Saturday, July 27, 2013

Level Up: Double Dragon 2 & Renegade

We’re continuing our look at beat-em-up games in honor of Adamant Ditto’s Beat-em-up month: the Revengance. Let’s take another look at one of the series that helped popularize the genre with Double Dragon 2: The Revenge (that sounds familiar) for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

There are a lot of changes between Double Dragon 1 and 2 on NES. First off, you’ll notice that in Double Dragon 2 you can play as both Billy and Jimmy Lee, which is confusing since Jimmy was the main antagonist in the first NES game. Double Dragon 2 is a lot more of a straight port, while a lot where a lot of things were changed in the first game. (This might be a result of Acclaim and Technos now handling this instead of Tradewest.) Jimmy becoming a good guy might have been necessary anyways, since you can now play 2 players simultaneously, a big plus on this game over its predecessor. However, this comes at the cost of the leveling up system and though it doesn’t really hinder this game (since you still have all the skills), I do miss it.

One more change I have to mention is the controls: B and A now do the same thing, but in different directions. If you’re facing to the left and press B, you’ll do a regular punch to the left, but if you press A you’ll do a kick towards the right (and vice versa). This can be a good way to prevent enemies from sneaking up on you, but it is odd to have to keep remembering to switch buttons so you don’t start kicking air.

The graphics are weird, as it looks like they were trying too hard. I think “Rob Leifeld like” best describes it: the characters have tiny heads when compared to their massive arms and chests. They got weird bumps all over their bodies, so it’s funny to see them walk on such relatively tiny feet. And that’s the last thing I really have to say about Double Dragon 2, otherwise I think I’d be explaining obvious things, like you beat people up in this beat ‘em up. So, how about I move on to a related game? Here’s Renegade for the NES.

Guru Larry does a better job at explaining how Renegade and Double Dragon are related in his review of it, but basically Renegade could be considered Double Dragon’s father, while the Kunio-Kun series would be the mother. The first Kunio-Kun game was released in May of 1986 in Japan, but when Taito got the western distribution rights, they decided to make a few changes (mostly re-skinning the game) and called it “Renegade”. Technos apparently liked “Renegade” and decided to combine elements from both versions, and so Double Dragon was born.

It’s important to note that Renegade came before a lot of beat-em-ups because it doesn’t seem that impressive. Don’t get me wrong, the game is still fun, but it’s very restrained: you mostly stick to side streets and just punch regular people. The game is also hurt by the fact that the multiplayer is turn style and it also uses the “B attacks left, A right” control scheme. Punching is still satisfying, but a lot of enemies can break your combos and get in cheap hits easily.

The graphics are kind of bad. A lot of backgrounds look flat and most people are really oddly shaped, making their animation frames look weird. However, the music is really good. For most tracks, the rhythm is really up-beat and lets you know to have fun. This might have to do with the fact that this game was possibly inspired by the 1979 movie “The Warriors”, and some of the music from that sound track could easily be compared to the tracks in Renegade.

So those are my thoughts on two NES beat ‘em ups that left me a little underwhelmed. Now, Double Dragon 2 could actually be considered one of the better multi-player experiences on the system, but when it comes down to it, a simultaneously 2 player version of the first game would be better than this one. And though Renegade has an interesting history behind it, that’s not what I rate the games on (like with Popeye). Both of these games are of fun, but I felt like they were an honest try away from being great. You could easily find worse beat ‘em ups though. I give Double Dragon 2 8 and Renegade 7 Levels out of 10.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Level Up: The Simpsons Arcade

Around this time last year, Adamant Ditto decided to start “Beat-em-up month”, and this year it’s back with a “Revengance”, so I’m celebrating again. Now one thing that’s surprising about beat-em-ups is how some of the most iconic games in the genre include licensed titles, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, the X-men arcade game and even (relatively) recent entry Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. However, one that surprises me the most is The Simpsons Arcade game. Who would of thought a show with little fighting would make for a great game where people fight? However, that’s not the game I’m here to talk about: there is actually another Simpsons Beat-em-up that people tend to miss because they think it’s the same game (more on that in a bit). So let’s now look at the Simpsons Arcade available for your mobile devices.

I will start off by saying that I do not think this is a port of the original arcade game: there are too many features changed, the levels are different and the publisher is Electronic Arts instead of Konami. This could be considered a remake, but I still think that would be stretching it. However, the games do feature some of the same aspects. This is why I decided not to do a classic vs comeback, because some might say I’m just comparing ports, which is not the point of that feature. Even if it is a port, it has enough differences that it’s still worth checking out separately.

The game starts off with a cut scene where Springfield's most powerful citizens (and Krusty), are discussing Project: Operation mission, which is a secret plan to “steal all of Springfield’s natural resources or something” (the game rightfully assumes that you don’t care). They hide a flash drive in a donut, which happens to accidentally fall into Homer’s hands. Once Homer has his mysterious donut taken from him, he thinks about how delicious it must be if it’s worth assault, so he chases after it.

The story works in a tongue and cheek tone that plays the fact that this is a Simpsons brawler. I can’t help but enjoy the amount of personality that comes through in a short time. Though this might only work because I know the characters before hand, the quick lines the boss and mid-boss characters say tend to get a Dr. Hibbert chuckle out of me.

You’ll play as Homer as you bash your way to your delicious goal. (Mmmm, goal *drool*) You sadly can’t play as one of the other Simpsons, but they do still make an appearance in the form of special move items. You can also find other Simpson cameos for extra lives. You can also get extra lives in the mini-games between levels.

The hit detection and controls are spot on (though using an arcade stick on the touch screen can make your finger slide off). However, there is one BIG ISSUE: minimizing restarts the game. Even if you pause it, loading another app or going to the home menu will send you back to opening credits and title screen. You have the option to continue, but you have to redo the whole level. Now this isn’t a long game, you can probably beat it during a trip to Shelbyville, but mobile games should not work like this.

The Simpsons Arcade is a great game for your mobile devices and truly another great Simpsons beat-em-up (or great new version of the old one, depending on your view on the subject). There are issues with how this game works in regard to the platform it’s on, but those can be over looked as the content itself is really good (I’d like to say that there’s also a possibility for an update, but it’s been a few years since this game had one). If you’re a beat-em-up fan or a Simpsons fan, you really can’t go wrong with this game: the game play is classic, the story is well played and the characters are all recognizable and full of personality. The game looks just like the show (though Homer’s eyes are looking in a weird direction) and it uses voice clips from the actors too. If you’re not a fan of either I still recommend you check out the free trial version, and the full game is only 99 cents. I give The Simpsons Arcade for the iPhone 9 levels out of 10.