Monday, December 21, 2009

Level Up: Lady Sia + Schedule announcement

Hey everybody, before I get started on this week's game, I just wanted to explain why it took so long for it to get posted up and why it's not on iTunes yet. See, I'm on vacation! I went back home and, sadly, I only have limited connectivity here. Furthermore, Word was wiped off my computer AFTER I wrote this weeks review, but BEFORE I could post it up.
While I'm talking about posts being late, the one scheduled for this saturday will probably be late due to the holidays (ironically, it's a holiday special...). Also, there will be none on January 2nd (this was planned in advance as a holiday break). A New Years special will occure on the 9th. After that, updates should continue regularly until further notice.
Anyways, you've waited enough, so here it is, this weeks review.

Talk about underrated games, I can’t tell you how shocked I am no one I know has heard of Lady Sia. Coming out in 2001, just a few months after the Game Boy Advance, this game was developed by RFX Interactive and produced by TDK Mediactive. Both these companies are technically now gone, but they should never be forgotten, just simply for this game. So, let’s look at Lady Sia for the Game Boy Advance.

This game is classic hack and slash platforming. Lady Sia looks to fight the invading T’soa army (I think that’s how it’s pronounced) with her trusted sword, used to chop all enemies down to size. Both the B and R button swing her sword, but in different ways, meaning you can use them to make combos. Another way you can get rid of enemies is your magic ring, which shoots a chargeable ball of energy. Although she does need to stand still to use it, she can shoot it off in any of 8 directions. There’s also few magic spells you activate by hitting button combos, but they’re hard to memorize and not useful enough to bother with. Using all your skills, you’ll help Lady Sia achieve peace by navigating through fun levels and taking down all who stand in you way. To put it simply, Lady Sia controls really well and the game play is fun.

The levels in this game can easily be compared to the ones in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s island. What I mean by that is that Yoshi’s Island had a score system at the end of each level, and so does Lady Sia: she’s scored based on how many gems she’s collected, hostages she’s saved, how much magic she has left and how much heath. Also like Yoshi’s Island, if you get perfect scores in each level of a particular world, you get a bonus level. However, unlike Yoshi’s Island, Lady Sia seems to have a small number of levels, but they are quite difficult, pretty much evening the time you’ll spend playing the game. An advantage that Lady Sia has for having fewer levels is that less of them seem pointless. Sure you can argue that in platformers, no level is pointless since you need to get to the end, but in this game, each level also has a mission to help reach your goal: meet with the members of the alliance, destroy the machines bringing in the invading army, etc… Playing through these levels would still be fun, but it’s nice to know that I also have a reason to be doing it.

The last aspect of the game I want to talk about is the enemies. I love the T’soa. I don’t know what it is, I just love them. Like everything else, they are wonderfully sprited, and beyond that, they’re also well designed. A lot, if not all, of them are anthropomorphs (half animals, half beast), so it’s also amazing that they’ve been able to take this old concept and still seem creative. Like I said, I don’t know what it is, but it’s rare that I meet a game with enemies I enjoy so much.

Seriously, I am still shocked that this game isn’t more popular then it is. It’s fun with very few flaws, and the few flaws are easy to overlook (most games need their imperfections, right?). I don’t know what cause this game to be overlooked like it was when it came out, maybe it was the lack of promotion, maybe it was because the companies that made it weren’t well known or maybe it was because it came out at a time when people were more interested in getting SNES ports for that same consol. Its unpopularity also caused the sequel to be cancelled, so this game is the only of its kind. If you see it in a store or an online game seller, I strongly suggest you buy it. I give Lady Sia for the Game Boy Advance 8.5 Levels out 10.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Level Up: Darkwing Duck

Well folks, it’s already Capcom time again. As stated in my Little Nemo review, it seemed that they had very original ideas for their game play in licensed games (other examples include Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Ducktales and The Little Mermaid). However, their Darkwing Duck game came off as a Mega Man clone. Was this a bad thing? No, but may cause some people to over look it. That’s why I’m not only about to review Darkwing Duck, but the Game Boy version, which is even less popular.

The Mega Man influence is undeniable. The feeling of jumping around and shooting your little circles feels just like the blue bomber’s games (didn’t Darkwing have a GAS gun anyways?). The you can select the levels you feel like doing, unlocking new ones each time you beat your current selection, with a final one after all are done. The stages themselves even scream of Mega Man, the way they look, the way they’re designed, everything. Even some of the enemies seem like Mega Man ones.

But once you scratch passed surface, you can see they did try to make this game different. The most noticeable difference is that DW has the ability to grab onto most platforms, ropes and hook like objects. This is one of the main aspects of this game, along with jumping around and shooting, and is used just as much, which really makes this worth playing, even if you have played Mega Man games. Beyond that, there are other things that make it different. These include (but aren’t limited to) the fact that Darkwing can only take 4 hits; he can use his cape as a shield against some attacks and can only have one alternate type of ammo at a time. All these make it so Darkwing Duck should be viewed as it’s own game and not JUST a Mega Man clone.

The plot is basic: Saint Canard has broken out in chaos, with DW’s enemies each attacking their own section of the city. You’ll fight recognizable characters, such as The Liquidator, Bushroot, Quacker Jack and my personal favourite (Sound clip “Megavolt”). There’s also Professor Moliarty and even an original character for the game, Wolfduck. Of course, all of this leads to the climactic showdown against none other then Negadu- Steelebeak? Ok, no, stop the review! *Music stops* How can NegaDuck not be in this game; he was one of Darkwing’s baddest enemies! Not having him in the Darkwing Duck game is crazy! Sure, there was this plot about F.O.W.L., but you could of just changed all of that to “The Fearsome Five”: You already fight the 4 others and NO other member of F.O.W.L. except Steelbeak. NegaDuck would have been the obvious choice. They could have also added a secret final fight where he absorbs the other’s powers like he did in that one episode. I mean… Moliarty? Wolfduck? No NegaDuck? He would have been so easy to sprite too! Let’s just go to the next part of the review!

This game is also fun to look at and listen to. As I said earlier, the game’s look has a definite Mega Man inspiration, but it’s defiantly blended well with Darkwing Duck style and feel: that wacky, yet semi-serious style. You’ll want to jump and move around just to watch him do it. The music is exceptional with a jazzy feel throughout the game, even in the high tense parts. Both of these set the mood perfectly for the adventures of a duck in a cape that’s taking down his enemies.

This is a great port of an NES game. Even though I can notice differences in the levels with the short bit I’ve played of the original, it doesn’t really matter when it’s this good. It’s not only fun, but it’s the type of fun that makes you want to beat the game so you can shut it off and beat it again! Long story short, don’t over look this game for any reason: don’t do it because it’s a licensed game, don’t do it because it’s a port and do it do it because it’s like a Mega Man clone. Don’t even over look it cause it lacks NegaDuck! I give Darkwing Duck for the Game Boy 9 out of 10 Levels.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Level Up: Buster's Hidden Treasure

Tiny Toon Adventures was a great show. Even long after it was over, I continued to enjoy the wackiness in the reruns. The video games based on it however are… hit or miss. To pay homage to such an influential show, I’m going to review one of the “hits”: Buster’s Hidden Treasure for the Sega Genesis.

The first thing I noticed about the game was that it seemed a little derivative, especially since it’s on the Genesis. Think about it, blue woodland creature that’s very fast and is a great jumper… on the Genesis. Sound familiar? (Sonic music plays) But I do think it’s all just coincidence, what other abilities would a rabbit have? But really, the game isn’t that similar to Sonic. The levels seem designed for jumping instead of running, Buster has the ability to slide, wall jump and call on one of his friends to kill all enemies on screen, there’s a world map, the carrots you collect don’t give you lives and your health is determined by how many hearts you have. It’s not really ripping off any one platform game; it’s kind of like a little bit of all of them and pulls it off quite nicely.

The controls aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee… Average. All the buttons are quite responsive and controlling direction is easy, so I can’t really bash them much. But, the slide is difficult to use at a time when it would be useful, jumping can end too suddenly and running starts up slowly. It doesn’t help that, once you start getting momentum, the level will throw you an obstacle just to ruin it.

Speaking of annoyances with running and jumping, here’s the sound effect Buster makes when you jump *plays* and here’s the one he makes if you’re running and you jump *plays*. Yeah, get used to it, since you jump a lot in this game.

Like I said, this game has a world map. This means that you can go back to replay levels, which is great because there are secret levels throughout the game. Because there are so many levels to play through, this game has a password system (since a save feature was apparently rare on the Genesis). It’s good they got around it, but they’re quite long and repetitive. Just to show you, I’m going to read one, but the Bs will be replaces with the normal jumping noise and the Ls with the running jump. Ready? BBBQ LLDL DLBB LDLL DLTM See? I haven’t done the exact calculations, but I’m sure the code could have been shorter. At the end of each “section”, there’s a boss. Often, it’ll be one of the other tiny toon characters under the control of Professor Gene Splicer. They are way too easy, enough said.

One thing that I really liked about the game are the graphics. They really capture the look of the show. They’re stylish and smooth. The colors are vibrant and clear. The different poses are well pulled off and it really brings the fun of playing this game to the level of fun watching the show was.

I am not doing this game justice. Despite all the flaws it has, it’s really an enjoyable gaming experience. It combines so many familiar game play elements so well that trying to find all the different paths and levels in this game becomes just as entertaining as playing them. If you liked Tiny Toon Adventures or platforming games, I strongly suggest that you give this game a try. I give Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure 8 out of 10 levels.

I’m Leo Melanson, and now you know the score.

...and now the review’s done!