Nintendo’s E3 Conference: My Thoughts Condensed

that is all.

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Color A Dinosaur: An Analysis Of A Masterpiece

Throughout all the years that I have spent playing video games, one question that has stuck firmly with me is the topic on whatever or not they can be considered art. While many have offered varying viewpoints on this, I can say that there is one game that has singlehandedly made the answer point squarely to “YES”. I am of course talking about FarSight Studios and Virgin Games’ Color A Dinosaur.

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Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the year of 1993, Color A Dinosaur gives you, the player, the task of bringing vibrancy and wonder to the beasts that once roamed the Earth. Right off the bat, gripping and thought-provoking ideas have been brought to the table. While games such as InFamous and Epic Mickey have utilized the morality concept, Color A Dinosaur had already took it to its’ utmost advantage years prior; you have been granted with the ability to either create life or let it wither away to an achromatic oblivion, void of anything resembling soul. This, in turn, leads into the visuals….

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…dear god. If this doesn’t prove my point about how this game is an objective work of art, I don’t know what will. Just take a long glance at that triceratops’ face. THAT is the look of someone who is ready to take on the world. After all, what could possibly stop him? A tyrannosaurus? Naaah. A meteor shower? An actual bath shower would pose more of a threat. An ice age? A total cakewalk! What’s that, you say? You want to see more? Well, I’m not sure what could top this symbolic brilliance, but I’ll try.

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In stark contrast to the triceratops’ fearless enthusiasm, it could be argued that the stegosaurus pictured in this scene shows reasonable concern to the prospects of having color brought upon him. However, despite his slight unease, he allows the process to go forth, not wanting you to carry the guilt of leaving him colorless. Dear god, it’s all starting to make sense now – the “FOR AGES 3 TO 6” text located at the upper left of the boxart wasn’t informing us of the game’s target demographic, but an immensely clever ruse on FarSight’s part to keep us away from playing it, as they knew that its’ artistry and high quality was so severe that they were convinced that noone could handle it or understand it!!! IT ALL MAKES SENSE!!!!

…okay, I might have gotten a bit “carried away”, if that is the proper way to describe it, but my point stands nontheless that Color A Dinosaur is a true, unsung classic of our times. It is more than just a game, it is a thought-provoking, poginant tale about creation, our duty as individuals of this planet, and what we must do to ensure a brighter future for those who live on it. And for that, it is worthy of more than a A+. That’s right – Color A Dinosaur has reinvented the alphabet as we know it. That is literally how good it is. 

With that said, have an episode of Xavier: Renegade Angel. One Adult Swim’s most underrated cartoons IMO.

REVIEW: Cheetahmen (1991, Action 52/NES) *100th ARTICLE!!!*

Every once in a while, there comes a game that is so relentlessly, unabashedly awful that it manages to go down in the history books. Action 52 is one of those games.

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Noted for attempting to break the mold by featuring 52 titles in one cartridge, the game was the brainchild of aspiring developer Vince Perri and his studio Active Enterprises, and was released for the NES in 1991 followed by a 1993 Sega Genesis port, with a planned SNES port getting scrapped. While AE had remarkably high hopes for the game, literally everything but success barged through their door when the time came for the big release as extremely poor word of mouth spread throughout. That’s not to say that they’re wrong, though – in fact, they’re pretty much dead on, as the game itself is simply atrocious. From glitchy and in some cases completely unplayable titles, retina-assaulting visuals, and much, much more, it’s no wonder why Action 52 has went on to become one of the shining beacons of horrible video games. With that said, there’s one game that stands out more significantly than the rest, said game being Cheetahmen.

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(NOTE: This is the title screen of the Genesis version. The NES version doesn’t have a title screen, though it does have an opening cutscene.)

In what could best be described as AE’s attempt to cash in on the immense popularity surrounding the original 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, the game follows a trio of anthropomorphic cheetahs, two of which named after ancient Greek gods (GOLLY GEE GOSH, I SURE DO WONDER WHO COULD HAVE INFLUENCED THAT IDEA!?) named Hercules, Apollo, and Aries, as they valiantly battle to thwart the dastardly plot of the mad scientist Dr. Morbis. With that out of the way, can these ferocious felines possibly offer any sort of redemption to such a catastrophe of a game, or was their placement as the very last title an indication that AE saved the “best” for last? Let’s find out, shall we?

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THE LOOKS

Well, one thing’s for sure; they haven’t eased on the godawful visuals by a LOOOOOONG shot. The best way that I can describes the graphics is that they look less like an NES game and more like an Atari 2600 game that was given a makeover to include a tiny bit of detail. In addition to that, the character sprites are some of the worst that I’ve ever seen in an NES game. Not only is it difficult to make out what a majority of them are even supposed to be, they all look lazily and sloppily designed, some of them often flickering most of the time. But you wanna know what the worst part about this is? The graphics are just the least of the problems here…

You hear that obnoxiously repetitive tune above? Well, you better get used to it, because that is literally ALL THAT YOU’LL BE HEARING THROUGHOUT THE GAME. The NES Rocky and Bullwinkle game, while worse on a technical level, at least changed the tunes around for a few levels. But that’s not even the most insulting part! In the sequel (trust me, I’ll get around to ripping that piece of crap a new one at a later date), THEY DO THE EXACT SAME THING!! There’s being cheap, and then there’s…I don’t even know how to describe this!

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THE GAMEPLAY

On paper, the gameplay isn’t complex by any means. It’s your typical side-scrolling platformer with some elements of a beat ’em up thrown in for good measure, with some levels having you shift control to another Cheetahman, whether it be the the club-wielding Aries (who you start off with), the bow and arrow-wielding Apollo, or the muscular Hercules. In execution, however, it is literally broken far beyond possible description. First off, the controls are horrible. Not only are they incredibly stiff and clunky, but they can also be barely responsive at times. The level design is tepid through and through, offering nothing to stand out from the rest of the NES library while being boring and bland at best to infuriatingly tedious at worst. Add in some cruddy hit detection and all of the other aforementioned issues, and you’re left with one sad mess.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Action 52 has rightfully earned its’ status as one of the worst video games ever made, and Cheetahmen only enforces that fact even more with its’ hideous visuals, remarkably lazy soundtrack (if you can even call it that) and gameplay that brings one of the most legendary video game consoles of all time to a whole new low. Simply put, avoid it and Action 52 as a whole like the plague. Now if you excuse me, I’ll be busy taking up an occupation as a poacher in the savanna.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING

F

BONUS QUESTION: What do you love the most about Thanksgiving?

Also, thank you all for ONE HUNDRED ARTICLES! Here’s to another one hundred!

retr0spective: Sucker Punch Productions (Part One)

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The PlayStation franchise’s iconic longevity can be attributed to a number of things, but one of them is none other than their significantly diverse line-up of developers. Although a handful of them are not owned by Sony, it can’t be denied that these people have lent a tremendous helping hand in constructing one of the most legendary video game consoles of all time, whether it be Naughty Dog (the subject matter of the first retr0spective), Insomniac Games, and of course, the titular Sucker Punch. 

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While they aren’t quite as prominent or as recognized as some of the other teams under Sony’s belt, it can’t be denied that these folks have gained up quite the desirable reputation over the past few decades. But how exactly did they get to this point? That is what you are about to find out…

In 1999, two years after their founding in 1997, they released their debut title, as well as the only game by them to be developed for a non-Sony console and the only game by them not to be published by Sony, Rocket: Robot on Wheels.

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The game’s setting takes place in the future, with its’ story revolving around the titular character, a robot on wheels named Rocket, who must thwart a hostile takeover of an in-construction theme park while engaging in a barrage of platforming, physics-based puzzle solving, mini-games, and vehicle segments along the way. Not much is known about the game’s development, but I managed to dig up some fairly intriguing stuff nonetheless. Originally, the game was supposed to be titled Sprocket, but the game’s final name ended up coming through due to a copyright dispute with a computer-based video game interfacing program called Game Sprockets. According to this notably rare prototype cartridge, it was made up on the spot when the game was nearing completion. The idea for a theme park setting materialized from the fond memories of lead programmer/designer Don Munsil, who described the initial proposal of the game as a hybrid between Super Mario 64 and a relatively obscure series of computer puzzle games by the name of The Incredible Machine. However, it was Bruce Oberg, Brian Fleming, and Chris Zimmerman who created the aforementioned proposal as well as Rocket. When the game was released, it was met with a overall decent, if not good, reception, although it has more or less joined its’ obscure fifth-generation 3D platforming brethren over the past several years. Despite this, it still retains a sizable cult following, with many claiming it as an overlooked diamond in the rough of the N64 library. The game’s inclusion in the “Top 20 Best N64 Games” in the 20th anniversary issue of Nintendo Power can be attributed as a potential factor in this.

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To be continued…

REVIEW: Little Samson (1992, NES)

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Despite having a pivotal role in the history of games, Taito is one of those companies that for some reason, no one ever seems to talk about anymore. Because of this, many titles developed and published by them have went under the radar, one of which is the subject of today’s article.

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Released for the NES in 1992, Little Samson revolves around a young boy (who is also the titular character), a dragon, a rock golem, and a mouse, each with their own unique ability, and their efforts to save a mythical kingdom from the threat of an evil prince. Is this game truly bigger than what its’ title implies, or is it better off staying in obscurity? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS: It goes without saying that some of the NES’ more forgotten titles are…”lacking” in the visual department, to say the least. With this game however, I can easily say that it’s one of the best looking games to ever come out in the entire 8-bit era. For a game that was released fairly late into its’ console’s lifespan, many of the backgrounds, character sprites, and the general aesthetic are just pure eye candy, helping to invoke the intended “mythical kingdom” feeling with great success. If there is one problem that I have with the graphics, it’s that the sprites of the four protagonists don’t really contrast that will with some of the more “detailed” ones.

THE SOUND: I might have a lot of great things to say about the visuals, but I can’t really say the same for the soundtrack. It’s kind of difficult to describe how I feel about it; it’s not abhorrently godawful, but it’s not mind-blowingly spectacular either; it’s just, for the most part, kind of forgettable, thus not really giving me anything to work with.

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THE GAMEPLAY: In concept, the gameplay offers a somewhat unique take on the action-platform genre, given that you have four characters at your disposal that you can switch between at any given time. Despite this, unfortunately, it still can’t save the gameplay from feeling rather derivative from other platformers at the time, most notably the classic Mega Man games. Not only do various bits and pieces of the level design feel ripped straight out of them, but placement of the enemies and even the controls feel like that too. Granted, it’s not all bad. Even if it is uninspired at times, the levels can actually be pretty enjoyable. Sadly, those moments aren’t very frequent.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Little Samson is an average platformer that has some cool ideas, but ultimately ends up making you feel rather blank. If you’re a fan of the Mega Man games or platformers in general, that I guess you might enjoy it. As for everyone else, I’d suggest that you look somewhere else.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING: C+

COMING SOON: Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs

When something becomes wildly popular, it’s only a matter of time before the creators or owners of the aforementioned thing start getting dollar bills for eyes. This is nothing new, though – in fact, it’s been going on for decades upon end, with practically everyone in the entertainment industry jumping to the call to make the next big franchise, and the world of video games is without question no stranger to this practice. In a few weeks, I will be starting production on a two-part list highlighting some of the greatest sequels and spin-offs to ever be released during the Classic Age of Gaming. As for a release date, I’m not quite sure on that just yet, but I hope to get it out by at least the end of fall. Thanks for reading as always, and be sure to stay tuned!

SYSTEM SMACK-DOWN: The Adventures of Batman and Robin (SNES, Genesis)

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Over the past several decades, Batman has had what can best be described as an interesting history with games. Aside from the mostly globally-praised Arkham saga and the newly-arrived Telltale mini-series, many games featuring the Dark Knight have ranged from being surprisingly decent, just okay, or simply pure garbage in every sense of the word. Today, we’ll be looking at two games bearing the same name and source material, which in this case is a pair of now relatively-forgotten titles based off of the second season of one of the Dark Knight’s major forays into cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series, or The Adventures of Batman and Robin as it was referred to by its’ second season.

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Developed and published in the year of 1994 for the Super Nintendo and the Genesis by Konami, Clockwork Tortoise, and Sega respectively, both games revolve around the titular dynamic duo as they take on some of the most iconic members of their rogues gallery who are in the midst of wreaking havoc in Gotham. With that said, which one of these versions is superior to the other? Let’s find out, shall we?

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ROUND ONE: THE LOOKS

SNES – One thing that some of you might notice about this version is how it attempts to go the full mile with being a licensed title, attempting to translate the show’s usage of the simplistic yet also complex “art deco” style into a video game format. And honestly, it actually works out pretty well in its’ favor. Unlike most licensed games which usually only marginally resemble their source material, many of the backgrounds in this version look like they’ve been ripped straight out of an episode from the show itself. The spritework is also pretty fantastic, as each character looks exactly as they should be. It’s also worth mentioning that the visuals often throw in a bit of 3D, a great example being the boss fight with the Joker. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but for a licensed games, the visuals truly stand out from the crowd.

GENESIS – You know what I said earlier about most licensed games marginally resembling their source material? Well, this is one of them. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this version does look absolutely fantastic. The spritework is impressive, the usage of 3D is even better than in the SNES version, and the backgrounds have a lot of attention to detail in them. However, the reason why I think the SNES version is superior graphically goes more to how it actually feels like you’re going through an episode of the show. While this version does utilize the art deco style, it doesn’t exactly have that feeling of being “simplistic yet complex” and just leans more towards the complex side rather than having the perfect balance of both, if you get what I mean.

WINNER – SNES

ROUND TWO: THE SOUND

SNES – Going along with the incredibly faithful visual style, the soundtrack in this version strives to emulate another aspect of the show, which in this case is its’ orchestral-esque music, and manges to do so with great finesse. Each track invokes a sense of heroism and justice that you’d expect a Batman product to have, and there’s even a fairly nifty version of the show’s theme song thrown in for good measure. Also, the pausing sound effect is the same as the one from Turtles in Time for some reason. While I wouldn’t say that this is one of the SNES’ best auditory accomplishments, it’s certainly up there.

GENESIS – In what also seems to be an ongoing motif for this version, the music discards the orchestral-esque tracks in favor of a more stereotypical Genesis/Mega Drive soundtrack, being the usual electronic synthesized tunes that you’ve come to expect. That’s not to say that the music in this version is bad; in fact, it’s actually really good. It’s just that once again, the SNES version does a better job in keeping in line with the show.

WINNER – SNES

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ROUND THREE: THE GAMEPLAY

SNES – Seeing as how both games came out long before the Arkham saga, it’s usually best to not keep our expectations high, as we never exactly know what the quality could be. However, I think it’s safe to say that this version is well above-average. It’s essentially a side-scrolling action-platform game along the lines of Mega Man X and Castlevania, the only difference being that Batman is in the lead. The controls are shockingly great for a licensed platformer, being smooth, tight and easy to get a hold of. There’s also a range of equipments that can be used throughout this version, including but not limited to the Batarang, a grappling hook, and smoke bombs. There’s also a heavy dosage of platforming and combat, both of which are executed with shockingly competent results, with the platforming truly stretching your skills to the limit and the combat being fairly addictive, though a bit tiresome. Though this version is definitely not on the same level of quality of the Arkham games, it comes pretty close.

GENESIS – There are a good number of ways in which I could describe the gameplay in this version, but if there was one that I’d have to pick in particular, it would have to be “entertaining, but nonetheless quite dull”. To be honest, there’s nothing inherently that bad about the gameplay – the controls are great, the combat is fun, and it generally invokes vibes of other games such as Contra. It’s just that when it all boils down, it doesn’t do anything that can be considered “fresh” or “new”. It’s not bad by any means, but there are superior options to be found.

WINNER – SNES

THE RETR0PIA RANKINGS:

SNES: A- 

GENESIS: B-

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AND VICTORY GOES TO…THE SNES VERSION!