Author: kerr9000

150 SNES games reviewed #25: Ultraman

Ultraman is a fighting game based on the TV series Ultraman: Towards the Future.

It was originally released in arcades by Banpresto and Bandai but was then ported to the SNES (it was also ported to the Mega Drive two years later, but this version only came out in Japan).

I knew before I started this game was considered to be legendarily bad. That it was one of the games to own titles such as ‘worst game ever’, ‘worst game on the SNES’ and various others, which basically amount to say this game is an utter turd.

However, one thing which is annoying about a lot of gamers and even the games media is people talk about games like this without ever having played them. In much the same way that when you ask most people what’s the worst game ever they will throw out answers like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600 or Superman 64 without ever having seen the cartridge in real life.

So with the above said you will probably get the point that even if a game has been called bad by almost everyone and every media outlet out there I still like to put it in my own cartridge slot or CD draw before I am willing to comment on it. I have played E.T., I have played Superman 64 and now I have played Ultraman. I would like to be able to tell you that some of its awfulness is just the product of ever expanding urban legends, that people tried to one up each other with tales of its awfulness and in doing so exaggerated some of its issues. But unfortunately everything that has ever been said about this is true – it is awful.

So to run you through how my time with the game went I will give you a quick explanation. I put the game in and it loaded up the music was OK the presentation wasn’t too bad at all but then I got to the gameplay. For those of you who don’t know who Ultraman is I will give you a basic idea. Imagine a one man power ranger team, where instead of getting in a giant robot if enemies turn big, the dude just turns big himself and that’s pretty much all you really need to know. So you see a scene of him growing and then it’s time to fight. At first you see Ultraman facing off against a monster and you see the power bars with names on under both sides of the screen, your’s on one side the monster’s on the other, and that makes you think we are in the land of Street Fighter II clones again. If only it was a good or even average Street Fighter clone.

Ultraman controls like he has some kind of serious impairment. The way he moves backwards and forwards is clunky. You can never seem to back off quick enough, even though you can do a sort of backwards cartwheel. You can run forward quite fast. The game makes you realise things which are brilliant in the likes of Street Fighter II which you took for granted could have been far, far worse. The jumping in Ultraman is controlled with one of the pad’s face buttons, but it’s so floaty that jump attacks are hardly worth bothering with. In fact the only point to jumping would be to jump over the enemy to gain yourself a bit of breathing room. Of the other three face buttons, one is a punch, one is a kick and the third is your special move button. This is when things get a bit complicated.

On my first go I managed to punch and kick the monster until its energy bar was depleted. This was a chore as there was basically only two kinds of punch – a straight punch and an uppercut style punch – and two kicks – a straight kick and a little jumping fancy kick. Yes, there are no crouching attacks, and different kicks or punches don’t seem to happen if you hold back or press the button for longer or anything, so basically there are four standard attacking moves – six if you count the fact you can chop or kick while in the air (I say if you can count as these will hardly ever hit anything). So ‘finish him’ shows up in the enemy’s depleted energy bar, so I hit him a lot more, and he hits me back lowering my energy. I press the special button and a sort of fireball attack is launched which hits him but doesn’t do anything much. Five minutes latter he has beaten my bar down to zero. Do I carry on like he has and wait for him to ‘finish me’? No, I collapse on the floor and die. So I continue and the same happens again, and again, and again…

At this point it’s safe to say I was very frustrated. I knew I was going to have to do one of two things. I was either going to have to open the manual or I was going to have to dive online. Now something is wrong when you feel the need to run for help during what to all intents and purposes is the first stage of a video game. It turned out the answer was halfway through the manual. There’s a meter in between yours and his which shows how much special energy you have and also displays some choices. As you gain more energy you can choose other special moves. You actually have four of them and when it says finish him only one thing will kill the enemy and that’s to hit them with the fourth special move.

So with this knowledge in hand I again did battle with the first monster. I wore down his energy bar and then hit him with the move and bam, he blew up, job done. I soon learned the problem is you need to beat the enemy up quiet a bit to fill your bar so there’s basically no point using the special moves apart from to use the fourth one to blow up the enemy. Because if you do use the other ones all it will mean is that you’re dancing backwards and forwards kicking an enemy while it says finish him waiting to gain the needed energy, giving it a chance to kill you.

That’s the main problem – the enemies have better reach than you do. They also seem to move more quickly than you do and they can kill you by simply depleting your energy bar without having to do any fancy rubbish to see you off. Add to this the fact their attacks seem to be very quick and damaging, and you can see your plight. When you win it often isn’t because of how good you have been its because the random gods of chance shone in your favour. In one match against an enemy he can breath fire at you again and again, as well as hitting you before you can even reach him. Then in your next match he can seem to just stand there while you approach and punch him in the face again and again. It just feels less like the enemies have any real AI and instead some dice are being thrown in the background the results of which tell them to attack, to shoot fire or to just sit there like a lemon.

Apparently there are about eight monsters in the game but I couldn’t get past the fifth. Its reach was just too good. It kept shooting fire and I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to keep rolling lemons. Add to this the fact you get a limited amount of continues. You get about two but I did notice myself gaining an extra one due to points/score at one stage.

The graphics in game are rubbish – basic backgrounds, awful sprites – but this could be overlooked if the game wasn’t such a sluggish random mess. As it stands I have to give this game two out of 10. It’s basically broken but kind of has some degree of playability hence the fact I haven’t given it a one. It is by far the worse SNES game I have played during this little experiment of mine, and I can’t remember playing anything else this bad back in the day. I do own another game which was frequently referred to as the worst game on the SNES so we will have to wait and see how that measures up.

If you love bad games or your some kind of sadomasochist who is rubbing their nipples at the thought of playing this then I better give you the lowdown on how much it costs. My copy was £5 from a charity shop boxed with manual and that still feels expensive. The cheapest PAL copy I could find online was £5.99 but it looked like a bear had attacked the front label. There was a boxed copy or two for £15 but seriously buy some good games with that money instead. Or if you’re really that into pain at least save up a bit more and pay a good looking woman to whip you or something. At least, unlike with Ultraman, the view will be nice while you suffer.

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #5: Atomic Runner (aka Atomic Runner Chelnov)

There was an arcade game called Chelnov – or to give it its full title Atomic Runner Chelnov – Tatakau Ningen Hatsudensho, which would translate as Atomic Runner Chelnov Fighting Human Power Plant. It’s a bit of a mouthful right? It was developed and published by Data East in 1988.

One of the things I love is when a game has a big history behind it, mostly because sometimes the stories which exist in the background of a games history can be very interesting and almost as worthy of note as the games themselves. This is one area in which Atomic Runner Chelnov certainly delivers.

There was a heap of controversy surrounding this game’s original arcade release. With the Russian-style hammer and sickle being present on the title screen, the fact the game’s story/the main character Chelnov’s origin is that he received his power due to a nuclear explosion and his exposure to the radiation. And on top of this the fact his name is spelt very closely to how Chernobyl, the site of a real life nuclear disaster, is written in Japanese (チェルノブ and チェルノブイ. Well, when you throw all of this together it is easy to see how this game got some major attention in a bad way. After all when you basically base your game on a disaster – in this case the Chernobyl disaster – just a year and a half after it happened you’re clearly going to annoy people. Just imagine if you took the last high school shooting or terrorist bomb incident and started producing a game on it now and made the dots pretty easy for anyone with half a brain to connect. You’d basically be asking for a lot of fuss and controversy, wouldn’t you?

The arcade game was ported to the Mega Drive in 1992, but it wasn’t a straight conversion, in fact there were a lot of alterations. The Japanese version kept the same name as the arcade version, but in Europe and North America it was released with the much simpler title Atomic Runner. The game’s plot was also altered. Chelnov was no longer a coal miner caught in a nuclear blast. Instead he was a regular guy wearing a special advanced combat suit the whole nuclear angle was removed. In fact basically the whole story was changed.

I will quickly run down this version of the game’s story in all of its B-movie glory. Chelnov was a young scientist who worked with and lived with his father and sister. They lived a happy and peaceful life and then one night when Chelnov went for a jog he heard a huge explosion coming from the direction of his home. He ran back home to find his father barely conscious, with Chelnov’s father’s dying breath he explained beings called the Deathtarians had caused the explosion and that they were a species who had ruled over the Earth long before the dawn of mankind and that they had returned now to claim what once was theirs. Apparently Chelnov’s father had known about them all along and that’s what all of his and his family’s research was for. Chelnov’s father points towards a metal case saying that inside the case there is a suit – a suit which will increase a human’s power making him a super human and inside the suit there are various weapons and devices. Chelnov’s father also tells him that he must put on the suit and defeat the Deathtarians and not only does the fate of the world lay in his hands but also the fate of his sister who they have kidnapped. With this Chelnov’s father passes away and with this Chelnov puts on the suit and becomes the atomic runner. You would think the game starts here, but no, it goes on to tell you Chelnov was overwhelmed by the share number of Deathtarians and became their prisoner. He was then tortured in an attempt to brainwash him, just as they thought they had broken his will though he lashed out in anger and broke free.

Now I like a B-movie plot as much as the next guy but I do have to admit I actually think the plot is a little heavier than it needs to be. Yeah there are a million games and films where someone killed someone’s dad or kidnapped someone close to the main character but do we really need to give the player/main character three reasons to hate the game’s villains? Surley either the killed father, the kidnapped sister or the imprisonment and torture on their own would have been enough reason to explain why Chelnov wanted to defeat the bad guys, we didn’t really need to throw cliché on top of cliché did we?

So, you start the actual game by breaking out of an alien facility. The game plays like a run and gun game, except it’s auto-scrolling. This kind of makes it feel unique compared to your usual run and gunner and in honesty I find the fact it’s always pushing you forward as opposed to letting you kind of just stand about adds to the game’s arcade feel. There are a variety of weapons and power-ups to collect, a whole bunch of enemies to kill, some pretty awesome bosses, and so much more.

The game’s controls can best be described as interesting. So what can you do in your super powered suit? Well you can fire right, you can fire left and you can jump. You need to fire backwards and forwards as enemies will come at you from both directions. As previously mentioned your always travelling forwards, you can move further forwards on the screen but as its always scrolling forwards you can’t go backwards. An interesting thing is as well as shooting enemies you can also jump on them in order to harm them, when you do this you will hurt them and simultaneously bounce off of them as well, in this way you can sort of bounce from enemy to enemy. Also, when you are jumping, if you land on top of an enemy you’ll bounce off and do damage, instead of dying. This is a key mechanic. But be sure you’re jumping! If an enemy hits you from below while you’re on the ground, you’ll die. Your boots only provide invulnerability when you’re not touching the ground, evidently, for whatever reason. This definitely can be frustrating, when you try to jump on an enemy under the floor but just miss and they come up under you and kill you. Jumping on enemies can be a little hairy, but you’ve got to do it. This is the only controls-related complaint I have with the game. Jumping on enemies mostly works fine, but could have been done a little better. Its important to note you die in one hit, be this a hit from a bullet or physical contact with an enemy (well, apart from the contact of your jumping boot with an enemies head). There’s no shield. When you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint. Fortunately this game has a fair few checkpoints, so you don’t usually lose too much progress. The game is pretty darn hard with its one hit death, but this is helped by the large amount of checkpoints and also the fact if you keep dying without making progress then the game will put more powerful power ups in front of you to try and help you. It still is a hard game and this doesn’t totally negate that but it does make things a little bit more bearable at times. The game is one of those old games which is actually rather short, its difficulty kind of makes it seem longer than it is. In all honesty if the game was easier then you would simply fly through it.

The graphics for this game are a little hit and miss. As far as its arcade conversion status goes, I would argue that the graphics here are actually an improvement over its arcade cousin, yet they’re still not that great compared to some other things you will find on the Mega Drive. Everything does run smoothly though and I actually like a lot of the changes that were made to the Mega Drive version. One thing I have to say is the backgrounds are a heck of a lot more interesting and detailed on the Mega Drive and you do get lots of enemies on screen at once. I need to give this game a huge shout-out when it comes to its soundtrack. It’s just dripping with quality tunes which do help make the game more enjoyable than it would otherwise be. I found this game was a little better when running at 60hz. Maybe it’s just me but it just seemed to work a little better when running faster and the music sounded better at that rate as well.

OK so if I am to score this game what am I going to give it? Well I would give it seven out of 10. It’s a good enjoyable challenging but short game. I don’t think it’s a world changer or a real classic and to be honest I think with its history it almost makes a better story than it does a game. I would warn you though if you are not the kind of person who can cope with frequently dying and just getting that little bit further each time then this is probably not the game for you. If you want to buy it then boxed copies tend to sit around the £35 mark with loose cartridges being about £15 when I have seen them.

150 SNES games reviewed #24: Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type

Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was released in 1993 as part of the Fire Pro Wrestling series.

Due to a large number of complaints about the game’s difficulty, developer Human Entertainment released Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type which is the version I own. The main difference in it – apart from a substantial lowering of the difficulty – is all of the hidden wrestlers are unlocked from the get go.

The first thing you will notice once you get past the vast screen of Japanese which represents your choices, you will be met with what I think is fair to say is a massive list of characters. You will scroll through some of them going: ‘No idea who he is’ or ‘Oh he looks neat’, and then you’ll fall upon US wrestling stars most of us will likely know such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, Rick Steiner and the Ultimate Warrior. Each wrestler is ranked based on their attacking and defensive abilities, and their running speed. There are approximately 60 wrestlers in total, which if you compare this number to other wrestling games back at roughly this sort of time is impressive. Another interesting thing to note is that the original version of this game Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was the first game worked on by the now famous Suda51.

The game initially looks quite simple. The graphics are not great but the game controls well, and has all of the moves you’d expect in a wrestling game – punching, grappling, running, etc. The game is full of little things which make you warm to it though. I obviously don’t have a massive knowledge of 90s Japanese wrestlers but I have picked every single WWF/WWE and WCW star who appears on the roster, and I have been able to work out who they are (their names are in Japanese so this has been done purely based on the fact they obviously look like who they are supposed to be), and I have played as them, instantly noting that the moves they use are moves frequently used by their real-life counterparts. The Warrior does the gorilla press, Hulk Hogan does his signature leg drop and so on and so on. There are digitised sounds that come from the wrestlers and cheers that come from the audience members, the music is fitting and overall this adds to the experience. Two of the buttons on your controller are used for strong blows, another button is used for low blows and the other face button makes you run.

The language is a bit of a barrier. It took me a bit of messing around choosing this and then that option, with no idea of what I was selecting. But once I got myself into career mode it was easy enough to play round after round and make some progress, and I have to admit that I was enjoying it. If someone was interested in this game I wouldn’t say it is too heavy going, but you need to be the kind of person willing to work around the language barrier.

The score I am giving to this game is 6.5 out of 10. this score is not an overall mark of the game’s quality, it’s the mark of how much fun your typical English SNES fan would have with it, taking into consideration issues such as having to fiddle with the language barrier, how it has aged, etc. I think if you were someone who could read Japanese when this game came out it would have been the absolute mutt’s nuts it would have been an easy eight or nine out of 10.

If you’re after this, well it might be hard. I have seen a few copies of the regular version of this for around £13, some boxed, some cart only, but you’ll need a Japanese machine, an import converter or a modified machine. As for the exact version I have reviewed the Easy Type version, I haven’t managed to find one for sale at the moment. It is an interesting game I would recommend you read about it, watch videos on it, etc. But I think your money in this case is better spent elsewhere either on a more modern wrestling game with all the bells and whistles or something a little easier and cheaper to get on the SNES (for example Exhaust Heat).

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