Archive for October, 2007

Super Castlevania IV

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

It’s kind of hard to tell where Castlevania IV falls into the timeline of the Castlevania universe, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a reimagining of the first game meant to show off the power of the then new-fangled Super NES.

The story is typical for a Castlevania game, Dracula is back and Simon Belmont must use his whip and his wits to kill him again. Only this time the characters are bigger, the locations spookier, and Simon is marginally more maneuverable.

Out of all of the original batch of side-scrolling Castlevania games, this one is my favorite. It takes the basic idea of the original and ramps it up into an (almost) epic side scrolling game. It also doesn’t hurt that it lays on the Super Nintendo Mode 7 effects pretty heavily (rotating rooms, trippy backgrounds, and enemies that change size as you hit them? Yes, please!). And to top it all off, the music is pretty catchy. Ok, I know that doesn’t really sound like a ringing endorsement, but the game really is good. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

Flying Dragon

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

We can chalk up this game to another one that I didn’t really have any idea what was going on. Flying Dragon has two kinds of playmodes: a sidescrolling platform thing, and a tournament martial arts fighter.

See, your guy has to make his way to a series of martial arts tournaments, but the way is crammed full of wave after wave of very weak enemies. Occasionally a slightly stronger enemy, like a schoolgirl, will make an appearance. You have to beat all of these enemies, grab the trinkets they drop, and proceed to the locked door to continue.

Once you actually get to the tournament, the game changes completely. A series of targets will appear on you and your enemies. You have to either hit or defend these targets depending on if they appear on you or your opponent. Adding a wrinkle to this whole mishmash of a game is that some of the competitors in the tournaments are ‘tusk soldiers’ in disguise. If you can undisguise them by hitting them in their weak spot, they turn into these weird guys with tusks for a face. To completely finish this game you have to find the tusk-guys, defeat them all, and get the scrolls they hold to make you stronger. And finish the game proper.

Typically I like a good inexplicable game, and this one tries real hard to be inexplicable. Being attacked en route to a martial arts tournament by a schoolgirl? Fighting soldiers with tusks for faces? Pummeling statues to get powerups? Yeah, that works. I don’t know how, but it works.

Demon Sword

Monday, October 29th, 2007

I played a lot of Demon Sword growing up, but I don’t think I ever really knew what was going on. I understand that this game is a sequel to Legend of Kage, but I never played it. So there’s a good chance that I’m missing out on some of the intricacies of the story. What I do know is that you start out with a little stub of a sword and have to find and kill demons to get the parts of it back. You’re constantly being attacked on all sides by swarms of disposable minions, but it’s cool. You can jump about twenty times your own height to get out of the way.

I was going to show you a video of this game in action, but couldn’t find one that wasn’t terrible in one way or another. You’ll have to settle for a screenshot instead.

Demon Sword

Playing it again now makes me realize how mediocre this game really was. It fits squarely into the category of ‘games I played a lot because I didn’t have money to buy anything else’.

Crazy Taxi 2

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

The original Crazy Taxi is one of my all-time favorite arcade games. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing it, and although I can’t be considered a pro at it by any stretch, I consider myself to be competent at it. So when a (direct to home console) sequel came out, I was compelled to give it a try.

The sequel plays a lot like the first game with a couple of minor differences: the city is New York instead of San Francisco, the cabbies are different (although the original 4 can be unlocked), the car can jump, and you can pick up multiple people at once.

What hasn’t changed in this version is the arrow that is supposed to show you where your next destination is. It ends up, more often than not, pointing directly at the place you have to stop, rather than the best route to take, so you’ll encounter the arrow pointing an an impassable building, with your stop directly on the other side.

I’ll admit that I didn’t really put as much time into this game as I did the original. In order to get really good at the game, you have to commit the city layout to memory, since the arrow isn’t as helpful as it could be. That was something that I didn’t take the time to do. What I did do, and where I spent most of my time, was to complete the ‘Crazy Pyramid’ mode, which is a series of drills designed to make you a better player. Though, I do admit, I only did it to unlock the weird baby carriage… thing. Yep, you get to travel around the city at breakneck speed, delivering people to their destinations in a giant baby carriage. Try to tell me that’s not awesome.

Resident Evil

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Since I only came into possession of an original Playstation system, I missed out on a lot of its landmark games. So when Resident Evil was remade for the Game Cube, a system I actually owned, I jumped at the chance to finally play it.

The original game was a campy, gory story of a zombie outbreak. The new version loses some of the camp, adds some more gore, and succeeds at being really creepy.

The story goes something like this: there is a zombie outbreak, you take the role of either Chris or Jill (members of an elite military group, natch) and try to figure out what’s going on. En route to investigate the problem, and to figure out what happened to the other elite military group that was sent in to investigate first, the group is chased down by zombie dogs into a creepy mansion in the middle of the creepy woods. From there, they try to unravel the mystery and get out alive. It goes without saying that this game is quite violent and not for the kiddos.

What you’re going to notice almost right away is that to proceed, you’re going to have to solve some puzzles. The solutions to the puzzles range from the straightforward (put the key in the keyhole), to the slightly less obvious (wind the clock to open a secret panel), to the ridiculous (play Moonlight Sonata on a conveniently placed piano to open a door).

You’re also going to notice that this game looks amazing, especially for the Game Cube. It really adds to the atmosphere. Go ahead and play it at night, with all the lights turned off. Bonus points if it’s a rainy night.

Don’t Pull

Friday, October 26th, 2007

3 Wonders is a bit of an oddball arcade machine. It has three ‘games’ inside, the first two tell a story, and the third just doesn’t fit in at all. Don’t Pull is a lot like Pengo. There are several blocks that you can push (but not pull) and enemies that scurry around the playfield. The goal is to eliminate all of the baddies by either smashing them between two blocks or covering up their manhole covers so they can’t get into the stage.

This continues for something like one hundred levels with adorable cutscenes every so often. And even though it doesn’t fit into the theme of the other two games it shares the cabinet with, it’s still a fun diversion for a minute or two.


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

On the surface, Diablo looks to be your typical hack-’n'-slash dungeon crawl. You take your character into a dungeon to kill the evil things within and come back out with loot. However the apparent simplicity is belied by the increasingly complicated story, which you slowly unravel as you plumb the depths of the dungeon.

I’m not going to pretend to fully understand the story of this game, but here are some highlights, which I’ll probably get completely wrong: Demon gets trapped in crystal → Demon wants out and manages to telepathically control priest → Priest kidnaps king’s son → king goes mad with grief → Possessed priest says that demons did it → Grief-addled king sends troops to find kidnapped son → Troops get slaughtered → One of the handful that survives realized that the king is off his nut, and kills him → king turns undead and enslaves the souls of the troops → king’s son becomes new vessel for spirit of lead deamon → then the game starts.

Now I’ll grant you that the bulk of the story happens before the game starts, but you don’t really know about it until you play through it, talk to the townsfolk, and read the books that are scattered about. You start out with the goal of exterminating the evil from the church.

You essentially just walk around the dungeons and look for stuff to kill. Along the way the things you bludgeon to death will drop money, armor, weapons, and miscellaneous items that you collect to use or to take back to town to sell. It’s all pretty straightforward. The only problem you’ll come across is this: about halfway through the game you’ll encounter some enemies that will hit you with a ranged attack (think bow and arrow). You walk toward them to put them in a world of pain, and they walk away from you to get away. Since you can’t speed up to come up with them, and if you’ve picked a melee class (no ranged attacks) like I did my first time through, you end up with a series of incredibly tedious low-speed chases.

Beyond that significant annoyance this game is pretty solid, and the almost completely nonsensical ending sets the stage for the sequel, which we’ll get into another day.


Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Thanks to my years of playing video games I now know that if aliens ever invade Earth that I need to find two of the best, most highly trained, musclebound men that I can find. I then need to give them access to all sorts of heavy weaponry, and then drop them as far from the enemy base as possible, shirtless and bandanna-ed.

You’re going to think this plan of action is going to be foolhardy. But trust me, I’ve seen it in action, and it cannot fail.

If the knowledge that I’ve gleaned from my years of practicing the Digital Arts can help save the planet from rampaging militaristic aliens or giant mutated crabs then it will all be worth it.

Donkey Kong ‘94

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The name of this game is technically Donkey Kong, but it’s a remake of sorts of the original, so I like to use its prerelease name just for clarity. If you’ve never played Donkey Kong, the story can be summed up thusly: A big monkey kidnaps a damsel, Mario scales a construction site in an effort to save her. Let’s suppose for a moment that after scaling the four sets of scaffolding that the big ape decides to rekidnap the damsel and run off. What’s Mario to do? Rescue her, I suppose.

In the first Donkey Kong game, you had to get to the top of the screen, then Donkey Kong would grab Pauline (the damsel) and climb a little higher. In this game, after every stage, Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and runs off through something like 100 stages across a variety of locations, each much more complicated than your vanilla Donkey Kong experience. Not to worry, though, Mario has a plethora of new moves to help him along. Your goal in each stage is to find the key, avoid the enemies, and carry the key to the door before the time runs out. It starts out pretty easy, but gets a bit tougher as the game wears on.

This is definitely one of my favorite Game Boy games. Not just because it’s the first game I bought that was compatible with my Super Game Boy, but because it’s a fantastic package. It’s fun, controls well, and is easy to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time (you get to save after every 4th stage). The game is also extremely lavish with the amount of extra lives it gives you. If you’ve never played this game, then I weep for you.

Secretly… on the inside.


Monday, October 22nd, 2007

If you went into an arcade in the late 90s, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a T-Mek machine, though you may not have known what it was. The machine itself was pretty imposing, it was a large machine designed for four people (the version I played, at any rate). Each person got a self-contained cockpit, complete with screen, seat, two joysticks, and surround sound system. But for what?

T-Mek is a game about fighting tanks, and your station is supposed to simulate the interior of the tank. The controls are a bit tough to wrap your head around at first. Each of your sticks controls the treads on one side, so you push them both forward to move forward, both back to go backward, and one in each direction to turn. Use the triggers to fire your weak guns, left thumb to shield, and right thumb to fire your special weapon. It really becomes second nature after a while.

This is all nice and everything, but what do you do? Well, you and up to three of your friends jump into your tanks and then ride around an arena in an effort to blow each other up. Each time you do some damage, you get points. Get the most points at the end of the match, and you win!

Single player is about the same as multiplayer, except that you have to go up against progressively harder computer-controlled opponents in order to ascend the ladder and claim the title of ‘champion tank shooter-guy’. But, to be honest, I didn’t really invest much time into the single player mode. Multi-player was much more exciting. It was pretty exhilarating to go into an arcade on a Saturday night and string together a half-dozen or more victories in a row. Kind of makes me misty-eyed remembering what a good time can be had at a good arcade, and saddened that they’re becoming harder and harder to find anymore.