Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Columns III: Revenge of Columns (Mega Drive)

Everybody's played Columns, right? It was on the Megagames compilation cartridge that came with my (and probably a lot of other people's) Mega Drive. Also, it's not even the first time it's come up here, as I wrote about a really pointless and rubbish version of it that was featured on the Game Gear 4-in-1 cart.
Anyway, this is one of the lesser-known sequels to Columns. For some reason, the second game didn't get a home port until years later, on the Saturn as part of the Japan-only Columns Arcade Collection. As a result, I've never played that game.
Like most mid-90s puzzle games, this one focuses on versus play, rather than single player survival. In fact, it has no such traditional mode, with the only single player mde being against CPU opponents. There's also versus modes available for up to four players! Another strange thing about Columns III is that there's no scoring at all.
Unlike most versus puzzle games, there's no automatic attack inflicted on your opponent when you do well, but rather, there are two numbers beside your pit that increase as you clear gems. Clearing more gems in one go or scoring chains makes the numbers go up significantly faster.
The large blue number goes up for each individual jewel cleared, plus bonuses when applicable. It maxes out at thirty, and it's your main method of attack. When you press C, for every ten points on this meter, the bottom of the opponent's pit will rise up one square. Doing this attack also has the side effect of trashing the set of jewels the opponent is currently placing, adding an extra bit of strategy to it.
The smaller white number beneath it goes up by one for every set of jewels you clear, and each time it reaches a multiple of twenty, a flashing magic gem appears. These work very differently to how they work in the original game, being split into three parts: a square, and two triangles, one pointing up, the other down. You only get to land one of the three, and each has a different function. The upwards pointing triangle raises the opponent's floor two squares, the downwards one powers your own floor significantly (assuming you have been on the receiving end of your opponent's attacks), and the square has the traditional function of erasing all of whatever colour it lands on.
You'll also recieve items for winning the first few battles in single player mode, which you should really try to save until the last boss.
Columns III is a pretty good game. Definitely a lot more interesting than the original, which I've always found pretty boring, despite its excellent visual and aural presentation. Oddly enough, this game is somewhat lacking in those areas compared to its progenitor, looking and sounding a fair bit cheaper in comparision. Still, it's definitely worth playing.
PS. I've recently revived my long forgotten tumblr account, so if you use tumblr, you should go and follow me and make me feel popular.
PPS. The next post on this blog will be the 100th! Should I do something special? Or just make it a regular post?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Disc Station MSX #09

I've long since run out of ways to introduce these DS posts, you know by now what they're all about, right?
Disc one of this volume is slightly anemic, offering three demos, only one of which is playable. The two unplayable ones are for a "Space War Simulation" game based on the Legend of Galactic Heroes series of novels/cartoons/possibly other things. I assume even if this wwere playable, the language barrier would keep me away from it anyway. The second is something a bit strange: it appears to be just a sound test mode with music from Hertz' RPG Sword of Legend Lenam. Come to think of it, in the UK in the eighties and (very) early nineties people were buying certain C64 and Spectrum games purely for their soundtracks, so I guess if the same sort of thing was happening with computers in Japan, this is actually sort of logical.
The playable demo is of Compile's awesome shooting game Aleste 2. The demo lets you play through the entirety of the game's seventh stage. It's still as excellent as it was when there was a demo on the previous DSMSX volume, so go back and read what I said about it then, I guess?
Disc two is a bit more interesting. It has the usual magazine stuff that's of no use to me, a demo of some baseball game that I also don't care about even a tiny bit, plus a nice little animation and a complete game.
The animation is a cute story of a young boy in his room playing what appears to be a Megaman game on his Famicom, when suddenly, his room is invaded by annoying little oni-like troll things! It lasts a couple of minutes, and it's something of a step up from most of the animations on earlier volumes, since it actually tells a story, rather than just have a random thing happening on a loop.
The full game is Gulkave, a horizontally scrolling shooter, originally released by SEGA in 1986. The first thing I noticed about this game is the fact that it had parallax scrolling in the background, which is pretty impressive for such an old game.
The game itself is pretty good too, thankfully. The only major problem it has is that you get a health bar, making it a little bit easier than I'm used to. This isn't a game-ruiner though, and Gulkave manages to be good enough to save this volume from being a bit of a damp squib.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Battle Zeque Den (SNES)

Battle Zeque Den is so close to being a good game, it's such a shame that one big problem has to go and ruin it.
It's a platform/beat em up, starring teenage girl versions of those timeless characters Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy. They all have their own special moves and such with fighting game-style inputs, too. It looks really really good, with big, cool sprites and colourful, nicely drawn backgrounds. The formula isn't really original, just go right and beat guys up. It's nothing special, but it's fun to play.
What ruins the game is the difficulty. It's not just "very hard", it's "absurdly, unfairly hard". The enemies can, and will remove most of your health bar with only 2 or three punches. Health restoring power-ups are rare, and give you back such a tiny amount that it could almost be considered an insult. If you somehow manage to get past the first boss, you don't even start the second stage with a full health bar, just what you had left over from fighting the boss. Then the game drops a bunch of rocks on your head with little warning and you get game over.
I really did want to like this game, playing it over and over, but the fact that it is just a completely unfair slog means I can't recommend playing it to anyone.
This post is really short, isn't it? I'll pad it out with this silly video of me playing Altered Beast with a cheat on so that i change into the Werebear on every stage. Oh and another thing: the Wikipedia entry for Battle Zeque Den is really terrible, in case you were wondering.