Tag Archives: Nintendo

SG88 Braid Header

Braid (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Number None

Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios

Director(s) – Jonathan Blow

PEGI – 12

 

Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one

 

Graphics – 10/10

The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget. 

 

Happii

Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success. 

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

SG88 Savage Halloween Header

Savage Halloween (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – 2ndBoss

Publisher(s) – 2ndBoss

Designer(s) – Abdel de Oliveira & Fernando Rodrigues

PEGI – 7

 

Developed as a love letter to a number of NES classics, most notably Castlevania and Contra, Savage Halloween is an 8-BIT side-scrolling shoot ‘em up set in a world based on several tableaus associated with Halloween and boasting a massive amount of variety in gameplay. I’d seen previews of this game prior to playing, and yet, I was still taken aback by just how good it is; it’s definitely one of the standout retroactive indie experiences of 2020. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Taking place in a world reminiscent of classic works and characters of horror, including Frankenstein and Dracula, there is as much variety in terms of visual design as there is in gameplay. With multiple characters and as well as its horror-styled setting, the game it reminded me of most in its graphical design is actually Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. But at the same time, the game also does well to differentiate itself from the former, as each level perpetuates a different subject of horror, such as circuses complete with clowns and circus monkeys along with a couple of elements that don’t necessarily do that, such as the mini gun-wielding Santa Clauses.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Though the game is primarily; a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, there are also a number of gameplay sequences that challenge the player in a number of different ways reminiscent of other classic games, such as Battletoads and Gradius, including on-rail shooting sequences. Like in Contra, there is also a massive amount of variety in terms of weapon choice, with machine guns, burst weapons, and guns that fire ghosts and exploding chickens. There are three characters to choose from at the start, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, so the game is designed to be played 3 times at a minimum, and each of these three playthroughs offers a new experience and challenge; a challenge which also doesn’t seem too inaccessible like the likes of Mega Man.

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is also exceedingly simple to get to grips with, especially if you’re a fan of the third generation of gaming, and poses no problems whatsoever. The only distinction that I suppose can be made is whether players may prefer to use the analog stick or the D-pad; either one works fine. That being said, it is also quite impressive how the developers managed to cram as many different control mechanics into this game with the amount of gameplay variety there is compared to other titles of the era of influence. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

One playthrough of the game can be made to last about an hour and a half. But as I said, this was a game designed to be played multiple times, so it can be made to last as long as the player desired ostensibly. Especially with the included traditional incentive to trying to beat your high score. So the bare minimum that this game should be made to last is 4 and a half hours, but there is definitely scope for more playtime than that. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Savage Haloweeeon is that a vampire hosting a 24-hour Halloween rave for creatures of the night has decided to close the portals leading back to Hell so they can continue to rave forever. The three main characters, James, Dominika, and Lulu have been called in to defeat the night creatures and stop the rave. It’s not exactly a story that reinvents the wheel, but it’s just wonderfully insane and outlandish as any story associated with gaming in the third generation. It’s a concept somewhat reminiscent of A Nightmare Before Christmas, in fact, which as that’s one of my personal favorite films, the story concept of this game works pretty well for me. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Although Savage Halloween has been influenced by a great number of games that have come and gone before it, all the elements of which do come together to nicely form its own cohesive concept, and it stands out to a great extent as a result. It was also rare in the third generation to come across a platformer whereby the high score played as much of a role as it does in this one; something which only generally has meaning in arcade games such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man, so this game does quite well to go against that tradition as well.

 

Happii

Overall, Savage Halloween is a title I can’t recommend enough. It’s entertaining, challenging, wonderfully varied, and will provide players with hours of fun. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Metroid Header

Metroid (Nintendo Entertainment System)

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

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Satoru Okada

Producer(s) – Gunpei Yokoi

PEGI – 7

 

Released at around the midpoint of the third generation on the NES to generally positive reviews, selling best in America, Metroid became a favorite among fans of the original NES, and of course, would go on to become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises along with the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. I was excited before first going into this one some years ago because it wasn’t a game I got to experience at the time of its release, and I was very much looking forward to seeing the beginnings of this franchise after hearing what I had done through word of mouth. But although I do think it is one of the better games released on the NES, and that I can understand why so many people regard it as a beloved classic, to me, the series did get better as it went on; especially as this game suffered from a lot of limitations that the era of gaming in which it occupied presented. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

The best quality this game has, in my opinion, is the visuals. Set across an expansive alien world, it presented something extremely different from what Nintendo was putting out at the time, which mostly involved worlds made up of anthropomorphic animals and contemporary fantasy settings. Although there were plenty of games with sci-fi elements on the NES, such as Abadox, Contra, and Metal Gear, it was indeed interesting to see the makers of the console try their hand at it themselves, and the end result is one of the best-looking games on the system. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, also compliments the game’s atmosphere in a way that also goes above and beyond that of which many other NES games attempted.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

Although the original Metroid is generally described as an action-adventure, ostensibly it’s a Metroidvania, although that term at the time had yet to be coined, of course, until Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night were both released many years later. The player must navigate their way through an open world, collect items, upgrades, and new abilities, and defeat bosses in order to unlock new areas, and ultimately face off against the end boss. But as this particular genre of game was yet to be built on, it suffers from limitations such as there being no in-game map, which in the Metroidvania genre, has become a staple element. Being a by-product of its time, players were reliant on either a strategy guide or even drawing up rough maps for themselves to make sure they don’t get lost or explore an area twice needlessly. It’s enjoyable to play with a strategy guide, but a nightmare without one. 

 

Controls – 7/10

Another area where problems exist is also the control scheme. As the game also has a lot of sequences whereby players must jump up vertically elongated areas, this presents issues because the game’s jump mechanics can feel quite inconsistent. Super Metroid had the same problem, as well as a few others, but not to the same extent as the original Metroid does. What’s also sorely lacking is the ability to shoot diagonally, which again, would be something that would be greatly improved on with future Metroidvania titles.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last around an hour and a half, which in all fairness, whilst that seems like nothing compared to games today, was actually a fair bit of time longer than the average game in the late 80s. In this respect, the original Metroid was somewhat ahead of its time, along with the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Again, it may be down to the limitation of what hardware was being used back then that the game couldn’t have been made to last longer than what it does, but the lifespan did manage to break some new ground at least. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Metroid is that the Galactic Federation has sent a bounty named Samus Aran to the planet Zebes, which is infested with mysterious hostile aliens known as Metroids, in order to take out Mother Brain, a biochemical life form controlling the Space Pirates, who were responsible for the Metroid outbreak. Not a lot of that is made clear throughout the game, as in lieu of third-generation tradition, players had to read the manual in order to learn as much about the narrative as possible. But the reveal that Samus is in fact a woman is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in gaming history, as the concept of a female protagonist was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. 

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s for that same reason, as well as its contemporary sci-fi setting, style of play, and accompanying soundtrack, that Metroid stands out as being one of the most unique titles on the system. Although the series would go on to reach greater heights, and that the character of Samus Aran would go on to become even more admired by gamers everywhere, this is where it all started, and for many gamers, this title broke a lot of new ground in ways that no one could have expected. Satoru Okada would go on to become one of Nintendo’s most iconic figures until his retirement in 2012, and it’s not hard to see why with the legacy he and the late great Gunpei Yokoi have left behind with the release of titles like this.

 

Happii

Overall, Metroid, whilst it indeed has too many flaws for me personally to be able to label it as such, is still considered by many to be a classic and an NES favorite, and for good reason. It was a Metroidvania before the genre was even properly conceived, and no game had played anything like it at the time. 

Score

45/60

7/10 (Good)

Blu Cover Art

Q&A With Damien Robinett

At the time as when I scouted Astral Ascent on Kickstarter, I also came across yet another French indie title made in a somewhat similar vein, but with a completely different, yet just as exciting, premise. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, is a Metroidvania centering around the titular ninja character set in a world reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a lot of twists in terms of conceptual design. Influenced by the likes of Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and the modern indie classic Dead Cells, it perpetuates many of the same awesome qualities associated with any classic Metroidvania game; exploration, intense combat, and epic boss fights. It also features a particularly catchy soundtrack composed by award-winning German composer Lukas Piel. Again, wanting to know even more about this compelling-looking Metroidvania, I contacted the game’s lead programmer Damian Robinett to see where the project is in it#s current state, when players can expect to see the finished product, and to learn more about the game’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign, due to begin on April 6th:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/-myowngames-/blu-vs-the-world

Here’s what Damian Robinett had to say about Blu:

 

Blu 1

What were the influences behind Blu?
Several indie games that have come out in recent years, Dead Cells and Hollow Knight in the lead. But also a lot the manga universe. Naruto for example for certain attacks and designs, or to a lesser extent One Piece where I draw on the richness and diversity of its environments.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
Although working alone, I try to manage the development of Blu like any midsize organization. It begins with a reflection phase that lasts several months. Followed by a design phase where I design my game (which often looks like a AAA production on paper). An analysis phase where, depending on the resources available, I extract the fundamental concepts from my game design document in order to reduce them and strengthen the consistency. And it is only then that I start the production phase. At this point, I am moving forward a little on all aspects at the same time, on the one hand, to keep the motivation, on the other hand, because it allows keeping the game balanced and to anticipate the problems in advance. I also devote a couple of hours a day to promoting the game and to discussing with my community.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?
The vast majority of the game mechanics have been implemented. Most of the Level design remains to be done, and as in all Metroidvanias, it will take a lot of time, in the end, to balance the game so that all players can enjoy a nice progression curve.

 

Blu 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Discover and test new things. I love to experiment, and being alone on a project means you have to diversify your activities and gain a lot of experience. Both at a practical level and in the organization of the work. Creating new relationships has also been extraordinary, the support in the game developer community is truly amazing, with great empathy and support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Combat mechanics. Starting from nothing, it’s very quick to get something playable, and you progress quickly. But when you have to streamline the gameplay in order to get something really satisfying for the player, it quickly becomes hundreds of hours of testing and tuning to get the character to behave perfectly as the player expects. A good feeling of combat results from the meeting of all the components of a game: animations, visuals/sound effects, physics, code … It’s very hard to obtain.

 

How well has the game been received so far?
Very good. The community of players is extremely benevolent and knows how to judge a game according to its maturity. When I see the enthusiasm that Blu causes I am often afraid to disappoint the players, but although often bugged, the different releases always more or less look like what players expect.

 

Blu 3

How instrumental has fan feedback been across platforms like Discord and Twitter been in shaping the development of the game?
A lot! My community shapes the game in its own way. I take into account all user feedback. I can count on talented game devs, as well as seasoned users who see the game with a fresher eye than mine. All the people who come to give feedback do so in a constructive way. And as is often done in public chats, it allows you to quickly gauge the interest in a new feature. When the change is quick, I often try to make it within the hour rather than writing it down.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
My goal is to make a simultaneous release on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 before the end of 2022. The console version may be postponed to the first semester of 2023 depending on the scope of the work to be done to port the game. An Alpha, Beta, and several test builds will be released before that.

 

How has having Lukas Piel on board with the project helped to bring the game to life so far?

Lukas brings poetry to the game that I hadn’t envisioned when I first started developing Blu. He weaves a musical universe over the levels that turns a fighting game into a heroic adventure. If there’s one thing I’m sure it’s that the soundtrack will be magnificent. Working with him is a pleasure, I hope I can count on him for all my productions in the future.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Verry much! I write down all the ideas that come to mind. Half go by the wayside after a second reading. The second phase is longer, I let it ripen for a while to determine if these ideas really bring something coherent to my game. When you’re a developer, you often tend to program certain features because you CAN do it. But most of the time, the player doesn’t even notice it’s details. You have to know how to bring a little magic, but time is our enemy and you have to know how to do it with relevance.
Then the third phase will come, the one where I will no longer have time to do everything that I have stacked in my to-do list and that it will be necessary to reorganize in order of priority what it is imperative to include in the game and what is optional. We always keep them in a corner for later but even after the release the list of tasks often grows longer.

 

Will there be many stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign when it’s launched?
Yes, it will mainly be stretch goals aimed at lengthening the playing time with new modes and offering exclusive in-game content to my backers. At each level, the game will also be translated into new languages. I decided to focus my stretch goals and rewards on the game itself and not to diversify into derivative products.

 

Since Blu is heavily influenced by Smash, how exhilarating would it be to see Blu join the roster? What would her final smash move be?
I will quickly imagine that this is not reality and would definitely go crazy if it really was. But I guess it would be like having a part of myself fighting in the arena. I have spent more time with Blu than with any human being for the past two years and I regard her as my own daughter. I don’t think she would match the big names of Nintendo, but for her final attack, I would say a heavy diving attack, Ganondorf-like. She’s a ninja, but she’s not in the delicacy.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
We have some really cool development studios in France so I will probably stay here. I would say Motion Twin for its cooperative legal form, which encourages developers to believe in and get involved in the projects they develop.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Don’t go for it with your head down. You could miss beautiful things. If you are working on a title that is close to your heart, take your time to lay your project down, learn about best practices. Don’t take the easy road, experiment with new things, learn XP before finishing your quests, make friends on Twitter, make a Game Jam with them and meet them in real life if you can. Promotion is hard at first until the day you don’t call it “Promo” anymore, but just a productive break you enjoy. And persevere. Over time, it always pays off.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
Mainly on Twitter and Discord. I work alone at home so I often go there to chat a little:

Twitter – @blu_vs

Discord – https://discord.com/channels/722365912354652231/730153875901775903

 

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, there are some friends of mine from Angouleme who are currently live on Kickstarter with their project Astral Ascent, and you should also take a look at it!

 

Indeed, if anyone is interested in checking out Astral Ascent, you can do so via their own Kickstarter page; a link to which can be found in my recent Q&A with the lead programmer at Hibernian Workshop Louis Denizet:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/03/31/astral-ascent-hibernian-workshop

But for now, I’d like to thank Damian for sharing what information he could about Blu and to wish him the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign launching April 6th. Blu, like most Metroidvanias released throughout the eighth generation, looks like a particularly engrossing and addictive game, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it’s finally released. In the meantime, I hope you guys check out Damian’s Kickstarter, and that I hope you enjoyed learning more about this awesome-looking game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Super Metroid header

Super Metroid (Super NES)

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

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yoshio Sakamoto

Producer(s) – Makoto Kano

PEGI – 7

 

Released in 1994 coming up to the twilight years of the Super NES, and finding critical acclaim worldwide and commercial acclaim mainly in North America, Super Metroid is considered to be one of the most influential games of all time, as along with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it helped to pioneer the so-called Metroidvania genre of games; the 2D side-scrolling open-world experience focused on combat, epic story, and exploration. I decided that as I’ve now reviewed a great number of games in the genre, that I’d examine the game where the groundwork was laid, and find out whether or not the experience still holds up to this day, and for me, it did not disappoint. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

One of the most standout features of the game is undoubtedly its beautifully crafter 16-BIT visuals with the game taking place across a number of locations that have since become iconic and synonymous with the Super NES era, including Brinstar, Norfair, and Maridia. This game’s visuals have gone on to inspire a number of retroactive indie titles over the last decade such as Blasphemous and Axiom Verge, and not just Metroidvania titles. For the time, these graphics were revolutionary, and the accompanying soundtrack, composed by Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano, perfectly compliments the wonderfully horrific atmosphere this game perpetuates throughout, which in and of itself, was very much out of character for a Nintendo game at the time, as most Super NES titles, for the most part, focused on happy-sounding music and brightly colored environments.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Super Metroid followed the basic model of the original Metroid, but with drastic improvements. Players could now combine different types of weapons to create more powerful ones, and the boss fights littered throughout are far better throughout. There’s even more cause for exploration that in the original game or Metroid 2: Return of Samus, and it also comes with the synonymous Metroidvania map system; something which was sorely lacking from the previous two games, and something which every other Metroidvania title would adopt in increasingly innovative forms from then on. Few side scrollers at the time encouraged exploration to the extent that this game did, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air for those who got the chance to play it back in the day. 

 

Controls – 8/10

The game’s control scheme, however, isn’t perfect. Whilst most Super NES games used the Y and B buttons for attack for primary movement and combat controls, this game uses the X and A buttons for that purpose, and among Super NES fans, this will have caused some confusion for players back when it was released, and can still potentially cause confusion for modern-day players looking to play it for the first time, as indeed I found, since I wasn’t introduced to this game back when it was released. Kind of like Metroid Prime, it can take a bit of time for players to get used to initially. What the developers did add in terms of controls, however, was the facility to shoot diagonally, which again, was sorely lacking from the original games, and furthermore included in the re-release of the first; Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Buy Advance.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

A thorough playthrough of the game can take an average of around 4 hours, which is about an exceptionally long amount of time for a game to have lasted back in the days of the Super NES. Although the game can be completed within half an hour (indeed, as this title has become particularly popular among speedrunners), it’s not a game that’s designed to be rushed through, and whilst it may sound like a paltry amount of time for a game to last compared to what gamers are used to these days, it was relatively unheard of at the time and most fans of the game have ended up playing it multiple times throughout the years anyway. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the latter stages of the Metroid timeline, the alien lifeform (the Metroid) that bounty hunter Samus Aran had recovered from planet SR388 at the end of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, had been delivered to a research facility by her for further study. But shortly thereafter, the space station is attacked by the leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley, who then captures the Metroid specimen and takes it to the nearby planet Zebes, and Samus is in pursuit of him. The game is also a lot more cinematic than games of the previous generation; the game’s opening cutscene, in particular, has become an iconic moment in Super NES history. It’s also among one of the earliest examples of how gameplay sequences can be used to build up tension within the confines of the story, as there are sequences whereby Samus must escape from certain places within a designated time limit before it explodes. 

 

Originality – 10/10

There is no understating how unique and influential this game was back in the day. Any game from which an entire genre is created stands out as being among the most influential of all time. Doom gave birth to the first-person shooting genre, Rogue paved the way for the Roguelike genre and Super Metroid was the primary pioneer of the Metroidvania genre; even Castlevania: Symphony of the Night adopted several gameplay elements that this game had first. 

 

Happii

In summation, as well as being one of the most influential video games of all time, Super Metroid also stands out as one of the best titles on the Super NES and is an experience that still holds up and one that I would highly recommend. Regardless of the issues, I may have had with the controls, the immersive gameplay, wonderfully rendered graphics, and engrossing story more than make up for it. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Chip N' Dale 2 Header

Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 (NES)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) –  Capcom

Producer(s) – Tokoru Fujiwara

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

Released very late on in the shelf life of the NES back in 1993, Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers 2 received favorable reviews upon release and was later released as part of the Disney Saturday Morning Collection along with the original game, Duck Tales, Talespin, and Darkwing Duck. The previous review of this game that caught my eye above all others was EGM review, which alluded to what it would’ve been like to see a sequel alternatively released on more current hardware at the time, such as the Super NES or the Mega Drive. Whilst I believe it to be true that if that had indeed been the case, (indeed, it would have sold even better than what it did and would’ve been more capable of standing out), the final game is still a very enjoyable experience as well as being a more than worthy sequel, topping what the original game had to offer. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The most notable improvement between the first and second games is undoubtedly the graphics. Everything from the character sprites to the scenery is a lot more detailed than that of the previous game and there are definitely signs of the developers have done a lot more with the console’s relatively limited color palette. The conceptual design is also even more diverse than the last, as, towards the end of the former, the levels seemed to have similar elements to them to that of previous levels, whereas the second game doesn’t suffer from that issue at all. The only thing that this game doesn’t have going for it in comparison to its predecessor is that the soundtrack is nowhere near as catchy. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay pretty much follows the same formula as the first, though with a few minor tweaks. Gone is the facility to choose between levels, as this game offers a completely linear progression, and players can now stun enemies and grab them in addition to throwing inanimate objects at them, making it even more reminiscent of Super Mario Bros 2 than the first Chip N’ Dale game. Whilst it may seem a bad thing that the second game has a far more linear progression, it’s actually an improvement, as it removes the option of skipping levels in order to progress faster, and forces the player to enjoy the full game for what it is. The most significant improvement in terms of gameplay, however, is that the boss fights are far more elaborate than that of the first game, requiring a far greater degree of strategy in order to defeat them. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As with the previous game, there are no issues with the controls, as the 2D side-scrolling genre had become a staple in gaming at the time, and it seemed harder for developers to get it wrong than to get it right. There are a few tweaks that have been made to the controls, however, such as the facility to throw objects diagonally, whereas, in the previous game, they could only be thrown up, left or right. It was quite impressive for an NES title, since many other games only relied on the up, down, left, and right axis, whereas games like this attempted to break the trend it would seem. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

Lasting about the standard time of a third-generation side scroller the game can be completed inside an hour. Of course, because the game forces the player to experience every level, unlike in the first, players are forced to spend a standard amount of time on it, however. Instead of potentially skipping levels in order to progress as fast as possible. There were many other side scrollers at the time released on better hardware that was being made to last considerably longer than this, but those playing it at the time, and those looking to try it out, will not be disappointed. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The storyline of Chip N’ Dale 2 is also massively improved compared to that of the first game. The story is that Chip and Dale, along with Monterey, Zipper, and Gadget, are on a mission to stop Fat Cat from using an ancient artifact to achieve world domination. It seems generic at first glance in basic premise, but what separates this game from the previous, and indeed from a number of early NES titles, is that there are a notable amount of cutscenes included to tell the story, and far more dialogue than there is in the first game. Breaking another NES trend, players would be reliant on the game’s manual to learn about the majority of a game’s story. But in this game, the developers went above and beyond that to tell it in a more detailed manner in-game. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Though there were a lot of Super NES and Mega Drive games developed at the time that had already perpetuated a lot of the things that this game did, this game stands out for it making these innovations, but on previous-generation hardware. The game, in and of itself, was a very retroactive experience; it showed developers that more could be done with the NES than perhaps they may have thought throughout the mid to late 80s; certainly in terms of controls and storytelling anyway. In terms of gameplay, whilst there are a few tweaks made, it just about does enough to be kept fresh. 

 

Happii

Overall, whilst Chip N’ Dale 2 doesn’t hold as much nostalgic value to me personally (indeed, the first Chip N’ Dale was actually the first game I ever played), it is still a much better game than its predecessor. It celebrates the license in a more meaningful way by presenting the story better, and there are significant improvements made in almost every other aspect in addition. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Smash Bros (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – HAL Laboratory

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Masahiro Sakurai

Producer(s) – Hiroaki Suga, Satoru Iwata, Kenji Miki & Shigeru Miyamoto

PEGI – 7

 

Released in 1999, following a long and lucrative development cycle, Super Smash Bros went on to become one of the most beloved games on the Nintendo 64 selling the best part of 5 million copies after other fighting games old poorly on the system and later spawned into one of the company’s flagship franchises that today acts as one of Nintendo’s biggest system-selling series’ upon release. However, the original game had far more humble origins and as such, started out as an idea that would later be built upon to an astronomical extent. It’s a very enjoyable game considered a classic by many Nintendo fans.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game takes place among various different stages based on beloved Nintendo franchises such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Star Fox, and The Legend of Zelda. Namely, with some of the lesser-known franchises at the time, which were EarthBound, F-Zero, and Metroid, it’s impressive how the developers envisioned how these series’ would look in 3D despite the lack of source material at the time compared to the more well-known Nintendo series’ that was much more established, but besides which, every stage and every character looked brilliant for the time and hardware available, and it was all complete with the iconic opening cinematic that has since become synonymous with the franchise. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

Super Smash Bros was the fighting game that every Nintendo fan growing had long dreamed up since the game was ever created, featuring a selection of some of Nintendo’s most beloved characters hashing out with fists, iconic weapons, and other weapons or objects that can be used to the player’s advantage. In terms of the core gameplay, there was a great deal to keep players coming back for more, and continuing to do so even over 30 years on. Although the variety in gameplay would be improved upon massively (with it actually being shocking how few unlockables there are in the original game compared to future entries in the series), the first game offers more than enough incentive to last for hours upon hours. 

 

Controls – 9/10

For a completely new franchise, the game’s control scheme works out well enough. There are only a few minor nitpicks I have about it such as the need to use the C-buttons for things like jumping, whereas later entries in the series would go on to improve on this. It’s kind of like the transition between Goldeneye and Perfect Dark in that respect, which is part of the reason why I ended up enjoying later Super Smash Bros games far more than the first, but for the most part, the controls are fine. 

 

Originality – 7/10

What made this game as original as it is is not the general concept of including Nintendo characters in a fighting game, because at the time it seemed like an obvious idea that Nintendo had astonishingly not undertaken themselves before Masahiro Sakurai showed them the initial demo he had worked on in secret. But what made this game truly stand out among other fighting titles is the way in which it plays out; not with health meters that need to be depleted, but rather a health meter that needs to be racked up to a high enough percentage that the opposition can be knocked out of the stage itself. It was a really unique idea and it’s a system that has been adopted and modified by several other developers throughout the years. It would’ve been more influential if original ideas like the final smash moves were implemented (which wouldn’t be until Super Smash Bros Brawl), but on its own merits, it turned a niche gaming genre on the Nintendo 64 into a beloved one. 

 

Happii

Overall, the original Super Smash Bros has remained, and always will remain, a classic game with a lot to play for. Other Smash Bros games would come along and blow this game out of the water in my opinion, but the original game was certainly a more than adequate starting point. 

Score

30/60

7/10 (Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Mario Golf Header

Mario Golf (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Camelot Software Planning

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Haruki Kodera (N64)

Producer(s) – Shinji Hatano, Hiroyuki Takahashi, Shugo Takahashi & Hidetoshi Endo

PEGI – 3

 

Released back in 1999, with a separate port finding its way onto the Game Boy Colour. Mario Golf was met with an overwhelmingly positive response on release and would then go on to spawn a whole new series in the Super Mario franchise, garnishing even more critical and commercial acclaim. A vast majority of spin-off Super Mario series’ historically start as well as what could be expected, such as Mario Kart, Luigi’s Mansion, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. There are some, however, that in my opinion, started off with evident flaws, but then later go on to have games developed that are far better than the original. Super Smash Bros. is probably the best example of this, but the way I see it, Mario Golf under Camelot started the same way as well.

 

Graphics – 6/10

The visuals of the game, as what any fan of the series would’ve come to expect at the time, fit in well with the tableau of the Super Mario mythos; the courses are extremely reminiscent of parts of the Mushroom Kingdom as seen in previous Mario titles, and the developers did relatively well to diversify each tournament’s settings in that respect. When comparing it on a technical level to previous Super Mario games ported to the Nintendo 64, players will find that the level of detail is also on par with many of them; arguably even better than some too. The biggest problem I had with this game, in terms of both graphics and gameplay, is the character roster. Of course, you have classic Mario characters, such as Mario himself, Luigi, Donkey Kong Peach, and Bowser among others, but as well as that, there are also a lot of generic characters included alongside them, like Plum, Harry, Sonny, and Charlie; the majority of which have never been seen in a Mario game again, and for good reason.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The game has several different modes to choose from, such as playing 18-hole tournaments, speed golf, ring shot, and the head-to-head mode that pits you against other characters to unlock. The game has a lot to offer in terms of variety, but with the get-character mode, it’s a mixed bag due to how equally exciting and boring it can feel to unlock certain characters. It’s also not the most accessible game in terms of difficulty too. I remember playing this game when I was growing up, and even unlocking Luigi seemed like an endurance test; and I still find it to be the case now, even after playing other games in the series. 

 

Controls – 7/10

Probably the worst thing about this game, however, is its control scheme. The heads-up display is not self-explanatory like it is with future Mario golf games; the putting system is unnecessarily complicated, as it becomes almost impossible to determine how much power should be put behind the ball. There were many other 3D golf games even back then that had much better control schemes attached to them, and although this would be improved in later entries, it didn’t start out well in my opinion. 

 

Originality – 6/10

Although this is one of those games that was probably dreamt up by many Nintendo kids before it was even conceived, it does fairly well to keep things unique on its own merits with its diverse settings for different tournaments (again, something which would be improved on further. Again, the thing holding it back most in terms of originality is having so many unoriginal characters included in addition, which by Nintendo’s standards, were profound to me, even at the time. There were so many other characters they could’ve included at this point that it just baffled me to know that they chose to go with Camelot’s idea of including so many generic ones instead. 

 

Niiutral

Overall, Mario Golf is not the best entry in the series; not by a longshot. And later, a plethora of improvements would be made with the likes of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Mario Golf: World Tour. The upcoming Mario Golf: Super Rush also seems set to break new ground with its story mode and additional challenges attached to it, but in terms of the Nintendo 64 game, the developers could’ve done better. 

Score

25/40

6/10 (Average)

Guest Article: The Full Sync Network

For today’s article, and for the first time in a long time, I have a guest blogger on to express his opinions on the current landscape of gaming and his predictions on where it may go amidst the newly ushered in ninth generation of the medium. Josh Maddox of the FULL SYNC Network and I had recently been in contact in regards to the subject and offered to have his say on the blog on the new generation of gaming as well on the most recent releases, including Monster Hunter Rise, Resident Evil: The Village and others. established in 2016, the FULL SYNC Network is a collaboration of gamers around the world specializing in news, reviews, and previews of upcoming games, as well as streaming on their YouTube and Twitch channels of games, hardware reviews, and instruction videos. So without further ado, here’s what Josh Maddox had to say about the future of gaming and the ninth generation:

 

Despite the latest generation of consoles and graphics cards launching last year, many people are still playing on old hardware due to stock issues. We all thought that may ease up as we entered 2021 but the scalping game is still strong and thousands continue to struggle to get anything. Some have succeeded, myself included with my PS5. But others still check Discord for stock alerts every day then rush over to get into queues for the stock they keep missing out on.

But let’s not dwell on it too much, easy to say since I got what I wanted, and let’s take a look at the future of gaming instead.

 

Consoles

Less than six months after the PS5 launched, Sony is already looking at upgrading the storage on their consoles and making it more accessible for those that already bagged one to do it as well. I mean, I love my PS5 but there is nowhere near enough storage on it, with less than a terabyte to spare and a chunk of that is for the firmware. But I think this is a record of how quickly a manufacturer has decided to upgrade their console following release.

Xbox hasn’t announced plans yet, but don’t be surprised to see the usual slimline versions coming out in a few year’s time. Hopefully, by then they’ll actually have stock.

I guess, the console everyone is hoping for though is an upgraded Nintendo Switch. Whilst we all love the Switch, it is extremely underutilized. I mean Nintendo is great for innovation and creativity, and they have excellent first-party titles. But what they ooze in that, they lack in a common-sense almost, never truly fulfilling potential. I mean, look at the Switch, so versatile. Can be played docked and handheld. It’s a purpose-built gaming tablet essentially, that is able to be docked and played on the TV.

However, you can’t get Netflix, no internet browser, low internal storage too. I mean, it has the technology in there of an old SmartPhone, newer ones are arguably more powerful than it. And smartphones do everything in life. So the potential is there for the Switch to do the same. Yet Nintendo seems insistent on just doing what they want to do. Which is admirable, but also incredibly stupid. Question is, would an improved Switch have better functionality? Who knows.

 

PC

When it comes to PC, the future is a strange one. VR was supposed to be the future of PC gaming, but it still hasn’t hit the heights it was expected to. But sales figures for the Oculus Quest 2 look good, and with it being wireless and suitable for smaller spaces, it is likely we may soon see the rise so many predicted. 

In terms of hardware, the newest graphics cards are all released, but as with the latest PlayStation and Xbox releases, there is hardly any stock. Scalpers have been buying it all up, and many who have got the latest GPUs have been using them for mining cryptocurrencies since Bitcoin decided to explode to over $50,000 earlier this year. Which leaves many gamers in a tough position.

Now, they could upgrade to the last-gen cards, because they’re still capable of things like 4K and decent frame rates in games. But the problem is, with the shortage, the costs of older models have skyrocketed. I bought my RX 570 4GB for £80 over a year ago, and I’ve seen the same model going for £140 nearly double what I paid. And now many of the last generation cards are even selling at higher than the retail price of new cards. But, because no one can get them, people are paying stupid money. We don’t actually know when this madness will end.

 

Games

Who doesn’t love games right? But there are always so many titles to choose from, it can be tough to decide on what to get if you’re on a budget. And with so many games coming out this year, I thought I’d just write a quick list about some upcoming titles we’re excited to see.

  • Outriders – Developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix, Outriders is a third-person RPG adventure due to release April 2021.
  • Guilty Gear – A fighting game from Bandai Namco that is very anime-based in style. This was also due out in April 2021 but has since been pushed back to solve issues that cropped up in the latest beta tests.
  • Resident Evil Village – Due out in May, the latest installment to the Resident Evil series looks to be one of the most intriguing and detailed yet. A must-have for horror game fans.
  • Monster Hunter Rise – Following the release of the Monster Hunter movie, the newest addition to the popular game series launches later this month.
  • Back 4 Blood – Back 4 Blood is an upcoming multiplayer survival horror game developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It has major Left4Dead feels to it, and had incredible feedback after the latest beta tests. This one is due out a little later this year in June.

But it’s not entirely new games that are coming out. There are a whole bunch of remakes and remasters too. Two of the most popular people are looking forward to our Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and Oddworld: Soulstorm, which is a reimagining of the classic Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus. Still, I seem to be waiting on a remake of my beloved childhood title Croc. I was hoping with the reintroduction of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro that this would follow behind shortly after, but alas, nothing so far.

 

What are your thoughts?

There you have it, our thoughts on the future of gaming this year. But what do you guys think? Will we see a “Switch Pro” in 2021? Will stock of new consoles and graphics cards ever become more accessible? Is there a game you think we should be checking out not on our list? Or maybe you agree we need a Croc remake and want to start a petition with us? Whatever your thoughts, let us know what you think in the comments below or over on our social media channels.

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Josh for taking the time out to contribute to the blog in what is truly a fascinating read about the possibilities and the limitations that very well come with the advent of the ninth generation of gaming. If you’d like the check out the various different platforms FULL SYNC operates out of, all links are below:

Main Site – https://fullsync.co.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fullsyncnetwork

Twitch – https://www.twitch.tv/fullsyncgaming

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvrGKhe7y4gTmgD2pxxBsAA

Twitter – https://twitter.com/fullsyncnetwork

Gamer’s Apparel – https://gamersapparel.co.uk/store/fullsync

Be sure to check out their stuff, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed reading what Josh had to say, and if the opportunity comes about for me to work with FULL SYNC again, it will be up on my social media pages too.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Greg Lobanov 2 1

Q&A With Greg Lobanov Volume 2

Back in 2016, one of the games I came across on Kickstarter as part of my ongoing efforts to discover new and exciting gaming experiences and bring them even further attention, was Wandersong. Before it was funded, I reached out to the creator, Greg Lobanov, for an interview to ascertain more information about what looked like a truly promising title in the making:

https://scousegamer88.com/2016/07/09/qa-with-greg-lobanov/

And in the end, I was proven right. Ever since the release of the game, it has garnished universal acclaim from a great number of gamers and critics throughout the industry, including yours truly.

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/01/24/wandersong-pc/

The game has intricate puzzle-solving, an extremely unique approach to combat and progression, and one of the most beautifully composed soundtrack to come out of the indie development community complete with a rollercoaster of a story chocked full of emotional moments of discovery, comedy, and drama. Eager to discover how the experience panned out for the development team on a personal level and what’s next for the people involved in the project, I got back in touch with Greg to find out more information about what more can be expected of this promising young developer and his team in the future, and exactly how the experience of developing this game impacted on their lives and his. Here’s what Greg Lobanov had to say about Wandersong, his new upcoming game Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and his experiences as a developer thus far:

 

Greg Lobanov 2 2

How satisfied have you and the team been on a personal level to see Wandersong receive the overwhelmingly positive response it has done since its release?

It’s been very satisfying. 🙂 I always said at the outset that all I really wanted was for at least one person to really, really love the game a lot and we had that happen many times over. It’s very warm to put so much heart into something and see it resonate with people. I’ll be grateful forever that I got to have this experience.

 

How satisfied have Em and Gordon been with the positive response the game’s soundtrack has received?

Very happy, for sure. Gord uploaded all 100+ tracks to youtube and he still sees exuberant youtube comments come in every day and it warms his heart. 

 

You came up with the idea for Wanderson following a cross-country biking trip you took across the US. Were there any particular locations you passed through or people you met that stand out as being more influential than the other?

There were a LOT of tiny pieces borrowed from a lot of places to patch together the diverse cast and world in Wandersong. I’ll mention that I named the first town, Langtree, after a tiny town in Texas called Langtry that only has a dozen people in it in the middle of the desert. I stayed there for a couple of nights through a hailstorm.

 

Greg Lobanov 2 3

Of course, Gordon and Em had composed for video games before this. Were there any games that they had worked on that they kept in mind when composing the soundtrack for Wandersong?

Actually, Wandersong was Em’s first game project when she started out, although by the time it came out she had also started and finished working on Night in the Woods ;p In general I don’t think games were a key inspiration, instead we were looking at different musicians and bands and genres and instruments to get inspiration for the musical and audio touches.

 

The last time we spoke, you mentioned the most exciting and challenging aspects of developing the game were the color design and missing audio respectively. But did any of what the most exciting and challenging aspects of development were change later on throughout the process?

Oh, yes… I think at the time I was fixated on the immediate concerns, but once I had Em and Gord audio wasn’t a stress. I think ultimately the biggest challenge was telling a meaningful story. We really wanted the game and everything in it to matter, so we took great care in how we presented things. It’s a lot of careful, thoughtful work to do right.

 

Greg Lobanov 2 4

Nintendo titles made up a great deal of the influence behind the game, such as Ocarina of Time and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. If you, Em, and Gordon were given the opportunity to work for Nintendo on one of their series of your choice, which one would it be, and why?

I don’t know about Em and Gord, who aren’t especially big Nintendo fans. But I would really like to work on a Pokemon game. I think it’s a really rich world and game concept that could be explored a lot of ways that haven’t been touched yet. And I just really love Pokemon.

 

Apparently, Steven Universe was a major inspiration for the game’s visual style. From one fan of the series to another, what is your favorite Steven Universe song, and why?

“Love Like You” is a pretty special song. I think I’d have to pick that one.

 

Were there any ideas at this stage of development that had been scrapped or reworked throughout?

A lot of small ideas came and went. I had in my notes for a long time that it would be cool to do a punk show/punk-themed section, and I was curious if there was a way to do something with rap/RnB as well. Neither of those ever found the right spot in the story, though.

 

You abandoned the initial idea early on of making a game about biking when it came to Wandersong. Is that a concept you think you would like to revisit at some point?

Maybe??? There would have to be something more to it for the idea to be interesting to me. There was a new game called “Season” announced recently which looks kind of like the game I would have made, probably.

 

If you could choose any video game character to make a cameo appearance in Wandersong, which one would it be, and why?

Well, we put Mr. Oshiro from Celeste and Ima from Ikenfell into Wandersong; those were my friends’ characters, and we started all our games together when we were roommates so I thought it would be fun to pay them an homage like that.

 

What lessons were learned by yourselves as developers throughout the entire process?

I think I refined my game writing skills a lot by sheer force of effort. Em was extremely maximalist and detailed with the sound design, but in her following projects, she learned to tone it down a bit and focus her effort in the most important places. And this game definitely took Gord on a crazy creative adventure, composing so many songs in so many styles and genres; I think it helped him find the confidence to be creative and try new things at a time when he was starting to feel like he was falling into a rut.

 

What’s next for Greg, Em & Gordon?

Em and I are finishing our next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale. Em also released work on a lot of really cool indie titles since Wandersong came out a couple of years ago, including Untitled Goose Game and Ikenfell. Gord’s released some OSTs as well, including one for a game called Stela he’s quite proud of, but right now he’s working on his first solo album in many years and having a great time with it–watch for that in 2021.

 

Have there been any ideas contemplated to develop a sequel to Wandersong?

Maybe some passing thoughts, but there’s a lot of other things I want to do and I think the story of Wandersong is complete on its own.

 

What genre of gaming would you like to undertake that you haven’t tried?

That I haven’t tried? Hmm… I’ve tried so many, haha. I’m most interested in taking  ‘creativity’ mechanics and combining those with other genres the way we did with platforming in Wandersong. I also have some other ideas for things I can’t talk about yet.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

Try finishing something small so you can get into the practice of finishing things. 🙂 Find your peers and work together and learn from them, not from people like me.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Video games are cool.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Greg for taking the time out to talk to me again about Wandersong and his own developmental experiences. Wandersong turned out to be every bit as wonderful, enjoyable, and innovative as I suspected it would be thanks to the successful Kickstarter project, the involvement of Humble Bundle, and of course, the love and attention that went into crafting this truly immersive and intricate title, and I on a personal level, also feel proud to have helped in my small part to bring this game to a wider audience earlier on throughout its development. In addition, I’m also very much looking forward to playing Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and I sincerely hope to work with Greg again in the future.

In the meantime, you can check out Greg’s website via the link below to keep up with the development of Chicory as well as any more new gaming ventures of his:

http://greg.style/

And if anyone hasn’t tried Wandersong, I highly recommend that you give this game a go; It’s available to download on a number of platforms, including Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I also sincerely hope you guys enjoyed reading these articles with me and Greg and for those of you who played Wandersong, that you enjoyed playing it as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88