Saturday, July 25, 2015

TwinBee Portable (PSP) Review

Received: September 3rd, 2011 / Written: July 25th, 2015
Year: 2007 | Developed and Published by: Konami | [|O|]
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  =)  And I think it's about time I discuss one of my favorite video game series via the PlayStation Portable compilation TwinBee Portable; but first a little backstory.
In 1982 Namco developed a vertical coin-operated shoot'em up named Xevious, where the object of the game was to shoot and drop bombs on the targets below you and... well, that's it really, nothing more complex than that.  It fared well back in its initial release and is regarded in a few circles as an important title in video game history, but personally speaking Xevious was never really my favorite as I found it to be quite dull, boring, and repetitive and I don't think it's aged all that well.  But just because I don't like Namco's game it doesn't mean that I wish it doesn't exist, and if people like it then that's cool, different strokes for different folks.  And besides, if not for that, we wouldn't have TwinBee in the first place.  =|
System: Arcade | Year: 1985
Three years after Namco's coin-op Konami decided to make their own Xevious with the same controls albeit in a more colorful and lighthearted fare.  What helped significantly is that TwinBee had secondary power-ups that would aid your gameplay and keep things fresh, which Xevious simply lacked.  In the series you take control of the titular anthropomorphic bee-shaped jet TwinBee (or WinBee if you're the second player), as you must take down a horde of enemies in flight.  Every now and then you'll come across clouds, and when you do shoot them to make bells pop up, and should you shoot the bell just enough it'll change color; and depending on the color it is when it falls on you you'll get a different power-up (i.e. speed, double).

A few power-ups can also be found after having dropped a bomb on enemies at ground level, such as fruit, three-way ability, and a star to wipe out all onscreen enemies.  What makes this series especially different from other games in the genre is getting shot won't necessarily kill you (unless it's in the center) but take off one of TwinBee's (or WinBee's) arms; and if you're armless then an aerial ambulance will pop up which will restore you full (when you get to it) the first time it happens in your current life (won't start again until after you lose one).  At the end of each stage is a boss battle, and defeating it will grant you access to the next area.

TwinBee is a very fun game and a really solid start to what would become a great series.  =)  After enjoying its successful arcade run it would be ported to many consoles such as the MSX and Famicom and even garnered a 3D Classics edition of it on the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, but it remained a Japan-only game up until the 2007 Nintendo DS compilation Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits came out, oddly enough named RainbowBell for America while the European version retained the real title.  Odd.  =\

But no matter, its 1985 success led to two Nintendo 8-bit console sequels: Moero TwinBee: Cinnamon-hakase wo Sukue! (Stinger in a rare occasion when American audiences got to play a version of any game of the series during its heyday) in 1986 and TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaō in 1989.  When Konami saw the success their cute'em up series was enjoying up to this point, they decided to craft another TwinBee arcade game.

Alternate Arcade Title: Bells & Whistles [|O|]
System: Arcade | Year: 1991
Taking place after the events of the original TwinBee, Detana!! TwinBee (reportedly renamed Bells & Whistles in a limited European release) not only updated on the Xevious-styled controls set by the original game, but it also became a pivotal and important entry in the series in 1991 (my birthyear, yay!).  The TwinBee and WinBee jets were redesigned completely and became what we associate with the series today (thanks to Shuzilow.HA's involvement from this TwinBee onward), there's loads of lighthearted charm sprinkled throughout, and for the first time in the series there were brief cutscenes between each stage.  =)
But those were the icing on the cake.  The areas looked great thanks to the pastel-toned visuals, the bosses were different and involved interesting strategies, holding down the fire button until the gauge became full would unleash a massive (cleverly TwinBee-shaped) barrage of fire, and GwinBee (introduced in Moeru TwinBee) got put to great use here; if you latched on to the green bee you could augment your firepower (so long as he's not been taken out).  What's also neat is how once the first mode is done there's a second much harder quest that follows and will eat up lots of credits.

Detana!! TwinBee is a really good cute'em up, and it is a very likably charming game all throughout with very intuitive gameplay to back it up.  =)  It did so well that Konami ported it to the Sharp X68000 and the NEC PC-Engine, the latter of which got released for the first time for America and Europe on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2009 (and it was how I first experienced the cute'em up before importing this compilation, making my foray to the series; it's good for what it is, but the original arcade version is superior).  It's easy to see why many gamers clamor this to be one of the top quality titles in the franchise, plus the Shuzilow.HA-influenced anime style is really appreciated.

This was a really good point in the series, with several entries waiting to be made (both cute'em up and spinoff) as well as an anime and radio drama series afterwards.  Of course, Detana!! TwinBee was great and all, but could the very following arcade entry top it off in terms of quality and fun?

System: Arcade | Year: 1995
Made in celebration for the tenth anniversary of the original TwinBee, TwinBee Yahho!: Fushigi no Kuni de Ōabare!! follows the events of the previous games and anime/radio drama series, with voice clips being used occasionally.  What I liked was how you got to see the profiles of the characters talking in the middle of each stage, and because it's only for a second or two it doesn't detract from the gameplay at all.  And speaking of gameplay, Konami's pulled off a lot of intuitive gameplay modes for this installment.  =)
Any time you use up a credit you have a choice of which attack function you want: the supercharge shot from Detana!! TwinBee, the rock'em-sock'em extendable punching gloves, the chibi bomb from the next cute'em up in the compilation I'll talk about, and homing targeting bombs; it really gives TwinBee Yahho! a sense of variety.  GwinBee is back, and this time you can swing him around until you let him go in which case he ricochets off each side of the screen taking down onscreen enemies.  Sometimes after a ground enemy has been ousted they'll leave behind a side weapon which TwinBee or WinBee can carry on either arm (like the flamethrower and the four-way shot, to name a couple examples).  And there are three difficulty choices (Practice, Normal, Special) to increment even more replay value.

TwinBee Yahho! is an incredible cute'em up that's got lots and lots of replay value, it's bundles of fun, its adorable lighthearted charm is enjoyable, and is the most visually impressive in the series.  =)  I just adore the look of each area (the mines spring to mind) and the way the effects were done, particularly in the third stage where it shifts from top-down ocean to side view the ocean on the bottom side while the sky and clouds can be seen even for an instant.  There are even cameos from Michael and Koitsu!  ...  Oh, they're obscure Konami characters, mainly playable in a Parodius game or two.  On the PlayStation One and Sega Saturn Yahho! got bundled together with Detana!! TwinBee (only in Japan though), which I think is a good choice as they go well hand in hand together.  =D

TwinBee Yahho! is tied not only as my number one favorite cute'em up I've played (aside from Star Parodier) but also tied as my number one favorite TwinBee game of all time.  =)  But let's backtrack just a little: while the series was still doing good in the early '90s, what game propelled the franchise to inspire both an anime and a radio drama, you must wonder?

System: Super Famicom | Year: 1993
Now I know what you're wondering: "Hey, wait a minute, what's a Nintendo 16-bit game doing in a compilation for a non-Nintendo system?"  Well, the reason behind that is twofold, the first one being that it's the property of Konami, they can do whatever they want with it... actually, that doesn't sound all that positive now that I think about it.  =(  The second is the fact that Nintendo 16-bit games have a tendency to have arcade-like visuals and can seem and feel like an arcade game (depending on the title), so it's understandable how those games would be accepted and get away with being on non-Nintendo systems.  That's basically the same reason Capcom's Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is available on Capcom's compilations along its two older brothers despite its Nintendo 16-bit origin (aside from the then trilogy being incomplete without it).
Anyway, Pop'n TwinBee is that game that ties with TwinBee Yahho! as my favorite in the series (and the main reason I imported the compilation), and true to its predecessors' origins it's got that lighthearted arcade charm and feel the TwinBee games are known for.  Konami's 16-bit foray to the series distinguishes itself from its fellow kin for various reasons: you actually input your name as you start the game, you cannot add anymore credits in the compilation (lest you stumble across a fairy), and each credit comprises of one life.  No longer do you lose arms in Pop'n TwinBee, but you do lose health which can be replenished slightly once you grab a heart item found after every several ground enemies have been taken out.  The gameplay is really great and the locations you fly to are well-chosen; particularly in the deeps of the water, above the soaring clouds, the land of toys, and China.  =)
Pop'n TwinBee is one of the greatest from Konami in my opinion, and one of my personal favorites.  The music is fantastic and atmospheric, the gameplay is solid and versatile, it's got seven difficulty settings (eight if you enable a code), and the pastel-toned visuals are a delight to look at.  I loved it so much I decided to import the Super Famicart last year (just to see what it would look like on my TV); it's also a game where you actually deflect projectiles with your punch and one where panda avalanches occur, how often do you see that in the genre?  =D  Well-received in its initial 1993 Japanese and European release, Konami decided to make these continents relive the experience via the Nintendo WiiU Virtual Console service in 2014 (alongside its platforming spinoff/follow-up TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure).  Us Americans, however, are still disallowed from experiencing it without resorting to import despite currently being in the 2010s.  =|

I know America, Europe, and especially Japan live by different cultures, have different tolerance levels, and have different sensibilities when it comes to certain stuff, and how standards change within each decade; but I just don't understand Konami's unwillingness to rerelease Pop'n TwinBee here in America this decade (you'll introduce Americans to the PC-Engine Detana!! TwinBee but you won't introduce this game?).  I checked every nook and cranny, and I just don't see what could be so objectionable as to not let America join in the fun (I mean, if Europe is okay with it, why not us?).  This isn't like the Parodius series where I understand why America never got them (American eagle enemy and satirically over-the-top zaniness that occasionally pushes boundaries).  It's charming, harmless, lighthearted, escapist fun!  =(
But then, I probably shouldn't be surprised at this point.  This is, after all, the same company (living in the past) who doesn't have any recollection of their creation (Sparkster), denies rereleasing the trio of games to gamers who do not have the original format to experience them for the first time (despite not being based on a licensed property), uncharacteristically disregards and abandons that character, and has no plans of any kind to make any more games with him (and if they're asked, just let another company do it for them, because that worked so well).  -_-

I know those three games didn't do that good at the time, but all of them have a cult followingSurely that would get their attention at least?  Nope!  Ditto for the Gaia trilogy and the selfish ActRaiser-obsessed Quintet license holders (if they still exist, anyway).  In the very small off-chance that you've been holding your breath this entire time for these games' rereleases, you can stop now and save up for the original two-and-a-half decade-plus console (if you don't already own it), 'cause I'm sorry to say but that is not going to happen=(

*sigh*  I'm sorry, I trailed off.  Last game!  After TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaō and before Detana!! TwinBee there was another game that Konami made a small entry that kicked off the '90s for TwinBee.

Alternate Game Boy Title: Pop'n TwinBee [|O|]
Original System: Game Boy | Year: 1990
Remake System: PlayStation Portable | Year: 2007
Funny story about this one: in 1990, back when the original Game Boy was going strong, Konami decided to make the sole individual handheld iteration of the franchise TwinBee Da!! in Japan, which essentially is a remake of the original TwinBee.  When it came to the Nintendo 16-bit Pop'n TwinBee Konami's European distributor Palcom thought that that would make for a good series name for the PAL market (despite Detana!! TwinBee's European counterpart Bells & Whistles preceding it). 
On one hand, I can see how they thought that giving it that name would be a good idea; on the other hand, it did not come without consequence: as four years after the Japanese debut, the European version came out with the same exact title as the 16-bit cute'em up that came out a year prior.  It wouldn't be a bad thing if either game was not specific or was the same game, but that's the problem: it wasn't the same, which led to people not knowing any better being confused.  I mean, can you imagine if Super Mario Land was given the same title as Super Mario Bros. despite both being different games?  There would be an uproar!  D=
Flashforward to this compilation seventeen years after the original Game Boy edition, and TwinBee Da!! would be given the PlayStation Portable treatment.  So in the long run this is a remake of a remake of the original, and boy is it a great remake!  =)  I only played the TwinBee Portable version, but it does make me want to give the Game Boy edition a try because as it is it's a very enjoyable cute'em up.  While it uses music from the original TwinBee, this is the crystal clear-looking game in the compilation, and the gameplay is smooth and versatile.  Despite everything happening so fast it's the most manageable of the five TwinBee cute'em ups, and because it came out before Detana!! TwinBee you get to see both TwinBee and WinBee in their pre-Shuzilow.HA forms, which feels slightly weird but adequate.
Like most games you lose your arms and die if you get shot straight at the core; but this time around if you lose a life you'll regenerate but if you reach your soul before it flies offscreen you'll retain the power-ups you had before you died (a la TwinBee 3).  =)  Now that's pretty cool; advantageous, sure, but cool nonetheless.  The worlds look colorful and lighthearted, and many bosses have neat designs (especially the final one); plus reaching the end can be rewarding.  TwinBee Da!! may be surprisingly short (at around twenty to twenty-five minutes) but it's fantastic fun while it lasts.  =)

The fact that the series lasted for over a decade, including a platforming (TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure) and puzzling (TwinBee Taisen Puzzle-Dama) spin-off, is rather impressive and the fact that it was at its highest peak back then meant the series could do no wrong.  But then Konami had to bring it to an end.  =(  In 1998 the PlayStation One received one more TwinBee spin-off simply titled TwinBee RPG, and considering TwinBee also had a radio drama there was no doubt that there was material to work from.  However it received mixed reviews, not going at all like Konami planned, resulting in it being their last physical solo game of the series, thus officially ending the TwinBee reign after thirteen years.

Notice that I said "officially" since technically there have been games made since, mostly for phones, including a Mystery Dungeon-themed game, as well as a pachislot machine.  And of course there's the PlayStation Portable's TwinBee Portable that I've covered today, but officially speaking the series truly ended in 1998; all things considered, though, TwinBee had a good thirteen-year run and it lasted slightly longer than the Jaws franchise did.  =)
TwinBee Portable is a very fun compilation to go back to every once in a while.  The games are well-selected and a lot of fun, the ability to set up how many lives and how easy or hard you want each individual games to be is a plus, and I like how you can choose the size of the game's screen (original is the best option).  I especially love the inclusion of a music gallery where you could listen to all the songs from the games, even ones from the Sharp X68000 version of Detana!! TwinBee that sound absolutely beautiful (despite said version not being available to play).

I love how colorful the TwinBee cute'em ups are, I love how charming they are, I love how manageable yet challenging they can be in their own right, I love their lightheartedness, I love their fun quality, and basically I just love them, I can't help it, they make me feel happy.  =)  I know not everyone feels the same way about the series, and I do understand; but I just can't get enough of these cute'em ups, and because it both had been years since I had previously gotten a PSP game and the fact that I was at the point where I wanted to start importing games in 2011 I'm glad I got the opportunity to order TwinBee Portable.  In my opinion it's one of the best compilations I've played, right next to Namco Museum Volume 1 which is my number one.  =)

I hope I gave a good description of each of these games (summaries are my weakness) and of this collection itself, for I absolutely love it.  If you're in the mood for lighthearted/feel-good cute'em ups there are so many to recommend, but if you want to play them all in one package then this isn't a bad choice.  It's fun, it's quirky, it's lighthearted, it's engaging, it's colorful, it's got just the right amount of challenge with a good balance.  What more could you ask for?  =)

My Personal Score: 10/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Surprisingly the snaps I got from using my camera on the PSP turned out a lot better than I had anticipated.  =)  I'm glad about that, because I was worried they were going to look awful.
P.S. 2 I don't know what I love more: the fact that Konami actually used both regional title designs for Pop'n TwinBee (in-game having the Japanese original), or the fact that the European title design was used twice?  XD
P.S. 3 I hope to go more in-depth with the games individually someday, but right now I'm good with what I covered.  =)
P.S. 4 You know what other Pop'n game is great?  Magical Pop'n!  Great platformer!  =)
P.S. 5 I was wondering if I'd ever hand out my anniversary ribbons to any of these games again any time soon, it's been so long since the last time.
Happy 20th Anniversary, TwinBee Yahho!
Happy 25th Annivesary, TwinBee Da!!
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.  I hope you have a great Summer, take care!  =D

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hook (SNES) Review

Written: July 6th-10th, 2015 / Published: July 11th, 2015
Year: 1992 | Developed by: Ukiyotei | Published by: Sony Imagesoft
Disclaimer: Spoilers pertaining to both movie and game--you've been warned
=(  *sigh*  Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games; big retrophile; and fan of all things 16-bit.  ...  On August 11th, 2014, we lost a great icon and a wonderful actor, whose name was Robin Williams.  It was a very sad day, as Williams played a big part of our childhood by portraying really memorable, iconic characters in countless movies, and you could tell that regardless of any of his movies' overall quality he gave his performance in them his all, to entertain us.  I still can't believe he's gone, almost a year later.
This naturally made it a bit hard for me to revisit some games (or even movies) where a character played by him was in it, because I thought it was going to be too overwhelming for me on an emotional level, but I knew I had to play (and watch) them again eventually.
Disney's Aladdin by Capcom was slightly easier to revisit, if only because Robin Williams played the role of a side character, not that he didn't play a big part in either movie or game as his presence is a prominent one.  But in the Disney animated movie his comedic Genie was not the main character, Aladdin was; but in Hook... Williams' Peter Pan was the main character,... which makes revisiting it even harder.  =(
1991 saw the release of the TriStar-distributed Hook in theatres, directed by Steven Spielberg as a personal project about Sir J.M. Barrie's characters, which was not well-received by critics back then as its regarded as one of the lowest directing points of his career (Spielberg's admitted in recent years to liking the movie up until the point it gets to Neverland--about a half hour in--so it's not just the critics who are not highly fond of it).  While it is by no means a perfect movie, it's really not that bad upon closer inspection and you can tell a lot of heart and effort was put into crafting it, especially since it's heavy on emotion.
I remember first watching glimpses of the movie on TV many years ago, and I didn't watch it in full until 2010 I believe when I bought it on widescreen DVD, and while Hook may not match the quality set by fellow Spielberg flicks Jaws, Jurassic Park, or even Raiders of the Lost Ark it is a beautifully well-made movie and one I personally enjoy watching every once in awhile.  =)  And even though I enjoy it I do understand why someone would not:
whether it be due to Spielberg's trademark formula lathered throughout, its heavy-handedness, a heavily miscast Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, many inexperienced child actors, its slightly long 141 minute running time, a third act that takes a turn for the silly and convoluted, or heck, even the premise of what would happen if the Boy Who Never Grew Up grew up alone could've been a turn off for fans of the original story of Peter Pan.  That said I did not mind the premise and found it rather intriguing, and its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses as far as I'm concerned.
It's also got an early Gwyneth Paltrow screen performance, and who doesn't like her?  Her Pepper Potts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is great!
Many people must agree it seems, as despite the negative word of mouth Hook did really great at the box office and inspired a lot of merchandise which of course included toys, comics, and video games.  And boy were there many video game adaptations of this cult classic; among them an arcade beat'em up by Irem, a computer point-and-click puzzler by Ocean, and an 8-bit console platformer developed by a company called Painting by Numbers (no, really).
Which leads us to today's adaptation, as published by Sony Imagesoft, as developed by our old friend Ukiyotei, who you may recognize as the same folk that made Skyblazer.  Unlike that game, however, after Hook's original 1992 SNES edition it got ported to the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis, the Sega CD, and the Game Gear.  Question is: does this Hook license do the movie any justice?  Let's fin---- say, what other critically lambasted movie came out in 1991, the year of my birth?  ' . '
Image from Wikipedia
oOo *Soooohohohohohohooob* D'X
So in the off-chance that you haven't heard of Hook, basically this is the story: Peter Banning (Williams) is a grown-up lawyer (or in a manner of speaking, a pirate), a husband, and father of two children: Jack and Maggie.  But long ago he was Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up in Neverland, but he's remained on Earth for so long that he's all but forgotten about his past adventures with the Lost Boys.  During a Christmas holiday visit in Merry Olde England at the orphanage run by Grandma Wendy Darling (Maggie Smith), Peter's kids are taken by the nefarious Captain James Hook (Dustin Hoffman) while the adults are out attending a ceremony.
Peter, his wife, and Wendy return afterwards to discover that the kids are missing, with a note left behind by Hook challenging Peter to come to Neverland at the request of Jack and Maggie.  Naturally Peter doesn't believe this at first, being a hardcore grown-up he is, until he's visited by his old partner in crime Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts), or Tink as she's referred to, who convinces him to go there.  But she's disappointed to find that the free-spirited boy she once knew has forgotten everything about his childhood, even how to fly, so she uses all her spontaneously supernatural strength to take Peter there herself.
Once there, Tinker Bell tries to convince the Lost Boys to give him a chance and help him rescue Jack and Maggie.  But because he's an adult several of them have a hard time believing that Peter Banning and Peter Pan are one and the same, including Rufio (Dante "Prince American Dragon Zuko" Basco) who's currently the Pan.  In the movie, Peter's got three days to become what he once was and save his children or there'll be a war; in the game, Peter becomes the Pan after the end of the first stage.  Well so much for developing character.  -_-

Neverland; iiit's a small world aaafter all!
Riiight, let's actually talk about the gameplay, shall we?  In this Ukiyotei-developed movie licensed adaptation Hook is a simple sidescrolling platformer.  Peter can walk, jump, swim (hold down B underwater to swim up or down), duck, and use his dagger (or sword) to attack enemies.  Occasionally you'll find yourself meeting up with Tink, and when you do, stand or float underneath her pixie dust to fill up your flight gauge allowing you to temporarily fly until it becomes empty; you can also take a break from doing so by pressing the B button while in flight, if you want to do it again just press B again.  You might stumble across certain items, like fruit to replenish health, extra lives, the golden sword (which is pointless and I'll elaborate why), treasure (because), and leaves (to augment health capacity), whether they be found in midair or dropped off after an enemy has been ousted.  An obscure ability in this game is the ability to run, which I rarely see addressed when it comes to reviews of this game, so as a result people are under the impression that the walking pace is the only pace you take when it's not true.  Look:
here is proof, and it is headscratching.  Most platformers involving holding down a button to run immediately let you know that you are running, but in Hook's case not only does it take one second to actually start picking up steam, but two to three seconds at least to show Peter's full-on running animation.  If it really takes that long to recognize speed, then no wonder gamers think the game is exclusively slow.  =|  Not that that helps its case at all, mind.
At least Ukiyotei learned their lesson in their next Nintendo 16-bit platformer by exclusively making Sky run and never walk.

Flying downward in spiked gaps
Holding down the Y button to go faster does not apply solely to the ground, fortunately, but in the very air itself.  If you just fly without holding the Y button you'll be floating very slowly, but if you hold it down you'll be sure to pick up speed.  Aside from that, the controls are for the most part all right.  If you're wanting to turn whilst running there may be some skiddage to endure, and it is possible to stand at the very edge of a platform.  The jumping is a bit floaty, though considering who you're controlling it does make a tad bit of sense; though at times it can make jumping feel a bit awkward (normal jumps are slow-going) as there isn't much room to adjust your position in midair (particularly if you jumped after running)--also, did you know that being hurt in midair apparently causes you to freeze your position in the air and just have enough airtime to move forward as you glide down?  Apparently!  Overall controls aren't bad, but I wish they were better, or at least better implemented.  =|

"Peek-a-boo!  I see you!"
If you were to look at moments of this game and you didn't know any better, you'd swear it was made by Capcom.  Indeed, their visual styles are strikingly similar in terms of colorful abundance, but both Capcom and Ukiyotei have their own little trademark details and charm that let you know the difference if you've got a trained eye.  The numerous areas of Neverland are pretty to look at, and most areas look different than the last.  I liked how in the first stage with the Lost Boys the further you progress the sooner the seasons change, from Spring to Summer, from Summer to Fall, and ultimately from Fall to Winter; the transitions are seamless and I like the rain and snow effects.  =)  The night-time forest area is cool with the trees in the background and the piercing light emanating in the backdrop, and I liked the cloudy sky in the waterfall stage and how detailed the mountains were.

"That's for giving gamers epileptic seizures!"
The watery color-layering effects are also smooth, and even though the snowing effects are basic in the snow stage it at least lends that area its atmosphere.  =)  One last area example is the cave near the very end where you're being trailed by a firelight, and if you stray far everything (save the far backdrops with the skulls with flaming eyes) will become pitch black until said firelight enters the screen again; I appreciate details like those.  While the HUD is not really that noteworthy, I do like how its made out of a chartered map and the way each element is differently colored is welcome, but did Ukiyotei really have to color the "Score" word magenta?  It just looks gaudy, I mean, ugh.  =<

Eh, this is how Peter Pan normally fishes on a
regular basis
Matching the tone of the environments is the main character's animation.  Peter Pan's got exquisitely smooth animation, especially when he walks and runs, even flying.  What I like the most from watching him is the way his leaf-clad outfit flutters in the wind while in midair, regardless of whether it's a normal jump or flight in all eight directions, as it's really quite nice.  =)  Though I find it rather curious that becoming Peter Pan in this game apparently means aging backwards a few decades and becoming much slimmer than he was as Peter Banning.  =<  Odd.  The enemies are designed decently and exhibit okay animation, though I like how some of them express incredulous reactions upon being defeated (in particular the Lost Boys, as they raise their hands up in surrender).  Some of the boss designs are good too, like the skeleton king and a pirate riding a giant eagle.

*Yawn* "This is boring.  Can we get out here?"
The movie's music was composed by John Williams, and in my opinion it ranks as some of his best work, whether it be the adventurous swashbuckling themes, the very atmospheric themes, or even the most hauntingly emotional cues.  And Ukiyotei did a really great job of converting some of Williams' songs into instrumental 16-bit themes, as they are largely successful.  Among them are the "When You're Alone" theme dominating the title and post-credit sequence (I'll get to that) sans the Leslie Bricusse lyrics which is sweet, the adventurous theme in the Lost Boys stage, the sinister theme in the third and seventh stages (albeit in a different pitch), the theme in the first cave area where the pirates are introduced in the movie, and one of the somber themes that plays as Peter says goodbye to the Lost Boys in the end of the game.  They all sound wonderful in Nintendo 16-bit format, and it's one of the high points of the game (aside from visuals).  =)

Is there a shielded pirate convention in town
or something?
That's not to say that the songs originally made for Ukiyotei's Hook are bad, for they are also great fun to listen to.  The waterfall theme is high-spirited and energetic, the forest theme sounds like the equivalent to the start of an awfully big adventure, and the snow theme has got a fittingly chilling and nice oriental touch to it.  =)  The final area has got a neatly energetic charge in its theme, and the final boss theme is alright; less so the normal battle theme.  I also did enjoy the symphonic suite during the end credits, and overall the sound quality is great.  The sound effects are quaintly chosen, like the ones for when fruit is consumed and the one for when treasure is taken, but is it me or does the golden sword retrieving sound an awful lot like something out of Dragon Quest V=/

It's a good thing there's no such thing as getting
hypothermia from swimming in icy cold waters in
video games
Hook is a game that must be beaten in one sitting, but that's fairly understandable since it takes roughly twenty-thirty minutes to beat it (depends on how you play or how many lives you lose).  With such topnotch visuals and music going for it I wish Ukiyotei worked an equal amount of effort into the gameplay.  =(  While on paper it doesn't sound all too shabby, it's the execution that drags it down.  Maybe if the normal walking speed had upped the ante it would've averted being a big flaw, but as it stands: unless you hold down the Y button and run to go faster then walking will be very slow and attempt to drag out the length.

At the end of Ukiyotei's Hook you get to battle Captain Hook who's got a Bionic Commando-esque hook jab attack.  In a very bizarre coincidence in Capcom's Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken you get to fight a Pete-ified Captain Hook who shares a similar attack tactic (among others) against you, in 1993-1994.  It's one thing for it to happen in both games, but the fact that you fight this kind of villain in the very last stage of either title is very suspect; this despite the fact that Capcom was the originator of the video game bionic arm in their 1987 coin-op Bionic Commando.  So really, it's not so much a question of which came out first so much as who stole from whom?  =<
In Soviet Russia, lights follow you!  ..........
Wow, that one sucked  -__-
Now I know what you must be thinking if you have not played this game: how slow is Peter Pan's walking pace here?  HA HA HA HA HAE HOH HOH HUOH HUOH!  )X>  Slooooooow!  Paiiiiinfully sloooooow!  Punishingly slow!  Gamers think the Master in ActRaiser 2 walks as slow as molasses?  They have not played this game!  I don't know what Ukiyotei was thinking when structuring the gameplay, but it does not work in this game's favor lest you dash, something very few are aware you can do.  That's bad design right there.  >=(  Even Master Higgins in the blandly average Super Adventure Island walked at a faster pace than Peter did; Hook barely escapes being worse because unlike that title its areas actually have layout design.
Pirates have eagle bearing licenses now?
One thing I'll say is that Hook's areas are largely not badly designed by any stretch, and a couple of them can be quite maze-like (like the pitch black cavern) in the midst of largely linear paths.  Had the gameplay been polished, or better yet fine-tuned, the layout designs would've worked even better.  Especially when it comes to wide gaps, which sometimes you'll need speed to clear through really smoothly, though Peter's jumps and mid-air glides are pretty slow and floaty when in normal pace mode which is awkward.  Many area design layouts are simple and fairly easy to follow, so at least there's that going for it.  I mentioned earlier that the golden sword is a pointless weapon, and the reason for that was because you rarely get to keep it even for a minute.  Basically it acts as an extra shield and fires off magical beams, but should an enemy come into contact with you or should you be damaged by projectiles you'll lose the sword but your current health will remain unaltered.  I mean, I like the idea behind the golden sword, I just wish it was better implemented.  =(
One of the things about Capcom's Disney's Aladdin is how (with the exception of one stage) it doesn't stray too much from the areas that were present in the movie, making for a short game.  But at least that game had fluid, versatile gameplay to back it up throughout and had doses of replay value.
Mermaid boost
Ukiyotei's Hook decides to stray from the movie's locales a little and expand its world because of this, but ultimately shares the same problem: that being area brevity.  As decently designed as most of the area designs are they are far too short for their own good, and by the time you really sink your teeth into them it's over.  Hook is the worst offender of the two because it largely lacks any real sense of challenge and depth, which really hurts it even with the pattern-based structure.  I wouldn't mind many of its shortcomings if it had focused on being fun or if they had fixed the whole walking speed flaw, and I would've been even more forgiving of all its least aspects had the game maybe ended on a rewarding and satisfactory note.  =(  Well,...
Tink: "Peter, let's go on another adventure!"
Peter: *shakes head* "I can't go back anymore, Tink.  Now I know that life is the greatest adventure."
Tink: *flies away*
Tink: "You know that place between sleep and awake?  That place where you still remember dreaming?"
Peter: *nods head*
Tink: "That's where I'll always love you, Peter Pan.  That's where I'll be waiting."  *fades away*
You know, at least the ending in Capcom's Disney's Aladdin, simplified wording aside, kept the tone of the moment intact with the movie original.  I did not feel that at all in Ukiyotei's Hook.  At.  All!
Somewhere out there Bonk must be climbing
a waterfall
The farewell between Peter and Tink in the movie was bittersweet and added more to the movie's emotion.  Tink knew Peter Pan was not coming back to Neverland again, and despite her feelings for him she knew in the end that Peter's place was on Earth with his family.  But there was hope because while they might meet each other again it wouldn't be in body, but in soul and dream, and in the end Peter was a changed man and became a child at heart.  The game version's ending absolutely killed 16-bit Hook for me.  How do you turn a sweet goodbye between two individuals into uncharacteristic refusal for an invitation for another adventure, also delivered uncharacteristically considering what he just came back from?  It just changes the overall tone of the moment and, oooooh, that just offends me deeply.  >=(  I don't know if it's because of my affinity for the movie or the fact that Robin Williams is gone, but man, that post-credits sequence truly rubbed me the wrong way.
Flying high away from bombs
And that's another thing that disappoints me about Ukiyotei's Hook is the way the cutscenes are handled in a perfunctory manner.  By which I mean, there is not a trace character when the characters are talking, and with the exception of one moment they did not do the movie justice.  I especially did not like the way Rufio's death was handled, with an unnecessary Khan scream by our main hero geared towards Captain Hook, with Rufio saying different last words than he did in the movie.  I mean, did Ukiyotei not have the rights to use quotes from the screenplay, or did they secretly dislike the movie as much as the critics did?  >=|  I'm normally forgiving of changes made for video game adaptations when it comes to movie licenses, especially dialogue, but for this case it just bugs me personally.  Also, Grandma Wendy's only mentioned once and not seen at all, so I'm disappointed that that was a throwaway line.
Now I know what you must be wondering if you are a gamer like me: "But Star, doesn't Skyblazer share the same exact problems?"  No.
Yes, Ukiyotei's other platformer Skyblazer was easy and had short areas too, but that's where the similarities end.  Skyblazer had really responsive and versatile play control and never felt like it dragged on, Skyblazer had a multitude of moves going for it, Skyblazer had third-person flight sequences to keep things fresh, Skyblazer had a secret stage for which accessability was optional, Skyblazer had an actual difficult boss fight unless you knew what you were doing, Skyblazer was one of David Jaffe's first ever major contributions to video games (albeit as playtester), and Skyblazer was, most important of all, FUNHook has got none of that going for it, unfortunately.  =(
Heck, I even enjoyed their breezy vintage 2D PlayStation One skunk-led platformer which I caught up with earlier this year more than I did Hook, which I've had for far longer.  No, I'm not saying its name, you look that up on your own time.  It's embarrassing!  =|

*sigh*  You know how there are certain games that get better the more you play them?  Well, for me, Hook is one of those games that progressively gets worse with each playing session.  It was the sixth SNES game I bought from eBay back in September 2009, and I remember liking it a lot back then; but after I saw the movie the next year my feelings toward the game began to gradually sour.  Receiving Skyblazer on my 21st birthday back in April 5th, 2012 did not help matters, which I realize now.  The last time I had played Hook on the SNES was back in either 2010 or 2011, and I knew before revisiting it this year that it would not be as good as the movie or Skyblazer, but I hoped that it would've been as fun as before.  I was wrong.  While the movie makes me feel emotional and happy, Ukiyotei's adaptation upon playing it this year made me feel both disappointed and depressed; not just in terms of execution, but because I knew the developers could do better--and they have.  =(
Now, don't misunderstand me: Nintendo 16-bit Hook is nowhere near as bad as I'm making it sound, but it is a big disappointment as an adaptation of what I personally consider to be an underrated movie, and the game ending was the final nail in the coffin for me.  As I said, the visuals and music are spectacularly well-done, but the focus should've been kept on the gameplay; and while the gameplay itself is not bad, I really wish Peter did not walk at such a snail's pace and just exhibited steady and acceptable speed all throughout.  At this rate, I think it's time I retire the game before I get to the point of truly disliking it, because as it stands I consider Ukiyotei's effort to be slightly above average.  I know there are people out there who like the game more than the movie Hook, and I do not begrudge them if they do, but I personally felt that Spielberg's flick was a more satisfying and emotionally enriching experience.  =(

You are the Pan now, Thudbutt!
So with all that said, do I recommend Ukiyotei's Hook?  Umm, not entirely, but I'm sure if you have a half hour to spare and go in with an open mind it's pretty harmless, and if you can overlook it's more than glaring flaws (good luck) I'm sure you'll have a decent time.  And who knows, if you're in the mood for non-demanding adventure--and treat it as its own thing--then perhaps there might be something here and there you might enjoy or really appreciate.  I just wish it was better than it actually turned out to be, but if you like the game; good for you, different strokes for different folks, I say.  All I can say is that regardless of which media you stick with, no matter what happens, always keep your happy thoughts.
 Where'd the purple haired guy come from?  o_O
My Personal Score: 6.0/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Screengrabs of Hook captured from my Region 1 DVD of Hook, property of TriStar Pictures.  Words added by me on MS Paint.  Georgia's pretty much become my trademark font, can you tell?
P.S. 2 The reason I don't react well to Highlander II: The Quickening is because it came out in Europe on April 12th, a full seven days after I was born.  That scares me!

P.S. 3 I'm no epileptic, but I thought the constant white flashing after the defeat of the boss in the second stage was in very poor taste.
P.S. 4 I have not played Ukiyotei's Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Video Game, though I might give it a go one day since it's not expensive from what I gathered.  I hope that when I do play it that it's quality leans more towards Skyblazer's and less on that of Hook
P.S. 5 Since I brought up Jaws, I recently got to see it on the big screen for its 40th anniversary; and it was glorious=)
P.S. 6 I also saw Jurassic World once more theatres (in 2D), and it was just as good as the first time I saw it last month.  One of my favorite 2015 theatrical experiences alongside Mad Max: Fury Road and others.  =)
P.S. 7 Seriously though, when did Tinker Bell learn to be so damn strong all of a sudden?  O~O
P.S. 8 Thank you, Robin Williams, for all the childhood memories.  I will never forget you.  ='(
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.  I hope you have a great Summer, take care!