Tag: retro games

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.

150 SNES games reviewed #31: Alien 3

Alien 3 was developed by Probe Entertainment and Eden Entertainment Software, published In North America, Europe, and Japan by Arena Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment, LJN, and Virgin Interactive.

It is half-based on the film Alien 3. I have to say half-based because it’s set on the prison planet from the film and Ripley is shaved bald, but then there are a lot of differences between the game and the film. In the film there is one alien and no one has any weapons. In the game this is completely altered. Ripley, the main character, has all the guns from the previouis film in the franchise Aliens and there is a never ending amount of xenomorphs. I guess it is easy to see why they did this. After all, a game where you spend your whole time running away from one super powerful creature with nothing much to defend yourself sounds a lot harder to get right than a game where you spray lead at a never ending assortment of alien scum.

In fact it looks like it has taken until now – almost 21 years later – for someone to have a crack at a game which is based around the idea of being stalked by one single alien from the Aliens films. I am of course talking about Creative Assembly’s game Alien: Isolation, which delivers exactly that kind of experience and it has done a fantastic job of it. It also made DLC based on the original movie Alien, and maybe with its similar one alien killing people set-up it might one day make Alien 3 DLC. Maybe a game that would have followed the film Alien 3 more correctly and still be good and not cost a fortune in research and development just simply wasn’t possible back then – still, I digress.

Graphically, the game is pretty good for the time. Ripley’s sprite is large and for the most part it’s not bad at all. The clothes look right, the basic shape is right but maybe it’s just me but there is something almost alien about her neck and the lack of facial features makes her look a little like Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. There are lots of little cool touches though, like how her gun swings by her side as she’s climbing the monkey bars so I guess maybe I am being a little harsh. The backgrounds are multi-layered for that 3D style look, they are also very detailed. The backgrounds are overly used though with five or six repeated again and again. Add to that there are bits of scenery in the foreground that you can’t see through. Sometimes there are aliens behind these and this means that you need to either run the risk of being harmed or shoot just in case which wastes your sometimes limited ammo.

There is not a lot in the way of sounds but what is there is good. The gunfire sounds great and so do the screams of the aliens you kill. The game has pretty darn good presentation, a nice opening, I also have to tip my hat to the bits where you log into a computer. They do a pretty good job of making you feel like your chracter is actually using a real computer in the game’s universe and the game over failure screen is also suitably awesome.

What about the gameplay though? Well I find the game enjoyable in small bits but I definitely don’t think it’s a classic or anything. The controls are very good and everything works just as it should which you would think would make this a good game. But sadly there are other issues with the gamplay. I think one of the things the game is lacking is it needs a more detailed map you can easily bring up. Yes, there is a mini map radar thing which lets you know when something is approaching you, but this is more to help keep you from getting hit and doesn’t really help you get around easily. I think what the game really needs more than anything though is a bit more variety. Everything looks the same, you’re always killing the same things, mostly in places that look the same. This game is very time consuming, and can at times be very difficult. It’s easy to get lost and some of the missions seem more complex than they need to be. There are a few alien bosses here and there but they aren’t too hard. The problem is it all starts to feel a bit like a chore at times which is not how a game should feel. I think the maze like quality of the game, coupled with the mission structure, just didn’t quite work in total honesty. I think it would have been better to have strayed even further from the film and offered up something a little more arcade like, something a bit like Konami’s Aliens arcade machine which was primarily a side-scrolling shooter but also had third-person rail shooter parts. Yes, that game possibly soiled the source material even more by introducing blue zombies and other such things to the game but sometimes you just have to say to hell with the plot, let’s roll out the fun boys.

All in all Alien 3 is pretty much an average game so I feel I should give it five out of 10 and simply say it’s not really worth bothering with unless you’re a die hard SNES collector and want every cart you can get, or your a die hard fan of the Alien film series and all of its spin off media. If you’re more of a casual fan of the Aliens universe and you want a good fun retro Alien related game I recommend you get Aliens Trilogy on the PlayStation. It’s a first person Doom-style shooter but it’s brilliant, fun, fast and wrapped in movie sounds and neat touches.

If you do decide you need to own Alien 3 then there are plenty of PAL carts of it about online around the £8 to £10 range with boxed copies starting around the £15 mark. There are several complete copies of Alien Trilogy for PlayStation on eBay at the moment for around the £5 mark including postage. If you own a PlayStation I’d go for that instead for your Aliens retro fix. Oh and if you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One then seriously give Alien: Isolation a try, it’s an excellent game.

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