Saturday, 31 July 2021

Commando Steel Disaster (DS)

 Okay, so you might notice that all of the screenshots for this reciew are of the game's first stage, and usually, I wouldn't review a game if that's all I could see of it, but this is a special case. Most of my time playing this game was the DSiWare version which I have on my n3DS. I don't have any way of taking screenshots of DSiWare games, though, but I knew the game was released as a regular DS cartridge, so I played that too, for screenshotting purposes. It turns out, the two versions aren't the same!


The basic core of the game is the same, of course: it's a pretty decent Metal Slug clone. You go through stages, shooting lots of guys, and occasionally robots and tanks and helicopters. There's a whole bunch of temporary power-up weapons, destructible parts of the stages with hidden items, and most other Metal Slug things. Except that vehicles only appear in special seperate substages, not as thing you can just climb aboard in the regular stages. It's pretty good. Obviously nowhere near as good as the first few Metal Slugs, but maybe in the same league as the later entries.


The differences between the two versions are all related to difficulty. The stages in the cartridge version are a lot longer, to the extent that entire sections are removed from the digital version. Of course, I've only seen the first stage of the cartridge version, but the first stage is made up of three sections: one on a jetbike in a forest, one outside in the snow, and another inside an underground military base. The digital version of the first stage, meanwhile, and the indoors section is slightly truncated, as well as the larger gatekeeper enemies having significantly less HP. The enemies in the digital version generally have less HP, and they inflict less damage on the player, too.


Which one is better? To be honest, there's no perfect version. The cartridge version is a bit of a chore: I could definitely overlook the difficulty if the stages were shorter, and the bigger enemies didn't feel like such bullet sponges, and while I definitely prefer the digital version's faster pace, it also feels like there's no challenge at all, and most of the times I've played it, I've actually gotten bored and stopped playing the game long before I came close to dying. 


So I guess the only conclusion is that Commando: Steel Disaster is a game with two different versions on the same platform, both of which are terribly flawed, in almost completely opposite ways. Just play Metal Slug X instead, is the best advice I can give here.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Pocket Pro Wrestling - Perfect Wrestler (Game Boy Color)

 Its strange that though handheld consoles in the nineties were often treated as lesser systems aimed at kids, and filled with licensed games of wildly varying quality, wrestling games were relatively rare compared to home consoles. In fact, GameFAQs only lists six wrestling games for the Game Boy Color, and one of them is WWF Betrayal, which isn't even a wrestling game, it's a beat em up starring wrestlers. 


Pocket Pro Wrestling is the only one of the six that isn't a licensed tie in to a promotion that now belongs to WWE, so there's no tie-ins to Japanese promotions, nor are there any Fire Pro games. But that's okay, since the wrestlers in this game are all thinly-disguised stand-ins for wrestlers popular in Japan in the nineties, and it plays kind of like a Fire Pro game. Like in Fire Pro, you perform moves by pressing a button at the exact right frame in the lockup animation that occurs when the wrestlers walk into each other.


There's a few differences to Fire Pro, but they don't do much to make Pocket Pro stand apart. The most obvious is that the ring is shown as a regular square instead of a diagonal one, and that doesn't really affect game at all. The next most obvious change is one that actually kind of harms the game: there's only one button for moves, as opposed to at least two, sometimes three, in the Fire Pro games. I guess this is linked to the fect that there aren't actually many moves in the game overall, with each wrestler having six main standing throws from a pool of maybe ten or so? 


Another thing there's a conspicuous lack of is match types, as there's actually only one: singles match. There are a few modes: there's a championship mode where you fight every other wrestler, and can continue or use passwords to pick up where you left off if you lose, a survival mode, which is the same but without continues or passwords, and a King of Fighters-style team battle mode, where two teams of three wrestlers fight one at a time. I think I'm being a little too harsh on a low budget Game Boy Color game, but when a game is so similar to an already-existing series of games, it's hard not to compare them, and to point out the ways in which the imitator falls short.


But, in its historical context, Pocket Pro Wrestling actually comes off a lot better. While the modern player in search of handheld wrestling fun would just put the Playstation's Fire Pro Wrestling G on their emulation device of choice, that wasn't an option in 2000, when this game was released, and there wouldn't be an actual handheld Fire Pro until the following year, on the GBA. So, at the time of its release, Pocket Pro Wrestling was actually the best handheld wrestling game money could buy (as far as I can tell, at least). So while there's not much reason to play it now, besides historical curiosity, at the time, it would've been a great game to get your hands on. Shame it was never released outside Japan, really.