Saturday, June 23, 2012

Level Up: Kiwi Kraze

I’ve been reviewing some pretty mainstream video games lately, haven’t I? … Here’s a game called Kiwi Kraze for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Kiwi Kraze is one of those interesting to talk about games to me because not many people ever bring it up. However, that might to do with the name change. See, Kiwi Kraze was first developed and published by Taito in 1988 and released out into arcades. However, that original name was “The NewZealand Story” (which ScrewAttack did a good job at pointing out why that name is comical). When it was ported onto home consoles, it was STILL called The NewZealand Story on every system except for the North American NES version. I tried to find the reason for this, but I can’t even find any leads or theories about it. The only difference I see is that while the other ported versions were published by another company called Ocean, the North American NES version was published by Taito themselves (which makes even less sense to me: why would the original company change the name, while a different company keep it the same?). This is just one of those little video game mysteries that I find pretty interesting (like how Bluto is called Brutus in Popeye). Still, you don’t hear much about The NewZealand Story either, but I just wanted to eliminate some of the possible confusion out there.
The game play of Kiwi Kraze actually has an interesting mix of skills into it. You have the usual jump and shoot to start, nothing too unusual. Next, you also have the ability to slow any decent by repeatedly pressing the jump button to flap your wings. You can also fly in this game, buy you don’t use your wings. Some enemies float on… devices (I can’t tell what they’re supposed to be...) that you can shoot from under them to make them fall to their death, jump on it and knock them off (though this has a high risk of getting hit) or shoot them and then get on the… thing. Once you’re on, you can float around. This doesn’t just help your mobility, it eventually becomes necessary.  And of course, to finish the movement trio, you can walk, fly AND swim in this game. Swimming is my least favorite method of travel: not only do you move SO SLOWLY under water, but you also have an oxygen meter that takes as much time to fill up as it takes to empty. When you need to stop for air, it feels like it takes way too long.
I wouldn’t have a problem with it taking long, if this game didn’t have a time limit. If you take too long, a flying demon will come out of nowhere and chase you, and the time limit is never shown. In longer levels with water, you’ll be worried the devil might come because you took too long to refill your lungs. The demon is a necessary evil however (mind the pun). Most of the levels are very maze like, with multiple paths you can take to get to the end. You have a map on the pause menu, but it only shows your relation to the exit. It’s rare that it ever happens, but it’s possible to be so cold off the track that I understand why the game makers felt the need to just stop players at a certain point.
However, until now I’ve been dancing around the big aspect that really makes this game noteworthy: your kiwi can only take one hit. This changes the game from what would be a cute stroll into a deceivingly difficult task where you’re constantly afraid that something might spawn in front of you. You’re also not given unlimited continues, so it’s hard to practice the later stages. You really don’t see it coming how hard this game can really and it takes you off guard by its challenge.
Kiwi Kraze is a cute little fun adventure game… that is also quite hard. Its graphics and music are all super cute, which leads me to state the same thing as I did in my It’s Mr. Pants review: I assume the target audience for this game would be younger kids and this game will probably only frustrate them. I’m not saying kids games have to be easy, but there needs to be a limit, and when adults are frustrated by parts of it, it’s clear that limit has been passed. But other than being difficult, is there anything really “wrong” with it? Well, it also feels rather bare: nothing is really memorable or outstanding about this game (which might be the real reason why it’s never brought up). But there was a DS game that came out in 2007 called New Zealand Story Revolution, so some people remember it. Kiwi Kraze does have a charm to it, so if you’re into underrated platform adventure stuff like this and see it cheap enough, I suggest you go for it. I give Kiwi Kraze for the NES 7 levels out of 10.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Level Up: Collection Collection 2

Well listeners, it’s finally time for another Collection Collection. Let’s start off with *Capcom time* and go with one I’ve already mentioned I owned before.
The Mega man Anniversary Collection came out for the blue bomber’s 15 birthday for the X-Box, PS2 and GameCube (which I’m playing, but I don’t think there are any differences). It collects together Mega man 1 through 8 and the 2 arcade fighter games which were never released in North America. There are new options available for each game, such as a save feature, navi mode (which changes some graphics and gives you hints as you play), sound options and adjustable difficulty. But I think the main attraction (other than the games) will probably be the unlockable artwork, information, interviews and retrospectives on the Mega man series, really highlighting the fact that this is an anniversary collection. And yes, you get most of these by beating the games. However, I need to talk about the menu. Capcom decided to be a little creative, so you use Mega man to walk around and go to “doors” for what you want to select. This would be neat, if it didn’t feel so slow. Other than that, it’s a pretty good collection.
Going from Capcom to Nintendo now, let’s take a look at Kirby Super Star originally for the Super Nintendo (but I’m playing it on the Wii Virtual Console). Kirby Super Star (or Kirby’s Fun Pack in Europe) is different because most of the games featured on it were made for the collection (this allowed it to get a DS upgrade a few years back, but I haven’t played that one yet). The only exceptions are Spring Breeze, a remake of Kirby’s Dreamland (which I reviewed), and the Samurai Kirby mini-game, apparently a remake of Quick Draw from Kirby’s Adventure.  All the games are similar, but most have small game play elements that make them unique. Since these games were all made for this collection, I can’t judge this one on how good a job it does a collecting them. However, I will say that you need to beat certain games before you can play the others and they do a good job of putting them in order of difficulty, but I would like to have the choice from the start. And, as I’ve already mentioned, there are a couple of mini-games, but they’re nothing to brag about, especially since all the games already have the 2 player option.
Last collection I have for you today is the Metal Slug Anthology on the Wii (but also available on PS2 and PSP). This game collects Metal Slug 1 through 6 and Metal Slug X (which is basically a tweaked Metal Slug 2). Like with the Mega Man collection, this was released for the series’ anniversary (it’s 10th to be specific). Also like the Mega Man collection there are new options to mess around with, my favorite being limiting your continues. See, Metal Slug was originally an Arcade and made so you’d die easily and would have to pay more money to keep playing. You have one option to just be able to put in a “token” every time you die, or you can give yourself the extra challenge by limiting them. This is a GREAT option that I wish more arcade-to-home ports had. Speaking of that, since the controls are naturally going to change and the Wii has many ways to play, there are A LOT of controller options. I suggest playing around and finding what works best for you, but I personally enjoy the Wii Remote on its side. And of course, this collection (like all disc based compilations I’ve reviewed so far) has extras, such as galleries, sound tracks and interviews. But here’s where it gets interesting: after you’re done playing one of the games, you’ll be given tokens to spend to unlock this stuff. I went through and beat all the games and guess what? I wasn’t given enough tokens to unlock everything. This means they thought ahead of a way to keep players playing even after they beat ALL the games. Clever.
So those are collection games from some series brought to us from Capcom, Nintendo and SNK respectively. Mega man Anniversary Collection is a great game, save for odd choices with its menu. Kirby Super Star is a really interesting compilation, being that it’s mostly original. It is fondly remembered, making it one of the most highly regarded titles of the Kirby series. And the Metal Slug Anthology does everything right and keeps players coming back; the only thing it lacks is an in-game save feature, but the games are so short, I can see why it was left out. These games are pretty easy to find still (since Kirby Super Star is on Wii Virtual Console) and allows gamers to play games that are hard (or impossible) to play again now. Once again, no scores for these collections, since how much you like the collections will be based on how much you like the individual games, but I will tell you, these collections would not fail.