Tag Archives: Super Famicom

Super Double Dragon Review

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Every so often a series will take a different direction, and as a result it will get a lot of flack for it. Sometimes this can seem justified, being so different it may as well be something else entirely. In these cases sometimes that may be a creative decision, or it may be a business decision. In the world of games, sometimes it may even be technical as new hardware isn’t necessarily built off of the previous standard. But sometimes these changes aren’t all bad. In the case of Super Double Dragon we have a mixed bag of changes.

PROS: Countering system. Soundtrack. Animations. Fun.

CONS: Slower movement. Sluggish platforming. Missing characters. Nonexistent story.

CHARGE: The meter comes in handier than you think.

Super Double Dragon was released in 1992 Stateside ahead of the Japanese version. As with the NES versions of the previous three Double Dragon games, Tradewest would publish the game in North America. You’ll find upon popping the game into your Super NES, and turning it on that there is nothing in the way of options. You’re given a single player option, and two player option with or without friendly fire. That’s it. Unless you count choosing stereo or monaural music. No options. No difficulty settings. Nothing.

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Starting the game doesn’t even set the pace with a cinema screen or an animation the way the older entries did. No Marion getting punched in the ribs, or getting killed by Black Shadow Warriors. No old lady sending you around the globe. You’re just going to start the game. Upon starting the game, you’ll find things do look a cut above the NES games as you’d expect. However your characters don’t move as briskly as they did in the NES Trilogy, or the arcade games they were based upon. Super Double Dragon does feel a bit slower than what you may be used to.

And the other major issue you’ll often hear brought up is that not every member of the Black Shadow Warriors makes an appearance here. Linda, who is basically the Evil-Lyn to the Shadow Boss’ Skeletor is notably absent, as is he. Also missing are major baddies like Burnov, and fan favorite henchman Abobo. But there are a number of fresh faces joining the Williams, and Ropers as they come out of the woodwork to kick your ass.

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This is where things start to improve. The soundtrack is definitely one of the strongest points in the game. While you’re not going to hold the melodies in the same regard as the first game, they are all quite good. All of the tracks make full use of the Super Nintendo’s sound chip, and you’ll hear a lot of that familiar orchestrated sound. The bass in many of the songs really accent things with some funk-inspired licks.

The sound effects are pretty good too with the crashes, thuds, and cries of pain. Though often times bad guys will sound like they’re vomiting when they finally go down for the count. It does a great job of enhancing the action. The action, while at a slower pace is pretty good as far as beat ’em ups go. New to the series is a new counter system. So in addition to the punch, and kick button you get a jump button, and a block button. If you time your button presses right, the block button will let you do reversals, and counter into combos. You can catch a fist, then launch a flurry of elbows into your attacker’s face, and send them flying.

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Of course being a Double Dragon game, you can also grab people, throw them into each other, or pits. There is even a charge attack you can use by holding down the right or left shoulder button. On the HUD it will show this grow the longer you hold it down. You can press the punch or kick during this process to do a powered up attack that does a lot of damage. Unfortunately a lot of these additions come at a cost. Unlike the older games, you can’t climb on people after you’ve knocked them down to slam their heads into the pavement, or punch them to death. These guys will be getting up again to come after you. But there are also a wealth of weapons that can be picked up again. Oil drums, Bo staffs, bats, nunchaku, and boulders are some of the more common ones you’ll find.

But again, changes bring good along with the bad. While you won’t be seeing certain enemies, some of the newer bad guys are pretty nuts. There’s an obese clown who has a flaming spin attack that is reminiscent of Blanka’s roll in Street Fighter II. There are guys in suits that give the game an almost Scarface flair. There’s even a guy wearing a pleather trench coat with Magnum P.I. mustache, and shades. Many of the enemy designs are still decidedly late 80’s even though this is a 1992 release. So it still manages to feel like part of the series even though so many elements feel like a departure from the norm.

 

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The stages aren’t quite as exotic as they were in the second or third game. You’re not going to fight any evil doppelgänger, modern magic warlords, or ancient Egyptians. Things feel a bit more grounded like the original game did. And by original I mean the arcade version. Stages nearly run into each other. Nearly. You’ll still have a brief cut between them, but you won’t have those entrance title cards like in the NES games either. And you’ll have bad guys swarming you this time out.  You’ll start out in what appears to be a Vegas strip fighting in front of casinos. But after making your way through one such casino, you’ll fight through an airport, city streets, the top of a moving truck, rooftops, a secret base, and an evil lair. There isn’t much of that tricky, sluggish platforming here either, although there is one pesky section near the end.

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The Japanese version (called Return Of Double Dragon) does address some of the shortcomings. The songs are all arranged to play on different levels than they do in Super Double Dragon, and it has an options menu. So you’ll be able to choose a difficulty setting, as well as the number of continues allowed. It doesn’t do much to resolve the lack of a story though. Which is a weird complaint to have considering how little of a story was in previous games. But that said, the first two games had a simple, if over the top storyline. This one has basically nothing. You’ll see the final boss without even realizing that they’re the final boss. When you manage to finally take him out, the game just abruptly ends. Things go to black, and you’ll be rewarded with a brief paragraph telling you that the Lee brothers disappear after finishing off the Black Shadow Warriors. Then the credits roll. It isn’t much of a spoiler because there isn’t any real story to spoil.

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Despite the issues, this is one of the best Double Dragon games you can find. Arguably the NES version of the second game could be considered the best one for its variety, and expanded story context. Or the first one for kick starting the series, and getting the spotlight on the beat ’em up genre. But the good parts that are here, are quite fun. In fact, I have an absolute blast playing through it every time I revisit it. The music is great, the animations are terrific, and the added mechanics keep things from getting monotonous. As great as Final Fight, Turtles In Time, and other beat ’em ups on the Super Nintendo are, a lot of the more generic ones can boil down to trapping bad guys off-screen. Then punching them in groups until you can move forward. Those games may have larger sprites, with more details, but this still looks pretty good. The new features set it apart, and make it worth looking into. It really can be a lot of fun.

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Really if this had more cinema screens, Abobo, Linda, and a faster walk speed, there wouldn’t be much to complain about. And according to an interview on a Double Dragon fan site, some of these things may have been included. But the game had a locked down release date, and so things had to be cut. As such, this is why some folks may consider this one merely average. Personally, I think it’s one of the more underrated games in the series. It isn’t one of the cheaper Game Paks on the system these days, but is still worth looking into if you enjoy a good beat ’em up. If you can find the Japanese version, you’ll get a couple of extra perks to boot. If you want a vintage game that will bring back the feelings of your favorite classic B action movies, pick this one up.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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Mecarobot Golf Review

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At a recent retro game trade event I saw something too peculiar to not pick up. It was a golfing video game. The fact it was a golf game isn’t the odd part. The oddity comes from the giant robot on the artwork. Plus it was published by TOHO. The folks behind Godzilla. At that point, how could I not pick it up on the cheap? The Atari 7800 graced us with a ninja themed golf game. Could the Super NES top it with a killer robot armed with golf clubs? I decided to investigate.

PROS: A pretty good console golf simulator. Great use of the Super NES’ mode 7 effects.

CONS: Single player only. So you’ll REALLY have to like golf to get enjoyment out of it.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The TOHO characters you love are nowhere to be seen.

Originally called Nobuo Serizawa’s Birdy Try in Japan, Mecarobot Golf is a pretty good golf simulator. The original version had a setup where Nobo Serizawa would play 18 holes against stiff competition. This version is mainly the same except the characters were all changed for the North American market. One of the most peculiar being the switch from a famed Japanese golf star to a robot.

To go along with these changes, there was a back story created for the game. Apparently, in the future robots aren’t allowed to play golf. So an eccentric billionaire builds a special course for Eagle. He’s the robot you see on the game’s cover art. You’ll be playing 18 holes against Eagle, and that’s pretty much it.

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Mecarobot Golf is a pretty good golf game though. You have three main modes to choose from. You can practice driving balls to your heart’s content. You can play with tutorials through the game, and you can play the main mode. Which is really the reason to pop this Game Pak in.

When starting the game, you’ll name your golfer, and select a set of clubs. These also act as the difficulty level, as the set you choose determines your handicap. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a character file that keeps tabs on all of your stats. You can also save your current game if you don’t want to play all 18 holes in a single sitting.

Visually, the game is quite nice. Sprites are really colorful, with a lot of smooth golfing animations. The use of mode 7 scaling is great too, making for some nice Outrun feeling drives, as you watch the ball zoom above the course. The golfing sound effects are pretty good too, conveying the feel of hitting the ball, and the sound of the ball rolling into the cup. Musically, there isn’t much to write home about. Some soft tunes to go along with the quiet, solitary golf experience.

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The golfing experience here is pretty good though. You can alter you footing, and the viewing angle of the course. You’ll get important information on your HUD, like the distance, and wind speed. Or the number of strokes for par. The ball physics are even pretty nice, and the game does a good job of simulating the feeling of golfing on different terrain.

Honestly, if you are a big fan of golf games, you’ll probably want to pick this one up. The underlying simulation is a commendable effort. However, there are a few missed opportunities that drag the experience down a bit. First off, the lack of any of TOHO’s major film characters. There’s already a cool robot your golfing against. Being able to play as Godzilla, Mothra, or another giant monster would have been awesome. Weird, but awesome. But the biggest strike against the game is a complete lack of multiplayer. Sports games are always more fun to play with friends. If you’re coming into this for a multiplayer experience, or a monster movie experience, you’re going to be disappointed.

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Nevertheless, if you collect obscure, silly, or just plain absurd games, and you like golf check this one out. It’s not terribly expensive, and it’s a solid game to boot. Golf purists may want to import the Super Famicom version as giant killer robots might not be their specific interest.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

 

Bastard!! Review

It may sound like I’m being foul-mouthed for no reason. But I assure you, that is the actual title of this game. It’s a licensed one, and actually a really good one you ought to track down. This game strayed from the standard fighting formula, before it became cool. It’s also an import game you don’t have to learn a foreign language to figure out how to play.

PROS: Nice use of the SNES Mode 7 tech. Fluid controls. A lot of fun to play with friends.

CONS: Relatively light on content. Small roster.

IN MEMORIAM: Justin Carmical.

Bastard!! is based upon a manga, and anime of the same name. In the long running manga series, Dark Schneider is a wizard who once led an army called The Riders Of Havoc. His lifelong battles finally came to an end when he was defeated by the prince of a kingdom called Meta-Lincata. Upon his defeat he used black magic to transport his soul into a child. His four generals end up awakening an ancient demon god, which sends the world into a post-apocalyptic setting. The manga goes much deeper of course, as there were only six episodes of the anime. Still, it’s certainly something manga fans might want to check out (So long as you can read Japanese) as it’s an interesting storyline, filled with a lot of action, and references to heavy metal bands. It’s also very violent, so it certainly isn’t for everyone. The anime series is dubbed in English with some noteworthy voice actors , but due to being so short you may walk away with more questions, than answers.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about a fighting game here. It’s a pretty good one, even for those unfamiliar with its source material. In order to play it however, you will either need a Super Famicom, or you will need to mod your Super NES. Don’t worry, the mod takes no electrical skill whatsoever. You won’t need to break out the soldering iron, or risk ruining your consoles system board. All you need is a pair of needle nose pliers. Take your Super NES, open the cartridge door, and inside you will see two pieces of plastic that line up with any North American Super NES Game Pak. Simply squeeze the pliers over them, gently wiggle them back, and forth until these plastic pieces snap off. If there is any plastic sticking up after this process, you can use a file to wear it down. Once that’s done, you’re set to go. Any Super Nintendo game from any region should then boot up with no trouble.

Bastard!! is a very different fighting game than what most of us are accustomed to. It isn’t the typical two combatants on a 2D plane. Bastard!! instead makes use of 3D space, as well as wonderful use of the Super NES’ mode 7 sprite scaling. The end result is a fighter that has you flying back, and forth through the foreground, and background in some fast paced fights. The game has three main modes. There is a story mode, that takes you through the roster in a ladder. Each victory furthering the story. Obviously if you’re a big fan of the source material, and you can read Japanese you’ll better understand it. But you don’t need to have that ability to enjoy the game. The cinema screens are animated, and give you a general idea of what is going on. At least in terms of the given scene. It’s pretty much like any other fighter in that, you’re going to be contending with each character, and then bosses.

The second mode is a team game, where each player gets to use all six of the game’s characters in a last man standing match. Basically, each character will be unusable after a single loss. The last player with any characters left is the winner. There isn’t much to it, but you might find you enjoy it with friends. Finally, you have the standard Versus mode. In it there is the standard two out of three round set up. The first player to win two rounds wins the game, and you go back to the character select screen. Bastard!! Isn’t run of the mill  from there though, because it plays nothing like a Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat game.

Instead it plays closer to something like Distrega on the PlayStation, minus any rock paper scissors feel. When you start a round, one player will be in the foreground, the other in the background. You can move up, down, left, or right on your plane by using the D pad. You can also switch planes by pressing the L button. Things really go into overdrive with your attack layout. The four buttons on the face of the pad will shoot projectiles in that specific direction. So pressing Y will send them left, A will send them right, while X will shoot up, and B will shoot down.  B, and Y also home in a bit, which means you, and your opponent will constantly have to move.

If upon switching planes your characters bump into one another, you can also get in grapples, and throws which will do a ton of damage. Something else that can potentially do a ton of damage, are special moves. Special moves work a little bit differently than you might be accustomed to. Some characters can simply toggle a special move on or off by pressing R.  Some have moves performed by holding down R, and then moving a projectile at the risk of staying still, thus completely open. Other characters only have special moves that require players to press R, and input the commands quickly upon doing so. Most of them involve combinations of the four face buttons. This means that pulling them off can prove difficult as you’ll have to do so while trying to avoid all of the crazy stuff being thrown your way. There are also attempts to balance some of these moves too. For instance, Di-amon can turn into a bat to regenerate health. But if he takes even one hit while in bat form he is killed instantly.

For its time, Bastard!! had some really nice graphics. They’re a little rough around the edges by today’s standards, but they’re certainly not bad. Characters sprites have a lot of small details like Abigail’s hissing snakes, or the flowing capes of much of the cast. The palettes of the backgrounds change between rounds as well, to simulate the passing of the day into night. Backgrounds feature a lot of digitized art, and photo work, while the ground is made up of scrolling drawings of terrain. The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 features are used to great lengths here. They aren’t the most impressive thing you’ve seen on the hardware, but it’s certainly better than what you might expect.

The audio chip tunes here are also pretty nice. You can tell that Cobra Team had put some serious work into trying to ensure the heavy metal vibe of the anime was included. It isn’t going to be as memorable as the tunes in games like Super Mario World, or Mega Man X. But if you grew up on a lot of old school speed metal like Anthrax, and Megadeth. You’ll probably feel right at home here. Sound effects on the other hand, are what you would typically find in most fighters at the time. Smashing noises, shouts, and screams from the combatants. Nothing terrible, but nothing groundbreaking.

Bastard!! is a pretty fun game. So long as you have someone willing to play it with you. The only real problems with it, are the light content, and the relatively small roster. Even when the game came out way back in 1994 it didn’t have as much content as the competition. 2D fighters were giving players a minimum of 8 playable characters, and averaged closer to 12. Because of that, it doesn’t have much of a single player value once you complete the story mission. You, and your friends might put it down after a few rounds due to the small roster. But it has an intriguing spin on the fighting genre. The focus on projectiles makes for a very different feel, and it runs pretty briskly too. Characters manage to have some nuances despite the similar movement many of them share, and there’s a charm to the absurdity of it all. It’s also fairly easy to find, and not terribly expensive. If you’re a fighting game fan who collects for the Super Nintendo it might be up your alley.

Final Score: 7 out of 10