Saturday, 30 May 2020

Other Stuff Monthly #13!

As soon as I saw the sun-baked Carlos Ezquerra cover art for El Mestizo, and its yellowed brick-effect logo, I was drawn into it. When I heard the premise, of a mixed-race mercenary fighting in the American Civil War, my interest was peaked even more. Of course, I wasn't let down when I did eventually get ahold of it, as it's a great action story, with no slow moments or filler.

I did have some questions, though, and they're probably the same questions you're thinking about after reading the premise. Mainly: why would a mixed-race former slave act as a mercenary in the Civil War, instead of just fighting against the Confederacy? Well, the story does offer a few answers to this, and I guess they're good enough to allow the reader to get into the action. Basically, it was a pretty anarchic war, and there were some companies in the Union army who were essentially uniformed raiders, pillaging small towns and killing everyone in sight, including the slaves they were meant to be freeing. So El Mestizo is portrayed as a man who'll fight on the side of whoever pays him, but also against anyone who he sees to be harming the innocent, no matter which side's uniform either of the above is wearing. I think another thing that should be taken into account is that most young boys in 1970s Britain probably didn't know or care much about the American Civil War, and it was, to them, just a change of scenery from all the World War II war comics that were popular at the time.

The book's only about sixty-four pages long, but in the old British comics tradition, chapters were only a few pages long each anyway, so not only is the storytelling very dense and full of action, but there manages to be a few complete story arcs in that small space! Mestizo avenges murdered slaves, saves North America from the bubonic plague, and manages to see the end of the Civil War, all in the page space of two or three US-style comic issues! The book even ends on a hook for a sequel that (as far as I know) never came about, set in Mexico.

Obviously, I recommend that anyone interested in comics that cover subject matter outside of the usual stuff gives El Mestizo a read. Like I've already said, it's tightly written, full of action, and the art is esecially excellent, exactly the kind of stuff Carlos Ezquerra seems to have been born to draw.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Coron Land (SNES)

For a brief period in the early nineties, there was a craze of Bomberman wannabes, obviously fuelled by that series' massive popularity, that even managed to sell big expensive multitaps to people in decent numbers, too. I hesitate to call them clones, as while they were all top-down single screen action games with idiosyncratic attack methods and four player versus modes, they mostly each had their own unique gimmicks. (Though there were one or two that were literally just Bomberman knockoffs, like the ninja-themed SNES game Otoboke Ninja Colosseum).

Coron Land's gimmick is kind of snowball-themed. In story mode, you defeat enemies by shooting them a few times, turning them into pink orbs. You can then pick up these orbs and throw them at other enemies, or before doing that, you can make them bigger and more powerful by rolling them along the ground like snowballs. In the multiplayer mode, shooting just stuns your opponents, and the orbs randomly fall from the sky, but they can still be rolled and thrown and so on. It's a fun little thing, and even rolling an orb a short distance is worth doing, just for the little bit of extra damage it does, so rolling doesn't really slow the game down too much.

It probably goes without saying for a game of this type, but the multiplayer mode, even when played alone against CPU opponents, is a lot better than the singleplayer story mode. In this case it's especially so, though, since the story mode has a ludicrously steep difficulty curve, with some very hard enemy types showing up after only a few stages: enemies that can send orbs back at you, enemies that can stun, then pick up and throw you like you do to the orbs, and so on. Multiplayer is fine, I guess. A nice touch is that every player gets to be a differrent character, not just palette swaps of the same one, a feature I don't think the Bomberman series offered until about three or four games in, if I remember rightly. There's also a selection of stages, each offering a slight variation: trains that speed across the stage, running players over, a stage with bouncy walls, a stage with no walls at all, with instant death for players who fall off, and so on.

Coron Land is a decent enough game, I guess. It's not really worth playing unless you have thee friends willing to play it with you, though, and even then, it'd probably be easier to get ahold of a copy of one of the Super Bomberman series. Though having said that, this is a much faster game than Bomberman, so it does have that in its favour.