Latest Haul and Impressions: Firestriker (SNES)

August 13, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

I’ve said it several times before (including in my last review) — I’m a fan of bouncing ball games, for whatever reason.  Pong?  Breakout?  Arkanoid?  Sign me up!  So, when I caught wind of Firestriker on SNES, I knew I had to have it.  And as of last week, I do have it.  But this isn’t any old Breakout clone – it’s a Breakout clone with a twist.  It’s a really bizarre Breakout/Pinball/RPG hybrid, mixing elements of lots of different genres in a way that, as far as I know, has never been done before or since.  Check out the video below for an idea of how it works (thanks, SNESguide!)

Interestingly enough, I actually beat the game the day after I got it.  It’s not a long game, or an especially difficult one, but it’s definitely unique.  I enjoyed it, and I plan to play through it again.  The reason I’m only doing an Impressions post instead of a Review, though, is that there’s a neat two-player mode that I want to try before I make my final evaluation.  The 2-player mode is actually completely different than the main game, in that it’s a competitive mode.  It even has multi-tap support so four people can play!  Too bad I don’t have a multi-tap and three more people who would be interested to try it…

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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!

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…

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.

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Sonic R (Sega Saturn)

June 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Sonic R - Title ScreenSonic R - Resort IslandSonic R - Radical City

I debated for a while over which Saturn game I would review first. The Sega Saturn is one of my favorite platforms of all time, and I felt like it needed a worthy introduction. Would I pick one of its well known classics for a glowing review? Or one of my favorite lesser-known titles? Or something absolutely terrible so I could have a little fun with the review? In the end, I decided I’d take a look at a fairly well-known game where I might have a different view than most.

Most of the time, when people talk about Sonic R, (or Sonic 3D Blast or Sonic Jam) they start off by lamenting a bit about how the Saturn never got a true 3D Sonic adventure, and how, if it had, things could have been so much different. Well, I don’t want to talk about that. For one, it’s cliché and been done to death. On top of that, we’ve seen how the 3D Sonic games have turned out since then, and frankly, I don’t think we missed much. And most of all, I think taking all that into consideration taints the view of the game itself. How could you possibly enjoy a Sonic racing game if you’re harboring resentment that it’s not a platformer the entire time?

With that viewpoint explained, I feel confident enough to say that, quite simply, I like this game. If you strip away all the baggage that came with its release, (especially the fact that the Saturn was really struggling at the time) you’ll find an entertaining game underneath. It’s a simple but engaging game — bright and cheerful almost to a fault — and a nice technical demo of the kind of horsepower the Saturn actually had.

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