Battle of the Backlog Episode 8: It’s a Rollover!

Not my pile of shame, but not far off.

Not my pile of shame, but not far off.

One man, Harry Nezumi — some say brave, others foolish — stands against his backlog. With but five months between now and a move some 9,000 kms from home, does he have what it takes to complete all the outstanding games in his collection? Follow his quest, his Sisyphean toil, here on Sega Addicts as he tackles one hundred and seven games over twenty weeks. The journey will not be easy, the day grows dark and the hour late. Yet there is hope. Hitting the two month mark, was Harry able to maintain the pace? Will he ever complete Jet Set Radio Future? Find out after the break.

Completed: Left 4 Dead (360); Guardian Heroes (Sat/XBLA); Ferrari F355 Challenge (DC); Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (360).
Postponed: D (Sat); Jet Set Radio Future (oXB); Space Channel 5 (DC); Spikeout Battlestreet (oXB); Anarchy Reigns (360); Wonderboy in Monster Land (XBLA).

Well, that was a bit of disaster, wasn’t it? It feels like I should be wearing laurels and hanging bunting to celebrate passing the 50 game mark. The reality is that this week has involved so many demands on my time that game playing was almost impossible. For the first time since I began, I’ve had to postpone more games than I could complete. Not the best way to celebrate my two month ‘anniversary’. The saving grace was the quality of the titles, every game I finished this week provided lots of entertainment. Few games are more rewarding than Guardian Heroes, fewer still as engaging as Ferrari F355 Challenge. I normally like to give a preview of the titles for next week, this time, however, my future goals are merely those which slipped through the net this time around. Here’s to a more successful January!

Game of the Week: Ferrari F355 Challenge (DC)
Nightmare of the Week: None!

Well... it was better than nothing.

Well… it was better than nothing.

Left 4 Dead (360) — This deceptively simple game aimed to make the zombie apocalypse not just entertaining, but outright fun. Clearly owing a debt to the B-movie films that started the genre, Left 4 Dead successfully channels the essence of George A. Romero into video game form. Just as these movies were often limited, so too is Valve’s four player FPS, but that is not to do the game a disservice. The limitations — the lack of variety in weapons, the broadly linear levels — mean that it has a singular focus on mechanics. It is always, always, fun culling zombies. To this end most of the foes take a mere bullet or two to dispatch. When armed with automatic weapons this makes the player a potential death-machine and so the game is expertly balanced by the speed and number of cannon fodder thrown at the player. That this occurs in tight, constricted spaces forces the team of four to work together. When specialist enemies are introduced into the mix, teamwork becomes less about maximizing death and more about survival. It’s a heady mix of horror, excitement and fun and works extremely well alongside the expert pacing. This is an object lesson that Operation Raccoon City was foolish to ignore. 4/5

Guardian Heroes (Sat/XBLA) — As one of the Saturn’s crown jewels, a great many gamers would not have encountered Guardian Heroes at the time thanks to its host’s unpopularity. Its status as a hugely sought after title has also kept the prices high for any retro enthusiasts foolish enough to miss the Saturn the first time around. Consequently, the HD remaster is a must needed scratch to a twenty year old itch, finally making this Treasure classic available to all. Treasure, as one would expect, serve up a wonderfully kinetic experience that has pick-up-and-play and mechanical depth at its core. Featuring a playstyle that resembles an admixture of Final Fight and Street Fighter II, RPG elements, multiple character types and alternate routes through the game with a variety of endings, there is huge accessibility and a deep well to be exploited in multiple playthroughs. With a plethora of options, a well pitched difficulty curve and an HD, storybook art style reminiscent of Yoshi’s Island, the package is both well rounded and a superb showcase for the game. Anyone who has ever enjoyed the action titles the ’80s and ’90s will find a world of pleasure in this wonderful game. 5/5

Ferrari F355 Challenge (DC) — There is a tension in digital driving that started with Gran Turismo, should it be a ‘gamey’ game or a simulation? Most titles seek one camp and stick resolutely to its mores, think Out Run (game) compared to Forza Motorsport (simulation). Ferrari F355 Challenge seeks to straddle this fault line, including the wild abandon of driving a supercar around a track alongside the technical details of altering suspension and fighting a manual, six speed gearbox. The result is a title with the romance of the finest ‘gamey’ games, but the depth and engagement of the simulations. The courses are real world and, with only one car on offer, the performance characteristics can be presumed to be as accurate as possible for a 1999 game. The sole view from the cock-pit also keeps the feel of the game as authentic as possible. The wonderful result of the one-car limitation is the emphasis on skill, without any obvious power differential to overwhelm the opposition every place beyond last is earned. Ferrari F355 Challenge is a unique title that combines rewarding gameplay with some truly sumptuous visuals (especially via a VGA box) and is a must for any Dreamcast owner. 4/5

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (360) — Even the ad campaign for DOAX series accepted that western audiences would see this as little more than a virtual bongo mag. The reality is quite different, this is a gentleman’s club, a copy of Playboy, a gambling den and Animal Crossing all rolled-up. The focus is clearly on relaxation ahead of thrilling, compelling gameplay and is a type of title not often seen outside of Japan. Imagine the meditative tempo of Doshin the Giant, with of course meticulous boob physics, and you will have a better understanding DOAX2’s style. This is not to do a disservice to the ‘game’ aspects on display here. The volleyball and jet skis are well rounded experiences, though the other activities amount to little more than mini-games. All told, DOAX2 is a game that is very easy to play ‘wrong’. Go looking for pulse-pounding, benzedrine action and there will only be disappointment. Accept that this is, in essence, a time-limited collect ’em up with compelling distractions, and the relaxation at the core of the game’s design will be self evident. 3/5

Next Week, on Battle of the Backlog: JSRF... maybe...

Next Week, on Battle of the Backlog: JSRF… maybe…