Archive for September, 2010

Megaman 3 Review (NES)

Posted in Megaman Classic, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on September 26, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Megaman vs Dr. Wily, Round 3

By 1990, the Nintendo Entertainment System had already peaked. The Turbografix-16 and Sega Genesis were out and vastly outperforming the limited tech of the Nintendo. Still, the NES was still able to hold its own very well that year thanks to yet another batch of excellent games, most notably Megaman 3.

Even according to its own project manager, Megaman 3 was rushed.  Many ideas started for it were left unfinished and glossed over. As a result, Megaman 3 is much less polished than 2 and manages somehow to be even easier than 2 was in it’s dumbed down American “normal” mode.

All this said, Megaman 3 is remembered for being one of the best games in the series and a strong excuse why many oldschool gamers keep that NES toaster close to their television.

Does Megaman 3 really deserve all the attention it garners?

Story

Megaman 3 has no in-game explanation of the plot. To learn it, you have to actually read the Japanese manual, as the US manual is absurdly inaccurate.

It is the year 2010. After being defeated twice, Dr. Wily claims to be a changed man, and wants to team up with Dr. Light once again to build robots to benefit mankind.

Dr. Wily and Dr. Light work together on a “peace-keeping” robot named Gamma, a massive Robot so powerful that once finished,would be able to stop anyone who tried to take over the world as Wily did. Gamma uses a special new form of power generated from newly discovered, extremely rare and valuable energy crystals.

As the two doctor’s search, they discover that there are eight energy crystals being guarded by yet another set of crazed robot masters.

Megaman is sent in once again to defeat the robots and retrieve the crystals, all the while being shadowed by a mysterious red robot that seems to only fight Megaman to test him. What is the secret to this mystery? Has Wily truly changed? What will happen when Gamma is finished?

Graphics

Megaman 3 is very good looking for NES standards. Backgrounds are much more detailed than the previous two games and large enemy sprites are the norm. Megaman looks the same as always, but the robot masters this time around are all appealing to look at. Megaman 3 has some of the most varied stages of any game in the series. Gemini Man’s stage is a very cool multi-colored cavern that seems to be in space or something. It’s awesome.

The only stage I don’t understand at all is Top Man’s. It’s not Top themed at all, instead more like a greenhouse growing….something. No idea what his stage is. Maybe he’s the “top” of pot-growing? Regardless, it’s still a nicely designed stage with a cool theme.  Top Man himself though? One of the lamest bosses in the series.

Audio

Once again, the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. Many of the tracks from the game are amongst the catchiest, most memorable chiptunes you’ll ever hear. Just like 2, many cover bands the world over remix Megaman 3. The title theme in particular just might be one of the best melodies used for any game’s title screen ever. I consider it a must-listen for anyone who is a fan of 8-bit.

A special treat for you as you read: One of my favorite arranged versions of the awesome intro sequence.

Gameplay

Megaman 3 plays identically to Megaman 2 – you run, shoot, jump and climb ladders. You progress through the stages fight each robot master and gaining their powers. Even by Megaman 3 this was old hat. Megaman 3 built upon Megaman 2 by adding two new features to the gameplay – sliding and Rush.

New for Megaman 3, by pressing down and B Megaman will slide, allowing him a quick boost in speed and maneuverability. In addition, sliding reduce Mergaman’s height from two spaces to one, allowing him to access narrow areas he normally would not be able to and also to avoid some attacks he would not if he were standing. As Megaman can jump out of a slide, the speed boost and the reduction in side greatly add to Megaman’s agility in battle.

The other major addition is Rush, Megaman’s robodog sidekick. Rush doesn’t directly aid Megaman in combat but rather serves the same role the three Items did in 2 in that he provides a platform for Megaman to gain access to otherwise unreachable areas. Rush has three forms: Rush Coil, Rush Jet, and Rush Marine.

Rush Coil is basically a springboard that allows Megaman to preform a super jump that Mario would be jealous of. Rush Jet is the most useful as it provides Megaman with the ability to fly anywhere on the screen, over spikes, enemies, pitfalls and just about anything else. The final form for Rush is the Rush Marine, which acts the same as the Rush Jet, but only in water. Of the three this is used the least as there are only a handful of underwater sections in the entire game.

Control

The controls for Megaman 3 are almost identical to those from 2. The d-pad moves, B shoots, A jumps, Start pauses, select does nothing. As said above, sliding is now preformed by pressing down and B.

Frustration

Megaman 3 is much less frustrating than the average Megaman game as long as you don’t use the Top Spin. This almighty useless weapon spins Megaman like a top for his arms and legs to slam into foes, but you’ll almost always collide with them causing you just as much damage. It really sucks. The level design this time around is a little easier than Megaman 2’s, especially if you make good use of the Rush Jet.

If you’re still having difficulties with the game and are playing the NES or Famicom version, Get out a second controller and some tape. Megaman 3 has a set of beta-tester shortcuts mapped to the buttons of the second controller that when held, greatly reduce the game’s difficulty.

Hold right on the d-pad of controller 2 and jump with controller 1 to preform a jump that even outperforms the boost Rush Coil offers!

Hold up on the d-pad of controller 2 and jump with controller 1 to freeze sprite frames. Not very useful, but kind of cool.

Hold up on the d-pad of controller 2 and A on controller 2 as well to completely freeze all robots on the screen including Megaman. You’ll either need a friend, a foot, or some tape to do this. This is helpful as Megaman can still fire even though he can’t move, but your enemies can’t do anything.

There are a number of other tricks for the game, but these are the most useful, and then of course there’s Game Genie…

System availability and price

Rockman 3 on the Famicom usually runs about $25.

Megaman 3 on the NES goes for around $15

It is also on the Wii for 500 points.

Audience

No ESRB at the time, but today it would be E. This is a great starting game for casual Megaman fans as it is by far the easiest title, even without exploiting the second controller tricks.

History

While Keiji Inafune has never directly said so, it’s pretty obvious the insperation for Megaman’s sidekick robot dog Rush came from Friender, the robo-dog sidekick to Casshern of the 1973 anime series Neo-Human Casshern. You just need to watch the opening sequence for that anime to see the influences.

In an interview with Nintendo Power in the October 2007 issue, series creator Keiji Inafune explained that he was disappointed with: “…what went into the game and what was behind the release of the game.” He also stated that he was forced to put the game out before he thought it was ready and during the game’s production, the developers lost the main planner, so Inafune had to take over that job for completing the game. Inafune concluded, “I knew that if we had more time to polish it, we could do a lot of things better, make it a better game, but the company (Capcom) said that we needed to release it. The whole environment behind what went into the production of the game is what I least favored. Numbers one and two – I really wanted to make the games; I was so excited about them. Number three – it just turned very different.”

Evidence of the game’s rushed devolopment cycle are everywhere in Megaman 3, but I’ll narrow them down to a few key examples.

Exhibit A: The lack of an intro

Megaman 3 is the only NES game other than Megaman 1 to completely lack an introduction sequence. When you turn on the power, the titlescreen simply appears without explaining the story at all. The game features a brilliant titlescreen theme that plays for nearly a minute before looping, but the only way to hear all of it is to simply put the controller down and stare at a static titlescreen.

Exhibit B: Protoman

In Megaman 3, Protoman appears in front of Megaman several times, at first hiding his true identity by wearing a Sniper Joe-like mask and using the name “Breakman”. As you fight him each time, the game does nothing to explain what’s going on, or even who Protoman is at the end of the game. To me, this is a big sign of a rushed development.

Exhibit C: Musical cues suddenly get cut off

There are a few tracks that normally get cut off unless you preform the up and A trick with the second controller. The first is Protoman’s whistle. Normally only the first part will play and then cut out. The second example is Dr. Wily’s theme on the mapscreen. Again, it cuts off at roughly only half way through it. The final example is the worst.

After the mysterious shadowy figure that had been watching Megaman throughout the game saves him at the end of the game, the full version of Protoman’s theme plays as each Dr. Light Number robot scrolls by the screen.  The full Protoman theme is a treat to hear, but it gets cut off right in the middle! What the hell Capcom?!

Exhibit D: Unused sprites and other oddities in the ROM

Megaman 3 is teeming with unused sprites, only discovered through modern NES compilers and hex editors. In Gemini Man’s stage, there was originally to be a large Saturn-like planet in the background that would shimmer in multiple colors. Other examples include a Magnet Missile sprite as the Magnets turned on an angle, something that does not occur in the final game.

There are many other examples. If you are curious, you can read all the examples discovered here: http://themechanicalmaniacs.com/articles/mm3mysteries.php

Even given its raid development shortcomings, Megaman 3 ending being a huge hit for Capcom when it was released in 1990, outselling nearly every other third party game that year. The wild success of two Megaman games in a row assured Capcom that a fourth would also sell well, so development of Megaman 4 was quickly scheduled, but the soon to be released Super Famicom would serve as a large growing pain for Megaman…

Overall

Good

The addition of the slide greatly increases Megaman’s agility and is a lot of fun to use

Password system returns

The longest Megaman game ever made at 21 stages.

More classic Megaman tunes and one of the best titlescreen themes in videogame history

Bad

Almost complete lack of an in-game story. That opening sequence music is AMAZING, but the only way to hear it is to stare at the static title screen.

Many other musical oddities you cannot hear without special means, such as Protoman’s whistle playing part way, the Wily theme, and the epilogue. These tunes all get strangely cut off mid way through.

Far too easy.

The Top Spin sucks

Conclusion

To me, the constant debate if Megaman 2 is better than 3 is irrelevant. They’re both must own, must play games that have timeless appeal. Megaman 3 is the first game where the US boxart even slightly resembles the blue bomber! As they say, third time’s a charm. Will Megaman 4 best it? Find out next time!

Data

Platform: Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: September 28, 1990

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Also from the developer: Megaman 2, Megaman X, Street Fighter, Bionic Commando

ESRB: N/A, but would be “E’

Buy or skip: Buy
Bonus content

Here’s some Megaman 3 beadsprites I made a while bac. Hope you enjoy!

and the robot master select screen

As if I needed another reason to love Megaman 3, I found this randomly on google image search.


Enough said.

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Wendy: Every Witch Way Review (GBC)

Posted in Gameboy Color, Retro Gaming, Reviews on September 12, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Wayforward’s Metal Storm inspired unique twist on platforming

Have you heard of this game? Chances are you haven’t. Wendy: Every Witch Way is a fairly obscure Gameboy Color game that you’d probably pass over if you saw it today. Afterall, Wendy the witch is a children’s cartoon character and the vast majority of games made for the Gameboy were intended for kids.

Boring stuff right?

Based on experience with the excellent Shantae, I’ve been seeking out the other games made by Wayforward over the past few years. Wayforward was one of the few developers to truly “get” the Gameboy Color; their games turned the hardware limitations into strengths and produced excellent games for the system that rival the best NES or Master System games.

Is this game really worth seeking out or is it just honestly another licensed kids game to avoid? Going in with little info other than it was a Wayforward game, I wanted to know the answer.

Story

Everyone’s favorite pre-teen witch accidentally opens a chest containing magic stones, and they escape when they are given the chance. The stones run off to a floating castle, and the flying castle becomes grounded by the stones. Gravity has now gone haywire, and Wendy must now retrieve the stones so everything can become normal again.

Graphics

Once again, Wayforward stretched their muscles showing off their talent of producing excellent looking games on the lowly GBC hardware.

Wendy is quite a strikingly good sprite and animates with the cartoon fluidity that only Wayforward could pull off. The game really pushes what it means to be 8-bit.

The game employs parallax scrolling, the color schemes used are spot on, and every enemy is clearly visible and distinctive.

Audio

Unfortunately, the audio is pure old fashioned gameboy crap. Most of the tracks just sound bad and are completely forgettable. The game does use some voice samples for Wendy, which sound clear, but are equally annoying.

Gameplay

The main attraction to Wendy is the ability to control gravity and walk on the ceiling or floor at will. This makes it a lot like Metal Storm on the NES, but even better as the jumping mechanics and pathways are cleverly thought out.

Placed throughout each stage are several stars which when collected, boost the power of Wendy’s magical attack. The more stars Wendy gains the more powerful the attack she gains. The stars are also tied to her health meter, so every time she gets hit, she looses one star and becomes less powerful.

Some enemies can only be harmed by changing gravity which is a really cool gimmick and gives the game a great unique charm.

After every three stages, you’ll play a really dumbed down horizontal auto scrolling shooter. This mode places Wendy on a broomstick, with the ability to fire and dodge, but it’s not very flushed out at all, nor any challenge. After only a few minutes fighting through the same two or three enemies, you’ll be glad it’s over and back to the sidescrolling action. This mode feels rather rushed compared to the rest of the game.

Frustration

Very minimal, surprisingly enough. There are spiked walls, ceilings and floors, but you’ll almost always know where they are even with the limited viewing space of the GBC. There are no bottomless pits or anything that will kill you in one hit. You’ll probably never die even once playing this completely though from start to finish.

The game offers a few more difficult stages if you play on a GBA, but even these exclusive stages are still nothing that will enrage you.

System Availability and Price

Wendy is a GBC exclusive, but best played on a GBA SP or Gameboy Player to access the exclusive stages. It’s rare, so it’ll go for $25+ online. I was hyper lucky to find my copy recently.

History

Unfortunately, there’s very little dirt I can dig up for Wendy: Every Witch Way. It’s  not tied to any cartoon or comic release at the time, its not very well known, even as far as Wayforward games go. I’d love to be able to say the creative team based it heavily on the NES cult classic Metal Storm, but I can’t even find any info to substantiate that claim. If you know any dirt on Wendy, please drop a comment and I’ll be sure to amend this section later.

Overall

Good

-Yet another beautiful game using Wayforward’s legendary engine.

-Colorful, bright, enjoyable to look at.

-Gravity control gameplay is a ton of fun.

-Password save with only four characters.

Bad

-Extremely short, even by platforming standards. You can beat it in less than an hour.

-Extremely easy.

-Very little verity.

-No battery save, but then again, it’s so short its understandable.

Conclusion

Wendy: Every Witch Way is extremely fun, extremely short, and for whatever reason, extremely rare. If you should ever come across this game, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed. It is only surpassed by the truly excellent Shantae which came out a year later.

Data

Platform: Gameboy Color

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: Mid 2001

Developer: WayForward Technologies

Publisher: TDK Mediactive, Inc.

Also from the developer: Shantae, Xtreme Sports

ESRB: E

Buy or skip: Buy

R.A.D: Robot Alchemic Drive Review (PS2)

Posted in Hidden gems, PS2, Reviews on September 2, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

Kiyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!


The Japanese gaming market is huge, and Japanese gaming tastes often differ from western tastes. Where most Americans eagerly await the next block buster FPS or third person action game, Japanese gamers line up at stores to buy anime inspired RPGs, dating sims, turn based strategy games and more.

Thus, every year, many Japanese games never see release in America. Sometimes it’s because of copyright issues. Sometimes it’s just due to  cultural differences and many Japanese games just wouldn’t appeal to westerners. Other times its because these Japanese games are just too weird.

Let’s all be thankful that RAD: Robot Alchemic Drive wasn’t among those games. Released by Enix of all companies in 2002 in North America, R.A.D was unlike any mech game before – or since.

Is originality enough to make this the best mech game ever?

Story

It is the near future. After numerous failed attempts to explore space, it is discovered that no organic tissue can survive in space due to an unknown form of radiation called the Nectar Radiance.

An organization dedicated to finding a long-term solution to humanity’s survival in space, the Civilization Preservation Foundation (try saying that three times fast), is formed with the funding of Tsukioka Industries. Unfortunately, Tsukioka Industries eventually goes bankrupt after having poured all of its resources into the covert development of the Meganites, gigantic machines with seemingly no use or application. Best use of funds ever.

Its founder dies penniless, leaving his child, a junior at Senjo city high school, to take the interim position of chairman.  Without warning, colossal robots teleport onto Earth’s surface, wreaking havoc and devastating many cities, with Senjo as their next target.

As a giant robot approaches Senjo, Japan, the young Tsukioka chairman is contacted by the Trillenium Committee, the secret face of the Civilization Preservation Foundation.

Given a strange remote control, the chairman is told the true purpose of the Meganites – to defend Earth against these alien robots – the Volgara.

None of this makes much sense, nor do many of the characters that claim the Volgara are the ultimate form of evolution. I could be wrong, but last I checked, robots don’t evolve.

Graphics

R.A.D makes use of the basic graphics engine used n nearly every PS2 game Sandlot produced. You’ll be able to freely explore a large city with buildings you cannot enter. The city is completely destructible as well, but its probably a good idea to not destroy it as you kind of are suppose to be protecting it.

The giant robots next to the small humans and buildings give R.A.D an impressive sense of scale. The characters appear as fairly low res polygonal models, but when they speak, are represented with some nice looking anime stills, which differ as conversations change.

The game has some fairly advanced particle effects for the PS2, and explosions are handled just as well here as other Sandlot titles.

Audio

Like most Sandlot games, the majority of the music is forgettable. On the other hand, sound effects are handled well. Giant mechs make all sorts of mechanical sounds as they move, and pound the ground due to their sheer size and weight. One minor gripe of mine is that the Volgaras make the same scream as the giant ants of Earth Defense Force. This is amusing at first, but then really weird. Maybe the Volgaras are soldiers in the Ravager army?

The real star of the audio however, is the voice acting. It is simply awful – in an awesome way. The voice acting in the English version is intentionally awful, as a parody of old-school giant robot anime and movie English dubs with almost no budget.

Voice actors were told to deliberately speak their lines with the contextual abandon and wild cheesiness of the original TV shows. Even though the game obviously takes place in Japan and the game makes no effort to hide this, many primary characters use very Americanized pronunciation, while the Japanese news reporter Mika Banhara speaks with an almost offensively thick Japanese accent.

This mesh brings R.A.D to a whole new level of laughably bad audio.

You need only watch this conversation exchange to understand all that R.A.D is about. Poor Nanao.

Gameplay

When you first put in Robot Alchemic Drive, you choose from three characters (doesn’t effect anything) and then you get to choose from three different robots.

There’s an average fighter, Vevel, a jetfighter robot, and a heavy weapons robot that’s slow but powerful. I chose Vevel, to get the most ballanced first play, so I’ll have to update this later to give my thoughts on the other two.

Third person action games are dime a dozen. A lot can be said for the unique human perspective that R.A.D offers for the giant robot battles.

Since you control the robot and your human player, you have to keep a close eye on what’s happening at all times because you can only control either the robot or the human – not both at once.

Since you can’t attack as a human, you have to stay far enough away from the battle to avoid harm, but you also need to be close enough to see what’s going on as you control your robot.

Although the game downright tells you to do so at one point, getting up on the shoulder of the robot is not such a good idea as it does put you in harms way. if your robot gets knocked down.

The gameplay boils down to controlling your giant robot around into position, then punching, blocking and launching projectiles at your enemy until you win. It’s not groundbreaking or very deep, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Control

R.A.D has a very unusual control scheme that takes some getting used to. In the basic control option, you move your giant mech with the d-pad, and use each analog stick to control each arm of your mech. Depending on how you swing the sticks, your mech will block, punch, jab, or even uppercut. The fact buttons are used to fire long range weapons of various sorts.

If that’s not enough for you, there’s also an advanced control option where you must use the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons to control each leg of your mech to move it! The advantage of this mode is it frees the d-pad up for moving the torso, making it possible to evade enemy punches at the cost of more difficult movement.

Either way, you probably won’t be very good the first time you play Robot Alchemic Drive. However, over time you’ll eventually learn to actually love the controls, as it feels like the DuelShock controller really is controlling a 120-foot-tall robot, espically when using a PS3 wireless controller. It’s pretty damn cool.

Frustration

Most of the frustration in R.A.D comes from the very fact that you control your giant walking robot from a third person angle that remains fixed while controlling the robot.

The catch with the frustration is that you have direct control where you put yourself to get the view of the battle.

System availability and price

Robot Alchemic Drive is exclusively for the Playstation 2. Most likely forecasting low sales, enix produced the game in limited numbers in North America, making it rather difficult to find today. Check your local area, but don’t hold your breath. It is on ebay now and then, but for inflated prices. As always, good luck. and happy hunting.

Audience

The game is rated Teen for blood and violence, but there’s really nothing at all here that wouldn’t be suitable for a child. The game’s true audience is for Japan-oholics like me that really love Japanese mech tv shows and movies. This is pretty much like Neon Genesis: the game.

History

Before Earth Defense Force and even Robot Alchemic Drive, Sandlot created a destructible city engine for what was to be a high budget licensed game called Tekkouki Mikazuki Trial Edition, a one stage demo game meant to promote the television series of the same name. The series bombed.

Unfortunately, the game was later cancelled, so Sandlot turned all their development programming for Tekkouki Mikazuki and created their own giant Robot/monster game: Gigantic Drive, which became in America, Robot Alchemic Drive.

Sandlot has since moved on from the PS2, but man, I would love to see a sequel to R.A.D someday. This game needs way more attention than it got.

Overall

Good

-Excellent Mech designs and graphics. This game has aged remarkably well.

-Voice acting so incredibly laughable it’s good

-Extremely unique and a ton of fun

Bad

-Some bad looking textures

-a somewhat steep difficulty curve for the controls

-Uneven framerate

-R.A.D has become exceedingly difficult to find, with inflated ebay prices offering the only ticket to this game.

-Nanao is annoying

Conclusion

R.A.D is an unusual game, and some would even say it’s a rather flawed game. My perspective is that this is one of the best PS2 games that somehow got a localization, and the more people that know about it the better. If you can find it, give it a shot. You’ll walk away smiling. I can only hope a sequel come out someday.

Data

Platform: Playstation 2

Genre: Mech, but unlike any other

Release Date: November 5, 2002

Devoloper: Sandlot

Publisher: enix

Developer’s notable other works: Monster Attack, Global Defense Force, Earth Defense Force 2017, The Onechanbara series

ESRB: Teen

Buy or skip: Buy