Saturday, February 1, 2014

Diary Entry #1: Weird Dreamcast Survival Horror Games

                It’s taken me a long time to read any excerpts from Dreamcast Worlds, but I was a little disappointed by it. The analysis is always on point and points in all sorts of interesting directions, but the three games that it focuses on are just too obvious. Yes, Shenmue is all crazy, Skies of Arcadia is very 3D, and Phantasy Star Online was very online, but everybody knows that. I can’t really imagine why anybody would want to analyze a generic RPG like Skies of Arcadia over a total mind-altering experience like D2, but whatever. Picking more critically acclaimed works probably lends more interest to the entire thing than the less conventional games.

                With this in mind, I grabbed my Dreamcast controller with one goal in mind: to find some awesome counter-culture games for the little white box.

Dreamcast controllers look really weird.
With the VMU out, it looks like it's been gutted.

                My first pick was a game I’ve ignored because the character movements are weird: Illbleed, a self-conciously wacky survival horror game with all kinds of crazy stuff. Much of the game is spent using special goggles to identify traps before you walk right into them, causing your character to fall over and spew tons of blood all over the place, but the aspect that really left me spellbound was the blood/mental state/health/heartbeat balancing. Mental state is used to identify the traps, but if you do trigger a trap, your heartbeat will go up, your health goes down, and you lose a ton of blood. If any of these three meters reach a certain point, you die. Even when my health was maxed out, I still would get into situations where I’d have a heart attack or bleed to death. It didn’t really make the game harder, but having to tack care of so many different factors kept me awake through the rather boring fight system and the slower trap identifying sequences.

Screenshot courtesy of Mobygames. Below, you see
the brain, the bleeding bar, the health bar, and the heart
beat monitor. Above, a helicopter comes to save you
from a giant worm.

                If this sounds like it’s subverting the survival horror genre, watch as it starts subverting its own structure out of the blue. The sixth level in particular goes absolutely nuts, turning you into a guy that looks exactly like Woody from Toy Story out of nowhere. Traps now become story sequences that you’re supposed to walk into, detailing Woody’s trip to hell in order to save his huge-assed girlfriend, Sexy Doll, and defeat a giant satanic version of Sonic the Hedgehog, who’s actually a robot that starts malfunctioning after you beat him. My jaw was dropping the entire time and I absolutely adored every moment of it, even if I was watching rather than playing the majority of this level.

                The game’s creators, Climax Group, also developed Blue Stinger, which I started immediately after finishing Illbleed. It inhabits a weird space in the survival horror lexicon: it’s a survival horror-action game years before Resident Evil 4 transformed survival horror into balls-to-the-wall action. Resident Evil 1 gave you a limited amount of ammo, healing items, and saves, which most of its imitators did as well. Blue Stinger throws that all out the window. Every few minutes, I stumbled upon a new vending machine that spit ammo and healing items to my heart’s content as long as I had the cash.

                I farmed for gold for quite a while, walking back and forth to shoot or batter humanoid creatures from all walks of life, which led to more rail gun ammo very early on. I was reminded of the good ole days back in Dragon Warrior 1, slogging through tons of battles in order to get that special Magic Armor. And it’s even done in the old school River City Ransom way: after enemies die, collectable coins instantly pop out of them. It recalled many of my fondest memories from my earliest gaming days. To further the River City Ransom comparison, there are even steak dinners you can buy and devour to increase your total hit points.

Screenshot courtesy of
Elliot looks on while Dog stares blankly at the side of his head.

                The game is occasionally difficult, but it has more to do with getting stuck between attacks from multiple enemies and less to do with balancing your inventory or rough boss battles. I felt like I destroyed everything by simply running around it in a big circle and occasionally shooting, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a survival horror thing.

                Extermination for the PS2 has a similar action-survival horror style and actually has challenging bosses AND limited ammo AND few saves. Whether or not it’s a good game or anything is hard for me to tell because I haven’t finished it, but intend on returning to it after I’m done with my Dreamcast kick. It’s in a stack of games next to my computer, which also includes Lode Runner for NES, Amazing Island, Super Mario Sunshine, SaGa Frontier 2, Breakdown, Dead Space: Extraction, and Shadows of the Damned.

                I’ve already started both Carrier and Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare for the Dreamcast, but I’m not entirely sure which one I should play. Both are Resident Evil clones to the core, which isn’t a bad thing after playing such crazy genre-defying games. I guess many Climax Group alumni went on to Cavia, who made some more crazy classics like Drakengard and Nier, the latter of which is one of my favorite games of all time. I bet Cavia’s Resident Evil rail shooters are absolutely spectacular, but it’s hard for me to lay a dollar down. Or 15 of them. From Resident Evil clones to Resident Evil rail shooters, I evidently just really love everything Resident Evil.

Screenshot courtesy of Mobygames. BLOOD!!!!!

                Other issues before I close this entry: why do they have storylines for the Professor Layton games? I just finished Professor Layton and the Last Specter and I almost stopped playing it five times because I couldn’t stomach the awful plot. I felt like it took longer to complete than the previous entries solely because there were more crappy cutscenes and dialogue to wade through.

Your game sucks, dude.
Stop talking so much.


  1. Man, I totally agree with you on the Professor Layton thing... bored me to sleep several nights in a row! But the puzzles are fun...

    1. I'm never playing a Layton game again. Plus the character design sucks.