Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

This game was originally released on the original Xbox as Ninja Gaiden Black, then it was updated to “Sigma” for the PS3. The Sigma plus you would rightly assume is the Vita port of this game, should it have been left out of the launch window or is it one of the best titles on the system?

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

Keep reading to find out.

Story

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus isn’t a narrative powerhouse, but it’s full of a great kind of kitch story telling. It’s about honor and family, sensei’s and demons. The fun is actually in the cheese, and in that way the story doesn’t disappoint. You play as Ryu Hayabusa, a member of the Dragon lineage (and the Dragon Clan as it turns out). Your family protects the Dragon swords, one evil sword and one…not so evil one that Ryu carries around. In the first chapter Ryu’s village is attacked and your adventure begins.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

You meet a few interesting characters along the way, and even get to play as another character in the story (a monster hunter named Rachel). Really though this game is about the great action and challenge you’ll face while playing this title. The story doesn’t drive you forward like some of the great narratives in the medium, but it keeps you interested with the next strange conversation you’ll hear, or by learning a little more about Ryu and his famous sword.

Gameplay

This is where this title really shines. As an action game Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a thrilling experience, the action is challenging of course, but it’s never cheap, and you always know that when you die, no matter how frustrating it may be, that if you practice you’ll improve. You start with the Dragon sword, but as the game continues you get numerous other weapons to rely on. Throwing weapons, bombs, staves, dual katanas, nunchuku, etc. etc.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

Some of these weapons are necessary for certain enemy types, but they’re all fun to use, and easy to learn. Ninpo magic is something you’ll work with as well, which is a bit of a help especially in boss battles. I didn’t use it very often preferring the melee combat, but the Ninpo magic certainly saved my butt when I was in a jam.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

There is a bit of platforming in the game, but luckily Ryu is an agile guy, and can run along walls, climb ledges, and do just about anything you need. Don’t expect Assassin’s Creed level of platforming, but those sections in this game usually make you think, and although they were sometimes frustrating, just like the combat, it isn’t cheap.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita -

 

Upgrades are another thing you’ll find in Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, you can upgrade your accessories for upgrades (like extra health or defence) and every weapon can be upgraded to do more damage ala God of War. Upgrades, health potions and accessories are all available for purchase from in game shops and strangely enough statues of blacksmiths. You buy upgrades with the yellow orbs you collect from killing enemies. It has a familar economic feel just like other action games, and it works well, and there’s just that much more incentive to go out and kill some more baddies.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

Some of the shooting mechanics are a little annoying though, you use the touch screen to shoot arrows and other projectiles. They take a little while to get used to, but luckily they’re not that common of a hindrance. You’re lucky in the way that you can kill almost any enemy with your awesome melee combat.

Graphics

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus actually looks quite good on the Vita. The game runs really smooth, and the animations  are great. The first time you see Ryu use nunchucks you might get a flashback of Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon. They took a lot of care when they first made this title. The animations are different for each weapon as well, making them all really interesting to use.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

The environments in this game aren’t the most exciting, but then again you have to take into account when this game was made. It won’t blow you away with amazing settings like Uncharted Golden Abyss did, but the places you see in this game are at least quite varied, you’ll go from a small village to a large capital city, to dungeons, and even an Egyptian crypt. I don’t give away all the environments of course, that would spoil it a bit, but you’ll be surprised along your way, that’s for sure.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

The voice overs are actually well done too, they really push the cheese factor that the story calls for. The pre-rendered cutscenes are great too, you’d be surprised how over the top they are. The music is decent as well, but it won’t really blow your mind. I don’t ever remember it being annoying or memorable in either way, I guess I was more working on the great combat.

Is Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Worth it?

Undeniably yes. If you’ve never played this title and have a Vita, buy it. There was a ton of content in this game too, it took me almost 20 hours to complete the main story, and there are many “ninja challenges” that test your skills too. The difficulty in this title is a little extreme as well, and for perhaps good reason they developers put in a mercy button for you (after dying a few times they ask you if you would like to continue your quest, if you say no, you’ll be pulled back into the game at a lower difficulty, this wasn’t explained sadly though, so I unwittingly ended up finishing the game on the lowest difficulty, there being three).

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

What really had me hooked, and I mean up till 3am in the morning hooked on this game is the great gameplay that is visceral and satisfying. This is a great title for the Vita, make sure to check it out.

9/10

Martian Gothic: Unification

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Martian Gothic: Unification

Survival horror titles tend to be less scary the older they get – they still retain some impact, but the ageing graphics can sometimes have a direct impact on how immersed you become in the game’s world.

Martian Gothic: Unification doesn’t suffer as much as you’d expect in this regard though, mainly due to the game’s slower paced nature.

It starts off with a fairly long opening cutscene, which sees a three person rescue team being sent into a Mars space base to investigate why nothing has been heard by its crew for ten months.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

It’s a predicable set-up, but that doesn’t make the amount of effort that’s gone into the game’s presentation any less impressive.

The music is dripping with dread, and the opening voiceover sets the dark and foreboding tone rather well.

You’re then thrown into the game proper, and you have a choice of three characters to swap between – Kenzo, Matlock and Karne.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Each character has entered the base at different doors, mainly due to their instructions to ‘stay alone – stay alive.’ Yes, that’s possibly the worst reason ever to have characters split up, but it does mark the game out as being a little bit different.

This is mainly as you can only progress to certain areas by co-operating with your colleagues by, for example, sending each other relevant items using delivery tubes (or ‘vac-tubes’) and opening doors for the others by using computers in your section.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation
You won’t get anywhere by screaming like that…

 

The game is also aided a great deal by the decent voiceover work and a solid script that helps maintain your interest – although there are exceptions to this.

Kenzo talks like he’s on dope for example (just listen to entries 42 and 13 on this Youtube list for a sample), and he does ruin the atmosphere a little as a result – the way he calmly reports seeing a floating reanimated corpse is ridiculous.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

But by and large, the script is well crafted, and you’ll be surprised at how much work that’s gone into it. There are several audio logs from members of the now departed crew, and each character has realms of voiced dialogue.

The game doesn’t even look too bad nowadays, mainly due to its Resident Evil style rendered backdrops with fixed perspectives.

There’s very little movement in each screen – but that actually works in the game’s favour, as it’s even scarier when the infected humans drag themselves into view.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Despite the game’s admirable qualities – of which it has several – it’s a little too frustrating to be enjoyable though (perhaps being enjoyable isn’t the aim of a survival horror title, but you get the point).

One minor problem are the awkward rotate and move controls which can make avoiding the re-possessed humans and various beasts a struggle (the constantly changing perspectives when you’re going from place to place doesn’t help), but more problematic is the occasionally confusing design.

With three characters the possibility to miss something vital is tripled, and the unhelpful map doesn’t help matters.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Some of the puzzles also have overly vague solutions, and you can often be wandering aimlessly looking for the right item or clue – this isn’t ideal when enemies re-spawn constantly. The fact there are very few complete guides to the game tells its own story.

As a result, there are probably very few people who will enjoy Martian Gothic: Unification nowadays – but if you have the patience of a saint you may be able to savour the game’s finer qualities, namely its plot and script.

 

The Night of the Rabbit

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The Night of the Rabbit

The point-and-click adventure game is not extinct, but it has been largely in hiding over the last several years. It is not a surprise, video games have evolved a great deal over the years, with a lot of AAA titles sporting amazing, fully animated visuals and high-priced voice and musical talent. Still, I have a soft spot for the genre. They are not generally the first games I go out to play when I see one released, but every now and then a storyline, or some gorgeous artwork will catch my eye and I settle in for a good old fashioned bit of video game nostalgia.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I think perhaps my most recently point-and-click adventure was also courtesy of Daedalic Entertainment, back when I reviewed The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav – which I liked quite a bit. I happily scored it an 8 overall and it was definitely time well-spent.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play The Night of the Rabbit, and it has a lot of the same hallmarks found that title as well – a likeable main character, a distinctive art style and good audio that helps present a story that is probably the biggest Daedalic has released to date and definitely worth your time if you are a fan of this genre of video game. It is still somewhat short of a play compared to some titles, but for an adventure like this, it holds up nicely.

Graphics – 9:

These are not a technical achievement by any means, but sometimes visuals simply resonate with you.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The art style here is bright, colorful and shows incredible style and detail. The animations are quite good, especially for the lead character Jerry Hazelnut, a twelve year boy reaching the end of his summer. It is not going to tax out anyone’s video cards, and that is a good thing in this instance as I was able to just settle in on my laptop and run it very smoothly from my bedroom.

Sound & Music – 8:

The sound effects are usually minimalistic in nature, but are woven into the game’s events skillfully.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The music was also quite good, never grating on my nerves and offering up enough variety to keep it from ever really getting repetitive. Best of all, there is a ton of well-voiced dialog to be had here. You can skip it if you want, but you lose some of the vibrance of the world all around if you do.

Gameplay – 7:

This is a click-and-point adventure, so from an interface standpoint you should know exactly what you are getting here.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I never had any detection issues, it all ran smoothly enough. The puzzles generally work well, but there are a few that can strain your patience. I admit that sometimes I wish the games would point you in the right directly a bit more than this one did, but maybe that is my own personal preference.

Intangibles – 8:

I thoroughly enjoyed the story in general, and Jerry in particular as our protagonist.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I touched on the length above, and I would guess I spent about fourteen or fifteen hours with the game. I suspect a big factor is how often you get ‘stuck’ on puzzles – which can certainly happen. There is some bonus content in the game as well, most notably a fairly basic card game called quartets – all of which is welcome because once you have beaten the story and seen it through to the end, there is not much reason to give it another go.

Overall – 8:

I actually liked The Night of the Rabbit a bit more than The Dark Eye.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Both games have a distinctive style about them, both are point and click games, but they do some things differently as well. The spells you can learn on your quest in The Night of the Rabbit are actually quite fun to attain. As soon as I got one, I found myself pondering how it might be used in an upcoming puzzle of some sort. Point-and-click adventures are not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre, The Night of the Rabbit is very easy to recommend.

Chase HQ Arcade

Chase HQ

Chase HQ was my first arcade love. It’s the first arcade game I can actually remember, well, remembering. I knew the name, I would actively seek it out in the various horrible, dingy, seaside arcades I forced my family to take me to as a kid.* It was colourful, it was noisy, you got to drive a car, bash into another car, and a man leaned out of the window and fired a gun. Brilliant. Simple, effective arcade action. I did whatever Nancy told me to do. I still probably would.

So it was only natural I would want my very own version to play at home. As Lewis has already touched on here there was a time when everyone was obsessed with something being ‘arcade perfect’. The dream held by every school boy was that they could play an exact replica of the game they played at the arcade in the comfort of their own bedroom, away from the frightening puffa-jacketed older boys who might beat them up or intimidate them by standing right behind them and watching them play.

Of course it all seems so quaint now, bloated as we are on fancy graphics and plasma tellys. Why, the arcade itself now struggles to compete with home consoles, relying on ever more elaborate and expensive gimmicks to try and get people to fritter their pound coins away as they once did with their 20ps. Ahhhh, ’twas a different time.

At the time my brother and I were proud owners of an Amstrad CPC6128k (with disc drive, and I’m sure it was spelt disc not disk back then). Now the Amstrad CPC version of Chase HQ was never going to be arcade perfect. Even at 10 years old I knew that.

While the arcade version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

The Amstrad CPC version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Amstrad CPC - Gameplay Screenshot

Didn’t matter though. I was well used to such differences and had lowered my expectations accordingly, I just wanted the chance to play Chase HQ at home. Is that really so much to ask?

I found a mail order company in an Amstrad magazine selling Chase HQ at a very reasonable price. I can’t remember how much now, something like £5, but it was cheap. I saved up the odd 20 pence and 50 pence given to me by grandparents and aunts and uncles until I had enough. I got my mum to write a cheque for me, posted my order and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And after about 2 months my parents tired of me asking if Chase HQ had arrived every time I got home from school. My dad called the company, it seemed they had gone bust. I wasn’t going to ever get the game. They had though, in a thoughtful parting gesture, cashed my mum’s cheque, effectively stealing from a 10 year old.

Now this is were Robert Maxwell gets involved. At least I think he does. I’m sure I remember my Dad saying the company had gone bust partly because one of Maxwell’s companies, I presume Mirrorsoft but again I don’t know, owed them a huge amount of money. So, in a roundabout way, Robert Maxwell stole Chase HQ away from me. How did he sleep at night? Maybe that was the final guilty nail when he was on that boat…

Though now I think about it (and having done a little bit of research on the internet – I checked wikipedia) that doesn’t seem that likely. Still, I like to blame him, he did enough crooked things that adding another seems fair enough.

I never got Chase HQ. Very soon after that incident it became increasingly difficult to find places selling Amstrad CPC games, certainly older ones. It seemed I just wasn’t meant to play it at home. In fact after that experience I stopped playing it in the arcade. The game had been soiled in some way.

So, how did Chase HQ make my life slightly better? Well, it taught me to be wary of ads in the backs of magazines – an important lesson to learn whatever your age.

Alone in the Dark

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Alone in the Dark

Way back when the graphic adventure genre was relatively new and ruled by games such as the King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry series, the concept of a survival horror game was an untouched subject area.  There were games using a haunted house motif, such as Poltergeist, released in 1982 for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer orUninvited, Infocom’s graphical text adventure released in 1986, but the game that set the gold bar standard and helped to inspire the flourishing of the entire subgenre was Infogrames’ 1992 classic PC game, Alone in the Dark.

alone in the dark box art
Box front for Alone in the Dark (1992)

Alone in the Dark was set in the late 1920′s, with gamers assuming the role of either private detective Edward Carnby or young heiress Emily Hartwood, who enter the sprawling Louisiana mansion, “Delcarto” in search of a piano supposedly stored in the attic.  The house is reputed to be haunted, and it’s last owner, Ms. Hartwood’s uncle Jeremy, committed suicide in highly unusual circumstances.  If that’s not creepy enough, after the player enters the mansion, the front doors slam shut without any help from mortal hands.  Like any good actor in a teenage slasher flick, Edward (or Emily, depending on who the player chose), heads up the stairs to find the attic.  And once they reach the attic, the game begins.

alone in the dark 3do
Alone in the Dark for Panasonic 3D0

Alone in the Dark is a game that dabbles in the  Cthulhu mythos.  The horrific situations found within the game display their Cthulhulian influence, and even the mansion is discovered to be actually named after Shub-Niggurath, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.  However, the creatures that Edward and Emily encounter are more standard fare (and are a mixed bag when it comes to frightening appearance), and do not possess the mind and world-shattering power of Lovecraftian monsters.

alone in the dark
Cthulhu references in Alone in the Dark (1992)

The atmosphere is aided by both creepy sound effects and a well-thought out musical score.  For example floorboards creak as they’re walked on, and the character’s footsteps echo through the room as an eerie reminder that you’re the only human in the house.  The music switches to a more aggressive melody when creatures appear, and returns to a sombre melody when they’ve been dispatched.  I still have great gaming memories of hearing the strains of Strauss’ The Beautiful Blue Danube in the ballroom (you could put records in the phonograph there and see what happens).

alone in the dark gameplay
Exploring the attic in Alone in the Dark

Some people say that Alone in the Dark was the very first PC survival horror PC game using the Cthulhu Mythos as a theme, but most forget that there was another game published within the same time period that can also lay claim to that title.  MicroProse published Magnetic Scrolls’ The Legacy: Realm of Terror in 1992, a game that was set in a haunted mansion, with bizarre Cthulhulian creatures to overcome.  The two had similar concepts, but of the two, Alone in the Dark was the better game, so usually gets all the credit.

alone in the dark legacy box cover
Box front for The Legacy: Realm of Terror

The game used a different style of graphic engine than gamers were used to.  2-D polygons (colored, not textured) were used to render 3-D objects in real-time, with very quick responses to whatever action the player attempted.  These 3-D objects were then placed against standard pre-rendered backgrounds.  The result was an impressive illusion that the entire game world was being rendered in three-dimensions.  It also permitted unusual camera angles that could be quickly switched from one perspective to another on the fly, which is what Alone in the Dark is usually remembered for by those who played it.

alone in the dark gameplay
Under attack in Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark did very well for Infogrames, and was released on multiple platforms, including MS-DOS in 1992, the NEC -PC9801 system in 1993, and the Panasonic 3D0 and Apple Macintosh systems in 1994. (It was also scheduled to be ported over to the Atari Jaguar system, but, alas, that project was canceled.)  Its success resulted in a number of sequels, including Alone in the Dark 2 (released in 1993, and featuring another haunted mansion), and Alone in the Dark 3 (released in 1994 and sending the player to the Old West).  The franchise was rebooted in 2001 with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, where the player got to explore an entire island, and again in 2008, with Alone in the Dark, taking the series to the modern age.

alone in the dark inventory screenshot
Inventory management in Alone in the Dark

The success of the original Alone in the Dark franchise gave the entire survival horror graphic adventure genre its birth. In fact, every time you start up a game of Left4 Dead 2, give thanks to the developers of the granddaddy of them all, Alone in the Dark!

Dig Dug

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Dig Dug (Digu Dagu)

A lot of people are probably familiar with this game as it was an arcade game but I never really had an arcade near me when I was growing up so this was a whole new game for me when I played the Famicom version, as I was only familiar with Dig Dug II that actually was released on the NES.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

You play as Dig Dug, a little blue guy (kind of like a smurf in white overalls) who is basically an underground exterminator who uses something like a bicycle air pump to exterminate his enemies.  There are only two types of enemies you will encounter, Pookas who are the cute red round guys with the goggles and Fygars the green dragons who breathe fire at you through the dirt.  Gotta be careful or if you get hit you will be BBQ.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

Since this is based on an arcade game your objective other than just clearing levels is getting as many points as you possibly can.  This can be accomplished in several different ways. Just digging will earn you 10 points a block, which is alright but your time is better sent going after enemies.  Dropping a rock on an enemy will earn you 1000 points, if you kill 2 or more 1500 points each and any more than 2 is worth 2000 points for each enemy. Once you have dropped 2 rocks in the level other bonus items will appear for you in the middle of the screen, if you are able to get to it.  Fruits and Veggies or other bonus items like the ship from Galaxian, which is awesome by the way, for you to collect to get extra points. The item worth the most at 8000 points is the pineapple so if you see it be sure to grab it!  Also keep in mind that popping an enemy further down in the dirt is worth more so it may be worth trying to lure the enemies further down if you want to try to get max points.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

This game originally came our in the arcades in 1982 (I wasn’t even born yet) its not the most graphically impressive game out there, but the sprites are cute and colorful and definitely get the job done.  At first sight this game gives the impression that it is very basic and simple, this is very deceiving.  It definitely requires some quick reflexes if you want to successfully evade and exterminate the enemy.

Dig Dug - Famicom

As far as I can tell we never got a copy of this game in North American on the NES, only Dig Dug II was released here which is also good by the way. So if you want to play this you will need to pick up the Famicom version. The nice thing is you don’t need to know any Japanese, so you really don’t have any excuse not to play.

For some fun arcade action Dig Dug definitely fits the bill!

One eBay you can find it complete in box for $39.60, at the moment there aren’t any loose ones listed though mine was like $2.

 

Diddy Kong Racing

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Diddy Kong Racing

While Mario Kart has been king of kart racing games since 1992, it has seen many imitators and rivals.  Diddy Kong Racing was the first kart racer (that I know of) that Nintendo had done outside the Mario series. Though technically Rare (who made the Donkey Kong Country series) were the real team behind it.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
 It featured a similar set-up to Mario Kart, with racing through colorful themed tracks with power-ups to use. The cast didn’t feature Diddy Kong’s famous uncle, but original characters. Most notable would be Banjo the bear (who would later star in Banjo-Kazooie) and Conker (the star of Conker’s Bad Fur Day) the squirrel.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
What also set it apart from Mario’s was the ability to use hovercraft and planes. The game received a very positive reaction from critics and gamers alike. It’s often remarked as one of the most beloved N64 games, with many thinking it was superior to Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
No real sequel was ever released as Rare left Nintendo for Microsoft. Though surprisingly they came back to develop a remake of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS. It featured online-play, but Conker and Banjo were absent. Though ironically despite some improvements, the DS remake received a mixed reaction. It wasn’t considered terrible but it was vastly overshadowed by Mario Kart DS.

Austin Powers: Oh, Behave

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Austin Powers: Oh, Behave

Classed as an oddity when it was released, time has made Austin Powers: Oh, Behave an even bigger curio.

Coming out alongside a Doctor Evil edition – subtitled Welcome To My Underground Lair! – it attempts to be a computer in a cart.

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

If that sounds like a ridiculous concept – that’s because it is.

Unfortunately the developer seemed to have spent most of its time thinking up the game’s concept – and forgot to actually make it fun.

The game opens with a main menu set-up like a PC desktop, with three folders on the far left of the screen. To access them you move your cursor onto them and click them with B (A would have surely been a better choice?).

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

Each folder contains three programs, with one allowing you to alter the sounds, cursors and Color Scheme. This folder is incorrectly labelled as ‘groovy stuff.’

The other two folders are more interesting, if only by default.

One offers incredible basic version of computer programs. A word processor is dubbed ‘Austin’s Pad’, there’s an ‘internet’ program which allows you to look through descriptions of the film’s characters, and finally a calculator (or, as it is deemed here, a shagulator).

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

Alas, these will only maintain your interest for mere minutes (even with Gameboy printer support for the word processor), and you’ll probably end up looking into the games folder for some proper fun.

Sadly, the games on offer are incredibly basic.

You get a Rock, Paper, Scissors game which allows you to face various enemies from the first film, a dull Pac-Man inspired title called Mojo Maze (see screenshot above), and a simple board game titled Domination (otherwise known as Othello).

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

That really is it, and ultimately there’s little contained in the cart that could be described as fun.

The only thing it has going for it is its original concept – and even that isn’t that much of a plus point.

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

It goes too far in wanting to be a pocket PC, with an example being that you have to actually tell the cart to shut down before you turn your Gameboy off. If you don’t the cart pretends to do a virus search when you play it again. Bizarre.

Overall, this ‘game’ is only worth playing today if you really have a desire to see how far a brave experiment can go horribly wrong.

Goof Troop

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Goof Troop

Capcom & Disney just fit together so well. You have Disney’s memorable characters backed up by Capcom’s outstanding record of classic game after classic game. Back in the day the Super Nintendo was THE machine to own Capcom games on. It had Street Fighter 2 before anyone else, it had Mario & it had some of Capcom’s finest Disney releases, including Goof Troop & the 3 Mickey’s Magic Quest games.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

While the 3 Mickey Mouse games were platformers, Capcom decided to make Goof Troop a Zeldaesque title. The view is similar to Zelda, the gameplay is similar to Zelda, you have some items that were in Zelda making appearances here. So why don’t we just play Zelda??? Good question.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Let’s answer that question with another question. What are the similarities between Zelda & Goof Troop? Here’s a list:

– Same viewpoint
– Same items such as keys, the hookshot & a candle (instead of a lamp)
– It’s just as fun

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

That third one is the clincher. It’s just as fun as playing Zelda. Yes it blatantly rips off certain parts of the A Link To The Past, but it stands on its own as a fun game that’s a lot easier than Zelda & is going to appeal to kids.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

For this review I managed to finish this in one sitting, it really is a very easy game & extra lives are in abundance. You collect red gems for extra lives & pieces of fruit to build up your life metre. Cherries give you 1 heart & bananas give you 2. Once you have 6 hearts you get an extra life. This is both good & bad, you see, when you have no hearts & you get hit you die. When you have hearts & get hit you can continue. If you get 6 hearts & then another life, it means you have an extra life but no hearts, so whereas before you could get hit & continue you now die when hit. It’s a very strange setup.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The game features little cut scenes that explain the story over the course of the game. Goofy, Max, Pete & PJ were out fishing together in separate boats. All of a sudden Pete & PJ’s boat is taken by a pirate ship. Goofy & Max go to rescue them but along the way find out that Pete resembles Keelhaul Pete, the pirate’s leader hence the problem. The pirates thought they were rescuing their leader. Pete of course takes advantage of this, but when the real Keelhaul Pete returns the rescue mission kicks up a notch as Pete & PJ really are in danger now.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The player can control either Goofy or Max, or in 2 player mode one player controls each of them. Goofy is the slower of the 2 but doesn’t slow down when holding an item, whereas Max is quick, but does slow down when holding something. Max can sometimes take 2 goes to hit an enemy whereas Goofy only takes 1. I preferred to use Max as he’s quick to get away when you don’t have a weapon, but it’s down to personal preference.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The controls are simple, you walk around with the D pad, B picks up, throws objects & allows you to catch, Y uses an item selected & L changes the selected item. Strangely enough Select pauses the game instead of Start. I always find it odd when a game does this, Turtles in Time is the same. Why the different button? Who knows…

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

So what are some of the differences between this game & Zelda? Firstly when the hookshot (or rope gun as the manual calls it) is used to bridge a gap the rope stays in place & you lose the item. There’s no overworld, the game is just a series of levels, & the game tends to focus more on puzzle solving than Zelda which is more action based.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Also unlike Zelda you can only carry 2 items at a time, but it’s not a big issue here as you don’t need to backtrack after leaving an important item behind. The game is structured so it feels like a lazy trek through the levels. That’s the best way I can describe it really. There are no real tense moments where you’ll get stuck, or face an enemy that’s difficult to beat. If you do get stuck there are passwords for each of the worlds.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The music gives the game a very Disney feel & the final level music just feels right for being on a pirate ship. The sound effects fit the gameplay well, but there’s nothing really special to note about them.

If you like Zelda but have either played it to death or just want to relax a little then Goof Troop is the game for you. The levels are a walk in the park, the bosses aren’t terribly taxing & it’s just plain fun. A bit too easy & a bit short, but it does the job.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

 

I give this one 80%. It’s a lot of fun, but way too easy.

The Rolling Thunder Series

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Rolling Thunder

I’ve described my childhood circumstances in many past articles, including the nature of my relationship with arcade games. I simply didn’t get to play them very often, because my grandmother felt it was a waste of money to give me quarters for games that I’d only last a few minutes on if I were lucky. Looking at it from that perspective, you could arguably see her point. But that doesn’t change the fact that arcade games and arcades in general were simply amazing back in the 80s and early-to-mid-90s. If you weren’t around in those times to experience arcades as they truly were, back when they were new, exciting, and relevant, it’s honestly very hard to try and really describe it to you. In many ways, while home gaming (especially my beloved NES) was amazing in it’s own right, some rightly viewed the arcades as the pinnacle of gaming. How it used to work, is that arcade games would inevitably be “bigger and better”, at least in terms of graphics and certain types of content, than home console or home computer games. So in some respects, arcade games back during their golden era, were the vanguard of video gaming as a whole.

As a gamer, you would go out to wherever your local arcade was, and if you weren’t, like me, lucky enough to live in a big enough town that had it’s own local dedicated arcade, then you went to whatever businesses where such machines could be found, whether it was local pizza joints, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bars (if you were old enough of course), or even laundry mats or gas stations/convenience stores. You would go to these places to experience the newest advancements in video game graphics or sometimes even brand new concepts in gaming. And then, as the process went, if you were lucky, some of these arcade games would eventually be “ported” (with obvious downgrades to accommodate lesser technology), to some kind of home platform that you hopefully owned or knew someone who had one.

Rolling Thunder
You know….it’s still beautiful, in a simplistic sort of way.


One of my own personal favorites, that I of course rarely got to actually play, was a game called Rolling Thunder. It was at my local Pizza Hut, where so many other treasures came and went over the years, like Klax, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Double Dragon II, and Final Fight, and Pole Position II, and Ghost Pilot, and 1943, and my biggest childhood arcade crush, Street Fighter II. Rolling Thunder was a very intriguing, unusual game that for whatever reasons caught my attention, and it was one of the games I gravitated to most whenever we’d go out for pizza. One of the allures it had, I’d have to say, was the unique graphical presentation. It was a sprite based game, as almost all were in the 80s and early 90s, but as you can see above, it had a very simple, shaded, almost “pre-rendered” look, akin to an early prototype of the sort of thing games like Donkey Kong Country would pull off years later. The characters also had unusually smooth animation for the time it released (1986), and the game had a very intense, but subdued, moody soundtrack, very much “secret agent” type of fare, and the whole thing was just very novel in it’s approach. I suppose the other reason this game stuck with me, is because of the “Game Over” screen: when you lost, it took you to the big screen from the title, where the boss “Maboo” (this big green fucker) would laugh at you for losing. That alone probably kept me coming back, because as a kid, this really genuinely upset me that this assclown was laughing at me, and I wanted revenge.

Rolling Thunder
This asshole haunted my childhood. What a jerk.

Rolling Thunder was developed by Namco, creators of groundbreaking classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. It was released in 1986, right in the midst of the “arcade boom” of that decade, and it was a different sort of game that caught people’s attention. At it’s core, it’s a side-scrolling shooter, similar to something like Contra, but unlike Contra where you just run, shoot, and hope you don’t lose too many lives per-level, Rolling Thunder was a lot more about strategy. The most immediately noticeable feature of the game when you start, is that you have limited ammo, even with the simple pistol you start with. You can’t ever totally run out of ammo with the pistol, but once you “run out”, you can only shoot one slow bullet at a time until you find more ammo. That alone plays into the “strategy” nature of the game.

Another main feature of the gameplay, is that the levels feature doors all over the place, and you can open pretty much any door you wish. However, it is sometimes a gamble, because certain doors have enemies that will pop out. Other doors (typically labelled “bullets”) hold more bullets for you, or even a temporary upgrade to a machine gun. And there are yet other doors that you can duck inside of to avoid enemies or enemy fire, and then pop back out to blast ’em in kind. Lastly, the other major facet of gameplay, and perhaps the one thing that this game really added to the gaming spectrum (as it was emulated by several other games down the road), was the ability to jump between the ground floor and an upper floor of each level. That in itself presented more strategy to be utilized by the player, to move upstairs or down to avoid obstacles or enemies. All in all, much like the graphics and music, like I said, a very unique game unto itself.

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

The basic story of the game, is that you are a secret agent called “Albatross”, who works for an international group called “W.C.P.O”, which stands for “World Crime Police Organization”. You are on a secret mission in New York, trying to rescue a fellow agent named Leila Blitz, who has been captured by the sinister terrorist secret society known as “Geldra”. Most of these “Geldra” goons are hooded baddies known as “Maskers”, who frankly look kinda like prototypes for the TMNT “Foot Soldiers”, as they are covered head-to-toe and come in different colors, each color having different weapons or abilities. The game has other enemies like mutant bats, ninjas, robots, etc., but the “Maskers” are the main course. Ultimately, the game plays out over two distinct parts, each having five levels, and at the end of the tenth, to save Leila, you face off with that green-faced asshole who laughed at you after every game over screen, “Maboo”. So at least, I guess, the developers were nice enough to give you the possibility of catharsis: if you could actually MAKE it through this fucking game, you could shoot that son-of-a-snake right in his smirking mug, and make him pay!

As you can see in the picture above, the game got it’s share of home “ports”, first coming to various home computers in 1987 and 1988. Tengen, Atari’s home console publishing arm that had infamous issues with Nintendo over their own less-than-scrupulous efforts to get around the NES lock-out chip that kept third party publishers from being able to put out more than five games a year on the system, put out many unlicensed (aka not officially approved by Nintendo releases) games for NES, and in 1989, one of them was Rolling Thunder. Namco didn’t yet publish their own games outside of Japan, and so they contracted Tengen to do it….which of course probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I digress. Nonetheless, Rolling Thunder on NES was, for all intents a purposes, a pretty strong port of the game. It didn’t have the technical prowess of it’s arcade original, but the core gameplay and atmosphere where still intact, and it’s still pretty damn fun to play. 

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

The first game was popular enough, that in 1991, Namco made a lesser-known sequel, Rolling Thunder 2. A slightly confusing affair, as the original game was apparently supposed to take place in the 60s, but now the sequel takes place in modern times, yet the characters in both games are named Albatross and Leila. In Rolling Thunder 2, Leila is now the main character, which is a cool touch, not only letting her get her revenge, but also making her one of the first playable female protagonists in gaming. The biggest addition to the sequel, was simultaneous 2-player action (a big feature in many arcade games of the day), with Player 1 playing Leila, and Player 2 controlling Albatross. They have identical abilities, outside of their visual differences, of course. The gameplay is essentially the same fare, focused on doors and jumping between upstairs and down. However, the level designs are more varied, this time splitting the game between Florida beaches and Egyptian ruins. The “Maskers” also this time become (if not visually) a bit more “Foot Soldier”-esque, as they are now robots, whereas in the first game they were live villains. Storyline-wise, Geldra, thought destroyed for good in the first game, is back, and it’s up to the heroes to stop ’em. 

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in the rest of the world), received a port of the game that included cut scenes and additional levels that featured new weapons and bosses. It was apparently successful enough to warrant Namco producing a third, Genesis exclusive game, Rolling Thunder 3, released only in North America in 1993. Gameplay-wise, it took a bit of a step back, once again only being single player, where part 2 was 2-players. But on the other hand, they greatly expanded the weapons format. Where the first and second games only made use of pistols and temporary machine-gun upgrades, in Rolling Thunder 3, you can choose one of 9 different “special weapons” before each stage begins, and you get two separate fire buttons, one for your regular pistol, and one for the special weapon. The special weapons, once out of ammo, can’t be used for the rest of the game, thus maintain the strategic element of gameplay. Another way the game differs, is that the levels now have no time-limit: instead, if you take too long, a sniper will eventually come out and try to kill you. Story-wise, the game seems to be a companion piece to Rolling Thunder 2, where while our heroes Leila and Albatross are busy fighting the main Geldra forces in that game, in RT3, a new hero, special agent “Jay”, is chasing after Geldra’s “Number Two” in command, another green-faced mother-fucker named “Dread”. In an era when the Super Nintendo tended to get most of the cool third party published exclusive games, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3 were an exception to the rule. 

Rolling Thunder
Albatross, Leila Blitz, and…………….Jay. Just Jay.

All in all, while I’m not as experienced with the sequels, I need to play them more, because the original Rolling Thunder will always have a special place in my gaming heart. If you’ve never heard of or never had a chance to play these games, find a way to do so (however that may be), because there are fun times to be had, guaranteed. And give my old pal “Maboo” a kick in the balls for me while you’re at it.

Sonic The Hedgehog

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Sonic The Hedgehog

This week we have Sonic for the Sega Master System. Why this version? Because it’s definitely one to play. Of course, it’s graphically inferior than the Genesis version we all know but it’s quite rare to find the US version around these woods. The game overall is not bad until you compare it to its more powerful predecessor. Enough talk, it’s a Sonic game after all so it can’t be that bad right? OK, I take that back…
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Sonic music in 8-bit sound is actually quite enjoyable but it’s definitely not for everyone. The sound effects are also a bit bland. I’m getting to understand why Sega didn’t released this game massively in the USA.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The graphics are quite good for a Master System game. Sonic looks like Sonic and not like a blob. The backgrounds and graphics of the stages are a hit. You never feel like you’ll jump into a fake wall or something. There isn’t that much distortion if there are too many things going on in the game so that’s a well deserved thumbs up.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The gameplay is easy. Sonic games for the Genesis were just as easy as pick up and play. They are fast and fun. This one requires a little bit more strategy and jumping without having to go as fast as the speed of light. It’s still fun in the end, it is classic Sonic after all.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Like many of the older Sonic games, this one is well worth a replay especially if you want to challenge yourself with your own goals like not taking a hit per level or collecting all the rings. Sonic games can be addictive too you know..
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
It’s the first Sonic game and it’s fun. What else is there more to say about this gem? It’s just really enjoyable! I suggest you get the European version as it’s the same thing and a lot cheaper!