Monday, December 31, 2012

Great Free iOS Games You Don't Know

Going through the "Free" section of the App Store yields flimsy "Lite" editions of popular games and crappy, juvenile platformers. Sure there's good ones out there, but chances are you already know/have played games like Jetpack Joyride or Temple Run. There are a few games out there that have not received the popularity these game have earned, even though they absolutely deserve them. I would recommend everyone to check these games out, because the best things in life are, in fact, free.
BATTLE NATIONS- Here's a game so deep it has its own Wiki site with over 700 pages. The formula of collecting resources, building workshops and units, and battling both friends and enemies has been cloned into other popular games such as Clash of Clans or Smurf Village, but this one is vastly superior. The funny dialogue between the characters, endless missions, and subtle references throughout the game make it fun to play and it has become a habit to check on my nation when I wake up. Nanopods, a valuable currency that can upgrade units and speed up production, can be bought or earned through watching advertisements or downloading apps. This really only starts to become an inconvenience in the later levels of the game, which could take months to reach. Even so, it isn't enough to diminish this amazing game, which would well be worth 2 or 3 dollars. Be sure to friend me at _FoxyGrandpa_
FROTZ-  Text adventures are a pretty much extinct genre of video games. Now that grapich capabilities have reached almost near-perfect realism, it's hard to get excited over "a large ogre attacks you". But the charm and effort that goes into writing, mixed with your own imagination, is still an interesting experience that Frotz delivers. Frotz comes with a large number of some of the more popular  text adventures, including the legendary ZORK. You also have access to a database to download more adventures through a search system. For first-time text adventurers, I recommend 9:05. The writing and goals are clear, and although you can complete it n roughly 10 minutes, I'll guarantee you'll give it more than one runthrough.

STAIR DISMOUNT- Also available (and also free) on Android, Stair Dismount combines the American passions of people falling and getting hurt with pushing buttons. The whole aim of the game is to find the most painful way for the unfortunate dummy to fall by measuring direction and power of the original push. Extra levels, dummies, and the dismemberment feature can be purchased for a small fee. But if you just can't wait for the next Jackass or America's Funniest Home Videos, look no further to satisfy your sadistic humor.
LETTER BY LETTER FREE- Alright, technically this is the "free" version of a game, put the advertisements really don't affect me at all and frankly I don't know why you would pay to get rid of them. Letter by Letter is the latest addition to the turn-based game craze, with a weird but satisfying mixture of Words with Friends and Connect Four. Taking letters and stealing your friends creates a constant change of leaders, and often you can never tell who's going to win until the last move. This creates a deep competitiveness that almost always has me pressing the rematch button.
SPACETEAM- You might have heard about this from internet ravings, but that's mostly because Spaceteam is one of the most fun co-op games out there. Up to 4 friends can connect via WiFi to try and save their spaceship by following the instructions presented to them. The catch: your instructions are presented to your friends. In order to keep yourself alive, cooperation, timing, and shouting are necessary. To make things more difficult, panels will fall off, goo will cloud the labels, and names will be randomly replaced by symbols that have to be described amidst the chaos. You'll sound like crazy, stupid nerds ("ACTIVATE THE TELEPHASERS! SET PROTOBEAM TO SEVEN! TAKE OUT THE LAUNDRY"), but that's all part of the fun. For free!
BOUNTY BOTS- Cowboys, Robots, and shooting. These are just some of my favorite things, and they are all mashed together in this multiplayer battle from MunkyFun. Play online with other robot cowboys and collect coins found dispersed around the 3 different maps. Killing a player drops all their money which you can collect too, and deposit into safes found in certain sections, which add to your score. Bonuses are given for big deposits, so it is worth it to go big even with a high price tag on your head. Leveling up unlocks new guns/sombreros, and for what it's worth (nothing) you don't have a reason not to pick it up.

More will be added as they come along, but hopefully this list added some great games to your iPhone or iPod for no cost at all.

Portable Gaming in 2013

With the rise of smart phones and tablets, portable gaming is sure to change in the next few years. Nintendo and Sony recently released their next generation of handhelds, however the new hardware was surprisingly traditional and it will be interesting to see how they compete with iOS and Android in years to come while offering way less features and worse graphics.

There is still a market for traditional handheld gaming though (sales of the 3DS have proven that). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Sony's Playstation Vita. Proper physical buttons and premium quality titles such as Mario and Uncharted still give dedicated gaming systems on the go an edge, but it is questionable how long this will last. We have already gotten a glimpse of the future with the Xperia Play released in 2011 which gave the best of both worlds offering smart phone functionality while having the ability to play full-fledged PSP games. The upcoming release of the extremely affordable Android-based game console Ouya will mean that many big name developers may begin developing exclusively for Android.

Nintendo and Sony will not be exiting the portable gaming market anytime soon and in 2013 there will still be plenty of room for them to be successful and continue innovating, though 2013 could very well be the beginning of a massive change while also bringing some kick-ass games and ideas to the palms of our hands.

Toys vs. Tech

Smart phones and tablets are advanced technology and the world recognizes this. While dedicated game systems are as well, it is often not recognized due to marketing, primarily Nintendo's marketing. Too many portable game system ads involve fun-loving children jumping around with Mario in the background. This would be fine, but then Nintendo and Sony (especially Sony) go on to boast about their awesome technology they have in their systems. This confuses consumers with conflicting ideas, are portable gaming systems toys or technology? iOS and Android are finally putting a lot of pressure on Sony and Nintendo to make up their minds and we can probably expect to see the companies choose toys. Marketing dedicated gaming systems as toys will differentiate them from smart phones and tablets enough to avoid confusing the consumer while still greatly appealing to both children and adults. Expect to see even younger kids in Nintendo ads and even more cheesy live action Sony ads.

Free-to-Play Rules All

Of course portable gaming does not mean just dedicated portable gaming systems, it also means smart phones and tablets. Free-to-Play is not a new idea, though in recent years on PC many F2P games have been more profitable than AAA games. The profit of course is generated through "in-app purchases" as iOS has labeled them. F2P has also been profitable on phones, though it has not seen as much success. However, the increasing success of the business model on PC will surely influence mobile developers to continue pushing in-app purchases more and more, something many developers are already being criticized for. (Though you really can't blame them!) F2P has been absent from dedicated gaming handhelds so far though it is likely 2013 will bring with it some in-app purchases on your 3DS or Vita. Think about it, because it really is brilliant. People game on the go because they do not have the patience to simply sit in the car or read a boring waiting room magazine, so offering slow real-time games like Farmville on mobile devices and allowing users to accelerate the processes in-game by using real money is sure to rake in the dough.

Indie Extravaganza

Ah yes, "indie game" seems to be a word heard quite often these days. While the true success of modern indie games is greatly exaggerated by the press and of course the "PC master race", there is truth in that indie games have potential to be extremely profitable due to their ridiculously low price points at launch. Few indie games go for more than 15 dollars and considering the state of the global economy, gamers flock to such pricing. Now here's the catch, mobile and handheld games are already that cheap or cheaper in many cases. What does this mean, well as we have already seen, indie developers respond by simply going cheaper. We have seen a few great cheap indie games on the Vita and 3DS, but the more these systems sell the more we can expect to see.

Much Needed Price Drops

Nobody likes spending money, just another reason why yet again smart phones are beating out the dedicated gaming handhelds. Physical games will always stay the same price for the 3DS and Vita, though 2013 will bring downloadable versions of those physical games at lower prices, something we are already seeing minus the lower prices. We should also be seeing downloadable titles on the 3DS and Vita designed to compete directly with smart phone apps by being priced at around 1 dollar and providing addicting gameplay for short bursts. Alongside games dropping in price, we can expect to see the 3DS drop to around 150 dollars and the Vita drop to 200 dollars, or at least have cheaper memory cards.

Upcoming Portable Games of 2013


Playstation Vita

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Street Fighter X Tekken

Porting a console game to iPhone is hard work. You have to capture enough of the essence of the game to be able to call it a port, make it challenging enough to satisfy the fans of the original game, make it accessible enough to appeal to the casual gamers who have never played the game before, and somehow get it to run on an iPhone without insane lag and massive loading times. A fighting game makes things even harder. The fans expect great graphics and lag free multiplayer, which is borderline impossible. That being said, I think Capcom's newest port still comes up a little too short to be overlooked.

In fact, originally, I wasn't going to buy Street Fighter X Tekken for iOS. I had previously purchased both Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 4 Volt, but I didn't really play games much on my iPhone anymore. Then stuff happened, and it went on sale for 99 cents, so I went ahead and bought it.

As I said before, it's not fair to compare Street Fighter X Tekken for iOS to its console counterpart. However, you can compare the iOS game to another very similar iOS game, namely Street Fighter 4 Volt. And compared to Volt, Street Fighter X Tekken appears a bit lacking.

One of Street Fighter X Tekken's flaws becomes apparent as soon as you start the game. The character selection screen features a roster of only twelve, six from Street Fighter and six from Tekken. Out of the 50 characters in the original game, only Ryu, Chun Li, Guile, Dhalsim, Rolento, Hugo, Kazuya, Nina, Heihachi, Hwoarang, Paul, and King are available. Even compared to Volt, which has 22 characters, Street Fighter X Tekken's lineup looks sparse. However, the game released with only ten, two have been added since, so we may be able to expect more.

The mechanics of the game are completely different from the original, which I don't think is a particularly bad thing. Instead of having two characters, each with separate health bars, you have one main character, which has a health bar, and one secondary character, which doesn't. You lose when your main character runs out of health.

Because of the lack of screen space for buttons, Capcom employed the use of only four--punch, kick, special, and cross--as it did for both of its previous Street Fighter games. Although it limits the amount of attacks and combos you can use, I think it works well for iOS devices.

Similar to Volt, Street Fighter X Tekken employs the use of Special Move Assist, which eliminates the need for complicated joystick motions to execute special moves, and Auto Guard, which is pretty self explanatory. Both of these features make it easier for casual players to compete in matches without having to learn the motions, which are difficult to pull off on a touch screen anyway.

Multiplayer was not lag free for me, but was not unplayable either. However, it seems like Capcom has finally succumbed to the IAP devil. To play multiplayer matches or buy Pandora's boxes, which can boost specific stats temporarily in battle, you need credits or gold, which you can buy with in-app purchases. However, as far as I can tell, you don't need in-app purchases to advance, they just make it faster.

Graphics-wise, the game looks good for an iOS app. The game features three dimensional characters and dynamic backgrounds.

All in all, Street Fighter X Tekken for iOS is an okay game. It offers faster paced battles than its iOS predecessors, and what it lacks in characters it makes up in... fancy backgrounds I guess? It'll scratch that fighting game itch just for a little while though, and it will appeal to both fighting game experts and casual gamers.

Find it on iTunes
Aizen Gamer's blog here.

Developer: Capcom

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Mage Gauntlet

And so, Rocketcat Games came onto the scene for Punch Quest, a ridiculous and addicting (not to mention free) side-scroller. Now they have released a new game that is similar in its detailed pixel-art style and memorable wackiness but little else. No, Mage Gauntlet is something better, in pretty much every way. What we have here is an retro-style RPG, complete with unique armors, weapons, and spells, and fused with cute characters and funny writing. The depth of the game left me pleasantly surprised, increasingly so as time went on.
The gameplay is simple and easy to pick up. It took me slightly longer to figure out the spell system but once I got the hang of it, it became apparent how useful the many different spells were. Get used to smashing enemies, as I did find myself using the sword more than the titular gauntlet that's used to cast spells. The environment is filled with little objects that can be smashed to bits, although Zelda logic has taught me that medicine and money come out of things when you smash them. This is not the case in Gauntlet, which frustrated me slightly, but this isn't so much an issue as my weird mind expecting a reward for smashing a barrel.
The amount and uniqueness of the items you acquire throughout the game is probably what surprised me the most.
The story follows a standard RPG storyline: you are the chosen one, and you must travel to find the big scary wizard to figure out why. The dialogue is funny and charming enough to keep me going, especially the broken english of the many trolls and monsters you will encounter. At $3, you might be able to find a better game, yes. You can certainly do worse, and if you're looking to sink a few hours over the break I would definitely consider giving this a shot, to encourage Rocketcat to go even further for their next game.

Find it on  iTunes

Developer: Rocketcat Games

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: The World Ends With You


Every platform has its share of shovel ware,  gimmicky cash-ins, and blatant rip-offs. In contrast, there are the gems. These are the games with a whirlwind stranglehold that make silly things like food, water, or the need to expel waste irrelevant, and stay with us long after the credits roll. Ladies and gentlemen: The World Ends With You.

The game opens with our misanthropic protagonist, Neku, lying face down in a crossing in Shibuya. He wakes with no recollection of the events leading up to this point (amnesia in a Japanese RPG?!) and finds in his hand a strange pin that allows him to read people's thoughts. Things get even weirder when he receives a text message telling him to reach the 104 building within the next 60 minutes or face erasure, accompanied by a timer on his hand. Strange frog monsters then appear from rifts in the sky, forcing him to run, bumping into a girl named Shiki, who demands Neku form a pact with her. With his life in imminent danger, he reluctantly accepts. 

It is here the game introduces the battle system, which has a bit of a steep learning curve and might put some people off. Battles take place across both screens of the DS, with Neku on the bottom screen and the supporting character on the top. To fight the noise creatures Neku uses psych pins which are activated by every imaginable motion on the touch screen and even by yelling or blowing into the microphone. This is simple enough on its own but the top character also has to be controlled with the D-pad, or face buttons for lefties. Both characters share an HP bar, so the ability to switch focus between screens is key. Each supporting character has their own mechanics. Shiki, for example, has face down cards with symbols which, when guessed correctly, store up power to enable a powerful attack. The top screen can be set to AI, but I recommend learning and mastering the dual-screen combat as it is highly rewarding, and never once felt stale. This is the only game I can recall where I fought battle after battle simply because it was fun and not because I needed levels.

The basic premise of the game is another game, the Reapers' Game, of which Neku, Shiki, and dozens of other players are a part. Players have to survive for a week, completing a new mission each day. What's the grand prize you're wondering? Well, it's a second shot at life. That's right, everyone playing is dead, and in the end only one can win. This game takes place in the Underground (UG) which runs parallel to the Real Ground (RG). The Reapers after which the game were once players but now act as administrators, hunting down and eliminating players to extend their own existence.

In keeping with the modern aesthetics, players don't equip swords, staffs, or armor, but regular clothing. The leveling system is also far from traditional as only HP increases, and it can be raised or lowered at any time to affect item drop rates. Players can feed their characters food items, each requiring a certain number of bytes (battles) to digest for permanent increases in HP, ATK, DEF or BRV (bravery). The higher the bravery stat, the better tier clothing that can be worn. There are also different brands of clothing, and wearing the current trends will grant stat bonuses in battle. Mavericks can ignore this entirely, as trends can be influenced to favor the brands currently equipped by fighting noise.

TWEWY is a perfectionist's dream, keeping track of the number of different items collected, pins mastered, noise fought, and more. A detailed bestiary collects drop rates for specific items on specific difficulty levels for each of the 96 types of noise fought throughout the game. Players can choose six of the 300+ pins to take into battle. Not each of these is completely viable however, as pins gain exp from battles and some will actually evolve, rendering the previous form obsolete, but there are still a staggering amount of choices.

The quality of the music in this game is difficult to convey through written word, but take my word for it, it's fucking perfect. Half of the time I couldn't understand the words and these are genres I'd never listened to before, but the soundtrack now enjoys a directory in my mp3 player. There's a track fitting for every atmosphere presented by the game's deep, superbly-written philosophical plot. The characters are all unique, well-written, and memorable, including the 'extras' that only have a few brief appearances.

This review barely scratches the surface of this masterpiece and I could go on gushing but only first-hand experience can do the game justice. If there's one word to describe this game, it's synergy. Some games have a great story and lackluster gameplay or phenomenal gameplay and a story less gripping than the back of a cereal box,  but The World Ends With You does it all. Some games are made with the DS hardware in mind, but it's as if the DS was made with TWEWY in mind. It's a match made in gaming heaven and worth owning a DS for.

Find The World Ends With You on ebay | Amazon

It's also been remixed for the iPhone and iPad but for those with a 3/DS/i I strongly recommend playing it on the original hardware.

Released: 4/22/2008
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Jupiter

Review: Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X

Of all the games that have been released by companies that aren't Treasure, Mega Man X (and maybe X2) have come closest to replicating the feel that makes Treasure games so palatable to the masses. The original Mega Man games had a similar style to Contra except they focused more on the platforming aspect than action.When both companies moved to the SNES era, Konami split their forces to make Contra 3, a true sequel to Contra and Contra: Hard Corps, one of the most balls-to-the-wall action games ever made (the people who made this game went on to form Treasure). Capcom created a mixture of the two with Mega Man X, a game that's standard platforming fare with a level of creativity that could only be found in Gunstar Heroes at the time. Flashforward about a decade and Capcom release a remake of the original Mega Man titled Powered Up, and a remake of this game called Maverick Hunter X.

The most radical change to the game is the physics. Most action games of the SNES/MD era tried to make the combat as smooth as possible, most likely to boast about what the console was capable of graphically rather than trying to emulate a new style of play (only Mecha games  like Ranger X or Metal Storm tended to break this mold ). Through a combination of arc trajectory, sound design, movement and a slew of other small touches, Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X is the only Mega Man game ever to replicate what it would be like to be Mega Man in real life.

It sounds absurd but think about it. In the NES games, the sprite of Mega Man jumping has one leg in front of the other, cannon armed raised straight ahead and the other arm in the air that's designed to show that you have some form of control of the character during the jumping animation. In Maverick Hunter X the jumping feels natural, graceless even and when Mega Man lands there's a solid thunk of the sound of metal hitting the ground.

Along with the overhauled physics engine Maverick Hunter X has all of the usual perks you could expect from a remake. The new 3D models for each enemy look rather nice although they do contrast harshly to the pedestrian backgrounds and the music has also been remixed but it remains largely forgettable in the context of the game, but gets the job done. The biggest change to the game is the inclusion of Vile Mode, which  allows you to play as the recurring villian of the X series using interchangeable body parts as a weapons system.

If this game was based on a graphical tune up then it would be hard to recommend. What really makes this game shine is how it takes the gameplay and changes it with a brand new ruleset through the physics engine and the Vile mode which feels like Phantom Crash Lite. I haven't played Mega Man Powered Up so I can't say which remake I think is better but if you're tired of playing the same eight Mega Man X games then this is proof that Capcom still has new ideas for the series (shame the same can't be said about Megaman Legends 3).

Find Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2006-02-02
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: Mega Man V


A short game, an awful game, a decent game and a great game later, the Mega Man Game Boy series finally gets an awesome game. It took Capcom half a decade to finally dissect the Game Boy's core elements, working on how each important component of the Mega Man series could be reworked for the system that didn't aim to compete with the original series but to excel over it.

From the previous four games you'd expect this game to have four bosses from Mega Man V NES and four bosses from Mega Man VI NES. This game doesn't have any robot masters, but rather nine stardroids based on the nine planets in the solar system (now eight). Unlike the previous four games which contained some elements of the original games, Mega Man V consists only of new ideas.

The charge beam has been a staple of the series since it's introduction in the series but for the first since its arrival it's been replaced with a better system, the Mega Arm. Like the boomerang in the original Legend of Zelda, when charged fully the Mega Arm launches itself away from Mega Man, attracts itself to an enemy to damage it and then returns back to the Blue Bomber himself. This created a risk/reward strategy that the series had never seen before as using the arm left you venerable to attack.

Another new addition to the series is Tango, a robotic cat that aids you on your adventure. Rush has been a mainstay since Mega Man III for the NES and my best guess is that Capcom wanted to try and see if they could take this concept another step further. None of this even mentions the level designs themselves which rank up there as some of if not the best-designed levels in Mega Man history. Each stage takes a previously unused motif in the Mega Man Universe and creates a stage that strikes a perfect balance between challenge and frustration that so many other companies fall short of. This trend of level design continues until the final moments of Dr. Wily's Castle which, while not as good as Mega Man IV's castle, is still a climatic way to end the Game Boy series.

In fact, the whole game is just that, a climax to a series that struggled to find momentum but paid off  when it did. Mega Man took some interesting directions after the 16-bit era. Battle Network went from good to amazing, to decent then terrible then terrible again then back to decent. Mega Man Legends was a series so amazing that the third installment would have been such a paragon of great video game design that the 3D would have forced the user to sacrifice their eyeballs to the goddess Tron Bonne, and Mega Man ZX is good if you like that sort of thing. Over a decade later Capcom would go back to the series' roots with Mega Man 9 & 10 which contain elements of the Game Boy series (the shop especially) so it's good that Capcom remembers their troubled entry into the Game Boy era; it's just a shame that the rest of the world didn't.

Find Mega Man V on ebay

Released: Sep. 1994
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Mega Man IV


The first three Mega Man games for the Game Boy were, for better and for worse, experiments with what Capcom could do with the hardware. It may seem excessive for a company to take three attempts to create a truly great platformer but the results ended up being worth it. As Nintendo did with creating the mediocre Wario Land 1, 2 & 3 to make the excellent Wario Land 4, Capcom blows the previous Mega Man games out of the water with Mega Man IV.

From the start you can tell that this game has more effort put into it than the other three games combined. The game begins with an opening cinematic that's surprisingly engaging for something that works with the Game Boy's limited colour palette. The Mega Man formula is also as fun as it's ever been but there are slight alterations that change the game, ultimately for the better.

The charged shot from Mega Man III returns, the difference being that firing the shot pushes you half of a pixel back. This seems superficial but when you're on a platform with no room to move, this half of a pixel is the difference between life and death (A trend first introduced with the recoil of the gun in Air Fortress). Another trend beginning in Mega Man IV is the introduction of the shop.

The shop was a brand new idea for the Mega Man series as a whole, and has been the series' way of compromising between difficulty and challenge by selling items that would give the player a boost if they ever felt like the game was too difficult to them. The only thing recycled from the original series are the boss battles. It continues the tradition set in II & III of taking half of the bosses from the NES equivalent (Mega Man IV in this case) and half from Mega Man V for the NES.

These bosses are the only major problem with the game. While they're good rehashes, they are still just rehashes of bosses that most Mega Man fans have already fought (The Dr. Wily Fortress on the other hand is the best in the entire series). Mega Man IV is the first in the Game Boy series that can be called to some extent "good." However, the true crown jewel of the series was still to be found.

Find Mega Man IV on ebay

Released: Dec. 1992
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Mega Man III

After the disaster of Mega Man II, some wondered whether Capcom would even consider continuing the Game Boy series. In hindsight this would be obvious as three more sequels would follow! After the synopses I gave of the first two games there isn't really much to say about Mega Man III other than it's a flawed gem that sets up a framework for the better sequels.

Apart from having better graphics, sound that isn't ear-grating, and good level design (mostly), the biggest change made from the previous two games is the inclusion of the charge beam from Mega Man 4 on the NES. This change allows for a bit more freedom than the other entries in the series giving the options of a continuous rapid fire or a more slow and methodical method of killing.

The addition of the charged shot is somewhat of a mixed blessing. While this does add some desperately needed variety to the early stages of Mega Man where you haven't accumulated as many weapons, it also means that Capcom expects more from the player in terms of skill. Usually they manage to walk a fine line between challenge and frustration but on occasion this borders into tedium in particular sections where it's practically a requirement to destroy every enemy in the area so that the platforming becomes bearable at best.

The lack of awful level design in the game means that Capcom spent most of the time making this game as hard as possible. In fact due to the amount of tricky jumps and strategically placed pitfalls, Mega Man III becomes not just the hardest Game Boy Mega Man game but one of the hardest Mega Man games ever. Unlike the first two games the level design is built from the ground up rather than being inspired by the previous games. There are some recurring motifs from the previous games (the annoying snakes from Snake Man's stage in the original Mega Man III jumps out) but it's here where the Game Boy series gets an identity of its own.

If Mega Man I was how to transfer the NES games to the Game Boy and Mega Man II was how NOT to transfer the NES games to the Game Boy then Mega Man III is how to make a good Mega Man for the Game Boy. It's not the best game in the series but it marks the turning point and we'll see how well that pays off in Mega Man IV.

Find Mega Man III on ebay

Released: Dec. 1992
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Mega Man II

Mega Man: Dr Wily's Revenge was, in retrospect, a fairly mediocre title. It's not something you can really hold against Capcom as it was still in the early period of experimenting what the Game Boy was and wasn't capable of. Capcom weren't even the only company with this problem as Nintendo demonstrated with the somewhat lackluster Super Mario Land. That being said, Nintendo learned from Super Mario Land and followed it with Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, not one of the best Mario games by any standards but an enjoyable game nonetheless (also the first game to include Wario). Capcom took absolutely nothing away from Megaman: Dr Wily's Revenge and created Mega Man II, one of the worst Mega Man games ever made.

Normally when you start a game the first thing you notice are the game's graphics. In Mega Man II's case it's the absolutely abysmal music. The stage select theme is less of a piece of  music and more of a random cacophony of notes that have no sense of composition to them at all. This applies to more than just the songs with sound effects so horrendously cheesy that it ends up complementing the awful music to a tee making music cues of enemies approaching clash with Mega Man's movement which ends up in the juxtaposition of notes rendering the average player only able to navigate the stages through sight alone (which is against the whole ethos of the Mega Man series).

It's not like the graphics are anything to boast about either. The graphics in the original weren't exactly amazing but they did a decent job of translating the NES style over to the Game Boy. In Mega Man II the color palette feels overexposed giving the locations a weird, almost dream-like green tint that makes it hard to perceive power-ups from enemies and vice versa. As a tradition of the series when you complete a stage there's some form of portrait of Mega Man and a description of the acquired weapon. Mega Man II continues this with a portrait of Mega Man that even the most insane of DeviantArt members would consider to be a bad drawing (Wily's Fortress is even worse). It's a small part of the game but it points to a larger problem of laziness from Capcom's part which peaks at Crash Man's stage where Capcom forgot to put any form of background in the stage at all.

The above comments may seem superficial compared to the gameplay, there have been lots of games that were criticised in the past for lacking in either two departments but were still well received because of the core gameplay. The gameplay of previous Mega Man games is mostly intact from the original games (although the sliding mechanic is even more awkward than in Mega Man 3 NES) but the touches such as the sound effect of firing your gun to the streamlined level designs from the originals to the awful presentation makes for a very unsatisfactory experience not just for a Mega Man game, but as a video game in general.

Mega Man II isn't completely irredeemable; the Metal Blade is as crunchy as ever and Mega Man has frictious movement to him that made him so iconic but all of these don't come from original ideas that the game produces but by taking what the original games did so well and reusing it. The game feels like its sole audience was Capcom itself so they could learn from the mistakes that this game makes so Capcom could improve themselves. And we'll find out if that strategy worked in Mega Man III.

Find Mega Man II on ebay

Released: Feb. 1992
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge

The Game Boy represented a bizarre transitional period for recurring video game franchises. It was as though after making a series of acclaimed games for the NES, after creating a series of games from scratch they then had to apply this new ruleset to deal with the Game Boy's hardware limitation. This was especially true with Mega Man, where the six NES games all followed the same pattern of game play but with the level design and the bosses changed (looking back on it it seems rather lazy). This meant that Capcom had to try and port their beloved series to the Game Boy with only one question on every one's minds. Would it work?

The game is a remake of the original with a couple of liberties taken. For one thing the original Mega Man was the only game in the NES series with six bosses, while the rest had eight. This version is even more thinned out because of the limitations with only four bosses: Elec Man, Cut Man, Fire Man and Ice Man. As you'd expect from a Mega Man game it's fairly difficult with the same memorisation based platforming that would later inspire its spiritual successors such as Super Meat Boy.

The game's graphics are almost identical to that of the NES original, slightly redrawn to better fit the hardware (mostly for the better). The music of the game is, once again, almost identical to that of the NES original. The biggest difference between this game and its predecessor is the level design. As a whole, holistically and in regards to the individual levels the game is shorter but it makes up for this in the difficulty.

The "choose your first level" mechanic of the original games made sure that there wasn't really any difficulty curve until the inevitable encounter with Dr. Wily. Capcom must have realised that because all the levels would have to be like this, and that there was so few them then the only thing that could be done to give the game any sense of longevity was to make it more difficult. This is reflected in the enemy placement more than any other area, where it takes the Mega Man tradition of placing an enemy over a jump where you hit him and fall to your peril and rings it out for all it's worth.

There isn't really much to say about Mega Man for the Game Boy mostly because of how short it is. It has some interesting stage designs and the bosses are classic Mega Man so it has that going for it. Mega Man for the Game Boy was Capcom attempting to bring over their biggest franchise to the Game Boy and for what we got, it could have been a lot worse. It could have been Mega Man II.

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Released: Dec. 1991
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom