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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:57 pm

1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)
4. Hello Kitty World (Famicom)
5. Galaxian (Famicom)
6. Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai (Famicom)
7. Ninja Jajamaru-kun (Famicom)
8. Jajamaru no Daibouken (Famicom)
9. Front Line (Famicom)
10. Field Combat (Famicom)
11. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Famicom)
12. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi (Famicom)
13. Space Harrier (Famicom)
14. Geimos (Famicom)
15. Attack Animal Gakuen (Famicom)
16. Sky Destroyer (Famicom)
17. Ripple Island (Famicom)
18. Oishinbo: Kyukyoku no Menu 3bon Syoubu (Famicom)
19. Bird Week (Famicom)
20. Baltron (Famicom)
21. Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Famicom)
22. Challenger (Famicom)
23. Ikki (Famicom)
24. Dough Boy (Famicom)


Ikki
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Anyone who's delved into the realm of retro Japanese games has likely run across the term "kusoge." Meaning "crappy games" (I'm using PG language here), the term is applied to those games of the old days that weren't simply "bad" but also downright perplexing, bizarre, capricious, and eccentric. Supposedly, the first game to bear such a label was SunSoft's Ikki. Not the original arcade game, but the TOSE-developed Famicom port specifically. This is SunSoft's third entry on Nintendo's debut home console. I know this because the label says "Series 3." Hilariously, SunSoft stopped numbering their games after this one. Then again, can something this epic really have a worthy successor?

My first impressions of Ikki? Quite good, actually! The plot is excellent. Set in feudal Japan, this is the story of a farmer, Gonbe (or two, Gonbe and Tago), waging a proletarian revolution against a corrupt elite. Since this was the pre-guillotine era, our heroes wield a different type of slicey bois: sickles. Aiming can be an issue in some of these more primitive action games. SunSoft takes care of that by including an auto-aim feature. Sickles automatically head to whatever enemy is closest; it works pretty well. Graphics are fairly spartan and the music is stock "Eastern" fare, but I'm a sucker for those sweet, sweet Edo settings. Environments are top-down and allow for free-roaming, each stage is only four or so "screens" in size. Completing a stage requires that one collect eight gold coins, or capture a feudal lord that occasionally dashes across the scenery.
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Unfortunately, Ikki indeed possesses a host of deficiencies that are immediately apparent. Enemies always seem to have the upper hand, as they can materialize out of nowhere at will and are savagely fast and efficient. Most foes are ninjas tossing shurikens, though there are some additional irritating belligerents that can freeze Gonbe in his tracks. There's a handmaiden that will latch on and, uh, "rub" Gonbe as well as a ghost that renders the sickle weapon inoperable for an egregiously lengthy amount of time. Stages are laid out in a haphazard fashion, replete with ambiguous (and sometimes downright invisible) barriers. Power-ups can be hard to spot among the clutter. Avoiding these may be for the best anyway. Most are useless and some are arguably power-downs, like the sickle-replacing bamboo stick that only allows Gonbe to execute short-range vertical attacks. Scrolling is an unmitigated atrocity. Many shoddy retro games feature screens that will only begin to scroll when the playable character's sprite gets extremely close to the edge. Ikki takes it to the next level; Gonbe must be touching the screen's edge to induce scrolling. It's as if he's "pushing" his way into uncharted territory. Death comes frequently, and cheaply. Three lives, no continues. A bonus level appears periodically, where Gonbe can collect falling rice balls for extra points. Trust me, it sucks. Unfortunately (or mercifully?) half of the arcade game failed to make its way to the Famicom, as eight stages have been parsed down to four. The game loops quickly, and really isn't compelling enough to keep playing for score.

With all that said, Ikki certainly isn't great, but I'm puzzled by how and why this became the kusoge flag-bearer. Did Japanese gamers miss out on the two SunSoft Famicom titles that preceded it? Behold the unplayable Kangaroo successor that is Super Arabian, and tedious trawl through purgatory that is Route-16 Turbo. Ikki is at least functional, and has the good sense to wrap up before true pain sets in. I'd liken it to an undercooked version of Sega's Ninja Princess. And seeing as how Ikki can still be obtained for a buck or two, it's sure to satiate the curiosity of those "worst games ever" enthusiasts.


Dough Boy
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Hardcore gamers are likely familiar with the Japanese developer/publisher known as Kemco. Lately, they've been absolutely flooding the mobile market with dozens upon dozens of indistinguishable "anime JRPGs." At this moment, several more are slated for release. But, back in those days of retro gaming, Kemco was an intriguing presence. They released some licensed games based on popular cartoon characters, like the Roger Rabbit Famicom Disk System puzzler which became a Bugs Bunny game on the NES and a Mickey Mouse game on the Game Boy. And who can forget the "silly sports" extravaganza - featuring Snoopy in the Americas and Donald Duck in Japan. However, Kemco's greatest contribution was that of bringing Western computer releases to consoles. Most notable, of course, are the ICOM adventures: Déjà Vu, Shadowgate, Uninvited -- though I also have a soft spot for the brutal, weird, and brutally weird FRPG (that'd be a French RPG) Drakkhen.

Let's turn back the clock to 1985 and examine Kemco's first game on the Famicom, or any platform. Released exclusively in Japan, Dough Boy is a port of Doughboy, a 1984 Commodore 64 title by Synapse Software. Dough Boy is also among the worst of the early Famicom releases.

Just look at that title screen. It's horrible. And also paradoxical. While stark and totalitarian, it also invokes a sense of pity, like it was absolutely the best result that some poor overworked Kemco intern could come up with. In any event, it's some great foreshadowing. What lies ahead is even less competent. At first glance Dough Boy looks like a top-down run and gun like Front Line or Commando. But it's not. Not at all. In actuality the game is (or attempts to be) a sort of strategic military operations simulator, with a historic setting. To give Kemco (and the original developer) some credit, each stage feels like a self-contained scenario, each featuring its own objective and approach.
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The less said about the game's aesthetics, the better. Dough Boy is hideous to gaze upon. It's predominantly and painfully gray. Sprites are pixelated, twitchy, glitchy, abysmal. The enemy soldiers look exactly like the heroic doughboy, minus a slight color differential. Music consists of nothing but tinny loops of "public domain" schlock. Could anything be worse? Yes, the controls.

Stage one opens with the doughboy plopped down in hostile enemy territory. He's armed with a gun, fired with the A button. Except, pressing the A button while standing still won't fire off a single shot. It's also impossible to shoot while moving. To fire, one must tap A while simultaneously tapping a directional button. This causes the doughboy to quickly crouch and shoot once. It goes without saying that such a maneuver is incredibly difficult to execute properly, especially when enemy troops are advancing. Thankfully, there is an alternative: any enemy in this game can be defeated simply by walking into it. Seriously. I don't know if this is some hilarious programming oversight or a bizarre but intentional design choice. Whatever the case, it's best to just outright ignore gunslinging in favor of behaving like a human steamroller. Moving on to additional questionable game design, all of the game's items are found littered about the first battlefield. Miss them, and it's impossible to advance. Exiting a stage requires that one find a key. Said keys do not unlock doors or chests but allow the doughboy to "unlock" the right side of the screen, which apparently serves as an (invisible) exit. Hilariously, those first couple of keys are placed directly in front of the exit. Collect one, and then simply tap the d-pad right to head to the next battlefield.

Stage two is where things get real. Real bad. The emphasis here is less on gunfighting (which didn't work anyway) but on navigating a treacherous landscape. Here the doughboy must utilize TNT collected in stage one to knock down some satellites, turning them into de facto bridges. Contact with water spells instant death, naturally. Despite the fact that the player can conjure up two different status screens - by pushing the start or select buttons - neither one allows for item selection. Operating the TNT requires one use the A button, again, in ways that I can't even explain. It's like you have to hold the button down to cycle through items and then push it again to use an item, but do it "incorrectly" and you're either getting blown up or firing a gun by mistake. Expect to die, a lot.
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Stage three is the most functional area of the game. Here the key is actually hidden, underneath a randomly-assigned barrel. Just blow them all up until it's uncovered. Landmines can be used in lieu of TNT but they're just as hard to plant and somehow even less reliable. The fourth stage requires one utilize ladders to cross brick walls. Ladders are used by pressing - wait for it - the B button. Again, actually getting a ladder positioned is indescribably difficult. Even worse, they need to be recollected after a wall is scaled, which can only be done by, I don't even know, mashing buttons until the Kemco gods approve of your efforts. The game concludes on the sourest of notes. Navigating pixel-by-pixel through an enshrouded minefield, collecting an "AI" operated POW, and then tiptoeing back. Escort missions were never fun, it would seem.

That's Dough Boy. I can't vouch for the Commodore 64 original, but Kemco certainly delivered a disaster. On a final note, I should mention that everything described above is contained within the default "Game A." The player can also choose to attempt "Game B" which is superficially identical, but with the added challenge of dodging rockets that are fired from somewhere off-screen. Do not play Game B. Better yet, don't play Game A either.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:02 pm

Awesome reviews, Bone.

We Need to Talk about Kemco... :lol:
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dsheinem
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by dsheinem Tue Mar 12, 2019 8:38 pm

Games Beaten 2019

Kentucky Route Zero Act 1 - PC
All Our Asias - PC
Shape of the World - Switch
Hidden Folks - PC
Hyrule Warriors - Wii U
Onrush - PS4
Assassin's Creed Origins - X1
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown -360 *new*
Metro Exodus - PS4 *new*

Total: 9


Previously: 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010

I ran through the arcade mode of VF5 today. It is cool. 8)

Metro Exodus is one of the best single-player FPS campaigns I have ever played, and arguably the best so far this generation. It combines much of what I loved about the first two Metro games (the setting and characters, the scrounging-for-ammo gameplay, the wonky alternating stealth/rambo sections, etc.) and combines it with a lot of the open-world feel of Far Cry 2, which I still hold in high regard as the most immersive and inventive FPS of the last generation. Exodus doesn't necessarily stick the landing (I thought the second to last section was far more engaging than the last section), but the rest of it is so wonderful to play through that I can't say I minded the lackluster final stretch too much.

Next up: DMC5!
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:15 pm

Ooh, big comparison to put it with Far Cry 2. I'm gonna have to look into this some time.
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I have a movie review website now: https://moviereviewsbyamook.com/
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dsheinem
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by dsheinem Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:46 pm

Ack wrote:Ooh, big comparison to put it with Far Cry 2. I'm gonna have to look into this some time.


The comparisons are largely about the "feel" of traversal and combat more than anything else. The game feels weighty (e.g. you can't crawl and jump everywhere, fall damage is set to a low height, etc.), the weapons sometimes jam if they aren't cleaned, you constantly need to keep an eye on ammo in most sections, the driving feels "boxy," etc. There's also some ongoing maintenance with your mask/health (though not as much as in the prior Metro games). It isn't quite like FC2 - but it is like a nice blend of FC2 and the past Metro games. Have you played those?
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by MrPopo Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:00 am

When you say second to last section, you mean the Lord of the Flies part, right? Because if so, I take umbrage. The last section was definitely the best part of the game.
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Games Beaten: 2015 2016 2017 2018
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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dsheinem
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by dsheinem Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:58 am

MrPopo wrote:When you say second to last section, you mean the Lord of the Flies part, right? Because if so, I take umbrage. The last section was definitely the best part of the game.


You will have to take a portion of umbridge, then. :lol: I thought the last section was boring/easy compared to the section before and, narratively, far less interesting. I was able to clear the last section pretty much by just running through it. The best fight of the game is in that penultimate section.

The trippy stuff and the ape fight were both boring compared to the mountains and bear fight of the previous area. The “frozen tundra” idea was explored as a setting much better in the early area, I thought.
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by MrPopo Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:22 pm

Man, it's like I don't even KNOW you!
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Games Beaten: 2015 2016 2017 2018
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:10 pm

1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)
4. Hello Kitty World (Famicom)
5. Galaxian (Famicom)
6. Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai (Famicom)
7. Ninja Jajamaru-kun (Famicom)
8. Jajamaru no Daibouken (Famicom)
9. Front Line (Famicom)
10. Field Combat (Famicom)
11. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Famicom)
12. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi (Famicom)
13. Space Harrier (Famicom)
14. Geimos (Famicom)
15. Attack Animal Gakuen (Famicom)
16. Sky Destroyer (Famicom)
17. Ripple Island (Famicom)
18. Oishinbo: Kyukyoku no Menu 3bon Syoubu (Famicom)
19. Bird Week (Famicom)
20. Baltron (Famicom)
21. Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Famicom)
22. Challenger (Famicom)
23. Ikki (Famicom)
24. Dough Boy (Famicom)
25. Atlantis no Nazo (Famicom)
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When did SunSoft begin releasing their good 8-bit games? Apparently not in the spring of 1986, which is when Atlantis no Nazo dropped on the Famicom. It was the developer's fourth release on Nintendo's hardware, but their first one developed specifically for the system. Atlantis is a side-scrolling 2D platformer, and, in an act of extreme hubris, was marketed as the game that would knock Super Mario Bros. off its throne. Rest assured, the mustachioed plumber had little to fear, as Atlantis no Nazo manifests itself not as a marvelous romp through a Mushroom Kingdom but as a treacherous dive into Hell itself.

Structurally, Atlantis no Nazo is a non-linear (more like nonsensical) platformer. Don't get too excited. This isn't a true "Metroidvania." Rather than featuring a giant world ripe for exploration, Atlantis is constructed of a series of 100 or so bite-sized horizontal stages. Many stages house multiple exits, with one being apparent and the other well-hidden. The game lulls you into thinking that it can be played straight through, but that's a filthy lie. Players will eventually hit a wall (literally and figuratively), be sent backwards, or, worse yet, reach the dreaded stage 42. This is a "troll" stage, featuring nothing but a bottomless pit, obliterating all the player's lives and restarting the Atlantis experience from scratch. To give the game a modicum of credit, there are variety of ways to reach the ending. I've stumbled upon three notable ones -- a scenic route that is relatively tough but showcases most of the game and takes about 70 minutes to complete, an "easier" route that takes about 15 minutes and has the player pick up the best stat-boosting items, and a "speedrun" route that can theoretically be cleared in about three minutes but requires near-perfect play. The ending sports some glorious Engrish and seems to feature a random Ikki reference. I admit it, I laughed.
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The "hero" of the game is an Indiana Clone explorer type of dude. His name is Wynn, and he's born to lose. He's got seven lives to start, and is toast in a single hit. The setting, as indicated by the title, is the mythical land of Atlantis. Apparently it houses some sort of magical crystal. Controlling Wynn is a nightmare. He jumps in big floaty arcs. Wynn's trajectory can be manipulated while in midair (like Mario) but he's still undeniably hard to steer. It doesn't help that most stages include elements that seem shoehorned in just to impede proper jumping: obnoxiously low ceilings, rows of miniscule platforms. Wynn doesn't even fall properly. If you find yourself standing at the edge of a high ledge and just barely tap the d-pad to step off, the swooping "jump arc" is nevertheless activated, likely plunging Wynn to his doom. Combat is, somehow, even worse. Wynn wields sticks of dynamite. Similar to the dreaded torches of Ghosts 'n Goblins, these travel in an arc (sensing a theme yet?), and explode a couple of seconds after hitting the ground. Only one dynamite stick can exist on the screen at one time, and they will harm Wynn if he's within their blast radius. Enemies have a tendency to materialize out of thin air, and it's generally most feasible to simply try to outrun them. The game is just dead set on putting the player in a bad mood. Those seven lives seem generous at first, but can be easily drained within a matter of minutes.

There are a handful of items to collect along the way. Some are comically useless, like the one that gives you extra points for pushing the up button. Others are downright bizarre, like the microphone item -- it's meant to be taking literally, while equipped speaking into the Famicom's controller 2 microphone will damage on-screen enemies. There's even an item that makes Wynn impervious to all enemy attacks, though most deaths are caused by pitfalls anyway. Finding those (mandatory) hidden exits is virtually impossible without some sort of outside assistance. Some are discovered while taking a leap of faith into a chasm. Others are unveiled by the "burn every bush" method -- just drop dynamite throughout each stage until a door appears. At least that's how it would work in theory. On top of everything else Atlantis throws at the player, you're give a very strict amount of allotted time to complete each stage.
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The soundtrack here was composed by Naoki Kodaka, who is better known for scoring Journey to Silius and Blaster Master. There's only five total minutes of music, all of it excellent. Energetic, driving, and cheerful -- the soundtrack is the game's most redeeming quality. Visuals are mixed. The sprites have a simplistic cut-out look, but mostly look decent, plus there's a surprisingly varied enemy selection. Right away Wynn faces some bats(?) who crap on his head (foreshadowing?). These give way to mermen, mummies, wurms, and all sorts of other ghouls. Stage backgrounds are pretty ugly, however. They tend to repeat, which kills any sense of true progress. There's lots of ugly gray brick patterns, plus some wholly unnecessary "bright" levels. Some take it a step further with seizure-inducing flashes.

Let's see here. Ludicrously convoluted navigation, lack of direction or clues, capriciously spawning fiends, janky combat, an exploration motif. Sound familiar? Yes, Atlantis no Nazo makes quite the companion for the Micronics-developed Super Pitfall. In fact, Atlantis was slated to be released on the NES as Super Pitfall II, but such a cartridge never materialized. Probably for the best; Pitfall Harry has been through enough.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:05 pm

:lol:

I think you’re personally rediscovering why so many Famicom games were never localized for NA audiences.
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