Sunday, February 8, 2015

StarBoy91's January 2015 Mini-Reviews 3/3

Written: February 5th-8th, 2015
Pac-Man Collection (Game Boy Advance)
2001 Mass Media (Developer) / Namco (Publisher)
Although very uneven a compilation than Namco Museum in terms of content (four games spanning sixteen years total), Pac-Man Collection makes up for that by having fun games to play in short bursts and maintaining its central theme; in that Pac-Man stars in all these games.
Pac-Man Arrangement is my favorite game in the collection because of its really fun gameplay and the way it remade its originator, not to mention the fact that it's got a boss fight in the end (which is a rarity in the maze genre).  The other games aren't bad either, with Pac-Attack providing neat puzzler challenges, Pac-Man and Pac-Mania are still fun to play once in awhile.  It might be similarly structured to Namco Museum as far as game selection and options screens are concerned, and the majority of games were cropped to fit the screen; but aside from that it's a solid compilation to play on the go.
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
Parodius Da! -Shinwa kara Owarai e- (Game Boy)
1991 Konami
The sole standalone portable version of Parodius Da! -Shinwa kara Owarai e- is a real testament to what the Game Boy is capable of when trying to test its limitations, and Konami did a very great job with it.

The gameplay is good, the characters' abilities bring a lot of variety, and despite the fact that so much activity happens on screen occasionally Parodius Da! doesn't slow down once.  The Parodius games have been known for going outrageously over-the-top when it came to spoofing the shoot'em up genre, especially when you're surrounded by nothing but Japanese folklore and culture.  The lengths Konami go to in order to make these games as outrageous as possible (including zany remixes of classical music) make them so hilarious to play but as a result make them accessible solely by those who have "acquired taste".  Take that away, and it would be an entirely different game altogether.

Even if it's portable, Parodius Da! is a lot of fun to play, and I like perusing the various stages (including the one exclusively made for this version).
My Personal Score: 9.0/10
Shovel Knight (Nintendo Wii U)
2014 Yacht Club Games
(Image from Wikipedia)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
So I'm a little late to the party, but on the day of the Epiphany I downloaded Shovel Knight on the Nintendo Wii U eShop, and frankly it's a blast.  This game is one of the best throwbacks to the games of old I played in some time, where it not only has the looks and sounds of a great-looking NES game but it totally embraces its 8-bitness with heart and soul.  Seriously, this game is awesome!  =D

Shovel Knight is vintage 8-bit all the way, and it's pretty clear how passionate Yacht Club Games was when they made this love letter to retro gaming fans.  Combining elements of DuckTales, Castlevania, Mega Man, and a partial bit of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the game plays excellently, and what's great is that there are lots of nooks and crannies to discover in each stage; adding more to a game that already has lots of replay value.

The worlds look great and the colors are well-chosen, made all the better with the amounts of detail and parallax scrolling which lend them so much depth.  The music is some of the best I heard in an indie platformer which has got a lot of catchy beats and an awesome title theme which I find myself listening to over and over because of how good it is.  It's also a very addicting game to play, and there's boatloads of charm, humor, and even emotion which add a lot to the experience.  I even like the Troupple King's "dance" and there's plenty of challenge which is befitting for a game of this ilk (the Flying Machine stage in particular).

If there's one thing that bugs me only just slightly about this otherwise brilliant game it's that it's one of those "accomplishment" games.  Nowadays games need to have accomplishments (such as trying to beat a stage in one life, not using a checkpoint, beating its New Game Plus mode, all that stuff), why is that?  I mean dammit, I can barely enough get all the accomplishments done in Kirby Air Ride, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, and now Shovel Knight expects me to do the same?  Urrrgh!!!  Oh well, at least it's incredibly fun.  =D
My Tentatively Personal Score: 9.0/10
Smart Ball (SNES)
1991 GameFreak (Designer) / System Sacom (Developer) / Sony Imagesoft (Publisher)
Like Kuru Kuru Kururin I got this game on the last day of the month, but since I was exposed to the original Super Famicom version Jerry Boy prior to playing this Americanized version I can talk about it a good deal.  For starters, Smart Ball is a slightly lesser version of Jerry Boy, with one actual change gameplay-wise.  In the Japanese original the running and ball-spewing actions were assigned to the same button (Y), but in the American version the ball-spewing is now done with either shoulder button; which admittedly makes the controls a little less awkward and precise like before.
But that doesn't excuse the omission of the story and towns, which contributed a good amount of charm to Jerry Boy.  And I'll explain why that's bad when I give it a full-fledged review.
Moving away from that glaring localization bullcrap, the game still plays decently and the ability to move in any wall or ceiling is cool but might take a bit to adjust to should you wish to not accidentally detach from the solid substance.  The visuals are good for a Generation One Nintendo 16-bit title; with the desert landscape going from day to night, dither-laced water areas, and even a literal Mode 7 planet which is neat to look at.  The soundtrack is really good, especially when it comes to the mysterious and menacing themes.
If anything's really all that wrong with Smart Ball (which is also true of Jerry Boy) it's that it is largely an easy game with little challenge in it (with easy bosses, convenient checkpoints, and unlimited continues) that's got no real replay value, and while it is fun to play sometimes it is simply straightforward for its own good.  And even though the ball-spewing controls were altered here, letting go and jumping is still something to be careful about.  It doesn't make the game bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired.  Jerry Boy 2 fixed a lot of these issues, but sadly it went unreleased.
My Personal Score: 6.0/10
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Nintendo Wii U)
2014 Big Red Button Entertainment (Developer) / Sega (Publisher)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Poor Sonic.  He hasn't had a very good game in a long time; so long, in fact, that there are constant debates among gamers over when his actual last good game was.  For me, it was Sonic Colors on the Nintendo DS (not that it says anything over the quality of all the games preceding it, mind you), but I digress.  Sonic's latest outing has been getting ravaged on, and I can definitely see why.  This was my newest Nintendo Wii U game that I got during Christmas 2014, though I'm wondering at this point if I would've been better off with Sonic Generations or Sonic Lost World instead (since I hear they're both better).

So you know how games like The Simpsons Game, Pac-Man World 3, Robots, and The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night all revolve around an open world, have got great immersive soundtracks, look beautiful, give you unlimited lives, are full-on collectathon button mashers, and how from time to time the playable or enemy characters bring up their own commentary on things?  Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is no different, but what differentiates this game from the rest is that the characters never shut the hell up!!!  And unlike the other games where they are at least playable and slightly fun, this one borders on stale and repetitive.  A lot!
And as for the voice acting: it's just over-the-top and distracting, and the dialogue is cringeworthy to listen to.  It's as if Rise of Lyric was lifted from an animated show aimed at y-- oh, right.  If I wanted to put up with that, I'd rather watch a TV show, since I wouldn't have to do anything to contribute except lock my eyes on the screen.  Oh, and fetch quests aplenty, yay!  =P  I am far from beating it, but so far not so good.
My Personal Score: N/A
Steven Seagal is the Final Option (SNES - ROM)
1994 Riedel Software Productions (Developer) / TecMagik (Would-Be Publisher)
Ohhh, boy; this game is a train wreck.  Not only was Steven Seagal is the Final Option slated to be released on the SNES but never happened, but it was also slated to be released on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation One consoles but they never happened either.  That is not a good sign; and after playing the SNES ROM of it I can see why it remained on the cutting room floor: this has got to be one of the most awkwardly-presented games I've ever seen.
The characters are digitized not unlike Pit-Fighter and Mortal Kombat before it, and yet they manage to look worse here.  It also doesn't help any that the backgrounds they walk in are drawn in 2D.  Steven Seagal's walking animations look awkward, especially when he's walking either up or down.  It's also clear that it was far from being finished and polished, because I found segments where Seagal manages to walk over layers he should be behind.  The controls aren't even well-executed, and it's a mess.  The one thing worth pointing out is that the scream for when Seagal falls down is one of the most hilariously digitized ones I heard.
My Personal Score: 2.0/10
Super Mario Kart (SNES)
1992 Nintendo
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
So late in the month I had felt like downloading another game on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, and generally I only had enough points to download an NES game (or something cheaper).  But when I caught hold of the Throwback sale I saw that Super Mario Kart, a game I liked playing a lot with my cousins whenever I visited them (in fact, it was one of the very first SNES games I played), was discounted just slightly.  It was just enough to play it, so I gladly took advantage of the opportunity and selected it.  I'm glad I did, because Super Mario Kart is awesome=D

Even though the game's been around for almost twenty-three years it still looks very good, and the Mode 7 brings each course to life.  Each character controls great and have their own distinct stats which set them apart, an example being Toad who can go quite fast.  Depending on the Cup the courses can either be easy and simple or complex and hard, and trying to stay in the lead is especially a hard task to maintain in the latter Cups; but it is manageable with enough practice.  The courses are fun to drive in, and the two-player balloon mode was one of the best aspects about it.

What I'm saying is: Super Mario Kart is that good, and regardless of good or great each installment is (I haven't played Mario Kart 8 at present), and no matter how fun they may be, they cannot top the original in my book.  =)
My Personal Score: 10/10
Tekken 2 (SNES - ROM)
1997(?) ????????
So remember how Namco's Tekken series was one of the highest grossing 3D fighting arcade games of the '90s alongside Sega's Virtua Fighter.  Remember how cool and fun they were, and remember how innovative and complex various characters' controls could be.  Remember how they were 3D?  I highly doubt the makers of this hack of a ROM understood all the essentials that made the series good to begin with.
For starters, the characters and environments are no longer polygonal or in-depth; instead we now have an audaciously lackluster 2D one-on-one fighter.  The controls' reaction times are painstakingly slow, and even though some of the combos actually managed to make an appearance you'll be lucky if you get them to work and have them timed like you want.  Or if that doesn't work, just repeat the best moves you can think of until the opponent is defeated or get very lucky.
Speaking of characters, their models feel wrong.  Why is Yoshimitsu barechested?  It's bad enough that you only get to play one of six characters (including Lee, who was an unlockable in the legitimate Tekken 2), but the way the game ends after you beat it is anticlimactic.  And those victory or loss screens after the two victories or losses are the equivalent of unpolished cardboard; incredibly distracting and unnecessary.  The real Tekken 2 was fun, but this one was not; let's face it, 3D fighting games like these were never meant to be made on a 16-bit system.  The same mistake was done with Virtua Fighter 2 on the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis, yet this bastardized Tekken ROM makes Sega's failed 2D conversion look competent by comparison (but at least that one was actually playable, and that one was actually made by Sega).
My Personal Score: 1.0/10
Tinhead (SNES - ROM)
1994 MicroProse U.K. (Developer) / Ballistic & Spectrum Holobyte (Would-Be Publishers)
This SNES version of the 1993 Genesis action/platformer was complete, but it was never released.  There's something pretty charming about the main character and the world he's traipsing.  What's interesting is that even though the main method of attacking is the projectile shots there are three different ways of getting them done (bouncing, straightforward, and diagonal).  The visuals and music are pretty, but it slightly suffers from faulty area design and structure.  I should think of getting the Genesis game one day, but I like what I experienced with the unreleased Nintendo 16-bit version.
My Personal Score: N/A
Ufouria: The Saga (NES)
1991 Sunsoft
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Essentially a simple and cutified version of Metroid, Sunsoft's first game in the Hebereke video game series (which got slightly altered for its European release) is a charming and surprisingly delightful game, but not without its faults.  And unlike most JP/PAL-exclusive games in this age of remakes and rereleases, Sunsoft (or whoever owns their license at least) had the decency to introduce Ufouria: The Saga to America on the Nintendo Wii (U) Virtual Consoles circa 2010.  Having not had a chance to play it in the Wii days, I decided to give it a shot on the Nintendo Wii U this year.  And I'm glad I did.  =)
What separates this from Nintendo's Alien-inspired series is that you are given the chance to alternate any one of four characters (should you find them) who all have diverse abilities.  This is great because it makes the gameplay intuitive, and if a character cannot reach a certain place or overcome an obstacle than another one might; which also rings true when you're underwater.  The game plays nicely too, and the map is quite big.
The 8-bit visuals are decent and the main characters exhibit fluid animations which I like, and while some of the bosses look cool many of them admittedly look the same (give or take an extra feature) despite differing strategies.  A great big deal has been made on how the soundtrack was sped up in 60hz America considering Ufouria was 50hz (with much slower beats).  Personally though, I like the up tempo revisions better.
If there's anything stopping this game from being fantastic it's the fact that all items and abilities can be found with ease (even on replays) once you find the compass and map, and for an adventure game it is absolutely short at roughly eighty-ninety minutes.  It's easy too, but that's part of the charm and ends up giving it a pick-up and paly vibe to it.  Maybe lacking the depth and complexity of the Metroid games, Ufouria is good while it lasts.
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
Wreck-It Ralph (DVD)
2012 Disney
Screengrab from my Region 1 DVD of Wreck-It Ralph
[Placeholder until I get better screengrabs]
Wreck-It Ralph is a movie I admit I was skeptical about long before it came out, since video game-based movies usually did not do well (largely because they're generally not very good).  But since having seen it in theatres all those years ago I was amazed at how thoughtful, funny, charming, and poignant it was in its themes and ideas; I enjoyed it immensely.  I also liked the relationship between Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope and how they're more alike than they realize.  The premise is also creative in that each character and villain is alive and they have a hub world of sorts that they convene in when the arcade's closed.
There are lots of cameos, many of them very cool and unexpected ones (Tapper, for instance), but I didn't mind that they weren't in the entirety of the movie's running time.  A lot of the jokes were funny (particularly the in-jokes), the animation is great (as is par for the course for Disney), and the characters themselves are fun (with great personalities and voice acting).  Wreck-It Ralph is a movie I enjoy watching every time, and the credits sequence looks great and imaginative.  If I were making a thorough review I would go into more detail, but since I'm summarizing for the sake of mini-reviews' sake (thereby restricting my usual passionate multi-paragraphing schtick) this is all I've got to say so far.
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
I'm StarBoy91, and may your day shine brightly!  =)
Thank you for reading my January 2015 Mini-Reviews, please let me know what you thought of them and leave me a comment.  I hope you have a great day, take care!  =D

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