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LONG BLOG

Retro Pain: Transformers Convoy no Nazo

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For the record, this is actually the second Retro Pain article. Castlequest was the first, but I didn't think of the snazzy title until recently, so... Retro Pain will cover all of my exploits writing StrategyWiki guides for games that are less than pleasurable to play through.

If any of you saw the post about my game room, it's pretty obvious that I'm a hard core Transformers fan. So you'd think I could find something redeeming to say about this third generation TF game known as Transformers: Convoy no Nazo, (hereafter referred to as TFCnN) but sadly, that is not the case.



In 1986, health meters weren't unheard of, but they weren't the norm either. There were plenty of successful games without health bars, but the trick was to make them playable by giving the player the ability to dodge oncoming attacks, and only cause a lose of life if a mistake was made. In TFCnN, you are the victim of a one-hit kill system that shows no mercy to you from the minute the game starts.

You wouldn't believe that you can be so weak, being the mighty and powerful Ultra Magnus. Ultra Magnus has been depicted in many ways by the various TF continuities, but the one consistency between all of them is that Ultra Magnus is one of the greatest and bravest soldiers on the battlefield in the entire Autobot army. In this game he is conducting a solo mission to find out who killed Optimus Prime (aka Convoy).



You see, the animated movie didn't air before the third season of the cartoon in Japan like it did in the United States. You know, the one that had all of us kid bawling when Optimus Prime died and turned charcoal gray. So all of a sudden, Season 3 starts in Japan with this new crazy cast of characters from out of no where, and all the kids there are like, "Wait... what happened to Optimus Prime? Who's this Rodimus guy?" So Takara made this game to fill in the blanks... another thing which this game fails at miserably (it answers nothing.)

So you are forced to play through ten levels of side-scrolling hell, where one shot is all it takes to kill Magnus, while he needs to shoot his enemies two or even three times typically to defeat them. According to Ultra Magnus' tech specs, he can fire his rocket propelled missiles over 30 miles! However, in the case of this game, it's more like 30 feet, and they land with a disappointing poof. The cast of attacking Decepticons is marginal at best with color problems all over the place, and such uninspired bosses like this gigantic Decepticon logo:



Other bosses include Stunticon gestalt Menasor and Combaticon gestalt Bruticus (no sign of Devastator anywhere), a way oversized Megatron (like four times as big as Magnus) and Trypticon as the final boss. That's great if you can ever survive long enough to see them. The typical first game lasts less than a minute and doesn't get you half way into the first board. Even transforming is a chore, taking up to two seconds, during which you are immobile and defenseless.

A Time Attack for the game has been recorded at around seven minutes for the whole thing, blowing your mind with dexterity and almost impossible to reproduce jumping skills. If the game were worth watching, I'd embed the video here, but the stages are all so uninspired and repetitive. But don't take my word for it. Ask these loyal fans.
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About Procyonone of us since 10:16 AM on 12.08.2006



My name is Scott. I've been playing video games since my hands were big enough to hold a joystick. I started with the Atari 2600, and graduated to the Atari 800 computer where I taught myself how to program in BASIC. I eventually got a NES, and later a Game Boy. The first summer I ever worked, I was a CIT at the day camp I attended. I worked all summer long to save up enough money to buy the SNES the very day it came out.

I attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. I was introduced to the internet my freshman year in 1993, and I fast became a console pirate, purchasing a copier and downloading ROMs off of IRC channels. Good times. In my senior year, I purchased the N64 as soon as the street date was broken, and skipped classes for the next three days to play Mario 64. I also bought a used PSX the same year.

After I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and a degree in Psychology, I was accepted to Digipen. I was part of the very last class that attended the school in Vancouver, before they moved the campus to Nintendo of America's HQ in Redmond Washington (across the street from Microsoft). After completing the program, I got my very first job as a programmer at Ubisoft.

I lucked out with Ubisoft because they were actually opening a studio near my hometown in NYC, so I actually landed my dream job and got to live on the east coast near my family. I worked on Batman: Vengence. I met a number of cool people, but the only one I still keep in touch with happens to be a buddy of mine who was the lead designer on "Army of Two." He is without a doubt, the greatest game designer I have ever had the privilege of working with.

The studio in NYC didn't pan out for Ubisoft, and they decided to fold the team up to Montreal. After living in Vancouver for a year and a half, I decided I had enough of Canada, so I stayed in the NYC office, which transformed into GameLoft. I stayed there until me and the buddy I mentioned landed a job at 3DO. We both moved out to Redwood City and started working there.

3DO wasn't a great company, but it wasn't terrible, and I met a crew of people who became some of the greatest friends that I have ever had. I worked on Dragon Rage, which was being led by Kudo Tsunoda. He told the execs that it was going to be an Army Men game with an art asset swap, and it would take 6 months to complete. The truth was we were building a new engine from scratch, and it would really take a year to get it done right. When the six months were up, the execs asked for the game, and we weren't even close to finished, so we had to do 12 hours days, 6 days a week until the game was finished. 3 months later, nobody cared about it anymore, and it went straight to the budget bin.

3DO closed down very shortly after. While I was at 3DO, I got to know two people who amazed me: Howard Scott Warshaw and Tod Frye, two of the original Atari 2600 programmers. Getting to meet them and talk with them about "the good old days" at Atari was an amazing thing to me. (I totally recommend visiting Howard's site, Once Upon Atari and ordering his DVD about what those days were like.) I still run in to Howard infrequently at retrogaming conventions and it's always a delight.

After 3DO, I worked for a THQ studio that used to be called (oddly enough) Pacific Coast Power & Light. It's known as Locomotive games today. I was put on the WWE Crush Hour game, the game that was designed to mix the WWE up with Twisted Metal. I created the game's shell and character selection screen. It was actually a pretty cool game, but THQ's love for WWE had cooled down when the game was close to finishing (right after WWF became WWE, the ratings started to tank), so they rushed it and laid off the whole team.

Wishing to return to the east coast, I applied for jobs that I could find there, and actually lucked out with a job opening at Firaxis Games in Hunt Valley, Maryland, home to Sid Meier. When I got there, they were toying with the idea of remaking Pirates, and were prototyping a lot. The results were mixed, and Sid decided to get involved with the development personally. They knew they wanted to make a console version, and they put me on the small team responsible for porting the game to the Xbox. I had doubts about the game, and I wasn't enjoying the tasks I was being given (such as working on the in-game glossary), and things didn't work out. I made a lot of good friends there who I miss working with.

By this time, I had been with four companies in six years, and my girlfriend at the time was in the middle of going to school to get her degree, so I did something drastic: I grew up. I ended up looking for any available programming job, and accepted a position with a UPS owned software company as an algorithm designer. I've been there since 2005, I get paid more money, and work fewer hours than I ever did as a game programmer. But I really miss the creative environment and working with people that I have a lot in common with, i.e. a love and passion for video games.

I am currently own and operate StrategyWiki, which strives to become the best online source of video game guides and walkthroughs anywhere in the world. I am now living in northern Maryland. Welcome to my blog.
Xbox LIVE:ProcyonSJJ


 

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