Saturday, 31 March 2018

Retro Game purchases: March 2018

So its the third 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. I didn't start out with any plan to spend more or less this month so I guess lets just see how it went.

My retro purchases started on March the 4th when I got Pop'n Twinbee for the SNES Pal cart only for £11 yesterday, really happy as it was one of the games I really wanted for my SNES review series.

The following day I grabbed Judge Dread for the SNES Pal cart only for £8 another one grabbed to review. if you have been following my review series you will see I have now reviewed 150 SNES games but this didnt stop me from grabbing a few more things for the system this month.

On the 8th of March I grabbed a complete copy of Vagrant story for £15, which I am pretty happy about as I love getting Squaresoft RPG's.

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I also grabbed Star Ocean The Last Hope Limited collectors edition complete with everything for £1.50 so it was pretty much a Square RPG kind of day.
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Then I got Little Nemo the Dream Master cart only for the NES  for £5 on the 12th. Pretty happy about this as its a Capcom developed platformer, not there best but still intresting.

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On the 14th of March I got Solar Jetman, complete in box for £6, I was really happy with this as it was a crazy price for a boxed NES game especially seeing as it has not only its manual but a poster and the little registration card, its neat to see a game this old where everything is still there and nothing has been lost.

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On the 14th I also grabbed Super Bowling Japanese complete for £10 I got this as it was part of my SNES review series and all I had was a cart but I saw this complete and just decided I wanted it. 
 
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On the 18th of March I grabbed Grabbed Virtual Pool 64 for the N64 for £1.50 cart only. Then on the 22nd I Grabbed a bunch of stuff. I grabbed Virtual pool 64 and Top Gear Rally £2 for cart only copies of both... Yeah only just got Virtual pool a couple of days ago but it was a good price. On top of this I grabbed The adventures of Dr Frankenstein for SNES American cart only for £7, and I also got a small bundle of game gear carts for £7, I got sonic the hedgehog, super Monaco gp2, Joe Montana football, solitaire funpak, and the majors pro baseball.
On March the 24th for £10 I got some Japanese SNES games Super cup soccer (boxed complete) prime goal 3 cart only, All star dream slam (wrestling) cart only and super famista 3 (baseball) cart only.

Then on the 25th I went on a carboot and got Asterix & obelix cart only pal for the SNES for £10, NHL 2000 for the PlayStation complete for £1, NBA live 99 for the PlayStation complete for £1, and Premier manager for the megadrive complete for £2
This means that this month I spent £94 on retro games, its clearly not the most or least I have ever spent but I do think that things might start to slow down from here as I have completed my series of 150 SNES reviews. Sure I have moved on to 150 Megadrive Reviews but I already own enough carts to do this. I know that I certainly want to spend more time both playing and writing about games in the upcoming months than I do trying to buy them.

Friday, 30 March 2018

SNES Game Review 151: 90 Minutes: European Prime Goal AKA J-League Soccer: Prime Goal 3


If I was to tell you that there was a trilogy of SNES games released in Japan and that the European  markets only got one entry you would most likely assume that what we got was the first entry right? J-League Soccer: Prime Goal 3 is a football/soccer game developed and published by Namco in Japan, It was the third and last part of their Prime Goal series which was released for the Super Famicom (The Japanese version of the Super Nintendo).  It features all fourteen teams of the 1995 season of the J-League, with there real names and logos. The first two games in this series never made it out of Japan

The game was the first in the series to be released in Europe with the name 90 Minutes: European Prime Goal. There were quiet a few changes to the game though for a start the fourteen teams of the J-League were swapped for fourteen European international sides, these are Norway, Romania, Scotland, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Holland, Bulgaria, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, England, France, Wales and Spain. In connection to this the graphics have been adjusted to replace all of the Japanese looking players with players representing various ethnicities, logos have been swapped but beyond these cosmetic changes and the game being translated it is pretty much the same game.

I must admit that the Japanese version is a lot easier and cheaper to get hold of and it is very easy to get in to an exhibition match where your playing against either the computer or another player but the game does actually feature numerous modes and it can be a little hard to navigate your way into some of these in Japanese. The European version is a lot better if you want to get the most out of the game but it actually sells for a lot higher price, despite being a football game it seems to demand prices of around £20 for a loose cart and they don't come around as often as you'd think.
OK so as well as having the obvious exhibition mode there is also a tournament mode, and a mode where you can train your own player and have them recruited into one of the games teams, then there is a league mode, an all-stars mode which takes the best players from the fourteen teams and uses them to create two all-star teams to play against each other and finally a cup championship mode.

I don't think bearing in mind that this game is made by Namco that its surprising to find that this game has a very arcade feel to it. If you leave the game to its own devises then your met with some lively music and the logos/flags of the various teams flashed in front of you, it really is the sort of thing you'd expect to see in an arcade. When you start the game you will see that the way the game is played is vertically with one goal being to the left of the screen and the other being to the right. I never played this game back as a kid so now that I find myself playing it I am reminded of the Neo Geo arcade game Super Sidekicks, if you have played that then this game has a very similar feel, it is a very arcade feeling game. I found it much easier to score goals in this than in any of the other football games I have played during my SNES review series, my first game ended 15-4 with me winning(This was playing with two 10 minute halves). Personally this made me enjoy the game though as with me actually being able to score goals and the computer seeming decently capable as well then there seemed to be a lot more pressure to both push the ball in to there zone as well as to try my best to get it out of my own quickly as well. Personally I didn't feel like there was a set way to shoot at the goal which always insured that you scored, obviously the harder you seemed to make it swerving around passing the harder it seemed for the opposing team but there was no sure fire method you could use to cheat. For a long time I didn't think that fouls even seemed to exist in this game as both I and the computer were constantly sliding at each other knocking each other over all over the pitch and yet no one seemed to get carded for it, but then I did eventually see yellow and red cards so I guess the game is just a bit lenient in this regard. If you like or dislike this will depend on how aggressive a player you are I guess, personally I would be happy if I could get away with letting my players headbutt the opposition and getting away with it ( There was actually a football game back on the spectrum which I owned as a kid that actively encouraged you to foul the opposition with no consequences). Also if you can score a goal then the ball find its way into your goalkeeper's hands then you can just hold it until the time runs out for an easy win. The controls are pretty much standard  for a football game when the ball is in your possession then one button passes, one button shoots, and one crosses it in. When you don't have the ball then these buttons either tackle or do things like select the player closest to the ball.

I think that the graphics for this game are actually pretty normal for the time the game was released. They are nice and functional and you can always see what is happening, I never lost track of the ball or wasn't able to determine who I was controlling or who had possession. I love all the touches such as the word GOAL sliding across the screen just after you have scored and seeing little cut scenes of your players charging down the pitch afterwards with the crowd visibly excited.

The sound is pretty decent overall, there is some digitized speech in the game, but it is kind of  hard to understand, alongside this there is a lot of sort of clapping and chanting noises but they have a sort of echoey distant sound to them, they are all put in to the game in the appropriate places along side a little bit of music here and there overall I think it works

I would find myself giving this game a 7 out of 10, of the SNES football games I have reviewed so far (This, Virtual Soccer and Super Goal 2) I have certainly found this one to be the most fun.  I have already talked about the price of this game, it is a bit of a steep game to buy if you want a Pal copy, you can get away with a Japanese copy but only really if you just want to play it on a shallow level without being able to get into all of the modes easily this is good enough for me but it depends on what your personally looking for in a sports game.

Monday, 26 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #17: Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

In 1991 a game began to appear in arcades up and down the country. In fact, it began to appear around the world. This game was not a brand new piece of intellectual property. No, it was a sequel and strangely enough it was a sequel to a game no one had really asked for a sequel to – a sequel to a game that most people hadn’t even played.

 

Nintendo scored a massive triumph over their main rival Sega in 1992 when they managed to secure the first console port of this game. They knew it would  make sales of there Super Nintendo hit new heights.

When the first previews started to pour in there was one thing they would say – one rough statement that would be in there among the praise and excitement that was “this conversion looks to be arcade perfect”. In all honesty this wasn’t quite true, the conversion was not arcade perfect but it was so close that without the arcade machine and home version side-by-side and a well-trained eye the differences were too slight to care about given how fun the game could be.

I am sure by now some of you will have realised what game I am talking about, and if not then I am sure it will soon dawn on you. This game was responsible for the sudden increase of a whole genre and, just as Nintendo hoped, it did cause its machine to fly off shelves. I remember the pure desperation kids at my school had when it came to trying to get their hands on it, copies had sold out locally, adults had even resorted to buying new SNES’ which were bundled with a copy of the game. A lad brought an US NTSC copy of the game into school, just the cartridge – no box, no manual – and when he removed it from his school bag and laid it on the table people just wanted to look at it and to touch it. You would have thought he had produced the holly grail from his small brown satchel bag.


I am of course talking about Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Having grown up playing on the Atari 2600, the Spectrum the NES and Master System having two buttons seemed revolutionary to me. So the fact the SNES had six main buttons, and all six of these would be used in Street Fighter II almost blew my mind. This small little point made it feel like an arcade game in your home. I had of course played Street Fighter II in the arcade and I have to admit back then that when I got to play the SNES version the subtle differences were not picked up by me at all.


So now I will talk about the game. There are eight playable characters – you pick one and then you fight the other seven. Get past these and you have to take on the four boss characters who are not playable in this version. The graphics are still decent, I think they’ve aged quite well. The music though – I absolutely love the music. I think Capcom just ticked every single box, there are elements in the music which seem to remind you of the country and character the tune belongs to but then all of them seem to be upbeat and full of energy. They also seem to speed up in tempo to follow the action going on around them and this affects you inside on a deep level. The music gets faster, you feel you can get faster, you feel you can take out your enemy even quicker even more stylishly. With eight selectable difficulties there should be one which is just the right side of challenging for more or less anybody. With a little effort the special moves are easy enough for anyone to learn and once you know the sequences they work pretty much every time unlike some of the others which tried to copy this game.

Special mention needs to be made to the bonus level smashing the car up. Yes, it is somewhat borrowed from Final Fight but it is so satisfying. This game has a lot of re-playability. First there is the fact you can try to see the ending for each character but then with the vast amount of difficulty settings on offer you can keep upping the difficulty giving yourself a new goal to strive for and the skills you gain in doing this can then be used to show your friends who the boss is in multiplayer.
I would give this game a nice solid eight out of 10. I have owned my cart for so long that I cant remember how much I paid, in fact I have two carts, one PAL and one NTSC. This is one of the games were a lot of people have a lot to say about the PAL conversion – the fact it is slower and it has fairly sizeable boarders. Personally it doesn’t bother me, unless you run the two versions side by side you’ll never notice.

Should you buy this if you own a SNES? Well this is where things get a little tough. It is the first of three versions released for the machine, all of which have made there way to the Virtual Console service. If you do decide you want this version on cartridge it will set you back between £5 to £10, which is well worth it, but you might want to stop and consider all of your options first. If you own a PS3 or Xbox 360, then for £15 to £20 you can get Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

SNES Game Review 150: The Adventures of Dr Franken.



OK so when reviewing a whole bunch of SNES games I knew that I was going to come across good games, bad games and average games. I knew there would be things that had aged well and things that had not done so well. Some of the games I had very vivid pictures of in my head, I had played them to death as a kid and literally the second I picked up a pad a lot of it came back, heck some of them I have never really stopped playing. Then there are things like the game I am going to review today, things that I would have seen in shops again and again, and that I might have spent 5 minutes on at a friends house but which I don't have much more than a hazy awareness of.

So the game I am playing today is Dr Franken AKA The Adventures of Dr Franken. The game came out on the GameBoy and the SNES but there were NES and GameGear versions developed which never got released, still obviously the version I am going to be talking about today is obviously the SNES version. The SNES version was developed by a company called Motive Time LTD who I have to honestly admit I can find next to no information on at all other than various lists of things they worked on, apparently though the last thing they worked on was the PC version of Ford Racing in the year 2000. It was published by DMTC in America and Elite systems in Europe. The SNES version came out towards the end of 1993 and in honesty the game is kind of so 90's it hurts.

OK so if your reading this and you don't know I am a massive massive horror movie fan with a particular love for the classics, so to put it bluntly Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and the 1930's universal film based on it are very important to me. I am also a big fan of things that reference this sort of stuff in a fun loving parody style way, hence the fact that I adore the Adams family etc. So I really wanted to like something based of the whole Frankenstein thing even if it was a tongue in cheek joke based sort of thing.

So most people will know that Frankenstein is not the monster and is in fact the Doctor who created him right? Well this game ignores that and makes you a character called Frankie who is the monster, no idea what the Franken or Dr part is about maybe there was something in the manual which gave that away or maybe they just pulled the name out of there collective asses. Still Frankie has a giant cartoon head and wears sunglasses and is trying to be all rad and bad in a Michael Jackson way so maybe he thinks he is a Doctor like Dr Dre or John Cena the Doctor of Thugonomics but he kind of flushes all of this street cred down the toilet by appearing to wear sandals. Now call me silly but if I was really trying to make him cool I would have dropped his Bart Simpson red T-shirt and shorts and gone for jeans a leather jacket and some Nike trainers personally. Now despite only owning a cart and there being no story sequence I went and read around on the internet so that I could provide some story back drop for those that care. Apparently Frankie, wanted to take a trip with his girlfriend Bitsy but they could only afford one plane ticket so he disassembled her and stuck her in a bunch of suitcases. Apparently the suitcases instead of reaching there destination end up all over the world and so Frankie has to go around finding all the bits of his girlfriend in order to put her back together again. So I guess the moral of the story is never saw your girlfriend in to pieces to try and save money just fly with easy jet or go to Skegness again.

OK so in the game you are tasked with playing as Frankie through 20 stages, now in each of these you have to collect four parts and then find an exit in order to complete the stage and move on to the next one. Well I guess this sounds nice and easy then well it would be but unfortunately this game may well in fact be one of the most frustrating and difficult platformers available on the Super Nintendo.

OK so on to the gameplay well Frankie has a button which attacks to the left, one that attacks to the right, one that jumps and one that does a little flip kick. Then you have the trigger buttons the R button shoots a shot that can stuns enemies for a little bit while Pressing L unleashes a powerful fireball that kills enemies. Now this all probably sounds pretty straight forward and like there is a reasonable amount of moves but its actually kind of confusing that if your running one way and you press the wrong button you end up attacking behind you, surly it would just be better to attack in the direction your facing and have a wider range of attacks? What it really feels like is that the games developer wanted to give this game an innovative control setup not because it would help the gameplay but because it would tick a box and make this game different. Its basically innovation for the sake of innovation and frankly in my humble opinion it doesn't work.

Add to these innovation issues the fact that Frankie has very little health, most enemies can in fact finish you of in four to five hits, heck half the time when your jumping at them to fly kick them they seem to hit you as well. You only have three lives as well so with all of this given its a pretty darn challenging game for all the wrong reasons. You can collect icons that refill your, there are also ones which give you extra lives and the game does have bonus stages, these have no enemies and are instead loaded with power-ups and extra lives. In fairness though the stages are not always the best made some of them in fact contain pits and require pretty wild unintuitive jumps. The game also becomes pretty darn repetitive since every enemy takes one hit to kill and well the game just doesn't bother to have bosses at all.

OK so I have been ragging on the game a lot, is there anything much I can say about this game which is in any way good? Well Frankie and all of the enemies are large and nicely drawn, the animation is best described as satisfactory, it feels like it could use a few more frames but the game does have some personality to it. I would also praise the backgrounds, they are pretty rich in detail, vivid and all have there own personality, there are something like 10 different stage themes some of these include castles, dungeons, forests, Ancient Japanese architecture and construction sites.

The audio is also pretty darn good for an older SNES game. The music is pretty catchy and importantly all of it fits the area that it plays in, on the downside though I don't think there are really enough tracks to keep the game varied, which also adds to its repetitiveness. The sound effects also are not to bad at all, they pretty much all fit and work and do what they should do

I have to say that I didn't really enjoy the game at all. It’s a very hard game and in general it soon starts to feel like a chore and when any game feels like a chore you know that it is basically a failure as games are supposed to be enjoyable. The issue is that this game could have been a lot better, with some better controls a few bosses and well just a little more work. The truth is that while I have been doing all of these reviews there have been very few games that were totally irredeemable, even in the worst of them you could see some shred of something good. In fact the honest truth seems to have been that most of the SNES's library was kind of average, it takes a whole lot of good to make a good game, good intentions, good programmers, good decisions and even a dose of good luck, basically it needs all of the stars to fall in to the right alignment and this game just didn't have all of the stars lined up like it needed. I would give this game a 3 out of 10, its a pretty bad game but I cant hate it, I guess if I have learned anything in the last 4 years while I have been working on my SNES review project it is that even the best games have there flaws and even the worst of games have a spark or two of greatness in them that just never quiet got to turn in to a fire.

If you decided that you wanted this game what would you be paying? Well in all honesty most of the time when I see this game it is selling cart only for between £12 to £20, I was lucky and got an American cart for £7 including postage, in honesty though I don't think it was worth even this, the simple truth is that there are much better things you could spend your money on. Some people might find it a little strange that I have let this project end on a not particularly high note but the truth is whenever you have been working on something for a long time there is a kind of bittersweetness which comes at the end of it and who knows just because I have reviewed 150 SNES games it doesnt meen I will never review one again. It just means that I have finished what I set out to do, what I promised myself and others that I would do, and now it means that I am free, free to talk and write about whatever takes my fancy with my work complete.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #16: Virtual Soccer (aka J.League Super Soccer)


I have mentioned before that when it comes to football games back in the SNES days there was a wide selection as opposed to today’s simple choice of FIFA or PES.

So I thought that it was about time I looked at another one, J.League Super Soccer, which was made by Hudson Soft. You’ll most likely have heard of Hudson due to its most popular series of games Bomberman or due to the fact that they made the first eight Mario Party games for Nintendo. (On a side note Hudson Soft ceased to exist as a company in March 2012 and was merged with Konami Digital Entertainment, although Konami intend to carry on using the Hudson name.)


The first thing I am going to say about J.League Super Soccer is it has a wonderful intro. But the truth is you cant describe what this game does when left to its own devices as an intro there is no story. What we really have here is an arcade attract mode. Basically some lively football music with a nice chant running through it is played while the game goes from showing you a bit of in game footage, to pictures of clapping fans, to the game’s name and then back to small what can best be described as football comic strip pictures. It almost reminds me of one of those brilliant Amiga software demonstration discs you used to get, the type which would show you pictures graphics and music just for the purposes of entertainment. If you can’t tell, this is something I love about this game.



Originally I didn’t realise what I had been playing was a common game, which came out in the UK with some minor alterations. In fact you might have heard of it, it was called Virtual Soccer. Basically all they did was put in the English language and change the teams from Japanese first division teams to national teams. In the process of buying games for this series of reviews I very nearly went and bought Virtual Soccer which would have meant I had wasted my money buying the same game twice. Something I did notice was that the game has a speed option and you can play it at normal speed or fast speed, but even normal speed is quite fast and this is something I like. You can choose two views to play from. I chose the overhead view which made it look like a game I am sure most of you will have heard of – Kick Off.

I found it hard to shoot but then I am usually bad at these kinds of games. Passing didn’t seem to go quite where I wanted it to go, but unlike the last football game I played the ref at least seemed fair calling for yellow cards when I was fouled as well as when I fouled the computer. When you score there is the satisfying “Goallll!” I wanted to hear in the last game, but still I don’t think enough fuss is made for my taste. You can see the little man is celebrating but I still want to see it closer up. I want to see players punching the air or hugging each other in a cartoon panel or something.
I am glad this game exists because I love having a wide variety of choice and there are things I really like about this game, the presentation, the speed the “Goallll!” soundbite after you score. I guess I would give this game a five out of 10, despite it giving me some of the things I said I wanted to see in a football game during my last football game review it was a step forward in some areas and two steps backwards in others.

Fortunately for anyone who would like to try this game the English PAL cart can be got from eBay for about £3 including postage. I paid £2.25 for the Japanese version including postage. This does raise an interesting point about importing though, the fact that games can change from region to region so sometimes some research is useful to make sure your not buying an altered version of something you already own. But I guess I am still searching for my perfect 16-bit football game.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

SNES Game Review 149: Whirlo AKA Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai


The game I am reviewing now is Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai or at least that's what it was called in Japan, this basically translates to Xandra's Great Adventure: Encounter with the Valkyrie. The game didn't come out in America but it did hit Europe and Australia where it was called Whirlo, heck of a title simplification isent it? 

The game is a prequel to a NES game, a game called Valkyrie no Bōken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu that game had you play as a Valkyrie but featured a supporting character called Krino Xandra (known as Whirlo in Europe). This game takes that supporting character who for simplicities sake I will mostly call Whirlo from now on and thrusts him into the role of hero.

So what kind of game is Whirlo? Well its an action-adventure platform game it was developed by Nova Games Ltd and published  by Namco on July the 23rd of 1992 in Japan for the Super Famicom hitting Europe and Australia on the SNES as Whirlo sometime later during the same year. Now this is actually one of 10 games that Nova Games Ltd made for the SNES but in all honesty information about them is pretty much none existent, if you try to look up Nova Games you will find a mobile phone games developer which set up shop in 2014 and a Nova Games Limited which clearly cant be the one which worked on these SNES games as it was set up in 1993 a year after this games release, this particular company was a British game distributor located in Coppull, Lancashire, England which manufactured strength tester machines that had Addams Family and Star Trek licenses. I guess some game studio names just sound so cool they get used multiple times and no one cares as long as the company which used the name last is dead and gone.

OK so lets start talking about the game and lets start with the story. Whirlo/Xandra is living a peaceful and happy life deep in the countryside with his wife and there son in a place called Sandros/the Land of Marvel (Depends on the version your playing). Everything doesn't remain peaceful though, nope one day all of this peace is broken by a huge explosion which is so loud and powerful that it is heard throughout the land. This explosion releases an evil fiend who causes a deadly dust to fall from the sky and this dust makes many of the people across the Land of Marvel ill, it gives them some form of withering disease. Whirlo's son is afflicted with the disease and after overhearing talk of a marvelous curing medicine, Whirlo leaves his wife and child and sets out on a journey to find this medicine and save his son. 

So not that I have talked about the story I guess I will move on to the graphics. Well to start with Whirlo is a great looking little character, basically he is a tubby little green jelly baby sort of looking thing with a three pronged head who walks around naked holding a pitchfork. Strangely on the English box they gave him a mouth which is not present in either the game or the original Japanese art and well they also made him look a little bit more like a frog in my opinion as well as taking away his pitchfork. Its bad art and well OK I should stop talking about box art now and save that for another time. The graphics in general are great though, they look very polished, and there are a lot of different areas with there own designs and everything just moves so beautifully smooth. The game looks nice and pleasant but as I will get into later don't let the happy friendly graphics deceive you.

The music is absolutely brilliant stuff, not only does it fit the game perfectly but I also think its some of the best virtually unkown music on the system, well unknown outside of Japan at least, not really sure how big this game was there so for all I know everyone over there into retro gaming might frequently talk about this game.
I am guessing that this game was released in very small numbers over here, as I never ever saw it as a kid and well it also goes for a heck of a lot for a SNES game nowadays. After playing it I have to say that its such a shame that such a good game seems to be basically unknown. OK so I have let the cat out of the bag and sad the game is good, its good but its also blooming difficult , its darn challenging  but it is also cutesy platforming at its best. One touch from any enemy in the game and you die there is  no energy bar here and no power ups. You have the tool set your given from the get go and that's it.

The jump mechanics in this game are unusual and at first kind of confusing but with a bit of practice you will soon be impressed with what you can manage. You have two jump buttons B and A . B is your standard regular jump button. If you give it a little push then you do a little jump and if you press it for longer then you do a higher jump. A is also used to jump. If you hold down A, Whirlo/Sandora will crouch and start charging and when you release it you do a charged jump which goes even higher, think mario 2 on the NES if you have played that. If you start it from a stationary position the jumps not exactly super high but if you were running when you started holding A then you will jump much higher. If you charge for too long though you will tire Whirlo out and cause him to collapse out of exhaustion for a little bit. If while you're running you tap A then, you will do a long hop. It's a long jump with no real height but a lot of distance. At first all of these different kinds of jump are kind of confusing, it seems weird to have such a range of jumps but this is the beauty of the game, each and every one of them has its own use.

The Y button is your attack button, press it and Whirlo will use his pitchfork to attack enemies. If you do it when standing you'll do a straight stab. You can also stab below you. One of the coolest moments in this game for me is when you run and jump and attack an enemy below you with your pitchfork, you'll find yourself bouncing off of them and if you get the rhythm right you can bounce from enemy to enemy unleashing awesome stylish cutesy death upon your enemies. Its a tough game and it also seems to be pretty darn long, but its highly enjoyable, although for people who find hard games frustrating I can see this game rubbing some people up the wrong way.

OK so if I was to rate this game I would give it a 8.5 out of 10. I would score it higher but I do seriously think its difficulty level might be a barrier to some peoples enjoyment, maybe it could do with a few different difficulty levels perhaps one with a health bar? So if you wanted a Pal cart of this game what would it cost you? The cheapest pal copy which looked genuine that I have seen for sale was about £100 if you include postage. I have often seen people asking for sums like £230 for a loose cart of this, with people asking for £450 or more for boxed copies. Plus you get absolutely loads of fake copies and reproductions of this game. If you want to play it without paying a fortune or resulting in emulation then your best of looking at a Japanese copy of Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai, you should be able to get a cart only one for about £10 if your willing to keep your eyes open, wait and have it imported, heck sometimes boxed copies of the Japanese version come up for about £30, obviously you need an import console, a modified console or a convertor in order to play it.

Monday, 19 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #15: Taz-Mania


You can’t talk for long about the SNES without mentioning the Mega Drive. Most people when I was young would have one or the other, but I was one of the exceptions to this rule.

 

I got a Mega Drive at first and then later I got a SNES. I like to think this made me less biased, as I was willing to see the strengths of both machines, willing to recognise good games on both platforms. The SNES game I’ve played to review was Taz-Mania. The game featuring Taz the Tasmanian devil (yes, the one from Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny cartoons and later his own show, Taz-Mania).




This was one of the cases where games bearing the same name came out for both SNES and Mega Drive more or less around the same sort of time, but were actually totally different games developed by different studios. Sometimes this turned out for the best because it meant both machines got games tailored to their own strengths as opposed to a game being made for one then ported to the other, or one simply being made taking the limitations of both platforms in to account. Taz-Mania on the Mega Drive was a 2D side-scrolling platform/adventure game which was developed by Recreational Brainware and published by SEGA. Taz-Mania on the SNES was a very different beast, developed by Visual Concepts and published by Sunsoft.

In each level of SNES Taz-Mania Taz must race against time to grab and eat a set number of kiwi birds, a number which if he does not manage to consume will see you lose. Enemies will attempt to stop Taz by running over him or bumping into him. In all of the levels you run up the road in a fashion a little bit like a car game, you run, you jump and you spin in an attempt to catch up to the birds needed while avoiding all perils. The graphics are nice and bright with a big Taz sprite who is full of character, this instantly makes you want to like the game but once you’ve played for a while you find that it all feels rather soulless. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think one is the fact that the controls feel very floaty – I never felt like I was properly in control of Taz. Whether or not I managed to catch the birds seemed to be based more on luck than any level of skill I did or did not possess. Any game which makes you feel like you’re winning or loosing based on your level of luck is off to a bad start because its only going to bore you even quicker. Add to this the fact that every level in the game is the same – they are all just running up the road looking for birds. Sure, more gets thrown in – rivers to jump, extra enemies – but it all still feels the same and it all feels like it relies on luck.




You can see why Sunsoft avoided the platformer route and went for something original, something different. It was a brave decision but one that I just don’t think paid off. If this bird eating racing had served as just one style of play in the game, or had been an almost Sonic the Hedgehog 2-style bonus level interspersed with platforming it would have been a lot better.

If I had to give SNES Taz-Mania a score I guess it would have to be three out of 10. It is perfectly playable, it’s just not very fun and it doesn’t have much to bring you back to it. Sure, some people would argue that it deserves more because it has good graphics and technically there is not enough wrong for it to deserve a score this low, but let’s face it, games are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to draw you in and make you want to spend your time on them and if they fail to do this then they just fail in general.

I paid £5 for an NTSC cart of this game. You can get either a UK or US one usually for around £8. Heck, I’ve seen a fully boxed PAL copy online for £13 before. I can’t recommend anyone spend anywhere near £8 for it though to be fair. It’s not how bad this is, it’s how good some of the other things you could spend your cash on are. If you have a Mega Drive you can get a boxed PAL copy of Mega Drive Taz-Mania starting from £5 and this would be cash much better spent.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

If games can be made to look bad so can films or well anything.



Well seeing as Games have been made to look like nothing but violence in a short montage by the White House I wanted to talk about this and show how you could easily do this with something else, so I have taken scenes from film and TV and edited them into a sloppy montage of violence and gore.. featuring Walking Dead, Robocop, Day of the Dead, Carrie, and Casino. There are probably worse out there but these ones jumped into my mind. Now its important to mention I like these films but I just recognize how out of context they look awful. I could do the same with music or books.

I kind of like what I did with Robocop and Walking dead as I took out some of the bits where you cut away from the gore to peoples reactions and this kind of makes it feel far more unrelenting than it actually does in the film/show. I kept the scene from Casino largely in tact, I have to admit its not the bloodiest but if you put yourself in the characters perspectives it is quiet unrelenting. I mostly used scenes with baseball bats as there seemed to be a lot of that in the video game based one but out, but I figured I should throw some Robocop in as they seem to be suggesting games make people want to shoot places up.

In all honesty I don't think violence in games, or books, or films, makes people want to be violent, violence has existed for a lot longer than any of these mediums have. The simple truth is that when things go wrong people most often just look for scapegoats instead of really tackling the real issues as most often the real issues are very hard to deal with, and in dealing with them there is the risk or either raising other issues or upsetting people, so its just much easier to try to push the blame on anything you can and then bury your head in the sand.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

SNES game Review 148: Secret of Mana



Secret of Mana, was originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2, so yep the first thing I am telling you is that this game is in fact a sequel. Seiken Densetsu apparently translates to Legend of the Sacred Sword. the original Seiken Densetsu was released as Final Fantasy Adventure in North America and Mystic Quest in Europe and was on the Game Boy. So the series began as a handheld side story to Square's flagship franchise Final Fantasy, though you wouldn't know this from playing Secret of Mana as all of the the Final Fantasy elements were dropped starting with this second instalment in the series and in all honesty it became a series in its own right with its own fan fare and legion of loyal followers.

So Secret of Mana can best be described as an action role-playing game it was both developed and published by Square for the SNES and released in 1993. Surprisingly this is the first time I have managed to talk about Square in my SNES series, yes they are a great studio but there stuff is usually expensive. In fact I spent £25 on my American cart of Secret of Mana and that was quiet a long time ago before prices really started to jump. I didn't own Mana back when it was released but one of my close friends did, and I used to go round his a lot and play it, I really enjoyed it but for some reason I just never decided to pick my own copy up, maybe its because when I was younger I tended to jump from game to game, so didn't really think an RPG was the best use of my cash. It was years latter when I decided to buy it and I basically just kept checking eBay until I saw a buy it now American copy with free postage. It was this game that actually resulted in me modifying my Super Nintendo. You see I was playing it through a convertor and well it was on a cupboard and when my daughter would run into the room the cupboard would rock a little and this would make the SNES rock and well it would crash, one time it crashed and somehow this ruined my save and I lost 15 hours worth of playing. I then began to think about what I could do to fix this situation, the obvious solution would be to simply sell my copy and spend whatever it cost to buy a Pal version, or heck just purchase an American SNES. Somehow I ended up reading about how to make a UK SNES play import games, and as a result of this I widened the cartridge slot, and disabled the region lockout on my machine and altered it so it ran at 60hz, I could have gotten more clever and gone down the route of switches etcetera but I decided to just have my altered SNES and a regular one as well as bad as this sounds it was simply easier.

OK so what makes Secret of Mana such a unique and often talked about game? Well for a start its a Square game so there is that name recognition but its also a little different for one its not just a single player game its also a cooperative multiplayer game with a system which allows for a second and even third player to drop in and out of the game at any time. You start the game as one character and as you play a further two are unlocked, and well as soon as one is unlocked a friend can jump in and play with you. As an adult this sounds pretty cool but as a kid this was simply amazing, it meant I could drop in on my friend and if he was playing this game it didn't mean that I had to just sit there and watch him play or that he had to come of the game because he had a visitor nope I could just grab a pad and jump right into the game. OK so I think its pretty obvious that being two player its not going to be an old Final Fantasy style RPG where everyone stands there waiting for there turn to attack, no rather than using a turn-based battle system like other role-playing games back then this game instead offers real-time battles with a power bar mechanic. For anyone who hasn't played Secret of Mana I guess id kind of explain this game as kind of feeling like its an almost Final Fantasy meets Zelda a Link to the Past kind of thing. The game also has a unique ''Ring Command'' menu system, when you use this it pauses the action and allows you to make decisions in the middle of battle. 

I might have spent quiet awhile going on about how great it is that people can drop in and out of your game but even if your on your own or don't really like playing games with other human beings then the game still has you covered offering customizable artificial intelligence (AI) settings for your computer-controlled allies. While you control one character the other two will then behave however you have set them to behave with you having choices between having them run in swinging without a care in the world or having them behave more defenselessly staying away from enemies and only fighting when absolutely necessary. Or you can set them to run in swinging. The experience gained is equally shared so you don't need to worry about them either stealing to many kills from you and your character therefore loosing experience, or them cowering too much and becoming weak. There is a fairly large variety of enemies. You get creatures called Rabites, which are pretty much half rabbit half blob, then there are zombies and goblins all sorts of different things sure there are some pallet swaps but its not done to death and in my opinion it doesn't hurt the game at all there are also some pretty darn cool bosses.

OK so lets talk a little about the weapons you get how you attack with them and what makes this cool. You have an area on screen which sits under your character's icon and health meter this shows percentages, if you stop attacking it will climb up to 100% wait for this and the attack will be stronger, so rathter than slashing like mad its often better to hit and avoid to let this build.

As you increase your weapon abilities, which is done by killing enemies with a certain weapon, you will gain techniques. You use these techniques by holding the attack button and you will see a bar fill up to the desired level 1-8 and then when you release your button you will do a more powerful attack, to start with these are pretty simple like a jumping slash but they just get better and better. There are 8 weapons in the game and they are a sword, an axe, a spear, a pole arm, a boomerang, a bow, a whip, and a glove. So what you have is 8 selectable weapons for 3 characters, so you get to control who uses what and when. All of these weapons are upgradable by finding orbs and then taking them to the blacksmith. As the weapons are improved by the blacksmith they get stronger and develop abilities, so you might find that certain ones stun enemies or become strong against particular things. Now you will most likely just work out which are your favourites but its great to have the choice and for me at least it does add some playability as you can try to do things a little different next time, like using the whip, glove and bow instead of the spear, sword and axe. I could talk about this game all day but I don't want to give away everything about the game , and I certainly don't want to talk about the story in the slightest and that's because this game gets a very high recommendation from me and I want people to know just enough to feel curious and to go out and try the game.

OK so I have talked about my history with the game , I have talked about the play mechanics and seeing as I think gameplay is king id kind of be happy to leave it here but I guess I should talk about the graphics and the sound. I think the graphics are beautiful, you have great 16-bit sprites that living in a bright colourful world absolutely dripping with detail, its a wonderful living breathing world in cartridge form. You have large impressive bosses I think its just a treat for the eyes.

As for the games Music well the game has an absolutely fantastic score it is at times peaceful, at other times atmospheric and sometimes beautiful, its just as far as I am concerned one of the greatest game scores on the system which ticks every box and is an emotional roller coaster. As far as sound effects go you have all of the Slashes and such you would expect in a game of this type and most importantly nothing ever feels repetitive or out of place.

Overall I would have to say that this game is one of the very best games on the system, and even if you don't usually like RPG's with this games multiplayer and its spin on it being an action RPG, id recommend that you give it a bash. I feel I need to give this game a very rare 10 out of 10 after all it has to be one hell of a game for you to modify your whole console because of it doesn't it?

OK so if you want to play this game prices for pal carts start at about £40 I have also seen a lot of fake carts knocking around, with some of the owners/sellers even believing them to be real, this is something worth considering. To try and combat this take a good look at pictures of real ones and then study any you consider buying. It is also worth noting that this game made it on to the SNES mini AKA the Super NES classic Edition. It has also had a 3d remake for various modern platformers but I haven't tried that so wont be commenting on it beyond making people aware of its existence.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #14: Sonic Blast Man


It’s funny how sometimes all you need to see is a company’s name on a box and it’s enough to get you excited. In fact it’s sometimes enough to make you buy something on the spot with no real research.

 

Back in the PlayStation days I remember a lot of people would feel totally safe in just picking up anything with the Square logo on it. For me a company who I have always rather liked is Taito. They made a lot of great games back in the day, so the sight of their name on a cart is cause for a hopeful smile.



Some of you who used to go to the arcades as kids might have heard of the name Sonic Blast Man. It was the name of a pretty sizeable arcade cabinet which came with boxing gloves and a punching pad. You would play the game by trying to punch the pad as hard as you could when it told you to. I remember it started with you punching a thug who was trying to assault a lady and if you got to the end you were trying to punch a meteorite away before it could strike the Earth.



I loved this game I would hunt high and low for it in arcades up and down the coast. Apparently, in March 1995 Taito recalled Sonic Blast Man machines due to reports that some players had sustained injuries while playing the game. Although I have to cry BS on this one, you wore gloves and you punched a well padded sensor. Sure I have seen people injure themselves in connection to the Sonic Blast Man machine but these were idiots who were punching it bare-handed and had no real idea of how to punch it or worse. I once saw a guy try to run and fly kick the pad in an arcade, he miss judged it and landed on a very painful part of his body as it made contact with the corner of an old Operation Wolf machine. Yet in the US, Taito had to pay a fine of $50,000 for failing to disclose these “injuries”.

When I heard as a kid there was going to be a SNES verion of Sonic Blast Man my mind went nuts. How could they turn it into a SNES game? It would cost the earth if it came with boxing gloves and a usable sensor pad, plus I could imagine it would be a PR nightmare as one child punched another child while missing the sensor or punched the TV. (What I saw happening in my mind was basically what we all saw upon the Wii’s release with all of the remote related accidents, newspaper stories, etc.) I kind of expected them to go down the old joystick waggling sports games path, where you’d have to bang buttons to fill up a meter or something but then I stopped and thought that would be awful. The arcade game was very short and was fun purely because of the novelty factor. Five levels of banging joypad buttons to fill a meter to punch something would have been an awful Idea for a £40 cartridge based home game.

The SNES version is actually a side-scrolling beat ’em up. Sonic Blastman’s mission is still to save the Earth, but this time it is from all manner of street gangs, terrorists, aliens and robots. The fight starts on a construction site, but you’re soon moving from place to place and it’s nicely varied for a game of its type.



One minus point is the game is only a one-player game much like the original Final Fight was on the SNES. There is only one character as well Sonic Blastman himself which feels a little limiting. As in all scrolling beat ’em ups the game consists of defeating the enemies on the screen before continuing walking to the right to face more until you complete the stage. Sonic Blastman can do all of the usual moves for a game of this type. He can punch, jump, and grab a hold of enemies. When he approaches his enemies, he is able to grab them. From here he can shake them and throw them, or he can unleash a series of rapid punches, depending upon the direction you hold on your joypad.

The bonus levels are an adaptation of the arcade version of the game which is a neat little touch for fans. Obviously they have been converted to be played with your fingers instead of your fists. They’re not bad, though I am still glad they didn’t use them for the basis of a whole game.
The best thing about the game’s graphics are the large sprites. They are big and colourful and will remind you of arcade and Neo Geo games to an extent. The backgrounds are more or less what you expect to see in a background on a city neighborhood, factory and sewer, so they’re functional but not thrilling. But I would argue that as you get further through the game they become more interesting and seem to have more little details hidden here and there.

The music sounds like some kind of fusion of jazz and elevator music but I kind of like it and I think it suits the game well. The sound effects are pretty decent and give it a good comic book feel. You hear Blastman say little soundbites like  “Take that!”. Overall, I think it works.

I would say this is one of the better scrolling beat ’em ups on the system. Sure a two-player mode would be nice and its absence, along with a few other little things, stop me from calling this game perfect. But for me its a good eight out of 10. I think thanks to the big sprites and the simple but fun gameplay this game has aged a lot better than some of the stuff I have been playing. Having a go now I enjoyed it as much as back then.

The game came out in all regions but I have never seen a PAL copy in the flesh in my life, neither now nor back when released. My copy is a Japanese cartridge which I have had since I was young, I am not sure where I got it, I just remember being very excited to get it. Looking around you might be able to grab a Japanese copy for between £10 to £25 if you’re lucky, but every time I have seen an US copy its been ridiculous money like £60 or more, and I am still to see a PAL copy for sale.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #13: Mecarobot Golf


 

 

 

 

 

So you have a game which is basically a vehicle for a real life star, but you find out that he is only a star in your country, and no one else knows who he is, so what do you do?

 

You could just remove the connection to the star and hope the game sells on its own strengths. You could try and find another person or people famous to the other markets you want to release it in. Or you could just add robots – yeah , that’s what you could do, you could just add robots.

This is what happened to Serizawa Nobuo no Birdie Try, a Japanese Super Famicom game staring Japanese professional golfer Nobuo Serizawa. He was replaced with Eagle the robot and the game got the name Mecarobot Golf because well robot plus anything equals better, doesn’t it?

The whole robot thing is a gimmick. And not a good gimmick, not one layered with reasoning but a rubbish palate swap of an idea. Buying this game I had another game in mind which was the Neo Geo game Super Baseball 2020, a game in which you have whole teams of robots playing baseball together with excellent presentation and gameplay.



Nothing is actually wrong with Mecarobot Golf it controls in a similar way to most golf games with pressing buttons at the right time in accordance to a meter. There are a decent number of holes but the robot thing serves no purpose at all. You don’t even play as a robot – you’re a human trying to beat the robot. I have read notes that there is some story to this game that in the world in which this game exists humanoid robots are considered to be second-class citizens, their rights are limited and one of the things they are not allowed to do is participate in golfing tournaments. So a rich benefactor purchases Eagle and builds all of the golf courses for him to play against the robot on. This story must have just been manual fodder though, as I never got any of that from playing it. All I got was I am playing as a boring generic man against a poor transformer sprite for no real reason at all.

Other than the weirdness of its birth there is nothing to much I can say about the game. The music’s fine, the graphics are decent if not amazing and the game plays fine. It’s just another average five out of 10 game – don’t get drawn in by the robots.

I spent £3 on getting my cart and that includes postage. It doesn’t come up for sale that much over here as its a US import that never saw release here, and in Japan it came out but with the title I have given above. If you do go for it on the rare occasions it surfaces it never seems to go above £10. Heck after buying mine I saw a boxed copy that was a bit beaten and battered for £8.

Monday, 12 March 2018

SNES game Review 147: Super Bomberman 2



Well my 65th Review was for Super Bomberman, which I just kept calling Bomberman totally forgetting the super part for some reason. When I reviewed the original I said that it was part of a long running franchise and since that review a Switch version was released which I grabbed, I also managed to get a copy of the original English Spectrum Bomberman game Eric and the Floaters. I dont want to get into how long this franchise has been going on again but I think the above does that. My purchase story behind Super Bomberman 2 is not a particularly exciting one, I grabbed it years later in a charity shop for a few quid. I should mention now that if you have read my review for the first Bomberman then it might sound like I am repeating myself but that's because this sequel is very much more of the same.

The normal 1 player mode of the game is just like any other Bomberman game. You control Bomberman, and you have to use your bombs to destroy various obstacles and opponents, ultimately using your bombs to turn on light switches that allow you to exit the level and progress on to the next. After completing a set number of levels, there is a boss battle, and how do you think you defeat the bosses that's right you do it by using bombs. You start the game only being able to lay one bomb at a time, this bomb will have a very small explosion, basically it will only harm things one square away in any direction. By destroying various obstacles some of which are bricks and others are mushrooms or treasure boxes it depends on the level you can find hidden powerups, what power ups can yoh get? Well you can pick up a flame this will increase the area your bomb damages, then you can pick up extra bombs so you can lay more than one at a time, you can also pick up shoes which make you move faster and more. Everything you can get in single player you can also get in the Multiplayer battle mode.

It is very easy to play Super Bomberman 2 there are very few buttons to get to grips with and very simple but tight controls. In order to become an absolute master at the game though you need to get smart. You will find yourself starting to understand how everything works, you will learn how large your explosion will be if you pick up a flame icon or 3 flame icons, all of this information will start to lodge in your brain, you will start having a greater awareness of how everything works and how you can use this to your advantage. If a bomb explodes and the flame hits another bomb it will cause this second bomb to detonate early. This is where the game starts to be far from simple as with multiple bombs and power ups you can either intentionally or accidentally cause large chain reactions in an attempts to get your opponents. If you panic and drop bombs all over the place causing huge chains of explosions then you will most likely kill yourself and this is where the game gets good. You need to learn how everything works and then learn how to keep a cool head and how to put your new found skills to work in even the most stressful of situations.

The single player story mode is basically partly there to entertain you when you are on your own but in honesty it also sort of serves as a training mode getting you ready for the real portion of the game the Multiplayer Battle mode. Super Bomberman 2 is one of the few games to use the SNES Multi-tap adaptor and with this you can have up to four players battling to blow each other to kingdom come.

If you don't have a multi-tap, your stuck to playing it in one or two player mode but luckily the computer will join in controlling AI characters to reach the full number. One of the interesting things is that there are multiple difficulty levels you can pick for the AI controlled Bombermen which is helpful as it means no matter what your skill level is you should be able to find an AI level that will allow you to have a good competitive game, its also cool from a training perspective as if your trying to improve you can keep upping the difficulty as you get better. If I have any issues with the AI it is that they all basically play in a highly defensive manner, it would be a nice touch if you could set some parameters that would make one be a little kill crazy willing to die if he took you down with him, then a defensive one, and a risk taker but I guess that's just expecting a lot given the hardware and when this game came out.

There are about ten maps you can choose from in multiplayer mode, and each one is different. The first map is sort of your bog standard no thrills one but each one from then on is  unique having its own quirk which makes it stand out and makes playing on it just a little bit different. For example one map has that sort of Pacman style thing where if you exit from the top of the map you reappear at the bottom. Sounds simple but it means that you can basically go from one side of the screen to the other in seconds and get the drop on your opponent or that they might do that to you.

Graphically the game is kind of basic but bright and fun and full of character, it might not be anything that flashy but it has aged well and it offers a pretty wide amount of variety which helps to keep things fresh.The sound in my opinion is good it manages to be cutesy catchy and it also manages to work with the on-screen action to make the game feel tense in the best possible way.

Super Bomberman 2 is definitely a very good game, especially if you have a multi-tap and a bunch of friends to play with. If you aren’t interested in a party game and prefer being a solo player then the single player game is not too bad but your really missing the part that makes this game the stand out classic that it is. Of course being a sequel there is the inevitable question is this one better than its predecessor? I find this a really tough question to answer as I am kind of biased to the first Super Bomberman because all of the levels and tunes from the game are burned into my brain, its the one I played as a young lad and its the one I have the really fond memories of. I gave Bomberman a 9 but I find myself having to give the second one an 8. Its still a brilliant game and I know some people prefer it but for me its just not quiet as good. If you want to try Bomberman 2 then the cheapest Pal carts I could find of it were about £25 with boxed copies being around double this. I would argue that the game is worth it but I would say don't worry about getting more than one of the SNES Bombermen games because there all just sort of variations of the same thing and hey it might also be worth looking at different versions on other formats, I am particularly fond of Bomberman Battlefest which was a download game for the Xbox 360 which has recently been added to the Xbox one via there ever growing backwards compatibility service, as this is only £6.75 to download I personally think its a complete steal and if you have been living under a rock for the last 30 years and don't know what  Bomberman is it would be a great cheap place to start.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #12: Wing Commander


I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Wing Commander. It’s a long running franchise which started out on PC which was then ported to various systems including the SNES, hence me talking about it.

 

 


Wing Commander can basically be called a space combat simulation. It wasn’t the first game of its type really but it was unique with its branching mission tree, complex characters and attempt at a cinematic-style story. You start as a rookie pilot aboard the Tiger’s Claw. Before you start blowing stuff up you get to walk around the ship, talk to other pilots, talk to the bartender, etc. There is a lot of stuff there purely to try and make your adventure seem real. For example you can enter the barracks were you will see other pilots sleeping, you will see and hear water dripping into a bucket on the floor and you can open your locker to see your shirt and see what rank you currently are and what medals you have.



Once you visit the briefing room, that’s when things really start. First you attend your briefing where you’re told what your mission will entail and who your co-pilot will be. This is all done with a mix of text, graphics and animation. Once this is over you get to see animation of you running to your ship in your gear with exciting music playing to get you pumped up ready for battle. You start out heading to check points to investigate them and its not long until you meet the vicious feline Kilrathi. In the first mission you’ll have to fly through an asteroid belt and destroy several small lots of Kilrathi before making your way back to your base ship. The best part is if you die you get to watch your own funeral which contains more animation and text than some games bother with for an ending when you’ve completed the whole game and attained everything possible.

I found that the game works quite well at drawing you in to the plot, making you want to see how the story unfolds, and in a very short space of time you begin to form opinions on the other pilots. You forget that they’re all drawings with AI attached and begin to go: “Bossman is cool but I cant stand that Iceman”. With the fact that there is a chalk board on which you can check your kills against other pilots kills it can become quite competitive. There are times that you can almost forget you’re on a game you will get so into it.

The downsides of the game are in my opinion so few and so slight that it is hard to pick real fault, there are more things you can do than there are controls on a SNES pad, but they got around this by means of tricks where you hold one button while pressing another to do something totally different from what that button would normally do.

This game must have done quiet well on the SNES in the day, maybe because there wasn’t a lot of stuff like it. It did so well that a PC expansion pack was turned in to a second Wing Commander SNES game (Wing Commander: The Secret Missions) and Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi was ported to the SNES (but was never released due to financial projections and a drop in SNES sales by the time it was finished, unfortunately). The sad thing is that the original Wing Commander on SNES had been handled by Mindscape on behalf of Origin and what happened was that it tried its best to recreate the PC game on a SNES. Origin handled the second one itself and apparently went to great lengths to tailor it to the SNES to build it from the ground up as a version that would best appeal to Nintendo players.



I would rate Wing Commander as a solid eight out of 10. I have owned my copy since I was young and it was the start of  a brilliant adventure, I happily brought Wing Commander: The Secret Missions and then when I found out that Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was coming to PlayStation and had Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame in it I nearly exploded. I had a look online at prices for this game and you can get the PAL version for like £10, and sometimes it is even boxed for that price, so really you can’t go wrong. The only possible thing worth pointing out is that you can get the PlayStation Wing Commander III complete for the same price and as this is a bit more advanced if you own a PlayStation you might decide that III is in fact a better starting point for you. All of the Wing Commander games are basically linked but they all tell more or less self contained stories so there is no real issue with dipping in to the series at any point.

Back in the SNES’ day there were so many platformers, so many beat ’em ups and so many sports games the real beauty of Wing Commander was and still is that there is so very little on this platform like it, sure we have faster arcade style stuff like Star Fox and then there are the first-person shoot ’em ups like R-Type, but actual tactical space combat like this is not really one of the machine’s big selling points so it makes it stand out all the more.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

NEWS RANT#1 The Lady who wants Fortnite banned

OK so if you have been visiting this blog for any length of time then you will be aware of what NEWS RANT is, basically its my news posts where I talk about either one or a bunch of things which have been in the news recently that have gotten my attention that I have felt compelled to talk about.

This time I am talking about the Lady who wants to ban the video game Fortnite because her under age child cant regulate himself. If you are not familiar with this story then it is from a piece on a UK morning breakfast show called This Morning where they did an interview with a Lady  who thinks that 'Fortnite is endangering our teens because she says her son stopped socializing and became aggressive and moody when he was told he could no longer play. This was Broadcast on 07/03/2018 I figured I would mix things up a little though and make this the First NEWS RANT to be a youtube video instead of me just ranting in text. So here it is down below for you to hopefully enjoy. I would also like to mention that this video is dedicated to my Mother. It is mothers day here in the UK this Sunday, unfortunately my mum passed away a few years ago but she was a constant source of support for me and this seemed fitting giving the time of year plus the fact this is essentially talking about parenting.


Friday, 9 March 2018

SNES Game Review 146: Judge Dredd

 

OK so today's game is an interesting one in that it is a game based on a film which was based on a comic. I first came in to contact with the character of Judge Dread when I was young when I was shown a copy of 2000 AD a weekly science-fiction anthology comic. I think it went a little like this. I was reading a Spiderman comic when a bigger kid went ''oh kid why you reading about a wimp like that look at this its got this guy in it called Judge Dread he is proper well cool.'' OK I don't have such a good memory so I might be making his words up a bit but they probably involved something proper 80's like references to one thing being rad and the other gay but you get the picture. I have to admit I enjoyed the comic and I have picked up the odd 2000 AD related comic since then but I am far from a hardcore fan but put simply Dredd is a law enforcement officer in the dystopian future city of Mega-City One. He is not just any law man though he is a street judge which basically means that he is a police officer a judge, jury and an executioner all rolled into one, in this world there are a bunch of Judges but basically Dredd is the meanest and toughest of them all.
Well Judge Dredd made his live action film debut in 1995 in the unsurprisingly titled Judge Dredd. In this film he was portrayed by Sylvester Stallone. When it was released the film was  totally panned by critics and well by almost everyone. It did receive praise in some areas these being its  its visual style, its effects, stunts and action sequences. One of the things the fans seemed to have the biggest problem with is that Dredd removes his helmet and is in fact helmet-less for the majority of the film. Apparently though despite all of the hate it grossed more than $113 million worldwide against its budget of $90 million so it at least didn't loose anyone money. In total honesty though I have to admit that I actually kind of like Judge Dredd, its not a world changing film but its a decent action film with a few laughs and its a good enough way to pass a few hours.

So what we have here then is a game which started out as a much loved cult comic became a not very well liked movie and then became a game which actually received reviews ranging from good to average back in the day. I need to admit something right now though, I might have seen the film back then but I never bothered with the game for the simple reason I just kind of decided it would probably suck and so just gave it a wide berth.

OK so lets start with the games story, well for a start if you saw the movie, well the story is pretty much the same, it follows the film very closely up until right near the end. You actually get a text crawl in the intro giving you the whole set up for the world telling you about Mega City One and the Judges and what life is like in this world. You have two levels where you basically get to be Dredd doing his regular job being an officer of the law. It is then here that you learn that Dredd has been found guilty of murder and is exiled from MegaCity One into what is called The Cursed Earth. After this its basically making your way through the cursed earth and then back to MegaCity one to prove your innocence, to get the guy who framed you and to basically kick his ass. Something critics of the movie will like is that the Dredd in this game never actually removes his helmet, your in the Dredd uniform for the entire game, what do I think about this? I actually think its kind of stupid, he gets exiled in full body armor essentially in his police uniform yeah like that would happen but yeah this probably makes some critics of the film a bit happier.

OK so now its time to talk about the gameplay. Controlling Dredd is pretty easy. You run around with a button for jumping, a button to kick, one for shooting, then you have a button to switch weapons and the last one I will mention is the arrest button. Something which doesn't seem to matter beyond points but is kind of cool given the character is not only can Dredd just waste enemies he can also sometimes arrest them. You will see enemies throw up their hands and surrender and if you approach them and press the arrest button then Dredd will cuff them and they will be floated away presumably to jail on a little platform.

One of the good things about the game is that enemies come along in all shapes and sizes, you have a variety of different looking criminals and then latter you get ABC Warbots and skinless clones, something called Judge hunters. There are a couple of boss battles, you even get to ride one of the judges bikes for a nice change of pace but things like this could have been done more often as this doesnt compare that well in the variety and keeping it fresh stakes as something like Indiana Jones's Greatest Adventures which I reviewed recently, in fact despite this games attempts at variety this game feels like it starts to drag on a bit and if you are anything like me then you will most likely begin to feel your interest just dripping away. Some of the level objectives also seem like more of a slog than anything, find this, blow so many crates up etc. You tend to find you can get a bit lost in levels and start feeling your doing a chore not playing a game, in this way the game reminds me of Spiderman and the Xmen Arcades Revenge with the bomb deactivating etcetera. The great thing about the character of Dredd is that he is an arse kicking bad ass and I just feel this game needed to be a little more straight up action, a little more Contra style. I will admit though that things get a little more fun when replaying levels as you know the layout and where to go to meet your objectives instead of feeling like your wandering lost.

OK so I just want to quickly go over the games graphics and sound. The graphics in this game look quiet good really. Nice character animation, the graphics are a little bit comic book visuals meet Flashback and in my opinion it really works. The scenery and characters are very colorful and I would say represent the source material well. Overall its not a bad game graphics wise at all. The music in this game is kind of generic action music but in honesty it has a sort of dark gritty theme to it all and it helps set the mood well, it certainly fits the charters and world and doesn't grate. The sound effects are all pretty much what you would expect, although seriously they needed to throw in a few voice samples in my opinion, having him occasionally say ''I am the Law'' perhaps when beating a boss or something would have been a nice little touch. 

OK so now is the all important score part of the review, what am I going to give Dredd? Well after much deliberation I have decided that what Dredd deserves is a 6.5 out of 10. Its a reasonably enjoyable game, much better than average but there are also a heck of a lot better games on the system. I spent £8 on my cartridge only Pal copy and for me I think that price is about right, that's this games sweet spot in my opinion. If you can get it for something around that point then id heartily say give it a bash. Looking online at the moment cartridge only pal copies tend to be about £12 to £15 with fully boxed copies going for £25 to £30.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #11: Championship Pool

Championship Pool came out in 1993 and, as you can obviously tell from the title, it is a pool simulation. It was released for the NES, SNES, Game Boy and the Mega Drive. It was developed by Bitmasters and released by Mindscape.

 

The game is straightforward, it is a virtual version of pool, in which you can play either a one-off game, tournaments, multiplayer or even just practice. I like the presentation on this game, it offers you what looks like a wealth of choice and options but it also has a layer of style. Your opponents are represented by little pictures, you get to see the coin toss for who goes first, etc but once you actually start playing looks wise there is nothing to separate this from any budget pool game you could pick up on the live markets of various device stores.

In the past I don’t remember there being a whole lot of games based on either pool or snooker, at least not on consoles. The truth is I hadn’t even played this one when I was a kid. I brought this game for £3.50 with free postage from eBay purely for this series. I did own a pool game when I was a Mega Drive/SNES owner but it was Side Pocket on the Mega Drive and I never looked for another one as that always filled my pocketing needs. When I try to compare this in my mind to Side Pocket then that wins, but I cant really be sure if it’s a fair competition having not played Side Pocket in 10 years, and maybe I am remembering it through the eyes of a child.



The main thing that annoys me about Championship Pool is it seems to be very unforgiving even on your first opponents – you break, pocket a ball. take a shot pocket another ball. and then you miss. You would think that you would watch your opponent take their shots and then when they screw up you would be put back in control, but that’s not quite how it works. Someone decided that watching the computer play would be boring or something, so instead they’ve made it so you when you screw up, it says it’s the computers go, you get a screen saying that the computer has had its go and now it’s your turn again. You have a look and the computer has pocketed four balls – four balls which you have no idea how many shots it took it to pocket, four balls you don’t feel you could have got given six shots due to where they laid on the table the last time you saw them. So the computer’s fortune seems to almost border on an unholy pact with the Devil and you have no way of seeing how they achieved this Herculean pool feat and you just have to shrug and go OK. Problem is you then pot another ball and then miss then you get a message saying the computer took its shots and won the game, you don’t even get to see the winning shot.  This just makes me feel very disconnected from it all. I know that in a lot of games everything is decided by random dice throws or some form of statistical probability matrix but when you can see it happening you kind of forget this and get drawn in to the magic of it all.

I would rate this game four out of 10. It might have got better out of me back in the day but nowadays there are so many pool or snooker-based games you could try. Looking online it seems like the going rate for the cart only PAL is about £8. It can go for more and sometimes you see it for less, I even managed to get my cart for £3.50 with free postage. So if you have a SNES and don’t have many games it wont break the bank. I am not saying my four out of 10 is a concrete score, read the good and the bad sides and see what you think about them, it might not annoy you like it does me.