Thursday, September 29, 2011

Donkey Kong Classics


I’m certain PETA was all over Mario after this.

Everyone who grew up in the 80’s or 90’s knows Donkey Kong it was at the time one of the major plat-forming arcade games. Donkey Kong was so immensely popular it spawned ports onto nearly every game system and received great sales all around. This merited a sequel and from that Donkey Kong Jr. was born. Donkey Kong Junior was the sequel to the first Donkey Kong game where you play as DK Jr. who has to rescue his father after he was captured by Mario in the first game. Just like Donkey Kong, Junior proved to be just as popular porting over to every 8-bit system of the time. After a rather successful run at that Donkey Kong Classics was released, this game featured both of the popular games on one cartridge and sold considerably well.


Unfortunately some doesn’t mean all. :(

The Donkey Kong series of games are one of the earliest examples of a game which produced a story through onscreen action. For instance when the game starts you are treated to a scene of Donkey Kong grabbing Pauline and climbing up some steel girders with her. Over the course of the game you climb up a section of Girders trying to get to Pauline, but once you reach the top DK grabs her and scampers off. Eventually you reach the top of the Tower and DK is knocked down onto the ground and Jumpman and Pauline share a moment.

The Sequel to Donkey Kong picks up where it left off with you playing as DK’s son as he tries to rescue his father who has been captured by Jumpman. DK Jr. fights through several stages avoiding the many animals Jumpman releases to stop him. At the end DK. Jr. frees his father and as Jumpman falls from the top of the platform DK’s cage was on.


And boy is he excited!

The games featured simplistic control featuring nothing but movement and the ability to jump. Though this is more then adequate for the simple plat-forming the game(s) offer(s). In Donkey Kong you climb ladders and Jump over barrels in order to reach Pauline, while in Donkey Kong Jr. you Climb Vines, avoid animals, and grab keys to free Donkey Kong. Both games feature three levels and you win the game after completion of the third level, though afterwards the game loops back through the three levels infinitely but with increased difficulty each time.


No matter how long he plays, it will never end.

The both games have relatively catchy tunes and the graphics for both are very appealing in the NES ports, though a majority of the ports onto lesser systems are shoddy in quality and should be avoided by anyone but a collector. Along with the many ports Donkey Kong had a significant amount of clones based off it, many of which didn’t really bother to even change the sprites.


Crazy Kong, the second cousin of Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong Classics is a game that, in my opinion, should be in everyone’s collection. Its good simple fun, and with the addition of a multiplayer mode allows for competition amongst friends or family to see who can get the highest score, or who can beat the game the fastest. I’d advise against getting the lesser versions of the Donkey Kong games on the Atari and Colecovision, the NES is the obvious superior system. Long story short; This is a great multigame cartridge and you should buy it.


If you can, don’t subject yourself to whatever this is supposed to be,

Donkey Kong Trivia time!

Donkey Kong originally did not star Mario, but instead starred a man simply known as Jumpman. It was upon the port to the home consoles and the incredible popularity of the Mario Bros. games that Jumpman was changed to Mario. Ironically Jumpmans character design was already close enough to Mario’s so all Nintendo really had to do was change some artwork and manuals.


Bulbous? I’m sure he prefers profound.

The original Donkey Kong arcade machines were converted from old Radarman cabinets, these cabinets had a distinct red color to them. (Radarman was Nintendo’s first try at getting American's to like video games after the great game crash.)

Jumpman would later become Mario in the game “Mario Bros.” an arcade game which featured two plumbers attempting to fight off turtles in a sewer while being beset by flames and other hazards.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Lost Vikings (SNES, Genesis)

Interplay's "Lost Vikings" is one of those games that I heard about for YEARS before finally playing it. I'm serious. From 9th grade until I finally played it in senior year of high school I had my best friend, classmates, neighbors, Blockbuster employees, mail carriers, garbage men, and CPAs all tell me that I absolutely had to play this game. With all of that ridiculous hype, you would think I would either praise this game as God's gift to gamers or cast it into the fiery pits of gamer hell along with "Shaq-Fu" and "Dudes with Attitude."

Truth be told, it belongs in neither category - which is a good thing and a bad thing.

Let's start off with all of my personal, nitpicky complaints first - that way we can try and be objective about this whole thing. I have a love/hate relationship with these type of puzzle-formers. "Lemmings" is probably in my top 30 games of all time list - but after about an hour or so of watching those little green boogers explode into a pixelly mess or splat like raindrops from a tall platform - I want to throw my controller through the flatscreen. That being said, I have a lot of experience with these types of games. I have walked many a "Lemming", "Troddler", "Human", or even Krusty's very own "rats" to their early gaming graves - so sad to say, a game like Lost Vikings no longer has the fresh coat of originality it may have had back in '92. So is that a fault of developers Silicon & Synapse - the company who would later become the behemoth known as Blizzard? Well, no. Out of Troddlers, Humans, Lemmings, and Krusty's Fun House - only Lemmings predates Lost Vikings, so it isn't like this had become a glutted market yet. However, all of the other puzzle-formers came out the same year - so it's hard to compete when so many similar games come out at the same time.

Booooing! Hey, that block is supposed to be up here!

Out of that batch of games, Lost Vikings plays closest to "Humans" in that you switch between a handful of characters and combine their strengths to reach the goal, rather than controlling a few out of a much larger pack and just arranging the talents of a select few to get the whole tribe out of the exit. I know that sounded like the same thing twice, but anyone who's played these might know what I'm talking about. In easier terms - 3 Vikings enter, and if you did it right, 3 Vikings leave. In Lemmings, 40 Lemmings enter, you make a handful parachute down and create a bridge so that hopefully, 29 or better will leave.

Crispy fried Viking. I'm NO GOOD at this game...

Now that I've explained my personal bias against puzzle/platformers - let's discuss the myriad of things that Lost Vikings gets right. First, this is the kind of game that benefits greatly from having a partner or two. Vikings lets you have up to three players control Erik, Olaf, and Baleog through these spaceships, pyramids, etc. It is a game that controls pretty easily with one player - you hit the L & R buttons to switch between Vikings and move them into position. However, having two or three players cuts the time down tremendously and makes chores that require; for instance, Olaf to make his shield into a platform for Erik to jump upon, much easier. You still have to coordinate the strategy with your real life friends and keep them from jumping down pits or getting zapped by lasers, thus negating all of the planning you guys did - but that's all on you, buddy! It's nice every once in a while to find a game that allows you to have more than two players at a given time (provided you have a multi-tap.)

For the most part the graphics are pretty well done. Your Vikings are fun, colorful and expressive. Jump down a long pit and watch your the facial expressions your Vikings make! Hi - larious. Their hair flips through the air, they have clean and fluid animations whenever they are running, jumping, shooting arrows, and more. The backgrounds and level designs are a bit of another story. For the most part, levels are fairly bland and repetitive with the same few sprites repeating constantly. I'll admit though, it's very hard to make a spaceship look exciting and many other games have lamer level design and background graphics. The music is nice and funky. It has that early 90's hip-hop stank all over it, and you half expect M.C. Hammer to bust out or Vanilla Ice to bring his "Ninja Rap." While not quite as funky as a game like Toejam and Earl, the soundtrack is fun and works well. The sound effects leave something to be desired as there really aren't too many to speak of. That being said, the presentation of Lost Vikings is better than average.

An example of some of the sassy Viking humor you'll see!

Side Note: The screenshots provided are from the Super NES version. There is a slight difference between the SNES and Genesis versions graphically speaking (I would argue the Super NES one is more detailed) as is usually the case when games are ported across both systems.

The difficulty level is exactly as you would expect from a Puzzle/Platformer and is pretty typical of the genre. If you can get 100% of your Lemmings out alive in at least 25% of the levels in that game - you will probably smoke through Lost Vikings in a short weekend. Folks like me who are clumsy at these games will have considerably more trouble - especially once you have to rely on multiple Vikings simultaneously and you don't have a partner to back you up. You will die - constantly. Rumor has it that the Genesis version has more levels than the SNES version - which is good for you guys and gals who want even more of a challenge. The box boasts "over 40 rip-roaring levels." I can give you a guess as to how many I completed successfully in all of the times I've played this game, but let's just say I never saw my way out of that friggin' space ship.

A Viking's Funeral. Get used to seeing this cutscene...

Lost Vikings is an above average puzzleformer in a sea of similar games. The animations are smooth, the gameplay is top-notch among this genre of game, and there is plenty of challenge to be had here. It's a real treat to find 3 player games and this would definitely make for a fun party game (until one of your friends calls you a dirty name because you guys had to see the "Viking funeral" animation for the 400th time.) It's difficult, it's generally a fun time, and it's available for both the SNES and Genesis over at Lukie Games right freakin' now! Get over there!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde


So this weekend past I was derping it up with a friend of mine at a flea market, and it was there that I spotted a NES title that intrigued me. This game was Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. I thought “surely a game based off of the wonderful novel would be good.” God was I wrong. This game is amazingly awful, and wonderfully terrible. It suffers from poor controls lack of driving story, EXTREME DIFFICULTY and a disappointing ending. Though at this point you probably don’t believe me, so let me tell you about this game at length.

I couldn’t find any historical info to impart to you guys, sorry :(

Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde is awful, I’d say its on par with Tommy Wisaues “The Room” for absolute awfulosity. There is no story to this game, however there is a small infinitesimal plot that you can only figure out by playing to the end; It is that Jekyll is strolling to the chapel to get married. That however doesn’t explain why every creature in the universe wishes to murder him.

Everythign is trying to kill youdropped the bomb

See that guy in purple? He drops a bomb as he walks by.

Literally everything in the game is trying to kill you, children, spiders, old men, gentlemen, aliens, goblins, lightning, etc Jekyll can’t catch a break at all in this game. What makes matters worse is the fact that the game has you constantly auto-scrolling which means you have to time your sluggish jumps as they are your only possible way of avoiding being hit. You are provided with a cane to jab things with but it has no effect ON ANYTHING. The cane attack serves no real purpose and as Jekyll all you can do is try to not die. But when your meter fills up. . .


Its payback time as Hyde!

You transform into Mr.Hyde and you start to auto-scroll in the opposite direction you were heading, at night surprisingly enough. You also have the ability to fight somewhat as you can punch and once in a while shoot some fireballs. Though as exciting as this may sound there is a catch, once Hyde reaches the place Jekyll was when he transformed lightning kills you. Yep, lightning, and the only to avoid it is the punch goblins and aliens until your rage meter is depleted.


Just because you’re Hyde doesn’t mean you are invincible, he’s just as flimsy as Jekyll.

I’d honestly say I’ve seen the game over screen around 50 or so times before I gave up.

game over

This image will be forever ingrained in my mind.

I will give the game some props for having really good music, though that by no means makes it any less terrible. This is a game is not for most people, it presents a level of challenge rivaling that of Ninja Gaiden and Battletoads. If you are really eager for a challenge this is the game for you, otherwise keep your distance as this game doesn’t kid around. If you know what’s good for you though you’d avoid this game.

Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)

I'm sure this statement won't be entirely controversial, but I hesitate just a little when I say that us gamers are a really strange bunch. I know this from personal experience, so please put down your pitchforks and torches and save them for the Sega CD version of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." All I'm saying is, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that most of my biggest life events have revolved around video games. I can't remember the name of the first girl I ever kissed. I think it was Alicia. Or was it Amy? Anne? Definitely an "A" name. I barely remember my first dance (though it's easier to remember because she was drunk and the song that was playing was one that I hate. "With Arms Wide Open." Bleecccch.) However, I can remember clear as day the first time I ever played "Legend of the Mystical Ninja" at my buddy James' house. I suspect many of you have similar stories for Megaman 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Double Dragon or any other _____insert game here_______.

As wonderful as those games are, they didn't have quite the impact that Konami's 1991 classic did for me. I stopped by James' house after school every day to try out the latest game he rented from the local grocery store or bought at the Toys 'R Us. On one particularly memorable day, he said "I have this Japanese game we HAVE TO play." He and another buddy of ours almost beat it in one night - it was my challenge to help him finish. While we never got to the final stage that day, I will always remember the fun we had popping enemies in the head with flutes and yo-yos and playing mini-games in the arcade.

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite games, so don't be surprised if there are even more flowery, glowing words about this title than many of the previous ones I've reviewed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've seen this screen once or twice...

First, a little history. Legend of the Mystical Ninja is the American title for the Japanese Super Famicom game, "Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyuushutsu Emaki." Don't ask me to pronounce that - I clearly copy-pasted that badboy in here from Wikipedia. The Goemon series of games started with the arcade classic Mr. Goemon, which I also recommend - although the gameplay is almost completely different. The only version I know of here in the states is available from the ill-fated Game Room application on XBLA. I highly recommend at least giving the free demo a spin.

To give a little more history (this time, the kind that comes from textbooks - not Nintendo Power,) the character Goemon is based on a Japanese folk hero named Ishikawa Goemon. From what history there is out there floating around, Goemon is the Japanese equivalent to our Jesse James - an outlaw, a thief, a bandit who has been given a larger than life persona that may or may not have been earned. Some legends say he was a ninja out for revenge, some say he was a robin-hoodesque figure who stole from the rich and gave to the poor - and according to Konami, he's a squatty little blue haired boy who whacks bald Japanese fishmongers with a pipe for coins and hangs around a chubby mustachioed man who loves eating and may or may not fancy the male geisha rowing the boat after your giant squid battle. I love Japanese gaming.
Breaking the fourth wall? GENIUS!

Side note: In the Japanese version of this game series, your main characters are Goemon and Ebisumaru. In the cart I'm reviewing, the characters are known as Kid Ying and Dr. Yang. This is one big ball of confusing if you wind up playing the US N64 games, as they are correctly named in those games. The scourge of "localization" also lead Konami to snip a funny sequence or two from the US release. That being said, there's a lot of humor left in the US release and I wouldn't say it is necessary to track down the Super Famicom cart just for a few tiny differences.

The controls in Mystical Ninja are easy to grasp and work pretty close to flawlessly. You control Kid Ying or Dr. Yang in this action adventure classic - running, jumping, swinging around yo-yos and flutes across levels broken up into several screens and usually an "action stage" section guarded by a giant raccoon dog (?) who gives hints or cautions you about danger ahead. I know there is also some Asian folk history behind these giant raccoon dogs (whose statues in Asian markets usually have another special feature I probably shouldn't mention in this review. Suffice to say - color me impressed) I'm just clueless as to what it signifies.
In order to pass this stage, "Raccoon Dog" says you need really

Anyway, you can buy pizza to replenish health after your last hitpoint and sandals to increase your overall speed and jumping power. These sandals are a must! Hidden around most levels are bonus stages where you will need these sandals to access various prizes blocked by rock-piles. The hit detection is mostly accurate (although you'll be cursing all of the enemies and their cheap-shot flying projectiles - swearing up and down that they didn't really hit you,) but overall there aren't many hiccups in how you control Ying or Yang around the stages.

As I mentioned before, there are a bunch of hidden or bonus sections to this game that are well worth the price of admission alone. There are sections where you jump across rocks for bonus items, there are first-person dungeon maze sections ala the first couple Might and Magic games, and there are bonus games all over the place! It's hard to accurately explain in words the fun of the carnival stage. There is horse-race betting, dice, slot machines, whack-a-mole, paint race, and arcade games such as breakout and hockey. There are fortune tellers who influence your immediate future by rewarding you with goodies when you leave the store or showering you with enemies. Keep in mind that all of the fun little in-game distractions cost gold coins, so you could spend your entire wad on parlour games when you really should have picked up pizza and sandals. Just a friendly, frugal warning from someone who has spent HOURS playing the in-game minigames. It was a novel idea back in the early 90s and it still holds up remarkably well today.

The graphics and sound are both out of this world and add so much to an already amazing game. There are plenty of short cutscenes and animations in between stages that are equal parts detailed and impressive as they are laugh-out-loud funny. While this game is no Donkey Kong Country, I still would rank the elaborate cutscenes and animations as highly impressive for the Super Nintendo. The characters are just so darn cute! As stunning as the graphics are - the music is also one of the big highlights of this game. The songs are just so infectious! If you're anything like me, you'll be humming the various stage songs right along with the Megaman 3 intro and Super Mario World theme. I have heard some of these songs before outside of the game, so I believe that a few of them are old Asian folk songs - either that or someone saw fit to do restaurant muzack versions of Mystical Ninja songs. I'm betting on the former, since there are so many references to Japanese folklore and culture in this game.

Jaws 4-D: Attack of Dr. Yang!

For me, the absolute highlight of the game is the multiplayer element. I know, there are tons of SNES games that feature 2 player co-op. However, this game feels like it was MEANT to be played with a partner. I mean, you're watching/playing the adventures of Kid Ying and Dr. Yang, right?! The cutesy and clever cutscenes pull you in and it only seems natural to have both Goemon and Ebisumaru on screen when all the action is going down. Not to mention that the difficult level increases as the game progresses, so there are times where I struggle unless I've got a buddy backing me up and tossing coins or throwing stars at our opponents. If you're looking for a great multiplayer game (ya know, back when multiplayer required you to be in the same room as your partner) then look no further than Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

Not at Lukie Games! Currently only 20.97 as of this blog. Such a steal!

So what else can I say? This game and the other US ported Goemon games didn't set records with sales over here and that's a shame. I believe it's one of the top 5 essential SNES games and is every bit as good as the staples like Super Mario World, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda, Super Street Fighter II, etc. - it's just a very different game. One that I know you will enjoy if you dig a fun, comical action adventure game and especially if you can grab a friend, family member, hobo, stranger, neighbor, police officer, or teacher to play second fiddle to your little blue haired hero. Lukie games has a copy for sale NOW and you'll be glad you picked it up. It's one of the essential SNES games. Period.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pokémon Stadium


With the incredibly explosive popularity of the Pokémon series Nintendo decided it best to make a home console game to accompany the handheld gems. Originally designed for the N64DD (Dynamic Drive) add-on system the game was released with only 42 playable Pokémon, unfortunately this is because the Dynamic Drive add-on proved to be a bust and the programmers had to rush a product out resulting in the original Pokémon Stadium. Ironically the D.D. add-on was supposed to be Nintendo’s answer to the PlayStation and its high disc storage space, though due to cost issues the system failed.


If your system needs an add-on to compete, then its best to just make a new system.

About a year after the atrocity that was the D.D. Pokémon Stadium game, an actual playable version was released which contained all the Generation 1 Pokémon along with a host of added mini-games, and a bunch of special unlockable goodies. This version of Pokémon stadium was eventually ported to the U.S. and was one of the few games on the system to utilize the N64 Transfer pack (17 games in total only 6 of which were ported to the U.S.).

Now I’m sure are probably wondering what could this game possibly offer me? Well, firstly you get to battle your Pokémon in…In 3d

Thank you Harry.

That’s merely the tip of the iceberg though as that’s just an aesthetic change; Pokémon Stadium also comes with a host of modes such as Gym Leader Castle, Stadium, Kids Club, Free Battle, Professor Oak’s Lab and Gameboy Tower. So lets look at each of these now so you can full understand how amazing this game is:

Lets start off with Gym Leader Castle; Gym Leader castle is just what the name implies, it’s a rather large castle where you battle the iconic gym leaders from the previous games. Though by no means will this be an easy feat as first you must pass through the five trainers standing in your path. Each of which Pokémon will be at a proportionate level to your own. So you should aspire to have your team of a flat level like 50, 70, or 100; or you can just rent your Pokémon of which they will all be level 50. Just like in the handheld games the Gym Leaders each have a them to them, Brock has rock, Lt.Surge has Electric, and Misty has Water, etc. Once you have cleared all eight Gym Leaders you fight your Rival, and upon beating him you face the ultimate Pokémon.


What? Come on your not even trying with these jokes.

Upon defeating the ultimate Pokémon you unlock a special Pokémon. Which can be transferred onto your Pokémon Red, Blue or Yellow game. Then you get to play Round 2 where all the gym leaders and trainers are stronger and upon clearing that you unlock another special thing.

Pokemon Stadium_Feb23 18_43_47

Oh and you get some badges too, which is cool, I guess.

The next funtastic mode of this game is the Stadium mode. There are four different cups to choose from each with its own set of rules for what Pokémon are legal, level restrictions and the like. The real kicker here is that this mode is multiplayer as you can play using cup rules in Free Battle Mode.


One sided matchups will naturally happen.

Each cup has four difficulties, Poke ball, Great Ball, Ultra Ball, and Finally Master Ball. The difficulty comes in the form of more competent opponents with stronger Pokémon then you. Now I mentioned earlier something about renting Pokémon, well let me break it down for you how that works as you will probably have to rent a Pokémon(s) from time to time.

How Renting Works:

  • When selecting what Pokémon you are going to use you are brought to a screen which asks you if you want to use Pokémon from your game (if you have it in the transfer pack)
  • Rental Pokémon will always be at the lowest possible level for any particular battle or cup, this is typically Level 50.
  • You may only choose from 149 Pokémon, the 150th you need to unlock.

You can mix and match your Pokémon with ones you own and rentals, for some this can really help even out a team. Upon clearing a cup you are presented with a trophy representing the difficulty in which you completed it on.

Pokemon Stadium_Feb23 18_44_04

No that’s not real metal.

Upon clearing each cup four times you unlock an upgrade to the Gameboy Tower, clear through it one more time and you net yourself another one.

Next up is the greatest part of the entire game (in my opinion), the Kids club. The Kids Club is a collection of Multiplayer mini-games that are addicting as they are fun. These games are naturally designed for multiple players, but that by no means you shouldn’t try it out against some computers, practice makes perfect, and perfection can be rubbed in the faces of your friends. There are two ways of playing a free play mode where you pick a game and play it, and a competition mode titles “Who's the best?” where you and whomever else is playing with you aspires to win several rounds in a row to see whom out of your group is the best.

The mini-games themselves are all interesting and fairly varied. (I won’t go into all of them but I’ll give you a  few examples of what you’ll be experiencing.) You have Run, Rattata, Run which is a foot race played by rapidly pressing A and hopping over barriers by pressing up on the D-pad.


This is illegal in some countries.

Another fun game is the Sushi-go-Round where you play as a Lickitung and attempt to build up the largest bill by eating the most expensive food.


There are obviously some subtle metaphors here.

You move your lickitung around with the thumb-stick and devour the food with the A button. The more of the same food you eat the more the score you receive multiplies. However you have to watch out as some spicy food will cause your lickitung to flip out for a little while as it tries to cool its mouth down.

Another mini-game is Clefairy says which is Simon says using the D-pad. Yep that’s it, its Simon says and if you mess up five times you lose. So make sure you practice working up your short term memory.



You should have a good enough mental picture of what to expect, there are a couple more games, Magikarp Splash where you attempt to splash hop up and hit a counter as fast as you can, Snore War where you attempt to put your opponents to sleep by hitting A at the right moment, Thundering Dynamo where you alternate between jamming on the A and B buttons to build up power faster then your opponents, Ekans Hoop Hurl, where you attempt to toss an Ekans onto Digletts, and finally there's Rock harden where you play as a Metapod or Kakuna and try to last the longest by utilizing harden to keep from being crushed by boulders.

Free Battle is as the name implies a mode that allows you to battle free of restrictions or rules, despite this you have the option of using the cup rules. You choose your six Pokémon's and then mix em’ up before the battle in the order you choose.

Pokemon Stadium_Jan26 11_44_10

Or if you’re neurotic like me you’ll just put them in the order you picked them.

From there on its all up to your own strategies to determine who wins, as the battle system is identical to the system used in the previous games, but in 3D!

Pokemon Stadium_Jun1 13_17_56Pokemon Stadium_Jan16 13_33_04

For my ramble on the battle system see here.

Professor Oaks Lab is essentially a trading station, that is the only real function it serves. Sad. On the plus side is has a box system so you can store your Pokémon in your stadium game if your box in your game was starting to get crowded, so that’s kinda cool.

funny professor oak meme

You have failed me Pokémon Prof.

The final main mode is the Gameboy Tower (dun dun dun), the Gameboy Towers acts as an emulator which allows you to play your Pokémon handheld games (Red, Blue, Yellow) on the TV. It serves a similar function to that of the Super Gameboy only with better sound quality and arguably better picture as well. Its more of a gimmick then an actual mode, but for what its worth its pretty neat. Though there are perks to using it, if you beat the game once through you unlock the Doduo tower which gives you the option of play the games at 2X speed (imagine the battling and catching you could do at double the speed!) and if you clear the game again you can unlock another neat goody for the tower. Fun times~

Pokémon Stadium is a very solid game by itself and fans of the series will all enjoy it, if not for the battles then at least for the mini-games. The American release of the game has few flaws as by the time of its release it already had most of them ironed out after the atrocious release that was the first version in Japan. In my opinion this game is best enjoyed by using you own Pokémon from you own games, renting is fun and quick but nothing feels more satisfying then beating the game with the Pokémon you worked long and hard to train. So if you wanna use your own Pokémon you will need at least two things aside from this game:

  1. A Transfer Pak
  2. A Pokémon Game

With these things in hand you can fully experience the majesty of this game.


Behold the majesty.

For fans of the series this is a game you cannot pass up, its relatively inexpensive and loads of fun. So get on that.

Pokemon Stadium_Aug13 14_27_03

Do it or you’ll make Lygast cry.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Werewolf: The Last Warrior (NES)

When I was a young kid, I would pretend to be the wolfman. A lot, in fact. I don't know exactly why I was so attracted to pretending to be a werewolf but I think it had to do with the movies "Monster Squad" and "American Werewolf in London." Sure, Dracula had all of the ladies and Frankenstein's monster had human feelings buried somewhere beneath that grey, reassembled frame; but the werewolf was a ruthless killing machine. One day playing werewolf on the playground, I bit a kid on the leg. That sort of ended the whole fascination with play-acting in one fell swoop.

Embarrassing childhood stories aside - I knew I had to find an outlet for my ridiculous werewolf fascination. Luckily, I was the proud owner of an NES and I stumbled across the game "Werewolf: The Last Warrior" at the local Toys 'R Us. Released in 1990 by Data East, this game is just what I needed to let out the inner werewolf in me; even if only for a few hours. Is this game perfect? No. However, it's just the right kind of weird to satisfy me and I have a hunch you guys & gals will dig it too.

Most of the plot is told through cutscenes and mildly broken English, but the story is relatively easy to follow. The game follows a man known as "werewolf" as he goes up against several bio-mutants invented by the evil Dr. Faryan. The instruction manual calls you "war wolf," the game calls you "werewolf," I'm not sure any of that matters - just remember, you're a werewolf and your job is to slice and maim everything that gets in your path. You are granted the power to become a werewolf by the great spirit Kinju - a scraggly looking fellow who acts as your guide through Werewolf: The Last Warrior. In the process, you've got slime monsters, a metal super-villain, a fire monster and more to contend with.
The scraggly old spirit-guide Kinju

The gameplay here is a mixed bag. Throughout most of the game, your character will be in werewolf form and that is a truly wonderful thing. You can do backflips by pressing A+B simultaneously, you can hang from pipes, double-jump, climb walls, you have an effective melee attack, and finally - don't ask me how - you can even shoot a gun on the odd occasion that you pick one up. If you collect 5 of the small dusty grey orbs that are scattered throughout the stages while in werewolf form, you will turn into a super-werewolf for a brief time. The super-werewolf has a stronger attack, higher jump, and generally seems to move slightly faster.

If playing as the super-werewolf is the pinnacle of excellence in this game; then playing in human form is the absolute lowest of the low. The human is slower, has no real jump to speak of, his attack is pitiful and his only real means of defense is a powerful scream he lets out when collecting those little anger orbs. Playing as the human is an exercise in futility because there is a constant barrage of enemies, hazards, and other such nonsense that the guy just can't hack it against. To top it off, the guy has far fewer hit points - so all of these dangers popping up will kill you dead real quick. There's a steadfast rule that every player of Werewolf: The Last Warrior should know - red W's are your friend, blue W's are not. The red W will turn your ineffective human being into the awesomeness incarnate known as the werewolf. On the flipside, the blue W will transform you back into that defenseless sack of skin. Stay hairy, my friends. It's the only way you're gonna get ANYWHERE in this game.

That's not to say that playing as the werewolf is a piece of cake. There are a few things that can be more than mildly frustrating about our furry avenger, though I would hardly call them gamekillers.

For starters, it's surprisingly easy to get stuck on a wall when your intention was to jump over it (ala Ninja Gaiden.) This isn't always such a pickle, unless there are bats coming your way and you need to move quickly or in the high rise stage where you need to be super accurate with how you jump from beam to beam. Stages like that one in particular can be beyond frustrating because of that Ninja Gaiden-esque control scheme and all of the hazards coming at you in the level (including lightning strikes that kill you instantly!)
Backflippin' ninja-awesome super-mega-wolf!

Another frustrating aspect of the controls is probably more due to human error - that darn backflip. It takes a very precise hand to handle that backflip accurately and in some levels it's crucial that you repetitively jump from section to section backwards, lest you be zapped by electrical current or stuck by spikes or stalagmites. Also, knowing when and when not to use it is key. If there are pits anywhere near where you think you're going to land - don't use it. Remember that the werewolf takes 3 huge leaps backward and if it lands you into a pool of water or a pit, you're toast. Jumping up and catching ahold of those pipes can also be an exercise in frustration because you'll find yourself whacking aimlessly through the air or spin-jumping when you mean to grab ahold. Again, these problems have more to do with having a deft hand and precise timing rather than programming error.

The music and sound effects are awesome for an early NES game. The soundtrack is full of wailing midi guitars, ominous piano stings, and some catchy, funky boss-battle themes. They may get tedious in levels that you're bound to die in 3 or 4 times, but as far as relatively early NES soundtracks go - Werewolf: the Last Warrior is up there with some of the better Capcom games.

The cutscenes and graphics are also top notch for the time. The level of detail in the cutscenes is impressive - Kinju looks like a dirty and worn man, the monsters look sinister and truly disgusting, and while the transformation sequence is kind of funny (the werewolf face looks a little more like a badger or a fox,) the amount of detail in these scenes is impressive for an 8-bit cart. Character sprites are detailed and have nice shading techniques and the stages have a realistic depth to them. The graphics are comparable to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.

If you're looking for a challenging game - this is it. I would rank the difficulty level as medium to hard. There are just so many pitfalls that have to be maneuvered past and some of the later bosses are tough to compete against. Honestly, I've had this game for about 20 years and I have still never beaten the darn thing. Getting past the fire monster takes more fortitude, cunning, and patience than I apparently have. Each boss has a strategy to beat and I'm sure if you carve enough time out - you can get past this blazing fast demon - I just haven't got it in me.
Duck & Punch! Duck & Punch! Where is that darn red W?!

So is Werewolf: The Last Warrior a flawless NES title? No. There are a handful of frustrating moments sprinkled throughout and the difficulty level fluctuates wildly from stage to stage. The English translation can be spotty at times, but the effort put into making a cohesive plot and the super detailed cutscenes are worthy of praise. I would recommend Werewolf to fans of Ninja Gaiden and the first TMNT game - all of which have a frustrating difficulty spike but also can be rewarding as well. This game is available right now at Lukie Games for a super reasonable price and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good action-platformer with a monster hero. Halloween is right around the corner so you guys should snag this game up in time for that spooky holiday!