Tag Archives: Super NES

Tetris 2 (Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System & Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1, TOSE & Nintendo

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

First published and brought to consoles in 1993 by Nintendo following the immense success of the 1989 classic designed by Dr. Alexei Pajitnov, Tetris 2 was met with an equal amount of acclaim by critics, with Electronic Gaming Monthly going on record to say that any fans of the first game will surely be satisfied with the sequel as well. Personally, I have a much more dim view of the second game than many others, which may seem like semantics when first thought about, since it’s easy to assume that the second would simply play out more or less identically to the first, but it doesn’t, and there are some key reasons why I think much less of this than the original game.

Graphics – 6/10

Whilst judging the game on it’s visuals, it highly depends on which port is being played. The Game Boy version consists of very little in terms of presentation, and has a much less catchy soundtrack than it’s predecessor. Though games like this are not primarily played for it’s graphics, the original game did have a few different pieces of scenery throughout reminiscent of the country that it came from, but there’s nothing like that in the second. The NES version of course has colour to it, since the Game Boy is a monochromatic system, but there is unfortunately the same lack of additional conceptual design.

Gameplay – 6/10

Nintendo decided to not only port the game to their consoles, but re-invent it as well; in my opinion, resulting in a very underwhelming final product. The objective of the second game is to eliminate blocks pre-emptively fixed on the game board by matching them up with blocks of the same colour or pattern using the falling tetrimino shapes. I found it simply to be dull and unsatisfying compared to the first game, which was designed by a man who understood the very concept of addiction, having studied it for a long time.

Controls – 6/10

Because the tetrimino shapes are structured much differently to those of the first game, yet with the game itself functioning on largely the same control scheme, to me, it doesn’t work anywhere near as well as in the first game. It simply highlights how overly hard the developers tried to fix something that wasn’t broken, and complicated something that did not need to be complicated at all.

Originality – 6/10

Although I can commend Nintendo to a certain extent for trying something new with an overwhelmingly popular gameplay formula, something which by default would have been extremely difficult to even begin to undertake, let alone top, it tuned out to be the wrong decision, and it made for a game that fell well short of the quality of it’s predecessor in my opinion. The idea was passable when it was implemented in Dr. Mario, since it was much more simplistic having the player use two colours at a time, but if Gunpei Yokoi was involved in any way, shape or form with the second Tetris game, it wouldn’t stand out as being among his best works the way I see it.

Niiutral

Niiutral

To summarize, Tetris 2 is just about playable, but nowhere near as fun or as addictive as what the concept had been before that, or what it would be following it. The formula would be vastly improved on with the release of Tetris Plus, but the direct sequel to the biggest one-hit wonder in gaming history certainly failed to live up to the set standards in my opinion.

Score

24/40

6/10 (Average)

Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Konami

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Masahiro Ueno

Producer – Kazumi Kitaue

Release relatively early on in the Super Nintendo’s shelf Life, Super Castlevania IV was a game directed by Masahiro Ueno, who was credited under the name Jun Furano, since Konami at the time prohibited the use of real names), who’s favourite game in the series at that point was the first, and wanted to create a similar experience, minus the frustrations that came with the first. To me, this game is the perfect jumping on point for people who want to indulge in the series, and is vastly superior to the original game in quite a few different ways.

Graphics – 10/10

The most obvious improvement is in the game’s visuals, which are not only many times more realistic-looking than the NES classic, but also present a darker and even grittier atmosphere than the former. The opening sequence in particular has been cited as one of the scariest moments in video gaming among many other critics. Another massive talking point is the soundtrack. Ueno also wanted the environments of this game to be a lot more interactive and believable, and has stated how proud he is regarding how well the music and sound effects were implemented; and to me, this is rightfully so.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from the extensive improvements made to game’s visuals and sound quality, dramatic enhancement was also made to gameplay. The difficulty has been greatly toned down, which I believe is a pivotal factor in determining why this is the best possible starting point for prospective fans of the saga. The original game was much more difficult, and therefore much less accessible to as wide a variety of players as there could have possibly been otherwise. Not only that but there are also longer levels, and by proxy, makes for a longer game overall.

Controls – 10/10

Another extremely positive change is that the control scheme has also been improved on to a great extent. The player can now attack in 8 different directions instead of just one, allowing for more of an edge in combat as well as the elimination of enemies delivering sucker punches that can’t possibly be avoided otherwise. Another feature introduced to the series was the facility to swing from hook to hook using the whip to get around certain obstacles in the game.

Lifespan – 7/10

Super Castlevania IV will take around an hour and a half to finish, which may not seem like very much today (or a lifespan even passable in most modern games), but at the time, it was longer than the average side scroller, and quite literally, three times longer than the original game. The levels are longer and much more drawn out, featuring a bigger map and more enemies added to slow players down. I would be shown what a truly great lifespan was in the following generation, but at the time, a game like Super Castlevania IV was fairly impressive.

Storyline – 3/10

The biggest problem with this game, however, is the fact that the story is exactly the same as that of the original game, and no real innovation or improvement has been made in this aspect. It is simply a re-telling of Simon Belmont’s quest to destroy the newly resurrected Dracula, and rid the world of his castle. The fact that it’s the same story being told again isn’t the only problem either. It’s also still extremely typical of the kind of story that was being attached to most video games at the time, and throughout the previous generation as well.

Originality – 6/10

2D side scrollers were the industry standard at the time, so consequently, there’s not a great deal present to make this game stand out to any great extent. It loses a lot of it’s uniqueness for the fact that isn’t as challenging as the first game, but that isn’t necessarily a bid thing. What is bad, however, is that the general setting and basic premise have been presented before, and despite improvements, there wasn’t much innovation made Outside of this.

Happii

Happii

Overall, despite the few things wrong with it, Super Castlevania IV is easily the best game out of the original four, and I would recommend it to any gamer who has yet to experience any other facet of the series before they try the any game in the original trilogy. It would get better from hereon with the release of Symphony of the Night, but this game is most definitely the best possible place to begin.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Street Racer (Super Nintendo, Sega Mega Drive, Game Boy, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Amiga, Amiga 32CD & PC)

Developer – Vivid Image

Publisher – Ubisoft

After the release of Super Mario Kart, kart-racing games were being developed left, right and centre; one of many company standards and innovations that Nintendo pioneered at the time. Street Racer, to me, was undoubtedly the closest competitor to Super Mario Kart, as there was more depth in gameplay than the likes of Apogee Software’s Wacky Wheels and Sonic Drift for the Game Gear, for example. One thing that I must point out, however, is that it heavily depends on which system the game is being played on, as many of them differ greatly. Personally, I would recommend either the Super Nintendo or Sega Mega Drive port over any of the others, as the PlayStation and Sega Saturn ports, for example, was heavily dubbed down in terms of gameplay and nowhere near as enjoyable as a result.

Graphics – 7.5/10

From a technical standpoint at least, the visuals actually exceed the quality of Super Mario Kart, as mode 7 rendering was used to design the game, and thus it was made a lot more graphically smoother and much more polished than the former. However, whilst the settings are fairly diverse, they’re not as diverse as Super Mario Kart, and I personally believe that artistic merit in visuals should come before graphical capability. The Super Nintendo port also has much more diverse settings than that of the PlayStation, and because the graphics were rendered differently for the PlayStation port, details can also take longer to load up than in the Super Nintendo version. So, not only is the Super Nintendo superior from a conceptual perspective, but it’s superior from a technical perspective too, which to me, would have seemed particularly embarrassing at the time, given that the PlayStation was supposed to be the superior console.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

In terms of gameplay, I think that this is a decent Super Mario Kart clone; but nowadays, that would be pretty much all I would have to say about it, really. There are a few imaginative gameplay modes attributed to it, such as the soccer mode for example, but the problem is it’s just not quite as varied as even the original Super Mario Kart; let alone other games of the kind that have been released since, such as Diddy Kong Racing, for example. So by that logic, at hasn’t held up as well as I initially suspected that it might have done before I started playing it again for the purposes of this review. But as I pointed out earlier, it is much more enjoyable to play the game on the earlier consoles, as alternative gameplay modes were removed from the PlayStation version in particular.

Controls – 10/10

For all ports, there are no problems with the controls; not even for the systems it was later ported to, as the formula had been long since mastered by developers. Something interesting about the PlayStation version was that the game could be switched to a different gameplay mode, which would make the game play out a bit more like the Micro Machines games as opposed to a conventional kart-racing game.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

Though it will take an hour or two to complete each championship mode tournament (if that), very much like Mario Kart and other games of the genre, it then becomes a game that can simply be picked up and played at any time without the worry of needing to make conventional progress. After the championship mode is completed, the game’s lifespan is simply dependant on player’s own personal interest.

Storyline- N/A (10/10)

As a racing game, there wasn’t any cal for any kind of elaborate storyline, and there’s no need for Street Racer to lose marks for not having something that it didn’t require. I think if the developers did try and make a story of it, however, I don’t suspect they will have gotten very far. It’d be particularly hard to make a story out of the characters that are included in the game, I find.

Originality – 3/10

Though this game does have a certain level of uniqueness about it such as the moderate level of diversity in track design, it is essentially a rip-off of Super Mario Kart, and there’s wasn’t enough for me to make it stand out to the extent whereby it would hold up today. I believe this opinion of mine is made even more apparent whilst playing the PlayStation version, as many of the best track design and additional game modes had been taken away; like the life had been sucked out of it, in a sense.

Happii

Happii

Overall, I believe Street Racer makes for a good few hours of entertainment, but I would advise people wanting to try it out to get their hands on the Super Nintendo or Sega Mega Drive version of the game to truly see the game for what it is; a moderately imaginative and fairly enjoyable Mario Kart clone.

Score

44/10

7/10 (Fair)

Star Fox (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD & Argonaut Software

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Katsuya Eguchi

Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto

Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura, Star Fox, or Starwing as it was known in Europe due to copyright issues, Star Fox launched yet another successful Nintendo franchise, with the game receiving commercial and critical acclaim upon release, including an award for best shooter of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. As a kid, I thought much less of this game, but after revisiting it a few times over the last few years, my opinion of it has improved vastly, and I consider it a must-have for anyone who may own a Super Nintendo.

Graphics – 8/10

The first Super Nintendo cartridge to make use of the revolutionary Super FX chip, Star Fox was the first 3D video game I ever laid eyes on, and as a kid, it at least captivated me in this respect. As I alluded to earlier, I would also go on to learn about the various references to Japanese folklore that are present within this game. The four main characters are based on four well-known Japanese stories, which I wrote about in greater depth in a previous article:

https://scousegamer88.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/week-7-animals-in-video-games-big-game-hunting/

Gameplay – 9/10

The objective of the game is simply to get from A to B like many others, but it plays out much more differently from the archetypical 2D platforming games that took precedent at that time. It was a rail-shooting game, which required players to fly through a multitude of different dangers and obstacles, shooting down as many enemies as possible to accumulate as high a score as they possibly could. Though it took me too much time to realize what a positive change from the norm it was for the longest time, I would eventually come back to it frequently after religiously playing it’s sequel; Lylat Wars.

Controls – 9/10

Though there isn’t anything wrong with the game’s control scheme in the conventional sense, what weighs it down significantly is the extremely slow frame rate, since that the Super FX chip was inside the cartridge, the console still had difficulty running it. Giving it about the same frame rate as Bubsy 3D; though the controls of that game were far more annoying, and harder to get to grips with. It all depended largely on how much was on the screen, and how much graphical information the console had to process at any one time, which was usually a lot.

Lifespan – 7/10

Though one playthrough can take up to an hour tops, multiple playthroughs can present multiple challenges, since the game is actually non-linear to a certain extent. Players have the option of changing course depending on their preference of difficulty, giving the game a fair bit of replayability, making it last slightly longer than what the average was at that time.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game follows the members of the Star Fox team, Fox, Peppy, Slippy and Falco on their mission to free the Lylat System from the Venomian army, and their leader Andross. Though the basic structure of the story was extremely typical of most other video game stories at the time, it was of course kept fresh by the conceptual design of the scenery, style and design of the characters themselves, as well as their dialogue-driven displays of personality throughout. These principles would be carried on and further developed in further games, but it was in this era where it will have stood out most, I think; especially as the idea was extremely new at the time.

Originality – 8/10

Most of everything about this game is original, from the conceptual design to the gameplay to the graphical rendering techniques to the basic story structure. It was a shining example of Nintendo wanting to extensively innovate like they did throughout the third and fourth generations of gaming, which would go on to inspire the creation of many different games in the future, leaving behind a long legacy about to be renewed by the upcoming Wii U title.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Star Fox is undoubtedly one of the greatest games on the Super Nintendo, and I would highly recommend it. Though I believe the sequel would improve on this to a massive extent, it served as more than a mere template for greater things to come.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Plok (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Software Creations

Publisher(s) – Activision, Tradewest & Nintendo

Designer(s) – Ste & John Pickford, Lyndon Brooks & John Buckley

Producer(s) – John & Ste Pickford

Reborn out of an abandoned arcade game entitled Fleapit, Plok was a traditional 2D platformer typical of the type of game that Nintendo would most frequently publish at the time. It’s a pretty enjoyable game, and wonderfully weird in conceptual design, as many of Nintendo’s own efforts were. Interestingly, Mario and Donkey Kong’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto expressed a strong interested in working on the game himself, but in the end, Nintendo simply chose to publish the game in Europe. Designer Ste Pickford suspected the reason behind Nintendo’s ultimate reluctance was that they thought the game was too similar to the upcoming Yoshi’s Island for Nintendo to want to work on both. Although I think Nintendo unanimously made the right choice, that’s not to discredit Plok. For me, it still stands out as one of the better 2D side scrollers on the Super Nintendo.

Graphics – 7/10

As colourful and outlandish as most other efforts from Nintendo at the time, Plok features a fair bit of visual diversity in its level design, as well as some particularly strange enemies, such as walking vegetables and disembodied heads disguised as road signs. Even the main character himself is extremely strange in design, being a red creature in a yellow t-shirt capable of firing his own limbs at enemies to fight. Although at first glance the game may seem pretty weak from a conceptual standpoint, I think players do have to wonder what was going through the developer’s heads whilst making this game.

Gameplay – 7/10

For a game that was quite archetypical for the mid-nineties, it’s surprising to discover just how much variety there is gameplay. Aside from simply having to get from point A to point B in lieu of the genre’s tradition, there are also bonus sequences which require players to race through courses on various different vehicles; most likely a reason why Nintendo may have felt it to be too similar to Yoshi’s Island. There’s also a small element of Donkey Kong Country, whereby the player can collect the four letters from Plok’s name to receive extra lives, and even a reference to Metroid in the way Plok jumps.

Controls – 10/10

As 2D side scrollers were the set standard at the time, the developers could have had even greater problems than they ended up doing on a commercial level with this game if the control scheme hadn’t been handled correctly. Fortunately, however, there are no issues with the controls, and it plays out just as well as any other game in the genre, with no unnecessary complications.

Lifespan – 6/10

Plok can take just under 2 hours to complete, which was about the average lifespan of a video game at the time. It actually surprised me somewhat that this game lasted as short a time as did, since the similarities between it and Yoshi’s Island in terms of variety in gameplay are very noticeable, and Yoshi’s Island could be made to last about an hour longer than that; even longer if the player would try to complete the game to 100%.

Storyline – 6/10

The story simply follows the main character Plok, whom after having one of his many flags stolen, sets out to retrieve it. Only after doing so, arrives back home to find that he had been distracted merely for somebody else to steal the rest of his flags, and s Plok resolves to find them all again. Most games of that era, and the era before, were relatively light on story, and this is no exception. However, the developers did change things up as the game progressed, and there are a few interesting references. For example, one of the dud flags discovered at the end of one level is in the form of a pair of red dungarees; an obvious reference to Super Mario Bros.

Originality – 6/10

Taking into account both it’s gameplay variety and conceptual design, Plok stands out about as much as any other game of it’s kind could have done at the time, which wasn’t an easy thing to do, so at least some credit is owed to it’s developers for that. It would have taken some serious talent to make a game in the genre stand out as much as possible, and this title certainly does that.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Plok is a pretty fun side scroller, and it comes recommended from me. It isn’t one of the greatest games of all time, but it’s certainly one of the most standout games of its respective era; it’s just a shame that Shigeru Miyamoto ultimately decided against dedicating first-hand effort into it. We can only speculate how much better a game it would have turned out to be.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Mortal Kombat II

Developer(s) – Midway Games, Probe Entertainment & Sculptured Software

Publisher(s) – Midway Games & Acclaim Entertainment

Designer(s) – Ed Boon & John Tobias

Producer(s) – Ken Fedesna & Neil Nicastro

One of the first examples of a video game appearing on prime-time news across America, Mortal Kombat II gained media attention for it’s use of excessive violence compared to other video games at the time, but was also met with a high level of critical and commercial acclaim. In my opinion, it was certainly a positive departure from the first game, and a massive improvement to it.

Graphics – 9/10

One of the main improvements made to the series with the advent of the second game was that since the developers weren’t pressed for time, they added a plethora of new characters to the roster, such as Kitana, Mileena, Baraka, Noob Saibot, Smoke and Kung Lao to name but a few. People will argue that this was point in which the developers got out of hand using palette swapping to create new characters, but I think the point where they got truly out of hand with that was with Ultimate Mortal Kombat III, when not only new characters were made with this technique, but more or less every other previous character had been added to the roster as well.

Gameplay – 7/10

The core gameplay concept remains largely the same as in the first instalment, but it was made a lot more diverse with the second, since the multitude of different characters also provided players with a lot more variety in terms of not only fatalities, but in different character abilities too. Indeed, having Shang Tsung as playable helped a lot in this respect, as well introducing such characters as Jax and Kung Lao.

Controls – 7/10

Before Street Fighter II came along and properly introduced fans of the fighting game genre to the concept of pulling off combos, things started out relatively primitively; especially given how poor the original Street Fighter was. Fighting games relied on combining attacks in a much spaced out and precise manner than combo system of today, which in fact started out as a glitch; and it was all fairly well handled in Mortal Kombat II.

Originality – 8/10

Since it’s inception, the Mortal Kombat franchise was particularly unique for many different factors, such as its core story concept and selection of characters. But the second game took all that to the next level, so to speak, introducing not only different characters, but different direction in which story went at the time, or where it would go in the future. Ever since, there have been spin-off films and TV series’ of the game, and I think the second instalment proved to be a huge step to making a lot of all that happen.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Mortal Kombat II, though not the perfect fighting game by any stretch of the imagination, was a massive improvement over the first, and one of the more standout games of the time. It would have inevitably been difficult for a fighting game to hold up after the release of Street Fighter II, but Mortal Kombat II did that very well.

Score

31/40

7.5/10 (Good)

Mario Paint (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1 & Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hirofumi Matsuoka

Producer – Gunpei Yokoi

Released on the Super Nintendo in 1992, and making use of the SNES mouse peripheral, Mario Paint allowed players to create their own personalized artwork within a video game. It was extremely well received by critics; AllGame even stating that it was  “perhaps the most ingenious and inspired idea Nintendo ever came up with for a product”. Although I personally wouldn’t label it as such, nor even give it a perfect score as they did, I do need to state as a prerequisite, I spent a lot of time playing this game, and I still think it holds up for various reasons despite the creation of the very similar Paint software for PCs.

Graphics – 6/10

Though many people may argue that Nintendo didn’t include much within the game to give players a rough idea of what possibilities lay before them, and the general a layout of the games look extremely empty, that was the point. The game was all about players having to use their own imagination to create whatever they saw fit. Though Nintendo had failed to put out a decent educational game prior to this, it was successful due to the fact that it would encourage creativity, eventually even leading to schools contemplating using the same method. This game was also one of the first to include the famed Totaka’s song, which would become synonymous with many other big-name Nintendo releases.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

As well as creating pictures, the game also offers a variety of different activities, including composing music pieces, animations and even a hidden mini game called Gnat Attack, whereby players must swat various insects flying across the screen in somewhat Galaga-esque fashion. Though the picture-drawing aspect may have been rendered redundant over the years, the game still retains a fair bit of replay value in these other activities, and whilst not deserved of a perfect high score, does provide quite a bit of entertainment.

Controls – 10/10

Since this game primarily relied on the use of a mouse and pad, there was never going to be any problems with the controls; especially at this point, since home computers where well on their way to becoming something only used to play video games on to a household necessity.

Originality – 9/10

Even though many of the ideas this game perpetuated have since been fazed out by PCs and laptops, the fact of the matter remains that there was no game like it at the time of its release. Many video games at the time may have spoken of creativity in their own ways, despite the lack of technology compared to what is available now, but his game encouraged it in its players, as well as presented them with a retro arcade gaming experience in the process.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Mario Paint stands out as one of the most unique gaming experiences on the Super Nintendo. It isn’t one of the greatest games to have ever been developed, and hasn’t held up well with the times like many other games of the era have, but many gamers will still be able to find use for it.

Score

31.5/40

7.5/10 (Good)

F-Zero (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto

Artist – Takaya Imamura

One of the two original launch titles for the Super Nintendo in Japan, F-Zero was proved to be one of the most influential titles on the system, being one of the first to incorporate Mode-7 graphics to allow for 3D rendering. Though Super Mario Kart would arrive a year later and eclipse the popularity of this game, it is not without it’s merits, and has remained a cult classic to many gamers.

Graphics – 8/10

Aside from the visuals being particularly advanced for the time, it also has a surprising amount of conceptual diversity, with each of the fifteen courses in the game containing their own colour schemes, scenery and style, and even soundtracks; some of which are extremely catchy. Debatably, it’s even a lot more diverse than Super Mario Kart was, but I disagree with this, since not only are there more characters to compete as, but like Super Mario Kart, there are also a lot recycled elements in each course despite standing out from one another. I Think both Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura would really shine together creatively during their collaborative work on the Star Fox series.

Gameplay – 7/10

Going beyond most conventional racing games of the time, the original F-Zero would become known for its surprising level of challenge, and fast-paced racing. Like Super Mario Kart, there exist different tournaments for gamers to compete in, usually consisting of four tracks. There are no weapons to use whilst on the road, but nonetheless, the game still provides an extremely exhilarating experience unlike most others on the system.

Controls – 10/10

For one of the first games to use the graphic-rendering techniques it did, it’s actually quite impressive how the control scheme was handled, and would become a massive influence on future franchises, such as Wipeout. The L and R triggers could be used to strafe from side to side rather than simply having the players use the d-pad to turn and skid in different directions. This, in turn, allowed for the creation of some of the many different basic structures of certain tracks, such as Mute City II.

Originality – 8/10

Racing game had already been established as a prominent genre at this point, and it was only natural that Nintendo wanted to capitalize on this ever-evolving style of play, but what has made Nintendo’s approach to this so special is that they’ve never shied away from trying new concepts and ideas. It’s been seen in all of the Mario Kart games since, but it was first seen in F-Zero. This wasn’t the first game to play out the way it does, as Pole Position came many years before it, but it did it at a much faster and challenging pace.

Happii

Happii

Overall, F-Zero to this day remains a must-have for anyone with either the original console, access to the Virtual Console. It went on to have a huge impact on many future racing games and spawn two sequels, and whist in more recent years has merely made appearances in other Nintendo series’ (the most recent of which being Mario Kart 8), the original game has earned its rightfully place in the industry’s history.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Final Fight (Arcade & Various Consoles)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom, Ubisoft & US Gold Ltd

Producer – Yoshiki Okamoto

Designer(s) – Akira Nishitani & Akira Yasuda

Originally intended to be a sequel to the first Street Fighter game, but later switched from a fighting game to a beat ‘em up, Final Fight is a game made in the same vein as Double Dragon and the future classic Streets of Rage, which whilst I found to be an overall mediocre gaming experience, does have a different kind of value to it.

Graphics – 7/10

First of all, there is some basis in visual diversity, since the level designs are pretty varied and somewhat unique for the time. But the main issue I have with it is that most of the characters present are hopelessly generic; all but one. The character Poison actually has an interesting piece of history behind her. When it came time to release Final Fight on the Super Nintendo, Nintendo took umbrage with the idea of players having to fight women in order to progress, since their censorship policies were at their most draconian at the time. Capcom tried to get around it by saying that Poison wasn’t in fact a woman, but a man. Although Nintendo told Capcom that they had to change it anyway, Capcom have stuck with the idea of Poison being a man ever since, making for the inclusion one of the first transgenered video game characters in history.

Gameplay – 6/10

A retro 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up, I found the gameplay to be repetitive and lacking in incentive. There is some basis in variety in gameplay with the amount of weapons that can be picked up throughout, but in all honesty, that’s about as far as it goes, and it’s not really enough to keep things overly interesting. The only game of its kind that I have sent any extended amount of time with is Streets of Rage, and I think Final Fight pales in comparison.

Controls – 6/10

The main reason why I have taken umbrage with this kind of game is because of the control scheme. Because the player has to be on a fairly precise angle with enemies they need to fight in order to progress, to me, it makes the hit detection particularly sketchy, and by that token, it’s very easy to mess up, which makes for games like this being a somewhat uneven challenge.

Lifespan – 1/10

Like most arcade games, Final Fight was primarily designed to be played through multiple times in quick succession, and so, the lifespan of one playthrough is hopelessly short. Taking an average of merely half an hour to complete, I think it’s just as well that it lasts so short a time, since there is little basis of variety in gameplay to warrant it lasting any longer that it does.

Storyline – 6/10

The game’s story involves three playable characters, Cody, Guy and Mayor Mike Haggar resolving to rescue the mayor’s daughter, who is also Cody’s girlfriend, from the infamous Mad Gear gang. It’s a story extremely typical of what was being released at the time; a story made in the same vein as Super Mario Bros, which had came some years before this game. Since there wasn’t a great deal of emphasis put on story at the time, the characters are forgettable at best, and Poison is the only standout element of the entire title for me.

Originality – 7/10

Although I have gone into depth about how extremely generic I think this game is overall, with its repetitive and tedious gameplay, short lifespan and lack of story, Capcom made it a unique game, as well as a unique series, for pioneering equal rights in video gaming, and there are have been only a handful of games to do so, such as Metroid, which helped to pioneer the female protagonist, and the Sly Cooper series also helped to pioneer wheelchair-bound characters in video games.

Angrii

Angrii

In summation, although Final Fight has indeed served as a fairly important piece of video gaming history, I didn’t personally get much enjoyment out of playing it unfortunately. Streets of Rage would go on to become the only 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up game I would vaguely enjoy, but there wasn’t much else apart from Poison to make Final Fight stand out to any great extent for me.

Score

32/60

5/10 Far Below Average

EarthBound (Super Nintendo & Wii U Virtual Console)

Developer(s) – Ape & HAL Laboratory

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Shigesato Itoi

Producer(s) – Shigesato Itoi & Satoru Iwata

EarthBound was a game released late in the shelf life of the Super Nintendo. Part of the obscure Nintendo series known as Mother, EarthBound is also known as Mother 2 in Japan. Due to the low sales figures attached to the game in both Japan and America, it never saw a physical release in Europe. Looking back, I wish that I did have this game as part of my childhood, because it is one of the best 16-bit games I’ve played, and it has found it’s way onto my top ten list of 16-bit games that I did two weeks ago as the new number 6 entry.

Graphics – 7/10

At first, the settings and style of the game can seem pretty generic; especially by today’s standards. For example, the first four towns in the game are unimaginatively named Onett, Twoson, Threed and Fourside. But it’s later on in the game with locations such as Yucca Desert and the Cave of the Past, where the game starts to get really good in terms of visual presentation. Not only that, but there is also an extremely diverse enemy roster, including opponents such as nightmares, krakens, giant ants, gang members and a race of extraterrestrials known as Starmen. It’s concepts like these that remind me of how imaginative Nintendo’s personnel are. After his work on games such as this, it was no wonder why Hiroshi Yamauchi chose to hand Nintendo over to the current president Satoru Iwata, who worked on this game. However, I think the biggest fault I could point out about the games graphics is the inconsistency of the designs of the character sprites. A lot of the female characters have differently shaped mouths; presumably to highlight how much make-up they all individually wear. But a lot of them were pretty badly done. For example, Pokey’s mother was given a huge pink smile to seemingly make it look as if she wears more make-up than other women, but to me, it just makes her look like a clown.

Gameplay – 8/10

What I like about EarthBound is that unlike a lot of other turn-based RPGs, it also provides a particularly stern challenge as well as extremely addictive gameplay. It differs from the likes of Final Fantasies VII through X in the fact that players are not able to simply beat up on whatever they please for the most part. As with all turn-based RPGS, the further the player progresses, the tougher the enemies become; but that’s done a lot more effectively in EarthBound. But what the aforementioned Final Fantasy games lack in challenge, I find that they more than make up for in gameplay variety. And whilst EarthBound does indeed have a lot of variety to it, it just doesn’t have as much so. But having said that, this is so far the best 16-bit turn-based RPG I’ve ever played so far. But in the future, I may yet be proven otherwise, as I haven’t properly played through Final Fantasies III, IV, V or VI.

Controls – 10/10

Like South Park: The Stick of Truth for example, before the release of EarthBound, the turn-based RPG genre was very prominent in Japan by the late 80s and early 90s, and then throughout the late 90s everywhere else. By that token, the control formula had been well and truly mastered by developers, and there was never going to be any issues. I also think that EarthBound may have been one of the first games that had ATMs that could be used to withdraw and deposit money. As EarthBound was developed by many of the same people who developed Pokémon (another turn-based RPG), it’s intriguing to know where that particular featured originated from.

Lifespan – 8/10

Overall, EarthBound can be made to last around 30-40 hours, which although that may seem like a fraction of how long many other future games would be made to last, that must have been considered exceptionally long at the time, especially as most gamers in North America, for example, would’ve been more accustomed to playing traditional 2D side scrolling games as opposed to turn-based RPGs. EarthBound was released in the mid 90s, before Final Fantasy VII was released and took the genre into the global mainstream. 30 to 40 hours is also particularly long for a turn-based RPG that virtually has very few side quests compared to other games of its kind. Most of the time is spent on leveling up characters due to the game’s exceptional level of challenge, I find.

Storyline – 9/10

Undoubtedly, this is by some margin the best aspect of this game in many, many ways. Over the years, it has yielded controversy, humour, fan debate and a cult following and to me, is a very important early example of how video games can indeed be considered a viable art form. The story of EarthBound follows a young boy called Ness (a transposition of SNES), who is woken up one night by a meteor, which has fallen not far from his house. He goes to investigate, and he is approached by a fly called Buzz Buzz (unimaginative names are a recurring thing in this game), who warns Ness that he is from a future universe dominated by an entity called Giygas, and that Ness must embark on a quest to defeat Giygas in the present, and thus stop his reign of terror. The story itself is simple enough, but it’s the additional content to be found throughout the course of the game that adds to the story and makes it so excellent and full of substance. The game is rife with cultural jokes and references concerning the western world. For example, a mode of transportation in the game is a yellow submarine, and one of the enemies in the game is a diamond dog. The settings were also heavily influenced by western culture. For example, the town of Fourside was modelled on New York City. Humour is also derived from the breaking of the fourth wall. An example of that is when one of the adult NPCs tells Ness that children like him should be at home playing Nintendo games. But aside from fourth wall humour and numerous cultural references, there are also some very poetic themes to the game, such as motherhood, which is rife throughout the entire franchise, and that of life and death. Debate has also been sparked about the implicit nature of the final boss in the game; Giygas. I think I could probably write an entire essay in regards to that, but I’d like to possibly save that for another week.

Originality – 9/10

This game was destined to stand out among others and age very well in this respect, because EarthBound was developed at a time when stories in video games were virtually in their infancy, and nowhere near as much emphasis was put on it back then as there is now. But what truly differentiates this effort from most other turn-based RPGs out there is the fact that EarthBound is set in pre-apocalyptic modern times, unlike most games of its kind, which are typically set in medieval, post-apocalyptic or steampunk eras.

Deliirious

Deliirious

In summation, Nintendo defied convention in many ways than one with EarthBound, with its unique approach to gameplay challenge, substance in story, clever cultural references and conceptual design. It’s certainly a misunderstood game for how poorly it sold to begin with, and I could not recommend it enough. It’s also unique in that it is the first game on this blog to achieve this high a score.

Score

51/60

8.5/10 (Great)