River City Ransom (NES)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I've mentioned it before, a long time ago, that I'm not exactly steeped in the Nintendo lore. So there are tons of games ripe for exploration, enjoyment and blogging. That said, it can be hard to stick a pin, as it were, and decide on what to play, so recommendations are always welcome.

One game that I've heard talked about as a bit of a must-play is River City Ransom. That's all I could remember about it prior to today... I didn't know what it was about, what you had to do or anything. What better way to find out than to just dive right in?

Barf? I must have hit him really hard!

I was pleasantly surprised, at first, to find a game that was not unlike Double Dragon or Renegade (it felt a little more like Renegade to me). And, in fact, research showed that this was the third entry in a series that started with... Renegade. Damn, I'm good! And if you haven't heard of River City Ransom and live outside the US, well, it was known as Street Gangs in other territories. Isn't the internet wonderful?

River City Ransom is another in the long line of videogame tales that see your useless girlfriend captured and imprisoned and in need of rescue. One of these days, someone is going to program a game where that happens and the hero just says, "Ahhh, fuck it" and goes out and gets another girlfriend. That would be pretty subversive. Until it happens though, we chivalrous (in-game) fellas will keep on putting our lives on the line, battling past innumerable hordes of bad guys for the honour of our girls.

Oh man, I could murder a decent cuppa (and about a thousand goons).

The game features a number of inner-city locales to batter your way through, including parks, building sites, tunnels and buildings, and each of these locales is the turf of one of the many gangs that are featured. It's not quite The Warriors... each gang is determined only by the colour of their shirts... but it still adds a welcome sense of scope to proceedings.

Also featured in the game are high street shopping areas. In these, a number of shops can be visited and their goods purchased. These goods will go towards increasing your character's stats, be it through the eating of food or drinking of beverages (which will replenish lost stamina and energy as well as increasing maximum levels). You can also buy books which, when read, add extra moves to your character's moveset. This is a pretty cool touch, actually.

They what> The bastards! But I... I... trusted them!

One thing I noticed, bearing in mind that this is the first time I've ever played this game... River City Ransom has obviously been a massive influence on the whole Scott Pilgrim vs The World phenomenon. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the recent downloadable Scott Pilgrim game is almost a carbon copy of River City Ransom. I was amazed at how similar they are... I played Scott Pilgrim on the 360 when it was released, but not having been a NES owner, I didn't realise the extent to which it had been an influence. I suppose it's the sincerest form of flattery, especially as the Scott Pilgrim game was done so well and so lovingly.

River City Ransom is a good game, although its limitations can become a little wearying after extended play. You're only ever attacked by two enemies at once, which is a bit dull... that said, they often attack at such speed that you're easily caught out. I'm not a fan of the way you have to move three-quarters of the way across the screen to push the scrolling... it's a bit awkward. And I never actually saw an endgame as such... I didn't play it through to the end, but every time I died I was just put back to a recent point; there was no Game Over.

Hey, what's up homies? What's that? You want to batter me with bricks? Harsh.

Because the game never seems to end, the repetitive nature of the gameplay can become a little boring. Then again, that's the danger with almost every scrolling beat 'em up. At least you have the extra depth that comes with the RPG-Lite elements, and it's a little harsh to criticise what was obviously quite revolutionary for its time, and is still a pretty decent and fun game when it comes down to it. It's got me looking forward to digging out a few more NES games now.

Why is it called River City Ransom when you're not going to pay a ransom?

Advent Calendar - December 22nd.

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Battle 22 (PS1)

I must admit, not only did I not get into the whole Dragon Ball Z thing, I never even gave it a second glance, other than to occasionally ridicule the hairstyles. I still don't particularly know what it's about, but then I could say the same thing about Pokemon. It's because I'm getting old, I guess. But from watching the intro movie to Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Battle 22, I suppose that kids watching this today is a bit like the equivalent of me watching Battle of the Planets when I was nine. So I guess it's OK, really.

Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Battle 22 is, as you would expect, a fighting game. I've never got on that well with fighting games, generally speaking, so I wasn't really holding high hopes for this one. Still, unto the breach...

You have to figure that hurts...

There are a few modes to choose from. The first, and probably most obvious and most played, is 1P VERSUS COM. This mode sees you taking on 22 opponents to win the game. So that's where the 22 of the title comes from, then. The other main mode is kind of like a tutorial with RPG elements... apparently you can take your charater and build up their attributes. I wasn't entirely sure how that worked though.

As with a lot of these things, it obviously doesn't take itself too seriously. I picked this up right from the character select screen, with names such as "Piccolo", "Little Trunks", "Super Trunks" (obviously the one to go for from those two!) and "Likum", this is not a game without a sense of humour, probably at its own expense. So, wandering through the different odd-looking types, I was about to settle on "Super Trunks" as my on screen persona...

Haha! You're getting beaten up by a girl! Well, a girl robot...

...and then I spotted a character called "Genious". So THAT'S why so many people of a certain age mis-spell the word "genius" on the internet! Damn you, Dragonball Z, damn you to hell!

Once I got into the fighting, it was all just a bit dull. Each character has about half a dozen special moves, but there's not that much variation in them, either in execution or appearance. Graphically it's ropey... although that's partially down to the original style of the characters. There's not much variety in them... they've either got stupid spiky hair, are bald or are androids. There's not much that can be done to help them.

This seems like a bit of a mis-match...

I imagine Dragon Ball Z fans might get something out of this... 22 characters seems like a decent roster for a fighting game based on a cartoon. The gameplay itself is not much fun and very samey, but I imagine if you're a fan you'll take the time to learn the moves for all the characters, in which case there's hours of play to be had, I didn't enjoy it, so even my hour's worth felt like it had gone on too long.

Advent Calendar - December 2nd.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Two Crude Dudes (Sega Megadrive)

This wasn't actually my first choice for today, but then I found out the game I was due to play was a sequel, and I'm trying not to play any sequels for this advent calendar project (there will be the occasional game that is technically a sequel, but they're allowed!). So, after a little bit of a dig around I came up with this substitute.

You have to say, that looks like a bit of a mismatch.

Two Crude Dudes is a side-scrolling beat 'em up set in a dystopian, post-nuclear future. It's actually based on an arcade game called Two Crude, and bad though the Megadrive game's name is, it's slightly less rubbish than the arcade game's.

Not that it matters... I'd neither heard of nor played either of them before, so I went with the Megadrive version. It's made by Data East, so it probably won't come as any surprise to find out it plays a but like Dragon Ninja (which was actually called Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, if I remember right... someone at Data East must have had a thing for dudes).

Hey, hang on a minute! I forgot my marshamllows!

It's as simple as you'd expect from this type of game... walk from left to right, and punch, kick and throw everything that comes your way. What matters is whether it's well done, or has a unique spin of its own.

Two Crude Dudes, thankfully, has a sense of humour. If it didn't, there's no way you'd play it more than once, because it really is a bog-standard beat 'em up in every other way. There's no special moves or anything remarkable. All you have is a steady stream of odd, mutated characters coming your way. If anything, it reminds me a little of Street Hassle, which I played in October.

Yeah, I've done that a few times. Usually when my Hula Hoops have got stuck.

I have to say, if I'd bought this for the Megadrive, I'd probably have been disappointed. It really is a shallow button-masher, with just the crazy characters making it stand out in any way. On the other hand, it has a simultaneous two-player mode, and I expect I'd have had a right laugh with that. As a one-player game in 2010, though, it's not something I can say I'd play much beyond the hour I gave it for this write-up.

Advent Calendar - December 1st.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

First Samurai (Commodore 64)

If you've ever picked up a joystick and you're over the age of thirty, the chances are you've heard of The Last Ninja series of games. They're the legendary tales of Armakuni, out to avenge his murdered ninja brethren. Everybody knows about The Last Ninja. First Samurai, on the other hand... not so much.

I'll be honest, when I first heard about First Samurai all those years ago, I figured it was a piss-take, and didn't really pay it any attention. Why else would they call it that after The Last Ninja had been so successful? I suppose the intention was to piggyback off it and hope for similar success, but it was released too late for that.

Having travelled through time, our Samurai learned from The Bride how best to get blood off his sword.

First Samurai is also a tale of revenge, but the plot is a bit sillier sounding than that of The Last Ninja, with waffle about Demon Kings and Wizard Mages. The upshot of it all is that your master is dead, and your angry Samurai is out to avenge him.

So, a noble quest, and it turns out to be a huge and action-packed one. Unlike The Last Ninja's lovely isometric 3D, First Samurai distances itself from that game by being a much more straightforward side-scrolling action platformer. You're able to jump and climb around the landscape, which is very handy as there are some very out-of-the-way platforms, and if you can reach them your agility will surely be rewarded...

John Hurt was worried that he'd become typecast...

Of course, you wouldn't be much of a Samurai without a sword, and sure enough, you've got one. Trouble is, it's a mystical sword and you can't wield it unless you have enough mystical energy. You'd better gather that energy quickly as you're going to need that sword, because you're constantly under attack from a barrage of critters and enemies. And when I say "constantly", I mean it... these little bastards respawn as soon as they've been killed. Like I said, it makes for an action-packed game, but it would be nice if you (and the game) were given a little more room to breathe.

Other enemies may be a little trickier to overcome, so you may be able to summon the Wizard Mage on occasions, and he may be able to help you progress. You must use his powers sparingly and wisely, for you are only able to summon him a limited number of times...

Look, there's no point hiding... get out there and get stuck in!

Apparently, once you get far enough, you travel through time to get at the murdering demon. Groan. Yeah, that old chestnut. I'd rather this had stuck to the traditional if I'm honest. Although, for as long as I played the game, it did... I never got beyond the attractive countryside landscapes. As I mentioned earlier... it's obviously a huge game.

I was pretty sure that this came out on the Commodore 64 first, and was ported to other formats. That might be true, but having done some research on this it seems as though the C64 version might have been scaled back from the Amiga version. I don't know which way it went, but the Amiga version looks like a much better game and I wish I'd been able to play that version instead. That's not to say that First Samurai on the Commodore 64 is a bad game. It's a very big game, and quite enjoyable for what it is. But it's a touch unremarkable and doesn't feel quite as epic as it should (or as The Last Ninja does), which is a bit of a shame.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Look at that title again. I don't know who the hell thought that was any kind of marriage for a fighting game. Obviously someone a bit mad. I reckon that was a tough sell to the DC Comics guys... "yeah, so Scorpion throws his harpoon into Superman's chest and reels him in like a fish, then uppercuts him twenty feet in the air before setting him on fire". They must have figured the kids would love it, because they went for it.

I'm one of "the kids", although I've waited until it was dirt cheap before I bought it (surprise!). The thing is, Mortal Kombat has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, right from the first game when I used to go to the Laser Quest underneath my workplace on a lunch break and play against my mate Neil Jackson. I never manage to figure out the majority of the moves or the fatalities, but the ones I do get are usually daft enough to put a big smile on my face.

Liu Kang puts The Flash into the middle of next week.

So what is it like, then, putting a harpoon into Superman's chest? Well, it's enjoyable, of course. It's actually good fun playing on either side, even if it is pretty simplistic as fighting games go. That works for me... I can never get my head around the complexities of Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter. Mortal Kombat gives me some entertaining button-mashing beat 'em up action that does the job just nicely at the right given time.

I can't say I like the graphical style as much as the original, but everything looks fine. The fighting itself has some real weight to it, with these titans battering each other in very satisfying fashion. Slamming through walls or into the ground from a great height feels just as you'd expect it to, and when you're playing as Superman it's vaguely reminiscent of the classic fighting scene in the Superman II movie. Which is great, obviously.

Supes shoots Raiden. THROUGH THE FACE!

It's nowhere near as good as Street Fighter IV as a game, and yet after owning it for just three days I've already played it more. That's just me and my preferences... I'm obviously a dumb, fun kind of guy. It's pretty bare bones as games go too... as far as I can tell, there are twenty fighters to begin with and no more to unlock, although there's a choice of arcade and story modes. I certainly wouldn't recommend this if you're the type of person that buys top of the range Hori fighting sticks for serious fighting, but if you just fancy some stupid comic book fighting, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe will fit the bill quite nicely.