Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nintendo Power Retrospectives - Part 30

This week I'm taking a look at Nintendo Power Issue #20.


Games Reviewed This Issue:
Mega Man III - Capcom (NES)
The Immortal - EA (NES)
Deja Vu - ICOM (NES)
Gremlins 2 - Sunsoft (NES)
Dragon's Lair: The Legend - CSG Imagesoft (Game Boy)
Mercenary Force - Meldac (Game Boy)
Burai Fighter Deluxe - Taxan (Game Boy)
F-1 Race - Nintendo (Game Boy)
Super Scrabble - GameTek (Game Boy)

Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Gamester 81's Miracle Piano Teaching System Review: http://gamester81.com/rare-snes-miracle-piano-review/
Thanks to NESGuide.com for gameplay footage of The Immortal and Deja Vu.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nintendo Power Retrospectives - Part 29

This week we're coming to Nintendo Power's final strategy guide issue, featuring a collection of games that support multi-tap.


Games reviewed this issue:
Gauntlet II - Mindscape (Developed by Atari)
Nintendo World Cup - Nintendo (Developed by Technos)
Swords & Serpents - Acclaim (Developed by Interplay)

Previously Reviewed Games:
NES Play Action Football & Super Off-Road: Part 18 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXS2MO1--fI
Super Spike V'Ball: Part 19 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISzcZ-SBbuc

Other Things of Note:
Retronauts' Kunio-Kun Episode: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9088701
"Of Dice And Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It" by David M. Ewalt: http://ow.ly/ysvuk

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Konami Shooters in Hayate the Combat Butler (DS)

So let's say that it's 2008 and you've achieved your lifelong dream as an employee at Konami, the company that made awesome games like Castlevania, Contra and Gradius. Hooray! Except, you're stuck making garbage portable anime tie-in games instead. Boo! What do you do to pass away the time? Why, you sneak classic Konami minigames in an otherwise completely unrelated title!

There are a few DS games based off of Hayate the Combat Butler. The first one, Boku ga Romeo de Romeo ga Boku de, is a basically a visual novel, where you read lots of dialogue and occasionally interact with the touch screen. It seems pretty banal - except, at the end of each chapter, you can play a minigame, almost all of them just involve hitting objects with the stylus. The goal is to get a high score and increase your "Pathos", which is used for unlocking costumes and other things in the main game. The five minigames are:

Gradius:
Orbs spawn randomly around the screen. Smash as many of them as possible with the style.

Gradius II:
Moai heads spit out a bunch of stuff, which also need to be smashed with the stylus.

Parodius:
Based off of the sumo pig boss from the mountain stage of Parodius, this panda trounces back and forth. He stomps on the ground, causing stuff to fall from the sky, which must be smashed with the stylus.

TwinBee:
Hit the clouds and juggle the bells.

Quarth:
The most in-depth game, and the only one that doesn't require the stylus (though you can use it), you play a quick game of the Konami puzzle shooter Quarth, where you have to shoot bricks at falling objects, turning them into rectangles and causing them to disappear. The visuals here seem to be taken from the Ganbare Goemon DS title, which included a similar, but more in-depth, Quarth minigame.

If you want to play these, you can just speed through the text in the main game, then hit the Minigame option in the menu. Since they're randomly chosen, you may want to save the game (using the battery save, not the save state), play the game, then reset and reload if you want to try something different. Alternatively, I'm attaching some save states for use with DESMume .9.7.2 which will let you play each of the five games.

Also, if the score tallying sound effect at the end of each game is from the original Castlevania.

Most Tokimeki Memorial games also included unique shooter games - you can read about some of them here.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nintendo Power Retrospectives - Part 28

After a long absence, the Nintendo Power Retrospectives are *back*. This time I'm covering issue 18 for November, 1990.


Retronauts Pocket episode of Destiny of an Emperor: http://www.retronauts.com/?p=602
Theme Music: Super Buck II by Estradasphere, a re-arrangement of the Overworld BGM from Super Mario Bros II, composed by Koji Kondo - http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00577

Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor

Game Covered:
Solar Jetman - Tradewest
Little Nemo - Capcom
Dr. Mario (NES & GB) - Nintendo
Duck Tales (GB) - Capcom
Robocop (GB) - Data East
Play Action Football (GB) - Nintendo
Castlevania III - Konami

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dark Age of JRPGs (11): Mugen no Shinzou

Mugen no Shinzou (カレイジアスペルセウス) - PC-88, PC-98, Mz-2500, S1 (1984)

I promised we'd meet XTal Soft again soon, didn't I? Mugen no Shinzou ("Heart of Fantasy") is actually their first RPG and one of the most well-regarded Japanese computer RPGs. The Japanese Wikipedia entry on Hydlide describes it as one of the "big three" of Japanese CRPGs (the other two being Dragon Slayer and Hydlide), although that distinction may mostly come from its sequels. All in all, the series spans three titles, which were released about a year apart from each other.

Mugen no Shinzou was developed by Kazunari Tomo and one K. Kawahara. Lunar fans will probably remember the former as the creator of that series; after Mugen no Shinzou he did a few more games for Xtal Soft (including Mugen no Shinzou 2) before switching to Falcom, where he worked on Sorcerian and Dinosaur. As for Kawahara, I couldn't confirm 100% that it is the same person, but "K. Kawahara" appears credited for the Surlent scenario in Rudra no Hihou and a Katsuyoshi Kawahara directed the Final Fantasy remakes for PlayStation.

The game is also frequently cited as one of the influences for Dragon Quest. While I'm not sure Koichi Nakamura and Yuji Horii conceded as much directly (this lengthy conversation between Horii and his friend and later Dragon Quest collaborator Akira Sakuma seems to imply that they have at least played it), it sure does seem to make a lot of sense when playing it.

According to the plot, the protagonist is nearly killed in the real world, but gets rescued and spirited away by a god, ending up in a fantasy world full of dragons, goblins and other monsters. If those who enter don't find their way back to the real world soon, they are turned into monsters themselves and damned to eternal suffering. Thus the game actually has a "time" limit (although since the game is turn-based that translates to a turn limit) of 30,000 days. Moving every few steps advances the timer.

The game takes a lot of inspiration from Ultima, although like in Poibos the hero is merely a rectangle on a tiny window view of the map during overworld exploration. Another characteristic Mugen no Shinzou shares with Poibos is the fact that you won't survive most enemy encounters. At least the game starts next to a town, which is navigated in menu form. Resting in the inn to heal is fortunately quite cheap, but everything else is ridiculously expensive, resulting in the game's big similarity to Dragon Quest: It's basically just one huge, long, boring money grind.

The first enemy I was actually able to defeat was the above thief, but he poisoned me before he went down, and curing poison costs a lot, so I ended up spending more money than I earned on the fight. Which I soon learned is characteristic for most fights in this game.

Then I finally happened upon a peasant. Human characters usually don't attack you rightaway, and you can choose between three different attitudes when encountering them. It's also possible to flee or hide on sight, but doing so costs a few experience points. Experience points don't seem to do anything, though, so it's not too bad a deal. The peasants probably are the most friendly enemies, but killing them really is the only way to make any (very slow) progress. The drop shit for money, but are not too hard to defeat, and if you're really lucky you can get their sickle to sell in town for like 25 gold pieces.

So after heroically slaughtering peasants for a few hours I saved up some money to spend. The most important stop in the town is the hospital. Here you can heal the hero entirely (which costs 100 gold vs the 4 gold to heal 25 points in the inn, so it's only worth it much later as you start with a mere 100HP), cure poison for 20 gold or extend the maximum amount of HP by a few. The next town you get to when traveling west has a castle. Getting an audience with the king costs 500 gold, so I never met him, but you can train strength, agility and dexterity, but the amount you can learn here is limited. At least it makes enough difference so you can successful fight most human enemies.

You may save for better weapons or armor to get a bit stronger, but you'll soon find out that every piece of equipment is destructible, and especially armor is so expensive that you better get used to fighting most battles naked and unarmed, until you get lucky and capture an enemy's weapon. Luck is a huge part of things, anyway, as the random factor is much too high. You may defeat an enemy with ease, only to get hopelessly slaughtered in the next encounter with the same type. There's not much tactics to the fights, either, as you got only one guy who can either attack, change his gear or try to escape. There's a "spell" option during combat, too, but I never got far enough to learn any magic.

Don't ever run off the path, cause in the woods and mountains you're likely to get attacked by beasts, and they mean always trouble.

Sometimes when you're being nice to road encounters, they tell you some piece of information, usually the location of an interesting point of the map. I was directed to a poisonous well in the woods once, but usually the destination was a dungeon.

Entering here resulted in a pitch black graphics window, so I had to go back to town to buy a lamp and oil (at least there's no food management). This reveals a wireframe grid dungeon like in the early Ultima and Wizardry games. The tower I went into seemed rather huge, but had no distinguishing features other than a single trap right near the entrance, which just draws a lot of health when triggered. Apparently it's possible to get a map of the dungeons, but I never found one. The monsters here are quite a bit stronger than the human enemies outside (though nowhere near as destructive as the beasts in the wilderness), so usually after two or three fights I'm forced to back out. Mugen no Shinzou might be the most mechanically sound game I've played so far for this series, but the odds are still stacked far too heavily against the player. After 6-8 hours, I had just barely grinded my HP up to 200 and yet could barely make any money to get it up further.

Xtal Soft have to be lauded for the graphics, though. The world map view and wireframe dungeons may not be too special, but the game contains a ton of detailed enemy graphics. I hardly got anywhere in this game, and still met more than 20 different enemies.

Here is a Japanese Blog of a guy who actually managed to finish this game. You can see some more great monster graphics in some of the later posts.

Previous Episodes:
(1) The Dragon and Princess
(2) Some games we cannot play
(3) Danchizuma no Yuuwaku (NSFW)
(4) Ken to Mahou
(5) Dungeon
(6) Seiken Densetsu
(7) Panorama Toh
(8) Do Dutch Wives Dream of Electric Eels (NSFW)
(9) Some more games we cannot play
(10) Courageous Perseus


Monday, June 2, 2014

GC9X Post Mortem: Reevaluating games so you don't have to!



As part of HG101's ever expanding efforts to document classic games, GC9X hosts Snarboo and KaL present the GC9X Post Mortem!

What is the Post Mortem exactly? Think of it as a video companion to the podcasts! For each Post Mortem, we play through a specific game, summarize its strengths and weaknesses, then score it twice: once from a modern perspective, and then again from a more contemporary viewpoint.

Our ultimate goal then is to review each game as fairly as possible, trying to take into account when a game was released in addition to any other factors, such as overall quality. Videos are generally released every few weeks, so be sure to check in frequently for new updates!

The latest Post Mortem covers Sega's unusual slime themed action game The Ooze:



All current and future episode of the Post Mortem can be watched here!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dark Age of JRPGs (10): Courageous Perseus

Courageous Perseus (カレイジアスペルセウス) - PC-88, FM-7, X1, MSX (1984)

Hey, this is the first game in this series where I actually saw the end of it! Mostly because it has almost no text, and what little is there is in English, as this is the first Action RPG, actually one of the very first Action RPGs from Japan. If the usual Japanese databases are to be believed, it was released the same month as Dragon Slayer, and one month before Hydlide. While the other two have spawned successful series and became two of the most revered CRPG names in Japan, Courageous Perseus has been mostly forgotten. In its time, however, it seems to have been a pretty big deal, and publisher Cosmos Computer is said to have done a lot of marketing for the title. One of the staff members on Hydlide recalled how seeing an advertisement of Courageous Perseus had filled Hydlide designer Tokihiro Naitou with despair.

In a way, Courageous Perseus is more advanced than its two contemporaries, but ultimately it may well be the worst of the lot. It starts out promising enough: As Perseus you get to steer a raft to land on an island full of mythical beasts. The task is to slay the dragon and save the girl, of course. There's no character creation, but at the beginning, we get to put in our birthday, for whatever reason. If you were born after the year 2000, you're out of luck, though.

Perseus starts with 2000HP, but his health is constantly being drained one point per second. Enemies are attacked simply by bumping into them while holding the Space bar pressed. The problem: Almost all enemies are invincible to Perseus, at the beginning he can only kill the light blue soldiers and the unicorns. Every slain enemy raises his attack and defense values, though, and eventually gains the strength to try and kill a new enemy type. But the game never gives any hints as to which would be the next one, so it's all trial and error, often quite punishing as some enemies can consume hundreds of health points within seconds. Trying to find any rhyme or reason in the order, like determining which enemies "look" stronger, is futile. After the initial two, the next beatable enemies are the equally wimpy-looking Satyr, but after that come the Centaurs, which look more impressive than most of the others.

Really the only way to survive is to find all these bells, but it's not always easy. For some of them Perseus has to use his raft - there is a lake in the middle of the island with another one - to reach some smaller isles. But giant crabs jump out of the water, and if the raft happens to be above them, that means instant game over. It's possible to swim really far out into the ocean, but there's nothing but sea monsters there.

The island is filled with rocky mountains and thick woods that turn it into a maze, and the game is very good at showing you paths you cannot reach from your current location. Unfortunately, you usually have to drive your current target species near extinction before tackling the next one, which means a lot of confused backtracking over the island to find all of them. Enemies in general don't respawn, except some of them do. They're so few and it takes so long that it's not sustainable to try and grind for them, though. It's also kind of an eerie feeling to wander over the increasingly depopulated island. Makes you wonder if Perseus isn't the true villain here. Kinda surprising that he doesn't grow horns at the end.

The caves make it possible to get around a bit faster, but where you come out is determined at random. You also have to leave the screen once before you can re-enter, putting you in danger from the nearby enemies.

Monsters move around randomly and haphazardly, but are often positioned to block your way, so it's not unusual to lose a lot of health while trying to find the one available prey. Even after learning the order of enemies, I had to cheat for a refreshment of health to have a chance at survival.

Since Perseus is most famous for slaying the Medusa, she's also in this game. Getting close to her is enough to drain your health, but once Perseus is strong enough, she is slain just like any other enemy.

The dragon is actually the most peaceful creature on the entire island. It just sits on its mountain (odd, considering the "dragon" the mythical Perseus slew was a sea monster) and doesn't do Perseus any harm unless he attacks it first. It's invincible for most of the game, but in the end it goes down really fast.

Most of the screenshots here are from very early in the game so you can see all the different monsters still alive, but Perseus actually gathers a lot of items on his quest. Some are just specimen of the different creatures, others like the jar and the bow look like tools, even though nothing can be done with them. (And a bow would have been so useful!) The trophies also include four women... well, it WAS the '80s.

All screenshots so far are from the PC-88 version. Most of the others look the same, except for the MSX, which is much more ugly:

In case you want to have a shot at the game, but don't want any of that random guessing bullshit (only the endless backtracking bullshit and unfair enemies bullshit), here's the order in which the enemies become vulnerable to Perseus' attacks:

Light Blue Soldier
Unicorn
Satyr
Centaur
Devil Soldier
Scorpion
Pegasus
Bull
Blue Knight
Blue Cerberus
Manticore
Red Griffon
Cocatrice
Twin Soldiers
Red Warrior
Giant
Medusa
Dragon

Previous Episodes:
(1) The Dragon and Princess
(2) Some games we cannot play
(3) Danchizuma no Yuuwaku (NSFW)
(4) Ken to Mahou
(5) Dungeon
(6) Seiken Densetsu
(7) Panorama Toh
(8) Do Dutch Wives Dream of Electric Eels (NSFW)
(9) Some more games we cannot play