Saturday, December 27, 2014

#133: Goal!

Soccer in Sim City!
I'd not heard of Goal! before today, and was awfully wary of what I was going to get once I saw it was by Jaleco. The name certainly implies soccer, so I was expecting a mediocre to unplayable soccer game.
In actuality I got a pretty good soccer game. The button scheme was a little weird (R to change players) but once I worked out what was going on it was easy enough to know what I wanted to do and how to do it. The game played fluidly and it didn't feel like the AI was cheating. I suspect it would have been a lot of fun two player back in the day.

Rub it in, why don't you?
The game had a cup mode on top of the exhibition mode that I played. So I don't know if that's any good or not, but given that the rest of the game is pretty smooth I can't see it as being a detriment at any rate.

And as an aside... Does Canada's soccer team really run a blue and hot pink colour scheme? If so, that's awesome!

Rating: A-

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#132: Gemfire

Flame on!
When I saw this next game was a Koei game I'd never played before I was tentatively excited. On the one hand if I've never heard of it then it probably isn't spectacular. On the other hand I don't know if I've ever played a bad Koei game. I didn't know what to expect with a name like Gemfire. It sounds like a jRPG?
I wanted the pink haired girl but couldn't
say no to Jim Carrey's The Riddler.
It turns out to be Romance of the Fantasy Kingdoms. It's pretty much just a stripped down version of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series with a couple of neat twists. Every army is evenly split into 4 units. One archer, one cavalry, and two infantry units. Then each army can also bring along a fifth awesome unit. Each faction has their own wizard they can bring every now and then, and you can recruit a wide variety of fantasy creatures like gargoyles and skeletons and fire breathing lizards.

Wizards are insane!
I think this is the first game in an awfully long time where I lost track of time and just kept playing the game. Probably Soul Blazer was the last one way back at #72, so more than a year ago. The AI is not great (I was able to leave provinces completely undefended and it would take a fair number of turns before the AI would attack in) and I feel like my start in one corner province with a small army was going to end up winning the game.

The music in the game is pretty good. The graphics are not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination but it conveys the information you need to know in a pretty good way.

The game was also introduced at the beginning as being part of their 'imagination series'. I'd heard of the 'historical series' but not the imagination one. I wonder if there are any more games in it? Turns out yes, kinda. There's one other game in it, a PC only game.

I definitely would have loved this game as a kid, especially since I'm sure we would have played it two player to get rid of some of the issues with the AI.

Rating: A+

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#131: The Duel: Test Drive II

En Garde!
Here is another game I didn't know existed. The name had me leaning in two directions... Duel implies a fighting game but test drive implies a driving game. It turns out it's a head to head driving game. I'm not a fan of driving games in general so I wasn't really looking forward to this.

It's the Fuzz!
Have you ever been pulled over for speeding in a racing game? I have! In this game you pick a powerful sports car (I was in a Lambourghini and I raced against a Ferrari) and then have a race on a real road. The other car played 'safe' and only topped out at 100 miles per hour. I managed to hit the speed cap at 168 miles per hour. I'm pretty sure the speed limit would have been something like 55, so I was driving down the road at more than three times the legal speed! And it turned out getting pulled over is the wrong thing to do when a cop starts chasing you. The right thing to do is drive super fast and lose him!

Of course it turns out driving that fast on a road with other people on it is a little dangerous. They give you 5 lives so you're allowed to crash a few times.

Perhaps most importantly, the game actually controlled well. I suspect the physics of skidding when driving that fast aren't realistic, but they felt good. Not too easy to control, not too hard either. Good sound/music/speech synth as well.

I don't like driving games in general, but I really enjoyed playing this game. Well done, Accolade. Well done.

Rating: A+

Saturday, December 6, 2014

#130: Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool

Buy Cheetos!
Chester Cheetah? Isn't he the Cheetos mascot? What is he doing with a video game? Movie video games have a bad reputation (with good reason) but straight up advertising games? Those are generally atrocious! But maybe this game will be different?

Cool Shades, Dude.
The short answer is no. This game is really bad. A platformer with only two buttons, jump and dash. And for some reason they chose B and R to be the two buttons they used. It's also silly easy (and by extension, fairly boring). I guess it is a functional 'game' but it reminded me a lot of Captain Novolin. Except that game was trying to educate kids about diabetes. This game is just to shill cheese snacks.

Apparently this game was part of a program to get kids thinking about Chester Cheetah without explicitly advertising Cheetos but the Saturday morning cartoon got banned because it featured a product mascot.

Rating: F+

Saturday, November 29, 2014

#129: Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball

Junior Baseball?
Well, it's pretty obvious what we're going to run into here. A baseball game with Cal Ripken Jr's endorsement. I'm not a terribly big fan of baseball games now, but I used to like them a lot back when I was a kid. Is this a game I would have liked back then?

This game has some high points, and some low points. The high points include the really great music and sound effects. It has an organ playing a pretty good rendition of the US National Anthem, for example. And it said "Play Ball!" at the end of it just like it felt like it should. I like those little details in a game. The low points involve fake rosters (except for Cal Ripkin), horrendous pitching, and terrible fielding. The batting wasn't great either. And I can't talk about the baserunning since the only time I didn't get out was when I hit a homerun.

Watch live video from TheGreatZiggyny on Twitch

I streamed my experience playing this game. Mostly as a test of my ability to stream through an emulator, but it worked well enough I'll probably do it again next week.

Anyway... I don't think young Nick would have enjoyed this game very much at all. But it is a functional game, I have to give it that. And the sweet music is enough to earn it a plus.

Rating: D+

Sunday, November 23, 2014

#128: Bulls vs Blazers and the NBA Playoffs

Go Raptors?
I was sad that yesterday's game was a Super Scope only game, and I did skip a week when I moved last month, so I figured I'd double up on SNES games this weekend. While I had never played this particular game before I had a really good idea what I was getting myself into with the very descriptive name. Go basketball!?!

Jordan? YAUS!
The game is named Bulls vs Blazers, so I had to play a game with those teams. They had a list of 16 teams to pick from. Which is weird, since the NBA had 27 teams that season. And since they had actual team and player names they had to have had a deal with the NBA and the NBAPA... So why leave 11 teams out of the game? The Raptors weren't even in the league at this point, so I can't be bitter that they didn't include them in this game.

I don't think he's going to block this shot...
Unfortunately when it comes to sports basketball may be the only one I find truly boring. I can't get into it at the best of times, and this game is not the best of times. I figured it would be a good plan to pass the ball to Jordan and have him hit 3 pointers. He missed every single one. So then I tried giving the ball to Jordan and having him rush the net and shoot layups. He misses every single one of those. So in frustration I took a shot from my own 3 point line with a random guy. Of course it went in. And on that note I turned the game off... Well, first I went into instant replay (a sweet feature, I must say) to get the screenshot.

Rating: C

Saturday, November 22, 2014

#127: X-Zone

I had never heard of the game X-Zone. In my mind that word is only associated with the SNES Final Fantasy games as an instant death spell I never really used. The game started with a neat intro explaining the story... Something went wrong with the biocomputer controlling some country's defenses and it's about to start a war that will end the world. I need to go in and stop it! It looks like I'm riding in a jetpack so this is probably a platformer or a scrolling shooter...

Super Scope it is...
And then I got to the title screen, and it showed the Super Scope, and I knew I was screwed. But maybe, just maybe, this would be a game that had a controller input option? Nope. I couldn't even get into the game to die... I had to select my difficulty by shooting the screen first, and I sure couldn't do that.

And so, there's not much to say about this game. The internet tells me it's one of the rarest games for the SNES because it was only ever released in Scandinavia? And it wasn't any good.

Rating: INC

Saturday, November 15, 2014

#126: Wordtris

Nice flipped 'R'!
I'd never heard of the game Wordtris, but just from the name I was envisioning some sort of cross between Scrabble and Tetris. Turns out that's pretty much exactly what it is. Instead of Tetris blocks you're dropping squares with a single letter on them. Form a word horizontally or vertically and score points. The bigger the word, the more points you get. Seems simple enough...

Tasty fire?!?
The twist comes with the mechanic in the middle of the screen, which is basically like quicksand. A single block will float on the surface. Add a block on top of that one and it'll push the previous block down. But only until it hits the bottom at which point it will start stacking up. It made working out what was going to happen a little tricky, but in a cool way.

I lose. 8(
After you complete a few words it advances to the next 'level' which causes the blocks to fall faster and faster. They were falling so fast that I couldn't actually figure out where I wanted to put a block. The best I could do was try to see if it was a vowel coming down and throw those into specific columns and hope words got formed. They often did, but it wasn't much fun since I didn't really feel like I could make decisions. Tetris works the same way I guess, but in that game you only have something like 7 possible options so it's easier to glance up and parse what's coming next and make a plan. Here with the blocks sinking and 29 possible options (a bomb, a dynamite, and a ?) it just wasn't feasible to play more than a few levels. (I died on level H, or 8.)

And I have no idea what's going on with the circus themed pictures on the right hand side of the screen.

This felt like it could have been a pretty cool idea for a game. But the blocks need to fall a lot slower, or possible not fall at all until the user drops them. You could have the points scale according to how long it took you, but then you could still take the time to work out a combo or whatever.

Rating: C

Saturday, November 8, 2014

#125: Wing Commander

Wing Commander opens with a credits screen where it starts off with the 3 writer/directors. Considering most of the games I've played in this adventure have felt like the plot could have come off the back of a cereal box that's really encouraging. Now, I played a lot of this game as a kid (my friend Robin owned it and lent it to us every now and then), so I remembered it as being pretty sweet as far as story goes. You go on a bunch of space combat missions with a variety of goals and the story changes based on how good you do on those goals. You can lead humanity to victory or you can actually be forced to run away from the bad guys.

The game opens with what feels like an old Sierra point and click game. I move the cursor around and click to interact with the people and things on the screen. There's a training simulator, a bartender, some fellow pilots with advice, a scoreboard, and an exit. The whole time there's some pretty great background music playing.

This game really went all out on the cutscenes. When I go for my first mission it has lots of little videos with people standing up, and running, and it all looks really awesome. I was doing pretty good on my first mission (I killed 3 enemies!) but then I flew into an asteroid and died. It did a death replay video, and then it went to a memorial cutscene where they gave me a eulogy and then sent my body off into space. I hope I land on the Genesis planet!

I did some reading and apparently this game was first released on PC and was ported to the SNES two years later. It spawned an entire genre of games, including one of my favourite PC games in high school, Tie Fighter. It was well received at the time, and it was still pretty fun now. The graphics and the music and the sound are all top notch. Having a real, coherent plot that changes based on your actions is mind blowing. And then to actually have a pretty good space combat game on top of that? I'm flabbergasted.

Rating: S

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#124: Super Star Wars

Use the force, Luke!
Super Star Wars opens with music from Star Wars and a pretty detailed title screen for a SNES game. I hadn't played the game before, but I have watched plenty of speed runs for the entire series of games, so I knew what to expect. A variety of stages using a variety of characters as you play through the plot of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Or maybe use a blaster?
Well, as you loosely play through the plot, anyway. I'm pretty sure the movies open with Luke being emo about having to do chores on a farm, not having to jump around shooting scorpions and a Sarlacc Pit Monster with a blaster.

Your droid is in another castle!
I sure don't remember this scene from the movie... I was able to beat the fly around in a speeder level but then the platforming in the Jawa sandcrawler was too much for me. I kept missing a jump and having to start the level over because it's one big climbing level.

The game controlled reasonably well, so I can't really say I failed because the game is bad. Partly I want to blame my hand going numb and partly I want to just say I'm bad at platformers now. I do think this game would have been fun as a kid, even with the creative licenses taken to fit the plot into a sequence of platformer levels.

Rating: B+

Saturday, October 18, 2014

#123: Spider-Man & X:Men: Arcade's Revenge

Does whatever a X can!
I vaguely remember playing this game as a kid, and I remember watching a speedrun of it in one of the marathons I watched this year, so I knew what I was getting into. It's a platformer where you get to choose which character you want to play. Not so you can use the right abilities to beat a level as each character has their own level to play tailored to them. So no interesting choices, really, you just get to pick what order to play in.

The game opens with a comic style intro, which is awesome. I like when a game tells me a little about what is going on. Even when it's as little as 'garbage truck has been eating X-Men, Spider-Man watched from above and is going to help out'.

My spider-senses are tingling...
You know how I said I watched this game in a marathon? It was during a block of AGDQ where they switched what the A stood for. Most of the week was 'Awesome Games Done Quick' but for a chunk of time they instead did 'Awful Games Done Quick'. This game was Awful. And it still is. The controls are bad, and the level design is terrible. Spider-Man had to backtrack through his level 4 or 5 times to collect all the items in order to open the door. All the enemies are killed off on the first pass... Blerg!

It looks like a cool enough game. But it plays awfully. 5 different characters, 5 different platformers, 5 different sets of controls... All bad. Still a playable game, so better than some of the dreck I've played, but really not any good at all.

Rating: D

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#122: Road Runner's Death Valley Rally

I grew up watching Looney Tunes cartoons, and this game really captures the feel of those cartoons. It has the right sounds. It has the right music. The intro video did the whole 'pause the screen and use fake latin to describe the characters' thing.

Coyote so hungry!
You play the role of the Road Runner in this game and you play a Sonic style platformer with the twist that you need to avoid the Coyote and whatever crazy contraption he's put together to try to catch you. I never really played Sonic games so I don't know if it had the same problem this game had, but I found I was moving way too fast to possibly react to incoming obstacles. I'm sure if you played the game a lot you could memorize the locations of all the spikey plants and scorpions and the like but I kept running into them, losing my speed burst, and getting annoyed.

They managed to make use of lots of buttons on the SNES controller, in particular by making R be a taunt button where the Road Runner stuck out his tongue and L be a taunt button where the Road Runner pulls off a BEEP BEEP sound effect. It made the game feel a lot like the cartoon, where Road Runner would often stick out his tongue or BEEP BEEP at Wile E Coyote after some plan backfired on him. In this case the wheel of his steamroller detached and is about to loop around and crush the poor dejected Coyote.

Now, I need to be honest here... I always hated the Road Runner. I identified with the Coyote. He's a smart guy with lots of cool outside the box ideas who keeps getting taunted by others for his failures. The Road Runner is a bully! I wanted the Coyote to catch him and eat all his delicious bits. The feather that tastes like banana... YUM! Anyway, that makes a game where I have to take the role of the bully not one I really want to play. You wouldn't want to play a Back to the Future game where you're Biff Tannen, would you?

The game has good music and sound and controls and feel. But I didn't like the protagonist and I didn't like the game/level design with being forced to run into obstacles the first time you meet them. But I could see this being a game people could like, so I can't dock it too much.

Rating: C+

Saturday, October 4, 2014

#121: Road Riot 4WD

Down with roads!
I was expecting a race game from the name, and then from the title screen I was expecting a bad racing game. I'm not sure why TENGEN makes me shudder a little, but it does. THQ is one of the worst rated licensees so far for me, and I've never felt like Atari was a good SNES developer either. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised?

Nope. Not even a little bit. These are definite Atari era graphics. I'm really starting to hate bad ports of older games on my SNES. Which is a little odd since I gave both of the last two games S- ratings and they were both ports of older games. I guess the difference is those two games were really good games initially and a random arcade racer isn't apt to be really good? Maybe it's just the genre? But I've played some racing games built for the SNES explicitly (F-Zero, Super Mario Kart) and those were both really good. Eh... All I can really say for sure is Road Riot 4WD is terrible.

Elvis Presley is probably copyrighted. I bet no one will notice if we rename him Elvis Vegas!
The sound is bad. The controls are bad. You have two buttons, go fast and shoot your gun. Go fast is B. Shoot your gun in R. What? GRR!

I don't think we rented this one back in the day, and we didn't miss anything.

Rating: F

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#120: Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia is a lot like the last game we enountered, Out of This World. It's a puzzle platformer ported from an old computer game with an actual plot. Prince of Persia is more about quickly finding your way through a maze where Out of This World was more about a precise sequence of inputs but they're both very similar feeling games, especially compared to other SNES offerings. It's a little odd they both came out in the same month but I'd imagine November is a pretty key month for getting out games in order to hit the Christmas rush.
Slowly climb down or fall to your death!
I really like how the game had an intro cinematic explaining what was going on. The sultan's vizier (Jaffar, obviously) is trying to marry the princess. But she's in love with the player character and doesn't want to marry Jaffar. So Jaffar locks up the player and summons a magical hourglass with 2 hours on it. You have that much time to break out of prison and rescue the princess or she will be forced to marry Jaffar instead. The time ticks down as you play the game, and if you die you have to restart the current level but you don't get the time back. So there's time pressure to do well, and the game looked to have a high score mechanism so there was replayability added in with trying to go faster and faster on subsequent playthroughs!
En guarde!
The first level involves jumping and climbing until you find a sword and then using said sword to kill a guard and escape out of this section of the dungeon. The controls change when you're on the same floor as an enemy and you switch to swordfight mode with block and lunge buttons. If your sword is drawn and you get hit you take 1 damage. If your sword is not out you are instantly slain. Seems reasonable enough!

The controls in the game are a little wonky with the character always running if you don't hold down the 'creep slowly' button and with stopping/turning involving a skidding turn, but you get used to them and they really make the game feel distinct. If someone tells me a game has Prince of Persia style movement I know what they mean even with 20 years between plays of the game.

I recently hurt my wrist and while it's getting better I can't keep playing for hours on end or I probably would be doing so with this one. I'm sad that I had to stop after a few tries at the second level (eventually dying to a hidden spike trap on the floor!)

Rating: S-

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#119: Out of This World

Out of This World is a puzzle platformer type of game where there's really only one correct sequence of inputs that will advance the storyline and plenty of incorrect sequences that result in your gruesome death. It reminds me a little of Dragon's Lair that way, actually. Screw up, watch yourself die in a hilarious fashion, try again.

I got too close to a worm and it poisoned me!
The graphics in this game blew me away. I remembered how the game looked but for some reason I was thinking that had to have been a PC version since there was no way the SNES could do this sort of thing. Turns out I was remembering the SNES version. The cutscenes are incredible and the gameplay screens look pretty darn good too. I guess there's actually not a whole lot going on in them so they probably just had a lot of good artists working on it? The minimal movement probably saves on SNES processing power? Maybe? I don't know. I just know it looks fantastic.

I beat the first level and unlocked my friend and a gun. The gun has a limited number of shots and you need it to last through a pretty big stage so you can't waste any shots. I am not good at not wasting shots. Eventually I decided I wasn't likely to beat the level anytime soon and gave up, but I was actually making progress. If I was looking to spend a day or two learning a puzzle platformer this game would be the one to do it on. I watched a speedrun of this game in one of the marathons I watched earlier this year and it is pretty sweet.

This game also had a legitimate intro movie where it set the stage for what was happening in the game. More SNES games need to do this! I imagine a lot of the story was actually shunted off into manuals which I don't have but it's still nice to see some of it in the game itself.

Rating: S-

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#118: On the Ball

Get on that ball!
I was thinking a game named On the Ball was going to be a sports game of some kind or maybe a platformer where you're rolling around on a ball. I was very much mistaken. It turns out On the Ball is a puzzle game where there's a ball which is dropping towards the bottom of the screen thanks to gravity. You as the player need to rotate the terrain clockwise or counterclockwise to guide the ball to the goal. It's a clever little puzzle game.

Colour/pattern overload!
They don't show you an overview of the entire level and the view is pretty zoomed in so they added on arrows to the terrain in an attempt to direct you towards the exit. It worked pretty well. There are zones on the harder levels that subtract time if you bump into them with no real warning that they exist, but I suspect those are the sorts of things you get better at avoiding with practice.

Through everything... Turn... Turn... Turn...
I feel like the puzzle genre has evolved over the last 22 years and I'm not much for time limits and losing when you're too slow at solving a puzzle, but I wish I'd played this game as a kid. I have a feeling my whole family might have gotten into playing it. The game even keeps high scores (I hope between sessions) so you could race for best times and such. Actually, I wonder if anyone has ever speedrun this game?

Rating: B+

Saturday, September 6, 2014

#117: John Madden Football '93

Wow, when I turned this one on did the memories every flood in. The opening music is stuck in my brain for ever and ever. The intro graphics are cheesy, but they're the right kind of cheesy. And they got real, solid voice coming through. Touch-touch-touch-touchdown! HUT! HUT!

You sure did, John.
I didn't own this game as a kid but I'm pretty sure Robin did and I'd borrow it every now and then. I never played football as a kid, and I didn't really watch it on tv either. But playing this game showed the possibilities that existed in this sport. It's like Pounder says; football is a two player strategy game where the random number generator is played by large men. Madden '93 has full playbooks. It has audibles. It has different pass targets for each play. It really is a turn based strategy game.

And the crowd goes wild!
EA started to get some of the little things going with this version of the game, too. I got sacced for negative yardage on one play and the crowd booed at me. Pull off a 25 yard pass and it shows a clip of fans cheering and plays a nice roar. They didn't have the NFLPA on board so my Detroit team was lead by #20 at running back instead of by Barry Sanders, but it's ok. #20 is still awesome.

The controls still felt smooth. I was certainly rusty but I'll blame that on getting old not on the game itself. This was a very good football game. It still is, really. I could see myself playing this game for days on end again if I didn't have so many other games to play.

Rating: A+

Saturday, August 30, 2014

#116: Imperium

Giant robots, yo!
November 1992 appears to have been the month for shooters I'd never heard of. I'm going to pretty happy next week when this streak breaks... But for now, another shooter!

This game started off with some good music and an actual intro. I know the backstory for the game. There are evil robots, and enslaved robots, and the enslaved robots built a super machine to fight the evil robots. The twist? Only a human can pilot the super machine. I don't know where they found a human, but I am that human. And now I get to ride the super machine. Woo!

This game actually takes a couple twists on the genre that I really, really liked. To start, you don't die in one shot when you get hit. You have 5 health bars and are just game over when they run out. So it's still harsh, but it doesn't mandate perfect play. The second twist is how powerups are awarded. Normally in a shooter you have a bunch of enemies that are irrelevant and a couple that give powerups. In this game every enemy is worth experience and you level up after set values of experience. Leveling up heals you and unlocks a new attack. You also have a speed value so you control how fast you move.

I found the game pretty hard, actually. I didn't make it to a boss or the next level or anything. But I like hard when the hard is from legitimate challenge and not from bad interface or mechanics. Add on the good music and an actual intro and this is a game I regret not playing as a kid.

Rating: A