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Coming in at the tail end of an urban-crime craze, Beat Down was one of the industry's most laughable attempts to create something "street" - mostly because it apparently got its ideas about American organized crime from playing Final Fantasy VII.
Its five mobster anti-heroes were young, effeminate and decked out in matching suits. Almost nobody carried guns. It was always night, presumably because the Japanese development team didn't know how else to make the game's city seem "American." The plot was something insanely stupid about a drug lord who betrayed his closest disciples before they could become powerful enough to defeat him. And the script was peppered with so much wildly inappropriate profanity that it was like listening to a five-year-old who'd just learned to swear.
Above: Behold the new faces of crime on these gritty urban streets of gritty streetwise urban gangsta urban street-ness. Also, we're totally about to write the word "shit"
So yeah. So what? Every jaded critic from here to Vice City might have torn it to pieces, but Beat Down still managed to be crazy awesome. Let the haters and their rarefied palates whine about its "repetitive action," because here's a revelation: if you don't like repetitive action, you probably don't like brawlers as a genre. But if you want the raw, thudding sensation of crushing a man's face and spirit with your bare hands, then Beat Down is where you want to be.
Above: Also, Bozo the Cop here is the final boss
Few games make defeat as total as Beat Down did. After smacking down a defiant thug, you actually had had the option of forcing him to work for you. He'd then immediately begin a life of humble servitude, following you around or waiting to be summoned from an ever-growing list of "on-call" henchmen. Collecting those henchmen wasn't just fun, it was maddeningly addictive, and it wasn't long before the game started to feel like a violent urban take on Pokemon.
That wasn't the only cool feature Beat Down stole from another game, either. Structured like an overambitious River City Ransom for a new generation of gamers, it gave players free rein to roam its city as they pleased and pick fights with whomever. You also had total control over your mobster's appearance, and could dress him or her in anything from natty suits to leopard-print halter tops and stiletto heels. Yes, even the guys. Did we mention that humiliating defeated enemies is one of this game's big draws?
Above: No one will recognize you in your clever disguise
Yeah yeah, games based on movies suck. Everyone knows that. But if you loved the movies, does it really matter? You've been given a chance to spend time in your favorite fictional universe with - or, better yet, as - your favorite fictional characters. No matter how uninspired the gameplay or how sloppy the adaptation, can you truly despise any game that gives you a virtual ticket to that world?
If the fact that EA keeps making mediocre Harry Potter games is any indication, the answer is no. It doesn't matter that the majority of quests ask me to wander back and forth across the same stuffy, never-changing series of rooms. Because those rooms make up Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... and who doesn't want to hang out there? It doesn't matter that tasks consist of nothing more than collecting cards and jelly beans, because the cards are for folks named Gregory the Smarmy (ha!) and the jelly beans taste like curry and earwax (ha ha!) And so what if the flying missions are nothing more than a long and repetitive series of checkpoint rings? I'm on a bloody broom!
Obviously, if you're not a rabid fan of the books or movies, you won't understand. You're able to evaluate the games objectively and see their many, many flaws. But don't judge me too harshly for stubbornly clinging to my make-believe magic. Chances are that you have your own franchise, your own precious set of stories and heroes for which you would do anything - even play a crappy game. Or seven crappy games in a row.
Above: Next up is Half-Blood Prince. I already know it will be bad. I already know I will have to play it
Long ago, Capcom announced several games that were all going to be exclusive to the GameCube. Some were canceled, others went to PS2, but P.N.03 stuck to its roots and has only appeared once. There’s a good reason for this, though - it’s not a very good game at all.
In the face of such an attractive, alluring heroine, however, I didn’t care one bit. I was hooked the moment sexbot Vanessa Schneider waggles her perfectly toned hips while unleashing a stream of multicolored laser. It didn't matter that, despite her alluring figure, she handled like a pregnant whale, barely making right angle turns. It also doesn't matter that the game's white-on-white, sterile environments are among the most basic we’ve seen in any game, ever. All that matters is that you keep shooting and Vanessa keeps dancing to the infectious techno beat.
Based somewhere in the sexiest part of the galaxy, Vanessa runs around solving mysteries. Or something. All I did was fight uninspired robots in never-ending corridors that all look the same. But again, who cares? With all this trancy-trippy music playing and Vanessa's vivacious cartwheeling around incoming missiles, we're willing to forgive the repeating rooms, the generic enemies and inconsistent controls. Seriously, how is it that she can twirl around bullets yet clumsily saunters around corners?
The only real reward for trudging through level after identical level is the ability to dress Vanessa in increasingly revealing power suits. Sure, they may increase her shot power, or let her shoot automatically instead of requiring constant mashing of the fire button, but it's all about looks. And I was compelled to find them all, from the adorable pink one to the super risqué Papillion suit.
Above: Shallow as it is, this is why I played P.N.03 to death
It may be repetitive and unrewarding gameplay, but I couldn't stop blasting 'bots until I’d seen every pose, every costume and every foot-tapping jig Vanessa had to offer. If there were a score for wasted potential, P.N.03 would get a 10.
Having played this before I got into games journalism, and at about the only time in my working life time when I wasn't buying games mags or reading the internet every day, I completely missed out on the Sonic Heroes hate. In fact, I'm not sure everyone else was playing the same game as me.
I had the Gamecube version – smoother frame-rate than the PS2 iteration and more friendly than the ultra-sharp Xbox one. The game I was playing looked fantastic, with huge draw distances, a phenomenal sense of speed and levels designed solely to impress and entertain, with none of the adventure/shooting/fishing malarkey of previous 3D Sonics.
I even like the three-character team element. Sure, the Tails formation looks awkward and flying is way too slow, but his special attack where he throws Sonic or Knuckles at far-off foes can clear the screen, especially when he's powered up, which brings me to another superb element – the power-up system.
Orbs can be found throughout the levels, dropped by enemies. Each character can collect three per level, but only if you're in their formation. So quick switching and planning is required to enable you to finish the level as an unstoppable force. It makes a difference too and the game comes alive when all three characters are operating at maximum.
I love the way you can simultaneously run around three separate loops by selecting Knuckles' side-by-side formation. The 3D bumpers of the casino stage which hark back to Sonic 1. The secrets accessed by jumping in cannons as different characters or hitting three springs at once. The Sonic 2-esque special stages. The way it grades you 'A' on a perfect run. The moments of sheer vertigo with Tails shouting 'whoah… my head's spinning!' Basically, I love this game.
Fishing is something I’ve never enjoyed, much to my dad’s disappointment. The hobby is slow, dull and all I think about when doing it is the many things I’d rather be doing... playing games normally at the top. Yet ever since I first played a Sega Bass Fishing arcade unit in front of the local Wal-Mart, and then bought my $5 Dreamcast copy after the system died a public and lonely death, I’ve been shamefully enjoying a fishing game. Far more than it deserves, and for far more time than I spent on Jet Grind Radio and Shenmue combined.
My love for the game began with the visuals; it just made fish and a silty river bottom look so nice. Then came how fun it felt to fish with a controller shaped like a reel and handle. But where it really hooked me – forgive the awful pun – was when you get a catch on the line. The soundtrack is jarringly replaced with a rockin’ beat as the word “Fish!!” explodes on the screen in garish colors.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Sega Bass Fishing for all the ways in which it is nothing like actual fishing. The moment the lure hits the water, the camera stays with it under the surface, with the real challenge being to get one of the abundant fish to follow your line as you make the lure do an appetizing dance. If I could do that in the real world, maybe I wouldn't have given up on the real thing.