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april 30, 2013

Operation Logic Bomb for SNES

I took a break from playing Syndicate for something very different. Operation Logic Bomb is a shooting game in an overhead perspective. My favorite perspective! It's like RoboWarrior that I wrote about earlier. Like in RoboWarrior, Operation Logic bomb allows you to get hit a lot, but you also shoot alot.
__ Not my video

You go around and shoot everything. The one little extra command you will need to know is to press the R or L button to lock your current position. This is essential if you are aiming in some directions and don't want it to change when you move. The guy who made the video didn't know that, that's why the gameplay looks so clumsy.

You have different weapons and pick up more weapons later. Some of the weapons allow you to make further progress. A little bit like Metroid, but this game is shorter and you rarely have to spend a long time wondering where to go.

The graphics is nice, the music is cool, blowing up stuff is fun... Like Contra. But unlike Contra, this game is short and quite simple. I got game over two times, but after that I beat it in less than 2 hours. The bosses might be tricky until you understand which weapon to use against them. Also make sure to press all the computer things that give you power upgrades and maps.

The Japanese version is completely in English, except for the end credits.

april 28, 2013

Syndicate for SNES, a deeper look

I mentioned Syndicate in my second last post. I wasn't sure if I could play it in Japanese, but yesterday I put some effort to find out.

UPDATE 2013-12-05: We have now uploaded a video about this game:

Syndicate was first released on a PC with mouse control. Luckily they didn't keep that control function on the SNES. Instead you press a combination of buttons.
To change the menu, press L or R. To enter a menu, press Y. Here you can press A to do something, or B to cancel, or X to switch something (such as between buy and sell). Left and Right change between characters in the menu. In the game, Select makes a team follow or unfollow. Y+Left/Right switches between team member. X+Left/Right switches between weapons. X+Up picks up a weapon and X+down drops a weapon. A fires and B enters/exits cars. R makes it possible to get a temporare boost extra energies you have. L+R boosts all energies at the same time.

It takes a little while to learn the controls but not too bad. The game may not be that great without mouse but it is definitely playable as I will show, even in the Japanese version. I don't know if anyone else would want to play this game in Japanese, but if you do, with some basic Katakana knowledge you'll be able to play with little problems.

How to play
There is a lot that could be said about the game. I made some use of the strategyguide at http://www.gamefaqs.com/snes/588769-syndicate/faqs/35052 to get instructions, even if the FAQ isn't completely accurate for the Japanese version.

The basics are:

* There is always one of 3 things you have to do: kill someone, persuade someone, or pick up a suitcase.

* Persuade is a very important concept. In order to persuade you have to buy "the persuader" as i did in the beginning of the video. With this item you Persuade others to follow you. Just Equip it and stand close to the person you have to Persuade. There are some other factors to know about Persuasion too, and they are explained in the Gamefaq article above. Important: If you Persuade people, you have to take all of them with you to the exit or else you can't exit. If your persuaded person lose sight of your guy, they will start to walk around. Sometimes inside buildings. And you might have to go around looking for them. This was not explained in the FAQ and got me stuck for 3 hours when I first played.

* You also have to upgrade your cyborg with "brain". You can upgrade your weapons, research ways to improve your cyborg, there are other agents out to get you (which you can kill or persuade to make them part of your team). The upgrades do different things. Upgrade Eye to spot the enemy earlier. Upgrade Body to give a stronger armor. Upgrade Leg to run faster. Arm will make your shot more accurate. Etc.

I found out that the SNES version has a password option, but the Super Famicom version has a Continue option. So there is a battery save after each mission. Even if you fail a mission (such as killing someone you should have persuaded) you can just restart the mission, You can also just wait at the menu to accumulate money so you can buy upgrades you need (it will take a long boring time to use that strategy).

Also, the game has a two player mode. You play at the same time on the screen, controlling different characters. I think this mode could be fun for someone who enjoys to walk around and shoot without too high of a challenge. Maybe for someone who wants to play with their kid.

My impressions
I liked the game, but there are so many countries that I didn't manage to played to the end. After the first 20 or so missions all upgrades will be completed and there are still 20 missions left. The game will get quite simple and there isn't much challenge or variation. I wish they would have made the game 50% shorter, and put in some cut scenes to liven it up. Now it's just mission after mission. Completing the rest would probably take me another 15 hours, but I probably won't do it.

I still think it is a nice game with original ideas. There is too much for me to describe briefly here, but it isn't too complicated. Clearly, since I was able to play the Japanese version. I could mention the graphics, the strategy aspect, the shooting aspect, the freedom to build as you want... I could mention how the SNES and MD versions are the same, but both these 16-bit versions are different than the PC version. A PSP version released in 2006 is actually the SNES version run in an emulator. The PC ( and Mac ) version has a lot of great reviews here, maybe I'll try it out some time. The Amiga version has good reviews too, but at the moment I am into Japanese video games only.

The save function makes this game game not that hard to beat if you have the persistance. So I think anyone could complete this game, japanese version or not.

april 27, 2013

Super Chinese Fighter GB for Game Boy

 Super Chinese Fighter GB (JP)
This game was only released in Japan, at the end of 1996. I only got the cart recently and so I would say it is a uncommon.

A trivia note is that 1996 was the lowest point in the Game Boy lifespan in Japan, with only 37 released titles. 1995 had 58 titles and 1997 had 53. Maybe Pokemon, the Super Game Boy or the Game Boy Pocket made the Game Boy cool again. Anyways, the later games are a lot better than the earliest.

A nice little Super Game Boy support, but as usually only four shades of some color...

The Super Chinese series were long running with games released since the famicom, action games, action/rpg, rpg/fighting, and here a genuine fighting game. All Super Chinese games were fun in a way, but not really very remarkable. There is nothing wrong with this fighting game, but there is also nothing fantastic about it. I have written about GB fighting games before so I have something to compare to.

I think the Super Chinese games were made for a younger audience. In this fighting game you won't have any blood or spine pulling.

The good things:
  • The movement system works well. Hit detection, jumping, etc.
  • There are no slowdowns or flickering. 
  • You have a couple of good special moves and combos that are easy enough to learn. 
  • The music is fine and the graphic is nice. 
  • With a super game boy and a second SNES controller you can play 2-player VS mode.
  • And last, you get to see your characters special moves after you have selected him, which is nice for most of us that don't have the manual nearby.

Something bad:
There isn't any intense action. The rounds are long and I guess you have to fight all other fighters, I think there were 15. There isn't much that separates them from one another and with a computer AI that is not too smart, you can often just walk in and punch them. So it rates low on the fun factor, that is an important factor for me.

In the end, if you have nothing else to play, you can have a good time with this game, with a friend too. I give it 3/5.

april 26, 2013

Two odd SNES action games

It's nice when I find SNES games that are not generic platformers or RPGs. I call them SNES games in this articles because both games were released in the US as well as Japan.

Septentrion Box Front

Septentrion, or S.O.S. in the US, is a game where you are inside a ship and have to get out before the ship goes down. You can save others on your way out. Your ending depends on how many you save.

You walk around in a world that looks like Monkey Island.

I had this copy but it sold yesterday for 249 SEK (35$), so it is an expensive game even in Japanese. The Japanese version has Japanese text, which will make it more difficult to understand what the people are saying and how to make them follow you.

Then I tried out Syndicate.
It is listed as a strategy game but I think action is more appropriate. This game was also released for the PC, Amiga, Apple, Mega Drive, 3D0, Jaguar, and other systems.
You walk around with your crew in a overhead perspective on missions.
It took me a little while to figure out the controls. They include Select; holding down the Y button and scrolling with the D-pad; holding X and pressing Up to pick up a weapon, and L+R to restore your power (I think). You'd better get the manual for the game.

After missions you get to upgrade your cyborgs and other strategic elements.

In the Japanese version this has Japanese text. I think with some practice this could be played in Japanese though. Your mission objective is described in Japanese too, but a yellow arrow will show you what it is so it is at least playable.

The game was made by Bullfrog who also made such weird games as Theme Park and Theme Hospital and there is some resemblance to Syndicate.

GamePro Magazine called the game "a thinking man's shootem up game".  It reminds me of the PC Game X-Com: UFO Defense but with more action.

Maybe not for all, but atleast these two games are different and are suited for a more mature audience than little kids. Worth checking out.

april 20, 2013

Game batteries and cables

I work hard to find good quality cables and accessories that don't cost a fortune. Most cables are not of good quality. Best quality are always originals, or good Japanese third party such as Hori and other brand names.

Recently I have been on an obsessive quest to find good quality pokemon batteries. I have my own way of testing batteries, and they always drain much faster than the original Panasonic batteries. There is a big difference between a good battery and a bad one in battery life.

The noname batteries are bad, but there are also counterfeit batteries, such as Sony batteries... these look suspicious..
You can get them cheap, 5 batteries for 2$ shipped if you know where to look, and if they last for 1 year instead of 5 it may be worth it if you need five batteries that last for a year. The CR2032 is the Saturn's internal battery. But sometimes these batteries just stop working, they can be unreliable.

In the original carts, NES batteries have often lasted since the 80s, more than 25 years ago. All NES, Game Boy and SNES games that save data have batteries in them. Usually all RPGs.  Batteries last longer if kept cool. People that left their games in the sun they might by more likely to have dead batteries in them by now.

A small number of GBA games have batteries too but most have a flash memory, from what I have read. I once had to replace a battery in Densetsu No Starfy.

I could write a long post about cables too.... I have received cables that don't work at all, or that come off too easily. My ambition anyways is to use the best quality products that aren't too expensive.

Original cables aren't made anymore and can be hard to find. For example, on the SNES many people used antenna output (I did), and some used the multi out with RCA. RGB was the least common choice, and that is why an original Nintendo SNES RGB/Scart cable can cost 250-300 SEK (35-40$) or so. The same price for an original MD RGB/Scart cable. You can find third party replacements for a quarter of that price, and as far as I know there's nothing wrong with them. But some of the cheapest cables on eBay will pick up interference, and the connections are bad.

It is weird when I think that I played on a 50Hz PAL SNES with antenna output. A 60Hz console gives much better picture than 50Hz. When I plug in my old SNES I think it is broken due to the flickering picture. ( And here I would like to note that we can easily modify a PAL SNES with 50/60Hz switch, but note that some PAL SNES games might glitch )

RGB gives a picture like playing on the arcade, although I am not an RGB fanatic as much as others. I bought a multicable with Scart a while ago and I use that for Saturn and Super Famicom, and occasionally Dreamcast.

On my old TV it isn't a huge difference, but if nothing else it saves me the time to crawl to the TV and change cables.

Well if you have any questions just post a comment. I could say more about cables but I wish I knew more.

april 14, 2013

More Saturn games 2-player. Such as Marvel Super Heroes.

I had a friend to visit yesterday and I decided we'd play some Saturn games.

Detana TwinBee Yahoo! Deluxe Pack (JP)
First we played Twinbee Deluxe Pack. I seem to play it with all my friends. It was fun. I have already written about that game in an earlier post ("did we play co-op"). I have this game for 150 SEK, which is 23$.

Marvel Super Heroes (JP)
Then we played Marvel Super Heroes. With my experience from Street Fighter II, I have to say I was superior. Fun game, at least for me.

I went back today and played it 1-player mode. The game has support for a 1 MB RAM cart. Some say it won't work well with a 4MB RAM Card. If that is true, then it probably won't work with the Action Replay 4M because I experienced that the action replay sets itself to 4M mode. But with a 1MB Ram Card, such as the HSS-0150 that is included in several other games, you will get an option in the option menu called "3M Mode" (whatever that means), it indicates that something happens. In my opinion, the game runs smoother in this 3M Mode and there is never any slowdowns. 

What I liked about this game
First of all, it has all the Street Fighter II (SF2) move scheme. Block the opponent, use a few special moves, hit opponents on their way down, throw the opponent when close, and all that stuff that a SF2 player would take for granted. (It isn't something that was taken for granted before SF2, as I mentioned in a review of early fighting games (http://japanspel.blogspot.se/2013/02/kieta-princess-and-fuuun-shourinken-for.html)).

Some stuff that isn't in SF2 is that you can jump real high with the R button. With R button I mean the Right shoulder button, that is called R on the SNES/SFC. While high in the air you can punch several times, and you can also throw the other guy in the air if you catch him. I think it works well.

You can press Forward-Forward quickly to run forward, and Back-Back to jump back. This will often surprise the opponent. As with the Jump thing I found it to feel like a natural move that you will soon use all the time.

The cartoon like animation is nice and colorful. The sound and music is as good as you can wish for. Here is a little clip.

In 1 player mode, there are only 8 fighters to beat. I like this, because it goes much faster to beat the game. I was able to beat the second highest level today without too much difficulty, I think I died a total of 5 times. 3 on the last boss. So it isn't too hard for someone who knows how to play these games. Your computer opponents aren't too smart. Even on the second highest difficulty level you can often use the same moves over and over, and they often come running right at you so you can attack them.

In the game you can collect gems. This, however, isn't that useful. The gems are like powerups. I think you activate them by pressing a half-round on the D-pad and then the L button, after your Power meter has become full enough. I don't care about this idea, it seems unnecessary.

In the end I'd say this is like a more playful and colorful version of SF2. I have this game for sale at 95 SEK which is around 15$, so it isn't too expensive.

Strikers 1945 II (JP)
After that, Striker 1945 II, a shootem up game I received recently. I think we played it on Easy mode because we had unlimited continues. We did finish it rather quickly. A nice arcade shootem up with classical airplanes. No complaints there. My price for this one is 275 SEK,  43$. Here is a clip (not of us).

Dead or Alive (Limited Edition) (JP)
After that, a 3D fighter. I thought we would be more even here, and we were quite even. Dead or Alive. I mentioned this game in a recent post. It is a tricky game because you can have different strategies. You have a grab move that lets you grab your opponent if he is too aggressive. And there are a lot of special moves ou can use. The manual lists around 25 for each character, although most are simple. I think it is a good combination of strategy and action, but I think I've only scratched the surface of how to play. This one is 75-95  SEK.

Digital Pinball: Necronomicon (JP)
Necronomicon Pinball has a 2-player mode, as it says on its back, so I thought it would be interesting to try it out. Pinball was never my type of game but I have recently learnt that the Saturn has a couple of cool pinball games.

I think I'm starting to understand what pinball is about in general. You select a Mission, then you accept it. Then you try to hit the ball where the board indicates in some way. At this stage, Necronomicon would often throw out lots of extra balls that will give you many extra points.
I suppose that as long as a pinball game has cool music and flashing graphics, and the gameplay is fine, the game is pretty enjoyable. In 2 player mode, you play one player at the time while the other one watches (as you would in Super Mario Bros.), so it isn't that much 2-player mode. But I thought it was fun to watch the show when he played. Here is someone else's clip.
I think the story behind the original Necronomicon is interesting. According to Wikipedia, a story of a Necronomicon, a book of the occult, was invented by someone around 100 years ago in a horror story. The book was then believed by others to actually exist. Believing in the occult is silly and only makes for good horror stories.  The Japanese people know this, but anything related to "the occult" can be a sensitive subject in the West. But it's just a pinball game, and a good one.

Comparing with the graphics of playing a real pinball game, I can't see how Necronomicon on the Saturn could have been improved really.  It's a blast. This one is 125 SEK.

Sega Rally Championship Plus (Saturn Collection) (JP)
We also played a little Sega Rally in a 2-player competing mode. It's a fun and easy game to pick up and play. But I have to say that the graphics is dated, and when you hit a wall because the road and wall are a mess of pixels from a distance, it is annoying. Other than that, the game is perfect at what it sets out to do. And at 30 SEK, it is cheap. Maybe I'll hook up the graphically improved Sega Rally 2 on the Dreamcast some day, after I feel finished with Saturn games.

april 08, 2013

Epoch Super Cassette Vision

I received the Scart cable today from England so I could try out my Super Cassette Vision (SCV). Can't believe someone makes those. They are some special thing, they look like a Master System (or Mega Drive) cable, but it has an extra connector thing in the middle. An MD cable will fit in the console but won't give a picture.

The console has the usual antenna output too, but it is almost impossible to get ANYTHING of it to show on my TV. I thought the console was broken first.

I bought this system after having looked at some youtube videos of the games Kung Fu Road and Punch Boy. The system was released in Japan in 1984, one year after the famicom was released.  A version was released in France that same year. The graphics is worse than famicom and the games seem quite limited in what they can do.

The SCV has some interesting sound effects though, and it doesn't have any flickering. The games have some weird movement, many don't move as fluidly as the famicom. But other games are alot more fluid, such as Battle In Galaxy that is a fun version of Galaga (or Galaxian, I can't remember which is which). Being used to the famicom, it is nice to play a shooter without flickering when there is a lot of things on the screen.

This is Punch Boy. It took a while for me to understand the purpose of this game. The purpose is to kill all the enemies, which you do by punching the green block thing in the corners. When you have pressed all four once, you need to grab a key that will appear to unlock them again. Primitive idea, but not too bad. And you start with 8 lives (in AMAteur mode).

It seems the SCV wasn't able to make any detailed graphics, maybe it has lower resolution. Well, I prefer Punch Boy to a game such as Clu Clu Land. I prefer Battle Galaxy
to Galaga (or Galaxian), and I find the sound effects of Kung Fu Road more amusing than the ones in Kung Fu (Spartan X). Super Baseball also plays better than Baseball on the Famicom/NES. But Boulder Dash was worse, it has no animation, you just move one square and it gets very choppy.

Elevator Fight, as you can expect, is like Elevator Action, a game I have reviewed earlier. Comic Circus is like one of those early Famicom arcade ports.

I have to say that they had primitive ideas for their games. In Comic Circus one guy drops down on a trampoline and throws the other one up in the air, and you just keep doing that. It is playable, but primitive. As if an intern thought it up in 15 minutes.

But it is nice to be able to play some games that are original for a system and are well playable. All the seven games I got have English text in them. There were 30 games for the SCV, and I assume it is backward compatible with the Cassette Vision from 1981 and its 11 games, although those 11 games are likely bad graphically.

As you may know, the earliest famicom games were also primitive ("black series" games), such as popeye, donkey kong, and so on. So imagine a system with 30 games like that.

The SCV is a common console and can usually be found on eBay for around 100$. If you want to play some games that you won't find on any other system, why not give it a try. Finding games can be more difficult, and you might also want to buy a cable for RGB output. The first Cassette Vision system (1981) doesn't have RGB mode, and can only play the early 11 games, so I don't recommend that system for a player.
A famicom, Master System or Mega Drive power works well on it, but as always don't mix it with your NES power supply. 

It is nice to play a system in RGB mode, with the crispy clear graphic you would get on an emulator or arcade. In hindsight, it was an unfortunate design choice for us that the Famicom/NES never could output RGB. I think it is the only console produced after 1983 that couldn't.

april 06, 2013

Hudson famicom rack, +thoughts on Neo Geo and Metal Slug

I haven't blogged last week because I have been quite busy; I am always more busy when packages from Japan have just arrived, and I received a whole lot of interesting items.

I have also been busy helping a colleague fix up our website (www.japanspel.se) so as to not make it look like it wasn't made by some person with notepad++ (that is myself). And I have have been looking into FDS rewriting with my colleagues, Playstation flashning, DC and Saturn chipping; we have modded SNES consoles, Pc Engine consoles, and maybe soon will do a Unibios on a Neo Geo AES.

We don't sell Neo Geo yet. Neo Geo has a very dedicated fan base, but so far I don't get what the deal is, and it is too costly to buy Neo Geo stuff just to see if it is any fun. I always ask "Why not just play the Saturn version of the King of Fighters series?". Or Fatal Fury / Garou Densetsu. Even Metal Slug has a Saturn port, and I don't think it is that much worse than the 1,500$ Neo Geo version.

Just make sure to use Saturn Metal Slug with a 4MB RAM card (or a 4M action replay), it will give it a clear boost over the PS version too. Here is a video someone else made to prove my point.
I don't say Neo Geo is bad, I just say I don't get it yet. But I ordered some Neo Geo CD stuff recently, so I will be able to try that out, if the CD works on it. 

Well anyways here is a famicom rack. The photos didn't turn out that great, maybe I should get a better camera some day, and build a proper photo tent. I prefer to buy the cheapest stuff that I think will do the job and then work my way up.

I sold a famicom rack on famicomworld once. The buyer said that it was the sheer uselessness that attracted him to this item.

It isn't that useless. It keeps your famicom steady on your disk system.

I sell it for 250 SEK which is 30$. It is not a rare item but not something you can necessarily find on eBay.

Also, unless you buy it with a box, you will probably have to remove it from the Famicom + FDS combo that it came with. This can be a bit of a problem. I will explain the best way.

You first push out the FDS. Press up its rubber "feet" on the bottom of the FDS to slide it through the rack. Keep the rack steady while you do this. I prefer to hold it with my feet, but maybe you have a more "professional" way.

If you happen to get the rubber feet removed while you slide it, just glue them back on the FDS.

Then, after you have released the two consoles, you press here and pull that side away. (In the picture, the consoles are not released yet, note) Do it for all four sides. I do the pulling with my feet too, but I have very good feet for this kind of work.

I also have a very comfortable carpet to sit on, Japanese style. It used to give me a stiff neck, but a week ago I placed the TV on the floor, so that will no longer be a problem.

Edit: the rack has been sold.