Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (1990, Sega, Genesis)

Most of Mickey Mouse's 16-Bit endeavors have been held in high regard by fans, and it's relatively easy to see why. The challenges are tough but never overwhelming, the control is almost always tight, and the visuals have that distinct Disney charm to them, making them as fun to watch as they are to play. The first 16-Bit game on the iconic rodent's belt is Castle of Illusion, which came around during the "Genesis Does" campaign Sega was pushing so hard. Sega emphasized the animation of Mickey himself, while not being animated by Disney itself, looked incredibly slick for the time. Most Genesis fans agree that Castle of Illusion was the best game of the Genesis's second year.

The plot is this: Mickey and Minnie were spending time swinging each other around (for some odd reason), when all of a sudden, a rather hideous witch named Mizrabel kidnaps Minnie and takes her to the game's namesake setting; The Castle of Illusion. So now, Mickey has to find seven "rainbow gems" and destroy Mizrabel if he wants to get his girlfriend back. 

Castle of Illusion plays like most side-scrolling platformers. Mickey can move left and right, jump, and throw "items" which are basically ammo. If you press the jump button when you are in the air Mickey will come down with a "butt slam" maneuver that can be used on your foes to launch you up higher. This move is quite novel and bouncing off multiple enemies is pretty satisfying. 

The highlight of the game is definitely the visuals. While not exactly vibrant, they do have that Disney quality to them, and they are quite robust. The forest stage looks relatively dark and even the Dessert Palace looked kind of....gray. The enemies you face, as you probably expect, look like they have been pulled out of a Disney cartoon. Mickey himself is very well animated, and moves and jumps very fluidly. His facial expressions when he falls into a bottomless pit, or is about to fall over a edge, will more than likely bring a smile to your face.

The sound design gets the job done. The music sounds pretty good, some good tracks here and there. The boss theme sounds intense and menacing, and the Toy Palace theme is pretty catchy. The sound effects, however, are not very good. Mickey makes this high pitched shriek when he takes damage, and the 'shing' sound every time you destroy an enemy gets on your nerves.

I couldn't find any real major flaws with Castle of Illusion. It's a truly enjoyable little platform romp for the Genesis and is one of the games that helped Sega take the lead on the 16-Bit era. Almost everyone loves Mickey Mouse in some way, and this game certainly shows the rodent's charm. The Genesis didn't really take off until Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, but Castle of Illusion definitely helped put Sega on top in the 16-Bit market.

+ Great graphics for 1990.
+ Has that Disney charm.
+ Slick animation and fluid control.
+ Surprisingly intense and somber music.

- Annoying sound effects.

OVERALL: 9 out of 10

Sunday, December 19, 2010

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (1992, Sega, Genesis)

Mickey Mouse has always been one of those characters that has been "around the block" in video games. The iconic rodent has been on almost every console in some shape or form, and unlike most games based on licensed characters, his track record is surprisingly clean. Most retro gamers appreciate Mickey's efforts on the 16-Bit consoles, and World of Illusion is of course no exception, despite a few minor setbacks.

The plot is this: Mickey and Donald are practicing a magic show when all of a sudden Donald discovers a box of some sort backstage. Donald's curiosity got the best of him and he looks inside, being pulled inside in the process. Mickey of course jumps in after him. When they enter, another magician challenges them to fight and defeat him in order to escape this new world they just arrived in.

Gameplay is simple yet enjoyable. It's a ordinary platformer with a cool twist: two player co-op. Both Mickey and Donald can be controlled at once, and it's substantially more fun to play with a friend. You'll notice that both heroes move rather slowly, but there is a "dash" button that can be used for quicker movement. But the kicker with this concept is the level design; there is simply too much stuff to run into that you would be better off just to ignore this feature all together, but at the same time it makes the game seem rather tedious in the process. It's a bit of a strange flaw, but can easily be overlooked.

Believe it or not, the game actually changes depending how you play it. If you play as Mickey, the game is basically at normal mode; the way the game is meant to be played. If you play as Donald, the game becomes significantly more difficult, focusing on pinpoint jumps and evading enemies rather than attacking like Mickey. If you play co-op, the game becomes much more focused on teamwork, adding some new stages designed for two players. This diversity within the game gives it alot of replay value; always a good thing in video games.

Ive always enjoyed the graphics in 16-Bit Disney games, and World of Illusion is no exception. Both Mickey and Donald animate well and the stages are bright and colorful. Bosses are visually impressive, yet easy and uninteresting to fight. The audio is decent as well, however some music stands out more than others (the ocean level sounds pretty) and the effects are a little weak on certain ends.

There are of course some issues. Both characters attacks consist of a enchanted cape that they fling at enemies; turning them into harmless objects, but the cape kind of has a awkward angle of attack which can lead to some cheap hits here and there, but for the most part the attack works just fine. The level design is a times less than perfect, there are traps placed is some very precarious areas that are next to impossible to avoid, again, leading to some mandatory damage.

Despite some pretty glaring flaws like cheap hits and occasionally weak controls, World of Illusion is a excellent sidescroller with a neat 2-Player option. The visuals are stylish and diverse, the gameplay is solid and relatively challenging, the ocean stage's music is really good, and to top it all off, it has the most iconic cartoon character around as the main character. World of Illusion is part of a consistently good "Illusion" series that is the favorite of many Disney fans, and going by this game it's not too hard to see why.

+ Colorful graphics.
+ Awesome 2-Player option.
+ Diverse gameplay options.
+ Relaxing ocean tune.

- Questionable "dash" option.
- A cheap hit here and there.
- Inconsistent sound design.

OVERALL: 8.2 out of 10

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (1991, Konami, Game Boy)

In 1989, Konami released one of their first two games for the brand new Game Boy system; Motocross Maniacs and The Castlevania Adventure. Castlevania fans were very excited that a new game was coming around for the shiny new handheld, and unlike Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, was thankfully like the original.
But hopes were quickly dashed as fans expressed their intense dislike for what appears to be an incredibly lazy effort. Inconsistent level design and sluggish gameplay (even more so than the Castlevania games already are) are rampant through this mediocre title. Fortunately, Konami released a remake earlier this year, and a awesome one at that.

Konami decided to try their hand once again with Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. And while it still is somewhat inferior to it's console bretherin, it's still a hell of a lot of fun, and actually is probably the best action game on the handheld. The plot is a continuation of Adventure's storyline. You still control Christopher Belmont, now trying to rescue his son from the control of Count Dracula; thirsty for revenge and bodily fluids. Like usual, not award-winning material, but it gets the job done.

I can tell you right now, Castlevania II's gameplay is vastly improved over Adventure's. Christoper controls like a dream (as far as Castlevania games go, at least), having no noticeable delay on his movements. The game speed is significantly faster, so it feels more like the console titles. Unlike Adventure, Castlevania II actually has sub-weapons such as the Axe and Holy Water. But these are the only two in the game. Unique to this title is the ability to select which stage you wish to go to, however this has no impact on how the game plays out, just the order it goes in. To make the game work with this concept, all of the levels are equally as difficult as each other. This leads to a lack of gradually ramping difficulty, making this game quite easy up until the final few levels. Good news for gamers new to the series, but bad for hardcore fans.

Castlevania II looks great for the monochrome handheld. All of the environments are diverse and detailed, Christopher himself looks improved over the original, and the larger bosses in the game look a bit intimidating as far as 8-Bit goes. Everything looks slick and animates just as well. The music is excellent, even compared to the console games. New Messiah and End of the Day are now staples in the series' soundtracks, and they came from this game. Control is about what you'd expect from Castlevania; slightly sluggish and yet incredibly tight at the same time. You still lose control of your character when he's airborne at all, so you have to plan your jumps carefully, and stay away from pits.

While Castlevania II hasn't really aged particularly well, it's still one of the quintessential games for the famous 8-Bit console. It's looks fantastic as far as Game Boy goes, the music is amazing, a unique (yet pointless) stage select, and the tough-as-nails action are still all here, and in a nice portable package. There's no excuse not to hunt Dracula down once more in this top-notch action platformer.

+ Slick presentation.
+ Awesome music.
+ Fixes most of The Castlevania Adventure's problems.
+ Cool "Stage Select" function..........

- ....that's practically useless.
- Distinctly lower difficulty that most games in the series.

OVERALL: 8.5 out of 10

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992, Nintendo, Super NES)

If you are a gamer, and someone asks you, "What is your favorite video game", we all realize that this question is difficult to answer. All gamers like alot of video games obviously, so you have, naturally, alot of games to choose from. But it never was a difficult question for me. My favorite video game was the game that got me into video gaming in the first place.

That game is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

This action/puzzle epic was the brainchild of one of the grandfathers of gaming, Shigeru Miyamoto. It was essentially a giant open playground, just waiting for you to uncover it's many secrets. You journey on a epic quest to save the land of Hyrule from the forces of darkness, uncovering many riddles and arming yourself with mighty weapons and useful tools.

The plot is simple, yet effective. You control Link, a boy who was awoken by a vision of a strange girl, beckoning him to come and save her from a horrible fate. Your uncle gets up, armed with a sword and shield. He simply states: "Don't leave the house."

The opening of the game is still one of my favorite moments in gaming, running through a storm going after your uncle. You find your uncle, near death. He gives you his weapons, and your quest begins........

It is deeper than that, but the short version is that you have to find 3 magic pendants, and then find 8 crystals.

The story is brilliantly conveyed throughout the entire game, and it's perfect for this kind of game.
The game looks fantastic, with well-detailed dungeons alongside a colorful overworld, cool effects including the 3D Triforce coming together in the game's intro and the Mode 7 scrolling world map. In short, LTTP is among the best of the 16-bit era graphically.

The sound and music in LTTP is phenomenal. Koji Kondo did a amazing job with this game. From the awesome tune in the title screen, the soothing music of the file selection screen, the epic and majestic theme of the overworld, the dark and menacing tune of the Dark World, the list goes on. LTTP has the best soundtrack on the Super NES, and has one of my favorite game soundtracks ever.

But LTTP's true calling is it's amazing, perfect gameplay(in my opinion). I have never enjoyed a video game as much as this one. It's a perfect blend of arcade-style action and deep, robust puzzle-solving. It's basically a much more fleshed out version of the original. A top-down action/puzzle game with some very light RPG elements. Whether you are exploring the land of Hyrule searching for it's many well-hidden secrets, trying to fight your way through a taxing dungeon, battling a intense boss, of simply swimming through the rivers, you will never stop enjoying this game. It has that perfect balance of difficulty: It's not a easy game, but it never feels cheap or frustrating. The most amazing aspect of LTTP is The Dark World. Imagine if you were living in your town/city, but suddenly, out of nowhere, everything became dark and evil, with certain death lurking around every corner. That is how it will feel in The Dark World, a evil and twisted version of Hyrule. It is a revolutionary game concept and the most ingenious in video gaming.

I can find no flaws in this game. It is seriously, to me, the perfect video game. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is quite simply the game to end all games. No gamer should not have this game in their collection. If it's on the original system, the Wii's Virtual Console, the Game Boy Advance, or even on a Emulator, you need this game. You need it.

LTTP proves that Nintendo was, and still is, the top dog in the gaming market. It proves that Miyamoto's creations are timeless and age gracefully. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is Miyamoto's magnum opus, and as I said before, the greatest video game of all time.

+ Simple, yet effective storyline.
+ Perfect blend of Arcade-style and Puzzle gaming.
+ Perfectly balanced difficulty.
+ Epic musical score.
+ Colorful and detailed graphics.
+ So many epic moments.
+ Revolutionary and Ingenious Dark World mechanic.

+ None that I have seen.

OVERALL: ****10 out of 10****

Friday, October 1, 2010

Okami (2008, Wii, Capcom)

I really never seen video games as works of art. Yeah, I understand that the developers for the most part put their heart and souls into their products, but I never constituted artistic value in video games.

Until I played this.

Okami was released for the Playstation 2 in 2006, created by Clover Studio and published by Capcom. It was released to near universal acclaim, some sites even giving it game of the year awards. But despite the critical success, it was not nearly as successful in the market, barely selling at all in the U.S. It was released a few months before the PS3 and Wii were released to market, so maybe gamers just seen the PS2 as a dying format?

Anyway, I have never played the PS2 game before, but I have played the Wii version extensively, so I will go over this edition of the game.

Okami's plot is complex and very compelling. You control the Japanese sun god Amaterasu, but strangely, you are incarnated as a white wolf. Amaterasu was summoned by the wood sprite Sakuya to save the land of Nippon (essentially Japan) from a evil force. This is the basis of the plot of course, but trust me, it's much deeper than that and there are many enjoyable characters that you will encounter on your quest. Okami's story is much better done than Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (a game I never cared much for anyway) and will keep you playing through till the end.

There is but one thing to say about Okami's graphics: absolutely brilliant. I have never seen a game quite like Okami. The game truly looks amazing, with a art style best described as looking like a Japanese watercolor painting. I haven't quite seen anything like it in any game, and in my opinion it is the most beautiful game I have ever played. Nothing looks bleak or bland, everything has life and color to it. It's really pretty.

The gameplay, however is where Okami truly shines. It is much like The Legend of Zelda series in structure, but it distinct enough to be it's own unique experience. You control Amaterasu through the land of Nippon exploring beaches, forests, caves, cities, and much much more. Okami's true call to fame is the Celestial Brush. By holding down the B trigger on the Wii remote, you will activate the brush and be able to "paint" images and objects that become real. This gives the player a lot of power, with such abilities as being able to cut the hardest stone in half with a stroke of your brush, or drawing the sun into the sky. It does a really good job at making you feel like a god and makes some truly unique puzzles that are a blast to solve.

The combat is similar to Zelda as well, but Amaterasu has access to more weapons than Link does. Her main weapon seems to be a flaming stone disc, but as you progress, you will acquire swords and bead whips to help in purifying the land of evil demons. Also unlike Link, Amaterasu can string together multiple hits to devastate opponents with her divine weaponry. On a added note, Amaterasu can also manually jump with the A button, unlike Link. You also have no transportation, but Ammy can run faster than Epona (Link's horse) can.

Like Zelda, there are dungeons to explore and epic bosses to be fought, but it seems less obvious than Zelda, it seems that everything seems to just seam together and give the game more momentum. The puzzles, like I stated before, are really fun to solve due to the versatility of the Celestial Brush. They are as taxing as Zelda's puzzles, and are equally, if not even more rewarding.

Okami is a lengthy adventure, even longer than Twilight Princess. I guarantee that you will not beat Okami in one sitting. The game runs about 30-40+ hours, and you will enjoy every moment of it.

The music is also fantastic, even on par with Zelda's or Mega Man's music. It has a eastern feel to it (which makes sense) and has an epic, sweeping effect on players. And I swear to god, Okami has the most epic final boss battle ever, just because of the music. (The Sun Rises)

As much as I love Okami, I don't like the amount of dialogue. It seems that you'll be doing a lot of reading thoroughout your adventure and that may put off some gamers. But the dialogue is very, very well written, especially Issun's dialogue. At least Issun isn't nearly as annoying as Navi from Ocarina of Time. On the same note, there are quite a bit of fetch quests, but it seems to be a nagging issue because every single game seems to have them in one way or another. The biggest gripe I have with Okami is it's difficulty, of lack thereof. The enemies and bosses don't seem to be particulary aggressive, and you can even avoid almost all battles outright. Your brush is a little overpowered, making the majority of fights, even the last boss, very simple.

From the very beginning to the very end, there is no better way to describe Okami other than beautiful. This game is truly a work of art, and is my vote for most underrated game of all time. All gamers, casual or hardcore, must experience this amazing game. The graphics are beautiful, the music is brilliant, the story is compelling and light-hearted, the gameplay among the best of The Legend of Zelda, Okami is truly best described as a brilliant work of art. And as far as I'm concerned, Okami has the best ending of anything. Ever.

Okami is a timeless classic in my book, and is one of my favorite video games. There is absolutely no excuse not to buy and experience this brilliant masterpiece.

Long live Amaterasu.

+ Best graphics in any game I've ever played.
+ Charming and compelling plot and enjoyable characters.
+ Brilliantly designed gameplay vaguely like The Legend of Zelda.
+ Unique "Celestial Brush" mechanic.
+ Sweeping, and even moving music score.

- Dialogue may disinterest impatient gamers.
- Combat is a little too easy.

OVERALL: ***9.8 out of 10***

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Splatterhouse 2 (1992, Namco, Sega Genesis)

Ah, I LOVE me some Splatterhouse! It's the Halloween season, and being the huge gore-fest horror movie buff, Splatterhouse is absolutely perfect for Halloween. I adore the Splatterhouse series because of it's numerous references to famous horror flicks. Splatterhouse also has buckets and buckets of gore. Delicious gore........

Uh, ahem. After reviewing the first game, I decided to look up and play the 2nd one, which apparently is only on the Genny. I would guess that the sequel would be on the TurboGrafx 16, but I digress.
The plot is kinda confusing due to it being edited for the American release. It's been three months since the events of the first game. Rick Taylor, the hero of the series, is being haunted by his inability to save his beloved Jessica, and the Terror Mask's visions. The mask beckons Rick to go back to the house and save her. Even though the house burned to the ground in the first game.

The gameplay is familiar to the first game: it is a side-scrolling action beat 'em up with a arcade flair. Rick still uses his meaty hands to obliterate the evil ghouls, along with lead pipes, shotguns, and thigh bones. You fight through the distinct stages until you reach the evil boss. Unfortunately, the diversity of the stages isn't as great as the original. Actually, as a matter of fact, the level design is kinda dull. It's not unbearably bad, but it's noticeable. But the action is still there, almost to a fault. You still slaughter hordes of evil monsters which always explode into a billion pieces when you hit them.

The graphics are pretty good. Everything has good detail to it and looks pretty good, especially for the Genesis, but nothing particularly jumps or stands out. They get the job done, I guess. Splatterhouse was never renowned for it's sound design, and this game is no exception, sadly. The tunes aren't bad, but they're not up to Sonic 3.

The game is a little more difficult than the 1st, mostly because of the bosses. The boss encounters in the 1st are pretty hard, but in this one they are just plain frustrating. Especially that monster who does the slide kick over and over again.

I think that the big issue with Splatterhouse 2 is that it's not really a sequel. It's more along the lines of a remake, as the house seems to be back(at least on the American version). People probably won't like the fact that Splatterhouse 2 is actually more of a retelling of the first one, even though the plot tries to tie it in with the 2nd one. I like this game a lot personally because it's more challenging and most importantly, more violent. So, if you don't like violent games, Splatterhouse 2 is not for you.

Splatterhouse 2 is that perfect game to play around Halloween time. I always play through the series every Halloween season, and I'm really hoping this reboot coming around this November is decent(I'm honestly more excited about Epic Mickey.) But if you are new to the series, you need to play the original first, or you will not understand the appeal of Splatterhouse 2. Horror buffs and gore hounds will love this game, but gamers looking for a deep experience should look elsewhere.

+ Lots of horror movie references and Delicious gore.
+ Challenging and Intense Arcade-style gameplay.
+ Decent graphics and Tunes that create the mood that the game's looking for.

A little too similar to the original.
- Confusing plot that seems to be a retelling of the 1st game.
- Frustrating and occasionally cheap bosses.

OVERALL:  ***7.8 out of 10***

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Splatterhouse (1990, Namco/NEC, Turbografx-16)

When I was visiting a friend of mine back a few years ago, he had just bought a system known as TurboGrafx 16. It was mint condition in the box, which admittedly looked like it seen better days, and came with 4 games: Bonk's Adventure, Blazing Lazers, R-Type, and a particularly interesting game called Splatterhouse.

This game stuck with me over the years because it was one of the first games to implement graphic violence in the gameplay. Now you should know, the Turbografx version is not the prime example if this: most, if not all of the violence, has been toned down or removed. Also, certain aspects of the arcade original were changed. I have not played the arcade version, so this post will be about the TurboGrafx version.

You are Rick Taylor, a college student out with his girlfriend Jennifer to visit the mansion of the infamous Dr. West. A storm hits and you and your girlfriend take shelter in the mansion. Turns out that was a mistake because the mansion is infested with numerous types of monsters, and they manage to get a hold of you and your girlfriend. They slaughter you and kidnap Jennifer, but fortunately for you, you are saved by a artifact called the Terror Mask. It revives you, giving you superhuman strength to fight the hordes of monsters to save your girlfriend.

Splatterhouse is a side-scrolling beat em' up. Rick can jump, crouch, and attack enemies with either his fists or numerous weapons laying around the mansion, such as cleavers, 2X4s, etc. The action takes place on one plane, meaning Rick can only move left and right, not up or down like Final Fight.
The controls are nice and responsive, but Rick slides a bit after letting go of the directional pad. This led to a cheap hit or death here and there, but it can be easy to work with if you practice. The real fun of Splatterhouse is the use of weaponry, as they commonly destroy enemies with one blow, leaving a nice violent aftermath. The difficulty is on the hard side, as Rick can only take 3-5 hits before losing a life. Pattern recognition is the name of the game here, and if you are just a little slow on the draw, you are a dead man. Add in some tricky bosses, and you have yourself a hell of a time. Thankfully it's worth the frustration and effort, because Splatterhouse is really fun to play.

The main draw to Splatterhouse is the violence. Rick dispatches his gruesome foes in equally gruesome fashion, green goop flying all over the place, heads flying off, smashing monsters into the walls, leaving a nice stain. The mansion Rick goes through has seen better days, holes riddle the floors, along with countless unidentifiable remains. The boreworm stages look like piles of bloody meat stacked up, and the final boss looks like a human pizza (seriously.). In general, the game's visuals depends on if you like horror films (like me.) If you love gore, you'll love Splatterhouse. All others probably won't like it at all.

Not much to say here. The music isn't the least bit memorable, and the sound effects don't really give your attacks any impact. Kind of an disappointment, really.

Sadly, the TG16 port of Splatterhouse is heavily censored out. Most of the violence was softened a bit, a good example being the splatter effect when you smash a zombie against the wall in the first area. In the original, the zombie splattered green all over the wall, and slid down, leaving a nice blood streak on the way down. The TG16 edition simply shows the zombie smashed against the wall, nearly bloodless. Another case is with the boss in the chapel stage. The original being a inverted cross, and the revision being another mask. Understandable that they would change this, seeing that it would cause a great deal of controversy, but it's still a buzzkill.

Well, what can I say? Splatterhouse screams "Guilty Pleasure". The violence is the main appeal of the Splatterhouse series, but if you take that away, then it feels kind of like a Kung Fu clone, and a sloppy one at that. And that's the big flaw with the TurboGrafx version, it feels cut down. Not just because it's a port on inferior hardware (which it is), because NEC removed most of the violence to avoid problems with parents, which eliminates the purpose of releasing it here in the states any way. As it stands, it's an okay game at best, it gives a bit of challenge, and it's still kinda fun, but I would find a way to play the original arcade game.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rant on E.T for the Atari 2600.

Everyone knows about this game. E.T is very famous (or infamous, rather) for being the "worst game ever made." I never got around to playing this game because of it's brutally negative reception. But, after reading some articles on this apparent trash heap, I finally got around to playing it. And in my honest opinion, the game isn't terrible.

Now I'm not saying the game is fantastic, because it's not, but it is a very playable game with a lot of interesting elements that are always overlooked in the reviews I have seen and read. First thing is the random nature of the game. The objective of this game is to find all of the parts to a phone so E.T can phone home. To find the parts, you have to search in holes to get them. All of these parts you must acquire are placed randomly every single time you play, giving the game alot of replayability. The graphics are nice, clean, and colorful. They aren't as good as Ms. Pac-Man, but they are still quite nice. E.T also has a nice rendition of the theme song on the title screen, too.

But there is a issue with the holes you must fall in, that isn't exaggerated. When you fall into one, you must levitate back out. The issue is that it's not always easy to, because if you are too close to the edge, you'll slide back in. This happens too much and can burn through your valuable energy. Also there are actions that you can perform, such as eating candy to restore your power, and shake your enemies off of your tail, a FBI agent, and a scientist. But these actions have to be performed in certain areas that seem to be completely random in location. It's usually easy to find these areas, but it's still kinda silly that it seems random when you can restore your energy.

But these are minor gripes! There are too many people that completely rip apart this game because of minor issues. This not bad. But it's still kind of an off title in the 2600 library, not one I would prefer. There are two reasons that people rip this game: It's very complex for a 2600 game, and most people who bash it never played it. Wow, the game actually requires you to read the damn manual! Shocker! The complexity is refreshing for a Atari game, and makes the game a Zelda-like adventure. A lot of people who rag on E.T have never even played it. People probably do this because it's common knowledge in the gaming community and it comes natural for most gamers to say that it's a bad game. I understand this mentality and I actually did the same thing at one point, but then I decided to actually look in the game in-depth, and actually seen a O.K game.

Oh, and the Video Game Crash of '83?  E.T had little to do with it.

E.T didn't almost ruin the video game industry. Atari almost ruined the industry.

You see, Atari produced E.T in mass quantities, because most E.T merchandise sold like hotcakes, so Atari had the same idea and made 3.5 million copies ready to ship out in Christmas 1982. E.T only sold 1.5 million.
So, the rumors about the cartridges being buried out in New Mexico, are true. E.T didn't stop selling because it was known as a awful game, it stopped selling because it was already sold to it's target audience. Believe it or not, E.T has sold more copies that Super Metroid.

The whole situation was simply overestimating how well E.T would sell. Atari was simply being a greedy corporation, and tried to milk their consumer base for all it's worth. And that decision ended up swimming up and biting them in the ass.

So if you hear about some moron on the internet complaining his ass off about how much E.T on the Atari 2600 sucks, just laugh, stand up, and say "You have no idea what the hell you're talking about."

(Note: I quote an article I seen a few months back, I don't remember what it is unfortunately.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Phantasy Star II (1989, Sega, Genesis)

I'm not really a big fan of RPG games. I seldom play them due to their tendency to require you to grind for hours and hours. Yeah, not fun. Anyway, that's not to say that I don't enjoy an "epic" quest once in a while. A few weeks ago, I purchased a compilation for my PS3 called Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. I may cover it in a later post. There are several RPG games on the collection, one of which being my favorite RPG: Phantasy Star IV. But I'm not here to review that game. I'm actually reviewing another game in the Phantasy Star series, one I actually never played before: Phantasy Star II.

In 1989, Phantasy Star II was released shortly after the console launched in the U.S, and was toted as being a video game so advanced, that not even a computer could run it.

The plot of the game is simple, seeing that this is a early RPG. You are Rolf, a agent in the town of Paseo (?)
who has to fix a sentient overlord called Mother Brain (Yes, Mother Brain.). The story is a little deeper than that, but I really haven't gotten far enough to see any details (more on that later.)

The graphics are decently good for the time. Nice colors and detailed anime-like character portraits are the name of the game here, along with creepy looking monsters and bosses. Music seems to get the job done trying to convey the whole "futuristic Sci-fi" setting of the game. I really had some confusion with the whole theme, being a futuristic RPG with weapons like swords and steel bars. Yes, I am aware that there are more modern weapons in this game, such as guns, but the point stays the same.

The gameplay is standard RPG fair, overworld and dungeon exploring with turn-based random battles.
The battle screen is always the same: a blue laser grid-type background with your characters facing forward towards whatever monster your fighting. This is underwhelming compared to PSIV's changing backgrounds, but that game came out in 1994, so I guess it isn't anything I can complain about.

But if you are new to this kind of game, I suggest you stay away. Because PSII's dungeons are excruciatingly difficult. The overworld gameplay isn't too difficult if you are used to RPGs, but the game's dungeon areas will put even the most skilled RPG players in the fetal position. But don't be too scared, a little grinding action will get you through to the game's supposedly awesome ending, although I don't really know because I haven't beaten it just yet.

In general, for a early Genesis title, the game is quite good. Not up to PSIV's standards to be sure, but still a awesome RPG all the same. The brutal nature of the game's dungeons and the need of excessive level grinding is a negative for me, but it isn't a bad way to kill a few weeks.


+ Colorful graphics.
+ Decent in-game tunes.
+ Tried-and-true classic RPG style.


- Tiresome battle background graphics.
- Controller-throwingily difficult dungeons.

Overall: ***7.8 out of 10***

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (2010, Ubisoft, PS3)

As my very few readers probably know, I am a major retro gaming enthusiast. I have been since I was 5 years old, playing Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. 3. As a Retro gamer, I look for obscure hits such as Clash at Demonhead and River City Ransom. Looking around the Playstation Store a few days back, I seen a new downloadable title called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Hearing from multiple game sites of it's retro appeal (and seeing the movie, which is my new favorite) I decided to try the demo. I had trouble with my internet a few days ago, and could not download it, but now I have downloaded it and tried it. And I have to say I was very surprised at what I seen. Very, very surprised.

I was skeptical at first. I mean, I know as well as any gamer, that licensed games tend to totally suck. Games such as Bebe's Kids, No Escape, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park just prove this point. But I decided to try it to play it because I love the Scott Pilgrim Universe (became a recent fan after I seen the film) and I absolutely love it.

The reason I like Scott Pilgrim so much is because it seems like something I would dream up in my head. Hell, The main character, Scott, kind of reminds me of myself. I could envision myself as this character. And I have the same mentality with the game: If I were to make a video game, this is exactly how it would be.

Scott Pilgrim is a very retro-styled video game. The visual style is kinda like a Neo-Geo game, play Metal Slug and you'll know what I mean. The game is like the beat em' ups that were housed in the arcades in the late 80's and early 90's with a few RPG elements similar to another beat em' up, Castle Crashers.
It has support for 4 players, which I have not tried yet (I only have one controller). The presentation to Scott Pilgrim is top-notch, with a 90's arcade-style intro, lots of classic retro game references, and a amazing soundtrack (more on that later).

The gameplay is a adaption of the graphic novels, you can play as Scott, Ramona, Stills, and Kim. The action is similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Uber-chaotic action with friends which you can't tell what's going on. You and your friends take on a army of evil ruffians trying to reach the bosses of the game, the Evil Exes.
You can just button-mash through the whole game like a early 90's beat em' up like Streets of Rage, or you can level up and gain access to Street Fighter-like moves. As you fight, you gain experience points much like a RPG. Gaining levels expands your Life and "Gut" points (The former being your special power) and you can also visit shops and purchase food, rock albums, and books using money you gain by thrashing goons ala River City Ransom.

Mentioning River City Ransom, this game has a lot of references to classic games. Such as the Super Mario Bros. 2-like character select screen, to the Triforce on the Recycle bins you can use as weapons. Whoever designed this game sure wanted to invoke a lot of nostalgic feelings.

The music is phenomenal. It's performed by Anamanaguchi, a band specializing in chiptune music, and they did a tremendous job with their work with this game. It's a fusion between NES-style music and punk rock, and it sounds amazing. If the charming graphics or the adrenaline-rush gameplay doesn't keep you playing, the music certainly will. I'm seriously not joking when I say it's probably my new favorite video game soundtrack.

It's not perfect, of course. The biggest issue is the lack of an online feature. You can only play the game locally, meaning you're gonna need to get some controllers........and some friends. It's not a big issue, the game's probably more fun with friends on the couch anyway. The enemies are a tad cheap at times, being able to hit you in situations where you cannot avoid taking damage. This doesn't happen too often, so I guess it's tolerable. The game is not easy, even on "Average Joe" (easy) mode. This is probably because the game is designed for multiple players. If you go at Scott Pilgrim solo, prepare to grind some levels, you're gonna need 'em.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a retro gamer's dream. Classic brawler gameplay, amazing chiptune/punk rock soundtrack by Anamamaguchi, video game references abound, and a cheap price tag (10 bucks) make Scott Pilgrim a winner. I can't recommend this gem enough.

+ Classic stress-relieving brawler action.
+ Charming 16-Bit visual style.
+ One of the best soundtracks in a Video Game.
+ 4-Player support.
+ On the cheap.

- No online play
- Occasionally cheap enemies.
- Hard difficulty on Solo play.

?: Why didn't this game come out in 1993?

Overall: ***9 out of 10***

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bad News Baseball (1990, TECMO, NES)

Sports games really aren't my thing. My mentality is that the sport is a actual game. I mean, jeez, go outside and play it. Another thing is how they basically release the same sports games every year aside from a few very minor changes. But I always had a soft spot for sports on the classic consoles, especially the NES. My favorite sport is Baseball (playing Baseball, not watching or tracking it), so naturally I started to play baseball games on the NES. Most are decent, some are flat-out putrid, but there is one that is probably my favorite sports game: Bad News Baseball.

BNB released in '90 by Tecmo alongside Ninja Gaiden II. At first glance the game wasn't geared toward an American audience, sporting anime-style graphics and several occasions of surreal humor. But this is a good old-fashioned baseball game with simple, arcade-like design, and nice cinematic touches, taking a page from Ninja Gaiden's cinematics. There are several teams, all based off of American cities (New York, L.A, etc.)
but unfortunately the game isn't licensed by MLB, so the teams and players are fake. But it doesn't seem to detract from anything, so it's a minor quibble. There is also supposedly a option to play girls teams, but I don't know how to access it.

The graphics I can already tell will be a turnoff to some retro players. The players are quite cartoony, with goofy expressions and exaggerated motions. Also I discovered that the umpires are.........bunny rabbits?
Yep. Rabbits. BNB was clearly geared to a younger audience, but I find the graphics and surreal touches to be quite charming. The music is the same way, being nothing worth listening to on a MP3, but enjoyable for what atmosphere it's trying to convey. There's also alot of stuff to do in the game, you can play by yourself , with a friend (best way to play), play a harder "All-Star" mode, play 2-player with the All-Star teams, or just relax and watch a game.

However it does have issues.  The main problem is the computer. If you hit the ball into the air, almost every single time the outfielders will catch it. Almost every time. It's as frustrating and cheap as it sounds, but it does add a dash of challenge to the game. But BNB is most enjoyable being played with two players, making quick and intense matches that are based on skill. Another issue is the speed on the outfield: if you miss catching the ball after a hit, the batter will already be at the 3rd base by the time you get the ball to the catchers.

While imperfect, BNB is one of the most enjoyable sports games in the market. It's charming animated graphics, cute music and sound, surreal humorous touches(What the hell is Mr. T doing in there?), and amazing two-player action. It's on the cheap, too. I found a copy for about three bucks at a local game store.
If you want arcade-style baseball with a funny twist, you could do far, far worse than Bad News Baseball.

Bad News? Anything but.

+ Charming Anime-style graphics
+ Amusing cinematic shots and music themes that convey a good atmosphere.
+ Best two player sports action on the NES.
+ Surreal Humor adds a funny feel to the action.

- CPU outfielders are quite cheap and unfair.
- Slow action where the outfield is involved.
- Cute appearance may be a turn-off to some.

?: Why is MR.T in the dugout?

Ranking: 8 freaky Mr. T's out of 10

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NINJA Gaiden Shadow (TECMO, 1991, Gameboy)

Ninjas. Ninjas are cool. Ninjas are awesome. Everyone knows this by now, and if you don't, Ninjas probably snuffed you out already. Or you're just lame.

Anyway moving on. The Ninja gaiden series is held in high regard by it's fans, including myself, and it's easy to see why: Intense, fast paced gameplay, energetic and catchy soundtracks, a surprisingly EPIC storyline conveyed with comic-like cutscenes (In fact, Ninja Gaiden was the 1st game to use in-game cutscenes to convey a story.) One thing to note about the series is it's insanely difficult nature. You really need ninja-like reflexes, a sharp mind, and a lot of patience to master these beasts. But with practice, a lot of practice, the games are beatable. Plus aside from NGIII the games offer unlimited continues so there not impossibly tough.

There's one game in the franchise that a lot of fans don't know about. It's a Gameboy game called Ninja Gaiden Shadow, which released in 1991, the same year that Ninja Gaiden III released.

There's some history behind it too. In 1990, a game company called Natsume released another action game very similar to Ninja Gaiden called Shadow of the Ninja. Natsume had plans to port over Shadow of the Ninja to the Gameboy. Sometime during the development, TECMO purchased the rights to the game and reworked it into a Ninja Gaiden game, set to be a prequel to the trilogy of games already released at this point.

The storyline is short, bittersweet, and to the point. In 1985, a "generic evil dictator" named Garuda takes over a skyscraper in New York City and turns it into his HQ. The series hero, Ryu Hayabusa, goes out to stop him.
Unfortunately the usually epic storyline is very downplayed and in fact not even mentioned during the course of the game, only in the intro. This is common in games of this type, but it's a Ninja Gaiden game. Story should be a crucial part of it. A insignificant quibble, yes, but it's worth noting to long-time fans of the series.

The gameplay is a little different than the NES games, since it wasn't supposed to be a Ninja Gaiden game in the first place. You can run forward and backward, jump, swing your sword, etc etc.
But it's slower paced than the NES titles. You have six life units instead of twelve, you have only one Ninpo (Ninja magic) attack: The Art of the Fire Wheel. Spiritual energy which was for being able to perform a ninpo attack, is measured with Japanese symbols instead of a number count.

There are six levels (?) each ending with a boss fight, pretty basic as far as action games go. The difficulty is somewhat easier. It's still quite hard, but it feels softened from the other Ninja Gaiden games. There is usually next to no way to get knocked into a bottomless pit (the most common way to die in a Ninja Gaiden game),
enemies are typically kinda easy to evade for the most part, there is a surprising abundance of life powerups and ninpo charges, and the boss encounters are a little too easy aside from the end boss. Good news for newcomers, I suppose. The music is standard Ninja Gaiden stuff, but there are songs ripped from Shadow of the Ninja, such as the title jingle and the final boss theme. On the same note the villain of this game, Garuda, is also the villain of Shadow of the Ninja, in appearance and in story context, I think.

Ninja Gaiden Shadow really isn't a Ninja Gaiden game. It wasn't supposed to be. So we are left with a  relatively mediocre Ninja Gaiden game, but a pretty sweet action game in it's own right (a lot better than Ninja Gaiden III in my opinion). There are no glaring flaws in the game aside from the lack of a coherent story. It's worth checking out for Ninja Gaiden fans for curiosity's sake, but action game fans who want some challenging action gaming on the go will get the real kick out of this one. Be warned, however, obscurity often leads to rarity, meaning this game may be expensive. Emulators are always an option, though..........

7.6 out of 10

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, Nintendo, 2010)

In 2007, a little game called Super Mario Galaxy released to Wii owners and won over gamers of all kinds due to it's amazing graphics, dead-on control, and incredibly innovative gameplay: comfortably familiar and yet so strangely and awesomely different platforming action. In my opinion, it was the best Super Mario title, and the best video game that I have ever played. It was basically like the revolutionary Super Mario 64, but with strange gravity-based gameplay that had a trippy feel to it, and was just as (actually even more so) fun. It was and still is a must-own title that is worth buying a Wii console for.

It's hard to imagine Super Mario Galaxy as being a game that could be topped, even by Nintendo themselves.
About half a year ago, a sequel was announced. This was notable for being the first true sequel to a 3D Super Mario game, not to mention that it would also be the first time that two 3D Super Mario games were on one console, the Wii. Anyway, gamers were defiantly excited to hear about it: It was to have Yoshi, new power-ups, higher difficulty, improved co-star play, the list goes on.

Gamers thought Miyamoto's greatest game was created, and that Nintendo couldn't top The almighty Super Mario Galaxy. And guess what?

That's exactly what Nintendo did.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a special video game. It makes gamers appreciate why we play games in the first place. It makes people see video games as something other than child's toys, instead as works of art. In short, it's exactly what video games should be in the first place. A work of art.

The game's storyline has been streamlined from the original: Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach for the millionth time, and as usual, Mario sets out to saver her. Kingdom Hearts it ain't, but when do you play Mario for storylines? The core gameplay has been untouched, which isn't a bad thing at all. If it's not broken, why fix it? You play though stages, or "galaxies", to acquire a golden Power Star. Get enough of them and you can advance further into the game. The way you get to the galaxies is different from the first one: Instead of exploring a hubworld like the Comet Observatory, it goes the Super Mario Bros. 3 route and uses a map screen navigated from your personal spaceship, Starship Mario (which, incidentally looks like Mario's head).

The Original's main strength was it's near-perfect level design. And of course the sequel improves this level design ten fold. Every galaxy in this game is a unique and masterfully designed playground. Every stage introduces a new concept, whether massive or small, making the game always seem fresh and intresting.
The challenge has also been stepped up. While the original was a near perfect game, it had a rather tame difficulty level, even with the optional challenges which are usually very hard to complete. This issue has certainly been addressed with the sequel. The main quest which is cleared after getting 70 stars is more difficult than the first one, but still maintains a relatively easy difficulty. However the mostly optional "Comet challenges" will give even the most seasoned platformer master a run for his/her money. Thankfully for beginners there is a feature called the "Cosmic Guide" that is askin to the Super Guide in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
But if you use the guide, you get a bronze colored star instead of a gold one, showing you took the easy way out. This is another example of Mario Galaxy 2's masterful design: Giving a stiff challenge to veterans while maintaining a easy option for beginning players.

The Cooperative mode in the original has also been improved by letting the 2nd player control a orange Luma, which can grab out-of-reach objects with ease and defeat/stun enemies, while still allowing you to pick up Star Bits and slow down environmental dangers and enemies.

Mario Galaxy 2 also introduces new Power-ups. The biggest new power-up is defiantly Yoshi. Unlike Yoshi in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, he makes a more prominent role in the game. Yoshi's most useful feature is his famous chameleon-like tongue. Yoshi's tongue is a absolute blast to use thanks to the rather innovative implementation of the IR sensor, allowing precise control over devouring of enemies, coins, or whatever might be standing in your way. Yoshi can also use his tongue as a grappling hook and swing from notches that look like flowers. Yoshi can also transform into three different forms using different kinds of fruit. The Dash pepper makes Yoshi move as Sonic-fast speeds and can run up walls and across water. The Blimp fruit causes Yoshi to inflate and float upwards to reach high platforms. And the Bulb Berry makes Yoshi light up and reveal hidden passageways. Mario himself has a few new forms too, he can acquire a Cloud flower and be able to create temporary platforms. He can also get a Rock mushroom and turn into a fast moving boulder to plow over enemies. Mario can also get a drill for traveling through entire planetoids. The Bee suit returns too. All of the powerups are used in unique and innovative ways throughout the stages, again showing Galaxy 2's masterful design.

The graphics are quite similar to the original game, meaning that Galaxy 2 looks like a living piece of art. The graphics are actually comparable to graphics from a Playstation 3 or a Xbox 360. Galaxy 2's simple art style allows it to use smoother textures to make the game seem like a work of art. Basically, Galaxy 2 has the best graphics on the Wii.

The music in nothing short of incredible. The original's soundtrack is no different (listen to Gusty Garden galaxy on YouTube and you'll be amazed) Unlike most Mario games, the music was actually orchestrated, making the music seem epic and majestic. Galaxy 2's soundtrack is better than the first, although the music seems to revolve around one general theme (Sky Station). In my opinion, Galaxy 2 has the best soundtrack of any game I've ever played or heard.

Luigi is also back in the sequel, and he's almost playable right from the start. He's only in certain galaxies, however. If you complete a stage with Luigi, you can try your hand at a Developer Speedrun, a cool feature.
Luigi becomes fully playable if you complete the main game, just like the first game.

There are no glaring flaws in Galaxy 2, however just like the first game, there two minor gripes. The first one is the difficulty of the bosses. In the first Mario Galaxy, bosses were frequent but very, very easy to defeat. The sequel is no exception to this, in fact they are is some cases easier to defeat. The second gripe can be a bit of an annoyance to beginners, there are some cases where you have no choice but to complete some of the Comet challenges, which can be devilishly difficult. This only happens twice in the game, but you can't use the Cosmic guide for these challenges, which can get certain players stuck.

I couldn't possibly give Super Mario Galaxy 2 anything less than a perfect 10 out of 10. It is nearly flawless in every way. The graphics are Top-notch, Wii or otherwise, the music is perfect, the challenge is stiff yet accessible, the new power-ups are masterfully designed, and the best part, the flawless level design and perfect control all make a return and blow the original Mario Galaxy completely out of the water. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is nothing short of a work of art.

Take a bow, Mr. Miyamoto. You've made the closest thing any video game developer has come to pure gaming perfection. In my opinion, this is one of the best video games ever made.

Because for gamers, Casual or Hardcore, it doesn't get much better than this.

*****10 out of 10*****

This is Vicviper, signing off. ;)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Donkey Kong (1982, Nintendo/Coleco, Colecovision)

Ah, Donkey Kong. My favorite video game character's origin story. I can't help but love this game. It's one of my favorite vintage arcade games, even though I totally suck at it (It's those damn purple springs...) It was a phenomenon when it released to arcades in 1981, spawning toys, apparel, books, breakfast cereal (I am not making this up) and even a TV show. Donkey Kong sits up there with the greats in arcade game history.

As common practice with any successful arcade game to release, Donkey Kong received home console ports.
The biggest one in particular (in 1982 anyway) was released, well actually packed in with the Colecovision console which released in 1982. The system sold six million units, and I'm betting that the decision to pack in Donkey Kong probably did alot to help the sales. But did Donkey Kong for the Colecovision suffer the same fate that Pac-Man for the 2600 did? To answer briefly: Hell no!

This port is nearly everything that fans of the original game could ask for, with graphics that are amazingly close to the arcade game's, all of the same sounds which are remarkably close to the arcade, and of course, all of the great challenging gameplay amazingly intact. For lucky Colecovision owners back in 1982, it didn't get much better than that.

But this is 2010. Does the Colecovision port hold up to the arcade version well today?

Well, yes and no. The gameplay is still remarkably similar to the arcade. The graphics for the time of the port's release were unmatched, but the magical year of 1985 came along and brought us the NES version, whose graphics were near dead-on to the arcade, making the Colecovision port seem weak in comparison. The sound suffers the same fate, while neither the NES or the Colecovision ports have dead-on sound to the arcade, the NES certainly seems closer. This isn't the Coleco port's fault, Nintendo just released a better port as time went on.

The game plays like this: You are Mario, a carpenter (around this time at least) whose lady love has been kidnapped by the big hairy ape, Donkey Kong. And in stereotypical movie hero fashion, you gotta go save her. The game has 4 screens (keep this in mind) that you have to traverse at on time or another. The first screen is the barrel screen. Mario must climb up the girder structure while jumping over barrels rolling towards him. To help even the odds, Mario can grab a rather conveniently placed hammer to temporarily gain the ability to smash them to little tiny pieces. The second screen is the lift screen where you must traverse lifts and jump platforms to reach the top where evil purple springs attempt to flatten Mario. The third screen is the Pie factory screen where you dodge evil fireballs while climbing retracting ladders. The fourth and final screen is the rivet screen, where you remove giant yellow bolts in the girders and make Donkey Kong fall to has doom and finally save your sweetie. After that, the game starts over again at a higher difficulty.

The Colecovision port accurately portrays these scenes, aside from one which has been cut out entirely for seemingly no reason. Thankfully it's the conveyor belt scene, which isn't very well liked anyway, but it's a silly omission nonetheless. Actually, as a matter of fact, the NES version does the exact same thing! I really don't understand why. Maybe because it kinda sucked to begin with? Maybe? Hmm.............

Oh yeah, when you finish the rivet scene in the original, there is a moment with Donkey Kong falling and doing a head-plant. That has been taken out of the Colecovision port due to memory concerns.

Well, what to give this port? I'll give it a 8.5 out of 10, because for the time of it's release, it was unbeatable: America's #1 arcade game almost in it's entirety at home. It was missing the Conveyor screen and the end animation, but it was still very much worth the $199 you had to pay to play it. It wasn't the best game to come out in 1982, no, that would be the 2600 version of Ms. Pac-Man. But it definitely did what gamers dreamed: brought the arcade experience home.

*****8.5 out of 10*****

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Namco, 2005, Playstation 2)

Classic collections are a dime a dozen nowadays. Well, now there a little off-put by Virtual Console and Live Arcade. 1n 2005, the Japanese video game company Namco reached it's 50th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, the released, wait for it........a Classic Collection. Something Namco is no stranger to: There is more than likely a version of their famous classic collection series, Namco Museum, on at least ONE of your consoles.

This one in particular contains most of their well-known ones, like Pac-Man and Galaga, that kinda thing.
The interface for NM:50th is noted on the back of the disc case, "Brand new retro-cool interface-explore a virtual arcade." This sounds promising, but this is borderline false advertising. This "Virtual Arcade" is a total waste. All it is, is the games, in their arcade forms, underneath a horrible looking Namco sign. What a disappointment. Namco could of at least made it like the PS1 Namco museum titles, where you actually moved around a virtual museum filled with cool extras........

On that subject, NM:50th has no extras. This is your 50th anniversary celebration? No history videos or old artwork for the game on the disc? This collection doesn't seem worth it, but I didn't get to the quality of the actual games yet. And how they stand......they are actually almost perfectly emulated, aside from minor sound issues. The controls are spot on for most of the games, except for Pole Position, which is still playable, but the controls aren't nearly as good as the arcade original. It comes with:

Ms. Pac-Man
Dig Dug
Pole Position
Pole Position 2
Dragon Spirit
Rolling Thunder
and SkyKid, also two unlockable titles: Galaga '88 and Pac-Mania

So as you can probably tell, the game does come with all of the well known titles from Namco's retro library.
But SkyKid and Dragon Spirit? Hmm. Kinda peculiar titles to include in a 50th anniversary collection.

Let's recap. We have a lazy interface with a choppy framerate (on the PS2 edition) and poor graphics, a complete and utter lack or extra content......and yet excellently emulated retro arcade games with spot-on control (aside from Pole Position 1 & 2). So I'm kinda on the fence on this one. If you just want some way to play Pac-Man and Galaga at home, this will do the job. But if you're a retro arcade enthusiast who wants info on Namco's history will be very unhappy with this merely-okay compilation. As a added note there is a authentic 80's soundtrack on the game select menu, but the music's only played on the selection screen, making the soundtrack a complete afterthought and utterly pointless.

+ Well-Emulated games with great control
+ The soundtrack on the menu is kinda awesome.........

- ............the 5 seconds you get to listen to it.
- Bad interface with a horrible framerate and terrible graphics.
- Absolutely NO extra content.
- Low-quality obscure titles such as SkyKid and Dragon Spirit. The unlockable games aren't very good either.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (1992, Konami, NES)

TMNT on the NES isn't really the game franchise in it's best form. The first two games aren't really worth playing, and are quite disappointing for fans. But I'm happy to say that the third breaks this trend and gives us the 2nd best brawler on the NES: The Manhattan Project (which I just realized is the name of a nuclear bomb. 0_0)

The plot is that The Turtles are enjoying a nice vacation in the Key Islands, when all of a sudden The Shredder announces that he is kidnapping April O'Neil and taking the whole island of Manhattan by lifting it off of the ground.

The gameplay is vastly improved from the second game. You can now perform combo attacks, and can even impale and throw your enemies; a nice touch. Not only that, Each of the Turtles has their own special attack that's always useful in a pinch, however it can burn through your energy quickly. The 2 player has made a return, and still is pretty slow and it still flickers quite a bit, but it's still fun and makes the game more enjoyable. Another nice touch with the game is the ability to swap out Turtles when you lose a life. It really helps when you need another characters special attack during a tough boss battle.

About that, The Manhattan Project is a pretty tough game. Not as hard as say, the first game, but it can get nasty at times. The enemies have some pretty tricky attacks and the bosses are incredibly aggravating, but with some patience and a bit of skill they are easily conquered. The visuals are nice, colorful and stylish. All of the in-game environments are diverse and unique, and the art direction for the turtles and enemy characters is top-notch.

The music is also amazing. The tunes are upbeat and intense, featuring the TMNT theme throughout the compositions, as expected of course. My personal favorite is the theme that plays during the credits; it's funky and is a nice reward for completing the game.

Other that a few changes and different levels, The Manhattan Project is not much different from the second game. It's much better than TMNT II, but it suffers from the same glitchy cooperative play, and the boss encounters can be unfair from time to time. But as it stands, it's a lot better than the first two, and aside from Double Dragon 2, is the best beat em' up for the NES.

+ Pretty Colors.
+ Can swap out players.
+ Fun co-op.
+ Catchy music.

- Similar to the 2nd game.
- 2-Player still glitch-ridden.
- Frustrating Boss fights.

Overall: ***8 out of 10***

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (1990, Ultra, NES)

The first Turtles game for the NES was quite disappointing. It was annoyingly difficult, the licence was almost completely wasted, and the ending was a total bomb. I had high hopes for it's sequel, which is a port of my favorite arcade game, which I haven't really seen outside of Chuck E Cheezes, so having a home version would be nice. But when I played it, I had mixed thoughts. It was better than the first game, but only barely. As a port of the arcade, it was a pretty big letdown.

The plot for the NES version is this; Shredder survived his defeat at the hands of the Turtles, and wants revenge. So, he kidnaps April O'Neil (Again?!?) and Master Splinter, regroups his robotic Foot army, and hires two intergalactic bounty hunters (more on that later). So it's up to the Turtles to rescue their friends and defeat Shredder once and for all (heh).

The game is simple; move right and beat the snot out of all that stand before you. You have two attacks; your basic weapon attack and a special move executed by pressing both buttons at the same time. Your most common enemies are of course Robot Foot soldiers which either take you on with their fists, or a array of other weapons. These guys typically go down with two hits, but that's not always the case. Unlike the original NES game, TMNT II has 2-Player co-op. This is a neat feature in theory, but the flicker and slowdown are so bad that your better off playing by yourself.

The levels you fight through are varied enough. The first stage even takes place inside a burning building! You go through the streets of New York, the sewers of New York, the freeway, and of course, the infamous Technodrome. But included in the NES version (at Nintendo's request, apparently) are two new levels; a frozen Central Park and a Japanese castle. Both have two new bosses; Tora, a mutant, bitch-slapping polar bear, and Shogun, a weird alien with a big spear. Normally I would applaud a arcade port for including new levels and bosses, but I can't with a clear conscience because these new features, quite frankly, are pretty mediocre (aside from the music).

Another big issue is the collision detection. When you hit a enemy, they snap into a animation that reflects that you hit said enemy, right? Well, you cannot hit the enemy again until they snap out of this animation. In layman's terms; you can't perform combos! This makes the combat very uninteresting, and almost breaks the game.

But to the game's credit, it is still pretty fun to thrash hordes of Foot Soldiers, and as glitchy as it is, the co-op is still damn fun! TMNT II looks pretty good, but I noticed something that I found pretty shameful; there are Pizza Hut ads all over the place, hell, the game even comes with a coupon for a Pizza from the restaurant! The Turtles like pizza, I know, but it's still silly!

Unlike the first game, the music is really good. Most of the songs are renditions of the TMNT theme (which is awesome) but they are good remixes. The snow level is probably my favorite.

TMNT II is kind of a mixed bag for me. The 2-Player is slow and bug-ridden, and the inability to do combos make the game pretty much so-so, but the decent graphics and awesome music keep me playing, not to mention that I'm a big fan of the TMNT franchise. So I think TMNT II is a okay game, very good for beat 'em up fans, and for Ninja Turtles fans, but for all casual fans and retro gamers this game will be mediocre for you.

+ Pretty visuals.
+ Good tunes.
+ Co-op in a beat 'em up is always a good thing.

- Glitchy Co-op in a beat 'em up is always a bad thing.
- You can't do combos!
- Pizza Hut ads are kind of...odd.

OVERALL: 6.5 out of 10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989, Ultra, NES)


TMNT is probably my favorite T.V show ever. I always loved the cheesy surfer-dude talk and the general plot and setting of the series (I don't know, Ninjas in cities are cool.). A big name like TMNT is sure to have big licencing, like with video games. And so, in 1989 Konami, under their sister company Ultra Games released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. And not surprisingly it sold over a million copies in America alone. However the critical reaction to the game has been less positive. Out of curiosity, I found, bought, and played through it.

TMNT is a side-scrolling action game with some Zelda-like overhead exploration thrown in. You control the 4 titular heroes: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. All 4 turtles generally handle the same way, but their weapons are of course totally different. Leo's katanas are used for general combat, Donatello's Bo staff is a great long-range weapon, and both Mike and Raph are (as far as I can tell) useless.

The game has some exploration in it, requiring you to find etc. on a overhead field of some sort. This is the most needless part of the entire game. It probably would be a bit better if they just made the game linear, as it's core gameplay is straightforward action, which to be honest is quite questionable as it is. The action parts consist of the turtle you are controlling moving through a environment destroying bad guys (which almost all have nothing to do with the TMNT license) until you get to a boss or another exploration part.

The graphics are okay, I suppose. The turtles look like their supposed to, and the enemies look okay too, even if they don't belong there. The stages, however lack detail and color, making the environments seem a bit lifeless. But still the game looks the part, mostly.

The music is pretty bad. It sounds good but there is a distinct lack of the TMNT theme, which seems kind of silly not to include, seeing that this is a TMNT game. Not to mention, the music that is there is mostly just filler, nothing that you will be humming in your head all day long.

The gameplay is the biggest issue. The game itself is basic side-scrolling action, but the difficulty and controls come awfully close to ruining the whole experience. TMNT is a brutally hard video game, even with a Game Genie. Enemies have awkward patterns and can easily swarm the player, draining your health bar rapidly. Stage design is sloppy with tight jumps and awkwardly placed(and respawning) enemies. The Dam stage is so frustrating and broken that most people never finished this game because of it. There is nothing wrong with challenge, but TMNT takes it a bit too far in this regard. The control is too loose for the type of jumps you are required to make. The jumping is floaty. It's hard to land on anything precise and you move too slow. But in reality the control problems are capable of working around.

Overall, TMNT is disappointing. I heard a lot of flak about it, and typically I disagree with the masses when it comes to criticizing old video games (too many compare them to games today, which makes no sense to me) but in TMNT's case they're pretty much right on the money. It is available for the Wii's Virtual Console service, but it costs more due to the license and there are much better game you could be buying with those points. Save your Turtle Power for the sequels, and pass on this flawed relic.

+ Decent visuals.
+ Non-linear gameplay.

- Way, way too hard for it's own good.
- Meaningless use of the TMNT license.
- Imprecise controls that lead to a lot of cheap hits.
- Haphazard level design.

OVERALL: 5 out of 10