Cruis’n USA – Nintendo 64   Leave a comment

N64CrusinUSABack in the mid 1990’s, racing games were making their transition from scaled 2D sprites to full on 3D polygonal graphics.  The popular racers of the day were Daytona USA, and Ridge Racer.  Midway released their own racing game called Cruis’n USA in the arcades in 1994, and Nintendo published it in 1996 in order to compete with Daytona USA on the Saturn, and Ridge Racer on the PlayStation.  Cruis’n USA was a fun arcade game, but this Nintendo 64 port is really poorly executed.

Cruis’n USA is similar to other arcades games of it’s time in that you drive through checkpoints before you run out of time.  You can select to run one of the 14 courses, or run them all in order from the west coast of San Francisco to the east coast of Washington, D.C.  There are no car upgrades, no drifting in order to get turbo, and in fact there is no turbo at all.  You just hit the gas, take the corners, avoid the traffic, and not only race the clock, but also race the CPU opponents to finish first.  I typically love these types of racing games.  You can just pick up the controller, enjoy the scenery, and race.  The car handling, and physics of arcade style racing games is meant to be more fun than realistic.  Cruis’n USA was on the right track, but it’s ruined by poor controls, and physics.  You can use either the analog controller, or the d-pad to steer, and I can’t figure out which is worse.  Both oversteer terribly.  The first few tracks are fun, and you won’t even notice the wonky controls, but just wait until you get to some of the twistier tracks, and you won’t be able to stay on the road.  Adding to the difficulty is the inconsistent framerate, and iffy collision detection.  You can change the difficulty of the computer opponents, and win quite easily, but it feels like a cheap win considering I look like a drunk driver.

Some things that I do like are the vibrant colours for the tracks, but unfortunately the backgrounds repeat for too many of the tracks.  The sound is pretty poor as well with some of the worst music I’ve ever heard in any game.  One of the tracks even sounds like someone’s having sex.  These awful songs also get stuck in your head like that one cheesy hit that comes along each summer, and gets overplayed to death.  The sound effects are pretty good except for the fact that your car becomes nearly silent at top speed.  The actual design, and theory behind the game is great, but it badly needed more time to refine the car handling, physics, and framerate.  I really wanted to like this game, because I usually like arcade driving games, but there’s just so many other better driving games for the N64, and I’ll be getting to those soon enough.

Rating – 5 / 10

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Posted November 16, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Nintendo 64

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Spy Hunter – NES   Leave a comment

NESSpyHunterIf you’re looking for a really tough old school driving game, they don’t get much tougher than 1987’s Spy Hunter from Sunsoft on the NES.  It’s a top down vertically scrolling combat driving game that was originally released to arcades in 1983 by Bally Midway, and while I never personally played the arcade version, I can see from pictures that the arcade game had a steering wheel, gas pedal, and gear shift.  The NES never had those accessories, but despite that the port to the NES is very playable, and it’s fun.

As far as I can tell the game is just one endless stage where it’s your goal to drive as far as you can.  You get points for driving faster, but then you risk hitting other vehicles.  You can shoot enemies for points, but you risk crashing into their wreckage, and not to mention you will be penalized for shooting civilian vehicles.  You can’t go too slow either, because enemy vehicles will catch up to you.  The best advise I can give to you is to drive as fast as your skill allows you to, and try to earn as many points as you can.  This is what really old games were all about anyways, and that is going for a high score.  Being an arcade game, it is really difficult in order to free up the machine for the next player to play, or for you to put in another quarter, because despite the difficulty it is a lot of fun.  There are a few helpful powerups that can be earned by driving into the back of a semi Knight Rider style.  The powerups include missiles to destroy helicopters.  Smoke screens, and oil slicks take care of enemies approaching from behind.  Apparently you can transform into a boat if you reach a certain part of the game, but I was never able to do this, because I’m terrible at this.

Despite my terrible Spy Hunter gaming ability, it is still addicting to play.  It looks nice, it plays nice, and the music sounds like it came from a James Bond movie.  The games are pretty short, or at least mine are, so don’t expect this to be the next Skyrim.  It’s just a simple, old school arcade game, and recommended to fans of those games.

Rating – 7 / 10

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Posted November 6, 2014 by thebandit2006 in NES

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Whip Rush – Sega Genesis   1 comment

GENWhipRushI’m a big fan of the Sega Genesis, and I’m also a big fan of shoot-em-up games.  When you combine the two of them, what could possibly go wrong?  In this case absolutely nothing, because Whip Rush is friggin’ sweet!  It’s one of the earlier shoot-em-ups on the Genesis released in 1990 by Renovation Products.  Whenever there is a Renovation Products logo on a Genesis cartridge, good times usually follow.

Whip Rush is a shoot-em-up of the side scrolling variety.  The story is that mankind has pretty much used up all resources of every planet in our solar system, so three ships are sent out to seek new land to colonize.  The ships never return, and a race of aliens attack Earth.  In typical shoot-em-up fashion there is one spaceship that can stop the aliens, and that is the Whip Rush piloted by you.  The storyline isn’t exactly original, and neither is the game play.  Unoriginal games are fine by me as long as they are good ones, and Whip Rush is a good one.  Your ship starts off with a weak weapon that fire straight ahead, but at least you’re able to hold down a button on the Sega Genesis controller to automatically fire.  You get your standard powerups such as a laser beam, heat seeking missiles, etc.  What you really want to pick up are the two mini ships that fly along with your spaceship.  These mini ships not only increase your attack ability, but you can also position them to fire up, down, or behind your ship.  This is very important, because although most enemies will attack you from the front, there are parts of some stages will scroll up, or backwards.  Some enemies will attack from behind as well.  The difficulty in Whip Rush is 16-Bit tough, but it never feels cheap.  If you do die, you respawn right where you died.  You will have to start at the start of the stage if you lose all of your lives though.

The graphics aren’t going to blow you away, but they get the job done.  The parallax scrolling is really well done for such an early Genesis release.  The music is really great, and some of the tunes will get stuck in your head long after you’ve stopped playing.  The sound effects include those distorted sounding explosions that are unique to the Sega Genesis.  If you’ve played enough Genesis games you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Your ship also controls very well, and you’re able to manually control your ship’s speed without picking up speed powerups.  Overall Whip Rush may not be original at all, but it does everything right, and it’s a lot of fun.  Definitely recommended for shoot-em-up fans.

Rating – 8 / 10

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Posted November 4, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Sega Genesis

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Eternal Champions – Sega Genesis   Leave a comment

GENEternalChampionsWhen I think of Sega fighting games, I think of Virtua Fighter.  Little did I know that Sega produced a 2D fighting game called Eternal Champions in 1993 for the Sega Genesis.  It was released during a time when 2D fighting games were all the rage, and every video game company was releasing one.  The most popular fighters of the day were Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat.  Eternal Champions takes inspiration from both of them, and the results could have been great, but too many flaws pretty much ruined it for me.

When I first played Eternal Champions, I noticed that the music and graphics of the menus really reminded me of the Mortal Kombat series.  The other thing I noticed were the wide variety of characters.  There are only nine to choose from, but they include such characters as a cyborg, a 1920’s gangster, caveman, vampire, ninja, and some sort of Aquaman creature.  The reason for the wide variety is that someone know as The Eternal Champion has traveled through time to rescue each of the characters before their death, and has them compete against each other in a fighting tournament.  The winner is saved from their death.  I like the variety of characters, and they all look great.  I wish they displayed more personality though.  The controls are similar to the Street Fighter series in that you have a low, mid, and high punch, and the same for kicks.  This means that the 6-button Sega Genesis controller is highly recommended.  To keep you from spamming projectile attacks like you can in Street Fighter, a lot of characters can only use such attacks after building up their special attack meter.  The button combinations for the attacks are not always intuitive, and that goes for a lot of the attacks.  You will have to learn these attacks to be successful against the CPU, because they are brutally tough, and there was no difficulty setting that I could find.  Also when you lose a fight during the tournament, you don’t simply have a rematch against the opponent that defeated you, but you have to have a rematch against the opponent before them.  I’ve never seen a continue system in which the game sends you back a level.  One thing that is cool is that there are stage fatalities.  You have to pull off a certain move on a certain spot on each stage for it to happen.  Unfortunately I was only able to do this one time, but it was pretty cool.

Eternal Champions could have been such a good game, but the difficulty, and the terrible continue system hold it back.  The controls aren’t the most responsive I’ve ever seen either.  Other flaws are numerous, and include not being able to choose a character when you continue, and score not being kept.  What a shame, because the game looks pretty good, although a bit cartoony.  The sound effects have a lot of bass in them, and the music is pretty good.  If you’re a huge fan of fighting games, and have the patience to learn all of the moves, then Eternal Champions could be worth looking in to.  For others, like me, who just want to jump into a game and have a good time, then there are better options.

Rating – 5 / 10

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Posted November 2, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Sega Genesis

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Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega Genesis   Leave a comment

GENSonictheHedgehogI don’t know what hasn’t been said already about Sonic the Hedgehog.  It’s a huge franchise for Sega with game releases on a wide variety of systems.  The original Sonic the Hedgehog was released by Sega for the Genesis in 1991 during a time that Nintendo was king with their Super Mario series.  Sega had to come up with something to combat Mario, and the result was Sonic the Hedgehog.  Sonic really helped the Sega Genesis become a hugely popular system during the 90’s.

Some game play mechanics are similar to Super Mario such as jumping on enemies to defeat them, and you collect rings instead of coins.  For everything else though Sega decided to do the opposite.  The huge difference is the speed at which the game plays.  To this day the original Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the quickest platformers you’ll ever play.  The other difference is that the levels are much larger, and feature a variety of paths to get to the end.  You’ll spend just as much time moving vertically as you do horizontally.  Also the character designs are different in that Mario is portrayed as a do-gooder, Sonic is portrayed as cool, and having an attitude.  Throughout the entire decade other companies tried to duplicate Sonic’s attitude with usually cheesy results.  There’s a nice variety of stages ranging from fantasy worlds, science fiction, ancient times, and other abstract levels such as a level that contains pinball obstacles.

The coins you collect also act as a shield of sorts against attacks.  If you take a hit from an enemy you won’t die, but you’ll drop all of yours coins.  Luckily you can sometimes pick them up again.  If you take a hit without having any coins, then you’ll lose a life.  There are also powerups such as a bubble shield, invincibility, and a powerup that makes you faster temporarily.  Your attacks are jumping on top of an enemy, and hitting an enemy while you are jumping.  At the end of each world you face off against an end boss.  The end boss is always Dr. Robotnik, but he’ll be a different contraption each time.  Sort of like Wile E. Coyote.

The controls are extremely simple, and highly responsive.  You can move left and right, press down to tuck into a ball, and press any button to jump.  To do well you need to take advantage of Sonic’s momentum and speed.  This is what makes Sonic the Hedgehog so much fun to play.  It also doesn’t hurt that the art design for the levels is colourful and original, and that it has really great sounding catchy music.  The difficulty level is also just right.  The only times the game isn’t awesome are during are a couple of worlds that are slower paced.  Sonic the Hedgehog alone is worth buying a Sega Genesis for, but it can equally be enjoyed on the many other systems it is available for.  Although you should still buy a Sega Genesis.

Rating – 9 / 10

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Posted October 25, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Sega Genesis

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RBI Baseball 94 – Sega Genesis   Leave a comment

GENRBIBaseball94RBI Baseball 94 is one of the last games in the once popular RBI Baseball series before Atari was bought out, renamed, and sold off again.  It was actually released by their Tengen subsidiary in 1994.  It differs greatly from the NES RBI Baseball games, but that might not be a good thing, because the NES games were great.

The thing I love about old sports games, and especially old licensed sports games is that I am able to play as players and teams from the past.  RBI 94 has all Major League teams, players, and stats from the 1993 season.  The single player modes available are single game, best of seven series, 80 game season, 162 game season, and a mode where you play all the teams once.  It uses a password system to save your progress which is what I prefer in older games, because battery backup doesn’t last forever.  Of course this means that it won’t track each player’s individual stats throughout the season, but it display all of the stats that they get at the end of each game at least.  The pitching/batting interface is the classic one from the NES days with the pitcher on the top of the screen, and the batter on the bottom.  You really can’t go wrong with this, and it plays very well.  Unfortunately when the ball is put into play is where things go a bit downhill.  The camera is zoomed in way too close to the field to judge where your players are, or where the ball is being hit to.  Baseball Stars on the NES had a zoomed in field, but that game at least had sound cues to tell you when a fly ball was on it’s downward arc.  Luckily there is an automatic fielding option in RBI 94 where the fielders move automatically, and all you have to do is choose which base to throw the ball.  It’s not the best solution, because part of the fun of these games is fielding, but at least it makes this game playable.

Despite the way too difficult fielding, there is a lot of other things that make up for it.  There are three difficulty settings to choose from when playing the CPU.  I crushed the CPU on every setting but the hard setting.  The hard setting made for close games with about 4 runs scored per game per team.  The game’s pace is fairly quick with games taking around 25 minutes to play.  It’s also a pretty nice looking game to look at too with a nice looking field, and great player animations.  During the batting screen the game will show portraits of the batter, and pitcher.  Some are more accurate than others, but it’s a nice touch.  Other nice touches during the batting interface are animations of the crowd doing the wave, a 1st base couch going through signs, players celebrating, animations of a baserunner sliding, and so on.  There also seems to be about a dozen soundtracks in the game, and they all cycle through randomly, so as to not be repetitive.  The soundtracks sound great too, as does the umpire’s calls.  If it wasn’t for the terrible fielding this game would have been among the absolute best, but the small details, quick pace, and relatively realistic game play make it worth playing.

Rating – 7 / 10

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Posted October 16, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Sega Genesis

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Tecmo Baseball – NES   Leave a comment

NESTecmoBaseballIt’s name says it all.  It’s a Baseball game by Tecmo.  It’s called Tecmo Baseball, and it was released on the NES back in 1989.  It was clearly inspired by the previously released RBI Baseball, but it was certainly not alone in that regard.  It may be inspired by RBI Baseball, but it is surely different from it.  Back before companies started to sell roster updates as full prices games every year, NES baseball games are pretty much all unique.

There are 14 teams representing Major League Baseball cities, but it’s not licensed, and all of the player names are fake.  The colours of their uniforms, and the stats are kind of based off real teams from that time though.  The only modes available are a gauntlet run through all the teams, which can be saved via password.  The other mode is of course a two player mode.  Like a lot of early NES baseball games you can select your starting picture, but not your starting line up.  Game play is a mix of Bases Loaded, and RBI Baseball.  Pitching and hitting is done from a view behind the pitcher.  It’s similar to the view they use on televised games.  You can use the control pad to direct his swing high, low, or in the middle.  If you swing in the middle your batter will automatically correct the height of his swing to hit high balls anyways.  You’ll also want to choose the middle swing, because the ball comes at you so fast that you have no time to think.  The timing takes a lot to get used to as you have to swing well before the pitch gets to you.  I suppose that is similar to real baseball.  Once in play the view switches to a high camera view where your players are smaller.  This is similar to RBI Baseball.  The players may be small, but the outfield is enourmous.  You’ll have quite the adventures trying to track down fly balls that’s for sure.  Surprisingly the scores stay fairly realistic with about 9 runs scored combined on average during my games.  The high amount of ground balls, and infielders with cannons for arms will create a lot of double plays which will balance out the amount of hits to the outfield.

Tecmo Baseball is an example of a game that is more than the sum of it’s parts.  The graphics are extremely plain looking, but passable.  The music is okay, although I do like the rockabilly music that plays whenever someone is on base.  I also find it hilarious that the umpire insists on saying “safe” every single time you touch a base with someone on it.  It’s fun to move your fielder constantly over the base to hear the umpire go “safesafe…sss.sss…safesafesafe!”  The controls are very responsive, although you’ll have to get used to running controls that are the reverse of most other NES games.  Overall Tecmo Baseball is very fun to play.  The CPU is competitive, the games play very quickly, and it just all comes together very well.  The NES has a lot of great baseball games, and this is one you can include in that list.

Rating – 8 / 10

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Posted October 11, 2014 by thebandit2006 in NES

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