Skelattack Xbox One review: no bones about it

Who knew? All this time, I always thought Konami was invested in so many of its franchises that it wouldn’t try something new. But, alas, here we are with its first “indie” title in quite some time, the charming if somewhat difficult Skelattack. And those of you that are in the market for a challenging platformer shouldn’t have a bone to pick with it.

Those Pesky Humans!

I won’t divulge too much of the story because it kind of goes into spoiler territory. But Skully, aided by a friendly bat, Imber, decides to take them on, sword in hand, for the sake of his kind. What follows is a Metroidvania-style adventure where you take on a variety of humans while overcoming platforming challenges. If you’re familiar with games like Dead Cells and Guacamelee!, this should be just your speed.

Now this is a party.

What’s more, the game has a unique approach with its visuals, almost looking like something akin to the Cuphead style of design. It’s got these great hand-drawn images that bring a Tim Burton-esque world to life, even if some of the level design is put into question. This ran very smoothly with the Xbox One version we tested, and it didn’t let up over the course of the adventure.

That, combined with the somewhat sweet music score and interesting sound effects, create an experience that’s not usually with the Konami fold. I kind of like that, if only because they aren’t afraid to diversify and try new things. Hell, it’d be great to see what other fun platformers and experiences they cook up.

Be Ready For a Challenge

That said, Skelattack does take some getting used to, mainly with its challenge level. While there are more than enough checkpoints to go around, it can take a bit of adjusting to get into the gameplay, particularly with wall jumps. They’re a bit messy at first, but as you get into the rhythm, it becomes fairly easier to get to higher areas. But only slightly.

What’s more, it doesn’t help that some of the traps mean instantaneous death, and you have to venture back to the checkpoint and attempt the perilous spot again to try and get your gems back. This could’ve been a little easier in terms of design, to go along with the game’s charming visuals. Alas, it may throw a few people off in the long run.

Someone isn’t a fan of Harry Potter.

But if you can get into it, you’ll find a game worth your time. It’s hardly on the same level of Dead Cells, but, really, what is? And it’s just the summertime game you might just need if you’re in the mood for something Halloween-y.

Hardly Bone Dry

Besides, supporting something of this level will push Konami to keep trying out the indie waters. Imagine a Castlevania-style adventure with hand-drawn graphics as well. Shivers.

RATING: 7/10

A flawed but enjoyable platforming adventure, Skelattack is worth the time of Metroidvania fans.

Sunsetriders Nintendo Switch review: ride ‘em, cowboy!

We’ll never quite understand why Konami didn’t give more love to Sunsetriders this generation. It was almost set to arrive in Game Room for Xbox 360, only to be canceled when the developer shut down. And before that, the only sign we saw of this classic cowboy game on the home front was on SNES and Sega Genesis.

But lo and behold, Hamster has stepped up to give this Konami favorite the love it deserves with a home release on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. As part of its Arcade Archives collection, Sunsetriders comes home with a bevy of options and an incredible price tag – eight bucks! That means you won’t have to “bury me with my money” as you add it to your collection. And you should, like ASAP.

The Sunsetriders ride again

In this 90’s arcade favorite, four cowboys ride off to do justice against the vile Richard Rose, a fiendish Englishman who’s terrorizing the countryside with bandits. Whether on foot or horseback, these cowboys will come across a number of ne’er-do-wells, from rogue Indians to deadly shooters with a knack for jumping around. It’s up to you to keep your finger on the trigger and take these varmints down.

Even the intro movie is intact!

The action is a classic shoot-em-up style, as you control where your cowboy runs and shoots with one joystick. In an age of twin-stick favorites, this may be frustrating for some. But the game handles real nicely after all these years; and you can tweak a number of options in case you feel like running through it to the final fight with Rose.

What’s more, the boss encounters are incredible fun. A showdown with a pair of explosive brothers in a saloon can’t be beaten; and even the battle with the deadly Indian knife thrower is intact. It keeps true to the original arcade code, controversial design and all. And we love it.

Still the Best Looking Wild West Game From the 90s

Kudos to Hamster for staying true to the original arcade code of Sunsetriders. It looks just as great as it did back then, even with four players running around the screen. The colors are pretty much perfect; and the bosses look wonderful, particularly Iron Horse, who looks so confident upon his invincible steed.

The music, provided by Snatcher composer Motoaki Furukawa, is also perfect, with all the original tunes completely intact. It sounds just as wonderful as it did in the old days, right down to the various boss themes. Yes, they all have different ones. Oh, and the voice samples are gold. “BURY ME WITH MY MUNNY.”

Get four players in on the same game and it’s madness.

Probably the only thing that hasn’t aged the best are the bonus rounds, in which you shoot at static cowboys as you try to get the most hits before time runs out. But this is a lot of fun with four players, a little competition to see who can stack up the most cash.

Options Galore For an Affordable Arcade Game

What’s great about Sunsetriders is that Hamster loaded up the game with tons of options. Both the Japanese and U.S. versions are here and intact; and what’s more, you can select between two and four-player arcade cabinets. Four lets you play with up to three other people on the same console; while two lets you choose which cowboy you want to play as. It’s excellent to have these versions available in the same place, even though the game is identical.

There are also leaderboards available in case you feel like getting into a high score contest (no online play, though), as well as dip switches if you want to adjust difficulty, lives, and more. You can also adjust the display however you see fit, though full-screen is the best way to go. It’s amazing what all you can do here, even if the game itself can be beaten in about 20-30 minutes, depending on the number of players. Hey, you can always go back and try for a higher score – or get your friends together for a wonderful old-school romp.

Ya Got Me, Hamster

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the home arrival of Sunsetriders for some time; and I’m happy to report that the port doesn’t disappoint in the least. It may not look the best, but it retains its classic arcade appearance, right down to the victory poses and the women kissing you as you run into saloons for power-ups. It plays wonderfully, no matter which way you go; and the music can’t be beat. Not to mention the various options on hand for how to play.

Hamster has always done a great job with arcade ports in the past, but Sunsetriders sets a bold new standard. And it has me thinking what other Konami greats it can dig into down the road. The Main Event would be aces; and, hey, if they can get the rights, there’s always Marvel’s X-Men

RATING: 9.5/10

One of the best arcade-to-home ports ever, Sunsetriders wins with its options, gameplay, and incredible price. 

You’re Waiting a Bit Longer, But Here’s Why You’ll Want a TurboGrafx Mini When It Comes Out

Back in the days of old-school gaming, there were quite a few people that got behind the TurboGrafx 16. It may not have had the marketing muscle of either Nintendo or Sega, but for a few years, the system did just fine on the market, fueled by hit games like Bonk’s Adventure, Lords of Thunder, Neutopia and several others. Not to mention that it also inspired the release of the TurboExpress, a truly innovative handheld gaming system for its time. (Just look at what it’s selling for now.)

Well, Konami hasn’t forgotten how impressive the TurboGrafx is. Last year, it announced the TurboGrafx Mini, a plug-and-play all-in-one system that features over 50 titles from the game’s classic library, including some CD favorites compressed into a tiny little unit. (Yes, Lords of Thunder included.) It was supposed to arrive this past March, but the Coronavirus has put a dent in those plans, and now there’s a release coming for it down the road.

Alas, that didn’t stop a buddy of mine from importing a European version of the system — the CoreGrafx Mini — for his use, and I was recently able to go hands-on with it. And folks, here’s why you should pick up the system without hesitation when it comes out.

A spiffy menu system that will bring back nostalgia

First off, the menu system is divided into two types of games — TurboGrafx and PC Engine. The PC Engine is the Japanese version of the Turbo, but the games included here are immaculate, including a special version of Ninja Gaiden, the awesome Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, and several other quirky titles. The way these menus show off all the games is truly impressive, complete with nostalgic old-school tunes to enjoy in the background.

Now, when you do select a game, it does the old “get into the system” trick, complete with authentic noises. If it’s a HuCard, it just plugs right in. But if it’s a CD game, it sounds like it’s loading a disc into a system and actually running. (You remember discs, right?) It’s innovative and truly old-school.

It definitely resembles the original system, right down to the HuCard port.

Other bits and pieces of the menu system are excellent as well, from the settings to the animated characters on the screen to the awesome shutdown screen, showing a TurboGrafx system with eyes going to sleep. It’s remarkable, and even better than what the Sega Genesis Mini presents in its menu. That’s saying something.

Games, games, games

Next up, there are over 50 titles included with the TurboGrafx Mini. This includes popular favorites like Bonk’s Revenge (and Adventure, albeit in Japanese form), Ys Book I and II, R-Type, the SuperGrafx version of Capcom’s Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Sega’s own Space Harrier. There are several oddball favorites as well, including Air Zonk and Splatterhouse, in all its gory glory.

The PC Engine titles are something else, too, including Cho Aniki, Snatcher (in Japanese, but still…), Super Darius and several others.

Not all the classics are included here. Devil’s Crush is notably absent, which is strange considering Alien Crush made the cut; and there’s no sign of Gate of Thunder either, which could’ve easily replaced something like the forgettable Necromancer.

But for the most part, there’s an excellent amount of variety here. And with the options, you can even set up an old-school CRT sort of filter, so it looks like you’re playing the classic Turbo way. It’s awesome and will keep you busy for hours on end.

Terrific System Design

Yes, the TurboGrafx Mini is wonderfully designed. It looks like its classic system model and is conveniently sized so that you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space in your gaming space. What’s more, the controller is excellent, with the turbo switches, ideal for something like Bonk’s spinning across a level in one of his games, or rapid-fire for a shooter that doesn’t necessarily have it right off the bat.

Just look at this rad controller!

The only real complaint here is that the system doesn’t include a power plug. It does have a USB cable, so you can plug it into another source. However, you’ll need a plug adapter of some kind if you want to plug it into the wall. Fortunately, any plug will do here, provided it’s the right kind of one for the USB set-up.

Otherwise, everything about this system is fairly easy to set up, and the HDMI support is outstanding, as the games look just like their old-school selves. Great wallpapers as well, just in case you aren’t using the full-screen option.

Just hold on a bit longer

Again, the wait for the TurboGrafx Mini is a bit excruciating, save for if you feel like importing a system from another market as my buddy did. But for $100, you’ll get more than enough retro memories out of this thing, and I highly recommend getting your hands on one as soon as they’re available. Do it for Bonk!