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.

Film Review: Black Angel (1946)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1946
Directed by: Roy William Neill
Written by: Roy Chanslor
Based on: The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich
Music by: Frank Skinner
Cast: Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre, Broderick Crawford, Constance Dowling

Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Now may I have the box and the letter? Remember Catherine… you promised me to be a good girl.” – Marko

This is a pretty highly regarded classic noir picture. I had never watched it until now and despite the fanfare for it, I still wasn’t prepared for how good this movie is.

It stars a pair with great, great chemistry: Dan Duryea and June Vincent. They were perfect together in this and it was nice seeing Duryea not play an evil asshole.

The film also stars Peter Lorre in one of his best performances. In fact, this may be my favorite role he’s played after M.

Now the plot is complicated to explain but it all flows really well in the movie itself.

In a nutshell, Dan Duryea’s wife is murdered but the man wrongly arrested for it is June Vincent’s husband. Initially, Vincent suspects Duryea and confronts him in an effort to clear her husband. She discovers that he couldn’t have done it and the two pair up in an effort to find the real killer and to free Vincent’s husband before execution. The man they suspect is Peter Lorre, who owns a swanky nightclub where the pair get a gig as the house musicians.

What’s neat about the film is that it is one hundred percent noir but it has a lot of music in it and the performances by Vincent and Duryea’s characters are fantastic.

From the first frame to the last, the film looks perfect. The cinematography is top notch but the real life within the picture comes from the set design. The world feels real and genuine in a way that wasn’t typical with big studio films of the ’40s.

The shot framing is also really good. One moment that especially comes to mind is the scene where Lorre is opening his safe with Vincent just over his shoulder, watching him dial in his combination.

The opening sequence is also pretty well done in how it uses miniatures and shot transitions. While it’s not perfect, I don’t know how you could do it any better in the era when this film was made.

As good noir films go, this has a big twist and reveal at the end of the film. You don’t really see it coming and it is three parts heart-wrenching and two parts a punch to the gut. Basically, it was effective… damn effective.

I love this film and it’s a classic noir that I’m sure I will revisit again, much sooner than later.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other classic noir pictures like Fallen Angel, The Dark Corner, Phantom Lady, The Blue Dahlia, etc.

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: X-Men: Mutant Massacre

Published: 1986
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 319 Pages

Review:

Well, not all giant X-Men crossover events can be created equal.

This one started off with a bang though. Sadly, it withered away in the second half, as it crossed over into non-X-Men-related titles and became a narrative clusterfuck that slowed down the story’s momentum to a complete halt.

The main reason I wanted to read this was to have a bit of background context before jumping into the following big event The Fall of the Mutants. While I had never read either crossover in their entirety, I had read parts and I knew that the stories had a very close association.

The focal point of the story shows the Marauders invading the Morlocks’ sewer hideout where they murder the shit out of them. Only a few actually survive and that’s mostly due to the X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants involving themselves in the ordeal.

As this collection rolls on, the story spins off into issues of Thor, Daredevil and Power Pack. This is where the narrative starts to become a mess. And once we get to this point, a lot of the issues rehash some of the same shit, over and over.

What I was excited to see was Apocalypse show up and the actual breaking of Angel. I thought that he would actually be turned into Archangel in this story but I guess that happens just after, which was kind of disappointing, as I’ve never got to read that actual story. I assumed it would happen here once Angel had his wings destroyed and was nailed to the sewer wall with about half the story left.

There were a lot of deaths in this but none that really hold any weight or matter to the bigger picture.

But I guess this helped plant the seed for The Fall of the Mutants and the introduction of both Archangel and Mister Sinister.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Issue #359 – First Appearance of Batgirl

Published: January 4th, 1967
Written by: Henry Boltinoff, Gardner Fox
Art by: Murphy Anderson, Henry Boltinoff, Carmine Infantino

DC Comics, 25 Pages

Review:

I recently bought this comic, graded and slabbed. It was pretty high up on my bucket list for years, as the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl is one of my top heroes of all-time. Granted, a lot of my love of the character came out of the ’60s Batman TV series and the casting of Yvonne Craig, who brought a lot of energy to the show.

Still, I’ve loved Barbara Gordon for almost my entire life. I felt the horror when the Joker shot her, crippling her and ending her career as Batgirl, I felt proud when she picked herself up and became the Oracle and then I was initially excited to see her return to her Batgirl role in recent years. However, those stories pretty much snuffed out my excitement in record time.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to own this and now I do. But I can’t read a slabbed comic, so I bought this digitally. You can get this on Comixology for less than two bucks if you want to check it out.

This is a pretty solid introduction for its time but the story itself isn’t that great. We immediately learn who Batgirl is and she meets Batman on her first outing. The story here pits her against Killer Moth and his two henchmen that look too much like he does, so it’s visually confusing. This was also the era where Killer Moth looked like a ridiculous D-level villain and not the solid C-level one he would become over the years.

As is typical with late ’60s comics, the story is pretty self-contained and over rather quickly. Part of that is also due to the issue having a short story with the Elongated Man wedged into the end of the book, taking real estate away from Batgril’s debut.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other late ’60s Detective Comics and Batman stories.

Video Game Review: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered the perfect Mario game by some of the old school Nintendo Entertainment System purists. They’re wrong though, as I’m that asshole that prefer Mario 2 but yes, this is still a damn fine game that is one of the best of its era.

What makes this entry into the series special is that it evolves the mechanics greatly.

Now you don’t just have a flaming power flower to make you a badass, you can now turn into a flying raccoon thing, a frog, a friggin’ boot and a bunch of other shit!

Additionally, this has some of the best level design out of all the Mario games in history.

Playing through it this time, I didn’t warp, instead, I went through every single level in order to relish in the game’s design and to properly review it.

As much as I love Super Mario 2, I have to say, that this game has better level design, overall. Granted, a few of them were kind of infuriating and took me some time to figure out. But I still had a blast replaying this.

But yes, even though it’s been a long time since I fired this up, I still prefer the second game. But I can appreciate both, as well as the original too.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: pretty much all Super Mario Bros. games.