Blue’s Journey / Raguy (Neo Geo CD)

July 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

  

The Neo Geo isn’t exactly known for its platformers.  When you think of the Neo Geo, you usually think of the likes of King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, and Metal Slug.  Or, if your tastes lean that way, shooters or great arcade-style sports games.  But platformers?  Really, it only has a handful that could even theoretically fall under that banner.  There’s Top Hunter, Magician Lord, Spinmaster, Cyber-Lip, and maybe a few others that aren’t coming to mind at the moment (appropriately enough).  But ultimately, those all fall under the general “side-scrolling action” category, sharing more in common with run-n-gun games like Metal Slug or 8- and 16-bit action games like Shinobi than they do with good old-fashioned hop-n-bop platformers like Mario and Sonic.

So, can you even say that the Neo has a single true platformer?  I think you could make the argument that it doesn’t.  Or, you can make the argument that it does!  (How’s that for a literary twist!)  And if you were to make the argument that it does have a true platformer, Blue’s Journey (known as Raguy in Japan) is Exhibit A.

I guess all that pontificating was to say that Neo Geo has bupkis for platformers.  So if you’re looking for one, your “choice” is Blue’s Journey, and you better like it.  Thankfully, it’s not a bad game.  In fact, it’s a pretty decent little game.  I’m sitting here trying to think of good phrases to sum it up, and all I can come up with are slightly condescending compliments like “not a bad game,” “a pretty decent little game,” and “a light-hearted little romp” (seriously, I almost used that one).  I think that says something about the game.  It’s good, but not inspiring.  It’s entertaining, but not amazing.  I look at it the way I look at a weiner dog.  “Aw, cute… *smiles and pats it on the head*”  Ultimately, I like it, and it makes me smile, but I think I also pity it a bit.

In fact, I think that sums it up perfectly.  Blue’s Journey is actually a pretty good game, but I feel a little sorry for it.  Good as it is, it will never hold a candle to the last platformer I reviewed.  On top of that, there are a few technical issues that make it seem like even the developers didn’t really respect it.  I mean, really?  You put important HUD information in the overscan area where 99% of CRT TVs will cut it off?  Really?  That’s amateur hour.  And that translation… Oh, god, the translation.  It’s as if they found the one guy on staff who had taken a couple years of English in high school and had him write the script.  Then they used the first draft of it.  I seriously began to wonder if it was intentionally bad and was some sort of parody of itself, but given the fact that nothing else in the game would imply that it’s supposed to be funny, I’m just left with the conclusion that it’s bad.  Thankfully, it’s gone way past the awkward zone and into the so-bad-it’s-good zone.  But that might be the pity talking.

Alright, so we’ve established that Blue’s Journey is a platformer on the Neo Geo, but what about specifics?  You’re Blue, a little fairy insect thing, and you’re out to save your home and your girlfriend from the evil empire that has moved in and is polluting everything to death.  You’ll hop through several brightly colored worlds along the way, with several different upgradeable weapons to aid you.  There’s a leaf, exploding acorns, and a boomerang.  The leaf stuns enemies so that you can pick them up and throw them at each other, while the exploding acorns and boomerangs both destroy the enemy outright, with various ranges and explosive powers.  On top of all that, you also have the ability to shrink yourself to an even smaller size to fit into special paths and secret areas.  It’s also a little easier to dodge enemies when shrunk, and I think you can jump just slightly better, but you’re also completely defenseless because you can’t use any weapons in that state.

The game always starts off in the same world, but after beating the first boss, your path will branch, and you’ll play through two of the next four worlds.  After that, you’ll end up in the evil empire for the final world.  Along the way, there are several secret areas to find, shops to visit, bosses to fight, and characters to meet.  The branching paths combined with multiple endings and secret areas/characters add some replay value to what would otherwise be a very short game.  You can easily complete it in a single sitting (since it’s an arcade game, after all), so most of the challenge will come from seeing all the endings or attempting to complete the game on a single credit.  But if you don’t want to finish it in a single sitting, you can also let the timer run out on the Game Over screen to get the option to save your progress.  You will then be able to load your progress the next time you start a new game.  There’s also a two player mode if you want to conquer the empire with a friend.

The graphics are brilliantly colorful, with lots of rich greens and blues.  It’s a very appealing looking game.  The controls are simple, so they work just fine.  The sound is appropriately upbeat and bouncy, though nothing that will stick with you for a long time.

Final Thoughts: Ultimately, I think the good parts of Blue’s Journey outweigh the bad (and some of the bad swings all the way back around to be good), so I can safely recommend you give the game a try.  As far as Neo Geo games go, it’s on the cheaper end, so you won’t necessarily feel cheated by its flaws.  And it’s actually not hard to look past the flaws in the first place.  So if you do, there’s an enjoyable light-hearted little romp to be had. (Sorry, I just had to say it.)

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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!