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.

City_Connection_NES

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.

City_Connection_NES

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.

City_Connection_NES

 

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?”

Whomp ‘Em

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Whomp ‘Em

In 1991, when they were not busy releasing another Bases Load sequel, Jaleco released a side-scrolling platformer for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console called Whomp ‘Em. Following a Native American protagonist named Soaring Eagle on his quest to seek mystical totems, Jaleco put plenty of developer muscle into fine-tuning this title. But in tuning the mechanics so finely, did they miss the big picture?

Whomp 'Em - NES

Gameplay

A seasoned NES player recognizes the formular: The directional pad moves the on-screen character, the A button jumps, and the B button attacks. While Whomp ‘Em begins with this formula, it certainly adds many ingredients. On a minor note, Soaring Eagle can duck.

Whomp 'Em - NES

But in a major way, Soaring Eagle’s attacks can be incorporated into a variety of moves. Holding B while running keeps his spear ahead of him, damaging incoming foes. Holding Down in midair enables him to drop the spear’s tip upon the head of unlucky enemies. The spear can even be used as a shield against certainly projectiles, if held in the right manner and in the right spot. The spear can even be directed upward, by pressing Up when jumping. This gives the player a variety of ways to damage creatures, and many angles to utilize.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the items, which form quite an in-depth in-game economy. Although the player begins with just a few hearts on the health bar, these hearts can be increased by collecting gourds. But the number of gourds needed to gain a heart of health increases each time, until the player needs 99 gourds to gain the 12th and final heart unit of hit points.

Whomp 'Em - NES

And this is not even to mention the bonus items that add to attack or defense until the player is hit, nor the health-increasing grabs. Perhaps the most intriguing item-driven mechanic, however, is how Whomp ‘Em handles extra lives: The “magic potion” item essentially is an extra life, but the player is limited to holding three at a time. This is a strange, different-from-the-norm way to handle an extra-life mechanic. It does seem to add some tension, as it removes the possibility of simply hoarding dozens of lives, as can be done in other games, while also making it a priority at times to hunt for those crucial hidden potions.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Much like Capcom’s Mega Man series, Whomp ‘Em lets the player select what order he or she would like to conquer the stages in. At the end of each level is an environment boss. Defeating this character gives the player a new selectable weapon type to use; typically, a boss is especially vulnerable to a certain weapon, which gives the player incentive to strategize smartly as to their order of play.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Taken together, these separate elements would seem just fine, quite enough to put together in order to create a formidable video game. Whomp ‘Em does proceed crisply, offering the player well-honed fighting mechanics to use throughout a variety of stages in an experience that proves to be a worthy challenge. However, well-designed items and enemies aside, Whomp ‘Em does have some flaws.

Whomp 'Em - NES

The additional weapon are underwhelming. Most of them just make the basic attack reach a little further, which there is already an item for, and prove to not be any more useful against most regular enemies. This is a strange choice, and could have been for any number of reasons, but it is definitely disappointing to gain the flame weapon – and notice that it only shoots a small fire out of the tip of the spear, like a blowtorch.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Some of the stage designs are questionable. Among Let’s Players and others, the final level has gained notoriety for being rather difficult and just plain cheap. These design errors are evident elsewhere, though: Several areas force the player to make blind jumps, which is hardly ever fun. At least the player can aim the spear downward, likely helping the cause in these cases. There still remain, though, a few spots in which it is tough to tell which elements are mere background and which are needed platforms, along with dubious practices in enemy regeneration.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the bosses, which range wildly between very cool and a just-right level of difficulty – to ones that are spectacularly frustrating, with such traits that include the ability to instantly take away the player’s extra lives at a single touch. While none of the bosses are impossible, and all are pattern-based, the use of cheap tactics in order to artifically inflate their challenge is a bit eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Overall, Whomp ‘Em is a pretty good game, and just that. It is not an all-time great. It is rarely seen on top-10 lists, but deservedly so; even then, it has perhaps been overlooked a tad, since it is still better than most 8-bit titles, and while nitpickers can find many flaws, the entirety was made well as a whole.

Graphics

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em looks great. The enemy designs are fun and varied, while some of them even move smoothly in interesting ways – check out the floating hands in some of the vertically oriented portions. The levels are lush with colors, but better graphical signals could have been used, such as with the bizarre “electric” clouds on the final stage. Also, this game does suffer from some flickering. The pixel artists was skilled, but the execution was not quite fully polished. For instance, that jump animation looks super weird.

Sound

Whomp 'Em - NES

For a video game that feels like it was trying to be The Next Big Thing on NES, the music has a strange strata to it. While the composition mostly maintains a sense of skillful rendering, even summoning a vague Native American sensation at times, but at others falls flat or even gets downright irritating. At least the sound effects are satisfying.

Originality

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em has been accused of being a Mega Man clone. You can offer the character stage selection right away alone without getting that accusation, or just borrow enemy powers, or have stage-end bosses, or involve pesky precision-jumping puzzles; but combine those, along with elemental weaknesses, and you have a recipe for such reputation. Then again, with a training level to start, the impressive in-game economy of items, the Native American flourishes, and an overall theatrical flair, Whomp ‘Em deserves a look, and is a bit more than a mere clone… even if it still never reaches the heights that a great Mega Man game achieves. Perhaps it would be a little better with a smidge more length, coupled with an adequate password or save function. Alas.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Arm Champs II: Video Games that Break our Bones

Arm Champs 2

Arcades are products of a dying caste. On the decline for the past two and a half decades, it has become increasingly more difficult to find them. And when you do manage to wander into an arcade, unless it’s a Friday or Saturday night, chances are you’re all by your lonesome. The lights of machines twinkling, games beeping and talking to you as if they have been waiting for someone to show up for a very, very long time. The vestiges and ghosts of people remain only in the form of high scores, but no living souls are in sight. These are testaments to a once thriving subculture that rose in the late 70’s and waned in the mid 80’s and ultimately was dissolved by home consoles.

Go on. Hit the jump for more about unconventional arcade cabinets, broken arms and my personal quest to defeat a videogame’s arm.

twin galaxies
Best arcade players of all time (at the time). Taken at the Twin Galaxies Arcade, Ottumwa, 1982. Photo was featured in Life Magazine.

I haven’t seen a picture like the one above in a non-gaming magazine, well, ever. This is a sad fact. Only a few remaining large-scale arcades, or, I should say, beacons of hope, remain. Such as Funspot in NH. In these few select locations, the people seem to remember why arcades used to be popular. For the fun and excitement of live, high-level competition and intensity of playing a game with the pressure of others watching. Will you buckle and face the humiliation of public defeat or step up and overcome the odds as you digitally etch your name into the hall of fame?

Arm Champs 2

Unfortunately, in the years following the Golden age of video arcade games, arcade popularity has, overall, slipped off the map. However, new ideas have emerged in an effort to bring gamers back out of their living rooms. Deftly moving fingers and button mashing would no longer be sufficient to satiate the “masses”. Games of greater kineticism and physicality started appearing. Games that employed peripherals, such as the light guns of Virtua Cop or Big Buck Hunter, the motorcycles of The Fast and the Furious Super Bikes, the stage and pads of DDR and the arm (yes, arm!) of Arm Champs. And yes, kiddies, all of these were out pre-Wii (not to be confused with PeeWee), Kinect, Playstation Move, etc.

Arm Champs 2
In mid-October of 2010, during a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida, me and fellow contributor Jamie Richardson (Yes, we’re married. And yes, this was our honeymoon. Anything else you want to know?!) stumbled upon an arcade in the New York section of the theme park. Enchanted by the charm and nostalgia the arcade made us feel, we proceeded to haphazardly spend our hard earned money (wedding gifts) on tokens and played arcade games until our yearning hearts were content. Of all the claw cranes with console prize boxes, classic game cabinets and themed pinball machines, I was (for some inexplicable reason) most fascinated by a machine called Arm Champs II. Yep, you got that right. That’s a sequel to Arm Champs. But only equally as evil. Check out some of my masterful shaky cam of the title screen.

You can see why I had to play this. Arm Champs II is a 1992 game from Jaleco that pits you against the Terminator arm of a robot video game. That’s right, you arm-wrestle it. Little did I know at the time that people have had their arms broken from similar game cabinets in Japan, resulting in recalls. All I could think was, “Oh this looks like good, clean fun!” The surprising results of my herculean efforts can be viewed below. Thanks so much to my new wife for narrating this and humoring her pasty, frail, geek husband! It’s too late now babe!

In case you didn’t catch it at the end there, Jamie asks, “How does success feel?” To which my best reply was, “I’m sweating.” How ignorant of me. I wasn’t even thankful that I didn’t have any broken bones.

Arm Champs 2

Not unlike the robot boss, I also emphatically repeated, “No way!” over and over (and over) again after my unexpected victory. I couldn’t believe that I was Number 1. What? I’m not too sure about the 1992 wiring in this cabinet. How can I, king of nerds, be the top score? Ohhhhhh wait … I get it. They must reset it every week to make kids (and weaklings) feel good about themselves. Well you know what I think about that? Mission accomplished, Universal Studios. Mission accomplished. Now I know I’m stronger than videogames.

Rival Turf

Rival Turf

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

RIVAL-TURF-

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

RIVAL-TURF-

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

RIVAL-TURF-

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

Avenging Spirit

Avenging_Spirit

Avenging Spirit

When it comes to classic/retro gaming, most people would probably be amazed at just how many truly great, obscure classics there are out there that they’ve not only never played, but likely never even heard of. And so, as part of my ongoing Retro Ministry, I intend to reacquaint folks with some of these forgotten gems over time. As comes with the territory, these entries will not be about the bigger, more popular games that a lot more people know about. No, instead, these will strictly be focused on games that are rare, but awesome.

Avenging_Spirit

First up, we’re going to look at a little number called “Avenging Spirit”, or as it was known in Japan, “Phantasm”. Avenging Spirit was originally an arcade game by Jaleco, who also brought you such classics as Astyanax, the Bases Loaded series, and the Rushing Beat series. With Avenging Spirit, however, you had a game that was a bit ahead of it’s time and rather unique in it’s approach. It was, at it’s core, another action/platformer type of game, similar to Mario, Mega Man or Contra. But where AS really stood out, was also the “gimmick” that made it incredibly fun. The plot can be summarized as follows: You’re a dude who was walking his girlfriend home one night, when you are ambushed by villainous agents, who kidnap your girlfriend, and shoot you down, leaving you for dead. You come back as a ghost, and your girlfriend’s father, a research scientist specializing in spectral phenomenon, wants you to try and get his daughter back, as she’s being held for random to ensure her father’s aid in nefarious plans.

Avenging_Spirit

So that’s the basic setup. You play as a ghost, and while you have the awesome ability to possess enemies to use their powers, the catch is that if the body you’re inhabiting dies, you have a limited amount of time to possess another body, otherwise your energy will dissipate, you’ll pass on to the “Other Side”, and your mission to save your girlfriend will have failed. So while you get this bad ass ability to basically play as a wide assortment of various characters with all sorts of weapons and powers, you’re also challenged by your spectral limitations. And when I say you can possess enemies, literally, you can take over and play as pretty much every enemy type in the game, except for the bosses. Naturally.  As you can see above, you get an energy bar for your ghost, which goes down every time you leave a possessed body, as well as a life-bar for the enemies you possess at the bottom of the screen.

Avenging_Spirit

Different enemy types also give you varying speed, strength, jumping power, etc., in addition to their unique weapon. Of those enemy types, as mentioned, for a game from 1991, you get a pretty healthy selection to choose from. They include, as seen above, nefarious 1930s mobsters complete with pistols, and feisty Amazon women who look suspiciously like classic Wonder Woman, who use their raw power to punch waves of force at you.  You can also play Rambo-esque commandos with machine guns, ninjas who are very agile and throw stars, goofy wizards with magic wands, a baseball player complete with a bat, a robot, an invisible man, and even a fire breathing DRAGON (probably the coolest thing you can play in the whole game).

Avenging_Spirit

You have to use these awesome abilities to make your way through six stages, all while smashing the shit out of enemies, and possessing some at your leisure to accomplish this. Each stage has a boss, of course, and naturally, especially considering it’s an arcade game and wants our quarters, they aren’t easy. You are also tasked with collecting 3 keys in stages 2, 5 and 6 (random I know), which are used at the end of the game to rescue your girlfriend, as if beating the game wasn’t enough. And just to really stick it to you, if you DON’T get all the keys in those stages, you’ll actually be unable to rescue her at all, and even though you can still beat the boss and defeat the bad guys, you’ll actually get a bad ending (SPOILERS). So trust me, you wanna get those damn keys!

Avenging_Spirit

The game was also ported a year later in 1992 to the Nintendo Game Boy. Having played both versions, with obvious “downgrades” to graphics and such, the game holds up remarkably well, and I honestly can’t see too much different in the port. The Game Boy version seems to retain most of the enemies, all the stages and bosses, and plays basically the same (if not actually a little bit tighter than the arcade original). Sadly, Avenging Spirit was ONLY ported to the Game Boy and nothing else, which is too bad, because looking at that screenshot above, I could really see it having been great on NES in full color, not to mention being a no-brainier for the 16-bit Super NES. It’s actually a similarly odd case to another obscure arcade gem, Tumble Pop by Data East (which I’ll cover later), that was also ONLY ported to the Game Boy.

Avenging_Spirit

 

Damn Game Boy got all the luck. And while I did have a Game Boy as a kid, I didn’t get one until, I do believe the Christmas of 1993, and I never actually heard of this game until I was an adult. I just think it would have made a great NES game, and I would have had a higher likelihood of perhaps seeing at my local rental store and actually getting to play it as a kid. I only lament this, mind you, because while I love this game as a kid, you know how much more open and enthusiastic about everything you were as a child….I absolutely would have been nuts about this game back then.

Avenging_Spirit

Then again, there’s a very long list of games I never got to play or even heard of as a kid that I wouldn’t discover until my teens at least, when internet was more prevalent. Real damn shame, that. BUT, all things considered, the Game Boy version that we did get is a great port of the game, and is actually available for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. You can also apparently get a version of the arcade original for iPhone, though personally, I just simply couldn’t see playing old school side-scrollers with those fake touch-screen “buttons” they try to get away with. Me, I need a real controller in my hands! Of course there are “other” means to find and play the arcade version if you wish, and considering that’s how I got to play it, I’ll just say that if you know what I’m talking about and can, by all means enjoy! You’ll be glad you did.

Whomp ‘Em

Whomp ‘Em

In 1991, when they were not busy releasing another Bases Load sequel, Jaleco released a side-scrolling platformer for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console called Whomp ‘Em. Following a Native American protagonist named Soaring Eagle on his quest to seek mystical totems, Jaleco put plenty of developer muscle into fine-tuning this title. But in tuning the mechanics so finely, did they miss the big picture?

Gameplay

Whomp em

A seasoned NES player recognizes the formular: The directional pad moves the on-screen character, the A button jumps, and the B button attacks. While Whomp ‘Em begins with this formula, it certainly adds many ingredients. On a minor note, Soaring Eagle can duck.

But in a major way, Soaring Eagle’s attacks can be incorporated into a variety of moves. Holding B while running keeps his spear ahead of him, damaging incoming foes. Holding Down in midair enables him to drop the spear’s tip upon the head of unlucky enemies. The spear can even be used as a shield against certainly projectiles, if held in the right manner and in the right spot. The spear can even be directed upward, by pressing Up when jumping. This gives the player a variety of ways to damage creatures, and many angles to utilize.

Whomp em

Then there are the items, which form quite an in-depth in-game economy. Although the player begins with just a few hearts on the health bar, these hearts can be increased by collecting gourds. But the number of gourds needed to gain a heart of health increases each time, until the player needs 99 gourds to gain the 12th and final heart unit of hit points.

And this is not even to mention the bonus items that add to attack or defense until the player is hit, nor the health-increasing grabs. Perhaps the most intriguing item-driven mechanic, however, is how Whomp ‘Em handles extra lives: The “magic potion” item essentially is an extra life, but the player is limited to holding three at a time. This is a strange, different-from-the-norm way to handle an extra-life mechanic. It does seem to add some tension, as it removes the possibility of simply hoarding dozens of lives, as can be done in other games, while also making it a priority at times to hunt for those crucial hidden potions.

Whomp em

Much like Capcom’s Mega Man series, Whomp ‘Em lets the player select what order he or she would like to conquer the stages in. At the end of each level is an environment boss. Defeating this character gives the player a new selectable weapon type to use; typically, a boss is especially vulnerable to a certain weapon, which gives the player incentive to strategize smartly as to their order of play.

Whomp em

Taken together, these separate elements would seem just fine, quite enough to put together in order to create a formidable video game. Whomp ‘Em does proceed crisply, offering the player well-honed fighting mechanics to use throughout a variety of stages in an experience that proves to be a worthy challenge. However, well-designed items and enemies aside, Whomp ‘Em does have some flaws.

Whomp em

The additional weapon are underwhelming. Most of them just make the basic attack reach a little further, which there is already an item for, and prove to not be any more useful against most regular enemies. This is a strange choice, and could have been for any number of reasons, but it is definitely disappointing to gain the flame weapon – and notice that it only shoots a small fire out of the tip of the spear, like a blowtorch.

Whomp em

Some of the stage designs are questionable. Among Let’s Players and others, the final level has gained notoriety for being rather difficult and just plain cheap. These design errors are evident elsewhere, though: Several areas force the player to make blind jumps, which is hardly ever fun. At least the player can aim the spear downward, likely helping the cause in these cases. There still remain, though, a few spots in which it is tough to tell which elements are mere background and which are needed platforms, along with dubious practices in enemy regeneration.

Whomp em

Then there are the bosses, which range wildly between very cool and a just-right level of difficulty – to ones that are spectacularly frustrating, with such traits that include the ability to instantly take away the player’s extra lives at a single touch. While none of the bosses are impossible, and all are pattern-based, the use of cheap tactics in order to artifically inflate their challenge is a bit eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Whomp em

Overall, Whomp ‘Em is a pretty good game, and just that. It is not an all-time great. It is rarely seen on top-10 lists, but deservedly so; even then, it has perhaps been overlooked a tad, since it is still better than most 8-bit titles, and while nitpickers can find many flaws, the entirety was made well as a whole.

Graphics

Whomp em

Whomp ‘Em looks great. The enemy designs are fun and varied, while some of them even move smoothly in interesting ways – check out the floating hands in some of the vertically oriented portions. The levels are lush with colors, but better graphical signals could have been used, such as with the bizarre “electric” clouds on the final stage. Also, this game does suffer from some flickering. The pixel artists was skilled, but the execution was not quite fully polished. For instance, that jump animation looks super weird.

Sound

Whomp em

For a video game that feels like it was trying to be The Next Big Thing on NES, the music has a strange strata to it. While the composition mostly maintains a sense of skillful rendering, even summoning a vague Native American sensation at times, but at others falls flat or even gets downright irritating. At least the sound effects are satisfying.

Originality

Whomp ‘Em has been accused of being a Mega Man clone. You can offer the character stage selection right away alone without getting that accusation, or just borrow enemy powers, or have stage-end bosses, or involve pesky precision-jumping puzzles; but combine those, along with elemental weaknesses, and you have a recipe for such reputation. Then again, with a training level to start, the impressive in-game economy of items, the Native American flourishes, and an overall theatrical flair, Whomp ‘Em deserves a look, and is a bit more than a mere clone… even if it still never reaches the heights that a great Mega Man game achieves. Perhaps it would be a little better with a smidge more length, coupled with an adequate password or save function. Alas.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball has always been a thrilling experience wrapped in a simple concept. Hit everything you can and don’t fall, but lets crank that concept to a new level… Battle witches, skeletons, and steal from the devil, all while racking up points that count as gold for you to buy and improve your pinballs ability to slay your enemies. Pinball Quest for the NES brings these things to the table, and introduces the only concept I’ve played of a pinball fantasy action RPG. Featuring boss battles, flipper and stopper powerups, and yes the ability to trade with or steal from the devil.

The level design in the game is creative and every level carries a different objective. As you climb your way towards the top you will find the one annoying feature of this game, as everytime you lose on a stage you will drop down to the last and be forced to fight your way back up. A concept that keeps you playing and occasionally keeps you frustrated. The game features no game over, so there is no real reason to quit. The only other problem I have with the game is that the “Devil Flippers” while having the most power, actually are not worth getting as they sometimes decide not to work. However the other powerups only get better as you level them up. This game is worth a try to almost anyone who likes to play entertaining and creative games. When you pop in this game you’ll enter the world of a simple pinball on an anything but simple quest. Give it a shot.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

In 1991, the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was released in North America, heralding a new age of video gaming, where the home console machine was now a legitimate industry enterprise, and edgy new company Sega placed its Genesis system into heated competition, pittingSonic the Hedgehog against the famed Mario franchise.

The next couple of years would see a rapid-fire stream of new classics enter the video gaming fray, while the former 8-bit consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System would gradually phase out of production and first-party support. In the twilight years of the NES, developers had by then largely mastered and exploited the limits of the hardware, but demand was decreasing for their cartridges, no matter how excellent their gameplay happened to be. Perhaps sadly, a few gems were lost in the shuffle, and are nowadays somewhat rare. One of these titles was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, based on the television show and general mythos of the Indiana Jones films, and happened to be a solid game in its own right, as published in 1992 by Jaleco.

Gameplay

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

The player controls Young Indiana Jones, a courageous, adventurous protagonist who has an appreciation for history and a taste for dangerous situations. The game, interestingly enough, actually begins with a cutscene of an older Indiana Jones offering to tell the player about his younger glory days. The festivities then start in Mexico, where Indy gets involved in helping the villagers combat the oppressive regime of Pancho Villa.

Like any good platformer, the A button jumps while the B button attacks. Indiana begins with his trusty whip, which has a decent range as a melee attack. By attacking crates, he may potentially find other weapons; in fact, there are eight different weapons for his weapon slot while he adventures on foot, such as the knife, pistol, rock, and grenades. Each differs in their projectile characteristics; for example, the rock can bounce down across the ground, while the pistol fires its rounds straight forward across the entire screen, and the knife slowly descends with gravity after being thrown.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Along with the weapon slot, Indy also has a shield slot, though taken by headgear such as his classic hat, or the gas mask in France and Germany. While held, it allows Indy to take one hit before dying; and, if found when Indiana Jones is already wearing one, grants an extra life, hopefully adding to the three he begins with. Last is a slot for helpful items that have a temporary effect, like the enchanted necklace that grants invincibility, or the lamp that lights up the dark caves of the silver mine.

The game provides a decent pace of action; not quite Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man, but a respectable clip nonetheless, while traversing through the historical context of such areas as World War II-era Germany. There is even a flight level where Indy participates in dogfights with enemy planes, zeppelin, and even fights the Red Baron. Touches like that add to the appeal as Indy ends up killing a few actual historical figures; though, in classic NTSC-region censorship, there is no outright reference to Nazis or swastikas to be found.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Overall, this is a very solid platformer, worth playing, and as implied earlier, a hidden gem of the late-cycle NES library. Although the biplane stages in the middle of the game seem a little out of place and not as well done as the straight platforming, the overall experience is still worthwhile, enjoyable, and appropriately challenging.

Graphics

The areas are presented well, with each level and their sub-stages richly detailed per their location. The backgrounds are rendered very pleasantly, though perhaps the underground portions are easy enough, given their blank black background. The foregrounds are done well too, though, as are the animations. The sprites themselves are nice, but perhaps a little large, or could have at least done with more detail; this is one of those NES games that seems to have One-Color Character Syndrome, a disease with the symptom of all the characters being drawn in basically one color. Even the Super Mario Bros. had a two-color protagonist and some multi-hued enemies, but for whatever reason, many 8-bit platformers drew their heroes and bad guys in one dominating shade.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

 

Otherwise, the game certainly looks like a 1992 release; good for the console, but not stretching its limits beyond what was fairly standard for the time. The cutscenes that pan from one character to another are perhaps the most polished element intact, not to mention the iconic sight of Indy cracking his signature bullwhip.

Sound

Honestly, the background tracks and sound effects are not memorable. But they are composed with more punch than many titles, with the music providing the atmosphere needed for a world-spanning adventure. The explosion for the grenades and dynamite is nice; but, beyond the fun grandeur of the title screen, with its clever flame-fill of the logo, there is nothing here that qualifies as an ear-worm, although there is nothing venomously annoying, either.

Originality

The two-frame whipping animation looks suspiciously like a certain Belmont character’s stroke from the Castlevania series, and this game is based on a pre-existing media license. Otherwise, though, the three item slots, multitude of weapons, historical context, and just-plain-good platforming action set this apart as a worthy cart. One notable highlight of the gameplay are the physics: The way the rock weapon bounces a few times down inclines, or the brief time it takes to stop when running, even if some players would prefer a lack of inertia altogether.

In the end, this is a fine job by Jaleco, in the footsteps of Shatterhand, and a pleasant departure from the inundation of their sports library. Although it probably deserves something more like a 3.75, the quirky “why?” behind the flight level and a more-than-normal tendency to glitch out make this a three and a half stars out of five sort of game.

64th Street: A Detective Story

64th_Street_A_Detective_Story

Today’s classic gaming video comes from C.P. Brain developer of this Final Fight style game called, 64th Street: A Detective Story. The game was released to arcades in 1991 by Jaleco and features a story about two detectives who are asked to find the kidnapped daughter of a rich guy. The two do their detective work by beating up a ton of bad guys using anything that falls out of crates and the background.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKFrHwXq2ss[/youtube]

The game is pretty much just a beat em up, but I do like that you can toss the bad guys into the background. As usual with these games tossing the bad guy or using weapons is the key and you really only get hurt if surrounded or some special attack a boss might have.

Overall nothing to write home about, but it is a good time waster.