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 of the 1990s. 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 segment where you have to shut down a weather machine that has been covering New York City with snow and ice. 

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

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 the 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

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Blog Subjects Broadened

As you might have noticed, I've been reviewing a lot of games other than adventure games recently. I used to have another blog where I posted these, but I barely update the other one, so I decided to consolidate them all into my main blog - this one.  It will still be named The Adventuress, though, so there will not be any stand-out changes, really.