Video Game Review: Jackal (NES)

Jackal is one of those underrated gems that gets overshadowed by other Konami releases for the original Nintendo.

Sadly, the Konami Code didn’t give you 30 lives like Contra or Life Force, or even 10 like Super C. But despite not having an easy hack, it was a game that I, and my friends, would often times play for hours.

It’s just simple and fun and it makes me miss the simplicity of ’80s action games.

You just play as a jeep that works its way through the map vertically, killing all the baddies and rescuing all the POWs you can. Each level has a helipad where you can drop the surviving POWs off before moving on to a big boss battle.

All the boss battles in this are also pretty solid but Konami were damn good at creating boss battles across the board from this game, the Contra games, Life ForceMetal GearRush’n Attack, etc.

In the end, this is a cool game that probably deserves more love and definitely should have had a sequel or multiple sequels.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other NES Konami games like the Contra series, the Metal Gear series, Rush’n Attack, etc.

Video Game Review: Star Wars (Arcade)

I don’t know if this was the first arcade game I played as a kid but it is the first one I remember falling in love with.

I don’t know if my love of it was because of the great gameplay, the cool wireframe graphics or simply because it was Star Wars and Star Wars was the biggest thing in my life at the time.

Recently, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, a place I go to every year or two, and I found an original sit-down Star Wars arcade machine in the Pinball Museum there. It was the first time I had played this in over two decades and I found out that when it comes to mastery of this game, I’ve still f’n got it!

Bragging aside, playing through this and beating it again was a hell of an awesome experience and it made me appreciate just how good of a game this was for its time.

There are only three levels but to truly beat it, you need to start on the easiest and then work your way through them all.

The game is pretty simple in that it is a rail shooter that keeps you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter. Initially, you fight TIE Fighters in space and then you reach the Death Star, where you have to hit the exhaust port and blow it up.

Each level is the same sort of thing but there are different TIE Fighter formations in the space battles, as well as different parts of the Death Star to explore.

Star Wars is still one of my favorite games of all-time. It’s simple, fun, challenging and it’s aged remarkably well for something as simple as it is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars vehicle shooters, primarily those early ’90s ones on PC.

Comic Review: Frank Miller’s Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Frank Miller
Art by: Frank Miller

Dark Horse, 210 Pages

Review:

My first experience with Sin City was seeing the 2005 movie when it hit theaters.

At the time that the original comic was coming out, I was aware of it but I was still a pre-teen obsessing over bright, colorful, ’90s superhero comics.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started to get more into film-noir and crime fiction.

Still, I never actually picked up Sin City until now.

I’ve got to say though, the film, at least the Marv stuff, was a beat for beat retelling of this story. That’s not a bad thing, as I loved that the Watchmen movie was very close to the source material.

If you have seen the film already but haven’t read this, there isn’t much in the comic that isn’t in the film. But if you appreciate Frank Miller’s Sin City world, you really should experience it in its original form and in the medium it was designed for.

That being said, I like the comic, at least this first volume, more than I like the movie.

Miller wrote a solid, compelling mystery and his art style is really unique. This feels more like it is pure noir than a lot of the other neo-noir comics of the last quarter century or so.

While I’m not a die hard Miller fan, this is one of his best pieces of work. This was created when the guy was just making magic on a regular basis.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other collected volumes of Sin City.

Comic Review: Age of Conan: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast

Published: September 18th, 2019
Written by: Tini Howard
Art by: Kate Niemczyk, Sana Takeda (cover)
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

It’s actually been years since I’ve thought about Bêlit. However, I did remember her from the old Marvel Conan comics. She wasn’t as memorable to me as Red Sonja or Valeria but she did go on some grand adventures with Conan.

This series re-establishes her in the Marvel Conan mythos, which I guess is the regular Marvel universe now, considering Conan has now had multiple crossovers with other Marvel characters.

I’m assuming this series was made in order to set Bêlit up to re-enter Conan’s life. I’m also assuming that the same is true for Valeria as she was also given her own Age of Conan miniseries.

So since I’ve been enjoying the Conan comics since Marvel got the character back in January, seeing that universe expand is kind of cool.

That being said, this comic started out pretty strong but it kind of just limped along after the introduction to Bêlit.

The plot itself isn’t bad but the comic tries to cover a large portion of Bêlit’s life in just five issues.

What I had a problem with though was how certain things in the comic are prioritized. When something happens and you would traditionally expect a massive action scene, the shit is resolved almost instantly so that characters can go on and bicker with Bêlit while this self-proclaimed queen talks about how she’s the best at everything.

Not to be that guy but Bêlit is written like a disposable Mary Sue character. There are moments where her character starts to develop or we see her being challenged by something and it is just kind of brushed aside or dealt with like it wasn’t a big deal to begin with.

Every time something happened in the story that made me go, “Oh, okay… here we go!” I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.

This was a pretty boring comic that gave glimmers of hope that it was going somewhere badass but it never did. And if I’m being honest, anything remotely associated with Conan should always be badass.

Additionally, the art was pretty weak and doesn’t live up to the caliber of art that should be associated with a Conan comic.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Age of Conan: Valeria and other recent Marvel Conan comics.

Video Game Review: Batman (NES)


This game came out in early 1990. In fact, I got it for Easter that year, which made me extremely happy and lead to me playing the crap out of this game for weeks on end.

It was made to tie-in to the 1989 Batman movie but the game has a lot of original stuff in it.

For one, it has more villains than just Jack Nicholson’s Joker. It also features a high tech version of Killer Moth, the Electrocutioner, as well as minor DC Comics baddie, Firebug.

The game also features two other boss battles with super computers.

All that being said, while the framework of the story follows the movie’s plot, the game really goes in its own creative direction and has a sort of futuristic cyberpunk vibe between killer robots, killer computers and all types of other high tech things. The entirety of Level 4 feels like you are inside a massive super computer.

That being said, I always kind of dug this take on the Batman ’89 universe. I think that the game designers may have been somewhat inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

My only issue with the game is that the mechanics are a bit clunky, especially in regards to jumping from wall-to-wall. You do adapt to it and after playing this for awhile, the mechanics almost become second nature.

In fact, the game is kind of a breeze until the final level, which is the giant, towering cathedral from the ’89 film’s climax. Except this version isn’t mostly empty minus three thugs and the Joker. This version is full of flamethrower troops, killer machines and an infuriating boss in the form of Firebug. After all that, hopefully you’ve got enough health to take on the Joker.

I can’t say that this game has aged particularly well but it is still a really fun game from its era. It reminds me a lot of Ninja Gaiden but less frustrating.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Batman games for the NES, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 1

Published: April 5th, 2011
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Matthew Southworth, Lee Loughridge

Oni Press, 156 Pages

Review:

With Stumptown being adapted for television, I figured I’d also give the first graphic novel a read for comparison’s sake. I haven’t watched the show yet but I’ll probably binge the first half dozen episodes or so, once they’re available.

The comic series is a pretty good neo-noir in a similar vein to Ed Brubaker’s crime comics. In fact, Greg Rucka and Brubaker both worked on DC’s Gotham Central, which was a very noir-esque crime series featuring the cops of Gotham as the focal point.

This story follows a private investigator, as she is in debt over her head and more or less forced to find the missing granddaughter of a casino owner.

Stumpland takes place in and around Portland, Oregon, which gives it a cool setting that isn’t really a normal town for noir stories. In fact, I don’t really think about crime or Mexican cartels when I think of Portland but this actually takes you into that realm.

The main character, Dex, kind of reminds me of Jessica Jones or at least the television version of the character. Which, honestly, makes me wonder if they re-worked Jessica in the Netflix show to be more like this character?

I liked this tale but I also thought it was pretty predictable and more straightforward than a typical noir plot. There are the twists and turns, as one would expect, but none of them are really outside of the box or all that surprising.

What really made this work for me was the art. It’s pretty raw but the use of colors was superb. I guess the artists have changed over the course of the different Stumptown stories but I hope that the style is similar when I get to the later volumes.

Stumptown didn’t wow my socks off like Brubaker’s crime comics but it was still a cool and pretty refreshing story. And I plan on reading the volumes that come after this one.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the later Stumptown series, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Vids I Dig 142: Filmento: ‘Heat’: Creating The Ultimate Bank-Heist Shootout

From Filmento’s YouTube description: The bank robbery shootout sequence in Heat is arguably the greatest movie gunfight ever filmed. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the sequence in order to determine why that is. What is it that makes the bank heist shootout in Heat so great? Why does it top most Top 10 movie shootouts of all time?

If you haven’t seen Heat, you might’ve heard about it as one of the greatest crime movies ever made, inspiring later known crime thrillers like Ben Affleck’s The Town, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and so on. What’s the secret? Should we take lessons from the screenplay of the film? Or is it just overall nerdwriter knowledge? To be honest, we can only see.