Space Invaders Extreme (DS)

August 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Space Invaders Extreme - DS BoxAlright, I know it’s not a real retro game, but it’s very retro inspired.  There hasn’t been much activity around here lately because I’ve been playing a lot of newer games on my DS and Wii.  Space Invaders Extreme is one of those games, and definitely deserves a shout-out for other retro game fans.

For the uninitiated, Space Invaders Extreme is a modern take on the classic Space Invaders formula, developed by Taito and published by Square Enix as a celebration of the original’s 30th anniversary.  It’s got souped up gameplay, graphics, and a really slick soundtrack where each shot you take adds to the rhythm of the music.  You can play several single-player modes like Arcade Mode (play through up to 5 stages on several branching paths, depending on how well you play), Ranking Mode (get the highest score you can to upload to the online leaderboards) and Stage Mode (play a single stage you’ve completed in Arcade Mode for the highest score).  There’s also multiplayer where you try to outlast your opponent while sending extra invaders their way.

There’s a lot of added strategy to this game beyond the original.  The enemies are color coded and destroying different colors in different orders will give you powerups and access to bonus rounds.  Destroy them in different patterns (like individual columns or rows at a time) for bonus points.  Do well in the bonus rounds and start a “Fever” mode where you can earn major bonus points.  All the possible ways to score make this a surprisingly deep shooter with lots of strategy.

On top of all this, the DS version even has online play!  You really can’t go wrong with this game.  So for anyone that may stumble upon my humble little retro game site, I’m going to recommend you go out and play a modern title, too.  Especially at $20, you just can’t go wrong.

Modern “Classics”

June 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Toki ToriEven though I primarily play older games, I dabble in more modern ones on occasion — especially lately with the Wii.  I posted a while back about how I got a bit of a “classic game” feel out of playing Killer 7 on the GameCube, and I’m getting a similar feeling from a couple of titles on WiiWare now.  If you’re a retro gamer with a Wii, I recommend looking beyond just the Virtual Console selection and explore WiiWare if you haven’t already.  While the service is only a few weeks old, there are several games with retro roots.  The flagship is a Dr. Mario update and there’s even a new entry in the Star Soldier series, but the two I really want to recommend to retro gamers are a couple of puzzle-platformers: LostWinds and Toki Tori.

LostWinds is a wonderful little side scrolling adventure that uses the Wii remote to blow gusts of wind that help your character make jumps, fight enemies, and so on.  There are some interesting puzzles and the whole thing just oozes wonderful atmosphere.  Toki Tori is a little more conventional and reminds me a lot of Lost Vikings and similar ilk.  You’re a small, flightless bird that has to work its way around a side-scrolling maze to collect eggs.  You have powers like bridge building and even short teleportation.  Both games actually make interesting use of the second remote, even though they’re both one-player games.  A second person can join in LostWinds to play around with blowing gusts of wind and in Toki Tori, they can draw paths on the screen and point things out to make recommendations.  It’s very clever, and Toki Tori has been a lot of fun with two people collaborating on the hard puzzles.

Anyway, just a couple quick thoughts, and a recommendation that if you like older games, WiiWare might actually have some newer ones that could appeal to you.

Review Philosophy: “Evolving” reviews

May 26, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I’m going to do a slight format change that will hopefully encourage me to post more reviews.  I’m not a big fan of writing in the traditional review style where you play a game to completion and write a retrospective/post-mortem to sum up your thoughts and make a recommendation.  The main problem is that I don’t have much of an attention span with the games I play.  I’m usually playing several at a time and I jump around a lot.  Sometimes I’ll even start a game then let it sit for months before going back and playing it further.

So instead of forcing my play-style to change so that I can write more reviews, I’m going to tailor my review-style to my play-style.  I’m going to start writing what I’m calling “Evolving” reviews.  If I sit down and play through a quarter of a game, I’m going to post my impressions of that first quarter then slowly add to the review over time as I complete more of it.  So I’ll post the first part of the review, then if I get back into the game a week, month, or even a year later, I’ll add more thoughts on the additional parts I’ve played.

So, over time, a post will ultimately culminate in a complete review but will allow the reader to follow along as I play the game further.  This will even allow me to go back to games and reviews I’ve already completed and add additional thoughts on a second or third playthrough.

Hopefully, this will make the site a little more dynamic and fluid and keep it from going through long periods of stagnation.  Stay tuned!

The Catch-Up Post: SMS Badass Edition

May 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

SMS BadassWell, it’s been a couple of months since I posted, and I mentioned that I’d be instating a moratorium on classic game purchases after the Midwest Gaming Classic.  Did I stick to it?  In fact, I did!  I went the month of April without making any classic gaming purchases.  My wallet thanks me!  (Though I did have to pick up Mario Kart on the Wii because, I mean, c’mon… It’s Mario Kart.  It’s not a classic game, anyway, so I win on a technicality.)

But since I only had a one-month moratorium and I haven’t posted in two months, that means I have about a month’s worth of catching up to do.  Let’s start off with the Midwest Gaming Classic.  For those that didn’t attend (probably most of you), I really highly recommend this show!  I had a ton of fun.  I got to see all kinds of cool games and had a chance to play around in the museum with some interesting systems I’d never experienced before (like the FM Towns Marty and Nuon).  On top of that, there was a nice lineup of speakers.  I had a chance to hear a bunch of cool talks from people like Walter Day of Twin Galaxies/The King of Kong fame, Sushi-X and Trickman Terry of EGM fame, and Ben Heckendorn of “can turn any system into a portable” fame.  And, best of all was the vendor area, where I amassed the following:

  • Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (PC Engine CD): Probably the crown jewel of the show for me.  I picked up the best “traditional” Castlevania game ever, and at a pretty good price.  I’d never played it before, but it totally lived up to the hype.
  • Rotary Controller (Jaguar): A fantastic hand-made rotary controller for the Jaguar.  It breathed all new life into Tempest 2000.  I will never use the D-pad again!
  • Sega Master System (Hardware) and games: I was always curious about the Master System, so I bit the bullet and finally picked one up.  Hooray, new hardware!  It’s always exciting to have a new library of games to explore.  I started off with Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Alex Kidd: High-Tech World.
  • Rad Racer II (NES): Man, I loved Rad Racer on the NES.  I had vague memories of playing Rad Racer II once, but always wanted to pick it up and give it a real playthrough.  Honestly, it’s kinda disappointing.  It didn’t quite live up to the original, but oh well.  At least it was cheap.
  • The Need for Speed (3DO): There was a small showing of 3DO games at MGC, and this mint copy of The Need for Speed is my first true complete 3DO game.  It even has the advertising inserts!  I gotta say, those longboxes are total overkill.  They’re oddly appealing, though.
  • Instruction Manuals (NES): I’ve had a barebones copy of the original Mario Bros. (the arcade game, not SMB) for the NES since I was something like 10 and finally got a manual to go along with it.  I also picked one up for R.C. Pro-Am, since I got a cart-only copy of that not too long ago.

Okay, so that covers it for MGC.  I will definitely be returning next year.  There was so much cool stuff that I wanted…  But enough of that, I also made a few other purchases, the biggest of which was:

  • Sega Master System Lot (hardware and games): After getting a Master System at MGC, I went home and hit up eBay to expand my collection.  I found a nice deal on a big lot of stuff, which included another system, a couple extra controllers, a light gun, a bunch of games, and (most importantly) a pair of the SMS 3D glasses.  Games in the lot were After Burner, Black Belt, Choplifter, Enduro Racer, Ghost House, Hang On/Safari Hunt, Maze Hunter 3-D, Sports Pad Football, and Zaxxon 3-D.  My favorites of the bunch were probably Maze Hunter 3-D and Ghost House with honorable mentions for Enduro Racer and Zaxxon 3-D.  The rest are pretty mediocre, quite frankly.  I think the SMS is going to take some digging to get to the truly good stuff.

And, finally, I hit up old reliable, Pre-Played, for a few random additions to the collection:

  • Missile Defense 3-D (SMS): This is a neat lightgun game that makes use of the 3D glasses.  It’s a pretty cool effect, shooting at 3D missiles that are popping out of the screen at me.  Not to mention I look like a badass with both the glasses and phazer in tow! (See the picture above).
  • Blaster Master (NES): This game really deserves more praise but never really gained the public awareness to become a favored classic.  It’s something of an underdog, which is probably part of why I like it so much!  For those not aware, it’s a fantastic shooter where you split your time between side-scrolling and overhead sections.  Commandeer a tank in the side-scrolling sections, or hop out at any time to head out on foot.  Enter caves to switch to an overhead view.  The game has a nice, quirky, light-hearted feel to it, too.  I mean, the story involves chasing after your pet frog after it’s grown to humongous size after being exposed to radioactive waste…
  • Golgo-13: Top Secret Episode (NES): This is a unique game that mixes all kinds of different play mechanics like side-scrolling action, horizontal shoot-em-up, FPS, and “sniper modes” and wraps them all up in a spy/espionage plot.  Very interesting overall, but the controls in the side-scrolling sections suck.  Not bad for 99 cents, though!

And, most recently, I grabbed a new NES 72-pin adapter off eBay to resolve the damn blinking problem that every NES ever has.  I should have done this years ago, it works beautifully!

Whew, okay, that about does it for now.  But as you can see, I’ve added a ton of games to my collection without actually writing any new reviews.  I’ve become resigned to the fact that I’ll probably never review all of them at my current pace.  So, don’t be surprised to see a slight format change soon that will allow me to get reviews up much faster and more frequently.

Latest Haul and Impressions: TurboGrafx-16 Edition

March 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Latest Haul (3/19/08)Boy, I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of money on games lately.  But between the 3DO Testing Station last month and this haul this month, that’s not far from the truth.  In fact, it is the truth!  And to think, I’ll be going to the Midwest Gaming Classic in a couple of weeks, too…  Argh, good thing it’s tax refund season!

Anyway, the latest group of stuff contains Space Squash for the Virtual Boy, which I already reviewed, and four titles for the TurboGrafx-16: Air Zonk, Blazing Lazers, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, and Parasol Stars.  Between getting these four games just recently, Buster Bros. not long ago, and all the games I already had, I’m building a nice little Turbo collection.  I love this system!  Anyway, here are my thoughts so far:

  • Space Squash (Virtual Boy): See the review.  ($48 new, eBay)
  • Air Zonk (TurboGrafx-16): A bright, colorful, cute-em-up in the spirit of Bonk, but in the future.  This is a great little shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s hard not to have fun with it.  The graphics are some of the best the Turbo has to offer, and the sound ain’t too shabby, either.  (~$30, member)
  • Blazing Lazers (TurboGrafx-16): Another shoot-em-up, but this one is a little more standard than Air Zonk.  A little easy for the first half, but the difficulty ramps up later.  It’s a vertical scroller and the graphics are solid but not stunning.  The sound is good and even includes some (fairly muffled) voice samples.  Just a good, solid game in general. (~$10, member).
  • Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (TurboGrafx-16): This was a pack-in for the original TG16, but since I have a Turbo Duo, I never got to experience it.  As far as pack-ins go… Well, NEC could have done better.  It’s not a bad game, it’s just no Mario or Sonic, you know?  Anyway, it gets trashed on a bit, but I’m having some fun with it.  It’s better than I expected. I love the revolver-heads!  (~$2.50, member)
  • Parasol Stars (TurboGrafx-16): aka The Story of Bubble Bobble 3.  If you like Bubble Bobble, you’ll like this game!  And who doesn’t like Bubble Bobble?  The play mechanics are different in that there’s no blowing bubbles — you use a magical parasol (yes, you read that right) to stun and throw enemies.  It’s bright, extremely colorful, and ridiculously cheerful and appealing.  (~$30, member)

The TG16 prices are estimates because I bought them as a lot.  I assigned a price that totals what I paid, but divided according to their approximate individual value.  All in all, I’d say this is one of my best hauls yet (and it better be, considering how much it all cost).  I’m enjoying all of these games!  Naturally, stay tuned for the full reviews of each (whenever those may come).

Oh, and one more thing.  Given how much I’ve spent on games the last couple months, I’m putting a one month moratorium on new game purchases after MGC.  Hey, maybe I’ll actually play all these!

Latest Haul and Impressions: Buster Bros. & Battletech

March 7, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

Latest Haul: Buster Bros. & BattletechBelieve it or not, I’ve been pretty busy with retro gaming lately.  I may not be posting much, but I’ve been playing a lot of my Turbo, lurking messageboards, and watching eBay like a hawk.  My latest acquisitions are Battletech (Genesis) and Buster Bros. (TurboGrafx-CD).  Battletech was a nice find, because someone at work posted to the internal classifieds that they were giving it away for free.  Being the collector I am, I immediately put dibs on it!  I was bummed to see that he took the poster that was included with the game and hung it up in his office, but hey, free is free.  Buster Bros., on the other hand, was an eBay purchase.  It’s a fun little game that turned out to be a pretty good deal — it’s in pristine condition.  Anyway, here are my thoughts after playing them each a bit:

  • Battletech (Genesis): It’s a top-down/isometric shooter reminiscent of the Strike series, but you pilot a mech in the Battletech universe.  It’s a well-made game with nice graphics and controls, but wow!  It is brutally hard!  I still haven’t passed the first level!  This one is going to take some serious playtime to dig into. (Free, from a coworker)
  • Buster Bros. (TurboGrafx-CD): This is a fun little old-school arcade game.  There are a bunch of bouncing spheres invading the Earth, wreaking havoc, and it’s your job to destroy them all.  When you shoot a sphere, it splits into two smaller ones until, finally, the smallest ones can be destroyed.  You get more points for shooting multiple spheres of the same size in a row, so you’re rewarded for filling the screen with tiny, hard to avoid, bouncing balls — it gets pretty hectic!  The soundtrack makes use of the CD format, the graphics are simple but charming, and the gameplay is straightforward but challenging and addictive.  ($5.17, eBay)

Anyway, I’m on a real TurboGrafx kick these days.  I think I might flesh out my collection a bit… Of course, I should probably get around to writing some reviews before I do.  But we’ll see about that! (My source for good screenshots is gone, so I’ve kinda been using that as an excuse not to write any lately ;))

Impressions: 3DO Edition (plus some Saturn and Neo-Geo)

February 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

I got a handful of new games with my new 3DO testing station.  After taking them for a quick spin, I have a few thoughts to share on each.  Here goes:

  • Alone in the Dark: I played and beat this game for the PC back in the day.  Good stuff all around.  I’m kinda looking forward to digging into this game again and reliving it.
  • Ballz: What the hell is going on here?  It’s some sort of proto 3D fighter, but it basically sucks.  I dunno, whatever.  It’s a little more interesting than most of the “me too” fighters from the 90s, but its gimmick falls flat.
  • Battle Chess: Another PC classic ported to the 3DO.  It’s chess, and it has fun animations to show the pieces doing battle as you play.  Play 2-player or against the computer, play in 3D or 2D… That about covers it.  It’s Battle Chess, so it can’t be too bad, but it moves along a little slowly.
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Technically impressive and with an improved soundtrack, it’s likely the best home port of the time.  But it’s virtually unplayable with a regular 3DO control pad.  I’m supposed to hit the Play button as part of normal gameplay?  Seriously?  No thanks…
  • Way of the Warrior:  Mortal Kombat rip-off.  It’s another one of those dime-a-dozen 2D fighters from the 90s that had digitized characters.  This one also happens to pretty much be a crapfest, much like the rest.  It’s games like this that give the 3DO a bad name.

And some bonus coverage of non-3DO games I’ve also been playing:

  • Super Baseball 2020 (Neo-Geo CD): Generally, the only time I will like a sports game is if it’s arcade-style and over the top.  And if Super Baseball 2020 is anything, it’s arcade-style and over the top!  Basically, it’s fast-paced futuristic baseball with robots and mines scattered throughout the field.  Keep your robots in good mechanical condition and swing for the fences.  Bright, colorful, and fun — I’m looking forward to playing more of this one.
  • Virtua Cop 2 (Saturn):  Virtua Cop 2 is like the original, but better in every way.  More enemies to shoot, more civilians to save, better level design, branching paths, and more interactive bits to the environment.  I’m liking it quite a bit, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a nice review in the near future.

Impressions: The Lion King and F-Zero

January 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The only two classic games I’ve bought in the last several months are The Lion King and F-Zero, so is it any surprise that they’re the two games I have some impressions to report on? Not really… The real question is when I’ll get around to writing the next full review for the site! What game will it be? Nobody knows… Not even me.

  • The Lion King (Genesis): A technical feat for the Genesis, this game is much better than I expected. The graphics and sound are top notch, but the gameplay leaves a bit to be desired. Some of the platforming segments are just frustrating, and it’s overall fairly short (I haven’t managed to beat the last two levels yet, though). Much harder than I expected, as well.
  • F-Zero (SNES): I’m a huge fan of the rest of the series, so it’s only right that I spend some time with the original. The Mode 7 effects aren’t nearly as dazzling as they used to be, but a great sense of speed, smooth controls, and colorful, attractive graphics mean it stands the test of time very well. Overall, it’s a great deal of fun.

So there we have it… I was starting to feel the classic gaming bug again, and after rewiring my game room last night, it’s as strong as ever. Now that I have all my systems hooked up without any need to fiddle around with plugs behind the TV every time I want to play (ugh, that was such a pain), I have no excuse not to play more than I was!

Super Metroid: No, sir… I don’t like it.

September 4, 2007 by · 10 Comments 

Super Metroid BoxThis is going to be tough.  I assigned myself the mission to complete Super Metroid before playing any other games, and I’m starting to regret it.  I’m about halfway through the game, and I’m not having much fun.  Things started out promising in the first couple hours, as I was making good progress and enjoying the combination of exploration and action.  But now, further into it, it’s hitting on my biggest pet peeve in games — not telling me where the hell I’m supposed to go next.

I’m all for challenge in games, but I like the challenge to come from trying to figure out how to overcome an obstacle, not in how to find that obstacle in the first place.  I feel like I have to re-explore the entire game every time I find a new powerup just to find that one hidden panel that’s now breakable, or that one door that I needed a stronger weapon to open.  That’s not fun, that’s tedious.  And all of this could be avoided if there was simply an indicator on the map screen to show when I had found all the exits in a room.  Oh, that floor is bombable?  Don’t show it as a white line on the map; that looks like every other floor that’s not bombable!  Show it as a dotted line or something.

All this would be a little more acceptable if traversing the world was less frustrating, as well.  The jumping controls are far too imprecise and have me yelling out “Oh, god damn it!” at virtually every precision platforming section.  And don’t even get me started on wall jumping.  That literally had me throwing my controller around the room today.  Ugh.

I guess I can see the appeal of this game to truly hardcore gamers — the kinds of people who can sit and play a game for hours at a time, exploring every inch of a game’s world and patiently trying jumping sections over and over until they get it just right.  But that’s just not me.  Maybe it was when I was 12 or 13, but these days, I need my games to be a little less tedious.  I had a headache when I stopped playing Super Metroid today.  That’s not fun.

Confessions and Impressions (and a mini-Mission)

August 31, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

SNESI’ve been playing video games for something on the order of twenty years now.  While that serves to remind me that I’m getting older, that’s not all it means.  It also means I’ve been around the block a few times and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to games.  Name a classic game, and I’ve probably been-there-done-that, played it to death, right?  Well, no, not necessarily.

If you think about it, how many video games have been released in the last twenty years?  Thousand upon thousands for dozens of different platforms.  And hundreds upon hundreds of those are good games that are worth playing.  So in the end, how likely is it that I’ve played every game that a “true gamer” is supposed to have played?  Apparently, not very.  In fact, I have a confession.  I’ve let several games slip through the cracks, and one of them… Well, one of them is a doozy.  (But I’m making up for it, honest!)

Quick! Name a few of the best SNES games ever.  Or better yet, name some of the best 16-bit games ever.  Or hell, name some of the best video games ever…  Did you include Super Metroid on your lists?  I bet a lot of you did.  But I didn’t.  Why not?  Because as of today, I am playing through Super Metroid for the very first time.  Yes, 13 years after its release, I’m finally playing what many people consider to be the best game of all time.  On top of that, I’m pretty much an all around Metroid newbie.  I’ve played maybe a total of five minutes each of Metroid and Metroid II, as well.  The only game in the series that I have spent any significant time on is Metroid Prime on the GameCube, but I still didn’t even get close to beating it.

Alright, so now that my confessions and rationalizations are out of the way, what does this neophyte think of Super Metroid?  I think that I understand where everyone is coming from when they talk about how great this game is.   I’m only about an hour in so far, but I’m finding the whole experience really gripping and satisfying.  I especially like the fact that it strikes a very nice balance between exploration and action (which is nice, since I generally favor exploration while most games provide action).  There is one thing I haven’t quite made up my mind on yet, and that’s the difficulty.  I actually pretty much suck at the shooting sections.  It’s because I don’t really bother to learn enemy patterns and avoid their attacks.  I just charge right through with guns blazing.  But when I say I’m not sure about the difficulty, it’s not because I think it’s too hard.  I think it might be a little too easy.  Since there are so many missile and energy refills popping up all over, there’s very little challenge, and not much incentive to get better at combat.  What’s the point when you can just charge right in then get the energy refill the enemy drops?  Anyway, maybe that changes as the game moves along.

So there it is, my first impression of Super Metroid, only 13 years late!  But that’s not all.  In the spirit of The Snatcher Mission, I’m assigning myself another mission — one that will be a little shorter term.  This mission is “The Beat Super Metroid Mission.”  It sounds very much like what it is.  I going to make up for the last 13 years of negligence in not playing this game and I’m going to beat it before I allow myself to play anything else.  Once and for all, I’m going to beat one of the games that people toss around as “The Best Ever.”

(P.S.: I’ve also never beaten Super Mario Bros. 3, Chrono Trigger, Zelda 1, A Link to the Past, The Ocarina of Time, or any of the 16-bit Sonic games.  Oh god… At least I’ve played them all for hours on end!  That counts for something, right?)

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