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 4. 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
Punch-Out!! ReviewSuper Mario Bros. 3 Review

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