Tuesday, February 26, 2008

First Impressions of Classic NES Games

I recently got a chance to try out a few classic NES games for the first time. My first home console was the SNES, so I missed out on a lot of good games. Let's get started:


This game has a reputation for being insanely difficult. If you haven't played it, it's a beat-em-up where you play as a toad. A toad that apparently battles, I guess. Anyway, you go around beating up pig men and bats and stuff. Yes, it's difficult, and sometimes even unfair, but it's a pretty fun game. I still can't get past level 2, where you need to swing down this big cave on a rope, kicking bats and robots before they kill you. I'm not generally the biggest fan of shallow beat-em-ups like this, so I don't know if I'll play it enough to make a serious attempt to beat it.

Bionic Commando

I love this game. It's essentially a run-and-gun similar to contra or metal slug, except for some important differences that make it unique. First, you can't jump, or aim in any direction besides straight forward. Instead, you have a bionic arm which lets you swing around and climb up to different ledges. Sounds like a simple gimmick but it makes for a very fun game. The fact that you can't jump makes you completely rethink how you're going to travel anywhere. You also die in one hit most of the time (you can get armor powerups occasionally that allow you to sustain more), so you need to get seriously good with that bionic arm. There's a remake/sequel in development for the 360, PS3, and possibly the Wii as well, which essentially remakes the game with 3D graphics (but still played on a 2D plane). I'm looking forward to it, if it does come to the Wii.

Ice Climber

I'll admit, I only know about this game because the Ice Climbers are in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Regardless, I wanted to try out the game that Nintendo felt was important enough to warrant the addition of these characters to Smash Bros. So, I actually kind of like the concept of the game. Get to the top of the mountain. What I don't like is the controls. The jumping in this game feels terrible. It's basically a guessing game about whether you're going to hit your head on the ledge above you, or jump onto the ledge, or just miss the ledge and fall back down (possibly to your doom). You move very little horizontally when you jump, and the collision detection for your character's sprite is way off. It often looks like you're GOING to make a jump, but then you don't, and it seems like you fall right through half of the platform. I wish this game played better, because it might actually be fun.

Kid Icarus

This is essentially similar to ice climbers in concept. You need to ascend upward by jumping on platforms, and each time you go upward, the screen scrolls up with you and you cannot go back down without dying. The unique part of Kid Icarus is that the stages wrap around horizontally, so if you walk off the screen to the left, you'll appear on the right side. This leads to some somewhat interesting platforming, but overall a somewhat bland game. It's alright, but not amazing.

Metal Storm

Why isn't this game more well-known?! This is one of the most unique run-and-guns I have ever experienced. Again, it's sort of similar to contra, except that each level takes place in some sort of mechanical tunnel with robotic enemies on the ceilings and floors. You have the ability to reverse gravity at will, which will make you fall upward or downward. The gravity of enemies will reverse as well, so if they were on the ceiling when you were on the ground, they'll fall down to the ground while you move to the ceiling. It gets a little disorienting but ends up being a ton of fun. There's a lot of great level design based on this mechanic, that has you jumping upside down, reversing gravity while shooting, and using the gravity of enemies to get past obstacles and other traps. This is like what Mario Galaxy would have been like on the NES, except it includes a badass robot. Bottom line, this game owns.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu!

Edit: the youtube video is no longer available apparently. Blogspot is also giving me issues about hosting the AVI, so here is the direct URL: Dodonpachi Video

That video is the first footage of the newest shoot-em-up by Cave, and the next game in the Dodonpachi series, Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu. Don't ask me what that means, because I have no idea. All I know is that Dodonpachi is my all-time favorite shmup, Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou is an amazing game although it loses some points for being ridiculously difficult, bordering on the impossible. Even so, Daifukkatsu looks to be amazing, and it's a real shame that it probably won't be getting a port to a home console. It will in all likelihood be the first Dodonpachi game to never leave the arcades.

If you're familiar with Dodonpachi and/or Dai-Ou-Jou, here's some differences that Daifukkatsu will include (as far as one can tell from this video):

When in Hyper mode, regular shot will cancel regular bullets, while the laser will act normally. The pink bullets cannot be canceled, however.

There are now enemies with a laser attack that can only be countered with your own laser, in a similar way to Border Down. It looks like the game design incorporates a challenge in forcing you to choose when to cancel bullets and when to use laser to defend yourself while in Hyper mode.

The chain counter will not always drop immediately to zero when you break your chain. I'm not entirely sure how the chaining system has been changed, though. It might incorporate some stuff from Mushihime-Sama, where the chain counter will drop when you aren't shooting something.

Apparently some ship types do not get any bombs. I don't know how Cave plans to balance that. Those ships probably get hypers more frequently in order to use more bullet canceling, but I'm just speculating at this point.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No More Heroes

Let me see if I can explain what makes this game so awesome:

-The hero is named Travis Touchdown

-Travis has a "beam katana" (it's a lightsaber) that he won in an online auction

-The combat mainly consists of cutting people in half or beheading them in a shower of blood so thick that the game can slow down because of it, not to mention the various pro-wrestling moves like suplexes that will take down most opponents easily

-The ranked assassins that you need to kill in order to improve your assassin's rank are all FREAKING INSANE (seriously, one guy has a crotch-laser, and another one blows her head clean off with a grenade after you defeat her, along with a portion of her upper torso)

-In between these awesome boss battles and combat levels, you have an open GTA-style world where you need to take on jobs like garbage collection, lawn mowing, or gas pumping in order to make enough money for the next ranked assassin battle

Maybe you read my Killer 7 post a while back. In it, I mentioned that this studio focuses on style over gameplay and I had hoped that No More Heroes would be better. Guess what? No More Heroes is insanely fun. The combat isn't extremely deep, and some of the open-world aspects can be frustrating or dull, but it's easy to look past all of that when you see a man sliced in two vertically with a lightsaber.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


After beating Shadow of the Colossus (see my earlier post on that amazing game), I decided to pick up Ico. Colossus takes place before Ico, but Ico was made first, and tells the "story" of a boy trying to guide this girl out of a castle. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not really, because while Ico (the boy) can easily climb and swing on chains and push blocks around and do everything most videogame characters can do, Yorda (the girl) is basically capable of falling down a lot, walking in circles or into walls repeatedly, and sometimes getting kidnapped by shadow people, thus causing the game to end. Getting her up a single short step is a chore of holding down the R1 button while she stumbles around in a circle trying to step up for 5 minutes as you yell at the screen. You can imagine how difficult it is to navigate Yorda out of this huge castle. And sometimes, when you're trying to complete a puzzle, she'll just randomly run off in an arbitrary direction. It really is annoying.

There she is. Doesn't she just look stupid?!

In fact, upon reflection, she's about as smart as the horse Agro in Shadow of the Colossus.

When you're riding him, all is great, for the most part. In Ico, you can lead the girl by the hand and she'll go whereever you want. Works fine. Animations look great, feels realistic. Now, in Colossus, when you aren't riding Agro, it's common that he'll just wander around, or sometimes just start galloping away at breakneck speeds in some direction for who-knows-what reason. Getting the horse to maneuver up simple steps or in tight spaces is also a chore. Well, so it is with Yorda in Ico. In fact, saying that Yorda is as dumb as a horse is an insult to the horse, because Yorda is in fact dumber. Sometimes, when you call her, she won't even move. She's also incapable of climbing simple ropes. You can't direct her to do anything. When you want to climb up a ladder, and she's at the top, she'll sometimes just start climbing down the ladder, blocking your path. She won't start going back up, oh no, that would be too smart, she just keeps going down until you're forced to backtrack down the ladder, wait for her to get off at the bottom, then go up.

Oh, and god forbid you leave her in a single place for too long, because then the bad ol' shadow people will get her. Yeah, this is about the most frustrating part of the game, and of course it isn't helping matters that Yorda is dumber than a pet rock. Basically, it boils down to this: after finishing some puzzle section (i.e., what comprises most of the game), some portals will open and these shadow people will jump/fly/crawl out of them, and try to nab Yorda. You get to fight them off with a stick. If they capture her, they'll carry her back to a portal, at which point the game ends. Sometimes they knock you down, too, and grab her while you're still recovering. It gets pretty cheap, and often takes a number of tries to get through these sections. Also, the darn shadow people just keep coming! They don't freaking stop for 10 minutes! You're literally standing next to Yorda, pressing the square button furiously, and trying to avoid being knocked down because you just know that if that happens, you'll simply lose. Since these "defend the dumb girl" sections are separate from the adventure and puzzle-solving, they could have easily just removed all of these and made the game just that much better. And just to reiterate, while this is all going on, Yorda will sometimes just run off, at which point you need to chase her down and lead her by the hand to a corner or something so that she'll stay put! I swear, a pet rock would be better than this dumb girl. At least then I know it would stay the heck where I left it.

Ok, so it sounds like I've been trashing the game this whole time. Truth is, I do like Ico. A vast majority of the game is taken up solving some fun puzzles involving the environment. There are lots of "ok, how do I get Yorda over there?" moments, and figuring them out is fun and rewarding. When Yorda does what you want her to do, which is a lot of the time, the gameplay works great. The visual and storytelling style is very much in line with Shadow of the Colossus, which is to say it's awesome. Not that there is much of a story, but the way it is told is just great.

So, my impression of Ico? Unique, worth a play-through, very artistic, pretty fun. Not as good as Colossus. And Yorda needs to DIE (I'm crossing my fingers for the ending of the game).