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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 06/23/03 ] = From Hippie To Prep In 3 Days Or Your Money Back

I was amazed with the flow of great Konami titles in 2002, and once again they have managed to surprise me with their 2003 plans. Giving old-school fans some love with the release of two Contra titles in 2002, one could have only have hoped for Konami to consider bringing more classic goodness to the next-generation hardwares. Konami must have been listening to the cries of fans around the world, because the developer has just unveiled not only the much-anticipated Gradius V, but also a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game! Not stopping there, Konami has also decided to give Metal Gear fans not one, but two Metal Gear Solid titles almost simultaneously! lastly, no year is complete without plenty of gothic goodness, and Konami doesn't fall short in delivering us yet another Castlevania title; this time with a new 3-D entry! Get ready for some wholesome gamin' from Konami in 2003!

[ Gradius ] = A Timeless Shooter Classic
Why is a new Gradius title so exciting to see? Well, not only because it's a new blazing 3-D Gradius title running on PlayStation 2 hardware with killer visuals, but also because it's been said that Treasure developed the game under Konami's supervision. With the quality of Treasure's past shooters in mind, anyone who liked Ikaruga, Silpheed - The Lost Planet, or Bangaio will probably like (or love) Gradius V just as much. Hopefully it's not just a rumor, but just by looking at the few screenshots and media thus far, various small details seem to confirm the Treasure partnership. Gameplay is said to have been changed (or tweaked), and for the better; if reports of a smaller, more reasonable collision box on the Vic Viper are indeed accurate, Gradius V could shape up to be one of the (if not most) best Gradius titles to date. I can't say how many times I've been livid after having dodged my ass off in a sweating frenzy only to have one stray bullet from an enemy off-screen hit my fragile Vic Viper. Just like getting the broken bottle to the face then the fist that follows, previous Gradius games sent you not only all the way back to the beginning of a goddamn stage after a death, but then took all of your precious weaponry to go with it! Don't get me wrong, but no matter how much I love Gradius, while playing I often wonder, "did they really need to take all of my weapons away after losing that ship?" Then again, would past Gradius titles be Gradius without the classic love/hate power-up scheme relationship? Anyway, in Gradius V, those days might (thankfully) be over; not only has hit detection been tweaked, but it has also been said that when you lose a ship, instead of starting out at the beginning of (or halfway through) the stage, a new one respawns and you're ready to rock...just without any power-ups. Good or bad, you be the judge, but I think it sounds like a welcome addition to the established gameplay of the series.

[ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ] = Wishes Do Come True
Konami surprises me again with the planned release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! During the writing of a past article on TMNT titles, I had wished for a new TMNT game from Konami. That wish has come true. When I saw that Konami had released information regarding the development of a new TMNT game, I nearly fell to my knees crying in joy. This is great. For the veterans, I'll tell you that this is a new TMNT game designed for all of the next-generation hardwares, so get excited (or die). For the young'ns, I'll just say to go out and track this one down to see what playing games is all about. Veterans and young'ns alike, get your hardware of choice (PlayStation 2, GameCube, XBox) ready to run a title that has the soul of a next-generation title with the adamant heart of classic gaming. Konami hasn't changed what had made the classic TMNT games (Turtles In Time, Hyperstone Heist) such great titles; all of the blistering fighting side-scrolling action has been carried over faithfully into the next-generation of gaming. For those who are wondering just how faithful the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be compared to older titles of Konami's side-scrolling action genre, Konami has said that the staff behind the work in previous TMNT titles are the minds behind its development. Thank you, Konami, for caring about your fans. This is a title I'm really looking forward to.

The game will use a Jump button as in previous titles, but the standard Attack button will be broken down into two buttons (Weak Attack and Strong Attack) to perform the combos needed for chaotic side-scrolling brawls. In addition to the basic attacks and combos, TMNT will have throwing stars and cooperative attacks; although there aren't any details as of yet on the cooperative attacks, veterans can remember the cooperative attacks that were in Konami's classic Simpsons side-scroller. The new TMNT even has a combo counter like the ones found in head-to-head fighters! Cool. The game will have 35 full 3-D stages for 2-Players to brawl through simultaneously, a score bar, and lots of Shredder's minions to dispose of; sounds like wholesome old-school fun to me! This is what playing videogames was all about before stealing cars and killing innocent people defined the term "gameplay." Anyway, moving on, Konami has went about bringing the turtles into the next-generation by using the power of next-generation hardwares to deliver impressive cell-shaded graphics. The game's graphics have that typical sleek, smooth cell-shaded look to them; the turtles look marvelous, off-the-rack thugs and foot soldiers look cool, and Shredder still looks like a tough-guy (thankfully). Awesome. Konami couldn't have picked a better way to present the turtles using the hardware currently on the market; the game just looks great. Needless to say, with 35 stages to battle through, classic TMNT side-scrolling action, a score bar, and cell-shaded visuals, TMNT should be a gaming experience. With a new Gradius title, and a new TMNT title planned for release, I've been happier than a pig in shit.

[ Metal Gear Solid ] = Meryl Gear
Fans of the series should be happy to get their fill of Metal Gear in 2003 with the release of the continuation of the series in Metal Gear Solid 3, as well as Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes. After kicking Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance's ass, I couldn't stop thinking about who "the patriots" could possibly be, and with the coming of Metal Gear Solid 3, we just might find out who they are. Of course Metal Gear Solid 3 looks good, and has some nice graphics, but more than anything, I hope the game reveals enough to answer the many mysteries that had surfaced in MGS2. For the sake of keeping sanity, please Konami, tell us more about the goddamn "patriots!" If I'm not even among the low tiers of Metal Gear "fans" and I was going ape-shit over the blueballs ending of MGS2, I can't even imagine the psychological impacts it had on those who live, eat, sleep, breathe, shit, and smoke Metal Gear. And just who is the character you control? Snake? Well, since Konami has said told us that maybe it's not Snake, who could it be? Well, considering the emphasis Konami made on the Big Boss at E3, it leaves a little (only a little) to the imagination. What the fuck are we doing running around as Big Boss in the jungle? To go with that, what the fuck is Big Boss doing in a jungle? Isn't he supposed to be indoors, feet propped up on a desk in an air-conditioned office, commanding terrorists or some shit like that? Of course, if it does happen to be Snake, please disregard (or discard) the content of this article. MGS3 details include soldiers that walk in groups of four (but not on all fours), smarter enemies, food items that can spoil, and (according to Konami) lots of new weapons to toy with, as well as lush environments with smooth lighting effects. In regards to weapons, one has to wonder if Konami will include more automatic weapons than they did in the previous Metal Gear Solid games; I hope they do, so that we can raise hell (if it moves, kill it) just like the good 'ol days of Metal Gear!

Last but not least, Konami has said that in so many words MGS3 will be less story and more action. Although I want to see Konami answer questions that had surfaced in MGS2 through story progression, I'm glad to hear that MGS3 will have more action than that of MGS2; waiting for battles in MGS2 drove me crazy sometimes. Not to say that MGS2 didn't have any action, or that I didn't like the story of the game, but too many insignificant story details (like Raiden's relationship) placed in awkward parts of the game often bogged down the intensity. MGS2 was supposed to be an action game, and although it was a good game, sometimes its rate of progression came to almost a steady crawl. At times MGS2's slow rate of progression could almost be compared to that of being stuck walking behind some MTV-rap jerk with a pimp-limp. Anyway, it's good to see Konami is making an effort to put more action into the Metal Gear Solid series. Some may argue that it is not supposed to be "that kind of game," but what it is supposed to be is an action game. My only humble request concerning the design of MGS3 is this: Konami, if the playable character is Snake, cut that borderline mullet from MGS2! Snake's hair is only centimeters from devastation! Don't let it grow!

Although I'm looking forward to the more revelations in the intricate storyline of the series with Metal Gear Solid 3, I'm actually looking more forward to playing Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes. Perhaps the most attractive thing about Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes is that it is being developed on the GameCube hardware right beside the development of Metal Gear Solid 3 on the PlayStation 2. This should please particularly those who have been waiting (seemingly forever) for Konami to develop a new Metal Gear title on Nintendo's often-ignored GameCube hardware. Similar to how Capcom got the original PlayStation-powered Resident Evil and used the GameCube hardware to redesign a more graphically stunning version from the ground up (with various gameplay additions), Konami has decided that Metal Gear Solid's mark on videogame history was enough to warrant similar treatment for the original Metal Gear Solid. Konami is in the midst of developing Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes, and it looks like it will be everything the PlayStation-powered Metal Gear Solid was, and much more.

Sporting the graphics engine of Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance, and Metal Gear Solid 3, Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes takes full advantage of the GameCube hardware to create more detailed environments, effects, and characters. Snake and his lot look absolutely fabulous in Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes; Snake looks as rotten as ever, and in my opinion the guards in MGSTS look cooler and more menacing than that of MGS2 (or MGS2S). Just like in MGS2 and MGS2S, the backgrounds in MGSTS have that sick amount of detail that the series is known for; try to imagine what the first MGS would be like with the graphical flair and intricate detail of MGS2 (or MGS2S). As far as effects go, MGSTS has its fair share of nice effects; guards carry transparent shields, and soft rays of light radiate from flashlights and lamps, among other cool effects. Metal Gear Solid - Twin Snakes looks like it will be a sight to see. Konami also enhanced the game by putting in some of the abilities Snake had in MGS2 (like stuffing guards into lockers), as well as the dreaded first-person mode that was unfortunately in MGS2. Also on MGSTS are tweaks to the original cinematics of MGS, as well as cinematic surprises not found in the original MGS. Probably to avoid unfair shit ratings from our favorite EGaMers and GamePros, Konami also went ahead and added in some stuff from Metal Gear Solid - VR Missions. Now let's hope Konami will make it so that maybe Ninja can be unlocked as a playable character (or something cool like it). Of course, Konami probably hasn't told us everything about the game, so we can probably expect a few more surprises. Please Konami, make Ninja a second playable character in MGSTS like Raiden was in MGS2...

[ Castlevania ] = The Legacy Of The Night Continues
Since not much is know about this game as of yet (except that it looks killer), I can only say that I am looking forward to yet another Konami title this year. After being thoroughly enjoying the beauty of Castlevania and Castlevania - Legacy Of Darkness on the Nintendo 64, it's great to see Konami taking the series into the 3-D dimension for a third time. The previous two 3-D Castlevania titles were so good that I had hoped Konami's 3-D Castlevania development wasn't just a temporary venture. When DreamCast development was in its prime, Konami had a 3-D Castlevania in development for quite some time, and then abruptly pulled the plug. Castlevania fans all over the world had no choice but to take it in the chin and ponder not only as to why Konami pulled the plug on it, but also if the game would ever been seen on a future hardware. With a lame officially announced excuse from Konami regarding the game's cancellation, fans were left out to dry (concerning the release of another 3-D Castlevania).
Years had passed, and although there had (fortunately) been lots of 2-D Castlevania to go around, a 3-D Castlevania was nowhere to be seen; until now, that is.

Thankfully, Konami has decided to give fans a healthy dose of 2-D and 3-D Castlevania titles! Is it what eager fans were expecting? Well, seeing the new Castlevania on next-generation hardware now, we can say that while it doesn't look like the scrapped DreamCast Castlevania title, it does look good. Like Metal Gear Solid 3, Konami is developing the newest Castlevania on the PlayStation 2 hardware, and it looks like the power of the system is being utilized nicely. Castlevania - Legacy Of The Night utilized the N64 hardware to its fullest extent by making use of the N64 RAM cart to create some of the best visuals on the hardware, and although the new Castlevania doesn't use any such additional hardware, its visuals suggest that it will utilize the PlayStation 2 hardware to its fullest extent. Also, from what we've been shown, it looks like Konami's staff has taken advantage of the PS2's capabilities to craft the same distinct quality of lighting effects just as they did in Castlevania with the capabilities of the N64. The detail in the main character and enemies also look good, with finely detailed weapons and some especially fancy clothing. Although its hard to tell at this point just how the game will turn out (still haven't seen the bosses or items), Konami's newest 3-D Castlevania looks like it's shaping up to be a promising title. If the game is anything like the latest Castlevania games on the GBA, we should have a real treat on our hands...