Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gotzendiener (PC Engine)

This is an action-RPG, made by Gainax. Or at least, they were involved in it's development in some way. It's odd that Gainax's most famous series tend to be about mecha (Gunbuster, Gurren Lagann, Evangelion, etc.), but their games usually have fantasy settings with no mecha at all (Alisia Dragoon, the Princess Maker series, etc.). This game is no exception to that rule.
The scneario is pretty cool: You play as a maiden who's been captured by an evil demon, and as usual, a brave hero came to rescue you, and though he did successfully kill the demon, he was mortally wounded during the fight and quickly followed the monster into death. So you take the hero's sword and set off to find your own way out of the castle.
You go around the isometric stages, solving puzzles and occasionally fighting monsters (I guess the hero must have killed most of them on his way up?). You don't have to worry about understanding Japanese for this game, as other than a couple of animated cutscenes, there's no text or dialogue, and there's nothing in the cutscenes that you need to know to progress. There were a couple of points where I got stuck in the game, though luckily there's a really excellent FAQ on GameFAQs, that not only contains a full walkthrough for the game, it also translates the plot and provides details of the tie-in merchandise that was released for it!
The game looks good, with nice animation and sprites that are detailed despite also being tiny and low-res. The music is good too, having a slightly arabian flavour to it (some people online have compared the game as a whole to Prince of Persia, and there is definitely a similar feel to it in looks, sound and atmosphere, I'm not really familiar enough with PoP to say whether the similarities extend to the game itself. (I'm mostly unfamiliar with it because I tend to die as soon as the first enemy appears.))
The only real problem with the game is that it is incredibly short and, other than the parts where I got stuck also very very easy. I completed it in less than two hours, and as I've mentioned plenty of times before, I'm terrible at games. It's definitely worth playing if you can find it cheap/free, but copies online seem to go for about £30, which does seem a bit much.

Friday, 23 December 2011

One Piece Mansion (Playstation)

The thing this game is most famous for is having nothing to do with stretchy pirates. It also has nothing to do with mansions either, so it all works out for the best in the end.
You play as the manager of an apartment block who looks kind of like Gaz from Invader Zim, and you've got to keep all your tenants happy so they don't explode. You do this by strategically arranging their apartments. How do you know how happy they'll be? Each kind of tenant has a bunch of arrows coming out of them when you highlight them. Blue arrows mean anyone in that direction of the tenant will be made happier by their presence, red arrows mean that their neighbours will be made less happy. Further complicating matters are criminals who will randomly move in, spreading bad vibes around them, and occaisionally wandering the building causing havoc. To get rid of them, you have to make good use of your more annoying tenants to drive them out, as well as running around blowing a whistle and/or spraying a fire extinguisher at them when they go on their mischeivious jaunts.
In story mode, you go through a finite amount of stages, each with an objective, such as "Build 30 rooms!" or "Make $20000!". If you run out of money, the game ends. There's also an endless mode, with no objectives, you just keep building upwards until you run out of money.
Story mode is excellent, the stages are fast-paced and don't take too long to do, the only problem being it's quite easy and very short (I completed story mode without failing a single stage.). Endless mode is also very easy, and obviously lasts a long time, but has a different problem: the lack of objectives makes the game very boring. You just build tenants as soon as they come along, then wait for either more tenants to appear, or for that month's rent to be paid, with only the occaisional criminal to break up the monotony.
One Piece Mansion is good, and definitely worth playing, I just wish it had some kind of mode with infinite, randomly generated mission objectives.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tian Wang Xiang Mo Zhuan (NES)

As you may have gathered from the title, this is yet another unlicenced Chinese game. I don't like reviewing similar games after each other, but that whole world of unlicenced, mostly undocumented games interests me a lot.
It's a beat em up, set, if my interpretations of the images in the intro are correct, in a post-apocalyptic world that has suffered the ravages of both nuclear war and the opening of some kind of evil demon treasure chest.
So, you pick one of four warriors (and if you're smart, you'll pick the orange, umbrella wielding guy in the bottom right of the selection screen) and go about various locations beating up monsters.
The enemies are pretty varied, ranging from aggressive bats and frogs, to humanoid snake and eagle monsters.
Combat itself is okay. There's arent any Streets of Rage-style combos for you normal attacks, though each character does have two special moves, though these two moves are essentially the same for all characters: double-tapping a direction and pressing attack will make your character zoom across the screen, damaging all the enemies they touch (very useful for dealing with the bats, who are awkward to kill with your regular attack), and a projectile move done in the tradional quarter circle forward manner.
As for power-ups, there are the usual health recovery and 1-up items, plus a few other items, that all turn you into some kind of creature (including, but possibly not limited to a dragon, a flying unicorn and a will-o-the-wisp), that give you the ability to fly around, be invincible and kill every enemy you touch for a short time.
This isn't a bad game, it's hard, but not unfair, it doesn't look or sound any worse than your typical NES games, and as far as I know, it isn't just an officially released game with the sprites changed.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Adventurous Boy (Mega Drive)

I really wanted this game to be good. I like pirate games, I like the Mega Drive, and I like shooting games.
You can probably tell from the screenshots that it's a blatant rip-off of Super Fantasy Zone, with similar stages, a similar visual style and music that sounds like weird cover versions of the music from SFZ. Unlike Super Fantasy Zone, though, Adventurous Boy is terrible.
It might lure you into thinking it might be a fun game, with its okay graphics, and its nice, easy-going first stage, but this game is evil!
The first hint of danger is your character's default flying speed: really really slow. Luckily, a shop will appear once you've collected some money (see? Super Fantasy Zone!), and you can buy some bigger wings to go faster. And by "can", I mean "must": the game is no fun at all to play with the default speed, and you'll probably die very quickly too. You should also buy the Track Missiles, since they also make things a lot easier.
Like in that other, more famous game, there are ten enemy generators in each stage, and when they've all been destroyed, the boss will appear.
This is where the game shows its true colours. If you manage to kill the boss without losing a life, then everything will be fine, you'll go onto the next stage and a good time will be had by all (except the boss, obviously). If you get killed during the boss fight, you'll then experience the harshest and most frustrating case of "Gradius Syndrome" I've ever seen. You'll be back to your default speed, which is a lot slower than the speed at which the bosses move. So slow is your default speed, that even though this game gives you a few hit-points per life, if you get touched by the boss, you won't be able to move fast enough to get away before losing a life. And when you respawn, the boss will likely still be near where you died, if not still right on top of that spot, and you'll die again.
By setting the difficulty level to easy and putting the amount of starting lives to the maximum, I've managed to get as far as the third boss. I won't be trying again to get any further.
I love hard shooting games, but this game isn't hard as much as it is broken and unfair. And the way in which this difficulty arises makes me think it wasn't even intentional, which seems like a real shame. Those chinese guys thought they were putting out a nice, fun (though unoriginal) shooter, but because of a couple of little flaws, it's completely ruined.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Pop'n Tanks (Playstation)

The first thing that I'm going to tell you about this game is that it has a nice 2D animated intro before the title screen, as well as nice 2D animated intros for each character in story mode. So I'm slightly biased towards it, as like all good-hearted people, I really like it when 32-bit era games have 2D animated videos in them.
Anyway. The game's about one-on-one tank battles, in small brightly coloured cartoony tanks. All the tanks are different, both in looks and in weaponry. But you should be aware that the tank with a cake for a turret is the best one, since its special weapon sends out some flying exploding giant bananas that are really hard to avoid and do tons of damage.
There's two main modes to play in: Tank World and Story Mode. Tank world is the more in-depth of the two modes; you pick a tank, choose a name for yourself and the tank you chose, then try to fight your way up the rankings. When you win a fight, you go up in the rankings and also gain a tank part. The main problem with this mode is that you don't get to choose your opponents, just the stage on which you fight them. And the fact that I'm so rubbish I can never get more than one or two ranks places above the bottom rank. Waah.
Story mode is basically what would be called "Arcade Mode" in any other fighting game. You pick a character (these characters don't appear in the Tank World mode, and the tanks they have are all the default tanks you can choose from in that mode) and figght the other characters, and the characters will have a conversation before each fight. I don't know what the plot's about because it's all in Japanese. But like i've probably said a million times before, if the plot's so important that your inability to understand it will keep you from playing a game, you're a massive idiot.
As for how the game actually plays, it's mostly pretty good! The tanks are really fun to drive around, to the point where I wish there were some kind of Choro Q-esque adventure mode so I could drive them round without being shot at. The battles are nice and fast-paced, too, and although I'm terrible at the game and almost constantly lose, it rarely feels unfair. Tying in with the animated cutscenes, the battles do a good job of looking like what battle scenes from a late-90s Japanese cartoon about brightly coloured tanks would look like, were such a show to exist (and if it does exist and I just don't know about it, please inform me!).
Pop'n Tanks, then. It's alright. Plus, I'm tagging it as a fighting game, and you can't stop me!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Kirby no Omochabako - Hoshi Kuzushi (SNES)

Remember at the end of the Dyna Brothers review, where I said I was worried that I was doing to many positive reviews? Well, this should help buck the trend a little!
This game is terrible. It's an Arkanoid-like, starring Kirby as the ball, and has the player controlling two hamsters carrying a sheet to bounce him upwards with. The fact that this setup is kind of cute is probably the most positive thing that can be said about this game.
It mostly plays like any other generic Arkanoid-like, with the gimmick that you have a constantly depleting "stars" counter, and if kirby hits the ground while it's above zero, he'll bounce once, giving you a chance to catch him rather than losing a life straight away, and you'll also lose 10 stars. The blocks are star shaped, and for every one that's destroyed, a little star falls down which boosts your star counter slightly.
The problem is that it's just incredibly slow and boring.
The first problem is that there are no power-ups at all, unless you count the stars. The second problem is that Kirby's movement speed never increases. The third and fourth problems are that the blocks are really tiny and there are tons of them in each stage.
All of these add up into a game in which you spend long, tedious minutes staring at Kirby slowly bouncing around the screen, waiting for him to hit the two tiny stars at either side of it.
I should also mention that this was an early downloaded title, distributed via the Satellaview system, using some kind of arcane sorcery. This fact might lead you to think that I'm being unnessecarily hard on the game, but I'm not. Kaizo Chojin Shubibinman Zero and The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets were also Satellaview titles, but they were both awesome, fully fleshed out games.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dragon Fighter (NES)

Sorry it's been so long since the last post, I've been spending lots of time playing fare far too mainstream for this blog, like Dodonpachi Ressurection and Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and so on. Both of those are really good, by the way.
Anyway, when you first start playing Dragon Fighter, it seems pretty much like any other generic NES platform game: you're a sword guy in a frosty wasteland, it's really hard, you're fighting absurd enemies like killer snowflakes and ninja bears. But then you die and get game over (since there are no lives), and if you're me, you think "That can't be it! There has to be more to this game!", and you find out that there is more to this game, that this game has a gimmick. A really cool gimmick.
There are two meters at the top of the screen while you play. The shorter one is obviously your health bar (don't worry, it gets slightly longer every time you complete a stage), the longer one is your dragon bar. Your dragon bar fills up a tiny amount every time you kill an enemy, and when it's at least half full, hold up and jump together to turn into a dragon. Then proceed to fly around and shoot stuff until it runs out or you change back voluntarily.
Obviously, the cool gimmick alone makes the game a pretty amusing diversion, and apart from that it's not really bad, just a generic NES platform game. It does have one pretty big flaw, though: the only health recovery items are dropped by enemies randomly, so depending on whether the gods are on your side that day, you could get plenty of them or you could get none. In a game as hard as this, that can make a really big difference as to how far you get on a playthrough.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 24 - The Gun Shooting (Playstation)

Judging by the title of this game, and the fact that it's a Simple 1500 budget release, you'd probably expect a bland, bare-bones target shooter, maybe like a less colourful version of Point Blank. Surprisingly, it's not like that at all: it has a plot, characters, and even an animated intro showing those characters getting aboard some kind of futuristic buggy thing! It also has some pretty cool artwork on the loading screens between stages. Of course, I can't tell you what the plot is about, or what the names of the characters are because all that stuff is in Japanese. Who cares anyway, though?
Anyway, the game is a typical lightgun shooter: you move slowly through the stages shooting at tanks, robots and other mechanical stuff that wants to kill you. The stages are fairly varied in their looks, though they all take place in some kind of exotic outdoors wilderness, there's forests and valleys and deserts and so on, so they aren't all the same. You do fight a lot of the same enemies on every stage, though, but that's one of the corners you expect to be cut in a budget game.
The only problem with the game is the difficulty: it is incredibly easy for most of the game. You can take at least thirty hits before getting a game over, and not only are the enemies not particularly enthusiastic about trying to kill you, but at least half of the time you get hit, you won't lose any health. Plus you're likely to get at least one extra life on each stage. I did say it was only incredibly easy for most of the game though, as once you get to the mid-boss of the last stage, and what I assume is the game's final boss, the difficulty takes a sudden and dramatic spike upwards. These two guys will hit you fast, and take off lots of health when they do. It's really cheap, and i would have preferred a harder game in general to a very easy game with really hard bosses at the end. Until you reach that point, it's a fairly fun, leisurely game and the surprisingly high production values make me wonder why it's a simple series game with a generic title, rather than being sold on it's own right with an actual name and such. I'm also slightly surprised that it wasn't one of the simple series games brought to the west under a different title by budget publishers late in the Playstation's lifespan.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dyna Brothers (Mega Drive)

So, I've been having one of those dilemmas I sometimes have where I think the games I'm posting about aren't obscure enough. But I think this one is pretty unknown.
It's a strategy game about breeding dinosaurs to kill aliens. You play as some kind of godlike figure, looking on from the sky. At the start of a stage, there's an egg-altar-thing on the field and also a UFO. You can make eggs for various kinds of dinosaur come out of the egg-altar-thing, and the CPU can make eggs for various kinds of alien come out of the UFO. The aim of each stage is to have your dinosaurs eat all the aliens before the aliens eat all the dinosaurs. You also have various other powers at your disposal: you can make it rain around your dinosaurs, and you can create small localised disasters, such as droughts, floods and meteor impacts.
To do all this stuff uses up points. You start each stage with 1000 points, and you get more whenever your dinosaurs eat anything, so the first few minutes of a typical stage will be spent hatching a lot of herbivore eggs and making it rain around said herbivores so they have lots of grass to eat. Eventually, you'll have enough herbivores that they'll start laying eggs automatically and you won't have to worry about them much unless the aliens start killing them off.
To fight against the aliens, you need to hatch carnivores and oviraptors. Obviously, they eat live aliens and eggs, respectively.
There are some other things you need to be aware of, like the fact that all of your dinosaurs need grass to walk on or they'll quickly die, but those are the basics.
As for whether or not the game is any good; it is! I've played a few hours of it, and I like it a lot! I'm just hoping it doesn't do the usual strategy game thing where suddenly there's a stage that's insanely hard and can only be beaten by following a specific strategy to the letter.
The semi-passive style of play is nice, though. The dinosaurs will mostly go about their jobs automatically without you needing to tell them where to go all the time, which leaves you to focus on making more dinosaurs when they're needed and your various other tactical responsibilities.
There's no english version of the game, and there's very little written about it in english on the internet, either, but someone's uploaded a lot of play videos to youtube, and if you watch one or two of those, you'll easily work out how to play (and also win).
This game also has a sequel, which I haven't played yet, but I am looking forward to when I get round to it.
Now my only problem is that I'm starting to worry that I've been posting too many positive reviews! I can't win!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Batman (PC Engine)

So, this game is obviously based on the 1989 live action Batman movie (ie, the good one that isn't from the 60s). Although judging by what I've played of it, it's based on an alternate interpretation where batman is a grim, avenging janitor of the night. For example, the first set of stages has you walking around the streets of Gotham City picking up litter (though a more sensible person might suggest that this litter is the ingredients of Joker Venom. Of course, they'd be fools, since why would they all just be strewn around the streets at random? ) while beating up.avoiding mimes, and the second set has you in the museum, being up goons in puffa jackets and cleaning graffiti off of paintings. I haven't got to the third set of stages yet (don't laugh! There's 12 stages in each set, and they're pretty hard!), but I assume it has Batman going round to Comissioner Gordon's house to do the dishes or something.
It might sound like I don't like this game, but I really do! In fact, of all the Batman games I've played, it's probably my favourite! It's not very Batman-like (though maybe you could stretch your imagination and say that picking up all the Joker Venom ingredients in the first area is a game-substitute for detective work), but it is very fun to play. It also does a couple of things that are unusual for the maze game genre. For example, you aren't limited in your ability to get rid of enemies. In most maze games, you can only take out enemies with a temporary power-up, while in Batman, you just throw a batarang to stun them, them walk into them to make them fly off in an amusing manner. And the power-ups you do get, that do things like increase your walking speed or the range of your batarangs are permanent, even when you lose a life or finish a stage!
The music is good, too. But not very atmospheric, except in the very short (and very nice looking) cutscenes you get between areas.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Final Fantasy X: Fantasy War (Game Boy Color)

Firstly, this game doesn't have anything to do with Squaresoft's PS2 game Final Fantasy X, so I guess it can be assumed that the X in the title is the letter X and not the roman numeral. What does the letter X signify in this case? Nothing, it's a chinese pirate game, they aren't supposed to make sense.
In this case, it's a beat em up, and to be fair to those crazy pirates, it does keep to a general Final Fantasy theme pretty well: the player characters look like they could be sprites from the battle screens of the pre-32-bit era FF games, and some of the enemies are very recognisable as coming from the series too, such as the goblins and the tonberries (The first appearance of the tonberry, shortly after the second boss is the furthest I've managed to get, as it basically turns up and make short work of stabbing you to death in just a couple of hits!). The plot (as far as i can tell from the textless intro) is also in the vein of the old FF games, having 4 big elemental crystals being stolen or destroyed or something.
There's four playable characters in this: a sword-weilding knight-type guy, a rubbish wizard, an androgynous archer and a chocobo. Unfortunately, only the knight is worth playing as, since he's significantly stronger and faster and just all-round better than the other three. The wizard is the worst, he's slow and weak and crap looking. The archer is almost good, if they were just a little bit faster at moving and attacking, they'd be a lot more fun to play as. The chocobo is obviously just there for novelty value, and though it's fast, it's also weak and its attacks have a very short range.
The game is really nicely presented, other than the rubbish cheap-looking title screen. The character sprites and backgrounds are excellent, and as I said earlier, the player characters would look right at home in the older FF's battle screens (though I must admit, my knowledge of the series isn't deep enough to know whether the sprites are original work by the developers, or just rips from one of the official games. Same goes for the backgrounds, which are very nicely drawn, probably some of the best I've seen on the GBC.) The music is pretty good too, but I know for sure that it's stolen, as it's been ripped from the (surprisingly playable) Game Boy port of King of Fighters 95.
As for the game itself, if you play as the knight, it's a lot of fun! You go from left to right beating up monsters, and even getting experience points that increase the length of your health bar as you level up. Every character has the usual combo attacks, plus a running attack and a special attack that's done with a quarter circle forward plus the attack button, which reduces some of the red bar that appears below your health, and is replenshed bit by bit as you use normal atacks on enemies. If you play as the other characters, it's not so fun, and it's really difficult to get past even the first stage. But it is a really fun game when you play as the knight.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Dino Wars - Kyouryuu Oukoku heno Daibouken (SNES)

So, this game is based on an early 90s kids' movie that no-one remembers: "Adventures in Dino City", which is about a couple of kids who get sucked into the world of a TV show. Though I'm sure I remember the movie just being called "Dinosaurs: The Movie" when I saw it. Strange.
The game itself is a platform game, but going against the trend of licenced kids platform games on the SNES, it's actually not awful.
The game looks and sounds pretty nice, with the backgrounds on the outdoor stages standing out in particular, being very well drawn and colourful.
It plays great, too: the stages are pretty varied, and you can get pretty far into the game, and it'll still be throwing new gimmicks and obstacles at you. Although there are quite a few stages that follow the formula of "ride a moving platform across a long bottomless pit while stuff tries to kill you", but while the later incarnations of these stages get frustrating very quickly, it's a credit to the game that there are at least three types of them (rollercoaster, jetski-type thing, and large mode 7 rotating wheel thing with platforms on it) that all play quite differently to each other.
To fight enemies, you can choose to either jump on their heads, or punch them. Neither are especially great: the punch is very short range, and there are a fair few enemies (especially later on in the game) that like to jump around, and they can do it almost as high as the player character. Despite the combat in stages being poor, the boss fights are actually a lot better, and all very different to each other.
This is a good game, and I'm somewhat surprised it isn't more well known, considering it got a worldwide release. If you're wondering why I reviewed the Japanese version when it got a worldwide release, the reason is that whoever was in charge of localising the game for the west partook in that most hated 90s habit: they messed with the difficulty and made the JP version's hard mode into the western version's normal mode.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Toryumon (Arcade)

When you're looking through a big long list of ROMs you've never heard of, how do you pick out the ones you want to play? I picked this one because it had the same name as the wrestling gym/promotion founded by Ultimo Dragon, that eventually changed it's name into Dragon Gate. But obviously, this game has nothing to do with wrestling at all. It's a kung-fu themed puzzle game.
It's pretty simple to play: yellow blocks fall into your pit in pairs, and some (or all) of the blocks' corners will have blue quarter-circles on them. Put four of those blue quarters together to make a full circle, and the four blocks disappear, the surrounding blocks get more blue quarters on them, and some junk blocks fall into your opponent's pit.
The junk blocks are actually an essential part of playing, though, as when you get rid of some regular blocks, any junk blocks touching them will gain a blue quarter on all four corners, which is (as far as I'm aware) the only way to get combos in this game. This means when half your pit is full of junk, it's very possible to make a dramatic and cool comeback! In a way, this is similar to the timed junk blocks in Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo, though in that case using them to your advantage is as much about waiting as skill (not that I'm saying that Toryumon is better than SPFT, though. Although Toryumon is pretty good, that would be crazy talk.).
The AI is pretty good at the game, too. If you let your guard down for even a few seconds, they can quickly mess up all of your plans and beat you in no time at all!
Toryumon is good. Strange that it never got a home or even handheld release, really. It just seems to have sank without a trace, never to be heard from again. What a shame.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Kishin Douji Zenki FX - Vajura Fight (PC-FX)

So, this is a beat em up based on a cartoon I've never seen. You get two characters to choose from, a warrior-looking boy and a priestess-looking girl, and they both actually play really differently, the boy being a traditional beat em up character, and the girl being able to slowly shoot balls of energy at the enemies. This review will mostly be about playing as the boy, though, as playing as the girl isn't much fun, and is probably best saved for when you're playing two player and you force your friend to be her.
The game doesn't go the usual beat em up way of having a psuedo 3D plane in which you can move up, down, left and right, but rather more of a platformer-style arrangement with just left, right and jumping. It gets off to a strange start with the first ten minutes of play being mostly taken up by a series of boss fights and cutscenes, but once you get past these, it's a lot of fun to play. You know how beat em ups work, you walk along, and beat up enemies until you get to a boss, then you beat them up too. This game also adds a block button into the mix, which you'll have to get used to quickly if you want to get past even the first array of bosses. One cool touch the game has is that a short time into the boss fights, a bracelet power up appears, that turns you into a fully grown adult, giving you more powerful attacks and making you the same size as (most of) the bosses. The small difference between doing this and just having you automatically transform at the start of the fight doesn't sound like much, but it does add a minor element of drama to the fights.
The most obvious thing to talk about regarding this game, though, is the graphics. They are excellent. The sprites are big and colourful, all the characters, right down to the regular enemies look cool (though, since this is a licenced game, that's really more down to the source material. Treasure's Bleach fighting games on DS suffer the opposite, the licence having lumbered them with a cast of boring looking people mostly dressed in the same outfits), and along with that, the animation is excellent. I don't know how powerful the PC-FX is, but looking at this game, I'd guess that it's at least on par with the Saturn. It makes me wonder how differently things would have gone if it became popular, and if Capcom and SNK had decided to make it the home of the 90s fighting game, rather than the Saturn.
In summary, this is an excellent game, and makes me look forward to futher exploring the PC-FX library, having previously written it off as a console full of boring adventure games for simpering milksops who watch cartoons about little girls eating cake. Play it!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Arena (Game Gear)

This game is an isometric shooter, set in a dystopian future city. What's odd about this dystopia is that although the world is run by an evil TV station, the game isn't set in a deadly futuristic game show.
Arena came out fairly late in the Game Gear's life, and it shows in the graphics, which are of a much higher quality than you'd expect from the system. It's pretty fun, too. You run around the large stages, collecting keycards, killing enemies and trying to reach the exit. It actually feels a lot like an isometric version of one of the early first person shooters, like Wolfenstein 3D or Blake Stone.
The first few stages are set in and around a series of warehouses, and are fairly easy, though one strange thing is that the indoors areas are much bigger and more spacious than the outdoor ones. After you get through these, there's a stage set around a dirty polluted canal, and after this, more warehouses. Looking online, there does seem to be other settings for stages, but as the river stage takes a massive leap in difficulty, I always lose most of my lives there, and the remaining one or two a short way into the following stage. It's a shame, because until the game started sending enemies that took nearly 10 shots (with a powerful weapon, it would have been twice as many with the default gun) and can kill the player in two or three, I was really enjoying it.
So yeah, it starts off as a fun, nice looking game, but quickly gets killed by it's terrible difficulty curve.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Kolobok Piramida (Mega Drive)

With some of the games I've recently posted about, I feel like I've sold out a tiny bit, and that they weren't quite obscure enough to meet the original purpose of this blog. So now, I am reviewing a Russian Mega Drive bootleg.
With a tiny bit of research, I learned that it is actually a hack of a homebrew game, also Russian, called Uwol: Quest for Money, which was itself a remake of an old spanish ZX Spectrum game.
Anyway, in the game, you play as a small bearlike thing, and you collect coins in small, one-screen stages. There's a Darius-esque pyramid of these stages, and when you get to the bottom of te pyramid, you get sent back to the top, able to choose a different route down. I wonder if anything special happens if you complete every stage on a single run?
The cool gimmick of the game is that all the stages loop horizontally (but not vertically: if you fall off the bottom of the screen, you die). This is used cleverly in the stage designs, with most stages requiring the player to jump across the "gap" to reach higher parts of the stage.
Obviously, there are enemies in the stages too. Get hit twice and you die, though the first time you get hit, a t-shirt will appear at a random place on the screen, which will let you get that hit back. If you spend too long in a level, the music changes and a ghost appears to chase you round.
The game's a lot of fun to play, and certainly a lot better than the other Russian MD bootlegs I've played so far. It looks okay, and the music is really catchy, too. It's definitely worth hunting down and playing, though maybe you'd rather play the original homebrew, rather than the pirate hack of it?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wild Streets (Amiga)

This will only be a short review, as this game is so awful, I couldn't bear to play it for very long. I don't even know why I'm bothering to write about it at all, even.
It's a beat em up in which your character is accompanied by a panther. It must take a special kind of talent to turn this into such a terrible game.
I'll start with the controls. It uses a control scheme that a fair few other action games also use on the Amiga: you hold the fire button, and different things happen when you press a direction. Pressing down shoots, left or right punches and up does a flying kick.
The gun kills enemies instantly, but you only get six shots. Sometimes enemies drop ammo, but this is a random occurance, so you can't plan and ration your bullets or anything. The flying kick is almost useful, as it knocks down any enemies it hits, and does a decent amount of damage. Unfortunately, it ends up being useless because it takes away a fairly large portion of your health. So, you're mostly left with the punch to defend yourself. This too is fairly useless, as thanks to the game's control scheme, you have to be stood still to punch. and the enemies have longer arms than you, so a lot of the time, you walk towards them, stop to punch, then get knocked back by their punch and start again.
Going back to the issue of health, you don't seem to lose any from being hit by enemies, though as i said, you do lose health for using your flying kick. And also sometimes you just lose healh for no obvious reason. When you run out of health, the action just stops dead, no matter what's happening, shows the text "GAME OVER" for a couple of seconds, then goes to the high score table.
One last thing, i might be nitpicking here, but the game is entitled "Wild Streets", but the first stage is in some absurdly affluent looking area full of mansions with huge gardens. Admittedly, i didn't get past the first boss, but still.
The only good thing about this game is the loading screen, which is at the top of this review because there's no title screen.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Battle Pinball (SNES)

It's time for yet another review that starts with a boring nostalgic ancedote. This game was one of the first games I ever emulated, way back when I was still at school, had no computer and my only resource for playing weird old Japanese games was the dreamcast's SNES emulator, DreamSNES.
Obviously, it's a pinball game, and less obviously, it's a spin-off from the prolific Great Battle series of games, which feature SD versions of Ultraman, Gundam and Kamen Rider all going about being super best friends and beating up SD versions of their enemies. This game features pinball tables themed around those characters, along with a table themed around Fighter Roa, who I'm told is a character from the Super Robot Wars OG series of games.
The game is similar to Naxat Soft's famous Crush series, with the tables having enemy monsters roaming about as well as various other gimmicks that can't be done on real pinball tables. Each table is four screens high, with the top screen being slightly seperated from the other three, and containing a boss. Once the table's boss is defeated, you get a ton of points, plus that table is finished and you get to pick another. I don't know what happens if you complete a table in a single sitting, I've never managed more than two.
The game is very generous with giving you extra balls. You get one for every half-million points you gain, plus there are secret methods of getting them on each table. The extra balls for points are especially ridiculous, since there are times when you lose a ball, and end up getting two more from the end of ball bonus you've built up. This can result in very long games: as I stated earlier, I've only managed to get half way through completing all the tables, and I've had single credits that go on for nearly two hours. The end of the game seems even further away when you consider that this game doesn't have passwords like the Crush games.
Despite it's flaws, though, Battle Pinball is still a pretty great game, especially if you're a fan of any of the TV shows represented in it. It's far from being a classic on the level of the Crush series or the incredible Digital Pinball games on Saturn, though.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Simpsons: Bart Versus The Juggernauts (Game Boy)

Before I start, I should be clear: this isn't so much a review as it is a warning. I've played this game for more than anyone ever should, and you shouldn't make the same mistake.
This nightmare all started many years ago, when I got my Game Boy. It was preowned, and came with a few games: the 32-in-1 cartridge that I previously mentioned, Super Mario Land 2, WWF Superstars 2 and this one. The Simpsons: Bart vs The Juggernauts.
The game is about a Gladiators-esque gameshow, and Bart's appearance as a contestant on it. There are six events, but you only start with two: A basketball style thing and a skateboarding thing. Although I've managed to get past these two events at some point in the distant past, in recent plays, I haven't managed it, and I've spent hours trying.
In the first event, there's a large black and white grid with a basket at the other end. you have to take a ball to the basket and get back as many times as you can in the time limit. The squares aren't arranged in a checkerboard pattern, and the black ones electrecute you. Get electrecuted three times and the event ends early. Also, sometimes the squares change to their opposite colour. They flash before doing it, but they also sometimes bluff you and flash without changing. Two of the juggernauts are jumping around the grid, and will knock you onto another, random square if you land on the same square as them.
The second event has Bart skateboarding down a ramp to build up speed, then at the end, jumping off the ramp to dropkick a juggernaut off his pedestal. Obviously, there are obstacles on the ramp, like pizza slices and hand smashing through the floor to grab Bart. If the description could end there, this event wouldn't be so bad. To stand a chance of hitting the juggernaut at the end, you have to avoid every obstacle and be at full speed at the end of the ramp. Even that would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that pizza slice can sometimes appear right on the end of the ramp without warning. Then there's the fact that the juggernaut will be holding a shield either high or low, meaning you have to position yourself correctly on the ramp, or just bounce off it harmlessly. There's absolutely no way of knowing whether the sheild will be high or low until you hit it.
By the way, not only do you have to complete these events, you have to do it perfectly, as fast as possible and on your first try, because although you get three tries for each event, to get the amount of points you need to go on to the next set of events means playing perfectly.
Don't play this game! The only slightly redeeming feature about it is the fact that it features some old Simpsons characters that never get mentioned or seen any more, like Dr. Marvin Monroe and Captain Lance Murdoch. Hopefully having written this review of it, I can finally exorcise this demon that has haunted me for years and never play it again.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Lion King 3 (Mega Drive)

In case you haven't worked it out from the title, this game is a chinese bootleg. It's one of the high quality ones, though. There's a more well known one called The Lion King 2 as well, and amazingly, this isn't just the same game with a different title screen!
It's a platform game, with a mix of graphics taken from the official Lion King game, a few from other games, such as Donkey Kong Country and Aladdin, plus some original graphics.
Obviously, you play as Simba, but you get to choose at the start of the game whether you play as cub or adult Simba. Who would ever pick cub Simba? It seems every Lion King game does this differently: The original, official game follows the plot of the movie, and you play the first few levels as a cub, becoming adult Simba later on and The Lion King 2 has a Mario-style power up that turns you into adult Simba until you take a hit.
Seems I'm typing "Simba" a lot in this review.
Anyway, although it's just a generic platform game with Simba as the playable character, it's a lot of fun. Jumping around the stages clawing other animals to death (especially birds. for some reason, there seems to be a ton of different bird enemies, one of which is Iago the parrot from Aladdin with a crazy new colour scheme) or maybe defeating them with Simba's new psychic wave attack (no, really). There is just one main flaw; there are various items (they change depending on the stage) that you're supposed to jump, grab and swing from. The problem is, the collision detection for them is awful, and a lot of the time Simba will just fall straight past them. There are several points in the game where you'll have to do several of these in a row, all above a bottomless pit. If you have the patience to get past these parts, though, they don't completely ruin the rest of the game. It's just a shame that such a nice game has such a terrible flaw.
As for sound, at least some of the music is ripped, being Mega Drivey renditions of songs from the Lion King such as The Circle of Life and I Just Can't Wait to be King (Speaking of which, the awful grab-swing things in this are somewhat reminiscent of the Just Can't Wait to be King stage in the original, although that stage did a better job of ruining the game, since it was a whole stage of stupid swingy jumps, and it was only the second stage at that, so anyone without saintlike patience would just have to miss most of the game.), the rest of the music being either original, or ripped from a source with which I am not familiar. The sound effects are okay, too. nothing spectacular. But there is a kind of flying beetle that makes monkey noises, and the noise Simba makes when he gets hit sounds a lot like he's saying "Quahoon!", the made up swear word that Jack Tenrec says in Cadillacs and Dinosaurs/Xenozoic Tales.
So if you have a bit of patience and are interested in the crazy world of chinese bootleg games, this is one of the better ones that I know of, and is definitely worth playing.
One last thing, there's a white tiger in the intro. No tigers of any kind have shown up in the game so far, although I haven't been able to complete it yet (a later stage taking place in the clouds has a particularly brutal set of swing-jumps), it would be nice if there is some later on.