Sunday, October 2, 2011

SoulBlazer (SNES) Review

AKA SoulBlader [JP]1992 Quintet/Enix

1/31/17 Update: Check out my updated thoughts on the game here =D
Before I start this review, I'd just to say something. Several months ago someone requested that I review this game in my Review Requests page. Seeing as I feel very highly for this game, I told said user that I would be happy to review SoulBlazer. Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Reviewing video games (or anything for that matter) is not as easy as it looks, folks. It takes a long time to compose a well-written review, or even a decent review. This game was hard for me to review, because I was having a hard time talking about a certain aspect of the game. But now that I've gotten myself out of that situation (thanks to a bit of time writing a rough draft), I'm finally ready to share my thoughts. If you're still around and are reading this, __ender__, I apologize for not having fulfilled your request until now.

Four years ago, I downloaded ActRaiser on the Virtual Console, a hybrid title that combined both platforming and micromanagement elements, developed by Quintet and published by Enix. I enjoyed that game a lot, and since then I've been hoping that the other games from the same developers would eventually be released on the Virtual Console--but it never happened. I first heard of this game on FlyingOmelette's website in her old Top 100 Favorite Video Games list (#77), and the few reviews I've read of it online really gave me a good impression. I remember the day I got the game in the mail, a few days after I ordered it from eBay. The weather was hot at that time during the last month of the summer in '09. My dad and I (I was still new to eBay at the time) paid a lot of money to buy SoulBlazer from eBay, even though after that I realized I could've paid for a copy that wasn't as expensive. But you know what? It was completely worth it!

King Magridd was the ruler of the Freil Empire. Some people thought he was a fairly good monarch; others, however, thought that he was ruled by greed. King Magridd, in order to find a way to become wealthier than he already is, brought acclaimed inventor Dr. Leo to his castle. He was ordered to make a machine to summon Deathtoll, the king of evil. King Magridd and Deathtoll made a deal: for every living creature that the king would hand to Deathtoll, he would be paid a gold gem for each one. However, that would prove to be the king's own undoing, as one by one all creatures began to vanish from the face of the Earth, including King Magridd himself, until the entire globe was empty. A couple of souls were watching all this happen from the heavens: you and the Master. The Master willingly gives King Magridd a second chance, and he asks you (Blazer, or whatever you wish to call yourself) to go down to Earth and restore the world. As serious as this may sound, it's a ctually a very lighthearted plot, with lighthearted characters and dialogue, and it's quite appealing.

SoulBlazer is a topdown action-oriented RPG. In it you control a soul in human form who must save the living creatures and defeat the evil monsters. You'll bout with the monsters by swinging your sword, and sometimes you'll be using magic against them (most preferably if they're out of reach or if an enemy group overwhlems you). Each time you vanquish a monster, they'll leave behind a gold gem, which is the source of magic points. Sometimes a monster will leave behind a small gold gem (1MP), other times a medium-sized gem (5 MP), and certain times a huge gem (10 MP). Throughout the game you will obtain different sorts of magic, and how much gold it uses up is largely dependable on what type of magic attack it is, so use it sparingly. Any time you find a new, more powerful sword or armor, it's customary to equip it, otherwise it will not work. The thing about swords is you must reach a certain level in order to equip it, while the armor you can don regardless of what level you're on. Once you level up, not only does your health increase by two notches, but your offense and defense states will augment themselves by a bit as well. In the battlefields the monsters emerge from monster lairs, and once you do away with the last monster from that lair, it's ready to be stepped on. By stepping on it, any of the following will happen: a previously blocked path will open up, certain objects will appear (a treasure chest, a monster lair, or a jewel fairy), or a creature will be released in the safe area. When you approach a blue jewel, a fairy will pop out. Most of the time she'll grant you lots of experience points (but rarely enough to level up in front of her), but a few times she'll give you some advice or a special item. In each of the areas you visit (and revisit), there are two battlefield areas and one safe area. The primary battlefield is when the actions gets started, and the secondary battlefield is always the one where the boss awaits your arrival in the end. Any time you swing your sword it's always diagonally, a detail which you can take advantage of in certain situations; say if the very tip of the blade touches an enemy when you're at a higher level, that enemy will lose lots of damage in no time. You can also do the crabwalk by holding down either the L or R shoulder buttons, with the sword placed in the stationary lunge position in front of you no matter which way you walk while holding it in. but might and magic isn't the only key, as some times you will be using secondary items for a short time that will help in certain situations (like the thunder ring you can use whenever you're near a pyramid in the rainy island of Blester so the Master can strike down on enemies that are near, or the mushroom shoes which prevent you from sliding on the ice in the Mountain of Lost Souls). The most vital secondary item you use will be the dream rod, which you can place on creatures that are sleeping in order to enter their dreams. In the dreams, the creature in question will be there, and in some cases there are empty monster lairs to step on so the path will be opned for when you revisit the area after you leave the dream. If you wish to know how many monster lairs have not been cleared yet, you can always pause the game in order to find out. The gameplay is fun, solid, and easy to get into, even if the movement is limited to just four directions. I'm not quite sure why, but the way the item inventory is set up vaguely reminds me of how the item inventory is set up in the Ys series of games.

The game's soundtrack is a delight to listen to, and one I personally enjoy. Comprised of a mix between symphony and brass throughout, the songs in the game blend in with the atmosphere, and they work so well. Like, for example: any time you step in a village or place that has been deprived of life, or if the leader has not been released yet, a song will play that will make you feel like you're in a desolate area. Considering the condition at that time, the music's pretty spot-on. But never mind that, the rest of the songs in SoulBlazer are pretty darn good, too. The shrine theme from GreenWood is deep and mystical; the underwater theme of St. Elles' Seabed is gently relaxing; the music that plays when you're inside Dr. Leo's painting and model towns sounds weird and bizarre, yet works so well; and Magridd Castle's music has such a catchy beat. Some of the other music in the game is catchy as well. The Master's Temple theme is cool, and what's cool is how the first few seconds of it sounds similiar to Johann Sebastian Bach's "Tocatta & Fugue in D Minor". Some of my favorite songs are the dream sequence theme, the theme that plays in the Mountain of Lost Souls, and the music that plays during the the encounter with Deathtoll. The final battle theme is epic-sounding and really charges you up, and I like how atmospheric and catchy the music for the Mountain of Lost Souls is. The dream theme is spellbinding, in a way, in that it really sounds like you're inside a dream, and it's something I could listen to for a long time and never get bored of. Many of the sound effects in SoulBlazer were lifted from the previous Quintet game ActRaiser, and they sound good. I like the different magic sounds, the explosion sound for when a guardian has been defeated, and the clanging sound for when you attack metallic enemies with a weak sword is cool.

While the visuals may not blow anyone's mind, I think they're nicely done. Its colors are easy on the eyes, and locations are detailed in such a way that it makes them stand out. Plus, they remind me a bit of the first ActRaiser's visuals, due to how similar the style is. I like how the Master's Temple has a different color scheme each time you're in a different area. Any time you first step in a safe area, it's all desolate and deprived, but the further you seal the monster lairs, the areas will become more open and the decor will get more exciting. And those are just the safe areas. The battlefield areas are nice, too. I like the underwater effects in St. Elles, and I like how green the village of GreenWood is. I like how wacky the inside of Dr. Leo's painting is, and I like how the Fire Shrine consistently glows from all the lava around it. When you're sucked in either of Dr. Leo's model towns, it's pretty cool, for various reasons. It's got that Gulliver's Travels feel which I find really cool, and I think those areas were made to pay homage to ActRaiser's simulation acts. The Mountain of Lost Souls is a really great snow area, and I love how in one moment there are icy stalactites in the foreground, and in another you see an aurora borealis in the sky which is pretty impressive to look at. The animation the characters and enemies display are decent, and I think it's great how Blazer's sprites and animation actually differ when facing the left or the right. The enemy roster comprises of such various creatures such as bats, demons, slimes, yeti, stingrays, warlocks, ghosts, et al. One such enemy type that comes to mind is the miniaturized soldiers in Dr. Leo's modell towns. On one hand, I find it funny that bite-sized archers, horseback riders, and swordsmen are trying to take you, someone who's gigantic compared to them, down. On the other hand, it does almost feel like an extension of ActRaiser's simulation acts. Taking a closer look at the tiny archer when he's facing south, doesn't he look a little like Kamil Dowonna from The 7th Saga? He does to me, after having experienced Produce's aforementioned RPG a few months ago. The bosses are also huge and nicely detailed; some of the ones you'll fighting will be totem heads each representing the shrines of GreenWood, a humongous skull, and a deadly tin robot.

If there's one word to sum up SoulBlazer's difficulty, it would be "easy". And the type of easy I'm talking aboout is the one where the game's challenge gradually rises just enough without getting to the point of being frustrating or unmanageable. This is the type of easy I like. The more you progress in the game, the stronger the enemies will become, and the harder the areas will become, little by little. The enemies will not go out the same way out of the monster lair all the time. Sometimes enemies will pop out one by one, other times they may come out all at once, or certain other times they may already be out, ready to strike at you. There will be enemies that cannot be slain unless you find a certain sword (e.g. the Zantetsu Sword for the metal-bound enemies), so you'll have to heem them no mind until that moment comes. This game is also nonlinear, so you can return to the area whenever you want even after you've beaten it. Each sword and armor, while they may differ in strength level, also have unique qualities. A couple of sword examples are the Magic Sword, which conjures half the points whenever a certai spell is used, and the Recovery Sword, which replenishes one HP after an enemy has been slain. Some specific armor that come to mind are the Ice Armor, which allows you to walk on fire without losing any damage, and the Bubble Armor, which allows you to breathe underwater. What's cool is that when you backtrack to fight enemies you couldn't before, you can revert back to an earlier armor so you won't lose tons of damage; you must always wear the Bubble Armor underwater, no matter how high you leveled up. The bosses, save for Deathtoll, can only be damaged by the sword, so lots of physical attacks are a must. Each of them have different attack patterns, so you must strategize against them. The next boss will always be more difficult to defeat than the last, except for Deathtoll, who is pretty much a cakewalk in comparison. But everything else in this department makes up for that.

So there you have it. What are my thoughts on SoulBlazer, then? I think it's a very enjoyable and well-crafted action-oriented RPG. The controls are engaging, the visuals are nice, and the soundtack works very well with the atmosphere (and I do mean very well). I enjoyed the various worlds this RPG conveyed, plus the interactivity with the creatures are really fun, even if there is a tad bit of bad translation. I really like entering the creatures' dreams, and the dream-like song that plays during that time really conveys the feeling that you are in a dream. The various types of swords and armor are great, plus the many enemies and bosses in the game are fun to bout, even if Deathtoll was very easy for a final boss. I love the game's easygoing nature a lot, as it makes the game enjoyable and appealing to me. I like how throughout the game, you'll meet a few souls who will help you on your adventure, like the Soul of Magician, who grants you the ability to use magic, and the Soul of Detection, which makes you see invisible enemies. They rotate around you in the form of one orb. The layouts of each area and battlefield are neatly designed, and I like how thorough inspection will lead to a certain treasure chest (which would otherwise be missed if you went through the area quickly). Want to learn a few little-known secrets of this game? Well, I'll tell you, and I say "little-known" because I'm sure there are a few other games who know about these details too, just not many. First secret: whenever a gold gem is in front of you, you can pull it towards you by holding either the L or R shoulder buttons (how quickly or slowly they come to you depend on their size). Second secret: it is possible to pause the game without seeing the area window (and the remaining monster lairs window). Hold down the A button (after having gone through the stat window) and press Start. Tada! Now it'll look like the game froze, until you unpause it. Third and final secret (though this one feels sort of a stretch to call it that): whenever you walk towards a cliff or a wall, you won't fall down or phase through, but the ord does continually circle around while going the direction you're walking next to a wall. The orb can also be moved while you're talking to someone. You know, I don't want to feel like I'm over-explaining it, so you'll have to try that one on your own to best see what I'm talking about. In my eyes, this is a highly fun RPG from beginning to end, and the best game out of the three that I've played by Quintet. It's also my top favorite RPG, as well as one of my top favorite SNES games of all time. If you want to give the game a shot, go for it. As far as I'm concerned, it's worth every penny.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Glover (PSX) Review

1998, 1999 Interactive Studios/Hasbro Interactive/Atari

Reviewed: August 18th-20th, 2011
As a gamer, there will come a day when you experience certain video games unlike any other you've played since, and will leave you with a strange impact. Glover is one of them for me. I remember long ago when I first played it on one of my friends' PlayStation One console. I didn't play much of it, because it left me a bit confounded, but from the little experience I've had with it, it was quite unique. Never had I ever had an anthropomorphic glove as a controllable character in a video game before. Many years later, feeling that I needed to revisit this game and having a full experience with it, I decided to give it a shot back in September '10 for the PlayStation One. Before having ordered it on eBay, I looked up that there were two versions of this game released a year prior to the Sony one: one for the Nintendo 64 and the other for the PC. I haven't played those two versions, so I'm not going to compare. Having beaten it two times now, and having gotten further experience with it, I thought it was a whole lot better than when I first tried it when I was little. But is it a quality title? Let's find out.

Glover's tale begins long ago in a peaceful time and place. It was a nice day in the castle, like any other, but that would last only for a short a bit. That day, in the castle, a wizard tried to concoct a spell using potions in his cauldron while using his magical gloves. But something went wrong. The necromancer incidentally used the wrong potion, which caused an explosion that made his gloves fly off of him. One of them (Glover) landed safely outside the turret window, but sadly the other glove fell inside the cauldron. But that's not all: what happens next is that the wizard turns into petrified gold and falls down into a cave. But wait, there's more: no sooner than that does the seven turret crystals get dislodged off the castle. Those crystals are what is keeping the castle fully intact. Luckily one of them landed right outside the castle, but the remaining six disappear into other realms that neighbor it. If they're not recovered in time, there's going to be trouble. But wait, there's still more: what happened to the other glove after having fallen in the cauldron is that he's become a boxing glove, consumed by pure evil. So now it is up to Glover to save the castle, return his brother to normal, and ultimately reverse the petrification curse on the wizard. But it will not be an easy task, as there are obstacles to be overcome and enemies to be faced, all ending in a bout with the other glove. He will venture in the worlds of Atlantis, Carnival, Pirates, Prehistoric, Fear, and Space.

You control the sentient four-fingered glove named Glover, who uses his middle two fingers as legs and his outer fingers as arms. That's quite a concept. Controls for this game are decent. He can run around, make jumps, and if you time it right, double jumps. Glover's also got a few tricks up his sleeves. He's also got other skills, too, most of which have got to do with controlling the ball. Now what does that have to do with the turret crystal issue that was discussed earlier, you may ask? Well, seeing as he's a magical glove, he has the power to transform the turret crystal into one of the following: a rubbery bouncy ball, a large and robust bowling ball, and a small and metallic ball berrier. What's good about the different variations is that they can be used in certain situations which suits them best. The bouncy ball is the only one that floats on water, the bowling ball sinks and can be used to break stuff, and ball berriers can be used by magnets when it comes to getting certain cards out of reach. Beware, because you're not the only one who can morph the ball, as there are a few enemies out there that can change the ball's appearance as well. You'd best be absolutely careful if it gets transformed to its original form, as it's very fragile, and if it shatters, you have to start over from either the beginning of the level or the last checkpoint you shot your ball through. With the Triangle button you can choose which perspective shot you want; whether it be the distant (default) shot, the medium shot, or the zoomed-in shot. The right analog controls the game's camera angles, as long as you're in areas that allow you to. If you're farther away from the ball, you can always press the Circle button to literally make Glover point you in the right direction. I guess he's got a strong bond with the turret crystals. Anyway, Glover can traverse the levels alone (if you feel the need to), but in order to progress to the next level you have to reach the end with the ball. This game takes place in a hub world, and each world portal will lead you to a different level, especially the bonus level which is accessed after you defeat the world boss. Glover can make drop attack by getting into his fist position and fall down quickly to the ground, where the round vibration around him can be used as an advantage, too. In each world, including the hub world, there are a numerous amount of cards in the regular levels, and if you collect all the cards in a level you earn a life, and should you collect all the cards from all three regular levels, your health capacity will increase by one. You can raise Glover's health capacity to nine if you manage to collect all the cards in all the regular levels. After the third level of each world, you will face a boss who's been transformed by the evil glove who will try to impede your progress.

\The game's soundtrack is good. It's charming and it's got a nice, playful, and lighthearted quality to it. It's got several good songs, with a few songs in the mix that are rather weak, in my opinion. The hub world is nice to listen to with its calm, relaxing sound, and the Atlantis themes are very cool. The Pirates themes are fitting and swashbuckling. The Prehistoric themes are primordial, and the Space themes sound galaxial, which is really cool. I like the Fear themes, with its various sounds, ominous music, and clever composition. The various boss and bonus themes sound cool, and some of them are better than others. I don't really like the Carnival themes much, as I find them annoying due to their circus-y like sound. But, thankfully the good beats the bad as far as the music in this game goes. The sound effects, on the other hand, are sweet. I like the sound that comes from collecting cards, and I like how the melody escalates when you collect them in a row. The sound for when Glover's brother laughs maniacally when he's turned evil in the intro is very deep, and Glover's voice isn't bad, either. I like how whenever he transforms his ball, he'll say brief phrases like "Abra-cadabra", "Kazaam", and "Wabababo". He also says another phrase, but due to how he says it, I find it hard to catch what he says. I really love how he says "Whoopee!" during certain moments when you've collected all the cards in a level or when you've finished a level. After reaching the end with the ball, Glover makes a snap sound which I find very authentic. The splash sound for whenever you jump in and out of the water is pleasant to listen to, and the rest of the sound effects are cool, too. Well, most of them (I'll get to the bird character's sounds later).

Glover's visuals are okay, considering when it come out in the console's lifespan. Glover animates smoothly, although he doesn't look like he's swinging his left arm when he's running, which looks very odd to me. I like how he has ovals for eyes and how he has a mouth. His idle animations (whether or not he's near the ball) are fun to watch, and I like his pointing animation. The butterfly flying around in the hub world is nice to look at, too, and the enemies and bosses look good, albeit aged, too. I like various each of this game's worlds are in style and look: the temple-like structure of Atlantis is appealing; the dark, stormy nature of Fear is atmospheric; and the colors of Carnival are nice. Just reading these description might make you feel that the game is visually breathtaking; it's not. In fact, this game has visual details which make it appear like it came out way early in the console's lifespan; like, for example, if a round enemy approaches you, you'll notice that only the eyes and/or glasses change position, and not the actual body. There's also the case in certain areas where walls and/or objects cannot be seen until you approach a little closer. For reasons I can't explain, there are a few times when the action will be happening at a smooth rate, while certain other times it will flow slowly. The game also doesn't look as crisp like most PlayStation One titles are. Even the introductory and ending cutscenes, which are decently rendered in 3D FMVs (full-motion videos), have a certain detail which shows its age. But despite all that, the visuals aren't bad, and there are a few touches which are nice. Each time Glover takes damage, he will get a band-aid on him, and if a ball falls off an edge, it will reappear in Glover's hand with a band-aid on it. It's a cute touch. The water effects in the surface are also nice, but what's even cooler is how it is seen underwater. When you're underwater and the camera is completely submerged, the camera gradually tilts left and right and the colors change from oceanic blue to chartreuse and violet. That's a really unique underwater effect, if I ever saw one. So, overall, while it may not as visually stunning as earlier PlayStation titles such as Pandemonium!, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, and Spyro the Dragon, it's a game that I think is okay to look at.

Don't let these screenshots fool you, this is not a mindnumbingly easy game. I repeat, this is not a mindnumbingly easy game. It's not a deviously difficult game, either, which is a good thing, but even so, the difficulty is one of its low points for me. Now, the first time around, I had to keep the Help (i.e. showing buttons and what functions they do in various situations) on because I needed to get adjusted to the controls. On my second playthrough, I got through the game with the Help option turned off; unfortunately, any time you start or load a game, the Help is automatically on there, which can be a bit distracting for me. At first the controls can be a tad confusing, but after awhile they will become easy to accustom to. The main goal of each level is to reach the end with the ball, and in some cases it's not a problem, but in most cases it's easier said than done. Each level has obstacles which will impede the ball from passing through until Glover finds a switch. White switches can be pushed by Glover after he does a fistdrop attack, and red and yellow bull's eye switches can be turned on by the ball (there's only one of these types of switches which you'll have to rush to the end before the door closes up). Not only is Glover's fistdrop used to stun and/or kill certain enemies, but it can also be used to destroy boxes and break through ice. Glover's slow by himself, but by rolling the ball he increases a bit of speed. Other things Glover could do with the ball is use it as a trampoline by fistdropping on it, bounce it like you're dribbling a basketball (by pressing X while hanging on to the ball), slap it towards enemies and stuff (by pressing the Square button), and throw the ball, too (by pressing the Circle button). While you choose to do either of the last two options, you can choose where to aim the ball while still holding the button. The L2 shoulder button cancels any of these actions. Throughout the areas there are lives scattered about, and once you collect them you cannot do so again in these areas. Any time you collect all the cards in a level, you earn a life, but it seems to me that it's very easy to gain a lot of lives in this game. Especially during certain moments where you gather up many cards in a row. While it's not exactly mandatory to gather every single card out there, it is something that will keep you busy. Some cards are in covert portions of the levels, so search thoroughly. If there's a wall that looks broken, break it open with the bowling ball. Some of the bosses took me a bit to beat the first time around, but the second time around the majority of them were a breeze. When you return to the hub world and your health is not full, you can always have it refilled by approaching the bird character on a swing, who I swear sounds like it's both flatulating and laying an egg at the same time when you touch it (I don't even want to know). The various bonus levels after you vanquish the world's boss are nice, and they're nice to play. Basically they require you to collect as many cards as you can and reach the end before time runs out. Glover's camera is okay, but there are moments when you're on a narrow path when the camera will be positioned above you and you cannot lower it until you're off the path. Few times the camera finds itself fixed at just the oddest of angles. Yeesh, Super Mario 64 had more stable camera control than this. In the levels are also certain potions which will help you on your quest, but only for a limited time. A couple of these that come to mind are the Hercules potion, which makes Glover big and strong, and there is even a Rotor Blades potion which allows Glover momentarily fly.

It's got its few issues; the visuals are hit and miss (which is odd considering it came out in the middle of the console's lifespan), camera controls are okay, and the difficulty's a little so-so. But, for all the low points it has, the good qualities more than make up for it. The controls, which take a bit to get used to, are quite interesting and solid, and the soundtrack is done quite well. I like the various worlds' structures, and I like how such a concept was executed in such a fascinating way. I like the many different things you could do with the turret crystal, and how you change its form to not only prevent it from shattering but to also use it in certain ways to meet certain conditions. Exploring the various worlds' levels are fun, and trying to get all the cards is also fun. If you've missed some cards the first time around, you could always choose to start the level all over again from the hub world and get another shot at obtaining them all. I like replay value like that. I do wish I knew what was up with that blue bird's awkward sound effects. I haven't played the original Nintendo 64 and PC versions, so I don't know if they've made any alterations here or not (well, besides the obvious - Glover's mouth). After I finished Glover the first time, I looked up that the game got mixed reactions from gamers and critics, and I also looked up that the PlayStation One version got a negative reception from many gamers. So you mean to tell me that I got introduced to Glover through the inferior version? Oh, that's reassuring! But I don't mind, as I'm not going to let that taint my opinion on the game (even though I admit it almost happened the moment I looked that up). It's not a great game, but it's close. I researched that this game was slated to have a sequel. There were no hints in the game that implied that, but there was an internet poster (which looks beautiful, by the way) that parodied the first Jaws' movie poster. However, the sequel never emerged, and Glover was reduced to being a lone title video game hero.

Poor Glover. It's okay, we still love you. If you're interested in playing Glover, give it a go. I can't guarantee whether you'll like it or not, but I will guarantee that you'll find it a very unique experience.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow (SNES) Review

AKA Donald in Maui Mallard [EU/BRA/JP]
1995, 1996 Eurocom/Disney Interactive/Nintendo

Reviewed: July 31st-August 1st
When I was little I grew up with Game Boy and PlayStation when I still lived in Italy, and the SNES and Nintendo 64 consoles whenever I visited relatives. But, I also had a bit of experience with playing video games on my PC growing up. Some games were PC originals, w
hile other games were ports of classic titles from arcade and MegaDrive titles. Maui Mallard was one of them. Originally released for the MegaDrive (in Europe and Brazil), from what I had played when I was little, I thought it was a pretty cool game. I never finished it when I was little, but I liked the concept of turning into a ninja whenever you collected Yin Yang power. Sadly, as the years went by, computers had evolved, and my PC copy of the game could not work on newer models. Having not played the game for several years, I decided to give it another go in October '10, only for the SNES console. I looked up that the PC port was closer to the MegaDrive original than the SNES game, but that didn't bother me much. When I relived the experience of turning into a ninja, it was absolutely great. But does it hold up?

On an uncharted island, the idol Shabuhm Shabuhm has been abducted by an evil Witch Doctor. It has been said that the idol is the island's guardian, and unless it's retrieved, the island will meet its terrible, inevitable fate. While visiting the island, a "medium-boiled" detective named Maui Mallard (portrayed by Donald Duck) decides to investigate this mystery and will try to get it back for the islanders before it's too late. The last place it was seen before its disappearance was at the Mojo Mansion, and from there you will peruse and traverse various locales like a ninja training ground, a village, the inside of a volcano, and even in the Realm of the Dead. The plot itself is pretty neat, and at times it can be quite humorous and other times it can be quite dark. What baffles me the most about this SNES version is that back when it was released in North America, all allusions to Donald Duck were removed, and is just known as Maui Mallard. It doesn't make sense, as it's just mysterious to me (he looks like him, we all know it's him). But I'm thinking about it too much.
This game has good play control. Maui Mallard is an action-platformer with open-ended level design (similar to how Cool Spot and Disney's The Jungle Book are). The controls can be customized in the options screen, but I choose to use the defeault controls, which admittedly feel awkward the first time around but soon become accustomed to. This game has several areas (or "levels" as the game calls them), which are all split into portions (or "stages"). The action controls are very responsive, and the jumping controls are nice, although they feel a bit loose at times. What's pretty cool about this game is that you get to play as a character who will transform into a ninja, provided you have enough Yin Yang power at your disposal. You start off as Maui Mallard, who uses a bug-shooting gun for a weapon. There's the standard bug weapon, which replenishes itself to its maximum capacity no matter how much it's used; the lightning bug, which acts as a spread gun; and there's the fire bug, which homes in on enemies. You can switch between the bug weapons via the L and R shoulder buttons, and you can even choose to combine the lightning and fire bug weapons to form up an even stronger homing shot. From the second level (Ninja Training Grounds) onward, you will be granted the ability to turn into the ninja Cold Shadow. In order to change into Maui's ninjaesque alter ego, you must collect some Yin Yang power. Cold Shadow has got many moves in his disposal than Maui does. As him you can do combo moves with your bo staff against enemies, but don't over exceed the combo too much, otherwise you'll use up some of your Yin Yang power. By holding either the L or R shoulder button as Cold Shadow, you will unleash a spinning bo staff attack on your enemies, however it will quickly deplete you of your power in the process. To be honest, as potent and cool-looking as it is, it's not exactly necessary, and it's not something I would suggest doing. I say that because while you might be attacking an enemy on one side, you may be left vulnerable to attack from the other side, and that's why I choose not to do it often. Throughout the game, there will be moments where you will have to alternate between forms in order to get through the area; Maui's the only one who can climb up ropes and vines, and Cold Shadow's the only one who can swing off of swining poles. Maui can also use his gun as propulsion underwater, and Cold Shadow can also use his bo staff as a method of climbing upward when it comes to gaps that are as long as the staff.

Maui Mallard's soundtrack is good, and much of its music is quite varied in style and sound. Each of the music gives a lot of atmosphere to the areas they're played in. To name some examples: the ninja training grounds music sounds ambient and oriental; the volcano music sounds oddly relaxing with all the calypso playing in the background; the Flying Duckman theme is very breahtaking and hauntingly ambient (one of my favorite songs in the game); and the music that plays when you bout with the Witch Doctor sounds like something a mariachi band would play (but not before a foreboding prelude commences). There are even a few songs that sound really playful in their own way while still maintaining that dark flavor. There is also one song that stands out the most to me and is the best song from the game in my mind: the Realm of the Dead. It strikes me as an ominously haunting sea shanty with an air full of eeriness, and I felt very nervous the first time I heard it. The sound effects, on the other hand, are decent. The sound of the bug bullects coming out of Maui's gun is silly, and there is even a sound effect for when you turn around on foot. Whenever your character takes a hit and/or loses a life, he makes that trademark Donald Duck "quack" sound. The sound for when Maui transforms into Cold Shadow, and vice versa, is sweet; and I enjoy the sound of the latter's bo staff whenever it hits an object or an enemy. Whenever you're swimming, the sound effects become bubbly and are then followed by echo sounds. Other sound effects are nice, too, such when a MudDrake would shout "There he is!" whenever they see you in the Test of Brotherhood level, or whenever an enemy has been vanquished.

There is one word that describe this game's visuals, and that word is gorgeous. But to say that would be a huge understatement. Maui Mallard's worlds are vibrant, colorful, detailed, and very atmospheric, plus they're all presented with that trademark Disney quality. This game has one of the best non pre-rendered visuals I've seen from an SNES title. It's got better visuals than the first ActRaiser, Cool Spot, Mr. Nutz, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and Secret of Mana; I would even go and say that this game has better visuals than Super Metroid (which says a lot). But I digress. Each world has its own look and distinctive style, which is always nothing short of impressive. In the beginning of the ninja training grounds, the sky is very bright and cheerful, but then once the Witch Doctor appears he transforms Maui into Cold Shadow for the first time, and whenever he uses his staff, the sky will get darker and darker until the Witch Doctor vanishes and it begins to rain. I just love little details like that. The MudDrake Mayhem levels have a really neat fog effect, which gives off a lot of depth. The Sacrifice of Maui levels take place inside a volcano, and that place is entirely consumed with flowing lava that covers the whole screen and makes you feel like you're inside a volcano. The Flying Duckman levels, taking place underwater, are serene and largely take place in the sunken ship; what's eerie about it is that you can see how decrepit the ship has turned after a long time of being sunken and you can see the skeletal remains of the crew. The Realm of the Dead is pretty ominous-looking, with all the bones and the mist at the bottom, not to mention a gigantic eyeball in the background that is surveying you throughout the whole level. That's pretty eerie if you ask me. The bonus levels take place on an actual stage, with literal stage props that you can jump and bounce on. I love how the cutscenes are comprised of a blue background and show the characters' silhouettes. The character and enemy animations are fluidly detailed and well-done. Maui's running, ducking, shooting, jumping, climbing, and swimming animations are really nice to watch. The transformation sequence from Maui to Cold Shadow and vice versa is really cool, and the ninja alter ego has cool animations as well. I like how depending on how much Yin Yang power you have, Cold Shadow will have a differently-colored belt, which is a nice touch. Either forms' idle animations are cool and fun to watch, too. The characters and enemies even display a bit of over-the-top animation sometimes, which is often quite humorous. There is one moment in the MudDrake Mayhem level when Maui shrunk down to a very small size until you reach the end of that portion, and what's pretty cool is that despite his size, his animations remain fully intact. That's similar to one moment in the early PlayStation One title Rayman. The enemies look cool, too, and whenver you attack a zombie duck in the Realm of the Dead it actually decomposes the more hits it takes. The MudDrakes are also one crazy bunch, as they try to attack you by shooting poison-tipped darts and use their saw blades as yo-yos.

As far as challenge goes for this Disney-licensed title, it's decent. The levels are split off into different parts, each littered with enemies who will try to stop you in your tracks. The majority of the level designs are open-ended and complex, with a few of them being completely straightforward. In each of the areas, save for the Realm of the Dead, there will be a moment when you must fight a boss in order to progress. Many of the stages are long, so when you reach a chekc point (represented by a Mojo duck head) you don't have to worry about starting all over. This game has rather interesting ways of challenging you; one example that comes to mind is when you have to drop off each MudDrake at a safe point in an area by bungee jumping and trying your absolute best to not touch the spikes a lot, one by one. Who knows how long it must've taken for the programmers to come up with that? There are also some challenges which will have you be attentive; mostly the self-scrolling stages. In one of those areas (the Realm of the Dead) you're required to shoot every single soul stealer which will try to pry the soul of Quackoo away from you, but should just one be missed, you lose a life and must start over again; not to mention the slowly rising acidic mist which you must escape at all costs. Throughout each area there are refreshments that will either increase your health capacity for that area, and/or help replenish a portion (cup) or maximum (pitcher) health. Maui Mallard has three difficulty settings, and there's no real difference, except for one thing: the amount of health you lose. While the enemies and bosses will always take the same amount of damage before they bite the dust, you will be losing a different amount of damage depending on which difficulty setting you play. You will take far more damage in Hard mode than you will on either Easy and Normal modes. If you're not careful while fighting the Witch Doctor on the hardest difficulty setting, you will lose a life in three hits. But there is an advantage in the game which will ensure that you can beat the game on Hard mode. While you take a lot of damage when an enemy attacks you, if you intentionally collide with the enemy, you'll only lose one health point. You just have to be careful that while you take advantage of it you don't get hit by that enemy in the process, so that way you'll dish out a lot of hits towards your enemy or boss; I used this tactic to defeat the Witch Doctor on Hard mode. I don't recommend using this method throughout the whole game, otherwise you'll be having a hard time throughout the whole game. I only suggest doing it while fighting against the Witch Doctor on Hard mode. This game can either be beaten in one sitting, or it can be beaten via passwords. I don't use the passwords, really, but those that may have trouble with Maui Mallard will find themselves using them. After each level there is a bonus area, but in order to access it you have to collect as much of the treasure as you can. It's not exactly mandatory, but if you wish to enter the bonus area and get the password, you have no choice. Scattered throughout each level is treasure, so a good thorough look in each area is highly advised. After each level, you will be shown a screen with two percentages: Luau Loot and Loot Found. If you found more loot than the Luau Loot, you'll get an "Admit One Duck" ticket to the bonus area Babaluau Baby. Here's the thing about the passwords: you have to earn them. In each bonus area, you must light up six rockets either on top of a sun or a moon prop before time runs out; since the setup is huge, you will have to bounce on star props and jump from cloud props. You'll also get a chance to collect a few exctra lives should you find them. This game has unlimited continues, which is quite helpful at times.

What can I say about Maui Mallard? It's fun, it's immersive, it's dark, it's crazy, and it perhaps holds the most wacky environment from a DIsney Interactive game I've seen (before Epic Mickey came out, that is). The visuals are spectacular and present a good amount of atmosphere, not to mention the over-the-top animation is a big plus in my book. The soundtrack works so well for this game, and the controls are spot-on, save for the jumping controls. Switching between Maui Mallard and Cold Shadow is a very innovative concept, and something I enjoy doing a lot. The areas are well-constructed and designed, and I like how each area tries to challenge you. It just boggles my mind how the bungee jumping challenge was actually implemented in this game. The cutscenes were enthralling, and fun to watch. The boss battles were cool, even the one with the Witch Doctor. Now I know that the strategy I shared in defeating him on Hard mode may seem a bit cheap, but to those readers out there that have played this game and beaten it, let me ask you something: how can you possibly dodge his fume attacks with precise timing and not take damage from them? It's a strategy that I found out incidently, and it worked out so well in the end, though it will take a bit of time to get the hang of that. The enemies are a great bunch, though I have to say that I absolutely loathe the fly enemies. When I played it on the PC when I was little, I thought it was a pretty good experience, and when I played it on the SNES, I found it to be better than ever. It's not perfect, but it's fun. The ending was humorous, and pretty good, too. It's just a shame that it did not get a follow-up. It had so much potential for a sequel, but the ending implied that there was going to one, only it never happened. But, oh, well, Maui Mallard is a good game, and I like the challenge it offers. This is one game that will take a bit of perseverence to get through. If you wish to experience a Disney title with ninja elements, then this is the game for you.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mickey's Wild Adventure (PSX) Review

AKA Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse [Alternate Nomenclature]1995 Psygnosis/Traveller's Tales/Disney Interactive
Distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

The first PlayStation was the first TV console I owned, and when I was little I experienced many titles for that console, some admittedly better than others. Mickey's Wild Adventure (widely recognized by many as Mickey Mania) was one of those best games. When I was little, I was such a fan of animated shows (regardless of where they were made), and the cartoons starring Mickey Mouse were one of those countless shows I grew up with, and I thought they were enjoyable. Even today I still find them enjoyable. Everyone knows how back in 1928 Walt Disney created his character Mickey Mouse, who would end up being widely successful throughout the years. Well, not everyone exactly. I've looked up that back in 1935 the Mickey Mouse cartoons were banned in Romania due to the fear that it would frighten younger viewers. Anyway, Mickey's Wild Adventure was I game I highly enjoyed when I was little, and it's just as fun a game to play today. It was first licensed game I played that centered around Disney's mouse, and it was a real memorable one.

The story revolves around Mickey Mouse, who must navigate through several of his most well-known episodes through time. How he manages to time travel is never exactly specified, but then again, there's no real plot here. Mickey will be exploring the worlds of Steamboat Willie (1928), The Mad Doctor (1933), Moose Hunters, Lonesome Ghosts (both 1937), Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) from the Fun and Fancy Free motion feature, and if you play Hard mode, The Prince and the Pauper (1990), and if you feel really confident, The Band Concert (1935). In each world he'll need to do certain tasks, and if you search the areas thoroughly, you'll find a different version of Mickey Mouse (like he appeared in the certain cartoon). Why it's important, I'll leave up to you to decide. Each episode has great atmosphere, and makes up for the plot. But I don't play the game for the story, I play it for the fun and challenge it provides.

Mickey's Wild Adventure is largely a 2D platformer, taking place in various episodes comprised elaborately designed stages. The controls are pretty solid, as Mickey's a pretty responsive character. His main actions consist of moving, ducking, jumping, and (few times) swinging off on ropes. There will also be times when Mickey attacks his foes with marbles. Be careful when using those, as you do not have an infinite amount of them. You can either jump on enemies or shoot marbles at them to do away with them. Marbles can be collected when you find them scattered about. Mickey has a stamina of five, which is clued in on by the glove symbol on the upper left corner of the screen. Any time you take a hit, a finger will be taken out, but should you sustain damage while the glove has no fingers, you'll lose a life. The only way to refill your health is by finding stars. In the Easy and Normal modes, there will be checkpoints in the middle of the stages, but in Hard mode you have to go through the stage in one go, because if you die on Hard mode, you have to start said stage from the beginning. There are even a couple of stages where you must avoid being squashed by a big enemy that's chasing you from behind, and the only way to keep yourself from slowing down is by munching on apples. Why apples is beyond me. In these chase sequences, it's also customary to avoid tripping on stuff which will impede your speed. Even so, there are various ways of getting through the normal stages.

The soundtrack from this game is pretty nice, and something I never tire of listening to. While none of the songs were lifted from the episodes they were based on, the CD-quality music sure is greatly composed. The first portion of the Steamboat Willie episode has a gentle, simple tune; some songs from the Mad Doctor episode are spooky and dark; the Moose Hunters song is country-filled; and the Lonesome Ghosts songs are spooky. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode has decently-composed songs. One of them that come to mind is a song that starts out very ominously, and at the moment when it begins to sound very scary it segues to some of the most beautifully epic music I've ever heard in a video game, which makes it my favorite song in Mickey's Wild Adventure. The music in the Prince and the Pauper episode is good, and at times pretty epic-sounding. The regular sound effects are cool, too, like when Pluto barks and when a ghost apparates onscreen. But what steals the show is Mickey's voice. Oh, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey! He has a line on practically any situation he comes across in these stages. His lines are brief and to the point and says it once, and I feel that it's a good thing, otherwise they would be annoying. Some examples of his lines are "Hiya, Mr. Goat!" (upon meeting up with a goat), "Oh, boy! Can't stop now!" (upon being chased by a moose), "Oh, would you look at that!" (upon seeing a wall disappear), "Fireballs!" (upon seeing fireballs pop out of a fireplace), "Gee, I wonder who's in here?" (upon entering a hole leading to the bottom of a cave), and "Gosh, I remember you!" (upon rescuing Steamboat Willie Mickey from an evil crane machine). I feel that these lines, while fun to listen to, add a bit of appeal to Mickey in this game. He even reads the title of each episode before it begins.

The visuals are drawn in colored and detailed 2D style, and I think they look really good. Even today I still think the visuals are pretty to look at. Each episode has stages with a diverse look and feel, and each episode looks like an interactive version of the cartoons they were based on. Steamboat Willie begins in black and white, but eventually the world begins immersing itself in color, which adds sweet eye candy. The Mad Doctor stages have a detailed and gothic look, with some foreground and line scrolling in it to add some depths. The first part of the Moose Hunters episode has a lush foliage with a light color palette that makes it beautiful to look at. Lonesome Ghosts starts outside a house in the middle of the snow, but once you get in weird stuff is going down. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode is really well-designed, and the cavern portion has parallax scrolling which adds atmosphere and depth. The Prince and the Pauper episode is detailed and looks like something from the medieval times. There's even a tiny bit of 3D in the mix. Some objects might look 2D, while some other objects might be rendered in 3D. The chase scenes have a 3D flat plane which you can run around, with the only things 2D being Mickey Mouse and the big enemy right behind you. That's pretty awesome! Even the tower stages, resembling ones you'd find in the third stage of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts and the first world of Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday, are completely rendered in 3D, save for Mickey and the bats. Considering it came out so early in the PlayStation One's lifespan, that's pretty impressive. The characters and enemies are also nicely drawn. Mickey Mouse animates real smoothly, and I like how colorful he looks. Each episode has a different Mickey character who looks and animates like he did in the cartoons he's representing. To name a few: Steamboat Willie Mickey is always black and white, the Mad Doctor Mickey lights up a match from the shadows (if you find him), and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies out of a wine bottle while sitting on its cork. Some enemies you'll have to contend with are skeletons, ghosts, insects, and anthropomorphic weasels. What bothers me the most about Mickey's Wild Adventure is how Mickey Mouse has no tail. Why is that? Mickey is a mouse, right, and mice have tails on them, right? Not in this game. What's even more bothersome for me is that the other variations of Mickey Mouse don't have tails either. It bothers me because I've always seen Mickey with a tail in the cartoons, and a mouse with no tail has no chance of survival. Considering how well he animates, would it have been too hard to animate the tail as well? But I digress. Bottom line is that the various worlds in each episode look very good, and the visuals have aged well.

While the game is not entirely hard, it does offer up a good amount of challenge. In each episode there are obstacles to overcome and enemies to face, and sometimes you'll have to fight bosses. In the game Mickey gets himself in many strange predicaments. One moment Mickey's riding a cart down a room while avoiding deadly traps, and the moment he finds himself being chased by a moose, and after that there will be stairs which turns to slopes, water attempting to flood a house, and even trying to escape a tower from a blazing fire that's quickly burning to the top. There's always something to keep you busy. In the Easy and Normal modes you have checkpoints which make the stages easier to get through, while in Hard mode you must try to get to the end of the stage without dying, otherwise you'll start from the beginning of that stage. During the chase scenes you have to outrun the big baddie, otherwise you'll have to do it over again. There may be moments when you might take a lot of damage, and by then you'll start searching for the health stars so you do not die. There are even lives you could collect, but they're hidden so well in each stage that you'll have to look in places you won't suspect to find them. There are few continues you can use up. Mickey's WIld Adventure presents a cool amount of challenge, while not to the point of it being deviously hard. That's pretty cool. The bosses are decent, especially the one with Pete on Hard mode. Without spoiling anything, it's a type of do or die moment, and he's one boss that has patterns you'll have to pay attention to in order to be successful. So you must be wondering by now: "What of the Band Concert episode?" Well, it's not exactly a mandatory episode, but it's an episode which can be accessed in secret. I won't get into the details, but you'll have to search for a way to unlock it. In it, you must jump up a row of boxes while inside a twister. You'll have to be careful here, because the boxes will move and will require precise timing on your jumps. But what should happen if you fall down? You'll be sent back to the stage which you accessed it with, and will not be given a chance to do it again (until you start a new game). A bit annoying, but something it'll take a long time to master (I hope to someday). One thing I should point out about this game is that, while it has decent length, its stages feel rather short and straightforward. The stages aren't designed in a complex manner, but the interactivity with the enemies and obstacles make up for that.

I love Mickey's Wild Adventure. I loved it back then, and I love it now. I like how much challenge it likes to deliver, even if it's not completely difficult. Some stages I have a bit of a hard time with (the burning tower comes to mind), but otherwise it's pretty manageable. I like its various, colorful worlds and I like how the different Mickeys are in these episodes. It gives a lot of variety. The soundtrack is enjoyable, and there's not a single bad track in the game. Its plot is rather unexplained (why is Mickey Mouse going through these episodes in the first place? The game never explains it; heck, even the manual doesn't talk about it), but the high atmosphere more than makes up for that. I liked how each episode tried to stay as faithful to the cartoon they were based on as possible. In the beginning of the Mad Doctor episode, once you walk through the bridge it starts collapsing, like in the cartoon it was based on; in the middle of Moose Hunters episode, you'll see a couple of mooses duke it out, like in the cartoon; and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies on a cork after it pops out of a wine bottle, like in the cartoon. The different Mickeys even have animations similar to those you'd find in the cartoons. The control scheme is also pretty neat. I enjoyed Mickey's lines, though I wish I knew why the developers never bothered to give him a tail. Even if its stages are short, I still enjoy going through the game, as there's more that make up for that. Makes me wonder if the checkpoint marker in the Easy and Normal difficulty modes were a moot point? Maybe it was to make getting through the stages with no problem? Regardless, it's enjoyable and exhilirating. Makes me want to try the other 2D platformers starring Mickey Mouse. This may be interesting to some, but this was the first project David Jaffe (of Twisted Metal and God of War fame) worked on as designer (and quite frankly, I think he's done a fantastic job in that department). This game was originally released for the MegaDrive in 1994 under the name Mickey Mania, soon followed by ports on the SNES and the Sega CD. I've only played the PlayStation version, so I cannot compare between them. All three aforementioned versions of the game were released in North America and Europe, except Mickey's Wild Adventure, which only saw the light of day in Europe and Australia. Makes me wonder why an American release never came to fruition. Either way, this is a game I recommend to fans of Mickey Mouse and fans of Disney in general, for it's got enough challenge for those gamers hungry for challenge.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Kirby's Dream Land (GB) Review

1992 HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

Review: July 21st-22nd, 2011 (My One-Year Bloggiversary)
I have a lot of favorite video game series, and the Kirby series of games is one of them. These games have fun and intuitive play control, plus their easy-going nature is one of those things that I find appealing from these games. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I remember long ago when I was little when I experienced my first Kirby game ever: Kirby's Dream Land 2. Looking back, I have to wonder why I only experienced the second main game back then and not the first game as well. Even back then I was aware of the first game's existence through an ad booklet. But regardless, I find it a good sequel and a great game. It wasn't until 2005 during Hurricane Rita that I would get a chance to play the first game at my mom's friend's house. I only played a bit of the first Kirby's Dream Land and from what I had played of it I thought it was decent, and nearly a year later I would purchase my own copy of the game at the now deceased GameCrazy (I still miss it). Still, Kirby's Dream Land is a little different than the rest of the games that eventually followed, and admittedly it's a bit unique.
Note: All these screenshots were taken with my video camera while playing Kirby's Dream Land on the Super Game Boy peripheral cartridge on the SNES console.

One late night, while all the inhabitants of Dream Land were asleep, a terrible crime was being committed. An evil, greedy king named Dedede and his soldiers stole all the food in Dream Land, and to make things worse, he's also pilfered the magic Twinkle Stars which help provide the food as well. If they're not recovered in time, the inhabitants will starve. That fiend! Who will be there to save the day? Why, none other than the titular puffball character Kirby, that's who. He offers to help and stop King Dedede at his residence Mt. Dedede. He will be traversing through the Green Greens, Castle Lololo, Float Islands, and the Bubbly Clouds. However, his adventure will not be without obstacles, enemies, and guardians who will attempt to stop Kirby by any means. It's a lighthearted adventure with equally lighthearted cute characters.

Kirby's Dream Land is a simple 2D platformer, and one with good play control. You take control of Kirby, a round puffball that has a few moves in his arsenal. Kirby can move, jump, duck, swim, and ride on Warp Stars. The thing I feel made this game unique back when it was released in its heyday was that Kirby had the ability to inhale enemies and stars, and you had the choice to either swallow them or exhale them. Kirby can also float in the sky, which is highly recommended when it comes to reaching high places (if you don't feel like jumping on platforms on the way up). This is the only game where Kirby cannot copy abilities, a feature which would later be added in Kirby's Adventure and a feature which would be implemented in later games, but there are a few items here you can use which compensate for this. They only pop up a few times: if you suck up a bomb and then spit it out, the bomb will begin exploding on anything it comes across; there's also a microphone item, and when Kirby starts using it the enemies' eardrums will begin to shatter; and there's also the famous hot curry, in which if you consume it you start breathing fireballs for a limited time (and the item would not be used again until Super Smash Bros. Brawl). A few times you'll also come across a leaf power up which grants you the ability to fire while floating without leaving your float form. What's pretty neat about Kirby's Dream Land is how easily absorbing the controls can be (no pun intended), and how fun it can be to control as Kirby. The jumping controls are even floaty, which is understandable for a game of this type. There are two healing items here which will come in handy should you find them: the bottle, which restores a couple of hit points, and the Maxim Tomato, which completely replenishes your health.

The soundtrack, considering the Game Boy's limited hardware capabilities, is really memorable and often catchy. Composed by Jun Ishikawa, who did the music for Arcana and the one who would compose the music for the majority of the games in the series as well, the music is some of the best I've heard from the Game Boy original. Some great tunes that come to mind are the Green Greens theme (Kirby's theme), the tropical Float Islands theme, and the always soft-sounding Bubbly Clouds theme. The normal boss theme is decent, but King Dedede's boss theme is absolutely fantastic. The ending theme is so excellently-composed, that it can be a real big reward to listen to after beating the game. What's cool is that many of these themes would be remixed in later games. Nice! The sound effects, themselves, are memorable, too. I like the sound Kirby makes when he tries to absorb something, and the sound for when Kirby rides the Warp Star. Another favorite sound effect of mine is the electric sound effect for when Waddle Doo uses a beam or when Kracko uses his swirling spark effect.

The visuals, though simple they may be, are very decent. Each area of Dream Land is good to look at and each area looks different. I like the foliage in Green Greens, the internal design of Castle Lololo is detailed, the Float Islands give off a tropical feel, and the Bubbly Clouds (my favorite area in the game) take place in the heavens, and when you see the stars at night it's quite a sight. The characters and enemies are also decently designed and animate well. Kirby's a cute character, and the enemies and bosses are no different. Whenever you eat a hot curry, Kirby will be flashing colors in and out. There are few moments when Kirby will swim, but he only uses his walking animation underwater (which I find a bit odd). Enemies such as the cyclopic beam-wielding Waddle Doo, the boomerang-tossing Sir Kibble, the spiky Gordo, and the Shotzo cannons made their debut here. The bosses are well-detailed; there's the famous Whispy Woods, the shooting blimp Kaboola, and a cloud with an eyeball that follows Kirby's movements called Kracko (my personal favorite boss here). There are even a couple of familiar faces from HAL's Lolo games, Lolo and Lala (named Lololo and Lalala here), who act as your antagonists. King Dedede is a menacing final boss here. I love its cute design and feel, plus its adorable quality is part of what makes the game charming and appealing.

The first Kirby's Dream Land's difficulty is quite easy. The areas aren't hard to peruse, and the enemies and bosses have easily recognizable patterns. But its easy-going nature is part of what makes it appealing and fun. I like navigating through the expositions in Dream Land, and I enjoy playing as Kirby a lot. Even if he didn't have his trademark ability absorbing prowess in his first game, Kirby sure is fun to play as. Part of what makes the game easy is Kirby's ability to float in the air as much as he wants, which admittedly I feel is a huge advantage. In order to defeat the bosses and mid-bosses, save for Kaboola, you have to swallow either an item or a star and then spit it out back at the boss. The final stage is a boss rehash, where you must battle the bosses you've fought once again, all leading up to the final showdown with the gluttonous king. Before fighting King Dedede, there are short paths which lead up to the bosses, and you must make contact with a certain character in order to get through the door. Another thing about this game is that it's very short. Kirby's Dream Land is a game that can easily be beaten in under half an hour, and the reason for that is because there are only five stages. The stages are split up into short portions, and usually you'd fight a mid-boss in the middle of the stage, and then you'll keep moving forward to meet the boss in the end of the stage. While the game has such short brevity, it does have an extra game mode that makes up for it should you beat the game the first time.

Overall, Kirby's first game is quite a blast to play, even if it didn't provide much in terms of length. It's a very easy title, but I don't mind that so much. The gameplay is solid and the atmosphere is great. I love Jun Ishikawa's music here, and it's a nice game to look at. The characters and enemies are as well-designed as they are adorable. The hot curry, microphone, and bomb items were cool to use because they each had a different impact on the enemies. The boss fights were easy, but they were fun. I like watching the intros before each stage commences, and I like how decently-designed the stages were. Yeah, the game was short, but as I mentioned before, there is a secondary quest which you can attempt after defeating King Dedede. However, you'll need the code it gives you in the end in order to access it (Up, A, and Select simulatenously). The second quest, called Extra Game, is the same as the first game except for one detail: it's more difficult. What also adds more excitement is that some enemies will be replaced by different and more potent ones. The bosses in this game mode are more challenging as they move fast and execute swift attacks. If you get hit by the second quest enemies, you take two hits, but if Gordo or spikes damage you, you'll lose three hit points, which is quite dangerous as Kirby only has a health capacity of six. The normal game is so easy, that I managed to beat it in one life several times; but the extra game will take a long time to master. This game is very fun, and it's become so legendary that it's been recreated in Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star; the final world's penultimate stage in the former is a complete homage to Kirby's Dream Land (as evidenced by the black and white backgrounds), and the latter has one mini game called Spring Breeze which is a watered down version of the original. So basically this game was made three times; five if you count the remakes Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Super Star Ultra to the aforementioned titles. That's pretty sweet! Beating the game in Extra Mode will take a bit to accomplish, but it in the end it pays off. This is a solid platformer experience on the original Game Boy, and one I enjoy coming back to sometimes. If you're interested in how the very first game Kirby starred in was like, give it a try. It may be short and easy, but boy is it fun while it lasts!