Warsong

Warsong

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

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

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

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

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

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

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

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

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

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG - SNES Box

Anyways, this week we have Super Mario RPG for the SNES. Surprisingly a lot of people look at this game as a very odd one in the Mario franchise mainly because it’s an RPG and we all grew up playing Mario in platformer games. Nintendo and Square got things right on this one though. The game is jammed packed with a lot of interesting features and an awesome storyline. The battles are intense and fun as well as the enemies. Your allies have very interesting stories behind them and you can even play as bowser! You can’t do that in many mario games(except the sports ones).

Super_Mario_RPG_SNES_ScreenShot

The game brings your journey through a huge land with a lot of secrets to discover. Like any RPG, there are small sidequests that you are welcome to accomplish when you want to take a break from the quest.

I won’t say much more for those who still haven’t played this gem but I’ll tell you this, this game rocks! Everything is great about this game. I can’t see why anyone would miss out on this one! The only problems I had with this game are the leveling up system which only ended in level 30, and the fact that you couldn’t play as Luigi. You did see pictures of him explaining you how to play the game in the instruction manual but that’s not good enough!

Aztec Challenge (c64) review

Aztec Challenge Box
Aztec Challenge Box

Aztec Challenge (c64) review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“Apocalypto, the game”

 

 

Overall Score:

8 out of 10

 

Overview:

You take the role as an Aztec going through the worst trials possible (everything you touch kills you instantly), trying to survive to become the new ruler of the Aztecs. There are different stages composing of different run, jump, duck, cover, timing puzzles and reaction tests. The game mainly is a reflex game of reacting correctly to the environment.

You can play the game single player or two player, alternating in between players to give you a bit of rest from the tension this game gives you. Everything kills you in one hit so you will find yourself grabbing your head saying “I can’t believe that shit just happened!”

The music for the game is interactive (one of the first games that had this, other than Forbidden Forest, also by Paul Norman). Look below for an extensive look at the music.

When I saw in the movie Apocalypto the scene where they are in the Aztec capital and they are throwing spears at the main characters, I immediately though of Aztec Challenge! (check out that great movie if you haven’t already done so)

The original game came out on Atari, later on the c64 (this review), on to an Amiga port, and there is a PC remake as well.

 

 

Fun Factor:

Everything kills you in this game, so you need to pay attention at all times. Tension is always existent and then entire game feels like a gauntlet.

This is a video showing a full playthrough of all the stages in the c64 version:

I always find the unforgiving kill factor a lot of fun, every time I play this game. This game has a Fun Factor of 9 out of 10.

 

 

Difficulty Versatility:

The game keeps getting harder after you beat it each time. All the stages recycles per playthrough and that’s where the challenge lies for me. Some stages are really easy and others are extremely hard. You can’t set the difficulty from the start but the game is hard enough for most people. In the later playthroughs the game is simple ridiculously hard. Difficulty Versatility gets a 5 out of 10 because you’re forced to start out on “easy”.

 

 

Value:

Since the game came out so long ago, it’s mainly available through emulation, therefore free. The full game can be downloaded here: http://www.c64.com/games/download.php?id=338

Just fire up your favorite c64 emulator and load the D64 file.

If you’re a c64 collector, it’s very likely you already have this game in your software collection. Value gets a score of 10 out of 10.

 

 

Replayability:

The game gets repetitive but considerably harder the longer you replay it in one sitting. If you like a challenge then the game is worth replaying often. Others might find themselves bored. Replayability gets a 6 out of 10.

 

 

Sound:

The sound effects are pretty average. Some stages have no sound effects, with the only noise you hear being the interactive music in the background. The best sound in the game is in the swimming stage when you die, the noise of the piranhas eating you. Because of the sparse lack of sound effects in most stages, Sound gets a score of 4 out of 10.

 

 

Music:

The music is what everybody always remembers from this game. It sounds like tribal techno and it changes depending on how well you are progressing in a stage. It also starts out with a thump thump which reminds me of a heart beat and a little bit of the beginning part of Queen – Flash Gordon.

The music for Aztec Challenge is so great that it’s often remixed by the c64 remix scene. Here is one of my favorite clips from the Press Play On Tape metal version:

Here is another video with a more techno version:

As you can hear, the music for this game is pretty epic and one of the most remembered songs for the c64. Music gets a 10 out of 10.

 

 

Graphics:

The Graphics are rather simple but this is an early c64 game. For its time the graphics were pretty impressive vs other c64 games. I like the variety of different environments that they included for the game, although some of the stages are rather spartan. The most impressive graphically are the first stage, with you running to the pyramid, and the last one where you run across a broken bridge in between two mountains. I give Graphics an 8 out of 10.

 

 

Stability/Reliability:

C64’s don’t crash unless running poorly cracked games. I’ve never seen a bad copy of Aztec Challenge. There are also no bugs or parts in the game where you can’t continue. Stability/Reliability get a 10 out of 10.

 

 

Controls:

Basic and obvious joystick controls. The fire button usually either makes you jump for some of the stages. Some stages have different kinds of jumps that vary in height/length. These are done by pushing the joystick different directions to vary the jump. In the traps stage, you press the fire button to stop running and up to jump. In the piranha stage, you press the fire button to dive for a few seconds, to prevent being eaten alive. Controls get a 7 out of 10 because the game doesn’t explain in game what you need to do and you might die the first time playing.

 

 

Performance:

There is no lag on the original c64 nor the emulators on any modern PC. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

 

 

My history with this game:

This is a game from my childhood that has always blown my mind. I’ve probably played over 120 hours of this game as a child, maybe more. This is the game my cousins, friends, and I would fire up when somebody used to claim c64 games were easy.

I’ve played it many times, when I was younger, simply to hear the music. It’s not the most relaxing game but I do enjoy a good challenge so sometimes I want to fire it up to put my nerves other the edge. Give it a go and see how far you can go before getting the game over screen.

 

Master of Orion

Master of Orion box cover
Master of Orion box cover

Master of Orion 1 (MS-DOS) Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The original explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate space mega empire game.”

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

Overview:

This is the grand daddy, 5000 lb gorilla of space empire games. From the now dead Microprose, this is one of those games, among XCOM and Master of Magic and Civilization that made that company a gaming legend.

You take the role of the immortal emperor of one of many emerging races that just discovered the ability to travel to other star systems and begin the competition for colonization, later leading to war, and galaxywide politics as to who will win the war for supremacy or the votes of all nations as the race to unify the galaxy as the leader of a mega empire (ending the game).

The game consists of you taking turns (non-simultaneous) with your rivals, managing your planets’ development, research directions (allows multiple research projects at a time vs 1 in later space empire games, which I think that’s unrealistic), your spy projects (they can sabotage, steal tech, be sleepers), your diplomacy (make alliances, actually never do almost, and trade tech, start trade deals, threaten and demand tribute, end and start wars), and conquer conquer conquer. You can orbitally bombard planets to dust basically or be smart about your killing (because later the weapons can literally scorch all populations out of existence, even one ship) and enslave, I mean welcome the conquered population to your empire.

There are different races that each has an advantage, whether a bonus in diplomacy or faster production or research or better combat skills (space or ground combat, which is good for taking over planets) or spying or their people breed like rabbits or some don’t require any terraforming whatsoever (which is a major part of the game, being able to actually claim and live on planets aka breathing is a major technology).

The game is won be either eliminating all rivals or becoming the new emperor of a unified star empire.

This is the game that inspired most future space empire games such as Space Empires, Galactic Civilizations, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc.

Fun Factor:

This game is like crack. If you love micromanagement and having to defend 6 fronts at a time, this is the turn based strategy game for you. Since the game is turn based, you can take your time planning where to attack next or who to try to start a war with (or make them fight each other by making your spies start a fake terrorist attack vs each other). The game makes you feel as though you are using your brain and even to this day, over 15 years of me playing it, I’m always finding out new little secret strategies to deploy. If you’re a war gamer, you will agree that this game has a Fun Factor of 9 out of 10. It’s a game for thinkers.

Difficulty Versatility:

The game has like 5 difficulty settings and it becomes really brutal the higher you go. You can scale the size of the galaxy so that you can play a long or REALLY long game. This sometimes has a harsher effect on how hard it is. Imagine having to fight a fleet of 20 war planets producing full time vs one of 4 planets. It requires you to have the logistical foresight to be able to take on such an onslaught. I give the Difficulty Versality a score of 10 out of 10.

Value:

Well, Microprose is dead and basically so this game is now free. You can get it from sites such as http://www.abandonia.com/ or http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/ and run it on DOSBox for free. You can also opt to buy Master of Orion 1 + 2 together for $5.99 from Good Old Games. Since this game is amazing and it’s free or very cheap, the score for Value is maxed out at 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve been playing it at least 2-3 times a year since the mid 90s. It’s one of those games that is on a permanent list to play each year. Like Civilization, once I start playing this game it’s hard for me to do anything but that for a good 2-4 weeks, each time. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.

Sound:

I usually have the sound off, but the sounds are okay for an early 90s DOS strategy game. I give the Sound a score of 6 out of 10.

Music:

The music is alright but I usually shut it off and play some classical or epic music in the background. Keeps the game play strong and my concentration on maxing out planets and blowing up enemy fleets. The Music that comes with the game gets a 6 out of 10.

Graphics:

Of course, the graphics are now way dated, but for it’s time they were pretty great for a war game. The weapon beam effects look great for DOS and even the homing missiles look threatening although it’s just a grey arrow almost. Considering the style behind the Microprose games of this time and that it’s a war game, Graphics get a 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never, ever crashes, itself. Sometimes DOSBox has some issues when you ALT-TAB but that’s a problem with DOSBox, not the game itself. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simply point and click with a few hotkeys integrated. The hotkeys however are not necessarily shown in game and you’d have to read the manual or look them up online. Some are essential like B for scrapping your missile bases in case they are too obsolete or your war front has moved up from that location and you’re wasting resources maintaining them. I give controls a 7 out of 10 because although some are hidden, they do what they’re meant to do properly and keep the game playable.

Performance:

This game will run godlike on any computer, maybe even a mobile phone. Performance instantly gets a 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is actually one of the first PC games I’ve ever bought and it was well worth it as it has given me literally over 1000 hours of gameplay. I played it first on a 486 so you have an idea how much of a place in my gaming history this game has. Because of it’s turn based nature I’ve even played this game while working and that’s very doable so long as you have good multitasking skills and a good memory as to your strategems. I hope you will all start playing this classic even as a new gamer, you will learn new ways to think and that’s always, always rewarding in itself.

Master of Orion manual
Master of Orion manual

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG

Though I had played various RPG’s on the NES and Amiga in the past it was watching my friend play Final Fantasy IV on the Super NES that got me heavily into RPG’s. My friend would come over and I would just watch him play for hours, so much so that my mother began to wonder why her son was sitting around watching another boy play a game for six hours.

At the time I was a big Mario fan. I had beaten all the games that had come out even earning recognition in Nintendo Power for beating Super Mario World. When I read that Super Mario RPG, made by Square (Now Square Enix) was being released I was ecstatic. By then I had already gone back and beaten all the previous Final Fantasy games, so to combine my love for Square RPG’s and Mario into one game was just heaven.

When I finally had it in my hand and loaded it up I was amazed by the quality and music of the game. The graphics had almost a claymation vibe to it and it fit the game very well. Some of the in game sound effects were a bit loud, but overall the presentation was very well done.

The open sequence had Mario on his way to Bowser’s castle to save Princess Toadstool. The isometric platform style of the game took a bit to get use to, but after a few battles it felt natural. Unlike some of the Square RPG’s before it, in Mario RPG the enemies were visible on the map and in most cases you could avoid them though some you had no choice but to fight.

Personally I wondered how the story would go since from the beginning you were jumping and fighting your way though Bowser’s castle to find the Princess tied to a huge chandelier. You have to keep in mind there was almost no place to go at the time to see reviews or spoilers, so when I defeated Bowser the first time I was generally worried the game might not have much to it, but I was wrong.

Before I continue with the story let’s talk about game play. The game definitely felt like a Square RPG, but it had all the elements you would expect from a Mario game as well. You could walk and jump pretty freely on the main world and once in battle you fought turn based style just as you would in Final Fantasy. Within the battle you had four choices, your main attack, items, your special attack and tactics such as run away or defend.

The game is fairly easy even if you haven’t played any RPG’s before. Whichever character you were playing had different attacks and when you used them you could hit a corresponding button to increase the damage. For instance if you are playing Mario and use his jump ability, if you hit the right button at the right time you will do extra damage and you would know you did it right because you would hear a special sound, in Mario’s jump attack case it was the one up sound.

You can time your defense as well, so when an enemy is about to hit you, you would hit the correct button and you will either take less damage or absorb the hit all together. Pretty much if you got the timing down you were unbeatable, if you sucked at timing you might find some of the boss fights pretty hard.

The overall story in a nutshell was that pieces of the Star Road fell to the world and were being collected by the evil Smithy gang, Smithy, a robotic blacksmith was a from an alternate dimension with aspirations of world domination. The Smithy gang was so bad ass they even took over Bowser’s castle and kicked him out.

The main protagonist is Mario who along with Princess Toadstool, Bowser and two new characters, Mallow, a strange-looking tadpole (with a secret) and Geno, a star spirit who has taken control over a doll, fight to get the star pieces back. But fear not there are a ton of other side stories and adventures.

Now this game came out in 1996 and there are a ton of reviews on it and you can even play it on the Wii, so I am not writing this so much as a review. However, as anyone will tell you Mario RPG was one of those games that once you started playing you would not want to put down. From the music to the boss fights to the hilarious shorelines, the game, in my opinion, perfectly mixed the worlds of Mario into an RPG format that did not get stale.

Personally the use of humor in the game was what made me fall in love with it. There are multiple laugh out loud moments from fighting a giant cake, a power ranger spoof and Toadstool’s forced wedding. Also, Square tossed in many little references to its other RPG’s including a fight against a very Final Fantasy-like character called, Culex which, in my humble opinion, was pretty hard to beat.

Overall it was a great addition to the RPG lineup you could find on the SNES. I believe it is still worth playing today and though I am not a fan of the Wii, if you have one I would suggest downloading it or if you have this thing called an emulator…. Oh, the Obsolete Gamer legal team says I can’t talk about that, never mind, just go check this game out.

If you want to listen to the original soundtrack click here