Tuesday, August 30, 2011



They forgot to add “Hardest shooter in the universe” as the subtitle.

Axelay is just one of Konami’s plethora of shooters, though not as notable as Gradius was Axelay still held up fairly well during the SNES’s lifetime. One of the most inventive aspects of the game was its head on perspective as you play the game perpetually moving forward as if driving a race car. At certain points though the game reverts to a side scrolling view, but for the most part it is done using the head on view.


Side scrollin

As you move forward the scenery below your ship constantly moves this was a fairly unique type of graphic as during this games time the Super Nintendo was the only system with the capacity to do this. The Super Nintendo has eight modes of graphical ability each of which correlates to a certain kind of background movement and overlay. Mode 7 was a mode that took an image and gave it a horizon effect making it so that it looked like you were traveling quickly through the air. This mode was underused up until Axelay came about, once the game was released several other games popped up using this same type of mode. (Lawnmower man anyone?)

Now the overall purpose behind Axelay is that the earth is being invaded and you are a pilot (the last pilot alive actually) who is trying to stop the Aliens. The plot gets no deeper then that. To its credit it is a space shooter, a genre which commonly has no story whatsoever.


So I guess he won’t be getting a pension?

Sure the story may not exist but the gameplay is where it really seems to shine. Unlike most shooters where your weapon upgrades and changes based on items you pick up, Axelay at the start of every level lets you change your weapons out with ones you unlock as you progress through the game. In Axelay you are given three different weapons to use which you can alternate through with the L and R buttons at any given time. These weapons can later be changed out with ones you unlock. The weapons also count as a pseudo hit gauge as every time you are hit you loose access to one weapon until you have none and explode.

Weapon select

All the weapons in Axelay are unique and have their own respective features and attack power. For example the straight laser is a slightly stronger version of the regular laser your ship has if it loses all its weapons the straight laser is only capable of firing straight ahead but fires very rapidly. The Spread is about as strong as the regular laser but is capable of shooting all around your ship. Finally the Macro Missile is the strongest of the three starting weapons but pauses for a second between firing. All weapons aside from Bay weapons have a secondary missile which can be fired constantly, Bay weapons are better versions of the regular missile so they fire using the missile button.


Generally every level contains hazards just as much as it contains enemies that wish to kill you by crashing into you. These hazards vary from level to level and range from flying rocks to closing doors to lava. At times the hazards may seem like no problem but when you have several thrown at once while the levels pace increases You’ll want to check your reflexes.


What is this, how is this even possible?

In most of the levels you will encounter both a mini-boss and a end of the stage boss, this will not happen on all levels but will happen on most. The mini-bosses usually aren’t to much of a challenge as they tend to keep to a pattern, but the end stage bosses tend to mix it up. The bosses are usually themed around the stage you are play for example. . .

Mini Boss

The mini boss for the first stage is a crazy giant harrier jet thing which launches missiles and lasers at you.

As you can see from the screenshots the game has some very well designed sprites, this carries through the entire game. The sprite work, backgrounds, and music all had a lot of care and effort put into them and they are all quite good in their own right. Despite this though while playing you generally will not have much time to bask in the games aesthetic beauty as you will most likely be trying to not die. . . a lot.

Now this game is difficult, and I mean really difficult. I’ve played most of the Gradius games and they pale in comparison to this game. What adds to the difficulty is the lack of the Konami Code in this game so that you can increase your amount of lives or continues. Instead you are given four continues and three lives per continue. Now at first you may be thinking “surely that must be enough to complete a simple space shooter game?” Well that my friends is where you are wrong. For a first play through where you have no idea what to expect the hazards will absolutely slaughter you, later so will the enemies. However this is a game where you get better by playing it over and over, as you learn what to expect you can avoid the hazards and know how to react to certain enemies. So despite its difficulty if you give it enough time you will eventually plow through it.

This is an example of one of those games that are so hard that when you beat it you gain a feeling of satisfaction at triumphing over it. I’d place up with Ninja Gaiden for the rewarding feeling you get over beating it. This is a game I would recommend to those seeking a challenge or to general fans of space shooters. It may be hard, but who doesn’t like a little challenge now and then?



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bubble Bobble Part 2 (NES)

There are roughly 800 games in the NES catalog, but probably less than 20 licensed/unlicensed carts that usually hover around the $100 or more mark. Some, because they are universally loved and extremely sought after, others because they are supremely rare, and still more because they have a healthy amount of undeserved hype behind them. Let's face the facts - you're probably never going to get your hands on a complete copy of Stadium Events and even if you do - you wouldn't really feel that satisfied having it. However, there are some games that are absolutely worth picking up for the 100 - 200+ dollar asking price if faced with the choice and near the top of that list is Taito's 1993 classic Bubble Bobble part 2.

First and foremost, let's cover why Bubble Bobble Part 2 is a significant collector's item. Like most of the other highly collectable licensed NES games; Bubble Bobble part 2 was released late in the NES' lifespan. Starting in 1993 and working into 1994, NES game production slowed down to make way for more Super NES games, which was becoming the dominant system at the time. So this game is either scarce because:

A.) Buyers had moved on to the 16-bit systems and weren't picking up these last few NES games
B.) There was a smaller production run on these final games as a result of the SNES' increased popularity.

Whatever the case may be, Bubble Bobble Part 2 is considered a rare game in the NES library. It should be noted that (for some confusing reason) there are no less than three different games that bear the title or tagline of "Bubble Bobble 2." For the NES, there is Bubble Bobble Part 2 (this game) and Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2, which was released 2 years prior on the NES and is the original "sequel" to Bubble Bobble. There's also an arcade game called Bubble Symphony that is also known as Bubble Bobble 2 in some regions. However, that's only available here in the states in the Taito Legends 2 collection for Xbox, is not an NES game, and thus you don't have to worry your pretty little head about it. These games are confusingly named, confusingly numbered, and that's just how it should be in this topsy-turvy world.

There you are asking yourself, "Ok sure. The game is rare and worth quite a nice chunk of change - but is it worth it to me? " While I shouldn't be able to answer that question for you; I can. The answer is "yes."

Anyone familiar with the original Bubble Bobble will need little introduction to the basics of the game, but even for the uninitiated the gameplay is fast, fun and simple. You control one of two lovable dinosaurs - who in the cutscene at the beginning of the game have their girlfriends taken away by some mean ol' monsters. A pretty original storyline if you don't count Super Mario Bros, Splatterhouse, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Double Dragon and about 300 different early videogames. All kidding aside, the cutscene looks great and sets the tone for the improvements made over BB1 throughout.

Come on! That's just mean!

As stated before, the gameplay is as straightforward as it gets. Your dinosaur spits out bubbles that can trap enemies (and also provide a nice floating ledge to double-jump from.) You must progress through a mountain of different stages using your trusty bubbles and well timed jumps. If your character falls through the bottom of the screen, he comes out of the top. Anyone familiar with the original game will have absolutely no problem picking this one up.

This might look familiar...

There are a host of new enemies to battle in this one including bosses; which, to the best of my knowledge were nowhere in the first game (after all I never made it past stage 15 or so in Bubble Bobble. These games are tough.)

Woah! What have we here?!

The difficulty level compared to the first one is slightly easier - however, enemies like the flame guys and bosses serve as a nice balance to the mildly easier difficulty. However, make no mistake - Bubble Bobble part 2 is difficult. These games are notorious for being really long and like most arcade/action games get increasingly more difficult as the stages progress.

The graphics aren't a "night-and-day" difference from Bubble Bobble 1, but are still greatly improved. The characters look sharper, the levels are more colorful, and the cutscene at the beginning is a nice bonus. Another insanely popular NES game that the graphics can compare nicely to is Kirby's Adventure. Cutesy, colorful, playful and altogether adorable - the graphics are sharp and really display some of the best that the NES can represent. And just like the first game, the music is infectious. My only complaint about this game is the lack of the original theme song. However, this game has a snappy theme in its own right and all of the sound effects are sharp and sound arcade-quality.

I cannot recommend this game highly enough. Yes, the pricetag may seem steep at first - but if you're looking to establish a pretty awesome NES collection, this should be the first "upper-level" game on your list. Just imagine the bragging rights! I bet you that very few if any of your friends have this one - and you didn't have to fork over 20k for it like you did for Stadium Events! If the game is available to add to your cart now, I suggest doing so. If not, that's why LukieGames has a "Put me on the Waiting List" button. Push it now. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Power Piggs of the Dark Age

Old-school gaming was littered with wacky characters in bizarre situations. From the early days of Pacman to classics such as Super Mario Bros and Battletoads - the concepts were more than a little strange. Plumbers eating magic flowers and throwing fireballs, a yellow hockey puck that swallows pills and eats ghosts; there's no denying that while today's games are often based around some exaggerated form of reality (ie: the two-million Call of Duty games, Grand Theft Auto, The Sims,) early games were all about the surreal. So it should come as no surprise that Titus Software's "Power Piggs of the Dark Age" for the Super Nintendo is one big slice of crazy.

Released in 1994, this action platformer lets you take control of Bruno - head of the Power Piggs, on a quest to defend the kingdom from the Wolff Wizzard. Notice a trend with the "Super Kool 90's Spelling?!" The game tosses in a handful of references to fairytales such as the three little pigs and red riding hood and would definitely place pretty high in the "really original concept; if by original, you mean totally insane" contest. Did I mention the Power Piggs are the proud owners of what has to be the only pig-run donut shop in the dark ages? Total insanity.

Totally Bonkers

So how does Power Piggs play? Surprisingly well for a relatively unknown platformer. Bruno has two attacks, a sword slash and a donut throwing attack (of which there are a few varieties.) For the most part, the controls are competent. However, I would have liked a jump action that was a little less stiff. Your Power Pigg just sort of flops around instead of gracefully jumping from platform to platform. This can lead to some aggravating blunders and frequent trips to the spike pit if you're not extremely careful. There are quite a few airducts scattered around that will blow your character to higher platforms and add a fun dynamic to otherwise repetitive platforming.

The graphic style is a sort of mixed bag. The art style and bright, colorful graphics lead me to believe the developers might have been planning a cartoon spinoff ala "Earthworm Jim." It wouldn't be hard to picture a "Power Piggs of the Dark Age" cartoon on the WB or NBC Saturday morning lineup if the game had really taken off and become a franchise. The backgrounds are colorful - filled with candy-cane trees, swampland, and cartoony, stylized buildings. Sadly, in spite of the interesting direction that was taken with the graphics - some things still feel unfinished. I can't help but think a little more time could have been spent on your main character. Bruno just looks a bit, well...off.

Some of the enemies look great - the knight wolf at the end of stage 1, the window hanging wolves, and the giant wolves in the donut factory stage are top notch. However, the archers and "grandma" wolf feel flat and rushed. And why DOES the grandma wolf blow fireballs out of his dress?

Some less than stellar sprites aside, there are quite a few different enemies in Power Piggs and it doesn't feel like you're constantly coming up against the same two boring sprites.

Power Piggs of the Dark Ages is a little known and very original platformer. The cartoony art style works fairly well and the controls don't provide too many "controller-hurling moments." The music's funky and the game provides quite a bit of a challenge (sometimes intentional, sometimes as a result of a less than stellar jumping mechanic.) This game is not without its flaws. However, with a little patience, Power Piggs can be a rewarding action-platformer. So if you're on the lookout for a crazy, relatively unknown Super NES game to amaze your friends with - this one will do the trick.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ghost Trick


Is a logic/puzzle game created by Shu Takumi the brilliant mind behind the Ace Attorney series of games and it shows as the music and in between scenes are reminiscent of what you would expect from a Ace Attorney game. This game features an interesting concept and system which involves traveling back in time to four minutes before someone’s death and saving said person’s life, this is done through the manipulation of objects strewn throughout the area. This game features a colorful cast of characters whom you most likely fall in love with almost instantly.


This guy especially.

The story of the game is thus, you play as Sissel whom dies tragically one dark stormy night. The next thing he knows he wakes up to find himself as not only a ghost but a ghost who has lost his memories. He is then greeted by the mysterious Ray who explains to him that he is dead and has special powers called “Ghost Tricks” which give him the ability to manipulate objects. Upon witnessing the death of a young detective in the same vicinity of his own death Sissel learns that he has the power to go back to four minute's before someone's death, from there he manipulates objects to stop her assailant and save her life. Sissel then concludes that she must have some connection to his lost memories so upon saving her he teams up with her to hunt down his memories and to learn the truth behind these mysterious ghost tricks he has gained.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective-3

Living every mans dream.

In the game you mainly play as Sissel as you switch between the real world and the ghost world. The differences between these two worlds are drastic and are as follows'; In the Real World time passes gradually and you are able to manipulate whatever object you are currently residing in, however you cannot travel to other objects. In the Ghost World you can freely travel to any object within Sissel’s reach, and time freezes in place. This is the main mechanic of the game switching between worlds and manipulating objects, this allows for creative solutions to puzzles. Sissels main ability in the game is that he can manipulate objects, but there is one other character with a different ability that you meet later in the game, he has the ability to swap objects which adds additional depth to puzzles as you have the ability to swap items that look similar. 

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective-4


Now aside from just switching between the real world and the ghost world you also have the ability to go four minutes before the death of any person and attempt to prevent said death. This is where most puzzles occur, preventing said death. You go about this by manipulating objects in order to either buy time or to utterly prevent the death entirely. Saving lives will be very commonplace. Sissel also has the ability to manipulate phones and utilizes them to go from location to location.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective-2

Everyone’s a critic.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective-5

No Jeego, like this. . .


All the characters in the game are memorable, down to Bailey and his Panic Dance which has been passed down through his family for generations. You will fall in love with the characters, some more than others possibly, but you will fall in love with them none the less. Each has their own story that intertwines with the overall plot and helps to build up the climax as Sissel attempts to find his lost memories. Also there is the most adorable Pomeranian ever.



The music to the game is nothing to write home about but its nice enough to listen to when you are actually playing the game. However the art and 3D movements more than make up for it. As you may have noticed from the dog above the rest of the characters are designed in a similar fashion, also the characters are very expressive, I mean very. Most of the characters have about six or more expressions. The game has been praised for its fluid movements with its 3D models as you may have noticed from the earlier dancing man. Also the game contains beautiful backgrounds and areas that seem to be a combination of hand drawn backdrops and 3D models.


This is my favorite expression.

Now the overall story to the game revolves around Sissel trying to regain his lost memories after awakening as a ghost. Over the course of the game his hunt for his memories intertwines his fate with those of many people who were involved in an incident a long time ago. Sissel teams up with a girl named Lynne who is just as fiery as her red hair and though reluctant at first she decided to team up with Sissel. They both work together to undercover a conspiracy and the surfacing of another person with the ability to manipulate. The game reaches its climax with Sissel regaining his memories and saving the life of his oldest and dearest friend.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a great game, in my opinion its worth paying full retail for it. It has an incredibly satisfying story a host a fun puzzles and a great host of characters. Though unfortunately this game isn’t for everyone, this game is at its core a puzzle game, so for those who don’t enjoy puzzles this isn’t the game for you. This game has a great and satisfying story and I would highly recommend it for that alone. You can tell this game is by the creator of the Phoenix Wright series as the quirky humor from that series has carried over to this game. All in all, if you’re a fan of Puzzles and Story then this is the game for you as it succeeds at this.