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150 SNES games reviewed #29: The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse was the best known character in the whole world, but back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Mario was just about everywhere – and not just in his video games.

He had his own cartoon series, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, and then it spiraled from there to the point he had his own action figures, stuffed toys, shirts, candy, and even a breakfast cereal. At one point in time you couldn’t do anything without seeing Mario.

On the other side, Mickey Mouse in comparison wasn’t seen as much. Sure he was on t-shirts and at Disneyland but he wasn’t quite as up front and in your face as he had been. Television channels tended to air the more modern Disney cartoons of the time such as DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, TailSpin, Darkwing Duck, and such.

Disney teamed up with Capcom and brought a fair few titles to the NES, most of which are considered classics, such as DuckTales. Disney’s relationship with Capcom didn’t end with the NES though. Eventually the union brought us the game I am going to talk about today The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse (known in Japan as Mickey’s Magical Adventure).

The game is a bright, colourful platformer with the player taking on the role of Mickey. It’s part of a trilogy released by Capcom although we Europeans only got two out of three games (in fact, Japan was the only territory to see the third one, at least until they got GBA remakes). You move in the same sort of fashion as in most typical platform games, and you can defeat enemies  by jumping on them but you can also attack them by grabbing blocks and other stunned enemies spinning them around in Mickey’s hands and then using them as a projectile.

One of the gameplay features this game is most known for is the ability to find new outfits for Mickey, which give him different special abilities. For example, you get to play as firefighter Mickey who can use his hose. Sometimes this feeds into puzzles as well as being an option for attack. For example you might have to put out a fire to progress. It reminds me of the Mega Drive title Kid Chameleon, which seeing as I love that game is not a bad comparison at all.

The graphics are great, full of colour and character. The sound is cheery and matches the overall feel of the game. The controls are good – I don’t think they are quite Mario good, but they certainly more than do the job. When it comes to complaints some people would bring up the fact that The Magical Quest is quite an easy game, but that’s understandable since it stars Mickey Mouse. Capcom clearly knew a lot of kids would be playing this, so if it was Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels-hard it would have just led to mass complaints and screaming children. It’s not completely unchallenging, there are a few skills and basic patterns to learn and it’s kind of nice to find a game which focuses on the fun and doesn’t penalise you for anything. You have unlimited continues, when you die you start again with a full set of hearts and don’t lose any of your coins.

If you like fun platform games I would urge you to try this game. It’s a brilliantly uncomplicated slice of fun. It might be a little easy, and it might be a touch short – in fact, its length is the only real thing keeping me from giving it a huge score. All things considered I think I need to give this game a 7.5 out of 10.

If you’re after the game I tend to see it going for around £10 for the cart, although big warnings have to be given about the fact that the second one is rarer, and if you want to play the third SNES one you’re going to need to go down the import route. One way around this is to go for the Game Boy Advance remakes. They are more or less the same games with a few extras thrown in and they might be a little cheaper and easier to get your hands on (Plus you can get a European version of number three for the GBA).

150 SNES games reviewed #27: Top Gear

 

Top Gear (or as our friends in Japan would know it, Top Racer) is a racing game for the SNES. It was developed by Gremlin Graphics and published by Kemco.

It was one of the first racing games to be released on the SNES, so when it came out it was immediately popular. Everyone I knew back then seemed to have either this or Exhaust Heat with the lucky and truly dedicated having both. Top Gear and its two sequels – Top Gear 2 and Top Gear 3000 – were created by the same developers as the famous Lotus series of games which had been released earlier on the Amiga and the Mega Drive. It is important to note before anyone gets too excited this game has no connection to the TV show with the same name.

The good points are that the game feels very fast. I hadn’t played it for a fair few years and when I started playing it this morning I was very surprised at how fast it felt. It is also very bumpy in a way which is kind of hard to explain, but it is worth noting because I remember back in the day a few people I knew couldn’t play it because when it was in motion it made them feel sick. I love it as it actually helps to make you feel like your in there racing. But it’s important to note before anyone goes out and pays for this game, it might be worth looking for some footage on YouTube so you can see if it affects you.

I lost my first few races which meant instead of progressing I kept seeing the starting screen again. But I soon realised I wasn’t paying proper attention to my gears. You don’t get to choose a car or buy add-ons for it, or to even mess with its handling and tires. If this is something that is important to you then your probably better off with Exhaust Heat. Once I started paying attention though I soon found I was up there fighting for pole position again and again. This is when the game began to get really fun, but just when I thought I had seen it all, when I thought I had it in the bag, that’s when things changed a little bit.

I’d noticed there were pit stops but I had never seen the need to use them, sure I had got a little bit tight on fuel at times but there was always just enough to see me fly past the flag in first. You see short races don’t  really require a pit stop and refueling, but the lengthier ones will see you come to an abrupt halt half-way around the track in one of your later laps if you’re not careful.

This adds a whole new level of strategy to proceedings as you begin to have to think about when to have a pit stop, how long to stay in the pit, sure you can see your position getting worse while you’re being filled up but you know that in the longer races if you don’t fill up then you’re going to come to a stop and lose. Whole races can be won or lost based on your judgement of when you should pull in for a pit stop or how long you can put it off.

The graphics are good for the time. The screen is always split even when you’re playing on your own. In this case there is a computer rival in charge of a car on the bottom half of the screen. I like the music in this game, it might not be technically brilliant but it is fun. It fits its purpose of pumping you up for the races brilliantly and makes a change to all those games back then which suffered from having no sounds in game apart from that farting rumbling engine sound which used to be popular.

I would give this game a good solid seven out of 10. It is a fun game but I miss having a choice in terms of what car to drive and the options to tune it up and buy upgrades. Basically this game just seems like a very big slice of arcade fun not that that’s a bad thing, but you need to keep that in mind if you’re thinking about getting this.

A lot of times when I have seen this game online its been about £8 for an import cart or about £15 for an PAL one, with a boxed copy being as high as £30. I only paid £3 for my cart. The sequel does seem to be a little cheaper and easier to get your hands on though (I will get around to reviewing that sooner or later).

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #1: Mercs (aka Wolf of the Battlefield II)

The game I am going to be talking about for my very first Mega Drive game in this series is Mercs, or to give it its original name Senjō no Ōkami II which translates as Wolf of the Battlefield II.

I played this game back when I was a kid and never for a second realised it was a sequel. In fact at the time I also didn’t realise that it had been an arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1990 before it was on the Mega Drive. In fact it had been one of the games on Capcom’s Capcom Play System (CPS) arcade hardware.

For those interested in the inside of arcade machines, the CPS was an interesting bit of kit. It was essentially a large arcade Jamma-compatible board with the games then stored on removable ROM cartridges/boards. You could then if you were an arcade operator buy a new small ROM cart with a different game on it and change this instead of having to buy a whole new large arcade board, it’s kind of like the Neo Geo MVS system SNK used – most famous for being the hardware that ran the original Street Fighter II. I actually own a CPS board but I only have one rom board for it and that is Pang! 3. (Capcom also went on to release an adapted console version of this board in Japan for home users, as well as two sequel boards for the arcades, named the CPS2 and CPS3.)

This game first came into my life when I got a cheap Japanese copy of it from my local indie game store Gamesworld. I used to buy a lot of import games from here because when they were new and not out over here they were quite expensive. But as soon as the game was out over here the Japanese version would drop to around £5 and I could usually either buy this with my £5 a week pocket money, or I could just not eat at school and save up my dinner money to buy games, something I frequently did. I kind of wish I still owned that Japanese copy, but at least I still have a copy of it. It was years later that I realised it had been in the arcades and that it was in fact the sequel to the 1985 Commando – a game which I actually had played in the arcades as well as a part of it on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer.

I am always moaning like heck that various games deserve more sequels and this one actually got one in 2008 called Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3, which was a downloadable game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I didn’t actually play this till I got the Capcom Digital Collection, which was a compilation of digitally-released Capcom games which had appeared on the Xbox 360. I am not reviewing Commando 3 but I will say it’s a bit of a lesser sequel in my opinion, but still not too bad.

So what we have here is the second part of a trilogy right? Well the answer to that would be yes and no, I guess. You see Mercs on the Mega Drive wasn’t actually made by Capcom at all. It was instead converted by Sega and they actually made quite a few changes. Now most people would expect me to say what happened was Sega removed a whole bunch of stuff and made a weaker, worse version that their console could more easily pull off, right? Well there is a tiny bit of truth to this, in that the arcade game was a one to three player third-person shooter game, and this game is a one player game. I know people are instantly going to think: “Oh dear, removing the multiplayer sucks, just look at how much it affected games like Final Fight on the SNES, but really I think Sega did more than enough to cover this. Sure, a two-player mode would have been nice but there is a lot to recommend about this game.

For a start there are two modes of play, one is called arcade and the other is called original. Arcade is basically a one-player conversion of the actual arcade machine. It puts you in the shoes of one particular soldier, who can collect various different weapons throughout the different levels. It’s good to see the arcade game on offer here even if it is restricted to one-player mode. A lot of games would have given you this and then just shrugged off the fact that they’d cut out the multiplayer and gone: “Well it was the best we could do given the hardware”.

The way the arcade mode plays you basically take your guy and travel vertically up the screen shooting enemy soldiers, vehicles and turrets while trying to take as little damage as possible. At the end of each level there is a boss, for example at the end of the first level this is a fighter jet which shoots its machine guns down at the cliff you find yourself standing on while you try to dodge the bullets and take it out. The gameplay is deliciously old school. It’s simple to pick up but with room to master. Basically you move with the D-pad and shoot with one button and then have a button which uses what is called the ‘mega-crash’. This is your screen clearing/heavy damage bomb button, which tends to be good either for when you’re surrounded and in danger, or to deal heavy damage to bosses. The gameplay is really simple, you basically shoot everything – enemies, item boxes to open them, and trees or gates or other things which hinder your progress – all while trying to get shot as infrequently as possible. During certain levels you will be able to get into certain vehicles. These include tanks, boats and jeeps and as well as providing a little extra armour to you they’re also great fun and help to break things up a bit, if you enjoy arcade style games then you’re bound to get a fair bit of fun from this.

The original mode, is sort of a rearranged mode with a few neat touches. You start off with one soldier, you only have one life and your weapon starts off pretty darn pathetic. At first you feel seriously underpowered to take on what the game will throw at you and this is much harder than the arcade mode. In fact at the end of the first level you basically have to defeat the arcade level one boss and take so little damage that you will have enough life to make your way into the second level. I would strongly recommend starting with the arcade mode and playing this as sort of game-plus kind of thing.

In this mode you wont find any extra lives but as you progress you will find fellow soldiers/mercs. These mercs will have different guns, basically they are the guns you can collect in the arcade mode but here each gun is tied to a different guy and once you have more than one you can tactically switch between them, thereby using the right guy for the right situation. As you gain more items the weapons you have will become a lot more powerful but you will need to decide which of your characters needs to pick up what is in front of you, be it food or power-up icons. These extra guys essentially become your extra lives, but if you only concentrate on powering up one of them then when he dies well the others are basically screwed. You will collect medals on your journey and these become a form of currency you can use in shops in order to power your guys up. This added mode is a lot tougher to complete and I feel it adds a heck of a lot more to this title, in fact when I have gotten the arcade version of Mercs on various compilation collections I have often found myself feeling like i’d prefer to have the Mega Drive version which is something you seldom hear said about a conversion. It’s a shame that there has never been an enhanced version of Mercs for later systems offering all of the benefits of both the arcade (multiplayer) and Mega Drive versions.

For a pretty early Mega Drive game this game has really good graphics. It’s the kind of thing that people would have wrongly called arcade perfect back in the day. They are in fact not identical to the arcade’s graphics but they are quite frankly close enough for me to not care at all. Everything looks correct and runs smoothly and when you throw in what I find to be a brilliant action-packed soundtrack it all just fits and offers up what I would personally consider an amazing experience. I have actually found myself humming bits from this game long after I have finished playing it which for me is always a sign of a good video game soundtrack. As I try my Mega Drive games on both a 50hz and 60hz console I want to briefly touch on that in my reviews, as far as Mercs goes it actually doesn’t feel much different when played on either set up, although if you do play the game on a Japanese console you do get the alternative title and the story will be shown in Japanese.

OK, I suppose it is time to give Mercs a score. I happily give this game nine out of 10. It’s great fun and as well as bringing the arcade game home it offers a mode with a little more challenge which helps it last longer as a home experience, I guess it just the lack of multiplayer which makes it lose out on the perfect 10 out of 10 score for me. But I’d still rather have this version than its arcade counterpart.

If you want to buy this game how much is it likely to cost you? Well PAL carts seem to start around the £7 mark with boxed copies starting at roughly double that, both of which I think are good prices for this game. Obviously if you want to give it a bash I would advice you to look around and decide if you want a loose cart or a complete copy and then go for the best one you can find bearing condition and price in mind.

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