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Retro Review : The Adventures of Tom Sawyer



SETA - 1989 -  Famicom/NES 

Overview:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a standard action platformer, and extremely bizarre interpretation of Tom Sawyer, that strongly resembles Super Mario Bros. In the game, Tom has fallen asleep, and the game itself is Tom’s dream. In it, Becky has been captured by Injun Joe, and Tom must embark on a quest through the games 6 levels to rescue her. You can either play single or multiplayer, the multiplayer being turn based again like in SMB, where you take turns playing as Tom and Huck. 


Gameplay:

From the first level, it’s obvious that the makers of the game tried very hard to replicate Super Mario Bros and other popular games of the time. The main characters even resemble Mario and Luigi; Tom being dressed in a red shirt with blue suspenders, and Huck, dressed in a green shirt with white suspenders, and the game even begins with you having to jump over barrels, much like in Donkey Kong. For most the levels, you must either jump over or defeat oncoming enemies such as pirates and assorted wild life. You can attack by throwing an endless supply of rocks you have hidden in your pockets. The rocks travel in an arch, which means that once an enemy is close by, you will no longer be able to hit them, and must jump over them. Some enemies will drop a slingshot icon, which allows you to attack by firing a shot in a straight line across the screen. It is slightly more powerful then the normal attack, but only lasts a limited time. Enemies will also drop one of three other icons. A “T” icon, which will award you with an extra life if you gather 20, a Skull icon, which erases 10 of your “T” icons, and a Heart icon, that acts like the Star in Mario, granting limited invincibility. 



Remember that time Tom Sawyer fought that giant octopus?

 The game is broken up into 6 levels, 5 of which are standard platform setups, and one, the 2nd level, being an overhead game where you must pilot a raft down the Mississippi river. The other levels consist of a haunted mansion, a cloud world (with a brief flying section), and a forest that has a brief section where you jump along giant mushrooms (another obvious Super Mario reference)
 

The game suffers from some very stiff controls at times, with jumping being one of the main annoyances. Once you jump, you can’t move forward or back, which makes for some rather stiff platforming. This becomes a bit of a problem later in the game, when you are jumping over pits that leave you little room for error, the worst of which being just before your fight with the final boss.  Also, in the raft section, you can move in the air when you jump, but your raft doesn’t move along with you, making it easy to accidentally fall into the water. 

 
Remember that time Tom Sawyer fought Grape Ape?

My last real problem with the game, more of a personal complaint, is how easy most of the bosses are.  Many of them are defeated with only a few shots, and some barely even attack you at all. In fact, the final boss fight with Injun Joe is almost impossible to lose at, with him only attacking once every few seconds, and only attacking by firing a single arrow at the ground. 

 

Conclusion:
While it desperately tries to  be like one of the big boys, it just ends up feeling very dull. I actually enjoyed the cute graphics, and the music isn’t…..too awful…. But the game feels very speedily put together. It often feels either too easy, or annoyingly hard, and never really comes off as an enjoyable game to me. I ended up wanting to beat it out of spite more then anything else. When it comes down to it, it’s just an okay platformer, and with so many better ones on the NES, there just doesn’t feel like a reason to choose this one. 

But, when it comes to other games for the NES based on Tom Sawyer….it could be much worse….

 

Retro Review : Double Dragon



Technos Japan - 1988 - NES

Overview:

Double Dragon NES is the arcade port of the popular arcade Beat Um Up with the same name. In the game, you take control of one of the Lee brothers, either Billy or Jimmy, (also know as Hammer and Spike in the US arcade version), and embark on a mission through the post apocalyptic waste land of New York in search of Billy’s kidnapped girlfriend, Marian. Your goal is to defeat all the members of the Black Warriors, who have kidnapped Marian as ransom in the hopes that you will give up the secrets of your martial arts style for her safe return. 



Gameplay:

Now, while some of the core gameplay remains similar, there are several glaring differences between the Arcade and NES versions of the game. The first, and most obvious difference, is the lack of Co-op play in the game. Due to the limitations of the Nes at the time, the game only allows one player at a time. Co-op is instead replaced with a turn based system, with each player taking over the level after the other dies. Also, instead of having all your attacks from the beginning, you must earn your new attacks by defeating a set amount of enemies. Speaking of enemies, the NES’s limitations strike again, only allowing 2 enemies on screen at a time. This makes the fighting feel very tedious at times, and can grind the pace of the game down to a crawl. To assist you in battle, you are able to pick up weapons at certain points in the game, but the weapons you pick up disappear between screens, making them feel almost useless. 
 

The game also suffers from another old console problem; The difficulty to life ratio. In many arcade ports, the games difficultly remained mostly the same, as did the number of lives that the player received. But, unlike with the arcade versions of these games, once you get a game over, you can’t pump another quarter into the machine and continue playing. Once you get a Game Over, it’s back to start. Now, in a game with no co-op, no blocking, cheap hits, and extremely powerful enemies (THAT CAN BLOCK!) you will find yourself getting killed…a lot….and starting over…a lot….especially in the forest level, when having to face 2 Abobo’s at once…and then another pair soon after…
 fucking Abobo…

The NES version also has a 2 player fighting mode you can choose to play, if you don’t feel like running through a story mode. In it you can either fight the computer, or fight a friend in a 2-D fighting game. But, yet again, there’s a problem. While you have a cast of 6 characters to choose from, you can only be one character…both of you…you both have to be the same guy…



While fun at first, the gameplay limitations quickly get old, making the experience less then exciting. 

Conclusion:

As you can probably guess from my review, Double Dragon NES isn’t a favorite of mine. Trust me though, I don’t take joy in saying that. I adore the Double Dragon series, and the Beat Um Up genera as a whole, but that game is just too flawed to really enjoy. The game is still fun in its own frustrating way, and with some dedication, you can totally beat this game and I’m sure have fun playing it, but it doesn’t feel like a Double Dragon game. It feels stiff, technical, it lacks the balls out, torso punching, brainless fun of the Beat Um Up spirit. Between the lack of Co-Op, the limited lives, cheat deaths, and having to earn your own fighting moves, it just feels like homework… 

But, like I said, you may enjoy the game, so download a rom, or pick it up on the Wii Virtual Console, but I’d recommend spending your cash on a good NES Beat Um Up like River City Ransom or Bad Dudes instead*

*I’m just kidding…don’t buy Bad Dudes…EVER! 


Speaking of Double Dragon,  have you guys played Abobo’s Big Adventure yet?

It’s a free fan game, where you get to play as Double Dragon’s  most famous baddie, ABOBO!

The game is free, fun, and a nostalgia trip. If you’re a old school NES fan, you can’t pass up this game! So, hit the LINK, and enjoy.  

 

Retro Review : Rygar: The Legendary Adventure



Tecmo – (JP/NA)1987 (EU) 1990 - NES 

 
Overview:

 Rygar (NES) is the popular action RPG game where you take control of an unnamed warrior (commonly referred to as Rygar) through a mythologically inspired world, on a mission to restore peace to the land by defeating the evil King Ligar. While adapted from the Arcade version (1986), the gameplay for NES was changed from the Arcade versions side scrolling play, to the Action RPG genera.  

 

 
Gameplay:


In many ways, Rygar’s gameplay holds close to the Arcades side scrolling roots.  The main difference it has, besides the graphics, is that the liner platform style has been replaced with a series of free roaming levels that incorporate both 2-D platforming and 3-D overhead maps. The controls stay about the same in both 2 and 3-D segments; attack with shield, jump, walk, etc. The only thing that changes control wise between the 3-D and 2-D views is that your grappling hook no longer works, though you don’t need it in 3-D mode, so no worries. Enemies will pop up throughout your path, and you can recieve power ups from some of the enemies you defeat. There are 2 types of drop items you get from enemies; Potions, which heal 1 point of health, and Star items that come in 1 or 3 stacks. These star items fill your power gauge, which allows you to use 1 or your 3 spells. Power – Up, which costs 3 points and ups your attack , Attack & Assult, which costs 5 points and causes the screen to flash damaging all enemies, and Recover, which costs all 8 points and heals your health completely. Other than the basic enemies, the game also has 5 Bosses, not counting the Final Boss Liger. With every defeated Boss, you will gain a new special item; the grappling hook being one of them. These items will be crucial for traversing the lands and finding the next path. You will receive each of these special items from the 5 Indoras; colossal, Santa looking Gods of the land that must all be freed to reach the final level. There are other Indoras throughout the land that will give you hints on where to go next.

 

 
For the most part, Rygar is a rather solid game. The fighting is standard platform button mashing,  and the enemies come at you in droves. The enemies do respawn at random, and at a rather quick pace, so you well feel swamped at times.  The game allows for quite a bit of exploration as well thanks to the Grappling Hook item. Rygar has many hidden areas that can only be accessed by throwing the hook up and hoping for a hit. Though, while very handy, the Grappling hook can sometimes be a liability. The Grappling hook is used by pressing up and attack, and also by holding down and attack, which allows you to repel. But, if you happen to be on an area where the ground is thin enough to repel, and you try to duck and attack, you’ll find yourself stuck hanging from a ledge and open to enemy cheap shots.



Rygar also does a good job of blending it’s 2-D and 3-D sections. When you enter certain doors, you will be transported to an overhead map, where you will have to battle huge tank like beasts and odd tree creatures.  While the controls can be a bit stiff here at times, and timing your jumps can be a bit tricky, these sections offer a good break up in gameplay, and also have one of the more challenging Dungeon sections (Battling the Dorago boss in the 3-D section was a favorite part of mine)

 

 
Rygar tip: The World is your trampoline

    One of Rygar’s more entertaining features, is that you have the ability to jump on any enemy without taking damage. You also don’t deal any damage by jumping either. You just bounce. Bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce. You can even bounce on the games Bosses. You are vulnerable when you jump though, so try not to have too much fun.

 

 
While a good game, I do have 2 big problems with Rygar. One of my problems with the game  comes from it’s leveling up system. Like in many games, you level up by defeating enemies and level Bosses, and with each level you gain strength and a bonus health bar.  The system itself is fine, but by the time you get to Ligers floating Island, the last level, the leveling up becomes easy, and once you gain the highest level, the final Boss becomes way too easy. I honesty barely remember fighting him. When the Mini-Bosses feel like more of a triumph than the Final Boss, it just doesn’t sit right with me. My biggest Problem though, is the lack of a save feature. Rygar isn’t an extremely long game by any means, but it does take a few hours to complete, and without a save feature or codes, it means one long game session, or an overheating NES. And nothing hurts a retro gamers heart worse, than turning off an unfinished game without being able to save.



 
Conclusion: 


While it has some problems, Rygar still stands out as one of the NES’s must play Action RPG’s.  The game has a great soundtrack, colorful graphics and simple yet fun gameplay that will hook you hard, and fast.  While the game isn’t always clear in what to do next, you’ll pick up on it fast, and have fun exploring along the way. Rygar really has this charm about it that makes it a fan favorite, and a retro gaming must.  I would definitely recommend you give Rygar a look, be it ROM or cartridge. 



……seriously though, what the hell is wrong with this thing?

 

Retro Review : Batman



Sunsoft - 1989 (JP) 1990 (NA) - NES

Overview:

 Batman is a side scrolling action game based (very loosely) off the 1989 film. You play as Batman and must battle through 5 stages on a hunt for the Joker. The majority of the games levels and villains have no connection to the film, with it’s main connection to being the showdown with Joker in Gotham Chapel’s bell tower. 

 

Gameplay:

Like I mentioned before, the game play has very little to do with the film. The story is shown through a series of cutscenes that are often paired with images of the Joker delivering lines that do little explain what’s happening. While not the most informative, the animated cutscenes are rather impressive graphically.  When it comes to the game play, Batman is a pretty standard action platformer. Your attacks consist of punches; standing, crouching and jumping. You also have 3 sub-weapons that you are able to select from; the Batarang, a harpoon gun, and a throwing star that splits into 3 when thrown. The sub-weapons all draw from the same ammo, which you can collect by defeating enemies. You can carry99 max, and each weapon uses a different amount; batarang takes 1, gun takes 2, and throwing star takes 3. The enemies will often drop 1 of 3 items when defeated. Either ammo, a B symbol which gives you extra points, or a heart that restores 1 bar of health. Batman also has a wall jump ability, which is one of the games stand out mechanics. It is similar to the one used in Ninja Gaiden, except you don’t cling to the walls as well. This mechanic is essential in the levels and mastering it is a must; especially before the last level. 



The wall jump isn’t the only thing that makes Batman feel similar to Ninja Gaiden. Many of the games enemies are reminiscent of Gaiden’s as well. The enemies vary from small robot drones, to thugs with guns and flamethrowers, and even include giant enemies; including one that looks like ED-209 from Robocop. The enemies don’t feel very “Batman” for the most part, and this is especially true of the boss fights. The bosses include giant samurais and robotic squares that fire lasers at you when you are near them, and even the final boss fight with Joker makes little sense in the realm of Batman.

(SPOILER ALERT:) Joker has lightening powers…..




Much like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game from Konami, it feels like the makers of the game didn’t really have an understanding of the subject material outside of the main concept. This of course doesn’t make this a bad game. The character graphics and level design are rather diverse and full of detail; although the game’s pallet choices sometimes makes the level blend into a uniform hard to read mess. The fighting is rather smooth and intuitive, and the platforming sections feel very natural.  The game actually requires some strategy and thinking as well, and victory often requires you to discover and memorize enemy patterns. The game does have its troubles from time too time; with some of the boss fights seeming to resort to punch until dead and the occasional enemy cheap shots. The game can also frustrate at times since many of the bosses seem overpowered; especially the one before the Joker, that honestly looks like the Shredder from TMNT.

 

Conclusion:

While not exactly what I would call a Batman game, Batman for NES is a pretty fun game in its own rights. It’s a solid action platformer that is challenging and  engaging. While short at only 5 levels, it supplies you with a decent amount of depth and game play. While not exactly what I would call an A title, it is definitely worth a play. If you are a fan of the action platform genera, Batman is a must play. 

 

Retro Review : Hudson’s Adventure Island (Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima)



Hudson - 1986 (JP) 1988 (NA) - Famicom/NES 

Overview:

In Adventure Island, you take control of Master Takahashi (Master Higgins in the US version), named after Hudson’s beloved PR man Takahashi Meijin. The story is pretty standard for a retro game; your girlfriend Tina has been kidnapped by the evil Great King Kyura.To get her back, you most conquer the games 8 areas consisting of 32 levels. This game is quite infamous among gamers for it’s incredible difficulty and was believed by many to be unbeatable. The game is full of quick enemies, pit falls, and areas that depend on precision movement on the part of the player. The game is also famous for giving you only 3 lives and no continues to do this.  


 

Gameplay:

Adventure Island  is a straightforward platformer in many ways. It has a similar feel to the original Super Mario bro’s in its overall play. It has 8 worlds with 4 levels each. The level structure is also similar, in that you can only travel forward, no back tracking allowed. Unlike in SuMari though, jumping on enemies will result in your death, so you must avoid or kill them to proceed. Your main weapon in the game is a stone axe that Master can throw in rapid succession at the enemies. However, you don’t start with a weapon in this game, and if you die you will lose whichever weapon you have at the time. You can find weapons either placed along the levels path or hidden in eggs. Other then the stone axe you can find a hidden fireball attack, that can not only defeat enemies but the tripping stones and boulders that get in your way as well. Like I mentioned before, items can be found in eggs throughout each level. Some eggs are hidden and can be uncovered  by throwing your weapon along your way. If your weapon stops in midair, go to that spot and jump. This will either uncover a hidden egg or, on rare occasions, a hidden lift that will take you to a bonus level full of fruits that will both regain your stamina and give you bonus points. Some of the eggs hold bonus items that add to your score, or extra lives, and some even contain the hidden character Honey. Honey is a fairy that will follow Master for a short time and grant him invincibility as long as her music plays, much like the Power Star in SuMari.
Also, hidden in some of the eggs, is a favorite item among fans of the game; the Skateboard
.

Once you touch this item, Master will throw on a helmet and begin to skate forward. You can speed up by pressing right, and slow down with left, and you can still use your jump and attack as well. Once you make contact with a rock or enemy, Master will be thrown from the board, but he won’t die. The upside is that the board adds speed and can act as a shield against one hit. But, the board will not stop going forward once you begin riding it, and sometimes will cause you to ride straight to your death. Use this item wisely.  

Not all eggs are helpful though. For lucking in some, is the eggplant.

Once you uncover the eggplant he will begin to follow you, and slowly drain your stamina bar the whole time he is out. Once uncovered, he can’t be ditched or avoided so you must focus on collecting all the fruit you can. 



I mentioned Stamina above, and in Adventure Island Stamina plays an important role.

**Don’t get the stamina bar confused with a health bar.**

In the game one hit from an enemy will kill you, no matter how high your stamina is at the time.The stamina bar plays 2 important roles, it allows you to take a hit from the tripping stone without killing you, only removing a few points, and it tells you how close you are to death. You see, once this bar is empty, Master runs out of energy and dies. It’s very important to collect all the fruit you can to keep the bar from hitting zero. If you find a milk bottle, it will fully replenish your bar, so anyways be on the look out. The Stamina bar can almost be thought of as the games time limit.  

As you may be able to tell simply from the description so far, Adventure Island is an incredibly challenging game full of dangers and many ways to die. The ever decreasing Stamina bar doesn’t allow you to take your time in the game, so you must always be on the move. The enemies are often placed in ways that force the player to make precise actions. Many of the enemies come at you in waves and patterns that can make the smallest slip up deadly. Most of the boss levels are full of enemies including spiders that act as moving walls. These segments require a mix of precision jumps and dodges and can quickly wear even the most pro retro gamers will down instantly. And of course, the limited 3 lives given make completion a near impossible feat.

But…there is hope…
 

At the end of level 1-1, right before the goal, there is a hidden egg. Inside the egg is the Hudson Bee logo. If you obtain the logo, you will be able to use continues as long as you remember to hold right and press start at the Game Over screen.

Without this trick, even the most veteran of gamers would be hard pressed to conquer all 32 stages. 
 
The one kind action the game has taken is in the boss fight.
 

You’d imagine that with a game this hard, the boss fights would be near Herculean tasks to complete. But, if you can defeat the first boss, then the next 7 should be fairly easy. Great King Kyura seems to need the levels to be as hard as they are to make up for the fact that he, himself, is a tremendous puss. To defeat him you simply stay in front of him, jump, and throw your weapon at his head. He does attack by throwing a fire ball very few seconds, but these are easily avoidable. The only thing that changes in between each fight is the number of times you have to hit him. That’s all. 

Although the boss is a pushover, simply getting to him will prove to be one of the most difficult retro gaming feats you will ever take on. This game does not play fair, and will take little pity on you.

 

Conclusion:

This game is not for the faint of heart. This is truly one of the hardest games I have ever played. (to this day I have only reached world 5-3, then again I myself only learned about the continue trick a year ago :P ) Although it is hard, it is still a very fun game. The characters and enemies are cute, and the game has a very child like spirit to it that can really hook the player. Despite it’s sometimes frustrating difficulty, I always find myself playing it again and again, and always have fun when I play.

So, if you want a real challenge, then I’d recommend  taking on Hudson’s Adventure Island. Be patient, stay focused, and remember the patterns, and just maybe, you can rescue Tina and be one of the few that sees the ending with their own eyes. 

 

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