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!