ESWAT: City under Siege (Genesis)
By Titan10 on June 28th, 2011
Last Battle (Genesis)
Last Battle has been criticized throughout the gaming world since its release way back in 1989, but due to impressive graphics for its time (it was one of the Genesis' earliest titles) and because it looked more than playable, I picked it up a while ago for a few dollars and thought that I could get some enjoyment out of it. Looking back on that decision, it was probably a mistake.
However, there are a few things to like about this infamous title. It really does look impressive, being one of the first games available on the Genesis. Character sprites are unbelievably large for the time, and the environments probably couldn't be much more detailed for such an early title. The one drawback is the stiff and unrealistic movement of Aarzak (the game's main character) and his enemies, but this doesn't hold the game back too much.The game is decent aurally as well. Sound effects are acceptable for an early Genesis game, and there is also some catchy music to be heard.
But, as we all know, playability is what matters most in a game, and Last Battle is broken in that context. Everything seems okay at first. In the main stages of the game, Aarzak (the game's main character) moves across the screen doing little more than horizontally moving across the screen while punching and kicking the daylights out of his enemies. Repetitive, but it works. There is also the occasional labyrinth stage, which also contains some platforming elements, and boss stage, with one boss to fight using your superior martial arts skills. There are also multiple paths towards finishing the game, which adds depth.
However, you only have one life to work with in this game. Sure, you can regain health and increase your power level (which controls the strength of your attacks) but if you lose all of your health at any time, you'll need to restart the game from the first level. This poses a problem, since LB is fairly long and difficult. It contains four chapters that each hold many levels, the core gameplay can get very repetitive before long, especially when some levels are exceedingly challenging and you'll have to beat the game in one sitting. I don't know about anyone else, but if I died fighting the final boss while needing only one more punch to finish him off, I would seriously get a hammer and demolish the game cartridge into a million pieces rather than try beating it again.
Speaking of bosses, LB's boss fights are a chore to play through. The game's bosses are basically just regular enemies that take more than one hit to defeat and have stronger attacks. Many of the bosses' attacks can drain a lot of health and are hard to avoid, since Aarzak cannot jump very high (making it difficult to jump over bosses) and crouching does not usually help.
Also, the game's story is ridiculous. I really don't care about storylines in a game such as this, but a master of the bogus martial art known as "Jet-Kwon-Do", Aarzak (the main character of the game, as mentioned earlier) decides to, according to the back of the game's case, "free his people from a life of oppression". This is explained in unnecessary detail during the game's intro. But it doesn't end there. An acquaintance of Aarzak's lies at the end of every stage, setting the stage for Aarzak and the acquaintance to engage in plain dumb conversation. Case in point: After completing the game's first stage, Aarzak meets his good friend Max. Max explains that he "wants Aarzak to meet (another friend) Alyssa". Aarzak's nonsensical reply: "Now you have the look of a hero!"
The Bottom Line
Last Battle deserves the heaps of criticism it has obtained over the years. Excellent graphics, passable sound and a potentially good gameplay concept were ruined by the gameplay's many weak spots, and the game was doomed even further due to its terrible storyline. In one word, the game is broken.
By Titan10 on June 22nd, 2011
By Titan10 on May 7th, 2011
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Windows)
By Titan10 on April 25th, 2011
Madden NFL 08 (Windows)
The last and best Madden for PC
EA announced that they would no longer release sports games for PC in 2007, meaning that PC ports of new games Madden series (as well as all of their other sports franchises) would no longer be released. This was a disappointment for sports fans like myself who mainly play games on PC, but at least the final Madden game for the platform was a good one.
The graphics aren't outstanding, but when turned on to the maximum the game looks realistic. Animations for players and other objects are great, making the game solid graphically. The sounds of the game of football are all there, and while John Madden and Al Michaels' commentary is as obvious and predictable as ever, it still adds a huge dimension to the game.
The core gameplay is classic Madden, and practically the same as Madden 07 with the new addition of Weapons: performance-enhancing attributes that are mainly found on star players such as Peyton Manning or Ray Lewis. I honestly haven't noticed any difference in gameplay with these, however. There are also four new fantasy teams with special abilities and stadiums, which can be interesting to play with every once in a while.
As non-exhibition game modes go, I haven't done much with the Franchise mode, but it remains very similar to previous versions - control any NFL or created team, doing everything from selling burgers to actually playing games. Superstar mode is decent - you really get the feel of playing as an NFL player, and it's cool to create yourself. The new "Skill Drills" game mode, where you go through training drills against robot dummies (yes, robot dummies) are pretty boring and pointless, but the classic Mini-Camp mode is fun to play and provides a much more entertaining way to hone your passing, receiving or defensive skills. The no-frills practice mode, which pretty much puts you in training camp, still works at that as well.
Here is probably the game's biggest strength: since this was the final Madden title released for PC, it still has a fairly strong community, meaning you can find many mods on different websites. This includes updated rosters, making it very easy to get an up-to-date roster (which thankfully means there's no need to create rookies).
There are some minor flaws here. As usual, EA Sports didn't add the names and correct numbers to players on classic teams, meaning John Elway on the '98 Broncos is "QB #10". This is where the many fan-made mods I mentioned earlier come in handy. Also, the commentary is inexplicably gone while playing a game in Franchise and Superstar modes (and cannot be turned on), meaning you are forced to listen to the dull, robotic voice of the stadium announcer.
The Bottom Line
Madden 08 is probably the best American football game available for PC, and while EA no longer releases Madden (or any other sports games) for PC, the 08 version is still a great game to play.
By Titan10 on December 1st, 2010
One of the best compilation values on the Genesis
You may not realize it, but there are many compilations of Genesis games available on the system itself. The European-only Mega Games series make up most of these however, and if you live elsewhere there's a lot less to choose from. However, the 6-PAK is an option, and it provides a great value for the Genesis/Mega Drive.
There are six games included: the original Sonic the Hedgehog, early Genesis titles Revenge of Shinobi and Super Hang-On, beat-'em-ups Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, and Tetris clone Columns. I will start by going over each game:
Sonic the Hedgehog: I won't need to say much about this one - the first game in Sega's Revenge of Shinobi: An early title for the system, Revenge of Shinobi features great graphics, sound, and gameplay for its time. It enhances the basic action platforming gameplay of its two arcade inspirations, Shinobi and Shadow Dancer - there is now a limit on shurikens and you can choose what ninjitsu magic to use (each ninjitsu spell also has a different effect rather than just damaging surrounding enemies). You also must collect items such as extra shurikens, lives, and ninjitsu. The graphics are stellar for the time and the soundtrack, by the famous Yuzo Koshiro, is excellent and fits the game perfectly. Without a doubt, this was also worth its inclusion. Super Hang-On: This port of the arcade game seems like it could be a good motorcycle racing title, but falls short. The graphics and sound game is a bit choppy, but not to the point of completely breaking the game ala Super Thunder Blade. The gameplay is a problem, however: you have to beat your best time when racing, and if you get a lower time, it's game over, which can be frustrating and turns me away from the game. Despite this, Super Hang-On could still be enjoyable to hardcore racing game fans, but a better game could easily have been chosen. Golden Axe: This port of the popular arcade title is another one of Sega's most popular games. It offers standard beat-'em-up gameplay in the vein of Double Dragon with a medieval theme and three selectable characters. Instead of a special move, there is magic, which does sufficient damage to surrounding enemies. This is a solid port of the original with audio and visuals that stay true and the same gameplay. Two added bonuses are a practice mode where you go through early levels at very easy difficulty and "The Duel" mode, where you face enemies in a small playing field for as long as you can. You may also face a friend in the two-player mode. Two player is also left intact in the main mode of gameplay, and is as good as ever. This is a good inclusion as well. Streets of Rage: Sega's other beat-'em-up game is even better than Golden Axe, and was an original title rather than an arcade port. Famous for Yuzo Koshiro's amazing soundtrack, this game could be good for its sound alone. The gameplay is traditional beat-'em-up gameplay (this time with an urban theme), only there are once again three characters to choose from and, like the magic in Golden Axe, you can summon a police car to attack enemies. Like Golden Axe, this works well and will entertain you for a while, and you thankfully get the standard two player mode as well. Streets of Rage was definitely worth including. Columns: If you can get past the obvious inspiration from Tetris, Columns is a solid puzzle game. Its glaring difference from Tetris is that you must match up the colors of the blocks (now jewels) rather than making a horizontal row of them. This provides a challenging and somewhat addictive puzzle game although not measuring up to its classic inspiration. Graphics and sound are good, but when did graphics matter in a puzzle game? Sega could have picked better from any genre, but as far as puzzle games go, Columns was probably the best choice.
Seems like a great lineup of games, does it? It is, and there aren't very many flaws. As I stated earlier, there could be a much better game than Super Hang-On. There probably wasn't much cartridge space left for many other games, but you could still probably do better. Also, there isn't a way to go back to the menu screen other than resetting the console, but I'm not sure if that's even possible on a 16-bit system.
The Bottom Line
6-PAK is definitely a great compilation of classic Sega Genesis games, and quite possibly the best on the system itself. If you're aching to play a new Genesis game and don' t own one or more of the titles included here, this is an excellent value that will provide you with solid entertainment.
By Titan10 on November 20th, 2010
Soccer Mania (Windows)
Style over substance
The concept of Lego Soccer Mania is great - a soccer game featuring Lego minifigures and sets, while making use of Lego's popular properties. The game looks promising at first, with excellent presentation and decent gameplay, but a lack of challenge hurts the game.
Let's start with the positive aspects, however. First, the visuals and audio are excellent. Graphics accurately portray each minifigure and the playing field with a good amount of detail, and the basic design of the minifigures and other Lego objects looks realistic. The sound is solid as well, with passable sound effects and surprisingly good music, which actually changes depending on whether you are ahead, tied, or behind the other team, making the game sound less repetitive.
Teams are done well - the amount of teams is immense, and each player on each team has different skill levels, making it challenging to play a more lowly team against one of the highest skilled teams. You can also create your own team with players from different teams. Also adding to the game are the multiple modes of play available - there is the story mode, Lego Cup mode, Skill Zones, and the exhibition and quick start modes.
The story mode features you playing against a number of teams in an attempt to win the Lego Cup trophy. Once you defeat every team on the first part of the story, the Brickster (from Lego Island) steals your trophy and you play many more teams while trying to locate him and take back the trophy. The story is a bit odd, but it works.
The similar Lego Cup mode is much like the World Cup (suitable for being released in 2002, a World Cup year). You choose a country and face other countries. Skill Zones are a series of scenarios made to practice several different playing techniques, such as dribbling and passing. These aren't really fun to play and you probably won't need to use them, as the gameplay is simple. Speaking of the gameplay, it takes a simple, arcade-like approach to soccer. Gameplay is fast-paced, and you can only pass and shoot the ball. There are also power-ups, which are sometimes helpful.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is dull and not very challenging.
Eventually, after so many games, the gameplay gets more and more monotonous due to its simplicity. In the story mode, occasionally updating your team with better players makes the game incredibly easy. Another flaw is the inability to play as the goalie, which could have given the game some much-needed depth.
It can be frustrating that you have to defeat a team in Story Mode to unlock it. You only start with three teams, so if you want to play as or against a later team you have to unlock it in the story mode. Also, Lego Cup teams are not available for exhibition matches.
The Bottom Line
Lego Soccer Mania is a decent soccer game, but a lack of replayability and half-baked gameplay does nothing to help it. Unless you're a Lego and/or soccer fanatic, you should probably avoid this game. As the one-liner of this review says, it takes style over substance.
By Titan10 on November 11th, 2010
Enjoyable game, but watch out for bugs!
Spider-Man is one of the best games based off of Marvel Comics' legendary web-slinger. It stays true to the original comics with a surprisingly decent storyline and great gameplay. Although the port to PC is fairly infamous for featuring a few almost game-breaking bugs, it remains an excellent game.
The plot begins with Peter Parker attending a science expo given by the "reformed" Otto Octavius (Dr. Octopus), when an impostor Spider-Man takes out the security guards and steals Octavius' new piece of technology. Parker also bumps into Eddie Brock (Venom), making things even more chaotic. Parker, the real Spider-Man, exits and puts on his costume to search for the perpetrator, but gets an unexpected report from Black Cat that a nearby bank is being robbed and the criminals are taking those inside hostage. From here, things get start to get interesting. The story is told with surprisingly well-acted cutscenes, most of which are entertaining to watch. Spidey creator Stan Lee also narrates, and does a decent job.
Before getting to the gameplay, it should be mentioned that the developers added a lot of nice extras to the game. You can unlock costumes for Spider-Man, such as the famous Symbiote suit, each of which has special features making gameplay under those costumes a bit different. Also included is a character viewer (allowing you to view and read about characters featured in the game) and the "Comic Collection", where you can view the covers and info for influential Spider-Man comics (unlocked by finding them in the game's levels). You can also view the cutscenes and storyboards for each one, but not before you complete the level before each scene.
Aside from the campaign, which I'll get to next, there is a training mode with five different scenarios to refine your gameplay skill: "Time Attack", where you attempt to kill as many enemies as you can within 60 or 120 seconds, "Survival Mode", where you try to survive as long as possible with an endless wave of foes approaching, "Speed Training", where you try to web-swing to the end of the area as quickly as possible, "Target Practice", where you shoot your web at famous villains while trying to avoid shooting your friends, and "Item Collection" featuring two gameplay modes with the goal of collecting as many medallions as possible within a set amount of time. These objectives may work to hone your playing skills, but probably won't keep your interest for very long.
Finally, there is the main campaign. It stays very true to the comics, with a fairly accurate recreation of Spidey's New York. The villains also replicate those seen in the comics - the generic thugs aren't far from something that would be seen in the Spider-Man universe, and main foes such as Venom and Scorpion are replicated well. Other Marvel characters such as Daredevil make cameo appearances, and the Fantastic Four's headquarters even makes a showing.
The gameplay is enjoyable and, in typical Spider-Man fashion, features a lot of web-slinging and wall-crawling, as well as punching, kicking, and jumping. Spider-Man can use his web to do different things to attack: he can shoot a web, hurl a ball of webbing, or make a dome of webbing around himself for protection and then break out of it to attack nearby enemies. You can also cover your hands in the white stuff, doing extra damage with punches. Webbing can also be used from swinging to another location (obviously) and to zip-line to whatever is above, such as the ceiling on the inside of a building. You also must collect health to survive and web cartridges to keep a steady amount of webbing along the way. Another item is the rarely seen Spider-Armor, special armor that turns Spidey black and white and adds an extra layer of health.
Graphics and sound are solid. The visuals are pretty well done for 2001, but could have been better. The audio consists of some pretty good music and sound effects which aren't outstanding but get the job done. As I said earlier, the voice acting is well done and the characters sound as they should, with Stan Lee doing some respectable narration.
Now, here's what you've all been waiting for: the "almost game-breaking bugs" I noted earlier. There are two: when you reach the Daily Bugle building to fight Scorpion, there is an in-game cutscene where Spider-Man breaks through the window to enter. However, he will fall below and the game returns to the cutscene before. After another in-game cutscene in the game in the level "Catch Venom" where you have to chase Venom to his hideout, Spider-Man falls to his death. Unfortunately, using a level skip code is the easiest way to combat these bugs. Thankfully, these should be the only two levels you might have to skip.
The default controls are awful. However, you can change them, so it isn't much of a problem. Also, the camera only updates its movement after Spidey stops moving. This could create issues for some, but it never really affected the game for me to be honest.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Spider-Man is an entertaining diversion for fans of the web-slinger. It proves worthy of bearing Spidey's name, and despite the bugs in the PC version, it remains a great game.
By Titan10 on November 7th, 2010
Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PlayStation 2)
The definitive Sonic compilation
Sonic the Hedgehog has had other compilations of his older games in the past - Sega had already released Sonic & Knuckles Collection, Sonic Jam, and Sonic Mega Collection (the predecessor to this game, which has different extras and doesn't include the Game Gear titles) before. However, if you want to experience the blue blur's glory days and own a PlayStation 2, PC, or Xbox, this is the one to buy.
For starters, every Sonic game on the stock Genesis (aside from the obscure Meganet game Sonic Eraser and children's title Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio) is included, as well as most of the Sonic Game Gear games. The Ooze, Flicky, Ristar, Comix Zone and Vectorman for Genesis are also available as unlockable titles (some of the Sonic titles must be unlocked as well). For the price, that makes this compilation an incredible value, as it is obviously much cheaper to buy this game than to buy all of the included games seperately.
Thankfully, the emulation quality is usually top-notch. The games included mostly look, sound, and, most importantly, play like the original versions. While there are some minor flaws, you probably won't really notice them anyway. Also included are movies and concept art for the then-new Sonic Heroes and unlockable cheats and tips for each game, which are nice, albeit unoriginal, bonus features.
Unfortunately, the bonus games are an absolute pain to unlock. I won't spoil how to obtain them - you can look it up yourself - but the procedures to unlock them are very tedious.
Also, when it comes to the games available, a few of the Game Gear games are mediocre. Sonic Labyrinth and Sonic Blast are both dismal games, and the Game Gear port of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine was pointless to include with the superior Genesis version available. The non-Sonic extras are a mixed bag, with the excellent Vectorman and Ristar, the decent Comix Zone, and the dismal Flicky and The Ooze.
The Bottom Line
Overall, this is a great value and way to visit or revisit the history of Sonic the Hedgehog. Most of the games included are excellent titles, and will give you hours of entertainment either again or for the first time.
By Titan10 on October 30th, 2010
Sega Genesis Collection (PlayStation 2)
A solid collection of Genesis classics
There are many compilations of classic games out there, and Sega Genesis Collection stands out as one of the better ones. With 28 of the Sega Genesis' premier classics and bonus arcade games, this is a great value and a great way to visit or revisit the history of the Genesis.
Let's start with the high points: many Genesis must-haves, such as the first two Sonic games, for example, are included. While there are some mediocre titles and notable absences (more on that later), the game selection is, for the most part, brimming with quality. Each game has a museum featuring information, facts, tips, and cover art for the game, which is a nice touch. Also, the PSP version is the only way to play these games on the go without emulation software, and doesn't involve the hassle of installing it. The PSP version also features network multiplayer, essential for playing multiplayer games with or against a friend from farther distances.
You won't need to worry about the emulation quality either, as it is usually near-perfect. While there are some rough spots, such as the music not speeding up when you get the speed power-up in the Sonic games and the sound effect when you drop a column of jewels in Columns sounding different, the emulation is so well done it may render the original cartridges obsolete for some. Unlockable extras are also featured, including bonus arcade games (different games are included on the PSP version), cheats for each game, developer interviews, and trailers for the then-upcoming Virtua Fighter 5 and Phantasy Star Universe.
Sega made a couple of mistakes, however. The game selection could have been better. Remember the "mediocre games" and "notable absences" I mentioned earlier? There are a few dismal games here, such as Super Thunder Blade and Ecco Jr., which could be replaced with notable missing games like Streets of Rage and its sequels. Also, the tasks you'll have to complete to unlock the extras in the game are usually incredibly easy. Some developer interviews are unlockable by simply loading up a game!
The Bottom Line
Despite some minor flaws, Sega Genesis Collection stands out as one of the better collections of classic games released over the years. This is a must-buy for gamers that own a PS2 or PSP and want to play the Genesis' best, especially at the price.
By Titan10 on October 25th, 2010
Mega Games 2 (Genesis)
By Titan10 on October 15th, 2010
SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition (Windows)
By Titan10 on October 7th, 2010
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Genesis)
By Titan10 on October 3rd, 2010