Category Archives: Nintendo Entertainment System

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!

Random Game #31 – Castlevania [NES]

Castlevania

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

I can still recall the garage sale I got my first NES, this game, and about a dozen-and-a-half others including Contra, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. I was already interested in vintage video games having read Tips & Tricks for a while at this point, marveling at the Collector’s Corner section mostly. To find all these goodies, and for practically nothing, I was ecstatic. I actually haven’t played this game too much, which is a shock considering I’m such a fan of the more modern releases. It’s a very difficult game and I can only recall getting to the third or fourth section of the castle. The gameplay was solid however and the soundtrack is an undeniable classic. Something I need to play more of for sure.

Castlevania was developed and published by Konami. It was first released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan on September 26, 1986. Its first release in North America was on the NES on May 1, 1987. It was later ported to the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES series. It has also been ported to all of Nintendo’s Virtual Console services (Wii, Wii U, and 3DS – what a mess, needs consolidation!).

Random Game #23 – Super Spike V’Ball/Nintendo World Cup [NES]

Super Spike V'Ball and Nintendo World Cup

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Wow, both of these games are fantastic. Super Spike V’Ball is the second best volleyball video game ever, only behind Beach Spikers. Or, I should say my favorite but I’ve only played three and Volleyball for the NES is definitely at the bottom of the list. Meanwhile, Nintendo World Cup is a wonderful representation of the world’s favorite sport on a technically limited platform. It actually belongs to the Kunio-kun series of games which are best remembered in the west for River City Ransom. Each game is a joy in multiplayer and will always be go-to’s for my multiplayer NES affairs. What’s more, they both support up to four players, something I’ve yet to try.

Both games were developed by Technōs Japan. Super Spike V’Ball was originally released as an arcade game in December 1988, while the NES port was released in February 1990. Nintendo World Cup was released in North America in December 1990. Both games were originally published in the States by Nintendo, as was this compilation. The information I’m finding states that is was also released in December 1990.

Random Game #12 – Magic Johnson’s Fast Break [NES]

Magic Johnson's Fast BreakWhen you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

There are some games in my collection that I don’t recall obtaining. Magic Johnson’s Fast Break is one such game. I can speculate how it came into my possession, but ultimately the game is pretty inconsequential to me. As best as I can recollect, I’ve played it once. My friend and I competed against each other as part of the Leonard 2012 Video Game Olympics. He’s much more adept than I when it comes to sports games and accordingly was victorious. It’s incredibly dated at this point, but I can’t imagine it had much going for it back in the day even. My belief is that basketball games weren’t noteworthy until NBA Jam, but many people have a fondness for Double Dribble so that would seem like the genre’s best on the NES.

Magic Johnson’s Fast Break was originally developed and published by Arcadia Systems and released as an arcade game in 1988. It was ported to the NES by Software Creations and published by Tradewest in North America in March 1990. It was also ported to a handful of European PCs at the time as Magic Johnson’s Basketball. Most notably, the NES version featured support for up to four players.

Super Mario Bros. [NES] – Review

Super Mario Bros.What can I say about Super Mario Bros.? I mean, it’s Super Mario Bros. Everyone knows about the 1985 classic. Everyone can recall Mario’s initial journey through the Mushroom Kingdom on his quest to rescue Princess Toadstool from the diabolical Bowser. Everyone has stomped on the heads of numerous Goombas, kicked several Koopa shells, and found the game shortening Warp Zones. Everyone has beaten it, ecstatic to see the princess instead of yet another Toad. Well, that is everyone but me.

The music just started playing in your head, I know it did.
The music just started playing in your head, I know it did.

After briefly playing Vs. Super Mario Bros. at PJ Gamers, one of my local arcades, I realized I had never beaten the Mario game that started it all. Never mind Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., or Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros. really kicked off the career of Nintendo’s mascot. Thus, I’ve spent the last week or so playing the game in hours-long sessions attempting to beat it. Finally, after discovering secrets and honing my platforming skills, I’ve gotten good enough to reach the end.

Among other elements, I feel two of the most important are the game’s precise controls and simplicity. They tied together in an interesting way after spending hours learning stage layouts and adapting to the controls. I’d often get reckless and misjudge a jump or run into enemies enough times to deplete my stock of lives OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It could get frustrating, but it was psychological – I was getting too comfortable with my abilities. In many ways, overcoming my careless tendency to hold down the run button was the key to my success.

Super Mario Bros. - The Final Battle

My experience with the game was enhanced by playing it with a friend, switching off when we’d lost all of our lives. Like most things, playing this game was improved with a partner. The kicker was discovering the hidden 1ups that were necessary to extending our sessions and devising strategies for dealing with tough sections. Accessing the Warp Zones was the most fruitful of our discoveries. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game without accessing the secrets we did and I wanted to be able to say I completed Super Mario Bros. so there, I said it.

The Box Art of Gyruss

I’m going to skip over posting about the box art for Pokemon Colosseum as there wasn’t much difference between the various regional releases. Gyruss on the other hand, so a handful of releases in the early eighties.
Gyruss - ColecovisionParker Brothers published the early home versions and used the above box art for these releases. Those looking to play a home conversion of the Konami arcade shooter were in luck if they owned an Atari 2600, 5200, Coloecovision, Atari 8-bit computer, or a Commodore 64. The cover depicts a triangular space station. Perhaps these are the satellites that surround the power-ups in the game?

Gyruss - NESThe next set of home conversions came courtesy of Konami themselves. Released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan and the NES here in America, this box art evoked the stage progression of the game. Many planets are ahead of our starship pilot and there’s even the attention to detail noting the tubular nature of the gameplay. Very impressive! The FDS box art is practically the same and can be seen as the featured image to this post, kind of.

And that’s pretty much it for home conversions of Gyruss. It has been featured on a few arcade compilations published by Konami, but they don’t do those too often. Beyond those, it was released onto Xbox Live Arcade very early in the Xbox 360’s lifespan. This was a pure emulation of the original arcade game with little distinguishing features. Gyruss appears to be a game that hasn’t won over a lot of people. Regardless, it’s a stupendous golden age arcade game.

Anticipation [NES] – Review

WOW!

Billed as Nintendo’s first video board game, the Rare developed NES game Anticipation has become one of my go-to multiplayer games since I stumbled upon it at a local game store. I was immediately drawn and disgusted by the game’s dated box art and expected little but was surprised to discover an entertaining multiplayer competition.

As the game draws an image, the dice counts down the amount of time. Whoever guesses correctly here will move four spaces.

Like most board games, in Anticipation players are represented by little figurines. The goal is to correctly guess what the game is drawing and do so on each of the game’s three levels; the winner is the one who completes all three levels first. This can become tricky because the game requires a correct answer from four different themes before moving on to the next level. When it comes down to needing a correct answer from that last theme, it’s not uncommon to go on a lengthy dry spell where landing on the needed space is annoyingly elusive.

When advancement became elusive, I found that I could initiate a level of strategy that emphasized a risk and reward principle. Buzzing in when the dice roll would work out favorably allowed others to buzz in before me, but if they were stumped, I had the opportunity to roll the dice so I’d land on the theme I needed. When all players realize this strategy, the bluffing and screwing of your competition becomes part of the fun.

A correct answer from each color is needed before advancing to the next level.

Of the many games of Anticipation that I’ve played, I’ve noticed that the backend tends to drag on as the drawings get tougher and inevitably, someone requires that last theme to advance or win. Sometimes, I’d rather just turn the game off then sit through a potentially laborious dry spell where no one makes any progress, but for the most part, Anticipation is good fun.