Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Mo Jie Qibing (GBA)

I'm not the biggest fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in fact, my main exposure to it was watching the first movie at a friend's house on DVD many years ago, and being left with no desire to ever watch the other two. What I do like, though, is the KiKi KaiKai games, also known as Pocky and Rocky. They a great bunch of Commando-style shooting games, but they're about a shrine maiden shooting ghosts instead of an army guy shooting other army guys. Mo Jie Qibang is an unofficial, unlicensed Lord of the Rings game that's also an unofficial, unlicenced KiKi KaiKai game.

You play as Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Gandalf, or Frodo, and you set out on an adventure that's a very, very loose interpretation of the original story. Like how the first stage is a north american-style desert full of cacti and bleach-white cow skeletons, culminating in a boss battle against a giant scorpion. Like the KiKi KaiKai games, you can shoot enemies from a distance, or you can bat them away with a risky, very short range melee attack. You've also got a limited-use bomb (represented by a gold ring) that instantly clears the screen of enemies. There's not need to save your bomb for the bosses, either, as both it and your melee attack are disabled during boss fights. I wonder if this is because the developers couldn't come up with a way of making those weapons do normal damage, rather than having them insantly kill enemies? We'll probably never know.

Anyway, though it's a terrible LotR adaptation, it is a pretty decent KKKK knock-off, so it's a lot of fun to play. There's only two real problems I've encountered. The first is that power-up distribution is totally random: every enemy seems to have an equal chance of dropping any power-up, or nothing at all. So on some runs you'll get lots of health items, extra lives, and so on, and on other runs you'll get nothing. The other big problem is the first boss: it's so much harder than the stages and bosses that follow it, and again, there's a bit of luck involved in beating it. Basically, there's a safe spot just in front of its face and to the side a little, and if you stand there, it'll stay still, fruitlessly trying to attack you while you safely shoot it in the face. Sometimes, though, it'll just move straight away and go back to attacking you.

Other than those faults, Mo Jie Qibang is still a pretty good game, though: it looks great, and it's a lot of fun when things go your way. It's easily one of the best pirate originals I've ever played, and I like it more than any official Lord of the Rings-based media I've encountered, too. Totally worth playing, though not as much as the actual KiKi KaiKai games are. Play those first, obviously.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

PatchMon (PC)

So, this is a game made in the fighting game engine MUGEN, more commonly known for those big giant mashups of every fighting game character ever, and of course, for SaltyBet. Contrary to stereotypes though, PatchMon is game using sem-original materials! I say semioriginal, as while it doesn't use prites from other games, it is a fangame based on a 1970s series of trading cards called Pachimon which featured a bunch of original kaiju going about their monsterly business.

The big gimmick of this game, as you can see from the screenshots, is that the graphics for the characters and most of the backgrounds are taken directly from the cards themselves. It makes for a unique and authentic look, but it also massively limits what the characters do: most of them don't have jumps or blocks, and one character in particular, a giant coelacanth/whale/shark thing, can't even move, and attacks by summoning waves and ships to travel across the screen on its behalf.

The rest of the cast doesn't have much more articulation, either, and the controls amount to moving left and right, performing two normal attacks and one (or sometimes two!) super attacks. One thing that has to be said though, is that the incredibly limited animation does have a lot of charm, and looks kind of like what you'd get if Monty Python's Terry Gilliam had put his animation methods towards making a cartoon about giant monsters.

The arcade mode takes a Street Fighter II approach, with you fighting all the playable characters, followed by four unplayable (as far as I'm aware) boss characters, and as well as that, there's survival and a crazy simultaneous two-versus-two mode. It would be a lie to say that PatchMon is a good game: it looks ridiculous, it's totally unbalanced, and it's stiff and weird to play. But it would also be a lie to say that it isn't a fun one, and you can definitely get an hour or two's enjoyment out of it before it outstays its welcome.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Sword of Sodan (Mega Drive)

This is a game whose title I'd always seen in lists of Mega Drive games and never bothered to take any notice of, assuming it was some boring, ugly western-developed RPG or something. Then I learned that in 1995, the final issue of Beep! Mega Drive magazine had it listed as the lowest rank Mega Drive game of all time, by Japanese Mega Drive owners. The fact that a western-developed game had gone pretty much entirely unnoticed in the west, while enjoying such notoriety in Japan got my interest, so I investigated. Turns out it's not an RPG at all, but an ugly, boring single plane beat em up!

You start out picking from a nameless hero or heroine, and then you set out to awkwardly shuffle forwards, swinging your sword at everyone that crosses you path. The game was apparently originally released on the Amiga, though since it uses all three buttons on the Mega Drive pad, plus the start button, it must have been even worse on a system whose controllers had one or maybe two buttons available at best. Anyway, the C button attacks (and you also have to press it in conjunction with the d-pad if you want to change the direction you're facing), B does a little jump that's totally pointless until a few stages in, when you can use it to try and jump over the massive, invisible instant death pits, and the A button drinks potions.

The potions are probably the most interesting thing about Sword of Sodan. There's four different potions to collect, and you can carry up to four at a time. The twist is that when the game is paused, you can pick two of the potions in your inventory to mix together for various different effects, from extra lives, to flaming attacks, to pointless self-poisoning. Otherwise, though, you mostly just shuffle along, hacking at enemies, and hoping you don't get torn apart by the traps in the stages, which are near-impossible to dodge with your incredibly unathletic warriors. Another little point of interest is that some enemies do require a little extra technique to kill, for example, the giants that start to appear at the end of the third stage: press C and up to slash their faces until they take a knee, then you have to stand at he exact right distance to them, and press C and up a couple more times to behead them.

I don't think Sword of Sodan is the worst Mega Drive game of all time, but it is a very bad game, and it's not one you should waste any time playing. It's not really a surprise, but that's how it is sometimes.