Tag Archives: Super NES

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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Pac-Attack Review

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Back at RetroWorld Expo I managed to snag up a number of Super NES, Atari 2600, and NES games for the collection. Among the mix of games was a Pac-Man game that I never saw once when it was new. Of course I grew up playing Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, and Super Pac-Man during visits to the arcade as a little kid. The earliest games have been on pretty much everything. But by the early 90’s, Namco did try to put the character in some other genres. Pac-Man 2 was noted for blending puzzle elements with point, and click elements. Years later, the Pac-Man World series would put the yellow icon in platformers. But there in my pile was Pac-Attack, a game I heard about, but never experienced. Until now.

PROS: An excellent combination of block dropping, and route planning.

CONS: Difficulty settings can be manipulated to boost your score.

PASSWORDS: Mercifully short.

Released in 1993, Pac-Attack is actually a retooled version of one of Namco’s other games, Cosmo Gang; The Puzzle. The original game was released a year prior, exclusively to the Japanese market. So essentially what we end up with is the same game with all new sprites, and backgrounds. But don’t assume that Namco swapped out characters to dupe the rest of the world into buying a mediocre game. Pac-Attack is actually, a lot of fun, and probably would have done exceptionally well as an arcade machine too.

But this was not to be. That said, Namco did bring it over to the Super NES, Sega Genesis, and Sega Game Gear. Where a lot of us likely missed it since we were obsessed with home ports of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat,  or Sonic The Hedgehog, Super Mario World, or any other high-profile game of the time. But if you did have this one back in the day, you had a treat on your hands. And if you didn’t, but love discovering oldies you missed out on, you’ll probably want to read on.

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So what do you do in Pac-Attack? At a first glance, you’d swear it was just another Tetris clone. The idea is of course to clear lines for points. However, that isn’t the main goal. The blocks drop down in similar fashion, but you’ll find they aren’t arranged in Tetris shapes. They’re in different formations, and they’re composed of bricks, and ghosts. Your initial instinct might be to group all of the ghosts together, to create some super ghost rectangles. Like the blocks in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

But this isn’t what you do at all. Eventually, you’ll get a Pac-Man block who of course, eats ghosts. But he will always travel whatever direction he faces. So you don’t want to group all of the ghosts together, as he won’t eat all of them this way. So you’ll actually want to create pathways with the ghosts, while simultaneously trying to create lines with the brick pieces that fall.

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The results are an addictive, and captivating puzzle game that you can easily sink hours into playing. Not only does the main objective of the game create an engrossing experience, eating ghosts fills a meter. When the meter gets filled, the fairy from Pac-Land shows up to clear up to eight rows worth of ghosts. This causes the blocks above them to fall, and if they create whole rows, you’ll get a huge point bonus.

But like any good arcade game, this one eases you in. In the early goings, the blocks will fall slowly. This allows you plenty of time to arrange the pieces how you want. The first few rounds you’ll get your rows of ghosts set up nicely. You’ll create rows of blocks pretty easily too. However, before long, the blocks will fall faster, and faster, until you can’t line things up anymore. Then like Tetris, things will stack to the top, and the game will end.

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As I said though, it’s executed so well, you can spend an entire day just trying to get your best possible score. But it doesn’t end there. Because Pac-Attack also has a second puzzle mode. This time there are 100 puzzles, each giving you only five attempts to have Pac-Man clear the board of ghosts. As with the main mode, the puzzles start out simple enough. But they quickly start throwing in some complexity. By around the tenth puzzle you’ll have to start predicting chain reactions at an almost Rube Goldberg level. Not to the degree of dominoes landing on dials just so, but there is a complexity there.

Fortunately you don’t have to solve all 100 puzzles in a single sitting. You do get to retry every time you fail, but you’ll also get a three character password. So it’s pretty easy to continue where you left off.  The one complaint I have with the game is that you start out with a bunch of points in advance should you choose to start the main mode on a higher difficulty setting. If you’re not the only one playing the game, this makes it easy to be cheap as you can get your name on the scoreboard just by doing so. Starting at zero, and listing the difficulty would have been a better solution for competitive roommates.

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But thankfully, this is mitigated with the inclusion of a versus mode. This is a two-player variation of the main game, where doing well will make things tougher for the other player, and vice-versa. A mechanic used in many head-to-head puzzle games, but it works well here. And this mode, like the main mode, is a lot of fun. Battles usually go quickly, but they’re a blast. Consider breaking out Pac-Attack when entertaining guests who come over for a party.

Overall, I’d say even if puzzle games aren’t your first choice when adding a title to your collection to consider this one. Pac-Attack is excellent. The base game may have origins in a different title, but Pac-Man almost seems born for it. It may not be as iconic as the maze games Pac-Man popularized. Nor as remembered as the third-person platformers he’s starred in since the original PlayStation was king of the hill. But Pac-Attack is easily one of the more attractive puzzle games to put in your rotation. And if you don’t have an old Super NES, Genesis, or Game Gear knocking around, it was in the Namco Museum compilation for the original Xbox, Gamecube, and PlayStation 2.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Fighter’s History Review

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It’s been said many times that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While there is some truth to that old adage, sometimes it isn’t the motivation. In video games a popular idea being copied is nothing new. But sometimes a copied idea will still go in a different direction, and become transformative. Often times this has gone on to create genres. Street Fighter II was one game that had its idea taken, and tweaked time, and time again. Many times, good things came out of this. Mortal Kombat is an obvious example. But there were a number of great fighting games from SNK. World Heroes, Fatal Fury, Art Of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, and King Of Fighters. To name a few.

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But one could also argue Street Fighter built from the basics early karate games like Karate Champ, and World Karate Championship (Known as International Karate in Europe). The point is, that a lot of great games came out of experimenting with Street Fighter II’s rules. Two characters go one on one, until time runs out, or one player knocks the other unconscious. First to do it twice wins. Some did a lot of new things with that setup. Data East on the other hand, did not.

PROS: Graphics. Sound. Play control.

CONS: Not much to stand out from other games in the genre.

CLONES: Ryu, Chun Li, and Zangief doppelgänger fighters unite!

Fighter’s History is one of the more interesting video game clones in history. Because of just how close to Street Fighter II it truly is. The backgrounds may look different, and the soundtrack may be different. But that’s about it.  Nearly everything else in the game is almost identical to Street Fighter II. A couple of the characters are even a stone’s throw from being indiscernible from their Capcom counterparts.

In fact Capcom took Data East to court over the game’s similarities.  Which were acknowledged in the case. But Capcom would eventually lose on the grounds that the core tenants are those of the fighting genre, more so than those of Street Fighter II exclusively. Still, it was an interesting case that I’m sure one with a law degree would be much better adept at writing about.

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Anyway, the game was first released to arcades in 1993, and a year later to the Super NES. Again, the concept is the same as Street Fighter II. Nine fighters enter a tournament to see who will be crowned the best. So you’ll choose your fighter, and go into two out of three round match ups, and hopefully win your way to the top. Once you defeat the other eight characters, you’ll go on to face bosses who are behind the tournament. In Street Fighter games that usually means a mysterious dictator running Shadowloo or some other criminal empire. In King Of Fighters it’s many times Geese Howard. In Mortal Kombat it’s usually a demonic force led by Shao Khan or some other evil bad guy. In this game the mysterious K is Karnov. Yep! The fire-breathing guy with the beer belly you took on an action platforming adventure, or beat up in Bad Dudes is the boss. But before you fight him, you have to beat up a generic clown. A clown so generic, he’s just called Clown. With the other borderline infringement characters here, you’d think they would have attempted Not Joker, or Not Ronald McDonald. But no, you just beat up a clown.

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Be that as it may, Fighter’s History is also one of the better SF II clones of the day because it hearkens so close to the Capcom formula. Hit detection is pretty good, and the move sets work about as well as they do in the actual Street Fighter II games. I’ll give Data East credit in the graphics, and sound department too. Because even though a lot of stuff came blatantly from SF II, there are still moments of originality in it. Namely, the backgrounds. The details in the stages are quite nice. They could have just re-made versions of iconic Street Fighter II locations the way they did with some of the character design. But they didn’t. They made their own, with some of their own original background animations. It’s worth seeing them in action. The characters themselves are animated well, and when the game does give us a character that isn’t cribbed from a competitor, it works nicely. As much, as I harped on fighting a generic clown, and Karnov earlier, they do look pretty cool.

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Fighter’s History also does one thing few other fighters did back then, and that is it adds location damage. If you keep attacking one spot on your opponent, eventually that spot will change, and reward you with more damage. For instance, if you keep hitting the Ryu stand-in in the head, eventually he’ll lose his bandana. At which point subsequent hits will do more damage than they did earlier in the match. This does add a tiny layer of strategy to the basic fighting game rules set out by Street Fighter II. You can also play as the clown, and Karnov through the use of a code.

However, the game still pales in comparison when it comes to balance. Obviously no fighter can ever be 100% even across every one of its characters. But in Street Fighter there are enough pros, and cons to each to make them viable options for different kinds of players. Ryu is a good all around character. Zangief is all about powerful moves at the expense of speed, and energy. Dhalsim is a hit, and run strategists possible choice. Other games in the genre took that aspect of the game to heart more than this game did. Some characters may look the part, but weren’t given the same level of care. As such you have some characters that will dominate most of the roster once they’re placed in an above average player’s hands.

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Still, the game did well enough to get two sequels. The first of which was Fighter’s History Dynamite on the Neo Geo. This game continues the storyline from the original, as Karnov wants to essentially re-match everyone after his loss. The third game was exclusive to the Super Famicom, and came out in 1995. Over the years, the series has been briefly thrust back into the limelight, as SNK Playmore worked out deals to put some of the characters in some of the King Of Fighters entries.

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If you’re a die-hard fighting game fan, or you love curious titles with some historical significance Fighter’s History is worth looking into. It’s a cut above some of the other stuff you’ll find on the Super Nintendo like the awful Street Combat. (Oddly enough, another fighting game curiosity.). But if you’re not, there isn’t a lot of stuff here that will make you choose playing it over the ports of Street Fighter games, Fatal Fury games, or the World Heroes games. Those games offer more balanced rosters, and enough unique things to make you keep coming back. It doesn’t make Fighter’s History a bad game, and collectors may want to find a copy. But as far as its competition goes, a lot of it is superior or different enough to choose over this one. There aren’t even many modes. There’s the arcade ladder, a survival mode, and the quintessential versus mode.  It’s a good curiosity, and preferable to many a bad fighter. But unless fighters are your genre of choice, you’re better off playing the staples from Capcom, SNK, and Midway on the Super NES.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

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

 

Retrobit Retro Gen Adapter Review

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As those of us who buy, and play a lot of old games eventually discover, old consoles take up space. Sometimes old consoles wear out for good, and there are all kinds of third-party clone systems these days. But this week, and next week I’m looking at a couple of items that are more recent, having only been out a couple of years. Retrobit, makers of the Retro-Duo, have made retro game adapters for the Super NES. One that runs Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games, and one that runs Game Boy Advance games. This time I’m focusing on the Sega Genesis adapter.

PROS: Pretty great Sega Genesis/Mega Drive clone. Space saver!

CONS: Setup is a bit of a pain.

REGION FREE: Thanks to a handy switch.

As I said earlier, one of the pains with collecting old games is that there are a bunch of great consoles, and computers to pick up. Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Commodore, Coleco, Milton Bradley, you name it. There are a ton of them, and everyone has only so much space. Even if you’re extremely wealthy, you can still fill up that mansion pretty quickly.

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Another issue is when your Sega Genesis dies. Do you invest in an original one?, The CDX? A model 3? Or do you go with a clone? Newcomers to the hobby may ask similar questions? When it comes to the clones, times haven’t been as kind to the Genesis. The AtGames 80 in 1 models have been notorious for bad sound emulation. That system lets you use cartridges too, but many people question the quality of the build. Those same people may also question the build of the Yobo clone. There’s a pretty good store in my area that gets them in from time to time, and I have to say it’s certainly one of the more brittle clone units I’ve tried. Though at least it works better than the AtGames model.

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But Retrobit brings us something different. An adapter cartridge. That you can plug into your Super NES. You can then stack your Sega Genesis cartridges on top of it, and then viola! You’re playing Sega Genesis games on your Super Nintendo! Except not really. You see the term “adapter”, is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Because your Super NES isn’t really running the game at all. The Retro Gen adapter isn’t really an adapter. It’s a full-fledged Sega Genesis clone console. But with no controller ports, or power supply. Basically the system is designed to use the electricity from your Super NES.

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The drawback to all of this is that even though you save a big chunk of space by not having a Sega Genesis sitting in your entertainment center, you still need to take up a separate line of composite ports on your TV. Now if you only have a couple of old systems it isn’t that big a deal. You plug the RCA composite cables included with the system, into your TV, or RCA switch box, and call it a day. But if you’re like me, and have accrued more consoles than you have ports on the TV or RCA switch box, you’re going to have to swap something. This can be very annoying, especially if you tend to go back, and forth between old platforms frequently. So make sure you have a sizable switch box if you have more than a handful of old game systems.

Fortunately, there are a lot of  things to like about the Retro Gen. Hardware emulation is very good. The sound is substantially better than any of the other clones I’ve tried. It isn’t quite as good as running an actual Sega Genesis. But it’s close enough that all but the most critical Sega fan would mind. Picture quality is also very close to what you might find running on a Sega Genesis. It’s very good. I put the Retro Gen through the paces playing Golden Axe on it. I was very pleased with just how close it came to playing on an actual Genesis.

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Another thing that is nice is it works using your existing Super NES controllers. If you’re a purist, you can try to track down a port converter so you can use Sega Genesis pads. But the Super NES controllers work great. If you’re coming into it as someone who does not yet own a Sega Genesis, but you want to buy a few Sega games, this is cool because you don’t have to invest in added controllers.

The build quality is also really good. It is nice, and sturdy. The Retro Gen looks, and feels like a Super NES launch cartridge. Except it’s painted black, rather than gray. It stays pretty sturdy when playing, it doesn’t wobble any worse than Nintendo’s own Super Game Boy does. Which is great news to anyone who is going to pour a lot of hours into any of their favorite Sega cartridges.

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But the best part of all of this is the region switch along the side of the system. This gives the Retro Gen a leg up over a multitude of competing clones, and even the original version of the console. You can play imports without having to do anything to the system. Switch to the appropriate region, and the cartridge will think it’s being played on that region’s version of the Genesis. This makes the Retro Gen a must own, if you love to buy games that weren’t originally sold in your area.

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Overall, I highly recommend the Retro Gen. Even if the requirement of extra composite cable inputs on your TV, or switch box is a major inconvenience. The region switch, is a Godsend for importing. The fact that the audio, visual, and build quality is much better than some of the better known clones is also a huge plus. If you don’t already have a Sega Genesis, and you can deal with its one major caveat, give the Retro Gen a go.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Time Slip Review

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The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was host to a lot of difficult games over its time in the market. It was also home to many, uncommon games, some of which were ports of computer games. It even had a number of outright rare games like Hagane. It’s a system a lot of people collect for because it has many of these obscure titles.

Run, and gun games were also at their zenith around this time. Shmups were getting grander with Super R-Type, Gradius III, and UN Squadron. Run, and guns were right up there with the space shoot ’em ups on the Super NES. Excellent ports of Sunset Riders, and Smash TV. Gunforce. Contra III: The alien wars was probably the best received of the bunch. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Remember the obscurity I hinted at earlier? Well Vic Tokai published a fairly uncommon Contra III clone.

PROS: Nice graphics. Inventive character designs. High challenge.

CONS: No Continues. Some levels go on too long. Masochistic difficulty in places.

BOSSES: Most of the stages have three or more!

The Sales Curve, is part of Square Enix today. But long before a series of mergers, and takeovers they were a studio that made a lot of esoteric games. A lot of them were actually pretty good. You may have actually heard of their biggest game, Carmageddon. But even before then, they developed things for other publishers on a number of platforms. One of those things is today’s game Time Slip.

Published by Vic Tokai, Time Slip is a Contra clone that mixes things up with a Gradius clone. But it isn’t all Konami influences here either. There are a few key differences, and some nice features that are worth looking into. The storyline presented here isn’t the most original plot. You’ve seen it in other games, books, TV shows, and films before. A race of interstellar aliens wages war on Earth. Part of their plan is to go back in time to kill off humanity throughout history to prevent the present day humans from being formidable. When things look their bleakest, a lone scientist goes back in time, through several historical periods to defeat them single-handedly, and prevent humanity’s extinction.

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The game plays a little bit different from Contra in a couple of ways. The art style is definitely similar, with enemies, and bosses you would expect to see in a Contra game. But you are going to die from anything that touches you instantly in Contra. That is not the case in Time Slip. Instead, you are given a life bar, and every hit you take knocks off one block of the life bar. If you lose all of the blocks, you lose a life. Falling into a pit, or a trap will knock all of them out instantly. The game starts you out with nine lives, and you can replenish your bar with batteries you find hidden in crates. The crates can also hold other power ups, like smart bombs, and missiles. Grabbing a battery with a full health bar will give you a 1-Up. You can also shoot down projectiles, which is another saving grace.

This is good because Time Slip doesn’t give you any continues. This may very well be the most difficult run, and gun on the console. The game goes on for six levels, and if you have any hope of completing it, you’re going to need to treat each box on that life bar as an individual life. There are also no cheat codes, save states, stage select options, or passwords. You have to play the entire thing in one sitting. You don’t even get an easy setting. You’re going to have to dig down deep, and do your best.

Time Slip also doesn’t make your task any easier with its play control. It isn’t as smooth as the games it borrows from. This is partly due to the fact that it has some clunky animation when you climb walls, or jump over obstacles. But it also has to do with the fact that there are two ways to shoot. You have a button that fires in any direction while your character stays still. In many places this creates a dilemma because if you stand still, enemies will just spawn endlessly. But it can be handy in some sections where you need pixel perfect placement.

The other fire button is a bit more traditional as you can fire as you move. A third fire button lets you shoot your special weapons you’ve picked up, and the shoulder buttons let you select those. Fortunately, it isn’t all cinder blocks, and chains around your ankles. Time Slip can be a lot of fun. Over time you’ll level up your gun with pick ups, each speeding up your firing rate, and the spread of attack. Dying will downgrade you, but it’s all the more incentive to find batteries, and gun upgrades.

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Beyond those there are a lot of the power ups I mentioned earlier.  You should go as long as possible without using them however. Because you’re going to want them to use on the bosses. Time Slip has many, many bosses over the course of its six levels. A lot of them will feel out of Contra like the dragon, the volcanic monster, or the space ships. All of the bosses have intense patterns you need to memorize in order to escape without taking any hits. Which is all the more reason to not take damage. Because you’ll need every battery fueled 1-up in reserve if you want any hope of ever completing the game.

Each stage, save for one or two of them, is a long affair. Right out of the gate you’re thrust into a medieval themed stage where you’ll have a forest sub level followed by a boss. Then a cavern themed sub level. Followed by a boss. Followed by A BOSS. Then a castle themed level. FOLLOWED BY A BOSS. This is the kind of thing you can expect to experience while playing Time Slip. Some of the levels include shmup sections that feel a little bit more like Gradius. But these sections will throw an awful lot at you. Like the normal stages, you have two buttons, one to shoot in front of you, and one that will fire in the last direction you moved.

Fortunately the graphics, and sound are pretty good. The large sprites look vibrant, with a lot of great little details. The aliens, and the bosses in particular. The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 effects are used especially well with things scaling to make some nice visual cues. The soundtrack isn’t something you might care to listen to on its own. But it fits the theme of the game nicely, with ambient moody synths. Explosions, and other sound effects are about what you’d expect from the time. Nothing Earth shattering, but nothing particularly memorable.

Time Slip is infuriating. Yet it is addictive. You’ll lose your last life, toss your controller, possibly even break your controller, and swear off of it. But then, ten minutes later, you’ll find yourself taking another crack at it. You’ll lose again. Then put it away for a while, and go back to it. Eventually it will go on the shelf for maybe even months or a year. But over time you’ll hear its call to make another feeble attempt at defeating it. Oh you’ll claim to hate it. But deep down you’ll know that had it only been given a little bit more balance, and given a difficulty setting option it may have been a lot more popular.

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That isn’t to say that Contra III was easy. Far from it. But it had better pacing, and a more intuitive control setup. Those are really the main problems with Time Slip. A couple of stages could have stood to be broken up into more levels. The lack of continues, are going to upset many who happen to clear that long first stage. To its credit Time Slip’s power ups do make things a lot easier once you’ve mastered how they work on bosses. But it still can feel a bit like a chore if you immediately restart the game after losing all of your lives on the fourth stage or so.

Still, if like me, you enjoy collecting esoteric games I’d recommend Time Slip. There is enough interesting about it to justify having in the collection. It has cool characters, huge bosses, and great atmosphere. The controls do work the way they’re supposed to, you just have to be willing to get accustomed to them. I know I’m repeating myself, but the bosses, environments, weapons, and enemies make this worth picking up. It’s going to be a very difficult run for most of us. But it still manages to be a fun attempt at victory.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition Review

Ah, 1991. Capcom had given us the glorious Street Fighter II. A sequel to a ho-hum, tournament fighting game. It created a host of clones, while reinvigorating both fighting games, and arcades. Nearly every fighting game that has followed owes at least something to Street Fighter II. But with every popular idea, there is usually a parody waiting.

PROS: Nice graphics. Decent animation. Good play control. Funny!

CONS: Some of the humor dates itself. Not as fun as Street Fighter II Turbo.

THEME SONG: As iconic as Street Fighter II’s introduction music.

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition isn’t the first Clay Fighter. It’s technically an upgrade of the first game. It works in the vein of a Street Fighter II Turbo. Expanding the content, along with some tweaks. But just like the original vanilla version, it’s a parody of Street Fighter II. It also has a few jabs at Mortal Kombat, although there aren’t any fatalities to speak of. Actually, as you’ll see it mocks the entire fighting game genre.

Clay Fighter TE has its own storyline. It’s silly, and preposterous but gives you a reason as to why these characters exist. As well as why they’re beating up each other. One day a meteor falls from the sky, and completely levels a carnival. When this happens, all of the various performers are mutated into stop motion behemoths. Each of them are stand ins for the archetypes you see in other fighting games.

Bad Mr. Frosty is Clay Fighter’s Ryu. He is a snow man who spreads pain rather than joy. He is the flagship character of the series, appearing in every iteration. There are a host of other favorites like Helga, the opera singer. Taffy, who is made of, well, taffy. Bonker is a psychotic clown character. Because you can’t have a carnival or circus theme without one. But he’s honestly a pretty fun character here. There’s Ickybod Clay, a reference to Sleepy Hollow. There’s Elvis Presley impersonator Blue Suede Goo.  There’s Tiny, who of course is not tiny at all. He’s the game’s Zangief. Rounding it out you have The Blob. Who is quite literally a blob of clay.

The art, and general look of Clay Fighter is awesome. Each character has gone through a painstaking creation process. They were modeled in clay, then animated in stop motion, and then the animated frames were scanned into the game. The finished product looks somewhere between Street Fighter’s airbrushed look, and Mortal Kombat’s digitized actors. It would have been easy for Visual Concepts (Yes. That Visual Concepts) to have slapped some clones together or digitize their own actors. But the extra effort goes a long way here.

Stage backgrounds are also really cool. As with the characters themselves, the stages are mostly clay models that were photographed, and placed in the game. You can tell which parts were drawn in to go along with the photos, which can be a little jarring. But for all intents, and purposes these are some well crafted backgrounds. Moreover, the fighting system in Clay Fighter TE is pretty good. It’s clear the designers knew eventually the jokes would stop being funny. So they had to keep you playing. Rather than do it with more gimmicks, they built a solid game underneath it all. There is definitely enough here to make you fire it up every now, and again.

The fighting system does borrow a lot from Street Fighter II. Most of the characters moves are performed with similar quarter circle movements, or back, and forward charges. As for the regular moves it also borrows Capcom’s 6 button layout. There are weak, medium, and strong attacks for both kicks, and punches. Tournament Edition also takes a page from SFII Turbo by implementing a speed feature. So if you’re used to zany speeds in your fighters there’s something here for you. With that said, the game’s mechanics aren’t quite up to the level of Street Fighter II. The hit boxes around characters are a little bit more forgiving, and some characters have special moves with very similar inputs. Sometimes you might want to have Bad Mr. Frosty throw a snowball fist, only to perform his ice breath instead.

While that is certainly bad news, it isn’t so bad that it takes away from the fun. The moves do work, but you’ll have to learn the specific  differences in their commands. This way you’re consistently doing the special moves you want, instead of accidentally doing the ones you don’t. The game also does let you get in a number of combos, and two in one attacks. While you wouldn’t think a parody game could be competitive, Clay Fighter Tournament Edition actually can be. Even if it isn’t likely to be in a high-profile tournament these days. Those who simply love the fighting game genre should still find some fun in it.

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition has your basic modes. There is the standard arcade mode where you have to beat the roster, then a boss. Strangely, the game will have you re match three characters once you beat the roster. Once you’ve done that, then you can go up against the final boss. The game’s boss is a little bit underwhelming though. It is just a bunch of clay balls animated to make out a face. It can use all of the characters’ various projectile moves. On higher difficulties the boss, and the game in general is a challenge. Often times things veer into cheap territory. But if you want the game’s best endings you’ll want to play the game through on its harder settings.

Beyond the arcade ladder is the standard 1 on 1 Vs. mode. Each player picks a character, the number of rounds needed to win, and their handicap. Aside from that there is also the Tournament ladder. Here you can have up to 8 people play through a bracket to get to the top spot. Handy for the odd time you have a number of people over.

Overall, Clay Fighter TE holds up pretty well. It has a goofy charm to its silliness. The fighting system is pretty good, and it is still fun to play. It might not be able to captivate you very long in today’s crowded crop of excellent fighters. But it is a fun diversion. Plus its still miles ahead of the mediocre fighters we’ve seen over the last 20 years. If you find a copy in your area pick it up. If you have a Wii, the original is also on the Shop Channel.

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