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May 112016
 

As much as I enjoyed the Animaniacs TV series, why not try the video game based on it. In Animaniacs for the Super NES, Pinky and the Brain stole a movie script from Warner Bros. Studios as a means to take over the world. CEO Thaddeus Plotz assigns the Warner siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot to get it back. Of course it won’t be easy.

As you go through each stage focused on a particular genre (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Adventure, and Aquatic), before going up against Pinky and the Brain in the editing room, you fight your way past different obstacles and enemies, most of which cannot be killed. Mainly since the only attack any of the Warners have is a dash attack.

The most common enemy is Ralph the security guard. He may be bumbling on the show, but in this game he is hard to dodge. No matter how many times you dash attack Ralph, he will never let up. More importantly, if you don’t get Ralph at just the right angle, he will get you every time.

The Warners do have some other cool skills like the three of them can stack up onto each other’s shoulders to reach high platforms. However, my biggest concern is that the Warners cannot take any damage. After one hit, a Warner is captured and you have to start the stage all over with the others.

If the one-hit deaths aren’t bad enough, there are also stages where the screen moves too fast. If you miss even once, you’re faced with the same problem. The best example is at the beginning of the Fantasy Stage, where the Warners ride broomsticks past trees blocking the pathway. It’s just like the Turbo Tunnel on Battletoads, or the Quarry on the Cutthroat Island game. Those kinds of levels are frustrating if you’re not perfect.

As you collect coins, there are opportunities to get continues and other bonuses. However, it’s completely random as a slot machine automatically goes off while you play. The biggest flaw with having continues is that you don’t get to continue the level with all three Warners. You only get one and the only way to leave the stage is to get through it with one Warner. That doesn’t sound right.

On the plus side, there is an opportunity to get the captured Warners back by going up the water tower. You ride a platform up while dodging vultures and Ralph with a hose. You can get a glimpse of the Good Feathers on your way up.

Speaking of other characters, Animaniacs regulars like Mindy and Buttons, Rita and Runt, Dr. Scratchansniff, Hello Nurse, and the Mime make walkthrough appearances as you play, which is pretty neat.

Each area also has a boss, but they are also tough to get around even if you know the strategy to beat them. Some of the bosses include Count Dracula and Captain Mel, who were only featured in one episode.

Animaniacs is an interesting game with easy control and good music, but man is it hard. On top of constantly dodging fast enemies, you also have to search the stages for pieces of the movie script, which was separated into 24 pages. I liked the story behind the game, but I would rather watch the TV show for it has more laughs.

Jan 172014
 

If you had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine during the 80s and 90s, many gaming opportunities open up. In other words, it was the best way to explore the many different titles for the NES, Super NES, and Game Boy that are not among the more popular franchises. One such game is Joe and Mac for the Super NES.

Joe and Mac is a platform game that takes place in the Stone Age. Heroic cave men Joe and Mac must rescue a bunch of attractive cave women (a.k.a. cave babes) from a tribe of Neanderthals and dangerous dinosaurs. It is true that cave people and dinosaurs never actually coexisted, but there have been so many pop culture references that say otherwise. (The most common source is The Flintstones franchise.) However, it’s part of what makes cave people features so enjoyable.

Anyway, as you go through the game, you can find different items inside eggs to fight off enemies. You have a club to start with, then once you find another projectile weapon like bones, boomerangs, and stone wheels, there’s an endless supply. The most powerful is fire. Try to hold onto that one if you can.

The dinosaur bosses are cool. Once you understand the strategy, they’re pretty simple to fight. One thing I find peculiar is that some bosses actually have enemies come out during the battle. For example, the first boss is a T-Rex and Neanderthal enemies tumble out of its mouth to attack. Wouldn’t the T-Rex have tried to eat them as well as the heroes?

This game also has a huge thing for Pterodactyls since they’re in every level as regular enemies and two of the bosses are Pterodactyls also.

One boss I found a bit disturbing was the wooly mammoth in level six. As you fight the mammoth, its tusks break off, then it’s trunk. The result isn’t gory, but it might as well be.

The boss of the final level is a more advanced T-Rex, but it’s not over yet. Afterwards, you go inside its body. As the T-Rex’s heart beats you face… a demon? This really surprised me because there was no mention of a demon in this game before and it doesn’t really fit in this story.

In addition to that, it’s hard to tell when you defeat this final boss because he doesn’t have a life meter. All of the other bosses do, so why not this one?

I find this game very enjoyable, but I must confess. When I first saw Joe and Mac in Nintendo Power magazine, what really got me interested were the cave babes. After an exciting boss battle, a pretty cave girl gives the hero a kiss. It’s totally worth it just to see that.

Oct 292013
 

Okay, let’s review. So far I have talked about the original Castlevania game, its RPG sequel, and the prequel/sequel. Now comes the first installment to come to the Super NES, Super Castlevania 4. Simon Belmont is back and so is Dracula, but this time things are different and I’m not talking about the task of every Castlevania game.

I have mentioned this game before on a couple of my top 10 lists. Now I intend to expand on why I think Castlevania 4 is such a masterpiece. Let’s start with the graphics. It has everything from eerie mist over the cemetery to creepy areas with several backgrounds. I know it doesn’t sound like much compared to today’s standards, but for its time, especially if you grew up playing the original Castlevania trilogy, you will definitely see it as a major improvement.

Speaking of improvements, one thing that has really improved is the game play control. Simon can use his whip in eight directions just by where you aim the directional pad and you don’t have to press “Up” to use a special weapon. I guess it’s because there are more buttons to spare on the Super NES controller than on the original NES controller. It’s also cool that you can swing the whip around while holding the button.

You can also swing on anchors to get to other platforms, which did take some getting used to once I figured out what they were and what they’re good for.

I’d also like to point out that you can actually jump onto the stairs and not have to be on the ground just to get onto them like before. You can also drop down from the stairs just as easily. It’s definitely an improvement, especially in Stage B-2 because the stairs are in midair and they give way. You also have to be quick while dodging a flying spiked wheel from below that kills you in one hit.

Many of the same enemies from earlier Castlevania games return, but are more graphical and feature a cool effect, especially the skeletons that explode when whipped. It never gets old. Oddly, in later stages the enemies are stronger, but at least they don’t kill you as quickly.

The bosses are even more graphical. Some of the common ones return, like Frankenstein’s monster and Medusa, but there are many new bosses also. I know Castlevania features classic horror monsters and creatures from Greek Mythology. The most common is Medusa, but this one also includes the Orphic Vipers that were based on the hydra.

The newer original bosses that are cool and graphical include the dancing specters, Koranot the rock monster, the Zapf Bat which is made out of deadly coins and jewels, and Puwexil the giant skull with a slithery tongue.

This is also the first Castlevania game to have voice acting. However, the only times that occurs is when Simon takes damage or falls into a pit. Some enemies have voices too, but are also limited in the same manner.

Then we have Dracula, but first you have to get past three bosses to get to him, Slogra the bird man, a gargoyle, and the Grim Reaper. You can’t have a Castlevania game without the Grim Reaper. Not to worry, there’s actually a separate password for each of the Stage B-3 bosses, so you can start at any of them. That’s another major improvement.

This is definitely one of the greatest Castlevania games I have ever played. It has excellent game play, cool horror theme levels, and an awesome soundtrack that uses upbeat and creepy music to set the mood. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t have even considered getting this game at all if it weren’t for that old Gamepro TV series that showed how to defeat Dracula and the password to get to him, not to mention that there’s an invisible platform near the stairway that instantly stocks you up. Even though Dracula was easier than on Castlevania 3, it was still very helpful.

There you have it, the original Castlevania games that were the start of a highly popular franchise. Many other Castlevania games came afterward, but like other classic franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, it goes in many different directions, so there’s really no chance of a Castlevania 5 game, but that’s okay. These four will always be among the classic video games I grew up with as all time favorites. Happy Halloween!

Apr 262013
 

Rocky Rodent is a dine and dash character, who loves good food and has the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog. Unfortunately, Rocky has no money, so he’s always chased out while trying to sneak a snack. His life starts to change in this Super NES adventure.

One day, the owner of the Rose Restaurant, which is Rocky’s favorite eatery, is in trouble with the Mafia. He failed to pay protection money and as a result, his daughter Melody gets kidnapped by mobsters led by Don Garcia. The owner decides to make a deal with Rocky. In exchange for Melody’s safe return, Rocky will get all the free food he can eat. That’s quite a deal.

In addition to Rocky’s speed, he also acquires power-ups throughout his quest that gives him killer hair, literally speaking. Rocky’s different hairstyles can help him climb platforms and fight enemies.

There are also similarities with Super Mario Bros. in this game. Rocky can stomp on enemies and defeat bosses with three hits on average. However, if an enemy touches Rocky, he loses his power hair and another hit kills him.

Some of the levels are exciting, but sometimes you might need a map to find your way through. For example, in the Ghost Apartment stage, the object is to search through the maze of rooms for the goal. To add to the challenge, some doors are held shut from the other side. Don’t you just hate one-way rooms?

I enjoyed this game for its excitement and adventure. Who would have thought that hairstyles could be such an amazing addition to a rodent’s agility. No one can use them like Rocky.

Mar 152013
 

Highly skilled warriors have always been both inspirational and interesting heroes in pop culture. From martial artists to “chosen ones” with special powers, these ladies really make an impression with their amazing skills. Here are some of my favorites, who I find fascinating.

#10) Red Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen) from Red Sonja: This warrior is not only highly skilled with a sword, but also has an amazing jumping ability. I like to think of Sonja as a pre-Xena kind of warrior woman, even though she is difficult, especially when it comes to winning her heart by defeating her in a fair fight.

#9) Yim Wing Chun (Michelle Yeoh) from Wing Chun: Now here’s a martial artist like no other. She not only has fast reflexes, some of which are highly exaggerated, but also has a comedic wit. Wing Chun makes all of her fight moves look so smooth and easy that not even the toughest bandits can touch her. Her only limit is that she never kills. She only toys with her foes. It’s all part of what makes Wing Chun a big favorite of mine.

#8) Alice (Milla Jovovich) from Resident Evil films: Amazing combat skills and smooth moves are what make her the hottest heroine in the franchise. Whenever faced with ravenous zombies, mutant canines, or other dangerous beasts, Alice will fight it. Alice’s abilities are so extraordinary that Umbrella Corp decided to make many clones of her, which keep getting killed in their deadly obstacle course. It just seems so wasteful.

#7) Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: She was once a high school cheerleader, only to receive the strength and skill of a type of warrior called the slayer. Now Buffy spends much of her spare time battling evil supernatural beings from vampires to demons and sometimes the rebellious slayer Faith with her martial arts and comedic wit. Luckily, Buffy never has to fight alone.

#6) Helen (Gina Torres) from Cleopatra 2525: She leads the trio of freedom fighters and is the only one who can communicate with the anonymous Voice because of the receptor inside her ear. Helen is a courageous fighter, but has a personal grudge against Creegan for murdering her father. Whenever Helen faces Creegan she struggles to stay focused on the task at hand. Luckily, her teammates Sarge and Cleo are always there to watch her back.

#5) Princess Amelia (Amber Benson) from Attack of the Gryphon: She is the princess of Lockland and a noble leader. Whatever the adversary, man or beast, Amelia shows no fear, especially when there’s a task. I admire her devotion, but she hardly ever loosens up. I wonder what Amelia does on her leisure time when she’s not fighting battles, or going on quests to save her kingdom.

#4) Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a. the Bride (Uma Thurman) from Kill Bill: She was a trained assassin specialized with any kind of weapon. When Beatrix decides to give up that lifestyle, she gets hunted down and nearly killed by Bill, her lover and sensei. Although Beatrix’s main focus is revenge, I sure admire her will power. Even against overwhelming odds, she never lets up.

#3) Chun-Li from Street Fighter franchise: Ever since her first appearance on the Street Fighter 2 Super NES video game, Chun-Li has always been a huge favorite in the franchise with her jumping skill, powerful kicking moves, and sex appeal. There have been at least several versions of Chun-Li over the years, but her story is always the same. She didn’t become a street fighter for personal glory. Chun-Li merely wants revenge on Bison for her father’s murder. Here are a few of my favorite movie versions.

Street Fighter: Ming Na plays the role as a reporter covering the war in Shadowloo, but also goes undercover in an attempt to take her revenge.

Street Fighter 2 the Animated Movie: In this Anime film, Chun-Li is an Interpol agent. She has the same grudge against Bison, but always keeps a clear head because she knows that duty comes before personal feelings.

Street Fighter the Legend of Chun-Li: The most recent version played by Kristin Kreuk features more of Chun-Li’s background, including how she learns to use the Hado fireball from later Street Fighter video games.

#2) Xena (Lucy Lawless) from Xena Warrior Princess: She was once a dangerous warlord, but thanks to Hercules she now uses the many skills she developed over the years to become a heroic warrior. Like Hercules, Xena travels around helping others in need while making up for a lifetime of evil. Some of her fighting moves are highly exaggerated, but I admire her strength because even while Xena is vulnerable, she can still kick butt easily.

#1) Charmed Ones from Charmed: If there’s one team of women that deserve to be on top, it’s the Halliwell sisters.

Prue (Shannen Doherty) is the courageous leader. Combined with her telekinetic powers, I definitely see Prue worthy of the title Noble Warrior.

Piper (Holly Marie Combs) has the power to freeze anything in its place. Her powers eventually expand with the ability to blow up enemies. Of course it’s really Piper’s comedic persona, which usually comes from being irritated, that makes her a big favorite.

Phoebe’s (Alyssa Milano) power is only limited to premonitions, but don’t underestimate her. Phoebe’s martial art skills always pack quite a punch in battle.

Then there’s Paige (Rose McGowan), who is half witch and half white lighter. Her telekinetic power is different from Prue’s, but still just as useful in battle. It’s also neat that Paige can orb anywhere at anytime, which gives the Charmed ones more of an edge.