Tag Archives: Nintendo DS

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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Giana Sisters 2D Review

In a way this almost feels like cheating. It’s all of the stages from Giana Sisters DS on Steam. Why not just refer you to my Giana Sisters DS review? Because there are a number of things that have changed for better, and worse.

PROS: It’s the Nintendo DS game. On Steam!

CONS: It’s the mobile port of the DS game on Steam.

SAD: Still waiting on a re-release of the C64 original.

Between the time Spellbound folded, and remnants founded Black Forest Games, there was one developer who swooped in, and got a license to port Giana Sisters DS to the iPad named Kaasa. The company updated some of the visuals, and replaced a substantial amount of pixel art with updated hand drawn art. Eventually Black Forest Games would have full ownership of Giana Sisters again, but that didn’t eliminate Kaasa’s claim to their DS update. So this release is a port of a port of a game.

Content wise, the game is almost exactly the same as Giana Sisters DS. The artwork does resemble the original version, though the sharp, clean look of everything may disappoint some players. The game itself follows the same path as the original DS version. You’ll start out with a cut scene of Giana losing her gems in a nightmare, and re-entering the land of dreams to reclaim them. From there you’ll see a map screen for each world. Beating each stage will unlock the next stage, and eventually the next world.

Giana Sisters 2D has 8 worlds with 9 stages in each. Each stage also has a bonus stage that can be unlocked. Bonus stages tend to be collection stages, where you can hunt down gobs, and gobs of gems. Every 100 gems nets you a 1-up. Each world has a locked icon. If you can find all of the red gems in each of the 9 stages you’ll unlock the bonus stage. In the original DS version of the game, you also needed to unlock every bonus stage in order to unlock the retro stages.

Retro stages work a little different in this version. Here, you can simply choose to play the retro stages. Keep in mind that these are the DS versions of the Commodore 64 levels. So they have the added secrets, and alterations of the handheld. This means that you won’t be seeing the classic dragon, and spider bosses either. So while it is a nice nod for long time fans, it still isn’t the same. You’ll certainly want to play through them to complete the game, and have a fun time doing so. But don’t go into it expecting the C64 classic either.

Now while the game does have everything the DS version has, there are some oddities, and troubles that keep it from meeting the DS version’s high bar. Again, for some, the updated graphics will ironically turn them off. There is something to be said for the intricate, detailed pixel art of the original game. That isn’t to say Giana Sisters 2D is a horrible looker, it isn’t. Considering the iPad background it has, it’s one of the better ports. But there will be a vocal group of people who won’t like the change. Graphically, the only technical complaint you may have are the rare lines you can point out around certain tiles at times. It isn’t enough to distract you from playing, but it is noticeable.

The other problems the game has are related mainly to bugs. I have yet to find one that genuinely breaks the game, but they are annoyances that impede the enjoyment somewhat. Sometimes the game will show the wrong stage number going into a level or even load the wrong level. Backing out the map screen, and selecting the level again fixes this, but it is a pain when it happens. Achievements sometimes don’t unlock until after you’ve exited the game. Black Forest Games is looking into the issues, but for now, these are things to consider before jumping in. Fortunately the core game play is still here, offering the same challenge, and feel of the DS original. Even Fabian del Priore’s tunes are back to bounce along to the bump, and jump game play.

Also keep in mind, if you’re coming into this game after playing through the excellent Twisted Dreams, the experience is different. Giana Sisters DS was a direct sequel to Great Giana Sisters, and so you’ll be experiencing something closer to a Super Mario Bros. experience. Not a complete clone, but the inspiration is there. That said, the game has a few tricks that became staples of the series in Twisted Dreams, most notably the bubblegum machines. Eating gum gets you into giant bubbles you can pilot through dangers in certain stages. Conversely, if you played the original Commodore 64 game, and missed the DS sequel, know that things are beefed up. Especially in the vein of enemies, and tricky jumps toward the end of the campaign.

Ultimately, Giana Sisters 2D is worth purchasing if you don’t already have Giana Sisters DS. Getting the Game Pak for the DS these days is pretty tough, especially in the United States, where it saw a very limited run. As of now, the DS version goes for its original MSRP loose in most cases, and even more if you find one complete. Giana Sisters 2D is a convenient solution. But do know there are some minor issues as of now.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Giana Sisters DS Review

I can FINALLY rest easy. Those of you who have followed me from the beginnings of this blog know I’ve really enjoyed Armin Gessert’s platform jumping game series. You’ve seen me review the original Commodore 64 game, as well as Twisted Dreams. The last entry in the dormant series. But before that game, and its expansion pack, Rise Of The Owlverlord was another Giana Sisters entry. On a console which may surprise you.

PROS: It’s a Giana Sisters sequel! Updated graphics. New game play conventions.

CONS: Difficulty spikes.  No two player mode. Limited touch screen application.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS: The original game’s stages are an unlockable Easter Egg.

As you probably know by now, the original Great Giana Sisters was pulled due to pressure from Nintendo of Europe back in 1987. It became a cult classic. But 24 years later, we would be shocked to see the sisters on a Nintendo product. Giana Sisters DS came out in 2011, and was series creator Armin Gessert’s final game. (He passed away not too long after the game was finished.) A lot of people have never heard of this game, especially state side, where it had a very limited release. By publisher Destineer, who was normally known for releasing budget titles based on licensed IP, and porting popular games to the Macintosh. The release was so limited in fact, their web page (which is still up at the time of this writing) doesn’t list it. Only a handful of outlets even sold the game, and most of them were online only. Suffice it to say despite being released as a budget title, at a budget price, Giana Sisters DS is fairly rare.

The European version saw a wider release, and even today you’re more likely to see that version in online auctions over the US version. The game is identical in either case. The EU version has language options as well, so if you live in the US, and get the EU version you can still navigate the menus easily enough. The Nintendo DS also had no region locks, so you can run the European version on an American DS, or vice versa. If you are fortunate enough to find a copy of Giana Sisters DS you are in for a treat.

Giana Sisters DS is not a remake of the original Great Giana Sisters. It is an original game in the series, though it certainly has plenty of nods to the original game. The game fires up the same way the Commodore 64 original does. GIANA SISTERS DS scrolls across the top screen composed of the game’s many tile sets. Visually, the sprites, veer closer to the Commodore Amiga version of Great Giana Sisters. Everything in the game is bright, and colorful, and has a look that echoes the Amiga’s amazing visuals. It’s all replicated here very well. But once you begin the game, the similarities begin to end.

The original game had 32 straight levels. It was often compared to Super Mario Bros. which also had 32 levels. But that game divides the levels into 8 worlds, each with 4 levels in it. Giana Sisters DS changes the formula to be a bit closer to Super Mario Bros. in terms of level numbers. There are 9 worlds. Most of the worlds have 10 levels in them, along with a hidden level or two. The game also implements a new rule on its gem system, which you’ll need to follow if you want to see these Easter eggs.

As in the original game, Giana finds herself falling into a dream world. the object here once again, is to get from the beginning to the end of each stage without losing all of your lives. But there are a number of changes that differentiate it from Nintendo’s platformers. Again you’ll be collecting 100 diamonds to earn 1-Ups. Again you’ll be fighting owls, bubbles, bees, worms, and the rest of the cast of enemies. While you’ll still be jumping into blocks for diamonds, and power ups, you’ll be shocked. Because there are no longer multiple power ups from blocks. The double dream bubbles, homing bubbles, time stopper, and other extra power ups are no more. Getting the Punk ball now includes the ability to shoot dream bubbles in addition to breaking blocks. But that isn’t the only change to the formula. Giana Sisters DS eschews The Great Giana Sisters one hit deaths. Now after getting the Punk ball, a hit will revert you back to normal. These changes are both good, and bad.

They’re great in the sense that people new to the series won’t be frustrated. But they’re bad for series veterans in the sense that the initial challenge in this sequel is much lower than the original game’s. But that doesn’t mean this game is any kind of cakewalk either. Giana Sisters DS has a difficulty jump when you get around half way through the game. It is here the game implements a couple of new mechanics. One of which was also carried over to Twisted Dreams. The first of these is a soda bottle. Some later levels have a vending machine that will drop a bottle of soda. Tapping the soda icon on the touch screen will shoot a temporary stream of cola. This can be used to destroy blocks, as well as get rid of certain obstacles. For example, there may be a set of diamonds behind a column of bricks. Using the soda will allow you to get to them.

The second mechanic is the bubble gum power up. This also appeared in Twisted Dreams. This allows you to fly around in a chewing gum bubble to get to items previously thought impossible to take. You can use this one of two ways. The first is to use the built-in microphone in the DS. You can blow into the microphone to give the bubble momentum. Most players aren’t going to do that. This brings up the second method which is to simply press the jump button as many, or as few times as you need to. This power up allows for all kinds of crazy puzzle stages, and the game delivers those in spades once this mechanic is introduced. You’ll find yourself going off of the beaten path for red diamonds. In the process you’ll find the red diamond is surrounded by spikes that all hang above a bottomless pit.

The challenge really increases in the final two worlds. So if you’ve never played a Giana Sisters game, and pick this up remind yourself of this fact. The first half of the game is pretty easy. The stages seem short, enemies aren’t put into a lot of positions, and you might find yourself breezing through the early goings. By around the third quarter the game becomes a manageable challenge. A few jumps might cost you lives. A rocket launching bee, hovers right in front of a platform you need to get to. A red diamond is hidden in a more perplexing way. But the final leg gets pretty hard. The kind of challenge fans of 1,001 Spikes, or Super Meat Boy crave. So as you learn new skills, you’ll need to perfect them if you hope to beat the game.

As I mentioned before Giana Sisters DS introduces some hidden stages. The way you find these is through collecting. In addition to the normal diamonds, there are red diamonds. Each level has a certain number of them in it. If you can find all of them in a level, the exit flag will turn from blue to red. If you can exit every level in a world with a red exit flag, you’ll unlock a padlock on the map. Tapping this will load a bonus level. Most of these give you a challenging map filled with diamonds. Of course there are still obstacles to avoid just like the regular levels. But if you can get to the end of these levels with most of the diamonds, you’ll have a lot of 1-Ups in reserve. Which you’ll definitely want. Because there is a secret level for those who can beat the game without using a continue. On top of those bonus stages, there are super secret levels that require you to find warp blocks to gain entrance to. These work like the warp blocks in the first game. But instead of advancing you further, these bring you to super secret stages. Some levels also have portals in them that lead you to secret areas within the level. Sometimes you have to find these areas because they contain those important red diamonds. There are also flowers you can find that act as checkpoint saves. If you lose a life, you’ll spawn at the last flower you touched. The flower check points also retain a record of whatever red diamonds you’ve found. However, you’ll have to re collect any normal diamonds.

Don’t fret if you don’t find all of the red diamonds right away. The game will let you replay any stage by tapping on the level’s location on the map. Not only does finding all of a level’s red diamonds turn the end flag red, but the flag color is signified on the map as well. So you can go back to any level marked with a blue flag to replay it in the hopes of getting all of the diamonds. Again, the challenge really heightens by the last few worlds. Expect some stages to have ten red diamonds in them. Many of them hidden in very tight spots that either require the most precise jumps ever attempted, or a lot of guess-work. Sometimes they’re hidden behind foreground objects, or backgrounds. Sometimes they’re guarded by several enemies or death traps. The final leg of the game can prove difficult. But it’s a fair level of punishment. When you fail, you know it’s generally your shortcomings rather than a bug or collision detection gone awry.

Each world also has a boss level where you’ll contend with the Gurglewocky, Giana, and Maria’s dragon nemesis. In this incarnation he has to be jumped on anywhere from three to nine times. This isn’t always an easy task, as each time you fight him he throws new moves into the mix. But like the best platformers you’ll have to learn his patterns to put him down. Kill him, and it’s on to the next world. Speaking of Maria, she isn’t in Giana Sisters DS. Sadly the game doesn’t have a two player mode this time around. It’s one of the minor nitpicks some will have as you could play alternating turns in the last game, but not here. Nevertheless, you’re still going to enjoy the game playing solo.

Once again, the audio doesn’t disappoint. While Chris Hulesbeck didn’t pen any new songs for the game, Fabian del Priore (who also collaborated with Chris Hulesbeck, and Machinae Supremacy in Twisted Dreams) remixes many of his classic Giana Sisters tunes, replete with some Commodore SID impersonations. In addition to that, he wrote a lot of original tunes that share the same spirit as Chris Huelsbeck’s original songs. They fit the atmosphere very well, and with the excellent sound effects create a sound that is definitely descriptive of Giana Sisters.

Giana Sisters DS is an excellent sequel. It builds on a wonderful platformer by adding in new mechanics that work in its favor. It also feels like an evolution in the series, especially since many of the new conventions were carried over to the third game. It bridges the gap between the original, and the latest game very nicely. Not only is it an excellent sequel, and an excellent platformer, it’s one of the best games in the DS library. Aside from a difficulty spike or two the game doesn’t have much to complain about. Though some will miss the inclusion of a two player mode. But with few, if any major bugs, solid control, and splendid level design, Giana Sisters DS is a cut above most DS platformers.

There are also optional challenges for perfectionists to shoot for, such as beating the game without using a continue. There is even a super secret way to play all 32 stages from the original Great Giana Sisters.  Suffice it to say, Giana Sisters DS is a game that should be in any retro game collector’s library. Especially those who love video game history. Finding a copy might prove difficult, especially if you go after the US release. But it is going to be worth every second spent tracking one down.

Final Score: 9 out of 10