Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ardy Lightfoot (SFC) Review

Received: August 11th, 2014 / Written: August 20th-24th, 2014
Year: 1993 | Developed and Published by: ASCII | [|O|]
 
Hello everyone, StarBoy91; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit... oh yay, a game that's all things 16-bit!  =D  You know, one of the great pleasures about being a retro video game collector is that I get a chance to catch up with games I may have missed out on or get to experience some classics (or cult classics) that I've been curious about for years.
One of my latest Super Famicom purchases, Ardy Lightfoot, is just one of those games that fall in the latter category.  This was a game that I've oft wanted to try (back before  I started importing Super Famicom cartridges), but whenever I checked on it on eBay the price tag drove me back.  Not necessarily because it was super expensive (it was never in the hundreds range, but at least in the late $20-30s range; I didn't want to spend too much on it,... I'm quite selective when it comes to retro purchases), but rather because there weren't many copies of it on there (the Western SNES version that would be published by Titus).  So because of that I wasn't able to play it in years past; I still wanted to try it, and I checked on it once in awhile, but aside from that I had other games to search for (being a collector is not always easy).  Weeks ago I decided to try a search for the SFC original cart of Ardy Lightfoot, and to my surprise it was there and did not require the usual price tag of the Western SNES cart.  So with glee I decided to order it, and once it came days later; well, let's just say it was money well spent.  =)
But you must be wondering: what exactly is Ardy Lightfoot, and what it is about?
 
The story revolves around an anthropomorphic creature with feline-like features, who is the eponymous main character Ardy Lightfoot, who goes around exploring and helping those in need.  I like this guy already.  =)  He's accompanied every which way by his too adorable to fathom round penguin-like animal friend Pec; in his recent journey he has uncovered a stone tablet with very important engravings on it in a cave.
So he takes it to his friend Nina's home, where the elder tries to translate it.  In the stone tablet it is said that there are seven gems abound, each of which is formed of the main color of the rainbow.  Should these seven rainbow gems be gathered together, the gem-provider(s) will be able to summon a spirit which will grant any one wish that they desire.  That... sounds familiar; where have I heard that before?  =<  But just as the elder finishes translating the tablet, there is trouble brewing in the village, set up by the malevolent forces delegated by the eeeevil Visconti.  See, they too want to summon the spirit by stealing the gems, but Ardy will ensure that it will not happen.  So he and his trusty Pec decide to save the day and secure all the rainbow gems once and for all.  Go, Ardy!  Go fulfill your destiny!

"Let's go!"
Controls are simple for the most part, though there is one portion of them that might take a little bit of time to come to grips with.  Ardy has a few sets of moves, for he can jump, duck, climb ropes, and he even has one move where he can avoid being damaged by incoming enemy (projectiles).  Simply hold up for a few seconds and he'll shroud himself with a sheet that renders him not only invisible but invulnerable as well (but not indefinitely, I'm afraid); it's only accessed when holding still.  How and why he's got an invulnerability shroud is beyond me.  There are two ways of attacking enemies: the first is by throwing Pec towards them, where he ends up devouring them in the process.  Pec is like a boomerang for once you throw him he'll rebound right back towards you (however proper trajectory aim is a must in order for Pec's attack to work).  If you get hit Pec will fade away, leaving you at your most vulnerable point but that's where the other attack method comes in handy.

Tree hopping, awesome!  =)
Regardless of whether you've got Pec with you Ardy's main way of attacking enemies (and boss guardians) is by attacking with his tail.  All you have to do is hold down and Y while in midair and then Ardy's tail will sparkle.  ...  What kind of creature is heo-o  When the tail sparkles it means that once it comes in contact with an enemy, you'll be bouncing right off of them, but make sure to not hold down the button too much while contact is made otherwise you might end up accidentally getting hit.  Just pressing down once will do just fine, especially when it comes to jumping enemy by enemy.  Ardy can also use his tail to launch himself up sky high in the air to gain some altitude; just make sure to let the tail sparkle once you hit the ground, and once there you can hold down until you feel that you can get up as high as you can (whether it be a second or two).  The controls are solid, and while the tail-jumping thing takes a little bit to get used to, it becomes fun once it becomes second nature.

Such level of detail on that light is exquisite =)
The visuals are really colorful, for they do good job at evoking a sense of atmosphere.  =)  There are lots of notable examples, one of them being the forest area with the light leaves all around sandwiched between the top and bottom shaded areas.  It's not often that I see forest areas like that; not to mention the foliage is pleasant to look at (complete with treehouses) with the soft green and chartreuse color schemes.  Another area takes place inside a sandworm's stomach with flashy red tissue surrounding the premises, made all the more dangerous with acid that sometimes drips in places.  That, and detailed gums with some sharp teeth in certain portions.  ={

(How do I get myself into these situations?)  =(
My favorite area, I believe, takes places inside the pyramid.  There are so many reasons for that, and for starters it's a very well-detailed area with dimly lit sections and ominously shaded bricks sometimes adorned with ancient hieroglyphics.  What impressed me about the area was the section where there were a couple incredibly bright lights that were emanating from an empty gap between bricks.  It might not seem like much, but try getting under the light.  Actual shadows!  Even when you're in the air!  =D  I'm amazed that ASCII managed to pull this off; little details are something I really like in some areas.  A few of the other areas are nice too, like the island (whether it's during a star-lit night or during the time when the sun sets gradually), one of the latter cave areas with waterfalls set in the foreground, and even one that's set inside the tree.  There are a couple cave areas early on that have got in-depth backdrops which look nice, but my video camera didn't like those.  =(

Look: Ardy's trying to become the next Sonic
(well, it's better than most of the blue hedgehog's recent
outings at least)
Animation-wise, it's not quite up there with the overall visuals, but I think they are decent enough.  And yet, despite the motions being fluid even though the animation isn't (in particular when Pec flies out of Ardy's hands) it works oddly enough.  The jumping and running animations are okay, though I do find Pec's constant jumping up and down animation for when he follows Ardy to be cute (and with that cute smile too; that is until he opens his mouth when he attacks, in which case he's scary).  One of the many things that Ardy Lightfoot has got going for it is its anime look and feel, which I feel gives it personality.  =)  That also goes for when Ardy makes certain reactions during certain moments.  The bosses are designed nicely, especially Visconti.  And when it comes to the overworld map screens the character(s) are bite-sized, slightly reminding me of my favorite Super Famicom game from 1994.  =)

Oh, no, a shark!  <=O  I hope it doesn't roar or
spontaneously explode upon being jabbed like it
did in Jaws: The Revenge >=P
The soundtrack to Ardy Lightfoot is incredibly fun and delightful to listen to, and it meshes perfectly with the surroundings.  The brief title theme alone sets the tone for the game, with a tender mix of slight orchestration with adventurous-like beats littered throughout the package.  =)  The game's music left a very good impression on me, and it has quickly become one of my favorite soundtracks coming from a 16-bit platformer.  It's just a shame that there is no in-game sound test, for many of the songs are really good.  =(  The forest theme sounds breezy but fun, the stage with the water raft sounds awesome as it imbues a sense of high adventure in such a cool way (which makes it a little epic), and the second (first cave) and sixth (stomach) stages have got a real menacing tone about them which make them sound a bit ominous at times.

Gliding on an inflatable Pec in a room full of
spikes  =|
The pyramid themes are atmospheric (almost ambient) plus the island and waterfall cave themes sound very soft yet engages on an adventurous level.  The boss theme is filled with riveting string work, but the final boss theme truly steals the show with its supercharged orchestration.  =)  The ending theme is a well-crafted remix of the title theme, and the soundtrack suite heard in the credits sounds incredible and surprisingly it's emotionally resonant.  The sound effects are good and they fit respectively, I feel.  They're fun to listen to (i.e. when you open treasure chests, when Ardy bounces on his tail), and the best part is that they don't obstruct the background music, which is always a plus.  =)
 
"RRRRRGH!!!"
I haven't really discussed about the other gameplay elements, which I'll take a little time to go over here.  If Ardy gets hit once, then Pec will vanish; but if you get hit again, then you lose a life.  In most stages are a few treasure chests scattered about; some contain a life, some consist of stars (if you get one from a chest it counts as ten), and if you're at your most vulnerable one may even have Pec inside.  There are three different variations of Pec: there's the normal Pec (who's cyan), there's the inflatable Pec (pink), and there's the spike helmet Pec (orange).  When Pec is inflatable you can ride on him to higher places, but over time he starts to deflate so you can't stay on him forever.  Spike helmet Pec can smash through rocks once Ardy throws him, which is very helpful.  Even so, Pec will vanish regardless if you get hit with him around.  There are checkpoints positioned in some stages in the form of diminutive scribe statues which you must jump on in order to enable it (and once you jump on them they come alive scribbling the journal).
 
Oh, boys!  I've got a fun game for you; it's called
Pec Attack!
Ardy Lightfoot is a sidescrolling platformer that's got seventeen stages (eighteen if you count the prologue), which is a very unusual number compared to how many stages a game in the genre usually has.  Okay, they're not all equal in length, as some areas are rather shorter than others.  There's a password system, but you only see what it is when you get a game over and decide to "pass".  There are only five different bosses in the venture, and some of them have to be defeated in quite inventive ways outside of using your tail.  For example one of them involves deflecting a laser that fires back at said boss, and another involves pushing a button adjacent to the opposite corner as a punching glove from said corner punches the boss (but proper timing is important).  Some areas are more open-ended than others, which I can get behind.  =)
 
Aww, takes me back to Wagyan Paradise <=)
The game was released in Japan in late 1993, while Americans and Europeans had to wait until early and late '94 (respectively) in order to play it.  Even though I only played the Japanese version, I'll talk about the differences between versions (since it's more likely that you played the Western version, and because I like to be informative).  The Western version was released by Titus, which is a company that's infamous for having developed and/or published some schlock titles of yesteryear until 2005 (like Superman: The New Adventures on the Nintendo 64, the SNES exclusive Incantation, and the SNES port of Prince of Persia 2: The Flame and the Sword).  It makes me feel bad for Ardy Lightfoot since Western gamers probably thought that because Titus' name was on it that it was going to suck (when really, it's not bad, not in the slightest; it's just unfortunate that ASCII did not have publishing privileges Westside).  Not to mention they had the scariest company logo ever<=(  If I wanted to look at a foxy company logo, I'll take the pre-2006 Traveller's Tales one any day, thank you very much.
 
Now then, differences between regions:
 
In the Japanese game once you beat the fifth stage Catry glides away until she's swallowed whole by a sandworm.  Well, she's dead.  Ardy follows suit and goes after her for she's got one of the rainbow gems, but gets swallowed up as well.  As he traverses even deeper in the creature's acidy stomach he discovers...
(OoO)
..........  Heheheheheheh ........ Wow...... when I said that she died, that was a joke.  I didn't think that the sandworm from Dune would actually kill her.  I mean, geez, that's really dark considering its usually light (yet adventurous) tone; death by acid.  But in the Western version, she's fine; just a little unconscious is all.  =)
You see that cool Indiana Jones-like fellow?  In the Japanese original he's seen with a cigarette in his mouth, but Titus didn't feel it appropriate for Western audiences so they asked ASCII to remove it.  Eh, don't feel too bad; Sega of America and Europe had to go through the same thing as well back then .  Remember Mr. X in Ancient's Streets of Rage 2?  He actually smoked a cigar in the Japanese version Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle, but Sega asked that they keep him with clean lungs for the localized editions.
In the Japanese version if you get a game over Ardy will escape from a cage with a banner that says "The Most Unlucky Man", while in the Western release the banner says something completely different: "Visconti's Jail".  Also in the Japanese version if you hold still long enough Ardy will crouch down sticking his tail up in the air; I guess people don't take too kindly when animals do that, so that idle pose was removed for Western versions.
 
And now for the most... confusing change of all: <=/
In the fourth stage that takes place in the forest there are a couple moments when you will see bears who are tied up to a tree or are crying (not that you can do anything about it).  In the Western version: they're not there!  What?  I mean: yeah, it's sad to see bears being tied up and shedding tears.  But not enough to fully eviscerate them for the Western release.  =/  What am I supposed to make out of this?  \=(
GUMMI BEARS
WISHING THAT THEY WERE SPARED,
TIED UP, CRYING DESPERATELY ERE
ARDY SAVES THE GUMMI BEARS
........................
Your improv needs a little work there buddy
Yeah, it does... -_-
 
There is also a beta of the game which features a lot of oddities and differences before being changed or polished for the finalized version:
Screen capture of RANDOM HOO HAAS Ardy Lightfoot beta page
This page (which didn't look like a full one at the time) was how I first found about the game back in early 2009 (just once).  If I recall correctly the RANDOM HOO HAAS site runner wasn't exactly enamored of the game, but I think he must've had some fascination towards it for going all out and spotlighting every single difference between beta and finalized version dedicating a full section of his site towards it, so kudos for that.  I thought it was very interesting when I first looked it up, and it did have me intrigued, but it wouldn't be until five and a half years later that I would play it (only for the Super Famicom).  If you're curious about what changes were made go to this link here: http://randomhoohaas.flyingomelette.com/shr/ardy/  You would be surprised as to what you would find.  =)
 
The inside of a stomach is definitely not a
place I want to be in ={
Ardy Lightfoot is a platformer, and for the most part it's not really demanding in terms of difficulty, though that's not to say there aren't moments that require a bit of challenge.  A few areas actually require a bit of exploration in order to proceed; in a waterfall-filled cave for example you must search for three switches which you must pull back in order to access the exit.  In the forest there is a very steep hill which you must descend and run down towards seguing into a big leap of faith over a bed of spikes.  In one of Visconti's castle stages you must reach the top of the area through a series of shooting arrows, which is easier said than done because it can get easy to get hit if you're not well-balanced and careful.  =(  Some of Visconti's areas actually do present challenge, like trying to survive a room full of spikes by riding on an inflatable Pec, or even relying on a mirror in an automatic-scrolling stage to see what projectiles are being shot at you once you're behind a wall.  A few areas might include pushing or pulling boxes.  There might be situations when barriers might have to be destroyed by carrying a bomb there.  Either way you put it, you can't say that this platformer is fully devoid of challenge.
 
You can't see me, you can't touch me X3
So, onto the bosses, then.  Even though the game is mostly easy, most of them took me a while to take down, I have to be really honest.  The first one is the easiest, but the rest are not so easy to take down the first time.  Essentially what you must do is inflict damage on them enough times until they're down for the count; and you can tell when they're close once they start turning crimson red.  The fight with Catry takes a bit to get right because you must time it right as she keeps moving; some bosses require you to bounce off them with your tail while others don't.  If it makes it easier, you can pull out the invulnerability shroud for a few seconds in order to avoid sustaining damage; the only downside is that you can't do it indefinitely as after awhile it'll no longer be functioning.  Just do it in few intervals when the moment calls for it.  The final boss Visconti takes the longest to beat, and I lost count of how many lives I've lost in the process.  Even after the first time, it's still a doozy of a fight, but not impossible.
 
Up, up, and away!!!!
Depending on how you do, it takes about fifty to roughly sixty minutes to beat the game in one sitting.  If you don't feel you have the time nor can handle the task of beating it in one sitting, at least ASCII has got your back with a simple and not very complex password system (which I can't help but recall the one from SNES Sparkster, even though it's not 100% the same).  I didn't expect a masterpiece upon receiving this game, but I was wholeheartedly surprised at how good it was.  I liked how there were moments of exploration and challenge, as well as how easy it was to get invested in this world.  The anime look and feel really works, and it's incredibly fun while it lasts.  =)  What could possibly prevent it from being one of the best in genre?
o_O  Seriously?  Seriously??  Et tu, Ardy Lightfoot?  What is it with games (and even sequels for that matter) that feel so confident that in the end that they subtly or openly hint that they would get a sequel or follow-up when they don't deliver?
Click for full size; the upper right SFC game is Popful Mail
I don't know about you, but it really frustrates me when a game does that, especially when most of them are either underrated or are very good, but weren't successful officially speaking  You may as well say, "We could make the sequel that we promised in the end; but we won't.  Sorry!"  RRRRGH>O<  If anything, that deceit is worse than a game having no sequels at all (namely Glover, Plok, and Ristar).  And to find that Ardy Lightfoot is one of those games that fall into the category really upsets me.  =(  *sigh*
 
Ducking
All right, let's cut to the chase.  While the game is fun (a lot of fun) there are few moments that get frustrating, particularly the upward arrow trail and trying to safely navigate around a room of spikes on Pec who gradually deflates the more you move (luckily Pec can be accessed any time in some particular chests, which admittedly does make the game easy), without touching the spikes.  The final boss takes awhile to beat compared to how long it takes to beat the others, and some areas are shorter than others.  There is a brief mine car sequence which is neat, I like how there are some puzzle moments (like waiting until a minion carries a platform, which you can use to gain higher ground with the tail jump in one area), and there is actually a lot charm throughout the game.  The gameplay is good, the various areas look great, and I have to give props: the ending/credits scene plus a brief scene that takes place before the final boss encounter are pretty emotional (at least, to me they are).  I just hate the fact that it became part of the "unfulfilled sequel bait" club, since I honestly had a lot of fun with it while it lasted.  =(
 
Let's fly away, Pec!
It's an easy game, but not too easy (it could've benefited from more than just one difficulty setting), and for the most part it's an enjoyable platformer; also very good to look at more often than not.  The soundtrack is well-done, and I liked it.  Easily became one of my favorites.  =)  If you're in the mood for a very fun sidescrolling platformer then this would fit the bill just fine.  If you're looking for something overtly challenging, I'm afraid this isn't what you're looking for.  If you love platformers like I do I'm sure you might enjoy this game, but be forewarned it's got one of the most strenuous upward-scaling areas ever.  Ardy Lightfoot in my opinion is a good, underrated game.  If you're curious, I recommend that you check it out.  I'm glad I did.  =)
 
8.0/10
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. I'm sure there are other examples than the ones I've pointed out, but those were the ones that popped into mind.  I could've included Axelay on there, but its openly stated sequel bait isn't seen until you go through Hard mode twice, and not many people would want to do that I'm afraid.  =(
 
P.S. 2: I'm not 100% sure what kind of creature Ardy is, but he does have some cat-like qualities so....... if that's the case, it's a much better cat game than all the Bubsy the Bobcat games (particularly the second one).  XD  I do like his winged hat, though; though I don't get his weird fashion choice: red gloves, really?
 
P.S. 3: Pec is so cute when he smiles... which is, a lot.
 
P.S. 4: Note to future video game developers: if you think your game's got the potential to have a sequel, great.  If your game doesn't have a chance of garnering a sequel, then please, for the love of all that's decent, refrain from sequel baiting>=(
 
P.S. 5: And speaking of Gummi Bears: boy, would I have loved to have played a video game adaptation based on that underrated Disney show.  A gamer can dream.
 
Thank you for reading my review; please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.  Take care!  =)

2 comments:

  1. Wow! So I actually found a US copy of this in my parents attic the other night! My dad used to buy games at yard sales and this was one of them. I must say, it was a lot of fun. The platforming is a tiny bit off or way too precise sometimes but I agree it's surprisingly solid! Shame it won't ever get that sequel...

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    1. Yep, Ardy Lightfoot is a lot of underrated fun, and brimming with charm also =D

      That sequel bait though, man, why did ASCII do that? =(

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