Things That Really Matter #13: Reviews

 

GAME 1: DONKEY KONG 64
SYSTEM: NINTENDO 64
DEVELOPER: RARE
PUBLISHER: NINTENDO
YEAR: 1999

DK64 is a game that immediately invites several comparisons. First off, how does it compare to Super Mario 64, released three years earlier?  Second, how does it compare to Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie, an N64 3D platformer released by Rare in 1998?  And finally, and perhaps most importantly, how does it compare to Donkey Kong Country, DK64’s prequel on the Super NES?  Unfortunately, DK64 falls short when compared to each and all of these games.

The entire Donkey Kong Country series is clearly Rare’s take on Super Mario Bros., and DK64 clearly uses a modified version of the Super Mario 64 engine.  Perhaps by ‘modified’ I really mean ‘mangled’.  For reasons I can’t fathom, almost any object that’s more than, say, 10 feet away is invisible.  Take another step toward it and *pop* there it is.  This was not an issue in SM64.  Second, the controls are very floaty.  Mario controlled perfectly and he moved quickly in his 64 game.  DK and his partners float slowly through the air when they jump.  They take a long time to land, even though most of them can’t jump anywhere near as far or high as Mario.

Banjo-Kazooie was a very creative game, with manic enemies and horrible, yet distinct humor.  Its motifs were unique but something about the feel of the game invoked memories of DK Country.  No wonder, as the DKC creative team was largely responsible for its development.  Unfortunately, DK64 was created by another team within Rare.  Oops!  It shows, too, as any consistencies between DKC and DK64 are merely forced, like the occasional mine cart race and the occasional Kremling.

So how does DK64 rate on its own merits?  When not compared to anything, DK64 can be viewed as pretty good but only in small doses.  DK64 is a ridiculous collectathon and this sort of gameplay wears away at enthusiasm and energy.  You must alternate between five different apes/monkeys.  On many occasions you will see an item but you can’t pick it up because you’re NOT THE RIGHT MONKEY.  So you have to go far away and switch to the other ape and return to that area.  This is ridiculous as most of these items have nothing to do with a unique skill related to each monkey.

The levels are huge and semi-interesting but fail to invoke the sense of wonder that SM64 accomplishes.  And exploring them is basically a chore unless you happen to be controlling Diddy Kong.  This game seems to have all the pieces available but put in the wrong place.  If you’re obsessed with 3D platformers or Mario you should check it out but only in small doses.  And only after you’ve beaten SM64, SMSunshine, SMGalaxy, Banjo-Kazooie, and even the Sony platformers. 

Grade: C+
Personal conclusion: Pretty disappointing!


GAME 2: BIONIC COMMANDO ELITE FORCES
SYSTEM: GAME BOY COLOR
DEVELOPER: NINTENDO SOFTWARE TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION (Nintendo’s USA-based studio)
PUBLISHER: NINTENDO
YEAR: 2000

This game has a horrible glitch. It’s absolutely incredible that BCEF was put into mass production with this glitch. But it’s there in almost every copy. Basically, if you save and then continue to play the game freezes up. And your save file will never recover. What an INCREDIBLE failure of quality control. There is one practical way around this, though: play straight through without saving. Just like you have to do with the original Bionic Commando on the NES.  Now on to the game itself . . .

Played Bionic Commando on NES?  Then you know what to expect with this game.  Swing around, climb, shoot guys.  But it’s a lot better than it sounds.  The gameplay is almost exactly the same.  The setup is the same (leveling-up, bonus Commando-style levels, giving orders between levels, etc.).  The graphics are completely new, though, and are very fluid for a GBC game.  The levels and bosses are also.  Besides the graphics, though, nothing is exactly improved; slightly different, perhaps, but not really better or worse.  And there are no neutral zones!  The original had areas where you just walked around and guys said stuff like, “Do you wanna fight?”  Not here, unfortunately.  Still, the action is solid and more challenging than the NES original.  If you like hardcore, old-school games and have 5 hours to sit down and waste, do it to it.

GRADE: B+
Personal conclusion: Satisfactory


GAME: GHOSTBUSTERS II
SYSTEM: GAME BOY
DEVELOPER: HAL LABORATORIES
PUBLISHER: ACTIVISION (in the USA, HAL in Japan)
YEAR: 1990

Yo, remember that awful Ghostbusters 2 for the NES by our dear friends/enemies at Activision?  Boy, that game was the dumbz.  Well, this is DOES NOT BE THAT GAME.  This is a completely different game, created by those Japanese rascals at HAL Laboratory (creators of Kirby’s Dream Land and Super Smash Bros).  This game actually follows the plot of the movie very closely and almost all of the enemies are ghosts that are seen at some point in the film, even if only for a few seconds.  The character designs are adorable and Zelda-ish.  The action is viewed from overhead, as well. 

The gameplay is fairly original and a good attempt at creating action similar to that found in the movies.  You control two Ghostbusters at once and run around buildings, one floor at a time, zapping all the ghosts with the first dude and then trapping them with the second.  This idea gets an A for creativity but a C for implementation.  Too often the 2nd dude is just a real pain in the ass, failing to keep up, getting caught behind objects and getting jumped from behind.  Each dude has his own life bar and the 2nd dude almost always runs out of life first.  For some reason, the 2nd dude becomes awesome and invincible during boss fights, so you can basically hide behind him and fire off shots.  The game is short and sweet, without any saving or codes.  It’s all or nothing!  But achieving “all” will probably only require an hour and a half of effort.  It’s just not a terribly long game and once you figure out how everything works you probably won’t have too much difficulty. 

This is a fun game for people that like Ghostbusters or games where you go around clearing all the villains off the screen before advancing, like Bubble Bobble.  The action is generally fun but mindless.

Grade: B
Personal conclusion: Interesting


GAME: THE CON
SYSTEM: PSP
DEVELOPER: THINK & FEEL
PUBLISHER: SONY
YEAR: 2005

First off, this is, on the surface a 3D fighting game. The fighting is pretty different from most fighters, though. There’s no jumping and you don’t really have freedom to run around. This turns out to be an interesting move as the directional inputs cause your character to duck and sway in different directions. So think of it as a boxing game with kicking and grappling added to the mix.  The fighting is much more realistic than most fighters and the pace is rather slow, like a real fight.

What really makes The Con interesting are all the things that happen outside of the fights.  You have a crew of three fighters and you act as their manager between fight dates.  You schedule bouts, training sessions, hospital visits and rest days.  Before each fight you wager a certain amount of money, which is where the title comes in.  You may choose to hustle the audience by starting off a match crappily while the bets pour in against you before ramping it up and pulling off a win.  Conversely, you can bet on your opponent and let them win, as long as you do it convincingly.  Unfortunately, none of this is really necessary as I earned enough money by simply betting on myself to win without much hustling at all.  If you schedule bouts against higher-ranked teams and beat them you’ll move up through the ranks, occasionally entering into boss battles. 

Sadly, this game is far from perfect. For one thing, the final tournament is completely cheap. Due to the fact that I did not allow a boss to join my team earlier in the game, one of my fighters was forced to sit out the final match, meaning the final bout was 2 against 3. At no point was I informed that my decision could carry such ramifications. Fucking cheap and lame. Thankfully, I won, anyway, but just barely.

The graphics are way below the PSP’s standards. At its best, the PSP looks like a slightly lower resolution PS2 but this game looks more like a PS1 game but without the fuzzy resolution. And the load times. CHRIST. Everything takes forfuckingever to load. Each time you fight you’ll probably sit through 30 seconds of load time. And you fight many times. In the final tournament you fight about 20 times. If my estimate is right, that means you sit through about 10 minutes of loading during this period. And that’s just a small part of the game. I think I developed several nervous habits while I waited, including playing with my fingernails and pushing my tongue against the roof of my mouth.

So is this game worth it? Yeah, if you really like fighting games or boxing games. Otherwise, spare yourself the load times. I personally found it very addictive which did a lot to offset the load times. Even now I feel like picking it up and playing through it again with new characters but I’m sure I’d end up without hair or fingernails by the time I finished.

Grade: B-
Personal conclusion: So close yet so far away

kicknz

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