Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)

I fed this arcade game so many quarters in 1990 that I never had money to buy anything else. I usually had to persuade my mum into giving me more quarters, as well as giving me an extra allowance just for comics.

Anyway, I’m glad that I can play this whenever I want now and the quarters are free because with MAME, I only have to hit “select” to add credits.

This was and still is one of the all-time greatest side scrolling beat’em up arcade games in history. Sure, the genre was going strong by the time that this came out but it took things to a new level. Maybe that’s because the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing in pop culture in 1990 but even then, this is such a perfectly polished and energetic game that it’s greatness can’t be brushed off simply because it’s associated with a massive franchise.

The controls are superb, the gameplay is fluid and this isn’t a beat’em up that gets dull or all that repetitive. Each level feels fresh and new, the levels aren’t too long and even if you are fighting a dozen enemies at once, you don’t get so overwhelmed that you have to blow through quarters just to get off of one screen.

What’s also great is that this was a four player game. So you and four of your friends could jump in together and kick Foot Clan ass. Even if you didn’t have friends with you at the arcade, there was never a shortage on kids ready to jump in and give you a hand. I actually met some friends this way.

This was an arcade game that I would often play to completion. It was perfectly balanced on its difficulty and every kid felt like they could beat it without completely going broke. There are days where I played through it twice in a row.

The Nintendo port that came out after this was never as good. It always felt like the cheap, incomplete and buggy version of its superior arcade father. Granted, the NES version did add some interesting new levels and characters.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up arcade games from the era, especially involving turtles.

 

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2

Published: February 28th, 2018
Written by: Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Schoening
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis

IDW Publishing, 132 Pages

Review:

It’s not this particular comic’s fault but I think I’m suffering from IP crossover fatigue. I’ve read a ton of crossovers between different intellectual properties over the last year or so and they all follow the same tired formula of smashing two franchise together via a portal or a dimensional rift whether it be through science or magic.

That was how these two franchises came together in the first place and that’s also how they come back together for a second time. So I can’t fault it as a plot device here, it’s already been established. However, with that trope, we also get other tropes with stories like this that make them all pretty predictable and just more of the same.

Now this was still amusing and I enjoyed the banter between the characters. However, the story itself felt like a clusterfuck. The main reason, is that it takes this portal/rift trope and multiplies it by a thousand.

There is so much dimensional jumping that the plot becomes overly complicated and confusing. It’s like someone took an entire season of the show Sliders and tried to wedge them all into a five issue comic book arc.

Crossovers like this used to feel cool and special. But there are so many of them and IDW is a big part of the problem, as they own the publishing rights to so many franchises. When the regular comics don’t sell, you smash the titles together and try to capitalize. It worked for awhile. I just don’t think it’s working anymore.

Props to Dan Schoening on the art though. This was a nice book to look at in that regard.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other IDW collections for both Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution

Published: September 28th, 2011
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Leonardo Manco, Jerome Opena

Marvel Comics, 108 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted to pick up Rick Remender’s run on X-Force for a long time. But there are so many comics I want to read that the mountain is always growing. I finally got around to this one though, the first of seven volumes and a good setup for the series.

If you’ve read the X-Force series where the team becomes a black ops squad for Cyclops, handling the really dark shit that the X-Men can’t, then you should know what you’re getting into here. This picks up after that run but Remender shuffles the group’s members and makes things more interesting.

Where I’ve been critical of Deadpool in the past, these are the types of stories that he tends to flourish in. He is still comedic and has his quips but it works better having him lighten the dark mood than just starring in his own comic and giving us straight comedy or superhero parody.

I really like the duality that is explored here with Warren Worthington, as he phases between his Angel and Archangel personas and because of that, has real trust issues in his relationship with Psylocke.

This team also features Wolverine in a leadership role, as well as Fantomex, who I honestly don’t know. But he seems like an interesting enough character and I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

The threat in this story sees the emergence of a new Four Horsemen of the Apoclypse, as X-Men baddie Apocalypse has returned in an interesting form.

Where this is going is hard to tell and this volume doesn’t work as its own story. It reads like the first chapter to a much larger book. And while that may irritate some people that want a resolution within the covers of their trade paperbacks, I’m committed to seeing this whole series through.

That being said, this lays the groundwork without giving you too much of an idea as to what’s on the horizon. I hope the surprise is a pleasant one.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Video Game Review: RoboCop (Arcade)

I used to love the hell out of this game whenever I’d see its cabinet glowing in the corner of my local arcade. I used to pump quarters into this thing like an old lady at a slot machine in Circus Circus. But I remember dropping serious coin and never being able to get very far.

Now that I can run this on MAME, I have infinite quarters, so I wanted to revisit it and play it all the way through.

I’ve got to say, this game is a beast. And I don’t mean that complimentary. Maybe there is a difficulty setting I can alter on MAME but you get overwhelmed by enemies and killed pretty damn quickly. It’s amazing how quick you get overwhelmed and really early in the game. Sure, I can keep continuing and I did but you only get one life and the continue screen freezes the gameplay action, bogging down the gameplay flow and your momentum. It’s kind of tedious, actually.

And hell, it’s been nearly three decade since I’ve played this and I could just suck really bad at it. But this era of arcade games are my cup of tea and I’m a pretty good player in most cases.

I still love the graphics and the game runs smooth as hell. The real high point is the music and the sound effects, which are top notch for this game’s generation.

It could have gotten more creative with boss battles, as you fight ED-209s a half dozen times and even fight two at the same time towards the end.

This isn’t too dissimilar from the Nintendo RoboCop game but it is harder and the levels feel more repetitious than its NES counterpart. For instance, for those familiar with the NES game, the City Hall level isn’t in this version.

All in all, this was fun to revisit but it’s insane difficulty made it a chore after the first ten minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era.

Comic Review: Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Published: November 18th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka, Greg Pak
Art by: Marco Checchetto, Chris Sprouse
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Marvel Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

This came out just before the first Disney Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. It was meant to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and the new sequel trilogy.

It’s a complete failure of storytelling though.

Does it bridge the gap? Sort of, I guess.

The story follows the events of the Battle of Endor but focuses on Poe Dameron’s mom, a character we’ve never heard of but is suddenly a hero known by everyone, even Luke Skywalker who basically bows before her presence, alerting us of a character propped up as an infallible Mary Sue. And I hate having to go there but Mama Dameron is the exact definition of a Mary Sue character.

Then she goes on an adventure with Leia to Naboo and they meet the current Queen of Naboo. Then there are only three starfighters, so these three women, two of which are fucking royalty, take off into space to fight a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers all on their own.

This is heavy handed girl power nonsense and a blight on Star Wars, which is why I don’t consider this Disney bullshit to be canon. It’s not that having strong, heroic women is the problem, it’s that they’re thrown into situations that are nonsensical and pointless other than making some sort of social or political statement.

Frankly, Star Wars: Shattered Empire is a prime example of why modern Marvel has been so widely criticized. I like to give each comic a fair shot and look at them as individual bodies of work judged on their own merits but this comic makes it pretty damn clear why the mainstream comic book industry is shrinking and has nealt lost its entire audience.

This was absolute horseshit.

But the art was really good, to be fair.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: I guess the other recent Marvel Star Wars comics and the Disney sequel films.

Comic Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Published: May 20th, 2015 – August 5th, 2015
Written by: Nico Lathouris, Mark Sexton, George Miller (story)
Art by: Peter Pound
Based on: Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

Vertigo Comics, DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

Typically, movie adaptation comics aren’t very good. Sometimes one will surprise you. But I guess that this one is unique in that it isn’t an actual adaptation of Mad Max: Fury Road but is instead, an anthology prequel that follows some of the main characters, establishing their backstories before the events of the film.

Also, these stories come from George Miller himself. Now I’m not sure how involved he was with this, as he could’ve written a very detailed outline or this could have just been taken from his notes when he wrote the film. Either way, the finished product is damn good for fans of the movie and the franchise.

This also confirms that this Max is the same Max that Mel Gibson played and that all the films do share continuity. It delves into Max’s previous tales to add context to where the man is by the time Fury Road starts. And with that, his story here also comes with some extra tragedy to help set the stage for Fury Road.

What’s also interesting, is that this comic has ties to the video game continuity, as the big bad from the 2015 game is seen within the pages of this comic and is referred to by name. You even have an understanding of where he stands in the bigger picture alongside Immortan Joe.

The plots of all the stories here are intriguing and I’d say that this is a must read if you want a fuller experience than just what you get with the film. I love added context and none of this seems like it was done just to cash in on the film’s success, as the people behind this cared about the movie and the world its characters inhabit.

I really dug the art style too, as it felt in tune with the movie but also had an older, grittier pulpy feel to it. I liked the muted colors and the high contrast. Emotions were conveyed well on the faces of the characters and while it may feel somewhat understated, it’s pretty damn perfect and gets the job done.

Sadly, I bought and read this digitally, as I was unsure about it. Now that I’ve read it and loved it, I’m going to round up the single floppy issues.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Mad Max movies, specifically Fury Road. Also, the 2015 Mad Max video game.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior III (NES)

My biggest complaint about Dragon Warrior II was the grinding. Sadly, it may actually be worse in this chapter, as I felt like I spent countless hours being forced to grind away for experience points in an effort to progress in the game.

Still, this was a damn good installment in the series and in spite of my fun and the adventure screeching to a halt too often, the game was great when I was able to actually play it and not get my ass kicked.

I like that the overworld map was very similar to Earth and that once you’ve been everywhere and have defeated the big evil, a chasm opens up, revealing a new darkworld where the real big evil lives. So once you think that you’ve beat the game, you realize that there is a whole new world to explore and save from darkness.

Also, the ending of this game leads into the story of Dragon Warrior I. So this is a prequel. Although, that can be figured out if you pay attention to and remember all the details from the first and third games.

Overall, this game felt much larger in scale than the others. The second game felt massive compared to the first but this one feels like it also dwarfed its predecessor since it gave you a second world map. Additionally, this one also took the longest to play. But, again, a lot of that was grinding and grinding hard.

For fans of the series, this is a pretty satisfying chapter. Dragon Warrior always had the edge for me over Final Fantasy back in the early days of the two franchises. However, after I play through Dragon Warrior IV, I do plan to give the 8-bit Final Fantasy games a replay, as it’s been decades and my opinion on which franchise was better, could now be very different.

If it weren’t for all the tedious grinding, this would have been a 10 out of 10.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.