Feature: DOSHIN THE GIANT 2 (N64 64 DD)

Now, if I said to you "Name me a few gaming grails?" - Somewhere in your answer Taromaru, Burning Rangers R2, Final Fight Tough, Border Down, Kizuna Encounter (euro) or one of the Nintendo Competition Carts would surely be mentioned..

Yet, how many of you would say 'Doshin the Giant 2' for Nintendo's ill-fated 64DD add-on?

PK Taromaru for it's ability to demand silly sums of money should prepare to stand aside! - The 7500 print run of Taromaru is no match for the meagre 3000 of Doshin the Giant 2 which launched shortly after Nintendo suspended the 64DD RandNet service in Japan.

The 64DD hardware is hard enough to acquire at any rate, being that it was long overdue and more of an online guinea-pig project of Nintendo's to assist future R&D. Reportedly 85.000 unsold 64DD units were scrapped even after the hardware was made available for retail outside of the initial online subscription configuration. Approximately 15.000 64DD exist, although there were reports that Nintendo bought back alot of the hardware when the Randnet service was disbanded, so this figure may be considerably less!

Now that little history lesson is over, this obscure god style game is known to fetch in the region of $300~$600, with most sales settled privately. Doshin the Giant 2 - More than a Giant (translated from Japanese) requires the first 64DD Doshin the Giant game to work, also largely unplayable without a keen grasp of Japanese, or zen like patience.

Rest assured that Games Grail has this majesty under lock and key, well that is unless someone comes up with the king's ransom?!

Review: BATTLE GAREGGA (Saturn)

Background
This is a wonderful little shooter developed by Raizing for the ST-V arcade system and was ported a year later to the Japanese Saturn, distributed by Electronic Arts.

The Wayne Brothers set out to destroy weapons and vehicles they create during WW2 for a federation who approached them some months before. With skies left shattered, this evil federation plots to increase their stronghold by invading neighbouring cities, leaving the duo no choice but to honour the skills passed down to them from their late father to save their small town, who is next on the agenda!

We're putting the Saturn version through it's paces to see if it manages to retain all the manic tank blasting action of the vertically scrolling arcade hit.

You get the choice of four planes each with their own style to attribute battle. As you select an aircraft you're plunged straight into the action which can take place in hangar areas, open landscapes and even urban environments through a top-down perspective.

Graphics

On par with the likes of Radiant Silvergun these are some of the best graphics on the SS that make good use of the system's colour palette. Explosions are nice and bright while the rest of the proceedings are satisfyingly moody and grey which gives it that 1940's war feel.

One criticism of BG is that the bullets should have been rendered using lighter colours to make it evident where the arsenal is coming and going. You can forgive this little nuisance as brighter bulllets would have taken away that satisfyingly moody feel I mentioned earlier, although it may remain a nuisance for the Treasure crowd.

Gameplay

Taut, tense and terrific best describes this gameplay which is more accomplished than Radiant Silvergun. This brave remark above comes from the fact people have often expressed to me that Treasure try too hard to be a cult designer, with which I agree! - Treasure's excessively linear elements and stop~start formula can annoy the player through leaps of one extreme to another. BG excels with a far more grounded experience, concentrating on non-stop action that relies heavily on tactical formations to dodge random bullets, rather than having to negotiate set mazes mid-level (ala: Radiant Silvergun & Ikaruga) when adrenaline is running high from previous battle.
With a good assortment of power-ups and weapons to pick up along the way, you can tailor the gameplay to suit your style as you gun to victory.
Controls are the usual shmup three button combination of shoot, special attack and formation change, with eight way control provided through the d-pad, although better achieved using an arcade stick.
Sound

With excellent music and mind blowing sound-fx this really showcases the Saturn's capabilities.

Music is full of drama and sound-fx are nicely digitised to capture the feel of a manic~crowd pulling arcade shooter like BG. The fx of bullets making contact is very pleasing with those giant aircrafts flying ahead, hangar areas opening to expose enemies and an assortment of fx that never fail to dazzle.. Bravo!

Conclusion

An excellent shmup and faithful translation of an ST-V classic, losing nothing in this Saturn conversion.

Battle Garegga is a title fast becoming rare as it's quality is realised, rarely surfacing on auction sites compared to Radiant Silvergun. I have to say that you see this as much as Hyper Duel on the web, although the latter seems to fetch more when it does surface and is equally a fine game.

Hyper Duel possibly demands more as it had a lower production run as developer Techno Soft took a chance and produced it between the Thunderforce series, although it shot to underground stardom resulting in the hefty asking price that rivals the infamous RS..

Although the reason you have to sharpen your hunting skills to track down a copy of BG is because gamers tend not to part with the game, being that it is one of the finest shooters around!

No collectors cabinet is complete without this.. Truly Superb!

Collector's Spot: FINAL FIGHT REVENGE

Revenge is a dish best served cold, which is exactly what Final Fight Revenge on the Saturn is.. Cold!

As the game features no storyline to follow, a loose translation from the game manual leads us to believe that Mad Gear has assembled once again to form an uprising with Cody framed by the corrupt cop Edi-E - meaning all this revenge business falls somewhere between the events of Final Fight and Street Fighter Zero 3, upon which Cody escaped prison.

FFR is a Street Fighter EX rip-off that lacks Capcom's usual nitro and charm. I'm convinced they produced this one rainy afternoon after finishing up on Street Fighter EX3 for Playstation 2.
As you've probably guessed? - this game doesn't deserve a formal review, so I'll press on with why it still deserves to make your Saturn collection..

FFR has an approximate production run of 15.000, with speculation that only 5000 pcs were produced of the compulsory 4M RAM cart version, naturally making the latter far more collectable.

This was also the last game produced for the system in 2000 and quite affordably available up until 2005 when importers realised the limited numbers and began to horde the available inventory.

A reputable importer in the UK also had sealed copies of the game stocked for around £50.00/$100~120.00 up until 2005 but it went largely unnoticed for years, both on their website and instore, until the hysteria mentioned above started.

FFR isn't an awful game by any stretch of the imagination. There are moments when you see Capcom's signature style shine through with interesting backgrounds and moves.

It's a shame they didn't touch it up from the ST-V version that made it's debut a year earlier.
A perfect example of an area that could have been improved are the 3D rendered character models - Damnd from FF1 just looks a polygon mess!

Backing sound is okay and speech is fairly cheesy as one expects from Capcom. It would have been nice to have seen Q-Sound used in this game. Overall this is a mediocre 32bit sound-stage.

Back to why you should be buying this?!..

Simply put, this is fast becoming a games grail on the Saturn as copies rarely surface on the web, indicating the actual production run may have been considerably less than initially thought.
Definately one for a collector's cabinet, right up there with Taromaru, although hold out for the RAM cart box-set (if one surfaces) before taking the leap.

Article: THE DEMISE OF SEGA

Luxuriuous hardware developer Sega without whom the games industry today would cease to exist.

With the Sega Mark 3/Master System and late starting Mega Drive/Genesis successes, Sega demonstrated their ability of developing cartridge based systems and affordably bringing home the arcade experience. Although it was the release of the CD format that delivered a curve ball into Sega's court..

Pressure from Japanese rivals forced Sega to create the Mega CD/Sega CD add-on for the MD/G which marked the beginning of the end for this giant. The over priced, over hyped, under powered, under console device used the CD format as it's main selling point to lure in consumers who were already invested in Sega.

With just a small box full of games released for the system during it's life-cycle, this delivered a crucial blow which left Sega staggering for their corner and looking towards the heavens for guidance..

Sega failed to find solace in the skies above, rather they embarked on voyage to develop hopeware. The first attempt was project Mars, later known as 32x, the cartridge based add-on for the MD/G.

The second piece of kit that needs no introduction was the Saturn, and it's this voyage they never returned from!

Sega looked towards the original Playstation way too much for inspiration when developing their 32 bit Saturn. The ill-fated format started life in Sega's labs as a 2D only system. Maybe alot could have been achieved if it would have remained just that, a system expanding on previously established 2D franchises such as Street Fighter and King of Fighters, which it ended up being renowned for anyway.

Most of the memorable Saturn titles are 2D arcade fighters which out-perform their Playstation counterparts, not surprisingly turning to the cartridge input of the machine to deliver the goods.

After the Saturn's failure, Sega last attempt at console dominance was in the shape of Dreamcast. The DC was a superb machine that did away with the curse of CD by opting for GD ROM (GB sized discs) and the unique VMU (Visual Memory) LCD flash cards.
This DC launched Sega to stardom, gearing them up for a final showdown with Sony.

When the old adversary revealed details of the Playstation 2 (notably it's dvd playback) the following year, Sega were left flustered and unable to cope as the industry firmly placed all eyes on them.

The seconds were out for the final round, and we all know how the story ends..

Sega threw in the towel and pulled out of hardware by 2002, solely becoming a games developer.

Ask yourselves anytime you squeeze the L and R triggers on an XBOX joypad, would this have even been possible if Sega hadn't come along and invented the analog controllers for Saturn and Dreamcast?

Sega might not have got it right at times, but the industry owes them a debt as their hardcore gaming visions were ahead of their time!

Feature: VICTOR WONDERMEGA RG-M2

Not many of you will remember this sharp piece of kit that came along during the humble days of gaming..

The 'WonderMega RG-M2' was the second incarnation of the Sega/Victor WonderMega, the latter came with a motor operated CD lid that opened and closed to the symphony of neon LEDs positioned around the CD tray.

This model that Games Grail acquired recently is slightly less desirable than the first model for the fact it's missing the above gimmick, although does excel is in the controller department.


A perfect example of the RG-M2 should come complete with an infra-red joypad (pictured above) that also serves as a 2 player hub to daisy-chain an additional wired controller (ala: 3DO)

The M2 systems were only produced by Victor as opposed to the M1 which both Sega and Victor released. Sega's version of the M1 was far rarer as it entered the market later with lower production numbers (estimated 5000) - discontinued within a year due to poor commercial support for the Mega CD format.

A version of the WonderMega RG-M2 was also released in USA by Victor's western outfit JVC..

The 'X-EYE' looked exactly the same as the M2 but lacked infra-red support. As a result it came with a JVC branded 3 button pad reminiscent of the standard Genesis/Mega Drive pack-in. X-EYE inevitably failed due to a high price-point and once again poor support for the Sega CD (Mega CD) format.

The M2 comes with a built in S-Video port for superior picture quality, sadly there's no support for RGB through the incorporated Sega 'Din Type' connector without a modification.

There are also composite connections at the rear that do justice compared to the Mega CD bolt-on units that suffered from noise interference, evident even when using the grounding plate of the Mega CD/Sega CD 1 front loader model.

Build quality of this WonderMega is good and we applaud the ability to turn the console on and off by holding the function button and hitting the corresponding key on the wireless joypad.

Overall the WonderMega RG-M2 is a nice piece of kit, providing you can acquire one at a reasonable price.