Tag Archives: hudson soft

Terribly short game reviews

Some games I finished recently.

MEGA MAN 9 (2008, Wii )
Completely unoriginal but very solidly designed. B

GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS (2009, DS)
Such stupid, stupid writing but otherwise very good most of the time. B+

BRAID (2008, Xbox 360 )
Stunning visuals, moody music, clever gameplay, with a plot that’s about as clear as a David Lynch movie. A

F-ZERO X (1998, Nintendo 64)
Very smooth racing game, bringing the established F-Zero style into 3D. B+

METAL SLUG: FIRST MISSION (1999, NeoGeo Pocket Color)
Run n’ gun action like its arcade cousins but with deeper elements (prison camp escapes, skydiving, nonlinear progression). B+

NEW ADVENTURE ISLAND (1991, TurboGrafx-16)
I always call this series the “poor man’s Mario” and this one delivers. C

SUPER MARIO LAND 2: 6 GOLDEN COINS (1992, Game Boy)
I’ve beaten this game a few times but I just played through it again at Allison Payne’z house. It’s pretty good but too short and not QUITE Mario-ish enough. B

Wii Ware has suddenly become a hotbed of retro sequels

When Wii Ware was announced 2 or 3 years ago it was suggested that the service might offer brand new sequels to longtime franchises.  As of 2 weeks ago, over a year into the program, there were only 2 such games that interested me.  But a slew of releases over the last week, plus a couple of games coming very soon, seems to indicate that this potential is being fulfilled.  The best part of all this is that these games are cheap, BUT with a few unpleasant pricing surprises concerning add-ons.

MEGA MAN 9 (Capcom)
-$10
-downloadable content: endless attack stage $3, play as Proto Man $2, hard mode $1, super hard mode $1, extra time attack stage $1
-grand total if you want everything: $18

Capcom kind of got the whole retro sequels ball rolling for WiiWare with their ridiculous fanservice game, Mega Man 9, released last year.  It looks and plays just like the 6 NES Mega Man games, which I guess could be good or bad.  If you’re familiar with the old Mega Man games then there’s not much more to say about it.  The price point may have been slightly high considering the technical aspects and all those dumb extra downloads should have been included in the main release at no extra charge.  This is the only game in this article that I have downloaded as of 6/2/9.  I’ve only played it occasionally in short spurts without trying to beat the game so far.

SPACE INVADERS GET EVEN (Taito/Square Enix)
-$5
-downloadable content: level 2 $5, level 3 $5, level 4 $5
-grand total for everything: $20

So this one is a mixed package.  Unlike the other games in this article, the gameplay is actually innovative for its series while being true to its theme and roots.  This time around, you get to play as the Invaders and destroy those places we all hate, like Paris.  The graphics aren’t nostalgic; instead featuring full 3D.  That $5 price point seems very nice but that’s only for the first level.  The three additional levels have to be downloaded separately for $5 apiece, which is pretty stupid.  I may just get the first level and destroy whatever I can.

BUBBLE BOBBLE PLUS (Taito/Square Enix)
-$6
-downloadable content: 50 level super mode $2, another 50 level super mode $2
-grand total if you want everything: $10

PLUS contains an upgraded remake of the original Bubble Bobble as well as a new 100 level arrange mode that allows for 4-PLAYER Bubble Bobble action.  For all of that, $6 is quite reasonable.  The expansions seem pretty reasonable, as well, offering another 100 total levels for only $4 more.

RAINBOW ISLANDS TOWERING ADVENTURE (Taito/Square Enix)
-$6
-downloadable content: to be determined

This game doesn’t hit the US until mid-June but it’s been released everywhere else already.  Unlike Bubble Bobble Plus, it messes with the Rainbow Islands formula a bit more, adding new playing mechanics and speed challenge levels.  The character designs are pretty different from previous games in the series, as well.  And the price is nice.

FINAL FANTASY IV: THE AFTER YEARS (Square Enix)
-$8
-downloadable content: a bunch of chapters
-grand total for everything: $37!

This one troubles me a bit.  It’s a sequel to FFIV and was even written by the dude that scripted the original.  However, this episodic content release method, plus the pricing, is just stupid.  Downloading all of the chapters will run you $37 and these chapters not just add-ons; the game is incomplete without them.  Considering we’re dealing with SNES-level graphics, this is definitely a ripoff.  I should expect as much from Square, which charged a whopping $40 for their DS Chrono Trigger port (with minimal upgrades and the same old SNES graphics).  I visted a message board for this game and all the fanboys were DEFENDING the price, even saying that spreading it out made it okay.  wtf?  Give me my fucking game now – not in pieces – and don’t rip me off.  Maybe in 15 years there will be WiiWare emulators.

ADVENTURE ISLAND: THE BEGINNING (Hudson Soft/Konami)
-$8

This one snuck up on me and was a real surprise.  Unlike the other series in this post, Adventure Island has been mostly dormant (except for a Japan-only upgrade of the original installment) for 15 years.  And then BAM, a WiiWare sequel.  What I like about this game is that it seems to focus more on exploration than the earlier games.  Some of the environments look pretty nice and the price point is pretty decent.

CONTRA REBIRTH (Konami)
-$10

Oh, kewl, a new Contra game.  It just came out in Japan a couple of weeks ago and there’s no US date announced yet.  The graphics are 2D but more advanced than SNES and with, dare I say it, a slightly more cartoonish look?  The DS release Contra 4 was a little too slavish in recreating the early 90s Contra vibe so hopefully this one can change things up a bit.

KONKLUZION: The Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands have good prices but they seem more like remakes than sequels compared to the other games listed.  The Final Fantasy and Space Invaders games seem awesome until you stumble across the sneaky download pricing model.  So, even though they’re not super innovative, I’d say the Mega Man, Contra, and Adventure Island games appear to occupy the preferred middle ground.

More Japanese mergers/acquisitions

Awhile ago I wrote an entry about Japanese mergers and buy-outs of recent years. Here’s a recap:

Squaresoft (Final Fantasy, SaGa, Mana) and Enix (Dragon Quest, Soulblazer) merged to create Square Enix.
-Square Enix acquired Taito (Space Invaders, Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble) but maintains it as a separate brand.

Sammy (Guilty Gear, pachinko machines) acquired SEGA (Sonic, Phantasy Star, Yakuza) to form SEGA Sammy but SEGA is maintained as a separate brand.

Konami (Castlevania, Metal Gear, Contra) acquired Hudson Soft (Bonk, Bomberman) but maintains it as a separate brand.

Namco (Pac-Man, Tekken, Tales) merged with Bandai (Gundam, Digimon) to form Namco Bandai.

Technos (Double Dragon, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom) folded and its assets were acquired by Atlus (Shin Megami Tensei).

SNK (King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug) was acquired by a pachinko company and then later regained its independence as SNK Playmore.

Since I wrote that entry, there have been more recent developments . . .

Namco Bandai acquired the video game aspect of Banpresto (Super Robot Wars, Summon Knight). Namco Bandai also acquired D3 Publisher (Puzzle Quest, licensed games).

Tecmo (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Tecmo Bowl) merged with Koei (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors) to form Tecmo Koei.

AND MOST INTERESTINGLY, Square Enix purchased a European publisher, Eidos (Tomb Raider, Hitman, Legacy of Kain), pending shareholder approval.

-AM- Old Computers #3: NEC PC8801

This computer never saw the light of day outside of Japan but within that repressed archipelago it was the personal computer king in the 1980s. It was used for for practical applications but also had a rather extensive gaming collection. The PC8801 and PC9801 were actually a long-running series of models updated incrementally until they basically transformed into a DOS PC by the end of the decade. The PC88’s parts and much of its software was incompatible with standard PCs, even after they switched over to Windows. I may have exaggeratingly accused Apple of slapping a different name and higher price on the same product as PC’s but that’s literally what NEC ended up doing in the waning days of their line.

But back in the early PC88 days it was unique and very successful, inspiring NEC to release a dedicated home video game console, the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) in 1987. That’s a nice fun fact but there is some other information that’s way more interesting to American video game nerds – Nintendo actually released games for the PC88 series! That’s right – games like Excitebike and Ice Climber were NOT NES/Famicom exclusives, they also came out for PC88. Even more interesting is that Nintendo allowed Hudson to develop alternate versions of a few MARIO GAMES for PC88. These games included Punchball Mario Bros., Mario Bros. Special, and Super Mario Bros. Special.

You can see screenshots of these games and more at this site

Don’t get too excited, though, Super Mario Bros. Special is pretty shitty but what I appreciate about it is that it shows just how delicate the formula for Super Mario Bros. really is. The running and jumping are a little different but it’s just enough for the controls to be sloppy. If the NES version had played like this it definitely would not have been a hit game. Here’s a link where you can download this game and an easy-to-use PC88 emulator to give it a shot:

link link link link

PC9801/8801 series: introduced 1982

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