Home Page Go to #575-551 #550 - Monopoly #549 - Clue #548 - Super Battleship #547 - Road Runner's Death Valley Rally #546 - Super R.B.I. Baseball #545 - Steel Talons #544 - Hurricanes #543 - Super Goal! 2 #542 - Mecarobot Golf #541 - Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars #540 - The Chessmaster #539 - Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball #538 - Winter Olympic Games #537 - Radical Rex #536 - GP-1 Part II #535 - Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings #534 - Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos #533 - Clayfighter 2: Judgment Clay #532 - Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool #531 - Super Soccer #530 - Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls #529 - BreakThru! #528 - Super Putty #527 - Space Invaders #526 - The Itchy & Scratchy Game Go to #525-501



Board game #1
#550 - Monopoly



There are two types of people in the world: those who hate the game of Monopoly, and those who don't yet realize they hate the game of Monopoly.  After all, who wouldn't love an ancient, drawn-out, time sink of a slog that has never once been played to actual completion?  And every game plays out exactly the same way - initial excitement giving way to dawning horror as the game bogs down in stalemate, with endlessly drawn-out deals and negotiations that never leave both players happy, desperate attempts to sell off assets and stave off bankruptcy, and stupid arguments over whether or not the "free parking" rule is a real thing. 

So how does one go about improving this experience?  Well apparently Parker Brothers thought the answer to that question was replacing the social aspect of crowding around a table alongside your friends or family, with a virtual experience that takes an already slow game and against all odds makes everything take even longer.  And then throws in some AI opponents that were sent straight from Lucifer himself.  Or at least I'm assuming those were supposed to be improvements, because I don't know why else this thing exists.  Other than as a cash grab.

I'm not gonna explain how the actual board game itself works, because everyone on the planet has already played it a million times.  Just know that every "feature" is here, from the auctions and trading, to the bankruptcies, mortgages, railroads and terriers.  Rest assured, it's a fully faithful adaptation in every way as far as I can tell.

Anyone who has ever played the game also knows just how long every turn tends to drag out, slowly working towards that endlessly protracted finish.  Mostly because the biggest weakness with the game is that trying to issue a coup de grâce on any of your opponents is a maddeningly impossible affair, as they constantly evade their demise with lucky rolls, mortgaged properties, and ridiculous trade offers.  So when the video game adds terribly slow animations and load times(!) on top of that, you can imagine how great of a time it is.  I know we're all in a damn hurry nowadays, but there needs to be some sort of modern "revised" ruleset for Monopoly that either lets you finish players off in an easier manner, or gets rid of player elimination entirely, with everyone instead competing for a set number of turns.  Just a few ideas that I came up with in like ten seconds.  Or maybe it's an unsalvageable game with archaic designs, that will never be updated because it just can't hope to compete with the legions of newer, streamlined, and better designed games that have flooded the market in the century since its inception.  Yeah, I'm gonna go with that one.

So I guess at the end of the day the few individuals who can still enjoy Monopoly might get something out of an ancient 16-bit version of the game.  Assuming those people actually exist in this day and age of more exciting and tightly-designed games.  And even then they should probably be playing this shit on a Wii or something.  But it's here if they want it.  And everyone else can just play Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne or any other SNES party game.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  It took roughly five million years.


Board game #2
#549 - Clue



So though I am sure everyone has played Monopoly once or twice (if not dozens of times), I'm not sure the same can be said for Clue.  Or perhaps I'm just speaking for myself, because this isn't one of the games I grew up with.  Maybe that's a dumb assumption to make, I don't know.  But I will say that I don't think I was missing out - this just isn't a very fun game to play.  It's possible I've been spoiled by all the new-fangled Blood Bowls and Ticket to Rides that have taken the world by storm since, but most traditional or old-timey games just don't seem very fun anymore (assuming they ever were in the first place).  And since Clue is basically a glorified logic puzzle with dice rolling, it really doesn't stand the test of time very well.  And even if that doesn't sound like a completely horrible time because you adore logic puzzles like I do, you can be rest assured that everything about the design of this game could have been done exponentially better.

Anyway, the overall goal of each game of Clue is to identity a killer, their murderous utensil, and the location of the crime.  You do all of this by interrogating other players (in the loosest possible sense) and keeping a log of what cards they are holding, which eventually allows you to deduce the remaining cards left in an envelope on the center of the board.  That seems to be the entire extent of the game, and strategy basically boils down to, I guess, not fucking up the questions you ask.  It's as dry as it sounds, and video game adaptation adds absolutely nothing to this formula, making it pointless and unnecessary. 

Not that I can blame the developers because what exactly was the video game version supposed to be adding to that formula?  AI opponents?  Who finds board games with a computer player fun?  Nobody.  If anything the video game version actually lessens the experience by slowing down what was already a plodding pace to begin with, and requiring everyone to repeatedly look away whenever cards are about to appear onscreen.  Can you imagine playing Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros., and everyone has to look away from the screen every minute or do?  It's an anti-party game.  Like Monopoly.  You play this shit if you don't want anyone to ever come back.  And I know because I lured two suckers into playing it with me, mostly just to see how long they'd last, and then I had to make it up to them with sessions of  Super Bomberman and Street Fighter II.

If you like Clue, play the board game.  Or a different board game.  Or any other video game.  Or watch the movie.  There's no reason to ever play this.

Did I beat it?
Yes, once.


Board game #3
#548 - Super Battleship



Even though I have it lumped in with the other adaptations of classic board games, Super Battleship truly is that and so much more.  And less.  Probably more "less" and less "more", but it's basically a wash.  Confused yet?  Well don't try too hard to understand my gibberish because in this instance it's not worth it.

This time around there are two different ways to play: Classic Mode and Super Mode.  Classic Mode is the original (archaic) board game, where two players sit face-to-face and try to sink each other's plastic fleets by "torpedoing" various coordinates on a square grid.  First to lose their fleet... er, loses.  You've probably all played this when you were a child, and you may or may not have enjoyed it.  I was one of the kids who enjoyed it.  But mostly because it was simple fun and gave me creative opportunities to cheat against my little sister, as the lack of any real depth means everyone basically uses the same few strategies, with luck playing the biggest role of all.

Super Mode on the other hand, is where the true meat of this game lies.  It is a bona fide turn-based strategy game, complete with a decently lengthy campaign and everything.  You get access to a number of different types of vessels, the entire thing plays out across a rather huge world map, and missions are generally of a "destroy something" or "escort something" variety.  Though really, they all basically boil down to the same thing: attack their ships with your ships and pray they sink before you do in a race to the death.

Now you may be asking "why would you have to race the opponent in anything in a turn-based game?"  And the answer to that is real-time combat.  Each one plays out with two ships furiously trying to unload their cannons and torpedoes onto one another in a frenzied volley.  That might sound awesome, but trust me...  It.  Sucks.  Balls.  Big ones.

One thing you'll notice as I get further into this project is that I have a major soft spot for strategy games.  Tons of them dominate my all-time favorite game lists.  Even the stupid ones with basic strategic elements such as Mechwarrior get something of a pass.  But what Mindscape threw together here has to be one of the worst ones I have ever played, with one of the weakest combat systems I've ever encountered.  At a high level, when you initiate combat the game switches over to a first-person view from the perspective of your ship's cannons.  Your opponent will appear somewhere in front of you, and you will need to destroy or disable him before his own cannons do the same.  It doesn't matter who initiated the combat, as you're both always on even ground.  In other words...

Problem #1 - There is no advantage to getting the jump on your foes.

What's that one thing you strive to get in every strategic game that's ever been made?  The initiative?  Yeah, that's it.  Well you can go ahead and throw that out when you're playing Super Battleship because it means absolutely jack.  Instead the combat here reminds me of old military engagements during the 19th century.  You know, where two armies would line up, shoot each other point blank for awhile, until someone is completely dead.  That's this game.  So once the shells start flying, you'll just have to hope you destroy their cannons so that they cannot attack, and then destroy their engines so that they stop moving, and then try to sink them.  Before they do any of those things to you.  This is also the exact chain of events in every single combat, without exception, which means...

Problem #2 - There is no variety to the combat.

Since you only ever need to target the same three parts of the ship, there is no advantage in destroying their radar, sonar, rudder, etc.  And combat against the various ship types is all pretty much the same, they just have slightly different amounts of health.  So PT boats will go down in a couple volleys, while battleships will usually force you to deplete your entire payload before they will go under.  Which brings us to...

Problem #3 - Ammo is too scarce.

If I need to destroy x number of enemy ships, and I barely have enough ammo to do that, the game had better make sure the task is actually doable.  But with such a tiny margin of error, you often get screwed because...

Problem #4 - Too many missions rely too much on luck. 

Miss a chance-based shot?  May as well reset.  One of the enemy ships starts heading the opposite direction for some reason?  May as well reset.  Engines keep getting blown out and you have to waste turns repairing them?  That's a reset.  Which is just one issue with...

Problem #5 - Mission constraints are too tight.

Ever played an Advance Wars game?  If you have, you know that the toughest missions in that series often feel like a puzzle, where you need to move your units a certain way and you need to prioritize certain targets if you hope to succeed.  That's every mission in Super Battleship.  "Do this exact set of steps so that you can win the mission on the very last turn by the skin of your teeth."  I don't know about you, but I don't like that.  It fills me with anxiety.  It forces the mission to be an exercise in trial-and-error, with lots of restarts.  Which could be fine if the game worked better than it does.  But it doesn't because...

Problem #6 - The controls suck, the pacing sucks, the quality of life features are nonexistent, and the mechanics are dumb. 

Want to have a ship do nothing during its turn?  Good luck with that, your best bet is trying to fire off a weapon you don't have or something.  Want to check the map?  Don't bother, it's useless, unless you're playing the mission where you have to conquer the entire world, which you'll never reach.  And even then, it's still pretty useless.  Want to move your cruiser?  Press the A button five times until it registers.  Want to save mid-mission?  You can't.  Save after a mission?  You only get passwords after every two of them.  Want to see if there is a port nearby?  I don't think you can, but who the fuck knows.  And it just goes on and on.  Though I should call out one last individual complaint...

Problem #7 - Unclear objectives.

Destroy the airfield?  Okay,  I'll float around until I happen to catch sight of it.  And even then, I have ten shots and it consists of sixteen tiles.  Do I need to clear all of them?  Most of them?  Specific tiles?  Who knows.

The graphics are also really terrible, but I'm gonna give the game a pass on that one.  I feel like that's not usually a thing that is super important to this type of game, I just need to be able to tell what is going on.  It's like a puzzle game, gameplay is all that matters, so bad graphics are not usually held up as a big demerit.  Which isn't to say that I don't love when strategy/wargames have beautiful hand-drawn graphics like in Panzer General II, but that's more of a bonus than an expectation.

Now I'm sure it sounds like I hate this game at this point, with what feels like a larger than normal amount of venom slung.  But I don't hate it, I just get frustrated with how it took one of my favorite genres and ruined it with a ton of really stupid things.  And there are a few things that I actually did like.  Consider them minor pleasures.  For instance, occasionally you will need to fend off enemy submarines.  It's another really poorly-handled mechanic that is again heavy on trial-and-error.  But if you manage to sneak a destroyer into range (after the sub has had multiple free shots on him *grumble*) you can target it with depth charges.  This switches over to another type of combat from a side perspective where you'll need to select the depth for your ship's charges (natch) and try to blanket the sub with explosives as you pass over it.  It's extremely simple, and once you get the hang of it, extremely easy.  But something about blowing away those subs and watching them drift down into the depths is extremely satisfying to me.  Plus it happens so infrequently during the campaign that you never get a chance to get sick of it.  Sadly you never get to control any submarines yourself, or try to play the role of the evader during the depth charge combat, but whatever.

There's also another type of combat minigame for missile attacks.  What that means is during some of the missions one of your ships will be armed with some sort of guided missile which can be used to insta-sink any ship in one shot from long range.  This is done by guiding the missile via a quick Mode 7 segment that is once again, very simple and very easy.  But this too is very satisfying to pull off.  I don't know why, but knocking out a battleship with one attack is just a great feeling.

So there you have it.  A kids' board game, adapted into a Super Nintendo game, with an insanely ambitious extra mode thrown in, that was sadly too flawed in every single way to outshine the source material.  So that wraps up the board games for the system.  They all were super disappointing, and I'm never playing any of them ever again.  Except for maybe this one because I still haven't beaten it and it is really pissing me off.  Even though I loathe the idea of giving it any more of my time.

Did I beat it?
I beat the classic mode a couple times, and I'm currently at the end of the campaign.  I may eventually push through, but it ain't looking good.


#547 - Road Runner's Death Valley Rally



Oh, Sunsoft.... what the hell happened to you?  Your catalog of NES games is just chock-full of so many different classics, from the stellar Batman and stellar Mr. Gimmick, to the equally, er... stellar Journey to Silius.  But your 16-bit output seems wildly uneven in comparison.  Especially the Looney Tunes series of games.  What in the holy shit was with Taz-Mania?  Whose idea of fun was that?  And Road Runner's Death Valley Rally?  I'm being very generous with slotting this thing at #547, because this game drives me freaking nuts.

So in case it couldn't already be deduced based on the screenshots above or the fact that this game is centered around the speedy Road Runner, Death Valley Rally is yet another shameless Sonic the Hedgehog clone, and easily one of the sloppiest I've ever played.  You know the drill here; you run really fast to the right, sometimes you fly up or down some ramps, and occasionally you try to anticipate (memorize) an upcoming hazard so you can avoid it.  Then at the end of each area you fight some sort of oversized mechanized Wile E. Coyote contraption. 

And none of that is done well, like they botched every part of the Sonic formula.  The levels and their layouts suck, the controls sucks, the boss fights are a huge mess, more frustrating than exciting, and the game is riddled with issues.    Either way, the game's problems are numerous,  which is about par for the course with these types of games.  Was anyone capable of pulling this formula off?  Including (unpopular opinion alert) Yuji Naka and Sonic Team?  I mean I realize that I never really thought the Sonic series was all that fun either, so I'm obviously not the best judge of this sort of thing.  Or at least I represent a minority viewpoint.  But these games just never feel right to me.  The push for speed with levels that punish you for going fast just seems like such an incompatible pairing, with everything feeling disjointed.  Do other people feel this way?  I assume not, since they keep making Sonic shit to this day, but I've always been flabbergasted.

So if I hate the game, why do I have ranked higher than so many other titles?  I guess because I don't hate it, I just don't like playing it.  And Sonic fans, assuming they still exist, might get something out of this.  And there does appear to be a number of people who grew up with the game and enjoy it to some degree.  So what do I know?  Plus, I do seem to keep coming back to it for some reason.  Maybe because some part of me really wants to see what the next Wile E. Coyote boss will look like.  Or maybe I'm a masochist.

Did I beat it?
No.  I don't think I've ever been close to doing that.


#546 - Super R.B.I. Baseball



So let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I've never played any of the games in the RBI Baseball series for NES.  None of them.  And I own all of them.  Partially because I never had an NES growing up, and only acquired them all a few years ago, and partially because virtually all of my free time for retro games is spent on this project.  But I do know that people seem to love them.  Which is why I'm gonna assume they play nothing like their 16-bit brother.

I haven't covered a baseball game in awhile here, but I did have at least four of them pretty tightly bunched somewhere around the low 500s.  Each one of those games was pretty poor overall, with any number of things holding them back from being any fun to play.  And not a ton has changed here where I will be covering an additional three games, each of which offers experiences slightly better than any of those previous offerings, yet are still held back by a number of different shortcomings.  And Super RBI Baseball's flaws are easily the most apparent, or glaring, and was the game I was less willing to spend a long amount of time with, it gets first dibs.

First, the graphics are extremely cartoonish and simplistic.  That can work for some games, including baseball games like Nolan Ryan Baseball and Super Baseball Simulator 1.000, which both have artstyles that I enjoy.  But I don't care for what Time Warner has going on here.  Something about the player sprites and animations is just "off" to me, like I'm playing an ugly-looking Master System game or something.

Hitting is also extremely awkward, with an animation that never seems to match what actually happens.   Almost like I have to intentionally swing late at everything.  I hate that because I'm generally a "pull" hitter, and the game tries to take that away from me.  And while generating offense is not nearly as hard as it was in Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball or The Sporting News Baseball, I still never got to a point where I felt like I knew what I was doing when batting, or felt like I got into a rhythm.

Pitching on the other hand is... alright.  SRBIB is another one of those games that gives you direct control over the ball, even while it's mid flight, which is akin to stuff like black box Baseball.  And I greatly prefer that style of design over something where you are stuck selecting from preset options, or specifying an area and hoping that's where the ball goes.  And it may not be realistic (at all), but dammit, it's usually pretty fun.

The game also has to have the world's slowest baserunners, no exaggeration.  I seriously think the ageless blob wonder Bartolo Colon runs faster than any of them do.  Which means extra base hits are virtually impossible to pull off, which further saps the ability to get an offensive rhythm going.  Oh, and I should mention how once again I cannot for the life of me figure out how to control my baserunners.  So like usual I just end up mashing all of the buttons until something good happens.  And I swear it's not just me and that something with the baserunning controls in these games has to be busted.  Though the AI is also, once again, so broken and incompetent that even when you do botch a call, you can usually outsmart the computer and get your guys to advance or score anyway.  It's a pretty pathetic sight to behold.

I also feel like the fielding is pretty underwhelming.  None of the outfielders ever exhibit anything resembling range, and I feel like just getting the ball in feels unresponsive somehow.  Like the throwing controls need to be tightened up.  Not that it matters because the slower-than-shit runners ensure everything is a single anyway.  But it still never feels right.

And I swear that the AI tries to cheat, and only hits line drives to the gaps.  That shit should be impossible to control, or at least partially left to luck, but the computer is a freakin' sniper.  So if you want to record outs you'd better master the pitching and get them all via strikeouts.

I have also never hit a home run in this game.  Not one.  That could partially be because the Oakland A's were languishing in a power vacuum at the time, or it could be a result of my general ineptitude at the plate.  Who knows.

In the end, I don't think this is a terrible game.  It's not one I really ever had a very good time playing, with too many rough edges and other, better options out there.  But I don't think it's terrible.  And the same thing goes for the next one that is coming up here shortly.  In fact it won't be until the third entry that is near the end of this installment that we'll finally reach a baseball game that I actually kind of like, and enjoy playing.  And even that one is kind of a glorious trainwreck.

Did I beat it?
No.  Unless they are super short or can be easily exploited, baseball games take a special sort of patience in order to even contemplate completing.


#545 - Steel Talons



What do you get when you cross the Sega arcade classic Thunder Blade with THQ's, umm... "notable" SNES port of Race Drivin'?  You get a nightmare made flesh, that's what.

But if that combination was to instead produce something slightly less wretched, you'd end up with Left Field's Steel Talons.  Like RD, it's another port of an old Atari arcade title that was messing around with early polygon graphics.  And though the results are once again downright ugly, and the game tries its hardest to make you hate it, I ended up having a decent time with it.  Maybe I have a soft spot for flight sims, or maybe it's the fact that games are more enjoyable when they try to be remotely playable.

First off, yes, the game looks and sounds like shit and a half.  Partially because these early blocky polygonal games did not age very well, with drab colors, no textures, simplistic models, bad frame rates, and terrible draw distances.  And of course this is the Super Nintendo we're talking about here, where that shit fared even worse than usual.  Since I seriously doubt this game has an FX chip inside, you do the math on what sort of horsepower the developers had to work with.

Luckily, as bad as the framerate is, the action is at least moderately responsive.  It could be because the game doesn't ask too much of you, with a pace that is far more relaxed than the likes of Air Cavalry or Spectre, as there are very little in the way of "twitch" skills needed to progress through the game.  But part of it is that this is just a much better port than RD was.  Not that that is a tall order since it's impossible to be worse, but I'm still giving Steel Talons points for it all the same.

The game's campaign is split into thirteen(ish) missions, which all take place on medium-sized square maps.  Your task is usually to destroy x number of enemies or collect y number of doo-dads.  Really you just want to blow the living hell out of everything that moves and ask questions later.  And that is easily done thanks to the simple but effective onscreen map which always displays points of interest in a straightforward map -- as opposed to Air Cavalry where the map is a nightmare to read and line up with the action, or the Super Battletank games where you need to switch over to another screen to see the map.  And though this game is a million times uglier than any of those titles, I find it much more playable for that reason.  You're not constantly being bombarded with unavoidable attacks, and the map is actually perfectly competent, two things that massively dragged down that other title.

I should also mention that the game features several nebulous setup options before you start playing and I have no idea what any of them do.  I think "Real-Mode" toggles the background landscape on/off, but that doesn't make any sense.  Another one is "Speed-Set", but fuck if I could figure that one out either.  Neither one seemed to make any noticeable difference anyway.

So is Steel Talons for everyone?  Absolutely not.  Is it for most people?  No.  But if you are into flight sims or the Strike series, you may find something here.  And by something I mean a tiny little one hour diversion at best, but that's still pretty good, all things relative.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on my first or second try.


#544 - Hurricanes



Yet another one of "these" types of games, Hurricanes is one of three(!) games that feature a hybrid of soccer and action platformer motif, two of which saw release in the United States.  I'm also assuming that this is based on a television show, judging by that cover art, but I've never heard of it, so who knows.  And while these soccer platformer games (Marko, Hurricanes, Kid Kleets/Soccer Kid) share similar mechanics and overall playstyles, this one is easily the most annoying of the lot.

Even though the cover boasts an entire roster of soccer playing children, only the two that are front and center seem to make any sort of appearance in the actual game itself.  In fact, this game seems to only have one other character entirely: the boss dude that you fight at the end of every level.  And yes, you read that right; you fight the same guy every time.  Or at least they all appear to be the same guy.  It's kind of hard to tell when his back is turned to you most of the time, and I usually zone out when any of the cutscenes come up.  But let's go ahead and say the game features all of three characters.

I also need to point out that the controls seem broken to me, but not in the usual manner one might expect.  I don't even know how exactly to explain it (another one of those "you need to play it to understand it" sort of things), because movement and attacks seem fine for the most part.  Slipperiness is not this game's problem.  Instead it's the jumping that throws a kink in things, because it has some very poorly implemented and downright strange mechanics.  For one, you have to wait an extended amount of time after landing before you can jump again.  It's something that I can never get used to in any game, and it always makes tricky platforming very frustrating.  But the other issue is much worse, and rears its head whenever you run off of an edge.  In an absolutely bizarre design, your character does not merely fall in the direction he was moving, but instead starts into an animation where he stays suspended in air for a moment before plummeting straight down, Wile-E-Coyote style.  I have never seen another game game do something like that before, and you'll immediately know why after it happens.  It totally fucks with your ability to smoothly do anything, and gets real frustrating, real fast.  Especially once the difficulty takes off... 

Which is almost immediately.  So the game ends up being way too fucking hard to be enjoyable.  Enemies are numerous, your attacks have awkard angles which often makes hitting anything a complete chore, falling more than ten feet will hurt you, the numerous powerups seem mostly useless, and you have to beat it all in one shot.  I hate when games do that, especially when they really could have used either a password system, or an option to toggle the number of lives you start with or something.  Anyone hoping to make significant progress is instead gonna have to play the game over and over again until they have the levels memorized, or use a guide to figure out where all of the extra lives and continues are.

That all being said, and I do feel that was a pretty harsh review, it's not the worst game in the world.  While the difficulty makes me want to smash the cart, and the jumping drives me nuts, and the whole theme is really stupid, this isn't nearly as terrible as most of the platformers I've already covered.  Probably because the controls do work, for the most part, which is all I really ask from these sorts of games.  Anyone who wants to play something like this is probably better off with Kid Kleets, though why anyone would want to play a soccer platformer in the first place is beyond me.

Did I beat it?
Nope, not even close, despite a number of attempts.


#543 - Super Goal! 2



I know I just covered Goal! a few games ago, and that I usually lump similar-playing series together in single installments, but I felt that its follow-up, Super Goal! 2 was different enough to warrant a separate entry.  Yet I also kind of have a similar sentiment for both titles, if that makes any sense at all.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, despite having enough differences to justify separate write-ups, I'm calling this the (barely) superior game.

Just like with its predecessor, SG!2 is a pretty barebones experience overall.  You've got the option of Super Cup, Exhibition, and a new addition in the form of Penalty Kick mode.  Presumably to practice your penalty kicks.  Or maybe that was also present in the first game and I just overlooked it.  Does it matter?  Not really, I only played it for two minutes.  Still, a paltry set of offerings either way.

As far as gameplay goes, the biggest change from Goal! is the change in perspective - vertical instead of horizontal, and slightly more zoomed out so that you can can actually see what is going on.  This may seem like a minor thing, but being able to actually see where I was going, or where my teammates were, or where the goal lays, makes all the difference in the world.  In the original game every action was a crapshoot, which severely impaired the ability to play with any sort of strategy.  But that has been mostly fixed with this game.

Unfortunately though, one of the game's biggest issues is still intact.  And that's the fact that passing is still a major pain in the ass, even though it appears they tried to take steps to correct it.  They failed.  The Y button is supposed to do an actual pass to a teammate now, but instead of using the D-Pad to aim it, you have to cycle through players with L and R.  It barely works, as getting the game to highlight the player you desire seems to be a total crapshoot, and half the time it won't work at all.  There's nothing more frustrating than having an uncovered teammate standing by the goal with a clear shot, and you can't get the game to target him for a pass.

The shooting is a bit better this time around though.  Before, any shot that was on target would trigger an animation, and what ended up happening during the animation seemed totally random.  Now, you can actually use some strategy to set up your shots, or even try to send a header in.  In fact, headers are a much bigger part of the game now, partially because every player seems to have a ten foot vertical jump.  Silly-looking or not, I actually enjoyed this, as it made most of the goal kicks much more interesting as players jockey for position, trying to outleap their opponents.

In the end this is definitely a step up from Jaleco's first try at the genre, but still a far, far cry from the better titles on the system.  One of the core pieces of the game is still irrevocably broken, which hamstrings the entire experience, though they did make strides everywhere else.  So, it still ends up being a pretty poor soccer experience, but they were headed in the right direction.

Did I beat it?
No.  I was too tired of sports games at that moment to press on with this one.


#542 - Mecarobot Golf



The first of the system's many golf games, I'm kind of amazed that it took me this long to get to one of them.  I guess either the sport is just really hard to screw up in video game form, or I'm a total sucker for these things.  Either way, I think it speaks pretty highly of the SNES's golf offerings, especially considering that I wouldn't even call Mecarobot Golf a bad game, just a very flawed one.

Originally released as a more straightforward title in Japan with a sponsored pro on the cover, publisher Toho (of Godzilla fame) apparently felt the need to spruce it up a little, and gave the US release a science fiction theme.  And by science fiction, I mean robots.  And by robots I mean robot.  Yep, this game inexplicably features a robot pro/opponent named Eagle.  Everything else about the game is an otherwise run-of-the-mill golf game, set in the real world with real people.  I guess Toho thought he would maybe help set the game apart from the rest of the pack.  Or maybe they held little respect for us Americans and our short attention spans for anything not involving robots.  Maybe I shouldn't ever try to understand the Japanese.  We'll probably never know, but it is pretty frickin' weird.

Oh, and the reason I'm not giving you the name of the Japanese professional golfer is because I don't know it off the top of my head, and I generally avoid scurrying over to Wikipedia when I do these write-ups.  If I did, I feel like I'd start regurgitating whatever I see over there, subconsciously or not, so you get whatever my alcohol-addled brain is able to retain.  You've probably figured that out by now.

Anyway, the game offers extremely barebones options.  Though you can create your own golfer with his own save file, and get a choice of clubs which is basically your difficulty setting, the only methods of play are against Eagle (the PC) or another player.  And there is only one course, which appears to be fictional.  I'm not saying the game needed a create-a-hole mode, or ten different courses, but something else would have been nice.  Hell, let me play a casual round by myself, or give us a party mode.

As soon as the actual golfing starts you're confronted with what is far and away the game's biggest problem: it's pace of play.  It is mind-numbingly slow.  Race Drivin' slow.  Getting to your shot takes about five button presses, and once hit, every ball is slowly tracked from behind at about two frames per second while it cuts through the air.  And you cannot skip any of these steps.  Worse, you have to watch your opponent do all of it too.  So it all adds up to rounds that can take at least two hours or more to complete, which is way too long for a Super Nintendo game.  Hell, that's almost as long as it would take me to play a real round of eighteen holes, and I suck.  The whole thing is insane.

I also do not much care for the way the power meter is set up, which makes it tricky to gauge just how hard you need to hit the ball.  In most golf games you can simply estimate that three quarters of the power bar will result in a hit that will travel for about three quarters of that club's maximum distance, usually with tick marks or lines or something to help guide you.  Not so here, you just get a big empty bar where it's impossible to gauge anything.  So good luck hitting with any accuracy.

And even worse than that is the putting.  Though most of the greens are relatively flat, actually hitting the ball is very difficult because you have very little control over your shots, with the power bar again seemingly completely misleading.  I don't know how many shots I thought I hit perfectly that raced right over the hole, but I eventually had to settle for underhitting everything and just praying it happened to trigger an animation of the ball going in.

Still, in most ways I think this is a much more enjoyable experience than every other sports title I've covered up to this point, mostly because I think golf is just a natural fit for video games.  Even if some of the systems are busted, and the pace drags, and the options are limited, it's a natural fit and a relaxing experience, that rewards you for any skills you develop through prolonged play.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend that you play every other golf game on the system as opposed to this one, but it's still better than all those god-forsaken basketball games I wrote about by a mile or two.

...oh, and I have to mention how the game inexplicably has a cutscene near the end of the course where you and your robot buddy both board a yacht and cruise off down the river.  Presumably heading towards the next tee, but who really knows.  Really I'm at a loss on this one.  Maybe the game is based on a famous Japanese course where that really happens.  Maybe the developers are insane.  We'll never know.

Did I beat it?
No.  Honestly I didn't even try, and the game's pacing almost demands that you play it casually.


#541 - Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars



Stupid sports games.  I'm so sick of writing about them, and I keep getting them all mixed up in my head because it usually takes me at least several months to play one of them a substantial amount, start a writing outline, play the game some more, finish the outline, start the write-up, and then try to overcome the inevitable writer's block I deal with.  And by then I've forgotten how the game works, so I have to start the process over again.  And even then, by the time all of that happens I have a really hard time remembering enough specifics about, say, ESPN Hockey Night or either of the Brett Hull games, in order to make accurate comparisons between any of them.  Or I start mixing up the games I'm currently writing about because they share so many similarities, hence the similar rankings.

I mean I definitely know this is a better game than any of the hockey titles I already covered, because I always work hard to keep everything slotted in a roughly correct order.  How much of a better game is it?  Probably a negligible amount.  It's like splitting hairs between a C- and a D+.  Either way, it's probably something no one is gonna care about.  And rallying the energy to discuss yet another C- game gets real old.  Thank God I probably only have like.... one hundred more sports games to go.  This shit is gonna get so much easier when I bust into the 300s and I've left all these damn platformers and hockey games behind, so that I can instead focus on the million Koei titles and Final Fight-ripoffs that await me.  And I mean that in the best possible way.





Oh, right.  I forgot to actually talk about Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars.  Well, it's late and I just beat my head against the wall with Super RBI Baseball all night, so I'm sticking with the outline I drafted way back in May.  Fuck it, I'm allowed to be lazy every now and then:

- Wonky skating physics that don't ever seem to match up with the player animation.  The best way I can explain it is that after getting a bit of a head of steam, your players rapidly increase in speed.  But because the animation never changes it looks and feels like they are flying around out of control.  It makes the controls feel broken, even if they aren't.  Another one of those "you have to play it to get it" sort of things.  But you can adjust, and after a game or two I was usually able to settle into a groove.  It never does feel great though.

- Licensed with real players only.  That should always be obvious when "NHLPA" is a part of the title.

- The graphics are alright, and player sprites and animations are pretty good for the most part.

- There are way too many penalties called, which really causes the pacing to drag.  Is that how things go in real hockey?  I honestly have no idea because I don't think I've ever actually watched a game.

- Similar to EA's NHL series there are player fights but they are horrible.  Worse than Shaq Fu or TKO Championship Boxing.  Like, I gather it's a pretty small and throwaway part of the game, but if you're gonna bother why be so half-assed about it?  Though I will say that when someone gets hit by an uppercut the animation is pretty hilarious.

- Lots of in-game options at your disposal, like overall team strategy, or the ability to pull your goalie.  You can also toggle between "Arcade" and "Simulation" modes, though I couldn't really tell the difference between them.  Playing on Simulation did seem a bit faster, but that might have just been in my head.

- It's way too hard to score goals, and I can never tell why shots do or don't go in.  Not that mine ever go in.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I played six full games and never scored a single goal.  Part of me blames the game and part of me blames my complete lack of knowledge of hockey strategy and tactics.  Either way, I don't like struggling that bad on offense.

What else can I say?  It's no NHL '95, that's for sure.  And people always claim these things are better on the Genesis (that may or may not be true, I have no idea), so there probably isn't anything about this game that is worth looking into.  I'm just thankful that I'm one step closer to being done covering hockey games.

Did I beat it?
No.  I can't even remember if I truly tried to either.


#540 - The Chessmaster



Let me be clear before I start this review, and state for the record that I like the game of chess.  It's not my favorite board game (it's considered a board game, right?), and I wouldn't say I'm any good at it, but I always enjoyed learning how to play when I was a kid.  Granted, that was mostly done with a copy of Battle Chess for DOS that I played for hours on end, partially so that I could see all of those sweet ass kill animations, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having a blast the entire time.  And I certainly see the allure of trying to master one of history's oldest and most popular games through a lifetime of play.  So I totally get the appeal here, and I'm on board with the concept of The Chessmaster [no chess pun? - editor], which is to say it's a learning tool, similar to something like Miracle Piano Teacher.  Except that it teaches you chess, natch.  I guess what I'm saying is, no one needs to explain to me why this was a successful series that saw releases on every system under the sun.

On the other hand, just because I understand why this series sold in bunches, doesn't mean that it's something I would want to play.  And that's because TC is a learning tool, and not really a game.  No one played this as a substitute to the real thing.  They played it so they could practice against various levels of AI opponents, learning different strategies, and honing their play.  Or maybe they just had no friends.  Either way, I'm sure people bought TC in droves for those very purposes.  But that is not something I want to do.  While other people may like the idea of becoming skilled at chess, I would rather work on my coding, learn the guitar, do a house project, or write hundreds of reviews about ancient game tapes.  Getting good at chess is just not something that will ever be any sort of priority in my life, and that's coming from a person who already has way too many priorities in the first place.

So if you are a "chess person" this might be something that interests you.  Or if you need to learn how to play the game and your older brother is too much of an asshole to help you out, you... can probably find a free program on the internet to do the job.  But failing that you could pick this up.  In any case, the play modes do seem myriad, and there are plenty of configurations possible, so if you fall into one of those camps then you could probably do worse than what they've got packaged up here.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I beat the Chessmaster once I lobotomized him in the settings... All's fair in love and chess I guess.


#539 - Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball



Back when I was a kid most of our family vacations were spent either hiking, skiing, or fishing.  That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone either because that's sorta what you do in the Northwest.  Unless you're in Oregon, in which case you get high and ride an ironic bike to a poetry slam.  But for the rest of us, summer and spring breaks are chances to trudge off into the wilderness and see if we can get eaten by a bear or slam into a tree or something.  Maybe crash a four-wheeler if alcohol is involved (which it usually is).  But even we can't break our addictions to our Nintender tapes, which means I would always make sure and log lots of time on my OG Game Boy during the long drives.  I'm not sure where that thing came from (I probably stole it, I was a delinquent through most of grade school), I just know that I would play Tetris in the car for hours.  Usually until my brain started to burn blocks into my mind's eye.  And it was totally worth it.

However, once a year instead of braving the wilds, we would pack up and fly across the country to see family who lived out east.  Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago, to be exact.  And though none of my fatty East Coast (or is that the Midwest?) relatives did so much as touch a treadmill once in their entire adult lives, they do their best to show us all a good time.  That meant going to baseball games.  Lots and lots of baseball games.

I still vividly remember my first experience at Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago.  My uncle parked us like five million miles away, so we got to make a long trek across the never-ending ghetto to get to the stadium.  Looking back, it was pretty amazing that two grown men would take an entire squad of tiny children through such an area by foot.  Maybe the city was in better shape back then.  I'm sure we'd never do it now.  In any case I will never forget that game.  It was the second professional sporting event I had ever attended (having watched Michael Jordan absolutely demolish the Sonics a few years earlier), and it was being played against my beloved Oakland A's.  I was beyond psyched.  And though many of the details of that game are starting to fade, I remember two things very clearly.  The A's won, something they have a uncanny ability to do whenever I see them in person.  And I learned about one Frank Thomas.  I was just a kid living in Sticksville, before the internet was really a thing, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance of the reigning AL MVP, but the impression was made almost instantly.  The Big Hurt was a hulking human being, towering over the other players, and bulging with muscle.  When he was crushing pitches out of the ballpark during batting practice I was in awe.  To this day I have still never seen someone hit like that, and I have seen a lot of different sluggers play.  I was so excited for his at-bats during the game that I actually found myself rooting for him when he was at the plate.  And as we left the stadium I even begged my dad to get me a ChiSox hat (he did not). 

Fast forward like twelve or thirteen years later.  My interest in baseball had waned over the years, thanks mostly to a heavy college load, a girlfriend who hated sports, and a number of losing seasons (go ahead and call me a fair-weather fan).  So it barely even registered in my mind when the A's signed The Big Hurt to a one year deal, for a whopping half a million dollars.  That was a massive paycut.  You see ol' Frank's production had slowly declined as he entered his thirties, and a number of ailments started hampering his ability to play, specifically with his right foot.  By the time the White Sox won their first World Series title in nearly 100 years, TBH was almost a nonfactor during their magical run.

I even remember shaking my head when I saw him on the opening day roster.  What was the f'ing point?  The dude was ancient as fuck, and if there is one type of person I absolutely never trust in any sporting event, it's the old guy.  I never draft them in fantasy football, I never ask for my team to sign them, and I never expect a full and healthy season out of them.  Call it ageism if you want, but that's usually the reality in professional sports.  This was a desperation move, done to fill a roster spot on the cheap, with a ton of incentives thrown in just in case by some miracle he managed to actually hit the ball, and make it through the entire season.  And against all odds, he did it.  All of it.  That year Thomas had one of his best seasons of his career, was voted AL Comeback Player of the Year by his peers, and finished 4th in the MVP vote.  And most importantly of all, he led Oakland to the playoffs. 

You could still tell that age was catching up to Frank in a number of different ways.  For one, he played DH the entire season, because besides being older than every other living being in the baseball world, his foot had basically fallen off by that point.  That isn't unusual for aging sluggers - you want their bat, not their ability to stretch for an out.  And it was almost comical how off-balance he would be after any swinging strike, as all 250 pounds of him tried frantically to balance on one extended leg.  I'm surprised he never went down on one of those; seismologists would have noticed.  But when he got the bat on the ball it was a thing of beauty.  Some people just have a natural swing, making things appear effortless.  Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds are both famous for this.  Frank Thomas is another.

Game one of the ALDS was one I'll never forget.  Barry Zito, the last of the Big Three, against Johan Santana, one of the greatest pitchers of our generation.  The game was on the road in Minneapolis, and the A's had blown every single playoff series they had appeared in that decade.  Usually in a rather crushing manner.  The smart money at that point was on the Twins.  And Frank killed those bastards.  I don't remember what exactly his final tally was in that first game, but I'll always remember the home runs.  And jumping up at the bar and cheering, to everyone else's annoyance.

That was also the most recent highpoint for the franchise, as of this writing.  They ended up getting crushed in the next round, and the roster was gutted over the next couple seasons since they never have the money to re-sign anyone.  And by then every other organization had already adopted their own version of Moneyball, so the Athletics' window had basically closed.  They've made some small runs since, but nothing as memorable as that season, and the miraculous turnaround The Big Hurt briefly made.  And I thank him for it.

Now, you may be asking yourself "what in the hell was the point of all that?  Are you just stalling because you don't want to write about a baseball game?"  And you would be partially correct.  This game has nothing interesting to offer anyone, and the review would have been a snoozer.  So I didn't do it.  But I also wrote about all of this because Frank Thomas meant a lot to me at two different points in my life.  And he made one pretty shitty video game.  So as far as I'm concerned I still owe him one.

Did I beat it?
I did not.


#538 - Winter Olympic Games



The first of two Olympic-themed track and field style of game, Winter Olympic Games isn't as horrific as Nickelodeon Guts, or as wildly uneven as American Gladiators or California Games II, but it falls just short of being a decent game thanks to a brutal learning curve and a sparse offering of (unique) events.  Because even though there are ten of them, many of them are basically duplicates of one another that play almost exactly the same.  That's pretty lazy considering how many different Olympic events are available to choose from.  In any case, I'll be doing my usual thing and covering each one in minor detail:

Bobsleigh and Luge - Two extremely unforgiving events that are almost identical to one another, minor graphical differences aside.  The only way to succeed here is to memorize the track, which isn't easy because it is very long and reuses the same four types of turns over and over again.  You'll also need to be very exact with your D-Pad movements, unless you want to repeatedly run into the sides of the chute and slow down.  If anyone is able to win the gold in either one of these events they are some sort of savant.

Downhill and Super-G - Two skiing events that are, again, nearly identical, and completely impossible.  Memorization is also once again the name of the game if you want to have any hope of getting a medal.  Both would also fare a lot better if the camera angle gave you any sort of heads up on what's coming your way, or if there were any sensation of speed whatsoever. 

Giant Slalom and Slalom - Exactly the same as the last two events, only harder.  Because if there is anything this game needed, it was events that are more unforgiving than the bobsledding or downhill segments.  If you can take first on the Slalom event, you either have a photographic memory, or you mapped the entire course on a piece of paper and taped it to your TV.  And then practiced for an hour or two.

Moguls - Probably the most creative event, and also one of the hardest to learn.  Hell, it may be the hardest overall.  I keep saying that, but it's true dammit; this game is ruthless.  Not only do you need to tap buttons to a rhythm so that your skier carves around each mound, but you'll need to execute several jumping tricks on your way down.  My scores are always wretched here, and I usually can't even make it to the end of the run.

Ski Jump - And now we have one of the two easy events, showcasing just how wildly uneven the difficulty curve is in WOG.  Once you get the hang of what it is you need to do here, you can essentially take first every time.  Which, after getting my rear handed to me in every previous event, is super satisfying.

Biathlon - Far and away the easiest event, which is a shame because it's also my favorite.  This one starts with another rhythm section, followed by a shooting segment, both of which are admittedly fun.  The mechanics are pretty simple, but effective, and the requirements to do well aren't demanding enough to take away from the fun.  In fact, as hard to believe as it may be, I was actually wishing for more challenge in this game.

Short Track - The final event is speed skating, the sole event set in the ice rink.  This is easily my least favorite of the bunch, and has me completely baffled as far as what it takes to succeed.  I always get left in the dust, and I almost always get disqualified.  Something about what you're supposed to do here and how you're supposed to do it is beyond my dumb person brain, despite the number of attempts I put into it.

Altogether I'd say the game has two events I enjoy, one I hate, and a ton that are too frustrating to be any fun.  And though the game probably has a lot to offer to those players who are dedicated enough to put in the time needed to get good at them, that's probably a pretty small minority of the people playing Super Nintendo games.

And why is there no curling?  That would have been awesome, and would have taken almost zero effort to implement.  Instead they offer the same ski run repeatedly and call it four events.  Total waste.

Also, one last word of advice - absolutely do not bother trying to play this game without acquiring the manual one way or another first.  The game has absolutely no in-game help.

Did I beat it?
Nope.  That's despite the fact that the game must realize how hard it is, with a bar for completion that is extremely low.  And yet I still can't reach it.


#537 - Radical Rex



Hmm, he's an anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus Rex, starring in a Super Nintendo game, and he's "radical."  Anyone want to guess what sort of game this is?  Or take bets on whether or not the cover art features either sunglasses, Mountain Dew, or a skateboard?  And if you had to take one guess as to what other popular game from the era this thing tries to rip off, what are the odds you'd name a certain blue rodent? [Hedgehogs aren't rodents (they're sort of their own thing) - editor]

Some people recently have called this game out as a hidden gem of sort.  I don't see it.  Radical Rex is, like so many other games, just another dumb platformer with some pretty glaring issues, and not so many great things that I can think of.  It could have easily been featured in the last installment of this project, but again, there's just too damn many of these games and I ran out of room.

The gameplay is very standard platformer fare, with a few shoehorned Sonic the Hedgehog mechanics, er, shoehorned in because, hey - why not?  Kids like skateboards and going fast and whatnot, and everyone else is doing it so, fuck it.  But even the attempts to mimic Sonic are pretty half-assed, as the skateboard doesn't really seem to do much, other than allow you to travel up some ramps, and get you killed.  So it really is shoehorned in, even worse than is usual with these types of games.  Hell, they probably already had the game finished before adding that stuff in at the 11th hour and didn't have time to fully integrate it.

Even worse though is the absolutely wretched combat.  You see Rex has two base moves; breath fire, and a jumping Jean Claude Van Damme-style kick.  For most enemies you will need to use the fire breath to stun them, with a final kick to finish them off.  The problem is most enemies take a number of hits before they are stunned, the range of the stun is quite short, and they just love to dish out a ton of hits in return while you're trying to freeze them.  So even basic fights are an exercise in frustration as you frantically try to get the enemy locked before it can drain your health.  The developers seem to have tried to counter the problem by allowing Rex to take an extreme amount of punishment before he goes down, with plentiful heals littered around each level, but that is a terrible way to balance a game.  It makes everything feel sloppy and chaotic, and makes combat feel like something to avoid at all costs.

I'd comment on the boss fights, but I only ever made it to the first one, and it was just as sloppily executed as any other part of this game.  It features the wizard big bad floating around and tossing lightning at you, while you try to fire breath him into oblivion.  It's a cheap fight with cheap hits, an unimpressively dorky enemy sprite, and little in the way of patterns to discover or strategy to master.  So even the one interesting thing these kinds of games usually bring to the table isn't very interesting here.  I watched a longplay to see if they get any better later on, and suffice to say, they do fucking not.

So, is there as little to like in this game as I seem to be leading on?  Sort of.  The graphics are decent, the controls are tight enough, there is a two player mode, and once you adapt to the horrific combat and trial-and-error level design, things get okayish.  And each attempt I put into the game was slightly less annoying then the previous one, causing me to slightly bump the game's rank up each time I was done with it.  Still, the entire experience was never what I would call "fun."  It was also never a complete nightmare on the level of something like The Flintstones or Time Warp or anything, but that's about the best sort of backhanded compliment I can give it.  Still, it was enough to get it all the way up to here.

Did I beat it?
No, this game is hard as balls.


#536 - GP-1 Part II



Another motorcycle game, and another miserable experience for me.  I just can't seem to compel my brain and fingers to get on the same page with this stuff, regardless of how much I keep trying and torturing myself playing them, and thus these games suffer in the rankings because of it.  It's a shame too, because GP-1 Part II (what a stupid name) is probably a halfway decent title if you can manage to wrestle it under control.

Not to keep harping on the same points, but if you read my review of the first game in this series (in the last installment) you'll know that I a) suck at racing games, and b) really suck at motorcycle games.  Actually, you could read any number of my reviews where I hammer those points home.  Fortunately for this game, however, it is a million times less difficult than the first GP-1 title.  The developers must have realized how insanely impossible that one was, and completely removed the collisions with other racers, while upping the viewing distance so that you can actually see something like a turn coming up.  And thanks to those two things, instead of getting dead last every time, I can finish with a somewhat respectable 2nd or 3rd place most of the time.

On the other hand, none of that really makes the game any more fun.  Just less frustrating.  The tracks all look and feel the same, the controls still feel kind of stiff, and AI for your opponents seems completely random.  Like, they'll all blow past you on one turn, and then slow to a crawl and let you pass them right back up on the next one.  It makes no sense, and must be a shortcoming in the programming or something.

Still, warts aside, it's easily a much more polished and playable game than the likes of Superbike Challenge or GP-1, and it is much less of a fiasco than uneven games like Full Throttle Racing or Caribbean Challenge.  But it still isn't a game I want to play.  I never even bothered to write down any of the passwords I earned because I just couldn't bring myself to keep trying any of the later races over and over again.

Also, it bears repeating what I'm sure I already said in the GP-1 review: this is what Atlus chose to publish in the states?  They're sitting on a giant pile of MegaTen games, and they go with a damn motorcycle game?  Actually, I can only assume that's Nintendo of America's fault.  If NoA had a problem with crosses and blood and Devil World, they certainly wouldn't have been thrilled about a series where you commune with Satan and Beelzebub and murder archangels.  But even if those games were neutered into oblivion with censorship it still would have been way cooler than this GP-1 series.  Blah.

Did I beat it?
No.  It's a racing game; unless the challenge is nonexistent the answer is always no.


#535 - Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings



So, apparently the Olympics once had a mascot, I guess?  Or maybe they still do?  Is that a thing they do nowadays?  Maybe there was a big push in the '90s to get more children invested with the games, and the US Olympic, uh, Committee (?) figured the only way they could compete with the Michael Jordans and Ken Griffey Jr.'s of the world was through a lovable muppet thing.  I'd never heard of him, and I read the shit out of Sports Illustrated For Kids, so I doubt it worked very well.  In any case, here we have Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings, his tie-in video game.  You're tasked with helping him navigate the likes of the Greek jungle (is that a thing?), and the moon, I guess, and retrieve the five stolen Olympic rings.  Which are physical items in this universe... you know what, let's just forget about the setup and storyline because that is a losing cause and it's starting to hurt my head.  Well, that and the three double IPAs I just drank because my wife is out of town.

Like the screenshots indicate, this is a *drum roll* platformer.  Because you can just never have enough of those it seems.  And Izzy's has all of the usual platformer things going on; running, jumping, running and jumping onto enemy heads, and occasionally grabbing Olympic sport-themed powerups like a fencing saber, archery bow, or a... hang glider... ?  Man, I'm really overdoing the question marks in this entry, but it's not my fault, the game is just that befuddling in some ways.

Worse though, than the game's abundant nonsense and derivativeness, are the bad, bad controls and even worse slowdown.  I mean, it's not Chester Cheetah Wild Wild Quest-levels of bad, but it's definitely the very next tier down.  I don't even really know what is wrong with them (the controls) this time, they just feel off.  Like they're too rigid, or are just a tad unresponsive.  Again, something you have to play to fully get.  I just know that the entire time I'm playing I feel like I'm fighting the controller, which is the kiss of death for this type of game (or any game really).

And the control issues, like usual, tie directly into the next major flaw; it's too hard.  The game is very skimpy with extra lives, and you only one continue.  One.  If you're gonna be that mean why even bother at all?  Just go straight back to the title screen as soon as you run out of lives and save yourself the effort of having to code an extra screen.

So bad controls, difficult and confusing levels, and a dearth of extra 1UPs means making any real progress in this game is a pretty big chore.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've made less progress every time I've played it.  That doesn't even make sense, unless my rising frustration makes me actually play worse the longer I go.

Now of course I wouldn't have the game in Volume V of this project if it was all bad.  Because I do kind of like the graphics and animation throughout.  It kind of reminds me of Pitfall The Mayan Adventure, but just not as good.  In any way.  Is that because these are from the same development outfit?  I wouldn't be surprised if they were.  Izzy also likes to hide its goodies behind the scenery, similar to what that game does, which are always fun to find.  Or at least it gives me an excuse to explore the levels that I'm stuck attempting over and over again.

After each area you also end up on the moon (don't ask), where you can finally retrieve one of the missing rings.  The first of these levels actually takes the form of one long rocket ride, providing a decent change of pace.  It was probably my favorite part of the game, mostly just because it was so different from the standard levels.  Unfortunately they didn't carry this over to the next area because the second moon level abandons the rocket for more straightforward platforming, which is dumb.  I never got far enough to see any more of these levels, but I kind of wish I could.  Maybe someday I'll have the patience to watch a Youtube longplay (cheat) and make some real headway in this guy.  Probably not, but maybe.

So, in the end Izzy is a pretty poor excuse for a game in many ways, with some glaring issues that really tempted me to rate it worse than I did.  But once again I have to ask myself, if I played the game as much as I did, did I truly hate it?  Probably.  But something about seeing what was next made me keep trying to press on, and again, I have to give the game credit for that.  And if it didn't cause me to yank the cart out and throw it (like some titles have) it can't be all that bad.  Or at least it means there are always others that are worse.

Did I beat it?
Obviously not.


#534 - Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos



Once upon a time the Looney Tunes lineup featured a cartoon character named Speedy Gonzales, famous for being the "fastest mouse in all of Mexico."  And though he was mostly known for kicking the ass of his rival, El Gringo PussyCato (or something like that, it was Sylvester the Cat), the show did feature some other characters that were, shall we say, relics of a less "sensitive" time in American history.  So it shouldn't be too surprising that Mr. Gonzales got the short end of the stick, and is relegated to being something of a secondary character nowadays. But not before he got his very own platformer video game on the Super Nintendo.  And presumably the Genesis.  Just like seemingly every other "Looney Toon."  This time however the offending publisher is Acclaim, which is always a great sign.  Sunsoft must have either lost the license by then, or was already dust by the time this came out.  Or maybe Acclaim bought them up since the most terrible of studios always seem to be the ones that survive.  But I dunno, I couldn't be bothered to actually google anything about it.

Anyway, Los Gatos Bandidos is the millionth generic mascot platformer that was crapped out back in the day.  And since it's about a super "speedy" mouse, and this game is post-Sonic the Hedgehog, you can take a wild guess as to how it plays.  And since I've already covered in depth how much I hate Sonic's gameplay, and why I hate it, I'll be brief this time: it was a gimmick at best with Sonic, with a formula that makes for usually-shitty gameplay in all the copycats, none of whom could figure out how to design a level around a dashing protagonist.

At least this game kind of looks alright.  And the control isn't too slippery.  In fact Speedy practically stops on a dime, which is a very nice change of pace from what I usually get with these kinds of games, so I'm just going to go ahead and call that the best part of the game.  By far.  And it's even nice enough to give you the ability to scroll the screen in any direction so that you can look for upcoming enemies or hazards.  It doesn't work perfectly in practice, but it's better than nothing.  So while the bar is very low for this type of game, Speedy does at least do a few things right.

Unfortunately, what it doesn't get right is any sort of variety, or cool levels.  Or fun for that matter.  Every single stage plays out pretty much exactly the same, the only difference is they gradually get more convoluted and maze-like.  And there are only a few bosses that I saw, all of which were horrible in every way, with bad hit detection and poor overall design.  I hate when games don't have bosses, and I hate when there are bosses but they're very lazily done.  It's always such a waste of an opportunity.

Also, the general goal of each level seems to be rescuing your fellow caged mice.  Or at least that's what the game appears to be telling you, because as far as I can tell the prisoners just act as checkpoints and it doesn't actually matter how many of them you rescue in any given level.  Or maybe I just happened to have "enough" every time.  Who knows.  The only thing that does seem to end the level is reaching the finish line, something that starts out pretty simple, but eventually gets sadistically evil.  In fact, by the end I actually gave up on finishing the game because of some truly bafflingly poorly-designed final levels, which I don't even want to get into.  Suffice it to say they tanked the ranking here by at least fifty spots.  My mind just boggles when thinking about it.  Maybe the QA never made it far enough to test that crap out, or maybe I broke the game at some point and didn't even realize it.  All I know is I almost soft-locked the game in a sense, and it really pissed me off.

But beyond the maddening end to my play experience, it was a mediocre platformer that barely did much right, did a lot of things in an average sort of way, and never really did anything to make me consider going back to give it another shot.

Did I beat it?
Almost, but no.


#533 - Clayfighter 2: Judgment Clay



The follow-up to the fighting flop that disappointed an entire generation, C2: Judgment Clay is, to my eye, a game that no one was asking for.  Is that based on my completely esoteric view of the franchise?  Perhaps.  The fact that the series got yet another sequel on the Nintendo 64 proves there must have been some sort of audience for these things.  I've just never met any of those people.  Maybe Interplay was trying to turn this franchise into a hit through sheer willpower.  And if that is the case, they failed.

Obviously I've already thoroughly explained the many reasons I despise fighting games a number of times at this point.  Mostly, it's because I suck at them, I don't think that they're fun, and I don't want to spend a million hours trying to master them.  C2 is no different in any of those regards, it's a game I struggle with, I don't like playing it, and I will never invest the time necessary to change either of those things. 

Strangely enough, even though this is the second game in the Clayfighter series, and third release overall, I swear this is somehow a much worse looking title than the original was.  Did Interplay scrap the stop motion animation and clay models this time out?  I'm sure they didn't, but something about it kind of looks like they did.  Or at least something is different and cheaper looking, graphics-wise.  I was not a big fan of the first game, but I will at least give it some begrudging respect for pulling off some impressive examples of early claymation.  Even if I thought it was wasted on some truly terrible character designs.  But I swear whatever is going on here is a serious downgrade.  Most of the roster is brand new, so perhaps it was a rushed release and they didn't have time to fully craft the models or put in more animation.  I don't know what the problem is, but in any case the first game's best strength takes a serious hit this time out.

The fighting engine is also definitely faster and more responsive this go around.  Perhaps that was an effect of Street Fighter II: Turbo, and everyone decided they had to start bringing the speed.  Do I have those timelines right?  Did Turbo come out after Clayfighter?  I don't know, it doesn't matter.  But everything does seem speedier this time, which I'm okay with.  Or at least it doesn't seem to hurt the gameplay. 

The single player mode is also much less infuriating than it was in the original.  Playing fighting games solo is usually a pretty horrid enough experience as it is, but the serious balancing issues in the first game almost made the game unplayable to me, and it seemed even more pronounced in the tournament edition.  The developers must have felt the same way, because the blatant cheating by the AI is no longer an issue, and winning fights now seems to rely less on exploits or cheap shots, and more on combos and actual strategy.  Not that I would ever pretend to actually know jack shit about the intricacies of any fighting game, but my uninformed ass at least felt that way.

Did I enjoy my time with C2?  Nope, absolutely not - it's a fighting game, so it never stood a chance in that regard.  But I can recognize that this is a much more playable game than its predecessor, and that some people will enjoy it.  If you had high hopes for the original, and were let down just like me, you may find some sort of satisfaction here.

Did I beat it?
Yes? The experiences with the three Clayfighters are starting to run together in my head.


#532 - Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool



The first of the two Chester Cheetah games released for the system, and the only one that I'd consider remotely playable in any sense.  Or I should say it is dramatically less broken than its ill-fated sequel.  And if you don't remember what I wrote about Wild Wild Quest, it basically boiled down to "high concept game completely ruined by framerate issues and cheap level designs."  Too Cool to Fool on the other hand, plays things much safer than its follow-up, so there's a lot less going on, but it also actually resembles a fully finished and tested video game.  So in other words, we've got here a competently made yet boring game, as opposed to a bona fide fiasco.  Sometimes I prefer the latter, but in this case I'm going with the former.

Is Chester Cheetah still a thing nowadays?  I'm assuming he probably is, I just don't know because I never watch television anymore, much less the Nickelodeon channel, where you would have been constantly inundated with his commercials.   And he was everywhere back in the day.  I guess once Frito-Lay saw how popular Joe Camel was with wee children they mocked up their own rip-off to lure them into begging their parents to buy the messiest snack ever known to man.  It worked on me, I still love that crap.

The plot in Too Cool To Fool revolves around Chester doing... things?  Honestly, I don't even know if there is a story, or how one would come up with one for a food mascot.  The developers must have come to the same realization, and didn't even bother.  Granted there was some text in the introduction about life in the zoo (despite there being no zoo levels in this game), but it's laid out in what I can only describe as "indecipherable beatnik speak," so I'm standing by my no story claim.  And yes, that is what I am calling this:



I'd wager '90s kids were a little more into the slang from Pauly Shore or Vanilla Ice than this, but honestly, what's the difference?  It's all dumb.

The gameplay itself is super standard mascot platformer fare.  Chester walks (he's too cool to run unless you get a power-up) and jumps, and occasionally grabs an electric guitar to rock out on, Chuck Berry-style.  Did I mention how hard this game is pushing the "cool" angle?  There's also a gratuitous crawling animation that is less Goemon-style hilarious as it is creepily suggestive.  If you don't know what I'm talking about I'll let you search for it yourself.  And I only mention it because the number of moves he has is so painfully limited that I have nothing else to talk about.

Levels are also super generic and non-descript.  Sometimes you go underground to scrounge for power-ups, but this is yet another game where most of those seem completely pointless.  So I generally didn't even bother.  And I guess the only reason I think higher of this game than I do of Adventures of Yogi Bear, the other most-boringest platformer on the planet, is because at least this thing has some variety.  I mean, it barely does, like a short segment where you need to get a monkey to help you out, or a mine cart section that plays exactly like you'd think it does, but at least it's trying.  A little bit.

Honestly, I'm losing steam here.  I played through this several years ago, and I already barely remember anything from the refresher session I held several months ago.  It's a platformer.  You do platformer things.  It's based on a damn snack food.  Moving on.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  In one try.  One.


#531 - Super Soccer



Nintendo tosses its hat into the soccer ring, and just like with Super Play Action Football and NCAA Basketball, prove to us that they're better off sticking with their Mario/Zelda/Metroid day job.  Or at least that they shouldn't make sports games unless Mario is involved.

The best comparison to Super Soccer is the (recently covered) Super Goal! 2.  As in both games play almost exactly the same.  Exactly.  I guess after realizing how broken Goal! was, Jaleco decided to rip off the mighty Nintendo with their next title.  And I can't blame them for assuming that would be a good idea.  But the game they chose to mimic is nearly as bad as their own. 

In fact, the games are so similar that I don't even want to write another synopsis of the same talking points.  So I'm just gonna quickly write-up SS in the laziest possible way, and briefly go over a few things, including what is (slightly) different than what SG!2 offered:

Viewing perspective - It's exactly the same as SG!2, and happens to be the first thing that tipped me off as to how familiar this whole thing felt.

Controls - Work almost exactly the same.  Well, that's not true.  You can actually pass your to teammates now (novel fucking idea), though it still doesn't work as great as it does in most other soccer games.  But that is still basically the entire reason this is fifteen spots higher than SG!2 is.

Spin - It's easier to put it on the ball here.  You'd think that would lead to more scoring, but you'd be wrong.

Difficulty - It's harder.  Too hard for a wuss like me in fact.  Games against the worst opponents show how fun the game could have been with a few tweaks, but I don't really like playing Holland over and over again.

Ummm... so yeah, that's about it.  It's the same game otherwise.  I'm sure some super fan could come in here and correct me, and point out fifty things wrong with the assertions I made, but fuck it.  It's soccer and I don't care enough to spend more time on these games proofing things.  Not that I didn't play both games for way longer than any sane person would.

Did I beat it?
No, I can only beat the weakest of opponents.


#530 - Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls



Remember back in the day when beat 'em ups ruled the land?  It was glorious.  You couldn't find a video game collection that didn't include Double Dragon or Final Fight or Streets of Rage 2, all of which provided heaps of mindless fun.  Who doesn't enjoy kicking people in the face a dozen times before delivering a roundhouse that sends them flying off the edge of a cliff?  Or grabbing some goon and piledriving his face into some asphalt?  Nobody, that's who.  But then that stupid Street Fighter game had to come out and ruin it for everyone.  Before you knew it all of the Double Dragons and Ninja Turtles and Golden Axes had had lost their collective minds and morphed into fighting games.  And anyone who knows anything about me (or has read at least a few of my reviews) knows how much I despise fighting games.  Not that I can blame any of those developers, they were just following the money and what all the kids were playing.  And for most people it's probably a natural evolution of the beat 'em up genre.  And even I can admit that there is only so much you can add to such an old gameplay formula before its limitations start becoming more apparent.  So in many ways it was only natural that games like Double Dragon V arose as a result.

Still, this move into the realm of one-on-one fighting games ended up being a massive step backwards for every one of those franchises I just named, and basically killed most of them off for decades, if not permanently.  While the brawling originals are all considered stone cold classics, that are still fondly remembered to this day, their ill-advised brethren have mostly become punchlines.  Shoddy knockoffs trying to regain some of their previous glory.  DDV is one of those games.

The gameplay plays just like any fighter -- kicks, punches, specials, etc -- nothing that wasn't done by every single other game in the genre.  Things are responsive enough to rise above garbage like Street Combat or Doomsday Warrior, but otherwise everything about it is completely and utterly unremarkable. 

The animation is also pretty spotty, and at times almost feels "spazzy" to me.  Like things are moving quicker than they should, or it's as if I'm stuck playing on a "turbo" mode.  That may be a good thing for some people, especially those who prefer their fighting games fast and furious, but all it did was throw me off and make me wish I could turn the speed of play down.

The game is also way too slowly-paced.  And yes, I just called the game too fast and too slow.  What I mean by that is every fight feels like it takes an eternity to complete, with combatants who soak up an absurd amount of punishment before they die.  So instead of rewarding the players who can pull off nicely timed combos that will tear into a character's health bar, you're instead just fighting a war of attrition, hoping to string together enough hits to wear your opponent down before the timer runs out.  That sucks, and is a pretty big reason I have the game as low as I do. 

Plus, there is actually pretty copious slowdown, which just further drags things out.  If I actually cared about being good at fighting games, or playing them competitively, that would probably be an even bigger detriment, but since I don't I'm barely penalizing the game for it.

For those of you who may be keeping score, my main complaints right now are that the game is too fast, too slow, and too slow.  That would make a great box quote.

The art style is also just awful.  Like, I don't know if this was based on an American TV show or something, but long gone are the Kunio-style graphics of the 8-bit games, instead replaced with some of the ugliest mugs ever to grace a Super Nintendo game.  It looks like one of those failed '80s cartoons that tried to steal some of Hanna Barbera's thunder.  And the final boss, the Shadow Master (first seen in Double Dragon II and Battletoads Double Dragon), now has long grey hair spilling out of his mask.  He looks like a friggin' doofus.

Now I will say that this game does at least try to give you plentiful options, including both "Quest" and "Tournament" modes.  It's actually very similar to what Turtles Tournament Fighters offered, though I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or if this was a common thing for fighting games at the time.  Either way, it doesn't really add anything to the game, other than giving you two very slightly different paths through the game with separate cutscenes.  Assuming anyone cares about cutscenes or storylines in a fighting game.  I'm not really sure why they bothered, to be honest.

In the end, this has to be the worst Double Dragon game that was ever made, and that includes the old arcade game that contained some of the world's first instances of micro transactions.  I guess I'd rather play a beat 'em up that steals your money than some also-ran Street Fighter II knockoff.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times.  Maybe three.  It was way too many whatever it was.


#529 - BreakThru!



Is this the first traditional puzzle game on the list?  It must be, because I feel like this is usually a genre that is very hard to mess up in any significant way.  All you really need is a central hook or gimmick, with some colorful graphics thrown in, and a moderately balanced difficulty curve.  It's a simple formula, that doesn't require a fancy presentation, elaborate setpieces and sequences, or complicated controls.  Just basic gameplay.  And I feel like most of the genre's offerings on the SNES were able to get that part right.  But BreaktThru! (not to be confused with the NES game) is the weakest of that bunch, with a central gimmick that just doesn't seem very well implemented or balanced, or thought out in general.  And it isn't really very fun to play, which is about the only thing that truly matters with a game like this.

The best way I can explain the gameplay is as follows:

- You start each level with a grid of blocks that are red/yellow/blue/green.  Above the grid is a constantly moving "conveyor belt" of new blocks that will occasionally drop down onto the playing field.
- Items (or at least that's what I call them) include dynamite that will destroy a section of blocks, arrows that will wipe out part of a row or column, and wild cards that let you erase an entire color from the current stacks.
- The simple controls let you switch the direction the belt is scrolling, drop pieces, use any items on the field of play, or toggle some vertical lines on/off so that you can see where things align.  I would heartily recommend you turn that last one on.

One of the major issues is that I can never get things to consistently happen.  Like, sometimes clicking on dynamite will cause it to explode.  Most of the time it will do nothing.  Why?  I have absolutely zero idea.  And this is a game that I played through to completion, and then played a significant amount of a second time for the sake of this review.

Another problem is that there is no balance to the "endgame" of each round.  You'll need to remove every single block in order to move on, yet a lot of the time you won't get the drops needed to make that happen.  Anyone who has ever played Yoshi's Cookie should have an idea of what I'm talking about.  For example, if you only have yellow blocks left, but the drops are nothing but green, blue, and red, your piles will start to build back up, undoing all of your hard work.  All because of bad luck.  And unlike YC, there is a time limit to each round, which makes each failure even more infuriating.  There is nothing more frustrating than having to start an entire round over because you just happened to get the wrong colors at the wrong time, over and over again.

It's hard to make a puzzle game that isn't fun - even flawed games like Wario's Woods and Pac-Attack managed to do it.  But BreakThru! seems over-designed or something.  Or maybe it's just missing a core mechanic, or some sort of polish that could have helped get it over the hump.  Like maybe a special attack you can earn that lets you blow away troublesome pieces or something.  Or a smarter algorithm that will actually generate the pieces you need once in a while.  And yet even if those flaws were corrected, you'd still be left with a game whose core "gimmick" just isn't very clever or fun.  So at the end of the day the result is the least interesting game the genre produced on the SNES.  And it's one that couldn't set itself apart in any single way, outdone by over a dozen other contemporaries.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  It took the patience of a saint but I did it dammit.  And then I almost did it again just for this review.


#528 - Super Putty



Here we have another baffling Amiga port.  Baffling in that it raises the question, "who was this meant for?"  The cutesy graphics imply it was aimed at small children, yet this game is way too hard for any kid to enjoy.  At the same time I can't imagine any adults being super enthused about playing something called Super Putty.  I'm also guessing that this game was not a massive success in the US, which could explain why we never saw the sequel over here.  Or maybe there were a ton of sequels since I swear I still see "Putty" games popping up to this day.

Someone on a site I regularly visit once compared this game to Contra.  I remember being taken aback by the audacity of that statement, racking my brain as to how such a thing could be possible.  Could this Amiga platformer secretly feature fast and furious gunplay?  Epic boss fights?  Sublime cooperative play?  A gigantic H.R. Giger alien?  I didn't know, but said poster had caught my attention with such a bold and intriguing proposition.  It even got me to fast track a purchase of the cart...

And let me tell you, that analogy couldn't be any more off base or insane.  On what planet is this a remotely comparable experience?  Am I completely missing something?  Is there a hidden part of Super Putty that I've yet to discover?  Does it completely switch gears halfway through?  Is there a "fire gun" button that I somehow never discovered?  These thoughts still hum through my brain to this day.

But as far as I can tell, no, this is an just another Amiga game, nothing more.  And I know "Amiga game" isn't generally considered a genre unto itself, but to me it almost is.  They just have a certain look and feel that is always present, and immediately apparent.  This game has that feel, in spades.

As seems to be common with these games, the gameplay revolves around depositing thingies into an end goal of sorts, which unlocks an exit door.  In order to accomplish this task you'll need to use your (putty?) ball's ability to stretch and bounce in order reach far and high platforms.  The pic above kind of shows in detail how this works and what he's capable of.  The game also has a pretty unique main attack, in that you melt into the ground and wait for your prey to wander into range so you can consume it.  Like some sort of (super lame) Sarlacc or something.

Now just because the game offers unique methods of locomotion and attack, and make no mistake, they are unique, does that make any of that any fun?  Not really.  Every other game on the planet lets you jump, or use a grappling hook or something, because those things work.  And while the thought of digesting your foes like some sort of acid pool or liquid venus flytrap fills me with a kind of macabre glee, it's not actually very satisfying in practice.  This game would have been way better with some graphic gore and violence.

I definitely cannot say Super Putty is a terrible game, or even a bad game.  It's just not a game that I find to be very fun.  I can always tell that's the case when I barely make any progress into a game, and have a very hard time forcing myself to keep at it for the sake of these reviews.  Or when I have to keep taking whacks at the review itself because I can never think of anything to write about.

Did I beat it?
No.  I probably only made it a fraction of the way through the game.


#527 - Space Invaders



Man what a lackluster effort.  While a number of classic arcade titles from the early 1980s were ported over to the Super Nintendo, they were either done as compilations (such as the Midway and Williams collections), or boast gameplay that has arguably withstood the test of time (Mr. Do!, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger).  The late release of Space Invaders on the other hand, is a barebones repackaging of a title that came out all the way back in 1978, with graphics and gameplay that look and feel it.  And this was a first-party release.  I guess the big N was too busy with their newfangled 64-bit console to care about some SNES game they crapped out as little more than an afterthought.

Without looking into it, I'm gonna say Space Invaders was the world's first shoot 'em up (or shmup).  Or at least the first mega popular one, not counting Asteroids.  So I understand this is an important video game in the history of the medium, that made a huge impact back in its time.  And I understand that it was immensely popular, responsible for a national quarter shortage in the US (or maybe that was Japan).  I get it, shmups are fun, and options were limited back then.  But anyone would be hard pressed to argue that the game doesn't play poorly today.  The pacing is slow, the action is repetitive, and depth is almost nonexistent.  All you do is shoot a couple waves of enemies, maybe go for a bonus UFO or two if the opportunity presents itself, or duck under the cover that's provided if you're bored enough to mix things up.  Then after a few minutes you repeat the process, over and over again.  What you see in the first thirty seconds is what you get for the rest of the game.

Now, it wouldn't have been hard to enhance the game for this 16-bit reissue.  All Nintendo needed to do was add better graphics, or extra levels, or boss fights, or anything at all.  Instead, they opted for a very rudimentary versus mode where you and another player compete for high scores, and some graphic overlays you can pick between that mimic the marquees on the various different arcade cabinets.  That.  Is.  It.  A versus mode that doesn't play very well, and some fake marquees.  Talk about phoning it in.

A part of me wanted to really punish this game in the rankings for being such a piss-poor effort, and there were several times I came very close to retroactively throwing it into Volume IV.  I mean it has to be one of the laziest games on the platform, and easily one of Nintendo's weakest moments on its best console.  The whole thing is an insult to players.  But at the same time I can't seem to bring myself to call this a worse game than all of those trainwrecks I already tore into.  Aged or not, you can't say Space Invaders is as bad as something like The Adventures of Mighty Max.  It would just feel wrong.  And lazy or not, at least the game actually works on some level, unlike crap such as Championship Pool or Virtual Bart.  So I settled with this spot, still a relatively poor rank, yet not completely insulting to a classic game.  I feel good about it.

Did I beat it?
I beat a couple of the boards on a few occasions.  So... yes?


#526 - The Itchy & Scratchy Game



For those of you readers that may not know, The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a cartoon within a cartoon (The Simpsons) that can basically be summarized as an R-Rated and very violent Tom and Jerry.  And I don't doubt that any under the age of thirty wouldn't be familiar with the cat and mouse duo because The Simpsons hasn't been really worth watching for at least twenty years.  And also because the title and cover art of this game make no mention of its parent show, at all, strangely enough.  Kind of a weird marketing strategy when you're a tie-in to one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the day...

In Volume IV of this project I covered Bart's Nightmare, one of the two Simpsons minigame collections released on the SNES.  And one of the games in BN tasked you with navigating the Simpson home, repeatedly murdering the cat and mouse that have invaded it.  I've always thought it was the strongest part of that game, finding it immensely satisfying to hit them with a frying pan or spray them with bazooka fire.  The Itchy & Scratchy game takes that minigame and tries to flesh it out into an entire video game that can stand on its own.  And I can't fault Acclaim for going for it because, honestly, that is a pretty great idea, and makes way more sense than any of the other Simpsons titles on the system.

Instead of using Bart to kill both Itchy and Scratchy, this time around you control just Itchy the mouse, and engage Scratchy in mortal combat across a collection of levels, with themes such as pirates, prehistoria, etc.  Like its predecessor, the action is fast and furious, and there are assorted hammers, guns, and various other implements of destruction scattered around to do the job.  But instead of one-shot kills, now you'll both be trying to whittle each other's health bars down, which will then trigger a follow-up boss fight.  And you know what?  I love every single one of those ideas.  It's exactly what an I&S game should be about, and the "deathmatch" style of design was way ahead of its time.  If only they had had the foresight (or time) to implement some sort of two player competitive mode, we could have had a potential sleeper hit on our hands.

But obviously I wouldn't be writing about this game right now if it was truly any good.  And it isn't.  The ideas are there, but the implementation is not, and it doesn't even come close to fully realizing any of them.  The combat, while great on paper, is super clunky in practice.  The levels are also super boring, and the low resolution (damn you Super Nintendo!) turns one of their battles into chaos and button mashing, or worse, a reliance on exploits, instead of strategy and tactics.  And the boss fights that every level builds to are a complete and unmitigated disaster, laden with frustration and cheap design.  Especially the first one.  And the pirate one.  What am I saying, they all suck.

In the end I think I&S can still be a moderately fun game at times, despite itself, held back by some pretty glaring flaws.  And it really is a shame they didn't add in a multiplayer mode, which I think could have held a lot of promise.  But it's still certainly more tolerable than either of the other two Simpsons games I already covered, by a large margin, and it certainly could have been worse.  But if I was to recommend one Simpsons game on the SNES, I wouldn't hesitate in going with the one title that is left, which I will be covering several installments from now.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and then almost a second time when I was writing this up.