Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden on the NES has become legendary for two reasons. Firstly, because it is one of the best games in the NES library. The second is the difficulty, the game is legendary for being very hard to complete. This beast was released by Tecmo in 1989 and has taken the world by storm.I had read and heard about the difficulty of this game and I decided to give the game a try.

To be honest, I love Ninja’s. They are one of the coolest things ever and the mythology that follows them is equally as impressive. I also enjoy a good challenge, so how could I lose? I picked this game up at a local store, popped it in my NES and fell in love immediately.

When I started the game, I was shown a cutscene laying out the games plot. Another reason why this game was huge is because of the cutscenes it employed. There are several throughout and they are rich in detail and, in some cases, action packed. The story overall is very good with a few twists and turns throughout. It follows Ryu Hayabusa as he travels to America. Here he meets an archeologist named Dr. Smith. Dr. Smith reveals that a cult is trying to unite two statues, and if united, a demon will destroy the world. Yeah, its rather cheesy but I found that I became invested in the characters and really wanted to see what would happen next, and trust me, its awesome!

A cutscene early in the game

Now we move into the gameplay itself. First of, you will notice that the control is very responsive. It is very easy to perform difficult jumps. But this game isn’t your typical side scroller, its very action packed and has several differant weapons that you can use. It also has an ability to jump back and forth between walls. You might think that this would be difficult but Ryu sticks to the walls just waiting for you to jump somewhere else. You will need to master his wall stick technique if you want to get past some of the later level’s challenges. Another thing to note is that the game moves very quickly and requires sharp reflexes. You honestly feel like a ninja while playing this game, and it feels sooo good.

This game does something different with items and power ups as well. Instead of being in crates or just sitting there, you have to destroy things that are specific to each level. For example, in New York, you need to destroy lights to reveal items. Another example of this are birds in the Wilderness level. It always changes and sometimes these specific things blend into the background which can be annoying as it will seem like you aren’t getting power ups only to realize that you have been passing them by this whole time. Also, the special weapons are activated by pressing up and B. I guess it works but its annoying to try and figure it out when you don’t own a game manual.

On the subject of annoying, we must talk about the enemies. There are many different ones such as soldiers with guns, street thugs, other ninjas and even robots. All of these can be killed with the sword or a basic item. With your typical enemy they are killed with a single hit…and when i say killed, its more like they explode, which is cool. Now, they may be easy to kill but they are relentless in their attack. You will find yourself getting beat on by small time enemies often. They also respawn very quickly unless you don’t move the screen all the way to their respawn point. It sounds strange but that’s the way the game works. But that isn’t the worst of your problems, as you have a lot of health and they all die in 1 hit. No, the worst of your problems is the fact that you get knocked back every time an enemy hits you. That is where you will die the most, because you will jump over a gap only to get knocked over the edge by an enemy that you cannot see. Once you manage to make it through a level, you get to fight a boss. To be honest, the bosses really aren’t that tricky. Its all about memorizing patterns. And the game is fairly forgiving in the continues….until the last level.

One of the Boss Battles

The final level is where the game becomes the hardest. You have finally fought your way to the boss only to get slapped in the face. When you die on the bosses you are transported to the beginning of the level. Yep all the way back to 6-1…and the bosses are on 6-4. So you have to be absolutely perfect to complete it. Its a stupid design decision that makes the game extremely frustrating. Thankfully, after surviving the game you are treated to a good ending.

Notice the details in this city scene

Another thing that isn’t frustrating, is the graphics themselves. They are pretty dang good, they aren’t as good as Astyanax but it doesn’t have the constant screen flicker either. I’d rather have worse graphics and a stable experience than a game with good graphics that freaks out to the point of giving you a seizure any day. It is also nice that the game has lots of detail in the backgrounds, sure some of it is kind of bad but it is a limitation of the NES in general. I like having all the detail as the eye never gets bored. And the cutscenes look phenomenal, and feature some neat animations.

Overall, this game is very smooth playing but is difficult. However, it isn’t so difficult as to keep you from playing it. On the contrary, this game is hard but it plays so well that you want to keep coming back for more punishment. I personally loved this game, however, I give this warning. If you are just starting to get into retro gaming, do not start with Ninja Gaiden, grow some skills and then give it a shot as its a lot of fun.

9/10  – would be a 10 if it wasn’t so freaking difficult!!

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Gyromite

In 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System was unleashed on the United States. It launched with 18 games, some of which are very well known such as Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, however, there have been some that have become underrated gems. Gyromite is a fantastic example of this. It likely fell from stardom due to the fact that it is only playable with 2 people or one of the launch accessories. This accessory is known as the Robot Operating Buddy or R.O.B.

When the NES was released there were two different packages. The first was the original NES and Super Mario Bros. This bundle cost $99. However, for $199 the buyer is treated to a better package. This included the NES, R.O.B., the Zapper, 2 controllers and two games. Super Mario Bros. and Gyromite. But before I begin with the review, I have to talk about R.O.B. a bit.

The R.O.B.

I personally do not own one. I do plan to get one eventually and review it. Anyway, the Robot Operating Buddy was only compatible with only two games. Gyromite was one and Stack Up is the other. The reason for this is the fact that the R.O.B., frankly, isn’t that much fun. Many people would rather play a game with their friends than with a robot…which was really just a piece of plastic that you controlled anyway. The way the R.O.B. works is really interesting and fairly advanced for its day. When playing a game, such as Gyromite, the screen will flash and input will be given. This flashing gives R.O.B the signal to move. This works fairly well but the R.O.Bs are known for breaking easily and not working the best. But this is being unfair to it, there is a charm there that makes the games almost unnecessary. Lets face it, the robot is awfully cute in a way. In fact, R.O.B. has made appearances in other games, such as Star Fox 64 and even Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii.

Anyway, after that diversion, its time to continue on the review. Seeing as how I don’t have a R.O.B, I had to play this game with a friend. Thankfully, I found a willing participant. We popped the game in and began. The first thing we noticed is that the title screen was different. It said, “Robot Gyro,” instead of Gyromite. Maybe this was a hint to use the Gyro’s that came with the R.O.B. Our next move was to select a game mode, we chose 1 player because we had planned to just switch roles each time we had a continue.

The Robot Gyro Screen

On the subject of roles, there are two roles that the players perform. The first player controls a professor whose name is Hector. If two player mode is selected, there is another professor named Vector. The other player, or R.O.B. controls red and blue gates to assist the good professor on his mission to rid his lab of dynamite and the villainous Smicks. To complete a level, the two players must reach and deactivate the dynamite. This is done by touching the dynamite with the professor.

Professor Hector!

However, the professor is limited in his movements. He can only walk, climb ropes and hold turnips. Now you might be thinking, “Turnips!?! why do you need Turnips?” Well, the Turnip is the Smicks favorite food, when they come in contact with one, they will stop and eat it, thus allowing the professor to pass by them. This makes me wish that the professor had a jump function as well but then that would make the game a little too easy wouldn’t it? Actually, this is true, the game is very simple, odds are your worst enemy will be the second player or your own stupidity.

Yes, the second player is one of your worst enemies. This player raises and lowers gates in order to help the professor reach his goals. He/she can also use the gates to smash Smicks by bringing them down in an epic crash!! However, if the second player has bad timing or is a jerk, he/she can smash Hector as well. Although, to be honest, its fun to smash the person playing the professor every once in a while, just for the heck of it. You will always get a fun reaction out of your friend. As stated above, another one of your worst enemies is your own mind. Many of the 40 levels, or phases, have only one way of completing them, you have to do it in a very specific way and if you fail, its either suicide or letting the timer run out. So my advice to anyone playing this game, look before you leap as it can make you miserable.

Now, I haven’t touched on the graphics. To be honest, they are fairly good but nothing special. Each of the levels looks fairly similar, its only a different layout. Though I must admit, some of the professors reactions are fairly detailed. The death animation is rather humorous and plays out more like a Loony Toons Cartoon than anything. Its kind of funny and gives the game a light hearted feel.

More Game

The Game

On the subject of light hearted, I must describe the addictive nature of the music. You will hear it a million times as it never changes but the song is addicting and I wish that I could hear it done in dance remix. I find myself nodding my head to it every time I hear it. For everything else, its standard NES fare, just blips and bloops but they work well.

While I have praised this game quite a bit, there are still some problems. The first is the fact that you need two people to play the game, unless you have a R.O.B. This would be horrible if I didn’t have a friend near me to play it with. Another problem is the sporadic difficulty in the levels. Its common to have a very easy level followed by one of the more difficult levels. The levels themselves are fairly simple, even on the harder ones but it would make more sense if it works you up to the harder stages. The final complaint I have is the time limit. The game gives you over fifteen minutes to complete each stage, the truth of the matter is that the time limit should be five minutes maximum. There are times where you will get trapped with nowhere to go and no way to commit suicide so you have a choice to make. Wait 15 minutes and keep your progress or reset the game. Seeing as how you want to make it through the game, you will wait. Its extremely tedious. Also, this game is monotonous, its the same thing for 40 phases. Sure the levels change but its the same basic template and it can become boring for extended periods. Finally, after completing all the phases you are treated to a game with no ending, you just continue playing levels. This doesn’t detract too much but it is a minor annoyance.

Overall, this game can be fun when played with friends. It has some issues that keep it from becoming a true classic. However, if you enjoy puzzle games and have a good friend to play with, I highly recommend this game. Also, if you have a R.O.B. you can play the other modes that exist in the game as well. I hope to revisit these sometime when I acquire a Robot Operating Buddy, but for now, I have the regular modes and a friend to play with which is enough to warrant this rating.

7.5/10

Super Mario World

Super Mario World, a classic game that truly doesn’t need any introduction. You just have to show the image of Mario riding Yoshi and everyone knows what game you are referring to. It is a true classic, just like all of the side scrolling Mario games and introduced the world to the wonders of the Super Nintendo!!

Yes, just like Super Mario Bros. before it, Super Mario World came packaged with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or SNES for short. For many, it was the first 16 bit game that they played and it holds a very special place in peoples hearts. But is it just nostalgia fueling these gamers or is there something truly special with Mario World. I dove in and here is what I have found.

Ok, for starters, let look at the cartridge as per the usual. Its very simple really with Mario wearing a cape and riding on top of a green dinosaur named Yoshi. Its simple but to the point, Its Mario, what more does the cover need to tell you right? It’s now time to play this thing. The first thing that the players are treated to is a save slot selection screen. This is the first Mario Game to have a save slot, which is funny because its the easiest of the old side scrollers. In fact, its nowhere near as difficult as Mario 3. Anyway, you select a save slot and begin the game.

You begin on a level select map, similar to the one in Mario 3. This world looks much better however and there are several details that aren’t in the NES Mario games such as having the ability to travel to all the levels you have previously completed. Now that you have selected a level, it is time to dive into the gameplay.

The Mario World…World

This is typical Mario, you travel along a level in the hopes of reaching the end. You fight enemies by jumping on them, throwing shells or fireballs. However, there are now two new methods of attack, the spin move and Yoshi. By pressing the A button Mario will spin in the air and literally cause the struck enemy to explode. This technique can be used to break certain blocks in a level as well. The other new feature to this game is Yoshi, occasionally you will find an egg inside a block…yes an egg inside of a block, if you think finding a coin or a mushroom is weird, try an egg that hatches a dinosaur. While riding Yoshi, you can make him eat fruit or even enemies. If you eat a certain number of enemies, Yoshi will breathe 3 fireballs. Its an interesting mechanic but one that seems rather unnecessary. This is the one thing about Mario World that I find to be pointless, why do you need to have a dinosaur that adds nothing what so ever to the gameplay? Yoshi has the same moves as Mario, except he eats things. Not to say that i hate Yoshi, he has been in some very good games, such as Yoshi’s Story on the Nintendo 64, but he is pointless in Mario World.

Mario Riding Yoshi

Another change to the gameplay is that it has slowed down some. I find that even at a full sprint, Mario is much slower than he is in Mario 3. This translates to the enemies as well and makes this game considerably easier than the third game in the series, which is refreshing. While on the topic of ease, this game features a save feature and allows you to save every third level or so. This is nice because you don’t have to leave the system on and you don’t lose your progress  if the game glitches. Another nice mechanic is the item window. Say for example you have collected a fire flower and now have the ability to throw fireballs. If you collect another fire flower you just get some points. Now, with the item window, the Fire Flower you collect can be put to use. When you take damage, the flower will drop onto the game screen and you can collect it and power up. Also, you can press the select button to drop it whenever you want.

You will need the item window to combat some of the new enemies in the game. These can range from Football players that charge you at every turn to cute caterpillars that become angry when jumped on. Each of these new enemies can require different techniques or powerups to defeat. For example, the football players aka Chargin’ Chucks take several hits to defeat but can be destroyed instantly by using the cape spin, more on that later. The addition of these new baddies makes the game a lot of fun.

The final difference between Mario 3 and World is in the power ups themselves. There are a lot less this time around. These include the mushroom, Fire Flower, Cape Feather, P-Balloon, Star, Yoshi and the Yoshi Wing, which requires that you ride Yoshi. The mushroom, Fire Flower and Yoshi need no introduction but I need to tell you about the Cape Feather and P-Balloon. The Cape Feather gives Mario a cape. This allows him to glide through the air or to use a spin attack on the ground. These can make you a veritable wrecking crew. Enemies will fear the power of the cape!!!  The P-Balloon on the other hand is more for comedic value than anything. Mario will swell up like a balloon and float through the air. This ability always makes me smile.

On the subject of smile, the graphics and art style in this game is very cute and pleasing to the eye. It has a lot of detail, I really enjoy the cave levels as the background has gems that shimmer and glow. It is a neat foil to the brown walls and red lava that runs through the level, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. You will, travel to haunted houses, forests, mountains, plains and some underwater levels as well. These assure that you will never get bored by the visuals. Its also worth noting that character models all look quite spectacular and have good detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sound, as with all Mario games, is amazing. The game has many different songs, which is fantastic because listening to the same two or three songs the whole time can get annoying. This never happens in Mario World. The typical sounds are there, the jump sound and the blips and bloops when you hit an enemy. I swear, they never get old.

Finally, I have to speak of the games secrets. Within certain levels you will find hidden paths that take you to secret areas. Many times these levels are more difficult than the normal ones but can help you unlock other secrets in the game. Finally, I have to talk about Star Roads. First, you need to find a key. There are a couple of opportunities where you can find a key. If you can manage to hang onto this key and make it to a keyhole, you will be able to access  a Star Road. These allow you to warp around the world and even find a completely new area all together. These add some replay value to a game that already has plenty of it.

All in all, this is a very very good game. I personally find it to be a lot easier than previous Mario games and there are some things that were in Mario 3 that didn’t find there way into World. Don’t worry though, you wont miss them. No doubt, Mario World is a gaming masterpiece that has earned its place in history. A real treat to anyone who gets the opportunity to play it!

9.7/10

On another note, there has been a fan war raging for many years. Which side scrolling Mario is better. Mario 3 or World. I won’t say which I prefer but  I am curious which you prefer?

How to Find Gaming Gold pt. 1 A Simple Beginning

I have had several people ask me, “How do you get all of this stuff?” and, “How can you afford some of this?” Well, to be honest, its not easy. There are lots of factors that can have an effect on your journey to find gaming gold. This will be a series based on my adventures to find some gold of my own.

Gaming Gold

To start with, every story has a beginning. Mine is simple but has made some of my fondest memories of my days in High School. Growing up, i always loved video gaming. I would play for hours everyday and it occupied a lot of my time. The console i played the most was the phenomenal Nintendo 64. I would play Goldeneye, Zelda and Banjo Kazooie for hours and hours. Anyway, I eventually moved on to newer systems such as the PS2, Gamecube and eventually the PS3. But in my senior year of high school, I decided that it was a time to invest in some classic games.

My NES. Its a little beat up but works very well!

I had a friend who happened to have 2 NES consoles, one of which he never used. I asked if he would sell it and he agreed. I bought the system and Mario 3 for 35 dollars. A fair price considering the NES was in rough shape cosmetically. The game on the other hand was mint. When i got home, i plugged it in and played as much Mario as i possibly could. The gameplay blew my mind and i fell in love instantly. From here, i decided to start collecting NES games.

However, the trick now is finding a good way to purchase some other games……

Astyanax

The Cover

Astyanax pronounced ass-t-an-ax, marks my first NES disappointment. Admittedly, i purchased the game on a whim and for only two dollars so i shouldn’t be too sore about it. BUT I AM! I’ll be honest, I should have known better when i saw the game cover. It’s really lame, but it had the promise of epic adventure and epic battles which it never really delivers.

Now to be fair, this game does have some things that keep from being a complete failure. First, there is the story, yes there is a story in this game. Which is rather uncommon for an NES game. It starts off with a high school kid named Astyanax. Yeah, who names their kid that, I’m sure you will find tons of people named Astyanax in Japan. It would make more sense if the person was born in Greece, which is where the name Astyanax comes from, but still….why? Ok, this review is going on a tangent, so its time to refocus. Anyway, our young hero is on his way home from school and he is suddenly transported to a mystical land. Here he meets a fairy named Cutie and is tasked to save Princess Rosebud from the evil dark lord Blackthorn. If this sounds good that’s because it is, in really lame B movie way. But first, the young warrior must fight his way through hordes of vile creatures to get to Blackthorns hideout. Game play starts and that’s where the game goes downhill.

A Story Scene

Well, not really. The graphics in this game are very good, possibly the best the NES has to offer, and that is no joke. The sprites are very large and have good detail. The environments are also fairly diverse, from ornate castles to forests to caves and epic bridges. These do breathe some life into the game and make it pleasing to the eye. However, this graphical power comes at a cost. When there are more than 2 or 3 enemies on the screen at once the game slows to a painful crawl. And when you are assaulted by 5 or more creatures then the game freaks out, not only do you have slow down but you will be treated to the visual spectacle of having flashing enemies. Its almost as if the developers were trying too hard to make the game look good and forgot to make it stable as well. Which is really the first in a line of many disappointments.

The Bosses are Actually Pretty Cool Looking

This game has fantastic graphics!

The game play is where the game takes a major dive. It redefines stiff, the character moves so slowly and his jump is not very snappy. If this game had any complex platforming, like in a Mario game, you wouldn’t be able to steer your character enough. The animation is also very stiff, the creatures typically just float there and the Astyanax’s sword arm is rather lame. That is another issue that i want to address right now, the attack power meter is just plain stupid. The more you let the meter charge, the more damage an attack does. This inconveniences you in a way that is really frustrating because as you wait for the meter to charge to do a lot of damage, enemies are constantly attacking you from every conceivable angle. And its not like you can just hack away because if you attack with your meter bottomed out you barely do any damage at all. Its torture and an unnecessary function.

This leads into my next major issue, the game is unfogiving beyond all reason. It is too difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that I kind of suck at NES games but this just takes it to a whole new level of misery. I played the first level for several hours, mastering the moves of the enemies and even learning the boss movements. I could barely finish it, but i made it through. From here i gave up, until i found the invincibility code. I put it in and blam, now i could see the whole game. To be honest, its nothing really special, the story ending sucks and the bosses are cool but still rather stock for a fantasy world.

The sound in the game was alright but nothing out of the usual. There is a decent song or two thrown in, my personal favorite takes place during one of the cut scenes between Astyanax and Cutie. These give a nice change of pace to the game but, don’t do anything that remarkable. Again, its mediocre

All in all, i finally had my first taste of bad in a console that has a lot of good surrounding it. Its not the worst thing i have ever played, the graphics are top notch and the sound design is decent, but the game play is abysmal. This game had all the potential in the world but instead we are left with a sour taste in our mouth. I actually gave this game away just a day ago to a friend as a reminder that the NES does indeed have some lousy games.

5/10