Tag: retro games

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.

150 SNES games reviewed: #2 Bombuzal (aka Ka-Blooey)

The game I am reviewing today (18 August 2014) was originally called Bombuzal and was made by a company called Image Works.

It was originally released for the Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64 but in 1990 they brought out a SNES version. For a reason unknown to me the US version which is the one I own was retitled Ka-Blooey. I don’t have any opinion if one title is better or not and as I never played this as a kid there is not a name I am more used to.

Image Works didn’t usually make games. They were usually known for being publishers. They published around 40 games and only made about four games themselves, and this is the only one which made its way to the SNES. So this is the last time I will be mentioning them in this series. Strangely enough despite being mostly known for publishing games they didn’t actually publish this on the SNES. This game was in fact published by Kemco, whose name is an abbreviation of Kotobuki Engineering & Manufacturing Co. They were a Japanese video game developer and publisher established in 1984. Kemco is probably best known by SNES owners as the publisher of the Top Gear series but that’s a story for another day.

The whole idea of Ka-Blooey is to try to set off every bomb on a level without killing yourself. At first this seems a little easy – you step up to a bomb, you hold a button, a countdown starts and then you move out of the way just before detonation. I know this sounds very simplistic but think about most good puzzle games. Tetris is just a game where you spin blocks around and form lines and yet that was probably one of the most popular puzzle games ever wasn’t it? Yes, the game starts off very simplistic but more or less every level something new is thrown in to the mix, and new problems are presented for you to try and overcome by using your grey matter to formulate a plan using everything you have learned up to this point.

There are apparently more than 130 levels and they get more and more challenging as you go. The graphics at the time were trying to be all 3D and cool, your sprite is large and has quite a bit of characterisation but in this regard the game hasn’t aged well. The water for example is just made up of blue rectangles. Sure everything is functional and easy to see so you can never blame the graphics for your failure so at least it has that going for it. The music can best be described as what elevator music must sound like to a man on acid. Add to this the fact that there are only something like five actual in game sounds – a teleporter sound; an explosion sound; a sliding sound; a dying sound; and a voice saying ”get ready”. The game is far from being either an audio or visual treat.

If you’re into games with a story then it is important to note this game has literally no plot at all. Sure a lot of great puzzle games don’t have plots but with this game having a central character you look at I do think a tiny bit of a story would help push you to make your way through the levels.

As you get further you will see that there are different kinds of bombs and you need to get used to how they blow up, how you can use this to your advantage and how to make sure you don’t end up blowing yourself up. On later levels there are enemies such as boulders and some weird looking things (I have no idea what they are actually supposed to be) which go around and which you need to blow up. There are also obstacles like ice blocks that make you slide and cracked blocks that fall after you walk over them and hard blocks that can’t be blown up.

The game controls OK, but it moves very slowly which doesn’t work in its favour. I never once found myself being particularly excited by it. At times you felt smart for working a problem out, but really from my perspective there was far more grind than there was enjoyment and that’s not the sign of a good game.

If I am to be totally honest I rate the game smack down the middle five out of 10. If you want to buy retro games there are a lot of better games out there to spend your money on.

It’s a functional puzzle game which both frustrates and rewards but at the end of the day it is deeply forgettable. I think I would have been a lot happier if I had played this game back on the Commodore 64 or the Amiga as it probably would have been a reasonably cheap game but if I had paid the price of a standard SNES game for this at launch I would have felt pretty darn annoyed.

As far as I can tell this game never got a PAL release, so if you want to play it then you’re going to have to buy an American Ka-Blooey or a Japanese Bombuzal cart. There is no real need to read anything for this game so either would probably be fine as long as you have either an import machine, a modified machine or a convertor. The price for this game cart only seems to be around £7 to £10. I got mine years ago when I was in Canada in what can best be described as a giant charity store for about CAN$3 after tax was added (they add tax at the till on top of the price you see on the shelf/tag, unlike ours which is included in the price you see).

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