Still Alive

Fear not, Video Games Are Rad is still very much alive. As is the usual routine, I took most of August and September off.

I have been adding to the collection at a steady rate and have a bunch of awesome things to talk about, but not quite yet. Things should switch back into full gear within the next week or so, so keep checking back!

Contest Time! Win Mega Man Legends 2!

“LIKE” this Facebook picture to get in the draw!

I have never really done any contests on this site… until now! How would you like to have a like new, complete, minty fresh copy of Mega Man Legends 2 for the PlayStation? That’s what I am offering up as a prize.

Of course, there is a catch. My wife, Kira, is in a modelling contest for a really cool retro/punk/pinup/rockabilly clothing store called Retrovise. The preliminary round is being decided by Facebook likes on the models pictures. All you have to do to get entered in the draw is “like” the picture. That’s it. Every time I see a new like starting when this is posted I will keep track of the names. At the end of the contest, all the names get thrown into a hat and I will post a video of Kira drawing the winner.

Not surveys, no link jumping, no bullshit. Just “like” the picture at the link below. That’s it.

If and when she gets over 200 likes, the Mega Man Legends 2 will be given away. If the likes go above 250 I will also include a loose copy of Rock Man 5 for the Famicom, a pirate copy of Mega Man “7” for the Famicom, as well as a loose copy of the original Mega Man Legends for PlayStation. The higher the “likes” go, the more awesome stuff I add to the prize jackpot, and winner takes all.

Spread the word, re-post, twitter away, tell your friends! Remember, no prize unless the “likes” get over 200, and the more “likes” Kira’s picture gets, the more awesome the prize becomes.

Like the Picture here: Like Kira’s picture!

Review A Bad Game Day: Friday the 13th

It’s August 8th! You know what that means… Review A Bad Game Day! Head over to the Review A Bad Game Day’s site for a full list of reviewers participating in the event and see the links to all the bad reviews. The horror!

Speaking of horror, the game I have chosen for my bad game review is Friday the 13th for the Nintendo Entertainment System. A terrible game, but…

Here’s the thing. I really want to love Friday the 13th for Nintendo. I love the movies, I love character, I love the mythos, and I would love to love the game.

Embarrassing reveal time: I actually do like the game. A lot. But dammit I want to love it!

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not saying that Friday the 13th is a hidden gem, or a diamond in the rough, or even that it is misunderstood, because it is most assuredly a bad game. The music is annoying, the graphics are bland and uninspired, and the gameplay is frustrating, repetitive and unfocused.

What I am proposing here, is that with a few tweaks Friday the 13th could be the game I always wanted it to be; a game that lives up to the awesome opening animation of the knife stabbing the eye socket of that iconic hockey mask.

In the off-chance you are in the dark regarding the video game adaptation of Friday the 13th and its, uh, subtleties, I will get you up to speed.

In Friday the 13th you play as one of several camp councillors at Camp Crystal Lake. Jason Voorhees is on the loose, and it’s your job to try and stop him. Once and for all, might I add. You accomplish this by wondering around Camp Crystal Lake, fighting zombies(?) and birds(??), in order to gain health regenerative items and upgrade your weapon. You must also light fireplaces in the cabins scattered around the campground and come to the aid of fellow councillors when Jason starts stalking in for the kill.

In an inspired bit of game design, the councillors each have their own attributes, which amount to differences in character speed, and jumping height and distance. This may seem minor, but hell help you if you get Mark and Chrissy killed and you are stuck with Debbie or George. Keeping the best councillors alive is paramount, and this adds a nice element of strategy to the game. You can also transfer items between councillors, and switch between them at will.

As mentioned earlier, when Jason begins threatening a fellow councillor, their corresponding cabin begins to flash (and beep) and you have a finite amount of time to get to the cabin. If you enter the cabin before the timer runs out, your fellow councillor lives to see another day. Further exploration of the cabin (in a dumb first person mode, but we’ll get to that later) will trigger an encounter with Jason himself, and a battle will ensue, again in first person perspective.

Wasting time in reaching the cabins during a Jason attack also consumes “children”, and when all the children or councillors die, it’s game over. A game over isn’t all bad, mainly because it brings up my favourite game over screen in video game history:

The whole point of the game basically amounts to whittling down Jason over a period of three nights and three days through a series of encounters, repeating the same cycle of powering up and saving councillors. Although some-what limited in scope, Friday the 13th does none-the-less add a few interesting twists that elevate the game above what it could’ve been. For instance, Friday the 13th boasts an early example of an in-game day and night cycle, with different game events (such as certain enemies appearing, or item availability) occurring only on specific days or at specific times of day.

In addition to keeping the campers and your friends alive, you must effectively use time management from one day to the next, and survive an onslaught of common enemies and the periodic Jason attacks (both in the side scrolling over world sections and the first person cabin battles). You can also explore the woods, which is nearly impossible without a map (again, we’ll get too that later) or the cave (ditto for a map). In these two areas you can find the best weapons in the game early, if you are willing to try your hand at navigating through them. In fact, you can even fight Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head, if you make if to the end of the cave (on the third day) without going insane from frustration.

This all sounds like it adds up to pretty descent, maybe even a great video game. Unfortunately for us, laziness and bad game design ultimately tank the whole endeavour.

For one, the over world map is poorly implemented. In the game, Camp Crystal Lake is essentially arranged in a circle, with an inner circle area and pathways connecting it all together. The problem with this is, is that on the actually gameplay screen left and right are absolute, so if you travel from the bottom of the game map to the top. you end up moving toward the opposite direction as your map icon. It is kind of hard to describe without actually experiencing it, but trust me when I say it is borderline game breaking, especially when you absolutely have to rely on the map to locate the cabins Jason is attacking. You can spend half of the countdown timer heading in the wrong direction without realizing it.

Another terribly implemented feature is the first person exploration of the cabins. It is confusing moving through the cabins, because you can easily get lost and have trouble finding the door to get out. All the developers would have had to have done was provide a small map or compass in one corner of the screen to make navigation easier. Granted, the cabins consist of only a few rooms, so this is not a big issue, but it does hint at the underlying sloppiness inherent in the rest of the games design.

Probably the thing that hurts the game the most is the trying to navigate through the forest and the cave. These are side scrolling sections, and there are points where you can either move off the main paths by taking paths going up or down. The problem is that the design of these areas are completely counterintuitive, meaning if you were to go up and then decided that you wanted to go back to the previous screen, you would logically think that going back through the bottom exit would take you back to the previous screen. it does not. Since all the screens look nearly identical with no landmarks, do this once or twice and you become hopelessly lost. Even with a map, the cave and forest are very difficult to navigate. All though they are optional, this really cuts out what could have been a really neat side-quest of sorts. Bad game design basically makes these optional areas too hard to bother with, which hurts the overall experience.

If those three unfortunate design flaws were changed, the game might even be considered halfway decent. But tack onto that the boring music, ugly graphics, predictable enemies, scarce enemy variety, and unclear objectives and the game ends up falling too far short of even mediocrity.

Regardless of it’s shortcoming and gaping flaws, I actually pull this game out a couple times a year and play through it… wistfully wondering what could have been.

Righteous Finds and Deadly Gets

I got a big-ass package straight from Japan yesterday, so I have a hunk of new stuff to show. The choice bits of the package will pop up in their own separate post next week, so I first present to you most of the rest of the stuff:

Ice Climber (Famicom) The classic Nintendo arcade-style classic. You never have more fun climbing frozen mountains and beating seals and birds to death with a mallet, I guarantee that. The cart was actually in pretty nice shape and the inclusion of the manual is a nice little bonus.

Lode Runner (Famicom) Personally, I am more of a 3D Lode Runner type of guy, but this inventive little plaformer is not without its charm. Again, cut from the same cloth as many early Famicom titles, Lode Runner is an arcade style score-chaser that looks kind of ugly, but that drab exterior hides a pretty fun little game. Again, the maunal is pretty awesome. I just wish the artwork on the cart label was as nice as it is on the instruction booklet.

Romancing SaGa (Super Famicom)The debut entry in the SuFami iteration of the SaGa series. Us English speaking fold only ever got the three Game Boy games (rebranded as Final Fantasy Legends I, II, and III) and the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 SaGa games, which is a shame. The Super Famicom games are exception 16-bit RPGs, worth a play-through. Fan translations and repro carts are on online… what are you waiting for?

SimCity (Super Famicom) What can I say? SimCity is still fun, challenging and awesome. I got this for a penny. Yes, that’s right. One American penny. It came with the rest of my lot in a huge box, so shipping was pretty much free. One penny. ONE PENNY!

Repro Madness: New Ghostbusters II

There are only two Ghostbusters games worth playing. One is an excellent SD platformer released for the SEGA Genesis simply titled “Ghostbusters”, and the other never came out in North America.

Hal Laboratories, the studio behind Kirby, Mother, Earthbound, and Super Smash Bros. (to name a few), developed a little slice of heaven for the Nintendo Entertainment System called New Ghostbusters II. Unfortunately for us North Americans, the video game license for the Ghostbusters was the exclusive property in North America of *shudder* Activision. As a result, PAL territories and Japan got the best Ghostbusters game ever made, and we got Activision’s atrocious Ghostbusters II.

Thankfully, the advent of online stores specializing in video game reproductions has made huge strides in righting the wrongs of the game industry past. This game, nay I declare, work of art, was released by TimeWalk Games, a company that creates some very fantastic reproductions.

New Ghostbusters II lets you pick from all five Ghostbusters (yes, even Louis Tully is a playable character). The game has a 3/4 down perspective similar to The Legend of Zelda. You play as one Ghostbusters, with a second trailing behind you. The A button shoots your energy beam, which you can use to freeze ghosts, spooks, and spectres in place. The B button makes the second Ghostbuster throw the trap. The whole trick of the game is to safely isolate the ghosts that litter the screen and successfully trap them. When an area is cleared of all the free roaming vapours, you get an arrow that indicates where to go next.  The game is pretty difficult, especially towards the end, but if you manage to figure out the best way to clear each area, then you can fly through the game.

Not just satisfied with pumping out carts with custom labels, TimeWalk throws in all the bells and whistles; shrink wrapped box, full color manual, and often times custom colored carts and fold-out posters. This limited edition of New Ghostbusters II comes in an “ecto-green” cart, and features an manual, poster, and even came with an official Nintendo branded dust sleeve.

I have played through the game a couple times now (on easy, via the secret options menu) and I must say that I am very impressed with the level of detail and care that was put into the entire package. I can certainly say that I will be ordering from TimeWalk again.

  

Deadly Gets – July 31st

Super Advantage (Super NES) I have been looking for a Super Advantage for a few years, and they just have never seemed to show up in the wild in my area. Sure, I could have purchased one from eBay, but these things are heavy as hell, and shipping to Canada is pretty expensive as it is. Finding someone who is willing to ship a package of such weight is rare, and when you can find a willing seller the shipping is more often then not more than the Buy It Now price on the item itself. A few weeks ago I came across this little beauty in my local video game mecha, Re-Play Games. Naturally I snatched it up without hesitation. It was worth the weight. See what I did there? *taps top hat forward with cane, bow tie spins

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Super NES) – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a bracket below my age demographic when the show reached a fever pitch in the early 90s, that not with standing the Super Nintendo game is actually a pretty great side scrolling single plain beat-em-up. I picked this cart up for a song at a local thrift store the same day I got my Super Advantage. They make a great combo.

Gargoyle’s Quest II (Famicom) – This game came to me, hand delivered straight from the land of the rising sun by my good friend Vince. I must say, if you can get past the slight language barrier this is actually a pretty excellent, although difficult little adventure platformer. I may try in the future to pick a copy of the NES version, if I can find one at the right price. Hope, hope.

B.O.B. and PacAttack (Genesis) – I picked these two up at a local thrift store for $0.99 each. I cannot pass up a minty fresh complete Genesis game for such a great price, even if the games are kind of mediocre.  I actually picked these up the same day that I got the greatest find in the history of my video game collecting career. Not a bad bonus to a mint MUSHA, if I don’t say so myself.

The Mass Confusion of Super Mario 2

There is a plague of confusion that surrounds Super Mario Bros. 2, which I am going to attempt to clear up, accompanied by some pictures of my latest get, a CIB copy of Super Mario USA for the Famicom.

The game the non-Japanese world knows as Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a sprite swapped version of a Famicom Disk System game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. Doki was created and directed by Kensuke Tanabe at Nintendo, and was originally envisioned as a two-player co-op game. The game remained an unfinished prototype until Nintendo was approached by Fuji Television to create a game featuring some of their mascots. The unfinished prototype was polished and slightly redesigned using sprites created for the 4 mascots.

Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was produced by Mario creator Shigaro Miyamoto, who ironically had more input on Doki Doki Panic then he did on the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was again designed by Kensuke Tanabe, and also released exclusively for the Famicom Disk System. It used the same engine and graphical style as the original Super Mario Bros., but was a much more difficult game.

The extreme difficulty of the Japanese SMB 2 scared Nintendo of America away from localizing it to cartridge for play on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Instead, they choose Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, who’s licensing rights did not extend outside of Japan, and simply switched out the Fuji mascots with Mario characters. This game was released as Super Mario Bros. 2 outside of Japan, and became a massive blockbuster. The success of the game caused Nintendo to bring the game back to Japan, this time in cartridge form for the Famicom, with the Mario sprites intact and giving the game yet another new name, Super Mario USA.

The non-Japanese world would eventually see the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (with updated 16-bit graphics) when it was included under the title “The Lost Levels” in the SNES compilation game Super Mario All-Stars. Super Mario USA was also included on the Super Famicom version on the game, Super Mario Collection.

Additionally, a slightly varied version of the 16-bit port of Super Mario USA was made available for a time on the Japan-exclusive satellite download add-on for the Super Famicom, the Satellaview. This version was simply called BSX Super Mario USA.

Below is a graphic I have constructed to illustrate the Super Mario Bros. 2 situation clearly (click for full size):