Thursday, 12 July 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #37: Spindizzy Worlds

Spindizzy Worlds is a puzzle game published by Activision, originally released on the Amiga and Atari ST in 1990, which was then ported to the SNES by Ascii Entertainment. 


The game is a sequel to the 1986 video game Spindizzy which was released on early home computers such as the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, etc . Spindizzy Worlds uses an isometric view, and the player controls a robotic device named GERALD (who looks like a yellow spinning top). His name is an acronymn for Geographical Environmental Reconnaissance And Land Mapping Device. The idea of this game is to explore a star system before it is destroyed, collecting the jewel like icons there as you go.


The best way to think of this game is as a less cutsey prototype of Super Monkey Ball, which features a yellow spinning robot instead of a trapped simian. Now take that image and push the graphics back about 10 years from Monkey Ball and you will be pretty darn close to what is on offer here.

Gerald will spin everywhere you direct it – but you’ll have a tough time getting it to stop at first, meaning you’re going to go shooting off of this and that platform, you’re going to get half way up a ramp and fall off, and you’re possibly going to do it again and again. Going up and down elevators is hard because no matter how careful you think you’re being, or how softly you think you’re using your fingers, sometimes you will find that you just cant seem to hold the little blighter in place long enough. The trick to this is Gerald travels at around his medium speed, if you try the face buttons then you will soon learn that one of them if held makes him go faster and another acts as a sort of brake or slow movement button.


A lot of this game kind of relies on you knowing when to go quickly and when to slow down, and of course once you think you have the hang of this the game will decide to give you a treacherous task to perform and decide to up the ante by making you have to do it quickly. Of course, this stops the game from becoming a cakewalk once you think you have gotten the hang of things, but it can also cause the game to get incredibly frustrating and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are not people who have torn there own hair out in flights of swearing and frustration. However I have seen people play this like they have some kind of neural link with the bloody game. Just like in Super Monkey Ball there are some players who with the right amount of practice manage to get so in tune with the controls and Gerald’s strengths and limitations that they can turn this in to a form of video game ballet and it becomes amazing to watch. Players like this are a rarity though. Most people will bounce around like a mad spinning top shooting off the sides or crawling at the pace of a snail and I think that in a way this makes this a hard game to show footage of. I am not saying that I am incredibly bad at this game or anything but I am quiet a shaky person mostly due to medication I am on for epilepsy, so I hardly make this kind of thing look graceful.

The graphics and sound are both adequate but that’s the best I can say about them. They don’t really add anything much to the game. For me this game is a bit of a Marmite game, you will either love it or hate it. If you want a fun challenging puzzle game then it might be worth giving it a whack but I would only recommend this if you have played the living hell out of things such as Monkey Ball, Kororinpa and Marble Madness and simply need more of that kind of game. If you decide you want a crack at this game you can get it online with a cartridge-only PAL copy going for around £7 which I would say is quite a fair price for this title. My copy is boxed but not in the best of shape and in all honesty I cant remember where the heck I got it from, or when I even got it.

I would give this game six out of 10, but like I said I think it is a real Marmite game. I can see some people saying it deserves eight and I can equally imagine people calling it a poor sliding mess and claiming six is far too generous, and that they would have given it three. If you like puzzle games maybe give it a bash but I can promise you that if you don’t usually like this kind of thing then this game will not be the one to change your mind.

Monday, 2 July 2018

My Retro Purchases June 2018

I started my months purchases on the 6th of June with Thunder Birds Japanese cart only for the SNES arriving in the post, it cost me £3, postage was free so I think this was a pretty good pick up. I also went in a semi local retro shop on the way home from work and grabbed Sonic 2 for game gear cart only for £1.


On the 8th I went to an Indy store and I grabbed Gauntlet 2 cart and manual for NES for £5 and Hook for NES for £5 , in my opinion anytime you can get a NES game for £5 and its not a sports title then you just kind of have to jump on it.


On the 10th on the way home from work I grabbed Asterix and the Great Rescue for megadrive cart only for £. I have to admit to having been a huge Asterix fan as a kid. 
Things were quiet on the retro purchasing front then until the 17th when I spent £1 on a complete copy of Grand Turismo 4 for the PS2 which also happend to have a memory card in the case and the disc for Project Silpheed the lost planet in the case tucked into the manual. Not bad for £1 at all really.
On the 21st I grabbed two loose NES carts, RoboCop for £6 and StarWars for £7.


On the 21st I went to a charity shop, a charity shop which usually wants £3.99 for any game you could possibly call retro whatever format its on and even if it is just an old ps2 copy of FIFA. Well surprisingly this time they had a sign up saying they had too much stock and any product with a red dot on it was only 25pence and so I got the following games all complete all for 25pence each Brave: The Search For Spirit Dancer for PS2, The Jungle book grove party for ps2, Singstar Anthems for ps2, Medal of honor European assault for xbox, Sensible soccor 2006 for xbox, James bond everything or nothing for xbox, Splinter Cell for Xbox, and Mashed for xbox

On the 22nd I once again found myself in a charity shop and I grabbed The Lost World: Jurassic Park complete for PS1 for £1.50.
My last purchase of the month happened on June the  26th when I went into a charity shop and  I grabbed Tony hawk's underground complete for Xbox for £1, Halo (classics edition) complete for Xbox for £1 and Project Gotham racing 2 (classics edition) complete for £1. I might have ignored them if it wasn't for the fact that they were in amazing condition with totally scratch free discs.

So in June I spent £38.50 on retro games which is actually a pretty low amount for me, as for star pick ups I would argue that it wasn't much of an eventful month and I don't think I really have a favorite purchase, so lets see what next month brings.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #35: UN Squadron

U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooting game which came out in arcades in 1989. It was programmed by Capcom and released for use on their CPS arcade hardware. I won’t explain what this was but if you look back at my Final Fight review there is an explanation there.

The game was released in Japan under the name Area 88, the same name which was used for the Super Famicom (Japanese version of this game). The game is a typical side-scrolling shooter, unlike many of Capcom’s other shooters around this time such as their 1940 series which are vertical-scrolling shooters. It was based on a Manga series Area 88 which never really came to these shores. But the game has a nice intro which explains the rough idea behind the story.


Unlike some shooters which are one hit and you’re dead this game is a little different. If you’re hit then your plane is damaged but if you can keep it safe from harm for a little while then you’ll be fine. This actually adds to the excitement, you will find yourself going: ‘OK I have got to keep away from the enemies as you keep trying to dodge incoming fire and hold on’. When you manage it you will thump the air in triumph, and when you fail you will curse yourself for not having quick enough reflexes but the main thing is it always feels like any failures are down to your own lack of skills.

Before starting a level you get the option of purchasing special weapons or added defense options from the shop. As you shoot down enemies you gain cash and at the end of the level any special weapons you purchased and did not use get converted back in to funds and added to your cash reserve. This is a great little addition as once you get better at the early levels you can try to challenge yourself with the added benefit of an easier time in later missions by trying to complete the earlier ones on a strict budget allowing you to hold back enough money to kit your plane out with lots of special weapons for the later missions.

 

If you were a big fan of Capcom then the SNES was definitely the machine for you to get your arcade fix on back in the day. If you have read my Final Fight review then you might be asking what has been dropped from the original arcade version?

Well the SNES version is not an exact replica of the coin-op. Yes, it is a port and yes, this port does have certain things missing and disappointingly one of these missing things is once again the two-player mode. Some of the game’s levels are different or modified from the arcade version but it is not always in a bad way. It’s not really a worse version. it’s more of a slightly remixed version. In this case they didn’t just strip things from the game, there are actually a few additions including some more weapons and the chance to purchase different aircraft. Ignoring the missing two-player mode this game is no worse than the arcade machine, it’s just a little bit of a different version.

With bright graphics, enjoyable music and epic action it is hard to see what this game could do better. The end of the level will see you meeting some kind of large end of level boss which you will have to defeat. At this point you better hope you have held something back to save the day. I would have to give this game eight out of 10. It’s a darn good scrolling shooter. The only thing it is really lacking which would make me bump the score up would be a two-player mode, at this point some of you must be wondering if Capcom ever managed to bash out a high-quality SNES game which catered for more than one.

If you want to try this game you will most likely be paying £15 minimum for a cart of it. I managed to get one for £10 but it took a heck of a lot of looking around and waiting. Capcom have actually made quite a few of those classic collections but U.N. Squadron has never seemed to make the cut, and this is probably one of the reasons it holds its price.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #34: Power Drive

When I buy retro games they tend to belong to one of three categories. They are games which I owned as a kid and want to get again because I have fond memories of them, games I remember friends owning and which I have fond memories of playing at their houses, or are games which I can get cheap and figure what the heck I will give it a bash.

 

My PowerDrive SNES YouTube Review 

 

Today’s game comes from the second category. I had quite a few friends at school and all of them owned one console or another, but the most owned console was probably the SNES. Not everyone had the same taste in games though. So sometimes when I would go to visit a friend’s house I would get to play a game that I otherwise wouldn’t have got to try. One particular friend was mad on sports – cricket, football, boxing, motor racing – and unless it was a crazy sports related title like Punch-Out!!, he would have it.

One day when I went round he had a new game, one I hadn’t really heard much about and that game was Power Drive. The first thing I noticed on its case was that it was published by U.S Gold, but at the time I had never heard of the developer Rage Software.

U.S. Gold was founded in Birmingham in  1984 as the publishing division for a software distribution company called Centresoft. Its primary reason for existence was to republish popular US computer games in the UK. For ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC users the U.S. Gold logo became a big part of our lives. U.S. Gold no longer exists and nor does Rage Software. Rage’s first title, Striker, sold more than one million copies and established Rage as a major creative force in the interactive entertainment industry. But ironically the very thing that started them off – a football title – would ultimately be its undoing. In 2000, Rage began to expand into publishing. Due to a long run of games that did not sell as expected, the lack of sales and costs associated with their  David Beckham franchise tends to be considered to be what ultimately led to the company going bankrupt in 2003.

When my friend popped Power Drive into the cartridge slot I have to admit that it was nothing like what I expected. Putting it simply Power Drive is an arcade racing game based around rally driving. There is not a great deal of opening presentation to the game, you pick your car from an initial choice of two and then you start your career.


The graphics are isometric, you can see the whole of your car almost as if its a remote control car that you’re looking down at. This might seem to be a little basic at first but with the tricks under the game’s bonnet such as full sprite rotation and super smooth screen scrolling in every direction you soon realise that what looks on paper like average graphics actually look a hell of a lot better when moving. There are a few tiny issues with screen flicker but this mostly happens when the arrows that warn you of upcoming turns appear over the top of other objects. It’s only a momentary issue and you can still tell what direction the arrow is pointing so it doesnt really affect your game. There are night levels, and the following might sound like a strange thing to praise but the car’s headlights are handled brilliantly. Both of the headlight beams are animated separately, which just looks brilliant. The two lights overlap each other and it’s just a brilliant little touch which I can’t help but mention. That’s enough about the cars and their headlights, it’s time to talk about the backgrounds. They at first seem a little bit basic. The tracks and the scenery both look a little plain at first but they are full of subtle little details which take into account the characteristics of the country you are in.

The music is typical early nineties game music. I can’t claim it’s amazing but then again it’s not bad. Basicaly it does its job which is to be moderately exciting and to muffle the engine noises, etc so that they dont became a pain in the butt. You can turn the music off if you would prefer to hear your engine or if you’re going to play your own music while you play.

The game has three types of stages, they are individual time trials, head-to-head races against the computer, and skill tests. There are eight rounds of gameplay, set across a range of countries. As you race you get prize money for winning races but it is important to note that the cost of repairing your car is very realistic compared to other games, meaning if you have repeatedly ping-ponged your car off of the walls then 90% of your prize money is going to be spent on knocking your car into shape. You can race with a knackered car, but it becomes harder and harder to control and slower so it’s not really recommended.

At first this game will seem hard because it doesn’t control like a lot of other SNES racers, or at least not many of the wildly popular ones. If you have played either RPM Racing or Rock n’ Roll Racing then Power Drive would be down your alley. Once you get used to the controls though it becomes a challanging but fun driving game. I would give this game eight out of 10. I really enjoy it still today and can easily throw it on for a quick hour again and again. This game can be got for around £10 to £15. If you want to try it I would keep my eye on the various sites and try to grab a copy as close to the £10 mark as possible. The game is not wildly talked about and doesn’t seem to have any particularly big cult following.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #33: Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

If I was to say Rare in relation to games to most people then they would probably think about the Nintendo 64 and about Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007.

 

To me though Rare are so much more than that. I can remember their NES games and I also remember even further back when it was named Ultimate Play the Game and was bringing corker after corker out on the ZX Spectrum. Atic Atac and Saber Wulf were much talked about in the playgrounds of my youth. This is  where I need to briefly stop the review and say go buy Rare Replay and play the living heck out of all of the games and then when you’re done, grab everything you can that’s missing from it.


Now it’s time to get back to business. The game I am going to talk about today is Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. It is a platforming beat ’em up game from 1993 developed by Rare and published by Tradewest. Tradewest no longer exists and Rare – well, I could write a whole article about its fate. The short of it is it is still around but now it is owned by Microsoft and has spent a lot of time making Kinect-based games and hats for Xbox Avatars. Thankfully it has recently made a real game again so here is hoping it has a brighter future ahead of it.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was not the start of the story though. This series began with the original beat ’em up Battletoads which was released for the NES in 1991 (this title was ported to the Mega Drive, Game Gear, Game Boy and Amiga). The Battletoads were largely created with the purpose of trying to be rivals to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their video games. In fact at the height of Battletoads’ popularity they even managed to get a television cartoon pilot although this – unfortunately or fortunately depending on if you have seen it and what you thought of it – never got spun off into a full series. If you enjoy 80’s television cartoons I recommend you track the pilot down.

The original Battletoads was a very popular game. It was fun but brutally hard. It was a good beat ’em up with a two-player mode, but it also had sections where you rode on hover bikes and these were mercilessly hard. Worse still, if you were playing them in two-player mode and one of you crashed you both had to start that section again, which led to screaming arguments and shattered friendships.

 

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs follows the story of two of the Battletoads, Rash and Pimple, on a quest to stop Silas Volkmire and the evil Dark Queen from ruling over the world while rescuing a princess and their fellow toads. Many of its levels are enhanced or remixed versions of levels from the original Battletoads, so its a sort of semi-sequel, semi-remake.

The first thing you will notice is that the sprites in this game are large and the game in general is very colourful. The soundtrack is kind of basic but the music suits the game well. This game is not just a beat ’em up, it’s a massive mix of things. Yes, you will fight but then there is also hoverboard racing platforming, and much like the original NES version, the game is enjoyable but sections of it might have you tearing your hair out. If you like hard games with a sence of humour then it might be just for you if however if you hate games with challenging pieces that you’re going to be having to try and try again then you’re going to hate Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. This makes it a very hard game to rate because its overall quality depends on the kind of person who is playing it. Therefore a score I give it might in fact be meaningless to you. I have never completed Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, but I have spent a very long time trying in the past. I see it as a challenge which keeps on bringing me back.

Personally I would give the game seven out of 10. it’s fun, there is a fair degree of variety and its a good game to play with friends – as long as they enjoy a challenge. I have to warn again that if you hate games that will see you die again and again on certain segments then this is not for you.

This game was before Rare’s partnership with Nintendo. In fact it was as far as I know the last game it released for the SNES before beginning to work on projects for Nintendo. It had invested its significant profits from games during the NES period to purchase a bunch of very expensive Silicon Graphics workstations. This move made Rare the most technologically advanced developer in the UK, and I think most of us know what this led to.

If you want to purchase Battletoads in Battlemaniacs then you’re looking at anywhere between £13 to £18 for the cart, and if you want a copy in a box in good condition then you will probably need to look at around double that range. I looked at buying it in a shop cartridge only for £18 but instead ended up buying a cart from online for £14 including postage. This is the most money I have spent on a game specifically for this series but I also feel that copies of this will become rarer in the coming years.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #32: NBA All-Star Challenge

The game I am going to be talking about is NBA All-Star Challenge. It was developed by Beam Software and published by LJN (Acclaim in japan). It was released in Europe in 1993.

 

Back when I was younger there was only one NBA game that ever got plugged into my SNES, and there was only one NBA related game that I ever played at friends’ houses. To cut this rambling intro short, it wasn’t this one.


The first thing you will notice upon playing NBA All-Star Challenge are the gameplay options. There’s one-on-one, three point challenge and horse. This is the game’s first problem. You will have most likely bought it expecting to play full real games of basketball and here you are playing games that only involve two players one either side, and only involve half a court.

When it comes to picking your player, you’re not met with a list of names or even player pictures. No you’re met with a list of 27 teams, and when you click on one of these teams you will see the player that the team has been allotted. So if you are a fan of basketball you better hope you can remember who played for who back when this game was released and hope that they were the chosen one for that team. Of course if you’re not so keen on basketball as a sport and just like a knock around fun sports video game to mess around on this point is a bit mute. Still the main body of this game feels like something that would be just a bonus/side mode in another game which is not a good start.

On television a one-on-one shooting challenge would be a kind of exciting showdown a chance for ballers to see who is the better man away from the confines of the game, with no help from your team mates. You would think that in this situation if you get two legends facing off then the crowd would chant, scream and explode. Picture this in your mind, then take that picture and turn it into a video game. Imagine the sprites shooting the cheers as they score the painful exhaled noises of disappointment, still sounds like it could be a decent concept for a game if it was treated in this way doesn’t it?

Well now I have made you build a pretty picture I am afraid I am going to smash it. Is there chanting? Is there clapping? No, there is no sound whatsoever, except the thud of the dribbling and that scuffling trainer sort of noise. No crowd interaction, no music to reflect if you’re winning or loosing, no music at all. This same dreariness carries over in to the graphics. Sure they’re not bad but they’re not good either. The players don’t really look like who they are supposed to be. Sure they might be the right skin colour and roughly the right height, but beyond that they just look like a bunch of palette swaps all of them moving running and shooting in the same fashion.

The game is not bad for what it is, the controls were at first a little confusing. You have to press a button to jump and then press it again to shoot. And heck, if you press it but decide you dont really like your shot chances well you’re going to have to just press it again anyways because otherwise you’ll be charged with travelling. The crucical thing to get over here is that this is not a basketball video game in the way that something like FIFA is a football game. No instead it is a small basketball-based minigame collection which is only really any good for a couple of hours of entertainment at best. I am certain if I had this as a kid it would have kept me busy for like one rainy afternoon and that would be it. I do think that the game is slightly better in two-player but not by miles. So when considering this game and what kind of score it should get well I guess it would be  something like four out of 10 taking everything in to account.

If your thinking of getting this game I will tell you that most of the copies I can currently find online cartridge only are around the £6 to £8 mark including postage and packaging. My copy was a NTSC copy I managed to find online for £3 with free postage. I don’t want to name names and spoil things but there is a much better NBA-related game out there and i’d hold my pennies back for that.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Retro Game purchases: May 2018

So I had a bit of a later start this month I didn't grab my first Purchases until the 12th of Ma, so what did I get? Well I grabbed a loose GBA cart of Golden Son the lost age for £6 yesterday. I also got 2 boxed PS1 fishing games for 50p each but mostly got them as the cases look good and I have a few games I want to give nicer cases to. Its always great to get a well loved RPG for such a low amount though so not a bad start at all.
 
The following day I went into a indy shop after work and I grabbed sonic advance 2 cart only for the GBA  for £5. And then on the next day the 14th I grabbed loose carts of Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Gold for £7.50 each from a mobile phone repair shop that occasionally has a few games.


On the 17th  Diddy Kong Racing Japanese cart only for N64 arrived through my door this cost me  £4 with free postage and was got to go with my slowly growing little collection of 60hz N64 titles. I then visited a shop where I got Shadow Dancer for Master system cart only for £3 and Indiana Jones and the last crusade for Master system cart only for £3

I didn't grab anything else then until a few days ago. On the 29th I grabbed Kwirk for the original Gameboy complete for £10, I thought this was a great pick up especially as not only was it in wonderful condition it also had a plastic cover box on it to help keep it nice. Then I got Final fantasy tactics advance cart only for £5 and Street fighter 2 turbo revival cart only for £5 , the cool thing with this is that I already have the box and manual at home waiting for Street Fighter, they were given to me a month or so ago by the charity shop my daughter works at. There is something kind of nice at getting the chance to reunite a cart with a box.


Then on the 30th I got Super Puyo Puyo for the snes Japanese cart only for £2 and Kirby's dream course for the snes Japanese cart only for £3. I just thought these were really good prices so grabbed them.

I finished the month off today with 2 games arriving in the post these were a Japanese N64 cart of DK64 for £3 and A Japanese cart of Mystical Ninja for £3(Prices include postage), I also went in a charity shop and got Tomas the Tank Engine Hero of the rails complete and sealed for the wii for £1.50.
So I spent £64.50. All in all this is not a bad month I would call it a sort of middling month, even more importantly I have taken far more old clothes and unwanted books out of the house and donated them to charity so I am actually making room not loosing it, I guess that one of the great things about so many of this months purchases having been small handheld game carts they don't take up much room at all.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #31: Alien 3

Alien 3 was developed by Probe Entertainment and Eden Entertainment Software, published In North America, Europe, and Japan by Arena Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment, LJN, and Virgin Interactive.

 

My Alien 3 SNES YouTube Review 

 

It is half-based on the film Alien 3. I have to say half-based because it’s set on the prison planet from the film and Ripley is shaved bald, but then there are a lot of differences between the game and the film. In the film there is one alien and no one has any weapons. In the game this is completely altered. Ripley, the main character, has all the guns from the previouis film in the franchise Aliens and there is a never ending amount of xenomorphs. I guess it is easy to see why they did this. After all, a game where you spend your whole time running away from one super powerful creature with nothing much to defend yourself sounds a lot harder to get right than a game where you spray lead at a never ending assortment of alien scum.


In fact it looks like it has taken until now – almost 21 years later – for someone to have a crack at a game which is based around the idea of being stalked by one single alien from the Aliens films. I am of course talking about Creative Assembly’s game Alien: Isolation, which delivers exactly that kind of experience and it has done a fantastic job of it. It also made DLC based on the original movie Alien, and maybe with its similar one alien killing people set-up it might one day make Alien 3 DLC. Maybe a game that would have followed the film Alien 3 more correctly and still be good and not cost a fortune in research and development just simply wasn’t possible back then – still, I digress.

Graphically, the game is pretty good for the time. Ripley’s sprite is large and for the most part it’s not bad at all. The clothes look right, the basic shape is right but maybe it’s just me but there is something almost alien about her neck and the lack of facial features makes her look a little like Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. There are lots of little cool touches though, like how her gun swings by her side as she’s climbing the monkey bars so I guess maybe I am being a little harsh. The backgrounds are multi-layered for that 3D style look, they are also very detailed. The backgrounds are overly used though with five or six repeated again and again. Add to that there are bits of scenery in the foreground that you can’t see through. Sometimes there are aliens behind these and this means that you need to either run the risk of being harmed or shoot just in case which wastes your sometimes limited ammo.

There is not a lot in the way of sounds but what is there is good. The gunfire sounds great and so do the screams of the aliens you kill. The game has pretty darn good presentation, a nice opening, I also have to tip my hat to the bits where you log into a computer. They do a pretty good job of making you feel like your chracter is actually using a real computer in the game’s universe and the game over failure screen is also suitably awesome.

What about the gameplay though? Well I find the game enjoyable in small bits but I definitely don’t think it’s a classic or anything. The controls are very good and everything works just as it should which you would think would make this a good game. But sadly there are other issues with the gamplay. I think one of the things the game is lacking is it needs a more detailed map you can easily bring up. Yes, there is a mini map radar thing which lets you know when something is approaching you, but this is more to help keep you from getting hit and doesn’t really help you get around easily. I think what the game really needs more than anything though is a bit more variety. Everything looks the same, you’re always killing the same things, mostly in places that look the same. This game is very time consuming, and can at times be very difficult. It’s easy to get lost and some of the missions seem more complex than they need to be. There are a few alien bosses here and there but they aren’t too hard. The problem is it all starts to feel a bit like a chore at times which is not how a game should feel. I think the maze like quality of the game, coupled with the mission structure, just didn’t quite work in total honesty. I think it would have been better to have strayed even further from the film and offered up something a little more arcade like, something a bit like Konami’s Aliens arcade machine which was primarily a side-scrolling shooter but also had third-person rail shooter parts. Yes, that game possibly soiled the source material even more by introducing blue zombies and other such things to the game but sometimes you just have to say to hell with the plot, let’s roll out the fun boys.
All in all Alien 3 is pretty much an average game so I feel I should give it five out of 10 and simply say it’s not really worth bothering with unless you’re a die hard SNES collector and want every cart you can get, or your a die hard fan of the Alien film series and all of its spin off media. If you’re more of a casual fan of the Aliens universe and you want a good fun retro Alien related game I recommend you get Aliens Trilogy on the PlayStation. It’s a first person Doom-style shooter but it’s brilliant, fun, fast and wrapped in movie sounds and neat touches.

If you do decide you need to own Alien 3 then there are plenty of PAL carts of it about online around the £8 to £10 range with boxed copies starting around the £15 mark. There are several complete copies of Alien Trilogy for PlayStation on eBay at the moment for around the £5 mark including postage. If you own a PlayStation I’d go for that instead for your Aliens retro fix. Oh and if you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One then seriously give Alien: Isolation a try, it’s an excellent game.

Monday, 21 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #30: Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart – what can I say about it that you won’t all have heard a million times?

 

I cant even build anticipation by trying to hold my opinion back until the end and starting this review by talking facts and figures. So let’s just start by saying I love this game and work from there. Mario Kart was developed by Nintendo EAD it came out in 1992 in the US and Japan and 1993 in Europe. It went on to sell nine million copies worldwide. This figure in the end made it the third best selling SNES game overall. If you add this on to all of the sales it has made digitally with its release on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles then you start to realise what a golden egg laying goose this game has been for Nintendo.


Nowadays everyone knows what Mario Kart is and the announcement of a new version is met with an onslaught of happiness, sales jumps for the platform it’s coming to and a media frenzy. It wasn’t always quite like this as far as I can remember though. When people first got wind of the original Mario Kart the responses were more on the lines of what the heck is Nintendo doing? Sure Mario had been used for tiny cameos in Nintendo sports related titles and such but a babyish looking car racing game, ‘What were they thinking?’ was the sort of question I remember being asked by other kids at school. There was a genuine belief by some that Nintendo had lost the plot. Yet not one kid could manage to keep this opinion after they had played it. A lot of the guys at school did that thing guys at school always seemed to do when presented with something that proved there initial opinion wrong, they denied ever having said a bad word, they claimed that they had been Nintendo’s biggest supporter all along and knew that Mario Kart would be an all time classic from its inception.


Super Mario Kart received positive reviews across the board no one seemed to have a negative word to say about it. Apart from Sega that is, who tried to use it in their adverts to show Nintendo to be some kind of slow, old-fashioned baby toy compared to their sleek, fire-breathing Mega Drive (the advert were Mario Kart is running on the side of an old caravan. This now seems crazy because Mario Kart is not a slow game)
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Mario Kart is often credited with creating the cart racing genre. More than this though it was the game that gave people a sense of confidence that Nintendo could achieve anything they tried after the first Mario Kart game. If Nintendo had told you they were making Mario’s Bungee Jump Massacre you would just nod and go: “They know what they are doing.”

For those of you who haven’t played the original Mario Kart, the young and hermits, I will quickly talk a little about the game itself. In Super Mario Kart the player takes control of one of eight Mario characters, each with different qualities – high top speed, good acceleration, great handling. All of them are basically equal but lend themselves to certain play-styles. In the single player mode players can race against computer controlled characters in multi-race tournaments trying to win the gold, silver or bronze cups. There are power-ups found on the track, you pick up flashing boxes which then give you one of several power-ups – a red shell which acts like a heat seeking missile, a banana skin which causes anyone who drives over it to skid out, etc. The screen is always split in two with one half showing you racing and the other showing a map. The graphics are not necessarily amazing for the time, they are however colourful and full of character. This is not just some carting game with Mario and co thrown in it, you actually feel like you’re driving through the Mario game lands and this is one of the game’s greatest advantages. The music is brilliant, you can hear noises related to your driving – the car engine, the tyres skidding – but they are always nice little background touches never interfering with the great music that plays.

I just cant fault this game. The SNES version is still brilliant. I wasn’t going to review this game so early on but recently I brought my third copy of this game. I got a Japanese cart for £5 loose and ever since the day I got it I have put it in to my machine and had 20 minutes on it every single day. Some games age badly but this is still brilliant and I feel sure I could put this in the slot 20 years down the line and still feel the need to play it, for this reason I can not help but give it 10 out of 10.

If you want Mario Kart the news is good in that It is still available on both the Wii U and Wii Virtual Consoles and is well worth the cash. With a bit of effort you should be able to get a PAL cart of this for about £17 or a boxed copy for around £40. It’s super popular but it sold by the shed load so there’s no shortage of copies.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #29: The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse

 

Mickey Mouse was the best known character in the whole world, but back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Mario was just about everywhere – and not just in his video games.

 

He had his own cartoon series, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, and then it spiraled from there to the point he had his own action figures, stuffed toys, shirts, candy, and even a breakfast cereal. At one point in time you couldn’t do anything without seeing Mario.


On the other side, Mickey Mouse in comparison wasn’t seen as much. Sure he was on t-shirts and at Disneyland but he wasn’t quite as up front and in your face as he had been. Television channels tended to air the more modern Disney cartoons of the time such as DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, TailSpin, Darkwing Duck, and such.

Disney teamed up with Capcom and brought a fair few titles to the NES, most of which are considered classics, such as DuckTales. Disney’s relationship with Capcom didn’t end with the NES though. Eventually the union brought us the game I am going to talk about today The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse (known in Japan as Mickey’s Magical Adventure).

The game is a bright, colourful platformer with the player taking on the role of Mickey. It’s part of a trilogy released by Capcom although we Europeans only got two out of three games (in fact, Japan was the only territory to see the third one, at least until they got GBA remakes). You move in the same sort of fashion as in most typical platform games, and you can defeat enemies  by jumping on them but you can also attack them by grabbing blocks and other stunned enemies spinning them around in Mickey’s hands and then using them as a projectile.

One of the gameplay features this game is most known for is the ability to find new outfits for Mickey, which give him different special abilities. For example, you get to play as firefighter Mickey who can use his hose. Sometimes this feeds into puzzles as well as being an option for attack. For example you might have to put out a fire to progress. It reminds me of the Mega Drive title Kid Chameleon, which seeing as I love that game is not a bad comparison at all.

The graphics are great, full of colour and character. The sound is cheery and matches the overall feel of the game. The controls are good – I don’t think they are quite Mario good, but they certainly more than do the job. When it comes to complaints some people would bring up the fact that The Magical Quest is quite an easy game, but that’s understandable since it stars Mickey Mouse. Capcom clearly knew a lot of kids would be playing this, so if it was Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels-hard it would have just led to mass complaints and screaming children. It’s not completely unchallenging, there are a few skills and basic patterns to learn and it’s kind of nice to find a game which focuses on the fun and doesn’t penalise you for anything. You have unlimited continues, when you die you start again with a full set of hearts and don’t lose any of your coins.

If you like fun platform games I would urge you to try this game. It’s a brilliantly uncomplicated slice of fun. It might be a little easy, and it might be a touch short – in fact, its length is the only real thing keeping me from giving it a huge score. All things considered I think I need to give this game a 7.5 out of 10.

If you’re after the game I tend to see it going for around £10 for the cart, although big warnings have to be given about the fact that the second one is rarer, and if you want to play the third SNES one you’re going to need to go down the import route. One way around this is to go for the Game Boy Advance remakes. They are more or less the same games with a few extras thrown in and they might be a little cheaper and easier to get your hands on (Plus you can get a European version of number three for the GBA).

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #28: Ryan Giggs Champions World Class Soccer


Ryan Giggs Champions World Class Soccer was the game I played a little last night as well as early this morning. It is obviously a football (soccer) game and it was released on the SNES as well as the Mega Drive. It was developed by Park Place Productions and published by Acclaim.

 

My Champions World Class Soccor YouTube Review 

 

You might not have heard of Park Place Productions largely because they were a bit of a bright light that burnt out very quickly. They were founded in 1989 and in 1993 they had become the largest independent developer of computer games. They had  130 developers making 45 games for 14 different publishers. At the end of December 1993 the company collapsed spectacularly. Basically they didn’t hit some targets they had been set by publishers and as a result of this they were denied payments, pulled out of contracts and literally left Park Place Productions up the creek without a paddle.


The first thing to note is that the whole Ryan Giggs thing is a bit of a con. The UK release featured a picture of the player on the game box and the cartridge label but any real connection to the guy or inclusion of his name ends there. The German version featured a player famous to them Sepp Maier, and the French featured a team likely to interest them, Paris Saint-Germain. None of the three have anything to do with the game beyond the box art and cartridge label though so from now on sod Giggs I will be referring to this as Champions World Class Soccer (or CWC Soccer if I get lazy).

Modes of play included in the game are the standard type, exhibition match and tournament mode. There are the obvious options to turn certain things off and mess with how long the matches last etc but nothing out of the ordinary.

The game’s presentation is pretty decent. There is a TV announcer talking about the match before it starts – talking as in text along the bottom of the screen, but the text is pretty cool. It mentions which team you are and what is good or bad about you. For example I got something on the lines of the following for my first match: “England have always been good at defence but there shooting record is a little unpredictable”. The in game graphics are pretty much the bog standard average football game graphics from this point in time so I don’t have a lot to say about them, they don’t make or break the game.

I like the fact that there is a big blue star around the character you are in control of. It is very easy to know who you are and then there is a button which seems to exist just to help you do little tricks either dribbling the ball around your feet, turning backwards for a second or shooting forward quickly – well, quickly for this game. Unfortunately this is the point at which my review has to get a little bit sour I am afraid that personally I feel that the gameplay is bad. The game is slow, both passing and shooting are hard and frustrating to the point you’ll soon find yourself turning the air blue.

Sometimes it takes a few seconds for your character to become properly attached to the ball like you do in most football games. You will have ran on to the ball and it just wont end up under your control so you’ll be running backwards and forwards hoping it attaches to you and then a computer controlled player will just run straight up and claim it with no problem or pause in proceedings.

In my opinion this game is the worst SNES football game I have played so far. I like the TV start, I like the fact it makes it obvious who you are but I don’t really like the controls or the gameplay. It also didn’t give me my any of my demands such as great goal scoring animations or a voice shouting “Goal!”. I would give this game four out of 10 . It’s not unplayable but there are much better games out there for your cash. If you decide that you simply need this game to live the good point is it will cost you only £4 or £5 to buy it online and get it posted to you.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #27: Top Gear


Top Gear (or as our friends in Japan would know it, Top Racer) is a racing game for the SNES. It was developed by Gremlin Graphics and published by Kemco.

 

It was one of the first racing games to be released on the SNES, so when it came out it was immediately popular. Everyone I knew back then seemed to have either this or Exhaust Heat with the lucky and truly dedicated having both. Top Gear and its two sequels – Top Gear 2 and Top Gear 3000 – were created by the same developers as the famous Lotus series of games which had been released earlier on the Amiga and the Mega Drive. It is important to note before anyone gets too excited this game has no connection to the TV show with the same name.



The good points are that the game feels very fast. I hadn’t played it for a fair few years and when I started playing it this morning I was very surprised at how fast it felt. It is also very bumpy in a way which is kind of hard to explain, but it is worth noting because I remember back in the day a few people I knew couldn’t play it because when it was in motion it made them feel sick. I love it as it actually helps to make you feel like your in there racing. But it’s important to note before anyone goes out and pays for this game, it might be worth looking for some footage on YouTube so you can see if it affects you.

I lost my first few races which meant instead of progressing I kept seeing the starting screen again. But I soon realised I wasn’t paying proper attention to my gears. You don’t get to choose a car or buy add-ons for it, or to even mess with its handling and tires. If this is something that is important to you then your probably better off with Exhaust Heat. Once I started paying attention though I soon found I was up there fighting for pole position again and again. This is when the game began to get really fun, but just when I thought I had seen it all, when I thought I had it in the bag, that’s when things changed a little bit.

I’d noticed there were pit stops but I had never seen the need to use them, sure I had got a little bit tight on fuel at times but there was always just enough to see me fly past the flag in first. You see short races don’t  really require a pit stop and refueling, but the lengthier ones will see you come to an abrupt halt half-way around the track in one of your later laps if you’re not careful. This adds a whole new level of strategy to proceedings as you begin to have to think about when to have a pit stop, how long to stay in the pit, sure you can see your position getting worse while you’re being filled up but you know that in the longer races if you don’t fill up then you’re going to come to a stop and lose. Whole races can be won or lost based on your judgement of when you should pull in for a pit stop or how long you can put it off.

The graphics are good for the time. The screen is always split even when you’re playing on your own. In this case there is a computer rival in charge of a car on the bottom half of the screen. I like the music in this game, it might not be technically brilliant but it is fun. It fits its purpose of pumping you up for the races brilliantly and makes a change to all those games back then which suffered from having no sounds in game apart from that farting rumbling engine sound which used to be popular. I would give this game a good solid seven out of 10. It is a fun game but I miss having a choice in terms of what car to drive and the options to tune it up and buy upgrades. Basically this game just seems like a very big slice of arcade fun not that that’s a bad thing, but you need to keep that in mind if you’re thinking about getting this.

A lot of times when I have seen this game online its been about £8 for an import cart or about £15 for an PAL one, with a boxed copy being as high as £30. I only paid £3 for my cart. The sequel does seem to be a little cheaper and easier to get your hands on though (I will get around to reviewing that sooner or later).

Monday, 7 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #26: Prince of Persia

Today’s game is Prince of Persia. Prince of Persia is a fantasy platform game, originally developed by a guy called Jordan Mechner and released in 1989 for the Apple II system.

 


At the time the game was held in high regard. People claimed it represented a great technological leap forward in terms of the quality of animation used in video games. As with most games which do extremely well it was soon ported to just about anything that could cope with it. The SNES version was done by Arsys Software, a company set up by former Technosoft staff members. It was published by Masaya in Japan and Konami in both the US and Europe.

I was thrilled when I originally played a home computer version of this game but the thrill had faded a little bit by the time I played the SNES version. Have you ever played a game and decided that it had the basics down right but that it just lacked something? That there were the bare bones of a classic in place but that the project needed fleshing out? The graphics are plain but the movement is still impressive. For those who have played the original its important to note that the SNES version is in fact longer, consider it sort of a director’s/extended cut. Instead of the original 13 levels, this version has 20. In the original you had one hour to complete the game but this has been increased here to two hours due to the added length. It is great to see so much added to this conversion in terms of gameplay, and it helps make this game worth considering if you have already seen what it has to offer on an earlier release on a different platform.



The game offers a good, if basic, story and a good degree of challenge. You won’t be finishing this game quickly. In fact you will probably make slow, steady progress punctuated with bouts of swearing. I  praise the game for its atmosphere and challenge but there is also a lot I have to say about the things that bug me. My main gripe with the game is that at times the controls feel kind of skiddy. Now we’re not getting into awful control territory here like Ultraman but they’re just not as crisp as I would like them. Often you will need to stop running before you run off a ledge and fall to your doom. You just feel that little bit too skiddy for my liking meaning often you’ll end up turning the air blue as you plummet to your death. The game is also more or less silent and although the movements in the game look impressive there could be a lot more flavour added in to the graphics. When it comes to presentation it just seems like a very bare bones production which is a shame. I guess after having seen the Konami name on the European box I had sort of expected a Konami level of presentation. That’s the thing when you put someone else’s logo on your product by having them publish it for you. It can act as good publicity as people can be pulled in by a well known name, but it can also come as a curse as those names and logos come with a reputation you then find your product having to try to live up to.

There are other games though that came out after this title which I feel used this game as a stepping stone and in doing so managed to offer a much fuller, richer experience, and you might be better off spending your hard earned money on one of these. (I won’t name them as I plan on eventually reviewing one or two of them.) I think influences from this game can still be seen in some games today, I think there is a definite case to make that this game was an incredibly important piece of software which helped shape so many titles which followed in its wake, much in the same way as Super Mario Kart helped to birth seemingly a million character-filled go kart racing games. Prince of Perisa’s DNA can be felt in more places than I can name, tunnelling its way through action platformer after action platformer. Of course as most people are aware the Prince of Persia name has lived on well into the more recent gaming environment with an awesome trilogy of games carrying the name and some of the original DNA appearing on the PS2 , Xbox and GameCube.

I would give this game seven out of 10. It can be frustrating but it is also incredibly rewarding. Every time you play you will get a little bit further, you will solve another puzzle or you will work out where you are supposed to be going just before you die. It has a very strong just one more go quality. I do think you need to think long and hard about the kinds of games you like before purchasing this though. If you don’t mind slowly making progress and learning from your mistakes then you will benefit more from the game, if you like instantaneous rewards and a game you can very easily make quick progress in then this probably is not the game for you.

My copy of Prince of Persia is a loose Japanese cart which I managed to get for a couple of quid a few years ago. If you really wanted to give this game a go you would be looking at paying between £15 to £25 for a PAL copy, depending on how lucky you are and if this game has a box and manual or not. I have seen a few boxed US copies going for as little as £13 if you have a converter or modified or import system.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #25: Ultraman

Ultraman is a fighting game based on the TV series Ultraman: Toward the Future. It was originally released in arcades by Banpresto and Bandai but was then ported to the SNES (It was also ported to the Megadrive two years later, but this version only came out in japan).

I knew before I started this game was considered to be legendarily bad. That it was one of the games to own titles such as ‘worst game ever’, ‘worst game on the SNES’ and various others, which basically amount to say this game is an utter turd.



However, one thing which is annoying about a lot of gamers and even the games media is people talk about games like this without ever having played them. In much the same way that when you ask most people what’s the worst game ever they will throw out answers like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600 or Superman 64 without ever having seen the cartridge in real life.

So with the above said you will probably get the point that even if a game has been called bad by almost everyone and every media outlet out there I still like to put it in my own cartridge slot or CD draw before I am willing to comment on it. I have played E.T., I have played Superman 64 and now I have played Ultraman. I would like to be able to tell you that some of its awfulness is just the product of ever expanding urban legends, that people tried to one up each other with tales of its awfulness and in doing so exaggerated some of its issues. But unfortunately everything that has ever been said about this is true – it is awful.



So to run you through how my time with the game went I will give you a quick explanation. I put the game in and it loaded up the music was OK the presentation wasn’t too bad at all but then I got to the gameplay. For those of you who don’t know who Ultraman is I will give you a basic idea. Imagine a one man power ranger team, where instead of getting in a giant robot if enemies turn big, the dude just turns big himself and that’s pretty much all you really need to know. So you see a scene of him growing and then it’s time to fight. At first you see Ultraman facing off against a monster and you see the power bars with names on under both sides of the screen, your’s on one side the monster’s on the other, and that makes you think we are in the land of Street Fighter II clones again. If only it was a good or even average Street Fighter clone.

Ultraman controls like he has some kind of serious impairment. The way he moves backwards and forwards is clunky. You can never seem to back off quick enough, even though you can do a sort of backwards cartwheel. You can run forward quite fast. The game makes you realise things which are brilliant in the likes of Street Fighter II which you took for granted could have been far, far worse. The jumping in Ultraman is controlled with one of the pad’s face buttons, but it’s so floaty that jump attacks are hardly worth bothering with. In fact the only point to jumping would be to jump over the enemy to gain yourself a bit of breathing room. Of the other three face buttons, one is a punch, one is a kick and the third is your special move button. This is when things get a bit complicated.

On my first go I managed to punch and kick the monster until its energy bar was depleted. This was a chore as there was basically only two kinds of punch – a straight punch and an uppercut style punch – and two kicks – a straight kick and a little jumping fancy kick. Yes, there are no crouching attacks, and different kicks or punches don’t seem to happen if you hold back or press the button for longer or anything, so basically there are four standard attacking moves – six if you count the fact you can chop or kick while in the air (I say if you can count as these will hardly ever hit anything). So ‘finish him’ shows up in the enemy’s depleted energy bar, so I hit him a lot more, and he hits me back lowering my energy. I press the special button and a sort of fireball attack is launched which hits him but doesn’t do anything much. Five minutes latter he has beaten my bar down to zero. Do I carry on like he has and wait for him to ‘finish me’? No, I collapse on the floor and die. So I continue and the same happens again, and again, and again…

At this point it’s safe to say I was very frustrated. I knew I was going to have to do one of two things. I was either going to have to open the manual or I was going to have to dive online. Now something is wrong when you feel the need to run for help during what to all intents and purposes is the first stage of a video game. It turned out the answer was halfway through the manual. There’s a meter in between yours and his which shows how much special energy you have and also displays some choices. As you gain more energy you can choose other special moves. You actually have four of them and when it says finish him only one thing will kill the enemy and that’s to hit them with the fourth special move.

So with this knowledge in hand I again did battle with the first monster. I wore down his energy bar and then hit him with the move and bam, he blew up, job done. I soon learned the problem is you need to beat the enemy up quiet a bit to fill your bar so there’s basically no point using the special moves apart from to use the fourth one to blow up the enemy. Because if you do use the other ones all it will mean is that you’re dancing backwards and forwards kicking an enemy while it says finish him waiting to gain the needed energy, giving it a chance to kill you.

That’s the main problem – the enemies have better reach than you do. They also seem to move more quickly than you do and they can kill you by simply depleting your energy bar without having to do any fancy rubbish to see you off. Add to this the fact their attacks seem to be very quick and damaging, and you can see your plight. When you win it often isn’t because of how good you have been its because the random gods of chance shone in your favour. In one match against an enemy he can breath fire at you again and again, as well as hitting you before you can even reach him. Then in your next match he can seem to just stand there while you approach and punch him in the face again and again. It just feels less like the enemies have any real AI and instead some dice are being thrown in the background the results of which tell them to attack, to shoot fire or to just sit there like a lemon
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Apparently there are about eight monsters in the game but I couldn’t get past the fifth. Its reach was just too good. It kept shooting fire and I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to keep rolling lemons. Add to this the fact you get a limited amount of continues. You get about two but I did notice myself gaining an extra one due to points/score at one stage.

The graphics in game are rubbish – basic backgrounds, awful sprites – but this could be overlooked if the game wasn’t such a sluggish random mess. As it stands I have to give this game two out of 10. It’s basically broken but kind of has some degree of playability hence the fact I haven’t given it a one. It is by far the worse SNES game I have played during this little experiment of mine, and I can’t remember playing anything else this bad back in the day. I do own another game which was frequently referred to as the worst game on the SNES so we will have to wait and see how that measures up.

If you love bad games or your some kind of sadomasochist who is rubbing their nipples at the thought of playing this then I better give you the lowdown on how much it costs. My copy was £5 from a charity shop boxed with manual and that still feels expensive. The cheapest PAL copy I could find online was £5.99 but it looked like a bear had attacked the front label. There was a boxed copy or two for £15 but seriously buy some good games with that money instead. Or if you’re really that into pain at least save up a bit more and pay a good looking woman to whip you or something. At least, unlike with Ultraman, the view will be nice while you suffer.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

3 Super Nintendo Game Reviews that are just a little bit diffrent.

OK so having reviewed 151 SNES games I figured that rather than jump into another commercial release for review 152 I would instead look at a few rom hacks and even a home-brew game.


 My Mario Kart R Review




My Oh No More Zombies Ate my Neighbors Review




My Jet Pilot Rising Review


Monday, 30 April 2018

Retro Game purchases: April 2018


So its the fourth month of the year and once again as always I have been tracking how much I have been spending on retro games. The first month was an expensive one, with the second not being too bad, the third being average and well as for the 4th? Well if you want to know that then I guess your going to have to read this post.

Well on the 5th of the month I got my first purchase and it was a Japanese N64 which cost me £15, it was just the system no pads or wires as I planed to take those from a spare European machine I had. On the same day I also got a boxed complete Japanese copy of G.A.S.P which I paid £5 for and an American N64 cart of Rogue Squadron which I spent a further £5 on. The first thing I did was to go inside the Japanse N64 and alter the insides of the cartridge slot so that it would play Japanese and American games.

I went on to order a few more Japanese carts these were Choro Q, Mario Kart, Blast Dozer and a boxed copy of Human Grand Prix which cost me £20 in total which had all arrived by about the 18th of the month. A few days later on the 20th I would spend £3.40 on a Japanese cart only copy of 1080 snowboarding and then on the 23rd I would get an orange memory cover for the N64 which I had ordered, basically I got this so I would know my Japanese system from my regular pal ones instantly on first glance, it cost me £1.50. So this means I spent £49.90 on getting into Import N64 gaming this month. I already owned carts of Kirby and Flying Dragon Japanese which I had previously used with an import convertor so I guess I know have myself a nice little 9 cart import N64 collection.

On the 22nd I made my first none N64 Retro purchase of the month when I grabbed 4 complete PS2 games for 50p each today Shrek superslam, Super Monkeyball Deluxe, Monsters inc scare island and IronMan. 

 

On the 26th I did a little shopping at some retro indy stores after work and managed to grab Grandia (Unisoft exclusive edition) complete for PS1 for £15 and Captain America and the Avengers (American Genesis version) complete for megadrive £20. In honesty I think these two were my joint favorite purchases of the month.




So this month I spent £86.90 but this doesn't seem much really when there was a retro console purchase in the mix. I have been getting rid of a lot of none game related stuff I no longer need as I acknowledge the fact that what I buy takes up room and I kind of have plans to buy less, but I guess we will need to see how this goes, only time will tell.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #5: Atomic Runner (aka Atomic Runner Chelnov)


There was an arcade game called Chelnov – or to give it its full title Atomic Runner Chelnov – Tatakau Ningen Hatsudensho, which would translate as Atomic Runner Chelnov Fighting Human Power Plant. It’s a bit of a mouthful right? It was developed and published by Data East in 1988.

 

My Atomic Runner Megadrive Review 

 

One of the things I love is when a game has a big history behind it, mostly because sometimes the stories which exist in the background of a games history can be very interesting and almost as worthy of note as the games themselves. This is one area in which Atomic Runner Chelnov certainly delivers.

There was a heap of controversy surrounding this game’s original arcade release. With the Russian-style hammer and sickle being present on the title screen, the fact the game’s story/the main character Chelnov’s origin is that he received his power due to a nuclear explosion and his exposure to the radiation. And on top of this the fact his name is spelt very closely to how Chernobyl, the site of a real life nuclear disaster, is written in Japanese (チェルノブ and チェルノブイ. Well, when you throw all of this together it is easy to see how this game got some major attention in a bad way. After all when you basically base your game on a disaster – in this case the Chernobyl disaster – just a year and a half after it happened you’re clearly going to annoy people. Just imagine if you took the last high school shooting or terrorist bomb incident and started producing a game on it now and made the dots pretty easy for anyone with half a brain to connect. You’d basically be asking for a lot of fuss and controversy, wouldn’t you?

The arcade game was ported to the Mega Drive in 1992, but it wasn’t a straight conversion, in fact there were a lot of alterations. The Japanese version kept the same name as the arcade version, but in Europe and North America it was released with the much simpler title Atomic Runner. The game’s plot was also altered. Chelnov was no longer a coal miner caught in a nuclear blast. Instead he was a regular guy wearing a special advanced combat suit the whole nuclear angle was removed. In fact basically the whole story was changed.

I will quickly run down this version of the game’s story in all of its B-movie glory. Chelnov was a young scientist who worked with and lived with his father and sister. They lived a happy and peaceful life and then one night when Chelnov went for a jog he heard a huge explosion coming from the direction of his home. He ran back home to find his father barely conscious, with Chelnov’s father’s dying breath he explained beings called the Deathtarians had caused the explosion and that they were a species who had ruled over the Earth long before the dawn of mankind and that they had returned now to claim what once was theirs. Apparently Chelnov’s father had known about them all along and that’s what all of his and his family’s research was for. Chelnov’s father points towards a metal case saying that inside the case there is a suit – a suit which will increase a human’s power making him a super human and inside the suit there are various weapons and devices. Chelnov’s father also tells him that he must put on the suit and defeat the Deathtarians and not only does the fate of the world lay in his hands but also the fate of his sister who they have kidnapped. With this Chelnov’s father passes away and with this Chelnov puts on the suit and becomes the atomic runner. You would think the game starts here, but no, it goes on to tell you Chelnov was overwhelmed by the share number of Deathtarians and became their prisoner. He was then tortured in an attempt to brainwash him, just as they thought they had broken his will though he lashed out in anger and broke free.

Now I like a B-movie plot as much as the next guy but I do have to admit I actually think the plot is a little heavier than it needs to be. Yeah there are a million games and films where someone killed someone’s dad or kidnapped someone close to the main character but do we really need to give the player/main character three reasons to hate the game’s villains? Surley either the killed father, the kidnapped sister or the imprisonment and torture on their own would have been enough reason to explain why Chelnov wanted to defeat the bad guys, we didn’t really need to throw cliché on top of cliché did we?

So, you start the actual game by breaking out of an alien facility. The game plays like a run and gun game, except it’s auto-scrolling. This kind of makes it feel unique compared to your usual run and gunner and in honesty I find the fact it’s always pushing you forward as opposed to letting you kind of just stand about adds to the game’s arcade feel. There are a variety of weapons and power-ups to collect, a whole bunch of enemies to kill, some pretty awesome bosses, and so much more.

The game’s controls can best be described as interesting. So what can you do in your super powered suit? Well you can fire right, you can fire left and you can jump. You need to fire backwards and forwards as enemies will come at you from both directions. As previously mentioned your always travelling forwards, you can move further forwards on the screen but as its always scrolling forwards you can’t go backwards. An interesting thing is as well as shooting enemies you can also jump on them in order to harm them, when you do this you will hurt them and simultaneously bounce off of them as well, in this way you can sort of bounce from enemy to enemy. Also, when you are jumping, if you land on top of an enemy you’ll bounce off and do damage, instead of dying. This is a key mechanic. But be sure you’re jumping! If an enemy hits you from below while you’re on the ground, you’ll die. Your boots only provide invulnerability when you’re not touching the ground, evidently, for whatever reason. This definitely can be frustrating, when you try to jump on an enemy under the floor but just miss and they come up under you and kill you. Jumping on enemies can be a little hairy, but you’ve got to do it. This is the only controls-related complaint I have with the game. Jumping on enemies mostly works fine, but could have been done a little better. Its important to note you die in one hit, be this a hit from a bullet or physical contact with an enemy (well, apart from the contact of your jumping boot with an enemies head). There’s no shield. When you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint. Fortunately this game has a fair few checkpoints, so you don’t usually lose too much progress. The game is pretty darn hard with its one hit death, but this is helped by the large amount of checkpoints and also the fact if you keep dying without making progress then the game will put more powerful power ups in front of you to try and help you. It still is a hard game and this doesn’t totally negate that but it does make things a little bit more bearable at times. The game is one of those old games which is actually rather short, its difficulty kind of makes it seem longer than it is. In all honesty if the game was easier then you would simply fly through it.

The graphics for this game are a little hit and miss. As far as its arcade conversion status goes, I would argue that the graphics here are actually an improvement over its arcade cousin, yet they’re still not that great compared to some other things you will find on the Mega Drive. Everything does run smoothly though and I actually like a lot of the changes that were made to the Mega Drive version. One thing I have to say is the backgrounds are a heck of a lot more interesting and detailed on the Mega Drive and you do get lots of enemies on screen at once. I need to give this game a huge shout-out when it comes to its soundtrack. It’s just dripping with quality tunes which do help make the game more enjoyable than it would otherwise be. I found this game was a little better when running at 60hz. Maybe it’s just me but it just seemed to work a little better when running faster and the music sounded better at that rate as well.

OK so if I am to score this game what am I going to give it? Well I would give it seven out of 10. It’s a good enjoyable challenging but short game. I don’t think it’s a world changer or a real classic and to be honest I think with its history it almost makes a better story than it does a game. I would warn you though if you are not the kind of person who can cope with frequently dying and just getting that little bit further each time then this is probably not the game for you. If you want to buy it then boxed copies tend to sit around the £35 mark with loose cartridges being about £15 when I have seen them.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #24: Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type


Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was released in 1993 as part of the Fire Pro Wrestling series.

Due to a large number of complaints about the game’s difficulty, developer Human Entertainment released Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type which is the version I own. The main difference in it – apart from a substantial lowering of the difficulty – is all of the hidden wrestlers are unlocked from the get go.



The first thing you will notice once you get past the vast screen of Japanese which represents your choices, you will be met with what I think is fair to say is a massive list of characters. You will scroll through some of them going: ‘No idea who he is’ or ‘Oh he looks neat’, and then you’ll fall upon US wrestling stars most of us will likely know such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, Rick Steiner and the Ultimate Warrior. Each wrestler is ranked based on their attacking and defensive abilities, and their running speed. There are approximately 60 wrestlers in total, which if you compare this number to other wrestling games back at roughly this sort of time is impressive. Another interesting thing to note is that the original version of this game Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was the first game worked on by the now famous Suda51.
 
 

The game initially looks quite simple. The graphics are not great but the game controls well, and has all of the moves you’d expect in a wrestling game – punching, grappling, running, etc. The game is full of little things which make you warm to it though. I obviously don’t have a massive knowledge of 90s Japanese wrestlers but I have picked every single WWF/WWE and WCW star who appears on the roster, and I have been able to work out who they are (their names are in Japanese so this has been done purely based on the fact they obviously look like who they are supposed to be), and I have played as them, instantly noting that the moves they use are moves frequently used by their real-life counterparts. The Warrior does the gorilla press, Hulk Hogan does his signature leg drop and so on and so on. There are digitised sounds that come from the wrestlers and cheers that come from the audience members, the music is fitting and overall this adds to the experience. Two of the buttons on your controller are used for strong blows, another button is used for low blows and the other face button makes you run.

The language is a bit of a barrier. It took me a bit of messing around choosing this and then that option, with no idea of what I was selecting. But once I got myself into career mode it was easy enough to play round after round and make some progress, and I have to admit that I was enjoying it. If someone was interested in this game I wouldn’t say it is too heavy going, but you need to be the kind of person willing to work around the language barrier.

The score I am giving to this game is 6.5 out of 10. this score is not an overall mark of the game’s quality, it’s the mark of how much fun your typical English SNES fan would have with it, taking into consideration issues such as having to fiddle with the language barrier, how it has aged, etc. I think if you were someone who could read Japanese when this game came out it would have been the absolute mutt’s nuts it would have been an easy eight or nine out of 10.

If you’re after this, well it might be hard. I have seen a few copies of the regular version of this for around £13, some boxed, some cart only, but you’ll need a Japanese machine, an import converter or a modified machine. As for the exact version I have reviewed the Easy Type version, I haven’t managed to find one for sale at the moment. It is an interesting game I would recommend you read about it, watch videos on it, etc. But I think your money in this case is better spent elsewhere either on a more modern wrestling game with all the bells and whistles or something a little easier and cheaper to get on the SNES (for example Exhaust Heat).