Tag Archives: SNES

Contra III: The Alien Wars Review

*Review based on Contra III: The Alien Wars’ release as part of the SNES Classic Edition*

Contra was one of the pioneers of the run-and-gun genre, made famous by its hectic action, steep challenge, and for popularizing the Konami Code. On the NES, Contra became one of the premiere third-party franchises for the console. It made perfect sense then, that Contra would make the jump to the Super NES, like so many other NES franchises did. But while the likes of Mario, Zelda and Mega Man found new life on Nintendo’s 16-bit machine, Contra’s leap to the SNES felt more like a continuation of the NES games, as opposed to their evolution. There’s still fun to be had with Contra III, though playing it today, it seems less impressive than many of its SNES peers.

The setup remains the same, with one or two players taking control of musclebound heroes who are armed with machine guns of unlimited ammo. You run, jump and shoot your way through stages, fight waves of enemies, and take on massive bosses.

It’s standard run-and-gun action, but there are some fun twists added to the mix. Notably, you can carry two different weapons at once. Picking up power-ups gives you new weapons – such as powerful lasers or the impossibly useful homing missiles – and you can carry two power-ups at a time by picking them up when a different weapon slot is selected. But should you die (and you will), you will lose whichever power-up you had in the selected slot when you died.

This makes it rather difficult to hold onto weapons, because Contra III is no slouch in the difficulty department, with a single enemy attack costing you a life. With how often the screen fills up with enemies, it can be hard to master your way around them to survive. And that famous Konami Code doesn’t work here, so there’s no easy access to extra lives. You have to tough it out the old fashion way.

On the bright side, you can find extra lives by defeating certain enemies or destroying certain objects, and you have a few continues to hold onto. On the downside, many enemy projectiles are incredibly small and hard to make out, so you’ll often get killed by an enemy shot that you didn’t even notice because of everything else that’s going on. Worse still, if you run out of continues, it’s back to the beginning of the game.

Admittedly, no matter how often you have to start over, you aren’t going all that far back, because Contra III only boasts a grand total of six stages. This means that Contra III is an incredibly short game, even for its day. While the SNES saw many franchises grow bigger when they made the jump to 16-bits, Contra III feels more like an NES game with a visual overhaul.

Back to the bright side of things, that visual overhaul comes with some benefits, the best of which being the second and fifth levels, which ditch the sidescrolling action in favor of a top-down perspective. Taking advantage of the SNES’ scaling and rotation capabilities, players can spin their character 360 degrees by the presses of the shoulder buttons. These stages make for a nice change of pace, and add a little variety to the equation.

Contra III: The Alien Wars remains a fun and exciting run-and-gun title, and provides a truly testing challenge, especially for two players. But it also feels a tad shallow, and maybe even a little outdated, due to its exceptionally short length. Though many still regard Contra III: The Alien Wars as an SNES classic, it feels more like a “pretty good” NES title that just happens to be 16-bits.

 

7.0

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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.

 

7.5

Super Punch-Out!! Review

The Punch-Out!! series is one that many Nintendo fans remember fondly from the big N’s golden age, and with good reason. Though it seemed simplistic, Punch-Out!! boasts the same level of intricacy and depth that Nintendo games are known for. But it also seems relegated to the lesser echelon of Nintendo titles, laying dormant once Nintendo made the jump to 3D up until the series made a triumphant return on the Wii in 2009; only to once again fall off the radar in the years since (but at least series’ hero Little Mac has made it into Smash Bros. now, though he probably should have made the cut a few entries earlier than he did). The series’ final entry in its heyday was Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES, which remains a stellar experience to this day…even if it can get frustratingly difficult at times.

In Super Punch-Out!!, players take control of a very different-looking, more blonde Little Mac, and fight their way through the boxing world to become champion. The game features three normal circuits to fight through, each consisting of four opponents (three foes to climb the ranks, plus that cup’s champion), with a secret fourth circuit being unlockable if you can make it through the other three without losing (and good luck with that).

Though the NES game displayed the action from a top-down view, the jump to the SNES meant the series could now take advantage of then-new graphical effects, with Little Mac being made transparent during fights to give players a much more welcome third-person perspective.

The controls are simple enough; move left, right and backward to dodge enemy punches, press B to throw a right hand, and Y to give your opponent a mean left hook. Pressing the buttons on their own strikes at the opponent’s body, while pressing up on the D-pad with the buttons takes a strike at their head. Additionally, every hit you successfully land builds up a meter at the bottom of the screen. When this meter completely fills up, you can press the A button to unleash more powerful attacks as long as the meter remains full. Of course, every time Little Mac takes a punch, the meter drops.

“Damn you, Dragon Chan!”

This is all simple in structure, but in execution it makes for some surprisingly deep strategy. You have to constantly play close attention to your opponents’ movements and patterns, so you know what kind of punch or dodge to use at which time. This is made all the more strategic by the fact that every opponent fights differently. Some may fake-out punches before going for the real thing, others have strong midsections and can only be hurt by a punch to the face, and others completely break the rules of boxing by jumping off the ropes. Learning every enemy’s strategy is key to victory, and if you can master them well enough, you can even manage to fell your opponent before the standard three knockdowns.

On the downside of things, there does seem to be a little bit of a trial-and-error method to some fights, particular opponents who posses one-hit KO moves. On its own that’s not a terrible thing, but seeing as you have to start a circuit over should you get a game over, it can get a little annoying when you finally manage to defeat some particularly difficult opponents, only to lose to one of the more trial-and-error fights and have to go through each opponent all over again.

Another questionable element is that every fight has a three minute time limit, and if you fail to knock your opponent out within that time, you automatically lose. You could potentially knock your opponent down twice, and take very little damage in return, but you’ll still lose if the clock strikes the three minute mark. Whatever happened to winning by decision?

“We all box down here, Georgie!”

These complaints are ultimately minor, however, when you consider how much fun the overall package is. Along with the deep combat, Super Punch-Out!! is bursting with personality. Every character is an outlandish cartoon caricature; from Bruce Lee knockoffs to Bob Marley parodies. There’s just so much humor and charm in every fight that it becomes all the more enjoyable.

The upgraded graphics from previous installments help bring out this personality all the more. The character animations are incredibly detailed, and you’d be surprised just how extravagant the character movements and expressions can be, considering this was on 16-bit hardware.

Super Punch-Out!! is a refinement of the NES entry in the series, and remains a whole lot of fun to play today. Only truly dedicated players will probably finish all four of its circuits, but Super Punch-Out!!’s simple controls, deep combat and boatloads of personality make for some great entertainment, not to mention replay value.

 

8.0

Star Fox 2 Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

Here’s something many Nintendo fans thought would never happen, Star Fox 2 has actually been released! This sequel to the original 1993 Star Fox on the SNES was famous for being completed, but never officially released. The N64 was on the horizon, and Nintendo didn’t see the need to release Star Fox 2 when Star Fox 64 would soon become a reality. But here we are, in 2017, and the release of the SNES Classic Edition comes bundled with the previously unreleased Star Fox 2. But after over 20 years of wondering, just how well does Star Fox 2 live up to the hype?

From the outset, Star Fox 2 looks very much like its predecessors: It features the same (admittedly aged) 3D visuals, and the levels featured are still on-rails shooters. But Star Fox 2 makes some notable changes to the formula.

You’ll notice an immediate difference in that, instead of players taking control of Fox McCloud and being accompanied by his three most loyal teammates (Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi), the player gets to select a primary pilot and a wingman. Along with the four core characters, players can also select new characters Fay the dog and Miyu the lynx. Should your primary pilot be shot down, you’ll take control of your wingman.

Perhaps the game’s biggest departure from the original is its setup itself. While the original Star Fox (and subsequent Star Fox titles) used linear, branching pathways to get from level to level, Star Fox 2 instead goes with a more free-roaming world map, which feels akin to a board game.

The player’s ships can travel around the Lylat System as they please, with certain planets containing enemy bases, and enemy carrier ships floating in space. When the player reaches a planet or carrier, they enter one of the traditional Star Fox levels, where objectives usually involve destroying the base or ship by making your way to their core. Additionally, the carriers will send out ships on the world map, and the bases will launch missiles. If you come into contact with these ships or missiles while traversing the map, you will enter a small stage where you must destroy those objects.

It’s important that you take the time to do so, because these ships and missiles can make their way to the planet Corneria, dealing damage with every impact. Should Corneria reach %100 damage, the game is over. You may even find yourself having to exit a stage to ensure Corneria doesn’t take any extra damage. It may not seem like that big of a change, but it actually makes the progression feel more unique and enjoyable than the original game.

Not everything is an improvement over the first Star Fox title, however, as many of its predecessor’s shortcomings are still present in Star Fox 2. Namely, the controls during the first-person segments feel more than a little clunky, especially the act of maneuvering your ship and aiming with the D-pad at the same time.

Even when your ship is flying in a third-person view, the controls are less than ideal, though they are better than the first-person segments. A new feature in Star Fox 2 is the ability to transform the Arwing into “Walker mode,” in which your ship turns into something of a small mech. This gives the player more control over the vehicle (for obvious reasons, the Walker doesn’t automatically move like the Arwing), and is an overall nice change of pace from the on-rails gameplay.

Star Fox 2 is a marginal improvement over the original Star Fox, thanks to its more unique, board game-like setup, which allows for some more varied levels and progression; and the Walker is small but nice addition to the core gameplay. Unfortunately, the control issues are still present, and the rough, early 3D visuals can make things even more difficult. Not to mention Star Fox 2 may be even shorter than the first game (though this is a title more about getting a better score with each playthrough than it is about a grand adventure). It’s not quite the long-lost gem we’d all hoped it to be, but it is some good old fashioned Star Fox fun.

 

6.5

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (SNES) Review

Terminator 2: Judgement Day remains one of the best action movies ever made, as well as one of the best sequels in film history. This, of course, made it ripe for the pickings when it came to video game adaptations. Numerous Terminator 2 games were released, with perhaps the most famous one being the mindless-but-fun arcade shooter which was ported to consoles under the title of Terminator 2: Judgement Day: The Arcade Game, to avoid confusion with the many other “T2” video games that bore an identical name to the film.

One of these games, featured on the SNES, was by none other than LJN. The same publisher which rushed one cheap movie tie-in game after another to pollute the NES library was still up to their old tricks during the 16-bit era, and it may be one of the worst games LJN ever produced. No wonder the arcade game wanted to distance itself from it…

In this version of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, player’s take control of Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, the T-800; who is sent back in time to protect John Connor, the boy who will grow up to lead the human resistance against the machine uprising.

If there’s anything positive to be said about this T2 game, it’s that it follows the story of the movie decently well, with the game’s eight main stages recreating famous scenes from the film. Though I also have to give some ironic points to the game for making the T-800 look like Hank Hill, which I get a kick out of.

The controls for the standard levels are basic stuff. You can jump, use an undefined punch/knee attack, and use a pistol and shotgun, once you pick them up in the first level. The control layout isn’t bad, but the T-800 controls somewhat sluggishly, especially when you encounter steps, and can’t consistently get ol’ Arnie to go on the desired path (you would think you could just press down to continue walking on ground level, but the T-800 just seems to randomly decide when he wants to continue forward or go up stairs).

During these stages, you have the consistent goal of collecting what are unceremoniously referred to as “future objects,” by means of finding the canisters they’re contained in, destroying them, and picking up the object inside (which resembles the famous Terminator skull). But each stage also presents you with other objectives as well, all of which must be met in order to move on.

The first stage, for example, requires you to pick up your firearms from fallen enemies, as well as find John Connor’s home address by means of phone booth. The stages inform you of these objectives at the start of a level, and through the pause screen. But here’s where things start to get messy.

For one thing, the text which explain the objectives can be difficult to read, being written with thin, close together letters all spelled out in a garish hue of red (which can often clash with the colors of the background, with the brown building on the first level making things all the harder to discern). Far worse still is the fact that these objectives are only barely explained to the player. When the game tells you to “collect future objects,” it says nothing about them being hidden in canisters that you need to blow up. Nor does it tell you how to get John Connor’s home address, with my mentioning of a phone booth in this review being more generous than any advice in the game.

These vague explanations only get worse as the game goes on. The evil T-1000 will begin to appear starting with the third level, but he can actually show up on level two if you take too long to complete it. Not that the game tells you that or anything.

But I haven’t even touched on the worst aspect of the game yet, and that would be the driving segments. In between the main stages are driving sections. And – my lord – they are unplayable. The T-800’s motorcycle (unidentifiable from the enemy motorcycles who try to stop you) seems to only have two speeds: Dead stop, and ludicrous speed. To say it’s difficult to control is an understatement. You don’t even have enough time to avoid oncoming cars because you’re going so fast. And should you take enough damage and die, you have to start the game over from the beginning.

To make things worse, the motorcycle is an utter mess to control. The driving stages take place at a 45 degree slant, with you needing to find your destination by following the directions of a compass. But this compass is barely any help, because it only shows you the broad, general direction you’re supposed to be going, but the scenery all looks identical, so simply telling the player to go west doesn’t exactly do a whole lot of good. As if this weren’t all bad enough, actually turning the motorcycle is a chore. You’d think just pressing a direction would be good enough to change course, but instead, you have to hold down the Y button and press a direction at the same time. And even then, it seems wildly inconsistent, with the motorcycle unable to turn in certain directions at certain times, and sometimes it doesn’t even respond to your button presses at all.

To put it bluntly, Terminator 2 on SNES has the absolute worst driving controls I’ve ever experienced.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day even stumbles in aesthetics, with bland, ugly backgrounds and – if the Hank Hill-esque Terminator weren’t indication enough – character sprites that don’t resemble the characters in the movie at all. Not to mention the ear-grating, repetitious music.

I think the simplest way to sum up Terminator 2: Judgement Day on SNES is that it’s an LJN game. It takes a beloved movie, and turns it into a game riddled with bad controls, level design and aesthetics. At the very least, this one follows the plot of the movie a bit, which is more than you can say about something like LJN’s NES adaptation of Back to the Future. But does that really mean anything when the game itself seems to actively be trying to create an unenjoyable experience?

Hasta la vista, bad game!

 

1.5

I Has a SNES Classic!

Huzzah! I hath managed to snag an SNES Classic Edition! Or SNES Mini… whatever you wanna call it.

Okay, I still have an original SNES (it’s still positioned just to the left of my Switch seen in this picture), but seeing as it’s my favorite console of all time, and the most timeless video game console yet created, I just had to have this special item.

Getting a hold of one of these babies wasn’t easy though, as my sleep depravation and noodle-like legs from waiting in long lines will attest to. I had to try a couple of different stores before I ended up getting one (I got the 15th console out of an available 19 at the location I got mine). Yeesh, I really wish Nintendo could just meet the demand for their products for once.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this isn’t to brag about the fact that I actually managed to get an SNES Classic, but just to say that I plan on writing some reviews for many of the games included in the SNES Classic. Obviously, I’ve already reviewed some of the games included in the console (Including a perfect 10 review for Super Mario World), but a good chunk of the games included are classics I have yet to cover on this site. So expect that to change soon, with reviews for such revered games as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and basically all the others that I haven’t already reviewed. It will be over time, of course, I still need to finish reviewing the games of Rare Replay, and there are a few contemporary releases I hope to review in the coming months. I also plan on finally reviewing GameCube games, starting with Super Mario Sunshine. Seeing as Odyssey will be a return to the “sandbox style” of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, it just seems like a good time.

So yeah, expect some more SNES reviews in the coming weeks. I’m happy to own the SNES Classic Edition… even if it does come with the baffling exclusions of Donkey Kong Country 2 and Chrono Trigger! Seriously, why aren’t they on there? Both were among the best games on the console, and some of the best of all time! Okay, so I suppose in the case of Chrono Trigger, Square-Enix might have been their usual, Square-Enix selves and wouldn’t allow it (I’m actually pretty shocked the SNES Classic includes Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy III, to be honest). But there’s no excuse I can think of for DKC2’s omission. It’s Donkey Kong! One of Nintendo’s own franchises! They own it! How can it not…

*Ahem!*

Excuse me. I kind of lost my cool there… Anyway…

I’ll try to get to some of those SNES reviews ASAP. Between them and those other reviews I mentioned, I have my next few months of game reviews covered. I’ll even try to get to reviewing Chrono Trigger soon, seeing as I have the DS version staring me in the face (I still want it on the SNES Classic though). As for DKC2, well, it sucks that what is probably my favorite 2D platformer isn’t on the SNES Classic, but you can always enjoy the review I wrote of it on the game’s 20th anniversary (which is another of the very few 10/10s I’ve dished out).

Oh, and one more thing. Although I have a crap-ton of video games I need to get to reviewing, I still plan on increasing my output of movie reviews. Because I’m crazy.

Judge Dredd (SNES) Review

Judge Dredd is a 1995 video game, based on the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film, which in turn was based on the comic book series of the same name. Though Judge Dredd would receive another film more in tune with the comic in the early 2010s, the 1995 film is one of those “so bad it’s good” affairs, boasting the best kind of cheesy Stallone action. As such, the transition to a video game didn’t exactly have any real standard to live up to. But while the Stallone flick was chock-full of hammy action and dialogue to the point of being stupidly delightful, the SNES game adaptation just feels bland.

The Judge Dredd video game is your typical run-and-gun platformer. Dredd is equipped with a gun with limitless ammo, and can also punch and kick enemies (which, strangely, do more damage than the gun). You can jump of course, and you even have the option of arresting enemies instead of killing them by pressing the X button after you’ve dealt enough damage to them (though there’s no real difference between how you choose to deal with enemies in the long run, so it’s more of a pointless novelty than a unique game mechanic). Dredd can pick up a variety of different weapons along the way, such as grenades, missiles, and various other bullet types (which are quite limited in supply, in contrast to the standard gun).

On the bright side of things, there’s not really much wrong with Judge Dredd’s controls, though the less-than inspired objectives and clunky level design ultimately make the gameplay unmemorable.

The visuals may capture the look of the movie (which makes sense, considering the majority of them were digitized versions of the film’s sets), but the level design itself leaves a lot to be desired. The stages will usually have you navigating small labyrinths, going upward and downward while fighting enemies and avoiding traps. But oftentimes it’s hard to differentiate what is background decoration, and what is a wall that you can’t pass. In the very first level you’ll come across a pillar blocking your path that can be destroyed with a grenade. After destroying a large chunk of the pillar, you can walk past it, with Dredd himself walking behind the remains of the pillar. But if he’s walking behind it, how was it blocking his path to begin with?

Tricky visuals such as this are found all over Judge Dredd, which becomes a major distraction as the game goes on. What’s worse, what are supposed to be ladders are so thin it’s easy to miss them, and oftentimes you’ll have to crouch just so you can see where they’re located. I spent five minutes on the first screen before I crouched down for the umpteenth time and realized that skinny white stick thing was a ladder to make my way down the level.

Another downside come in the form of the game’s objectives. Before you can exit a level, you have to meet the required objectives. Usually the secondary goal consists of eliminating every enemy in the stage (or arresting them. Again, it doesn’t really matter), while the primary goal is something a bit less eventful, like destroying every crate on a stage (with these crates needing to be destroyed with the grenades, so no point in wasting them on enemies, even if they’re more effective than your gun).

The confusing layouts, combined with the lackluster objectives, just make the game feel really bland and empty. To top that off, the boss fights mark a huge spike in difficulty, with Dredd needing to bombard them for minutes before they finally let up. And of course, if you get a game over (generally by dying three times, though you can at least find extra lives in the form of badges), you have to start the whole game from the very beginning. You’d think by 1995 the ability to save your progress in a game would have caught on a little more.

In the end, I’ve played far, far worse games than Judge Dredd. But Dredd nonetheless remains an entirely unmemorable game due to its basic (though functional) gameplay being bogged down by poor level structure and game design choices.

 

4.0