Video Game Review: MagMax (NES)

This game is pretty wonky and kind of weird.

There doesn’t seem to be much point to it and playing through it just seems kind of aimless and really repetitive. Granted, it’s a simple ’80s 8-bit side scrolling action shooter but it’s pretty unimaginative, completely lacks any sort of story and looks more like a generic bootleg game than something designed and programmed by a major studio.

While I don’t think that FCI was a massive studio, they did put out other games in the era like Seicross, Lunar Pool, Phantom Fighter, the WCW Wrestling games, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games and the Ultima series. But this one feels like it was done half-assed and rushed out to get another coin-op machine into arcades. This Nintendo port of the game is even worse.

The only kind of cool thing about it is that there is an above ground and an underground section of the game and both run parallel. You can hope between the two whenever you want when you come across the gate that warps you from to the other. There doesn’t seem to be any benefit from playing on one plane or the other but the underground section makes it harder to dodge enemy attacks.

As you progress through the game, you collect robots pieces. You go from being a small space ship vehicle to a full walking mecha if you collect the pieces. However, every time an enemy hits you, you lose a piece.

All of the enemies are just generic look metal shapes and pretty f’n basic. The only really cool enemy is the boss, which looks like the three heads of Mecha-King Ghidorah attached to Max Rebo’s keyboard. However, battles with this boss aren’t too difficult and even after beating him, you just keep cycling through levels and have to fight him again. It doesn’t seem as if there is an end to the game, it may just keep cycling forever.

Overall, MagMax is not very fun, it’s pretty monotonous and there are dozens of games far better than this one on the original Nintendo.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit sci-fi action games.

Vids I Dig 175: Filmento: How One Movie Became Bullied by the Internet

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Video game movie Doom: Annihilation rose out of nowhere to become this year’s cinematic punching bag, getting dunked on by not only fans but also the owners of franchise itself. And it’s not difficult to see why — laughable CGI, cheap aesthetic, no connection to the source material, the list goes on. But even more so, perhaps the biggest reason for all the negative attention is the fact that the film doesn’t know how not to commit the most basic moviemaking sins. In today’s PG family friendly episode of Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what movie-storytelling sins Doom: Annihilation commits and how to avoid them.

Video Game Review: Gradius (NES)

After revisiting Lifeforce, I thought that I’d also revisit the game that came before it, the original Gradius.

While this and Lifeforce look and play similarly, this game suffers from a few things that its first sequel fixed.

For one, when you die, you respawn at a checkpoint you’ve previously passed, as opposed to right where you croaked. This makes you burn through lives a lot quicker and if there is that one spot or sequence that keeps kicking your ass, you have to do the whole thing over again… again and again. It just becomes tedious where in Lifeforce you can still progress in spite of your faults, as long as you still have lives to spare.

Secondly, the game feels less structured in a bad way. In Lifeforce, it was clear that you progressed to a new level after a boss battle and a change in how the screen scrolls, whether horizontally or vertically. In Gradius, everything is side scrolling and there aren’t real ends to levels, you just sort of fly into them, making the whole game feel like one long, endless stage.

Plus, the boss battles here are all weak and uninspiring and they’re also pretty repetitive.

Gradius isn’t a total letdown. However, if you’ve never played this or Lifeforce, you should start with this. If you do it the other way around, this one will feel like a frustrating disappointment.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in the Gradius series, as well as other 8-bit Konami action shooters.

Video Game Review: Kid Icarus (NES)

I never understood why Kid Icarus didn’t get sequels on the original Nintendo. It was a pretty solid and fun game that was damn challenging. It also took place in an interesting world and the hero of the game was featured in every episode of the super popular Saturday morning cartoon: Captain N: The Game Master.

But then I look at a game like Metroid, a mega hit, and it never got a sequel on the Nintendo either. Who the hell made these decisions at the company, back in the day?

Kid Icarus, like Metroid, Rygar or the Konami space shooter Lifeforce, is both a side scrolling and vertical scrolling game. Some levels are horizontal, some are vertical and then the dungeons are both, as you move from room to room similar to the labyrinths in the original Zelda game.

The mechanics for the game are good, even if there may be a period of adjustment for new players. Some of the platform hopping can be tedious at first but once you get the flow of the game’s controls and physics, it’s not too difficult.

I think that the level design could have been better though, as each level just seems to be sporadic without a lot of logic or sense in the design. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t hinder your progression through the game itself, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to improve this quite a bit. However, other than the dungeons, each level follows a straight, direct path.

My biggest issue is the boss battles. They all just kind of suck and are too time consuming. Maybe I was supposed to use some special item I didn’t pick up or something but having to hit a boss 200 times with a simple arrow just drags down the whole game, kills the momentum and sucks the fun out of the experience.

Still, Kid Icarus is a fun game to play and for it’s era, it gives you a ton of gameplay time from start to finish.

A Nintendo sequel would have been nice though, as it could have refined things, corrected some of the mistakes and been a much better version of this already entertaining game.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other NES action fantasy or sci-fi games like the two original Zeldas, Rygar or Metroid.

Video Game Review: Lifeforce (NES)

Despite incredibly similar graphics, gameplay, game mechanics and developer, I never really knew that LIfeforce was a spinoff sequel to Gradius, especially since there were numbered sequels to Gradius.

It wasn’t until the ’90s or so that I pretty much figured it was either a sequel or designed by the same team, building a new game off of the Gradius model.

Well, in Japan it was called Salamander. For whatever reason, they re-titled it Lifeforce in the U.S. But some of the changes and gameplay additions ended up being adopted by future Gradius titles. Salamander itself wouldn’t get a direct sequel for a whole decade.

This was originally designed for the arcade but was quickly ported to several systems. I’ll probably check out the arcade version soon, just to compare the two.

Lifeforce is fast paced, intense and one of those games where you can find yourself completely overwhelmed in the blink of an eye. That being said, most people, myself included, probably can’t beat this game without the Konami Code. Like its use in Contra, the Code here gives the player 30 lives.

Unlike Contra, however, this game feels short on levels with only six. And honestly, that’s about my only complaint about the game. It’s so much fun, I just wish it were longer; at least an extra two levels to bring it up to eight like Contra.

What’s really unique about Lifeforce, though, is that it is both a side scroller and a vertical scroller. Odd numbered levels are sideways and even numbered levels are vertical.

The boss fights are all pretty fun too. Granted, most of the bosses are a cakewalk if you are able to upgrade your weapons quickly and then maintain them by not dying. The more suped up you are, however, the easier it is to survive and thrive.

I really love the weapon enhancements in this game. They just make you feel more badass and they make the game more fun and action heavy.

Lastly, for a simple 8-bit scrolling shooter, this has pretty solid level design. There isn’t a dull stage and some of them are kind of breathtaking. I especially love the level with the fire and flares, as well as the Egyptian-looking one.

Lifeforce is a great game for its era and for its genre. Also, it had some of the best box art in Nintendo history.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in the Gradius series, as well as other 8-bit Konami action shooters.

Video Game Review: Super Mario Bros. 2 – The Japanese Version (NES)

This is the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2, that unfortunately only got released in Japan, as it was deemed “too hard for Americans.”

Well, I take offense to that, as I played this fucker and kicked its ass!

Okay, it kicked my ass a whole lot but I beat this game and proved that full grown American men with thirty-plus years of Mario experience can hang with some Japanese kids in the ’80s!

While I would’ve really loved playing this game in my youth, as frustrating as it is, I understand why Nintendo of America thought that it wouldn’t work in the States. And fortunately, for us, we got our own version of Super Mario Bros. 2, which was simply a game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. While not an actual Mario game in Japan, it had its playable character sprites redesigned to look like Mario characters. And frankly, even if I’m in the minority, it was my favorite Super Mario game of the original NES trilogy in the U.S.

This game did get released later with enhanced 16-bit graphics as part of the Super Nintendo game, Super Mario All-Stars. On that game, this was re-titled Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.

I really like this game though. While it uses all the sprites and design style of the original game, it is too difficult to not feel fresh and like a real challenge. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve mastered the original game, you will find this one to be tougher than boiled show leather.

And while you’ll spend a lot of time getting pretty frustrated, the game is still a lot of fun and beating it does give you a sense of accomplishment much greater than its predecessor.

However, I think it is a step down from the original, as some of the level design is tough just to be tough and isn’t really an improvement. In fact, I think this is a bit less imaginative, as there are some maps you can get stuck on if you miss a vine or some other route change that you can’t backtrack from.

Also, due to the game’s complexity, the timer is much more of a bitch in this installment, especially in the fortresses.

All that being said, this is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the original game.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: pretty much all Super Mario Bros. games.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: The Adventure (Gameboy)

Fuck me, I forgot how goddamned awful this piece of shit game was until I decided to replay it. I mean, it’s Castle-fucking-vania! How do you screw that up?

Even Simon’s Quest, which a bunch of simpleton’s want to claim is a terrible game (it isn’t) blows this mindnumbing mindfuck out of the water.

The awfulness of this game mainly falls on its mechanics. The controls are horrendous but then, so is the motion and movement of the character on the screen. You thought jumping in some of the NES Castlevania games was infuriating and tedious? Well, wait till you get a load of this shit game.

Granted, you should never actually play this unless you have free access to it and you hate yourself, your sanity and are deliberately trying to be self-destructive with a God Mode code.

Apart from the mechanics, the game is boring, looks boring, has stupid bosses that are generic, uninspiring and don’t channel the same sort of classic horror feel that the NES games did.

Fuck this game. If you own it, burn it.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: The original and far superior Castlevania trilogy for NES, as well as the Gameboy sequel.