Tuesday, April 02, 2002 @ 01:51 (Japan Standard Time)
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A hobbyist video gamer in the middle of Japan's gaming zone. Comments on console, PC, handheld and arcade games.
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2002-04-02 Tue

Kingdom Hearts, and tips for Psyvariar

Psyvariar and a semi-review

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Kingdom Hearts, and tips for Psyvariar

Just had to write something short on Kingdom Hearts (PS2-jp), the new game by Squaresoft and Disney. I played the demo unit recently and the game intro is a fantastically rendered CG animation. One interesting thing about the gameplay is that you can use the right analog stick to select items (potions and what not) while you're running. Why haven't other games utilized the right analog stick for this purpose!?!?!?! Ah well, hopefully they'll learn.

Oh yeah, I wanna get this game... ^_^;

Oh, I forgot to add my tips for Psyvariar. You can quit a game quickly by holding Select and pressing Start. You can return to the game selection screen the same way. Jiggling your craft is the same as holding down the rotate button, in fact this is the same behavior as the arcade version.

Oh and I have a question. Why does the ship move really slow in comparison to the arcade version? Those experts on that DVD move their ship really really fast, but the PS2 version is dog slow. Why?!?

Psyvariar and a semi-review

Okay, so I'm also interested in 2d shooter games. You know, the thrill of dodging thousands and thousands of bullets. I'm not really good at it though, I guess its about memorizing patterned enemy attacks and knowing where to situate your ship/person. The last shooting games that I loved to play was RayStorm (PS-jp, Arcade 1996) and RayCrisis (PS-jp, Arcade 1998). Both of them are available on one CD for about 1500 yen now.

I went to the local Gamers this last Saturday and sampled Psyvariar -Complete Edition- (PS2-jp) by Success Corp. D00d, this shooting game rocks. I've been explaining it to all of my friends about how it plays. I guess I'll write a review now. (^_^;)

Psyvariar is an arcade game that came out in 2000. It is a different take on the up-scrolling 2d shooter game. Instead of collecting floating power-ups to build up your ships strength, ala Gradius (Arcade 1985?) and Raiden (Arcade 1989?), you use the "Buzz System". Basically, every time you pass by a bullet or an enemy very closely, so close that the side of the ship touches it, you get a Buzz, and your Buzz count increases. The more you Buzz, the closer you get to levelling up your ship. When you level up, your shot count and strength increases.

How is this different from other games? Granted, a similar system exists in another shooter game, or so it has been said. This Buzz system encourages you to get up-close-and-personal with bullets. Yes, weave in and out of a cloud of hot, lethal orange plasma. Do it effectively and you level up within seconds. You won't be dreading the onslaught, you'll begin to hate the dead empty space where no bullets float. One good thing about leveling up is that you become invincible for about 2 seconds. Just before the spray of hot death gets to you, you hear the game say "Level up!" The shields go up and absorb the bullets. This is good, because the plasma and bullets come at you fast and furious. Although there are some times when there seems to be no way to get though a bullet pattern, because Buzzing equals temporary invincibility, you could pass through wires of death without any problem. The game tells you just right above your ship how many Buzz points you've got. Typically, I would get about 300 Buzz before dying. Is that good? Heh. No.

So how do you die? Well, you can't bullets touch the center of your ship. The bullets come at you at various speeds, but because of the Buzz system, I think the game designers chose massive amounts of slow bullets over speedy bullets. Your ship piloting better be very accurate, and very quick. Luckily, (at least for me) none of the bullets seem to change direction once in flight. There are none of those fancy homing lasers from RayStorm.

The game consists of 6 stages, and you get to select which 1 level you want to take on that stage. Selecting stages is similar to another shooting game, Darius. The better you complete a level, the more levels are available in the next stage. Levels are quick jaunts of two minutes of normal enemies, and an end level boss. During the normal attacks, Buzzing quickly levels up your craft. However, when at the boss section, Buzzing bullets seems to increase very slowly. Most craft are dispersed with one shot, but some craft need more pounding than others. None of the enemy bullets can be shot down, so you evade or use Buzz-invicible tactics. The boss has a life bar which you can check to see how far you need to go. The boss dies when the bar goes to zero or after a certain amount of time elapses. Yeah, try dodging screen-filled bullet patterns for about 3 minutes.

Your ammo consists of basically 2 levels of white hot plasma, either straight fanning or straight concentrated. You select the latter stronger attack by activating your "spinning" move. When the going gets tough, you can "escape" with a bullet-cancelling bomb. Or if you're playing the Revision version, you can use a "short bomb" that only makes you invisible, leaving the bullets in there place. Buzz buzz buzz!

How does this play on the Playstation 2? It plays very good. Ok, first of all, with the Psyvariar Complete Edition, you get 2 games in one, Psyvariar Medium and Psyvariar Revision. First select which game you want to play, then the PS2 loads the game within a minute. Hit the start button to start playing or select button to go to options. By default, on a regular home TV, there will be black bands on the left and right sides. Start the game, and you are greeted with a 3d intro of your ship jumping into the fray. Every time you Buzz, your PS2 Dual-Shock controller will vibrate, which is a great feedback feature. You can continue your game where you died. But, but if you beat the game with one or more continues, your high score will be tagged as a continued game with triangle. You are rewarded with a picture of your pilot when you beat the game. I think there's a guy and a girl, but as of now I've only saw the guy.

The configuration options I glossed over include controller reconfiguration, viewing options, and data saving. All keys can be remapped and vibration can be turned on or off. The screen can be rotated in 90 degree increments, or expanded either horizontally or vertically. You can also rotate the control pad keys to match the rotate screen orientation. You can adjust the difficulty of the game. Finally, you can turn on auto saving to memory card, in addition basic loading and saving.

Actually, when it was released, Psyvariar came in 3 different versions, regular (game only), Special Sound Box (game and audio CD), and Special Capture Box (game and DVD of expert gamer play). Of course I purchased the Special Capture Box for about 6900 yen. The DVD includes "yarikomi" play by two different experts, who complete the two games with no dying and continuing. Masterful. Absolutely stunning. Watching this 120 minute DVD (with both home TV orientation and rotated TV orientation) has shown me how to really play this game. When I saw the players getting up to 6000 Buzz, I remembered my pitiful 300 Buzz and just sat in awe.

I looked up Psyvariar on the web and collected some information. You can view some pictures about the game at the official web site. You probably want to go to the Shmups web site for shooting game forums. Here's a video of the intro and game play. Finally, I found a very interesting website where someone has tried to catalog bullet patterns in XML. A very cool Java app shows the different patterns.

I have no idea if this game is in the States, but I recommend it. I give it 7 out of 10, "Challenging". I have no idea if this is challenging to the hard-core shooter fan, but I felt overwhelmed too many times. Too many bullets.

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