The Vita Report

The trailer made this look like a fun, wacky game with a colorfully retro look and sound, but I just couldn’t get into it. The gameplay consists entirely of holding down X, aiming, and letting go. That’s it. Occasionally you can unleash a powerup move, but it doesn’t happen very often or seem to help a great deal. Mainly it’s just that same aiming combo over and over and over again as you stand there motionlessly. It’s tedious, the aim doesn’t seem quite right sometimes, and the constant need to hold down the X button kinda makes my thumb hurt too. Oh well. Next.

Some people are not going to like this, but I just didn’t like this series enough to finish it all. I liked the first game the best of what I played. It felt very much like a clone of Mario 64 and had a nice looking world and a good collectible system, but it also had some serious control problems. The camera wasn’t great, making judging all the tricky jumps tricky business. Not impossible, but sometimes frustratingly difficult, especially when the 2nd jump on the double jump seemed to have a really bad habit of sticking and ruining your jumps. Even worse were the vehicle controls. Those hoverbike things (I already forget what they were called) had such awful handling that all the driving levels and driving challenge areas were pretty painful. They almost drove me to quit more than once, but I had gotten so far already that I kept on going.

The second game actually improved on the platforming controls a lot. Moving and jumping felt much smoother and more precise. Unfortunately, they also completely ditched everything I liked about the first one and turned the game into some kind of kiddie-dark pseudo-open world game with a heavy focus on vehicles, which seemed to somehow control even worse than before. Soooo much time is spent driving around the “open world”, which is really just a huge area full of nothing but clutter between far away objective points. For some reason they decided to make the city a huge, sprawling maze too, which is weird given that there’s nothing to actually do there. They really went overboard on all the walking and driving NPCs all over the place too. So basically when you need to drive across town for your next objective, you’re just plowing through piles of civilians and constantly crashing into other vehicles and all the many tight corners. You can adjust the hover height level, which I guess is supposed to help you navigate these parts better, but both the ground and air are usually so cluttered that it doesn’t really matter.

These long and unpleasant treks between each mission are bad enough, but the missions themselves weren’t much fun for me either. A mysterious lack of checkpoints in missions, which forces you to start the whole level from scratch each time you lose or die, and some rather unpleasant objectives like the dreaded escort missions, just didn’t work for me. An awkward new gun mechanic didn’t help matters much either.

I don’t know, maybe you’d have to have grown up with these games to appreciate them. I’m sure people from other generations that try to play my favorite old NES games probably find them very clunky and annoying too *shrug*. I just couldn’t bring myself to finish the second one and moved on to something else.

Oh, a pixel art horror game. Finally something I can enjoy, right? Sigh. Nope. Didn’t much like this one either. It has an interesting premise and looks nice enough for what it is, but the execution is really questionable. It’s set up like a roguelike, where there are no saves/checkpoints and if you die once it’s game over. I’m…not really sure why though, because it’s a really slow paced adventure/survival horror. Each time you start over you’re forced to play through a lot of forced sequential scripted events, most of which just involves walking back and forth between the same two sections of the game. Doing this part once is fine, but after having to repeat it all for the fifth time or so, it’s pretty repellent. You know, I never even got to see the combat in the game. The first time I played, things ended early due to me accidentally triggering an alternate bad ending. Next time I guess I made a wrong choice and got automatically killed in a cutscene. Next time I got a little further, even finally running into some actual enemies, but I still had no weapon and there were bad guys in every direction I ran, so eventually I just ended up dying again. I just don’t know why they went with this halfassed roguelike system and didn’t even allow you to hurry through all the slow scripted stuff in the beginning. Having to do that all every single time you die is insane and unfun. Pass.

Ahhh, finally something fun. That was an annoying bad streak for a while there. I’m generally not a fan of the steampunk aesthetic, but this was just such an oddly fun game for being all about mining. It seems to often be lumped into the Metroidvania genre, but I think that’s a bit misleading. There are very few set levels. Mostly you’re just digging your own way through giant patches of increasingly tough dirt, searching for all the gems you can carry. It seems kind of silly when you think about it, how all you really do in this game is dig around for gems, which the only thing you can spend on is better gear for…digging around for more gems. It’s oddly compelling though. There is combat, but you really don’t use it much at all. Other than the fact that it’s side scrolling and has a map, I don’t really see how it fits into the Metroidvania category at all. Anyway, fun game though.

Another steampunk game? Sure, why not. This return visit to Steamworld instead takes the form of a turn-based tactical lite-RPG. It wasn’t quite as compelling as Steamworld Dig, but it’s still a very enjoyable adventure with a pretty decent amount of content. The battles get really difficult after a while too. I probably should have turned it down a notch, but the game made a point of telling me that “experienced” was the recommended and intended difficulty, so I took that as a personal challenge for some reason. Anyway, I made it through eventually.

In related news, it’s since been announced that the upcoming Steamworld Dig 2 will be coming to Vita again, so I’ll definitely be checking that out.

And finally, everyone has probably heard of this game by now. It’s a side-scrolling Dark Souls clone. It does quite a good job of creating a Dark Souls type of experience, without being too derivative. Playing a game like this in 2D is a bit odd. One less dimension means it’s often a lot easier to hit what you’re aiming at since the baddies have one less dimension to dodge into, but this works both ways. There’s much less space for you to furiously dodge-roll into when you get into a sticky situation.

I’m not sure what the point of adding a second form of currency was. You can use gold to buy items at some shops instead of salt (souls) and you lose a chunk of gold when you die, but still have to go retrieve your salt if you want it back. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem to really add anything. I guess I saved some salt by not having to spend it on store items, but then there weren’t very many shop items that I needed to buy anyway. *shrug*

Something about an intricate inter-connected Souls type of world seemed harder to keep track of than it did in the 3D versions too, though maybe this was just because I didn’t play it as heavily as I usually did with the Souls games. Not that it’s not a fun game, I just don’t often put as many hours into Vita games as I do full ones. Anyway though, good game if you like this sort of thing, with many tough levels and enemies. Good times.

Night of the Emus

Another excellent Sonic the Hedgehog game from olden times. Great music and level design. It does have its downsides though. Tails is pretty useless, unless you were trying to play that awful split screen co-op mode. He actually hurts more than he helps in the special stages. Boy, I forgot how ridiculously hard those levels got in this one. The final 2 special stages are just ridiculous, requiring you to get basically every single ring without taking a single hit or missing even part of a group of rings. You’d just have to keep playing these levels over and over again, trying to memorize everything and hoping that you got really lucky. Then for all your trouble getting all the chaos emeralds, you’re treated to two back-to-back extra hard boss fights where you have zero rings. Again, I have no idea how I used to be able to beat games like this as a kid.

An early Capcom game, Gunsmoke is a vertical-scrolling shooter with a cowboy theme. As usual with Capcom games, it has extremely catchy music, fun gameplay, and a high, but not impossible level of challenge. It’s not one of their “must play” titles, but it’s still a pretty solid classic that holds up reasonably well if you like this kind of game.

Even as a kid, I could never beat this one. I’ve always wanted to go back and finish it, but upon trying it again, I can see why I gave up back in the day. This is an incredibly sadistic game. It feels like they tried to mash Metal Gear and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together, and it uses a system that’s kind of similar to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game, where you can switch between three characters at any time, but if any of them die, they’re gone forever. This is tough enough to manage as it is, but the game also loves to throw a lot of instant death moments your way on a regular basis. Attack the wrong person in a public area? Dead. Walking in public when suddenly a car comes shooting out of nowhere and mows you down? Dead. Trying to get through one of the nasty sewer dungeons and go the wrong way, prompting a wall to move, pushing you into the water with no way to escape? Dead. I couldn’t even tell what it was I was supposed to be doing. I don’t know, maybe I’ll try again someday with a guide or something, but I just didn’t have the patience for it this time.

Time enough for one more Turtles game. Again, why play the port when you can play original. Another classic Konami beat-em-up. All these Turtle games are making me want to read the old comics or watch the crappy old cartoon again. TURTLES ON THE BRAIN!

Now Reading: The Adventures of Gamepro

Anyone else remember these things? This was one of the reasons why Gamepro was favorite video game magazine back in the day. For the first several years they’d each include a short story of The Adventures of Gamepro, a crazy comic that was this weird mash-up of 80’s pop culture things. It was like they took Captain N, The Last Starfighter, Quantum Leap, and a bunch of concepts straight out of superhero comics, and threw them all into a blender with whatever video game rights they could get their hands on each issue.

The “video dimension” is under attack by evil shapeshifting aliens (that are totally not Skrulls), so the high council (the previous good guy rulers) decide to create their own video game on Earth as a test to find the video champion that will save them all. This guy Alex beats the game and so gets sucked into the video dimension to fight all their battles for them, which consists of him being warped into different game worlds completely at random, that he can’t leave until he solves whatever problem the Evil Darklings (that is literally their name) have caused on said world.

Most of the time he gets sucked into big, popular games like Castlevania or Ghouls n’ Ghosts, but other times they seem to just take whatever they can get, as Alex finds himself in weird, obscure places like Psycho Fox or California Games. 

At one point Alex even goes to Moonwalker and meets Michael Jackson. It’s worth noting that Michael Jackson in this was some kind of omniscient transdimensional entity that exists simultaneously in the real world and the video world for some reason. Very strange.

Anyway, it’s some really goofy stuff, but it manages to be a pretty unique little story, despite the general concept being so derivative. I still go back and read it again every few years. I used to own all the collected editions of these, but they were lost along with the rest of my childhood comic and magazine collection. Nowadays you can’t find them to buy anywhere, even on eBay. Gamepro magazine doesn’t even exist anymore. They did apparently start giving out digital copies of this whole series for free before they went under, but the site that hosted them is dead and gone too. The only way anyone is ever going to read these at this point is through homemade scans (not done by me), which I’ve provided links to below. They’re far from HD quality, but they’re readable. Issue 1 has a repeated/missing page, which I’ve tried to find a replacement for, but came up empty-handed. You can read these in CDisplay (best for desktop viewing), Comix (best for Windows touchscreen tablets), or…whatever the Mac equivalent is (I don’t know, but I know they exist), all of which are free. Enjoy.

Download Issue #1

Download Issue #2

Download Issue #3

Because we don’t have enough video game stuff

Just got this nice box of treasure from Society6Some sweet new shirts for me:

Mrs. Fotchenstein picked this nice Friday the 13th throw blanket and Kung Fu bathmat:

This fucking awesome Gauntlet shower curtain:

And I also just got this great NES hoodie that I pre-ordered from Merchoid many months ago. I’ve never owned a hoodie in my life, but how could I possibly resist this?

Y’know…life is pretty fucking awesome sometimes (Actually, most of the time these days. Weird.)…

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite Collector’s Edition arrives

Woooooo! On the plus side, these statuettes are a nice bit bigger than I thought they’d be from the ads. On the minus side, these light up Infinity Gems (I know they’re called Infinity STONES now, but I am, as always, stuck in the past) look like fucking Easter eggs.

They’re noticeably cheaper looking than they were in the ads and for some reason I had assumed that they would be actual removable gems, but instead are just permanently attached lights in a cheap plastic box. Oh well. Luckily I mainly got this for those statuettes, and those turned out to be even better than expected, so I count it as a win so far.

Now to go play the game. Review to come some time next week, naturally.

Now Playing: The Omega Virus

Managed to find a sweet deal on this blast from the past on eBay. Ok, so that was apparently 2 years ago and we just now got around to actually playing it, but nevermind that. It was just one of those things where I was suddenly hit by nostalgic memories of this game out of nowhere and decided that I had to have it again (no idea what happened to the one I used to have as a kid). The box is a little bit beat up, but amazingly it has all the pieces and they’re all in almost new condition. It even has the little notepad full of score sheets, still almost entirely full.

So this is a massive electronic, talking board game where 1-4 players compete in order to find and destroy the deadly sentient Omega Virus. To do so you first need to find each of the 3 colored keycards to be able to open the red, yellow, and blue rooms, then in a random one of each locked colored room you’ll find 1 of 3 devices you need to destroy the virus. Along the way you’ll run into traps, and maybe some other players, which you’ll have to face off against in a kind of rock-paper-scissors-like battle which can result in a device or keycard being destroyed if you lose. On the bright side, you can find a probe that acts as a second character for you to expand your search efforts with.

Anyway, if you manage to survive all of that you still need to find the room that the virus is in and defeat it in what will almost certainly be multiple turns of combat. Oh, and did I mention that this is all happening on a 30 minute timer (or slightly less or more, depending on how many players there are), and that as time starts running out, entire sectors of the board will explode and become inaccessible? Meanwhile, the virus is literally yelling taunts at you at every turn, telling you how bad you are at this and how you’re definitely all going to die.

Yeah. This game was pretty ahead of its time and it’s all surprisingly well-designed too. The system of typing these 3 digit codes in to do everything seems daunting at first, but you pick it up very quickly and there are helpful little quick-guides written on each player’s side that list all the basic commands. You just have to make sure you keep proper track of what rooms you’ve visited and where you can find each item again if you need to, which you can easily mess up when you’re trying to do everything as quickly as possible to beat that clock.

Another factor that makes things interesting is the interactions between players. It’s entirely up to you if you want to try to peacefully co-exist with your fellow players and focus on beating the virus or you want to shoot your friend in the back because if you can’t win NO ONE CAN!

So I’m pretty pleased with having this again, as it turns out. It requires a little effort and a lot of room to set up, but it can be learned and played very quickly, and it holds up very well for being a game made for children in 1992.

P.S. that is not my hand. I just wanted you readers to know, I don’t have girl-hands!

Night of the Emus

A great lesser-known side-scrolling action game from Capcom. It has absolutely nothing to do with Street Fighter other than the main character being a guy named Ken who punches things. Ken is apparently a scientist and former street fighter champion, so I suppose it’s possible that he’s actually supposed to be Ken Masters, but the game never gets into that. No, you’re too busy trying to track down whoever killed your lab partner, stole your science experiment, and spread it around all over the galaxy to turn everyone into weird alien monsters. To do this you have to warp around to different alien worlds looking for infected creatures to beat up so you can warp to the next world, with the idea being that each warp is going to bring you closer to your final objective (somehow).

As was so often the case back then, this game was extremely tough. Not like Battletoads or Ghosts n’ Goblins tough, but still pretty difficult. You have a surprisingly large variety of attacks for having only two buttons to work with. Pressing attack while stationary and doing it while holding a direction or jumping all do different kinds of attacks and of course the game doesn’t explain any of this to you, so you need to figure out how to fight properly on your own and very quickly, as you’re immediately thrown into the action without a second to spare. This is also one of those games where you need to rush to find power-ups to increase your attack strength too, because you’re going to be too weak to beat the deadly creatures otherwise. Unfortunately, you also lose attack power every time you get hit, so you really need to git gud quick if you want to have a chance.

Anyway, there are a lot of interesting levels with a huge roster of crazy bosses to fight, and a great soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite NES classics even though I don’t remember 2010 being anything like this.

Silver Surfer is a shooter that rotates between side-scrolling and vertical scrolling. It’s one of those games that you always seem to see on those “Top 10 hardest NES games” lists, but again, I don’t think it’s THAT bad. Yes it’s tough. You die in one hit and lose all your attack strength power-ups when you do, but if you can just survive long enough to get your attack strength up then you start blasting through all the waves of enemies pretty quickly. There’s also a password system and a bunch of helpful cheats available, so it’s all very do-able.

As a kid, I appreciated that they included a lot of familiar faces from the Silver Surfer series of the 80’s, which made it feel a little like maybe the creators actually read the things, unlike most other early comic-based games. Once you really start playing it though, it was clear that they were just making this all up. I have no idea why I had to fight through some hell-like plane filled with angry flying pumpkins to get to Firelord and etc. The weirdest thing was when you finished all the main areas, Galactus sends you off to fight the final battle in the “Magik realm”, which is apparently ruled by…Mr. Sinister? Weird.

Probably the most noteworthy thing about this game though, is the music. The soundtrack was absolutely insane for an NES game. I like a lot of old-timey 8-bit music, but this one always stood out as being impressively complex and surprisingly metal for its time. Even if you never actually play this game, you should still check out the soundtrack. I dare you to listen to this song and not turn it up and want more.

This was one of those strange arcade classics that everyone loved to play, but no one could actually understand it or beat it. You beam into these alien infested ships and are told to wipe out the infestation, but it just doesn’t seem possible. You can run around blasting aliens like crazy, but you never seem to be able to get anywhere close to clearing them all out before time runs out and the ship self destructs, which teleports you out of the level and tells you you failed. The best outcome seems to be if you can find the self-destruct system and set it to go off early, which you would think would also be a loss, but instead congratulates you and gives you bonus points. I suppose the ideal victory would be to completely wipe the aliens out somehow, but this doesn’t seem to be possible by yourself. My best efforts only ever got them down to about 40%.

I suppose it doesn’t much matter in the long run, as this seems to be one of those good old endless games, like Gauntlet or Rampage, that just goes on and on and on until you run out of quarters and die. It’s still fun in short bursts though. This is one you really need to experience the original arcade version of too, as the NES version had to be one of the absolute worst arcade-to-home ports ever made. I mean I know the NES was very limited compared to arcade tech back then, but just look at how damn ugly it was.

Night of the Emus

This was one of those love/hate games back in the day. Everyone wanted it and everyone wanted to play it, but no one I knew could ever beat the damn thing. It was a brutally hard game in general, but the extremely limited number of health, lives, and continues made it near-impossible. Once one of your turtles dies, that’s it, they’re gone until you lose them all and use up one of your two whole continues. It was a pretty fun game though, with super catchy music and some interesting enemy design. Worth revisiting now that you can just use save states instead of losing and restarting the game over and over until you want to smash your head through the TV like the old days.

Why bother playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on NES, which is just an inferior port of the arcade game, when you can just play the arcade game itself? This was one of the best beat-em-ups in arcades at the time and it’s still fun to play after all these years.

This one came out so late in the life of the NES that I, and probably everyone else too, never got around to trying this one. I can see why it didn’t get much attention. It’s really just a bad knockoff of the arcade port, yet with worse looking graphics somehow. Again, you only get a small handful of lives and continues, and this being a beat-em-up like the previous one, save states aren’t much help in avoiding damage. Maybe I’ll look up some cheat codes and try again someday, but there wasn’t really anything particularly exciting about it to make me want to bother returning. Eh, we’ll see.

Time for a break from those turtles. I recently heard this called a 16-bit Dark Souls and it looked pretty good so I figured I’d give it a shot. Yeah, it’s a tough one alright. Enemies aren’t particularly smart and don’t have much in the way of health, but they tend to literally appear out of thin air in groups and come rushing at you before you have time to react. The levels become pretty maze-like and are filled with secrets and traps. It was pretty ahead of its time in this way, for a platformer. There are some pretty rough edges though. Weird control issues with turning, ducking, and anything involving ladders. You can gather gems to use to buy items at shops, including better weapons, but most of the time I bought weapons I just ended up finding the same weapon for free not long after anyway so buying anything other than health and lives seemed like kind of a waste. It gives you a password each time you finish a “level”, each of which is actually made up of 3 pretty long “worlds” and a boss fight, but ain’t nobody got time for that. It ended up being a lot longer than I thought and I had to finish it up the next day, so I guess that’s it for this time!