Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Disney's Goof Troop (SNES) Review

Capcom and Disney: a formula that has given gamers fantastic results over the duration of the 8 and 16-bit eras. Most everyone is aware at this point of some of the big contributions of this partnership, such as the DuckTales and Chip & Dale games for NES. Beyond those classic, popular titles, Capcom had the talent to even turn seemingly unqualified intellectual properties (such as the previously reviewed The Little Mermaid) into truly fun gaming experiences. Disney's Goof Troop is a prime example of this, and a game that deserves a bit more attention than it typically seems to garner.

The first striking thing that most gamers will notice is that Goof Troop is quite unlike most games from it's era. Almost all titles created previously under the Capcom/Disney partnership resulted in some form of side-scrolling platformer. Goof Troop can be best described as a top-down, real-time puzzle/adventure game designed with cooperative play in mind; and cooperative play was obviously a focus that Capcom must have had when first designing this title. The top right corner of the screen is exclusively reserved for a potential second player (typically Max, with Goofy as the main character in the top left), and will flash "PRESS START" in that corner a la most fighting games until someone joins in.

The primary idea in this game is that players must advance through an exit door by individual screens of gameplay (similar to the first Legend of Zelda) while solving a unique puzzle to that screen each time. The game can throw many different types of objectives at you in each screen, such as: defeat all enemies, press down each switch (sometimes in a certain order), avoid obstacles, etc. The level designers of Disney's Goof Troop did a great job in pulling together individual screens to feel like a consistent level, and will force you to explore each potential nook of the level to uncover necessary keys to advance (like the aforementioned Legend of Zelda's dungeons).

As Goofy and Max make their way through the adventure, they are limited to two items at any given time. You will consistently find yourself swapping between items you're currently holding and ones you find throughout the level in order to advance and get extra items (such as fruit and jewels, that increase your health and lives, respectively). This helps keep things even more puzzle-based, and is a contributing factor to it's moderate difficulty. Only a couple of the puzzles really seem to take a bit of brain power and proper planning to solve, but that just keeps things feeling rewarding throughout the experience. You're also timed through this game in each of the 5 relatively short levels, and can reasonably expect to complete each of the 5 levels in 15-20 minutes.

There's a lot less to talk about in the audio aspects of this game. The songs of Disney's Goof Troop won't be the type that you'll be humming after the game is through, but are serviceable and fun. The sound effects are decent, albeit a bit loud, but certainly aren't scathing to one's ears.

The visuals always seem to be a strength in these Capcom/Disney titles, and Goof Troop generally lives up to that standard. The levels are always bright and colorful, and the sprites are very well depicted. Though pretty inconsequential to the experience, the cut scenes between levels each feature some excellent pixel art that help tell a story and pull together the different themes. Top-down 2D gameplay can be more difficult to work with from an artistic perspective, but I'm quite happy with what they've pulled off here.

As those who have been reading our site have probably noticed, Kevin and I tend to favor mostly less known or cooperative games, and it tends to be a bonus if its on the Super Nintendo. Disney's Goof Troop fits the bill in all of those regards. Coupling that with the fact that there are so few games like it out there, I'm left recommending this title to anyone out there (especially if you can wrangle a close gamer buddy to play with) and give this at least one play-through. Capcom is a developer that's held to the highest of standards by both of us here at Time Traveling Gamers, and despite Goof Troop's brevity, it's a fun experience worthy of the developer's name.

Overall Score: 7.0/10 (Puzzle/Adventure, especially one that's top-down 2D, is not a genre bursting with games to choose from, so it's delightful to come across one that's as entertaining as Disney's Goof Troop is. You should be able to track down this SNES cart for no more then $10, and then the only issue left should be coordinating a buddy to sit down and play it with!)

- Randy

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! (SNES) Review

Anyone who played video games back in the 1990s undoubtedly remembers the fantastic licensed games that Capcom consistently released. However, some people seem to have forgotten that Konami was churning out licensed games at the same time that not only rivaled, but sometimes surpassed, those of their competitors. While they are much better known for their original IPs like Contra and Castlevania, Konami also released a number of stand-out titles using the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, and Tiny Toon licenses, among others. Most gamers will surely remember the first two franchises, but unfortunately, the Tiny Toon Adventures games have been somewhat forgotten.

Buster Busts Loose! is a platformer at heart, despite deviating from the basic platforming formula (in the football level, for example) from time to time. Buster's primary means of attacking his enemies consists of first pressing the jump button, directly followed by the drop-kick button (very similar to the Bonk games from the Turbo-grafx 16). This mechanic takes a little getting used to, as most of us are accustomed to simply jumping on our opponents. He is also given the ability to dash, which is a crucial gameplay element in a number of levels. With the edge of the screen chasing you at a frantic pace, you'll be forced to speed along in classic Sonic fashion as you leap across treacherous gaps, collecting stars (coins) along the way. Buster can also use his dash to run straight up walls, often leading to the discovery of hidden items.
Upon each level's completion, you will be given the opportunity to play one of five randomly selected mini-games, giving you a chance to rack up a handful of extra lives in the process. The majority of these are skill-based, which is a welcome departure from the usual games of chance. While none of these mini-games make or break the overall experience, they provide a nice break from the action.

The soundtrack isn't the most memorable I've ever heard, but it does a great job of capturing the essence of the cartoon...and it actually incorporates the show's theme song into the game on numerous occasions, something that was relatively uncommon in both the 8 and 16-bit generations. Meanwhile, the visual department is where Buster Busts Loose! shines. The levels and backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the animations are amazingly smooth. All of your favorite Tiny Toons characters are identical to their Saturday Morning counterparts, which is yet another feat that was often unaccomplished in this era.

Konami released a multitude of top-teir SNES titles during the systems life-cycle, and while Buster Busts Loose! doesn't reside at the top of the list with the likes of Contra, Castlevania, Mystical Ninja, etc., it is certainly a worthy addition to any platforming fan's collection. The handful of innovations that it introduces are welcome additions to the genre and make for an experience that you won't soon forget. Unfortunately the game is over far too soon, leaving much more to be desired.

Overall Score: 6.7/10 (Any self-respecting fan of the platforming genre owes it to themselves to play through this game. Despite its shortcoming in the length department (only six levels), Buster Busts Loose! provides a unique experience, and a moderate challenge, for both unseasoned and veteran gamers alike.)

- Kevin

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Comprehensive Look Back at the Super Mario Bros. Series

In light of the recent release of Super Mario Galaxy 2, the latest game featuring everyone's favorite Italian plumber, I will be going back and playing/re-playing every single game in the Super Mario Bros. franchise in reverse chronological order. Upon completion of this relatively daunting task, I will be writing a comprehensive article in which I will be ranking Mario's adventures from best to worst. The games that are going to be included are:

- Super Mario Galaxy 2 [Wii]
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii [Wii]
- Super Mario Galaxy [Wii]
- New Super Mario Bros. [NDS]
- Super Mario Sunshine [GCN]
- Super Mario 64 [N64]
- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins [GB]
- Super Mario World [SNES]
- Super Mario Land [GB]
- Super Mario Bros. 3 [NES]
- Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) [NES]
- Super Mario Bros. 2 (JPN) a.k.a. "The Lost Levels" [NES]
- Super Mario Bros. [NES]

The reviews for each game will consist of only a short paragraph or two, seeing as anyone who reads the article will, presumably, have their fair share of experience with the overall-clad plumber. I will due my best to cast any feelings of nostalgia to the side throughout this entire process in order to stay true to the TTG philosophy, which is to look at all of these games by today's standards, no matter how long ago they were released. Stay tuned for some early impressions of each of these games as I complete them (the games will be crossed off as I go along), as well as a Cave Story (WiiWare) review from me and a Goof Troop (SNES) review from Randy.

- Kevin

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Final Fight 2 (SNES) Review

Back in August of 1993, Capcom—possibly the most consistent developer/publisher of the 8 and 16-bit generations—released Final Fight 2. If you've ever played the original, or any other beat 'em up from this era for that matter, you'll have a great idea of what to expect here. While it does manage to make a few minor improvements (most notably the addition of co-operative play) over its predecessor, the second installment in this series still leaves a lot to be desired.

This is your standard beat 'em up affair, minus any extra bells and whistles that you'll find in some of the genres heaviest hitters (Streets of Rage 2, Turtles in Time, Double Dragon, etc.). As per usual, you are presented with a selection of three different characters (Haggar, Maki, and Carlos) with varying levels of speed and strength. The control scheme could have been executed on the NES, utilizing only two of the controller's face buttons (one for jumping and one for attacking). When the two are pushed simultaneously, you will unleash a special attack that can clear out a number of enemies in one fell swoop. However, whenever damage is inflicted with this maneuver, your character will endure a minor health deduction as well, so you won't be able to use it too often. While there isn't necessarily anything wrong with this basic formula, the absence of any real innovation brings the game's cookie-cutter qualities to the forefront.

The action moves along relatively slowly for the entirety of the game, giving you plenty of time to soak up the game's lackluster soundtrack. While the visuals are certainly on par with other beat 'em ups of the period, the soundtrack fails to draw even minor comparisons to the brilliant compositions in Streets of Rage 2—a game that was released not only before Final Fight 2, but also on an inferior console, as far as audio is concerned. The sound effects are exactly what you would expect, consisting primarily of your typical smashes, thuds, and grunts. Neither the graphics or the soundtrack are intolerable, but knowing what the SNES is/was capable of, it's hard to be truly satisfied with what this game has to offer.

There are certainly games out there that are far worse than Final Fight 2, and if you consider yourself to be a beat 'em enthusiast, it's fairly safe to say that this would be a nice addition to your collection. However, if you are merely a casual fan of the genre, I would suggest that you look elsewhere. The games only real saving grace is the fact that there are only six levels, deviating from the standard eight that most beat 'em ups consist of. Because of its slightly shorter length, the game is over before you begin to wish you would've picked out something else to play through—something that, in my humble opinion, plagues a majority of games in the genre. All things considered, if you're able to track down a copy of this game for a reasonable price ($10 or less) and are a fan of the genre, there's no real reason not to own it.

Overall Score: 5.3/10 (If you're a fan of beat 'em ups, this game is certainly worth a play through. However, if you're looking for a game that defines the genre, it would be advised that you let this one pass you by.)

- Kevin

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Little Mermaid (NES) Review

It’s no secret that Capcom was a juggernaut on the Nintendo Entertainment System…. and a huge reason for this was the high-profile Disney license. Games like DuckTales and Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers were popular in their time, and are still highly regarded among gaming circles (as are their subsequent sequels). The Little Mermaid never seemed to garner any where near the same kind of attention that those games did; in fact, I hardly hear it mentioned in any NES-related discussions at all.

I must admit that I used to be part of that problem: the first time I picked up and played The Little Mermaid was only four months ago. As a consistently avid NES game collector, I now find that to be inexcusable. While perhaps note quite as note-worthy as it’s 8-bit contemporaries, it’s still quite worth my time and yours.


Simplistic control and engaging gameplay ruled the 8-bit era, and The Little Mermaid is no different in this regard. Controlling Ariel will immediately feel natural and fluid to anyone who has played other Capcom classics from the time period, such as Mega Man. Going from left to right, you navigate through each “screen” of gameplay, trying not to take damage and lose hearts from your health meter. You can shoot bubbles which can first stun, then trap an enemy into said bubble, that you can then grab and shoot at other enemies or throw into small areas that may contain items that can get you extra points (which lead to extra lives) such as the “Dinglehopper” (fork) or a “Snarfblatt” (pipe).

Expanding on that core gameplay, Ariel can find shells that she can grab and use to run into and kill enemies with, as well as the ability to shoot the shell into treasure chests, which often contain pearls. These pearls offer the RPG-like capacity to increase your character’s abilities up to three levels. The green pearl extends the range of Ariel’s bubble attack, while the red pearl increases the power and effectiveness of the bubbles. With more red pearl power, you can move rocks and barrels into treasure chests in order to further increase your power or get more secret items.

In general, while The Little Mermaid will be entertaining to anyone with an affinity for older games, it needs to be stressed that this game is not very challenging when compared to the majority of games from that time period. It has only five levels total, and can easily be beaten in under an hour. Although this may be disappointing for some, I find these qualities to be charming. It has replay value in uncovering more of the secrets scattered throughout the levels and finding faster ways to defeat the levels and bosses.


The Little Mermaid came out in July of ’91, almost a full 6 years after the release of the system it was designed for…and it certainly shows. This is a very pretty game for the NES, with consistently vivid colors throughout the levels, with accurate sprite depictions of several characters from the movie. The cut scenes, while perhaps un-necessary, are a nice addition and are also very detailed visually. If I needed to show a demo for some of the best graphical accomplishments on the NES, this would certainly be up for consideration.

The audio does its job reasonably well. The intro screen to the game presents you with a pretty excellent 8-bit rendition of “Under the Sea”, but it unfortunately stands out as out as the only true memorable track from the game. The music that plays behind each level’s boss has a bit of a Mega Man flare, so I’ll also give that credit, but at the same time the Mega Man comparison only really serves to disappoint when realizing that the same developer made both soundtracks.


While The Little Mermaid has its charms, the challenge factor is the ultimate detractor here. Other games from the time period, tended to be quite short but made up for this with difficulty. I realize that as a gamer for around 20 years, I’m not quite the target audience that Capcom was aiming for, but I’m still left wishing they could have put this game’s difficulty on par with those other Disney greats like DuckTales. With all of this said, The Little Mermaid is still far too overlooked, and for $5 (or under) it goes for now certainly deserves a spot in any old school gamer’s NES collection.

Overall Score: 5.9/10 (This consistently overlooked game, while quite easy and short, is still a fun and visually appealing title that will keep all types of old school gamers entertained while it lasts.)

- Randy

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Lost Vikings (SNES) Review

These days, just about everyone is familiar with Blizzard Entertainment due to the overwhelming popularity of their World of Warcraft franchise. But, before they became the Goliath of the PC gaming industry that they are today, they were a fairly small-time developer that went by the name of Silicon & Synapse. While working under their previous name, Blizzard released a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game called The Lost Vikings for the Super Nintendo—a game that was somewhat overlooked upon it's initial release in 1992, and continues to receive similar treatment to this day. To put it simply, The Lost Vikings is, hands down, one of the premiere 3rd-party titles in the SNES' library that needs to be discovered by any and all self-respecting classic gamers!

The core game design is rather simple—you must reach the end of each level with all three vikings (Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout) in order to move on to the next stage. However, if a member of the team falls during battle, you are still given the opportunity to explore the level with the vikings who remain standing, allowing you to better prepare yourself for the next time around. Each of the trio can take up to three hits from the baddies before becoming nothing more than a pile of bones (or four if you are able to locate certain items in the level that give you extra health). There are also a number of obstacles that you will need to avoid (fire, water, electric beams, etc.) that will instantly neutralize the vikings upon contact.
Aside from the fact that there are three characters controlled by either one or two players, this may sound like your typical platforming affair. However, what truly sets this game apart from the pack is the fact that each of the vikings possess a completely unique skill set:
- Erik the Swift is, quite obviously, able to run extremely fast. This allows him to build up a head of steam before smashing into a weakened wall in order to knock it down. He is also the only viking with the ability to jump, which will come in handy on numerous occasions.
- Baleog the Fierce is equipped with an unlimited supply of arrows to fire with his bow, as well as a sword. The sword does more damage than the arrows will (unless you locate the fire arrows), but the arrows will be used for more than just combat. There are often switches located in impossible to reach places that can only be activated by one of Baleog's arrows.
- Olaf the Stout is, undoubtedly, the most useful of the three vikings. He holds nothing but a shield, but you will find Olaf leading the way in almost every level in order to ensure that Erik and Baleog remain unharmed. Besides using the shield to protect himself and the others from enemy attacks, Olaf can also raise it above his head, serving two purposes: 1) it allows Erik to jump on top of the shield, granting him access to otherwise unreachable platforms/items, and 2) it allows Olaf the ability to slowly glide down to the ground after walking off the ledge of a platform. If either of the other two vikings are to fall from a height, they will lose a portion of their health so, needless to say, Olaf's measly shield isn't so measly after all.
On top of all this, the puzzles in this game are incredibly well thought out, particularly later in the game. The first few worlds will be a bit of a cakewalk for most experienced gamers, but once you get to the final two or three worlds, expect your patience to be tested. Not only will you be taxing your brain in an attempt to solve each of these puzzles, but you will also be asked to perform some of your tasks in a fairly narrow window of timing, testing your reflexes as well.

The Lost Vikings' visuals are really nothing to write home about. While there are no major complaints in the graphic department, there's just not much there that is begging for your attention, and thus, you get a three sentence paragraph about them from me. They're pretty much exactly what you would expect to see from a game in the 16-bit era.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, despite it's small number of tracks, is outstanding. The only problem is the fact that there is only one song per world, so if you happen to get stuck on a level for an extended period of time, some of the tunes will begin to grow a little tiresome. However, there is not a single dud in the bunch, and you will be left with nothing but fond memories of these hip-hop tinged gems. (The only reason I use "hip-hop" to describe the soundtrack is because there seems to be an emphasis on the drum beats in this game, something that wasn't necessarily all that common in the SNES era).

The Lost Vikings is a game that has been overlooked for far too long and, if you've never had the chance to play through it before, now is as good a time as any. The good news is that you should be able to pick up a copy for under $10 without any trouble at all. Randy (the other reviewer here at TTG) and I have beaten a pretty good number of games together over the years, and we both agree that beating this game gave us the greatest sense of accomplishment upon completion. If you're in the market for an incredible cooperative gaming experience, look no further than The Lost Vikings.

Overall Score: 8.1/10 (If you're looking for a game that is going to both rack your brain and test the reflexes of your thumbs, you can't go wrong with The Lost Vikings. There are far too few puzzle-platformers out there, let alone 2-player ones, so don't let this one pass you by.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mega Man (NES) Review

Without a doubt Capcom's most successful franchise, the first game in the Mega Man series was released in December of 1987. Despite being arguably the worst of the original Mega Man games (1-8 that is), the franchise's debut doesn't seem get the credit that it deserves. It's nowhere near perfect, but to this day, it remains the cornerstone that every other game in the series is built upon. Sure, later Mega Man games made some fairly notable improvements over the original, however, the Blue Bomber's debut is still something that should not be overlooked by anyone that considers themselves a classic gamer.

First and foremost, if you've never played a Mega Man game before, the basic formula is based upon the timeless game of rock, paper, scissors—which is, for some reason, wildly popular in Japan. The bosses that you face at the end of every level each have one particular weakness and one particular strength. For example, Fire is greater than Ice, which is greater than Electricity, and so on. Upon defeating one of Dr. Wily's minions, you will be granted with the ability to use his power. It may take a few tries to figure out the particular order to tackle the bosses in, but once you've got that figured out, the main portion of this game is a breeze. It's after you beat the first six levels and move on to the Wily Fortress when the game ramps up the difficulty by a considerable amount—this game can be found on many top 10 hardest games of all-time lists. Personally, I don't think the game lives up to those standards, but it is quite a bit tougher than some of the more popular games in the series like Mega Man 2 & 3.

The controls are extremely simple; A jumps, B shoots, and the D-Pad is used to maneuver the Blue Bomber. The Start button is used to bring up a menu that allows you to select which weapon you'd like to use, which also pauses the game, as does Select. Whenever you have a weapon selected that was earned by defeating one of the game's six bosses, a second bar will appear next to your health bar to let you know how much ammo you have left with that particular power-up. Each weapon that you earn throughout the game is extremely effective against one of the other five bosses, allowing you to knock them off in far fewer hits than it would've taken with the power blaster that you begin the game with. Even the bosses you face in the Wily Fortress have their weaknesses, however, they are not as pronounced as those of the original six robots you square off with (each of whom you will face-off against for a second time in the Wily Fortress). However, as long as you possess a fair amount of perseverance, you should have no trouble emerging victorious as the game offers up an unlimited number of continues. On the other hand, there is no way to save your progress (not even a password system), which is something that has been seen in every Mega Man game since.

When it comes to NES soundtracks, you'd be hard pressed to find a more consistent developer than Capcom. Although Konami and Nintendo give them a run for their money, I don't believe I've ever played through an 8-bit Capcom game without having a handful of the tunes memorized by the time I completed the game. The original Mega Man is no exception to this rule and has a number of memorable tracks. Most of the tunes runs at a brisk tempo and keep you locked in to the action on the screen. There isn't a bad tune in the bunch, and although other Mega Man games offer up soundtracks that are just as good, if not slightly better, the franchise's debut sets the bar extremely high—a bar that most other NES games could never live up to.

The visuals are also fairly impressive, although they don't hold a candle to the soundtrack. The smooth animations, bright and colorful graphics, and original character designs have managed to hold up quite well over the past 20+ years. The graphics are by no means a prime example of what the NES was capable of, but the art direction was handled extremely well—the recently released Mega Man 9 (available on all three current-gen consoles' downloadable services) essentially uses the exact same art style, which speaks volumes for how well they've held up over the past two decades.

If for some crazy reason you've never played a Mega Man game before, there isn't much of a reason for you to start here, as multiple games in the franchise's history went on to eclipse the original game. However, those of you that have your fair share of Mega Man experience will undoubtedly be able to find a great deal of enjoyment in the Blue Bomber's introduction to the world. Sure, the MM formula has been a bit worn out over the past 22 years, but that doesn't mean that the games aren't fun, which is, of course, the most important aspect of a game. There are a few moments later in the game that will undoubtedly try your patience, but it will all be worth it in the end once you send Dr. Wily back to where he came from.

Overall Score: 7.0/10 (The first game in the Mega Man series is far from perfect, but it's still a worthwhile experience for any fan of 8-bit, side-scrolling platformers.)


Here's a video courtesy of NESguide.com...a great website that archives footage from any NES game you can think of!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Die Hard Arcade (Saturn) Review

Upfront confession: I’ve never seen the movie Die Hard and I don’t have any real plans to see it in the future. Macho explosion movies just don’t do much for me; arcade style beat-em-ups based on said movies are a different story, though. Die Hard Arcade was released on April 8th, 1997 for the Sega Saturn, having been first released as an arcade machine (but I’m sure you could’ve guessed that). As an in house, Sega developed game, it was always intentioned to be released for both the Saturn and arcade. The game utilizes one of the most traditional story arcs by making it your mission to save the president’s daughter from the evil “White Fang”, but does that even really matter?


Though your only buttons consist of the simple punch, kick, and jump affair, the game always keeps you engaged with an abundance of combinations that can come from them. Then the formula gets taken a step further, as you can pick up 10+ different weapons throughout the games’ five levels. It’s important to note that you can only hold and use one weapon at a time, but you won’t mind as you smile beating down wave after wave of thugs that come between you (and your partner) and victory. In general, the difficulty is not very high but it’s never low enough where your interest would wain.

Here’s the real kicker: this game only clocks in at around 30 minutes or so of actual gameplay. To its credit, these paltry minutes are spent in many different locales around this building the game takes place in. The environment in Die Hard Arcade often plays the role as an additional enemy to consider, with many sections offering up some sort of hazard to deal with along with the normal bad guys that will populate the scenario. Per this genre’s course, you’ll also encounter a few different bosses along the way. Also, as you run between different environments, you often come into “Quick Time Event” scenarios where you’re put on the spot to quickly hit a button the game tells you to. Whether you hit the correct button or not impacts how you enter the next area, and in general is a nice change up from the core gameplay.

There’s another drawback (if you choose to view it as such): if you and your buddy plan to make a run through Die Hard Arcade, you’re essential forced to play “Deep Scan” first. Deep Scan is a simple Sega arcade game that has you fire depth charges to destroy submarines below. Destroy enough submarines and avoid their attacks and you begin to be awarded with credits to use in the game. For a casual two player run through the game, I recommend amassing around 20 credits (which are shared between the players). As a bonus arcade game on the disc, it’s nice to have, but as a required precursor to the real experience, it feels more like a chore.


The Sega Saturn was never known for its 3D processing prowess, but surprisingly Die Hard Arcade still holds up pretty well in the visuals department. The animations are smooth, and everything runs without any noticeable slowdown. The polygons that make up the characters may be showing their age a bit these days, but I think there’s a certain charm in that because the game isn’t hindered by its graphics.

Audio quality is a different story, however. Though the sound effects and music aren’t noticeably bad, they aren’t noticeably good either. There are only a few music tracks in the game, and they can become a bit repetitive as you progress along. Admittedly this is a bit of a disappointment, but most people (including myself) don’t go into playing a beat-em-up hoping to hear outstanding sound.

There’s also the matter of the cut-scenes, which I suppose are meant to tack on a story to the game. These cut-scenes look and sound fine, but are best left off (in Options menu) because they serve more to interrupt your experience than enhance it. The annoyance increases when what often seems like one long scene loads and plays in small pieces at a time.


As an arcade machine meant to suck up your quarters, Die Hard Arcade is fantastic…but as a Sega Saturn release it just doesn’t quite meet today’s standards of a stand alone game. The core 3D, beat-em-up style gameplay entertains very consistently through its experience. Unfortunately, that experience is much too short, especially if you take my recommendation to turn off the unnecessary cut-scenes. It is worth mentioning that like many great beat-em-ups, it does have natural replay ability, though. Deep Scan would have been a welcome addition to the disc, but instead it’s a shallow (no pun intended) game that you must play to get more than the initial 4 credits. I know this game is pretty highly regarded in the Saturn community, but I believe most view games like these from a historical perspective. I choose to review based on today’s standards and the bottom line is that there isn’t enough meat in this package.

Overall Score: 6.7/10 (Die Hard Arcade is a fun and satisfying game experience…while it lasts. As a beat-em-up fan, I’m personally happy to have it in my Sega Saturn collection. However, as a game that can be beaten in well under an hour, it’s difficult to recommend as a stand alone retail disc.)

- Randy

Gunstar Heroes (Genesis) Review

Gunstar Heroes is, without a doubt, a top 10 Genesis game (arguably the best) and is also one of the defining titles of the run 'n' gun genre. While Nintendo fanboys were busy getting their keisters handed to them by the brutally difficult Contra III: The Alien Wars, Genesis gamers were treated with a much more balanced game in Gunstar Heroes. GH is not a walk in the park by any means, but the ability to sustain multiple hits before biting the dust leads to a much lower level of frustration and in turn, makes playing through the game a much more enjoyable experience.

At the start of the game, you (and a friend if you're playing co-operatively, which is HIGHLY recommended, as always) are given the opportunity to choose from 1 of 4 starting weapons:
1) Force—a machine-gun-like weapon with moderate power.
2) Lightning—a laser-like weapon that can go through multiple enemies.
3) Chaser—a machine-gun with low power that homes in on enemies.
4) Flame—a flame-thrower with high power but fairly short range.
During the game, you are able to pick up an additional weapon and combine it with your original selection, giving you a total of 14 different weapon combinations. For example, if you have 2 Flames, your weapon will simply become more powerful and have an increased range, but if you have 1 Flame and 1 Chaser, you will now have a heat-seeking flame-thrower.

Once you've selected your weapon, you are then taken to a level-select screen, allowing you to choose between the games 4 main levels. You can tackle these 4 levels in any order you'd like, as there is no benefit to beating them in a particular order. After taking care of the first 4 levels, you are then forced to play through the remaining levels in a set order. As I mentioned before, GH is a side-scrolling run 'n' gun, however the 5th level that you will play is a horizontally-scrolling shmup—a fun little diversion from the game's slightly repetitive formula.

While the game's main levels are a lot of fun to play, it's the frantic boss battles that have you dodging one attack after another—for several minutes each—that really set this game apart from it's peers. I suppose this should be expected, considering the fact that GH was developed by Treasure (Dynamite Headdy, Bangai-O, and Ikaruga). However, unlike other Treasure developed games that are incredibly difficult, Gunstar Heroes manages to present a good challenge while still feeling fair from star to finish. It's also a little less bizarre than the typical Treasure affair, but despite the lower degree of difficulty and lack of any mind-boggling craziness, GH still stands out as the cream of the crop when it comes to Treasure developed games, despite being the first title ever developed by the company.

Being a fairly late release in the Genesis' life span, Treasure was able to harness a majority of the power inside of Sega's 16-bit console. The soundtrack gets the job done as far as setting the atmosphere goes, but there isn't any one track that I can recall just 3 short days after completing the game. The graphics, on the other hand, are where the game truly shines in audio/visual department. The screen is constantly overflowing with explosions and enemy sprites and only suffers from a minimal amount of slow down in the process, which rarely becomes anything more than a slight distraction. The character animations are incredibly smooth and give the game a very polished feeling throughout. For a Genesis title, the visuals really don't get much better than this.

When all is said and done, Gunstar Heroes makes for an incredible 2-player experience that won't soon be forgotten. It is without a doubt a top-tier Genesis title and, like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, is quite possibly the best game that ever graced the Sega platform. GH is also a defining game in the run 'n' gun genre and possibly the greatest Treasure developed game to date, which is saying quite a lot. In other words, if you don't already own a copy of Gunstar Heroes, you need to do yourself a favor and pick up a cartridge off of ebay—or if collecting cartridges isn't your thing, then you can also download it from any of the 3 current generation console's downloadable services. There is absolutely no reason for any self-respecting gamer not to own this game!

Overall Score: 9.1/10 (This game is a must-own for anyone and everyone with even the slightest interest in video games...just be prepared to get owned by it a few times.)


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Castle of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse (GEN) Review

Not many people realize that this game is actually a first-party Sega title. Castle of Illusion was developed by Sega of Japan and released here in the States on November 20, 1990. It should come as no surprise that the premise of the game revolves around Mickey exploring this so-called Castle of Illusion in an attempt to rescue Minnie, who has been captured by the wicked witch Mizrabel. Mickey must collect the 7 gems that make up the colors of the rainbow in order to create a bridge that leads to his inevitable confrontation with Mizrabel—which happens to be an extremely anti-climactic encounter.

The game is your basic side-scrolling affair, albeit a very slow-paced one. Mickey leisurely strolls through the game's 5 levels, jumping over chasms and taking out a moderate amount of baddies along the way. Considering the fact that you can complete the game in under an hour, it is quite possible that this slow-pace was purposely implemented in order to lengthen the amount of time taken to complete the adventure. Whatever the reason, the sluggish—and sometimes slippery—controls make for a fairly unentertaining experience.

Mickey has two means of attack: jumping on his enemies or throwing marbles/apples at them. Throwing projectiles works exactly like you would expect it to, however jumping on your foes is a bit strange and takes some getting used to. You have to press the jump button twice—once to leave the ground and once to lift Mickey's legs, allowing him to land on enemies without taking any damage. Also, if you hold down the jump button while landing on an enemy, Mickey will be launched unreasonably high into the air, which can also take some getting used to—especially with the game's floaty controls.

Luckily, there are a handful of inventive level designs that save the game from being a complete bore-fest. In one of the later levels, Mickey is able to swim through the contents of a cup of tea, dodging sugar cubes that do their best to get in the way. Later in the same level, Mickey travels into the mouth of a milk jug that leads him to a candyland-esque world with a river of milk flooding the bottom of the screen. These lush environments and creative level designs keep the game interesting throughout, but the game's slow-as-molasses-pace still weighs down heavily on the game's overall enjoyment level.

As you might expect from a Disney-themed game, the visuals are quite endearing and the soundtrack, for the most part, fits right in with each level's mood. However, the soundtrack—while both lighthearted and joyful—tends to run at a constant tempo, causing the songs to bleed together and become monotonous by the time you get halfway through the game. The visuals on the other hand, despite some lackluster enemy designs, are extremely colorful and well-detailed. The backgrounds have some nice textures and the character animations are incredibly smooth. These two areas are the game's strongest points, but—as every old-school gamer knows—a game's aesthetics don't mean a thing if the core gameplay isn't there to back them up.

While Castle of Illusion does posses a handful of charming qualities along with some fairly inventive level designs, these things simply aren't enough to save the game from mediocrity. The slow, drab gameplay is too much for the positive aspects of the game to overcome. I've seen quite a few favorable reviews that score this game in the 8-9 range which is almost unbelievable to me. Being able to play through this game for the first time some 20 years after it's initial release, I was able to see it for what it really is, rather than what it was all those years ago—which is exactly what we try our best to do here at TTG Reviews in the first place.

Overall Score: 5.3/10 (Avid Disney fans will surely enjoy the charming soundtrack and gorgeous graphics that bring Mickey's world to life, but the core gameplay holds this game back from being a necessary addition to your Genesis collection.)


Here is a pretty funny commercial for the game raving about how great it is because it's 16-bit, which is quite humorous because the vast majority of Disney-themed NES games are far superior to this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

StarTropics (NES) Review

StarTropics is easily one of the most criminally overlooked games of all-time. Criticized by some for being a Zelda-clone, StarTropics borrows just about everything that made Miyamoto's masterpiece tick, and adds a handful of new elements to spice things up a bit. The journey begins on C-Island where you—Mike Jones, the ace pitcher from Seattle—discovers that his Uncle, an archaeologist referred to as "Dr. J," has been kidnapped by evil aliens. Mike must trek through 8 grueling chapters in order to rescue his abducted Uncle and save the world from Zoda, the alien responsible for his Uncle's disappearance.

As it was previously mentioned, there is a striking resemblance between StarTropics and The Legend of Zelda. The game is played from a top-down perspective with the camera placed fairly far away as you make your way from island to island via your Uncle's submarine, Sub-C. Once you hit dry land, the camera remains quite distant, but you are now traveling on foot in search of villages where you can question the locals. The overworlds look very similar to your typical NES RPGs (the mountains and trees are no bigger than you are), as do the towns. Once you make your way into one of the local settlements, you are forced to talk to just about every member of the community before you are granted access to the path you must follow in order to proceed to the next dungeon.

Once inside a dungeon, the camera is moved much closer than it was in the overworld segments, revealing Mike as a much larger sprite than he was before. Mike also gains the ability to attack inside of dungeons with the yo-yo that was given to him by the chief of Coralcola—the name of every town ends with "cola" for some odd reason. The yo-yo is upgraded twice during your quest allowing you to shoot projectiles from it at a greater distance as long as you have enough health—much like Link's ability to shoot his sword whenever his health meter is completely filled. These projectiles also do more damage than the regular yo-yo. Mike is also given a multitude of power-ups throughout the game's many dungeons including baseballs, baseball bats, shurikens, lazer guns, and more. Most of these additional weapons prove to be the most useful during the boss battles at the end of each dungeon. There are a few additional items for Mike to collect that have more particular purposes. For example, the Rod of Sight allows Mike to see ghosts where they would normally be invisible and the winged anklet allows Mike to jump one space further than normal.

StarTropics is one of the few top-down games that grants you the ability to jump and it is a very crucial element of the game's design. In some circumstances, Mike is only able to jump in place in order to avoid enemy attacks. However, on numerous occasions, Mike is presented with a series of blocks that he is able to jump on top of, allowing him to activate switches and progress through flooded regions of the dungeon. Some of these blocks will sink as soon as you touch them and others will even be submerged underwater until you take a leap of faith in their direction—if you watch your enemies closely, you'll occasionally see them land on the transparent blocks. Hopping around from block to block is a vital skill that you have to master if you want to conquer this game.

Although it is not visible, the game utilizes a grid that restricts Mike's movements to the four cardinal directions. This can be a bit frustrating at times as Mike seems to slide around on the grid causing his movements on the screen to occur slightly after you perform them on the D-pad. Luckily, there aren't too many sections that require you to make quick, precise movements, so this is only a minor concern that doesn't take too much away from your overall enjoyment of the game.

We'll start with the bad news first; the visuals. The graphics are extremely bland, especially in the overworld areas. Most of the colors are flat and there is too much repetition in the environments. It isn't until you board Zoda's spaceship in the 8th and final chapter that you are presented with an entirely unfamiliar location. On top of that, there are a number of times that Mike is meant to travel through a hole in the wall of a dungeon which can only be located by spotting a small shadow on the ground in front of it. These shadows are sometimes borderline-impossible to see and, regrettably, had me looking up youtube videos to figure out where I was supposed to go. While the graphics do exude a little bit of the charm found in games like Earthbound, it's simply not enough to offset the fairly uninspired and repetitive landscapes.

The soundtrack, on the other hand, is chock-full of stand out tunes that you'll be whistling for days to come after you've defeated the evil alien Zoda. Each of the tracks fits it's environment to a tee. While traversing through the overworld, you are treated to a perky, upbeat track that will have you exploring every inch of the island before you make your way down into the dungeon. Upon entering a dungeon, the music shifts to a slightly darker tone, helping to build up the intensity leading up to your encounter with the boss. There are maybe a dozen-or-so different songs in the game and not one of them disappoints.

While there are a couple of hinderances that keep StarTropics from being a top-tier NES title, this is still a must-own for any fan of action RPGs. The slippery controls in the dungeons are a little bothersome at first, but they will be virtually unnoticeable by the end of the second chapter, allowing you to fully enjoy the majority of the game. You may need to look at a walkthrough once or twice—especially in the final three chapters—if you get stuck, but it still doesn't take anything away from the sense of accomplishment you'll feel after beating the game. It's not overly difficult, but it provides a rewarding challenge for gamers of all ages. You owe it to yourself to play through StarTropics.

Overall Score: 8.0/10 (A great addition of any NES collection and a must-own for any fan of the action-RPG genre.)


Here's some footage of the first 10 minutes of the game...enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kirby's Adventure (NES) Review

Kirby's Adventure is easily one of my favorite games of all-time and is, without a doubt, my favorite NES game—yes, it even beats out Super Mario Bros. 3. Kirby's Adventure flirts with perfection from the moment the title screen "teaches" you how to draw the little pink puffball right up until the credits begin to roll upon completion of the game. Released only four days before Christmas, 1992, the developers at HAL Laboratories had the opportunity to unleash just about every ounce of power that the little gray box had to offer...and they did.

Those of you who've played any Kirby games that were released post-1992 will notice that the gameplay really hasn't changed very much, if at all, since the release of Kirby's Adventure. Kirby can walk/run, and jump—typical for side-scrolling platformers—however, Kirby's got a couple of tricks up his non-existent sleeves that set him apart from the crowd...

-1st: Kirby is able to fly for an infinite amount of time. This ability to soar through the air at will does make the game a bit of a walk in the park—almost completely nullifying the chances of falling down a bottomless pit—but it never takes away from the game's overall enjoyment, which is really the most important aspect of any game. If you're not having fun while you play, then what's the point?
-2nd: Kirby is able to ingest any of his opponents and copy their abilities—at least a dozen or so different ones—hanging onto them until he is struck by an attack from another foe. If this happens, there's no need to panic because Kirby can simply chase down the star that is expelled from his body once he takes damage in order to regain whatever ability has been temporarily lost. There are a handful of enemies with no abilities that will simply give you nothing if you swallow them, but they can still be fired out of your mouth in order to inflict some damage.

While there are truckloads of games that offer up a multitude of power-ups for their heroes, very few give you the capability of being able to give each of the games enemies a taste of their own medicine—which happens to be a very satisfying experience.

To put it simply, Kirby's Adventure has, arguably, the best graphics of any game in the massive NES library, as well as one of the most memorable soundtracks to ever grace the 8-bit console. There's an absolutely zero percent chance of playing through this game from start to finish without having at least 90% of the game's insanely catchy ditties ingrained in the back of your mind for the remainder of your waking life. Aside from the incredible quality of the perky tunes, what really sets the soundtrack apart is the number of tracks. It really is amazing how many songs they were able to cram onto this 6-megabit cartridge.

Adventure also sports a considerable amount of vibrant colors and adorable sprites that contribute to the game's sugary-sweet aura. The animations are extremely polished as well. Unfortunately, these beautiful graphics come with a price...severe slowdown. You haven't experienced slowdown until you've played through Kirby's Adventure. Any time that you have 3+ enemies on the screen—especially while Kirby is airborne—the screen will come to near-standstill (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it slows down A LOT). However, for whatever reason, it only adds to the game's intensity as you slowly weave your way through the more hectic patches in the game's 7 levels (each consisting of 5-6 sub-levels).

If, for whatever reason, you haven't had the chance to play through Kirby's Adventure at some point in your life, PLEASE do it now! Quite possibly the pinnacle of gaming in the 8-bit era, you really owe it to yourself to get your hands on at least one version of this game, whether it be the NES cartridge, Virtual Console download, or even the GBA remake, Nightmare in Dreamland. While you can probably beat the game in about 5 hours or so, the replay value is nearly endless and if you're a completionist like I am, there are tons of secrets for you to go back and find once you've completed the adventure—it even tells you the percentage of the game that you have completed next to each individual save file. Quit reading this and just go play the game already!

Overall Score: 9.5/10 (This game is an absolute masterpiece and is a necessary part of any NES collection)


Here is an original T.V. spot for Kirby's adventure...it really is funny how commercials have changed over the years. (Thanks to youtube user dacdillinger!)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pocky & Rocky (SNES) Review

Developed and published by Natsume (of Harvest Moon fame) in June of 1993, Pocky & Rocky is a largely undiscovered shmup in the SNES library. A scrolling shooter—both vertically and horizontally—played from an overhead perspective is obviously something that has been done numerous times before, however, Pocky & Rocky possesses a handful of charming qualities that set it apart from other games in the genre.

As previously stated, P&R is a scrolling shooter although, unlike typical shooters, the screen scrolls only as your character(s) (a young girl by the name of Pocky and a raccoon dog named Rocky...Beatles anyone?) move throughout the level. Another key difference is the fact that you are a person (or raccoon dog) on foot rather than some crazy gunship flying through space at mach speeds. This slight variation in gameplay from the norm gives P&R a very fresh feel as you, and possibly a friend (which is HIGHLY recommended by the way—this game is HARD) romp through the game's six levels.

The controls are very tight and responsive...if you die, nine times out of ten, it's your fault. You've got your basic attacks which include throwing projectiles (in this case, cards and leaves—which can be upgraded by picking up power-ups) at the hordes of enemies and waving a shield-like weapon (some type of wand or a raccoon dog tail, depending on your character selection) to parry away most of the "bullets" that the enemies will send your way. You also have a slide which allows you to quickly dive from one side of the screen to the other in order to avoid dodge attacks, primarily used during boss battles. You also begin each level with one bomb that essentially wipes out all of the on-screen baddies in one fell swoop, which definitely comes in handy on numerous occasions.

If you've ever played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. The sprites are smoothly animated and very colorful, as are a majority of the backgrounds. The game does suffer from a little bit of slowdown, but it's nothing that takes away from the overall experience, as this is common territory for games of this era. The soundtrack, while it gets the job done, isn't really anything to write home about. There's not a bad tune in the bunch, but the typical Japanese soundtrack lacks any stand out tracks, ensuring that you won't be humming any of the melodies to yourself the next day.

I'll be honest; after level three, I started breezing right through the tedious cut scenes that did nothing more than slow down the pace of the game. It's a shmup...the story is not important. Luckily, a simple push of the start button will skip the cutscene in it's entirety, allowing you to get back into the game in no time. If you'd like to follow along with the story of the Nopino Goblins, feel free, but don't say that I didn't warn you.

If you don't like games where you have to play through levels multiple times before you are able to conquer them, then I strongly encourage you to steer clear of this game. However, if you're looking for a good challenge that isn't going to have you scouring through ebay listings looking for replacement SNES controllers, look no further than Pocky & Rocky. It's a great game with a lot of character that supplies the sometimes-stagnant shmup genre with something that's just a little bit outside of the box.

Overall Score: 7.1/10 (A worthy addition to your SNES collection, but not necessarily a must have.)


Here's a video showing you the game's intro and the entire 1st level courtesy of PickHutHG (a youtube user).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Shape of Reviews to Come

Hello everyone,

my name is Kevin (K-Port66) and I am going to be using this blog to give you all a place to come for all of your reviewing needs. I am an avid video gamer (old school and new school) and I will be supplying both written and video reviews on this site for your reading/viewing pleasure.

At first, I am going to be focusing on bringing you reviews of games for the NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy (Color), Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, and Sega Dreamcast and will then move on to reviewing games for the Wii, DS, GBA, Gamecube, PS2, PS3, XBOX, and XBOX 360.

The main goal of this site is to give gamers a place to go for reliable and honest reviews of video games. I will try to be as unbiased as possible. For example, even though the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES is a great game and it paved the way for many platformers to come, it is not the greatest game of all-time as many sites like IGN would lead you to believe. It may be (arguably) the most influential, sure, but I am going to be reviewing games and considering how good they are now (how well they have held up over time) rather than reviewing them and factoring in the time of their release. Of course, I will comment on these things, and if a game was a great technical achievement for it's time, I won't take anything away from the game...but it won't be getting any bonus points for that fact is all that I'm trying to say...that probably took way too many words for me to get out, so sorry about that!

Anyways, I hope you'll all use this site as a source for all of your gaming needs. Take care!