Tag: Beat ’em up

150 SNES games reviewed #14: Sonic Blast Man

It’s funny how sometimes all you need to see is a company’s name on a box and it’s enough to get you excited. In fact it’s sometimes enough to make you buy something on the spot with no real research.

Back in the PlayStation days I remember a lot of people would feel totally safe in just picking up anything with the Square logo on it. For me a company who I have always rather liked is Taito. They made a lot of great games back in the day, so the sight of their name on a cart is cause for a hopeful smile.

Some of you who used to go to the arcades as kids might have heard of the name Sonic Blast Man. It was the name of a pretty sizeable arcade cabinet which came with boxing gloves and a punching pad. You would play the game by trying to punch the pad as hard as you could when it told you to. I remember it started with you punching a thug who was trying to assault a lady and if you got to the end you were trying to punch a meteorite away before it could strike the Earth.

I loved this game I would hunt high and low for it in arcades up and down the coast. Apparently, in March 1995 Taito recalled Sonic Blast Man machines due to reports that some players had sustained injuries while playing the game. Although I have to cry BS on this one, you wore gloves and you punched a well padded sensor. Sure I have seen people injure themselves in connection to the Sonic Blast Man machine but these were idiots who were punching it bare-handed and had no real idea of how to punch it or worse. I once saw a guy try to run and fly kick the pad in an arcade, he miss judged it and landed on a very painful part of his body as it made contact with the corner of an old Operation Wolf machine. Yet in the US, Taito had to pay a fine of $50,000 for failing to disclose these “injuries”.

When I heard as a kid there was going to be a SNES verion of Sonic Blast Man my mind went nuts. How could they turn it into a SNES game? It would cost the earth if it came with boxing gloves and a usable sensor pad, plus I could imagine it would be a PR nightmare as one child punched another child while missing the sensor or punched the TV. (What I saw happening in my mind was basically what we all saw upon the Wii’s release with all of the remote related accidents, newspaper stories, etc.) I kind of expected them to go down the old joystick waggling sports games path, where you’d have to bang buttons to fill up a meter or something but then I stopped and thought that would be awful. The arcade game was very short and was fun purely because of the novelty factor. Five levels of banging joypad buttons to fill a meter to punch something would have been an awful Idea for a £40 cartridge based home game.

The SNES version is actually a side-scrolling beat ’em up. Sonic Blastman’s mission is still to save the Earth, but this time it is from all manner of street gangs, terrorists, aliens and robots. The fight starts on a construction site, but you’re soon moving from place to place and it’s nicely varied for a game of its type.

One minus point is the game is only a one-player game much like the original Final Fight was on the SNES. There is only one character as well Sonic Blastman himself which feels a little limiting. As in all scrolling beat ’em ups the game consists of defeating the enemies on the screen before continuing walking to the right to face more until you complete the stage. Sonic Blastman can do all of the usual moves for a game of this type. He can punch, jump, and grab a hold of enemies. When he approaches his enemies, he is able to grab them. From here he can shake them and throw them, or he can unleash a series of rapid punches, depending upon the direction you hold on your joypad.

The bonus levels are an adaptation of the arcade version of the game which is a neat little touch for fans. Obviously they have been converted to be played with your fingers instead of your fists. They’re not bad, though I am still glad they didn’t use them for the basis of a whole game.

The best thing about the game’s graphics are the large sprites. They are big and colourful and will remind you of arcade and Neo Geo games to an extent. The backgrounds are more or less what you expect to see in a background on a city neighborhood, factory and sewer, so they’re functional but not thrilling. But I would argue that as you get further through the game they become more interesting and seem to have more little details hidden here and there.

The music sounds like some kind of fusion of jazz and elevator music but I kind of like it and I think it suits the game well. The sound effects are pretty decent and give it a good comic book feel. You hear Blastman say little soundbites like  “Take that!”. Overall, I think it works.

I would say this is one of the better scrolling beat ’em ups on the system. Sure a two-player mode would be nice and its absence, along with a few other little things, stop me from calling this game perfect. But for me its a good eight out of 10. I think thanks to the big sprites and the simple but fun gameplay this game has aged a lot better than some of the stuff I have been playing. Having a go now I enjoyed it as much as back then.

The game came out in all regions but I have never seen a PAL copy in the flesh in my life, neither now nor back when released. My copy is a Japanese cartridge which I have had since I was young, I am not sure where I got it, I just remember being very excited to get it. Looking around you might be able to grab a Japanese copy for between £10 to £25 if you’re lucky, but every time I have seen an US copy its been ridiculous money like £60 or more, and I am still to see a PAL copy for sale.

150 SNES games reviewed #8: Power Moves (aka Power Athlete)

Rule number one if you are going to try to make money by copying another game is to make sure you get a copy of the game you’re trying to copy and play the living daylights out of it.

Sit and analyse it. Try to see why it is so popular, and what your game needs to contain in order to attract the same amount of fans.

Why am I talking about this? Well basically because the game I have been playing is Power Moves, one of many of the games which came in the wake of Street Fighter II. When playing this game though I am reminded far more of the original (less famous) Street Fighter.

Power Moves – known in Japan as Power Athlete – (at least on the SNES, the Mega Drive version was renamed Deadly Moves) came out in 1992 and was developed by System Vision and published by Kaneko. It came out towards the end of 1992, many months after Street Fighter II, which I add because I want everyone to know this key fact.

The one player mode on this game is basically the same as Street Fighter. You get no choice of character you are simply made to play as one guy, in this case an almost Americanised looking Ryu clone with the name Joe. Truly there can be no mightier martial arts name than Joe, maybe his last name is Bloggs? But I digress. You are Joe, you do an energy move from your hands out in a straight line (we all know it as a fireball, just like the original Street Fighter), though the motion to do this is over-complex and therefore a pain. There are only three buttons – one punch, one kick and one jump – if you are very close then the kick button also doubles as a throw. I did somehow manage to get Joe to do another move, it was sort of a two-handed dragon punch which went much more diagonal than the ones we are used to.

Even on the middle difficulty the game comes is hard, and this is where the game has a little flair of originality. You don’t start with a full life bar, you start with a bit and by beating opponents this bar grows in size as do other bars you can see which represent your strength, speed and defence. You can choose who you want to fight next out of all of the enemy characters but some outclass you by having much longer bars. If you wanted to you could fight and beat an opponent multiple times in order to fill your bars and make your future fights against other enemies easier. You have a set amount of continues, which I think increase as you win fights or at least it seemed that way to me.

At first I found the game so hard that I was almost going to give in, but then it just seemed to click. I got into the rhythm of the game and managed to beat opponent after opponent with very little trouble and this was without repeating fights in order to level up my bars. I only repeated one fight and that was just to see if it would let me. It only took me about 20 minutes though and once you’ve finished the game nothing changes you can still only be Joe in single player and apart from going into the options and upping the difficulty there is no reason to ever play the single player mode ever again, which is a big disadvantage when you compare this game to other games from this period in time.

In the two player mode you can be Joe and any of enemies except for the final boss, which is a bit of a shame as Mega Drive owners got the chance to play as him in their version of the game.

The characters in this game are (I haven’t listed Joe as I have already talked about him):

  • Warren: A  wrestler from Hawaii who looks just a touch like a grey-haired Hulk Hogan wannabe.
  • Reayon: The token female, clearly she is ‘inspired’ by Chun-Li.
  • Vagnad: A huge wrestler with an odd skin colour, he looks like he should be the boss of the game to me. He reminds me of a less weird version of the boss from Street Fighter IV. (Apparently in some of the manuals and information released on the game he was described as a survivor of the Holocaust.)
  • Buoh: A kabuki-style fighter. He teleports all over the screen and attacks with his hair. He earns bonus points in my book for not seeming like a complete Street Fighter rip-off.
  • Gaoluon: An acrobatic Chinese martial artist, who uses a pair of curved blades both to slash you and to throw at you.
  • Baraki: A tribal warrior who shoots flames like Dhalsim while making noises and spinning across the screen Blanka-style.
  • Nick: A street dancing matador. His fighting style uses a combination of break dancing alongside quick slashes with a knife, clearly he is meant to represent this game’s Vega.
  • Ranker: He is (in the SNES version at least) the non-playable final boss character. He comes across as being a big, army-style guy. Imagine an Arnold Schwarzenegger character who can throw energy across the floor and do a punch equivalent of Chun-Li’s rapid kick move.T

To be honest I cant see anyone bothering much with the two player on this. Not when you could play all manner of other fighting games, it’s not like we were lacking them back in the day, nor are we now really.

I would give this game four out of 10, its not an awful game but there are so many other better beat ’em ups out there. If you want to try this game I think you will need to import it. I haven’t seen an PAL copy but I am sure the Mega Drive one came out over here. I have seen lots of US imports for about £10 for the cart, and a few Japanese ones for £5. I was lucky and got my copy recently for £3.50 with free postage. Personally, I would invest you money elsewhere.

150 SNES games reviewed: #3 The Combatribes

The Combatribes started off as an arcade game which came out in 1990. It was a beat ’em Up of the walk along variety released by Technos Japan.

A lot of you might not have heard of The Combatribes, but most of you are far more likely to have heard of Renegade and Double Dragon. Technos made a game called Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun which Taito converted into the game we know as Renegade (basically by removing the Japanese related stuff and changing the theme of the game to one they thought would do better over here) Technos also made Double Dragon but again Taito distributed it over here.

The Combatribes has a lot in common with these games, but you get the feeling that Technos had looked at some of its competitors and picked up a trick or two from them. When I first came across the arcade machine in a local pizza parlor I had no idea that it was in any way connected to the above games, what struck me was that it was in a nice big cab and it had three joysticks each one was for a different character. This is where it started to remind me of the likes of Final Fight a little bit.

You had the blue player Berserker, a blond-haired man in a blue outfit, he is very much your Mr Average, he has an even split between speed and strength, so in Final Fight terms I guess he is the Cody of the piece. Then there was Bullova, a black man in a yellow outfit who is all about strength but is also very slow. The third and final member of the team is Blitz, a long-haired man in a red outfit, who is weak but very fast. He is one of those characters who you’re supposed to get the first hit with and just keep peppering away at your enemy so quickly they don’t have the time to strike back.

I suppose this leaves me with two questions to address, one being now I have given you a little history how does the SNES game compare to the arcade machine, with the other being which is better, Final Fight or The Combatribes?

The SNES version of The Combatribes made a few changes to the game.  Some of them can be seen as attempts to add to the game, some can be seen as ways of getting around some of the machine’s limitations and then there are the usual Nintendo reasons.

The SNES version features story sequences before and after boss battles, as well as an opening intro explaining the plot. It also has a different ending. I think all of this is just basically an added layer of polish it’s nice but it’s not the important bit.

The gameplay itself remains more or less the same, In the arcade version the characters’ health was represented by a bunch of numbers. Here it is represented by the standard life bar method. In the SNES version, the stages are also simpler, there are also enemies missing and the final boss is different.  None of this is really going to matter though unless you’re a big fan of the arcade machine and played it enough to know every little piece of it.

A one-on-one versus mode has been added to the game in it you can perform standard one-on-one beat ’em up moves (Street Fighter II type-stuff fireballs and and the like with some characters). The game’s enemies and bosses can also be used in this mode. You gain passwords by playing the regular mode which you input here to unlock them. It’s no Street Fighter, the moves are a lot clunkier, and on its own I wouldn’t really rate it, but as a bonus mode a bit of knock around fun you’d have to be a bit of a Scrooge to complain about it.

The game was ‘cleaned up’ in lots of ways from its arcade counterpart. Blood splattering effects were removed. Blood was removed from cut screens and both characters and gangs were renamed to less violent names. I am also sure one of the bosses in the arcade had some sort of racist or taboo name but what it was exactly escapes my mind.

As for comparisons to Final Fight well the graphics are very different. The characters in The Combatribes are a lot smaller, the backgrounds are colourful and there’s a lot going on. The buildings look tiny but then you get to see a lot of them and a lot of neat flashing signs. The first thing people will pick up on is that The Combatribes can be played by two players, it also has all three of its arcade characters in its SNES port unlike Final Fight which only managed two of them. Both games have their selling points and I won’t take it further than that or I will give away so much of my opinion on Final Fight that my upcoming review of that will be pointless.

The control scheme of The Combatribes is simple, which means you can pick it up and play it in seconds, as far as beat ’em ups go though there is not a massive selection of moves. It also has a few issues with the fact some of the bosses can be a little bit unfairly difficult. It often seems like they can move faster than you and to put it simply at times they are incredibly cheap. So this game can be fun if you like this sort of game but it can also occasionally make you want to scream a little bit now and again.

Visually The Combatribes is a little bit mixed. I think the characters themselves look pretty darn good and are animated pretty well. The backgrounds are also quiet bright but a bit repetitive. The presentation is not too bad with nice little cut scenes.

So what about the game’s sound? Well the music in the game is pretty darn catchy and I think you could definitely claim it has its own original sound. The sound effects are also very well done.

Whether you like The Combatribes or not will depend on what kind of games you like. If you don’t like walk along beat ’em ups, well The Combatribes is not going to change your mind. If you love them then you will most likely eat this up. If you can forgive a game a few flaws and want to smash heads with a buddy then this game gets a reasonably hearty recommendation. There are far better walk along beat em ups on the system but there are also a heck of a lot worse games. I wouldn’t recommend this as the first and most important beat ’em up to grab but if you’re looking for one you haven’t tried before and you can find this then I would give it a bash.

I would score it six out of 10. If my memory is correct reviewers back in the day were a lot harsher some scored it as low as 30%. I think the highest I remember seeing it get was 65%. Maybe my opinion of it is a little more positive than others because playing it takes me back to a time in my life when I would go to the local one screen cinema, watch a film and then head to the takeaway pizza joint after to enjoy virtually kicking thugs in the head while a man made me and my buddies a takeaway pepperoni pizza – but that is one of the best things about retro games is it not? They all come from a time in the past and have all sorts of stories and histories connected to them.

From a little bit of research it looks like you would be lucky to get a cart of it for about £15. It never came out in Europe to my knowledge so you’d have to either get an US or Japanese copy, again meaning that you would need an import or modified machine or to have an import converter.