New database entry! Deep Freeze

THE TACTICS HAS BEEN STARTING

So I played this as part of my “Kimimi goes on a mad binge playing random and most probably mediocre 32-bit era adventure games” phase which culminated in the eye-wateringly awful Septentrion, a game which has the dubious honour of being the worst I’ve played in a very long time.

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At first glance you’d think that Deep Freeze was a throwaway low-budget sort of affair – it certainly looks, sounds, and plays like one after all. But a quick flip through the manual reveals that there’s a military advisor in the credits as well as a motion capture studio and Yasushi Akimoto’s name splashed alongside all the copyright info… I had to look the name up, and it might be this chap, although the Japanese wiki makes no mention of his (apparent) involvement with Deep Freeze either. Then again, I’d probably want all association with this game wiped from my professional record too: the English voice actors used here aren’t even listed on IMDB, which in quality terms places these people below the cast of Hard Edge!

But while Deep Freeze is definitely pretty rubbish, it’s not really terrible either. The nonsensical plot coupled with the substandard voice acting means most scenes will raise an unintentional laugh, as will flipping through your selection of AI partners and finding that Sniper specialises in using… handguns. Oh, and you have another partner with the intimidating codename “Bagel” too – who honestly thought that was a good idea?

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For the price it currently goes for (somewhere between nothing and stuff all) Deep Freeze is a stupid game that’ll give you an idle weekend filled with improbable terrorists, cheap-as-all-heck ninja-like baddies, and a ridiculous plot to cleanse the world of humans by a woman called MAM. Yep, really. Just don’t play it on the standard difficulty like I did, because the later missions become utterly infuriating if you do and I take no responsibility for any damages caused to your Playstation by playing this sort-of-but-not-recommendation-to-possibly-perhaps-if-you’re-so-inclined play Deep Freeze.

The proper database entry’s over here, if you want a little bit more info – click!

Deep Freeze

Original Title
ディープ
フリーズ
Format
Playstation
Genre
Action
Developer
Sammy
Official Website
N/A

 

Deep Freeze came out at the tail end of the Playstation’s life, a Japanese exclusive released in January 1999. Although the prerendered background overlaid with polygonal characters is bound to bring to mind Capcom’s Resident Evil series this game is a pure action title all the way, complete with combat rolls, a selection of grenades and a high score table at the end of the game.

The game is divided up into a linear series of missions, all of which take place in completely separate locations. Before starting each mission you’re given the opportunity to look at some basic information about the situation as well as choose an AI-controlled partner from your pool of supporting characters. These partners have their own heath bars and weapon loadouts, and if injured too seriously during play they will be unavailable for use in later missions.  While never directly under your control AI partners can be set to use one of three formations - attack, defend, and special attack – that determine their behaviour towards enemies.

Missions generally involve searching for particular items or keys to unlock new areas or trigger cutscenes. Enemies will endlessly respawn in most locations, occasionally dropping health pickups and grenades when defeated. Any health items collected over the maximum carry amount grant a points bonus that goes towards your end-of-mission score tally instead of refilling your health bar. Rescuing hostages works in a similar way, as they generally are not relevant to the plot but they do offer a points bonus if you take the time to save them.

The game appears to have no sequels or spinoffs, although it was re-released the year after as part of the “SuperLite 1500” budget brand.

Packaging

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Screenshots

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A survivor’s guide to the Gun Survivor tetralogy*

*That’s a fancy way of saying “Thing what has four parts”

Wildly mediocre reviews of Capcom’s light gun-compatible sort-of-series kept me away until recently, when a surfeit of Paypal money coupled with a devil-may-care attitude to the potential Metacritic score of my game collection came together and ended up with me buying the complete set – hurray for slightly irresponsible financial spending!

At the time these games were released either the light gun side of things was played up by Capcom (or Capcom’s PR arm), or the reviewers saw it on the back of the box and latched onto it like a hungry Rottweiler to a string of sausages; however in reality these games being compatible with Namco’s excellent light gun peripherals is about as relevant to the Gun Survivor series as Dreamcast keyboard compatibility is to Soul Calibur or how ambitious gamers can play Dark Souls with a Guitar Hero guitar. In practise the Gun Survivor series is actually better played and understood as twin-stick FPS games; left stick for movement, right stick to aim. They never did get the feeling quite right but the controls aren’t an insurmountable issue, they’re just a bit awkward.

Every game is very different and unconnected to the last, so each requires a different sort of approach:

Biohazard: Gun Survivor (AKA: Resident Evil: Survivor)

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The series kicks off on the Umbrella-owned Sheena island, starring Ark Thompson; the amnesiac friend of everybody’s favourite ex-RPD rookie, Leon S Kennedy. The amnesia angle is given a welcome little nudge away from the usual as Ark spends a fair bit of the game thinking he’s the wrong man, and the mysterious evil past he’s fretting about turns out to not be his past at all – good news eh? Although the light gun compatibility and first-person view lead many to expect it to play out as a typical arcade shooter, Gun Survivor is very much a typical (if distinctly low budget) Resident Evil title complete with keys, files, hidden magnums and should-I-fight-or-should-I-run sections to contend with. Ark can be whipped round to focus on points of interest in the room such as doors and items at the touch of a button, making movement, exploration, and item hunting relatively straightforward.

Oh, and if you’re looking at the screenshots and thinking “Those guys look familiar…” it’s because they lifted a lot of assets directly from Resident Evil 2.

Best thought of as… a first-person Resident Evil game

 

Gun Survivor 2 Biohazard Code: Veronica (AKA: Resident Evil Survivor 2: CODE: Veronica)

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Now unlike the others this one really was an arcade gun game (released in partnership with Namco), although the guns were the sort mounted onto the cabinet (so, analogue joysticks in disguise) rather than proper Virtua Cop style light guns. In any case, as a real arcade game this one’s all about getting you into the action quickly, finding keys to open doors placed throughout the free-roaming map and beating the clock; if you don’t get out of an area in time Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis shows up (he was probably grateful for the work) and then you’re really in trouble! The home port has a few nifty extras, as well as an inexcusably poor English translation.

Oh, and if you’re looking at the screenshots and thinking “Those guys look familiar…” it’s because they lifted a lot of assets directly from Resident Evil: CODE: Veronica (much like I lifted this sentence from the Gun Survivor description above).

Best thought of as…  CODE: Veronica Battle Game Deluxe

 

Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis (AKA: Dino Stalker)

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For whatever reason the Gun Survivor series took a break from shooting the undead for one game and instead drew inspiration from Capcom’s other survival-action series Dino Crisis instead. This one keeps the free-roaming (although the route is pretty linear) and timer (replenished by shooting or collecting crystals littered throughout the stage) of Gun Survivor 2 but greatly expands on the environments and polishes the gunplay into something much more satisfactory. It’s also absolutely bonkers, putting the player into the role of a doomed-to-die World War II pilot plucked out of his timeline by people from the far future to fight dinosaurs in hyperspace as well as a perfect dinosaur created by an evil supercomputer. No game – old or new - has come close to making me smile as much as this one has all year; and I love this game for it.

Best thought of as… Don’t think, feel.

 

Gun Survivor 4: Biohazard: Heroes Never Die (AKA: Resident Evil: Dead Aim)

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As is typical for this sort of thing, Capcom pulled the plug on the Gun Survivor series just as they really nailed it. Heroes Never Die returned to the slower-paced exploration and dread of the original Gun Survivor but with all the added polish and experience gained from the development of the previous titles. Unlike the others it’s possible (even if highly unlikely) to run out of ammo in this one, meaning that accurate fire is no longer just a matter of personal pride but necessary for survival too. Thanks to its exceptional graphics and engaging gameplay out of all the games in this spinoff series Heroes Never Die is infuriatingly just a HD upscale and over-the-shoulder aiming tweak away from being a decent mainline Resident Evil game in its own right.

Best thought of as… A prototype Resident Evil 4 

In fairness the first two games in the series probably require you to be seriously interested in experimental design ideas or a complete Resident Evil nut to really appreciate them, but the last two are legitimately good games, if a little unwieldy. Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis is the closest I’ve come to playing a game that really captures that gloriously mad 80’s/90’s arcade game feel in far too long, and Heroes Never Die is the game that finally got the balance between arcade-accurate shooting and the more traditional Resident Evil game structure just right. I’d encourage anyone that’d like to try a pair of underappreciated Playstation 2 games to seek out Gun Survivor 3 and 4 straight away.

Ramblings and recollections: Sega Saturn 20th Anniversary Edition!

If all’s gone well and I’ve got my dates correct as well as written something vaguely passable in time then today/tomorrow/yesterday/sometime around now (delete as applicable) is the Saturn’s 20th anniversary, hurrah!

This is going to sound more than a little off-kilter for a celebratory post but there’s no getting away from the fact that the Saturn got off to a bad start on western shores, being both more expensive than the Playstation as well as the launch titles looking significantly worse than their Sony-flavoured counterparts. You’ll never catch me arguing that Battle Arena Toshinden was a better game than Virtua Fighter (Ridge Racer vs. Daytona USA however is a much closer call) but it sure as hell looked a lot better, and that was damn important when you were trying to sell the future of gaming at the dawn of the 3D era to people who knew and cared about gouraud shading.

Sakura TaisenPuzzle Bobble 2XSteep Slope Sliders

Sonic JamStreet Fighter Zero 2Dead or Alive 

Outside Japan the system never really recovered from this opening stumble, with Sony’s young upstart soundly thrashing any and all challengers and becoming so popular in the process that it actually ended up coming full circle and having a lot of hyper-niche games of its own. But even with the Playstation being so hip and cool my dad bought a copy of Tekken 2 and then hid it from my brother and I so he could get a head start on the game I always had a soft spot for the Saturn, and was rewarded for my bone-headed stubbornness with the likes of NiGHTS, Burning Rangers and Shining Force 3. Deep Fear was an inexcusable PAL send-off though, even if the normally excellent (UK) Sega Saturn Magazine gave it a thoroughly undeserved 86% review score at the time (no I will not let that awful game off the hook).

Of course over in Japan though things couldn’t have been more different, with the Saturn being Sega’s most popular and successful console of all time over there. Japanese gamers had access to a wealth of titles the rest of the world simply never got to see; from fantastic arcade ports to the beginnings of the wildly successful Sakura Taisen series as well as more RPGs than a genre fan would know what to do with (trust me on this). So while us western fans of Sega’s 32-bit console may never quite get over that need to justify our original purchase as we explain our console allegiance, we can at least play safe in the knowledge that the one country that arguably really mattered gave the Saturn the success it deserved.

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The Story of Thor 2Take a wild guess ;)Panzer Dragoon Zwei 

These days general opinion of the Saturn has changed and gamers have now accepted the console as the connoisseur’s import hardware of choice; however all this “hardcore” attention towards the likes of Radiant Silvergun and Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru has robbed a lot otherwise perfectly good (and reasonably cheap) titles of their chance to shine. So if you do decide to dust off your Saturn today, don’t worry that you’ll come across someone boasting about playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 (with 4MB RAM cart!)as intended” or sharing photos of their complete set of US Magic Knight Rayearth picture disc variants (*yawn*), instead you should sit back with a copy of Fighters Megamix, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, or any of the other games shown in the screenshots in this post (mouseover an image for the title) and revel in the knowledge that you’re playing some of the finest games ever to grace the planet – and you didn’t need to break the bank to do so either!

Have fun!

Oh, you’re still here? Want some more Saturn recommendations? Check out my top ten Saturn games*!