Lions and tigers and vectors, oh my!

So I finally found some time to sit down and start playing through some of the games I’d recently acquired for various platforms.  It’s one thing to star lovingly at the box or marvel at the cover art/manual (which I did, true to form) but if you’re not collecting this stuff to play then you really have to question why you’ve come to the party.  Maybe consider collecting stamps?

I decided to hit up the Gamecube games first, which left me feeling exactly 50/50 happy and let down. We’ll cover the letdown first so we can end on a high note, yeah? First up was Terminator 3: Redemption. Bit of a poor effort in my (admittedly early) opinion. The graphics are solid, the intro is nice – but when are game developers going to make a Terminator game that features killing machines that don’t fall victim to a couple of pissy bullets? I’ve seen the movies – a single T800 should be able to take just about anything short of a tactical nuke to the nuts and still run around scaring people shitless, but in T3: Redemption they fall apart when hit with a few shots or whacked with a street sign (yeah, a street sign).

It might seem like a minor niggle plucked from a game that features a seemingly killer combo of 3rd person, shooter-on-rails and driving levels, but for me its a deal breaker.

I want a terminator game where the scope is scaled right back from facing hundreds of killer robots to where you’re facing up against a single terminator, a machine that you can beat back in a variety of colorful ways but that relentlessly hunts you as you seek objectives, smashing through the walls of houses you hide in, trying to run you over etc.

A Terminator game should have you feeling as though you’re never quite safe, you can never stand still, that you’ve been – to use the film franchise parlance – ‘targeted for termination’.

But I’ve gone off track a little. T3 for the Gamecube is not a bad title, it just could have been based on a thousand other franchises, and contains nothing particularly Terminator-worthy for me.  Bloody Roar: Primal Fury on the other hand, is a corker! I remember  playing the first Bloody Roar on the PS1 way back in what has colloquially become known as “The Day”.  Primal Fury continues what has for me been a really promising series of fighting games.  Kicking off with a great anime intro (that is currently playing on repeat in the background as i write this) the game quickly gets you front and center for round after round of fighting excellence.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Bloody Roar has all the usual fighting game calling cards, a host of playable characters, special moves and locations but adds the ability for each character to change into a beast form, a form which kicks absolute and undisputed arse.  Lions, Tigers, Wolves and more – they’re all catered for to great effect and allow the player to execute some brutal combos. Primal Fury has a perfect recipe of meaty sound, special effects and satisfyingly powerful beast form combat all of which put it in the category of woefully underrated when stacked up against your better known examples of the genre.

Well worth picking up for the Gamecube, or – if you have a PS1 – grab the original Bloody Roar to find out where it all began.

Moving onto vector based fun, and while I fully admit my opinion of Star Trek: The Motion Picture for Vectrex will be biased, I’ve got to say it’s a thoroughly enjoyable title.  Like a landmine Star Trek buries incredible game play under a surface of seeming simplicity just waiting for you to step on it and get blown into gaming heaven. Within minutes I found myself in a trance facing wave after wave of Klingon ships. Much respect.

Spike, while a bit of an awkward attempt at a platformer, is worth owning and playing just to hear the voice synthesis, it’s well done considering the age of the technology and has a real vintage sound that will appeal to any retro gamer.  The box informs you that “SPIKE SPEAKS! Voice synthesis built in! No add-on component needed!”.  Lucky that, because if there was a hardware add-on needed, you can bet it’d cost eleventy billion dollars today.

At the beginning of the game and at each new level, a short sequence plays where Spikes true love is whisked away by the villain ‘Spud’. She yells ‘Eek! Help! Spike!’ and there’s a short exchange of words that come warbling out of the Vectrex speaker courtesy of its AY-3-8910 sound chip. It’s quite funky, and getting to watch and listen to it re-played became the singular motivation for completing each level.

Last – but certainly not least – I fired up Spinball for a couple of games. A pretty decent crack at a pinball game for the Vectrex, Spinball uses vector graphics to great effect and while it has some “creative” ball physics (if you can call them that) it’s more than made up for by the inherent charm that all Vectrex games seem to have and the neat bonuses found in the game like 2 balls on the table at once etc.  Well worth it for Vectrex and Pinball game fans alike.

That’s it for now, I’ll be sure to check in if I find any more games worth prattling on about in my current pile of goodies.

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