City Connection

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City Connection

City Connection was a somewhat classic arcade game that debuted in 1985, offering players a fast-paced high-score challenge that demanded intense concentration and twitch-speed reflexes. In 1988, Jaleco published an 8-bit version for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Was the cartridge any better than the cabinet?

Gameplay

City Connection is a platforming puzzle game with a unique premise: The protagonist is off to see the sights that the world has to offer; however, rather than paint the town red, he wants to paint the streets white. This means that the goal is to just drive over every square inch of road that each city has to offer, completing a stage when every blank grid space has been marked in white.

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But rather than drive over one single road, presentation is given from a side view, with four tiers. This means that the controlled car must be constantly jumping up to higher levels, falling to lower ones, or hopping across gaps. The A button is used for jumping, as proper, while the directional pad corresponds with movement, of course.

However, the challenge arises in the fact that our mysterious driver does not explore these streets alone. There are always multiple police cars patrolling the byways, along with cats that just sit in the road and instantly take a life if struck. The player begins with three lives, and can earn extras when hitting 100,000 and 300,000 points.

To both foster bonus points and defend against cops, there are oil cans strewn throughout the stages. Picking them up adds them to an inventory, whereas the B button fires them ahead of the vehicle, striking law enforcement vehicles to render them harmless. If the player can stockpile oil cans without using them, 100 bonus points are awarded for each when the city is completed.

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If the player stays on one of the tiers too long, metal spikes begin erupting out of the ground, just one, that will sit there until moving to a different level. The cats, the spikes may disappear if the player simply turns around and lets them go off-screen before returning to their spot; although unlike the felines, the spikes tend to appear much more aggressively.

Thus, the player ends up with a maze-completion type game in the vein of Pac-Man but with platforming mechanics drawn somewhere through the ages from Donkey Kong. This is an arcade-style game, with six stages that endlessly repeat, purely for the pleasure of seeking the highest score. Two players can try in alternating turns.

City_Connection_NES

Oh, and there are balloons. They are worth bonus points, and grant a city-warp effect when three are collected. Magical warp balloons, yes. Even with those hexing helium semi-spheres, City Connection just poses too many cheap deaths in the player’s direction to really be any fun. This is a “challenge for challenge’s sake” sort of game, where only those who played it without other choice or in search of something utterly difficult and minimally rewarding would ever truly grow fond.

Graphics

In this reviewer’s opinion, the visuals of City Connection on NES are the game’s highlight. The protagonist car has some nifty animation frames, having the policing vehicles appear differently in each city is a nice touch, and the background details for the cities themselves are wonderful, with recognizable sights like Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along with portraying the locations in differing times of day. There is even a faux parallax scrolling effect at work, whereby the background is scrolling by a little bit slower than the streets themselves.

City_Connection_NES

Then again, this game has some serious flickering problems, with many police vehicles constantly blinking in and out of existence, which can be a distracting nuisance for the eyes. Also, while the arcade original actually used colors to fill in the streets, all NES players get is a bland, tepid, boring, depressing stark white across every roadway. Bleh.

Sound

The sound effects are barely noticeable, and never more than a brief one-note blip across the player’s consciousness. The music, while presenting itself as a decent arrangement of three sound-channel instruments, feels somewhat uninspired and gets repetitive. Eh.

Originality

While arcade-style high-score games have their place, and within their own category have varying tiers of quality, many of them lost something in their porting to home consoles in the 8-bit era.

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City Connection may have been one of them. Whatever the case may be, players are left with a subpar experience that, while not atrocious and certainly representing a game, raises a tough question: “If I had other NES titles to choose from, why would I play City Connection?”

Blues Brothers

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Blues Brothers

In 1999, developer Titus Software released a video game for theNintendo 64 console called Superman: The New Superman Adventures. More commonly referred to as simply Superman 64, the title gained widespread notoriety for being among the worst of all time. However, Titus had certainly been producing awful cartridges based on media licenses far before that; for example, Blues Brothers, which dropped in 1992 for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System Console.

Gameplay

Blues Brothers, at first glance, is a fairly typical platformer. The directional pad moves the protagonist left and right, holding down the B button enables a faster movement speed ala Super Mario Bros, and the A button jumps. Two players can play simultaneously, although the implementation has its flaws, such as enabling one player to easily be left behind forever. Otherwise, the only other move is the option to crouch by pressing Down, and possibly crawling back and forth while doing so.

Blues-Brothers-Video-Game

Based on the hit 1980 film of the same name starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, Blues Brothers gives the player the choice between playing as Jake or Elroy, although this does not affect gameplay beyond their appearance. The twelve-year gap between the movie release and the game release is interesting, to say the least, and one has to wonder if Titus was truly grasping for the cheapest licenses they could try to take advantage of.

This is a platformer, with the simple goal of reaching the end of each of the handful of levels. Enemies are usually to be dodged rather than defeated, with the exception of goggled sharks and dogs that can be temporarily rode upon, seemingly just for kicks. There are many traps, spikes, pitfalls, and other dangers. Even pausing is dangerous, since there is a delay, which is a spectacularly unusual element for any video game.

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While the formula seems intact, and the game impressively scrolls across all directions across large levels full of different required movements and detailed aspects, the player will soon realize that this is no ordinary NES video game. While three hit points are offered with each life by default, with a couple extra lives to go afterward and a couple continues besides, even all those instances of accident forgiveness can hardly prepare the player for the soul-searing nightmare ahead.

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To put it simply: Blues Brothers is a very challenging game. But to merely put it in such stale words, such simple terms like “extremely hard,” only dulls the true nightmare effect this cartridge provides. Blues Brothers on NES is a master class in awful license games, putting on a clinic of game design choices that artifically inflate both difficulty level and gameplay length through means of platforms the player can only spend a limited time on, invincible enemies, no means of attack, remarkable precision needed for jumps and other maneuvers, “trap” drops where you cannot see oncoming dangers, unclear destinations, slippery physics, and other notable faults.

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Blues Brothers may not be the worst NES game, and several nice quips could be uttered concerning its presentation, but the outright combination of patience for tedium and outstanding platforming skill required to complete it are astounding. Titus really flexed their bad-design muscles on this one, providing 8-bit gamers with something that might be even harder to enjoy than it is to complete.

Graphics

Having said all that, the game does not look terrible. Yes, the color choices can be a bit strange, with the one-color animals and the way the protagonists’ coats often blend into the background, and maybe sometimes the tile-based haphazard sophomore-effort effect of the levels is overwhelming, but at least the pixels are usually placed with care and the entirety obviously took a lot of effort to produce. Actually, it might even be better-looking than Superman 64, if we are being completely honest.

Sound

The effects seem a little limp, achieving a cartoon-like absurdity at their best and an underplayed denouement for the most part. Then there is the music, which might be the best part of Blues Brothers on NES; appropriate, considering that music played a rather prominent role in the film. From the title screen track to the stage backgrounds, the crew at Titus shows off some skill in layering the hardware wave forms nicely, with enjoyable beats over pleasant melodies. The emulated drum kicks well, and it may be a shame that such simply good chip music had to accompany an otherwise crappy game.

Originality

Beyond the strangeness of riding a green goggles-wearing shark for a few seconds, the whole Blues Brothers experience feels stale and overdone. The game feels like the final project of a student tasked with producing a platform games; the levels crawl on endlessly with little self-consideration for the reasons why they proceed in the manner that they do, and completion of each feels so utterly arbitrary. The ending seems to echo this sentiment, with a big shrug from the developers as a single bland congratulations screen marks the finale to a real slog-through session. A platform game can feel utterly cobbled together but still be somewhat fun, like Alfred Chicken, and some license games managed to shine on NES. But not Blues Brothers. Blues Brothers is bad.

Overall score: 1/5 stars.

NES Remix 1 and 2

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NES Remix 1 and 2

I always view the NES era of gaming through sugar-frosted spectacles, forever unable to uncover much fault in this special time when I started identifying myself as a gamer.  Sharing notebooks full of passwords on the bus, the two-month long wait for Nintendo Power in the mailbox, and saving every penny for a year in order to buy Kid Icarus, these are the memories of a wonderful childhood.  Honestly, how can anyone really not love Nintendo?

NES-Remix

If you have ever left a game on pause overnight so as not to lose progress, you know exactly where I’m coming from.  Both volumes of NES Remix were made for people like us, the kids who could beat Castlevania in one sitting or still remember the location of every power up in Bionic Commando.  If you can still navigate through the Lost Woods from memory or decimate Ridley without taking damage, you will certainly find something to enjoy in NES Remix.

Think of NES Remix as your Nintendo favorites perfectly packaged for generation ADD.  Each game is broken into familiar bite-sized chunks that must be completed quickly in order to succeed.  Finishing levels earns the gamer stars, and stars unlock more levels and different titles.  You can also earn stamps to place on messages you leave for members of the Wii community, which Nintendo seems to think is better than a point-based achievement or trophy system.  Personally I would prefer a traditional ranking system where I could match up and meet with new players, but Nintendo doesn’t want their own army of Xbox Live assholes, and I can’t exactly blame them for that.

NES-Remix

Between both volumes of the series, tons of old favorites make appearances. Only a few of the choices are questionable, especially the “what in the fuck were they thinking” inclusion of the obscure and extremely terrible Wario’s Woods.  I would rather play through Captain Novalin (the 8-bit train wreck about living with diabetes) than be subjected to one more minute of Wario or his hackneyed woods.

The remix part comes in with 60 plus special challenges that completely change the familiar levels and games around.  Playing Donkey Kong with Link (who can’t jump) or plowing through lights-out Excitebike are just two of the awesome tweaks that make this the mode worthy of the purchase.  Some of the challenges are downright brutal. For example, imagine playing Balloon Fight (aka C-List Joust) while the screen continually shrinks.  The remix levels are hands down the hardest to complete, and they will certainly test your 8-bit mettle.

NES-Remix

Besides the palpable ire you will feel for Wario’s Woods, this game will also make you loathe the primitive jumping mechanics in Ice Climbers.  I never played it in my youth, but had I, this would have been the first game that made me contemplate unnecessary controller abuse.  You can’t float your jumps at all, which makes for an excruciating platforming experience, especially by today’s standards.

NES-Remix

The only other major problem I had was with the lack of attention given to Punch Out.  Most of the Mario titles get 20 plus levels, but Punch Out only gets seven?  And the final level is literally just you watching Doc train Little Mac in the park?  Punch Out deserves so much more than some slapped together levels.  Soda Popinski, Bald Bull, and Super Macho Man don’t even make appearances. Piston Honda serves as the final challenge, which is like getting a beer half filled with head—it’s still tasty, but it feels so incomplete.

Rumors are swirling that SNES remix is next.  If this is any indication of the direction the big N is willing to take with their back catalogue, they can just go ahead and take my ten bucks.

 

 

 

 

 

Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge

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  All in all, the richness of Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge is certainly appreciated, and serves to place it on a level above the usual standard multi-sport fare. Even the introductory cutscene is enough to truly make this cart something special.~Eric Bailey

Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge

Developer Technos was best known for their beat-’em-up titles on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console, including the Double Dragon series and the classic River City Ransom. What would happen when the company tried to take on the multi-sport genre, like the arcade port Tack & Field, straightforward World Games, or distinctively wacky Caveman Games? The result was something called Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge - NES Gameplay Screenshot - 1

  This was a sports video game on the NES that actually had a story; basically, our hero Crash Cooney and the Southside Boys are rivals with the rich snobby kids that live up on the Hill. After the Southsiders beat the Hillers in the big track meet, whiny brat Todd Thornley III was a sore loser and challenged the Boys to a street-sports gauntlet of various events with minimal rules, while his family secretly plotted to plant superpowered adults on his team in Thornley’s favor.

  Gameplay

To summarize, the Street Challenge consists of five events: 400 Meter Hurdles, Hammer Throw, Swimming (humorously referred to in the instruction booklet as Water Slaughter), Roof Top Jumping, and Fighting Scene. Each has their own distinctive appearance, mechanics, goal, and controls. Gameplay is divided into three modes: Practice, in which the player can pick one event at a time and try it over and over; Short, in which the player progresses through three events; and Normal, in which all five events are attempted through the storyline. This game is also playable for 1-4 people, with alternating controller usage.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Once the play mode is determined, the player actually has a choice of four teams to pick from, two of which are the Southsiders from Southside High and Thornley’s school, Washington High. The two others are Lincoln High and Jefferson High, the relational nuances between each of which are awesomely explained in the instruction manual, but the remarkable thing is that each school then has five different characters to choose from, each with their own individual statistical ratings in Power, Speed, and Defense, the usefulness of each of which will depend on the event.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Incredibly, and especially so for an 8-bit cartridge, not only is there the tournament of events, but between rounds the player(s) can actually shop for items using both money they begin with and the coins they additionally collect throughout the events. Items can boost stats, heal hit points, or even gain all-new techniques for the next event. This feature definitely adds a level of depth that is not quite seen in other multi-sport titles for the system.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Of course, the main attraction is the five events, each of which deviates from the norm and either is not a traditional sport or simply goes for all-out combat in favor of athletic competition. In 400 meter hurdles, the player must tap right on the directional pad to keep up with the opponent, but while jumping or sliding under hurdles, the characters can spin-kick each other or even throw chunks of broken hurdle at the opponent. Hammer Throw is actually Hammer Golf, as the player must throw a heavy weight across a two-dimensional course until getting to the hole in a certain number of strokes, and including trying to avoid hazards. In Swimming, there is not even the pretense of competition, just the goal of trying to kill the other character, and tacking both hit points and oxygen intake. Roof Top Jumping is a fun one, as a mix of tightrope-balancing unicycles and pole vaults is used to traverse rooftops, trying to get to the end of the course.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Then there is the Fighting Scene, worth considering on its own for one key reason: This may be the best representation of the fighting-game genre there is on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with the possible exception of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Not only is character selection with distinctive characteristics intact, which Mortal Kombat could hardly even boast in its original iterations, but there are even special grapple moves per character in addition to the usual arsenal of punches, kicks, rushes, and jumping attacks. Some of the special moves, earned when reducing the opposing character’s stamina bar more quickly in a grapple, are especially funny and/or brutal.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  All in all, the richness of Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge is certainly appreciated, and serves to place it on a level above the usual standard multi-sport fare. Even the introductory cutscene is enough to truly make this cart something special. However, not all is perfect, as the control schemes can be very unintuitive, inconsistent, and even confusing, as there is no real format that connects each event, a different button may jump from one sport to the next, and there is a learning curve involved as well. The curve is welcome, actually, especially to make one-player playthroughs worthwhile, but it can be difficult to gain initial practice when the computer is in constant “must kill the new guy” mode.

  Graphics

Judging Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge on its audiovisual merits is an intriguing endeavor, since those aspects are of unquestionably high quality, given the context of the hardware and comparison to the rest of the NES library of carts, but they are also noticeably recycled. This is a later release than their previous titles like River City Ransom and Super Dodge Ball, so you know that many of the graphics are recycled.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

Yet, this may not be the worst thing, since the Technos style of characterization is largely what gives their games their appeal to begin with. Sprites aside, action proceeds smoothly and the backgrounds are gorgeous (in fact, among the best on the console, and somewhat underappreciated, in this viewer’s opinion – check out the city’s layered skyline in the background of the Hammer Golf event and how it reflects in the water hazard), so maybe Technos should just be given the benefit of the doubt here: This game looks great.

  Sound

It sounds great, too, but in the case of the background tracks and effects, the recycling effect is much more noticeable, and hardly bothered to be disguised as all. For example, the hurricane kick sound effect used in the 400 Meter Hurt-les is the same as used in the game Double Dragon II: The Revenge.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

Other combat sounds are taken from River City Ransom, while many of the same short themes and ditties for the music have been conglomerated from the sporting titles like Super Dodge Ball and Super Spike V’Ball. They at least sound very, very similar, but some samples are definitely repeats. Nonetheless, again, this is likely not the worst thing.

  Originality

Crash ‘n’ The Boys is undoubtedly an original, creative, and innovative game. Fans of the multi-sport NES titles absolutely must give Crash a shot if they have not already. Playing alone is fun already, but multiplayer adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

This is a title where the developers really seemed like they had the player experience in mind, and wanted to make it joyous and memorable. This is a four-star game, a rating out of five.

Odallus: The Dark Call

Odallus -The Dark Call

Odallus: The Dark Call

We all love retro games and many of us love games inspired by classic favorites. Enter, Odallus: The Dark Call. This action/exploration games was inspired by such classic hits as Ghosts’n Goblins, Demon’s Crest and Castlevania.

The idea of mixing exploration and action is always interesting. In some games like Allen Wake, it did not work so well running to collect book pages while trying to avoid being killed. However, in Odallus we are promised to be treated to intense battles not made for wussies while still maintaining an exploration based experience.

Odallus -The Dark Call

Here is the main story of the game:

On an ancient times, a warrior tired of fighting returns home just to discovery his battles have not yet ended. A Dark Lord and his scourge army ravaged his village leaving no good soul alive and continues his path of destruction in search for the Ultimate Power. Now, it is up to him to put a stop on this cursed destruction before it is too late.

We will have more to come on this game in the coming weeks.