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About
Hello all, I am Lord Spencer, your friendly neighborhood royalty. Yes, the ancient bloodlines are letting absolutely anyone in these days.

Being the lurker that I am, I have been following Destructoid for more than four years. Well, its 3 AM where I live now, and I just plunged in getting HUGE in the way.

Here is hoping for a fun time.

Oh yes, here is a little more info about me that is probably not as interesting as I think it is:

-I am an Iraqi-Saudi living in Saudi Arabia.
-I owned and played about 1000+ games.
-I owned and read about 2000+ books (I counted comic books I read as a kid so this is not as impressive as it sounds).
-I absolutely love Legos.

Out of all the games I played, I only regret playing a few. I am a big fan of gaming, and thus I really like most of what I play.

Seeing as my top 10 games of all time would change depending on the day you ask me, I am just going to put in Random games I don't think are in anyone's top 10 list:

-Blood Will Tell
-Mega Man Legends 2
-Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
-Donkey Kong Country 2
-Suikoden 2
-Some weird game in the PS1 that caused my grandfather to kick me out of the house because it had me giving a girl an orgasm by massaging her feet.

Six is as good a number as any, so here is that:

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Following (4)  


For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

http://www.ign.com/top/snes-games

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.


Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

24- Contra III: Alien Wars:
Year: 1992.
Genre: Shooter.
Publisher: Konami.
Developer: Konami.
 

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

For many, the Contra series is the quintessential Nintendo shooter. Ripe with that old Nintendo challenge, and a good deal of adrenaline pumping action and layered depth. The third entry in the series continues with that tradition, and its unapologetic adherence to the format is both the reason for Contra’s fame and its death as the generations went by.

This is the shooter game you would expect. One shot kills and plenty of action, with only a hair between that perfect jump and oblivion. Contra demands repetition from the player willing to master it. It demands mastery from the player willing to get the most out of it.

"Alien wars begin.”

Who are we kidding? It wouldn’t matter if it is aliens invading earth, or bloody Neanderthals from Jurassic time. Nazis, zombies, dinosaurs, and more have served as bullet fodder for these games. Interchangeably, any event can be taken as face value to get you to shoot stuff in Contra. The only semblance of character is the blatant inspiration from Rambo.

Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily, but when I compare to another shooter from the ages that has character in spades (Metal Slug), the very generic style of Contra leaves much to be desired. We are not here for the Man Booker prize winning script, but something that separates this game from the hoard would have been nice.

As it is, we are Rambo clone number one shooting generic fodder, some of which do look alien, for the probable goal of saving earth. Only three sentences are afforded for plot, and a paragraph telling the game has a hard mode that is going to crush your soul. I guess minimalism has its fans.

Yet, when you look beyond the cloned artwork, and the very basic story. When you look at what the game throws at you, you get a sense of audacity that I don’t think is eclipsed by another game. Although actually in rare moments, the game throws all logic to the wind as it gives the player some ridiculous set piece to deal with. Specifically, I am talking about a boss fight where the player hangs from a missile while attacking. The catch is that there are many missiles and the player needs to jump from one to another as they explode. Had the game included more of such scenes, the droll setting and lack of basic storytelling would have been less obvious.

Droll Setting: -5
That Missile Battle: +2

"Let’s attack aggressively.”

I confess that I used emulation to beat the game. Simply put, I don’t have the skill to beat it without outside help. Yet, I feel as if everything is there for me to learn, and I tremendously improved by the end, that my second play through used the emulator less and less. Which is the hallmark of good game design.

With only one shot to the grave, Contra demands perfection. It demands total attention to your surroundings, as well as perfect command of your movement and attacks. Shooting leaves you less mobile to avoid attacks, and mistiming your jumps leads right into the line of fire. In Contra, any death is your fault, as the mechanics are pitch perfect for the player to dodge and shoot everything in sight. Every attack is telegraphed, and it is the player’s responsibility to decipher the game.

In your arsenal, you can have access to a variety of weapons, each I found particularly useful in one place or another. Also, you get to use the screen clearing bombs. Both weapons and bombs are reset to default on death, so getting hit takes both a life and the ability to fight, making it hurt twice as much.

As is the case with Contra games, the game includes more than traditional 2D shooting, but also vehicle sequences and top-down levels. The former has always been a matter of loathing from me personally; when a game changes its entire control scheme and philosophy for one level that is unforgiving and tyrannical. Contra does nothing to convince me otherwise; vehicle sequences are almost always lacking in balance. As for the top-down levels, which have been hallmarks of the series, I found them less fun than the 2D levels and generally underwhelming (not to mention being easier).

Ultimately, Contra III brings everything that made the previous Contra games so well regarded mechanically. However, it also brings one major evolution to the franchise. As I said previously, getting killed loses your weapon upgrades. Yet, Contra III gives you the ability to switch between two weapons essentially holding the second weapon in case you die. This not only gives you more tactical flexibility by having two different weapons, but also gives you a fighting chance when you lose that valuable flamethrower.

Challenging and Fair Gameplay: +5
Vehicle and Top-Down Levels: -3 (for every level)
Two Weapons: +2


"Prepare yourself for the Ultimate Challenge.”

Bosses are no longer scary these days. From the poor generic bosses of FPS games to the 3-hit kill goons of Nintendo. They used to be something, they used to be a threat, and they used to be like Contra.

When you are fighting on top of the sky hanging from missiles, you know these bosses are not only tough, but also mostly unique. In fact, the entire game can be considered a tutorial that prepares you for these massive battles. Reaching these foes unhurt doesn’t mean you’re good, it just means you have a chance.

If you don’t study their patterns, then you are going to die. However, their never-ending onslaught makes that a herculean task indeed, as you focus in both surviving and learning at the same time. This alien invasion might just be a packaged excuse to shoot stuff, but these aliens don’t show any restraint at all.

Great Bosses: +4


"Kill them with fire."

Insects are scary. Their primal instincts and positively brutal lifecycle showcasing their ugly form. The aliens in Contra are clearly insect-inspired, which probably lead me to use the flamethrower as my favorite weapon. Aside from the ugly design of some of these aliens, as well as some good boss design, I did not feel the need to use my weapon of choice.

Mostly, the graphics are clean and nice, with the screen handling busy fire fights well. Everything is telegraphed for the player, so that anything that happens to them is their fault. Backgrounds were nice, but nothing major. While the character sprite has a curiously empty face. Like the story, the graphics is mostly generic, but it does the job, does it a little better as well.

However, the sound department goes beyond doing its job. It excels. From the music, that is both addictive and pleasant to hear. To the various sound effects that tells you exactly what is happening on screen. That enemy is firing at you, this boss is taking damage, hell is about to break loose.

When a game demands as much from the player as Contra, it is nice for the music to give them a boost. The tracks are motivating, and they make the endless repetitions of death bearable. All the while, sound gives the player another sense in which to use; the best players actually depend more in audio cues than visual ones. Overall, proving to be a very solid sound design.

Very Good Sound Design: +3
Very Good Tracks: +3
Generic Graphics: -2


In Conclusion:

Contra is a game of a bygone era. More an arcade experience than a console. It is also a game that is worth as much as players are willing to give it. For the casual observer, who is merely playing the game and preparing to jump to another, its flaws are magnified, and its brilliance is hidden.

However, for those willing to master it, Contra offers a depth that transcends its limitations. Perhaps it is the feeling we used to get when stuck with one or two cartridges in our childhood. Then, the game could have been as short as Contra, but perfecting a game became another goal after beating it.

Final: 34/50


*****************************************************************

"Tips"

1-Have two different weapons to vary your chances.
2-To pick up another weapon, be in your empty slot.
3-Bombs are not lifesavers, it would take a second or two before everything on screen is wiped out.
4-You can jump in the vehicle sequence.
5-Kill them with fire, the flamethrower might lack range, but it is probably the strongest weapon damage wise.

"Next Game"

Contra was fun, but I am ready for a more relaxing adventure. And moving through IGN’s list, I am seeing yet another Disney/Capcom game, showing us that those two companies could have been a more obvious Kingdom Hearts candidate (Mega Man and Donald Duck in a team anyone).


At #23, the Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse is the highest Disney game on the list. Here is hoping it really is magical


Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/contra-iii-the-alien-wars/screenshots

Photo Photo Photo








For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

http://www.ign.com/top/snes-games

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.


Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

30- The Lost Vikings:
Year: 1992.
Genre: Puzzle/Platformer.
Publisher: Interplay.
Developer: Blizzard.

 
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

Another Blizzard game that is neither WoW nor Starcraft. Back in those days when there were trying different things in search of a truly big hit. Interestingly enough, we see similarities in visual design between these Vikings and World of Warcraft.

However, The Lost Vikings is a completely different and unique game. It manages to carve out a different style of gameplay while maintain a constant and humorous style. By the end of this game, these Vikings endear themselves to us through both gameplay and their joyful banter.

"All evil space aliens need innocent earth prisoners.”

Eric the swift, Baleog the strong, and Olaf are the three Vikings unfortunately abducted by the evil alien Tomator. Not interested in being held as hairy displays in a galactic zoo, the trio escapes Tomator’s ship and go into an “epic” journey through time and space to go back home. Lucky for them, their Viking strength and ingenuity is enough for them to survive, just barely.

We are tasked with guiding the three back home. In the way, we go through the age of Dinosaurs, the pyramids of Egypt, and some whacky places. Ever the chatterboxes, the trio share their thoughts on their predicament, the places they see, themselves, and even videogame tropes. In fact, the Lost Vikings might be the earliest game I played with such sharp self-referential humor. An essentially comedic tale, the jokes are more hits than misses, and the comedy goes through both visually and in the script. Even ending with one of the funniest and most appropriate credits scenes.

Actually Funny: +4

"We have guts and courage, we are Viking heroes."

While I am not sure about their courage, Eric, Baleog, and Olaf sure do have lots of guts. However, they mostly have lot of patience. In The Lost Vikings, you don’t control only one hero, but all three. In the game, you must use each hero’s individual skills to beat each level. In game, you control one hero and can switch to the other two at any time, essentially switching to and fro as you try and figure out each level’s tricks.

Eric can jump and break things with his head, Baleog is the only one who brought anw weapons with him, and Olaf brought a shield that he can even hover with. You are rarely going to depend on just one of the guys to finish a level (Which actually requires you to move all three to the exit), but will need to synergize the three different skill sets to navigate the level.

Through a surprisingly lengthy adventure, the game manages to crafts seriously intricate levels that both challenges and confounds you. Though every tool is in your disposal, some tricks elude you just long enough to feel positively genius when you figure them out. Yet, these instances are actually more rare than I would have liked, with a lot of the levels feeling more like busy work. This actually means that playing this game in small patches is best.

Unique Gameplay: +3
Actually Smart Levels: +4
Those WOW Moments: +2
Some Underwhelming Levels: -2


"Will you guys shut up and follow me."

Actually, one thing I agree with Eric. While not overly annoying, a tethering system would have helped alleviate some of the busy work; where you need to get one Viking to one point, then switch to another Viking and go the same exact spot. Again, its not that serious but would have been welcome.

More serious issues are the death traps and reverse dead ends. Since you need all three Vikings alive and well to finish a level, your worst enemy is that random spike that kills you instantly. If that was in the end of a stage, you will need to give up and replay the stage from the beginning. This can actually be avoided by really thinking before you move.

However, reverse dead ends are sometimes surprising and unavoidable. Through no fault of your own, you might move through one Viking’s sequence earlier than you should have, ending up in an advanced stage where you can’t help the other Vikings. In that level, how would the player know they should have used Olaf before Eric, or Baleog before both?

Thankfully, the levels are not that large so that each frustrating restart is not the end of the world. For the player, it is going to mean a more elaborate and relaxed pace to avoid those restarts.

A lot of Restarts: -4
Forces you to think +1


"Cool waterfall that hovers in midair"

Vikings are easily a visual canvas. Through both hair and facial expression, we see how unique the three characters are. More interestingly, is how their animation conveys their personality. Eric is impatient and strong willed, Baleog is strong and constantly flexes his muscles, and Olaf is laid back and relaxed. Elsewhere, enemy sprites are not as detailed as the three Vikings, but they are well animated and distinctive enough.

While the sprites are the visual highlights of the game, the level backgrounds are not bad at all. With each “world” visually distinctive from the others, we get a glimpse of how lost thos Vikings are. Unfortunately, not all worlds were interesting for me, with the whacky world sorely lacking. I really wanted a Roman Empire level.

Musically, the tunes included are catchy and distinctive, each accurately complementing the visuals. However, it is a very limited selection. With what probably is only five distinctive tracks, The Lost Vikings is one of the SNES game’s least varied games in their soundtrack.

Distinctive Sprites: +3
Limited Music: -3
Good Background Art: +2


In Conclusion:

The Lost Vikings might not be one of the true gems of the SNES, but its unique gameplay and distinctive character both showcases a game with heart. Rarely do Vikings endear themselves to us as much, and we root for these guys all the way.

Blizzard today is mostly sunk into its major franchises. The Lost Vikings reminds us of the creativity lost when developers are forever tethered to their largest successes.


Final: 35/50
*****************************************************************

"Tips"

1- Move with Caution.
2- Make Olaf your front line scout, Eric might be faster but Olaf's shield is a life saver.
3- When you get bombs, you will probably need to use them to blow stuff up.
4- Olaf's shield can keep falling things from falling down.
5- Baleog's Arrow upgrade allows him to destroy things he couldn't before.
6- Each character has their use, figure out early what each one can do.

 

"Next Game"

I skipped a game I was going to play, and I enjoyed The Lost Vikings. This time, I am hopefully not skipping the next game, which sit at #24 and is known by all of you.

Contra 3 might not be the most famous contra, but it is apparently the best one in the SNES. I might not be able to beat this one normally, but through the magic of emulation, I might have a chance.


Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/lost-vikings/screenshots

Photo Photo Photo








For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

http://www.ign.com/top/snes-games

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.


Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

34- Lufia & the Fortress of Doom:
Year: 1996.
Genre: RPG.
Publisher: Natsume.
Developer: Neverland.

 

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

The SNES is not short of quality RPGs, from the magnificent efforts of Square and Enix, to the more basic games of Capcom. In such crowded market, Lufia 1 managed to make a very faint splash. It was not picked up by many, but it had a loyal small fan base. Lufia 2 did not manage to make a bigger splash, but it rewarded that fan base with one hell of an RPG.

It might not be the best role playing game in the SNES library, but Rise of the Sinistrals is by far the most underrated RPG in the 16 bit era.

"Have you thought about getting an ordinary job?"

Maxim (whom you might recognize from the first Lufia) is one of a long line of RPG heroes who start as (bounty hunter, monster hunter, mercenary, etc). Seemingly incapable of living peaceful lives, and destined to fight evil and save the world. The tale of Maxim does not veer much from that particular trope. Taking on the evil Sinistrals, you will travel a loosely defined geographically impossible world, and prepare for the final showdown with foes as dimensional in purpose as tsunamis and earthquakes.

While not an imaginative plot at all, the overarching story is only the backdrop of one of the deepest character plots in SNES RPGs. The host of characters you control grow and develop in ways unlike any other games in the ear, and relations blossom in unexpected ways. By the end, you realize that these characters manage to acquire real dimensionality to them that is simply unexpected for the time.

Unfortunately, the script doesn’t do the character interaction or the story any justice. Perhaps due to limited spacing, or simply mediocre translation, Lufia 2 manages to reduce all character’s speech into lines read from Google Translate. It is a testament to the strength of the central character plotline that this weak script fails to ruin an otherwise very good story.

Besides the written word, the game manages to convey its multiple layers through clever use of brief 16 bit cinematics and intelligent set pieces. With an awkward beginning, a middle full of micro-stories, and a fantastic end. The game manages to accentuate each arc with suitable mood. Overall, Lufia 2 takes everything good from the first game story-wise, and elaborates on it wonderfully.

Strong Presentation: +4
Character Depth: +4
Terrible Script: -3


"Don’t overestimate yourself, the time will come"

By end game, you realize that the constant threats and cheap jabs by the all-powerful sinistrals were ridiculous overestimation of their own power. Maxim and his jolly gang of misfits easily trounce everything they face off against.

Through many innovations on the classic combat system, Neverland crafted enough advantages for the player that the game is rarely if ever hard. Starting with I feel is a precursor to Final Fantasy 7’s limit break system, characters are able to do special rage moves that basically undermines whatever a boss come up with. Other innovations include healing and save points in dungeons, and the Capsule Monster system.

Reading that, you are correct to think of Pokemon immediately. While these monsters are found, not caught, they both evolve and help you in battle as an extra member of the party (not taking a character slot). However, you are not able to directly control them, but the still offer an offensive push to your team and also help as bullet sponges. It is a shame though that these monsters are not impressive in both design and application, and feel like an unfortunate afterthought.
Outside of battle, Lufia 2 takes the dungeon approaches of Zelda games in traversing its many monster dens. With several tools, you navigate Maxim and friends through some clever puzzles, and since you monsters are not randomly encountered (you can see them in the screen) it is never frustrating.

While not challenging at all, the fast paced combat and the interesting puzzles make for an overall enjoyable experience that is among the best in the SNES.

Lack of Challenge: -2
Innovation in Turn Based Combat: +3
Pioneering In Monster Collection: +2
Fun Out of Battle Gameplay: +3
The World’s Most Difficult Trick: +1


"I have nothing to lose or gain but I cannot let you live"

One problem I have with the story is not in the overabundance of clichés, which run the gamut from fated hero to escaping from prison. Not even the fact that the script is an amalgamation of robotic phrases. My problem is simply that the evil guys have nothing to say in what otherwise could have been an actually interesting plot.

More gods than simple evil things, the Sinistrals could have been more interesting than the natural disaster vibe they emit now. Some plot elements suggest a greater depth to their actions, but that is not actually followed.

While it is no big deal, it would have fit well with the attention other facets of the story received. Not every humorous action registers well, and due to the script, it mostly falls flat. However, it shows an attempt by the world to establish some personality.

Mundane Villains: -2
Some Humor: +1

"I really don’t like your face"

After playing Lufia 1, I was not expecting anything much from the prequel visually at all. As such I was pleasantly surprised by the graphics which leaped to the better end of the 16 bit spectrum. Other than the advancements to the battle screen, the entire world of Lufia 2 received a vusual overhaul. From the cities that feel more distinct, to the dungeons that show some variety and sometimes surprising creativity.

Unfortunately, the sprite design did not receive as much attention. With both characters and monsters feeling gimped. With only hair color separating main characters from the NPC population, players get the graphical short end of the stick. Monsters might look more detailed and some look interesting, but their neither animate nor are that interesting to look at. The worst offender being the final bosses which are recycled from the first game, with Erim the Death bringer looking particularly hideous.

As for music, I wasn’t impressed at the start, with a terrible dungeon music (caves) being played in the earlier dungeons. However, the excellent over world theme and battle themes kept mu aurally interested. When more dungeon themes started showing up, and I begin listening to the breadth of tunes the game has to offer, I must say the music was great. With emotional tracks giving way to epic battle music, the game had a theme for every possible moment. Truly, the music added another dimension for us to enjoy.

Unfortunately, the awesome melody did not push the limits of the system, and the quality was obviously less than similar games in 1996. Which is unfortunate since I would have loved to hear the Final Battle music with FF6’s sound quality.

Upgraded Visuals: +3
Boring Character and Sprite Design: -2
Great Sound: +5 (-2 for quality)


In Conclusion:

Lufia 2 was not played by many gamers in the SNES era, with neither Taito (of Lufia 1) nor Natsume being known for quality RPGs, it somewhat understandable. Unfortunately, this lead to many missing a gem of a game.

While not as immaculately crafted as Square RPGs, or as creatively conceived as Enix’s. Lufia 2 manages to take the usual RPG clichés and present them in a fresh way as to make them endearing again. Less like a big studio game, Lufia 2 feels like it was an indie of a bygone era.

Final: 40/50

*****************************************************************

"Tips"
1- Don’t waste items to feed you Capsule Monsters, sell those items to finance cheaper feeding alternatives.
2- If you get surprised, you can switch lines without wasting a turn, do it if you are in trouble.
3- If you are playing this game in an emulator, then Dual Blade shrine is glitched up, press 2 to clear things up a bit, and simply move forward and try to navigate yourself to the sword. It is only a short walk with no puzzles or anything so you should be fine to continue the game.
4- Always make sure you have fast healers.
5- Your rage moves depend on your equipment, some sub-par gear is worth keeping just for their moves.
6- Press X for help information (would have seriously helped in Lufia 1).


"Next Game"

After being pleasantly surprised by the Lufia franchise, I am ready to move on to another genre. Something that doesn’t take as much time as RPGs.

My next game a shooter featuring mechs by Lucas Arts. Not a star wars game, Metal Warriors sit at #33 in IGN’s lis

Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/lufia-ii-rise-of-the-sinistrals/screenshots

Photo Photo Photo








Mario and Luigi Dream Team: How Giant Battles Ruin my Day

It’s never strange to see features of a Nintendo console being implemented in Nintendo games, especially non-core franchises. As such, we expect Mario & Luigi games to feature whatever “gimmick” the console they are on offer. The Gameboy games did not have anything “gimmicky” in account of their platform. However, when the DS came in with its touch screen, the game had to offers some token touch control. Now, the 3DS has both a touchscreen, and the gyroscope. So, why not add in some “motion” control as well.

To put something straight, I am not an opponent of either touch controls, or gyro motion. I in fact enjoyed both Legend of Zelda games, and I find a motion controlled Katamari-game to be blissfully fun. Both games started from the ground up designed for their respective control schemes. The balance in the games took account of the lack of precession non-button controls usually bring to the table.

Hence, when a game introduces such control schemes haphazardly, without any care to the balancing of said control schemes, we have Dream Team. Besides the token motion and touch controls in the background and some special moves, the game heavily uses them in the “giant” boss battles. Actually, scratch that, the game EXCLUSIVELY uses touch and motion controls in some boss battles.

These battles, which are mandatory, pop up with a new control scheme, one that the player could not have any outside training in, and demand immediate mastery. Most of those who played Dream Team would scoff at those battles, declaring them easy and only mildly annoying. Which is true when you are playing the default difficulty. However, in hard mode, these battles suddenly show cracks in the game’s design.

First, we have the obvious problem of introducing a secondary control scheme in a freaking boss battle. There is no training for said scheme outside of each boss’s battle, because each boss has their own unique counters. Second, the controls are simply not accurate enough. When playing hard mode, each boss can basically kill you in 4 attacks. Here is where the shit seriously hit the fan.

Being “giant” battles an all, these skirmishes are designed with spectacle in mind rather than any semblance of balance. You, the player, counters and evades attack after attack from these bosses before getting a chance of dishing out miniscule amounts of damage. Then the cycle repeats again. Clearly, the design team meant for the player to take a number of hits in these battles before coming out in top. In normal mode, this is perfectly possible considering the low damage bosses dish out, but in hard mode anything less than perfect response form the player would possibly lead to a loss.

Why a loss, because no matter how good you are at swiping the screen, the 3DS’s gyro is not dependable to use in a boss battle, especially when the console is held sideways. You will lose control over the gyroscope, and the game will punish you for it.

Hold it Sideways for even less accuracy

As an SNES gamer, I am used to games punching me in the face. The boss kills me, ok, time to restart and fight again. Eventually, you memorize the battle enough that it becomes easy. Not in Dream Team it won’t. Because each battle is preceded by a lengthy unescapable cutscenes, and because the battles are basically glorified quick-time events, the tedium dissolves any learning process in your brain.

I am not one to ever quit a game, and never was someone who would let one aspect of a game color his entire opinion on it. However, I am very tempted to throw this bloody cartridge out of a the fucking window, and by god, any fond memory I had of the time spent on Dream is colored red by my rage at these boss battles.

In effect, these are classical mistakes associated with Nintendo consoles. A blind insistence in using the newest control scheme, leading to an over-abundance of half-baked gaming ideas (early DS library, Wii waggle-thon games), in turn leading to gamers forever dooming the control scheme, which leads to some bias towards games that actually do those controls justice (Canvas Curse, Skyward Sword, Red Steel 2, Second Screen Inventories).

Mario and Luigi Dream Team is not a bad game. It does have its pluses, and the core battles are still fun. Yet, inside of it, there is an awful game that poisons the whole experience. In Normal mode, the game is too easy for me. In hard mode, the game is challenging and fun, but the “giant” boss battles go beyond fair, and are a pain.

Punch to punch, the battle is a tie with Bowser, but I know what he got, I am confident I could counter most of his moves. True, my health-bar is less than half full. But that was because I did not avoid that one attack which knocked over 70% of my HP. Still, I am still confident. Wait, the cowardly turtle ran away, no problem. Oh, what is this move, it looks like a new one. What, prepare for motion-control. No fucking way. Okay, I got this. Please don’t fail me now. Oh shit, what’s happening, move Luigi, move you fucking green bastard. MOVE.

SHIRT

I fucking hate *)&(^*(*%&$

 

Photo Photo Photo








For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

http://www.ign.com/top/snes-games

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.


Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

S- Lufia & the Fortress of Doom:
Year: 1993.
Genre: RPG.
Publisher: Taito.
Developer: Neverland.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

Lufia is perhaps the least well known JRPG of the SNES era, probably due to being published by small publisher Taito. Nevertheless, it is fondly remembered by those who played it, and the second game was critically acclaimed as well.

In order to better review the second game, I decided to play the first. Expecting a basic RPG with probably archaic mechanics, I was caught off-guard by what is actually a pretty decent game, even though it is ancient in some ways.

"And so the final battle begins"

You start the game in control of the world's strongest fighters, a group of four warriors heading for their final battle with the evil Sinisterals. From the start, we learn that the Sinisterals are akin to a natural disaster that reign death and destruction over the world.

By starting with the strongest fighters, you are hugely over-level, and you can take your time learning the game's battle mechanics. If anything, the intro provides some depth to the narration, as well as a window to the future for the player.

With the Sinisterals defeated, a century of peace begins, and at its end is your main character. The end of peace part is where you come in, as a descendent of Maxim, the leader of that aforementioned group, you must take on the resurrected Sinisterals and save the world.

While this is basic RPG storytelling, the game does offer some surprising depth. Especially when it comes to the relationship of the MC with the mysterious Lufia. Which culminates in a truly great ending, despite the childish translation.

Very Good Start:+3
Surprising Story Depth: +3



"Let's see what's up ahead"

After you are introduced to the MC and Lufia, you begins your quest to save the world from the impeding threat of the Sinisterals. Unfortunately, most of the time, you will be questing in order to get through your quest to save the world. You need to go to City A, well, you must first go to cities B and C and do something in order to be able to go into A.

What the game basically boils down to is a huge series of fetch quests. Some of which offer an appreciated glimpse into the game world, most which are basically padding. Highlighting the nature of these fetch quests is the snaky design of the game world, which is linear and seems to offer a singular path towards your goal.

In order to fulfill these quests, you would basically need to go into dangerous caves and dungeons, fight off some monsters, get some item, and repeat. Sometimes, you will have to fight a boss, which actually manages to test you combat ability.

Speaking of combat, its basic turn-based battle, with each round consisting of characters acting in order of their speed. Thankfully, battles don't take a lot of time, with the occasional boss battle that challenges your strategy.

A Series of Fetch Quests: -3
Mostly Boring Side Stories -2
Decent and Fast Battle System:+3

"This country will survive"

Probably due to the abundance of fetch quests, the game needed to provide resting points (towns) at the path of each one. Resulting in one of the most populated RPG worlds in the SNES. With nearly 30 towns, the game boasts a respectable amount of NPCs. While most of them are your run-off-the-mill info dumps, some do sport their amusing eccentricities.

Despite the visual limitations, and the fact that most towns use the same architecture, the personality of the game manages to shine through. Cities are populated with both adults and children, and some cities manage to feel unique due to the complexion of the populace. For example, seeing a cleric man the item shop because "he found faith" is bound to register a smile.

This is actually an extension of the game's own personality, which manages to convey humor, romance, bravery, and other emotions in what is a very limited translation. Despite the limitations, the game manages to have some good dialogue, and more importantly, a consistent charm.

Personality:+4
Some Humor: +2



"Puny knight! I AM EVIL ITSELF"

The Sinisterals might be super evil beings, but besides a very nasty sleeper trap they laid, we are never familiar with their evilness beyond some quotes such as the above. Its just another byproduct of the eternal fetch quests format. What evil we are familiar with is however related to the game itself. Starting with an over zealous random encounter rate, and finishing with an obnoxious final dungeon.

Lufia is a very basic game, and hence lacks the improvements games such as Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger did to advance the genre. Take the lack of a dash button for example coupled with the high encounter rate, both working against the player's time. Perhaps the final dungeon wouldn't be as obnoxious if the aforementioned problems didn't exist, nah, probably would still be.

Admittedly, the game's default walking speed and the battles themselves keep the problems from being as pronounced as Breath of Fire 2 for example. However, the game's other limitations are more serious.

First, items don't specify what they do, which coupled with a shoddy translation forces the player to try the items to discern their use, or simply ignore them. Second, the lack of character portraits is a minus for the art, but the lack of the name of the character who is talking causes some confusion about the direction of the dialogue. Last, the lack of a world map would mean looking for end game targets is a pain.

Not one single issue is a game breaker, but when they combine together, they make the experience more difficult.

Caveman Design: -3
Background Antagonists: -2

"Will this dress make me pretty?"

If we want to make a visual comparison between Lufia, and any other RPG, it would be called Final Fantasy light. Employing the same style, but without as much detail, the game is colorful but is visually repetitive. For instance, most towns use the same architecture, and the game world consist of less than a doze textures. While not ugly, or even bland, the visuals are just very basic.

In contrast to the the world visuals are the battles, which employ a first person view similar to Dragon Quest. Which is both disappointing because we cannot see our characters in action, and great because the monsters are shown in much more detail. In fact, the monster designs are really good, especially the bosses.

Unfortunately, the monsters are only still image and do not animate at all beyond shaking when getting hit. In the other hand, spell animations are well done, even if not spectacular. Overall, the Lufia is visually unimpressive, however it is not ugly.

Aurally, the game includes several great tunes, such as the overworld and fortress of doom songs. Aside from those two, which are the best in my opinion, the other tunes serve their function well and are great to listen to. Unfortunately, the game's soundtrack is in the short side, with little more than 30 tracks at the max.

However, the main problem with the sound in Lufia is that it is not continuous. Meaning that you will rarely hear the cool overworld theme to its completion because every time you finish a battle, the music restarts. Luckily, the music continues to play while you are in the menu, so you can customize at your leisure while listening to the best tracks.

Basic Graphics: -1
Some Great Music: +4



In Conclusion:

While it is true that Lufia is more like an early SNES RPG than a middle SNES one, it still manages to be a really good game regardless. With faults that, while noticeable, do little to ruin the experience; they are not an excuse enough not to play the game.

For RPG fans, and for those curious about a game with many ardent admirers, the first Lufia is a welcoming game. In my opinion, any SNES top 100 list would be lacking if it did not include this game, but at such a list, it would be among the highest numbers, not the lowest.

Final: 33/50

*****************************************************************

"Tips"
1- Use Drain on bosses regularly.
2- Save your Miracles for the last Bosses.
3- Take care of which rings to use.
4- Heal on anticipation, not need.
5- Use the emulator save feature for the final dungeon.

"Next Game"

I think IGN messed up by not including the first Lufia in their list, especially since this a list that includes such a bad Superman game. Regardless, playing Lufia and the Fortress of Doom better positions me to review Lufia 2, which sits at #34.

From what I know, Lufia 2 is a prequel to the first game, and it follows the quest of Maxim, whom I play as in the intro to this game. I guess I will not be starting from level 70 this time though.

Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/lufia-the-fortress-of-doom/screenshots
Photo Photo Photo








For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

http://www.ign.com/top/snes-games

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.


Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

40- Earthworm Jim 2:
Year: 1995.
Genre: Action Platformer.
Publisher: Playmates.
Developer: Shiny Entertainment.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

The first Earthworm Jim surprised the world with its surreal humor, crazy protagonist, and original style. Its originality was its strongest claim to fame, as it did have its share of shortcomings that were glossed over through its unique charm.

It follows then that a sequel would not have the same surprising impact. We expect the unexpected from Earthworm Jim 2 (EJ2), and thus will not forgive its shortcomings as easily as the first game. Luckily, we wouldn't have to overly extend our mercy, because EJ2 is clearly a better game than its predecessor.

"Groovy!!"

I guess Jim, as a game protagonist, must have felt his CV lacking with its lack of princess rescue missions. Fortunately, his arch-enemy Psy-Crow is giving him the chance to rectify that mistake by kidnapping princess What's-her-name.

In an adventure worthy of the name (even if not as crazy as the first), Jim goes through several levels following Psy-Crows trail in order to save What's-her-name. While still a crazy adventure, with its fair share of humor, EJ2 feels lacking compared to the first one, most probably because it lacks the element of surprise.

Aside from its abundance of Cow Jokes, and a seriously hilarious ending, the game lacks some bite and feels more grounded than the first game. For instance, the enemies you fight are simply not as memorable as those in the first game. No Lawyer from Hell is going to attack you with law suits, and sentient filing cabinets are not an equal substitute.

Less Bite than the Original:-2
Still Crazier than Everything Else: +2



"Udderly Abducted"

Other than its humor, EJ2 is better than the first game in everything else, starting with gameplay. While the first stage might suggest a similarity between the two game, the subsequent carnival of game ideas completely changes the game.

While the game is supposedly an action platformer, the game changes tracks rapidly. One level is played vertically, with your head acting as a hot air balloon. Another charges you with rescuing Cows in a little labyrinth stage. One stage even puts you in the control of a freakish creature that floats, and end in a ridiculous game show. Not all ideas are winners, with the shooter-inspired stage being a huge bore, but the variety keeps each idea from getting stagnant.

More important than the ideas themselves is their execution, which is not nearly flawless. Carrying the problem from the first game, EJ2s mechanics are still suspect, with hit boxes the worst offender. For example, a stage charging you with protecting falling puppies asks you to catch them with a jumping cushion. Imagine the frustration a puppy's death would cause when it clearly touches the cushion but does not register it.

Fortunately, the game elevates some of the issues by being understanding and welcoming instead of unfair and obtuse. Lives are easy to get by, and you would never die due to imprecise platforming. Thus, the shortcomings of the gameplay being elevated by a forgiving game.

Huge Variety: +5

Imprecise Mechanics: -3
Forgiving Game: +2

"See Jim Run, Run Jim Run"

One mysterious change in Jim's animation from the first game is his run. Now, its always activated, and he even runs in place. It still is cute and full with personality, which it inherits from the personality found in the first game. Still, idle animations show much care, and the characters in the world move and act in hilarious manners.

Besides the animation and sprites, the graphics are crisp and clean, but show little imagination and are mostly boring rendition of alien atmosphere. See the backgrounds for example, which are good looking, but lack the imagination and movement found in some other games. Which is disappointing when compared to the personality found in the game's sprites and animation.

Both of the above issues are direct inheritance from the first game, which had lively sprites besides boring background. Yest, the sound division apparently did not get the inheritance memo.

Simply put, the soundtrack of EJ2 is divine, and aside from one soundtrack (which ironically accompanies the worst stage), is truly great. Both alien and traditional, crazy and classic, the musics evokes a sense of contradiction. Explain the moonlight sonata's 3rd movement complementing the final race between Jim and his rival. Beethoven's classic sonata offers a direct contradiction to the crazy world of Jim, and yet it works so well within the game.

This great music acts as a buffer against the rougher parts of the game, alleviating some of its frustrations. For example, I was at the end of my tether in ISE 9000, which I felt had too many mechanical problems. However, the soundtrack, which was a Pink Floyd inspired piece, was just too good for me to ever thinking about quitting the game in rage.

Great Music: +5
Moonlight Sonata: +3
Personality: +3
Boring Graphics: -2



"Puppy Love?"

After dealing with all its shortcomings, and enjoying all its advantages, you suddenly find that the game ends. Just 10 levels or so, and with little reason to replay the game, the game ends. It took me two short session to finish the game, and while other people might do so in more (or even less), it still is a short game.

When compared with other games in the SNES, even platformers, we find EJ2 to be more similar to licensed platformers like The Lion King in length, rather than original platformer like Donkey Kong. Which is disappointing, because EJ2 is an original IP that showed more imagination than can be constrained in 10 levels or so. Perhaps opting to be short and sweet game instead of a long tedious one. Nonetheless, it just ends up as a overly short, so much that if this was back in 1995, I would not recommend that anyone buys the game at full price.

Short: -4

In Conclusion:

If you think that this game wears anything on its sleeve, you would be wrong. With everyone expecting the crazy humor of the first game, EJ2 could not surprise us with that. However, it managed to surprise us with its great soundtrack, and varied gampeplay.

Even though it still has its share of problems, length and mechanical shortcomings being at the forefront. The forgiving challenge, and its other charms do make for a good game. Just not for the full price of 1995.

Final: 34/50

*****************************************************************

"Tips"
1- Press Down to Carry things.
2- ISO 9000 Boss requires you to use the wardrobe in the left.
3- The triple gun is probably the best one.

"Next Game"

While I said I will not review sport games, a gold game where Kirby is the ball is a must play. Surprisingly, at #38 Kirby's Dream Course is the highest rated Kirby game in the list. Here is hoping its not below Par.

Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/earthworm-jim-2/screenshots
Photo Photo Photo