Sunday, September 30, 2007

Adventures of Lolo - Finished the Game

My only complaint about Adventures of Lolo is that it was too short. It really had a great take on the moving on different tiles and pushing block puzzles on many other different games and even the few bits that rely on action and reflex are handled quite well. The ending to the game is truly epic with the best boss fight ever.

The other thing about this game that sets it apart from others is that you can take half-steps. That is, you can be half between one tile and another. This means that the solutions to many puzzles are different from other similar games and that you have to wrap your mind around new ways to do things. I must admit that it felt a little wrong every time I solved a puzzle using half-steps though I only had to do it about four times so maybe I just never got used to it.

Anyway, I'm quite surprised by how good this game is. Definitely recomended for logic puzzle fans.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Adventures of Lolo - Floor 9

This was one of those series that always looked intriguing to me back when it came out on the NES, but that I never got into. I'm kind of glad I didn't, because at age nine, I don't think I would have appreciated it.

Adventures of Lolo is a puzzle game where on each level, the screen is divided into a grid. Your character, Lolo, starts on one square of the grid and the other squares are populated by environmental objects like trees, water, and desert, enemies of various sorts, and items like emerald framers, heart framers, and the treasure chest. On each level, you have to figure out how to collect all of the heart framers and the jewel from the chest without being killed by enemies or trapped by either enemies or the environmental objects. Since enemies always behave the same, the game requires logical thinking of how to block them in/avoid them so as to get everywhere you need to go. A lot of the game is block-pushing puzzles (like Sokoban), but the addition of the enemies adds a new and more interesting element.

I'm generally a huge fan of logic puzzles and this game is very fulfilling in that regard. The ramp up in difficulty is very nice. Each floor has five rooms and, once learning the pattern of how enemies work, I didn't really have much trouble until floor 6 or so. After several hours of play, I've managed to get up to floor 9 where I couldn't immediately solve a room and took a break.

In all, I'm really surprised at how awesome this game is. I guess it holds up well since the game is mostly puzzles, but this will definitely make it into my Top 50 NES games list whenever I decide to make a new iteration of that.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chrono Trigger - Achieved all major endings

I love Chrono Trigger. It may be my favorite RPG ever and it is definitely in my top ten all-time favorite games. I have fully replayed it from beginning to end four times now. It rocks.

I could go through all the reasons why it is so good. I could talk about the fact that there are no real random encounters. You usually see enemies before you fight them. Even better, when you fight enemies, you fight them on the same screen you were walking around on - no awkward transition to the battle screen. I could talk about how the game's battle sytem is great. It made the best use of Square's active time battle system by introducing dual and triple techniques - basically magic spells that require two or three characters to act in order to execute them. I could talk about how no grinding is required in the game yet the game is not too easy. The pacing is set up so that, as long as you don't run from/avoid every combat, you will never be overwhelmed by the boss battles but you will need to use the right characters and a good strategy to prevail. It also has a nice story with interesting characters and handles time travel and the mute protagonist cliche suprisingly well.

Anyway, I sadly do not own the SNES version of the game, but instead the Playstation version. Playing this on the original Playstation was supposed to suffer from horrid slowdown and be intolerable. I have only played it on my PS2 and there it is tolerable if not exactly good. The reason I bring this up is that the PlayStation version tracks which of the twelve major endings you get and unlocks various extras dependent on that. I have always wanted to check out the different endings of the game (I have only ever gotten the main one) and so having the Playstation version and this being the fun club RPG of the month inspired me to do so.

Some of the endings are short or just don't have much to them, but some of the alternate endings have a surprising amount of work put into them for things that are completely optional. The Oath, Dino Age, A Slide Show, and The Dream Project were all particularly memorable. Once again, I love this game.

Ice Hockey - Virtual Console Review

Yet another Virtual Console review of mine has been posted at gamespite. This one is about the NES classic Ice Hockey that is still an incredibly fun two player experience today.

Ice Hockey

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Super Mario World - Defeated Bowser with 96 Exits

Well I have seen and done all that this game has to offer. I managed to find 93 exits on my own, only having to look for help on Chocolate Island 2, Valley of Bowser 2, and... Donut Ghost House. Yeah, I feel like a dolt for missing that last one.

The final battle was rather anticlimactic. The levels leading up to it in Valley of Bowser were fairly challenging. And most of Bowser's castle (the front door section) was tough as well. But Bowser? I guess I died the first time I got to him, but after that it was a piece of cake. I guess he wasn't that difficult in Super Mario Bros. 3 either, but in my mind he put up a little bit of a challenge there.

I'm really glad I finally made myself play this game. Even though I think I will put myself in the camp of people who say Super Mario Bros. 3 was the best in the series, it is hard to find much fault in this installation either. It is a lovingly crafted platformer with a great difficulty curve and a great variety of things to do. I think after stewing on this for a day or two I'll write up a review here. Thank you GameSpite fun club!

Final Fantasy III - Met the Earth Crystal

I'm getting to the point in the game where going through it is starting to feel more like work and less like fun. It tends to happen to all older RPGs. Especially in ones that don't have interesting stories. You've pretty much explored everywhere there is to explore and so you know all the dungeons you will have to go through. It is just a matter of going through them all and the enemies there aren't exciting and aren't requiring anything significantly new in strategy.

This is one of the reasons that I skipped a little ahead of the proscribed path to get the earth crystal. I had just acquired the earth fang and I knew it would let me get beyond the statues, so instead of returning to Doga's mansion like I was supposed to, I decided to investigate to see what was beyond them. I encountered a dungeon and some enemies that seemed quite a bit beyond what I supposed supposed to be battling, but one room in I got to the crystal chamber. I now have access to all the jobs in the game (except Onion Knight).

I'm already contemplating what my final party will be. I'm thinking Dragoon, Knight, Devout, and Summoner. But I woud love to get a Ninja or Black Belt in there if I could.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Final Fantasy III - Traversed Cave of the Circle

Man, this game is so old school in its story. Besides your main characters being the "prophesied warriors of light destined to save the world" basically you just go into each town, someone tells you their problems and you agree to help them defeat whatever evil is ailing them. It's kind of charming in how simple and cliche it is.

My current party conists of a thief (who has been kicking ass since arriving in Amur), a Knight, a White Mage, and a Bard who I am newly exerimenting with. I like how it seems like any party can work in this game. Though I had no problem dropping my scholar when he started seeming weak.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Virtual Console Review

So another of my articles has been published over at gamespite, this one being a review of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the virtual console. The virtual console reviews are like regular reviews except that they take into account the modern status of the game - how it has held up today, how the save state capability of the virtual console affects it, and how it compares to other versions of the game that have been released (e.g., in compilations). Here's a spoiler for my review: not recommended.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Friday, September 7, 2007

Super Mario World - Defeated Larry's Castle

Some levels can legitimately be said to have hard to find alternate exits. Forest of Illusion 3 is not one of them. I am just an idiot for not checking a pipe at the end.

The ramp up in difficulty in this game is very good. I think I may have died twice before I got to the Vanilla Dome. Then it gradually increased until, by Bowser's island, it was taking me about three tries to beat a level. That's just good game design.

I also took on all of the special courses. Clearly they are meant to be the ultimate Mario challenges, yet still be beatable by anyone with practice. Tubular, Way Cool, and Mondo (I think - the one with the pipes, the ice surface, and the forest level) were clearly the most difficulty. And then, once I finally completed them all the transition to fall and the enemies is a nice touch. Even though I find I prefer the original look - the gimmick of enemies that look similar to Mario has worn off.

My exit count is at 90 and looking at the map, I think I can see every area that I need to find the alternate exit for. This assumes beating Bowser's castle gives you one. Now finding all the rest of these exits without a FAQ will be a feat. Especially Chocolate Island 2 where it has something to do with my coins and time.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Super Mario World - Forest of Illusions 3

I have a confession to make: I have never played Super Mario World before. That isn't completely true as I played a few levels of the Game Boy Advance version and also a few levels just to test the game when I picked up a SNES a few years ago. But I have never played a significant amount of this game. Certainly not much beyond the first area. My other secret shame is that I have never beaten the original Super Mario Bros..

So I finally got a chance to put some good play into this game and I it definitely live up to expectations. The game is so well made and so well put together. It is just amazing for a launch game and contributes to the Super Nintendo having the best launch in console history. The level designs have such thought and detail put into them with placement of blocks and koopa shells to placement of hidden exits to even background elements. Beyond just great level designs and tight play control, there are a lot of details that Super Mario World does very well. The way that the overworld changes and evolves when you beat levels is something I absolutely love. The relative non-linearity and sense of exploration is great too.

That said, I think I'm going to fall into the camp that Super Mario Bros. 3 was a more innovative game. Not that it's better. They are both very well done and near-perfectly executed platformers. But the raccoon tail and different suits in 3 seem a lot more exciting to me than the Cape and Yoshis of World. I do like that the cape has subtle flying controls, but I'm just not that into Yoshi. Both games have some great level design, but so far lack of giant world and Kuribo's shoe gives 3 the nod for me.

I decided to play through the game, attempting to get all the exits, without looking at a FAQ or anything. In a few hours the other night, I had gotten to Forest of Illusions 3, reached the Star Road, and unlocked the path to the Special World. I was having trouble finding the alternate exit to Forest of Illusions 3. I then got extremely frustrated attempting to reach the alternate exit of Cheese Bridge - I guess I need to master using the cape. I guess I could also take on Gnarly, but I want to save that for later.

You also may notice the fun club label at the bottom of this post. That is because Super Mario World is this week's alternate selection at the gamespite fun club. The point of fun club is to create a shared group experience of playing a game. Each week, Jeremy Parish picks a major game and an alternate selection. There is also a monthly RPG (which this month is the beyond awesome Chrono Trigger). Check it out!

Rebestar Tactical Command - Chapter 10: Rescue

When I first heard about this game, I was very excited for it. It was described as being similar to X-Com which is one of my favorite computer games ever. As more details came out, I learned that it was only going to be like the battle portions of X-Com and not the base-building, research, and alien discovery parts. That was disappointing since, much like ActRaiser it was the combination of game types that really made the game special. Once the game came out, it got positive, if not glowing reviews, didn't do well commercially and quickly dropped in price. I eventually found it for $15 at Best Buy.

Now I've finally gotten a chance to try it and I regret not doing so earlier. It does pretty much steal the strategy combat from X-Com completely. This gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside as I have fond memories of X-Com. So far, the combat also seems like the more forgiving combat of the original X-Com rather than the brutal, pull-out-your-hair difficulty of Terror from the Deep. The interface obviously isn't as good with the D-Pad instead of a mouse, but it is serviceable. It actually seems like they could have improved the interface more. Instead of adding a big menu system, they could have made the A and B buttons equivalent to the left and right mouse buttons and having L and R cycle through menu options.

I am enjoying the game so far, but I can see that all the combat like this might get tiring after awhile without the other aspects of X-Com.

I almost fell into the trap of not considering this an RPG just because it lacked swords and sorcery. While the original X-Com did have characters increase their stats when they survived battles, this game specifically gives characters levels and has them earn experience for hurting and killing enemies. It also lets you specifically choose an ability the increment when the character gains a level. Anyway, this aspect plus named characters and story is enough for me to call it an RPG as well as a strategy game.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bionic Commando: Elite Forces

I love the original Bionic Commando. It is one of my favorite NES. Swinging around with the grappling hook is just so fun and it was done amazingly well in a game that came out in 1988. The game had a Game Boy sequel which I also have fond memories of, though that may be purely notalgia as I haven't played it in awhile. This then, is the third Bionic Commando game as is the only one developed by Nintendo (their American NST division) rather than Capcom. It is kind of an odd synchronicity since Capcom developed the Game Boy Color Zelda games.

I actually only ended up playing this game because I forgot to charge my DS the night before I left. Thus, it's battery light went red about 2/3 of the way through my trip. Fortunately, I had also brought my GBA with me and so I stuck in Bionic Commando: Elite Forces.

I had played this game about three years ago. I didn't get very far because the used copy I had picked up had the save glitch that many copies of Bionic Commando: Elite Forces are known to have. Basically, if you save the game then it will freeze up next time your helicopter encounters a truck. Because of that problem, I gave up on playing the game despite the fact that I still loved Bionic Commando. A few months ago, I found a complete in box copy of the game for super cheap so I grabbed that up.

I still didn't know if the new copy I had possessed the save glitch or not. So I decided to try to play through the game without saving. After all, there aren't that many stages and I'm a hardened old school gamer. I actually learned within the game that every time you do a truck encounter, you get an extra life at the end. So, much like the original, you never need to start over at the beginning. However, I didn't really feel like grinding out lives so I decided to test my chops and just see how far I coud get.

I managed to get up through level nine or ten or so before finally dying. I enjoyed my time, but I didn't feel eager to jump right back in. Some of that was surely reticence to repeat all the stages I had gone through before. But even so, part of the reticence is that the experience hadn't been that great.

It had been fine. Being able to choose between a male or female commando was a nice touch, but didn't make any difference as far as I could tell. While the game seemed like less of a straight port than the Game Boy version, most of the items, weapons, and concepts were the same.

The biggest issue was that the game just didn't seemed to be designed to the size of the screen. The Game Boy (and later Color) screen was not large and could handle significantly fewer pixels than the television. This meant that some games attempted to have as large sprites as on the television making the viewable area of the level much less. This appears to have happened here. The original Bionic Commando had a few leaps of faith, but even in these cases you usually had enough time to react with your bionic arm. In this game, many of the objects you need to grab onto are just off screen and so when you swing toward them and the screen finally scrolls so you can see them, you have a split second to grab on or you will miss your target. Fortunately, most of the levels have been designed so you don't die when this happens, but it often means you fall a great distance and have to begin a long ascent anew. And that's not too fun.

I did enjoy my time, just not greatly. I'm sure with a few more play sessions I can finish the game. Or even quicker if I dare test if the cartridge can save properly.

Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand - Met the Solar Tree

Boktai was a game marketed with a gimmick - the cartridge includes a solar sensor on it and the gameplay changes based on whether sunlight is hitting the solar sensor. That alone intrigued me enough to look into it. The fact that it was also billed as requiring stealth gameplay and was produced by Metal Gear Solid's Hideo Kojima further enticed me.

After playing the game for a couple hours, my reactions are mixed.

I liked the stealth gameplay. It took me awhile to get the hang of, but having to avoid or sneak up on enemies rather than all-out assaulting them is a great touch. The way the game encourages you to use stealth is by having your weapon do more damage to enemies if it hit them in the back than in the front. You can take down enemies with a straight on assault, but it will take longer and they will see you - meaning they will shoot at or rush at you. Once I got the whole stealth stuff down, I found myself greatly enjoying it.

The rest of the pure game mechanics work nice too. I like all the items and inventory management. I like the different attachments and settings for the gun. I like that you have to store up energy for the gun and can only recharge it in certain ways. I like the isometric way and the different weapons and the way they fire. I also like that there is an element of exploration to the game - you can move between different areas and will have to come back to some once you acquire new items.

As for the whole solar sensor thing, it really seems to make playing it a bit of a pain. Perhaps it is the way that the DS's screen is designed, but I found that when I had a decent amount of sunlight hitting the cartridge, it was hard to see the screen. If I held the DS at just the right angle, I could see the screen well enough and get sunlight onto the sensor, but it was not very comfortable. Actually, it was a lot easier to position the DS when I was outside although screen glare was still a problem. I do want to try playing it with my GBA as I think (or hope) that its screen is more viewable in direct sunlight.

I also decided I was an idiot because I have wanted to try this game for awhile, but kept waiting until I was on vacation in Nova Scotia where there would be plenty of sunlight. Well, not only did the year I finally play it involve only three days of sun while I was up there, but I also finally realized that Salt Lake gets a ton of sun and there is no reason not to play it there.

I do enjoy the gameplay quite a bit and hope to come back to it in the near future. Besides you get to destroy undead with the power of the sun. How cool is that?

Final Fantasy III - Exploring Goldor's Mansion

I have recently returned from a two week vacation and in that time I did a lot of portable gaming. This was the game that I decided would be my main DS project and indeed it was the only DS game that was ever inside it during that time.

Final Fantasy III for the DS is a 3D remake of a game that was never before released in the US. Its advertising marketed it as a game never before on this shores that we had to wait over fifteen years for.

I was leary of them doing the whole 3D thing. I feared that the game would lose its charm. I feared that they would add too many modern RPG conventions. I worried that it just wouldn't be fun. Of course, I didn't really have any idea if the original game was fun. All I had played of it was a half-translated ROM ten years ago that I only got about ten minutes into before giving up over not being able to understand what was going on. So really I was just being a typical internet 'tard about how this game would be. I finally just looked at and read reviews, saw people liked it, and picked it up when Target was selling all DS games for $24 (Final Fantasy III being the most expensive DS game at $40).

Any fears that this older game would feel too modernized were allayed when I started playing. This game feels totally old school.

Despite 3D graphics (which, honestly, seem a bit unnecessary), a localization that is better than we would have gotten in 1990, and gameplay that feels a bit less grindy/super random encounter than what I might expect for an older game, I definitely feel like I'm playing an RPG that came out in the 8 or 16-bit era.

The plot is very simple. You are four warriors of light destined to restore balance to the world. So you go around to towns and kill bad guys. Really, the premise is the same as the first Final Fantasy game. That seems interesting because Final Fantasy II wasn't very good (and possibly not well-received) and so in its sequel they went back to the less story-driven style and also allowing you to pick your characters jobs.

Anyway, while the story isn't anything to praise and the gameplay is walk from town to dungeon to town, the gameplay mechanics are quite fun. Your characters get to take on different jobs such as Soldier, White Mage, and Thief. Unlike the first game, they can change these jobs at any time. The game definitely encourages staying in the same job for a bit because your attacks become much more effective the more you increase your job level (which is different from your character level). I am generally a big fan of such character customization and it totally works here. While you definitely get an advantage from training characters a lot in one job, there are parts of the game where you need a specific job or skills from a set of jobs so you will need to shuffle your jobs around. That works very well too.

I don't have much else to say except that I am quite enjoying myself. I didn't want a story-centric RPG, but rather a mechanics-based one and this totally fits the bill. It doesn't require too much grinding (I think I only once was not able to beat a boss the first time I encountered him) and it require a fair amount of battle strategy.

Currently I'm somewhat stuck because I can't figure out where to go in Goldor's Mansion. I'm sure there must be some false wall or something that I'm overlooking.

3 in Three - Review

I've joined a motley crew over at, the website of's Jeremy Parish. He has a vision to make the site a game encyclopedia. My first piece that I wrote for it was a review/retrospective of the Mac game 3 in Three. Anyway, I'll be linking from here to any piece I do there, so here goes:

3 In Three

For those who like numbers, I probably would have given it a 9 out of 10.