Friday, 26 May 2017

Binary Land (NES)

First, I should mention that I was sent a physical copy of this game as a gift, by patreon subscriber Matt Sephton. So thanks! Anyway, the thing with most maze games is that the maze itself isn't the main source of the challenge. It exists only as a confined place that you have to navigate round while avoiding enemies (and also ensuring that the enemies don't trick you into trapping you between them). The obvious reason for this is that a straight-up maze-solving videogame probably wouldn't be very fun, significantly less than solving mazes on paper, even. Still, the developers of Binary Land decided to have a shot at making a maze game about mazes, though they did it with a gimmick in mind that wouldn't have been possible on paper.

That gimmick is that the player controls two characters at the same time, with one of them having their horizontal controls reversed. They're each on opposing sides of a wall, which also has two different mazes at either side. The objective is to not only get the two penguin protagonists to the top of the screen, but they each have to occupy the spaces directly at each  side of a caged love heart at the top of the screen.

Obviously, there's various obstacles in their path, besides the difficulties you'll face in trying to get the two penguin lovers in just the right relative positions to end the stage. First off, there's spiders and their webs. You can kill the spiders and disperse their webs any time with your attack, though of course, you have to keep an eye on both sides of the screen all the time, as while one penguin is fighting off enemies, the other could be blindly walking into them. The webs are stationary, but if one of your penguins gets stuck in one, they're rendered totally immobile until the other comes over and gets them out.

Later on, more enemies appear, naturally. I've been able to get up to about stage fifteen or sixteen, and in that time, the spiders have been joined by birds, who can fly over the whole screen with no regard as to the walls, and, on contact, switch the positions of your characters. There's also little sentient fireballs, who slowly meander around the place, kill on contact, and unfairly, can't be killed.

Binary Land is a pretty good game, and as I said, it's fairly unique in that it's a maze game that's actually about solving mazes. It's also very cute, and one of those romance-themed games that were a thing in the mid-1980s and haven't really been since, so give it a try.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Autobahn Tokio (3DO)

A big problem for the 3DO is that it jumped the gun a bit. Releasing in 1993, it was far more impressive than its contempories like the the Phillips CDi (which apparently came out in 1991, though I think it took a couple of years for people to really notice it), Amiga CD32 and Atari Jaguar. Unfortunately, in 1994, the Saturn and Playstation came out and all those earlier attempts at starting a new console generation instantly looked ridiculous, like children wearing adult-sized clothes pretending to do grown-up things. The 3DO did try to keep up for a couple more years, however, and Autobahn Tokio is a clear attempt to compete with Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, the flagship racing games on the big two consoles. The problem is that all it really does is highlight the vast distance between the 3DO and SEGA and Sony's consoles.

Looking at still screenshots, you'll probably think it's a valiant effort, and it is: in terms of 3D modelling and quality of textures, this game's not too far behind Daytona. The real difference comes when you see it in motion. Now, I've mentioned a few times before that I have only disdain for the tedious pedants who leave bad reviews for games on steam based entirely on the framerate dipping slightly every now and then, but Autobahn Tokio at its best is slightly faster than a slideshow. It sometimes dips beneath this to become slightly slower than one. There's other, even worse presentational problems present, too. Like how to change the music track you race to, you have to go to the options screen in the main menu, but you can't actualy listen to the tracks while on that screen. Or how, after a race ends, all you get is a black screen with the word "winner" or "loser" on it before being booted back to the main menu (if you manage to get into the top ten best times for the track, you also go to the name entry screen, which is shamelessly ripped off from the one in Daytona USA).

It's not all bad, though. Despite its many faults, it does play pretty well. You have to take note that you need to pick any car other than the blue one, which is somehow so bad it actually drains the fun out of the game. But yeah, it's a pretty fun, simple racing game, that can actually feel pretty fast despite the framerate problems. There's three tracks too, which is more than the original Ridge Racer, and while two of them are pretty typical racing game settings (circuit in the country and city streets at night), the third has a bit more of a contemporary edge, being a twisty, turny mountain road like in Initial D and all those drift racing VHS magazines that modern-day vaporwave artists love so much. And yes, you can actually drift in this, and it's very easy to do: like in Outrun 2, you just let go of the accelerator, tap brake, then start holding the accelerator again.

So yeah, Autobahn Tokio isn't much competition for Daytona USA or Ridge Racer, and in trying to keep up with the Saturn and Playstation, all it really does is highlight how far behind the 3DO really was. But it isn't a terrible game, and it is an interesting technical display, at least.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mabougirl Miracle Kurun (PC)

If you're smart enough to spot bi-ingual puns, you may have already guessed this game's main hook, which is one I'm suprised to have never encountered before: it's a combination of the old Irritating Stick/Kuru Kuru Kururin thing where you have to navigate a rotating stick through a maze without touching the sides and a danmaku-style shooting game. The pun of course being that the "cle" from "miracle" becomes "kuru" when transliterated into Japanese, and "kuru kuru" is a Japanese onomatopoeia for rotation.

Anyway, you play as a stick that you can move around, and also rotate either way at will, and you have to get through the stages without touching anything (obviously, unlike most modern shooting games, your hitbox is the same size as your ship, since that's the entire point of the game). All the while, bullets will be streaming from the wide sides of your stick, so you've got to juggle the rotation you do to avoid collisions and the rotation you do to try and kill enemies. Killing enemies also fills a meter, and at the press of a button, you can switch from your regular bullets to a powerful laser, that shoots out from the ends of your stick, and is not only more powerful than your normal shots, but also has a score multiplier attached to it that decreases as the meter depletes.

As you play through the stages, you collect gems to buy upgrades, like  increases to max HP, greater ranges of speed settings for both movement and rotation, and even alternative ships. Disappointingly, though, the alternate ships only have different weaponry to the default ship. I would have thought the game could present a whole new set of challenes if there were ships that were different shapes: shorter but fatter for example, or maybe even curved. For those worried about the purity of the arcade-style experience being affected by the upgrades, you can turn them off once unlocked. Furthermore, the game doesn't really have arcade-style progression. Instead, each stage is played individually with a new set of lives and a score that doesn't carry over into other stages. As an extra challenge, though, some upgrades can only be bought by spending a certain kind of gem that can only be obtained one at a time, and only by completing a stage without taking any damage at all.

Mabougirl Miracle Kurun is far from being my favourite game from the current Japanese indie scene, but it's even further from being the worst I've played, too. It's alright, I guess. It'd probably worth a buy if it ever gets released in some convenient form, but it's not worth using a proxy site to order a physical copy from Japan. Like I did. Doh.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Legend of Pong Lonng Fighter Sunny'na (PC98)

So, we've all seen the many many mahjong games that were the most hated thing in MAME until they decided to start including fruit machines (which aren't even playable, as they have no graphics), but until recently, I'd never actually played any of them. Using the helpful site Mahjong in MAME, I picked up some of the basics of how the game works, and since Legend of Pong Lonng Fighter Sunny'na is a simplified version of the game, and it has a cool fantasy theme with amazing pixel art, just like you expect from PC98 games, I decided this would be my first foray into tile-matching. (Also as you'd expect from PC98 games, there's sex and nudity tacked on that adds nothing of value to the game. So tacked on, in fact, that I can take plenty of screenshots and you'd think it was a totally clean game with some fanservicey character designs).

So, rather than explain mahjong to you, I'll just suggest you visit the aforementioned site to learn how it's played, and then forget most of that, since like I said, this is a simplified version. There's a much smaller variety of tiles, and the only thing you're aiming to do is make up three sets of three identical tiles. Each turn you gain a tile, either by drawing at random, or by taking the last tile your opponent discarded (though you can only do this if it's the last one you need to make a "tri", which is what this game calls Pon/Koutsu). Another difference is that the tiles aren't the traditional mahjong tiles, but instead have pictures of typical RPG monsters and items on them: dragons, slimes, swords, potions and so on.

Keeping with that RPG theme, all your opponents are sexy female versions of RPG monsters, with HP and MP. (Which you also have) MP is used to stack the deck in your favour before a round, or to take a look at your opponent's hand during the round. Victory in a game is attained by reducing your opponent's HP to zero, and vice versa. How much damage you do to your opponent when you've got three tris depends on what the tiles making up those tris are. Different monsters deal different amounts of damage (or sometimes heal your HP and MP), and if you're lucky enough to get two tris of the same tile, that'll result in a massive bonus to its effects. Another thing to take note of is that all the monster tiles have yellow or blue triangles in their bottom corners, and making a hand of all yellow monsters results in a powerful "El Dorado" attack, while all blue results in an "Evil Attack".

If you win, you go back to the simple "board" and move on to the next opponent (or, if you beat a boss, you see a dirty cutscene before moving on to the next board), if you lose it's game over, and of course, a dirty cutscene featuring your character. If you haven't played a mahjong game before, Legend of Pong Lonng Fighter Sunny'na is a great introduction, as long as you don't mind the occasionaly bit of dirty pixel art. It's even addictive enough to have had me staying up hours later than I should have a few nights ago! I'll probably even look into some "proper" mahjong games in the near future, I enjoyed this one so much.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken (Playstation)

There was a nice little trend in the late 90s, of 3D fighting games being released on home consoles with no prior ties. That is, they weren't related to existing games franchises and they weren't ports of arcade fighters. Most of them never got much attention beyond small cult followings, maybe a geocities fansite here or there, and as a result, most of them never got sequels and are mostly forgotten. Daigo no Daibouken is one of those games.

As far as I can tell, it's a completely original creation: no anime license, no arcade version, nothing. But you wouldn't guess if you weren't told, as the presentation on all levels is amazing. Not only does the game itself look great (a point I'll get back to later), but it's a total package that must have either had a pretty high budget or been a labour of love for the developers. It starts right from the outset, with the game having probably the best character select screen I've ever seen, depicting a room with a large window with a cliff outside, and all the playable characters just hanging out in the room (and on the cliff). Then there's the gallery, where each character not only has a bunch of the usual character design art and so on associated with them, but bizarrely, they each also have a selection of lovingly drawn food items. It's just a great, complete package that makes the game feel like it's a part of an existing series, despite being a one game wonder.

As for how the game actually plays, you have to remember that a lot of these games fell into obscurity because while they were enjoyable enough games, they just weren't in the same league as the games coming to consoles from the arcade. Daigo no Daibouken is no different in that regard, but it does combine a few nice little touches from other games (some of which actually came out years after it) that give it its own feel. It uses a 3-button control scheme similar to more modern fare like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Blazblue. It also has an anime-style super meter that has to be charged manually by holding the taunt and strong attack buttons together. You can also easily put together cool-looking normal combos by mashing the weak and medium attack buttons. Blocking is a weird one in this game: as well as holding back to block, it seems that holding forward also blocks, and possibly also pressing an attack button at the exact time of impact ala Asuka 120% Burning Fest.

Going back to the in-game graphics, they're excellent. This little subgenre of fighting games has been getting attention in some circles recently, because of their colourful aesthetics and crazy character designs. While most of the characters in this game aren't as out-there as in other games, it's definitely very colourful, and the character models themselves look great. I don't know whether it's a case of excellent modelling, well-drawn textures or maybe both, but they look amazing.

All in all, Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken is a pretty good game. It won't set your world on fire, but it's enjoyable enough, and a lot of love clearly went into making it.It's definitely worth a shot.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hiho Densetsu: Chris no Bouken (PC Engine)

Sometimes, certain games get a reputation of being incredibly, unplayably difficult, accessible to only the most resilient of players. A few of these games deserve such a reputation, but in a lot of cases all the games really require is a slightly higher level of dexterity than most games, and maybe a little pattern recognition when it comes to facing off against enemies and bosses. Though there isn't a lot of english-language writing about Hiho Densetsu: Chris no Bouken floating around out there, what there is does tend to mention the game's difficulty.

It's apparently even considered a Kusoge in some circles, so, just like I inadvertently did with my Renny Blaster review, I'm going to have to buck the trend. I actually thought this game was pretty good! It's nothing special, but it is good enough. The difficulty is mostly just a result of tight design. Every enemy has a very specific set pattern it follows in its movements and attacks, and that includes the bosses. So once you figure those out for an enemy type, you can beat every other enemy of that type with ease. And you get five hit points per life, so it's not like the game's totally unforgiving in that respect.

Another unforgiving aspect is the time limit. Each stage has a certain number of "days" for it's time limit. These "days" are acually only about 20-30 seconds, and you tend to get between three and nine of them to get through the stage, leaving you with no time to meander, you really have to figure things out as quickly as possible, beat enemies with a minimum of fuss and just generally storm your way through. Furthermore, if you die, even if it's during a boss fight, you go back to the start of the stage. Again, other than the "no checkpoints, ever" aspect, this is unforgiving, but still fair. The stages are clearly designed with this kind of play in mind: with one exception, they're totally linear, and it's pretty obvious what you have to do to get past the various obstacles in your way, requiring dextruous skill, rather than puzzle-solving insight.

There's a few interesting original ideas in here, too. For example, you start the game with a near-useless weapon with almost no range. To power it up, you collect two differently coloured orbs: red, blue or yellow. Each combination of two colours gives a different weapon. This itself is cool, but not something that hadn't been done before, even in 1991. What's cooler in relation to this idea is that a few stages into the game a kind of enemy startes to appear who doesn't do any damage to you, but instead steals one of your orbs and runs away, leaving you with the default weapon until you find another orb to go with the one you're left with.

So, Hiho Densetsu is a pretty good game, though it did take a few goes to grow on me. At first the slightly ugly look of it, and the harsh difficulty are off-putting, but stick with it, and it's a fun, satisfying little game.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Battle Pinball (3DO)

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that back in the mists of antiquity, I wrote about a SNES game with the same title as this one. The two are unrelated, though. While that game was a regular pinball game themed around battles, this one is a game about battles taking place in the form of pinball scoring contests.

There's four characters (a mole, an alien, death and a gambler), each with their own table. In single player mode, you pick one, and do battle with all four characters in random order. The battles work like this: you each get three balls, and the aim is to get a higher score than your opponent. The score really is all that matters: if you lose all three balls first, but have a higher score, your opponent continues playing until they either beat your score or lose their last ball. Once you beat all four characters, you see a short FMV ending (lovingly rendered, like all the character art, in hideous early-90s CGI, the kind that they used to call "Silicon Graphics" in magazines at the time.) And that's it, pretty much.

The tables are all very simple: a few bumpers, a couple of sets of targets, a ramp or two, and that's all. No multiball or special table events or moving parts of any kind. I guess the reasons for this are twofold, though both necessities of development. I'm only theorising here, but I think it'd be a heavy strain on the hardware to have to keep track of two fully-featured, action-packed pinball tables at once. The other reason is that I assume it would be a lot harder to balance the four tables, to make sure that none of them had massive scoring advantages over any of the others, if they were full of dozens of features and gimmicks.

It's surprising that no-one's used this splitscreen "Vs. Pinball" concept since (as far as I'm aware, at least). It's a good idea, and a lot less fiddly and confusing than the turn-taking multiplayer modes that a lot of pinball games do have. A simultaneous competitive pinball game could work really well on handhelds, too. Anyway, Battle Pinball is a fun little game with a cool concept, though the single player mode is incredibly anemic, and of course, it would work a lot better on more powerful hardware.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Dark Native Apostle (PS2)

When Bomberman: Act Zero came out for the 360 in 2006, it was universally loathed, and rightfully so. But an annoying point about the coverage it got is that so much of the negativity was focussed on the concept of a gritty sci-fi Bomberman game, that it was barely mentioned that the game itself was absolute garbage, with only one arena, no local multiplayer, and a single player mode that consisted of playing the same stage 100 times in a row. The thing is, it wasn't the first attempt at a gritty Bomberman for the 21st century. Though it doesn't bear the name of the esteemed multiplayer franchise, Dark Native Apostle was published in Japan by Hudson Soft, and features a protagonist with the ability to drop small timed explosives wherever he goes. (Coincidentally, it was developed by recurring Lunatic Obscurity favourites Tamsoft!)

It's not a multiplayer Vs. arena game, though, but takes the attack mechanic from the Bomberman series and applies to, of all things, a blend of survival horror with the occasional bit of light 3D platforming. Well, "survival horror" in the respect that the plot involves genetic engineering and bio-weapons, and that a lot of time is spent running back and forth finding keys, putting disks into computer terminals and flicking power switches. There isn't anything actually scary in the game, your main method of attack has infinte ammo and there's an ample supply of healing items.

So yeah, you're some genetic engineered bio-weapon guy with amnesia, and you go into the labs where you were made to try and find out your past. It's pretty much the exact same plot as a billion other games that came out between 1996 and 2005. The combat aspect of the game is incredibly easy: most enemies will stand still while firing at you or changing direction, so you can just drop a bomb at their feet to dispatch them. You can hold the square button down and walk away when you drop a bomb to give it a longer fuse, but I've gotten a fair few areas into the game, and beaten a few bosses and this ability has not yet been useful once.

The puzzle-solving aspect of the game is a lot more difficult, though. Well, I think it is, it might just be my being a bit thick. Though you are expected to comb every room you can go into to find every item and clue that might lead to you opening more rooms and progressing. There is one interesting feature the game has involving the upgrades to your powers: you can equip up to four "chips", each of which improves an aspect of your abilities, like the power of your bombs or you max HP or whatever. But, by equipping them in the right order, you can also gain special abilities! Some of these are almost universally useful, like the dash ability. Some are useful in a few certain places, like the ability to see invisible objects. Some are useful in literally one part of the game and then never again, like the ability to drop blinding flash bombs, that only seem to affect the big purple lizard boss you fight in the sewers early in the game. The fact that you often don't get the chips needed to acquire a special ability until around the time you get the note telling you about it is a disappointment, too: playing a second time around with prior knowledge of all the "recipes" could have possibly led to a sneaky bit of sequence breaking, maybe?

Dark Native Apostle isn't a great game, but it's not a particularly bad one either. I guess the core concept alone is interesting enough to be worth a look, though. An obvious comparision to make is to the Playstation game Silent Bomber, which I like a lot more than DNA, though it is a pure all-out action game, so it's not an entirely fair comparision to make.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Toughman Contest (32X)

I never thought there'd be an EA Sports game on this blog, but it's game that's long forgotten, on a console that no-one cares about, featuring a sport that wasn't really popular for very long (and even when it was, it was never massive). Toughman Contest is an amateur boxing tournament that's been going since the late 1970s, but the only time I've ever heard of it was in the late 90s, though it apparently continues to this day. This game is vaguely based on that competition, though all the boxers in it are fictional caricatures with silly names.

Presentation-wise, it's a bit of a mixed bag in many ways: though the graphics are all competently drawn, the game has an ugly pseudo-realistic aesthetic, and the menus look cheap and low-rent compared to the game itself. The character sprites are all massive, taking up most of the screen, though whoever you pick will always be represented by a green outline. A nice touch is that there are four tounaments in which you can compete: North America, South America, Europe/Middle East and Asia/Australasia, and each of them has their own (heavily stereotyped, in a Street Fighter kind of way) arena.  As for how it plays, it's kind of like Super Punch-Out, but worse in every possible way.

Like Super Punch-Out, you view your boxer from behind, and you've got to dodge your opponent's punches and hit them back with the right timing. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well as Nintendo's game, since in the name of realism, there's no tells when any of your opponents are going to attack or dodge or block, and it just feels like everything happens at random. Sometimes you won't get a single hit on your opponent the whole match, other times, you'll pummel their face in by simply holding up and C. There's also times when your opponent's health will just randomly drop to nothing, a mechanic which I assume is supposed to represent a lucky suckerpunch? Another problem is that I've played plenty of matches, and have never won nor lost by knock-out. Every match has been decided by judge's decision, which also feels slightly random. The final result usually makes sense, and the most successful boxer will win, but it could be a fight where you didn't get a single hit in, and you'll just barely lose by one or two points. Conversely, you could batter your opponent into paste, and just barely scrape a couple of points ahead of them.

I saw screenshots of this game, and gave it a shot, hoping it might be a diamond hidden in the substantial rough that is the 32X library. But it's just another ugly, boring game that's outshined by better titles on less powerful hardware. Oh well, never mind.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Kozure Ookami (Arcade)

So, Lone Wolf and Cub, sometimes known as Babycart or Shogun Assassin, is a very well-known comic and series of movies about a guy named Ogami Itto and his three year old son, who goes around violently killing lots of people. I have to admit that I've never actually read any of the comics or seen any of the movies, but I do know that much about them, but doesn't everyone? This game's a beat em up based on that story.

Obviously, you play as Itto, and you go about with your son in a backpack, slashing lots of guys to death. Though it's a belt scrolling beat em up, in terms of mechanical complexity, it inhabits a kind of middle ground between the simpler single plane beat em ups that came before it, like Spartan X, My Hero, et al., and the more complex belt scrollers that would come later, the Final Fights, the Streets of Rages, and so on. There's no comboing, but you do have a block button, and can perform a couple of different slashes with your sword by holding a direction as you press the attack button.
There's very few power-ups, with the most exciting being the famous babycart itself, which will appear for a short time, giving you increased movement speed and a projectile attack. Interestingly, if you press the block button while the babycart is present, you'll instead dismantle it to create a halberd, giving you slightly greater attack range for a short time instead. I assume there must be some advantage to doing this, though I'm yet to have figured out what. Another one is a little piece of paper (I think?), that does nothing until you collect three, at which point, you're whisked away to a duel mini-game. Be the first to attack after the counter reaches zero, and you cut your opponent down, and get a big points bonus. You don't lose a life if you fail, you just get sent back to the main game without a bonus.

Other than that, the game's structured pretty traditionally: you go along the stages killing enemies until you get to a boss, then you kill the boss and go onto the next stage. Starting with the second stage, though, the game does commit a heinous design crime: there's platform sections, with instant death pits, while you also have to avoid enemies jumping out of the pits and the game doesn't even have a dedicated jump button (you press block and attack together to jump). It's unfair, it's no fun, and it's an awkward break from the constant disembowelling that makes up the rest of the game. I'm not going to say it totally ruins the experience, but it's definitely a significant detractor.

That one big flaw aside, though, Kozure Ookami is still a pretty great game, and it does an especially good job creating a mood and forging its own identity through the way it looks and sounds. I'd say it's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Royal Pro Wrestling (3d0)

There's a long and fine tradition in Japanese wrestling games, most famously seen in the Fire Pro series, whereby the roster will be full of real life wrestlers but with their names changed to some silly nonsense, and that's apparently enough to get around any copyright laws. (And I'm sure you're aware that this was a common practice in arcade games in general throughout the 80s, leading to difficulties when it comes to modern rereleases of games like Outrun and Afterburner, as copyright holders begin to notice that their stuff was being used without permission). Anyway, Royal Pro Wrestling carries on that tradition in amazing style, with names like Mike Warrior, Golden Lips and Underdise the Morgan. My favourite is the name they've given Randy Savage, though: Andy Savage. Amazing!

Anyway, Royal Pro Wrestling plays like any typical Japanese wrestling game of the 16-bit era (except the Fire Pro series, which were always a class above the rest): you lock up by walking into each other, then hammer the buttons and direction in the hopes of performing a move. You've also got running moves, top rope moves, and there's always exactly one chair at ringside waiting to be used as a weapon. Some characters even have planchas where they jump over the ropes to land on an opponent outside the ring! The roster of wrestlers is pretty big, and split into American, Japanese and Mexican wrestlers (though most of the wrestlers in the Mexican section are just masked Juniors from Japan, like Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger). There's also four arenas, one for each country, and another, extravagant one that's inside some kind of ACropolis-style building.

You might have noticed the slight dig at the game in the last paragraph, saying it's a typical 16-bit game when it's on a 32-bit console. The thing is though, it really does play, and mostly also look like a SNES game, plus there are only two match types: single and tag, with no rule modifications or anything like that. There is a concession to the new hardware, though: the presentation, outside of the matches themselves, is excellent. If you play career mode, each match is preceded by a great-looking animated and voice-acted promo from your opponent (though the voice acting is awful, which lets the game down a little). There's also really great comic-style artwork for each wrestler on the versus screen, and a very short FMV clip of the outside of each arena, to add a bit more flavour. Come to think of it, there's some nice little touches in-match, too: during tag matches, the referee will argue with illegal wrestlers if they don't get out of the ring, and wrestlers whose real-life counterparts have managers will have them at ringside in this game too.

Royal Pro Wrestling is far from being a classic, but it is a very well-made game, as well as being the only wrestling game (as far as I know) on the 3d0. If you're curious, it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot. And if you need a break from actually playing, there's also a massive gallery of concept art in the menu, which is interesting, and the game being what it is, essentially a load of 90s wrestling fanart.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Kid Chameleon (Mega Drive)

It's been said many times that Sonic the Hedgehog was SEGA's answer to Mario. This isn't just true on the basic level of being a company mascot, but from the way Sonic's first game was designed, to his brash, rebellious personality made him different to Mario, and by extension, made SEGA different to Nintendo. Kid Chameleon can also be said to be SEGA's answer to Mario, especially Super Mario Bros. 3, a game which saw Mario take on various different forms as the game went on.

While Sonic's games were almost totally different to Mario's, other than being platform games, Kid Chameleon is very similar to SMB3 in a number of ways: a main character who transforms, blocks containing power-ups that are broken from below and so on. But philosophically, Kid Chameleon shows a different set of ideas to Nintendo's game. Super Mario Bros. 3 is designed like a game adults think children should enjoy, while Kid Chameleon feels as if a ten-to-thirteen year old had played SMB3, and designed their own heavily-inspired game in an exercise book stolen from school, and then somehow their drawings had become an actual game. (I'd like to note that I don't mean to disparage either game here. They're both classics, of course.)

As you play Kid Chameleon, you can hear that kid's voice saying "Mario changing into a raccoon or a frog is okay, but what if you were a badass dude in shades, and you could turn into a knight or a samurai?", and then of course, the more you play, the further the ideas get from the family-friendly Nintendo fare: "What if you were a nazi tank in hell that shot skulls? And then you turned into Jason Voorhies and got chased around by giant skulls that scream 'DIE!' at you?". The structure of the game feels faily adolescent, too. The stages are huge, and full of secrets. Secret areas, invisible power-ups, and of course, secret exits that lead to extra secret stages.

I don't really know how to end this piece, since Kid Chameleon is already a pretty well-known game, and most people reading this will have probably played it at some point and already formed an opinion on it. I guess there's this anecdote: when I was a very young child, someone told me they were playing this game, and that it was so long and hard, they might not live long enough to ever finish it. Obviously, I suggested that they have it put into their coffin so that they could continue playing it in the afterlife. I was a very practically-minded child, I'm sure you'll agree.