Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birthday PS2 games

Well, for my birthday I finally got a PS2 and a memory card. As I'd mentioned earlier, I already had a number of games, most of which I'd played quite a bit of in the past, that I was just waiting on a system so I could really play them for real. Since I also had a three day weekend with the Monday holiday, I got to play quite a bit already... although I do admit to feeling a bit swamped with too much to play. Since many of the six games I bought were compilations, I actually have a great deal more new games than just six... depending on how you count them, at least 18, and possibly as many as twenty one.

Of course, not all of them are really new either; I had some versions of some of those games already on older systems. What I've spent most of my time playing so far this weekend has been Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper from the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology and King of Fighters XI, although I've also played around with King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match a bit too.

The first thing that became readily apparent was that I significantly underestimated the quality of XI with the few plays I had made of it previously. This game is really good, and is quickly rising to a place of extreme prominence in my "best of" lists. I like the character selection a great deal. Although it's missing a few key favorites (Joe Higashi, you'll be missed!) some of them are available as unlockables, and the missing ones are more than made up for with all the new and retrofitted characters that it has instead anyway. The console version does a lot to make it interesting, by adding a lot of unlockable characters, new stages, and even some new music. In general, I'm not a fan of unlocking phases... it's more tedious and frustrating than it is fun, but once it's done, it's done and then you can enjoy the characters from then on. So far, I've unlocked all of the extra characters except one, Geese Howard. Who I'll get around to after I've managed to play with some of the other new ones I have first.

The Ultimate Match version of '98 is a significant improvement over the Dreamcast version that I already had. It also comes with the "Neo Geo" mode, which basically means, "not Ultimate... the original version." Which is also on my Orochi Saga compilation. It turns out I have four versions of this game, if you count the Ultimate Version as separate... and frankly, now that I do, this one is so much an improvement that it makes all the others obsolete. The graphics are significantly improved... the backgrounds are redone again in 3D, but unlike the terrible looking Dreamcast 3D graphics, these look really nice and smooth. In addition, a ton of new backgrounds have been added, although I'm not sure if most of them will actually turn up in regular single player play or not. They're there for practice and vs. mode games, I suppose. The really ugly, clunky menus are also improved, although the fairly ugly character art on the select screen remains the same, as does the victory screen artwork. Which is also terrible.

Several characters are brought back; mostly ones who were in the '94-'97 games but which hadn't been in the prior editions of the game (Eiji, the Boss team, Goenitz, Orochi, and a handful of others) and all of the characters have new pallettes and a few tweaks to their gameplay. I've said as much before, but actually having the game and being able to play it have brought home to me even further how much of an improvement this is.

The Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is one that I may question the wisdom of buying, except that it wasn't really much money. The best game on it by far is Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper (a slightly more robust variant of the regular Street Fighter Alpha 3 which you can access after you've beaten it once with any character. Upper adds about eight characters to the roster.) Of course... I already had that game, for the PS1, and I only notice a handful of very minor improvements. In fact, given that this version lacks the World Tour mode, in theory this may be a downgrade from the PS1 game in some respects... although I haven't really gone back and played that again anymore after unlocking everyone. Anyway... Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold is also a nice edition of a nice game, and I'll probably play that from time to time as well.

The minor improvements are probably not important to most people, but they actually make a big deal to me, though. I like being able to pick the stage and music I want while in Training Mode, for example, and the graphics are slightly improved; frames have been restored, a few backgrounds are added, etc. It's a small deal, but given that this is one of my favorite games in this genre already, getting the best version of it that I can is fun.

Anyway, I don't know that I'll spend a lot of effort blogging about these games, other than to point out that clearly for the next several weeks while they're still new, I'll be excited to play them

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