Princess Tomato Completed!

November 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been (gradually) playing through Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom and recording my thoughts in an impressions post.  I just completed the game tonight, so if you haven’t been following along (who am I kidding, who would really be checking in every day to see if I’ve updated it?), then be sure to check out my full impressions here while I work on getting the full review up!

Impressions: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)

October 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingom

This post will be a spot for me to record my thoughts as I play through Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom.  The game is a graphical/text adventure in the same style as Deja Vu, Shadowgate, etc.  Keep checking back to follow my progress!  (Beware some minor spoilers, though!)

Day 1: I briefly gave Princess Tomato a try back when I bought it (a year and a half, or so, ago?) and I decided it’s time to dig in further.  The game so far is a pretty charming adventure game.  Its cheery fruits and vegetables theme makes it seem like it might be meant for kids, but there’s some weird stuff going on here.  A visit to a cabaret where you can buy a sexy Apricot and Lemon a round of drinks?  A drunken drifter passed out on a park bench who needs your help to cure what is clearly a hangover?  An underground network of resistance fighters trying to overthrow an evil pumpkin invader?  And I’ve only played the first two levels…

Day 2: Levels 3 and 4.  After playing through Zillion, I’m crazy happy this game has passwords to continue.  I’m getting into the meat of the game now.  The gameplay has been shaken up a bit with a couple unusual sections — some Rock/Paper/Scissors matches and a maze to explore.  I’m attempting to reach the Resistance base, but keep running into obstacles and puzzles. (In an adventure game!?  Imagine that!)  Some of them are a little too obtuse, though.  I don’t like how some destinations and objects don’t appear until you do otherwise obscure/totally unrelated actions.  But on the plus side, the game doesn’t seem to let you do anything to really screw yourself over.  It’s more of the LucasArts style of adventure, rather than Sierra, in that you can’t die or lose.  It’s nice to know you can experiment without fear of having to start over.  By the way, what’s with the “DUMP” action?  Why didn’t they call it “DROP”?  “DUMP” has… other… connotations.

Day 3: Level 5.  I breezed through this level.  I think I’m getting the flow of the game down — I’m getting used to retrying actions that previously failed after I trigger plot points.  Oh, that door was locked before, but now that I’ve talked to this seemingly entirely unrelated person, it’s still locked, but now I can break in even though I couldn’t before?  Okay, sure, why not…  But I am left with a couple questions.  Why are the numbers and letters on the password input screen ordered from top to bottom, right to left?  Is this some leftover from the Japanese release?  That screen was confusing until I realized what was up… Also, why is Princess Tomato’s sister human?  I don’t trust her. (Yeah, I’ll trust the talking Watermelon… But not the pretty human lady!)

Day 4: Level 6.  Another maze.  More Paper/Rock/Scissors battles. (PROTIP: The enemies have patterns in the battles.  They’re very easy if you pay attention).  Level 6 was harder than level 5, though.  Also, I’m not sure if the game’s puzzles are getting more logical or if I’m just getting better at the game.  I’m not getting completely stuck as often.  Realizing I can safely try anything without worrying that it will ruin my game has been a big help.  It’s also removed some of the challege.  At this point, most of the difficulty just comes from trying to figure out what will trigger the next conversation change/plot point.  It’s almost like I’m playing against the game’s internal programming logic and not the puzzles!  Interestingly, I think the fact that I’m a programmer is helping me “get” how the game behaves.

Day 5: Level 7 and some of 8.  I infiltrated a town, disguised as a Farmie but armed with my Resistance Crest to identify me to allies.  Nothing much of note here, except that I enjoyed some of the low-key humor you get when you check out all the stuff in the shop.  The level finishes with a simple maze (well, simple if you talk to the right people).  I actually got stuck in Level 8, making my way through the castle.  I must have missed something, but I thought I tried every single action and every single item on every single screen and couldn’t figure out how to get past the guard.  I will have to come back to this.

Day 6: Levels 8 and 9.  I managed to get through Level 8 this time.  I have to say, the flaws of this game really rear their ugly heads in the last couple of levels.  There’s a super long maze, several rock/paper/scissors battles, and LOTS and LOTS of cases where you have to repeat mundane actions for items and plot points to appear.  But still, not all of the game’s charm was lost.  They even snuck in a Milon’s Secret Castle reference!  But anyway, I’m all finished now.  The game was fun, but not without its flaws.  Look for a proper review in the future!

Videogames Hardware Handbook

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Videogames Hardware HandbookI’m a big fan of Retro Gamer magazine, despite how expensive it is to get here in the US (it’s a UK import).  It’s a fantastic classic gaming mag, jam packed with lots of great content in every issue (the typical issue is 114 pages, with virtually no ads).

One of my favorite parts of the magazine is their recurring “Retroinspection” feature.  With this feature, they give an overview of a particular gaming platform. They go into its history, its strenghts and weaknesses, relevance in the marketplace at the time, and oftentimes even interview key players involved with the platform in some way.  These articles are a great introduction to the different platforms that are out there, and the “Perfect Ten” portions where they recommend 10 games everyone should play are a great way to figure out where to start when exploring a new system.

So, when Retro Gamer released a compliation of past Retroinspections over the holidays, I knew I had to have it — especially considering how interested I am in collecting hardware.  Videogames Hardware Handbook: The Game Machine Collector’s Manual covers a 22 year timespan from 1977 to 1999 and covers everything from consoles to handhelds to odd British 8-bit computers that we never saw over here (but are crazy popular over there).  You get info on all the platforms you’d expect, like the Atari 2600, NES, Genesis (or the Mega Drive, as they call it), plus some of the more obscure, like the 3DO, Jaguar, NEC PC-FX, and 8-bits like the ZX Spectrum and Dragon 32.  Basically, it’s 256 pages of pure content covering 35 different platforms.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not comprehensive.  Since this is a compliation of past articles instead of fresh content, anything that wasn’t already covered in a Retroinspection isn’t included.  So, no Colecovision, no 32X, no Neo-Geo, and no PlayStation.  Nevertheless, if you’re into retro game collecting, I’m finding it a fascinating compliation and a great value.

Note that I’m in no way affiliated with Imagine Publishing and this isn’t a paid ad or anything.  I just really like Retro Gamer magazine and this special edition.  I want everyone to know about it!  And I want it to sell well enough that they make a second volume covering all the platforms that weren’t included in this edition…

Impressions: Castelian (NES)

December 10, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Castelian originally caught my eye when I read about its Commodore 64 incarnation: Nebulus.  Namely, it’s the interesting graphical effect it uses during almost all of the gameplay that drew me to it.  The game is a puzzle platformer where you’re some strange pig/frog creature and you’re hopping around platforms on the outside of a series of cylindrical towers in an effort to tear them down.  The effect used to display the rotation of the tower as you move around it is really convincing, and quite impressive for an 8-bit game.

I left it at that, though.  I don’t own a C64, so I wasn’t going to make much of an effort to play it.  But then I noticed this game called Castelian on the NES that looked really similar.  As it turns out, it’s actually the same game, just under a different name.  Why?  I dunno.  But I’ll take it.  It was a pleasant surprise to see I could play Nebulus after all!

So now that I have it, how does it fare?  Pretty well, so far.  My first impression of the game was that it was pretty damn hard.  I couldn’t even beat the first level.  Your pig/frog is not very mobile, doesn’t jump very well, and there are lots of awkwardly placed ledges to fall down and enemies to run into.  Then I remembered what Metroid and Metal Gear taught me: Be patient!  It’s not about busting through the game on a single life, it’s about exploring and learning the best way through the level.  Once I took that approach, I started to make some good progress.

So now I’m up to the fourth level (of eight) and the level design is really starting to come alive.  Stage 3 had some clever tricks to it, and stage 4 is even more intricate.  I’m really starting to like it, and I’m eager to see what’s in store for later levels.

I still suck at the bonus stages, though…

Impressions: Metal Gear (NES)

October 6, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

I’m going to try something a little different… Instead of just posting reviews after I’ve completed a game, I’m going to post a sort of “gameplay diary” to record my thoughts as the game progresses. I’ve noticed my opinion of a game can change a lot as I go through various parts of it, so it might be fun to jot those thoughts down. So here we go!

After finishing Top Gear 2 and Wario Land, I needed a new game to play. So I asked my girlfriend to pick one out for me — of course, she had no idea what she was looking at, so it was essentially “pick a game from my game room at random.” It worked out pretty well, though, since Metal Gear was one game I’d been thinking I need to try out.

Anyhow, my first impression of the game is that everyone is right about the god-awful translation. I’d heard about it so many times that it had become cliché — just one of those things that everyone has to poke fun of because it’s the thing to do. Well, it’s not just a cliché. It’s genuinely bad. “First, attempt to contact missing our ‘Grey Fox.'” (?) “I feel asleep!” (??) “Uh-oh the truck have started to move!” (???) Ugh.

My second impression was how damn hard the game is. You start out virtually defenseless, with no weapon but your fists, and all kinds of enemies (including dogs) will kill you in no time. Frankly, it’s frustrating. But once I got into the right mindset, I started to “get” it. I started treating the game less as an action/adventure and more as a puzzle game. I stopped worrying about dying and just set the goal to find the best possible path through each section. If I died, no big deal, I just tried a different way. Thankfully, you keep all your items when you continue.

So at this point, I’m starting to actually like the game. I found the instruction book online and learned what some of the items do, I’ve found a virtually flawless path through the opening sections, I have some new items at my disposal, and I’m infiltrating the enemy base, so things are starting to pick up. I just hope I get a weapon soon…

Anyway, off to play it a bit more. I will keep updating this post as I get further along, so check back!

Update 1: Okay, this game is terrible.  Really, seriously, terrible… Infinitely respawning (and seriously retarded) enemies; tedious gameplay that forces you to restart completely each time you die (or even when you use your password to continue); glitches galore (the game flat out hung on me three times so far).  And yet, I’m hooked.  For some reason, I just want to keep playing.  I want to see what’s through the next door and around the next corner.  I want to find that perfect path through each room that sneaks me past every obstacle without a scratch.  I’m, somehow, enjoying all this??  I’m just wondering when the hell I’m gonna get a gun, though.  I found explosives, remote-controlled missiles, and even a silencer, but no gun?  I think I must have missed it.  But at the same time, I’m not so sure I want to find it.  I’m enjoying the pure-stealth approach.  Well, maybe I’ll find the gun next time, since I have to restart from the beginning when I continue, anyway.

Update 2: Oh for crying out loud.  I just finished a session of this game where I was really starting to get into it.  It turns out I did, in fact, miss a handgun in my earlier playthroughs, so I finally found that — along with mines, a grenade launcher, a machine gun, and lots of other fun stuff.  I even made it far enough that now I don’t have to start over from the beginning when I continue!  But of course, just as I’m leaning towards “You know, this game’s not so bad… I actually rather like it,” it decides to just crash on me.  After finding Grey Fox, finding all my supplies again, and taking down (what I’m assuming is) the first boss, I do something as simple as try to go to the next screen, and it just hangs.  Fun!  I wonder how much QA this game actually got.  I’m leaning towards “None.”  The best part?  I’ll be crawling back for more tomorrow…

Update 3: Making good progress — No crashes or anything like that to report today!  I suspect I’m just about halfway through, about to rescue Pettrovich.  I found a whole bunch of POWs that I missed before, so I’ve reached the 3-star level and am pretty much unstoppable.  Also, I decided to check out the original MSX version of the game, so I got the fan translations up and running on an emulator.  Boy, is it better!  The graphics and sound are way different.  I’m noticing that the NES version is actually pretty faithful once you get past the awful opening jungle sequence, which doesn’t even exist in the MSX version.  I’m thinking about doing an in-depth article to compare the Western version of the series (Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge on NES) to the Japanese series (Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake on MSX).  That could be fun, but I’d have to play through all four games first!

Update 4: Oh, Kojima… You got me.  You got me good.  I thought I was about to rescue Pettrovich, but nope… Plot twist!  Anyway, onto Building 2.  I’m a 4-star rank and making good progress.  There’s much less stealth involved at this point, though — there’s no real point in avoiding enemies anymore, considering how much health, how many rations, how much ammo, and the body armor I have.  The game is now more about exploration, finding the items you need to progress, and taking down big boss-type enemies.  The password system is really getting on my nerves.  Why would anyone design a 25-character password where you can’t back up and correct mistakes?  One typo, and you have to actually finish filling out your (incorrect) code, then start all over again.  Ugh!

A Boy and His Blob (NES)

September 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A Boy and His Blob - Title ScreenLicorice = LadderBouncing Marshmallows

I like side-scrollers.  I like adventure games.  I like “obscure” games that show up on “hidden gems” lists.  I like quirky games.  So it all stands to reason that I would like A Boy and His Blob, right?  Well, sure enough, I do.  No stylistic twist to get your attention here, I just plain like it.  It’s a good game.  Flawed, but good.

I had never heard of A Boy and His Blob (or, even its full title, “David Crane’s A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia”) back in the day, let alone actually having played it.  In fact, I was only clued into its existence sometime over the last couple of years.  I noticed that as I read a few “hidden gems” and “overlooked games” lists around the web and various retro games forums, this one kept popping up.  I knew it was an NES game, I knew it was an adventure game, and I knew you were a boy with blob that changed shapes when you fed it jellybeans (yes, jellybeans).  Beyond that, I didn’t know much else.

So with a fresh mindset and little in the way of expectations, I dove into A Boy and His Blob.  And then I got stuck.  After about five minutes of playing the game.  So I turned it off, and came back later.  And I got stuck again.  At the same spot.  So I turned it off and came back later.  But this time, I was determined to actually figure the damn game out.  And this is when it all started to click and I “got” the game.  I took notes on what all the different jellybeans did, I started making a map, and I remembered what Metroid taught me: never assume a dead-end is actually a dead-end.

Read more

Metroid (NES)

February 2, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Metroid - Title ScreenMetroid - The BeginningMetroid - Exploring Zebes

In the hardcore gaming world, there are several series that have been elevated to almost sainthood status.  Series like Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy have fervent fan bases and traditions dating back to the NES.  More recently, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and (maybe) Halo have started to build the same kinds of traditions.  For me, all of these series have one thing in common.  I’ve never beaten a single game in any of them.

Well, until today, that is… For I have finally done the unthinkable and played through a Metroid game from start to finish!  Back in 2007, I assigned myself a mini-mission of playing through Super Metroid because it’s supposedly one of the greatest games ever, and I hadn’t even played it before.  Well, that didn’t really go very well.  Quite frankly, I found the game extremely frustrating.

So what on Earth compelled me to play the original NES Metroid after not enjoying the SNES version?  After all, even many people that love Super Metroid find the original obscure and tedious.  Well, I didn’t really set out to play it.  I’ve been on an NES collecting kick lately, and Metroid came in a bundle that I got off of Craigslist.  I decided to pop it in and give it a shot, and I was hooked right from the start.

Read more

Blaster Master (NES)

May 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Blaster Master Title ScreenBlaster Master Area 1Blaster Master Overhead Section

(Note: This is an unfinished, Evolving Review.  Stay tuned for futher updates as I complete more of the game.) 

I’m a big fan of “underdog” games, hidden gems that not everyone has played.  Yeah, everyone knows that Mario and Sonic and Zelda are going to be good games, but what about the games that flew under the radar and never became megahits?  There are some great ones out there with interesting and unique play mechanics.  Enter Blaster Master.

Read more

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: F-Zero, The Lion King, and More

January 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Latest Haul: F-Zero, The Lion King, and MoreWhat’s this?  A post to The Retro Review Project?  I know, I know, I’ve been lax lately (okay, really lax), but sometimes gaming just takes a back seat to life.  But I’m starting to feel the pull of the old consoles again, so here I am.  The last four months have been slow, but I’ve made a couple trips lately to my favorite store in the world (Pre-Played on the west side of Madison, WI… Used games for systems dating back to the Atari, plus used DVDs, CDs, and books.  What more could a geek want?).  Here’s everything I’ve picked up since my last update in September:

  • The Lion King (Genesis): I saw this, along with Aladdin and Mickey’s Castle of Illusion.  I was tempted to get all three, but decided buying all those Disney games at once might seem a little fruity!  Instead, I just went with The Lion King.  This is one of my girlfriend’s old favorites, so I figured we could geek out together and play it.  For $2.99, I couldn’t pass it up.  Unfortunately, Aladdin and Castle of Illusion were gone the last time I went  back to the store.  Oh well, I’ll keep an eye out for them in the future.
  • Dogbone Controller (NES): I’ve been wanting to pick up one of these controllers for a while, but never saw any outside of eBay.  Once I started playing my NES more, I realized how awful the sharp corners on the standard NES pad really are.  The store had a mix of standard, Advantage, and Max controllers, plus this one dogbone.  I quickly snatched it up for $4.99.
  • Nintendo Power Mints (Swag): The one thing on this list that didn’t come from Pre-Played, this is a clever little stocking stuffer my girlfriend got me for Christmas.  It’s a tin of mints in the shape of an NES controller with the Nintendo Power logo.  Apparently, Urban Outfitters carries them.  I may use it as a DS game case once I’m done with the mints.
  • F-Zero (SNES): I had F-Zero X for the N64, F-Zero GX for the GameCube, and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the GBA, but never had the orignal SNES launch title.  That’s now rectified, at a reasonable $6.99 (cart-only).
  • The Wizard (DVD): I normally just check out the game section when I go to Pre-Played, but last time, I took a look at the DVDs, as well.  When I saw this on the shelf, my eyes got really wide, and I just said “Oh, woah!”  I couldn’t resist — especially since I’ve been thinking about reviewing some old game-related movies for this site.  I bought it with little hesitation, for $7.99.

I also picked up Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast, but since the DC doesn’t fit my definition of a retro/classic game console (yet), I’m not going to include that in my official list.  This was a replacement for a copy that I lent a friend back in college, which I never got back!  I also bought Final Fantasy (NES) and an FC Twin, but those were Christmas presents for a friend, so they don’t quite count for this list, either.  Anyway, stay tuned… I should have some impressions and reviews on the way.

Next Page »