Saturday, April 26, 2014

#98: NCAA Basketball

No developer credits on the title screen...
As far as hardcore gamers seem to go I'm a pretty big sports fan. Watching sports, playing sports, playing sports games... I tend to like it all. Except basketball. For whatever reason I've always found basketball to be frustrating to play and boring to watch. Maybe it's being short and bad at jumping with low upper body strength? I don't know, I'm terrible at other sports and I can still enjoy them. Just not basketball.
If there's something else I've never gotten into it's the NCAA. I'm not from the US so US college sports has never appealed to me. There are football bowl games and this whole March Madness thing but I've always just found it easier to ignore it than try to figure it all out. All the power to people who do get into it, but it's not me. So while this game looks like it has all the actual conferences and teams and things, that gets no bonus points from me. It also looks like the player names are faked since I looked up the Demon Deacons rosters from around 1992 and none of those players were on it. (Aside: Demon Deacons is such an awesome name and they have a fantastic logo!)

Hughes is _wide open_ down court?
The game itself has the 'interesting' rotating camera movement that I remember from Stanley Cup Hockey. I remember finding it disconcerting in that game and it's not much better here.

The controls didn't make a whole lot of sense. I couldn't find a way to actually do anything when the enemy had the ball. I could move around, and I could jump, but I couldn't find a 'strip the ball' button. That's probably realistic? Basketball defense is probably a lot of standing around in zone control and jumping to block shots? Shots never got blocked though. Either way.

The game had a difficulty setting, and I put it on easy, which meant almost all of my 3 point shots went in no matter where I shot from. Getting stuck playing a sports game where I can't score at all is pretty frustrating so I like that this exists, but it also meant winning was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Assuming I could find it in myself to actually play out 24 minutes of basketball. (Spoiler: I couldn't.)

Rating: D

Saturday, April 19, 2014

#97: King of the Monsters

I recognized the name King of the Monsters from when I was a kid but I couldn't remember much about it. I thought it was going to be a Rampage style game where you were beating up a city with an enemy monster. In a sense that's exactly what you do; the game is a wrestling game between two giant monsters that takes place in the 'ring' of a city in Japan. It turns out delivering a piledriver to Godzilla does a far amount of collateral damage to the city at large!

King of the Monsters is immediately amazing for this mode selection screen. The window at the top cycles through a list explaining what all of the buttons do! Absolutely nothing beats this as an introduction to a game. Tell me what the buttons do so I know what my options are! I guarantee I never would have known how to use the beam special attack if they didn't tell me right away. (The beam attack seemed abysmally bad so my fights would have gone better without trying to use it but the point still stands.)
German Suplex? On it!
As far as wrestling games go this actually seemed pretty good. The controls made sense, and were smooth. The concept was a little corny, but pro wrestling is a little corny too, so it fit. Only having 4 characters seemed a little weak but maybe you could unlock more as you played the game? I didn't really play for very long as I was getting ready to go out of town for the weekend but what little I played (2 matches) was enough to have some fun. I imagine multiplayer would be pretty good too, and I like that it was an option.

Rating: B+

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#96: James Bond Jr.

Nice colour scheme!
So... Is James Bond Jr actually a thing? I have to admit to never having seen a full James Bond movie and really the only way I've ever interacted with the franchise at all is Golden Eye 64 on the N64. There was no James Bond Jr in that game!

Got my shoe powerup, now I can jump high!
The game started off with some pretty cool music. Very different from anything else I've ever heard from the SNES. I liked it. There was a bunch of cutscenes explaining the story which is nice. Bad guy steal shiny thing. Bad guy use shiny thing to do evil. James Bond Jr get shiny thing back from bad guy. Then I got dumped into what seemed to be a mediocre platformer. My jump and attack buttons weren't beside each other on the controller (B and X) which was super awkward.

The platformer didn't last long. I think I fought two enemies before I got whisked into a helicopter where I got to play a mediocre scrolling shooter. A hard scrolling shooter. It kept making me fly through little tiny corridors (by blocking most of the screen with gigantic trees) and then it would shoot fireballs through the corridor such that I couldn't find a way to avoid taking damage. One hit kills you if you don't have the shield power up. I died five times before making it to the end of the stage so I don't know if there was going to be a boss, or if I was going to get to platform again, or what.

The platforming seemed bad but I wanted to give it a chance on a real level. The shooter was bad, and I got game overed so I never got to find out what the split between the two genres was going to be. And I still don't know if James Bond Jr is a real thing. (Wikipedia tells me yes, as a bad American spin-off. James Bond Jr is James Bond's nephew.)

Anyway, the music was awesome but everything else seemed pretty bad to mediocre.

Rating: D

Saturday, April 5, 2014

#95: Irem Skins Game

Skin those lions!
I have never heard of the company Irem, nor their skins game. Given how absolutely terrible most of the golf games have been thus far on the SNES I was not really looking forward to playing this game. (It turns out Irem is perhaps best known for the game Moon Patrol which I used to play when I was a wee lad!)
ActRaiser Golf!
The biggest reason I've soured on the SNES golf games is they try to do way too much graphically and end up lagging pretty badly when they try to render the course. Irem Skins Game somehow manages to get it right and avoid that problem entirely. I can rotate my character around without it taking seconds to redraw the screen. And while it doesn't look terribly realistic it still looks pretty good. There are clouds, and trees. The overhead view reminding me a lot of ActRaiser, and that's always a good thing.
The interface for the game took a little getting used to (you use L/R to move around the menu at the bottom and only that one section would work so you couldn't rotate while changing clubs like you can in other golf games) but once I caught on it all made so much sense. There are a bunch of different things you can adjust in your golf swing and you get to change them one at a time or skip over them.

I had never played this game before, and I birdied two of the first three holes. My first few swings back at other golf games, which I had played before, went a matter of feet. I was scoring 8+, not 3. This is a really big deal and means this game just makes sense out of the box. I really, really like that.

There's also an interesting difficulty setting in the game which is a big step up from other games. There are 4 playable characters and each has different strengths and weaknesses which they tell you about right off the bat! I chose to play as the girl, of course, and her stats were such that she hit for the least distance but had the most accuracy. (Maybe that's why I was able to actually hit the fairway and get birdies...)

I only played three holes because I really don't feel like playing golf right now, but I'm not turning the game off in disgust. It was actually fun. Which is a HUGE step up from the other golf games thus far. well done, Irem. I hope you make good money in the pachinko business.

Rating: B+