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Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999
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Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999/Beast Busters ~Yami no Seitai Heiki~ (ビーストバスター 〜闇の生体兵器〜) - Neo Geo Pocket Color (1999)

Game Cover (US)

Game Cover (US, Back)

The third installment of the series was released more or less at the same time of the arcade sequel. This game however is a spin-off that has pretty much no relation either to the original coin-op or to the sequel: it's an overhead action/shooting game with slight RPG elements and an overall feel of dark gothic fantasy instead of the horror/science fiction hybrid of the previous titles. It also was developed by Noise Factory instead of SNK.

This time “Beast Buster” is meant to be a title, referring to those who are able to enter the spirit/demon realm; the titular “Dark Arms” is the name of an extremely powerful weapon that needs to be crafted in order to wield it against the creatures of said realm. The player character starts in the abode of the grim reaper-looking fellow known as Caso the Shuten Master, who gives us a weapon named Catcher. It is needed to, well, catch the souls of the creatures roaming around, which are then turned into “food”. You can't just spam the attack button though, since it drains the power bar, that replenishes itself slowly; however, soon you'll gain several more modes of attack.

The first mission the Master gives us is to retrieve something called “seed” from a dungeon; said seeds will be combined by him in his house (the main hub of the game, as you've guessed) with other items called “oum” to forge new weapons. These will be leveled up by defeating enemies and gaining experience points: in fact, interestingly enough, the XP are used to make not our character, but his weapons, stronger and also less prone to drain our attacking power. The Master also provides us with a bed for sleeping, to replenish energy and also activate the day/night cycle. The cycle is not just for show, though, since some enemies only appear at night (for example some human enemies turn into werewolves) and sometimes it is needed to progress the plot. But what about the food? It's used for the crux of the game: evolving weapons.

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (Neo Geo Pocket Color)

The gameplay boils down to: finish monsters with the Catcher (said monsters are then added in a database you can consult freely), craft weapons with the seeds and make them evolve by giving them enough food, for a grand total of 31 obtainable unique weapons with their abilities and sometimes elemental properties (the usual fire/water/electricity triad). They are sufficiently varied, between guns, shields, mines and more unusual stuff, such an AKIRA-esque hand tentacle or exploding doppelgangers. A few weapons even have different evolutionary paths. This is an interesting system that, coupled with the smooth controls and simple interface, makes the title an enjoyable experience. It doesn't disappoint from the artistic standpoint, either: the sprites (the usual staples such as skeletons, ghosts, living armors, evil clowns, etc.) are all recognizable and distinct despite the handheld's simple pixel graphics, they have some amusing death animations and stand out from the background tiles thanks to good use of colors. The Castlevania-esque spooky BGM also help make the overall gothic feel more pronounced.

Unfortunately Beast Buster 1999 has a big flaw: it's way too short and easy. The monsters respawn continuously, thus providing an almost endless source of food that can be used to evolve the weapons in no time. There's no reason not to obtain early the weapons' most powerful forms, making most dungeons a breeze, unless one is a completionist and wants to see all the possible forms. There are also just four small main areas plus a bonus dungeon, that amount to just a few hours of gameplay, unless again one wants to complete the monsters database (probably inspired by the Pokemon craze that was sweeping the world). And while there is a plot, it's too thin and inconsequential for anyone to care. The other added feature, one-on-one combat between different players, was available by linking two Neo Geo Pocket Color with the provided cable, but the system's poor sales made sure that few could experience it.

In the end a potentially interesting game was doomed from the start because of the console's obscurity, and it would take SNK 15 years before tackling the series again, but leaving this RPG an isolated experiment.

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Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (Neo Geo Pocket Color)

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (Neo Geo Pocket Color)


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Beast Busters Featuring KOF - Android, iOS (2014)

During the New Tens mobile gaming, especially in Japan, garnered a lot of attention, so SNK Playmore decided to resurrect (pardon the pun) the series by developing a shooting game for Android and iOS smartphones, in the occasion of the brand's 25th anniversary. The gameplay has, of course, been adapted for mobile, where you move the “camera” by swiping the left side of the screen and shoot by tapping the right side. Every zombie/Beast needs to be shot in their glowing core for massive damage, while hitting them in the head stuns them. You also now have to reload manually, just like in Second Nightmare. This time however there are also a RPG-like experience points system and an in-game shop where you can buy more powerful weapons and items like medikits and grenades. The gore has been drastically reduced, though, probably as a means to avoid age restrictions for the app.

Knowing that many players may not even have heard about the older games, SNKP decided to combine this title with the massively more popular King Of Fighters franchise, which itself was on its 20th birthday. While the idea of KOF characters punching zombies and mutants to oblivion is surely awesome, they don't actually appear in the game (save for playable guest star Kyo Kusanagi), leaving the spot as player characters to the Strings siblings, Jin and Lisa, “cool” manga-style over-designed teens. The support characters are more in line with the American comic book aesthetic instead, while also falling in cliches such as “old mad scientist”, “big angry black guy” and “busty spy in tight catsuit”. Actually, the KOF people only exist in the game as “Fighter Cores”, that is, emblems that grant a variety of stat modifiers and bonuses to the players after being equipped or activated.

Beast Busters Featuring KOF

Like almost every nominally free smartphone game, there are actually a lot of in-game purchases: while the lesser Cores can be found fairly easily, the strongest ones take a lot of time and effort to be obtained, not to mention big amounts of in-game currency (Coins and Medals), which in turn can be bought with real-life money. Others can be obtained only by fusing two or more Cores or by winning them randomly in daily raffles. And of course you're going to need them, since the game starts fairly easy, but then the difficulty escalates quickly, much like the original coin-op.

In fact the whole game seems to be something of a 3D adaptation of the original, with a similar progression: you start underground in a subway, then move to the dilapidated city streets and finally to the labs where the evil organization is creating the undead for their sinister purposes. The bosses are usually just slightly larger zombies, not strange hybrids or creatures; however, in a typical example of the series' comic book absurdity, new updates included undead versions of historical figures such as zombie Napoleon or zombie Cleopatra.

Beast Busters Featuring KOF

The game seemed to be tailored to the tastes of the mobile gaming crowd: the gameplay is still the same mindless one from 1989, but perfect for something that has to be played on the fly in short bursts. Players could be hooked by the achievement system, online leaderboards, Twitter integration (that Japanese players seem to love), and the hunt for the most powerful Cores. It also has something for the old time fans: the hard rock soundtrack, overdone designs for player characters and emphasis on explosions and "cool" effects all go towards the same "American" comic book aesthetic of the precursor, and it's up to the player whether to take it seriously or not. Despite all this, SNKP still couldn't garner much interest about the franchise, probably because of the over-saturated mobile gaming market and the bad rep freemium mobile games started to gain in the meantime. In the end SNKP shut the game down on August 31, 2015, removing it from every online store. So, this makes two games in the series that are no longer available.
However, it still received a spin-off in the form of a pachislot machine in 2015, back when SNK Playmore still produced this kind of stuff.

The life of the series now is most likely over, even now that SNK has recovered from its Playmore days. But, even if zombies are now a staple of popular culture, Beast Busters never has been (and it would be probably seen as a House of the Dead ripoff despite coming first), so it's doubtful that gamers would even be interested in a new installment.

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Beast Busters Featuring KOF

Beast Busters Featuring KOF

Beast Busters Featuring KOF

Beast Busters Featuring KOF

Beast Busters Featuring KOF


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Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Beast Busters
Beast Busters Second Nightmare

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Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999
Beast Busters Featuring KOF

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