Super Metroid

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Of course, hardcore players like me don’t need strategy guides (“Ha! I laugh in the face of your pathetic guide of weakness!”), and I blitzed my way through this enormous and complex game with nary a moment’s pause. OK, maybe I peeked at the guide a teeny weeny bit, but only when I was really stuck. Honest. ~Lewis Packwood

Super Metroid

Format: Super NES Genre: Adventure Released: 1994 Developer: Nintendo

Metroid Prime on the GameCube was a strong contender for the list, but in the end I decided to go with Super Metroid as my most fondly remembered Metroid game. If you’ve never played it, I urge you to download it from the Wii Virtual Console with all possible rapidity – it really is an absolute classic, reflected in that fact that it’s still knocking around the top of the Game Rankings ‘All Time Best‘ list.

Super Metroid - SNES

The thing that always stands out in my memory about Super Metroid is the bloody great big box that it came in – bizarrely, Nintendo decided to ship the European version of the game with an enormous strategy guide detailing every last corridor and secret item in the whole game. I don’t think this kind of marketing tactic has been attempted before or since (correct me if I’m wrong) and you’ve got to admit that it’s a bit of strange decision. It’s as if Nintendo were about to launch the game and then suddenly thought:

“Ooooh, maybe it’s too difficult for them? What if they get a bit, you know, frustrated? I know, let’s tell them exactly how to do everything in the entire game. That should do it.”

Super Metroid - SNES

Of course, hardcore players like me don’t need strategy guides (“Ha! I laugh in the face of your pathetic guide of weakness!”), and I blitzed my way through this enormous and complex game with nary a moment’s pause. OK, maybe I peeked at the guide a teeny weeny bit, but only when I was really stuck. Honest.

The highlights of Super Metroid were undoubtedly the bosses – particularly the screen-filling Kraid (see screenshot below). He (I presume he’s a he anyway) doesn’t seem to learn though. Put it this way: if I was entirely invulnerable except for a weak spot in my mouth, I would probably keep my mouth shut the entire time, rather than periodically unleashing reptilian screams of fury then wondering why I kept getting hurt.

Super Metroid - SNES

However, I think the overall reason that Super Metroid was so successful was that it constantly drove you to see what was around the next corner. Every few screens you’re presented with some sort of barrier to your progress – perhaps a seemingly impassable lava pit or a platform that’s just out of reach – and one of the game’s joys is collecting a new item or ability and then backtracking through the game to see what new areas it will open to you. In fact, Super Metroid engendered an almost compulsive urge to explore every nook and cranny of the game world in the hunt for elusive weapons and upgrades, and the triumphal music that accompanies the discovery of each item is right up there as one of the most pleasing game sound effects of all time (possibly only beaten by the music accompanying the opening of a treasure chest in Zelda: Ocarina of Time).

Super Metroid - SNES

You could argue that its excellent graphics and inspired shift to 3D make Metroid Prime the instant stand-out game of the Metroid series, but in terms of gameplay there’s very little Prime does that Super Metroid doesn’t.

Excluding duplicated games, Super Metroid is currently at number 8 in the All Time Best games list – which is frankly not high enough in my opinion. Buy this game now: you won’t regret it.

[101 Videos Games]

Running Battle

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Not much can be found on the internet about this game, except that it was developed by Opera House in 1991, famous for porting to home consoles from Arcades like Midnight Resistance, Rastan Saga 2, and Captain America and the Avengers. Those games were somewhat decent at least. ~David Kudrev

Running Battle

The SEGA Master System 2 was the first home console I’ve had. It was a new experience in gaming for me as I was used to the arcades and Game & Watch games prior. I still don’t remember why we went for the Master System over the NES at the time. Might be the cost factor, as I did enjoy the games on the NES at the department stores when trying out which home console to go for. Although one thing about the Master System, was even though it had a large library of games, a lot of them were quite bad. This is one of the worst. Enter Running Battle.

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Not much can be found on the internet about this game, except that it was developed by Opera House in 1991, famous for porting to home consoles from Arcades like Midnight Resistance, Rastan Saga 2, and Captain America and the Avengers. Those games were somewhat decent at least..

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

So the storyline in short: The Dark Zone, which is the name of your town, has been taken over by gangs and crooks, you play as Detective Gray, a cop who’s partner was gunned down by said crooks, and you’re avenging the death of him by plummeting yourself into 5 levels of fighting through monotony and cardboard cut-out characters to defeat “M”, the big boss of said town.

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Okay, first off, the graphics are what you’d expect from a game on the Master System. Simple, yet effective for the given hardware there (granted I’ve seen decent graphics pulled off nicely on a Master System, I mean look at Sonic Chaos for example, or Fantasy Zone even! They’re very colorful games, Running Battle tends to go for blander colors.

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

The music in this game is the only thing that shines, when I first hired the game in 1991 and sat there playing it. The music was what stood out. Oh sure forget that this game has horrible animation in the characters, kind of like waddling a piece of cardboard across the screen, except cardboard doesn’t flicker/disappear when moving..

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Forget that the collision detection in this game is beyond arse.. as in you can’t even get close enough to the thugs with your fists or kicks. Thankfully you do get some power-ups, like a pistol, rifle, super strength (one hit and the thugs are dead.. if you get close enough to hit them), and then there’s 5-second invincibility.

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

And forget the storyline and character development, you just fight 5 bosses, defeat the end boss and then greeted to a one-screen, one sentence, one picture end sequence.

I honestly don’t know what happened when this game was developed, whether it was meant to be a tax write-off? There were some great titles in that time on the Master System (Sonic 1, Asterix, Strider, Castle of Illusion) as well as it’s other competitive consoles (Battletoads and Star Wars on the NES).

Running Battle for the Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

If you see this game in the stores, grab it for the music. But don’t expect anything to pull you in and keep you playing for hours on end..

1.5 out of 5

Pros:
– Music
– A great party game to piss friends off with

Cons:
– Graphics and animations are bland (and at the time other games did better)
– Controls are way too hit-and-miss
– Not much in the way of story

Gex: Enter The Gecko (PSOne)

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Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look. ~Simon Reed

Gex: Enter The Gecko

I recall in my revisit of  Gex: Enter the Gecko on the Gameboy Color that the titular lizard had precious opportunity to make his abrasive personality come across – and how that was a real blessing. Sadly, in ‘Gex,’ the game in which the gecko was first introduced to the world, he manages to give you a very good idea of his ‘persona and you know what I find even more annoying than Gex himself? The game underneath is actually not half bad – but it’s overshadowed by the green ones constant chatter.

Gex - PSOne

Set up like an old school platformer, Gex sees you travelling around small hubs, each one focusing on a specific location – such as a horror world and a kung-fu universe. So far, so unoriginal. Of course, the game originally came out on 3DO in 1994, so perhaps these old fashioned sensibilities are to be expected. In each stage you have to recover a remote (or two) which then allow you to access new levels. Fortunately each remote can usually be found fairly easily, and are placed in clear view when you’re working your way through a level.

Gex - PSOne

Stages tend to feel a little open, although in actuality they’re quite linear. Gex has an ability to stick to walls you see, and this can make you easily go up, down as well as left and right. Further variety comes about through power ups, which you can either whack with your tail to add to your health bar or eat (by using your extendable tongue) to access short term abilities, such as fireball breath or a super jump. Despite these interesting gameplay mechanics however, the game itself can occasionally feel a little generic – but some credit must go to developer Crystal Dynamics that the game remains playable throughout. Controls are solid, and there are rarely any moments where the game feels broken or unfair.

Gex - PSOne

The only truly annoying design aspect is the password system – which requires you to collect a tape in every other level (and they’re usually hidden away) or beat an end of world boss. Whether the game is worth playing thought, simply comes down to whether you can stand Gex himself.  His wisecracks are just about acceptable – the first time your hear them. They’re repeated so much that they end up getting more than a little irksome though, and he seems to have to comment on something nearly every five seconds. Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look.

 [Check out Simon’s Homepage]

Holy Diver

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This game features unlimited continues, which is nice cause you are going to need them. ~Alana Dunitz

Holy Diver

Today I’m featuring a really cool Famicom game that you should definitely check out if you have a chance.  It’s called Holy Diver, and no it’s not the song by Dio. (I honestly don’t know that song but everyone on twitter kept mentioning it when I brought up this game)  ** correction! It is based on that song! So crazy!** Holy Diver was actually recommended to me by Parodius Duh on the Famicom World website.  I’m definitely glad that I listened to him cause this game is pretty awesome!

Holy Diver

When I was playing the game, it felt like a mix between Castlevania, Getsu Fuma Den and threw in some Mega Man just for fun.  The company with the crazy idea to release a  game like this was Irem, the same company that put out Spelunker II, Lot Lot and Kickle Cubicle.  Holy Diver hit the shelves in April of 1989, but of course it never saw the light of day in North America.

Story

Story wise there was no manual or anything with my copy so I wasn’t too sure cause you just get tossed right into the action of the game.  So I did some online research and found a few different versions of the story.  One guy had the manual but couldn’t read Japanese so he made up a story based on seeing 666 in the text.  He thought your character was sent to save the world and had to kill the devil.  Luckily I soon found a translation of the story right from the manual…

Holy Diver

“Resurrected-The Legend of the Holy Magic King’s Justice

It is the 666th year of the world of magic. The Black Slayer, Demon King of the Underground Dark Empire, has extended the world of darkness and weakened the power of King Crimson whose wisdom has guided the world of magic for generations.

The 16th Crimson Emperor Ronnie 4th entrusted his two infant sons, Randy and Zack, to his faithful servant Ozzy. The three escaped the forces from another dimension in the hope to bring light back into the world.

Holy Diver

The next 17 years were difficult but Randy, Zack, and Ozzy devoted themselves to the cause of Holy Magic Justice. The Black Slayer had further extended his empire over the countryside and the interdimensional forces were even more powerful. Randy needed to find the Royal Coat Of Arms of the Crimson to battle the demons. He set out alone to carry out the will of his surrogate father Ozzy who had passed away. Thus begins the Legend Of The Holy Magic King’s Justice.”

Hmm wonder if Ozzy is supposed to be Ozzy Osbourne and Zack is like Zakk Wylde. It definitely does have catchy music!  Anyways so you basically battle demons, that’s enough of a story for me.

Gameplay

This game features unlimited continues, which is nice cause you are going to need them.  It’s definitely not the easiest game I’ve ever played, but it’s challenging in a good way.  I love how with your magic you have projectiles, just like if you were using the mega buster in Mega Man.  If you had to do close combat with punching, this game would be impossible to beat!  It definitely tests your reflexes, those enemies are fast!

Holy Diver

I’ve recorded myself playing through the first level of the game (this is the first time I’ve ever played).  Notice at the end what happens when you beat the level boss.

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Dudes with Attitude

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As unfair as it may be to those passionate coders, the end result does feels markedly amateurish, and as much as needless bells and whistles should be trimmed from some titles, this is a game that could have used some fancy additions and fine-tuned detail-worked. ~Eric Bailey

Dudes with Attitude

The year: 1990. The developer: American Video Entertainment. This was a company that produced unlicensed cartridges for play on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. Included in their instruction manuals after 1990 was an entire page dedicated to explaining to consumers how they could help bypass Nintendo’s latest consoles that includes a new chip to prevent playing their games, and a somewhat martyr-tinged note of explanation that AVE sought to provide affordable family entertainment, even going so far as to offer free games with a mail-in offer.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

After having put such simplistic efforts like Solitaire and Blackjack onto the market, a quirky interesting game was pushed into existence, apparently thanks to the efforts of Michael and Cam Crick: Dudes With Attitude,” a frenetic action-puzzler hybrid that combined uniquely distinctive innovation with the usual pitfalls and pratfalls of small-time development operations.

Gameplay

Dudes With Attitude on the NES definitely qualifies as being among that category of video games that is much more easily understood when seen in motion, rather than reading an attempt at a worded description. Truly interested readers should probably consider checking out its video entry on NESGuide.com for the full scoop to truly grasp what is going on.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

To try and summarize, though: Dudes With Attitude is an action puzzler, like a fast-paced arcade/puzzle genre hybrid. The player controls a Dude of his or her choices; these are little round head-shaped characters, who then enter play on a one-screen field. The grid-based field takes place on a black background and each level, to varying degrees, is filled with objects. The goal is to collect all the treasure on a particular stage without dying, which means avoiding static hazards and moving enemies. How this is accomplished is through a feat quite distinctive on the console: The Dude relentlessly moves back and forth across the screen, bouncing each time it meets a boundary or wall object, dying if it strikes a hazard or enemy twice (one “free hit” is allowed, visibly reducing the size of the round Dude), and collecting treasures.

These mechanics are all done by color-coding. Certain cups on-screen change the Dude’s color as it hits them. Then, that Dude is immune to enemies and hazards of that color, and can collect like-colored treasures. Remember, this is all done non-stop, as the Dude endlessly slides left and right in the field of play.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

So, a sample level may have a white locked door at the top third and a red locked door at the bottom third of the screen, behind each of which are its like-colored treasures, and in the center are a couple of hazards and/or enemies. In the center of the arena are the white and red cups that change the Dude’s color. Thus, the challenge is for the player to deftly maneuver the Dude in such a way as to change to a certain color, move through the like-colored door, collect all the treasure within, then switch to the other color and repeat. However, of course, that is a very simplified explanation, and the levels rather widely vary in their imaginative varieties of lay-outs in terms of their hazards, obstacles, enemies, and treasures.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

There is also a password option, a level editor, and a two-player mode. The entire experience is rather distinctive, with there being very few games anything like Dudes With Attitude on the NES; the one notable exception is Trolls On Treasure Island, which is just the exact same game, but with the licensed likenesses of Troll dolls used instead of the Dudes (with, granted, a few other palette swaps and level design changes at work), based on the popular toys of the time.

The gameplay emphasizes quick thinking, requiring excellent reaction timing and rapid decision-making skills, along with a some planning in later levels, to the extent required by the fact that there is a time limit for each stage. The odd, bouncing, back-and-forth gameplay may resonate with some, but even when accustomed to, likely grows stale after a while.

Graphics

Dudes with Attitude - NES

With the heavy use of blues, whites, blacks, and pinks, this looks like an old four-color CGA PC game; which, if you could not guess, is a bad thing. Granted, considering the limitations of the small icons being used here, the actual appearance of the title can be forgiven, but not by much: The elements lack detail and, though vary, remain starkly monotone. The “gum” enemies will forever just be a one-color blotch with a few pixels to denote a face, and even the treasures usually just look like crude hearts, poor bricks, or watered-down Mario Bros. coins. This is definitely a case of a video game constructed for function over form, using the bare minimum of gameplay indications to get its mechanics clearly across and not at all aiming for style points.

Sound

The sound effects are simplistic buzzes and beeps; and there is virtually no soundtrack to speak of. The levels are conducted without background music, and simply jolly little ditties mark successful completions. Again: This is a small-team development job, that totally aims for just presenting a playable product, without frills or extras to speak of. Including, it would seem, any semblance of actual music.

Originality

Now, strangely enough, this is actually a somewhat unique 8-bit video game. The constant, frenetic, horizontally oriented gameplay is a marked departure from the vertically oriented, slow-at-times, one-piece-at-a-time material that many old-school gamers may be used to from such classic titles as Tetris or Dr. Mario. This may serve as Dudes’ greatest strength and appeal: For a certain small niche audience, this may be just their cup of tea, and may truly be a favorite among those select few.

Most, in contrast, can expect a disappointment. As unfair as it may be to those passionate coders, the end result does feels markedly amateurish, and as much as needless bells and whistles should be trimmed from some titles, this is a game that could have used some fancy additions and fine-tuned detail-worked. As it stands, it feels more like old PC shareware, something perhaps briefly played as a curiosity but at a noticeable drop in quality from the bulk majority of NES cartridges. The rating is one and a half stars out of five.

NES Baseball

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The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. ~Mike “Nequester” Wright

Baseball

nes baseball

MLB: The Show, Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball, MVP Baseball, and Baseball Mogul. Over the years, there have been a few excellent baseball games that have stood the test of time. These revered titles can be popped in to this day and still retain some of the magic that made them a blast. That being said, the first baseball game released for the NES is clearly not one of them. Today, we take a peek at the initial rendition of the Summer Classic to grace us in 8-bits, the creatively named NES Baseball.

nes baseball
Baseball spelled with it’s namesake is pretty sweet. The title screen music is used for about 5 other games as well. Nintendo must’ve paid their composers per tune and not per usage.

This is normally where I throw some history for the readers to soak in but c’mon folks, it’s baseball! Other than MMA, my personal game of choice. 9 players hit the field, 4 balls is a walk, 3 strikes and you’re out, 3 outs and you switch sides. The rules are well known to almost anyone and in that regard, it’s an easy game to pop in and instantly get going. Did Nintendo faithfully translate “America’s Pastime” into an enjoyable experience for kids to lose themselves in? It saddens me to say, not even close.

nes baseball
“After carefully considering offers from A, M, G, and X, I’ve decided to take my talents to H! I can’t wait to be a major part in the H vs Y feud and plan to play here at least two long years!”

Let’s begin with the team names. Granted, when a publisher doesn’t have the license to use real MLB logos and names, they normally run with the city name and the uniform colors. Usually, from that, we automatically gather that if the team’s name is “Bos” and the colors they sport are red and white, good money is on them being the Boston Red Sox. Baseball said “fuck all that noise” and gave us the legendary squads of A, C, D, P, R, and Y. Further examination will reveal the teams as the Athletics, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Royals, and Yankees judging by the color schemes. Nowadays, we equate the Royals to a team that has had one winning season since 1993 and akin to the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NL, sort of a running gag. Seeing as this was launched October 18, 1985, Baseball was two days removed from George Brett and the Royals defeating Ozzie Smith’s Cardinals in the World Series, justifying their inclusion in this cart. What I don’t understand is if all 6 teams are EXACTLY the same with only uniform swaps, why couldn’t we just have all 28 teams at the time and add even one letter to the teams name so we could tell the Astros from the A’s? Also of note, did all the black and latino players go on strike before they hit the field? In these days and times, little details like that become rather noticable. One could attempt to argue that the game was made in Japan, however the MVP of the Nippon League in 1984, when Baseball debuted in the arcades, was Greg Wells, a black man.. 

nes baseball
Kansas City Royals, falling flat on our asses since 1993!

There is only one mode so anyone wanting a full season and deep stat tracking just had to make use of their noggin and create a custom schedule as well as track their own stats. One problem, you never knew who was up to bat. Every hitter has the same exact appearance and attributes, so it could be your catcher at the plate or your left fielder. There was no indicator as to who was 0-5 so far in the game or who had 4 homers, nor did it even matter.. Same with pitching as it made zero difference if you got rocked for 10 runs in your first inning, there are no substituions, the poor guy just has to deal with life and continue to get slaughterred trying to lower his 77.00 ERA futilely. Really, there should be a “swallow cyanide” menu option, because if there is anyone I feel for in this game, it’s the poor pitcher.

nes baseball
Throw so much as one pitch right down the middle and this will happen 90% of the time.

Other than frustration, the only other emotion this game can seem to conjure up is a deep sympathy for the pitcher. It truly is like Nolan Ryan on the mound with a gang of stoned sumo wrestlers in the background trying to field. Pitching is tolerable as you have 3 speeds to work with and the only complaint is after you hit A, he throws it pretty much whenever the hell he wants to. At times, it is instantly pitched to the batter and other times, he shakes off a sign and stands there mean-mugging the batter a few seconds before the wind-up, adding more time to an already long as hell game. 

nes baseball
That isn’t 3 left fielders, my fucking PITCHER is chasing a ball that far!

The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. A routine pop-up was missed by my third basemen and instead of the game allowing me to control the left fielder and try to get to the ball, it makes my 3B run (more like freshly twisted ankle hobbling) after the ball all the way to the warning track. As if it could be worse, the fielder and the ball are often moving the same speed meaning you aren’t getting to shit until you make it all the way to the wall and pray the ball ricochets in your direction. Three fucking times a simple play was turned into something really damaging to my chances of a fair game. The routine groundball that rolled through my second baseman’s legs that turned into an inside the park home run almost costed me a controller.

nes baseball
I tried to exact revenge for the ’88 World Series but by the 2nd inning, I was getting spanked. Sorry Oakland, better luck next baseball review.

Hitting is easy enough. A baseball is hurled towards your batter and you try to hit A at the right time. Simple, yet effective, as is hitting in most baseball games. That is, until you actually reach first base. Even if you get the perfect slicer down the third base line for what should be an easy triple, your player grows fucking roots at first. I beat the everloving piss out of my buttons to no avail attempting to light any kind of fire under my players ass, yet all he could muster was to blankly stare at me and remain planted where he was. This game’s rules have no rules. The one time I got my guy to accomplish forward motion, it was by complete accident and I couldn’t get him to turn back around nor know why I even tried. Any semblance of strategy that might be thought up is just an exercise in futility. Your choices are pretty much limited to either knocking it out of the park everytime or having your ass handed to you on a silver platter. Good luck with option A.

nes baseball
When I think baseball, I think of these all-time great teams!

As for the sound, most titles of the “Sports Series” work extremely well without any background tunes, but this is one game that sorely needed it. Seeing as this was the only baseball title at the time, the poor consumer had to endure the rousing sound of nothing while the game was droning on. It’s as slow moving as it gets and I timed a full game at 58 minutes, far too long for the 6 or so sound effects to keep things intresting or me distracted from what a clump of 8-bit shit this is. As a matter of fact, when you are called out, it is the exact same sound that Punch-Out on NES gives when you press start and the boxing glove breaks through the screen. Noone can blame me for nstantly making me want to pop that classic in when I hear it. The tiny ditty when you hit a home run is also the theme when you win a fight in the arcade version of Punch-Out, giving a strange link to both versions of the greatest boxing game ever created on any console. Later for that one though.

nes baseball
If you’re one of those fans who just wish the Yankees lose everytime they hit the field, in this game all you have to do is play as them. Instant gratification!

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

nes baseball
Exactly how I’d have felt if I spent 50 bucks on this title on launch day…

3/10

Only slightly above Donkey Kong Jr. Math as an unplayable piece of NES history that should stay buried never to see the sun or be touched by civilization again. I spent 3 days mulling it over and trying like hell to give it the benefit of the doubt as the first baseball game and still can’t go any higher in good conscience. Nintendo squandered a great opprotunity here as launch day, noone knew what the hell an Ice Climber, a Clu Clu, or a Goomba was. We all knew what baseball was and, sadly, they completely dropped the ball. I’m sure the five superstar outfielders from Team Y is still chasing that bitch to the wall today.

Batman

Batman - NES - gameplay
While Batman has had a few video games before this on computer platforms, many remember the NES game as the Dark Knight’s first digital adventure. This one was not surprisingly based on the 1989 movie and came out less than year after the film’s release.
Batman - NES - gameplay
 Since it was based on the movie, there were plenty of impressive (for NES anyway) cut-scenes featuring key moments of the movie and some just for the game.
Batman - NES - gameplay
 Except the plot of the game is shortened to Batman just trying to reach the Joker. Doing so he must go through chemical plants, caverns, and even a cathedral to meet the insane clown. I guess a lot of the areas weren’t in the movie but were you expecting a dating mini-game with an 8-bit Vicki Vale?
Batman - NES - gameplay
I guess you could say the game was Batman meets Ninja Gaiden. You could wall jump in addition to using batgear like the batarang. Fans usually have a very positive opinion of Batman for NES, but I don’t think it’s aged too well. I played a little awhile back, and it couldn’t keep my interest for long.

Kasumi Ninja

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

Kasumi Ninja is a fighting game that I unfortunately find fairly repellent. As soon as you boot it up, it’s clear that the game has an almost worrying fixation on blood.

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

I’m aware that many classic fighters – Mortal Kombat springs to mind – use gore to give fights more of a violent edge, but Kasumi Ninja goes way overboard.

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

Blood trickles from the top of the menu screens, for example – which doesn’t make the game feel sinister, just feel incredibly cheap and second rate.

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

Diving into the story mode, things struggle to improve. The character select is viewed from a first person perspective, with one of the choppiest frame rates i’ve ever seen. It’s not like much is going on in this section, so I have no idea why it chugs along at such an alarming rate.

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

Pick your ninja and opponent, and you can then begin your fight (in an unusually nice touch the game classes your foe as being played by the ‘Jaguar’ rather than ‘CPU’), which is introduced by an unintentionally amusing oriental style announcer.

Kasumi Ninja - Atari Jaguar

Fights take place in a range of very 16-bit looking environments, and where you fight seems to depend on your opponent. This brings me onto my next point – what exactly is up with the oddball characters used here?

You can play as a ninja, fitting in with the game’s title, but your foes can range from deranged Scotsman to scantily clad seductress.

There’s even a woman who’s an assistant Defence Attorney by day, and a fighter by night. I mean, what the heck? Why not call the game ‘Kasumi Random Selection of Weirdos’ instead of ‘Kasumi Ninja’ – it would be far more accurate at least.

The game fatally contradicts itself in tone in this regard – the light hearted nature of the characters is offset by the gore used throughout, making the title feeling a tacky mess as result.

It doesn’t help that the fighting itself is atrocious, with controls that you’ll struggle to grasp with any ease. You’ll probably have long since lost interest before you begin to ‘master’ the special moves.

Kasumi Ninja is most definitely your best bet if you’re looking for a fighting game on the Jaguar – but that is ultimately saying very little indeed.

John Madden Football

John Madden Football SNES
While Madden Football is an easy favorite for many gamers, I would bet many of those fans were never around for the early releases. I hear the Sega Genesis version was pretty sweet, but I wanted to give the SNES version a try first.
John Madden Football SNES
This is also back when EA cared about promoting John Madden in the football video games. I think the newest releases don’t even feature his voice anymore. Sad really…….
John Madden Football SNES
Well anyway, John Madden Football on SNES isn’t totally bad. Compared to the older NES football games, this game is pure gold. It’s got all your favorite teams (well the ones around at the time of course), a big playbook, extra modes, and a lot of stuff the series still uses.
John Madden Football SNES
There is one fatal flaw with the game, and that’s the technical limitations of the SNES. The framer ate does not run smooth which really effects gameplay when you’re in a heated moment. Also when you pass you get a zoomed-in view of the players around you. Doesn’t sound too bad, but it kills your view on defense. It’s a shame really, because it seems like EA put a lot of effort in trying to make this the best football game ever in the early 90’s.

Score: 5 out of 10

Soul Blazer

 Soul-Blazer

Soul Blazer for the SNES is just another wonderful title by Enix to keep us RPG geeks with something to do during the SNES era of greatness! The music is nothing but wonderful. Enix sure did a great job with the soundtrack and sound effects of their games. You can’t beat the 16-bit sound effects from yesterday. If anything, they motivate you to continue with your quest and finish up a wonderful title. Graphics wise, it is decent. You won’t find any graphics like from lets say Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger but you’ll find some decent graphics that’ll be more than enough to keep your eyes happy till the end of the game. Things look like how they are supposed to so be happy to at least have that.

Soul-Blazer

As far as the gameplay, it is quite satisfying. You will have to come up with your own strategies to defeat certain bosses. You just can’t run to them and kill them, it’s a good way to use your head in a way. There is also a level up system that of course makes you stronger. Weapons, and other items are on the way to help you finish your quest. Everything an action-RPG title should bring is here! Don’t look anywhere else! The game is quite fun but would only be good for a replay if there are extra things you might have missed on your first run. Then again, if you find defeating bad guys and playing this game as satisfying then I suggest you go for it! It’s a great experience overall and experiencing it again would just be joyful and action packed once more.

To conclude, this is a must have for anyone’s collection and anyone willing to step down the golden ages of the 16-bit era. You can’t go wrong with titles from Enix! They always delivered high quality stuff.

Mighty Final Fight

Mighty Final Fight
Feel the hi-top of Justice

 The Nintendo Entertainment System certainly had a rather wide variety of game types during it’s 10 year existence. From platformers, to action games, to shooters, to puzzle games, sports games, role playing games, you name it. But the one genre we’re here to talk about today is a fine little slice of gaming known as the “Beat ’em Up”. What defines a “Beat ’em Up”, as opposed to a “Fighting Game”, is that in fighters, your objective is to beat the snot out of the guy across the screen from you, and the person who takes the most rounds wins. But in a “Beat ’em Up”, the objective is to beat the snot out of every single thing that moves on the screen, and to do so until you beat all the bad guys in every single level, and finally save the day. So in other words it’s the difference between a Mohammed Ali fight, and a Jackie Chan film. The NES had it’s share of this fine genre, which enjoyed it’s “boom” period in the late 80’s and early 90s. Double Dragon, Renegade, River City Ransom, Toxic Crusaders, and of course Battletoads all graced the classic console. But I’m here today to tell you about one such game, released late in the NES’ life, years after the Super NES had launched, that may have gotten passed over by many. I’m here to correct that, because it just might be the best of the bunch….

Mighty Final Fight
Back when almost everything Capcom made was gold…..

Most gamers worth their salt know that the first game to truly establish the conventions of the genre known as the “Beat ‘Em Up”, was 1987’s Double Dragon. Developed by Technos, DD became an arcade smash hit that spawned a franchise, and the rest is history. Most gamers worth their salt are ALSO aware of the fact that while Double Dragon started it, another game that came along in 1989, pretty much perfected it. And that would be Capcom’s Final Fight. Originally meant to be a semi-follow up to their first (and terribly obscure) Street Fighter game, this classic was originally going to be called “Street Fighter ’89”. But once they realized it had really nothing to do with their first foray into one-on-one fighting, they renamed it “Final Fight”, and it was off to the races.

Mighty Final Fight

Now, Final Fight was an amazing arcade game, which received a very good port for Super Nintendo, and believe it or not even a solid one for Sega CD. The game was also popular enough to spawn two SNES only sequels, which saw it change characters, but kept the overall look and feel. WELL, around the same time that FF2 came out in 1993, another little known gem also released, for the by then fading-but-still-awesome original NES. And that game, was called “Mighty Final Fight”. Mighty Final Fight is a strange but wonderful beast. It is a fairly comical retake on the arcade original, complete with “chibi” (small, cartoony) versions of the main characters and enemies, and a goofier feel over all. But with the goofieness also came something that most wouldn’t expect, especially out of an NES “port”, and that is the fact that while the SNES version was a great game although lacking 2-player, this NES “remake” was actually superior in a lot of ways, even to the arcade original.

Final fight
The arcade lineup, as seen in the Sega CD version.
Mighty Final Fight
The lineup as seen in the NES. Notice the differing art styles.

For one thing, unlike the better known SNES port, where you could only play characters Cody and Mike Haggar for some strange reason, in MFF you get to choose between all three from the arcade, which includes the ninja characer Guy. Like the SNES version, MFF is only single player, but honestly, that’s small potatoes compared to what they added to the game. Not only does the overall action feel even “meatier” with a superior sense of hit detection, but Capcom also took a page out of the NES port of Double Dragon’s book, and added an rpg like element wherein your character gains experience for every baddie he thrashes, and eventually you “level up”, with each level unlocking new and cooler attacks, as well as extending your life bar.

Final fight
The game’s first boss, “Damnd”, also known as Thrasher.
Mighty Final Fight
Thrasher as seen in the NES version. Aren’t they adorable?

The game also includes most of the content from the original, though it only has 5 stages instead of the arcade’s six, in this case missing the “Subway” area. That aside, it’s got everything the arcade did with a bit more besides, and beyond that, even has one hell of a bad ass 8-bit soundtrack. And again, the soundtrack is arguably superior to the arcade or even SNES versions. All around, Mighty Final Fight is one hell of a game, loads of fun, and a perfect example of why the NES lasted an amazing 10 years in North America, because up through 1994 it kept getting sprinklings of high quality games such as this. In fact, 1993 was a huge year for the ol’ NES all around, as it not only got Mighty Final Fight, it also saw the releases of games like Kid Klown, Zen the Intergalactic Ninja, Duck Tales 2, Battletoads & Double Dragon, and of course Kirby’s Adventure.

Mighty Final Fight
An example of the upgraded moves you get with each level, in this case Cody’s uppercut.

So there you have it folks! If you haven’t ever gotten a chance to get your hands on this true “Beat ‘Em Up” classic, or haven’t even ever heard of it until now, please do yourself a huge favor and do so.You really can’t do much better in it’s genre, and as far as I’m personally concerned, it’s one of the greatest games ever crafted. So fire this bad boy up, and have a great skull-knocking time, on me! Cheers!

Lode Runner 3-D

Format- N64

Genre- Puzzle Platformer

Lode-Runner-3-D - N64

I have quite a few N64 games. Not as many as the true collectors out there – but far too many to actually have played them all.

So I flick through my un-played carts, all picked up for pennies and lurking at the back of the draw, flicking through Earthworm Jim 3D, Road Rash 64, Twisted Edge…until I decide to take a punt on Lode Runner 3-D.

Lode-Runner-3-D - N64

Why it has the dash between the 3 and the D, I do not know. But anyway.

A puzzle game based on an ancient title from 1983, I recall Lode Runner 3-D was given a lukewarm response by N64 Magazine at the time of its release – so how bad could it be?

Well, it turns out it’s not a bad game. Just one that was considered slightly archaic even at the time of its release – and, well, time has not been kind.

Lode-Runner-3-D - N64

It’s hard to describe whether this is a 3D (or ‘3-D’) or 2D game to be honest. Although your movement is fixed on a 2D path, levels branch out into 3D space, twisting, turning, and overlapping with a certain frustrating rigour.

The game is based around completing self-contained stages by collecting a set amount of tokens, with different obstacles and challenges set against you.

Most involve the destruction of boxes though (see the purple ones above), which can be blasted away with a burst of your laser gun, fired with the Z button.

Lode-Runner-3-D - N64

These boxes come back after a certain time though, and if you’re in the space which they pop back into, you’re dead.

A more likely death will come about by walking into the red suited monks that stalk you in most of the levels though – and if killed (by either blowing them up with bombs or trapping them in the boxes) they simply re-spawn and chase you all over again.

These creepy monks (you never see their faces) are a little out of sync with the space theme, but do offer up a very tangible threat. Even if all they do when they catch you is jog back and forth on the spot where you fell. The fools.

In most levels one wrong move is enough to scupper any chance you have, but due to the sprawling nature of some stages a trial and error approach can be the only way to get through them.

Although you can see a fair bit of the stage with the solid camera (although for such a simple game i’d expect this element to be decent), there are still many times where you’ll die because you won’t be able to predict what the game will throw at you.

Eventually then, you might get a little bored, and for the larger levels you simply won’t have the motivation to play any more.

Generally Lode Runner 3-D looks a little tired by modern standards, with its chunky 3D graphics and one-note puzzling. Despite good intentions, this is a game best left in the past.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain

Release Date on PSN: September 10th 2009

Original Release: November 15th 1996

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

Story

Blood Omen is the first game in the Legacy of Kain series. As the name would suggest the story is centered on Kain, a noble who is murdered in the first few moments of the game, but he is given a chance for revenge by a Necromancer who brings him back to life or un-life as a vampire.

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

What really makes this game stand out is the quality of the voice acting, casting trained thespians as the characters was a stroke of brilliance and this is the best part of the game.

The way they use voice as makes you really invested in the story and gives you that push to keep you playing. Voice acting in games today could still learn a thing or two from this PSone classic, and at original release this feature was unheard of.

Gameplay

Blood Omen plays just as you’d think Diablo would with a directional pad. The controls are easy to get used to and rarely were there any issues with control except for a few jumping sections that can sometimes be confusing.

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

As you progress through the game you gain new abilities, spells and equipment, that range from raising your health and magic bars to learning how to become a werewolf and tear your enemies apart. Health as you would imagine is gained from drinking the blood of your enemies, if you hit them the right number of times they’ll hold this very Mortal Kombat “finish me” pose where you can feed. Also while traveling to villages you can feed on the locals before heading off to defeat one of the games many interesting bosses.

The difficulty isn’t too bad, but you’ll have to watch your resources carefully at some points, the learning curve is good, but you really get into the gameplay when you start receiving new abilities and equipment. All of which add some strategy to the game and make it that much richer.

Graphics

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

Although Blood Omen is a dated game, the 2d graphical style suit it well and the art direction in the game still make it immersive. Also some graphical decisions that were made (like having blood you drink from enemies spurt through the air into your mouth) make is still a gruesome game which was certainly surprising for a game of this generation. Graphically there is nothing spectacular but the attention to detail doesn’t make graphics a hindrance to the story.

How Blood Omen Legacy of Kain holds up today

Blood Omen Legacy of Kain certainly makes an impression on the first time player. This comes from the excellent voice work and gripping story that is so rare in games even today. The amount of time it takes to run through this game is also impressive. It took 35+ hours to complete and I was glued to my console for the duration. Graphically you’ll not be impressed but there are a few nice touches you’ll notice that Silicon Knights threw in that will keep it from being a problem.

 Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

For the standard PSone classics fee of six dollars and with story elements and gameplay that keep you interested for 35+ hours, this gives you a great bang for your buck. I enjoyed every moment of it.

Highly recommended (if you have the time), and if you liked this one check out it’s sequel Soul Reavertoo.

9/10

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero

Before he became the governor (or Governator, that is) of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest box-office draws on the planet as the big-muscled action star of such classics as Commando, Predator, True Lies, and the first two Terminator films. However, during a brief foray into such comedies as Junior, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop, Arnie lost his edge a bit for the lighter roles and, arguably, almost ruined his legacy. Among these not-quite-hits was the critically derided meta-movie Last Action Hero.

last-action-hero-nes

But, of course, since it was a big-budget film with a big-name actor, it was worthy enough to have a video game developed for it as released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console in 1993. And, like so many others, this license title proves to provide low-quality gameplay, the result of publisher Sony Imagesoft wanting nothing more than to turn a quick profit on a media commodity with a low shelf life in the popular culture of the time. This is not a video game that showcases imagination or innovation.

Gameplay

The first mistake this side-scrolling, two-dimensional (not even the third dimension of being able to walk into the “depth” closer to the background, but purely left and right or up and down) beat-’em-up is that the A button attacks and the B button jumps, which is not only in reverse from the legendarySuper Mario Bros. original NES game that set the golden standard, but also serves as a stark reminder as to what camp this cartridge belongs to: The crappy one with all the terrible games.

Oddly enough, though, in addition to the typical movement left and right, the player is also granted a move other than the basic punch: A kick, initiated by holding up when pressing A. This is a nice touch, it could be supposed. The player can also crouch, punch from the crouch, and try to attack in mid-air as well, with mixed results.

last-action-hero-nes

The player takes control of Jack Slater, the movie-star protagonist of the movie-related movie, in a plot that loosely follows the film. It actually, at first, seems to follow it rather closely, down to the oddly rendered cutscene still frames that depict shots from the cinematic experience. However, rather head-scratchingly, the NES game departs from the movie right around the second level, when the boy dreams of a medieval setting involving a Robin Hood-like environment in which the player must then traverse. This seems like a tacky random add-on.

last-action-hero-nes

Now, a rundown of the entirety of the gameplay of Last Action Hero the NES game: There are seven levels. Each ends with a boss. Each consists of either running to the end of a one-way path, or repeatedly going back and forth and ascending to higher levels. The enemies infinitely respawn. There are no points or other rewards for killing enemies, so they are best avoided. The best strategy for bosses is to crouch and repeatedly punch until the boss dies. Some projectiles can be dodged by crouching, some cannot. The player begins with three lives and a six-hit health bar for each, measured in hearts. Occasionally, health refills can be found. Continues are offered if all lives expire. Attacking range is short and hit detection is terrible. This is Last Action Hero on the NES.

Graphics

last-action-hero-nes

This video game actually looks really good for an 8-bit title on the NES; though, by 1993, the console was in its twilight years and developers had little excuse to not know how to best make the on-screen action look. Examples from the first level alone: The police cars are displayed in bright detail, the background cityscape is creatively drawn in little pixels denoting window lighting per building, these windows flicker in moody atmospheric effect to match the rain, the protagonist actually wears a two-color outfit and is thus not prone to the Monochromatic Character Syndrome that many NES figures were drawn in, and the action proceeds fairly smoothly with little-to-no flickering or slowdown. That being said, some portions look better than others, the enemies get repetitive, and no amount of good looks can make up for awful gameplay.

Sound

last-action-hero-nes

The music is not outright awful, but it hardly tries to break boundaries either. You can fairly clearly hear the buzzy and bumpy-grindy notes of the two square-wave channels on the hardware struggling to complement the non-ambitious whines and weak lilts of the triangle-wave piece. The effects are even worse, though; a series of hisses, thuds, and hollow bonks. With such a plethora of previous NES classic titles to have witnessed before, some with truly spectacular soundtracks, it is somewhat remarkable that the developers really did not try to at least grant the background tracks a broader range or add some punch to the punch effects.

Originality

By its very nature, a license game lacks originality. However, there is some flexible wiggle room that allows for potential innovation and creativity to nonetheless still be expressed; unfortunately, there is very little true vision to be found on this cartridge. The beat-’em-up gameplay mechanic is even more monotonous than the usual genre strictures, the lack of reward for dispatching of enemies really breaks the entire motivation for combat, and it may be the worst of the handful of Schwarzenegger-movie NES license games, turning in a magic ticket for one star out of five.

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr - NES
I remember playing Donkey Kong 64 many moons ago, and I’m pretty sure they included the first game in there as an easter egg for fans to find and enjoy. I found it, and thought it was pretty sweet. I also played the version they included in the Gamecube version of Animal Crossing.
Donkey Kong Jr - NES
However despite all that, I never got to play the sequel Donkey Kong Jr. A notable but forgotten classic. While the first game had you playing Mario trying to save his girlfriend, the roles are reversed this time around. You play as Donkey Kong’s son, who must save his father from the obviously unforgiving Mario.
Donkey Kong Jr - NES
The game plays remarkable similar to the original, yet with a new twist. Instead of being a short Italian dude with concrete shoes, you’re a monkey that can barely jump but can grab hold of vines, ropes, and chains. The game has a few levels to enjoy and can be replayed for high score record keeping if you’re into that.
Donkey Kong Jr - NES
Though I admit it’s pretty short game even though you can have fun playing it multiple times. It’s 4 levels of fun, but that don’t last too long. Yet I can overlook the fact that it’s an Arcade-to-NES game and forgive some it’s natural faults.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu - NES
Kung Fu, October 1985, Nintendo

Kung Fu

Where can you find a game loosely related to Jackie Chan, All Japan Pro Wrestling, every major Neo Geo fighting game, freaky oriental threesomes, and Tiny “Zeus” Lister? Grab your dogi, throw on your favorite slippers, and strap yourselves in because we’re in for a wild ride today Nintendo lovers! Who’s ready for some good old fashioned Kung Fu?

Kung Fu - NES
I’m a sucker for digitized dragons. Game B is just a fraction tougher than A.

Originally released in the arcades as Kung Fu Master, this was one wildly popular game. If you were alive, had a spare quarter, and were able to hold a joystick in the early 80s, you played Kung Fu. Everyone of age who experienced the thrill of kicking three baddies in a row hauling ass towards you never forgot it. The things about this game we DIDN’T know are easily just as interesting to say the least.

Kung Fu - NES
Jackie Chan didn’t hit it big here until 1995’s Rumble In The Bronx but we had unknowingly played a game for years that featured him in it and noone knew!

Launched in Japan as Spartan X, Kung Fu was actually based on the 1984 Jackie Chan film of the same name. Martial arts legend Chan played Thomas, the protagonist of the movie and game, who is attempting to save his girlfriend Sylvia from the most generically named baddie ever, Mr. X. The movie was released here in the U.S. as Wheels On Meals. No, that isn’t a typo, they actually thought that title was going to bring movie-goers out in droves. What the goatfuck you ask? Get this, the last two films the Golden Harvest studio shat out were named Megaforce and Menage A Trois. The executives got the oogy boogies about their next venture starting with the letter M, so Meals On Wheels got flipped on its ass and became Wheels On Meals instead. I couldn’t make this insipid shit up if I tried.

Kung Fu - NES
RIP Mitsuharu Misawa 6/18/62 – 6/13/09. Never forgotten.

Excuse me a moment for an out of character pause. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the main theme for Spartan X was used as the entrance music for Mitsuharu Misawa, one of the greatest professional wrestlers of any era who tragically passed away in the middle of the ring in June 2009. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and a true ambassador to the sport. Rest in peace Emerald Warrior. I miss you.

Kung Fu - NES
Tell me this screenshot doesn’t make you just want to pop this fucker in

Beat ’em ups seemed to be released every week in the late 80s/early 90s with some legendary titles like Golden Axe, Double Dragon, Streets Of Rage, and Final Fight at the forefront. These and every game like it owe everything they are to Kung Fu. The first of it’s kind, they made it count (unlike Dk Jr Math) and it spawned more games that ate quarters than can be mentioned in one review. The lead programmer, Takashi Nishiyama, went on to Capcom where he was the head of a little game named Street Fighter. He could’ve been quite content with his legacy left at that but the guy went on to even greater heights when he was hired by SNK and designed a cutting edge contraption called the Neo-Geo System Board. This mad professor of gaming could’ve stopped THERE but what did this under-appreciated genius do as an encore? He created every major SNK fighting IP as he went along. Yes, the head programmer on Kung Fu is responsible for all-time heavyweights Fatal Fury, Art Of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, & the epic King Of Fighters franchises. Quite the fucking résumé no?

Kung Fu - NES
“What you got on my 40 homie?”

Onto the game itself, this is definitely one of the better Black Box games. By today’s standards, it would seem pedestrian but if you look at it in the same vein you’d hear a garage band’s first album before they refined their sound, there isn’t alot to complain about. You play as Thomas, going from floor to floor kicking and punching your way to the level boss. The true innovation here was that no two bosses were the same, a feat even Mario didn’t pull off. They aren’t just lazy palette swaps either as one throws a boomerang, another resembles Deebo from Friday, and Mr. X himself looks like Deadpool unmasked to reveal an 8-bit Owen Wilson. Even more awesome is the way they will laugh in your face if you grind through the level only to be defeated at the end. Oh, will it ever piss you off proper until you have the sweet joy of handing them their ass. In my opinion, alot of games today are missing that type of motivation to move ahead. Could be just me, but I’ll lose sleep to beat you if you laugh at me for failure digitized or not.

Kung Fu - NES
“Hmm, then again, I’ve been trying to dump her for a month now…”

Some may cavetch the game is too short but it’s in the vein of quite a bit of the older NES games in that when you see the ending, it’ll just throw you back onto level 1, ramping up the difficulty until you can’t handle it anymore. Sure, it’s possible to save the girl within a day of first playing but try to save her 5 times and watch controllers explode through windows. There is only one music track as you plow through the level but it is note for note faithful to the arcade version and doesn’t distract from the hectic action. Only negative I can think of is the unevenness of the challenge. Stage 2 is twice as hard as any of the other levels. If you can survive the falling snakes that take a third of your life and disco balls that explode into a 5 way spread shot the 2nd floor offers, this game is your bitch.

Kung Fu - NES
The, um, intimidating Mr. X

THE FINAL VERDICT


8/10 All beat ’em ups should look up at Kung Fu as their granddaddy and shower it with the respect it deserves. Hell of a challenge (bite me stage 2), original bosses, and a fun factor that forces you to get that much further each time you play. There was a sequel released only in Japan as Spartan X 2, but it didn’t capture very much of what made the original so special. One measure of a game to me is the ability to pick it up and play it without having to memorize a moveset, read a long-winded manual, or spend hours learning the controls a la Clu Clu Land. You moved forward and fucked shit up until the stairs, climbed up, and commenced to fucking more shit up, which sometimes, is all the good dumb fun you need. After all, it’s meant to be a game, not a college course, and this one hit the new concept it brought out of the park.

Kung Fu - NES
Only disappointment follows this here title screen.
This one was for one of the coolest cats I’ve ever had the honor of working with. Good luck in your upcoming future endeavors Chivo!

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen’s Special

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen’s Special

As I’ve talked about herehere and here, joshi (women’s) pro-wrestling has been, at various times, a popular form of entertainment in Japan over the years. And since having been introduced to it via some TV exposure in the United States and via tape trading (GOD I feel old whenever I talk about the concept of tape trading nowadays), I’ve pretty much become a fan myself, even going so far as going to see Eagle Sawai’s retirement in 2007. But, the concept of women’s wrestling to be mainstream enough to get an actual licensed video game was quite novel to me at the time. So that’s why I did a bit of a mini freakout when I found that there were actually quite a few. For instance, did you know that Pro-Wrestling on the SEGA Master System was actually converted from a game based around the Crush Girls and their fued with Dump Matsumoto and crew?

Well, I found out about these while researching Fire Pro Wrestling games. This was well before my time in Japan of course, and therefore thought I’d never have the chance to be able to buy them, so I played the hell out of the roms. And the one I played the most was Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen’s Special.

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen's Special super famicom
Released in June of 1995 on the Super Famicom (and apparently there was a PC Engine CD version released in February of that year), Queen’s Special was unique in that it was an officially licensed Fire Pro game. Besides the joshi games, all Fire Pro games, from the first one on the PC Engine to the last one released on the PS2 even here in the US (I’m not counting that little XBLA loser) have been unlicensed games. Sure, the characters would strongly resemble real life wrestlers, but they had no official permission to have them in the game. However, these were different. And they were officially licensed from All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling.

It wasn’t until 2007 while living in Yamanashi that I was finally able to receive a full, in the box copy, and I’ve since played it to completion a number of times.

Let’s take a closer look.

Control:

Control is similar to just about any Fire Pro Game, IE you walk up to your opponent to initiate grapple, and press your desired button or arrow direction plus button at the proper time to execute a move. The game will then internally do some sort of rock-paper-scissors with both you and your opponent’s stats to decide who’s move gets done.

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen's Special super famicom

One thing to warn “y’all” about, and its something I catch myself doing from time to time, is that, like every Fire Pro game, when you perch yourself on the top rope, you’d better be sure of which button you want to press. This is because it doesn’t matter if the opponent is standing up or lying down… if you press that button, it’s only gonna do one move.

Unlike the wrestling games we’re familiar with today, Fire Pro had a single move dedicated to a single button in this case. If your opponent is down and you press A, then your Manami is going to attempt a top-rope dropkick, and miss horribly.

Visuals:

Animations are completely new and have not been seen in any Fire Pro before or since.

Notable:

Joshi Bridge!

Also, no breathe button!
Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen's Special super famicomMoves are animated to look very… joshi. If you’ve seen Japanese women’s professional wrestling before, you’d know that they work very differently from the men. This game does well in capturing that, and is probably why these animations have not been seen since.

Gameplay:

You work the match by wearing down your opponent using weaker grapple moves in the beginning, and then mixing it up with submissions and peppering in a few lucky strikes whenever you can. All of your moves are available from the outset, and you DON’T have to work up any “momentum bar” up to any “Specials” or “Finishers”. Nope. It’s all there.

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queen's Special super famicom

Now why wouldn’t you want to use it?

Because you’d be reversed to HELL if you did. Sure, you might be able to land a lucky few… and if your character is relatively stronger than your opponent, maybe you’ll be able to pull off a few. BUT DON’T TRY IT.

Or, you know what, go ahead. Try it. See where it gets you.

However, I’ve noticed that as soon as you’re able to knock them down with a single strike, then they’re pretty ready to receive just about any grapple you want to hit. Just about.

Character Name Changes:

Chigusa Nagayo – Vampire Woman
Devil Masami – Demolition … something
Dinamite Kansai – Kansai Dinosaur??

Issues:

– Like any other Fire Pro game, the CPU logic makes no distinction between moves that should be done on the outside versus moves that should be done on the inside. Your opponent will always eat up valuable count-out time wrapping you up in a submission hold.

Dragon Power

Dragon Power

So recently, I wrote up a nice big review on Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection for the Sony PlayStation 3. Seeing as this game was a remake, it was only natural that I would have some nostalgia toward Dragon Ball Z games. This is especially true when you consider that Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 was my favorite Dragon Ball Z game of all-time, and remains so today despite its years.

Funny thing is, this got me looking back even further than the PlayStation 2. My first encounter with the Dragon Ball franchise actually took place way back in 1988 before I knew anything at all about Dragon Ball. This happy accident came in the form of Dragon Power, which released on the NES in North America back in March of that year. This game, along with Joust and Elevator Action was among my very first titles.
Dragon Power NES

It sure doesn’t look like Goku…

Obviously this was back well before Dragon Ball Z got popular along with a handful of other anime programs, so the rather curious decision was made to change many of the actual references to Dragon Ball. Even the titular objectives – Dragon Balls – was changed to ‘Crystal Balls’. There are a lot of things I did not remember from this game, only that there was a very loose connection between this game and Dragon Ball Z, starting with the main character named Goku.

Probably the most curious item was that while the cover art makes this look like an average martial artist, the game character was made to look more like a monkey than how Goku looked in the Japanese version of the game.
Dragon Power NES

US Version…

Dragon Power NES

Japanese version…

At least the your main character’s name remains Goku, but basically every other name gets changed around for the US release. Even the famously overused Kamehameha move is replaced with Wind Wave. As you can see in the above pictures however, most of the characters (in this instance ‘Nora’ in the US version and ‘Bulma’ in the Japanese one) look the same. The exception to this appears to be Master Roshi, who got a complete overhaul.
Dragon Power NES

US version, with ‘sandwiches’

Dragon Power NES

Japanese version with ‘panties’

If you notice the captions, the character art was not the only difference, but some of the more Japanese themes (such as Master Roshi being a pervert) were taken out to set better with US audiences

The game itself? Not very good. At an age where the word ‘dragon’ usually meant something awesome to a kid (Double Dragon anyone?), this game suffered from poor controls and collision detection and tough difficulty. The story itself made very little sense, but given that the localization was not only changing the language, but also in may places the content, I guess that is not a huge surprise.
Dragon Power NES
The majority of the game played out in a 3/4 overhead view like The Legend of Zelda or Deadly Towers, though boss fights switched over to a side view. These boss fights were tough too, because your attack types were so limited while they just kept plowing into you head-on with their weapons/moves.
Dragon Power NES

Oh this looks promising…

Matters are further made worse by the fact your health is constantly depleting even when you are not getting hit by enemies, a sort of timer that makes the game inherently more difficult with every passing second.
Even though this game really is not very good, it was one of the first NES titles I got to play as a kid. It was still leagues ahead of what I had experienced to date and showed me that there was a world of more complex games waiting to be discovered (let’s face it – Elevator Action and Joust were cool enough arcade games at the time, and they translated well enough to the NES, but they were endless loop games originally built to take your quarters. This was probably, along with Super Mario Bros, my first video game that had a true set of objectives or ‘end game’ to strive for). For that I will likely hold a soft spot for Dragon Power in my memory, despite its shortcomings.

That it turned out to be my first brush with the Dragon Ball Z universe was an amusing realization years later.

Tetrisphere

N64_Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere feels like the type of game that might have been bought over to a fair few consoles – at least the Playstation – but no. It’s an N64 exclusive, and maybe as a result hasn’t been remembered by many.

It hasn’t even been re-made, or ported to the Virtual Console. This is the type of the game that will probably be forgotten with time, if it hasn’t been already.

It’s a shame, as it’s not actually that bad. In fact, you could argue that it’s a hidden gem.

N64_Tetrisphere

One thing you need to enjoy this though, is to forget Tetris when going into the game. Despite taking up half of its name, that classic puzzler is a completely different experience to the one served up here.

If to emphasise that this a ‘brand new’ idea, the game starts by slinging thumping weirdo funk into your ears. This is a game with ATTITUDE, and it wants to make sure you’re aware of this fact.

This effect is ruined somewhat by the cutesy robot characters with googly eyes that you see throughout the game, but whatever.

N64_Tetrisphere

Also unlike Tetris, you’ll need to go through the tutorial if you’re going to understand the game. Because boy, is it complicated. Or so it seems at first.

Basically (and I say ‘basically with caution), you place different blocks onto a 3D sphere, and have to match up the same tiles with each other in groups of at least two. Due to the 3D element though, you can do this in terms of tiles on top of each other, or side to side.

Once you grasp this, and it takes a few minutes, you can start destroying large amount of blocks at once. You’re helped by the ability to drag blocks where you want – as long as there aren’t any in the way of course – and the helpful fact that the shadow of the block you’re about to place changes colour if it will start a combo.

N64_Tetrisphere

It’s hardly a pick up and play title. But credit to developer H20 Interactive, they tried to squeeze as much as they can out of the concept.

There’s a two player mode (strangely, none of my friends want to play the game), and a solo option with plenty of options.

Rescue mode has you opening up a hole in the sphere to rescue a tiny robot, Hide and Seek has you finding items hidden away in the play area, and there’s Time Trials and VS the CPU modes to round things off.

Considering that the game is fairly common (I picked mine up in Gamestation’s BOGOF deal for £1 when the shop was actually good), i’d say it’s worth checking out.

H20 Interactive made this and the rather good New Tetris, also on the N64, so they clearly knew what they were doing in terms of puzzlers (actually, they only made 3 games – the other was the divisive Aidyn Chronicles).

It’s not as brain meltingly addictive as Tetris, but at least it offers up something unique – and is therefore miles better than tripe such as Magical Tetris Challenge.

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Welcome back to another look into gaming’s obscure, but awesome, past. Today’s exhibit? A little known NES gem entitled “Kid Klown in Night Mayor World”. Developed and published by Japanese studio Kemco, the company that brought such NES classics as Spy vs. Spy, Deja Vu, Shadowgate, and the Bugs Bunny games, this title, like certain others (Super Mario Bros. 2, Yo Noid!), started out as somewhat of a different beast. Originally titled “Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen” (Mickey Mouse III: Balloon Dreams),  it was essentially the same game, only part of a Mickey Mouse series of games. In fact, this game was called “Mickey Mouse III” in Japan because they had done this before, with what Americans know as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle. Crazy Castle originally featured Roger Rabbit in Japan, but they later made a version with Mickey Mouse after losing the rights, along with the Bugs Bunny version for the states.
Kid Klown
The Game Boy versions of Crazy Castle 1 and 2 are known as Mickey Mouse I and Mickey Mouse II in Japan, hence this game was somehow the third in that series. Confused yet? Well that’s okay, because Kemco would continue the series as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle in the states, until Crazy Castle 5 for the Game Boy Advance, which wound up starring Woody Woodpecker. For those counting along at home, that makes 4 different characters from 3 different animation studios (Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal) that Kemco had to license from. But hey, the series DID see a total of 10 releases (at least in Japan, one of which was made into a Real Ghostbusters game in NA and a Garfield game in Europe, if you can grasp that), so I suppose ultimately it paid off right?
Kid Klown
ANYWAYS, disregarding the somewhat messy (but intriguing) history of the series that the original Japanese version originated from, what WE here in the U.S.of A got, was a peculiar, but fun, game called Kid Klown. The original Mickey game was released in Japan in 1992. Our version with the righteous Klown dude (first name Kid), arrived in April 1993, what happened to be a very good year for the NES (Kirby’s Adventure anyone?). So, focusing on OUR version here today, the setting sees a family of clowns traveling with their circus, when they run across a mysterious magician named Night Mayor. I want to take a moment, first off, to comment on the fact that the pun-name NIGHT MAYOR is, in my humble opinion, fucking fantastic.
Kid Klown
It’s just the right amount of cheese to tickle my “Man That’s Awesome” bone. So, as you might surmise given his name (and his nefarious mustache), Night Mayor is up to no good, and he asks Kid to help him open a magical treasure vault. Kid, having been warned NEVER to talk to strange and creepy magicians out on the highway at night by his wise and loving parents, basically tells Mr. Mayor to “piss off”. So, in a fit of indignation, said bad fellow uses his wicked magic to kidnap the Klown family, and challenges Kid to follow and find them, if he ever wants to see them again. And thus it’s off to the races we go!
Kid Klown
If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’ll reveal the silly pun. Night Mayor = Nightmare! Get it? Awesome right? Indeed. Moving on!
So as far as the game proper is concerned, here’s the scoop. You’ve got yourself six major areas (plus the opening level), each one having a different theme. I can definitely see how in the Mickey version, you were traveling through some kind of magical dream world. But it fits with a kooky game where you play a balloon-wielding clown fighting a guy named Night Mayor as well! The thing that stands out about this game the most, of course, is in fact said balloons. The graphics are solid (in fact there’s some very inventive sprite effects at points), and the soundtrack is cheery if not unremarkable. But where the game enters the “kicks ass” arena, is in the gameplay. Why it kicks is, is because Kemco really did a number on inventing balloon mechanics the player can employ.
Kid Klown
In no particular order, you can use these inflated bags of fun as: weapons, a means of floating for longer jumps, a platform to bounce off of performing high jumps, a shield from certain enemy attacks, etc. Talk about versatile. And it doesn’t end there. You can aim balloon fire directly overhead, as well as choosing to toss short-range balloons, or hold the B button down to throw them further. And of course you can even drop the balloons straight down, as a weapon or a platform to jump to higher places, or you can even just hold it out in front of you like a shield. If you ask me, that’s pretty damn ingenious, especially for the 8-bit era, not to mention the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a similar set up in any other game I’ve ever played. So Kemco deserves major kudos for really taking the Mario “run and jump” platforming standard, but making it their own.
Kid Klown
The other area that this game really stands out, for anyone who has ever played it, is that while on the surface it seems very much like an “easy kids’ game”, it also packs some serious punch in the difficulty department in a few areas once you get deeper in. The different areas include a charming forest, a crazy toy factory, a giant beanstalk land complete with an evil Cyclops giant at the end, a land of snow and ice, a stage made up of living (and dangerous) candies and pastries, and finally Night Mayor’s gigantic castle. The game really does ramp it up the further you get, as well. I just recently played through it again myself, and god damn, there are some parts that’ll make you cuss out the game like nobodies business.
Kid Klown
For instance, in Stage 3, the beanstalk stage, you have to climb vertically, but are bombarded while doing so by swarms of enemies that include among other annoyances, evil clouds that shit lightning all over you. Then you’ve got Stage 4, with it’s slippery ice, but worse yet, snow drifts that you actually get stuck in, which makes getting across super fun, while being attacked by enemies. and then of course, there’s Castle Night Mayor, which takes the SMB1 concept of having a maze-like castle with plenty of wrong ways to go, and cranks it up to 11, by having doors that make you fight previous bosses, doors that take you right back to the beginning of an area you just got through, or even all the way back to the beginning of the castle. And unlike Bowser’s final castle in that hallowed NES standard, Night Mayor is more of a dick, so his castle is bigger, with plenty of genuinely fucked up moments, most especially the final area, which is a room of doors which, you guessed it, all but one lead you to other areas, including the very damn beginning of the level. So have fun choosing the wrong door several times (unless of course you CHEAT and use the internet).
Kid Klown
All in all, this game is well worth playing in my expert opinion. It controls well, is fun to play thanks to the inventive balloon mechanics, has a lot of replay value in spite of a few throw-your-controller moments, and the game just honestly exudes fun. From the gameplay, to the level design, right down to the carnival-like minigame between stages that allows you to throw balloons at targets to gain back health, 1up, etc. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, the bad guy’s name is NIGHT MAYOR, and that right there should be worth the price of admission. The game actually turned into a series, but the SNES and PS1 entries, for instance, were weird “always moving” games that saw Kid on a rolling ball, rolling and dodging through levels. None of them showed the same cool gameplay mechanics or sense of fun-ness the original had, so in my personal view they’re really not all that worth checking out.

But do yourself a favor, and get your hands on a cart of the NES original if you can, or find “other” means to play it if you have to, but play it. Or else the Night Mayor will give you…….unpleasant dreams!

Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout

Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

In 1990, Kemco released a Warner Brothers licensed video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System starring a cast of Looney Tunes characters. This was Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout; a classic, even formulaic, platformer that had the player controlling Bugs Bunny throughout. Was this game any good?

Gameplay

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

This NES adventure follows the two-dimensional 8-bit platform standard: The A buttom jumps, the B button attacks (with a mallet, in this case, as is appropriate for a Looney Tunes cartoon character), and good ol’ Bugs must avoid enemies and hazards like bottomless pits, spikes, and precision-jumping obstacles, often with moving platforms

The “story” is that it is B. B.’s 50th birthday (and he sure is spry for a 50-year-old guy) and, in his rush to get to his big birthday party bash, he seems to run into all kinds of trouble, including all of his famous friends like Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, and others attacking and trying to kill the legendary rabbit.

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

The control is fairly tight, and Bugs is able to jump pretty high, which only makes sense for a rabbit in a cartoon world. There are some enemies he can jump onto and stand on without taking damage, and he can collect carrot icons for points. The end of each stage is a boss battle with another one of the Looney Tunes line-up, though this almost always just consists of the character moving back and forth, possibly also jumping, all in a regular pattern Bugs must merely avoid and counter with mallet attacks. The only exceptions are minor character traits like that Yosemite Sam fires his pistols at Bugs, or that Foghorn Leghorn is big and invincible so you must beat Henery Hen instead.

Graphics

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

For an 8-bit title, Birthday Blowout looks decent. The environments and elements are colorful, the WB toons are recognizable, and the NES could have done much worse. Otherwise, though, this is not a game that stretches the console to its limits or goes anywhere truly revolutionary with its presentation.

Sound

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

The sound effects are bland and the music is atrocious, like elevator music given a pep pill and made more annoying high-pitched and upbeat. Reviewers on sites like GameFAQS have humorous comments regarding the music, like “This game is great – if you mute your television.” Seriously, the soundtrack is repetitive, low-quality, and ear-grating.

Originality

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

For a license title, Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout actually does deserve some credit for crafting a somewhat potentially fun little platformer. The enemy designs are original in some portions, albeit random, including a selection of foes that consist of inanimate objects made aggressive. One interesting point is that, at certain portions of the game, Bugs Bunny can descend into rabbit holes by pressing the down button, in a sequence similar to the pipes found in Super Mario games.

When all the factors are boiled down (into rabbit stew, you could say), Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout is an average game, almost archetypically so. It is a playable platformer, that actually had some effort put into it as a license-game cartridge, and shows some solid level design; however, the music is nightmarish, the gameplay never progresses to any sort of play experience beyond what you see on the first level anyway, and the bosses are uninspired. In addition, spoiler alert: The ending is notoriously odd and seemingly misguided, with all of Bugs Bunny’s “friends” revealing that they are the ones hosting the birthday party and their earlier attempts to kill them was just a funny joke or something contrived like that. Blowout hammers home two and a half stars out of five. The cartoons were more entertaining.

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier (1991)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 734,600
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

Super Star Soldier

I originally started playing this game with a view to reviewing it quite a few weeks ago now – it is after all arguably the Engine’s most famous shmup (along with Gunhed) and I hadn’t played it before so this was a major issue to rectify! Not too long after starting, however, I discovered it had a prequel on the NES and MSX which, after playing and subsequently reviewing, found rather disappointing, and that got me thinking. The NES and PC Engine – both 8-bit consoles, both home to dozens of arcade conversions and arcade-style games, and yet the Engine is significantly superior with regard to games of this type (sorry NES fans!). I guess it’s a little unfair to compare them but does the extra power of the Engine really make that much difference? I suppose it must do as after playing the frankly rather boring Star Soldier, this Engine sequel immediately looked ten times better…

Super Star Soldier

One aspect of the original game that impressed me was with the number of stages – an unusually numerous sixteen. This sequel has a mere, though still decent, eight, but they are of a higher quality and are also much more varied. They all scroll vertically of course, and take place over enemy bases (or giant ships, maybe), planetary surfaces, in caverns, and in open space, and they’re filled with the usual mix of enemies – small ‘n’ fast ships, often flying in formation, larger more powerful ships, lots of scenery/ground-mounted guns and missile launchers, and of course large bosses at the end of each stage. Power-ups are found in the smoking hulks of a certain type of ship and include four main weapons represented by coloured rings – red is your default weapon which powers-up into a multi-directional shot, blue gives you ring lasers, yellow unleashes a swooshy flame-thrower, and green gives you a mighty crackly-looking lightning cannon.

Super Star Soldier

Each weapon can be powered-up four times by collecting successive icons. Grabbing more after that has a smart-bomb effect. Whichever main weapon you choose, you can bolster it with either heat-seeking missiles or a pair of shot-absorbing drones, both of which can also be powered-up. Contact from an enemy or their fire reduces the power of your weapons by one level so as long as you keep collecting icons, you should be able to progress quite far into the game. Luckily, the desire to do that is much greater here than with the prequel and part of this is down to the graphics which are superb. The smaller enemy ships often whizz around at ultra-sonic speeds and the larger ships are all great designs, especially some of the bosses which include a giant mech and what looks like that strange creature in the garbage compacter in Star Wars! As mentioned earlier, everything is far more varied here as well – just compare the screenshots to those in the Star Soldier review and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Super Star Soldier

The first stage rather reminded me of Gunhed, which is no bad thing of course – it’s mostly filled by a large metal structure brimming with guns, but the second stage differs about as much as it could, taking place over a forested planet! The third is similar but features a much more fiery landscape with jets of flame and fireballs occasionally escaping from the lava-filled areas. After that we find ourselves in open space with pretty stars and stuff in the background before entering some icy, obstacle-filled caverns. After that comes the obligatory enemy battleship and confrontations with the final bosses. Destroy all these and the evil ‘Star Brains’ are once again defeated! There is a little slow-down on the odd occasion but overall this is certainly among the best-looking shmups on the Engine and one of the most appealing I’ve played on any system. Even the weapon effects – something that’s often lacking in other games – are superb.

Super Star Soldier

The red multi-shot isn’t too spectacular but the blue, yellow, and green weapons are all fantastic which is all the more impressive considering the delightful backdrops and large number of enemies sometimes on screen, and there isn’t even an annoying stats/score panel in the way of it all! The weapons all have unique sound effects too, which are pretty good, and each stage has its own decent tune, so all in all there’s not really anything that’s less-than-splendid about Hudson’s fine sequel. Control of your ship (which is called the Neo Cesear, incidentally) is fast but precise and I rarely had any problems with the collision-detection. It’s even a surprisingly fair game too – the stages have restart points, the power-ups are quite numerous, extra lives are awarded on achieving certain scores, and the boss attack patterns are challenging without being too tough. Super Star Soldier is probably not quite as amazing as the great Gunhed but it is a fantastic shooter – sometimes fast and manic, other times slower and more cerebral, but always entertaining and everything the first game wasn’t!

Riot Zone

Riot_Zone

Riot Zone

You might have heard of a game called Riot City, but because of Sega’s rights to the main characters and bosses, Westone and Hudson Soft had to do some creative reconfiguring and came up with Riot Zone. Riot Zone was released in 1992 for the TurboGrafx-CD and featured two characters out to stop an evil crime boss who kidnapped a girl name Candy.

Riot_Zone

Does this sound familiar or even kind of standard for side scrolling beat em up games? Well, that is because this is pretty standard. The game plays a lot like Final Fight and toss in some Double Dragon just because we can. The gameplay is simple, you walk from left to right fighting enemies that can appear from both sides of the screen. Like Final Fight, you face a boss at the end and move on until the final boss. Unlike Final Fight, there are no weapons, only items for health and points.

Check out the video review for Riot Zone.

Super Star Wars

Super Star Wars

Format: Super NES Genre: Run and Gun Released: 1993 Developer:Sculptured Software/Lucasarts

Super Star Wars blew my tiny little adolescent mind when I first played it. Graphically it was superb, with crisp and colourful visuals that really captured the look of the film, and even today it still looks pretty damn good. In particular, I remember the Mode 7-generated battle above the Death Star was spectacular at the time, as was the climactic fight against Darth Vader’s TIE fighter at the end – although sadly I only saw this on a couple of occasions because the game was so f*****g hard. But more on that in a minute…

super-star-wars

As well as looking fantastic, Super Star Wars sounded amazing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it has possibly the best sound effects and music on the SNES – the 16-bit versions of the famous Star Wars tunes are absolutely spot on, and the sound effects are probably the meatiest on the console (apart, perhaps, from the OTT gun noises in Super Smash TV). Particular praise should go to the noise that the womp rats make when you shoot them – it sounds more like a train being shunted off a bridge than the demise of a fleshy sci-fi creature (listen to the video below to hear for yourself). But then again, the extravagant sound effects are in keeping with a run and gun game that has all the knobs turned up to 11 – I mean, practically everything explodes in a ball of flame when you shoot it, even the Jawas (who also fly comically off the screen with a satisfying ‘ooOOOtiiini’ noise lifted straight from the film).

super-star-wars

But for all its preening good looks and aural bombast, Super Star Wars was always a little rough around the edges when it came to the gameplay department. Sadly, the massive sprites and evocative music don’t quite cover up the shoddy collision detection, inept bosses and utterly infuriating level design…

…but at the time I could forgive it – the all-consuming desire to see the next gorgeously realised level had me hooked, and the showy visuals – not to mention the fact that it’s Star Wars goddammit – were enough to keep me plugging away until I finally, FINALLY, managed to finish it. Although looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, I’m amazed I had the patience…

super-star-wars

Here at 101 Video Games, we generally write our reviews based on our personal memories of the games, rather than what they’re actually like to play now. The idea is to generate a record of the games that enriched our lives, rather than a list of ‘top’ games – hence the inclusion of games that taught us a valuable life lesson (Rise of the Robots) or that simply made us smile (Dog Walking). However, I got so nostalgic about Super Star Wars after watching videos of it while researching this post, I ended up downloading it from the Wii Virtual Console so I could play it again.

A fatal mistake.

super-star-wars

It all started off pleasantly enough as I happily romped across the dunes of Tatooine, blasting the local fauna into oblivion with carefree abandon and generally having a whale of a time. But then I started noticing the cracks…

[Lewis sits playing through the first level of Super Star Wars. Gradually his brow begins to furrow and a slight frown plays across his mouth as he nears the end of the stage. We listen in to his internal monologue…] “Hold on, no matter what I do, I don’t seem to be able to avoid getting hit by these creatures – maybe my reflexes aren’t as good as they used to be? …Or is it because you actually CAN’T avoid them and the developers just decided to throw loads of health boosts at you to make up for it? Wait a minute, here’s the sarlacc pit boss… oh, you can’t avoid his attacks either. And now I’m dead and the restart point seems to be practically at the beginning of the level. That’s …erm… frustrating.”

super-star-wars

Yes, 17 years is a long time in the world of video games, and little things we now take for granted – like reasonably spaced restart points – were thin on the ground back in 1993. But there are some aspects of Super Star Wars that are frankly just the result of poor design, like the inability to avoid getting hit, or the all-too-common ‘leaps of faith’ where you can’t see the platform you’re meant to be jumping onto (which usually results in you landing in that all-too-common ‘insta-kill’ lava instead).

[We rejoin Lewis’s inner monologue as he starts level 3 outside the Jawa sandcrawler.] “Ah, I remember this bit! I love that noise the Jawas make when you shoot them! Right, just need to make my way to the top of the sandcrawler by navigating these moving, wafer-thin platforms… Oh. I’ve fallen right back to the beginning. Right let’s try again… Hmm, seems a little tricky to persuade Luke to do that spinny ‘super jump’ thing, I seem to end up doing a ‘normal’  jump half of the time… Oh. I’ve fallen again.]

super-star-wars

[Fifteen minutes later…]

“Right, finally got to the top! Now I just need to jump insid… hold on, gun emplacements? WTF? Oh. Dead again.”

[Another fifteen minutes later…]

“OK, I think I’m getting near the bottom of the sandcrawler now, although those myriad boucing lasers and security flamethrowers were a tad annoying. Still, I’ve been playing for ages, so I can’t be too far away… Hold on, I’ve come to a dead end and I can’t see what’s at the bottom of this drop. Must be another platform I guess, I’ll just jump down… Oh. It’s ‘insta-kill’ lava. That’s a bit… erm… irritating. Oh, and I’ve been taken back to almost the very beginning of the level… Right, I think I need to stop playing and find somewhere I can hurl this controller in rage without damaging any expensive electronics equipment.”

In a nutshell, Super Star Wars is just a tiny bit infuriating. But my younger self just couldn’t get enough of it – perhaps in the pre-internet, pre-’instant access’ era I had a little more patience. And let’s face it, games were just harder back then, not like these namby-pamby modern games.

So bearing that in mind, I’ve decided to embrace Super Star Wars for what it is and dismiss its faults as the foibles of a bygone age – welcome to our video game canon old friend. Although if it’s all right with you, I’d prefer to remember you as the esteemed game of my youth rather than the frustrating throwback I bought in a fit of nostalgia.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Okay, the trilogy of X-Men (technically, Marvel) articles on the weekend. I doled out Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the Playstation 3, then Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for Xbox Live – now I’m headed back to the Super Nintendo.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

I couldn’t think of any throwback Marvel vs. Capcom games I had floating around the house (though I recall similar beat ’em ups in the arcade once upon a time) – so I decided to look around for an X-Men or Marvel title, and found X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse for my Super Nintendo and figured I’d toss it in for a bit. Now, while the other two games I talked about this weekend were fighter games, this one is a beat ’em up/platformer. It lacks the depth of field you find in Final Fight, Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, but you have to time your jumps and memorize attack patterns a bit more along the way.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Early on levels are designed around whichever mutant you are going to play (Psylocke, Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast and Gambit). It’s an interesting idea, since most games of this sort let you pick from a pool to get through a level – and that happens later in the game, but early on each X-Man is assigned a task in a different location, forcing you to use them all. This is a good and bad thing since you may prefer one character over the others, but it does add a bit more variety to the gameplay as well when you have someone like Wolverine who just tears through people using his claws while moving left to right, as opposed to someone like Beast who can cling to ceilings and attack enemies from above as well.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

The story’s a bit of a mess, which is often the case in these older comic games, but the sounds get the job done and the graphics actually look pretty good. I didn’t spend a ton of time playing this one again – I honestly don’t have the patience for memorizing platforming like I did years ago, but I got a grin out of my time running around beating people up along the way.

Galaga Destination Earth

Galaga Destination Earth

During one of my misadventures, we were driving across the hot and dusty desert when we came across a small nameless thrift shop in the middle of nowhere. I was just looking for something to drink, but to my surprise this hole in the wall actually had some video games too. A small stack of original xbox games, some ps2 sports games, and some cases that appeared to be ps1 games. I rummaged through the stack and found Galaga: Destination Earth. No manual, no label, just a cracked plastic case with a disk inside. “How much for the game?” I asked the guy behind the counter. “I dunno, hows about $1?”
“SOLD!”
Galaga-Destination Earth
Without thinking twice, I gave the man his dollar and was out the door quicker than I had arrived. It’s not that hole-in-the-wall places in the middle of nowhere scare me, it’s just that…yeah, they scare the living bejeebers outta me for reasons too extensive to list in this post…which is supposed to be a game review. Moving right along!

When I got home the game sat in my bag until I finally found some time today to pick it up and play. Let me tell you, this ain’t your momma’s Galaga!
No sir, this is a completely new take on the entire series.

Galaga-Destination Earth
The opening sequence recaps the occurrences of the first game in a lengthy cut scene. After the events of the original Galaga, humans won the war against the aliens and everything was good, that is until humans decided that they wanted to colonize space. Guess where they wanted to colonize? In the area where the aliens were coming from. Oh yeah, fantastic idea! Let’s piss off and attempt to take over the territory of our enemies after years of peace for no particularly good reason. Who feels like another war?! YEEHAW! Needless to say, the aliens aren’t happy and you’re sent in to uh, save people or something. It’s kind of ass backwards story-wise.

Galaga-Destination Earth

The controls are similar to the original; just move and shoot, move and shoot. Simple right? Wrong! The first wave is classic, you just shoot them as you would in the original arcade game, enemies above, but then shit hits the fan. This game, as a shooter, doesn’t know what it wants to be. Your camera is constantly changing perspectives with each wave. One minute you’ll be in a side scrolling perspective, the next you’ll be in a tunnel shooter, then it’s a rail shooter, then back to the tunnel perspective, all while you’re trying to shoot enemies and avoid projectiles as well as space debris. This may sound cool in theory, I mean, Einhander got it right, but this game does it all wrong. When you’re in the the tunnel shooter parts of the stages (which is a majority of the time) you’ll find yourself flailing around trying to figure out the difference between up and down, and where the aliens are at in relation to your ship. I’ll remind you this is a PS1 game so the graphics are a little bit, how you say, confusing. Well, the graphics were pretty good for the ps1 in general as far as the look goes, but it’s really hard to tell the distance between you and an enemy. They fly all around the screen, get closer and farther away, but you can never really tell where they are in relation to your ship so sometimes you’ll run into them, other times you’ll miss shooting them all together. This game has serious depth perception issues and it’s extremely frustrating.
Galaga-Destination Earth
Another thing that really pissed me off was the shooting speed. Your ship fires so slow that you could literally get up and grab a snack or two before you’d need to press the shoot button again. It’s that bad. There are power ups that you can pick up but they don’t seem to do anything at all. There’s also health packs. Yes, health packs in a Galaga game. Unlike the original, you don’t die if you get hit, you have a health bar in the top left of your screen. You will need every ounce of that health and the 3 additional ships you’re given to make any progress in the game at all due to the terrible muddled messes that make up each level.

Galaga-Destination Earth

Another fun addition to the game, and they might have been going somewhere with this, is that each new level gives you objectives or missions that you must finish to complete the level. These, however, aren’t fun at all because of the depth issues. Take for instance levels where you have to collect a certain number of an item. It’s kind of hard when you’re constantly screaming at your tv screen like an idiot, “WTF?! I TOTALLY HIT THAT! UGH!”.

Because down is up and up is down and it still doesn’t matter at all because this game has problems and wants to take it out on you. Because it hates you. It hates you because it knows that it will never be as good as the original. It makes everyone else around it suffer because IT suffers. This game is terrible and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Galaga: Destination Earth gets a 4/10

Ufouria: The Saga

Ufouria-The Saga

Ufouria: The Saga

I’ve been known in the past to complain about games & systems that Australia never got & how much better the Americans (& the Europeans in some respects) have it than us. Yes I am somewhat of a whinger, but let’s look at the history. When I think of games that never made it to Australia I think of:

Final Fantasy 2 & 3 – SNES
Megaman Collection – GC
Cubivore – GC
Megaman 64 – Nintendo 64
Hey You Pickachu – Nintendo 64…

Ufouria-The Saga

… actually that last one isn’t a bad thing… My girlfriend still has nightmares about yelling into that microphone & having the little electric puffball do either nothing or something else. ANYWAY, let’s save that for another review. As it happens, there were a few English releases Australia did get that the American’s did in fact NOT get. Sounds strange I know. Traditionally games come out in Japan first, then get translated for North America, then if they feel like it we might see a PAL release. That was not the case for Ufouria, which for some unknown reason was released in Europe & Australia, but not the US.

Ufouria-The Saga

Ufouria is a platformer that is similar to Wonderboy 3. It offers one big world to play in rather than individual levels & includes different areas that only certain characters can access. Seeing the similarities so far? The only real difference is that Ufouria features 4 seperate characters & Wonderboy 3 features changes to the 1 character, but from a gameplay perspective that hardly matters. For those not familiar with Wonderboy 3, let’s have a look at what makes this a great game.

Ufouria-The Saga

The game starts with Bop Louie (I’ll get to the names later) who has been transported from his homeworld of Ufouria to this mysterious world with 3 of his friends who he has been seperated from. Bop Louie has the ability to bop his head into enemies to defeat them. All the characters start off with one ability, but upgrades for each character are available. For example, later in the game Louie can gain the ability to climb calls.

Ufouria-The Saga

The first thing Louie needs to do is to rescue his friends. The problem is that when you find one of Louie’s friends they start to attack you. I’m probably giving away part of the storyline here, but each of Louie’s friends has been brainwashed & must be defeated to knock some sense into them & have them join your party. Freeon Leon is the first candidate for some brain wash bashing. He has the ability to swim on top of the water & walk on ice, which will lead you to Shades who can float, then Gill who can swim underwater. You can change characters are any point in the game which you will need to do on a regular basis.

Ufouria-The Saga

Aside from battling your friends, there are also bosses in the game who each offer a different challenge. While they can be difficult (particularly the one in the submarine) you never feel like they’re impossible to beat.

Ufouria-The Saga

The music is very boppy & enjoyable. At the recent Ultracade event I got to hear a remix of the main tune which surprised me as I didn’t think the game was popular enough for that sort of attention. Sound effects are your standard Nintendo platform affair, so there’s nothing that really stands out.

Ufouria-The Saga

The controls are brilliant. One thing Nintendo systems are good at is platform games & this is no exception. All the characters move just as they should. You feel the bump as a character slips on the ice & falls over. You feel the inertia as you slowly start moving in the water & progressively speed up.

Ufouria-The Saga

Now onto the names. In Japan there is a series of games based on a character called Hebereke. Ufouria is one of the Hebereke games rebadged for the Western market. Not only the names have changed, but the character sprites have been modified from the Japanese original for some strange reason. Bop Louie is actually the “Westernised” version of Hebereke himself. This doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way shape or form however.

Ufouria-The Saga

To make things even wierder, the Australian & European versions differ slightly. The main character sprites look the same, but the health status & a few other minor things were changed. The bulk of the game is the same, which begs the question: why?

Ufouria-The Saga

If you have difficulty the handy password option is there to allow you to continue your game. The only problem with this is you always start in the same spot, so if the boss is a fair distance away you have to go all the way back to them, but everything you’ve done up to that point is unlocked.

Overall if you owned a NES but loved Wonderboy 3, this was a great alternative. The controls are outstanding, there is minimal sprite flicker with the graphics & the music is brilliant. So it’s time to be patriotic people. Put your hand on your heart & declare to the world just how proud to be Australian. After all, we got Ufouria & the US didn’t.

5/5

 

Tetris 2

Tetris 2 Super nintendo

Tetris 2

The success of the original Tetris prompted the creation of a lot of clones, sequels, and spin-offs. Despite all of those, this was the “real” sequel to Tetris.
Tetris 2 Super nintendo
Unlike Tetris, 2 seems to have dropped all the Russian influence from the game. The setting appears to be more like a childhood room in a Japanese house.
Tetris 2 Super nintendo
Unlike some other Tetris variants, this one plays differently enough from the original but you can tell it has the same basic formula. Instead of clearing all blocks, you must also take care of the little bomb blocks as well. Once they’re cleared, the round is over, and you proceed.
 Tetris 2 Super nintendo
There’s also a decent puzzle mode added for those want a real challenge. Despite all that, it’s not going to rival the original to almost any player. It’s a decent puzzle game, and I could see people back then having their fair share of fun with it. On the other hand I can why nobody has really tried to re-release the game since the 90’s.

Score: 7 out of 10

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

Price: $5.99

Original release date: September 22nd 1999

Release date on PSN: December 3rd, 2009

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Story

This episode of the Resident Evil chronicles follows Jill Valentine who was in the original game in the series and you are in control of her for most of the game. Once again you’re stuck in Raccoon City, and of course it’s full of zombies and yes you have to escape.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

The problem with this story is that it doesn’t compare to that of RE2, in the previous game you get two characters to play as, and even though you play through a lot of similar areas the storyline is so much more interesting. As well the characters actually have motivations I can understand, the story in RE3 on the other hand, feels thrown together, and I don’t find myself caring for anyone in this game, nearly as much as I did in the former.

Gameplay

The gameplay is mostly the same as the other two, except you get a nice 90 degree turn move by pushing down and then the run button which really makes the game a lot easier. It’s still clunky by today’s standards though, and having played through the first three games back to back to back it’s really starting to grate on me. If you’re familiar with the other two in the series though, you’ll be at home with this.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

As I said before, you’re only in control of one character in this game, and the campaign is quite a bit shorter than RE2 (like half as short). Now to be fair most of the last game was back-tracking, but because of the story that drove me through it I didn’t mind. This iteration though, re-uses a lot of locations from RE2, and I was really looking forward to some new environments, but it all looked the same, nothing new to see here, sadly.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

If you notice the Nemesis in the title you’ll wonder what that is, Nemesis is another bio-weapon from Umbrella corp. that chases you around trying to wipe out the last members of S.T.A.R.S. of which your character is the final one remaining. We already had something like this in RE2 again, and if feels just like a recycling of the last game. The difference is in RE3 you get two options each time he appears, usually between fight or flee. Depending on which one you choose you’ll see a few different areas of the game, but make no mistake this is linear progression, and Nemesis is there to get you to hurry up. But because most encounters with him let you press a button and escape, he doesn’t feel like much of a threat.

Graphics

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

They are once again very much the same from RE2, some of the environments were recycled as well, and it does sort of seem like it was thrown together with spare parts. One thing that stands out in this one is the pre-rendered cut scenes. Characters during these scenes display believable emotions, and that’s a huge step up from the last game. Other than that, it’s a cookie cutter cut and paste of RE2’s graphics.

How it holds up today

I must say after RE2 I was really interested on where this series was going, but I found myself disappointed with how this game turned out. There’s a lot of action to be sure, but after the other two games I don’t feel there’s much of a threat to the same slowly moving zombies, and blowing there heads off, while still enjoyable, started to lose its charm…

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

I’m happy that I finally finished the trilogy, and plan to play the rest of the series because it’s so influential in gaming, but this one dragged on for me, it didn’t have me glued to my console like the last one did (and took me a few weeks to complete compared to the week or so the last one took). Also I completed the campaign in a measly 6 hours, while the other two games in the series were much longer.

If you have the choice between all three RE games, go for the second, it has the best story, epic bosses, and is a real heart pumping experience. This latest one was still enjoyable, but not up to expectations. Perhaps RE: Code Veronica on my Dreamcast will treat me better.

7/10

Altered Beast

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

Yeah, I know. ‘Wise from your gwave,’ Elmer Fudd, etcetera etcetera.

It’s probably a small mercy for the game to be famed for it’s amusing opening voice though, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be remembered at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Basically a very straightforward side scrolling game where you punch and kick various nasties, the one thing the game has on its side is its almost incredible simplicity.

Altered Beast really has little in terms of depth – its just the same thing, for every level, with added difficulty the further you progress.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Move right, punch baddies, collect the orb from the special wolves, power up, find the boss, defeat the boss, end. Rinse and repeat.

The main variation comes from the bosses, but there’s little attempt to make the different settings (cave, gwaveyard (sic), etc) affect the gameplay in any way at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The game is still tough to grasp at first though, feeling clumsy and a little unfair. If you give it a chance however, you soon adapt to the attack patterns that are the most effective, and start making slow progress. It’s still a pain at times of course, but that’s probably to be expected.

There’s no real getting away from the clumsiness of the game in the end though, in both its controls and presentation.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The controls feel unbelievably wooden, mainly because the characters are all so stiffly animated. The whole things feel like a puppet show at times.

Graphics wise, the game looks good in stills, but in movement doesn’t appear so impressive. There are lots of things that look out of place, like the mist which bosses dissolve into when you defeat them, that just don’t fit into the aesthetic of the game. This results in giving the game a weirdly low budget veneer, even when you take into consideration its age.

All in all, the game’s a bit of a clunker that you’ll either despise or embrace for its dated look and feel. I personally have nothing against Altered Beast, but wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone.

Sword Master

Sword Master

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Sword Master - NES

Activision may be best known for their Call Of Duty series, but they have been producing video games for decades across multiple platforms, including a hefty array on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Although some of these cartridges were outright stinkers, like their renditions of Ghostbusters and Super Pitfall, other were decent or even good. Somewhere in the latter mix lies the side-scrolling action title Sword Master, developed by Athena Co.

Gameplay

Sword Master - NES

Sword Master is a side-scrolling action game in which one player controls the protagonist, the Sword Master, is an admittedly generic plotline revolving around rescuing a damsel in distress from the clutches of some evil dark lord who has resurrected an army of undead abominations with which he is now attempting to take over the world. Of course.

There are seven levels, each of which concludes with a boss fight, and typically has a mini-boss somewhere in the middle as well. This title can barely be considered a “platformer” in the literal sense; although there is jumping from surfaces to other surfaces of different elevations, and even some precision-jumping puzzles that involve pattern-oriented enemies, unlike traditional platformers like the Super Mario Bros and Mega Man series, the running and jumping movements are not the emphasis here. The combat system takes the spotlight, and shows some muscular depth.

Sword Master - NES

The player’s character does not move quickly and, in fact, jumps forward in a hop slightly faster than walking movement alone. The A button performs the jump, and the B button attacks with the sword, offering some options for attack depending on which direction is pressed on the D-Pad as well. Pressing Up with the strike will swing overhead, just hitting B along will jab forward with the blade, and holding Down will go to a crouch, offering a low blow with the sword from that position. Also, our hero can move forward while crouching, a neat touch.

Sword Master - NES

Additionally, the Sword Master himself also uses a shield as well. Holding Up will hold the shield up, while pressing Down steadies the shield straight ahead. Neither renders our character invincible, but make it possibly to block oncoming attacks from projectiles such as fireballs or the incoming weapon-swings of other warriors. This will be especially essential for certain boss fights.

The challenge, then, comes in trying to deftly deal with dexterous dastards ranging from leaping wolves, flying bats, floating eyeballs, dark knights, evil wizards, lizard men, and other medieval-fantasy tropes, along with some truly unique (note the flaming flying giant sperm beings in the village). This slowed-down, fight-emphasizing gameplay really turns this into a game of strategy over speed and tactics over tricks. Surviving the onslaught unscathed will require the player to master the swordplay involved; which is perfectly appropriate, given that the name of the game is Sword Master.

Sword Master - NES

This makes Sword Master a sophisticated choice, a gamer’s game, a hardcore old-school brutalization, a test that those saddled with ADHD are going to have a problem with. Now, that prior sentence makes it sound like this is a hipster’s classic, a true all-time great, and a vastly overlooked NES cartridge; however, do not misunderstand, there are certainly some flaws that prevent Sword from being a four-star game or better.

The game is very challenging. Not quite Ninja Gaiden or three-life Contra challenging, but a grueling, despairing gauntlet nonetheless. While difficulty alone is not a bad ingredient, and can even be a strong point, and may even be so here, there are undoubtedly some moments in Sword Master that merely amount to frustration, not tightly honed missives.

Sword Master - NES

Then there is the scroll mechanic. Many 8-bit video games had a scrolling threshold related to the position of the protagonist on the screen. If you play Super Mario Bros., you will notice that Mario tends to stay right in the center of the game. Others games have the character going slightly past the middle before the screen starts slowly. These are fine options, and allow the player time to react to oncoming stimuli. But in Sword Master, the player is punished for well-skilled efforts by having the screen scroll forward even if the Master is four-fifth’s of the way across the play field. This makes for some rather brazenly hard reaction-time conundrums, unless the player intentionally plods forward at a slower rate.

Sword Master - NES

Aside from the black-and-white flaws and strengths, there are a few elements that must be judged on a player-by-player basis. The foremost example may be the level-up system. As the player slaughters creatures and kills people, an experience bar increases, until filling up and gaining a level, which grants a couple more ticks on the health bar. This is an intriguing way of going about things, but later in the same, enemies are doing more damage, while the health pick-ups (a potion) still merely heal a miniscule amount. This discrepancy is questionable, even if nitpicky. One nice note: Enemies that take more than one hit to kill show a health bar of their own, an addition that would be much appreciated in many other NES games that otherwise withhold.

Sword Master - NES

Next for consideration is the transformation element. Yes, Sword Master has a transformation effect in play, after getting a cloak, in which the player can transform into a mage (that is a wizard, for you non-geeks out there) and press Start to bring up a spells menu, with available magics picked up from defeated enemies. The foursome ranges from a classic fireball to vertically oriented lightning bolt. Holding the B button powers up the spells before unleashing. But excited players must consider the cost: Every spell-cast chops down the experience bar, until the original Sword Master form is reverted to. This seems somewhat steep, especially since the mage has no shield and is thus more vulnerable.

Sword Master - NES

Oh, and there are five continues, and a level that entirely consists of projectile-dodging, and believe it or not, the instruction manual refers to the flying flame sperm enemy as “Fire Seed.” No kidding.

Overall, Sword Master is a meaty, well-developed, distinctive game. The sword-fighting takes some getting used to, although the acclimation process is very intentional, even if a total mastery will still lend some “what the-” moments of unexplainable enemy-interaction weirdness.

Graphics

Sword Master - NES

This game looks fantastic. This may sound contradictory, but the motions are smooth, even if the animations are a little stiff. One obvious graphic area in which Sword Master shines is in its background visuals. Oh my. These are among the slickest-lookin’ backgrounds on the console, top-notch stuff. Just check out the gorgeous parallax scrolling two-layer work in the initial forest level as an example, but even in the static background images of the village and the castle, the detail work is solid. Along with some fun turns at enemy design and minimal issues like the flickering and slowdown sometimes seen on other games, this is a decidedly visually appealing game.

Sound

The auditory department of Sword Master I intriguing. The sound effects, maybe for the best, are subdued, striking quick and quiet in their flourishes. But when the protagonist attacks, rather than hear the swish of a sword, the player hears a cheap little voice effect. Okay, maybe trying to be impressive, but any “ooh” or “aah” effect is lost when it is repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times.

Sword Master - NES

The background music is not bad. The sound-engineering folks at Activision & Athena show off their chops by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the NES console hardware limitations, using all available sound channels to the max, and working in some nifty effects. Yet, perhaps humorously, for all their technical prowess, the actual compositional strength is limited, as the melodies are not especially memorable and nothing here stands the test of time as a memorable NES classic background tune or stage music.

Originality

Sword Master is fairly distinctive. While other NES games may have a sword-swinging figure at their core, no other title quite emphasizes the swordplay workings as strongly as the Master. Even though the storyline is incredibly generic, at least the execution is respectable, and makes it clear that this is not a game that was ever supposed to be about the story, but about the gameplay. With some quirks intact, it remains a solid game, and is awarded a score of three and a half stars out of five.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

donkey kong

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

Well, it was bound to happen. Time to review a stinker. Not just a stinker, mind you, but a post-Taco Bell chased by black coffee with a side of Taco Bell for dessert type of stinker. Light a candle and say a prayer because here is the unwashed skidmark of the Black Box games, Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Heaven help us.

donky kong
“I can either play this or a math game like it? Kiss my Huggies!”

First, a quick history lesson in what I mean by “Black Box” since there has been a question or two on the definition. The Nintendo Entertainment System launched in small quantities on October 18, 1985 in selected areas of New York City. Due to the video game crash of 1983 (thanks Atari!), noone was willing to entertain the thought of selling home game consoles ever again. Therefore, Nintendo, steadfast in their resolve, changed the name of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) instead to an “entertainment system”. How this actually worked when it is obviously a game console, I’ll never understand. Anyway, on the day of the initial launch, there were 18 titles ready to go. They all came in a black box and in the lower left hand corner, they were marked with te type of game it was.

If you look at the Clu Clu Land and Super Mario boxes in my prior reviews, you’ll notice the symbol for the “Action Series” and “Light Gun Series” with Hogan’s Alley and so forth. Hence, “Black Box”. The NES had a true launch in February of 1986 with more titles and after that is when the third party publishers started releasing games and didn’t want to conform to the labels of their games, so the idea was scrapped. Hindsight 20/20, it was a good move, because what the hell could you label something with multiple genres in it like a Battletoads or Guardian Legend? One of the categories was “Education Series” and while it probably had good intentions and may have had some legs in future titles, it only had one game ever attached to it. Why? It sucked so fucking bad that it killed off the idea completely.

donkey kong
“I warned him if he starred in that goddamned math game, I’d disown his ass for Diddy Kong. Junior is dead to me. There is no Junior”

Which brings us to Donkey Kong Jr, Math. Seriously, all I want to type here is what a pile of shit it is, journalistic integrity be damned. But with heavy heart and mind, there is no choice but to roll my sleeves up and stick my hands deep into the doo-doo and pray I come out of it with a filth that can be washed away.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
More like calculate how long before this game gets thrown into traffic.

The game sure looks like DK Jr. from the arcades but that’s where the similarity ends. There are 3 modes to “play” but the only difference between A and B are that B uses negative numbers. The gist of it is that Papa Kong gives you a number and you have to jump to a vine with a number (you can only hit one at a time), then travel to the mathematic symbol you want, then hop to another number, etc, until you have the total Donkey asks for. Example, Papa gives me the number 77, you have to jump to 9, then the times symbol, then 8, then hop your baby gorilla ass back to the plus sign, then back to the 5 and you “win”. That is IT. The game booklet never lets on that it is 2 player only so you have this poor, pathetic looking pink DK Jr. off to the right who dies when you complete a problem. What the shit is that? Be great at math so you can slaughter your own kind ruthlessly? Wait, maybe this game did teach a 1%er a thing or two growing up.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
The unnamed pink twin of DK Jr tugs at my heartstrings. Math = genocide

The final game mode makes zero sense from any sane perspective. You choose the type of problem you want to do and then Kong presents you with one. Sort of. To solve it, all you need to do is push a block up past the Nitpickers who never seem to touch you and that’s the game! This mode can be beaten within 5 minutes and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is supposed to accomplish. If I watch numbers be added for me, it will instill a photographic memory strong enough to always remember what these two numbers added up equal to?

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
No bullshit, this took me about 2 seconds to beat.

THE FINAL VERDICT
1/10 Widely regarded as one of the worst launch titles ever. Probably started out as a decent concept, but something seriously got fucked up in the development process. That or Nintendo had no beta testers at the time because this game just feels rushed and broken. It killed Donkey Kong Jr so dead that the only other appearance he made was in 1992’s Super Mario Kart for the SNES. The 1 point is for the decent graphic port but to go higher than that simply isn’t possible. The idea was for kids to want to mix games and learning, but who is going to pop this shit in when you have ANY other game laying around? Brain Age this isn’t. They couldn’t give this craptastic cart away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower. I feel violated having played this…

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

I had played Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO on Gamecube many years back. I’ve never played the original game though. I was kinda surprised my girlfriend had an old copy of the game. Not terribly excited to play the original, but I’ll give it a shot.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
The game is basically the same version as the one in the arcade except with a few new features and whatnot. It was a pretty big deal back in the day since it was the first time Ryu could fight Terry Bogard or Chun-Li could fight Mai Shiranui. It offers a suprisngly large cast of characters. I remember being far more disappointed in the original Marvel Vs. Capcom for such a small cast in comparison to the 2nd game.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
It’s basically what you would expect from Capcom in the past 15 years. Since I already played the 2nd game to death, I was a tad unthrilled at the offerings on the table. I was also mad that they didn’t include analog control even though the PS1 version was released in 2002. I loathe the PS1’s D-pad, and during fighting games my hands feel cramped and the stiff buttons prevent me from reaching my true potential. If you’re not bothered by the PS1/PS2 controller’s D-pad then this a decent fighter, but there’s plenty of better ones to choose from.

Score: 7 out of 10 

Skies of Arcadia

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Format: Dreamcast Genre: RPG Released: 2001 Developer: Sega (Overworks)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Skies of Arcadia

Yes, that’s right another Dreamcast game for the list – no complaining back there. Hey, look, it’s not my fault that a signficant proportion of THE BEST GAMES EVER MADE were released on one particular console. (Funnily enough, I was never a big fan of Sega consoles before the Dreamcast came along, but I became a bit of a DC fanboy after I got one. Ah, Dreamcast, you were taken far too young! May you rest in peace in forgotten console heaven…)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

In terms of set-up, Skies of Arcadia is pretty much your standard Japanese RPG fare:  a young boy from a small village is summoned by destiny to save the world by fighting random, turn-based battles across strange new lands filled with a multitude of manga-style characters, and so on, and so forth. We’ve been here before (Grandia, Final Fantasy, etc. etc.), but the difference with Skies is the sheer imagination that has been poured into the game world, along with the strong sense of ownership you feel over the characters.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

The game world is composed of a series of floating islands that you navigate between using your trusty flying pirate ship. I couldn’t really find the screenshots to do it justice, but this floating world looks fantastic, and there’s a real sense of wonder as you explore new continents and find hidden treasures. In fact, finding the hidden ‘discoveries’ became such a distraction for me that I regularly abandoned the main plot in favour of locating these hidden gems, which were revealed by vibrations of the joypad.

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Then there’s your ship’s crew – as you progress through the game you can recruit more and more members to your crew, each of whom provides some sort of boost when battling an enemy ship. (Incidentally, the ship battles are fantastic, and make for a diverting change from the usual monster battles – see the video below for an example.) The personalities of each of the characters really shine through, and by the end of the game you find yourself becoming quite attached to your motley crew of air pirates.

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The big downside to the game for me was the random battles – I’m not totally against random battles per se, but there should be an option to avoid them if possible. Later on in the game you can purchase items that let you avoid all confrontation, but earlier on you have no option but to plough through whatever the game throws at you, which got frustrating at times. The hardest part of the game occurred about a third of the way through, when you were tasked with finding an item among a series of floating rocks. The trouble was, you were constantly attacked as you flew your ship between the rocks, and this one section became so frustrating that I almost jacked the game in right there. Thankfully I perservered, which was a good thing since the game got a whole lot better from then on in.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

It’s difficult to say exactly what sets Skies of Arcadia apart from its JRPG ilk – it could be the imaginative setting, or the neat mixture of ship and monster battles, or perhaps the excellently crafted characters. Whatever it is, it had me totally hooked, and if you’re an RPG fan it’s an absolute must buy. (NB. If you’re planning to get it, you might want to look out for Skies of Arcadia Legends, an improved version that was released for the GameCube/Wii.)

Rival Turf

Rival Turf

We promise to make no mention of this game’s classicly terrible box art in this post… oh wait.

RIVAL-TURF-

Anyway, upon release of the Super NES, Final Fight was a big deal. While Capcom’s port was impressive in a number of ways, it was missing multi-player and third playable character, Guy. With Streets of Rage drawing attention in the Sega department, Jaleco decided to fill the two-player beat-em-up void on the SNES with Rival Turf.

RIVAL-TURF-

Rival Turf isn’t terrible, but it’s generic and brutally difficult. The two characters, Jack Flack and Oozie Nelson (seriously) patrol the streets in levels that are nothing short of blatant knocks on better games. Enemies are the real issue, coming in with names like Skinny and Butch. They’re incredibly overpowered, laying on unblockable combos at will.

RIVAL-TURF-

Collision detection is sloppy, and the cheap animation doesn’t help matters. The game would spawn two sequels, including the far better Brawl Brothers and moving back into sloppy territory with The Peace Keepers, all SNES exclusive. Rival Turf is easily the worst of the lot, and while not the most painful beat-em-up experience on the system (Bebe’s Kids, we’re looking at you), it’s utterly amazing how a game could sell well enough to spawn a sequel purely on multi-player aspects.

Splash Lake

splash-lake-

Splash Lake

The idea of a bouncing Ostrich with a very sharp beak named Ozzie was enough for me to at least take a look at this game. Splash Lake was released by NEC in 1992 for the Turbo Grafx-16. This puzzle game features an Ostrich named Ozzie who uses his sharp beak to break holes in the bridge he is on causing his enemies to fall, into the lake, where they splash, hence, Splash Lake.

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Check out our few video review with commentary.

Bucky O’Hare

Bucky O’Hare

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Bucky O'Hare - NES

Bucky O’Hare was a comic-book character and star of an animated television series that proved to be a popular enough license to eventually lead to Konami producing a video game based on the canon. Concerning the space-faring green rabbit Bucky O’Hare and his ragtag crew of anthropomorphic creature-person heroes and their fight against the dread forces of the toad menace to save the Aniverse.

Gameplay

This one-player game begins with the player controlling the protagonist Bucky O’Hare, whose four shipmates have been captured and stowed on four planets generically named after colors. From an initial stage-select screen, Bucky can tackle the planets in whatever manner he wishes in order to save his comrades before taking the fight directly to the Air Marshal of the frog fighters.

Bucky O'Hare - NES

Gameplay is in the style of a two-dimensional platformer run-‘n’-gun type of title, whereas the A button jumps and the B button fires a blaster. The player can fire directly upward with Bucky’s gun and also fire while crouches. Each level offers their share of pattern-based enemies, precision-jumping puzzles, and fast-paced battle scenarios, all of which end in a nice little boss fight.

Where Bucky O’Hare begins to become somewhat distinctive is in the fact that after each crew member is rescued, you can instantly switch to playing as that character, and scroll through all available cast members by pressing Select. Each squad member has a slightly different weapon (Deadeye’s pistol fires in three directions but at a short range, Jenny has a quick laser that fires from her forehead, etc.) and a special ability activated by holding the B button (Jenny can launch a “crystal ball” attack that the player can control with the directional pad, Blinky can hover for a limited amount of time, etc.). It is this combination of character traits that enhances the challenge of each level as the player must decide which is best for the given situation. What complicates (or makes more tactical, at least) matters is that there are power tokens spread out throughout levels that upgrade each character’s inherent ability, each of which can be upgraded a few times, usually resulting in a longer duration of their particular specialty.

Bucky O'Hare - NES

With the standard platformer formula in place, Bucky adds items and power-ups, character selections, a robust health bar, a smattering of one-ups and continues to go along with a decent password system, and “hidden” levels apart from the initial four offered to form a thorough sci-fi laser-blasting adventure.

Graphics

Bucky O'Hare - NES

The character sprites are big enough to pose distinctive characters against some just-okay backdrops, but in some cases it is the enemy designs that outclass the heroes. For example, there is a portion of the Green Planet (Act 5, specifically, as the levels are divided) when multiple large crafts fly overhead, firing at the character, and all done with minimal flickering and slowdown issues. Then, at the end, a solid boss match with a toadbot who throws enormous boulders that crumble into deadly shards. On that same stage, though, this game shows its occasional “meh” qualities, with running water that is only bothered to be animated at its surface, lending an odd, ethereal appearance as it seemingly hovers a couple feet over the ground, yet landing in it instantly kills the controlled character.

Sound

Bucky O'Hare - NES

This title boasts the usual high-quality Konami effects, many of them recognizable from their library of other NES games (try the Start/pause button in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartridges, or notice the explosion sound of the defeated bosses), along with good background music in place for appropriate ambiance. The skillful renditions reflect painstaking attempt at optimizing what the hardware had to offer, and results in an action-oriented, multi-layered beat throughout.

Originality

While other sci-fi themes had been done before for two-dimensional platform titles, and anthropomorphic protagonists had been seen before, no game was quite like Bucky O’Hare. This does not represent a perfect video game, nor is the experience without its aggravations, flaws, and outright bizarre bits (a spider enemy that drops down from a tree and explodes?!). Nonetheless, this game came late in the support cycle of the Nintendo Entertainment System console, long after Konami had mastered the basics of game-crafting and was able to spin a unique, enjoyable romp here, deserving of a respectable three and a half stars out of five.

Hogan’s Alley

Hogan's_Alley

Hogan’s Alley

Now these are the exact moments that make me glad I began this project. I went into this thinking there was no way this game was going to have any kind of history other than being a memorable Black Box title and left my research blown away. Ladies and germs, I present to you a game steeped in more links from the past than just about any out there, Hogan’s Alley.

Hogan's_Alley
Nice touch with the bullet in the logo.

Let’s dig into the history for a moment because it’s so damned captivating to me. The original Hogan’s Alley was presented back in the 1890’s and starred one of the country’s earliest comic strip stars, The Yellow Kid. The strip was written and drawn by the famed Richard F. Oucault and featured in the pages of New York World, owned by publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who is presently more well known for the Pultizer Prize, an award for journalistic excellence. Hogan’s Alley was popular enough to be on billboards and a ton of merchandise for the time but quite a bit of legal wrangling between Pulitzer and another famous publisher, William Randolph Hearst caused the Kid to quietly fade away.

Hogan's_Alley
An early strip feautring the original Hogan’s Alley. How many video games do you know with roots dating back to the 1890s?

Fast forward to 1920, two years removed from the World War I, and the FBI learned through a survey conducted throughout the major police departments at the time that marksmanship was becoming a lost art. Out of the all cities surveyed with over 25, 000 residents, only THIRTEEN had marksmanship programs. Obviously, this needed work so Hogan’s Alley was established at Ohio’s Camp Perry by the Army and the NRA.

Hogan's_Alley
Have a nice day indeed!

Beginning in 1924, there were national contests held at the camp for sharpshooters and the like. There was no blank ammunition laying around so instead they opted to use real live ammo on cardboard cutouts set up around their virtual city, hence why the game’s targets are presented as they are. World War II brought an end to the contest but in 1954, the camp re-opened and in 1987, they took it a set further and went absolutely batshit with the idea, creating an actual small town for simulated combat.

Hogan's_Alley
No. Fucking. Way.

But yes, there IS a game to discuss isn’t there? Hogan’s Alley was one of the first Light Gun games (or “Zapper” if you will) to be released and like most Black Boxers, was released to the arcades prior to the NES launch date. There are 3 modes you can get your Elliott Ness on with, which seems to be par for the course for the Zapper series, but who’s going to bitch when they could’ve easily put out one mode and called it good?

Hogan's_Alley
Shirtless gangsters on what appears to be the surface of Mars. MISS!

Game A is your standard 3 target shooter. This would be one of the rare times I enjoy no kind of musical track because if you’re an FBI agent trying to concentrate, the last thing you want is bouncy chiptunes blasting in your ear. There are 3 types of townsfolk in the sim you can shoot and 3 you can’t or else it registers as a “MISS!” and your game is over at ten. The tricky part is that the professor is colored just like a baddie and the grunt with the shotgun is colored like the stand-alone ‘stache sporting policeman, so it does take a bit of skill not to accidentally send Professor Sad-Shit to hell.

Hogan's_Alley
Seriously, look at the sour puss on that professor. Should we shoot out of mercy or not? Or do we shoot because he looks like Walter White and we really don’t know what a criminal looks like always?

My favorite was always Game B. It takes you right into Hogan’s Alley and feels trickier and better paced. Still a lack of music except for a groovy little number in between rounds which is fine by me. If you’ve ever played this mode, the words “fuck!” and “shit!” will enter even the cleanest vernacular after you just pumped poor Miss Nobody full of lead. Second verse, same as the verse, 10 misses and it’s ce la vie!

Hogan's_Alley
Game B FTW

The third option is lame compared to the rest of the awesome goings on. You simply try and bounce tin cans into a side wall with point values. Not too easy but not impossible either. When compared to the other 2 modes, this will be the one most likely to collect virtual dust.

Hogan's_Alley
About as fun as it looks. A solid 15 seconds of entertainment.

THE FINAL VERDICT


8/10 A really great launch title and on a personal level, I always enjoyed Hogan’s Alley more than Duck Hunt. Not the popular opinion, but three very distinct modes when DH only adds an extra duck and some clay pigeons make this one rise above. The controls seem a bit sharper here as well as there aren’t as many cases of “OH BULLSHIT, I SHOT THAT FOR SURE!” going on. Pile those onto a fascinating history and Hogan’s Alley is a title that shouldn’t have been looked over.

Hogan's_Alley
Nintendo and FBI mash-up!

For more information about the Yellow Kid and the origins of Hogan’s Alley, check out Brian Cronin’s INCREDIBLE blog at CBR here:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/05/28/comic-book-legends-revealed-209/

And for the most surreal site I’ve seen in awhile here is an actual link to the FBI’s real life Hogan’s Alley. It exists to this day as a training facility and I’d sell my soul to Zarathos to walk through here one good time:
http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/training/hogans-alley

Ninja Gaiden 2

Ninja Gaiden 2

Ninja Gaiden 2

So it’s another week of a retro gaming pick. This time around, we have a classic for the NES. It’s Ninja Gaiden 2 for the NES. This is actually the first one I played for the console. I remember renting the game and getting fed up due to its difficulty. The Ninja Gaiden series are one of the most challenging series for the NES.
Ninja Gaiden 2
The music of the game is classic. It’s upbeat and fun! The sounds are pretty much the same as the ones from the first game but it doesn’t matter, it’s still catchy to your ears.
Ninja Gaiden 2
The graphics of the games are just awesome. The cut-scenes are pretty awesome and cinematic. They are quite memorable you know. It was our first glimpse at seeing movements and story-line in between stages.
 Ninja Gaiden 2
The gameplay is tough! If you really want an old school 8-bit challenge, then this is it! Look no further unless you want something even more difficult like Battletoads. You’ll be trying to beat this game for hours, days, even weeks! Once you do, you’ll feel so accomplish and will never want to play through it again!
Ninja Gaiden 2
If you are willing to replay this game again, you have guts! It’s quite difficult so the average gamer will definitely put it down once it’s finished. The hardcore gamer would come back to it from time to time but the wizard gamer will try to beat it without taking any damage in the entire game!

This game is a must have for your collection. This is just awesome! The game itself is a classic and it’s not that expensive. The replay value is debatable as it varies depending on your gamer blood. In all honesty, get it!!

Kung Fu Kid

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Format- Master System

Genre- 2D scrapathon

Kung Fu Kid

This game reminds me of The Ninja on the Master System – in both a good and bad way.

Many Sega produced titles for the Master System were very odd indeed, and Kung Fu Kid is no exception. Their games for the system weren’t particularly polished and had several odd touches in them. They weren’t broken in any fundamental sense, but felt as if they were at times.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Take the first stage for instance. There are three ways it can go. The first time you play it, you’ll get your ass kicked. Angry men and leaping dolls (see, there’s the ‘odd’ touches I was talking about) storm across the screen at you from both directions.

You’re armed with a kick and a large jump, but you’ll most likely get your rump served up to you on a plate, confused at how to survive such an onslaught.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

The second way is probably the way the developer envisioned you progressing. Inching your way to the right, you kick away foes (these ones only take one hit – small mercies), and try your hardest to avoid being hit. You have to build up a rhythm of move, kick, move kick to survive. Then, the boss.

The best way to beat the level though? Jumping. Leaping over the enemies is incredibly easy, and you’ll find yourself at the end of the stage in no time.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Best of all, the fast moving dudes can’t get to you if you use this method, as they get stuck behind the jumping dolls, leaving you to stroll away unchallenged. Slightly broken design at its finest.

The first boss battle, an old wise warrior (that’s what he looks like anyway), is not so easy though, and you have to have a bit of luck to beat him.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Levels get a bit harder, but in every one the same mantra of jump, jump, jump remains. Kung Fu Kid? More like Jumpy Boundy Boy.

Bosses however, generally get easier. Once you recognize their attack patterns you can open up a whole can of whupass on them.

One of the main reasons to stick with the game is to see what weird enemy the game will throw at you next. Tiny lobsters, zombies and what look like tin soldiers all stand in your way – i’m not sure why Sega though these enemies would fit into kung-fu game, but they’ve been shoehorned in nonetheless.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

One enemy, that first appears in the third level though, is particularly worth seeing. Frogs. Tiny, cute green little frogs. Now don’t get me wrong, as I kid I didn’t put firecrackers into frogs and watch them go boom – like my Dad admitted he did – but the amphibian cruelty in this game had me in stitches.

About halfway through the third stage a small frog comes a-leaping at you. As with any enemy, you prepare to unleash a kick. But unlike the other enemies, which are knocked back a little and destroyed when hit, when you kick a frog they fly like a missile across the screen, taking out any other enemies that appear in their path. It is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Even better for those with a vendetta against frogs, the end boss for that stage is a huge version of the small green amphibians. It’s a spectacularly easy boss fight in fact – just barrage him with consecutive kicks right to his huge froggy nads and he’ll fall down like a pack of cards. Simple.

It’s in the fifth stage of the game where things get much tougher. Your jumping tactics aren’t as effective here, and you’ll probably end up taking on the boss with a weakened health bar.

Still, the game is never really unfairly difficult, and you can usually work your way through all seven stages if you’re patient enough.

What else is there to say about Kung Fu Kid? It’s weird, very weird indeed, but that’s undoubtedly part of its charm. Pick this one up if you see it abandoned at a car boot – and endless frog flying hilarity will be yours to cherish forever.

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and story-lines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favorite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’ ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting back-story, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguisher refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

 

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ’4′ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the back-story to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-
Release date on PSN: July 17th 2007

              Original release date: October 2nd 1997

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Story

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-

Castlevania is about the castle Dracula, and you play his son Alucard (Dracula backwards) as you try to defeat your father and banish him once again. There have been many Castlevania games, and this one is a direct sequel to Castlevania Bloodlines, but having not played that, I didn’t feel too lost in the story. It’s the gameplay we’re going for in this one.

Gameplay

SOTN as it’s called is a basic 2d beat em up type dungeon crawler. If you’ve played one 2d Castlevania, you’ve played them all, but this gameplay really works well and it’s extremely satisfying. The difficulty in this game is pretty high though, and dying is a huge pain due to the lack of a continue screen, and that it took me a while to figure out how to save (read the manual on this one!). Once while playing around with the controls I found a spell that kills everyone on screen and then heals you for the damage you caused. It was a life saver! But it didn’t make it too easy.

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-

The game is non-linear in a fashion, in that you have to go through the castle, searching for new abilities that allow you to access new areas. The amount of abilities is staggering as well, from turning into a bat, to spells, tones of special equipment, swords and armor, and collecting all of these really got me addicted (not to mention leveling up your character as well).  Not just OCD to collect everything, but because they added new elements to the gameplay, and gave you more options to defeat the bosses.

The boss fights in the game aren’t revolutionary gameplay wise, you’ll be hitting them with your sword just as you do with all the enemies in the game, your jump and strike skills will be tested, but once you memorize the patterns you’ll plow through them.

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-

What is interesting is the scope of the Castle, every part feels different which makes it easy to remember where you are, and where you’re supposed to go (the map helps too). Half-way through the game however (if you use a special item during what seems to be the final battle) the castle will flip over and you’ll play through the castle again (upside-down) while collecting more cool items and defeating more bosses. There are many endings; I didn’t go through them all, but those I witnessed were interesting and worth the playtime.

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-

At the time 3D gaming was coming into its own, but was usually poorly executed. The makers of SOTN made a smart decision in keeping the game 2D and making those graphics detailed and colorful. Some use was made of 3D though on some enemies. This really makes them pop out from the screen and they make for a good contrast.

The style of the game is slick as well. The design of the spaces shows a lot of time was put into it. With every area of the castle looking very unique, along with the monsters you’ll be killing in each area, it just adds that extra something that keeps it from being a grind, and more of an exploration.

How it holds up today

Castlevania- Symphony of the Night-

When I first started playing Symphony of the Night, I couldn’t get into it. I would die constantly, and it wasn’t much fun. But once I got over the learning curve I found a compelling experience that really had me hooked. The story was somewhat interesting, but it was the castle that drew me in, and the abilities I was unlocking that kept me going. And as well as colorful graphics and varied locations the music was spectacular, spooky, but catchy; a great companion while playing.

I was skeptical to begin, but the game soon won me over with its timeless style and classic gameplay. For ten bucks, this is a great time eater.

9/10

Played through on a PSP-3001 approx 12 hours playtime.

If you love the music of SOTN as much as I do check out the OST here.

Also for some humor based on SOTN check out this article.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Double Dragon 2

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Honestly I haven’t played much of it since I was a kid, but I found an old copy of mine and took it for a spin.
Double Dragon 2

Double Dragon was a decent version on NES, but it had it’s own share of problems. Like a huge hit in the graphical department, and the complete lack of 2 player co-op in the main mode. Luckily they must of learned a few tricks for the 2nd game because you can play with a friend if you wish. The graphics are a little better this time around as well.

Double Dragon 2

The combat is also a lot faster and smoother than the first NES game. They also have a decent control set-up where one button hits/kicks opponents on one side, and the other button takes care of the other side. It’s a shame some of this is ruined by awkward platforming.  It’s a shame to lose one life because you got too close to an edge, or messed up a jump.

Double Dragon 2

It’s a pretty good game, however I don’t have someone who can play with me, so half of the experience is gone already. They also give very little lives which means you’ll have to be real good and play the game over and over until you can endure the countless hordes of thugs. It’s aged for sure, but it holds up better than I expected.

Score: 7 out of 10

Zillion

Zillion - Sega Master System

By: Tatsunoko Productions Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

Zillion - Sega Master System

Zillion

I think it must be an indication of my gaming preferences and heritage that I’ve seldom been able to ‘get’ some of the most popular computer games that were doing the rounds during the 80’s. A great example of that is Impossible Mission – a supremely popular game, mainly on the C64 which I never owned admittedly, but I did later buy a copy of it for Sega’s splendid Master System. I found it an enjoyable, though very difficult game, but the puzzle elements caused me great confusion and in the end I’m ashamed to say I gave up on it. If only there was a similar game but with less puzzley puzzle bits… Before long I discovered that there was – Zillion – an unusual title even now in that it isn’t an arcade conversion and is exclusive to the MS which meant that not many people had the opportunity to play it. In the opposite scenario to which I usually find myself, however, I did have such an opportunity and I enthusiastically took advantage of it.

Zillion - Sega Master System

Like many Japanese games, this one is based on an anime series, albeit a shortish and relatively unknown one, even in Japan. Both the anime and the game star a fellow called JJ who is a member of the medieval-sounding White Knights, a peacekeeping force who are out to destroy the evil Noza Empire’s base which is located on the 50’s sci-fi-sounding ‘Planet X’. At the start of the game, the White Knight’s mothership has just landed on Planet X leaving JJ to infiltrate the underground base, rescue two captured comrades, and set the base’s mainframe computer to self-destruct. Sounds simple enough! After a short jog across the planet’s surface, JJ descends into the complex via a mysteriously-unguarded lift. From here he can make his way anywhere he wants really. The lift shaft and corridors lead to numerous rooms, each a single-screen in size. These usually contain various traps, some capsules, a computer terminal, and often a door to another similar room which will be locked.

Zillion - Sega Master System

JJ is less agile than the C64’s most famous secret agent but he can still jump around about the place (surprisingly high, too) and can also crawl along the ground. He packs a gun, too, which is used for destroying the sadly-infinite enemy guards who are found in pretty much every location – the planet’s surface, the lift corridors, and many (though not all) of the rooms themselves. Contact with their shots (though not the enemies themselves), or some of traps in the rooms, depletes JJ’s energy reserves, although he can get a ‘top up’ at any time by returning to the mothership. The gun is also needed for breaking open the capsules which contain power-up items including more energy, more powerful guns, goggles (which allow you to see some of the otherwise-invisible traps), ID cards (which are needed to access the computer terminals), and floppy disks which are needed to access the main computer.

Zillion - Sega Master System

More commonly found in the capsules, however, are code symbols. Each door has a four-symbol code but capsules only contain one so you need to bust open four in any given room, remember (or write down) the symbols, then re-enter them at the computer terminal. These capsules are, unsurprisingly, often protected by guards or traps which include energy-sapping barriers, conveyor-belt sections of floor, automated guns, mines, or trip-wires which trigger an influx of guards. The traps can all be turned off by entering a simple code in the terminals although, unlike entering door codes, you won’t get your ID card back so it’s best to work around the traps if possible. JJ is reasonable for this but, splendidly, you can also control your two kidnapped comrades once you’re rescued them. They include the awesomely-named Apple, a girlie who is predictably more agile than JJ and can jump higher but also takes more damage, and Champ, a bulky fellow who shrugs off enemy fire more easily than the other two but can’t leap around so well.

Zillion - Sega Master System

These two idiots also have their own energy reserves, so once you’ve rescued them you then basically have three lots of energy to get through the game with. Well, I suppose technically you have infinite energy if you can be bothered to go all the way back to the mothership every time you’re running low, but either way it makes Zillion a much easier and more accessible game than Impossible Mission, for me at least. That said, it can occasionally be rather unfair, as with the ‘unavoidable death loop’ I encountered. Contact with enemies or their fire knocks JJ (or whoever) backwards, you see, so if enemies are present very close to the point you enter one room and leave another, you can end up getting knocked backwards and forwards between them until you die. Boo hoo! Still, it only happened the once so far and the rest of the game is fairly accommodating despite some slightly iffy controls, mainly regarding the characters’ jumping abilities. Practise makes perfect though, although don’t expect to be able to play though the game quicker on subsequent runs – the door codes are randomly generated each time you play!

Zillion - Sega Master System

The presentation is of a high standard throughout the game and includes a few cut-scenes (including some girlie on the mothership crying if you die – unrequited love?) and the in-game graphics are quite good too. The sprites look a little weird to be honest (it looks like JJ has a blue face for one thing) and the way they shuffle along the ground is quite amusing. There’s a bit of flicker amongst the enemies when two or more are close together too, but there’s been a bit of effort to keep the nicely-detailed backgrounds a little more varied than I had expected. The audio is also good – there’s only one main tune but it’s a catchy one and the effects aren’t bad either which means that, all things considered, Zillion is pretty spiffy! It’s a pretty big game, spanning 136 screens I believe, and most of them are well-designed. You’ll need to return to some later (with a different character or more powerful gun, for example) and the sense of progress is keenly felt. Impossible Mission may well be an all-time great as far as most gamers are concerned, but my simple-mind would much rather tackle this lesser-known clone!

RKS Score: 8/10

Bible Buffet

Bible Buffet

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

NES Bible Buffet

The 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System was a red-hot consumer item throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, with its most popular games selling millions of copies. Part of its spectacular success was because, among a few other significant reasons, unlike its predecessor the Atari 2600, Nintendo did not allow third-party developers to release titles as easily. Every cartridge made for the system had to be officially licensed by Nintendo, and there was a lock-out chip in the unit to prevent terrible carts from being sold to an unsuspecting market, thus preventing another home video game market crash as had happened in the previous generation of gaming.

NES Bible Buffet

However, a select few organizations had the knowledge, resources, audacity, and diligence to successfully produce and sell unlicensed NES cartridges. Among these businesses was Color Dreams, which crafted a few sub-par games, and along with examples like Tengen underwent litigation from Nintendo. Then Color Dreams had a brilliant, bold idea: They changed their branding name to Wisdom Tree, and made video games based on the Bible. That way, any attempt by Nintendo to sue them would result in negative press; after all, what would a white-bread public think of a video game company “attacking” a seemingly Christian organization? Nintendo, amazingly, indeed did stay away, so Wisdom Tree put out a handful of quirky games on the NES console, including Bible Buffet.

Gameplay

NES Bible Buffet

Bible Buffet is a hybrid game that forms a juxtaposition between the board game category and the overhead adventure games as well. With up to four human players (someone can even play alone if they wish to undergo the quest solo), each person sets out across a board with a rather lengthy track, over 100 spaces. A six-sided die is rolled to determine how far a player moves their token on their turn, with certain spots enabling a shortcut forward several spaces, a bonus roll, or even losing a turn.

NES Bible Buffet

The twist is that regular segments of the board have a food theme, such as Dessert Land, Potato Land, Freezer Land, etc., with twelve realms in total, each having between eight and twelve spaces to their designation. Whenever the player lands on a space in one of the Lands, they then undergo the overhead adventure portions, controlling a character that must destroy anthropomorphic food enemies (pizza slices with faces and hands and feet, ice cream cones that zoom across the screen, etc.) while collecting items and searching for the exit. There is a health bar that begins with three hearts, exactly like the classic Legend of Zelda game, and a way of updating the character’s attack throughout the adventure, with an increased spoon count lending to firing more shots on a single screen, and collecting forks making the shots go farther.

NES Bible Buffet

Whoever gets to the last space wins and, considering the length of the board yet most of the time spent in the overhead portions, it can actually take a considerable amount of time for a four-player game to finish. Also, certain spaces bring up a Bible-related quiz (the sole Bible-related aspect of the game), yet without access to the instruction booklet, the player is just left randomly selecting “True” or “False” for the three question-number choices on screen. Why they could not simply print the questions on-screen, as they even did for other titles like King of Kings, is a reasonable question.

Graphics

NES Bible Buffet

The visuals of this game are somewhat crude. The board itself is especially so, though perhaps it is by necessity since the screen has to accommodate all the spaces, land descriptions, and the lower part for roll interaction. Even then, the bland palette sudden switches and the simple toy-man tokens lend this a “cheap” look. The top-down action areas look alright, and some of the enemy designs are inventive, but overall it still definitely looks like a video game that lacked Nintendo’s seal of quality.

Sound

NES Bible Buffet

Another intriguing aspect of this game is the sound. Despite the lack of background music except for short ditties for certain board-game happenings, and very plain-sounding effects, this cartridge boasts among the best voice-synth effects of any NES games, with the announcer’s exuberant cry of “ALL RIGHT!” ranking as perhaps the highlight. This is an appropriate mark of how far developers had come in taking advantage of the NES limits by 1993, yet begs the question: Why is the rest of the game not up to then-current standards?

Originality

For a title that is often derided as “Just one of those stupid Wisdom Tree games,” Bible Buffet is truly unique at least, and among the few NES games to support four-player play, even if not simultaneously. The respective portions of Buffet (that is, the board and adventure parts) may be below-average, but combining them creates something slightly more than a board game and something that is not quite a generic top-down quest.

Among the Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree games there are certainly some that are better than others, yet as arguably one of the best, Bible Buffet is by no means an all-around great game. For a not-quite-complete design, for the bizarre choice to not have on-screen questions in the quiz portion, and the lack of atmosphere in the overhead portions (despite an overwhelming theme), this quirky Buffet eats two and a half stars out of five.

 

Warsong

Warsong

Okay, there is a chance you played it – but I would guess it’s unlikely.  This gem of a game came out for the Sega Genesis (and was called Langrisser overseas).  I am not sure what inspired me to pick it up at the time.  I had heard nothing about this game in any of the magazines I read, none of my friends had played it, but something about it caught my eye when I was mulling what game to purchase next.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

But something about the back of that box must have sparked my interest, because I took the game home, put it and and began to play.  The define what Warsong is, I would say it was a fantasy strategy/RPG hybrid – maybe the first I had ever played quite like it.

I immediately loved the game’s art style.  The graphics had a colorful, anime feel to them when showing character portraits.  The actual battles that took place were actually pretty active as soldiers kill each other off.  The backdrops and map designs were actually pretty well detailed also.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

The sound and music get the job done.  There was nothing terribly memorable about it, but this was a game that was more about the tactics.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music, but I don’t recall it ever particularly bothering me either.

So how did the game play?  Well, there were two aspects to it.  There are the leader characters, and they are the most important.  Hints of Fire Emblem here, as when a leader dies, he or she is gone for good.  I recall saving often to prevent that from happening.  Shades of Dragonforce follow, as each of these main characters had soldiers units they could control.  Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats.  Each leader can hire different kinds of soldiers at the start of each level, and there is a sort of rock/paper/scissors mechanic to which soldier units perform best against one another.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

There are other factors as well, such as terrain and if your leader characters have any gear equipped (at the start of each level, a scenario is given to you and you have a chance to spend your hard earned gold on different kinds and quantities of soldiers, and that is also when you can choose to put a piece of equipment on a leader character).  I recall getting so good at the game that I could go through the first couple of levels or so without buying any soldier units, to conserve money for when I would need it more in subsequent levels.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well.  Some levels also have assorted neutral characters who will go after anyone who gets to o close.  Some missions are designed for certain types of soldiers as well – for example one of your heroes can hire mermen and they are almost essential for water combat – but useless in levels without water to cross.

The game is made up of twenty levels, which may not sound like much, but each stage can take quite some time to get through.  The menu and controls are very simple to navigate and while it is easy to learn – there is are so many different tactics and unit strategies to apply that there is perfectly valid reason to come back and play again once you beat the game.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis
The story itself is nothing new – good guys are put on the run for attacking bad guys.  Good guys regroup after getting smacked around a bit in the first level, and rally a force to defeat not only the known bad guys, but the evil controlling them behind the scenes.  It is all really well presented though, with story pieces between levels and dialog scenes from characters on maps.  While you have no options to change the storyline itself, it was actually one that I found fairly interesting.

The RPG elements come in the form of gold, equipment, experience and levels.  In fact, this game was the inspiration to a leveling system I implimented on my MUD over a decade ago that I called a Tier system.  Your characters start off a specific class, level up to a point, and then choose one of two.  Level up some more, and you can again choose one more new class from a new set of branching options.  Some characters were so similar that their later tiers became the same thing, like Magic Knight, but there were unique ones too.  For example your lead character Garrett can become a King class, and no one else can.  Each tier brings new skills and powerful stat boosts and adds a good deal of replay value to the mix.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

And replay I did – I can recall beating this game at least three times – maybe more.  And it was a hit among my friends who initially asked: Warsong?  What’s that?

But these were the same friends I had gotten hooked on strategy games on the NES years before too (Nobunaga’s Ambition, Bandit Kings of Ancient China and Romance of the Three Kingdoms to name a few) – so they gave it a shot and not a single one disliked it.  Most of them borrowed it long enough to beat the game once if not twice (and one other friend borrowed my copy for a day and a half.  I was a bit surprised when he handed it back to me and said I could have it back.  I asked if he had not liked it – turned out he simply went out and bought his own copy afterward).

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

To this day, this ranks as one of my favorite all-time video games, and influenced my opinion on what a strategy game could be.  It also had clear effects on my own game design years later for my MUD, Kingdoms of the Lost.  I played it again recently and feel that it holds up pretty well today still.  If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDcZlC3oZWc[/youtube]

If you are interested in how it plays?  Here is a quick video down below that really shows off a lot of the game as you start off in a scenario where you and your troops are under heavy attack right off of the bat.

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

So another week and another game of the week! This time around we have a very obscure classic that had a too little, too late release during the Playstation’s ending life time. Behold, Dragon Ball GT Final Bout! Why is it worth a mention? Just read on and find out!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The music is quite popular and unique for Dragon Ball games but this one is more of a hit n miss. There are some tunes that are quite catchy but other ones are just totally bland. It would’ve been real wise to bring the songs from the series into the game. I mean, it was a no-brainer. Overall though, you have a decent soundtrack and worth a remix or two if you are into that type of stuff. On the other hand, the voice acting is truly amazing as they had the real voice actors represent their respective characters. Makes you think, why not make the music from the series as well!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The game has very good graphics. The 3D is very detailed but of course it would’ve been a lot better with some more work. There are times where objects disappear but it rarely happens. The different battle fields are OK at the most. They do resemble parts of the anime series but somehow always fall flat. A little more animation would’ve helped a lot. Overall, just OK graphics and character animation is good at most. The voice acting does help but not as much.

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The gameplay suffers a lot in this game. If you don’t have any patience then you’ll be looking to turn this game off as soon as possible. The game has a very odd control scheme but you can get used to it in time. The best part is when you go against the computer or a friend and battle it out with a button mashing power shooting extravaganza!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

This game is always great when you have your friends over. It’s so crappy at times that you’ll want to get drunk in order to enjoy it even more. Believe me, you’ll enjoy it. It has a lot of other options such as a level up system where you can train your own Z fighter and then save the information on your memory card, take it to your friend’s home and use your memory card saved fighter data to go up against your friend’s created fighter. A little confusing? Nah, I don’t think so!

Overall, this game is a very good gimmick. You’ll end up enjoy it from time to time. There is a lot to love about this title especially in nights where you just wanna step back into the prime of the Dragon Ball series. The game has three different versions as well. There is the original that came out in Japan back in 1997, the release here in 1997, and the re-release which I believe came out in 2003. Get either one and you’ll be alright. Until next week!

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Format: GameCube Genre: RPG Released: 2003 Developer: Nintendo

Wind Waker was a brave move on Nintendo’s part. Radically overhauling the graphical style of one of the best-loved game series of all time takes some chutzpah, and I remember it caused outrage at the time.

legend_of_zelda_wind_waker

Fans were up in arms when the first shots of Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded graphics were released, and some quarters were quick to cite the new game as a signal that Nintendo was trying to ‘kiddify’ the Zelda series. As the finished game eventually proved though, this was all complete nonsense and bluster: if anything, it just goes to show that the kind of people who spit and rave on internet forums about these kinds of perceived ‘faults’ are generally the kind of people you can safely ignore.

legend_of_zelda_wind_waker

In my opinion, Wind Waker‘s graphics are an absolute triumph – the game’s cel-shading is utterly charming and distinctive, and whereas most games from 2003 have aged badly in the terms of graphics, Wind Waker still looks as fresh as it did when it was released. In fact, I reckon the Wind Waker version of Link is even more iconic than the ‘traditional’ version – so much so that a friend of mine recently featured cel-shaded Link on her wedding invites.

legend_of_zelda_wind_waker

I’m playing through The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess at the moment, which is what got me thinking about the Zelda canon. And yes, I know you’re probably shocked that I’ve only just got round to playing Twilight Princessdespite the fact that it came out four years ago – we try to keep our finger on the pulse here at 101 Video Games, even if the patient died some time ago. And anyway, at least I’ve actually played some games, unlike a certain other blog co-author whose name I won’t mention… But I digress. The point is that unlikeWind Waker,  Twilight Princess feels like a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time – perhaps the direct sequel that the internet forums were baying for back in the early 2000s. And the real point I’m trying to make here is that Twilight Princessjust isn’t as good as Wind Waker was.

legend_of_zelda_wind_waker

Don’t get me wrong, Twilight Princess is an absolutely brilliant game, but whereas Wind Waker was a breath of fresh air that drew me in from the very beginning, Twilight Princess feels a little samey and derivative. The designers have obviously done their best to throw in a few new gameplay elements, but many of them fall flat – the sections where you play as a wolf, for example, just aren’t as much fun as playing in your human form, and of course they pale a little in comparison with the wonderful Okami (perhaps an example of a Zelda-imitator beating the original at its own game).

legend_of_zelda_wind_waker

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Nintendo went out on a limb with Wind Waker, and the gamble payed off brilliantly. I won’t bang on about all of the reasons the game is so wonderful (I’m sure you’ve probably played it yourself and can remember all too well), but I have to mention the sailing; there are only two games I can think of where travelling was just as enjoyable, if not more so, than reaching your destination, and this is one of them*. The fact that just moving around the gameworld was fun in itelf speaks volumes for just what an absolute classic this game is, and although we generally try to avoid including two games from the same series on our list, there was just no way for me to choose between this and Ocarina of Time. I might even put it on my wedding invites.

Alien Trilogy

Alien_Trilogy-Psone

Format- Playstation

Genre- FPS

Alien Trilogy

In my local car boot copies of Alien Trilogy pop up all the time, and I always ask myself – is it just because the game was popular in terms of sales, or are people really keen to toss it away like an errant facehugger?

In all honesty I think it’s both. I recall my dad playing the game a fair bit back in the day, and getting annoyed at its difficulty and resorting to cheat codes to progress. Perhaps it was hated by most people, i’m not sure.

But playing it now, it’s not bad. No masterpiece, but it has its charm. It can be difficult sure, but that’s because of two main flaws.

Alien_Trilogy-Psone

First, the controls are tough to use with any grace. The game was made when precise aiming wasn’t really part and parcel of FPS games, and therefore you’re pretty much lumbered with a control scheme that makes you feel like a ham-fisted fool.

Think Doom and it’s ‘all shooting on one plain’ philosophy. You eventually adapt to Alien Trilogy’s control related foibles, but don’t expect to ever truly embrace them.

Alien_Trilogy-Psone

Second, the game is dark. Really dark. See the screenshot above? See how it’s hard to pick out much in terms of concrete objects? Expect to employ that level of squinty eyed-ness for the whole game.

That screenshot is one of the brighter I could find as well. The main advantage of this overpowering bleakness is that it helps to build atmosphere – but damn it’s dark.

Get over these two problems and you have a rather endearing shooter. Perhaps endearing isn’t the right term for a game which sees you working through gloomy corridors, ever aware of a lurking alien threat, but for me it sums up the game quite well.

Alien_Trilogy-Psone

Some elements of the game are surprisingly well implemented for example. The enemy tracker nestled at the bottom right of the screen tells you roughly where aliens are, with small bloops alerting you to their increasing proximity. This can result in some brilliantly tense encounters.

In fact, the game thrives on offering up small memorable moments rather than offering a completely captivating experience.

Your first attack by a face-hugger. The first time you see an alien zig-zagging it’s way to you emerging from the darkness. Small bonus levels which have you gathering as many collectibles as you can within a time limit. All great

Alien_Trilogy-Psone

Of course, you have a fair bit of drudgery, muddy design, dodgy weapons, and repetition to go alongside these spikes of excitement, but for an old PS FPS Alien Trilogy offers a lot more bang for your buck than you’d expect.

It probably sold a lot off the Alien license, but putting that to one side the game isn’t bad by its own merits. Set your standards accordingly and this is a game that deserves to be fondly remembered by more gamers.

So if you see a copy in your local car boot (and going by mine you probably should) and it’s a low enough price, pick it up.

Rise of the Dragon

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Rise of the Dragon

Rise of the Dragon is set in Los Angeles in the year 2053.  It’s a surprisingly mature-themed game, with drug overdoses, criminal behavior, and gruesome deaths all important plot elements.  The player assumes the role of William “Blade” Hunter, a private detective tasked with quietly solving who gave the Mayor’s daughter a fatal dose of a new designer drug, MTZ.  It seems MTZ creates monsters by altering its users’ DNA, and the Mayor is very torqued that his daughter turned into one, but not enough to call for a public investigation.  That’s where Blade comes in.  Along the way, a dire threat to L.A. is uncovered involving MZT and the head of the Chinese mafia, Deng Hwang, “The Dragon.”

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

This game was a visual masterpiece, with its game backgrounds and portraits all hand drawn by Robert Caracol, of Dark Horse Comics fame, and ran in 256-color VGA.  The critics agreed, and Rise of the Dragon received the “Special Award For Artistic Achievement” in 1991 by Computer Gaming World, arguably the most influential PC gaming magazine at the time of the game’s release.

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

Rise of the Dragon plays out in a real-time environment.  Blade has only three game days to solve the mystery, and the clock is ticking.  Every action costs time, especially travelling from one area of the game map to another.  Strategic play is a must, here, as time of day is an important game element, and must be accounted for.  For instance, some locations are accessible only at certain times, such as City Hall.  More importantly, Blade isn’t a super-human, and needs sleep.  He’ll doze off around 1am every evening, no matter where he is.  This leads to the amusing instance of Blade collapsing on the street and falling asleep, which quickly loses its charm when you realize that he was robbed during the night and you’ve randomly lost important inventory items.  In short, it’s best to get Blade home before he turns into a pumpkin.

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

The real-time environment also plays out in character interaction.  What Blade says and does to each character will influence his future interactions with them or their friends (or enemies).  This can have devastating effects on game play as a snide remark that seemed so appropriate at the time can limit Blade’s access to important game areas, and make the game’s ending untenable. Again, it’s best to save before any character interaction to avoid running into a dead end (or use the hint book…but I digress).

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

Rise of the Dragon was a moderate success for Dynamix, neither setting the PC game sales charts on fire, nor being a dismal failure, and was released on several platforms: IBM-PC in 1990, Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga in 1991, and a modified version for Sega CD in 1993.  It sold well enough to warrant a sequel, Heart of China, set in the 1930s, but the sequel parade ended there.  Regardless of how it fared, Rise of the Dragon remains a classic PC game that the pcgamerverse has forgotten, but well-worth the time to replay!