Got a chance for a Guy’s Gaming Day this weekend, because my wife is awesome and loves me. Starting shortly after noon, my cousin Andrew, friend Jeff, and I all sat down to play Shadows Over Camelot.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this game before, I highly recommend it. There have been a number of great board games that pit players not against each other, but against the game itself: Warhammer Quest, Lord of the Rings, and The Omega Virus. However, what makes Shadows Over Camelot unique is the potential that one of the players may be a traitor, secretly trying to undermine the various quests that the knights set out to achieve. Worse, once accused, the traitor loses some abilities and gains others, making the timing of his accusation a delicate proposition. Worse, since there may be no traitor at all, mere mistrust of one another can make some quests more difficult to defeat.
The game was exciting. Andrew turned out to be a traitor and Jeff and I barely won the game from him. It was an incredible first-time play. Jeff told me that the gameplay ideas in Shadows Over Camelot had been taken to the next level in the Battlestar Galactica board game. I’m looking forward to picking it up soon.
The second game that we played was Pandemic, a game about a global outbreak of four different diseases and the research team fighting to stop them. The game is brilliant in its design, due to the fact that the Epidemic card can cause all cities that have already been infected get placed back on the top of the deck to become infected again. This can lead to outbreaks that spread diseases quickly. Worse, the 9th outbreak ends the game, as does the depletion of the deck. This keeps the game a desperate race to keep the diseases under control long enough to find the cures. It gets hectic as the number of outbreaks climb and the cards in the deck dwindle.
My brother-in-law, David, joined us for this game. We played two rounds. The first one was a Beginner-level game (which places four Epidemic cards in the deck) and we were slaughtered. Absolutely devestated. All four Epidemic cards came up in the first half of the deck. Gonoherpesyphillaids wiped out all of Asia and North America in minutes. It was an excellent learning experience and made the second round much easier.
In the second round, we got extremely lucky. We raised the difficulty by adding a fifth Epidemic card, but they were so well spaced that we were able to prevent outbreaks. With only two cards left in the deck, Jeff cured the final disease and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Later that evening, we played several rounds of Munchkin: Impossible (one of the 7 billion variations of the card game Munchkin, this one with a spy theme) sans Jeff. We were up until 3 am playing and had a blast.
Jeff and Andrew have been known to play lots of board games, so I knew they’d have a good time. But David is generally uneasy to try the various games we like to play. The fact that he enjoyed them as much as he did made me feel optimistic that he might play with us again in the future.
If you have any interest in checking out these games for yourself, I’ve linked to them on Amazon above (where available), but you can find much more info at BoardGameGeek, as well.
Inspired by a recent list on episode 73 of Retroforce GO!, I decided to make a quick list of games that I’m waiting for on Virtual Console. Some are games that most everyone has heard of, but some are relatively unknown to a great many people, and that is a shame. So, without further ado, I present you with my Virtual Console wish list.
∞ ∞ ∞
Bionic Commando – This one is a no-brainer. You play as a soldier trying to take down Master-D and the Badds (Hitler and the Nazis in the Japanese release). Your character cannot jump, but instead has a bionic arm that lets him swing, climb, even smack around bad guys. Plus, the levels don’t have a specific order to be completed in. While some levels contain items that must be found before progressing, the order isn’t set in stone.
After its recent re-imagining into Bionic Commando: Rearmed, the Wii is the only system that can’t play Bionic Commando. While it’d be nice for Nintendo to get their “storage solution” into our hands in time for Capcom to feel that releasing Rearmed as a WiiWare title is a worthy proposal. However, in the meantime, the least that Capcom could do is release the original title on the Virtual Console. Easily one of the most amazing video games ever released for the original NES.
Blaster Master – No NES game had a more detailed world than this side-scrolling-birds-eye action-platformer. Similar in style to the Metroid series as areas of the game must be backtracked to access hidden items, new areas, and additional levels. What makes this game so much fun is you drive around a tank that can receive a variety of upgrades as the game progresses. But, in order to defeat the bosses that litter the world, you must exit your tank and use your very vulnerable driver to venture deeper into the underbelly of the world to face them. Plus, the story is about rescuing your frog from the clutches of the mutants that live under your hometown. How awesome is that?
Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers – Capcom made a number of great games using Disney’s licenses and this is one of the most popular. Two-player cooperative, smooth gameplay mechanics, and incredible level design (making the world around the characters huge was done here first and never better on the NES). Unfortunately, it seems that Disney doesn’t know how to capitalize on the greatness that is the Virtual Console, as none of their titles have hit the service, yet.
Clash at Demonhead – This is my personal favorite from this list. I assume that I got this game as a gift from my parents for some holiday or another. It’s possible that they even just picked it up at random one day because they love me. Anyway, the important thing is that the game is incredible. You play as Bang, a special operative on a mission to stop some terrorists from detonating a doomsday device that will destroy the world. Like Bionic Commando, the game has a fair amount of non-linearity to it. You start at the bottom of the mountain and have to make choices about which paths to take to reach the top. Not every path is required to complete the game, but many contain important items or objectives. This is likely to show up in a future edition of Classic Gaming Sporadically, so I’ll give more info to you then.
Double Dragon II – While the Interwebs is filled with people fawning all over the original Double Dragon, I was always disappointed in the lack of two-player coop in the NES release. Double Dragon II, on the other hand, did not make such an oversight and was one of the most entertaining gameplay experiences of my childhood. My brother and I spent countless hours working together to reach the final boss and get our collective asses kicked again and again. But it was always fun, even when it felt like work.
Duck Tales – Yet another Capcom game, and another Disney title at that. In this one, Scrooge McDuck’s fortune has been stolen and with the help of his nephews and friends, he’s on a quest to get it back. With some of the most unique gameplay elements of any licensed game, as well as incredible music and level design, this game should be at the top of many gamers’ wish lists. Perhaps one day, Capcom and Disney can get together with Nintendo and make those wishes come true.
The Goonies II – The Goonies was incredible and Konami was quick to cash in with a game loosely based on the movie. The game was pretty great, but the sequel was one of the most amazing platformers of all time. You play as Mikey on a quest to rescue the rest of his friends. They’ve been captured by the Fratelli family, freshly escaped from prison. Armed with a yo-yo and your wits, you set out to find them. The game world is one of the most complex I’ve ever seen, with doors everywhere: some which take you into to rooms full of items, secrets, and hidden pathways; others that lead directly to alternate areas of the game. It’s easy to get lost, but that’s part of the appeal. The world feels huge for an NES game, and indeed for many games made today. With a music soundtrack inspired by The Goonies theme from the movie and spot-on gameplay mechanics, I can’t wait to see this hit the Virtual Console.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Purple pajamas… white shoes… ninjas for hire in New York City… Seriously. This one writes itself.
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-coughMoto Roadercough.
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.
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.
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.