Archive for December, 2010

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon Review (Wii)

Posted in Hidden gems, Reviews, Wii on December 31, 2010 by satoshimatrix

There’s never been another game quite like Fragile Dreams

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon was quietly released last March prior to a slew of excellent titles released in May. Fragile Dreams is a unique, dare I say emotional game that time will no doubt not be kind to and will eventually be a highly sought after game that was all but ignored when it was new akin to other cult classics like the SNES RPG Earthbound. Still, should you play it? Read on.

 

Story

The game picks up somewhere around the year 2010, Japan.

After burying the nameless old man responsible for his upbringing and only person he ever knew, a young fifteen year old boy named Seto finds himself truly alone in the world. Following some unknown catastrophic event twenty years ago, human civilization seems to have broken down completely. People are now completely absent, and nature has begun to reclaim cities and turn Tokyo into ruins of a lost civilization.

Among the old man’s possessions, Seto finds a letter left to him in the event of the old man’s death. The letter tells him to seek out a red shining tower in the distance, where he is meant to find something important.

With heavy feelings, Seto sets off from his caretaker’s stellar observatory and begins to explore the ruins of the city formally known as Tokyo. By mere chance, he soon encounters a silver-haired girl around the same age as he is, who is equally surprised to see another person. The overwhelmed girl can’t begin to approach the situation, and instead runs from Seto in fright.

It is at this point Seto enters the ruins of an underground mall and discovers another voice, calling out for help. The voice he discovers is belongs to a  Personal Frame (PF for short), a ‘digital interactive assistant’. This computer is incapable of movement, but able to interact with humans through a vocal interface. The PF speaks to Seto with a soft, feminine voice and so Seto agrees to take “her” with him.

Will Seto find the girl again? Will he reach the red tower and even if he does, what waits for him there? Prepare for manly tears readers. From this point on Fragile Dreams is even less cheerful.

Graphics

Fragile Dreams is an absolutely beautiful game, both artistically and technically. Character models look exceptional for Wii standards, and locations are moody, atmospheric and downright believable. The game world is post-apocalyptic, but unlike most games such as Fallout, the world is not gray and barren. Instead, Seto will explore areas where nature is slowly reclaiming the landscape with tree shoots cracking through concrete, walls crumbling everywhere, metal rusting and water flowing seemingly everywhere.

While the game doesn’t seem to dwell on it as it very rightfully could, Fragile Dreams also has some of the most detailed skylines and horizons in any game, and it’s not even HD. Who says the Wii doesn’t have any great looking games?

Oh, and Fragile Dreams also has some of the most beautiful cutscenes ever as well. Youtube can’t do it nearly as much justice, but check out this one to see what I mean.

Audio

There isn’t a large verity in the audio, but what is here is high quality stuff. You’ll find that you’ll be wanting to listen to certain one-time pieces over and over. Composed by Baten Kaitos’ Riei Saitō, most of the music is area-specific and players will be treated to a wide array of extremely well preformed peices of music. Even the titlescreen music is fantastic and easily missed.

Of particular quality is the opening theme, “Hikari” (light) that is played during the game’s opening sequence by singer/seiyū Aoi Teshima

Of the voice acting, it is also remarkably well produced and characters have interesting things to say. There is both English voice acting and the option to switch to the original Japanese, which is rare to see in Western games and very welcome. Both voice tracks are very capable and faithful to each other, so the choice is really a matter of personal preference. The Japanese voices are often softer than the harsher-sounding English voices, but the English voices tend to word things a little better. For instance, in Japanese, Seto’s voice suggests the character is frail, afraid, and lacks self confidence. While these traits are expressed somewhat in his English voice, he comes across overall as someone who is much more sure of himself and his surroundings. These differences are only noticeable if you play the game through twice though, or switch back and fourth mid way through the game. Casual gamers can simply leave it on English and enjoy the game as you can’t go wrong with whatever you should choose.

Fragile Dreams manages to make the best use of the Wiimote speaker that I’ve yet come across. Rather than using it as a gimmicky source of noise as you flail the Wiimote around, it is used to contact certain characters. Early in the game, Seto will find a talking portable computer named a Personal Frame. The computer talks with a gentle female voice and loves to make conversation and assist Seto. You can hear her computer voice by holding the Wiimote vertically and to your ear. Once in this position, she will give Seto advice or simply just talk to him. This might sound stupid, but it’s actually quite engaging. The voice sounds a little tinny out the Wiimote, but considering the voice is that of an A.I machine, it kinda works!

Gameplay

Fragile Dreams is essentially an third person action RPG. You control Seto with the Wiimote + nunchuk setup, and by god, it makes sense. See, the Wiimote itself operates as Seto’s flashlight; aiming it about is intuitive and it’s clear the game was build upon this premise. There is simply no way Fragile Dreams could be ported to any other system.

As you play, enemies appear in real time, which must be defeated by smashing them with weapons such as sticks, pipes or bows. Combat is extremely basic with the only real strategy being to press A repeatedly until you win. That said, the combat does manage to be somewhat enjoyable even if it is rather basic.

Occasionally upon defeat, enemies will drop “mystery items” which can only be investigated by a campfire. These are non-crucial to completion of the game and only serve as back story, but players who want the most out of the game will want to seek out every mystery item they can. Upon examination next to a bonfire, each item turns out to be the most cherished possession of a person prior to their death, and holds within their memories.

As you can imagine, most of these stories are heart-wrenching and come damn near close to emotional. Hardcore gamers who can play Dead Space or Resident Evil: Invisible Zombie mode without being scared at all probably won’t feel much from Fragile Dreams, but for the rest of us, prepare to have your heart-strings tugged at least a little.

As Seto explores Tokyo ruins he will encounter the Personal Frame A.I computer, a mysterious boy named Crow and the wondering spirit of a girl named Sai who despite being dead, is full of life. Each of these supporting characters have back-stories that again will have you crying manly tears, guaranteed.

For all it gets right in terms of gameplay, Fragile Dreams does have numerous faults. The first problem players will encounter is the frequent load times. I suppose there’s nothing that can be done about this, but it is rather annoying to wait ten to twenty seconds to load a new area that isn’t even very large.  The next problem is the limited inventory space.

Seto being a young boy and not the manly hero who can carry 200 pounds on his back has only a small briefcase to store all his belongings. Considering you at the very least will need to always have on hand a flashlight, a weapon and a healing item in case of emergency, about half the inventory space is already gone! There’s also a good bit of backtracking required, which smacks of lazy design in my books.

Control

The controls for Fragile Dreams are pretty standard for a third person action game on the Wii. it uses both the Wiimote and nunchuk.

Wiimote Pointer: Aim Flashlight
Analog Stick: Movement
A: Attack
B: Fire
1: Switch Weapon
2: Secondary fire
C: Confirm menu choices, no usage in-game
Plus: Pause
Minus: no usage

As mentioned, one of the most unique aspects of the controls is how you communicate with your companions starting with the Personal Frame. You do this by turning the Wiimote upright and placing next to your ear. The Personal Frame will talk to the player though the Wiimote’s speaker rather than the television. This might sound gimmicky (it most definitely is) but along with positional noise the speaker makes while shining the flashlight on certain objects, Fragile Dreams is the game I feel makes the best use of the Wii’s unique controls of any game on the system.

Frustration

Fragile Dreams uses a durability system for all weapons you find, yet the exact condition of your weapon’s durability isn’t known to the player. This means that weapons can and will randomly break and become useless. As such, this requires the player to carry a backup weapon at all times which takes up a good chuck of the previous limited inventory space.

In situations where you just don’t have enough room for a second weapon, this system will force most players to simply avoid all enemies whenever possible, a tactic normally not recommened for any game that allows the player to level up. It’s really quite a shame.

In addition, many of the weapons are fairly useless such as the long range bows. Most enemies appear at close range and the ones that don’t usually charge at you. This isn’t a huge deal as the game does allow you to choose your weapons you find or buy from the insane vendor.

On the technical side, you’ll also occasionally fight with the camera like in any other third person action game. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is worth mentioning. Likewise, Fragile Dreams is a game wrought with lengthy loadtimes. I suppose there’s nothing that can be done about this, but it is rather annoying to wait ten to twenty seconds to load a new area that isn’t even very large.

Audience

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a heavily anime inspired game and will mostly appeal to fans of the medium. It’s also for people who don’t mind overly sad stories. The journey that Seto sets out on is far more emotional than it is adventurous.

Availability and price

Fragile Dreams is an Xseed game and like most of their publications, the run was limited and the game is rare to find. Expect to pay between $40-50 for even a used copy, as rare titles tend to hold their value. If you see it for anything less than that, I’d recommend buying it even if you end up disliking it; you can likely resell it for more than you paid.

History

Conceptional development of Fragile began in late 2003, after Namco had released their blockbuster hit Tales of Symphonia. When the Wii was unveiled, it became the natural choice as the core of the game was always intended to be a lone boy in a ruined world where the only source of light would be from a handheld flashlight. With a heavy promotion, Fragile was released in Japan in early 2009 to much fanfare and became a best-seller.

Well over a year later, all was quiet on the western front. (see what I did there?) Namco had no plans to publish the title for the west and it seemed that all hope for a localization would be lost. Luckily for us though, Xseed Games pulled a Working Designs and carefully and lovingly localized the game, complete with a brand new English voice track that’s extremely faithful to the original Japanese.

Other than a slight name change from Fragile to Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, the English release is the same game early importers got.

Original Advertising

As you would expect, the trailers for the English and Japanese versions are vastly different, with the English version being more concise and the Japanese version being more spoiler-filled. Still, without knowing the context, both are safe to watch for those deciding if the game is for them.

English trailer:

Japanese trailer:

Overall

Good

  • One of the most atmospheric games in years
  • Beautiful visuals with an artistically masterful style make it by far one of the best looking Wii titles
  • Intuitive controls that work. Aim with the flashlight and hold the Wiimote upright to talk to your partner. It works well!
  • Interesting and engaging story
  • Surprisingly lengthy at around 15-20 hours

Bad

  • Long, frequent load times hamper quick progress
  • Extremely small inventory space. Expect to be able to carry only the most bare of essentials.
  • Occasionally confusing or unclear goals. Not a game to play a bit and put down for months on end.
  • Some difficulty balance issues

Conclusion

Every now and then, the Wii does have some fantastic exclusives that should be played by everyone. Is Fragile Dreams such a title? Frankly, no. It’s glaring problems severely limit it’s potential audience, but if you are willing to look past the rough patches, you’ll find a game that is every bit as engrossing as it is alienating. This is perhaps one of the most unique videogames to ever be released and in utter defiance to its technical shortcomings, Fragile Dreams is one of the most beautifully artistic games ever made. Recommended, but only for some. This is a game that’s Japanese and not afraid to admit it. I sincerely hope a Fragile Dreams sequel is made someday that works on some of the major issues as this one deserves critical acclaim. This is by far one of the year’s best hidden gems.

Data

Platform: Nintendo Wii

Genre: Action-Adventure

Release Date: March 16, 2010

Developer: tri-Crescendo

Publisher: Xseed Games

Also from the developer: Eternal Sonata, Baten Kaitos

ESRB: Teen

Buy or skip: Rent before you decide

Megaman 5 Review (NES)

Posted in Megaman Classic, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on December 27, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Protoman’s Betrayal?!

By 1992, the Super Nintendo was in full swing and the 16-bit era was raging, and the 8-bit market was continuing to shrink. Capcom, ever the company to play it safe, decided to revamp Megaman once again and release yet another Megaman title for the NES.

By this time, Megaman had become as big a gaming icon on the NES as Mario was; Megaman 5 was heavily promoted and gave NES fans a game they could enjoy, even if it was expected of Capcom. Most people had by this point moved on from the NES Megaman games, so how does this one compare to the rest?

Story

It is the year 2013. Dr. Wily has been defeated once again and is living in hiding, bringing the world once again to peace. Proven innocent of wrongdoing, Russian scientist Dr. Cossack now lives in Japan and works alongside with Dr. Light in his efforts to better mankind through the development of robotics.

A few months later, the peace is shattered when suddenly Protoman, Megaman’s mysterious elusive brother appears to be giving commands to several robots attacking the city as Wily bots have done in the past! Protoman has always lived by his own rules, but neither Dr. Light or Megaman could imagine Protoman doing something like this for no reason.

Just before he could send Megaman into action to investigate, Protoman appears at the lab and kidnaps Dr. Light! Clutching his brother’s signature yellow scarf left behind, Megaman insists on stepping into the fray once again to save the city, rescue Dr. Light and discover the mystery behind Protomans actions.

Graphics

Megaman 5 continues the trend from the previous games and is once again, one of the best looking games on the NES while bringing very little new to the table. But once again as a great looking NES game, it adds very little that Megaman 4 didn’t do. Sprites are just as well animated as ever, mid-bosses look great and there’s now a rotating set of sprites for Megaman!. Megaman 5 taps into everything the NES could do and produces some really great effects. You won’t be disappointed with the way it looks. Megaman 5 screams late NES game graphics.

Audio

Megaman 5 was composed by Mari Yamaguchi, who had also worked on Breath of Fire and U.N Squadron. I find most of her music to be among the absolute best. Each track in 5 are memorable, distinctive and get to the point quickly so you know exactly what you are listening to everytime you play. 5 also some of the best remixes in the series by far. I often times find myself humming tunes from Megaman 5 while driving, working, sometimes even cooking!

Here’s a remix of my favorite track in the game, Naplam Man.This remix is from the second Megaman arcade game, the Power Fighters. I’ve always, always loved this remix.

Gameplay

It should come as no surprise that Megaman 5 plays no differently from any of the previous Megaman games. It should also come as no surprise that this isn’t a bad thing as the formula once again works perfectly.

Everything from the previous games is once again present: the jumping, shooting, even the sliding. Megaman 5 improves the Mega buster from 4 by allowing hyou to keep the charge when hit and also allowing Megaman to fire a larger 4×4 block blast rather than the tube shaped shot form 4. From this point on, Megaman would use this style of shot, so one could argue the perfected Mega buster came from Megaman 5.

Megaman 5 also has some minor gameplay additions featured for the first and last time. First among them is a section where Megaman rides on a water ski. This is like an auto scrolling shooter, but you can’t pause, change weapons or even charge the mega-buster. It only exists for about half of Waveman’s stage.

another addition are scrolling backgrounds. The end of Gyroman’s stage is an elevator with platforms and spikes that need to be avoided with careful jumps and movements. Late into the game there’s also challenge to ascend to a platform by destroying supporting bricks. It’s odd 5 is the only game to try this.

Megaman 5 is one of my favorites, yet I can’t help but feel it has one of the worst weapon sets in all of the Megaman games! This time around, I have a bone to pick with every single weapon.

Water Wave – Sends a rush of water forward that only affects enemies on the ground. It is very weak and will not kill anything in one hit and doesn’t pass through enemies.

Crystal Eye – Shoots a large crystal that breaks into four smaller crystals and fly about. Like the Gemini Laser, it’s hard to aim it anywhere but straight, defeating the purpose.

Charge Kick – Turns Megaman’s slide into an attack. Would be really kinda cool if you could fire as normal with it selected. As it is, sliding into enemies is almost like 3’s Top Spin fiasco repeated.

Gravity Hold – Flashes the whole screen, destroying all effected enemies. This weapon is really cool, but enemies never leave power ups and it consumes a lot of energy.

Power Stone – Sends three stones orbiting away from Megaman. It is very rare that you’ll ever actually be able to hit multiple enemies with this weapon.

Napalm Bomb – Fires small grenades that roll along before exploding or hitting an enemy.  A really cool weapon, but they aren’t very powerful.

Gyro Attack – Throws a spinning blade that can be controlled up or down. A cool weapon that doesn’t do much damage to most enemies. Also, why “attack”? Couldn’t they come up with a better name?

Star Crush – It’s another %&#$ shield weapon. Disperses when enemies touch it once. Consumes a lot of energy.

Super Arrow – It’s like Item 2 made into an attack. Doubles as a means of transport.
Beat – A robotic bird that automatically homes in and destroys enemies for you. Beat can be used only after collecting all of the MEGAMANV icons, by which point you’ll be used to playing without his aid and you might not even notice he’s there as the game doesn’t notify you! Beat is really cool, but I wish that Beat could be used a little sooner than until after you defeat all eight bosses!

Control

Megaman 5 once again controls literally identically to Megaman 4. The only slight tweak is in the Megabuster as it now doesn’t seem to discharge as easily and you no longer loose your charge when hit by an enemy.

D-pad: Movement
B: Fire
A: Jump
Select: No Function
Start: Pause/Menu

Frustration

Due to the enhanced buster, most of the robot masters this time around are a cinch. If you choose to play without the charging ability of the Mega buster though, the game can be quite challenging. It’s also well worth mentioning that some of the stages can be infuriatingly difficult, particularly Crystalman’s stage. There are sections where crystals randomly fall through these shoots and you must make timed jumps to get through. Even as a child I hated these more than even the death lasers in Quickman’s stage from 2. Just when you think you’ve got the timing for them down, bam you’re hit, and then you fall into a pit. It’s a lot harder than it seems it would be.

Availability & Price

Megaman 5 was only ever released for the Famicom and NES. Unlike 4, it seems to be one of the less commonly seen Megaman titles as I’ve failed to find it in a number of used game stores whenever I’ve looked.

On average, expect to pay $15-30 cart only for either the NES or Famicom versions. It is not currently available for the North American or European Wii Virtual Console. It was released for the Playstation in Japan in 1999 as part of the Rcokman Complete Works series, and the PL1 version was ported with the rest to Megaman Anniversary Collection in 2004 in North America.

History

As with previous entries in the series, development for Rockman 5 involved a robot master creation contest held in Japan where kids would submit drawings and ideas for robot masters. For the previous Rockman 4, the eight finalist robot designers received a special gold copy of the game as an acknowledgment for their work. This game the finalists didn’t receive anything, and their designs themselves were redesigned several times by Keiji Inafune before they were approved. Still, the robots maintain the child approach at least in spirit.
Concept art for Megaman 3 shows early ideas for robotic sidekicks including a robotic dog which became Rush, and a robotic bird which became Beat here. Beat, roughly based on Megaman’s helmet, is a robot built from the previous game’s framed antagonist Dr. Cassock.
When Megaman 5 came out for the NES in North America, Nintendo Power magazine heavily promoted it, even featuring a robot master creation contest for fun and showcased many ideas, some names of which would go on to be robots in future games! Megaman 5 won the category for best NES graphics in a 1992 poll in Nintendo Power.

Original Adtertising

Commerical time kiddies! Transport back to childhood and pertend you like in an awesome country like Japan that bothers to produce such steller ads as this.

Overall

Good

  • Continues the Megaman tradition of excellent play control, graphics, audio and gameplay
  • Mega Buster feels much better than Megaman 4’s
  • Some original concepts such as falling ceilings introduced here that make the game more exciting
  • More legendary Megaman music. Many of the best themes in the entire series can be heard here.
  • Relatively common and affordable for a later NES game
  • Great replay value. Gravityman and Starman have some of the most interesting and enjoyable stages in any NES game.

Bad

  • Visually looks almost exactly like the older games, which can turn off some players
  • Again, some of the robot masters are incredibly dumb. how about the robot based on a steam train, Chargeman anyone? CHOO CHOO!
  • Rush Jet isn’t nearly as useful here as it was in Megaman 3, and joining the crapfest is the new version of the Rush Coil which turns Rush into a pogostick.
  • One of the worst weapon sets in all Megaman games. A few are fun to use, but far too many stinkers make this one Megaman game you’re better to just stick with the main arm cannon.

Conclusion

For me personally, Megaman 5 is the pinnacle of Megaman games on the NES. The rebalanced Mega Buster makes using it much less frustrating than Megaman 4, and the great verity of stages gives it much more lasting appeal than the previous entry in the series. It came out in 1992 and by then most had stopped playing the NES Megamans, which is a real shame as even with a few issues, Megaman 5 is by far the best NES Megaman. I hope Capcom remakes it someday and retools the master weapons to be a bit better. Ah, I can dream, can’t I?

Data

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom, (ported to: PS1 and Gamecube/PS2/Xbox)

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: January 1992

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Also from the developer: Megaman 2, Bionic Commando, Darkwing Duck, etc

Game Length: ~90 minutes

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy/Skip: Buy

Super Mario Bros. 2…Christmas edition! (NES)

Posted in NES, Reviews on December 25, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Merry Christmas from Satoshi Matrix!

It’s Christmas and what better game to review than….Super Mario Bros. 2 – Christmas edition! This graphics hack of the original NES version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) is just the game to focus on for the holiday spirit as it’s just as much fun as the regular game. In fact, it is the regular game! Chances are you’ve all played this one at one time or another, but how does it hold up today? Ho ho ho, I’m glad you asked! Read on and discover!

 

Story

Mario goes to sleep and soon finds himself in the strange land of Subcon, where strange creatures and abound, yet Bowser and his koopa troops are strangely absent. Mario meets up with his brother Luigi, his friend Toad, and the Princess and sets out to explore this strange land.

Graphics

Super Mario Bros. 2 is a major improvement over the first Super Mario Bros. The sprites are far more detailed and the game itself is both more complex and longer. While backgrounds are still mostly static, there are now running waterfalls, animated vegetable leaves and a huge cast of memorable enemies.

 

Audio

Produced once again by the master Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, Super Mario Bros. 2, yet again features a legendary iconic soundtrack that’s nearly as universally reconizable as the Super Mario Bros. 1 overworld theme. Like Mario 1, there’s only a handful of tracks in total including the Title, Overworld, Caves, Boss Battle, Character Select and Ending, but each are so well done yet simple once you hear them you’ll never ever forget them.

Speaking of unforgettable, time for you to get this catchy remix stuck in your head. Thank me later.

In the NES version is when you press Start to pause the game, the melody continues but both square wave channels are muted, leaving only the sexy triangle wave and noise channels. I wish more NES games had done this as its a really cool effect.

Gameplay

While yes, Mario 2 is again a platformer like Super Mario Bros. 1, it shares little in common with it other than that. First of all, you can now play as one of four different characters, each with strengths and weaknesses. Mario is the most well rounded character with standard jumping and standard strength.. His brother Luigi can jump much higher and longer than Mario, but is more difficult to control in air. Toad can’t jump high at all, but can pick things up at nearly twice the speed of the others. Princess Toadstool has only average jumps and takes the longest time to pick things up, but she can actually float in the air for one and a half seconds making her a great choice for some tricky stages.

The other major difference is the way you defeat enemies this time is not by jumping on them, but instead by throwing something at them! There’s also no timer in this game. The gameplay dynamic of SMB2 revolves around picking vegetables. Vegetables most of the time are simple projectiles that can be tossed to defeat enemies, but occasionally there’s a hidden potion that when thrown, will turn into a door to subspace. In this realm, vegetables picked turn into coins and life-up mushrooms can be found.

Life-up mushrooms give an extra hit point, allowing them to to be hit three times before dying. They can even be chained to allow for up to four hits before death! No other Mario platformer has ever adopted this system, which is a real shame. These mushrooms are only in specific points in subspace, and finding them can be a real challenge as the game progresses.

Each stage has a boss at the end, which also must be defeated with projectiles, either of your own or by tossing enemy attacks right back at them. After each stage, you are presented with a slot machine that uses all the coins obtained in subspace. This mini-game is for extra lives, which you’ll be needing a lot of throughout the game.

Control

D-pad: Movement; Up to enter doors, hold down to charge for a super jump
A: Jump
B: Pick up an object, throw an object
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

The original version of Super Mario Bros. 2 has absolutely no passwords, let alone saves. The whole game has to be completed in one sitting, or else you’ll have to leave your Nintendo on between play sessions. There are a series of three lives and two continues, meaning without picking up extra lives along the way in the slot machine mini game, you only have nine lives to beat the whole game!

Later versions, especially Super Mario Advance, would greatly increase the number of extra lives you can obtain as well as add in a save feature, drastically reducing the game’s frustration, but not it’s difficulty.

No matter how you slice it, some of the stages in Mario 2 are of the oldschool kind of challenge that the NES is known for, with plenty of bottomless pits, spikes, enemies, and timed jumps. It’s not so hard the average player will never complete it, but it does nevertheless require some devotion,

Availability & Price

Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of the most common NES games and shouldn’t to too difficult to find at any given store that sells retro games. Expect to pay between $5-10 for an NES cart. It’s also remade on the SNES and now Wii Super Mario All Stars collections, and was remade again for the GBA’s launch title, Super Mario Advance. Oh, and the NES version is also on the Wii Virtual Console.

History

Okay, everyone and their mother knows the history of Super Mario Bros. 2 by this point, but I feel I would be remiss to not include at least an abridged version. If you know all this like the back of your hand feel free to scroll down and read the rest.

Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES is not the same game Japan knows as Super Mario Bros. 2. In Japan, Super Mario Bros. 2 was released for the ill-fated Famicom Disk System in 1986. The sequel to one of the most popular games of all was essentially the same game retooled with a new ground tile, a wind effect and made significantly more difficult, almost absurdly so. It shares much in common with most typical NES rom hacks you’ll find.

The following year, Japanese television giant Fuji TV ran a campaign to promote its programming called Yume Kōjō ’87. In a partnership deal with Nintendo, a platformer game was devloped entitled Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panikku or Dream Factory: Heart-pounding Panic in English, or more commonly just Doki Doki Panic. The game featured an exotic Arabian family who were the mascots of the Yume Kōjō ’87 promotion.

When the NES was starting to pick up steam in North America and Super Mario Bros. was a hot seller, Nintendo of America’s Howard Phillips was a strong opponent to localizing Super Mario Bros. 2 as he rightfully felt it was too difficult for American children and didn’t bring enough new to the table as it was just a glorified hack of the original masterpiece.

Instead, Phillips suggested Doki Doki Panic be translated and westernized. The sprites for many of the characters were changed to feature Mario characters, a new boss was added and all reference to the Yume Kōjō ’87 event was removed. When the game arrived in America under the title Super Mario Bros. 2, nearly everyone was none the wiser. As Mario 2 had been made for American audiences, the later Japanese Famicom release was called Super Mario Bros. USA.

Several years later in 1993, Nintendo released enhanced remakes of both versions of Super Mario Bros. 2 in the Super Mario All-Stars collection, changing the title of the Japanese version of the game to Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels.  Even today, that’s still what most people refer the original Super Mario Bros. 2 as.

Original Advertising

Sit back and relax, it’s time to be trasported back to a time when Nintendo made good commericials!

Oh by I just cant wait to play some SUPER MERRY-O BROS. 2!

Overall

Good

  • Great looking sprites and appealing backgrounds
  • Classic NES gameplay and yes, difficulty
  • Legendary Koji Kondo soundtrack

Bad

  • No passwords, only two continues.
  • So different from other Mario games it might put you off at first
  • Given the difficulty, it has the weakest lasting appeal of all the Mario games I can think of

Conclusion

Super Mario Bros. 2 is a NES go-to game that anyoen who owns an NES should have. In fact, chances are you already do, all I’m here for is telling you why its worth your time. Happy holidays.

Oh and here’s some brentalfloss awesomeness.

Data

Platform: NES/Famicom, remade on SNES/SFC GBA, ported to Wii

Genre: Platformer

Original Release Dates: September 1, 1988

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: Nearly every Mario, Zelda and F-Zero game ever made

Game Length: ~3 hours

ESRB: E

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, pirate if you must, but damnit, just play it!

Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate Review (Xbox)

Posted in Reviews, Xbox on December 23, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Super Fighting Tits

The fighting game genre exploded with the arcade boom in the early 1990’s thanks to the overwhelming success for Capcom’s Street Fighter II. Since then, many companies have tried to recapture the same thunder and copy whatever successful formula Capcom’s game had. Tecmo’s answer was to make the game more simple yet keeping it robust, make it 3D like Sega’s Virtua Fighter and add in a secret ingredient: large amounts of sex appeal.

Enter Dead or Alive, the textbook example of a game with ludicrous breast physics.  In the origianl arcade version of Dead or Alive 1,  even the slightest motion any of the female characters took would send their frontal globes bouncing like they’d been operating a jack hammer naked.

Obviously the game was a hit. In 1999, a sequel was produced adding even better “visuals” and tuning the gameplay to make the experience even better. Soon after, console ports began to materialize, each one better than the last. In 2005, Tecmo revised Dead or Alive 2 once again on the most powerful console at the time, the Xbox, and made Dead or Alive 2 ULTIMATE. What makes the Xbox version the ultimate version? read on and find out.

Story

As a fighting game there’s really no story at all, but I suppose it’s vaguely about a mysterious fighting tournament held by the oh-so-mysterious DOA-Tech, and a menacing evil tengu threatening Japan. What are a bunch of extremely well endowed young ladies and a few dudes including Ryu Hyabusa from Ninja Gaiden to do but enter the tournament and kick ass?

Graphics

Not surprisingly, the main appeal of the Dead or Alive series are the visuals. Since 1999, the visuals for each successive port of Dead or Alive 2 have increased, making the Xbox version by far the more advanced.

The fully 3D Stages showcase incredible, life-like detail that make the static 2D stages of other fighters seem amateurish in comparison.  There is a waterfall stage set in China, a beautiful aquarium,  a safari in Africa, a disco hall, and many more. Each locate really just blows everything other fighting games have to offer.

As great as the locales look though, the main *ahem* attraction are the character models, particularly of the various ladies. Each of the females have dozens of outfits you unlock by playing more and more of the game, with the final outfits being as skimpy as possible, often just being bikinis. There’s nothing like two girls in bikinis kicking each other’s ass atop a snowy mountain, all the while with the breast physics in full swing. Tecmo sure knew their audience!

Given the fact that it’s on the original Xbox, you might be concerned that the game doesn’t look that great now, but your concerns would be unjustified. DOA2:U looks in my opinion even better than the Xbox 360’s Dead or Alive 4, though the two do look rather similar.

Audio

Surprisingly, Dead or Alive 2 has a rather good soundtrack. The opening cutscene for the game plays AeroSmith’s Dream On and all of the original music is fun to listen to, if not a little silly. Of particular strangeness is the names of many of the songs. Tina’s theme for instance is called “YES OR YES”. One of the coolest parts of the sountrack is that there are dance/trance remixes of every song that play randomly int he disco/trance stage.

As far as the voice acting goes, the only voice track is in Japanese, but the subtitles translate what is needed to know and honestly, I couldn’t image the DOA girls in English. Don’t get me started on the DOA movie…

As per usual, here’s my favorite track in the game, Ayane’s theme played with the trance stage remix.

Gameplay

Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate is a fighting game with simple controls and require serious skill for mastery. You will use the typical street fighter motions to move around, and there’s 360 degree turning like in the Soul Calibur series. One of the coolest aspects to Dead or Alive is environmental damage, where you can punch, kick or throw your opponent in several really cool stages. For example, you can knock your opponent through stain glass in a church, down a flight of stairs on the Great Wall of China, of even off the cliff of a snowy mountain! All of these attacks do major damage and might be a little overpowered, but goddamn are the fun to look at.

As the game roster is 70% female, you’ll soon realize the girls in the game aren’t as weak as most female characters in various other fighting games. Katsumi and Ayane are both kunoichi (female ninjas) and move about lightening fast but are relitively weaker than slower characters like Hitomi, Helena or Lei Fang. Once again, it’s a beatiful ballance…as long as you pick from the chicks.

All of the male characters are much slower and just can’t compete with the speedy kunoichi or even the other mildly speedy ladies. Then again, you don’t play Dead or Alive to play as a dude.

Of course like any fighting game, the game really shines in multiplayer.There was Xbox Live support once upon a time, but since the original Xbox Live is no longer supported, call up a friend plug in a second controller and enjoy multiplayer the way it was meant to be played – lag free, 12-year-old free and still with all the banter you’ll want.

Control

The controls for Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate are pretty much standard fighting game fare. You have just three basic attacks: Punch, Kick, and Free, which is Guard/Throw/Reverse. Learning to master when to attack, guard, throw or chain a reversal is the key to winning matches against tougher A.I and skilled players.

Left Stick/D-pad: Movement
Right Stick: No Use
LT: Moves camera slightly
RT: Free and Kick together
A: Throw
B: Kick
X: Free
Y: Punch
Black: Free and Punch and Kick together
White: Punch and Kick together
Start: Pause
Back: Cancel menu choices

On the most basic level, Dead or Alive 2 can be played with just the Y and B buttons. The others are only occasionally used by more skilled players. This means that Dead or Alive 2 is much more friendly to novice gamers would might tend to button mash than many other fighting games. Even so, there’s a significant amount of depth to the fighting system that will make the game far from boring to expert fighting game fans. It’s a great ballance very few fighting games achieve.

Frustration

Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate has a ton of things to unlock, from customs to even a developer interview. In order to unlock everything, you will be required to beat the single player game multiple times with every character on every difficulty. As some characters are just not as good as others you will find it’s somewhat of a chore to have to play to unlock extra costumes for some of the male characters that are just slow and useless. It doesn’t help that Katsumi and Ayane both have a total of twenty different outfits, eightteen of which need to be unlocked. In fact, all the female characters have many more costumes than the male characters do. Oh Tecmo.

Availability & Price

The best news of all is that Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate can be found extremely cheaply for often $6 or less. It was even packaged with the Sega Saturn version of Dead or Alive 1! Dead or Alive 1 isn’t NEARLY as good, but hey, it’s free and who doesn’t love free?

History

Dead or Alive 2 was first released for arcades in 1999. It quickly became noted for it’s graphics and devotion to detail for the girl’s breasts. It was soon revealed that Tecmo had written a physics engine just for the ladies juggy region. Of course, the game became a smash hit.

Within a year, console ports began to show up for the Dreamcast and PS2, with several revisions to add in small tweaks. In 2001, Tecmo announced Dead or Alive 3 exclusively as a launch title for Microsoft’s Xbox, a very unpopular choice in Japan. Nevertheless, the game sold well worldwide and when Xbox Live was proven to be a success, Tecmo began development of a enhanced remake of Dead or Alive 2 that would incorporate Dead or Alive 2. When the game arrived in 2004, fans were unexpectedly pleased to learn that by far the most popular character in DOA3, Hitomi, was going to be added into the DOA2 Ultimate character roster.

In Japan, Dead or Alive 2 was sold as Dead or Alive Online, advertising that for the first time, Dead or Alive 2 was playable over the internet on the original Xbox Live. In 2009, Microsoft discontinued service of Xbox Live for the original Xbox, thus forcing any stragglers in the community to switch to the somewhat less impressive Dead or Alive 4. From what I remember of the online content, Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate was a fairly decent fighting game to play online with no batches of extremely terrible lag. Of course, it’s still fully playable with a friend on the other end of the couch, so don’t count this one down yet!

Original Advertising

I tried my best to find the best version I could, but this is all I could come up with. Enjoy!

Overall

Good

  • Even now, Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate is one of the best looking fighting games of all time, and no, its not just because of the girls.
  • Simple to learn, difficult to master fighting system that is more casual friendly than even Street Fighter, but isn’t so watered down hardcore gamers will hate it
  • Can be found on the cheap
  • dem tits

Bad

  • As with most fighting games, some characters are overpowered while others are underpowered. Not nearly as unballanced as say, Marvel Vs Capcom 2, but it’s still kinda noticeable
  • Even after countless revisions of the same game, the male characters are more or less an afterthought.

Conclusion

Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate is by far my favorite 3D fighting game. As we still await the shaky future of Dead or Alive 5, Ultimate retains its namesake and remains both the best in the series and one of the best looking, most enjoyable games on the original Xbox. It’s also fully compatable with the Xbox 360, so there’s really no excuse for not giving this one a go.

Some of the character costumes are…questionable…, but even without all the obvious sex appeal, Dead or Alive 2 is still a great fighting game, and Ultimate is by far the best of the many versions out there. Go pick it up.

One final note is that this is a great game to cue up at a party. It’s pick up and play, looks awesome even now, and has the sex appeal to attract just about anyone. Even some girls like this game, and that‘s an impressive statement.

Data

Platform: Microsoft Xbox, also playable on Xbox 360

Genre: Fighting

Original Release Dates: October 26, 2004

Developer: Team Ninja

Publisher: Tecmo

Also from the developer: Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Gaiden 2, Dead or Alive 4, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Game Length: ~35 hours

ESRB: M. dem tits.

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, pirate if you must, but damnit, just play it!

RetroPorts from Retrozone Review

Posted in Gamecube, Hardware, NES, Peripherals, SNES on December 22, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Add NES/SNES ports to your Gamecube/Wii!

I love controller adapters that allow you to use dedicated controllers from old systems on completely different systems. I own at least a dozen such adapters, and some work better than others. I’ve been asked about Retrozone’s NES and SNES RetroPorts and feel its due time to give them each a proper, in depth review.
Retrozone has been selling what they called “Retroports” for several years now. Each RetroPort is advertised as allowing you to use either an NES or SNES controller on your Wii and play Virtual Console games “the way they were originally designed.” How well do they work? Any shortcomings? Let’s find out.

Overview

Despite claims that these adapters are for the Nintendo Wii, they really are just Gamecube adapters that map the NES/SNES controls to those of Gamecube buttons. As such, these adapters are 100% Gamecube compatible and also function on the Nintendo Wii via the Gamecube ports atop the system.

Build Quality

Both RetroPorts come in a beautiful package that shows off the product really well – not bad for a single sourced products like this.

Once out of the package, you’ll quickly grow to appreciate that these adapters are among the best out there in terms of built quality. No visible screws pleasing colors and durable plastics. SNES controllers slide easily into the port, but I found it somewhat difficult to correctly insert NES pads into its Retroport. In order to do it correctly you need to do it slowly and make sure it goes in flush; its a very tight connection. You may even wish to simply insert a controller and leave it plugged in permanently.

Button Mappings

the mappings for the SNES to Gamecube are as such:

SNES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
A —- A
B —- B
Y —- Y
X —- X
L —- L
R —- R
Select — Z

and NES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
Select —- Z
B —- B
A —- A

Performance

Both RetroPorts actually do their jobs exceedingly well – there is absolutely no lag when playing games using either adapter with original controllers. Every controller I’ve tried also works with it, front he NES-004 boxy pad to the NES Dogbone and the Advantage joystick, even third party controllers work! Same deal with the SNES – the RetroPorts allow all controllers for your old Nintendo systems to be used.

There are even some Gamecube and Wii games that greatly benefit from solid digital controllers. For instance, most people find Megaman Anniversary Collection for Gamecube to be utterly unplayable due to Atomic Planet “reversing” the controls – B now jumps while A shoots. When using a SNES RetroPort, you can slightly fix this problem. Anniversary Collection also maps Y to be turbo fire and X to be auto-slide. Since the button placement of the SNES controller puts Y where the Gamecube’s B button is, you now have natural reach to auto fire and standard jumping, making at least Megaman 1-6 playable.

Other examples where the SNES pad helps are in fighting games such as Soul Calibur II. Not only does the SNES pad fit the game beautifully, it also allows you to remap controls to be whatever you like. You can even use the NES controller to play Soul Calibur II for lulz.

As I see, here’s a short list of games that strongly benefit from these adapters:

NES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console NES game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Bros. 3, Punch-Out!!, Megaman 2, Wario’s Woods, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console game for Commodore 64, Sega Master System, or TurboGrafix-16, and a few early Genesis games such as any of the Sonic games.
  • Gamecube’s Gameboy Player playing any Gameboy or Gameboy Color game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Land, Tetris, Megaman IV, Pokemon, Shantae, etc.
  • Sonic Mega Collection (Gamecube)
  • Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube)
  • Nintendo Puzzle Collection (Gamecube)

SNES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console SNES game that deosn’t require select. Examples include F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country 2, F-Zero, Axelay, Zombies ate my Neighbors, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console Genesis and Neo-Geo games, as well as all arcade games that support Gamecube input
  • The Legend of Zelda Collection (Gamecube)
  • Soul Calibur II (Gamecube)
  • Capcom Vs SNK 2 EO (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Network Transmission (Gamecube)
  • Megaman X Collection (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Anniversary Collection (Gamecube)
  • Alien Hominod (Gamecube)
  • Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil  (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 2 (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 3 (Gamecube)
  • Meramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
  • Castle of Shikigami 3 (Wii)
  • Cave Story (Wiiware)

Availability & Price

Each of the Retroports are exclusively available via Retrozone for $19 each. Remember, their site is retrousb.com, not retrozone.com. They have a great payment system are are trusthworthy. Shipping might be a bit high if you’ve not in North America, but these adapters are well worth the extra cost of shipping.
Overall

Good

  • Well built and durable
  • Excellent button mapping for the SNES controller
  • Both controller adapters are lag-free and completely responsive
  • A good number of supporting games makes these adapters a good investment

Bad

  • These are Gamecube adapters, not Wii; this is misleading on Retrozone’s part
  • They are sold separately from each other
  • NES RetroPort maps Select to Z rather than Select, meaning Select cannot be accessed with this controller
  • $19 plus shipping is somewhat pricey as these are barebones adapters

Conclusion

All in all, Retrozone’s RetroPorts do their jobs exceedingly well and greatly add to the playability of a number of games. I would even argue using a Genuine SNES controller is a better choice over the Wii Classic controller! The lack of using either controller’s Select button to play Virtual Console games does sort of suck, but the pros greatly outweigh the cons and seeing as these are Gamecube adapters, not Wii adapters, there’s nothing Retrozone could have done about this.

One final note is how the RetroPorts compare to the 4-in-1 controller adapter you might find on ebay that also allows you to use Genesis and N64 controllers on your Gamecube/Wii. I don’t personally own one of these, but I’ve noticed all the problems the RetroPorts avoid: the 4-in-one is laggly, built cheaply, and it doesn’t even get the button mappings correct. Avoid and pick up the RetroPorts. You’ll be glad you did.

Air Fortress Review (NES)

Posted in Hidden gems, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on December 17, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Destroy the core…then escape!

On consoles with hundreds, even thousands of titles to choose from, it’s inevitable that some games just fall under most people’s radar despite being good. The NES has many examples of this from Gun-Nac and Shatterhand to The Guardian Legend and Vice: Project Doom. One such good game that fell under most people’s radar is HAL Laboratory’s action shooter game Air Fortress, despite even being featured in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships.

Air Fortress attempts to combine gameplay elements from shoot ’em ups like Gradius and action-adventure sidescrollers like Metroid, all while being one of HAL’s first games for the Famicom/NES. How well did HAL succeed in their efforts? Let’s fine out.

Story

As you can tell, the story is rather ridiculous and poorly worded, but it’s just got that typical early Nintendo engrish we all love so much.

Of course, the whole game does beg the question of why the Space Stations fortresses are called “Air Fortresses”? They’re in space!

Graphics

Air Fortress is an early NES game made by a young and largely inexperienced developer, yet the visuals in Air Fortress are pleasing to the eye and quite detailed for NES standards.

As you continue to get further in the game, there’s a surprisingly large verity in enemies you normally wouldn’t expect form a game of this type. The more I played, the more I was repeatedly shocked at each new enemy that I didn’t previously seen before, and then often times I see that new enemy only a few times from then on. Not bad HAL!

One of the cooler effects is after you destroy a Fortress Reactor Core, all of the colors dim and it gives an eerie feeling of being in the dark.  a sense of dread of what might happen as the station builds for an overload….

Audio

Air Fortress isn’t exactly a standout title for sound design on the NES. Most of the tracks are fairly forgettable, but none are annoying in the way that is most often the case for forgettable soundtracks in gaming. That said, Air Fortress does nevertheless have a few tracks that are well worth listening to buried amongst the rest.

While most of the music is largely there just for background noise, HAL knew the impact music can have by carefully positioning tracks around the interior of the fortresses. When you destroy the reactor core, all traces of melody subside, replaced by distant sounds and the eerie sense of silence builds tension as you desperately search for the exit before the whole station explodes.

Personally, my favorite by far is the titlescreen track which has this cheesy yet satisfying melody that invokes visions of 1950’s sci-fi films and just plain adventure.

As always, here’s the track for you to enjoy.

Gameplay

Air Fortress is a mix of two kinds of gameplay – standard shoot ’em up and action-adventure sidescrolling. First type has you flying your space skidoo (seriously) as you approcach each Air Fortress and deal with the outer defenses. These sections are horizontal shooter auto scrolling segments where you shoot, dodge and collect power ups, but the stages are short, without bosses are are pretty much just an endurance test until  you reach the fortress.

Once inside the fortress, Hal abandons his skidoo and sets out on foot and jetpack. Here he can fire bombs now and gains a health bar and can fly with his jetpack. The jetpack itself is one of the coolest features in Air Fortress.

Hal’s armored suit has a power meter that depletes energy when he moves and restores itself when Hal his at rest. As you play, you’ll encounter Energy power ups, which give Hal an additional 100 units of energy. the energy also allows Hal to take more hits from enemies. Damage caused by enemies depletes the overall power of Hal’s suit and won’t regenerate, but this is system allows the game to be much more forgiving than other games of it’s type.

The goal of every stage is to infiltrate the Air Fortress, locate the reactor core, destroy it and escape to saftety before the entire fortress explodes. It’s pretty intense!

Control

Air Fortress employs a gravity-like effect that can almost be called a physics engine, a feat very very few NES games can claim. As such, you’ll quickly notice that HAL has the greatest difficulty moving from rest but once he starts moving it’s sometimes difficult to stop. In addition to that, firing Hal’s hand weapons results in recoil, so it is sometimes useful to fire in the opposite direction you want to go in order to quickly evade enemy fire. Other than that though, the controls are all very simple and work extremely well.

D-pad: Movement; inside the fortresses, hold Up to hover and press down to enter elevators
A: Fire; fire handgun
B: Fire, fire bomb
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

Air Fortress is not a particularly difficult game by NES standards, but this game won’t be easily beaten by novices either. The game’s difficulty lies in how diverse the challenges themselves are. During the shoot ’em up segments as you approach each fortress, you can be killed in one hit from contacting any object, enemy or projectile. Once inside the fortress, you’ll trade instant death for a heath bar, but now have to contend with gravitational forces, a limited supply of bombs, the complete lack of any map to guide you and of course, all the enemies and environmental hazards.

As you progress in the game, one final challenge comes in the form of finding an escape route after you destroy the reactor core of the fortress. Very much like the self-destruct escape in the end of Metroid, you’ll have a limited time to escape to safety before the space station explodes and you’ll have to do it all over again.

Availability & Price

Air Fortress is available on the Famicom and NES only.Expect to pay between $5 – 15 for the NES version and approximately the same range for the Famicom. The game is far from rare being released for the NES in 1989 during the system’s peak.

Despite being a simple game made by one of Nintendo’s second party developers, Air Fortress is not on the Wii’s Virtual Console in any region whatsoever.

History

Air Fortress was developed by HAL Laboratories, now famous for the Kirby games and especially the Super Smash Bros. series of pseudo-fighting games. As HAL Labs were an espically small developer in the 1980’s, the game was released in very limited numbers in the first years of the NES’s life in North America, with estimates of just twenty copies for the test run of the system in 1985 and then an additional 385 copies shipped for the North American launch of the NES in September of 1987. It wasn’t until early 1989 that a major production run for the game was issued.

To help promote the game, HAL Labs offered consumers the ability to buy a copy directly from them via mail order, which would include a Air Fortress t-shirt and poster of the boxart as a free gift. Obviously, these shirts and posters are highly sought after collector’s items today due to both their history and rarity.

Original Advertising

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve dug out an original TV commerical for the game which mentions the t-shirt and poster HAL were giving away. It also mentions that Air Fortress was among the qualifying games for the 1990 Nintendo World Championship!

Good

  • Innovate control and varied gameplay
  • Large verity of enemies
  • Kooky story full of Engrish. Who doesn’t love that?!
  • Password system characters are easy to read and short to write down and reenter.
  • Dat titlescreen music

Bad

  • Over time the game can get a little stale; best played one stage at a time rather than trying to beat the whole game in one sitting
  • You might find yourself reaching for a turbo fire controller as some of the shmup sections are ridiculous
  • Most of the music is somewhat forgettable
  • There’s no HD remake or any clones. It’s not even on the Wii’s Virtual Console. What’s up with that??

Conclusion

Air Fortress is one of the most unique games on the NES and is one that every retro gamer should check out. Perhaps one could even say it was ahead of its time as no other game ever copied and perfected the design. Even though it wasn’t extremely successful however, HAL was brave to try something different and that is why I feel it is worth a second look now. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Air Fortress is one blend of Retro awesomeness you should try at least once.

Data

Platform: Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System

Genre: Shmup/Action-Adventure Sidescroller

Original Release Dates: September 1987 (limited run), January 1989 (major run)

Developer: HAL Labs

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: The Adventures of Lolo, Kirby’s Adventure, Kabuki Quantum Fighter, Super Smash Bros. Melee, etc

Similar games: None

Game Length: ~6 hours

ESRB: None, but would be “E”

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, emulate if you must, but damnit, just play it!

Famicom Detective Club Part 2: The Girl in Back Review (Super Famicom)

Posted in Fan translation, Hidden gems, Imports, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on December 7, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Murder mystery, Nintendo style

Although I do review mainstream games like Fallout New Vegas and Pokemon, I like to think the goal of this site is to inform about wonderful hidden gems that most of us just haven’t played. In that light, this review is dedicated to the translation efforts of multi-talented ROM hacker Tomato and the rest of the staff at DemiForce for their pronominal translation of this forgotten Nintendo masterpiece. Wither you’ve heard vague details or know nothing of it, Famicom Detective Club Part 2 should be a game every serious Nintendo lover checks out. Why? Read on.

Story

Although the second game in the Famicom Detective Club series, The Girl in Back is actually a prequel to the first game and as such is a better place to start off with.

A 15 year old orphan (player named) in search of his parents meets a private detective named Shunsuke Utsugi and develops a bond, becoming his apprentice. Only a few months later, Utsugi puts the protagonist in charge a crime scene investigation.

Yuko Kojima, a 15 year old highschool girl attending Ushimitsu High, has been discovered dead floating in the local river. According to Yoko’s best friend and classmate Ayumi Tachibana, the two had formed a “detective club” and were investigating mysteries across town. Prior to her death, Yoko had been investigating an eerie ghost story turned urban legend in her highschool called “The tale of the girl in back”

Determined to find Yoko’s killer, the protagonist vows to solve the case and partners with Ayumi and sets out on his task. Little does he realize the truths that lay hidden and the true scope of the mystery…

Graphics

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a menu driven adventure game from several decades ago. As such, there’s not as much eye candy as you might hope, but nevertheless the Super Famicom remake of the game looks fantastic. For the most part, the game focuses on talking heads from the shoulders up againstg backdrops of their surroundings which can be investigated for greater information. If you’ve played any of the Phoenix Wright or countless other Adventure games you’ll know exactly what to expect.

At a few key moments in the plot however, the view will expand to show much more detailed, beautiful portraits. The use of transitions makes the game almost into an interactive anime at some points! These scenes are very cinematic, almost like cutscenes you can savor by choosing to advance at your own pace.

Audio

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was composed by Kenji Yamamoto, whose other works include Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, almost every Metroid game including Super Metroid, Fusion, Zero Mission, Prime 1, 2 and 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit and most recently, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Much of the music in Famicom Detective Club Part 2 compliments and enhances the gameplay. There are songs for every situation from somber music that plays when Ayumi expresses the grief over her best friend’s death, calm and cool music that plays as the protagonist cruses around locations in search of clues, dramatic music that plays with there’s a critical situation and more.

A few of the tracks damn near give me goosebumps, such as this one.

The original game made excellent use of the Famicom Disk System’s expansion audio, but the Super Famicom soundtrack is even more remarkable.

Gameplay

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a point and click adventure game that focuses in large part on menus. The game is mostly told in first-person from the young protagonist’ perspective.

For most situations you can look around, speak to various people around you, present items to them, think about the situation and save. You do this by selecting the option you wish and pressing A. Think of the game as an evolution of a text only adventure game, but you can actually easily understand what’s going on.

As you play you’ll need to sometimes present items to characters, although doing so isn’t always such a good idea. Showing off Yoko’s photograph to Ayumi for instance usually results in the poor girl tearing up.

There are some situations where after you are told something, you’ll need to think about it. Thinking is the game’s way of allowing the player inside the protagonist’s mind.

The game is divided up into chapters like a novel, presenting the game in a manner best suited for play sessions that can last from anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. When you choose to save and quit the game, the next time you return to it you will have the ability to review all that has happened recently. This is is an excellent feature that is sorely missing from many modern RPG and adventure games.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful translation DemiForce and Tomato did. All conversations sound natural and with a script of I’d estimate of at least 20,000 words, there are only a handful of spelling or grammar errors. Like Mother 3 fan translation, it’s so well written you will find it hard to believe this is a fan translation!

Controls

Given it’s Famicom Disk System roots, the game doesn’t use most of the buttons on the Super Famicom controller. All you will pretty much ever use is the D-pad and the A button.

D-pad: Choose options in menus
A: Advance text, confirm
B: Cancel
Y: No function
X: No function
L: Close Scrapbook
R: Open scrapbook
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

There are some points in the game that demand arcachic trail and error gameplay in order to advance. For instance, there are literally several points in conversations which force you to ask everything you can possibly ask about, present everything you can possible present, then think about the situation, and then try every option again in search of a new response.

Newer games such as Phoenix Wright address this by having the word “new” appear next to a conversation path you have already had to give the player some way of knowing what to do next. Not here! This isn’t a constant problem, but you will find yourself scratching your head more often than you rightfully should.

Availability & Price

The original Famicom Disk games can be found relatively easy, but remember they were originally sold separately, and you’ll probably have to buy them separately, increasing your cost.  The Super Famicom version reviewed here was only available for the Nintendo Power Data Cartridge service in Japan, and Data Cartridges containing this title seem to be exceedingly rare, even in Japan. If I had to hazard a guess on price, based on other SFC Data Carts, expect to pay $70 or more for an original copy. The GBA port of the FDS disks can be found the easiest at around $30. In each of these cases though, you’ll be getting the Japanese versions.

I am currently inquiring into the possibility of a reproduction cartridge, but as of this writing, I’m not sure if that’s even possible. I don’t like to promote piracy, but the translated version does play perfectly on the Super Powerpak…

Audience

Fans of the Phoenix Wright series will eat this game up. The whole game feels like one giant Phoenix Wright case, complete with plot twists and more exciting dialogue than you can throw a novel at.

This game itself involves death, despair, the supernatural, has people smoking, drinking and soliciting sex and more; definitely not the typical child-friendly Nintendo game. In fact, Famicom Detective Club part 2 is the only Nintendo first party game that carries a parental warning and CERO rating of 15+!

History

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was originally released for the Famcom Disk System in 1989. the original version spanned two disks, and used each side to the maxim capacity. Detective Club Part 2 is a direct sequel to the previous year’s Famicom Detective Club which starred the same characters. In 1998, the game was re-released on the Nintendo Power data cartridge service.

The Super Famicom Data Cartridge Service, ran between 1996 and 1999 in Japan, allowed consumers to purchase special blank cartridges from vendors at a reduced rate and then either go to certain retailers or mail the cartridge to Nintendo through a service called “Nintendo Power” (had absolutely nothing to do with the American magazine).

The service offered a dozen or so titles, some of which had shown up as broadcast Stelleview games and were the only way of getting cartridge versions of these games. Some of these games included Super Picross, Super Wrecking Crew, Super Famicom Wars, and as mentioned, a remake of Famicom Detective Club Part II.

The Super Famicom remake of Detective Club Part 2 offered vastly improved graphics and sound and slight tweaks to the gameplay and story, as well as add in the dating sim element with Ayumi. Review’s advice: although randomly grabbing Ayumi’s chest is fun, its not the best way to win her affections.

For the third wave of titles marking the 20th anniversary of the Famicom in Japan, the FDS version of Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was released on the GBA. This version is the most readily available version and is probably also the cheapest.

Overall

Good

-Extremely well written

-Beautiful portraits and art style. As the protagonist states early on, Ayumi is cute

-The entire translation feels natural, keeps the Japanese names intact and through hours and hours of scrolling text, there are only a couple of spelling or grammar errors. That’s better than my track record to be sure!

Bad

-Trial-and-error gameplay; sometimes  you literally have to scan through EVERY option you have to advance the game.

-No SNES mouse support. Why the hell not?

-Occasionally confusing

-Finding a way to play it can be difficult

Conclusion

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is an amazing experience and is much darker than you would expect a Nintendo game to be. It’s a shame that the series never really continued, but if you are looking for an engaging adventure game to sink your teeth into, look no further. There are some noticeable flaws regarding the trial and error gameplay of some situations, but this is indicative of the genre itself.

Data

Platform: Famicom Disk System, Super Famicom, Gameboy Advance

Genre: Text-based Adventure

Original Release Dates: May 23, 1989 and June 30 1989 (FDS), April 1 1998 (SFC), August 10, 2004 (GBA)

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: There’s not much out there from Nintendo in terms of games like this. Not in English, at least.

Similar games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Game Length: ~10 hours

CERO: B

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, emulate if you must, but damnit, just play it!