- Payback (GBA) - I am a sucker for oddball games, it's true. So when I saw Payback, a nearly-full-3D Grand Theft Auto clone for the Game Boy Advance, I was instantly intrigued. Regrettably, it was never released in North America, and Nintendo's rules prevent the publisher from shipping the international version to me directly.
My first attempt to get it from someone who listed himself as being in Australia, where the game was published, netted me a package shipped directly from Hong Kong with -- you guessed it -- a cheap rip-off. That copy has been donated to academia for further study.
A European friend arranged to purchase from the publisher on my behalf and forward the game to me here in the States, so now I have the real thing.
I spent about an hour with it this afternoon, and it is really a fascinating clone of GTA. The pay phone missions start you off in Liberty City ... ahem ... I mean Freedom City. Running down a pedestrian leaves bloody tire tracks on the pavement. Missions involve the usual Point A to Point B to Point C mechanics. Practically the only familiar GTA hallmark I haven't seen is the line of Hare Krishnas in the park.
The controls are a bit wonky. Be prepared to struggle with them a bit, but they'll grow on you. If there is a lot of gunplay later on, I suspect it will mean frustration. I should also mention that Liber--Freedom City is located on an island nation, so you'll be driving on the wrong side of the road.
I enjoyed the time I dropped into the game and I suspect I'll pick it up again from time to time. However, it won't be an obsession.
- Gradius Collection (PSP) - The recent Best Buy clearance netted me my first $5 PSP game, Gradius Collection. While I've played side-scrolling shmups before (like R-Type), I have never seen a Gradius game, either in an arcade or on a home system.
The short of it is that I like what I've seen so far. Granted, I hated my first three games, because I had no idea what was going on, but now that I understand a bit more about what's going on I really enjoy it. Gradius and Gradius II are the games I've played the most and they're similar enough that the skills carry over, but the levels are different enough that I'm enjoying them independently.
The options allow you to tune the difficulty, which is helpful for newbies like me. There are also options to view the game at the resolution offered in the arcade and in a stretched mode to use all the PSP screen.
For $5, I'd buy just about any game. However, Gradius Collection is one that I'd've picked up at $15 had I known how much fun it could be.
I have a GBA flash cart and played Payback for a while. I think it is an excellent game although on the GBA it sometimes pushes the hardware a little too far. I bought a GP2X recently and ordered Payback at the same time and it's a lot better on that platform. Watching a replay of your last game is also cool.
I wish the GNU/Linux version had been released. I believe that's what a friend of mine was working on, and I'm not really sure why it was cancelled. Anyway, if I ever get a GP2X, I'll look into Payback...
If you eventually find yourself in need of some big-screen Gradius action (geeze that sounds horrible) I recommend Gradius V for the PS2 by Treasure. Good, brutally difficult shmup fun.
I have many fond memories of Gradius III on my SNES, which rumor has it is coming to the VC. I think you hold down left and press A three times for the famed thirty man cheat in that game (on that platform anyway, don't know if if made any of the others).