Saturday, November 24, 2012

#24: Super Tennis

There are some sports that make for good video games right out of the box. There are other sports that just don't have anything special going on in them. Tennis is a great game to actually play in person. It provides great exercise and if you're good at it there's all kinds of neat things you can make the ball do. In a video game, not so much. Either a shot is really good and should be used to win most points or it's really bad and shouldn't be used at all.
20 playable characters!
I started up a circuit event instead of just playing a single match. I had to pick a character and chose to go with Yuka. It turns out they all have different stats and Yuka is actually quite bad. Very slow but doesn't hit hard enough to make up for it. Oh well.

I got blown out. My first match was on clay. My opponent was able to hit the ball slow enough that it wouldn't even bounce to me at the back line. But if I moved in, she would hit it very hard and I wouldn't be able to reach it in time. Turns out being very slow is very bad.

Oh my!
I spent most of my first match trying to figure out the controls. Not so much so I could hit the ball better, but because some of the time I could reveal my panties and I wanted to take a screenshot of it. Because that's actually what watching tennis on tv means to me. I am such a sad person.

At any rate, the game wasn't terribly fun or interesting. My best plan for winning seemed to be to just make contact and assume the opponent would eventually miss an easy shot before I did.

I remember playing this as a kid, because I remember changing the colour of the tennis ball in the pause menu. But I don't remember playing it much or having fun with it. Probably because I didn't. But if I actually wanted to play a decent tennis game, I guess this would be it.

Rating: C

Saturday, November 17, 2012

#23: Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts

Super Spooky!
One of the old video game review sites I read posted a review of this game a year and a half ago and I remember getting a little riled up about it. He talked the game up as being one of the hardest on the SNES, then gave up after getting killed repeatedly about 4 monsters into the game. At the time my memory of the game wasn't one of a hard game. I know my brother used to rent this a fair bit and we were both pretty good at it. Of course we'd played a lot of the C64 Ghosts and Goblins game and maybe we're just really, really good at games? I don't know.

Unhand my blue haired beauty!
I loaded the game up and got right into it. The first level started with a rock I couldn't jump over. I mashed some buttons, discovered I had a double jump, and was off to the races. I was double jumping all over the place because that's what you do when you can double jump. Of course it turns out you can't change direction while in the air (except by jumping the second time which defies the laws of physics in many ways and lets you change direction). So I quickly started dying by coasting into enemies during my second jump. Ok, lesson learned... Only double jump when you have to, and never double jump at maximum velocity toward the edge of the screen since enemies could spawn where you can't avoid them.

Green armour!
Ghouls 'N Ghosts features a lot of power-ups you can obtain as you play. You start with silver armour which absorbs one point of damage. You can get green armour which powers up your attack but still only absorbs one hit. If you have green armour you can get gold armour which really powers up your attack and still only absorbs one hit. Then you have a wide variety of primary weapons. Lance, dagger, bow, magical fire... Magical fire sounds awesome but has the real problem that you can only have 2 of them on the screen at once. So if you throw two of them to your right you actually have no way to damage enemies from the left until the old ones completely finish their animation. It sucks! Well, you have to adjust to it, anyway.

A very popular screen in this game.
The early platforming part wasn't too bad. I got the hang of using the weapons properly. I got the hang of being careful with my jumps. I learned the patterns of all the enemies and could make it to the halfway point of the level pretty handily. At the halfway mark a giant wave sweeps up from the background and wipes out about two-thirds of the land. If you were standing in a spot that got wiped out you were instantly killed. There was no warning. There was no way to know which spots were safe. If you died you had to go back to the very start. And while I could beat that stuff it still took a fair amount of time and was by no means guaranteed.

So I had to memorize safe spots from the wave. Fine, got it... And then died to the next wave. Ok, get back there, live through two waves... Get hit by a clam which knocks me backwards into a pit. Dead. Ok, get back. Manage to survive the third wave without warning... And then double jump my way into a pit. I give up.

Take a listen to the first stage music. This music is awesome. It properly conveys the feeling of being in a graveyard, attacked by zombies, but has an uplifting beat because you know you can win if you work at it. Which is how I feel about this game. It's hard, but it isn't exactly unfair. On the one hand it sucks that the wave thing will instantly kill practically everyone who gets to it the first time. But on the other hand it doesn't take out random sections of the terrain. It takes out precise sections and you can totally memorize where to stand. This game feels a lot like pattern recognition. Demon dogs will kill you when they first show up but you learn how they jump and then can beat them pretty easily.

Maybe that's why I remember my brother and I beating this game as kids? We had the time and the inclination to die over and over again while adding new patterns to our memories? It certainly helped that we had the video game motor skills to pull off the moves needed once we figured out what those moves were. And plenty of spare time to sink in.

When I think of video games of my youth this game actually really personifies the era. You die a lot. And that's ok! Just keep trying. The game doesn't apologize for what it is. And while I don't currently have the time or inclination to get good at it again that's not a flaw in the game itself. I like that the game is hard, but ultimately beatable. Video games today have fallen away from this point of view (look at 'looking for raid' raids in World of Warcraft, for example) but that doesn't mean I have to like the change. I liked the way games were and I'm going to reward this game with a good rating for really following the old school way.

Rating: A-

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#22: RPM Racing

Radical Psycho Machine? What?
The first thing about this game is it wasn't even included in the massive ROM pack I found when I started this little adventure. It didn't take long to find it online, but it was still a little odd that it wasn't included. I did some looking and can't find any reason it wouldn't have been included. It was released in both NA and Japan. It apparently was the first game developed in the US for the SNES. Also, it's a remake of a Commodore 64 game.
Pimp Your Ride!
Reading that makes sense to me, since the game played a lot like a C64 game. And I mean that in a bad way. There was one button that did anything. I guess start also paused the game but everything else went unused. I hate when they can't figure out useful things for other buttons. For example, there's no way to go in reverse so if I wanted to go backwards I had to spin in a circle.
Terrible Camera Angle!
Why would I want to go backwards? Because of this hill. You slowed down as you climbed the hill and you actually couldn't get to the top from the bottom. You had to turn around and go down the ramp in the background to build up speed. See that yellow car? He wasn't smart enough to turn around and actually never got up the hill. He just kept trying to climb the hill, stalling out partway up, and falling back to the bottom.

The sound was terrible. The graphics tried using a different graphics style with fewer colours but deeper contrasts? Whatever it was, I didn't like it. The gameplay was terrible. You could spend money to upgrade your vehicle but you didn't get any money unless you won a race. And I wasn't able to win a race in my first two tries. Maybe because I had a terrible car!

I almost wish I had a rating lower than F- since I feel like this game may be worse than Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball. Eh, probably not. But this game is still pretty darn terrible. Why did so many games get ported from outdated systems? I don't want to play medicore C64 games on my SNES now and I can't imagine I would have wanted to back in the day either.

Rating: F-

Saturday, November 3, 2012

#21: Paperboy 2

Wait, what's a newspaper?
I can remember the original Paperboy being one of my favourite games on the Commodore 64. It was hard, and controlling it with a joystick was wonky, but compared to other games at the time it was pretty fun. And the fact that you'd get game over after a few minutes wasn't so bad because it meant my brother could then take a turn. And then he'd lose in a few minutes and I'd get to go again!

That's not fair!
Paperboy 2 definitely continues that tradition. Most sewer grates do nothing. Some of them have monsters that reach out and kill you. Pranked!

Baby Bung?
The camera angle is a little wonky. I get that you need to see the houses in order to aim your papers at the mailboxes instead of at windows. And to see people throwing junk at you. But then you get no time at all to react to something like a runaway baby carriage.
Wanh waaaaah.
I'm sure there's a lot of pattern recognition going on. You learn to avoid the grates. You learn to stay off the left hand sidewalk. You learn the right timing for each speed to hit the mailboxes. I don't feel like playing enough to get good at this game. I played 3 times and definitely got a higher score each time. But it wasn't terribly fun. I donno. Quirky things happening on a street just isn't amusing to me anymore. Repeated game-overs just aren't my thing either.

But those are issues with the game design, not with the game implementation. This game is very good for what it's trying to be. It's not trying to be a long, fair game. It feels like it's trying to be an arcade game which wants your quarters and is giving you small chunks of a fun game in return.

Rating: B