Initial Impressions of the NES Classic Games

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a popular computer game console and some of it’s games became famous, while others started well-known computer game series. I, however, have never played any of the games released on the original NES, but I have played the games available on the NES Classic Mini, which was a device that allowed players to play 30 games that were developed for the actual NES. As someone who was unfamiliar with the original games available on the NES, I thought it would be interesting to find out how I felt playing the first few minutes of these famous games.

To clarify, the reviews of the games listed in this blog post were not based on the entirety of the game. The opinions discussed were based on playing the beginning of the games. I did not play each of the games for the same amount of time, some of the reviews were based on the first hour of playing the game, but some reviews were based on my impressions of playing the first few minutes of the game.

Balloon Fight

This was an arcade-like game where the player progressed through a series of levels and obtained points to achieve a high score. The player completed levels and collected points by defeating enemies. Enemies were defeated by the player flying into the balloons that allowed them to float in the air, which caused them to fall into water or onto ground, where the player had to hit them again to stop them flying. The player had to avoid hitting the body of the enemies, with the player losing a balloon each time contact was made.

The game felt difficult to control, as the player tapped one button to rise up and stop pressing the button to fall, which made the player feel as if they were floating across the sky. It also felt unusual that the player could fly into one side of the screen and reappear at the other side and that touching the ground was harmless, but falling into water was fatal. The game also used an attractive contrasting colour scheme, which consisted of bright colours against a black background filled with stars. The game, however, did not use music, instead a series of high-pitched noises were played during the game.

There was also an alternative mode of the game, called Balloon Run. This mode involved the player flying across the screen and avoiding obstacles.

Bubble Bobble

This was an arcade-like game where the player progressed through a series of levels and obtained points to achieve a high score. The player completed levels and gathered points by defeating enemies and collecting items. Enemies were defeated by the player launching bubbles at them, which either defeated them immediately or caused them to be encased in a floating bubble, which the player had to burst.

The game began with a short introductory story. The game used a contrasting colour scheme, which consisted of bright colours against a black background, and cheerful music.

Despite the light-hearted nature of the game, it was surprisingly difficult. It was easy to be trapped by the enemies and harming them caused them to become angry, which made them move faster. It was unusual that falling into the pit at the bottom of the level caused the player to reappear at the top of the level, as this was usually a fatal action in computer games.

Castlevania

This game was a platform game with a lot of action added. The game consisted of a hero exploring a castle and defeating hordes of enemies that seemed to be based on characters from horror films.

The player used a whip to attack enemies, which was an unusual choice of weapon, and were able to use power-ups that were left by defeated enemies. The player was presented with a bar to show the amount of health they had remaining, but, strangely, while the attackers dropped heart-shaped objects, they did not rejuvenate the player’s health as expected.

The graphics for the game were slightly rudimentary, but it was possible to see what the backgrounds, objects and characters were supposed to represent. The game also presented with a subdued colour scheme that used a lot of dark colours and horror-like music (which was low in tone, but energetic in pace).

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

This game was very different to the previous Castlevania game. While it was an action-packed platformer, it also seemed to be more developed than the original game, with more features.

The game used extra features that built on the platformer game of the original. The game started in a village, with residents that the player could converse with. The player was told that one villager was able to help them and they had to search for them, with the player also able to enter the houses that made up the settlement. Some of the residents also sold items to the player. To leave the village, the player could take 1 of 2 paths, one that lead to the left and one that lead to the right, and there were references to other areas that the player could explore.

The game presented with a similar tone to a horror film. The designs were fairly grim looking, with a very subdued colour scheme. As I was exploring the village (which consisted of houses built on top of each other), I was surprised to find that night suddenly fell and monsters appeared. The music created a mixed atmosphere of horror and action. The designs for the characters were quite basic, but the backgrounds were fairly detailed.

Donkey Kong

This was one of the few games available to play on the NES Classic Mini that I had prior experience of playing, as the game was used as a challenge in the Donkey Kong 64 game.

This game was a platformer, with action included, but it was also a points-based arcade game. The game consisted of the player trying to reach Donkey Kong, who had kidnapped a woman and positioned her at the top of the level. Unlike the version of the game used in Donkey Kong 64, this game consisted of only 3 levels, but the player continuously looped back to the first level each time they completed the game. This meant that the player obtained a high score by repetitively playing through the 3 levels until they lost all their lives.

The game was fairly simplistic. The player had to climb to the top of the levels, while avoiding falling from heights. Obstacles were also thrown by Donkey Kong, which the player needed to avoid by either jumping over or running underneath them. The game used a contrasting colour scheme of brightly coloured objects against a black background. The game did not use music (except when Mario picked up a hammer power-up), but used sound effects that were loud and cartoonlike.

Donkey Kong, Jr.

This game was very similar to the Donkey Kong game, with a few differences. The game was a platformer, with action added, and a points-based arcade game. Like the previous game in the series, the player had to climb to the top of the level to reach Donkey Kong, who had been placed in a cage by the hero in Donkey Kong. The villain also sent out enemies to attack the player.

One of the major differences in the gameplay was the use of vines. Positioned throughout the levels were vines that the player could climb up and down and reach from one vine to another. This meant the player had to climb up or down the vines to avoid an attack or decide which vine to cling to when an enemy moved along one. Weirdly, if the player spent too much time reaching out from a vine into the air, the character fell to the ground and died.

The game had slightly simple graphics. The game used a contrasting colour scheme of brightly coloured objects against a black background. There was a lot of bright green land at the bottom of the screen, which contrasted vividly with the background and provided a safe area to land. The game did not use music, but used loud, low quality sound effects, which created a cartoonlike effect.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

This game was a fighting game, whereby the player followed a path and fought enemies using both weapons and unarmed combat techniques. The game was also story-based. This game also seemed to be intended for teenagers and young adults, which surprised me as I thought most of the games on the NES (particularly among the ones available on the NES Classic Mini) would be child friendly.

The setting for the game was slightly futuristic (it was set in the year 19XX). The story took place following a nuclear war and after criminal gangs had seized power. The two heroes of the game were a pair of vigilantes (called Double Dragon), who wanted to avenge the murder of one of their girlfriends. The story was told through animated sequences that resembled a comic book (with written descriptions of dialogue and still pictures that showed the action).

The gameplay for the game was varied, as the player had to perform different actions, such as climbing up buildings, jumping to rooftops and avoiding being sucked out the door of an airbourne helicopter (whilst fighting enemies). The game did present with a slightly strange control system. The player’s character could attack in two ways, punch in front of them or kick behind them, however, unlike other fighting games, the buttons on the NES controller were not allocated as kick and punch. The A button on the NES controller caused the character to attack to the left, while the B button caused the character to attack to the right, which meant that, if a character faced to the left-hand side of the screen, they would punch if the player pressed the A button and kick if the player pressed the B button, while the A button controlled when the character kicked and pressing the B button caused the character to punch if they were facing towards the right-hand side of the screen.

The colour scheme for the game used a lot of bright purple and green colours, which was unusual for a game with such a dark story. The music used in the game was high-pitched and suitable for action. The graphics were fairly good and there were some details used in the backgrounds, but the graphics for the characters were fairly low resolution and they had cartoon-like proportions.

Dr. Mario

This game was a puzzle game similar to Tetris. There was a bottle on the screen which contained a number of floating viruses, each one coloured either red, yellow or blue. A series of pills (each consisting of 2 blocks of colour) fell from the top of the bottle to the bottom and the player needed to place the pills so 3 blocks of one colour aligned with a virus of the same colour, which killed the virus.

Before beginning the game, there were a surprisingly large number of settings the player had to adjust. These controls included the virus level (which seems to dictate how many viruses were present in the level), the speed of the game and which music scheme was played. The game was actually quite difficult because the player needed to position the pills in a specific way so they affected the viruses. The player also had to consider where they could place each falling item so they could be used in a link that could harm the enemies, but also avoid hindering their own progress by placing a useless pill in a critical location. The game also incorporated a 2 player game, but I was not sure how this functioned.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme, with brightly coloured pills and viruses set against a black background. There were some displays showing the player’s score, the remaining viruses and a large Dr. Mario, with a checked pattern covering the rest of the screen. Some aspects of the game used low quality graphics (particularly the viruses and pills), while others seemed to be of a higher quality, but had a cartoonlike design (such as the displays showing Dr. Mario and the remaining viruses). The music used in the game was either high-pitched and spirited or low-pitched and moody and was of a fairly high quality, although it was repetitive.

Excitebike

This was a racing game, whereby the player attempted to complete a race track in a shorter amount of time than other racers. Strangely, no other racers were shown on the course during the race, instead, a screen, showing the player’s time and their position in the race, was shown after completion of the track.

The controls were simple, one button accelerated the motorcycle and the up and down buttons controlled the direction, however, the motorcycle’s temperature increased while it accelerated at a constant rate and the player had to avoid overheating the vehicle. There was an unusual aspect of the control system for the game. Throughout each course were ramps of different heights. After the player had driven up a ramp, the motorcycle briefly flew through the air and the player needed to use the directional buttons to control the motorcycle’s balance so the racer was able to land properly or they would crash when they hit the ground. It was strange that this detail was added to a simple racing game.

The game used a bold colour scheme (usually consisting of bright colours, but darker shades were used as well). Graphics were quite low quality and the designs were basic, but there were some interesting background effects used in the game. At certain points during the course, the player’s racing time was shown on a distant building and the background flashed when the player completed the course. The nearer background objects also appeared to pass by at a slower rate to ones in the distance.

Final Fantasy

This was an adventure game, with a fantasy setting, whereby 4 heroes had to explore a continent to rescue the princess of a kingdom from a villain. The player started the game by selecting 4 characters to control and naming them. During battles, each hero and each enemy waited for their turn to participate, so the player would select an attack or an item for each character to use and would then watch as each combatant performed their manoeuvre.

The gameplay for the game was quite complex. There were a range of characters to choose from (oddly, considering the fantasy setting, this selection included a Black Belt), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The turn-based fighting system also required the player to form strategies to defeat their enemies, rather than relying on fighting skills, as they had to decide the best way to attack their enemies, while considering how their opponents would counter-attack. Developing strategies for the turn-based combat and using the items in the game required practice.

The introduction to the game seemed to use a standard fantasy plot, a powerful enemy kidnapped a princess and a group of heroes set off on an adventure to rescue her. The graphics for the game were fairly good, with well-designed characters and settings. The game also used an interesting visual device. When the group entered a settlement or encountered enemies, the environment and characters would be shown in detail, but, while the adventurers were exploring the land, one hero would be shown on a much more simplistic representation of the area, so it resembled following the group’s location on a map. The colour scheme used for the game was fairly bright. The music for the game was quite high-pitched, but was able to create different moods.

Galaga

This game was a points-based arcade game. The player controlled a space ship flying through space and had to shoot flying insects, while dodging attacks. The game was a 2D scrolling game with a vertical orientation.

The game was surprisingly difficult. The insects flew quickly and were able to easily dodge the player’s attacks. Some of the enemy also seemed to use a suicidal attack and flew straight into the player, these assaults were the most difficult to avoid or counter.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme, with brightly coloured characters against a black background decorated with some stars. The graphics were fairly good quality, although the visuals for the game were quite simple. Little music featured in the game, but it did use some high-pitched sound effects, which added to the arcade atmosphere of the game.

Ghosts ‘N Goblins

This game was an action platformer. While this game used a series of levels and a very simple story (consisting of a female friend of the hero being kidnapped by a monster), the game used some features from arcade games. Like an arcade game, there was an emphasis on collecting score and the levels were seemingly intended as a marker for the player’s progress. The game did not seemed to be designed for the player to simply complete a story.

The gameplay was fairly simple, the player ran across levels and launched weapons to kill the hordes of enemies that attacked them. Despite the nature of the gameplay, the game was also very difficult. The player could only harmed twice before they were killed and they were vulnerable to attacks from above (due to the fact they could only throw weapons to the left or right and they had nothing to use as a shield). While playing, I did not find any power-up that would help the player recover health. There was also a 2 player option.

Oddly, the game presented with a horror theme, but had a cartoonlike atmosphere. Many of the enemies were monsters (such as zombies) and the game took place during night, but the main character (who began the game as a knight wearing shining armour) ran around in only his underwear if he was hurt and turned into a pile of bones when he died. The music seemed to resemble a soundtrack from a horror film, but it was high-pitched, which gave it a cartoonlike sound. The game used a contrasting colour scheme, with bright colours set against a black background (which made the game seem like it was set during an eerie night). The graphics were fairly basic, although there were some details used in the character designs and backgrounds.

Gradius

This game was a points-based arcade game. The game used a 2D design and scrolled horizontally. The player controlled a spaceship that fired weapons at attacking enemy vehicles that flew towards them.

This game was very difficult. The player could only be hit once before they exploded and the enemies attacked in large waves, while also firing projectiles. The player also had to avoid crashing into any land that covered the top or bottom of the screen, along with stalactites and stalagmites that blocked the player’s path. The game did use save points so the player did not return to the beginning each time they died (although they only had a limited number of lives). Some of the power-ups the player could obtain were very useful at defeating enemies.

The game presented with a contrasting colour scheme, with brightly coloured vehicles and land against a black background that represented space. The graphics were fairly good and the backgrounds were quite detailed. The music was of a fairly good quality and the tracks changed very suddenly (such as music suggesting a cautious exploration suddenly switched to a track suitable for a joyful adventure).

Ice Climber

This game was a points-based arcade game. The game was also an interesting puzzle platform game whereby the player climbed a mountain by working out how to leap onto higher platforms. Following the completion of each level, there was a tally of the enemies defeated and power ups obtained during the level, with the player allocated points based on their performance.

The controls for the game were simple to use. On the main title screen, the player could select any level to start from, which made it easier to reach the more difficult levels. One source of difficulty was that, as the player climbed the mountain, the screen rose with them. If the player touched the bottom of the screen, regardless if the lower part of the level was just below, they instantly died.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme, with brightly coloured environments against a black background. The graphics were fairly low quality, as the ice climbers were heavily pixelated, although the graphics for the enemies and the setting were better quality. The music was quite good quality and had a cheerful, yet subdued, sound.

Kid Icarus

This was a platformer game with action added. The game consisted of a hero exploring different levels. The game also used characters and ideas from Greek myths.

The gameplay was fairly simple, with the player jumping onto platforms and using a bow and arrow to defeat enemies, but there were some strange ideas used in the game design. The player could walk into the side of the screen and reappear at the other side, this weird effect was actually necessary in some areas to reach places that were blocked by walls. Whenever an enemy was defeated, they left a heart (some of these were small and some were big), but these power-ups did not help the player recover lost health. As the player climbed upwards in a level, the bottom of the screen rose at the same rate, however, the player died if the character touched the bottom of the screen, as if the ground below just disappeared.

The game used fairly good graphics, the characters in the game were large and there were some interesting details added to the platforms (such as trees and grass). The game used adventurous music, which was a fairly good quality. The game also used a contrasting colour scheme, consisting of brightly coloured characters and environments against a black background.

Kirby’s Adventure

This was platform game with action added. This game seemed to be aimed at younger players, partly because the enemies used in the game resembled a mix of weird creatures and toys. This game also appeared to be much easier than the other games available on the NES Classic Mini.

There was an interesting feature to the gameplay for the game. Instead of obtaining power ups that gave the character more abilities, the hero was able to absorb enemies and use their unique attacks himself or the player could launch them at another opponent. Bosses were fought by the hero sucking up their own weapons, or nearby items, and then launching them at the boss. There were also minigames between the levels and following the completion of each level, which gave the player the opportunity to obtain more lives.

The game used a very cheerful presentation, with a bright colour scheme. The music used in the game was high-pitched and cheerful and was of a high quality. The graphics were fairly good, with detailed backgrounds.

The Legend of Zelda

This was an adventure game. The player controlled a character that explored various dungeons hidden within a location, used a variety of items (such as a sword and boomerang) to fight enemies and completed challenges.

The game was quite difficult, the player did not start the game with much health and many of the enemies killed the character easily. The player did not receive any direction on how to proceed from the game, instead they were left to wander and explore. Weirdly, the enemies were recognisable from the later 2D and 3D Legend of Zelda games.

The game used a bright colour scheme. The music was recognisable from other Legend of Zelda games (such as the Hyrule Field theme from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), but was more high-pitched and lower quality. A strange aspect of the game was that all the people that lived in the kingdom lived in underground caves, but they still seemed quite close-knit (such as one old man who told the player to deliver a letter to an old woman).

The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

This was an adventure game.

The game consisted of a mix between an overview (to explore the location outside of towns, buildings, tunnels, etc.) and 2D scrolling gameplay (used to walk through settlements, tunnels, etc.). The player did not have much control over the character during the overview, but they were able to interact more with the game during the periods of 2D scrolling. In the overview, menacing characters appeared that roamed the area and, if the player collided with the characters, they had to fight a few enemies to proceed. This was an interesting method of exploring the location used in the game and generating random enemies for the player to fight.

The game used a bright colour scheme. The graphics used in the overview part of the game were basic. The portions of the game that used a 2D scrolling design had graphics that were fairly good quality, as there were some details used in the design of the backgrounds, but some of the 3D effects looked strange (such as some of the walls in the game appeared to slope downwards at strange angles). The music used in the game was fairly low quality, although it had an adventurous theme.

Mario Bros.

This game seemed to be a mix between a platform game and a puzzle game. Despite the name, this game was very different to other Super Mario games.

There were a number of different platforms in the level, which enemies crawled along. The player completed levels by jumping into the platforms underneath the enemies, which caused them to fly into the air and land on their back, allowing the player to defeat them by walking into them. The controls for this game felt very slippery, with Mario seeming to slide as he walked, which made it very difficult to time the jumps correctly. The player could also walk into the side of the screen to transport to the other side.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme, consisting of bright colours against a black background. There was no music during the levels, but some was used before and after, which had a cheerful sound.

Mega Man 2

While I had not played this game previously, I was familiar with other games in the Mega Man series. Some aspects of this game were similar to ideas used in the other games.

This game was an action platform game. The player controlled a character that navigated levels, which consisted of floating platforms, to reach the end. The character could run, jump and fire balls from their gun or use a variety of weapons to defeat enemies. The game also presented with a futuristic storyline, it was set in the year 200X and consisted of a fight against robots built by the villain, Dr. Wiley.

The game was very difficult, mostly due to the large number of ways that instantly killed the character, such as falling into a pit or colliding into a spike. The player obtained new attacks by defeating the bosses and these attacks were very effective at fighting another boss, which was an interesting addition to the gameplay. There were also a number of very unusual enemies. Some of the power-ups also had a very strange design and it was not immediately obvious what effect they had.

The level I played (the Bubble Man stage) used a very blinding colour scheme, with a background that consisted of moving bright blue and white stripes. A lot of the other levels also used a lot of bright colours. The graphics were fairly good, as the backgrounds and characters were detailed. The music was good quality and the soundtrack, although different in each level, was suitable for a game that used action.

Metroid

This game was a platformer with action added. The player controlled a character that was able to jump and use weapons. They could also collect power ups that were able to increase their arsenal and abilities.

After playing some of the 3D Metroid games, I had recognised some similarities and differences between this game and the later games. Unlike the later games in the series, this game was 2D and the levels consisted of a series of rooms, many of which were vertical (like the player was climbing up and down a tower), rather than an environment for the player to explore. The game also presented with very little story and the player was given no direction to progress through the game. There were some similarities between the games, however, as they both used the same gameplay feature whereby the player collected items to improve the character and used obstacles that initially seemed impenetrable (such as a locked door), until the player obtained a weapon that allowed access. Some of the enemies used in the game were also recognisable from the 3D games.

I found this game very difficult, however, because of the little health given to the player following death. After the character died and restarted from the latest save point, their initial health was so low that I died again soon after.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme. The graphics for the game were a little basic. The game did use some enjoyable rip-roaring music (similar to music used in a science-fiction adventure film), which seemed to be of a fairly high quality.

Ninja Gaiden

This game was a platform game with action added. The game had a story similar to a plot for a thriller film and used animated sequences to display it. Weirdly, the story appeared to be like the plot of a thriller, but had some supernatural elements added.

The game consisted of the player leaping onto platforms and running along them, armed with a sword they could use to fight enemies (along with a number of other weapons available as power-ups). An unique aspect of the game was that the player could jump onto a wall, cling onto it and then jump onto the opposite wall to climb up narrow gaps. The game used save points so that the player did not need to restart the level again each time they died. The enemies were a mix of strangely designed monsters and human attackers.

The game used a subdued colour scheme. The game also used detailed backgrounds, but the colour scheme made them difficult to look at. The music was fairly good quality and created a mixed sense of action and impending doom. The graphics were fairly low quality, despite the intricate backgrounds, as the character designs were hard to identify.

Pac-Man

This game was a puzzle arcade game. Each level consisted of a maze filled with white dots that the player needed to collect, while avoiding a group of ghosts. There were also power-ups, shaped like fruit, that temporarily made the ghosts vulnerable to the player.

The gameplay was simple, but the ghosts were surprisingly good at forming and utilising tactics, which made the game more difficult. There was no story for the game, but there were short, comical animated sequences at the end of some levels.

The game used a contrasting colour scheme. The game used high-pitched sound effects, which gave it a cartoonlike atmosphere. The music was low quality and had a high pitch. The soundtrack used while the level was in progress sounded like a siren, while the music that played as the level started sounded smoother. The graphics used in the game were very basic.

Punch-Out

I, personally, felt this game could be considered either a sports game or a boxing-based puzzle game. The player controlled a boxer who fought a sequence of opponents and the player needed to work out an effective tactic to use on each competitor.

The player could only control when the boxer threw a punch or dodged to the side, which they had to implement correctly to defeat each opponent. The opposing boxer utilised an unique tactic and the player needed to find the most opportune moment to attack so that the other competitor would be knocked to the ground and judged to be knocked out. The player had to determine when the opponent would attack by reading their body language and then attacking. The opponents also flashed when they were about to attack.

The game used a bright colour scheme and cartoonlike designs. The graphics for the game were fairly heavily pixelated. The music had a fairly good quality (the game played the national anthems for each opponent) and used a low, moody soundtrack during each fight.

Startropics

This was an adventure game. The player controlled a character that they used to explore the location, interact with other people, jump from platform to platform and fight enemies. There were also puzzles in the game that the player was required to solve. This game seemed to be fairly realistic, until it was mentioned that monsters lived in an underground tunnel.

This game used a mix of an overview, showing the player exploring a location, and a more detailed, close-up view when the character entered an area that required action. The controls for the game felt a little sticky, it was difficult to line the character up with another object and there was a slight delay when a button was pressed.

The game used a bright colour scheme. The game used a mix of basic graphics for the overview, some detailed aesthetics for the close-up view and intricate designs to show other characters when they were speaking. There were also some cartoonlike elements utilised in the game, such as a ghost being shown flying upwards when the player died and a sign saying “paused” when the player paused the game. The music used fairly high-pitched music, which invoked a mix of relaxing tropical music with a feeling of impending doom.

Super C

This was a an arcade game that was a mix between a shooter game and a platform game. The player ran along through levels, shooting at enemies and dodging attacks. The game had a post-apocalyptic setting, with the player fighting armies of human soldiers and zombie-like enemies.

The game was quite difficult because the player died the moment they were hurt, but the amount of continues that the player was given prevented the game becoming too hard. The game also had a number of different power-ups that the player could use.

The game used a slightly contrasting colour scheme, such as grey structures in the foreground and a dark purple background. The graphics for the game were fairly good quality, there were some effective uses of 3D effects for parts of the design and the backgrounds were intricate. The music in the game created a foreboding atmosphere and was suitable for a game that used action.

Super Mario Bros.

This was a platform game with some action added. The player controlled a character that ran from one end of each level to the other and attacked enemies by jumping on their heads. They were also able to collect power-ups to increase their attacking ability. I have some experience of this game as I had played the Super Mario Bros. DX game on the Gameboy Color.

This game was quite difficult. Each time the player died, they started the game only able to be hit once before dying, which made it easy to lose multiple lives in a row. There were also a number of projectiles and leaping characters that were difficult to dodge. The controls also felt a little slippery, which made it difficult to evade attacks and jump off platforms. There were a lot of warps that allowed the player to reach later levels quickly, which made the game shorter.

The game used a bright colour scheme. The designs for the characters and levels were fairly basic, although there were some weird details used in the backgrounds (such as trees, fences, seaweed, clouds, etc.). The music used in the game was high-pitched, but it did manage to invoke some themes, such as a cheerful adventure, a sense of foreboding, a peaceful swim and fierce danger. The music and enemy designs used in the game were also very recognisable, both from this game and later games in the series.

Super Mario Bros. 2

This game was a platform game with some action added. This game was very different to the previous game in the series. The player selected a character from a list and they used items pulled from the ground to proceed through the game and attack enemies.

This game was more complex than the previous game. Doors were used in the game to allow the player to access other areas and the player could pull up power-ups from the ground, such as potions to create doors, bombs to destroy walls, turnips to throw at enemies, etc. It was also surprising that jumping on an enemy’s head did not harm them, instead the character stood on them and they could be transported across the level by the enemy. During the game, I encountered Birdo, jumped onto the projectiles he launched and, instead of becoming harmed, the character flew through the air.

The game used a bright colour scheme and the designs were cartoonlike. The graphics were fairly high quality, with fairly intricate backgrounds. The music was fairly high quality and was cheerful.

Super Mario Bros. 3

This game was a platform game with some action added. This game was similar to the first game in the series, with the player controlling a character to run along the levels and attacked enemies by jumping on their heads. There were also a larger selection of power-ups available to the player so they could increase their abilities. There were also some story elements used in the game.

Although it was similar to the first Super Mario Bros. game, there were some differences as well. There was an overview map that allowed the player to access levels, bonus games and fights with the hammer bros. enemies. There was also a greater variety in level design, such as levels where the screen scrolled along at a steady pace and the player had to avoid touching the side of the screen. There was also a meter that increased as Mario ran, which caused Mario to jump larger distances depending on how filled it was.

The game used a bright colour scheme. The graphics for the game were fairly good, although the background designs were basic and a little surreal. The game used high-pitched music that created a cheerful and cartoonlike atmosphere.

Tecmo Bowl

This was a sports game based on American football. The player had to score the most points in a game to win. Each time play stopped (usually due to the player holding the ball being tackled), the player chose a strategy for the team to pursue when the game restarted. Play continued when one member of the team passed the ball to another member of the team. The team that held the ball when the game was stopped changed during the match.

I did not fully understand the rules of the game because I was unfamiliar with the sport. I found it difficult to choose a suitable strategy or win any points. I did not realise why the game stopped at various points. The game used an interesting method of selecting an opposing team, a football flashed next to each team name in turn before stopping at one, which was the team that the player competed against.

The game used a bright colour scheme, although the title menu featured neon colours against a black background. The music used in the game was low quality, but it was cheerful. The graphics for the game were basic, particularly for the crowd.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the games available on the NES Classic Mini were enjoyable and varied. Each game was unique, with gameplay features and design ideas that helped differentiate each game. My personal preference was for the games with a story that the player could complete, followed by the arcade games that consisted of reaching a high score and, lastly, the sport games.

Since first sampling the games, I have progressed the furthest in Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. I chose these games because I had played, and enjoyed, later games in both series and they were both story-based games that allowed the player to continue the game from save points and passwords.

I enjoyed Metroid, the gameplay required skill and the game was able to create a sense of exploration as the character climbed vertical shafts and ran along corridors. I have, however, stopped playing it for a while because of the difficulty. I had reached an area where the enemy attacks were more harmful to the character than previous attacks and, despite collecting extra power-ups that increased their maximum health, the game restarted, following their death, with the character having only a little health. These factors meant it was very easy for the character to die, which was quite frustrating. I intend to return to the game later and complete it.

I enjoyed the Legend of Zelda as well, the difficulty lessened as the character became stronger and the enemies were interesting to fight. I have, however, become lost. I am currently trying to find the fifth dungeon and had searched the entire setting of the game. I will try to find the right direction to complete the game.

10 Irritating Characters From Computer Games (Part 2)

This post was a continuation of a list of the most annoying characters to appear in computer games. This list consisted of named characters, types of enemies were not included, and the list was personal to myself, so it only included games I had played and characters that I found irritating.

5. Tingle from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Link rescues this strange man dressed in green, who plays an integral part of the story by translating the maps Link finds that lead to the pieces of Triforce. Tingle is useful, necessary and an extortionist. Each time Link finds a map, he has to return to Tingle’s Tower (a large wooden structure standing on an island in the middle of the sea, with Tingle’s face on the top), pay a large sum of money to him and then use the translated map to find the location of the piece of the Triforce.

It was surprising to learn that, in his quest to save the Great Sea, Link had to pay substantial sums of money to someone who prioritised profits over preventing extinction. It was also irritating that the player sometimes had to find money to pay Tingle, as it added a delay between the enjoyable parts of completing a challenge to find the treasure map and exploring the Great Sea to locate the artefact. Just to emphasise this character low morals, he appears to have enslaved two characters that resemble him, with one dressed in bright white and the other dressed in bright pink, with the sole purpose of rotating the top of his island.

Incidentally, is Tingle supposed to represent something? When he first appeared in the Majora’s Mask game, he was shown to be a grown man obsessed with finding fairies. He had no special powers (other than being able to create balloons using magic, which allowed him to float above the ground) and was always dressed in green tights. He also performed a short dance once he saw Tatl the fairy. The player could also meet Tingle’s father, who seemed a little upset that his son wanted to search for fairies, and could blackmail this character with a picture of Tingle dressed in his strange outfit. Weirdly, Tingle never appeared in Clock Town at night. Is this supposed to hint that Tingle is supposed to be an allegory for something?

4. Slippy Toad from Lylat Wars

In Lylat Wars, a team of fighter pilots embarks on a series of combat missions on planets and in areas of space to reach the enemy’s home base for a final battle with the villain. This group is made up of the brave leader Fox McCloud, the cocky Falco Lombardi, the seasoned veteran Peppy Hare and the annoying Slippy Toad.

Slippy, with his high-pitched voice and manner, always seemed like a teenage sidekick, introduced to make the game more family friendly, and always seems to need help during battles. During one mission, he could rush forward to attack the boss, but the enemy easily sent him hurtling towards another planet, which forced the player to land to rescue him. The most irritating aspect of this character is the subtle blackmail he inflicted on the player. Unlike the rest of the team, Slippy actually had a use as he could analyse each boss’ energy to display their health and, without him in the fight, the player couldn’t tell how badly damaged the boss was.

Incidentally, if Slippy was not so irritating, there seemed to be a number of other characters that would be included on the list. I could have included the sarcastic Falco, the overly paternal Peppy, the arrogant Star Wolf (who was surprised whenever the player performed a loop), the over-confident Leon, Andrew (who was blatantly only accepted onto the Star Wolf Team because his uncle was their employer) or Pigma (who constantly reminded Fox of his dead father, although he was the one who betrayed the older McCloud).

3. Child from Goemon 2

Despite the warning advice from the man who issued it to her, Yae obtains the necessary licence and begins work in a call centre. On her first day, she answers the phone to a kid asking if the thunder god can steal his belly button, followed by a plea for her to not scare them. The player now has to select a series of responses to this ridiculous question and the following conversation without making the kid hang up in terror. Following the completion of this challenge, Yae can return and discuss with another child (or the same kid, it is never explained) how they can become a computer game designer.

This challenge seemed to resemble a first day in a job in Tartarus, the Ancient Greek’s afterlife, where evil people had to complete impossible, repetitive tasks with no end. Each time the player selects the wrong response (some of which seem quite innocent), the kid will suddenly scream in fear and hang up, meaning that the player will have to start the challenge from the beginning. This made the challenge repetitive and unpredictable. The task could also be especially annoying if the player found out that none of the responses of a conversational thread were correct and they had to rediscover a new series of answers.

2. Hyper Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles

The player feels elated, they have accomplished the most challenging aspect of the game, obtaining all the Super Emeralds, and the game has informed them that they now possess the ability to transform Sonic into Hyper Sonic. They feel their excitement growing they collect the necessary fifty rings. Suddenly, Sonic leaps into the air and, with a shrill cry, his skin turns a blinding white, meaning he has achieved a full transition into the high speed Hyper Sonic.

The secondary player inwardly sighs as the character they are controlling, Tails, watches as Hyper Sonic runs away from them at high speed and demonstrates his ability to soar through the air. The secondary player, after using Tails’ flying ability to help Sonic reach difficult areas and his invincibility to test traps before Sonic could be harmed, knows that they are now redundant as Sonic’s new abilities means he has no use for Tails, who moves too slowly to catch up with him.

This was a strange character to add to the list because the player could complete the game without encountering Hyper Sonic (in fact, the player has to complete a lot of work to encounter the character) and he is immensely useful in completing the rest of the game. Instead, he was included on the list because of the irritation he caused anyone who played the game as Tails, as the Hyper Sonic caused the game to change from a cooperative game, with one player helping a more dominant one, to one where a single player has all the tools they need to defeat the villain alone. Because of the Hyper Sonic’s speed and the fact he needed to keep collecting rings to maintain his Hyper Sonic transformation, it means that the player had no choice, but to leave Tails behind while they raced to finish the adventure.

1. Lankey Kong from Donkey Kong 64

Following his rescue in Angry Aztec, this character joins the other members of the Kong family to defeat King K. Rool. Described as having a “funny face”, this orangutan used his comedic long arms and wacky attacks to defeat enemies.

There were so many reasons why this character was so irritating. He was reminiscent of the eccentric characters from comedies, the characters added to popular comedy shows whose most prominent personality trait was just “weird”, who used jokes that just consisted of random lines (which seemed to be an excuse for writers to add any joke they can think of in a desperate attempt to be funny) and over the top slapstick routines. As a result, Lankey seemed to be constantly making weird noises, twirling his long arms around and swinging his arms around his body, which made him extremely annoying to fight in multiplayer. The character-specific boss he fought was a potentially interesting battle ruined by bad controls and I always seemed to find his blue bananas when I was controlling another character.

In the Donkey Kong 64 game, each of the characters can obtain unique skills, a firearm and a musical instrument, which were interesting and useful, with the exception of Lankey. Lankey’s skills included handstands (which were very useful), faster handstands and a ballooning ability (which was like other character’s skills, but slower). Lankey could also purchase a blowpipe (which was useless if the enemy was too near) and a trombone (which suggests desperate comedy). He was also the character that entered the banana barrel which held the impossible “Beaver Bother” challenge.

What was your opinion of the list? Were there some characters that should have appeared on the list, but didn’t? Or did you not think some of the entrants were actually irritating? Please comment below with your thoughts.

Ten Irritating Characters From Computer Games (Part 1)

This post was a list of the most irritating characters I have found in computer games. The entrants this list included cowardly protagonist, sarcastic superiors, annoying allies, impossible task setters and a supercharged hero. This list was personal to me, so I have only included characters from computer games I have played and ones whose characteristics were irritating to me. I have also only included named characters in the list and not enemy types.

10. Issun from Okami

Okami is an adventure game featuring the heroic deity Amaratsu, who is joined by a travelling artist called Issun. Issun, who is microscopic in size, provides much of the dialogue as he talks to the other characters in the game and makes comments to Amaratsu, while the main hero maintains her silence throughout the game.

Unfortunately, I have to question the reasoning for Nintendo to include such a character in the game. While much of the game seems to be suitable for all ages, some of Issun’s lines do seem inappropriate for young children to read. For example, whenever the player meets a young woman in the game, Issun will suddenly start remarking on her beauty. When he is not being sleazy, his speech seems to use a lot of slang, which makes him seem like a teenager from a children’s film.

9. General Rieken from Rogue Squadron

In Rogue Squadron, the player controls a spacecraft and has to fight battles and complete missions to liberate planets from the tyrannical rule of the Empire. Sometimes, however, the heroes fail because the Empire has destroyed too many civilian structures or killed too many innocent civilians. When this happens, the player hears the gruff voice of General Rieken telling them to “Return to Base, Commander, and we will discuss your tactics in private”.

I used to find this extremely irritating, as sometimes this voice would sound when I thought the mission was progressing well or after I had survived a vicious onslaught. It was also annoying to be informed that I had failed in such a disdainful manner, particularly as I imagined the General saying this while sat in a comfortable chair, a long distance from the battle.

I was considering adding another annoying Star Wars military figure instead, the Imperial commander from Star Wars Battlefront, who informs his soldiers “You are losing, fight harder” during difficult battles. I chose General Rieken because of the sarcasm he used when saying “tactics” really irritated me, as if my efforts were the equivalent of a toddler trying to complete a puzzle by forcing the pegs in the wrong holes.

8. OG Loc from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

At some point during the Grand Theft Auto: San Andrea game, CJ, while reconnecting with his former gang, travels to the prison in Los Santos to meet OG Loc. After leaving prison, this man gives up on entering college and accepts a job at a burger restaurant, while harbouring dreams of becoming a famous rapper. OG Loc has a number of characteristics which make him annoying, including a high-pitched voice and a manner that makes him seem more like a wannabe gangster, rather than an actual criminal.

During the game, he sends CJ on missions to further his own ambition, such as stealing a van from a DJ, murdering a famous rapper’s manager because he rejected OG and infiltrating the same performer’s mansion to steal his rhyme book (while killing a number of guards in the process). At no point during the game does he fight with his gang or help with their nobler causes (such as preventing drug dealers doing business in the Ganton area) and CJ receives his missions from OG Loc at a fast-food restaurant located a large distance from Ganton, forcing the player to commute to reach his missions.

In the last part of the story, OG Loc has become a wealthy rapper (undeservedly) and is supported by Big Smoke, the treacherous villain of the story who has become a drug dealer. The hero (CJ) confronts OG at his home and OG’s manager gets rid of him in favour for CJ’s sister, Kendra. To summarise, OG Loc represents the negative aspects of society, as, instead of achieving success through employment or education, he steals the work of more talented people and claims it as his own, with the support of criminals.
Oddly, while the character of OG Loc was annoying, the missions he presented to the player were some of the most creative and enjoyable ones used in the game. While helping OG, the player has to seduce a woman using their dancing skills, infiltrate a mansion, chase OG through the streets of Los Santos in a range of unusual and childish vehicles (a sequence which resembles a gangster version of Mario Kart) and the assassination of the manager was a very novel challenge.

7. Linjak Mosa from Star Wars Bounty Hunter

Like many games, Star Wars Bounty Hunter featured collectibles. In this game, some of the enemies and civilians the player encounters have bounties posted on them, so the player can collect a reward for either apprehending them or killing them. Of these bounties, Linjak Mosa must be the most difficult one to collect.

Linjak is positioned on a small ledge at the edge of a deep canyon, wielding a rocket launcher. Another guard holding a machine gun is stationed on the same ledge. The combination of weaponry and placement makes him a difficult target to fight and a very hard villain to capture. Both Linjak and his comrade are using the deadliest weapons available to the enemies, with each them able to kill the player in seconds. Linjak can also be pushed off the ledge and into the precipice by the other enemy, if that enemy is desperately trying to target the player. If the player lands on the ledge occupied by Linjak, Linjak can be easily killed by a round of gunfire launched by his comrade or by firing his own weapon at close range.

It was extremely irritating to travel through the Tusken Canyon to reach Linjak to try the claim him as a bounty (probably the last bounty that needed to be collected in that level), trying to complete the process that would mark him a bounty, (while avoiding rockets fired from his gun and fire from his comrade’s gun), timing the jump onto his ledge so that he does not fire a rocket while Jango is in mid-leap and collecting his bounty before his fellow guard can kill him. It was strange to create a strategy to prevent an enemy from being killed by my character, himself or an ally.

6. Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible

The developers of this game (which was based on the Mission Impossible film) boasted that the hero in this game (Ethan Hunt), unlike other shooter games, cannot run into a shootout without being harmed. Unfortunately, this attribute makes him a little cowardly, as being discovered as a spy, or if a guard simply points their gun at him, can cause Ethan to immediately surrender, followed by a short animated sequence showing Ethan being imprisoned.

While it was an effective method of encouraging the player to be stealthy, it can be irritating when a door opens to reveal a guard and Ethan immediately surrenders. It can also be annoying when Ethan is surrendering and turns to face his captor, only for the player to see that the guard was actually positioned quite a distance away. Both of these situations result in the player having to restart the level and trying to avoid the same incident.

While it can be irritating to play the game when it was so easy for Ethan to be captured, it can also create an alternative way of playing the game. I used to enjoy playing the levels in the game and finding ways of getting Ethan and his allies uncovered by his enemies, as it led to a short animated sequence of the heroes being apprehended. It was also fun discovering new ways of failing the mission and working out how to subvert each task so the IMF team get arrested.

Which characters should be included in the rest of the list? Should Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time be added because of the way she constantly interrupts Link? Or should True Ogre from the Tekken games be on the list due to the fact he can launch attacks that cannot be blocked?

A Review of Sonic Drift 2 (Game Gear)

1995

————————————————-Spoiler Alert——————————————————————

——————–But please comment on whether or not you think it is a spoiler——————–

The Story

Four competitors enter a racing tournament. They compete in six races. The competitor who was the most consistently fastest racer achieves the first position, with the other opponents being awarded the runner-up positions based on their success. The winner stands at the top of a podium, clutching the trophy, while the second and third place racers glare at them.

This is what people mean when they say the nineties were a simpler time.

The Review

The story for the game was actually non-existent. The stories for similar racing games were usually very simple, competitors enter a race and a short animated sequence explains how winning the race concludes the story for the character controlled by the player. In this game, however, there were no animated sequences, so there was actually no story, other than a group of racers competing.

The gameplay for the game was fairly simple. There were six characters available to play (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Eggman, M. Sonic and Fang). The player had to drive along a race track to reach the end, using the brakes and acceleration to negotiate the course at the optimum speed. The player also needed to avoid obstacles that can decelerate the character or cause them to start spinning, which would delay their progress. An unique aspect of the game was the use of a drift ability. Pressing a button caused the controlled character to “drift”, which allowed them to turn around corners quicker, but, if the drift ability was used excessively, it could cause the character to start spinning.

Each character presented with a special ability. The abilities could be used when the player obtained at least two of the rings that were placed on the courses, but the player could not activate the abilities themselves, instead they were activated automatically. Sonic and M. Sonic were able to drive at a higher speed, Tails and Knuckles leapt into the air and floated for a few seconds, Amy launched cartoonlike love hearts that caused the directional controls of the opponent’s vehicle to switch, Eggman launched bombs that caused the other competitors to spin and Fang launched oranges that caused the opponents to spin.

The game also used power-ups. The player could obtain these power-ups by driving into monitors placed on the tracks, which had different coloured screens based on the abilities they bestowed on the player. These power-ups were invincibility, increased speed, bombs (that could be launched so that they halted a competitor’s progress), a power-up that caused the left and right controls to become reversed and a power-up that caused the character to leap into the air and float for a few seconds. Weirdly, the power-ups (like the special abilities) were not activated immediately after the player obtained them, instead the character seemed to keep them until the game decided to activate them (usually after the player had driven in a straight line for a little while).

The difficulty for the game was a little strange. Seemingly, the races were designed so that each of the computer-controlled opponents could be either: very fast around the course; always following a faster competitor or complete the track at a very slow speed. For example, if the Sonic character was controlled by the computer, he may complete the first race quickly, but finish the second race a minute after all the other racers. Because of the inconsistent efficiency of the other racers, I found it quite easy to finish the tournament at the first position. Trying to collect all the Chaos Emeralds, however, was much more difficult. A Chaos Emerald was awarded to a competitor each time they finished first in a race and I found it difficult to accomplish this task for every race.

The game used a number of alternative game modes. As well as the Chaos GP mode, the player could select Free Run and Versus. The Free Run mode allowed the player to select a character and drive through a specific course. There were no opponents to race against and it seemed like a way for the player to practice driving along a track. The Versus mode allowed two players to race against each other.

I, personally, found the gameplay quite enjoyable. I found the gameplay was easy to learn and the drift ability improved the game. While I did not find there was much difference between playing each character, I felt that the special abilities were interesting additions. I did feel, however, that the way the special abilities and power-ups were activated could be improved, so that the player can use the special abilities when they wanted and the power-ups were activated immediately after the player obtains them.

The level designs for the game were interesting. There were three circuits in the game (named Purple, White and Blue), with each using six different tracks, and each race course presented with unique obstacles. Strangely, the courses were a mix of tracks based on levels from the Sonic 2 game developed for the Mega Drive and tracks unique to the game. Some of the tracks also used multiple laps, while others were a simple journey from the beginning of the course to the end.

The Purple circuit had the easiest difficulty. The first course was Emerald Hill1, which had an idyllic setting (with green hills in the background and a beach located near the road) and used obstacles that caused the racers to bounce in different directions. The second track was Hill Top1, which took place in front of bright blue cliffs and distant mountains with small ramps and badnicks littering the road. The third course was Dark Valley1, which took place in a mountain range at twilight and featured a large pit that the player fell into when they veered off course. The fourth course was Casino Night, which resembled a neon lit rollercoaster at night, with obstacles that increased the competitors speed or bounced them in different directions. The fifth course was Desert Road1, which took place in front of a desert vista and used sandy ramps as turns. The final course was Iron Ruin, which took place in front of strange red structures during evening and featured a number of pits that were situated next to the track.

The White circuit had a middle difficulty. The first course was Desert Road2. The second course was Rainy Savana, which was set on a plain during a storm, with flashes of lightening causing the screen to temporarily turn bright white. The third course was Ice Cap, which was located in front of large ice sheets and featured walls of snow that acted as turns. The fourth course was Hill Top2. The fifth course was Mystic Cave, which resembled a long, dark tunnel with craters and flames that caused the racers to stop. The final course was Emerald Hill2.

The Blue circuit presented with the hardest difficulty. The first course was Dark Valley2. The second course was Quake Cave, which took place in a tunnel that periodically shook, causing rocks to fall from the ceiling and impede the competitors’ progress. The third course was Balloon Panic, which took place in an idyllic coastal setting filled with balloons floating in the air and littering the ground, which caused a number of effects if the player collided with them. The fourth course was Emerald Ocean, which, oddly, took place in the middle of a sea during midday and the player would fall into the water if they drove at a low speed. The fifth course was Milky Way, which was a track that took place in space, with comets raining down on the competitors, and ended with the player entering the Death Egg. The final course was Death Egg, which resembled the outline of Eggman’s head and used a background consisting of rows of grey buildings, with stars set in the walls and ground.

I found the different courses for the races very enjoyable. I liked the background designs for the different levels, which were very varied and used some interesting ideas. I also enjoyed the different obstacles and features of each level as they provided variety to the different tracks and allowed the player to develop different skills to complete the race. One of the most interesting tracks was Emerald Ocean as it seemed to be set in the middle of the sea (which had an attractive, bright design) and the fact that the competitors had to keep moving to prevent sinking was an unique challenge.

The graphics for the game were satisfactory. The graphics were adequate in depicting the backgrounds and objects in the game and the designs were not overly pixelated. The backgrounds, however, did not change in size, like they would if they resembled the player getting near distant objects, instead they seemed to remain the same size and move around as the player changed directions, as if the races were held in large circular containers and the backgrounds were painted on the sides. Some of the levels used objects that should be moving (such as floating balloons), but they remained static.

There were however, some interesting effects used in the game, the game was effective at showing the characters racing through tunnels, with the walls rounding as the player neared turns. The Milky Way race used an interesting effect whereby the Death Egg seemed to get nearer as the player progressed through the course, as if the track led to the space station. The graphics of the Milky Way level were a little ruined as the course was supposed to resemble a road in space, but stars that were supposed to be underneath the track moved when the player turned corners, as if the stars were actually painted on the ground, rather than floating in space.

I enjoyed the graphics used in the game, they were effective at showing the player racing through different race courses and there some attractive effects were used, although there were some graphical limitations presented in the game.

The music was enjoyable, despite the low quality of the sound. The music was high-pitched, low quality and quite repetitive, but it was effective at creating mood. Each level had an unique theme, which included joyful (such as the theme for the Emerald Hill levels), tense journey (eg. the Dark Valley levels), playful (eg. the Balloon Panic course), Science-fiction adventure (eg. the Milky Way race), threatening (eg. the Iron Ruin level), etc.. Despite the limitations to quality, I enjoyed the music for the game.

In conclusion, I found the game quite enjoyable. I do not tend to favour racing games due to personal preference, but I still enjoyed this game. There was no story (which is unusual, even for a racing game). The gameplay was good, with power-ups, character-specific abilities and a range of obstacles to increase the player’s skill. I enjoyed the level designs for the game and the obstacles unique to each level as they provided variety to the races. The graphics for the game were satisfactory, with some interesting effects used, but there were some instances when the graphics were of a low quality. The music for the game was satisfactory, despite the low quality of the sound, and it was effective at creating mood.

As a side note, I, personally, found this game to be an improvement on the original Sonic Drift for almost every aspect. I found the characters more varied, the courses more interesting, the graphics were of a higher quality, the music was more enjoyable and I liked the obstacles specific to individual levels. The only aspect of the older game I preferred was that the power-ups were activated instantly and the backgrounds were more detailed. Other than the two features mentioned, this game was a great improvement on the first game in the series.

A Review of Sonic Drift (Game Gear)

1994

———————————————————-Spoiler Alert—————————————————–

————————-But if you cannot guess the spoiler, seek medical help urgently———-

The Story

In the middle of a field, Sonic stands by a large, red car at the side of a tarmac race track. He watches as Eggman, Tails and Amy drive past him on the road. He looks round and then jumps into his vehicle, he faces the camera and makes a thumbs-up sign with his left hand, signalling his readiness to start racing.

Sonic, Tails, Amy and Eggman all entered a driving competition. They competed in a series of four races, which each competitor accumulating points based on performance. At the end of the races, three flags were raised on flag poles showing which driver was the winner, the runner-up and third place.

The Review

This review was based on the version of the game released as an extra feature as part of the Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut game and not the game originally released on the Game Gear.

The story for the game was non-existent and had little impact on the game. The story was, like many racing games, based on the characters competing in a series of races and a winner being decided. The story ends with a short animated sequence showing flags raised on flag poles, which displayed the characters who reached the first, second and third positions. There were also short animated sequences to show how the winner’s story ended, based on which character the player was controlling. The story was very light, but this was expected for this genre of game as the focus was on the player racing against other opponents and reaching the first position, rather than an adventure to defeat an enemy and undo evil actions.

The gameplay of the game was similar to other racing games. The player competed against other opponents (which could be computer-controlled or controlled by another player) to follow a track and reach the finish before the other competitors. The race tracks also formed a loop so that the races consisted of multiple laps to extend the time spent racing. To increase the difficulty, the player’s speed significantly reduced if they attempted to drive on ground outside the track and they stopped fully if they collided with an obstacle placed at the side of the track. The game also placed power-ups on the tracks to help the player, these power-ups were always placed on the centre of the road and mimicked power-ups used in other Sonic games. These power-ups included invincibility (the player’s speed increased and they were not delayed if they collided with obstacles), fast speed (the player’s speed greatly increased), springboards (which caused the player to rise into the sky and spin, which somehow increases their speed and ability to follow the track) and rings (which allowed the use of the character’s special ability).

An unique feature of the game was the use of the “drift” ability. This ability (utilised when the player pressed the button to turn in a direction and then pressed the button to accelerate in quick succession) allowed the player to turn corners tighter. This allowed the player to turn corners at a faster speed, which helped reduce their racing time.

The game had three difficulties: Green, Yellow and Red. Each difficulty used the same stages and obstacles, so I was unsure what made each difficulty harder. My only assumption was that the player competed against faster opponents during the harder difficulties and less power-ups were available for the player to use. The player could only view the animated sequences that completed the character’s story by finishing first during the Red tournament.

The game used four characters: Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Eggman and Amy. The four characters presented with the same racing technique and controls, although I was not sure if the characters had different abilities (such as increased speed or better control). The computer-controlled characters appeared to have a set hierarchy in terms of ability, Sonic was usually the fastest, followed by Eggman, then Tails and then finally Amy.

There did not seem to be much difference playing as the different characters, other than each character had an unique special ability. The special abilities could only be used if the player had collected at least two rings, but the player could not activate them themselves, instead it seems the character used the ability when they felt it was necessary. Sonic’s special ability was that his speed increased, Tails was able to jump into the air and spin for a few seconds, Eggman launched bombs that stopped the opponents and Amy threw small hearts that did not seem to do anything. I found the special abilities useful in the races, however, they would have been more useful if the player could control when they were used.

There were a number of different gaming modes. The main mode was Chaos GP, which consisted of the player competing against three computer-controlled opponents in a series of six races to win the most amount of points and come first. One mode was Free Run, where the player can select a character, stage and difficulty and achieve a best time. The final mode was Versus, where two Game Gears could be linked together and two players raced against each other.

I, personally, did not enjoy the gameplay. One reason that my enjoyment was hindered was personal preference. I can understand the appeal and feel limited pleasure competing in racing games, but I generally feel that these games are not as exciting and involving as other games.  Another major reason that this game contained limited appeal was because of a needlessly difficult aspect of the gameplay. In racing games, being able to see the road ahead was vital in allowing the player to understand the layout of the track and drive their vehicle to follow the road. With this game, however, the player was only shown a little of the upcoming track, which meant they could not react sufficiently to any turns in the road. Road signs were used to alert the player to any turns, but these were only used for sharp turns, were confusing if there were a series of turns up ahead and also acted as an obstacle if the player collided with them.

There were six stages in the game: Green Hill, Marble, Spring Yard, Labyrinth, Star Light and Scrap Brain. The differences between the race courses were largely aesthetic (the backgrounds and designs for obstacles were changed to reflect the theme of the level), although the later levels were more difficult to follow. Interestingly, a large portion of the screen featured a background image to represent the horizon. Green Hill resembled a race on a bright Summer day in front of a clear ocean, large mountains and beautiful waterfalls. Marble was a race in front of rocky mountains, with small, stone ruins at the base, underneath a purple sky. Spring Yard was set near orange buildings, with tall mountains in the distance, seemingly during dusk. Labyrinth was set, while the sky had an orange glow, in front of a range of buildings built with yellow squares and decorated with red crystals. The Star Light race took place in front of green grid-like structures, with distant lights brightening the black sky. The background to Scrap Brain featured grey and red industrial buildings that seemed to reach into the distance.

There was little difference between the three levels, other than changes in designs, except the race course for the later levels were more complicated, with more turns. There were no themed obstacles or changes to the gameplay in the different levels. The caused the game to feel more like a straight, realistic racing game, rather than a fantastical competitive game (like the Mario Kart series of games). Weirdly, the names for the race courses resembled the names for the levels from the first Sonic game released on the Mega Drive, although the “Zone” part of the name was removed. I, personally, enjoyed the different designs for the racing levels and the increase in difficulty, however, I felt the game could have expanded on the themes of the levels to make the races more playful.

The graphics for the game were fairly low quality. The backgrounds and character designs were quite heavily pixelated and the bright colours used to decorate the tracks felt a little blinding. There were also a number of strange visual effects, such as the obstacles at the side of the road seemed to move in weird ways as the player drove past. The background does not increase in size as the characters drive towards them, but it did scroll sideways as the player turned, giving the impression that the characters were racing in a large round container, rather than in an actual environment. The game was, however, effective at showing the objects get nearer as the player followed the track and the other racers did appear to change in size based on the player’s distance to them. Some of the graphical limitations, however, could have been caused by the way I played the game and the game’s graphics could have been better when played on the Game Gear. I, personally, found the graphics low quality, despite some good effects.

The music for the game was fairly low quality. The music was quite high pitched and did not have much impact on the game.

In conclusion, I did not find this game enjoyable. I, personally, did not enjoy the gameplay, although this was due to a mixture of personal preference and limitations in the design of the game. I enjoyed the level designs, although I felt that the game could have used the themes of the levels to inform the individual level designs in a more effective manner. The graphics were fairly low quality, despite some good effects, and they did make the game blinding during play. The music had little impact on the game.

In my opinion, I did not treat this game in the way that would be the most suitable. Rather than try to experience the game fully and complete it fully, it would probably be better to treat this game as some quick enjoyment for a few minutes. There were some elements of the game that were frustrating when I was trying to come first, but I found I enjoyed the game more when I took a more leisurely approach. The Grand Prix mode only took around ten minutes and there was the option to compete against a second player. I would suggest that any players who try this game should just try to enjoy it as a race, either alone or with another player, and treat it as a fun excursion for a little while.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear) (Part 1)

1992

————————————–There should spoilers here, but there aren’t——————————–

The Story

One evening, Tails was running at a fast speed. As he ran past tall palm trees and across a field of light green grass, Dr. Robotnik (flying a small, mechanical machine) slowly gained on him, closely followed by Sonic the Hedgehog. As he reached Tails, a yellow pincer at the bottom of Dr. Robotnik’s aircraft started to open and shut quickly, like a mouth eagerly awaiting a meal. Dr. Robotnik accelerated and flew downwards towards Tails and used the pincer to grab the tips of the fox’s twin tails, before lifting him into the air. Sonic, who had been running below the machine, was able to reach his friend while Tails was hoisted in the air, but he could only watch and look round hopefully as the fox was suspended in front of him. Dr. Robotnik suddenly flew upwards, leaving Sonic to continue the pursuit on the ground.

Sonic passed through the Under Ground Zone and defeated a large robot. He entered the Sky High Zone. On a cliff edge, situated high among the clouds, Sonic grabbed a hanglider and positioned himself inside. He leapt off the cliff edge in a desperate attempt to continue his mission, before realising that he did not know how to use the equipment and falling though the sky to his death.

The Review

This review was based on the version of the game released as an extra feature on the Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut game and not the original game released on the Game Gear. Much of the game would be the same, but the review avoided parts of the game associated specifically with playing it on the Game Gear, such as using the controls. This review was only able to cover the part of the game that I was actually able to complete and was less of a review of a game and more of an appreciation of it’s difficulty.

The story for the game seemed to resemble the story from other Sonic games. I could not comment on the entire story as I was only able to play through the beginning, but it did seem to consist of Sonic travelling through a series of locations to reach a final battle with Dr. Robotnik, leading to a conclusion of the story. One difference in this game was that Sonic’s motivation was much clearer. Unlike the other games, where Sonic wants to defeat Dr. Robotnik for a mysterious reason, in this game, the player was shown Tails being kidnapped and Sonic’s unsuccessful attempts to free him. This slightly developed and improved the story.

The gameplay for the game was similar to other Sonic games released at the time, although there were some additions to the gameplay. Much of the game consisted of the player travelling across stages to reach the end destination, with the player being able to run and jump to reach the goal. The player also needed to collect gold rings to allow Sonic to survive attacks and increase the number of lives. The rings also spread out when Sonic was harmed. The player could also roll into monitors to obtain power-ups, which included extra rings, invincibility, extra life and larger amount of extra rings. Like the previous game in the series, the Chaos Emeralds were found hidden in the levels, rather than requiring the player to complete a special stage.

Despite the little amount of game completed before this review was written, it was obvious that this game used techniques to alter the gameplay. The player needed to use a number of fast-moving mine carts to progress through the first level, but the player was not able to fully control the cart. Part of the second level required the player to find and equip a hang glider that Sonic could use to travel across a gap between two platforms. The player could use the hang glider by using controls different to the controls used for the rest of the game. The gameplay for the game was enjoyable and it was interesting that different gameplay methods were used as it caused the player to develop different skills.

As mentioned previously in reviews of other games, I have observed that the Sonic games released on the Game Gear used some bizarre features and some unnecessarily difficult aspects.

The way Sonic lost rings in this game added more difficulty to the game. When Sonic was harmed in other Sonic games, the rings he lost spread out and the player could collect them. In this game, Sonic would lose all his rings and a solitary ring would bounce up and down, this meant that the player could only retrieve one ring. This effect severely limited the player’s ability to regain a comfortable level of health after being harmed.

The lack of shield power-ups also increased the difficulty of the game. In many Sonic games, the player can obtain shield power-ups. These power-ups protected Sonic and prevented the player losing rings if an enemy’s attack was successful. The shields could only prevent one attack from harming Sonic and, in some games, presented Sonic with extra abilities. In this game, there were no shield power-ups, which meant the player lost an extra layer of protection, making them more vulnerable. This effect made the game more challenging.

In this game, the first boss was a surprisingly difficult enemy to defeat. This boss was the only boss I was able to encounter while playing the game, however, I felt that fighting this boss was highly challenging. The boss itself consisted of a head, situated in the ground at the foot of a steep slope, with attached pincers that constantly opened and closed. Any contact with the boss resulted in Sonic’s death (as there were no rings the player could collect to protect Sonic when they faced the creature) and they could only be harmed by some small, grey balls that bounced down the slope. The balls, however, also harmed Sonic and they could either bounce high or bounce low. To complete the boss, the player had to manage to work out whether to jump over a low bouncing ball or move underneath a high bouncing ball, while trying to move along a slope that impeded walking uphill (which was the safest area), but caused the player to slide towards the enemy. Because Sonic was unable to run up the slope, the player could only avoid being hit by the high-bouncing balls by either standing at a position which caused the ball to bounce over them or by rolling into the boss, which catapulted the player up the slope with it’s opening-pincer motion, but, if the roll is mistimed, Sonic could hit the boss while the pincers were closed (which killed Sonic) or he could roll into the ball (which also killed him).

There were also a number of bizarre aspects of the game. Each level began with a title card to display the name of the level, along with a small picture to represent it. Despite the story of the game showing Tails being kidnapped, Sonic’s sidekick could be clearly seen on the title cards following Sonic on the adventure. Before facing the first boss, the player was required to roll down a slope that led to Sonic falling into a pit of lava, however, Sonic was saved from death by Dr. Robotnik, who grabbed Sonic using a pincer and transported him to the boss’ slope. It seemed unusual for a Sonic game to show the hero being saved by the villain, although it did seem like Dr. Robotnik was taunting the player as he rescued Sonic to face a highly difficult boss.

The graphics for the game were fairly high quality. The colours were bright and the designs were not overly pixelated. The backgrounds also used some shading effects, that improved the aesthetics for the game. Sonic also had a more cartoonlike look due to the bright colours and solid outline used in the design. I felt the graphics were fairly good and some interesting effects were used.

The music for the game was fairly good. The quality of the sound was quite good and the soundtrack used some enjoyable melodies.

In conclusion, the part of the game reviewed was enjoyable, but highly difficult. The gameplay was enjoyable and used some interesting ideas, however, an explanation was needed on using the different objects found in the game. The game was also difficult, particularly the first boss. The graphics for the game were fairly high quality. The music for the game was quite good. I, personally, enjoyed the part of the game I played and would like to continue it once I have mastered using the hang glider object.

10 Weirdly Terrifying Moments in Computer Games (Part 2)

This year, to celebrate Halloween, I have decided to write this post to list some strangely frightening moments in computer games. The list included only moments that were scary in a strange way, such as horror-themed levels in family friendly games, elements of games that seemed more frightening than intended and weird glitches that created a terrifying image. I did not include purposely scary moments, such as horror games.

This list only included moments I, personally, found frightening, so the games mentioned will be ones I have played and the sense of fear will be personal to me. If there are any moments that you have found scary and fit the description for a weirdly terrifying moment, please comment below.

5. The Frantic Factory Boss from Donkey Kong 64

The Kongs explored the anarchic Frantic Factory, fed Scoff the required amount of bananas and opened the portal that would take one of them to the boss. The portal invites Tiny Kong to enter.

The portal leads to a dark, metal room, containing a slightly raised platform, with a large number of blue and white squares on top. One of the squares becomes illuminated by a bright light and Tiny walks over to it. After touching the flashing square, all the squares suddenly rise up to form a collection of towers. A jolt signals that the platforms have reached their full height and Tiny looks around in shock, the bright light below her illuminating her frightened face. Sirens flash and wail next to the exit of a chute, labelled REJECT, while loud banging and rumbling can be heard from within.

A small, brightly coloured box falls from the chute and lands on one of the platforms. It jumps from platform to platform, leaving a shower of sparks in it’s wake. Suddenly, a creature, consisting of a green duck’s head and hands connected by springs, is ejected from the box to scare Tiny, before disappearing back into it’s container.

Donkey Kong 64 was a very colourful and child-friendly game, where even giant spiders had a cartoonlike, innocent look. The Frantic Factory boss, however, had a more disturbing design. He seemed very neglected, with a grim colour, injured eye and rusted springs, which made him look even more disturbing. The fact that he came from the REJECT chute also possibly suggests he underwent some psychological trauma due to this rejection. I also remember this boss was irritating to fight against, mainly because it was very easy for him to knock Tiny off the platforms and into the chasm.

4. Dancing Re-Deads from Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

In Ikana Valley, Link finds the entrance into Ikana Castle. Opening a large door, Link enters a room to find four Re-Deads waiting. Forgetting that he is still wearing the Gibdo Mask, a mask resembling the bandaged face of a Gibdo, he runs forwards, expecting his enemies to attack. Instead of fighting, the Re-Deads (with skin the colour of dry mud, long limbs like rubber, visible ribs and dead eyes) inexplicably start dancing.

Two Re-Deads fold one leg underneath their bodies and twirl in a circle to music no-one can hear, yet in perfect synchronicity with each other. Two of the creatures cover their mouths and fall to the floor, folding their bodies until they become a heap on the ground, in a silent, macabre imitation of ecstasy, before rising to their feet. They repeat these strange movements in an endless loop, seemingly unaware of Link or any of their surroundings.

While there were a few scary moments in this game (particularly in the part of the game set in Ikana Valley), none of them were as strange as the dancing Re-Deads. I did not expect the Re-Deads to act this way and they seemed to be committed to their actions, even while being attacked. There was no explanation for their behaviour or if this was actually supposed to be a weird joke by the developers.

3. Mrs Cutter from Okami

Amaratsu, the goddess resembling a large white wolf, enters the Wind Valley. The area is lush and verdant, with bright sunlight illuminating the green grass covering the valley floor and the steep, rocky valley walls. Amaratsu lightly runs through the peaceful area, enjoying the calm and beauty of her surroundings.

While running through the valley, Amaratsu notices a small path that leads through a narrow passage into a small hollow. As she follows this route, Amaratsu finds that her surroundings have darkened and the light has a purple tinge. She enters the hollow to find it contains a small pool of water, a few trees, a dilapidated house and an elderly woman.

The old woman, dressed in traditional Japanese clothes and carrying a large pack on her back, is pacing around the hollow. When she sees Amaratsu, the pack on her back starts to move violently, as if something alive is contained inside and wants to be released. The woman, now obviously insane, starts to chase and attack Amaratsu, until the heroic dog can escape back to the verdant valley.

Amaratsu later returns to the Mrs Cutter’s house during the night and enters it while she is asleep. Amaratsu reveals the monster hiding within the disturbed woman and defeats it.

This game was very effective at changing the atmosphere from comedic and light-hearted to frightening and threatening (particularly though the use of music). While there were many moments when a horrifying event was mentioned or terrifying monsters appeared, they were not as scary as Mrs Cutter. This was possibly because this character was more human and realistic than the fantastic creatures encountered in the game. The way the atmosphere suddenly darkened in her presence, the captive (which, to me, hinted at cannibalism), the disturbing rumours that the player can discover about her and her obvious insanity all helped create a human monster. In fact, I was actually relieved to find out that she was not a disturbed woman, but was a fantastical beast.

2. The Music from Labyrinth of Time

You are in an old-fashioned hotel, with a corridor stretching out in front of you. You walk forward, your footsteps unheard over the ambient music that seems to be playing. You keep walking, silently passing empty rooms. Suddenly, the sound of heavy footsteps can be heard, cutting through the calming music, as if carrying a sense of dread. You turn, expecting to see a purposeful visitor, but no one is there, the corridor remains the same as if nothing has happened, but the footsteps have stopped and the music continues.

You continue on your journey, believing that you were mistaken about the footsteps, thinking that they were another rhythmic sound or they were the echo of someone else walking far away. You suddenly enter the offices of a private detective during the 1920’s, before reaching a deserted town from the Wild West. As you enter the buildings, your slight confusion at the strange events becomes replaced by apprehension as you hear the mysterious footsteps again. You are aware that you have not met another person while travelling and everywhere you have been looks as if it has been abandoned for some time. You continue on your journey with the feeling that some unseen person is stalking you.

You continue further into the Labyrinth of Time, becoming more aware that the maze itself is completely devoid of life, yet the strange footsteps still periodically haunt your journey.

This effect used to scare me when I was young, to the extent that I would play with the sound muted to avoid listening to the music. While progressing through the game, it became obvious that the setting for the game was devoid of life, but the loud sounds of footsteps could be heard. This caused the feeling that either some unseen person was observing the player for unknown reasons or there was some invisible spirit haunting the labyrinth. This added a frightening atmosphere for the game.

1. The Swimming Beast from Super Mario 64

Mario is exploring the Hazy Maze Cave. Reaching another room with rocky ceiling and walls, he sees a lift in the floor. Standing on the top of the lift, it slowly moves downwards through the roof of a large cave.

As he sinks into the dark cave, he notices that there are few metal structures or manmade objects in the room, unlike the rest of the Hazy Maze Cave that was filled with built areas. He also realises that the walls are much rougher than before, with the floor consisting of a rocky path. The cave forms a tunnel, that follows a gentle downward path and curves round to the left. As Mario runs along the ground, he wonders what happened here to make a seemingly industrious group suddenly abandon the excavation of the cave and disappear, leaving no trace of existence, except for the remains of their metallic constructions.

As Mario follows the path round the bend and down the slope, he sees that it ends in a huge cave filled with a pool of water. An opening in the cave wall allows a shaft of bright sunlight to illuminate the room, showing an island in the centre of the lake. Shining in the light was a golden star, floating in the air above the island.

Feeling excitement that his goal is within reach, Mario dives into the dark water and starts swimming to the island. As he swims through the lake, he sees a large monster swimming round the island, the shafts of sunlight illuminating it’s blue skin. Mario watches as the creature swims towards him, unsure if it is friendly or deadly.

This is another aspect of a game that used to terrify me when I was younger. It may have been because of the low lighting of the area, the unsettling music or the design of the beast (which was less cartoonlike than other creatures in the game and resembled the Loch Ness Monster), which made it a strange and frightening experience among the jolly levels set in the clouds and friendly races against various characters. I am also aware that there were other, more obviously scary parts of this game (such as the ghost’s taunts, the haunted merry-go-round in Big Boo’s Haunt and the abandoned town in Wet Dry World), but this creature caused me to avoid the entire Hazy Maze Cave level.

What parts of games caused frightened you for strange reasons? Please comment below to share your experiences.

Ten Weirdly Terrifying Moments in Computer Games (Part 1)

This year, to celebrate Halloween, I have decided to write this post to list some strangely frightening moments in computer games. The list only included moments that were scary in a strange way, such as horror-themed levels in family friendly games, elements of games that seemed more frightening than intended and weird glitches that created a terrifying image. I did not include purposely scary moments, such as horror games.

This list only included moments I, personally, found frightening, so the games mentioned will be ones I have played and the sense of fear will be personal to me. If there are any moments that you have found scary and fit the description for a weirdly terrifying moment, please comment below.

————————————————–Spoiler Alert——————————————————————

10. Egyptian from Goldeneye

James Bond walks through the Egyptian ruins, holding the golden gun in his hand, ready to fire at his enemy. He enters a long room with columns lining the edge. Walking through the room, he suddenly hears a menacing laugh and sees Baron Samedi (dressed in a ragged jacket and trousers) firing his guns at him. Bond fires a single shot, which instantly kills his attacker. Bond continues to explore the ancient structure, before hearing the same loud laugh as he enters another room. Baron Samedi attacks Bond with submachine gun fire until Bond fires another golden shot that sends Samedi falling to the floor.

Suddenly, the sky darkens, causing shadows to engulf the area and forcing Bond to walk through pitch black ruins to find his enemy. After following a secret passage, Bond reaches a dark room. He hears the terrifying laugh again and sees a barrage of laser projectiles fired at him. Bond shoots and kills Samedi a third time. Bond calmly walks along a corridor in the ruins, feeling confident that his attacker was now dead, but Baron Samedi suddenly appears again, silently running towards Bond from behind with bare feet. He stops and laughs the menacing laugh, as if victorious in battle.

Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 was a very popular game and the Egyptian level was well-known for being a difficult secret level to unlock (as the player needed to complete the entire game on the hardest difficulty). While the rest of the game consisted of the player fighting enemies in levels mostly based on the Goldeneye film, the Egyptian level felt more similar to a horror film than an action game. Baron Samedi being able to return to life following death, the sound of Samedi’s terrifying laugh and the environment darkening towards the end of the level all contribute to the frightening atmosphere, with Baron Samedi continuing to menace Bond after the end of the level adding to the horror theme.

9. Lara Croft’s Haunting Scream from Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness

Lara Croft sees her goal on a platform across a gap. She lines up her body to face her destination, runs towards the edge of the precipice and makes a powerful jump. Flying through the air, she realises she has misdirected her jump and falls into the abyss. She lets out a high-pitch scream as she falls though the air and then lands in a heap, a sickening crunch signalling her death. As the screen fades to black and the player re-loads their game, the terrified scream is suddenly repeated by the game. When the scream ends, the unsettling noise is repeated continuously until the player can reload the game and resurrect Lara.

I added this event to the list because I was sure it was actually a mistake in the programming, rather than a deliberate attempt to frighten the player. Hearing the scream without the context of seeing Lara falling or while watching a black screen emphases the terror in her voice and the clarity of the sound. It also seemed like a way of making the player guilty for allowing Lara to die.

8. Moon of the Dead from Star Wars Bounty Hunter

Jango Fetts’ screams echo through the stone corridors of the mountain fortress. While tied to a post, a strange device (containing pointed needles that crackle with red electricity) is positioned close to Jango’s face and is used to harm him. The machine lowers and two strange figures, both with glowing red eyes, scaly skin and wearing dark hoods, start inspecting it. Jango uses the break from his agony to regain his breath and reflect on his journey to this place.

Jango landed in a ruined building far away from his current location and travelled through abandoned graveyards, mist-covered swamps, rocky mountain paths and large, stone buildings. He even navigated a series of rocky platforms that led across a deep chasm. Everywhere he went, he faced the Bando Gora (the creatures that were now torturing him). These enemies, almost unseen in the little light that illuminated the moon, appeared out of the darkness, attacking in huge hordes and moving with inhuman movements, despite their human-like bodies. On this graveyard moon, they were everywhere and he had already seen how they can violently kill someone.

The Bando Gora suddenly stop their examination of the machine and look at the entrance to the room. A woman, silhouetted against the green light from the other end of the hallway, laughs menacingly as she examines the captured Jango. Komari Vosa, leader of the Bando Gora, dressed in a skimpy leather dress and leather gloves and a shock of short, white hair, taunts him about the many Mandalonians slaughtered by the Jedi. She straddles Jango as she alternates between interrogating and threatening him with torture, using her unsettling, low voice. Suddenly Zam appears and frees Jango, allowing him to force Komari back down the corridor.

Jango hunts Vosa through the many rooms of the fortress, fighting against the swarms of Bando Gora that inhabit the narrow corridors and dark corners, while hearing the menacing taunts from Vosa.

The Star Wars Bounty Hunter game was slightly odd as it featured a thriller-like story in a Star Wars setting. This meant the player explored a series of diverse locations, such as the seedy criminal underworld of Coruscant, a luxury apartment complex in Coruscant, the high security prison called Oovo IV, a drug factory hidden in a jungle on Malastaire and a mountainous path leading to a gangster’s lair on Tatooine. The final three levels, called Moon of the Dead, more resembled a horror film, than a thriller. The setting is supposed to be a huge graveyard, with the player exploring gothic tombs, weird statues, a deadly swamp, shadowy mountain paths and dark, stone buildings, with parts covered in a fine mist. The enemies in these levels resemble shadowy, hooded figures that seem to bound towards the player and attack in huge numbers. There was even a scene where an old rival of Jango’s was defeated in a battle with the hero and seemed to be eaten by the Bando Gora.

7. The Demons from Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Link is running through a dungeon. Link opens a heavy door and enters a dark room built with stone. The door closes with a loud, low rumble and Link is alone in the near blackness. Suddenly, Link hears a strange noise which sounds like someone singing. The unseen person is singing the same note in a high-pitch, which makes it sound like they are taunting the hero. The singer appears and, with it’s sharp horns, goat legs and coloured body, resembles a demon. A wide grin, revealing many sharp teeth, adds to the sense that the creature is playing a terrifying game with Link. Link strikes the monster, which kills it instantly, but he is still not safe. The singing grows louder as more and more of the creatures appear, attacking and seemingly mocking the swordsman. Soon, Link is slashing at an overwhelming amount of them as an army appears out of nowhere.

Despite the cartoonlike aesthetic of the game, I always found these enemies creepy. I think it was partly due to their design, which was very similar to a devil, and also due to the way they seem to be taunting the player as they attack them, judging by their wide grins and constant singing. They also seem to suddenly appear in large numbers (making them an irritating enemy to defeat) and keep smiling despite being attacked (as if they know that the player may not survive the onslaught). They do not seem to fit in such a cheerful game, although the ghost ship also provides a spooky sight during the story.

6. The Phantom from Dragon

Bruce Lee is fighting someone, either a sailor at a party, a chef in a kitchen, an actor on the set of a film or anyone else he engages in hand-to-hand combat with. During the fight, his opponent strikes Bruce with a blow that causes him to fly across the air and land on the ground. As Bruce loses consciousness, a line of sacred mirrors appear and the third one cracks, showing that all of the mirrors have now been damaged and Bruce has lost his final life.

The surroundings become bathed in dark blue shadows as Bruce Lee jumps from the side. A figure, dressed in Samurai armour and wielding a bladed weapon, appears to fight Bruce. The only visible parts of the creature’s body are the feet, which are blue and have long, sharp claws. If Bruce is victorious by causing the phantom to leave in a bolt of lightening, he returns to life with the sacred mirrors intact and faces his previous opponent again. If Bruce is defeated by the phantom, he falls to the ground heavily and never regains his life force.

When I was younger, this character used to frighten me so much that I would switch the Mega Drive off as soon as I realised as I had lost three lives, preferring to begin the game from the beginning rather than face the Phantom. I could suggest some reasons why this creature was scary, because they were closely associated with death, the way the environment becomes darker before they appear, their unnatural design and their use of a deadly-looking weapon. They also exhibited strange behaviour. During one fight, the creature just stood and stared at Bruce, until they decided to leave the area in a bolt of lightening.

What do you think should be in the second part of the list? The merry-go-round from Super Mario 64? Mafu Island from Goemon 2? The Metroids?

A Review of Sonic Blast (Game Gear)

1996

The Story

——————————————-Spoiler Alert————————————————————————

A large crystal rotates alone in darkness. It’s colour changes constantly, illuminating the blackness with bright light that constantly changes colour. Suddenly, it smashes into pieces and five Chaos Emeralds (coloured green, red, blue, gold and white) are released.

Sonic (or Knuckles) travel to reach the Silver Castle Zone. Inside the Silver Castle Zone, they find Dr Robotnik and defeat him. The game ends with the hero standing on a rocky outcrop, watching as Dr Robotnik’s vehicle (resembling a huge egg with eyes and moustache and coloured red by the setting sun) falls into the sea. Depending on their success, the hero throws and catches a collection of tiny gems as the machine sinks below the waves.

I suppose the player has to guess how the shattering crystal was related to the rest of the story.

The Review

This review was based on a version of the game found online, rather than playing the game on the Game Gear. Many aspects of the game were similar, but I could not comment on aspects directly related to playing the game on the Game Gear (such as using the controls or the performance of the hardware).

The story for the game was slightly more bizarre than other Sonic games released at the same time. Like many of the games in the series, it featured Sonic exploring a number of levels to reach a final battle with Dr Robotnik, with little explanation to his motives or how the different levels were linked. In this game, however, the game began with the crystal (which I believe may be the Master Emerald from other games) shattering to release the Chaos Emeralds. This would have actually hinted at a motivation for Sonic’s mission and a sense of jeopardy as Sonic would need to prevent Dr Robotnik using these powerful objects, but, because of the little explanation of the effect this had on the story, it just seemed like the game began by showing an unrelated event. Showing the hero watching as Dr Robotnik’s machine fell into the sea did provide a satisfactory conclusion to the story.

The level designs for the game were quite interesting. There were five levels in the game: Green Hill Zone, Yellow Desert Zone, Red Volcano Zone, Blue Ocean Zone and Silver Castle Zone. The Green Hill Zone resembled some rolling hills next to dark blue water on a bright morning (which was similar to the first level of many other Sonic games). The first part of the Yellow Desert Zone was a journey through a desert, while the second part was an exploration of an ancient structure. The Red Volcano Zone was set in a volcano, coloured purple, with the player avoiding pools of lava and navigating an area of openings that pulled and pushed Sonic in different directions. The Blue Ocean Zone resembled some underwater ruins, with the player using metallic tubes to explore the structures and having to lower the water level to progress. The Silver Castle Zone was a huge machine, where the player used some floating platforms to give power to some teleporters that they can use to travel through the level. I enjoyed the different designs for the levels and that each level used unique features so the player needed to develop different strategies to progress.

The Special Stages also used an interesting design. The ground was hill-like and the background featured distant mountains and a sky streaked with clouds. Each level used an individual Special Stage, with different colours used in the background.

The gameplay for the game was fairly simple. The player could select a character (Sonic or Knuckles) and explored levels to reach the end. Like many platformers, the player made the character run along the ground and jump to reach platforms. The player also collected rings, which spread out when they were hurt, and, if the player did not collect any rings when they were hit by an attack, they lost a life. One aspect that caused this game to be slightly easier than other Sonic games was that the player did not lose all their rings if Sonic was injured, instead, only a set number of rings were lost. The player attacked enemies by hitting them while Sonic was curled into a ball, either by jumping on them or rolling into them. They only differences between the Sonic and Knuckles characters was that, after pressing the jump button twice, Sonic performed a double jump, while Knuckles glided through the air. Knuckles could also climb walls after gliding into them.

There were some aspects of the gameplay that made the game unnecessarily difficult, which I found to be common among the Sonic games released on the Game Gear. If the player jumped onto a springboard, the springboard would catapult the character through the air at a fast pace. The player, however, could not curl into a ball after leaping onto the springboard, so they could not prevent Sonic becoming injured if he collided with any enemies in their path, leading to them sustaining unavoidable damage.

The game also used Special Stages, which altered the gameplay. The character entered the Special Stages after touching giant rings (with one located in the first and second acts of each zone) and these were used to obtain extra lives (if entered during a zone’s first act) or Chaos Emeralds (the player found it during the zone’s second act). The Special Stages consisted of Sonic running along a gentle slope and collecting rings to obtain the correct amount needed to successfully complete the stage. There were also other items to help or hinder the player’s progress, such as making the character jump high, increase their speed or cause them to walk backwards. If the player is successful, a short animated sequence showed them collecting the reward, otherwise, Dr Robotnik was shown to steal the item. I found the gameplay for the game to be enjoyable, despite some irritating aspects, and I liked the way the Special Stages introduced a new gameplay method.

In the past, I have noticed that many Sonic games available on the game gear exhibited some bizarre elements. The story for this game was slightly strange (as mentioned previously) and the levels seemed to have a weird colour-coded naming system.

The strangest aspect of the game, however, was the bosses that featured in it. The first boss resembled Dr Robotnik’s Egg-O-Matic aircraft and used a boomerang-like weapon to attack the player. The boss for the second level, resembled a mechanical professional cleaner (with arms, legs and a ponytail) standing on a cloud and attacked by flying across the screen, jabbing a stick at the ground. The third level boss required the player to stand on a small, floating platform and avoid a weapon (similar to a mace) fired from a one-legged machine, which seemed to be wearing a large, yellow bowtie. The fourth boss was fought underwater and used an attack that was easy to dodge, however, the player had to periodically cause the boss to fire at the floor to release bubbles of air to prevent Sonic from drowning. The final boss just fired single shots downwards and the player had to run to move a wheel, which caused a platform above them to move and block the attack, which prevented Sonic being hurt. Despite the strange nature of the bosses, they were actually quite enjoyable to fight and presented with some unique challenges.

The music for the game had a little impact on the game. The soundtrack was very high pitched and repetitive, although there some good melodies used. I, personally, did not enjoy the music used in the game.

The graphics for the game were fairly advanced. Rather than using the 2-dimensional graphics found in previous Sonic games, this game used 3-dimensional designs in a side-scrolling game. Parts of the design, such as Sonic, Sonic’s enemies and the background, used 3-D graphics, while the gameplay and the player’s viewpoint was 2D. Unfortunately, possibly due to technical limitations, the enemies and Sonic had a heavily pixelated look, while the background had a very simplistic layered design. Sonic was also a larger size than the opening to the pipes (which created a weird effect when the player entered them), some of the spinning rings overlapped in Special Stages and Sonic, when running into the background, just became noticeably smaller in size. I, personally, felt these effects adversely affected the graphics for the game, despite the 2D aspects looking effective and the bosses using some good, interesting designs. This effect, however, may be caused by the method I played the game and may be non-existent when played using the Game Gear.

In conclusion, the game was quite enjoyable. The story was simple. The gameplay was enjoyable and easy to learn, even though there were some negative aspects. The level designs were interesting and used some good challenges. The bosses were enjoyable to  fight and presented with some interesting ideas. The music had little impact though and the graphics did present with some technical limitations.

A Review of Tails’ Adventures (Game Gear)

1995

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The Story

One peaceful morning, Tails was lying on a tree trunk in the Poloy Forest, sleeping deeply. His orange fur was illuminated by shafts of bright morning light and the sound of Tails’ gentle breathing filled his surroundings. Two small, blue birds flew among the branches of a nearby tree, emphasising the tranquillity of the dark wood. Suddenly, Tails woke and quickly rose to his feet.

A large green and grey airship left a nearby island to fly across the sea to reach Poloy Forest on Tails’ island. The serene forest suddenly burst into flame, with Tails running in a panic among the burning trees. A machine, piloted by a large blue bird and walking on two mechanical legs, appeared nearby, launching balls of fire at the forest for no reason.

Tails explored the different areas of the island. He climbed the exterior of Mount Polly and found a green bird. He pursued the bird up the mountain and, upon reaching the summit, the bird flew away to another island floating in the sea. Tails piloted a submarine underneath the mechanical island and infiltrated a docking bay at the base to enter Coco Island.

Inside Coco Island, Tails met an elderly bird and used a large rock to knock them unconscious, before escaping the island (he is supposed to be a hero). The island then rose into the air, revealing itself to be the Battle Fortress. Tails flew to the Fortress and landed on the top of it. Inside the mechanised island, Tails fought and defeated the green bird and a tall, grinning bird. Tails left the Battle Fortress and returned home, leaving the flying island to fall into the sea and sink below the waves.

The game ended with Tails building a mechanical fox while being hindered by a small bird, his own urge to sleep and his incompetence.

Finally, a game with a beginning, a middle and a weird end.

The Review

This was a review of the game available online and not the version of the game released on the Game Gear. The versions of the game were identical, but the methods of controlling the game varied between the two versions.

There were two games released on the Game Gear which featured Tails (Sonic’s sidekick) as the hero and, interestingly, the two games were very different. This game, Tail’s Adventures, was the more complicated, darkly coloured and in-depth game of the two.

The story for the game was more complex than other games in the Sonic series. There were animated sequences during the game to describe the story and suggest how the player should proceed, which was different to the sequence of levels used as a story in the previous games. The story was still quite simple, unexplained and used no dialogue, which seemed to consist of Tails fighting an army of strange, bird-like creatures that invaded his island for unknown reasons. The more developed story was most likely used because this game was a role-playing game, rather than a simple platform game like other games in the series. I, personally, found the story, while more complex, had little impact because there were few animated sequences in the game and there was little explanation of the events.

The gameplay for the game required skill and was explorative. In the game, Tails could run, jump and briefly fly, although his movements were slower than Sonic in other games in the series. The amount of time Tails could fly was presented as a meter and his stamina increased as the player collected more Chaos Emeralds, which were hidden  throughout the game. In some levels, Tails used a submarine to travel underwater. While using the submarine, one button controlled which direction Tails faced and the player could only move while facing that direction (so he could move up, down, forwards and reverse). The submarine also moved fairly slowly and used it’s own weapons and equipment. One level used the submarine as an aircraft, but the controls were the same.

There were 12 levels, including an area called “Tails’ Home”, which became accessible as the player progressed through the game. The Tails’ Home area served as a base of operations, which allowed the player to select equipment to use, activate a vehicle or display the password. Before entering the levels, the player could select up to 4 items to take into the level, with each item having a use that either allows the player to reach an inaccessible area or alters the gameplay. During the game, the player was also able to obtain a submarine that allowed the player to access underwater levels and this machine used separate equipment. Part of the games’ difficulty was knowing what items to equip when entering a level to proceed through the game.

There were also a number of hidden elements within each level. Some of the levels used different pathways (which only be followed if the correct items were selected) that allowed the player to reach different levels. The items were hidden in blue containers within the levels, so the player needed to collect items to be able to obtain other items. Some of the levels contained a single path that lead to a boss.

Many aspects of the gameplay contrasted with the more familiar Sonic games. The enemies in the game could not be defeated by colliding with them at speed or jumping on top of them, instead the player had to use a weapon to attack them (the default attack was throwing a small, cartoon bomb). Rings were used as a health meter in this game, but functioned differently to the rings found in other Sonic games. In the game, Tails could only accumulate a fixed number of rings (the maximum amount he could carry increased as the player collected Chaos Emeralds) and, if hurt, the player only lost a set amount of rings. This was different to the unlimited rings the player could carry, which all scattered when harmed, in the other Sonic games.

I, personally, enjoyed the gameplay for the game. The gameplay was easy to learn and worked well. I liked the puzzle aspect of the gameplay and using the objects to progress through the game. I also thought the changes to the gameplay for the other Sonic games was appropriate for this type of game. There were, however, some negative aspects of the game, such as Tails only equipping 4 objects and the submarine was difficult to control properly.

Another negative feature of the game was it was also difficult to know where the player needed to go next after Tails completed a level, as the player can obtain an item without being informed which level contains an obstacle that can be overcome by the item. Another example occurred after I completed the first Battle Fortress level, as the animated sequence showed Tails entering his submarine to indicate the next level used that machine, but I did not realise that I could select the Battle Fortress again after equipping a Rocket Booster and Proton Torpedo. As a result, I explored all the levels which used the submarine to find a hidden path to the next level, rather than choosing the appropriate level.

One of the irritating aspects of the game was the little information provided about the objects. This was possibly due to the version of the game I played, but there was no way of knowing what each object did. This resulted in me obtaining an object, entering a level with it equipped, finding an obvious obstacle and using the object on the barrier to see if it helped me progress. I actually had to resort to using a guide available online to find out what each object’s function was (it actually turned out that many of the objects had the same function or were almost useless).

The level designs for the game were fairly interesting, but repetitive. There were 12 levels in the game: Poloy Forest, Volcanic Tunnel, Polly Mountain part 1, Polly Mountain part 2, Caron Forest, Lake Rocky, Cavern Island, Green Island, Lake Crystal, Coco Island and 2 Battle Fortress levels. Each level appears to resemble either a forest (Poloy Forest, Caron Forest and Green Island), a cavern (Volcanic Tunnel, Cavern Island and Polly Mountain part 2), a mountainside (Polly Mountain part 1), a mechanised structure during evening time (Coco Island and Battle Fortress), an aerial assault (Battle Fortress) or an underwater cavern (Lake Rocky). As a result of the limited settings for the levels, each level shared common objects and backgrounds with other levels in the game, with only the level’s colour scheme differentiating it from similar levels.

While the designs for the levels were quite similar, there were some interesting ideas used in the game. I enjoyed the Polly Mountain part 1 level as it resembled a climb up the side of a mountain and it was challenging fighting enemies positioned on higher platforms. Cavern Island seemed to consist of a cave filled with water that the player had to explore by navigating the underwater currents. Lake Crystal was also unique as the player had to follow a river flowing down a mountainside and had to jump to each cliff to progress.

The graphics for the game were satisfactory. The game did use some interesting designs and all the objects were recognisable, although the graphics were a little pixelated. There were no effects in the game. I felt the graphics were better than other games on the Game Gear and were able to create some interesting visuals.

The music for the game was fairly low quality. The music used a lot of high notes and had an artificial sound. The music also quite repetitive, with each soundtrack consisting of repeating a few bars and the same soundtrack was used as background music to multiple levels. The music did, however, manage to convey some interesting atmospheres, such as one that created a feeling of spirited adventure, another formed a sense of jeopardy, another created an atmosphere of fearful danger and a menacing score was used for the enemy’s headquarters. I found that the music had little effect on the game, despite the atmosphere it created, due to it’s repetitive feel.

There were also some definite problems with the game. The game used a password system to allow the player to resume playing from specific points in the game. Passwords could be entered after selecting the Continue option on the main screen, however, the player could not navigate back to the main menu and had to either enter a password or reset the game when this screen appeared. Another problem was that, after entering a level, the only way to leave it was to walk through the entrance or one of the exits of the level, however, if the level contained a boss, the player could only leave the level through the entrance. I can remember exploring a level with a defeated boss to find secrets, but, after fully searching the level to no avail, having to travel to the beginning of the level just so I could leave the area. Also, a small mistake was that the radio item was called a “raido”.

In conclusion, the game was very enjoyable. The gameplay was unusual for a Sonic game, but was enjoyable to play, despite some obvious deficiencies (such as the ease of getting lost and not being told how the items were used). The story had very little impact on the game. The level designs were good, but were repetitive. The graphics were satisfactory. The music was slightly atmospheric, but had little effect on the game due to the repetition of the soundtrack.