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mars 27, 2014

A Castlevania Adventure appreciation, for game boy



Some Castlevania fans hate the first Game Boy game: Castlevania: The Adventure (or as I call it: The Castlevania Adventure. In Japan: Dracula Densetsu). But I want to write an appreciation blogpost. This is the one of only two Castlevania game that I have beaten, the other being a GBA game that didn't make much of an impression (it was one of the two games on the double pack, don't know which).

This is the only Castlevania game I have enjoyed anyways.
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In my videos this time I stopped the recorder whenever I died and then unpaused when I reached that stage again. So it took a lot longer to play than what you see in the videos. You have unlimited continues but you restart from the start of the stage when you are game over, and some stages are very long.

While you do move quite slow, it has a nice feeling to it. It is very simplistic and I really appreciate that. The game was released in Japan in 1989 and was one of the earliest game boy games. My theory is that the sluggishness is because of bad programming. You can feel the game speed up at times, such as right before the rope at 01:20 in the video above. In some ways it feels like an experimental game.

There is also strange flickering in the screen, and it seems that the game has a hard time to keep up with the timer. This is the only GB game I know that has a real time second timer in it.

Anyways, I actually like the game the way it is. The game only has 4 stages and that is fine  for me. I am worried if I start playing one of the other Castlevania games on GB or NES/Famicom that they will be long and tedious. Maybe the reputation of those games is what prevents me from wanting to try them out. Also it seems boring to try out games that "everyone" talk about. I think it is more interesting to try out unknown or unappreciated games.

The Castleva Adventure was one of the first GB games I played when I got back into video games four years ago. At the time, I thought the game was super hard! Especially stage 3. When I play it now, with more gaming experience, I don't think it is equally impossible. Last night I played through the game up to Dracula and it took me about 4 hours. I then tried for an hour to beat him, but I didn't manage this time.

The first stage isn't that hard, as you see above. There are some tricky jumps and surprise enemies, but even newbie gamers (like I was) would beat the stage after a couple of tries.

Stage 2 gets a bit harder. Some enemies that require some thinking to figure out how to beat best. Some jumps that may be tricky for a complete newbie. But still, with a decent console (such as a Super Game Boy), it shouldn't be too hard.
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Remember, in 1989 all we had were the first generation game boy, with its yellowish screen that was hard to focus on. We still loved it. There was no similar handheld gaming console before, and I remember how amazed I was about Super Mario Land. Just seeing moving pixels, real music, with enemies and actual gameplay was amazing. But I didn't know there was a game called Castlevania, unfortunately.

After stage 2, here comes stage 3. For an unexperienced gamer, this stage is like hell. It is long and has moving spike walls and many tricks that will kill you the first time.
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After 04:11 in the video, the stage goes on for another tough minute that I didn't record.

When I played the game four years ago I left my GBC on during the days and nights, using a power supply. You can always continue from the stage you are at and have unlimited continues. It took my a couple of days to beat the stage, as I could only play in the evenings.

After stage 3, there will the final stage. At least I think it is the final stage.
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This one is also long and has more difficult enemies. From gamefaqs I found there is a secret room that will help you out at 5:30 (I thought it was at 4:30 first, that's why I jump like crazy there). I also found a simple way to get passed the difficult enemies at 7:40 right before Dracula. Those enemies gave me the hardest time before I discovered the trick.

Playing the game now, it feels challenging, but not extremely. I played Dracula for an hour and didn't beat him, but just look back to my last beaten game, Rolling Thunder 2 that I blogged about recently. It took me 1 hour before I even reached the end boss, and then 2 hours to beat him.

I think it is nice to see how much feeling and atmosphere they were able to put into such a simplistic game.  You move slowly, but it never gets boring. Every screen has a carefully thought out challenge, even if it may seem simple. Nothing is just thrown into the game to fill it out, as many other games would do it.

With the true stero sound you have on the game boy, the music will also sound better than on the NES.

I like to grade game boy games because I have most experience with them and so I think I can grade them fairly. I rate this game 4/5. Despite all my praise, it is sluggish. The controls are stiff , and the constant slow downs and then speed up again create a challenge in itself.

mars 25, 2014

Moonwalker, Mega Drive: Thriller Dance


I recently uploaded a video of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, as you may have seen. From that video I clicked on a related video by AVGN, although I had seen it before. His video is actually a reason I make my own because he always make games look worse than they are and that bring down their value.

He shortly mentions something that I missed earlier, about how "some versions of the game" has the Thriller dance. Hmm, so I looked it up on the internet forums (and gamefaqs), and it says that there is a "Rev 0" that has the Thriller music which for copyright reasons was removed from later versions.

A forum post says that the two versions are exactly identical otherwise, and their boxes, carts and manual are also identical.

I suspect that one could open up the cart and see a difference on the chip, but the problem is that Japanese carts have a label on the backside that you have to remove to get to the screws.

The forum says you have to play up to a point where there are zombies, and then execute the Dance Attack (hold the A button for a while) to see what music will play.


I actually have two copies of the game because no one ever bought them.
It is usually just a problem for me as a seller when a Japanese game is rare and expensive, while the PAL version is more common.

It took around 15 minutes to reach the zombies and I did it for both games. This is the video for the second time. I have improved playing the game, and didn't die, LOL. Although I almost died once, when I got stuck behind a boss...

_

Anyways, both games have the same music: The Thriller music. Supposedly, if you have a later cart, you will only hear the "just another part of me" music.

The webforum says that on later zombie stages you will hear a different part of Thriller being played. But I don't enjoy the game that much that I want to play that long.

After doing this,however, I noticed that if you just start the game and let the intro demo play for 3 minutes, you should hear the music too!
_

mars 23, 2014

Rolling Thunder 2, Mega Drive


Last Friday I had a Mega Drive Friday.

I spent most time with this game, Rolling Thunder 2.
5 hours Friday, and then 5 hours Saturday.

The Japanese version is entire in English, which is nice for me. It has a story mode where you are two agents who have to save the world like James Bond, but you can play as either man or woman. They are equal in every way. I think the girl is nicer to look at, but she has this odd sound when she gets hit. If you have a friend you could also play the game 2-player co-op boy and girl, which I read is fun.

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The game is basically a platformer game with slightly special controls and some strategy elements. One feature is that when you run into an enemy, you will flash as if hit, but you don't actually take any damage. Use this as a strategic advantage, for example you  can jump into an enemy in a pit.

What I like about games is when there is some strategic element and not just plain run-and-shoot shooter or run-and-jump platformer. You have to think about how to best beat the enemies, without wasting bullets or time. You can also go into doors to hide from enemies at times.

Some people find it annoying that you can't jump and shoot at the same time, but I think a gamer will get used to it quickly. It is part of the gameplay and I think it makes it more interesting to try a different style of playing. It also adds to the feeling of realism.

With the three button MD1 controller it is difficult to do things like jump straigh up or simply duck, at least for me. I still wanted to play the game with a real controller and not with my HORI mega controller, so after a while I changed from the MD1 to a 6 button MD2 controller that works better than the MD1 controller. One thing I like about the MD2 controller is that it feels soft to press the buttons but it isn't flimsy. MD controllers also don't seem to wear down the way famicom or SNES controllers do.

The game is hard in places but it is never unfair.  Sometimes there are deaths you can't avoid the first time, but anyone who appreciates the classic platformers like Contra, Mega Man, or Ghost n Goblins (or I could mention Shinobi for once, since this is on MD) should be happy playing. You always make progress, there is continues on each stage, and there is ammunition here and there . Even when you run out of ammunition you will fire one slow bullet at the time and that is enough to last you a little while. 

What took the longest was the boss on level 8 that I played for 2 hours or so until I found how it could be beaten in 10 seconds. Level 9 and 10 took around 45 minutes each. Then the last level 11 took 3 hours because the final boss has a complicated pattern where I died every time (beam goes like this: 1. up, 2. up, 3. down, 4. up, 5. up, 6. down, 7. up, 8. down, and then no 9 is the same as no 1 and it loops from there). To look at my papers I had to pause all the time.

_
It may not look hard but that's because I had learnt where all the enemies are so I could shoot them before they had a chance to hit me.
As you see, I discovered a secret door before the last boss. There are other secret doors around the stages. You have to press Up everywhere to find them.

When you beat the game, you will be told you have to play again to beat the boss once and for all. You then start again with a password for hard mode. I am not going to do that now, so technically maybe I didn't beat the game fully. You do see the staff roll, and the ending says like "you won, but he will be back unless you play hard mode". It isn't as in Ghost n Goblins where it says "you have to play all over again to win". I'll consider the game beaten but not 100% beaten.

I think it is a lovely game. You play in different stages, such as Egypt, on a street, and inside a giant laboratory. It is nice with a game that feels as if it is for adults, playing like James Bond rather than a cartoon with an oversized head. The music is very nice and the graphics is pleasant to look at. It is fast paced and has appropriate sound effects. I recommend it and I think it has good replay value.

More information:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Thunder_2
* http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/rollingthunder/rollingthunder.htm
* http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/rolling-thunder-2-review/1900-6184778/

If you enjoy the difficulty, the gameplay, the strategy element, and the 2-player coop mode, you might want to check out Ninja Crusaders that I wrote about a while ago.

mars 19, 2014

Populous on pc engine


Populous is known as a strategy cult classic. I decided that I should finally give it a try.


It was made by Bullfrog, the innovative company that also made Magic Carpet and Syndicate I have blogged about earlier, as well a Theme Park and other popular titles that usually had some strategy element.

Populous were their second game but their first popular title. It was released in 1989.
In the original PC version you of course use a mouse. On SNES and SFC the game supports a mouse too. However, on Pc Engine you have to use a controller. I still think it plays okay. The game is also completely in English, just as the Japanese Super Famicom version.

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You raise the land and the population starts building houses. After a while your mana goes up so you can move over to your opponent and create mountains among his houses so they get destroyed. You can also send in a knight to destroy his houses.

Other options you can click is to create a leader, to set your villages in Attack mode, to move the Papal symbol closer to the front to make your villagers stronger.

Then, when your mana is much stronger than your opponents, you can click on the skull to enter Armageddon mode. Then all villagers go together in a final battle against the opponent and you win. That's about it.

_
The main annoyance I have with this game is the lack of anything to do. It feels like a simplistic strategy game, simpler than any I have played before. The amount of things you can do are maybe 5-10.

Sunteam_paul personally enjoys this game, which is unusual for his pc engine reviews (http://pcengine.co.uk/HTML_Games/Populous.htm). There are also many other positive reviews and youtube comments for the game. Personally I will compare it to a version of Sim City where the only thing you do is lower and raise land, create disasters, and set your villagers in fight mode at times.

The downside with the Pc Engine version is that you don't have any save function and I don't think you even unlock anything. Instead you can load any of the 199 levels right from the start. According to what I've read the game was supposed to have a save function. It either became to expensive or they couldn't technically do it. This omission makes the game feel incomplete and takes away the feeling of accomplishment when playing.

I think the game could be interesting from a historically point of view or for someone who would like to play a simplistic building-strategy game where you don't need to have too many things to keep in mind. 

mars 16, 2014

Assault Suit Leynos (Target Earth) on Mega Drive


No one ever bought this, even after I lowered the price many times, so I assume it would be an interesting game. Most people only buy familiar games.
Shop link: here

And yes, it is an interesting game.
For me, who don't like scrolling shooters or generic platformers, I enjoyed it at first. It also has a real story mode unlike most MD games I've played so far. But boy, is it HARD. I made to the fourth stage but it gets crazy there.

The worst part of the difficulty is: randomness. Random enemies appear! I beat the second stage the first time I tried it. But three hours later, I die. If the game throws all the hard enemies at you, it will be very difficult. There are two continues and then game over so if I have trouble on stage 2 it feels like it would take a very long time to beat all 8 levels. I know there are 8 because the manual says so.

It can be a bit hard to understand gameplay too, especially in Japanese, but I did manage to figure that out!
On level 1, there will be a huge spaceship you have to blow up. You can use your clusterbomb and hit it 4 times or so, that will take it down quickly. To get bonus weapons, you should get a high score. On level 1 you can get a useful rocket and a tank will give you armor. The armor increases the life by four bars.

On stage 2, you should go to the right. There will be an escape ship there, and if you wait for a while your friends will jump into it first, and when you feel ready you can jump in too.

On stage 3, gamefaqs says you should destroy the enemy space ship but I didn't do that. After flying around for a couple of minutes, the door opens to your own spaceship. Then I wait until around 10 seconds left and get it.

I didn't make it too far into stage 4, and if you look at the end of my gameplay video you will see why.

_

I think I should just have moved forward instead of going back.
In stage 2 I do sometimes stand still or move back. This is because you refill health automatically with time. Doesn't work on stage 4...

The game has eight stages, and the problem is that even after making it to stage four, I still have problems getting past stage 2 because of the randomness factor. As can be seen in the video I almost died already around 04:40. So I give up.

Some good reviews as usually on gamefaqs: http://www.gamefaqs.com/genesis/586520-target-earth/reviews. Reviewer Sandcrab says he beats it consistently so it must be possible. The other reviewers didn't make it past level 3.

Another opinion:
It's such a remarkably difficult game that it's hard to really enjoy it without turning on the invincibility code, which was added to the North American release. (Just hit Start on controller 2 during play.) -- http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/assaultsuits/assaultsuits.htm
Hmmm... I agree that it is hard to enjoy. Right now I feel like a sad failure.

Though I should say that a gamer who enjoys this kind of Contra-game probably wouldn't mind playing until he beat it. I'm sure it can be beaten consistently for someone who has the patience and time.  It isn't impossible and the game isn't unfair. It could be compared to Contra, possibly, but with more enemies coming at you. If you want to give your kid one game only and make sure he doesn't beat it in a day, this could be a good choice (maybe sadistical though). The invincibility cheat in the US version would also ensure you could beat it when you wanted to.

Well, it was a nice experience and nice to play a game that feels original. The controls are a bit stiff, but in a mecha game this is to be expected. As the gamefaqs reviewers said, the game isn't broken or bad, just frustratingly difficult. Funny thing is, the game has two modes that are even harder than the default Normal called Hard and Hyper.

Here is some further interesting reading:
* http://segascrutiny.blogspot.se/2011/01/what-is-this-crap-robocops-ugly-brother.html. (all Sega blogs are black apparently)
* http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/encyclopedia-bombastica-target-earth/2300-6714/

mars 13, 2014

Three Dirty Dwarves on Sega Saturn


I meant to make a longer review but the game already sold. I'll still write something down, hehe.


Three Dirty Dwarves is a beat'em up game for the Saturn. I had never even heard of it until I got it last month, so I was happy when I found out how much fun it was.

This gameplay video I made starts with the cut-video after the first stage. Then a boss level, and then stage 3.
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I nearly gave up on the third stage and maybe the fourth stage, because I kept on dying and had to replay the stage. But it was fun enough so I kept on playing. And it wasn't too hard, once I understood the special weapons of each character and how to use them properly against enemies.

The fun and original aspect of this game is: you have three characters and if one of them gets hit, you can use the second one to revive him! If he also dies, you can use the third. But if all of them die, you have to restart the level. As you see, it happened to me.

Now, the game is maybe the most humorous game I have played and I am grateful that I got to discover it. It may be worth to get a Saturn just to play this game, as it was not released on Playstation.

Not only are there beat'em up stages, but weird bosses and even a cart stage.
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There is more I could say about gameplay, but as I said I won't bother with the details for this review. For further reviews , details and info, I suggest gamefaqs: http://www.gamefaqs.com/saturn/574012-three-dirty-dwarves/reviews.

The main negative thing about the game is that it is short. It took me around 3-4 hours. Although there is a Hard mode too that may offer more challenge.

I made a video of the ending too. It won't show how to beat the boss, although it is easy anyways.
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Even more fun is that you can play 2 player and even 3 player with a multitap!

I looked up the developer because the credits made me curious... It was a Hungarian based company! They also made Echo the Dolphin and a few other games, but I didn't see anything else like this.

mars 08, 2014

Rambo III and two platforming games on Sega Mega Drive


I have written about my annoyance with the Mega Drive controller, so I am happy when I recently got this HORI Mega Commander.

It has a real D-pad and doesn't wobble on the directions. The first game I played was Rambo III.
My problem with the Mega Drive is that  I don't like scrolling shooters, beat'em ups and generic platforming games. Unfortunately, there isn't that much else on the Mega Drive. Therefore, I don't really feel for the Mega Drive. That's just how it is. I still try to make videos of its games, but it is easier to make videos about games I enjoy.

Rambo III is a game in top-down perspective. It only has six stages, unlimited continues, and isn't really hard. I beat it in a few hours. I still had fun, but it felt leightweight.

Here is stage 5 and stage 6. The video is uncut, so I did beat stage 6 on the first try. _

First MD game beaten! Fun, but felt like it didn't have much depth. Many things could have been improved, but I don't feel one needs to be pointed out too much in such as short game. Even Famicom games have more depth.

Some reviewers criticise games like these saying "once you've beaten it, you won't be playing it again". I disagree with that. When I when a kid I played Kung Fu Master on my Game Boy a lot, and I played it again and again, trying to beat it without getting hit, or getting as high score as possible. It gave me a certain satisfaction, and it is the same reason I still pick up Super Mario Kart or Street Fighter II Turbo and try to beat it when I feel down.

After Rambo III I tried some platforming games.

I gave Moonwalker another chance, and I do appreciate the coolness of a Michael Jackson game, but the gameplay is just lacking. When I was around 10-12, Michael Jackson was my idol, and I loved the cool commercial for the game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMiK42nqfPk). I probably would have loved the game. I never got to play it, but it still has a nostalgic feeling for me, even if I got tired of it soon this time.

I didn't know if there were any other songs than Moonwalker in it so I played a little longer and made this video.
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Then I played Doraemon (it probably has a subtitle, but I won't bother), a fun Doraemon game. I think the main disadvantage of Doraemon games is that the games were made for a younger audience, but it always amazes me with the dedication Westeners have for their Disney games while they disregard the Japanese manga games as "childish".

 _
At the end of stage 1 there is a mini game. I think you have to guess what move the owl is making. I did some trial and error and made it on my second try somehow.

This is incidentally the third Doraemon video I upload in a week. I uploaded Doraemon 3 for N64 and Doraemon 4 for SFC. Doraemon 4 was a decent platformer, but I didn't understand the N64 game. However, a customer once told me he beat the first and second Doraemon game on N64, so I think they are playable.

Well, that was some Mega Drive games. I have some more coming up, a 2-player game too I think.

mars 04, 2014

Famicom 4-player adapter, finally


I finally have a 4-player adapter for famicom.





I didn't know this adapter existed until today. You simply plug it into the famicom console, and will get two extension ports. I only have one extra controller, but in my tests the first output is player 3, and the second is for player 4. Player 1 and 2 will of course use the normal famicom controllers.

I tested the games Wit's, Nekketsu Kakutou Denstesu and V-Ball that all have a four player mode. I think most Nekketsu/Kunio kun games have 4 player mode. A little problem with those games is the flickering though. I can also imagine it will be very crowded in front of the TV if you play your famicom games with four players.



To be honest, I think famicom/NES is best as 1-player. A few games have cool 2-player modes, but multiplayer games are probably better on more modern consoles, starting with SNES.