Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2016

TG 16 Review: Super Star Soldier

Note: This review was done playing on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation used.

 

Here is a Turbografx 16 ‘classic’: Super Star Soldier. Does this game stand the test of time? Is it still fun to play today? And more important of all, will it earn the Malstrom Award, the most highly sought after award in all of gaming?

 

Above: Gameplay of Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier is the first of the Star Soldier Trilogy by Hudson. After the success of Blazing Lazers which was made by both Compile and Hudson, Hudson made Super Star Soldier. It is also a type of ‘official sequel’ to the Hudson NES game of ‘Star Soldier. The other two games following Super Star Soldier in the trilogy is Final Soldier and Soldier Blade.

Above: Classic Game Room raves but struggles to say anything specific about the game.

Super Star Soldier is a very generic top down shmup. Sometimes you only come back immediately if you die, otherwise you start at a checkpoint. One hit doesn’t kill unless it is a large laser beam or obstacle. The hit just downgrades your weapons. Speed is determined by three settings chosen by select so there are no speed upgrades. You choose whatever speed you want.

There are two versions of quality to place Super Star Soldier, two alternate universes. Since Final Blade and Soldier Blade, the following two shmups in the trilogy, and Blazing Lazers, an unofficial type of pre-quel is legendary, there is much effort and thinking that Super Star Soldier is a ‘fantastic shooter’ and ‘one of the most excellent shmups ever made’. The other view is that Super Star Soldier is spiritually the same as its official predecessor on the NES, Star Soldier, in that it is extremely generic but solid, solid, solid on the gameplay.

I fall into the latter camp. I think the ‘praise’ on Super Star Soldier is unwarranted and is nothing more than the bandwagon effect and of people wanting this game to be good because the other three games in this series are good. This game is extraordinarily generic. It rips from every other shmup at this time. It has the fire loops from Salamander including the ‘narrowing escape’ from Salamander too. The soundtrack, aside from the first track, is nothing to write home about. The challenge is inconsistent. The game feels like it has no identity, no personality. This is the hallmark of being generic.

This game is a generic soup of shmups with no identity of its own. It’s only saving grace is that the gameplay mechanics are super solid. This is what makes people to think this is a great game. But is it? You’ll find many people tell these video reviewers raving about the game that ‘I don’t like playing this shmup. I prefer this other shmup much more.’

The challenge is so off that even die-hard Turbo fans have trouble finishing the game. I remember talking to the Hudson guy responsible for getting the Turbografx 16 games onto the Wii’s Virtual Console that he wanted to ‘finally finish this game’ as he never could do so.

Above: Even the Turbo Views reviewer had problems finishing this game which he has been playing since it came out!

I have an annoyance in this game that playing it makes it sound like I am making popcorn. I call stage one the popcorn stage because all the little enemies pop sound like popcorn. The more I play this game, the more annoyed I am at its generic quality. Solid gameplay isn’t enough, I need originality. This game lacks originality, lacks personality, and becomes less fun the more you play.

One major plus side is that this game has a caravan mode of 5 minutes and 2 minutes where you just go and get a high score. So there is another way to play the game. But seeing that the only differentiation between this shmups and others is the challenge, it is hard to recommend this game. You can get your challenge fix from other, more interesting, shmups.

——————-

Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(9) Blazing Lazers [$37] (Inconsistent quality, long stretches of boredom, yet fun to return to again and again)

(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

(6) Super Star Soldier [$73] (Extremely generic, obtuse challenge. Solid gameplay. Extremely over-rated. No personality.)

(6) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and very nostalgic.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2016

Gradius downgraded

On my TG 16 reviews, I have downgraded several games. Nostalgia had me put Gradius way too high. It has its Malstrom Award taken away and is now with the ‘pass’ bunch. World Court Tennis went from 8 to 6, Boxy Boy went to ‘pass’ too.

The point is that the more I play these games, the more of their value is revealed. They will always be moving DOWN. The higher up the game is, there better be something truly unique and timeless about it. With these changes, I’m happier with the review list. Only the Blazing Lazers page has the updated changes.

Now time to review Super Star Soldier!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2016

Email: The making of Zelda 1

Miyamoto talks about computer RPGs and bringing the sense of adventure from movies (such as Indiana Jones) to a video game:

http://nintendoeverything.com/nintendo-on-zelda-1-miyamotos-inspiration-kondos-all-nighter-molblins-famous-message-original-hyrule-fantasy-name/

Nintendo used Ravel Bolero as the opening theme to Zelda at the time. But they realized it wasn’t copyrighted but would be in one month (!). They couldn’t wait, so they made another theme at the last minute. It sounds almost divine willed.

Here is Ravel Bolero, the original Zelda theme:

Here is what we got as the Zelda theme:

Here is Ravel Bolero how it would have sounded through a NES. Is this what the original theme of Zelda sounded like? If the composer was born one month earlier, it would have been:

Let us not forget the Ocarina of Time song called ‘Bolero of Fire’. Obviously, an inspiration.

Miyamoto’s description of the NES as ‘competition’ is odd since the NES had no competition, not in Japan or the US. NES was very much a Blue Ocean console. But Miyamoto is referring the NES as competitive to the arcades which, in that case, it would have been most disruptive. NES was crappy hardware compared to arcade hardware. Yet, NES offered different values. You can OWN the game.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2016

Email: About “software sells hardware”

Hello Master Malstrom,

I do agree with you on many points about Nintendo, especially regarding why the Wii and DS sold so well. I can understand that games like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Nintendogs and Brain Age really contributed to that.

Nintendo commited many mistakes when designing the Wii U and 3DS. Most gamers weren’t very interested on stereoscopic 3D or asynchronous multiplayer, and these features made both systems more expensive.

However, despite the 3DS having a slow start, Nintendo decreased its price quickly and released many games. Although the 3DS won’t even come close to DS total sales, it has sold over 60 million so far.

Wii U software wasn’t terrible, but many 1st party games were too similar to what Nintendo had done on previous systems. Splatoon and Super Mario Maker were interesting and were among the few games that actually made a good use of the Wii U GamePad, but they came too late… the Wii U was already doomed in 2015.

I’d like to ask you: could Nintendo have saved the Wii U (for example, 50 million lifetime sales instead of the 14 million it will end up with) with quality software and a price cut? Would the Wii U have failed anyway no matter what Nintendo tried to do?

Nintendo was so aggressive with the 3DS because handhelds are the bread and butter for Nintendo especially in Japan. I do not think a similar move would help the Wii U as a price cut certainly didn’t help the Gamecube.

As gamers, it is hard to accept that the market doesn’t like the software library of the console (which is why the hardware doesn’t sell). There’s really no exceptions to it.

The NES had atrocious hardware. Yet, the NES sells because the software library was so great. There is nothing more uncomplicated than that.

I would say the 3DS did upswing because there was more software put on it that people wanted (instead of ‘omg Pilotwings in 3d!’ which is what happens when Miyamoto listens to hardcore Nintendo fans).

I do not own a Wii U or 3DS. I do not find any of the software to be at all interesting. Sure, DK Tropical Freeze might be ‘the best platformer ever’, but I do not care. The game is not interesting to me anymore. There used to be ‘the best version of PONG ever made’ in the early 1980s, but it didn’t matter. People got tired of PONG in the 1970s.

PC-Engine fans do not want to hear this but the system failed because of its terrible game library. The best games are shmups or arcade ports which appealed to hardcore arcade gamers, not to the mainstream masses. Where are the great PC-Engine sports games and platformers? They are not there. (Bonk games are just above average in platformer quality.) While Turbografx 16 has some great games, they were not the games the market wanted at that time.

Another great example of software selling hardware is the birth of the PC market. People bought PCs for the spreadsheet software.

Switch will live or die based on the software. Switch’s software announcement will be the most important reveal of that console. A bad software launch may ruin the system for good.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2016

Email: Hope for Parasol Stars

Hi Master M,

I was shocked to hear that the original disks and code for Parasol Stars were destroyed. I was curious to learn more so I did some digging, and found that thankfully it wasn’t the original console version of the game that was destroyed, but an ill-fated Commodore 64 port that never saw the light of day:

Parasol Stars

It was going to be Ocean Software’s last C64 game, but by the time it was destroyed, the marketing push had already been made and they couldn’t afford to wait a few more months for the game to be redone. So it still sucks, but at least the original version probably exists somewhere, unless some unpublicised disaster happened to it.

If you read the article, be sure to click the hidden-in-plain-sight “Creator Speaks” button at the bottom to see what he himself had to say about the ordeal. His wife left him at FIFTY years old, poor guy!

Looking back, it’s kind of weird how the fate of some games used to rest entirely on one or two people’s shoulders. Maybe that was a PC game thing? In any case, that’s better than today where it seems like pretty much every (non-indie) game needs hundreds of people behind it.

I do not think that link’s story was written correctly or entirely coherently. They didn’t seem to realize that Parasol Stars never had an arcade version either.

Yes, it was the original source code that was destroyed. Programmers would use the original source code to port the game over. There is a reason why Parasol Stars has never been ported to a system since then. It has been emulated, but never ported. The source code was lost.

Many brilliant games have lost their source code. Perhaps the greatest RPG of all time, Ultima 7, has its source code missing. Fans have been trying to backwards engineer it for years with Exult.

Games losing their source code is not uncommon especially in that time period.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2016

TG 16 Review: Blazing Lazers

Note: Blazing Lazers was reviewed on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation. Beware of reviews using emulation!

It is Blazing Lazers, one of the most famous games on the Turbografx 16! Did this game stand the test of time? Shall it be inducted into the museum of gaming classics? And most important of all, will it earn the Malstrom Award?

Above: So explosive is Blazing Lazers gameplay that video footage cannot capture the ship’s beam weapons correctly. Half of it is missing!

Above: More Blazing Lazers gameplay!

This is the most important Turbografx 16 game ever made. “Why is that, Master Malstrom?” asks the reader. There are many other signature Turbografx 16 games such as Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman ’93, Castlevania: Dracula X, Y’s I and II, but none of them had the effect on the system’s library like Blazing Lazers did.

In short, Blazing Lazers is to shmups and to the Turbografx 16 what Super Mario Brothers was to platformers and to the NES.

In Blazing Lazers, you have ridiculous variety of power-ups which can be powered up in strength. When you get hit, your power-ups get downgraded instead of outright blowing you up. The other action button fires a large screen wide bomb that takes out most of the enemies on the screen. Blazing Lazers removes much of the typical shmup frustration found in games like R-type or Gradius, makes you feel ridiculously powerful with many power-ups, and gives the player a smooth challenge climb. Unlike R-type or Gradius, Blazing Lazers was developed for the home console and not the arcades. Blazing Lazers is ridiculously fun, and the game sold massively well. Hudson would make the Star Soldier trilogy (Super Star Soldier, Final Soldier, Soldier Blade) from Blazing Lazers success. The success and popularity of Blazing Lazers attracted ports of every shmup to the Turbografx 16 as well as development for new ones. Blazing Lazers is the reason why Turbografx 16 became shmup-land.

Above: Even more Blazing Lazers gameplay. People love talking about this game!

Blazing Lazers has an interesting development. The game was co-developed by two companies: Compile and Hudson. The president of Compile, Niitani, was the creator of NES’s Zanac and Guardian Legend. Ueyama from Hudson was the director of the Super Bomberman game for the SNES. Together, they made a shmup based on the Gunhed movie license. In the West, the references to the license was removed so it is known simply as Blazing Lazers.

Above: Mark from Classic Game Room raves over the game.

As a shmup, it is difficult to talk about the game because how much can you say aside from keep shooting and keep dodging? The soundtrack is top notch and is one of the best sound tracks  of the entire Turbografx 16 library if not for this time period. The graphics are crisp, good, and look as good as they could back in 1989.

I do really like that the speed is adjusted with the select button. You have three options for your speed that YOU determine. This is so much nicer than the Gradius or R-type way of getting power-ups just to handle your spaceship.

There are many continues so when you lose all your lives, you do not have to start the long game all the way over. When you do die, you do NOT reappear. You go back to a spawning point in the game’s level. This has some good qualities since it gives you a chance to upgrade your ship again.

Above: Turbo Views raves over the game.

Above: Even girls like this game. Note how frantic the ship’s shooting is that the video footage couldn’t capture it correctly? haha

Above: This review inadvertently shows some of the frustrations and downsides of Blazing Lazers such as having to dodge power-ups.

Boy, everyone loves to talk about this game. Everyone loves to review this game. There is so much nostalgia and ‘turbo nerd points’ to praise this game. “Hail!” “Hail!” “Hail!” Reading anything about this game is like witnessing some sort of Turbografx 16 orgy. Even the Virtual Console release reviews had the reviewers go “Hail!” “Hail!” to the game.

But this is why you are reading this review. Is Blazing Lazers good? Is all this praise bullshit?

The truth is that Blazing Lazers is an excellent game, and it is extremely interesting even today. However, the game is vastly overrated and suffers greatly from aging. The best way I can describe it is discussing the quality of Mega Man 1. Mega Man 1 is an excellent game, but it is not consistent and very uneven. Yet, Mega Man 1 allowed better games like Mega Man 2 to appear.

I know I played this game when it originally came out long, long ago. But my most in depth time with it was playing it when it was released on the Virtual Console. I would get so bored during these long stretches of empty levels that I would use the save state and go play a more fun game like Devil’s Crush or Soldier Blade.

With the actual hardware, I do, indeed, keep coming back to Blazing Lazers. Whatever the game is doing, it keeps calling me back. Yet, there are strange reactions I get when playing the game. One time, I fell asleep (first time I’d ever fallen asleep during a shmup). The game is so inconsistent that some levels just drag on, and on, and on. Most of my playtime consisted me of shutting the game off before I had completed using my lives or even my continues.

Blazing Lazers is too inconsistent. One moment I am saying, “This is awesome!” and next moment is “this is boring.” This was a launch game for the western release of the Turbografx 16. This game has aged. The Star Soldier trilogy by Hudson is essentially the game’s sequels, and you can see how much more consistently fun Final Soldier and Soldier Blade are because they came out later in the console’s life cycle.

The worst thing about Blazing Lazers is that it has ceased to be a game but become a sort of ‘hardcore virtue signal’. In the last video review posted above by Michael the Game Genie, he bursts with praise about how ‘awesome’ this game is and then dies on the first stage. When he gets to Area 6 or 7, he goes, “This is my very first time I have ever gotten here!” I am convinced that the vast majority of the “Hail!” “Hail!” crowd for Blazing Lazers hardly ever play the game. It seems like everyone is copying what a few snooty shmup snobs are saying. This is a really good and interesting game. It is a very important game, business-wise, for the platform. But it isn’t remotely the best shmup on the system. Even the shmup snob cannot dispute how uneven the game is with its long barren stretches of boredom. And what is with the programming? When you fly back and forth with the screen scrolling, the bullets scroll with it. WTF!??

“Hail!” “Hail!” “All hail the Blazing Lazers!”

This game may have been the bee’s knees in 1989 and even 1999, but in 2016 the game has definitely aged. I have no desire to ‘hardcore virtue signal’ about this silly game. It is too inconsistent to get a Malstrom Award, but the game is considerably interesting. It’s popularity makes it cheap to obtain. It is worth checking out, and you can judge for yourself if the game is worth the endless praise. I bet your reaction will be like mine: the game is good, but boy does it have some issues.

——————-

Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(9) Blazing Lazers [$37] (Inconsistent quality, long stretches of boredom, yet fun to return to again and again)

(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

(6) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and very nostalgic.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2016

TG 16 Review: Space Invaders

Note: This review was made using actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation.

Special Note: This game was imported from Japan.

Image result for space invaders pc-engine

And here we have Space Invaders! Did Taito update this classic like how Namco updated Galaga in Galaga ’90? Is this game fun and addictive to come back to again and again? And most important of all, the question that is on everyone’s minds, will this game receive the Malstrom Award, the highest and most distinguished award any game can obtain?

Special Note: This is the Hucard version of Space Invaders. There is a CD version of Space Invaders titled ‘The Original Game’ that has anime girls squealing. This is not the Otaku version.

I am assuming the reader knows about Space Invaders. What is interesting is how PC-Engine must have all shmups ever made it seems. Of course Space Invaders finds its way to the PC-Engine.

There are two versions of Space Invaders on this card. There is the arcade mode Space Invaders. Then, there is Space Invaders Plus.

The terrible video quality above shows off the simple arcade port. Who cares? This is 1970s gaming. Let’s get to the Plus mode.

Of course Space Invaders needed a cinematic intro complete with wire-frame ship zoom-ins! How could you think otherwise, reader?

The Plus mode is the best version of Space Invaders until Extreme came out. You have shields. The laser shot is neat. There is some differentiation with the background levels and the invaders coming at you. I like how you often have to shoot their blasts coming at you instead of just hiding behind a wall.

Unfortunately, you will play this mode for a few levels and never decide to touch it again. There is absolutely nothing here to warrant further interest. Namco really showed how it was done with updating a classic with Galaga ’88. Space Invaders Plus doesn’t come close. Feel free to ignore this one.


Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)


Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

 

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)

(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

 

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 19, 2016

TG 16 Review: Gomola Speed

Note: This review was done using actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation. This game is also a Japanese import.

Related image

Now here is an interesting one. It is Gomola Speed. It is… almost completely unknown to the gaming world. There are barely even any text reviews of this game. You go to Gamefaqs and, aside from password keys, there is nothing written on this game. The question we must ask ourselves, “Is this a lost, hidden classic from the past?” “Is this game fun, addictive, and interesting to play today?” And most important of all: “Will it win the Malstrom Award: the most coveted award in all of gaming?”

Above: Gomola Speed is a most interesting and unique game!

Gomola Speed is an extremely slick programmed game (Nintendo was so impressed that they hired this game’s developers) that seems to be the ultimate evolution of the game of Snake. In Snake, you started off small, would eat something, and then you grew longer and longer. But Gomola Speed also has Gauntlet gameplay and giant boss battles. It is absurd. It is also classic late 80, early 90 Japanese genius.

Image result for gomola speed

You play as the head, represented by the ‘eye’ on it. If anything hits your head, it is game over. You move around with the D-Pad. You will use the D-Pad extensively to go diagonal and perform many, many circles. One of the action buttons allows you to drop a bomb (the bomb appears from your last segment). If the bomb blast hits your head, it is game over. The bomb blast stuns enemies and can break open blocks.

Each stage has the same goal. You start off as the solitary head. You explore the level to find your missing segments (you touch them to combine with them). You must ‘consume’ all the bouncing pellets. This is done by you wrapping your body around them. Then, an exit appears like in Gauntlet once all the pellets are eaten. You go into the exit to finish the level though you must have all your segments on you. You cannot leave the level if you are missing a segment.

Gomola Speed (PC Engine)

The simplicity of the game is refreshing. However, your long body will get hit. If it is the head, you die. But you can use your body to shield you. When the body gets hit, the segments fly apart and start bouncing around like they used to. You just touch them again to re-absorb them.

Enemies can be stunned by bombs. Stunned enemies can be wrapped around by your body to be ‘eaten’ and taken out of the game.

Above: Gomola Speed doesn’t have much music, but what it does have packs a techno punch.

Very little is written on Gomola Speed because no one knows what to think of it. The game doesn’t match any genre of gaming we know. Is it a puzzle game? An action game? The game is programmed great, controls great, sounds awesome, yet people feel funny taking it seriously because the basic gameplay is Snake, the most primitive PC video game.

I kept coming back to Gomola Speed again and again. It has a terrific password system. It also has a great pick up and play. The game is extremely unique, and there is nothing else remotely like it on any other system. The level design is smart, and the game is consistently challenging.

However, the game has serious problems. While the controls are excellent, they require too much work from the player. This game will make your hand hurt because no game has made you use the D-pad so vigorously as this one. Another big problem is that you are constantly pulling your body back together which always pauses the game as you hear the ‘glum glum’ sound effects as each segment is re-attached. The sound and pausing gets annoying and old fast. The game levels ask you to do things which seem unfair because there is very little direction. Bosses are thrown at you with little to no direction on how you are to defeat them. Most of the time, you are supposed to find a power-up, but this is hard to do when you did not realize that before the boss, the game had never given you such a power-up before.

When it comes to this game, I fall more on the ‘love’ side. The game is expertly produced with tight level design. The game moves and sounds so crisp and realized. The game’s art is cool and doesn’t feel ‘Japanese’. This game could have been made in the United States and no one could tell. Most important of all, this game is extraordinarily unique. There are many platformers, shmups, RPGs, but there is only one Gomola Speed. It is in a genre of itself.

Above: To those who think this is a small game, think again! This long play, with zero deaths, is nearly an hour.

Usually when I try to rate these games, there are only three true rankings. There is the ‘ignore’ of 1-5 because there is absolutely nothing interesting in this game to warrant your attention. There is the ‘honorable mention’ of 6-9 because there is something very interesting about this game that is worth examining. And the Malstrom Award of ’10’ games are for those games you will always be playing because they are interesting and because of great gameplay.

Gomola Speed does not get the Malstrom Award. While the game’s ‘interesting meter’ is off the charts, the gameplay is downright annoying at times combined with making your hand hurt and the constant ‘segment re-attachment’ sound. This is a special snowflake game that should be observed by everyone, but a great classic it is not.

————————————————–


Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)


Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

 

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)

(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

 

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 14, 2016

TG 16 Review: Parasol Stars

Note: This review was made running Parasol Stars on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation.

What is this!? It is Parasol Stars. Is this a hidden classic from the past? Does it stand the test of time? And most important of all, does it earn the Malstrom Award?

Above: Gameplay footage of Parasol Stars

All you need to know about this game is its subtitle: The Story of Bubble Bobble III.

Image result for bubble bobble

First, there was Bubble Bobble.

At the end of the Cave of Monsters, the two dragons turn back into their human form. Then, they have another adventure.

Image result for rainbow islands

Rainbow Islands was the Story of Bubble Bobble II.

At the end of Rainbow Islands, the heroes were awarded the gift of parasols which brings them to this adventure.

Image result for bubble bobble 2 nes

This is actually the FOURTH game in the Bubble Bobble series. It was made due to demand that people wanted the little bubble dragons back. Bubble Bobble Part 2 was made in 1993. Parasol Stars, Bubble Bobble III, was made in 1991.

There are FIVE versions of Parasol Stars: Gameboy, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Turbografx 16.

Above: There is no debate that PC-Engine version of Parasol Stars is easily the best.

There is no arcade version of Parasol Stars. Parasol Stars was developed for the PC-Engine. The other four versions are ports of the PC-Engine version of Parasol Stars. This Parasol Stars game on the PC-Engine is the default version… and it has never been ported to any system afterward. The main reason why is because the code’s disk and the back-up were destroyed in a drunken rage by the programmer’s wife. There will never be another true port of this glorious game.

And it is glorious.


Above: Like Bubble Bobble, Parasol Stars will keep repeating a catchy song. However, it does vary it up with a more sinister song at the final stage: the Bubble Bobble stage!

The game is similar to Bubble Bobble in that the levels are single screen (though they will scroll left to right as they get bigger). You clear the enemies and go to the next screen. And you get fruit. Your tool is the parasol. You can glide with it from jumps. You can use it as a shield. But most important of all, you can place enemies on it and throw them around. Stunning and throwing enemies is the best way to defeat them. You can also hold up elemental droplets onto your parasol and unleash them as single items or entirely built up in a large blast.

Above: You can sense Mark’s awe of the game.

The music is as catchy as the original Bubble Bobble. There is a two player simultaneous cooperative mode just like the original Bubble Bobble. The game hits the sweet spot between not being too easy or too hard. The game will become quite challenging later on, but the challenge builds up gradually.

Parasol Stars has a world variety as rich as Super Mario Brothers 3. Behold:

World 1: Music Star

World 2: Woods Star

World 3: Ocean Star

World 4: Toy Star

World 5: Casino Star

World 6: Cloud Star

World 7: Giant Star

World 8: Rainbow Star

World 9: Bubble Bobble Star (with enemies from original Bubble Bobble)

World 10: Hidden Star (Need two people to do it. I do not see any youtube footage of this level. What could it be!???)

Above: Parasol Stars is a meaty game with much variety. Reviewer keeps saying the game is ‘cute’ but “I always have fun”.

When I first played Parasol Stars, I was in a state of shock by the cuteness and absolutely in dismay about what was going on. I had no idea what was going on. Yet, I kept playing because I was having fun. I thought it was cuteness-overload, but it was really creativity overload. I didn’t stop to think that I was in Music World which I do not think any video game has ever had before. The worlds and enemies are quite unique. I love how there are so many ways to defeat a level… though sometimes a single way is obvious.

My first impression of the game was to be blindsided by the ‘cuteness’ and cease to try to get into it. Everyone online knows this game is the true spiritual successor to Bubble Bobble, not Rainbow Islands, and buy the game because they know it is ‘classic’.

Yet, the true magnitude of this game hasn’t hit people yet. Bubble Bobble is a classic, yes? As I write this, the NES Mini is sold out nation-wide, and Bubble Bobble is one of those thirty games hanging out with classic legends such as Super Mario Brothers 1,2, 3, Zelda 1, 2, Metroid, Gradius, and the rest. Parasol Stars is better than Bubble Bobble. It has better more fun gameplay. Much more interesting worlds including the Bubble Bobble World. Bubble Bobble is to Super Mario Brothers what Parasol Stars is to Super Mario World.

 

Image result for most interesting man in the world

Above: Parasol Stars gets a Malstrom Award. Great single player and multiplayer also makes it a perfect game.

Do not be fooled by your first impressions (which will not grasp this game and recoil from the firehose-in-the-face creativity). This game is an unknown hidden legend. You will keep coming back to it… forever. It may be emulated on future consoles, but it will never be ported. This is the last time you can get this game under $100 in a non-emulated form on the system it was originally developed.

This game is an example of why I am doing these reviews. This game is rightly considered a classic, but I do not think people realize just how legendary it is. I believe the gamers’ initial sense of confusion or being overwhelmed is identical to the first time you played Bubble Bobble or Super Mario Brothers. Nothing makes sense… yet the game is amazing. Play this game, and feel the magic of gaming that is completely gone today.

 


Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)


Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

 

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

 

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 14, 2016

TG 16 Review: Shockman

Note: This review was made on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation

Image result for shockman turbografx 16

This is Shockman. It is the second Japanese game which is simply called ‘Shockman’ when it got released in the West. It is the Mega Man of the Turbografx 16. You ask: “Is this a great classic that time has forgotten?” You wonder: “Has Mega Man 2 finally met its match?” You plead: “Does it earn the Malstrom Award, the Most Distinguished Award in all of Gaming ™?”

We have but one way to find out…

Shockman is said to be a Mega Man clone. This isn’t exactly true. Stylistically, it is like Mega Man with the character being a human that can turn robotic, fires like Mega Man, has a charged shot like Mega Man, and lives in a futuristic robotic universe. But the differences are many. There is no stage select. The stages are few. However, the game turns into a shmup for several levels (in Level 2, for example, it is underwater, and you are in a submarine shmup). Shmups! Shmups! Shmups! This is the Turbografx 16 after all.

Two huge differences from Mega Man style gameplay is that you can shoot UP. Yes. Capcom never allowed Mega Man to shoot up which is interesting. Here, you can. The other difference is that you can play as two different characters which have some different abilities… and you can do so in co-operative simultaneous mode. Both people will be using one life meter though so the game won’t necessarily be easier.

 

What makes this game, at all interesting, is its musical type vibe (some good stuff), the two characters you can choose, the endless continues, and the two player co-op. It also makes you nostalgic for Mega Man. This game is not fun to play at all. The gameplay is really lacking beneath the neat graphics. No Malstrom Award in this. Avoid!


Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush ([$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)


Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

 

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