I tend to play a mix of retro and modern games. I'm a fan of Platformers, Beat 'Em Ups, RPGs, First Person Shooters, Fighting Games, Shumps, and Adventure Games. My favorite retro games include anything in the Mario series, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Mega Man 1-3, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Final Fight, Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2, any Capcom Fighter, Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max Hit The Road, Deus Ex, Galaga, Axelay, any game in the Gradius or R-Type series, and countless others. Currently I'm on a binge in Shadow Complex, but you can also find me playing Call of Duty, Punch-Out!!, No More Heroes, Mad World, Madden 2009, Batman Arkham Asylum, Fallout 3, Oblivion, any Soul Caliber game, KOTOR, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, UFC 2009, and Mario Galaxy. Upcoming releases I'm looking forward to are Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, New Super Mario Brothers Wii, Metroid: Other M, Brutal Legend, Tekken 6, Crackdown 2, A Boy and his Blob and Alpha Protocol.
Aside from my gaming I'm a big fan of Professional Wrestling, both the WWE and independent groups like Chikara and Pro-Wrestling Guerrilla. I'm a big fan of most any cartoon series. I love weird or obscure TV series. I enjoy cinema, especially B-Movies and films so bad that they are good. I have a degree in culinary arts, am working towards getting one in Food Science, and that's pretty much me.
Don't call it a comeback! Really, we actually came back last week. This week on Rubberband A.I. Kyle, Foster, Bronson, and special guest the returning Pat Nguyen are talking one of the best fighting game series, you know, the one that had a new release a few weeks back, IT'S ALL ABOUT PRIMAL RAGE. Ok, seriously, we're talking about the Vs. Series. We'll be covering the orgins of the series, why the games that had X-men in the title were essentially prototypes before the creation of the really good games, Foster contributes very little, why the end bosses are awesome, the unbalanced nature of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 actually balancing the game, who are our favorite characters, the fan services that Capcom put into the games, Bronson's conspiracy theory about Tatsunoku vs. Capcom, The other vs. Series (ie Capcom vs. SNK), and our love for the entire series. We also talk The GBA turning ten, Bronson's iPad, why we won't be playing Crysis 2, and what we've been playing lately. All of this, plus why Servbot, Servbot, Servbot is the greatest MvC2 team, This week on Rubberband A.I.
Also, I forgot to post last week's episode, our tribute to the Oregon Trail, you can check it out by following the link below.
Episode 4 of Rubberband A.I. is dedicated to edutainment titles. Why you ask? The release of Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on Facebook. However we will not be talking about The Oregon Trail, that game merits an episode all it's own. We will talk about classics like Number Munchers, Math Blasters, Treasure Mountain, The Magic Schoolbus, Typing of the Dead, and others. We cover the death of a once huge video game franchise, and one of our favorite publishing houses. Plus, Kyle actually tries to defend Mario is Missing, yes, you heard that correctly. That's what happens this week on Rubberband A.I.
Rubberband A.I. is a part of the Card Subject To Change Podcast Network, feedback is always appreciated either in the comments below, or via email at Rubberbandai@gmail.com
This week on Rubberband A.I. we return from our brief absence to talk about adventure games. The role of Matt Foster is played by Pat Nguyen. Kyle and Bronson talk about why they enjoy Saints Row so much. The guys ponder the potential of the Zombies Ate My Neighbors Movie. We explain why we are excited for the return of You Donít Know Jack.
Then we delve into Adventure games attempting to figure out what constitutes an adventure game, what adventure games we have loved, why we all hate the game Myst, the return of the adventure genre, and why early adventure games have not aged well.
All this, plus how to sneak past a guard by teaching a chicken how to dance using toothpaste, this week on Rubberband A.I.
Rubberband A.I. is a part of The Card Subject To Change Podcast Network, your source for Wrestling, Sports, Video Games, and Insanity. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Card Subject To Change.
Also, feedback is always appreciated, even if you want to say we're a bunch of idiots that don't know what we're talking about, and can be posted below or sent to RubberbandAI@gmail.com. Next week, Edutainment Games
Edit: Based on the comments on the C-Blog Recaps I've updated the link to directly link to the podcast. I really don't know what else I can do to change the synopsis so it isn't copying and pasting.
It's been awhile since I've made a post, but I decided I could introduce my new gaming podcast to some people who wouldn't hear it otherwise. So without further ado the synopsis of Rubberband A.I. Episode 2
This week on Rubberband A.I., Kyle, Bronson, and Foster are joined by their special guest Matt Ryan. Topics discussed include, God fucking dammit, why the fuck do people want to buy the Kinect. Why weíre all excited for the upcoming Mortal Kombat web series. Has one of our favorite game companies pulled a Carlos Mencia and stolen the game ĎSplosion Man? But the bulk of our show is dedicated to professional wrestling games, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The first wrestling games we ever played including how badass a character ďYourselfĒ is, WCW Backstage Assault and why getting rid of the ring in a game about wrestling makes about as much sense as TNAís booking, The greatness that is WWF Wrestlefest, and Bronson and Kyle argue over which is better Fire Pro or No Mercy. All This plus the world title is on the line as Yourself takes on AKI Man, THIS WEEK ON RUBBERBAND A.I.
Rubberband A.I. is a part of The Card Subject To Change Podcast Network, your source for Wrestling, Sports, Video Games, and Insanity. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Card Subject To Change.
Also, feedback is always appreciated, even if you want to say we're a bunch of idiots that don't know what we're talking about. Next week, Adventure Games.
If you were to ask your average RPG fan why they like Role Playing Games, youíll get some common answers. The stories are more in depth and tend to draw them in; you develop true attachment to your characters, among many others. Thereís always one thing that everybody seems to enjoy, characters level up, become better, and can use new abilities. Thatís what makes an RPG an RPG. If a game is ever advertised as having RPG elements, it means that there is experience points, leveling, etc. It attracts people to games, your character gets rewarded for fighting extra battles, finding secrets, doing side missions, and it gives a normal game that little extra.
However, if you ask that same RPG fan what their least favorite part about Role Playing Games. The number one answer is always Grinding. Personally, Grinding doesnít bug me too much; I personally enjoy building up a few levels now and then to boost my characters. Sometimes youíre just bored in a game and want to take a break, why not go kill some baddies and gain a few levels, itís cool that you can do that with no fear in an RPG. But when Grinding is forced upon a player thatís what makes all gamers angry. Weíve all been in a dungeon where weíre right before the boss, youíve saved, healed, and are ready to fight. Then in a one minutes battle heís killed your entire party. It doesnít make sense, if we were able to beat the dungeon up to the boss, why canít we beat the boss. Yes it should be a tougher battle than the dungeonís normal enemies and you might die once or twice trying to beat him, but it should be possible. If the boss has a weakness or something along those lines that curbs them from killing you nearly instantly thatís one thing, itís another thing if heís just far more powerful than your character is. Thus we have to grind, and we get angry at the game for making us do so against our own will.
Great, Iím fucked arenít I, looks like I get to go Grind some more.
Ironic isnít it, what we love so much spawns what we hate with every ounce of our moral fiber. Leveling up has gotten so fucking confusing at this point. Different games all have different rules about EXP, thereís a range of complete control to no control over what skills you character gains, and it can get frustrating and confusing. Leveling up, the simple concept of it, has become a monster quite frankly, and itís because of multiple factors. The concept of experience points, what a level up means in the context of the game, and what the player gets to do to customize their character upon a level up.
Experience points are really there because they have such ease of use. Itís a number value assigned to the difficulty, according to the programmer, of the enemy. The problem is that in the eyes of a gamer these are just arbitrary number values. They are just there as an indicator so the game can add them to a characterís total experience points, so they can level up a character at the right time. The problem is that in games they are static values. Why is a regular troll worth 150 exp, when a fire troll is worth 200? Is it because the fire troll has 27 more health points, or can use a level 1 fire attack, or has a regular attack value one higher than the regular troll. What if the fire troll is actually easier to kill because it has a weakness to water? Itís a problem quite frankly; all that our character does in a game is broken down into simple addition. It can also be frustrating when a game only allows people who were within a battle to gain experience. I understand thereís a sense of realism there, they fight, thus they get the spoils of battle. If you can swap characters in battle it helps, but if you want everyone to have the experience you are forced to waste turns swapping in and out characters. If you canít swap out characters its just shitty, because you are forced to level up characters individually if you want to use them all, thus instead of using the full party a gamer is inclined to use a small group that has higher levels. Thus EXP hinders the game, but are there other options?
Hurray, a whopping two EXP
Some games try to get around EXP by giving the character experience based on their actual in game experience. Oblivion is a prime example, your actions in the game determine when your major skills level up, and that determines when you level up. If you use your sword, your bladed weapon skill increase, it all seems so simple. However it just becomes a mess, because itís unbalanced. For a magic school to increase you have to use a spell in the school, simple enough. However it has to affect somebody to count, so if your fireball doesnít hit, you lose mana and donít get experience for using it. Also the level of the spell doesnít affect how much the stat increases, thus itís beneficial to use weaker spells or to create spells intentionally weak solely to level. It can really be a problem when you have one skill that doesnít level at a rate like your others. For example, I have bladed weapons and archery as skills. At times you just canít use a bow to attack, thus my bladed weapons are at a very high level, while my archery remains low. So Iím more inclined to use my blade, and I donít really level up my archery. In concept itís a good idea; in practice there are some kinks to be worked out.
Is this a solution?
The level up needs to only give a player three things, an increase in HP/MP, a change in attributes, and the ability to use new magic/skills. Most games do this alright, however there are still minor problems and a few major ones. For example, Weapons and Items shouldnít be level based. If thereís a restriction thatís ok, like the character must be a master in blade to use this sword, or mages can only wear cloth armor because they are physically weaker than the other characters. Thatís understandable because it has reasoning. When thereís a weapon that either you have in your characterís possession or that can purchased, yet cannot be used because your character isnít at a certain level, thatís just fucking stupid. Anyone can pick up and shoot a gun, whether theyíve been doing it for years or itís their first time. WHY THE FUCK CANíT A CHARACTER USE A WEAPON, BECAUSE OF THE LEVEL NUMBER. Give me an excuse, I donít care, just donít put, un-equipable until level 14 there, itís a fucking cocktease. It can also be troublesome when magic has its own experience points and own levels. Chrono Trigger is a prime example, I love this game, but your magic and character levels have their own EXP. Some enemies donít drop the magic EXP, and since itís a game where only the characters actually in battle gain EXP from it, you may have to grind to get your spells up. Itís another minor thing, but leveling up should be all encompassing.
God forbid anyone at Level 45 try and touch this sword.
A major problem I have is when enemy level increases when your character or characters increase level. Going back to Oblivion, as you increase in level so do your enemies. They essentially become more difficult the more that you play the game. Granted, if this was done logically it would be alright. I could understand if enemies throughout the many dungeons in the game increased their level as you did, because they arenít the main focus. But when the enemies in the main quest and in the overworld do, that is a serious problem. One of the major aspects of RPGs is the side quests, your character can deviate from the main path before returning to it. Doing a side quest may reward you with a special weapon, armor, or item that you wouldnít get otherwise. I shouldnít be punished for choosing to do some side quests, and leveling up, before returning to the main quest. If I choose to do some side quests and gain a level or two, itís either because I am bored of the main quest at that moment or because I feel my character needs to increase in level before resuming the main quest. Oblivion has a vast amount of areas to explore and side quests to complete, yet it essentially tells the gamer that they should hold off on them until the main quest is over. While yes it isnít a major thing, itís still BULLSHIT. I can admit, the enemies are easier to defeat the higher level you are, but it doesnít matter. The difficulty of the enemies within the main quest should increase the further you get along in that quest. Thus the player has an incentive to play side quests and explore, so they can make their character stronger the further along they are in the game so they are better equipped to fight these enemies. But even that isnít the major problem with leveling these days.
We as gamers have gone past the point of leveling up just being an arbitrary increase in stats. In the days of the NES and SNES that was perfectly fine. It was a simpler time, for simpler games (Iím not referring to difficulty or story, rather the memory constraints), on a simpler system. That time has past however. If stats just increase without any rhyme or reason, it dissolves the illusion that we as the game have control over the entire game. It just further proves that we are on a set path that the creator wishes us to follow. If your character reaches level 50, they have the stats that the creator, not you the gamer, wants that character to have. Yes, you may be able to pick up a few items which permanently boost a stat, and a higher level in one stat may increase other things, such as the amount of HP your character gains per level, but by in large you have no control over what happens during a level up. Sometimes itís even confusing as to what a stat affects. I personally can think of only one game off the top of my head where I know what each stat is, Earthbound. Five of the seven stats in the game are easy to understand, and because Iíve played the game quite a few times, I know Guts allows you to do Smash attacks and IQ helps Jeff fix broken items and really doesnít affect anyone else. But there is still no standard system to listing stats, they can lead to confusion, and it leads myself, as a gamer, to not pay attention them. Yes, you can take the time out to learn what they do individually, but that should be included in the game, just a simple list of what each stat does for the character.
Damn for savior of the universe he sure does start out with shitty stats.
Experience points need to become flexible. They need to become based on experience, but not to an extreme level. Enemies can still carry experience points, thatís fine, but that should be a base value. The rest should be determined by the battle itself. The RPG makers need a way so the actions of battle truly determine how much experience a character gains. Is it hard fought, what are the characters relying on, are they using multiple attacks/magic/items, and etc. If the battle is a cakewalk, they get the base points with little extra, telling them they should try and fight harder enemies. If the battle is a difficult one, then they get bonus experience for it. The numbers actually have meaning, and the player becomes more inclined to fight harder battles so his characters can reap the rewards.
As for Leveling Up, customization is the key. I know Iíve ragged on Oblivion a whole lot, but I love the game. It, along with many other hybrid RPGs have a great system for leveling up. I personally love it because everything is in your control. Even though you can cheat the system, all of your skills still increase by the way you play the game. If you use your character as a tank, their weapon and armor skills increase, play as a mage, and magic goes up. Once receiving a level up, your stats, all clearly defined, get increased by you the gamer, not by the game itself. You can choose increases that a beneficial to your character, rather than the gameís programmer choosing them for you. Final Fantasy 10ís sphere grid is another good example, the skills your characters gain are based on what you want them to learn, not what the game forces upon them. More and more games are going along these routes thankfully, but it should become a standard for all RPGs. The gamer many hours playing with a character or party, they develop a style with them, and because of this they feel they know what is more beneficial to a character in their game.
Every single one of these is free for you to fiddle with.
Can Leveling up and Experience Points be saved, sure, but it will take some effort. Both creators and gamers alike are attached to characters, so both need an input. But I personally feel the creators need to grant the gamers more leeway. We shouldnít be forced to play a game a certain way because the creator feels that his way is best. Itís called a role playing game for a reason. Gamers step into the role of a character or group of characters, and play out the game in that role. In real life hardships, troubles, ideas, amongst others, breed change; a game should be the same way. If we as humans had the luxury of saving our ďgame of lifeĒ before difficult portions and find out one way of doing things isnít going to work, then weíre going to change what weíre doing. So should the RPG follow suit, allow the gamer to truly make it their own experience, while keeping the essence and ideas of the game still there.
Iím ThaFNFreak, Thatís my opinion, as Iím entitled to it.
I remember in elementary school when videogames were king. On the playground people would talk about the games they were playing, boasting about what they had beaten, and cursing others who had beaten a game before them. I knew kids who would swap magazines with each other, just so they could get all the hints, codes, and tricks. It was a magical time, and I loved every minute of it. It was there I found out which games were great, which I should avoid, and if a game was really worth playing through. But in all of this one though sticks out in my mind. The day I went to school and told my friends I had finally beaten Rockiní Kats. I waited for admiration; instead I got a reality check. Nobody I had talked to had even heard of the game. That ended up being the story of me and Rockiní Kats.
When I moved from Michigan to Illinois, I figured I had a fresh chance, a new audience to tell my story to. I was again sadly mistaken. While most of the gamers I met here had cut their teeth on the NES, few remembered much about it. They were more interested in the newest systems, The Playstation, Saturn, and N64, and the hottest games. I would still talk about it to anybody who would listen, but I knew it was falling on deaf ears. Even as I met more and more gamers who dug retro games, not a single one could recall playing it. A few had heard of it, maybe remembering seeing itís box at a store long ago, but not one of them had any real memories of the game.
I think thatís what caused me to forget about it too. Unlike most of the games of my childhood that I would continue to replay through emulation and by hooking up my old NES, I didnít pick it up again. In all honesty before this, I hadnít played the game in two-three years, and hadnít beaten it since I was a kid. So I had to take a look back to find out does it still hold up. Why have few heard of this game that was so beloved by myself, and is it a game that people should take their time and try? So letís dive in, hereís ROCKINí KATS.
Yes, this is a cheap segue, but oh well
Intro: I will be conducting this as my first Bipolar review (yes I do suffer from Bipolar disorder, so thatís why I feel free to use it; I donít mean to offend any other sufferers). The review is broken down into 4 segments, first an overview of the game itself. A general review where I will try to remain as unbiased as possible (trying to review it as though it is my first playthru), and will analyze the game by giving individual ratings (out of ten) to key components (graphics, sound, control, and playability) along with an overall score (not an average). The BiPolar portion where I will be biased as hell, because in Bipolar as in gaming there are, things that make me extremely happy, things that just depress me, things that induce anger in every inch of my being, and the WTF moments (which donít fit into a single category, and I consider akin to fluctuation of emotions). Finally Iíll try and take a deeper look as to why nobody has played the game. So without further ado, letís begin.
Rockiní Kats was released in 1991 by Atlus Software for the NES. Although in Japan it got a very Engrishy title, NY Nyankies. Also remember that this is 1991 we are talking about, so using K instead of C in Kats was still cool. It follows the path created by games like Super Mario Brothers and Mega Man, as it is a platformer. You take the role of Willy, a cat who is a Jazz musician and who goes by the stage name of ďThe Rockiní Kat,Ē I swear I am not making that up. Like most platformers, it follows the ďsave the princessĒ storyline. In this game itís Mugsy, the evil bulldog Crime Boss. Heís managed to steal your girlfriend Jill, and itís up to you, as Willy, to get her back. One unique thing about the game is how the story is structured. Instead of going off on an adventure filled with wacky mishaps with no justification, it turns out Willy is a cartoon character. Thus you get a channel select screen, allowing you to pick whatever adventure you want, be it a romp in New York City or the fun of a carnival.
Hell Yeah, LETíS GO TO PLAYLAND
The other unique thing is your weapon. Mario has fireballs, Mega Man has his Megabuster, and Willy has gun, which shoots a punch glove, which functions as a grappling hook. Iíll give you a moment to absorb that all in. A gun, which shoots a fist, thatís also a grappling hook. Thatís as original a weapon as Iíve ever seen in a game. Oh, whatís that, Bionic Commando did the grappling hook before? Quick question, what is your weapon in Bionic Commando. It isnít the grappling hook, itís your gun, and the grappling hook is your means of jumping, which Willy can do fine on his own. Yes, I can admit the grappling hook idea isnít entirely original, but I personally have never seen a grappling hook that spins you around in a circle at insane speeds.
Slow down Willy, that spinning is gonna make me sick.
A Punch glove and grappling hook, sounds amazing, BUT WAIT, THEREíS MORE. Canít reach that platform above you? Well just punch downward and spring-jump up there in style, Is that nosy bitch above you dropping a flowerpot? Just hold down the button and your punch glove becomes a grabbing arm, allowing you to grasp a falling object with ease, and throw it at whomever you wish. Plus for a small additional fee, you can change the punch glove for a spiked ball, even add Twin Balls. Again, I am dead serious, thereís a weapon you can buy called Twin Balls. All this and more could be yours, if you play Rockiní Kats today.
Yes, itís called the Twin Balls, *insert your own sexual joke here*
First things first, remember weíre dealing with an NES game, so comparing it with modern titles would just be silly. However for an NES game the graphics are quite well done. They use the NESís color palate very well, most everything in the game is very colorful, and giving the game the ďcartoonyĒ atmosphere I believe the creators were aiming for. Every character is drawn clearly and itís easy to see and understand what each individual is. From a skunk that sprays you to a dog whoís obsessed with Michael Jackson, the enemies are unique to say the least. They look good, and they each have their own expression for when they kick the bucket.
Willy himself looks like you could pluck him from a Disney or Warner Brothers group shot. Heís cartoony enough so he doesnít look like a real cat, but no so much that you donít recognize what creature he is. He is not static either, if you punch a wall and he bounces backward, his facial expression changes. If you land a grappling hook jump, and do not press any buttons he does a little celebration upon landing. And if he gets hit, he looks like a cartoon cat whose tail just got jammed into an electrical outlet. Willy fits his role well as a cartoon character because he was given mannerisms akin to many cartoon characters.
Doesnít it look like he jammed his tail into an outlet?
The stages are themselves are where the graphics can be hit or miss. Most of the time they look fine, the carnival level looks like an actual carnival. In one portion of it you enter a haunted house with enemies that blend into the dark background, to give the appearance that they are ghosts. In a factory based stage the background is full of rotating gears. Thereís even some nice scrolling in some stages, like where you hitch a ride on the wings of an airplane. The backgrounds and stages represent what they are supposed to. So at times an effort was really put in to make the stages look well.
At other times it seems like the developers got lazy. There are many levels where the background is just bricks of a solid color. Even worse there are ones that are just squares, split into two colored triangles. After scrolling through it just a little bit it can become sickening. The end of level bosses get the worst treatment, every single one of them is just a solid black background. It doesnít take anything away from the boss fights, but they really look plain and out of place with comparison to the rest of the game.
My how exciting, a static black background.
Rating for Graphics: 8.5, while not the best in the NES library, they are quite good. The point deductions mainly go towards the bad backgrounds, simply because they were capable of better as seen in other stages.
The music is good, but not great. Atlus at least manages to put forth effort, meaning that most of the background songs are not a ten second loop of the same thing over and over again. For the most part every song has an intro, an extended middle, and an ending before the song repeats itself. They have a cartoon vibe to them, which makes sense given the storyline. While some songs are repeated, it is done so logically. For example, every end boss has the same theme song, most of the sewer or underground portions use the same music. While it wonít go down in the pantheon of classic NES soundtracks like Mega Man 2, Castlevania 3, or The Mario series, itís not so bad that you want to mute the game.
The sound effects are quite nice. The game thankfully doesnít fall into the trap of reusing sound effects too much. If you grab a hold of an item, say a flower pot dropped from above, you can hear the glove open up, and the flower pot being grabbed. If you spring jump upward, it manages to sound like Willyís springing upward. They even gave each individual weapon its own sound effect, which a lot of games miss out on. The only sound that truly bothers me is when Willy gets hit, which is a loud yelp. It can be a bit annoying, especially since they reuse it for when Willy hits a wall while spinning on his grappling hook (which doesnít cause you any damage).
Yeah, I donít really know how to capture sound in an image. So hereís a picture where Jazz and Radio are mentioned, which involve sound? Yeah, Iím grasping for straws, but I donít care.
Rating for Sound: 7.0, While most of the music is not truly memorable, I have found myself humming the carnival and end boss themes recently. The sound effects would be perfect, if it wasnít for that yelp.
The control is an area where there are a few problems. By itself it is fine. Movement is not too loose nor is it too sticky. Everything is very responsive, when you press B to shoot out your punch glove; it comes out with minimal delay. Holding the button down to grab an item is timed out just fine, one second is all it takes. You have the ability to jump down from platforms, which is always nice, and useful in avoiding enemies. For the most part, itís what you would expect from a normal platformer.
The problem with the control is when you have to use down and up, one after the other. There are times in the game where you have to spring jump then follow up by grappling onto a platform above you. This should be no problem, but the game seems to delay the transition between directions. So there are times when you have to repeatedly attempt a jump/grapple, because you either pressed up too early and didnít get an opportunity to shoot up, or because you press up too late and your grapple misses. This is a minor inconvenience, and thankfully can be remedied by buying the Jet Sneakers powerup which allows you to hover.
Jet Sneakers, what would I do without you.
Using down or up alone is simple enough, thankfully, but the moment that you have to go in a diagonal is where you can run into some big problems. In most games, like for example Contra, itís nice that you can move while firing on a diagonal. In Rockiní Kats, there are times when you need to make a precise grapple or spring jump diagonally. Unfortunately since Willy moves while you are doing this, you can undershoot and overshoot targets. And since these tend to be in areas with a pit or instant death spot underneath (water in this case, spikes surprisingly do minimal damage), itís easy to lose all your lives trying to make a single jump. Again, the Jet Sneakers help, but this could be remedied by the game having a way to let you remain still to make these jumps.
Rating for control: 7.0, The control itself is solid, I just really dislike the fact that The Jet Sneakers are almost necessary in some parts of the game.
The game is short, I cannot deny that. At the beginning of the game you have the option of playing 4 channels, Downtown Street, Sky Ace, Playland, and Western Adventure. Although they are not the most inspired titles for cartoon episodes, they each have an individual theme, as I touched on when discussing the games graphics. You also get have a bonus channel, where money earned in the levels can be spent on games to win more money or extra lives. Thereís a shopping channel where power ups and extra lives can be purchased. Here you can pick up a bomb that fires from your glove, twin balls that do the same, a spiked ball to replace it, and the Jet Sneakers which allow you to hover. These can be switched in and out by your own choosing. Naturally the final channel I Love New York (not to be confused with that horrible reality show), is only unlocked after beating each stage.
I canít believe how easily his girlfriend gets captured.
Thankfully each stage is similar enough to fit together, yet has variety. While there are a few enemies who appear throughout the game, each stage has its own individual enemies that fit into the level motif. For example, Playland has pandas that spin plates at you, Sky Ace has birds in bombers who drop bombs on you, you get the idea. Also they follow a general pattern; they have two stages of side scrolling action, one of which has a midboss, a vehicle stage where you are fixed on an appropriate mode of transport (Roller Coaster, Mine Cart, etc), a stage of grappling and platforming that is either vertical or horizontal, and finally the level boss. Overall the main stages play out fine.
The fifth stage as one would expect is the longest, the most difficult, and is where playing bonus games to stock up on extra lives pays off. While it does contain my favorite enemy, the Michael Jackson canine, and my favorite boss, Mugsyís bodyguard Kong, it falls into a gaming clichť of the era. You get the pleasure of fighting every mid-boss and end-boss. In some games this works, the Mega Man series has done this in nearly every game, and I have no problem with it because you can pick which boss to fight in whatever order you please. In Rockiní Kats itís a seemingly random order, you fight end-bosses of a level before fighting the mid-boss that sort of thing, and every end boss is on the same boring black background as before.
Spiked ball to the groin, thatís got to hurt.
The bosses however are good, although cheap at times. The cheapness mainly appears in the mid bosses, who can corner you and take off a lot of your life bar in mere seconds. Most of them arenít too memorable, except for the Native American dogs who do a rain dance, ohhh Japanese racism. The end bosses are fun and albeit a bit odd in some cases the difficulty is balanced well on them. You fight Mugsyís personal band, The Bull Band, his dreaded Machine, his Clown-Dog, his pet eagle, his giant ape bodyguard Kong, and finally the man himself. Mugsy is the most difficult boss in the game, and rightfully so, as you have to jump from platform to platform avoiding him and his bullets, while landing shots of your own. After you knock him to the moon, the game isnít over, thereís a bonus level that Mugsy offers you, which Iíll discuss in the BiPolar portion of the review.
Ladies and Gentlemen, THE BULL BAND
Gameplay: 9.0, while I had to knock points off for the cheapness of the mid-bosses, having to fight every boss again, the game itself is solid. It may be short, but in that short period of time there is a lot packed in, and Iíd say itís replayable. Plus itís difficult, but not controller throwing difficult, which is always nice.
Overall: 8.0, While this game doesnít fall into the classic library of the NES, itís still worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of platformers. While I do have gripes with the control and the sound, they are relatively minor, and donít truly take anything away from a great game.
But now that Iíve tried to be as fair as possible, itís time look at this game from my own personal standpoint.
Itís time to go BiPolar.
What makes me happy
The cartoon storyline
To me its pure genius, everything is contained within the television. You choose a channel, and play out an episode of the cartoon. It even follows the same clichťs as a classic cartoon, the hero fights through whatever is in his path to save his damsel in distress, and argues with the villain over her safety. He gets his girl back by the end of the episode and everything is happy. But of course, the next time you tune in, the hated villain has taken her away and the hero must go off and save her once more. Instead of ďyour princess is in another castle,Ē Mugsy threatens you after you beat a stage, and on the channel select screen you can Jill being taken away by his goons. Itís an easy enough to follow story, and it works.
Dammit, with a threat like that, Iím certainly doomed.
The Punch Glove
I love the punch glove, hell I wish I could buy one in real life. Again going with the cartoon idea, it makes perfect sense; after all theyíve been in cartoons before. Itís versatile, like a weapon should be. Itís a springboard, a grappling hook, a grabbing arm, and a weapon in one. Plus thereís no greater satisfaction than slamming a giant boxing glove into an enemies face. The weapon upgrades each add onto it, without taking away what makes it uniqueness of the weapon itself. Bottom line, Punch Glove = Bad Ass
Even though it can make you look like a total tool, The Punch Glove is still awesome.
That I knew of this game
Like I said, this section is where I can be biased and personal. If I were to rank the top ten games from the NES that I played the hell out of in my childhood, it would be up there. This was one of those games that I could just pop in and have fun with. After dealing with the bullshit of The Rocketeer or Dick Tracy, I could pop it in, play a level or two, and put it away feeling happy. There are some games out there you just feel good after playing, this is one of them for me.
Things that depress me
You can pick up and throw powerups.
This saddens me simply because I donít think it was noticed by the developers. In giving you the ability to grab objects, they didnít specify which objects. However there are only a few times where objects are dropped or thrown for you to catch. The rest of the objects you encounter are the powerups. I know there have been many times where after punching out a bad guy I accidentally hold B instead of releasing it, and grab a health powerup I need, essentially wasting it.
Come on Willy, I needed that money
Powerups do not override invincibility.
This is one I rediscovered while playing through again. After taking damage from an enemy you get a few seconds of invincibility, as you would in most games. However unlike most games you cannot pick up powerups while you are in this invincible state. Compared to a game like Mega Man, where you can take a hit intentionally to get a powerup, you have no such luck here. The problem here lies in the fact that an enemies attack overrides picking up the item. If an enemyís bullet, miniature bat, whatever projectile it may be hits you when the invincibility runs out, you take another hit, and miss out of picking up the item.
Iím standing right over the life, and canít pick it up, I know Willy isnít on the screen; itís only because of the flashing during invincibility.
THINGS THAT PISS ME THE FUCK OFF
You cannot throw objects upward.
Granted, logically this wouldnít work, if you released the object upward, it would fall and hit you on the head. But this is a videogame with a cartoon theme, THAT STATEMENT ALONE SHOULD STATE LOGIC SHOULDNíT BE CONSIDERED. Hell I can do one better, if hold the object up and release it, it flies to the right with no change in velocity and no falling due to gravity. THAT SHOULDNíT FUCKING HAPPEN EITHER, BUT IT DOES, SO LET ME THROW OBJECTS UP DAMMIT. Granted, you need the horizontal throw much more than youíd ever need an upward one, and it would only be useful a few times, in boss fights usually, BUT I STILL WANT MY ANTI-NEWTONIAN THROWS.
All I want to do is fire upward, canít you give me that.
I know, I know, these can be a problem in any game. But in Rockiní Kats, itís a serious fucking problem. The very moment the screen is one pixel above an enemy or in front of it, THEY FUCKING RESPAWN. So if you spring jump off a pipe (which contained an enemy you killed) and miss a grapple, THE MOMENT YOU FALL THAT ENEMY IS THERE AND ATTACKING. It essentially gives you one shot to make difficult jumps, otherwise you take damage. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE. THE REASON WHY I KILLED THE ENEMY IS SO HE COULDNíT ATTACK ME WHILE I ATTEMPTED THIS JUMP, HOW THE FUCK DID HE COME BACK SO QUICKLY. You donít even have to leave the screen, as the picture below shows.\
Iím not even off the screen yet, and heís already spawned, God fucking dammit.
The Smash Attack.
THIS THING IS FUCKING USELESS, AND ENDS UP MAKING THE GAME MORE DIFFICULT. Iíll explain, throughout the levels there are little walls, fire hydrants, lots of solid surfaces. If you punch them, you go flying back and kill enemies. It seems good in theory, but like Homer Simpson said, so did communism. The problem here is that of the enemy respawns, AS YOU GO FLYING BACK YOU GET A DOUBLE RESPAWN. FIRST OF ENEMIES FROM THE LEFT AS YOU FLY BACK, THEN FROM THE RIGHT AS YOU MOVE BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE. So while taking out one enemy, you create 3 more for you to deal with, I DIDNíT LIKE SMASH ATTACKS IN MELEE, AND I FUCKING HATE THEM HERE.
Look at it; does The Smash Attack even look normal or right?
ThInGs ThAt MaKe Me SaY wTf
The Logic of the boss battle with Mugsy
As you can see from the Images above, Mugsy is on a personal hovering device, which I assume is moving away from you. I make this assumption because the platforms scroll to the left, which is how they would scroll if he was moving right. However, he can fly to the other side of the screen, and what happens, THE PLATFORMS STILL SCROLL LEFT. UNLESS WILLY IS BATTLING MUGSY IN A GIGANTIC ROTATING ROOM, THIS MAKES NO SENSE. HOW CAN HE FLY AWAY IN TWO DIRECTIONS, AND ONLY HAVE THE PLATFORMS MOVE IN ONE? I know I said above that I shouldnít use logic, BUT EVEN CARTOONS FOLLOW THE LOGIC THAT IF A CHARACTER MOVES RIGHT, THE BACKGROUND SCROLLS TO THE LEFT, AND VICE VERSA.
Mugsy offering you one more round.
This is another thing I never noticed before, mostly because I turned the game off after the end credits. Mugsy pops in and tells you this.
All I could think was BADASS, more Rockiní Kats, how could I lose. HOW COULD I LOSE, BY TAKING EVERYTHING ABOUT THE GAME I LOVE, AND REMOVING IT. Instead of a fun cartoony sidescrolling platformer, IT GETS TURNED INTO FUN WITH SPRING JUMPING, GRAPPLING, AND DIAGONALS. And it isnít a second quest like in The Legend of Zelda, ITíS ONE FUCKING STAGE, THAT I SWEAR TO GOD IS MEANT TO KILL YOU. Thereís one spring/grapple that Iím 99% is impossible to land on itís own, YOU HAVE TO GET LUCKY AND HOPE THE BAT ABOVE YOU ATTACKS YOU, SO YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GRAPPLE ONTO A PIPE. You lose all your weapons, and cannot reobtain them, MAKING THE BATTLE VS. MUGSY A REAL BITCH. And after you beat it all and beat Mugsy, what do you get, THE SAME ENDING, NOTHING CHANGED. Iím all for bonus content, BUT NOT WHEN ITíS JUST BULLSHIT TACKED ON.
Iím dead fucking serious, this jump is nearly impossible to make.
The Western Feel
Thankfully there is some WTFness that I can dig. The developers were obviously trying to design this game with a western vibe to it, itís obvious from the Japanese title NY Nyankies. Unfortunately they probably did it without consulting any westerners. Thus we get some good old fashioned racism, like the mid-boss that does the rain dance. We get two NYC themed levels, and King Kong as a boss. And we get two really bizarre enemies. The first I mentioned above, The Michael Jackson dog, who moonwalks in, throws his hat at you, and moonwalks away. The second, I just cannot describe in words, but may be the most disturbing enemy ever in videogames, and that includes the Cho Aniki series.
Yes, that is indeed a mouse flashing Willy, and shooting little mice from his *ahem* little mouse. The strangest thing is that this enemy only appears the bonus stage that you can play after beating the game. It makes me wonder if the testers at Nintendo of America also didnít stick around after the end credits
So why have so many people missed out on the game, I think it breaks down into 4 factors.
Lets see a show of hands how many people know of the game, now those of you who owned put your hands down. Wait, this is all arbitrary, after all I canít count whose hands are raised over the internet, and even if I could, I donít know whoís lying. But like I said in the intro, I have never personally met anyone who has played this game. I couldnít find magazine ads for it on the internet, Hell I donít even know why I bought it when I was a kid. The only advertisement for it I have found is that it was a selection on Playchoice-10 machines in arcades, so I might have played it there. It could also be because it was featured on the game show Nick Arcade, which I watched a lot of as a kid.
2. The Company
While today Atlus is a well known in game publishing for the Shin Megami Tensei series, in 1991 they were a new kid on the block. When Rockiní Kats was released in September of that year, it was only the 4th game they had ever developed (at least if Wikipedia is accurate, if I am wrong donít flame me, just let me know so I can correct this). The games prior to this, two puzzle games on Gameboy and a golf game for NES. So we have the case of an untested company, trying to create a game type theyíd never attempted before. Atlus didnít have the benefit of a built in market, like Capcom, Konami, or Nintendo for that matter, of gamers who knew that they made quality games. With all those factors working against them, itís quite amazing people even played this game at all.
3. The Console and Genre
Rockiní Kats is a platformer, on the NES. Let that settle in for a moment. Ok, now in fifteen seconds, how many platformers (including hybrids) can you name on the NES? GO! Mario, Mega Man, Castlevania, Contra, The Capcom Disney games, Zelda 2, Metroid, Adventure Island, Little Nemo: The Dream Master, the list can continue on and on. As we all know the NES market was oversaturated with platformers. The chances of a new platforming game, from an unknown company, to rise above the rest of the crap, were slim and none.
4. The Release Date
Rockiní Kats was released in September of 1991. Whatís so big about that? Well one month prior to that The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America, along with the latest installment of the Mario series. The Sega Genesis had already been on shelves for two years at that point, and in June of 1991 it got its own mascot and platformer in Sonic the Hedgehog. September was right around the point of time where gamers were gearing up for the console wars of the 16-bit era. That helped leave Rockiní Kats lost in the shuffle.
In conclusion, Rockiní Kats was doomed from day one. It managed to have every single outside factor work against it. If you were intentionally trying to market this game poorly, you couldnít do as bad as this. And yet, somehow I managed to buy it. Despite all of these efforts, I own a copy of Rockiní Kats, and Iím damn glad I do. Itís not a classic, itís not the best of its kind, but it is a solid, fun game that few people know about.