Thursday, January 12, 2012

Antarctic Adventure (FC) Review

1983, 1985 Konami

January 11st-12th, 2012
Hellooo, I'm StarBoy91! Very passionate about video games =)
When I was little, I grew up with a few video game consoles, and while visiting some relatives while I still lived in Italy,
I've also had some experience with a couple plug & plays. Actually, to tell you the truth, I played the plug & plays over at my cousins at lot when I visited them. The plug & play is basically a controller which you plug in a TV, and it has countless games in it. In this case, there were hundreds of NES and Famicom games in it (some choices are the same game, only you start in a different portion of that game), and at the time I had no idea that the majority of the games in it were actual games from the '80s until years later after I moved to the US when I looked them up in the internet. I remembered having a lot of fun with those games when I was little, and I feel some games on there have aged better than others. One of the many games I played on the plug & play was Antarctic Adventure, which I'm going to talk about today. All the screenshots were taken from me playing it on; captions and score emoticon were made by me. I'll go over the website much later. Let's see if this game has aged well.

In Antarctic Adventure you take control of a rotund penguin named Pentarou whose objective is to reach his post in the allotted time before it runs out. But on the way there are obstacles that will impede your progress, so you must avert them and do all you can to move forward. It's sort of like a racing game in the vein of Namco's Pole Position or Sega's Turbo, only here instead of racing with other penguins you have to race against time. Controls are pretty decent, for you can speed up (by holding Up), speed down (by holding Down), run left or right, and you can also jump in any side you wish (be aware, though, that once you decide to jump in a certain position, you cannot change it until you land on the snow). During each stage you will come across flags which you can collect, and fish jumping out of the ice hole for extra points. There will be obstacles which you'll have to avoid, like walruses popping out an ice hole, regular ice holes, and large holes. If you fail to avoid the first two, you'll be bumped off which will one or two seconds; but should you fail to jump over or run around the large hole, you won't fall, but it'll take you a little bit to climb out, so be careful. During the stages there will be moments when you'll be making a turn which will force to either the left or the right. One method of getting to your goal a little quicker is by donning a propeller cap, which is acquired by gathering a flashing flag. With the propeller cap, you will float in midair (as long as you tap either action button) for several seconds, but should you fly right in front of a walrus, you'll lose your cap, and you won't be able to acquire another one until you get another flashing flag. Once you reach the end, you'll be pulling up a representative flag, and despite the fact that it takes place in the entire Antarctic continent, you will find yourself pulling up flags from different countries; like the United States, Australia, and Japan, to name a few. While the visuals may look aged today, I've long had a fondness for them. The winter theme is nice to look at, and I like how in some stages the sky is bright blue while in others the sky will be orange like the sunset. The way the items appear from a distance, the way the clouds appear in the sky and become bigger as you approach (seeing it in motion is really nice), and the way Pentarou's shadow changes size whenever he jumps really gives the game some depth. I like little details like that. You'll largely see mountains in the background, but in a few cases you'll even see a frozen ice cap on the water if you take a turn. I also enjoy Pentarou's animation, even though you largely see his back. His running and jumping animations are decent, especially the one where he struggles to climb out of the hole. Not until you beat a stage do you see his face, and in every fifth stage he'll do a happy pose. Throughout Antarctic Adventure you'll hear the 8-bit rendition of Emile Waldteufel's "The Skaters' Waltz", which sounds pretty nice, though the fact that it endlessly loops may drive some gamers mad or make them mute the volume because of it. I personally don't mind it much. This game has ten stages, and after each tenth stage, the game starts again, only it will take you longer to reach your destination, so make sure you reach it on time, 'cause each stage's time limit will stay the same. What's interesting is that each ninth stage is very short, in that it can be finished in a heartbeat, plus there are no walruses to bother you there. So, think of that as a freebie. The game starts out easy enough, and it's easy to time your jumps and movements throughout each stage. But eventually the game begins to gradually get harder, and it's usually sometime during the second or third loop when things get more difficult. Pentarou's first game was originally available for the MSX in 1983, and it was even ported to the Colecovision back in 1984. Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that it was only released in Japan for the MSX (it's understandable, since the console never really made it to US shores) and Famicom (for which version was rereleased in the Japanese and South Korean Wii Virtual Console) consoles, it was exclusively released in America when it was brought to the Colecovision. That just boggles my mind. An arcade adaptation is rumored to exist, and it's funny really, since Antarctic Adventure feels more like an arcade game than a console game. This has also garnered two follow-ups: Penguin Adventure for the MSX (in Europe and Japan), and Yume Penguin Monogatari for the Famicom. I haven't played either game, but I looked up that the former is a full-length adventure title, while the latter is a platformer that centers around obesity (even for Japanese standards, that's really unusual). But I digress. Is Antarctic Adventure a fun game to invest time in? Maybe it's due to the nostalgia, but I'll have to go with yes. It's a very good game in its own right, and I think it's a fun game to play every once in a while. The Antarctic environment is appealing, and seeing that it's winter at the moment, it's a good game to play during the snow season. It's one of those arcade-like games that never reaches an end, but that's okay, I really enjoy it despite that fact. If you give it a chance and appreciate it for what it is, then I'm sure you'll like it. I know I do.

Now, about the website. Is it worth going there? Yes... and no. In it are arcade, NES, and Famicom games that can be played on there (as long as you have a Java update), the ones that are available, at least. The keyboard is used for the controls, and the visual quality is decent. When you click on a game to play (don't worry, there's no illegal downloading involved, so it's good), there may be times when a window will pop up on the lower right corner of the screen (and when that happens, just click X on that, because it's just random people trying to chat). As the site is European (you can choose between the French and British language), you'll notice that the NES and Famicom games all run at about 50Hz speed (having first experienced the Nintendo 8-bit titles on the plug & play growing up in Europe, I don't 100% mind that, although it would be nice if they ran at 60Hz). There may also be a moment when if you play a game for a long period of time, the game might freeze up in the middle. And in case you're wondering, yes, Action 52 and Cheetahman II are two of the games available to play on there, so just do yourself a favor and avoid those two games like the plague. I do admit that I've played some games on that site, but it's mostly games I've played before (either on the plug & play, the NES, or if it's an 8-bit port of an arcade game). It's an okay website, it's not one I visit often, but it's okay to go there once in awhile. As a friendly warning, only play games on that site at your discretion.


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