Harmonix — and, by extension, developers Backbone — had a difficult balancing act to achieve in creating Unplugged, their downsized PlayStation Portable exclusive version of Rock Band.
For the newcomers that have only found the studio’s output only via its most recent games, they had to carefully re-dress the experience of their foundational Amplitude and Frequency games in Rock Band‘s rock/gothic/punk clothes, and had to ensure that that re-dress didn’t also alienate the long-time supporters — the ones, you could say, who were there for the early dive-bar gigs and bought the hand-screened, car-trunk T-shirts.
As a card carrying member of the latter category, then, I can say with some happy surprise that they’ve succeeded with at least that much: though its four-lane compression (corresponding to Rock Band‘s traditional bass/drums/vox/guitar breakdown) might be the next step down from Freq‘s eight to Amp‘s six, returning to that twitchy lane-switching familiarity was entirely welcome after the nearly six year interim since Amp first hit the shelves. (more…)
It’s essentially impossible to enter into a conversation about Shadow Complex — the just-released Xbox Live Arcade game from Epic subsidiary Chair Entertainment — without conjuring either or both two earlier classic franchises, Nintendo’s Metroid series, or Konami’s PlayStation re-invention Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and, for once, it’s not simply lazy comparison, so much as overt, love-letter homage.
And because of it, you have to admit to (or, I will, anyway) at least a small amount of cultural bias — that the game’s surprise debut at Microsoft’s E3 conference brought with it at least a tinge of underlying skepticism, a nagging back brain thought that, “so, the Americans think they can do ‘metroid-vania’, now, do they? Right, good luck with that.”
As it turns out, our luck was the last thing Chair needed: Shadow Complex is, put simply, perhaps the best reinvention of the exploratory sub-genre since Nintendo and Konami’s own subsequent episodes, and certainly the best console iteration to sit next to their more diminutive Game Boy Advance refinements. (more…)