Monday, February 27, 2012

VGR Blue Stinger

It's been a long time since I last posted up a survival horror game review.
(heck! I still haven't finished Resident Evil 5 as a matter of fact!)

Blame it on me playing a lot of them simultaneously at the moment.

I launched not long ago a game play of Blue Stinger and simply couldn't put the gamepad away....

VGR: Blue Stinger
From Climax Graphics/Activision/Sega
Played on Dreamcast
Also available on /

Type Survival Horror
Year 1999

Haaa, Blue Stinger. I can't think of this game without smiling.

Released as one of the Dreamcast's launch titles, and developed by the little creative team of Climax Graphics. It was also funded (and in Japan, published) by Sega as a killer app to sell their 128-bits console.
Blue Stinger was even released in some places, outside Japan, days before the Dreamcast was even available in stores!

It is a survival horror like there's been many other on the system after that.
But this is one was clearly more action oriented than designed around "horror" properly said.

What is this title about?

It all started with a shooting star...

In a brilliant and pretty random storytelling fashion, the game opens up with a cinematic cutscene, starting out 65 million years ago, no less!

It was the era of the dinosaurs.
Then, a meteorite crashed near the Caribbeans and ended up an entire species across the globe. It was the extinction of those giant lizards.

Flash forward, "present day", in the year 2000.
And island was found where the meteorite struck originally.
Dubbed "Dinosaur Island". The Kimra Corporation founded various installations, including genetic laboratories and biotech research facilities on this island.

Ballad of the last rescuer~

You are Eliot G. Ballade, member of the Emergency Sea Evac' and Rescue team. ESER for short.
(the game loves acronyms, be prepared to see a lot of them!)
While Eliot was with his friend Tim enjoying his vacations and fishing in the ocean, another meteorite falls from the sky right on top of Dino Island. After a mysterious explosion, a dome of energy emerges and completely seals the island off the rest of the world.
Tim gets trapped inside the barrier, while Eliot's stuck with the island inside the dome.
Suddenly, a mysterious spirit-like creature takes the form of a Nephilim (a fictional creature). It helps Eliot get ashore.

What is this Nephilim, where does it come from and what are its intentions?

No time to get any answers, because Eliot finds bodies everywhere, everyone appears to be dead on the island. Some kind of monsters are roaming free on the land.

Dogs of War.

But you're not alone on this island!
Eliot meets this captain of the HMS Sienna, also stranded near the Kimra complexes.
With this Dogs Bowser who is actually a resident there, Eliot sets up to find what really happened on the night of Christmas on.....Dinosaur Island!

More action-adventure than horror/thriller, Blue Stinger is a survival horror unlike any other!

Fun, colorful.
It is also one of these very rare Christmas themed games.
Yes, you read me right!

Like Christmas NiGHTS before that, but unlike any other of these games either.
You see, Christmas as so very little to do with the plot. It just "happens" to take place at that time, like Die Hard in a way. Which just provides the settings with "Merry Xmas" posters, Christmas trees inside the market, though no snow around. (it is the Caribbeans afterall!)

The whole game looks lovely.
Almost cheerful because of that.
Christmas music jingles around the "once-populated" area, lots of lightning instead of the gritty settings of your usual Resident Evil...

The characters look nice enough, but the animations are sort of stiff (it's is an early Dreamcast title!). But the backgrounds entirely in 3D look like what Code Veronica would also switch to later on, look great! The environments are amazing and full of details!

What about the gameplay itself?

Come to daddy!

It is more action focused than your usual tension filled horror games.
You control Eliot, or Dogs, in fully explorable 3D settings. From a behind the shoulder perspective. (a gameplay change which Capcom would use and perfect in more recent Resident Evil games)
There's a lot of exploration and backtracking to do around the island.
Labs, markets, apartments, caves, parkings, etc.

Our characters respond to the stick perfectly, though they do run a bit awkwardly.

When unarmed (at the start of the game, or by using your short range weapon), the game sort of feels like a beat 'em all. Eliot karaté-punches his way through the monsters, Dogs is all about the heavier wrestling/sumo/etc. fighting styles.

There's literally dozens of weapons, covering a large and unexpected range of weapons. From the usual pistol, minigun, sword, triple-barreled shotguns, to the heavier rocket launchers, napalm launchers and even more difficult to get/more expensive/secret weapons like the laser gun, demolition gauntlets and a lightsaber!!

You can buy items, such as food and ammo from vending machines all over the place. Usually near saving machines and maps of the island.

To do so you need to collect money.
And that's where the fun begins!
The game is clearly designed to make your way through the masses of creatures you'll find there.
Most are designed like The Thing from John Carpenter's classic. These monsters here can be punched through, so they never present much trouble if you're prepared to face them.
Once defeated, they'll explode in a rain of blood, with a bunch of money flying out of them.
Which is great.
I mean, money was originally used in games to censor blood in retro games, while modern games normally went with blood for realistic purposes.
Having both is so unreal.. (something No More Heroes would copy much later)

Monsters respawn every time you come back, which money you'll quickly make big amounts of money pretty fast.
The smaller monsters, flying insectoids and running bugs don't give money, so they also don't respawn.
There's various giant creatures, huge bosses to defeat all over the game. You'll have to spend your ammo carefully depending on your foe.

The game meant a lot for Sega, so it doesn't come as a surprise to see Ryan Drummond (the original voice of Sonic on the Sega Dreamcast) as Eliot and Dogs Bowser voiced by Deem Bristow (aka the original Eggman).

Later on our heroes are joined by the mysterious Janine King, member of KISS (Kimra's security) who happens to be an expert shooter (she is voiced by Lani Minella). Janine is a non-playable character that helps our characters at various points of the story.

The voice acting might sound a bit silly, but it's actually pretty good in my own opinion. It is the characters that are over-the-top.
It's a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, with Dogs complaining about stuff all the time, Eliot hitting on Janine constantly despite the situation.

The whole game sort of feels like a movie.
A B-movie to be exact.

It has a great "action movie" soundtrack, the music really give this game a unique feeling.
According to the mood and places you'll visit, you'll hear more epic tunes, supermarket jingles, etc.
Even the sound aspect is worth mentioning, with great sounds made for each special effect, from the grunts to the footsteps.
It all sets up a great atmosphere.

All in all it is a very long game for the genre.

It is also the kind of experience you wanna revisit.
The game offers various unlockable features in true Resident Evil fashion.
From the usual unlimited ammo to new weapons, alternate costumes for our cast (above pictured costumes notwithstanding, the Santa suit is from a specific portion of the story) and some other funny modes ("big eyes",..).
It's a big epic crazy story featuring colorful characters and locations.
It all comes full circle in an epic conclusion like you rarely see usually.
Sadly, the adventure ends on a
To be continued
note, after the credits...

Overall, it's a fantastic experience and highly recommended title for all Dreamcast owners.

Simple and fun to play. Clunky animations and way to run aside, it's a charm to play~

Developed by (the sadly closed now) Climax Graphics studio, it's a very fun and quite original sort of free roaming Survival Horror set on a large open world you open gradually.
It certainly takes the genre into new heights and direction.
Instead of the usual gloom, gritty and dark Survival Horror, it is more fun, closer to an Action/Adventuretitle.

The goal here is quite simple. Explore bio-labs, tons of rooms and bigger open places on island, collecting keys, ID cards while going through hordes of monsters.

To do so you'll have plenty of crazy weapons to play with.

It is sort of like the Dead Rising of the Dreamcast.
I can't make a better comparison, gameplay wise.
Tons of monsters to fight, big open spaces including markets, a movie theater, etc. You regain your health by eating and drinking stuff. The story is quite over-the-top, not taking itself too seriously, and the game will have you run around all over this place, to help survivors and often under a countdown depending on the situation.


The original Japanese release deserves its own separate paragraph at the end of this present review.

The game was originally quite different from the western title we all know it now.
You see, it used an original cinematic styled camera system, kinda what you have in all classic Resident Evil games.
Instead of the 3rd person behind the character's shoulder, it was presented using a fixed view which changed dynamically. Closer to what Capcom did with Resident Evil: Code Veronica if you will.
But this posed a lot of troubles in action segments.
So Climax redid the whole presentation of the game for the American and European release, presented as the definitive edition of the game.

Enemies let also more money and the difficulty was made a bit more progressive too.

In a way, it's a pretty different experience with its own feel.
If you can, I recommend trying this one too, but it isn't the best and ultimate version of the game, the Pal/Ntsc-US is.

This Japanese version is fully dubbed in English. Besides Japanese subtitles, it's all the same as the other game (voice, menus, etc in English). My Pal port was only tweaked for better views and challenge.

I give it:
 2.5 / 3 Quacks!
Japanese Blue Stinger:

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