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The SNES Rankings VI: Something Wicked This Way Comes #500-451

Feb 06 at 1:38:37 AM
Brock Landers (55)
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< Wiz's Mom >
Posts: 10942 - Joined: 05/04/2014
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Do you ever wonder if obscure crap like Time Trax is any good?  Or get curious as to how the different Super Scope games stack up against each other?  Ever wish there was a detailed list of SNES games that expanded beyond the usual top 100s? 

No?  Well, fine.  Perhaps you're just trying to kill time at work.  In any case, here I present the complete (and completely and utterly biased and subjective) rankings of every US-released licensed SNES game during the console's lifespan.  Thousands of hours and many years in the making (and one very bewildered spouse later), I have played every game enough to write-up a small capsule review of each and every one of them.

...and many of them are very, very, very, very, very, very bad.  So bad.  For awhile I'm going to do my best to avoid coming across as an Angry Video Game Nerd copycat because that trope has been way overdone and is not especially funny when in the wrong hands.  So bear with these first few hundred games as we wade through forgotten sports titles, licensed platformers, and anything with Arnold Schwarzaneggar on the cover.

What specific process do I use to rank these games?  After all, John Madden Football and Romance of the Three Kingdoms are two very different beasts. 

Well, I have a very scientific method...



Really though it's just gut feelings.  What do I have the most fun playing?  What is the most aggravating, or boring?  Which entries am I eager to revisit, and which ones will I never put in the system again?

Links
Volume I: #714-701
Volume II: #700-651
Volume III: #650-601
Volume IV: #600-551
Volume V: #550-501
Volume VI: #500-451

Games that will not be covered by this project:  SFC/PAL games, competition carts, re-skinned Latin American releases, unlicensed releases, Piko Interactive titles, homebrews, Miracle Piano, combo carts, pirates, Rom hacks, etc.

Disclaimer #1: The images are NOT MOBILE OR VINTAGE FRIENDLY
Disclaimer #2: Write-ups and/or pictures MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.  Read at your own risk.
Disclaimer #3: I may take a few liberties with dramatic license, or remembering small details.  Some of these games were beaten 25 years ago after all.
Disclaimer #4: I'm going to do my best to keep all reviews independent of other versions of each game.  I don't have time to play every port of Mortal Kombat and then try to see where the SNES version measures up.  And I don't know or care if Hurricanes is better on Genesis or Amiga.  This list is strictly SNES, and how those games measure up against each other.
Disclaimer #5: Many of the games were only played against the AI.  As much as playing co-operative Troddlers or competitive Troy Aikman Football could give me a more accurate empirical opinion, no-one I know is gonna play that shit with me in the 21st century
Disclaimer #6: Again, this is not supposed to be an objective list.  This is just one person's list with all preferences and biases apparant.  So Street Fighter II is gonna be 100 spots lower than where you have it, Mortal Kombat is gonna get bashed, I only have a superficial understanding of hockey and soccer, and Titus games are not that bad.

A special thanks to my editors bronzeshield and Splain for spotting my abuses of the English language and having the patience to slog through them with me.


Edited: 02/20/2019 at 01:38 AM by Brock Landers

Feb 06 at 1:38:45 AM
Brock Landers (55)
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Fishing game #1
500 - TNN Bass Tournament of Champions




You may remember how in the last installment of this project I lumped together the various board game adaptations that found their way on to the Super Nintendo.  Why did I do that?  Because I just couldn't figure out a better way to gauge those games against the rest of the library.  They're kind of their own thing.  True, Super Battleship tried (and failed miserably) to spice things up by adding a few massive wrinkles to the formula, but at the end of the day you have to be a very specific person to want to play a board game on a video game console instead of doing it on a... you know... real board.

I'm approaching the million fishing games on the SNES in the exact same way - they're a part of the library, but at the same time kind of exist in their own space.  It's a decision I wrestled with for a while when I was first getting these rankings set, years ago, and I ultimately settled with what I have here.  Seven different games, each with different strengths and weaknesses, that cater to a very specific type of gamer.  I'm not that type of gamer, but they're out there, and if people didn't enjoy these things a ton, they wouldn't keep making them.  So... let's just get to it.

First up is TNN Bass Tournament of Champions.  It is my choice for the weakest fishing sim on the platform, and a quick perusal of GameFaqs rankings tell me I'm not alone in that sentiment.

Judging by the music, spritework, and character design, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess this is a Japanese-made game that was brought over to America and had the TNN name (Tennessee News Network or something) slapped onto it.  That was not an unusual practice back in the day, back when everyone was afraid Americans wouldn't buy anything that wasn't heavily Americanized.  Maybe they were right, I dunno.

Now, I have TNNBToC as the lowest rated of the fishing sims because I think the problems present here are numerous and varied, which is gonna be a reoccuring thing with most of these titles (and most of this volume in general).  But this game especially is held back by the fishing action itself, which suffers from poor mechanics, an unintuitive interface, and a high frustration factor.  You see, once your lure is cast, you are brought to a zoomed-in top-down view of it in the water.  As you reel it in fish will move into your field of view from the bottom of the screen.  The problem is, this gives you little to no heads up that they are coming.  And unless you practically drag the lure over their face, they won't bite (they probably won't anyways).  So it turns into a game of chance, where you have to hope that you just happen to have a fish lined up in the lure's path when you're bringing it in.  Which will happen roughly one percent of the time.  The game also seems extremely finicky with getting the fish to show any interest in your bait in the first place, requiring pretty exact combinations of bait and conditions. Or maybe it's just random.  I honestly couldn't tell. 

Once you finally do have the fish hooked, you then have to suffer through a very confusing minigame to reel them in.  Which almost never happens, and I can't really tell why.  There's bars and indicators that presumably tell you if your line is about to break or the fish is about to slip off the hook or whatever, but I could never make heads or tails of it.  I even tried downloading and reading a PDF of the manual, but that didn't help me out at all.  And of course there are no detailed longplays or any other sort of written-up strategy anywhere on the internet.  So I never really could figure things out.

There's also a shit-ton of configuration I don't understand, including rods, reels, rigs, and baits, which all have various ratings and ranges, but the hell if I can make sense of any of it.

In the end, I gave up on this one.  I couldn't really force myself to play the game for more than a few hours because the game is just too unapproachable.  And it's a shame as I really, truly wanted to like it.  I want to like all of these fishing games.  And that's because...

Did I beat it?
No, I can't even get through the first tournament.  This has to be one of the ten hardest games on the system.



Fishing game #2
499 - Jimmy Houston's Bass Tournament USA




...I am a person who enjoys the sport.  After all, I grew up up in the heart of fly fishing country, and spent many a weekend out on the rivers with my dad when I was younger.  So I like to think I know a thing or two about the sport.  Hell, I even got married in the church from A River Runs Through It.  Now, granted I'm not the sort of person who gets his picture taken while holding a fish up to the camera and then posts it to Facebook (mostly because I really don't understand those people or those pictures, or why they feel the need to keep doing this).  And my background is in fly fishing, where we mostly catch trout, which seems to have absolutely nothing in common with what goes on in these bass fishing games.  I mean, I didn't even know "bass" fishing was such a big thing until I noticed that every single one of these games is centered around it.  I guess I don't know where I'm going with any of this... just that I have a background in fishing, but not in whatever sort of Southern deep-fried thing is going on here.

Jimmy Houston's Bass Tournament USA represents a pretty big step up from the TNN game.  And by that I mean, I actually kinda sorta knew how to play this one.  The interface is also much more intuitive, finding fish is much less annoying, and most importantly of all, actually landing fish is doable now.  All of which makes the game immensely more satisfying to play.

Which isn't to say that this is one of the stronger fishing titles, because it isn't, and it still does a number of things that kind of annoyed me.  Like the game's tendency to hook a ton of fish that aren't bass, which you then have to throw back.  I understand that is probably a realistic thing to incorporate into the game, but all it serves to do is frustrate me when I work hard to land a fish and it ends up being a damn carp or whatever.  The way you throw out a marker to try and "mark" where the sonar picked up a fish is also pretty clumsy, and almost more of a pain in the ass than it's worth.

There's also still a number of things going on that I didn't really fully understand, especially concerning the various reels and their properties.  "Taper?"  What the hell is that gonna affect? "Line weight" versus "lure weight?"  Is my line's weight really coming into play?  "Range?"  Why would you want a short range reel?  What purpose would that serve?

Cruising around in the boat is also pretty weakly implemented this time around.  I realize that's kind of a silly thing to gripe about, but I'd be lying if I didn't find some sort of simple pleasure in motorboating around in these games.  Hell, it was my even my favorite part of Jaws on NES.  Boats = fun.

Though I guess it could be worse...

Did I beat it?
No, but I at least was able to advance past the first tournament this time.



Fishing game #3
498 - Mark Davis' The Fishing Master




...because Mark Davis' The Fishing Master actually takes the boat out of the game entirely! 

Whhhhhhhhy?  Why would you do that to us Mark? 

What, you think you know how to build a better fishing game than everyone else?

You think we can go without our tiny boats to putt around in?






And again, I realize it's such a simple pleasure, but dammit, I still enjoy it!  I don't want to pick from pre-selected areas of the map and then immediately fast travel there.  I want drive around and bump into shit!  Maybe even try and run the thing aground, just to see if I can.

On the bright side, there are a ton of different areas on each map that you can select from.  And each one of them actually looks pretty unique for the most part.  In fact I would say this is probably one of my favorite-looking games of the group, with tons of different types of vistas you can set anchor in.  Not that graphics are a big part of these kinds of games, but I appreciate it when they're nice looking.

The game also offers a much improved fishing experience, with a more refined setup than the last two titles, that makes it easy to get where you want to be, get the lure into the water, and get it traveling exactly where you want it to be.  Or at least I would say all of that if I could ever find any fish.  Seriously, I've never seen one.  Not one.  If I had a manual, or someone had created an FAQ for this guy, I really could have used it, because otherwise I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  Am I supposed to wait around until the fish spawn?  Do they only spawn in certain areas at certain times in certain weather?  Will they refuse to spawn if I don't have the right bait, rod, and lure?  I have no clue, because there is no online help so I am completely stuck.



Several nights later...

Ooooooookay, I get it.  There are no graphics for the fish.  Silly, fucking me.  You see I was supposed to be looking for a flashing indicator that lets you know something is taking a bite, even though you cannot actually see any fish.  That's pretty dumb game.  Pretty friggin' dumb.

Anyways, once I figured things out MDTFM truly did have my favorite fishing mechanics of the three games I've covered so far.  By a decent margin too.  It's a pretty simple system; once your lure enters the water you get a sideview of where it is, what its depth is, and where the fish are.  It's very effective.  Unlike the disaster that was TNN and the guessing game that was JH.

Lastly, I should mention that, like usual, there is lots of customization possible, including lures, rigs, reels, and even accessories this time... just in case you care about what the dude in your boat looks like.  Even though you only ever see him from behind.

Anyways that should wrap up the three more obscure fishing sims...

Did I beat it?
No.  Catching so much as a single fish is a rare event in my case.



Fishing game #4
497 - Bass Masters Classic




Did I beat it?
Yeah, a couple times.  It was hard as shit, especially the final boss, but conquering a tough title like that is wor- wait, I'm thinking of Megaman & Bass...

Fishing game #5
496 - Bass Masters Classic Pro Edition



...because the next two are a part of the acclaimed "Bass Masters" series.  Yep, the long-running series' roots extend all the way back to the Super Nintendo where...  I... wait a minute... *runs off to the internet*




Okay, I guess there were only a few Bass Masters games ever made.  So what the hell was I thinking of?  I could swear I was practically drowning in the things whenever I went digging around in stacks of used games back in the day.  Maybe that's because I grew up in Fishtown, USA.  Maybe my memory has gone soft and turned every "Bass" game into a Bass Masters game.  Maybe I just don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

ANYWAYS, Bass Masters Classic and Bass Masters Classic Pro Edition are two of the stronger fishing titles on the system, with some fun mechanics, a pretty decent interface, and minimal amounts of frustration.

This time around when you start a new game you will select from several different fishermen, each with different strengths.  I honestly couldn't tell much difference between any of them, but I applaud the effort.

There's also a "practice pond" this time around.  Thank god.  So I finally felt like I got a chance to figure things out, without feeling rushed or stressed by a time limit.  I don't know how many times I had to restart the various tournaments in the previous three games so I could sort out what I needed to be doing, or remember how that particular game worked.  Here, I just rushed over to the PP and gave myself ten minutes to refresh myself on the details.  It was a nice change of pace.

(I should mention that I played all seven fishing games back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back for extended periods of time, causing me to constantly get confused on how to play them)

The first thing you're gonna notice when you get on the lake (or pond) is that we have a boat again, but that it is not very fun to drive.  In fact it controls horrendously.  Possibly worse than any vehicle in any other game, and that is not hyperbole.  But in all honesty that isn't really a huge deal since there ain't a whole lot in the way of tight requirements for skilled driving.  Plus, at this point I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth because I think this shitty boat is better than no boat, so I'm moving on.

When you cast your line the game drops behind your lure and into a Mode 7 perspective, where you will need to pull the bait "towards" the camera while fish swim into view and give chase.  It's actually a pretty cool effect, and works rather well once you get used to it.  And it gives you plenty of space to see your position and depth, as well as all nearby fish, which is immensely better than the cramped experience from TNN.  Overall, one of the better fishing systems in this group of games.

This is also by far the easiest title yet.  Or at least it was the game in which I had the easiest time actually catching fish.  I still struggled mightily to get a decent weigh-in at the end of the first tournament, but I'm looking at this like baby steps.

Pro Edition
What does the "pro" version of the game add?  Not a whole lot.  You can now choose from six real professional fisherman, in addition to the fictional ones from the last game.  I'm sure this must be a big deal to some people, but I can't say I got super excited over getting the chance to put myself in Shaw E. Grigsby Jr.'s wading boots...

The bait shop also now sells more types of gear, including boat engines and fish finders.  Once again it's not exactly the sort of thing I'd get hyped for, and I will readily admit that I never got far enough into the game to put any of that stuff to use, but color me underwhelmed again.  Oh wait, those aren't new, they were just hiding in the corner in the previous game.

And that's it for major changes.  Everything else is an updated graphic here, a different set of images here, etc.  I don't know if that makes this the laziest game on the system, but it's certainly in the running.  Even the Madden series tried to make some significant balancing tweaks every year, even if most of the games' guts stayed largely intact.

In any case, I'm getting a bit tired of writing about fishing games, and I'm sure you're bored of reading about them, so let's move on to the final two.  Which are...

Did I beat it?
No.  The only fishing game I've ever beaten was the one in Ocarina of Time.  And I probably had to use outside help for that part.





Fishing game #6
495 - Super Black Bass




...easily the two best fishing games on the system, hands down.

I have never played The Black Bass (or The Blue Marlin) on NES, but I know the game is pretty well regarded.  Hell, it's kind of the fishing game that started it all, right?  ...right?  I guess I don't actually have any idea, and I pulled that out of my ass, but it sounds good, so let's roll with it.

Anyways, that game is pretty ubiquitous and spawned the even more ubiquitous follow-up, Super Black Bass.  Because every early sequel on the Super Nintendo had to be "super," often to mixed actual results.

Well, dammit if they didn't produce a pretty super fishing experience here.  SBB does all of the things that a game like this should do in order to capture the feeling of fishing, while more importantly, remaining fun.  Something that escaped the previous five titles for most of their run times.

The biggest edges that SBB has over those other games are a more streamlined experience, and a more balanced difficulty curve.  There's no more buying bait and gear, or worrying about rigs and lines and motors and all that bullcrap.  Instead you get in the boat, drive to the middle of the lake, quickly set a lure, and fish.  As simple as that.  It's an extremely nice change of pace that helps keep things moving along and staying fun.

The interface and fishing mechanics are all solidly done too.  Selecting a lure is seamlessly done as you're about to cast, which removes a ton of the tedium that mechanic usually brings.  Selecting a target for your line is simple and straightforward, letting you manually set where you want to cast if you want.  And the fishing itself is super easy, with minimal complication to hooking a fish or bringing it in.  Hell, you pretty much do everything with one button, and only have to read a single gauge to make sure your line doesn't break.  And I think that's what I wanted after putting so many hours into all of those other games - a simpler experience that doesn't bog me down in tedium and complication, and skips straight to the fun.

Of course I do still have a few hangups with SBB.  For one, I really wish you could see which lures should be used in which conditions.  As far as I could tell the game offers virtually no in-game help, so I had to download the manual to even begin to sort things out.

The game also looks pretty simplistic, and not much more advanced than an NES game.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing since these games aren't exactly graphical powerhouses for the most part, and there can be a charm to simple 8-bit-ish graphics, but you are not gonna be blown away by anything in this game.

So overall one of the better fishing games, and the most streamlined experience, if that's what you're looking for.  Of course Hot-B then decided to do a complete 180 with their next title...

Did I beat it?
I did not, though I did advance past the first tournament.  That's more than I can usually say.



Fishing game #7
494 - Bassin's Black Bass




...which happens to be the final fishing game on the list, and the game that seems to usually be the consensus pick for the best one on the platform.  This is a sentiment that I am gonna have to agree with myself.

Bassin's Black Bass, possibly the most awkwardly named game in history, is the follow-up to Hot-B's Super Black Bass, and the third or fourth game in the series overall.  Except, strangely enough, it almost has more in common with all of the other fishing games on the system than it does with SBB.  But in a good way.  You see, this is the game that those games wanted to be.

This time around the graphics are actually rather nice, a pretty big step up from SBB.  Both the "boat" and "fishing" views, where you will be spending 99% of your time, are rather nice looking, with nice detailed sprites, and lovely designs for the lakes, foliage, and different types of scenery.  Plus, the fish actually kind of look like fish this time around, instead of just being blobby shadows or red-silhouetted outlines (I probably should have mentioned in the last review that the fish in SBB are kind of silly looking).

The game also offers something of a built-in tutorial now, with the option of having an assistant tag along, offering various types of advice for where to cast, what bait to use, how to reel in your lure, how to keep your fish hooked, and so forth.  And it is actually extremely useful.  See, with every other one of these games I've had to rely on some combination of PDF manuals, FAQs, or YouTube longplays in order to make any sense of what I should be doing, when I should be doing it, and where I should be doing it.  I find all of that to be a massive pain in the ass.  BBB removes all of that from the equation, by offering in-game helps that literally spell out what you should do, if you should want said help.  I loved this; it made the learning curve much less daunting, and helped keep me engaged with the game.  So much in fact, that I may have played this game nearly as much as Mark Davis, TNN, and Jimmy Houston combined.

The fish finder has also been improved to make it more useful.  Instead of just relying on a graphic that shows the fish's depth and relative position, it will actually make different noises now, letting you know exactly where your boat is positioned relative to them.  Which means more tedium removed from the equation.

Now, do I have any complaints?  Sure, I mean I still have the game ranked close to #500 after all. The biggest thing being that a number of changes, including the addition of the guide, result in a game that is not quite as "zippy" as SBB was.  In fact the pacing is much closer to any of the other games I covered.  For example, you'll now actually have to go to another screen to select your bait, while also needing to click through a number of menu options including a color setting and a confirmation screen.  I know that probably sounds like a pretty minor grievance to have, but I really did appreciate how streamlined everything in SBB was. 

I also wish it was a little more obvious how big the fish are when they're in the water.  Now that's a problem common to all of these games, but I don't know why they couldn't have worked harder on getting more unique fish sprites.  Or at least giving us more than a few of them.  So you'll have no idea if what you're catching is a bass or not, or if it's 0.8 lbs or 4.8 lbs, both of which can be pretty critical to your success later on in the game.

And, I mean... it is still a fishing game, so there is definitely a ceiling that limits how much fun you're gonna have.  Hell, the fact that I have this thing ranked close to #500, despite being the best the genre had to offer, should tell you all you need to know about how tempered my praise should be.  Because even considering how much of an improvement this is over the the likes of the TNN game, I still couldn't really justify breaking them apart in the rankings.  They're one big self-contained world, for a certain type of player, who wants to have a limited amount of fun.

So overall, if you feel like playing a fishing game on the Super Nintendo... I'd probably recommend that you don't.  I think it's safe to say that 90%+ of players will have absolutely zero interest in this stuff, and will never bother seeing one through to completion. But if this is your thing and you insist on playing a well made one, Bassin's Black Bass is the obvious choice. 

Did I beat it?
I haven't yet.  But if I manage to clear SBB, this one is next.



493 - Super James Pond

 

It's funny how my memory works when it comes to various video games.  For instance, I can still distinctly remember way back in the day when my local Software Etc., before it was engulfed by Gamestop, had all of its Genesis games squeezed into a corner of the store near the front window.  I was a Super Nintendo fanatic at the time so I wasn't super versed on the Sega library, but I was still enough of a freak for all things video game that I'd often peruse other systems just to soak in everything I possibly could.  And for whatever reason I can still remember a very specific visit to SE where I found myself wandering over to that poor Genesis setup.  Mostly, I remember spotting Splatterhouse 3, which immediately grabbed my attention with its hockey mask-wearing and battleaxe-wielding antihero.  I've always been a huge sucker for all things horror, especially the artwork on old VHS tapes, which this thing immediately evoked.  But Rick and company weren't the only things I remember from that day, because I also distinctly remember one other game.  A James Pond game.  I don't recall which one exactly, but I'll never forget that picture of the armored fish-thing.  Why?  The sheer ridiculousness of it, probably.  James... Pond?  And he's a fish?  Does he do super spy things, but under the sea?  I had so many questions!  Plus it didn't hurt that I was also a huge James Bond fan, so the pun stuck with me.

Well I didn't know until decades later that the series actually saw a release on the SNES.  Super James Pond was the sole installment of the James Pond franchise to appear on SNES, and is I believe a port of the second or third game in the series (you'd think I'd spend a minute here to google it, but I'm not going to).  And roughly twenty five years after first learning of the series' existence, I finally got to experience it for myself when I purchased the cart off of eBay.  And who could have guessed that it would turn out to be yet another bizarro Amiga game that I don't get and I don't understand who it was meant for and I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out how I feel about it.  But anyhoo, I'll do my best here...

The gameplay of SJP is very generic, big surprise, and as far as I can tell features no guns or James Bond-styled action or references to 007 whatsoever.  Hell, there aren't really any weapons of any sort at all - you just hop onto enemies a la Mario.  Which means this is just another platformer with a meaningless pun in its name, and it plays like any of the other Amiga ports I've already covered, with lots of things to collect, enemies to jump past, and exits to find.  I'll be honest, it was incredibly disappointing.  Not that I should have had high hopes for a game about an anthropomorphic fish (or is he a frog?), but that's on me.

Actually, I guess there is one thing that sets this apart from everything else, and that would be an incredibly bizarre mechanic where you can stretch James' upper body upwards in order to grab onto far away ceilings.  And I do mean stretch...



What a super weird thing to build your game around.  I mean, what does this even add to the gameplay?  Besides a slightly different way to navigate to hard-to-reach areas?  Well, the answer is nothing - don't expect the game to do any cool things with it because it doesn't.  What you see in level two is what you'll see in level twenty.

Speaking of, each level tasks you with collecting a bunch of things in order to open up the exit.  In addition, there's a bunch of other pointless crap lying around that serves no purpose other than scoring points, if you're into that sort of thing.  There's also tons of enemies scattered liberally throughout every level, but most of them are pretty braindead and present little in the way of challenge.  In fact only the bosses serve as any real resistance to your progress, as you'll need to spend a few spawns studying their patterns.  But luckily the game is super generous with lives, so you should have more than enough opportunity to learn what makes each of them tick and take them down.

In fact, because the enemies are so impotent the biggest thing you're going to be fighting throughout the game is some ever present and oppressive slowdown that is constantly trying to ruin things.  Which is pretty dumb because this game is hardly a graphical powerhouse, with limited things ever happening on the screen.  I guess you can chalk it up to being a piss-poor port, assuming the game wasn't always running this crappy.

There's also a ton of blind jumps in this game, which like usual, I'm gonna blame on the SNES resolution.  And I know at this point I'm beating a dead horse and that it must sound like I'm bashing the system like some sort of Sega fanboy or something, but really I'm just bashing the developers for poorly thought-out ports.  They could have recognized this was a problem and compensated for it, something almost none of them appeared to have done.  So we're stuck with crappy versions of a bunch of lesser titles.  Oh well, at least it's games that are in the bottom half of the library that represent most of that population because this will be much less of an issue the further along we get.

Anyways, what else can I talk about... I guess the game has a few power-ups of note.  Like a car that lets you mow down enemies, not that you'd have needed any help killing them.  And an umbrella that will slow your fall, which is completely useless.  I also think there might have been a plane that occasionally showed up too, but I'm having a hard time picturing it, or remembering it.  Maybe I hallucinated it.

There's also lots of other weird little things.  Like the first level being three seconds long.  Unless I hallucinated that too, because who the hell would program a level where you walk two steps to the left to finish it?  That would be crazy... super crazy...  Then again this is a game about a James Bond fish that never does James Bond things, so I wouldn't put anything past it.  I guess that first level is SJP in a nutshell; boring, with no inspiration, like it was hastily thrown-together.  Even some of the latter levels are only thirty seconds long.  Like they really couldn't be bothered to finish them.

Now to be fair to the game, it does do a lot of things okay-ish.  The controls are solid, the animation is alright, the bosses are satisfying to take down, and it's a decently meaty quest.  And I never really hated my time with it.  But for the most part it was unremarkable.  Forgettable even, which is ironic since it was one of the few games from that day so long ago that I didn't forget.  So maybe that is how I can sum this game up.  Goofy box art and a pun, that just happens to have a video game of sorts attached to it.


Oh, and for the record I did not place the game about the walking fishman right next to all of the bass fishing games in my list on purpose.  Or at least I didn't consciously do it.  I think.

Did I beat it?
Yes, after a couple marathon nights.  I'm pretty sure anyone could beat this game if they have the patience to take their time slowly moving through the game, learning it, and then doing it again.  I'm not saying anyone should do that, but it's definitely possible.





492 - Sports Illustrated: Championship Football & Baseball

   

A unique entry in the Super Nintendo library, Sports Illustrated: Championship Football & Baseball is, as should be blindingly obvious, two games in one.  So I'm going to essentially treat this as two entirely separate reviews.

Football
One of the few pigskin titles on the system to use a isometric overhead view (the other being the absolutely dreadful Super Play Action Football), I actually kind of dig this game's presentation.  By that I mean the game's graphics aren't anything special, and the animation isn't especially good, but something about how the game looks in action, and how everything unfolds just seems... I dunno, enjoyable?  I don't even know how else to explain it, but I'll be saying something similar with some other sports titles that are coming up in future installments.

The interface is also effectively done for the most part.  Plays are easy to read, easy to call, and everything is speedy and responsive.  There are no long delays waiting for players to line up, or waiting for the play selection to take, or for the ball to snap, and so forth.  It's the polar opposite of the terrible pacing that hamstrung titles like NFL Football.

Passing though?  Totally and completely broken.  Broken enough that I can't even really tell what is going on during any given pass play, or why anything that happens happens the way it does.  Hell, sometimes when a ball is in the air the camera suddenly changes into a zoomed-in close-up where the receiver already has it in his hands.  It's super disorienting and it makes covering the pass a complete crapshoot because there is no way to tell what in the holy hell is actually going on.  So if you're on defense and need to stop the pass just select something in nickel or dime, cross your fingers, and pray.

Running is also pretty broken, which, considering football is nothing but passing and running, kind of means the entire game is broken.  But it's also kind of fun, if that makes any sense whatsoever.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's bad but I like it anyways.  Or something along those lines.  There's probably a lot of points in this review that are coming off as nonsensical, mostly because I just don't know how to describe some of the esoteric feelings that a game like this can bring up. 

For example, a typical run is probably gonna be blown up at the line of scrimmage, while another nearly identical run will go for a long gain.  Why?  Sloppy coding and game balancing, I assume.  But it almost kind of feels more authentic in a way, since that's often how the real thing works.  And I like the way the game feels when this happens.  Like your player is making something out of nothing, and you're reaping the benefits.  And on the flip side, I love the feeling of taking a safety or linebacker, and blowing up the other team's runs to the outside.  Because crushing the running back, again, just feels good.  So for all this game's faults, it gets something right here at least.  Even if I don't know exactly what it is, or how to properly explain it.  And the running plays also have that same random zoom-in that happens from time to time, but at least here it's not as distracting or as disjointed feeling.

I also love how one of the menu options is for configuring penalties.  The options?  "All" or "some."  As in they call pass interference sometimes?  Or is it turning off sidelines infractions but keeping the illegal batting and substitution infractions?  Where does leaping stand with "some?"  Yes I'm being silly, but "some" is just so ridiculous that I had to call it out.

And I love the low resolution, grainy videos that appear whenever you score.  It's so dated, and they're so short I can't imagine why they even bothered...

Overall?  It's a pretty weak effort that is well below the good football games on the system, but it has its moments, and it's not completely terrible.  You could do worse.


Baseball
In yet another instance of me trying to describe something that is abstract and almost completely unexplainable, the baseball here reminds me of an NES game.  Why?  Is it the animations?  The limited nature of the graphics?  The simplistically drawn pitching meter?  I have no idea.  I just know that the thought kept going through my head, again and again, when I was playing SI's Baseball.  And if anything, that isn't a bad thing, because I like most NES baseball games more than I like most SNES baseball games.  Black box Baseball, for all its (many) faults, is still much more tolerable than most of the titles I've already written about so far.  And I don't even especially like that game either, but it shows you what sort of playing field I've been working with.  Which is super annoying because I have already laid out in prior reviews why I think the sport is a natural fit for the video game medium.  They just had a tough time realizing that potential on this system.

Pitching works well enough.  It doesn't really do anything out of the ordinary, but it gets the job done.  The pitchers do seem to get fatigued a little faster than they should, but that's a bit of a minor complaint.

Batting on the other hand, could have used some work, as it's pretty dang tricky to get the hang of.  It's not as impossible as some of the games I've covered, but runs are still pretty scarce.  One of the biggest problems is that changeups are ridiculously overpowered.  Like, I don't know if this actually happens, or if it just appears to happen, but I swear slow pitches slow down even more right before they get to the plate.  That is some next level bullshit.  And just like in ESPN Baseball Tonight, there appears to be a predetermined number of "spots" you can hit the ball, it's just a little less overly blatant here.  So if you can ignore that, and train your reflexes to account for the changeups, you'll adapt eventually.

The fielding though, is pretty atrocious.  It's not as bad as the trainwreck present in Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball, but it's pretty bad.  Anything that gets past your infield is gonna be a gigantic guessing game as far as who you're gonna have control over and how much distance they're gonna need to cover in order to shag the ball, and if there is a way to switch control over which player you're using, I have yet to figure it out.

And there are other stupid little things that do just enough to drag the game down bit by bit.  Like how the baserunners will advance on everything, including blatant fly balls.  I hate having to corral baserunners in these games.  Or how it doesn't seem that you can manually run the ball to a base to get an out.  I mean you can, but it won't register anything, even on a force.  That seems like a miss by the developers.

The computer's batting AI is also pretty stupid, and can easily be cheesed.  Though I almost don't even want to complain about it because it's the only thing I can exploit to help keep my games close.

...actually I lied, because the baserunning AI is somehow even worse, and I exploit the living hell out of it.  Count on getting lots of cheap outs on fly balls.  I'd even go so far as to say that this features the worst baserunning in any game I've ever played.

That all being said, this would have to be my pick for the superior of the two games on the cartridge.  That shouldn't be especially surprising because I feel like I'm a much tougher critic of football games, and I long ago explained why the sport has a hard time pulling off a good experience, and I'm not gonna rehash that again.  They're both very flawed titles, but the baseball was just a little more tolerable as far as longer plays go.  So I'm giving it the edge.

So there you have it.  One unsurprisingly mediocre sports game and one disappointingly mediocre sports game, bundled together in a value package.  Individually I would have put both games somewhere in the 500s, and I considered doing just that with this entry, but I gave SICF&B a little bit of a boost for basically offering double the content of every other lazy sports cash grab out there.  That doesn't mean this is really any better than something like Frank Thomas, or Sterling Sharpe End 2 End.  It just means you get twice as much of it.

Did I beat it?
No.  The thought of having to beat two mediocre sports games for one completion... man that's a scary thought.





491 - Cliffhanger



One thing I have to admit, if I haven't already, is that I am a rather huge fan of old testosterone-filled action films from the 1980s.  Schwarzenagger, Stallone, Van Damne, Norris, Lundgren, Swayze, Dudikoff... hell, even Seagal - I love everything with any of those dudes in it.  Unabashedly so.  There is just something about the one liners, the cracking limbs, the extreme graphic violence, and the ludicrous setpieces that does it for me.  Cliffhanger, from our favorite Finn, Renny Harlin (or was it John McTiernan?), was no exception.  Sly stars as Gabriel Something or other, a musclebound mountain rescue guy who climbs mountains and kills bad guys, while wearing virtually nothing.  Sign me up.  Plus it had John Lithgow and Michael Rooker just to further chew up the scenery.  It's a great film if you're into that sort of thing and anyone who watched it as a kid back in the day loved it.

The video game adaptation on the other hand, is only... alright.  Actually one of the lesser Stallone games on the system.  Maybe the lessest... have I covered one yet?  It is a beat-em-up, which is a nice change of pace from the usual run-n-gun/action platformers that these properties are usually made into, but not an especially great one.  And it's not from a lack of trying because there's tons of great ideas here, but too few of them actually work, and there's just too many flaws holding everything back.

The biggest flaw?  An extreme difficulty that can only be overcome by patiently memorizing every little part of the game and carefully figuring out every little stupid nuance to the game's mechanics.  That can work, see Battletoads as a fantastic example, but it usually doesn't.  And here it fails miserably.

A major component of the smothering difficulty is some very stiff control.  Sly just doesn't have the finesse or responsiveness to handle what the game asks of him.  Fighting as few as two enemies at once can be overwhelming because it's so hard to get him to do what you want in a timely fashion.  And to make matters worse the hit detection can be real iffy.  That almost seems like a hallmark of the brawler genre in general, but it's especially pronounced here.  Which means you need to carefully remember how each and every fight is gonna go down, and carefully execute a plan to perfection if you hope to have any success.  That is not often a recipe for fun.

There is also a super annoying mechanic where everyone gets invulnerability after taking damage.  That is absolutely killer in this type of game, and keeps you from being able to combo enemies or take them down efficiently, which means every battle in turn becomes all about crowd control.  So it's easy for a relatively routine fight to suddenly turn sour because enemies surround you, and prevent you from getting into any real groove, constantly interrupting your attacks and raining blows down on your head.  It can get extremely frustrating, which is, again, not very fun.

To mix things up there are also some pretty frustrating avalanche levels.  In these you constantly run to the right, jumping over stones and (I think) logs.  And once again, memorization, cheap deaths, and controls that aren't up to snuff are the name of the game.  So it's yet another demerit because the game is hard enough on its own without these dumb stages leaching away from your pool of lives.

So, after that lambasting review why is this game not ranked back with all of the other games I detest?  Because I don't dislike it.  In fact it's very hard for me to dislike brawlers in general, Captain America and The Tick aside.  It just gets frustrating when it could have been so much better than it ended up being, which is the case here.  And I do keep playing Cliffhanger, which always tells me a game must be doing something right.

Overall it absolutely is one of the genre's weakest entries on the system, and is one that most people are gonna turn off almost instantly.  But if you like brawlers and big dumb action movies, you'll get some mileage out of it, like me.

Did I beat it?
No.  One of the only beat-em-ups on the system that got the best of me.



490 - Daffy Duck The Marvin Missions



This has to be the, what, fourth or fifth Looney Tunes game I've already covered?  I know there was Taz... Speedy... that dumb Animation Factory one... and what else?  Shit, I really can't remember what all I've gone over up until this point.  I guess that's what happens when you stay up until 2AM five nights in a row, writing about fishing games.  I know I still have the Bugs Bunny game, the Porky Pig game, and the basketball game left, so I guess that would mean Daffy Duck The Marvin Missions is a something of a middling effort from Sunsoft.  It's not a trainwreck like Taz, but definitely could have been better.  Like, a lot better.


OH.  There was that Tom and Jerry game too.  Is that Looney Tunes?  I think so.  But it definitely wasn't from Sunsoft...  Bah, who cares, let's move on.

I'm gonna assume this game is a Duck Dodgers game.  What is Duck Dodgers?  I have no idea; some Daffy Duck alter ego or parallel universe or something.  Kind of like all of those Donald Duck parallel universe games.  What the hell is with cartoon ducks and multiple identities?

Anyways, you're Duck Dodgers and you're... I don't know, traveling the cosmos fighting Marvin the Martian, who if you don't remember, appears to be a cross between a Roman legionnaire and... uh, the tar baby from Song of the South, I guess.  Anyways, he's doing... bad things... for some reason.  FUCK, there's a story, who cares what it's about, moving on.

The gameplay is a run-n-gun deal: you run, you gun, you jetpack on occasion, and then you fight some colossal boss.  You know, that sort of thing.  But the action here is actually surprisingly tactical.  By that I mean Daffy has a shield he can use to soak up enemy gunfire, waiting for his moment to fire.  And you will need to use it heavily.  Which means combat turns into a fairly strategic affair, with you and your foes popping in and out of cover (well, you pop in and out, they mostly just stand around like idiots), almost like a 2D version of Time Crisis or something.  In fact I would say it's one of the platform's closest things to a 2D first person shooter there is.  I mean, it's not at all like an FPS, but there are similar concepts at play.  Of course I have to also mention that the game's low resolution (cue the beating of the dead horse) means foes can often get the jump on you, but once you train yourself to always have the shield at the ready, it becomes less of an issue.

While the gunplay is fun, there are some severe control problems that hold it, and the game, back.  First off, they are insanely floaty.  Like "is this supposed to be happening?" floaty.  I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, because Daffy is wearing a jetpack and it almost feels like it's always on.  Like they only had time to code one type of movement, so they went with the "flying around on a jetpack" option instead of the "walk around like a normal game" option.  And to add insult to injury, the developers also made the horrible decision to have every gunshot send Daffy flying backwards.  I can't even begin to explain how bad this will fuck you over throughout the game, but suffice it to say, it's frequent and very, very costly.  Which is not a good thing in a game with boss fights that are this insanely hard, but I will get to that in a second.

The game does do some other things pretty well though, so it's not all bad.  Like letting you buy/outfit gear at the start of each level, including extra lives and continues.  Granted I think most of the gear is useless when compared to extra lives, but I love the fact that I even had the choice of what to buy, and wish more action games on the SNES had done something like this as well.  There is also a detailed map that comes up when you pause the game, and it is wonderful.  EVERY game should do something like that.

But yeah, those boss fights... they have to be some of the absolute worst on the entire system.  Just one complete disaster after another.  The first couple times I attempted this game I had to give up after getting a game over on the first dude because he seemed totally insurmountable.  The whole thing is a gigantic mess of (seemingly) unavoidable hits, sloppy hit detection, and an enemy that soaks up an ungodly amount of damage.  The only way I ever managed to eventually beat him was by standing directly under him, firing as fast as fast as I could, and praying that he just happened to die before my life ran out.  Eventually I managed to make that work more often than not, while every other strategy remained completely impossible.  And then the second boss is somehow even more of a clusterfuck of epic proportions.  With that one enemies are constantly spawning on top of you while Marvin strafes you from above, while you're trying to hit a floating, moving target, while also jetpacking, while also getting knocked around by your blasts, while constantly getting hit yourself.  It is comically fucking horrid and I have never made it past this part.  Especially since a game over means starting from scratch, and having to fight the first boss over again.  So I've never made it past the second world, and I don't think I ever will.

I also have to quickly point out that the levels names are often making puns, similar to Bubsy.  Except here they make even less sense.  Of all the things to steal from the bobcat, that was not one of them.

So in conclusion, a pretty bad game with some great mechanics buried in it, that are unfortunately suffocated by all of the crap.  I keep going back to it because I want to see the rest of the game, and I want to see if the later bosses are better, but I just can't seem to make it happen.



*two months later*
Wait, I just had another idea on which direction to take this review because I realized what is wrong with this game: it's an Earthworm Jim game that isn't funny, has no variety, and isn't very fun to play.  God, why didn't I realize that earlier.  That kind of review would have been sooooo much more fun to write, and to read, probably. 

So I'll just go ahead and delete everything I already worked on and-

Editor: Aren't you already like two months behind on getting this thing finished and thrown out the door?
Brock: FUCK!


Did I beat it?
No, these Looney Tunes games are surprisingly hard.  Especially this one.



489 - Vortex



So I'm not entirely sure how to describe the game Vortex.  Is it a crappy 3D version of BlaZeon?  A shoddy Star Fox 1.5?  Yet another subpar super FX game?  The ugliest game this side of Ballz?

While all of those would be accurate observations in my opinion, I think the Star Fox comparison is probably the most apt one.  Both games feel like a mix of shmup and rail shooter, without doing either genre full justice.  Both games also feature big blocky polygons which tax the SNES, even with the help of an extra chip.  And that would all make sense because both games are from the same development house: Argonaut Software.  In fact you could almost call Vortex a dry run for ideas that were later used in Star Fox 2 (and then Star Fox 64, and then Star Fox Command in turn).  Which I guess would actually be one of the main selling points for this game; just how ambitious it is.  It features large missions with tons of enemies, huge bosses, lots of power ups, a bunch of different vehicle forms to switch between, (simple) puzzle solving, and more than a few mechanics that would pop up in Fox McCloud's sophomore effort.  So I guess it's not too surprising to think that the big N would tab these guys with some of their biggest projects.

The problem is ambition only goes so far, because this game is a wreck.  Hell, it's a fiasco.  When a game is made by the Big N, they're generally gonna demand a finished product with something resembling quality.  That's sort of their thing.  But this game is not a first party title and it lacks a lot of the things you'd expect to see in finished products.  Like a difficulty curve.  Or mechanics that make any sense.  Or any sort of clue as to what you are supposed to be doing at any given moment.

Let's briefly talk about the different vehicle forms first.  They are the "Walker," the "Sonic Jet," and the "Hard Shell."  I never downloaded the manual for this game so I'm gonna assume I got these names from somewhere.

- The Walker is your main bread and butter form, giving you medium defense and speed, while also letting you use all of your weapons. 
- The Sonic Jet sacrifices offense and defense for speed and evasiveness.
- The Hard Shell is a (near) invulnerable tank, meant to soak up enemy fire, so you can wait for the right moment to counterattack.

It all sounds great, on paper.  Tank when you need to tank, kill when you need to kill, run when you need to run.  The problem is none of it works in practice.  The jet is borderline useless and should almost be entirely ignored since outrunning and outmaneuvering enemies is not something you can really do.  The shell is great, so long as you feel like watching a boss wail on you for an eternity, waiting for the opportunity to pop back out that never comes.  So you'll just use the walker the entire time.  And it is slow, boring, and a bullet magnet.  Yay.

The game also has severe issues with difficulty.  Levels go on forever, with no checkpoints, difficulty curves that are super out of whack, and bosses that are insanely sadistic.  Especially the first one - I have NEVER beat him.  Despite many, many tries, with each failure forcing you to replay the entire (long as hell) level over again.  Even if you reach the "halfway" point, you get no checkpoint.  So what was the point of that?  And it isn't as if I don't know how to beat him - I have studied the longplay of the game enough to know exactly what I need to do.  No, I haven't beat him because everything that happens seems like a total frickin' crapshoot.  Maybe shots hit him, maybe they don't.  Maybe shots hit you, maybe they don't.  It's all a guessing game!  The overly-complicated controls also become a real clusterfuck whenever you're trying to rapidly change forms and weapons, both of which you will be doing during boss fights.  So that only further exacerbates things.

So am I reviewing this game entirely from the perspective of the first level?  Because the one and only time I did that was way back with Frantic Flea.  And the answer is "no, I am not."  I used cheat codes to see more of the game, something I've never had to resort to with anything else, before or since.  But I had to do it here because I had read enough about the game to know that there was more to it than what the first few minutes offer up, and I wanted to experience it for myself. 

Case in point, while level one offered an on-rails Star Fox-like experience, level two is opened up, giving you a large area that you are free to roam.  You'll need to enter different structures in order to find keys and unlock doors so that you can find more keys and unlock more doors.  It's very Star Fox 2-ish.  It's also really poorly done.  Trying to figure out where to go or what to do is a total crapshoot, with confusion reigning supreme.  I don't know how long I wandered around this mission, but it was at least several hours on one occasion.  And I even used a longplay (again) to assist myself, to no avail.

So I had to cheat again so that I could see anything past mission two.  And boy what a satisfying feeling that is, let me tell you.

Level three is another "open" level that takes place up in the clouds.  But the very limited draw distance is on prominent display here, with the platforms you're supposed to be moving across only popping into view when you're nearly on top of them.  It's pretty pathetic.  This level is also a fraction of the length of the first two, but still ends in another near-impossible boss fight that completely kicked my ass up and down the screen every time I attempted it.  It was at this point that I put up my white flag and retired the game.

So what was my conclusion here?  I guess that Vortex is a poor Star Fox-wannabe, ripe with ideas, but misfiring in execution.  After all, this is the volume of ambitious fiascos, with this game fitting right in with that crowd.

...oh and check out the Super Famicom artwork:



I'm not saying the US art isn't way truer to the game, but good lord is is the SFC artwork at least a million times cooler.  Too cool for this game in fact.

Did I beat it?
No, God no... that would require some sort of truly insane patience.



488 - WarpSpeed



Okay, so picture this: You're piloting a space-cruising fighter, armed to the teeth with laser cannons and missile racks, taking on entire alien fleets in the name of protecting your home base.  You'll also need to survive numerous mine fields and asteroid belts, navigate through huge swaths of space, while using black holes and your warp drives to cover larger distances.  You'll take on literally hundreds upon hundreds of enemy fighters, some of which are launched by distant enemy carriers, engaging in tense dogfights where just a few hits can spell disaster for either party.  Occasionally you'll also take on enemy aces in ship-to-ship combat, save allied convoys, discover hidden technologies, earn various promotions and medals, gradually gain access to more powerful spacecraft, and wrap it all up by saving the galaxy.  And it's not a PC port - this thing was built from the ground up to take advantage of consoles.

Now, did everything I just say sound like a grand old time?  Like the sort of epic space opera that the Wing Commander series brought to the PC, or the unmatched action LucasArts' TIE Fighter and X-Wing titles delivered to us back in the day?  Did it sound like a game that would finally fulfill on all of the untapped potential of earlier Nintendo games like Star Voyager or Destination Earthstar

Because WarpSpeed is none of those things.  At all.  And while everything I just said in my introduction is technically true, and not embellishing in any way, none of it is as remotely cool or fun as I tried to make it sound.  How is that possible?  It just is - this game found a way to strip nearly all of the fun out of every one of those bullet points.

Upon starting up, the game does deliver a number of options for how to play.  Besides a training simulation of sorts, there are half a dozen standalone missions you can take on at any time, each of which focuses on a different set of enemies or hazards, as well as a longer campaign that uses a password save system.  That is where I spent the bulk of my play time.

The missions in the campaign (of which there are four total) task you with blowing the hell out of each and every enemy ship across a number of different maps, all of which are connected to one another via black holes.  Each of those individual maps is composed of an 8x8 grid, with each "square" consisting of coordinates that range from 0,0 to 100,100.  What I'm trying to say is, with each mission consisting of four or more maps, you end up having to cover a lot of territory.  And you will have to hunt down a lot of enemies.  Like a metric shit-ton.  Way too many in fact.  But luckily for us there are a number of things to help out in this regard:

- You can warp across each map in a matter of seconds.  The controls to do this are pretty awkward, and you probably will not figure it out without a manual or FAQ, but it eventually becomes second nature.
- The fuel for warping is plentiful.  So plentiful in fact that I never once came anywhere close to running out.  I'm not sure why they bothered honestly.
- Going hand-in-hand with that last point, you can return to any base to fully refuel, restock, and recover your ship's damage.  There does not appear to be any limit to how many times you can do this either, though bases can be destroyed (but only if you are especially incompetent).
- All enemies appear on the area map, which means you can easily skip ahead to fights.  Except for one mission where there location is obscured.  I'll get to that in a bit...

Once you enter the section of the map where the enemies lie, combat automatically commences.  You'll be matched up with up to five fighters per battle, but for the most part they only engage you one at a time.  So the rest of them pretty much just hang back and wait their turn, which is awfully nice of them.  I guess it's possible they take sporadic potshots at you from a distance, but it's kind of hard to tell.  And that is because...

The dogfighting in this game is a mess

Now to be clear, it's miles ahead of the action in the three flight sims I already covered (Air Cavalry, Steel Talons, and Carrier Aces), which should tell you something about those games.  But it is still very, very broken and so repetitive in a number of ways.  For one thing, everything is a confusing mess at first - an enemy will engage you, fly in, you'll both spend a couple minutes circling one another, you'll futilely take shots at him that inevitably fall harmlessly behind him, while enemy fire randomly peppers your screen and occasionally hits you for no discernible reason, before mercifully ending with someone blowing up.  Things do eventually get better, whether that's because you earn access to better ships, upgraded shields and weapons, or because the hundreds of skirmishes gradually force you to find little tricks to make the combat easier.  Probably all of the above.  But not before you have fought (and chased) hundreds of enemies, tapping the fire button until your thumb is sore, cranking on the D-Pad until your other thumb is sore, and growing miserable all the while.

What's even more unfortunate is that even when you do upgrade your gear, or go up against more advanced enemies, the dogfights still all end up playing out exactly the same way, which means things get real boring, real fast.  There are a half a dozen different fighter types, but other than slightly different speeds or levels of aggressiveness, there is no real difference as to how any of the fights against them play out.  Occasionally there will be an enemy carrier in the area, launching out fighters if you don't destroy everything fast enough.  Except, instead of battling some big hulking capital ship, the carriers are content to "stay back," which means they appear as small dots off in the distance.  After shelling them with laser fire a few times (or nailing them with a few missiles if you have 'em), they explode with a whimper.  It's extremely underwhelming and a total cop out by the game.

I also mentioned how one of the missions hides your enemies under a sort of "fog of war."  Well I am not joking when I say that mission can not only go fuck itself, but it can go get fucked by Space Football and Battle Cars, and all the other ridiculously frustrating games while it's at it.  The game already has these severe pacing issues thanks to missions that drag on for hours as you fight hundreds of battles that all play out exactly the same.  But then this mission adds an extra level of aggravation by requiring you to comb every square inch of every map in order to turn up your foes.  And those enemy ships are also on the move, so even a complete sweep isn't gonna get everything.  It's so goddamn stupid it defies belief.  I had to go through every area of every map multiple times in order to complete this mission, all of which must have taken at least four hours to accomplish.  That is unacceptable, and serves absolutely no purpose other than padding out a very simplistic game's length even more than it needed to be.  [you don't need to go through every square in the "fog of war" missions - editor]

The other issues are less severe, but no less numerous.  The different ships you earn all basically play the same.  Some have larger missile loads than others, and some seem to turn slightly faster, but otherwise they are, for all intents and purposes, identical.  There's also a number of medals you can earn throughout the game, but they don't seem to serve any purpose, and I have no idea what I did to earn any of them.  I just know I had all of them by the halfway point of the campaign.  In fact, I had also earned the top rank of Admiral by mission two, which means I had "maxed out" the game less than halfway through it.  Did they even test that shit?  There were also a number of bugs I encountered, mostly involving the targeting system in the dogfights going on the fritz, which didn't allow me to finish off all of the enemies, which then forced me to warp away, come back, and start the fight from scratch.  Because if there is anything a game with 400-500 dogfights needed, it's bugs that cause you to re-do a lot of them!

Anyways, I know I have trashed WarpSpeed up to this point, which I think it deserved, but it's not a terrible game.  It's just a very flawed one.  There was a ton of potential, and they had an inspired idea to start with, but it was all squandered with poor design decisions.  Playing it can be fun, so long as you stay away from the overly lengthy main game.  So play the single missions, and enjoy the game for an hour or so.  And then walk away.  And don't come back.  You'll be much better off.

Did I beat it?
I did.  It was one of the more drawn-out experiences I've had with this project, and I would never do it again, but I'm proud to say I stuck with it until it was completed.



487 - James Bond Jr.



James Bond Jr., the first (and so far last) game to star the progeny of everyone's favorite English super spy.  And by progeny I mean nephew.  Also, this has nothing to do with James Bond.  Hell, James Pond had as much to do with James Bond as this game does.  The early Nineties were a very dire time for 007...

So in case you can't tell from that cover art, this game is based on a short-lived cartoon.  Now I have never watched the show, hell I had never even heard of it until I popped this bad boy in, but I would guess that it offers a pretty standard setup for the era; boy gets gadgets from his genius/hacker sidekick, cracks one liners, and battles a legion of bad guys that are always being foiled while always shaking their fists at the boy wonder.  You've never watched the show either, but we both know I'm right. 

Unless... unless there is a chance they actually tried something different here...

*watches episode on YouTube*

Nope, I was right on the money.  And boy was that a waste of time.  It's a completely formulaic cartoon that tries to rip off the likes of GI Joe and Inspector Gadget, and no doubt suffered a quick death because of it, fated to be forgotten forever because it offered nothing new.  The only relationship it shares with its much more successful big brother is the inclusion of a number of classic Bond characters such as Jaws, Blofeld (I think), etc.  Except they've all been turned into unrecognizable cartoon doofuses, so what was the point?

Anyways, the Super Nintendo game is a mix of action platformer and shmup.  A very, very bad shmup I might add, but I'll get to that in a bit.  First we'll talk about the platformer levels, which are also not so hot.  Go figure.  In these James Jr. has a standard arsenal of jumps, kicks, punches, and floaty movement.  Really floaty movement.  And terrible animation.  Some of the worst on the system.  All of this probably makes the game sound worse than it is, but there just happens to be a lot of really bad parts to it.

The platforming levels are where you will spend the bulk of your time, because even though they start out pretty easy, with tons of recovery items and pretty braindead enemies, they go on forever, and they get much harder.  In fact I would say the pacing is the one thing that truly drags the game down the most.  The absurd length of each level, in addition to a growing number of cheap hits you're gonna constantly take, means you're gonna need a ton of memorization in order to make it through this thing.  And to make matters worse the levels also gradually get more and more daunting, with endless hazards and instant deaths.  Thank God the game's saving grace comes in the form of unlimited continues, because without it only the most tortured of souls would have ever made it to the end, and I would have punished JBJ far more severely in the rankings.

Oh, and every bad thing I just said can be considered to be twice as awful when you're playing the shooter levels.  Those things... they are not good.  Not at all.  I don't even want to talk about them, so just know they're worse than D-Force in many ways.  And they go on forever too.  It actually kind of reminds me of some of the levels in The Rocketeer.  I mean they're not that bad, but they're not far off either.

Still, somehow, some way, for a THQ game this is a way better end product than most of their crap.  That doesn't mean it's very good, and it is a very rough experience, requiring a lot of patience to stick with, but I had to admit that some part of me enjoyed it despite everything I have said.  I don't know why - maybe I'm just a sucker for tough games that let me conquer them through the sheer persistence of cheesing infinite continues.  I mean this review sounds very negative, doesn't it?  Yet I sunk hours and hours into it, and never hated my time with it.  So, it's a bad game that I didn't mind playing I guess.

Did I beat it?
Yes, it took an entire night, but I did it.



486 - Justice League Task Force

    

So even though I'm like the world's biggest nerd in so many ways, there are a lot of geek things I don't really care so much about.  Fighting games and the DC universe being two of them.  Hell, I'm not much of a comics guy in general, but what little I do know (mostly from watching movies and collecting those trading cards back in the day) is that I would take Marvel over DC in a heartbeat.  Batman is really the only character that might give me pause with that decision, and even then I'm not as huge on the guy as most people seem to be.  And I don't know why any of that is exactly, but for whatever reason the DC characters just never really appealed to me a whole lot.  Superman?  Pretty dumb, and a relic from another era.  Wonder Woman?  An invisible jets and magic lasso, really?  Aquaman?  For Christ's sake he's been the butt of everyone's jokes for decades.  Granted he has his own Hollywood tentpole blockbuster starring the rapist from Game of Thrones, but there's no way that thing doesn't bomb [note - it didn't].

But DC obviously has legions of fans because it's still going strong nearly a century after its inception, so here we have Acclaim trying to cash in on the fighting genre yet again.  And once again, the results are subpar.  Good job Acclaim.  Like usual.

As with so many of its peers, Justice League Task Force features both a Story Mode and a Battle Mode.  And like always, they're basically the exact same thing.  What is the point of this?  I swear it must be fighting games' way of trying to trick you into thinking there is more content than there actually is, with multiple gameplay modes that feature the most minute differences possible.  I guess if you have really strong opinions about whether or not there are brief cutscenes between your fights, this game has got you covered.

And what storyline is there anyways?  Darkseid has to be stopped?  It's a fighting game, the developers shouldn't even bother with implementing a story in the first place because it's just gonna be a waste of time and resources.  Unless the game is Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, in which case it's already insane enough that you've adapted such a property into a game, so you may as well go all in on the story too.  But this game is not Dragon.

Anyways, the game features a pretty small roster of characters: Superman, Batman, Green Arrow (who the...?) Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and a trio of bads that I forget the names of.  That's pretty pathetic considering the scope of the DC 'verse.  They couldn't have figured out some way to cheat and do palette swaps of Wonder Woman and Green Arrow?  Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat did it.  Hell, Super Smash Bros. still does it to this day.  Apparently fighting games have free rein to be as lazy as possible so they should have taken advantage here and come up with more than a paltry six main heroes and three bad guys.

The actual fighting engine itself is... uh, alright, I guess?  Obviously I am the world's least qualified fighting game expert (despite the fact that I'm probably the only person alive stupid enough to play every single one that got released on the Super Nintendo), but from what my clueless ass can tell, this one actually handles okay.  By that I mean everything seems pretty tight and responsive for the most part.  Combos are easy enough to pull off, the characters seemed balanced, and the game seems to work exactly like I imagine the developers intended it to.  So it's got all of that going for it.

What it doesn't have going for it is the horrible, horrible slowdown.  Constant, pervasive slowdown.  And for a fighting game--a genre where you need split second timing and precision--this pretty much single-handedly removes it from being considered "good."  Well, that and I can't imagine why anyone would want to play this over any of the other million Street Fighter ripoffs (or at least any of the mediocre-to-good ones).

Even DC fanboys are gonna get limited mileage out of it thanks to the small selection of characters and inherent lack of replayability in a fighting game that doesn't offer top notch competitive play.  So if you like fighting games and you like DC, you can check it out, but it may only last you a single night and a single playthrough.  Though I guess that's still more than I can say for stuff like Clayfighter or Street Combat.  And if you don't like either one of those things?  Well, you're not missing out.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times, which for me is a lot with this type of game.



485 - Magic Boy

  

Twenty five random thoughts that came into my head while playing Magic Boy:

1 - Yet another Amiga platformer.  Was there any other kind?
2 - This game has the most adorable title screen and intro music.  I'm not exactly sure if I mean that in a good way.
3 - Published by Empire Software?  The Pro Pinball and point-and-click adventure guys?  Talk about humble beginnings.
4 - I love how every enemy in the game screams when you capture them.  Maybe MB is some sort of psychopathic animal serial killer and they're screaming because they know they're gonna end up as lampshades.
5 - Yes, I am into pitch black humor.  Everyone should know that by now.
6 - After capturing an enemy you have a few seconds before it escapes from your bag and rips your face off.  So what do you do?  Press X to deposit it in a cage or whatever it is (they'll float down to the bottom of the screen and go into those door graphics you can see in the screenshots).  Why couldn't they just go straight into the cage?  What is the point of requiring you to press an extra button?
7 - The game does not scroll until you start to approach the edge of the screen, which means enemies have a nasty tendency to "pop" into view.  That's dumb.
8 - Our boy sure isn't very magical.  He's got a dinky wand and... that's about it.  MB and Incantation really didn't even try to push that envelope.
9 - You can scroll your view up and down, which is something every game like this should do.  But why can't you scroll to the side?  I realize that every level is "vertical" by design, but there are still times where I need to look before I leap.
10 - Controls are solid for the most part, though he is a little too eager with his jumps.  Like, give me a fraction of a second before you take off again so I'm not involuntarily bouncing around.  Stupid magic boy.
11 - What is the point of the level "select?"  You only get 1-4 choices at a time, and the levels are all extremely similar and last but a matter of minutes.  A bizarre inclusion.
12 - One of the powerups changes your shots to go upwards.  Which means you cannot hit anything in front of you until it wears off.  Annoying.
13 - No time limits, thank Jebus.  I hate time limits.
14 - Platforming is extremely reliant on "clipping" through platforms and ceilings.  That's the best way I can describe it and it's weird.  But it works.
15 - Why does the Start button pause, but A/B/X/Y all unpause?  Which means you will jump or shoot when you unpause.  That is an insane design that only insane people would include in their game.
16 - Now that I think about it, this game shares a few similarities with Out to Lunch.  Capturing small enemies, depositing them, getting pissed off when they escape...
17 - ...except it's a million times easier than that POS game.  Which makes it about twice as good.
18 - ...oh, and this game actually has a password system.  Thank.  God.
19 - ...except those passwords all reset your continues to zero.  What.  The.  Fuck?
20 - The jumping puzzle on 1-7 can seriously just go to hell.  If this game had time limits I would have thrown the cartridge at this part.
21 - Occasionally you'll be sent to a secret bonus area after completing a level.  I have absolutely no idea what triggers this, or why these levels are constantly shaking up and down, trying to make you seasick.
22 - Each level also has a number of blocks you can activate by stepping onto them.  Your reward for getting all of them?  A modest point boost.  Because anyone plays Super Nintendo games for points.
23 - When I said the game was easier than OtL, I didn't mean to imply that this game is easy.  Quite the contrary, it gets real hard, real fast.
24 - Lots of levels will leave you in an unwinnable position if you don't get things right, or let any of the creatures escape.  Which they will do if you take too long.  Which you will.
25 - Memorization and practice are the name of the game.

Did I beat it?
No.  I probably could if the passwords actually tracked your continues, but it's way too annoying otherwise.



484 - WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game



Remember how I had all of those other WWF games from Acclaim grouped into a single review back in volume three?  And how I expressed disbelief as to how anyone could find those games to be any good?  Well WWF Wrestlamania: The Arcade Game is what those games should have been: Fast, ridiculously over the top, and an honest-to-god fun experience.  At times.  I'll even challenge anyone to play any or all of these games today and say I'm wrong.

Now, before I get into W:TAG I have to admit that I never played any of those N64 wrestling games that everyone and their sister seems to love.  What were they, World Tour and War ZoneRaw Deal?  Something like that.  In any case, without playing them I don't have a frame of reference as to what it is about those particular games from that specific time period that resonated so much with people.  And I similarly have no idea why the wrestling games that came before and after failed to reach gamers in the same way.  But I have to think that W:TAG serves as a clue.  You see, it takes the usual mechanics of the genre, which have always been completely alien and illogical to me, and tries to figure out how to keep their core concepts alive, while actually making them fun and fit for an enjoyable video game.  So they are still kind of a unique beast in that they don't feel much like any other genre of game, including fighters.  But with W:TAG things kinda sorta actually work now.  The controls make sense, the action is satisfying, and the grappling isn't a complete exercise in total frustration.  And it no longer looks like a first generation Sega Genesis game. All sore points for the series until now.

The game does only feature two different modes this time around, Intercontinental Championship and World Wrestling Federation Championship.  I'm not really sure what these are supposed to represent, but they're both pretty much the same thing, which I figure must be a disappointment to fans of the crazy "royal rumbles" and whatnot from the previous games.  But I thought every part of those games sucked, so I didn't really miss them.  Besides, it's all just slight variations on "two or more dudes enter a ring" in my opinion, so whatever.

Now, all of that (relatively) glowing praise shouldn't fool you into thinking that I care a ton for this game either, because I don't.  I don't like wrestling or wrestling games, I don't like any flavor of fighting game, and I don't know who any of these costumed bozos are, and I never will.  But this can be a fun game, with satisfying gameplay and a fair challenge.  And it is a vast upgrade over every single wrestling game I've ever touched in my life so far.  All of that has to count for something.  And even though I'll probably never play this game again in my life, it has my respect at least.  Plus, nailing someone with a gigantic hammer upside the head will always be satisfying, period.




...actually, a rather hilarious (to me) thought just popped into my head.  I think this is kind of what Pit Fighter is supposed to play like.  I mean, I know I played through the arcade mode of PF at some point on one of those Midway compilation packs back in the day, so that may or may not be an accurate statement.  But it certainly feels like I'm onto something there.

Did I beat it?
I didn't.  Even though this is the only WWF/WCW game I can stomach playing, I still suck at it.  And the matches start to get ridiculous with how many opponents you're up against.



483 - Incantation



Anyone who knows me knows that I am a major Titus enthusiast (or is that apologist?).  And everyone else is probably realizing at this exact moment that I haven't covered a single one of their games up until this point.  What am I saying, no one has noticed that... hell, I'm pretty confident that most of you have never heard of The Brainies or Power Piggs of the Dark Ages, much less noticed their absence in volumes one through five.  Still, for being a generally less-heralded publisher, I think it's pretty impressive that it took me this long to get to one of their games.

Incantation is an action platformer that is the definition of mediocrity, which is enough to brand it as Titus' worst game on the Super Nintendo.  Which is super impressive considering how wretched their output was on every other system they touched.  And mediocre really is the best way to describe everything about it - it's low on content and effort, barely presents a challenge, has zero replay value, can be cleared in as little as thirty minutes, and is hard-pressed to leave much of an impression on the player.

Gameplay is very, very simple: Collect three keys across short linear levels in order to unlock a final door (gate), so you can face off against a level boss, each of which will be recycled three times.  Rinse and repeat across three different worlds.  After this you get two final levels, followed by a very underwhelming final boss.  Cue credits.  Actually scratch that, cue the static congratulatory screen that is the only thing you get for beating the game.

The controls are also very simple.  They're responsive enough, and do their job, but they're still extremely basic.  All you've got is a jump button, a run button, a shoot button, and a stomp button which I found exactly one use for halfway through the game.  There aren't even charge attacks or special moves to earn or anything.  You just jump and attack for the entire game.

The weapon system is also very basic; occasional powerups will change your attack into a fireball or grenade of sorts, with different combinations producing stuff like fire grenades.  Trust me when I say it's not as awesome as it sounds.  The powerups also seem to disappear somewhere near the game's midpoint, as if they just gave up on putting them into the levels.  Not that it really mattered because I can barely tell any difference in effectiveness between any of them.

So, what else is there to say?  It's a tiny game that didn't give me much to work with, hence this fairly straight and to the point summary.  Though I'm sure I'm still ranking this game at least a hundred spots higher than most people would have.  And, all of its problems aside, I never really minded playing it, or felt much in the way of frustration or any sort of a malaise from playing it.

Did I beat it?
I did.  Anyone with a pulse can.



482 - World Cup USA 94



A poor man's Sensible Soccer.  Next.




















FINE.  I'll put some effort in here.

One of several US Gold footie games released on the Super Nintender, World Cup USA 94 is also, maddeningly, one of a number of similarly-named soccer games on the system that references "1994" in the title.  People can shit on Electronic Arts and Bethesda and company all they want, but this sort of thing is proof that game publishers have always been creatively bankrupt.  Nowadays they do it with endlessly milked franchises and reboots and what-not.  Back in the day it took the form of nonstop, low-effort sports games.

As I said above, WCUSA94 most closely resembles the classic Sensible Soccer franchise, made famous on the Amiga, which got a token release on SNES called, natch,  Championship Soccer '94.  And if I have to be honest, if you compare the two games WCUSA94 is by far the inferior title, and isn't really even fit to hold CS94's jock.  Which isn't to say it's nearly as bad as all of those terrible, terrible games I covered in earlier installments, such as World League Soccer or Champions World Class Soccer, or that it isn't a marked improvement over the likes of Super Soccer and its copycat, Super Goal! 2.  In fact I would call this the middle-of-the-pack game of the genre. But it still can't hold a candle to the genre's best.  Got all that?  Or is your head spinning trying to keep all of those dumb soccer games' names straight?

First off, I have to call out the game for some truly heinous menu designs.  Just like with that Tony Meola game, US Gold opted to use pictures, instead of text, obfuscating everything as much as possible just to drive me nuts.  Why was that a thing developers did back in the day? Is it too much to ask for coherent menus?  I don't know want to guess what the picture of the dog dribbling the ball through the cones means.

For the actual gameplay itself, it has the general feel of SS, but with the crappy passing controls of Super Goal! and the unrelenting AI of Soccer Shootout.  What does that add up to?  A game that isn't very much fun.  Which sucks, because the SS formula it was trying to mimic is a lot of fun.  They just screwed up the little things, which kind of makes the whole thing unravel.

Now, if this sounds like a very negative review, it's because it is.  But there is a reason I have it placed amongst more "average" games.  And that's because that even though the single player game is a debacle, that no one should play, I knew this formula would work better playing against another human being.  So I tried it out.  And I was correct.  Once the merciless computer teams are removed from the equation, and you have two people, both fighting the awkward passing on equal footing, you actually have a decent soccer game.

So even though I am generally looking at sports titles from a one player perspective, I made a bit of an exception here, and the game benefited because of it.  So, consider it a game in the mid 500s for one player, and the low 400s for two.  Hence this final placement right in between the two.

Did I beat it?
I almost scored a goal against the AI once.  It was during one of the rare shots on goal that happened.  However I did beat my friend three games to zero.



481 - Super Troll Islands



I don't know about you, but when I got heavily into SNES collecting and saw there was a game named Super Troll Island in the list, my mind immediately fixated on the word "Troll" and conjured up visions of the classic horror/unintentional comedy classics, Troll and Troll 2.  Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was instead based on those dumb dolls that everyone's sister owned back in the late '80s.  "How do you even make a video game about such things!" I yelled to no one in particular.  Okay, maybe I didn't actually say it out loud, but I did think it.  Maybe I just felt it.  In any case, goddamnit what a missed opportunity.

I'm not sure what the story behind the Troll dolls is, or if they originated with a television show or something.  But judging by the gameplay in STI I'm guessing that the creators were going for some sort of "Care Bears" motif: Love, happiness, sunshine, rainbows, all that kind of thing.  That's a total shot in the dark because God knows this thing doesn't have any sort of storyline that I ever noticed.

The rather simplistic gameplay consists of trying to "color in" a bunch of rectangular areas found throughout each level.  You do this by moving your Troll around the outer perimeter of each one.  See the middle screenshot to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.  It's a pretty weird concept, but I have to admit that it actually works well enough in practice.  Look for squares, run around squares, find more squares, color in those squares, repeat.  That's basically the entire game.  Well, not basically, it is the entire game.  Sure, there are occasional enemies to fight and pointless thingies to collect, but really it's all about finding those sweet, sweet squares.  Trust me when I say it is less horrible than it sounds.

The game is also pretty long, covering at least fifty levels.  And even though most of them can be beaten in a minute or two, it still adds up to several hours for a complete playthrough.  Now, I should mention that the game has limited continues and no passwords, which should always raise a warning flag.  I've obviously cried foul a number of times already for different games committing this cardinal sin, and it's definitely not optimal here considering how long STI is, but it actually never really caused me any major issues.  Mostly because the difficulty curve is so fair throughout.  Some of the later levels have some nasty little features to them, and there is something of a soft time limit to everything (a floating monster eventually spawns and chases you down and murders you).  But lives, which take the form of other Troll characters hanging out back at your home base bedroom, are plentiful enough, the time limit is usually pretty forgiving, and most enemies can easily be outmaneuvered.  So it's a game you can play at your own pace, low on stress and anxiety.

So, for being a kid's game (which is what I'm gonna call it), I'd say STI isn't half bad, and certainly could have been a lot worse.  The fact that I was able to get through the entire thing a couple times, and the fact that I wouldn't mind doing it again, tells me I must have had a pretty alright time with it.  It certainly isn't an ambitious game, or an exciting game, but it's a nice mellow experience if you're looking for that sort of thing.


And fine, I MAY have owned a San Francisco 49ers Troll doll when I was younger.  I don't know why, or where it came from, but dammit I was just a kid, you have to cut me some slack here.

Did I beat it?
Yes, two times in fact.



480 - Casper



[Full disclosure, I had to play this via an emulator]

Oh Natsume, you are easily one of my favorite publishers on the Super Nintendo.  Everything you put out was just so much fun to play!  ...well, everything except for that wrestling game.  And that fishing game.  And Casper...

What do I even say about Casper?  Is it a bad game?  A flawed game?  Or is it more...



I'm not gonna dive too deep into Casper's history because, honestly, I don't know much about it.  But I'm pretty sure it was a comic digest (or strip) that was put out by the same outfit that did Richie Rich, and the Hollywood studios decided to adapt both properties to film back in the early '90s.  I don't remember much about the movie, other than it receiving a media blitzkrieg, with nonstop television ads.  And of course the inevitable video game tie-in.

For most people the gameplay in Casper is gonna bring about an immediate comparison with David Crane's classic game A Boy And His Blob.  Both feature a child running around with a marshmallowy friend that can be transformed into various tools and utensils in order to solve puzzles, and fight enemies.  Or at least I assume that's the case because I have to admit that that I never actually played ABaHB.  Mostly because I did not own an NES until a few years ago, and even since then I've barely touched my backlog for it (for some reason all my retro gaming time has been locked down by some other system).

Brock, they also remade ABaHB for Wii you stupid idiot

...and I never owned a Wii.  Mostly because I never had any interest in owning a thousand pieces of shovelware.  I have enough of that in my SNES collection.  Anyways, I know the game is something of a cult classic, and served as some sort of inspiration to this game.  And I can only hope ABaHB is much better than Casper...

The game starts you out in a spooky mansion of sorts, with a soundtrack fit for the Luigi's Mansion series.  Now, I haven't seen the source material since it was in originally in theaters, but presumably this was once the home of the eponymous ghost, before he was brutally murdered and buried in the cellar.  Then of course when the new owners arrive he devises a plan to trick their young daughter, played by Christina Ricci, into exhuming his corpse so that he can be made flesh once again.

I'll have to remind you once again that I haven't seen the movie in decades, but I'm fairly confident I'm thinking of the right film here. 

In order to do all of that you'll need to use Casper to guide and protect Ms. Ricci through the various rooms of the (gigantic) house, destroying or avoiding flying books, balls, and axes, cushioning her falls after she drops from large holes in the floor, teleporting her through magic mirrors, defeating your evil ghostly brothers, and so forth.  How do you do all of these things?  Transforming into the various objects that you find floating in the air throughout the mansion.  Casper also has the ability to go spectral in order to avoid damage or scout out ahead, though this rapidly drains his health.

So the idea is to work your way through the museum, earning new transformations, which will allow you to access new areas and defeat new enemies, which then allows you to earn new transformations and access new areas and defeat new enemies.  If this sounds like a Metroidvania, you're not completely wrong.  But that would be doing disrespect to Metroidvanias.  You see, after my second long session with the game, I remember sitting back and trying to process how I felt about the game.  I knew it wasn't all that great, but I didn't hate it.  And I didn't really want to play it again.  But that resignation actually kind of disappointed me, and I couldn't really understand why.  So I slotted the game in a temporary rank, and figured I'd worry about it later.

Well, later eventually happened, and I had to figure out what I was gonna do with it.  So I played it again.  And again I didn't have a great time.  Only this time I realized why exactly that was...

I love the ideas in this game.  I love that you're navigating a large mansion, with large map that slowly fills in, slowly trying to work your way to the exit.  I also love that it's nonlinear, or at least that it presents the illusion of being nonlinear.  I love that it's dependent on puzzle solving.  I love that it's a licensed movie game that tried to do something different, instead of just being another copout platormer.  And I love that the map stretches quite a ways down into the Earth, which leads me to believe that your travels eventually take you to Hell, where you will battle Satan himself in the hopes that Casper can snatch his throne.  Ok, maybe that last part is a bit unlikely, but dammit that would be the coolest.

But the unfortunate reality is that the game is no fun to play.  The graphics suck, the animation sucks, the controls suck, the hit detection sucks, the boss fights are a mess, the respawning enemies are maddening, there are no saves, the game is too long for a single sitting, and there is never any indication as to where to go or what to do.  At one point I spent at least thirty minutes fighting a single enemy, unsure if I was having any effect, or if I was even in the correct area, because I couldn't even tell if I was hitting him.  Eventually I figured out that you could go in another direction, and that you get points for hitting an enemy (often the only indication you're doing just that), but not before I had already become majorly frustrated.

Now is the ABaHB formula a good, or fun one?  I don't know.  I think it has a lot of potential to be fun.  I just know said potential was not met with Casper.  And once again I don't want to say this is a bad game, or maybe I just respect what this game wanted to be.  But the end product is a pretty massive disappointment.  So chalk this up as another ambitious fiasco.

Did I beat it?
No.  But I don't own the cart (yet) and I sure as hell couldn't play this long enough on a keyboard.



479 - NHL Stanley Cup



Oh NHL Stanley Cup, how I have wrestled with you over the last year.  First I had you ranked in the high 500s.  Then it was the low 500s.  Then it was the high 400s.  Then I threw you back in the the high 500s.  Eventually I gave up and dropped you smack dab in the middle of all of it, and I haven't moved you since.  Am I finally ready to render a verdict?  Can I stop rewriting this review because I can't make up my mind as to whether I think you're a well-done game that I don't want to play, an okay game that slowly grew on me, or a mediocre game that was blasé from start to finish and that I've done nothing but overthink this from the beginning?

Well, I don't know the answer to that question.  But it doesn't matter.  I'm happy with this rank, I'm at peace with it, and it's time to commit.  NHLSC will be #479, ahead of most hockey games, but still squarely in the rear middle of the library.  It's an okay game that true hockey fans will enjoy more than I did, but will never be a game that anyone thinks of as one of Nintendo's finer moments.  It's the sort of middle ground I can live with.

As you can probably tell from the screenshots, NHLSC shares the same engine as Nintendo's token basketball game on the system, NCAA Basketball.  Both games are very unique in that they offer an early Mode 7 sort of thing that may have been technically impressive at the time, but comes off kind of jarring nowadays.  That means the camera always follows behind the shoulder of whatever character has the puck, rotating along with them.  It was very ambitious and ahead of its time, but the final result is just not at the level of what you usually would expect from a first party title.  Then again, Nintendo obviously struggled with their sports games back in the day when you look at their total output on the NES and SNES.

I think part of the problem is that the janky animation, constant scaling of players, and rotation of the camera creates an effect that reminds me of something like Beavis & Butthead or Dr. Katz, where everything is "squirming."  Remember that?



That's what this game reminds me of.  Some people may find that charming, but I find it incredibly distracting and offputting.

Graphics aside, the game actually plays pretty decently.  Controls are solid, recreating the sensation of slippery ice skates without the game feeling too slippery, as I've mentioned in other hockey game writeups.  And the overall pace of play is significantly improved over NCAAB.  I'm not sure if this was the latter game and they learned a few lessons from the mistakes made with the former one, or if this engine was just a better fit for hockey, but everything feels significantly better this time around.

Scoring does still seem especially hard though, a common problem with me and hockey games.  Even when I get a pass off to a teammate who's "behind" the goalie, most of the time my player shoots it right into his back/side.  I can only assume I'm doing something wrong or overlooking some mechanic, but hell if I can figure out what it is.  Is that the game's fault, or my fault for being a hockey neophyte?  I don't know, so I called it 50/50 and moved on.

A few other random thoughts rolling around in my head:

- I have no idea what pops up on the screen during face offs.  "Line 1", "Line 2", and "Line 3?"  Huh?  I'm sure this is common knowledge to people who follow hockey but I have no idea what any of that means.  Maybe some sort of alignment strategy?
- While NCAAB had you playing in an empty blue hellscape, NHLSC has what I can only call the least convincing audience graphic I have ever seen in my life.
- The game is obviously fully licensed, which off the top of my head can only be said for this game and the NHL series.  That's good company to keep.

So... final thoughts?  Pretty much what I've said with every other hockey game, just a little more positive this time out.  I'll most likely never play it again, and I will be happy to have this review finished, but will have to admit that the game must have grown on me in some capacity.  I did move it up over a hundred spots, so that has to tell me something, even if I had a hard time admitting it to myself.

Did I beat it?
No, though to be honest I never really tried.  I kept moving it around in the rankings so much that I kept putting off any serious attempt at completing it.  And then by the time that opportunity came around I was feeling a little burnt out on sports titles.  I mean, I'm always burnt out on them, but the feeling was especially strong at this point.



478 - MLBPA Baseball

  

The history of EA baseball games is one of many failures, false starts, rebirths, and finally, cataclysmic deaths.  Much like with what happened to earlier titles in their basketball line, loosely known as the "Versus" series, EA recognized when they had something that wasn't good enough, and that it needed to be blown up.  These redos resulted in the creation of the sublime NBA Live and MVP Baseball series, commonly thought of as some of the greatest sports sims ever created.  They both took something which did not work, scrapped it entirely, and went in a completely opposite direction.  It was the sort of bold move that EA would never make nowadays.

Unfortunately for baseball, we never got to see that transformation happen on the Super Nintendo - it happened much later on.  So the sole game Electronic Arts saw fit to grace us with was MLBPA Baseball, a game which represents nothing but missed opportunities, both within this game, and with EA in general.  Which means the biggest sports powerhouse publisher the medium has ever seen, with some of the best sports offerings of the 1990s, never got around to making something for the SNES that was fit to stand alongside the likes of NHL '94 and NBA Live 95.  Instead leaving us with an uneven, poorly implemented misfit of a game.

Now I will at least give the game some props for having some great graphics and a great presentation.  You can tell it's a typical high budget (for the time) EA sports title because it just looks like a lot of time and money was spent on it.  And of course they got the real players to appear, which was something of a rarity for the sport at the time.  I always appreciate that.

Pitching is also simplified, but fun.  It's yet another take on the ol' black box Baseball formula, which has been common with the baseball games I've covered so far.  It's pretty typical "use the D-Pad to determine pitch speed, curve and aim" stuff, but it works pretty well here.  Don't fix what ain't broke, I guess?  I prefer when games let you select pitch types, as that usually gives you more options for changing things up, but what they have here is not a bad alternative.

But the problems here... they're just too prevalent to give the game anything resembling a positive review.

Mostly, I really hate the transition from the bat making contact with the ball to playing defense with your infielders.  It is way too jarring, making it really hard to get the out.  Hell, I bet I make the play less than 10% of the time.  You just don't have the time to figure out which player you have control over, and make a move before the ball is already past.  Which means you almost have to rely on getting strikeouts if you hope to escape most innings unscathed.

The next biggest issue is that changeups are way too hard to read.  This is kind of a tricky thing to accomodate in games that aren't truly 3D, as it would be really hard to scale a tiny ball in any real noticeable way, but the game still handled it very poorly.  You see, the change will often drop into the dirt several feet in front of the plate and it's completely indistinguishable from one that was going to continue across for a strike.  So you pretty much have to stay away from changeups entirely, which is super dumb because that is a pretty high percentage of the pitches coming from the AI.  So good luck with mustering much in the way of offense.

Finally, the little things that always seem to drag sports games down are in plentiful supply here.  Baserunning, for example, is handled very poorly, which again is pretty common with these games.  It's also not uncommon to see baserunners thrown out on what should have been singles to the outfield, or beat out infield singles that have absolutely no business being anything other than an easy out.  The AI's fielding is also way too lethal, really putting a squeeze on your bats and forcing you to rely on small ball.  It all just contributes to a feeling like the game was never properly balanced, and that the odds are stacked against you.  I mean, I can usually figure out effective strategies in sports games if I put enough hours in.  And if I can't, I can figure out an exploit to do the job for me.  I couldn't do either here, despite the number of hours I sank into this game, unable to win a single series against the AI.

I think EA was aware of all these things too, because they tried to start over a couple years later in the 32-bit era.  The franchise was rebranded as Triple Play Baseball, with new hopes that they'd produce something fit to stand alongside their other flagship series.

And they fucked it up again.  I don't remember a single TPB game getting praiseworthy reviews, and those things saw annual releases on every system under the sun.  Everyone pretty much wrote EA baseball off forever at that point.

Enter MVP Baseball.  Much like with how they revitalized basketball games nearly a decade earlier, EA injected life back into a stagnant genre with the greatest games it has ever seen.  Finally, EA baseball was fun, with sublime pitching, batting, production values, graphics, options, and configurations.  Hell, even the soundtracks were fun.  Literally every single part of that franchise was a knockout.

And then that was killed too, this time permanently.  MVPB was a victim of greedy power plays, depriving the video game world of one of the best sport franchies of all time, in the middle of its prime.  So while I'm not the hugest fan of the series's very humble origins way back in the Super Nintendo's day, I am at least happy to know what great things it led to.  Even if it was short lived.

Did I beat it?
No.  I've tried and I've tried, and I can't do it.



477 - Primal Rage



I'm really laying the fighting games on thick in this installment, aren't I?  You can blame me for having a bias against the genre, or for being too stupid to understand the subtleties that make them such great competitive outlets, but the simple truth is most of them kind of suck balls.  I guess it's hard to stand the test of time when you're trying to cash in on Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II's success, and all you can bring to the the table is some dumb gimmick.  Which is the case for at least 90% of them.

The gimmick this time out is that the roster is made up of a bunch of dinosaurs!  And prehistorik ape mans, I guess. [I think you mean "men" - editor] [I like "mans" - Brock] [Yeah, we know - editor]  It's a pretty dumb gimmick in my opinion, because it leaves you with a boring roster.  None of these "things" have anything resembling personality or much in the way of charm.  Was anyone really looking at the character select and thinking "I can play as a raptor!  Or this...uh, raptor...ish... thing...!"  In fact this may be my pick for the sorriest lineup on the system, and that includes the garbage piles that are the Power Moves and Street Combat rosters.  Seriously, they could have at least, I dunno... made the T-Rex to scale.  Or added a giant sloth or something.  Instead you get two apes and a bunch of samey dinosaurs, probably trying to cash in on the Jurassic Park craze.  Bor-ing.

How's the actual fighting action?  Pretty typical I guess.  You kick, punch, throw, yadda yadda yadda.  I feel like I always use that phrase in these reviews but it's just too fitting for how samey they all are.  Though at least the controls are fairly tight, and there doesn't appear to be too much cheap-ass bullshit going on.  That always drives me nuts; cheating AIs, or lame-ass combos that stun and force you to take massive damage.  And this game does have both of those things, but at least in a gradually ramping up sort of way. 

The game does have one great idea, which is a "stun meter" of sorts.  By that I mean, there is a gauge that empties as you take hits or block, and once it is completely dry you are dazed and have to mash buttons to fill it back up and recover.  Did I explain that very well?  I just know that every fighting game should have something like this.  Bravo Primal Rage.  Bravo.

So what else is there to say?  It's a middle of the pack game in a genre I detest, with a dumb stupid cast, that manages to get the fundamentals right, yet fails to offer much of anything else that is exciting or different.  Just like so many of its brethren.  Hence this fighting game-tastic installment of my project.

Oh, and I need to mention that one of the characters is named Sauron.  Which made me realize that the one possible fighting game I could ever get behind would be a Lord of the Rings brawler.  And it would still probably suck ass, but I'd eat it up anyways because I'm a sucker for all things LotR.

...well, except for that horrendous LotR SNES RPG.  That was the worst.  Like, literally the worst... So maybe I wouldn't be down with a fighter after all.  In fact I probably wouldn't be, so nevermind.

[just wanted to mention that there are a bunch of unlicensed LOTR fighting games - editor]

Did I beat it?
Yes, as per usual I cheesed my way to victory a couple different times through.



476 - Super Alfred Chicken



Super Alfred Chicken, the sequel (or maybe port?) no one asked for, to the original NES game that no one asked for.  Who is this chicken and why is he popping balloons and murdering legions of snails and egg mans?  I have no idea.  But let's just jump into it.

The gameplay in SAC is, like always, super standard platformer hoppity boppity stuff.  Run, jump, attack, commit snail genocide, find the exit, look for secrets, yadda yadda yadda.  I've already described this exact experience like fifty times, and you've already played games like this a million times, so I really don't feel the need to elaborate much more than that.  Moving on.

...oh wait.  I'll quickly mention that instead of a normal attack such as jumping on enemies, or shooting them or whatever, you actually have to "dive bomb" them.  Presumably so you can tear into them at mach ten with that razor sharp beak of Alfred's.  Did I mention how much mass murder is committed in this game?  Like, I realize every platformer has you declaring war against the mice or crows of the world, but this one really wants a bunch of harmless looking animals dead. 

I digress.  That attack though?  Egad, what a piece of shit it is.  It's kind of like in Aero the Acrobat where you need to jump up and then slam yourself face first into your foe.  Except here you need to do it from straight up above them, kind of like a Mario/Donkey Kong butt slam or something.  It's pretty unreliable and finicky to use (by design I think), requiring you to be more accurate than I think the game's controls are capable of being, which in general had me avoiding combat at all costs if I could help it.

The graphics are also pretty underwhelming.  In fact I'd say they're pretty bad.  Port-of-an-NES game bad.  Which again is what this game might be, I don't know. You'd think I'd google it, but I didn't.  Anyways I digress again.  The music is even worse than the graphics, somehow, and will have you reaching for the mute button almost instantly.  And I don't even usually make it a point to mention the music in most of my reviews because I don't really care.  I guess because most of the time it is too unmemorable or blasé to really register in my brain, or factor into what I think about the game.  But that's not the case here - it's dumb, it annoys me, and it does take away from the game.  Believe me, play it on mute.

The controls are actually pretty decent though, beak slam aside, thank god.  Alfred is a little bit... umm, floaty, is the word I'm gonna go with, but it seems to be by design (he is a bird after all) and it actually works surprisingly well once you adjust to it.  Maybe because a lot of the stages are rather vertical by design, so you need to be able to jump high, or float down slowly, and fit into various nooks and crannies.  I dunno, that's the best way I can explain - the controls feel a bit off, but they work well once you know what you're doing.  Let's go with that. 

What other fuckery can I talk about...  oh, there is this really stupid thing where the timer, which every level has, does not reset when you die.  Dying does however send you back to a checkpoint.  If you cannot see where I'm going with this, just know that later in the game a single death can really fuck your efforts up if you do it at the wrong time or place.

Thankfully, that is partially offset by the game including passwords.  I am so sick of these types of games not having passwords, that I'm giving everything a massive boost from this point forward when they do have them.  Well, that's a lie, I've always done that.  But I'm calling it out here, because I had to use the shit out of it, because this game gets hard, and you are gonna rely on them if you want to see the end.  Which I didn't, but only because I went on vacation and then got distracted by fishing games when we got back.  Or at least that's the excuse I'm going with.  Which is hilarious, and ironic, because I spent way too much of that vacation fearing having to play those fishing games.  What was I talking about again?  Man, forgive this rambling ass review; this is what happens when you write at 1am and you've had like four different IPAs.  I bet I the final version of this has like fifty different edits made to it.

So yeah... let's wrap this up because I'm all over the place. Overall it's a slightly okayish game, that seems to somehow be better than the sum of its parts.  I don't know why that is, I just know that I don't have a ton of great things to say about it, yet I kept returning to it trying to defeat it.

Did I beat it?
I did not.  I have a password sitting here, ready to let me rectify that, but I need to be writing not playing, so I won't.  Which is ironic: I write about beating games, but then I don't beat the games because I need to write about them...

Okay, I'm wrapping up now and putting this review out of its misery.


Edited: 03/17/2019 at 03:54 PM by Brock Landers

Feb 06 at 1:38:52 AM
Brock Landers (55)
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475 - Super Aquatic Games



Super Aquatic Games is yet another one of those track-and-field style compilations that people just loved to make back in the day.  This time the game in question is a spin-off of the Super James Pond series and I don't know which is more nonsensical - that Mr. Pond was popular enough to garner spin-offs, or the events in his game...

As usual I will briefly explain each of the events:

100 Meter Splash - Your basic sprinting event, this one plays exactly like every one you've ever played before: mash A and B as fast as you possibly can.  You can also jump, for some reason, but you're better off avoiding it.  Luckily this one is a lot more forgiving than the similar events in Olympic Summer Games.

Leap Frog - It's the same as sprinting, except now you actually have a reason to use that jump button - to hurdle over electric fences (?) and puddles.  It's trickier overall than the sprinting, but still reasonably balanced and, again, much more fun than the similar stuff offered in OSG.

Feeding Time - So here is where things start to get weird.  Super weird.  In this event you are a starfish who feeds chum to fishes, in order to prevent them from being hooked by what I assume is a gang of fishermen.  Or a crane game gone astray - it's hard to tell.  Either way, this one had promise, and I can always get behind a goofy idea, but it just isn't really that fun.  Mostly because it's too easy and too repetitive, especially for how long it seems to go on, which is a shame because with a little more tweaking this could have been a winner.

The Bouncy Castle - Okay, this is our first dud and it drives me totally nuts.  The best way I can explain it is you need to "bounce" between two mattresses, and do specific tricks while you're in mid-air.  The faster you can do six of every type of trick, the better your time.  It doesn't work because it seems overly fiddly to me, and one wrong move can often spell your doom.  There must also be some mechanics to it that I never figured out because reaching the "best" mark seems completely impossible.

Kipper Watching - Another bizarre entry, and another offering that should have been a lot better than it was.  This game has you juggling balls in order to prevent any of them from hitting and waking up some sleeping seals.  Don't try to understand any of what I just wrote either.  This one fails because it is either frustratingly hard, or boringly easy if you figure out how to cheese it.  With a slightly fairer pace of play, and tighter controls this one could have also been a winner.

Shell Shooting - Another very strange one that I will do my best to make sense of for you all.  In short, you need to pop balloons by throwing insects at them after knocking said insects over, and then catching them in a bowl.  Yeah, I know, I said I'd try my best.  This is one is actually rather fun, but can get very, very frustrating.  Getting the insects to flip over can be very finicky, and catching them can be a maddening affair as shit constantly interferes with you.  Still, it's probably my pick for the best of the bunch.

Tour de Grass - Another sprinting event, except this one goes one longer, and has more varied terrain.  There's also powerups to gather for points... but I have no idea why you would want these or care about points.

Relay race - A combination of the three sprinting events, with some other stuff thrown in for good measure, this is the finale of the main game, and mostly a test of memorization and stamina.  For those same reasons I think this is the best sprinting event since it isn't purely about twitch muscles.

As is usual with these kinds of games, it's a bit of a clusterfuck of a hodgepodge of crazy and unbalanced shit going on.  Yet, somehow it kinda sorta works this time out.  I don't know why.  Maybe because everything about it is so ridiculous.  Maybe because once things start to make sense it's easy to get into a groove and start working on getting better.  Maybe because some of the games are legitimately fun.  Whatever the case, this is easily the best the genre has offered to this point.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a number of times.  Way too many times now that I think about it...



474 - Cyber Spin



Cyber Spin is an early gen game that represents a subgenre I like to call the "overhead RC racer."  I don't know what kickstarted this type of game, but I'm gonna guess it was the Micro Machines series that originated on... I dunno, probably the Amiga.  I know it saw some releases on the NES and SNES, but it just seems like the work of the Amiga.  Who knows, I'm probably way off.  Anyways, an earlier entry in my writings, Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge, represented the first (and worst) of these games, and CS represents the second (and second-worst).  Which isn't to say CS is a bad game, but it is a botched attempt at a Micro Machines-like experience... that nonetheless steadily grew on me, despite itself, and was probably a fun experience overall.  In small chunks.  If you set your expectations low enough.

I guess it should go without saying that memorization rules the day with these types of games.  It kind of has to be when you can't see what the hell is coming up because of the cramped view.  Is that a bad thing?  I kind of want to say it is, even if such design appears deliberate.  Maybe because I don't want to memorize things - I like reacting, letting pure skill and honed instincts take over [no comment - editor].  Not mentally taking note of which order to take which turns over and over again.  So this isn't really my type of game, and I'm not huge on racers in the first place, which places CS at a pretty severe disadvantage.

But let's talk about the good for a second.  And this game does have some good things going for it.  For one, I love the sensation of speed here.  The framerate is awesome, the animation is lovely, and when you're laying on the turbo, you really do feel like you're piloting a car that is pushing the limit and on the verge of crashing (or in my case, inevitably crashing).  It makes games like this feel fun, because plodding racers suck.  You don't play a game like this to move around at a snail's pace, something that crippled titles like Al Unser and ESPN Speed World.  No, you play for speed.

Secondly, the controls are perfect, and extremely responsive.  When racing games are demanding, which they usually are, sloppily-implemented controls will spell disaster.  Hell, it makes stuff like Kawasaki Superbike Challenge nearly unplayable.  But what we have here is good - everything just feels "right" - from the turning, braking, and turbo, to the way you jostle with other cars and try to recover before spilling it out.  It just all works.

The game is also legitimately fun when you're cruising along and doing well.  Of course I am almost never doing well, so it's a very fleeting feeling.  And the inevitable crashes make things all the more frustrating because they take that feeling away.  But I'm giving the game some credit here anyways.

Those crashes though... man are they frequent.  Really, really frequent, because this game is unforgiving as hell.  It's probably one of the five hardest racers on the system.  And memorization, like I said, is the only way you'll stand a chance.  Though, I should mention that the game does have turn indicators, and those select individuals with superhuman reflexes might be able to brute force their way through the game.  But it's just so unforgiving, with a single wreck often ruining your entire race, that most players are gonna have to resort to memorizing the rough order of the turns if they hope to get through unscathed.  Especially with how sadistic the other racers and the lines they take are.  They don't give a fuck, they're driving through you if necessary.

Still, Cyber Spin is a game I enjoy.  It's also a game that is too hard for me to enjoy for long, and I wish I was better at it so I could play it more, but it is what it is.  I'll never see the end of most racers, kind of like how I'll never be any good at fighting games, both of which I have accepted long ago.  It's just the way my brain works I guess.  But I'm still gonna keep trying with this game.  And I'll probably still keep giving up almost immediately.

Update:
I guess I was feeling a little bored, because I did a little research into this title on a whim, and discovered that it is actually a neutered version of a Japanese game that was based on an anime, with a fully fleshed out storyline and characters and everything.  Why did Sakura take out everything that would have given the game something of an identity in the crowded American gaming scene?  Who knows.  There were obviously a lot of very low opinions of the American market back then.  Undeservedly so in my opinion, but that's a debate for another day.

Did I beat it?
No.  Spoiler alert, I've beat very few of these "RC" games.  Despite my best efforts.



473 - Mortal Kombat



This damn game was the bane of my childhood.  Mostly because it seemed like every kid in the land bought Mortal Kombat on release and played it relentlessly, including all of my friends.  So sleepovers and birthdays turned into MK marathons, instead of anything else marathons.  Mortal Monday?  More like... umm... Kort-all... Fort-all... Tort-all...  Fuck it, I can't come up with a single dumb pun.  This game continues to screw me over to this day.

Hell, even The Simpsons realized the game was all shock value and no staying power in the episode with Bonestorm.  Remember that one? 



And the ball-in-a-cup gag at the end?  Truer words have never been spoken about MK than at that moment near the end of the episode.  I mean, not that they were literally talking about MK.  And I guess it was more of a visual gag than a spoken one...  Fuck it, you know what I mean. [strike two - editor]

Anyways, I think we all know the story with this game, so I probably don't need to rehash it in too much detail.  But, basically: Mega-popular arcade game gets ultra-hyped console releases, one with blood, and one without.  Kids soon started feuding over this because we were simple folk back then and thought that a trivial detail in a mediocre title would determine the winner of a console war or something.  Not that it ended up mattering because the game still sold in bunches for every system it launched on.  Mortal Kombat II then brought the blood back, everyone rejoiced, and was then eventually followed by another billion sequels, spin-offs, movies, and hit songs. A couple years later the cash cow ran dry, fighting games died out for the most part, I rejoiced, and so forth.  For a slightly more lucid and detailed history of things, feel free to google it.

The gameplay itself is pretty standard fighting game stuff, but with the twin gimmicks of low res, highly compressed, and highly dated digitized images used for all of the characters, and the over-the-top amounts of blood and violence.  Well, except for the blood part.  And I really do think that's the perfect word to describe MK's legacy: Gimmick.  Man I've been using that word a lot in this volume but it's just too fitting.  Because I think MK was always a far inferior fighting engine to the likes of Street Fighter II, and that it only gained notoriety thanks to those Senate hearings, and people having their faces melted off.  Not that I blamed people for initially embracing such things - I'm a huge fan of fake gore myself, so I totally get the appeal.  I just don't want to have to actually play it.

Now I guess one other thing that I do have to mention - something I must have never realized when I was younger because I never bothered to play the single player, because why would I? - is how insanely frustrating the AI is in this game.  Or at least it's frustrating to me, because the MK games always get cleared rather quickly in that other series of SNES threads I manage (the ones where we try to beat a bunch of games), so most people must not have the same issues with the difficulty that I do.  But I swear it is a struggle to beat any of the opponents on the default difficulty.  It's even possible that I've never beat a single one of them.  In fact I wouldn't bet against that.

So... yeah, I figure this is probably gonna be my most controversial ranking so far.  Aside from those damned WWF games.  And like with those games, I think a lot of people out there still have a lot of nostalgia for this guy.  I just don't think nostalgia should be enough to call any game good, and I doubt anyone who's actually played this recently would disagree with me.  In fact I think they'd be forced to admit that this series, or at least this game, is not as good as they remember it being, and that it has aged fairly poorly.  I'd also say that's total horseshit, and that it was never that good of a game in the first place, but I'll take whatever I can get.  The little kid me would feel vindicated.  Or at least he would feel like a smug prick, still bitter that he didn't get to play more Total Carnage at his friend's birthday party because everyone wanted to play this instead.

Did I beat it?
No.  I know I suck at fighting games, but good fucking god this game.



472 - Bubsy: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind



When I was growing up (I want to say preschool age) one of my dad's best friends bought a house right down the street from us.  I even remember our first visit to check out his new digs.  How do I remember that?  Because that is my oldest recollection of video games, and specifically of the Nintendo Entertainment System. You see his first daughter, who was quite a bit older than me, had an NES along with the first two Super Mario Bros. games and Duck Hunt, and I was instantly smitten.  Not with DH or the zapper, mind you, but with the squatty plumber brothers.  Something about that mysterious world of turtles and mushrooms and pipes was like a siren call to me, something that still persists to this day.  It was my first, and possibly greatest, video game obsession, and I have been obsessed with many, many games over the years.

And I know exactly why that was: I never got to play it.  Ever.  Or any games for that matter.  It was just something that would tease me as I watched other people play it.  I even asked for my own NES on every one of my birthdays and for every Christmas and I never got it.  Not that I can fault my parents for it; they were in their mid-20s, divorced, my mom was going back to school, and they were both into more outdoorsy activities and saw video games as a waste of time.  Plus I don't know what a toaster would cost nowadays if you adjusted for inflation, but it would probably be a small fortune. 

Over the years Mario would continue to taunt me, whether that was noticing a dusty console underneath the television of various houses we visited, or my friends, telling me tall tales about various levels in the schoolyard.  Eventually the talk died down, presumably because everyone had moved onto different games, or just ran out of SMB-related stuff to talk about it.  But it never left my mind.  In fact I couldn't understand why these people weren't playing Super Mario Bros every chance they got.  I knew I would if I could just get my hands on it.

Anyways, years later I was lucky enough to get my original (and still in use) Super Nintendo for Christmas and it was one of the happiest days of my childhood.  I finally had games to call my own and I could finally actually play them, instead of just having to be a spectator at other peoples' houses.  And I played the hell out of it.  And I obviously still do, 25 years later.

Now, what the hell does any of this have to do with Bubsy?  Well I'm getting there.  You see, our neighbors who bought the house down the street also got a Super Nintendo around the same time as us.  And they got games for it.  Games that they would let me borrow, for as long as I wanted, whenever I wanted.  That may not seem like the biggest thing to any of you kids these days, but trust me, it was everything back then.  Nowadays people love to bitch about this game or that costing $60 at launch, or about retro games in general commanding a premium, when in reality we live in a freaking golden era of cheap video games.  $60?  That's what we were paying thirty years ago for a thirty minute platformer, and we didn't have Metacritic or early access, or any of today's helpful amenities to help weed the crap out.  We just had terribly-written game magazines with blurry pictures and video store rentals to help guide our hand.  Which means we made lots of poor choices, which we would then be stuck with.

So I guess what I'm saying is, when you were getting one video game a year, and you were limited to one rental every couple months or so, you would snatch up anything else you could get your hands on.  So when I found out that our neighbors were willing to lend me their games, take them I did.  All of them.  Donkey Kong Country 2, Stunt Race FX, Kirby's Dream Course, Yoshi's Island, War of the Gems, all of it.  And Bubsy.  I'll never forget the Bubster.

I don't remember if I was was previously aware of Accolade's infamous property at that time (I probably was - I looked through every magazine I could get my hands on during trips to the grocery store), but I know I dove into it right away.  It had everything a kid could want: big colorful levels, a goofy, talking 'tuded-out animal hero, crazy amounts of secrets to find, and a big long, hard quest to conquer.  And conquer it I did.  Multiple times.  Like, a crazy number of playthroughs that only kids who got one new game a year would willingly put up with.

Now, even back in the day I considered myself a pretty "aware" little kid.  I knew what games were good, and which ones weren't.  I was the one renting Contra III and The Legend of the Mystical Ninja when my friends were opting for Brutal Paws of Fury and Troy Aikman NFL Football.  I was the one buying used copies of A Link to the Past and Secret of Mana with my hard-earned money while they were getting Bulls vs Blazers and Home Alone 2.  I knew my shit.  And when you were stuck with a shit game?  You play it anyways.  See, I figured out that Bubsy was bad.  I knew it right away.  I knew the design was bullshit, I knew the controls and mechanics made no sense, and I knew it was gonna be a long road of memorization and trial-and-error.  And I did it anyways.  Because I was playing a video game and I loved playing video games.

So when I returned to the game a few years ago, I played through it again.  Not because I expected time to have been kind to it, or because I expected to discover I had new feelings for it, but because I wanted to see it all again for old time's sake.  Well, that and I was beating like every SNES game under the sun.   So I played through the entire thing.  And it was exactly as flawed, and ridiculous, and derivative as I remembered it to be.

Still, I'd be lying if I said those old memories with Bubsy were anything other than fond.  And not to be overbearingly cheesy or sappy or cringe, but when I retired the cartridge after finishing this writeup, something I do with most of the games that I plan on never playing again, I have to admit I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend.

Did I beat it?
See the story.



471 - Metal Morph



Metal Morph, the cinematic action game.  Or at least that's the name I'm giving it because of its plethora of cutscenes and the "Dolby audio thing" it does at the beginning.  Not that it's really that cinematic though, I just don't know what the hell else to call this game.

I'm not really sure what the storyline is about, probably because I couldn't be bothered to pay attention, but you're some metally morphing dude, and you are traveling from planet to planet gathering parts of your ship.  How are you using your ship to get the missing parts of your ship?  I don't know, don't think about it too hard.

The game offers two different types of levels: action platformer when you're on each planet's surface, and a behind-the-ship shmup of sorts when you're travelling through space, that most closely resembles something like HyperZone.  Only HZ is way better.

The platforming stages task you with seeking out your various ship doohickeys, and then making your way back to the beginning of the stage where your ship awaits.  Though really you just take a warp back.  So I guess the only thing you're doing is trying to find an object, and then moving on.  *cough*   Yeah, ambitious these levels ain't.  I mean, along the way you will need to solve some light "puzzles" (in the loosest sense of the word) and blow away a bunch of brainless robots and cyborgs, but that's about it.  Later ones add in some meaner enemies and confusing level foregrounds, but none of them play especially different from one another.

I should also mention that the graphics in these levels are not so hot.  I don't know why, but everything about them reminds me of early Apogee games, and I don't mean that in a good way.  And the color palette is so dull and washed-out looking, that it just results in ugly, ugly levels.

On the other hand the controls are alright, doing their job for the most part.  I do wish they had used one of the buttons to lock you in place while you aim and shoot in any direction, instead of forcing you to hold down the fire button to do this, especially since ammo is limited.  But it's not a huge issue, and the ammo is not really that limited.

The balancing is also a bit wonky, until you adjust to how the game works.  The limited viewing distance, fast moving shots, and one hit kills all mean trying to tackle this like a normal game is a recipe for frustration and you're not gonna get anywhere.  Luckily most enemies can be pretty easily cheesed once you realize how truly stupid they all are.  Yes, relying on exploits like that often removes a lot of the satisfaction from playing an action game, but you're not gonna get anywhere if you don't do it.

Also, you know how movies love to feature the "Scream?"  Because I swear the scream in MM is one I have heard a number of times elsewhere.  I can't exactly place it (it's very similar to the one in Wolfenstein 3D), but I know I've heard it.  What's even more hilarious is that every character in the game uses it when they die, including yourself, and the enemy (female) Medusa enemies.

I guess the only truly unique idea the game brings to the table is an ability to "morph" into a pile of "metal", in order to pour yourself into tubes for quick transport or to squeeze into a tight space or to... actually that's it.  Those are pretty much the only uses for it.  You could try to use it to dodge enemies' shots, but trust me, that is a waste of time.  So the game's namesake is a bit of a throwaway in the context of a full playthrough.  They should have titled this game Cyborg Genocide, or Thinga-ma-bob Locator.

The shmup levels are also... ummm, not so hot.  Really I don't know what the hell they were thinking here.  Normally, games that use this style of perspective (such as HyperZone, Axelay, or Super Turrican 2) use the power of Mode 7 to try and give the action some depth and flashy graphical effects .  But FCI opted not to do much of anything whatsoever, so you usually just have a ship floating in empty space, and it looks like shit because of it.  Or at least that is what I first thought, because later on you'll find levels with a few fancy effects, where it seems like the developers were trying a little bit.  But it's still a pretty homely looking game for the most part.

These levels also control like shit.  Your ship's movement is way too fast and way too sensitive, making everything feel out of control at all times.  And the most common powerup you'll come across is, comically, a speed-up bonus.  Trust me when I say you need to avoid those things at all costs.

These sections also go on for way too long, especially for how simplistic the mechanics are, and because the best strategy is often to weave around like a madman, avoiding enemies and incoming fire.  Or at least you'll do that until the level's end where you're usually forced to destroy the final enemy (or group of enemies) for some reason before you're finally allowed to advance.  None of it is satisfying.

There's also an ability to "morph" your ship into earlier, less powerful forms.  But I have no idea why you would want to do that.  What possible use could there be to handicapping yourself like that?  It would be like turning off all of your upgrades in Super Metroid.  Why would you ever do that?

And that's all there really is to that part of the game, as the levels are all rather straightforward.  No difficulty spikes, no curve balls, no changes in enemy behavior, nothing.  I did make it to one boss a half a dozen levels in, but even that thing was rather underwhelming for the most part.

So why do I have this game in this relatively lofty spot?  Because I kind of like it.  I don't know why, I just do.  Maybe because it's kind of relaxing in some sense.  Maybe because I dig the music.  Maybe because it does remind me of those dumb Apogee games that I grew up with.  Even if I don't really want to play any of them ever again.

Did I beat it?
No.  Perhaps if the checkpoints (if that is what you want to call the pseudo-level select buried in the options menu) were a little more frequent and less spread apart, but I had to throw the towel in after a dozen attempts.



470 - Super Bowling



Intro... I need a bowling intro...  uhhhhhh, I don't know. Super Bowling is... ummm, well I guess we could talk about the chicken up there?  Like, *terrible Jerry Seinfeld impression* what is the deal, with the chicken calling the bowling game?  He doesn't have arms, he doesn't have vocal cords.  How exactly did the chicken get that job?  Were they looking a little lean at the temp agency that week and maybe figured "why not give the poultry a chance?"



*crickets*


[I'm out of here - editor]

Okay, I apologize for that.  Let's just dive into this dumb game..

Do you like bowling?  Do you like bowling alleys?  And beer?  Have you ever wished that instead of bowling at the bowling alley and drinking beer that you could instead push some buttons so that a game can bowl for you?  No?  Me neither.

I have to admit that I don't really like bowling in the first place, but I'll do it once every few years if it means hanging out with friends and getting a few pitchers.  We're all terrible at bowling, but we love laughing at each other and drinking so that works out well for us.  Bowling video games on the other hand, take a sport I have no interest in, and remove the hilarity of watching inebriated people trying to finesse a ball down an oily lane. 

Super Bowling offers a pretty barebones experience overall, with just two modes to pick from.  The first of these two modes is something called "Turkey."  I don't know why it's called that, but as far as I can tell it is just regular old bowling.  Ten frames, two throws per frame, strikes, spares, etc.  It's the sport you love/hate, turned into a pretty no-frills video game.

The other mode is called "Golf" and is exactly what you'd imagine a hybrid of bowling and golf would be: knocking down different configurations of pins in a set number of throws, or strokes.  And while I appreciate that the game tried to offer something else besides vanilla bowling, I can't say I ever had any fun with this mode.  In fact it seems rather pointless to me.  Like the sport of pool, it's enough of a challenge for me to play by the basic rules with anything resembling success.  Adding on more layers of complication does nothing for me, other than maybe get me frustrated faster.  Plus golf mode offers a measly ten "holes," which means the replay value is pretty slim unless you're playing with a couple other people.  And even then, I can't imagine playing it for more than a round or two.

Which, speaking of, is probably the game's best asset: up to four players can take part.  I'm not saying four people would want to spend much time playing this, but multi-tap compatible games on the system were surprisingly rare, so that has to count for something.

Of course there's also a number of wonky things that hold things up (it seems like there always is).  For instance the pin physics often seem pretty random, with no real pattern to which ones will fall most of the time.  And it is pretty easy to find shot setups that work too well, which can then be exploited over and over again.  Perhaps that's how the real sport is played by the pros, I don't really know.  But once you find your comfort zone for getting strikes, expect to do the same thing ad nauseum, which is not really that fun in practice.

Now if you are into bowling, and you are into bowling video games, and you like the idea of bowling golf, then knock yourself out here.  The presentation is done in a reasonably charming manner, the controls and interface are both solid, and the game is easily mastered, which means kids can have a good time.  But I was underwhelmed by the severe lack of content or depth to the title, and had my fill after going through the game a couple times.  Really, Super Bowling is just too easy to hold most people's attention for long.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I have bowled a couple 200+ rounds, which is good enough to get a congratulatory screen of sorts.



469 - Toy Story



Okay, so I think there are three running themes in this installment.  One, that the games can mostly be described as mediocre, or barely better than mediocre.  Two, there's a shit ton of fighters.  And three, that most of these games are way too hard for their own good.  That's the biggest one I think.  Really, I should have titled this "Volume VI - Games that should have been in the 300s but they fucked up their cursed difficulty."  And that's Toy Story in a nutshell; a game that is too hard for its own damned good.  Also I think that was the first time in 250+ reviews that I've used the word "cursed."  You see I'm trying to expand my range a little bit, and stop leaning on "fuck," "shit", and "ass" so much.  I'm obviously not doing very well with it so far.

In line with every other Disney adaptation that has ever existed, TS is a platformer that takes scenes from the movie and loosely molds them into levels.  For instance, you've got one where all the toys need to be picked up before Andy returns to the room.  There's another where you find yourself at Sid's house and need to escape from all of the monstrosities that he has created.  And there is even one where you're racing on top of Rex while planes, trains, and paratroopers all try to murder your ass.  Okay, so it's not 100% faithful to the movie, but they tried.

The platforming, which makes up the bulk of the game, is alright.  Everything looks really good, but the mechanics are a little loopy and could have used some tightening up.  For example, Woody's attacks are a bit too tricky to use and require some practice to become comfortable with.  And this issue is only compounded by a lack of clarity as to what background objects can or cannot be jumped onto or manipulated, which is always a major annoyance of mine.  There's also a pretty heavy reliance on his pull-string being used as a grappling hook of sorts, and it requires way too much precision for a kid's game, especially later in the game.  And finally, the characters are all way too big, restricting how much you can see.  Which means the game desperately needed, surprise suprise, a higher resolution.  I cannot wait until I can stop saying that (in about one and a half more volumes).

The second most prominent type of level is the racing/driving ones, which includes both overhead levels where you must guide the RC car (did it have a name?) through some maze-like areas while picking up batteries to stay charged, and a couple of side-scrolling levels where Woody is riding on either Rex or the RC car.  I can say without exception that every single one of these blows massive chunks of ass, and that most children would never get past a single one of them, much less all of them.  They are entirely too unforgiving, endlessly frustrating, and require pure memorization and twitch reflexes.

And that is just a part of the much larger problem, which is, like I mentioned before, that the game is absurdly long and difficult.  And of course it offers neither passwords nor a save system.  For a kid's game that is unforgivable, and I have no idea why that is such a reoccurring issue with the games put out by Disney Interactive.  Capcom obviously knew how to balance their games so that a child would find them challenging, but they'd still be fair.  And more importantly, still be fun.  DA clearly didn't have a clue and everything they did was either absurdly easy or absurdly difficult.  This game is basically the latter from start to finish.

Take the boss fights for example.  The first one is reasonable enough - it's a giant Buzz hologram/nightmare and with practice most kids should eventually be able to get past it.  It's not exactly a polished fight, but it least it's not an insurmountable obstacle.  Everything after that though?  Good freakin' luck.  If any kid was able to get past "The Claw", well... they were a prodigy.  And beating the game?  Forgetaboutit.

Though I will at least give the game some major props for trying to make most of the levels radically different from one another.  While most of them do feature Woody and would be called platformers, they actually stand apart rather well.  Some have an emphasis on puzzle solving, some on combat, some on evading traps and hazards, etc.  There's even one where you have to use Buzz as a weapon, one that relies on stealth, and another that takes the form of a first-person maze.  Yep, Toy Story is one of the handful of games on the Super Nintendo that offers a rudimentary FPS experience.  Granted it's pretty horrendous, and looks even worse than those fugly levels from Jurassic Park, but I'd be lying if I wasn't pleasantly surprised when I stumbled into it.

Anyways, for all of the game's faults, I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed most of my time with it.  In some sort of masochistic manner no doubt.  The game is so absurdly hard, and goes on way too long with a severe lack of lives and continues and no save system of any sort.  But I pressed on anyways.  I guess because I really wanted to beat it.  It didn't end up happening, but I'm glad I tried as much as I did.

Did I beat it?
No.  Because once again I suck balls this game is hard as shit.





468 - Spider-Man



One of the lesser-known Spidey titles on the Super Nintendo, the game released simply as Spider-Man (aka Spider-Man The Animated Series) is my pick for the black sheep of the bunch.  Well, that's not completely true; they're all black sheep in their own "special" ways.  So I guess this one is the extra black sheep.  A late LJN release that suffers from questionable design decisions, poor controls, and all sorts of other silliness.  All of which are thankfully offset to a degree by some great spritework, great music, and (at times) mildly enjoyable gameplay.  Hooray...

The game plays closer to something like Spider-Man X-Men Arcade's Revenge than it does the two beat-em-ups that guest-starred Venom and Carnage.  Though here you only get control of Mr. Parker, and the levels are not nearly as diverse as they were in the X-Men crossover.  Which isn't to say they don't have a wide range of themes, including a laboratory, the streets of New York, the docks, a funhouse, etc., but it does mean they all play pretty similarly for the most part.  In each one you'll beat up a bunch of armored thugs, climb some walls and ceilings, destroy some robots, try to find an elusive exit, and so forth.  Rinse and repeat a dozen times.  Sometimes you'll fight an end level boss, or even get a guest appearance from various supervillains that show up as minibosses of sorts (which is actually really cool), but for the most part the gameplay is pretty consistent throughout.

I do like Spidey's capabilities here, at least in theory, because they give you a lot to work with.  You can punch, kick, sling webs, use webs to swing across pits, climb walls, and even stick to ceilings.  The problem is a general unresponsiveness to everything you do, which can make actually doing any of those things a much bigger pain in the ass than it needs to be.  In fact, let's just call them finicky.  And there's a lot of little things too.  Like Spidey's refusal to use his kick attack if your jump isn't quite high enough.  Or how you need to be just squared up enough to successfully hop onto a platform, lest you slip down off of it as if it were greased or something.  Or how you will often need to come to a complete stop before you attempt any long jumps since Spidey really hates trying to jump from the edge of a platform while on the run.  And on and on like that.  Good games with sharply honed designs don't do these sorts of things, while Spider-Man has them in spades.

Also, why can I cling to some walls and ceilings, but not others?  Is there any method to the madness?  Because it seems completely random to me, which means progress often devolves into jumping into everything to see if it sticks, literally.  And why is jumping in and out of the foreground/background so finicky?  Notice that I keep using that word?  Because if there is one word to describe this game, it's "finicky."  Doing things is harder than it needs to be, and it takes away from the experience.

There's also an annoying lack of viewing distance, because instead of keeping you centered, the screen doesn't want to scroll until you're close to the edge, making anticipating attacks real fun.  This is yet another rookie mistake that I feel like competent development would have fixed, or designed around.

There's also lots of other annoying bits like instant death traps, and finicky (there it is again) hitboxes on most of your foes.  Enemies also have a nasty penchant for locking you into lethal combos, rapidly draining your health.  And some of the web-slinging you'll need to pull later in the game, especially in the dock area, is just downright sadistic.

Levels are also super annoying to navigate, as you're often moving in and out of the background, with paths often obscured or hidden behind pieces of scenery.  Platforms too are hidden behind objects, requiring trial and error to discover.  And the path forward is almost never clear, because you can never tell what objects can be stood upon, or clung to, or jumped through.  Again, trial and error, another phrase I keep using in this writeup.  I may as well of just gone with a review of "Spider-Man = Finicky trial and error."

In short, the game is a mess.  A typical LJN effort as it were.  And that's a shame too, because there are a lot of good ideas here, like boss fights that are creative and clever.  Granted they're also annoying and can go south frustratingly fast, but I'd still say they are well-done overall.  And those controls that I lambasted are still pretty well thought out (in theory), giving you lots of abilities and powers to work with.  And, once you know what you're doing, navigating through the levels can be fun.

Like most other Spider-Man games, this one is pretty difficult too.  Lives and continues are limited, traps are numerous, and the bosses take practice to master.  Luckily the game throws you a few bones, like for instance you immediately respawn when you die.  There's no reverting to checkpoints or the beginning of the level or anything.  Another very welcome mechanic for me.

Overall, I want to call this yet another ambitious fiasco, which is turning into a bit of a running theme with this installment.  The game is overflowing with good ideas, and the developers really wanted this to be a great Spider-Man game.  They just couldn't quite pull it off.

Also, I had to bump the game up at least a dozen spots or so, strictly because of the jeans-wearing snake goons.  Those guys are some hip mother fuckers...



Did I beat it?
No.  I don't have very good luck with Spidey games.



467 - Radical Psycho Machine Racing



Two things immediately come to mind every time I play Radical Psycho Machine Racing aka RPM Racing:

1.  I can't believe this is a Blizzard game.  It has to be the worst thing they've ever been involved with, and I'm including the ill-advised Nintendo 64 port of Starcraft in there.  Is this why they refused to release Warcraft Adventures or Starcraft Ghost?  Their previous experience with putting out a half-baked title?
2.  The sound and music are hideous.  Possibly the system's worst outside of Last Action Hero.  Is it any wonder that they followed this up with Rock n Roll Racing?  Almost as if they were compensating for something.

Anyways, RPMR is what I'm gonna call a "RC Pro-AM" game.  You know the type: controlling toy vehicles from an isometric overhead perspective, navigating windy turns and using various weapons to sabotage your opponents.  And why is that a genre?  Because everyone loved the original game.  It was a blast to play with friends, and represented one of the better racing efforts on the NES, and more than a few people tried to follow in its footsteps, including Blizzard.  And they may have tried their best to outshine RCPAM, but they failed in a number of ways... 

Firstly, the game is extremely repetitive.  How bad is it?  Take a look at a pic I snapped as I finished the game:



172 races?  Are you f'ing kidding me?  That's Gran Turismo levels of indulgence.  And I guarantee that no one who has ever played through this game got to the fifty race mark and thought "you know what, I really wish this would go on for another couple eternities."  And that is because...

90% of the courses feel exactly the same.  Exactly.  They all use the same palette of track colors (a green background), track features (pavement, ice, or sand), opponents (three cars and/or trucks that behave identically to one another) and race lengths (between one and three minutes).  It leads to an extreme case of fatigue for anyone who sticks with the game for more than even an hour.

Now they did at least try to keep things fresh by giving you a steady stream of upgrades and enhancements to work towards and purchase, but it barely helps.  The enemy vehicles all slowly upgrade over time as well, so you're just forced to sit and replay easy races until you have the same upgrades so that you can keep up with the Joneses.  In fact I'd say that it never ends up adding anything towards the game, and actually detracts from it by forcing you to sit and farm money.

Which, speaking of, brings up race progression.  You see, there is never a requirement to beat any of the races.  The only thing that lets you advance in the game is paying cash.  Lots and lots of cash.  And you earn that cash by placing first or second in whatever races you choose.  Which means you will want to find the easiest courses, and abuse them over and over again.  Most players will never touch 80% of the tracks this game offers, which doesn't matter because they all play exactly the same anyways, so who even cares?  Talk about wasted opportunities.

The game also looks pretty shitty.  In fact it may be the worst looking racer on the system.  Er, outside of Race Drivin'. If that can even be considered a racer.   Or ESPN Speedworld, if that can be considered to even have graphics...  So between the sounds and the sights, this game is a bit of an audio/visual nightmare.

There's also a horrible save system, the awkward half-screen viewing perspective, the ridiculously pathetic enemy AI, the fact you can't see what place you're in, the bizarro backwards tracks, the completely busted open-ended tracks, and on and on.  But I'm gonna stop focusing on the negative.  You know why?  Because I actually had a decent time playing this game.

*record scratch*

Yeah, I know, I just bashed RPMR more than I have most other games in this installment, but it's true.  It's not a terrible game, it's just full of half-baked ideas with terrible implementations.  And it is not a game I would recommend playing for an extended period of time.  But in short doses, it wasn't the worst thing in the world.

Did I beat it?
I did.  172 races later, I did it.


 
466 - Mega Man Soccer



Capcom executive: My goodness!  I've just had the most wonderful idea!
Capcom peon: That follow-up to Bionic Commando I had mentioned the other day?
Executive: No!  Even better. Think about it - what is our most successful property?
Peon: Rockman?
Executive: And what is our country's most popular sport?
Peon: Baseball?
Executive: Soccer, exactly!
Peon: But-
Executive: One Rockman game a year isn't gonna be good enough anymore.  And we're no longer constrained by Nintendo's software limits in the West either.  We need to widen the Blue Bomber's net.  We need Genesis ports, arcade games, fighting games, racing games, soccer games, more DOS games...
Peon: DOS games? But that one American left and w-
Executive: Then we'll hire some Latvian studio to do it!  Keep up with me here!
Peon: But wh-
Executive: The emphasis needs to be the soccer game though.  I even have it all laid out in my head already. 
Peon: You designed a game?
Executive:  Instead of defeating robot masters to gain their weapons, you defeat them... to gain... THEM. 
Peon: Them?
Executive: Yes.  You build a team of robot masters one player at a time
Peon: But won't-
Executive: I want Inafune working on this right away!
Peon: But his team is in the middle of Rockman X development.
Executive: Then tell him work on this during his lunch breaks!  There have to be assets we can reuse and corners we can cut.
Peon: Corners?
Executive: And we don't need new characters, just grab some of the old ones.
Peon: But no one on his team has ever worked on a sports title before...
Executive: Then borrow some of those Soccer Shootout guys!  Early reports on that one are looking good.
Peon: But-
Executive: And we made that American football game.  Use that team if you need.
Peon: Yeah, but-
Executive: Wait a minute...
Peon: ...Yes?
Executive:  Forget everything I just said.  I have a much better idea.
Peon: *sigh of relief* Thank goodness.  I was beginning to th-
Executive: Naked vampires!
Peon: I... what?
Executive: ..fighting the creature from the Black Lagoon...
Peon: ...oh... no...
Executive: ...and maybe like a sexy... bee or something. 
Peon: I worked 110 hours last week.
Executive: Did we already do a centipede?  What was that thing in Rockman X?  We definitely can't have two centipedes.
Peon: I sleep underneath my desk most nights.  I don't even know my children anymore.
Executive: But this will be like a Street Fighter game.  We'll call it Street Fighter... After Dark!  No.  Street Fighter... Halloween Edition!
Peon: -and then I think about my wife leaving me. 
Executive:  Or maybe Vampire Fighter?  Street Vampires? 
Peon: -and even my own father has told me to pursue a new line of work.
Executive: Vampire Zero X Alpha?  Too many good ideas, I'll have think about it.  In any case, tell Inafune to get started on our new game right away.
Peon: ...the... new game?
Executive: The vampire street fighter bee thing.
Peon: Okay, I'll go talk to him about coding that soccer game over his lunch breaks.


Did I beat it?
No!






465 - Sink or Swim



Take a look at those graphics.  Any guesses as to what type of game this is?  Because if you said "Amiga-ish Lemmings type of thing", you'd be sort of right. 

So as I just iterated up above, I'm a bit of a Titus fanboy.  Or at least I'm one of the few people on the planet who thinks most of their games aren't that bad.  Which I guess still technically qualifies me for fanboy status.  In any case, I enjoy their games; almost all of them in fact.  But Sink or Swim and Incantation are easily their two roughest outings on the Super Nintendo.  Both present some good ideas, and have certain charms to them, but they're also both missing something.  I'm not entirely sure what that "something" is, but it's enough to prevent either one from being quite as fun as it should have been.  Something like that anyways.

The gameplay in SOS revolves around guiding your squatty hero through a series of flooded rooms full of conveyor belts, hazards, ladders, and the like, trying to guide a bunch of dumb workers to the exits.  If enough survive, you win.  If they don't, you don't.  Sound familiar?  And it sounds simple enough right?  Except this adds a wrinkle to the Lemmings formula in that you yourself can be killed, meaning there is twice as much to worry about.

Now let's just get the annoying bits out of the way...

1.  The game loves to throw you into the deep end, with no chance to even begin to try and figure out any of the levels before things start rolling along and guys start getting killed.
2.  You get a password every five levels.  That means a lot of replaying levels you've already cleared, especially when you get further into the game.  Furthermore, there is an annoyance where you need to go back to the password entry screen in order to resume your game.  Luckily they're only five characters long, and already pre-filled, because having to reenter them every time would have been a total dealbreaker here.
3.  The music is very grating, especially when you're stuck on the same level(s) for an eternity, with the same few notes looping over and over again.  This is definitely a game that you're gonna wanna play on mute while you watch Netflix or something.
4.  You cannot force a level restart, even when you're stuck in an unwinnable situation.  So instead you'll have to wait for every remaining worker to die or be rescued before the level will finally begin again.  This will gradually wear on your patience, especially as the levels get longer and longer.
5.  There is a bizarre mechanic where your guy will "melt" into the ceiling so that he can patch holes in pipes.   Since there are no longplays on YouTube, or scans of the manual, it took me forever to figure this out.  I'm also not sure if that's implying the MC is a robot or cyborg or what...

Now for a few bright spots, such as the inclusion of a tutorial of sorts.  I don't usually go for that sort of thing in my SNES games, but with puzzle games it is an absolute necessity.  No blindly trying to figure out mechanics or search for PDFs of the manual or detailed walkthroughs.  And it's actually really well done too - possibly my favorite setup in the entire Super Nintendo library.  But it's also super brief and doesn't go over even a fraction of the things you'll come across.  Oh well.

And the game is legitimately fun... that is when things are clicking and you're making progress.  However that never lasts for long, as you'll inevitably hit a wall, or be forced to replay a bunch of levels.  It's always at that point that the fun factor takes a gigantic hit, and I don't think I've ever made it through two game-over screens before I had to take a break.  If this game had checkpoints or passwords between every level, I probably would have it in the top 300.  Such a shame how a single bad decision can derail a game like that.

In the end, this is a game I want to really like, and one that I do have a very good time with.  It just gets too repetitive and too draining having to replay the same levels over and over and over and over again, just for a chance to have an opportunity to see a little bit more of the game, before an inevitable game over, and having to repeat everything you've already seen a number of times already.  It's a glaring and crushing flaw that drags the game way down.

Did I beat it?
No.  I suck at actually completing this style of game, even though I usually get pretty close.  Maybe if the password system was a little more lenient or there weren't so many levels things would be different.



464 - Zoop



Zoop... is this just the second puzzler I've gotten to so far?  Damn, I must be a bigger fan of the genre than I realized.  Not that I have any great love for this game.  Yeah, it's got a strong central gimmick, but it's hamstrung by a lack of features, an annoying reliance on luck, and a pace that quickly reaches a speed that I can only describe as "relentlessly annoying."

Also, that has to be the worst piece of cover art this side of Ballz.  Stupid 1990s and its pastel to the extreme.

Trying to explain the gameplay here is gonna be a bit tricky.  The best I can do is to say that you control the triangle in the center of the board, and that you need to clear the sixteen different rows and columns of shapes that are rapidly heading your direction by... crashing into them?  Yeah, let's go with that.  Anyways, by doing that you will get rid of any shapes that match your color, while switching places with the first shape that does not.  So in that way you are always leaving a "deposit" when needing to change colors, meaning success hangs upon smart placement of such things.  Make sense?  No?  Well whatever, just know you're clearing shit off a grid like usual.

I'm not exactly sure how a game like this could have handled cooperative play or versus play, but it opted to add neither.  That's a glaring omission with this type of game, because playing against the AI, or in this case, the clock, runs stale pretty quickly.  I never even bothered to play more than one round at a time, because the gameplay is so repetitive.  I mean, all puzzle games probably should be repetitive by nature, to some degree.  But this one is repetitive in the bad way.

But, I dunno, I find that boring, repetitive puzzle games are still better than lots of other types of games.  Similar to the coldly-received (by me) BreakThru!, I feel that even at its worst the genre can offer fun, even if it is limited.  And it is definitely limited here, and a number of problems help make it one of the weaker puzzle offerings on the Super Nintendo.  But that still only means it's a middle-of-the-pack game overall.

Oh, and I absolutely loathe the music here.  Normally I don't even make mention of it, as I don't think most of the games I've covered so far had anything noteworthy enough to even bother, but what they have here is truly irritating.  Picture playing a game like Super Mario Bros., but the "hurry up" song is playing the entire time.  I don't like it.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  I think.  Who even knows what beating this game entails.



463 - Art of Fighting



The final fighting game in this installment, thank God, which was once again brought to us by our good friends SNK - purveyors of numerous famous series such as Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, and King of the Fighters (wait, I've said all of this already haven't I?), all of which are generally held in high regard.  Art of Fighting on the other hand is very, very rough.  Shockingly rough in some ways.  And without doing any research I'm gonna say that must be because it predates all of them, and other stuff like Street fighter II.  I mean it has to be older, because that is the only explanation I can come up with for the super old-school design and weirdly limited gamplay that's present here.

[note - I was wrong, Fatal Fury and SFII are somehow both older]

To further elaborate on what I mean, AoF is is similar to a lot of the early fighters in that it does not allow you to select a character for the main campaign; instead you are locked into the role of either Ryo or Robert.  And that's because unlike basically other other fighting game that has ever existed, AoF tries to tell a story, and those are the two main protagonists.  Emphasis on the word "tries" here.

Similar to its failed-storytelling brethren Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, AoF does this through very simple cutscenes and pre- and post-match dialogue.  The whole thing involves something about rescuing your sister or ladyfriend or something, I dunno I wasn't really paying attention, which then means traveling around the city questioning fighting various thugs, lowlifes, and... waiters (?) and such.  And, like Dragon, it's brutally hard.  Frustratingly, excruciatingly hard.  At least for someone who is terrible at these types of games like I am.  And this is a game with unlimited continues so that should be telling you something.

The fighting itself is kind of hard to explain, but it seems very "choppy" to me.  Possibly because the game is constantly trying to dynamically frame the action, depending on where the characters are in relation to one another.  What I mean by that is, I feel like it's trying to zoom in and out, refocusing the action, but all it does is serve to distract me.  That might also explain why I have so much trouble pulling the special moves off, or it could just be one of those games with very demanding timing in that regard.

Now what things does the game do right?  Super bars, for one.  That seems pretty ahead of its time.  And a taunt move that depletes your opponent's super charge, which is also pretty nifty.  The controls and action are also quite responsive, special moves aside, though I will admit that both characters' reportoires do seem pretty basic and limited in scope.  Especially before you earn additional moves -- which I should have mentioned, you gain access to as you play through the game.  This is an early fighter after all. 

Oh, best of all, as you get further into the campaign you can play bonus games to raise your stats.  Anyone who knows me knows I am the world's biggest sucker for RPGs and RPG elements, so that is awesome.  Brutal Paws tried to do something similar, but fucked it up.  AoF does it in a much more rewarding manner.  You even get to choose which stat you raise.  Granted, these minigames are stupidly easy, but hey, I need all the help I can get in a game like this.

I also love how one of the enemy characters is named "Mr. Big."  Why, oh why was that such a popular name in pop culture during this era?  Nothing dates a piece of entertainment to this era like a reference to Mr. Big.

In the end, I do have to say that I really appreciate what this game aiming for.  It may not have actually done most of those things very well, but I always find an ambitious fiasco more interesting than mundane mediocrity.  Not to say this is a fiasco, but it's definitely way too flawed to be any sort of a success.  And it helped pave the way for much better things soon to come from SNK.  In any case I'll call this the last of the "meh" fighters.  Though I will soon be covering a number of "okay" fighters.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a couple of different times, though mostly on the lowest difficulty because I am a wuss.



462 - Super Ninja Boy



The sole installment of Culture Brain's long-running "Super Chinese" series to be released on SNES, Super Ninja Boy is a combination of JRPG, action RPG, and brawler.  And it is a pretty piss poor effort in each of those areas.  And it looks like an NES game.  So, yeah... I guess there was a reason it was the only game they bothered to bring overseas.

I don't really know much about the series, as I have never played either of the two NES games (Kung-Fu Heroes and Little Ninja Brothers) or any of the Game Boy games (I'm not looking up their titles), but I imagine they're all overhead action games for the most part, pitting the eponymous ninja brothers (I cannot for the life of me remember their names) against hordes of monsters and goofy villains.  And I don't know if SNB was the first entry in the series to try and mash-up so many different genres, but it certainly feels like it.  Or I should say, it feels like a rough draft.  Pretty much in every aspect of its design...

The traditional RPG portion of the game, as in moving around a world map from town to town, buying equipment, and fighting random battles, is about as vanilla and basic as it gets.  Like, the exact same things these kinds of games always do.  But here, they make every one of those things much more of a hassle than it needs to be.  There's never any guidance as to what you need to do, never clear indication as to where you need to go, etc.  Those aren't uncommon problems for older RPGS, but they're all dialed up to 11 in SNB.  Plus the towns are tiny, with barely any interaction or dialogue with the limited number of NPCs, with no real characters to speak of, virtually nothing to find off the beaten path as far as secrets or side missions go, and on and on.  In fact I would say nothing noteworthy happens whatsoever, other than maybe the giant mecha you get late in the game, and even that thing is pretty lamely handled. 

Equipment is also a major hassle to deal with, because this is one of those games where you don't really know whether or not something is an upgrade or not.  So, a manual or FAQ basically has to be on hand at all times.  And then wandering around the world map sucks because everything is too spread out, everything looks the same, and it features one of those random encounter rates that is way too high, making exploration something to dread.

Now luckily when you do enter combat SNB shakes things up by giving you an action RPG battle system.  Picture something like River City Ransom.  Unfortunately, it is really, really poorly done.  Like, one of the worst brawlers I have played.  And it never gets better, or more interesting.  You run around in circles, waiting for guys to spawn, trying to collect seemingly pointless powerups, avoiding pits, and praying for the victory music to start up.  Plus everything about the controls and collision detection is subpar, which as anyone knows, is not a good fit for a brawler.  Things only get more and more tedious as you fight your 1000th battle against the same types of enemies.

The game shakes things up even more when you enter dungeons because these will often take the shape of action platformer segments.  These also play like a mediocre (at best) NES game, but I have to honestly say it's better than any of the other elements I've already gone over.  The controls are not super tight, but they get the job done, and there is an actual difficulty curve that slowly climbs as you get further in the game.  Things never get especially challenging, but it can be satisfying to get through some of the trickier bits.

Finally, the boss fights change things up yet again by taking the form of a sort of combination of turn-based battles and... I dunno, I'm gonna say a puzzle game.  "Do the correct order of things and you will win, otherwise you won't."  It's not a very good system either, and is never fun.  I just... I don't know why they tried to do so many different things, when they clearly never devoted the time to making any of them good.  The boss fights especially are a wasted opportunity.

So there you have it.  The worst pseudo-JRPG on the platform, Frankensteining various genres together, but managing to botch or mangle most of the things they should have brought to the table.  I never hated my time with the game (it is very hard for me to hate an RPG), but I never really enjoyed it either.  That's more than can be said for a lot of the games I already touched upon, but that is pretty faint praise overall.

There's also a co-operative mode for the game, but I have to admit that I never tried it out.  I mean, unlike something like, say, Secret of Mana, I can't imagine anyone would actually want to experience this with you.  And their participation would be limited to the random encounters, which again, are just not very fun.  Only the most hardcore of gaming nerds would want to be dragged along on this journey.

Now since I've done nothing but basically bash the game, why the relatively high ranking?  I dunno, I guess because I'm spoiled by just how good the best JRPGs on the system were.  Or because I'd rather play a bad JRPG than most of the sports titles or licensed dreck on the platform.  And I was never really disgusted with the game, mostly just bored or disappointed.  Actually that should be my one sentence review:

I'm not mad at Super Ninja Boy, I'm just disappointed.

Did I beat it?
Yes, it was a drag but I pushed through.  I usually do.



461 - Mohawk & Headphone Jack



Sooooo, I really don't know what Mohawk & Headphone Jack is.  I mean don't get me wrong, I've played it quite a lot by now, and fully understand what the game plays like and how it works.  But I still don't know what it is.  Besides being yet another Sonic the Hedgehog copycat, and one that was super late to the game for that matter (it was originally released in 1996, so I guess the developers didn't realize that the new thing to do was copy Super Mario 64 or Tomb Raider as opposed to the blue rodent).  A copycat that is based around fighting the laws of gravity.  With an emphasis on music.  So I guess it's a musical anti-gravity Sonic.  Starring a bunch of hideous yellow naked things.

First off, I have to warn you about this game's central gimmick: Mode 7 rotation whenever you run around a circular object or "rotate your view", kind of similar to the effect in the first Sonic game's bonus rounds.  And I can only imagine that this is gonna be a dealbreaker for many, many people, because it seems like a perfect catalyst for motion sickness.  As in, severe motion sickness.  I never get affected by the stuff myself, but there is no way the people who do are gonna be able to last more than five minutes with M&HJ.  Hell, even just moving around in general seems overaly spazzy and disorienting.  Especially whenever you take a long fall, because the screen loves to "snap" back into place in order to keep your character in frame.  So anyone with a weak stomach should consider themselves warned.

The second thing I have to talk about is the music.  I don't usually do that, but with this game I have to.  It's... alright.  Which is a major disappointment, because this is supposed to be a game where the emphasis is on the soundtrack, with a general music theme running throughout everything else (the design and name of the characters, the fact you collect CDs, or how the most prominent option from the pause screen is a track selection, and so forth).  I expected the second coming of Donkey Kong Country.  Instead it's more like a third rate Mortal Kombat soundtrack mixed with a third rate... Bubsy soundtrack or something.  And everyone should know what I think about those games by now.

The third thing I have to talk about is how batshit crazy the actual gameplay is.  Things start out pretty conventional, at least for the first minute or so, before you realize just how exactly this game needs to be played.  And rather than even try to explain it, I'll present you with this:



That is a map of a level.  One level.  A medium-sized one at that.  And they get this complex by level two.  By level three and four your face will begin to resemble The Scream.

But Brock, that doesn't look too bad, you doofus pansy.  If you want hard you should see the level maps for blah blah blah.

Did I mention that you are running across all of those surfaces? And that you're usually trying to figure out how to reach the surfaces opposite you?  And that the game (and map) rotate with you as you do these things?  So yeah, good-fucking-luck staying oriented, or figuring out where to go.

Now, if you do manage to avoid losing your lunch (and your sense of direction), this whole thing is actually a rather cool idea in my opinion, that really opens up a lot of new possibilities with platforming and puzzle solving.   Or at least it should have, because the actual execution of most things in this game is shit for the most part.  Trying to land jumps is way harder than it needs to be (mostly thanks to the jittery camera and the insane concepts at work here) and misjudging one by even the slightest amount can often spell disaster, shooting you off into the ether.  Hell, sometimes just jumping up into the air causes a gravity shift, flinging you into a far-off ceiling, and I don't know the exact rhyme or reason to it.  That isn't to say that I don't know what the rules of gravity are in this game.  It's just that they don't seem to always act completely consistently.

A few other things of note:

- While I think the level designs and color palette are a complete mess, the animation is actually pretty nice.
- Like in seemingly every other Sonic clone, this game just loves to punish you for going fast.  Brilliant.
- Some of the trickier platforming involves using gravity to "slingshot" you into orbit.  It's actually rather cool.
- That "rotate your view" button I mentioned?  That's so you can look ahead.  Look ahead meaning slightly tilt your vision at an angle.  Brilliant.
- The challenge is fair for the most part, but I really wish there were a few changes to limit frustration.  Like not having all of the enemies respawn when you die.
- The layout of levels quickly becomes a mindfuck of pretty epic proportions.  I mean that in a (mostly) good way.  Except for when you're hopelessly lost, which is often.
- There is a map, which you will need to check almost constantly, but it really needed the ability to zoom out more.  Or any sort of key or legend.  Or for it to stop rotating!
- The boss fights are well done and fun.  Or at least the two I managed to reach were.

In the end, I chalk this an entire experience up as another inspired mess.  A game that had some wonderful new ideas (in addition to some stolen ones), which tried to change things up, but couldn't quite fully succeed in pulling them off.  Which is a shame because I wanted to like this game a lot more than I actually did.  Truth be told, some part of me loathed the thought of booting it up, because it's so intimidating.  Even if I did always end up having a good time when I did.  So overall it's a fun enough game, but not something for most people, and probably not something you'll ever have a great time with.  Especially when it's driving you insane.

Did I beat it?
No.  I could with persistence, but man... the scale of it scares me too much.



460 - True Golf Classics: Waialae Country Club



Did I beat it?
I did not.

459 - True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links



Did I beat it?
Once again, I did not.

458 - True Golf Classics: Wicked 18



"True Golf Classics"... never before has a franchise been more straightforward about what it aimed to be.  In this case, TGC was the flagship golf series for some outfit out of Japan that my limited research tells me consisted of these three games on the Super Nintendo, and a bunch more that were only released in Japan.  Three(!) of them taking place in Augusta alone.

Now since the first two games are practically interchangeable, and the third one is the exact same gameplay with one radical switch in direction, I'm grouping all three games into one installment, but dividing the actual review into two parts.  Trust me when I say that it makes sense to do it this way.


Waialae Country Club and Pebble Beach Golf Links
The earlier two titles in the series are decent, albeit ordinary, golf sims that feature battery saves, pretty good graphics and sound, a nice little presentation, and a number of different modes including stroke play, match play, tournament play, and practice play.  They're not bad little packages, that I'm sure golf fans loved back in the day.

The problem is a glacial pace of play.  Every shot takes forever, because you need to click through a ton of menus, wait for the scenery to render every time you adjust your aim, click though more menus, slowly wait for the game to set the impact on the ball, and then wait for the animation to play out and the ball to finally take flight.  It's a slow, slow game.  Which shouldn't be a surprise, because it's golf.  It's a slow sport by nature, with video game adaptations that loved to reflect that fact back in the day.  It's the exact same reason why I docked Mecarobot Golf so much.  Because the simple fact of the matter is that I'm playing these games in the 21st century, where we've been spoiled by streamlined interfaces and designs, and I'd be lying to myself if I said such things didn't matter.  You simply can't play something like this without wishing for some of the refinements that came with later series like Hot Shots Golf, or the Mario golf games, or whatever.

Other problems include trying to gauge which direction the fairway lies.  All you have to work with is a compass that points you towards the pin, and a map that shows you the entire hole.  So if you need to lay up it's pretty much a guessing game as to which direction you should hit the ball.

This is also another golf game that gives you a power bar, yet no tick marks to act as guides.  How hard is it to let me know where ten and twenty percent power are?  Hell, give me quarters, and I'll be content.  I don't want to guesstimate what every shot's power needs to be.

For whatever reason most shots seem to consistently fall short of where I would expect them.  I don't know if I'm just missing something, or not getting the correct "impact" on the ball, but if I'm attempting to drive 250 yards, odds are good I'm gonna hit it 220.

Putting is even worse as you have to wait for the green's "grid" to render as well.  And then your caddie gives you advice.  Advice such as "keep your eye on the ball."  Uh, ok.  I think that will be the least of my problems here, but thanks anyways.  And, just like every other shot, I swear that putts are consistently short, as if I'm underhitting them.  And I just don't understand what I'm doing wrong.

A couple other things of note:
- The game saves after every shot, which means the game can easily be cheesed if anyone has that sort of patience.  I certainly don't.
- Every single hole in both games is insanely windy, all the time.  Is that a real thing?  Is a round of golf at Waialae or Pebble Links akin to playing in a hurricane?  Because this game certainly seems to imply that.
- The only real difference between the two games, that I could see, is that in PBGL you can make the green's "grid" appear again if you ask for advice.  It's a small fix, but a useful one.

Now pacing issue aside, I think these are very solid 16-bit golf simulations, for whatever that is worth.  The courses are fun (I prefer Waialae over Pebble Beach, but I'm a sucker for beaches), and I like the way the interfaces and displays are laid out.  And I like most of the mechanics behind hitting a shot.  These would have been great games in 1995.  It's just unfortunate for them that I'm writing about them in 2019.

Now, none of that means these can't be rewarding games if you are willing to play by their rules.  By that I mean accepting the million button presses, and the tortoise-like pace, and just playing the game in a relaxed state.  In fact this can be a perfect game to unwind with after a rage-inducing session with, say, Mortal Kombat.  I know that because that's what I did, and it worked.  But it's still a very ancient game that has been radically surpassed in almost every way by future golf games.  So, decent games, that didn't age well, that can still be fun if you are willing to let them be.


Wicked 18
So how do you improve upon two well-received golf titles that covered some of the country's most iconic courses?  By dreaming up this insane shit and making it:



Seriously, Wicked 18 is an understatement.  The previous two games were "wicked."  This one is something out of Hellraiser - an evil, evil game.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

In case the box art, name, and my comparison to Hell's cenobites didn't already make it clear, this is a "fantasy" golf game of sorts.  One where you play on a course full of pointy mountains, winding canyons, floating greens, lava pits, and obscene course layouts.  And really that's the only difference between W18 and the previous two titles, but what a difference it is.  You'll be struggling to hit double bogeys on most holes, and you'll be thankful for each and every one of them too.

The other major change is the addition of skins play.  Or did Pebble Beach add that and I didn't notice?  Bah, whatever it doesn't matter.  You can't play against an AI in any case, and I wasn't able to talk my wife into playing this with me (can't imagine why), so skins never got any play.  Just know that otherwise the presentation and options are once again exactly the same.

Though I guess the interface has been redesigned and cleaned up... barely.  All this really means is that the map of the hole is a tiny bit larger and more detailed now, which gives you a slightly better idea as to where exactly you're gonna be hitting the ball.  The painfully slow rendering is still 100% present though, in addition to the millions of clicks needed to hit the ball.  And your caddies (now all women) are still as useless as ever.

Anyways, getting back to what matters with this title (the course), I'm not kidding when I say it's pretty sadistic.  Not only are the usual trees, sand traps, cactuses, and water hazards present, but now you have tons of what I'm going to call mountains (or whatever you want to call the jagged polygonal things sticking out of the ground), and they will wreak havoc with your rounds.  Sometimes they look like stalagmites, but the effect is always the same: fucking your round up.  Hit into the water?  Enjoy the drop that places you directly behind a mountain.  Hit a tree?  Good luck getting out of the rough when there's also a freaking mountain now in your way.  Hell, I once hit a stone near the green and I'm not exaggerating when I say my ball ricocheted over 100 yards in the opposite direction.  Good luck recovering from something like that.  And what could possibly be even worse than that?  The giant stone pillars.  Just... #$%$#%#$ those things.

And in case the the more outlandish hazards weren't enough, the game's sadistic cherry on top of everything are sand pits that sit mere feet away from the cup, or tiny greens that sit amongst sheer cliffs that will send your ball back to the tee, and so forth.  It's a dick game, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Did I beat it?
The third time was not the charm, so no I did not.  That is, unless I managed to power through it back when I rented it multiple times as a kid.  Which knowing me, I could have been crazy enough to do...  So let's call it a "probably not but maybe."

Actually, the game gives you credits for merely finishing a round of stroke play.  So maybe that's its way of feeling sorry for you.



457 - SimCity 2000

 

As I get further into this project I'm going to be running into more and more titles that are, for lack of a better term, bastardized ports of classic video games.  And by classic I mean some of the greatest games of all time; mostly of the home computer variety.  And with almost each and every one of them I've honestly been pretty torn as to how to properly rank such experiences on the Super Nintendo.  I mean, how do you measure one of the greatest shooters of all time when it has been hacked up and smashed into a tiny EPROM?  How do you play a classic strategy game with a D-Pad?  How good are NES games that get "upgraded" to a newer console, but lose something in the translation?

Well, the best solution I could come up with is to treat each and every one of them on a case-by-case basis.  How much fun did I have, how much did I wish I was playing the far superior option, and just how much was lost in the translation?  Because some of the ports on this system were handled with obvious love and care, while others seem like mere... afterthoughts.  Products thrown out a door to try and cash in on as many platforms as possible.

Sim City 2000 is my pick for the worst of the lot.  It takes one of my favorite games of all time and basically tries to ruin as much of it as possible, and do everything in its power to drive the player away.  So I guess it's a testament to the sheer strength of the core game itself that even at its worst it still ended up being something of a middling title in the SNES library.

For most of you I probably don't need to explain how this game works.  For those only familiar with the original SimCity, picture a direct sequel that makes everything bigger and better.  And for those who have never played any "Sim" game, know that these are some of the original "God" games.  In other words, giving the player an empty sandbox and turning them loose to create, build, or destroy to their heart's content.

The options presented (as seen above) are Tutorial Map, Free Map, and Scenario.  I don't recall if that matches the PC version, but it seems about right to me.  And I don't know about anyone else, but I always opt for free play.  Always.  Maybe because the thought of a "scenario" in this type of game almost seems self-defeating.  I'm playing to create "my" city, not to fix someone else's.

After selecting Free Map you get your choice of starting year (1900, 1950, 2000, 2050 - I always go with 1900 for what I hope are obvious reasons), name your city, name your mayor, receive a newspaper whose headline reads like it was written by a 3rd grader (or by me) and then you're finally off and running. 

Now I always found the gameplay of SC2K to be immensely satisfying.  I love seeing the colorful little communities fill out and flourish, and I love the little touches like the cars traveling down the roads.  I even love the more mundane stuff - building power plants and laying down roads, power lines, and waterworks.  Then you'll need to balance commercial, industrial, and residential needs, with various other city necessities like police and fire stations, schools, parks, and every other thing you can think of.  Seriously, I feel like the scope of what is offered is part of the reason this series got so immensely popular.

I also fully admit to always struggling to find success with these games.  My communities never really worked out, and abandoned or decaying structures quickly spread across them like wildfire.  I never really knew why, but I also didn't really care. I was having too much fun.  Plus the ruin of one city was just an excuse to start over and enjoy the process all over again.  And I could have looked online for help, eventually, but I never wanted to.  I guess I wanted to keep the experience... I dunno, unspoiled?  It remains that way to this day too, I always get a little bit further, never quite getting to the end.  Somehow it's part of the charm to me.

So anyways, everything about that experience I described is technically intact in this version.  The issue is it just wasn't ported over very well.  At all.  Or the game is just too demanding for the little ol' SNES processor.  Because the game runs and controls like shit, with a cursor that is very unresponsive to the D-Pad, the game runs at a terrible frames per second, and everything looks like washed out garbage.  And that last one really hurts because I always loved how this game looks.

Because the game looks so bad, which makes it nearly impossible to see what is going on, you have to play while zoomed in to the maximum amount.  The problem with that?  This makes the game run even slower.  And every time you scroll around you'll have to wait for things to load.  It suuuuucks.

I'm gonna wrap this up because I hate dumping on a game I love.  SC2K is a case where I would whole-heartedly recommend everyone play this game if they haven't already.  I know many newer Sims games have come and gone, including a million of the beloved "The Sims" games.  But this is the franchise's proudest moment in my opinion, and everyone needs to experience it.  But not on the Super Nintendo.  Anywhere but the Super Nintendo.

Did I beat it?
No, I've never beat any version of the game as I've always been more interested in the sandbox modes of Sim games, as opposed to the scenarios.  Coupled with the fact that this port really takes a lot of patience in order to stick with it, and I think I'll continue to hold off for now.



456 - World Heroes



Hey, another fighting game that I'm not particularly high on.  Who saw that coming?

Do I even need to write anything?  Is there anything I didn't already say in my entries for Ranma 1/2, and Double Dragon V, and Justice League Task Force, and Power Moves, or any of the Clay Fighter games that won't simply be rehashed here?  Again?  Probably not, but here we go anyways...

World Heroes is a port of an older SNK game, the outfit famous for a number of different fighting series, including the exponentially more popular Fatal Fury and King of the Fighters games.  Which isn't to say that the WH games don't have their fans, because everywhere I look people seem to think fondly of this game and its sequel.  In fact I'm predicting this will be another unpopular writeup from me.  But I've got to stick to my guns and be honest with myself, and so here it stands.  Another mediocre game that I had an okay time with, slotted into a mediocre rank.

I actually do have a little bit of a history with this game.  Back in the day during the height of the fighting game craze my friends rented this little guy a number of times.  I guess after playing the heck out of Street Fighter II they were hungry for anything and everything that looked remotely similar, and World Heroes is very similar.  Very, very similar.  That isn't to say that outright SFII ripoffs weren't common at the time, but this one seems to unabashedly wear its inspiration on its sleeve.  I mean, you have a title that is riffing on "The World Warrior," you have boxart that features guys who look suspiciously similar to the likes of Ryu, Zangief, Chun Li, and M. Bison/Balrog on it, and you have a game itself that looks and plays closer to SFII than almost any other game on the system.  This is virtually an outright clone, make no mistake.

That isn't a terrible thing though.  If there is any fighting game in the history of fighting games to mimic, it's the granddaddy of them all.  And WH does a respectable job of it.  The controls are tight, the balance pretty good, the stages and characters decently drawn and animated, and the game is pretty fun.  But it also doesn't really excel in any way.  Everything is kinda like SFII, but not better.  And the Super Nintendo ended up getting four Street Fighter games, so if this thing was derivative when it was released, it was completely obsolete by the time the system's run was over.

Anyways, I'll cover a few more things at a high level just because I need to hurry up and get this thing finished already.

- The roster consists of famous "heroes" throughout world history, including Hattori Hanzo, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Rasputin, Hulk... uh... Hogan... (wut), and so forth.  Oh, and the M. Bison-looking guy who appears to be an SS officer from Germany...  I guess they can't all be winners :\
- The game does suffer from pretty regular slowdown.  It's not as bad as Justice League Task Force, but it is worse than SFII.  Hardcore fighting purists will probably find this endlessly annoying.
- While the character sprites are pretty decent, the portraits are some ugly grotesqueries.  Of course I thought the same thing about SFII.

Overall, it's an okayish entry in the genre, that most people seem to at least like a little bit, and I don't think anyone will hate it, but it's a pretty underwhelming game nowadays, overshadowed by a number of bigger, better, newer fighters that are more worth your time.

Oh, and you know how these games always have some pointless bonus stage where you bash on a car or something?  Well here you crack open a rock so you can unearth a large bronzed loinclothed bodybuilder in mid-pose.  Yeah, I'll just leave you with that.

Did I beat it?
I did.  Mostly by Ryu'ing the shit out of everyone with Hanzo.



455 - Super Slap Shot



Oh Jesus, there is nothing I dread more than these hockey reviews, mostly because it should be super obvious to everyone that I don't know what in the hell I'm talking about.  Someone put me out of my misery and call me out on the bullshit I'm gonna be rambling on about already!

And I'm onto Super Slap Shot already? I played through this one over two years ago, how am I supposed to remember anything?  Fuuuuuck.  Why did I put it here?  It's higher than the first party hockey game so I must have thought it was at least halfway decent.  Does it control better than Wayne Gretzky?  Does it look less like hot garbage than ESPN National Hockey Night?  Can I safely assume it is nowhere near as unintentionally hilarious as Street Hockey '95 was?

I guess I have no choice, I'll have to do another deep dive into it.  That's the most draining part of this project - everything takes so damn long that I have to play the legions of sports games like three times as much as any sane person would just so I can remember which ones were which.

Thank God for beer to get me through this.  Like, I know that is such a hackneyed crutch nowadays, made popular by our good friend the Angry Video Game Nerd, but it's true in my case.  It is absolutely 100% true.  I'm not playing a character, I'm writing this as me.  And I depend on beer to make these nights doable.

A couple nights later

Okay, I'm totally refreshed on SSS here.  And what we have is indeed a pretty decent(ish) hockey title.  Not that I am any sort of hockey game authority, and that my opinions on such things can be trusted.  But I digress...

First off, the game is completely and totally playable.  That's a huge win already.  To elaborate, the controls are smooth, generating offense isn't too tricky, the PC doesn't pull any bullshit that forces you to rely on exploits or anything, and the game can be legitimately fun to play.  Probably really fun for a hockey enthusiast.  And this is a Virgin game, so that's pretty high praise in my opinion.  Hell, that could be my one line review; controls well and is fun to play.  The end. 

But I won't do that, because I have to talk about the bad with the good.  Like the presentation, which is almost uniformly horrible.  Mostly the graphics, that I can only call cartoonishly awful.  Like a Sega Master System game or something.  Or what about Bob Smith up above?  That can't be a celebrity hockey guy, can it?  That has to be someone at Virgin playing dress-up for the day, right?  Right?  Suffice to say the rest of the menus, interfaces, and everything in between are similarly horrifying.  But once your eyeballs glaze over and adjust it's not much of an issue.

I also have to point out that this is not an NHL (or NHL facsimile) game.  Instead the teams represented are countries, and there is no championship to win.  Just a tournament.  Does that really matter at all?  Not to me.  I can name like five hockey players in the history of the sport, so it doesn't really hurt my feelings if I have to play as a bunch of fictional Slovakian dudes or whatever.  Though I am curious: Do Egypt and Israel actually have hockey teams?  Do they actually qualify for anything?  All I know is that the game thinks they are some phenomenal "passers," that also play a mean game of "defense."  I'm also sure that is a coincidence and not a political commentary either.  Either way, if the thought of rocking Bulgaria in a hockey game sounds exciting to you, then pick up Super Slap Shot right this very minute.

Oh, and this one has fights as well.  But they suck, AGAIN.  Is it too much to ask for a hockey game where the fighting is better than the hockey?

Did I beat it?
Yes, I swept through the playoffs 12-0 with Russia.  I wanted to do it with Egypt, but they didn't seem very good for some reason.



454 - Warlock



Here's another odd one from our good friends at LJN.  An action platformer thingy based on the second Warlock movie (Armageddon, and no, not that one, this one), which tells the tale of a reanimated young druid discovering love in a delightful New England village, while also watching everyone he knows get brutally dismembered by a time-travelling witch/sadist played by Julian Sands.  Suffice to say this long-forgotten sequel to a 1980s gorefest starring Richard E. Grant is an extremely strange choice for video game adaptations and unless you're a hardcore horror nerd and/or movie buff you've probably never heard of any of those movies or these people.  But LJN apparently decided it was a hot property and jumped on it as they were prone to doing.  And of course it goes without saying that the game has nothing to do with those movies, or anything else, in any possible way.

I don't really know how to best describe the gameplay.  As a more action-filled Prince of Persia?  Because that's not really accurate at all, though the animation and handling are a bit similar. Is it a slower-paced run 'n gun?  Because you don't have a gun, you have magic.  And you don't really use it on the run so much... so scratch that one.  Is it like Bram Stoker's Dracula?  Eh.... I mean, they both star some limp dick asshole who travels deep into the Earth to kill demons, so... I guess maybe?  Regardless, if this was a unique experience on the Super Nintendo, wouldn't that be a good thing?  Help it stand out more?  Sure, and I think it does. 

The game tasks you with finding a bunch of Druidic (Druidian?  Drewish?  Driccan?) McGuffins that will do "something" at "some point."  Presumably kill Julian Sands.  So as you travel across the various levels you'll occasionally run across one of them floating around waiting to be found.  I'm not sure if they're ever off the beaten path, or if the game even has multiple paths, but it's not the worst setup I've ever dealt with in one of these games. 

Standing in your way are all sorts of hell beasts and monsters that have been "raised" by the evil warlock.  Luckily your Druid has some magic powers at his disposal too, so you'll get to throw lots of magic fireballs at the various goons, demon dogs, gargoyles, and various other things that never show up in the films.  It works reasonably well, though I really have to question the secondary attack, which is a magic orb of sorts.  It hovers above your fingertips and can be sent out in almost every direction.  It kind of reminds me of Simon's "limp whip" from Super Castlevania IV, which I'm also not a huge fan of.  The thing is so weak that it almost feels pointless, especially when you can fire magic missiles from your fingertips.

Many of the levels do actually look rather nice.  Or at least they do in the beginning when you're running through that small New England town (or wherever this is actually set) with some cool looking setpieces.  Later levels devolve into an endless series of tombs and caves, which I find much less interesting.  There is a pretty large number of levels overall, and most of the ones in the second half of the game are pretty samey looking, but it's nice while it lasts.

The controls are decent, though a tad unresponsive.  Hence my comparison to Prince of Persia up above.  Not that I'm saying Warlock's controls are quite as "deliberate" as PoP's are, but this is definitely a game where you really need to be sure of your moves before you make them, if you follow me.  What would you even call that... intentional stiffness?  Suffice to say they're not amazing or anything, but they fit the game.

There are also lots and lots of boss fights, something I'm usually prone to celebrating.  Unfortunately, what they have here is pretty weak sauce.  Most of them look ridiculously stupid, and none of them are especially memorable.  Even the final boss, who I have posted up above, is a giant letdown.  Granted the movie didn't really give LJN much to work with in that regard, but if you're gonna take such liberties with the plot, you may as well go all out with his final form.  The PG-13 muppet they came up with is not going all out.

Otherwise, there isn't a ton else to talk about.  The game offers a pretty forgiving password system, something the similarish BS's Dracula could have really used.  It also tries to do some cool things with between-level cinematics.  At the very least they offer some cool animation.

So while the game is merely okay, at best, I enjoyed my time with it.  I'm probably a little biased because I'm such a huge horror film nerd, and both of the first two Warlock films occupy a special place in my heart, but I don't think it's a terrible game regardless.  And I think there's fun to be had for most people if they can get over the somewhat awkward mechanics.  And I can't help but be impressed with the game considering it's an LJN effort.  Their SNES catalog really was pretty weak for the most part, so I'm glad that an obscure horror property ended up being some of their better work.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, I killed Mr. Sands deader than... well, deader than every character he's ever played in any of his movies.



453 - Super Pinball: Behind the Mask



Disclaimer - I am not a pinball enthusiast nor am I an expert, in any sense of the word.  I don't know what makes a good table, I don't know when a video game feels authentic, and I don't know any nuanced strategies beyond what I can figure out on my own. In fact I bet I haven't played on a real table in at least twenty years.  So as opposed to something like a typical JRPG on the Super Nintendo, where I know exactly what I'm talking about because I've played through all of them, and I've played through a million other ones on other systems, and I've played pretty much every major one that has ever been released, and I know what does or doesn't work in such games, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about with pinball.  Total babe who's lost in the woods kind of thing.  Anyways...

One of the three pinball titles on the system released in the US (not counting stuff like Jungle Games), and easily the most common and well-known of those three games, Super Pinball also seems to be the consensus pick for the worst of the lot.  Which is pretty pathetic considering it is a Nintendo-published title and the other two were put out by frickin' GameTek.  Game.  Tek.  What was Nintendo thinking picking this thing up?  It is a legitimately worse and less ambitious pinball game than black box Pinball, and that was an NES launch title!

First off, I have to admit that though I love the idea of pinball, and I can have fun with pinball video games, the fact that there is an inherently built-in reliance on luck with every table always drives me nuts.  I don't like that, I want to be able to get into a groove and get better and not die.  Ever, if I can help it.  I realize that people can get good enough at protecting the ball, building up defenses, and figuring out ways to safely rack up points to kind of negate the luck factor to a degree, but it's always just a matter of time before shit heads south, and fast.  And I understand why that is, what with the arcade origins of the genre.  But I don't like it.  It gives me constant anxiety, and the instant I start to think I'm doing good I will immediately begin playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.  That never works in any game or sport, ever, and definitely not in pinball.

Anyways, the global problems in this game:

- The graphics suck.  Everything is washed out and fuzzy looking, and the table is too small and angled weird, which makes following the ball or reading the table an annoying, squint-inducing affair.
- The tables suck.  I will get into each one with a little more detail in a second, but know that they are all losers.  There is barely anything to do on any of them, and doing any of those things is a frustrating affair for the most part.
- I hate the giant marquee being placed on the middle of the screen.  It is distracting and helps me lose track of the ball.
- The fonts are tiny and illegible, with text that often appears far too briefly to be read.  I still have no idea what some of the things you trigger are, because I can never read the words that pop up when I trigger them.

Now, the tables themselves:

Jolly Joker - The first table in Conquest mode, which is the main single player campaign, if you want to call it that.  The vast majority of my points on my attempts come from the skill shots you get when launching the balls, which is pathetic.  Both on my and the table's part.  There is also a "roulette wheel" that can instantly give up to 10,000,000 points, and a "jackpot" which can give 20-30,000,000, both of which are way more than I generally get, in total, with a ball otherwise, highlighting the random nature of the game, the table, and the genre in general.

Blackbeard and Ironmen - This table is too damn busy looking.  I cannot tell what I'm looking at and it's easy to lose the ball.  Otherwise, it's pretty much the exact same as the last one.  Like, the exact same setup of ramps... uh, bumper thingies, and ... the other things you knock down.  Shit, I really don't know pinball terminology now that I think about it.  But it's exactly the same.  Hit some ramps, hope to hit the roulette wheel, trigger the multi ball, and power up the multipliers.

Wizard - Once again, it's the exact same layout, with the same goals, same points, and same general gameplay.  So the game's "three" tables are really one table.  I actually find this one to be the easiest though, thanks to ramps that seem slightly easier to hit, and a color scheme that is a lot easier to make the ball out against.  But it's still the same thing.

Again, I can't stress enough just how much I don't know about pinball, which really hampers my ability to adaquately verbalize my thoughts or feelings in these reviews, but I'm trying my best here and can just say everything feels off, and isn't as fun as it should be.  Like the physics are just wonky enough, and the tables are just poorly designed enough, and the things that happen don't seem completely logical.  Which all drag the game down.  And I can't really compare against any stronger offering and hold it up and say "this is what a perfect adaptation of pinball looks like", because the only stuff I have played are the games put on Nintendo systems, Sonic Spinball, and a few of the Pro Pinball titles on PC a million years ago.  But know that I prefer every single one of those titles over this one.

Did I beat it?
No.  I don't usually have the patience to master pinball tables, and only successfully cleared Jolly Joker despite expressing great patience with this one.





452 - Math Blaster Episode 1

  

Okay, remember back when I covered all those various edutainment games, like Mario's Fun with Numbers and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends?  Well, I called out all of those games for being very flawed learning instruments, that didn't really accomplish what they set out to do.  Later when I covered Mickey's Ultimate Challenge I praised it for actually nailing it for the most part, and for most importantly of all, having some full-fledged fun.

Well none of those games are as good as Math Blaster Episode 1, which is my pick for the best straight-up kids learning game on the platform.  Still, none of that should be misconstrued, because this isn't a great game.  It's not even a very good game.  It's just very good for the type of game it is, which historically have been almost uniformly terrible.

If you somehow can't guess from the title, MBE1 is about math.  And blasting it.  You take on the role of alien astronaut guy, destroying garbage, and fighting evil insectoids, through the powers of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  This is done through a short campaign that offers three different distinct levels:

Cockpit shooting - A first person shooter of sorts, as you'll need to use your ship's turrets to blast incoming garbage.  The controls are solid, the graphics do their job of being very clean and letting you react quickly, and the challenge is fair.  I call it a success.  The bonus section at the end of stage sucks pretty badly, but it only lasts like 15 seconds so it doesn't wear its welcome out.  And on rare occasions I have seen the math problems repeat themselves, but it's a minor blemish overall.

Platformer - This one is a little less straightforward, and probably could have used some sort of instruction upon starting.  Here you need to use your jetpack to make it to the top of a cavern, with each section of the climb blocked off by gates that can only be cleared by doing a math problem.  Confusing at first, but it's easy enough to get the hang of after a few minutes.  The controls are alright this time, but maybe a bit too loose.  Luckily there's no level timer so frustration is kept to a minimum if you take your time.  And again, it's a pretty fun level.  My biggest grievance is that I occasionally had to pause my game in order to make out what the numbers on the stalactites were, but I can't tell if that's on the game, or the fact that I use a tiny, shitty CRT for all of my SNES playing.

Boss UFO - The final and probably weakest segment, mostly because the difficulty curve is a bit out of whack.  You'll need to avoid floating garbage and jet into one of the ports of the enemy's starship.  It's way too easy at the start, which the developers must have known because they tried to increase the challenge the further into the level you get, but it doesn't really work.  And granted, I'm a 34 year old man(child) who's played a thousand video games, so I may not have the best perspective of balancing a children's game.  But my gut tells me this needed some further tuning, because the math is always easy here, while the platforming rapidly gets pretty challenging.  And not in a good way, but in a "screwed by bad luck" sort of way.  But at least the bonus section is better this time.

I also have to give a shout out to the game for offering two different difficulty settings.  One for the math itself, and another for the video game elements, which I assume affects how much life you have, how many hits the enemies take, etc.  It's a great idea, and really gives the games some additional replay value.

So, if you have kids, and they're just starting to learn basic math, give them this game.  They may be surprised by how much they enjoy it.  And it will be better than homework.



This game is not as good as Number Munchers though.  Nothing is.

Did I beat it?
I did, easily.  Educational games meant for small children have got nothing on me.



451 - Paladin's Quest



Here it is, the first of the conventional JRPGs.  Which means I think this is the absolute worst one that saw release (in the West) on the Super Nintendo.  And that statement shouldn't be taken lightly because that is a genre that I absolutely adore, both during the SNES's heyday and today.  It's also a genre that I usually have endless patience for. And Paladin's Quest tested that patience.  A lot.  Basically the entire time I was playing it.  Which isn't to say it is a bad game, and a number of genre enthusiasts may count themselves as fans.  But this still remains one of the worst role-playing experiences I've ever had, and it's for a sizeable number of reasons.

When it comes to RPGs, and JRPGs in particular, I think there are many things that go into the making of a good one, and many other things that can help shape a great one.  But there are just a few things that are absolutely required to make it a tolerable experience.  And they are:

1.  A coherent storyline and characters with depth
2.  A fun battle system that stays engaging
3.  Challenging yet fair gameplay

In fact I'm even gonna call them (in a sudden moment of improvisation) my "Three Tenets of Good JRPGs®."  And I'm gonna boldly proclaim that you absolutely cannot succeed in this genre if you do not nail at least two of them.

Now like I said there are tons of things that a game can do to move past mere "tolerance", such as a great musical score, a ton of secrets and fun side quests to discover, clever dungeons with satisfying puzzles to solve, or a killer and innovative battle system.  All of those things are hallmarks of the genre's best games.  And I adore each and every one of those things when they're done correctly.  But they are icing on the cake, and not the core foundation upon which this kind of game is held up.  Kind of like how a platformer needs solid controls, or a strategy game needs an effective interface, a JRPG needs those things, because a great soundtrack is not gonna make up for a mind-numbing grind of repetitive combat and nonsensical story. 

And does anyone want to take a guess as to where PQ lands on any of those counts?

A Coherent Storyline and Characters with Depth
Hoooooo boy.  Right off the bat here I can tell you that PQ really failed to reach the mark on this one.  I'm not gonna even try to quickly summarize the storyline here, because, honestly, I can't.  I literally cannot do that.  The best I can do off the top of my head is "magic school student defeats big bad after wandering around pastel alien world."  No joke, that's the storyline as far as I am concerned.  All of the little things that happen along that journey, such as joining up with a band of resistance fighters, or powering up a magic gondola, retrieving some powerful sword, and so forth.  I have no context for any of it.  I have no idea why I did any of the things I did, or why I fought that guy at the end, or what I resolved when I beat it.  Things happened, and then it was over, and it never made any sense to me, or came together to tell any sort of lucid story.  So this is my vote for the worst storyline, storytelling, and character development of any RPG on the Super Nintendo.  Or any RPG I've played, and I'm counting the original Dragon Warrior amongst that company.

A Fun Battle System That Stays Engaging
The battle system is also amongst the worst I have ever experienced.  Think Dragon Quest, but somehow simpler, and more repetitive.  And less tightly balanced.  And I say that as someone who not only adores DQ games, but has played through a number of the classic titles in recent years.  I'd even go so far as to say that every single little thing about it was designed to annoy the player.  From the way you input your commands, to the way you select your targets, it's just all so bad.  Game design programs should offer a class that goes over all of the things not to do when making a video game.  Maybe they already do.  And in it they can use Paladin's Quest to illustrate the incorrect way to do a turn-based battle system.

Challenging Yet Fair Gameplay
Umm, yeah I guess it gets this one right.  Or at least there were a minimal number of party wipes and level grinds that happened during my playthrough.  So... let's just give the game a break and say it gets a passing grade here.  Really I'm just trying to expedite this review so I can stop thinking about PQ.

Did I enjoy any part of my Paladin's Quest experience?  Absolutely not - it was a drag from beginning to end and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone other than the most diehard of completionists who want to see it through for reference.  Someone like me in other words.  But I also couldn't bring myself to drop it in the rankings any further than I did.  Because while it's a very (very) bad JRPG, that does so many things wrong, it still somehow ends up being a more commendable effort than many of those stupid licensed platformers and vomit-inducing sports titles that were shat onto the system.  And it least it was trying.  Cliffhanger was not trying.  Super James Pond was not trying.  Games that don't try annoy me.

Plus, at least I could force myself to finish it, unlike King Arthur and the Knights of-OH MY GOD I need to stop bringing that game up and giving myself PTSD.  But anyways, here PQ sits, smack dab in the middle of Mediocres-ville, bringing up the rear for its contemporaries, and it's all downhill from here.  Or is that uphill?  Are those both bad?  I mean to say the games get better, dammit.

Did I beat it?
Yes, back-to-back with Tecmo Secret of the Stars.  This was the lesser game, which should tell you something...


Edited: 02/22/2019 at 11:28 PM by Brock Landers

Feb 06 at 12:46:08 PM
fox (15)
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(Gunslinger Fox) < King Solomon >
Posts: 3141 - Joined: 07/12/2012
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Think it must be The Berenstain Bears effect

Everyone seems to remember RC Pro AM being a blast with friends when it was single player only XD

Feb 06 at 12:48:15 PM
mbd39 (1)
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(Michael ) < Bowser >
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Originally posted by: fox

Think it must be The Berenstain Bears effect Everyone seems to remember RC Pro AM being a blast with friends when it was single player only XD


RC Pro Am II has multiplayer. I don't know if that's what people are remembering.
 

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Feb 06 at 12:57:26 PM
Brock Landers (55)
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< Wiz's Mom >
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Every ranking so far, which I forgot to do

Feb 06 at 12:58:19 PM
fox (15)
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(Gunslinger Fox) < King Solomon >
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Sure R.C. Pro AM II (which was kind of uncommon) or Rock n Roll Racing but not the original NES game

Feb 06 at 1:17:05 PM
skinnygrinny (57)
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(a.k.a. the grinder a.k.a. kobra kai! a.k.a. 42 foot tapewoRm) < Bowser >
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Sandaflaaaaaahhhhh is amazing! I love him!

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 2016 - weekly contest "trash talker"

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Feb 06 at 2:40:11 PM
AstralOrange (48)
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(Kraken Soup) < Bowser >
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Great read as always! I especially liked the story about Bubsy and have similar feelings towards Taz-Mania which I knew was a bad game back then. I think I owned 5 or 6 games on SNES total, I rented maybe a dozen others total and played another dozen at my cousin's house who I barely saw. One such game they had was Taz-Mania and I'd play it every time I went over, mostly because of my obsession with Taz in the early 90s. It's weird to think about now but I didn't get into the meat and potatoes of the SNES til college through ROMs and emulators which was like 2002-2003. Had it not been for emulation i might never have played most of the system's great games.

Feb 06 at 3:24:40 PM
Splain (25)
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< El Ripper >
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"you would snatch up anything else you could get your hands on."

Yes. It was fun to rent, but I was always conscious of the net outflow of money, whereas if I spent a little more, I could BUY and OWN a crappy game that Blockbuster was offloading. So I would buy up the cheapest one they sold, (if I could afford it) and end up trying my hardest to like some bottom-of-the-barrel game. But if it was Friday and I wanted a "new" game to play all weekend, that cheap ex-rental would fill that gap, and it really does hurt to rip too hard on those games.

Brock, in what way do you "retire" a cartridge?

Feb 06 at 3:34:12 PM
Andy_Bogomil (100)
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(Pete ) < Bowser >
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Thank you for confirming that MK is indeed crap on the SNES. Great reads for some of these stinkers I've never played.

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Wii U Collection Status: 160/161. Just Dance 2018. 

Feb 06 at 3:39:26 PM
Brock Landers (55)
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< Wiz's Mom >
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The back wall of my collection is being filled up as I finish writing about each game, that way I have less to sort through when trying to round up the next batch of games. Since I plan on never playing most anything in 714-450 again, those are my "retirement" stacks.


Edited: 02/06/2019 at 03:42 PM by Brock Landers

Feb 06 at 4:52:41 PM
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JamesRobot (20)
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(JamsGobot ) < King Solomon >
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Finally. I've actually played a couple on this list. I remember liking Bubsy (Genesis) quite a bit. Is it really that bad?

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Feb 06 at 4:54:28 PM
AstralOrange (48)
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(Kraken Soup) < Bowser >
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I've played Bubsy back in the day. I remember it not being very good. I don't think it's terrible, but it comes off as a cheap knock-off to Sonic and Mario (moreso Sonic). Level designs were weird, and controls feel loose and/or weird. I think Bubsy 1 & 2 get more hate than they deserve but they are by no means good games. Just very...meh ones.

Feb 06 at 5:35:15 PM
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Bea_Iank (4)
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(Beatrice Bueno Iank) < Bowser >
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Art of Fighting and World Heroes are absolute gems on the Neo Geo and still really shiny and nice on the SNES, but less polished.
They deserved better ranks!  

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A paragon of purity, chastity and innocence.
Fair reminder that I don't weigh the same as a duck, so I am not made of wood and therefore I am no witch.
Sometimes I don't know where in the world I am.

Feb 06 at 6:46:20 PM
bronzeshield (44)
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(P. ) < Lolo Lord >
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Originally posted by: Bea_Iank

Art of Fighting and World Heroes are absolute gems on the Neo Geo and still really shiny and nice on the SNES, but less polished.
They deserved better ranks!  
I have a soft spot for Art of Fighting, but it's got an AI hole the size of a truck that makes every enemy except Jack trivial to beat. (Basically, wall jump + reverse kick + throw; you don't even necessarily need the wall jump.)

I like the way they added Desperation Attacks for all characters, though, and actually gave closure to the storyline. It tries hard to be faithful to the original -- maybe too faithful, since the problems with the controls were present in the Neo Geo original; the Genesis version changed things up, and controls quite a bit better as a result.

Like Toys, I think Brock will someday revisit Art of Fighting and be astonished at how much easier to beat it is than he'd thought.   It's no accident that it's been one of my beat-every-year "cakewalk" games in the annual SNES completion project.


 

Feb 06 at 8:32:55 PM
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Gloves (104)
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(Douglas Glover) < Master Higgins >
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Originally posted by: Bea_Iank

Art of Fighting and World Heroes are absolute gems on the Neo Geo and still really shiny and nice on the SNES, but less polished.
They deserved better ranks!  

I really liked playing World Heroes w/ my brother as kids!
 

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Feb 06 at 8:36:46 PM
gunpei (8)
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< Ridley Wrangler >
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That TNN bait shop salesman is one sexy hunk of meat!


Edited: 02/06/2019 at 08:39 PM by gunpei

Feb 06 at 8:40:54 PM
AirVillain (15)
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< King Solomon >
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The breadth of these volumes is melting my brain.

Bookmarked for future reference.

Well done!

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AirVillain    
"Way cool, dude!"

Feb 06 at 11:44:54 PM
quest4nes (147)
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(jeff -) < Bonk >
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You're never going to convince me bubsy is worse than math blaster. Just never. Bubsy is god

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NES  639 (330 Manuals 319 Boxes)
Wii U 158/163(incl. Starfox Guard & Bayonetta 1)
SNES 308
N64  167
Original Gameboy 48

 



Edited: 02/06/2019 at 11:45 PM by quest4nes

Feb 07 at 5:11:57 AM
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Krunch (144)
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(My name's Krunch) < King Solomon >
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Maybe the SNES version is different but Mortal Kombat for Genesis is the best video game ever

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Feb 07 at 7:36:29 AM
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jonebone (545)
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(Collector Extraordinaire) < Luigi >
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I like the MK / SF franchises and you shouldn't get any flak for putting MK at 473. It did a lot of cool new things at the time, violence (blood), real character sprites and lots of cool moves. And the Fatalities! In 1992 it was ahead of its time and pushed the envelope, but 26 years later it is a relic that aged horribly. As you noted the difficulty curve is absurd, the roster is extremely small and the controls are quite stiff compared to later fighting games.

But, it does have one of the best all time fighting moves ever, the Johnny Cage ball buster! I couldn't think of a funnier move or of a more "pwn" moment than when you land one on a friend as an adolescent boy. Good times.



But comparing it to SFII is unforgiving, that's not fair at all. The comparison would be MKII to SFII which is a much better one. SFII has the better engine no doubt but MKII has a deeper roster, moves, hidden characters and more fun. I'd say SFII is much better as a competitive fighting game but MKII holds its own for single player or the more casual crowd. Curious to see where both will wind up on your eventual lists.

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Feb 07 at 3:57:27 PM
BubsyFan1 (1)

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Originally posted by: quest4nes

You're never going to convince me bubsy is worse than math blaster. Just never. Bubsy is god


Someone else finally understands! 

Feb 07 at 4:45:41 PM
barrelsAndRivets (138)
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< Bowser >
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Originally posted by: BubsyFan1
 
Originally posted by: quest4nes

You're never going to convince me bubsy is worse than math blaster. Just never. Bubsy is god


Someone else finally understands! 

This is an incredibly appropriate first post  
 

Feb 07 at 7:01:44 PM
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KlaklonxieShrools (69)
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(TerryDennis ) < Wiz's Mom >
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Chloe is a babe.

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You f***in want one?