Years after completing the previous entry in the series, and following its release for the Nintendo Switch and renewed hype for the upcoming PlayStation 4 remake, I’ve finally completed Final Fantasy VII. It’s hard to dispute the game’s status as the most popular Final Fantasy, and now that I’ve experienced it in full, it’s easy to see why. The game’s modern/sci-fi setting and appealing characters make for a more relatable experience than previous entries. The fundamental RPG gameplay is rock solid, and the Materia customization is addictively satisfying. Also, it didn’t hurt that this was the first entry to release with 3D visuals, or that the soundtrack was phenomenal. More than twenty years on from its debut, the game remains a standout entry in the series, and an enjoyable RPG in general. Continue reading Final Fantasy VII [Switch] – Review→
For all intents and purposes, this is a review of Namco Museum Vol. 3 for the PlayStation, bearing in mind I’ve played it twice for about an hour total. That being said, I’m confident in knowing what it has to offer based on prior experiences with most of the compiled games. After a fruitful evening of game hunting with a friend, this is the title I subjected us to. Well, that’s what he may describe the experience as but for me, someone who relishes the opportunity to play just about any game, it was an entertaining romp through the past. Considering this is a compilation that only contains six games, it proved to highlight a strong selection of Namco’s arcade lineage.
This, the third installment of the Namco Museum series on the PlayStation, was originally released stateside in early 1997. Most sources point to Now Production handling the development/porting with Namco publishing it here. As mentioned, six arcade games are included: Galaxian, Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position II, Dig Dug, Phozon, and The Tower of Druaga. Most readers are likely familiar with all but the last two, but the weight is definitely carried by the headliners. Regardless, these are all arcade-faithful ports and the package is buoyed by a virtual museum to walk through, highlighting low resolution scans of the games’ original Japanese marketing materials (plus an entertaining introduction video!).
Of the games included, I’m most familiar with Ms. Pac-Man. That was one of the go-to Super Nintendo games in my household growing up. Heck, even my mom played it with us! She’s actually the reason we had it since she was familiar with the arcade release and knew it’d be more family friendly than say the copy of Killer Instinct that came bundled with our console. The version on display in this compilation is the arcade version, so it’s limited on features compared to the Super Nintendo port I’m used to. Nonetheless, Ms. Pac-Man is a riveting game with or without any bells or whistles. In fact, when my friend and I played, this game in particular sparked a bit of a high score competition.
I was first introduced to Dig Dug through its Xbox Live Arcade release, although I’ve played much more of the Mr. Driller series. A single-screen action game like most of the other games on this compilation, Dig Dug sees players assuming the role of the eponymous Dig Dug (also known as Taizo Hori) as he digs underground in order to defeat the wandering Pookas and Fygars. This can be easily done by exploding them with an air pump, although strategically dropping rocks on them can result in chained kills and extra points. Defeating them further down also yields more points. It’s a straight-forward action game but as described, there’s ways to wring strategic elements from the game to promote score-chasing.
Galaxian is perhaps most succinctly described as a combination of Space Invaders and Galaga. It was, after all, Namco’s heavily inspired attempt at a Space Invaders game and the predecessor to the much improved Galaga. That’s not to say that this isn’t a worthy game in its own right. Namco took the Space Invaders formula and expanded upon it incrementally by designing more aggressive enemies… and adding color. Damn, Galaga is so much better… Destroying the waves of enemies still remains challenging but after the first wave, players will have seen pretty much everything they’re going to see.
Like Galaxian, there’s little to say about Pole Position II. It’s a solid racing game and it runs beautifully although nothing differentiates it from the hundreds of racing games available throughout the 1980s; it’s still a precedent setter. That leaves me with Phozon and The Tower of Druaga. This compilation represented the North American debut of Phozon as it never left Japan when it was released in 1983. I didn’t particularly care for it, although the pseudo-3D rendering of the antagonist looked good. Forgoing the game’s unique verbiage, players control an atom and collect drifting molecules aiming to recreate the shape displayed before each stage. A sole enemy is almost always present and a life is lost if it connects with the player’s atom. Essentially, recreate shapes while playing cat and mouse.
Finally, there’s The Tower of Druaga. From the title alone this one sounds epic and it was understandably inspired by Middle Eastern mythology. Controlling the hero Gilgamesh, players are tasked with rescuing Ki from said tower. This plays out across 60 floors of mazes with each floor hosting a locked exit, a key, as well as enemies and treasure. Again, this is a pretty straight-forward game whose difficulty continually increases. I wasn’t able to get too far into the tower but one tip I can share is to hold the attack button. With it held, Gilgamesh keeps his sword drawn and can walk into enemies to defeat them. A marked improvement on simply swinging the sword, trust me.
With there being so many Namco Museum titles nowadays, it’s hard to recommend this one over the more comprehensive collections for newer consoles. Still, at the right price, this is worth snatching up. I have multiple Namco compilations but $0.99 for a loose copy was too good to pass up. I will say I was surprised by the museum content, I wasn’t expecting that and don’t recall similar information in the newer compilations. And that darn introduction video really got me jazzed up too! If anything, I’ll keep my eyes peeled on the other PlayStation Namco Museum releases in the hopes of getting more of that content, if the price is right.
Lastly, here is a video that my friend and I recorded while playing this game. The best part by far is the Ms. Pac-Man competition which commences about halfway through and runs to the end of the video. It’s not very serious, but I still won, and that’s what counts.
My interest in the Arkanoid series piqued after reading a Retro Gamer article chronicling the series. I’d never played a game in the series, although like most everyone else, had played a game like it. So, when the Oklahoma Video Game Exhibition came around and I found what I believed to be a reasonably-priced complete copy of Arkanoid: Doh It Again, I snagged it. Since then, I’ve played the game a great deal, enough to beat it, even. There were interesting touches to differentiate it from other similar games, although I eventually grew bored of it. The bulk of my time was enjoyable, but the times that weren’t, were tortuous.
The game consisted of 99 rounds with each one featuring a unique arrangement of blocks. Most were easy, usually requiring no more than a handful of attempts. However, there were a few, particularly rounds 95 and 99 that took me upwards of fifty attempts; seriously, like fifty attempts. These were awful and truly tested my determination to see the end. Generally, the tougher rounds were made so due to the inclusion of gray and gold blocks. Gray ones took multiple hits to destroy while gold ones were unbreakable. When these were used in combination, and arranged in specific ways, my success was based on persistence and a lot of luck.
Breaking up the formula were boss fights. These took place every eleven rounds and featured one of three bosses. If you’ve done the math, you know that means I fought each boss three times! This was a letdown, especially when I reached round 99 and sure enough, just a repeated boss. To be fair, they grew tougher with each appearance, although nothing else changed about them. I simply had to hit them more times. And, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the final round ate up my time and patience. Eventually though, I overcame, able to walk away with the satisfaction of beating the game, and little else.
Two-player modes (competitive and cooperative) round out the game and enhance the replayability. Honestly, this is where the game shines, too. Playing solo, the game represents a near-perfect podcast game, which is to say it can be a little boring. Throwing another person into the mix livens the atmosphere and makes for a fun experience – specifically cooperatively. There is a level editor mode as well, but that’s not my cup of tea; and the game also supports the SNES mouse which seems like an odd bullet point, but it probably has its perks in level creation.
Arkanoid: Doh It Again doesn’t have a lot going for it. Persisting through the game’s 99 rounds yields some good times, but eventually, those are overshadowed by the hours spent beating a select few stages. I’m still interested in playing other games in the series, but won’t necessarily seek them out. Perhaps the biggest personal revelation, however, was the fact that this game came out on the Super Nintendo in November 1997. That’s so late in the SNES’ lifecycle! I mean, November 1997. NOVEMBER. 1997.
As with the last Game.com game I discussed, Williams Arcade Classics is a collection of multiple games. Unlike just about every other game I’ve played on the system, this one isn’t half bad.
Collecting together Joust, Defender, Robotron, Stargate (Defender II), and Sinistar it’s not a collection to scoff at – these games are arcade classics. Because these games are so old, they’re emulated fairly accurately on the system. Now they’re not perfect, but they’re close enough to still appreciate that special something that made these games so great in the first place. Still, these games are easily available on many, many other platforms, emulated much better, and usually in larger collections of games.
Revisiting these classics reminds how instantly fun and challenging they are. They’re not perfect on the system and they suffer from the system’s motion blurring effect, but these games are still worth playing, but on a different system.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is probably the worst game. With the Game.com’s piss poor screen, any game that involves motion is pretty much an eye sore to begin with. Unfortunately, this game involves a lot of motion. What burned me about The Lost World was the awful platforming in which I controlled a character who moved like stagnant water pitted against a busy background that blended with the foreground as soon as I pressed forward. Because of the terrible blurring effect of the Game.com, I couldn’t see the dinosaurs I was supposed to shoot or dodge. Playing The Lost World: Jurassic Park was an unsettling experience.
Fighters Megamix for the Game.com wasn’t a good game. The other fighting game on the system, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, fares no better in my eyes.
Both games resemble their “big brother” versions, but playing them on the system just isn’t worth it. Whereas Fighters Megamix’s combat felt slower and more precise, Mortal Kombat Trilogy’s played more fast and loose. I button mashed my way through fights and managed to pull of some combos; I couldn’t tell you if they looked cool or not because of the system’s poor screen quality though.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy had a large character roster, fatalities, and gameplay that’s more suited to jumping in and having fun, but it’s still on the Game.com and it’s not very good.
Released as a pack-in for Tiger’s Game.com, Lights Out is one of the only games worth playing on the system, not that it’s so great that it’s worth tracking a Game.com down.
The objective of Lights Out is to rid a 5×5 grid of any panels that are lit utilizing the Game.com’s touch screen. The game has two modes although they’re not really that different. The difference stems from the method grids are completed. Players can choose to solve puzzles by only turning lights off, or by flipping any of the panels.
It’s simple to understand and it’s pretty fun. Lights Out is the type of game I could imagine playing for a few minutes before bed for many nights. It’s not worth tacking down a Game.com to play, but Lights Out is the probably most fun you’ll have on the system.
Four games into this feature and I may have found another decent title for the Game.com. I initially believed that Lights Out would be the only worthwhile game on the system, especially after realizing anything with motion would be heavily disadvantaged. It’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie, it’s Jeopardy!
Based off of the television game show, Jeopardy! the game is a fun test of random knowledge. The questions present weren’t skewed towards a younger crowd and I appreciated that. They covered a range of topics and in the few rounds I played, I didn’t encounter duplicates, although I’m sure the library of questions is small.
Thanks to the Game.com’s touch screen, inputting answers wasn’t as difficult as it’d be on a rival system like the Game Boy. Still, the poor image quality of the screen coupled with its small size and lack of backlighting made it a chore to read questions and type in answers.
I had peculiar trouble getting it to play when another cartridge was inserted into the system. In this situation the game would hang on the start screen until I acted like I was going to back out to the system menu and cancel, at which point it’d operate just fine.
I got the most fun from reading the hilarious wrong answers the computer would give occasionally, but all things considered, it still represents the game show accurately and it’s not terrible.
Indy 500 is the sole racing title on Tiger’s Game.com. Like Fighters Megamix and many other Game.com games, Indy 500 is based off of a “big brother” title. Also like Fighters Megamix, Indy 500 is based off of a Sega game.
It seems that every game on the Game.com that has on-screen movement will suffer from horrible blurring. It’s not game-ending in Indy 500 though because the car I drove remained mostly stationary while the background and fellow racers passed me by. Racing around the seemingly infinite circle track grew old fast thanks to the poor handling of my car.
Turning to the left was an ordeal in Indy 500. If I went too fast in a corner, the game would halt so it could show my car spinning out of control as I collided with the wall. I learned to feather my car around corners until they weren’t a problem. Next on my agenda was passing. This I never quite got the hang of. If I so much as looked another car wrong, the game would halt so it could my car spinning out of control as I collided with another driver. The animation of my car spinning out of control probably had more animations to it than the rest of the game! The visibility was terrible too. Thinking back, I don’t remember being able to see the nose of my car! Kidding aside, visibility was an issue as I got closer to cars ahead of me. Fortunately, upcoming turns were indicated by arrows. Needless to say, I never got a pole position in this awful excuse of a racing game.
What a bummer! Tiger Electronics’ Game.com is a pretty shoddy video game system. Released in 1997, it attempted to differentiate itself from Nintendo’s Game Boy, but personally I think it feels cheap and that probably contributed to the system apparently never catching on. It seems more like an upscale toy rather than a serious video game system.
Mimicking the PDAs of the day (remember those?), the Game.com features a touch screen and a system menu with a few layman productivity software features. Included are a phone book, calendar, and a calculator, which would’ve appealed to my younger self as I could organize important information and feel like an adult, but their functionality is reduced in the modern age we’re living in fifteen years later. Also included at the system menu level is a high score application that tracks player’s high scores through all the games they’ve played and solitaire. I really like the idea of consolidating every high score into one place and solitaire is always solid. The system also had internet functionality through a separate cartridge, but I didn’t get the opportunity to try it out.
One of the most interesting features of the Game.com is the dual cartridge slot allowing two games to be inserted at once. But with a lackluster catalog of games, there isn’t much reason to use both. Twenty games were released for the system and I believe they came in two or three waves. Nearly every one of these releases were licensed titles and a gamut of genres were present, but in my experience they were hampered by the system’s infernal motion blurring. Another hindrance to my enjoyment was the system’s monochromatic screen and lack of backlighting. But, it was mostly due to the blurring whenever there’s movement in-game.
They’re available for cheap although many of the games can be hard to track down. I was “lucky” enough to have a local game store that had an abundance of games for cheap and built a large collection very quickly. I recently decided to play through them and compose mini-reviews. This feature will continue for a couple of days.