Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review #571: Thundercats

 This pussy's got no roar.
 While Thundercats was one of the greatest series in the 80s(Fight me on this, I dare you.), it hasn't aged all that well... which isn't too bad when you remember that it got an amazing reboot back in the 2000s. That happiness quickly fades when you discover that it was cancelled because the toys didn't sell well and as of 2018 we're gonna get a huge pile of vomit under a Thundercat fur-coat in the form of Thundercats Roar. But I digress, besides toys(Which were pretty great and it's a mystery why they didn't sell), Thundercats 2011 also gave us a videogame, often touted as one of the worst licensed games out there. Well, I can safely say that the game is better than anything that will come out of Thundercats Roar.

 The game covers the first half of the series, which means it starts from Grune's betrayal and Thundera's destruction to Lion-O and the cats climbing the ancient tower of trials and retrieving the Book of Omens. It's a decent chunk, although it's been compressed and shrunk to a measly 5 levels. The story is told via  heavily pixelated stills from the series that does the show no justice. Newcomers won't get a good idea of what the show is about, but fans will be able to follow the story through. After finishing the game, which shouldn't take more than an hour and a half, you can play 'Stage Attack', which is basically a Score run through any stage you pick. Lame. Performing certain feats, like finishing a stage in less than X amount of time, will unlock stills and concept art from the show, sadly, they are very pixelated.
 Thundercats on the DS is a 2-D beat'em up game, and boy, does the license lend itself to one. Featuring a decent amount of heroes with unique abilities and fighting styles, this could've been phenomenal. But instead, you only get to play as Lion-O. Lion-O has a 5-hit combo attack with the A button, a Jump with B, an aerial attack and an aerial downwards strike, he can also crouch(Which has no use in the game), do a crouch attack, slide and charge the attack button for a charging stab. By hitting enemies you can also fill a blue gauge below you health bar, and once it's full you can tap the screen for a powerful beam attack. Collecting Sword icons allows you to strengthen Lion-Os attack for the duration for the stage. Lastly, you can collect Thundercats icons, up to three of them, and use them to summon the other cats(Panthro, Tygra, Cheetahra and Willykit&Willykat) for a special attack.

 It's very basic, but better beat'em ups have done more with less, just look at the timeless Final Fight. But the problem is... well, there're many problems. Let's start with the summoned 'cats, there's no reason as to why you'd summon any other than the Willycats. Willykit and Willykat enter the screen and shower you with 3 random items, which can include MORE summon icons(If you're lucky you'll get an endless supply of them), healing items or power-up swords.These two make the unbearably long boss fights fair, and maybe, too easy. These two make the other three cats, whose summon attacks are basically interchangeable, useless. Besides stages three that has animal enemies, the rest of the stages have four types of enemies: Melee lizards that are easy to kill, annoying projectile lizards, flamethrower lizards, which are easy to take down but take too long since they soak up damage, and huge mechas that you can just spam attack and defeat.
 The biggest issue with the game is how sloppy combat is. For a feline, Lion-O sure ain't nimble, as once you commit to your attacks you can't cancel out of them, which is really weird since a few bosses, like the drill boss, require twitch reflexes. The end result? You'll press the A button about three times and then retreat, since you can't block incoming damage, you can only jump to evade, and you can't jump mid-attack to cancel Lion-o's slow animations. There're a few nasty design choices here too, for instance, when stages properly end can be a bit tough to pin point, and if you exit the game, say, on stage 4-2, when you next turn on the game, you'll have to redo 4-1 again. There're no checkpoints mid level either, so if you die on a boss battle it's all the way back to the start of the stage.

 Thundercats is a letdown. A huge letdown. The franchise deserved so much better. And they could've done so much better. The game commands 10 bucks nowadays, and for that money you could do much worse than Thundercats, but there's no reason to play this game besides trying to keep your memories of the series alive.

4.0 out of 10

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Review #570: Samurai Jack - The Amulet of Time

 All exploring and no Aku Aku makes Jack a dull samurai.
 I confess, as much as I adored Gendy Tartakovsky's work, Samurai Jack was his one work that never jibed with me. However, I won't let that deter me from trying out a Metroidvania, arguably the greatest genre every created. You can quote me on that.

 The story is not well told at all, but it starts with Jack awakening in a strange land and told about the Amulet of Time, which he carries, and should do his best to gather the four gems it's made up for in order to confront Aku. And that's as much story as you get. The game, as any proper Metroidvania, is made up of various interconnected areas, areas that you can't fully explore until you get every possible upgrade to Jack's abilities. The developers tried their best to make areas feel like different lands, so each different section of the game's world has at least one 'town' section with its own 'sidequest', which usually ends with Jack defeating a boss and getting one of the four gems. It's not a bad set-up at all, albeit it feels like unnecessary fluff, however, it's not unwelcome.
 The game's biggest issue are its controls. Jack isn't a nimble warrior, he is a clunky brute! While his attack animations have a certain flair to them, his attacks feel slow and it feels like there's a certain delay before your attack comes out and another delay for Jack to finish his flourish, if you stopped pressing the A button, before you can move again. Ironically enough, as long as you mash the A button, Jack will continuously attack, and you can even change directions(Up, down or behind) before each attack, which makes it feel fluid. That's right, combat is fluid and clunky at the same time. You can run by double tapping either direction on the D-Pad, but you have to keep in mind that your first tap, for example if you're walking, counts, so sometimes your run won't come out if you just stopped running and then tried to run again. It's kinda hard to explain. Jumps are clunky too since Jack is as heavy as a sack of potatoes, and performing the walljump can be a big pain in the butt, since you need to hold the opposite direction against the while for a short while EVEN after Jack initiated the wall-jump animation, which can throw you off a bit. Lastly, there's the four elemental stones that grant Jack elemental powers which can be used to cut down enemies or obstacles. They are useless in combat, you must hold the A button for increasingly longer amounts of time(Your first charge is always earth, then you have to wait for the Fire stone to charge, and then comes Water, which means triple charge time, and then wind which requires you to go through the other three) making them useless in combat. You'll get much better results by not dropping your blade and just mashing A.

 The level design can be a bit tedious. While you can unlock means of fast traveling between zones, exploring levels can be tiresome when you're just searching for whatever previously unbreakable wall there is. They are just too large and too involved to warrant multiple second visits. Some areas can be particularly nasty since you don't know where you are jumping to, because the camera just won't show you enough of the screen. Finding brittle floor, breakable with the Stone power, can be a bit hard too, since you can't move the camera around.
 On the flip side, there're a few RPG elements thrown in for the mix. Defeating enemies has a random chance of them dropping equipment or healing potions. Equipment can be used to increase(Or sometimes decrease) your elemental damage and defense. It's not well explained, but basically, every element(Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Darkness, Mech, Light) has its own defense and offense rating, and you don't know what those numbers mean(Fire means you deal more damage to fire enemies? Or means you do more damage to enemies weak against fire??) but higher numbers probably means something good. There's a single Health Upgrade waiting to be found in one of the early areas, hidden below a brittle floor tile, but after you get the Water stone you can simply go back to the starting area and exchange potions for Health and Special(To use the four elemental attacks) upgrades. The game starts off a bit on the tough side, since Jack can't tank much punishment, but by the end of the game you'll have health and defense to spare.

 Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time is far from the better Metroidvanias you can find on the Gameboy Advance, but the game is worth a look if you are a fan of the show, for they managed to capture the show's look pretty well. It can also be a decent time waster after you've finished all three Castlevania Advance games.

 5.5 out of 10

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review #569: X-men - Reign of Apocalypse

 Apocalypse's reign means bad games.
 It's September of 2001, the GBA is about to celebrate three months of existence, and then you see it, 'X-men: Reign of Apocalypse', lying there on a gamestore's shelf. And how enticing it looks! A beat'em up that appears to look great and features the X-men, the hot property of the era. But, luckily, you don't get to purchase it at the time. 17 years later, here were are...

 Told through boring text-boxes implying dialogue between Wolverine, Rogue, Storm and Cyclops, as they go through 12 stages in order to defeat Apocalypse. Along the road they'll battle X-men such as Gambit and Phoenix, or villains, like Magneto or Pyro, without proper explanations. It would've been a nice bonus to unlock these other characters, but alas, there're no unlockables here, being limited to the first four previously mentioned heroes. Each character has their own attacks, but share the same story, dialogues and endings, so there's no reason to replay the game with the rest of the characters.
 The game plays like any classic Beat'em up game: Walk to the right, until you can't walk anymore and enemies spawn, defeat every enemy and then, and only then, can you move forward. Each character has access to a simple combo by mashing the A button(Except Cyclops, who, for whatever reason, has a single, weak punch), a strong attack with B(Which is pretty much useless), a health-consuming special move by pressing A+B, R to jump, half quarter circle+A for a special move and, lastly, a super move by pressing L after you fill the blue gauge below your health, by dealing and receiving damage. It's a decent amount of moves, but the game is so boring and dull that A will be all you need. Seriously, the backgrounds are lifeless and boring to the point of being forgettable, and they are poorly implemented, in Magneto's stage there's supposed to be a cliff that ends on air... on which you can walk on.

 But that's the least of the game's problems. For instance, I had trouble getting Wolverine's combo to come out. Sometimes I had to mash A and it would come out, sometimes it seemed like it depended on Wolvie's distance to the enemy. The game is just boring, there're too many enemies that are barely aggressive and don't have particularly interesting attacks. Bosses look cooler, quite cool as a matter of fact, but they are barely any harder than normal enemy fodder. Character animations are hit or miss too, Storm looks fantastic, Wolverine and Rogue have some great animations(Look at Rogue's walk cycle or Wolvie's keyframes on his attacks!) but Cyclops looks and animates horribly.
 X-men: Reign of Apocalypse falls below the mark because it's not just as average as you can get.... it's also boring. You can make simpler beat'em ups that are more fun, for instance, take the very first Final Fight game. It's a shame too, because you can tell that some talented people worked on some of the game's sprites.
 4.0 out of 10

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Gundam Versus Impressions Part 3(Wing, Gundam Missing Link)

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Wing Gundam Zero
 The Wing Gundam Zero has been a consistently good unit throughout the Versus games, and this is no exception. It has great long-range game and pretty good melee, which makes it very versatile and a strong 500 lead.

Gundam Epyon
 The Epyon is a very fun Mobile Suit to use, thanks to the endless slashes with directional inputs, but it hasn't got a single projectile attack. Luckily, Versus adds custom supports, so you can fix that with a good ranged assist. That said, the Epyon is the worst unit to take on Single Player runs.

Gundam Deathscythe Hell
 Deathscythe Hell is one of the most fun units you can use thanks to its vicious melee attacks. The coat mode has changed, I think, and now it's a single forward-thrust kick that he executes while armored. It's long-range and mid-range game is weak, but it has a few neat ways it can approach enemy suits.

NEW Tallgeese II
 A somewhat new unit, as it was DLC in Full Boost this is the first time I'm using it. It has very slow melee attacks, but its projectiles are fast and deadly... but be careful not to go too trigger happy and run out of ammo. Not the best 400 unit out there...

Tallgeese
 Making its grand return since Gundam VS Gundam, the Tallgeese is a more offense-oriented version of the Tallgeese II. It's approach to full-on offense made me have more fun with it than its successor, but not a unit I'll be using much.

NEW Altron Gundam
 This bad boy used to be DLC in Full Boost. I've always been rather fond of Altron Gundam, and preferred its TV incarnation over the Endless Waltz one, so am I glad this one made it in. That said, it's a very mediocre unit, I'm not much of a fan of the stretchy limbs as projectiles, but he has a decent 3-round tail-beam attack that somewhat makes up for them.

NEW Gundam Sandrock Kai
 Another unit that debuted as DLC in Full Boost, the Sandrock is yet another melee-oriented Wing Gundam unit. His machingun kinda blows, but using its massive shotels to attack is rather fun!


Mobile Suit Gundam - Sidestory - Missing Link

NEW Vincent's Gelgoog High Mobility Type
 I've never been much of a fan of the Gelgoog design, and this does the design no favors. It has a very basic and straightforward moveset, making it for a decent, all-around low-cost unit. I liked its R2-enhanced dash, but it's a bit situational.

NEW Slave Wraith
 Missiles, Beams, machinguns and Bazooka rounds, if it's a projectile, this guy's got it. To compensate, it has a very poor close-range game. I didn't like it too much, but it's probably a great 300-cost support unit, great for hanging  behind a stronger lead, pelting away at enemies.

Bonus

Mobile Suit Gundam Z

NEW Hizack

 Well, it's a Hizack, y'know, Z's basic fodder enemy. In this game it's got a ton of different projectiles, and while the ammo stock is low, it recharges so fast you'll probably have your weapon back just when you need it again. It's melee is kinda bad, but its ultimate move is a giant Gerobi. For a 200 unit you could do so much worse.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Gundam Versus Impressions Part 2(00, Gundam Thunderbolt)

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

NEW Gundam Kyrios

 I actually really liked the Arios Gundam in Extreme VS, but the Kyrios was a bit underwhelming. It has a balanced mixed of moves, as well as a really sucky Vehicle mode. It's supposed to be a 300 unit, but it felt very weak.

Gundam Dynames
 Has many projectiles, but very little ammo for each, and it's melee attacks are weak. Feels like he is faster than he was in Full Boost, but it also feels weaker. Not a fan.

Gundam Exia
 A single suit for Setsuna?! Is this Gundam Versus?! The Exia remains a very strong and deadly close-range suit, with a decent amount of projectiles to make his approach. He doesn't feel as strong as he did in Full Boost though. Did they nerf every 00 suit?!

NEW Gundam Throne Zwei
 I thought he looked kinda funny, but he proved to be a fun unit to use, I love his big-bad sword. His mid-range game is pretty decent too. One of my favorite new units so far.

NEW Gundam Throne Eins
 Slow and powerful projectiles that recharge very quickly, and he can summon an assist to temporary increase his max stock ammo of said projectiles, this bad boy is quite a threat. And the kicker? His melee isn't half bad. I really enjoyed this one.

NEW Graham Union Flag Custom

 Clunky projectiles, poor melee and lame vehicle mode... This unit blows. I guess he is a fun mook unit to bash around, but not to play as. Bring back the Susanowo!

NEW Tieren Taozi
 Ugly as sin, can summon an NPC ally for a short while to aid her and her partner. Has a very neat selection of projectiles to pester enemies with, coupled with the NPC, can turn her into quite an annoyance. That said, it's still a 200 cost unit, so it doesn't have much stopping power.

NEW GN-X
 Used to be a DLC unit in Full Boost, I never got to use it, but I'm sure it played exactly the same as it does now. It's one of the most solid 200 cost units around, decent beams and decent close-range attacks, with a dodge-jump as the cherry on top.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

NEW Psycho Zaku
 A Zaku on drugs. Has this really neat Bazooka sub-weapon, he gets 8 non-replenishable shots that shoot alongside his machineguns. Very strong, nice amount of tools to work with, although you have to deal with the fact that this is a Zaku, so it has Bullets over beams. Still, the 8 bazooka rounds should help alleviate that, plus, charge the shoot attack to unleach a small beam rifle attack.

NEW Full Armor Gundam
 The Full Armor Gundam is a long-range monster, with tons of projectiles that recharge very quickly. Its melee attacks are slow, but decent. I didn't like it as much as the Psycho Zaku, but it's a solid long-range unit.

Crossbone Gundam - Steel 7

Crossbone Gundam X1 - Full Cloth
 The good news? X1 gets back the full cloth when going over cost. The bad news? It was hit with the nerf stick rather badly. Remember its strong beam and physical temporary boosts? Now they have a really long cool down time. It's still a VERY strong unit, but its drawbacks put it more in line with the rest of the cast... which is probably for the better.

BONUS

Gundam Heavyarms Kai
 Back to the TV version of Heavyarms... I Don't mind, I like this color scheme more. His missiles are garbage, but his minigun can be devastating if you land an entire 40-round assault. He has two melee attacks, a very situational dive kick as well as a surprisingly powerful knife-spin attack... it might be a bit hard to land it, but if you do it will hurt. A lot. It's a shame it doesn't have more melee attacks(Come on, bash the enemy with the minigun!) since I love the design but it's too long distance-oriented for my liking.




Saturday, July 7, 2018

Gundam Versus Impressions Part 1(SEED, ZZ)

 As per usual when a new game in the franchise is introduced, I'm gonna go suit by suit. I began with Seed and ZZ this time, most suits felt pretty much exactly like they did in Extreme VS.

Gundam SEED

Strike Gundam
 Let's start with what used to be my favorite suit in Extreme VS, nothing has changed about Strike, it's still a fun all-around unit. That said, Impulse on Full Boost has spoiled me, so I didn't enjoy him as much as I used to. Plus, he feels a bit weaker than he used to.

Freedom Gundam
 Pretty much the same suit it's always been, it has a wide variety of beam attacks, but it works well at any distance.

Providence Gundam
 I wasn't the biggest fan of its Extreme VS iteration, although I enjoyed him in Gundam VS Gundam. For whatever reason, my opinion on this suit has changed and I loved it. The Providence Gundam is a beast, funnels are great to use and its projectiles are way too strong. I love it.

 Duel Gundam(Assault Shroud)
 Straight out of Maxi Boost, this unit plays just like it did in Extreme VS but with the ability to purge and re-equip the shroud at will, which makes it a bit more fun to use. Regardless, the Duel Gundam has been a unit I've never really liked, even though its design is quite cool. It's too slow and weak for my taste.

Blitz Gundam
 Blitz used to be a DLC unit in Full Boost, so I never got to play it, that said, I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same as it used to be in that game. The invisibility gimmick is quite useful, but both physical and beam attacks are too slow, making it a bit weak.

Forbidden Gundam
 I still dislike this one. The melee is weak, and the beams are slow. Nothing has changed.


Gundam ZZ

Qubeley Mark II
 For such a cheap unit, this one is REALLY good. I hadn't been a fan of this one previously, but I found it to be a terrific support unit thanks to its various projectile attacks to pester enemies with.

Qubeley
 Haman's Qubeley is an interesting unit because it has a ton of projectile tools... but where it really shines is in its strong, albeit long-winded, melee attacks. At close range, Qubeley can deal tons of damage if properly protected by a support unit, and its mid-range tools lets it close in while chipping away at its prey. It's quite good.

NEW ZZ Gundam
 A new unit, kinda, this is the simple ZZ Gundam that was featured in the original Extreme VS. It has good, although slow, attacks, which makes him fairly balanced, even if a bit slow. It's a good unit to have at mid range.

ZZ Gundam Full Armor
 Horrid melee, even if it looks cool, but massive and strong beams. It can now unequip and equip its armor at will. Without its armor it gains a more balanced moveset, with decent melee and decent, albeit low on ammo, projectiles. It's a great unit with proper support.


Bonus:

Gundam Throne Drei
 A really fast, and really weak, gimmick unit. It has lost some moves, thus it can only work as a support unit. That said, it's main gimmick is the stealth field, which turns all locks on friendly units into green locks. I wasn't much of a fan then, and the nerfs don't help, so I won't be using this one very much.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review #568: Klonoa - Empire of Dreams

 One crazy dream.

 Klonoa made the leap from Sony to Nintendo through the GBA, enter their first effort: Empire of Dreams. This is a puzzle-platform game that has you solving puzzles, by using and abusing enemies, and collecting gems in order to clear various stages.

 The plot is a bit wonkers, basically Klonoa is having a dream which soon turns into a nightmare as he is whisked away to the Empire of Dreams, a place where no one dreams anymore, and Klonoa is forced to take down four bullies in order to prove... something. It doesn't make much sense, but plot isn't the reason you'll be playing this game. As for the setup, the game is made up of five world, 5 puzzle-platform levels, 2 bonus levels and a boss each. There're also 3 bonus unlockable stages if you clear the game and fulfill certain conditions.

 Klonoa has only two abilities: Jump and shoot. Jump is self explanatory, but his other ability will be your main means of solving puzzles, shooting 'wind bullets'. A wind bullet is a colored orb that travels a short range in front of Klonoa. If you hit an enemy, he will become capture by Klonoa, who will now carry it over his head. You can use this enemy as a projectile or as a platform to perform a double jump upon. But this isn't an action game, enemies respawn indefinitely, so very rarely will you be using enemies to defeat other enemies, save for bosses.

 The objective on each stage is to collect three gold stars and reach the exit. In order to do so you will have to clear various puzzles. Initially, these are very easy. Maybe jump from enemy to enemy by using the wind bullet. Later you might have to shoot an enemy towards a switch, in order to activate something. Then blocks get introduced, objects you can carry and don't break after being used as a bullet or a platform. Then water gets introduced, which Klonoa can't touch, so you'll have to use objects as shields to walk below waterfalls.... The game gets progressively more complex at a very nice pace, so there aren't any nasty difficulty spikes.





 While the game doesn't get too hard, I felt the repetitive nature of the game, searching for stars and reaching an exit, grew a bit dull, something that might not have happened had it been a straight and simple platform game. A few stages feature what I would consider badly designed puzzles, as it's possible to screw yourself out of an exit, which would reset the room. This was common on rooms featuring fans. Luckily, you can simply press start and choose 'retry' in order to restart from the room's entrance. The game is quite lenient in that regard, turn the game off at any moment and you'll restart from the entrance to the last room you visited.

 Getting down to brass tacks, Klonoa Empire of Dreams is pretty dope. It's a fun platformer, with neat commodities that makes it a great game to have on a handheld. Me, myself, would've preferred a simple platform game, without any fuss and stars, I still had a good time with it.
 8.0 out of 10