Tag: Super Nintendo

150 SNES games reviewed #35: UN Squadron

U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooting game which came out in arcades in 1989. It was programmed by Capcom and released for use on their CPS arcade hardware. I won’t explain what this was but if you look back at my Final Fight review there is an explanation there.

The game was released in Japan under the name Area 88, the same name which was used for the Super Famicom (Japanese version of this game).

The game is a typical side-scrolling shooter, unlike many of Capcom’s other shooters around this time such as their 1940 series which are vertical-scrolling shooters. It was based on a Manga series Area 88 which never really came to these shores. But the game has a nice intro which explains the rough idea behind the story.

Unlike some shooters which are one hit and you’re dead this game is a little different. If you’re hit then your plane is damaged but if you can keep it safe from harm for a little while then you’ll be fine. This actually adds to the excitement, you will find yourself going: ‘OK I have got to keep away from the enemies as you keep trying to dodge incoming fire and hold on’. When you manage it you will thump the air in triumph, and when you fail you will curse yourself for not having quick enough reflexes but the main thing is it always feels like any failures are down to your own lack of skills.

Before starting a level you get the option of purchasing special weapons or added defense options from the shop. As you shoot down enemies you gain cash and at the end of the level any special weapons you purchased and did not use get converted back in to funds and added to your cash reserve. This is a great little addition as once you get better at the early levels you can try to challenge yourself with the added benefit of an easier time in later missions by trying to complete the earlier ones on a strict budget allowing you to hold back enough money to kit your plane out with lots of special weapons for the later missions.

If you were a big fan of Capcom then the SNES was definitely the machine for you to get your arcade fix on back in the day. If you have read my Final Fight review then you might be asking what has been dropped from the original arcade version?

Well the SNES version is not an exact replica of the coin-op. Yes, it is a port and yes, this port does have certain things missing and disappointingly one of these missing things is once again the two-player mode. Some of the game’s levels are different or modified from the arcade version but it is not always in a bad way. It’s not really a worse version. it’s more of a slightly remixed version. In this case they didn’t just strip things from the game, there are actually a few additions including some more weapons and the chance to purchase different aircraft. Ignoring the missing two-player mode this game is no worse than the arcade machine, it’s just a little bit of a different version.

With bright graphics, enjoyable music and epic action it is hard to see what this game could do better. The end of the level will see you meeting some kind of large end of level boss which you will have to defeat. At this point you better hope you have held something back to save the day.

I would have to give this game eight out of 10. It’s a darn good scrolling shooter. The only thing it is really lacking which would make me bump the score up would be a two-player mode, at this point some of you must be wondering if Capcom ever managed to bash out a high-quality SNES game which catered for more than one.

If you want to try this game you will most likely be paying £15 minimum for a cart of it. I managed to get one for £10 but it took a heck of a lot of looking around and waiting. Capcom have actually made quite a few of those classic collections but U.N. Squadron has never seemed to make the cut, and this is probably one of the reasons it holds its price.

150 SNES games reviewed #11: Championship Pool

Championship Pool came out in 1993 and, as you can obviously tell from the title, it is a pool simulation. It was released for the NES, SNES, Game Boy and the Mega Drive. It was developed by Bitmasters and released by Mindscape.

The game is straightforward, it is a virtual version of pool, in which you can play either a one-off game, tournaments, multiplayer or even just practice. I like the presentation on this game, it offers you what looks like a wealth of choice and options but it also has a layer of style. Your opponents are represented by little pictures, you get to see the coin toss for who goes first, etc but once you actually start playing looks wise there is nothing to separate this from any budget pool game you could pick up on the live markets of various device stores.

In the past I don’t remember there being a whole lot of games based on either pool or snooker, at least not on consoles. The truth is I hadn’t even played this one when I was a kid. I brought this game for £3.50 with free postage from eBay purely for this series. I did own a pool game when I was a Mega Drive/SNES owner but it was Side Pocket on the Mega Drive and I never looked for another one as that always filled my pocketing needs. When I try to compare this in my mind to Side Pocket then that wins, but I cant really be sure if it’s a fair competition having not played Side Pocket in 10 years, and maybe I am remembering it through the eyes of a child.

The main thing that annoys me about Championship Pool is it seems to be very unforgiving even on your first opponents – you break, pocket a ball. take a shot pocket another ball. and then you miss. You would think that you would watch your opponent take their shots and then when they screw up you would be put back in control, but that’s not quite how it works. Someone decided that watching the computer play would be boring or something, so instead they’ve made it so you when you screw up, it says it’s the computers go, you get a screen saying that the computer has had its go and now it’s your turn again. You have a look and the computer has pocketed four balls – four balls which you have no idea how many shots it took it to pocket, four balls you don’t feel you could have got given six shots due to where they laid on the table the last time you saw them. So the computer’s fortune seems to almost border on an unholy pact with the Devil and you have no way of seeing how they achieved this Herculean pool feat and you just have to shrug and go OK. Problem is you then pot another ball and then miss then you get a message saying the computer took its shots and won the game, you don’t even get to see the winning shot.  This just makes me feel very disconnected from it all. I know that in a lot of games everything is decided by random dice throws or some form of statistical probability matrix but when you can see it happening you kind of forget this and get drawn in to the magic of it all.

I would rate this game four out of 10. It might have got better out of me back in the day but nowadays there are so many pool or snooker-based games you could try. Looking online it seems like the going rate for the cart only PAL is about £8. It can go for more and sometimes you see it for less, I even managed to get my cart for £3.50 with free postage. So if you have a SNES and don’t have many games it wont break the bank. I am not saying my four out of 10 is a concrete score, read the good and the bad sides and see what you think about them, it might not annoy you like it does me.

150 SNES games reviewed: #6 The Rocketeer

So I tried to play The Rocketeer and prior to the game starting there were a few screens with drawings and words, but with my Japanese copy they were of very little help.

The game starts and what I am met with is nothing like I imagined. In my head this game was a 2D R-Type style shoot ’em up, where I flew from left to right as the rocketeer saving the day and instead here I am flying a yellow what looks like a crop dusting plane against a red and a blue plane round and round these pillars in a race.

The controls are clunky at best and things seem to favor the AI controlled planes. If I hit them it send me towards the ground. If they hit me the same thing happens, I head towards the ground. I failed to finish the race time and time again. I just can’t seem to manage the 10 laps but I push on with the hope this is just the start and if I can somehow get through this there will be the glorious treat of seeing my character strap on the rocketeer’s rocket pack and I will be flying shooting and doing something much better.

Eventually I finish the race but in second place, I am shown the same failure screen I have been met with so many times before, but I try again and again spurred on by the hope of something better – eventually. I finish first I scream to the heavens in triumph – rocket pack here I come – but no I am robbed. I am back in the plane racing again but this time I need to complete 15 laps not 10. Another hour passes, I get better at managing 10 laps, but can’t manage 15 so I am stuck. I press reset and leave the machine in the hope it will play a gameplay demo which will at least show me some future stages. I need to see something worth playing to renew my hope.

So I watch with bated breath and the first thing it shows me is what I have just been doing. I wait a little longer and there he is The Rocketeer…. and he is flying around and around racing with the same bloody planes on the same course. This is when I simply gave in, I decided the game might change, you might finish one more race and get the rocket pack and then one more and fight crime but it doesn’t matter because I will never bloody see it.

I got this game in a lot of four Japanese games for £10 and that kinda seems too expensive. I won’t claim I am the first person to say this – that honour goes to Dara Ó Briain of Mock the Week fame – but:

“Video games are the only form of media which withholds content from its users unless they are good enough at it. A book or film has never quizzed anyone or made them pass a test to be allowed to continue reading or watching.”

When I first heard him say this it didn’t quiet make sense, after all it’s the challenge that makes video games what they are, is it not? Now I have flown around this course 300 times it makes a little more sense. When I reviewed fellow movie license Hook I said how good it was that Tinkerbell just flew in sprinkled you with fairy dust and got rid of the need for levels which would have featured a boring powerless Peter Pan and by playing fast and loose like that with the source material had led to a better game. Well, this kind of treatment would have been very welcome with The Rocketeer, just skip the dull plane flying and races and slap him in the suit from stage one.

The graphics are about as basic as you can get on the SNES and I can say pretty much the same about the sound. I haven’t mentioned them until now as even if this was the best 16-bit game I had ever seen or heard it would not make up for the awful gameplay. Another thing that annoyed me is the two player mode. I foolishly thought maybe you’d race against each other but no it’s one of those you watch me play a life then I will watch you. A further annoyance is that despite the two player being of a take turns variety it still expects you to have two joy-pads. If it’s only one at a time then a pass the pad system would have been a nice little choice. Overall I have to give the game two out of 10, its that blah.

I already mentioned what I paid so how much would you have to pay if you fancy being a video game masochist? There does not appear to be a PAL version as far as I can tell but if you hit eBay you can get a Japanese cart for £5, but again you will need a foreign console, modified machine or converter and a lack of self-preservation.

I recommend you don’t bother. In fact I am going to go so far as to recommend a modern game which you can get much cheaper. A game which I think represents the idea of being a rocketeer much better than this piece of excrement, despite being its own IP.  The game I recommend is Dark Void. Sure it didn’t get brilliant reviews, but I really enjoyed it and its now super cheap I saw it in Game the other day for £2, and although its never going to be considered a classic I consider it something of a flawed gem.

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