Knuckles’ Chaotix [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

Knuckles' Chaotix - Japanese Box Art

Knuckles’ Chaotix is a game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It’s the only game in said series to grace the Sega 32X. It’s an okay game, but not a great Sonic the Hedgehog game. More on that later this week. In the meantime, you can watch my collected let’s play in the YouTube playlist below. This will probably be the last full-game let’s play of a Sega 32X game I do for a while (following Tempo and Kolibri), although I still have a few more that I’d like to check out. Those will likely be one-off videos. Anyways, enjoy.

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You Must Build a Boat [Android] – Review

Well then, if I must.
Well then, if I must.

You Must Build a Boat had me addicted like no other for the better part of a month. The puzzle/role-playing game is the sequel to 10000000, which I knew much of but unfortunately, ignored. In hindsight, that may have been a boon as this game only amplifies the concepts of that game, and may have worn out its welcome if I just played 10000000. Both games are match-three style puzzlers designed around brief gameplay sessions. However, they incorporate RPG mechanics coaxing long-term play and activating acute pleasure centers in my brain.

Notice the division of the screen.
Notice the division of the screen.

When I first started the game, my avatar was on a raft looking vessel with a couple other dudes. Very quickly, they informed my character that his mission was to, yep, build a boat! At this point the game transitioned to what would become a very familiar screen over the next half-dozen hours. The top twenty percent featured my explorer in a dungeon. He would run through dungeons encountering enemies, traps, and treasure chests. The bottom twenty percent consisted of the tiles that I would match by swiping columns up or down and rows left and right. Matched icons would cause my adventurer to react correspondingly. If I matched key tiles, he’d unlock a treasure chest. Likewise, if I matched swords or staves, he’d attack physically or with magic.

Each run of a dungeon would end when my character reached the edge of the screen. I had to react quickly enough to his obstacles as the screen never stopped scrolling, even if he did. When it eventually did, I would arrive back on the ever-expanding boat with a constantly growing staff. Back here, I could spend the coin I’d accumulated and increase the effectiveness of the tiles, recruit monsters for permanent stat boosts, and much more. The tile-matching was very responsive to my touch and fun in itself, but coupled with the sort of gameplay loop found in an RPG and then consolidated into a six hour experience instead of a sixty-hour experience and this wound up being a game I could hardly put down.

Lots of swords here.
Lots of swords here.

Now that I’ve completed it though, I don’t feel like going back. Or rather, I have and don’t want to repeat the cycle from square one. Upon completion it prompts to start at the beginning albeit with a stiffer challenge. I haven’t found that sufficient motivation to begin anew, although I am picking it every now and then; I’m just putting it down much easier. Nonetheless, I spent roughly seven hours with it on my first go-around and I could’ve probably done that all at once. Excluding the grinding I did at the very end. That grew tedious. Other than that fact, this game is well-worth the paltry asking price.

Kolibri [Sega 32X] – Review

Kolibri

As a part of our week of vacation this year, Jenny and I drove to Galveston, TX and spent a few days on the beach. It was wonderful, especially for me as I haven’t been to the ocean in about a decade. On the way, we drove through Houston as I intended on stopping in at a few local game stores. This is a must when I travel some place new, and H-Town didn’t disappoint. One of the games I brought back home was Kolibri for the Sega 32X.

Kolibri flew about in many different environments, but I wasn't a fan of the visual quality; everything seemed a little dark or muddied.
Kolibri flew about in many different environments, but I wasn’t a fan of the visual quality; everything seemed a little dark or muddied.

Kolibri is one of the Sega 32X’s few exclusives, and pragmatically, one of the few notable titles available for the add-on. It was developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega in 1995. Novotrade was the studio responsible for the Ecco the Dolphin games and I believe this game shares many of the same traits. However, I can’t extrapolate further as my exposure to that series has been limited thus far. Regardless, the studio had an apparent appreciation for ecology and that would appear to shine through in these creations of theirs.

Controlling the eponymous hummingbird, players are tasked with, drumroll…, saving the world! The manual has a rich backstory on the creation of Earth from a light crystal and the negative effects of a dark crystal crashing into the planet. The latter has had a corrupting effect on the nature and wildlife and Kolibri has been mystically chosen and infused with the ability to counteract the effects of the dark crystal and ultimately, destroy it. What this boils down to is a nontraditional shoot ‘em up.

The majority of the game’s stages take place in labyrinthine caves and ruins. Controlling Kolibri, I buzzed around looking for the exit and items that would assist in that endeavor, and did my best to destroy the infected insects trying to do the same to me. These stages were generally linear in nature, but featured so many paths that it didn’t seem that way in the moment. The final one was quite elaborate too, taking a good fifteen or twenty minutes to solve. Until the last third of the game, they lacked checkpoints which meant dying threw me back to the beginning, which usually wasn’t an issue due to their brevity.

Everything was after Kolibri, even chameleons and frogs.
Everything was after Kolibri, even chameleons and frogs.

The other types of stages that Novotrade incorporated were a more familiar sort: horizontally scrolling stages. Stages of this variety were infrequent (about every third stage) and easy to get through with the right weapon. Success, no matter what stage I was playing, was dictated by my weapon of choice. Like any good shmup, Kolibri featured a variety of upgradeable weapons. It took me a few stages before I began playing around with the assortment. Eventually I experienced each weapon fully upgraded and wound up with two or three stalwarts.

Due to my narrow-mindedness of the genre, I didn’t really think of Kolibri in terms of a shoot ‘em up for a while. Once I did, I began to perform better due to a newfound aggressiveness. The enemies often attacked as soon as they were on screen, and would usually respawn if “their location” went off screen and I returned. This aspect, and the stage design of the labyrinth stages, required a good bit of trial and error and memorization; particularly when I would start a level with low health, die, and then quickly restart a half-dozen times. It did grow frustrating (evidenced by segments of my let’s play) but the game didn’t prove to be too challenging and was relatively short.

Those who've made it to the end will surely recognize this puzzle. I'm proud to have figured it out without assistance!
Those who’ve made it to the end will surely recognize this puzzle. I’m proud to have figured it out without assistance!

Regarding the two notable Sega 32X exclusives I’ve played: Tempo and Kolibri, I’m more partial to the former. Like Tempo, Kolibri didn’t wow me from the start but it did grow on me. It curried favor with me mostly due to the uniqueness of its stage design and narrative. The manual is also spectacular, featuring a how-to on building a hummingbird feeder, references for extended learning, a flip note animation and much more. That being said the gameplay didn’t blow my socks off or have me begging for more. I thought Kolibri was awkward to control at times and the frequent restarting became disheartening. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable game worth seeking out for owners of the Sega 32X.

As I did with my Tempo review, here’s one final shameless plug for my let’s play:

Kolibri [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

Kolibri

Alright, here’s another let’s play of a Sega 32X game, this time Kolibri. Developed by Novotrade International (Ecco the Dolpin) and published by Sega in 1995, it’s regarded as one of the more sought-after titles for the lackluster add-on. I enjoyed it, although not as much as Tempo. Tomorrow or later this week I’ll post my review of it and begin working on a new let’s play, hopefully for Knuckles’ Chaotix.

Mega Man [NES] – Review

Mega Man

When I beat Super Mario Bros. for the first time last year, I felt I had marked an item off of a video game bucket list. It was a momentous achievement not just because it’s such an influential and important game to the medium, but because it was challenging as well. It took many, many failed attempts, progressing slightly farther each time before I was able to conquer Bowser and when I did, I felt like I accomplished something! For the same reasons, I’ve recently come to the Mega Man series.

For someone who fancies himself a collector and a knowledgebase of video games, it’s been hard for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve only played one Mega Man game; not even a core title in the series either but a spinoff: Mega Man Network Transmission. With compilations of both the classic and X series, I decided it was finally time to rectify this omission. With little deliberation, I shelved the Mega Man X Collection and decided to begin where the franchise did: with Mega Man. Granted, playing the Xbox version of Anniversary Collection on the Xbox 360.

This game had plenty of tricky platforming sections.
This game had plenty of tricky platforming sections.

It didn’t take long to dawn on me once I’d started, but this game and this series helped define the action-platformer. In a basic sense, Mega Man plays like Super Mario Bros. with guns. It retains the precision platforming of that game while featuring more frantic action, especially with the bosses. The stages are relatively brief affairs but each one hosts unique platforming challenges. Even with their brevity, it would always take multiple continues before I could reliably reach the boss; if I didn’t decide to halt that stage for the moment and move onto another after losing my stock of lives.

Another influential aspect of this game is the open-ended nature in completing it. Before Mega Man has the opportunity to settle his score with Dr. Wily, he first has to beat six of the mad scientist’s robot masters. Their stages could be selected in any order and what’s more, once beaten, Mega Man obtained their weapon. I could freely switch between the weapons Mega Man had acquired and was rewarded for doing so as each robot master was weak to another’s weapon. After obtaining a new weapon, I’d try a stage and make it to the boss to see if it was weak to the weapon just acquired and do so until I found my match.

The ability to select the stage order was something of a novelty when Mega Man released.
The ability to select the stage order was something of a novelty when Mega Man released.

Once the robot masters had been defeated and the path to Dr. Wily became available, the challenge really began. I went through a decent amount of continues before reaching the Yellow Devil. This iconic Mega Man boss was highlighted to me with his annoying inclusion in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U where he transfers chunks of his body horizontally from one side of the screen to the other rebuilding itself, a difficult attack to evade. Now I know where that originated. That exact same tactic is present here and was one of the hardest video game obstacles I’ve had to overcome in recent memory, maybe since beating Super Mario Bros. last year! It took me so much time and effort (multiple sessions across a couple of days even) that I naively thought this was the final boss. Because of course it wouldn’t be DR. WILY! Come on John, think about it!

So once I’d finally conquered the Yellow Devil (which literally made me exclaim WOOHOO!), I was crestfallen to realize there was more to do… much more. Dr. Wily’s stage was four sections long – each ending with a boss fight, or set of boss fights. Each of the robot masters that Mega Man had beaten previously had to be beaten again. Thankfully, the game allows unlimited continues and mercifully, when used in Dr. Wily’s stage, they restarted me in the current section and not at the very beginning of the stage – pre-Yellow Devil. With that ability, I was actually able to make it deep into the final section of Dr. Wily’s stage when that nightmare scenario we all have while playing video games happened – I lost power. ARGH!!!

Elec Man's weapon was the most powerful in the end.
Elec Man’s weapon was the most powerful at the end of the game.

With that, I was done with Mega Man. Not just for that night but for a long time. At least, that’s how I felt for the next fifteen minutes until I had a chance to cool down. This was something I still had on my video game bucket list, something I still felt I needed to do in order to broaden my gaming knowledge. A few days later I returned and with little resistance was right back where I was pre-power outage. Most thrilling of all was the rematch with the Yellow Devil. What had once taken me an eternity to overcome I could now topple in a few attempts!

With the robot masters bested again and these sections completed, there was one thing left to do: put Dr. Wily in his place. Like the Yellow Devil, this was another tough matchup. Dr. Wily had two forms, each with an eternity of a health bar. After a few attempts I knew what I had to do: I had to cheese him.

In the original Mega Man, there’s an exploit that allows Elec Man’s weapon to damage an enemy multiple times with one shot. This weapon’s projectile is long and branching like lightning. As soon as it made contact with Dr. Wily, I pressed the back button on my Xbox 360 controller – pausing the game. Upon unpausing the game, it damaged him again as if this was the first time the projectile made contact. This exploit wasn’t removed from the Anniversary Collection and I milked it across a half-dozen attempts before the mad scientist finally bowed to Mega Man.

It look me too long to get Yellow Devil's pattern down. Once I did though, I was golden.
It look me too long to get Yellow Devil’s pattern down. Once I did though, I was golden.

Although I wound up cheesing the final boss, I have no regrets. I overcame so many obstacles while testing my reflexes, dexterity, and memorization that I still feel accomplished. Besides, literally every FAQ and forum commenter I came across suggested the same thing. I’m not sure anyone’s beaten Mega Man without utilizing that exploit! Nonetheless, I can cross beating Mega Man off my bucket list and can feel a little more confident in my gaming prowess and knowledge. Foremost of which is the fact that Mega Man is a precisely tuned action-platformer that’s tough but rewarding. Now, onto Mega Man 2!