Tag: 150 SNES Games Review

150 SNES games reviewed #34: Power Drive

When I buy retro games they tend to belong to one of three categories. They are games which I owned as a kid and want to get again because I have fond memories of them, games I remember friends owning and which I have fond memories of playing at their houses, or are games which I can get cheap and figure what the heck I will give it a bash.

Today’s game comes from the second category. I had quite a few friends at school and all of them owned one console or another, but the most owned console was probably the SNES. Not everyone had the same taste in games though. So sometimes when I would go to visit a friend’s house I would get to play a game that I otherwise wouldn’t have got to try. One particular friend was mad on sports – cricket, football, boxing, motor racing – and unless it was a crazy sports related title like Punch-Out!!, he would have it.

One day when I went round he had a new game, one I hadn’t really heard much about and that game was Power Drive. The first thing I noticed on its case was that it was published by U.S Gold, but at the time I had never heard of the developer Rage Software.

U.S. Gold was founded in Birmingham in  1984 as the publishing division for a software distribution company called Centresoft. Its primary reason for existence was to republish popular US computer games in the UK. For ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC users the U.S. Gold logo became a big part of our lives. U.S. Gold no longer exists and nor does Rage Software. Rage’s first title, Striker, sold more than one million copies and established Rage as a major creative force in the interactive entertainment industry. But ironically the very thing that started them off – a football title – would ultimately be its undoing. In 2000, Rage began to expand into publishing. Due to a long run of games that did not sell as expected, the lack of sales and costs associated with their  David Beckham franchise tends to be considered to be what ultimately led to the company going bankrupt in 2003.

When my friend popped Power Drive into the cartridge slot I have to admit that it was nothing like what I expected. Putting it simply Power Drive is an arcade racing game based around rally driving. There is not a great deal of opening presentation to the game, you pick your car from an initial choice of two and then you start your career.

The graphics are isometric, you can see the whole of your car almost as if its a remote control car that you’re looking down at. This might seem to be a little basic at first but with the tricks under the game’s bonnet such as full sprite rotation and super smooth screen scrolling in every direction you soon realise that what looks on paper like average graphics actually look a hell of a lot better when moving. There are a few tiny issues with screen flicker but this mostly happens when the arrows that warn you of upcoming turns appear over the top of other objects. It’s only a momentary issue and you can still tell what direction the arrow is pointing so it doesnt really affect your game. There are night levels, and the following might sound like a strange thing to praise but the car’s headlights are handled brilliantly. Both of the headlight beams are animated separately, which just looks brilliant. The two lights overlap each other and it’s just a brilliant little touch which I can’t help but mention. That’s enough about the cars and their headlights, it’s time to talk about the backgrounds. They at first seem a little bit basic. The tracks and the scenery both look a little plain at first but they are full of subtle little details which take into account the characteristics of the country you are in.

The music is typical early nineties game music. I can’t claim it’s amazing but then again it’s not bad. Basicaly it does its job which is to be moderately exciting and to muffle the engine noises, etc so that they dont became a pain in the butt. You can turn the music off if you would prefer to hear your engine or if you’re going to play your own music while you play.

The game has three types of stages, they are individual time trials, head-to-head races against the computer, and skill tests. There are eight rounds of gameplay, set across a range of countries. As you race you get prize money for winning races but it is important to note that the cost of repairing your car is very realistic compared to other games, meaning if you have repeatedly ping-ponged your car off of the walls then 90% of your prize money is going to be spent on knocking your car into shape. You can race with a knackered car, but it becomes harder and harder to control and slower so it’s not really recommended.

At first this game will seem hard because it doesn’t control like a lot of other SNES racers, or at least not many of the wildly popular ones. If you have played either RPM Racing or Rock n’ Roll Racing then Power Drive would be down your alley. Once you get used to the controls though it becomes a challanging but fun driving game. I would give this game eight out of 10. I really enjoy it still today and can easily throw it on for a quick hour again and again. This game can be got for around £10 to £15. If you want to try it I would keep my eye on the various sites and try to grab a copy as close to the £10 mark as possible. The game is not wildly talked about and doesn’t seem to have any particularly big cult following.

150 SNES games reviewed #33: Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

If I was to say Rare in relation to games to most people then they would probably think about the Nintendo 64 and about Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007.

To me though Rare are so much more than that. I can remember their NES games and I also remember even further back when it was named Ultimate Play the Game and was bringing corker after corker out on the ZX Spectrum. Atic Atac and Saber Wulf were much talked about in the playgrounds of my youth. This is  where I need to briefly stop the review and say go buy Rare Replay and play the living heck out of all of the games and then when you’re done, grab everything you can that’s missing from it.

Now it’s time to get back to business. The game I am going to talk about today is Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. It is a platforming beat ’em up game from 1993 developed by Rare and published by Tradewest. Tradewest no longer exists and Rare – well, I could write a whole article about its fate. The short of it is it is still around but now it is owned by Microsoft and has spent a lot of time making Kinect-based games and hats for Xbox Avatars. Thankfully it has recently made a real game again so here is hoping it has a brighter future ahead of it.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was not the start of the story though. This series began with the original beat ’em up Battletoads which was released for the NES in 1991 (this title was ported to the Mega Drive, Game Gear, Game Boy and Amiga). The Battletoads were largely created with the purpose of trying to be rivals to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their video games. In fact at the height of Battletoads’ popularity they even managed to get a television cartoon pilot although this – unfortunately or fortunately depending on if you have seen it and what you thought of it – never got spun off into a full series. If you enjoy 80’s television cartoons I recommend you track the pilot down.

The original Battletoads was a very popular game. It was fun but brutally hard. It was a good beat ’em up with a two-player mode, but it also had sections where you rode on hover bikes and these were mercilessly hard. Worse still, if you were playing them in two-player mode and one of you crashed you both had to start that section again, which led to screaming arguments and shattered friendships.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs follows the story of two of the Battletoads, Rash and Pimple, on a quest to stop Silas Volkmire and the evil Dark Queen from ruling over the world while rescuing a princess and their fellow toads. Many of its levels are enhanced or remixed versions of levels from the original Battletoads, so its a sort of semi-sequel, semi-remake.

The first thing you will notice is that the sprites in this game are large and the game in general is very colourful. The soundtrack is kind of basic but the music suits the game well.

This game is not just a beat ’em up, it’s a massive mix of things. Yes, you will fight but then there is also hoverboard racing platforming, and much like the original NES version, the game is enjoyable but sections of it might have you tearing your hair out. If you like hard games with a sence of humour then it might be just for you if however if you hate games with challenging pieces that you’re going to be having to try and try again then you’re going to hate Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. This makes it a very hard game to rate because its overall quality depends on the kind of person who is playing it. Therefore a score I give it might in fact be meaningless to you. I have never completed Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, but I have spent a very long time trying in the past. I see it as a challenge which keeps on bringing me back.

Personally I would give the game seven out of 10. it’s fun, there is a fair degree of variety and its a good game to play with friends – as long as they enjoy a challenge. I have to warn again that if you hate games that will see you die again and again on certain segments then this is not for you.

This game was before Rare’s partnership with Nintendo. In fact it was as far as I know the last game it released for the SNES before beginning to work on projects for Nintendo. It had invested its significant profits from games during the NES period to purchase a bunch of very expensive Silicon Graphics workstations. This move made Rare the most technologically advanced developer in the UK, and I think most of us know what this led to.

If you want to purchase Battletoads in Battlemaniacs then you’re looking at anywhere between £13 to £18 for the cart, and if you want a copy in a box in good condition then you will probably need to look at around double that range. I looked at buying it in a shop cartridge only for £18 but instead ended up buying a cart from online for £14 including postage. This is the most money I have spent on a game specifically for this series but I also feel that copies of this will become rarer in the coming years.

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.