Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Classic Gaming Sporadically

Old gamers never die, they just run out of continues…

Last week, on Retroforce GO!, someone asked the crew what video games they got from their parents that they didn’t ask for. While the question was (it seemed to me) supposed to be about bad games that they got, it got me thinking. I don’t remember getting any games that I didn’t like from my parents. Not a one.

Now, that could be because I didn’t have any choice in the matter and I was just thankful to get anything. But even now, going back to think about the games I had as a kid, I still enjoy playing them all.

So I thought I would give you guys a list of my favorite games that I’d never heard of that my parents bought for us, starting with my favorite and working down:

 

  1. Clash at Demonhead – This is the one game that had me scratching at my head forever when I first opened it up. Why did the main character look like those weird Bible cartoons on the Christian network? What the hell is up with this storyline? Who the hell names their hero ‘Bang’? I loved every minute of it, but I never once saw a picture, review, or anything related to this game before it was in my lap. Thank you Mom and Dad for blessing me with this awesomeness. If only they’d put the damned thing on the Virtual Console.
  2. Blaster Master – This is one of my favorite games of all time, and certainly one of my favorite NES soundtracks of all time. I mean, your frog falls in a hole, you go after him, and you find the most badass car in the world and this awesome mutagenic ooze (the best part of growing up in the 80’s) that made monsters pop up everywhere! Plus, the switch from a side-scrolling platformer to an isometric shooter made this one of the coolest games on any system. Seriously, Nintendo. Find out who owns the copyright on this thing and get it on the VC!
  3. Bionic Commando – A classic that likely needs no explanation, but is on this list because it was a) awesome, and b) a complete surprise. At first, I didn’t like the game. I didn’t understand how the hell I was supposed to play a platformer with no jump button. But, once I got the hang of it, I was hooked. Not to mention the story was awesome. I remember the first time I beat this game, my dad took me to the middle school where he worked (it was either a weekend, inservice day, or summer break) and I played it on the TV in his room. I spent all day on this game, and when I finally blew up Hitler Master-D with a bazooka to the face and watched his head explode, I felt so proud that I think I actually did a fist pump. Plus, it was the first game I’d played that had a curse word in it.
  4. Double Dragon II: The Revenge – My brother and I spent hour upon hour playing this game. We started on the lowest difficulty, which only lets you play the first three levels. Once we got good enough, we played the next difficulty and it took us a long time to finally beat it. When we found out that even on that difficulty you still didn’t get to see the real ending, we thought we were screwed. How could we possibly beat the whole game? Then we found the trick to steal each other’s lives. First, it was just an excuse to beat the crap out of each other. Then, it was a challenge to see who could screw the other over when he was in the middle of a fight. Finally, we used it to our advantage to kill each other when our health was low to preserve our reserve lives. It was enough to finish the game, and probably the best co-op experience I ever had as a child. Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for picking an awesome game for your kids.
  5. Gradius – This was the second game I ever got for the NES. My brother got Ghosts ‘n Goblins at the same time. It was my first experience with shmup of any sort and it was the first game that ever inspired me to create my own levels to play. Even if those levels were just derivatives of those located in the game already, I felt like a badass for drawing them out on paper during church. And I can say with 100% certainty that my love of Easter Island and the Moai stems from this game’s third level.

 

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of games that my parents bought that I hadn’t heard about. For starters, I had never played a Nintendo in my life when we first got one. My parents were just that awesome. So right off, Super Mario Bros. is technically a part of that list. In fact, the only games that we had that I can remember specifically asking for are The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Also, I never specifically asked for Mega Man 3 (though my brother may have), but it’s possible that my parents picked it out because they knew how much fun we had with a borrowed copy of Mega Man 2.

My parents were so cool that they even subscribed to the Nintendo Fun Club (and ultimately, Nintendo Power) at no prodding from us. And, whenever Nintendo Power had a cool bonus for renewing your subscription, they usually did it without us having to say a word. They’re pretty much the best parents ever.

Also, my dad was the first person I ever saw reach World 2 (I think I’ll save that story for another post), and both of my parents spent some time being addicted to Tetris.

Any kid that calls himself a hardcore gamer and has never been turned into an eggplant is full of shit. — Jesse Cash

So THAT'S what Heaven looks like

Kid Icarus is easily one of the most difficult games I have ever played.

… … …

I’m going to let that sink in a bit, because many of the games I will talk about from the NES will fall into that category, but Kid Icarus goes a bit above and beyond. Let me explain.

You see, there are many incredibly difficult games for the NES. Ghosts ‘N Goblins comes to mind (or, as my brother believes it should be called, Fuck You, Kid!). The original Castlevania is also at the top of that list. Why, then, does Kid Icarus—a game that has a password system that allows you to continue your adventure at a later date—draw more ire than most NES games of its time?

The answer is hard to describe to any that have not played the game, and goes even deeper than you might realize, if you have ever played the original Metroid. In Metroid, players were challenged to continue the game in record time, unlocking different endings based on how quickly you beat the game, and whether or not you had already played through once before with the best ending.

Kid Icarus was built on the same game engine as Metroid and has a similar gameplay element. Getting the best ending in Kid Icarus is so complicated that it makes Calculus homework look simple. Essentially, every time you do anything in the game, it is translated into an invisible scoring system that you cannot track in the game. This scoring system is used to determine if Pit (your character) will gain Strength when entering certain levels of the game, or instead be told by the god inhabiting the room that you just didn’t make the cut.

This guy will repeatedly piss you off.

On top of that, every time you kill an enemy, you get XP that will give you additional Levels (and therefore, additional health bars) when you accumulate enough XP and finish a stage. Reaching the maximum Level and Strength are two of the things that will get you the best ending. The last two can be either very easy, or very difficult, depending on how you go about getting your Levels and Strength up. One of the other goals is to have 999 hearts at the end of the game. This may not sound difficult, but throughout most of the levels, there are a limited number of monsters that attack you in each area. Once they are gone, you must move on and hope to find more to kill soon. This can make it difficult to reach maximum hearts if you spend too many at the various shops in the game.

The last thing you can do is gather all of the weapon upgrades and keep them through the end of the game.

But to be honest, none of that shit really matters when it comes to what makes this game hard. One thing that truly sets a great Kid Icarus gamer apart from the others is finishing the game with Pit’s proper hair color. Gaining Strength will adjust Pit’s hair color throughout the game, but if you ever get hit by an eggplant thrown by one of the enemies in the dungeons, it’s all over. Once you turn yourself back into an angel, Pit’s hair color will forever be purple, no matter how many Strength upgrades you get. Finishing the game without purple hair requires a great deal of patience, particularly if you are also trying to get the best ending.

However, all of that is secondary to what makes this game great. It’s an action-RPG with all the critical numbers hidden from you (which forces you to work harder than ever to get the best ending). Add to the mix that the music is incredible, and the game is unforgettable. The only shame is that the game is so difficult to complete without failure (as most NES games are), making it very frustrating at times.

There’s also a sequel for the GameBoy, which is every bit as awesome and more. I highly recommend that you give them both a shot.

(Originally posted July 8, 2008)

I beg of you Lin– err… I mean, Jazeta, save the princess!

She turned me into a— oh… nevermind…

And now, on to mediocrity!

I love The Legend of Zelda. I always have. The dungeon-crawling, the treasure-hunting, the monster-slaying, the whistle-blowing, and oh-my-goodness the ever so original and incredible music of these games. I honestly feel that Zelda will influence my emotions positively until the day I die. It’s my favorite game series of all time, and I will likely devote an entire saga of posts to it one day. Until that time, however, I shall present you with something far less interesting more relevant.

Neutopia is, quite simply, The Legend of Zelda. There’s really no better way to describe it. Follow the links above and you’ll quickly see the similarities. Most of the game play elements that made Zelda so unique from the rest of the gaming world at the time of its inception are brought to the TurboGrafx with updated graphics.

The sad thing is, that seems to be the only improvement over Zelda. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun. Slay monsters, find stuff, rescue things, whatever… But it’s overly simplified when compared to the original Zelda for the NES. For example, no less than 5 minutes into the game you have already found bombs and medicine for your character. And, in 10 minutes, you’ve probably already found the fire wand, which allows you to burn down trees to find hidden stairways into all sorts of places (okay, maybe not all sorts of places, cause they all look about the same, and usually they’re just full of people telling you stuff that a 5-year old probably already figured out about the game).

But it almost works. Almost.

Anyone that is over the age of 10 and has played any of the other Zelda titles, particularly the original or A Link to the Past, is going to find the game beneath them. I’ve been using the game as little more than a pastime, once I realized how simple it is. But, at the same time, it’s easy to pick up and play for a short while, because it rarely takes more than an hour to accomplish a significant goal in the game (i.e. finding one of 8 medallions so you can rescue the princess).

So, why buy it?

Well, if you are a Zelda fan, and you want something to tide you over until the next 2-D top-down release, it’s not a bad way to keep yourself occupied. And there are some plus sides to the game for certain types of players. For example, if you don’t care overmuch for the more puzzle-y side of Zelda titles, you don’t need to worry. It becomes pretty obvious early in the game where to bomb for secret doors, and the fire wand can be used again and again to burn away bushes (and for some reason, rocks) to find hidden stairs. The most complicated puzzle I’ve encountered so far is what to do with the rest of my day after I finish the game (it appears to be fairly short, ‘though I’m only a little less than halfway through the levels, and they may get significantly longer in the second half).

Regardless, if you can’t play Zelda, play a Zelda-clone. Just don’t tell anyone that you think it’s better than Zelda. It’s likely to get you mugged.

(Originally posted October 2, 2007)

“Dammit! I should have worn my closed-toe sandals! Screw it, I’ll just club the damned thing to death…”

Alright radioactive slug, let's do this!

While not on the Virtual Console, and not actually a game I’m currently playing, Battle of Olympus has been on my mind of late.

“Why?” you might ask. You didn’t, I know. Just saying. You might.

I’ve got two words for you: Zelda II: The Adventures of Link.

Wait, one, two, three, four– forget it.

Battle of Olympus is the single most awesome side-scrolling Zelda II clone ever. EVER. Let me explain. You play this little Greek dude who sets out on a quest to rescue some girl that was kidnapped by Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Epic, right?

You start off by naming your character and the heroine, who has absolutely no part in the story except that she was kidnapped. Then, you head into battle with all the monsters that have plagued Greek mythology for years: blue worms, red snakes, flying medusa heads—the usual.

As you progress, you’ll meet a few gods, they’ll give you some gifts like new sandals, better weapons (including a sword that shoots lightning bolts in exactly the same manner as the “zaps” from Link’s sword in Zelda II, except you don’t need full health to do it).

Okay, so the gameplay isn’t really something that blows away the competition. Two years after Zelda II and there really has been zero competition up to this point. So, instead of competing, we just steal liberally. The company that created this game is called Infinity. They don’t even exist anymore (it must be assumed, as they have no page of their own in Wikipedia).

The graphics for this game are top notch for a(n) NES title, especially considering it was released in the US in 1989, six years before Nintendo would finally pull the plug on the system.

When I finally get a chance to sit down and play this game again (i.e. if it ever comes out on the Virtual Console), you will get a proper review of it. Until then, if you have this game, pull it out and play it again. If not, I highly suggest finding a method of playing it and proceeding.

(Ed. note: It would appear that your character is named Orpheus and your girlfriend is Helene. Also, apparently you think she dies, when really Hades has forced her to become his bride. In all, it really doesn’t matter, and it’s way more fun when you make up your own story to go along.

For instance, when I play, my name is Mario, and my princess is in another castle.)

(Originally posted August 16, 2007)

Purple pajamas… white shoes… ninjas for hire in New York City… Seriously. This one writes itself.

Ooohhhh! Crouchy.

There are three types of games you’re likely to see on this website. There are the games that are so incredible that I absolutely must tell you about them because I want you to have this wonderful experience that I did. There are the games that are so terrible, I have to warn you against them so that you don’t inadvertently spend money on utter crap cough-cough Moto Roader cough.

And then there are the games that I just happen to stumble across and simply must tell you about.

Wrath of the Black Manta is one of those games.

I recently came into possession of the NES on which my brother and I cut our teeth. This thing is so used that many games actually play more reliably if you leave the game in the “up” position, rather than the “down” position. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you didn’t own a NES, and you probably have no idea why you’re here. Thank you for coming. Please be quiet so as not to disturb the faithful.

One of the games that my brother had acquired since we stopped sharing everything was Black Manta. At first, I could only assume that this game would be horrendous beyond belief and that the person that last owned it was crying themselves to sleep in a mental institution trying to solve the riddle of a ninja wearing all purple in New York City.

The only way to describe this game properly is to show you. And so I shall…

I have never seen a phone actually ring like that.

The story of the game is told through a variety of cut-scenes composed of still images above text.

The first cut-scene starts off with your character receiving a phone call from your master. My first thought was of course, “Ninjas have phones?”

My second thought didn’t occur until the second or third time I played through the opening sequence.

And why am I looking through my pajama leg?

Clearly, ninjas do not need to sleep. But must Black Manta wear his ninja clothing in the middle of the night when ninja-ing is not actually occurring?

Of course he does, he’s a freakin’ ninja.

So the phone rings and then apparently your master teleports through the phone to land in your living room, because lo and behold, he’s right there in the next image.

Y’know, my name is actually Jim, right?

This is the part where I started to get bored, so I skipped past the rest. From what I was able to glean off the words flitting by, lots of children in New York are being kidnapped and the police and FBI are useless, as always.

So, being a ninja, you decide to put a stop to it. Why? Who the fuck knows? Your master just poofs into existence and suddenly you’re off killing guys in green jumpsuits firing guns at you.

Badly.

So once the gameplay begins, it quickly becomes apparent that you are more than a ninja, you are a superhero. You can jump the height of four oil drums without breaking a sweat, which is impressive in its own right. Further, you can summon forth fire balls to crawl across the ground and seek out your enemies, surround you for half a second to kill anyone that gets too close, launch across the screen to blow up those who oppose you, and generate an illusory ninja that stands on your head and throws real ninja stars.

Not even joking about the fact that your mirror image stands on your head. That has to be the most effective illusion ever.

The only drawback is that the game tries to show you that you have all of these abilities, but doesn’t bother to point out that you must hold down the attack button to trigger them. Thus, I spent the majority of the first game I played only throwing ninja stars and getting my ass kicked.

So you fight through the level, continually grabbing this tougher baddie in red to interrogate him, but apparently believing him every time he says he doesn’t know anything, choosing to let him go so that he can just run ahead 30 feet in the level to do it all over again. I mean, they don’t even bother recoloring him so that you can pretend its a different guy.

Honey! I blew up the midget!

When you do finally reach the end of the level, you find a note telling you that Tiny is waiting in the next building. Very convenient. When you enter the giant whole in the wall of the otherwise structurally sound abandoned warehouse in the middle of NYC, you find the largest dwarf ever birthed from the depths of Hell.

Being the largest dwarf in history has its advantages, but one-on-one combat is not one of them. Tiny, so infuriated by the fact that his disproportionate body makes him incredibly in-agile and therefore incapable of taking on a ninja, he throws a temper tantrum, leaping into the air and shaking the ground with such force upon landing that a single brick always falls directly on the head of our hero.

This is where not knowing how to use your ninja powers bites you in the ass.

Finally, once you’ve thrown enough ninja stars into Tiny’s chin that the giganto-dwarf goes down for the count, you are rewarded with another cut-scene. I didn’t bother reading this one, either. The man in red makes an appearance while he’s talking to his boss and Manta decides it is time to head to Tokyo.

You think this looks silly, I can throw ninja stars without letting go of the sheet.

For some odd reason, when he gets there, rather than walking across the ground to get to his location, he decides to stand on what looks remarkably like a building from the previous level in the middle of nowhere. Ninjas wearing blankets on their backs are soaring through the air at you and provide you with the perfect opportunity to steal one and practice your ninja blanket-surfing skills.

This is pretty much the point where I gave up for the night, as suddenly I was accosted by a hundred green ninjas with blankets of their own that are capable of performing dogfighting maneuvers while throwing fireballs at you. After the sixth time I had died, I realized I had all I need to review this game.

So, what’s the verdict? is Wrath of the Black Manta a game worth owning? If it ever hits the Virtual Console, I highly recommend picking it up. You can’t beat the $5 price tag that it would wear and it’s certainly a lot of fun. The first level is a little challenging until you pick up the control scheme and realize the most effective way to kill the enemies is to wait until they run right up to you and you can stab ‘em up close and personal.

If you can find it on the NES, I recommend it, as well. While not as lasting as other ninja games, like Ninja Gaiden, the ability to use so many powers, and methods to increase your life from three hits to eight through the course of a level makes the game much easier, if a bit hokey.

I know I will be trying to finish the game in the coming weeks, and can definitely recommend it to a friend without feeling like I’m secretly punishing them.

(Originally posted August 19, 2007)

Help Zeph get back to his point and get a free copy of CGS posted online, just for you!

Click click click click CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK!!!

So I’m out browsing around the Interweb, and I come across a strange advertisement (seen above). Now, I’m what you would call a video game enthusiast. I’ve played a few rounds of Halo in my life. Not once have I ever seen it available on any Sony device, let alone the Playstation 3.

Does anyone aside from me think that this ad was put together by someone knowing absolute dick about video games? I think they missed the perfect opportunity to put an ad next to it of Mario stomping on Goombas that says “Help Mario jump on all these little brown things and win a free trip to Guatemala”?

“Help the Playstation buttons find their way through the Forest of Lost Atari Games and pick up some GTA hookers while simultaneously driving a go kart through the Mushroom Kingdom and Dance Dance Revolution-ing your way to the top of the Mortal Kombat tournament to face off against Solid Snake in a one-on-one game of Wii Boxing and win a free* assload of spam direct to your inbox and no hope of ever actually winning one of our illustrious prizes.”

*see terms & rules (content not actually free, except for when it is incredibly annoying and distracting, like penis enlargement ads, which are not to be mistaken for free penis enlargement treatment)

Wow. That one got away from me, a bit.

Okay, so I was going to post about some games, but got lost in there somewhere, and the therapy is going to take the rest of the day. So, instead, I’m gonna hit you with a list of great games I’m going to be talking about soon: Kid Icarus, Paper Mario, Clash at Demonhead.

It is safe to pick up and play any of these games without fear of irreparable mental anguish. Again, I remind you that my purpose here is to dissuade you from playing shit (i.e. Moto Roader).

So… go enjoy your day. I’m gonna get back to my “research”.

(Originally posted August 17, 2007)

Total Recall, easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played, is redeemable for only one reason… Virtual glory-holes.

Thanks to Retroforce Go! for helping me discover this.

 

Are you punching me in the face, or offering me some sexy, sexy man-meat?

 

Welcome to the first (reposted) issue of Classic Gaming Sporadically.

This is just a space where I will throw up reviews and thoughts on whatever game I happen to be playing at the moment. I also plan to review new games released onto the Virtual Console in an attempt to protect those of you out there from buying shit.

Like Moto Roader.

I will be experimenting with the format and the theme as I try to find something that works for me, and hopefully for you, as well.

Check back often!

(Originally posted August 15, 2007)