Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Virtual Console Releases - September 3

Hey, look at that! I finally bothered to do another stupid Virtual Console review! Wow. Golly gee. Whatever.

So Nintendo has finally managed to reclaim the top spot in the videogame console wars for the first time since the 16-bit days. Perhaps, more fairly, we should point back to their glorious NES era, which was really the last time they were on top. Sega knocked them off their pedestal in the early '90s, and it was all downhill ever since. It's a comeback story that truly is unprecedented in this hobby's short history. Nintendo became the first to actually claw their way back, instead of withering away into obscurity, following on the heels of Atari and Sega.

Sony? They're definitely on the way down, but don't count them out yet. They're too big to finish out like that. Of course, this all depends on how much more money their stockholders are willing to sacrifice at the alter of Playstation 3, in hopes of capturing the high-definition DVD market. Personally, I'd say they missed the mark by two or three years. The public just isn't ready to be suckered into repurchasing their movie libraries yet again. Wait until more folks have the complete home theatre setup. That is, if the Republic and the world hasn't been completely destroyed by then. Everything's up in the air these days. The best of times, the blurst of times.

Anyway, let's get going with this week's VC titles, a solid mix of everything, good and bad.

Adventure Island - Hudson Soft for NES - 7/10

Hudson's Adventure Island was a hallmark series on the NES, albeit a minor one when compared to the big players like Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and of course Mario and Zelda. Still, it was always a steady and dependable series of games that was always there for you.

Classic gamers will instantly recognize this game as a cheap ripoff of Wonder Boy, and there's really no getting around that. It was probably something that hurt Adventure Island back in its day, but since the subsequent sequels for both games moved in entirely different directions, this became an overlooked offense. Still, I can't think of any other major franchises that were such shameless knockoffs. Does anyone really care in 2007? I can't imagine it.

Adventure Island, for those who don't know, is a side-scrolling platformer from the middle '80s, and it incorporates all the standard elements of the genre at the time. This style of videogame was still somewhat new, so designers were steadily spreading their wings and expanding the limits of what was possible. So I'd say this is the simplest game in the series, the most straightforward, the most to the point. Again, taking a pre-existing arcade game and changing the characters does explain a lot of that. The NES was starting to stretch into more expansive, adventure games, beyond the simple Point-A-to-Point-B arcade approach, so this actually gives the first Adventure Island some leeway.

All in all, a fun game, if unremarkable. It's a good reflex test, and a good showoff for your arcade skills. Fortunately, the series steadily improves as time goes on, and Adventure Island 2 is especially a favorite. No doubt the three sequels will make future appearances on the Virtual Console.

Oh, and that's right! New Adventure Island arrived for the PC Engine/Turbografx on VC some time ago. Concerned gamers worried that Hudson pulled a fast one needn't be worried; the two games are almost entirely different. I'm feeling generous this week, so I'll give this game my approval. Like you care.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math - Nintendo for NES - 1/10

Are you seriously kidding me? You're kidding me, right? Does Nintendo have to dump every early Famicom/NES title onto our laps?

There was always that one kid in class who you'd feel sorry for, because his parents were completely clueless and bought him an Odyssey 2 or one of those lame-ass "educational" games. Yuck. What sick, twisted, demented mind ever thought "educational" videogames were worth anything? Please. Spare me. They were nothing more than garnish on your plate, a cheap way of justifying to parents in the '80s that these games weren't a complete waste of time. Whatever. Of course videogames were a complete waste of time. That's why they were so much fun.

Do you really think playing Space Invaders ever did me any good in the real world? Did it make me popular as a kid, or score me dates as a teenager and adult. Hell, no. Any chump stupid enough to pretend otherwise got everything he deserved.

Perhaps Nintendo thought they could cash in on the popularity of the Brain Age games with this cheap excuse of plastic. I'll save you the trouble. You run Donkey Kong, Jr. up and down the vines...get this...doing basic arithmetic. And you compete against a friend, best of five. Wow. See who can add up to 74 the fastest. Well, golly gee whiz. That sure sounds like fun. Like a kick in the head, it is.

Isn't this really just the videogame equivalent of Stryper? If there's a worse insult, I can't think of it. I think we have a new crown for Worst VC Game Ever! Why is Pink Floyd's "Pigs" song from Animals playing in my head just now? Must be a coincidence.

Suddenly, I don't really care if the Wii is still sold out in stores. Nintendo can play hard-to-get all it wants. Jerks.

Landstalker - Climax for Genesis - 6/10

For many gamers, this is the clear winner for the week. Landstalker was a real standout on the Genesis fifteen-plus years ago. It gave the console a much-needed adventure title similar to The Legend of Zelda, and it was different and irreverent enough to really fit in with Genesis' cool image. It was a win-win for everyone.

Climax has continued to milk the original game a couple times, first on the Super Nintendo, then later on Saturn. Neither sequel was really as interesting as the original for some reason. I don't know why. Perhaps this was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime sort of things. No faults. Toejam and Earl was such a game, and that's one of my Genesis faves.

The hook to Landstalker is not only its isometric view, which requires you to hold your controller at an angle - just like you had to do with every home version of Q-Bert - but the game's extensive supply of puzzle-fueled dungeons. The adventure trappings are really just a ruse for what is, really, a puzzle game. There was a computer game on the Atari computers called Spindizzy. It featured similar dungeons in a similar isometric view, albeit with a triangle top for a character. It's very similar to Landstalker when you get down to it.

Now here's where the game sort of loses me. I know I'm supposed to love this game. I'm supposed to revere it, or something. But all those damned dungeons, and trying to figure out where to move, and how to move....well, it finally got to me. It ground me down in the end, wore me out. I got tired of trying to hit that perfect jump, only to hit another one five seconds later. Sigh. Maybe my reflexes were never that good, despite all my pride when I was 20. Seriously. That was about the only thing I could have confidence in at that age. Isn't that sad? Yeah.

Whatever. You might love it, you might not. Who's to say? Why are you reading this, anyway? Why do you need me to tell you what to do? Look, I'll do it for you, but just this once, and I expect to get to first base with you. And only if you're a girl. Sorry, nothing personal, I'm just picky. I like girls. A lot more than Landstalker. But look on the bright side. This game has large characters, colorful, if muddy graphics, and lots of warm fuzziness from here to there. Maybe you and your sweetheart can bond over this game. It's better than that crappy Donkey Kong math game - yuck. Now there's an instant deal-breaker.

Again, whatever. Just buy the game if you want, and if you've burned yourself out on the other fifteen or twenty Legend of Zelda games already available.

Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure - Hudson Soft for Turbografx - 8/10

I've thought about it long and hard, and, well, since I need a winner for the week, dammit, it's going to be Bonk. Wow, another quality Hudson platformer. Ever notice how many of these sort of games they churned out in the '80s and early '90s? Kind of makes you wonder what really happened to them. They could have made another 10,000 or so if the games business didn't dive head-first into the polygon realm.

Fortunately, that means that Bonk didn't have to turn into a pathetic burnout loser like Sonic did. Man, I feel sorry for that guy. He really used to be something. Then he disappeared after being whored out by Sega for too long. Then made that big Sonic Adventure comeback on our beloved Dreamcast, only to crash and burn since and remain a hollow shell of a smart-ass mascot. Is there a point to all this? No. Other than that Hudson didn't pimp Bonk out like that. Thank goodness.

This is now the fourth and final Bonk game for the Turbografx to appear on Virtual Console. By now, you've pretty much made your mind about him. You'll either be a dedicated fan, or you'll wonder just why you need to shell out another six bucks for another round of caveman head-banging. As if that wasn't enough for you.

Well, you're in luck, pal. I think this is another one of those series that got better with each installment. Take that, Megaman - your buzzsaw became your albatross, and everybody knows it. But Bonk, heck, he just kept coming up with new tricks every time. Here, in the third game, he has the ability to grow to super size, enough to smack down everything in sight, as well as shrink down to a tiny spud who can worm his way through cracks and narrow pipes.

Hey, wait a minute! Nintendo totally ripped this game off! I can't believe they completely stole from Bonk 3 when they made New Super Mario Bros! What a bunch of jerks. Now I find myself liking that game even less. It was bad enough waiting a lifetime for another 2D Mario game, only to be served with a cakewalk nostalgia trip. Did you have to steal from your rivals, too?

I can't wait to see Mario's new spin dash in the next game. Jerks. Man, Nintendo's really acting up this week...what's the deal with that?

Whatever. Times three. Or how many time's I've used that phrase. Not that it's becoming my personal catch-phrase, because I don' t freakin' have one. Tough. Deal with it.

Anyway, back to Bonk. I really do think Bonk 3 is the best of the lot. The level design is the most dedicated and intricate, the amount of surprises and extra abilities is at a peak, and everything just looks terrific. Terrific by Turbo standards, of course. By the time this game appeared, the poor NEC console was already finished. So perhaps there wasn't any real pressure to deliver the goods, to really try and beat Mario and Sonic. That was never gonna happen, anyway. We all knew that. All Hudson had to do was refine and churn out one of its better platformers, and go out on a high note.

Oh, I should probably mention that Bonk appears as a character in the Saturn Bomberman battle mode, which also happens to be the greatest bomberman ever. Is that just a coincidence, or not? You be the judge. At least Bonk won't try to work you with numbers. Hey, what's two plus two? How the heck should I know? Head-butt!!

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

this blog is great. Even when i haven't played the games you talk about. Well, i've probably played adventure island (the snes version sticked more to my mind), and I remember Landstalker. I remember the arcade version of Bonk, in which he and his girlfriend (or sister, whatever) compete for piling up smileys on their heads.
I kinda wanna play Donkey Kong Jr Math, i swear.