Tag Archives: Konami

Super NES Classic Edition Review

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Well, although I’m up, and around again I still haven’t been medically cleared to leave the home on my own, or return to employment yet. So what to do? What to do? Well, when you’re shut in between the rainy weather, and waiting to go in for your follow-up, there’s little you can do. So why not take inspiration from my good friend Peter, and open something some people wouldn’t?

PROS: Respectable build quality. Play Star Fox 2 legitimately!

CONS: Light on extra features. Cannot play Star Fox 2 right away.

SAVINGS: The unit has a number of games that cost a lot on the aftermarket.

To be fair I actually opened up this system a few weeks ago. I won mine at RetroWorld Expo 2018 thanks to the raffle held by the always great Super Retro Throwback Podcast. So do give them a listen, they do some terrific interviews, and discussion with a nice radio morning show feel. In any event, now that I’ve spent some more quality time with it, I figured I would give my impressions.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Deviot, you’re so late to the party on this one. We know it’s pretty damned cool.” But that discounts the plethora of people who still don’t have one, as they were on the fence, or wanted to wait until they saw how the scalper phase went. (It went pretty fast. You can find these things everywhere now.) For those who were on the fence, you’re probably wondering about things like input lag, filters, or simply how well are these games emulated. All of which I’ll get to in due time.

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For the five people who don’t already know about the device, it’s the second of Nintendo’s all-in-one plug, and play consoles. Atari’s Flashback, and AtGames’ continuation of the series led to a slew of players in the market. And while AtGames hasn’t done so well with their emulated take on Sega consoles, their takeover of the Atari Flashback line went fairly well. From there they did an Intellivision plug, and play, a Colecovision plug, and play, along with others. Other companies jumped in, and so Nintendo capitalized on the craze by introducing the NES Classic. Which was infamously short-packed, and under-produced leading to the majority of them being scooped up by scalpers. Many thought the Super NES Classic would follow suit, but thankfully it hasn’t, and Nintendo re-released the NES version too. So you can pick either of these up now.

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The mini console comes in a box that is very reminiscent of the one the original Super NES came in, with a black background, and grey striping along with stylized lettering. The company did an excellent job of making geezers like me, remember what it was like when we finally got our hands on one back in 1991. Upon opening the kit, you’ll find a poster, and documentation packet. Obviously the mini Super NES control deck, a HDMI cable, a USB cable, a USB Power adapter, and two Super NES controller replicas.

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I have to say, I was really impressed with the build quality of the device. Granted, I know there isn’t much to it, as it’s mostly one resin plastic shell in the shape of a Super NES. Still, considering how the company could have opted to go with a flimsy, or brittle plastic to cut costs, they didn’t. It feels very much like the same build as an actual Super Nintendo Entertainment System. So kudos on the presentation. Note that when you actually want to use the thing, the front of the unit is actually a face plate that comes off. It’s tethered to a plastic ribbon so it doesn’t get lost. Behind the faceplate are your controller ports. These are the same ports that you’ll find on the Wiimote controllers for the Nintendo Wii. Which means that if you should ever lose, or break one of these Super NES replica controllers, you can use a Wii Classic controller. It also means that if you have a Wii, or a Wii U with Super NES games you’ve purchased on it, you can use the Super NES Classic’s controllers with those as well. With this in mind you might just want to get the spare controllers for the mini just to use on your Wii U if you find you own most of the included games on it on your Wii U already.

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As for the controllers, they feel exactly the same as the ones made for the Super NES back in the 1990’s. The same textured surface. The same glossy buttons. The attention to detail here is wonderful. If you sold or gave away your Super NES years ago, this will feel very familiar to you if you pick one up. It even has the same rubberized Select, and Start buttons. Some have derided the length of the cables, and, I’m not going to lie. They really could stand to be a bit longer. You can buy extension cables, but realistically most of us will have to sit closer to the TV like we did as teenagers.

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As for the interface it’s simplistic, but nice. There’s a brief setup where you pick your language, and then your thrust into the home screen. If you go poking around though, you will find an options menu. Here you can choose display options like the aspect ratio, filters, and borders. Really the sole filter is a CRT filter which emulates scan lines, and color bleeding. It’s okay if you really prefer the look of an old TV. There’s also the standard 4:3 that doesn’t have the filter, and then there’s pixel perfect, which basically makes the games 4:3, and crisper. But that also means you’ll see every last square that makes up every character, and background. It’s interesting because some games look completely fine, while others like Super Castlevania IV have a bit of inconsistency. My Brother who isn’t nearly as into game collecting as I am noticed this when visiting. There’s nothing wrong with the game, but you can see the backgrounds, and enemies have more details in this display mode, than Simon Belmont appears to. Of course the bigger the TV the more noticeable it is. Still, if this level of crispness turns you off, you can always opt to play the game with the CRT filter on. It really will come down to personal preference.

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As for the game selection, it’s a really good one. There are some games I personally may have chosen instead, had I been a Nintendo decision maker. But on the whole, there is a nice variety of games here, covering almost every genre. Final Fantasy III (6), Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, Secret Of Mana, and The Legend of Zelda III: A Link To The Past are here for your JRPG/Action RPG/Adventure fix. You also get a lot of classic platformers. Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Kirby Superstar are all here. Covering your action platforming you have Mega Man X, Super Castlevania IV, and Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts. You’ve got F-Zero, and Super Mario Kart for some arcade racing. Star Fox, and the previously unreleased Star Fox 2 are on the device for rail shooting. Kirby’s Dream Course is the lone puzzle outing, although Superstar does have some puzzle modes. Super Punch-Out!! is an underrated inclusion here, and of course Super Metroid is one of the best exploration games of all time. So naturally that is on here. Street Fighter II’s popularity hit its fevered pitch on the 16-bit consoles, so naturally one of the iterations would have to be included here. Street Fighter II Turbo is the iteration chosen to appear here, and it is definitely one of the fan favorites in the series. Fans who preferred the larger roster in Super Street Fighter II might be disappointed, but there are other inexpensive ways to play the Super NES port of that game elsewhere. Finally, fans of the run n’ gun genre get Contra III: The Alien Wars.

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On paper, picking this mini system is worth it for these games alone. Consider that (at the time of this writing) the original physical Game Paks of many of these titles are expensive. Super Metroid goes between $30, and $40 loose, alone. Earthbound is prohibitively expensive for many people often going for well over $100 by itself. For anybody who simply wants to buy one of these games legitimately, and play it, the Super NES Classic Edition is a pretty good value proposition. As for the emulation of the games, they’re very good. All but the most astute fan can go back, and play these without noticing much of a difference. If you go through the extra work of hooking up the original Super NES on a TV, and standing it next to your new HDTV & Super NES Classic setup, you can notice slight differences. Differences in color that might matter to an absolute purist who will insist on playing the original Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts Game Pak. If you absolutely require a 1:1 experience without exception you’ll want to empty your bank account. For everyone else a .98:1 experience is still pretty impressive.

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As far as input lag goes, I honestly haven’t noticed much of any, and I’ve played my unit on three modern TVs. A 50″ 4K unit by Samsung, a 20″ 1080p Insignia (Best Buy), and my trusty 32″ 720p Element I keep because it has legacy ports. In every case, the games played fine. Any input lag that is there will be noted by only the most scrupulous players. Top-tier speed runners, and tournament level players may want to spend on the original console, and games for those purposes. But again, for those who want to buy these titles legitimately, the Super NES Classic Edition is a wonderful option.

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Even some of those collectors who normally might pass on it may consider giving it a go as it is presently the only way to buy Star Fox 2. And while it won’t wow you the way the original did, or the way Star Fox 64 did on the Nintendo 64, it is still an interesting one. It includes features that weren’t seen until later games in the series. If you’re a big fan of Nintendo’s long running franchise, you may just want one of these for that game. Although it is strangely locked behind the first game’s first stage. You aren’t allowed to actually play it, until you defeat the first boss in the original game. Weird.

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Overall, I quite like the Super NES Classic Edition. While I feel it could use some more visual options for those who don’t like how old games look on new displays, and it could have used a more convenient way to create saves (You have to press RESET.), I do find the build quality quite nice. I also found that they added a cool fast forward, and rewind function to the save state software. So you can pinpoint the moment you want to start from. I also like that they put some of the harder to acquire titles on it, and it is nice that Star Fox 2 finally sees the light of day. The controllers are also versatile for Wii, and Wii U owners, as you can use them with games purchased digitally. It’s also a great proposition for those who want to experience what they weren’t around for without having to invest in a 20-year-old or more console, and cartridge technology. Newcomers can get their feet wet here, and see what the fuss over the 16-bit era is all about. Interestingly, Nintendo has put up PDF scans of the Super NES manuals for all of the games included here.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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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.

Super Cyborg Review

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Man, I have been finding a number of spiritual successors lately. Last time around we saw an excellent Metroid clone with a number of cool tweaks, and spins on the idea. This time I’m reviewing a really good Contra clone. With elements of Probotector. Because that game is the same game as Contra, just with the human characters replaced with robots.

In this game you play as a robot. Well, at first. More on that later. Super Cyborg nails down everything about the NES version of Contra, its sequels, and the rest of the series with pinpoint accuracy. If you’ve been stewing because of how Konami has been letting all of their franchises lie dormant, this is a game you’re going to adore.

PROS: Feels exactly like NES Contra. Added customization.

CONS: Limited number of controllers supported. May feel too derivative to some.

KONAMI CODE: Not here. Bur there is a NOT KONAMI code most of you will NEED.

I’m glad I found Super Cyborg. I stumbled upon it during the recent Steam Summer Sale. I had no prior knowledge of its existence. No buzz. No info on a board. Nothing. At least for me, this was a diamond in the rough. Upon looking at the quick little trailer, I thought it looked like an interesting Contra inspired game. I picked it up.

Well it isn’t just interesting. It’s phenomenal. In terms of how close the game play is to NES Contra it’s almost 1:1. You play a robot out to save the world from an alien invasion. Like the game it is cribbing from. You get three lives, and sent on an overwhelming seven stage mission of mayhem. The first stage has a few visual nods to Contra. It starts in the jungle, and though the stage layout is completely different the theme is there. It ends at a fortress as well. But with a completely different, and original boss.

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From there, the game goes through different themed areas, and this is where it makes an attempt to differentiate itself from its inspiration. The inside of the base has its own distinct style. The third stage has more of a late game Ninja Gaiden look. There is a spider filled cavern stage. Throughout the campaign, the game does try to retain its own identity. In spite of just how much it feels like Contra. Of course, even some of that goes out the window when you get to the Super C inspired top down stage, and the final stage.

It really does feel like Contra too. As I said before, it feels almost 1:1. The movement is almost identical. The somersault jumping is almost identical. The shooting feels nearly identical. You can fire up. You can fire ahead, or at a diagonal slant. You can fire straight down so long as you’re in the air. One key difference is there is a “Lock” feature, where you can press a button to disable walking. In theory, some sections may be more manageable with it enabled. You can stay just outside the hit box of a projectile spewed out by a boss. Or you can keep yourself from walking off of a ledge. In practice, you’ll almost never use it because of just how much stuff is hitting you at any given moment. Super Cyborg also adds a secondary charge shot to every gun in the game. It does more damage. But because it’s so slow; again you’ll rarely use it with all of the chaos.

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Because just like Contra, the attackers never cease. They keep re-spawning, charging, and coming from all directions. Sit in one place too long, they’ll appear from behind. Or jump from above. Or crop up from the background scenery when you least expect it. Even Contra’s weapons are heavily referenced here. Barrels float through the sky in weird patterns. Shooting them drops a letter. Each letter is a different weapon. The letters may be different in some cases, but the projectiles have the same properties. The machine gun bullets are here. The laser gun is here. The coveted spread gun is here. The clear screen is here. Even the rapid fire is here.

And like Probotector, you’ll play as a robot. At first. You see, once you complete the game you’ll be able to play as a Rambo knock off, giving the game an even closer resemblance to Contra. One cool thing here is you can customize the colors on your character sprites when you start the game. The enemies are pretty varied throughout the campaign with all sorts of aliens, mutants, and strange creatures. All of them share attack patterns with Contra’s many soldiers, and creatures.

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Boss characters are original creations, and yet they could probably fit into a Contra game. There are some standouts here like the giant heart boss, the mechanical bee, and the game’s final boss. This thing has seven forms, and only gets more difficult as each form is introduced. Frankly, it goes from being a very difficult Run n’ Gun to a very difficult Bullet Hell. Think Toaplan difficult.

Honestly, the whole game is pretty difficult for many of the reasons outlined earlier. But again, so was Contra. It also has the simultaneous two player mode you know, and love. The game is fun, and hectic enough with one player. Two player mode makes this even more fun. On top of that, Super Cyborg includes Peer to Peer internet play. You can host a game, and let a friend or stranger connect through Steam, and away you go. Basically, it’s the same thing as the standard two player campaign. But now you don’t have to worry about your friend actually driving to your house.

Of course no NES Contra experience would be complete without the Konami code. Because, for the majority of us, getting through the game was almost impossible on three lives. Super Cyborg doesn’t have the Konami code, but it does have its own extra lives code that you’ll also have to input quickly on the title screen. It will give you 40 lives, and because the game has user files, you can actually save your progress between levels. Which is nice in case you find yourself getting too frustrated in your attempt to win. You can come back to where you left off. Moreover, Super Cyborg has three difficulty levels; Easy, Normal, and Hard which is unlocked after you complete the game once. Easy is about as hard as NES Contra. Until the last boss where it gets pretty difficult. Normal adds more enemies, and projectiles. The final boss gets much more health here. Hard difficulty is so over the top, it’s really recommended for those who love an almost masochistic challenge.

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Super Cyborg isn’t terribly long, and it needn’t be. It isn’t very original. But that isn’t what it was going for. It’s a game trying to fill a void Konami left, by letting its franchise lie dormant. As a spiritual successor to that franchise Super Cyborg truly succeeds. It is a great game for anybody who loves Contra, as the entire game is a love letter to Contra. It’s also a pretty fun action game in its own right.  Super Cyborg might not look quite as good as Contra. Some of the sprites can look a little rough around the edges. But it still manages to get a pretty good NES inspired look all around. You can also toggle a CRT blur effect, and sprite transparency effects on or off depending on how you like your retro-inspired games to look. The music is pretty great. Stage three’s up tempo chip tunes really stand out. But overall the music, and sound is really good.

Where the game falls short is in the options menu, and controller settings. First off, the options navigation takes some getting used to, as it isn’t mouse driven. It has a weird lay out, with pull-down menus. It isn’t difficult to use, but it isn’t very intuitive. But the biggest problem is that it doesn’t support a very large variety of controllers. You can play with the keyboard. You can play with the Xbox 360, or Xbox One controllers pretty seamlessly. Even third-party versions, as they use the same driver in Windows. But beyond that, it’s tough to say. My Steam controller didn’t work right away. After a day or two, it miraculously decided to. So I don’t know if that was just an issue with my configuration, or if it was a Steam client issue an update fixed. Chances are if you’re using a Steam controller you’re probably going to be able to play the game just fine.

But for some of the other controllers out there you’ll have to use a third-party program like Xpadder if you want to get them working with the game. Other than that speed bump though, it’s a pretty great game I can still highly recommend. It can be pretty difficult, and it might tread a little too closely to Contra for some. But it is also a lot of fun. I know I’ve repeated myself a lot in this review. But if you’ve longed for a proper Contra game for a while, you just might want to check this one out.

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

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Metal Gear. A series that became insanely popular with Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation. It actually has its roots on the Japanese MSX computer. Suffice it to say, it has been around a long, long time. Filled with geopolitical intrigue, and action movie influences, it’s no wonder why so many people love it so much. But not everyone who plays Ground Zeroes is going to have the same level of loyalty, and admiration.

PROS: Stunning graphics. Stunning voice acting. Amazing controls.

CONS: Far too short.

WHAT? THAT’S IT?: Is what you will shout at the screen when you beat it.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has already gotten flack. But if you aren’t gaming on consoles at all, whatsoever, you may not have heard about it. Ground Zeros was recently re-released on PC’s through Steam, with some minor improvements.  The game looks amazing. It really does. The amount of detail in the character models, texture work, and overall presentation is simply stunning. Konami really outdid itself here, and the PC port allows you to max the game out even further, so long as your hardware is up to snuff.

To give even more credit where credit is due, the game has a very good voice acting cast. Kiefer Sutherland, Tara Strong, Troy Baker, and James Horan lend their talents to create some really compelling moments. The cut scenes are even rendered in real-time within the game’s engine. Konami calls this the FOX engine, and it does deliver on its next generation promises. Simply watching the opening cut scenes will be a testament to that fact.

The story is told through a combination of prologue screens, and the beautiful cut scenes. Snake infiltrates a Black Site in Cuba to break out two prisoners, only to find one of the two is even deeper in the secret prison site. This is where you’ll actually start playing the game. Let’s get this part out of the way. What you are given here is a lot of fun. It’s an open, prison compound that you will be infiltrating. Gone are the linear levels of the old MGS stages, where you had only a handful of ways to sneak around. Ground Zeros pretty much lets you go wherever you want. There are some locked doors, or stone walls to keep you from doing anything too cheap. But for the most part you can tackle the game how you want. Although going in guns blazing, is going to prove far more difficult.

The game carries over all of the stealth mechanics of the older games. You can slowly creep through the shadows, sneak up on guards, and interrogate them for info. You have access to silencers to keep your shots from being heard. These can also wear out after so many shots, so you’ll also want to conserve their use. You can even use a tranquilizer gun to make guards fall asleep at their posts, or shoot out lights, and cameras to keep from being seen.  As always, you also have the ability to pick up, and hide dead bodies. The enemy A.I. in this game is actually really good. They can see you through their periphery, hear noises, and notice when you’ve opened a door, or turned out a light. They will actively run toward any suspicious activity. They’ll often times spot you even when you think you’re impossible to find. It all comes together very, very well.

You can even hijack vehicles on the prison grounds, like tanks, and jeeps if you don’t mind everyone taking notice, and descending upon you. Gun play is also a lot of fun. Aiming isn’t a chore, you can mark threats with your binoculars, and all of the weapons feel like they have good weight with realistic recoil.

When you do finally get to the prisoners, you’ll have to summon your helicopter to pick them up. Here is where you can pull up your map, along with audio, and data logs the game hands you for each mission. You’ll then have to carry them to the pickup site, hopefully without getting detected. The enemies have no reservations about killing you or the prisoners. If a prisoner dies you’ll lose the game, and have to restart at the last checkpoint. Checkpoints seem to be almost arbitrarily chosen by the game. Sometimes it might generate one after a cut scene. But other times it will seemingly be when you get near a certain place on the map.

When you do complete the mission, you’ll be treated to some more amazing cut scenes. Beautifully rendered in the FOX engine. All of which are to set up the next game in the series.  It’s a beautiful, and entertaining game, that will leave you asking”Wait, that’s it?” Because it will take most players one hour to beat the game. That’s right, one hour. This game is tremendously short.  It basically, ends up feeling like a demo for the next game, rather than a prologue. The game does have side missions you can play once you’re done with the short campaign, but these aren’t all that different in how they play. Some involve killing specific people, or specific targets. There is one that is slightly different in that it has an on-rails segment. But all of the missions take place in the same level.

It’s unfortunate that the game is so disappointingly short, because what you do get is a lot of fun. If you’re a dedicated fan, you can try to speed run it, play through the side missions, or try to get all of the achievements. Many players certainly have. But for everyone else the short length really makes this difficult to recommend. It truly feels like a demo in every sense of the word. The alternate, optional missions may add a couple of hours of play time, but for most players that probably isn’t going to be enough. Unless you simply have to have every game in the Metal Gear series in your game collection, skip this one.

Final Score: 5 out of 10