Tag: retro games

150 SNES games reviewed #20: Cannon Fodder

Cannon Fodder can best be described as an action-strategy shooting game. It was developed by Sensible Software and originally published by Virgin Interactive for the Amiga in 1993.

It got rave reviews across the board from pretty much every Amiga magazine at the time despite also causing controversy with its humorous take on war. Virgin soon ported the game to other home computer systems as well as to the Jaguar, Mega Drive, SNES and 3DO.

With my complaints about some other games being ported to the SNES people could expect me to get a bug in my butt about this game. After all, the controls pretty much show themselves to be mouse controls pushed on to a pad (play if for just one minute and you will see what I mean, you move a crosshair on the screen and then press a button to move to that point or another button to shoot in that direction).

The player directs troops through numerous missions, battling enemy infantry, vehicles and installations. The game is incredibly playable – sure, the controls might be a little strange, it might also seem a little basic and maybe in some ways it is, but it just works. What the graphics lack in quality they make up for by having an amusing cuteness to them.

Cannon Fodder doesn’t feature much music. There is no music during the missions themselves. Instead these are accompanied by sounds such as bird cries, and of course gunfire, explosions and the screams of the dying. There are a few tunes that play during the briefing and debriefing screens though and these really help to set the scene.

Cannon Fodder’s greatest strength is its dark humorous tone. This is what made some people originally love it but also caused a lot of controversy. Its creators always talked about how they intended it to convey an anti-war message, which some reviewers and fans at the time recognised and which seems obvious to me now. The problem is that certain newspapers and solider-related charities had real issues with it. They thought it was making war into too light a subject and taking the piss out of those who had suffered and died in war.

Cannon Fodder is definitely a game that I would refer to as a classic, and unlike some other games from this time period it is still very playable. That is in part down to its simplicity but you also need to thank its dark sense of humour. This was a rare treat of a game in the fact there was a message hidden behind the action, back when other games just wanted to sell themselves to you as mindless action, this game had a point.

Every time a gravestone appears on the hill, every time you have lost a man you cant help but mourn for his death. The soldiers are not just a group of faceless numbers, by giving them names, by allowing them to rank up and by a cross being added to the hill for every loss, you start to view them as people. You have favourites, not many other games achieve this with the exception of Fire Emblem and X-COM. I am going to have to give my first decimal score here. I can’t decide between seven and eight, so 7.5 out of 10 it is.

I was incredibly lucky with this game. I went to a retro store – one which is usually stupidly expensive (they charge £15 for the old NES Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt cart despite having three copies in stock for one) – and all they wanted for this was £4. Having looked online you can get the PAL cart of this game for about £13 or if you want to spend a little more you could get a boxed copy for around £25. Important things to note though are that this game was available on everything so you might be able to get a cheaper version on another format some of them such as the Amiga version have little things which are missing from the SNES version (the title song has amusing lyrics).

150 SNES games reviewed #13: Mecarobot Golf

So you have a game which is basically a vehicle for a real life star, but you find out that he is only a star in your country, and no one else knows who he is, so what do you do?

You could just remove the connection to the star and hope the game sells on its own strengths. You could try and find another person or people famous to the other markets you want to release it in. Or you could just add robots – yeah , that’s what you could do, you could just add robots.

This is what happened to Serizawa Nobuo no Birdie Try, a Japanese Super Famicom game staring Japanese professional golfer Nobuo Serizawa. He was replaced with Eagle the robot and the game got the name Mecarobot Golf because well robot plus anything equals better, doesn’t it?

The whole robot thing is a gimmick. And not a good gimmick, not one layered with reasoning but a rubbish palate swap of an idea. Buying this game I had another game in mind which was the Neo Geo game Super Baseball 2020, a game in which you have whole teams of robots playing baseball together with excellent presentation and gameplay.

Nothing is actually wrong with Mecarobot Golf it controls in a similar way to most golf games with pressing buttons at the right time in accordance to a meter. There are a decent number of holes but the robot thing serves no purpose at all. You don’t even play as a robot – you’re a human trying to beat the robot. I have read notes that there is some story to this game that in the world in which this game exists humanoid robots are considered to be second-class citizens, their rights are limited and one of the things they are not allowed to do is participate in golfing tournaments. So a rich benefactor purchases Eagle and builds all of the golf courses for him to play against the robot on. This story must have just been manual fodder though, as I never got any of that from playing it. All I got was I am playing as a boring generic man against a poor transformer sprite for no real reason at all.

Other than the weirdness of its birth there is nothing to much I can say about the game. The music’s fine, the graphics are decent if not amazing and the game plays fine. It’s just another average five out of 10 game – don’t get drawn in by the robots.

I spent £3 on getting my cart and that includes postage. It doesn’t come up for sale that much over here as its a US import that never saw release here, and in Japan it came out but with the title I have given above. If you do go for it on the rare occasions it surfaces it never seems to go above £10. Heck after buying mine I saw a boxed copy that was a bit beaten and battered for £8.

150 SNES games reviewed #12: Wing Commander

I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Wing Commander. It’s a long running franchise which started out on PC which was then ported to various systems including the SNES, hence me talking about it.

Wing Commander can basically be called a space combat simulation. It wasn’t the first game of its type really but it was unique with its branching mission tree, complex characters and attempt at a cinematic-style story. You start as a rookie pilot aboard the Tiger’s Claw. Before you start blowing stuff up you get to walk around the ship, talk to other pilots, talk to the bartender, etc. There is a lot of stuff there purely to try and make your adventure seem real. For example you can enter the barracks were you will see other pilots sleeping, you will see and hear water dripping into a bucket on the floor and you can open your locker to see your shirt and see what rank you currently are and what medals you have.

Once you visit the briefing room, that’s when things really start. First you attend your briefing where you’re told what your mission will entail and who your co-pilot will be. This is all done with a mix of text, graphics and animation. Once this is over you get to see animation of you running to your ship in your gear with exciting music playing to get you pumped up ready for battle. You start out heading to check points to investigate them and its not long until you meet the vicious feline Kilrathi. In the first mission you’ll have to fly through an asteroid belt and destroy several small lots of Kilrathi before making your way back to your base ship. The best part is if you die you get to watch your own funeral which contains more animation and text than some games bother with for an ending when you’ve completed the whole game and attained everything possible.

I found that the game works quite well at drawing you in to the plot, making you want to see how the story unfolds, and in a very short space of time you begin to form opinions on the other pilots. You forget that they’re all drawings with AI attached and begin to go: “Bossman is cool but I cant stand that Iceman”. With the fact that there is a chalk board on which you can check your kills against other pilots kills it can become quite competitive. There are times that you can almost forget you’re on a game you will get so into it.

The downsides of the game are in my opinion so few and so slight that it is hard to pick real fault, there are more things you can do than there are controls on a SNES pad, but they got around this by means of tricks where you hold one button while pressing another to do something totally different from what that button would normally do.

This game must have done quiet well on the SNES in the day, maybe because there wasn’t a lot of stuff like it. It did so well that a PC expansion pack was turned in to a second Wing Commander SNES game (Wing Commander: The Secret Missions) and Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi was ported to the SNES (but was never released due to financial projections and a drop in SNES sales by the time it was finished, unfortunately). The sad thing is that the original Wing Commander on SNES had been handled by Mindscape on behalf of Origin and what happened was that it tried its best to recreate the PC game on a SNES. Origin handled the second one itself and apparently went to great lengths to tailor it to the SNES to build it from the ground up as a version that would best appeal to Nintendo players.

I would rate Wing Commander as a solid eight out of 10. I have owned my copy since I was young and it was the start of  a brilliant adventure, I happily brought Wing Commander: The Secret Missions and then when I found out that Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was coming to PlayStation and had Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame in it I nearly exploded. I had a look online at prices for this game and you can get the PAL version for like £10, and sometimes it is even boxed for that price, so really you can’t go wrong. The only possible thing worth pointing out is that you can get the PlayStation Wing Commander III complete for the same price and as this is a bit more advanced if you own a PlayStation you might decide that III is in fact a better starting point for you. All of the Wing Commander games are basically linked but they all tell more or less self contained stories so there is no real issue with dipping in to the series at any point.

Back in the SNES’ day there were so many platformers, so many beat ’em ups and so many sports games the real beauty of Wing Commander was and still is that there is so very little on this platform like it, sure we have faster arcade style stuff like Star Fox and then there are the first-person shoot ’em ups like R-Type, but actual tactical space combat like this is not really one of the machine’s big selling points so it makes it stand out all the more.

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