My first pick is also a little bit of an unusual one, as it’s completely unavailable outside of Japan – which was exactly the case with the original Saturn release. Whilst it is unfortunate that it didn’t receive a localisation, it also still works pretty well without it regardless.
The game is essentially a roguelike horror dungeon crawler that sees you climbing to the top of a mysterious tower, dealing with randomly generated layouts, creatures, items, etc as you pay close attention to your health and stamina. It’s brutally tough, and often feels like things are stacked against you – but it also helps with the tension as you gradually figure out what stuff does.
Whilst the story and the characters are impossible to discern for non-speakers of Japanese, that feeling of the unknown as you work out everything out only adds to the game’s overall terror.
So long as you don’t mind probably not beating the game, it’s one you should really check out. There’s even a handy translation guide available too if you really want the additional help: https://nervetower.neocities.org
This next entry was another Japan exclusive, except this one did get a translation in this fancy remake of the original visual novel. Admittedly, being a visual novel will turn off a lot of people from the start – and the frequent sexual dialogue will likely turn off even more (the protagonist is referred to as a ‘walking libido’ for a reason!).
That being said, if you’re still interested even after that opening then there’s a lot here on offer that may be of interest. Whilst starting off fairly standard, with the game consisting of endless conversations, you’ll soon be introduced to the actual gameplay mechanics that flesh things out. First of all, you can interact with the environment (yes, including breasts and butts) to find out more about the world around you; however, the main draw revolves around the games central time travel gimmick.
You see, as well as being incredibly horny, the main character also receives a gift from his dead father that allows his to time travel… except it’s more like alternate realities. With this device in hand, you can make certain branching waypoints that allow you do change certain things and find out more information about your father. There are also missing jewels for you to recover along the way, adding further gameplay elements to break up this very long story. This gimmick is also what turns the story from annoyingly cringeworthy to surprisingly intriguing and makes it well worth experiencing.
Starting life out in the arcades (much like many titles in the Saturn library), this one was more of a hit in Japan than elsewhere – which presumably explains why it was never localised on the Saturn. With its high price tag nowadays, we’re lucky to have an Arcade Archives port that allows gamers to experience the game in all its glory.
The game is an action platformer, leaning more on the action side of things as you lob a big ball of water at your enemies in order to freeze them and kick them into other enemies like a Koopa shell. There’s certainly platforming elements involved, especially as you start utilising your water to grow plants and activating windmills, but your pathetic movement speed and jump height means that its rarely a focus.
Despite the painfully slow movement though, the game is a ton of fun and contains a lot of variety throughout the game’s many stages. It may be arcade-hard, especially with one hit taking down your kid, but it’s still a great title to play for fans of old school 2D platformers!
Sol Divide is the game that opened me up to the shoot em up genre, and thus it earns a special place in my heart. Sure, I’m terrible at them and also very picky at what I enjoy, but this game’s blend of shmup, beat em up, and RPG mechanics intrigued me enough to give it a pop.
How it works is simpler than you may expect. The game is presented as a horizontal shoot em up with pre-rendered visuals reminiscent of the early Mortal Kombat games. With a ranged weapon that acts like your standard projectile, a progressive magic system that requires you to acquire scrolls and MP to use, and a melee attack for close quarters combat, you’ll be slicing and dicing your way through to each stage’s boss. With multiple characters and story paths to follow, it’s really easy to fall in love with this game.
That’s not to say that the game is easy, however, as even on the easiest setting it can be quite challenging later on. Enemies do have weaknesses that you can exploit once you find them, and the game is kind enough to basically tell you what that weakness is on occasion.
It may not be the best shmup on either system, but the unique mechanics and visual style make the game easy to fall in love with.
Despite getting a Nightdive remaster last year (we even reviewed it!), Powerslave Exhumed still remains one of those oddities that always gets overlooked. Appearing to be an Egyptian themed Doom clone on the surface, it’s really easy to dismiss it as simply yet another boomer shooter that only us old folks will appreciate.
How wrong you are! Not only is this not a Doom clone in the slightest, the game holds up incredibly in the modern era. What helps make it seem so fresh, even now, is that the game plays more like Metroid Prime than Doom, despite predating that game by a good few years. Instead of simply blasting your way to the end of each stage, instead you’re progressing through stages in search of new weapons and artifacts that will help you progress. These new items allow you to revisit older areas to access new sections and entryways to whole new stages.
One such example of this early on are the Amun Bombs, which are essentially grenades that allow you to blow up weak walls. Sounds fairly basic until you realise that they can also be used to bomb jump to higher places, gaining access to secrets and places earlier than anticipated. It’s just one of the many great abilities you obtain and help make you feel overpowered by the end – the sign of any good Metroidvania game!
If you haven’t played this game yet, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by not picking it up. There’s more to this game than most people can even dream of, and really deserves far more recognition!