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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:13 am

Markies wrote:18. Maximum Pool (SDC)

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I beat Maximum Pool on the Sega DreamCast this evening!

Maximum Pool has been a staple of my life for several years now. A friend of mine get together every Saturday and either play Pinball together or play video games together. We have a staple of always starting the evening with Tetris and Dr. Mario followed by whatever sparks our interest for the evening. A few years ago, my friend picked up Maximum Pool for the Dreamcast and that became our game to play right after Tetris and Dr. Mario. Both games are usually laid back and its a great way for us to talk about the past week along with preparing ourselves for whatever big game that was coming up next. We would always play one style of pool, but the game had multiple styles of billiards available. So, since the game is incredibly cheap, I decided to pick it up for myself and try them out on my own. Since I needed a quick game to beat in my new house, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity for a relatively easy beat.

I have played several different types of Pool games in the past and they never felt quite right. I remember playing one on the Genesis and it felt like the balls were made out of concrete. When I started playing Maximum Pool, it really felt like I was playing Pool. The balls would jump off the table if you hit them too hard and they would bounce and interact with balls like they normally would and should. The game does offer some variety in the tables. With instructions for all the tables, it is very easy to pick up and learn the games.

Unfortunately, the game does not offer much to it. There is only a handful of tables with many of them being unlocked behind beating the Computer Characters at higher difficulty levels. Also, there is full motion video of the characters talking to you and that gets really old, really fast. Finally, some of the games made it very difficult for you to foul as the game complains to you of your mistake. With levels of frustration from missing a shot, this would only exacerbate the annoyance of the moment.

Overall, Maximum Pool is a solid and competent pool game. It offers a little variety to make you want to play it every now and then as it really satisfies that itch to play Pool as we live in a time period where Pool Halls are disappearing quite frequently. If you love a game of Billiards, then this game is worth the price.


This sounds like a step up from Championship Pool for 16-bit consoles. Same idea in terms of options, though I don't know anything about unlocks. Just that there are a variety of games to play. The SNES port doesn't quite feel like concrete, though I admittedly don't play pool enough to gauge how good it feels when compared to real life.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by PartridgeSenpai Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:06 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2019 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018
* indicates a repeat

1. Night Slashers (Switch)
2. Bye-Bye BOXBOY! (3DS)
3. GTA4: The Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)
4. Katamari Forever (PS3)
5. Detention (PS4)
6. Donkey Kong 64 (N64) *
7. OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (PS4) *
8. FlintHook (Switch)
9. God of War (PS4)
10. God of War HD (PS3)
11. Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch)
12. God of War 2 HD (PS3)
13. Starlink (Switch)
14. Shin Gundam Musou (PS3)
15. Battle & Get! Pokemon Typing DS (DS)
16. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) *
17. Super Mario 64: Rumble Edition (N64)
18. Mario Party 3 (N64) *
19. Paper Mario (N64) *
20. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) *
21. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (GBC) *
22. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC) *
23. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC) *
24. Yoshi's Island (SNES) *
25. Super Mario World (SNES) *
26. Super Mario RPG (SFC) *
27. Kaeru No Tame Ni Kane Wa Naru (GB)
28. Final Fantasy VI (SFC) *
29. Final Fantasy IV (SFC) *
30. Final Fantasy V (SFC)
31. Final Fantasy III (Famicom)
32. Mother 2 (SFC) *

33. Mother 3 (GBA) *

A game I played the English patch of nearly a decade ago, it was high time I return to Mother 3 to see what the original Japanese was like. Mother 3 not only held up in my memory as a game definitively better than Mother 2 (Earthbound) in every way, but also it exceeded those expectations and is a really wonderful piece of storytelling with some really clever design both narratively and mechanically. It took me around 27 hours, and I played on the Wii U Virtual Console (the game is very pretty on a TV <3 ).

First off, the mechanics of this game aren't THAT different from Earthbound, but they move the bar just enough to take it beyond the "Dragon Quest clone with a slowly raising/lowering health gimmick" status that Earthbound largely occupies. Mother 3 introduces a "heartbeat" system that allows the player to combo basic attacks by tapping the A Button repeatedly in time with the music, almost in a "Earthbound meets Rhythm Heaven" kind of way. This doesn't seem like much, but it has a fairly ingenious way of working together with the slowly raising/lowering health gimmick. Where previously spells whose animation were the most dangerous threat to how quickly you could potentially heal a dying party member, now the player can actively CHOOSE to continue a combo or stop it prematurely to try and rush down an enemy or save that teammate before they bleed out.

This system has some problems, the largest being that it's entirely up to the player's intuition on what beats of the background music the combo can be executed and some are VERY unintuitive and difficult to figure out. Given that the game seems largely balanced around the player having some skill at this system (granted I beat the game as a kid never using it, so it's not impossible to do), this can make certain boss fights or even normal enemies FAR more difficult than surrounding enemies or successive bosses that just happen to have a background track easier to time the beats to. Faults aside, the heartbeat system makes combat far more engaging, and really encourages the player to get into the fantastic musical score of the game, which has to be one of the best on the GBA (which you'd hope for a game that came out 2 years after the DS did).

Speaking of the music, this game has some incredible presentation. Cutscenes are blocked with care, and some of the most important (especially one near the end of chapter 1) are some of the most impressive conveyance of emotion and atmosphere that I've seen in a 2D game with no voice acting. Similarly, this game brings back a lot of visual motifs and music from the other two Mother games (mostly Earthbound), and while sometimes it certainly feels like it's there just for familiarity's sake (like the cave theme), other times it is used in a fiendishly clever way to convey the atmosphere of a scene (like the introduction to chapter 4). The Tazmily theme is also used in a variety of ways throughout the game to convey different meanings, and the game overall uses the theme of the "uncanny" to great effect.

I will be posting another blog post in the future entirely dedicated to narrative analysis of Mother 3, so I will keep comment on the story here brief. Mother 3 has a very well crafted story. The main characters actually feel like characters, and even Lucas' characterization, while brief, feels meaningful to the plot. However, it is not without its missteps. Aside from naming and presentation decisions for the "Magypsies" done in impressively poor taste, Mother 3 was originally going to be a much longer N64 game, and it shows. The game's last half disrupts much of the pacing and vignette style of the first half in favor of rapid fire globe trotting that doesn't add much to the characters. This leads to many major themes' presences getting very confused and tangled up among new minor themes, and an overall feeling that there was originally more to this story. That said, what is there is a damn good story for an RPG that tackles some quite dark themes with good taste, and even the Magypsies are actually treated quite well as characters within the narrative (their main problematic elements coming from their contextualization within the narrative, and not so much from their treatment within it).

EDIT: I totally forgot to mention about the game's difficulty. While the game certainly seems balanced around the heartbeat combos being used well, if you do use them, the whole game has a really well done difficulty curve. The difficulty never felt outright unfair or just rushing through enemies to kill them before my health ticked down like so much of the last of Earthbound is. It's a pretty hard game, but it rarely feels outright unfair. There are a couple proper horrible enemies and one not very well explained boss fight, but the game on the whole is consistently challenging in a way that feels fair, fun, and engaging.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. Mother 3 is a truly impressive sequel. It manages to not only improve on the groundwork laid by its predecessor but also add in so much on top of that it could be its own franchise on top of that. It is a damn shame that this game never got officially localized, and I cannot recommend the English fan translation enough for those of you who love Earthbound (or JRPGs at all) and are willing to go through downloading a GBA emulator and installing the translation patch.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by PartridgeSenpai Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:17 am

Partridge Senpai's 2019 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018
* indicates a repeat

1. Night Slashers (Switch)
2. Bye-Bye BOXBOY! (3DS)
3. GTA4: The Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)
4. Katamari Forever (PS3)
5. Detention (PS4)
6. Donkey Kong 64 (N64) *
7. OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (PS4) *
8. FlintHook (Switch)
9. God of War (PS4)
10. God of War HD (PS3)
11. Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch)
12. God of War 2 HD (PS3)
13. Starlink (Switch)
14. Shin Gundam Musou (PS3)
15. Battle & Get! Pokemon Typing DS (DS)
16. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) *
17. Super Mario 64: Rumble Edition (N64)
18. Mario Party 3 (N64) *
19. Paper Mario (N64) *
20. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) *
21. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (GBC) *
22. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC) *
23. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC) *
24. Yoshi's Island (SNES) *
25. Super Mario World (SNES) *
26. Super Mario RPG (SFC) *
27. Kaeru No Tame Ni Kane Wa Naru (GB)
28. Final Fantasy VI (SFC) *
29. Final Fantasy IV (SFC) *
30. Final Fantasy V (SFC)
31. Final Fantasy III (Famicom)
32. Mother 2 (SFC) *
33. Mother 3 (GBA) *

34. Hebereke (Famicom)

This game has always looked interesting, and I needed something to distract me from how bad I am at Sutte Hakkun's puzzles, so I decided to play through this game today. It's a little short, as you could pretty easily get through it in a couple hours, but it wasn't a bad use of 500 yen on the Wii U VC.

Hebereke (localized as Uforia) is a very odd little Metroid-like game where you go around as the titular character, a weird little humanoid chicken with a knit cap, and find a series of friends (O-chan the little girl in a cat suit, Sukezaemon the sunglasses-wearing ghost, and Jennifer the angler fish man) with different ambulatory powers to let you get through areas you couldn't before as well as charge abilities that provide a similar gating effect to later areas. It's got a silly sense of humor and very cute graphics.

Now, at first, I didn't realize you could jump on enemies because you need to hold Down while you're in the air to stomp. Otherwise you just land on them and get hurt. This seems like an utterly unnecessary design choice, but it's there. Once I learned I could actually fight the enemies that were kicking the crap out of me, I started to have quite a good bit of fun with this game. It's far easier than Metroid or Kid Icarus, as you find a map and a compass quite quickly. It's not a super easy game that any kid could breeze through, but any veteran of NES-era platformers should not have a very difficult time with this game. The hardest part is remembering where the obstacles are on the map so you can go back to them once you have the right power/character to get past them (I had to look up where one particular item was because I had forgotten where on the map you went to to get to it).

Verdict: Highly Recommended. It's a bit short, but Hebereke (Uforia) is a well designed game that plays great. It could really use some kind of save points rather than a password system and/or a way to recharge your health to full easier, but those are really minor complaints. If you're looking for a fun and not too punishing action adventure game on your NES, this is a good one to pick up if you don't spend an arm and a leg on it.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by pook99 Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:39 pm

117. Castlevania: the bloodletting

Castlevania: the bloodletting is a fan game that draws its name from a cancelled sega 32x game. There were actually plans to release a castlevania game on segas failed attachment but it was cancelled for obvious reasons, and the several of the members of the team went on to make symphony of the night. This game takes place between rondo and symphony and has you playing as richters son, harker belmont.

The graphics and playstyle of this game are clearly inspired by rondo of blood. Although the assets are mostly new, this game definitely
looks like it could have been a direct sequel to rondo, even enemies that are not in rondo are drawn using the graphical style of rondo which is pretty cool. In addition to looking like rondo this game also retains the moveset of rondo, that means you can only whip straight, there are no double/triple shot power ups for sub weapons, there is an item crash move unique to each sub weapon, and you have a backflip and a slide. Also, this is a linear classicvania, not a metroidvania like sypmphony.

One of the cool things about this game is how they force you to use the backflip. If you ever played rondo or x you could have easily beat it without ever even knowing the backflip or slide exists but both moves are useful, and even necessary to beat this game. This game has several pits that are too far for your normal jump, the backflip takes you much farther and you need to know when you can jump a pit vs when you need to backflip over it. It is a cool dynamic that adds a lot to the platforming in this game. The slide is only necessary for one jump in the game, but it is extremely useful in quickly evading enemy attacks and getting to a better position in boss battles. In addition to these new navigation tools the whip arc is more pronounced in this game, when you whip you can hit enemies directly above you and directly behind you. The hit boxes for these frames is small but it is incredibly useful. For example, when you are climbing stairs and there is an enemy at the top you can lurk at the top of the stairs and safely bash the enemy before they can hit you. Learning these hitboxes exist and how to use them comes in handy far more than I originally thought.

Speaking of boss battles, there is a boss at the end of every level and one thing of note in this game is that often you need to whip an enemy 2-3 times to take off one block of life. What this means is you can't just mash whip and win against any boss like you often can in some castlevania titles. Bosses require you to learn their patterns and fight carefully.

There are 8 levels in this game, and the difficulty tends to be in the higher side. You are given 5 lives before you need to continue but if you want to cheat like me you could go into the data file(notepad format) and edit your lives to 99, this means you will start the level with 99 lives. This doesn't make the game easier but it does mean that you won't have to replay long difficult sections when you lose a life. The game is tough, very fast paced, and a lot of fun. It will constantly keep you on your toes and ,every difficult castlevania trope you can think of is in this game, falling blocks, flying medusa heads, dick enemy placement, its all here.

The soundtrack in this game is beyond top notch, there are a few new tracks, but the soundtrack is mostly heavy metal mixes of old castlevania music which is just completely amazing and matches the franticness of the gameplay. Also, when you are fighting draculas final form, sephiroths theme music is playing which really makes the fight feel epic.

I absolutely loved this game, but there are some issues you should know about if you want to give it a shot:

1) there is no way to configure your gamepad, the game does support gamepads but it locks you into a control scheme where a = whip, b = jump, x = subweapon y = item crash. In additon to this it only works with the analog stick, and does not detect the d pad. This is not how I usually play games so it did mess me up. I also tried disabling the gamepad and using joy2key but that didnt work. Its not terrible, you do get used to it but it definitely was an early game hurdle.

2) This game is buggy, there were times I would have to reboot the game when it freezes(it does save your progress so you never need to replay the whole game) and then times where weird things happen. Stairs in particular are buggy and sometimes I couldn't walk up or down stairs until I jumped first which is weird. I also would run into situations where I was invincible on stairs, I eventually learned to use this to my advantage. As weird as it sounds you eventually get a feel for what will bug out the game and learn to somewhat play around it. There are also times when your movements lock up and then you have to die to get control back. These issues are annoying and almost made me quit the game.

Thing is, despite these issues I kept wanting to play more. The amazing soundtrack and challenging levels made me really want to play this game, so I suffered through the random glitches. I'm glad I did, I had a ton of fun with this game and if your a fan of CV and want something new it is worth a playthrough but the random bugs and glitches will annoy you, and the difficulty level will stress you out, but it is definitely a solid game.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:14 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)
26. Bio Senshi Dan: Increaser tono Tatakai (Famicom)
27. Yume Penguin Monogatari (Famicom)
28. King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch (Famicom)
29. Congo Bongo (Atari 2600)
30. Coconuts (Atari 2600)
31. Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (Switch eShop)
32. Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome (Super Famicom)
33. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Super Burger Time (Switch eShop)
34. Fire Fly (Atari 2600)
35. Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)
36. Space Jockey (Atari 2600)
37. Airlock (Atari 2600)
38. Makai Hakkenden Shada (PC Engine)
39. Squeeze Box (Atari 2600)
40. Lagoon (SNES)
41. Atlantis (Atari 2600)
42. Xak III: The Eternal Recurrence (PC Engine CD)
43. Blue Blink (PC Engine)
44. Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (PC Engine CD)
45. Cally's Caves 3 (Steam)
46. Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet (Steam)

47. Contra (NES)
48. Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Switch eShop)
49. Arcade Archives: Moon Cresta (Switch eShop)
50. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja (Switch eShop)
51. Ice Hockey (Atari 2600)


Contra
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I can definitively state, without even a second of hesitation, that this is one of the best video games ever made. Certainly the greatest run and gun experience, probably the greatest "action" game of any sort, and a bonafide 8-bit titan. Contra is, was, and will continue to be, unstoppable.

Contra has become affixed so firmly to the NES experience that's it's easy to forget that other versions actually do exist. The game originated in 1987 in the arcades, with the Famicom and (North American) NES carts appearing a year later. This is one case where the NES port absolutely murders the original: arcade Contra is a questionable experience, featuring some decidedly ugly color choices and janky jump physics. As for those home computer variants? Spare yourself the misery.

The story here is blunt, simple, and pure 80s. An evil "Red Falcon" organization has set up shop within the dense Amazon jungles. It's up to a duo of commandos, Bill (player 1) and Lance (optional player 2) to wipe out the threat and uncover the extraterrestrial forces behind the invasion. Though of Japanese origin, the game's Western influences are abundantly clear. Bill and Lance are modeled after action heroes Schwarzenegger and Stallone with the alien fiends resembling those aliens from a certain Ridley Scott film (about aliens).
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Contra consists of eight stages with a single playthrough clocking in at a cool 25 minutes, give or take. There's some pleasant variety to the level design: six are your traditional left-to-right scrollers, one is a vertical scroller complete with a persistent insta-death pit at the bottom (à la Kid Icarus), plus a duo of "bases" where the game instead opts for a "behind the player" type of perspective. The secret to the game's monumental success lies within the control scheme. Contra is sublime, an absolute joy to play. Walking and jumping are fluid, with the speed calibrated perfectly. There's ducking and the ability to hop down ledges with the classic A+down button combo. But it's the gunplay that truly shines. The manly men of Contra can shoot in eight directions, sniping enemies from all angles. Likewise, the heroes are assaulted, relentlessly, from every area of the screen. Left, right, up, down, there are even stages showcasing booby traps and bombs that emerge from background to foreground. Despite featuring a wholly different viewpoint, the base stages feel just as natural as all others, but with the player's bullets travelling "into" the screen. This is the prototypical "run and gun" game, deftly mixing sleek platforming mechanics with all the ferocity of a good shmup.

Let's talk about the guns. Yeah, the guns. While the player naturally begins with the white-bullet pea shooter, each stage of Contra features plenty of upgrades. There's an auto-fire machine gun, the wide-range flamethrower, and the slow but powerful laser. But the most precious weapon of all is what became the series staple: the spread gun. This beast does exactly what its namesake implies: fires out multiple projectiles that "spread" all over the screen. Being in possession of this firearm is monumentally satisfying; losing it is a tragedy. The secret to completing Contra is as follows: 1) get the spread gun, 2) do not lose the spread gun.
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The game showcases some of the most memorable settings on the NES. Sure, there's no logical consistency to any of it (how do the boys go from the Amazon jungle to a snow field within a matter of minutes?) but everything looks fantastic. That opening "jungle" stage is one of the most iconic in video game history, sporting a brilliant array of deep greens and blues for backgrounds, plus those unforgettable exploding bridges. The complexity and intensity just ramps up from there. I'm especially partial to stages 6 and 7: the "energy zone" and hangar environments. Sprawling futuristic mechanical gauntlets, each comes jam-packed with environmental hazards: claws that descend from the ceilings, pop-up spiked walls, periodic flares. For a plot that ostensibly hinges on an alien invasion, there are actually very few alien foes. Instead, most are of the human or robotic variety. Early stages give us the blindingly charging soldiers (called these "football players" as a kid), plenty of snipers, wall-mounted turrets, and more. The first instance of extraterrestrial life is something of a tease: that initial "big alien" appears as the stage 3 boss, and no aliens are seen again until the game's final stretch. The concluding stage of Contra is an absolute stunner. A living, breathing, pulsating alien lair where the scenery comes to life spewing forth freakish arthropod spawn. Boss battles are exceptional throughout the journey. There's a mixture of mechanical defense towers, alien land- and spacecraft, plus the final confrontation with the "heart of the alien" itself. All bosses feature multiple attack patterns, sidekicks, gunfire from every which way. Prepare to weave around like the Vic Viper.

Soundtrack: about ten minutes or so of fast-paced tunage. There's a sophisticated techno metal vibe to the whole thing, like it can barely be contained by the NES sound chip. The compositions are highly infectious. Absolutely immortal NES hit. Things do slow down a bit during those final segments. Stage 8 features an appropriately creepy dirge, and the ending theme is a thumping heroic send-off. Note that the Famicom release had a tad more music (to accompany cutscenes!) which was then excised from the NES conversion. This is of little consequence, however. The sound effects are also pretty much perfect, and were also reused in future Konami releases. It brought a huge smile to my face when Penta the Penguin starting blasting Contra bullets in Yume Penguin Monogatari.
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I'd be remiss to not talk about the game's difficultly level. Contra tops a great many "Hardest NES Games" (not to mention "Hardest Video Games") lists. Is the game hard? Honestly, yeah. Sure. "Nintendo Hard" even. One of the hardest on the NES (or elsewhere)? Not even remotely close. Forget all the broken-down unplayably difficult crap that graces the NES. There are countless "legitimate" games that put up a tougher fight than Contra: any Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania title, the first Mega Man, Blaster Master, Bionic Commando, and so on. I'd even argue that Super Mario Bros. is harder than Contra! Much of the challenge here stems from the unforgiving life system. Three lives, three continues, one-hit deaths. However, (assuming the player hasn't hit Game Over) the commandos respawn instantly arcade-style, and additional lives can be gathered by slaying foes and scoring points. With such silky smooth controls and logical enemy placement, the game never feels "cheap" or unfair. For the most part. There are - and this is the game's only true flaw - certain enemies that spawn onscreen without enough warning. This is especially true of the "gunners" who first appear in the snowy stage. Those dudes just materialize, man. A little memorization goes a long way in dealing with some of these belligerents. For those who find the game unyieldingly brutal, there are some ways to mitigate the pain. The two-player mode is literally just that: a buddy can hop in and play simultaneously without any change to the stage layouts or enemy arrangements. And, of course, Contra is the game that popularized the classic "Konami code" which increases the player's lives to a whopping 30! Playing with the code activated can be a great way to get in some practice, before dropping down for a more "legitimate" run.

Just writing about Contra has me itching to play it again. This is quintessential retro gaming, and Konami at their absolute peak. Most genres need to cook for some time to reach something approaching perfection. Run and guns hit that peak in 1988.


Vs. Super Mario Bros.
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Though Super Mario Bros. is inextricably linked to the NES console, my first childhood experience with the game came via an arcade cabinet. Known as Vs. Super Mario Bros., this was a port of the original Famicom/NES game, and part of Nintendo's larger Vs. line. The majority of these Vs. arcade releases consisted of ports of early ("black label") NES games, but with an added emphasis on two-player action. Other developers eventually got in on the action. There was Vs. Gradius and Vs. Castlevania by Konami, and additional titles by Namco, Jaleco, Capcom, and others. An emulated version of Vs. Super Mario Bros. appeared on the Nintendo Switch eShop in 2017, allowing me to experience the game for the first time in 20+ years.

I'm completely unyielding in my opinion that Super Mario Bros. is one of the greatest video games ever made, which makes this port (mostly) spectacular by default. All of those stellar Mario mechanics and aesthetics are retained for this release. The controls are just perfect, with the player being able to precisely control Mario's every move and make subtle changes to his walking and jumping motions. Koji Kondo's unstoppable soundtrack is back, essentially identical to the NES release but with a slightly different ending theme. And those classic chunky 8-bit graphics remain unaltered. Structurally, Vs. Super Mario Bros. follows the same pathway as the original -- it's a linear 2D platformer featuring 32 individual stages, though some can be bypassed via well-hidden warp zones.
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There are some unique "arcade elements" thrown in for this particular game variant. Points are actually relevant now, as high scores are retained on a scoreboard. Players have the option to continue (without a code), though credit-feeding isn't exactly feasible as Game Over tosses Mario and/or Luigi back to the start of a given world (not level). As part of this Arcade Archives release, DIP switch alterations can be made by the player, adjusting the number of coins needed for an extra life (for instance).

Overall, about 75% of this game is absolutely fantastic. But I have some issues. See, this isn't a direct port, or an "enhanced" port, but a "remixed" one. Remixed with some questionable results. Astute players will quickly notice that the 1-up and fire flower "? blocks" in stage 1-1 are missing. Okay, so this is just "hard mode" Super Mario Bros., right? Not quite. In addition to the "alterations" (there are only four 1-ups in the whole game!), entire stages have been excised and replaced with stages from that cursed floppy game: The Lost Levels (or, the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2). The Lost Levels had some extremely capricious level design, and was punctuated by a great many frustrating segments. To put it another way, any random level from the original Super Mario Bros. is superior to any random level from The Lost Levels, so this swap-out business is rather aggravating.
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This was America's first taste of The Lost Levels, and oh did we get boned. Vs. Super Mario Bros. is incredibly hard, especially Worlds 6 and 7. Wanna skip by those with the warp zone to World 8? Sorry folks, that's gone too. Some of these "new" stages are just terrible. Most (in)famous is probably 6-3, which is characterized by a series of massive jumps that require pixel-perfect precision. The most notable jump is a "leap of faith" that requires Mario land on an barely-on-screen paratroopa and then bounce to a nearby ledge. Trust me, it sucks.

This is a hard one to rate. The source material is obviously fantastic, and most of this port consists of the source material. But The Lost Levels stuff? Forget about it. This is a neat little historical oddity for those who adore Super Mario Bros., but everyone else should steer clear.


Moon Cresta
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The name "Nichibutsu" is probably unfamiliar to most gamers, though anyone with an NES may have stumbled across one of their old "hits" -- MagMax, Seicross, Terra Cresta. The developer was actually quite prolific in the early arcade and console era. Other notable releases include the early man vs. ape action title Crazy Climber (which predates Donkey Kong) and the Famicom "Metroidvania" Cosmo Police Galivan. Nichibutsu's success waned in their later years, and they eventually just started pumping out the occasional sports and mahjong game. Eventually, the development team called it quits, selling their intellectual property to Hamster, who is now releasing their catalog slowly as part of the Arcade Archives series.

Moon Cresta is an early shooter and a precursor to the aforementioned Terra Cresta. Originally appearing in arcades way back in 1980, the game has an unusual porting history. It didn't appear on any 2nd or 3rd generation console hardware, but was on several European home computers. Later, in its native Japan, the game was part of a Super Famicom Nichibutsu compilation, and even received standalone releases for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. In 2019, it arrived on the Nintendo Switch.
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Moon Cresta is a fixed shooter. In other words, a game similar to Space Invaders and Galaxian. The player takes control of a ship, which can only move left and right, and is tasked with blasting the encroaching alien hordes. The game plays nicely, overall. Controls are smooth, and the developers did well to differentiate between the alien species. Some will fire missiles at the player's ship, others bob lazily down towards the screen's bottom, while the most difficult launch blitzing kamikaze blows. Graphics are decent enough. The ship is impressively drawn, as are most aliens, though some have that ambiguous fuzzball look. The game's background is, of course, a scrolling star-filled sky. And while there are no substantial musical tracks, various key moments in the game are punctuated by some iconic jingles.

In addition to the rote alien blasting, there are a couple of additional elements that differentiate Moon Cresta from its peers. Periodically, the player must dock their ship into a larger mothership. The controls here are a little awkward, with the shoot button now functioning as a thrust, though this task isn't particularly difficult. Rather than requiring pixel-perfect precision, the smaller ship tends to home in to the mother once it gets close enough. Such actions cause the player's ship to "evolve" and get larger after a successful docking. This makes one a larger target for enemies, but larger ships are also capable of firing multiple rounds of ammunition simultaneously. There isn't a "trade-off" here; the larger ships are clearly superior, so successful docking is essential. Loss of life will cause the ship to degrade to a smaller state. The game's overall difficulty is skewed in a funny way, in that the earliest rounds are indeed hardest, when the ship is tiniest and equipped with just a pea-shooter. Moon Cresta features some occasional text, all of it charming. YOU CAN GET A LOT OF FUN AND THRILL proclaims the title screen, and a successful docking renders a RIGHT ON!. Complete a loop of the game: FAR OUT!.

Overall, Moon Cresta is fairly enjoyable. It lacks the iconic imagery of Space Invaders, and the brilliant enemy formations Galaxian, but is competently made nonetheless. Fans of fixed shooters (there are others, right?) would be wise to give this one a look.


Joe & Mac
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Joe & Mac is an arcade platformer starring a prehistoric caveman duo, originally released by Data East in 1991. It was ported to a surprising number of systems back in the day including the holy Nintendo trinity (NES, SNES, Game Boy), Genesis, Amiga, and PC. This Switch release by our pal Johnny Turbo is of course the arcade version emulated, presented in widescreen with a "CRT" filter. Note that this game oftentimes bears the alternate title (or subtitle) of Caveman Ninja. Wanna guess how many ninjas are in the game? Read to the end of the review!

Joe & Mac is a linear journey, for 1 or 2 players, about two cavemen who are trying to rescue cavewomen from a rival tribe. What's immediately apparent is the charming art style and graphical design. Joe, Mac, and all other characters are crafted in a hilariously exaggerated fashion with plenty of animation: bulging eyes upon surprise, goofy grins and frowns; the protagonists even flatten like pancakes if damaged by certain hazards. There's a bit of painfully dated crass misogyny on display here too: in addition to the "hot" cavewomen there's also a rather large unattractive one who, I guess, the duo isn't trying to rescue. There's additionally an effeminate male caveman who's also been captured. The game's ending, which seems completely randomized, features the duo confronted by some arrangement of these individuals. It's a little bizarre, to say the least.
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Stages are relatively short. Most scroll left to right, though there are a couple vertical ones thrown in for good measure. Data East tries to entice to player to replay the game, by doing the whole "branching paths" thing periodically. It isn't worth it. All stages have the same fundamental structure and feel, regardless of aesthetics. That said, the backgrounds are quite nice, showcasing the typical environments a caveman might traverse: jungles, waterfalls, icy caverns, erupting volcanoes, and so forth. The most entertaining level is actually the opening one. Joe and/or Mac travel across the back of what turns out to be a massive sleeping Tyrannosaurus Rex. At the stage's end, a baby T-Rex bounds into view, and then "tattles" on the cavemen, causing the mother to wake from her slumber and initiate the first boss battle. The game's soundtrack isn't quite as bold as its visuals. It exudes an appropriate sort of prehistoric rhythm, though the individual compositions aren't particularly compelling.

Controls are mostly simple, though with a few wrinkles. There's a button for attacking and one for jumping, though an additional "mega jump" can also be initiated by pressing up in tandem with the jump button. It feels awkward, and I've never been a fan of multiple "jump styles" in my platformers. The default weapon is an ax, which travels in a crappy sort of arc. Thankfully, there are numerous upgrades found within dinosaur eggs, like boomerangs and stone wheels. The best weapon upgrade grants the cavemen this odd doppelganger attack, where they shoot out copies of themselves to charge at enemies. It's analogous to the spread gun in Contra, once you have this ability you don't want to lose it. The enemy selection is a bit underwhelming. There are too many generic "bad" cavemen and not enough prehistoric animals. The bosses do look awesome, admittedly. Some are just beefed-up versions of standard foes, though there are some standouts like a tusk-dropping woolly mammoth and rolling ankylosaurus.
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Joe & Mac may have a solid foundation, but something feels off, as if this was originally designed to be a console title but had additional elements shoehorned in to add "arcade difficulty." Joe & Mac's lifebars tick down automatically and they must continually collect food to replenish health. It's a mechanic that was hated in Adventure Island and just as hated here. As expected the game's difficulty increases as the player progresses, but it does so in a lazy hokey sort of manner. The later stages simply contain larger amounts of copy/paste enemies than the earlier ones. There are no decent "platforming" challenges, in fact there's no memorable platforming in the entire game, most stages are just flattened planes. And while the boss skirmishes are fun, the bosses are also absolute bullet sponges, each one requiring a seemingly infinite number of hits to vanquish. Successfully defeating a boss also feels annoyingly weapon-dependent, as some are extraordinary difficult to hit with the ax and other arcing projectiles. Oftentimes, it can be easiest to purposefully lose and then reappear hoping for a better power-up to present itself. In some sense the game can be credit-fed, though Joe & Mac features checkpoints rather than "respawns" so every boss and individual level segment does need to be cleared in one successful go.

This is a "fun" one, but a bit shaky overall. I think it's fair to say that the best platformers of the early 90s were appearing on consoles. Not only is Joe & Mac trounced by the 16-bit gems of the era, but it can't even hold a candle to many of the 8-bit platformers that precede it. This is better than Bonk's Adventure, I'll give it that, though that isn't saying particularly much.

There are zero ninjas in this game.


Ice Hockey
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Ice Hockey is the hockey game for the Atari 2600. Released in 1981, it comes to us courtesy of Activision, who were then at the top of their game. There's something to be said for these stripped-down simplistic sports titles. Forget playing through an entire season, Ice Hockey doesn't even feature periods. Just a single three-minute game to play against the computer or a human opponent, taking place within a small single-screen rink. Note that there are actually four available modes, as the player(s) can choose to crank up the speed from "regular" action to "high-speed" action. I prefer to takes things nice and slow, the latter modes just make the ice feel a bit too slick.

This is two-on-two hockey, with the player controlling whichever one of their men is in possession of the puck, or who is closest. Controls are relatively smooth, and there's a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay. The opposing team's AI is aggressive and adaptive, and mastering the game requires one learn how to pass off boards and properly time shots. The goals are rather large, so both teams are able to rack up points quickly. All told, this makes for some speedy, frantic, and enjoyable matches. Given the game's inherent accessibility and intensity, three minutes per match really is perfect.
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There are some amusing quirks to the gameplay, owing to the hardware limitations. Most notably, when a hockey player passes the puck to his teammate he also passes the stick! Well, "pass" perhaps isn't the right word -- it's more like the stick vanishes from his hands and then appears in his teammates'. Apparently rendering four onscreen sticks was impossible, so there are only two (for the hockey player with the puck and his nearest opponent). Another oddity is that whatever hockey player isn't currently under the (Atari) player's control is completely frozen; there's no AI to keep him skating around the rink. Control "switches" depending on the puck's position, but this can sometimes feel like it happens a half-second too late, giving ample time for the computer team to grab the puck.

And there are fights! I don't know how to initiate them except via good ol' button-mashing, but it is possible to slam an opponent to the ice where they stay stunned for a brief period. No penalties or referees here! Matches end firmly at that three-minute mark. Unfortunately, there is no overtime, so a tie game is possible. This one of the "easier" Activision games, for those players seeking to earn "patch" criteria. Simply beating the computer once is enough. Interestingly, back in the 80s Activision didn't require a photograph for the Ice Hockey patch. Instead they asked for a letter detailing the score, also signed by a witness! Amazing.

The game looks decent enough. Characters are drawn well; these are some of the better Atari stick figures. The ice has been given a gray tint, which is probably preferable to blinding white. The classic Activision sound effects ring out nonstop, of course. Overall, this is a solid experience. It's no Blades of Steel or NHL '94, but for its era you really couldn't ask for more.
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:34 pm

I read Bone's whole post only to finally learn there are no ninjas in Joe & Mac. Huh.
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Aubergine
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Aubergine Thu Aug 08, 2019 3:31 pm

Dungeon of the Endless
https://dungeon-of-the-endless.fandom.c ... dless_Wiki

This is a cool Roguelike / Tower Defense game with some light RPG elements that Amplitude Studios came up with in 2014 as part of their "Endless Legend" word setting.
The retro-pixel art style, Sci-fi atmosphere and swift and clever gameplay makes for a very satisfying strategy game experience. In true Roguelike fashion, the game difficulty ramps up quickly as you progress through each floor of the dungeon and learn to master the mechanics of the tools as your disposal. It took me a fair few tries to beat the game but I finally managed it yesterday. The game offer a variety of characters and gameplay set up that allow for decent replayability. You can also measure your skills with friends or others in the online coop multiplayer mode.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by marurun Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:11 pm

So, what particular hurdles did you face playing that game? Your write-up sounds mostly like marketing copy, so I don't really have any idea what your experience was like actually playing the game.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by PartridgeSenpai Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:03 am

Partridge Senpai's 2019 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018
* indicates a repeat

1. Night Slashers (Switch)
2. Bye-Bye BOXBOY! (3DS)
3. GTA4: The Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)
4. Katamari Forever (PS3)
5. Detention (PS4)
6. Donkey Kong 64 (N64) *
7. OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (PS4) *
8. FlintHook (Switch)
9. God of War (PS4)
10. God of War HD (PS3)
11. Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch)
12. God of War 2 HD (PS3)
13. Starlink (Switch)
14. Shin Gundam Musou (PS3)
15. Battle & Get! Pokemon Typing DS (DS)
16. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) *
17. Super Mario 64: Rumble Edition (N64)
18. Mario Party 3 (N64) *
19. Paper Mario (N64) *
20. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) *
21. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (GBC) *
22. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC) *
23. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC) *
24. Yoshi's Island (SNES) *
25. Super Mario World (SNES) *
26. Super Mario RPG (SFC) *
27. Kaeru No Tame Ni Kane Wa Naru (GB)
28. Final Fantasy VI (SFC) *
29. Final Fantasy IV (SFC) *
30. Final Fantasy V (SFC)
31. Final Fantasy III (Famicom)
32. Mother 2 (SFC) *
33. Mother 3 (GBA) *
34. Hebereke (Famicom)

35. Donkey Kong Country 2 (SFC)

I've been eyeing this game on the Wii U VC for quite a while now, as it's a game I have a lot of nostalgia for from when I was a kid, and I finally picked it up the other day. I really wish it were on the SNES Classic instead of the first DKC (or as it's called here "Super Donkey Kong"), but that's a personal preference. This is my favorite of the original 3 DKC games and I had a really good time playing through it. I wanted to say I'd beaten this game before, but the final boss and ending sequence were totally unfamiliar to me. Although beyond that, this is definitely the first time I've ever taken the time to get all the bonus coins and DK coins to do the secret final boss for a 102% finish (I only had to look up where one bonus room was ^w^). It took me a little under 6 hours to do.

I honestly thought that it'd be nearly impossible to try and find all the bonus rooms and DK coins myself, and I was really happily surprised I only needed to look up where one was in the end. A lot of the way they're hidden seems for more adding replay value than just spicing up the way you can play them through the first time (like how Yoshi's Island does its collectibles). Some of the designs of them feel a bit filler-y for sure, but most of them are properly good challenges.

I definitely got a new appreciation for Diddy this time playing the game. I always prefered Dixie as a kid, because her hover made the tricky platforming SO much more easily navigable, but this was basically the first time I'd REALLY tried to utilize the jumps you get if you "spin" off a ledge, and I think that made using Diddy a lot easier and less dangerous. Diddy is certainly faster, but especially when replaying bits of the game to get the collectibles I missed, I noticed the characters don't control all that differently at the end of the day, which I was fine with.

While I will say that, from a design perspective, having a light & a heavy character like DKC 1 and 3 do provides more opportunities for ways to hide hidden goodies, I'm kinda in two minds about that whole thing. I'm not entirely convinced that the whole "two playable characters who have inherently different abilities that are required to unlock certain secrets/defeat certain enemies/navigate certain obstacles" is an amazing design philosophy in the first place. It means you either need to design levels in such a way that the player feels screwed for not having a certain character, or you need to design them in such a flat and universal way that you end up barely using the unique aspects of each character. Ideally, levels would have interesting methods of completing them using either character in their own special way, but that's often easier said than done. This isn't to throw shade on the other two original DK Country games, so much as it is to say that I believe the "partner as power-up" method that the DKC Returns games use is a smarter way to go about things, generally speaking. I'll also admit that this doesn't have much all to do with this review. Just some thoughts I had I wanted to share that fit tangentially with this post :lol:

Verdict: Highly Recommended. A tough game, but still one of the greats on the SNES. Whether or not it's the best DKC game will always be a matter of debate, but regardless of that, it's still a great game.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ziggy587 Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:27 am

pook99 wrote:@Ziggy: I agree that a romhack would be great, the odd thing about the castlevania series is there are DOZENS of rom hacks for the original castlevania and a pretty large number of fan games but the rest of the games in the series have virtually no hacks outside of asthetic stuff. Even the wildly popular Super Castlevania 4 only has 1 or 2 level hacks which is just crazy. I think if konami made a castlevania maker in the style of mario maker it would sell by the boatloads and I would love to see the kinds of things people could come up with.


A little late on the reply, but I only just saw this comment now.

It would be awesome if Konami made a Castlevania Maker. They could call it Castlevania Creator! The market for 2D Castlevania games probably isn't nearly as large as it is for Mario, and Konami doesn't seem to care much about 2D Castlevania games. But this would be awesome!
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