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