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      Game Culture

      Unreleased Games that were Salvaged, Revived, and Released in a Different Incarnation

      We’ve had thousands of games unreleased or lost in the fiery pits of perpetual gaming development hell and it’s really sad to think that most of them would never see the light of day, their spirits wandering the gaming world as pre-alpha builds, beta-builds, and some much worse as just mere game screenshots. However, a few games get removed from the back burner and given new life either by a different game publisher or developer. Let’s look at the interesting stories of these lost video games, salvaged, revived, and released in a different incarnation or form. Kenny from South Park would be proud.

       

      Success sometimes doesn’t warrant a Sequel

       

      Case in point, Final Fantasy Tactics. Now if any of you remember this awesome tactical RPG, you know how much success the game has garnered over the years, so much so that it is considered to be a classic and no game has ever come close in terms of gameplay except for its spiritual predecessor, Tactics Ogre from the Ogre Battle series developed by then Quest Corporation. Following its merger with then Squaresoft, Tactics Ogre director Yasumi Mitsuno worked with Final Fantasy director Hironobu Sakaguchi, an avid fan of the Tactical RPG genre, on finally realizing Sakaguchi’s dream of creating a Final Fantasy game with the gameplay mechanics of a TRPG set in a brave new world called Ivalice. The rest is history. 

      Following the release of Tactics, the developers set their sights on creating a new game. Not the sequel mind you, but a completely different story with subtle references to Tactics called Vagrant Story. Vagrant was also set in the same fictional world of Ivalice. The developers were very much focused on their new story, however, they initiated the idea of a Tactics sequel which would have used 2D graphics due to issues with 3D development at the time. The project was reportedly outsourced to an unspecified developer. The sequel never saw the light of day due to the commitment of the team at that time to Vagrant Story. Mitsuno however confirmed that the sequel was really in the works and even released a few assets. Feast your eyes on this:



      Although the sequel didn’t see a proper release, it did see light in a couple of different forms. Mitsuno’s fictional world of Ivalice was expanded upon and saw a revival similar to a multiversal setting called the Ivalice Alliance. This saw games such as Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, and even Final Fantasy XIV to be set in parallel versions of Ivalice with allusions to some of the races and classes found in the original Tactics game.



      What if Cloud Strife delved into Jungian Psychology and Philosophy?

      Final Fantasy VII was almost Xenogears. Xenogears was almost  Final Fantasy VII. At one point it was almost a sequel to Chrono Trigger.  Confusing ain’t it? Either way, those statements sound just as absurd to me as it does to you and they’re true. 

      Xenogears was conceived by Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife, Kaori Tanaka as a proposal for the then Final Fantasy VII. Initial concepts revealed that it was set in a fantasy world but once it was pitched, it was deemed too complicated, dark, and unsettling for a fantasy setting by the higher-ups in Squaresoft. Despite this, it was given the green light to be its project. It was then conceptualized as a sequel to Chrono Trigger going under the name of “Project Noah”. At this point, Takahashi was already getting frustrated with the Final Fantasy series and wanted to bring about something original.

      After going through the cutting board once more and arguing with the company over the game’s seemingly difficult approval process, they finally decided to cut the sequel idea and make it a completely original IP. With this decision, concepts had to be tweaked since it didn’t fit the fantasy setting anymore and so added in science fiction elements to finally come up with Xenogears. The husband-wife tandem also thought up the inclusion of Freudian, Nietzsche, and Jung philosophies as part of its theme and story. The very complicated conceptualization and short development time (2 years) almost made the second part of the story unfinished (2nd disc) which according to Takahashi was due in part to the team’s inexperience in creating a full game with the proposed development time.

      However, this didn’t stop Xenogears from becoming one of the greatest RPGs of all time with a lot of review publications sharing the same sentiment that it's a game that needs to be played and experienced by gamers one and all. However, did a sequel ever arise after Xenogears? Unfortunately, it never came to be even if Tanaka confirmed a sequel was in the works and this was because Square was focused on a film project during this time. The culprit? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

      Takahashi was pretty much into the idea of Xenogears having a sequel and this prompted him to leave Square and go independent. He established Monolithsoft in 1999 with the help of Namco and worked on Xenosaga. Sadly, this was neither considered a sequel nor even a prequel, however much of the concepts and some characters were still present in the new series. Thus, from the ashes of Xenogears 2 came about Xenosaga. Not as good as its spiritual predecessor, however, it was still relevant in its way and kept the spirit of Xenogears alive and burning.

       

       

      Doom Guy Slays Development Hell

       

      Wait, you’re still reading this? You’re up for more rollercoaster rides huh? Well here’s a story you might not wanna miss and which I consider as the best comeback from development hell for a game and quite appropriately so. Enter Doom (2016). Or Doom 4 in its early conception. 

       So, some stories start on a positive note right? Well, Doom 4 started exactly that way with John Carmack, then co-founder and lead developer announcing on QuakeCon 2007 that the game was in the works. It was then officially announced the following year with Id Software announcing that it would follow a similar gameplay loop with the original Doom and Doom II and deviating from the survival horror gameplay introduced by Doom 3. So far, so good right?

      Before Doom 4, Id released Rage, another FPS shooter which saw polarizing reviews, however, was praised for its graphics and strong game engine. Doom 4 was intended to follow in the footsteps of Rage, using the Id tech engine 5 with a more “Boots on the ground approach”. A multiplayer component was announced to be developed separately aiming for a 60 fps framerate. The game was touted to be a soft reboot of the franchise and fans should be excited ‘cause it was deep in development. Deep in development hell, that is.

      Id Software saw a lot of internal changes due to it being bought by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, John Carmack also left to pursue Oculus in 2013 and this left the development in shambles. Although assets were already done for the game, internally, some of the developers expressed their disdain for the playable build, calling it a soulless, spiritless, personality-devoid game, “lame and unfit for a late-night sci-fi channel”, that was more similar to Call of Duty than Doom. Ouch. Naturally, this news started spreading like wildfire when Kotaku released the expose showing the developers’ internal problems in making the game. So they killed it. Doom 4 was canceled. 

      The end right? Nope! Because Doom came back to life, baby! Woohoo! Now I’m just channeling the energy fans had when the then revived Doom (2016) was revealed in QuakeCon 2014. It was more Doom than ever with modern features that made you reminisce how the original Doom released in 1993 revolutionized First Person Shooters. In a video game world bloated with hundreds and hundreds of shooters, Doom 2016 went back to the basics by removing reload, increasing player mobility, black hole pockets carrying huge weapons while introducing new mechanics such as “Glory Kills” a melee execution system that made enemies drop health. 

      Directors, Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin even mentioned that inspiration came from heavy metal and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe featuring a story a bit more juvenile and comical. Doom 2016 was released with very favorable reviews and even won numerous awards and was considered to be one of the best shooters of this generation. Happy ending right? Definitely! Doom Guy is so OP he even beat development hell. Oh and unlike the previous entries in this list, it even spawned a sequel more awesome in Doom Eternal, released March 2020.

       

        

       

      Playable Teaser Gets Stranded on the Beach

       

      Alright, we know that Hideo Kojima is a mad genius right? I mean the guy is such an auteur he has shaken up the video game scene in more ways than one with his Kojimaisms I prefer to call it. Every time the man speaks or does something or releases something everybody listens and watches intently! And I’m not saying that in a hyperbolic sense nor in a fanboy way (okay, maybe I am a Kojima fanboy) but the guy knows what’s up. So when he released P.T. or Playable Teaser as he called it everybody was blown away! I mean why is Norman Reedus there? Who is Lisa? Why is she so scary? Why are there babies in sinks? Why do you loop back to the room whence you start? Why is this game so scary? Why are the graphics so realistically good? So many questions! So little time! So much Kojima! See this was a playable teaser for the new Silent Hill directed by Hideo Kojima and in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. 

      This was Hideo Kojima at his peak and even if he didn’t make any horror games before this, you would see a lot of the innovations he used in his previous games to be present in P.T. I mean who here would ever forget the dread and scare Psycho Mantis gave us in the original Metal Gear Solid. That scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid, especially when the controller would vibrate on its own or  Psycho Mantis would dictate the games saved on my memory card. I think it was in Kojima’s gaming DNA all along.

      With P.T. he gave us a glimpse of how a full-blown horror would be without sticking to the usual tropes most horror games would spiral into. This was evident in how he would use claustrophobia and the looping game mechanics as a way to evoke genuine fear and vulnerability while still maintaining the urge to push on because of curiosity. This prompted a lot of fans too to form communities and discuss the game’s secrets and theories showing how Kojima’s philosophy of connectivity doesn’t just translate in-game but also in the real world. When it was released, P.T. was downloaded a million times on the Playstation Network creating such a buzz that it was considered a Game of the Year or Horror Game of the Year by a lot of reviewers. This however drew a lot of confusion for others due to the nature of the game. Since it was a playable teaser a lot of game journalists did not know whether to classify it as a full-fledged game, a demo, or a different thing altogether. Despite the hype it generated, sadly Silent Hills was canceled by Konami. P.T. was pulled out from PSN never to be downloaded again. This stemmed from the alleged fallout of Hideo Kojima and Konami. Hideo split from Konami in 2015 and formed his studio: Kojima Productions.

      We will never know what happened between Kojima and Konami and it’s sad to think we’ll never see a Metal Gear release again nor a Silent Hill Remake. P.T. was truly stranded on the beach, like a whale on its final death throes never to leave the shore and swim freely. However, this is not to say that the game is truly dead as Kojima retained some of the ideas he used in P.T. and ported them over to his new game, Death Stranding.

      He even got Norman Reedus to return and Guillermo del Toro’s likeness to be included in the game. Even Lisa the scary ghost made an appearance in Death Stranding as the wife of Cliff Unger, the secondary antagonist of the game. Even the babies make an appearance albeit not in a scary form this time but disturbing nonetheless. Even some of the horror elements were carried over like the “Beached things” or B.T. for short. Death Stranding may not have been the PT we deserve but it was a game revolutionary in its own right that introduced to its players the importance of connectivity. It’s a hard game to sell like most of Kojima’s games due to the uncanny nature of its story and gameplay loop however Kojima is never known to stick to safe and proven game tropes and instead is always keen to think outside the cardboard box. Well me, I’m just glad P.T.’s literal spirit is alive and kicking in Death Stranding. Oh, but what I would give to play that game again. 

       

       

       

      Yeah Yeah Beebiss I is solved! Or is it? 

       

      Alright, the last one on this list is such an enigma, the Riddler would probably be summoned from the depths of the comic books and just laugh at how absurdly convoluted and mysterious this game is. I present to you the mystery of Yeah Yeah Beebiss I! If you’re not familiar with this game, well I ain’t too because honestly, nobody is! That’s how mysterious this game is. 

      It started with a June 1989 listing for mail-order video game service, Play It Again. In an issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, Yeah Yeah Beebiss I was first mentioned. It was mentioned again in July, August, and September in the same mail-order service. What’s weird is that in October 1989, a nearly identical advertisement was placed by another mail-order video game service, Funco. Some people were arguing that this was a ploy by both mail-order services to prank unsuspecting customers but this was impossible during this time because the two companies were from different states and had possibly no prior contact; this was the pre-internet days. So one plausible theory was that the game was fabricated as a copyright trap, intended to serve as evidence if another games service copied the list and this was corroborated by Neil Levin, one of the Play Again founders wherein he mentioned that the company would often put in fake listings to catch people copying Play it Again. 

      Another theory is that the game was just a mere mistranslation of the NES/Famicom platformer Rai Rai Kyonshis: Baby Kyonshi no Amida Daibouken. "Rai Rai" can be interpreted as "Yeah Yeah" and Beebiss I was a mistranslation of the usage of "Baby". This was not confirmed, however, and the game would be probably misconceived as a different game as in the case of a canceled platformer.  It has been speculated that Yeah Yeah Beebiss I's identity is Super Pitfall 2, a canceled sequel to Activision's 1986 NES platformer Super Pitfall. Whatever Yeah Yeah Beebis was, it was an anomaly at a time when the internet was practically non-existent yet. There are no screenshots, no playable builds, nothing except for that mailing list order screenshot. 

      Even if the game was supposedly non-existent and will probably remain a mystery until the sun is a black hole, a sequel is coming out sometime next year. Surprise, surprise! A collaboration by John Riggs, Mega Cat Studios, and Chip ‘N Cellos, it’s a passion project driven more by the curious nature of its source material with literally nothing to base it upon except for speculative theories. Now that is the culmination of everything we’ve talked about here so far. A non-existent game finally being given life just like its alleged protagonist, a Zombie boy. So does this solve the mystery? Nope! Yeah Yeah Beebis I is still out there, mockingly laughing at us while we still search for clues. But it is alive.

       

       

       A Proper Requiem

      That was such an amazing ride! It felt like going through multiple murder mysteries but this time instead of looking at dead bodies, we’re looking at revived ones. Not like zombies mind you, because these games have been given a new lease on life with their personalities and quirks and we’re all for it. That’s not to say video game development always ends up with slightly happy endings like these but it goes to show how complicated it is and the people who make these are just as real as you and I with ambitions and aspirations that don’t always end up the way they would like to. See that’s just like life in general, things don’t always go our way and some decisions end up on the back burner but once in a while some of them end up in happy accidents that are just as good as our original dreams. Speaking of Yeah Yeah Beebiss, we may never be able to solve what happened before but lo and behold a sequel is now on Steam and Nintendo Switch called Yeah Yeah Beebiss II. For updates on the unexpected sequel and more retro gaming goodness be sure to visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Discord and say meow!

      Glide on the Pain Train: The hardest retro games we’ve grown to love

      There is plenty of nostalgia to be had when it comes to retro games. Some of it might come from simpler times; when we were young and everything in life was easy and relaxed while playing video games. Maybe because these retro games were some of your earliest forays in terms of video gaming experiences. After all, the nostalgia reasons vary from person to person.


      However, this also means that a few people out there will have fond memories of games because of how insanely hard they were. Video games have had leaps and strides when it comes to handling difficulty, with more accessibility options than before. But during the retro gaming era, developers were limited by both hardware and development experience. Since there was limited space to do things, games tend to be hard so that there would be more replayability, even though this was artificial in a sense. And since plenty of game development back then usually focused on arcade experiences, developers came with the mindset to make games harder to increase penny munching.


      Despite these limitations, players have increasingly grown fond of these absolutely difficult games, accepting their difficulties as if gauntlets were thrown at the face of their gaming expertise. So join me today as we walk through some of the hardest retro games that have been thrown at us by the video game developers of yore. 

       

      Gradius

      Not quite bullet hell, but hellish nonetheless

      Not quite bullet hell, but hellish nonetheless

       

      Let’s start with one of the few games on this list that I have finished without using save states or cheat codes. Gradius  is usually cited as one of the most important shooter games by popularizing the horizontally-scrolling shooter genre, players are seated into the cockpit of Vic Viper. You blast your way through levels filled with enemies trying to ram you and incessantly shoot bullets at you. At the end of each level, you will be confronted with a boss, and you’d have to shoot their weak points to defeat them. However, a lot of these points are protected by an additional layer that you have to grind down bit by bit till you get to the meat and ultimately destroy its weak point. The creativity of these boss battles is a highlight of the original game, as is the difficulty of each one.

       

      My favorite part of Gradius has to be the power-up system, though. Unlike most other shooters, Gradius only has one kind of power-up, and when you pick it up, it will advance a power meter at the bottom of the screen, and if you reach a point in the meter that you would want to obtain, you can do so anytime by pressing the power-up button, but doing so would reset your power meter to zero, creating a mini push your luck game of trying to survive as long as possible with a weak weapon to reach as far as you can on your power meter.

       

       

      Ghosts ‘n Goblins

      Jumping in your boxers

       

      The debut game of one of the most underrated franchises from Capcom, Ghosts ‘n Goblins sees a knight named Sir Arthur try to rescue Princess Prin-Prin from Astaroth, the king of the Demon World. While that plot is pretty thin, it is often referred to as one of the most difficult video games of all time. Unfortunately, much of that difficulty is either a love it or hate it kind. Sir Arthur can only withstand one hit before losing one life, and each life is also timed. What’s more, once Sir Arthur jumps, he can’t change directions until after he lands, which is maddening if you’ve played literally any other side-scroller. What’s worse is that each level only has one checkpoint, and that checkpoint is always smack dab in the middle of the level. If you die before reaching that point, you’ll be thrown back at the start of the level!

       

      Sure, there’s plenty of additional weapons that you can pick up along the way, and the game is still pretty much beatable, but right when you thought you’ve gotten the hang of it, a very nasty surprise will meet you at the end of your playthrough because now you need to do everything all over again with a higher difficulty to reach the true ending of the game! Sure, it’s nasty, but it wouldn’t be notorious for its difficulty if it was any much easier than this.

       

       

      Contra: Hard Corps

      Bad news

       

      That title is not just a silly pun. This entry to the popular Contra franchise is very hardcore. If you thought the original Contra for the NES was hard, the first and only Contra game released for a Sega console is even harder. Despite the prettier graphics, it has more things to master with its multiple characters, each with its own different sets of weapons. Contra: Hard Corps also features multiple branching paths, with each providing a different ending.

       

      While that may all seem like an enticing ride, at the end of the day, multiple endings will only have players trying to finish the game multiple times. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if it’s not a Contra game that we’re talking about, especially one that is already considered one of the hardest entries in the franchise.

       

      Castlevania

      Don’t let go of your holy water!

       

      While not the most difficult game on this list, the original Castlevania will still take you by surprise, especially if you were able to play future entries into the series. Unlike the newer games, Castlevania doesn’t take an entire map and let you explore it to your whims. This was way before the series popularized the Metroidvania genre, and is instead a classic linear side-scrolling platformer. Like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, part of why this game was hard was because of how it handles jumps. You can’t change your trajectory in the middle of your jumps, and while that is realistic, none of the other aspects of the game is chasing for realism, so this seems like a design choice that is made to make your play sessions harder.

       

      However, this game has one neat trick that you can keep to heart to make things easier. When you acquire the holy water, hold on to it as if your life depends on it. It will make quick work of most enemies within the game. All that’s left for you to do is to practice your jumps. You’ll be beating Dracula in no time.

       

      Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

      When both launch and landing are problems

       

      The only game in this list that was both difficult to finish and difficult to acquire, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is the actual sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. The reason why Nintendo never gave this game an international release was because of how absurdly hard it was, to the point that one of Nintendo’s consultants in the West back then called the game an undeserved punishment. However, this spike in difficulty was by choice, as the game was sold with a label that said it was a game “For Super Players”. Plenty of tricks for infinite lives were included in the opening levels to provide additional room for players to breathe in. The latter levels were no joke as they had insane difficulty spikes.

       

      None of that helped in easing the game’s difficulty, and up to this day, The Lost Levels remains one of the few blotches of the Super Mario franchise. Still, some people regard the game as fun and clever and view it with fondness. While there’s no denying Nintendo’s excellent level design is at work here, there’s also no doubt that this is one of the hardest games in their entire catalog.

       

       

      Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

      He’s the least of your problems

       

      While not as notoriously difficult as The Lost Levels, Nintendo also had you reeling in terms of recovering from its punches with this game, later changing its name to “Punch-Out!!”. This is the easiest game on this list, with the different opponents that you face having distinct patterns that you need to figure out to beat them. However, people still remember it as one of the hardest Nintendo has ever released due to how you would need to restart the entire game from the beginning if you get knocked out in the middle of a fight against any of the fighters.

       

      Besides, if you experienced this game at a younger age, would you even think that boxing is a cerebral experience? You probably wouldn’t even think to see if your opponents are fighting with a pattern. You’d just mash the punch button in hopes of getting a hit-in. That would most likely be the reason why people remember Punch-Out!! as one of the harder games to have ever existed. Still, I wouldn’t count out the times when one was able to identify Mike Tyson’s pattern and still be hit with one of his uppercuts that will instantly knock you out. That kind of experience is infuriating, and even so when it brings you right back to the beginning of the game. 

       

      Battletoads

      Prepare to crash over and over again

       

      And finally, we come to the one game on this list that is considered by many to be the hardest game to have ever existed. Battletoads’ main problem is not in its controls or how friendly fire is enabled throughout the game, but in how it was designed. If you have noticed, most other games will give you an idea of what’s coming before it happens. For example, enemies would appear at a significant distance from your character, which gives you an ample amount of time to react appropriately before they do some damage to you. The problem with Battletoads is that it skips all of that. Enemies and obstacles inadvertently appear at near-instant speed, which turns the game less of an exercise in hand-eye coordination and more of an exercise in memorization.

       

      If you’re convinced that you can finish Battletoads, though, you’re in luck. The game itself is fairly short, so memorizing the patterns of each level is easier than, say, memorizing all the names of stars within a constellation. Just prepare to lose some hair in the process.

       

      Holy Roller

      While people play games for different reasons, there’s a certain magic when it comes to difficult games, especially when you can overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds associated with them. There is a reason why difficult games have been on the rise recently, with games like Cuphead or Celeste taking center stage. These modern games are now unhindered by the technical limitations of the olden times. So with plenty of ways to adjust these games’ accessibility while also keeping true to their word for the gluttons for punishment, these games have truly transcended the barriers between being a game only the hardcore can muster and a game for everyone.

       

      However, despite the inherent difficulty that comes so often with older games, the design practices have evolved along with them, paving the way for all of the newer games in terms of designing for a larger audience in mind, and in turn, growing the industry.


      Which of these games have you finished? Or maybe we missed out on a game's difficulty that hits differently than the games mentioned here? How about you head on to our Discord and chat with like-minded friends or head on over to our Youtube channel to see more retro gaming goodness.

      Phantom Gear: Playgrounds of Peril

      Phantom Gear: Playgrounds of Peril

      No matter how creative the enemies are or how beautiful the graphics are, the main quality that players will sometimes be looking for in a 2D side-scroller is the level design. And while they may not exactly be aware of it, the level design will always make or break a game in terms of player experience. After all, you can’t simply have multiple levels with different kinds of set dressing on it and pass it off as a great level design if all levels are simply the same in terms of layout.


      Fortunately for us, Phantom Gear is excellent in that aspect. Each level brings a unique aesthetic to it that fits the world while also bringing in unique mechanics for each of them. So join Josephine in her quest to recover a piece of the Artifact stolen by the Ocular Force across multiple levels of smooth gameplay and frantic combat.

       

      Common Ground

      Before heading on to specifics for each level, there are a couple of key things that will be equally true for almost all of them. Phantom Gear's levels are designed to be one big level split into multiple sections. It follows a checkpoint system, and whenever you die, you will be simply transported to the last checkpoint you reached. As with most platformers made for the Sega Genesis, you only have a limited number of lives, and if you run out of them, you’d have to start the entire game over. A way to take this down a notch is that the levels with some of the more difficult sections will contain an extra life. These extra life pickups also respawn whenever you die, which also means that you effectively get unlimited lives if you choose to always try and pick them up.

      Aside from checkpoints, there are also various shops strewn across the levels, allowing you to spend your hard-earned green orbs to upgrade your abilities, give you extra lives, or equip different weapons. Some of these shops contain extra juicy stuff, but they are located on alternate routes within the level, so be on the lookout for these routes!

       

      Wandering Free

      With those out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each level. There are eight levels in the game, and while this may seem low in number, remember that each level is one huge linear track that is split into multiple sections. This means that the actual game length would be longer than the eight levels that Phantom Gear presents you with.

      The first level that we’ll encounter is City Lab, and this is where Josephine’s journey begins. This level mostly aims to introduce the player to how Phantom Gear works, introducing you to the different enemies and obstacles within the world and showing you just how maneuverable Josephine is.

       

       

      Next, we have the Under City Cave, the source of the city’s power by way of geothermal energy. This is essentially a magma-filled level with plenty of lava-based obstacles along the way. And for a person like Josephine, her augments can only carry her so far when it comes to the heat inside the cave.

       

       

      Valley Forest is the third level, which is the staple greenery level that consists of multiple robotic animals, influenced by the Ocular Force. A bit of foreshadowing here but there’s a huge surprise waiting for you when you reach the end of the level. You better gear up!

       

       

      The first level that provides a break from all the jumping and shooting, Blast Journey has Josephine taking to the skies, riding a missile towards her next destination. A homage to the retro side-scrolling shooters, Josephine must be able to survive the onslaught of flying enemies that this level spawns to survive the trip.

       

       

      A platformer wouldn’t be complete without an ice level, and Phantom Gear is no exception. The Snowy Mines contains all the usual trappings of an ice level, with plenty of slippery floors and harsh snowstorms.

       

       

      Another auto-scrolling level, but this time, Josephine is grounded. Hot Pursuit sees her on a motorcycle chasing a train owned by the Ocular Force. Naturally, there will be plenty of shooting involved, and it’s your job to dodge bullets from enemies while dishing out your version of pain to them.

       

       

      Fallen City is a glimpse of what would happen to other cities in the world if the Ocular Force is left unchecked. With plenty of failed experiments and junk from the factories of the Force, it elevates the Ocular Force from a bunch of random grunts wearing masks to a legitimate threat to Josephine’s world.

       

       

      The atmosphere set by Fallen City is perfect for the game’s penultimate level because once you enter Ocular Force Headquarters, there’s no going back. The final level of the game will test all of the skills that you acquired throughout the game. And seeing as this is the final level, you better be prepared for the final boss as well. 

       

       

       

      Locking Up

      With all this information in tow, it’s ultimately up to you how you would tackle the dangers strewn across each level. Whether you choose to blast through enemies haphazardly or take a more careful approach, at the end of the day, it is Josephine's mission to recover the stolen piece of the Artifact and put an end to the Ocular Force’s dreams of world domination once and for all.

      If screenshots and a little bit of blurb won’t do for you and would love to see most of these levels in action, fear not, because you can head on over to Phantom Gear’s Kickstarter page to download a demo. And if you feel like the demo wouldn’t be enough for you to experience the lightning-fast frenzy of the game, the full game will be available soon, and pre-ordering it would be a great idea. Check out the game's Steam page and put it on your wish list! Join our Discord for discussion, news, and updates! 

       

       

      The Harkening: The best games to start your retro journey

      It’s a new year! That means new things to look forward to and of course, new resolutions to start the year right. But resolutions are a thing of the past. So instead of that, why don’t you try out new things this year! The word “new” might be something relative since what I’m going to introduce to you is something that is tethered in the past. But worry not! Because going retro is in more than ever and it never goes out of fashion. Plus, you get to have fun either solo or with friends! 

      Retro games often tick something within their player base. Some say it’s the nostalgia. Others argue it’s the huge amount of satisfaction when you finally get to conquer them years after. Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t hurt to give some of these old games a whirl. Who knows you might even discover a new favorite. 

      If you’re someone who is looking to scratch that gaming itch, how about you try some retro games on for size? You’d marvel at how deep and engaging some of these games from the old times can be. Here are our picks for some of the best retro games to start your journey with.

       

       

      Tetris

      While not the first video game to be publicly released, Tetris was one of the first to be widely available with great success. This game was first released in 1984 for the Electronika 60 in Russia. Since then, there have been plenty of ports of this simple yet engaging game. With differently shaped blocks falling from the top of the screen, the player must prevent these blocks from filling the screen by stacking them correctly. Filling a straight line with blocks clears that line, and doing so will cause blocks on top of it to fall. This means that the player must continuously manage to put the falling blocks into spaces that would facilitate the clearance of rows to keep the game going.

      This isn't the Matrix, it's Tetris

      Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it was just that. The game also gradually makes the falling blocks fall faster  This requires the player to increase their concentration and reflexes as the game goes on. And with an inherent scoring mechanic, Tetris has lived on to survive even to this day. There are multiple ports to modern consoles each with its unique gimmick. There’s even an e-sports event dedicated to the best of the best! A timeless classic.

       

       

      Street Fighter 2

      Speaking of e-sports, none of the fighting games of today’s landscape would probably even exist if it wasn’t for this game. Street Fighter 2 wasn’t just a successful sequel; it launched an entire genre on its own. By way of the developers deciding to leave in a bug for really good players to abuse, they also inadvertently introduced combos to the world of video gaming. And with such a successful game on their hands, Capcom eventually had multiple copycats vying for a slice of the fighting game pie.

      Can you hear that Hadouken?

      And while Street Fighter 2 is not played in tournaments as much as newer iterations of the franchise, the inherent fluidity of the game’s mechanics stands the test of time. I’d argue that it is still an enjoyable experience within the modern fighting game scene. Street Fighter 2 continues to endure, whether it be in high-level tournaments or within the comfort of your couch.

       

       

      Pac Man

      If you’re looking for less of the beating down opponents and more opportunities for getting a high score, then this game might be more up your alley. Pac-Man is centered around its titular character trapped in a maze full of pellets, fruits, and ghosts. It’s up to you to guide him through this maze and have him eat every single one of the pellets while dodging ghosts. However, you have power pellets scattered across the level, and gobbling one up will allow you to eat ghosts for a limited time. And with the occasional fruit randomly spawning around the level and a limited amount of power pellets, it’s ultimately a choice of surviving more efficiently which in turn would gain you more points.

      Gobble gobble!

      If you’re willing to put yourself up for a challenge, then hear this out. There’s a definite maximum number of points you can achieve with the original arcade game. It’s a whopping 3,333,360 points, partly due to the game glitching out during the 256th level. If you're up to it, you can either try your hand at being the select few who achieved this score. If that doesn't cut it, then try the recent iterations of this beloved icon.

       

       

      Doom

      For the uninitiated, Doom might seem like a newer franchise. With how popular the recent reboots have been (Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal), I think that is forgivable. But that’s exactly what these games represent: reboots of a popular franchise. Doom is credited as the game that popularized first-person shooters. And with good reason, because for its time, Doom's controls were hella smooth and was everyone’s most played games then. Imagine selling 2-3 million units and still counting! A true testament to how popular this game is until now. 

      Peak 90s FPS Experience

      If you’re from the newer generation of gamers, you might be wondering how an old FPS would be that popular back then without online multiplayer. Well, stop scratching that head of yours because Doom laid out the roots of what would eventually be modern online multiplayer. Despite the limited capabilities of the internet, against all odds, it was possible to frag each other through online means. This was possible via a dial-up network and it was glorious! Minus that beeping dial-up sound of course. If you’re a multiplayer junkie, you still wouldn’t want to miss out on the amazing single-player campaign and rip and tear demons.

       

       

      Final Fantasy VII

      The story of Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII remains to be the most popular amongst the various other stories within the Final Fantasy series. Receiving numerous spin-offs and even a full CGI movie it is the first entry that received a complete remake for the current generation consoles. FFVII continues to appeal to multiple generations of fans and is a true testament to its timelessness. This is because of its gripping storyline, engaging boss battles, and quirky side quests.

      Blocky Cloud is still the way to go

      If you haven’t played any role-playing games yet, this is a good starting point. While there are multiple inconsistencies throughout the game’s presentation, it’s mainly because this was the first entry in the series to utilize 3D graphics, so it never distracted from the game’s strong story elements.

       

       

      To New Beginnings

      While these five games are just a few examples, there are plenty more retro games to start sinking your teeth into across different genres. You have the classic run-and-gun action of Metal Slug, the sprawling adventure of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or the charming platforming of Donkey Kong Country. Listing them all here would be quite an impossible task and it would take forever just talking about all of these amazing retro games. You have a whole year ahead to try most of them out, so get your game face on! 

      So which retro games do you think we missed? Is the omission of certain characters like a plumber or hedgehog appalling? Or which among these would you love to try? Head on over to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to chime in on your thoughts. We’d also love for you to say meow on our Mega Cat Discord and start a gaming discussion! 

      Top 10 Christmas Based Games: Saving the Holidays

      We have been celebrating Christmas longer than we have had video games. That may seem obvious, but outside of in-game events, games that are explicitly connected to the holiday are quite far and few in between. I mean, sure, there's still more than 50 of them, but for a holiday that is celebrated by different cultures across the globe, you'd be surprised at how sparse video games connected to Christmas are.


      So how about we celebrate the few video games that do succeed at bringing the holiday cheers? Some of the games that we'll be shining the spotlight on today are games that are largely focused on the holiday while some have plots that only happen on Christmas. But no matter which end of the Christmas spectrum they stand in, there's bound to be something in there for you to celebrate the holiday cheers with. Let's ring those bells and begin the Christmas games countdown!

       

       

      Christmas NiGHTS

      We’ll be starting with this obscure little gem. If you’ve ever played or heard of NiGHTS into Dreams before, this title will be mostly the same but with more of the spirit of Christmas at work. The most curious thing about this Christmas NiGHTS is that there’s only one level in the game, Christmas Spring Valley, which also means there’s only one boss. You can choose to play as either Elliot or Claris, but there’s not much difference between the two.

      The reason why they did this, though, is because this was a promotional sampler disc of NiGHTS into Dreams for the Sega Saturn that was released during the holiday season of 1996. This makes hunting an original copy of the sampler disc quite a challenge. Thankfully, if you’ve been wanting to play through this one, HD remasters of NiGHTS into Dreams included it as an unlockable. Hooray for modern technology!

       

       

      Cthulhu Saves Christmas

      For something a lot easier to access but still rather obscure, we’ve got this little gem of an RPG on Steam. Cthulhu Saves Christmas has a visual style that harkens back to the good ol’ SNES era but is more comically self-aware than any of the classic RPGs. It centers around Cthulhu trying to rescue Santa Claus from the League of Christmas Evil so that he can get his powers back. It’s incredibly fast-paced and funny, and while there’s not a lot of innovation in terms of gameplay, it makes up for it in how irreverent the humor is.

      One thing to note is that this game is the second game to come out in Zeboyd Digital’s Cthulhu Saves Something RPG series. Fortunately, it’s also a prequel, so you don’t need to have played Cthulhu Saves the World before diving into this one. If you love the style of Cthulhu Saves Christmas, then it’s best to check out the rest of Zeboyd’s games. They’re all pretty great!



      The Darkside Detective

      Unlike the rest of the games on this list, The Darkside Detective doesn’t solely focus on Christmas, but among the many cases to solve in this gripping point-and-click adventure game, one of them is a nod to Christmas specials! That may not be enough to put this game on a list like this, but we’ll be making an exception for The Darkside Detective on the account that it is just too good of a game to pass up. If you don’t like the genre, this won’t turn you into a believer, but if you’re open to games as long as they have a rich story, then this will most likely be up your alley.



      Also, this is somewhat proof of what we were talking about with regards to games and Christmas. There’s usually very little in terms of the quantity of Christmas-themed games. Imagine the shenanigans we could get if all of The Darkside Detective’s cases occurred during Christmas instead of us getting that sole Christmas Spectacular Special. But, hey, at least we got one, right? More opportunities to talk about this sweet game so that we could potentially get more of Francis McQueen in the future. Pick up this game on Steam, PS4, PS5, XBOX, or Switch.




      Daze Before Christmas

      Now this one is a full-on Christmas-themed game! Daze Before Christmas players even gets to play as Santa Claus as he tries to save Christmas from an evil mouse who stole the presents supposedly for kids. And how will players be doing that? By using his magic powers to turn his enemies into harmless Christmas presents, of course! This game is a glorious 2D action platformer on the Mega Drive and SNES!



      The game itself is pretty barebones platforming, but there are plenty of moments in the game that are just truly bizarre. I mean, you drink tea to turn into Anti-Santa, and while in this state, you’re an invincible devilish-looking version of Santa that swings his sack of toys at enemies to defeat them. In this form, he can’t use his magic or open presents. Whoever thought of that is both a genius and a madman. We need more Christmas weirdness in our games!

       

       

      Elf Bowling

      If you’ve ever read a list of Christmas-themed games that did not have Elf Bowling in it, consider that list incomplete. This game for ye olde Windows during the ‘90s was one of the most played PC games that were not bundled with Windows, hitting 7.6 million players at the time. That may seem like a small number compared to the millions of players that newer games were getting, but remember that PCs were not as commonplace back in the ‘90s as they are now. And with this game mostly being shared via email, it was no surprise that a lot of people who owned a PC then were able to play it.



      Of course, for all the people out there who had no idea that Elf Bowling existed before this article, it’s a pretty basic bowling game. You play as Santa, and you are trying to knock down elves who are arranged like bowling pins. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about the gameplay, but the game had a lot of antics that ranged from silly to crude. The elves will taunt Santa when he misses, dances when the game ends, and even randomly moons him. Sure, they can be decapitated by the bowling ball, but they can also randomly dodge it. Pooping rabbits, crossing frogs, and lurking deer are also present, making this one of the weirder bowling games released.



      Home Alone

      There were multiple versions of the video game tie-in of Home Alone, but we’ll be talking about the one that got the most positive reception. The Master System version of Home Alone has players control Kevin while he races to collect various valuables lying around the house before the Wet Bandits can get to them. Once he collects all of them, he will then need to place those valuables inside a vault. If he can do this without the Bandits leaving the house with valuables in tow, players will succeed in clearing the level and move on to the next one.


      While the Master System version will take a while to get into challenging territory, it’s the best of the bunch. Critics considered the Game Boy version to be slow and tedious and the other versions underdeveloped and overpriced. If you’re curious about how these criticisms hold up to today’s standards, the other versions of Home Alone were released for NES, SNES, PC, Game Boy, Genesis, Game Gear, and Amiga.



      Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare

      Much like Christmas NiGHTS, Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare is a special shareware edition of the original game that featured extra content centered around Christmas. There were two of these that were released, though: one was for 1994, the other was for 1995. Holiday Hare 1994 had three extra levels while 1995 only had two. Nevertheless, both Holiday Hare versions were extra Christmas-themed content with the same smooth platforming that Jazz Jackrabbit was known for, so we’ll happily play through both of them.


      If you’re hunting for both Holiday Hares, make it a priority to get 1995. 1994’s extra levels were later integrated into the main Jazz Jackrabbit game as episode X, but 1995 didn’t get the same treatment. Since both of them are shareware, it’s probably not going to be hard to look for copies of both of them if you’re just looking to play through bite-sized sessions of Jazz Jackrabbit, but, hey, the more you know, right?



      Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

      When you first take a look at it, there’s nothing about Metal Gear 2 that screams Christmas. But when you do get to play it, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll be embarking on a rescue mission on Christmas Eve. Yep, we’ve got a nuclear threat on both Christmas and the world. Time to sneak around as Solid Snake in classic grid-based stealth!

      Oh, right, this isn’t your newfangled Metal Gear Solid. This was way before it became cool on the Playstation. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released on the MSX2, and it’s probably one of the best 8-bit games ever released. The thing about it is, aside from the plot occurring during Christmas Eve, there’s not a whole lot about the game that will provide the holiday cheers. There are plenty of double-crosses, tactical warfare, and clever stealth mechanics, sure. But if you’re looking for the Christmas spirit somewhere in there, you’d be hard-pressed to find it here.



      Merry Gear Solid: Secret Santa

      If you’re looking to play a game with plenty of sneaking around while also being a game that is themed around Christmas, then look no further than this fan-created game in the vein of the Metal Gear series. Merry Gear Solid: Secret Santa combines the gameplay of the 2D Metal Gear games while stylistically resembling the 3D games, putting the visual cues largely in line with the modern games. Players will be playing as Solid Santa, a holiday veteran who needs to deliver presents to several children on Christmas Eve.

      It’s got plenty of Christmas-y twists to the militaristic flair that the core series has, but it’s now replaced enemy soldiers with naughty kids who are waiting for Santa and oblivious adults who can’t even see you unless you come in physical contact with them. The overall game is a bit short, but it’s a free game based on an excellent IP, so I can’t hear anyone complaining.

       

       

      Parasite Eve

      Our last game is similar to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in that the plot unfolds during Christmas Eve but doesn’t have a lot of Christmas spirit. It’s got more of a horror vibe to it, with the primary antagonist Eve making herself known to the world. Of course, she has to do it on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s more dramatic that way, no? Enter Parasite Eve.

      As Aya Brea, players embark on a journey to stop Eve from destroying the human race through spontaneous human combustion. Set-up as an Action RPG this was then-Squaresoft’s first M-rated game. Gamers were all sure back then that they wouldn’t be pulling any punches. Plenty of praise was hailed on the game’s graphics and gameplay, but the linear nature of the plot meant that there was little replay value to be had. Fortunately, that story is something that should be experienced by all kinds of gamers. We probably need an HD remake of this sooner rather than later.

       

       

      We Just Want More Christmas Games

      Beyond these ten games, there are still quite a few more games that have some sort of Christmas connection to them, but that's all we'll be covering for now. If you love Christmas, here's to hoping that more video game plots get to happen during the holiday season. We need more protagonists getting into trouble during the holidays or odd revelations in the most wholesome season of each year. Until then, be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more holiday cheers! You can also head on over to our Mega Cat Discord and discuss with us any Christmas-themed games we may have missed!