Tag Archives: Game Boy Advance

Time Pilot Review

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Time Travel. It is a widely used theme in fiction, and video games have been no exception. It was a plot device in Chrono Trigger. It was used it Timesplitters. It was used in Time Slip. It has even been used in multiple Final Fantasy games, including the first one. So it should be no surprise that even in the golden age of arcade machines, developers would take a crack at the idea. Today’s game was one of Konami’s efforts. Before Contra, and Castlevania there was Frogger. Somewhere in between these franchises came Time Pilot.

PROS: Tight controls. Nice visual details.

CONS: Cheap A.I.. Home versions missing features.

GREAT SCOTT: There are no DeLorean cars, but there are space ships.

Released in 1982, with ports following a year later, Time Pilot is both original, and derivative. It came at a time when many games were about blowing up ships, for big points, and the high score. However it is also a game where the enemies change vastly between waves. Something that, while simple, seems to add some variety.

So what do you do in Time Pilot? You destroy enemies for points. But there are some nuances about it. Each wave of enemies takes place in a different era. When you first begin the game, you’ll be in the year 1910. So you’ll be smack dab in the middle of early biplanes. Upon seeing you, they’ll swarm you, and do their best to shoot you down. So you’ll go along, blowing up planes. Once you’ve destroyed enough of them, a boss will appear. The first boss is a giant zeppelin. If you can manage to take it down, your ship will flash, and warp ahead in time.

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Wave two takes place in the year 1940. So you’ll be taking down biplanes in the midst of World War II dogfights. These planes also drop bombs in addition to shooting bullets at you. So the game’s difficulty inches upward as a result. If you can survive long enough, and destroy enough planes you’ll be attacked by the boss: a bomber. Manage to shoot it down, and you’ll again warp ahead.

Wave three gets you to 1970, and you’ll be going up against a ton of helicopters. These have much wilder flight patterns than the planes you were going up against, and so you can again expect things to get a bit tougher. You’ll face an even bigger helicopter in a boss fight. If you can defeat the boss you jump ahead again.

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Wave four jumps ahead twelve years to 1982, and so the enemies change to what was contemporary. Fighter jets. The jets are faster than anything you’ve faced at this point, and like the helicopters, have heat seeking missiles! If somehow you can take down enough of these you’ll go up against a B-52 bomber. If by some miracle you survive all of this, you’ll jump ahead.

The final wave takes you to 2001. So naturally you’ll be going up against extraterrestrial U.F.O.s. This stage has so much random craziness in its attack patterns. You’ll fight a mothership of course, and taking it down is quite the challenge. If you manage to do so the game starts over, and each wave the difficulty amps up even more. You can also get big points by rescuing other pilots in each era who can be found parachuting. Just fly over them, and nab the bonuses.

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Time Pilot had a few official ports although there were unofficial clones on home computers like the Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum. As far as the officially licensed ones go, they appeared on the MSX computer in Japan, and in North America on the Atari 2600, and Colecovision. The 2600, and Colecovision versions were published by Coleco. The game has been included in several compilations, and services for the PlayStation, Xbox 360, Gameboy Advance, and Nintendo DS.

Visually, Time Pilot is pretty nice, and the 8-bit sprites hold up pretty well. the clouds , planes, and bosses all scroll around smoothly, and the performance is pretty good. Every version looks pretty good, with the Colecovision running neck, and neck with the MSX version. The Colecovision includes most of the features found in the arcade version albeit with less detailed sprites, and animation. The paratroopers are there, the erratic patterns of enemy waves, and all of the firepower. However, it is missing the 2001 UFO wave which seems to be a glaring oversight.

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The 2600 version looks better than you might expect, however there aren’t multiple flight paths for the enemies. So every enemy wave member flies in the same pattern. The enemies also don’t have any secondary weapons, and the bosses can be taken out in a single hit, making this the easiest of the home versions. It also doesn’t have the paratroopers. It’s still a pretty solid effort though, and even includes the 2001 wave the Colecovision version omits. It’s also an uncommon game on the Atari 2600 so it’s one of a handful of VCS games you’ll pay more than the usual $5 for.

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The compilation on the PlayStation, and the Xbox 360 probably have the best way to play the original game, as the arcade ROM displays nicely on a TV. The Gameboy Advance port on the Konami Collector’s Series: Arcade Advanced , is also worth looking into though. Because although it switches around the orientation for its smaller screen, it also includes a prehistoric stage not seen in any other version of Time Pilot. If you have a way to play it on a TV through a Gamecube GBA player or the Retrobit GBA Adapter cartridge console for the Super NES, you may just want to track it down. The DS Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits compilation is also a nice option if you like to play old school games on the go. The 3DS family also plays the DS games so it’s another option if you have the newer handheld.

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All in all, this is a wonderful game that often gets overlooked in the realm of classics. It’s arguably deeper than other Konami classics like Scramble, or Super Cobra, and yet it doesn’t seem as fondly remembered as either of those classic games. It’s a shame because Time Pilot really is an addictive action game that will please anyone who enjoys high-score challenges, or any form of shoot ’em ups. Whether you play the original arcade version or any of the ports, Time Pilot shouldn’t be missed. It can be short, and one could argue repetitive. But the change in time periods, enemies, and strategies go a long way in keeping things fun, and interesting. Which is probably why the idea was revisited in Time Ace.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

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Retrobit Super Retro Advance Adapter Review

Last time we took a look at the Retro Gen adapter by Retrobit, a Genesis clone built into a Super NES Game Pak. This week we look at the Game Boy Advance version of this clone in a cartridge. Is it as good as the Genesis one?

PROS: You can play GBA games on your TV!

CONS: Not without some inconvenience.

REPLACEMENT: For your GBA? In some instances yes.

The Super Retro Advance, like the Retro Gen is a clone system in a cartridge. This time around Retrobit made a GBA clone. It has the one major issue the Retro Gen has, and that is it requires its own AV cables. It uses the same one set the Retro Gen includes. So if you own both, you can leave the same cable plugged into the TV. Then plug it into the either cartridge as you need to. Otherwise if you’re out of ports on the TV or your switch box, you’ll have to hot swap the cables with the Super NES cables.

Other than that inconvenience, it’s a pretty cool system. Once again, the system uses the Super NES as a power source. The game performance is pretty good here. Colors are bright, and things look pretty crisp. In most games. The thing to remember is that these games were designed to run at the Game Boy Advance’s screen resolution of 240 x 160. Playing on your TV is going to stretch that out a bit. The system displays the games at the proper aspect ratio, but it doesn’t re-render the games at a higher resolution.

Now before you balk, note that you’ll see a similar thing happens when you buy GBA games on your Wii U. It doesn’t look terrible, but you’re going to notice the pixels a bit more since they’re being up scaled rather than completely re rendered. If you can’t get past that, then you’ll want to stick to an actual GBA, GBA SP, or DS. The other option is the Game Boy Player for the Gamecube, but finding one with a working disc these days can be difficult at times. If you do, they’re often fairly expensive.

When factoring that all in, the Super Retro Advance becomes an attractive option for those who want to play their GBA collection on a TV set legitimately. I threw several games at mine, and they all ran perfectly fine. Performance was pretty good here. I didn’t run into any unexpected slowdown, and nothing crashed. The games stayed in the system nice, and snuggly. Sound was almost identical to what I experienced on the Game Boy Advance. The system also has a GBA link cable port on it. So if you want to run games that support multiple GBA multiplayer you can do so.

If you ever ended up passing on some portable games in the past because you had problems looking at the small screen you might like this. It opens up an entire library of games for you to check out using your Super NES for power. The GBA library is indeed stuffed with many children’s games, and it has its share of shovelware. But, it also has a multitude of wonderful Nintendo games, and a lot of great games that rarely showed up in other places. Stuff like Ninja Five-O, and Iridion II. So if you haven’t played them because you never got into the handhelds, this might be something you want to look into.

In the end it’s a short review this time, but it’s worth checking out the Super Retro Advance. It isn’t going to do it for the purists out there. Sadly, if you just have to have the 1:1 experience on your TV you’ll need to invest in a Game Boy Player with a working disc. But for the rest of us, this is a great option even if you do have a cable swap. If you’ve decided to get yourself a new 3DS, but you want to keep on playing your GBA games, the Super Retro Advance might be your ticket.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Mighty Final Fight Review

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Toward the end of the original Nintendo Entertainment System’s run there were a number of great (and not so great) titles that came out as the Super NES was coming into its own. Capcom put out a number of these games as the console began to fall by the wayside in the last few years. Mega Man 6, Rescue Rangers 2, Duck Tales 2, and of course Mighty Final Fight.

PROS: All of the protagonists are here. Action translates well.

CONS: Short. A sharp difficulty spike near the end.

LEVEL UP: There is an NES Double Dragon style EXP system.

Mighty Final Fight came out at a time when the Super NES was seeing a number of arcade beat ’em up, and tournament fighter ports. Capcom had already ported the Final Fight arcade game to the console albeit with a number of things removed to be able to fit onto the cartridge.

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Knowing that the NES couldn’t handle the game, Capcom made this an entirely new game set in the same universe. Even though it is technically far less capable as the cut down Super NES port of Final Fight, in many ways it is a much better game.

Mighty Final Fight has an almost identical storyline. Mayor Mike Haggar’s daughter Jessica is kidnapped by the Mad Gear street gang. So he decides to take matters into his own hands, beating the crap out of every last criminal he sees. Until he gets to the boss of the entire Mad Gear operation. Joining him again is Jessica’s boyfriend Cody, and Cody’s friend Guy who was absent in the initial Super NES arcade port.

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So the NES game already has one leg up on its younger brother here. Game play is also pretty close to the Super NES. Characters can be grappled by approaching them diagonally, then they can be dispatched by any number of moves. All of the throws, pile drivers, and special moves are back.

Once, again pressing the attack, and jump buttons at the same time will execute a special move. Using these moves also takes away some of your life bar just like it does in other versions of Final Fight. But here is where the game begins to veer off into spin off territory. Mighty Final Fight takes a page from the NES port of Technos’ Double Dragon. You will see a meter on the lower right section of your HUD. Next to that is an experience counter.

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As you pummel bad guys you will raise the number of experience points. When you get to the maximum number, the bar will fill up further. Each bar within the bar you fill increases your health meter, your damage output, and decreases the amount of punishment you take upon being hit. Using grapple moves will give you more points. So playing as Haggar means you’ll want to be using pile drivers. Using Cody or Guy you’ll probably be doing a lot of throws. Interestingly enough, choosing Haggar starts you out with three full bars of experience, while choosing either Cody or Guy will start you out with one.

Leveling up to a certain point will also unlock an additional move for you to use. Unlike the arcade version of Final Fight or its ports, the weapons you can find in oil drums are character specific. Haggar will always have a hammer. Cody will always have a knife, and Guy will always have shurikens.

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Of course Mighty Final Fight also differs in the actual stage layouts. They keep the general theme of the arcade machine’s stages. The game even has a map similar to the arcade game’s in between levels. But you’re getting an entirely different run of levels. In the first stage you’re fighting through the streets, then a rooftop. Stage two you’re fighting your way to an area that resembles the next to last stage in the arcade version. Stage three is a section called Old Town which has some minor similarities to the arcade’s West Side stage.

At least in terms of style. Here there are sections with giant pits in the road, and the action leads to wrestling arena like the arcade machine’s second stage finale. Stage four feels entirely like an alien experience. It is supposed to be the factory district, but instead has a warehouse area. You also end up on an elevator leading to a bar. This brought me back to The Simpsons Arcade game moment near the end of that game’s graveyard level. The final stage is called the Bay Area but has little to do with the arcade game’s. Instead, it’s a hodgepodge of the arcade’s Uptown, and other parts of the game.

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Mighty Final Fight also rearranges the order of the bosses, and even replaces a couple of them. You’ll still fight Damnd at the end of the first stage. But after that you’ll see Abigail, then Sodom, then a palette swap of Sodom who is supposed to be his relative. You’ll still fight the same final boss in Belger, except this time he is a cyborg. Mighty Final Fight also makes you rematch two of the bosses on the way.

The game has a super deformed look, and goes for a bit more humor. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the nicest looking games Capcom put out on the NES. But it might throw you off coming into it from any of the other Final Fight games. Everything looks like it was inspired from the Technos Double Dragon NES ports. Big heads with detailed, yet tiny bodies rule the character designs, and stages are incredibly short, yet filled with challenges. Many key enemies return for this installment, though not all of them. You’ll see Poison (who was edited in the Super NES port of Final Fight), Andore, J, among others. As I said before, the game play is almost identical, though you’ll only ever see two enemies at a time. That doesn’t make them any less cheap though. They’ll still try to sandwich you, and force you to memorize exactly when to throw an attack at them.

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The music in the game is pretty good. None of the arcade game songs show up, but the original songs here fit the action very well. Unfortunately they aren’t very memorable or iconic the way the mainline game’s soundtrack is. Sound effects are about what you would expect. Similar smacks, and smashes you’d hear in River City Ransom, Double Dragon, or Bayou Billy are here, and sound great.

There isn’t too much to complain about with Mighty Final Fight. Some might feel it could be a little bit longer.  It is also fairly challenging if you don’t remember exactly how to read enemy patterns in the series. Enemy attacks tend to hurt you a lot, and they’ll even use the environments to their advantage, kicking you into pits, or off of ledges. They’ll also sandwich you, forcing you to use your desperation moves.

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But over time you can become acclimated to these patterns, and once you start decimating them with enough of your grapple moves the game becomes a lot easier. Still, some may balk at the initial difficulty. The other thing to keep in mind is the cost if you’re a purist. In most cases an NES Game Pak will cost you at least $150. That’s just the cartridge. Expect to pay several hundred dollars if you find it with a box, and manual.

Fortunately there are other legitimate ways to play this. The Capcom Classics Mini Mix compilation on Game Boy Advance included it. This can be had for around $7. Or if you have the 3DS or the Wii U, the ROM is on the eshop as a download for a mere  $5.

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Mighty Final Fight is easily worth a recommendation for any fan of Beat ’em ups. It controls well. It retains the game play of the arcade cabinet it is loosely based off of. It’s one of the nicest looking games in the NES library. It also happens to be as fun, and interesting as later Final Fight games.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Ninja Five-O Review

Remember a time when Konami was lauded? Throughout the 80’s, and 90’s the company put out not only heavy hitters, but some lesser known gems as well. This wasn’t only true of the console end of things. Handhelds saw some really great efforts from the company over the years. Including this game. Ninja Five-O will wow you with its combination of two of your favorite things. It’s the peanut butter, and jelly of action games.

PROS: Crisp graphics. Smooth game play.

CONS: High difficulty. Light on story.

RIBBIT: One of the bosses rides a giant frog like a horse.

Ninja Five-O doesn’t have a particularly deep story. You play a Ninja, who is also a police detective. (The European version was actually titled Ninja Cop.)You end up having to travel all over the world to sneak in, free hostages, and defeat terrorists. Basically, the campaign’s story is a combination of Die-Hard, and American Ninja 2.  It will lead you through a bank heist, a warehouse, an airport, an airplane, caverns, and a military installation. Each of them filled with a plethora of traps, obstacles, and criminals. There isn’t much in the way of character development, or plot here. The most you’ll see is some text narration, and cinema screens before each stage. These don’t give you the movie feeling that the NES Ninja Gaiden games do. The game barely tells you any of the names. Generally they give you a brief overview of your objective in the area, and little else. But much like the aforementioned movies, the audience is going to come away entertained by the action even if the narrative is lacking.

As for the actual game, the combination of the aforementioned movies seems fair. Because the game play marries Shinobi’s platforming, and hostage rescuing, with Bionic Commando’s grappling, and Metal Gear’s stealth. The end result is nothing short of spectacular. Each stage is broken up into three sections, before a boss encounter. The object of each of the stages is two-fold. First, you have to get a red key to unlock the stage exit door. In order to get the red key, you’ll have to find a few other keys because you’ll need to enter other rooms, defeat particular enemies, or break open a certain crate to find them. Each key is color coded, and corresponds with a different door. But finding the keys isn’t enough. Because the second goal is to rescue as many hostages as possible. Freeing the hostages isn’t an easy task. Most of them are being held by enemies who will use them as human shields if you try to attack them. This leads into an awful lot of stealth game play.

Thankfully that stealth game play is very satisfying. The game makes very good use of its grappling hook mechanics. You can grapple onto most walls, and surfaces. There are also giant rivets in backgrounds you can grab onto. Once you’ve grappled onto a surface, you can swing back, forth, even in circles. Admittedly, this can be hard to get the hang of when you first start playing. Once you’ve gotten the basics down, you can even swing from surface to surface! This allows you to get the drop on a lot of the terrorists, attack them from behind, and free the hostages. You also have a number of attacks. The first is your sword. You can swing it at enemies, swing it while jumping to do a somersault attack, and break open crates. The second is the ability to throw a shuriken. These can be handy for bad guys that take a few hits to die, or for freeing a hostage from afar. The shuriken can be powered up too. Throughout levels are little lightning bolt icons that can be picked up. Each one you pick up upgrades you one level. You can pick up to three. With the power ups, you can toss lasers, and fireballs. You’ll need these to beat most of the game’s bosses. Getting hit after picking up a lighting bolt causes you to lose one, and downgrades you back a level. This makes the game even more challenging. Because not having these power ups puts you at a bigger disadvantage.

However one attack you have at your disposal is the proverbial smart bomb. If you fill a meter by knocking off enemies, you can fire off a screen wide animation that takes out every enemy on the screen. You’ll want to use this a lot in situations where freeing a hostage seems impossible. Be it because there are too many enemies, or because of hazards. You get a slide move to help you through some of these, but that only helps so much. There are exposed electrical wires, torches, spiked pits, spiked walls, and more to deal with. Sometimes the game hides a hostage, power up, or key in these areas.

Bosses are highly reminiscent of early 90’s NES bosses. These characters evoke memories of boss encounters in games like Vice: Project Doom, and Shatterhand. They’re grand, over the top, and can only be defeated once you memorize an intricate pattern of movement. Unless of course, you come into them with all three power ups. But even then taking down that last shred of damage will prove difficult. But the difficulty of the bosses, like the levels leaves you a sense of satisfaction when you finally beat them. Which is good. Because the only way you get to play all of the stages is if you choose higher difficulty levels. You can also play the first three levels in whichever order you choose.

Visually, the game holds up very well all of these years later. Sprites, are crisp, very detailed. as are the tile sets. The game has a very nice use of parallax scrolling, and the animation is top notch. The GBA, and DS run the Game Pak briskly, with little to no slowdown, save for one or two boss fights where a lot is going on. But even those are brief moments, that don’t ruin the game play. The chip tunes, and sound effects are really cool, with melodies you may find yourself humming a few hours after you put the game down.

Some may be turned off by the high difficulty, but overall this is a highly recommended title assuming you can still find a copy. The game came out at the tail end of the Game Boy Advance’s lifespan. Like most games released at the end of a platform’s run, there weren’t a lot of copies made. At least not in comparison to the print runs of most games. As such Ninja Five-O is pretty rare now, and is also pretty expensive. A loose copy goes for as much as a new release on a modern console, where complete or unopened copies fetch far more. That said, if you can afford a copy, or find a really good deal at a yard sale, pick this one up. It’s fun, challenging, and it’s one of the best Game Paks ever put out on the Game Boy Advance.

Final Score: 8 out of 10