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.