Saturday, September 18, 2010

Level Up: Felix the Cat

With Level Up’s one year anniversary coming up, I thought I would take this time to talk about the game that made me decide to start all of this. Yes, this whole podcast and show was started after having played one particular game: Felix the Cat for the NES. I had never heard of this game before and actually wanted to share my thoughts about it with people. I also had to come up with an audio feature for my college course at the same time, so this seemed only natural. So this week, I’m talking about the game that made me start Level Up, Felix the Cat for the Nintendo entertainment system.

The first thing I noticed about this game was the graphics. I was half expecting some awfully coloured mess of pixels, but I was really impressed. The colours are really vibrant and the sprites are the perfect size: big enough so you have some details in them, but they don’t take more space then what they need. Like with Dr. Mario, this game was released late in the NES’ life (1992 to be exact) and is almost on par with its graphics. The music in this game is also really good, having an upbeat and care free overtone, much like Felix himself. One superficial aspect I don’t like though are the sound effects: the jumping one gets annoying quickly and the one for collecting items sounds more like an alarm. There are a lot more bad ones in the game, those are just the two you hear the most frequently.

As with Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, I find the gameplay in this platformer very smooth. It’s fair to point out that they were both published and developed by the same company: Hudson Soft. In this game, you seem to slide a bit more then you did in Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, which makes it easy to run into enemies by accident, but even easier to hit enemies with an attack while sliding.

One of the main attractions of this game is Felix’s power ups. There are these Felix head icons everywhere in the game, and every time your amount hits number ending in 0, a heart comes out. Collect this, and Felix gets another power up (which also indicated how many hits he can take). On land, he goes from using a punch glove, to surrounding himself in stars, to a one wheeled car with a killer horn and his final power up is a tank. This is awesome. Cause he’s a cat and driving TANK. (Family Guy: Did I mention the tank’s a tank?) Also, I mentioned that it’s only on land he has those particular upgrades, because Felix has some flying and water based levels, each with their different power ups. These levels play out differently and are an occasional and refreshing change.

My one major problem with this game is that it is too easy. Honestly, the first time I played this game, I beat it in like an hour and I never saw the continue screen. One thing that makes this really easy is the fact that, when you’re a tank (Bobby Lee: TTANK!), every heart you collect gives you a life. The other reason this game is so easy is because most of the enemies are easily avoided cause they’re small and don’t use projectile attacks often (unlike Felix, and his car kitty tank). Some of the enemies in the flying levels do use ranged attacks, but you can just go under them. But here’s how dying can become easy: if you die, you have the weapon that it is the hardest to kill enemies with and one hit will kill you (and like I said, its more than possible to accidentally slide into enemies). Still, this game is so easy that’s not hard to avoid a few enemies until you get at least 10 Felix heads and power up.

What can I say about Felix the Cat except that it’s good fun but far too easy. But hey, that’s not really a big issue. This game is probably underrated for several reasons. First off is its timing; it came out when the Nintendo was dying. Secondly is the subject: you have to admit, Felix is rather old and a little obscure for more people. Finally, this game is slightly rare because of its timing, so not talked about often, despite being awesome enough to give a tank to a cat! (Nostalgia Critic: CCCAAAATTTT) All and all, this game was interesting enough to make me have to start a series of video game reviews, so I think that should say something. I give Felix the Cat for the Nintendo Entertainment system 8.5 levels out of 10.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Level Up: Collection Collection 1

Ever since I started this show, I’ve been wrestling with the issue of collection games. I just kept asking myself if I should actually review them or if I should just review the games within them. Finally, I decided; I am going to review them, but only based on how well they collect the games and what else they offer, reviewing the games included at another time. This means that I am unable to give a rating to the collections since how much you like a collection will depend on how much you like the games they make up. Because of all of this, the reviews will be so short so I’ll have to review a bunch at time, a collection of collection games if you will. Here are some of the Mario and Sonic compilation games in this first collection collection.

Super Mario All Star has become a definitive must have for anyone’s super Nintendo game library. Not only does it collect Super Mario brothers one, two and three, but also introduced North American to Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. (I suggest you check out the Gaming Historian’s video explaining what that’s all about, while you wait for my review on that subject). This game also offers the ability to save four game files in each game, which was appreciated. It also featured improved graphics for all the games. It was kind of like they used Super Mario World as the base, but then added more details and shading into it. Speaking of Super Mario World, there is a collection called of Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World which brought the awesome factor to a whole new level.

The Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo Gamecube came out a decade later than most of the games included in it. It assembles most (if not all) of the Sonic games originally for the Sega Genesis. You only start with 7 of the 12 games found within this disk though and will need to unlock the others. The graphics remain true to the original game and there is no save feature unless the original game also had one (in other words: Sonic 3). This game does have some cool bonus features, such as a gallery where you can see the covers of all the Sonic comics (I won’t mention Linkara here) and features that better explain the evolution and history of Sonic. This pretty much confirms that this game was marketed towards people, who stuck with Nintendo growing up and didn’t experience Sonic’s growth first hand. When this game was brought to the other consoles of that generation, it became the Sonic Mega Collection Plus. This featured 2 games that were originally found on the Japanese version of this game, but omitted for the North American release, and 6 more Sonic games on it from the Game Gear.

The Game Gear games gets me to my next compilation: Sonic Gems Collection, also for the Gamecube. Following the success of Sonic Mega Collection, Sonic Gems Collection compiled many of the Sonic games not featured in it. This includes Sonic R, Sonic CD, Sonic the Fighters and several games for the Game Gear, excluding the ones feature in the Sonic Mega Collection Plus. Also, there were the two Vector Man games added in the mix. However, I have to shake my head to how Knuckles Chaotix was excluded (I wish it were released on the Wii Virtual Console at least). This time, you also had the option of saving at any time and as many game files as you want to each game, given you have the space on your memory card. The gallery in the game is also really big, with a total 320 items to unlock and view (this itself can keep you busy for a while). Despite this game having more to offer then Mega Collection, I like this one less since I find the games it has in it obscure as far as Sonic goes, but since that’s all subjective, I must say this is a really well done collection game.

There you go, Level Up’s first collection collection. I want to remind everyone that in most cases, how much one likes these games will normally depend on how much one enjoys the individual games included. All this just to say though, sometimes compilations are more than just the sum of their parts. Some have special things to offer, like saving features, improved graphics or galleries, while other just concentrate on staying true to the original games. Once again, no scores this week since how much most people like the collections will depend more on the individual games included and not the collection itself.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Level Up: Fantastic 4

I find that the media is not fair to the great super hero team of the Fantastic Four. Unlike other Marvel creations like X-men, Spider-man or the Hulk, they get less than flattering TV shows and generally very little exposure (which is why I honestly don’t know all that much about them). However, they did manage to get a movie out in 2005. This gets me on my subject of the day: there was a Fantastic 4 video game based off the movie. It was available for the GameCube, Play Station and PC, but I’ll be playing it on the X-box.

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: this game has almost nothing to do with the movie and seems based on the comic books. This causes some big problems for me, but the one I want to address now is that it just causes the plot to fail. Granted the turmoil of heroes having to deal with this drastic change is really hard to recreate in a video game, but what we got was a disjointed mish-mash of villains coming and going quite randomly. The individual appearances aren’t too bad, but as a whole it’s really weird. You’d think that, since I like Freedom Force, I would like this, but in Freedom Force it was well pulled off with a good underlying story. This game has the underlying story (mainly just trying to return Ben back to normal) but it’s so weak, it just can support the game.

Being based on the Fantastic FOUR, you will often be controlling more than one character at a time. Though you can only directly play as one person, you can press a direction on the control pad and change to another character. You will need to do this somewhat often since each character has their own unique inherent skills needed to get farther in the game. This gets me to the Super Powers. To use them, hold R and press one of the colourful lettered buttons. This uses some of the cosmic power meter, but that refills automatically over time anyways. The only button that is different is the Y button; to use this attack, you must fill up your super bar by executing combos or find a golden letter 4. This lets you do an epic move that will leave you invincible for a short while and damage the enemy a lot.

The graphics in this game aren’t all that good. Like with Gun (btw, this is another Activision game) things seem flat, blurry and have some random jagged edges, but it’s a LOT worse in this one. Being based on the movie, they tried to make the characters look as much as the actors as possible, and I have to say they succeeded… which is bad thing. Remember how I mentioned the plot had nothing to do with the movie? Well having it look like it should is weird. I think if it were of a more cartoon or comic bookish look, this game would feel a lot better. The only time I think the realistic stuff would fit in is in the cut scenes, but that’s when the graphics are at they’re worse, looking like a really bland Reboot episode.

Now that I’m on the subject of the cut scenes, I gotta mention something that caught me by surprise: like in Ghostbusters the video game, the voice actors in this game are the movie actors. HUH!? How did they get them to do it, it’s not like they wrote it like GB crew did? I have to say though, that probably makes the voice acting in this game its best feature, though they forgot the reverb on Dr.Doom. Here’s what it sounds like in the movie (movie clip) and here’s what he sounds like in game (game clip). The music is also pretty cool, with each member of the FF having their own original theme song. But really, how DID they get them all to voice this thing?

This game is based on a movie which is based on a comic book, but more like the comic book then the movie. Man, just saying that feels weird. The plot works in short term and the graphics are passable, but they were both poorly chosen. The audio and game play are pretty cool though, so it’s probably enough to get by for most people. Some might call this a “mindlessly fun” game, since it’s inspired by classic brawlers and you can just smash people all over the place. While this is true, “mindlessness” isn’t always wanted or a good game feature. The collectables in this game are a bit cool though, which include interviews with Stan Lee (that was enough to make me play some levels again). Still, while playing, I had this slightly dirty and unfitting feeling, kind of like wearing someone else’s underwear. Though I know it’s not bad, I think this is one game Activision published that you can skip. I give Fantastic 4 for the X-Box 5.5 levels out 10.