Sunday, 24 January 2021

Generations Lost (Mega Drive)

 You could say that Generations Lost is a game with a lot of ambition. Or, if you were less generous, you could say it's a game that's surprisingly pretentious for a mid-nineties platformer. In terms of how it plays, it lies somewhere between a traditional action platformer, and the very precise cinematic platformers like Another World or Flashback. It's also got a plot that feels like it must be licensed from a movie or comic, even though it's not, as you play a guy on what appears to be a post-apocalyptic earth, where sciences and technology are considered to be mystical artefacts by the now-primitive inhabitants, and you see things like people bowing in worship to walls of monitors, and so on.


According to Wikipedia, the game was originally meant to have a totally different plot and an X-Men license, which seems a little odd to me for one reason. Your character is equipped with a futuristic bracelet gizmo, that shoots out a grappling energy beam, which is mainly used for grabbing onto platforms directly above you, though it's occasionally used for swinging, too. The thing is, the sprites for when your guy is hanging or swinging from the grapple beam look a lot like poses Spider-Man would take in similar situations, a lot more than they do any member of the X-Men.


Anyway, you navigate through the stages, there's enemies to punch, switches to punch, and sometimes devices to interact with using your science bracelet. That last thing is mostly just a slightly differently-flavoured version of hitting switches, but it does look cool. The stages themselves also look cool, especially the first two. They're full of detail, and the whole aesthetic is a combination of overgrown jungle and ancient ruins, but with parts where bits of technology and loose cables are exposed. Unfortunately, the latter half of the game takes place in locales that are pure technology, which while competently drawn, isn't as interesting to look at. 


The big problem the game has is the difficulty. Or rather, it's not that it's difficult, it's more that it's unfair. There's lots of Rick Dangerous-style situations where traps aren't visible until you trigger them, whether it's because they're hidden in the scenery, or because they're at the bottom of one of the many leaps of faith the game requires you to take. Even when you've learned where the traps are and how to avoid them, and despite your guy being able to take a few hits before losing a life, it often does feel like the game was designed with near-perfect play in mind: there's only a few stages, but they're big and long, and healing points are few and far between. I guess that goes along with the "cinematic platformer" thing, though: you're kind of an actor in the story and you're expected to get all your stunts right, maybe?


There's a fair few positive things to say about Generations Lost. The developers clearly weren't content with churning out a generic platformer, and they seem to have had some aspirations towards making a game that was really special. It also looks excellent, like I already mentioned. Unfortunately, it's not much fun to play, and that's really the most important thing, isn't it? I think the best recommendation I can give to this game is to go and watch a video of someone else playing through it, just to see the great backgrounds of the first couple of stages.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Suho Jeonsa (Master System)

 Pretty much every block-breaking game that's less than thirty-five years old has some kind of special gimmick. Looking at the two games I consider to be the best of the genre, Prism Land Story has its crazy stacking power-ups, and Puchi Charat has the competitive element and the general application of (a modified version of) the Puzzle Bobble 2 rules, for example. Suho Jeonsa (also known as Suho Cheonsa and Power Brick)'s got a few ideas up its sleeve, and it somehow manages to have a similar structure to a more well-known game from a few years later.


Bascially, the stages in Suho Jeonsa are split into to halves: the first half has you breaking bricks in the time-worn manner (though for some reason, instead of being at the bottom of the screen, you're on the left side f it?), though the aim isn't to break every block, but to break one specific double-sized block in the centre of the screen. Every block, centre or otherwise, takes two hits to break, which is annoying, but they did at least put a little bit of charm into this element. Every stage has a theme, like animals, or cakes, or whatever. There's even an emoji stage, which is surprising in a game from 1994! But anyway, the first time you hit a block, it changes somehow, in keeping with the theme, like the animal blocks fall over, with their feet pointing at the camera, tubes of paint get squeezed out, and so on.


The second half of each stage has you fighting a boss, which will appear in the form of a big weird thing (still sticking to the theme of the stage, though), that randomly hovers around the screen, occasionally shooting an instant death shot. You kill the bosses just by hitting them with the ball a bunch of times, and they don't really ever get any harder. Their presence does make Suho Jeonsa kind of feel like a weird primitive version of Psikyo's 2001 arcade game Gunbarich. While the bosses never get harder, the actual stages do, though in an annoying, unfair-feeling way: they gradually start with rows of blocks closer and closer to the left edge of the screen, giving you a smaller and smaller amount of space to work with.


There's not much else to say about Suho Jeonsa, except maybe that the aforementioned "Power Brick" version was released only in Australia as part of a four-in-one cartridge, that contained three other Korean-developed games. But Suho Jeonsa was the first version of the game I found, and there's no text in there anyoway, other than the intro, so I stuck with it. As for whether the game is worth playing, eh, it's okay. I wouldn't pay big money for it (being a decades-old unlicensed cartridge, I'm assuming it's probably at least fairly rare, in any of its forms), but it's a decent enough block-breaking game, on a system that doesn't have many, so it's worth a look via emulation if you're curious.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Super Chinese Fighter (SNES)

 If that title seems a little odd, don't worry: this is a fighitng game spin off from the Super Chinese series, which i think normally alternates between action games and RPGs. Or maybe action RPGs. I haven't actually played any of them. An extra bit of trivia is that characters from this series also appear as guest characters in the last couple of Hiryuu no Ken games (a series I once said I'd go back to someday, and maybe someday I will).


Anyway, like another game I recently covered, Ninku 2, Super Chinese Fighter places more of an emphasis on its single-player story mode than on its two player versus mode that most of its post-Street Fighter II peers focussed on. Of course, the big difference between this game and Ninku 2 is that Ninku 2 was on a low-powered handheld upon which multiplayer was expensive and inconveient, while Super Chinese Fighter was on a system where access to multiplayer was practically the default, with even some turn-based RPGs having some kind of multiplayer mode. (I am rememebering that right, right? A couple of the SNES Final Fantasies had a weird mode where you could let extra players take control of a character each during battles, didn't they?)


But anyway, what that means is that the developers specifically wanted to make this kind of single player fighting story game, and amazingly, the publishers allowed them to do so, even though it was a bit of an anachronism in the post-SF2 world. Rather than taking inspiration from other videogames, Super Chinese Fighter seems to take its inspiration more from TV anime, especially the original pre-Z Dragonball, and the imitators that followed in its wake. It takes place in a whimsical sci-fi martial arts world, with planets named after various Asian foodstuffs. Sounds familiar, right?


The plot is also pretty standard fare, that sees you travelling to those foodstuff-named planets in search of a bunch of missing martial arts scrolls, before going off to the final boss' base to fight his henchmen and then the boss himself. It's all pretty light-hearted, and the characters are all somewhat jovial goofs,  so again, if you've seen a lot of late 80s/early 90s kiddy adventure anime, it'll all feel very familiar. The only problem with all this is that the plot is told in the form of many, slow-scrolling,non-skippable dialogue boxes. A playthrough of single-player mode will take you about two hours at most, and it feels like at least half of this time is taken up by the dialogue scenes.


So anyway, the fighting. It's okay, but not great. Of the four face buttons on the SNES controller, you have strong and weak attacks, a button to hold so you can increase your power level, and a button for using the one-use item you equipped pre-battle, which could be a trap you place in the arena, health restoration, a bomb that explodes in a few seconds, and so on. There's special moves that are done in the manner you might expect, using d-pad commands and the attack button, though one thing I don't like is that in the single-player mode, you unlock more moves as you win fights and find the aforementioned scrolls. But that's something I hate in action games generally, as I'm sure long-time readers have probably noticed. It does kind of make up for this by giving you a cheat to input on the title screen that unlocks every character with their full movesets in the other modes, but that still feels like a solution to a problem that didn't really need to be there.


It's hard to summarise Super Chinese Fighter. It's a game that's not particularly good or bad, and it doesn't really have any great mechanical hook to make it an interesting curiosity, either. I guess the one thing I can say is that if you have a bit of nostalgia for the era and genre of anime to which it pays so much homage, then it's a game you might want to seek out. After this game, the series mostly seems to have petered out: there were no more entries into the main series, but there were two more fighting spin-offs, on the Game Boy an Game Boy Color, which sound interesting, just by being pre-2000 handheld fighting games.