Saturday, December 18, 2010

Level Up: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Genesis)

Let me tell you another story of my gaming childhood. If you were around in the fourth console generation era, then you would know that the Power Rangers were very popular back then. Unsurprisingly, they had a few games based on them. There was one I remember playing for the Super Nintendo that was pretty good, and all my friends seemed to like it too. However, it was rented and I didn’t have the ability to purchase it at the time. Flash forward over a decade later when I decide to finally get a Sega Genesis with opportunity to get a game by the same title for just 4$ at the same time. Thinking it was the same game, I couldn’t pass it up. It wasn’t the same game. At all. This is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers FOR THE SEGA GENESIS!

Now, the plot is where I’m going to go easy on this game, because if I run my mouth off too much, someone will say the Power Rangers are why it fails. The basic story line of the arcade mode is that Rita Repulsa is trying to destroy the Power Rangers by sending monsters after them. That’s alright, but my problem is the way it’s presented: it’s far too quickly paced; a monster comes, you beat it, Rita makes it grow, you beat it, next. This especially annoys me when you fight the Green Ranger, because that story had a lot to offer, but all that is never even TOUCHED on. Also, the way it’s presented is terrible; everyone in (what I am graciously calling) the cut-scenes looks like they’re cardboard and most of the scenes are reused to an annoying amount. And remember, this is me going easy on this game.

You know how normally, when I review 2D fighters, I say how I don’t like them, yet every time I’ve reviewed them, it’s been alright? Well, this is an example of one that I don’t like, and I think it illustrates why. First off, there is nothing original about this one: characters are all licenced from the Power Rangers while the fighting system is as basic as you can get. It’s pretty much just cut and pasted from the standard Fighting game format where all you have to do is “insert characters here” and make up some random button combinations for moves. The second problem with the game play is that everything seems to be slow. Moving your character feels stiff and I think there’s a delay in the button response. It definitely takes away from the fact that this is based on a show known for karate action. I actually think I can win more battles by tossing the controller around, then trying to play.

If you’re thinking the last redeemable aspect of this game might be its audio/visuals, then you’re sadly mistaking. As I’ve already mentioned, the cut scenes look like they are made with cardboard. Adding to that, any image taken from the show looks like it had a layer of feces smeared on it. The game made sprites suck too. The Power Rangers look… inhuman, like they’re flat or missing detail. The monsters, however, have the opposite problem: they are overly detailed, which clashes with the rangers (mind the pun). The Megazord also clashes since it’s done in a cartoon style, which is honestly the best looking sprite in the game (except for a tiny sword). Also; the cut-scenes, game over screen an actual game all look like they’re from completely different sources. At least pick ONE crappy look and stick with it!

The sound isn’t at all better either. Everything seems somewhat Atari quality. The voices should have been left out since it’s obvious they couldn’t be properly converted. Each note of the music tends to ring out with its own mix of mediocrity and disappointment. None of it makes me want to fight harder: it makes me want to turn off the volume. The worst offense is what they did to the theme song. Remember how awesome this was: *theme song plays*? Right, listen to this crap: *Genesis version plays*. It’s despicable.

Right, let me just finish this now, cause I don’t want to talk about this game much longer. The story is uninspired and rushed, the look is consistent only in crappiness, the sound is broken, the controls are stiff and the AI is cheap. God, even the game label art is horrible; off centered, poorly chosen and boring. (You really should look it up and see how bad it is.) A game like Xiaolin Showdown can be boring and unoriginal, but get a pass if it’s not flawed, because that’s what separates a good game from a bad game to me. This is flawed. I think if I had played this game instead of the SNES one as a kid, I would have given up on the Power Rangers long before Turbo. Congratulations Banpresto, you’re the developers of the first game I give a failing score to. I give Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the Sega Genesis 4 levels out of 10.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Level Up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

I don’t know why, but when it comes to the subject of the Ninja Turtles, I always think they work better as video game characters. Yes, I know they were originally comic book characters and popularised by a TV show, but whenever I think of my earliest enjoyment of the 4 brothers, I always tend to go back to the NES games. Think about it, these are giant reptiles’ fighting robots, what about that doesn’t SCREAM video game? The popularity of the TMNT has died down since the 80’s and early 90’s, and so has their appearance in video games, but one of the games I still hear people bring up today is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Listen and you’ll see there’s a good reason why.

Now, I’m going to get this out of the way right now: yes this is called an arcade game when it is really a console game. The explanation is simple: it’s a port. The arcade game was just originally called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but a game by that title already existed on the NES’s library. Despite liking it as a 6 year old, I now see that it is a flawed game (mostly thanks to the AVGN), which would explain why they decided to port this much better game. Looking at the screenshots (since I never played the original arcade machine), I can notice just a few differences between the versions. One is a severely downgraded look (16 bit to 8 bit it appears) which is to be expected and luckily handled well. The second is that the arcade version allowed for 4 played, while you can only play 2 on the NES port. Disappointing yes, but what are you going to do with the Four Score only coming out in that same year? However, not all changes between the versions are downgrades: upon doing a little research, I found out that there are actually MORE levels in the NES port. There are other changes, but most of them just don’t matter. So, if you’re like me and aren’t bothered too much about the downed graphics or the two missing turtles on screen, then this might be one of those ports that’s more fun than the original.

In true typical Ninja Turtles fashion, the main focus of the game is a “Stop/Defeat Shredder plot” with of course the need to save April at one point. To do this, you need to beat up wave after wave of Foot soldiers coming at you, by far the most common enemy. You also do have some Mouser Unit and other random robots, not to mention the boss battles, which feature known turtle rivals such as Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and others, so don’t think it’ll get too boring. Even the Foot Soldiers themselves aren’t that dull since they come in noticeably different colors and have different abilities: some wield weapons while others can jump or have better endurance. All this to say “Don’t think you’ll get bored by the beating up of enemies”.

As a matter of fact, the way you beat them up is pretty fun on its own. Unlike other typical brawlers like Streets of Rage, when the Turtles jump in this game, they FLY! This helps with the combos, which includes ones that may make the game a little too easy, but might be useful for someone just looking to beat the game. Anyways, the combat system is otherwise basic: you can move in 8 different directions while you simply try to punch the surrounding bad guys out before they do it to you. If all of this still isn’t enough to keep you satisfied, then maybe the level designs will: they’re full of things that could take your life away (such as mines, holes you can fall down or giant balls that can knock you over) that will need your attention. And there is also a skateboarding level, and that’s pretty cool in itself.

Like I said when I started, this game is a classic. On the surface, its music is kicking, the graphics are “ok” and there’s generally nothing to complain about. Playing the game itself is just a joy: easy game play that’s always familiar, but with enough of a challenge to keep it interesting. It also has a really smooth style and is well paced. But… there’s just something missing, and I think its variety: you still fight a lot off Foot Soldiers (who are easily dispatched) and most of the levels are just areas around New York, which is a little bland. That might not be the whole problem, which I can’t really put my finger on otherwise, but it could be a factor. Anyways, this game is great; if you haven’t played it, I am ashamed of you, but seriously, go find a copy (it’s apparently coming to the Wii Virtual console soon too). I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System 9 Levels out of 10.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Level Up: Majora's Mask

First, gonna say, I don't know what's up with the previous post, but I can't delete it. However, it's just image and text, so it's not hurting anyone. I'll just leave it. Anyways, here's the review that wasn't posted last week cause of it.

When I did my review of The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, I felt as if I was being a little unfair to the series. The point I was trying to make was that every game that Zelda touches isn’t automatically great, and some should just be considered on their own. The reason I felt bad though was because I was using an already beat down game to make that point, which made me feel like I was picking on the series for doing ONE bad thing. To make up for it, I am going to review a Zelda game that truly does stand on its own, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the Nintendo 64.

Coming off the success of Ocarina of Time (the game all future Zelda titles would be compared to) Majora’s mask was trying to continue on Link’s adventure, but I would consider this more of a spin-off, since so much is different. You start off as young Link travelling on Epona looking for unnamed friend (it’s hinted to be Navi, who doesn’t appear in this game, but this plot point never comes up again anyways). During his search, Link gets knocked out and knocked off Epona by a skull kid wearing an odd mask. Waking up and realising that his magical ocarina has been stolen from, Link chases after the Skull kid only to fall down a hole. The Skull Kid laughs at Link and uses the mask’s power to turn Link into a Deku shrub. (Yeah, crap has already hit the fan.) The Skull kid then escapes, but leaves behind Talt, who reluctantly becomes Link’s fairy for this game. Link loses the Skull Kid, but meets up with Traveling Happy Mask Salesman. He informs our transmuted protagonist that he can help him out, but needs the Ocarina and would like the mask the Skull Kid had on (which was stolen from him) back. Link is given 3 days to complete this task.

I am now going to stop here, even though I could go on forever about the little details in this game’s story. It has a lot of depth and cool happenings in it. However, part of the fun of the game is experiencing it all first hand. Besides, this is where the game actually begins, and I think that’s a fair reason to move onto the game play.

If you haven’t guessed it already from our “No Ganon, no Zelda, no Hyrule” plot, this game is anything but typical for the series, and there are two Big curve balls to the game play: a time cycle and the masks. It has the normal Zelda adventuring elements, but these are the points WORTH mentioning.

I’ll start with the masks. I already told you that Young Link gets turned into a Deku, but eventually the Happy Mask Salesman helps him out by turning Link’s Deku form into a mask, allowing Link to transform back into one whenever he wants. There are a total of 3 transformation masks that Link will be able to use at any time: Zora, Goron and the already mentioned Deku. As you would imagine, each one has its own use (example: Zora has limitless swim ability and will never drown). There are other types of masks and they all do something special (mostly obtained during or relating to side quests), but these 3 are the real game play element; you’ll always be using them. And rolling around as a Goron is so fun it’s worth mentioning.

The 3 day cycle, though not as fun, is something that was just inspired. Majora’s Mask has a clock in the game that works on 3 (not real time) days. At the end of the third day, it’s game over. However, after you get back your Ocarina, you can go back to the start of the first day. The truly inspired thing is that this game is full of events, and some of them just happen at certain times. For example, there’s an alien abduction scene (once again, far from typical Zelda) and it only ever happens during the night of the second day. You should eventually become impressed by how much time specific stuff is happening in this game outside of the actual adventuring. Restarting the 3 day cycle, however, will undo some events, such as paths you unblocked or people you helped. While this can seem like a headache (especially since its how you save) I think it helps with the replay value of this game: you can redo any dungeon you would like at any time.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is an awesome game not afraid to take risks. Yet, it’s also quite similar to Ocarina of time without being a direct sequel by making references to some of the bit characters seen before and giving it more depth (the Happy Mask Salesman for example). Some may critic it for being short (4 real levels, plus the intro and outro) but the side quests should keep you busy for a while. This game is just all around enjoyable: from the natural feeling setting, to the fun game play, to the creepy pasta story and cut-scenes. Seriously, what can you hate about a game with a gold cartridge? Especially one that lets you roll around as a Goron! I give the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 10 levels out of 10.