Saturday, August 25, 2012

#11: Populous

Growing up my brother and I played an awful lot of games. For the most part we both liked all of the games but there were always a few games that one of us really liked and the other didn't. For me those were often sports games and super hardcore Koei simulation games. For my brother it was a little more varied but one of those games was definitely Populous. I never really got into this game at all while I believe my brother would borrow it frequently from a friend.

Populous is a religious warfare RTS game. You play a god with a nation of worshipers. Get more worshipers to unlock more spells. Expand your borders towards the enemy nation of worshipers and then use your spells and your followers to kill off the other nation.

Tooltips: greatest gaming invention?
I started the game up and decided to do the tutorial. Which didn't actually teach anything. I ended up doing an internet search for the manual in the hopes it would explain the tutorial. It didn't, really, but it did tell me what the buttons did and that was good enough for me to stomp the tutorial. It then put me into a new game which I again stomped. Some of my buttons didn't seem to do anything (I wanted to cast flood and armageddon but couldn't cast either) so I just made a bunch of knights and went all jihad on the enemy nation. 
I'm coming for you, Spock!
I restarted with the conquest option which let me cast all the spells. The first couple enemies were trivial. They couldn't cast most of the spells and built predominantly at sea level. So one flood pretty much won the game. 
Beachfront property isn't worth the price.
I'm sure if I kept going I'd run into a real challenge eventually. But I'm finding the game to be boring. It's really slow paced even with the speed cranked up. There are a bunch of different options but I'm pretty sure building a super knight is just the best thing you can do. Floods are fun too but I'd imagine the higher level enemies will stop building at sea level?

For an early SNES game this is actually pretty good. I doubt it was too slow paced for me as a kid since I would have been coming from a C64 gaming background and not today's PC background. The sound effects were well done. I think the issue may have been having no control at all over your dudes. You can guide them toward your ankh and you can give them a general idea of what to do but then you have to sit back and trust them to do it. I've always wanted to micro all of my units in games like this. I never turn on auto-governor in Civ games, for example. So when I see my guys build their castles just a little bit unoptimally I get annoyed.

Rating: B

Saturday, August 18, 2012

#10: HyperZone

Opposite of NORMAL? REVERSE.
HyperZone is the second HAL game in a row that I'd never played before. I've never even heard of this one! My initial thought was this was going to be a racing game of some kind, maybe an F-Zero knockoff or something.
Three dimensions!
Almost! I'm definitely flying around in a ship that looks a little like an F-Zero ship. It certainly sounds like an F-Zero ship. The SNES had 6 main buttons and this game decided to pretend to use all 6 of them. Three of them (A, Y, R) shoot your guns. Three of them (B, X, L) apply your breaks. That is all. You're flying around in a weird tunnel and can move up, down, left, and right while shooting anything that appears in front of you. It could be a triangle. Or a square. Or, even... A circle! You can't go forward or backward but I guess applying the breaks changes how fast you move forward so I guess you can move in 3 dimensions.

Having missiles (well, glowing circles) come at you in three dimensions sounds cool but I found it pretty hard to figure out what I had to do to avoid most of them. I resorted to just flying erratically in the hopes that the enemies were good at aiming at where I used to be. This worked for 2 stages. On the third stage I changed ships to one with a new weapon. I could hold the attack button down to charge up a strong attack. Unfortunately this meant I wasn't shooting at all while charging which meant lots more stuff needed to get dodged. And then the passageway shrunk down and I could no longer erratically move without dying. So all the missiles hit me and I died anyway.

I restarted with the REVERSE option turned on. It seemed to just flip up and down on the controller. I didn't play very long on REVERSE because the game just wasn't very fun and I didn't want to play it. Would it have been fun as a kid? I'm not sure. The first level didn't have many things to dodge and was frankly pretty boring. And the next levels didn't seem very fair because I was bad at visualizing where to go to dodge the incoming missiles. The idea of a 3D shooter like this is intriguing but the execution here was not very fun for me. It reminded me a little of Rez if Rez had been brutally hard and not just boring.

It was visually interesting though. The game used the mode 7 graphics in a nice way. The music was nice as well. But I want to have fun while playing a game, and that just wasn't happening here.

Rating: D+

Saturday, August 11, 2012

#9: Hal's Hole In One Golf

Is this the bar arcade game?
I think this may be the first game in this series which I hadn't played before. I'm not really sure since it plays pretty similar to most golf video games.

Do I really need a sand wedge?
Growing up golf games were actually pretty popular in my family. I can remember playing different golf courses on the Commodore 64 as a family outing. But I don't remember doing so on the SNES. I'd think we would have rented an early golf game for sure if it was available at any rental place but maybe it just wasn't in my area.

Laggy to generate, but impressive!
The game lets you analyze all the holes in detail as far as slopes and whatnot. What the game doesn't do is tell you where a given club is likely to land. It tells you distance to hole, and distance your club will go, but on longer holes it doesn't give you any way to know where the ball is going to go. You have to guess. Probably this is reasonable if you play the game over and over so you get a feel for avoiding the bunkers and water hazards on each hole. Playing it once? Meant I spent a lot of time in the water on some of the holes.

15 over par makes the cut, right?
Putting was pretty easy once I got a feel for it as you can see in my scorecard above. I even managed to get a couple of birdies near the end which was nice.

As far as golf games go this was decent but not spectacular. It wasn't much of a chore to finish out my round to have a final score to post but I had no desire at all to play again. I doubt it would have been a popular play back in the day, either. I feel like it had fewer features than the C64 game and almost as much lag when generating the maps but that could just be rose coloured glasses remembering the C64. At any rate, this game is playable even now but not a ton of fun.

Rating: C-

Saturday, August 4, 2012

#8: Final Fight

Street Fighter '89!
Final Fight was originally a very well received arcade game (it won best arcade game of the year in 1990) that Capcom ported to all sorts of systems. The SNES port removed multi-player and one of the playable characters, leaving you with two options:

Short skinny dude or fatman?
Haggar is the newly elected mayor who wants to clean up the mean streets. The Mad Gear Gang has other ideas and kidnaps his daughter in an attempt to blackmail him. Unfortunately for them he's a former street fighter champion and looks like he's still in fighting shape. Rob Ford he aint. So with a mission of recovering your daughter you set out...

Flying piledriver!
As far as beat-em-ups go this one is pretty straightforward. Walk to the right and punch everything that spawns. You get a few different grapple moves, a jump kick, and a punch. You can't move or turn while attacking or jumping. You walk pretty slowly. The enemies are brutal. You know, standard fare.

Andore The Giant?
I made it through the first stage with only a couple deaths. The second stage was rougher as I had to fight multiple Andores and they have a lot of health. I made it to the boss with no extra lives...

He brought swords to a fist fight... 8(
The boss was named Katana, and he had two katanas. One swing from a katana took off about 80% of my health. I died before I knew what happened. I had three continues so I used one and chose Cody. I was forced to start at the start of the level and Cody didn't even make it to the boss. He's faster which seems great but since you can't move while attacking was pretty much negated. I could run into Andore's attack range faster but he'd just kill me. I gave it one more try with Haggar, made it to the boss, and exploded. I knocked him down a few times but he'd charge back at me when he stood up and I couldn't find a way to avoid the attack. It hit for 40% of my health. I don't think I could kill him with max lives with those sorts of damage trades! There must be a trick of some sort but I didn't want to keep playing that level over and over. You win, Mad Gear Gang. You win.

Rating: D