6th-Gen, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Duck Tales Remastered

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Duck Tales on the NES was one of my favorite platform games of all time. It’s still a game that I go back to and play periodically. Thus, the remastered version was a huge deal for me and one of my most anticipated titles of 2013. That said, my love of the original is so fierce that I was also worried that it would soil my memories. After all, we all witnessed the dreadful mess that was the Turtles in Time: Reshelled game. However, my fears were quickly sidelined because Duck Tales Remastered is awesome! The graphics are unbelievably charming, the soundtrack is one of the best ever written (but then it always was) and the controls are tighter than the draw strings on Scrooge McDuck’s money purse.

Those fucking goats! They just don't quit!

Those fucking goats! They just don’t quit!

There are a lot of great new additions to the game, too. First up, there is the new story component. This is a lot of fun, especially as it’s voiced by the animation’s original cast. It’s just great to hear the likes of Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack and Gyro back in their full glory again! Then there are the reworked boss battles. The original game’s encounters were fun but incredibly simple. This time around, they all have more than one attack routine and come at you much harder. And they’re a lot more fun as a result. There are one or two minor problems that prevent this game from being perfect, however.

Boingboingboingboingboingboing... Love that sound.

Boingboingboingboingboingboing… Love that sound. Reminds me of being 10 years old!

First up is the new system of having to collect items that are strewn around the maps before you can proceed to the boss. I can see that it’s done to lengthen the overall playtime, but it also limits exploration. In the original, finding secrets and little hidden nooks and crannies was a real pleasure. But in this version, the game forces you to go to all of those places anyway and it’s not really exploring if you’re directly sent there on an errand, is it? Then there is the huge difficulty spike that represents the last section of the game. The final escape sequence really feels unbalanced compared to the rest of the game (expect to drop some serious lives on that sum’bitch).

Overall, however, Duck Tales Remastered is a gorgeous, funny and nostalgic old-school plaformer with high playability and charm galore. So… Justice has been done to a true classic, I would say. And bless me bagpipes for that!

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8-Bit, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Kickle Cubicle

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Does anyone remember the NES title Kickle Cubicle? Yes, that’s right; “Kickle Cubicle”. Sadly, it’s not a game about kicking people in the testicles. Nor is it about eating urinal cakes or busting up someone’s office space. Mores the shame. I’d definitely play that game! Imagine; you enter the busy corporate office, power up by eating filthy urinal cakes and then tear shit up like you were playing Rampage on crack whilst your turncoat co-workers fall to their knees and beg forgiveness for telling the boss about you called in sick last Friday to go to a barbeque at your mate’s house. YOU COMPLETE BASTARDS! Um… Let’s move on.

The simple graphics work splendidly in this game.

The simple graphics work splendidly in this game.

So what exactly is Kickle Cubicle, then? It is, in fact, a really great grid based, action-puzzle game. The title follows the titular Kickle as he tries to save the Magical Kingdom from eternal winter. He does this by solving (mostly) single-screen puzzles, collecting coin bags and defeating each world’s boss monster. Kickle’s arsenal is comprised of two elements; freezing enemies into blocks which can then be kicked and the ability to lay an ice stump that can halt said sliding blocks. The key is to freeze enemies and then kick their frozen asses into open water to create new land, thus expanding the grid and opening up new paths to the level-ending coin bags.

The game starts simple, with basic enemies and situations. Soon enough however, you must contend with foes that can kick your blocks back at you, invincible swines that you can only run away from as well as environmental obstacles such as springs, bumpers and windmills. In conjunction with a slowly tightening time limit, these quickly turn Kickle Cubicle into an intense head-scratcher where you have to put both your lateral thinking and reflexes into turbo mode.

Flinger lickin' good! Fry that chicken fuck!

This game is finger lickin’ good!

Another feather in Kickle Cubicle’s well-doffed cap is it’s simplicity. The game’s graphics are crisp, clean and uncluttered. It’s controls are extremely tight, easy to use and easy to understand. The difficulty is judged well; you never have anyone to blame for a death other than yourself. These factors combine to make it a game that has totally retained it’s charm. Kickle Cubicle is just as much fun to play now as it was when it was released. And there aren’t too many NES games that you can say that about these days… Oh alright, I lied. Yes there are. But hey, Kickle Cubicle belongs right up there among the best of them!

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16-Bit

Tokyochuchu on: Go Go Ackman

Does anyone remeber Go Go Ackman on the Super Famicom? Of course you don’t! But that’s not your fault because the game was never actually released outside of Japan.

That’s a real shame as Go! Go! Ackman is an absolutely fantastic 2D sidescrolling platformer. The plot revolves around the titular Ackman and his mini devil sidekick. Their job is to kill and collect souls. Hmmm… When you put it like that, it seems quite dark, doesn’t it. Like a proto Manhunt or something!

Of course, it’s not dark whatsoever and has a bright pallet with a twee art design. Basically, it has that trademark Japanese cuteness but without stepping it into overkill. Go! Go! Ackman also has a great sense of Japanese humor, with the bosses in particular being weird, chuckle-worthy creations

The gameplay, whilst not breaking any molds, is very solid indeed. The controls are very tight and easy to grasp. You start the game with only your fists and feet as weapons but as you go through the game you can pick up such items as a boomerang, a sword and a pistol. These items work the same way as in Mario and Sonic. If you get hit, you lose the power up. Go! Go! Ackman also includes a couple of vehicle  stages where you either drive a car, use a surfboard or fly a hover mech.

These stages have a constantly scrolling screen and usually require quicker reflexes than the other levels. The car levels are actually a little frustrating to be honest and require a touch of trial and error. But once you have acclimatised to the vehicle controls and the car’s mine-bouncing technique, they are quickly surpassed.

Ultimately, Go! Go! Ackman is an excellent platformer, stuffed to the brim with memorable bosses, colorful graphics, great music and Japanese charm. So, if you ever feel like playing an awesome platform game that most people in the western world have never heard of, emulate your way on down to Go! Go! Ackman land.

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128-Bit, 16-Bit, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Metroid

As I am typing this, we’re deep inside the annual summer gaming drought of 2013. The last interesting current gen game I played was Bioshock Infinite. I’m now waiting patiently for The Last of Us to drop through the mail slot. In the interim, I have amused myself by going back and playing a whole bunch of the old Metroid titles. And I’ve had an absolute blast doing so. It’s been one of the most nostalgic and satisfying gaming periods of my entire life. I replayed and finished all five of the titles listed below within the space of about a month. Phew! Talk about going hardcore otaku. So… Let’s take a look back at Tokyochuchu’s “Top five Metroid games you MUST play“. But before we begin, I should warn of the odd *spoiler* dotted here and there (most notably in the ‘top Metroid moment’ sections).

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#5: METROID ZERO MISSION – As groundbreaking as the original NES title was, when you go back and play it now, it feels decidedly dated. You can’t shoot in eight directions, there’s no easy save system and it’s difficulty is beyond brutal. Thankfully, the Gameboy Advance remake Zero Mission righted all those wrongs. The game took the pinpoint perfect control interface of Metroid Fusion, the design philosophy of Super Metroid, the general layout of the original NES title and blended them together in a Metroid powershake of awesomeness. Zero Mission has just the right amount of exploration, power-ups and bosses. There are tons and tons of hidden collectibles to find and a lot of content that wasn’t in the NES original. One minor quibble people level at the game is that it’s too short and too easy. I personally don’t find either of those a problem. In fact, I’d say that makes Zero Mission the perfect entry in the franchise for beginners.

TOP METROID MOMENT: Motherbrain is ashes. You’ve escaped the exploding installation. Time to relax and watch the ending… What’s that?! Samus has been shot down! Stripped of her powers, sexy zero-suit Samus must use stealth to sneak into the enemy mothership, steal a fighter and escape the planet. This is the most difficult and most thrilling moment of Zero Mission. Sheer awesome sauce!

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#4: METROID OTHER M – Other M is a truly divisive title in the Metroid saga. I can totally see why. Other M has one of the worst opening hours that you could imagine as a Metroid fan. All the mechanics that we know and love are gone. In their place is a combat heavy battle game featuring ‘sensimove’ projectile dodging and close quarters finishing moves. Worse still, exploration is put on the back burner in favor of linear progression. Then there are the story elements; Samus whines like an immature teenager and acquiesces to a dominating general who refuses to let Samus use items (“This monster is going to eat me. Can I please use missiles, sir?” WTF?!). A lot of Metroid fans threw down their controllers in disgust, myself among them. I left Other M to gather dust and contempt until just recently. After finishing a couple of the other Metroid games, I decided to give Other M one last shot. I’m glad I did because it’s fantastic! The opening hour is still hard to swallow as it throws you in at the deep end. But everything improves. Once you acclimatize to the sensimove and 2D to 3D missile lock mechanics, they work extremely well and are fun to use. As you progress, areas steadily become re-unlocked and allow the traditional backtracking / hidden power-up hunting. Even the plot gets better; Samus mercifully stops acting like a petulant child and the tale evolves into a gripping yarn about cover-ups, betrayal and murder. You feel that at the end of Other M, Samus is not the same as when she started. And then there is the best part of the game… The bosses are freaking AWESOME! Seriously, Metroid is known for excellent bosses and Other M has some of the best encounters of the entire franchise. And they’re unpredictable, too. In most Metroid games, bosses are denoted in specific places or have creepy doors to their lairs. In Other M they could be anywhere. It certainly keeps you on edge and wondering what’s around the next corner. Wow… I’ve rambled on a lot about this game. In conclusion, be patient with Other M. It takes it’s time but it truly delivers the goods.

TOP METROID MOMENT: The bio-engineered creature Nightmare was one of the toughest and most memorable bosses from Metroid Fusion. He’s here in Other M too. The moment when his gravity drives kicks in to life and he drags himself out of the ceiling is a true “I’ve just creamed in my pants” moment for Metroid fans. And the fight that ensues… Perfect!

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#3: SUPER METROID – WHAAAT?! Super Metroid is not number one? What the hell? I can sympathize. Arguably the best game on the SNES, it redifined the action adventure genre (along with A Link to the Past, of course), not so much moving the goalposts as shifting them off the pitch entirely. Although the NES title started the franchise, Super Metroid will always be it’s true explosion point. The bosses, music, power-ups and zone designs were absolutely legendary, setting new standards all the way around. So… Why is it languishing at number 3? At the time, Super Metroid was perfect but these days it shows a little bit of rust around the edges. For example, the control layout has been refined since that time. The system employed in Fusion and Zero Mission just feels better. The weapon select system was annoying back then. It’s feels atrocious now (scrolling though weapon lists in the heat of battle – not fun). And the jumping mechanics can sometimes lead to frustration; The wall jump. Oh.. My.. God. GET THE FUCK UP THERE SAMUS!!!!!! *controller hits TV and breaks*

TOP METROID MOMENT: Not anything involving the fucking wall jump, that’s for sure. Does anyone remember Kraid from the original Metroid? He was a stout, fat little monster as short as Samus. He beefed up a bit for his comeback in Super Metroid. The moment when Kraid rises out of the ground to stand as high as a three story building is as intimidating as it is jaw-dropping. How on earth are you supposed to beat something that big? Finding the answer to that question was one of the best moments in videogame history.

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#2 METROID FUSION – As stated above, the control scheme in Metroid Fusion was refined to perfection. It was ridiculously intuitive. So too were the jumping mechanics and weapon selection systems. Fusion was a game that played fluidly, had beautiful graphics and felt fresh. There was a great sense of discovery within Metroid Fusion. It wasn’t simply a retread of the popular and lauded Super Metroid; It did it’s own thing whilst still staying true to it’s roots. New for this mission was a detailed plot-line. Told through text monologues and navigation-booth interactions, Fusion’s story was fun and intriguing (and a total dry run for Other M). It was also quite a dark and spooky game, with the trademark Metroid atmosphere being laid on thick and heavy. And the bosses! The likes of Nightmare, the SA-X and that bloody spider-thing-that-grabs-you will forever haunt my gaming memories. Whilst the title took some minor flack for being a bit more linear than previous games, I personally thought that Fusion had just the right amount of direction versus exploration. It was always super fun to revisit old areas with new power-ups to see what you could find. With great bosses, vibrant graphics, flawless controls and an interesting story, I think that Metroid Fusion marginally beat out the classic Super Metroid for the best 2D entry in the series.

TOP METROID MOMENT: Who says 2D games can’t be scary? Try being chased down an obstacle strewn corridor by the relentless SA-X. This indestructible dark doppelganger of Samus is terrifying! You can’t fight it, you can only run and hide (until you get the correct weapon to kick it’s ass with, at least). The mid game chase sequence is a heart pounding, pant filler of an experience. It’s the most difficult part of the game but also the most memorable.

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#1: METROID PRIME – Super Mario Bros had Super Mario 64. The Legend of Zelda had Ocarina of Time. Metroid had Prime; A game game that seamlessly transitioned from 2D to 3D, taking with it everything that made the franchise great. I really couldn’t imagine a more perfect 3D take on the Metroid universe than the one that Prime delivered. There are so many stunning moments in the game; the first sight of Samus rising out of her ship in glorious three dimensions, the first time you set foot in the snowy Phandrana Drifts, the thumping, nostalgic music that urges you through Magmoor Caverns (originally from Super Metroid) or how about the first time you set your eyes on the giant plant boss of the Chozo Ruins? Metroid Prime delights time after time. With minimal plot and maximum exploration, the game stays definitively true to it’s roots and it’s a sheer joy to traverse the world, sniffing out all the little nooks and crannies for hidden items. The graphics are crisp and clean, the level design is phenomenal, the bosses are mind-blowing and the challenge is just on the right side of brutal (the final boss is a fucking handful!). This is a game that ranks within my top three of all time and one of the only videogames compelling enough to coax a 100% completion rate out of me (I’m not a trophy whore kind of gamer). I also go back and play the game periodically, especially with the Wii version rocking the shit (this is one game where motion controls actually work better). And it’s amazing every single time!

TOP METROID MOMENT: You’ve gathered all the Chozo artifacts. It’s finally time to head down into the sealed chamber. Nothing can stop us now! That is, nothing save for Meta Ridley who blows up your only entryway. Prime’s showdown with Samus’s arch nemesis is teased a few times during the game and when it it finally comes, it’s a cracker! Ridley throws everything he has at Samus and it’s a damn tough fight to the finish. But it’s also unforgettably brilliant… I mean come on; he’s a robot dragon for god’s sake! How cool is that?!

So, there it is. I hope you enjoyed this list. It’s a shame that the Prime sequels failed to hit the same highs as the original (2 was too long winded and difficult, 3 was tired from the off), but I guess that’s the price of perfection; it’s kind of difficult to follow.

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8-Bit, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Kabuki Quantum Fighter

 

Does anyone remember the NES title Kabuki Quantum Fighter? No? Anyone?

First, let us examine the word Kabuki. What exactly is Kabuki? Well… Kabuki is a very traditional Japanese type of play. Actors and actresses dress up in maiko or geisha style and perform dances. Sometimes there are traditional puppets involved, which are controlled by ninja-looking shadowmen dudes. So Kabuki Quantum Fighter is surely a game about beating the shit out of traditional play actors and beatniks, right? Sadly no. But I would play that game in an instant! Stupid fuckin’ beatnik scum. But I digress…

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a yet another 8-bit 2D action platformer. But it’s a really, really good one. It’s actually quite similar to the popular NES Batman title, both graphically and mechanically (although it does have a more manageable difficulty level). Perhaps they were made by the same company? I’d check if I wasn’t bone idle lazy. Unfortunately I am bone idle lazy. So… in the dis-utopian future a hero is once more required to fight the evil robot scourge. Enter the titular Kabuki Quantum Fighter. What awesome weapon do you get to fight the all pervading evil with? A lazer gun? Nope. A bazooka? Think again. A giant mech assault tank. No, no, no. You get… YOUR HAIR!

Yes, that’s right. Kabuki Quantum Fighter’s big bushy mane is apparently lethal! Which in turn can only mean that he has some seriously lax personal hygiene. My brother once goaded me into sniffing his unwashed dreadlocks. Dude… That shit was rank! So I can totally understand how Kabuki Quantum Fighter can kill with his hair. Makes perfect sense. So yes, you walk around flicking your hair at enemies with an animation that looks like you’re headbanging to metal. Which is totally awesome! In fact, I demand that every game made in the future include the option to headbang.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking; you’ve written a hell of a lot without telling us almost anything about the fucking game! And you’d be right. I will now tell you that Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a tightly controlled, mid difficulty platformer that made for an excellent alternative to Mega Man and Contra. And don’t worry, as cool as hair murder is, you also gain access to a myriad of cool power-ups (scroll weapons, spreader and of course *insert typical 8-bit power-up here*). In closing I will direct your attention to the AWESOME / AWFUL movie Kabukiman below. Seriously. Watch and prepare to piss yourself repeatedly!

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32-Bit, gaming, Sega Saturn

Tokyochuchu on: Amok

 

Does anyone out there remember the 1996 Playstation, Saturn & PC title Amok? For those who remain blissfully unaware, Amok was a third-person mech shooter. Although mech shooters were two-a-penny in the mid nineties, Amok tried to stand out from the crowd by adding an amphibious element to the proceedings. When on land the mech would be in the standard AT-ST style but when in the water it would transform into a big submersible frog. This presumably made it easier to kill enemies as they’d be busy pissing themselves laughing at your ‘frog-mobile’ whilst you were getting missile lock.

The plot of Amok was the usual half baked crap. Something about a rebel fight against corrupt dictatorzzzzzzz… Basically speaking, Amok was a level-based arcade shooter which means no-one gave a tea-bagging nun about the plot, only caring about where the next sumbitch to be gibbed was hiding at. Objectives in the game followed the normal path of the day; ‘take out three shield generator pylons and then take out whatever they were shielding’ or; ‘escort this train from A to B and make sure it doesn’t get blown up’. Sometimes the game would shock you by stretching to; ‘make sure you blow up this train and it’s escorts’!!!

As you may have gathered from my tone, Amok was certainly not perfect. In fact it had a myriad of annoying flaws. Firstly, it suffered almost all of the graphical failings of the 32bit era; nasty pixelation of close-up objects, a poor draw distance masked by ‘fog’ and plenty of pop-up and fade-in. Add to that it’s crippling difficulty and a very short campaign and you’re probably left wondering why I’m even bringing up such an obvious gaming turd.

The reason Amok is remembered so fondly is down to it’s one saving grace; you could play the entire campaign in split-screen two player co-op. That might be commonplace now, but back in ’96 it was a real rarity. That changed Amok from something that I would’ve shelved very quickly into a nostalgically flawed title that I nether-the-less sank a shit-ton of hours into with my brother. God bless your crappy, unoriginal, graphically nauseating ass, Amok… We loved you in our own sick way!

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8-Bit, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Alien (CPC464)

Does anyone remember Alien for the Amstrad CPC464 and the ZX Spectrum? The game started when a random member of the crew (not always Kane) gets subjected to chestbuster hell and the alien starts chewing on the furniture. You take control over the other six members of the crew and have to figure out a way to dispose of the slimy menace. As you individually move them around the Nostromo, you can pick up weapons and items like the laser pistol and the incinerator.

Whilst these weapons could possibly ward off the alien during an attack, they wouldn’t actually be able to kill it. The most obvious strategies for alien extermination would be to either lure it into the airlock and ‘blow it the fuck out into space’, or to set the ship’s self destruct and hightail it in the shuttle. The shuttle, however, could only play host to three crew members and maliciously leaving the other three behind to burn was a big no-no in the post game evaluations.

Just like in the movie, one of the crew was secretly an android intent on protecting the alien (*spoiler alert*… But then if you haven’t seen alien, WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 32 YEARS!?). This android (again, not always Ash) would sometimes attack other members of the crew, usually after their numbers had dwindled due to being monster munched.

Speaking about getting monster munched, the alien attack in this game is terrifying! You spend the entire time in silence looking at the ship’s blueprint, moving stick-figures around while peering at text boxes. When the alien attacks, the screen goes black, urgent chip tunes kick in and the alien appears in full 8-bit glory, gnashing and clawing at the screen. Most of the time this sight means death and inspires panicked mashing of the ‘Get the Fuck Outta There!’ button.

Another very interesting element of Alien was the emotional well-being of the crew. If you armed them or kept them together in a group, they would merely be ‘uneasy’. If you sent them off alone they might become ‘nervous’, ‘paranoid’ or ‘shaken’. If you let them discover the bodies of their fellow shipmates, they would usually become ‘broken’. When they hit this rock bottom, they would often disobey orders and flee in random directions.

Alien was a classic game that was survival horror before the genre even existed. The threadbare graphics didn’t matter because your imagination did all the work. You could almost see all those dank, dark tunnels in your head. You could almost hear the constant thrum of the Nostromo’s engines, smell the deep taint of oil and maybe even catch Ridley Scott berating Harrisson Ford for being a whiny crybaby on the set of Bladerunner.

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