The US box art for Over Horizon.
The US box art for Over Horizon.

This week, I’m taking a break from doing the featured games from this issue of Nintendo Power, to go with one of the Also Rans – a game that was featured in the “Now Playing” column, but didn’t get a full strategy guide. Specifically, I’m picking Over Horizon, a shump from Hot-B.

The Premise:

The game’s story is… nonexistent. You’re flying a star fighter and have to defeat a force of invading aliens. That said, the game does have as one of its features the ability to customize your weapons with traits from other weapon power-ups you encounter through the various levels.

The Good:

Finally, we have a shump which has enemies come in from behind, that also lets you shoot backwards without having to do any fancy shenanigans with your controller.

The Bad:

In order to view your score or see how many extra lives you have remaining, you have to pause the game. This is what HUDs are for class. Game Design 101 – remember?

The Ugly:

I couldn’t get past the first level. This isn’t because I suck at shumps (though I’m not great). This is because halfway through the level we have these vine like critters blocking your path through the level that I can’t get through. If I fly into them, I die. If I shoot them, nothing happens. In theory, I could die, and use my temporary invulnerabilty to get through it (which I did a couple of times) – but unless you have unlimited lives, I shouldn’t have to do that. And even if I do have unlimited lives, that’s bad game design. Again, Game Design 101 people.

The Verdict:

This game deserved to be among the Also Rans – I have to give them credit for that. Don’t play this game.

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The Lone Ranger Box ArtSo, in honor of Howard Phillips last issue of Nintendo Power, I’m reviewing the game for the last installment of Howard & Nester – The Lone Ranger from Konami.

The Premise:

You play as the Lone Ranger, the last of a group of Texas Rangers whose posse was murdered by Butch Cavandish, the notorious outlaw. You, along with your side kick, Tonto, go forth to avenge their deaths, and rescue the president, who Cavandish has kidnapped! (more…)

image16231This is going to be a little different from most of my other Quality Control columns, because with most of my other quality control columns I’m able to beat the first level of the game I’m playing. Not so here. So, I’m going to ditch the formal structure (somewhat) and speak frankly.

The premise of the game is kind of interesting. Future Earth is under attack by an alien threat, and you, as the pilot of the mecha Battle Unit Zeoth, must go forth and defeat the the alien invaders for the safety of earth. (more…)

Sword Master Box ArtAs I’ve mentioned previously, I really like Swords & Sorcery games, particularly RPGs. I also like fantasy and semi-fantasy platformers like Castlevania. So, when Sword Master came up on this week’s issue of Nintendo Power, I was looking forward to it. All things considered, I probably shouldn’t have looked forward to it…

The Premise: As a lone knight, you must go forward and defeat an evil sorcerer who is enslaving the land with his evil minions.

The Good: The combat has a bit of depth to it, in terms you, and your enemies, have high, medium, and low attacks they can use, and you have ways of defending against them, sort of.

The Bad: The levels are very generic. Aside from some basic jumping, you walk forward, and kill everything in your way. Think of the gameplay as Altered Beast, only without the transformations, or the fireballs, and generally more bland and generic.

The Ugly: As I mentioned, supposedly, you can high-block the high attacks, middle block the middle attacks, and low block the low attacks. I can pull off the low block, but I couldn’t pull off any other other blocks. I could pull off all 3 levels of attacks, but the AI reactions were cheap enough that for the mid-bosses, I just couldn’t hit them, no matter how much I tried.  The game is just cheap in all the bad ways.

The Verdict: Avoid this game. There had to have been a better game that could have taken this game’s slot in Nintendo Power. I’m not even going to put referral links for this game in this review. That’s how unimpressed I am.

Get Metal Storm from eBay
Get Metal Storm from eBay

Well, I’m going to go back to the text reviews for the time being, as the audio reviews don’t carry over well to Facebook (as my reviews are also syndicated there. Plus, frankly, I’m just not getting a lot of listeners for them. If you do want the audio reviews back, please let me know, and I’ll start doing them again in the future.

Anyway, my game for review this week is the mecha action game Metal Storm for the NES, from Irem (the people who brought you R-Type). Let’s see how it turns out.

The Premise: An alien intelligence has taken over the research station on Titan. You, in the M-308 Gunner Mobile Suit must infiltrate the facility, get through its defenses, and destroy the base before it can destroy Earth! (more…)

Well, my review is done for Deja Vu for the NES. How good (or bad) of an adventure game is it? Well, you’ll have to listen to the review to find out.

The game was originally released for the Macintosh, but the version I’m reviewing is the NES version, which is only available on eBay. There was also a port of the first and second game in the series for the Game Boy Color, but if you thought the game was pixel bitching bad before, it’ll be even worse on the GBC’s small screen, so I just reccomend you skip that version of the game entirely.

Get TMNT: Fall of The Foot Clan from eBay.
Get TMNT: Fall of The Foot Clan from eBay.

Well, it was my intent this week to put up another video review, this time of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record the video I needed for the review. But, fear not, I still have my audio – so it will instead be something more podcast-y. You can download the audio here.

You can find the usual eBay link in the picture. Also, please feel free to lead any feedback in the comments, or any recommendations for future games you’d like me to review.

Get Wrath of the Black Manta from eBay
Get Wrath of the Black Manta from eBay

Well, for my latest Quality Control column, my original intent was to do another video review with commentary. Unfortunately, I ran into the problem. When I did my review playthrough, and started recording, the game started freezing every time I was recording. This is important because I was playing the game differently this time than in my original play through (for example, I was trying to get the note on the first section of the level). Anyway, I don’t think this is a problem with the Rom, or with the software I’m using to record. I think it’s a problem with the game. A really big problem.

So, suffice it to say, you really shouldn’t play this game. Now, for the sake of completeness, and not wanting all my prior play-through and my audio recording I did to go to waste, I’m going to just put up the MP3 of my recording instead on Megaupload and call it good. Keep in mind I started recording the audio before I started doing the video recording of my play-through, but I still stand by my remarks.

Megaupload Link.

So, let me know what you think. If you prefer the audio format to the YouTube video, let me know in the comments. Similarly, if you’d be interested in me turning this into an out-and-out podcast, let me know as well (and maybe buy some stuff so I can afford to get the hosting a podcast would require – and a mike that doesn’t suck.)

Get Batman for the NES from eBay
Get Batman for the NES from eBay

Alright, I’m doing something slightly different this time. I’m not going to be doing the review as full text. Instead, I’ll be doing this primarily as a youtube video with narration – particularly since this time I fixed the problems with the game audio intruding on my voice over. If this works better, let me know either on the comments here, or on YouTube. Hopefully, if I get a job soon or find if the site starts to make some money, I’ll be able to get a real mike and work on improving the sound quality of my voice over.

Get Willow for the NES from eBay
Get Willow for the NES from eBay

Well, my latest Quality Control column is ready, and this time I have video and audio ready. Excellent! I still shall, of course, have the text recap, for those who are at work and can’t listen to the video, or what have you.

The Premise:

Willow, a little person, must use all his skills in swordplay and magic to free the land from the grasp of the dark queen Bavmorda.

The Good:

This is a decent action RPG in the vein of Ys, with pretty good control. The graphics are alright for a NES game from this era, and sound isn’t totally awful eather, though I don’t recognize any of the music from the film.

The monster design is alright, and the monsters who shoot flame and other missles at you do have a discernable pattern, and the “bullets” are slow enough that if you spot the pattern you can avoid them. Also, upgraded weapons and armor come fairly regularly, and as the game is from a top-down perspective, it doesn’t run into any of the problems encountered by an Action RPG like Faxanadu. (more…)

Get Duck Tales for the NES from eBay
Get Duck Tales for the NES from eBay

Alright, so after trying our hand at a Falcom action-platformer/RPG, that was part of the insanely long Dragon Slayer series, our next Quality Control column (as I mentioned yesterday), takes us to a more traditional platformer – Duck Tales, from Capcom, part of a long series of Disney themed platformers from Capcom, this one based on the TV animated series, which featured Scrooge McDuck going on various Indiana Jones-ish adventures, plus having to contend with more conventional enemies like the Beagle Boys (who want to steal his money).

The Premise:

It is the first part of the show’s description that the game is based on.  As Scrooge McDuck, you travel around the world, to the Amazon Rainforest, “The African Mines” (presumably meant to be King Solomon’s Mines – just shortened to fit the NES’ character limit), Transylvania, the Moon, among other places, retrieving various legendary treasures, among other stuff, while going up against such classic Duck Tales foes as the Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, and Flintheart Glomgold. (more…)

Get Faxanadu from eBay
Get Faxanadu from eBay

Falcom is known for two major series – the Dragon Slayer series of games, and the Y’s series of games. The game I’m trying this time is from the former series. I’ve played one game in the series previously – Legacy of the Wizard.  To be frank, I enjoyed the game, though I had no idea what I was doing, and I had a lot of problems navigating through the levels, but I had fun.

I did not have fun with Faxanadu. (more…)

Cobra Triangle Box ArtSo, my Quality Control for this issue is Cobra Triangle from Rare. This is, basically, a speedboat racing/shooting game. There’s no story to the game. Basically, you go through a series of about 25 stages, cycling through a 8 different stage types: Reach the end of the stage with boats trying to stop you, reach the end of the stage with obstacles (like whirlpools and log jams) trying to stop you, reach the end of the stage while jumping over whirlpools, (and for variation) collect as many power-ups as possible within the time limit, keep as many people as possible from being taken by enemy boats within the time limit, hit as many targets as possible while making your way to the end of the stage, take a number of mines to goal within the time limit, and defeat a boss within the time limit.

Being that 5 of these level types require you to either kill things, or have you fending off attack while completing the goal, the game is kind enough to give you some power-ups, using a Gradius-style power-up bar, with options for a speed boost, missiles (which actually work a little more like a split attack) and temporary invulnerability, among others. (more…)

Hudson's Adventure Island Box ArtHudson’s Adventure Island (originally released in Japan as Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island) is an interesting game. Having never played any of the Wonder Boy games (the game series that Adventure Island is a clone of), I came into this positively cold, not knowing what to expect. I have to say that it’s not the best game I’ve ever played, nor the easiest, but it is interesting. I managed to actually record some video of a play-through this time around – I’ll get it up on my vodPod sidebar once GameTrailers is finished processing it.

The Premise:

You play as Master Higgins (in the Japanese version, it’s Takahashi), a guy whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by an evil chieftain while on vacation on a tropical island, and you have to go to rescue her. (more…)

So, in my most recent recap of GamePro, I decided to pick for my Quality Control for that issue (since they haven’t started including review scors yet), Wall Street Kid, a stock market simulation game for the NES. In the course of looking for the game, I found various articles about the game, including reviews at SomethingAwful, and by Seanbaby. The general consensus about the game is that it’s bad. Really, really bad. Mind-numbingly bad. So, after coming across these, and having second thoughts about my pick, I started thinking about Stock Market Simulator games, Business simulators, and the way those fields have gone. (more…)

 

Cover of Skate Or Die
Cover of Skate Or Die

In the annals of skateboarding games, the first game most gamers, even those who grew up in the 16-bit generation of gaming, think of when they think of skateboarding games is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. However, when you get to the 8-bit generation, the signature skateboarding game of the time, and the first game to be exclusively focused on  skateboarding (technically the first focused “extreme sports” game) is Skate Or Die! for the NES.  Coming out in 1989, while it is not the first game to depict skateboarding (an honor held by California Games), to a certain degree this is one of the first major sports games that were based off a real-world sport but not one that was either an Olympic sport or team sport. (more…)

Cover Art for Blaster Master
Cover Art for Blaster Master

Blaster Master is a game I’ve heard abunch about when I was a kid, and when I ended up accumulating a bunch of bookson video game strategies – none of which were officially licensed, including a few written by Jeff Rovin, who would later go on to write Tom Clancy’s Op Center series. The game interested me, though often the books I was reading didn’t have pictures to show me what the game looked like, so I had to make assumptions on what the game looked like.

So, when Nintendo Power #3 had a preview of Blaster Master, I felt like it was woth giving it a try. The premise of the game is fairly simple. Your pet frog is mutated by radioactive waste and goes down a giant hole in the ground. You chase after him and fall down the hole yourself. There is no sign of your pet frog nearby, but there is super-high tech tank nearby, which you hop into to rescue your pet and hopefully bring him back to normal. (more…)

The box art for Life Force
The box art for Life Force

So, for Issue 2 of Nintendo Power, I picked for my game of choice Life Force by Konami, which was billed as the spiritual successor to Gradius.

To be frank, it has a lot in common with Gradius – both in terms of the ship design, most of the weapons in the game (laser, missile, option) and the power-up system in general.  In general, the game controls pretty well, though I’m playing this with the X-Box 360 controller rather than the the NES controller, so I have an Analog Stick to work with. Anyway, the weapons work very well, and the game’s new weapon, the pulse cannon, works significantly better than the similar weapon from R-Type.

Ultimately though, if you want to make a good shump, what you need is good combination of solid controls, good level design, good weapon selection (and the weapons don’t have to be original, necessarily, they just need to be useful),  and good enemy design – with both the generic enemies and the bosses, and both in terms of their movements, and in terms of their attack pattern (how do they move, do they fire bullets, if so how many bullets to they fire, how fast do they travel, and so on). Oh, and you can’t have slowdown. (more…)

RBI Baseball Cover Art
RBI Baseball Cover Art

So, for my recap of Nintendo Power last issue, I decided to select RBI Baseball from Atari/Tengen.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have chosen to select a baseball game. NES baseball games in general had one major problem – their fielding controls stunk wholly and utterly. Batting usually worked well. Giving instructions to the runners usually worked well. However, I have yet to encounter a Baseball game for the NES that didn’t have absolutely horrid fielding.

As you can tell from the last sentence, RBI Baseball’s fielding is pretty bad as well. Specifically, it runs into 3 problems – well, technically 4 problems, but I’ll get to the 4th in a minute.  Firstly, when you’re controlling fielders, you’re controlling blocks of fielders – you’re either controlling all of the outfield, or all of the infield. This makes getting the ball to the base where it’s needed more difficult, and makes catching fly balls more difficult. For that matter, the fielders you control don’t include basemen, so, among other things, I saw a baseball slide bounce right towards the space between my 3rd baseman and the shortstop. I went to move the 3rd baseman to catch it, and the shortstop moved instead – the computer got 2 runs in.

The second problem is that once the outfielders get the ball, whenever that will be, they never throw the ball to the infield hard enough, even if it’s center field throwing to 2nd base. Invariably, the ball will strike the ground several feet before it reaches the necessary base, bounces in to the basemen. If you’ve ever watched Major League Baseball, you know this never happens. I’d be willing to forgive poor fielding, if once I got the ball, I could get it where I needed to go quickly, and thus do damage control. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Third, getting fly balls is extremely difficult – whenever the ball goes up, it goes out of camera frame, and gives no definition on the arc for the ball – and whether it’s going, going, gone – or if it’s going to plop down a few feet outside of the infield. Again, this leads to more runs given up, and more runners on base, for really stupid reasons.

Finally, the fourth problem that I was saving for last, is that all of the concerns I just raised do not apply to the computer. This isn’t a case of “oh, I suck”, this is a case of the computer playing pro baseball, and because of the difficulties of the controls, the graphics, and the “physics”, I’m playing like Charlie Brown’s team. All in all, it makes the experience significantly less fun.

Now, there is a 7 game season available (one game against each team), and if you lose a game it isn’t a game over – however, there is no option to save your game and no password mode, so you have to play 7 games in one sitting. Just to make things slightly more annoying – there is no one-game two-player mode, just a best-of-7 series. You can still turn the system off or restart it after one game, but it’s still a nusance.  For all the gripes I had playing the Bases Loaded series when I first got into gaming, RBI Baseball is worse. Don’t play this game.

All that said, it is interesting to see this game, and see how baseball games have evolved over the years of play. The genre has improved a lot.