Monday, February 2, 2015

StarBoy91's January 2015 Mini-Reviews 1/3

Written: February 1st-2nd, 2015
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  One of the things I decided to start doing this year is keep count of all the media I watched or played during each month, starting with January 2015.  This was an idea that was inspired by FlyingOmelette's Capsule Reviews, but because I usually have a lot to say when it comes to--well--everything, I'm going to trying to summarize in fewer words than I usually express because I want to talk about all the media I played or watched during that month; and I just want to point out it's going to be different from the aforementioned capsules since I'll be doing my thing.  And because there's so much ground to cover I'm going to split it into parts (usually divisible by the total number).  With that out of the way, here are my January 2015 Mini-Reviews.
Before I start I want to express that these are my thoughts and my personal opinions, and if you feel that you don't agree with my perspective that's totally okay so long as you're civil about it.  To each their own.  Without further delay, let's b-- my avatar looks weird without a hat on.  =|
Bonkers (SNES)
1994 Capcom
For reasons which I'll fully disclose when I make a full-fledged review of this game one day I decided to give Bonkers on the SNES a chance after years of hesitancy.  And, while it's not the best Capcom-made Disney fare on Nintendo's 16-bit power machine, it exceeded my expectations in the fun factor.  This game was more fun than I presumed it would be, considering it's based on an animated show that's not held in high regard (or mention), making it one of the few (perhaps the only, in my opinion) licensed game that's better than its media original.
With that said, as fun as this game was, I couldn't help but notice how derivative it was in some aspects.  For example, Bonkers' jumping animations are similar to those of Mickey's from The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse; there is a dash meter not unlike the one that's implemented in Konami's Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!; there is a stage portion where if you fall in a substance you become that hue (like in one instance of Konami's Sparskter); and the fact that Bonkers is a bobcat who relies on speed makes you think of a previous feline character that did the same thing: Bubsy the Bobcat (who himself was made to ape off Sonic the Hedgehog's success).  Capcom's not usually this unoriginal when it comes to games.
Controls were very simple, and I liked the fact that you could choose where your next location could be on the map; lending it some replay value.  The boss battle were fine, and the Capcom charm was very appealing, but the resolution during the ending was so easy that I couldn't help but feel dumbfounded by it.  Not the best that Capcom had to offer, but it could've been a whole lot worse.
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
Congo the Movie: Secret of Zinj (SNES - ROM)
1995 Visual Concepts (Developer) / Viacom New Media (Would-Be Publisher)
Late in the month I discovered a website that let me play ROMs of SNES games that went unreleased (which means I played them on my laptop; these crisp images you see--I took).  Congo the Movie: Secret of Zinj, unfortunately, is one of them.  Regarding the 1995 movie itself, I didn't hate it anywhere near as much as everyone does, but I do see where there are complaints: the gorillas are men in suits, and as far as Michael Crichton fare was concerned it disappointed to Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Jurassic Park.  Still, I think the movie is okay; a guilty pleasure with some good elements in it.

There are lots of problems with the game (which has got nothing to do with the Sega Saturn game of the same name); the prevalent issue being that it sorely lacks polish and in some stages it borders on unplayable due to the sometimes fast scrolling.  There are several different gameplays within each stage; where one has you ride through a rowboat in the stream, one where a character automatically runs and your only course of action is jumping and whipping a lamppost thereby swinging over, and four overlong shooting segments.  The problem with these is that you cannot backtrack in these stages so you have to be very careful in order to progress (at least there's a password system).  It's probably for the best that this title hadn't come out since it was clearly yet to reach the playable quality phase (and I hear its playtesters had a fit), but I will give it credit for having a neat (albeit cheesy-looking) game over screen.
My Personal Score: 2.5/10
Dragon View (SNES)
1994 Infogrames S.A. (Developer) / Kemco (Publisher)
Like Bonkers I had decided that after years of uncertainty and hesitancy that I had to give this game a chance, and Dragon View, the Nintendo-16 exclusive sequel to Drakkhen, was one of the games I got during the Christmas of 2014.  I liked Drakkhen on the SNES, brief and devoid of depth as it was, for it was a cool tech demo (and nothing more) with great visuals and music.  Long before trying this game, I had long perceived how I would feel about it, and once I played through the whole game my honest feelings on it were... lopsided at best.
That's not to say that Dragon View is a bad game, but hear me out.  I liked its new visual styles, the animations were solid, the towns and their people have got a charm all their own, the Mode 7-driven world was significantly more polished, and the gameplay was new.  The world-traveling aspect from Drakkhen was retained, but this time whenever you're in a dungeon the multi-layered segments are laid out in a way that it plays like a beat'em up the likes of Golden Axe and Knights of the Round, which I found refreshing.  I also liked the fact that from time to time you would find energy which augments the potency of your sword, your boomerang-like hauza, and armor.  The tone and dialogue is significantly less serious than its predecessor's was, which is evident from the get-go when one of the characters makes an Airplane! reference.
But with the good comes the bad.  When it comes to destinations (and future ones) you have to walk there.  Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of walking!  There is rarely an alternative method to reach the new place you need to go to, and it ends up making this game feel very redundant (especially when it comes to level grinding and secret finding).  Drakkhen did this too, but I didn't mind it in that game all that much because that one was at least short; Dragon View is roughly a dozen hours long (and that includes a twenty-minute long ending sequence; as far as I played), which is nothing compared to how long many RPGs were at the time, but I thought all that walking and blind searching dragged the experience exponentially.  The music wasn't as good as Drakkhen's, but the songs were decent on their own.  It's a shame because Dragon View was clearly trying to be ambitious; but for what it's worth, I liked it okay, and at least the gameplay was decent.
My Personal Score: 6.5/10
Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-Ray)
2014 Buena Vista/Paramount
(Image from Wikipedia)
Is there really anything I can say about this movie that hasn't been said already since it came out last Summer?  I don't think so at this point.  Guardians of the Galaxy has got such great characters, a fun story, a good dose of heart, lots of upbeat humor, and a very enjoyable and effective soundtrack infused with '80s themes.  The visuals are cool, and in my opinion it's the best MCU movie since Marvel's The Avengers; also, Rocket and Groot make for one of the best character pairs onscreen.  "I am Groot!"  I loved it, and I look forward to the sequel.
My Personal Score: 5/5
Into the Woods 2014 (Theatres)
2014 Disney
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
There were some movies that came out in theatres late in 2014 that I didn't see during that year but wanted to catch up on.  Rob Marshall's adaptation of Sondheim's musical Into the Woods was one of them, and when I saw it at the end of the month personally I liked it a lot.  It was very energetic, well-cast, and the look of the movie was good.  I thought the titular woods were an intriguing set piece, especially during the latter half of the movie.
The pacing was brisk, and the songs I liked a lot (including "Agony" and "Prologue").  It was nice to see Daniel Huttlestone (Les Mis√©rables' Gavroche) on the big screen again, and it's cool to see Johnny Depp in a role that was more dignifying than the one he gave to Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger, even if it was altogether brief.  Some moments I thought were humorous (like Meryl Streep's performance when she shows up at the Baker's house) and the first half I thought was better than the second, if only just slightly.  Despite being two hours long, it didn't feel like it (even during the second half).  I didn't see the original musical, but as an introduction to Into the Woods I thought the movie adaptation was good.
My Personal Score: 4/5
It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (DVD)
1977 United Features Syndicate/Paramount
Screengrab from my Region 1 DVD of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
I already said all I had to say about this sorely misbegotten Charlie Brown special in my review of it, I don't think I need to stress how much I loathe It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown with a passion any further.  The high amounts of meanspiritedness, Lucy van Pelt screwing the game up for the sake of making Charlie Brown a fool, no one seeing it as it actually happens, Charlie Brown getting unfairly scapegoated for everything that went wrong, the most boring and uninteresting homecoming queen I ever saw, Snoopy at his most grating (which he usually never is), and that acid-induced LSD dream sequence that came out of nowhere the moment the eponymous scene happens.  This special didn't need to exist (with all apologies to Charles M. Schulz, who I'm positive meant no ill-will when making it); it didn't need to be harsh all the way (this special offends me personally); and it didn't need to be twenty-four minutes long.  The only positive thing I can say about this special is that (in my book) you can't get any lower than this in the Peanuts universe.
My Personal Score: 0/5
Jerry Boy 2 (SFC - ROM)
1994 GameFreak (Developer) / Epic/Sony Records (Would-Be Publisher)
Of the SFC/SNES ROMs that I played online, the sequel to the 1991 Nintendo-16 Jerry Boy/Smart Ball (which was developed by Sacom System) was the best of them all.  While GameFreak was involved in the first game as designer, Jerry Boy 2 (the actual title is Jelly Boy 2, but I'm not saying it like that) was completely done by them, and let me tell you: it completely blows its predecessor out of the water in more ways than one.
Not only is the gameplay more polished and refined this time around, but now you have a chance to control one of five humans or one dog all turned into blobs that have got their own distinct movesets; one of them can shoot her star which comes back to her, another can spew blob bits that blow up after a few seconds, and a third example is one who dashes a small portion.  All this helps because some blobs' strengths counterbalance the others' weaknesses, and depending on which one you choose you might get far and even reach a secret place.  The visuals are great, the soundtrack is fun to listen to, and adding to the replay value is the fact that you can play in any stage any time you please (as any character) and the fact that there's a secret which must be accessed once you acquire all nine blocks.  It really charmed me.
It's just too bad that it got cancelled after production was complete, because this game is a lot of fun and largely makes up for some of the flaws in the original.  The publisher didn't have to be Sony, but because they published the first game too, Jerry Boy 2 tragically became a victim of bad timing, what with the Phillips CD-i incident and the fact that they started competing with Nintendo the moment they made the PlayStation One in 1994.  =(
My Personal Score: 8.0/10
Kuru Kuru Kururin (Game Boy Advance)
2001 Eighting (Developer) / Nintendo (Publisher) 
Ever since I saw the trophy of the Helirin the very first time I played Super Smash Bros. Melee all those years ago I was curious about the game it came from.  So imagine how disheartened I was several years later when I discovered that North America got left out and that it was only given its due in Japan and Europe.  With the advent of the Nintendo Wii (U) Virtual Console service it's a great opportunity to catch up with titles you missed out on in the past; buuut, knowing the history of games that receive both a Japanese and European release while they received their long overdue rerelease (Trip World, Pop'n TwinBee, TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, Mario's Super Picross*) America once again is not taken into consideration because [insert cultural/personal/absolute BS reason here]=(
Which makes importing the physically formatted original the only way of experiencing these games if you live in America; and that's exactly what I did.  Because I got it at the end of the month I can't fully express my thoughts because I didn't get far.  But from what I had played of Kuru Kuru Kururin so far I like it.  The premise is simple in that the Helirin constantly rotates around and you must maneuver yourself without making contact with the wall.  It's very involving and requires lots of patience in these segments, making for a lot of intense and fun challenge.  I'll share my thoughts when the February mini-reviews come aboard, or when I decide to make a full-fledged review.
* Yes, I am fully aware that in 1995 Mario's Super Picross was exclusively available on the Super Famicom; but come on, both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U Virtual Consoles had it rereleased for both Japan and Europe.  Nintendo of America still can't stand that the original Mario's Picross didn't do well in their region I take it.
My Personal Score: N/A
Kyotokei - Demo (WiiWare)
2011 Microforum
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
It would be unfair of me to assign a verdict for this Cotton-themed cute'em up since I only got to experience the demo of it (one stage) during the month and not the full package.  I remember how years ago when it first came out how I was intrigued because Microforum decided to make the game retro in look and feel.  I suppose for that I've got to give it credit, since it does look good.
If there's anything that makes Kyotokei somewhat iffy to me it's the controls and structure itself.  So let me see if I get this straight: if the enemy is azure and you are azure and their projectile hits you when you're that color you're fine but if a red enemy projectile hits you when you're azure you blow up?  Same if it was vice versa?  ...  What?  The game plays decently, and it was neat to see lots of enemy fire onscreen all at once; it's just the way it was designed that befuddles me.  Maybe it's because I got to it too late or maybe I expected too much of it, I don't know.
My Personal Score: N/A
Lucy 2014 (DVD)
2014 Universal
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
Back when it was still out in theatres I recall how the trailer intrigued me and how I wanted to see it; but I never did.  When I saw that Luc Besson's latest film had come out on DVD I wanted to take advantage of release day and days later decided to watch it.  On one hand I feel bad that I didn't see Lucy when it was on the big screen as the concept was honestly intriguing: what would happen if a person utilized 100% of their brain capacity?  On the other hand, had it happened I would've probably ended up feeling frustrated by its execution.
Now, don't get me wrong: I knew the moment I put it on that it wasn't going to be the movie that its trailers made it out to be (after having read a review of it or two).  Even so, this movie was relentlessly out of control, and full of symbolism, and the casual cuts to Morgan Freeman lecturing about brain capacity.  The things Scarlett Johansson's titular character can do after a mysterious new drug is inserted inside her are incredible, especially when it reaches the 20% phase upward.  The wild car chase alone is worth a mention.
The final moments were equally as intriguing as they were frustrating, and I'd like to disclose why that is but that would take all day (maybe when I talk about the movie alone); all I can say is that it echoes the last scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I didn't like the bad guys at all, I wanted them to die.  This is a movie that must be seen to be believed, but there's no guarantee that it will make anyone's top favorites list.  Lucy wasn't bad, but it was somewhere in the middle; though I did appreciate some of its scenes (like the earlier scene where Lucy calls her mother and one of the very final moments is tender, and some moments did make me laugh a little; though probably not for the right reasons) and the acting was good.
My Personal Score: 3/5
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (SNES)
1995 Neverland (Developer), 1996 Taito/Natsume (Publisher)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Another game I got during 2014's Christmas, this was a game I finally decided to try after years of contemplating what was right to play first: this or Lufia & the Fortress of Doom.  Since the second Nintendo 16-bit Lufia is actually a direct prequel I decided to go with this game (thus far I have not played the first game in the series).  Another reason I finally decided to catch up on it was because I wanted to see for myself for sure if this was as good as a lot of gamers make it out to be (since I read reviews that were both positive and heavily lopsided).
I only got in a few towns but took a break because I keep alternating between games, so I can't share my full disclosure until I beat it.  But for now I'm actually indifferent towards it (that feeling may change in the future).  The music is fantastic and the visuals are pretty decent, and I liked that the characters actually had word bubbles whenever they spoke.  And yet, it doesn't feel all that groundbreaking.  For a turn-based RPG it feels derivative so far; there's a gigantic catfish which causes earthquakes (gee, I wonder which adventure game had this last?), there is one block-pushing puzzle that's exactly like one found in Puzzle'n Desu!, and the main character Maxim looks a lot like Adol Christin and moves swiftly like him too; if he didn't have the Ys hero's likability and charm.
The fact that you can move fast is a plus since it makes backtracking very painless, and there's plenty of things to like (like the action-based dungeon exploring).  But considering I've only made it a few towns in, so far I'm not overwhelmed; maybe it'll get better as I move on, I don't know.  But, so far it's decent, nothing great.
My Personal Score: N/A
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>

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