Tag: Nintendo

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 #30: Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart – what can I say about it that you won’t all have heard a million times?

I cant even build anticipation by trying to hold my opinion back until the end and starting this review by talking facts and figures. So let’s just start by saying I love this game and work from there.

Mario Kart was developed by Nintendo EAD it came out in 1992 in the US and Japan and 1993 in Europe. It went on to sell nine million copies worldwide. This figure in the end made it the third best selling SNES game overall. If you add this on to all of the sales it has made digitally with its release on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles then you start to realise what a golden egg laying goose this game has been for Nintendo.

Nowadays everyone knows what Mario Kart is and the announcement of a new version is met with an onslaught of happiness, sales jumps for the platform it’s coming to and a media frenzy. It wasn’t always quite like this as far as I can remember though. When people first got wind of the original Mario Kart the responses were more on the lines of what the heck is Nintendo doing? Sure Mario had been used for tiny cameos in Nintendo sports related titles and such but a babyish looking car racing game, ‘What were they thinking?’ was the sort of question I remember being asked by other kids at school. There was a genuine belief by some that Nintendo had lost the plot. Yet not one kid could manage to keep this opinion after they had played it. A lot of the guys at school did that thing guys at school always seemed to do when presented with something that proved there initial opinion wrong, they denied ever having said a bad word, they claimed that they had been Nintendo’s biggest supporter all along and knew that Mario Kart would be an all time classic from its inception.

Super Mario Kart received positive reviews across the board no one seemed to have a negative word to say about it. Apart from Sega that is, who tried to use it in their adverts to show Nintendo to be some kind of slow, old-fashioned baby toy compared to their sleek, fire-breathing Mega Drive (the advert were Mario Kart is running on the side of an old caravan. This now seems crazy because Mario Kart is not a slow game).

Mario Kart is often credited with creating the cart racing genre. More than this though it was the game that gave people a sense of confidence that Nintendo could achieve anything they tried after the first Mario Kart game. If Nintendo had told you they were making Mario’s Bungee Jump Massacre you would just nod and go: “They know what they are doing.”

For those of you who haven’t played the original Mario Kart, the young and hermits, I will quickly talk a little about the game itself. In Super Mario Kart the player takes control of one of eight Mario characters, each with different qualities – high top speed, good acceleration, great handling. All of them are basically equal but lend themselves to certain play-styles. In the single player mode players can race against computer controlled characters in multi-race tournaments trying to win the gold, silver or bronze cups. There are power-ups found on the track, you pick up flashing boxes which then give you one of several power-ups – a red shell which acts like a heat seeking missile, a banana skin which causes anyone who drives over it to skid out, etc. The screen is always split in two with one half showing you racing and the other showing a map. The graphics are not necessarily amazing for the time, they are however colourful and full of character. This is not just some carting game with Mario and co thrown in it, you actually feel like you’re driving through the Mario game lands and this is one of the game’s greatest advantages. The music is brilliant, you can hear noises related to your driving – the car engine, the tyres skidding – but they are always nice little background touches never interfering with the great music that plays.

I just cant fault this game. The SNES version is still brilliant. I wasn’t going to review this game so early on but recently I brought my third copy of this game. I got a Japanese cart for £5 loose and ever since the day I got it I have put it in to my machine and had 20 minutes on it every single day. Some games age badly but this is still brilliant and I feel sure I could put this in the slot 20 years down the line and still feel the need to play it, for this reason I can not help but give it 10 out of 10.

If you want Mario Kart the news is good in that It is still available on both the Wii U and Wii Virtual Consoles and is well worth the cash. With a bit of effort you should be able to get a PAL cart of this for about £17 or a boxed copy for around £40. It’s super popular but it sold by the shed load so there’s no shortage of copies.

BONUS CONTENT: Super Mario Kart R

Having played Mario Kart to death both on the SNES and all of the other future systems it has appeared on I realised there had been a few Mario Kart mods over the years but one of them in particular kept appearing on eBay and other selling sites actually on cartridge. The mod/game in question is called Mario Kart R. With this learned I got myself a ROM file of it and put it on my Super Everdrive. Now normally I have not reviewed games on the SNES which I don’t own officially licensed copies of but seeing as this was a ROM hack I thought what the heck. Overall I enjoyed playing it and I would say that if you are a fan of the original and would like to play a little more of something like that then give it a bash. Here is my YouTube video review for your viewing pleasure.

150 SNES games reviewed #28: Ryan Giggs Champions World Class Soccer

Ryan Giggs Champions World Class Soccer was the game I played a little last night as well as early this morning. It is obviously a football (soccer) game and it was released on the SNES as well as the Mega Drive. It was developed by Park Place Productions and published by Acclaim.

You might not have heard of Park Place Productions largely because they were a bit of a bright light that burnt out very quickly. They were founded in 1989 and in 1993 they had become the largest independent developer of computer games. They had  130 developers making 45 games for 14 different publishers. At the end of December 1993 the company collapsed spectacularly. Basically they didn’t hit some targets they had been set by publishers and as a result of this they were denied payments, pulled out of contracts and literally left Park Place Productions up the creek without a paddle.

The first thing to note is that the whole Ryan Giggs thing is a bit of a con. The UK release featured a picture of the player on the game box and the cartridge label but any real connection to the guy or inclusion of his name ends there. The German version featured a player famous to them Sepp Maier, and the French featured a team likely to interest them, Paris Saint-Germain. None of the three have anything to do with the game beyond the box art and cartridge label though so from now on sod Giggs I will be referring to this as Champions World Class Soccer (or CWC Soccer if I get lazy).

Modes of play included in the game are the standard type, exhibition match and tournament mode. There are the obvious options to turn certain things off and mess with how long the matches last etc but nothing out of the ordinary.

The game’s presentation is pretty decent. There is a TV announcer talking about the match before it starts – talking as in text along the bottom of the screen, but the text is pretty cool. It mentions which team you are and what is good or bad about you. For example I got something on the lines of the following for my first match: “England have always been good at defence but there shooting record is a little unpredictable”. The in game graphics are pretty much the bog standard average football game graphics from this point in time so I don’t have a lot to say about them, they don’t make or break the game.

I like the fact that there is a big blue star around the character you are in control of. It is very easy to know who you are and then there is a button which seems to exist just to help you do little tricks either dribbling the ball around your feet, turning backwards for a second or shooting forward quickly – well, quickly for this game. Unfortunately this is the point at which my review has to get a little bit sour I am afraid that personally I feel that the gameplay is bad. The game is slow, both passing and shooting are hard and frustrating to the point you’ll soon find yourself turning the air blue. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for your character to become properly attached to the ball like you do in most football games. You will have ran on to the ball and it just wont end up under your control so you’ll be running backwards and forwards hoping it attaches to you and then a computer controlled player will just run straight up and claim it with no problem or pause in proceedings.

In my opinion this game is the worst SNES football game I have played so far. I like the TV start, I like the fact it makes it obvious who you are but I don’t really like the controls or the gameplay. It also didn’t give me my any of my demands such as great goal scoring animations or a voice shouting “Goal!”. I would give this game four out of 10 . It’s not unplayable but there are much better games out there for your cash. If you decide that you simply need this game to live the good point is it will cost you only £4 or £5 to buy it online and get it posted to you.

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