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Super Castlevania IV - Super famicom and SNES
Recommended to me by a friend here whose name consists of only two letters - hint; if you were to put U & C in-between them, then you're ready to play hockey - Super Castlevania IV, thanks to him, has become one of my favorite video games of all time. But I do declare, it is certainly the least flashy and colorful from the series, but that's not the reason why I fell in love with IV.
You start off as Simon Belmont and once again you battle against an endless horde of wide and varied enemies. Having played the modern titles, namely Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance, this game hit as a monotonous wedding, backed up by dim lights and no dance shows. Believe me, I should know about that. Having very monotonous color tones, dull and the like, IV was actually the first title I played in which the protagonist actually looked like he belonged to a certain sex.
Take Soma Cruz. Or Alucard. They're males, but since they're unnaturally androgynous, they appear to be both male & female from a-far. I personally got confused who was of what sex. Simon Belmont, especially in this game; (in his first outing he resembled a diminutive Mario), looked and acted just how a male should. Or at-least how a Belmont should.
I enjoyed the challenging aspects of IV, but it was too difficult for me at times. Most of the time I found myself saving every 1 minute. The level design is excellent, with some being my favorites, such as the water segment in Level 2, part 3.
The sprites had me impressed. Especially Simon's whip. It felt organic, real.
Though the boss battles aren't exactly innovative or great, I did have a good time trying to come up with a 3 second strategy that could help me defeat them with as minimal damage to my character as possible.
In conclusion, Super Castlevania IV is a solid game, but in front of modern titles, it is too difficult and sometimes too maddeningly infuriating. I guess maybe that's the reason why I couldn't give it a higher rating.
Happy Vader's rating:
Rock N Roll Racing - Super famicom and SNES
Rating: 8.5/10 Stars
Long before Tim Schafer released the ultimate ode to heavy metal, there was Rock 'n Roll Racing; a vehicular combat racing game with heavy metal as its soul.
Developed by Silicon & Synapse - the very same company that would go on to become Blizzard - Rock 'n Roll Racing, alongside The Lost Vikings was the Diablo and StarCraft of S&S. Featuring an isometric point of view and heavy metal chip-tunes in the background, this game is one of the most entertaining, if repetitive, racing games I've ever played. You pick a character that looks and is named appropriately to the theme and race against other rockers and rollers.
The tracks are very traditional and don't include Hot Wheels style loops and long jumps; instead relying only on turns and speed bumps. Along the way you can pick up money and health upgrades, which you can use to upgrade your vehicle, or change it if necessary. Everything in this game is heavy metal themed and while most of them aren't exaggerated, the one thing that's both over-the-top and the most memorable from the game is the commentator.
That's right, the unseen commentator is the best bit of Rock 'n Roll Racing. Those who say that Unreal's commentator is the greatest, haven't played this game. His wild, exciting and very over-the-top phrases and updates really bring the fun to the gameplay. Though of course it is quite tame compared to modern standards, it is still one of the best; and my personal favorite quote from him is "Let the carnage begin".
Now, despite being a vehicular combat racing game, there's not too much emphasis on the battle. You can ram your vehicle into your opponent and make him blow, but you're also risking the health of your car and the tables might be turned. After completing a lap you're awarded a missile which has a medium range and doesn't really do much damage. Honestly, it's a completely traditional racing with the combat part thrown in as an after thought.
In conclusion, Rock 'n Roll Racing is a great game that never once does reach to the levels of silliness. You will enjoy the presentation, the chip-tunes and the commentator. If any of these fail to entertain you, then it's obvious that you do not like rock and or roll!
Happy Vader's rating:
Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1... - Nintendo Super NES
Rating: 8.5/10 Stars
The Atari Collection Part 1 is an impressive compilation of some of the greatest arcade games. With only 6 games to offer, it will incite a series "where the hell is that game" moans from several players. Those who did that, or think they will, there's a Part 2 for the Playstation. I might try to get that if I can. All right, Part 1 has 6 well-known games gathered and presented in a nice, responsive fashion. All games have the 1 player, 2 player, options and exit menu and whether they play better than their arcade counterparts I cannot honestly say because I haven't played them - bar Battlezone.
The first on the list is Asteroids. It is easily one of the legendary of all arcade games and one each and every of us have played one way or another. If someone says they haven't played it, they're lying. Asteroids sees you controlling a small space ship amidst flying meteorites. You are not restricted by boundaries; you can fly off-screen on one side and appear from the other. So can your bullets and the meteorites. Occasionally UFO type ships appear. Your aim is to shoot all the meteorites on-screen and try not to lose all 3 lives. When you shoot one, it divides into two small pieces, which further divide into smaller pieces and then ultimately disappear. With 10 or so meteorites, expect a good amount of challenge. Alongside Battlezone, Asteroids is a good example of novelty gameplay. Because it is.
Next we have Battlezone. Ever since I played it, I've been impressed by its novelty gameplay and interesting vector-like graphics and great detail to the background. Who else loves the erupting volcano? Battlezone sees you in control of a tank from a first person perspective. You shoot down other tanks and take cover behind vector objects - stuff you usually see in Biology or Chemistry classes. When you fire a shot you have to wait for it to either strike or disappear before you can fire another again. This, and the fact that enemy tanks literally sprout from the ground, offer interesting challenge to an otherwise repetitive and simple gameplay. Although a good translation from the arcade to console, this version feels tight, blocky. It feels like a chore just turning your tank around. I like the arcade version better, it's a little more fluid.
Next on the list is Centipede, a weird little fixed shooter which claims to be one of the earliest video games with advanced A.I. Centipede sees you controlling a, er, something that shoots and divides the titular character amidst a field of mushrooms and insects. Honestly, I do not understand this game and if anyone can shed some heads or tails sense on it, please be my guest!
Now for Missile Command - one of the earliest games I ever played in my life, on Windows 98 or 2000, I forgot. Though I never played it at an arcade, I did however stand next to a person playing it. The sound effects and seizure-inducing flashing were, back then, awesome. In Missile Command you must save 6 cities from ballistic missiles. Though of course not at the same time. With 3 anti-missile batteries in your command, you must perform the aforementioned. Now, with the keyboard as my sole platform for controls, it was rather difficult to navigate the crosshair. But that's a minor peccadillo, and the fun gameplay made up for that. With a precise, carefully aimed shot, you can take down a missile; but if it's ill-aimed, then it will split into two and will cause damage.
Now for Super Breakout. This is a simple ball-and-paddle game that's everything you've come to expect from the genre. You are given a certain number of blocks to break and a paddle to move horizontally at the bottom half of the screen. You must use a ball to break said blocks and pray that your paddle catches it when it rebounds. Yea, standard fare, not too much to say here. If you have played the original Breakout or any its countless clones on the internet, then by avoiding this game you're not missing much.
Now for the last game, Tempest. This is easily one of the original and greatest of all arcade games and easily the gold nugget of this compilation. A tube-shooter, Tempest sees you controlling a claw-like ship. The levels are either closed tubes or open fields and are marked by neon vertices; you can move your ship in-between them. But the way it moves it so unique and different, that at first I was more interested in the movement rather the gameplay. Tempest is a must play!
In conclusion, The Atari Collection is a great little compilation and is perfect for the casual gamer. However, using a keyboard for most of them was a pain. It's not in the configuration of the keys, but rather in the execution of it. Anyway, I recommend this!
Bio Metal - Super famicom and SNES
Rating: 6.0/10 Stars
Bio Metal is a decent horizontal shooter for the SNES. It is absolutely nothing you haven't seen before. The same gameplay, the same enemies, the same bosses, the same concept, the same everything. The enemies are referred to as Biometals, half machine, half animal aliens who come from all shapes and sizes, from Giygas-esque to kangaroos. No, seriously, I didn't make that up.
Bio Metal is not too shabby, but since I've played much, much better horizontal shooters, this one was dull. I mean, there is absolutely no difference between this game and others in the genre, except that they are more entertaining. The backgrounds and overall look of Bio Metal is very reminiscent of H.R. Giger's artwork. Players with keen eyes can spot (unintentional I presume) references and similarities to sci-fi films and artists, especially Aliens.
There are only 5 levels and each finishes in under 5 minutes. So except 25-30 minutes of quite uninspired gameplay. The enemies fly at you in a fast and furious manner but since this ain't no DoDonPachi, you can easily destroy them and/or avoid them. The end bosses are what you'd expect; big and powerful. Although they provided good challenge, I've beaten more fun bosses than the ones here. But I do admit, the final boss was kinda cool.
The weapons, too, are what you've come to expect in a game like this. You originally start off every level with 2 homing missiles and a laser. Yes, they're unlimited. Over the process of the level, you get upgrades and they either add to your arsenal or cancel your primary weapons, which ends you up with the same number of weapons you initially started the level with - 2. But with more power. You have 4 blue orbs (I guess the ship's a virgin, trying to protect its virginity, I don't know) which acts as a shield around you and are actually the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. But as it so happens, they have a limited power and the more you use them, the more power drains from them. Of course, you can always recharge them by deactivating them, but it takes time. It's best to use them somewhere near the middle of the level and save it for the end boss.
The music is probably Bio Metal's most worrying quality. You see, it has the music by 2 Unlimited. Or at least the instrumental versions of it. Don't get me wrong, I occasionally like Dutch party music - I'm currently loving Dub-i-Dub by Me & My - but it gave the game a comical atmosphere; as if it was made by Saturday Night Live. It debased the value and reason of the game, the story, and Kid Ray's heroic leap to heroism. Seriously, Kid Ray is risking his life and of his tiny ship to recover those resources and you're tormenting him with party music? Is that supposed to be encouraging or something?
In conclusion, Bio Metal is not exactly "ho hum" material, but it isn't "oh! wow!" material, either. I recommend checking out Steel Empire for the GBA and Axelay for SNES. Now they're entertaining to boot.
Happy Vader's rating:
Captain Novolin - Super famicom and SNES
Captain Novolin is a so-called edutainment game which teaches kids about diabetes and, maybe, a big fat maybe, let them know that even superheroes can get them and that they're not alone in the world. Sorry, that's just me snowballing things. The titular hero is a type 1 diabetic superhero who is probably the worst of all superheroes. Hell, he doesn't even meet the basic requirements of one. The only ability he has is hopping. That's right, not jumping, not TMNT-style parkour, but hopping.
The game is labeled as a platformer, but most of the time you walk on street level. They couldn't even get the genre right. The story sees aliens invading earth in the disguise of sugary diabetic-inducing snacks and foods. The titular her... er, hopper, is called for to save the day. Well, not necessarily called for, since he was running on his treadmill at the time of the breaking news and the announcer didn't even call out for him by name. He accepted his own invitation and no-one in the game gives a two second damn.
Before you start the first level and during gameplay, you get tips and hints on how to maintain your blood sugar and you will get asked a lot of questions. Don't worry about getting the wrong answer; there are none. Not to say all are correct answers but you won't get penalized or anything. Why add more fuel to fire, right? On several occasions you will be asked to inject insulin or find the correct level of sugar intake. Though they make up for the "educating" part of the game, it does affect the titular hero, though; although in what ways I didn't hop long enough to find out, because frankly speaking I was getting a headache just by playing it!
Your enemy is a jumping anthropomorphic donut. Notice I said jumping. He jumps so high you literally have to walk underneath him if you're to escape him. Some say he changes direction in later levels but like I said, I didn't stay long enough to find out it is was true or not. When you come in contact with a question mark, you get asked an MCQ of sorts; which tests how much you were paying attention in the first place. The other enemies are, though not limited to, cookies, something that curiously resembles cigarettes, and milk cartons of sorts. I don't know, bloody... they moved so fast.
The levels are set according to 24 hours. You get breakfast, supper, dinner... that sort. While avoiding enemies you must collect healthy, nutritious snacks along the way. Unlike most other games where the hero dies if he comes in contact with the villains too often, the diabetic captain here dies by excessive hopping. Well, not die, exactly; but rather passing out due to dehydration or sickness or something. For a game, that's the silliest thing I've ever heard.
The reason why I'm not rating this is because Captain Novolin is not technically a game. It's a visual presentation of boring doctor lectures and questionnaires. It's something for the kids to smile about and a general time waster. That being said, it is a depressing game!
Captain Commando - Super famicom and SNES
Rating: 8.0/10 Stars
Now this is a captain more like it. As such was the case with a previous character in a certain Genesis game, I was introduced to Captain Commando in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Super Heroes, where he appears a playable character. Though he never was my number 1 choice, I did pick on several occasions. There was one time where he was at his finest, but that's a different story for another day.
Having extremely similar gameplay as Maximum Carnage and Golden Axe III - both 90'S releases and both on the Genesis and SNES - Captain Commando is at best a generic affair. You move left, shoot any enemies that appear, occasionally pick up upgrades, and before you can catch your breath, you have to repeat this at least 90 times. But just as the little subtleties that makes each side-scrolling shoot 'em up distinct from each other, Captain Commando's strength lies in its titular character. Sure, it may not sound as reliable as Ax Battler or Spidey, but just as each of them has a sword and wall-crawling ability, the captain of his game has the Energy Gloves. With those he can execute a semi-powerful move called the Captain Collider, and it works like this; he strikes the ground with his fist and two electric fissures shoot in either direction, electrocuting any enemy unlucky enough to be in the bolts way. This proved to be extremely useful in tight corners and boss battles. The other 3 playable characters are Mack the Knife, Baby Head, and Ginzu the Ninja. I guess you can figure out what each does!
When I mentioned Golden Axe III, I did that for a reason. Similar gameplay aside, many of the enemies' movements and A.I. were reminiscent of those who appear in Golden Axe III. There's one enemy character in this game called Marbin who have the same attack as the Bad Brothers from GAIII. Except of course with fire instead of axes. Same goes for Maximum Carnage. This game features Spider-Man and several well-known characters from Marvel. Every enemy character in Carnage has a unique name; pretty much the same in Commando.
Many reviewers compare the level designs to Final Fight; another similar game. But I cannot comment on that because I haven't played that game. From my perspective, the designs are decent enough, nothing too original, nothing too shabby. Same old, same old. The bosses, however, were a disappointment. Say what you want to, but they were as easy as hitting the buttons on your keyboard.
With 9 levels and 40 minutes of gameplay, Captain Commando is semi-solid affair but does manage to keep you hooked from A to Z. However, the endless horde of henchmen and electric women and the painful button-mashing leave a lot to be desired, and gets repetitive and 'too-much' after just a few minutes. Or least after 2 levels.
Happy Vader's rating:
Axelay - Super famicom and SNES
If someone says to you that Axelay is a great scrolling shooter, believe them. Also, if they were to say that the boy that appears in the golden locket at the start of the game eerily resembles Taylor Lautner; believe that, too. One of the better scrolling shooters around, Axelay contains both vertical and horizontal levels. The horizontal is done right, but the vertical has a strange perspective. Instead of adopting the overhead view, Axelay employs a conveyor-belt perspective.
Having both perspectives rolled (literally) into one makes for some really engaging gameplay, but only for 6 stages and 35 minutes. Not that I'm complaining; at about 20 minutes into the game I'd enough. With absolutely zero power-ups and death being so frequent, Axelay really seems to hate amateur players or the ones who can't keep up with bullet hell shooters. Though not in the same league as DoDonPachi, it is somewhat more closer to Defender - but with more variety. A lot more variety.
After completing one vertical level - which ends with a boss - you're given a horizontal level - which too ends with a boss. But I gotta say, the boss battles were much more interesting in the horizontal levels. They were much easier and to the point. Not to mention iconic. That blue robotic boss which walks as if its having a seizure? Legendary!
The conveyor-belt levels are a little hard to get used to. When the enemies start appearing onscreen, they're as flat as Luigi when he turns to the screen in Mario is Missing. It is only when they're fully in the middle of the screen do they gain shape and sense. Also, the game seems to follow its own map logic. At one point you can clearly see the Eiffel Tower. Fast forward 5 seconds and you're flying over a rocky terrain. Add 5 seconds more and you're on a planet, presumably Mars. How does that even work? Also, the environment is pretty much ambiguous. What normally wouldn't harm you in another game mercilessly takes away your life in this one. At any point if you're thinking that the rock or platform or pipe won't harm you and that you may be able to fly over it, well, you would be wrong. In Axelay everything is out to kill you - and if you cannot dodge them properly, it's not only because of your amateurish skills.
The bloody spaceship moves so slow. There are several moments where dragons sprout from the ground and chase after you. Your titular spaceship moves about 1/10 of their speed. How am I supposed to avoid them?... Shoot at them? Yea, I would love to see you try.
Unlike most scrolling shooters - and bar Forgotten Worlds - Axelay calls for a lot of strategy. At one point I started thinking, "Man, this is like Fallout in space". Though of course not everyone will share that viewpoint, to me it felt like that. Not only do you have to avoid the enemies and their bullets, but you also have to take out certain 'buildings' to make an aperture. Failure to do so would mean a loss of life. There, another teaspoon of salt to the wound.
In conclusion, Axelay is indeed a fun game but really not for newbies. Hone your skills at Steel Empire, DoDonPachi, Grind Stormer and Forgotten Worlds and at some Atari 2600 games like River Raid and Zaxxon and then come back to this game. It's an excellent sci-fi shooter but I regret to say that I've had more fun playing other titles in the genre.
Happy Vader's rating: