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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Markies Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:39 am

Markies' Games Beat List Of 2019!
*Denotes Replay For Completion*

1. Power Stone 2 (SDC)
2. Radiata Stories (PS2)
3. Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball (NES)

***4. Saiyuki: Journey West (PS1)***

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I completed Saiyuki: Journey West on the Sony Playstation 1 this evening!

Saiyuki: Journey West is the perfect introductory SRPG. It takes a simplified battle system that has enough spice to make things interesting, enough shops and options to keep the story lively and great characters and settings to make you want to see more. I love the Asian influences as it feels like a true representation. The battles are engaging and you never feel too bog down. It is accessible to newcomers, but enough depth for veterans alike. The perfect gateway SRPG game!
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Thu Feb 14, 2019 12:50 pm

How long did it take you to beat, Markies? I've had that game for years and just never sat down with it.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:49 pm

1. Dusk (PC)(FPS)
2. Project: Snowblind (PC)(FPS)
3. Soldier of Fortune: Platinum Edition (PC)(FPS)
4. Ziggurat (PC)(FPS)
5. Wolfenstein 3D: Ultimate Challenge (PC)(FPS)
6. Destiny 2 (PC)(FPS/RPG)
7. Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris (PC)(FPS/RPG)
8. Destiny 2: Warmind (PC)(FPS/RPG)

9. Destiny 2: Forsaken (PC)(FPS/RPG)
10. Star Wars: Rebel Assault (PC)(Rail Shooter)


Forsaken continues the Destiny 2 storyline with the death of a major character and a ton more content, including a great series of quests where you hunt down the heads of a cult and then take on a critter straight out of the Lovecraftian mythos. It upgrades the special powers of Destiny 2's characters further, and then goes above and beyond by incorporating more quests to then bring in a second "planet" area, which neither of the previous expansions did.

This is probably the largest of all the expansions in terms of pure addition, though Warmind has a lot with its collectables and hidden unlockables. It's also my favorite of the three, though I still find Warmind to be quite good. If you end up seeking out Destiny 2, you'll really want to grab all three expansions and then slog through Osiris as quickly as you can to get here.

But enough about that. Let's talk about pain.

Star Wars: Rebel Assault

If ever there was a game that feels more like a tech demo and less like a coherent idea, I haven't played it. Rebel Assault is, ostensibly, a rail shooter. It just doesn't know it. Levels range between rail shooting, rudimentary flight sim, a hybrid between the two, a weird choose-your-own-adventure-esque walking adventure, and more, sometimes even within the same level. The constant shift in style makes the game feel disjointed and awkward, with controls that vary depending on what type of level you are playing. It's cool to see so much emphasis on what the CD-ROM could do back in 1993, of course, but it's not all there.

Why? Simple, the controls. The controls are the single worst aspect of the game and what takes it from being a glorious idea into a slogging mess of execution. At best, they feel unresponsive, and the game relies on a weird auto-aim to try and make up for things, but at the rate you're moving your mouse or joystick, odds are it'll just throw you off. Also, the targeting reticle constantly wants to reset to the center of the screen without you moving your mouse, so you're fighting against it at all times. Worse yet, controls will change between styles, so you may have no idea how to actually play each new level, and with limited continues, you're going to be replaying the same levels over and over again, only to likely get killed, go back to wherever you got your last password, and have to replay a level with completely different controls that you have to once again get used to.

Yes, there are passwords. They come roughly every three levels, and there is usually a brutal level in there to stop you from proceeding before you can get anywhere. If they were every level normally, I'd probably have significantly less of an issue with the game, but apparently that can only be access with cheats that I never played around with. As it is, I'm just glad the final level has a password right before it, because it slightly changes styles into that weird rail shooter/flight sim hybrid that'll cause instant death in the second half and make you replay the entire level if you aren't immediately slamming your mouse or joystick to the side as hard as you can constantly.

As for the story, it's a weird mash up of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, only out of order, so Hoth takes place like halfway through before you've even been to Yavin. There are clips of the film and full audio dialogue interspersed with awkward hybrids of FMV and digital characters. One Imperial officer talking to Darth Vader goes full crazy eyes the whole time, but it's still impressive when taking the time of the game's release into account. One thing I love is that you can fail in certain places and still be successful, such as missing a bombing run on a Star Destroyer, but if you screw up and wipe completely, you'll also get videos showing the total failure of the Rebellion against the Empire. In particular if you lose on the final level, the Death Star blows up Yavin 4 and annihilates the Rebellion entirely. Cool alternate history.

The ending also implies that you're Luke Skywalker receiving a reward, though you can change the gender of your character in the options menu. I played as a guy, so I don't know if the ending changes for a female. I don't want to fight with the controls again to find out.

Rebel Assault is a game that both impresses and infuriates me. I think it's a phenomenal idea that completely fails in its execution, and I can't recommend it even to the most extreme of Star Wars or rail shooter fans. I hear the sequel fixes many of the problems, but I'll only be able to tell if I play it for myself.

...so guess what I just installed.
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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Markies Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:11 pm

Ack wrote:How long did it take you to beat, Markies? I've had that game for years and just never sat down with it.


This is the second time I went through the game. The first time, I did almost everything and the second time, I did everything.

Both times were right around 50 or so hours.

If you race to the end, I think you could spend 35 or 40 hours or so.

In actuality, these are both pretty small for a Strategy RPG.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:33 pm

1. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary (NDS)
2. Reigns (iOS)
3. Castlevania: The Adventure (GB)
4. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (GB)
5. Castlevania Legends (GB)
6. Yankai’s Triangle (iOS)
7. Mega Man III (GB)
8. Mega Man IV (GB)
9. Mega Man V (GB)


Mega Man IV (GB) and Mega Man V (GB) are top-tier Mega Man games, and I am glad I played them. IMO, they are up there with the best NES titles, and I highly recommend them to any fans of the series. Mega Man IV is probably the stronger of the two games. It is not quite as challenging as Mega Man III, but not a cakewalk like Mega Man V. All of the weapons are useful in a variety of scenarios, and it is just a really fun, really well-designed action platformer. Mega Man V benefits tremendously from new bosses (i.e., the Stardroids), and the gauntlet of “Mega Man killers” from the previous GameBoy Mega Man games in Wily’s castle is a great way to send off the GameBoy series. As I mentioned earlier, however, the game is a bit too easy, and most of the weapons are pretty useless outside of boss fights. (Also, there is some sort of new cat companion I never used at all, and the Rush Jet is pointless.) Nonetheless, it’s nice to get a lot of completely original content in a GameBoy Mega Man game, and the game is still a lot of fun.

.....

That wraps up the GameBoy Mega Man games for me. I’m going to move on to some real oddballs in the series next!
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by pook99 Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:32 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:
Mega Man IV (GB) and Mega Man V (GB) are top-tier Mega Man games, and I am glad I played them. IMO, they are up there with the best NES titles, and I highly recommend them to any fans of the series. Mega Man IV is probably the stronger of the two games.


Awesome, I am going to check out Mega Man 4 at some point soon.

Games Beaten 2019

1. Kung fu z (android)
2. Celeste
3. Dead Dungeon
4. Defender Faith
5. The Messenger
6. Eroico
7. Awesome Pea
8. Vosaria: lair of the forgotten
9. Vintage Hero
10. God of War (ps4)
11. Legendary Wings (nes)
12. Tiny Toobs Busters hidden treasure (genesis)
13. Johnny Rocket
14. Spider-man (ps4)
15. Ori and the blind forest
16. Rude bear resurrection
17. Shining Force (genesis)
18. Mega Man 5 (game boy)
19. Panzer Dragoon (saturn)
20. Shadow of the Tomb raider
21. The Painters apprentice


20. Shadow of the tomb raider

Shadow of the tomb raider wraps up the trilogy of the tomb raider reboot, while not the strongest entry in the series, it was fun to play if you enjoy uncharted/this series.

The story is a direct continuation of the last 2 games, I really wish games that did this would have an optional recap of the story in the series thus far. I played both games in the series pretty soon after their release which means it has been nearly 4 years since I have played this series and I was a little clueless about what was going on at first, its not a major issue and you can get back in the swing of it pretty quickly,. it just would have been nice to have a reminder before I started.

The story is there is a shadow organization called trinity that Lara has been fighting for the last 2 games in the series, the game starts off by introducing you to the head of this organization and reveals their grand plan. There is an ancient aritfact that allows the user to remake the world however they see fit, in typical disillusioned bad guy form, the main antagonist believes the world is corrupt and the only way to save it is by channeling the power of a god (kublukan) and remaking the world with no suffering. Of course doing so would result in a large portion of the existing population being wiped out so Lara travels to a hidden city, befriends its leaders, and teams up with them to try and save the world. It is a decent story, the characters are all pretty likeable, and I did find myself caring about what happened to everyone as the game progressed. It is not the deepest or most involved game story but it is something that would fit right into a modern day Indiana Jones movie, which is fitting given the games pedigree.

If you have played the other games in the series you know what to expect from the gameplay here. Run along, do some platforming, solve some puzzles, fight some enemies, watch some story, and explore for hidden stuff if you feel like it, repeat until the credits roll. There is also stealth in the game but it is not forced except for one part. The stealth kills are a lot of fun and the stealth mechanics are very well done. The combat is also enjoyable and I really like this style of fast paced cover combat. My main gripe with the game is that there seems to be a disproportional amount of platforming vs combat. There were just really large sections of gameplay with absolutely no enemies. Thats not to say the platforming is not fun, it is, but there was way too much of it and not enough combat, especially in the early hours of the game.

There is also a ton of extra stuff to do if you are so inclined, you can hunt animals, craft objects, use materials to upgrade weapon, and explore for hidden challenge tombs. I did not do any of this, I just felt like the rewards for completing these objectives did not justify the time it would have taken me to complete them. There is also a very unsatisfying skill tree, completing various tasks gives you experience, that translates to skill points that can be spent on various skills. The problem is very few of these skills did anything of note and I often found myself just sitting on skill points because there was nothing that interested me.

Overall I did enjoy the game, the pacing was off, and there were definitely a few points that I was feeling a bit bored, but if you have played the series to this point you will probably enjoy it enough to give it a playthrough, just make sure you wait for a sale.






21. Painters Apprentice


Painters apprentice is a side scrolling indie game that has the player navigating various paintings. Your main attack is to swing your paintbrush that comes in 3 different colors, red, yellow, and blue. You can only hurt enemies of the same color type so red enemies can only be hurt by red paint and so forth. You will also occasionally run into enemies of different colors that you need to change before you can hurt them. So for example if you see an orange enemy you can hit it with a red brush to turn it blue, then use your blue brush to kill it.

At the start of the game you begin with a double jump and the standard paint attacks, as you go through the worlds you unlock various abilities such as a paint gun, a screen clearing rainbow attack, and the ability to slow time. Most of these come in handy but have very limited uses so you can't just spam them whenever you want.

The asthetic of the game is interesting. Most of the levels are monochrome and as you walk around swinging your brush you add color to the world. It is pretty cool to navigate these levels and color them in as you go and many of the levels are bright and vibrant once they are colored in, except of course for the handful of dark worlds which are all terrible to look at.

Painting the world is not just visually pleasing, as you paint the world you unveil hidden platforms which often lead to hidden collectables such as paintings and biographies of real life artists that you can view in the options menu. It is pretty cool if you are an art buff but I don't think the average person will care about it.

The world is broken up into 7 worlds, each world has 9 levels and ends in a boss fight. Most of the levels are not that difficult, there are a few tricky parts but nothing that will frustrate the average player. The death system is also very forgiving, when you respawn you keep all the items you collected and the enemies you killed will stay dead. This means that subsequent tries are generally a little easier so even the harder parts of the game are manageable with a little patience and perseverance.

Overall the painters apprentice is a decent game, it is not going to be on anyones best games of all time list, but if you enjoy platformers you could do a lot worse with your time.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:17 pm

pook99 wrote:
prfsnl_gmr wrote:
Mega Man IV (GB) and Mega Man V (GB) are top-tier Mega Man games, and I am glad I played them. IMO, they are up there with the best NES titles, and I highly recommend them to any fans of the series. Mega Man IV is probably the stronger of the two games.


Awesome, I am going to check out Mega Man 4 at some point soon.

Games Beaten 2019

1. Kung fu z (android)
2. Celeste
3. Dead Dungeon
4. Defender Faith
5. The Messenger
6. Eroico
7. Awesome Pea
8. Vosaria: lair of the forgotten
9. Vintage Hero
10. God of War (ps4)
11. Legendary Wings (nes)
12. Tiny Toobs Busters hidden treasure (genesis)
13. Johnny Rocket
14. Spider-man (ps4)
15. Ori and the blind forest
16. Rude bear resurrection
17. Shining Force (genesis)
18. Mega Man 5 (game boy)
19. Panzer Dragoon (saturn)
20. Shadow of the Tomb raider
21. The Painters apprentice


20. Shadow of the tomb raider

Shadow of the tomb raider wraps up the trilogy of the tomb raider reboot, while not the strongest entry in the series, it was fun to play if you enjoy uncharted/this series.

The story is a direct continuation of the last 2 games, I really wish games that did this would have an optional recap of the story in the series thus far. I played both games in the series pretty soon after their release which means it has been nearly 4 years since I have played this series and I was a little clueless about what was going on at first, its not a major issue and you can get back in the swing of it pretty quickly,. it just would have been nice to have a reminder before I started.

The story is there is a shadow organization called trinity that Lara has been fighting for the last 2 games in the series, the game starts off by introducing you to the head of this organization and reveals their grand plan. There is an ancient aritfact that allows the user to remake the world however they see fit, in typical disillusioned bad guy form, the main antagonist believes the world is corrupt and the only way to save it is by channeling the power of a god (kublukan) and remaking the world with no suffering. Of course doing so would result in a large portion of the existing population being wiped out so Lara travels to a hidden city, befriends its leaders, and teams up with them to try and save the world. It is a decent story, the characters are all pretty likeable, and I did find myself caring about what happened to everyone as the game progressed. It is not the deepest or most involved game story but it is something that would fit right into a modern day Indiana Jones movie, which is fitting given the games pedigree.

If you have played the other games in the series you know what to expect from the gameplay here. Run along, do some platforming, solve some puzzles, fight some enemies, watch some story, and explore for hidden stuff if you feel like it, repeat until the credits roll. There is also stealth in the game but it is not forced except for one part. The stealth kills are a lot of fun and the stealth mechanics are very well done. The combat is also enjoyable and I really like this style of fast paced cover combat. My main gripe with the game is that there seems to be a disproportional amount of platforming vs combat. There were just really large sections of gameplay with absolutely no enemies. Thats not to say the platforming is not fun, it is, but there was way too much of it and not enough combat, especially in the early hours of the game.

There is also a ton of extra stuff to do if you are so inclined, you can hunt animals, craft objects, use materials to upgrade weapon, and explore for hidden challenge tombs. I did not do any of this, I just felt like the rewards for completing these objectives did not justify the time it would have taken me to complete them. There is also a very unsatisfying skill tree, completing various tasks gives you experience, that translates to skill points that can be spent on various skills. The problem is very few of these skills did anything of note and I often found myself just sitting on skill points because there was nothing that interested me.

Overall I did enjoy the game, the pacing was off, and there were definitely a few points that I was feeling a bit bored, but if you have played the series to this point you will probably enjoy it enough to give it a playthrough, just make sure you wait for a sale.






21. Painters Apprentice


Painters apprentice is a side scrolling indie game that has the player navigating various paintings. Your main attack is to swing your paintbrush that comes in 3 different colors, red, yellow, and blue. You can only hurt enemies of the same color type so red enemies can only be hurt by red paint and so forth. You will also occasionally run into enemies of different colors that you need to change before you can hurt them. So for example if you see an orange enemy you can hit it with a red brush to turn it blue, then use your blue brush to kill it.

At the start of the game you begin with a double jump and the standard paint attacks, as you go through the worlds you unlock various abilities such as a paint gun, a screen clearing rainbow attack, and the ability to slow time. Most of these come in handy but have very limited uses so you can't just spam them whenever you want.

The asthetic of the game is interesting. Most of the levels are monochrome and as you walk around swinging your brush you add color to the world. It is pretty cool to navigate these levels and color them in as you go and many of the levels are bright and vibrant once they are colored in, except of course for the handful of dark worlds which are all terrible to look at.

Painting the world is not just visually pleasing, as you paint the world you unveil hidden platforms which often lead to hidden collectables such as paintings and biographies of real life artists that you can view in the options menu. It is pretty cool if you are an art buff but I don't think the average person will care about it.

The world is broken up into 7 worlds, each world has 9 levels and ends in a boss fight. Most of the levels are not that difficult, there are a few tricky parts but nothing that will frustrate the average player. The death system is also very forgiving, when you respawn you keep all the items you collected and the enemies you killed will stay dead. This means that subsequent tries are generally a little easier so even the harder parts of the game are manageable with a little patience and perseverance.

Overall the painters apprentice is a decent game, it is not going to be on anyones best games of all time list, but if you enjoy platformers you could do a lot worse with your time.


Mega Man III and IV are both pretty solid, and if you haven’t played them, you should definitely check them out. (If you play them in reverse order, the difficulty probably scales up pretty nicely!)
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:50 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)


Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken
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Check out the cumulative Famicom line-up circa 1985. One game sticks out among the mass of arcade ports and simplistic action games. Known as Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (The Portopia Serial Murder Case), the game is the earliest adventure title to appear on the console. Inspired by its Western forebearers, Portopia was designed by one Yuji Horii, in those early pre-Dragon Quest days. Originally developed for computers, the Famicom port surfaced two years later, as the second Chunsoft/Enix cartridge. The game was an enormous success in Japan. It led to a wave of future Japanese adventure titles, and also convinced developers that the Famicom was a fitting console for lengthy, turn-based, text-heavy games. You may know what I'm talking about.

Portopia is a tale of detectives unraveling a murder mystery; this general theme would prove to be incredibly popular in Japan, and basically become the "default" setting for the adventure games that were to follow. The player is assigned the role of a lead "boss" detective, never seen on screen. Assisting is a suited-up junior detective named Yasu. Said mystery involves that of a dead banker. Found in an otherwise empty room (locked from the inside), the manner of death is initially unclear, as are the individuals involved. As a console title, a text parser is ditched in lieu of a menu comprised of a lengthy selection of options. The Boss and Yasu can look around, search for clues, take objects, dial phone numbers (manually!), hit suspects (damn, Japan...), question locals, interrogate specific individuals, make arrests and more. Movement around Japan is also controlled via a menu, and scenery consists of a sequence of static backgrounds.
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This is a deceptively good game. The manner in which the dialogue is delivered is outstanding. Rather than a dry descriptive monologue, the tale is told by the Boss and Yasu speaking among themselves. The converse, theorize, joke, and argue. Suspects are uniquely memorable, and surprisingly sympathetic. Horii's dialogue is compelling, and the (2011) fan translation is expertly done. Portopia is pretty compact overall, with gameplay sending the detectives to and from the police station, returning to interrogate potential criminals. There are plenty of false leads and questionable "clues" to be found along the journey. There's also some great foreshadowing hinting at the identity of the "real killer" though a couple of playthroughs may be required to pick up on this.

In contrast to the Western classics of yore, Portopia is an adventure game that seems impossible to "lose." Believe me, I tried. The player can't get stuck, of permanently discard items. It is possible to (erroneously) close the case too early. But instead of paving the road to a Game Over or "bad ending" this option simply leads to a reprimand by the chief of police, with the embarrassed detective duo kicked back into the field. As such, the game encourages experimentation. Purposefully making mistakes can lead to some humorous outcomes. For instance: try dialing 110 (the Japanese emergency telephone number).

This is probably the first "M-rated" Famicom game. It doesn't hold back on the gruesome visuals and details. In addition to the banker's murder, there's a suicide scene, as well as a strip club visit (and subsequent stripper investigation). Graphics are rather primitive, but pretty. The static backgrounds are plain and unambiguous, while characters are drawn in that delicious mid-80s anime style. There isn't much music to speak of, though the police siren "opening theme" is pretty startling and hilarious.
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For all the positives, Portopia can't escape the retro adventure trappings. It is a game, to use an old cliché, that hasn't exactly aged well. The story won't conclude unless certain key objects are obtained. Some of these can only be unearthed with the magnifying glass tool, which then entails clicking on a specific cluster of pixels. It's inanely repetitious, and is enough to launch even the most intrepid player to the internet, searching for the best and brightest walkthrough. Additionally, certain locations are only unlocked via "triggers." For instance, at one point in the game I had to go to Kyoto. I had no option to travel to Kyoto. I wandered all over performing every action I could. After returning to the game's starting point I had Yasu question the locals. They uttered some unrelated banter and immediately after Yasu proclaimed "Hey let's go to Kyoto!" and thus the pathway presented itself.

Then there's "the maze." The Wizardry-obsessed Horii insisted on sticking a first-person WRPG dungeon-crawl into the latter potion of the game. It's stark gray, dull, and the locating the mandatory "hidden passageway" is downright mystifying. While it's admittedly cool to see a first-person segment inserted into an '85 Fami game, I would have instead preferred an additional ten minutes of "normal" content.

Overall, the positives of Portopia manage to outweigh the negatives. The game does more than lay the foundation for the fascinating genre that would follow; it's a wholly compelling experience in and of itself.


Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi
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Arriving in 1986, Mississippi Satsujin Jiken is the second adventure game available on the Famicom, a year after Yuji Horii's seminal Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken. However, Mississippi Satsujin Jiken is not a "Japanese adventure game." Rather it's a console port of Murder on the Mississippi, an American computer title. The original game was noted for utilizing joystick controls and a menu, as opposed to a text parser, making this a prime target for a quick and dirty TOSE/Jaleco conversion. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken was fan-translated into English (or, back into English, I suppose) in 2017.

I rather enjoy the setting presented here. Mississippi is the tale of two old-timey detectives: the bearded monocled pipe-smoking Sir Charles Foxworth, and his ever-loyal assistant Regis. While travelling in a ferryboat aboard the Mississippi, a man is found slain in Room 4. How convenient he is to be found by two sleuths! It's up to Foxworth and Regis to gather evidence and interview (or interrogate) crew and passengers alike, until the mystery is solved.
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Foxworth and Regis appear onscreen and are controlled by the player (they walk together, single-file). At any time, the player can switch to a menu mode that allows one to examine scenery or engage in dialogue. There are unique aspects to the game that deserve recognition. To examine collected items, the duo must return to their room, dump out their gathered loot, and manipulate the goods appropriately. Here the view switches to a close up of shelves, a table, and said items, where a cursor is used to select and move or open whatever is deemed relevant. It's a welcome change, graphically, and a nice break from the standard menu options.

Conversations can also be rather compelling. Foxworth and Regis have an option to record notes while interviewing folks. Turns out the ship is full of gossipers: as nearly everyone is itching to make a declaration (of love or condemnation or indifference) regarding their fellow boatmates. The detectives can later display said notes to anyone aboard the ship, which stirs up all sorts of juicy drama.

As for the game holistically, it's marginally fun, sometimes. At other times, not so much. Mississippi is slow. Almost prohibitively so. Characters move slowly, which is exacerbated by the confusing layout of the boat itself. Controls have a tendency to feel clunky and imprecise. The boat's too big, double-sided with far too many rooms. Some need to be entered from the side, which looks bizarre from a perspective standpoint. While the text has its charm, there's arguably too much of it. Everyone speaks in giant screen-filling paragraphs, and you'll need to read tons of inconsequential nonsense in addition to legitimate clues and information.
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And since this is a Western adventure game (originally), it's comically obtuse and difficult. Items are well-hidden. Some are virtually impossible to find, unless one is willing to consult a walkthrough or click on every square inch of the screen. Game Overs exist in abundance. Making a mistake during a conversation can end a game. As can falling into one of the scattered trollish booby traps, like trapdoors or tossed knives. (Humorously, nobody ever comments on these traps. I'm just going to believe they were common fixtures of old boats.)

Visuals are rather rudimentary. Sprites have some nice detail, but the scenery is pretty ugly and repetitive overall. Music is nonexistent, save for a stock loop that jingle-jangles on occasion.

From what I've read, there was some additional content in the computer Mississippi. And this Famicom port does indeed possess a "rushed" feeling I can't quite pin-down. I suspect that this may have turned out like several of the WRPGs available on the console: playable, historically interesting, but ultimately worse than the original.


Space Harrier
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A Sega game? On the Famicom? Surely anyone intimately acquainted with the North American NES library has encountered the Shinobi, After Burner, Alien Syndrome, and Fantasy Zone Tengen carts. Well, Japan had some additional Sega-on-Nintendo releases including After Burner II, a different version of Fantasy Zone, Fantasy Zone II, Altered Beast, and this particular Takara-published arcade port: Space Harrier.

Space Harrier is the product of one Yu Suzuki. First appearing in the arcades in 1985, it followed Sega's own Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom as being on of the earliest notable "on-rails" shooters. The player takes control of the harrier himself, a blond-haired man with a jet pack and immeasurable swag, hurtling through intergalactic dimensions and vanquishing the forces of evil. The player's viewpoint is situated behind the harrier (dat booty) who flies "into" a "3D" environment. Meanwhile, enemies and obstacles move forward, towards the camera. Space Harrier was heavily ported; allowances were made for all ports, as the arcade original utilized a unique cabinet and control set-up that simply couldn't be replicated at home. Transplanting the game to Nintendo's 8-bit hardware made for an ambitious attempt. One with particularly mixed results, to say the least.
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The "Fantasy Zone" world of Space Harrier is known for its extreme aesthetics. This is the one element of the game that translated best to the Famicom. Each stage features its own brightly-colored "checkerboard" floor, an excellent way to showcase the "3D" movement. This type of scenery became a sort of genre trope, reappearing in Square's 3-D WorldRunner, among others. Accompanying skylines display a variety of scenes: cityscapes, mythological temples, mountainous regions, the vast emptiness of space. Some stages even display a checkerboard ceiling, matching the floor and mimicking its movement. This is a world populated by fantastic and grotesque creatures: one-eyed mammoths, hulking robotic beasts, and a stable of dragons and wurms. Compared to the arcade game, the visuals here have been softened-up and heavily simplified, but sprites and scenery alike have been competently crafted. And the music: I don't think that anyone can deny the sheer excellence of Sega's classic arcade soundtracks. Though dulled slightly for this home port, these thumping techno pieces have nevertheless retained their punch and perfectly accentuate the weirdness of the physical game world. Hiroshi Kawaguchi = king.

Gameplay itself is what suffers here. It feels decent enough at first, kinda slow but not entirely awkward. The harrier slides around in eight directions, and can even walk on the checkerboard, which displays a separate animation. Aiming at enemies generally works okay, with A and B lobbing off the same fiery projectile. But the game starts to fall apart, eventually. Later stages are replete with enemy sprites that the poor Famicom just can't support. There's a copious amount of slowdown during boss battles. Worse than that is the persistent sprite flickering, which greatly obfuscates the locations of enemies and their respective projectiles. Scrolling and scaling are choppy. It's one of those games that feels like it's gonna fall apart at the seams. I expected smoke to start pouring out of my Famicom.
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This arcade original clocks in at eighteen minutes, a perfect length for a sweaty-palm adrenaline-fueled excursion into the Fantasy Zone. In contrast, this Famicom port, despite ostensibly containing the "same" content, takes about twice as long to wrap up. There's no auto-fire, and it's absolute murder on the thumbs. The game's comically hard, due to the aforementioned technical flaws, and incredibly stingy with the extra lives. These are awarded based on points gathered -- I only managed to receive a one-up halfway through the sixteenth stage (out of eighteen!). There is a small reprieve from the nonstop alien-sniping, occasionally, in the form of bonus rounds. These see the harrier mounted upon a woolly worm beast. Here the duo collects points by crashing into trees, somewhat counterintuitive as such an action is harmful throughout the game proper. It's not an easy task, due to the worm's wiggle-wobble movement, but the break is well-deserved and appreciated. Since this Famicom port is apparently based on the Sega Master System port (a port of a port?) it contains an extra final boss, as well as the ugliest ending screen ever devised. The game gives the player the option to enter their initials upon Game Over or game completion. Naturally, these are obliterated as soon as the Famicom is turned off.

Truth be told, all the early Space Harrier ports had to be compromised in a significant way. That said, Famicom Space Harrier is probably the worst of the console versions. Somewhat inferior to the Master System port, and vastly inferior to the TurboGrafx-16 and 32X variants, this hard-chugging Sega-Nintendo beast is a tough sell.


Geimos
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Geimos is one of those oddball rail shooters available on the Famicom. Released in 1985, the same year as Sega's great Space Harrier, Geimos is a true Famicom exclusive. No alternative versions, no sequels, no Virtual Console. Geimos was published by ASCII, though developmental duties are attributed to an enigmatic studio called Wixel, which was apparently just a front for the dreaded Micronics.

The player takes control of a spaceship, battling through six interplanetary locales. The environmental graphics actually aren't too bad. They're reminiscent of Jaleco's (surprisingly good) Exerion: a striped landscape on bottom with a starscape up top. There are some well-detailed (real) planets displayed in the background as well, one per stage. The music sucks. Just flat out sucks. There's a ditty that plays as each stage is introduced -- it's taken straight from the "Star Wars" films. This then gives way to an acerbic four-note loop. Geimos is one of those games just begging to be muted.
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Gameplay is an absolute joke. Sprites are atrocious grainy flickering piles of garbage. Everyone seemed to be ripping off Xevious in those early shmup days, so Geimos included both a standard straight shot as well as a bomb that drops downwards. It's pointless; grounded and flying enemies are almost indistinguishable, and the only real "strategy" I concocted is to just stay in motion while mashing A and B simultaneously. Every stage concludes with a boss fight against a mothership. These battles are (wait for it) pretty terrible. Bosses can only be damaged if struck in this minute little "core" located at the center of each ship. It's incredibly tedious, and further exacerbated by the fact that there's a hidden time limit to these skirmishes. If a mothership isn't taken out within a minute or so, the entire stage begins again. Welcome to purgatory.

What I've described thus far is the gameplay featured in "Mode A." There's also a "Mode B" to the game, which plays a bit differently. Seems generous on the part of the developers, huh? My theory is that they couldn't craft a coherent holistic game, so they made two "versions" of it and hoped that one was functional. Mode A is bad. Mode B is unplayable. There are two big alterations found here. First, there's a cursor added, to aid in aiming those Xevious style bombs. It's pointless, the game's dysfunctional scrolling and garbled sprites render the whole operation moot. Mode B locks the player's ship in the center of the screen, with the d-pad now moving around the surroundings. It's incredibly disorienting, and actually hitting bosses in this state verges on the impossible.

Geimos isn't interesting enough or weird enough to be a true "kusoge" artifact. It's just an undercooked baby-brained piece of early Famicom slop. Low effort and low energy all the way around. Even the box art looks like it was drawn by a programmer's third-grade child during study hall. Worth a laugh, and then worth shelving for good.


Attack Animal Gakuen
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Before arcade royalty Space Harrier arrived on the Famicom, owners of Nintendo's debut system had to "settle on" 1987's Attack Animal Gakuen. To state that this games imitates Space Harrier is but a colossal understatement, as it apes both the graphical style and core gameplay. Don't be swayed by the game's lack of originality, however, as "attacking" this one is indeed a worthwhile endeavor.

Attack Animal Gakuen was published by the great Pony Canyon. Developmental details are a bit muddled. Most websites mention the obscure Scitron & Art, who was perhaps "best known for" the bizarre (and high-quality) rhythm-themed side-scrolling Famicom Disk System shoot 'em up Otocky. Also mentioned in the Gakuen end credits is Newtopia (not to be confused with Hudson Soft's Neutopia), who also apparently had a hand in the Famicom Ultima conversions. Interesting!

While the hero of Space Harrier was the stylish "harrier" himself, the protagonist of Attack Animal Gakuen is a cute Japanese schoolgirl named Nokko. She lacks a jet pack, but can mysteriously still fly, and she's heavily armed with whatever oval-shooting firearm the harrier also utilized. Instead of strange fantastical beasts, the villains encountered during this six-stage journey are real-life animals, who have apparently become aggressive and insane. They've additionally kidnapped Nokko's friend, another anime cutie pie, and are holding her hostage.
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Stages feature the type of checkerboard styling lifted from Space Harrier, but here they're designed to look like outdoor ecosystems one would find on earth, as opposed to futuristic alien locales. Hostile animals continually fly, bounce, and scurry towards Nokko, and she must avoid stationary land hazards as well. The graphics are fantastic. Crisp, clean, and gorgeously rendered. Sprites are chunky and well-drawn, and while the environments only subtly change from stage to stage, each one manages to feel distinct. Nokko is typically colored in black & white, which helps her stand out well amid the chaos. As an additional bonus, she actually dons an outfit appropriate for each level -- even changing into a swimsuit for the game's underwater segment (it's a one-piece ya pervs). Pressing select switches the game into "3D mode" which unfortunately requires one posses the rare and underutilized Famicom 3D System. In any event, the game is perfectly playable in its natural state. On the musical front, while no tracks can approach the earworms found in Space Harrier, the score here is perpetually upbeat and catchy, suiting the Gakuen experience finely.

Most importantly, unlike the rushed Space Harrier Famicom variant, Attack Animal Gakuen actually plays extremely well. It's fast, it's fluid, there isn't a hint of slowdown, and sprite flicker is an inconsequential rarity. Scrolling is smooth and accurate, as is the sprite scaling. To put it simply: the game's fun to play. Flying, weaving, aiming, running -- it all feels "right" and it's downright shocking that these virtually unknown developers were able to drop such a competent rail shooter in 1987.

Each stage is a four-minute endurance test, concluding with a boss fight. Bosses are massive behemoths, flanked by beastly cohorts, and battled in post-stage arenas. They're also downright hilarious, the highlight being the suited-up mafia koala holding a Tommy gun. These skirmishes are also quite strange. Bosses are automatically defeated once their underlings are slain, and shooting the bosses proper seems to result in nothing but a waste of time and ammo.
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While Attack Animal Gakuen lacks any egregious flaws, it does showcase a prominent annoyance. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid accusations of complete Space Harrier plagiarism, the game features a poorly-implemented power-up system. Said power-ups increase both speed and attack power. They're also "stackable" and Nokko gets increasingly stronger as she gathers more and more. First problem: the placement of the power-ups themselves. They're a specific type of statue, appearing in grounded clusters in each stage. Of course, the game conditions to player to avoid stationary ground objects, and there's virtually no time to react to the statues when they do indeed materialize. Moreover, Gakuen seems to have taken inspiration from Gradius and R-Type -- gathered power-ups are obliterated when a life is lost, and the game basically "requires" one possess them in order to complete the latter stages. Thus, loss of a single life can feel downright devastating, in that "I might as well reset the game" sort of way. Even with the generously dished-out one-ups (point-based, I earned one per stage) the game is downright brutal. Making it to the final stage without taking a single hit is all but required, from there on can likely die a few times and hobble forward thanks to their one-up cache. At least that's how I managed to (barely) finish the game.

So, while Attack Animal Gakuen isn't exactly perfect, it's a worthy addition to the fledgling rail shooter genre. Is it better than Space Harrier proper? Well, no. But is it better than the Famicom Space Harrier? You better believe it.


Sky Destroyer
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Sky Destroyer (1985) is Taito's fifth Famicom release. Originally appearing in the arcades, this particular conversion was handled by a group called Home Data, whose main area of expertise was apparently mahjong and shogi games. Nice.

While Sky Destroyer superficially resembles After Burner, it lacks the speed, style, and pizzazz of Sega's classic. In actuality Sky Destroyer is a primordial rail shooter that adheres to the gaming conventions of single-screen Golden Age and Atari shooters like Space Invaders and Galaxian. Following a drab title screen featuring "Indiana Jones" rip-off music, the player takes control of a World War II Japanese monoplane. The goal is to rack up points by blasting away hostile Hellcats and the occasional B-24 bomber. Admittedly, flight combat is quite smooth and fun. The approaching plane sprites are grainy but scale smoothly, and (machine gun) shooting is relatively accurate. The "ammo" system is rather inexplicable. There's auto-fire at first, but abusing it will cause the player's plane to fire off shots at a slower pace, as if it's overheating. There are additional seaborne enemies that fire upwards: submarines, battleships, and massive fortified islands. Such hazards can be vanquished with torpedoes, but aiming here is a sketchy endeavor; I found it easier to just fly low and fire the machine guns forward.

Background graphics are rather mundane, though there's a transitional day-to-night cycle that indicates progress within a given stage. It's unclear whether a stage's conclusion is based on a (hidden) timer or accrued points. Besting a traditional stage gives way to a bonus one, where the player must shoot down planes that apparently lack the wherewithal to fight back. It's a pretty middling experience.
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One reason a game like Galaxian was so successful is because of the persistent sense of claustrophobia. There's nowhere to hide, and enemy hazards are avoided by mere pixels. In contrast, Sky Destroyer offers the player too much space to maneuver. Stages have a vertical height of about two screens, and also wrap around horizontally. Having trouble with a particularly aggressive submarine? Just fly up. A group a Hellcats come charging forward? Just hold either direction on the d-pad to avoid them completely. Environments come across as feeling patently huge and repetitive, while also incredibly sparse. It's very easy to end up on a screen with no foes, which forces the player to fly around until something to shoot down can be located.

Sky Destroyer really isn't a bad game. It's perfectly playable, but all that it offers can be observed within the first two minutes of play time. It's quite literally a game where you just "shoot stuff" -- all other details provided are mere window dressing. It's amazing to see how many early Famicom shooters were so aggressively mediocre, substantially worse than the simplistic "second generation" alien-blasters that preceded them.


Ripple Island
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Ripple Island is a 1988 SunSoft adventure game (where no one gets murdered, yay!), developed by their Tokai Engineering subsidiary. It also appeared on the PlayStation many years later, as part of Memorial * Series: SunSoft Vol. 4, where it was bundled with Blaster Master of all things. Amusingly, due to the way Japanese characters are translated to English the game title is sometimes written as Lipple Island. A fan translation dropped in 2018.

The eponymous Ripple Island is in fact the game's setting: an idyllic land that's recently come under threat by one Emperor Groaker, a self-styled "Prince of Darkness" whose true form only becomes unveiled at the tale's conclusion. The protagonist here is a young boy named Kyle, the only individual brave enough to confront the forces of evil. Of course, the promise of winning King Dotella's daughter's hand in marriage provides a sliver of additional motivation. As Kyle's journey begins, he soon meets another youth, a cute girl named Cal, who quickly becomes an ally. As is the case with Yuji Horii's Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken, much of the dialogue presented in Ripple Island is a back-and-forth between the two heroes, something vastly preferable to a sterile dry narration.
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First things first: the game is gorgeous, and absolutely adorable. It looks like an 80s anime, boasting an art style that would make Miyazaki proud. The outdoor environments are beautifully crafted, and a fine change of pace from the gritty urban landscapes that characterized most Japanese adventure games. While the occasional human being can be encountered, most of Kyle and Cal's interactions are with the animal populace. Chattery squirrels, aggressive foxes, lazy turtles, ravenous owls, playful bunnies, drunk raccoons, and much, much more. The writing is fantastic, compelling the player to continue forth to save these fluffy and scaly buddies. Moreover, the animals aren't presented as simple stills, but as fully animated characters, complete with lip movements while speaking. The game's fully scored, too. The soundtrack isn't particularly riveting, but exudes a quaint relaxing vibe that complements the visuals nicely.

Ripple Island is split into five discrete chapters, with no backtracking to those which have been completed. The interface is icon-based. The first icon is used for navigation. Unlike, say, Portopia, players do not choose a specific location to immediate "warp" to, but instead advance in one of four cardinal directions. Thus, the game is laid out like a grid (or five grids, really), and is relatively easy to map. Other options available to Kyle and Cal include looking, talking, picking up items, using items, entering buildings, pushing, and pulling. There's even an option to call up a password at any time, to resume progress after shutting off the game. But these passwords are just as long and heinous as you'd expect.
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Given the altogether soothing art style combined with the icon-based progression, the game has a bit of a "kiddie" feel to it, as if it was designed to be an introductory adventure title for younger gamers. And, to its credit, Ripple Island is pretty good about giving blatant hints to the player. Animals will explicitly state things like "I won't let you by unless you possess a red flower" and so on. Actually finding said items is where the challenge lies. There's a lot of pixel-perfect clicking required to complete the game, and plenty of trial and error. Some items need to be combined with others, which is always a bit dubious, while others need to be acquired and used multiple times, which necessitates some backtracking. Fortunately, it doesn't seem possible to become permanently stuck by discarding something plot-specific. Ultimately, I recommend playing the game with a walkthrough in tow: to deduce the locations of well-hidden treasures, and to be able to finish things off in one fell swoop, thus disregarding the password system altogether.

Offering up multiple endings in this era was unique enough, but Ripple Island puts an additional spin on the formula. For starters, no endings are truly "bad." At their worst, some endings are bittersweet, leaving the player with a nagging feeling that events could have (and perhaps should have) unfolded differently. Additionally, not all endings are presented at, ya know, the end of the game proper. Kyle and Cal can wraps things up prematurely, leaving the citizens of Ripple Island to their own devices. There's a surprising amount of morality injected into this tale, as "doing the right thing" is likely to lead to the best possible outcome. No matter what, though, you still have to aid that raccoon in getting himself sloshed.
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Honestly speaking, the early SunSoft Famicom selection with pretty rough, replete with some really half-baked arcade ports. With the advent of games like Ripple Island the developer really started hitting their stride, showcasing some brilliant programming skill, writing talent, and attention to detail. At the time of its release, Ripple Island was one of the better adventure games to be found on the Famicom, if not the best overall, and it remains a true hidden gem.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:09 pm

Killin’ it. Nice work and great reviews of esoteric games.

I’m surprised Murder on the Mississippi was not released in NA for the NES. Considering some of the stuff that was localized, it seems odd it never came over. (Maybe American kids didn’t like adventure games? We got the MacVenture ports, though, and those all did pretty well...) Also, your Attack Animal Gakuen review is a f*cking classic. (“ Most websites mention the obscure Scitron & Art, who was perhaps "best known for" the bizarre (and high-quality) rhythm-themed side-scrolling Famicom Disk System shoot 'em up Otocky.”). Amazing work.
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Gunstar Green
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Gunstar Green Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:48 pm

Sky Destroyer is an interesting case in the sense that it's one of the few Japanese WWII games where you fight for the Japanese.
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