Saturday, December 28, 2013

GAME REVIEW: Mega Man IV (Game Boy)

Um, Napalm Man, I think it would be in your best interest
to get yourself looked at before you explode. You're belching fire.


Ironically, this might have been one of my first encounters with the Mega Man franchise. Not in the form of the game itself, but rather an ad for it:

I think I first saw this in an issue of Boys' Life 
magazine maybe twenty years ago as of this post.

So after one little trip back to the console entries, we return to the Game Boy games. After the immense difficulty (real and fake) of Mega Man III, let's see if Capcom and Minakuchi were able to learn from their missteps.

STORY

(SPOILERS!)

So yeah, Dr. Wily survived crashing into the ocean and apparently stole from the other four Robot Masters of Dr. Cossack's from some robotics expo and reprogrammed them to go on a rampage. Mega Man, as always, goes out to stop them. Once that foursome's beaten, Wily unveils his giant mobile base that Rock immediately fights. Our hero infiltrates the big mecha and fights Wily's latest Mega Man Killer: Ballade. Round one goes to Rock, who goes on to fight four MM5 Robot Masters: Napalm Man, Stone Man, Crystal Man, and Charge Man. Once they're out of the way, Ballade comes back and transforms into what looks like a prototype of Turbo Man.

Rock manages to defeat him and copy his weapon. Then he and Wily escape the collapsing mecha. Wily flees to his starship; Rock pursues (after getting Rush modified for space, of course). He goes in, beats the eight Robot Masters once more and fights Wily's super robot. Of course, the bad doctor manages to escape while the ship enters a self-destruct cycle. Rock is saved by Ballade, who now regrets trying to fight him. He detonates himself in order to blast a hole in the hull so that the vacuum can suck Rock out into space.

END OF SPOILERS



GAMEPLAY/CONTROL


I don't need to discuss the whole "A" to jump and "B" to shoot mechanics, so I won't.

One thing one might notice is that while the Mega Buster has returned, it comes with a recoil effect that knocks you back when a full shot is fired. I'm guessing Capcom threw that in to give the idea of how powerful it is, but I feel that it's a little unnecessary and slightly counter-productive... especially if fired near a ledge.

All that aside, it's great to see that they realized they got a bit carried away with the MMIII stage layout and tried to ease back a little. Still has its rough parts (latter third of Bright Man and second half of Crystal Man's stage, I'm looking at you two), but is a bit smoother.

There's also a new feature: the shop!


Yeah, those of you who stuck to console games and overlooked the Game Boy entries probably think MM7 was the first game in the series where you could buy items! Sorry, the correct answer is this game. The "money" here are P-chips (big ones are worth eight, small ones are worth two), which you can use to buy different types of tanks, E-cans (collect four to make an Energy Tank), 1-Ups, and the Energy Balancer. 

The E-Balancer will refill the weapon with the least ammunition, regardless of the weapon you're armed with. For instance, if the Mega Buster is selected when you possess the E-Balancer and Charge Kick is empty and you come across a weapons capsule, it will refill Charge Kick's energy. 


Yeah, with this baby, you can pretty much toss out
cycling though your weapons database when you need ammo!

Unfortunately, you can kiss refilling weapons energy between stages goodbye as well in this game. As it turns out, you have to purchase a refill for your ammo at the shop. Your health gets restored with each completed level though.

Ooooh! Letter panels are back!

You've got your B-E-A-T panels for the MM4 section, which you use to (of course) unlock Beat. Not only that you have W-I-L-Y panels for the MM5 section. Beat's panels are optional, but these are required if you want to beat the game. They unlock the second round with Ballade and ultimately Wily's starship.

...oh, and another thing... Rush Jet only travels in a straight, unalterable line now. Okay, that's it for the gameplay... I think.


SOUND/MUSIC


Nothing really blew my mind in terms of music this time around... until I got to the bosses (the non-Robot Masters):


For some odd reason, its into makes me think of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". 

The stage music for the Robot Masters is decent as well: good remixes of their respective themes. Charge Man and Crystal Man's themes were the big standout for me.


GRAPHICS


The game begins with an excellent intro. It did its job so well that it saved me the trouble of making a trailer for this game... it's ALREADY a trailer for it! 

Most of the sprites were reused from MM4 and MM5, not much to say there aside from the fact that the transition went well (as usual).

Moving backgrounds return as well, notably in Charge Man's stage and Wily's starship. Given that the former is a carbon-copy of his MM5 train, taking place INSIDE of Wily's mobile base, I couldn't help but crack a Flintstones joke.

As for Wily's space cruiser, when you get inside the layout can screw with your eyes:


I know it may not look that bad, but keep in mind: this is a still image. The background is animated and that raised platform on the right side kinda blends into the turning gears and stuff. The cylinders on that platform move, too. First time playing the level, I couldn't find the top of it and I died.

Other than that patch of illusion-based psyche-outs, the graphics are as good as the last game.

Also, they tossed in some pretty detailed cutscenes (by Game Boy standards, anyway), like Rock exchanging fire with the mobile base, Ballade's death, etc.

And that's not all! They also threw in visual shout-outs to classic anime. We already know about Mega Man being an expy of Astro from Astro Boy and Proto Man being influenced by Racer X from Speed Racer, but this entry delivers even more!

First we have Dr. Wily's starship... which reminds me of the Arcadia from Captain Harlock and the Yamato from the Space Battleship Yamato franchise:

L to R: the Arcadia, Wily's cruiser, the Yamato.

Doesn't stop there. Take a look at Wily's super robot! It has the Gundam's "V" antenna and Gigantor's pointy nose!

L to R: Gigantor/Tetsujin No. 28, the final boss for MMIV, RX-78-2 Gundam.

Consarned whippersnappers with yer Naruto 'n yer Bleach 'n yer Sword Art Online, this is the kinda of stuff that real anime strive to be!


VERDICT


So far, the best of the five Game Boy Mega Man games, taking the top spot from MMI, with MMII tied with MMIII for third. It recaptures the challenge that was lost in MMII, builds upon what worked in MMI, tempers out the rough parts MMIII had (mostly), and brings some new stuff to the table that would be a staple for the remainder of the Classic series. It may have some stupid and unneeded parts, but the good tends to trump the bad. Not a disappointment, but a storehouse of surprises!

I'm DLAbaoaqu! Full on!




Mega Man IV is owned by Capcom and Keiji Inafune
Columbo is owned by NBC and CBS
Gigantor/Tetsujin No. 28 is owned by Mitsuteru Yokohama
Mobile Suit Gundam is owned by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise
Space Battleship Yamato is owned by Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Space Pirate Captain Harlock is owned by Leiji Matsumoto

















I almost forgot: Proto Man's in the game. 


You don't fight Blues or anything... he acts kinda like Eddie: giving you random items. He can even refill all your ammo and health if you're lucky enough.

...and that's it for real. Bye!




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

GAME REVIEW: Mega Man 5 (NES)

"Darn it, Rock! Toho didn't cast you for this movie!"


Yay! We've got our first NES Mega Man game on the blog! Aside from that, I don't have much of an intro so... 

...

*Runs*

STORY

(SPOILERS!)


Eight new Robot Masters have appeared and are attacking the world... with Proto Man as their leader? Proto Man even goes as far as to kidnap Dr. Light! Mega Man immediately sets out to take down the eight 'bots:



After that, the Blue Bomber goes to Proto Man's castle...


Yes, apparently he has a castle...

...where he confronts his brother, whose iconic whistle is at a deeper pitch. Turns out that this Proto Man was a robot called Dark Man... built to frame the real Proto Man. Upon his destruction, it is revealed that the mastermind behind all this was...





FACT: In the Classic series, if it LOOKS like the new
villain is the game's respective Big Bad, don't believe it!
Dr. Wily will ALWAYS be the one pulling the strings!


So Mega Man goes to Wily's latest castle and kicks his butt once again. Wily begs in the form of doing push-ups (as per tradition)... before his castle begins to collapse. The real Proto Man shows up at the last minute to save his brother and Dr. Light.


END SPOILERS!


GAMEPLAY/CONTROL

Nothing much has changed in terms of control. "A" is jump, "B" is shoot, hold down "A" to charge the Mega Buster, blah, blah, blah.

However there is some good news and some bad news:

BAD NEWS: You lose the Mega Buster's charge if you take a hit and have to recharge your shots because of that.

GOOD NEWS: Someone at Capcom realized how potentially annoying losing your grip on the ladders is... so they let you HOLD ONTO THE LADDERS WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR WEAPONS!

Kind of a shame it took so long for them to get it looked into.

It should be noted that this entry marks the first appearance of the bird robot Beat. In-universe, it is explained that Dr. Cossack (the false villain for MM4) built him as a present for Rock. When you collect all eight panels in the Robot Masters' levels that spell out "MEGAMANV" in order to unlock Beat.

Beat kicks so much butt in this game! He can home in on any enemy (including bosses)! In fact he almost makes the Dark Man series and the second part of the final boss look like the Dr. Eggman fight at the end of Emerald Hill Zone in Sonic 2!

Forget what the inter-titles for Nosferatu said, 
THIS is the Bird of Death!


Some stages have their own gimmicks as well: Gravity Man and Star Man's stages are among the first to play around with gravity (walking on the ceiling with the former and higher jumping in the latter). For those of you who played MM9, remember the bubbles section of Splash Woman's stage? You have something similar half-way through Wave Man's stage!

GRAPHICS

MM5 stays the course in terms of graphics: foregrounds, backgrounds, sprites. It's solid. We've got some more moving backgrounds, courtesy of Wave Man, Charge Man, and (to a minor extent) Gravity Man's stages. Enemy designs are pretty much what you'd expect.

All that, plus the Mega Buster has a new animation. Not that much more I can say about the graphics... so let's move on to audio.


MUSIC/SOUND

No change in sound effects. The soundtrack, however, is yet another home-run courtesy of Mari Yamaguchi (who later went on to do UN Squadron, Super Ghouls n Ghosts, and Mega Man 10). The themes for Gravity Man, Star Man, and Charge Man are epic... but the real stand-out is the track for the Proto Man stages:


For some reason I think of Power Rangers when I listen to this. Am I alone in this opinion?


VERDICT

As kid, I never quite enjoyed it as much as I did MM6. It's still a good game, though. To this day, when I think of MM5, fighting robots on a large train comes to mind. The storyline aspect introduced in MM4 continues here. The challenge is still pretty much on the same level as its predecessor. Go play it; it may not be as notable as 2 and 3, but I think it's worth playing. Try it out!

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full on!




Monday, December 9, 2013

GAME REVIEW: Mega Man III (Game Boy)


What's up with the hook on Rock's back?


Mega Man II was a pretty underwhelming experience: too easy for a Mega Man title, poor instrumentation, so on and so forth. Its developer, BIOX, was given the boot; the job would be given back to Minakuchi Engineering, who worked on Mega Man I: Dr. Wily's Revenge. As noted at the end of the MMI LP, I stated that it was really challenging, but it was fun at the same time; you didn't want to give up if you died. Will the same amount of Real Difficulty return for this game?

Let's dig in.


Story

Dr. Wily survives the Rush Torpedo at the end of MMII and has reappeared, making a bid to control the world's petroleum supply. He is reusing four Robot Masters against Mega Man.


Overview

When starting the game, you can choose to fight Gemini Man, Snake Man, Spark Man, and Shadow Man. Once they're beaten, you proceed to Wily's Castle. After beating a Big Suzy, you are sent to fight four more Robot Masters: Drill Man, Dive Man, Dust Man, and Skull Man (did he hijack Dr. Cossack's robots again?).

After they're beaten, you fight Wily's new Mega Man Killer: Punk.

When Punk's beaten, you go after Wily's Ocean Fortress.


                     Gameplay/Control

Once more: the main controls are the same as the rest of the NES/Game Boy portion of the series. Nothing new there... except the ability to charge the Mega Buster! 

Yeah! MM4's addition to the series is brought to the Game Boy!

In regard to stage layout, it's all over the map. As lazy and simplistic as MMII's stage design was, MMIII tried to make up for its predecessor's lack of challenge... by going overboard. Some stages aren't so bad (Gemini Man, Skull Man, Drill Man, for instance), but others had really poor layout issues:

Exhibit A

Early in Spark Man's stage, you have to make a two-space jump. However, there is an overhang that makes jumping difficult. Complicating matters is a large pipe behind you that drops large blocks of junk.

Exhibit B

When we get to Dust Man's stage, there's an overabundance of three-space jumps. Normally, this isn't a big deal. In this game, however, it feels like Rock has a cinder block tied around his feet. Because of this, you have to be on the very edge of the platform in order to clear the jumps. There were SOME instances of this problem in Snake Man's level, but in Dust Man's it takes center stage.

As irritating as the three-gap jumps are, they've got nothing on the spikes!

Exhibit C
(Tip: Let this platform get as high as it can and then STEP off! Jumping will kill you!)

After playing through this whole game, I can honestly say that someone at Minakuchi had a love affair with spikes. Spark Man's stage (above) has these issues... but that is nothing compared to Dive Man's. 

Of course, the jacked-up difficulty isn't limited solely to the stages. There's also the new Mega Man Killer, Punk:


The unpredictable movements can easily lead to a deduction of eight points off of your life bar. His weapon, the Screw Crusher, removes the same amount as contact with him would. My recommendation: bring E-Tanks.

Ironically, the final stage isn't that bad (aside from the room of spikes near the start).

MUSIC/SOUND

MMII's soundtrack had some good compositions, but the choice of instruments caused it to founder. It's disappointing, as I said before, because the music of the Mega Man (and classic Capcom games in general) is one of the franchise's strongest assets. In MMIII, the player is treated to very faithful recreations of MM3 and MM4 tracks. Snake Man's theme was a great carry-over, but Shadow Man's lost the craziness of the "Runaway Piano" riffs. Punk's theme, as short as it is, is pretty cool as well.


GRAPHICS

They really went above and beyond this time! In addition to the crisp look of the sprites and stuff, some of the backgrounds are animated. Snake Man, Dr. Wily's Ocean Fortress, and the latter part of Skull Man's stage are my prime examples of this. In Gemini Man's stage, you have an animated FOREGROUND, of sorts.



If you weren't familiar with MM3, you'd think that this stuff was a hazard!



VERDICT

I really wanted to like this entry. I really did. However, it seems it could have used a little more time testing. I'm all for a challenge and I know Mega Man's supposed to be a hard series... but Capcom and Minakuchi went a little overboard with the spikes and three-space jumps. The music and graphics are good, but as my old axiom says: they are NOT gameplay. If it just had a little more time to be streamlined, it could have as great as MMI. Unfortunately, it seemed as if they were trying to make up for MMII's ease by making this entry all but unfair (seriously, sometimes, it's necessary to get hit in order to advance).

All in all, better skip this one.

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full-on!


Monday, December 2, 2013

GAME REVIEW: Mega Man II (Game Boy)

Could have been MUCH better.

For the 99.581% of you who don't know, I have been doing a Let's Play marathon of the Mega Man Classic series on my YouTube channel... well, everything before Bass' debut. Originally, I gave a short review of each game during the credits of each one I beat. This died out with the previous one I had beaten: Mega Man 4. I feel doing it this way would be a little easier (saving me the headaches from when Google decides to sign me out while annotating the videos).

Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge (MMI, for short) was good transfer of the Blue Bomber from console to handheld. It was difficult as all get-out, but it ticked you off just enough that you just wanted to keep going. Enemies from MM1 and MM2 were seamlessly carried over; some of the music even outshines the MM1 (in my opinion at least). It proved popular enough that it got a sequel.

However, for some reason, Capcom decided to get another company to develop it. 
MMI was worked on by Minakuchi Engineering; MMII would be done by a group called Biox.



It wasn't a very good move. The company didn't know much about Mega Man as they went into it and it garnered a pretty disappointing reception. Keiji Inafune himself doesn't like MMII because of Biox's lack of footing and actually went back to working with Minakuchi for MMIII through MMV.

According to TV Tropes, Biox had chiefly worked on Game Gear and Master System games prior to this. Among them was Tails' Sky Patrol.


Well here's a possible candidate for the future.

Biox, as far as I know, is defunct. Its website reveals that it hasn't been updated since 2004 and that its last known game came out during the PS1/Saturn era.

But enough history. Let's talk about the game.


STORY


Dr. Wily's broken into the Chronos Institute and has stolen an experimental time travel device -- the Time Skimmer. Unfortunately for old Al, it can only go forward in time. Jumping about thirty-seven years into the future, Wily somehow captures Mega Man and reprograms him into Quint to destroy Mega Man in the present. Now Rock has to face eight revived Wily-bots from his previous adventures, Quint, and the mad doctor himself. Will he survive?

GAMEPLAY/CONTROL


Control's pretty much what you'd expect from Classic Mega Man, "B" to shoot, "A" to jump. Nothing much to write home about.

Level layout, however can be cramped and claustrophobic. MMI had a similar issue, and yes, I know it's necessary because of the Game Boy's small screen... but sometimes things get tight. There also tends to be bad enemy placement at times (such as those spring enemies in Metal Man's stage), on your part and sometimes the AI's.


TIP: Remember Friender from MM2? If you have Metal Blade, hold onto the ladder and 
spam the game's lone unit with it until it blows up. It won't hit you at all!

SOUND/MUSIC


Normally, the Mega Man franchise churned out stellar music. MM1 had a number of great ones (the credits theme just makes you want to go jogging on a beach) as did MM2's and its successors. MMII's soundtrack, though, makes me think of a Tiger Electronics handheld crossed with an early-90's Santa Claus brooch that plays a high-pitched version of "Jingle Bells". Unlike MMI, where the Robot Masters' themes were remixed, here new songs were composed... and they don't sound very pleasing for the most part -- they get kinda screechy; other times, full of static (case in point: Hard Man's stage). Kinda sad, really. The compositions sound like they'd fit in with the rest of the series... it's the instrumentation that does it in.

Nothing much in terms of the regular sound effects sound that weird to my ear. The most obvious thing is the 1-Up noise, which now sounds like two Mario coin sounds strung together.

GRAPHICS


No obvious drop in graphical quality after the transfer from console to handheld. The backgrounds, this time around, haven't taken much of a step up from MMI, but they still aren't terrible. The sprites have been adapted well but nothing really becomes laughable until the final fight with Wily.



BAHAHAHA! Would you look at that! He's a shrinky-dink! Probably stands has high as Rock's thighs... at best!

...

Hey... wait a minute! DOES HE HAVE A SHRINK RAY?



That might explain the proportion issues at the end of MM3!

VERDICT


It's a rotten shame that the awesomeness of the Mega Man Classic series eventually produced this... but, like they say, even the big boys make mistakes. The music, which is usually one of the games' strongest assets is dampened by a poor choice of instruments. Other than that, Biox's lack of familiarity with Mega Man led to some pretty easy stages. I'll recommend it ONLY to people just starting to get into Mega Man, those in search of a challenge look elsewhere in the series.


I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full on!




Next video is Mega Man III... and BOY is the difficulty back!


  • Mega Man is owned by Capcom
  • Tails' Sky Patrol is owned by SEGA

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GAME REVIEW: G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero (NES)



When I was a little kid, I went to my cousins' house. There, One title that captivated his mind was G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero, by Taxan. It looked cool; soldier-looking dudes running through a jungle punching wild dogs and stuff... I never got a chance to play it on my own until I was about seven or eight.

For those of you who have been living under a rock near the western border of China for the past thirty years, G. I. Joe is a toy line owned by Hasbro. First established in 1964, G. I. Joe was essentially a line of dolls for boys (or rather "action figures"... and yes, this is where the term "action figure" originated) based on the US military. Its initial popularity went in the gutter with the fighting of the Vietnam War. It was revived in 1982 as an elite American special forces unit fighting to topple the COBRA terrorist organization, the incarnation that survives to this day, one of the quintessential pieces of 80's pop culture...


...and, therefore, masturbatory fodder for these two.

Before anyone asks, yes, I saw the original cartoon that was spawned from the toys. Two episodes were recorded on a VHS ("Red Rocket's Glare" and "Cobra's Creatures") along with this one show... Rock N Read (I don't know much about that one, except that it was nursery rhymes set to contemporary arrangements).

Yeah, but enough about all that memory lane stuff... let's get into the game.


The title screen. What more do you want?

In the game you control a team of three Joes (one of which is designated leader of the team at the start of each mission) as you are sent out to destroy a secret COBRA base. You can select from:

 DUKE: His gun has the widest range of the Joes.
 BLIZZARD: Second-highest jumper and second-fastest grenade thrower. His gun is the weakest.
 SNAKE EYES: Best at jumping and throwing grenades. He has no gun, but ki... with unlimited ammo!
 CAPT. GRID-IRON: One punch and he destroys a helicopter!
(He almost looks like a fusion of Samus Aran and Master Chief!)
 ROCK N' ROLL: Worst jumper of the lot, but has the most firepower!


The missions are in:

  • The Amazon (Duke leads)
  • Antarctica (Blizzard leads)
  • The sewers of New York City (Snake Eyes leads)
  • The Black Hills (Capt. Grid-Iron leads)
  • The Sahara Desert (Rock n' Roll leads)
When these five are completed, you go to Cobra Commander's hideout. There, General Hawk leads the team (he has the unique skill of flight).


GAMEPLAY/CONTROL

Each mission is divided into three sections. The first section is typically a side-scrolling stage (though in the case of Snake Eyes and Capt. Grid-Iron's missions, the stage moves vertically rather than horizontally) with a mini-boss at the end. Here are some visual aids (plus little extra bits in regard to game mechanics):



video

video

However, the difficulty tends to skip around... especially in regard to the bosses:

video


MUSIC/SOUND

Hoo-boy, does this game have an excellent soundtrack! I'm sure you've heard the Amazon, Sabotage, Vehicle, and other themes if you bothered to watch the videos above. There's a number of other really awesome tracks, such as the Black Hills theme and New York Sewers theme (which makes me think of surfers on the California coast for some reason... just look it up). But my favorite song from this game is the Antarctica theme.

In terms of regular sound effects, I don't have a lot to say. Pretty much your standard 8-bit video game stock.



GRAPHICS

Graphically speaking, the game's top-notch for its age. I always had memories of the green jungle of Mission 1-1 and the plastic blues and reds of Missions 2-2 and 2-3, respectively, as well as the large COBRA base at the beginning of Mission 2-1... complete with its missiles firing at you from the background. Though there WAS a problem with foreground graphics, particularly in regard to Mission 6; in that stage, you see, it's kinda hard to tell which platforms you can drop through... didn't have that issue with the sabotage sections in the previous five that much.

Sprites are well-done as well. I'm no toy expert, but I'll wager that these would have been how the action figures looked around 1990-91... and pretty detailed at that, too. Other than that, I don't have that much more to add in regard.




VERDICT

A sadly overlooked gem in the NES library. I had tons of fun playing it back in the day. I'd recommend playing it if you ever get the chance, it's worth it!

Also, if you found the main game too easy for you, there is also a second quest. Like the original Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, you can play GI Joe on a tougher difficulty once the game's finished (only there you have two Joes on your team instead of three). What's more, there's a third quest after that... where Capt. Grid-Iron's punches no longer one-shot the helicopters. =(


I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full on!


  • GI Joe is owned by Hasbro
  • GI Joe: A Real American Hero (1990) was made by Taxan.
  • GI Joe sprites ripped by Theouaegis of The Spriters Resource
  • Seth Green and Seth McFarlane are owned by... themselves, I guess?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome.

You may remember me as the ICBINAVGN guy. Right now, I've pretty much retired from text commentary. On my YouTube channel, as of this post, I have a Classic-series Mega Man marathon going (for those who care).

For a while, I've been meaning to extend beyond my old shtick and do something different. In this case, I'm giving blogging a whirl.

Here, I'm going to look at classic games, movies, and occasionally anime and assess them. All for fun.

I hope those of you who stumble across here will enjoy the stuff I'll share. That's about all I have to say.

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full-on.