Category Archives: Sony PlayStation

Dead or Alive

Virtua Fighter with bouncing physics

Released in 1996, Dead or alive was the fighting game created by Tomobou Itagaki, who is known for hating the Tekken game with a passion.

There are some similarities to the Virtua Fighter series of games by Sega, and have the same input controls and move-sets with Punch, Kick and Guard/Hold.

Characters

The character select screen displays basic stats on the characters and some not-so-useful information like the character’s favorite food and their hobbies. Honestly, this looks more like a dating site profile but does add a bit of personality to the fighters.

As with other fighting games, each character has their own unique fighting style which is tailored to their culture, and there are some obvious inspirations with Jann Lee being based off Bruce Lee.

  • Kasumi: The ginger ninja, or runaway shinobi according to the games lore
  • Zack: Dennis Rodman-inspired character who has a kickboxer moveset. The first opponent who stage is set on a tropical beach set at sunset
  • Ryu: Another Ninja, from the game Ninja Gaiden. The third opponent set on a rural Japanese stage with a hut in the background
  • Bayman: A Russian henchman/assassin, the sixth opponent whose stage is set in an aircraft hangar since he is supposed to have a military background
  • Jann Lee: Bruce Lee, similar to Law from Tekken. The fourth opponent and shares a stage with Tina, which is an American downtown highway set at night
  • Tina Armstrong: A wrestler and daughter of Bass Armstrong
  • Gen Fu: Old dude who is a master in Kung Fu, like Wang from Tekken
  • Lei Fang: A Chinese fortune teller turned fighter
  • PlayStation Only
    • Ayane: Kasumi’s half-sister who are rivals. Looks like a feminist
  • Bass Armstrong: Tina’s father, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage crossover

Versions

Dead or Alive was released initially in arcades in 1996, and then ported to home consoles in 1997

Arcade (Original)

The game runs on the Sega Model 2 arcade board and is very similar to Virtua Fighter 2 which also ran on the same board. The control movesets and even the background stages are similar. This version of the game renders its stage background in full 3D, allowing for certain moves that use the background elements like a couple of Ryu’s moves on his stage. There is also a ‘Danger Zone’ around the stage that when your opponent lands on it, will be propelled into the air with a mild explosion, dealing some damage.

Sega Saturn

The game was ported to the Saturn and was the first home port of the game. This version is a mostly faithful conversion of the arcade original, with some changes taking place due to the less capabilities of the Saturn 3D hardware. Still, the Saturn has always done good with fighting games, and Dead Or Alive is no exception to this, yet this version of the game was only released in Japan.

There are a few menu options added, with a Time Attack mode being similar to arcade mode but with the goal of completing rounds in the shortest amount of time. V.S being versus, allowing a second player to fight head to head. Survival mode has you fight against multiple opponents, one at a time, using a single life bar. Kumite is somewhat a sparing mode where you can fight from 30/60/100 opponents which the goal of having the highest winning percentage. Lastly, there is also a standard training mode that lets you practice each character move, and test against opponents’ defensive moves.

Like other Arcade to Saturn conversions, an opening FMV is included which gives a quick montage of the characters.

As the Saturn version of the game was only released in Japan, I would avoid this version and get the original Xbox version instead, which is the same game but with added online play and cleaned-up graphics.

Sony PlayStation

An updated version of the game was released for the PlayStation, which came with updated moves, two new added characters & backgrounds. This is considered a remake of sorts, as the stage background and music have been redesigned and are vastly different compared to the Sega versions. Two new characters have also been added which also feature in the arcade version, Dead or Alive ++, not the Model 2 version.

This version also includes the training, Kumite, Survival and Vs modes.

Arcade (Dead Or Alive++)

Another arcade version was released, this time on the PlayStation-based ZN arcade board, and shared a lot of similarities with the PlayStation home release. Each fighter has 4 different costumes to choose from, and a tag match mode has been added. New characters, Bass Armstong and Ayane have been added to this version.

Xbox

This version was based of the original Sega Saturn release but takes advantage of the Xbox hardware. However, id say it pales graphically compared to the Model 2 version which features full 3D background objects, whilst the Xbox version features the static 2D backgrounds (no moving objects in the background, but some textures are animated) the Saturn uses. Still the character’s models and textures are more detailed, and Xbox Live support is included in this port of the game to allow online multiplayer. This has since been shut down following Microsoft discontinuing support for original Xbox Live titles in 2010.

Still, you miss out on Bass Armstrong and Ayane which is an odd omission.

This version of the game is playable on the Xbox One and Series consoles and can be brought online. You can also play on the Xbox 360 with a compatible hard drive.

Conclusion

Dead Or Alive came at a very hard time for Tecmo, who was facing bankruptcy prior to the release, hence the name of Dead Or Alive.

Dead Or Alive would be followed up in 1999, with the release of Dead or Alive 2 for the Dreamcast, and the PlayStation 2. It would be the last game released for the arcades. Future installments would be released on the Xbox exclusively, before returning to multiplatform with Dead or Alive 5.

Ridge Racer V

One of the launch titles for the PlayStation 2, Sony’s follow-up to the popular PlayStation. Like the first Ridge Racer, this was one of the first games developed and released for the PlayStation 2 and was built from the ground up for that console. Ridge Racer V brought us 60fps which was a staple of the arcade versions but was something that the home console versions had always lacked. Although Namco did treat us to a 60fps build of the original Ridge Racer that was bundled as a bound for Ridge Racer Type 4, a lot of sacrifices had to be made in order to reach that frame rate. RRV gives us an insight as to what the PS2 is capable of, and what to expect from a new generation of racing games.

Although it seems Namco has forgotten to count, with Ridge Racer V being the fifth console installment, it’s not counting the three arcade titles, plus you have Ridge Racer 6 which was released in the same year. The numbering scheme is about as inconsistent s as Microsoft’s

Ouch, you could cut yourself on those jaggies (look at the neck)

Oh and no Reiko, instead she was replaced by Ai Fukami (Fuck-a-me) who appears in the intro. Unlike the R4 intro, the cars don’t stop for Ai as they did for Reiko.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhQhZyNKqhM

Straight away you will notice how sleek the menu and navigation system are compared to previous titles, borrowing design concepts from Tokyo Racer Drift which was released on the Dreamcast. Each menu selection plays its own quick animation which gives a nice touch to the game, and reminds me of the menu icons from the original WipEout that was created by the Designers Republic.

Whilst the game gives the appearance of reflections, they are not real-time but the game casts generic reflections of trees onto the car to simulate it. This is affected by your car’s position on the track, steer to the left and on the edge of the track and you can see the reflection of trees on your car, even if that part of the track has no trees at all. I guess real-time reflections were beyond the scope of the PS2 at the time of release, or Namco didn’t have enough time to implement this.
Speaking of graphics, you will know how aliased the cars are in addition to the track objects. The PS2 had an unconventional form of AA which took developers some time to get used to and as a result, some games have bad aliasing due to how their field scanning is implemented, as the games run exclusively in interlaced mode. I’m not sure if later releases (Greatest Hits, Platinum in Europe) fix this, or if it’s fixed in the Arcade Battle version.

Race Modes

GP Selection Screen

Grand Prix

Like in R4, RRV features its own unique Grand Prix. This is a departure from one we saw in R4 with the four teams being missing along with their managers can choose your own team name and colour but that’s it. As for the cars, we have a choice of different car manufacturers and models, including Danver & Himmel. These are fictional brands that are used throughout the Ridge Racer, and possibly in Namco’s other games.
Each car has its own unique stats, including top speed, acceleration, handling and control style (Grip or Drift).

Standard Basis GP: Consists of four rounds of different courses, at first you must place 4th or higher to progress to the next found, then 3rd, then 2nd and then 1st for the last race. Winning this GP will unlock a new car based on the machine you have chosen to race with which can then be used in the Extra GP’s. You will also win a trophy, which can be viewed later in the game.
Alternatively known as Frontal GP in Normal difficulty and Fountain GP in Hard mode.

Extra Heroic GP: Tracks have been shuffled around, finish standings are the same as the basis GP, only you now race on the extra car you unlocked.
Known as Bravely GP in normal, and Spartan GP on hard difficulty.

Extra Blast GP: This series uses a sudden death type of gameplay, where if the clock timer runs out, then you are ejected from the race. As you race you will pass through checkpoints which extend the time. If you are familiar with the arcade versions of Ridge racer this will seem familiar to you. For these races, you will still need to satisfy the qualifying rank to progress. Known as Gale Gp in normal, and Tornado GP on hard.

Extra Knight GP: These tracks are now completed in reverse mode.
Also known as Balon GP on normal, and Duke GP on hard.

Extra Throne GP: You race on the airport oval track, with your car being equipped with an oval engine. This is a single long near-circle-shaped track similar to the Rage Racer tracks. Top speed is the priority here.
Known as Monarch GP on normal and Tyrant GP on hard difficulty.

Maxim class: This is unlocked by beating the Tyrant GP on hard difficulty, which opens up the Ultimate GP.

Music track selection screen

Duel

Unlocked later in the game, it’s a 1 vs 1 mode against another opponent. When you beat them, you unlock their car which can then be used in the extra GP.

Time Attack

The goal here is to beat the rival times and come in first, which will unlock that rival for challenge dal. This will also increase your car standing number.

Car selection screen

Other Modes

  • Design: Similar in concept to the decal feature in R4, you can customize the colour and patterns on your team’s car. Here you can only change the colour combinations.
  • Garage: View cars that you have unlocked by winning the GP races with that car, along with any unlocked engines.
  • Records: Best lap times and the player names for time attack mode

Courses

In GP Mode, a quick tour of the race track is played

RRV included a brand new set of courses, most of which are based on the original course from the original Ridge Racer game, But these new courses are interlinked somewhat, with many taking place within Ridge City but branching out into different paths that take you into a different direction, with some leading you into the main downtown whilst others take you onto the highway. The tracks are fixed, it’s not an open world like Burnout paradise, instead different paths are blocked off depending on which track you select, very similar to how it functioned in Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4.
Speaking of which, none of the tracks featured in those games appear in Ridge Racer V, only the track from the first arcade game, or which many of the RRV tracks are based around.

Despite this, you get a good feel of the Ridge Racer city,
Some tracks can be raced at different times of day, such as Day, evening & night. Unlike the first Ridge racer game where the sun will set or rise during the race which results in a day/night cycle, The sky will remain constant through the race, giving the game a realistic passage of time. This is the case even with the 99 trial.

  • Park Town: Probably the first track in RRV you will race if you follow the Grand Prix, this starts off the same as Above The City but then branches out to a different track which gives an alternative view of Ridge City, of which the scenery consists of high-rise building. A tram/monorail system can be seen in some parts of the track.
  • Outer Pass: This track looks a lot like the original track from Ridge Racer judging from the course map, but it’s set using the background roads that we can finally race in. It starts off on the bottom road where you can see the onpass ramp for Park Town and Sunny Beech before it leads to its own side of the tunnel. Towards the end it branches back to the original track before diverting back to its own path. A few sharp turns make this track more challenging and there’s an extra turn where the seaside part is.
  • Above the City: Starts off the same as park town but branches to its own path, again filled with buildings and highways, although there are a few parts of open grass and trees, it’s clear there’s less scenery diversity than in R4.
  • Bayside Line: One of the longest tracks in the game, complete with sharp turns. This one takes you out near the highway and then branches back to the start of Outer Pass.
  • Greenfield: The advanced track from the original Ridge Racer, now updated with modern visuals.
  • Sunny Beach: It’s the original track that we all know and love, only now its been modernized 7 years later, and has been remastered of sorts. Compared to the original there’s been a few changes with different skyscrapers and building placement, and minor changes to the shops opposite the beach area where the first checkpoint resides. Sadly the Pac-Man easter egg no longer appears in the building at night.
  • Airport Oval: Unlike other tracks, this one takes place independent of the other tracks, it’s a large oval-shaped track designed for top speeds, although there is a sharp turn that will require a drift, depending on your car. Since the other tracks feature low-flying airplanes, it can be assumed this is the Ridge City airport.

Additional Notes

This is one of the games that insist on funning in 480i mode (or 440i mode, PS2 games use this weird resolution) and trying to force it to 480p using GSMode results in only half the screen being rendered, as such there is no official way to run this game in progressive mode.
It’s a shame because this game has some bad aliasing, and could benefit better from progressive scan. Even the lap timer suffers from noticeable interlacing effects.

The game does not fare better with emulation either, with various texture and shading issues in PCSX2, and even had issues running in Sony’s official PS2 emulators on the PS3 and PS4. Supposedly this is due to how Namco implemented the texturing and shading for these games:
https://github.com/PCSX2/pcsx2/issues/2427#issuecomment-590020696
https://github.com/PCSX2/pcsx2/issues/3278
The intro sequence is also messed up and requires switching between hardware and software rendering modes in order to display.

Saving to a memory card larger than 8MB may take a while to read and write. With a 128Mb card it took a minute to save the game. I’m not sure if replacing the MCM IOP driver could help with this, or just break/corrupt the file entirely.

Conclusion

Whilst in some regard it’s a step back from Ridge Race Type 4 with the reduction of cars, tracks and the story mode, you have to take in mind the game was possibly developed in a short timeframe that R4 had, and Namco’s desire to have is a launch title for the PS2, the 1999 copyright date is very telling of this and one of the few games on the PS2 to have this copyright date. As a launch title it makes a huge splash with its high resolution, 60fps gameplay, and the intro sequence with Ai, possibly the highest poly model on the PS2.
But this would be the only installment of Ridge Racer for the PlayStation 2 whilst the original PlayStation enjoy four mainline Ridge Racer titles, the PS2 would only have RRV and R: Racing Evolution which is more of a spinoff rather than a follow-up game. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that a proper followup to Ridge Racer would be released for the PlayStation Portable. And even then, it’s considered a compilation game rather than a true sequel. Ridge Racer 6 for the Xbox 360 would be the proper sequel with unique tracks. As for why only one title? Possibly due to higher budgets required for PS2 development and the popularity of sim racing games like Gran Turismo. Hopefully we get another proper Ridge Racer titles from Namco at some point in the future.

TopGear Daredevil

Shortened to TG daredevil in PAL-land

One of the launch period games for Sony’s PlayStation 2 and part of the Top Gear series of games (Not the TV show) although this one was developed by Papaya Studio’s

The Trailer/opening

From the trailer and the title of the game you would think this would be some sort of Burnout or Need 4 Speed type game, as the trailer features two racers having a dual set in the urban city-like landscape (think Midtown Madness) with some optional stunt tasks,

The actual gameplay

You just drive around collecting cunting coins. That’s it

The single-player mode has the choice of four locations, Rome, London, Tokyo and San Francisco. The objectives are the same, collect around 20 0r 25 coins before time runs out in order to progress and unlock the next level. There are a few powerups scattered around the level which will help make it easier to complete the level.
The locations are nice and detailed and have a GTA-esque quality to them, certain street objects can be destroyed and you can drive into certain buildings, some of which contain hidden coins or powerups. You can say the graphics are nice until you play Crazy Taxi or San Francisco Rush on the Dreamcast, which blows it out the water and that features pedestrians also. Then again maybe the game was set in 2020 and the pedestrians were in a lockdown.
Still, there’s a nice blur effect that appears when you complete a level, try doing that on the Dreamcast…

There are a choice of cars throughout the game, many of which will have to be unlocked. I believe this is done by completing the levels, but might also be achieved by collecting the spanner items hidden per map.

Still, where are the races? Or the duels? Or the stunt modes?

MultiPlayer

A lot of the content is hidden behind the multiplayer mode, which is fine if you have a companion to play with. Would it be too much to ask to have an AI player, at least to compete against?

Conclusion

There are games that do this better, like Midtown Madness, San Francisco Rush, or Midnight Club. The main appeal of this game would have been its launch title status for the PS2, something to play on your new console whilst you waited for better games to be released.

Fun Fact: The game’s font is based on the Ren & Stimpy fontface


The ending cutscene

Fantavision

A PS2 techdemo turned into a game

It’s a simple game where you set off fireworks by combining various flares of the same colour together to set off a chain. You are limited to chaining flairs of the same colour together, but you can use the rainbow-colored flairs to combine flairs of a different colour. Bonus can also be combined to increase your score, and some will help spell out the word Starmine, which is used to enable a special mode to increase your score.
If you fail to set off a flare, you will lose a certain amount of life, which the game ends when this has been depleted, You can lose life even by chaining a few flares and have them go out since flares will last on screen for around 10 seconds. This does give a risk element when combining flares of multiple colours and means you will have to gamble between setting off your flares or waiting to see if you can increase your chain combo.

There is also a two-player mode which is similar to the single-player mode, but players have the ability to swap the screen with a unique powerup.

Red/Green/Blue: Common flair colours
Wild flare: this will be white and is one of the flairs that allows you to combine flares of different colors
Star item: Adds a letter to the Starmine meter below, appears as a star
Energy item: Replenishes your life meter, appears as the letter E
Bonus point: Multiplies your bonus score, appears as a letter B

After you complete a level, the game will automatically save a replay to your memory card which you can replay later, and can apply different effects and change the angle and the weather whilst you watch the fireworks.

When you complete all eight levels, the extra section is unlocked.

Music and Region differences

Each region has its own unique soundtrack which was meant to reflect the popular genre of the time. Europe as dance/trance-like music whilst the US has NewWave/Pop music. These also carry over into the cutscenes of the game.

On the topic of sound, this is one of the games that does not output audio over the PS2 Optical audio connection (sometimes known as S/PDIF) and you have to revert to the AV Multi out audio, I’m not sure why this is, or if the game is outputting audio my AV Receiver (Yamaha RX-V481D) does not understand.

Cutscenes

I’m not sure what relevance these have to the game, they seem to appear after every few levels showing a sub-urban family playing and talking with one another, set in a 1950s period,, yet you can see them playing with PS2 controllers. Since the later levels feature you being in space, maybe it’s a reference to the 1950s space race.

I’m more confused why the main menu has phonetic pronunciations of the above text?

A PS2 classic

Sony later re-released this game onto the PS4 as part of the PS2 classics, which is a collection of PS2 games running in an emulator. Here the game benefits from improved graphics as the emulator runs in a higher resolution and trophies.

Depending on your PSN Store region, you will get either the EU/ US or Japan version of the game with its own soundtrack. This can also mean if you’re in Europe, you’re still getting the PAL version of the game, complete with its 50Hz goodness, although it’s very hard to notice on the emulator (The PS4 will output 60Hz regardless of when the game is running)

Conclusion

Considering this was originally conceived as a tech demo, it’s a good title if you disregard the wacky cutscenes, and its music makes it compelling to play. Fantavision would be the only game of its type to be released on Sony, no sequels or ports to other systems were developed, shame since it would be ideal on the PSP or as a PSN exclusive title, a simple puzzle game that’s easy to get into.

Ridge Racer Type 4

Widely considered to be the best in the Ridge Racer series, its soundtrack and the opening FMV are defiantly most memorable. This would be the last Ridge Racer game released for the original PlayStation.

The game improves on the mechanics from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, complete with eight brand new tracks and a soundtrack that’s a complete departure from the drum & bass themes from the previous instalment. Graphics-wise the game sees a shift that pushes the PlayStation hardware to the extreme, thanks to the use of Gouraud shading that gives a shade of depth to the polygons, giving the game a realistic appearance.

To keep a stable 30FPS, which was the game’s target framerate, certain changes are made to the enemy opponents, where you only have up to 4 cars on screen at the same time, of which the AI-controlled cars are more spread out across the track. In contrast to the early titles where you will pass multiple cars in the same area, in R4 the opponents feel spaced out and you pass by them in a linear fashion.

Grand Prix

There is a story mode of some sort, you can choose from four teams that will have their own unique manager representing the company. Here you have a direct dialog that gives more detail into the backstory of the teams and how they tie into the Ridge Racer Grand Prix. After every race you will have a meeting with them and their dialog is dependent on how you perform (which place you finish in). There is no dialogue for when you lose or fail to qualify, as the game will prompt you to retry or will go straight to a game over screen.
The team choice will also affect the ending epilogue (although on some emulators there is a bug that causes only the MMM epilogue to play)

The Teams

Four teams come with Ridge Racer Type 4, all of which are some reference to another Namco arcade game franchise.

Conversation with your team representative

Micro Mouse Mappy: A French racing team led by Sophie Chevalier. The easiest team in the game which is recommended for new players.
R.T.S: Lead by Enki Gilbert, He starts off as a perfectionist, expecting you to come in first place in every race but eventually softens u after learning of the Pac Racing Club’s entry. Its implied the manager looks to the player as a second son, due to his actual son being involved in an accident that cost him his life. Towards the end he wants the player to take the race easy, fearing history could repeat again like the death of his son.
Dig Racing Team: My favorite team since I like the underdog teams, They’re a struggling team that is under budget and as a result will enable to provide fast cars from a majority of the races, meaning you will need to rely on skill in order to get ahead of the competition.
Pac Racing Club: Lead by Shinji Yazaki, seems to only care about the results of the race, but will open up over time about a past Gran Prix where Enki’s son died during a race in which he was involved in.

The Cars

There are lots of cars included in the game, over 320 in fact. Many of these are unlocked by beating the Grand Prix modes across various teams and car manufacturers.

Garage cars are the cars you unlock during the Grand Prix events and can come from four manufacturers, across four different teams, giving 16 different design variations. However the game will reward you with a different car depending on your performance of the early events, ie, if you come 1st 2nd or 3rd during the first heat, will influence the type of upgrades you have, which the game counts as an additional car. Therefore in order to unlock all cars, you have to play the Grand Prix with the same manufacturer/team combo several times, coming deliberately in 3rd/2nd and 1st place for each run.
The garage can only hold a limited amount of cars, and will you have to swap out locked cars in order to play them in time attack or link/multiplayer.

There are also a few preset cars that are already unlocked for use in time attack or for two-player mode, these are also in grip or drift varieties. These don’t seem to have any defined name, other than Preset G3, Preset D4, etc. Most players will refer to them by the color, which comes in (red, black/Grey, white or yellow)

And then you have the cars unlocked using the extra trials, you can only unlock these by winning a Grand Prix with a specific manufacturer, although the team does not matter much, except for the performance tuning.

The Tracks

  • Helter Skelter: The first track you will probably play, set in Japan Yokohama and shares with Out Of Blue. A good track that serves as an introduction to the game’s drift mechanics and style. The song Pearl Blue Soul always plays on this course.
  • Wonderhill: The second track that is played on a late spring afternoon that gives a sunset sky. This track shares with the Heaven and Hell track that appears later in the game. The music on this track can differ if you are racing with the RTS team (Revlimit Funk plays), otherwise Naked Glow will usually play, and it really suits this course
  • Edge of the Earth: Set at night in an airport that leads into a small city, one of my favourite courses since you can go full speed, but also must be mindful of the courses.
  • Out of Blue: In contrast to the previous track, this one is set very early in the morning and shared with Helter Skelter, with OOB separating into its own path, which features locations near a shipping dock. Some of the scenery here reminds me of the original Ridge Racer track. The corners on this track can be brutal, so make sure you are used to the car’s handling.
  • Phantomile: It’s a very short course in comparison to the others, and the corners are rather savage. The Motor Species song always plays for this course. Also just so happens this race is set on the same day as my birthday.
  • Brightest Nite: Another course set at night time, this one also shares with Edge of the Earth. This one is set later at night and features a huge drop towards the end of the tack
  • Heaven and Hell: Shares with Heaven and hell, although it’s set earlier in the day which gives off a different feel of the track, being much brighter.
  • Shooting Hoops: The last track to race and it’s a good and simple one, set at midnight of December 31st 1999 on the eve of the new millennium. The song Movin’ in Circles always plays for this track and on the last lap you can see fireworks being set off as the new millennium is upon us (Cue airplanes falling out of the sky due to the Y2K bug)

Vs and Link Battle

Link battle adds the ability to play with up to four different players, across two consoles. This is similar to how early titles handled multiplayer where two consoles are connected together using the official link cable, along with two displays and copies of the game.
If the game detects another console connected using the serial link cable, the link battle option will appear in the main menu. Sadly in PCSX-R whilst we are able to establish a link between two instances with a Linux Virtual machine (running Ubuntu & Pop_OS), the speed is incredibly slow and unplayable, and whilst we can navigate the link mode menus, the game will display an error message when we try to start the race.

The regular VS mode can also be accessed by having two controllers connected to the console, where the game plays in a split-screen mode allowing for both racers to race at the same time through one console. You can combine this with the link battle to have a total of four players in a single race, with two players per console.

The multitap is not supported here, only a maximum of two players per console.

Further Information

Decal Editor

Like in Rage Racer, a decal can be created and applied to your team’s car which can be any pattern. Here the PlayStation mouse is best used

The Namco NeGcon is fully supported for steering and acceleration, in addition to the DualShock analog sticks.

A visual blur effect can be applied when a race is being replayed, activated by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons.

Tekken 3

The attitude era of Tekken

Taking place several years after Tekken 2 and featured several new characters and a few from the previous instalment. Tekken 3 introduces several new gameplay mechanics that take advantage of the 3D fighting environment, with the ability to sidestep

Versions

Like earlier installments, Tekken 3 was released to arcades first in 1996, then ported to the PlayStation in 1998

Arcade

The arcade version ran on an upgraded PlayStation based board, known as Namco System 12 which featured a higher clocked processor (48MHz vs 33Mhz) and slightly more VRAM (2MB vs 1MB) This game Tekken 3 had the ability to run at a higher polygon count allowing for more detailed characters, along with its background stages to me more detailed thanks to the increased VRAM. This gives a 3D-like effect to the background, and you can see them being more vibrant, especially on Howoarg’s stage. On King’s stage, there is a helicopter that does not show up in the console released, and on Xiayou’s stage, a moving carousel can be seen.
Sound is provided by the Namco C352, accompanied by the Hitachi H8 3002 processor. A unique feature of the sound is that the background music progress depending on the current round your character is on, reach round 2, and the sound changes to another verse/segment, round 3 and another segment plays before looping back to the start segment for round 4 onwards. This all depends if you have configured the game to have 3 or more rounds, by default Tekken 3 is set for two rounds (A third is possible if the opponent wins).

At the start, there are only a few characters playable, with the rest being locked/hidden. Namco implemented a time-based unlock that would unlock characters depending on the amount of time the arcade machine was left on. Thankfully there is a MAME cheat to unlock all characters instantly, so you don’t need to leave the emulator running. Also, all hidden characters share the same background music, due to how uncommon they are and the limited ROM storage, whilst the PlayStation port gives them their own unique music as part of the arranged soundtrack.


The arcade release would later be ported to the PS2, as part of a bonus feature of Tekken 5, This one retains all the graphic enhancements from the System 12 version.
The original Japanese arcade release had Jun as her own character, with her own portrait panel. But her character model uses Nina’s and has Jin’s move set. She will appear in the attract screen character usage statistics once you have completed arcade mode as her. Sake is another unused character but this one is more incomplete. Later arcade releases remove her and Sake as playable characters, and they do not appear at all in any home console release.

PlayStation

Compared to other Tekken arcade to console releases, Tekken 3 required some conversion time as the home console was a lot more contained compared to the arcade version. One notable difference was the change in the stage background, opting for a more flat box-like look compared to the detailed arcade background, The character models also went to a polygon diet and a minor reduction in resolution to keep the game running at 60fps.
However Namco made up for it with the added content, with a newly arranged soundtrack that remixes samples from the arcade original soundtrack, plus each unlockable character has their own background audio track.

Tekken Force is a new game mode that puts you in a beat-em-up environment. Your character has to progress through a series of stages (4 in total). Each stage has a boss character which will be one of the playable Tekken characters before they face Heiachi at the final stage.


Additional game modes include team battle mode, time attack mode, and a movie/music player that can playback ending movies for unlocked characters, and also supports Tekken 2 and the original Tekken if an unlocked save file is found.

Tekken 3 remains one of my favorite fighting games and is a joy to go back and play every now and then, for both the arcade and home versions. Whilst I still enjoy the modern Tekken games, they seem to be a bit too heavy and take a while to load and to get into a game. Tekken 6’s load times were horrible, even after installing it to an SSD.

Quick Comparison

X-Squad

One of the PS2 launch titles, try doing this on a Dreamcast

A third person sort of FPS where you shoot stuff. The main plot of the game is set in the year 2037, terrorists have taken over a military base and it’s up to the X-Squad to restore it, following the failure of the previous W-Squad mentioned in the game.

The game is similar in concept to SOCOM and Ghost Recon where you can issue squad commands to your teammates, typically 3 members. These are fairly basic as you can only command them to be oppressive or stealth/defensive.

The game UI, screams early 2000 era design and is where you can manage your inventory. At the end of each level you will earn points depending on the difficulty the level was completed at. You can use these to purchase new weapons, ammunition, shields and gadgets to help complete the next level. You can also find pickups, like leftover ammunition when you kill an enemy to keep your character going.

You can also manage your teammates inventories, and can juggle weapons, health kits between them.

The Squad

John Ash Connors: The main character and the only character you can control. Only 26 years old and has grey/silver hair.

Maya Esteves: One of your teammates who is with you the most, has a tendency to get shot and run out of health, which requires you to constantly transfer health packs to keep her in the game

Judd: A large son of a bitch, standing 6ft 8 and weighing 250 pounds. For his height he appears out of scale since compared to his squad mates, appearing only slightly taller.

Melinda Swanson: Not one for conversation from going by the cutscenes, both her and Judd will occasionally go and do their own thing mid-mission, leaving you stuck with Maya

Colonel Clifford: You encounter this geezer midway through level 4 and he becomes a teammate for the rest of levels 4 and 5. Although his health indicator is set on yellow, he cannot die thankfully, but he ain’t a good shooter.

Dr. Biana: Not a direct squadmate but you encounter her often. Walks around with a briefcase and talks about some Medusa project

As mentioned, Your squadmates can be ordered around to some extent, by giving them commands. You can choose for them to be offensive where they will attack when they come into contact with enemies, or defence/stealth where they will only shoot when attacked.
Each member has a limited amount of weight they can handle, which affects the number of weapons they can carry, with Judd being able to carry the most. It’s best to leave the heavy weapons with him.

The game gives off a very Unreal Tournament / Perfect Dark-like vibe when you look at the level design and the electronic/techno-inspired background music. The main characters also look like UT player models. Considering UT came out one year before this game did (1999), you can see they were influenced by it.

Levels

There are 9 levels in total

Most levels consist of you going from one area to another, in order to get to the end. Many have areas blocked off and require you to find a switch in order to unlock the door/lasers in order to progress through, some of which are located on the exact opposite of the level.

A Switch, you will encounter this often


The design of the levels isn’t very diverse, with you running around an underground tunnel/area. There seem to be no areas set outside

  • Level 1: Set in a waste disposal facility, a pleasant start to the game and an introduction to the game mechanics.
  • Level 2: Has nice chilled music to listen to as you explore the level which is nice since it starts off in a sewer and ends in a waste disposal unit.
  • Level 3: This one gets frustrating, since you are stuck in an ugly maze-like environment, it’s easy to get confused due to how similar the corridors look, with the only major difference being the floor colour. It took me half an hour to find all the switches needed to progress. There’s no end boss but you do have to free the prisoners at the end.
  • Level 4: Set in an abandoned tramway, here you meet the cornel and his side chick for the first time. The objective here is to escort the two of them to the lab using the tram tunnels. The end boss of this level is a horde of guards, so make sure you have plenty of ammo and health kits.
  • Level 5: We battle our way in a laboratory, this time we are missing Judd, who has been replaced with Clifford
  • Level 6: More of the same, it’s set in some sort of a recreation area, although it looks just the same as the other areas. Boss level is set again a large tank, of which your teammates will be incapacitated almost immediately.
  • Level 7: There are a few areas where you will be ambushed and will have enemies firing from all sides, thankfully there are spaces where you can take cover, although try telling your AI teammates that.
  • Level 8: This one was a bit awkward as some corridors are a bit tight, and some are set near ledges where you can fall to your death. You simply walk around the map flipping switches until you unlock the least door. There is one switch that is placed in an awkward spot, where your character can easily fall through and die. There’s no jump button so you have to run over the gap and hope for the best. The end boss is brutal, you get ambushed by four enemies that will continuously respawn even if you kill them, and Simpson who is equipped with an overpowered weapon.
  • Level 9: This is where the game shits itself. At the start, you have to contend with enemies that are triple shields, and a good amount of ammo is wasted just having to deal with these. Then you have a boss battle with a large chopper, which will fire heat-seeking missiles repeatedly. At this point the game becomes a glitch fest, in one instance I got landed with a Game Over screen even though my character was still moving and my health bar still have some life it in, Other times my character was alive but the camera had glitched out to an overhead view and was unable to shoot.

I’d say the game was rushed towards the later levels since there are quite a few glitches. Even in the ending cutscene on Youtube they had issues animating the mouth of the characters

Misc Notes

The game only supports 4:3 output, no widescreen here.

From browsing the games disc, Internally the game seems to compress most files into multiple BZP archives, this includes the levels and the opening movies themselves. I have not found a way to decompress these files, and its likely an internal format that EA/Square use.

Links

EA X-Squad Homepage

R.I.P

The Simpsons Wrestling

It was the blurst of Simpsons games…

Poor Homer

A simple wrestling game inspired by the attitude era of WWE (or WWF), although the wrestling mechanic is implemented loosely. Matches are set in the giant ring set in various locations across Springfield, complete with their own theme tune music. background characters can be heard and will react to attacks you and your opponent will make.
Pinning is very basic and is how you win a match, you can pin everywhere and there is no way to block or reverse attacks. As such it’s not as complex as the WWE wrestling games.

Main menu

There are a few campaign options that are unlocked sequentially, these are a series of matches that you must play to unlock new characters and to complete the game.

The VS/Exhibition mode is greyed out and needs a second controller to be plugged in to be selectable.

Gameplay

The type of attacks that can be done is determined by the energy/stamina bar, which depletes when you execute a move.

Strike: done by pressing the Square button, deals a basic strike attack. When you have a 4 hit combo you can knock your opponent to the ground
Long Range / Alt Attack: Done by pressing the Triangle button, your character will typically throw or shoot a weapon.
Special: Done using the circle button, this takes a lot of energy but deals a lot of damage, or will unleash a series of uninterruptable attacks on your opponent.

Taunt: Knocking out an opponent gives you one taunt letter, collecting all five allows you to taunt your opponent which will stunt them and gives you temporally invulnerability.

Other/Combo attacks

Grappling is possible by pressing L1 when you are next to an opponent, you can then execute a grapple move.

The Cross button will allow your character to jump, and they can combine an attack using the Square, Triangle, or Circle buttons

Lastly, you can also attack using the ropes, which allows your character to execute unique moves, simply run into the ropes and press the desired attack button.

Charicters

  • Barney: The town drunk, fights with a glass full of beer and belches toxic gas that will reduce your health
  • Krustry: Throws creme pies and can summon a huge hammer as an attack.
  • Willie: Can set traps like a beartrap, a rake or garden scissors,
  • Apu: Likes to use the jump attack, a lot. Will sometimes throw his trademark squishee. Special attacks seems to be him having some sort of seizure.
  • Homer: Has a basic attack and can deploy bowling balls that roll throughout the ring, has special attat that will transform into a larger sized Homer who will deal more damage
  • Marge: Can deploy Maggie who will hold opponents to slow then down, marge can then wack em with her frying pan or headbutt them with her hair
  • Bart: Special attack is him rolling on a skateboard, can also fire using his
  • Lisa: Plays a saxophone that when done correctly, will stun the opponent character, must have a full energy bar to do this.
  • Moe: Has very fast attacks and can throw flaming Moe’s, which resolt in fire for a few seconds
  • Frink: Pretty strong character, can deploy random objects like a homing rocket, an exploding robot or an exploding mine
  • Bumblebee Man: Ok but has a fucking annoying pet chuwaw dog that will bite your charicter
  • Flanders: This is the character that breaks the game, most of his attacks are ok except for one where lighting bolds strike your character, draining your health unless you keep moving. His throw attacks are flying bibles which circle round the ring until they hit your character (I’ve heard of bible bashing but homing bibles takes it to another level). And to top it off he gets an extra life as when you try to pin him, he will resurrect back to life. Really don’t know what they were thinking with Flanders here. The only way to beat him is through luck.
  • Smithers: Another overpowered character, but is more fair than Flanders. Smithers can only be played in single player and has his own stage. Mr Burns will throw what appears to be radioactive mini-nukes into the ring which only affect your charicter, Smithers does not take any damage. Perhaps prolonged exposure has made him immune to the effects?
  • Kang & Kodos: The space aliens who have their own stage, these charicters are quite large and occupy a lot of space in the ring

Conclusion

As a wrestling game is a poor title, since it very liberally uses the wrestling genre, there are no ring-outs. Really if you’re looking for a good wrestling game, your not gonna get it with The Simpsons, and why would you expect anything more? Calling it one of the worst games ever is misleading, as there is fun to be had here, and what the game lacks in graphics it makes up with its soundtrack.
But for what it is, a Simpsons game is pretty ok, and worth a play if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. And it’s a lot more fun in Vs mode rather than single player, which can get mundane after a few minutes.


Also, why did we only get one Simpsons game on the PlayStation? (Technically two, Simpsons Bowling was an arcade game running on PS1 based hardware) Both were at the prime in the late 90s so you’d think we get a few games on the PlayStation, instead, titles like Virtual Springfield ended up exclusive on PC platforms like Windows and MacOS.

Ridge Racer Revolution

The follow-up to the PlayStation launch classic

Ridge Raver Revolution builds upon the original Ridge Racer game, set with a new course being added with a few variations. All three tracks are similar in how they start, but branch out into different directions and are named by the difficulty of the track itself (Novice, Advanced, Expert).

As with the first game, there is support for the NeGcon controller, so make sure to enable it in your emulator if you wish to take advantage of analogue steering.

Race Modes

Race: Normal racing mode, race 3 laps around the track and finish in 1st place for each one.
Time Trial: Same as Race mode but you have no opponents, the objective is to get the fastest lap time for each track. I’ve always found these modes boarding and don’t really play these much. Completing these modes will unlock a new car.
Free: You can run as many courses as you like. When you reach 99 laps, the lap counter display will stay fixed at 99 laps.

In terms of gameplay, it’s very similar to the original game, with the same graphics style and mostly the same drifting mechanics. Therefore you could consider this as a standalone expansion pack of sorts.

The soundtrack is the exact same as Ridge Racer 2 was released for the arcade, however, Ridge Racer 2 featured only the original arcade tracks, not the ones featured in Revolution.

Secrets

Spinning Point: When selecting time trial, hold down the X and Square buttons and select Start (Note: Not the Start button on the controller, the option on the screen), then when playing the track, Spinning Point will appear where you can spin and the game will score you based on how well you spun the car. This only functions in time trial mode and the scores are not saved.


Pocket Racer: A hidden mode that is enabled when you beat the Galaga mini game without wasting a shot. This mode would later spawn into an arcade spinoff that was released in Japan arcades only as Pocket Racer.


Mirror Tracks: to play in mirror mode for every track, at the start of the game accelerate forward slightly but turn around 180 degrees, then drive into the barrier at over 66MPH and the track will be in mirror mode, along with all the road signs.
Zoom In/Out: When in third-person view, pause the game and then press either the L1 or R1 buttons to zoom in or out respectively. You can then resume the game with the new viewpoint.


Title Screen: The spotlight can be manipulated by holding both the L1 & R1 buttons, then using the d-pad to move the spotlight.

Two Player Link

Revolution included a new two-player link that allows for two players to race each other through the use of two consoles, two copies of the game and two displays. This is not the same as the split-screen modes in the later installments of Ridge Racers, with only one player per console.
A link cable is required to connect both consoles together using the serial port located on the original PlayStation models. The smaller Psone branded consoles lack this port and cannot make use of the two-player modes, but can still play the single-player modes.

You can replicate the two-player mode using the NO$PSX emulator, or PCSX. PCSX was troublesome to work within Windows as starting the emulator as a client would just cause it to crash. Under Linux we have some luck but when we are able to re-establish a link, the performance is horrendous with both games running at around 2FPS. Possibly due to both emulators trying to run in sync with each other. I tried running both in a VM, running in a LAN segment but the performance was still the same.

The original Ridge Racer tracks can be played in this mode, as this functionality was missing from the first game.

Conclusion

The game feels like what Ridge Racer should have been when it was ported to the PlayStation. Presumably a lot of content was shifted to Revolution in order to meet the launch deadline since the original Ridge Racer only featured one track with two variations.

One of the main criticism of the original Ridge Race port was its lack of content featuring only 1.5 tracks (the second being an expansion to the original) and around 12 cars, which limited replay value. Here Namco has tried to add as much content whilst still making the game accessible, however I question why certain modes are hidden behind key combinations instead of being directly accessible.

Tekken 2

The sequel to the first Tekken game, released for arcades and was ported to the Sony PlayStation and eventually the Zeebo console

A lot of improvements have been made, with the graphics for the character models being improved and refinements to the character move-sets. The stage background have also been redesigned, featuring more detailed backdrops. Unlike the first Tekken, the stages don’t seem to be based off a specific location and the stage name no longer appears in the bottom right corner, rather they are inspired by a series of locations, e.g Jun’s stage is inspired by a European countryside, Lei is based off being at the top of a city skyscraper (Similar to Joe’s stage in Last Bronx) and King’s stage being set in a Church.

A removed feature is the view change option, In the first Tekken game you could change the viewing angle in the first 10 seconds of the match, now only one view is available in Tekken 2.

Characters

  • Lei: Jackie-Chan inspired cop, Namco forgot to give him a Time Crisis game
  • Jun: Greenpeace activist, and the only mainstream game she appears in (Also appears in the Tag Tournament spin offs)
  • Jack-2: Jack with with a upgraded processor
  • Baek: Tae Kwon Do fighter, similar to Hworang
  • Bruce: Muay Thai kickboxer
  • Roger: / Alex: Genetically altered animals who are capable of fighting
  • Angel: A literal Angel sent to save Kazuya’s soul

Most of the previous characters return from the previous game, except for the mysterious WildCard

Heiachi finding out he’s no longer the final boss

Arcade Version

Released in 1995 for the arcade and running on the same System 11 arcade platform as the previous game which allowed for operators to upgrade their machines by swapping out the ROM board.

There are a few versions of the arcade version, the original released and a Ver.B update that has a few game-play changes in regards to the AI behaviour. The title screen has also been amended indicating the new release.

MAME is able to run both versions of the game without any issues, although it has the imperfect graphics flag set. Zinc, a high level System 11 emulator is also capable of emulating Tekken 2, but was last updated in 2005 and its plugins are very outdated but they do enable bilinear filtering and upscaling.

Namco would later port this version to the PS2 with the release of Tekken 5, along with Tekken 1 & 3. This is not a direct port as some changes have been made. The audio from the PSone versions have been used since Namco System 11 uses its own custom sound hardware that the PS2 does not emulate. I’m also not sure if these games run on the PS2 I/O CPU, tapping into its native backwards compatibility or if Namco ported these games onto the PS2 Emotion Engine.

Zinc emulator

The Zinc emulator can be configured to apply texture filtering to reduce the blocky artifacts and enhance the overall image quality, resolution can also be increased too.

Unfortunatly where the Zinc emulator falls short is the emulation itself, suffering from various sound issues due to lack of mature Namco sound emulation. As such the music sounds out of tune and many sound elements are missing.

PlayStation

The game was ported to the PlayStation with some additional features added. The soundtrack was also revised with an arranged remix making used of the PlayStations CD audio, the arcade original music also exists and can be selected by the user.

Like the first Tekken home port, FMV endings have been added for each characters that details their backstory. Namco expanded these to have their own soundtrack, compared tot he first game where every characters would have the same music playing over the FMV.

Additional game modes have been added such as survival, training and team battle mode. Also, when pausing the game you can view the character move and command sets. These would also be carried over to future home releases of Tekken games.

Most emulators wont encounter any issues playing Tekken 2, but there are a few issues with PXGP being added. Polygons have a tendency to warp with this enabled, and the character portraits can go off model.

Zeebo

The game was ported to the Zeebo console in 2008 and was similar to the PlayStation version but with slightly improved graphics. The textures appear to be cleaned up from the PlayStation version with some filtering enabled. The music however was butchered beyond repair due to the limited ROM sizes of the game. Zeebo games were distributed over the mobile network using UMTS, which meant games had to be of a certain size in order for them to be downloaded quickly which limited the music of these game to polyphonic like sounds.

I’m also not aware of any emulators or known dumps of this version, so the only footage exists that was uploaded on Youtube.

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