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.

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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!

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?)

Ninja Spirit (TurboGrafx-16)

July 25, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Ninja Spirit - Title ScreenNinja Spirit - First SpiritNinja Spirit - First Boss

As your footsteps fall silently upon the floorboards of the ruined temple at which you were born and raised, you barely have time to contemplate the untimely and unjust death of your father and the vengeance which you have sworn to obtain.  With swiftness and deftness that can only come with a lifetime of training, you dispatch foe after foe with ease.  But they are relentless.  Bombs, knives, and swords fly at you as your enemies swarm about, seemingly appearing from thin air.  Where are they coming from?  Why do they want you dead?  Why did they kill your father?  There’s no time to ask questions.  There’s no time to think, only to react.

Your sword slices through your attackers and shields you from their bombs and knives, but it is becoming more and more difficult to handle each wave of aggression on your own.  You defeat an unusual ninja in bright orange, and as if on cue, an apparition appears.  But this apparition does not attack.  Instead, you discover that it mimics your every move.  You gracefully jump hundreds of feet into the air and drift softly to the ground.  It follows you every inch of the way, without a hint of effort.  You look closer, and on the face of this apparition, you see yourself.  You see your anger, your hatred, your determination.  This apparition is your spirit.  It is invulnerable and has every drop of strength and skill that you have.  It will protect you.

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Streets of Rage (Sega Genesis)

July 7, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Streets of Rage - Title ScreenStreets of Rage - Choose your characterStreets of Rage - Two player

What’s this?  An early ’90s Genesis side-scrolling beat-em-up that doesn’t suck?  I originally intended to review Golden Axe, but it was so awful that I just couldn’t bring myself to keep playing.  (I’ll have to play it when I’m in a more masochistic mood, I guess.)  So when I decided to play Streets of Rage instead, I had low expectations.  It had been a while since I had played the game, so I couldn’t remember much and wasn’t sure what I was getting into.  I had fond memories, but I had the sinking feeling that those memories were of Streets of Rage 2, not the original.  Thankfully, it turned out I was right, and the game is pretty playable.

Streets of Rage is Sega’s response to Final Fight and is another entry in what used to be an extremely popular genre.  Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Altered Beast, Golden Axe… What the hell were we thinking back then?  I guess we really liked walking to the right and repeatedly pushing the punch button.  Streets of Rage is no different.  Like the rest of the group, it’s pretty much a simple button-masher with very little in the way of depth.  You can walk, jump, kick, punch, summon special attacks, pick up weapons, and… Well, that’s about it.  Oh yeah, occasionally you’ll grapple someone.

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Bonk’s Adventure (TurboGrafx-16)

June 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Bonk - Title ScreenBonk - Level 1-2Bonk - Smash

I find it interesting to think about the 16-bit era and look at how the success of each console’s mascot parallels the success of the hardware itself.  Mario and Sonic were bitter rivals, but ultimately, I’d say Mario proved to be the stronger mascot.  Likewise, the SNES and Genesis were bitter rivals, with the SNES winning out in the end.

And then there are Bonk and the TurboGrafx-16.  Poor little Bonk.  Poor little TurboGrafx-16.  Though he’s appeared in many games on several different platforms, Bonk’s spiritual home is the TurboGrafx-16.  Unfortunately, he just didn’t have the star power to carry the system.  In the bitter playground wars of Mario vs. Sonic, Bonk was the oft-forgotten third player.  And, likewise, the TurboGrafx-16 was largely overlooked.

Was it poor marketing by Hudson and NEC?  Was Bonk just not an appealing enough character?  Or were his games just not good enough?  Poor marketing could be a solid argument, but I don’t think that tells the full story.  And Bonk, with his big head and goofy smile, is certainly appealing enough to sell games, so that theory is out, too.  That just leaves the games.

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