Saturday, July 2, 2011

Game On: Let's Play 3.02 - Taito Legends 2

Game: Taito Legends 2
System: Sony PlayStation 2
Developer: Empire Oxford / Taito
Publisher: Empire / Destineer
Players: Michael Jackson and
Alex Wanschura

Game Background

Taito Legends 2 sits as the second collection of arcade games developed and published by Taito over the course of its lifetime. This was during a generation filled with collections and anthologies, whereas this current generation tends to sell games a la carte through downloadable distribution systems. Taito Legends did so well that Empire was willing to publish a second collection of Taito classics, and the result is an even larger collection of arcade games from one of the arcade’s biggest developers.

Taito formed in 1953 by Russian businessman Michael Kogan as Taito Trading Company, and its major focus was the buying and selling of vending machines and jukeboxes. Twenty years later, the company renamed itself to Taito Corporation and released its first arcade cabinet. The company’s signature arcade franchise Space Invaders was released 1978 and is seen as the company’s biggest and most iconic franchise to date. Since then, the company released a large number of arcade games under its subsidiaries Taito America and Taito Software, although development remained in Japan. Major franchises other than Space Invaders included Qix, Bubble Bobble, Elevator Action, Operation Wolf, and Bust-a-Move (known elsewhere as Puzzle Bobble). In 2003, the company celebrated its 50th year anniversary with the release of Bujingai: The Forsaken City, a third-person action game co-developed by Red Entertainment and using the likeness of J-Pop singer Gackt. As of 1986, the company was owned by Japanese media conglomerate Kyocera, but in 2005, Square-Enix announced that it would purchase Taito and turn it into a fully-owned subsidiary. Taito Corporation would then merge with SQEX Corporation (previously Game Developer Studio – developer of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles) as it stands today.

Empire Interactive, the game’s compiler and lead publisher, was founded in 1987. The UK-based publisher started off as a small PC publisher, but over time the company shifted toward console publishing. Empire was best known for its involvement in the Big Mutha Truckers, Ford Racing, and FlatOut game series. In 2000, the company established the Xplosiv publishing label for budget and rereleased games by Empire or other companies. Taito Legends 2 was not only published by Empire; the game was developed by Empire Oxford, one of its internal companies. Budget publisher Destineer was behind the game’s American release.

Since then…

Taito Corporation has remained a pivotal part of Square-Enix’s Japanese wing. A number of new games have been released which try to bring new life to the Space Invaders franchise, including Space Invaders Extreme (developed by Taito on DS, GUILTI CO. on PSP, and Backbone Entertainment on XBLA), Space Invaders Extreme 2 (developed for DS by Project Just), Space Invaders Get Even! (co-developed by Cattle Call for WiiWare), and Space Invaders Infinity Gene for iOS, PSN, and XBLA. Other recently developed titles by Taito since Taito Legends 2 include Qix++, Darius Burst, and the LostMagic games.

While Taito Legends 2 has never seen a re-release since it was released on Xbox, PC, and PS2, Taito has since released one other collection product. The game, Taito Legends Power-Up, was a PSP collection of 21 Taito classics and four deluxe editions of some of the titles: Balloon Bomber, Cameltry, Crazy Balloon and Legend of Kage. Also developed by Empire Oxford, this game was also published by Empire and Destineer.

Meanwhile, Empire Interactive did not perform well following Taito Legends 2. The company was purchased by Silverstar Holdings in 2006, which was around the time Taito Legends 2 was released. By late 2009, the company had become bankrupt, and its properties were sold to New World IP for resale purposes. Currently, New World IP has leased the rights for its franchises to budget publisher Zoo Games.

The Let’s Play

Seen by many of the members of Game On: Let’s Play’s staff as the most content-dense episode yet, Taito Legends 2 debuts Michael Jackson to the show (and yes, that’s his real name). So many times we attempted to get this recording down, but several factors kept on preventing it from being completed. We persevered, and in the end, we went through as many games in a two-hour span as possible. We end up trying 18 games and completing Space Invaders ’95, one of the weirdest arcade experiences ever made.

The arcade games are played as follows:

1. Crazy Balloon
2. Qix
3. Alpine Ski
4. Chack’n Pop
5. Front Line
6. The FairlyLand Story
7. Ki Ki Kai Kai
8. Kuri Kinton
9. Syvalion
10. Bonze Adventure
11. Nastar Warrior
12. Raimais
13. Cameltry
14. Don Doko Don
15. Violence Fight
16. Growl
17. Metal Black
18. Elevator Action II
19. Space Invaders ‘95


No episode of Game On: Let’s Play could really compare to this one. MJ and Alex really went to great lengths to ensure the game was as fun to talk about as possible. There are so many games in the collection, but we kept the games selected random enough as possible to ensure a high quality product in the end. Only some of the playthrough became dulled as Space Invaders moved onward, but the commentary between Alex, MJ, and the audience helped make this episode one of the best ones ever filmed.

In particular, this episode’s audio was pretty good, although some commentary is lost in the room’s acoustics. There are some odd issues we face over the course of the recording, but nothing truly reduces the quality of the episode. Split into two parts due to length, this episode was truly what I desired from making Game On: Let’s Play, a show dedicated to players having fun playing games, even if they happen to be poor. Not to say all of Taito Legends 2 is poor, but a few particular problematic games emerge from this episode.

Michael Jackson would return for one more recording this season, and we are glad to have had him be a part of the team.

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