Saturday, January 26, 2013

#33: Super E.D.F.: Earth Defense Force

If you're going to stick the whole thing in the title, why have an acronym too?
We've hit another game I'd never played before, or even heard of! I recognize the company name solely from Super Bases Loaded which was fine but unspectacular. What is this game, and would it do any better?
It's only logical.
Well, the first thing I got to do is choose a weapon and there's a terrible graphic of a ship being held in place by a couple of robot arms, so this is probably a side scrolling shooter. That's quite a variety of weapons and it's a little sad that I'll probably only get to have one of them at a time. Maybe power-ups will give the rest?

Yep, definitely a side scrolling shooter, but one with no power-ups to collect. The weapon you choose is what you've got until you die. On the plus side you only have 3 health points and no extra lives so you're going to die in a real hurry. Especially if you make the mistake of choosing a weapon that only shoots forward, like the vulcan. The second wave of enemies comes from above! And covers the entire screen! And repeats seconds later! I honestly can't see how someone who chose the vulcan weapon doesn't lose 2 of their 3 health almost instantly. My second choice was the homing missiles which worked exactly as advertised. I no longer had to worry about trying to hit enemies and just had to worry about dodging bullets. Which worked fine until I made it to the boss who covered the screen in lines of bullets. I bet if you knew the pattern you could pre-plan your dodges, but I didn't so I couldn't. And when I died I was forced to restart from the beginning.

Oh, and the game has lag issues when there's lots of bullets on the screen like pretty much every shooter on the SNES thus far.

The game had three buttons, but I honestly couldn't tell you what one of them did. The other one toggled your ship between being terrible and being awesome so you only hit it once. At least it had auto-fire so I just had to hold the shoot button down.

There've been a lot of medicore to bad shooters thus far, and this one definitely falls on the bad side of things. I didn't miss anything as a kid by not playing this game.

Rating: F+

Saturday, January 19, 2013

#32: Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninjas

Ok, I can't keep quiet about this... Why is this game subtitled "Caveman Ninjas"? I have an idea of what it means to be a ninja and there's no way Joe or Mac are ninjas. Ninjas are supposed to be stealthy. Agile. They should use cool weapons like katanas and throwing stars. They're apt to be tall and thin. Joe is a short, beefy man who wields a club and throws dinosaur bones. He has bright coloured hair and wears a loin cloth.

Joe the Angel
The game itself is a reasonable platformer. I don't know if there's a plot to the game covered in the manual or something but there was nothing at all in the game. You run around clubbing dinosaurs for a short period of time and then you do a predictable boss fight. Repeat. I vaguely recall the 2 player mode being a good addition but I can't really check it out now. One innovation it had is the 'angel' that appears after you die. You can fly him around such that you get to choose where you respawn on the screen. I remember this fetaure showing up in New Super Mario Bros Wii and thinking it was pretty innovative. Well, it was in Joe & Mac 21 years ago!

After beating a boss a scantily clad tall woman with very bright hair runs onto the screen to give Joe a kiss. I believe I saw red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. So there's a whole rainbow of tall amazons out there looking to make out with a caveman ninja. Are these women being held captive by giant plants and dinosaurs? Are they groupies following Joe around? And why are they all so much taller than Joe? It's not like they're wearing high heels either, since they're barefoot!

Rating: A-

Saturday, January 12, 2013

#31: Super Off Road

Sponsored by Toyota
Super Off Road was a reasonably fun arcade game ported to the SNES three years later. Would they add anything to make it better or is this yet another sad arcade port?
Sponsored by Toyota
It turns out it's not really either one. They added a couple tracks and changed the game over criteria but otherwise it's very faithful to the arcade game, and not in a bad way. Setting it up so you need to finish not last instead of first is a really nice touch. As long as you never have a bad race you can keep playing and upgrading your car and having fun.

Of course, you have a bad race and it destroys your car. I lost most of my purchased upgrades and would need to play 5 or 6 races to get back to my old state. After I just lost. If losing had been a function of my car not being good enough and not a function of me driving the wrong way for 30 seconds this would be a big problem. As is, though, I probably could have recovered if I wanted to. But the punishment was so brutal and the game wasn't actually that fun so I didn't want to.

Part of the appeal of the arcade game was getting to use a steering wheel and gas pedals. The controller worked fine, but it wasn't as interesting. There's nothing actually wrong with the SNES port, I'm just not a big fan of the genre in general and the continue feature was a little too brutal for me. The music is pretty good even if part of it is based on a Toyota commercial jingle.

Rating: B-

Saturday, January 5, 2013

#30: Super Castlevania IV

Where are Super Castlevanias I, II, and III?
I was looking forward to playing this game though I didn't remember anything about it from my youth. Mostly I remember how awesome some of the later Castlevania games were (like Symphony of the Night) and was looking forward to putting a lot of time in on this. I started playing Friday evening with every intention of playing it a lot on Friday and a lot on Saturday.
Nice '3d' touch with the passable gate.
Unfortunately I didn't need nearly that long. I made it through most of 3 levels and then got stuck falling into bottomless pits and gave up. Maybe it's that I was sick when I was playing it so may not have had top reflexes or sufficient patience but I just got really frustrated with how far back the last checkpoint was. Eventually I ended up falling into other bottomless pits on the way to the one I was stuck on. With my skills degrading I decided to give up.


That said, Super Castlevania IV had some interesting gameplay twists that I liked. I love being able to hook my whip onto these little ring things and swing around. Makes me think I'm Indiana Jones! The gates were nice. Crumbling blocks over pits are a staple of the platformer genre around this time and it was nice that they respawned if you walked away from the screen and back again. They put some serious work into making neat graphics as well. The wooden bridge in the below screenshot has the wooden planks move down when your weight is on them, and if you jump up you wiggle the rope handrail.

There were also plenty of downsides. I had no clue who my character was. I had no clue what he was doing. I assume since it's a Castlevania game that I'm some sort of Belmont out to kill Dracula but some sort of cutscene or plot development or text of any kind on the level intro screens would have been nice. As far as I could tell I was playing a spooky but mediocre platformer. Honestly, platformerwise it felt pretty comparable to ActRaiser. A jump button, an attack button, a cast a spell button. Orbs to hit for points/health nodules. Bosses with easy to learn patterns. ActRaiser had a whole other game beside the platformer though, and Castlevania does not. I feel like it's better than Home Alone, though, and I suspect if I was a little better at one jump that I'd have enjoyed the game a lot more. The spooky music was definitely a plus as well.

Rating: A-