Video Game Review: Section Z (NES)

I vividly remember playing this game for the first time. It was at my cousin’s house just outside of New York City circa 1988. I thought it was pretty damn cool but I never really got to play it again until emulators and roms became a thing in the late ’90s.

I’ve never played the game all the way through though, so I figured I’d revisit it in an effort to try and kick its ass so that I didn’t have to review it with my tail between my legs.

Well, I kicked its ass… but it was definitely not a cakewalk.

The reason being is actually my biggest gripe about the game.

The main problem I have with Section Z is that its not really clear which gate to take at the end of each stage and how you’re supposed to progress. So I had to read up on that a little and I got the gist of it. Kids in 1988 without the Internet probably lost their hair before middle school.

Anyway, there are basically three sets of levels. To beat each one, you have to get to the level with the barrier shield and destroy it. Once you do that, you’ve got to figure out which gate will then advance you to the next section of levels. Along the way there are also some cool boss fights. I thought that the final boss was solid because it looked cooler than anything else in the game and the fight was fun.

The gameplay is pretty good and fluid. I like the mechanics, they’re easy to use and understand and even though the levels can get repetitive, you don’t get bored. Well, unless you’re stuck in a loop of stages you can’t find your way out of because there’s no way to really know where to go without a guide or a walkthrough.

Section Z is nowhere close to being a perfect game or one you’ll be dying to play after beating it but it’s a really satisfying side scrolling shooter that is good at killing time on a rainy day.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters in a sci-fi setting. For example: Gradius, Lifeforce, MagMax, Seicross, etc.

Video Game Review: The Guardian Legend (NES)

This is a game that I had never played. I remember seeing the box on shelves at most of the mom and pop video stores around me but I didn’t rent it because the box art didn’t really tell me anything about the game and frankly, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to convey now that I’ve played this.

I’m glad that I gave it a shot, all these years later, but I only did so due to an article I read about underrated NES games. This one sounded cool because it has different modes of play: one that plays like an outer space version of 1942 and another that plays like a bird’s eye view dungeon game similar to the original Zelda but with a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere.

This also reminds me a lot of Crystalis, which I played through recently and adored.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to do but it didn’t take long for me to figure things out. The only real trouble I had was opening some of the gates, as the later ones in the game all require you to do something unique to access them. But none of that ruined the gameplay and the only time I really got stumped, I figured it out fairly quickly.

For a game that is, more or less, two games in one, both modes are well designed and a hell of a lot of fun. The game, at its best, is pretty refreshing and exhilarating.

The Guardian Legend is a game that probably would’ve been a massive hit had it existed in the time of the Internet. I just don’t know anyone who played it and because of that, I never heard a buzz about it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Crystalis and the 8-bit era Gradius games.

Video Game Review: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

While Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t as good as the original film, it was actually more imaginative, creative and dare I say, more fun? And the plot of the movie created a great story to be adapted into a video game, which it was.

Now Gizmo doesn’t just have to deal with regular Gremlins, things have gotten much, much worse.

This is because of their exposure to a crazy genetics lab ran by a mad scientist (the legendary Christopher Lee in the film). Now, the Gremlins have a wide array of superpowers and abilities that they didn’t have previously.

Because of that neat plot development, this video game has a bunch of different types of Gremlins to fight throughout this 8-bit adventure.

This is a really challenging game and honestly, it’s way too hard for the normie and even with my decades of video game experience and having played this multiple times over thirty years or so, I still found it extremely difficult and ended up resorting to a Game Genie code in order to complete it.

Even with my infinite lives code, the game is still tough as hell and frustrating. However, it’s that good kind of frustrating that leads to a feeling of accomplishment once you tough it out.

Overall, this has pretty good level design that is only slightly hindered by the game’s difficulty, a lot of which has to do with enemy placement. My only real complaint about anything design-wise though is the boss fights. They all take place in a single room the size of the screen and are comprised of oversized Gremlins in a confined space with floor traps. It makes navigated the space safely near impossible. In most boss battles, I mostly had to try and unleash as much damage as possible while trying to outlast the villain. There didn’t seem to be much point in putting an effort into developing an actual strategy.

Gremlins 2 is a pretty good game. It’s better than I remembered and it uses the movie’s plot and environments well.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other top down action platformers for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles (PlayStation 4)

For my last video game review of the decade, I wanted to talk about something truly epic.

I bought this game without knowing much about it simply because it was a Conan the Barbarian game. I wanted to play a modern game set in that world, whether or not you could play as Conan or not.

Being that I never play multiplayer stuff online, this game, at first, felt like a waste of time. However, I found a lot to do in single player mode that made the game worth it to me and really, this game could be great or terrible depending upon what you want to get out of it.

Don’t go into this expecting a massive open world RPG with dozens upon dozens of quests like Skyrim. This is more of a survival game and it’s about living and prospering in Conan’s world more so than it is about simple adventure. But that’s not to say that adventure doesn’t exist, it does. But I’ll explain further as I work my way through this review.

The game starts with Conan sparing your life, as he unties you from a cross in the desert. From that point on, you have to figure out how to get food, water, how to make your own clothes and learn how to construct a shelter to protect you from the harsh elements of the desert wasteland.

As the game moves on, you gain experience, you get better at surviving and you discover new biomes (or environments) to explore and survive in.

Apart from survival, this is mainly a game about exploration. So if you dig survival stuff and exploring massive video game worlds, you should probably enjoy this game. It took time for me to adjust to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be clearly defined objectives or what I thought was a point to the game but when it clicks, it becomes fairly addictive.

Now getting back to what initially may feel like a lack of adventure, the game does provide it in a way.

First, exploration is an adventure and this game throws so many beasts, supernatural threats and savage men at you that traveling around is a challenge in and of itself. But man, walking from one end of the map to another is tough but it’s damn fun, as the world has a lot of different and unique challenges from biome to biome.

Also, the game may not have quests but it has great dungeons and the game’s developers are always crafting and making new ones, as the game has pretty frequent updates and tweaks, even 18 months after its release.

The game may lack a clear story or objective but each dungeon sets you on a path that pretty much serves as a one-off quest. And each dungeon feels unique and I’ve yet to play through one that wasn’t a fun experience.

On top of that, there are a ton of subterranean caves to explore, which aren’t specifically dungeons but they have their own challenges and treasures to discover.

There are also mini bosses and big bosses throughout the game. Almost every animal has a giant counterpart that is tough as nails to beat but rewarding when you do, as most have keys that open very helpful treasures.

I’ve been playing the game for a few months now and I mostly build cool cities with pyramids, castles and labyrinths but I really like going off into the wild and discovering new places. After all this time and exploring every biome, I still come across new caves and interesting locations every time I wander out beyond the safety of my multiple shelters.

Again, many people might not like this as it isn’t what most people would initially hope for in a gigantic RPG style sword and sorcery game but if you stick with it and give it a real shot, it will probably grow on you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

 

Video Game Review: Spy Hunter (NES)

I wanted to replay the arcade version of this game but I couldn’t get the rom to work on MAME. So I went back and played the original Nintendo port of the game, as I still own the cartridge.

This is one of those games that I used to play a lot, whether it was the arcade or Nintendo version. Granted, at the time, I didn’t know that it just replays in cycles and that there isn’t really an end to it.

The NES version of the game was the one I played most and for a port of the arcade version, it’s really well done and not too different.

Spy Hunter is still fun to play but I guess I am less motivated at trying to conquer it since you actually can’t. It’s an endless loop and because of that, there’s not much about it that feels rewarding.

In fact, the most rewarded I ever felt playing it, as a kid, was when I used to reach the boat dock and then got to play the boat stage, which usually led to a pretty quick death.

Based off of the game’s box art, which featured a bunch of vehicles, I always assumed that the game had all sorts of playable modes that were just really hard to access, due to the game’s difficulty once you get to the boat stage.

Other kids my age thought the same thing, as there was always that one kid that claimed he flew the plane or drove the motorcycle. Now I know that those kids were liars.

Anyway, this is still a good game and a good way to kill twenty minutes but without a real objective, it seems kind of pointless.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other vertical scrolling vehicle shooters for NES.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The Atlantis Factor (NES)

Where the first G.I. Joe game for the Nintendo was almost shit, this one actually succeeds at being total shit.

The main reason for this being terrible is that I got stuck at a point really early in the game and couldn’t advance. I’m not sure if it was a glitch but there’s a point in the early level with the space shuttle where I couldn’t get the game to advance.

I tried replaying it, starting over, and I kept getting to that same problem. So fuck this game.

Also, it’s just a rehash of the game we already played except it just adds some new characters to play with. However, the interface and how everything works is stupid and bizarre.

I can only add Joes to my team as I find them in the field? G.I. Joe has like 200 members. You mean to tell me that I can’t just grab three Joes to go on a mission? Especially since the first playable character is General f’n Hawk?!

I also hated the map system that looked like it was ripped off from Bionic Commando or Super Mario Bros. 3. It didn’t need to exist and the game could’ve just had simple levels that went in a simple order like the first game.

I think they were trying to make the game better but their attempts at refining it made it worse.

It’s 2019 now. I’m still waiting for a good G.I. Joe game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, which is mostly just more of the same.

Video Game Review: Super C (NES)

Contra was a massive game for the original Nintendo. Super C, its first sequel also did well but it wasn’t a phenomenon like its predecessor. I think that the reason why has a lot to do with the Konami Code giving you 30 lives in Contra but only 10 in Super C, a game that was actually harder.

For the most part, this plays and feels exactly like the first game except for one major change.

The levels in the first game where you walk through two fortresses with your back to the camera and move forward in almost a 3D effect are now replaced with vertical scrolling bird’s eye view levels, which kind of suck. The main reason is that jumping is disabled due to the mechanics of the level and therefore, evading a volley of bullets from baddies is much more difficult. I’m not sure why they changed this but I prefer the alternate non-side scrolling levels of the first game a lot more.

However, the game sort of makes up for that mistake in the level design of the standard side scrolling levels. We now have levels that feature side and vertical scrolling, as well as slanted platforms that add to the challenge but make this game feel more advanced.

I also thought that most of the boss battles were really fun, even if the bosses here aren’t as iconic as those from its predecessor. In regards to bosses, my only complaint is that the final boss is one of the easiest in the franchise and a total cakewalk as a final boss. But at least the boss looked damn cool.

Ultimately, this isn’t as good as the first game but it’s still in the same ballpark and for fans that love Contra that haven’t actually given Super C a fair shot, it’s worth your time, especially because its just like playing new levels in a game you already love. But with less lives available, it’d behoove you to be less reckless.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games. But definitely the original Contra.