4 PSP games reviewed in the 1 easy to open article!
Publisher: THQ Australia
Tue, 6 June 2006
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Thanks to those idiots who caused our site to crash and my ongoing health problems, I'm even more stupidly behind with things than usual. To try and catch up a little I'll be posting a few articles in which I group a bunch of reviews together. Starting with this one; which includes four different titles for the Sony PSP. Mega Man Maverick Hunter X and Mega Man Powered Up
The PSP and Nintendo DS are probably my favourite formats at the moment, for a couple of simple reasons. Firstly, the fact that they are portable is very handy for a guy like me (with a problematic medical condition), as it means I can play games while I'm lying in bed, staying in hospital, or wherever. Secondly, there's just been plenty of great software for both systems lately. The PSP games reviewed below are from Sega and Capcom, I grouped them together as both those company's properties are distributed in Australia by THQ. Away we go.
If you've been gaming for a substantial number of years and never played a Mega Man game, I'll assume you're predominately a PC player. Or, for some reason, you've been going out of your way to avoid them (in which case you probably wouldn't be reading this, so I could call you names and you wouldn't even know...dickface). Capcom's Mega Man has been a mainstay in the gaming world since the NES days. He's a really popular mascot and his loyal following is only outnumbered by some of the real big guns, such as Mario and Sonic.
Mega Man probably surpasses both those characters when it comes to the sheer number of games he's starred in (especially if you include all the off-shoots and the titles in which he's had cameo appearances). In terms of quality, the Mega Man titles vary and this, added to the fact that most of his "main" adventures are just so similar, has lead to the series not holding as much appeal for most gamers as it once did.
The standard Mega Man titles are action/platform style games and there's a basic blueprint they all stick very closely to. You run, jump and shoot your way through the game. The levels themselves are themed (usually to match the powers of the level's "boss") in the "traditional platform game" ways; you get the fire level, the ice level, the sky level etc. When you defeat the level's boss, you acquire from them new power upgrades for your arm cannon; an ice beam, fire beam and so on. Certain levels and bosses can only be conquered if you've earned the necessary upgrade. It is all very formulaic, but it works and the Mega Man games are often great fun.
These two PSP games once again stick very closely to the standard MM formula, but that's utterly forgivable this time, since they are remakes. Capcom have taken two of the best loved and most enjoyable games from the Mega Man series and updated them for the handheld with new graphics, along various additions to the gameplay and levels. This mix of new elements with the familiar works a treat and both games feel quite fresh on PSP. They're also the kind of games that are fun to play in stops and starts, a level here and a level there, which makes them very suitable for a portable system.
Maverick Hunter X is the remake of Mega Man X, originally for SNES. This was the first title in what is meant as a separate series of Mega Man titles, which take place many years later than the "regular" MM games. The X series has characters and stories (such as they are) of its own, as well as a slightly darker and more serious look and a few other twists to set them apart. So, that's all well and good, but truthfully, there's very little difference when it comes to the gameplay. While X might be the futuristic version of Mega Man, he still does the same sorts of things in the same sorts of ways as his older counterpart. It really doesn't matter though, since the X games are usually good.
This one holds up well and the new 3D style graphics for the PSP port are quite cool. I'm still a fan of 2D graphics and wouldn't mind seeing a 2D Mega Man on PSP (perhaps cell shaded - I'm thinking of something like Capcom's own Viewtiful Joe). Nevertheless, unlike several other remakes I could mention, they've done a fine job of converting the game's looks into polygonal form, with a distinctive style and the result is a very attractive game. They've also included some Anime cut-scenes to tell the game's story and those look very snazzy as well. For the most part, the game plays exactly the same as the SNES version, but there are some changes here and there, along with numerous little bonus goodies to unlock.
Mega Man Powered Up goes back even further in the series history. As far back as you can really - this is a remake of the very first Mega Man game, originally released for the NES. I'll bet all the old school (or "skool", if you prefer) gamers will be barring up over this one. The original Mega Man truly is a classic game and this is one of those rare remakes that actually improves on the original.
You can play the game's levels in both their original structure and new remixed versions. The simple gameplay is just as challenging and enjoyable now as it ever was and they've added a whole heap of sweet new content into the mix. You can now play through the game as one of the boss characters, or even make your own levels with the funky edit tool.
Once again they've re-done the graphics using 3D polygons, but this one uses a completely different style look to Maverick Hunter. The characters are done in that cutesy Japanese "super-deformed" style, where they all have extra large noggins. The background art is very charming, sticking pretty close to the 8-Bit version in terms of simplicity. The graphics use bright primary colours and it all looks exceptionally crisp on the lovely PSP screen. If you are turned off by "kiddy" looking games, you likely won't dig the looks of this one. I find Powered Up's looks highly endearing and even slightly more visually pleasing than the more detailed graphics of Maverick Hunter. That's really just a matter of personal taste.
Unless you are a hardcore Mega Man fanatic, you probably don't need to own both of these games, as they are pretty similar to play. Either one of them would be a worthy addition to any PSP collection, if you enjoy this kind of action. Once again it comes down to personal taste as to which is the better of the two. On the whole, I found Mega Man Powered Up to be that little bit more fun, so that's my preference. I had a great time with Maverick Hunter X as well though, so I reckon most fans would be very satisfied either way.
If you own a PSP and have never played a Mega Man game before, either of these excellent remakes would serve as a fine introduction. Try 'em out if you've ever considered getting into some MM antics, or you want an action game with plenty of challenge and addictively fun gameplay.
8.5/11 for Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X & 9/11 for Mega Man: Powered Up
Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Aussie Ninja reviewed the PlayStation 2 version of this one (you can also get it for Xbox). As is quite common now, the PS2 and PSP versions are nearly identical. Unlike most cases though, I'd say that Outrun '06 on PSP is slightly superior to the PS2 game. For one thing, the graphics look better here, though I'm not entirely sure why. As far as I know, they both use the exact same engine, but the game just looks that bit sharper on PSP, with all the graphical details standing out a little more. I assume it is just due to the PSP's excellent screen quality.
Also, perhaps visuals of this standard are just more noticeably impressive on a handheld system than they are on a home system. To my eyes, whatever the reasons might be, Outrun 2006 looks nice enough running on the PS2, but on PSP it looks quite stunning.
I reckon this one works better as a portable game as well. This is another title that is exceptionally well suited to a handheld format, because the game is great fun to play in relatively short bursts. You could certainly play it for longer periods, but I believe a quick few goes here and there is the most enjoyable way to go about it. You improve a little each time you play and unlock more cars and content as you go, making Coast 2 Coast an ideal game for those who are often on the road (shithouse pun unintended).
Mind you, before long you may find yourself wishing to invest more playing time into it, as it can get pretty addictive. It is one of those games where the better you get at it, the more fun it becomes. OutRun is no driving sim, this is pure "arcade-style" racing all the way and, as such, it is done very well. If, like me, you enjoy the crazy powersliding action of titles like Mario Kart and Ridge Racer, you will likely have a blast with this one. I found the controls/handling (using the PSP's analogue nub for steering) to be a bit off at first, but it soon felt perfectly responsive, once I got more accustomed to it.
You really need to get comfortable with this game's handling too, because in Coast 2 Coast you can link your drifts and that's a huge part of what makes it so much fun. You can slide around corner after corner, basically chaining one long drift for almost the entire race. As far as powersliding mayhem on a portable format goes, Mario Kart DS is still king in my opinion, but this sucka is right up with the best.
While, when played today, the original OutRun is nothing special in terms of either its looks or gameplay, let us not forget that it was something of a pioneer for the genre. Those now dated graphics it features were pretty amazing in their time. The game was a big influence in numerous ways, with the whole "open road" and multiple route nature of its races allowing it to be something truly special. With all the amazing driving/racing games around these days, Sega can't truly expect match the impact of the original OutRun, but I don't believe they are hoping or attempting to. It seems to me they just wanted to make a fun game that stays fairly faithful to its roots. At that, I believe they've succeeded well and truly.
Mind you, Coast 2 Coast is far from unimpressive technically. As I previously mentioned, this is a fantastic looking game - especially running on a system small enough to play sitting on the crapper (hey, it might sound gross but, if you had to spend as much time there as I do, you'd probably consider that a bonus too). The game's music, however, is truly horrible. Outrun 2006 features some of the most embarrassingly lame songs I've ever heard in a game, or anywhere else. The fact that you have to earn the right to hear more of these horrendous aural insults makes me wonder if Sega is just taking the piss. Anyway, at least they are good for a few laughs, or a quick way to annoy the hell out of anyone nearby.
The game's style of handling may not be true to life, but it still requires plenty of skill. If you learn to play it properly, OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast offers a huge dose of exaggerated fun that'll last you for ages. The PSP is home to some excellent examples of the Racing/Driving genre; such as Ridge Racer and Wipeout. Coast 2 Coast is another one that deserves to be added to the format's racing game "A list".
I'll give OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast 8.5 out of 11
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max
You have to love the stupid names Capcom has for all their Street Fighter games. Anyway, the PlayStation version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 was a great port of the arcade game. Alpha 3 Max on PSP is very similar to that PSOne version, though they've added some nice bells and whistles to it. The biggest advantage to the PSP version, of course, is that you can now take one of the best games in the series with you wherever you go. Unless you never leave your cave (and, I must admit, I often fall into that category myself) in which case it is a non-issue. Still, Alpha 3 Max is a fine fighting game and this PSP version could have been a must have for fans of the genre.
I say "could have been" because I just wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I wanted to - purely because of the controls. I keep trying to adjust to the PSP's directional pad, but the thing just sucks, plain and simple. I even tried using the analogue stick, but that never feels any good for this game either. As a result, Alpha 3 Max on PSP just frustrates the hell out of me. Most gamers are familiar with the old "I did the move, but the controller didn't do what I wanted" excuse (used when playing a fighting game against a mate and losing). Well, with this PSP version of Alpha 3, you could make that claim and actually be telling the truth. It is far too hard to get the PSP pad to register any diagonal commands. I've noticed that in a few games, but this is the most irritating case I've had so far. Personally, I find the controls to be utterly horrible, to the point that it nearly ruins the game completely.
Like so many other people, I have been playing the Street Fighter games for many years, so it isn't that I don't know what I'm doing. Smoothly pulling off dragon punches (much less any of the supers) seems impossible and even extremely basic commands - like crouching blocks and backwards jumps - often fail to register. I tried different settings in the options and some worked a little better than others, but never to any satisfactory degree. I can get by okay with the "charge" characters (such as Guile and E. Honda) though, so I guess that's better than nothing. It is a real shame that the PSP's D-Pad is so crappy, because this would be a very sweet game indeed if it worked properly. Alpha 3's gameplay and balance is superb (again, when you have the right controls for the game, such as the arcade or PSX versions). I'd probably place it somewhere in my top 10 favourite beat-'em-ups list, so that makes this version's troubles all the more aggravating.
The graphics aren't quite arcade perfect, but they are just as good as the fine looking PSX version, if not better. Keeping in mind the memory restrictions of the format, the backgrounds, animation, music and sound effects are all pretty impressive and the 2D looks are very crisp on the PSP screen. They really crammed a heap of stuff into this UMD. 37 characters, new game modes, character customization, bonus single player challenges and various multi-player options; there's a huge amount of content included, basically, enough to keep most beat-'em-up fans coming back for a very long time. That is, if they can actually play the thing, with the stupid D-pad!
I know I've crapped on a whole lot about the control problems, but precision control is a must for fighting games and it just doesn't happen here. I've heard about the D-pad adaptor that Japanese gamers got with this one, but haven't tried that myself. If you dig 2D fighting games and can find a way to get around the unresponsive controls, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max. But if you're like me and find the PSP's directional pad (and to a lesser extent, the button layout) to be frustratingly insufficient for the fighting game genre, you'd be better off trying before buying. Then you can decide for yourself whether or not you can tolerate that problem enough to enjoy this otherwise excellent game.
7/11 Buttons for Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max (would've been 9 if the controls worked)
*Keep your peepers directed towards Buttonhole, PSP fans; we have more reviews of games for Sony's handheld on the way. Yours truly shall soon be posting another PlayStation Portable "multi-review" article (similar to this one) which will cover a few games published by the Big S themselves (I mean Sony, not Superman). I got some funky PSP titles sent from Sony Computer Entertainment Australia - I'll tell you my thoughts on them, as soon as I'm able to. Some of the other Buttonhole crew have been PSP-ing their hearts out too, so there'll be no shortage of coverage for the platform here! Cheers.*
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