Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mega Man Live-Action Film!

Today's post will be short one. In keeping with the Mega Man theme, I thought I'd share this. It's a full-length live-action fan made Mega Man film. It was done for no profit, all costs out of pocket, and it was surprisingly well done. I started watching it thinking that I'd quit watching within 10 minutes or so, but I got sucked in and watched the whole damned thing. It's pretty good. The CGI is a little shaky, but even that was good, considering the budget.

The absolute best part is the actor for Dr. Wily. That guy was PERFECT for the role. Seriously, go check it out. You think it's hokey, but who knows? You may watch the whole movie and really enjoy it, just like I did.

Be sure to full-screen it! This window is tiny on purpose.

"MegaMan"-Fan Film from Eddie Lebron on Vimeo.

Watch it! Fullscreen it!

Just to make it clear, I had no part in the making of this film. I'm just one guy who loves Mega Man waaaay too much. Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Return of Sigma"

This is the last in a trilogy of reviews on the Mega Man X games for SNES. Today's review will be on Mega Man X3.

Things just look so much...shinier...

Mega Man X3 was developed by Capcom and released in America in early 1995. It was the last of the Mega Man X titles to appear on the SNES, and in my humble opinion, the least strong of the three. It's still a great game, but I feel like it just wasn't quite as good as the other two. Let's break this game down and see just whafuck.

Story: 8/10

The story in X3 is, like all the Mega Man games, pretty interesting. In 21xx, a scientist named Dr. Doppler finds an 'anti-virus' that neutralizes the Maverick threat. All seems to be well, and the reformed Reploids move with Dr. Doppler to a newly created utopian town called Doppler Town (really, I couldn't make up that town name if I wanted to).

However, the peace doesn't last for long. The Reploids soon revert to their Maverick ways and the blame falls on Dr. Doppler. It's up to X and Zero to investigate and take out the next wave of Mavericks and stop Dr. Doppler from causing any more damage.

Dr. Doppler certainly LOOKS like a friendly guy, right?

I won't worry about spoilers since 95% of you either have played this game already or haven't played it but don't care about story. This story suffers from the same problem Mega Man 4 did. In Mega Man 4, after defeating Wily in 3 previous games, the main antagonist was instead a man named Dr. Cossack. However, as everyone could guess, Dr. Cossack was merely a puppet to--guess who--Dr. Wily. Mega Man X3 has an incredibly similar story. It's not exactly the same, but damned close, with Sigma being the puppetmaster of sorts.

Sigma's completely brutal...could you say no to this guy?

Graphics: 9/10

X3 uses the same graphics chip as X2, the CX4. It's the only game made besides X2 that uses the CX4, too. As such, you can expect to see some super cool wireframe action towards the end of the game. It's done in a much more interesting way than it was in X2, as well.

The wireframe stuff just looks so COOL in game.

It really is a pretty slick-looking game. X3 cuts down on a lot of the lag that was present in both X and X2, making gameplay a lot quicker. On the downside, though, some things have been simplified, like the boss animations. A lot of the Mavericks only have 3-4 total animations for their characters. While it's not a huge issue, it does detract a little bit from the overall experience.

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is where X3 kind of steps away from the other two X games for SNES. The basic scheme is the same: run and gun through a level, fight a boss, use his weapon on the next boss, etc.

The controls are the exact same and just as responsive as ever. There's still E-tanks and hearts hidden throughout the levels. The capsule system returns, albeit changed a bit. There's still 4 capsules that give you additional abilities. Instead of a hidden Street Fighter-esque move, though, there's additional pink capsules. After collecting the main 4 capsule abilities, you have a choice between 4 pink capsules that each further upgrade one of your 4 abilities. If you choose to skip them all, though, you have a choice to later get a 'golden chip' that will give you all 4 super-upgrades.

One huge change in this game is the fact that Zero is now a playable character throughout the whole game. If I recall correctly, it's as simple as going into the pause menu and hitting L or R. Zero uses his beam saber rather than an X-buster. He also has a very large amount of life. He saber is a melee weapon, but it's incredibly powerful. Playing as Zero seems like a good thing, but there are two downsides, one small and one huge. The minor downside is that Zero can't walk through any doors, even mini-boss doors, so you have to momentarily switch back to X. This can get annoying. The major downside is that Zero's life is finite; if he dies, he's dead for the whole game. This will even affect your ending if Zero's dead by the time you beat the game.

Another big (but mostly useless) addition is ride armors. These are large mech suits that you can use on certain pads scattered throughout the stages. One allows you to travel better underwater, another lets you fly, etc. The problem is that they're hardly utilized. You'll find that only two or three are ever needed, and only then to get a quick heart or E-tank, and then you won't end up using it for the rest of the game. I think it would've been a great system, had it been implemented a little better.

The four ride armors.

Sound: 7/10

In my humble opinion, this is the weakest point in X3. The soundtrack just didn't have the same vibe as it did in the other two X games. It certainly wasn't a "bad" soundtrack by any means. It was totally respectable. It just didn't quite capture the mood of any given level as well as the music did in X or X2. As per usual, here's a sampling of some completely random tracks from the game. First, the intro level's music, one of the best songs on the soundtrack.

And here's a track from Neon Tiger's stage, Urban Jungle, one of the weaker tracks (again, just my opinion).

Replay Value: 8/10

This game kind of goes against the other two X games for SNES in that it has a couple more big reasons to replay through it. The addition of Zero as a playable character is a huge boost since you can try to play through the game only using Zero and not let him die. There's also different bosses you fight towards the end depending on how you've killed Bit and Byte. Otherwise, the only reason to come back to this game is to attempt a playthrough with no power-ups, and then a playthrough using only your X-buster.

Thanks for sticking with me through this trilogy. It's a great bunch of games, and I really hope you all end up trying them out at some point.

And thanks for reading!

Below are links to both the original Mega Man X3 for SNES as well as the Mega Man X Collection. Recently, I bought this collection, and it's phenomenally awesome. It has Mega Man X through Mega Man X6 in all their glory, as well as a racing game based on the original Mega Man series that was only released in Japan. It's well worth buying the collection. Even the racing game is a blast; it's like Mario Kart, only a hundred times more involved.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Blue Bomber Strikes Back"

This is the second review in a trilogy of the Mega Man X games for SNES. We'll focus today on Mega Man X2.

If you see this intro on your TV, prepare to have your face rocked.

Mega Man X2 was developed by Capcom and released in both Japan and America in December of 1994. It's one of my favorite games for SNES, and probably of all time. A lot of the reason why I love it so much is nostalgia, but it's also just an all-around well built game. Let's jump in X-buster first and see why.

Story: 10/10 

I've already explained the backstory for the Mega Man X series. This game takes place six months and 13 days after the fall of Sigma in Mega Man X. X is now the leader of the Maverick Hunters. Even though Sigma has died, the Mavericks still continue to wreak havoc everywhere.

Three Maverick leaders, Serges, Violen, and Agile (the X-Hunters), establish a base on the North Pole. They claim to have all of Zero's parts (since Zero was destroyed during the first game). They split up the three pieces of his body, taunting X with them, hoping to lure him out and destroy him once and for all. The big question: do they have Zero's control chip?

Zero, X's equally badass partner.

This game was a little bit more story-heavy than the last (in-game, at least), which I think was a welcome change. As I've said before, I really love the story throughout both the Mega Man and Mega Man X series.

Graphics: 9/10

This game uses the same graphics engine as Mega Man X; as such, it looks just as beautiful. The huge difference is that this one seems to have a lot less slowdown. I think this is mostly because of the developers making the enemies more evenly dispersed and having less fast sequences like the mine car ride in MMX1.

This game is notable in that it uses the CX4 chip, one of only two games to use it. The CX4 was added to every cartridge for Mega Man X2 to help quickly perform general trigonometric calculations for wireframe effects and sprite positioning and rotation. It helped them make some really slick-looking sequences you can see towards the end of the game. The carts all still have the option to view the wireframe debug scene by holding down B at startup.

It looks so much cooler in motion...much cooler than, say, a Vectrex.

Gameplay: 10/10

The gameplay in Mega Man X2 is much the same as in X, albeit with a few minor tweaks. You run and gun through a level until you reach the boss room. When you beat the boss, you get his weapon. Every boss is weak against another boss's weapon. Finding the right order is half the fun.

Always start with Wheel Gator, then Overdrive Ostrich. Trust me.

Instead of having to find the dash this time, you start with it. The capsule system is still present, but the upgrades are different. One allows you to dash in midair. The helmet upgrade lets you search for hidden passages. The armor upgrade lets you absorb shots from enemies to fill up a meter; when it's full, you can use a super explosion 9000 attack, hurting everything on screen quite a bit.

Capcom put in another hidden capsule when you find all the others and all the heart tanks and E-tanks. This one's just as hard to find as the one in Mega Man X, but instead of Hadouken, this time you find Shoryuken, the uppercut move used by Ryu and Ken in the Street Fighter series. Like the Hadouken, it's a one-hit kill on any enemy and almost all of the bosses.

Sound: 10/10

Mega Man X2 had, in my opinion, one of the best soundtracks of any SNES game. Definitely top 5, at least. The sound effects were largely the same as Mega Man X, but the soundtrack is much better. It has more of a metal vibe the whole way throughout, with the exception of a few stages like Crystal Snail and Bubble Crab. Like usual, rather than talking about it too much, I'll just post a song. This is the opening song from the first introductory level, the Reploid Factory.

Here's one more, the music for Flame Stag's stage. This is what I mean when I say the soundtrack had a more metal vibe. Still a lot of the old Capcom electronica you've come to expect from the Mega Man series, though.

Replay Value: 7/10

Sadly, this game has about as much replay value as Mega Man X; not a whole damned lot. The big pull is the same as MMX: go back through and get every upgrade and get the Shoryuken. The other big things to try are playing through with no e-tanks/hearts, and if you can do that, try a game with only the X-buster. It's hard, but it's completely do-able. The only thing that might give you trouble is the final boss.

If you're seeing this screen on your TV, your face has been successfully rocked.

Trust me, though, you will come back to this game at least once. I tend to beat through it once every few months. I'm a bit of a nutbar, so I don't imagine most of you will play it once every few months, but it truly is a great game.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"In the year 20xx, a new robot was born..."

Today's review is the first in a trilogy of reviews for the three Mega Man X games for SNES.

Ah, nostalgia...

Mega Man X was developed by Capcom and released in Japan in late 1993 and North America in early 1994. It was a run-and-gun in the same style as the original Mega Man series, only with a new title character and a LOT more interesting powers like the ability to cling to walls, dash along the ground at any time, and other abilities hidden throughout the levels. The difficulty was also ramped up, in my opinion, making for a much more fun and challenging game. I'm getting ahead of myself, though...let's jump in and take a closer look at Dr. Light's brainchild.

Story: 10/10

Mega Man X was another creation by Dr. Light, the creator of Mega Man. About 30 years after the Mega Man series ended, Dr. Light decided to create a new robot, one that, unlike Mega Man, had the ability to make his own decisions. However, as Dr. Light reasoned, what if X decided to be evil? Even worse, what if society wouldn't accept him? At best, he would be an anomaly, and at worst, an abomination. Realizing that he wouldn't live long enough to finish 'debugging' X to make sure he wouldn't become evil, Dr. Light sealed him in a capsule to finish testing. He was supposed to be released in 30 years, but the building the capsule was in collapsed.

Eventually, about 100 years later (in the year 21xx), an archaeologist named Dr. Cain stumbled upon the capsule and freed X. Together, they ended up producing a series of robots known as Reploids designed to replicate X's free will. However, the circuits weren't replicated perfectly; this left the Reploids vulnerable to a long-dormant virus created by Dr. Wily, the nefarious antagonist from the original Mega Man series.

Dr. Wily, also known as Doc Brown. "Great Scott!"

The infected Reploids became known as Mavericks. A group called the Maverick Hunters was put together to combat this new threat to mankind with a Reploid named Sigma as their leader. In time, though, Sigma also became infected with the virus. X felt it was his duty to join the Maverick Hunters, now led by Zero (another of Dr. Wily's creations), to take down the Mavericks and ensure that Sigma could never wreak havoc on mankind again.

The first game in the series introduces this backstory and begins with the Maverick Hunters going out to take down their first Maverick. I really love the Mega Man/Mega Man X backstory; I realize it's probably not too realistic, but all the same, I've spent hours reading about the storyline throughout the series. It got watered down and lame towards the end of the X series, but in these first few games, it's blissfully awesome.

Graphics: 8/10

Wow! For a SNES game, this one has fucking AWESOME graphics. VERY rarely, you'll find some minor slowdown during really action-heavy sequences, but otherwise, the game moves quickly and smoothly throughout. This is especially impressive considering that the Mega Man X cartridge didn't use the CX4 chip like X2 and X3 did, although to be fair, Mega Man X didn't have any wireframe sequences in it, rendering the CX4 chip more or less meaningless.

Still, this game looks absolutely beautiful. Capcom knew how to do graphics right, and this game is a prime example of that.

Pictured: Robot excavator about to explode and X about to run into a wall.

Gameplay: 9/10

This game really shines in this section. At the start, you jump into a quick introductory stage, a staple of the Mega Man X series. Afterwords, you're taken to a level select screen similar to the one seen in the Mega Man series.

Rather than Robot Masters, now you're fighting Mavericks, each of which is usually modeled after an animal of some kind (Chill Penguin, Armored Armadillo, etc.).

The game plays a lot like the original series in that you run through a stage, killing enemies and doing lots of platforming along the way, and then you fight a boss at the end. After killing a boss, you gain the ability to use one of his weapons. There's always a boss order that's 'best' to take; one enemy will be weak against another enemy's weapon, his weapon is strong against another, etc.

However, Mega Man X really increases the fun. Certain stages will be affected depending on the order you play them in (beating Chill Penguin's stage will freeze the lava in another stage, etc.). X now has the innate ability to dash on the ground instead of the old slide move, he can jump and dash at the same time (making him jump much farther and faster), cling to walls, and wall jump. On top of this, there are hidden capsules throughout the levels that will give X added abilities like his dash (yes, the dash had to be found, but only in this game), halved damage, and the ability to charge all the weapons obtained from killing Mavericks.

The addition of all of these extras, especially the dash, allows for the possibility to beat through the entire game using only X's main gun, the X-buster. While challenging, it's entirely possible, and it makes for a helluva fun run through the game.

Other collectible items include E-tanks, tanks that slowly fill when you pick up energy pellets that can be used to refill your health when you're low, and hearts, items that increase your maximum health. 4 E-tanks and 8 hearts can be found scattered throughout the game.

It pays to find all of the hidden items and capsules in this game, though. Capcom threw in a great Easter egg in the form of a move straight from Street Fighter, the Hadouken. I won't give away where to find it or how to use it once you do find it; all I'll say is sometimes, death can be your friend.

Sound: 9/10

This game is rare because it has both good sound effects AND a good soundtrack. All of the large robotic moving noises fit very well with the visuals and music, and the weapon and charging noises also fit well, never getting too annoying or intrusive as you play.

The soundtrack is absolutely amazing. The only reason it doesn't get a 10/10 is because I think the soundtrack for Mega Man X2 was slightly better; hence, not both can be perfect. I'm a huge fan of the music throughout most of the Mega Man games, but the X series especially had phenomenal tracks. Here's one of my favorites from this game, the music from Boomer Kuwanger's stage.

Interesting piece of trivia: a lot of people get all pissy about the fact that most Mavericks are based off of animals, but Boomer Kuwanger is not. After all, what the fuck is a 'kuwanger'? Well, it's based on the Japanese word 'kuwagata', or stag beetle. That piece of trivia was a gift from me to you.

Replay Value: 7/10

Sadly, this is where the game suffers the most in score. Once it's been beaten, there's not a whole lot left to do. One thing to do is go through the game, getting every upgrade and hidden capsule, as well as the Hadouken. Another thing to try is going through the game without getting ANY upgrades or hearts. The third, and hardest, is to go through with no upgrades or hearts, using only the X-buster.

Other than finding ways to challenge yourself, though, the only real reasons to go back to this game and replay it are that it's just mindnumbingly fun and that it has one of the top 20 best soundtracks in a video game ever.

If you've never played this game, what the shit is wrong with you? Go play it right now! Don't just trust me, read literally any review for this game; it's universally considered to be awesome beyond belief. It will turn your brain into awesome-flavored pudding.

If you have played this game, go replay it! What the shit are you waiting for?

Tomorrow or the day after, I'll be back with a review of the next game in this series (and my personal favorite), Mega Man X2. Until next time, keep your finger hovering over that dash button. You'll need it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Dazzle your friends with the all-new patented Hooter Shooter!"

Today's review is on an old DOS game, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does A Little Undercover Work.

If only it were 1990 and this game was 'Coming Soon'...

Leisure Suit Larry 5 was developed and published by Sierra Entertainment and released in America in 1991. Some of you older gamers might remember the LSL series, the brain-child of programmer Al Lowe. It was a raunchy series filled with both hilarity and bewbs, aimed at the older crowd. Let's check out the 5th (and in my humble opinion, best) entry in this exceedingly strange series.

Story: 10/10

The story for LSL5 requires some understanding of who the main character, Larry Laffer, is. Normally, I'd write this up myself, but the Wikipedia entry is just too hilarious:

"According to his creator [Al Lowe], Larry was a nerdy geek all his life and eventually became a computer programmer. He never had close relations with friends, women, or his colleagues, and every day of his life was identical. He lived with his mother and brother. Around his 38th birthday, his brain hit a sexual alarm and started having his first kinky thoughts. He started reading adult magazines and could not concentrate on his work. Because of this his life was destroyed; he was fired from his job, and upon returning home he found his house had been sold and his mother had left for vacation.

He then decided to turn a page forward in his life; he left everything and decided to live the wild life. He moved to the city of Lost Wages, where, being a fan of the '70s, and assuming that '70s styles were still trendy, he bought a polyester leisure suit and gold chains. He sold his VW 'bug' to a junkyard for $94 and ended up in front of Lefty's Bar, where the first game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, begins."

Leisure Suit Larry 5 stars the same lovable Larry in yet another quest for the elusive vagina. The premise relies on the idea that there was no Leisure Suit Larry 4. There were a few reasons why there was no 4th game; primarily, though, a planned 4th entry would be an online game, allowing players to interact with each other over Sierra's popular online network. Technology at that point wasn't quite up to snuff, though, so it was abandoned. Al Lowe, disgusted with this, declared that there would never be a Leisure Suit Larry 4. Indeed, the first three games played like a trilogy with a complete ending after the 3rd game. When he began working on the 4th game, Lowe was unsure of how to continue the story. Basically, he joked that the floppy disks for the game were lost, so he could start fresh on the 5th title. This also proved him correct in saying there would never be a Leisure Suit Larry 4.

The story revolves around Larry and his old flame, Passionate Patti. A man named Julius Biggs has stolen the floppies for LSL4, causing Larry to have amnesia. Larry's now in the adult film industry, working for a company called PornProdCorp, a seedy Mafia-connected enterprise. His boss sends him around the country to scout for (and maybe even seduce) models to appear in their newest video series, America's Sexiest Home Videos. Larry's chosen because, as his boss says, they need someone who's so disgusting and nerdy that only the most attractive women on Earth could find him sexy.

Patti also stars in this one; you play as her for half of the game. In this title, she's working in a dive strip bar with dreams of becoming a famous pianist. As she leaves the bar at the start of the game, she's approached by the FBI to try to find evidence of two big record companies implanting subliminal messages in their albums.

At the same time, PornProdCorp tries to eliminate all competition by donating money to CANE (Conservatives Against Nearly Everything). All three storylines converge at the end.

All you need to know is that this game is completely hilarious. The entirety of it is filled with juvenile humor and references to what a geek Larry is. If you don't laugh while playing this game, you're taking life entirely too seriously.

Graphics: 7/10

The graphics are nothing special. I mean, things move smoothly and look as they should for a 1991 Sierra game. It's not too pixel-y and there's fairly liquid movement throughout. There are some hilarious 'adult' scenes interspersed, none of which will exactly get your juices flowing.

Oh yeah, baby, shake those pixels!

The key, though, is that this game plays more like an interactive comic than anything, and so the graphics really do matter considerably. That being said, you'll never be confused as to what's going on in the game visually (well, you will, but not because of bad graphics, just because of completely 'what the fuck'-inducing visuals).

Put it this way: they came a long way since Leisure Suit Larry 1.

Pictured: Ladies' Man.

Gameplay: 7/10

As I mentioned earlier, this game plays a lot like an interactive comic of sorts. It's an adventure game, similar to the previous games in the series as well as other classic adventure games like Space Quest. However, LSL5 wasn't a text-based adventure game. Rather than typing in explicitly what you wanted Larry to do, it had a GUI with different icons you could pick to make Larry do different things. There were basic icons like some to make him walk, talk to people, pick up objects, and examine objects...others were more silly, like the one icon (a zipper) that removed the clothes (or tried to) of whatever you clicked on. This led to some hilarious text boxes coming on screen when you tried to do things like unzip a statue.

The game switches you from controlling Larry to controlling Patti at various intervals, walking through their respective stories. Both are equally entertaining, though Larry's sections stand out as being much more fun, in my opinion.

This game is interesting in that it's impossible to die. Unlike most adventure games, you can never be trapped and you can never die, and the game can't be put in an 'unwinnable' state. Losing is literally impossible. While this really reduces the difficulty, it also makes it a bit more accessible. I don't know how many of you played older text-adventure games, but the constant deaths do get frustrating after a while.

There's a point system in this game, like in many other old (especially Sierra) text-adventures. Doing certain things at certain times will increase your points (like examining a statue of some boobs), as will advancing the story. The score is largely meaningless other than to give you something to shoot for. Lots of objects you can pick up will increase your score and give you bonus dialogues later on, but most of them are largely superfluous to completing the game.

This game also had an interesting copyright protection system. Whenever you travel on an airplane (which is quite often), a certain code needs to be put in to get your ticket, based on where the flight is going and when it leaves the airport. This doesn't present a problem these days because the passwords are all online, released by Al Lowe himself, but when I was a kid, I remember this used to drive me batshit when I couldn't find the game manual.

Here's a video showing the first few minutes of real gameplay. Keep in mind, the walking speed can be increased to A LOT faster than what this guy has it set as.

Sound: 6/10

The sound in LSL5 is pretty underwhelming. Like a lot of games I've reviewed, the sound effects weren't so great. In fact, they were even kind of shitty. Lots of lag in the noises, and they tended to be very basic internal-speaker-sounding noises.

The music, on the other hand, was...well, also not that great. There were some totally decent tracks, don't get me wrong, but overall, it was a pretty mediocre soundtrack. Luckily, the great gameplay and humor make up for this.

Apparently, the games I review have hit a new level of obscurity. This is the first one that I couldn't find a sample of JUST the music from this game. I suppose in lieu of that, I'll refer you to the above video for a small taste of the music and especially the shitty sound effects.

Replay Value: 5/10

This game gets a big, hearty "meh" in this category from me. It's not that it's not worth replaying, it's just that you won't exactly be running to your PC to play it again immediately after you finish it. Nonetheless, give it a year or two after playing through this one and I guarantee you'll want to play it again. The big thing making you come back will be trying to figure out all the little things you need to do to get a perfect score.

That, and the humor.

I hope you'll give this game a shot. Larry's chauvinistic, raunchy, geeky, horny, vile, dorky, and lovable beyond all reason. The whole series is worth a playthrough, but this is the one I have the most fond memories of playing.

And remember, the Hooter Shooter is sexy, sure--but with a license to kill.

Below is a collection of Leisure Suit Larry 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, all on CD rather than floppies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Update - Where do we go from here?

Hello, Faithful Readers.

Today has been a day of fantasy. Rather than doing anything of any import, I took two exams and then spent the day playing Final Fantasy XII in the hopes that I can complete it before the long, harsh winter. In lieu of posting a review, I thought I'd make a post detailing what is and what will be when it comes to Programmable Abortion.

For those of you who haven't been reading since the start (only two weeks ago, but it seems so much longer), so far, I've done reviews of:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Death Rally (PC)
Joe & Mac (SNES)
Earthbound (SNES)
Katamari Damacy (PS2)
We Love Katamari (PS2)
U.N. Squadron (SNES)
Tyrian (PC)
Ys III: Wanderers From Ys (SNES)
Darius Twin (SNES)

10 reviews in, and so far the reviews have been very heavily weighted towards the Super Nintendo. They'll continue to be that way for a little while. This is mostly because A) most games I've beaten have been for SNES,  B) I feel the SNES had one of the best game catalogs in video game history, and C) 95% of Super Nintendo games are cheap and easily accessible to anyone who's interested in trying them out.

Now, in the future, not every review will be of video games, although 90% of them will. There are plenty of books, movies, and albums I've been interested in doing reviews of, and there's always a million more items on my list of media to absorb. Even just right now, I'm reading through a great novel called The Road by Cormac McCarthy, playing through Final Fantasy XII, reading a collection of Isaac Asimov's short stories, and playing through Final Fantasy VI (sparingly). My list of things to get around to includes rereading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King (as well as several other novels of his I've missed), playing through Dragon Quest 1 and 2 for NES, watching the entirety of Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Stephen Hawking's Universe, and watching several dozens of interesting-looking movies I've missed out on over the years.

In the distant future, reviews of most of these will be posted. However, it's going to be a while before I finish those things as somewhere in there, time needs to be made for college and work. In the meantime, expect to see reviews posted within the next month or so for:

Leisure Suit Larry 5 (I already have a review almost finished for this one; holy shit, this game was great)
Mega Man X-X3 for SNES
The Incredible Machine for PC
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Lufia and Lufia II for SNES
Pokemon Snap for N64
Pokemon Trading Card Game for GameBoy Color
A few more games that I think were incredibly shitty, just to balance out the good ones

...and presumably many more.

My continued thanks go out to you, Faithful Readers. I have a blast writing these reviews, truly, but if no one were here to read them...well, there's no reason to speak. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

To close, I'll leave you with my favorite image from Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 6, Episode 25 - Timescape).

Troi has never looked so fine.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"What's that boss's name? 'Hyper Great Thing'? AWESOME!!!"

Today's review will switch back to the realm of good games and focus on a game called Darius Twin.

Yes, there were actually GOOD SNES games in 1991.

Darius Twin is a side-view shooter (like the popular Gradius series) developed by a company called Taito, released only for the SNES in 1991. It's a great example of a game that doesn't try to be anything more than it is: a damned fun shooter. Let's see what this game's all about, shall we?

Story: 7/10

From the instruction manual for the US release:

"Once, many millennia ago, the young, tranquil world of Darius was invaded by a race of star-hopping barbarians under the command of galactic tyrant, Belser. The peace-loving Dariusites were ill-prepared for such an invasion and most fell quickly. However, before the entire planet succumbed to Belser's domination, a brave young couple, Proco and Tiat, led a resistance effort and managed to escape with many of their fellow Dariusites to sectors of space that were still free.

As the centuries passed, the descendants of this resistance movement multiplied and prospered, and populated many worlds. On Orga, a world of uncommon resources, they established the command center for the Galactic Federation, a governing body that united all the peaceful worlds of the galaxy. After a thousand years, the forces of Belser again decided to expand their empire and headed spaceward to conquer the people who escaped them centuries earlier. Branching ever outward, Belser seized control of even more planets in the solar system.

Inspired by the legends of Proco and Tiat, two of the Federation's best pilots now ready their spacecraft for the long galactic battle that awaits them. These vessels, advanced technological miracles called Silver Hawks, are able to transform energy into powerful weapons and armament. It is your mission to pilot a Silver Hawk, defeat Belser's forces on each of the planets along your selected route, and reach Darius and destroy the formidable Alloylantern, a mechanical fortress from which all of Belser's technological strength springs. Belser's original world remains unknown, but the most noted scientists believe that it was largely oceanic because all of Belser's technology seems patterned after aquatic lifeforms."

It's not often I get to see an instruction manual for a SNES release, so this is a rare treat. Most SNES games you'll find these days have long since lost their original manual. The boxes also didn't hold up so well since Nintendo released all of their games for SNES and N64 in flimsy cardboard cases.

Anyways, the story in this game, while actually pretty entertaining, will barely present itself while playing. Remember, it's a shooter, not an RPG. There are short segments of story, but the game will be just as enjoyable without seeing them.

Graphics: 8/10

This game looks pretty slick, really. Like Ys 3, it was released in 1991, and as such, it doesn't look as good as a lot of games made towards the end of the SNES's life cycle. However, the graphics serve their purpose well. There's nary a graphical 'hiccup' to be found; everything moves smoothly while clipping along at a fast rate, even on the highest difficulty in the last few levels when there are bullets and enemies covering almost the entire screen.

The bosses, in particular, look really cool (though odd, as most are modeled after aquatic life of some sort).

THIS is the future: robotic squids. The Japanese are already working on it.

Gameplay: 9/10

Darius Twin plays exactly like a good arcade game should. This, my friends, is amazingly awesome since a lot of arcade-to-SNES transitions went very poorly.

You play as pilot of a single ship, a Silver Hawk, sent in to reach planet Darius and destroy the forces of an evil tyrant. In typical shooter fashion, you go completely alone, tasked with completely destroying everything in your path, with no sympathy for just how insane of a task that really is.

Darius Twin plays like a standard shooter, for the most part.You have a rapid-fire laser shot as your main weapon. Instead of a Tyrian-like system where you get to buy upgrades for your ship, this game plays much more like an arcade game. Killing certain types of enemies will drop power ups. You can find power ups for your main gun, increasing its strength by one level. There are shield power ups, giving you a temporary respite from the bullet hell you're usually in (on hard mode, anyways). There are also power ups for an ancillary weapon that slowly goes from one bomb dropping under your ship to incredibly powerful energy discs shooting out from a diagonal on all 4 corners of your ship.

As you blow through a level, the enemies get progressively more intense, and there's usually a mini-boss sort of enemy at some point. It's not clearly labeled and pointed out, but it's an enemy that's stronger than average. Then, at the end, you'll be warned of a huge ship (or sometimes ships!) approaching, and a boss fight ensues. Most of the bosses aren't too tricky; the hardest part of this game is the levels themselves.

After finishing a level, you're taken to this screen:

Highlighted: the path of ultimate winnage.

From here, you can pick the next level you want to play, effectively choosing your own path to get to the end. The levels you can choose between usually aren't too different, but it still adds in an element of control, just like those old choose-your-own-adventure novels.

The most important thing to note, though, is that this game is HARD to do correctly. You have a set number of lives that you can tweak slightly, but there are no continues. This alone already makes the game difficult. However, there are also multiple endings based on your number of deaths. This makes the game 100 times harder for a completionist like me. I've tried so many times to get the best ending (no deaths) but the closest I've ever been able to get is 2 deaths. That involved more tries than I care to talk about. It's also a "one hit, you're dead" type of game, making things even more difficult. To me, though, that just adds to the excitement, and ultimately, makes you feel that much better when you do beat it.

Check this out to see a sample of the opening scenes and the first level.

Lastly, there's a great multiplayer option. Each player has their own separate lives, but you play simultaneously instead of that crappy 'switch back and forth' style you see in so many arcade shooters.

Sound: 8/10

There seems to be a common theme here with a lot of SNES games I've reviewed; the sound effects are largely forgettable and secondary, but the music is just amazingly good. Darius Twin goes along with this theme very well.

The sound effects are all the standard laser and explosion and alarm noises you'd expect from an arcade/SNES shooter.

The music, though, is the shit. The song from the first level is playing clearly in my mind right now and it's been over a year since I've last beaten it. It's very reminiscent of a track from a game like Mega Man X2: very upbeat and fitting for the futuristic setting as well as the gameplay. Seriously, watch the video above and listen to the that not completely fucking awesome?

Replay Value: 10/10

I've gone back to this one many multiple times to replay through it. Even if it is essentially a coin-op arcade game, there's enough twists to make it worth replaying.

One thing keeping you coming back is the planet select screen. There are a lot of different overall paths you can take, making the game slightly different every time. The main draw, though, is the multiple ending system. To see the 'true' ending, you need to play through without losing a single life.

In the end, though, what will make you come back is just how fucking fun this game is. The levels all go quickly, and if you're good, so will the entire game.

Go, find this game, and give it a try. I highly recommend that everyone who even kind of likes arcade shooters play it through at least once. You won't be disappointed. At the very least, play the first level, just to hear how badass the music is. And remember, go for the Queen Fossil first.

Darius Twin @

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Who needs story in an action-RPG?"

In response to a comment asking about whether I reviewed RPGs, today's review is on an action-RPG in the Ys series called Ys III: Wanderers From Ys.

Ys III is a game developed by Nihon Falcom Corporation, released initially for the NEC PC-8801 and NEC PC-9801 in 1989. The NEC-series were very popular home computers released only in Japan. In 1991, several home console ports of this game followed, the SNES port being one of them. This review will be for the SNES port, as I've yet to play any of the other ports. Let's wander in and see what this game's all about.

Story: 4/10

Story is easily the most important part of an RPG in my mind. Sadly, Ys 3 really disappoints in this field. My review is a bit biased due to never having played any of the other Ys games, but still, as a standalone, the story is very bland and uninteresting.

Basically, you play as Adol Christin. You and your buddy Dogi are on your way to Dogi's hometown, Redmont. When you arrive, you hear news of threats from the nearby Valestine Castle, crops going bad, and monster attacks. Adol, always up for adventure, sets out to figure out just what the fuck is going on.

The story takes a few twists from there, but really nothing you haven't seen in a hundred other RPGs. Without having played any of the other Ys games, it's very hard to develop any feelings toward the characters. As a standalone, this game's story falls flat. It hinges on a main character that goes to adventure essentially for the sake of adventuring, and in the words of Hall and Oates, I can't go for that (no can do).

Graphics: 4/10

The graphics are much like the story: bland and uninteresting. I understand that the game was an early SNES title, originally written for a computer released in 1981, but wow...

Mediocre graphics are mediocre.

There are a lot of other SNES games I've played with similar graphics, but there are 1000 more that took full advantage of all the SNES hardware had to offer. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on this score; ultimately, I'll leave that up to you.

Gameplay: 5/10

To be completely fair, Ys 3 wasn't that terrible of a game on the surface. You start off in a town that looks suspiciously like a town from Zelda II (another game I found to be mediocre beyond belief). From there, you can stock up and talk to the townsfolk, though nothing of any real import is mentioned. You can exit out to the (single screen) world map and begin your quest from there.

First thing you should know before actually starting into your quest, though, is that this game is short. I mean, SHORT. It's fully possible to beat it within 5 or 6 hours if you're quick, and up to 10 hours if you're really shitty. Normally, for a SNES game, that's really not too bad, but for a SNES RPG, that's pitiful. Even RPGs that really weren't that great like Secret of the Stars or Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest lasted about twice as long. The length of this game becomes evident when you first see the world map.

The only image I could find is a bit dark, and also from the Japanese version, but ignoring those minor issues, that map doesn't look so bad, right?

Wrong. There are about 8 areas grand total on that world map; the equivalent of 8 'levels'. Basically, you choose to enter the first area and walk inside. It's a side-scrolling platformer in its most basic form. You run until you find enemies and tap/hold down the attack button to swing your sword, all in active time. Enough of this and you'll level, like in any RPG. Eventually, you find a boss and kill him, and a plot advancement of some sort usually follows. However, you'll notice two things after exploring a little ways into the first area.

1.) You'll get your first Game Over very quickly. The enemies can kill you before you know what happened in the start. However, if you leave the area momentarily, your HP is refilled. So, you run in, kill one enemy, then run out to fill HP. You run back in, kill two, and run back out. You go on like this until you level enough to make it to the end of the area without dying. The ENTIRE GAME works like this. It gets super tedious after the 2nd or 3rd level.

2.) The clipping in this game is fucking terrible. Perhaps it's just the SNES version, perhaps it wasn't a problem in other ports, but in this version, you will die AT LEAST once because of it. An enemy several sword lengths away from you will attack you on one side (your right, if I recall correctly) and damage you without touching you, and an enemy on your left can be touching you and then some without it registering. This can get extremely frustrating through the course of the game, especially when fighting bosses.

Fortunately, there's one addition that makes things a tad easier on you (though not much). This game employs a ring system. There are 6 rings that do basic things like increase your power, defense, and heal you. While you have them equipped, your 'RING' counter goes down. Depending on the ring, it will decrease slower or faster. The ring system was flawed, though. You could only equip one ring at a time, which in and of itself isn't really too bad. The problem is just how quickly your ring counter decreases. It also decreases the second you equip a ring until the second you unequip it, regardless of what you're doing. Towards the last few levels, the rings are basically useless unless you save them through the entire level and equip them only when fighting the boss. However, this throws off the game's balance in the other direction; equipping the Shield Ring and swiping away at almost every single boss in the game will guarantee a victory in about 15 seconds using absolutely no strategy.

Another thing you'll notice while playing this game is just how incredibly linear it is. You will never, ever get lost...ever. Every area is a straight line, whether it be up or down or left or right. Very infrequently, you get to choose a branch, but even if you choose wrong, you'll be back in the right spot within a minute or two. Seriously, if you get lost in this one, I question your sanity, and indeed, I wonder how you even manage to read the text on your screen.

To see I'm not blowing smoke about what an odd setup this whole game has, here's a very basic gameplay video showing a series of boss fights. I know not everyone wants to watch an 8 minute video, but at the very least, watch the 1st minute or so. It shows every single thing you need to know about this game, including the clipping issues mentioned earlier as well as the equip/ring system.

I can't help even seems like a shitty game to me through a minute of a YouTube video, let alone playing it for 6 hours.

Sound: 6/10

The sound in Ys III is only slightly better than the graphics and gameplay. The sound effects themselves are all entirely unremarkable. Literally. I won't remark on them.

The music is actually pretty decent, though. There are a few tracks that really stand out, especially during some boss battles, but the problem is the bosses all take about 15 seconds (except for that goddamned dragon!) so you never get to hear them for too long. Instead of posting more videos of the sound, I'll refer you to the above gameplay video. It's a compilation of boss fights and as such includes some of the better music in the game.

Replay Value: 8/10

This is probably not going to make a whole lot of sense, but even though this game doesn't really have very many redeeming factors, it's not that bad of a game to go back and play through when you're bored. It beats trolling around on the internet. Again, it's super short, and there is something entertaining about mindlessly hacking away at shit and watching your level go up. It's also an incredibly easy game as far as RPGs go, simply because it's so linear. You don't really ever have to think while you play this game. It's as though Final Fight tried to have an involved storyline and also had much shittier graphics.

If you can find it anywhere, the game's worth at least one playthrough. It's short, it's mindless, and it's overall pretty mediocre, but that doesn't stop it from being a good way to kill an afternoon. Shit, it's better than an oatmeal enema.

Until next time, remember, even the meek can attain heights undreamed of.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two days in a row, and not a review to be had!

Today went much like yesterday: wake up at 6AM and move constantly between obligations until 10PM, only to wake up tomorrow and do a lot of the same thing. In light of this overload of responsibility, there won't be a review today.

But fear not, Faithful Readers! In the time I've had, I've thrown together about 65% of a review; this will be posted in its complete form tomorrow. I've chosen this particular game, Ys III: Wanderers From Ys, for two reasons.

1.) A reader, Tal Zahn (forgive me if that's spelled incorrectly), asked through a comment if I was into RPGs, more or less, and mentioned he had some suggestions. I am indeed into RPGs, and I have several on my list I plan on getting to, Ys being one of them. Also, I'm still open to suggestions, as long as the game is accessible without too much trouble and I have time (keep in mind, I have a HUGE collection of older games; if it was released for NES, SNES, GameBoy/GBC/GBA, or Sega Genesis in America, I almost guarantee I have it).

2.) I noticed that I've only posted reviews of games I've enjoyed a lot. I think it's only fair to post a review of a game I thought was completely mediocre. Ys III fits the bill for being both an (action) RPG and a mediocre one at that.

So, there you have it. Tomorrow, look forward to a review of a game I consider to be totally, completely, and utterly average. To close, here's a picture of Nic Cage as Pee Wee Herman, courtesy of one of the most hilarious blogs I've ever seen on Blogspot, Nic Cage as Everyone.

I would watch this movie...just sayin'.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where the hell's my review?

Today, sadly enough, there won't be a review. College, work, and a desperate need for sleep have compounded to shit in the face of any possibility for a decent review. However, this gives me an opportunity to get some feedback from you, O Faithful Reader.

The nature of this blog requires me to write reviews only for games I've beaten, a list of which can be found in my second post (waaaaay down at the bottom of the current page). Other games are valid, though only if I've played them. However, how I write the reviews is entirely arbitrary, based solely on my own preferences. I like to be as thorough and informative is possible. Too often, I see reviews that go something like: "It was a good game. I liked it. I thought that it was fun. It was fun and good. I think that I liked it because it was good. And fun." It makes much more sense to me and seems like a much better process to write thorough and detailed reviews instead.

But it begs to be asked: how have my reviews been? Have they been too long? Not long enough? Too much detail? Should there be more awesome related pictures and videos rather than text? Or should there be less gimmicky visual stuffs and more pure text?

Before answering those, though, does anyone even read the reviews? Or am I essentially verbally masturbating more and more with each passing day?

Please leave some feedback in the comment section of this post. Any suggestions are more than welcome.

To close, here's a picture of Paris Hilton screwing in a pool.

I am so, so sorry...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Zinglon's Ale, the ale of champions!"

Today's review is of a game I've only recently played, and boy, do I wish I had played it when I was a's review is on Tyrian.

Tyrian is a game originally released in 1995, developed by Eclipse Productions and published by Epic MegaGames. It's a vertical shoot-'em-up in the same style as 1943 for arcades/NES, but with WAY more features. It packs an epic amount of fun into a small amount of data. Let's check out this piece of mid-'90s software gold.

Story: 8/10

Tyrian's story is split across several episodes. There's 5 in the full version and 4 in the open-source freeware version (more on that at the end of the review).

The overall plot line focuses on a pilot named Trent Hawkins. His job is to find habitable locations on newly terraformed planets. His work has brought him to a planet named Tyrian. Near Tyrian sits the territory of a lizard-like species called the Hazudra. The story centers around the murder of one of the Hazudra (and Trent's best friend), Buce Quesillac. Buce tells Trent that it was all the work of Microsol, the corporation who contracted the terraformation of Tyrian, due to his knowledge of a mineral capable of controlling the force of gravity found exclusively on Tyrian.

Because of Trent's knowledge of the same material, he's next on Microsol's list of people to kill. As Buce dies, he tells Trent to go to Savara, a free world on the edge of the galaxy. Trent steals a small fighter and begins the journey to Savara. Source, as well as a summary of each episode's story: Tyrian's Plot from Wikipedia

The basic plot line, although straight-forward enough, takes a hundred different turns as the game goes along. As you play, you collect Data Cubes, transmissions from both your allies and your enemies, both of which progress the story as well as filling in plot holes and letting you know about special deals on new weapons or ships to purchase from the main menu.

This game also has its fair share of humor. Certain Data Cubes will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, and others are very tongue-in-cheek references to other old video games. The story won't ever leave you wanting.

Graphics: 7/10

This game looks beautiful for being a PC game in 1995. It was intended to be ran on DOS initially, and before Windows 95 came along, most graphics-heavy games looked just piss-poor. Compared to Doom 2, a game released in 1994 (and an all-time favorite of mine), Tyrian looks like a work of art.

Compare Doom 2... Tyrian. The difference is pretty extreme.

The graphics even hold up to today's standards; it's not exactly HD-quality, but you'll never be confused about what anything is or what it is you're trying to kill. What really sets Tyrian apart from a lot of shooters from the same era (Raptor: Call of the Shadows being one that comes immediately to mind) is the cartoony graphics. These just serve to add to the overall humorous vibe.

Gameplay: 10/10

This game, for a shoot-'em-up dork like me, is bliss. It's not overly hard on any of the difficulties (though people new to the genre might have troubles on Hard), and it's not too easy anywhere, either. It's an even balance of challenge vs. fun. It is a bit easier than the previous game I reviewed, though (U.N. Squadron). It's not bullet hell, by any means.

From the main menu, you can view your Data Cubes (which give you valuable hints about story, as well as some great humor), you can view your Ship Specs (mostly unimportant, although still comical), you can Upgrade Ship (more on this in a second), go to the Options menu (set controls, music and sound volume, etc.), or Exit Game.

Upgrading your ship is one of the best parts of the game. While playing through levels, every enemy you kill will give you a certain amount of money which can be used to purchase upgrades for your ship. Certain enemies will also drop money icons, giving you even more cash. Upgrades include shields (you can take several hits before dying), generators (determines rate of fire as well as how fast shields recharge), front and rear weapons (both of which are linked to the same fire button), left and right sidekicks (smaller weapons that fire along with your main weapons), and even entire new ships. Each new ship gives more armor as well as more shields. Some ships are hilarious, too, like the infamous carrot:

Yes, that really is a carrot shooting bananas. This game is fucking AWESOME.

Other than the massive amount of upgrades available and tons of story elements, the game plays like most other vertical scrolling shoot-'em-ups. You pick your level, you fly through it, destroying everything in your path. There's between 0 and 4 Data Cubes in every level, making themselves apparent upon killing certain enemies. At the end of every level, there's a boss to be killed, most of which aren't terribly difficult. After you kill the boss, you pick the next level...wash, rinse, repeat.

Well...the washing's not necessary...but whatever boats your float.

Sound: 9/10

The only reason this game gets a 9 instead of a 10 is because of the damned alarm sounds when you're near death. On Hard mode, this happened to me often, and it's painful to listen to after a few minutes of it.

Most of the rest of the sound effects are pretty great, though. The music, especially, is amazingly awesome. There's not a single bad song on this soundtrack. They really hit the jackpot when they composed it. It's perfect music for a shooter, and it never gets old. Even the music that plays on main menu is amazing. I'll shut the fuck up and just post a song or three.

Ignore the graphical quality, the music is the main focus here. The game looks MUCH better than this video makes it seem.

Replay Value: 10/10

This game has replay value out the ass (not literally). There's lots of points where the story splits and you can pick your level, altering the remaining levels in the episode. The upgrades that become available also change depending on certain circumstances like how many Data Cubes you collect and what levels you play. There's also several mini-games which are an absolute riot to play through like Destruct, Zinglon's Ale, Zinglon's Squadrons, and Zinglon's Revenge.

You will come back to this game time and time again. There's actually someone sitting next to me playing Tyrian right now...I should get back to playing Final Fantasy XII again, but Tyrian looks so fun, I might just give it another playthrough tonight.

Added Bonus:

Like Death Rally, Tyrian was re-released as a completely free, open-source game. This means it's available for anyone to download in its entirety (almost--it's missing the last episode) for no cost. I HIGHLY advise you check this game out. It's well worth the time you'll put in.

OpenTyrian, a free Tyrian rerelease!

From the downloads menu, under Windows, grab both the first and second links and put all the files in one folder, then just run opentyrian.exe...good times will be had by all.

Go before me, my followers! Download this game! Play it until your fingertips bleed! And most importantly, ALL HAIL ZINGLON!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Is it U.N. Squadron? Area 88? And just who the hell is Project 4?"

Here we go with today's review, a game that belongs in anyone's SNES top 20, U.N. Squadron.

I've never known just what the fuck a unicorn has to do with the U.N. ...oh well.

U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooter developed by Capcom, released originally as an arcade game in Japan in 1989 under the title Area 88. It was named and modeled after a manga by the same name. It made its way to the SNES in America in 1992. It's an exceptionally fun shooter with a lot of interesting gameplay elements you don't find in SNES shooters very often. Let's dive in, Efreet-first.

Story: N/A

As near as I can tell, the original game follows a group of 3 pilots (Shin Kazama, Greg Gates, and Mickey Scymon) who work to take down a terrorist group named Project 4. All you really need to know is there's a lot of assholes with planes, boats, and tanks who really want to fuck your day up. It's your job to try your hardest to, in turn, fuck up the day of everyone who dares fire at your plane.

Graphics: 8/10

The graphics are actually surprisingly good for a SNES game. At a lot of points, they fit a metric dickton of enemies on screen, along with dozens of bullets and missiles and explosions, and some of the boss ships look stunningly awesome. There's very rarely on lag on the SNES port (though I can't speak for the arcade port).

Holy shit! It's the Aurora! Sidenote...Shin looks far too much like an emo to be a fighter pilot.

Gameplay: 8/10

First, U.N. Squadron, like almost any shooter, gets really damned hard at points. The goal is to pick a level from the main map and shoot your way through it, killing as many (or as few, if you like a challenge) enemies as you can. You can choose the levels in any order you like as long as it's available on the main map. You can pick between sub levels, quick little supply truck levels, or air attack levels (all of which you use a jet fighter on). The main difference is who the enemy is. You have a life gauge that lowers with each hit you take, contrary to most shooters where if you take one hit, you instantly die. Every enemy you kill gives you a minor amount of money, and finishing a stage will give you a large amount of money.

All of this money can be spent on a number of different weapons for your plane, as well as even buying new and better planes. This feature is unique to the SNES version. In arcades, each of the 3 pilots had their own plane and that was it. Now, regardless of pilot, you start with the weakest plane (F-8E Crusader), and every pilot has the ability to buy planes all the way up to the best one (F-200 Efreet). As you buy better planes, each has its own strengths and weaknesses; some only allow certain weapons, some are only suited for air attack, some are only suited for ground, and some are equally well-balanced.

As far as weapons go, there's really a pretty large range. There's of course the standard machine gun-type shot that you have an infinite supply of. As you kill certain enemies, power ups will drop. Collecting enough will cause your machine gun to move to the next strongest level. Other weapons include a cluster shot (fires shots outward in a circle around you), bombs (must be dropped on the enemies), bullpup (fans missiles forward), gunpod (fires machine gun at 45 degree angle upward), MegaCrush (deals MASSIVE damage to enemies, killing most on screen and heavily damaging bosses), and many more. Most of these have ammo limits, so even if you buy a weapon, if you exhaust its ammo, you won't have it for the next level.

Each of the fighter pilots also has their own advantages and disadvantages. From the game: "Shin increases his firepower the most quickly, Mick can shoot two special weapons at the same time, and Greg recovers from being damaged twice as fast as the others." What this really means is that Mick gets more ammo from ammo pickups, Shin increases to the Vulcan Cannon (strongest cannon) faster than everyone else, and Greg's life bar will fill up faster after being hit.

Don't be fooled...the game doesn't sound difficult, but you have to be VERY good to make it through this game without dying (or even at all depending on the difficulty settings). Here's a short video demonstrating an early level on one of the higher difficulty levels.

Sound: 7/10

The music in this game is really what you would expect from a Capcom game. A lot of it is great music, but in my opinion, it doesn't stand out too much. I think I'm a bit biased, though, since I've played through almost all of the Mega Man games, all of which are also made by Capcom...the music in U.N. Squadron just can't quite compare. It is still very good on its own, though. Listen through just a minute or two of this. It also shows a bit more of the gameplay, but with the sound effects cut out.

The sound effects in this game are much the same; good on their own, but nothing to write home about. Every shot sounds like a generic side-scrolling shooter shot should (alliteration for the win!), and the explosions all fit in just fine.

Replay Value: 5/10

This game is hard to win. Trust me on this. I've beaten U.N. Squadron exactly once out of 4 or 5 genuine efforts to sit down and play through it. It requires a large amount of skill and very quick reaction times. As a result, unless you're a hardcore shooter fan, you won't come back to this game very often. However, one incentive is to try out each of the three pilots at least once, since they really do affect gameplay quite a bit.

U.N. Squadron was a super fun game to play through, and certainly deserving of a playthrough. Whether or not you play it multiple times is up to you, but it warrants a decent shot.

Do yourself a favor, and be wary of the SR-71 Blackbird in level 8.

Little do you know, Greg Gates just shat himself.