Retro Gaming Thread

Szlia

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Played a little more of my NES backlog. First, Gauntlet II. It is an endless dungeon crawling game. First five floors are set and then you get random floors out of a list of about 100, for ever. It is aggressively mediocre and totally uninteresting. In about 20min you see just about all the game has to offer and it is drab.

After that I played some cowboy action with Gun Smoke. It's basically a western-themed vertical shoot'em-up with a sloooow scrolling. Other than the setting, the main original idea of the game is its control scheme. B makes you shoot 30ish degrees to the left, A 30ish degrees to the right and B+A makes you shoot straight. You get to mash a lot, but the game is sorta smart: it does not let you mash B and A alternatively to continuously shoot in a 60° arch! There is some basic power ups (move faster, shoot farther) and there are merchants here and there that sell extra weapons that have limited ammo (ammo is dropped buy enemies, found in destructible containers and can also be bough, reaching 0 does not make you lose the gun but dying with the gun does, you can switch guns in a pause menu). You can also buy a horse (you become a bigger target but can sustain multiple hits - without a horse anything kills you).

Other than the setting and shooting mechanism, another originality of Gun Smoke is that it kinda reuses a design element we previously talked about when discussing Robo Warrior: the levels loop endlessly until you find a wanted poster hidden in the level. You need to shoot multiple time a specific spot for the poster to become visible. As a hint, it does make the impact sound you get when hitting barrels, but the not so nice people at Capcom often put the hidden posters next to barrels... Thanks for nothing! Alternatively, you can buy the poster at a merchant, but it is pretty expensive, to the point you probably need to loop the level twice to be able to afford it.

Obviously, I could not be arsed to look for hidden wanted posters in a slooooooow autoscrolling level that loops, so I used spoilers. Maybe it was not so hot of an idea, because that way I managed to beat the game on my first credit! I can tell you the whole game loops after the brief ending sequence, but I can't tell you what happens when you run out of lives! :p


I then played some Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers. It's a fast paced platformer where you play on of the titular squirrel. The two hot things in this game is that you can grab objects and throw them and that there is a 2 player mode and not one after the other: simultaneously! I last played the game briefly 25ish years ago, but since then I saw it ran by the speedrunner EndySWE dozens of times, so I was pretty familiar with it and, like Gun Smoke, I beat the whole game on my first credit! I got pretty lucky on some bosses though. A very fun, very fast paced game with tight controls. My only complains are that the bosses are not very interesting and that there is a very annoying jumping section late in the game: you climb a shaft with retracting platforms, but since the camera never scrolls back down and that falling off camera kills you, troubles arise. You jump, scroll the camera up, miss the platform you aimed for and fall to you death even through 3 pixels under the bottom lies a now useless platform....


I brought back my SNES mini from my friend's place, so I'll play next the retro game of the month: Super Mario RPG!
 
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Szlia

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Played another NES game today: Kabuki Quantum Fighter. The american nuclear weapon program has been infected by a virus! Obviously the only solution is to digitize the mind of a 24 years old US Military colonel so he can fight the virus inside the computer! Don't ask questions ok! Especially not why that US colonel (named something like Micheal O'Connor) turns into a robotic kabuki actor once in computer land! So yeah, you get some silly plot with odd dialogues, because the japanese original game, Jigoku Gokurakumaru , is apparently based on a late '80s japanese movie about a kid that turns into his ancestor when in a super computer or something. Anyway.... as far as gameplay go, you get something in the ballpark of Batman The Movie: The Video Game and Ninja Gaiden. Infinite base attack, ammo based sub weapons and movement techs (here you can hang and swing from stuff, there are also some climbable walls and railings you can move across as you hang from them). The problem here is that nothing is very satisfying and all feels finicky. Like the basic standing attack goes pretty far (with a weird hurt box though), but the basic crouching attack goes barely past your nose. So you often find yourself trying to crouch under an enemy attack to attack back, only to be too far, so when you stand to move closer you get hit in the face, knocked back and then you duck and your are again too far, etc.... fun times. Also, as soon as there are things that affect your momentum, like icy ground, conveyor belts or enemy knock back, everything turns to garbage. They must have the worst code salad in the universe to manage movement, because you literally zip across the screen when you get hit while on ice for instance....

So yeah, it's all a bit janky, but not to the point of making the game unplayable. For all its quirks, it's pretty responsive, the game looks nice and there are some very much appreciated quality of life elements that are uncommon in NES games of this type. For instance, the scrolling does not only go forward: you can track back (though the game almost does not use this in the design of the levels), but more importantly, in vertical levels, the bottom of the screen does not kill you! If you fall, the camera falls with you! What a concept! Another nice quality of life element is that the game is really not that hard. You have a limited amount of credits (2? 3?), but on my first play through I ran out at the last boss. I then checked GameFAQs, found a code that allows you to level select and killed the last boss. Later in the day I redid a full play-through and beat the full game on my first credit. It's all about not rushing, managing ammo properly and controlling the jumps in the platforming sections (you mostly do full jumps, but the game is also packed of half jumps and tap jumps to go from a hanging spot to another without bonking your head). It's also short, with only 5 levels each ending with a boss and then a 2 phases final boss (with a joke first phase and a damage race 2nd phase).
 
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Szlia

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Another day, another NES game: Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom... A theme park attraction gave us a pretty neat movie franchise in Pirates of the Caribbeans, so maybe the whole theme park could allow Capcom to make a good NES game right? Not really. You are tasked to recover 6 keys in the park. 5 are tied to famous attractions and one is about running around answering trivia questions about Disney's IPs (pretty tough questions too! Especially since there was no google or wikipedia back in 1990! Luckily if you get a question wrong, you can get another question and there are easy ones in the bunch). For the 5 actual game sections, you get a giant QTE for space mountain (easy and dull once you figure out how it works), a not too hot top view racing game for Autopia, a platformer for Pirate of the Caribbeans, an action-platformer for Ghost House (?) and a Downhill, pick a path, mine cart ride for whatever that ride is called. While all these sections are somewhat ok, there is a big problem: each section is extremely short. So to somewhat allow the game to last more than 20 min, the fine people at Capcom put a hidden time limit in 3 of the stages (the QTE and mine cart ride have a set duration no matter what), put a lot of instant death opportunities and turned the mine cart race into a giant trial and error section. Even if in several sections you can collect stars that allow you at any time to buy health, extra lives or temporary invulnerability (and also a freeze I never tried), the whole experience is pretty damn unpleasant. And once you get how things work, get a map of the mine cart section and learn there is actually a weapon hidden in the PotC section, beating the game is not that hard, very short, and leaves you with the feeling a decent game might have been in there somewhere if there was actual content instead of an attempt at hiding the lack of content.

In the intro, they also explain that you need the six silver keys to enter the big castle and recover the golden key that opens the gate of the park to allow for the parade to take place or something, but the game ends when you open the door of the castle... It makes you wonder if the production of the game has been botched or something. Also, after a short outro, you get a the end screen and no credit whatsoever...
 

Szlia

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Playing Bionic Commando.... that will take more than a day. If you asked me after 30 min I would have said that game is impossible. Now that I played a couple hours, cleared several levels, learned how to get continues, I would say I have the feeling it might be possible to beat the game.
 

Szlia

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This is not going well... with a little patience and a little farming you can basically have infinite continues (by killing a certain type of enemies in trivial replayable levels) and a sizable life bar (soldiers drop bullets that act as experience points basically and in many area they constantly respawn), but.... you still have 3 lives to beat a level and there is no shortage of bottomless pits and insta-kill traps in them.

In case you are not familiar with the game, Bionic Commando is an action-platformer with a character that can't jump. Instead, he uses his bionic arm as a grappling hook to climb up or swing around. The thing is that the arm is not instant: It extends and then contracts and only the hand can grab stuff. So when you swing, un-grapple to get propelled forward and try to grab something else, you have a character doing a ballistic arc from which an arm extends, and you want the hand to reach the right spot... this type of compounded trajectory is extremely hard to get a feel for, so the whole system falls firmly in the "hard to learn, nigh impossible to master" category.

As soon as you put in a level a hard grappling section where failure is punished by death (because it's set over spikes, a pit or water), you get a roadblock, no matter how many continues or hp you farmed. Put three of those sections in a level and things get frustrating fast and controllers might start flying around... I'll give it another day...
 
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Szlia

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Hah! A third (fourth?) play session was delayed by finishing stuff in God of War and playing an indie Zelda 2 / metroidvania thing (Elliot Quest), but now the game is beaten! All in all it's not *that* difficult with the exception of several short but lethal passages in two or three levels. With continues being plentiful (infinite really unless you are careless), levels being relatively short and having check points, going through a level in a set of 3 lives is not too hard. The boss fights being mostly trivial also helps.

While the movement never really becomes second nature, you kinda get used to it enough and levels are designed well enough for you to forget the character can't jump. While it can be frustrating to die to mandatory precise tricks or fumble some basic movement, it is also very satisfying to artfully wiggle out of a tough situation with a nice combo of well timed swings and shots.

As is course for the par in that era, the english localisation is pure garbage, but that does not detract from the fact the narrative structure of the game is pretty damn sweet and unique. You have a map with travel routes and you can basically attempt levels in any order you want. Also, there are a number of levels that are neutral zones where fighting is forbidden (the concept is original but the execution is too, because the game does not prevent you from using your weapons in neutral zones, but doing so set an alarm and spawns soldiers going after you). The idea is that through communications using computers in the action levels and clues given in neutral zones, you learn the plot and what you need to get where in order to progress through the game. This gives a nice adventure feel to the whole game, but it also has a nice impact on the gameplay. Before each mission you pick your equipment and can't change it during the mission, so if you need the flare gun to light your way through dark caves, you will not be carrying your healing item. If a level has flying enemies, it could be a good idea to use a gun that shoots bullets at an angle, but since it has a very short range, you need to play differently with it. This gives a lot of additional flavor to each level. It is pretty cool, but in truth it could be better, because once you get the supremely over powered rocket launcher (1 bullet on screen max, but kills anything in one hit - bosses in three - and travels through enemies), you keep using it except once.

There is also a pretty fun idea for the very end of the game. It tries to imitate some sort of "super tricky last action that saves the day" straight of an action movie: the last "boss" is you swinging down to an heliport and sniping the cockpit of a big helicopter while you fall. You make it, you win (well... there is a short escape section after that), you miss, you die! Thankfully, if you game over at that climax, which takes place after a long level and a boss, a continue brings you back at that point!

All in all and interesting game original in more ways than one.
 

Szlia

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Continuing through my NES archive, I played some Star Wars.... there is an idea that is somewhat intriguing in the way the story is told. The key scenes of the movie are in the game, but a lot of it is optional, so, apparently, you can end up with a version where R2-D2 is still with the desert traders and you steal the Millenium Falcon without even meeting Han Solo! The game also uses nice and big visuals for character portrait and scenery.... but that's about the only good things I can say about the game. You are dropped in the game without the least sense of purpose and direction, the 2D platforming is super slippery with fast aggressive enemies, pits left and right and the level are waaaay too big and without check points. I kept at it for an hour or so, checked a speedrun that was of very little help (the fast movement is probably fun for the runners, but as result their strats and routing is unusable casually), and then threw it in the "I tried but I am not beating that" pile.

Then for the 5th or so time over the years I tried to play Super Mario Bros. 2, but boy is that game a hot pile of infuriating garbage. I put it aside though for a 6th attempt in some maybe not too distant future because of the fame of the game...

So, against by better judgement and because I just beat a sorta ok but not really indie game called Elliot Quest inspired by it, I started a game I always found was crap, even at the time of its release: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (makes you wonder whose adventure it was in the first game....). For added lulz and potential bragging rights, I decided to play it blind (with the help of the manual though!). This is one pretty rough game. Almost as rough as Faxanadu at times. The start of the game is also ridiculously frustrating because of how under-powered Link is. Thanks to my MMORPG infused invulnerability to tedium, I killed the same set of enemies for several hours while watching Twitch to get some much needed levels. From this foundation, I was able to make some decent progress and even had some fun solving the many little riddles the game offers, feeling at a loss for what to do at times, then having an epiphany or accidentally stumbling on a key piece of progression.

I got pretty deep into the game. I found all the spells, all the items and, as far as I can tell, I am max level. I beat 5 of the 6 palaces, leaving just the one and the grand finale (if the manual is to be believed). Sadly, at this point the game is severely testing my nerves and patience. Let me explain: Zelda 2 is a game where you have 3 lives. When you die, you restart with full health and magic at the last screen transition. But when you run out of lives, it's game over and you restart (with all your gear and progress, but without the experience points you accumulated toward your next upgrade) at the beginning of the game. There are minor shortcuts available thanks to items you found, but still, there is no fast travel or continuing from the nearest town or last inn or church you visited. So now, I am in a dungeon that is like 5 minutes of game play away from the start of the game and then you add another couple to reach the spot I can't beat in the dungeon and there in about a minute I die three times because the fine people at Nintendo thought it would be a good idea to put some jumping over lava pits that instakill Link all the while unkillable flying enemies bob across the screen and moving landmine type of enemies move around on the small platforms.... Did I mention that Link get knocked back significantly when hit and that the downward thrust he can do when jumping to kill enemies bellow him makes him bounce on said enemies? Link has the ability to turn into a flying fairy, but the fine people at Nintendo made sure to prevent that cheese by putting walls that need to be broken with the sword at both end of this section (once a fairy, you can only turn back when hitting a screen transition and you can't break the blocks)...

It would be easier to get motivated and soldier through if I did not stumble upon the path I am supposed to follow next to reach what I suppose is the final area. That path is basically packed full of lava pits and randomly flying enemies... writing this I realize some fairy cheese might be possible there though.... there is still some modicum of hope! Fuck going through that path and then through a whole dungeon that the manual advertises as huge with only 3 lives. And fuck spending 15 more minutes on the way to gather the 1-ups hidden here and there on the map.....

PS: You can only save on the Game Over screen, so there is no "gathering stuff, getting in position and saving", you would have to redo those two steps on every attempt....

EDIT: Typo
 
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Szlia

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Ok ok there is hope. The dumb passage in palace 6 was short and the boss fight was easy (it's set in an arena with lava pits though... I was ready to rage if I fell into one of those). On top of that, reaching the final dungeon is a chore, but when you run out of lives there, continuing brings you at the start of the dungeon, not at the start of the game (saving and loading does send you back to the beginning though, but knowing you have three lives to just reach the final dungeon is a big relief). The dungeon itself sounds pretty lethal though, so we'll see how it goes.
 
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Xadion

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Good luck, the final palace is rough, and one of the best

Zelda 2 is an awesome game, as is Castlevania 2. I love them both and play them most likely once through a year.

There is cheese you lean, like on the end path, once you know the path square that is a "zone" you can go back and forth near it, spawn baddies and when one is over the square that's the zone, move on it, then your only in a "bad guy" zone that is way less of a pain than the real one, when you get out you pass onward over. Takes some tries, but sometimes 3 lives is barely enough to get you through that final gauntlet to the last palace.
 

Szlia

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Beat it! Just like the marvelous Batman: The Movie: The Video Game, the game ends with two bosses and it has the extreme courtesy to not bring the first boss back to life when you continue. The design of the last dungeon is a bit strange though. It is indeed very big, but like 80% of it is red herring. In a way, the game is forced to operate that way since its only gating mechanisms are keys and powers granted through items or spells and when you reach the final dungeon, you have all the items, all the spells and a magic key that opens every door. Without switches to activate mechanisms or open doors, without mini bosses whose death result in some change in the dungeon, the only devices left are fake walls/floors and a confusing, sprawling layout.

The boss before last is pretty damn annoying. Not only because it hits like a truck, but because I have yet to understand what its hitbox is and because the bullet rain he does killed my eyes. Maybe the number of bullets overloads the console's sprite limit or maybe it's just their shimmering effect, but playing on an actual CRT on composite, it is not easy at all to see the damn things! I must confess though that I accidentally spoiled myself and learned how to make that boss vulnerable. It's difficult to know how long it would have taken me to figure that on my own, especially because I don't think there is a single hint for it (as opposed to all the other strange things you have to do in the game).

In the end, I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would, despite how dated and rough some of its mechanisms are, how dumb the lava section in palace 6 is considering the continue system and how ridiculously under-powered Link is at the start.

PS: After beating the game, you can restart it with all your levels and spells, but without items and extra mana / hp containers. Unlike Zelda 1, everything is identical in this 2nd quest (as far as I could see), so for shit and giggles I stormed past 3 palaces in one credit!
 

pharmakos

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Szlia Szlia thanks for doing these write ups man, I know I don't usually have much to say in reply, but I always enjoy them. :)
 
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Szlia

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Because I have lost all sense and reason, I tried to play another game I hated back in the days: Kid Icarus. I fared better than my teen age self back in the days, but not by much. Before reaching the conclusion that everything in the game is poorly coded and/or poorly designed with an astounding propension to make the player miserable, I went online to use and abuse the password system. You see, in Japan that game was released for the Famicom Disk System, which was a drive for proprietary (it's Nintendo after all) floppy disks. This allowed for the player's progress to be saved on the disk. Since this peripheral never got released outside Japan, FDS games had to be altered in some way to be released on cartridges. With Zelda, it meant adding a battery. With Metroid and Kid Icarus, it meant adding a password system. Maybe because this password system is there to replace a save file, it's possible to enter valid passwords that basically give the hero absurd health values and practically unlimited items.

So, a bit like with the 30 lives code in Contra or the infinite continues in Ikari Warriors, the broken passwords of Kid Icarus allow to sample the game and go through it without having to overcome its challenges (in theory...). In the case of Kid Icarus, it's very convenient because of the structure of the game: the hero, Pit, has to fight his way out of the underworld (stage 1), wander the earth (stage 2), climb his way to the sky (stage 3) and finally fight Medusa in the heavens (stage 4). The first three stages are split in 4 parts, the first three parts being loooooooong scrolling sections (vertical in stage 1 and 3, horizontal in stage 2) and the fourth parts being a side view maze made of a 8x8 grid of single screen rooms (the grid is filled in stage 3, almost filled in stage 2 and half filled in stage 1 - for a comparison, that makes the maze in stage 1 as big as the 8th Dungeon in Zelda 1, the one in stage 2 as big as the 9th and the one is stage 3 even bigger). The fourth stage is a shoot'em up, with Pit using the three mythological treasures he gathered to fly through the heavens. As you can see, you almost have 4 different types of gameplay, so it's worth sampling it all and not just break the cartridge in two in Stage 1, because of slippery controls + ice physics + lack of scroll down (death floor syndrome).

Well... Stage 4 is ass. 4 enemy types, too big a character, horrible inertia, uninspired boss fight and the worst is that it is totally trivial. Just long and boring. But the whole tragedy that is the design of Kid Icarus really is exposed when you play the 3rd maze and realize it's still an insufferable pain in the ass to navigate when you have unlimited health and a map! Among the too many to count dubious design decisions, they found it funny to put in every mazes enemies that throw eggplants at you. If you get it by one, you turn into an giant eggplant and are unable to attack. This lasts until you find in the maze a room with someone able to lift the curse.... if you accidentally reach the boss room with the curse, well, you are SOL (especially when you have infinite health as you can't kill the boss and he can't kill you!). Of course, the curse lifting rooms are out of the way, so you basically have to redo the whole thing if you get cursed...... Seriously? Seriously?


At this point, I think it's important to realize something we tend to forget: when we play on the NES a Batman, a DuckTales or a Super Mario Bros. 3 or even a Ninja Gaiden, we are talking about games released in 1989 or 1990. Here we are talking about a game released in July of 87 on a console released in October of 85. What I am trying to say is that they barely know what they are doing and people barely know what they are playing. Some fundamentals of game design are still in the process of being created and the expectations of the players are still in the process of being solidified. Home Pong is 75, Atari VCS is 77, 8-bit home computers are 82. Kid Icarus is designed in 86. "Modern" video games are 4 year old when R&D1 work on the game at Nintendo, so I guess we should not be that surprised when absurd things, by today's standards, make it through the game, like down making you go through semi solid platforms instead of down+jump or being able to shoot up while jumping, but not being able to jump while shooting up... Just like in Zelda 2 you gather quest items, but they don't show up in your inventory, or how you can't open your menu in the over-world, etc.


So yeah. As far as I am concerned, Kid Icarus is impossible to enjoy in 2018, but it's an interesting piece of gaming history for its structure (the hero's journey impacting the nature of the levels) and some original design ideas (for example, in the stages you gather mallets you can then use in the mazes to free petrified angels that will then help you during the boss fight).
 
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Therage

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Szilia you should check out some of the speed runs of these games. Especially kid icarus, the guys who speed run it know souch about the game. Quite silly. They mention a lot of the same things you do.

Good review, can't stand the game myself even with save states I find it tedious blergh.
 

Szlia

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Szilia[sic!] you should check out some of the speed runs of these games.
For several of these games I was familiar or even very familiar with the speedrun and if I decide to get help while playing, speedrun.com is usually my first stop before GameFaqs. If I did not need help or decided to play without any, I also check some runs once I am done. For games that are very execution heavy, it's usually not much help. If you watch PJ literally fly through the levels in Bionic Commando, the only take away is "Yep... I can't do that", but there are games with easy tricks or well documented glitches that you can try and execute without pressure. Mega Man is a good example. Everyone is able to pause and unpause the game to destroy bosses with a single shot because their invulnerability frames run out while the game is paused and with a tutorial and a little practice it is not hard to grab the magnet beam early by clipping through walls. I even duplicated some block in that bubble robot fight in Willy's stage!


Anyway, today I played some Ninja Gaiden! Well, technically I played some Shadow Warriors since it's the PAL title. This is a game that is both pretty damn awesome and more than a little broken. The awesome part is that the game is packed full of cinematics. I mean I don't think I have ever seen a game with that many of this style of big 2D illustrations with limited animation that was not a CD-RomRom or Turbo Duo game. I even can't think of a Genesis or Super NES game that uses this much! The script is pretty dumb and the translation even dumber, but still, wow! The concept of the game is also very nice: a ninja jumping and running around on an energetic soundtrack, using his sword and a number of semi magical sub-weapons, grabbing and climbing walls, what's not to like? Well... the list of pretty broken things in this game is long. The hurt box of your sword is all kind of wonky as are the hurt box of enemies. You can't swing your sword when grabbing a wall, most walls can't be climbed and you can't chose to not grab a wall... accidentally grabbing a wall (that you sometime did not realize could be grabbed) and ending up stuck and helpless is... irritating. Add pits, huge knockbacks and short invulnerability frame and it's not always fun times. Despite being a very late game (1991 in Europe) and allowing to move back and forth in levels, it suffers from the "out of view out of mind" syndrome: if you kill an enemy and walk back so its spawn point touches the edge of the screen, here it is again! Worse: if the enemy ran or flew toward you, and you did not move forward, killing it will make it respawn instantly. Worst: if you stutter you movement, some enemies can double-spawn... this behavior works extremely poorly (or maliciously?) in conjunction with the level design (jumps that are forced to arrive on spawning enemies, falls that make you track back and respawn the enemies you had killed, etc).

This list is getting long and worrisome right? Yet, somehow, the game manages to be both pretty fun and not very hard, mainly because each stage is split in four sections (with the fourth being a boss), because there are check points within these sections and because there are infinite continues that make you restart with 3 lives at the start of the current section (or at the start of the 3rd if you game over on the boss, but the bosses are not hard). So yeah, the spawning issues force you to move forward at a brisk pace and shit will happen and you will die many fair and unfair deaths, but since you have three lives to beat a section, you will progress through the game, well.... until the 6th and last stage at least.

Stage 6, is pretty damn annoying. 6-1 is sorta trivial. It has no check point but is short. 6-2 and 6-3 on the other hand are gigantic pains in the butt, mainly because some chunks of them almost require you to have a sub weapon or get wrecked. Both proved to be significant road blocks that held me for a while, but I managed to reach the final bosses (there are 3, one after the other, with a health refill each time). In what must be one of the biggest dick move in video game history, dying during one of those 3 final bosses fights send you all the way back to the beginning of 6-1. WHAT? And you read that right: it's not if you game over, it's if you die! Well... I fought my way back to 6-3 once (significantly faster than the first time around, but it was still a struggle), killed the sorta trivial first boss and got promptly bodied by the 2nd... back to 6-1! Yeah... what about no? That was it for me. At least for today.... I guess I will have the night to try to understand why anyone, at any point in time, thought that was a good design decision.
 
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Szlia

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I gave it another shot today, but it's just too frustrating. There is a part of 6-2 that is such heinous bullshit (bats + birds + hammer brother on a tiny platform) that having to go through it once (out of a dozen attempts) for each and every attempt at the final bosses is just too much for me. If the game had some sort of hidden level select thing or if I was able to use save states (there are gizmos that allow this when playing on the actual cartridge on the actual console), I could practice the final bosses some before having an honest go at it, but, as it stands, it's just too annoying for me. Maybe I'll revisit it if I ever buy a Power Pack or something.
 

Nirgon

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Good luck, the final palace is rough, and one of the best

Zelda 2 is an awesome game, as is Castlevania 2. I love them both and play them most likely once through a year.

There is cheese you lean, like on the end path, once you know the path square that is a "zone" you can go back and forth near it, spawn baddies and when one is over the square that's the zone, move on it, then your only in a "bad guy" zone that is way less of a pain than the real one, when you get out you pass onward over. Takes some tries, but sometimes 3 lives is barely enough to get you through that final gauntlet to the last palace.


I get so much shit for being a Simon's Quest fan. Good on ya.

Chip n Dale was solid.
 
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Szlia

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Since I was not able to finish several of the games I tried recently (Star Wars, Ninja Gaiden, Kid Icarus, etc), I decided to play a nice relaxing game in DuckTales! Fun times for all the children with Scrooge McDuck using his cane as a pogo stick all around the world! Well... when I died in the first couple screens of the first level I was a bit perplexed. When I died after some exploration and ended up back at the very beginning of the stage I was a little worried and when I died a third time and was drop kicked to the title screen with no way to continue I was almost concerned. Luckily, unlike Ninja Gaiden's last bosses, the game offers painless ways to get better at it. First, you can lower the difficulty, doubling the number of hits you can take from 3 to 6. Second, you can actually play all 5 stages of the game in any order you want, so you can get familiar with all of them before trying to actually beat the game. Third, the levels are not linear. Without being worthy of being called mazes, they offer enough branching, minor gating, mini side quests and secret passages to give a sense of exploration, but it also mean that levels get a lot shorter and easier when you figure out the optimal path from the start to the boss.

I should try and time my play sessions to get a better sense of how long things take, but maybe it took me an hour or two to get familiar with the game and beat it in easy (once you beat the 5 stages, you return to one of them - Transylvania - to fight the final boss, Count Duckula!). After that, it took me several more attempts to beat the game in difficult (I think it's the same as normal but maybe will less health drops?). And to think I was worried for a moment there! Fun game as whole thanks to the fast movement, the cool pogo stick action the nice feeling of exploration without the anguish of feeling lost. Bosses are a bit minimalist though and the game is very short if you know what to do (I'll time a play through later for shit and giggles- EDIT: 10 min 21 sec, it's made faster because I used the speedrun route that glitches through a wall on the moon, but it's also made slower because of the PAL format). There are some minor rough parts (enemies respawn almost instantly when off screen, the pogo'ing stops if you land at the very edge of a platform, I got soft locked in the Himalaya, etc) but as a whole it is a pleasant and fair experience.
 
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Szlia

Member
5,677
720
9d 5h 11m
Since my last post I played several meh NES games that I did not beat. Isolated Warrior, a shm'up with an isometric view (think Paperboy) with a character than can jump. It's pretty original both in design and setting (some sort of futuristic war, with nice cut scenes between levels that make absolutely zero sense), but it suffers from two major flaws. The first is the classic "you have several lives and continues but you might as well just have one life, because once you die in later levels and lose the power-ups you gathered in the earlier levels, you are done", the second is that isometic view with jumping is a terrible terrible idea for a shm'up. You have a shadow right under you at least, but bullets don't and it's unclear if visual contact is treated as contact even if the bullet would miss you in the 3D space the isometric perspective tries to represent. Also, like in the great game but terrible shm'up Silpheed, the character can only move within a bounded area, but the boundaries are invisible. Let's just say that trying to jump over a chasm only to bonk an invisible wall and fall to your death is not my idea of entertainment.

After that, I played some Alpha Mission. A vertical shm'up with a very classic space battle presentation and the old school laser to shoot flying enemies, missiles to hit ground enemies, paradigm (like, say, Xevious, but without the reticle). The two main oddities in the design of the game come from the power up system. The first is that there is a line of power ups that are a bunch of different letters and in the mix there is a good portions that are power downs. In the list there is also stuff that warps you ahead in the game (that can even make you skip bosses) or warp back (which sometime is not that bad a deal if you need to collect more power ups to defeat a boss). Also, there are some nice power ups that allow you to keep your power ups after a death (take that Isolated Warrior)! The second oddity, is that you find weapons in the levels and once you equip them, they consume a currency that is the most common power up. Some are push to use deals (like the classic super bombs), some just decrease your weapon tokens over time. This management aspect would be pretty nice, as some weapons are strong against some bosses, etc but they made a very silly design mistake: one of the weapon is a shield and it consumes weapon tokens only when you are hit.... suddenly, your ship that would go down in one hit becomes indestructible as long as you gather enough weapon token between hits. So basically the name of the game is "get shield, keep shield, beat game". Well... that third part is a bit tough since it loops infinitely (though apparently there is a secret stage you can reach if you kill the final boss quick enough or something). Sadly, on top of this big design flaw, the game is also not that fun, with meh enemies and some annoying homing bullets spam and a ship with a big hit box. Meh.

Last but not least I played a game that is both fascinating and absolute garbage: Ikari Warriors. I guess it's also a shm'up of sorts, but it's military action, top view vertical scrolling, with omnidirectional movement and shooting. It is not a pretty game. Also, apparently, it runs at something like 15 fps. Just to make things a little more painful the character (or characters since it has 2 players co-op), is very slow. Worse: the levels have a lot of water, swamps or slopes, that make the character even slower. Worst: you can only shoot in the direction you are going, but you cannot turn in place, nor can you do a 180°. As result, hitting your target and dodging stuff is excruciating. A classic Ikari Warriors moment is being in the water, having an enemy soldier walk toward you at a weird angle you can't seem to reach, then have the soldier dive under water making him impossible to hit anyway and then have him surface next to you and kill you by detonating his explosive vest while you fruitlessly try to run away from him at the speed of an asthmatic snail! Notice it is classic because of how frustrating and lethal it is, but also because of the surprising complexity of the situations that can happen in the game. It is a lot less rudimentary that one might think at first, even if enemy behaviors and patterns or often strangely coded.

Playing Ikari Warriors in 2018 though, there is something that I find particularly striking: the levels are absurdly long. So long in fact that it almost gives Ikari Warrior an art-game quality. It becomes a kind of rumination about an endless war. Behind each river there is another forest, behind each forest another town, behind each town another bridge or another wall and another river and a lake, an more forests and towns and bridges and walls. It's insane. The game actually has only 4 levels, but they are 80 (eighty!) screens tall so each take about 30 minutes to beat (I timed it!). In a perverse twist of fate, this game is famous for its infinite continue code (ABBA - and believe me you use it a LOT), but I still did not manage to beat it. After almost an hour of play the other day I managed to lose focus and fumble the simplistic continue code and game over'ed... today I played for a bit less than 90 minutes, but the game soft-locked me: I died in a spot that makes you respawn in a dead end so you can't progress, can't move backward and if you die you respawn in there. Thanks for nothing SNK!