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#200 - The Peace Keepers

Closing out the Rushing Beat trilogy (which began with Rival Turf and Brawl Brothers) is The Peace Keepers. My pick for the best of the bunch.

IÖ wait a minute. I havenít covered Brawl Brothers yet, have I? Shit, I havenítÖ

Why did I think I liked The Peace Keepers more than Brawl Brothers? Am I getting the games mixed up? Do I like this one more? Argh, it's been a number of years since I played either one so I donít know what to believe. This is what happens when things drag on and playthroughs get further and further in the rearview mirror.

Dammit, Iíll be right back.

*plays through both titles again*

Okay, I lied. Brawl Brothers is better than The Peacekeepers. But theyíre both good! Er, in their own ways.

The best way to describe any of the games in this series is ďkinda like Final FightĒ, or ďkinda like Streets of Rage,Ē or ďkinda like any of those other games you probably played once upon a time." You know the deal: punch dudes, kick dudes, throw dudes, occasionally beat up some token women dudes, pick up occasional turkey legs or medkits that are hiding inside of dirty crates or barrels, and occasionally take on some big gaudily-attired bosses. You know the formula.

The Peacekeepers has one wrinkle in the form of a batshit insane story that makes no sense. Something aboutÖ I donít even know. Thereís a guy who talks in ye olde English, and Super Saiyan transformations. And ninjas. The mind boggles.

Also, some of the characters from previous titles return, so presumably there is some sort of overarching storyline that is continued here. Again though, good luck figuring out what it is.

Is that sort of bizarre, lost-in-translation cheese a good thing? I dunno. I like weird stuff, so I generally say, ďyes.Ē But I also like coherent storylines, soÖ I guess the juryís still out on this one. Mileage will vary, as it were (Iím gonna say that a lot with the coming games).

Gameplay is, as I said, pretty by-the-book. Levels are short and simple, the enemy types are pretty limited in number, and the bosses donít really throw too many curveballs. Itís pretty low-effort and unoriginal in that regard. An entire playthrough will last just under an hour, and moderately skilled players who have any familiarity with the genre should be able to clear it in one attempt.

Which isnít to say that there arenít a few extra things in play, as immaterial as they might be. For one, you have an ďextraĒ special attack, that is limited to several uses per continue (life). For most of the characters, itís an AOE attack. For others, itís a temporary power-up. I dig it. Itís nothing too exciting though.

Thereís also another power you have access to where your character temporarily becomes stronger and invulnerable whenever they are close to death. Again, nothing too exciting, but I dig it. Mostly because it bails my ass out whenever Iím too lackadaisical with grabbing a healing item. Sorta like one last reminder to pay attention and get your shit together.

Beyond that, thereís not much to say. Itís a brawler, and it plays like one. Which begs the question, what makes this a better game than WildCATS or Rival Turf or Maximum Carnage? Hell, people love Maximum Carnage, so why in the hell should Peace Keepers deserve a rank nearly a hundred spots higher?

And the answer to that is: 4-player battling. Yep, this is one of the few games on the system that takes advantage of the Super Nintendo Multitap.

And let me tell you, itís pre-tty dumb. Street Fighter II and Saturday Night Slammasters hardly need to feel threatened.

But, dammit if I didnít decide to boot this up one night with my friends, where we found a surprise hit on our hands. Yes, we had all been drinking, and yes, we are all easily amused. But we played it. A lot. And everyone had fun with it. Especially me. Something about two dudes spamming punches, waiting for the other player to move into their vertical plane, is the perfect recipe for hilarity. I dare say it was the highlight of the night.

So there you have it. A decent brawler, that plays things safe, but adds a ridiculous multiplayer battle mode that helps it rise above many of its peers. Come for the generic Streets of Rage-wannabe gameplay and baffling story. Stay for the party mode.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, several times.

#199 - Soldiers of Fortune

As you will soon see, I have a lot of overhead shooters/action games coming up. At least half a dozen of them. And as soon as I noticed that, I started wondering two different thingsÖ

One, had I subconsciously grouped all of these games together?

Two, is there some sort of flaw or bias in my brainís thinking that has me overvaluing certain genres, which then leaves me with a bunch of similar games crowding up my remaining selections? Especially as I get closer to the end of this project.

Well, I donít think either thing is happening, but maybe Iím just blind to my own faults in reasoning. Maybe all of these upcoming brawlers and shooters arenít as good as I think they are. Maybe Iím a sucker for simple pleasures. Maybe those are just the easiest games to pull together. I dunno.

In any case, Soldiers of Fortune (aka The Chaos Engine) is a perfect case study. Is it an above-average shooter that holds its own? Or is it a deeply flawed mixture of half-baked ideas? Is it both things? Does anyone even care? Read on.

The storyline involves a motley crew of hard-boiled mercenaries who must travel across time to stop the titular ďChaos Engine.Ē What is a ďChaos Engine?Ē I have no idea. Presumably some sort of McGuffin doomsday device. Youíll have to excuse my ignorance, Iím a cart-only collector who doesnít own the manuals for any of these games, so Iím usually left guessing.

Gameplay is kind of reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Which is a good thing, because Iím a champion of that game. You traverse large overhead jungles, shoot lots of beasts that leap out of the woodwork, and try to find your way to the exit. But this game is a lot more linear, and it's split up into levels instead of one large open overworld.

Now, I really need to point out that Soldiers of Fortune offers cooperative play, because even though I have reviewed most of the games up until this point from a mostly single-player driven perspective, I occasionally recognize when it does a game a major disservice. When that happens, I solicit the help of one of my friends (or my poor wife) to run it through the 2-player ringer with me. And with SoF it was immediately obvious that this is a game intended to be played with a friend.

When you play by yourself, youíre gonna have a bad time. Not only is your AI teammate about the stupidest mofo on the planet, but it is incredibly easy to experience mounting frustration as mobs spawn in every direction and quickly bumrush you, leeching away precious health. Worse, you really have to be on your toes when taking out enemies, which means picking up the money that they drop-- integral for the use of purchasing upgrades-- becomes secondary. And that money despawns quickly. Too quickly. So you get caught in this pattern of trying to rush all of the coins on the ground, and merely trying to survive. Itís not a fun dilemma.

Playing with another person, on the other hand, remedies both of those things immensely. Itís much easier to get all of the cash, and itís much easier to avoid the cheap hits. In fact, itís the only way to play the game in my opinion. At least, the only way to have much fun.

Thereís a bunch of other things I can mention-- the light RPG elements that come into play between levels where you can upgrade stats or earn new abilities, the severe lack of bosses or level variety, the subpar graphics-- but none of it matters. The only thing you need to know is that if you are looking for an overhead cooperative game, and youíre sick of Secret of Mana and The Legend of the Mystical Ninja and all of the other usual suspects, this is the game for you. Donít bother with it solo, and donít expect it to keep you occupied for more than a few hours. But theyíre a very fun few hours.

Did I beat it?
Not quite. Maybe someday I'll convince my wife to finish it with me.

#198 - Cool Spot

...or as I will always call it, ďthat weird 7-Up game that my friend rented one night and everyone got to play it EXCEPT me because I had lost a bet on a NFL game earlier that day.Ē Iím still resentful. Everyone knew the Lions were due for a win.

And why exactly does this game exist? What the hell does 7-Up have to do with video games? I mean, it was obviously a thing for a while because I know Spot had other video game appearances on the NES and the PS1, so Cool Spot wasnít just some weird flukish one-off. But why? Why is this a thing?

Not that I should be surprised. We had a Noid game. Later we had a Pepsi game. God knows how many McDonalds games have come out in the last forty years. And pawn shops are still drowning in copies of those three $1.99 Burger King games. Food mascots and video games have always been linked. For some really dumb reason.

Is it all a cynical attempt to fool children with something they recognize and adore? If thatís the case, where is the Captain Crunch game? Where is the Snap, Crackle, and Pop game? What about a Little Caesars game? Perhaps none of those things managed to get past the drawing board. Or maybe they are a thing and I just don't know it yet.

Anyway, none of that matters. The only thing we care about is how Cool Spot plays. And the answer is, pretty dang good. Obviously, Iím writing about it in the sub-200s after all. But it checks all of the platformer boxes: Spot controls well, he animates well, his levels are challenging yet still fun, and rarely frustrating. And the game has that ďitĒ factor. That thing that makes it enjoyable to play, as opposed to a slog. The sorta thing that the Japanese just always seemed to nail with these platformers, whereas the vast majority of Westerners failed miserably.

Granted, I liked the game when I was younger more than I do know. For whatever reason. Perhaps my patience for the lower resolution (and thus the shorter viewing distance) has slowly started disintegrating. This is yet another game that is no doubt better on the Genesis for that very reason. Or perhaps the lack of level setpieces doesnít help set it apart from the other elite platformers on the system. Weíre talking no good boss fights, no great one-off levels. Nothing. Seems like a missed opportunity.

In any case, itís a good platformer, and a good game. But itís not great. A sequel that could have brought more ideas to the table, and bumped up the resolution (or made the sprites smaller) could have been great.

Did I beat it?
Once, long ago.

#197 - Top Gear 2

Oh man, is this a game I was torn on. Like, there are very few games in this entire library where I have been as unsure of the ranking as I have been with this one. Even right now, Iím second-guessing my position.

But let me take a step back here, and go back to the beginning of my history with the Top Gear series.

I beat the original Top Gear as a child. Iím super proud of that fact. Not because itís some radically difficult game or anything, but because Iím rather terrible at racing games, and it is by no means easy. But when my friends rented it, I got hooked on it. And the next time I went to the video store, I picked it up myself.

And I played it all night. Weíre talking, wait until the parents go to bed, and then sneak out into the living room and huddle in the darkness for hours. All-nighter. But it was worth it, because I got to see the credits roll. And I had not seen the ending of many games by that point in my life. Hell, Iím pretty sure it would be several years still until I was able to overcome the first game I ever owned (Battletoads Double Dragon). Actually beating a game was a rarity.

But I did it. And the very next weekend I grabbed the logical follow-up rental: Top Gear 2. The graphics were sleeker. Gone was that damned splitscreen perspective that was forced upon you. This was gonna be racing nirvana.

And then I played it. And I got owned, hard. So I played it some more. And got owned, again and again. Every single time. I never saw the second race the entire time I had it. In the end, it went down as one of the most disappointing rentals of my entire life, a dubious honor it likely still holds.

Flash forward a couple decades, and I picked up a copy of the game one day at the local reseller, instantly remembering how it had shamed me as a child. I vowed revenge.

That night, it owned me again. So I shelved it and swore Iíd get double the revenge!... at a later date.

Well, eventually this project forced my hand, and I sat down for round three. This time I would persevere.

Skip to today, and the spoiler is that I indeed did not beat it. It got the best of me yet again. But during that final hurrah I was able to get close. After hours and hours of learning the tracks, abusing the passwords, and hoping for sheer luck, I was able to progress through most of the game.

And it is a fun game. Great in some way. The controls are sublime, the action is fast and tight (thatís what she said?), the soundtrack isÖ er, not as good as what the original boasts, but still not too shabby. Overall a very good experience. But itís just a bit too unforgiving. Maybe a lot too unforgiving. Maybe itís really hard.

And itís a shame too. Because there are a lot of improvements here over the first game. The aforementioned removal of the splitscreen view that you had to live with, even in single player. Itís totally gone. Thereís also an improved viewing perspective. To understand what I mean, just look at the screenshot above, and then google the first game (or search for it on this site after I eventually add that functionality). The hit detection on other cars is also significantly better, improving upon one of my main gripes about the original game.

All of those things (should) add up to a better experience.

But itís not. Because itís just too hard for its own good.

Did I beat it?

#196 - The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang

A comedic light-hearted Zelda-esque romp about vampires.

Sounds like a real lark, right? I mean Zelda games are awesome, comedy is great, vampires areÖ uh, alright, I guess. What happens when you mix all of those things together? A dream come true, obviously.

Alas, The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang does not dare aspire to such lofty heights, settling instead on being a ďmerelyĒ good game. Perhaps someday weíll get the vampire Zelda game we deserve.

So what is this game all about? Pretty typical action adventure/RPG sorta stuff. Kill all of the bad guys, navigate through a bunch of dungeons, find a bunch of keys, kill a bunch of bosses at the end. The usual things you see in overhead action adventure RPG games. And if youíre telling me right now that ďthatís not a real genre,Ē well, you know what I mean.

But it does do all of those things rather well, and avoids all of the pitfalls that sink other wannabe-Zeldas such as The Lord of the Rings or King Arthur and the Knights of Justice. As in, there are no labyrinthine worlds to get forever lost in, no horrid backtracking to drive you crazy, and no game-breaking bugs to make you want to smash your system. The SNES has some very low bars to clear in that regard.

Instead, you have controls that are tight and solid, always getting the job done. You have graphics and animation that are vibrant and detailed (and charming). And you have a difficulty curve thatís right on the money. Maybe a tad too easy, but never frustrating, much less infuriating.

Of course, Spike McFang cannot hope to compete with a real Zelda game. Not even close. In fact, theyíre not even in the same ballpark, and Iíd say itís an insult to even try and compare this game with A Link to the Past. So while it does things well, and is a fun game, it should never be spoken of as some sort of killer app, or hidden gem thatís gonna rival the systemís best.

But thatís not very fair to Spike McFang, because most games (on the SNES or otherwise) canít weather that matchup either.

Did I beat it?
Yep, a few years ago. I'm probably due for another playthrough.

#195 - Yoshi's Safari

This has to be one of the most under-the-radar Mario games thatís ever existed, right? At least, as far as ďrealĒ Mario games go. By that I mean, Iím not counting the edutaintment stuff or Hotel Mario or anything like that.

Now, when we talk about games where you fight Bowser, squash goombas, and defeat the Koopa Kids (Koopalings?), this has to be the game that has the least amount of exposure to wider audiences. And thereís a simple reason for that: itís a Super Scope game. You remember that abomination, right? It was the hulking plastic bazooka that weighed like a million pounds, and used like a thousand giant batteries. Probably thought up by the same guy who invented the similarly dumb Power Glove. God knows why Nintendo tried to ride that pony with so many of their games because I canít imagine it was a massive success.

Also, I have to be forthright and admit that I played through Yoshiís Safari via emulation on my PC, with an optical mouse. So my experience is gonna be dramatically different than anyone who is hoisting the real deal upon their poor shoulders. And thereís nothing I can do about that either because I donít own a Super Scope, I havenít so much as seen one in ages, I havenít played one in an even longer age, and I donít see any of those things changing anytime soon. Which Iím fine with, because 99% of the people who play this game are going to be doing it the same way I did. Itís not a perfect solution, but for our purposes itís good enough.

The idea of the game is this: you (as Mario) are riding Yoshi (as one does), while also wielding a large shoulder-mounted cannon. Very thematic, right? Mario blowing shit up.

Anyway, you can almost think of it as a rail shooter. Well, a very limited one at least. Think Panzer Dragoon. But not really; thatís just the closest thing I can think of. Because Yoshi has the ability to jump, but otherwise moves on his own. You (as Mario) merely need to fire at everything that moves, and time those jumps. The only other ability he has is using the occasional item during boss fights.

Beyond that, itís basic light gun stuff. Shoot the things trying to hurt you, and do it quickly. The game is reasonably short, but thatís to be expected with the genre. And the boss fights are pretty cool, but not really as intricate as youíd see in a title like Battleclash or Metal Combat.

I can also only assume that this game isnít held in super high regard because I never hear anyone talking about it. Not that you ever hear anyone talk about any of the Super Scope games, but itís unusual for a game from a name brand like this to be so neglected. And thatís too bad, because it is a nice little game that I feel is underappreciated. It obviously canít hold a candle to all of the other Mario games on the Super Nintendo, but it can more than hold its own in the ďscopeĒ [booooo - editor] of the entire library.

So, if you are one of the four people out there who owns a functioning (and complete) Super ScopeÖ you owe it to yourself to check this out. If youíre everyone else, find another way to play it, blow through it, and hopefully have a good time.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, but I beat it with emulation and a mouse. So that doesn't really count.

#194 - Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run

Ken Griffey Jr.ís Winning Run, the follow-up to Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, has all the makings of a system classic.

Super nice-looking rendered graphics that bring to mind titles like Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario RPG? Itís got Ďem.

A bazillion ways to play, including a challenge mode and home run derby? Present and accounted for.

Tight batting, pitching, and fielding controls? Oh yeah. Maybe too tight.

Development handled by powerhouse Rare Studios? Youíd better believe it.

And yet, for all those accolades, why is it that I have Winning Run ranked as merely the third best baseball game on the system? Why did it barely crack the top 200? Why do I have it below a bunch of hockey and soccer games? (Two sports I generally despise and/or completely do not understand.)

I donít know the answer to that. Or at least, I donít know how to properly write it in a way that will do it full justice. You see, this is an example of a game that is somehow less than the sum of its parts. The graphics are great, the production value is outstanding, the features are all there, and the controls are rock solidÖ but it just feels like something is missing. Something's holding it back.

Part of the problem may be that this game is absolutely brutal. Brutally unforgiving. Getting the hang of batting is a process, to put it mildly. That's not to say itís completely impossible, as it was in some of the other baseball games on the system (Cal Ripken Jrís Baseball), but itís gonna take the average gamer a long time to get into a groove. Iím at least twenty games in, and I still struggle to score more than a few runs.

The pitching also has very little margin for error. I donít know if the game cheats, or if the opposing players ďlearnĒ over the course of the game, but when I get into the later innings I have a tendency to get shellacked. Weíre talking ugly, ugly innings. Innings that never seem to end. If there is an exploit to pitch easy outs, I have yet to find it.

And, for whatever reason, the game doesnít have the player licenses. I mean, aside from Jr. himself. Was Nintendo really too cheap to spring for it? Did EA (or whoever) have it locked up? Either way, it seems like a missed opportunity.

It is a fun game though. I mean, thereís a reason Iíve put so much time into it. And itís a game I wanted to like more than its forebear. But at the end of the day, I have to admit, it is the lesser of the two titles. It has all the makings of a classic, but just canít quite reach its potential.

Did I beat it?

#193 - The Ignition Factor

...or as itís (probably) known: that firefighting game thatís not The Firemen.

Just kidding. No one has heard of this game. Which is too bad, because itís pretty good. The second best firefighting sim Iíve ever played, in fact! Not that Iíve played more than two. Which means I have never played Burning Rangers or that PS2 game from Konami, whatever it was called. But still, thatís pretty good!

...also, I guess I never played that Rosco McQueen game for the PS1 eitherÖ and what the hell was Fahrenheit for Sega CD/32X? Thatís a firefighter on the cover, right? Was that a firefighting FMV game? Because if it was, I NEED to get it. I have a huge weakness for collecting FMV games, and I donít know why. I just do.

Note: Ren & Stimpy: Fire Dogs is a game about firefighters, but you donít really do any actual firefighting. Instead youíre justÖ actually I donít want to talk about it. Or think too much about it. Moving on.

The Ignition Factor is an overhead, uh, action strategy puzzle...thing. I guess it is kinda like The Firemen. Typical missions have you moving through large labyrinthine buildings, breaking down doors, saving lots of stupid idiots, putting out endless fires, andÖ well, doing firefighter sorta things.

It also has a pretty goofy sense of humor, which I dig. Funny games are great. Especially if theyíre silly. And there arenít very many of them on the Super Nintendo, so when I come across the rare game that makes me laugh, itís gonna get bonus points.

The gameplay progression is fairly straightforward. Outfit yourself with gear, enter the building, and then use that gear to gain access to new areas, rescue people who have left themselves in all sorts of fire-related predicaments, and avoid dying yourself, all while trying to beat the clock. Hence me calling it a strategy/puzzle kinda mixture. Which is fine; I like those things.

But itís not a great game. Just good. There are no killer setpieces. No real enemies or giant fire bosses or anything else completely ridiculous. No secrets or hidden objectives or real rewards for doing well. So while I have fun playing it, itís not something I play through regularly, or spend my time recommending wholesale to others.

And itís not in the scope of this project, but Iíll say it anyway: itís no The Firemen.

Did I beat it?

#192 - Aladdin

Aladdin from Capcom, also known as the Aladdin game that isnít the Aladdin game for Sega Genesis. That one was from Dave Perry. I donít know who made this one. Some guy who isnít Dave Perry.

But thatís fine, because like all Capcom Disney games, itís pretty good. The controls are smooth, the challenge is fair, the graphics are not too shabby. Just a solid, ďgoodĒ all around game. And yeah, I hear that the Genesis one looks amaze-balls, but itís been a long while since I played it, so I canít comment. Though judging by how good Maui Mallard looks - which was also from Virgin - Iíll agree that that would make sense.

But it doesnít matter. Iím not comparing different consoles, Iím just comparing different SNES games. So that will be the last I mention that other game.

And how good is Aladdin in the scope of the SNES platforming library? Again, pretty dang good. Definitely above average. Not elite, or pushing Super Mario World status or anything. But still, it gets the job done in workmanlike fashion.

In fact, Iím honestly surprised at just how mild-mannered this game is. No high concept cooperative play like we saw with Goof Troop. No outside-the-box mechanics like we got in the Magical Quest series. Just regular olí Aladdin, hopping and bopping through a few short levels.

And thatís okay, sometimes thatís all we want in a game. Hell, when I get my kids into games in the next few years, this is probably gonna be one of the titles I grab first. This and Bonkers. Because theyíre the perfect introduction to the genre in so many ways, which is one of the great things many of the Capcom Disney games do: give you a platformer that kids can love and adults can like.

Did I beat it?
Yeah. Probably one of the easiest platformer completions on the system.

#191 - Micro Machines

Remember Micro Machines? They were like Hot WheelsÖ but... micro. I think. I feel like I read that at least, because I never actually owned any (or knew anyone else who did). Plus I was never really a ďcarĒ guy. Even as a kid. GI Joes and Nintendo were more my speed.

In any case, that line of little cars was the basis for this game (and a sequel or fifty), which as far as I can tell was ported to every system known to man back in the day. Iím guessing it originated on the NES or Amiga, because it looks and plays pretty basic. Simple graphics, simple gameplay, simple features. But simple can be good, and this game is exceptional at pulling off simple.

I donít really know how to explain the gameplay, but itís very similar to the two titles I covered long ago: Cyber Spin and Battle Grand Prix. Youíre given an overhead view, a gas button, and a brake. Thatís all you get, and thatís all you need. The goal in each ďraceĒ is to muster enough of a lead over your opponent that he is pushed off the edge of the screen. Do this enough times, and you win. Like a racing game of tug-of-war or something.

And it works. That simple formula works so much better than the conventional racing of Cyber Spin and Battle Grand Prix. See, the problem with those other two games, is that conventional racing games are not a good mix with this overhead viewing perspective. Trying to stay on the road on a long and skinny track, without being able to see more than two feet in front of you, is way more frustrating than fun. But Micro Machines solves this by offering up much wider (and forgiving) tracks, and by cutting up the action into much smaller chunks. Since youíre merely trying to get a series of leads over your opponent, you have incentive to take bigger risks, and make bolder maneuvers. After all, the worst that can happen is you lose a ďpoint.Ē

Of course, with the game being as simple as it is, what you see in the first few minutes of gameplay is what youíll see for the rest of the game. And though you gain access to a wide variety of vehicles to race with, including boats, I didnít feel like there was any sort of massive difference between any of them. Ditto for the numerous tracks, which never really have any standout individual identities.

So, if you want a racing game thatís fun with friends, or youíre tired of playing stuff like Super Off-Road, this is the next best thing. It probably won't hold your attention for more than an hour, and it looks and feels like an NES game, but itís worth your time. And you wonít feel like throwing your controller.

Did I beat it?
No, not quite.

#190 - Operation Logic Bomb

Contrary to popular belief, Operation Logic Bomb is not a puzzle game.

Hah, Iím joking. There is no ďpopular beliefĒ in regards to this game. No one has ever heard of it. And yes, I realize I just made the exact same joke with two Jaleco games. I don't know why. I guess Iím running out of ideas.

Anyway, instead of a puzzle game, it is an overhead action shooter. A very short one. But also a surprisingly fun one. That just happens to feature an inexplicable title.

Now, at some point I must have read up on this game, because that is the only way I could possibly know that it is the third game in a trilogy. The first (or maybe second) installment was Fortified Zone for Game Boy, which I have never played. I donít remember what the other installment is. Probably something left in Japan. But if you have played either one of those games, you probably know what to expect here.

As far as the storyline goes, itís something about an AI gone amok, and other dimensions maybeÖ I dunno. The game occasionally has short little cutscenes, but I couldnít really piece anything together. Consult a manual if that sorta thing matters to you. I couldnít be bothered.

On the other hand, the gameplay - the thing that actually matters here - is pretty dang tight and very engaging. Picture a twin stick shooter such as Smash TV, and set it across a sprawling alien base, and youíre most of the way there. Except forget the twin stick part. Itís a ďsingle stickĒ shooter. Which means you aim and move with the same controls, with the assist of a ďstrafeĒ button. It works better than youíd think.

Iím also trying to think of another game to compare it with, but I seem to be pulling a major brain fart. I know Iíve played a million games like thisÖ just need to think of a single one of themÖ

I guess the best answer I can come up with is True Lies. Another good game for the SNES.

Anyway, the emphasis here is getting through room after room, blasting all of the opponents that appear, while taking minimal damage yourself. Along the way, youíll access a bunch of terminals in order to open doors or trigger new events, find various new weapons (you start with a machine gun and a spread gun), and the occasional new item, such as mines or decoys.

Boss fights occasionally pop up, but donít offer too much of a challenge. They certainly look cool though, especially the final boss.

The enemy AI is also dumb as a rock. Virtually every single opponent, including the bosses, can be cheesed in some manner. Usually something as simple as positioning yourself between their firing patterns, or behind an obstacle.

And then before you know it, it ends. This is maybe a 45-minute game, when it could have easily pulled off a length that is double that. I donít generally knock games for being too short, but this is definitely an instance where it feels like you have half of a fully realized game.

Still, brevity and AI aside, itís a game I have a lot of fun with. Iíve played through it a number of times, including just a moment ago, and I always have a blast throughout. Itís not the deepest game in the world, and it never aspires to be as fun or memorable as something like Smash TV, but it satisfies a certain shooting itch.

Did I beat it?
Yeah. In fact, I just cleared it again as I was writing this.

#189 - Ultima: The False Prophet

As you may recall, I covered both of the other two SNES Ultima games (Black Gate and Runes of Virtue II ) back in the #200s in my rankings. Both games suffered from various problems - severe problems in BGís case - most of which could be attributed to the move from PC to consoles. But I was still able to enjoy both games quite a bit. Probably much more than the average gamer would.

Well, The False Prophet is no different. This is a game that 90% of Super Nintendo players are gonna want to pass over. There is absolutely nothing for them here, for perfectly legitimate reasons. I mean, who wants to play an epic computer RPG that has been ported (bastardized) to a console? Besides forcing you to use a controller as opposed to a mouse and keyboard, how can a little old cartridge ever hope to contain a sprawling, epic adventure?

Luckily for all of us, Iím the sort of personality that can force myself to play through anything if Iím stubborn enough. So with this project, I spent a lot of time playing a lot of games that most people in their right mind would avoid at all costs, especially all of the computer RPGs.

And let me say just how pleasantly surprised I was with how much I enjoyed the three Ultima games. I mean, Iím the kinda guy who can enjoy anything. Have a favorite movie? I probably dig it. Have a favorite game? I probably dig it. Have a favorite book? I probably havenít read it. But Iíd probably dig it if I did. And I legitimately had a great time with all three of the Ultima games, from beginning to end.

Not only that, but I really do think that The False Prophet is a very good Super Nintendo game. Full stop. No qualifications or rationalizations.

For one, this game is epic. Truly one of the biggest on the platform. Donít believe me? Hereís a link to the image of the world map that I embedded back in the Black Gate review. Forewarning: itís so big that it will crash your browser if you try to look at it on a mobile device. Even your desktop might momentarily chug. I should probably remove it.

And the amazing thing is, most of that map has stuff to do. Itís not just dead empty terrain like you see in so many other ambitious games (*cough* Lord of the Rings *cough*).

TFP also retains a very strong computer RPG feel. What do I mean by that? Well, with the Black Gate port, the gameplay was very obviously a neutered version of the original self. Everything about it, from the lack of a traveling party, to the way you collect and equip gear, complete quests, or travel around the world: it had all been ďsimplified.Ē They had clearly tried to streamline the game for a console experience, and therefore had to remove most of the mechanics that give the games such great depth.

With TFP on the other hand, FCI clearly tried to leave as much intact as possible, because this thing plays much more like how I would expect an Ultima game on PC to play. Turn-based party-on-party combat, with loads of strategy at play, dozens of quests to complete, hundreds of items to collect and manage, and that huge sprawling world to explore.

Of course, being a computer RPG on a console comes with the usual problems. For one, controls areÖ well, letís just say they take some getting used to. The graphics are also rather unimpressive, no doubt another victim of the porting process.

There are also some rather annoying quests, that are a bit too nebulous for my tastes. That usually comes with the territory with old RPGs, but itís still something I feel like calling out. The ďgypsyĒ one in particular took me hours to figure out. And I was pretty frustrated the entire time.

Also, for as huge as the world is, I still could have used even more ďstuffĒ to do. Iím talking more side quests, extra dungeons, hidden items, and all that jazz. Might & Magic III (another example of anďopen worldĒ RPG) seems like it did a better job of making the world feel jam-packed full of things to do.

Finally, I have to call out the fact that there is no shared experience, so this is one of those games where party members can get left hopelessly far behind, level-wise. Drakkhen suffered from the same issue. And thatís really annoying, and definitely one of my pet peeves for the genre.

Still, with this game the good far outweighs the bad for me. I had a great time playing through TFP, and had no doubts about ranking it higher than most of its peers. Some people may scoff at such a lofty position, and I can also recognize that my rankings for most of the western RPGs are probably higher than what most people would expect to see. Not to mention that I still have Wizardry V and Might & Magic III coming up. But Iím confident with where I have everything. It may take a strong constitution (and loads of patience) but these games are great if you can give them a chance.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, over the course of several years.

#188 - Lemmings

#187 - Lemmings 2: The Tribes

Should I assume that all of my readers are familiar with Lemmings? All ten of them? My first instinct is to say ďYes, of course they are. Who isnít?Ē But when I think about it, why would people be familiar with this series?

I mean, first off, itís a franchise thatís been dead for decades. Unlike every other retro property, it hasnít seen anything in the form of recent revivals, remakes, or remasters (as far as I know). And itís hardly the type of game that younger gamers are clamoring to buy and pop into their Super Nintendo (or NES, or Genesis, or whatever other systems it appeared on). [thereís a modern Lemmings game for mobile - editor]

So, Iíll do a quick summary: Lemmings is a puzzle game that tasks you with ďrescuingĒ dozens of the stupid little bastards across 100+ levels. Each level has an entrance, an exit, a shit-ton of rough terrain in between them, and a cursor through which you can interact with things. By that I mean as those stupid assholes pour out of the entrance, you must use a limited supply of ďabilitiesĒ to guide them to the exit before they fall to their death, get stuck in deep ravines, find themselves stranded on the other side of huge chasms, or any other number of mishaps. All before a rather demanding timer runs out.

And what, pray, are these ďabilities?Ē Simply put, you can give individual Lemmings tools or skills to navigate or alter the terrain. For example, you can make them climbers that will scale any wall, miners that will dig downwards, builders that will erect platforms, and so forth. Thereís also an ability that causes a Lemming to act as a barrier, turning back any fellow Lemmings who run into them. This is good for stalling tactics. And finally, there is one last ability that causes a Lemming to explode, sending fellow Lemmings flying, and creating big holes in the terrain.

Now if it isnít apparent by a few subtle hints I laid out already, this game really gets me frustrated. Frustrated by the sheer challenge presented, which is immense, and also by how incredibly stupid these bastards are. They just love to get themselves killed in as many ways as possible, forcing me to restart the level. Again, and again, and again. Seriously, I donít know how many hours Iíve put into this game, but Iíve barely made it halfway through the campaign, and my progress has slowed to such a crawl that it may as well be a dead stop.

Itís fun. In fact, itís a lot of fun. But it takes a lot of patience, a lot of brainpower, and a lot of willpower.

Lemmings 2 is more of the same. Lots more. Over a hundred levels once again. Itís also basically the exact same formula as the first game, but with a ton of incremental changes, such as slightly improved controls, and the addition of ďtribes.Ē What are tribes? Just different batches of abilities. These include Lemmings who can throw grappling hooks, play instruments (which cause their companions to dance), ride magic carpets, and on and on. Thereís a lot of them this time around.

Does all of that make Lemmings 2 any better than the original game? Itís a toss-up. I suppose it lends more variety to the action, which isnít a bad thing with games that are this long. But I also favor the levels in the first game. Something about them just feels moreÖ straightforward? Less gimmicky? I dunno, itís hard to put into words, but it was definitely a distinct feeling that developed over the course of my playthrough. Not that I finished this one either, because just like the original, it is very hard and very long. Someday though...

Did I beat Lemmings?
Did I beat Lemmings 2?

#186 - BioMetal

I remember when I first discovered BioMetal. My eyes were immediately drawn toward the claim that occupies most of the boxís real estate: a quote, ďSUPER TECHNO SOUNDTRACK,Ē end quote.

And let me tell youÖ I am not into it. At all. I mean, I may have been when I was 10, back when I owned a copy of Jock Jams Part 2 and unironically listened to Ace of Bass. But that was a long time ago. If I go the rest of my life without hearing another song by 2 Unlimited, it would be too soon.

For me though, once I zoned out (or turned off) the music, I found a pretty dang solid shooter. One that is reminiscent ofÖ well, I donít know. Maybe the Thunder Force games, or something. I dunno, someone more versed in shmups could answer that.

But it does kinda remind me of a Genesis shooter. I donít know why that is; maybe itís the soundtrack. Maybe this was originally intended to appear on Segaís console. Maybe the devs were big fans of Sol-Deace. Whatever the reason, I say it as a good thing, because thatís good company to keep.

Now, when talking about the gameplay, there is one thing in BioMetal that needs to be the focus of the discussion, and thatís the rechargeable shield youíre equipped with. This thing is the backbone of your survival. Once activated it will protect you from enemy fire, while also slowly draining a large energy meter at the top of the screen. Take damage and it will drain faster. Turn if off and it will slowly fill back up. Simple, right?

How you do in this game is entirely dependent on how well you manage that energy bar. You have to be smart about turning it on, you have to be smart about turning it off, and you have to avoid damage at all costs. Because like most shmups this game is tough. Beating you up in the first level, tough.

Unfortunately, the difficulty curve is a bit wonky as well. Some of those earlier levels are much harder than some of the later ones, and some sections in particular seem like they are full of cheap and unavoidable hits. But the icing on this cake is a final boss that might be the hardest final boss on the entire system, at least as far as shmups go. That dude is no joke.

What elseÖ the game has plenty of unabashed R-Type worship, but thatís okay. If you're gonna crib, crib from one of the best. And the graphics are rather good. I obviously hate the music, but other people might enjoy it. To each their own.

So yeah. Overall, a solid little shmup package. Not really good enough to hang with the systemís best, but definitely better than the likes of Imperium or Raiden Trad.

Did I beat it?
I can make it to the final boss, but I have yet to topple him!

#185 - International Superstar Soccer

#184 - International Superstar Soccer Deluxe

Finally, we reach the end of the line for one of the major sports: International Superstar Soccer and ISS Deluxe represent the final two soccer games Iíll be covering. And let me tell you how relieved I am, because I absolutely dread writing these sports reviews.

Not that that should be held against the games; itís just the nature of the beast. Sports games are probably the most detested of all game genres, and the ones that draw the least amount of interest. Granted there are a few exceptions, like Tecmo Super Bowl, or NBA Jam, but for the most part they are games that the vast majority of people donít have any interest in playing, much less reading about.

Itís also painful writing about them. How do I make the billionth soccer write up entertaining? Yet another laundry list of features? A personal anecdote of my history with the game? Something completely absurd? Because Iíve done all three of those things. Multiple times.

So Iíll keep this brief(ish). The ISS games represent the pinnacle of the sport on the Super Nintendo, because they do everything right. The controls are perfect, with great responsiveness and fluid movement. The graphics and animation are great; these are easily the best-looking soccer sims on the system, and in the running for best-looking sports games overall. And they play like a dream; imagine the tactile ball control from Sensible Soccer with the tight pacing of the FIFA series. The best of both worlds, right? If youíre into soccer, these are the games for you. Theyíre the best on the system, and undoubtedly some of the best in the history of the genre. Full stop.

Of course - pile of accolades aside - I still have both of these games sitting outside of the top 180. Partially because I really like all of those other 180 games. And partially because, at the end of the day, this is still just a sports game. There is a cap on how much fun I can have with it. That probably sounds unfair, and maybe it is, but thatís just a personal preference for me. It just happens to be one that is shared by many other people. A sports game, no matter how good, just canít hope to compete with an RPG with an epic storyline, or a Konami game with tight action. It just canít. So while I had a blast playing both of these games, and respect the hell out of them, they canít quite breach the upper ranks of the library.

Some people will disagree with me. Most wonít.

Did I beat ISS?
Did I beat ISS?

#183 - Romance of the Three Kingdoms II

#182 - Romance of the Three Kingdoms III

#181 - Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV

After spending some marathon sessions with three Romance of the Three Kingdoms games, Iíve been busy imagining what was going on in the heads of Koei executives back in the mid-1980s. Picture this: they had a hit on their hands with the landmark strategy title Nobunagaís Ambition. A strategy title set in feudal Japan, it helped usher in the birth of an entire genre of games. NA had everything you could want in a wargame: battles between massive armies, diplomacy, assassinations, floods, rice cultivation... Avalon Hill could eat their hearts out. But where was Koei to go next? How would they follow up such a massive hit? Would they try another genre? Perhaps make a game set in Europe? Or the Americas? Or outer space?

Well, evidently the answer was to barely change anything, because their next game took a short skip across the sea, changing the setting from Japan, to feudal China. Romance of the Three Kingdoms II represents NAís twin brother, with another hefty mix of diplomacy and intrigue, and heaping amounts of war and... er, rice growing. Itís just kinda, slightly different. But very similar. Just like in Nobunaga (and every other Koei strategy game in existence) you begin by choosing from a list of scenarios. Thereís five or six this time around, and they all represent different historical events in Chinese history. So, if youíre really into that sorta thing, you can be super psyched that you can re-enact the ďRise of Wei, Wu, and Shu.Ē

After choosing a scenario, you select your starting faction, maybe make a few leadership decisions, and you're off and away.

Now, as is always the case with these games, most people are gonna be immediately overwhelmed, sink like a rock, and then promptly drown. Trying to play a ďRomanceĒ title blind is not only not recommended, but it's a near-impossible task for most people. Almost all people. But if you can find a guide or manual to read, take your time and slowly absorb everything, youíll discover that underneath the avalanche of information and statistics, is a game that can very easily be mastered with a bit of patience and dedication.

Scenarios cycle through ďroundsĒ that represent one month in the calendar year. During that round you are given one ďturnĒ per each of the territories that you currently hold. In all, the map of China is composed of 41 different territories. Each territory can also house up to eight generals, each of whom can perform an individual action during that turn. Do a quick bit of math and you will quickly realize that playing this game can take a long time. Weíre talking dozens of hours per scenario, potentially.

In said turns, you will manage several different resources, including rice, gold, arms, horses, soldiers, civilian populations, and so forth. In addition, each territory also has ratings for development, and the status of their flood barriers. In addition to all of that, you also need to manage the stats of your generals, which can also be developed and honed.

So a typical turn may mean developing your lands (so that they produce more rice and gold), training your generals, moving your armies, proposing marriage and/or alliances to nearby lords, promoting new governors, hiring mercenary generals, engaging in war, and visiting the nearby brothels. Well, maybe not that last one. But it could have been buried in one of the endless menus and I just overlooked it.

If that all seems overwhelming, well it certainly can be. But like with all Koei games, once you get over the initial difficulty curve and settle into a rhythm, itís (relatively) smooth sailing. Thereís nothing as satisfying as building up your funds, consolidating your forces, slowly sweeping over the land, and crushing your rivals.

By now some of you might be wondering: ďHey guy, what makes this better than the two Nobunaga games?Ē And I donít really have an answer for that. I think it just comes down to personal preference. I spent quite a bit of time with both series, and ended up enjoying my time with the Romance games slightly more. Other people might enjoy Nobunaga more. Thatís just my own experience.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms III (God, what an unwieldy title) followed up Romance II just a few years later, and for the most part represents more of the same.

Now, granted, I havenít put put as much time into Romance III as I did Romance II (about 10 hours versus 50+), so take some of this with a grain of salt, but here is my laundry list of what all has changed between the two games:
  • The graphics have all been overhauled, to look less 8-bit. I suppose thatís a good thing.
  • The world map is harder to read now, which you can see in my images. I am not a fan of these changes.
  • Micromanaging your officers is much less annoying now. They can be configured to pursue a general strategy so that you donít have to keep constantly making them do something every month.
  • The battlefield has shifted to an isometric perspective, and there are actual sprites for your units. But now there is an extra level of hassle added as you need to fight your way through city walls in order to engage enemies. It looks and sounds cool, but the execution is rather lacking. I have no idea what they were thinking with this change.
Overall? I feel like the game took two steps forward, but then took two different steps back. For every improvement, they made something else needlessly nebulous, or annoying.

Now, is all of that worth enough to warrant a different spot in the rankings? I donít know. I wrestled with it a bit. I mean, I clearly felt that the two P.T.O. games were different enough to rank separately, but I also ended up bundling both the Aerobiz games and the Nobunagaís Ambition games together. With the Romance games, the decision was slightly harder, but in the end I couldnít really justify a split. My overall experiences and opinions of the game are relatively uniform. Hardcore Koei nerds out there disagree with me (sorry Daniel), but it was the decision I felt the best about.

So by that note, Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, the final installment on the Super Nintendo (but far from the last overall) brings another set of small chances. Evolution instead of revolution. As far as I can tell they are:
  • Graphics that are even further improved. This might be the sharpest-looking Koei game on the system, and therefore the best-looking strategy title on the Super Nintendo.
  • Even more levels of complication have been added. Want to track additional abilities for your officers? And have more options in the marketplace? Or designate lieutenant commanders in your military engagements? Or worry about locusts? Then this is the Romance for you. Is more complication better? I donít know. Itís just... different.
  • Your home screen when taking your turns displays a (pretty) zoomed-in view of the area. WHY? I need to see the map of the whole damn country to make decisions.
  • Combat resembles that of Romance II, as opposed to Romance III. I guess they figure the changes were misfires.
  • A lovely soundtrack. Easily my favorite of the three games, and one of my favorites across the entire library.
So with all of that said, you may be wondering which of the three games I prefer. Well, itís a crapshoot.

Romance II is the easiest to learn and play (and the one I have put the most time into). And itís the only one Iíve actually ďbeaten.Ē

Romance III didnít engage me quite to the same degree. But Iím sure that was at least partially due to being burnt out from my epic bouts with Romance II. Even if I do have to admit that Romance III is probably the better game.

Romance IV has been the hardest one for me to get through, again probably due to fatigue. But it is a game that has had me intrigued, and itching to get back to my mid-scenario saves. I havenít had the time to dedicate to it yet, but I plan on rectifying that as soon as I can.

So for the moment, I have them grouped together. That could possibly change at some point later on; I hadnít really planned on shifting any gamesí positions, but you never know what the future holds.

Did I beat RotTK II?
I did. I think it took at least 40 hours.
Did I beat RotTK III?
Not yet, but I do have a scenario waiting for me to finish it. Someday.
Did I beat RotTK IV?
No. Maybe some other day.

#180 - Super Double Dragon

Iím sure Iíve mentioned it like a billion times by now, but Battletoads Double Dragon is one of the very first video games I ever owned. My mother gave it to me for Christmas back in 1993, to go with the console I received that same morning. Suffice it to say, when a game is one of your ďfirsts,Ē youíre probably gonna have some major sentimental attachment to it. So yes, I love that game, and my ranking for it is gonna reflect that.

I also love the first two Double Dragon games that were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I had briefly played the first game at a friendís house when I was a child, but I didnít really get into it until I participated in an NES gaming contest a couple years ago. I spent a solid week mastering the game inside and out, and was surprised by how much fun I had with it. When it came up a second time, I happily spent another week engrossed in it. And then, when that same contest had us playing Double Dragon II the next year, I had another blast mastering it as well. It was the perfect sequel, improving upon the first, while making everything bigger and better. Whereas I hold no great love for Super Double Dragon.

First off, this thing plays almost nothing like any of the games mentioned above. The crazy levels are gone. The crazy platforming is gone. The crazy fights against your brother are gone. Everything that makes Double Dragon what it is, is gone. Instead, youíre left with what might be the most generic fighter on the platform. You play as two dudes (itís Bimmy and Jimmy, but it may as well be anyone) fighting against other generic dudes, across a generic city. Thereís no real character to anyone you see, anywhere you go, or anything you do.

Luckily, the brawling itself is rock solid. The controls are tight, the animation good, and the mechanics deep. Well, deep for a brawler. Notably, there is a system for blocking and countering your foesí attacks, and it works really well. The better you get at it, the more satisfying it feels [thatís what she said - editor] . Itís the sort of thing that you wish every beat Ďem up had. So, two steps back as far as losing the soul of the franchise, but a step forward for some cool mechanics.

Also, you may have noticed that I have yet to cover at least a dozen of the Super Nintendoís beat-em-ups. Which means I scattered them across the remaining 170ish games of the project. Which means I obviously enjoy the genre a great deal. Maybe even too much. I mean, were they really that good on the Super Nintendo? Or is there just something about running up and punching dudes in the face that is eternally satisfying? Maybe itís both things.

And, even I - seemingly a brawler apologist - will admit that many of those same games donít exactly do a ton to stand out from the crowd. For every all-time classic like Double Dragon II or Streets of Rage 2 there are tons of Captain Commandos and Super Double Dragons. Good games. Fun games. But not killer apps.

Did I beat it?
Yep, quite a few times over the last decade.

#179 - Wolfenstein 3-D

I like this game. Specifically, I like this version of this game.

Unpopular opinion, right? Well, letís step back a bit first.

I already covered my history with Wolfenstein 3D a bit back in my Doom review. What I didnít mention was my lengthy history of renting both Wolfenstein and Doom for the Super Nintendo. And can you blame me? They were two of the biggest games in the era, soon to usher in one of the most popular genres of video game over the last 25 years. As far as Iím concerned, John Carmack (and John Romero, I guess) is a goddamn genius, and both games are two of the greatest ever made.

Of course the optimal way to play them was on the PC, but that just really wasnít in the cards for me at the time. So, I made do with what was available to me, and what was available to me was my Super Nintendo. And I dug both of them. I knew Wolfenstein on SNES wasnít as good as the real deal, but I still had fun playing it. And I hope I was able to recognize that Doom on SNES wasnít so hot, but I only remember having fun with it. So much fun that I actually played through the ENTIRE damn thing over the course of a day. Maybe I was just blinded by the glee of being able to play Doom.

So, when I eventually found that very same copy of Wolfenstein on sale for $9.95 a few years later at the video store, I jumped on it. I jumped on it over the copy of Super Metroid that was sitting right next to it. Oops.

Anyway, I continued to play through my SNES copy of Wolfenstein over the years. Many, many times. And I never loved it. Ever. But it seemed to be the gaming equivalent of comfort food. Even after we got our new Pentium II PC, I continued to play it. Even after I got my N64, I continued to play it. It was just one of those games, like Mega Man X, where once a year Iíd just have a compulsion to sit down and make a run through the whole thing.

Nowadays, Iíve gained even more appreciation for it. Because I know that in the grand scheme of the SNES library, itís a damn good game. It plays perfectly. Yeah, itís pretty pixelated. Super pixelated, really. And yeah, the animation and sprites are downgraded. And yeah, the Nazi imagery, blood, dogs, and Hitler himself have all been censored.

But those are details. The core gameplay is as rock solid as ever. And itís even been enhanced in a few ways, such as adding additional characters from the Spear of Destiny sequel, and even adding a couple new weapons in the bazooka and flamethrower.

So, call me blinded by nostalgia if you will (which is dumb, because, again, I held no great love for the game back in the day). Or just accept that itís actually pretty good, and rather underappreciated in my opinion.

Did I beat it?
Dozens of times.

#178 - Mechwarrior 3050

Mechwarrior 3050 aka Battletech is basically Desert Strike, but with a big honking mech instead of a helicopter. Seriously, play it and tell me Iím wrong.

When I was a kid, a friend of mine, who owned a Genesis, rented Battletech during one of the many sleepovers we had at his house. I donít know why; I feel like every other night he picked out some dumb sports or fighting game. But for whatever reason, that weekend, he went with action. Maybe he just felt like blowing shit up for a change.

To our delight, we discovered that the game offered cooperative play. To our dismay, it proved to be virtually impossible for the two of us to work together and get anywhere. Not that we especially practiced at that sort of thing.

And thatís because, in addition to being a very difficult game, the cooperative play setup is a rather fiendish one. You see, instead of controlling two different mechs, you share the same one. One player has the ability to control the mechís legs, and the other player controls the upper torso, and thus all of the firepower. One player shoots, the other moves.

We never got past the first mission. Hell, I donít think we ever got past the first objective.

A year or two later, I was browsing my local video shop when I noticed a brand new SNES game called Mechwarrior 3050. To my surprise, the graphics on the back of the box seemed to share an uncanny resemblance to that ďold Genesis gameĒ I had played once with my buddy. So I rented it, and immediately ran home and popped it in. And what do you know, it was the exact same game, just rebranded and given new artwork in order to (presumably) cash in on the success of Mechwarrior 2 for PC.

At this point I should clarify that across both of those rentals, I never completed that first mission. Not once. It was Jungle Strike all over again.

Years later, I came back to it, and played through it. Giving the game a more tactical and subdued approach was the key, since going in with guns blazing is not gonna get you anywhere in a game like this.

There really isnít a lot more that needs to be said about it. If youíre a fan of the Strike series (like me), youíll be a fan of this. If youíre a fan of games where you can scream at a buddy, youíll be a fan of this. And if youíre a fan of fun action games, youíll definitely be a fan of this.

Did I beat it?
Yep. After a dozen tries on the final campaign.

#177 - Arcana

Arcana is a game that, on paper, sounds like a dream come true for nerds like memyself. I mean, just picture this: A dungeon crawling Japanese RPG with card-based gameplay.

Awesome, right? All good things, mixed together in big olí cornucopia of gaming bliss.

Well, go ahead and forget whatever idea of this game youíve just formed in your head, because Arcana is not that. Instead it is an extremely linear JRPG, which just happens to take place from a first person perspective. And just happens to feature nothing but dungeon crawling. And just happens to portray all of the characters and foes as ďcards.Ē As in the sprites are drawn to resemble cards. Thatís it. Thereís no card gameplay. No deck-building, no drawing, no intricate card battles, or anything else. Itís just a JRPG. Which is too bad.

On the other hand, I shouldnít fault a game for what it isnít, I should praise it for what it is. And what it is, is a damn fun and competent JRPG.

A Coherent Storyline and Characters with Depth
There isnít a storyline. Okay, there probably is one, but the hell if I remember anything about it. You travel through a few labyrinths, kill a few foes, rescue a damsel in distress (probably), roll credits.

Oh, and characters? Thereís a handful. But none of them are really worth mentioning. But thatís okay. You donít really play dungeon crawlers for the story and characters. Or at least I donít. So Iíll give it anÖ uh, ďIncomplete.Ē Or something.

A Fun Battle System That Stays Engaging
Yep, I dig the battle system here. It takes the relatively traditional JRPG formula and adds some nice wrinkles. Success in this game means paying attention to the colored border of each card, and properly utilizing your spells and summoned creatures in order to maximize damage. This is not one of those games where you rely mostly on the auto attacks.

Challenging yet Fair Gameplay
Passes with flying colors. Unlike other Western dungeon crawlers on the system, Arcana is not gonna have you tearing your hair out in frustration because of a ridiculously tough difficulty curve, or because of ridiculously obtuse puzzles.

Of course, unlike those other games, this one is much more straightforward. Just moving and fighting. But sometimes thatís all you want in a game like this. And the difficulty stays higher than average throughout, without ever going overboard. Thatís a testament to a good game, considering how many other RPGs on the system couldnít get that right.

Overall, people who are into JRPGs and people who are into dungeon crawlers should both check Arcana out. Itís nothing mindblowing, and the story is nothing to write home about, but itís a fun game that seems to fly under the radar.

Did I beat it?
I did.

#176 - Darius Twin

I am a Darius fanboy. Simple as that. Call me a sucker for giant robo crawfish bosses, or endless upgrades, or slick graphics, or whatever else, but the franchise is shooter bliss to me. G. Darius, Darius Gaiden, Burst Chronicles, Iíve sought out and played Ďem all throughout the years.

So when I started ramping up my Super Nintendo collecting efforts just over a decade ago, the SNES Darius games were two of the very first titles I tracked down. In fact, Darius Twin was a cart that I came across right away. Of course I immediately bought it, and as soon as I got home I popped it in for a test drive. And it only took a few levels for two things to become apparent:
  • This is not one of the stronger Darius games.
  • Itís still damn fun.
So even a subpar Darius is still an above-average shmup. All of the franchiseís signature elements are present and accounted for, from the branching levels and hordes of power-ups, to the wonderful sprites and impressive nautical bosses. The graphics are sharp, the controls are as perfect as always, and the difficulty is on target, if maybe a tad too easy. Whatís to possibly complain about?

Well, thereís no ďpizazzĒ to it. By that I mean it's as ďby the booksĒ as a Darius game is capable of being. The bosses, while looking great, donít really provide much in the way of a challenge or much in the way of especially memorable encounters. There are also no crazy or super creative levels like weíd see in later titles. And of course there are no epic ďlaser tug-of-warsĒ or anything.

Still, itís a hell of a fun time. Iíve played through it a number of times, and just writing about it kinda makes me want to do it again. It canít touch the systemís elite in the genre, and I prefer the follow-up Super Nova, but it still does the Darius name proud.

Did I beat it?
Several times.