Saturday, November 17, 2012

Level Up: Strider

And again, the portal that opened up at the end of Halloween just sent me back home. It actually fixed my studio too, which is sweet! Anyways, onto today’s show. The NES has a certain charm to it. Even beyond the great games everyone knows (Super Mario Bros., Megaman, Punch-Out), there are some games that just sum up the system. These games are mostly unpolished, platforming adventure titles revolving around sci-fi themes if you ask me, games like Totally Rad or Batman. Let’s go into*Capcom Time* and take a look at a game I think fits this, Strider on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
For every “so Nintendo” thing I just said, Strider is actually a port of an Arcade game… which actually might add to that, as those were also very common (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and Double Dragon are known for being great NES Beat-em-ups, despite being ports). It was also ported onto the Sega Genesis among others, which might be the most popular version since it’s available for the Wii virtual console and ScrewAttack loves it. But the NES version seems to be the most different.
As a matter of fact, the plot might be where the games have the most in common, even though the NES games was more complex. In 2048, there is a group of ninja-like people helped by technology who call themselves “Striders”. You play Hiryu, who is of course the “special” one as the he is the youngest ever Strider to reach his rank. The game starts off when Hiryu is told he must kill his friend Kain since he has been captured by hostile forces and has become a liability. Immediately I thought I misunderstood something since why would they ask his friend to kill him and why not kill the ones who captured him instead? Of course THAT’S what Hiryu decides to do, but it gets even more complicated. Hiryu discovers conspiracies to takedown the Strider organization itself, but I won’t spoil it for you. However, this might be hard for you to enjoy since the game is not linear and the story is all presented in text that you can mostly read at any time. This makes it hard to know when something is a plot point or just some guy telling you where to find a power up. It’s also hard to recognize who is a good or bad guy since some are just introduced and say something that can be taken either way (like “kill your friend”).
Strider is basically your usual adventure-action-platforming game on the NES, but with some RPG elements added in. You’ll run around taking down enemies with your sword, but unlike most platforms at the time, you’ll have to back track, collect items and use special skills in order to advance. You have meter for both skill points and health which will have their maximum limits increased as you play . This makes the game play closer to Zelda 2 than other Capcom games like Megaman or Little Nemo.
However, the controls feel off. Firstly, jumping has that weird floating feeling and you always jump the same height, which can get really frustrating when you’re trying to make precision jumps. Hit detection is a little off too: it seems that it’s not enough that enemies get hit by the arc of Hiryu’s sword, but they have to be inside it sometimes. Also, slopes can be a pain; you’ll speed up or slow down depending on if you’re walking up or down-hill which is innovative, but feels sudden, incomplete, imprecise and clunky. But the most flawed game mechanic goes to wall jumping. Though my favorite skill, this game found a way to make it suck. Unlike most games where you’ll stick to a wall while jumping towards it and just press a button to bounce off, you just slide down as if it were a normal jump and you need to press the jump button and the opposite direction on the D-pad. You will probably just change directions midair and land back on the ground since you can’t tell when the right time is. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a skill to have as an option, but at one point it becomes the only way to continue.
As you can probably tell, Strider is actually a bad game; everything is glitchy and poorly executed. Despite trying to be unique and doing something slightly different with this version of Strider, fans were left disappointed and I really doubt that many new players were all that happy. However, I have to admit that this is a guilty pleasure for me. Like I said at the start, this game is a prime example of an unpolished NES game, and I have to say it’s very playable, despite its flaws (I call this the best most glitchy game, if that makes any sense). If you’re actually looking for a good game, then look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a game that’s bad but easy to like, I suggest giving Strider a shot. I give Strider for the NES 4 levels out of 10.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Level Up: Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick

Oh, and yeah, my sponsor had to drop me after they had to pay for all the damages caused by my sudden mutation. Interestingly enough, turns out a cure for it is readily available, which is why you don’t see any real monsters running around. Though my recording studio was totaled, which is why I’m recording in my back up studio in a cabin up in the woods. Speaking of which, let’s talk about the Evil Dead. Starting as a small independent project by Sam Raimi, the Evil Dead has become one of the most iconic horror series out of the 80’s. Its unique blend of horror elements and comedy in all three movies made it easily adaptable, seen in the long series of Army of Darkness comic books (which I am a fan of), a stage musical and 3 standalone video games to date. So let’s take a look at one of them with Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, available for the PS2, but I got it for the Microsoft X-box.
The game plays out as a flashback with Ashley J. Williams (our hero and player character) telling the tale of what’s happened. Sometime after the movies, Ash finds himself at a bar in the town of Dearborn. By coincidence, a local TV show is airing a special talking about the Necronomicon, the book that caused all of Ash’s problems. Once they play a recording of passage from it, the dark forces are unleashed. Ash, with boomstick in hand, has to fight his way across town to the TV station and our adventure begins.
The plot is basic as it’s pretty much just “evil demons are attacking”, but my main problem is how different it feels from the movies. The films had an amazing amount of creativity, insanity and personality that made them memorable, but the story of A Fistful of Boomstick is simply lackluster. It really tries to play it too safe and sticks with things already done before. Sure, everything is accurately portrayed, but it feels watered-down. It really gives the feeling of a “fan game”, but from a group of people who did it just to make a game rather than out of love for the series.
The game play isn’t really anything special, but rest assured, it is still fun which is what I expect from THQ (especially given the source content). As Ash, you’ll walk around, talk to people for clue and try to complete goals. As the dead take over the town, you can use your trusty double barrel or a variety of other weapons you’ll find to mow them down. You also have spells that you can use to spice things up or make certain scenarios easier on yourself. Really, when you get down to it, it’s just a basic “ranged attack, close attack, special attack” set up, but with enough variety and well done puzzle-adventuring that makes it far from monotonous.
Where I do have to take off points is in the feel of the world, as it seems very fake. The houses, the streets, the amount of people… it all feels very “empty”. It sometimes kills your suspension of disbelief and sense of panic and fear when you’re walking down a street where the deadites have been attacking, but the building and streets are untouched, there are barely any other people and only the occasional deadite pops out. It becomes obvious that the makers of this game didn’t really give it their all.
As you can kind of tell, Evil Dead: A fistful of Boomstick isn’t the greatest game ever with it’s biggest flaw being that it plays it too low key. With something like the Evil Dead series as your source material, you really should go big or go home, but instead it seems like a cheap, hollowed out version of what could have been a much better game. But I have to admit, this game is right up my alley. Not only is it based on a series I have become a fan of and includes the voice of Bruce Campbell himself, but I enjoy the simple and basic game play sometimes. (Heck, at least the game isn’t pretending it’s something amazing, which annoys me more). No, this game isn’t the greatest thing ever made, but it really is a lot of fun in terms of game play with a story that will keep you playing and it has decent graphics and audio. Worth checking out, especially if you’re an Evil Dead fan. I give Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick 7.5 levels out of 10.