Tag Archives: 1992

Alien 3 [Sega Genesis] – Review

Alien 3

Truly my foray into the Alien franchise began with Alien Trilogy on the PlayStation, although I’ve barely touched that game. It began in earnest after watching Prometheus, an “unofficial” movie in the series, although it’s about as official as anything else if you ask me. I’ve now watched all movies in the franchise and am ready to dive into the related games and feel confident in my understanding of the source material. It helped too! I can comprehend the mediocrity of Alien 3 on the Sega Genesis a little more knowing that the movie it’s based on is of the same quality.

Of the “five” movies, I’d put Alien 3 at the bottom of the list. This is to say, I didn’t begin playing the Genesis game with much optimism. On the whole, I thought the movie was rather brown and monotonous visually, and the game didn’t shake this aura early on. It looks to have a few different environments to be fair, but I didn’t witness these firsthand. The gameplay was related to the events of the movie too but skewed (and omitted) the storyline in favor of more action.

Most stages tasked Ripley with rescuing the prisoners of Fiorina 161 and combating the aliens.  The stages needed to be completed in a set amount of time and this was hard to do the first time through. Most took a few attempts to learn where the aliens popped up and rushed me and where the prisoners were. Locating the prisoners wasn’t so bad (I had to explore the stages anyways, right?) but constantly getting bum rushed by the aliens grew annoying. Often, they’d materialize at the edge of the screen as I progressed. They’d quickly charge and if I didn’t immediately start shooting, I would take damage. This led to much trial and error.

Hostages were abound, but aliens were more prevalent.
Hostages were abound, but aliens were more prevalent.

This sounds like a lot of negativity towards Alien 3. You want the lowdown though? I only progressed to the third stage and the game has twelve! I had no idea it was that beefy until I did further research. This being the case, I would only take this review as my experiences with a minority of the game and not a comprehensive examination of it. After seeing that I barely scraped the surface I am interested in playing more of it, but not because what I experienced was such a joy to play. I was oddly compelled to continue playing it, even when I felt like many of my deaths were cheap, so take that as you will.

Kirby’s Dream Land [Game Boy] – Review

Wait a minute... isn't Kirby pink?
Wait a minute… isn’t Kirby pink?

Released for the Game Boy in 1992, Kirby’s Dream Land marked the debut of the eponymous character that sucks and blows. What’s more, it also marked the beginning of Masahiro Sakurai’s entry into game development (in a directorial position, at least) and the growing relationship between the game’s developer – HAL Laboratory – and its publisher – Nintendo. But, instead of honing in on those aspects, I’m just going to talk briefly about the game itself. In short, it’s a basic platformer that was intended to be an entry-point for young video game players.

Kirby's flight was unlimited, unlike in later games, I believe.
Kirby’s flight was unlimited, unlike in later games, I believe.

And short it is! After finding a complete copy at a local Goodwill for a couple dollars, I plugged it into my GBA SP late that night and wound up beating it there and then. After getting through the first two stages trouble-free, I looked online to see just how many stages were in the game. After reading there was five, I trucked on and completed the game, only having to continue once. After the credits, the game extolled a harder difficulty, but that’s not usually my scene.

One notable aspect of this game – while Kirby can suck up enemies, consuming them or shooting them back out, he doesn’t have his copy ability. This, being the ability to swallow an enemy and gain its attacks, wasn’t introduced until the next game, Kirby’s Adventure for the NES. Lacking this, the game felt a little empty taking my experiences with later Kirby games into account. Still, I was surprised to find that a few of the stages had a degree of openness to them, similar to the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games.

Many of the bosses will be familiar if you've played a Kirby game.
Many of the bosses will be familiar if you’ve played a Kirby game.

So, my biggest takeaway from Kirby’s Dream Land is its brevity. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, in fact, I think it’s very solid. Kirby controls great, and even lacking his copy ability, he still has many differentiating qualities. The boss fights that capped off each stage were fun too. And, I’d be remiss to not mention the jubilant soundtrack as well. It’s a high point for this game and indicative of the tunes the series would be known for. It’s a fun little game worth a half-hour of your time if you’re into platformers.

Final Fantasy V [PlayStation] – Review

Warning: the black label version of FFV has minor glitches when played on the PS2 and is nigh unplayable on the PS3.
Warning: the black label version of FFV has minor glitches when played on the PS2 and is nigh unplayable on the PS3.

When I began playing Final Fantasy V, the first ten or so hours got me down. Coming off of my completion of Final Fantasy IV, this game felt like a pause in progression for Square. The characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, felt one-dimensional. The narrative didn’t allow for a rotating party as the previous game did, and this kept the experience stale. During this early period, the combat system felt wholly similar to its predecessor too. It wasn’t until the job system was unlocked and given a few hours to come into its own, that I really began to enjoy the game.

The sky is dropping transporters.
The sky is dropping transporters.

With a traditional narrative revolving around elemental crystals and a maniacal evildoer, I didn’t get drawn into the story. After all, with a name like X-Death, there’s no questioning his motives. The protagonists were, slightly, more fleshed out though. Bartz was a wanderer who encountered the princess Reina and a stranger from another planet, Galuf, while investigating a meteorite. They joined together and set about to protect the four crystals after they witnessed one of them shattering and learned that collectively, the crystals protected a seal on X-Death.

Soon enough, the group bumped into the pirate Faris. Get this, Faris suffers from amnesia and is actually Reina’s long lost sister, Salsa. The group initially fails to protect the four crystals and X-Death is freed. With his freedom, X-Death returns to his original planet to begin conquering those who sealed him away. As the story plays out, the group learns that the two worlds were once one and in their quest to defeat X-Death, they reunite them. Galuf’s granddaughter Krile joins the fray eventually as the party composition changes partway through the game.

The battles got more interesting with more job classes to choose from.
The battles got more interesting with more job classes to choose from.

This game adapts the Active Time Battle system of its predecessor so battles played out nearly identically. This meant time continued to flow as I navigated the battle menus, etc. The differentiator for this game was the job system. Although Final Fantasy III had a job system, the one implemented here is structured differently – I found it more fun.

Each character had a personal level and a job level. Gaining a personal level improved stats while gaining a job level unlocked related abilities. An unlocked ability could be equipped regardless of what job any given character was at the time. This meant a white mage could also use black and time magic or a samurai could heal in the clutch. The abilities and benefits were plentiful and I had many favorite combinations at different points in the game. This gameplay system kept the game interesting when the narrative failed to do so. In my mind, that’s how I’ll remember the game.

Mode 7!!!
Mode 7!!!

Final Fantasy V was a slow starter. It was hard for me to get excited about the game when the story and characters weren’t doing it for me. This was concerning as I felt Square genuinely moved the genre forward with Final Fantasy IV. Eventually, the gameplay became the focal point of interest for me as the job system grew more robust and my party was earning the experience to unlock abilities. Mixing and matching the traits of different jobs and overcoming tough enemies were definitely the stars of the game.

Lethal Enforcers – First Impressions

On consoles, Lethal Enforcers was released in a massive cardboard box that could contain the Konami Justifier.

Back when arcades ruled the video game roost, light gun games were widespread. The genre wasn’t as ubiquitous on home consoles, but it seems like each console from back in the day had a light gun. One game with a big presence back then was Lethal Enforcers. It was originally released as an arcade game in 1992, but was ported to the Genesis, Super Nintendo, and Sega CD from 1993-1994. Developed and published by Konami, each version came bundled with the Konami Justifier, a blue light gun modeled after the Cult Python, the iconic .357 Magnum revolver. Enabling cooperative play is the harder to find pink light gun, although it works across all three platforms.

The Genesis and Sega CD versions were very grainy.

Lethal Enforcers contains little narrative, but little is needed. Crime is being committed and as a cop, it’s your (and your partner’s) duty to uphold the law. You’ll shoot through scenes in which bad guys pop their heads up from cover looking to blow yours off. Without quick timing and precise accuracy, game over comes quickly. Once those qualities are on lock-down though, you might just be able to make your city a little cleaner. While that sounded like an ad, that’s pretty much the best way I can sum up the game.

My friend and I played the Genesis and Sega CD versions of Lethal Enforcers and I only noticed one difference between the two versions – the soundtrack of the Sega CD version was of a higher quality. Both games looked identical, although the Sega CD version should look much better than its Genesis counterpart. I imagine the Super Nintendo version is identical to the Genesis version, although without playing it myself, I can’t say with certainty.

My friend and I had a rough go at the game. It was easy to complete the first level, a bank robbery, and even do so without losing lives, but to unlock the next level, we had to have 70% accuracy. We eventually managed this, but the second level, a trip to Chinatown, upped the difficulty, while also asking us to have even better accuracy. The game has five stages and I’m sure this continues to be the case throughout the game.

This scene played like an episode of The Flintstones – my friend and I saw, like, thirty National Rubber Stamp Companies.

I really enjoy light gun games, and Lethal Enforcers seems to be one of the genre’s better examples. It’s tough, but it doesn’t force players to memorize enemy locations. With quick reflexes and good accuracy, anyone can have fun. Playing cooperatively is a treat because at that point, you’re into the experience for at least thirty bucks, but it’s definitely much more fun with a partner. Lethal Enforcers is a fun game, although for the best experience, it will be slightly costly/difficult to track down. It’s worth noting that Lethal Enforcers won’t work on HDTVs so if you’re interested, make sure you have a CRT TV or something you can play it on.

Arcade Games at the Movie Theater

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the movies and watched J. Edgar. As we were walking out I spotted a small, dark room containing about a dozen arcade games. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was two teenagers making out in a cockpit. Once I was done staring at them, we walked around and I told my girlfriend about the games. We stuck to one wall avoiding the other couple and after getting change we played a few games.

I'd love to have the double cockpit version of this game.

The first game we played was Cyber Troopers Virtual-On. It was developed by Sega AM3, published by Sega, and released around 1995. We picked two anime inspired mecha and fought each other until someone won two rounds. I liked that we had to sit down in a cockpit and pilot out mecha with two joysticks. In practice though we didn’t have time to figure out what the buttons did. By the time we were starting to grasp the controls, she had won. Next up was X-Men.

X-Men was developed and published by Konami in 1992. It’s a side-scrolling beat ‘em up and what I thought X-Men for the Sega Genesis was going to be. I played as Storm while she picked Wolverine; it was much easier to understand than Virtual-On. The graphics seem very detailed for when X-Men came out; our characters in particular were very large, good looking sprites. I think my joystick might’ve been messed up because I had a difficult time getting Storm to walk down. We didn’t last long but I enjoyed the minute or two we played it.

Storm using her special.

Lastly my girlfriend played Maximum Force, alone because one of the coin slots wasn’t working and it stole my change. Maximum Force is a light gun shooter developed by Mesa Logic and published by Atari Games in 1997. I didn’t find this game very attractive. The environments were poor 3D while the characters were 2D sprites. The enemies (monsters or aliens?) jumped into screen quickly and popped up all over the area, making it easy to get flustered. She lasted a while, but Maximum Force didn’t look very fun. You know what? I don’t think Maximum Force is the game she played because the descriptions of it on the internet differ from what I’ve just said.

There were plenty more arcade games but I only had three dollars worth of change and it went fast. I liked X-Men and could see myself wanting to stay and play through it, but overall it was kind of a poor experience. That doesn’t diminish my want to visit a proper arcade jam-packed with games or California Extreme, a large arcade convention, those would be fun with a friend or two. But until I do, my arcade action is limited to the movie theaters.

Soul Blazer – Review

What a wicked sword dude.

It’s not every day I have a half-off coupon to my favorite video game store. So when I received one I used it wisely and picked up a relatively expensive Super Nintendo RPG. I decided on Soul Blazer, a game I had no previous knowledge of. More specifically, it was an action-RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix for the SNES in 1992. I thought it had a simple plot and simple gameplay, but it was exciting to return life back to the world of the Freil Empire.

Primarily a tale of greed, Soul Blazer at first has a shallow plot, but it gets interesting. The king of the Freil Empire has captured a famous inventor and forced him to create a machine that allows the king to communicate with a seriously bad dude, Deathtoll. Deathtoll wants souls and the king wants money so they strike a deal, souls for money. Here’s where the player character comes in.

The player character, the soul blazer is sent down from the heavens by The Master to remedy the situation in the Freil Empire. As the soul blazer I was capable of defeating the numerous monsters throughout the dungeons of the empire as well as communicating with the souls I released.

The stages ran the gamut from sea floor to snowy mountains to space.

There were seven stages in all and I thought the way they were structured was interesting. Each stage was basically a village with access to a dungeon or two. The first stage was a mining town with a mine serving as the dungeon. The second stage was a settlement in the woods of woodland creatures, and so on; the stages were diverse and they contained all sorts of different creatures.

Like the villages, the dungeons were set in interesting locales; one on a model town and another in a fantastically rendered version of space were my favorites. The dungeons were very straightforward and not very difficult. I followed the path and killed monsters as they spawned from portals. Once the portals were depleted, they changed into a switch that would release a creature back in the village.

There wasn’t any puzzle solving in the dungeons, I just followed the path and killed any monster I came upon. The villages on the other hand did require a bit of thinking. After freeing creatures and restoring the stages to their original glory, I could chat with the creatures and sometimes get some info on a stronger sword, better armor, the location of magic, or a necessary item.

The bosses were challenging and required strafing, lots of strafing.

For the most part, Soul Blazer wasn’t very challenging. The monsters were really dumb, basically walking into my sword and the dungeons were quickly completed, about an hour for each. The bosses on the other hand were challenging, but not excessively difficult.  The only puzzle solving that was tricky came at the very end when I had to retread a few of the earlier dungeons defeating previously indestructible enemies. But my favorite part of the game would have to be the soundtrack. I thought it was phenomenal and hummed along with practically every track. Soul Blazer was a good game and in the end, well worth using a half-off coupon.

3/5

Streets of Rage 2 – Review

Max, Blaze, Axel, and Eddie taking out baddies on the box art.

So, before I played Streets of Rage, I thought I disliked beat ‘em ups but it turns out, I really enjoy a solid beat ‘em up, especially with a friend. With Streets of Rage completed I naturally moved onto Streets of Rage 2. Figuring out exactly who had a hand in the game’s development was a little tricky. The credits list people working at Ancient, MNM (MNM Software, later Mindware), Shout!OW (Shout! Designworks), HIC (couldn’t find any info on this), and I’m sure a few were from Sega. Anyways, I’ve always heard talk of Streets of Rage 2, that it was the best in the series and perhaps the genre, so I was anxious to try it for myself.

Streets of Rage 2 begins a year after the events of Streets of Rage. Peace has returned to the city that Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding once called home. Axel and Blaze have retired from the police force and moved out of town  while Adam is still an officer and lives on the edge of the city with his kid brother Eddie “Skate” Hunter. On the anniversary of Mr. X’s downfall the gang gets together to celebrate. The next day, Eddie returns to find his older brother gone and their house ransacked. He gets a hold of Axel and Blaze and when they arrive, they notice a picture of Adam tied up at the feet of Mr. X. Not ones to leave a friend behind, Axel and Blaze set out to rescue Adam with the aid of Eddie and Axel’s wrestling friend Max.

Axel, facing four thugs. Notice the enemy's health bar underneath Axel's.

With the cheesy plot of Streets of Rage 2 providing momentum for these four, the battles soon ensued as my friend and I ventured throughout the nameless city once again. While the stages in Streets of Rage definitely had a strong atmosphere with the nighttime setting, the flashing neon lights, the dark, pumping soundtrack, the stages themselves were straightforward and for the most part, similar in setting.

Streets of Rage 2 contains the familiar elements of stage design compared to the original, but took my friend and I through a greater diversity of stages. We ventured through the city streets at the outset, but soon fought through an amusement park, a stadium, and even a jungle. And besides the diversity in backgrounds, the stages themselves were broken into two or three sections themselves. These sections seemed as long as the stages in the original game, which meant the stages in Streets of Rage 2 were longer, while still retaining succinctness.

There were two changes to the gameplay of Streets of Rage 2 that I really enjoyed. First off, the game was much speedier compared to the original. I initially thought character movement in Streets of Rage was a little slow (especially vertical movement) but it wasn’t so slow that I couldn’t adapt or didn’t enjoy the game. This increase in speed appeals to me because it feels like there is more immediate feedback between my inputs and my character’s action, plus I enjoy the game moving at a slightly faster clip.

Axel, fighting the boss of the stadium stage.

The second change I enjoyed was the addition of an enemy health bar whenever they were attacked. Whenever my friend or I would attack an enemy, that enemy’s health bar would appear underneath the health bar of the player that attacked them. This was smart as we had more information on the situation at hand and knew how much more damage we needed to deal to a specific enemy.

The final aspect worth mentioning is the technical improvements of Streets of Rage 2 compared to the original. The character models of allies and enemies alike appeared more detailed (perhaps larger too) and the backdrops of the stages were more animated. The backgrounds had more elements moving and there was generally more going on; overall, the game looked better. I very much enjoyed the soundtrack to Streets of Rage, and the soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 is as good, if not better. It sounds darker but more importantly, it is much clearer than the original’s.

So, as it turned out, the hype I had heard about Streets of Rage 2 turned out to be accurate. The game was a better experience overall, and that’s saying something as I really enjoyed Streets of Rage. The story isn’t the main motivator for these types of games, they seem too shallow and something that’s tacked on at the beginning and ending of the game, but the gameplay remained as good as Streets of Rage and introduced a few improvements. And from a technical standpoint, the game seemed like a large improvement over the original. I recommend Streets of Rage 2, more so than the original.