Influences and accessibility in Tomb Raider: Legend

Lara's looking nicely humanized these days.It’s always fun to pick a console’s remains after its death for cheap goodies that are worth playing. The original Xbox has hit this sweet spot, and as I still have a perfectly-functioning black box, I don’t have to worry about backwards-compatibility issues. I’ve been rifling through the budget bins with a taste for Western titles with good writing and an adventure bent. The first of these I’ve finished is Tomb Raider Legend.

Before Legend came out, there was a lot of speculation that it would be the game to save the series after Core Design’s bumblings, and it had a lot to live up to. Clearly, it was successful. Since I’m only just now playing the game, after all its promises have been fulfilled, I can thankfully evaluate it on its own merits.

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Simple 2000 Series vol. 116: The Nekomura no Hitobito

Cover scanVingt-et-un Systems is showin’ em how it’s done. The Genshijin – just about to be released in the US as The Adventures of Darwin – was the highlight of D3′s Simple 2000 release schedule in 2006, and the peak of VSC’s creative output to date. This year’s spiritual sequel, The Nekomura no Hitobito, is even more polished and full of personality than The Genshijin, and it’s gone even further to demonstrate what can be done on the Simple 2000 budget.

The game is set in an Edo-era Japanese village populated not by humans, but by anthropomorphic cats. The Genshijin, for those unfamililar, was heavily based on Nintendo’s Pikmin series. And here, too, you directly control the leader of a team of these villagers. They follow you around as you navigate obstacles, and they attack enemies once you give the command to swarm.

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Chulip

Solid, but not spectatular. The cover, I mean.This year’s release schedule seems to be mopping up all sorts of titles from the previous generation that nearly slipped through the cracks. Chulip, like The Red Star, managed to slip from its originally-scheduled 2004 release until this year. Naturally, the title’s elusiveness has contributed to its allure, as has the reputation (by association) of developer Punchline’s relationship with the immensely creative developers Skip (Chibi-Robo, bit Generations) and Love-De-Lic (Moon, L.O.L.). So was it worth the wait? Continue reading

The Red Star

FEALTY IS DUEFor a game that spent three years in publishing-hell and entertains such lofty influences as Treasure’s Ikaruga and several of Konami’s classic 2D series, one might expect The Red Star to end up rather disappointing. This isn’t the case.

This is a no-nonsense deep-action game that successfully fuses bullet hell with beat-’em-up mechanics. Bullet patterns start off rather calm – almost patient – but by the end of the game things get as hairy as the latest Cave game. I’ve seen the melee mechanics compared to Streets of Rage or Final Fight, but there’s a lot more going on here than in the 2D classics. Branching combos, down attacks, fall recoveries, juggles, air combos, and more make for some seriously dynamic and (satisfyingly) abusable combat. And thanks to unique movesets and capabilities, each of the three characters must be taken on his or her own terms. Makita is all speed, Kyuzo is all power, and the unlockable Maya is somewhere in between yet almost entirely focused on ranged attacks and tricksy magic.

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