Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (NES)


The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (Grammar fail?) is a palette swap of a game based on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit created by Kemco. The exact reasoning for this game and it’s subsequent sequels existence is purely due to a rights dispute in which Kemco lost the rights to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and had to find a way of sending a game overseas somehow. Just as all seemed bleak for them they attained the rights to the Looney Tunes and swapped all of the characters from the movie with lookalike characters from the Looney Tunes, they would keep this trend going into this games many sequels and more or less every subsequent game they would ever make. The first of this series of games I ever played was the second one and not the first so imagine my surprise to realize that the sequel was much better then the original, though this is more likely due to them both being palette swaps of different games, though that’s a story for another day.


Who Framed Bugs Bunny?

The premise of the game is that you are Bugs Bunny and you are attempting to traverse the Crazy Castle and reach you’re girlfriend Honey Bunny.


Why is it that we don't remember her?

I digress though, you go through many seemingly identical levels in the game while being inessentially pursued by other iconic characters from the Looney Tunes like Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, and Yosemite Sam, all of which may be partially retarded as at certain points they kind of spaz out and instead of flat out murdering the hell out of you they just decide to walk away instead allowing you to complete the level. On any given level there may be multiple’s of these characters and very often they will each be a different color which I assume is due to the game wanting you to have a better grasp of the location of where each of these guys who are trying to kill you are located. The objective of any given level is to collect all of the carrots which are placed all over the levels seemingly at random, and once you have grabbed all of the carrots you win the level and Bugs does a really weird dance involving waving his arms.

Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle_084

The controls are basic, you have the ability to ascend stairs and ramps, and if you pick up a fist get the ability to use that to kill one of the enemies who are trying to murder you, there are other less common items like the ink bottle which makes you invincible for a brief period of time but the fist will be the weapon you will see the most often. The only other way of killing any enemy is to drop one of the many objects strewn throughout the stage, to actually drop the objects you have to push it off a ledge onto an enemy below you. The actual task of knocking an object on the enemy can be difficult or hard depending on how fast you are moving and the item in which you are trying to drop, I’ve noticed that when you run at an item and hit it the item will usually move 2-3 spaces instead of 1, I’ve also noticed that some lighter objects like the bucket will usually move 2 spaces instead of 1. One thing I must mention is the players ability to ascend and descend from stairs is kinda bad, it’s reminiscent of the stair climbing problems the first Castlevannia had in which once you were on those stairs you were dedicated to going up or down.

I can’t say much for the graphics/animations of the game but for a relatively simplistic platformer with no real story or true premise aside from being something quickly slapped together by Kemco in order to get a game Stateside. The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is an alright game, it by no means is perfect. Honestly though I would not really recommend this game unless you truly are a collector or you want to experience a game with no content. This game may be fairly solid mechanics-wise but it isn’t something the average gamer would really want to play unless they are into collecting or really want to play a Bugs Bunny game. I bought this game a long time ago and I go back to play it once in a while… yet I never really feel fulfilled playing it; I attribute all it’s problems to the fact that the game is obviously a rushed job of a poorly palette swapped game.

TL;DR : Buy this only if you are a collector or like Bugs Bunny.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pokémon Gold and Silver (GBC)

Pokemon silver box artPokemon Gold boxart EN-US

How do you measure its worth?

If there has ever been any constant over the course of this life of mine its my love of Pokémon. I recall many fond memories playing the Gen I games, thwarting Team Rockets plans, defeating the Elite Four, and catching Mewtwo those were good times and being the nostalgic person that I am the first generation of Pokémon will always be regarded as perfect in my memory. Two years after devoting every fiber of my being towards the goal of being a Pokémon master Pokémon Gold and Silver were released, naturally I snagged both copies of the games and was completely taken in by the games. The rest of the year 2000 would be spent beating the games and trying once again to become the greatest Pokémon master there ever was.

Pokémon Gold and Silver released on October 15, 2000 to North American audiences is commonly regarded as being the superior to Red, Blue, and Yellow as many improvements were made to the game in regards to graphics, sound, and battle mechanic. The many concepts and facets introduced in this game would set a precedent for all subsequent games to improve upon.

In Pokémon Gold and Silver just as in the Red and Blue your ultimate objective remains the same, and that is to become the Pokémon Master. To go about doing this you need to catch all of the Pokémon and defeat all of the Gym Leaders of both the Johto and Kanto regions and the Elite Four. There are an additional 100 Pokémon along with the 151 from the previous generation of games, however to catch them all you will need to trade Pokémon in order to catch them all as in Gold and Silver there are certain Pokémon with whom you need to trade between games as they are exclusives. In order to get any of the legendaries from the first generation you will need to trade for them, this includes Mewtwo, Moltres, Articuno, and Zapdos, some minor Pokémon you may need to get from previous games as well though for the most part it is only the legendaries from the first generation that you truly need to trade for. Below is a chart showing the version exclusive Pokémon between Gold and Silver compliments of Bulbapedia.

Version Exclusives

I shall now discuss the improvements Gold and Silver made to the series as a whole, the first of which is the ability for Pokémon to hold items. The item holding mechanic adds further depth to the battle system as the items have the capacity to either heal of increase/decrease offensive or defensive strength of the Pokémon according to whatever item you are holding. I shall give only several item examples as there are many and accounting for them all would only make this unnecessarily long.

Held Item Examples:

  • Quick Claw: When held by a Pokémon it gives it a 20% of going first
  • Leftovers: Restores 1/16 of a Pokémon's Maximum HP at the end of every turn while held
  • Berserk Gene: Confuses the user and Raises Attack. One time use.

By using held items it revolutionized the entire battle system by making it so that you need to account for the effects of an item prior to choosing an attack or switching a Pokémon. For an in depth look at the core battle mechanic see my previous review of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow.

Pokémon Types received additions in this game these were the Dark Type and Steel type which were included in order to help balance the battle system as in the previous games the Psychic type was incredibly over powerful and the fighting type was never really used. Some balancing issues were assessed and type effectiveness was changed for several typing's that were unbalanced at the time.

new type

One of the greater aspects of the game is that it has a built in internal clock and by taking this step into reality it changes how one goes about catching Pokémon. As time changes in the real world it changes according to the set time in the game and the in game world shifts through day, afternoon, and night. The differing times of the day indicate what Pokémon you will catch in certain areas, this also opens up the realm of night and day Pokémon such as Hoothoot and Noctowl who only ever appears at night. Another interesting mechanic that sadly hasn’t been fleshed out since it’s inception is the concept of the time of day deciding evolution, Evee gained two new evolutions Umbreon and Espeon to evolve into the former it would need to be night while the latter would need it to be day time. The time function did not only extend to the Pokémon with whom you encounter it also encompassed what shops would be open in the Goldenrod Underground as on certain day you would have the old woman selling medicine and on others you would have one of the Pokémon groomers who will make your Pokémon like you more by grooming them.


Morning, Day and Night respectively.

Another interesting bit is the Bug catching contest (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) and S.S.Aqua ( both of which have certain days in which you can interact with them. The Bug Catching contest is a contest in which you attempt to catch the largest bug and receive a prize based on your placement. The S.S. Aqua is a boat which will take you from one region to the next which you can only catch at certain ports on certain days, while on it you can battle a plethora of trainers who will always be raring to fight now matter how many times you ride the boat.


I hope he has his swim trunks.

Graphics wise Pokémon Gold and Silver are superior to the previous games in every facet as the game not only is in color but the sprites and battle sprites are greatly detailed in comparison to the previous games. It is safe to say that the game is far more aesthetically pleasing as many of the ingame sprites better resemble what they were intended to be, tree’s resemble trees, grass resembles grass, but voltorb still look like Poke balls. The battle sprites look infinitely better then they did in the previous games and all the attacks now have unique battle animations which all look absolutely great. Remember those ugly back sprites which barely resembled the Pokémon? Well those are gone and now we have back sprites that actually look alright!


Pokémon Gold and Silver for it’s time was incredibly revolutionary for a sequel and improved upon almost every facet of the series while retaining the main purpose of the series. In my opinion Gen II stands as the most important point in the evolution of the series as all of the important additions to Gold and Silver have remained in all of its successors unlike Gen III and Gen IV in which both had many of their unique additions abandoned at the doorstep. Both Pokémon Gold and Silver use time as a game mechanic which increases replay value as only certain Pokémon and certain events can occur at night or during the day which essentially forces any player to have to keep up with their playing if they want to experience every aspect of the game and catch all of the Pokémon. Gold and Silver just like it’s predecessors has some quirky humor as you can examine practically anything and hear some sort of comment on it along with the dialog of the NPC’s which is always good fun. Overall if you liked the previous three games you will most likely fall in love with the second round of games, they are easily worth the $10-$20 that they can be found for and I’d highly recommend getting them.


Early Concept Art for Pokémon Silver and Gold

Japanese Official Site for Pokémon Silver and Gold

North American Official Site for Pokémon Silver and Gold

Adventures in Unlicensed Games: Spiritual Warfare (NES, Gameboy)

Well gang, it's Christmas time! Today we'll be discussing Wisdom Tree's "Spiritual Warfare" for the NES. I had a fun time reviewing it - it's a pretty wacky game with a crazy premise. I know that Bible games have been done to death online, the Angry Video Game Nerd did four excellent episodes on the matter, and they can be a touchy subject for a few - but in this review I'm tackling a game that actually has a few great highlights. While it's not the best game in the world, it has its merits. I poke a little fun but am not out to hurt anyone's feelings so I've reeled the unabashed sarcasm in a bit. Hope you guys & gals enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday!
- Chris

The term "spiritual warfare" evokes many images in the mind. Take for example: The Crusades. A bloody chunk of history where religious wars raged in the late 1000's up until nearly the 1300's. How about the battle that has raged in the Middle East between Palestinians and Jews for as far back as anyone can remember? In truth, people have been killing one another over beliefs shortly after the first two people looked up at the night sky observing the majesty of the cosmos and disagreed vehemently on how and/or why it came into existence. That's perhaps a bit of an oversimplification; often politics, land disputes, economics and the rise and fall of empires have more to do with supposed religious warfare than simply the opponent's deity of choice. It is, however, a motivation when it comes to conflict between nations, sects, tribes, etc.

A quick Google search of the term "spiritual warfare" also brings up a much different meaning - a blanket war against evil. It could be as simple as the spiritual conflicts within one's self - IE: the kind of stuff that Ronnie James Dio would sing about. More often than not it's a term that describes the actions of die-hard, unwavering, radically conservative Christian leaders (the kind that really seemed to spring up in the early 80's with folks like Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Fallwell, and the Bakkers.) The kinda folks who would tell you that your kids can't watch Teletubbies because Tinky-Winky is a symbol for gay pride, or that Harry Potter is a Satanic abomination and an icon for the Occult. Spiritual warfare is about keeping out "evil influences" in order to live a better life. So hide your Quija boards, Marilyn Manson records, skateboards, black clothing, and video games because the fun police just arrived!

That is, unless your video games are made by developer Wisdom Tree! Wisdom Tree is a small independent game development house that would make Christian themed games that would be sold in Christian bookstores. An interesting fact is that Wisdom Tree is a branch of game developer Color Dreams which also released such wholesome games as "Robodemons" and "Menace Beach" (but I'll save those wonderful games for another time.) Wisdom Tree, Color Dreams, and Bunch Games (another branch of C.D.) have a reputation for putting out sub par games that had to be released unlicensed, presumably because Nintendo had fairly strict content policies and religious references were certainly one of them - as well as policies against games that consistently look like they were made by a third grader. Nevertheless, Wisdom Tree released the game Spiritual Warfare in 1992. This is the kind of game that Stewart from "Beavis and Butthead" or the Flanders kids from "The Simpsons" would have loved!

They don't look too eager to hear
"the good news."

The first thing you'll notice if you've played any of the other Wisdom Tree games is that the graphics aren't all that bad. They are certainly a marked improvement over some of the old Color Dreams games like Robodemons. Also, with most of these Wisdom Tree games you have the joy of guessing which game (Color Dreams or popular licensed game) that this game is trying to emulate. In the case of Bible Adventures, the game plays a lot like Super Mario Bros. 2. Some of the Wisdom Tree games like Sunday Funday are just retooled versions of older Color Dreams games. In the case of Spiritual Warfare, it's an awful lot like Legend of Zelda. Let's face it, there's a lot worse games that you could base your knock-off game on and for the most part Wisdom Tree does a good job. Remember the old man who would give you advice, items, etc? Well, here it's an angel and you trade in doves as currency for different varieties of the "fruit of spirit." The menu screen looks similar, the level design and perspectives are similar, and overall the game has some of the fun elements of Zelda without some of the frustrating difficulty.

Look kids! It's...kinda like...Zelda?

So what is the aim of Spiritual Warfare, you ask? To convert the dirty, wicked heathens in your neighborhood and collect the six pieces of the "Armor of God." These pieces of armor are scattered around the game and collecting them will help you access otherwise inaccessible areas. For an unlicensed game, there are actually quite a few different kinds of enemies - though it's often a mystery why they need saving. Sure, the gang members carrying around switchblades certainly could use a little guidance at the very least. But why is the kid with the basketball committing a sin? The kid playing hide and seek? The boy with the ice cream bar? Construction workers? What sins are these people committing that they are in such need of a spiritual awakening? I suppose that's the blessing and curse (some puns intended) of having so many different enemies is that they don't entirely make sense. I suppose if everyone were a thug, a drunk, and a prostitute this game would feel very lazy. At least half or better of the enemies in the early parts of the game can be saved with one quick toss of a "fruit of Spirit." The further you advance in the game, the more you should upgrade you fruit in order to convert those who need a little "extra convincing." Those who instead spit a demon out of their heads will take an extra piece of fruit or perhaps a vial of God's wrath. That's right. A little boy running around trying to preach the gospel carries around vials of God's wrath that he can toss at strangers like a bomb and turn them into doves. I think this kid is taking "spiritual warfare" a little too literally. This ain't 'Nam, this is suburbia! Overall though, the gameplay is actually kind of fun if you get into it.

Perhaps it's not the most religiously tolerant way of going about things...

Every once in a while an angel will come down from the sky and test your Biblical trivia. For the most part these questions are a cinch even to those fairly unfamiliar with the stories in the Bible. Basically, your best bet is to guess the most "common sense" guess imaginable. Sure, there are a handful of comical answers you can provide but just assume that Satan didn't say that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The benefit of answering these Sunday school questions is to gain more doves, thus being able to afford more powerful fruit against the infidels you're supposed to be saving.
I said, "What does Pontius Pilate look like?!"

Not unlike the other Wisdom Tree games, there are a handful of frustrating moments in this game. For starters, if you instinctively know which direction you should be heading then the game is rather linear. However, if not - you can find yourself walking around in circles. I played the game three times before I bothered to talk to the boy with the balloon and grab the belt underground instead of walking around aimlessly blowing up gangsters and sugar-high children with God's mighty wrath. It's easier to get lost in the city, especially with the construction workers blocking your path and just how big the city really is. Friendly advice - don't go to the bar. Not even if you want a Pepsi and your intentions are simply to convert the wicked drunks inside. You'll be chastised by an irate angel and he'll steal your gear. Oh, and this can lead to  areas where you can get trapped. I don't really know how I did it, but I believe it was in the suburbs area where I went through a little maze and blocked myself in with falling pillars. I didn't go and recollect my belt of truth before entering the room and couldn't move the pillars, blow them up, or anything else. I had a "pray" option in my menu but it didn't do much good. For a kid who can throw around God's wrath willy-nilly, he sure doesn't have a direct enough line to the big man to help him out of a pickle like that. Another problem which, let's face it, many NES games suffered from is annoying music. The first time you hear that valiant and triumphant hymnal - it pumps you up for some religiously fueled justice. However, by minute 10 you're tired of hearing this song and have to mute the game lest you go insane. Though truth be told, and I know this is heresy (puns intended,) but the original Zelda theme can get grating at times as well. The other sound effects are decent enough - the bomb explosion is actually really impressive for a game that would otherwise be classed by some as a D-list knock-off game.

"So if I chuck this pear at a gang member, he's gonna see the light?"

So how does Spiritual Warfare stack up overall? The premise is insane and more than mildly offensive to non-Christians if you break it down to its core concept, the music is grating at best, but overall it's a game that's hard to put down. Unlike some of the other unlicensed games I have this is one that I keep coming back to! The gameplay is fairly solid (because it's essentially a watered down Zelda) and while it has some level of challenge, it's easy enough to pick up and play for a half hour and kill some time. I would recommend this game (and not even in an entirely ironic way, either.) Folks like me are bound to enjoy it for the absurdity and mildly disturbing premise (and it's the kind of game Moral Orel would be crazy for!) Folks who are more religiously minded might find this a good game for their children. Do I think that blowing up non-believers with the wrath of God is a great message for children? Heck no. However, if you want your children to pick up some bible study questions and stimulate them with a video game in the process, this just might do the trick.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Wall $treet Kid (NES)


The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) has a very diverse array of games and I guess it wouldn’t be to far off to understand that there would be games of varying themes and genres, but there comes a point when I must put my foot down and say “No Nintendo, that is NOT a game!” however in order to do that I would need to go back in time twenty odd years or so to tell them that it’s an awful idea to allow it to be published. Though lets get to the meat of the situation, The Wall $treet Kid was created by SOFEL a Japanese company that for a brief period of time in the late 80’s and early 90’s made a bunch of lackluster mediocre games. Wall $treet Kid and Casino Kid are their most notable titles which screams volumes for how great their games were to begin with.


Clearly a household name.

The premise of the game is that you are the character whose name we do not know aside from the fact that his last name is Benedict is heir to a vast fortune left to him by his now deceased uncle, but, he must first prove himself before he is given the money that is his destiny to obtain. Over the course of the game you have to jump through several financial hurdles over a several month period, the first of which is that you need to purchase a mansion, to do this you need to double your starting money by playing the stock market, this all winds down with you purchasing a castle and getting your inheritance.


He’s eerily giddy about all this. :/

Before I go on about the gameplay let me make it known to you that this game has no story to it aside from the beginning and the end, those are your two story elements aside from a brief moment in between that isn’t particularly significant.


Thanks, dick!

Stocks and the stock market are the core of the gameplay and you will focus mostly on them over the course of the game. The stocks in the game constantly fluctuate on a daily basis and for the most part you have to use your gut to decide where to invest your money in order to turn a profit. The newspaper will every day inform you of what business’s are on the up and and up (though it’s usually not a good idea to invest in stocks that have already increased in value by a lot), your other source of information is Connie who will sell you information on what stock will most likely see profits over the next couple of days or lose profits (this is called insider trading and is illegal by the way, not to say that the game will penalize you about it :/ ). You at any point over the course of a day have the option of buying or selling stocks or just looking over your portfolio, you can also talk to Stanley a man who will be the instruction manual for the stock market, you pay him money, he blathers about how it works. Another way of getting money in the game is by taking a loan out at the bank which you can invest in the stock market, though this can only be done once you have your house and even then you have to pay the bank back 105% of the loan by the end of the month.


Not Shown: The clause that says that if you don’t pay on time they break your legs.

The other to facets of the game are your girlfriend and your health. Your girlfriend will require attention which can be given by taking her out to places ever so often, if you do not take her anywhere for a while or purchase her any of the gifts she demands she will ultimately wind up leaving you and you will receive a game over (more on this later). Your girlfriend (named Prisila the Pricy Prima Donna[seriously]) will periodically call you up about buying her things like a dog or a car, buy them. You may be wondering why I advise you to buy these things, well it is because her marrying you is imperative to getting the inheritance (yeah that was a bombshell to me as well) so it is imperative that you keep her happy. Now your health is another important thing though unlike Prisila you only have to go to the gym every so often to accommodate that. If you don’t exercise for a while you will get a game over, yep that’s it.

The game has surprisingly good graphics and character designs even for a later life-span NES title, though this is countered by that fact that there are no moving animations. Music-wise the game’s tunes are kinda droll and while I played through the game they wound up becoming white noise, though while I noticed it I didn’t enjoy it.

The Wall $treet Kid isn’t a great game unless you are interested in the stock market, I personally found it amusing for a little while but overall can’t say I really enjoyed the game aside from the couple of hours I spent contemplating the amount of douchieousity the main character Mr.Benedict must have to look the way he does. The game is lackluster and playing the stock market is tedious and if you make any mistakes you inevitably wind up with a game over which for me at least was very common. If you really want to play the game, then do so only if you are a collector or feel like derping out on a simulator of the real life stock market.


I want to punch him in the face.

Below I am including a very special guide for those who actually want to play the game and don’t understand some of the jargon you will notice them mention things like “Blue Chip” is on the rise or something well this is what each of those terms mean in regards to companies:

Blue Chip
ATNT: A communications company that once nearly had a monopoly, and now must compete for market share due to competition.
Boing: Very strong domestic and export manufacturer of airplanes. Excellent track record.
Xearox: Strong, innovative producer of copying machines that dominated the market for several years. Also performs financial services.
YBM: A dominant player in the home computer market. Now has to compete with Yapple.
Yapple: Has very strong new product lines, and is capable of substantial growth.

Bethleham Steel: Despite new management, a recession, and industry uncertainty, BS is showing profit.
Chryer: Received low interest loans to help it back on the road to profitability.
Pan Mam Airlines: Former giant, now has high debt and low assets. Sales are high but so are losses.
Strayhound Buses: Once a major bus line, the division was sold in order to switch over to the manufacture of consumer products.
Teradying: Made recent acquisitions that help its market position, but losses are still shown.

Carnivore Cruise Lines: Growth-oriented transportation and entertainment company that has expanded into hotels and travel.
Centipede Construction: Builds large construction machinery. Building surge has resulted in increased profits but recession may hurt.
Coughman & Broad: Florida's number one home builder, dabbles in foreign contracting as well. Insurance division not profitable.
Marrinot Hotels: Successful family-run hotel chain that is expanding into the restaurant business. Large assets.
Rattel Toys: Sales are high, but seasonal. Demand depends on consumer's disposable income.

American Depress: Financial services company with high value and strong growth.
Exconrail: A company trying to go straight and get its kids back, it's now a railroad leader and looking to expand to other industries.
Firedman's Fund: Successful insurance firm. Looking to expand into other areas.
Reebucks International: On the way to being the number one footwear manufacturer, but has high debt.
Charles Schlob: Large, discount securities firm that was recently bought back by its founder and is experiencing much success.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Shopping tips: How to Identify bootleg DS games


RP for Radically … Poor?

With the Holiday shopping season hitting full swing and many clamoring to get those last minute deals before Christmas it is now more so then any other point that people are more susceptible to accidentally buying a bootleg game. The internet is the prime suspect for perpetuating these fakes most notably Ebay and iOffer which are both poorly policed for people or groups which sell bootleg copies of any product. Typically the games are offered at unbelievable prices or set up as auctions where they wind up selling for significantly more then the game normally sells for. A prime example of games going for that which they are not valued at is the Pokémon series of games; the Pokémon DS series of games will often be found floating around one of the auction websites for prices ranging from $5-$10 or start an auction at .99 cents.


I’m obviously Masochistic.

I being a glutton for punishment purchased several of these bootleg games to better gauge the quality of them at this juncture. As I mentioned in my previous review the quality of bootleg games are increasing and to the untrained eye very often a bootleg game will pass under the radar long after it had been purchased and it’s warranty or return period has expired. The game can experience no end of problems ultimately dependent on the quality of the fake purchased, these problems are not limited to:

  1. Contact Issues: When inserting the game it will not be noticed or read by the Nintendo DS.
  2. Save Corrupting: After a period of time averaged at around two months or so the save may corrupt and you will lose all your data.
  3. Incompatibility: The DSi, DSi XL, and 3DS will not read the game and in most situations will give you an error message.
  4. DOA: if the fake is of exceptionally poor quality the game will be dead on arrival.
  5. Poor Build Quality: As with a DOA bootleg the quality of the game may be poor enough that instead of utilizing flash memory the game may instead use a battery which will inevitably run dry. Commonly the bootleg will be made of materials which are of subpar quality.

There are other a great deal of other possible problems but these are the most notable ones and the ones most commonly encountered in the purchase of a bootleg game.

Now that I have turned you away from the prospect of knowingly purchasing a bootleg game I shall now explain how to identify aforementioned game. We shall begin by discussing the Label as that is commonly the first thing you will see (in assuming the game you purchase does not come with a case). The first and most telling feature of a fake game in general is the wrong art on the game, very often bootleggers will take the art from the cover and just shrink it down to label size and slap it on there.


It’s like they don’t even try sometimes.

It is imperative that before the purchase of a game off a non-reputable site that you familiarize yourself with the label arts for the games and the cover art for the case so you can spot early on whether the game is a fake or not. A google search will usually yield the desired results and if upon doing the search you feel wary of the game then I recommend contacting the seller and asking to return the game.

Now upon further examination of the label you should see the following in these EXACT places:

  1. In the lower Left Corner the games rating (i.e. E, E10+, T, M, etc)
  2. In the lower Right Official Nintendo Seal
  3. On the very top you should see Nintendo DS ™
  4. In between the rating and the seal you should see any other marking indicative to whatever company published or made it (i.e. The Pokemon Company, SEGA, etc.).
  5. At the bottom should be a code that begins with NTR and ends with USA, and example would be Pokemon SoulSilver’s code which would be NTR-IPGE-USA


Before advancing to the back of the cartridge lets look at the label as a whole. Is the label off kilter? Is the label a little to round? Is the label just not there? These three things are signs of a fake as real Nintendo DS games have their labels factory cut and pressed.

Now onto the back of the cartridge, on the back you should see embossed into the back of the game the Nintendo Logo, the code NTR-005 PAT. PEND., and below that you should see a code in ink that may fade over time so you will have to shine light on it at an angle to see it. The code will be nine alpha-numeric digits that make up  the games serial code and will ALWAYS be on the cartridge. Typically fake cartridges will be lacking in all three of those marking on the back of the game, however some high quality bootlegs will have often have the Nintendo logo and NTR code embossed on the back, though very often they will be larger then they should be. In my experience I have never encountered a bootleg with the ink serial code below the NTR code, so that can be a telling feature of a bootleg game.


Now if by this point you have not found anything out of the ordinary you will have to look at the games contacts to see if there is a serial code of varying digits or if it only has the words “Nintendo” on it. This is a slightly more unreliable way of telling, because there are Nintendo DS games that do have either of those two on them. Typically if the game does not have the serial code you can consider it a fake. Just use this means of checking with a grain of salt as unlike GBA games you cannot just pop open the game and check the board for the logo and code and know its legit. Fake DS games will always label the board with the Nintendo logo, which is why you, depending on the game, have a 50/50 chance of being right in using this method in determining the legitimacy of the game.

The best way to avoid getting a bootleg game is to exercise both caution and prevention. On Ebay and other websites you will notice that some items are being sold in countries they are not native to and this is generally a warning flag for a bootlegger, the usual culprit will be Hong Kong, China as it would appear they mass produce bootlegs and set up many identical accounts to sell off their goods. These bootleg games will usually be sold without their original cases and instead will be sold in tiny plastic cases. Another warning flag you will notice is the awkward descriptions that will be given to describe the product they are selling;


“The game is used, 100% new,
no box and manual,only cartridge,Games are in English.
This game has been tested carefully and found to be working perfectly! Please assured to buy. If you encounter any problem,please feel free to contact us. we are here to assist you at any time!Thanks

English Version
Play on any Nintendo NDS or NDS Lite  or ndsi or 3ds”


Oh and all cases should have Nintendo DS embossed in it.

It is not to say that they aren’t cooperative when you attempt to return the game, but you should avoid purchasing english games from countries that are not english speaking. I advise exercising the same amount of caution as recommended in my previous shopping tips, i.e. don’t buy games from places that you are not native to or have dubious/awkward descriptions.

Well Have a Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

8-bit Board Games Pt.1: Pictionary (NES)

Well, the holidays are now here! Some of you guys and gals are outta school/university for at least a week or two and some of ya'll might even be off of work in the next few days! Lucky. With the holidays and New Year's Eve fast approaching, you've got to get your last minute ducks in a row before the parties begin! I'm not talking about the kind with all of your aunts, uncles and cousins either! I'm talking about the parties where far too much egg-nog is consumed, your brother mixes up a batch of his "special brownies," and your best friend's wife is sitting in the corner discussing the pros and cons of the G.O.P nominees with the floor lamp. She always was a dingbat.

With holiday parties coming up, you have to decide what kind of party you're going to throw this year. Is it going to be that same, tired old party where you set out a bowl of mixed nuts and a cheese platter, put on some "Christmas with Kenny G," and nurse a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon until the ringing of jingle bells stops in your head? Perhaps you'll bust out some cards or board games and entertain your guests with the hilarity and wit of Trivial Pursuit the 1982 edition. I've got a suggestion that'll totally knock the stockings off your mantel - steal a page from the hipsters this year. That's right - bust out the NES, dust off your Buddy Holly glasses, and crack into some digital board games and join the rest of us in the late 20th century! Today we're going to weigh the pros and cons of two similar video board games: the legendary Pictionary and Rare's Anticipation.

Pictionary: The Legend of the Artistically Handicapped

While I like to think that I'm not the dimmest bulb in the box, (doesn't everybody?) I realize that as a kid I was extremely naive. My parents and their friends would get together and have parties very similar to the ones I mentioned previously. Cheese trays, bean dip, board games, bad hair, and Cosby sweaters. It's hard to believe that crap carried over into the early 90s - but more on that later. We would all sit around and crack into games like Jenga or Trivial Pursuit, but as soon as Pictionary came out it was time for the kids to leave the room and let the grown-ups play. I always associated something sinister or bawdy with the game. Are they sitting around drawing up diagrams from the Kama Sutra? Is my mother such a bad artist that her trees look like something a bit more Fraudian? Later on in life I played the game and realized what it is that my folks were keeping us from. Themselves. That's right, cracking out Pictionary was the international symbol for "go play with your toys, we're sick of having you underfoot." Not surprisingly, it worked.

The Cinemax of board games

Little did they know that the rental section of the grocery store around the corner got a copy of LJN's 1990 port of that raunchy, adult board game known as Pictionary. That's right, I was about to play the Devil's game and find out what it's like to be a man. I braced myself, held my breath, and put the cart into my NES.


Blinking red light.

"Damnit!" I exclaimed, pounding my ten year old fist on my night stand. I took the game out, blew a healthy amount of spittle into the bottom of the cart and finally got to access the game so scandalous it was bound to earn me a spot next to Lucifer in the fiery pits of the underworld.

The first thing you'll notice when popping in Pictionary is the rockin' soundtrack. It's funny, I had just gotten finished playing Cobra Triangle right before I plugged Pictionary in to replay for this review and realized that the opening themes are actually similarly thrashy. Sure, it ain't Slayer - but it's pretty rocking for an 8-bit instrumental theme song, especially one from notorious song recyclers LJN. Speaking of which, at one point in the game they actually have a midified sound-a-like of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust." That's really friggin' awesome. The graphics are another matter altogether. While the game pieces, mini games and game board are colorful, well drawn, and decently animated - the images you are supposed to guess are crude at best, downright mystifying at worst. But more on that later...

It's a cafeteria lady's food cart?!

I'm surprised to be saying this about an LJN project (seeing as so many have a reputation for being lousy,) but the gameplay in Pictionary is actually pretty innovative in a way. That's not to say it doesn't have some glaring flaws - but I'll get to that in a minute. You start out with three different options - the A Game where you have a series of minigames to complete, the B Game where your teams guess what one team is trying to draw in a limited amount of time, and finally, a drawing practice option. The most fun with a group (and after all, why I'm recommending it for holiday parties,) lies in the "Alternative game." This is the one where you assign someone the task of drawing a picture and have members from each team try to guess what it is. Why this is considered the "alternative game" when that's the plot of the board game is a complete and total mystery to me, but irrelevant. Make sure to have everyone try their hands at drawing practice for a few minutes first because trying to operate the drawing mechanism in Pictionary is akin to working an etch-a-sketch one handed. It's not something you would consider satisfying to draw with but it certainly will give your guests a bunch of laughs as everyone tries to figure out how the heck that squiggly mess is supposed to be a rabbit.

The A Game is the most innovative section of Pictionary on the NES and also the most challenging/frustrating. Your team moves around a multicolored set of blocks towards the end goal where you complete minigames that are supposed to unlock elements of the picture that you are then required to guess at. The minigames are actually really entertaining and often borrow from other popular games such as Space Invaders, the Game & Watch series, and more. My favorite mini game is a take on the Game & Watch game Fire. You control your firemen with a net and try to catch the fat men falling out of burning windows. Fun! All in all the minigames are an interesting addition to what would otherwise be too straightforward of a game. The problem in this mode lies when you have to actually guess what the image is that you have valiantly attempted to uncover. Typically you wont uncover the entire image as either the time will run out on you or you'll get hit too many times, lose too many jumping dudes, get shot by the purple doo-dads too much or some other obstacle will hinder your progress. Even if you do happen to uncover the entire image, good luck guessing what the hell that cryptic batch of white lines is actually supposed to be. Some are easier than others but as far as I can guess there's no real rhyme or reason to how difficult or not the image will be and what significance the color of the square is that you're standing on. I don't think it's broken up into categories so much as meant to make the stage look like a colorful rainbow of red, purple, brown and yellow blocks.


The A game is brutally difficult. While the minigames are competently programmed and control relatively well, they are simply too hard to help you unlock enough of the picture to matter. You'll curse those little green goobers for knocking off the top two boxes because they were your only shot at guessing that those white lines were supposed to be a belt. If the programmers had only given you more of the image each time you uncovered it rather than simply one or two blocks at a time, the game would at least be fair. If you do happen to uncover most of the image, it tries to help you by having arrows pointing to whatever the object in question is supposed to be. However, sometimes they will put other things in the picture that clutter your brain and make guessing at the significance of what is being shown that much more cryptic. I magically guessed EGG based on a poorly drawn circle only because it's three letters and I couldn't imagine it would possibly be anything else. Beyond that, most of the puzzles are incomprehensible. However, if you think that's a knock against this game, you're actually mistaken. It's this very absurdity that makes playing with others so darn fun. You will take turns with your friends hurling vile filth at the screen in the vain attempt to somehow make that mess of lines a comprehensible image! Oh, and by the way - selecting letters is an exercise in futility. You have a pair of running shoes that move waaaaaaaaay too fast to be accurate. Tap your controller and be very patient or strap on your powerglove and turn it into a drinking game. It's up to you!

I hate these boxes!!!!111!!!

Pictionary for the NES is a game that I would file under the so-bad-it's good category. You will definitely have a good time playing this game with your friends; whether or not it's at the expense of the game rather than because of the game is left up to you. It's absurdly cheap right now and definitely worth every penny just to catch your friends saying things at your TV that you wouldn't say to your worst enemy. There's also versions of Pictionary for the DS and Wii, and while I'm sure they're much better games than this one, I doubt they have the same pound-for-pound frustration-induced laughter and entertainment as this version.

8-bit Board Games Pt.2: Anticipation (NES)

Wow, this game actually does look like it's gonna be racy!
Gamers well-versed in the history of video gaming probably know about the rise and fall of Atari and the video game crash of the early 80's. The Cliff's notes version is such: Atari ran into problems near the end of their reign due to poor decision making and a glutted market of substandard games that alienated audiences. "Alienated" is of course an appropriate term as one of the most iconic symbols of Atari's fall from grace was 1982's E.T. It was a huge blunder in a sea of missteps including a craptastic port of Pac Man, the underwhelming response to the Atari 5200 and a market that had quite a few competing consoles such as the Intellivison, ColecoVision, and many more. I can't quite remember the source to cite this information so don't sue me - but I read somewhere that the reasoning for the Famicom being called the Nintendo Entertainment System rather than the name Nintendo was kicking around when they were going to be branded by Atari, the "Nintendo Advanced Video Game System" is that it doesn't automatically evoke the image of "video games" in the mind. Keep in mind, the country was just coming out of the big video game crash and it's easy to imagine Nintendo didn't want their new system to be thought of as simply a video game system and a part of the passing fad that just destroyed Atari's dominance.

I know, I know - what does this have to do with Rare's video board game? Well, when the NES was released it had a few features that set it apart from other video game systems. For starters, early systems came with R.O.B the robot - a mostly failed add-on that was supposed to be an interactive game buddy with spinning gyros and moving gadgets. It's also the system that would later have carts such as Taboo: The Sixth Sense which is essentially a digital tarot card reader and Miracle Piano, which was a piano & game cart combo that would teach you how to play piano. It appears that this is where the idea to have board games, card games, and non-game carts originated. To separate the NES from the other gaming units and appeal to audiences other than just children. This thing wasn't just a toy, it was a piano teacher, a tarot reader, an exercise/running simulation, and now a board game for up to four players! This board game was Rare's 1988 game, Antici...

On the surface, Anticipation looks near identical to Pictionary - and there definitely are similarities. However, Anticipation has a few of its own unique gameplay features, many of which are superior to the Pictionary NES game which would be released a few years later. First, let's discuss the gameplay. Anticipation takes place on a multicolored board where your team's game piece will land on squares and have to answer picture based questions in an allotted time frame. I know, it sounds just like Pictionary - just bare with me. Instead of having fun but frustrating minigames that unlock your image, you simply wait until a magic pencil draws out a connect-the-dots version of your image. You can chime in when you think you know the answer, and believe me - you will at least have a chance to know the answer unlike in Pictionary. The longer you take to answer the question, the less spaces you will move at the completion of the question. This is different than the randomized dice roll in Pictionary and can be used to your advantage if you need to land on a space of a specific color. Yes, unlike in Pictionary where I can't honestly tell you that the colored blocks mean anything; the game is separated into specific color-coded categories which change as you progress to the next level. You must complete one of each categories to continue and if you have it set to easy, you shouldn't have any real problems.

Everyone fights to be the pumps
One of the only main frustrations with Anticipation aside from its relatively lackluster and simple gameplay is that if you're new to the game you might be puzzled at how to play at first. It's very easy to accidentally hit a button before the drawing begins because the pencil seems to take a 3-Mississippi before it begins. Your first instinct is that you have to hit a button to start the pencil to move and instead are forced to guess what the image is based only on how the dots are arranged on the screen! Also, if you don't pay attention to the dice on the side, you might wind up going around the stage in circles before you more or less accidentally land on the correctly colored square to continue. That's assuming you're playing by yourself and not competing against someone who can chime in and steal your thunder from under you. If anyone else is playing of course, you'll have to just take what you can get as far as the number on the dice is concerned. Then again, who would really want to play this game by themselves without even a computer player anyway?

The graphics are about as simplistic as in Pictionary; pretty enough to get the job done but nothing you would really write home about. Without the minigames that Pictionary has you're going to be missing a bit of the artistic flair that Pictionary has, but you won't be scrambling to figure out what pictures are near as much. The music is catchy, but also not near as rock & rollin' as in Pictionary. It's cutesy and whimsical and gets the job done. That's really all you need for a video board game anyway. You don't need Joe Satriani shredding the midi-guitar straight from the fires of Mt. Brutal to enjoy a simple board game. Candy Land would be better with some Judas Priest playing in the background, but I don't know that it's necessary to enjoy the game.
Derrr...I dunno what it is!
Thankfully, Anticipation has a variable difficulty. It's one of those games where Easy is too easy and Hard is pretty friggin' tough. So setting the game to medium difficulty and having at least one buddy and a computer player is really the ideal way to play this game. The pictures, while still really crude are actually comprehensible unlike the Picasso-flavored abstract art found in Pictionary. The controls are tighter so choosing the correct letter isn't an exercise in frustration either. Something that does add to the difficulty in this game aside from the aforementioned accidental button-press is the fact that the game will get you on semantics occasionally. It's not a "soda can" but a "soda pop." Spelling will get you in any of these games and can't be factored into the difficulty but when a game such as this calls for a specific word that you're blanking on it can get really frustrating. I saw a clothes hanger but didn't have enough empty spaces to make the words "Clothes hanger" and "Hanger" wasn't enough. What they were looking for is anybody's guess.

Sorry to tell you this, but that's a bomb - not a ring.
So how does Anticipation stack up against Pictionary? The gameplay is smoother although not nearly as innovative. The graphics and sound are slightly less impressive but no less impressive than they ought to be for a game like this. The pictures actually look vaguely like they item they represent, although at times it's hard to get the exact name they're looking for. The "board game" aspect is much better fleshed out with the ascending levels and the fact that the game questions are broken up into categories. It won't have near as many side-splittingly hilarious moments as Pictionary will, but if you're throwing a more casual party that doesn't involve whiskey and fist-fights, this game would be perfect. These two games are Yin and Yang. Kenny G versus Cannibal Corpse. Whichever game you pick, you're going to have an entertaining and often hilarious holiday party! Since they're both so cheap and available right now through Lukie Games, why not pick up both? Are you going to play these when you're alone and bored in your room? Hell no. That's what Battletoads is for. But if you have a few friends over and want to remember a bygone era of primitive video gaming and the slightly misguided combination of board games and video games then give these games a shot!
More white people in tacky clothes than yo momma's Xmas parties!
P.S. Seriously look at that cover art. That thing SCREAMS 80s. I have a hunch the people on the cover are just the game development team in their "casual wear."

Friday, December 16, 2011

G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (NES)

Being the holiday season and all, it's only fitting to discuss a toy that swept the nation whenever I was a child in the late 80's and early 90's. It was the action figure playset under every Christmas tree. Kids would trade 'em, toss 'em out of windows in their two-story houses, bury them in the backyard and melt them in the microwave. They were tough little buggers and were a little slice of 60's American military propaganda revamped for the cold-war era. I'm talking about G.I. Joe, kids. The cartoon was everywhere, the toys were hot-selling Christmas must-haves, and everyone's older brother would light them on fire using nothing but a magnifying glass and the power of the sun's u.v. rays. That's science!

Naturally any trend this hot would have to be capitalized on with a video game series. The first G.I. Joe game for the NES was released by Taxan in 1991 and it's a darn fine action shooter. The Atlantis Factor is a Capcom produced sequel to the original and keeps much of the same magic from the original game the same by adding some variation here and there. There are some elements I like about the first game better than TAF, such as being able to pick your team in the beginning rather than having to unlock your members throughout gameplay. However, The Atlantis Factor is a heck of a game in its own right and can have a comfortable place in your NES collection next to other great TV and movie license games. Just keep Jaws and Gilligan's Island far away from it.

Samuel L. Jackson here means serious business

G.I. Joe the Atlantis Factor is an action/shooter that plays a lot like a cross between Contra and Mega Man. The story picks up after the end of the first game where your Joes destroyed Cobra Commander and smashed up his crew. They discovered that their island was atop the remains of the lost city of Atlantis and discovered a power that would resurrect Cobra Commander and help them to take over the world!

It was either this or Raul Julia as M. Bison. Of course!

Your mission naturally is to jump, punch, kick, and shoot your way through a series of badguys on your way to destroying Cobra once and for all. One of the cooler features of TAF is the ability to select your next stage/path ala Super Mario Bros. 3 or Castlevania 3. You start your mission with General Hawk and as you progress through the game you will unlock different members of your team such as Wet Suit, Snake Eyes, Duke and more. Some members have different specialties and thus different advantages and disadvantages depending on the stage you're playing. One of the other bonuses of having other team members is that they also double as your lives - you lose a member of your team and you still have at least another to take his place. To the best of my knowledge you have infinite continues and at the very least have a password system to keep your place but it's nice to have those other teammates in a pinch.

"Lookit the door, Johnny!"

A neat feature of TAF is that you can level up your players skills. While it's certainly not as thorough or full-featured as an RPG game would be, it's still satisfying to pick up those little POW power-ups and gain new fighting skills like kicking and spray shots. It also acts as an incentive to select your other teammates every now and then in order to level up their health meter and skills so you're not up Cobra creek without a Shark 9000. The only downside to any of this is the absurd way in which powerups appear in the game. Occasionally they will be stationary or hidden behind pillars and on top of platforms. This is perfectly acceptable as per the official rulebook of "Solid Game Making 101." However, every time you blow up one of your opponents a power-up will spring from their head like a rubber bouncy ball and fly in the opposite direction so if you don't jump in midair immediately after killing said bad guy, it will fly half way across the screen (potentially never to be seen again.) While power-ups are plentiful in this game, it's amazingly frustrating to have to track down power-ups like much-needed ammo or health. Why on earth couldn't it just drop to the ground instead of going all Contra-style and fly over my head never to be seen again?

Hawk traded his combat boots for Jordans

With the graphical and musical limitations of the NES in mind - this game has some top-notch presentation. Your Joe team members don't look overly stock and are identifiable as individual characters rather than just palette-swapped army dudes. The level designs are for the most part top-notch, although the first G.I. Joe did a few more interesting things graphically - such as having enemies leap from the foreground to right in front of your character - and by having some more depth of field. That being said, there's still a lot to love about the graphics in TAF, and even the lesser levels are no worse than some of the lazier Mega Man levels which were basically assembled with blocks, pipes and other industrial looking things. The only major peeve I have with the level design is that one of the first jungle levels has so many bushes and canopies that it's hard to tell which are usable platforms and which are just part of the background. Also in that particular level you have to take a few leaps of faith that may or may not land you in a pit. The music is totally rockin'. I would definitely say that the soundtrack to this game is up their with great action games such as the Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden series.
Hey kids! Guess what is and isn't a platform!

The game is not perfect - you have a few things from the first game that should have made it over to the sequel such as setting up a team from the jump and being able to switch characters on the fly. However, this is an excellent example of a game that took a fairly shallow premise (action figures turned cartoon where your military guys blow up bad guys) and made it into two very well polished NES gems. Anyone who enjoys action games such as Contra, Mega Man, Bucky O Hare, and even Ninja Gaiden will be able to find a lot of quality gaming in G.I. Joe Atlantis Factor. It's available now from Lukie Games and would make a wonderful holiday gift for someone you love - even if that person is yourself!

Ok, so not a scuba mask - but you get the idea.