Tag: Namco

The Sega Dreamcast: A 2×12-Year Retrospective

Due to the abysmal performance of Sega's disastrous Saturn console, and not long before its premature cancellation, Sega set about development of their next generation of video game hardware. In an effort to cut costs, and to make sure that the Saturn's successor would be easy to create games for, Sega opted to use preexisting, off-the-shelf PC components and a custom Windows operating system, in favor of more complicated proprietary options. The new console would also share architecture with Sega's own NAOMI arcade hardware, which was developed around the same time, thus all but ensuring it would be the recipient of a steady stream of home-playable arcade hits, pretty much from day one. Finally, Sega decided to give the system a built-in modem for online play and internet access, the first console to include such a feature.

After finalizing the hardware specifications, a public contest was held by Sega to name their new system and "Dreamcast" was selected out of more than 5,000 entries. In order to avoid the same anemic launch that the Saturn had suffered, Sega took steps to have plenty of Dreamcast games available to choose from when the console made its North American debut on 09/09/1999. Sega also acquired American sports game developer Visual Concepts to ensure that the system's library would be adequately stocked with a variety of great sports titles, both at launch, and over the months and potentially years to follow. In addition (and as they did for all of the company's previous consoles), Sega's other internal studios all worked diligently to provide the Dreamcast with a multitude of high-quality first-party fare over the console's life.

Despite making a number of savvy decisions with the design and launch of the Dreamcast, Sega was ultimately unable to sell enough systems to cover their past losses on the Saturn. Nor were they able to gain enough market share to turn the tables on Sony and Nintendo. Eventually, the Dreamcast also began to burden Sega with losses and so, just over a year and a half into its life, they reluctantly exited the console industry altogether. It is said that the candle that burns half as long burns twice as bright. That may have been true in the Dreamcast's case. It's difficult to name another console that was able to amass such an amazingly diverse library of incredible titles over such a short run. Please read on for a list of the very best of these games to ever have graced Sega's final console.

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The Nintendo 3DS: A 12-Year Retrospective

3D Stereoscopy has experienced something of a recurring fad since its discovery, beginning with stereoscopic photograph viewers, all the way back in the mid-1800s. 3D films first rose to prominence in the 1950s, before mostly dying out and then enjoying a somewhat brief resurgence in the 1980s, and then again from the late (20)00s to early '10s. That most recent period of renewed interest in 3D films also gave rise to some new 3D technologies and devices as well, including televisions and, perhaps most notably, the Nintendo 3DS

For decades, Nintendo had invested in and experimented with various types of 3D tech, including their infamously ill-conceived Virtual Boy system, which they released to the public in the mid-90s (before quickly cancelling it within a year's time) Despite their failures with that much-maligned gaming device, Nintendo eventually opted to try one more time, with the successor to their wildly successful DS portable. In order to avoid one of the most common complaints associated with the vast majority of stereoscopic displays (the need for glasses), as well as to try and avoid any more disastrous product failures, Nintendo wisely invested in a somewhat novel approach for what would become their 3DS system. By utilizing a parallax barrier inside the screen of the 3DS, Nintendo was successfully able to generate 3D images completely free of the usual glasses requirement.

Despite this groundbreaking approach to 3D gaming, the 3DS, not unlike its earlier 3D predecessor, got off to a pretty slow start sales-wise (though not nearly to the extent of the Virtual Boy). Luckily for Nintendo, they were able to mostly turn things around with an early price cut and the announcement of incoming downloadable NES and Game Boy Advance classics for the system, some of which were made available at no cost to early adopters. The 3DS eventually went on to become a moderate success for Nintendo, selling more consoles than the GameCube and the N64 combined (though still only managing to move about half as many the record-holding original DS system). As would be expected of just about any Nintendo device, particularly one with such unique stereoscopic 3D capabilities, the 3DS boasted some pretty uniquely excellent games to match. Here are 12 of the very best titles that the 3DS had to offer.

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A game from my past with more meaning than I knew at the time- Wings 2: Aces High

In keeping Greywolfe's theme of games played in childhood that surprise us now, I decided to revisit Namco's 1992 Super Nintendo title, Wings 2: Aces High. By the way this was sold in Europe as Blazing Skies, in case it looks familiar but the name doesn't quite fit for you.

I was twelve years old when I got to play this game for the first time and I fell in love with it because I got to fly a World War One biplane around and participate in dogfights and bomb buildings etc. However I never really payed attention to its historical significance. I only ever thought it was cool to be flying around in what was then a very highly detailed faux 3d environment battling with other planes.Wings 2 - Aces High (U)The story behind Wings 2 is that the player takes part as the leader of a British war plane squadron that's been tasked to hinder Kaiser Wilhelm the second's war efforts. The squadron consists of five pilots, though you'll only ever see one at a time, and if any of them fail a mission and manage to survive they're dishonorably discharged from the air corp. If the player dies during a mission the pilot is given a memorial scene and his medals are displayed if he's procured any from his trials. The whole thing takes place during 1917 in France, of course during World War one. Ultimately the player is confronted by the Red Baron himself, Manfred von Richthofen.

While fighting other planes the player has to search for enemies and perform acrobatic moves to keep them in their sights. Firing your planes machine guns shows a trail of glowing hot ammunition streaming from the front of the aircraft. When those shots connected with the enemy you'd see small bursts to indicate that you'd hit and after a few shots you'd see smoke frothing from the engine and eventually the enemy craft would spin and fall from the sky landing in a great fiery explosion below. Pretty great detail for a 20 plus year old cartridge title.

So when I was playing this at a young age I never took into consideration the fact that these were among some of the first planes to be used as tools of war. And as such carried some of the first pilots to fly in a war. Looking at it now it's amazing that these guys survived any mission they were sent on.

This is a 1917 Nieuport Fighter plane. Shown here in a colorized photo.

These guys were flying around in planes made of wood and covered in canvas. They were the covered wagons of the skies. There was little in the way of warmth for the pilot, perhaps a wool and leather jacket, gloves, a silk scarf and a cap and goggles, so flying in cold weather was as miserable as it was dangerous. The scarves themselves were very important, they were used to keep the pilots goggles clean of oil and exhaust soot and also helped keep chafing away while they had to constantly swivel their necks to keep sight of the enemy.

The planes guns had to be engineered to fire through the beats of the propeller or the pilot would shoot himself down. Bombs were carried on the floor of cockpit and the pilot dropped them by hand while leaning over the side of the aircraft. All while dodging incoming fire from other planes or ground troops depending on how close they had to be to the target, and doing so without a parachute. These guys were arguably the ballsiest, craziest people there were during those times. Each one of them willingly put themselves in control of a slow, under-powered, basically armorless flying target and expected to die during every mission they undertook. And these incredibly brave men were also -inventing- flight maneuvers that are still used today. Unbelievable.

Looking back on what I saw at the time as just a fun flight combat game made me realize that it was so much more. While it isn't a highly realistic simulator like we have today, Wings 2: Aces High did and still does salute the bravery of the pioneers of air warfare from all sides of the conflict.

If you haven't already, You can check out Grewolfe's article here.

[image credit for the 1917 Nieuport fighter here] [That beautiful feature image is by Gary Meyer] [In game screenshot credit here] [This site has a lot of information on WWI aircraft]

New Steam Store Releases: Grandia II

Just in time for its 15th anniversary (and completely as a surprise to me), this week, Grandia II has come to the Steam Store. Already one of my all-time favorite RPGs, this version of the game is even better than I remember. That's because Grandia II Anniversary Edition features upgraded visuals, an extra difficulty setting, Steam Achievements, and an original Japanese voice option.

It doesn't include a soundtrack, though, unfortunately (my original Dreamcast version did). That one small oversight aside, this game is definitely worthy of a purchase. If you've never played it before (or even if you have), I would strongly urge you to give it a look.

Also out this week, Mega Man Legacy Collection (Boo-yah!), a very excellent (and dark) looking sci-fi action platformer, and an action RPG sequel featuring time-travel and evolving video game styles. Celebrate a very welcome 15th anniversary, then proceed further to see more of this week's new releases.

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