Archive for the ‘Super NES’ Category

Graduis III

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I played Life Force an awful lot, even though I’m really bad at those kind of games. But I ended up liking Life Force in spite of my inadequacy at it, mostly because the developers were kind enough to include a code to let me have 30 tries at completing it. A few years later, I learned about the sequel, Graduis III, being developed for my new (at the time) pet system, the Super NES.

This game is more like Gradius, Life Force’s prequel, than Life Force itself. But all that really means is that you’re not flying around inside some giant space creature, and there is a mysterious preponderance of Moai statues. Other than that, the game is pretty much functionally identical, but it looks a whole lot better.

I rented this game a few times, but never really managed to make a good amount of headway. I did OK at it, and every time I played, I made it just a bit further, which is good, I guess. But I never made it past stage 7 (out of 9, if you’re keeping score at home). Once I made it that milestone, I just got bored with the thing. I’d seen the first couple of stages well over a hundred times at that point, and stage 7 twice. I just didn’t want to play through those first few stages again just to make a few more inches worth of progress in the game. So I kind of gave up on it, thinking that I would come back to it someday.

That day hasn’t arrived yet.


Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

A while back I made a brief mention of a strange little game called Plok, but didn’t really do it justice.

I don’t remember the story very clearly, but I’m fairly certain that it did exist. The… being known as Plok inhabits some island or other and all over this island are flags that were placed on the flagpoles all over the place. His grandfather’s flag, an heirloom, was stolen and he has to get it back. Once he does, his island is taken over, so he has to somehow liberate it, too. Compelling stuff, eh?

Plok has the interesting ability to fire his limbs at his enemies. He gets them back once they hit their target… most of the time. Sometimes he has to use them to flip switches or sometimes they just kind of get lost. Arms are kind of not that big a deal, but once he loses his comically large legs, then he has a slightly tougher time moving around.

I saw the game a lot in Nintendo Power and EGM for several months before it came out, and once it finally did I gave it a look. Turns out that I was right. The game was pretty fun.

Problem was that the game was two other things: lengthy and difficult. Neither one of those things would be too bad, except that the game has no save mechanism. No passwords, no battery backup, no nothing. So you have to finish the game in one sitting. That’s kind of a tall order since once you know what you’re doing finishing the game can take a couple of hours. And if you don’t know and are only renting the game for 24 hours? Well, then you can make it to about stage 4 out of… way more than 4.

Ren and Stimpy: Veediots

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Like a lot of folks I was a bit of a fan of the Ren & Stimpy show, and during its heyday it had more merchandise than you could shake several sizable sticks at. Including the obligatory video game tie-ins.

I only played the Super Nintendo tie-in, and that I could only stomach to play once. I don’t even really remember the premise of the game other than you have to take either Ren or Stimpy through stages that are extremely loose interpretations of episodes of the show. But, since there aren’t very many levels, the levels that are there are extremely long and fairly hard. Kind of a cheap ploy to make the game seem longer than it actually is.

The developers were kind enough to include some voice samples from the show to make it seem more like you were actually playing the episodes in question, but they’re so compressed that it sounds like you have Billy West calling you with a broken telephone from his summer palace in Australia, but he has a cold and is doing the voices through a pillow that’s over the mouthpiece of the phone.

During the short (but not short enough) time that I rented this game, I don’t actually remember finishing any of the levels. I just kind of petered out before I made it to the end of any of them. Not to mention that they were too hard for me to finish. They’re really not that hard in the traditional sense. If you memorize the entire level, they’re actually not too bad, but there’s stuff just off screen that kills you, and you don’t know it’s there until you jump right into it, lose your last life, start the stage over, get to the same point again, jump into the same enemy again because you forgot it was there, and then break your controller with a nine-pound sledge.

And then you take it back to the rental store.

Goof Troop

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

I guess Duck Tales kind of spoiled me for decent cartoon shows with competent video game tie ins. That’s not a bad thing, though. The partnership with Disney and Capcom produced a few more solid games based on some fair shows.

I never really watched much Goof Troop, even though some of the old Goofy shorts are some of my favorite Disney shorts. It just wasn’t my style.

But I’m a sucker for a game based on readily recognizable mascots, and especially so when I was late to the rental store and all the good stuff was taken. So I gave Goof Troop a whirl. The story goes something like this: Keelhaul Pete has kidnapped Pete and his son, so Goofy and his son have to traipse around an island trying to rescue them. Now how one of Pete’s alter egos can kidnap him is anyone’s guess, but we’ll run with it.

What you end up doing mostly in this game is running around the various screens and trying to solve some puzzles to make progress. The puzzles are pretty simple, and they’re mostly the ’slide the blocks around the stage until they land in the right spots’ kind of puzzle. Which, as it happens, I’m really bad at.

Since this game was geared to pre and early teens, the puzzles were simple enough for me to solve, thankfully. I made speedy progress through the game, and in the short time that I had it I managed to get to the last level. I would have probably finished that too, but I ran into a problem. I got to the video rental pretty late on the night I rented it, so I didn’t get a lot of playtime with it that evening. And the next day it was due back in the early evening, so I didn’t quite have it for the full 24 hours. As a result of that I had to take it back instead of finishing it off. And I never bothered to play it again. I figured that buying the game just to play the last couple of hours would have been a waste of dollars. Yeah, I could have rented it again and finished it off, but my two bucks could have also gotten me something else that would keep me entertained for far longer. So the choice was pretty obvious.

The Addams Family

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

I wasn’t that impressed by the 1991 Addams Family movie. Like a lot of big budget movies, though, it spawned a tidal wave of licensed crap including a few video games. Turns out that at least one of them wasn’t half bad.

The Addams Family game for the Super NES is loosely based on the movie. Kind of like how riding a bicycle is loosely like piloting a space shuttle. You take control of Gomez Addams and have to guide him through the labyrinthine mansion to rescue your kidnapped family members (who are conveniently in the far reaches of Creation), restore Fester’s memory, and defeat the bad guys. Simple, eh?

Gomez has two secret powers. He can jump on enemies to make them disappear (a.k.a. killing them) and he has a ludicrous amount of extra lives at his disposal. With these two powers, he’d have to try hard to not win the day.

One of the cool things about this game is that the mansion is absolutely humongous, though a bit linear. But the enemies aren’t particularly tough to dispatch, and the terrain isn’t too tough to navigate. But there’s hidden junk absolutely everywhere. You’ll hardly go a dozen screens without finding some secret passage or hidden door leading to a cache of riches and extra lives.

I rented this game one time and was able to sail through the game in one evening of marathon play, so it’s not too tough. I have to believe, though, that the main reason I was able to finish it off so quickly was because I had more lives than I really knew what to do with. Any time I lost a life, I was only set back a couple of screens, so even the tougher bits were reduced to me trying to brute-force my way through by throwing away life after life at it.

Other than that, though, it was a pretty fun game, and probably one that I would have thought about buying had it not been Nerfed into oblivion by feeding you so many extra lives to blow through it with.

And, yes, I realize I don’t have to pick them up, and that would make it more challenging. But, seriously, that’s like telling me I don’t have to pick up all the $20 bills I find on the sidewalk because that’ll just decrease the challenge of my life. It just doesn’t make sense.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

I’ll just come right out and say it: Yoshi’s Island is probably the finest 2D game in the Mario universe that has yet been devised.

The story goes that while The Stork is on its way to deliver baby Mario and Luigi he gets accosted by the Forces of Evil. Luigi is captured and Mario is dropped onto an island inhabited by Yoshis. The Yoshis decide to try and get Mario to his destination using a baby bucket brigade system. Which is one Yoshi will carry Mario to the end of the level, pass him on to the next one, and the cycle repeats. With a few boss fights thrown in, of course.

Your Yoshis are nigh-invulnerable, but if they get hit Baby Mario will fly off its back and start wailing. His crying, incidentally, might be the most annoying sound ever put into a video game. If he cries too long (i.e. you run out of Stars) then he’ll get kidnapped too.

But you’re not totally defenseless. Yoshis have the super amazing ability to eat just about anything and turn it into an egg. So as long as you have a steady stream of enemies lumbering around you have plenty ammunition to dispatch them with.

Probably one of the first things you’re going to notice when you play this game is that it’s simultaneously gorgeous and adorable. Everything in the game is well detailed, fluidly animated, and extremely colorful. It really does look a lot like you’re playing an interactive cartoon.

There is really a lot crammed into the cartridge. The Yoshis can transform into a variety of vehicles to make progress through the levels, and that’s fun enough. But this game also uses (more or less) the same chip that allowed the Super NES to push 3D graphics for all kinds of interesting effects. Like blocks that squash and stretch, and enemies that grow to fill nearly the whole screen. Really, the whole game is a visual treat.

I really can’t understate how fun this game is. I got it one Winter and a friend and I spent a good portion of Christmas weekend alternating playing each level. Then we discovered the hidden levels and spent yet more days trying to unlock them all.

And if some of the music sounds like it came from a 1930s era cartoon show? Eh, doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Yoshi’s Cookie

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Yoshi’s Cookie is, like most puzzle games, easier to show than to tell how it’s played, but I’ll give it a shot.

You have before you a grid with cookies laid out on it. You can shift the rows left or right and the columns up or down, and the ones that shift off the bottom, top, or sides will reappear on the opposite side they went off. Your goal is to arrange the cookies in such a way that either a row or a column contains only one type of cookie. That row or column gets taken away (to some kind of packaging operation, I guess), the puzzle shrinks, and you keep going. The goal is to get rid of all the cookies. Do that and you get to go on to the next level which moves a little faster and has some more cookie types.

I like puzzle games and everything, so it was kind of a no-brainer for me to give it a look or two. But I found that the play mechanic of sorting cookies to be a little… dry, I guess. It’s probably because my brain doesn’t quite work in a way that lets me sort cookies by sliding them around on a grid. It’s the same reason that I’m not really that good at solving the 15 Puzzle. So after my token time with the game, I moved on to greener pastures.


Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Uniracers stands out for me as the singularly weirdest racing game that I’ve ever played. And by ‘weirdest’ I mean ‘completely awesome’.

The game stars a series of unicycles who are compelled to race around tracks. Why do they race? It doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that you have to race against phantom unicycles across various tracks and win in order to make it to the next more difficult track.

And, man, your unicycles are fast!

I don’t think I’d ever have pegged a unicycle as being a racing vehicle, but then I’ve only seen them underneath clowns and jugglers. It turns out that when they’re unencumbered by the weight of a person and manage to come alive they gain super speed and the ability to do tricks. This is kind of important to know because each time you successfully pull off a trick you not only get points but you also get a speed boost. So you end up having to perform a series of tricks while keeping your eyes on the course and looking ahead on the track. It’s like this game was tailor-made to require fantastic muscle memory.

There are three types of activity to do in this game: racing to the end of a track, racing around a circuit, and doing tricks, and each of those has three levels of difficulty. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, you either have to get to the end of the race before your opponent does or you have to do a required number of tricks to succeed. But, where I really had fun with this game was its stats.

Yeah, I said ’stats’.

This game lets you choose between 16 identical colors of unicycle (except for color). You can name them anything you like, kind of. Mine wouldn’t let me name mine ‘basscomm’ because it thought it saw a naughty word lurking in there. But you can name them after the folks that you play the game with, so they get their own record set. Then you get to see how you and your friends rank up against each other. I would spend a lot of time trying to make sure that my unicycle was at the top of every category. Which I totally managed to do… except for one.

I invited a friend over to play the game shortly after I bought it, and we had a good time with it. He would end up winning more games than I would that day, though. But I pressed on! I played and played the game until I felt like I was some kind of unicycle racing master or some other such nonsense. And indeed, I was top-ranked in every category by far except for ‘Winning percentage’. It turns out that in the short time that I had played against my friend that he had handily gotten the better of me, so his win percentage was pretty astronomical, and although I had won dozens more games than he’d ever played, my percentage was still low because I had also lost more games then he had ever played.

Stupid math.


Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

I don’t remember how many issues in a row, but there were several of my EGMs that told me, essentially, that

  1. Axelay is awesome.”
  2. Axelay is awesome!”
  3. Axelay is AWESOME!”

So I eventually decided to give the game a look.

It turns out that Axelay is a shoot-em-up. So you have to take your obscenely expensive and almost comically fragile ship up against wave after wave of enemies who are better armed, better armored, and more maneuverable than you, and try to shoot most of them down.

This isn’t really a problem for me, though, I’m an old hand at shooting games. I mean, yeah, I used the cheat to get 30 ships in Life Force, but I didn’t really need all of them, and the EGM review listed this game as ‘hard’ difficulty, but that can’t be too much harder than anything else I’d played, so I gave it a shot.

It turns out that I wasn’t as good at shooting games as I thought was.

I don’t really know what happened, but some friends of mine and I pooled our money together and rented it for a couple of days. We played it a bit, but immediately crashed into the brick wall that’s the learning curve of this game. Out of the three of us, none of us made it to stage 2.

I guess I must have thought that I had a bad night or that I had a broken controller or some other kind of malady because I rented it again a few weeks later, and you know what?

I failed again.

I actually had more success with the silly little toy that shipped with the game than with the game itself. The little junket presented you with a repeating image of some kind of spaceship and you could use the power of the Super NES to rotate it around and zoom the picture in and out.

It was about that time I decided that shmups just weren’t going to be my thing, I didn’t have the chops for them. What do I have the chops for? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I always thought that Super Mario Bros. 2 was a little bit of an anomaly. The game is a complete departure from from the original game, and it seemed only tangentially related. I would later figure out the real story behind it. But I guess that doesn’t really matter if you’re not a scholar of obscure video game minutiae.

So what you end up with is a game where you have to guide Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess on a quest to save the realm of Subcon from a giant frog named Wart. They all have varying abilities: Luigi jumps real high, Toad picks things up real fast, and so on. You pick up whatever’s growing on the ground or one of your enemies and you chuck it at the remaining enemies.


I guess I really liked this game because it was so different than its predecessor. I would play the game almost to death trying to figure out its general strangeness.

For example: hidden throughout the stages are potions that, when thrown, create a door. You go through the door and you have a few seconds of access to a shadowy version of the screen you were on. In that mystery realm any vegetables growing out of the ground are mysteriously coins that you use for the Extra Life Machine at the end of the level. But there are also two locations on each level where a mushroom is placed. Get the mushroom and you get an extra hit point. Sometimes the mushrooms were hidden near the potions, but sometimes not. It took more lots of trial and error to find them. And, the feeling of elation when I did find a particularly craftily-hidden goody was pretty intense.

And I only found one game-breaking bug that manifested very late in the game. It’s possible to get irreparably stuck about 80% of the way through the game, requiring a reset. Thankfully this was fixed in some rereleases, so I don’t even worry about that any more. I just worry about killing a frog by throwing turnips in his open mouth.