The Mummy

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The Mummy

The Mummy is good. No you, read that correctly.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

Although it had no right to be anything but absolute codswallop, this licensed title is actually a rather lovable NES style puzzle platformer.

It’s nothing spectacular, but it keeps thing relatively straightforward and is all the better for it.

Perhaps it’s no surprise when you consider Konami were involved though.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

Or, more accurately, Konami Compute Entertainment Nagoya – a now dissolved subsidiary of the huge Japanese Developer and Publisher.

The main thing that works about The Mummy is that it never feels that strongly tied to the movie. Instead it feels more linked to a game like Solomon’s Key – in spirit at least. This is a good thing.

It has you tackling self-contained stages, with the main task to collect a set amount of relics as you venture deeper into the tomb.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

The most interesting element of the game is that there are three characters to play as, and you’ll have to utilise each of their unique abilities to reach the end.

Evelyn has the largest jump, Rick is good in combat, and Jonathan handles the explosives.

Most stages just involve pushing crates, jumping over pits and detonating explosives to open up walls, but it’s suitably enjoyable in a firmly old-school way.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

There’s a fair bit of trial and error involved though, and sometimes you can mess up completing a level with one vital mis-step in the latter stages. A rewind feature would have been a welcome feature in such occasions.

Fortunately there’s a password system – finishing the game in one sitting would have been an impossible task.

Still, if you treat the game as an old-fashioned experience you won’t be disappointed – the dinky graphics and solid controls do feel like they’re from another era, but it’s largely an era you’ll be happy to revisit.

Just make sure you don’t pick up the woeful The Mummy Returns by mistake.

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant

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NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant had no right to be good.

The artwork for the game’s cart and box looks goofy beyond belief (just look at Bryant’s expression in the picture below), the name is a bit rubbish, and it was only released in America.

All these factors would seem to point towards only one outcome – the game is a failure and has been rightly forgotten.

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant

But no. Somehow NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant is a polished basketball extravaganza of a game, and is accessible for people who don’t even have an interest in the sport (such as myself).

It starts off as many sportsmen sponsored titles do though, with a pixellated image of the sports celebrity in question and some lively backing music.

All the options you’d expect are here as well – Pick Up (where you can play a one-off match), Season, Play-Offs and Rosters (where you can look at individual’s statistics and even create your own player).

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant

You can also choose from a huge number of teams, all with their own cool names and flashy logos, such as the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings.

It’s the actual basketball itself where the game impresses though.

The small court is viewed from an isometric perspective, which could be a recipe for disaster, but actually works well- mainly because of the colourful but clear visuals.

There is some ghosting on certain players when there’s a lot of action on screen, but generally the game is impressive in the visuals department, especially for a GBC title.

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant - Gameboy - Screenshot - Image
Has Mr. Bryant just seen a ghost or something?

Matters are helped further by the controls being simple to understand, but still offering enough depth to stop things from becoming boring.

While attacking A is pass, B lets you pull off a fake shot, and A plus B lets you throw the ball.

Defending is usually difficult in basketball games, but here it’s actually fairly easy to pick up if you’re patient.

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant

B allows you to swap your player, and A lets you swipe to attempt to regain the ball. Doing this at the correct time is crucial, and thanks to the game’s clear graphics it’s easier to do than you’d expect.

So the game’s well designed and fun to play, but it’s elevated even further by its excellent presentation.

An example are the sound effects that you hear during games, such as when you dispossess someone of the ball, manage to score, or lose the ball yourself.

They all sound like SFX from an Atari 2600 shoot-em-up, and are therefore brilliant. It helps stops the game from feeling too serious too.

NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant

Little cutscenes when you make a slam dunk, start a game, and win a match all add noticeably to the experience as well.

Overall, NBA 3 on 3 Featuring Kobe Bryant feels like it has had some real effort put into it, and it still holds up today.

As complete a portable sports game as you’ll find, this is well worth investigating if you’re into basketball – even if you’ll have to import a copy from the US.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

Keep reading to find out.

Story

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

Gameplay

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

Graphics

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

Is Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Worth it?

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

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus - PSVita

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

9/10

Austin Powers: Oh, Behave

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Austin Powers: Oh, Behave

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

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

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

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

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

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

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

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

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

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

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

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

Sadly, the games on offer are incredibly basic.

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

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

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

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

Austin Powers Oh Behave - gameboy color

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

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

Escape Plan

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Escape Plan

Escape Plan was one of the original launch title for the Vita, and one of the games that had me most interested in the system when I first saw it demoed. The game just oozes style, and I wanted to see how it played on the new device. Is this game something to load up on your Vita or should you just leave it to look cool on other people’s Vita’s?

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Keep reading to find out the whole story for Escape Plan on the Vita.

Story

This is a puzzle game so story is pretty bare bones… You play as two different characters, Lil and Laarg, two strange ink people who are for some reason imprisoned by a guy named Bakugan.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Considering that no one ever speaks in this game (although you do hear Bakugan getting upset once and a while), there’s no personification to speak of, and it’s sort of not the point, like in any puzzle game that isn’t Portal, the Story isn’t the focal point.

Gameplay

This is something that I was really wondering about when I first saw the game play. Escape Plan uses almost exclusively the dual touch screens for controls. This input method have you control your characters, and the things around the environment, like moving objects in the level to help Lil and Laarg survive and make it to the next screen.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The sad part about this, is that it doesn’t really work quite well… I don’t think this has anything to do with the developers not knowing how to use the touch screens, but I think that sadly touch screen controls will always be less comfortable than button controls.

Feats that would be easy to perform with regular buttons become difficult and frustrating using the touch screens, and another problem is if you don’t have massive hands it’s difficult to switch between the back and front touch screens without changing your handle on the Vita, and that lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths in this game. The controls just never got out of the way like they do in other games where you just “are” the character.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Many times I had figured out the puzzle quite quickly, but because of the slow and clunky controls it made me want to smash my console. This game does not play well.

Graphics

Here is something that the game does really well. Escape Plan runs in a retro black and white art style that really does look great, if Tim Burton worked in game design you might see a few more games with this design.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The music in the game is also great, using classical music and old tunes to – with the black and white art style – create a cool atmosphere that certainly does make this game a pleasure to look at. It does show a great attention to detail, but sadly that great style doesn’t prevent the gameplay from getting in the way.

Is Escape Plan worth playing?

This is a game with a lot of style, but really it doesn’t deliver on the gameplay side. They had an interesting idea, but at the end of the day

Escape Plan_PS Vita-Gameplay Screenshot-2

I felt like I was playing something more at home on an ipod than a “hardcore” gaming device. It shows that the limitations of Touch screens still persist even when you have two of them. It was a noble effort, but the idea was ultimately flawed.

5.5/10

A good idea but Escape Plan’s controls are clunky and obtrusive.

The 3rd Birthday

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The 3rd Birthday

The 3rd Birthday is the third game in the Parasite Eve series, I’ve already reviewed Parasite Eve 1, and Parasite Eve 2, so I thought I might as well finish off the trilogy, continue on to the review of this PSP game.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Original release: March 29th 2011 (NA)

PSN Price: 19.99

Developed by: Hexa Drive

Published by: Square Enix

Gameplay

This series has changed a lot through each sequel. The first game was a mostly straight forward RPG with some cool shooting elements, the second game was a Resident Evil style shooter, this third game in the series is different still, a 3rd person shooter with some light RPG elements. The most innovative part of the game is a body jumping mechanic, which does something completely new.

The body jumping works sort of cruelly on the part of other soldiers. You switch between these other soldiers fighting against a mutated enemy called the twisted (I’ll speak more about that in the Story part of this review). So you take over their bodies and if you health has been exhausted you just switch to another soldier while your old “husk” dies. Other than that cruelty it’s actually a pretty interesting mechanic, it was done a few times before but never as well as in the 3rd Birthday.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

The shooting mechanic works well enough, especially if you’re playing the game on the Vita (the dual analogue sticks really help). It is a little repetitive though. Eventually you’ll get a cramp in your trigger finger. But there are a few things that make it a little different. There are some light squad controls where you can order your fellow soldiers to take on a target with you for instance, but you can really become them all with a quick switch, so if they aren’t in the correct spot (like not standing behind cover), you can jump into their bodies and get them back into place.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

There’s a more magical/biological aspect to the gameplay as well, the overdrive mechanics, in this way you can jump into enemies to deal more damage, and if you build up a special meter you can go into “overdrive mode” where you deal a way more damage and your speed is upped for a short period.

The RPG elements are limited to upgrading your weapons and your DNA, you get new DNA pieces by diving into enemies through the overdrive mechanic. Upgrading your weapons are a must, starting out with only 180 bullets in your assault rifle puts your in a tough place, and eventually I ended up with being able to hold 900 at a time. The DNA upgrades were always a bit of a mystery for me though, the game doesn’t do a good job at teaching you what you need to do to take proper advantage. You can take a look at some online guides… but that’s really a detriment to the game.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Gameplay over all is decent enough, but every area is a grind, and other than a few new weapons and some light RPG elements, the gameplay stays the same throughout, making it tedious by the end.

 

Graphics

This game is actually gorgeous, it’s a PSP game but being released late in the cycle means that the game was really well optimized. Everything flows really well on screen even with a lot of enemies (and friendlies) on screen. The particle effects are actually pretty spectacular. The twisted are well designed, and their animations are pretty well done. Square Enix actually did a great job on the production side of all their PSP games, and the 3rd Birthday is no different. The music is done well, and the pre-rendered cutscenes are just as good as any game on a home console.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

The art style in the 3rd Birthday is pretty interesting as well, there are numerous types of “Twisted” that show a decent amount of imagination. Overall the graphics in this game are excellent for a PSP game, and it looks even better on the Vita’s OLED screen.

 

Story

Usually I put the story aspect at the start of the review, but this game deserves a special mention on story.

The game starts with the Twisted attacking New York, and the humans lose. You spend your time going back in time inhabiting people’s bodies to change history. After every mission history is altered, so perhaps you get a new character who survived, they come back to life and wonder why you’re acting so strange. This is interesting enough, even if it takes a bit of time to get used to. Every mission ends with a huge boss battle, some of which are pretty tough, and you actually need to think out a decent strategy before you proceed.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

You continue doing this right up until some of the final missions. At this point you’re looking for answers  as to what happened, why your character had lost her memory, etc. No matter what you think you’re going to get with the final act you’ll be disappointed. Out of almost any game I’ve played in the past few years, this game has the most disappointing and convoluted story. It seems like at one part they just fired the writers and just had the interns finish up the story. It might sound like a bit of a stretch, but you have to believe me on this one.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Also the characters in the game are mostly new (except two) and because they lost the rights to continue the original story (it started out as a Japanese novel), the ones that have stuck around, Aya Brea and Maeda are completely different. Aya changed from being a strong independent female to becoming an over sexualized and constantly victimized amnesiac. Maeda the Japanese scientist who helped out Aya in the other games has now become some sort of pervert who sends Aya creepy messages over radio. It’s just a tough sell to anyone that has played the other games in the series, and anyone who wants their game stories to make any sense. Even the translation of the script is badly done, I mean the voice acting is fine, but even the best actors couldn’t have made this story worthwhile.

 

Is the 3rd Birthday worth it?

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Overall I would say no, the graphics and production values are top notch, the gameplay is decent too but it gets a little repetitive. The deal breaker is the story. It’s too bad that all the great production values were spent on this flawed story. Who knows if they’ll be another game in the series, but considering that they lost the rights to continue the original story, and they made their lead characters into one dimensional tropes, there’s no real reason to hope for another.

James Bond 007

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James Bond 007

If you were to take a guess, you’d probably expect James Bond 007 to be a bland and utterly unremarkable platformer of some kind.

So for it to be a largely unconventional RPG style adventure is a very welcome suprise.

Although it never gets near being of the same quality of its obvious inspiration, Link’s Awakening, James Bond 007 offers up a virtual Bond escapade that feel genuinely different to the norm for the franchise.

James_Bond-gameboy

The game eases you in, with the first stage set in China. You’re tasked with finding some secret plans by fighting your way through a temple.

There’s no actual action until you’ve fixed a bridge and talked to several villagers, which definitely goes against the Bond tradition of an explosive opening.

Things get going once you steal the plans though, with several thugs and a boss (femme fatale Zhong Mae) standing in the way of your escape.

James_Bond-gameboy

This is where the main similarities to Zelda begin. To equip weapons and items you press select, where you can assign actions to the A and B buttons.

When you start you’ll likely equip just a block and a punch, but eventually you can choose from an arsenal of guns, machetes and various Q gadgets.

Action is admittedly stilted throughout the game, due to the limited size of the character sprites that are used, but bigger bosses do usually require a bit more than button mashing to defeat.

James_Bond-gameboy

Puzzles in the game are generally simplistic, and are usually nothing more than dressed up fetch or search quests, but there are occasions where a little thinking is required.

One example is early on in the game, where you have to sneak past a guard in a bar. To do so you need to shoot out the light so he can’t see you. There’s even a quip – “I left him in the dark” – to enjoy once you’ve complete this task.

James_Bond-gameboy

Its somewhat ironic that its the Bond license that maintains your interest though.

The quips, the globe trotting (locations include China, London and Kurdistan) and the fan service are what really keep you playing.

Bond flirting with Moneypenny, things going wrong in Q’s lab (sending a jet-chair through a wall is a highlight) and M’s blunt but caring attitude to 007 are all present and correct.

James_Bond-gameboy

It’s therefore safe to say that James Bond 007 probably wouldn’t be worth playing if it didn’t star England’s most famous fictional spy, but is undoubtedly still worth looking into if you’re fan of the franchise.

A little like Timothy Dalton, the game tries something a little different and isn’t entirely successful – but is still worth investigating if you get the chance.

Robo-Squash

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Robo-Squash

Considering the genre was one of the first ones ever created, there’s been surprisingly few innovations in the world of bat ‘n’ ball games, but Atari, the very creators in question, tried doing just that with this slightly obscure release for their own Lynx ‘handheld’ (snigger). The objective does not, however, include the usual block-hitting tomfoolery that I had initially believed formed the basis of the game. Robo Squash is instead a tarted-up version of the very first bat ‘n’ ball game of them all, and indeed the very first popular video game full stop – Pong! Instead of the simple left-to-right-to-left-again gameplay of the original though, this example asks you to do the same thing but from an into-the-screen perspective! There’s a bit more to it than that though, of course.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Luckily your paddle is transparent…

Set against the backdrop of a rather peculiar political power-struggle of the far-future, you, playing as the champion of the ‘World Party’ must face your opposite number from the rival ‘International Party’ to decide the future of the world – eeeek! At the start of the game you’re presented with a four-by-four group of balls. Selecting one will start a round which consists of an into-the-screen view of the playfield. Your ‘paddle’ occupies the end closest to the screen, your opponent’s the opposite end. About half-way between the two in the middle of the screen is an assortment of bricks and a few other bits and pieces. The winner of the round is the first to score three ‘goals’ past his or her opponent or, less often, a quicker victory can be achieved if you manage to hit the elusive ‘mechanical spider’. There are several things that can make the process of winning a round a bit more complicated though.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Frog attack! Oops, I mean ‘dragon’ attack!

For one thing, the ‘ball’ appears to be a tomato or something similar as it leaves a big red splotch on the screen if you let it get past you! There’s also a seemingly random sprinkling of yellow and blue bricks which act as an obstruction but give you bonus points upon destruction, and there are a few power-ups items nestled among them too. These include a mouth (lets you catch the ball and shoot it from wherever you want), a dragon (lets you shoot fireballs to create a fiery distraction, although it looks more like a frog), a spiral disk (makes your paddle bigger), and an eye (helps you to see where the ball will end up). As well as all this, the ball predictably gets faster and faster the longer it’s in play as well which, along with the various visual impairments (splats, explosions, etc) can make this a pretty tricky game, especially when played against the near-infallible computer opponent.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Oops, a rather unceremonious defeat again!

There are four difficulty levels though, and control of the quite accommodating paddle thing is surprisingly intuitive. Besides, games like Breakout and all its derivatives are the ones for solo-players; Pong and similar games were designed for two players and so is the case here. Aesthetically the game isn’t too troubling – the colourful bricks, power-ups, and the ball along with its splats work well against the grey backdrop, and the scaling is quite good too, as we’ve come to expect from the Lynx. The basic sound effects and lack of in-game music are less impressive but I still had a bit of fun with this one, albeit only for a short while as it’s a bit pointless playing it alone! That makes its appeal limited of course – these days, the chances of finding another Lynx owner are fairly slim never mind one also owns this game. If you should manage it though, Robo Squash would make the encounter a mighty entertaining one.

 RKS Score: 6/10

TxK

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TxK

I am going to go against the grain here and write about a current gen video game. It’s no ordinary game, it has it’s roots in the arcades dating back to 1981. The game I speak of is TxK. What praises can be written here that haven’t already been lavished on this beautiful game by the great Yak, Jeff Minter (Llamasoft).

TxK

 

For starters, this is no ordinary update on Dave Theurer’s original arcade smash hit Tempest, or Jeff’s own Tempest 2000 on the Atari JaguarTxK brings Tempest well and truly into the 21st century. This tube shooter captures your attention and gobbles up a lot of your free time, not just the PS Vitabattery. Words like mesmerising, sublime, frantic, nail-biting and intense come to mind when describing TxK.

TxK

 

For those that have just arrived on this planet, TxK is a tube/web shooter, where your ship is attached to the top edge (rim) of a web playfield, shooting at enemies approaching from the background into the foreground. Your mission is to clear each of the 100 playfields and not allow the enemies to shoot you down or capture your ship. To assist you in getting further into the game, each level provides power-ups that can unleash screen-clearing bombs or provide you with an AI Droid which is handy in clearing enemies that have jumped up on the rim.

TxK

 

Coupled with the gorgeous psychedelic visuals, Jeff Minter has also thrown in some catchy, rave-inspired soundtracks. With an ingenious save system and modes of play, TxK is clean, perfectly designed and bristling with high energy.

Verdict: If there is one game that will convince you to buy a PS Vita, it is TxK. It has ‘killer app’ written all over it.

Super Monkey Ball Jr.

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You know those moments in the Gamecube version where you couldn’t believe you just managed to avoid death? Well, in Jr, those moments increase tenfold. ~Simon Reed

Super Monkey Ball Jr.

It strikes me as a little odd that I haven’t revisited a Monkey Ball game yet, but that’s probaby as the only ones I own that can be classed as retro are the Gamecube original and this, the GBA incarnation.

The irony of this is that they’re technically the same game in terms of the levels offered. So the real fun is eking out the differences.

The most obvious difference is, of course, the graphics.

Super Monkey Ball Jr - Gameboy Advanced

Jr is still looks as good as you could hope though, with the simple maze layouts losing little in their transition to the GBA in terms of clarity.

After all, Monkey Ball has never been a series that’s relied upon its looks – sure, everything apart from the mazes are flat 2D cutouts, but that doesn’t detract much from your enjoyment.

But that’s the one sad thing about the game – when it was released it was held up as a mini technical marvel, much like other 3D titles on the GBA (Star X anyone?), and therefore may have been treated better by reviewers as a result.

And now, with its ‘technical marvel’ status now firmly a thing of the past, the game has to rely purely on its content.

Fortunately, it still holds up rather well in that department. But boy, is it difficult.

Super Monkey Ball Jr - Gameboy Advanced

For one there’s no analogue control, with the d-pad a workable but hardly satisfying alternative.

You know those moments in the Gamecube version where you couldn’t believe you just managed to avoid death? Well, in Jr, those moments increase tenfold.

Every quickly taken corner feels tougher than it should be, and even the added feature to adjust the gradient of the courses with A and B doesn’t make things much easier.

One nice touch is that you can save during the single player stages though – when you’re trying to scrape you way though expert this is a godsend.

So what about the mini-games? Well, you have to unlock them with points from the single player first of all, which is irritating, but aside from that they’re pretty good efforts.

Super Monkey Ball Jr - Gameboy Advanced

First you have Duel, which is basically the main game but with two players. A solid addition.

Then there’s Fight, which basically sees you bouncing around tiny arenas punching each other with oversized boxing gloves. It’s chaotic, but can get dull suprisingly quickly.

Bowling is impressively similar to its home console counterpart, and Golf is as quietly addictive as you’d expect.

But no, there’s no Monkey Target. Perhaps it may have been too tough to pull off on the GBA, but still, it would have been nice if it had been attempted.

Even if it looked atrocious I would have welcomed it with open arms.

So that’s Super Monkey Ball Jr. As long as you don’t expect it to be as good as the home console version you’ll have fun with it.

And it’s miles better than the recent 3DS outing.

The Castlevania Adventure

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So you can guess that a lot of gamers found this game difficult. There was only 3 lives per each half-stage in the four very long levels. The people who managed to get through the game noted that it was a very vanilla adventure once you take away the harsh difficulty. ~Adam R.

The Castlevania Adventure

In 1989, Konami had great success with two Castlevanias on NES and with another soon on the way. But they also produced an original Castlevania set in a different time than Simon Belmont. In-fact, it’s a prequel game set 115 years before the original.

castlevania the adventure

 It was pretty much the same deal as the original game on NES with a few differences. Like the absence of sub-weapons, and hearts actually restored your life which finally makes sense. You could upgrade your whip, but every hit of damage would drop the power so it was kind of a double negative there.
castlevania the adventure
 So you can guess that a lot of gamers found this game difficult. There was only 3 lives per each half-stage in the four very long levels. The people who managed to get through the game noted that it was a very vanilla adventure once you take away the harsh difficulty.
castlevania the adventure
I never played the original, but I did play the “remake” Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth for WiiWare. Though looking at comparison screenshots, I think the only thing they remade was the story. Because it wasn’t hard at all, and I enjoyed it.

Lucky Luke

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Admittedly, Luke isn’t the most intimidating of cowboys though. Firefights are played for laughs for the most part, an example of this being when enemies’s pants fall down when they’re hit with one bullet.~Simon Reed

Lucky Luke

While pondering which game to revisit today I was leant a hand by my mother, of all people.

lucky luke gameboy color

Rambling on about the rather dull GBC card title Cool Hand (which will inevitably get a revisit sooner rather than later), she unveiled her annoying habit of calling it ‘Cool Hand Luke.’

lucky luke gameboy color

This immediately made me think of the colourful platformer/shooter Lucky Luke on the GBC. I’ll be honest though – the game doesn’t rank highly on my ‘memorable games’ list.

lucky luke gameboy color

Hence only remembering it after having my memory jogged by my Solitaire loving parent.

lucky luke gameboy color

This is probably down to the fact that it’s yet another 2D platformer by developer Infogrames on the GBC however.

lucky luke gameboy color

Although many of their platformers were solid enough, and there were notable variations between each of them, you can tell which platformers are by Infogrames straight off the bat.

lucky luke gameboy color

The almost pastel shaded colour schemes, the heart based life meter, one off chase stages, bloodless combat (in that it lacks heft, not blood) – all signs Infogrames are involved.

lucky luke gameboy color

Lucky Luke isn’t a bad game though. In fact, it’s a well presented little title.

lucky luke gameboy color

Based on a Franco-Belgium comic character, Lucky Luke is set in the Wild West, and therefore has towns to fight through, gunfights to survive and horses to ride off into the sunset.

lucky luke gameboy color

The game mainly works becuase of its setting. Not many titles, especially not back in 1999 when Lucky Luke was released, centered around the Wild West, so to have a cowboy as a star was interesting in itself.

lucky luke gameboy color

Admittedly, Luke isn’t the most intimidating of cowboys though. Firefights are played for laughs for the most part, an example of this being when enemies’s pants fall down when they’re hit with one bullet.

lucky luke gameboy color

Aside from the gunplay, the platforming levels usually involve pushing objects around to reach higher areas or getting tools to allow you to do so. One example is when you have to make a makeshift see-saw to catapault your way onto a roof.

lucky luke gameboy color

It’s all done in the most simplistic way possible to appeal to the younger crowd, but it’s decent stuff all the same.

Set piece levels round off the package, with the best one I played involving riding on a stagecoach and surviving the attacks of vultures and angry native Americans. The music in this section was ace to boot.

lucky luke gameboy color

So overall, Lucky Luke is hardly a spectacular game – especially by today’s standards – but is worth looking into if you have a thing for 2D platformers on the GBC.

Mega Man V (Gameboy)

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Mega Man V for Game Boy is awesome on many fronts. It’s the only all-new, completely original game in the Game Boy series. ~Jesse Moak

Mega Man V

Back again, with  another installment of the Forgotten Gems series, looking at more obscure (but awesome) classic video games from yesteryear! Today, in honor of classic Mega Man being announced as a playable fighter in the new upcoming Smash Bros. game, I decided it was a good time to look back at one of my favorite games, in fact my second favorite, and quite frankly, the second BEST Mega Man game ever made, Mega Man V for Game Boy!

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Not to be confused with Mega Man 5 for NES, this particular gem was the fifth and last of the Game Boy series of Mega Man games, known in Japan as “Rockman World”. And also, while Mega Man 5 on NES was a decent, solid game, Mega Man V on GB is without question a far superior creation. The Mega Man games on the Nintendo Game Boy had, up until now, basically been rehashes of the NES games, using bosses and elements taken directly from those, with only a few things (like the Mega Man Killer robots) actually new.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

For example, the first game, “Mega Man: Dr. Wiley’s Revenge”, features four of the six robot masters from the original Mega Man on NES, then after defeating them, in Wily’s Castle, you must fight four of the robot masters from Mega Man 2. In Mega Man II (the GB series used Roman numerals), you fought the other four robot masters from MM2 on NES, and then four from Mega Man 3. This continued on through Mega Man III and IV on Game Boy, as a typical formula. But then, lo and behold, the wonderful oddity that is Mega Man V came about, a game possessed of a totally, 100% brand new story, bosses, level elements, etc. And not only was it all new, but it was/is also AWESOME. Allow me to elucidate.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Mega Man V actually released after the also-fairly-good Mega Man 6 on NES, in September 1994. Along with being it’s own, all-new game, it also was the only Mega Man game to make use of the Super Gameboy peripheral, which allowed Super Nintendo owners to play Game Boy games on their home console, and even add limited color palettes to them. Some later Game Boy titles, such as Mega Man V, came programmed with some SGB compatibility, so as you can see above, they had their own pre-set palettes, as well as cool little graphic borders at the edge of the screen. Beyond that nifty addition, the game itself was one hell of a package.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

I didn’t personally get a Game Boy until Christmas 1994, but when I did, I was surprised by a fairly random-yet-awesome assortment of games. Among them, were Kirby’s Pinball Land, the awesome 100 level Game Boy remake of Donkey Kong, the first Wario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (still to this day my favorite classic Zelda game), Tetris, and Mega Man V. I’m not 100% sure all these years later that I got ALL those games on Christmas with the GB, or if I got a couple of them later which is totally possible. But there were several, and Mega Man V was among them. Looking back, Mega Man V has to be, hands down, my second favorite Mega Man game ever made, behind only the unbeatable classic Mega Man 2 on NES. Mega Man Vreally has everything, from the Super GB functionality, to a cool original story, to the fact that it is one rare case in the series where NONE of the weapons you gain from beating the robot masters seem useless. They all are at least somewhat useful, a few of them being arguably the best weapons in the series.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

The coolest, and most memorable, out of all of these, is Saturn’s weapon, the “Black Hole”, which allows you to create a small black hole in the air which sucks up all items and enemies on screen, and drops any items neat-as-you-please right into your lap. Easily the coolest Mega Man weapon ever conceived. But even so, some of the other weapons you get are pretty sweet too. Such as the “Salt Water” attack, where you fire a ball of water, which then splits on impact into three smaller balls that bounce all around the room. Or the “Grab Buster”, which fires a shot that leeches energy from enemies, refilling two units of your health meter.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Mega Man V is so stuffed full of awesome, that even the standard Mega Buster is pretty much the coolest it’s ever been, before or since. In every other Mega Man game (from 4 on NES onward) you could charge the Mega Buster to build up and release one big, powerful blast. Well in Mega Man V for Game Boy, Dr. Light, Mega Man’s creator, upgrades the Mega Buster weapon to create the Mega Arm, which instead of charging and firing a huge shot, you fire a huge Mega Man fist at enemies. And if you collect enough bolts (the in-game currency), you can upgrade this even further, to make it charge faster, to grab items from clear across screen, and to lock on to regular enemies and hit them over and over till they explode.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

If THAT isn’t the single coolest regular weapon in just about any video game ever, I don’t know what is. Rush, Mega Man’s robotic dog pal (introduced in Mega Man 3 on NES), even gets into the act, transforming into “Rush Space” for the space journey form Earth to (SPOILERS) Dr. Wiley’s secret space station. In this level you ride in Rush like a spaceship, and the level plays out like a classic side scrolling shoot’em up game, similar to R-Type or Gradius.

Mega Man V

The actual plot of the game is pretty unique as well. The Earth has been attacked by mysterious space robots called “Stardroids”, and in Mega Man’s first encounter with their leader, Terra, his Mega Buster has no effect on their super-hard space metal. Thus Dr. Light upgrades it to the more powerful Mega Arm, and once again he must rush off to save the world. The robot masters themselves are singularly unique in the Mega Man universe as well, because unlike the classic Mega Man series, where every boss is named “____ Man”, or the X series where almost all bosses are named/based off of some kind of animal, in MMV on Game Boy, the “Stardroids” are named after the 9 planets of our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Terra (Earth), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto (which is STILL a planet, fuck the haters). As it later turns out, it was Dr. Wiley who discovered these mysterious space robots in some kind of ancient ruins, and reactivated and reprogrammed them to, what else, take over the world.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

After defeating them, surviving the hard-as-nails space shooter level including the boss fight with the Skull on the front of Wily’s space station, and then making it through the station, fighting the “Mega Man Killer” robots one last time, and once again stomping Wily himself, (SPOILERS), you even have to fight one last super-top-secret space robot that Wily also discovered, a fairly all-powerful guy called “Sunstar”. He’s one hell of a final boss, let me tell you.

Mega Man V

I can’t possibly talk about Mega Man V, however, without telling you about possibly the coolest and most unique asset this game has. Dr. Light also creates a new robot pal to assist Mega Man in his battles. And unlike Flip-Top Eddie, or the robo-bird Beat, etc., who are-yet-aren’t useful, THIS little guy is fucking bad ass. It’s a little green robo-cat named “Tango”, and while he only has one function, it’s just about the most awesome function you could hope for. When you summon him, he teleports on-screen, lets out a “meow”, and then transforms into what basically looks like a giant buzz-saw, bouncing all over the screen and destroying everything in sight. And like Rush, you can refill his energy, so that you can use him throughout the game.

Mega Man V

The developers originally added Tango because they wanted a new robot pal that wasn’t in the NES games. But sadly, as cool as he is, he more or less got forgotten in the future. He can be bought as an item in the SNES/Game Boy Advance game Mega Man & Bass, and makes a cameo playing in the item shop in the downloadable game Mega Man 10. But outside of that, he never has the prominent role he had in Mega Man V. And to me, that sucks, because he’s an awesome, and incredibly useful character.

Mega Man V

So, in summary, Mega Man V for Game Boy is awesome on many fronts. It’s the only all-new, completely original game in the Game Boy series. It’s the only game in the entire Mega Man franchise, to my knowledge, that has totally unique names for the bosses. It’s the only game that features the super-useful Mega Arm weapon. It’s the only Mega Man game I can honestly thing of, where MOST of the robot master weapons you gain are actually useful. It’s got the cool Rush Space shooter level. It’s got a great soundtrack. It’s fun, even though it’s tough as nails to beat. It’s got fuckin’ TANGO the robo-cat! Basically, the game just has everything you could want in a Mega Man game, or an action/platformer game in general. It truly stands alone, and I would have to say, in my opinion at least, is the second coolest Mega Man game ever created.

Mega Man V

So if you’ve never tried it yet, give it a whirl! Though sadly, as of now, Capcom has yet to release this game for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Hopefully they eventually will, sooner rather than later, because it is one forgotten gem that ABSOLUTELY deserves to be played and recognized by a wider audience. Cheers!

[Check out more from Jesse on Retro Revelations]

FIFA Soccer 96 (Game Boy)

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FIFA Soccer 96 is a must have for your portable collection. It would be an immense joy for me to have this game complete in a box and maybe someday I will have it but for now I’ll have to be happy just playing it on an emulator. ~Luis Zena

FIFA Soccer 96 (Game Boy)

Fifa 96 - soccer - gameboy

Back in the era of the classic Gameboy we had our fair share of horrible sport titles. It was a very difficult task to make a sport game playable on such a small screen. With the usual yearly titles though, someone had to eventually get it right. FIFA 96 came out to be a game of greatness that no other title was able to live up to in the portable world. The game is quite fascinating as it contains one of the best responsive controls ever for a portable game of its time. You have your usual modes of play such as friendly, world cup, among others. You can pick over 100 nations so I’m sure your favorite will be there.

Gameplay

Fifa 96 - soccer - gameboy

The gameplay as I have mentioned is amazing. With such little room for detail, the players look how they are supposed to look. The game is as difficult as you can get according to how difficult you want to play, I hope that made sense. In other words, the game is as tough as you want it to be. The best feeling in the world is when you shoot from the outside and beat a flying goal keeper. The crowd screams and you as well for scoring such an amazing goal. Just so you know, that’s the easiest way to score a goal although you have to practice is very well.

Sound

The sound is not amazing at all. You will hear the main song while you are picking teams but when it comes to playing the match, everything will be silent except the ball. If you do want to hear something though, just foul an opponent real hard and you’ll hear the crowd!

Graphics

Fifa 96 - soccer - gameboy

Graphics-wise the game is not bad at all. You see what you are supposed to see and with such limit on the portable handheld, you only have so much to work with. The realism of playing a soccer match is there and will be joyful as you will be able to do things you can usually due in the console soccer games. It’s a great way to play soccer on the go, classic soccer!

Final Thoughts

Having put that aside, this is a must have for your portable collection. It would be an immense joy for me to have this game complete in a box and maybe someday I will have it but for now I’ll have to be happy just playing it on an emulator. Enjoy the most beautiful sport in the world, portable style!

[Retro Gaming Live]

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

I am an unabashed fan of Final Fantasy. I haven’t played all of them – but I’ve played and beaten quite a few of them over the years – starting with Final Fantasy on the old NES. I was one of the many who had a first day of release copy of Final Fantasy VII and like many thought it was the best game I had ever played at the time. Years later, it’s story and game mechanics are among my most fond gaming memories. So when I heard that a prequel was coming out, I was really excited. That excitement was a bit tempered however when I saw my traditional RPG turn-based systems turned into a more live action game during trailers. I’m happy to say those particular fears proved to be unfounded.

Graphics: 9

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

The in-game engine is good, you don’t suffer any breakup and the full motion video scenes that the Final Fantasy series have become well-known for hold up beautifully on the small screen. Don’t let the fact that this is a PSP game fool you – it holds up very nicely in both artistic direction and execution.

Sound and Music: 8.5

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

The voice acting was good, though many of the sounds were a bit repetitive after awhile. Final Fantasy games are known for their quality music and this one while not among the best from the series, is still pretty good. I found the combat theme to be surprisingly catchy.

Gameplay: 7

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

Sometimes deaths feel cheap. The actual action-oriented combat works well; certainly better than I expected. My biggest complaint from this department though was the camera. Sometimes I just could not get it into a good position, especially in narrow spaces. Also, the combat was a bit predictable in terms of how it was triggered. In earlier games, most combat occurred at random while walking. In later Final Fantasy games you are on an active field with enemies you can engage or try to avoid. Here? It’s things like intersecting hallways that trigger the usually-random group of monsters you fight. You find yourself hugging the walls awkwardly, battling the camera angles if you’re in an area where you don’t want to fight. It’s not all bad though. The action comes in perfectly sized smaller chunks that fit with the handheld platform. I had played this game for nearly a year on and off. I’d just pick it up some days when I had fifteen minutes to kill and do a few missions. The PSP is not one of my primary systems, so its games tend to get neglected, but this one’s content felt just right for on-the-go gaming.

Intangibles: 9.5

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

There is a ton to do. The main storyline itself is not terribly long, but there are a bunch of side options to chew up your time. There’s missions that unlock over time or when certain criteria are met. There’s a fusion system in place that lets you upgrade items and materia (think of them as magic, skills and stat boosts). You get emails throughout the game from characters as well. There’s a handful of mini-games tucked in there as well throughout the storyline. To top it all off? There’s a New Game+ mode as well – always a favorite discovery of mine.

Overall: 8.5

To date this was probably my favorite PSP game. The characters and world were sentimental favorites of mine. The overall production values were high. All of this was expected. The unexpected? That the action-based combat would work so well. That using one character throughout the game instead of a party would feel so involving. That you don’t collect experience and level up in traditional fashion, but that levels, boosts and special attacks are all managed through a perpetually running slot-machine like system that augments the action itself. Last but not least? The ending is fantastic. After I beat the game, I was just really taken with the ending and did some searching on the topic online. I was not alone in my sentiments there. A lot of people out there list it as their favorite ending ever. Mine? Maybe not, but probably top 10 to date, and getting there was a blast.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Format- GBC

Genre- 2D Platformer

With this and Sylvester & Tweety: Breakfast On The Run (GBC), as well as Tweety & The Magic Gems (GBA), the little yellow bird has a portable trilogy of sorts. Shame that all three games are of the bland and unmemorable variety.

This is probably the most traditional of all three though, or so it would seem at first. Solely focused on 2D platforming, you explore many stereotypical (yet nice looking), levels as Tweety, the annoying bird.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Instead of being a typical A to B adventure though, you have to collect paw prints from eight cats in each level.

To do this you can’t just walk up to them and get the prints though, oh no – you have to take them down with weapons you pick up throughout the stages. There’s nothing too violent in terms of you arsenal though – just plunger torpedos, slippery jam (?) and the like.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Levels are therefore structured a little more expansively than in most platformers, and you have to check out both the higher and lower reaches of every level to find all the pesky felines.

Controls are solid enough, with jumping allocated to A and using weapons (which you can cycle through with select) set to the B button.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

As you’re a bird however, your jump is a little higher than most, and you can stay in mid-air by mashing the button frantically.

The open level structure of the game is both a blessing and a curse though.

On the plus side, it’s slightly different to the swathes of identikit platformers on the GBC, and could be called a refreshing change of pace to the norm…

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

…if it wasn’t so clunky and dull. Unfortunately, levels settle into a very repetitive rut very quickly, despite the developers best efforts to conjure up a variety of different looking landscapes.

The lack of any punishment for dying also doesn’t help matters. Taking three hits simply sends you back to the last checkpoint you touched, and you don’t lose any of the paw prints at all.

Sure, this cuts down on frustration, but it also blunts any significant risk element the game may have had.

What you’re left with is a rather nice looking 2D collectathon, but nothing that’ll have you surging with unadulterated adrenaline.

Castlevania II: Dracula Densetsu II

Hi everyone!  Time for a new post, I’ve gonna highlight a really cool game I got recently called Castlevania II: Dracula Densetsu II aka Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge if you get the North American version.

Castlevania II - Dracula Densetsu II

I have the Japanese version of this game so story wise I’m not totally sure what’s going on but based on what I looked up the game takes place 15 years after the first Castlevania game boy game.  Dracula has returned and he has kidnapped Chris Belmont’s son named Soleiyu and turned him into a demon.  Dracula uses Soleiyu’s powers to retake human form so he can rebuild his castle.  So once again Christopher must face Dracula to save his son.

Castlevania II - Dracula Densetsu II

When you first start the game there are four initial levels.  Each level has a unique theme like earth, crystal, plant and air and takes place in a separate castle.  The cool thing is you can complete them in any order you like.  So if you get stuck on one of the large trap rooms you can try out another one.

Castlevania II - Dracula Densetsu II

If you play the Japanese version you will notice that the axe will be replaced with a cross, instead of making the arcing motion the cross moves in a horizontal motion almost like a boomerang when it comes back to you.  This can be very useful as it can go through walls to kill enemies.

Castlevania II - Dracula Densetsu II

My only complaint is I wish Christopher would move a little faster, he seems to be going pretty slow at times especially when you are trying to make a bigger jump or avoid an enemy. Other than that it’s a really fun game!  It looks really good for a game boy game and the music has been done very well.  I haven’t completed the game yet, but if I discover anything else I will let you know.

So make sure if you get a chance to pick up this game definitely do so!  Don’t forget that the Japanese version is still playable on North American gameboys as they are region free.  I’m so glad Heidi from Retro Gaming Blog told me about this game, now I just have to get the other 2 game boy ones in the series

Dark Arena

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

Format- Gameboy Advanced

Genre- First Person Shooter

I’ve tried to revisit the 12 FPS games for the GBA in the order they were released, but have sadly messed it up a bit. Doom came after Ecks Vs Sever – a fact that i’m ashamed I overlooked.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

But i’m putting that right, and the next game on my revisit radar is Dark Arena. Perhaps the most forgotten of the whole flock of GBA FPS – apart from perhaps the too late for the party Ice Nine – this is was actually the first FPS announced for the handheld.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

It’s also the only GBA FPS that isn’t a port or continuation of an existing shooter series, or without any conceivable tie to a movie (Ice Nine was based on the film The Recruit but the licensing fell through).

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

This fact probably didn’t help Dark Arena reach a wider audience, but it’s hard to feel too sorry for it, due to the fact it’s a rather turgid effort all round.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

Perhaps it was rushed to a release in an attempt to be the first GBA FPS, in which case it failed in a truly dismal fashion due to the fact three games beat it to the punch, but ia lack of attention to detail does show through in the final product.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

It’s opening is very effective though, in an adorably budget stricken kind of way. Green text is type out on a black screen, with a sinister soundtrack burbling away in the background.

It recites the plot of Doom pretty much ad verbatim – lone marine stranded in a infested space station, blah blah blah, escaping is a near impossible task, etcetera etcetera – only with a slightly more clunky syntax.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

Only a rubbish looking pic of a red beast attacking a bald space marine sullies the dark-edged tone.

When you enter the first stage though, all the effort gone into this set-up evaporates very quickly indeed.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

This is not a scary game. Not by a long shot. There’s no music here, just the sounds of enemies and gunfire. On a system with more graphical oomph this could have worked – but here it mutes, quite literally, any potential atmosphere.

Controls are simple and work well however. Shooting enemies higher than your current level can be fired at by simply aiming in their vague direction, Doom style.

Dark Arena - Gameboy Advanced

Guns are plentiful, but most are ineffectual in terms of their power. You can be tooled up with a rocket launcher, sniper or laser gun, but there’s no real satisfying clunk-click- bam feel to the game – like, say, Doom (sorry for constantly making the comparison).

This is something most of the FPS’ on GBA suffered with actually, but was not a problem in Doom or Duken Nukem Advance – perhaps as much to the way your enemies die more than anything else.

In Dark Arena they simply slump straight to the ground once you’ve pumped enough bullets into them, like sad cardboard cut-outs.

There’s no real sense that you’ve conquered anything evil at all, and this doesn’t help to stimulate you to push on through the game’s fifteen levels.

Most of the alien beasties don’t even carry any tangible threat either. Most can be defeated without you you needing to exert any caution – just walk near them and fire away.

Only the robot mechs and larger aliens near the end of the game can do much damage to you in a straight up firefight. And the final boss of course, is a challenge, as you’d expect.

Dark Arena is miles ahead of, say, BackTrack – it’s got clearer graphics and a proper single player for one – but it does very little to set itself apart from the GBA FPS pack.

Although when I was younger I think I got scared a little for abut 30 seconds in one of Dark Arena’s stages, it was probably because I was at the end of the stage and had to beat several tough enemies – and had to go back to the start if I died, something I was very keen not to do.

Generally, attempting to mimic Doom is unwise at the best of times – but especially when Doom has already been released for the system you’re coming out on.

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2

So why did I picked the second one? It’s only because it’s the only one I can play at the moment. The rest of them are in storage. The game is quite fun and odd at times. The point of it is simple, Bugs Bunny’s girlfriend has been kidnapped and it’s being held captive at this castle. It’s only up to Bugs to save her if he wants to get laid so the quest starts! The object of the game is very simple, I mean any idiot can figure it out that you have to collect keys in order to open the master door. You can also use items in order to beat your enemies down although I suggest you know how to use them efficiently so that you won’t run into a one on one without any items to defend you. You will encounter other interesting twists in this game as I’ll go over them as we move along.

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2
The gameplay is quite demanding at times because you have to figure things out fast if you don’t want to be killed by your enemies which for some reason used to be your buddies in the cartoon at least! You will encounter the Rooster, big headed bird, Sylvester, among others. There are also some freakshows from other series or probably made up. Overall, you have to be careful with everyone! They mean harm! Furthermore, the game offers a variety of ways to kill them. You can either blow them up with a terrorist bomb or shoot them with a bow and arrow through the heart, it’ll depend on the level which weapons are available. You can also pick up a hammer to break bricks that get in your way. Amazingly you can’t use this item as a weapon to break your enemies’ head open….go figure! The game also has this mega lighting bolt that destroys everything on screen. That’s Bugs’ most powerful weapon!

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2
The graphics of the game are quite good. Things look how they are supposed to look and you won’t run into objects you think are part of the background. Even people with vision problems like myself were able to detect the scenery quite successfully. Even the enemies look how they are supposed to look and that’s a very well done task by the developers. I do have to mention that the big headed bird Tweety was made bigger than its size but that’s understandable as you are playing a portable game and won’t recognize him if you see him…Speaking of which…Tweety is a him? I found that out not too long ago and I’m in shock! SHOCK!! The music is repetitive but what can you expect for a puzzle game. You have a couple of tunes and that’s it! I don’t see people saying the same for Tetris but then again Tetris music kicks ass. If you do have a problem with the music then just mute it and play your wonderful emo music for all I care.

Overall, you have a very solid game that can bring you hours and hours of fun. With a nice password system that won’t make you write down a billion phrases and then get it wrong, you can’t go wrong with this one. Be sure to check out the other games in the series and try to look for them online as they are quite affordable. If everything else fails, just download the rom! Until next week!

Resident Evil Gaiden

Resident Evil -Gaiden
While Capcom canned the Gameboy Color remake of the the original game, that didn’t stop them from developing on the system completely. They made a “kiddie” version of Resident Evil for the GBC near the end of it’s lifespan.
Resident Evil -Gaiden
The game starred Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 2, and Barry Burton who was a side character in RE1 and RE3.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The game was pretty true to the series in a couple of ways. The trademark ammo was there.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So was your healing items.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

And of course your arsenal.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The plot of the game had you stuck on a cruise ship full of zombies. Someone has got to fire that travel agent who books things like that. What’s next? Snakes on an airline flight?

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So the rest of the game was kinda like Metal Gear on NES.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

Except battles went first person once you encountered a zombie. Except crow-bar equipped zombies with ketchup on them doesn’t scare me much.

Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- 2D platforming adventure

I recall the two Tomb Raider games on GBC getting a good reception by most game critics – I think the original even got 100% from one magazine, incredulously.

I never picked one up though, until now. And I can kind of see the appeal, even if age has tarnished its best feature.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

This is the second entry in the GBC Tomb Raider series, and it starts off in a fairly low budget fashion.

The opening cutscenes are all blurry still images, with some dodgy music in the background. After a few though, it’s straight into the game.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

You play as Lara Croft (i’m sure you knew that) and have been attacked in a friend’s museum and seen a rare artefact (I think it was a sword – the title would suggest so anyway), and have to get it back.

Irritatingly, you start off with no weapons, meaning you can be blocked off by bad guys who just stand in your way ominously, and hit you if you get too close. Those guys are real lazy – you can be jumping around, collecting keys, and they just don’t even move.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

So to start with, you’re merely climbing around, trying to find a way through the museum.

Instantly, you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the animation of Lara. For a GBC game the running, climbing and jumping is very fluid and quite impressive.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

It’s a game that has a similar style to Flashback and Prince of Persia though, in that your control of your character is very rigid. You can only move in set distances, and have to line up vertical jumps perfectly in order to get anywhere.

I personally find this style of game restrictive and not much fun, but I suppose it works for more considered platformers such as this.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Eventually, after jumping and climbing your way through a few rooms you’ll get a gun. It won’t surprise you to find that using it is incredibly clunky, and firefights usually involve both sides taking unhealthy chunks of damage.

Fortunately health packs are everywhere, even though you do have to lean down to pick them up for some reason. You don’t even use them when you pick them up either – they’re stored on an inventory screen – so why you have to use a button to pick them up is rather odd.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Save points, which are indicated by little diamonds, are also fairly frequent, meaning the game doesn’t get too frustrating.

Generally then, Curse of the Sword is a solid game, but hardly an incredible one. Many of its deficiencies are masked by the rather top notch graphics, but with age that advantage has faded. Worth a low priced punt, but not much else.

Iridion 2

Iridion_II

So the music in this game is just like any of the great shoot ’em up titles there. You feel an atmospheric rhythm as you fly through the level shooting your enemies down. You can’t ask for any better music for a game. It fits with the action packed levels and does justice to your ears. Well done!
Iridion_II
  The graphics are well done and not lazily developed! You have some great scenes especially during level gameplay. It’s amazing that developers were able to fit the size of these levels in such a tiny screen. Portable development is always challenged by it so it’s great to be able to see a game taking a savvy turn to the way it looks. With great SNES-style graphics, you can bet this game is worth a look.
Iridion_II
The gameplay is very enjoyable nonetheless. You are able to pick up power ups and shoot down your enemies. You can also pick up other items along the way and recover your energy. You’ll have a lot of fun dodging the rain of bullets coming your way and just like any games of this genre, you have to keep your button on the trigger in order to defeat the massive bosses you come across.
Iridion_II
This is the perfect game to have in your collection that will make you come back to it especially for a shoot ’em up fan. If you are one of those perfectionist that doesn’t want to be damaged a single time in the entire run, then you will surely come back to this one. It’s no Ikaruga, but it’s a great alternative especially when you are short in space.
Iridion_II
The game is definitely worth a purchase. This is one of those obscure games that everyone turn their heads away from because it wasn’t released by Nintendo. I gotta say, give these third party developers a chance and they’ll gladly invite you to play their most amazing titles. Be sure to not miss this one, highly recommended!

One Piece: Treasure Wars 2

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

Format- Wonderswan Colour

Genre- Board game

Oh man, oh man, oh man. I have no idea what they’re saying. I have no idea what they’re doing. I have not got a clue what that’s supposed to represent – and that thing? Not even an inkling of an idea.

So goes an average session with One Piece: Treasure Wars 2 (full subtitle: Buggyland e Youkoso), when you don’t speak Japanese.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

You might think this means that I can’t really say much about the game from an accurate critical viewpoint. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make generalised, largely unhelpful comments. So here we go…

As soon as you start, the game has clearly been given some love in the presentation department. A cool musical beat thumps away in the background, and although it may be repetitive, it helps keep me slightly entertained.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

And that’s just as well too, seeing as the opening cutscenes are lengthy and jam packed with incomprehensible dialogue.

Not even the dinky character model animations, which are detailed and quite expressive, can help me understand what exactly is going on.

The menu options, once you get there, are thankfully largely in English though, and you can make your way to the main game mode with little fuss.

You choose a character from the many available (I chose a smug looking guy in a suit), and begin the game proper.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

It’s kind of disappointing then, that this seems to be little more than a boardgame style effort.

You wait for the CPU characters to roll the dice and move around the board (you can’t seem to skip this either), and then when it’s your go you do the same.

The main aim seems to be to collect items and the like, and then use them against the other characters on the board. You get a mini cutscene every time you use an item, which play out a little like the battle scenes in Advance Wars.

For some reason the CPU opponents seemed to have a grudge against me specifically, and handed me my ass on a plate. I simply started the board from the start once I had been bashed enough, so i’m not quite clear on how you win the game.

Despite the clear language barrier, I still don’t think the game is particularly exciting. It’s slow paced, and there’s little action to get the gamer with less cerebral tastes even slightly excited.

What did get me excited though, was that the cartridge itself has little red and green lights that flash while your playing. I couldn’t believe this at first, and I don’t think any other Wonderswan games in my collection do this. Why this cart does this, I do not know. It’s very cool though.

Perhaps the fact that this is my most memorable part of the game says it all. Avoid, unless you’re a One Piece fan – who also happens to speak/read Japanese.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX

Zelda DX brings you an adventure like no other. Lets take a look!
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
I decided to pick the DX version mainly because of the added features such as an extra dungeon, photographs to print with your Gameboy printer and of course, color. All of these make an already amazing game even greater! As usual, lets take a look at the game in the different categories.
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
If there is something more memorable about the Zelda games is the music and this one is no different. The music of this game is splendid! I fell in love with every soundtrack especially the mountain track. I should have that one as a ring tone! Anyways, you will find a lot of memorable tunes and only wonder how much amazing the music would sound if this game were ever to get a remake on lets say the 3DS? Totally fantastic!
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

The game looks and used the best the gameboy had to offer. Not only that, but the game looked more beautiful in color. You can’t get anything better than Zelda DX graphically wise. If you think about it, the graphics were really advanced for the year it was released. This little handheld was sure able to do a lot more than anyone ever though. No wonder it was never taken down by its competition.

the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

The gameplay is sensational. You have the A and B buttons to equip whichever combinations of items you feel more comfortable with. Of course, you have to know when to use certain items because you can only get so far with a shield and sword. With an array of weapons, challenging dungeons, and comical situations this Zelda game is as enjoyable as the day it was released. The freedom Link has in this game is nothing but great. You’ll feel as if you can do almost anything! Exploring and discover is also a huge plus in Zelda games! Be sure to find all the heart pieces and don’t forget to knock against certain trees. There is a lot to love indeed.

the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
This game is one that you can play over and over and never get bored that’s for sure. I have probably played through this game over ten times and still find it amazingly fun. Why? Because it’s an enjoyable experience that not once makes you want to put it away. Be sure to try to beat the entire game in one sitting for the special ending ^_^
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

So to conclude, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to mention this twice but I’ll say it again. This game is an absolute masterpiece. You have to play through it at least once in your lifetime. If you are new to Zelda, then this is a great way to step back into Link’s past. You will also not have to spend a fortune on the game as you’ll find it for really cheap (I got mine for 2 dollars). So that’s about it, glad to be bringing this series back to life! Lets keep order and until next week!

Hydra

Atari-lynx_Hydra

Format- Atari Lynx

Genre- Racing style shooter thing

Another Lynx game that looks better than it plays. This is getting tiresome. I didn’t have high hopes for Hydra admittedly, but still.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

The game doesn’t start well. The cartridge has a very boring label, and the main menu screen has a ditty in the background that seems to be trying to make your head explode by reaching the highest pitch possible. Listen to it and you’ll know what I mean.

Getting into the actual game, you have three maps to choose from – easy, medium and hard. I choose easy, and i’m greeted by a screen of a boat on a river.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

The boat is fuelled, i’m ready to go, I press A to accelerate, and…nothing. B? Nothing. Up? Nothing. Hmmm.

Finally, I choose down and the boat judders into life. Down. You press down on the d-pad to accelerate. Up is slow down. Genius.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

I can kind of get what the developer was trying to do – up to tip the boat back to slow down – but in reality it doesn’t really work, especially with a d-pad as rubbishy as the one the Lynx possesses. It’s very difficult to accelerate and have a decent level of control at the same time.

The driving bit of the game itself is simple though, or so it seems. You clip along the river at a decent pace, shooting bad guys and collecting weird sparkly orbs. Suddenly, you find yourself running out of gas. Where are the gas pick ups?

Atari-lynx_Hydra

There are some items floating above the river, but I had no idea how to get them. Inevitably, it’s soon game over. You can take hits from enemies and restart where you died, but if you get an empty fuel tank, it’s all over for you.

So I end up looking through the instruction manual – something I loathe to do – and find out jump is the option 2 button. The one at the bottom right of the system.

Although you can just about reach it, it makes an awkward control system even more of a fudge. And it’s not a slab of sweet fudge either, but a bitter, out of date rotting mess of fudge. In such an action orientated title such as this, these muddled controls are near unforgivable.

So eventually I get a grasp of the controls (as well as I can), and the game improves a little. It does look very nice indeed, with 3D caverns and reasonably detailed enemies.

But in the end, it’s just all just works to cover up for the over complicated controls. If only the developers had worked as hard on making the game suited to the Lynx’s control scheme as much as they had on the portable’s graphical capabilities, Hydra could have been a winner.

Doom (GBA)

Doom - Gameboy Advanced

Format- Gameboy Advance

Genre- FPS

Doom! Doom. Doom. Doooooooom!

Doom - Gameboy Advanced

This is probably the most well known game i’ve looked at yet, but it’s also the title i’ve put the most hours into, the GBA version in particular, so permit me to talk a little about the game that’s firmly rooted in my top ten videogames of all time.

I own the game on GBA, SNES and Jaguar (expect me to look over each port in individual entries), as well as wasting countless hours watching my dad play it on out PC back in the day.

Doom - Gameboy Advanced

I even recall putting ‘watching my dad play Doom’ on a list of my hobbies back in Middle School – only for the teacher to cross it out.

So to have Doom on my own handheld was a joy, and I completed the game several times over.

The main disappointment is that the GBA version is scaled down version of the PC version, with certain levels missing and replaced with slightly smaller ones. There’s no Cyberdemon or Spider Mastermind showdowns here – a major let down.

Doom - Gameboy Advanced

Still, the game crammed in an impressive amount into the tiny cartridge, and is miles better than the SNES version in terms of looks (probably because of the smaller screen).

When I play through the game it’s odd that some levels i’m more than happy to play through for the billionth time, whereas some I really can’t stand to trudge through, to the point of not wanting to play the game anymore.

Containment Area, the one with all the boxes, is a level I can’t stand playing for example. It just doesn’t feel right, and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game.

Doom - Gameboy Advanced

Unholy Cathedral is another. It’s the one with all the teleporters placed in sets of four everywhere. Can’t stand that one. There are others, but i’ll spare you the details.

In fact, the game makes me realize how great its sequel is. There’s a huge amount of variety in Doom 2, and even the GBA version of it doesn’t miss anything out (the huge final boss, for example, is present and correct).

The original started off the series though, and for that i’m eternally grateful. The GBA conversion is solid, but falls a little short of offering the ultimate handheld version of Doom.

The iPhone version is impressive though – but despite having a fair crack with touch screen controls, the wait for a definitive portable version of ID’s classic shooter continues…

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Harmony of Dissonance
The sequel to Circle of the Moon was a much better improvement. A bit before the GBASP era of games might of made it hard to see, but this game looked bright as fuck compared to Circle of the Moon.  The game stars Juste Belmont, the grandson of Simon Belmont, and is set 50 years after the original Castlevania.
Harmony of Dissonance
Juste’s quest was not to defeat Dracula originally, but to save his childhood friend, and smoking hawt Blonde semi-French maid Lydie. If you pay attention to the timeline she is the probable mother or grandmother of Richter Belmont of Rondo of Blood.
harmony of dissonance
I really liked the magic system in this game. Different elements that could be combine with the traditional weapons of Castlevania fame. Could also be tinkered to make some super blasts and powers. It may not be my favorite Metroidvania, but it was my first, and is still one of my favorite games ever.
harmony of dissonance
There was also a bonus mode where you could play (I think) a boss rush mode with 8-bit Simon Belmont. Neat-o!

Super Mario Land 2

Super Mario Land 2

Another entry and another awesome classic game! This Mario game really takes me back as it’s the first one I played for the portable handheld. This game reminds me a hell of a lot to Super Mario World and why wouldn’t it as it’s very similar to it. Lets take a look at this gem!

Super Mario Land 2

The music is quite memorable. There are some levels such as the ghost stages that doesn’t have such upbeat music but there are some other ones that are just as memorable! Try reaching the moon why don’t ya?

Super Mario Land 2

The graphics are top notch for the Gameboy title. They had little room to work on but did an amazing job. Mario looks like Mario and the overworld is packed with detail! Of course, you can’t forget about the bad guys and a lot more other things you might have missed the first time. Totally awesome!

Super Mario Land 2

The gameplay is wonderful! It’s a joy to play such an awesome game! You couldn’t expect anything less from Nintendo. As sidescrollers were the shit back then, every other would end up mimicking the Mario titles. Of course, very few were successful in doing so which is why Nintendo and Mario were always on top. Mario has a whole new arsenal of power ups including the bunny ears which works like the leaf from Super Mario Bros 3. Be sure to play through this game till the final showdown against a now famous Nintendo character Wario.

Super Mario Land 2

As mentioned, this game is a wonder to play through. There are hidden stages and hilarious bad guys. There is always a reason to go back to this game and play through it once more. Be sure to pick it up any time you want to play a very awesome side scroller game for a portable handheld. You won’t be disappointed.

Overall, this game offers a lot of amazing gameplay hours. With such a vast overworld, ingenious bad guys, and some up beat music you are bound to be playing this game for hours and hours. This is definitely a must have for your classic portable collection or if you just want to play a well done game. This game does what you couldn’t in Super Mario Land.

SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium

SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium

Released 1999

System: Neo Geo Pocket

Review done by Paul Monopoli

SNK vs Capcom

SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium (from here on referred to as MOTM) is the first in the SNK & Capcom vs games. Being a fan of both franchises I purchased this game on release, & I didn’t even own a Neo Geo Pocket!!! It took another 6 months to get that, which means MOTM was sitting in the top of my cupboard eagerly awaiting it’s first play. So 6 months of waiting… it’s a long time. Was it worth it? In a word YES. WAIT, don’t leave the review yet. Don’t you want to know why it was worth it? Thought so…
This game is just so much fun. The game box promises “… the best of both worlds…” & it delivers.

When you first start the game you’re treated to a slide show of clips featuring the characters in the game in chibi form. Don’t let this put you off, it’s actually one of the best features of the game & makes it fit in a lot better than the main console versions. Let’s jump to the main menu:

SNK vs Capcom
So here are our options:

Tourney is the main game. Get in there & start fighting.

VS Mode. Do I need to explain this one? I probably should point out the obvious, being that you’ll need 2 Neo Geo Pockets, 2 versions of the game & the link cable. I don’t know if the wireless linkup device works on this game. Yes the Neo Geo Pocket had a wireless linkup device well before the Gameboy Advance ever did.

Olympic features side games which we’ll cover a bit later.

Entry allows you to customise you own character. I wasn’t very big on this feature. All you can do is create custom music & cheesy tag lines for the characters. Meh…

Sparring is just a non stop practice mode.

Record let’s you view your… well records. Win/Loss & all the rest of it. Let’s jump into Tourney, because this is where you’ll be spending most of your time:

SNK vs Capcom

This is where it REALLY starts to get impressive. SNK & Capcom fans are well & truly covered here. You can battle it alone, with a partner in a Capcom “vs style” match or in an SNK style 3 on 3 team. Let’s have a look at the characters:

SNK vs Capcom

Here’s the lineup. SNK on the left, Capcom on the right but HOLD ON. 4 blank spaces per side… Could there maybe be some HIDDEN characters? Why yes there are thanks for asking, & yes it’s 4 additional characters per side. I’ll get to unlocking them a bit later, as the review has been positive so far. I don’t want to ruin it. On this screen I’ve chosen Capcom “tag” mode, hence the 2 character boxes per side.

In both the TAG & TEAM modes you’re given the option of choosing who goes first, or in the case of TEAM who goes first & second.

SNK vs Capcom

The gameplay looks excellent. Sure we’re let down by 2 colour characters, but this is more a limitation of the Neo Geo Pocket than it is the game itself. The attention to details is amazing. Rivalries are all covered at the start of battles. Each Capcom character has an SNK rival & of course you have the original rivalries of Ken vs Ryu, Kyo vs Iori, Terry vs Geese (oops, did I just give away a hidden character??). They all interact & say things that highlight that maybe these 2 characters have a history. If the characters aren’t rivals then you get your generic statement & away you go.

Sound is great with every character getting their own background music. Music from Fatal Fury, Street Fighter 2, Samuari Shodown is all present. Hits feel like hits & while you’re not going to get an almighty HADOUKEN!! out of the little Neo Geo Pocket, you get suitable sound effects for every occasion.

The developers DIMPS are obviously fans. You tell me how many programmers would go into such minute details about making sure Ryu & Ken have different fireballs a la Street Fighter Alpha?

SNK vs Capcom

All the supers are there. From the Capcom vs games, to the King Of Fighters games, they’re all here

SNK vs Capcom
There’s Ryu doing his super Hadoken.

 

So the main game gets a 10 out of 10 from me. Superb playability. Yes the characters are chibi, but this makes them FEEL like they’re a part of the same universe, which is something I had problems with with the main console versions. Punches & kicks feel like they’re hitting, Massive fists & feet actually don’t feel out of place.

On a side note: The Neo Geo Pocket joystick is without a doubt the finest fighting controller used on a portable system, & after a few minutes of playing you can tell that SNK designed this little baby for fighters.

So it’s been all pretty good so far. Let’s move on…

Olympic mode is the other part of the game you’re going to be spending some time in. The only problem is that it’s really average. The olympic events are hosted by SNK & Capcom Characters. Rimururu will take you through the SNK section while Sakura’s rival Karin is your Capcom guide. Here’s Rimururu with a list of options:

SNK vs Capcom

Entry is obviously to enter an event.

Record is to check your records in the events

Master Skill is why you’re putting yourself through this. You can unlock new techniques for the characters in the main game.

Talk is to have a chat to either Rimururu or Karin… pretty uninteresting though their replies are mildly amusing.

Exit… I won’t insult you by explaining this one.

Rimururu & Karin’s event lists are the same save for 2 each side. Here are the girls with their event lists:

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

First are the 3 first challenges. Survival is just 100 fights on one health bar which gets slightly replentished every so many battles. Time Attack is beating as many people as possible in the given time limit of 7 minutes. First Blast consists of 2 characters with 1 hit point on the health bar each trying to get that first hit in. Now onto the special events for each side.

I’ll cover Rimururu’s list first. Target 9 is based on Metal Slug whereby you pay Marcus & have to destroy all the Mars people. Blade Arts is where you play Jubei from Samurai Shodown & have to destroy straw dummies. It sounds more exciting than it is, trust me! Well if you don’t trust me, trust the screenshots.

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

Now Karin has Ghost Trick & Cat Walk in her list. Ghost Trick involves you collecting gold while avoiding Red Arremer & Cat Trick is just a Dance Dance Revolution style game.

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

Again, VERY ordinary single screen games. So why are we doing this again? Oh that’s right… secret fighting moves. Everyone has one more move that needs to be unlocked by doing events & earning points.

SNK vs Capcom

I thought I would show you this move in the screenshot above. I’ve actually got Leona highlighted, it’s just not showing on the pic. Apparently Leona can make you happy while you die. Quite how she does this… well I’ll keep it clean & suggest she might kill you softly with his song. Apologies for the obscure musical reference.

Now the rant I promised you. Unlocking secret characters is a PAIN. After you complete tournament mode you are presented with a box made up of 9 squares. One of the squares in this box is removed at random to slowly reveal the hidden character. So you need to clock the game at least 9 times to reveal 1 character, BUT take note of the previous sentence. I’ll repeat it with the bit I want to highlight in bold:

“One of the squares in this box is removed at random to slowly reveal the hidden character”

RANDOM. Yes this means even if a square has been removed the random thingy that removes the squares can land on that spot again. So you could be stuck with one or two squares left & the game just keeps going to over boxes. I played over 30 times before I unlocked Akuma. It is worth it however just to see Geese vs Bison. Firstly Billy Kane & Vega come out & square up, then they step aside to let their bosses duke it out. So frustrating, but worth it in the long run.

So that’s the game. Before ending the review I’d like to comment on the manual. Capcom characters are normally drawn quite mangaey (is that a word?) while SNK characters are more true to life. The artwork in this manual & on the box art should please both parties as it’s a very well done even mix. Sort of a half & half mix. Again this makes everyone feel like they’re part of the same game & the same world. Move lists are included for all but the hidden characters but hey, if they told you in the manual who was in the game they wouldn’t be hidden.

Finally a list of characters per side:

SNK                                    Capcom

Kyo Kusanagi                            Ryu
Terry Bogard                            Ken Masters
Iori Yagami                            Chun Li
Ryo Sakazaki                            Morrigan
Mai Shiranui                            Felicia
Haohmaru                            Zangief
Nakoruru                                Sakura
Athena Asamiya                        Dan
Leona                                Guile

Hidden characters per side:

Akari Ichijou                            Akuma
Yuri Sakazaki                            B. B. Hood
Geese Howard                            M. Bison
Orochi Iori                                Evil Ryu

The last 2 characters per side are INSANELY powerful, but as you’ve already unlocked them I guess there isn’t much else to do except unlock any special moves you missed from the olympic section.

 SNK-vs-Capcom

Summary:

I go back to this game VERY regularly for a quick bash. I’ve unlocked everyone & everything, but it’s still fun. If you’ve played other fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket such as Gal’s Fighters, Fatal Fury or King of Fighters you will notice the game looks & plays the same. This is still an essential purchase, particularly if you’re a fan of both franchises.

I give this a VERY easy 5/5

Special Forces

special forces

Format- Gameboy Advance

Genre- Side scrolling run and gun-em up

special forces

You’d think Contra and Metal Slug would be the type of games that would be fairly simple to clone. Lots of guns, lots of enemies, and lots of destruction. Simple.

special forces

It turns out, however, that formula is just a little too hard for some developers to handle. Too often sidescrolling gun games from lesser developers turn out to be either unfairly difficult, really dull, or both.

special forces

CT Special Forces almost gets it right, but sadly falls a little short of being considered a notable Metal Slug clone.

special forces

It definitely looks the part though, with rather attractive hand drawn graphics and a nice varied bunch of levels. A good range of weapons are grenades are also on show. The controls are also quite good, with the shoulder buttons used for throwing grenades and swapping weapons.

special forces

Problem is, the game requires you to be very patient when working your way through the (quite large) levels. You have to abide by enemies set walking patterns and pick them off accordingly. Although once you’ve adapted to this you can work through the game with some ease, but it doesn’t really make it a particularly fun or spontaneous experience.

special forces

Welcome variation arises from the occasional vechicle levels, but the parachute sections are most unwelcome. They’re frustrating in the extreme and can take several hard-earned lives from you each time. Considering the time you take working through levels, it’s a bit unfair to plonk these sections right in the middle of stages.

special forces

Bosses are also hilariously un-PC for the most part, with bearded terrorists aplenty to blast away at. It’s like what I imagine a American soldier’s wet dream to look like.

special forces

There is also the general problem that the game is a little too short, but seeing as you can pick it up fairly cheaply nowadays that’s probably not much of an issue.

special forces

There were a couple more CT games, but this was the only one I played. It’s incredibly dumb, sure – but it’s not without its charm.

Checkered Flag

Format- Atari Lynx

Genre- Racing game

Checkered Flag - Atari Lynx

Screw you Checkered Flag. Screw you. That’s pretty much what I was saying while playing it anyway. And when I threw the cart across the room.

I was willing to give it a little lee-way. After all, it’s a racing game from 1991 on the Atari Lynx. But despite being nicely presented, it’s frustrating experience i’m not keen to go back to any time soon.

Checkered Flag - Atari Lynx

The game opens with a nicely animated intro of a car rushing around a track. The menus also seem well organised – there’s much promise here.

When you get onto the track though, the troubles begin. You’ll notice a little man waving a flag at the start and think it’s a nice touch, you’d better keep your eyes on the road. One mis-step and you’re motoring your way to frustration-ville.

Checkered Flag - Atari Lynx

There can be up to ten cars on the track, and unwisely I chose to have the full complement as my opponents. You play in a red car, and all the rest are yellow. You already feel an outcast.

Racing is a simple case of steering left and right, but the main annoyance arises from your racing foes. Even the smallest of contact between your motor and theirs result in both of you spinning around once and grinding to a halt.

As your vehicle is so big and the track is so narrow, this results in a major fun drain. On the tracks where there are twists every few seconds it’s incredibly difficult not to make no contact at all with your fellow racers. Races are lost with one collision, and that’s no fun at all.

Checkered Flag - Atari Lynx

You also run the risk of making contact with a piece of off track scenery if you don’t take a corner well enough, and this results in the same major sap of speed. Collisions are given a Space Invaders-esque explosion sound effect though. That’s quite cool. As is your wing mirror getting cracked when you crash too much.

Not that any of your failures matter though – win or lose, you’ll get the same screen of a babe congratulating a driver and handing over a trophy.

The game’s graphics could be considered a minor consolation, but even they don’t really improve the gameplay in any way. All the tracks are the same thing but with a different background. As is the case with these type of behind the car perspective games.

So I didn’t really like this. End.

Sonic The Hedgehog Triple Trouble

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This is a nice enough portable rendering of Sonic, but it fails to deal with any of the issues that have always been present in the series. ~Simon Reed

Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble

Sonic is not a character I have ever really warmed to. I prefer my platforming to be precise and skillfull, with new challenges introduced throughout. Sonic, however, seems to be purely about running fast and letting his (usually lovely looking) backdrops become a blur. That’s not something I can really abide by.

Anyway, that’s my feeling about Sonic, and most of his games. Triple Trouble doesn’t change this mindset, but if you’re a fan I suppose it’s a pretty good effort, especially for a Game Gear game.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

It starts with a little cutscene with Sonic chasing Knuckles, who has taken some gems. Tails bring up the rear (i’m saying nothing). Eggman (or Dr Robotnik, whatever), then appears, and holds a gem. Nothing more is explained. Whether you end up having to take on two enemies in the game is a mystery.

Next, the title screen pops up with Sonic’s face. A smaller Knuckles appears and laughs like a dick. This was obviously before he wimped out and became a good guy, letting in freaks like Shadow into the increasingly cack Sonic enemy cast.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

I chose to play as Sonic instead of Tails in this play-through by the way. I don’t think I need to justify my choice.

Great Turquoise is the first world. It is neither turquoise or great, but whatever. Basically, it’s Green Hill Zone. You can easily rush your way through to the boss stage, and I only really noticed two things during my dash.

First is that the water in the game is very odd, with weird flickering dots appearing on top of it. Not particularly easy on the eyes. The other is that no matter how many rings you hold, when you get hit you only drop around 5, meaning that the difficulty is a little higher than a Mega-Drive Sonic title. It also robs you of seeing the rings cascading in every direction – personally one of my favourite little touches of the series.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

The Boss for the first set of levels is a flying turtle thing. You start in a pool of water, with the fight eventually reaching ground level. It’s tough to hit the boss in this part as he’s high off screen. You just have to spring up and hope you hit him, instead of the other way round.

After sending him to turtle-robo hell you’ll see Knuckles on top of a cliff. He laughs like a dick (again) and roasts you with a wall of fire. How he set up such a thing I have no idea, especially as it seems to come out of nowhere.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

Sunset Park is the next stage, and is a solid but unspectacular world, full of slightly unfair deaths. Spikes, flying hammer bees and exploding platforms are all frustrating obstacles, but you can scrape your way through eventually.

The boss for this world is an even bigger pain though. Set on a moving train you have limited control of your character and must hit a gun firing directly at you. What’s worse is that you have to start the whole level, which is slow (for a Sonic game) and boring, from the start if you die.

I think i’ve seen enough from those two worlds though. Basically, it’s as I said in the introduction. This is a nice enough portable rendering of Sonic, but it fails to deal with any of the issues that have always been present in the series. Oh and one last thing – Sonic The Hedgehog: Pocket Adventure on Neo-Geo Pocket is much, much better than this.

Duke Nukem

duke nukem

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- 2D platformer/shooter

Your average Duke enthusiast undoubtedly knows that the blonde haired alien killing machine started his trade in 2D platformers on the PC. They were solid titles, but were pretty much forgotten when Duke Nukem 3D arrived on the scene.

It didn’t signal the end of Duke’s side on escapades though. Duke Nukem on GBC may have been released three years after the 3D Duke, but it admirably still went about reviving much of the ideas and enemies from its 2D ancestors.

duke nukem

Not many seemed to care though, and Duke’s first outing on a Nintendo portable pretty much disappeared without trace, consigned to a mere footnote in history.

I think that’s a shame, as this is an enjoyable enough outing for Mr Nukem. And considering most of the trademark gore, babes and swears of the series are absent here, that’s no mean feat.

The graphics are colorful and pleasingly chunky, with Duke particularly well animated. He’s agile too – able to grab ledges, duck and shoot from ladders, little frustration arises from the controls.

duke nukem

Alas, what the game gives it in equal measure takes away. Controls may be solid but avoiding your enemies’ range of attacks is still tough, and you’ll find yourself taking a lot of unavoidable damage throughout the game.

Health packs are plentiful though, meaning most players should be able to make it to the end of the game just by remaining persistent. Skill isn’t a necessary requirement here.

Incentive to progress is helped by side missions (such as a satisfyingly destructive tank level) and the cut-scenes – which have a nice relaxed humor about them.

For Duke completists then, I think this is a must have. Unfortunately the game is somewhat scarce, but copies thankfully aren’t too expensive when they do turn up. If I may paraphrase the great man  – ‘go get some.’

California Games

California Games

Format: Atari Lynx
Media: Cartridge
Year: 1989
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Atari

California Games

Ah California – where the sun always shines, the surfing is great and beach parties rock with scantily clad women with golden tans aplenty. Throw some cool sporting events into a competition and you have yourself some California Games.

If it was one game that Atari was betting on to shift more Lynx units, this one was it – California Games. The Lynx version of Cali Games turned out a bit different from its console and home computer counterparts. Firstly, the number of events was cut down to four: BMX, Half Pipe, Surfing and Footbag. Secondly, the BMX and Surfing events were tweaked for the Lynx screen which actually made them quite enjoyable to play.  Thirdly, you could not pick your sponsor (oh no, I wanted Santa Cruz boards!). Lastly, gone were the earthquakes, the taunting dolphin and the menacing shark with sunglasses.

Now, I know what you are thinking, what the hell is left in this Lynx version of California Games! Relax, chill out like a real West Coaster. This game is so awesome, I would recommend you to get a Lynx just to play it. The learning curve to play the events is quite easy, with the half pipe event being the most difficult to get used to out of the four. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of playing California Games, let’s run through the event playbook:

California Games

BMX – Ride your bike on the stunt course strewn with obstacles and get to the finish line before the timer runs out. The more stunts performed and the faster you hit that finish line, the better your score. If you keep on crashing on the way to the finish line, the event spits you out.

California Games

Half Pipe – grab your board and hit the half pipe to build up your momentum. Once you have some speed, hit each ramp with some cool tricks to gain points.

California Games

Surfing – my personal favorite of all the events. Surfing was changed on this version to riding the wave from ‘right to left’ – this actually breathed a new life to this event, as I was never crazy about surfing on the console versions. You earn points by staying ahead of the wave and getting airborne to perform (multiple) spins. Yes, I can do quadruple spins – that is a 1440! Oh yeah  you must land the board on the wave at an angle that won’t see you diving into the surf.

California Games

Footbag – or hacky sack. The premise is simple, keep the bag off the ground by kicking, kneeing or head-butting it in the air. Earn extra points by spinning around while the bag is in the air or by hitting George. Who is George you ask ? He is the friendly seagull that you hit as he flies across the top of the screen. Luckily animal welfare groups were cool about knocking off seagulls back in 1989.

The challenge of each event is always to beat your (or your friends) high score. The only way to achieve a higher score is to nail the timing in each event. Get the timing wrong, and not only does your score suffer, the game also humiliates you with light hearted quips. Thankfully, these were left in the Lynx game.

So there you have it – four obscure events that are quite enjoyable to play. If you have a Lynx, California Games is a mandatory addition to your games library.

California Games

GraphicsAwesome detail and animation in all events. This game shows off the power of the Lynx

92%

SoundSimply awesome and ambient tunes for each event. The sound effects are just so sweet too

92%

PlayabilityFour distinct events which will keep you on your toes

94%

LastabilitySingle or multi player, this game is built to be replayed so those high scores and records can be broken

95%

OverallThe perfect mix of variation, challenge, enjoyment and fun.

93%

 

Xevious

Xevious

Format- Gameboy Advance (but several others as well)

Genre- Top down vertical scrolling shooter

There are certain games you just don’t criticise. Space Invaders. Pong. Chibi Robo. Ico.

I don’t think Xevious can join that group though. There aren’t many people that seem to hold this game with much affection, and as a result the game is mostly forgotten.

‘Mostly’ as it has been re-released a fair bit in recent years, giving the current generation of gamers the (mis) fortune to play it again.

Suffice to say, it doesn’t hold up well nowadays. Enemy design varies from the bland to the mildly acceptable, and when both ground and air based foes are on screen frustration reigns.

Movement vertically is sluggish, like the ship is constantly have to force through an invisible blancmange. Coupled with bullets that are much faster than your ship makes the game unfairly difficult. I’m always up for a challenge, but only when the game plays fair.

The graphics have no retro wow factor either – patches of grass look like they were sketched by a five-year old in a more restrictive version of Mario Paint – it makes you wish for a simple but effective black space background.

I’ve not managed to get very far in the game (the screenshot above is of a level that I will probably never get the chance to play through) but I still think most of these criticisms still stand.

So don’t bother with Xevious. Just let it quietly pass away, and hopefully the game’s developers will do the same.

What does ‘Xevious’ actually mean anyway?

Note – I have a quite cool toy from Japan that is based on Xevious. It makes a sound from the game, and is sadly much cooler than the game itself.

Second note – This review was admittedly a play through of the GBA port of the NES game, which is respectively a port of the apparently superior arcade version. So this revisit shouldn’t be seen as a retrospective of the whole Xevious pantheon, just the poor NES version.

Electrocop

Electrocop

Electrocop (1989)
By: Epyx / Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 15,475
Also Available For: Nothing

Electrocop

Atari’s mighty Lynx was a funny machine. It was a ‘handheld’ which was rather too big to be comfortably used as one for starters, but it was a powerful piece of kit for sure. It soon gained a glowing reputation for the surprisingly faithful arcade conversions which formed the bulk of its software library, but there were a few original releases too. Many of them were by Epyx, the co-developer of the Lynx itself, and most of these appeared at or soon after the machine’s launch – presumably they were developed especially for the occasion to give the system a slightly more varied line-up. One of these was Electrocop. It gained a decent reputation at the time but it never seems to get mentioned these days any time the Lynx is mentioned. Has it dated that badly or has it been unfairly neglected in the intervening years?
Electrocop

It’s certainly quite an unusual game. It’s set in 2089 and casts you in the titular role which I guess makes you a robot and we all know what temperamental oafs they can be. This one will need his (or its?) wits about him, however, as he’s up against the formidable (and somewhat conspicuous-sounding) Criminal Brain. This is presumably also a robot, or perhaps a computer-based artificial intelligence like Skynet. Hmmm, well, whatever form it takes, it apparently has influence over the physical world as it’s kidnapped the President’s daughter – oh nooo! In order to retrieve her safe and sound, you must penetrate the ‘technoid stronghold’ know as the ‘Stell Complex’ in which the Criminal Brain is hiding, and you’ve only got an hour to do it.
Electrocop

Although not constructed in an especially unique way, it’s how the game presents your exploration of this complex that makes Electrcop unusual. The action, you see, is viewed from a third-person perspective with each of the complex’s twelve maze-like levels consisting of a series of corridors linked by doorways, some of which are blocked by locked doors which require a code. Mr. Electrocop can run left and right along the corridors freely and can pass through doorways by moving into or out of the screen at the appropriate locations which sees the game scale your view back or forth accordingly. Each (or at least, most) corridors are patrolled by enemy droids called ‘Walkers’ of which there are four kinds – the Yellow Jacket, Blue Bird, Viper, and Red Disruptor, which all vary with regards to their speed, armour, and weapon power.
Electrocop

In addition to these, the heinous Criminal Brain has also installed a few other surprises throughout his complex including sections of electrified floors, mines, and other weapons such as wall-mounted cannons and concealed mortar-launchers. All of these deplete our blue automaton’s energy reserves. Fortunately, he comes equipped with a default laser of his own and there are a few other weapons available, including more powerful lasers and disruptors. All of them can be used freely, some even simultaneously, but can get damaged during combat if you’re not careful, and they all have a limited ‘charge’ which determines how frequently you can use them. The more powerful a weapon is, the more charge it will use per shot. All weapons recharge automatically but trigger-happy players should probably save the more powerful weapons for times of crisis!
Electrocop

These weapons can be acquired from special panels located here and there on the walls and similarly there are also computer terminals which offer many things including the ability to run several programs. Probably the most important of these is the ‘Ice Breaker’ which is essential for cracking the door codes but others include ‘Stasis’, which can temporarily disable all the droids, as well as ones to repair damaged weapons or refill your energy-meter. Surprisingly, there are even some mini-games available to play via the terminals too including Meteors, Out Break, and Letter Puzzle which are simple clones of Asteroids, Breakout, and one of those slidey tile games. Their inclusion might seem strange but the Ice Breaker program often takes a while to ‘crack’ the door codes so the games merely offer a convenient way to pass the time. Very considerate.
Electrocop

A different way to kill a few minutes that’s probably not so advisable is to further explore the levels, perhaps looking for more weapons or something. This is something that’s only recommended if you’ve taken the time to make maps, lest you get lost and not even be able to find the door whose code you’ve just cracked! Indeed, there are over thirty doors through the whole game, although the amount per stage varies from one to the next, so there are lots of very similar-looking corridors to run up and down. Obviously, the further into the game you get, the more complicated and therefore difficult the levels get but your objective is always the same – look for the door (or one of them), crack the code, and get out! It can get pretty repetitive too, but that’s not the game’s biggest problem.
Electrocop

It’s quite clear that Electrocop was always intended as a launch game – technically it’s mighty impressive and shows off the Lynx’s talents well. The music is unmistakably Lynx-ish but the various tunes are terrific, and the graphics aren’t half bad either. The circuit-board and metallic backgrounds on each level are decent, although there’s very little variation, but it scales the stages back and forth very nicely, even altering the colour of the droids according to the ‘plane’ they’re on compared to you. The main character is pretty big though, and moves fairly quickly too, which means you’ve often walked into danger before you’ve even seen it, whether one of the many droids or an increasingly common (and annoying) section of electrified floor. The easiest solution to this is to just run along permanently shooting. That kinda takes the enjoyment out of it somewhat, but it’s that or get angry, and often.
Electrocop

One thing that could’ve reallyruined this game is regenerating enemies so I was very pleased to find that the metallic cretins here explode when shot, and with their constituent atoms remaining scattered for good! Even with this bonus though, it’s unfortunately far from perfect. Playing it either takes the form of a repetitive run ‘n’ gunner or a frustrating arcade adventure depending on how you play it. It was originally intended as a 3D sequel to Impossible Mission and it’s quite clear why, but it’s also clear why Epyx ultimately decided to dissociate Electrocop from their legendary franchise as well. There are some good ideas here and its technical wizardry must’ve made people eager to see more of the Lynx when viewed at trade shows and such, but as a full game warranting hours of solid play, sadly it falls some way short of the mark.

RKS Score: 6/10

Lights Out

Lights Out

Format- Game Com (or Game.com, even though the ‘.’ is for some reason supposed to be silent)

Genre- Grid based puzzler

Here’s how my time with Lights Out went down…

1 Minute- After sitting patiently through the Game Com’s overly elaborate mannerisms and intro screens (you’d think it didn’t want you to play any games), I finally get a chance to actually play the game.

1 Minute and one second- I realise I have no idea how to play the game, and spend a while stabbing at the different black and white blobs, as well as the plethora of options on the right side of the screen. Not much happens, I get frustrated and look to the internet for answers.

5 Mins- I learn that the game was orignally a electronic game, and a fairly simple one at that. The Game Com was the only console to have the honor to gain a Tiger ‘conversion’ original. Regarding how the game actually works, it’s something to do with making all the blobs of light on the 5×5 grid unlit or something. Do you really care? I start up the console for another attempt.

6 mins- Console starts, the portable’s robot voice inevitably intones “Game Com Active.” Really? Thanks for letting me know Game Com, I would never have known otherwise.

7 mins- I now know how to play the game, but somehow it’s even more boring now the sense of mystery/irritation is gone. To be fair it does play to the handhelds strengths, but the fact those strengths include an outdated touch-screen and a screen that prefers its game not to have any movement tell you all you really need toknow.

My final thoughts are that this, unsurprisingly, is a poor game and therefore well suited to the Game (.?) Com. But when the portable’s inbuilt version of Solitaire (which will inevitably receive a review when I get desperate) is far superior you know you have a bit of problem.

The game was included with the console though, so nobody loses really. Or wins, whatever.

Under no circumstances would I recommend you actually buy a cartridge by itself. It just isn’t worth it.

Search for it on ebay (I wouldn’t though) / Wikipedia Entry

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- Tilty maze-fest

Bit of a curio this one – especially for Europeans such as myself, who never saw it gain an official release on our shores.

That was undoubtedly something to do the accelerometer housed inside the lurid pink cartridge. With this and Warioware Twisted both sadly confined to the US and Japan, the mercury used for the tilty tech clearly doesn’t agree with some European law. Even though I know none of the details I can easily say that law, whatever it is, is complete and utter tosh. Or perhaps i’m just being bitter.

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

A s for the game, it’s well suited to the Gameboy and really did deserve to reach a worldwide audience. It has small, manageable maze levels that are suited to quick bursts of play, and is simple enough to be grasped by most players.

Stabs of annoyance can occasionally be inflicted through the game’s controls, such as having to flick your gameboy to jump, which temporarily snatches any view you may of the actual screen. Fortunately, foibles such as these aren’t enough to boil over into out and out frustration.

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

Kirby TAT is not a classic by any means – and any novelty it may have once had is also long gone due to the iPhone et al and their many effortless accelerometer based titles – but it’s still a refreshingly simple and interesting experiment.

It’s like most Kirby titles really, in that it shows pleasing sparkles on invention, but makes sure it gets the gameplay basics down pat first. Kirby’s Air Ride the obvious exception.

I managed to bag a cartridge for £8 online, seeing as a box was relatively unnecessary for such a simple title. Especially as this being well out of my or any sane persons price range – see the link below.

The game is just about worth that I think, especially for those curious to see Nintendo’s first foray into tilt based technology.

Or you could wait and pray for a release on the upcoming 3DS store. With the 3D portable possessing an accelerometer it surely wouldn’t be to difficult to port across.

Gex: Enter The Gecko (GBC)

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Gex: Enter The Gecko

Yep, there’s a reason why you don’t see ol’ Gexy around anymore. Smart ass characters can work if the game’s any cop – but if not, a title has usually got one step in the forgotten gaming crypt before it has even been played. Gex: Enter The Gecko on GBC is an example of one of those, even though the titular hero has thankfully little opportunity to get his annoying personality across very well in this portable outing. The gameplay does more than enough to annoy you as it is. Expectations shouldn’t be set too high for a handheld version of a home console game that was pretty poor to begin with, but even so the game does little to make any kind of impression.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Most noticeable is that the game uses ‘B’ to progress through menus and jump, which goes against the unwritten rule that ‘A’ is the main button. The fact that this is one of the most noticeable elements of the game does not bode well. Actually, the controls are generally rubbish (walk more than a few consecutive steps and the green one breaks into a run) and level design is of a labyrinth rather than linear nature, which helps brew up a sense of confusion after playing only for a few minutes. A lack of map doesn’t help either.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Overall, this is a poorly designed game – the fact it’s a retro title is no excuse. This title signaled the end of Gex and his tail whipping antics, and I very much doubt many will be saddened by that fact. Gex, and this game, are best left forgotten.

Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop

Dirty Larry Renegade Cop - Atari Lynx

Format- Atari Lynx

Genre- Side scrolling 2D fighter/shooter

I don’t know about you, but the very first thing I thought of when I realized this game existed was Leisure Suit Larry.

This game isn’t a spin of LS Larry as a renegade cop though, but instead a Lynx exclusive title. Games made specifically for the Lynx are particularly rare, and this one probably nestles between Kung Food and Blue Lightning in terms of greatness.

Dirty Larry Renegade Cop - Atari Lynx

The first thing I noticed was that is a very well presented game, with looks that shout scream retro appeal and a rather cool sounding backing tune. Controls wise it also feels solid, but a few minutes in and you realize exactly why Dirty Larry has been long since forgotten.

First off, enemies emerge very quickly from either side of the screen and it can prove very difficult to avoid their attacks without taking damage. Like many games of this type you can creep slowly to the right and play it safe, but that just isn’t fun – which is surely the whole point of the game.

Dirty Larry Renegade Cop - Atari Lynx

You will most likely end up struggling through to the second level (set on a subway train, see pic above), but then manage to tread no further.

There’s a certain simple charm to the game, and it’s certainly not a bad effort, but I can’t really recommend it unless it’s fairly cheap or you’re looking to amass a complete Lynx collection.

Final nail in the game’s coffin – the carts label is incredibly bland, doing nothing to help the game get noticed on your average car boot stall. Game over, Dirty Larry.

Pengo

 

Pengo Cover

I probably should have liked this game more than I did. Pengo is an overhead maze-puzzler, and I generally love these games. The ability to use my brains (for once) in a video game, add a little action, sprinkle in some cutesy characters and music, normally would equal “retro arcade goodness”. But, here’s why Pengo didn’t really do it for me:

Pengo Cover
Sega put out Pengo, a cute red penquin, in 1982. I remember this being rather popular, but for whatever reason didn’t give it much of a look. Set in a maze of ice-blocks, the goal is to kill all of these blob-like creatures, called Sno-Bees…even though they could have just used bees, I guess…or called them “Sno-blobs”…not really getting this. Anyway, you push-slide the blocks around, which will shatter when they hit something…preferably a blob. After you kill one (there will be 3 on-screen), another will hatch from an ice block and you’ll continue smashing them until they stop hatching, usually around 8-10. When the level first starts, the blocks from which the blobs hatch will briefly “flash”, allowing you to destroy those blocks, if you wish, before they hatch, making it easier to finish the level…..in theory.

Pengo Gameplay screenshot
Here’s my problem: The blobs don’t move like the slow-asses I’ve seen in the movies. Matter of fact, it seems like they’re actually faster than me. They melt-through my ice-block weapons on the way to me, and I can’t tell you how many times I was waiting behind a block to shove and they started melting it before I had a chance to use it. I was literally spending all my time running for my life, and just tossing ice randomly. I haven’t panicked this much in a game since the first night of Left 4 Dead. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have “mastered” the game, but holy shit, it was tough for me. The controls just seemed a bit off, which added to the frustration.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hdDKxfrAbs[/youtube]
There are a lot of ways to gain points in the game; obviously killing blobs, but also there are 3 diamond blocks on every level. These are indestructable and make for a good weapon, but if you’re able to line the three up, you’ll receive bonus points. Again, I don’t know how you’d ever have time for this…good luck. Also, the quicker you finish a level, the more bonus you receive…capping off with 5000 points if you do it under 20 SECONDS!!!! Christ….
I do love the animation and music, and I’m sure this is a well-loved classic…..but I don’t.

Overall 5/10

Primal Rage: Gameboy

Primal_Rage_GBC_ScreenShot1
Here comes one of the more decent fighters for the forgotten portable handheld. Primal Rage brings you dino-busting action to the palm of your hand and even though our handhelds nowadays do this with ease, this was a tough task back in the golden age of gameboy. Lots of other fighters were introduced and failed misserably and although not that playable, they still manage to give you an experience to their console predecessors. Primal Rage is one of them. While not offering much, this little cartridge offers more than enough to keep you entertain for a good amount of time, the time of course is your choice. Like many of the old titles of the original gameboy, this game is as simple to pick up and play.
Primal_Rage_GBC_ScreenShot1

 

With supreme graphics for its time, Primal Rage was something to look at and tell yourself “What an age we live in”. We sure take games for granted nowadays, back then this was all we had god damn it! Respect the past, and be grateful for what we have today, Oh! And kill some dinos while you are at it.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWlpDF0OoI0[/youtube]

 

Super Mario Land

Super Mario Land - Gameplay Screenshot
Another pick for this week! This time around we look at the all time portable classic Super Mario Land for the original Game Boy. This is like the Super Mario Bros for the NES. An automatic classic for sure. The game may have some flaws but there are quite a few to stop it from being a great one to add to your collection. Just when the Game Boy was starting its journey in the world of gaming, Mario delivered in an incredible way! Lets take a look!

Super Mario Land - Gameplay Screenshot

The music is quite good. With such memorable sounds that will be engraved on your brain for years to come. I’m sure if you heard the song, you would know which game it came from. Any Mario fanatic would anyways. The sound effects are also quite good. They aren’t the ones for the NES but have their own gimmick to make it memorable especially that weird sound that comes out of the bosses when you throw a fire ball at them.

Super Mario Land - Gameplay Screenshot
The graphics are just what you would expect from an early Game Boy title side scroller. They aren’t the best out there, in fact there are times where there is no background but the levels do look quite enjoyable. The game also does justice by making the enemies and bosses unique.
Super Mario Land - Gameplay Screenshot
The gameplay is quite good. Just think of Super Mario in a portable handheld and that should say enough. You jump, you get power ups and of course you stomp on bad guys. It’s sort of odd that when you jump on a koopa he turns into a bomb….totally odd indeed! Also, what’s with the flower power giving you one ball of fire that bounces all over the screen. I’m guessing they did it on purpose to help keep the gameplay from slowing down. Oh well, good nonetheless.
Super Mario Land - Gameplay Screenshot
With only four worlds the game is quite fun to come back to. There are secrets hidden everywhere so you can always accomplish your goals in different ways. The game itself is fun overall! A 2 player race mode would’ve made it supreme and increased its replay value in masses!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W9ih0ZIcv8[/youtube]

The game is a classic of mass proportions. There are things that could’ve been done to better it even more but this will do for now. A longer game would’ve made the game more amazing and a multiplayer race option would’ve also given it a lot of more appeal. One can’t complain though, getting Mario on your handheld is like part of the Nintendo religion! A must have for sure!

Sigma Star

So here we are finally back with another entry of Retro Game of the Week. This time around we have a very interesting title. Not only is this an RPG, but it’s a shoot ’em up with RPG elements. You can’t get any better than this!

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

Music

The music fits the game with its sci-fi soundtrack. You get the feeling that you are playing a game with weird unknown worlds and awesome action gameplay. The game does deliver great sound effects as well as very dramatic tunes. There is not much more to say about the music except that it fits the game just right.

Graphics

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

The graphics are GBAs standard. The usual SNES feel of the game in a portable game delivers with success. You get to fly around with scenery similar to R-type and enjoy the beautiful scenery. When you are not on your ship, you are walking around exploring the beautiful planets during your missions. The graphics aren’t the most groundbreaking but they are sure pretty.

Gameplay

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay is quite enjoyable. The main idea of the game is to fly with your ship and shoot down other ships. In the process, you gain experience and eventually level up. This is very important as you will make your ship more powerful as you level up. The game works as an RPG since you walk around exploring different areas when you are suddenly summoned to your ship in order to battle a swarm of enemies. Once you defeated all of them, you are sent back to where you were in your mission. The game develops quite well and keeps you interested in a story involving a soldier betrayed by his own people only to join forces with the enemy. There is a lot more to it that I don’t want to spoil as usual.

Replay Value

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

As with all RPGs, you are left with a story that you’ll eventually finish and try to give it another shot. The point is that to replay this game might be a good and a bad idea. The good is that you can play this game at your own pace while the bad is that you get to play the exact same game over and over. Do you really want to do that? That is the weakness of playing RPG games, especially long ones. It’s all up to you.

Conclusion 

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

To conclude, this is a game that will make you want to pick up more shoot ’em up titles especially if they are combined genres. The RPG elements helps it keep interesting and as weird as the game may play, it ends up working in really good ways. The game is fun, interesting, and very well worth it. I suggest you pick it up and give it a shot! Until next week!

The Castlevania Adventure

The Castlevania Adventure - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot
This time around I will discuss Castlevania for the Gameboy. This title is quite old but interesting overall. The game does show age as soon as you play it, I mean it moves slower than other Castlevania games but that’s mainly because of the limited capabilities of the handheld. The game is tough at times but not impossible to beat. You can expect classic castlevania action in this one as it’s similar to the NES counterparts.

The Castlevania Adventure - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot
Be ready to get used to slow gameplay though. Also, be careful with letting your vampire hunter fall because he will fall like a brick. The usual monsters are in this one, bats, big eyes, and more bats. I recommend this for anyone who wants something similar to the NES and needs a blast from the past. For others, I don’t because it could disappoint you more than make you enjoy it. Luckily, it’s a very affordable title so don’t you worry, your pockets will still be filled with monah. That’s all for now, until next time!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzEeWzLQa7w[/youtube]
One last tip, don’t get hit as you will lose your strong whip and that really wears you down and defeats you more quickly in the end. Good luck!

Famicomfreak is a classic gaming writer and collector you can view his main blog here – Retro Gaming Life

Lady Sia

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
Lady Sia came out in 2001, which was very early in the GBA life, but it was a pleasant surprise.
An action-adventure platformer, Sia is a queen whose land is ravaged by a warlock and his animal minions. She alone has to hack her way through these creeps to reclaim her land. Not really sure why it seems like every game I play has ‘magic guy’ creating weird animal hybrids. That really doesn’t seem like the thing I would do if I had that kind of power. But anyway…..

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
There’s actually a very long and detailed story that unfolds throughout play, but I don’t want to give anything away. What I will say is this is a realitivly short game, with just a handful of main levels, and a few smaller levels within. Sia is armed with just a sword and an “energy blast”, and each level’s mission has her recovering a stolen family item; from a better sword to magic rings. These items will help her defeat the 4 bosses and the main one at the end.
The 32-bit, cartoony animation is neat, and the fluidity of her movements are top-notch for the little system. Little touches like using her sword to grab a ledge to pull herself up were nice additions. Sweet background music and sound-effects, as well.

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
The replay ability is fairly high, with a nice addition of a scoring system. Along her journey, Sia will refill her energy blast (in the form of gems), hearts (life), and rescue commoner-hostages. All of this, along with time spent on the level, gives you a score. This also gives you a reason to explore the entire level.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed2m0FtWhV8[/youtube]
Again, it’s a very short game, and maybe a little cutesy for the tastes of some, but I found it to be a lot of fun. The only true negatives are the lack of a real challenge, and the occasional occurance of Sia ‘sliding’ during her combo hits. It can be annoying when you’re whooping ass on a rat-dude, and you keep running into him instead of carving him up into cat food. But, this certainly won’t ruin the game for you. If you’re like me, and you still weep over Xena, Warrior Princess not on TV anymore, this is a decent substitute.

 

Battletoads

Battletoads - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

Hmmm what do you get when you put one of the toughest games on the NES in a portable handheld? The toughest portable handheld game! Not hard to figure out huh? But to be perfectly honest it’s not one of the hardest handheld games but still tough and very high on the list. Battletoads brings you the toads in a portable adventure most likely to its NES counterpart rather than the SNES one(yuck what a disappointment). Hmmm anyways, this game brings you the toads and well from my personal experience racking up extra lives is quite easy on this certain game.

Now, I know that you can do it the same way in the NES and SNES versions but the screen leaves you a limited amount of room which in the end result leaves you with less space to move around. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you? Well, to conclude you have a better chance of hitting the falling birds to rack up extra lives….congrats you just passed Battletoads 101!

 

Battletoads - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, you will get a game that challenges you and keeps you coming for more! You have the great music that keeps you on your feet and well the monsters which you beat up in the most hilarious ways. It’s ok if you haven’t played a toads game before because this would make a great introduction to the series even though there aren’t that many toads games to begin with…..To this day I asked why weren’t there more toads games….I could sure use them right about now….then again that Battletoads phone call prank wouldn’t be that funny because yes they would have Battletoads on stock…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog6qXg7Nkg[/youtube]

 

I sure hope you can pick this adventure up for your handheld…hell even use the emulator with a big screen! You can’t go wrong with the toads…they will just piss you off and make you come for more in the end!

Castlevania 2 Belmont’s Revenge

Castlevania 2 - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

We always had lots of great games to remember from the old gameboy library and this one is no different. Konami was savvy enough to see their mistakes on their first title for the gameboy and work on it. Castlevania 2 Belmont’s Revenge brings you a very improved gameplay experienced and a very memorable adventure. The music if you have heard it has been used in Castlevania titles from today and that just shows you it’s that good. It really is!

Castlevania 2 - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

There are lots of things to like about this Castlevania. First of all, you can start the game from four different levels so the game won’t feel very linear for once. The gameplay is your usual kinky wiping and jumping procedures and the enemies will be more familiar if you played the first gameboy Castlevania. The game does bring out an enjoyable enough experience so that you will have the will to come back for more. The game is not that easy so it’s suggested for moderate players that won’t get mad and throw the gameboy against the wall when they get their asses handed to them.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dollw8pMtM[/youtube]

Overall, this game brings out a better improvement as well as better music and graphics. If you disliked the NES counter part even though I don’t see why you would, this is the game for you. It is not that expensive so getting a copy of it shouldn’t be a problem but if you are a very cheap person then emulation is your answer. Until next week!

Sword of Mana

Sword of Mana - Game Boy Advance

One of the more interesting games for the GBA is surely Sword of Mana. Supposedly this is the first Seiken Densetsu game in the Mana series but was for some reason renamed to Final Fantasy Adventure in its original release. I’m guessing it was more of a popular name to put into a title to raise sales. Either way, as much as I loved the original, this one is a great improvement over it. Of course, I can’t say I miss the classic gameboy colors but this is a totally different experience altogether. The game is a well done remake that proves yet again how Square kept milking their old games into “remakes” This time around though, they succeeded in a positive note. The game plays like any of the other Mana games(The good ones at least), and delivers a very satisfying gaming experience. You are able to pick from a male or female character which you will name whatever you want(Name advice, Petunia, Resputan).

Sword of Mana - Game Boy Advance

 

So here we go in a new grand adventure, you will probably feel at home with the beat em up style gameplay it brings as well as Mana cards you can use to summon your magical powers. Sadly, this game doesn’t bring a link cable gameplay option which would have made it an incredible experience(Some of you may remember Secret of Mana on the SNES, three players!). You can still connect two GBAs with the games but only for trading purposes, this isn’t Pokemon you know! The game does deliver you with companions who will aid you on your quest but won’t stay long with you, just like the original(Remember that mage that looked like a red mage?). The game also has a very interesting gameplay feature which involves finding items on certain days which is a big plus as it’ll make you play the game for a certain amount of time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnE3e13z1LA[/youtube]

Overall, like always don’t want to give out too much so you can enjoy and find yourself yet another great gaming experience.

Mega Man

[youtube id=”uroFt5ArvhQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Even with the bigger screen, things feel crowded and you’ll end up face to face with a lot of robots with no room for comfort. This game feels bothersome at times but hey it’s Mega Man, it can’t be that bad right? ~Luis Zena

Mega Man

Mega Man on a Sega console was something we never were lucky enough to experience but for some apparent reason we got Mega Man for the portable handheld, the Game Gear. What minds though this would make up for not bringing the better installment to the Genesis console? I’m not sure but the more I think about it the more it became certain why the Dreamcast failed. But enough about other Sega consoles, we are talking about the Game Gear. I frankly loved this console although I felt it was missing the RPG touch. I did managed to play a very good quality US released RPG and that was rare for the handheld. I even picked it Retro Game of the Week a year ago or so. So lets get started, the game is your average Mega Man game although the Game Gear screen does a better job than the Game Boy one in the portable business especially for a Mega Man game. Even with the bigger screen, things feel crowded and you’ll end up face to face with a lot of robots with no room for comfort. This game feels bothersome at times but hey it’s Mega Man, it can’t be that bad right?

Mega Man Game Gear - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is a compilation of Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 bosses and battles. That’s not bad at all since they had some interesting robot masters to begin with although everyone else felt they were already running out of ideas (Mega Man 9 and 10 proved you wrong suckers!) The game does feel at times that it was changed to try to make it into a different Mega Man game but did that to no avail. The game just feels like a shattered down NES Mega Man title and that’s all there is to it. I don’t say that in a bad way it’s just that Mega Man games on portables had their disadvantages mostly due to the screen size and with the crowded monsters and so-so sound, it just doesn’t cut it.

Overall, this game brings you a portable Mega Man and that’s about it. It’s not a new experience but can be a good experience if you look over the flaws which every game has anyways. You will battle your robot masters and do so not only in a hostile environment but with added difficulty. Make sure you don’t get game over because your game will really be over. This game is great as a collectible and for a night of rage and cursing.