Tag: Snes

150 SNES games reviewed #40: Acrobat Mission

Once again I am doing a review of a SNES game which started out life as an arcade machine before being converted. You would think it means once again I’m going to be talking about things that were left out and changes that were made.

But no, the main difference here is the game I am writing about today is probably one you have never heard of as it was only released in Japan. I can’t remember ever having seen or played the arcade machine so I’m not going to worry about that and judge it based on itself and to a least some degree its competition on the SNES.

When I tell you that the name of the game is Acrobat Mission you will probably say what kind of name is that for a game? Is it some kind of platformer where you are an acrobat? No, it’s a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

The first thing I noticed was that as the game began the story scrolled up the screen and I could read it. Yes, it’s a Japanese game but literally all of the language in it – the options and the story – is in English which makes it pretty cool for importers.

The graphics looked colourful but basic. In fact you could almost believe you were playing a NES game. I pressed all of the buttons and only one of them actually seemed to do anything and that was shoot. The next thing I tried was holding down the button assuming that there would be some kind of charge attack and nothing happened. I carried on playing it not really expecting much from it, then as things went on it hit me this game ran at a nice speed. Even though the player’s ship seems to be a really basic sprite a lot of the enemies seem to be larger and more detailed. Then I began to collect power ups and found not only did they affect the way my ship fired they also allowed me to do charged shots if I held the button. The bombs I collected actually appeared on the ship and disappeared once I worked out the button which you have  to press to fire them (so in the end there are two buttons to use). When you die, which you will because it is a reasonably tough game, instead of instantly exploding or disappearing your ship actually sort of limps along with steam coming out of it. While this is happening you’re still in control and can steer your burning spaceship. In fact you can steer it into something so when it explodes you can take enemies with you. I found this to be a really neat and interesting little idea.

The graphics are not the best but there is a lot of variety. It puts Super Strike Gunner, which I reviewed previously, to shame in this area. It also has large bosses. The first is a large battleship which is so long it is actually about four screens in length and covered in guns. The bullets it fires are larger than your ship and it can be tough because it tracks your movement and shoots at you. Another interesting fact is you don’t die if you physically touch enemy ships. If you run into bullets you’re screwed but you can fly through enemies and get away with it. There is also space debris which can get in the way of your ship and your shots. This is something I like sure it’s another simple touch but the beauty of this game is all of its simple touches.

As for the bad side, by shoot-em-up standards this game has a very limited selection of weapon pick-ups. There is the standard shot and then two or three special shots you can get by picking up letters. Compare this to the tonne of weapons in other shooters at the time such as UN Squadron and it’s a little disappointing.

Another problem some people have with the game is how short it is, this game relies on being very hard after the first two levels to prolong the game. There are only five stages, and when you think that this game was at one point a full priced retail game that seems to be a few short of what I think would be a fair number.

I would give this game a hearty seven out of 10. It’s not perfect but it was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately its not available either as a PAL or US NTSC cart, but with its heavy use of English and the fact it ran on both a modified machine and a very simple converter this is not a bad game for someone who wants to start importing. Or at least it would be if you could find a cheap copy. The only copy I can see online at the moment is £25. I bought this from someone as a package deal – seven Japanese carts for £14, all of which were sports games apart from this one.

150 SNES games reviewed #39: James Pond’s Crazy Sports (aka The Super Aquatic Games)

You have your Sonics and your Marios, then there are all the lesser-known platforming heroes – some of which are in games which could rival the likes of the above and others who are in games that are poor, pale imitations.

If you owned an Amiga there were certain characters you were bound to know and love, and one of these was James Pond. He was a well-loved star of several games but they weren’t Amiga exclusive. In fact I think all of them ended up on the Mega Drive, and the SNES got everything apart from his first game. (James Pond 2: Codename Robocod was released on the SNES under the name Super James Pond, almost ignoring that there was a previous game.)

Now you might think that I am going to be talking about Super James Pond or its sequel James Pond 3: Operation Starfish but actually the game I am going to be talking about today is James Pond’s Crazy Sports (known as The Super Aquatic Games in the US, and just The Aquatic Games on Mega Drive). Basically this game took the character of James Pond and used him to front  an aquatic-themed parody of the sports mini games joystick wigglers like Konami’s Track & Field.

This game is the only James Pond title not to be a platformer. You can’t help but think the developers had the idea they could spin the character off in to other genres and in doing so might help him to grow in fame and begin to approach Mario levels.

The first thing I noticed when booting this game up was that I knew the opening music. I more than knew it, it was something I have found myself humming before and then it hit me it was a particularly cheery eight-bit version of Ode to Joy (from Beethoven’s ninth symphony). I have to say this was a good start as I put a smile on my face before I had even pressed a button.

Now in talking about James Pond’s Crazy Sports, I have to admit some of these issues are not really raised in relation to the game but to the whole genre at that time. There’s only so much you can do when it’s bang buttons like mad till you win or lose. It tires your fingers, you get blooming scared you will break the pad. The game does nothing to teach you how to play it so you end up spending so much time just messing around working out what you are supposed to be doing. Sure back in the day you would have had the manual and that would have helped but it wouldn’t have been that hard to put some in game instructions – some text on the screen – before an event? All of the games are really basic and despite my best efforts I couldn’t come anywhere, I admit I didn’t hammer the pad as hard as a kid would have done back when this came out but who really wants to risk breaking a joypad from an old system when the number out there is finite?

I loved the three James Pond platformers as a kid. I found them funny charming and enjoyable. I even enjoyed picking up the Nintendo DS re-release of the second one so the problem here is I was and am invested in the character. I think James Pond rules and if you can’t manage to sell a spin-off to someone who clearly loves the original franchise then you are clearly barking up the wrong tree.

It’s just a shame. The game’s bright, has good music, but just doesn’t deliver. It feels souless and shallow and well I feel I need to give it 2.5 out of 10 – a sad, sad day for James Pond.

At first I thought it didn’t even hit these shores as all the copies I saw were American and between £10 to £15. Add to the fact that a modfied machine wont even play it without a heavy-duty Datel Universal Adapter and it’s expensive. But then I realised that in the UK it had a different name and it’s about £8 to £10 for a PAL game, but it’s still not worth it.

150 SNES games reviewed #38: Looney Tunes: Road Runner (aka Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally)

What is in a name? I often find it funny when the name of a game gets changed from region to region. Sometimes there are legal reasons, sometimes they just think a particular name will help something sell better to a certain group of people.

Here we have a game known in Europe as Looney Tunes: Road Runner, in the US as Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally, and in Japan as Looney Tunes: Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote. The game is based on the Looney Tunes characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Maybe the name has something to do with the cartoons popularity or image in each region who knows. What I do know is I probably like Japan’s title the best, as Wile E. Coyote is the star of the show in my mind. Sure we are supposed to like Road Runner, but why? Because he runs away a lot and makes cheeky little meep meep noises? I cant help but relate to Wile E. the guy/animal who is just trying to do what is expected of him – trying to eat and survive, and keeps having life backfire in his face.

I walked into this expecting a mediocre game, largely because it is made by Sunsoft and its a Looney Tunes game, so I was judging it a little bit based on my thoughts on Taz-mania which I played a while ago.

The graphics are pretty decent. They have a fair degree of character in them but don’t get bogged down with too much detail. The sprites for Wile E. and the Runner are cool, and the graphics automatically remind you of the old cartoon while still managing to be clear and not get in the way of the game itself. If I have one major gripe in this area it is the backgrounds are the same throughout the entire level, this does make things seem a little more boring at times than they perhaps should but I guess its not the worst thing in the world. The sound in this game is a little hard for me to judge. Sound effects wise there is very little, there’s the typical skidding noise, a jump noise, a pecking noise, the odd meep meep and a few noises associated with things attacking you. The music for the levels sits right on the middle of the fence between being catchy and annoying to the point that I cant even come to a conclusion if I like it or hate it. All I can say is you won’t find yourself doing a Mario and humming any of this later when you have moved away from the console.

The gameplay is kind of what you’d expect. You’re the runner and you run, Wile E. is constantly after you and you are trying to escape from him. So each level has you running past obstacles, making jumps and trying to find your way until you reach the finish. Usually at the end of the level there will be some quick confrontation with Wile E. For example in the first level he chases you with a steam roller, you win and you get to see him beaten usually in the end somehow by one of his own devices in typical comic fashion. The ways that he tries to stop you may change but the strategies and weak points are always pretty easy to work out and adapt to on the fly. The largest flaw is that the gameplay is repetitive, which gives you no incentive to play the game for extended periods. The speed at which the game can move sometimes beceoms an issue as things fly past without giving you adequate time to deal with them. It was almost enough to make me wish that I was playing a PAL copy on a PAL machine to see if the usual drop in speed PAL games can experience helped. Knowing other games I have set aside to review though I know that this is an issue quite a few platformers bumped into, some of them could really have used a good long play on the Sonic the Hedgehog games to look at how they deal with this issue.

Looney Tunes: Road Runner is an average game in every single way. It just leaves you with a feeling of complete and utter averageness. It’s not good enough to remember, nor is it bad enough to laugh at or get mad at. It just exists in the middle neither good nor bad. Five out of 10 all day long.

If you want to try it a PAL cart will fetch you about £10 you might get an American for closer to £5 but strangely the Japanese copies I have seen have cost more money. Maybe people don’t realize that it’s the same game or maybe did not come out over there. Who knows? Sometimes the retro video game market is a beast with no rhyme or reason.

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