral combat, incredibly eyecatching hitboxes that make navigation as intuitive as possible and simulated slowdown in the more outrageous moments of the game that emulates the limitations of arcade PCBs. Hau reckons that it's actually more hardcore and exciting than Deathsmiles, and he's probably right.
The Xbox 360 version features the original arcade mode with practically no alterations save perfectly translated analogue gamepad controls. However, the new Arrange Modes deliver a kick to graphical fidelity as well as slight tweaks to the gameplay. The most exciting addition (for veterans and newcomers alike) is doubtlessly Arrange Mode B, which dynamically alters the difficulty, bullet density and enemy fleet formations depending on player skill and preference. The experience will change with each playthrough, resulting in some impressive replayability as well as some unpredictable surprises - a rarity in the SHMUP genre.
DoDonPachi Resurrection will ship as a physical deluxe edition at launch, which will include a soundtrack CD featuring remixed tracks from DJ Detonator. Gallingly, however, the super-difficult Black Label Mode will not be included and will instead require a further expenditure as launch DLC. We're a bit miffed about that to be completely honest.
Value, as a whole, is likely to be the major issue when DoDonPachi Resurrection hits UK shelves in November. SHMUP veterans will doubtlessly relish the compulsive drive to continually beat their high scores and strive for 1CC runs, but for many, a boxed release might not be a viable purchase considering the enormous amount of Christmas competition. For those who love all things arcade, though, it's going to be a very merry Christmas indeed.
The King Of Fighters XIII
Even Rising Star Games are willing to admit that The King Of Fighters XII was pants. The previous game won numerous awards at E3 2008 but turned out to be aneurysm-inducingly aggravating, lazy and broken. However, XIII has been redesigned with the fans in mind; putting the fanbase's grievances ahead of making another quick and lazy buck.
KoF XIII will feature over 30 playable characters from throughout the the history of SNK's venerable franchise, and heralds the return of Mai Shiranui and Yuri Sakazaki (who the community have reportedly been clamouring for). Each character has 20 redesigned costumes and colours, which include a selection of hidden classic outfits that can be accessed with the select button. Redesigned animations and the attractive art style makes SNK's latest effort very easy on the eyes; a broad pixel masterpiece rather than a crisp and sharp photograph.
The fighting mechanics have been completely overhauled from the ground up in order to be a faster and more immediate experience that's in line with modern (and more popular) fighters. Unleashing each character's selection of punches and kicks is extremely responsive, and some new NEO MAX super moves are surprisingly simple to pull off in the heat of battle. The action is still very much focused on three vs three tag team matches, with the considerate addition of being able to select which order you'd like your team to enter the ring.
Otherwise, it's familiar, ferocious stuff - but only time will tell whether releasing as a boxed physical edition will guarantee Rising Star and SNK the sales they need to keep the franchise afloat. With Reverge LAbs' Skullgirls set to present an intimidating downloadable challenge on XBLA and PSN, it's bound to be an interesting few months for the fighting genre.