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!

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