Category Archives: Game Reviews

Pokemon Ruby – The Challenge Begins!

Welcome to yet another amazing Pokémon Adventure! I know we haven’t finished playing Pokémon Black yet, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. You’ll see why in a second. Anyway, today we’re going to start our playthrough of Pokémon Ruby from the 3rd generation of Pokémon games. In retrospect I wish I had played Pokémon Emerald, since that’s basically the definitive version of the 3rd Gen games, but at the time of this writing I have about 15 hours of gameplay video already, and I’m not really willing to start over. I know what you’re thinking. “15 hours isn’t a long time.” Well, when you’re playing a challenge game, it can feel like an eternity.

That’s right, this is going to be a challenge playthrough. The Pokémon games are simply too easy if you play them normally, so there are a wide variety of rules you can impose on yourself to make the game more challenging. Some would even argue more fun. The most famous of these challenge rules being the Nuzlocke Challenge, where you have limited Pokémon, and you can never allow them to be knocked out. HA! Child’s play. No! What we’re going to do makes even the Nuzlocke Challenge look like a walk in the part. In fact, it may not even be possible to beat the game with the rules I am putting on myself. At least not without breeding a perfect IV Pokémon and EV Training them to absolute perfection. Neither of which I have the knowledge to do. So, what could this impossible challenge be?

Magikarp only! You heard that right. I plan to use ONLY Magikarp to beat the game. For those of you who may not know, Magikarp is useless. I don’t even mean they are weak Pokémon. There are lots of weak Pokémon that can be good if trained right. No. I mean they are quite literally useless. Until level 15, they don’t even have an attack. They can only use Splash, which does literally nothing. At level 15 they learn Tackle, one of the weakest, most basic attacks in the game. At level 30, they learn Flail, which has variable damage, but is in general not much better than Tackle. And that’s it. They don’t naturally learn any other attacks. They can’t even be taught other attacks through HMs and TMs. They will never, under normal circumstances, learn any attacks other than Splash, Tackle, and Flail.

So, let me make the rules clear for this challenge. I have found a rom editor that will replace the starter Pokémon with a Magikarp. Since Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire introduced Double Battles, I plan to catch and train a second Magikarp when the option becomes available. Other than those 2 Magikarps, no other Pokémon will be used in battle. I obviously need other Pokémon to learn HM moves to make progress in the game. That’s just unavoidable. But those other Pokémon will not be allowed to actually participate in battle. If, for some reason, they do come out in battle, it will only be to give me time to revive and heal the 2 Magikarps. They will not, for any reason, be allowed to attack. Other than that, it will be a normal playthrough. I’m not using a randomizer or anything like that.

So, there we have it. This playthrough is going to be just straight hell. It may even be impossible. But let’s see how far we can get under these insane rules.

Table of Contents

 

Gameplay

Our adventure begins with a quick introduction by Professor Birch. He shows us a Pokémon as an example, in this case an Azurill, and explains the basics about how people and Pokémon live together. He goes on to explain that, even though people and Pokémon have coexisted for a long time, there is still a lot that we don’t understand about them.

Now that we know about the Pokémon world, it’s time to learn about our player character. I don’t usually name my character anything special, but I happen to be re-watching “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” right now. And since I’ll be the all-powerful master of life and death, forced to care for 2 tiny annoying creatures that make my life a living hell, I thought it would be fun to use that as my theme for naming this game. So, we will be playing as Grim, the new Pokémon Trainer who just recently moved to Littleroot Town.

Our first look of Grim is of him riding in the back of a moving truck with all the boxes. Not sure why we weren’t allowed to sit in the cab, but that’s going to be the least of our hardships going forward. At least we get our own room, or rather our own floor, of the new house. All our stuff is already up in our room, which makes me question what all those boxes in the truck were. But rather than worrying about that, we’ll simply gather our stuff up off the desk and head over to the lab to meet Professor Birch.

Before we manage to leave the house, our Mom calls us over to the TV to see our, surprisingly alive AND part of our lives, Dad. Apparently, he recently became the Gym leader of the Petalburg Gym, which is why we moved out here in the first place. Unfortunately, it looks like we missed seeing him on TV just now. Not that it mattered, we were heading next door to meet with Professor Birch right now anyway.

As would be expected, the Birch family was already looking forward to meeting us. Professor Birch isn’t home at the moment, but his wife suggests we introduce ourselves to their daughter while we’re here. With that invitation, we head upstairs, alone, to barge into the young girl’s bedroom, unexpected, and unannounced.

Rather than screaming at the sight of some stranger suddenly in her room, she’s actually happy to see us, or so she says. She introduces herself as May, and claims she already heard about us from her father. May claims she was hoping we would become friends. However, she’s acting very nervous talking to us right now and I’m not sure why. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact we are just standing here in silence staring at her after forcing our way into her room.

Suddenly she remembers she was supposed to be helping her dad with research and runs out of the room. Leaving us standing there alone to do whatever we want in her bedroom.

We quickly follow her out of the house, but she’s nowhere to be found. Luckily, there’s only one entrance into town, so she must have headed north. Sure enough, a child at the edge of town says he hears someone shouting down the road. Looks like she managed to get herself in trouble already. Side note, where does this child live? There are only 3 building in town, My house, The Birch Family house, and Professor Birch’s Lab. Is this child homeless?

No time to worry about homeless children right now, we need to go see what’s going on up ahead. To our surprise, instead of May, we find some older man being attacked by a Poochyena. It has him cornered as he shouts for help. Upon seeing us, he tells us to look through his bag for a Poké Ball.

Normally, this is where you would get to choose between Treecko, Torchic, or Mudkip as your starter Pokémon. However, we don’t get that choice. Instead, we get Magikarp. What are we getting ourselves into…?

With this terrible decision, we send Magikarp into its first battle. Unfortunately, Magikarp is useless at the moment. It knows only a single move, Splash, which does literally nothing. There is honestly nothing we can do in this battle other than wait for death.

Thankfully, this particular Poochyena got bored of the fight just short of killing our Magikarp and left on its own. So, we somehow manage to survive the encounter and “save” this man from being killed.

Turns out, this is actually Professor Birch, so it’s a good thing we saved him. Birch wants to talk to us some more, but considering what just happened, we probably shouldn’t stay here much longer. Instead, we take this conversation back to the safety of his Lab.

As a thank you for saving his life, we get to keep the Pokémon we used earlier to save him. So, this Magikarp is now ours. Since it’s a girl Magikarp, we will be naming her Mandy.

After this, Professor Birch tells us that his daughter May is out on Route 103. Since she is also trying to become a Pokémon Trainer, it wouldn’t hurt to have her teach us a few things to get us started.

With that, we head north out of town and quickly make it to neighboring Oldale Town. Here, we find the Pokémon Center, which we will probably be visiting quite frequently, as well as the Poké Mart, where we buy as many potions as we can afford right now.

Before we leave town, I also want to bring attention to this person at the west exit. They are blocking our path and preventing us from leaving town that way. Apparently, they have discovered a rare Pokémon footprint in the mud across the exit and wish to make a sketch of it before it disappears. We’ll talk to him again later and see how that sketch comes out.

Anyway, from experience, I’m guessing we’ll end up having to battle May when we find her. So, before that happens, let’s try to train up Mandy a little. This is when the reality of this challenge really set in. In order for Mandy to get stronger, she needs to defeat opponents. But she can’t defeat any opponents because she doesn’t have any damage dealing attacks. The only option is to use up ALL 40 uses (PP) of Splash, at which point Mandy will use Struggle. This is a default move all Pokémon can use if they completely run out of their other moves. But to use all 40 PP of Splash, she needs to stay alive for at least 40 turns in battle. We also can’t heal at the Pokémon Center between battles because that will also restore the PP of Splash. To make matters worse, we only have 12 potions, and no way of getting more right now. We’re going to have to plan it out carefully, or this game will be over before it even begins.

After running from a few battles, we finally find a Level 2 Wurmple. These will probably be the weakest Pokémon we can encounter in this area. On top of having a very weak attack, they also use String Shot quite frequently, which slows Mandy down, but does no actual damage. After a lengthy battle, Mandy finally uses up all 40 PP of Splash. Unfortunately, it also took 4 potions to accomplish this. If we continue the battle, we can probably defeat this Wurmple, but Struggle has recoil damage, and no matter what we’d end up having to use a 5th potion after this battle. Taking that into consideration, we flee instead.

Our only hope of keeping this adventure going is if we make progress. So rather than wasting our few potions training, we head straight for May on Route 103. As expected, she immediately challenges us to a battle. Fingers crossed we can make it through this.

Thanks to our previous prep work, Mandy is able to use Struggle right from the beginning of the battle. It does very little damage, but it’s enough to make winning at least a possibility. After a few close calls, and a couple potions, we actually manage to defeat May’s Torchic. OUR FIRST VICTORY!

Following the battle, May compliments our abilities as a trainer. Of course we’re great, we just won a battle with a Level 5 Magikarp. Anyway, her Pokémon is dead now, so for her own safety she needs to head back to the Lab and report her findings.

We follow May back to the Lab since we really have no other options right now. When we arrive, Professor Birch compliments us for beating May on our first try. He mentions that she has been a trainer for a long time and is very knowledgeable. I find that hard to believe since she only had a level 5 Torchic, but whatever. Seeing as we are an amazing trainer, Professor Birch decides to give us the Pokédex he ordered to help his research. Any time we encounter a Pokémon, the Pokédex will automatically record information on it.

Now that we have the Pokédex, we might as well help fill it up by catching as many Pokémon as possible. With that in mind, May gives us a handful of Poké Balls to get us started, and sends us on our way.

Upon leaving the lab, we quickly find our mom waiting outside the house to catch us. She’s very happy to see that Professor Birch has given us a Pokémon of our own. She even gives us some Running Shoes to help us on our adventure. Because in this universe, the act of running is physically impossible if you don’t have the right shoes.

With that, we head back to Oldale Town and discover that the person blocking the west exit is done sketching the rare Pokémon footprint. We also quickly discover that this person is a complete moron. Not only was it NOT a rare Pokémon footprint, but it was literally his own footprints. How do you mistake your own footprints for that of a rare Pokémon?!

Whatever, at least we’re able to leave town now and head out to Route 102. Unfortunately, we still only have a weak Magikarp, no money, and few resources. We’re also quickly confronted with this unavoidable trainer battle we must win in order to move forward.

Thankfully, we haven’t healed since our battle with May, so Mandy can still use Struggle right away. Also, this trainer only has a single Level 5 Zigzagoon, so it isn’t a very difficult battle. Mandy even gained enough experience to Level Up and get a little stronger.

We sneak around a few other trainers in the area and head straight towards the most important thing we need for this game to become possible, an Oran Berry bush.

Berries in Pokémon games technically started in Generation 2. However, Ruby and Sapphire really overhauled the mechanic into what it is today. Throughout the region, we will find various plots of dirt where we can plant and grow berries that have various different effects. For right now, we are going to be focused on the Oran Berry, which restores 10 HP when consumed. Basically, we can grow an infinite number of weak potions to keep us going.

After we plant our only two Oran Berries we continue west, still avoiding the other trainers along the way. We quickly make it to Petalburg City and head to the Petalburg Gym. Obviously, we’re not challenging the gym yet, we’re just checking in with our dad. He’s a bit surprised to see that we managed to make the trip on our own, and honestly, that makes two of us.

We don’t get to talk much before we’re interrupted by a young boy named Wally. Apparently, he is going to be moving soon and thought maybe he wouldn’t be as lonely in his new home if he had a Pokémon to keep him company. I guess in this region handing out Pokémon is something the local Gym Leader would normally do. Unfortunately, our dad doesn’t have a spare Pokémon to give to Wally, so he instructs us to help Wally catch one for himself.

Our dad loans Wally his Zigzagoon and a Poké Ball, and together we head out to route 102 in search of a Pokémon. We quickly encounter a Ralts, which is surprising considering how rare they are, and Wally manages to catch it after a short battle.

Ralts in hand, we head back to the gym to report how things went. Wally thanks both of us for our help, and then rushes out the door since his mom has been waiting for him this whole time.

Now that that interruption is behind us, we can get back to the conversation we were trying to have. So, our dad is happy to see that we are going to become a Pokémon Trainer, and suggests we head to the next town to battle the Gym Leader there. Obviously, he is a Gym Leader too, but he doesn’t think it would be right to challenge us now. He’ll wait until we have a few badges already so it would be a fair fight.

After quickly checking out Petalburg and just as quickly deciding there isn’t anything to see here, we continue west to Route 104. Once again, we avoid all the trainers and make our way to the northern section where there is another patch of dirt with some berries growing.

If we keep heading north from here, we can go into Petalburg Woods. But at the moment, we really need to train Mandy until she can, at the very least, actually attack. So instead, we’re going to head all the way back to Route 102 and start fighting some random weak Pokémon.

Now we come to the main roadblock of this early stage of the game. After just a few battles, we do manage to gain a level, but we also burn through our entire stock of potions. Until those berries grow, we must stop playing for right now.

“How long could that take?” you might ask. Well, Oran Berries grow to fruit in 12 real world hours. Each plant will grow 2 Oran Berries, and I currently have access to 5 plots of dirt. Since I have to replant one of the Oran berries to grow a new plant, and each berry only heals 10 HP, that means every 12 hours Mandy can take 50 HP of damage before we need to stop training. Before anyone says it, yes, I’m playing on an emulator, so I COULD just advance the time. But I’m not going to do that. I’m really going to play for just a few minutes each day, training as much as I can with just the 5 Oran berries I can grow each day, just like I would have to on the real cartridge.

So, for the next couple days, I guess this is going to be my life. Pick a few berries, fight a few fights, then wait to do it all over again. Check back for more updates to see how long it takes for me to completely lose my sanity.

I hope you enjoyed Pokemon Ruby (GBA). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Final Fantasy VII (PSone) – Part 01 – North Mako Reactor

Much like my struggle with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, I have been putting off playing this game for the site for a long time. Not because I don’t want to play it, quite the opposite. This game holds such significance to me as a gamer that I feared I couldn’t do it justice. Actually, I still feel I can’t do it justice, but at this point I don’t think I’ll get much better at doing this, so it is what it is. Now, if it isn’t obvious from the title, we’re going to be playing Final Fantasy VII (PSone). I know I’ve mentioned it at least once before that Final Fantasy VII along with Pokémon Red where the two games that really converted me into a gamer. So if we’re going to do this, I want to share with you the full story of why that is.

For this, we must go back to when I was maybe 8 years old. My mom had taken me with her to visit one of her friends. While there, I was sent to play with her friend’s kids in the basement. They were older than me, maybe 12, and I didn’t really get along with them, so I simply played by myself in the corner. Likewise, they paid no attention to me and started playing a game on the SNES. I had no idea what the game was, and since we didn’t get along, I never found a chance to ask, but it looked amazing and I wished more than anything to be able to play it. In hindsight, it was most likely Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI), but without a name, the only thing that I was able to hold onto was the battle system, with enemies on one side, player characters on the other, and each taking turns in battle. Up until this point I had only played games like Mario, Duck Hunt, and other NES era games that would fall into the category of 5 minute arcade like games. They were fun, I’m not trying to say they weren’t, but seeing this game that was clearly meant for longer play times blew my 8 year old mind.

Fast forward a few years and eventually one of my older brother’s friends lets me play his Pokémon game for a little while during a long car ride to a concert (Blink 182 if I remember right). I was hooked. It wasn’t exactly the same as Final Fantasy, but it was close enough for me to latch onto. I needed more. I didn’t own a Gameboy at the time, and I didn’t have money to buy one, I was only 11 at this point in time. But I gathered up what money I had from birthdays and allowance to buy the Pokémon Strategy Guide. I read that guide cover to cover several times, weighed the pros and cons of each starter, built a dream team, studied the moves, everything. Eventually I convince my parents to buy me the newly released Gameboy Color and Pokémon Red as a Christmas present. I didn’t really like the fact that my color choices for the system were purple or clear purple, but it didn’t matter as long as I got to play Pokémon (I picked clear purple by the way). Also, from reading the guides, I decided to use Squirtle as my starter, however, I picked Pokémon Red for the exclusive Pokémon (I really wanted a Ninetales). I played that game for hours, and my Blastoise became my best friend. So much so that years later I managed to transfer him to a rom and upload that rom to the cloud so he wouldn’t disappear when the battery inevitably dies on the cartridge.

Once again, we fast forward a few more years until I’m about 13. By this time I owned a PSone and had a few games. Crash Bandicoot, Need for Speed, Twisted Metal, again nothing that really breaks away from the 5 minute play sessions I had back on the NES. Honestly, I was starting to get bored with games at this point. I still loved Pokémon, as well as all my other games, but they just weren’t holding my interest enough. That changed when Christmas came around and my Grandmother got me MTV’s Game Brain VHS. I’m sure almost no one has ever heard of this VHS, so let me explain. This VHS was a video walkthrough for several PlayStation games. Remember, we’re still 5 years off before YouTube launches, so at the time, this was amazing. I only actually owned one of the games featured on the movie (Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee), but I loved it just the same. However, the final game of the movie was of course Final Fantasy VII (And to the movie’s credit, it managed to not ruin the game’s plot while still giving a good walkthrough).

Admittedly, I didn’t make the connection the first time I saw it, I was a very dumb child. But one day something clicked and it all fell into place. The battle system wasn’t exactly the same as that SNES game I saw years earlier, but if this is Final Fantasy SEVEN it stands to reason that this would be a newer game of the same series, and so it would obviously look more modern. I eventually talked my parents into buying it for me as a birthday present. When I finally did get it, it was all over for me. The gameplay was better than I could have imagined, the graphics blew everything else out of the water, and the deep story had me on the edge of my seat for every second of it. Just a few months later I turned 14 and was forced to get my first part time job. With that money I started buying every SquareSoft game on the shelves. From there it grew and grew into the gaming obsession I have today, and honestly I don’t regret any of it (I regret loaning Valkyrie Profile to a friend. I never got it back and I still haven’t replaced it because it sells for about $200 now). Anyway, about halfway through playing Final Fantasy VII, I started wishing I could record my gameplay so I could look back at it later. But of course that would have taken up about 25 VHS tapes at the time, so it was simply impractical to actually do.

This brings our story full circle back to the present. Now that there are emulators, and hard drive space is dirt cheap, it is easier than ever to play and record gameplay from all of these old games and share it online for the world to see. Obviously, most people would do this via YouTube, but I simply don’t have the personality for that. Instead, I started this site, and Final Fantasy VII was one of my biggest inspirations and goals when I made that decision. I had wanted to start playing Final Fantasy VII right away, but I have made no attempt to deny the facts that I am a sub-par writer at best. Honestly, why are you reading this, there must be better ways to waste your free time. With that in mind, I shelved it, and tried to get at least some experience under me before I started that task. I still don’t think I’m there, but it has been pushed off long enough already. Anyway, onto the game itself. Final Fantasy VII is obviously the seventh game in the main Final Fantasy series. However, it was only the fourth Final Fantasy game to be released here in North America. Despite SquareSoft’s previous releases being renumbered to reflect this fact, they chose to brand Final Fantasy VII as the seventh installment it was, causing some initial confusion over what happened to the remaining 3 games we never saw. Confusion aside, Final Fantasy VII went on to become one of the most beloved and best-selling installments not only in the franchise, but of the Playstation system itself. I’m not going to say it’s the best game in the series, that’s a landmine I would rather not step on, but suffice it to say it is still held in high regard by many people. That’s why it was chosen as one of the handful of games to be included on the Playstation Classic system released not too long ago.But with that said, I’m not blind to its faults. Most glaring of which is that the overworld character models have not aged well. They look like Lego characters most of the time. But I’m hoping it is still an enjoyable game to play. Truth be told, even though it has had a huge impact on my life as a gamer, I have never successfully finished a second play through of it or any other Final Fantasy game. It has now been nearly 20 years since I saw the ending credits, and as would be expected, my memories of the game as a whole are fading. So join me as we rediscover the classic RPG that is Final Fantasy VII!

Table of Contents

Gameplay

-North Mako Reactor-

We open to a swirling vision of the stars above. At least I believe it’s the stars. It’s hard to be sure, because they start to take on a green color as the camera settles in on a mysterious woman.

It’s unclear what she is doing in this dark alley as green energy floats around her. She’s just kind of looking at the machinery on the side of the building. Before we can learn anything, she walks out to the main street, revealing the modern, if not overly industrialized, city she lives in.

Meanwhile, we keep flashing to a scene of a train rushing around the edge of the city. We follow its progress all the way to the moment it pulls into the station.

We quickly learn that the train had a few unexpected passengers aboard it. They jump down from the roof and make short work of the two guards stationed on the platform. As part of the group rushes ahead, the last two members finally dismount the train, and we are given our first look at our main character.

With few words exchanged, we follow the rest of our group to the exit. However, our actions seem to have already caught the attention of the local security. Before we make it off the platform we are already approached by a pair of guards. Once they get in range, the screen spins and distorts and we are thrown into our first battle.

Thankfully, the battle system is fairly straight forward, and the game doesn’t hold our hands any trying to teach it to you. There is a simple menu selection displaying our possible actions. “Attack” allows us to use our comically oversized sword (Named the Buster Sword) to do a basic physical attack. “Magic” obviously allows us to cast any spells we have equipped. We start the game with “Ice” and “Bolt” magic already available. And finally “Item” is self-explanatory, allowing us to use any items we might have, like healing potions. The only thing that might feel a bit unusual is the Active Time Battle (ATB) system the game uses. On the bottom right side of the screen is a Time Meter that will fill up during battle. Every time it fills up completely we are allowed to take an action with that character. And that’s about all we need to know about the battle system. After defeating these easy enemies, we are awarded EXP (Character experience points) AP (Magic experience points), Gil (The game’s currency), as well as the occasional Item drop.

After this battle, we manage to regroup with the rest of the people from the train. Upon our reunion, one of the others (Biggs, the one on the left in the green shirt) marvels at the fact we used to be a member of SOLDIER. In the same breath, he inform us that this group we are currently a member of calls themselves AVALANCHE. One of the other members (Jessie, the one in the middle trying to open the door) happened to hear Biggs comment on us being a member of SOLDIER. This catches her off guard because SOLDIER is apparently their enemy.

Biggs is quick to brush her comments aside. We USED to be a member of SOLDIER, but now we are working with them in AVALANCHE. However, this appears to be the first mission we’ve joined them on, as Biggs eventually asks us for our name. At this point, we’re allowed to name our character whatever we want, but I’m going to keep the default name of “Cloud”.

After learning our name, Biggs starts to introduce everyone else in the group. However, Cloud seems to have quite the attitude and quickly cuts him off. He’s here because he’s paid to be here. He doesn’t care what any of their names are.

Shortly after this exchange, the leader of the group shows up, scolding everyone that they shouldn’t be traveling in a group like this. He also reminds us of the job we came here to accomplish. Once we get past this door, we need to head for the North Mako Reactor and meet on the bridge in front of it.

With that, Jessie finally manages to get the door open and everyone rushes off. All except for the leader. He might have hired us, but he doesn’t seem too happy with the fact that we used to be a SOLDIER member. It’s at this point that we also get to assign a name to this character. Again, I’ll keep his default name of “Barret”.

After naming Barret, we’re given a quick tutorial pop-up on how run. But something is off about it. Like a word is missing or something. I remember there being a few grammatical errors scattered throughout the game, looks like we just found one of them. Oh well, at least the scenery is nice.

As we follow the other members of AVALANCHE, we find two more game mechanics I want to point out quickly. First, there is an option to put a pointer hand over Cloud’s head. Since he can become rather small and hard to see with some of the long shot camera angles, I’m going to keep this feature on for most of my play through. With this option, there are also red triangles that point out any doorways or other exits from our current area. The other thing of note is that, despite the first battle, we won’t actually see most of the enemies coming. Instead, we will be drawn into random battles with no warning as we’re simply walking around.

We follow after everyone else, and catch up with them on the bridge like we planned. While most of the group rushes inside the reactor, the final member of AVALANCHE, Wedge, breaks away from the group to secure our exit. Talking with him, we also learn the full scope of our mission today. Apparently, we are actually planning to blow up this entire massive reactor.

After hearing this, we regroup with the rest of AVALANCE just inside the reactor, where Biggs is attempting to hack open a security door. While he’s doing that, Barret tries to start up some small talk with Cloud, asking if he had ever been in a reactor before. As previously mentioned, Cloud was a member of SOLDIER, which works for Shinra (The company that makes the reactors). So obviously he has been in at least one other reactor before now.

Hearing this, Barret starts into a small rant about how the world is full of some natural energy called Mako energy, and how the Shinra Company is sucking the world dry with these weird reactors. Cloud isn’t really all that interested in Barret’s lecture though.

Cloud’s cocky attitude so far on this mission finally got the best of Barret and he decides to personally keep an eye on Cloud. For the rest of this mission, Cloud is going to be traveling with Barret (Or rather Barret is traveling with Cloud, from a gameplay perspective). Either way, it doesn’t take Biggs much longer to get the door open, and we can keep going deeper into the reactor.

We quickly find an elevator and take it down towards the reactor core. Unfortunately, Barret can’t drop his lecture. Since we’re all stuck in this elevator for the moment, he decides to picks it up right where he left off. Cloud, however, continues to have very little interest in any of it. He just wants to finish the job before stronger security shows up.

Even after the elevator ride ends, we still have several flights of stairs to descend before we’re at the core. Not only that, but we have to run across several large pipes before we actually reach our target. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem safe. Are there no safety inspectors in this universe?

We’re nearly at our target now, but the various battles we’ve been in to get here have triggered one more basic battle mechanic, Limit Breaks. During battle, every time a character takes any damage, it will fill their Limit Gauge. Once that gauge is full, that character will be able to perform a Limit Break attack. These attacks are somewhat flashy and typically cause much more damage than the regular attacks.

Anyway, we have finally reached the reactor core. Before we walk up to it, we notice a lone Materia sitting on the catwalk. It is a Restore Materia, which teaches healing magic. Sadly, we do not currently have the ability to equip it, so it will have to sit in our inventory for now.

Barret ends up walking ahead of Cloud, excited by the thought of blowing up one of the large reactors. Despite this excitement, he instructs Cloud to be the one to actually set the bomb. Cloud protests this, saying Barret should do it himself. But Barret is quite to brush him off, claiming he needs to keep an eye on Cloud so he doesn’t pull anything.

Before Cloud can manage to set the bomb, the screen goes red, and it appears as if Cloud is having a PTSD episode from his time in SOLDIER. It doesn’t last long, and Barret is quick to snap him out of it, but it still leaves us with an uncomfortable mindset, wondering what skeletons Cloud might have in his closet.

Without wasting any more time, Cloud sets the bomb on the reactor core. Unfortunately, he seems to have set off an alarm in the process. Cloud and Barret are suddenly cornered by a large mechanical Guard Scorpion, and a boss battle ensues.

Because this is the first boss battle, it is not very difficult. For starters, the Guard Scorpion very frequently uses its Search Scope technique, which causes no damage and basically just wastes a turn. Furthermore, it is weak to Cloud’s Bolt magic, which seems obvious since it’s a robot.

What’s more, it will occasionally take a much more defensive stance, with its tail up ready to attack. During these instances, it will counterattack both Cloud and Barret for some significant damage if either of them attack it. However, it takes no other actions while in this stance, and it is a good opportunity to use some healing items if needed.

Or if we prefer, we can intentionally take the damage so we can quickly raise our limit gauges. We just need to make sure we’re healed up enough to survive the counterattack before we use our Limit Break.

Whichever tactic we take, the Guard Scorpion isn’t a huge threat, and is defeated rather quickly. However, we have no time to celebrate. As soon as the battle ends, the bomb timer begins. We have only 10 minutes to get out of the reactor or we’ll end up caught in the blast ourselves.

We don’t have far to go, but we still have to be careful or we won’t make it out alive. Case in point, if we don’t stop to help Jessie on our way out, we won’t make it out at all. While keeping watch, she somehow fell and got her foot stuck between the support beams. She also happens to be the only one that can hack the doors on our way out. Kind of important if we want to go through them, and we don’t have time to be backtracking to save her later.

On top of that, the time doesn’t stop counting down during battles. So we’re going to have to fight quickly on our way out. Likewise, the clock doesn’t stop if we go into our menu at any point, so we don’t want to be lingering there either.

We manage to rendezvous with everyone on the bridge with over 6 minutes left on the clock, or so it seemed. We’ve barely managed to turn the corner when the reactor starts to explode.

The resulting explosion was so massive it could be seen from everywhere in the city. No doubt that shockwave was felt by everyone as well. As for our group, we didn’t manage to get very far from the blast, but we were somehow spared from being blown up or otherwise crushed by rubble.

Unfortunately, we’re kind of trapped here at the moment. Good thing Jessie seems to have packed some small explosives for just such an occasion. After blowing out the wall, we’re all free, and Barret instructs us all to make our way to the Sector 8 Train Station.

Everyone scatters, but Cloud seems to want a few words with Barret first. Unfortunately for Cloud, it’s Barret’s turn to not care what the other has to say. He simply assumes Cloud wants to talk about his money, and tells him to wait until they’re all back at the hideout. With that, he too rushes off, leaving Cloud to find his own way to the Sector 8 Station.

We climb the stairs, and right away find ourselves in the same street where we last saw the mysterious flower girl. She starts up a conversation with Cloud, trying to figure out what is happening. No doubt she saw the reactor explode and is now very worried. Cloud tells her it’s nothing to worry about and quickly changes the subject towards the basket of flowers she is carrying. With how polluted the city is, you don’t see many flowers growing.

She is happy to see him notice her flowers and offers to sell him one for a single Gil. At that price, we have no reason not to buy one, so we do. Again, she seems happy, and ends up walking away after her sale without asking any more questions.

Flower in hand, Cloud continues through the center of town towards the train station. Unfortunately, that interaction with the Flower Girl seems to have slowed him down long enough for a couple of Shinra Soldiers to catch up to him. We have the option to fight them, or run away, so naturally we choose to fight them.

Cloud defeats them easily, unfortunately, this patrol is not alone. More soldiers appear from the other streets as well, eventually surrounding him. However, Cloud is still much stronger than any of the Soldiers, and chooses to fight his way out of the situation.

In the end, Cloud simply can’t defeat the soldiers fast enough and they completely surround him. On top of that, these constant battles have made him late for his rendezvous with the rest of AVALANCHE. But as luck would have it, these soldiers have inadvertently given Cloud the perfect escape route. Right as they start to close in on him, the train passes underneath the bridge they are on, allowing Cloud jumps over the railing, land on its roof, and ride it off to safety.

Inside the train, we discover that all the other members of AVALANCHE made it to the train successfully. In Cloud’s absence, they start wondering what happened to him. Was he killed on the way to the train? If he is alive, will he keep fighting for AVALANCHE? These questions do nothing but enrage Barrett, who gives rather sharp responses and slams his fist on a nearby crate.

Wedge tries to change the conversation towards their pay for the mission. But that doesn’t appear to be any better of a topic. Thankfully, it was at this moment that Cloud managed to open the train door and swing his way inside, nearly giving Barret a heart attack in the process.

Cloud’s cockiness once again shines through as he arrogantly announces he was a little late, brushing off the whole thing as just something he always does. In a way, I want to believe him. When he jumped onto the train, it was coming from the opposite direction he was heading. So even if he wasn’t slowed down by the Shinra Soldiers, he wasn’t heading in the direction of the station anyway.

Already in a bad mood, Barret tries to turn his anger towards Cloud, scolding him for making everyone else worry about him. Unfortunately, Cloud is in cocky mode right now, and flips it right back on him by pointing out that Barret was worried about him.

Doing his best not to punch him, Barret simply claims it will be coming out of his pay. Now that everyone is here and accounted for, the group makes their way up the train to the passenger cars. Each member makes a comment to Cloud either thanking him for helping or claiming they will do better next time. Jessie ends up being the last to leave. After closing the train door, she has a brief moment alone with Cloud where she cleans off some soot from his face and thanks him for saving her back at the reactor.

We eventually follow after Barret and the rest of AVALANCHE into the passenger cars. Once there, we get to witness nearly all the other passengers fleeing at the sight of them. Apparently they have quite the reputation. Then again Barret does have an imposing body type AND a massive gun for a right hand. I’d probably run from him too. Likewise, everyone probably already knows they are the ones responsible for blowing up the reactor, they may have even been expecting it. I base that on the fact that the “Shinra Times” has already published an article about the bombing even though it only happened a few minutes ago.

As we go around talking to everyone, we eventually get to join Jessie as she excitedly shows us the Midgar Rail System map. While looking at this 3D model of Midgar, she fills us in with a good bit of exposition about what this world is like. For starters, the whole city of Midgar is supported about 50 meters above the ground by massive support pillars. There are also apparently 8 of those huge reactors circling around the edge of the city. Each of these reactors powers its own sector which is treated as its own town. Furthermore, these towns used to have their own names, but the city has become so industrialized that no one remembers what they were. Instead, they simply refer to each town by Sector number.

The map goes on to show the train spiraling around the center pillar and down towards the ground. Jessie takes this moment to explain to us that the train is also equipped with a security scanner. By linking up with a database at the Shinra Headquarters, these scanners can check the identities of every passenger on the train. For obvious reasons, all the members of AVALANCE are using Fake ID’s to ride the train right now.

Right on cue, the lights in the train start flashing red, indicating that we are now within the security checkpoint. Even though we are clearly the creepiest people on the train right now, Jessie still comments about the creeps that come out when the lights go off.

Following the Security Check, Barret starts commenting on the scenery outside the train. Specifically, he points out that the area underneath the main plate no longer has a day or night cycle since they can’t see the sky anymore. Finally, Cloud offers up his first sympathy to the situation, acknowledging that the floating city of Midgar is “Pretty unsettling scenery.”

Of course, Barret didn’t miss this either, admitting surprise to hear such words coming from Cloud. He goes on to detail the pains that the floating city causes the people living on the ground. On top of blocking out the sky, the city is polluting the air, and the reactors are sucking the life right out of the ground.

Cloud offers up the obvious solution that everyone should just move up to the plate if the ground is so polluted. Unfortunately, most of the people living in the slums simply don’t have the money to move there even if they wanted to. “No one lives in the slums because they want to.” as Cloud summarizes.

The train eventually comes to a stop at the Sector 7 Slums Station without any further incident. Upon disembarking, Barret calls everyone together to congratulate them on a successful mission. Likewise he warns them not to get scared, because the next one is going to be an even bigger explosion. Personally, I don’t think it’s very smart to loudly talk about your terrorist activities at the train station. That might be why the Shinra Times already had an article published on an attack that just happened.

Everyone then leaves the station and heads back to the hideout. It is on our way there that we get some proper perspective on how massive the main plate of Midgar really is. Just outside the Sector 7 Slums is one of the support pillars for the plate, and it really makes you feel insignificant while standing next to it.

Even with our little sightseeing, we manage to make it to the Sector 7 Slums just in time to see Barret rush in to the local bar and quickly kick everyone out from inside. What really surprises us, though, is when we enter the bar ourselves and are immediately approached by a young girl assuming the next person to enter would be her Papa.

The little girl ends up running away into the corner as soon as she realizes we’re not her dad. Thankfully, the bartender is there to comfort little Marlene. She then starts up a conversation with Cloud, with Marlene still half hiding behind her. She’s glad to see us making it back safe, but she’s worried Cloud and Barret must have fought with each other the whole time, since Barret is always pushing people around. We are then given the opportunity to name this character. I will continue to use the default name of Tifa.

Tifa takes notice of the flower we bought earlier. As she states, it’s rare to see them down here in the slums. We are then given the choice to give it to Tifa or to Marlene. I want to take this moment to simply acknowledge that there is a secret dating minigame going on in the background throughout the first half of the game. Various responses will either add or remove affection for different characters which changes an event later in the game. I will not be aiming my choices towards any particular character, and so I chose to give the flower to Marlene. A little girl growing up in this environment deserves a pretty flower.

Even after giving her the flower, Marlene continues to be shy around Cloud. That’s ok, because the other members of AVALANCHE are more than willing to let Cloud join in on their fun. Biggs is drinking himself stupid, Wedge is filling his stomach with Tifa’s delicious food, and Jessie is simply muttering to herself about getting all excited about something…

We don’t get much time to relax though, as Barret comes running through the doors shortly after. Turns out, Barret is Marlene’s Papa, if you hadn’t already guessed it. Despite his tough attitude, he actually comes across as a very caring dad. He notices her flower right away and even makes sure Marlene thanks Cloud for giving it to her.

Now that everyone is here, Barret calls a group meeting. He then shows us that the pinball machine in the corner is actually a secret elevator down to the secret base. Barret gets to ride it down with Marlene on his shoulder, but it looks like everyone else simply has to jump down the hole and hope for the best.

Following everyone’s lead, we too take the secret elevator down to the hideout. On the TV we find out that the news is already reporting on the bombing and the Shinra President is stating that AVALANCHE has already claimed responsibility for the attack. Once again, I feel like the news knew this attack was coming, since no one in the group would have had time to claim responsibility.

The Shinra President goes out of his way to paint AVALANCE as an evil terrorist organization. He even goes so far as to state he is mobilizing SOLDIER to protect the citizens of Midgar against them.

Meanwhile, Barret is in the corner working over a punching bag rather than conducting an actual meeting like he claimed. Upon seeing Cloud, he casually asks if anyone we encountered today was part of SOLDIER. Cloud then states the obvious that if they had encountered anyone from SOLDIER, none of them would have made it out alive.

As would be expected, Cloud’s answer just riles Barret up to the point that Biggs has to hold him back from punching Cloud. Unfortunately for him, that means Barret ends up punching Biggs right into the screen instead. He then makes a few snarky remarks of his own, warning Cloud not to even think about hanging out with his old buddy Shinra.

Cloud ends up quite upset at the accusation. Barret asked him a question and he answered it. If that’s how Barret it going to act, he might as well just get his money and leave like he originally planned to do.

Tifa tries to stop Cloud from walking out, but Barret just has to double down and make matters worse. Cloud defends himself, stating he doesn’t care about Shinra or SOLDIER at all. But he also throws in that he doesn’t really care about AVALANCHE or the Planet either.

Now heading for the door, Tifa makes one more attempt to stop Cloud from leaving and convince him to join the cause. The planet is dying and someone has to do something to save it. But Cloud is checked out at this point, let Barret take care of it.

With no other options, Tifa plays her “Childhood Friend” trump card. Surely even someone as tough as Cloud would have to listen to the requests of a childhood friend. She even goes so far as to remind him about the promise he made to her when they were younger.

Cloud made the promise seven years ago, back at their home town. It takes a little pushing from Tifa, but Cloud does eventually remember. They met at the well at the center of town. Cloud remembers because he was getting cold waiting for Tifa to actually show up.

Back then, Cloud had called Tifa to meet him so he could tell her he was leaving town for Midgar. Tifa isn’t surprised by this. Apparently most of the boys in town have had the same idea recently. Cloud is different though. He’s not moving to Midgar just to work, he wants to join SOLDIER.

Not only that, but Cloud is aiming to become as strong and famous as the great Sephiroth. Without question, it’s a hard path to walk, and Cloud knows he probably won’t be back home for a long time. But Tifa manages to break the tension of the moment by asking if he will ever be in the newspapers.

It’s then that Tifa talks Cloud into making a promise to her. Once Cloud reaches his goal of becoming a member of SOLDIER, he needs to promise to come save her whenever she is in trouble. Every girl wants to be rescued by their hero at least once in their life.

Promise or not, Cloud doesn’t feel like he became the hero he had aimed to be. Sure, he became a member of SOLDIER, but he never gained anything near the level of fame that Sephiroth attained. However, Tifa sees things differently. Only the best of the best are allowed to join SOLDIER. Famous or not, Cloud got his dream, so now he needs to keep his promise.

It’s not clear if Barret was listening in, and trying to make a point about keeping promises, or perhaps he’s still mad and wants Cloud gone. Either way, Barret shows up to give Cloud his pay for the mission, 1500 gil.

Between Tifa and Barret, something they said most have gotten through to Cloud. As soon as he picks up the money, he makes a spectacle of how small the pay it, and asks for twice as much for the next mission. Tifa is quick to stop Barret from fighting the demand, they really need the help. But Barret has good reason not to pay that much, he’s trying to save money for Marlene’s schooling, like a good father would.

Reluctantly, Barret settles on paying 2000 gil next time. Tifa, however, happily thanks Cloud for agreeing to stick around for at least one more mission. With that, they all head off to get some rest while they can. They have another hard mission ahead of them.

QuackShot Starring Donald Duck (Genesis) – Part 1

What would you do if you happened to find a hidden treasure map during a visit to your Uncle’s house? Would you mention it to your uncle? Or would you hide it and keep the treasure for yourself? Well, if your name is Donald Duck, and your uncle just so happens to be Scrooge McDuck, a man with a literal swimming pool full of gold, maybe it’s about time you got your own share of treasure.

That’s just what happens in Quack Shot Starring Donald Duck for the Sega Genesis. Prior to this, I’ve never played Quack Shot, but I went into it with high hopes. The Genesis was a haven for Disney games. They always had some of the most impressive graphics and music the system ever saw. They were notorious for having a few random hard spots to slow you down, but otherwise were usually praised for being high quality games. This game differs slightly from some of the others though because it’s an original story instead of being based on one of the many classic movies. But I’m not worried, like I said, the Disney games were always great. So let’s steal that map, grab the kids, and go get that treasure!

Gameplay

One day while visiting his Uncle Scrooge, Donald found a rather interesting book in the study. It chronicled the life of King Garuzia, the once great leader of the Duck Kingdom. According to the book, King Garuzia hid his most prized possessions just before he died.

As luck would have it, there was a map hidden inside the book with clues to finding the treasure. This is just the break Donald has always wanted. If he can find this treasure, it would make him filthy rich. Possibly even richer than Scrooge, though I find that hard to believe.

Unfortunately, Donald isn’t the only one with dollar signs in his eyes. At that exact moment, a member of Pete’s Gang just so happened to be spying through the window and saw the whole thing. As Donald headed home with the map, Pete’s Gang started to chase after him, but they were ultimately done in by an open manhole, allowing Donald to made it home none the wiser.

Once home, Donald grabbed his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and together the took off in their plane to start their treasure hunt. Just then, Daisy shows up demanding answers, they were supposed to be home for dinner an hour ago. But there’s no time for dinner now, not when there’s treasure on the line.

They left daisy behind to be as mad as she wanted to be, but she wasn’t the only one watching that plane fly away. Moments later, Pete and his gang had their own planes in the air following after Donald and that treasure map.

With the story out of the way, we are presented with the World Map and given our choice of destinations. As of right now, we have no clues, so we really have no incentive NOT to start in the default location of Duckburg. So the kids, apparently together acting as the pilot, drop Donald off and fly away until he needs them again.

First things first, the sprite work in this game is just gorgeous. Exactly what you would expect from a Disney game. Onto the gameplay itself, we have a somewhat typical action platformer game. It is surprisingly non-violent though, with Donald using a Plunger Gun which only stuns the enemies. But then in a dark turn, the enemies occasionally dropped whole chickens which will restore Donald’s health. Don’t get me wrong, whole chickens are a very common item to find in older games. But when the main character is a duck, you start edging into implied cannibalism.

In addition to eating his own kind, Donald can occasionally find Hot Peppers scattered about the world. Collecting these will increase Donald’s Temper Gauge. Once full, Donald will go into a full blown rage, running forward out of control and completely invincible.

By the time Donald calms down, we’ve already made it to the end of the stage where we’re informed we need to find a way to climb walls. Clearly we must have missed something while Donald was in his rage, so we start backtracking through the stage looking for what we missed.

We manage to make it all the way back to the start of the level, and we didn’t find anything new. So I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do now. We just started the game, how are we already this stuck? The only thing we’re doing now is taking damage and needlessly draining our health.

After finding a scan of the instruction manual online, I figured out what I was doing wrong. At the end of the stage, Donald planted down a green flag. When we’re standing near it, we can actually call the boys back with the plane from the item menu and then travel to a different location. So I guess we’re going to be doing quite a bit of back tracking in this game.

We still don’t have any real clues what to do next, so how about we just head off to the next location of Mexico. The scenery changed, but so far the gameplay hasn’t. All we have to do is make it to the far side of the stage. Nothing too hard yet.

There are of course a few minor changes. We encounter new enemies, like these cactus monsters. They’ll explode into flying cactus bits if we get too close to them, so we need to stun them quickly. We also encounter some quicksand, but it’s hardly a threat. Just keep moving and we get right out of it.

Mexico does have one major change compared to Duckburg though, it has more than one screen to the level. It is in this next stage that some new obstacles start coming our way. First of which is a large number of bottomless pits to jump over. Following that, we come across some poorly placed dynamite plungers that send explosions all across the ground.

Death Count: 01

However, it is the moving platforms that end up causing the first death of the game. We had the unfortunate timing to have a beehive dropped on Donald’s head just as he landed on a platform. During his damage animation, the platform simply moved on without him, sending him falling into the pit below. But we don’t let that stop us. After that minor setback we finish the stage and are informed that now we also need to find special key to enter the Ruins.

We’re told that someone had taken the key back to Duckburg. However, we already know we’ve hit a dead end back in Duckburg, so we might as well keep moving forward to Transylvania instead.

Death Count: 02

As you might expect, Transylvania is a much spookier environment than we’ve encountered before. There are some new enemies like these little bats, and there are new dangers like these waterfalls. Unlike the quicksand in Mexico, these waterfalls will kill Donald instantly, so they are to be avoided at all costs.

Death Count: 04

The general layout of the level admittedly isn’t very difficult. However, my lack of focus caused us to miss a couple of jumps and fall right into the water. After a couple of these, we end up with our first Game Over.

Thankfully, this game offers unlimited continues. We lose a little progress, but otherwise we are simply sent back to the world map and need to start the Transylvania section over again.

Our next attempt at the level goes much better. As it turns out, we were practically at the end already when we got that game over. Obviously, a trip through Transylvania would end at Dracula’s castle. However, unlike the other sections, we can actually enter the castle. Or so I thought. Just a few feet inside and we are stopped by a ghost which informs us we can’t pass unless we have a way to blow up walls, which we currently don’t. So wonderful, 3 location choices and all of them dead ends.

The only clue we’ve been given so far is that the Hero Key is back in Duckburg, so we head back there first. Thankfully the boys are smart enough to drop Donald off at the end of the level, so we don’t have to do all that again. Even better, the person at the end of the stage just so happens to have the Hero Key on him! He’ll only turn it over if we are a hero though. Is Donald a hero? OF COURSE HE IS! What is more heroic than risking your life for treasure to give to the poor? …What? …Donald is poor… Compared to Scrooge everyone is poor…

Now that we have the Hero Key, we call the kids back and we return to Mexico. After using the key on the door, the temple opens right up for us. I wonder what we’ll find inside.

What we find is a maze guarded by living fireballs. I didn’t notice it while playing, but when taking the screenshots, it actually looks like they might be flaming skulls. They move in predictable patterns though, so we just need to proceed carefully.

It is in this temple that we learn another of the mechanics of the game. At one point the only path forward is about half a block too low for Donald to actually walk under. It would be amazing for no one to have noticed this during play testing, so there must be another way through here. And of course there is. If we crouch down, and then hit the jump button, Donald will actually do a short belly slide across the ground. We need to do a few of these to make it all the way through, but now we know for the future.

After this, we have a little bit of trouble climbing a rather steep passageway. The platforms are simply too far apart for Donald to jump between them. You would think being a duck would allow him to fly, but for some reason he has never shown to have that ability. Instead, we need to stun the various Thwomp-like enemies and use them as stepping stones to make our way up.

Shortly after, we come to the end of the maze and find Goofy just kind of standing there. What the heck is Goofy doing in the center of an ancient Aztec Temple? Apparently even he doesn’t know why he’s here. He was just looking around, and randomly found his way here. He did find a note on the ground though, if we want it.

He also mentions that he found a funny plunger thing. If we shoot it at walls it will help us reach high places. So this must be an upgrade to our plunger gun that will allow us to climb walls.

Finally, he tells us that Gyro back in Duckburg is looking for us. Not sure how Goofy trapped here in an Aztec Temple knew about that, but ok. Either way, we now have exactly what we need to continue deeper into Duckburg, so it’s time to get out of here.

Death Count: 05

Unfortunately, there is no quick way out of the temple. We have to backtrack through the entire thing. My impatience with that design choice actually cost us a life, nearly 2, but we do eventually make it back out.

With our new red plunger, we can now use the plunger handles as platforms to climb walls. Sadly, they don’t appear to be any stronger than our old plungers. Case in point, these damn turtles. If they hide in their shells, the plunger can’t hurt them, it just bounces off their shell. That would be fine if they weren’t positioned in a narrow passageway with no way around them. They also don’t like to ever come out of their shells if we’re too close to them, so they can be very frustrating.

Death Count: 06

I also feel I need to comment on the fact that, despite this being a city with buildings that are clearly built on the ground, there are still bottomless pits positioned between some of the buildings. I would accept this as a death by falling, if it weren’t for the fact that we manually climbed up these buildings just a second ago. We’re only maybe on the 3rd floor, and we actually can, if we choose, jump down to the ground rather than use the ladder once we make it to the other side of this same building. There is no reason for bottomless pits here.

Death Count: 08

Of course, that offense is minor in comparison to the next part of the level. In it, Donald must hold onto a pulley as it rides along the telephone wires. At various points there will be dangerous obstacles and Donald will be forced to jump off to another pulley, or risk falling to his death.

Death Count: 10

It takes us a few tries, but we eventually make it safely across the telephone wires. Waiting for us on the other side is Gyro. He has invented a new type of ammo for our gun, Bubblegum, which when shot from our gun will actually make Exploding Bubbles. With this, we can head back to Transylvania and blow up those walls that were blocking our path.

Before that though, we need to get back to the checkpoint to call the plane. Just like in the Temple, we are going to have to physically travel all the way back to the checkpoint. However, unlike the temple, there is actually a convenient, safe path back this time. Well, part of the way at least. We still have to jump across the building tops, but at least there is a single pulley we can ride the whole way back across the telephone lines.

Once we get back to Dracula’s Castle, that same ghost shows up again to remind us that we need to blow up the wall. Of course, it also questions why we came here in the first place. It’s so scary here. As it turns out, Count Dracula just so happens to have the treasure map we need here in the castle! Though, the ghost doesn’t think the count will be willing to part with it easily…

No point in standing around wondering though. As soon as the ghost vanishes, we switch to our new Bubblegum ammo and blast away this wall. I do want to note that the bubblegum ammo is somewhat annoying to shoot, and best used at point blank range. Standing right up against the first section of wall, I was able to blast away all 3 blocks. However, the next shot from a distance allowed the bubble to bounce a bit as it drifted through the air, and so it only destroyed the top two blocks.

Now that we’re actually exploring the castle, we have to keep an eye out for any new threats we might encounter. Right away a fairly obvious one shows up. That ghost at the entrance wasn’t alone, and some of his buddies show up throughout the castle. Unfortunately, our Plunger Gun just passes right though them. They are ghosts after all. So all we can do is try to avoid them as much as possible. On the plus side, they don’t follow Donald around or anything, they just kind of lazily drift through the air. So avoiding them isn’t much of a problem.

Then, once we get past the spirits of the dead, their skeletal remains climb out of their caskets to attack us as well. Thankfully these guys can be stunned with the plunger gun, so they don’t pose much of a threat. Also, they are very helpful in showing us where to go next. This section of the castle just kind of ends with an invisible wall. If the skeletons hadn’t fallen down the hole, I would have thought the stage was broken.

Death Count: 11

Maybe we shouldn’t have followed them though, because down the hole leads to a horrible water section. Apparently Dracula has some bad plumbing and his whole basement has flooded. And of course, Donald can’t actually swim, he just moves slowly through the water. Seriously Donald, you can’t fly, you can’t swim, you eat chicken, what kind of duck are you?!

Death Count: 12

Somehow we manage to make it through the spikes and wrecking balls swinging around down here in the water and make it to the other side, and we only died one more time in the process. Now we just need to climb this wall because Donald certainly isn’t going to SWIM up to the surface…

When we emerged, we find ourselves in a long hallway chasing after a rather large ghost. He paid us no attention and simply drifted away from us whenever we got close, so I assumed he was leading us somewhere. Oh how wrong I was. After a little while of following him, he suddenly got a big grin on his face and exploded into a swarm of smaller ghosts just to mess with us!

His trick does tell us one thing though, we’re definitely not supposed to follow him anywhere. So it looks like we’ll have to find our own way out. Thankfully, some of the blocks are a different color, which makes me think to shoot them with the Bubblegum Ammo. That was exactly what we needed to do, as one of the blocks turns into an elevator to carry us up to an otherwise inaccessible door.

We’re not safe yet though. Through that door is just another long hallway full of ghosts. After that, there is a massive wall he need to climb. That would be bad enough on its own, but a sudden loud rumble tells me we’re in for another surprise. Turns out the wall next to us is closing in fast and will crush Donald like a bug if he doesn’t make it to the top in time!

Donald climbs fast enough to avoid being crushed, but now we’re stuck following that big ghost again. Thankfully we learned from last time and keep an eye out for a hidden door above the hallway.

Death Count: 13

Unfortunately, this door brings us RIGHT into Dracula’s Chambers. With very little health left, Donald dies almost before we even knew what was happening. Good thing we still have plenty of lives left. Time to fight Dracula, which is easier said than done. He is constantly sending waves of bats flying out of his cloak which protect him from our attacks.

We quickly see a new strategy that might just do the trick. Dracula is flying so high that we can simply stand directly under him and shoot him in the ass. From here, the bats barely pose a problem to us. We can start shooting Dracula before he has a chance to summon them, and even when he does, they mostly just fly away from us.

Doing this, it doesn’t take long before Count Dracula is defeated, and Donald claims the real treasure map for himself. Once defeated, the door to the room opens, and we can head back out of the castle to our next destination. This time, for once, the level is nice and drops us off right at the castle entrance. I don’t know that I would keep playing if it made me trek all the way back through the castle again.

Now that we have the REAL treasure map, there are several new locations opened up on the map. A Viking Ship to the north, Egypt, Maharajah in India, and then the South Pole. Much like before, we really don’t have any clues yet about which order we should visit these places in, so we just head to the Viking Ship and decide to start from there. The ship has obviously seen better days, but somehow there are still living Vikings defending it.

With the deck full of angry Vikings, we eventually seek safety up in the sails. Unfortunately, it looks like Pete’s Gang has beaten us to the ship and is likewise hiding up here already. No matter, the whole ship is falling apart below our feet anyway. They’ll probably fall soon as well.

Somehow we make it through the ship safely and manage to find the captain of the ship. Unfortunately, he is currently captain in name only. Apparently ghosts have taken over the ship and he is currently powerless to stop them. If we can help him get his ship back, he will hand over a diary that will help us find the Duck Treasure.

Well, how can we pass up an opportunity like that? All we have to do is go inside the ship and clear out all the ghosts. Problem is, we can’t get inside the ship right now. The hatch is locked and we don’t have the key. Even if we did get inside, I’m not sure we have any way to actually get rid of the ghosts either…

I guess that’s a dead end for now. Might as well call the kids and head off to the next location. We still don’t have any clues, so let’s see what we find in Egypt. What we find is more of Pete’s Gang already 2 steps ahead of us.

Death Count: 14

They’ve even managed to somehow learn to swim in quicksand! With surprises like that, it was only a matter of time before Donald was done in. On the plus side, many of them drop hot peppers when we stun them. After a few of those Donald can just go on one of his rages and run straight through most of the stage.

Egypt ended up being an incredibly short stage, at the end of which is a locked door. This time, we don’t even get a clue about what would open it. So this is a complete dead end. Might as well call the kids…

From Egypt, we hop over to the Maharajah and are immediately swarmed with enemies. At times, it’s a good thing Donald has such a short temper. One of his rages was just what we needed to rush through the early parts of this stage.

We quickly make our way to the Palace, and for once we aren’t turned away. Instead we are offered a challenge. If we can defeat the Tiger in the Garden, we will be rewarded with a Sphinx Tear. We’ve never heard of the Sphinx Tear, but that sounds like it might be what we need to get through that door back in Egypt. So of course, we accept the challenge.

Just hearing that we need to fight a tiger, we already knew we would be in for a difficult challenge. However, we didn’t expect that challenge to include FINDING the tiger. Unlike the previous areas, the inside of the palace is a literal maze of doors going from room to room and looping back to the beginning.

Of course, this task is made all the more difficult by the variety of enemies lurking around the halls. The worst of which has to be the snake charmers. If Donald so much as hears the music, he will be frozen in a trance. Then the snake will slither out of the basket and attack Donald before he can snap out of it.

There are maybe 20 doors in the palace, so we resign ourselves to having to check every single one of them. FINALLY we manage to find the door leading to the Garden and the Tiger. Unfortunately, we have no idea what we’re supposed to do about it. Not only do the plungers pass right through it, but for some reason this tiger is capable of breathing fire. What they hell kind of tiger is that?

Death Count: 15

We try the Bubble Gun, and that also causes no damage. As a last resort we switch to the Popcorn Gun which we’ve so far never used. Apparently this shoots out a shotgun like blast of popcorn in a wide arc. This actually does seem to cause some damage to the Tiger. However, we don’t have nearly enough ammo to expect to win the fight that way. Not that it matters because we also have nowhere near enough health to survive the fight either.

Death Count: 17

When the battle restarts, we are still down to only a single shot with the Popcorn Gun since it takes 5 kernels per shot. When that runs out we’re left helplessly firing plungers at the beast with no effect at all. All we manage to do is run around while it slowly kills us…

Once the game continues, we now have another problem. Yes we managed to find the door, but I can’t remember what sequence of doors it was that actually brought us there. It takes us a while, but we finally figure it out. From the palace entrance, we need to jump down and go in the first door we see. From there, we need to head to the right, and straight into the door with a 5 over it.

In the next room, we need to ignore the first door we see. Instead we need to climb the wall and belly slide to the door hidden away behind the small opening.

Finally, we need to get past the snake charmers and head all the way to the right. There is a small passageway that Donald needs to belly slide through. If we send Donald all the way down this hall, the door there will just start the loop over. Instead we need to get him to stop in the opening about half way through. This is the door that leads to the Tiger!

After a bit of luck, we finally manage to land a hit on the Tiger. Apparently we can only damage it if we manage to shot it in the back of the head. Since it’s usually facing us that is a rather difficult task. However, there is an opening. When the Tiger jumps around the room, we need to be quick and shoot it before it manages to land. If we keep firing as fast as we can, we can actually land a few shots all at once.

Death Count: 18

Unfortunately, the Tiger is craftier than we gave it credit for. We thought it would be safe to stand underneath it when it jumped to the upper ledges. We were very wrong. Apparently this tiger, in addition to breathing fire, can actually control the path of the flames with its mind, bending it around the floor to attack Donald below…

Death Count: 19

In fact, it can ever transform the flames into a pride of little fire tigers that run across the ground. As it turns out, dead center in the room is just about the safest spot to be. From this relatively safe spot, we manage to get in our attacks when the tiger jumped down, and eventually it was defeated!

True to his word, the prince hands over the Sphinx Tear now that we’ve managed to defeat that tiger. Maybe now we can head back to Egypt and see what’s inside that temple.

Death Count: 20

Before that though, I figured we might as well check out our last location first. And so, we head our plane all the way down to the South Pole. As you would expect, the whole area is coated in ice and Donald will be sliding a bit with every step. However, that isn’t what annoys me the most about this area. What really annoys me is the fact that the whole area has so many extremely steep hills, and it’s so hard to hit the penguins when they slide down them.

Thankfully, the South Pole is an extremely short stage. After just a few hills, we find a key frozen in a block of ice. No doubt that’s the key to the Viking Ship. But how are we going to get it out? I guess we’ll just have to come back later.

Family Feud (SNES)

Lately I’ve been watching a bunch of those “Worst Gameshow Answers” videos on YouTube. Most of them end up being Family Feud answers and it’s just so much fun watching Steve Harvey’s over the top reactions to the crazy things the contestants end up saying. But that got me thinking about how well I would do if I was ever on the show. Thankfully, there have been versions of Family Feud released on nearly every system, so the only problem is picking which one to play.

In case you’ve never seen the show, I’ll give a quick rundown of how the game works. Before the show, 100 random people were asked open ended questions and their answers were recorded. Then during the game, the contestants are asked those same questions and awarded point based on how many people gave that same answer. Whichever team earns the most points after several questions wins the game and is allowed to play the “Fast Money” round for a chance at the Grand Prize. Now that we know how to play, let’s pop in the SNES home version and see if we have what it takes to win the Grand Prize.

Gameplay

We start up the game, pick 1 family mode, and are surprisingly brought to an options screen before anything else. Just a few basic options, do we want music, and do we want the timer. The one that threw me off a little was Bullseye Round. I’m not familiar with a Bullseye Round, so for this first game we’re going to turn that off. With our options set, we then get to pick and name our family. There are only a couple of preset families to choose from, and it really doesn’t matter in the long run, so we just go with the first family it gives us. There is also an option to put in a code if we are returning champions. But this is our first game, so we don’t have a code this time around.

Once we’re done, the AI family is named, and we can start the game. Looks like the Grand Prize we’re playing for is going to be set at $5000. Let’s hope we win! Not that we’ll actually see any of that money…

The first members of each family step up to the podium to see who will control the round. Hands on the buzzer and we are given the first question. “Name something besides an old diary that would bring back memories.”

Well that could be just about anything, but first thing that comes to my mind is old pictures. Turns out that was the top answer with 44 out of 100 people saying the same thing. What a good way to start.

Since we got the top answer, we are given the option to play this round, or pass it to the other family. Obviously, we’re going to play it. For our next guess, we go with a yearbook. Not a very high scoring answer, but at least it’s on the board.

After those two answers though, my brain just kind of shut down. It always seems so easy when you’re watching the show. But when you have the timer ticking down in front of you, it puts a lot of stress on you. I ended up saying Old Toys, and Old Clothes. Neither of which were on the board. Then I went really stupid and said friends. In my head it made sense. Oh hey, I haven’t seen you in forever. Remember when we used to do stuff together? To this I got a mocking “Good Answer” chant coming from the audience, and my third strike.

Since we weren’t able to fill in the board, the other family has a chance to steal it. All they need to do is get a single right answer and all the points become theirs. Thankfully, they don’t have any answers either.

After their wrong answer, the remaining answers are revealed so we can feel stupid. I was at least close when I said clothes though. But I guess they were looking for something more specific now that I see Wedding Dress and Army uUniform. Oh well, I still get the points for the first round.

Time for the second question. “Name a place where you talk to someone through a glass window”. A glass window?… OH! Like at the bank? Turns out that was another top answer and we gain control of the board again.

Now we have a bit of a problem though, because those aren’t very common. Where else have we ever seen glass windows like that?… how about in jail? I’ve never personally seen it, but in movies they usually have to use those phones to talk to people behind the glass. Not only was that a right answer, but it shows a bit of cleverness by the game. I said “Prison” which ended up being a right answer for “Jail”. So I guess we don’t have to get an exact match on our answers.

After that, I can’t think of any other place where you would see those. I guess maybe the Drive Thru? It’s not the same type, but you’re kind of talking to people through a window. Maybe enough people thought the same thing. But no. Stupid me, I even double down and try Fast Food, thinking Drive Thru might not be recognized. But it’s still wrong.

I have no idea where else you might see those… Pharmacy? Gotta keep those drugs away from the addicts… but no, that’s three strikes for me, and we lose control of the board.

Thankfully, the Hall family doesn’t have a clue either. Turns out the other answers are Movies, Doctor’s Office, and Gas Station. I understand the movies, they’re in those little booths. I don’t know WHY they’re in those little booths, but they are. I have never seen a gas station where I talk to someone through a window though.

Whatever, I won the round, and I have a good lead on the other family. This brings us to the 3rd question. “Name a sport or game in which you need a rope.” Well that’s easy. It’s THE rope sport. Tug of War!

Keeping up the momentum, we quickly come up with the number 2 and number 3 answers of Jump Rope, and Rodeo. Just one more to go.

But what else uses rope? …Rope Swings? …Do those lane dividers in the pool count as rope? How about Competitive Knot Tying? Is that a thing? If it is a thing, it would need rope… Sadly, no one else came up with those answers, and we lose control.

Not to worry, so far the Hall family hasn’t had any good answers, they’ll probably just skip again. Except they don’t skip. They give Mountain Climbing, which turns out to be the final answer on the board. Just like that they steal all the points and take the lead.

Thankfully, there is a 4th round. I actually always thought it was weird that modern Family Feud only has 3 rounds. With only 3 rounds, winning the 3rd round alone is enough to win the game, making the previous 2 rounds meaningless. Anyway, final question is “From the comic strip ‘Peanuts’ name something the Red Baron Wears.” I love Snoopy when he’s pretending to be the Red Baron, I feel like I can see him right now. And the first thing that comes to mind is that big scarf of his. Turns out a lot of other people thought the same thing, because that’s the top answer.

After that, we say the Sunglasses (accepted as Goggles) and his Helmet. But there’s still one more thing. This outfits are always really simplistic. What else did he have on?

Did he have a Headset? I don’t think so. I don’t think they even had headsets during WWI. Flying Gloves? No. How about a Flight Jacket? Again no. What was the last thing he wore?

The other family can’t think of anything either. What was the last thing? A CAPE?! Snoopy as the Red Baron doesn’t have a cape! Does he? Google, what do you say? NO! That’s not a cape you idiots, that’s the scarf tails! No wonder I couldn’t answer it, I forgot to account for human stupidity when I was guessing.

Whatever, we won the round, and in doing so won the game. So now we get to play the Fast Money Round for a chance at the Grand Prize.

For the Fast Money Round, two members of the family get to play one after the other. They are asked 5 questions in a row and then all their points are shown at once. In order to win, they need to score 200 total points between them. Simple enough. So for our questions, we are given.

  1. Name a good color for a purse
  2. Name the first thing a baby learns to do
  3. Name the most beautiful animal
  4. Tell me which birthday you remember best
  5. Name a color of cake frosting

The thing I hate about the Fast Money Round is that the questions are a bit too open ended compared to the normal questions. Like that last one, name a color of cake frosting. Cake frosting can be made into LITTERALLY ANY COLOR! Even so, I did REALLY well with my answers. In fact, I got the top answer for every question other than the most beautiful animal one. So for the first family member, we scored a great 175 points leaving just 25 more points before we win.

For the second family member, they are asked the same questions, but because they might give the same answers, they get an extra 20 seconds on their timer. Not that it’s a problem here. Normally the second family member doesn’t get to hear the questions in advance. In my case I was able to think of both answers at the same time. I didn’t give as good of answers, but I got more than enough to get the 25 points we needed for us to win the Grand Prize.

With that, we have won the $5000 Grand Prize and are given a Returning Champions code if we ever want to play again for more money.

In fact, I’m going to do just that right now so we can see what this Bullseye Round is that we turned off the first time.

Apparently, the Bullseye Round is something that happens at the start of the game. Much like the podium questions during the normal game, we need to buzz in with an answer before the other family can. However, unlike the normal questions, only the top answer will be awarded points in this round.

If we do manage to get a top answer, our family is rewarded with a higher grand prize amount to play for in Fast Money. So we don’t really win anything NOW, but our prize is bigger later if we win it all. By the end of the round, my family was playing for a total of $11000 if we manage to win again.

The rest of the game plays the same way as before. For our first question, we get “Name something that people ‘Get out of’.” First thing that came to my mind was work. It got me on the board, and we get to play the first round.

Unfortunately, my answer of “Work” was the best answer I could give. I was thinking Appointments, or the Hospital. I did manage to get “Jail” on the board, but that was it before I lost control of the board. After seeing some of the other answers, they all seem so obvious that I feel stupid for not thinking of them. At least the other family couldn’t think of anything either, so I get the pathetic 20 points and take the small lead.

Next up, “Something you eat that starts with the word ‘Rice’.” For this I managed to get the top answer of Rice Pudding and took control of the board again.

After that, I couldn’t really think of anything else that starts with Rice. I guessed Rice Cake, but that wasn’t on there. What else is there? I’m thinking Fried Rice, but that doesn’t START with rice. I end up guessing Rice Crackers. Then what do you call it. That box rice. Riceroni! I don’t know how it’s spelled, I never buy the stuff. Needless to say it wasn’t on there and I lost control of the board.

The other family has the chance to steal, but they were stupid and said “Rice Cakes”. Idiots, I already said Rice Cakes and it wasn’t on there. Wait. WHAT?! But I said rice cakes! Why did I get it wrong? Is it really because I didn’t put an S at the end? That should have been picked up as close enough. The game was doing so good before with picking up close enough answers.

It looks like “Rice A Roni” was on the board too. Not that my spelling of the brand was even close to right. But I knew that answer at least. Oh well. The other family gets this board and takes the lead.

Third question was tricky. “Name something that sometimes gets overheated for no reason at all.” I don’t really like that question, because I believe there is always some reason whatever it is is overheating. Regardless, I guessed “Car” and got the top answer and control of this board.

But what else regularly overheats? Computer wasn’t up there, and that’s the only other legitimate guess I have. After that I did stupid guesses of “Oven” and “Boiler” because I couldn’t think of anything that would become overheated. Then the other family gets their chance and picks a rather sexist answer of “Spouse”.

Amazingly, it was actually up there! Along with Temper and Hair Dryer. I understand the Hair Dryer, but Temper? I’ve heard of hot headed, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to someone’s temper as “Overheated”. That’s not a thing people say. But because Spouse was up there, the other family now has a commanding lead.

If we hope to win, we need to get this last question. Once again, it’s a bit of a tricky one. “Name your favorite thing to do at an Amusement Park”. Of course, I guess the top answer, Go on Rides. That’s why everyone goes to an Amusement Park. But what else do people do there?

I guessed Eat, which was on there, because of course it is, park food is the best. But what else. I thought maybe get Signatures? I remember going to Disney and loving getting signatures from all the characters in costumes, apparently no one else liked that because it wasn’t on there. Neither was Taking Pictures or Being with Friends.

Now we’re in a tough spot, if the other family gets something on the board, they will win the game. Even if they don’t get it, that might not be enough points to pass them. Thankfully, they have no guess and the points are mine. But what’s up with those other answers? Watch People? What creeper is going to the Amusement Park just to watch people?

With that, we just BARELY have more points than the other family. But what’s going on, there’s a 5th question this time. Did I count wrong? No, there were only 4 questions last time, and this is the 5th question this time. Maybe this is also part of turning on the Bullseye Round. So for what should REALLY be the last question. “Name a Famous Animal Threesome.” I love DuckTales, so right away I thought of Huey Dewey and Louie, a rather long answer that I just barely managed to finish typing in time. It was on the board, but as the lowest answer.

The other family picks Three Bears, and right away I feel like I was over thinking the question. Because they picked a better answer than me, they actually get control of the board for once.

Thankfully, that was their only guess for their entire turn at the board. I actually kind of wish the game was programed in with bad answers for the other family to give instead of them just quitting.

It’s my chance to steal. But I have two answers that might be right. Three Blind Mice, or Three Little Pigs. Either one of them might be up there, and I MUST GET THIS TO WIN! Thinking about which is more popular, I put everything on the line with Three Little Pigs, and YES! TOP ANSWER!

Turns out Three Blind Mice was also on the board, so either way I would have won. Now for real this time, my family has won the game and will get to play Fast Money again.

This is the same thing as last time. 5 questions, try to get 200 points. My questions this time were.

  1. Tell me how many magazines you read regularly
  2. Name something that’s made to be absorbent
  3. Name a fabric evening gowns are made of
  4. How many times would you pay to see a movie you loved
  5. Name something you see while hiking in the woods

Once again, these are VERY open ended questions. Somehow I manage to get a few number one answers with Paper Towels, Silk, and Trees. Thanks to that, we scored 127 points already. Not as good as last time, but we’re more than half way there.

We had a few dud answers the second time around, but we somehow manage to get the points we need and win it again. Now we’re up to $16000 in winnings! When do I get my check? We also get a new Returning Champion Code, but I think that’s all for now.

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

It’s a very simplistic game, so there isn’t really much to criticize here. You’re asked a question and then you type in an answer, and that’s about it. The only thing I can really comment on is the AI attempting to accept answers that are close enough. Obviously, the live judges on the show are pretty lenient when it comes to the contestant’s answers, and at times the game tries to do the same. Unfortunately, an SNES era AI is simply incapable of having the same judgement as a live judge, and sometimes you will be told your answer is wrong even though any live judge would have given it to you. Case in point, my answer of “Rice Cake” singular was wrong, but “Rice Cakes” plural was on the board. However, I do want to praise the game’s AI contestants for being programed a bit on the dumb side. No one wants to play a game like this and actually COMPETE with an AI that has the answer sheet. They want to be the ones playing and guessing. They’re not complete push overs, and they will occasionally steal the board if you don’t fill the whole thing. On the other hand, they give you plenty of time at the buzzer, and very regularly have no answer at all. It feels like a good balance that gives the edge to the player, which is exactly what I think most people would want.

Graphics – 7 / 10

Once again, there isn’t really much to criticize because there simply aren’t many graphics at all. There are only a small handful of contestant families to choose from, and these can’t be customized in any way. But they are well designed for what they are. So there isn’t really much to fault graphically.

Audio – 7 / 10

The audio is probably the most lacking aspect in this game. They recreated the show’s theme song pretty well, which is nice. But other than that, there’s really only some clapping, and a few sound effects on the board. There simply isn’t must else to hear. One thing that I do want to praise the game on is its sarcastic use of the “Good Answer! Good Answer!” crowd support sound clip. Whenever you hear this, you just KNOW your answer is nowhere on that board because you’re a complete idiot.

Story – N/A

You’ve landed a spot on a gameshow, don’t make a fool of yourself. What more story do you need?

Total Playtime – N/A

A full playthrough of the game only takes about 15 minutes. However, the game’s cover claims there are 4000+ different questions for the game to ask you. Since you’re only asked a handful of questions each games, it’s theoretically possible to play a couple hundred games before you would ever see a repeated question. In that regard, it’s actually a pretty good value.

Total Deaths – N/A

You might WANT to die after giving a particularly stupid answer. Especially if it becomes immortalized on YouTube. However, it is not a standard part of the game to actually kill the losing team.

Overall Score – 7 / 10

Overall it’s a fairly good recreation of the show. I’ll admit that I wasn’t aware of the Bullseye Round before playing this game, but apparently that was a feature of the show during the time this version was made. So at the very least I learned something new. The game does suffer a bit from the AI not knowing if your answer is good enough at times, but it does the best it could for the system it’s on. However, that shortcoming is somewhat balanced by the AI Contestants being on the dumb side, giving the edge to the player. Of course, a game like this would probably be best played with a friend or group of friends, and with the claim of over 4000 questions, you can play it over and over again before you start to repeat questions. When all’s said and done, it’s a fun game that is well made for the system, and worth playing if you’ve got a few minutes to kill.

8 out of 100 people are dumb as hell…

I hope you enjoyed Family Feud (SNES). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Hook (Game Gear)

The Game Gear hasn’t been getting much love lately. Well, technically the whole site hasn’t been getting much love lately. It makes a bit of sense at least. The Game Gear is the smallest of all my collections with only about 10 games in it currently. That’s actually a shame because I really love the Game Gear. Even if it ate batteries faster than anything else I’ve ever owned. So today, we’re going to take a whack at a game I loved to play as a kid but never managed to beat, Hook.

Hook, as the name suggests, is a movie tie in game with the 1991 Robin Williams movie of the same name. For those who have never seen it, it is a live action sequel of sorts to Peter Pan. In this version, Peter has married the grand-daughter of Wendy from the original story. In doing so, he has left Neverland behind, grown up into a workaholic corporate lawyer, and become a somewhat neglectful father of two. His new lifestyle has caused him to forget all about his past adventures as Peter Pan, which would be fine, if it weren’t also causing strain on his marriage and family life in the present. Even though he’s in a bit of a rough patch in his life, he never once thinks of possibly returning to Neverland. However, that doesn’t stop Neverland from coming to him, as one night his old nemesis Captain Hook comes to kidnap his two kids right out of their beds. Peter must remember who he once was and become the Peter Pan of the stories if he wants to save his kids. It’s actually a fantastic movie, and one of my favorites when I was growing up. So let’s see what the game version has to offer!

Gameplay

The game begins with Peter and his two kids, Jack and Maggie, standing by the window of Wendy’s old room. It’s time for bed, but the kids have questions for their father. Is Grandmother Wendy the same Wendy from the stories? Are the stories even real? Of course they are, but Peter has grown up and forgotten all about them. Instead, he insists that they’re just stories and they should stop thinking about it and go to sleep.

Naturally, the children don’t like that answer and insist that the stories must be real. This just makes Peter angry, yell at the kids to stop asking questions, and tell them again to just go to bed. How are they ever going to grow up if they can’t tell fact from fiction?

Getting the final word in, he sends them to bed telling them they’ll understand what he means when they grow up. However, the silhouette of a pirate ship in front of the moon implies they’ll learn a very different lesson tonight.

Later that night, Peter discovers the children are missing from their beds. Left behind is a note instructing him to come to Neverland if he wants to save them. Signed by Captain Hook himself.

Having forgotten all about Neverland, he thinks it’s some kind of joke the kids are playing on him, and starts yelling for them to come out. But no one comes. Instead, Tinkerbell shows up, sad to see that Peter has forgotten all about her, but willing to help him anyway.

The important thing is that Peter needs to save his kids, and she is here to help. This catches Peter’s attention, but he is still hesitant. He has forgotten all about his time as Peter Pan, and more importantly, he has forgotten how to fly.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Tink gives up arguing with him and simply knocks him out. She then wraps him up in a makeshift hammock and carries him to Neverland, he can figure out the rest once he gets there.

Once they arrive in Neverland, Tink brings him to the Lost Boys. Even though he has changed quite a bit since he left, she assures them that this is in fact Peter Pan. Most importantly, she needs their help reminding him how to be Peter Pan so he can save his kids.

The Lost Boys are skeptical. They’re willing to help, but only if he really is Peter Pan. Tink starts to defend him, but Rufio, the current leader of the Lost Boys, shows up to voice his objection. There is no way this person can be Peter Pan.

When Peter Pan left Neverland, he handed his magic sword over to Rufio, and that makes him Peter Pan now. So if Tink and Peter want the Lost Boys’ help, he needs to defeat Rufio first.

Even though this is all still training, Peter sure looks the part now in Pan’s classic green outfit. And while he might be lacking Pan’s magic sword, the regular sword he has on him is doing the job just fine against these Lost Boys. Likewise, he has yet to be remember how to fly properly, but he sure can jump pretty high.

Death Count: 02

However, there is a noticeable lag between the time you press the button and the time Peter actually swings his sword. Because of this, even a couple of hungry fish are strong enough to take down the mighty Peter Pan.

I think the problem is that the animation has a complete backswing, which causes there to be a full 15 frames between when the button is pressed and when the attack is registered. So we’re going to have to get used to attacking slightly earlier than we world normally expect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help us any with the Lost Boys jumping down from high ledges, as Peter completely lacks any ability to attack upwards.

Death Count: 03

Thankfully, Tink is waiting just up ahead to lend us a hand. We might not be able to fly on our own, but with a good helping of Pixie Dust, we can fly for a short period of time. Sadly, the ability to fly is simply no match for Lost Boys on skateboards…

One good thing the game does have going for it though is the fact that you get unlimited continues. You need to start the stage over again after a continue, but the stages are all so short that it might as well be infinite lives.

Death Count: 05

And with how quickly we keep dying, we might be using quite a few of those infinite lives before we make it to Captain Hook…

Death Count: 06

Luckily, the stage is incredibly short and Rufio is just up ahead ready to fight us. Most likely resulting in our death, of course.

Rufio is the first boss though, so the strategy for defeating him is pretty simple. All we have to do is wait for him to wind up for his attack, and then get our attack in first. Looks like we’re not the only ones suffering from input lag in this game.

With Rufio defeated, he admits that we are in fact Peter Pan and hands over the magic sword. Thanks to this training, Peter also remembers being Peter Pan and is ready to fight Captain Hook to get his kids back.

In between stages, we get to see Peter’s progress around Neverland and over to Captain Hooks ship. It would seem that Peter has taken the rather illogical approach of going completely counterclockwise around the entire island rather than simply head 20 feet west to the ship. Maybe he’s trying to take him by surprise?

Anyway, the next stage is a forest stage and there are a few things we learn right at the beginning. First, Pan’s magic sword is actually quite powerful, capable of sending an energy wave out of it that can attack enemies from a distance. This will really help to counter the input lag. Also we discover a leaf which adds an additional point of health to our life meter, which we are very grateful for.

Death Count: 08

As we jump through the trees, we quickly learn a very sad truth about this game. That magic sword has a very limited lifespan on it. As soon as we are hit even once, it loses its powers. That would be fine, except that it’s not a full health ability, it’s actually a onetime power up. After respawning from a death, the power is gone and can only be reacquired if we find the magic sword again somewhere in the world.

Death Count: 09

Without the power of the magic sword, we’ll have to be extra careful to avoid the pirates and archers in the forest as we jump from tree to tree. More importantly, we’ll have to simply pay attention that we actually land on a tree branch, because some of these trees are apparently too tall to fall out of.

Eventually, we make it to a set of trees that have apparently been hollowed out by a very strange forest person. This forest person will pop in and out of the various holes in the trees at random, and it’s up to Peter to find him and attack him before he goes back into hiding. Curiously, there are also several phantom boxing gloves that might pop out of the holes instead, so we need to be on guard.

Thankfully, this is a very easy battle. After hitting him a few times, he’ll go fly off into the distance, never to be seen again. It looks like we also managed to rescue a Lost Boy in the process. I wasn’t aware the Lost Boys had been kidnapped as well as Peter’s own kids, but apparently they have and we’ll have to rescue them along the way to rescuing Peter’s kids.

Death Count: 10

As we continue our way around the island, we find ourselves on the side of a cliff and we need to find a way to reach the top. This would be so easy if Peter could remember how to fly, but he can’t, so we’ll have to take the long way up. Along the way, we’ll have to fight more pirates of course, but we also encounter the first regular enemy that doesn’t die from a single hit. These barrel riding pirates just get right back up and try to run Peter over again.

Death Count: 13

In addition to the enemies becoming stronger, and in this stage having the high ground advantage, we also start to notice that the hit detection is a bit questionable at best. I swear I was nowhere near some of the enemies and it still registered that I was hit.

About half way up the Cliffside, we actually manage to find Pan’s magic sword again. This certainly make the rest of the journey up a bit easier. Especially against enemies on different levels than we are. Just jump up and shoot the beam at them.

Shortly after that, we find Tink waiting for us. With her help, we can simply fly the rest of the way up the cliff where we find another Lost Boy waiting for us to rescue him.

Death Count: 14

We may have reached the top of the cliff, but now we have to pass across the waterfall to get to the other side. This is made much easier with Tink’s help. But we still have quite a few pirates stationed all across the waterfall to contend with.

Death Count: 15

After failing to simply fly high over everyone and running out of Pixie Dust, we try flying low under everyone, and that seems to be the better way to go. Not only does Tink fly ahead and wait to refill our Pixie Dust flying this route, but we also manage to find a Power Leaf to increase our health down here.

Death Count: 16

Once we make it across the waterfall, Tink is waiting for us once again to help us fly up and over a rather steep cliff side. With her help, this is a simple task. Unfortunately, it looks like someone is floating sticks of dynamite down on us from above with balloons. We’ll have to be careful passing through this section or Peter Pan might just get blown to bits.

Death Count: 17

If we manage to make it through the falling dynamite alive, we find ourselves at the edge of a cliff with no option but a leap of faith down into the unknown. Turns out we’re jumping right into the lagoon and quickly get eaten alive by more hungry fish.

Death Count: 19

This section feels impossible. We’re almost guaranteed to take damage just jumping into the water because we can’t see where the fish are before we jump. But then once we’re in the water, the hit boxes are too big and we get hit by fish that look like they’re nowhere near us. The above image for example, in the next frame registers a hit. Both of those fish look far enough away that neither one of them should be able to hit Peter right now.

Death Count: 22

Between how tall Peter is, the auto scroll, the attack lag, and having to swim, everything just rolls up into this impossible little stretch of water that we keep dying in over and over AND OVER again.

Death Count: 25

Eventually we find a strategy that works for us, though it is a bit cowardly for Peter Pan. Rather than swimming in the center, we instead swim so low that only the very top of Peter’s head can be seen on screen. Swimming this low, only the lowest swimming fish are any problem at all.

Death Count: 28

After what felt like forever, we finally manage to climb out of the water at the far bank of the lagoon. Sadly, our trouble aren’t over yet. On the other side, we find Tink once again waiting for us, and for good reason. The floor has become overgrown with thorns, so we can’t walk on it. If that isn’t bad enough, there is also a pirate here that is throwing his swords at us like boomerangs while we try to stay in the air.

Thankfully, it only takes a couple of hit for him to go down. If we simply rush him, we might get lucky and kill him before he manages to kill us. In doing so, we manage to save yet another Lost Boy that for some reason was kidnapped by pirates.

Death Count: 29

This brings us to the snow covered mountains on the north side of the island. Here, there are tons of sharp spike pits for Peter Pan to fall into, as well as a large assortment of pirates roaming the jagged hills. On the plus side, there is a very easy to grab extra life very near to the beginning of the stage. Not that lives matter much, but it’s still encouraging to have the extra lives.

Death Count: 31

As the level continues, we even manage to find an additional Power Leaf, bringing our max health up to 5 hits before death. Then shortly after we find a second extra life for this level. We’re really racking up those infinite lives now!

Death Count: 33

Anyway, we eventually make our way through the mountain range and find that bastard that that dropping bombs on us in the last level. This time he has defended himself beneath the spiked floors of the mountain in a place where Peter can’t reach him. From there, he’s just sending bomb and bomb floating up to blow Peter Pan to pieces.

After a few attempts, we finally come up with a strategy to deal with this guy. By staying to the sides, we can lure the balloons away from the center platform. Then we can jump over them and pop the balloons, sending the dynamite falling down onto the pirate’s head.

A few rounds of this, and that pirate is done for good. Once again, we manage to rescue a Lost Boy we didn’t even realize was missing. Actually, didn’t we save this exact Lost Boy several times already? Does he just keep getting kidnapped again after we save him?

According to the map, we’re about halfway around the island now, only a few more stages to go. For this next stage, we’re actually going to mix things up. Instead of the typical platforming we’ve been doing so far, it’s actually an auto scrolling flying stage.

Death Count: 34

There aren’t any enemies to encounter in this stage. In fact, the only dangers we encounter are a few of those dynamite balloons, and that’s it. Instead, this stage is all about conserving your Pixie Dust. If you use it the whole time, you’ll never make it from one Tink Checkpoint to the next. So it’s best to land on the branches and jump across them whenever possible.

Before the stage is done, we do manage to find Peter’s magic sword once again, but with no enemies to fight, it’s kind of pointless for this stage. So with little trouble we make it to the end and rescue another Lost Boy.

Considering we were half way across the island, I would have thought we had at least one or two more stages before we reach Captain Hook’s ship. But it turns out that isn’t the case. That flight over the woods actually managed to bring us all the way from the far side of the island straight over to Captain Hook’s ship docked at the coast. Now we just need to navigate it and find Peter’s kids.

As it turns out, navigating through the ship might be rather difficult. I’m not sure how any of the regular crew can possibly do it. The floor is lined with sharp spikes around every turn. Not only that, but there are large areas of the ship that are devoid of nearly any floor. Peter can only navigate through them with the help of Tink’s Pixie Dust, so how are the pirates doing it?

Death Count: 35

There is however one hall that stands out above the rest in the ship. This narrow hall is lined top and bottom with spikes and has no platforms at all in the room other than immediately in front of the exits. The only way the pirates can navigate this hall is by riding on top of wooden barrels. Which is good for them, but bad for us, because we don’t have enough Pixie Dust to deal with them AND stay off the spikes.

Death Count: 36

In fact, this room is completely impossible to make it through without running out of Pixie Dust. Going in a straight line from one Tinkerbell to the next, Peter has just barely not enough to make it from one to the next safely.

Thankfully, we come up with a solution rather quickly. If we fly up as close to the spiked ceiling as we can, stop flying and allow ourselves to fall down, then start flying again in time to avoid the spikes, we manage to add a few feet to Peter’s flying distance and get him through the hall mostly healthy.

Death Count: 37

Having made our way through the ship, it looks like we’ve managed to make it all the way to the ship’s bow where Captain Hook is waiting to duel with Peter Pan. Unfortunately, he has the high ground, and victory is his.

We’re not giving up that quickly though, a simple strategy to beat him quickly falls into place. Captain Hook manages to block most of the attacks we swing at him. However, a quick succession of jump attacks seems to be enough to get through his defenses. After a few hits he is knocked off the bow and victory is ours.

With that, Jack and Maggie are saved and we can finally return home. Suddenly, a sword comes flying out of nowhere and stabs Rufio in the back, killing him. It looks like our fight with Captain Hook isn’t quite over yet.

Death Count: 40

This time, Hook is capable of launching his hook at us in complete defiance of physics to attack us from across the ship. He is also even more capable now of defending our attacks. If that’s not bad enough already, he ALSO has more health now than he did a minute ago, somehow.

Death Count: 43

The basic concept of this fight should be easy. Avoid the hook projectile and attack when his guard is down. However, actually putting this into practice is very difficult. It’s made even more difficult by the fact that after using a continue, we no longer have our two extra health, so that just makes the fight even harder.

Death Count: 49

After hitting Hook a few times, he will abandon his new attacks and go back to the sword attacks he used previously. This means that we too can go back to our attack pattern of chain jump attacking in order to defeat him.

Finally, Captain Hook is defeated, this time for good. We also managed to save Jack and Maggie. There are also those two Lost Boys that we rescued multiple times each, apparently they’re the only ones left.

Now that this horrible experience is over, Peter tells the Lost Boys that he is never coming back and then flies off into the air back to London with Tink and his kids.

Back home, Tink is still pumped from the adventure they just had and is ready to go on another one. Peter on the other hand is officially done. He had fun, but now he knows that “Life is the biggest adventure.”

Verdict

Gameplay – 4 / 10

Let’s get this out of the way real quick. The hit detection is terrible. The enemies don’t appear to be anywhere near you when it says you were hit. Combine that with the input lag, and this game starts to boarder on unplayable.

Now, looking past those huge mistakes, the game itself would have otherwise been a fairly enjoyable action platformer. The controls are simple to pick up. The levels are straight forward, with a few hidden items thrown in. And once you get the enemy patterns down, it’s easy to complete the levels. I would have liked it if the magic sword stayed with you for full health, similar to the Master Sword’s ability from the Legend of Zelda series. That would have easily compensated for the input lag and hit detection. But sadly, that isn’t the case.

Graphics – 8 / 10

The Game Gear didn’t have much screen real estate to work with. With that in mind, I think they did a good job with what they had available. The sprites are about as big and detailed as they can be while still being playable. Likewise, the environments themselves feel unique and well laid out. There were a few spots where obstacles showed up from off screen without enough time to react to, but those were a surprisingly rare occurrence considering the limited draw distance of the screen. All in all, I think they did a pretty good job with the game’s graphics.

Audio – 8 / 10

The songs were nice, and after having recently watched the movie again, I actually recognized a few of them. So in that regard they did a pretty good job, especially considering the Game Gear couldn’t handle much.

Story – 6 / 10

The story of the game loosely follows the story of the movie, which is exactly what you want from a movie tie in game. However, it glosses over most of the conflict in the movie and leaves the game’s story quite thin. But it tried, so I guess I’ll give it an ok score for story.

Total Playtime – 1h 06m

Even with my multiple deaths, this is a very short game. In fact, there is a Let’s Play I saw where the player beat the whole game in under 30 minutes, cut scenes included. That’s to be expected with the Game Gear, since it would go through a full set of batteries in around 2 hours. Even so, I never managed to beat it as a kid because of the difficulty in doing so. For that reason alone, a save feature of some kind would have been appreciated. Even using an emulator it took me multiple sessions to beat. But that had more to do with me walking away in frustration than anything else. Thank god for save states.

Total Deaths – 49 Deaths

This is simply way too many deaths for a game that should have been so simple. Many of these can be blamed on my poor performance, but a large number of them I blame on the game’s terrible hit detection and input lag. This was especially true for that damn swimming section and those fish. I swear they missed me every time, but the game always said otherwise. This game would have been SO much easier if those were fixed. If there is one good thing to be said about the number of deaths though, it’s that the game’s unlimited continues was a much appreciated addition.

Overall Score – 6 / 10

Not to beat a dead horse at this point, but the terrible hit detection and input lag really dragged this game down. They artificially inflate the difficulty so much that at some point you don’t even want to finish the game. Considering how short the game is, that is actually an impressive feat. If it weren’t for those shortcomings, this would actually be a fun and relatively easy game. In fact, it’s a game I would gladly play multiple times if only it weren’t borderline broken. I even went into this play though wanting to really like the game. I had hoped I was simply remembering the game to be harder than it was because I was so young the last time I played. Sadly, the game is exactly as hard and broken as I remembered it. If there is any hope left to hold onto, it’s the knowledge that the game came out on nearly every system available at the time, so maybe one of the other versions is better. But for the Game Gear version, I feel like it might be benefiting from my love of the movie to earn some of the score I’m giving it. Final word, go watch the movie, but maybe pass on the Game Gear version of the game.

You were so close to a great game, but threw it away with bad hit detection and input lag…

I hope you enjoyed Hook (Game Gear). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Tetris (Gameboy)

On July 31st 1989, North America was first introduced to the Nintendo Gameboy System. That means today will mark the system’s 30th anniversary. With that in mind I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the game packed in with every one of those systems, Tetris!

By now, I expect everyone that has ever played a video games to have played at least one form of the game Tetris at some point in their life. It is the classic puzzle game where shaped blocks, known as Tetriminos, fall from the top of the screen for you the player to stack at the bottom. Form complete rows of blocks to make them disappear, and keep doing that for as long as you can. Now that everyone is caught up on the rules of the game, let’s see what the Gameboy version has to offer!

Gameplay

When you turn on the game, you are given two choices of game type as well as three choices of music. But let’s be honest, everyone just played with the default settings, so let’s get right into it. Once you pick the game type and music, you also given the option to set the starting level, which adjusts the game speed. With everything selected, it’s time to start the game.

As stated before, various 4 block shapes named Tetriminos will drop from the top part of the playfield and the goal is to arrange them together along the bottom. Once placed, they cannot be moved again. You can only keep stacking the new pieces on top of them. The shape and order of the pieces is also random, so there isn’t much option to plan too far ahead. However, you are allowed to see the next piece coming so you have at least some ability to plan out your placements.

Just placing the Tetriminos neatly next to each other isn’t enough though. You need to place them so that every available space in a given row has been filled with a block piece. Doing this will clear the whole row and drop down the blocks above it to give you more room.

However, even with the best stacking ability, you’ll eventually find yourself with a piece that simply doesn’t fit anywhere very nicely at all. This inevitably creates holes that are now impossible to fill in and the stack starts getting higher and higher.

But don’t despair. If you are persistent, you can clear row after row of blocks and slowly dig yourself out of any problematic placements you may have made.

Unfortunately, clearing more and more lines causes its own problems. For every 10 lines cleared, you gain a level. This causes the Tetriminos to drop faster, giving you less time to think and pick out good placements. Because of this, you will inevitably end up placings more blocks in less than ideal positions as the game gets faster and faster.

But as I said before, there is no need to despair. With some careful placement you can get the pile right back down to a manageable size. You may even be able to clear 4 lines at once with a well-placed straight piece.

Sadly, the game is one that is meant to be lost. Eventually the mistakes will build up far enough that you simply can’t keep up with it. Once the blocks become stacked all the way to the top, the game is over. In my game I actually managed to clear 110 lines before this happened. A personal best I believe.

Heading back to the start screen, we’ll check out what the B-Type game is. In this game type, we are again given the option to adjust the starting level, but we are also given the option of how high the tower will start.

For the most part, gameplay in B-Type is the same as in A-Type. However, the goal is different. Instead of being an endless challenge, B-Type has the set goal of clearing 25 lines in whatever way possible. Considering I managed 110 lines in A-Type, this might sound easy. Well, that’s where the High setting comes in. Having set my game to 3 High, the playfield begins with several rows of randomly placed blocks to make things more difficult.

But just like in A-Type, careful block placement can quickly chip away at any misshapen block tower. Eventually I managed to clear the required 25 lines of blocks and the game comes to a winning conclusion. Points are then awarded for the method used to clear each of the 25 lines. Obviously clearing single lines at a time are worth less than getting a Tetris by clearing 4 at once. But a win is a win, and we have now seen what this game has to offer.

Verdict

Gameplay – 9 / 10

It’s Tetris. You really can’t screw up Tetris. Later versions of the game introduced some new features like ghost pieces, and lock delay among a few other things. However, there is nothing wrong with the classic gameplay. What’s more impressive is that this game offered a two player option for friends that had two systems, two games and a link cable to connect them with. As the pack in game, it was obviously the first one to do this and really highlighted what the system was capable of.

Graphics – 9 / 10

Once again, it’s Tetris. There isn’t really much you can do with Tetris. So in that regard, there isn’t really anything to complain about with the graphics. Color would be nice, but not possible on the original Gameboy. There could have been some additional animations when a line was cleared, or when the game was over. But in the end there’s nothing really WRONG with the graphics as presented.

Audio – 10 / 10

There are 3 songs to choose from, but everyone always just picks A-Type. It is a rendition of the Russian folk song Korobeiniki and has since become synonymous with the Tetris franchise. Having become such a recognizable song since its use here just goes to show how perfect of a song choice it was for the game.

Story – N/A

Unless I’m missing something, I don’t believe there is a “Story” to Tetris.

Total Playtime – N/A

What makes Tetris so much fun is that you can either sit down and play it for 5 minutes, or if you’re really good, you can potentially play forever. For my game, A-Type lasting about 15 minutes while B-Type only took about 5 minutes.

Total Deaths – N/A

For the classic gameplay, there isn’t really a winning condition, so every game eventually ends in failure with the blocks stacking up to the top of the play field. It’s just something you have to accept as in inevitability. The only way to actually WIN the game is to play the B-Type game where you win once you clear 25 lines.

Overall Score – 9 / 10

The Gameboy version of Tetris wasn’t the best version of the game ever released, nor was it even the first version released. However, it was the version that brought the game to the spotlight and secured its place as one of the great classics of video games. Since then, Tetris has found its way to virtually every device possible, from console, to pc, to phone, and even to calculator. It is instantly recognizable the world over, and will hold a special place in gaming for years to come. Since it was the pack in game with every Gameboy System, it is in no way rare, and can be purchased for just a few dollars. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of your own, even if it’s just to hold a small piece of gaming’s history in your own hands.

Here’s to another 30 years for the Gameboy!

I hope you enjoyed Tetris (Gameboy). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (GB)

There were a lot of cartoons in the late 80’s early 90’s that lived and died with that era. Truth be told, most of them deserve to be left behind. However, if there is one franchise from that era that is still hanging on even today, it has to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). As of this writing, Nickelodeon is currently airing Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is itself a relaunch of their own 2012 TMNT animated series. There have also been two live action movies released in 2014 and 2016, both produced by Michael Bay. So clearly the franchise is still going strong. However, it’s unlikely that it will ever reach the same level of fame as it had during its original 1987 Animated Series run.

 

Based on a comic by the same name, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows four anthropomorphic turtles living in New York City and fighting crime. During the late 80’s, the animated series was one of the most popular shows in its demographic. It spawned countless toys, multiple movies, and the “Coming Out of Their Shells” touring rock concert. So not everything was perfect. It also pumped out a rather large number of video games spanning multiple systems. Today, we are going to take a look at the first of those games to hit the Gameboy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan. Being that this is a Gameboy game, I’m not going in expecting much. However, it is also a Konami game, and they were definitely at a high point during the early 90’s. No point sitting here wondering about it, let’s dive in and see what the game has to offer!

Gameplay

The game begins with the thinnest of plots. April has been kidnapped and it’s up to the turtles to go save her.

Before we actually get to play, we’re given a choice of who we want to play as. Personally, I have always loved Donatello. Partially because he was the smartest, but also because his staff has the longest reach of any of the weapons.

Since it’s a Gameboy game, the controls are rather limited. One button attacks, and the other jumps. That’s going to be pretty much the whole game right there. They can also throw a ninja star if they attack from a crouch, but we’ll rarely use it. That’s because most of the enemies die in one hit. This makes it easy to manage the enemies even when they do start coming from every direction.

Occasionally after defeating enemies, they will drop pizza which will restore the turtle’s health. They don’t show up too often though, so as always, it’s best to simply not take a lot of damage.

After defeating enough generic Foot Ninjas, Donatello reaches the end of the first section and ascends to the heavens. This somehow drops him off in the sewers where he needs to fight even more Foot Ninjas.

One thing that I do appreciate in this stage is that gaps of water are not instant death pits. But then I’m annoyed because I can’t identify whatever this black hole looking thing is supposed to be. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be a rolling barrel, but it doesn’t have any animation. It just bounces across screen exactly as you see it in the screenshot.

This stage does however introduce a couple new enemies like the random bats and the iconic Mouser robots.

Eventually, Donatello finds an exit and jumps back out to the streets of New York City. This section is very similar to the first section, except that now there will be the occasional group of Foot Ninjas trying to run us over on their oversized motorcycle.

Once we learn we can’t destroy the motorcycles, it becomes easy enough to simply jump over them when we see them coming. However, the game does start to ramp up the number of enemies on screen at the same time around this time.

We continue defeating all the ninjas that come our way until once again Donatello jumps up into the sky and somehow ends up in the sewers. This is exactly like the last time we were in the sewers except that now there will be the occasional falling brick that we have to watch out for.

This time, when we make it to the end of the stage, Donatello doesn’t do anything. It confused me for a second until I saw that arrow pointing at a couple of barrels. Looks like we’ll have to destroy them if we want to finish the level.

Walking through the newly opened hole in the wall, we must now face off against the rhinoceros like mutant Rocksteady. On paper, it looks like we’re at a huge disadvantage since Rocksteady brought a machine gun and Donatello only has basically a stick. However, those are the slowest bullets ever and Donatello can easily swat them out of the sky.

On top of that, Rocksteady is incredibly stupid. Besides shooting his gun, the only other thing he does is slowing walk towards Donatello’s staff. If we just stand there spamming the attack button, this battle is easily won.

As we transition into stage 2, we are given a single screen of story where Donatello hears April screaming. We are also given a chance to select a different turtle to play is if we want to. But we’ll stay with Donatello for now.

The second stage has us fighting our way through a generic factory. On top of the random enemies we’ll have to fight off, we’ll also have to be aware of the occasionally hydraulic press that could crush us if we’re not careful.

The factory seems to be in some state of disrepair and there will be the occasional falling brick for us to avoid as well. There will also be more of those roaming black holes trying to kill us. If only they would take out the Foot Ninjas on their way through the factory.

Before long we find ourselves running across rows of those hydraulic presses we were avoiding just moments ago. There also seem to be some living fireballs inhabiting the pools of oil on the floor. Speaking of which, these oil pools actually do hurt if we land in them, unlike the water from the sewers.

Death Count: 1

Climbing out of the oil slick, we press forward into the factory, eventually coming to a set of stairs. At the top is an opening, but Donatello chooses instead to jump through the ceiling. This ended up being a terrible mistake, because mutant warthog Bebop was waiting in the next room. Since we made some terrible mistakes on the way here, Donatello had only a single point of health left, and Bebop managed to rush him from behind before we even knew what happened.

With that, Donatello is captured by the Foot Clan and one of the other turtles is going to have to take up the fight. Being the leader of the group, I chose to go with Leonardo next.

Leonardo gets to start the stage right where Donatello left off, in the battle with Bebop. So first thing we do is jump before he can hit us in the back again. From here, we have a much harder fight on our hands. Bebop is much faster than Rocksteady was. On top of that, whatever gun that is he is shooting can’t be deflected like Rocksteady’s bullets.

We manage to jump over him when he rushes us, and get him from behind a few times. Unfortunately, Bebop also manages to shoot Leonardo quite a few times during the fight. Eventually it came down to each of them having only a single point of health left. The battle could have gone either way, but Leonardo ended up getting his attack in first and winning the fight.

As the battle comes to an end, the turtles (including Donatello who is currently captured) jump out of the sewers in time to see the Foot Clan drive away with April.

Needing to follow then, the turtles jump onto passing trucks and start running across their roofs. However, the Foot Ninjas aren’t just going to sit back and watch them do this. They start fighting us on top of the trucks, and occasionally throw Tetris blocks at us that the trucks were transporting.

Death Count: 2

After a short chase, we come against the next boss battle against… fly man? Let me check google real quick…OH! This is Baxter Stockman, the inventor of the Mouser robots. Why do I not remember him being turned into a fly monster? In my confusion, it looks like I also allowed him to defeat Leonardo. So now we’re down to 2 turtles.

Switching to Raphael, we quickly find a strategy that works against Stockman. He always heads to the corner of the screen to launch his attack, so we simply have to jump towards the opposite corner to avoid it. Then when he swoops down, we meet him in the middle to attack.

Just repeat this pattern a few times, and Baxter Stockman is quickly defeated. Unfortunately, we were too late to save April, and it looks like they have taken her to the river now.

Diving in after them, we find ourselves fighting not only the river current and the Foot Ninjas trying to stop us, but also flesh eating fish that to the best of my knowledge are not native to New York Rivers. Thankfully we can escape the fish with the aid of the various logs floating down the river. Unfortunately we’re heading upstream, so we don’t want to spend too much time on these logs.

Eventually we run out of logs to run across and are forced to wade through the river. No sooner do we touch the river bottom are we surrounded by enemies. We manage to fight most of them off, but one of the fish manage to latch onto Raphael’s arm and won’t let go.

As soon as the opportunity presents itself, we leave the river and follow the Foot Ninjas into a cave area. This quickly proves to have been a mistake. The cave is swarming with Foot Ninjas, Mousers, strange flying spike orbs, as well as those roaming black holes that I assume are supposed to be barrels.

Death Count: 3

Raphael does his best to fight his way through, but ultimately he is defeated. April’s fate now rests in the hands of the immature Michelangelo.

Death Count: 4

Picking up where Raphael left off, Michelangelo quickly makes his way through the cave. Unfortunately for him, it is none other than the Shredder himself waiting at the end. Michelangelo gets a few good hits in, but the Shredder is simply too powerful. Capable of teleporting around the field, he was able to quickly defeat the turtle, and in the process seal April’s fate.

So naturally, this is a game over for us. However, Konami did something pretty neat with this game. On the start screen, we are actually allowed to pick whatever stage we want to start the game on, and just go from there. So selecting stage 4, we can pick up the game back at the river with all 4 turtles and hopefully this time save April.

Death Count: 5

Starting once again with Donatello, we make quick work of the level, flying through the river and cave sections without much trouble. Sadly, we make little progress in our attempts to defeat Shredder once we encounter him, and Donatello is once again captured.

Switching on to Leonardo, the sword wielding leader of the group is a batter match for the Shredder. Leonardo takes his fair share of hits, and they both are down to a single point of health left. But Leonardo manages to get his strike in first and defeat the Shredder once and for all.

After the defeat of the Shredder, we find ourselves standing in front of the Technodrome. Surely this is where they are keeping April. We fight our way inside and as expected it is filled with Foot Ninjas. However, it is also filled with Robotic Unicycles (aka Roadkill Rodney) that will electrocute the turtles with their metal whips. What makes these enemies so terrible, however, is the fact that they are the only non-boss enemies that can’t be killed in a single hit.

Death Count: 6

Between the foot soldiers, the Mousers, random electric beams, turtle seeking missiles, and Robotic Unicycles, it just becomes too much and Leonardo is captured.

Death Count: 12

Sadly, neither Raphael nor Michelangelo manage to make any further progress through the Technodrome either. I’m actually a bit ashamed to say it, but we go through an additional full set of turtles after those two before we see any additional progress.

Time to relax, take a deep breath and focus. We’re trying to rush, and that clearly isn’t helping anything, especially in this game. That’s because the enemy attacks aren’t random. They are on a strict pattern based on progress. If we simply inch forward rather than rush, we can easily keep the enemy count down to one or two enemies at a time. Completely manageable.

With our new slower pace, we finally make it through the first area and into the next, which appears to be a rather nondescript hallway. It is of course filled with enemies every couple of steps, but most of the obstacles from the previous section are gone. Instead, we need to be aware of rather large spiked platforms that come flying across the screen occasionally.

There were a few spots where perhaps I was starting to rush again, and ended up surrounded by enemies. But in general, this second area was relatively uneventful, bordering on boring. It is completely flat the whole way with only the occasional spike pillar to break up the enemies.

When we finally make it to the end of the hallway, we are faced with the final boss of the game, Krang, the brain-like alien inside its exo-suit body. Normally this would be an intimidating battle, but I found an unfortunate weakness in Krang’s attack. Apparently Krang’s stubby little legs are too short to reach us if we just stand in the corner.

Donatello’s staff, however, is plenty long enough to hit Krang every time he comes close enough. So all we had to do was stand in the corner attacking and wait for Krang to simply walk into our attacks. Before long, Krang is defeated and vanishes into another dimension.

Having defeated all of the bosses, the Foot Clan is defeated. With that, the turtles manage to save April, and the game is won. The end.

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

Gameplay wise, it was pretty good considering the Gameboy only has the 2 buttons. The turtles respond quickly, and control very well. However, there wasn’t really much to the game as a whole. With nearly all the enemies dying in a single hit, it felt like it was only a step up from a Game & Watch type game. Honestly, the one big complaint had as far as gameplay was that there was no option to attack upwards. A lot of the Foot Ninjas jumped downwards at the turtles in such a steep angle that they basically landed on their heads. It would have been nice to attack upwards in those instances.

Graphics – 6 / 10

The graphics in general I thought were very nice. All the character sprites were rather large and detailed. Likewise, most of the backgrounds were beautifully done. However, it was very inconsistent. Yes the first stage was wonderful with the gray shading of the bricks, the posters, little tuffs of grass, and the skyline in the background. But then you have that last hallway that had a floor pattern and literally nothing else. Also there are very few frames of animation for any of the characters. Match that with the fact that the turtles generally stay center of the screen, and once again the game feels like a Game & Watch game.

Audio – 8 / 10

For a Gameboy game, the audio was pretty good. The music was rather pleasing, and they did a good job recreating the theme song. There weren’t a whole lot of extra sound effects though, but I guess there also weren’t a whole lot of elements to the game either that required sound effects. So overall well done audio.

Story – 5 / 10

The story is a bit flat, as you can see. April has been kidnapped, and the turtles need to go rescue her. They did make at least some effort though with the little story cards in between stages, so they get credit for that.

Total Playtime – 0h 46m

It’s a rather short game. If I hadn’t lost focus towards the end, I could have easily finished the game in under half an hour.

Total Deaths – 12 Deaths

12 deaths is actually a bit embarrassing for this game. It’s not a very hard game, especially once you learn the tricks for fighting the boss battles. Go slow and take your time, and I’d say it’s easily possible to finish the game without ever dying.

Overall Score – 7 / 10

As a TMNT fan, this was a fun game. Admittedly, there isn’t really much to the game, but that’s ok. Most Gameboy games are kind of on the short side, so it gets a bit of a pass in that regard. Looking past the short length, it did a lot of things right. The sprites were big and detailed, the music was nice, and the gameplay was fast pasted and hectic without being overly difficult. I also do appreciate the level select option right on the start menu for people like me who can’t finish the game with only one set of turtles. All that being said, I can’t ignore the fact that there isn’t much game to be had. If you’re not already a TMNT fan, there really isn’t anything here for you. However, if you are a TMNT fan, it’s a fun little game that’s worth giving it a chance.

You copping a feel there Mikey?

I hope you enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) – Part 01 – Intro

This review has been a long time coming, mostly due to procrastination on my end. I had been struggling with the decision to include Gameboy Advance titles on the site for a while, mostly because I didn’t want to admit the GBA was already a retro system. I still have my Gameboy SP sitting on the shelf next to my DS and 3DS. I even still play on it occasionally. But I can’t deny the facts anymore. The system came out back on March 21st, 2001. As of this writing, the system is already 17 years old, sporting graphics comparable to the Super Nintendo. It is a Retro System, and it belongs on my site. That’s not a bad thing though. It is a great system with a lot of great games on it just waiting to be played.

If we’re going to be welcoming the Gameboy Advance to the site, I felt it needed to be done right. I picked a game I had heard great things about but have personally never played, and that game is “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga”. Following in the footsteps of the Super Nintendo Classic “Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars”, this game puts Mario and Company into a Roleplaying game setting as opposed to the traditional Platforming setting the Nintendo Mascot is usually associated with. While it may sound strange at first, it has proven to be a winning formula, still living on today with multiple games in the “Mario & Luigi” Series as well as the ongoing “Paper Mario” Series. I have previously played Super Mario RPG and found it to be a great game, which gives me high hopes for this spiritual successor. So let’s dive in and see what this game, and the system in general, have to offer us!

Table of Contents

Gameplay

-The Adventure Begins-

The game opens at Peach’s Castle where, in a rare event, Princess Peach is actually performing part of her royal duties. Today, Peach is meeting with a goodwill ambassador from the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom. Queen Bean was even so kind as to send a gift for our Princess Peach.

Unfortunately, the whole thing was a trap. As soon as Princess Peach opens the gift box, a weird contraption pops out and sprays an ominous green smoke onto our princess. It turns out these two aren’t goodwill ambassadors at all. They are in fact the Evil Witch Cackletta and her Loyal Minion Fawful. What terrible thing have they done to poor Princess Peach?

As the useless Toad Guards flee the room, leaving Peach completely defenseless, Fawful dons a new contraption on his head to vacuum up all the green smoke. Peach collapses to the ground while the pair laugh maniacally. Curiously, the two fly off out of the castle shortly after, leaving the princess behind. Was this not the usually kidnapping setup? They couldn’t possibly have straight up killed her could they? That would be just too dark for any Mario game.

Meanwhile, at the home of the Mario Brothers, Luigi is outside hanging laundry, unaware of what is going on elsewhere in the kingdom. That is, until a Toad shows up shouting about an Emergency Situation at the Castle. Apparently the Kingdom Courier was already sent out for the brothers but for some reason never made it. Hearing this, the Toad runs inside the house looking for Mario.

Once inside, the Toad searches all throughout the small home looking for Mario. It doesn’t take long before he hears our hero humming to himself in a back room. The Toad rushes inside to deliver his urgent message, but something in that room gave him quite the shock as he lets out a massive “Eeeeeeek!!!”

The Toad quickly runs from the room, face red and disoriented, and promptly knocks himself out by accidentally running into a dresser around the corner. Our Hero Mario emerges from the room shortly after wearing nothing but a towel. Apparently Mario was showering at the time which is what startled the Toad so much. I dare not imagine the sight that poor Toad walked in on. After knocking the Toad around a little to wake him up, he finally manages to get enough of his message out to Mario for our Hero to take action.

Knowing something terrible must have happened to his beloved Princess Peach, Mario wastes no time, rushing out the door still in just the towel. He quickly grabs the clothes that Luigi was hanging to dry and puts them on. A little too quickly perhaps and it would seem poor Luigi has become tangled with the clothes line and is being dragged behind Mario as he rushes off to the castle.

By the time the brothers arrive, Bowser has already shown up, no doubt looking to kidnap the Princess for himself in the confusion. Mario’s sudden stop at the sight of Bowser unfortunately caused Luigi to go flying headlong into Bowsers back, knocking the Koopa King over and enraging him.

This brings us into our first battle of the game. In typical RPG fashion, all of the actions are menu and turn based. You scroll through the menus to select your attack, then you select a target, and finally you perform the action. Once your attack is over, the enemy has their turn to attack. From there you go back and forth until someone dies. This should be very familiar to anyone that has played an RPG before.

However, this isn’t your typical RPG. In Super Star Saga, all of your attacks have “Action Commands.” What are Action Commands you might ask? Well,  at specific parts of the attack animation you can press the action button again to do additional damage. It’s a small change to the formula, but it is a powerful change and one that really keeps you in the action rather than sitting back and watching the fight. Getting even a single extra point of damage can really change the flow of battle.

Not only that, but you can also dodge enemy attacks in the same way. Every enemy attack has a specific point in its animation that will allow you to dodge the attack entirely. The extra damage of Action Commands were nice, but this is actually a complete game changer. Your characters are no longer damage sponges that will just drink a healing potion after the battle. You now have to pay attention in battle and manually avoid the attacks. If you get good enough at the timing, it’s possible to play through the entire game without ever taking a single hit of damage this way. Not that I would ever be capable of that.

The battle continues for a few more rounds until Bowser has finally had enough and calls off the fight. Although, his antagonizing that he would have won had he not stopped no doubt would have started a new fight of its own. Thankfully one of the Toads chimes in to remind us that something terrible has happened to Princess Peach. It turns out what Cackletta stole was actually Princess Peach’s voice.

As if stealing her voice wasn’t bad enough, Cackletta somehow replaced her voice with an “Explosive Vocabulary”. That description, while literally accurate, might be a little confusing, so let me explain. Rather than speaking normal words, everything Peach says has been replaced with a weird font full of bombs and spiders and other odd shapes. Then a moment after she says it, the characters fall to the ground outside the speech bubble and literally explode. Hence the name “Explosive Vocabulary”.

We quickly find out that this is the reason Bowser hadn’t kidnapped her before the brothers arrived. Even if he did kidnap her, she would just end up destroying his castle. It would seem our heroes will have to travel outside of the Mushroom Kingdom to the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom if they want to return Peach’s voice. Bowser is actually quite enthusiastic about the idea and openly encouraging Mario for once, though for a selfish reason. He even goes so far as to offer to personally escort Mario to the Beanbean kingdom in his Koopa Cruiser.

The shock of Bowser and Mario actually working together must have really gotten to Peach, because she said something which became a rather large speech bubble of Explosive Vocabulary. Terrified of the impending doom, everyone quickly rushes for the exits. As the bombs hit the floor, the whole castle is filled with a massive explosion which shoots out all the windows and buckles the walls. I sure do hope Princess Peach survived all that…

Peach’s fate aside, we return our attention to Mario, now out in the castle courtyard. Finally we gain control over Mario and can begin the game proper. In true RPG fashion, you are free to wander around, explore the environment, and are encouraged to talk to everyone you can. Many of the people you talk to will offer you advice towards what you’re supposed to be doing. This Toad for example tells us that Bowser is waiting in his Koopa Cruiser towards the other exit. Since we’re towards the South side of the Courtyard at the moment, I’ll take that to mean Bowser is waiting for us up North.

Before we head off to the Koopa Cruiser, I think it would be best to explore the Courtyard a bit and get familiar with the quirks of this game. While the main mechanics are nothing all together unusual for an RPG, there are some things that are a bit unconventional. For one thing, Mario can actually Jump. For Mario that’s to be expected, but for an RPG that is an extreme rarity. Most RPGs I have even played had no need for a jump button. In fact most characters in RPGs would find themselves trapped behind even an ankle high barrier.

Other things we’ll have to keep in mind are the fact that Mario will actually have an item inventory as opposed to consuming every item on contact. This of course is common for an RPG, but not so much for a Mario game. Then we have a bit of a blend between the two worlds in regard to item boxes. Instead of the typical treasure chests you would find in many RPGs you will instead find various ?-Blocks scattered around the world filled with helpful items. So you’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

Being an RPG, we’ll also have to be aware of random side quests we can do. This Toad for example has lost his “Precious Belonging” and would be thrilled if we could help him find it. It’s early in the game, so this one isn’t too hard to finish, just keep searching around the ledge until you find it. But there are sure to be much more complicated quests going forward. Most of these quests you won’t really have to do, but usually you’ll get a nice reward for doing them. Plus you’re a Hero, you should be helping people in need anyway.

After thoroughly exploring the courtyard, it’s time to gather everyone together and head north to the Koopa Cruiser. Be sure to tell this lost Koopa Troopa where to go, we’re going to need everyone we can get if we’re heading over to the Beanbean Kingdom. Head north yourself and you’ll find Luigi waiting for you to tell you Bowser is waiting.

Just north of the Courtyard, we enter Toadtown Square and find arguably the most important feature to look out for in the game, the Save Point. This game is going to take a long time to complete, and you’re going to want to save as often as possible. Seriously, nothing is worse than dying in a random battle and losing hours of progress because you haven’t saved in forever. So keep an eye out for these Save Albums and use them every time you see them.

Now that we’ve saved, it’s time to head off to the Koopa Cruiser. But before we get there, we’re stopped in our tracks by Peach’s loyal steward Toadsworth. Toadsworth has gone to the trouble of preparing a Suitcase for us to use on our journey. This Suitcase will act as the backdrop for the menu screen, which I think is a nice touch. Instead of being a generic menu screen where all your items are just magically stored in the void, we can see that Mario is actually carrying all his items and outfits inside this suitcase. He also scrapes together 100 coins to help fund our journey to the Beanbean kingdom.

With Mario now well equipped for his adventure, it’s time to see him off. It would be nice to have Luigi join us, but apparently he’s planning to stay behind and protect the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario’s absence. So instead Luigi and Toadsworth are simply going to see Mario off as he heads to the Beanbean Kingdom.

Finally we arrive at the Koopa Cruiser to see a rather annoyed Bowser waiting for us. Bowser wanted to leave as soon as possible and we were just wandering around the Courtyard instead. Even if he is annoyed, he can’t help but boast about his new Koopa Cruiser. No doubt it was built with the intent of using it against Mario. How ironic that its maiden voyage would be to help Mario instead.

The Koopa Cruiser can’t leave without its crew however, and so Bowser calls for his Bowser Baddies. Unfortunately, no one shows up. The only ones here are the lone Koopa Troopa we gave directions to earlier, and Luigi, who only showed up to see Mario off. Not knowing this, Bowser begins to assume Luigi is here to join in the adventure. Luigi, the natural coward that he is however, has no such desire to venture off to the Beanbean Kingdom.

Seeing where this conversation is heading, Luigi attempts to escape the area. Unfortunately for him, it was at that same moment that the rest of the Bowser Baddies started entering the square, pushing him back towards the Koopa Cruiser. It looks like Luigi may actually be swept up in the crowd and forced to join the adventure against his will.

Everyone has boarded the Koopa Cruiser and it is time for us to depart for the Beanbean kingdom. Everyone that is except for one deserter. Who would dare desert the Bowser Baddies? Such an act cannot be tolerated and Bowser orders the crew to initiate cruiser pursuit to chase down this lone individual. No one defies King Koopa.

The Cruiser lists off with the power of its jet engine to hunt down this deserter. Of course, who else would try to escape the Bowser Baddies than someone who was never actually a member? I speak of course of Luigi. Somehow he managed to push his way through the crowd and is desperately trying to remain in the Mushroom Kingdom. Sadly, such a thing is no longer possible for the younger Mario Brother as the Koopa Cruiser extends a robotic arm to catch him and drag him on board.

Inside the Koopa Cruiser we see Luigi sulking, having been forcibly brought onto this adventure. Before long, Bowser’s voice can be heard over the loudspeaker trying to get the Brothers’ attention. Not only is Luigi forced to join the adventure, but Bowser continues to not remember his name, referring to him as “Green Guy” and later “Mr. Green Mario Brother Guy” instead. With the speed of the Cruiser, it’s not long before we arrive in the Beanbean Kingdom.

Now that Luigi has officially joined the adventure, we need to get used to the fact that there are two people in the party now. Moving around is easy enough, Luigi will simply walk behind Mario wherever he goes. However, you are capable to control the brothers independently. If you look at the top right corner, you’ll see the action icons listed for each of the brothers. Because of this, you can do things like make Luigi jump while Mario stands still. You even have the option to swap the brothers around so Luigi is leading the party. This is a relatively minor thing in the long run, but still something that will need to be kept in mind.

Because of this unique control scheme, there are certain aspects of the game that will be rather unconventional. For example, you will occasionally find “Bros. Blocks” instead of regular ?-Blocks. The difference between the two is that once you hit the block the first time, it will move sideways over the other brother who will then have to hit it as if playing a game of volleyball.

As we approach the Beanbean Kingdom boarder, a topic comes up that probably should have been thought about sooner, our passports. Even in the fictional world of the Mario Universe, you must have proper documentation if you plan to cross the border to a different country. Thankfully, there is a Koopa on board who is well versed in creating passports. The legality of these passports may be questionable, but at the moment we really don’t have time to worry about such things.

Mario is first to get his picture taken, and as we’re getting ready for our picture, the Koopa warns us to stand still and not press any buttons to hold a pose. Naturally this means we are absolutely going to be pressing every button we can and hope for a good pose in the end. That’s how we ended up with silly passport pictures like these. Now that we look at it, there’s something I find interesting about the passports. Despite everyone forgetting Luigi’s name, he is actually on the left side in the Suitcase menu. Since most people read left to right, the person on the left is usually the first one you notice and therefor typically given to the more important character. Not only that, but if you look, at level 1 Luigi is actually slightly stronger than his older brother, sporting 12hp compared to Mario’s 10hp.

Before we can make it up to the deck to meet up with Bowser, we are stopped again by another Koopa Troopa. This time, it’s to teach us how to fight as a pair. Back at the castle we were given the basic tutorial for how the flow of battle works. But now that Luigi is with us, we need to learn how to control him as well. Just like in the overworld, you control Mario and Luigi independently in battle. This means that all of Mario’s actions will be performed using the A Button while all of Luigi’s actions will use the B button. This includes both attacking and dodging, so I’m sure it’s going to take a little bit to get used to trying to dodge attacks.

In addition to the two person battle tutorial, we are also introduced to the concept of Counterattacks. We’ve already mentioned before that all of the attacks in this game can be avoided if you dodge them at the right time. However, now we know that if you time your dodge just right, you will actually counterattack the enemy. Done right, you will completely avoid damage while at the same time causing a small amount of damage back to the attacking enemy. Just be aware that not EVERY attack is capable of a counterattack. Bowser’s fire breath attack for example is an attack that you are not able to counter.

As we make our way to the deck, we end up getting dragged into several more battle. Right now there’s still simple battles with Goombas, but even simple battle still give you experience afterwards. Very quickly, we have gained enough experience for Mario to Level Up.

As with any RPG, increased level also comes with increased stats. You gain more Health Points (HP) so you can take more damage, and Bro Points (BP) which act as your magic later in the game. Power (Pow) to increase your attack damage, Defense (Def) so you don’t take as much damage, Speed so you get your turn sooner, and Mustache Power (Stache) for… um… actually, I never did figure out what your Stache power does. Anyway, what I really like about this game is what happens after your stat increases have been added to your current value. A Lakitu shows up and actually lets you select a stat you wish to add a bonus to and further increase. After making your selection, a slot wheel will spin and you have a chance to get between a +1 and +5 increase to your selected stat. I feel this adds a great deal of customization to your experience. Depending on your play style, you could focus your attention on raising your Power so you can just steamroll through your enemies. Or perhaps you’d rather raise up your defense so you can become a tank and absorb all the damage. Whatever your playstyle is, you can tweak the experience to your liking.

It looks like the tutorials aren’t quite done yet. Just a little further down the path we encounter a Koopa Troopa who is trying to round up a few Goombas. In exchange for our help, he is going to teach us about going into battle. Unlike many RPGs, Super Star Saga does not have “Random Encounters”. Instead, you can see the enemies on the field at all time. Touching them will start the battle, or if you like, you can avoid them and skip the battles entirely. However, the advice we are given by this Koopa Troopa is to stomp on the enemies to initiate battle. Done right, this will actually cause all the enemies to take a small amount of damage before the battle has even started. Sometimes the enemies will even start the battle stunned, giving you an even bigger advantage.

On the flip side, if you aren’t paying attention, and an enemy happens to touch whichever brother is in the back of the party, you will take damage instead. Not only that, but you will actually be knocked over at the beginning of battle, which makes it so you are unable to dodge any attacks until your turn comes around. Such a situation can quickly become devastating, especially at these low levels. Personally I find this to be slightly complicated to pull off, mostly because of the isometric view. Very often I found myself overshooting the jump with Mario and basically ramming Luigi straight into the enemy, starting the battle off at a disadvantage. But that’s just me and my poor coordination.

We’re almost to the Deck when our progress is stopped yet again. This time, it would appear someone has carelessly placed a bunch of cargo right in the middle of our path. We’ll have to clear out this mess first if we want to move forward. Thankfully, this is a rather simple problem to fix. Just north of the mess is an !-Block we can use to activate “Mr. Pinch”. “Mr. Pinch” being the nickname this particular Koopa Troopa has given to the overhead pinch crane. Don’t ask why.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pinch accidentally mistakes Luigi for a piece of cargo. It grabs him by his head and lifts him up into the air before anyone can really do anything to stop it. Poor Luigi, his day just keeps getting worse. He didn’t even want to come on this adventure in the first place.

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, the Koopa Troopa suggests Luigi could become the ship’s lookout. After a quick transition, we FINALLY make it to the deck and see that Luigi is indeed being used as a lookout. A random Koopa Troopa comes to report to Bowser that we are nearing the Beanbean Kingdom boarder. It is then that Luigi sees something in the distance so disturbing that his eyes literally pop out through the binoculars!

Out of nowhere, the Koopa Cruiser comes under attack as an explosion rocks the ship, freeing Luigi in the process. Before anyone can even guess what happened, Cackletta appears to taunt our heroes. Flying around on… what is that? …A rocket powered rocking chair? Between the chair and the face, there’s really no question here that Cackletta is psychotic and needs to be stopped. Even if she hadn’t stolen Peach’s voice.

Bowser ends up being the one to speak for the group, criticizing Cackletta for her misdeeds while at the same time praising how cool of a plan it is. Cackletta of course is unfazed by any of it, allowing it all to simply feed her ego as she gloats some more. Apparently stealing Peach’s voice is only the first part of her master plan, and she intends to head back to the Beanbean Kingdom as soon as possible to go onto the next step.

Naturally we don’t get a chance to fight Cackletta before she flies away, she is obviously intended to be a final boss. Instead she instructs Fawful to take care of us. At this point I would like to stop for a moment and talk about Fawful as a character. Fawful is obviously a second in command and therefore should be treated with caution. However, Fawful is such a gimmicky character that it’s hard to take him seriously. If you just look at his speech pattern above, you’ll see what I mean. He is intentionally written as a character with terrible translation from Japanese, as a nod to the bad translations seen in the NES era of gaming. On top of that, he insists on using metaphors that make no sense in any context. “Princess Peach’s sweet voice will soon be the bread that makes the sandwich of Cackletta’s Desires!” What does that even mean?

And it only gets worse from there. “Mustard of your doom!” should never be the witty remark you say before attacking someone. Again, what does that even mean? But here we are. Fawful has his awful monologue and then suddenly launches an attack at Bowser from his helmet contraption.

As Mario and Luigi check on Bowser’s condition, Fawful flies onto the deck and our battle with Fawful begins. Unfortunately, being in battle doesn’t stop Fawful from talking. Before each attack he still taunts our heroes by calling them “Fink-Rat!!!” Once again, what is he even talking about? I have never once heard the expression “Fink-Rat” in my entire life. I can barely even imagine what it means beyond the basic knowledge that it is some kind of insult.

Shortly into the battle, Bowser regains consciousness and actually offers us up some advice for defeating Fawful. According to Bowser, Fawful’s shouts of “Fink-Rat” are more than just random insults. The color of the text is actually a hint towards who he is planning to attack. If it’s red, he’s going to attack Mario. If it’s green, he’s going to attack Luigi. It’s a good early warning system so you can prepare to dodge the attacks.