Tag: grcade

150 SNES games reviewed #40: Acrobat Mission

Once again I am doing a review of a SNES game which started out life as an arcade machine before being converted. You would think it means once again I’m going to be talking about things that were left out and changes that were made.

But no, the main difference here is the game I am writing about today is probably one you have never heard of as it was only released in Japan. I can’t remember ever having seen or played the arcade machine so I’m not going to worry about that and judge it based on itself and to a least some degree its competition on the SNES.

When I tell you that the name of the game is Acrobat Mission you will probably say what kind of name is that for a game? Is it some kind of platformer where you are an acrobat? No, it’s a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

The first thing I noticed was that as the game began the story scrolled up the screen and I could read it. Yes, it’s a Japanese game but literally all of the language in it – the options and the story – is in English which makes it pretty cool for importers.

The graphics looked colourful but basic. In fact you could almost believe you were playing a NES game. I pressed all of the buttons and only one of them actually seemed to do anything and that was shoot. The next thing I tried was holding down the button assuming that there would be some kind of charge attack and nothing happened. I carried on playing it not really expecting much from it, then as things went on it hit me this game ran at a nice speed. Even though the player’s ship seems to be a really basic sprite a lot of the enemies seem to be larger and more detailed. Then I began to collect power ups and found not only did they affect the way my ship fired they also allowed me to do charged shots if I held the button. The bombs I collected actually appeared on the ship and disappeared once I worked out the button which you have  to press to fire them (so in the end there are two buttons to use). When you die, which you will because it is a reasonably tough game, instead of instantly exploding or disappearing your ship actually sort of limps along with steam coming out of it. While this is happening you’re still in control and can steer your burning spaceship. In fact you can steer it into something so when it explodes you can take enemies with you. I found this to be a really neat and interesting little idea.

The graphics are not the best but there is a lot of variety. It puts Super Strike Gunner, which I reviewed previously, to shame in this area. It also has large bosses. The first is a large battleship which is so long it is actually about four screens in length and covered in guns. The bullets it fires are larger than your ship and it can be tough because it tracks your movement and shoots at you. Another interesting fact is you don’t die if you physically touch enemy ships. If you run into bullets you’re screwed but you can fly through enemies and get away with it. There is also space debris which can get in the way of your ship and your shots. This is something I like sure it’s another simple touch but the beauty of this game is all of its simple touches.

As for the bad side, by shoot-em-up standards this game has a very limited selection of weapon pick-ups. There is the standard shot and then two or three special shots you can get by picking up letters. Compare this to the tonne of weapons in other shooters at the time such as UN Squadron and it’s a little disappointing.

Another problem some people have with the game is how short it is, this game relies on being very hard after the first two levels to prolong the game. There are only five stages, and when you think that this game was at one point a full priced retail game that seems to be a few short of what I think would be a fair number.

I would give this game a hearty seven out of 10. It’s not perfect but it was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately its not available either as a PAL or US NTSC cart, but with its heavy use of English and the fact it ran on both a modified machine and a very simple converter this is not a bad game for someone who wants to start importing. Or at least it would be if you could find a cheap copy. The only copy I can see online at the moment is £25. I bought this from someone as a package deal – seven Japanese carts for £14, all of which were sports games apart from this one.

150 SNES games reviewed #39: James Pond’s Crazy Sports (aka The Super Aquatic Games)

You have your Sonics and your Marios, then there are all the lesser-known platforming heroes – some of which are in games which could rival the likes of the above and others who are in games that are poor, pale imitations.

If you owned an Amiga there were certain characters you were bound to know and love, and one of these was James Pond. He was a well-loved star of several games but they weren’t Amiga exclusive. In fact I think all of them ended up on the Mega Drive, and the SNES got everything apart from his first game. (James Pond 2: Codename Robocod was released on the SNES under the name Super James Pond, almost ignoring that there was a previous game.)

Now you might think that I am going to be talking about Super James Pond or its sequel James Pond 3: Operation Starfish but actually the game I am going to be talking about today is James Pond’s Crazy Sports (known as The Super Aquatic Games in the US, and just The Aquatic Games on Mega Drive). Basically this game took the character of James Pond and used him to front  an aquatic-themed parody of the sports mini games joystick wigglers like Konami’s Track & Field.

This game is the only James Pond title not to be a platformer. You can’t help but think the developers had the idea they could spin the character off in to other genres and in doing so might help him to grow in fame and begin to approach Mario levels.

The first thing I noticed when booting this game up was that I knew the opening music. I more than knew it, it was something I have found myself humming before and then it hit me it was a particularly cheery eight-bit version of Ode to Joy (from Beethoven’s ninth symphony). I have to say this was a good start as I put a smile on my face before I had even pressed a button.

Now in talking about James Pond’s Crazy Sports, I have to admit some of these issues are not really raised in relation to the game but to the whole genre at that time. There’s only so much you can do when it’s bang buttons like mad till you win or lose. It tires your fingers, you get blooming scared you will break the pad. The game does nothing to teach you how to play it so you end up spending so much time just messing around working out what you are supposed to be doing. Sure back in the day you would have had the manual and that would have helped but it wouldn’t have been that hard to put some in game instructions – some text on the screen – before an event? All of the games are really basic and despite my best efforts I couldn’t come anywhere, I admit I didn’t hammer the pad as hard as a kid would have done back when this came out but who really wants to risk breaking a joypad from an old system when the number out there is finite?

I loved the three James Pond platformers as a kid. I found them funny charming and enjoyable. I even enjoyed picking up the Nintendo DS re-release of the second one so the problem here is I was and am invested in the character. I think James Pond rules and if you can’t manage to sell a spin-off to someone who clearly loves the original franchise then you are clearly barking up the wrong tree.

It’s just a shame. The game’s bright, has good music, but just doesn’t deliver. It feels souless and shallow and well I feel I need to give it 2.5 out of 10 – a sad, sad day for James Pond.

At first I thought it didn’t even hit these shores as all the copies I saw were American and between £10 to £15. Add to the fact that a modfied machine wont even play it without a heavy-duty Datel Universal Adapter and it’s expensive. But then I realised that in the UK it had a different name and it’s about £8 to £10 for a PAL game, but it’s still not worth it.

150 SNES games reviewed #36: Super Strike Eagle

Super Strike Eagle for the SNES was both developed and released by MicroProse. Yes, that MicroProse.

MicroProse was a US video game publisher and developer, founded in 1982 by Bill Stealey and the one and only Sid Meier. It developed and published numerous games, many of which are fondly remembered either to this day as groundbreaking or as titles with huge cult status, examples being the Civilization and X-COM series. The majority of its internally developed titles were often either vehicle simulation games or strategy titles.

The name MicroProse still exists today but it has basically nothing to do with the original company, all of the big names and talent from the original MicroProse left and formed Firaxis Games in 1996. The name MicroProse was acquired through the original company having been bought up when it was struggling and the people who brought it at Hasbro have since sold the rights to the name and various other assets which have been sold on and on till they ended up in the hands on someone who wanted to use it.

The basic story behind this game is that you are a fighter pilot flying for the United Nations whose overall objective is to bring various governments around the world back into cooperation with the UN basically by blowing the crap out of them. Yes this could be termed as diplomatic negotiations James T Kirk style, or at least it could be if there was a mini-game involving sex with hot alien women, but I digress.

The game uses three different perspectives. When you take off the game starts you off in third person, utilizing its Mode 7 graphics to give you an interesting interactive take off. Then once you’re up in the air the view switches to an overhead world map, where the plane can be moved between objectives. In this view you can see enemy jets and missiles and if you can keep your distance then you’ll stay in this view. When enemy planes get close to you the game switches briefly to a first-person cockpit mode. This is kind of like Wing Commander, in that you chase the planes and try to get them in your sights. This is kind of the most realistic looking part. When you find yourself near to mission-critical targets (ones which you have to bomb) then the game again switches view, this time to an overhead bombing mode, this is where the game uses its Mode 7 scaling and rotation abilities the most.

I find the game fun. It kind of just leaves you to it though and doesn’t hold your hand much which is either a good thing or an awful thing depending on how you like your games. Also the switching of views is something which some people will probably like, others will probably be confused by. In my opinion though this is one of the things that makes the game really interesting and different. Some of the graphics are amazing for when this game came out but they are a little bit dated now. There is a real sense of effort with this game though, like they tried to throw every trick in the book at it in order to make it stand out. Back in the day I remember this game getting a lot of 65%-type ratings. To me there seemed to be a general attitude of this game not being the kind of thing that belonged on a console. Now days though we have seen just about every type of game possible both on PC and on console. Yes, some might lend themselves to one slightly better than the other but I always feel the need to salute people who try to get a new trick out of an old dog, who try to break convention. For this reason I give this game seven out of 10. Back in the day If I had played this game I would have scored it even higher than that I believe.

I bought this game specifically for this review because I managed to get a US copy boxed with manual for £6 including postage, and at that price I have to admit I am incredibly happy with this game. There are a few copies online now knocking around the £8 to £12 figure for boxed US copies. As for UK PAL versions though they seem to be few and far between with people asking up to £25 for a cart alone. This game is an easy import it played on my modified machine and through a regular cheap converter with no issues at all so it might even be cheaper to get a boxed copy and a cheap import converter rather than go PAL.

GRcade is privately operated by BJUM t/a GRcade, supported by community volunteers. Contact us.
All content © the respective owner. DMCA.