Tag Archives: SNES

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

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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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time Review

In the 1990s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere. Though the series got its start in the 80s, it was so popular that its presence remained in full force for years, and is one of the few 80s franchises that has retained a good amount of its popularity to this day.

Also popular in the 1990s were beat-em-up arcade games. One of the most simple but fun genres in video game history, beat-em-ups made up in sheer fun what they lacked in depth. Simply make your way to the end of the level, and beat the ever-loving crap out of the bad guys, often times with a friend or two (or three).

With two such popular trends, it only makes sense that they would come together. In fact, Ninja Turtles and beat-em-ups came together on a few different occasions, with none more beloved than the second such arcade game by Konami, which – in a rarity for the genre – was ported to a home console, the SNES, in the form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (the “IV” being added to keep continuity with the previous three NES titles).

Turtles in Time was a notable title for three main reasons: for being a great beat-em-up title, for being a pretty impressive arcade port, and for being a Ninja Turtle fan’s dream, as the game includes most of the series’ classic characters (even those who have yet to appear on the big screen) as well as boasting a visual style that replicates the look of the 80s cartoon surprisingly well.

In Turtles in Time, on or two players can take control of the four different Ninja Turtles, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo, each one using their respective weapons. Leonardo and Donatello have greater reach with their katana and bo staff (respectively), while Raphael and Michelangelo’s si and nunchaku give them quicker strikes.

Additionally, you can even throw some enemies into the screen or slam them on the ground, provided you’re close enough to them. Sadly, this proves rather difficult to pull off. By attacking the enemies and stunning them, you’re supposed to press a direction on the D-pad plus the attack button in order to perform these melee attacks, but they seem incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes you’ll throw an enemy, other times you won’t. This is particularly frustrating on the boss of the game’s fourth level, as it requires you to throw enemies towards the screen.

Unfortunately, this inconsistency in control isn’t limited to these attacks. Other moves are also difficult to pull off, and seem to require the player to pay attention to the character’s animations, as pressing the attack button during certain frames seems to trigger a different move. Pressing the attack button at different points during a jump, for example, can result in your turtle either doing a forward jump kick, or an ariel weapon attack.

One can assume this is how things worked in the arcade, and under those circumstances it would probably work better. But on an SNES controller, it just feels off. And paying attention to character frames may work in some fighting games, but in a beat-em-up where there can be a dozen enemies on screen all attacking at once, it just gets too chaotic to pay that close attention.

Now, that’s not saying that the controllers are terrible by any means, just that there may have been something lost in the translation to a home console, with the end results feeling less than ideal.

Otherwise, TMNT IV is a pretty satisfying experience. You beat up wave after wave of Foot Ninjas, can interact with the environment (like breaking a fire hydrant to knock enemies down with the water that bursts out of it), and fight bosses like Baxter Stockman, Bebop and Rocksteady, and Kraang.

In fact, it’s the Ninja Turtles fan service that may just be the highlight of the whole game. So many licensed games seem to get only about half of what fans love about the source material, but Turtles in Time manages to squeeze in most of namable characters from the beloved franchise (except Vernon Fenwick, unfortunately). This doesn’t just include the cartoon, but other Turtles offshoots as well. Tokka and Rahzar from the second Ninja Turtles movie of the 1990s show up, and the final battle is against Super Shredder, who also originally appeared in that film.

Considering that series regulars like Kraang, Bebop and Rocksteady didn’t appear in any of the Ninja Turtles movies until 2016, it’s easy to see why any Turtles fan would have went crazy with what Turtles in Time brought to the table in the early 90s.

Aside from an impressive characters checklist, Turtles in Time also did a fantastic job at capturing the look of the original series, which would definitely add to the appeal for any TMNT fan. While the NES games only barely replicated the series’ characters, the 16-bit graphics of the SNES faithfully recreate the visuals of the cartoon (one could even argue that, because the game lacks the notable animation flubs of the series, it might actually look better than its source material). It’s a game that looks like an interactive cartoon even today.

We even get some great synthetic recreations of the series’ music to go with the visuals. Aesthetically speaking, a Turtles fan couldn’t ask for much more back in the 90s, and it still looks and sounds great.

Aside from the somewhat inconsistent moves, the game is a whole lot of fun, if incredibly simple. Playing as the Turtles and pummeling enemies as you make your way to the bosses is entertaining. And every time you bring down a particularly difficult boss, it’s really satisfying. Though it must be said that there isn’t much else to it than that.

One could argue that that’s par for the course for the beat-em-up genre, but there are other titles that prove otherwise. Guardian Heroes on the Sega Saturn, for example, threw RPG elements and branching story paths into the mix, leading to greater replay value. Turtles in Time, while fun, feels like a lesser experience by comparison.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is a fun game, particularly with two players and, most especially, for fans of the franchise who can appreciate how faithfully it represents its material. But it also didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for the genre, and the inconsistent attacks do detract a little from the experience.

A fun, satisfying beat-em-up to be sure, but TMNT IV is perhaps not quite the Turtles masterpiece it’s often made out to be.

 

7.5

Wayne’s World (SNES) Review

The 16-bit generation was something of a golden age in gaming. After years of perfecting the craft, developers seemed to have finally reached a level of quality in game design so good, that only in recent years is it being replicated in consistency.

However, even golden ages have their dark days. Even with the level of quality to be found in the 16-bit generation, a few stinkers still found their way. Among the worst of them is Wayne’s World, based on the popular comedy from the early 90s, which in turn was based on a Saturday Night Live sketch.

To be fair, Wayne’s World is at the very least playable… In the sense that it isn’t flat-out broken like Wizard of Oz on SNES or Dark Castle on Sega Genesis. Nor does it have a control scheme as utterly dumbfounding as Batman Forever on SNES. What places Wayne’s World in that same ballpark, however, is its sheer uninspired presentation, and its utter ineptitude in execution.

The game is basically a 2D platformer, where you play as Wayne Cambell, trying to save his buddy Garth. It’s very basic stuff, with Wayne running, jumping, and shooting shock waves out of his guitar to fight enemies.

The first thing you’re bound to notice is how ugly the game is. Wayne has a huge bobble head, and the level design is generic aesthetically, and a complete mess in terms of design. The first stage alone is a baffling labyrinth of loud speakers and electric barriers that hurt you when touched. The levels feel like they recycle the same few elements and traps over and over, making it confusing as to whether or not you’re progressing or just going through the same areas over and over again.

To make things worse, the platforms are all cramped close together, so often times when you’re trying to jump over a trap, you’ll jump back to an earlier part of the stage. It’s some of the sloppiest, most confusing level design you’ll find in a video game.

Wayne’s World is equally offensive to the ears, with a short list of sound effects and voice clips from the film that replay ad nauseam. Every time Wayne grabs a power-up, he exclaims “excellent.” Taking damage always results in Wayne shouting “Not!” (which doesn’t even make sense). And dying will continuously assault your ears with “Not worthy! Not worthy! Not worthy!

I would go on and on about how terrible the game is, but really, there’s nothing else to it. It really was just a cheap, thrown-together cash-in made to capitalize off the popularity of the movie (which is actually decently funny for a 90s comedy). Wayne’s World is just painfully uninspired gameplay mixed with atrocious level design, topped off with ugly visuals and irritating sounds.

As Wayne Cambell would say, “Most excellent… NOT!

 

2.0

Tetris Attack Review

In 1995, Nintendo released Panel De Pon on the Super Famicom. It was something akin to an inverse Tetris. A falling-block puzzle game where the blocks ascended from the bottom of the screen, as opposed to falling from the top. In 1996, Panel De Pon was brought stateside under the name Tetris Attack, swapping out the original Panel De Pon characters with a motif based on Yoshi’s Island. The game was later re-released on the Nintendo 64 with yet another new title, Pokemon Puzzle League, using characters and visuals from the Pokemon anime. While Pokemon Puzzle League is the version that has seen subsequent releases through Nintendo’s downloadable services, the Yoshi’s Island aesthetic makes Tetris Attack the most endearing version of this overlooked gem of a puzzler.

As stated, despite having the name Tetris in its title, Tetris Attack works as a reversed version of the falling-block puzzle genre made famous by Tetris. Here, the blocks all rise up from the bottom of the screen. Nor do these blocks come in different shapes. Instead, they are all bricks adorned with different colors and symbols (like red blocks with hearts, yellow blocks with stars, and blue blocks with diamonds.

The player moves a cursor around, which looks like two squares clumped together. The player moves the cursor up, down, left and right with the D-pad, with the A and B buttons being used to swap whatever two blocks are within the cursor. By moving the blocks around, players are supposed to line up at least three blocks of the same color (either horizontally or vertically) in order to eliminate them and prevent the blocks from reaching the top of the screen, which results in a game over.

But wait, there’s another twist to the formula at play. If you manage to chain four or five blocks of the same color together, or get an ongoing combo going, you’ll drop what’s called a “garbage block” on your opponent. Garbage blocks make things more difficult for whoever ends up with them. Players eliminate the garbage blocks by completing a series of blocks adjacent to the garbage block, which then turns into a series of regular blocks. Additionally, rare exclamation point blocks may appear, and if you manage to chain them, you’ll drop a metal garbage block on your opponent, which is even tougher to get rid of.

Like most of the great puzzle games, the gameplay is instantly understandable, but so well executed that you could play it for hours at a time. Tetris Attack will have you thinking and strategizing on the fly, racking your brain to find the quickest combos possible. It’s insanely fun.

Tetris Attack features a host of different modes, such as endless (where you simply play and rack up points until the blocks inevitably take over), and the oddly-named Versus Mode – which is more of a story mode – where players control Yoshi as he battles his friends (such as Poochy and Lakitu) to free them from a curse, and then take the fight to Bowser and his minions (in which all of your freed allies serve as additional tries).

The single player modes are all fun, but no doubt it’s the multiplayer that will keep you coming back. Tetris Attack is one of the most fun puzzle games I’ve played, and if you have another player willing to tackle it, you can easily get lost in its action.

Once again, the game has seen many different facelifts through the years. And while the core gameplay remains the same in each iteration, Tetris Attack serves as a testament to the appeal of a franchise name, because – as stated – the Yoshi’s Island characters and visuals make it the definitive version of the game.

Sure, playing the game under any of its guises is fun, and if you can more readily play it in one of its other forms, go for it. But there’s just something so charming about the Yoshi’s Island aesthetics, that it gives the game its cutest, most appealing packaging. Tetris Attack even includes some great remixes of Yoshi’s Island tunes, as well as some stellar original music, which is refreshingly peaceful and calming. Until, of course, the blocks raise too high, and the music becomes more appropriately hectic.

Tetris Attack is pure fun. It remains one of the best multiplayer titles of the 16-bit generation, and is one of the most addictive puzzle games around. The Panel De Pon formula is something special in the falling-block genre, and wrapping it up in a Yoshi’s Island motif just makes it all the sweeter.

 

8.5