Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Month Overview: August 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Mutants in Manhattan                  7.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(NES)          5.0
P.T.                                                                                                   4.0
Silent Hill                                  8.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(GEN)   1.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(SNES) 7.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(Arcade)                  4.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II - The Arcade Game          4.5

 Well, that was an uneventful Ninja Turtle Month! I played most of the games I set out to play, but time just went flying by and 'fore I knew it, August was over!

 Game of August:
 In hindsight, I might've been a tad too generous with Silent Hill 1. I mean, I love the game, but I'm pretty sure every subsequent game, at least Team Silent entries, completely blew this one out of the park. That said, I can appreciate the origins of some of the franchise's staples, like the flashlight and the open world-ish exploration of the town. There's a lot to like in Silent Hill 1, and it's impressive just how much it stood the test of time.

  Man, this game got so much undue flak! From people claiming that the hideously aged beat'em ups from Konami were better than this, to people not 'getting' the game. It's short, it's repetitive, but it's what someone should expect from a modern day beat'em up. The boss fights were absolutely frantic which made them oh so much fun to play, and the exploration was way more fun than it had any right to be. I also enjoyed being able to customize each turtle to fit different roles. Honestly, I got most of what I wanted from this game, and it's definitely one of the better TMNT games, not that that is saying much.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review #348: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II - The Arcade Game

 Turtle soup.
 Usually, Arcade Games had to be gimped in order to be ported to home consoles, even the SNES suffered from this, Final Fight's SNES port lost a character and a couple of levels, not to mention the mandatory graphical downgrade. Interestingly, TMNT's NES port actually features extra content not found in the arcade version, as well as a couple of tweaks that make it more than a simple port.

 The story and gameplay remain the same, Splinter and April have been kidnapped and you, as one of the four turtles, must treck through Manhattan in order to rescue them. You can punch, jump and jump-kick your way through the game, featuring very simple mechanics. But the first thing that you'll notice is that this time around attacks actually have some weight behind them, attacks feel more meaty and less floaty than on the Arcade version, which does make a rather noticeable difference on how the game feels. And this time around you can actually pick your character, so now I can actually choose to be Leonardo instead of being forced to play as Leonardo.
 While graphical fidelity has been lost, as expected, the game more than makes up for that in the form of a couple of new levels and new bosses. Every common enemy type made it in, and while they come in fewer numbers, they feel a bit tougher. If you are playing by yourself you will need to get good at the game, continues are limited, and losing all your lives means going back to the start of the level. To be honest, I think the game hasn't aged very well, and 'getting good' at it isn't very worth it.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - The Arcade Game manages to be a slightly better game than the Arcade original thanks to the improved physics and the extra levels, but it's still a rather dull game that's best enjoyed by hardcore fans of the Turtles or beat'em up games.
 4.5 out of 10

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review #347: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(Arcade)

 I still don't like it.
 Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games have carved themselves a spot in many a gamer's heart, so much so that it's not unusual to have people call them the 'TMNT videogames' golden age', since, apparently, these games were the best TMNT games ever made. Ever. Sadly, at least the first entry, is not.

 Shredder and Krang, the most useless pair of villains to ever set foot on TV, kidnap Splinter and April O'Neal, so the turtles must rescue them. That's the story, and frankly, that's all this game needs. As a beat'em up and as an Arcade game, narrative is something that matter very little, what's really important is getting players bashing skulls as soon as possible. My first issue comes with the different turtles, all of them have slightly different attributes(Donnie is strong but slow, Mikey is fast, etc), but the only way to pick a turtle is to pick a side on the Arcade Cabinet. Most emulated versions will default you as Leonardo, since you'll more probably than not be Player 1, but there's bound to be a workaround. Regardless, it's annoying, most games of the era let you select a character from a menu, or switch characters upon respawning, so Konami's system is inexcusable.
 What really set this game apart from the rest was its four player gimmick back in the day. The problem is that this game isn't very fun if you are by yourself. There's two different actions: Jump and Attack, and that's all you'll ever do in the game. While enemies come equipped with different weapons, only the ones that wield a lance require a different approach to take down. Even bosses, once you find a way to exploit their AI, it's all over for them. There's no weapons to pick up to break the monotony, although you can interact with a very few objects that serve as projectiles every now and then. Every single beat'em up game is repetitive in nature, which is why one of the most important things is making the attacks feel crunchy, you want the player to feel rewarded when he lands blows. Sadly, TMNT, and most of Konami's beat'em ups, fail at this, movement is very floaty, attacks lack oomph, and while the game is rather pleasing to the eyes, the feedback from your attacks lacks weight. Basically, if you don't have other people to play the game with, and if they don't manage to remain invested in the game, you'd rather stay away from this game.

 Honestly, barring a few exceptions, I've never been much of a fan of Konami's beat'em ups, but if there's something worth praising, it's the use of the license. While I've made my views on the awful TMNT show from the 80s pretty clear, this game managed to capture its style perfectly. The turtles,  Splinter, April, Bebop, Rocksteady, Shredder, Krang, the Foot and the Mousers look exactly like they should. Even the stages look as backgrounds that could've been part of the show, heck, the sewers look just like they did in the series. Sadly, I don't think there're reasons to come back to this game for most people. There's better TMNT games on the PS2, on the DS and now even on current gen consoles. And, y'know, Battle Nexus on PS2 is alright and has a port of this very game.... But if what you are looking for is a TMNT beat'em up done right, there's Ubisoft's GBA game, which was fantastic.
 4.0 out of 10

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review #346: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(SNES)

 This was a nice surprise.
 Alright, so I suspected that this one was gonna be the best of the bunch, but not by a wide margin, and boy was I wrong! Not only is it better than the NES and Genesis versions, it's actually a very competent fighting game on its own right.

 The game offers 4 different modes, Story Mode, in which you take one of the four turtles through the different enemies on your quest to save Splinter and April, this mode actually features a few intermissions between stages which are a nice touch for a story mode. Tournament Mode is actually this game's Arcade Mode, you take any of the 10 available characters and beat up the rest, VS Player, which is pretty much self explanatory and Watch, in case you wanted to watch two CPUs go at it. It could've benefited from a practice mode, but that kinda wasn't the norm at the time, so it's easily forgiven.
 The game is played with four buttons, weak punch, weak kick and their strong variations. Each of the 10 playable characters, as well as the two secret bosses, play fairly different from each other, with different special moves and inputs. There's also an energy gauge that is constantly decreasing, but you can fill it up by staying on the offensive, whether your hits land or get blocked, they will add up to the gauge, and once filled you can press Strong Punch together with Strong Kick to use a desperation move that deals a ridiculous amount of damage, if it hits. All in all, the game is top notch as far as mechanics go, there's enough leeway to pull of simple combos, and not everything combos into everything, so button mashing isn't encouraged. It's certainly above most Street Fighter II clones of the era.

 The character roster is made up of all four turtles, Shredder, Rat King and Chrome Dome from the awful 1987 series, as well as Wingnut, War, Armaggon and Karai from the Archie comics, and as per usual, Konami also saw fit to introduce an original character, this time in the form of the skimpy-clad ninja Aska. It also bears mentioning that the game looks fantastic, while the stages are a bit dull, the character sprites are gorgeous and characters look badass, for lack of a better word. Take the turtles, while their looks and color scheme comes from the awful cartoon, they've been redesigned to look beefy and muscular, which works wonders and kinda reminded me from their Mirage counterparts.
 The Genesis version of Tournament Fighters was terrible. The NES version was good considering the console it was released on. But Tournament Fighters on the SNES is good, period. Most of my gripes with it can be attributed to its age: It lacks depth, the character roster is rather small, it lacks basic modes like Practice. Regardless, this game can be entertaining for both TMNT fans and fighting game aficionados, and I dare say that the game offers just the least amount of depth needed to be played at a competitive level, if you are so inclined.
 7.0 out of 10

Review #345: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(Genesis)

 Jesus Christ!
 Back in the day Street Fighter II was kind of a big deal, so much so that almost every company in existence saw profits to be made and wanted in on the fighting game craze that was sweeping the arcades. The end result is that nowadays you can find dozens upon dozens of Street Fighter II clones between the SNES and Genesis consoles, and most of them haven't aged very well. And, if you ask me, most of them weren't very good at the time of their release either.

 There's 4 different modes to partake in on the Genesis version of Tournament Fighters: Arcade Mode, in which you must fight all 8 combatants + 3 bosses, Tournament Mode, which is actually a survival mode in which you try to survive as many fights as you can on one life bar, VS 2 Player and Training Mode, which is actually a single, normal round against a CPU opponent of your choosing. The eight playable characters are comprised of the four turtles, Casey Jones, April O'Neil, Ray Fillet and series newcomer, Sysyphus, while the unplayable bosses are a random Triceraton, Krang and Karai. For the era, it's a decent character roster, and all eight characters are pretty different from each other, which is always a plus.
 Controls are made up of a Punch button, a Kick button and a Taunt button. Each character has a plethora of different normal attacks, depending on which direction you hold when performing the attacks, as well as four different special moves and a desperation move, only usable when your health bar is flashing. The Taunt plays a rather interesting role in this game, as it will heal you a little bit each time you use it, and it's also used to perform the Desperation move as well as some specials with some characters. One thing to keep in mind is that the animation is terrible due to a severe lack of animation frames, some attacks, like most crouching kicks, are single-frame affairs.

 If you don't have someone to play this game with, you are in for a pretty rude awakening once you select Arcade Mode, because the AI is relentless. You can turn down the difficulty in the Options menu, but as, if, you win fights, the opponents will get harder, and the continues are limited... which makes for a pretty irritating game.
 Tournament Fighters on the Genesis is a sub-par fighter at best and a frustrating mess at worst. Unless you've someone else to play with, there's no fun to be had with it, and if you do have people to play with... why would you subject them to this game? Even the Genesis has a pretty decent port of Street Fighter II. It's sad to say so, but this game exists today merely as a curiosity, something to check out once or twice if you are into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then forget.
 1.0 out of 10

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review #344: Silent Hill

 I'd look for a new vacation spot.
 This is it, this is the game that kickstarted the entire Silent Hill franchise, a survival horror series of games that focused on psychological horror over its more action-y rival, Resident Evil.

 Taking the role of Harry Mason, it's up to the player to find Cheryl, his daughter, after an accidental car crash into the town of Silent Hill. On his quest, Harry will come across a few of its inhabitants, all of whom have their own skeletons on their closets. To be perfectly honest, I found the story to be the game's weakest link, firstly, it's told in a very fragmented way, it's up to the player to piece together the events and how they correlate with each other, and secondly, because I didn't find the themes all too engrossing. That said, the environments and creatures are very well put together, it's a honest-to-goodness creepy game, even when taking into account just how much they have aged.
 The one thing that keeps being repeated over and over whenever someone talks about this game is how they turned the Playstation's weaknesses into strengths. And to be fair, they are a hundred percent correct. It's both oppressive and unnerving, being constantly surrounded by either fog or darkness, with only the aid of your radio, alerting you of nearby enemies, and your flashlight trying to explore the town of Silent Hill and its locales. Frankly, among the classic games, this is the one that has the best flashlight system, because you really do need the flashlight to explore your surroundings with ease, but the flashlight alerts nearby enemies, so you have to pick whether it's light you want or try to sneak by... Kinda. At least when it comes to the normal difficulty, the game is kinda easy. Most of the time, the best strategy is just to enter every room with your light turned off, kill everything in sight, and then turn it on and explore for supplies. It kinda kills the tension a bit once you figure out a working strategy. Not that it will help you on outdoor areas, as enemies are relentless and fast, you will either have to learn the particular tells of the different types of enemies in order to avoid their assaults or try to fight your way through.

 The controls work fairly well, while it uses the traditional 'tank' controls, the camera offers a mixture of locked camera angles, when the game wants you to look at something, and a loose camera that you can set behind your back by tapping or holding L2. It works really well. Unlike Resident Evil, Harry Mason is a decent fight, he can strafe, or shoot while walking backwards, and he is also a fairly decent close-rang fighter, melee weapons are a fair alternative. That said, there's a limited capacity for ammo, so you are encouraged to use your gun, lest all that ammo goes to waste.
 I hate to admit it, but most of the puzzles in the game gave me some trouble. I might've had to consult a FAQ once or twice... or even a couple more times, but I'm not admitting to anything. If you like to explore everything before moving forwards, like I do, it probably won't be an issue, but there's a lot of side information, and a sidequest of sorts, to find in order to obtain more pieces of the puzzle regarding the town's mystery, as well as the only way to earn the good endings. And, heck, rewarding is oftentimes rewarded, although supplies are a bit harder to find than in Silent Hill 2.

 I loved my time with Silent Hill. Sure, it's easily got the worst story among the classic games, and while everything in the game works decently, it's a bit clunkier, as it's to be expected. However, thanks to the Playstation's limitations, I think the flashlight mechanics work much better in this game, and the fog and darkness surrounding the player work even better than in subsequent games. Silent Hill is a classic, and age has got nothing on it.
 8.0 out of 10

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review #343: P.T.

 The most overrated glorified demo of all time.
 P.T is exactly what its name stands for; a playable teaser. This is by no means a demo, which you can clearly tell due to its relatively short length and small scope. It's also a... piece of software that's been overblown and overhyped to unexpectedly high levels, even having been featured on a few 'Best games of 2015' lists. I call shenanigans on the whole thing. It's way too short, way to simple, way too scripted to be competing against full games. It's also not as scary as they would lead you to believe.

 This is a first person horror-adventure game, it takes place inside a house, inside a very specific corridor inside a house. You will cycle throughout this same corridor time and time again as you solve different 'puzzles' and then are allowed to proceed towards the next cycle. My first issue comes with the puzzles, they are very silly. This one time I died because I looked at a phone. That's right, you trigger one of the death sequences by looking at a phone then the game doesn't want you to look at the phone.
 This holds true to how the game progresses as well. If you fail to examine the items the game wants you to examine on a particular cycle, you will cycle back to the same cycle, so to speak, until you finally figure out what inconspicuous things you were supposed to look at. It also means that the horror element quickly dries out. There's this one neat little moment when you look at a writing the wall, look away, and look back, and now a letter is gone. It was brilliant, but... you are supposed to look away and look back at it, look away and look back at it again letter by letter, it quickly stops being scary, or neat, and reminds you that you are playing a videogame. That isn't scary. Or the umpteenth time you trigger the crazy ghost lady on the corridor because you are trying to figure out what trivial dumb little thing you are supposed to do to proceed. Where's the horror in an all of these things? And getting the ending is so convoluted that it isn't even funny. The 'game' turns repetitive pretty fast.

 If there's one thing to praise, it's the ambiance. While I didn't feel scared at any time, and I don't think a single jump scare made me jump, the creepy imagery was on point. I always thought Silent Hill 4's premise was genius, and this game kinda builds up on it: you are locked inside a house, and it gets progressively corrupted as you advance. It was a fantastic concept then, and it still is now. Sound design was top notch again, and what little voice acting there is in here, it's very convincing
 I guess it could be argued that it's unfair for me to compare it with full retail games, that I shouldn't expect more out of a 'playable teaser'. And I'd be inclined to agree, but as I stated on the opening paragraph, P.T. has been compared, favorably, to full games on numerous 'Best of' lists. And I tell ya, it's very, very overrated. The fantastic atmosphere they managed to craft with the presentation is quickly lost to the frustration of having to follow convoluted steps, or 'gamey' solutions to the puzzles. No, I did not enjoy P.T., I could see its now lost potential, but P.T. itself is very lackluster. As a teaser it's fantastic, as a demo it's laughable and as a game it's little more than a corridor simulator.
 4.0 out of 10

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Now Playing: Silent Hill

 And now for something completely different....
 Wow. Just, wow. First thing that happens when you put in the disc, is the opening sequence, and, damn, that theme song is phenomenal, no wonder most people use it on videos discussing the franchise. But then there's the introduction itself, upon entering the narrow corridor, as it turns darker and you meet your first enemies? Pure genius. Not only is it a fantastic introduction, probably my favorite in the series, but it also clearly showcases that it's gonna be a very different game than Resident Evil.

 In short, I'm loving Silent Hill 1.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Review #342: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Tournament Fighters(NES)

 We need a modern TMNT fighting game!
 The story behind Tournament Fighters is a bit interesting, as it was a TMNT fighting game released on three different consoles, with different mechanics and character rosters. As a matter of fact, a fourth Gameboy version was planned, but never released, and each different turtle would star on each different console's cover, Leonardo being the NES' mascot. As Expected, the NES version is the most limited version of the bunch, while Virtua Fighter is proof that you can make an in-depth fighter with only two buttons, the NES was a more rudimentary machine, so the lack of depth is understandable.

 The game offers four different game modes: Story Mode, in which you play as any of the four different turtles and fight your way through the six opponents, ending with Shredder. The ending for each turtle is almost the same, so it's not worth it to play it again with the other characters, but at least it's something. VS Player and VS CPU are self explanatory, and then there's Tournament Mode in which you pit four fighters, CPU or Players, towards the top, it's very simple, but, you know, considering it's a NES game, it's rather a welcome mode.
 There's a total of four stages and seven characters: The mandatory four turtles, Casey Jones, Hothead and Shredder. All four turtles shame the basic sprites and moves, with only their throws and one-two different special moves to set them apart, and, amusingly, they all fight with their bare fists instead of their weapons. Movesets are very limited, there's punch, kick and both crouching and jumping versions of each, blocking is done by holding back on the joystick and throwing by pressing punch and a direction on the digital pad next to the enemy. Each character also has one or two different special moves, and periodically a flying screen with Splinter's head will pop in and drop a ball, grabbing the ball will allow the fighter that picked it up to perform their ultra move.

 There's no combo system, and for all intents and purposes, all characters might as well play the same, but, y'know, considering the console, it's completely and totally understandable, so it's unfair to look at this game from a 'competitive' viewpoint. And all things considered, the game is fun. Combat might be simple, but there's certain fun to be had in its simplicity, and it helps that the presentation is gorgeous, so what it lacks in substance it makes up in style, and in this case, it works. The character balance is a bit iffy, Hothead moves cover a lot of ground and deal a lot of damage, and Shredder has some of the best specials in the game.
 As with most fighters of this era, the AI is cheap, but exploitable, so fighting the CPU is a matter of learning how to force them onto certain patterns and abuse them. For whatever reason, you can't have Hothead mirror matches, but, there's an exploit to fight a Hothead CPU as Hothead, if you are so inclined.

 When stacked up against other fighting games, modern and past, the game falls flat on its face. But if you manage to look at it with a non-competitive viewpoint, the game isn't half bad. All of its shortcomings can be attributed to its age: It's a fighter that's played on a two-button joystick that was released on a very archaic machine. Konami did the best they could with the tools they had at the era(Well, considering the SNES and Genesis were out at the time, the best they could on the console) It's a fun little game that could keep you occupied for 10-30 minutes.
 5.0 out of 10