Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Platform Game Review: All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.


All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros is an interesting little curioIn 1986, Nintendo partnered with the Nippon Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Fuji TV, to create a version of Super Mario Bros. filled with personalities from the "All Night Nippon" radio show. Interestingly, the game isn't just a straight edit of Super Mario Bros. It is a mix-and-match of levels and features from Super Mario Bros., VS. Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.

Like The Lost Levels, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is a one-player game that can be played either as Mario or Luigi. Luigi has a higher jumping ability with less foot grip from that game as well. Eighteen levels are from Super Mario Bros., three are from The Lost Levels, and three are from VS. Super Mario Bros. In addition, one level has more enemies while another has a different puzzle solution.

The story is virtually the same as Super Mario Bros., with the exception of the stated location. In this game, Peach is the princess of the Viva Kingdom. She is still kidnapped by King Koopa, and Mario, or optionally his brother Luigi, has to travel through eight different worlds within the kingdom on the quest to rescue the princess.

As the game stems from The Lost Levels, the side-scrolling platforming gameplay is as responsive as always. Mario's jumping is the same as the original, so it is neither floaty nor abrupt. Luigi's controls take a little getting used to, as he slides on the ground a bit, but his higher jumps come in handy. Although it is built upon the physics of The Lost Levels, it is not as punishing as that game. There are no poison mushrooms or wind levels. 

It is great that the game begins with the first level of Super Mario Bros., as that level is a master class on creating a tutorial level to ease the player into the game. This level begins with the easiest baddie to stomp. It contains each of the power-ups available in the game, a height-increasing mushroom, a flower that bestows the power of fireballs, a star that grants invincibility, and a 1-UP mushroom that gives an extra life. Like all games in the Super Mario series, collecting one hundred coins also earns an extra life.

All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. also keeps the incremental levels that teach the player what to expect as the game gets harder. The aforementioned tutorial level is followed by an underground level, an above-ground level, and a castle level. The castle levels are puzzle levels where the correct path gives a chime while the incorrect path sounds out a buzzer. Like all of the games based on Super Mario Bros., the first seven levels feature a false King Koopa, and the eighth features the real thing. Instead of Mushroom Retainers, seven personalities from the mid-1980s era of All Night Nippon. One of these celebrities also replaces the easiest enemies, the goombas. Another replaces the piranha plants that sometimes come out of the pipes. After defeating the real Bowser in the fourth level of the eighth world, the Princess is saved.

All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is a fun remix of the various games based on the original Super Mario Bros. The replacement of enemies with Japanese personalities is a little jarring, but the replacement of the Mushroom Retainers is actually pretty cute. Due to licensing issues, it's not likely that Nintendo will re-release this game digitally, but it's not really a game worth tracking down unless you actually own a Family Computer Disk System.

Final verdict:
4 out of 5

Sunday, December 11, 2022

I have COVID-19

I have COVID-19, as do my mom and her boyfriend, as I live with them both. I feel worn down. 

I'm sweating with chills. I have chronic pain from fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis, so it's a triple attack. 

I woke up yesterday with stabbing pains that turned into shooting pains that went down my left leg and made it impossible to walk. Then I woke up today and I had stabbing pains again. 

Luckily I didn't have shooting pains since I was able to sit down before I got them. 

 Plus, I have collagenous colitis, which is an auto-immune condition, so it's hitting me hard.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Platform Game Mega Review: Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. is a hugely influential game as well as the game that made the Nintendo Entertainment System a worldwide sensation. The graphics are no longer a technological marvel, but the gameplay remains as easy to pick up and enjoy as ever.

The story is very simple. The one presented in the game is simply that Mario travels through various worlds to save the princess from the Koopa King. The manual provides more context. Bowser, King of the Koopa, invades the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnaps Peach, Princess Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom. King Koopa unleashes his minions upon the kingdom and magically turns its inhabitants into objects such as blocks.

An Italian plumber named Mario, and optionally, his brother Luigi, travel from Brooklyn to the Mushroom Kingdom. There, they travel across eight different worlds within the kingdom and collect power-ups to defeat enemies standing in their way, on their quest to rescue the princess. 

The side-scrolling platforming gameplay feels very responsive and the jumping is neither floaty nor abrupt. The layout of the game's eight worlds and twenty-four levels are excellent. The game starts with an easy-to-complete ground level, which gives Mario each of the power-ups available in the game, a mushroom that will make Mario grow in height, a fire flower that allows Mario to shoot fireballs, a Starman which makes Mario temporarily invisible, and a 1-UP mushroom that gives Mario an extra life. Extra lives can also be earned by collecting one hundred coins which can be found on the ground, in the air, or inside blocks.

The tutorial level is followed by levels incrementally increasing in difficulty, including an underground level, a level set on platforms high above the ground, and a castle level with a boss to defeat, followed by an underwater level to start the second world. It's a very excellent set of levels to start with, as it gives the player an overview of all the types of worlds in the game before the difficulty level raises too much.

The worlds have a varying amount of the level types above, but the fourth, and last, level of each world contains a castle with a lava and fire motif. In order to get to the final boss, the player must travel on the correct path. Which path is traveled is indicated with a sound effect. The correct path earns a chime while the incorrect path is indicated with a buzzer. In the first seven castle levels, various minions disguised themselves as their boss, Bowser, King of the Koopa. The false Bowsers can be defeated either by using fireballs with the fire flower powerup or by hitting a switch behind the false Bowser. The latter will take the bridge out under the false Bowser's feet, causing him to fall into the lava below. 

There are also warp pipes hidden in the game, which can be accessed to skip levels and warp right to a level at a further point in the game.

At the end of each of the seven castles is a dungeon, where Mario discovers one of the many Mushroom Retainers that inhabit the Mushroom Kingdom. Each tells Mario the words that have since become a meme - "Thank you Mario. But our Princess is in another castle".

The fourth level of the eighth world, which is the last level in the game, has Mario fighting against the real Bowser, who is defeated in the same way as the false Bowsers. After this, Mario rescues Princess Toadstool. She then gives Mario the option to try a new quest, wherein she is kidnapped again, but Mario must defeat tougher enemies to rescue her.

The game received enhanced remakes by Nintendo several times. These remakes are faithful to the original game but have been adjusted with the capabilities and limitations of the system on which it was ported. The first remake was in Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which enhanced the graphics and music to be consistent with the other Super Mario games available on that system. The second was Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. This was a faithful port of the original NES game, complete with the same graphics and sound. The difference was that the Game Boy Color screen was a smaller resolution than that of the NES. Thus, the screen follows Mario. The fact that the top and bottom of the screen may not be visible at any given time makes this version slightly more difficult than the original. It also had a partial remake for the Japan-only Sattelaview online gaming platform for the Super Famicom (the Japanese version of the SNES) that was released weekly and included the level map from Super Mario Bros. 3 onward. Since it was only available for a limited time in Japan, and, as of this writing, not all of the weeks have been found and restored, this version of the game is not a viable option.

Super Mario Bros. is a seminal video game that was hugely influential to the entire video game industry. It deserves every accolade it gets. The gameplay is timeless, as anyone can pick it up and play, even today. For those who prefer SNES-style graphics, which are still popular with indie game developers to this day, the Super Mario All-Stars version might be worth playing instead. The level design is fantastic, and the jumping controls are tight, but not too much so. I highly recommend this game to anyone, as it's a fantastic game and is a great game to play for both beginners at platform games as well as experts.

Addendum January 28, 2023: There is also an arcade version for the PlayChoice-10. This version is identical to the NES version, except there is a time limit in place where the game will quit when time runs out.

Final verdict:
5 out of 5

Friday, December 2, 2022

Free-to-Play Fighting Game Review: MultiVersus: Season One


It is still early into season two of MultiVersus, as of this writing, so I'll take a look back at the first season of this Super Smash Bros.-style smash-up of characters from the various properties owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

The gameplay is pretty fun, as it works well as a no-frills Super Smash Bros. clone. I received too many sexist direct messages and voice messages over the years which have put me off of online multiplayer, but I decided to give it a chance again with this game. I'm glad I did. It's a lot of fun in the four-player melee mode. The 1 vs. 1 battle wasn't as fun in my opinion, but it does play just fine for those who enjoy that kind of play. An experimental arcade mode was added to the game at the tail end of season one that allowed coins and experience to be gained offline. It has easy, medium, and hard gameplay. The easy mode has three stages with unlimited retries, the medium mode has five stages with three retries, and the hard mode has eight stages with no retries. It's nice to have an offline mode, but it is really just as simple as that. Fighting games rarely have robust stories, but it would be great if they added even a simple story to this mode. Since the coins and experience earned here are lacking in comparison to the online modes, there is little incentive to play this mode as it stands.

The character roster is pretty robust, featuring characters from all the major studios in Warner Bros. Discovery's arsenal.  By the end of season one, there were two characters from Looney Tunes, the Tazmanian Devil and Bugs Bunny. LeBron James, in his cartoon form from Space Jam: A New Legacy is also playable. It's weird that they'd have a character that would have to rely on likeness rights from a real-life basketball star, but it does make sense in a way because the new Space Jam film is quite likely the inspiration for this game. It also contains four Cartoon Network characters. It has Finn and Jake from Adventure Time and Steven and Garnet from Steven Universe. Its two Adult Swim characters are from the Cartoon Network adult programming block's most popular property, Rick and Morty. Hanna Barbera is represented by Shaggy and Velma from Scooby-Doo. Willam Hanna and Joseph Barbera also have representation from the MGM property, Tom and Jerry. The cat and mouse work together for a change, as the duo is counted as a single character. DC Comics also has ample representation with Wonder Woman, Superman, Harley Quinn, and Black Adam. Warner Bros. films also are shown some love with two Mogwai from Gremlins, Gizmo and Stripe, and the titular character from The Iron Giant. HBO even gets represented by Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.

Most characters get familiar voice actors, although some of them, such as Rick and Morty and Superman, only use voice clips rather than new recordings. One exception is Steven Universe, now voiced by Daniel Divenere rather than Zach Callison. It's a weird decision since they could have very well used Zach Callison voice clips. It's possible that there is a licensing issue at play here. It also contains the last voice acting work of the late, great, Kevin Conroy as Batman before his untimely death from cancer on the 10th of November.

The freemium aspect is overdone in my opinion, as all of the announcer packs, costumes, and most of the cosmetic items are locked behind a paywall. Even alternate costumes and cosmetics for the sole original character, Reindog, have to be purchased with real-world money. It makes no sense to me to pay real-life money to expand a character with no legacy behind it.

Thankfully, every character can be unlocked with coins that can be earned through gameplay. Hopefully, as the game adds more new characters, the freemium temptation won't set in and they will remain unlockable through gameplay.

The first season of MultiVersus is pretty fun. The characters that are available represent all of the main studios owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, the game is a solid clone of Super Smash Bros., and the multiplayer is fun even for people who normally don't play multiplayer games. However, the arcade mode is a barebones affair that really needs to be fleshed out, and the game dips into the freemium well too much with most cosmetic features unlocked behind a paywall. The game is still marked as an open beta, so hopefully, these issues can be ironed out.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Winter Soldier Comes To Avengers On November 29


Avengers, the action game by Crystal Dynamics, is getting an update on the 29th of November. This will add Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, to the game. It will also add the cloning lab, a new Omega-level threat.

It's currently on sale for Black Friday. You can pick it up for half-off at Best Buy.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Meteor Mess 3D Is Out Now

Meteor Mess 3D, the three-dimensional fan remake of Maniac Mansion, has been released after fourteen years of development.

You can get the game, as well as a manual, cover, and DVD overlay if you'd like from their downloads page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Platform Game Review: Super Mario Land


Super Mario Land was a platform game for the original monochrome Nintendo Game Boy portable video game console. It was the first game in the Super Mario Land subseries as well as the first game in the Super Mario series to be developed by Gunpei Yokoi’s Research & Development 1 rather than Shigeru Miyamoto’s Research & Development 2. The result was a Super Mario game different than any that had come before, as well as everything that came after. 


In the game, Mario travels to Sarasaland where he rescues Princess Daisy from an alien known as Taranga. Even though the formula is pretty much the same with Peach switched with Daisy and Bowser switched for Taranga, some of the play mechanics are very different. This makes the game feel fresh, even thirty-three years after it was first released.


Most of the power-ups are familiar to Super Mario fans. There are mushrooms that cause Mario to grow if he is small. 1-Up mushrooms, which grant an extra life, have been replaced with 1-Up hearts due to the fact that the monochrome graphics would make it hard to distinguish between different mushrooms. The power-up change that changes the way the game plays is the power of the flower. In this game, flowers give the power of superballs rather than fire. They can be used in the usual way, to kill enemies. However, they can also be used to collect coins. Mario can shoot them into areas that he can't reach, allowing him to collect coins in passages that only small Mario would normally be able to reach.


Another change in the gameplay comes in the water level. Instead of swimming, there is a Mario-sized submarine named the Marine Pop that's used instead. The submarine can shoot missiles as well as collect coins, which gives the level the feel of a horizontal shooter rather than a platformer. The horizontal shooter aspect is only used again in the last stage, with an airplane known as the Sky Pop. I really wish that they'd use the vehicles again, as I really enjoyed the two shooter levels. I do not mind the traditional underwater levels, but I actually found it more fun to power a submarine through them rather than swim.


The game was only officially released in monochrome for the Game Boy, however, there is a fan patch named Super Mario Land DX that turns the game into a full-color Game Boy Color game. This patch adds color to the game and changes the sprite graphics to more closely match other games in the series. It is very well done.


Super Mario Land is an excellent game that deserves to be played. If you are able to play the game using the Super Mario Land DX fan patch, such as playing the cartridge on the RetroN 5 with the patch loaded from an SD card, I highly recommend playing the game this way. However, if you are only able to play it with monochrome graphics on the Game Boy cartridge or on the Virtual Console for Nintendo 3DS, the game is still worth playing. The gameplay mechanics that are unique among Super Mario games, as well as fun music, tight platform mechanics, and great level design, make this one a must-play.


Final Verdict:

4½ out of 5


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Platform Game Mega Review: Super Mario Bros 2./Super Mario USA/Dream Factory '87: Doki Doki Panic


Super Mario Bros. 2 is known as Super Mario USA in Japan. The reason for this was that Japan received its own Super Mario Bros. 2, which is a harder version of Super Mario Bros. This game is known outside of Japan as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels or Super Mario Bros. for Super Players. Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a reskin of Dream Factory: Doki Doki Panic, a game that Nintendo developed for the Fuji TV Dream Factory '87 event.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a very different Super Mario game compared to the other games in the series, yet it still feels familiar. The concept for the game originally came from a vertically scrolling Super Mario prototype. The vertical scrolling actually worked well for this game and was later used in Super Mario Bros. 3 as well.

The original Doki Doki Panic version took place in a storybook. However, this was changed to a land named Subcon, which can be visited by a person's subconscious while they sleep. Fans of Super Mario RPGs will recognize the concept, as, within them, dream worlds have been covered extensively.

In this game, there are four playable characters. The original Doki Doki Panic has Arabian characters named Papa, Mama, Imajin, and Lina. The localization replaced them with Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach, Princess Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom. Papa and Mario have medium vegetable-grabbing speeds and a low jump. Luigi and Mama have slow-grabbing speeds and a high jump. I quite enjoy Luigi's animation of his running legs while jumping. Toad and Imajin have fast-grabbing speeds and medium jumps. Lina and Peach round them out with slow-grabbing speeds and medium jumps as well as the ability to float for a short period of time.

In this game, jumping on an enemy doesn't defeat it. You have to grab the enemy and throw it at another enemy to defeat it. You can also grab plants from the ground, which can also be thrown at enemies. Sometimes the grass pulled up from the ground can contain items such as shells which can be kicked at enemies, bombs, keys, health powerups, and other useful items. All versions of the game have the ability to collect powerups that allow the chosen character to be hit more than once. The Super Mario version shrinks the character when they only have one life left.

All versions of the game, including the enhanced remake included in Super Mario All-Stars, contain some of the catchiest music among all of the Super Mario games. This is saying a lot, as the Super Mario games always have excellent, catchy tunes. I still get the song stuck in my head that plays from the moment the door opens into the adventure in the first level of the game.

Eschewing most Super Mario games, there are six worlds with three levels each, and a final seventh world with two levels. This game also has a toad named Mamu, or Wart in the international versions. Interestingly, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening contains a cameo from Mamu, whose name remains unlocalized. I really like that they used a different villain than Bowser, King of the Koopa. It's also great that Peach wasn't captured, but actually contributes to an adventure for a change.

All of the versions of Super Mario Bros. 2 are worth playing, whether you play Dream Factory: Doki Doki Panic, Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario USA, or the enhanced remake in Super Mario All-Stars. It contains great music, great level design, and some of the most original and fun platforming mechanics that I've ever encountered while playing platform games.

Addendum January 2, 2023: I forgot about the enhanced remake of the Super Mario version, which is known as Super Mario Advance on the Game Boy Advance. This version is based on the Super Mario All-Stars version, however, it has limited voice acting. It also has lighter colors than the Super Mario Bros. 2 in Super Mario All-Stars so that it is easily visible on the original Game Boy Advance, which didn't have a backlight.

Addendum January 28, 2023: There is also an arcade version for the PlayChoice-10. This version is identical to the NES version, except there is a time limit in place where the game will quit when time runs out.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Platform Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan
was the first game to feature the shelled ninjas on a portable cartridge-based system. It was released in 1990, at a time when both the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Game Boy were immensely popular. As Konami had the rights to the franchise and produced Turtles games for the home systems and the arcade, a Game Boy adaptation seemed like a no-brainer. 

The end result feels like it was rushed to the market. It’s not actually a terrible game, it just doesn’t feel like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. Some video games feel like a popular franchise was jammed into a pre-existing prototype. This is one of those games. It does have all four ninja turtles and they do have their signature weapons. When one turtle is out of health, they are captured and a new turtle has to be selected. However, unlike the other Konami Turtles games released in the same time period, the turtles don’t seem any different outside of their weapon animations. They all have the same reach, and the striking power is identical. Even the animations, especially Donatello’s bo staff, seem like they have been shrunk in order to strike within the hit distance of the others. This leads to some animations looking weird, and all of them just don’t look right. 

On the plus side, the game does have all of the expected aspects of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. There are basic enemies such as Foot Clan ninjas and Mousers to defeat. Plus, the boss characters consist of staples of the 1987 television series, including Bebop, Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman. The final battles, of course, are with Shredder and Krang.

Another positive is that the underlying game mechanics are actually quite good. The jumping feels tight and precise and the weapons hit their targets as they should. It’s obvious a lot of work went into the platform game engine. 

What makes the game feel rushed, besides the squished animations, is the slowdown. This was common with many games of the time, as developers pushed games beyond the limits of the platform. That doesn’t seem like this is the case here, as the next Game Boy game in the franchise featured much more detailed sprites and innovative fighting scenarios. In fact, both of Konami's other Game Boy Ninja Turtles games don’t suffer from the slowdown problem, despite them offering much more in every aspect, pointing towards the slowdown being a problem with the game’s code rather than the Game Boy system. Granted, the slowdown isn’t constant, and it isn’t game-breaking, but it is distracting. 

Unfortunately, even the Cowabunga Collection, which provided options to remove most of the slowdown in Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, doesn’t offer an option to reduce the slowdown for this game. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan would be a decent game if the weapon range and slowdown issues were addressed. As it stands, it is a mediocre platform game from the 1990s among a sea of mediocre platform games from the 1990s. On the plus side, the game did work well as a learning experience for the staff at Konami. Luckily, the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles platform game for the Game Boy was much better. This game is one I can't recommend unless you really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or if you want to get the achievement for completing it in the Cowabunga Collection

Final Verdict: 
2½ out of 5

Friday, October 14, 2022

System Review: Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda

2020's Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch was a neat throwback to the height of the Nintendo craze in the 1980s. However, it was topped last year with one based on The Legend of Zelda (not connected to the 1989 Zelda Game & Watch).
Like the Mario-themed Game & Watch, the Zelda-themed version is housed in a shell that closely resembles the standard screen format Game & Watch systems. This time, though, it includes three games, or four if you count the remake of Vermin with Link in place of Mr. Game & Watch. 

Like the Mario model, the Zelda Game & Watch is a very small system with an LCD screen that displays the included games in full color, instead of black and white, frame-by-frame. graphics of the original Game & Watch systems. It consists of the Nintendo Entertainment System versions of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link faithfully reproduced through a custom emulator.

What elevates this system to the top of the Game & Watch pile, however, is the inclusion of the original black and white Game Boy version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awaking. It's a classic Game Boy game that plays on a system that replicates the Game Boy's forefather. Like onions and garlic, they just go great together.

As stated above, the system also includes a remake of the third Game & Watch game, Vermin. This version mimics the original, complete with the frame-by-frame graphics of early LCD games. This time though, it's Link that uses his hammer to smash the octoroks, giving the poor moles a well-deserved break.

As with the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch, The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch includes a neat little clock. It tells the time with The Legend of Zelda graphics, straight from the originator of the series, the first game on the Family Computer Disk System, which was released later on cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Family Computer.

As with all systems on this site, I will be individually reviewing all of the games included in this system. But until then, I'll just say that I wholeheartedly recommend this system. The Mario-based Game & Watch was a cute little throwback, but with the games included in this system, especially Link's Awakening, it is truly more than a conversation piece.

Final verdict:
5 out of 5

Sunday, October 2, 2022

System Review: Game & Watch Super Mario Bros.

The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch (not to be confused with the 1986 Game & Watch game of the same name) is a fun throwback by Nintendo that celebrates two of its best-selling products, the Game & Watch LCD handhelds and the Super Mario series.

Thankfully, LCD screen technology has come a long way since 1991 when the last Game & Watch system, Mario the Juggler, was released. Instead of the slow frame-by-frame gameplay in the classic Game & Watch systems, the new Game & Watch is full color and plays the Nintendo Entertainment System version of Super Mario Bros. faithfully through a custom emulator.

Adding to the fun, the Japanese Family Computer Disk System version of Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros. For Super Players, has been included. This game isn't as well known and is hard as nails, but it's great they included it in its original form.

It also includes a Game & Watch remake that blends the first Game & Watch game, Ball, with the last Game & Watch game, Mario the Juggler. This version of Ball mimics the former, with frame-by-frame graphics, but Mario is juggling the ball.

The game also comes with a fun clock that has Super Mario. Bros.-style graphics with various actions taking place around the displayed time. The neat thing about this is that the clock is tied to some easter eggs. If you view the clock at specific times in the day, different actions will appear on the clock. The most fun easter egg, however, is the one that takes place during the ninth hour, both in the AM and in the PM. When you play Ball at this time, Mario will be replaced by Luigi.

I'll be taking a look in-depth at the included games at some point in the future, but suffice it to say, this is worth the purchase, especially if you are a fan of the included games or just a fan of Mario in general. The games included, especially the first Super Mario Bros., are classics that are infinitely replayable. I won't fault you, though, if you just use it just as a clock. It is cute.

Final verdict:
5 out of 5

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Animated Horror Film Review: The Tell-Tale Heart


This review was previously published on Jupiter Beagle on October 13, 2008.

The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1953 animated short film by Columbia Pictures, directed by Ed Parmalee. It is based on the famous short story of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. This is a really spooky animated short, and it is the best adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe short story I have seen in any medium.

The film is about a madman who kills an old man just because his eye irritates him. The murder eventually drives him crazy, and he thinks hears the beating of the man’s heart coming from where he buried him. 

The Telltale Heart is narrated with the dialog from Poe’s short story, and the narrator has a suitably macabre tone. I can understand why they decided to do this film in animation, as the visuals are stunning and really do a lot to convey the thoughts of insanity as the lead character goes farther and farther into madness. 

This short film is a brilliant adaptation of a brilliant short story, but since the subject matter is intended for mature audiences, please note that this is not a film for children. 

If you are not offended by spooky subject matter and disturbing images, do yourself a favor and watch this film as The Tell-Tale Heart is available on some streaming services. 

 Final Verdict: 
 5 out of 5

System Review: TurboGrafx-16 Mini/PC Engine Mini


Hudson Soft, the designer of the TurboGrafx-16, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Konami in 2011. Hudson Soft ceased to exist in 2012, but its projects live on. With the success of miniature consoles from Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. Konami gave the TurboGrafx-16 a miniature update with the TurboGrafx-16 mini.

The miniature console is named the TurboGrafx-16 Mini in North America, PC Engine Mini in Japan, and PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini in Europe and Oceania. Konami went with M2 for the emulation, which was the same company that handled the Sega Genesis Mini. The emulator is not just for the TurboGrafx-16 console, but also the Super CD-ROM² and Arcade CD-ROM² add-ons, as well as the short-lived SuperGrafx. The emulation in this console is very accurate, which has always been a major strength of M2. 

The system runs on a Zuiki Z7213 system on a chip with a 1.3 GHz quad-Core Cortex-A7 central processing unit, a 500 megahertz dual-core Mali-400 ARM graphics processing unit, 256 megabytes of random access memory, and 4 gigabytes of flash storage.

The system comes with one two-button controller. The Japanese version contains fifty-eight games, while the international versions contain fifty-seven. This console has some of the best games of the 16-bit generation and is easily the miniature console that packs the best games in its library. It is truly quality over quantity, although the international versions have a lot of games that are still in Japanese.

The fifty-seven games in the international versions include Air Zonk, Aldynes: The Mission Code for Rage Crisis, Alien Crush, Alright! Gateball, Blazing Lazers, Bomberman '93, Bomberman '94, Bomberman: Panic Bomber, Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge, Cadash, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chew Man Fu, China Warrior, Cho Aniki, Dragon Spirit, Dungeon Explorer, Evil Sword Necromancer, Fantasy Zone, Galaga '88, The Genji and the Heike Clans, Great Demon World Village, Galaxy Police Legend Sapphire, Gradius, Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition, J.J. & Jeff, The Legend of Valkyrie, Lords of Thunder, Military Madness, Moto Roader, Neutopia, Neutopia II, New Adventure Island, Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Spirit, Parasol Stars, Power Golf, Psychosis, R-Type, Salamander, Spirit Warriors Spriggan, Snatcher, Soldier Blade, Space Harrier, Splatterhouse, Spriggan Mark 2: Re-Terraform Project, Star Parodier, Super Darius, Super MomotarĊ Electric Railway II, Super Star Soldier, Victory Run, and Ys Book I & II.

The Japanese version contains the same game list except for Salamander and with the addition of Far East of Eden II: Manji Maru and Heartthrob Memorial.

As with the other mini consoles, I’ll be looking in-depth at the above games in the future, and the links will be updated accordingly. This console has finally put the TurboGrafx at the top of the heap. The emulation is excellent and the console is packed with great games.  I recommend the Japanese version as the two exclusive games are excellent and the arcade version of Salamander is now available through Hamster's Arcade Archives. If you modify your console to accept other games, you will get the most out of your console because a lot of these Japanese games have unofficial English fan patches.

Note: The USB wall plug is not included. Make sure you use one that is 5 volts, 2 amps (2000 mA). There have been reports of the system bricking itself if the wrong plug is used. 

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Friday, September 30, 2022

Musical Horror-Comedy Film Review: Little Shop of Horrors


This review was originally published on Jupiter Beagle on October 11, 2008.

For the next 20 days leading up to Halloween, I’m going to review some of my favorite horror-themed entertainment. To start the 20 Days of Halloween Celebration, I decided to review one of my all-time favorite films, Little Shop of Horrors. This film is based on an off-Broadway musical that itself was based on a low-budget cult-classic black and white horror film.

The film stars Rick Moranis, who plays a nerdy florist who works at a florist in a poor neighborhood. The owner, Mr. Mushnik, is about to close the shop due to weeks of little to no business when it is revealed that Seymour bought a strange plant to try to improve business. He names the plant Audrey II, after the other employee of the florist, a girl who Seymour has a huge crush on. The strange plant brings in a ton of business from curious people coming in to see it. 

Seymour soon has a problem, as the plant is slowly dying. He tries everything to make it healthy and pricks his finger on a thorn. The plant responds to the blood, and Seymour soon finds out that human blood will make the plant thrive. This is when the fun kicks in, and the horror plot soon unfolds as the plant gets larger and larger and needs more blood than Seymour can provide.

Remaking the film into a musical seems like a strange choice, but it works well. The movie is made very tongue-in-cheek with over-the-top acting, and unrealistic 1950s and 60s era American ideals. The musical actually makes all this campiness a lot of fun. The music was written by the famed musical duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who would later write the music for the Disney animated films Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. The music is written in the style of 1960s rock and roll and is incredibly memorable. A song sung by Steve Martin, who plays Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend, easily steals the show.

Fans of the original musical will be somewhat sad to know that the ending has changed here to something movie test audiences found more satisfying. In the process, one entire song from the musical is omitted from the movie and is available only on the movie’s soundtrack. However, if you want to see the original ending there are DVDs available with deleted scenes with the original ending on them. For most people, this won’t be an issue, as the new scene in question does work quite well to end the movie.

The music is wonderful and the casting is great. There are plenty of cameos of Saturday Night Live and SCTV alumni throughout the film. The movie is over-the-top and very campy, but as it is based on a low-budget horror film it works out well. If you’re a fan of musicals or horror comedies, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

System Review: Sega Genesis Mini/Mega Drive Mini



After years of licensing the right to make retro consoles of their systems to AtGames, with varying results, Sega opted instead to design and manufacture the Sega Genesis Mini themselves. The emulation was handled by M2. 

Going with M2 for the emulation was the right call, as the emulator runs the game with no visual or audio differences from the original system, as far as I could tell.

The system runs on a Zuiki Z7213 system on a chip with a 1.3 GHz quad-Core Cortex-A7 central processing unit, a 500 megahertz dual-core Mali-400 ARM graphics processing unit, 256 megabytes of random access memory, and 512 megabytes of flash storage.

Outside of Japan, the system comes with two three-button controllers. The Japanese version comes with one six-button controller. It comes with forty games for the Genesis system. These games are excellently curated, as most of the games rank among the most fun games for the Sega Genesis.

The forty games include Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle,Alisia DragoonAltered Beast, Beyond Oasis (known as The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light outside North America)Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Castlevania Bloodlines (known as Vampire Killer in Japan), Columns, Comix Zone, Contra: Hard Corps, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, Earthworm JimEcco the Dolphin, Eternal Champions, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Golden Axe, Gunstar Heroes, Kid Chameleon, LandstalkerLight Crusader, Mega Man: The Wily Wars (known as Rockman: Mega World in Japan), Monster World IV, Phantasy Star IV, Road Rash II, Shining Force, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, Space Harrier II, Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition (known as Street Fighter II Dash Plus: Champion Edition in Japan), Streets of Rage 2, Strider, Super Fantasy Zone, Thunder Force III, ToeJam & Earl, Vectorman, Virtua Fighter 2, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

Mega Man: The Wily Wars was released on cartridge in Japan and Europe. North America only had access to Mega Man: The Wily Wars on the short-lived cable-based subscription game download service Sega Channel.

In addition to the forty listed above, the Sega Genesis Mini also includes two new ports of arcade games. The Darius port was developed by M2 and Hideki Konishi, while Tetris was a solo effort by M2. The Tetris port is based on Sega's arcade version. This is a new port and not the one that had an extremely small print run in the 1990s due to Nintendo holding the video game console rights for Tetris at the time.

The Japanese version of the system, the Sega Mega Drive Mini, also contains forty classic games and two bonus games. However, the game list is slightly different. It comes with Alisia DragoonAssault Suit LeynosCastle of Illusion Starring Mickey MouseColumnsComix ZoneContra: Hard CorpsDariusDyna Brothers 2 SpecialDynamite HeaddyThe Game's Crown CollectionGhouls 'n GhostsGolden AxeGunstar HeroesThe Hybrid FrontLandstalker, Langrisser II, Lord MonarchMonster World IVMUSHA, OutRun 2019, Party Quiz Mega QPhantasy Star IVPuyo Puyo 2, Puzzle & Action: Tant-R, Rent-a-Hero, Road Rash IIRockman: Mega World (known outside Japan as Mega Man: The Wily Wars), Shining ForceSlap Fight MDSnow BrosSonic the HedgehogSonic the Hedgehog 2, Sorcery Saga ISpace Harrier IIStreet Fighter II Dash Plus: Champion Edition (known as Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition outside Japan)The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light (known as Beyond Oasis in North America)Streets of Rage 2Strider, Super Fantasy Zone, The Super Shinobi, Sword of Vermillion, TetrisThunder Force III, Vampire Killer (known as Castlevania Bloodlines outside Japan), World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, Wrestleball, and Yu Yu Hakusho: Battle to Unite the Demon Plane

As with the Nintendo Mini consoles, I’ll be looking in-depth at the above games in the future, and the links will be updated accordingly. With this mini console, it is like a return to the days of old since Sega has once again rivaled Nintendo. The emulation is excellent and the console is packed with enjoyable classic games. Whether you get the Sega Genesis Mini or the Sega Mega Drive Mini, you'll get tons of enjoyment.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Horror-Comedy Film Review: Beetlejuice


This review was previously published on Jupiter Beagle on October 15, 2008.

Beetlejuice is a film by the master of the horror-comedy, Tim Burton.

It features a newlywed couple who die in an accident as soon as they move into their new home. Before the couple even realizes they are dead, their home is sold. The new family, the Deetzes, moves in and turns out to be quite the opposite of the folksy attitude of the deceased couple. They decide that they want to scare the Deetzes out of their home but turn out to be too nice to do so. They decide to hire a self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist” named Beetle Juice, who turns out to have his own ulterior motives for helping them out.

The cast is brilliantly cast. Michael Keaton is perfect as the wise-cracking, foul-smelling undead con-man Beetle Juice. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are the kind, folksy, newly-dead couple. Jeffery Jones and Catherine O’Hara are wonderful as the pretentious Deetzes. Winona Ryder plays probably the most memorable role of her career as Lydia Deetz, the daughter of Charles Deetz, a gothic girl who has an obsession with the morbid.

The musical score by Danny Elfman is wonderful and is very memorable. The film also contains a memorable song and dance comedy routine to the tune of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song). It happens so abruptly and is so delightfully strange, but somehow manages to not feel out of place.

Beetlejuice is a comedy classic. The music is great, the comedy is wonderful, and all of Tim Burton’s trademark nightmare-like sets and creature designs are here. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time to watch it.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Adventure Superhero Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

This review was originally posted on the McMurray Internet Channel website on December 9, 2018.

The first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, chronologically, did an excellent job of maintaining an exciting story that never felt bogged down by the world-building elements. These elements, such as the Tesseract retrieved from Odin’s Vault and the shield made from vibranium, fit right into the story without feeling out of place.

The film follows Marvel’s oldest property for which they retained the film rights at the time. The film follows Steve Rogers, a sickly thin boy from Brooklyn in the 1940s. When the United States joins the Allies in World War II, Steve Rogers is a man, but his frail sickly body prevents him from being enlisted. He tries to enlist five times with five different addresses, but he is marked 4F – unfit to serve – at each examination. His childhood friend “Bucky” Barnes warns him to stop falsifying his information in trying to enlist, as it is a criminal offense that could result in prison time.

Steve ignores his friend’s advice and is caught during his next attempt to enlist. Thankfully, he was caught by a German scientist named Dr. Erskine who recognizes that Steve is a good man who wants to enlist, not for the satisfaction of killing, but to prevent the Nazis from bullying the world as he has been bullied his entire life. Steve becomes the second person to be given Erskine’s super soldier treatment after a Nazi soldier named Johann Schmidt was given the treatment prior to the point when Dr. Erskine fled to the United States. The treatment amplified what is inside people, turning Johann Schmidt into the villainous Red Skull and turning Steve Rogers into the virtuous Captain America.

Captain Rogers proves that he is more than a marketing tool when he saves his friend Bucky, and soldiers from other Allied units, from deep within enemy lines.

Red Skull has been building up Hydra within the shadows of the Nazis, an organization named after the Greek legend. The group is intent on taking over the world, including Nazi Germany, and imposing the Red Skull’s rule over all of humanity. To combat the Red Skull, Captain America forms an elite group named the Howling Commandos from a group of rescued soldiers, including his friend Bucky Barnes.

He also has help from Agent “Peggy” Carter, of the top-secret war agency the Strategic Scientific Reserve, or SSR, who develops feelings for Steve Rogers over the course of the film. Her character will later be further developed in her titular short film and television series, but Agent Carter already shows herself to be a fantastic asset to the SSR here, as she kills the driver of a car from many meters away.

The film is a fantastic adventure and a modern take on the adventure serials of the 1940s, much in the same vein as Raiders of the Lost Ark before it. It remains one of the best films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is well worth watching at least once, if not multiple times.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Agent Carter One-Shot Review

Action-Adventure Mega Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first game based on the quartet of pizza-loving sewer dwellers. It was also Konami's first game based on the property. The end result missed the mark in nearly every aspect, but it did lay the groundwork for the much more beloved games that followed.

If there was ever a game that I wondered how on earth I managed to complete as a child, this was it. The game starts out on an overhead map. You can change between turtles whenever you like by hitting the start button. These are the best parts of the game. The game goes downhill from there. Once you enter the sewer, the game switches to an action platformer. The problem is that jumping feels off and the level design is hit-or-miss. When it misses, it really misses. You can control the height of your jump with light button taps, but often the level will put a ceiling between where the turtle is and the platform to which he has to jump. This leads to infuriating sessions where the current area has to be completed again since the enemies respawn. The Cowabunga Collection minimizes hair-pulling as it has a rewind button. This is definitely the preferred way to play, as even seasoned platformer players will fail to make a jump at least once in the game.

The other infuriating thing is that Donatello and Leonardo are the only useful turtles. Michaelangelo and Raphael have a very small range compared to the two aforementioned ninja-practicing testudines. The best thing to do is to leave Raphael and Michaelangelo for areas where it is nearly impossible to not lose health. 

This brings us to the worst part of the game, the dam section. Without the save function of the Cowabunga Collection, I would not blame anyone who rage quit after trying this level. Heck, I wouldn't blame anyone who rage quit even with the save function. The turtles have to swim through a maze to disarm eight bombs in only eight minutes. Impeding them are electric beams and electrified seaweed. The latter is the worst part as it is nearly impossible to make it through without hitting seaweed since the path is so narrow and pressing the swim button causes the turtle to rise up quite a large amount. Also, the time limit makes careful swimming impossible. The time limit also makes waiting for the electric beams to stop a challenge. It's nearly impossible to make it through without draining the health of one, or likely two, turtles. That is why it is best to save the weakest turtles in this game, Michaelangelo and Raphael, for this level.

The overhead level actually becomes quite a bit of fun when you get to the point where you can drive the party wagon. Walking enemies can be run over and vehicles can be hit with bullets shot out from the wagon. Once you get the missiles, you can destroy enemy vehicles with one hit. It's tempting to just fire away at vehicles with missiles, but there are also blockades that can only be destroyed with missiles. Sadly, the fun overworld driving sections only last for one level, and most of that level is spent going in and out of sewers and buildings searching for missiles and grappling hooks that you will need to get to sections that can't be jumped across. With these sections being platforming sections, the fun of the overhead section is quickly overshadowed.

Alongside the Nintendo Entertainment System version, it was also released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Arcade via PlayChoice-10, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, and ZX Spectrum. Some of these versions have more appealing graphics, but the platforming sections are surprisingly even less responsive. This makes the NES version the best of the bunch, which isn't saying much.

The one bright spot of this game is the music. Even though there are mainly only two musical scores for the overhead and underworld levels, with the exception of some new music in the final level, they are really great and can get stuck in your head well after the game is over. When I was a little girl, I would just stand in place on the overhead map or hang out in an enemy-free part of the sewer just to hear the music.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is probably best summed up as a game with some good ideas that are poorly implemented. Some of the ideas, such as the spin attack powerup would make its way into better Konami games such as Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist. Other than the music and the short overhead sections, there's not much to recommend. It would be a mediocre game, but the terrible dam level takes it even lower. Unless you're playing with the emulator functions in Cowabunga Collection, don't bother playing it. Even with the collection, there's really no point playing it unless you want to earn the achievement for doing so.

Final Verdict:
1½ out of 5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game Review

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Arcade Beat 'em Up Mega Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an arcade game by Konami that was one of the premiere beat 'em ups when it was released in 1989. It still holds up today, especially in the newer releases that have multiplayer support over the internet.

As is common in arcade games, the story is scant, but it does get the job done. The goal of the game is to save your friends from the Foot Clan, then track down the Technodrome to defeat Krang and Shredder. The Nintendo Entertainment System version also adds a level where you have to shut down a weather machine that has been covering New York City with snow and another level where you fight a shogun in a martial arts dojo. 

Alongside the Foot Clan ninjas, Shredder, and Krang, there are also popular villains from the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, such as Bebop, Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman. It also includes the lesser-known villain, Tragg the rock soldier. The Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game also includes two bounty hunters created specifically for the game, Shogun and Tora. 

Other than the fighting gameplay which feels responsive and easy to learn, the presentation is what makes this game unforgettable. It has fun character animations, both in the sprites of the turtles and those of the enemies. Two of my favorites are the animation played when one of the turtles falls down a sewer hole and those of the motorcycle-riding Foot Clan ninjas. The Nintendo Entertainment System Version has smaller sprites and simpler backgrounds, but it surprisingly includes most of the animations from the arcade version. The NES version also has two exclusive levels, the aforementioned snow-covered New York City and a level in a dojo. These levels, especially the dojo level, have some fun animations of their own including ninjas jumping up through the floor and the tiger painting that comes to life and fights the turtles. There is some slowdown,  flickering sprites, and only one type of enemy on screen at the same time in the NES version. However, it is really impressive how Konami managed to recognizably replicate the arcade version and add extra levels on such limited hardware. Digital Eclipse's emulation in the Cowabunga Collection is the best way to play the NES version, as it has options to remove most of the flicker and slowdown. 

The chiptune music is great, and it is fun that the catchy opening song is included in a sample that isn't compressed too badly. The voice samples, however, are more heavily compressed. This is fine for the electrocuting robots that channel the Daleks from Doctor Who by saying "do not resist us". The heavily compressed samples for the turtles such as "shell shocked", April's "save me", or Shredder's "tonight I dine on turtle soup" sound quite tinny and aren't as impressive as they once were. The NES version doesn't have any samples and does play a few different level songs as well as those from the NES exclusive levels, but the arcade game's music that is there has transferred quite well to the little grey toaster that could.

The arcade version has support for up to either two or four players playing simultaneously depending on the cabinet. The NES version only has support for up to two players playing simultaneously. The arcade version has unlimited continues. When I was a little girl, I went to an arcade with a pocket full of quarters. I probably paid a good ten dollars in order to get to the end. Like a lot of arcade games of the era, the ending is presented entirely through text. The text is fitting, however, and it has the same tone as the television series on which it was based. The NES version is harder, as continuing in the arcade version continues right where it left off while continuing in the NES version starts from the beginning of the current level. There are also only three continues in the NES version, although this can be changed to ten in the Cowabunga Collection. In the aforementioned collection, there is also a god option that makes the chosen turtle invincible and kills most enemies with one hit.

In addition to the arcade and NES versions, there were also versions for home computers such as Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and DOS. There are a lot of limitations in these versions, and the controls feel a lot stiffer on each, so they aren't really worth playing. The arcade version, either in the arcade or via the emulated versions in the now unavailable Xbox 360 version or in the Cowabunga Collection, is the best way to play this game. The emulated versions have online play, so if you enjoy multiplayer games, these versions are the way to go.

If you are interested in playing the additional two levels in the NES version, the control is just as responsive as the arcade version, so could be worth playing if you aren't turned off by the limitations of the older hardware. The best way to play the NES version is with the settings that mostly eliminate the flicker and slowdown in the Cowabunga Collection.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is a bonafide classic that manages to hold up well to modern tastes. The fun animations, great chiptune music, and excellent level design make this one a must-play for Teenage Mutant Turtle fans as well as those who are fans of arcade beat 'em ups. The arcade version is the best version to play, but the NES version is fun if you are interested in the two exclusive levels. The Cowabunga Collection is the best choice to play as it includes both the arcade and NES versions and it sports accurate emulation, online play, and the ability to reduce slowdown and flickering on the NES version.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ReviewFall of the Foot Clan Review coming soon

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Like a Dragon 8 Coming in 2024

The big Ryu ga Gotaku Studio reveal is that Like a Dragon 8 is coming in 2024. It will feature the same turn-based RPG gameplay as Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Like a Dragon 7).  Surprisingly, it will feature two protagonists: Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu. Yakuza 6 (Like a Dragon 6) was supposed to be his swan song, so it will be interesting to see what prompted the now silver-haired Kiryu to return to the action. 

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name coming in 2023


The Like a Dragon fun continues with the announcement of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. This game will show what happened to Kiryu between Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Judgment and Lost Judgment are now on Steam


The excellent Like a Dragon (formerly Yakuza) detective series spin-off, Judgment has finally come to Windows.

Steam now has both Judgment and Lost Judgment available as well as the excellent Lost Judgment DLC, The Kaito Files.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Remake Heading West

 

Like a Dragon: Ishin!, the Yakuza samurai spinoff with Yakuza characters as mostly real-life figures from Japan's Meiji Restoration during the Edo Period, is getting a remake for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Even better news, it is coming to the west with an official English translation. The original game was released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, however, it never left Japan.

It will be available worldwide in February 2023.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Open World Action-Adventure Mega Review: Spider-Man


There have been many great Spider-Man games over the years. However, Insomniac's Spider-Man changes up the mix a bit, with a more experienced Spider-Man, playable Mary-Jane Watson and Miles Morales stealth sections, and a mix of iconic and lesser-known characters in Peter Parker's rogues gallery. 

Spider-Man uses the mechanics from the Batman: Arkham games with the addition of climbing on walls and webbing. It is this final factor that makes the game really enjoyable and sets it apart from its inspiration. It is really fun to web up thugs, and super enjoyable to swing around town. Swinging is the mechanic that will make or break a Spider-Man game, and this one delivers. It also adds a mechanic to make Spider-Man's swinging zippier. The zip web is thrown in front of Spider-Man, causing him to zip forward. Spider-Man also makes new gadgets as the story progresses which can be used in combat. It's fun to use the web bomb to web up enemies and then use the concussive blast to throw them back and stick them to walls.

The Arkham mechanics work well because, in both the game and the comics that inspired it, Spider-Man is a lot like Batman. He is also a genius that makes gadgets and has a suit lined with electronics. For the things that Spider-Man doesn't have, such as a bullet-proof suit and a grappling gun, Spider-Man makes up for it with a healing factor and his web shooters.

Alongside the Spidey missions are story beats where the plot switches to the Daily Bugle reporter Mary Jane Watson and the teenage coder Miles Morales. As she is Peter's on again, off again girlfriend, M.J. Watson is in close contact with Spider-Man, and as a reporter, she proves invaluable in finding evidence. Stealth is the key in these sections of the story, as both characters have to get in and out of situations without being caught. These sections are a controversial part of the game, but personally, I enjoyed them a lot. I just wish there were more M.J. stealth sections, not just because Miles Morales got his own game by Insomniac, but also because they are more fun. Once M.J. gets the ability to shock enemies unconscious, the stealth sections become quire enjoyable.   

The story sees Peter Parker working for Otto Octavius working on mechanical arms for people who lost their own. As time allows, he also helps his Aunt May, who works at the F.E.A.S.T. shelter. The charity, founded by a businessman named Martin Li, is so named as it provides resources for food, emergency, aid, shelter, and training.

In addition to his obligations as Peter Parker, he also patrols the city as Spider-Man. This version of Spider-Man takes its Batman inspiration further as he works with a contact in the police department. Yuri Watanabe is a great addition to the Spider-Man lore, as she is a wonderfully complex character and not just a cookie-cutter police chief.

Fans of the comics and films will be happy, as the story includes Spidey staples such as Kingpin, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, Black Cat, Taskmaster, and Norman Osborn. It also has lesser-known villains such as Mr. Negative, Shocker, Hammerhead, Silver Sable, and the obscure villain, Screwball. Mr. Negative, in particular, is a very compelling villain that I hope makes it to the big screen someday.

The presentation is excellent. It has moments of cinematic action, which are very reminiscent of the Uncharted series. Many are quick-time events that provide precise button pushing, but the prompts stay on screen for a while, so, thankfully, they aren't a challenge. The visuals are quite realistic, even in the original PlayStation 4 version. The textures and models in the remastered version are improved and sometimes changed, especially Peter Parker who is completely redesigned. The former actor for the face of Peter Parker, John Bubniak, has been recast to Ben Jordan (no relation to the paranormal investigator). This was done to better match the facial performance capture of Yuri Lowenthal. Both versions are excellent. I, personally didn't notice a difference in the facial movements of either actor, but your perceptions might be different than mine. The rest of the actors are excellent as well, especially Watanabe's voice actor, Sumalee Montano. Her vocal performance helps a lot in making Yuri Watanabe a compelling character.

Insomniac's Spider-Man is Spidey's best game so far. With great visuals, interesting characters, fantastic voice acting, fun cinematic staging sequences, and cinematic music, it is worth playing both for people who are fans of the comics and films as well as people who only have casual knowledge of the web-slinger. 

Final verdict:
5 out of 5