Mega Man 11 is the Real Deal

I don’t get this “Mega Man 11” thing! It just looks like Capcom is trying to rip off Mighty No. 9!

All joking aside, I got to play Mega Man 11 at E3 today (after an excruciatingly long wait in line), and walked away very impressed with the game, which is now on my radar as one of my most anticipated titles of the year.

When Mega Man 11 was first revealed, a lot of fans were disappointed with the new visual look, and wanted another 8-bit throwback title. Personally, I think making another 8-bit entry would have felt a bit tired by this point. Besides, Mega Man 7 and 8 weren’t 8-bit, so it’s not as if Mega Man 11 is the first entry to go against the series’ NES roots.

“At least the long line included monitors with fun questions and factoids about Mega Man’s history. This was by far my favorite one.”

One concern I did have though, was that the new look may have meant a new direction for the series’ difficulty, and maybe ease things up a bit to grab a new audience. I’m not one of those people who demands that every game be extremely difficult, and that any game that’s on the easy side is automatically bad. But in Mega Man’s case, the difficulty is as much a part of the series as the Blue Bomber’s ability to steal the powers of defeated Robot Masters.

Although only one stage was available in the demo (Block Man’s), it proved to be pleasantly challenging. Perhaps more importantly, the challenge was brought about by some creative ideas in the level design, with the standout moment being Mega Man navigating through confined rooms which are on a conveyor belt heading for an insta-kill grinder. Mega Man has to shoot path-blocking stones, and navigate the rooms by jumping and sliding in order to escape them and, by extension, escape the grinder. But once one such mini-room is completed, there’s another one in line on the conveyor belt.

It’s concepts like that why platformers remain one of gaming’s greatest genres. Even with a template as old as Mega Man’s, getting creative with the level design is all the developers need to make things feel new again.

Additionally, Mega Man now possesses an ability to slow down time for a short while, with certain level elements and enemies taking advantage of the mechanic. One enemy hides within a spinning wheel, which has only a small opening for Mega Man’s blast can make it through. While Mega Man can time his blast to destroy the enemy under normal conditions, the enemy’s wheel spins fast enough to make it difficult to get the timing down. That’s when slowing down time comes in handy, as it turns the small opportunity to hit this particular enemy into a much bigger one.

The time-slowing mechanic is a fun little twist on the Mega Man formula, and hopefully a few similar mechanics are introduced to keep things fresh.

From what I can gather from my limited experience with the game, Mega Man 11 looks to not only revive the series after a notably lengthy absence, but also adding to the series’ norms in ways to make it feel like a proper continuation for the franchise, and not simply a throwback.

I was tentatively excited for Mega Man 11 when it was announced, but after playing a stage of the game, it’s really looking like the Mega Man title the gaming world needs…especially after Mighty No. 9.

“I’m a better Mega Man than Mega Man! I’m actually aiming my mega buster at the bad guy!”
Advertisements

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting Review

*Review based on Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting’s release as part of the SNES Classic*

There is no questioning that Street Fighter II is one of the most impactful and important video games ever made. It single-handedly created the fighting game genre, and it could be argued that multiplayer and competitive gaming was forever influenced by it. Street Fighter II was such a success that Capcom continued to re-release the game under various new guises (a trend that continues even today with Ultra Street Fighter II on the Switch). Some of these subsequent releases featured notable changes such as additional characters, others had more subtle gameplay and balancing tweaks. The first such re-release was Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, which turned the four boss characters playable and allowed two players to pick the same characters. After that came Turbo: Hyper Fighting which, although containing the same detailed mechanics as the previous installments, is one of the lesser additions to the legendary title.

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting retains the same basics as the original Street Fighter II, with a single player being able to take on the other characters in the arcade-style story mode, or two players can duke it out amongst each other in what was always the game’s biggest draw. The fighting mechanics of Street Fighter II were always deep and intricate, and that all remains true here (though so do the original game’s shortcomings, namely stiff character movements and many moves taking a good chunk of health, making for some disappointingly short matches). Turbo: Hyper Fighting also retains the four additional playable characters from Championship Edition, along with the eight originals, so there’s plenty of variety to be had in the combat.

So what’s different this time around? Well, true to its name, Turbo: Hyper Fighting includes a faster playing speed called Turbo mode, which makes the combat more hectic, and is definitely a test for one’s Street Fighter abilities. The characters also have a few new moves in their arsenal, such as Chun-Li now being able to throw a fireball and perform the Spinning Bird Kick in midair. Additionally, there are other, smaller tweaks to the game balance.

These changes are certainly welcome, and probably improve the overall experience. Likewise, the 16-bit graphics and iconic music are as pleasing as ever. But knowing that even more polished and enhanced versions of Street Fighter II were released shortly after, you have to wonder why Nintendo (or Capcom) decided to re-issue this relatively minimal version of Street Fighter II for the SNES Classic Edition. For its time, it may have refined the experience, but in a post-Super Street Fighter II world, it can be a little difficult to look back.

One change that isn’t so welcome is the enemy AI when playing alone. You’d hope that when refining the game, Capcom would have done the same with the AI, but the computer opponents of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting are frustrating for all the wrong reasons, as they spam the same moves ad nauseam. Fighting against a tough opponent is fine, but when Ryu starts cheesing the Hadouken more frequently than even your cheapest gaming friends, it’s more annoying than it is difficult.

Street Fighter II remains one of the most influential video games ever made, and one of the few that can boast it created an entire genre. But each subsequent iteration was an improvement over the last, which makes the previous versions lose a little bit of their luster when playing today. When the superior Super Street Fighter II Turbo, as well as Street Fighters III and IV exist, Turbo: Hyper Fighting comes off as a little underwhelming, competent and fun though it may be.

 

7

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

One of the most popular and iconic video games of all time, Street Fighter II, returns once again, this time on the Nintendo Switch. Ultra Street fighter II: The Final Challengers brings the beloved fighter to Nintendo’s current hardware with a lavish transition, though it does come with a few caveats.

In terms of gameplay, this is very much the Street Fighter II we all know and love. Capcom has claimed they made a few balance tweaks, but only the really dedicated competitive players will probably notice. Otherwise, it plays just as well as Street Fighter II always did, which is both a good and bad thing.

It’s good because, for the most part, Street Fighter II has aged pretty well. This is the fighter that gave us combos, and added so much intricacy to the genre’s mechanics. It’s still a satisfying fighter. But this is bad because (unpopular opinion approaching), while it has aged well, Street Fighter II is much stiffer and less fluid than its successors. Ultra Street Fighter II works like Street Fighter II always did. It certainly gives the game an authentic feel, but if you’re more used to Street Fighter III or IV, it’s going to feel a little bumpy by comparison.

You can play the game in two different visual styles: the classic, pixelated style found in the original, or a modern, HD look. Though it’s nice to have the retro look available, there’s a smoothness and visual pop to the contemporary look that makes it my preferred mode.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers does bring a few new tricks to the classic, with the most obvious being the additions of two “new” characters in the form of Evil Ryu and the hilariously-named Violent Ken. Though it’s nice to have additional characters brought to a new version of a decades-old game, it is a bit disappointing that the new characters are just alternate versions of ones that already existed in Street Fighter II. I understand that Capcom wants to keep the game close to its original incarnations, so I wouldn’t expect them to go all out and add a whole roster’s worth of new characters, but it would have been far more interesting if they pulled one or two characters from the Street Fighter sequels and placed them into this most iconic installment, instead of simply popping out two re-skins of the two most ubiquitous characters in the series.

Of course, being on a modern console, Street Fighter II now features online play, with ranked and casual matches available. It’s your standard online features for a fighter, but no doubt the ability to face people from all over the world for a few rounds of Street Fighter II is enticing.

One of the more enjoyable new features is the ability to create your own custom colors for the characters, though this too has a few drawbacks. Each character has ten different color sets, which you can alter however you like. On the downside, you can only equip one of your custom colors for any given character at a time. So you can’t show off your rainbow of Zangiefs to a single player online. Instead, you have to go back to the main menu, return to the color editor, select the character, and then equip one of the other color sets. It doesn’t really make much sense, since the characters have so many color sets to begin with, why can’t you equip more of your custom colors and swap them out in between matches? Still, being able to play as blue Cammy is always awesome.

There is one new feature that the game could have (and probably should have) done entirely without: The Way of the Hado. While the base game can use different control methods, the Way of the Hado mode uses the motion controls of the joycons, as players take control of Ryu from a first-person perspective to defeat onslaughts of Shadaloo soldiers. Simply put, it’s poorly-implemented, with the motion controls hardly ever working as they should. Ryu can perform a variety of moves in this mode, but it seemed like no matter what I did, he just threw Hadoukens at opponents. Only by sheer, random luck did I ever perform anything different.

When all is said and done, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is another fun iteration of Street Fighter II’s unique “brand within a brand.” It core fighting plays as well as it ever did, the new visuals and updated music are a pleasure, and you can definitely have fun playing online or at home in the game’s multiplayer modes. But perhaps a little more tweaking to make things move a little smoother might have brought it a little more up-to-date (at least with the new visual mode, the game could have used a little more modernization in gameplay). The “new” characters are also a tad disappointing, and some of the new features aren’t fully-realized, with the Way of the Hado mode being a complete mess.

Still, Street Fighter II is Street Fighter II. No matter how many versions it’s seen over the years, it still remains one of the most playable games of its era, and is still a surprisingly deep fighter even by contemporary standards.

 

7

Street Fighter: The Movie (Sega Saturn) Review

One of the great anomalies of the video game medium is Street Fighter: The Movie…the video game. Yes, it’s a video game, based on a movie, based on a video game.

Street Fighter II remains one of the most influential video games of all time, and during the 90s, it was everywhere. The 1994 film adaptation was one of the first “video game movies,” following in the footsteps of Super Mario Bros. a year earlier. Like the Super Mario Bros. movie, Street Fighter’s film adaptation is certainly no critical darling, but has a campy, guilty pleasure appeal about it, and the same can be applied to the game.

Street Fighter: The Movie… the video game is just a generic copy of the game that inspired the film that inspired it. It uses digitized actors a la Mortal Kombat, with most of the actors from the film reprising their roles (except, sadly, for Raul Julia as M. Bison, as his grave illness was taking its toll at the time).

You have a selection of most of Street Fighter 2’s roster (sans Dhalsim, who was – for whatever reason – a scientist and not a fighter in the movie). Additionally, you can play as Captain Sawada, an original character from the film whose role was so small, you may not even recognize him even if you’ve seen the movie.

“I approve of this!”

I have to admit, it’s actually pretty humorous seeing the game in motion. A match between Guile and Chun-Li becomes a battle between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Ming-Na Wen. Most of the characters retain the exact look they had in the movie, but some  now have clothing that more closely resembles their original video game appearances (we get to see Kylie Minogue in Cammy’s original gear, which is definitely a bonus).

It’s really just a fun game to look at. Obviously, the whole “digitized actor” thing hasn’t exactly aged well, but the simple fact that it looks like Street Fighter: The Movie is entertaining in its own way.

As stated, the gameplay is nothing special. It’s just a basic 2D fighter, and nowhere near as intricate or fluid as the “real” Street Fighter games. Though in all honesty, I’ve played worse. The biggest problem here is that the gameplay is bland and flavorless, but at least it isn’t flat-out broken.

“Praise be unto Sawada.”

You have a few game modes to choose from: Movie Mode is essentially a story mode, where players take control of Guile and follow the events of the movie. Street Battle is a more traditional arcade-style mode, where you can select your character and battle a series of opponents. Trial Mode sees players gunning for a high score against every opponent. Finally, Vs. Mode gives you the two-player battles you would expect from Street Fighter.

In the end, Street Fighter: The Movie… the game is, as you might suspect, not very good. But like the film on which it’s based, it has its own ironic appeal. It’s the kind of game you can break out with a friend, play a few rounds, and have a good laugh. I mean, you can play as Captain Sawada! Doesn’t that just say it all?

 

4

Luigi’s Mansion Arcade Review

Luigi's Mansion Arcade

In 2015, Nintendo released an arcade iteration of their Luigi’s Mansion franchise to arcades in Japan, courtesy of developer Capcom. The game has since made its way to select arcades stateside, as something of a test run to see how well it fares outside of its native Japan. Hopefully this test run turns into something more, as Luigi’s Mansion Arcade is the best of the recent arcade transitions of Nintendo franchises.

The first highlight of Luigi’s Mansion Arcade is the setup itself. The game is featured in an enclosed cabinet, giving it a darker, more isolated feeling that fits the game’s haunted house theme. The cabinet features a seat for two players, each of which use a controller modeled after Luigi’s Poltergust 5000 vacuum.

Unlike the GameCube original or the 3DS sequel, Luigi’s Mansion Arcade is presented in a first-person view, meaning that players see everything from Luigi’s viewpoint. The players can select from a small set of mansions, each of which are played in a linear, on-rails style, with players progressing to the next room of every mansion once they clear out every ghost in a given chamber.

The game utilizes motion-controls, with players aiming their vacuum controllers at the ghosts, holding and releasing a button at its top to shine a flash at the ghosts to stun them, and then pulling a trigger on the controller to begin vacuuming the ghosts up. It actually controls pretty well, and it may leave you wondering why Nintendo didn’t make a game like this on the Wii.

Admittedly, one awkward piece of controls is present in the form of the Flash Bomb, a limited ability that more easily stuns every ghost on-screen. The Flash Bomb is used by pressing a button in the middle of the cabinet itself, as opposed to being featured on the gun. This can become a bit cumbersome in some of the more hectic sections, and can kind of break the flow of the game’s control scheme.

Additional fun is added to the game by the way the levels feature branching paths. Although the levels are played in fixed paths, certain rooms can lead to alternate paths (either by finding a hidden item or shining your light to reveal a secret pathway). This adds a little more variety to the experience, and also gives players the chance to earn extra coins, which means a higher score after the mansion is complete.

Luigi’s Mansion Arcade adopts the visual style (and even the mansions) from the 3DS game. This means that the game has a nice, cartoony look to it that’s visually appealing, but also means that it lacks the gloomy atmosphere of the GameCube original.

Although Luigi’s Mansion Arcade simplifies the series’ formula to fit the “quick fun” nature of arcades, it makes for a worthy place to spend your arcade points. Luigi’s Mansion Arcade is simple but addictive fun that provides a good deal of enjoyment for two players.

 

6

Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts Review

Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts

Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is the third entry in Capcom’s Ghosts ‘N Goblins series, which is infamous for its high difficulty curve. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was originally released on the SNES in 1991, and while it holds up strongly in terms of overall gameplay, its intense difficulty may alienate some modern players.

Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts sees players once again take control of Arthur, a brave knight trying to save a princess from hordes of monsters. Players will travel across eight levels as they run, jump, and destroy every enemy in sight (provided the enemies don’t destroy you first).

The gameplay itself is simple enough. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is essentially a run ‘N gun style platformer, where the player simply runs through the level, shooting everything in sight. Arthur’s standard weapon is a throwing lance, though you can pick up other weapons like the throwing knife, the torch, the crossbow, the throwing axe, the scythe and the tri-blade.

Of the lot, the knife is certainly the most useful. It essentially works the same as the lance, but it can be thrown at a much faster rate, which comes in handy as every level features an enemy type that is almost constantly spawning (the first stage has zombies appear out of coffins at pretty much every turn). Though the crossbow (which shoots three arrows diagonally) also comes in handy. Meanwhile, the torch (which throws a small flame onto the ground) rarely feels worth it.

You may think it would be simple to just stick with the good weapons, unfortunately, Arthur can only hold one weapon at a time, and he automatically picks up a weapon when he passes over it. Arthur even keeps his current weapon after receiving a game over, so you better hope you’re holding one of the better ones when you lose all of your lives (and make no mistake, you will get plenty of game overs).

These weapons can be upgraded by finding emerald armor. But be warned, if you take one hit while wearing the armor, it goes flying off and you lose your supercharged weapons. Speaking of losing armor, Arthur’s health is simply determined by whether or not he’s wearing any armor. Taking one hit removes Arthur’s armor (leaving him in his underwear, which showcases the game’s sense of humor), and a second hit kills him. Unfortunately, the emerald armor only powers up weapons, and doesn’t give Arthur any additional hit points (you can find shields to deflect a set number of projectiles, but they are exceedingly rare).

Super Ghouls 'N GhostsLike any self-respecting platforming hero, Arthur will do a lot of jumping during his adventure. Though Arthur’s jumping is much stiffer than Mario’s, as he is unable to change direction while in air, leaving the platforming to be ridiculously precise. Furthermore, Arthur can double-jump, with Arthur’s first and second jumps being able to go in different directions (defying all physics), but once again, neither jump can be altered after the starting direction is chosen. This may not sound like much, but it really adds to the game’s unforgiving difficulty.

Speaking of that difficulty…wow. Just wow. There are constantly enemies coming at you, the levels contain countless hazards, and many elements are entirely trial-and-error, forcing you to learn how to best an obstacle only after you’ve fallen to it.

Super Ghouls 'N GhostsOn the plus side, each level contains a checkpoint, which Arthur will resume from not only after dying, but even after a game over. Better still, continues seem to be a non-issue, so you really can just keep playing and playing until you have all the tricks and traps memorized. On the downside, there is no save feature, so if you want to beat the game, you have to do it all in one go (unless you’re playing one of the re-releases, such as on the Wii U Virtual Console, in which you can save your progress at any point when you exit the game). This is one of the hardest video games I have ever played, and it demands that you run the gauntlet in order to best it.

In terms of aesthetics, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts still looks and sounds fantastic. The character sprites are detailed and well designed, and the environments are both colorful and grim. The soundtrack is pretty incredible, with each stage containing its own memorable tune that matches their themes.

Overall, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a whole lot of fun, but it can also lead to a whole lot of frustration. Those who love a steep challenge will have a great time, but any other gamer may just find themselves throwing their controllers and turning off the game in aggravated defeat.

 

7

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne Review

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne

There are few entries in the Mega Man franchise as obscure as The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. Mega Man Legends is something of a cult classic, but it was never exactly as popular as the original series or Mega Man X. A spinoff of Mega Man Legends starring the game’s antagonists released mere months before Mega Man Legends 2 with very little fanfare was therefore never going to be a very big hit. That’s unfortunate, because there are also few entries in the Mega Man franchise as fun or original as The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.

The Bonne Family is a band of pirates that includes not only Tron, but her older brother Teisel (the leader of the gang), her younger brother Bon, and Tron’s forty Servbot henchmen. While the Bonnes played the role of comical antagonists in Mega Man Legends, here they’re depicted as more sympathetic anti-heroes.

The Misadventures of Tron BonneAs the title suggests, Tron is the star of the game. The Bonnes have recently finished construction on their new airship, the Gesellschaft. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Bonnes, Teisel financed the Gesellschaft’s construction with the aide of a loan shark named Lex Loath. Teisel owes a debt of one million Zenny to Loath, but before he and Bon can nab a treasure that will pay off his debt, they are kidnapped by Loath’s right hand man, Glyde.

Tron and the Servbots then make it their mission to collect the one million Zenny to pay back the debt and rescue Tron’s brothers. It’s a fun, simple story that really shines thanks to how entertaining the characters’ personalities are.

What really makes The Misadventures of Tron Bonne stand out, however, is the gameplay. The game uses a similar setup to Mega Mans 7 and 8, with a quick introductory stage leading into selectable stages (four to start with, with two additional levels unlocked later). These stages take on three different gameplay styles.

Misadventures of Tron BonneThe first style sees Tron piloting her mecha suit, the Gustaff, in action-based stages. She is accompanied by six Servbots of the player’s choosing, with a seventh Servbot serving as a “sniper” to help power up the Gustaff’s weaponry. These stages play similarly to Mega Man Legends, as Tron navigates 3D environments and destroys everything in sight to collect Zenny.

Puzzle stages see Tron piloting a weaponless version of the Gustaff, where she must lift giant crates from a grid-like dock and place them onto a ship. These stages can be real head-scratchers, as the Gustaff can only move a certain amount of spaces on the grid when carrying crates.

Finally, the RPG stage is played in a first-person perspective, as Tron remotely controls a small robot and commands three Servbots as they navigate caverns, talk to local Diggers, fight enemies, disarm traps and collect treasure.

Every level in the game has three missions, with one of the game’s drawbacks being that completed missions can’t be replayed in the same playthrough, with the exception of one of the action stages that sees Tron making return visits to ancient ruins with Metroid-esque exploration (this stage doesn’t have multiple missions as it requires players to progress incrementally).

The three play styles of stages are all fun and give the game a unique sense of variety as it meshes genres together. But it doesn’t end with the levels. In between your missions you get to spend some time on the Gesellschaft, and this is where things get even more interesting.

Aboard the Gesellschaft, Tron can not only communicate with all forty Servbots within the ship’s various chambers, but talking to each one of them unlocks new features within the game. Most of them have a special skill, whether it’s combat related (like grenades or slingshots) or focused on improving the Gustaff. Some Servbots have unique skills, with one simply painting the Gustaff different colors while another changes the background music in the Gesellschaft, to name a couple of examples.The Misadventures of Tron Bonne

These skills are unlocked in various ways. You can find special items on missions or from talking to certain Servbots, and giving these items to other Servbots will unlock their abilities. Others will need to have their stats trained to a certain point in order to realize their skill (strength and speed are improved in mini-games aboard the Gesellschaft, while a Servbot’s “brain” stats go up when they go on missions with the player).

The Gustaff can also gradually be upgraded with new armor and even a couple of weapons by finding materials within the game’s stages and finding the right Servbot for the job. New areas of the Gesellschaft are also unlocked as you progress through the game or when certain requirements are meant, and you can send up to three Servbots at a time to go on scouting missions, where they can retrieve more items. You even have the option to select a favorite Servbot, which has an impact on the game’s finale.

The interaction between Tron and the Servbots, as well as leveling them all up (which is optional) adds a whole new layer to an already versatile game. By the end of it all, Tron and a team of fully-trained Servbots can feel next to unstoppable.

Being a PSOne title, the graphics have understandably aged a bit, but the anime-inspired character designs and colors prevent it from looking too much like a relic. One way in which the game has benefitted with age is that the dialogue between characters is displayed through animated character windows. At the time, it was probably a sign of the game’s relatively small production values, but the character windows are certainly more fun to look at than most of gaming’s cinematics from that generation.

The music is another highlight. Although it’s never been acknowledged as an all-time great, I’ll happily say that the soundtrack to The Misadventures of Tron Bonne was one of the finest in the Playstation’s library. It’s certainly one of the most energetic and fun.

The icing on the cake are the characters. The voice acting is appropriately animated and lively (Teisel is particularly hilarious just to listen to), and each character has a great deal of personality, from rambunctious Tron herself to snidely Lex Loath. Even the minor characters you run across add to the game’s sense of humor and overall character. Few games are swimming in so much personality.

The Misadventures of Tron BonneI hate to admit it, but The Misadventures of Tron Bonne does have some drawbacks. The inability to replay missions is a bit disappointing, especially once you’ve built up the Gustaff and your Servbots, as you may feel you don’t have enough chances to show off what you’ve worked for. The aforementioned mini-games used to boost a Servbot’s stats, while fun, are ridiculously hard in their highest difficulty. That might not seem too bad at first, since the mini-games are just fine in lower difficulty settings. But if you want to max out a Servbot, you’ll need to play the highest difficulty, and it can get frustrating (the speed-based mini-game in particular requires almost pitch-perfect execution in order to succeed).

Then of course, there’s the camera, which can become bothersome at times. The RPG stage, though a personal favorite, is especially affected by the aged camerawork due to its cramped spaces, tight corridors, and first-person view.

When all is said and done though, the good far more than outweighs the bad. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is simply a delight to play. Even today, I can’t say I’ve played too many games that feel as unique in their execution. It’s a wonderful clash of genres that tie together in a way that’s all its own. And it’s brought to life by a consistently entertaining cast of characters, a fun plot, and a sharp sense of humor.

You’d have to be Lex Loath himself to not get a kick out of it.

 

8