Author: kerr9000

150 SNES games reviewed #32: NBA All-Star Challenge

The game I am going to be talking about is NBA All-Star Challenge. It was developed by Beam Software and published by LJN (Acclaim in japan). It was released in Europe in 1993.

Back when I was younger there was only one NBA game that ever got plugged into my SNES, and there was only one NBA related game that I ever played at friends’ houses. To cut this rambling intro short, it wasn’t this one.

The first thing you will notice upon playing NBA All-Star Challenge are the gameplay options. There’s one-on-one, three point challenge and horse. This is the game’s first problem. You will have most likely bought it expecting to play full real games of basketball and here you are playing games that only involve two players one either side, and only involve half a court.

When it comes to picking your player, you’re not met with a list of names or even player pictures. No you’re met with a list of 27 teams, and when you click on one of these teams you will see the player that the team has been allotted. So if you are a fan of basketball you better hope you can remember who played for who back when this game was released and hope that they were the chosen one for that team. Of course if you’re not so keen on basketball as a sport and just like a knock around fun sports video game to mess around on this point is a bit mute. Still the main body of this game feels like something that would be just a bonus/side mode in another game which is not a good start.

On television a one-on-one shooting challenge would be a kind of exciting showdown a chance for ballers to see who is the better man away from the confines of the game, with no help from your team mates. You would think that in this situation if you get two legends facing off then the crowd would chant, scream and explode. Picture this in your mind, then take that picture and turn it into a video game. Imagine the sprites shooting the cheers as they score the painful exhaled noises of disappointment, still sounds like it could be a decent concept for a game if it was treated in this way doesn’t it?

Well now I have made you build a pretty picture I am afraid I am going to smash it. Is there chanting? Is there clapping? No, there is no sound whatsoever, except the thud of the dribbling and that scuffling trainer sort of noise. No crowd interaction, no music to reflect if you’re winning or loosing, no music at all. This same dreariness carries over in to the graphics. Sure they’re not bad but they’re not good either. The players don’t really look like who they are supposed to be. Sure they might be the right skin colour and roughly the right height, but beyond that they just look like a bunch of palette swaps all of them moving running and shooting in the same fashion.

The game is not bad for what it is, the controls were at first a little confusing. You have to press a button to jump and then press it again to shoot. And heck, if you press it but decide you dont really like your shot chances well you’re going to have to just press it again anyways because otherwise you’ll be charged with travelling. The crucical thing to get over here is that this is not a basketball video game in the way that something like FIFA is a football game. No instead it is a small basketball-based minigame collection which is only really any good for a couple of hours of entertainment at best. I am certain if I had this as a kid it would have kept me busy for like one rainy afternoon and that would be it. I do think that the game is slightly better in two-player but not by miles. So when considering this game and what kind of score it should get well I guess it would be  something like four out of 10 taking everything in to account.

If your thinking of getting this game I will tell you that most of the copies I can currently find online cartridge only are around the £6 to £8 mark including postage and packaging. My copy was a NTSC copy I managed to find online for £3 with free postage. I don’t want to name names and spoil things but there is a much better NBA-related game out there and i’d hold my pennies back for that.

150 SNES games reviewed #31: Alien 3

Alien 3 was developed by Probe Entertainment and Eden Entertainment Software, published In North America, Europe, and Japan by Arena Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment, LJN, and Virgin Interactive.

It is half-based on the film Alien 3. I have to say half-based because it’s set on the prison planet from the film and Ripley is shaved bald, but then there are a lot of differences between the game and the film. In the film there is one alien and no one has any weapons. In the game this is completely altered. Ripley, the main character, has all the guns from the previouis film in the franchise Aliens and there is a never ending amount of xenomorphs. I guess it is easy to see why they did this. After all, a game where you spend your whole time running away from one super powerful creature with nothing much to defend yourself sounds a lot harder to get right than a game where you spray lead at a never ending assortment of alien scum.

In fact it looks like it has taken until now – almost 21 years later – for someone to have a crack at a game which is based around the idea of being stalked by one single alien from the Aliens films. I am of course talking about Creative Assembly’s game Alien: Isolation, which delivers exactly that kind of experience and it has done a fantastic job of it. It also made DLC based on the original movie Alien, and maybe with its similar one alien killing people set-up it might one day make Alien 3 DLC. Maybe a game that would have followed the film Alien 3 more correctly and still be good and not cost a fortune in research and development just simply wasn’t possible back then – still, I digress.

Graphically, the game is pretty good for the time. Ripley’s sprite is large and for the most part it’s not bad at all. The clothes look right, the basic shape is right but maybe it’s just me but there is something almost alien about her neck and the lack of facial features makes her look a little like Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. There are lots of little cool touches though, like how her gun swings by her side as she’s climbing the monkey bars so I guess maybe I am being a little harsh. The backgrounds are multi-layered for that 3D style look, they are also very detailed. The backgrounds are overly used though with five or six repeated again and again. Add to that there are bits of scenery in the foreground that you can’t see through. Sometimes there are aliens behind these and this means that you need to either run the risk of being harmed or shoot just in case which wastes your sometimes limited ammo.

There is not a lot in the way of sounds but what is there is good. The gunfire sounds great and so do the screams of the aliens you kill. The game has pretty darn good presentation, a nice opening, I also have to tip my hat to the bits where you log into a computer. They do a pretty good job of making you feel like your chracter is actually using a real computer in the game’s universe and the game over failure screen is also suitably awesome.

What about the gameplay though? Well I find the game enjoyable in small bits but I definitely don’t think it’s a classic or anything. The controls are very good and everything works just as it should which you would think would make this a good game. But sadly there are other issues with the gamplay. I think one of the things the game is lacking is it needs a more detailed map you can easily bring up. Yes, there is a mini map radar thing which lets you know when something is approaching you, but this is more to help keep you from getting hit and doesn’t really help you get around easily. I think what the game really needs more than anything though is a bit more variety. Everything looks the same, you’re always killing the same things, mostly in places that look the same. This game is very time consuming, and can at times be very difficult. It’s easy to get lost and some of the missions seem more complex than they need to be. There are a few alien bosses here and there but they aren’t too hard. The problem is it all starts to feel a bit like a chore at times which is not how a game should feel. I think the maze like quality of the game, coupled with the mission structure, just didn’t quite work in total honesty. I think it would have been better to have strayed even further from the film and offered up something a little more arcade like, something a bit like Konami’s Aliens arcade machine which was primarily a side-scrolling shooter but also had third-person rail shooter parts. Yes, that game possibly soiled the source material even more by introducing blue zombies and other such things to the game but sometimes you just have to say to hell with the plot, let’s roll out the fun boys.

All in all Alien 3 is pretty much an average game so I feel I should give it five out of 10 and simply say it’s not really worth bothering with unless you’re a die hard SNES collector and want every cart you can get, or your a die hard fan of the Alien film series and all of its spin off media. If you’re more of a casual fan of the Aliens universe and you want a good fun retro Alien related game I recommend you get Aliens Trilogy on the PlayStation. It’s a first person Doom-style shooter but it’s brilliant, fun, fast and wrapped in movie sounds and neat touches.

If you do decide you need to own Alien 3 then there are plenty of PAL carts of it about online around the £8 to £10 range with boxed copies starting around the £15 mark. There are several complete copies of Alien Trilogy for PlayStation on eBay at the moment for around the £5 mark including postage. If you own a PlayStation I’d go for that instead for your Aliens retro fix. Oh and if you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One then seriously give Alien: Isolation a try, it’s an excellent game.

150 SNES games reviewed #30: Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart – what can I say about it that you won’t all have heard a million times?

I cant even build anticipation by trying to hold my opinion back until the end and starting this review by talking facts and figures. So let’s just start by saying I love this game and work from there.

Mario Kart was developed by Nintendo EAD it came out in 1992 in the US and Japan and 1993 in Europe. It went on to sell nine million copies worldwide. This figure in the end made it the third best selling SNES game overall. If you add this on to all of the sales it has made digitally with its release on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles then you start to realise what a golden egg laying goose this game has been for Nintendo.

Nowadays everyone knows what Mario Kart is and the announcement of a new version is met with an onslaught of happiness, sales jumps for the platform it’s coming to and a media frenzy. It wasn’t always quite like this as far as I can remember though. When people first got wind of the original Mario Kart the responses were more on the lines of what the heck is Nintendo doing? Sure Mario had been used for tiny cameos in Nintendo sports related titles and such but a babyish looking car racing game, ‘What were they thinking?’ was the sort of question I remember being asked by other kids at school. There was a genuine belief by some that Nintendo had lost the plot. Yet not one kid could manage to keep this opinion after they had played it. A lot of the guys at school did that thing guys at school always seemed to do when presented with something that proved there initial opinion wrong, they denied ever having said a bad word, they claimed that they had been Nintendo’s biggest supporter all along and knew that Mario Kart would be an all time classic from its inception.

Super Mario Kart received positive reviews across the board no one seemed to have a negative word to say about it. Apart from Sega that is, who tried to use it in their adverts to show Nintendo to be some kind of slow, old-fashioned baby toy compared to their sleek, fire-breathing Mega Drive (the advert were Mario Kart is running on the side of an old caravan. This now seems crazy because Mario Kart is not a slow game).

Mario Kart is often credited with creating the cart racing genre. More than this though it was the game that gave people a sense of confidence that Nintendo could achieve anything they tried after the first Mario Kart game. If Nintendo had told you they were making Mario’s Bungee Jump Massacre you would just nod and go: “They know what they are doing.”

For those of you who haven’t played the original Mario Kart, the young and hermits, I will quickly talk a little about the game itself. In Super Mario Kart the player takes control of one of eight Mario characters, each with different qualities – high top speed, good acceleration, great handling. All of them are basically equal but lend themselves to certain play-styles. In the single player mode players can race against computer controlled characters in multi-race tournaments trying to win the gold, silver or bronze cups. There are power-ups found on the track, you pick up flashing boxes which then give you one of several power-ups – a red shell which acts like a heat seeking missile, a banana skin which causes anyone who drives over it to skid out, etc. The screen is always split in two with one half showing you racing and the other showing a map. The graphics are not necessarily amazing for the time, they are however colourful and full of character. This is not just some carting game with Mario and co thrown in it, you actually feel like you’re driving through the Mario game lands and this is one of the game’s greatest advantages. The music is brilliant, you can hear noises related to your driving – the car engine, the tyres skidding – but they are always nice little background touches never interfering with the great music that plays.

I just cant fault this game. The SNES version is still brilliant. I wasn’t going to review this game so early on but recently I brought my third copy of this game. I got a Japanese cart for £5 loose and ever since the day I got it I have put it in to my machine and had 20 minutes on it every single day. Some games age badly but this is still brilliant and I feel sure I could put this in the slot 20 years down the line and still feel the need to play it, for this reason I can not help but give it 10 out of 10.

If you want Mario Kart the news is good in that It is still available on both the Wii U and Wii Virtual Consoles and is well worth the cash. With a bit of effort you should be able to get a PAL cart of this for about £17 or a boxed copy for around £40. It’s super popular but it sold by the shed load so there’s no shortage of copies.

BONUS CONTENT: Super Mario Kart R

Having played Mario Kart to death both on the SNES and all of the other future systems it has appeared on I realised there had been a few Mario Kart mods over the years but one of them in particular kept appearing on eBay and other selling sites actually on cartridge. The mod/game in question is called Mario Kart R. With this learned I got myself a ROM file of it and put it on my Super Everdrive. Now normally I have not reviewed games on the SNES which I don’t own officially licensed copies of but seeing as this was a ROM hack I thought what the heck. Overall I enjoyed playing it and I would say that if you are a fan of the original and would like to play a little more of something like that then give it a bash. Here is my YouTube video review for your viewing pleasure.

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