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Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 20

Sunday, November 13, 2011 - 6:30 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: X-Men
Platform: Arcade (via XBox Live Arcade)
Year: 1992

With the rage surrounding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game subsiding, the next big thing to hit the local arcade was X-Men: The Arcade Game. Finally, a worthy video game adaptation of Marvel's mighty mutants! Craig and I were both big X-Men fans (as usual, I became a fan due to the corrupting influence of my older brother), but their video game outings up until that point had either been terrible or unbeatable. (Or both, in the case of Marvel's X-Men on NES.) In fact, the two X-Men games on NES are so bad that the Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed both games in one episode. (Though I liked Wolverine a lot more than he did.)

X-Men was the biggest, baddest arcade beat 'em up Craig and I had ever seen. The game has six playable characters (Cyclops, Colossus, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Wolverine), and the original X-Men arcade machine had six player control panels, which meant all six characters could be in play at the same time. Previous games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that allowed four simultaneous players were suddenly unextraordinary. Plus, the 6-player arcade cabinet was so big that it could accommodate two screens side-by-side, giving the players a widescreen view of the action. Later on, it became common to also see both 4-player and 2-player X-MEN cabinets with just one screen, but nothing could compare to the awesome, 6-screen original cabinet. The only disadvantage was that the cabinet was too tall, and the screens were set too far back for an 8-year-old to easily see. However, a stool was made available to me, and I begrudgingly accepted.

The Blob lifts one of the players to hurl him across the room. Expect this to happen a hundred times over the course of the battle.

Storm kicks 'em when they're down.

However, my earliest memories of playing X-Men are far less magical than those of the awe-inspring cabinet. We entered Tilt, the arcade in the local mall, set on playing X-Men, but two or three players already had a game in progress. I wouldn't be surprised if Craig had to pull some strings and do some serious negotiating with the other players to get his little-brother-who-needed-the-stool on board with them, but I was allowed to play. I remember playing as Cyclops, missing with my optic blasts, and getting psionically crushed by the White Queen. The next memory I have is of playing as Storm and falling off a cliff.

As you may have guessed, my first experience with X-Men wasn't much of a contribution in the battle against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But I pumped a Scrooge McDuck's money vault worth of quarters into X-Men machines across the area, and I eventually got pretty good at it. The first time I beat the game was at the Jackson Bowling Lanes, circa 1998 or so. That would end up being the only time I ever beat the game in the arcade, and one of the only times I've ever beaten any game in the arcade.

X-Men had everything. There were fun characters based on some of my favorite superheroes, cool bosses, addictive gameplay, excellent music typical of Konami games, and the always-satisfying ability to punch, kick, and use mutant powers on everything in site. But there was one thing X-Men didn't have--a port on a home console like Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. Why not? Ninja Turtles had one. Turtles in Time had one. Where was the home version of X-Men? (The same question was also asked about The Simpsons arcade game, which was also strangely missing from home consoles).

Fortunately, XBox Live Arcade finally delivered a home version of X-Men to ravenous, classic arcade superhero beat 'em up fans everywhere late last year. At last, some old memories could be re-lived, Sentinels could be smashed in the comfort of my own home, and Craig and I could die 17 times fighting Juggernaut together, despite living 400 miles apart.

X-Men is a pretty simple game--Magneto and those loyal to him try to take over the world, and it's up to Professor Xavier's gifted youngsters to "go and save the city!" (And the rest of the world, too, I guess.) It's up to the X-Men to plow through every bad guy in site, rescue Professor X and Kitty Pryde on their way, finally catch up to Magneto at his Asteroid M headquarters, and put a stop to his misguided ways.

Controls are the norm for this type of game--you have an attack button, a jump button, and a mutant power button that unleashes a devastating attack that works well against bosses or thinning out large crowds of enemies. The attack button does a number of things, depending on your X-Man's position and nearness to an enemy. Your character might punch, kick, throw, or otherwise infict damage on the baddies. You can also beat up bad guys lying on the ground after knocking them down, giving you the chance to eliminate them before they can get back up and continue the fight.

X-Men is overwhelmingly fun, but it wouldn't be a classic arcade beat 'em up without being insanely difficult. The crowds of enemies are overwhelming at times, and Pyro is the only boss I've ever been able to beat without dying. Much like in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the bosses don't seem to have any set patterns or other means of allowing you to beat on them without multiple lives being lost. While the game is great, it suffers from being designed to suck as many quarters out of its players as possible. The fight against Magneto is ludicrous--your character can barely move, much less attack, without being scrambled by Magneto's energy blasts every three seconds.

The only other downside to this game is the voice work. The classic Magneto line, "X-Men! die!" has been mocked over and over again, but there are some other comically bad lines, as well. Magneto taunts you throughout the final battle, screaming combinations of "die," "you're dead," and "X-Chicken" over and over again. Earlier in the game, Xavier, ever the wordsmith and inspirational speaker, gives you this helpful tidbit of information: "Thank you, X-Men. Magneto is over there."

Over there?! That's it?!

Fortunately, the negatives cannot bring down what has become a classic arcade experience. The XBLA version is well done and quite faithful to the original, so if you missed it in the arcades or want to relive childhood memories, I highly recommend giving it a whirl.

Brian's Rating: 8.5/10

[Game images courtesy of GameFAQs. Cabinet image courtesty of Ars Technica.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 19

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 7:05 AM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Braid
Platform: PC
Year: 2008

I've been dreading this review for quite some time. Braid is such a mix of elements that I'm not really sure how to approach reviewing the game, or even how I feel about it. Braid made me feel like the dumbest human on the planet on multiple occasions, so it's only natural that I found the whole experience pretty confusing. On the plus side, I think writing about Braid may help me know for sure what I think.

Braid is the story of Tim (which naturally kept making me feel like the character in the game was my actual friend Tim, which is not the case), a guy we learn about by reading a series of books at the beginning of each world. The story is kept pretty vague, but we do learn that Tim is attempting to rescue a princess that was captured by a monster. Tim and the princess shared a relationship, but Tim made some mistakes along the way, causing the princess to grow more and more distant from him. Perhaps saving the princess will set things right? Will she forgive Tim? Will Tim move to New York and embark on a successful career in theater? (Oh, sorry--again, that last part is about my actual friend Tim.)

Jump into pit, kill that bad guy, get that key back out of pit. One of the easiest puzzles in the game. I don't think a simple screenshot would do any of the other puzzles in the game justice.

Seems like I've seen this before somewhere else....

Braid combines sidescrolling platforming and a lot of ingenious, yet mind-flaying puzzles. As hinted at in the narrative through many references to time and a yearning to correct the mistakes of the past, Tim has the ability to manipulate time. He starts with the ability to reverse time, which is helpful if you are killed by an enemy or fall into a giant hole--simply rewind to a point in time before you made such a foolish mistake, and try to do things right this time.

Sounds easy enough, right? Make a mistake? Just rewind and try again. However, after the first few levels, more varieties of time manipulation are introduced, and solving puzzles begins to require clever combinations of rewind and other elements. For example, glowing green items are not affected by the manipulation of time. If Tim sees a glowing green key at the bottom of a deep pit, he can jump into the pit, grab the key, and then rewind to get back out. Normally, since time was rewound, the key will return to the bottom of the pit, as time was rewound to a point before Tim grabbed the key. But, if the key is GLOWING GREEN, it is not affected by the rewinding of time, and will it come out of the pit with Tim when time is rewound to a point before Tim jumped in the pit. It is extremely difficult to explain in words, but I think I've laid it out as well as I can.

And that's a rather simple example of the many, many, many complex puzzles Braid throws at you. At the beginning of each world, when a new type of time manipulation was introduced, I struggled to the point of giving up. In fact, I did give up a couple of times. I started playing Braid in December of 2009, and didn't beat it until July or August of this year.

Eventually, I came to find that Braid appropriately requires a lot of time and patience. The game's ambiguous message about forgiveness and learning from mistakes plays into the way you have to play the game. Each world required an adjustment in gameplay as I re-trained myself to play with a new set of time-altering rules. With the proper patience, I was finally able to traverse each world and find all of the puzzle pieces along the way. Often it was clumsily so, often I had to literally talk my way through a level, and often I had to yell and smash things in the office. But with the right amount of patience, I was able to take care of business. So many of the puzzles were so well done that I was deeply frustrated the majority of my time with this game. (Albeit the good type of deep frustration, the kind that goes with solving any challenging puzzle).

Anyone familiar with Braid knows that I can't properly review this game without covering the story. I know people still playing through this game, so I won't spoil anything. Other than what I previously mentioned about forgiveness and learning from mistakes, there are a lot of hints and theories as to a theme or allegory in Braid, including the game as a commentary on the games industry as a whole, and even as an interpretation of the development and dropping of the atomic bomb. Even though I studied English in college and learned a lot about literary analysis and finding and discussing meaning in a piece of work, I'm not very good at it when a grade isn't at stake, and rarely do that sort of thing when it comes to works I take in solely for entertainment. Therefore, trying to find a theme or reason behind Braid was the least of my concerns as I shouted disturbing obscenities and threw the cat across the room trying to solve puzzles. As with any story, you'll have to develop your own interpretation, as it could go any number of ways.

Overall, Braid was worth the time I put into it. I don't normally play games that require this much puzzle-solving, and even though I gave up on it on numerous occasions, I was overjoyed that I was able to eventually solve every puzzle on my own. After feeling like the dumbest human on the planet so many times, beating the game gave me an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. While the narrative and subject matter are pretty artsy and pretentious at times, Braid does not suffer overall. Not my favorite game ever, but I won't deny that it's good, and it's worth a playthrough just to witness some of the insane puzzles involved. Recommended for fans of puzzle games, masochists, and hipsters. Avoid otherwise.

Brian's Rating: 7/10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 18

Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 10:00 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Year: 2010

I promise that I actually play more than just XBox Live games, despite the fact that this essay is the fourth consecutive "Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games" entry detailing an Xbox Live game. I suddenly came to the realization that I had a slew of XBox Live games piled up waiting to be reviewed, and they are pulling their weight in providing content for game write-ups while I plug away at some longer titles in the meantime.

You may recall that I discussed the original Pac-Man CE and the hold it had on me in an entry early last year. While the original game's mesmerizing quality has diminished somewhat, I still give it a go at least once a week, trying in vain to beat the same impossibly high score I set a number of years ago. It makes me wonder how obsessive I must have been when I set the high score, as the scores I get these days, picking up the game once or twice a week, don't even come close to my high score of 420,000-something. These days, my scores are usually somewhere in the 320,000-380,000 range, so I'm way off. It's possible I'll never get back to the 400,000s, but I'll probably never stop trying.

A drunken conga line of ghosts follows Pac-Man as he zeroes in on a power pellet. Oops.

If the game isn't difficult enough for you as it is, one of the themes has you navigating the maze in the dark. Have fun!

Of course, because one super-addictive Pac-Man game wasn't enough, Namco-Bandai had to go and release another dot-munching, ghost-chomping bazaar in the form of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, the successor to the original reason I bought an XBox 360 in the first place. If I haven't made it obvious enough, I can't ignore a good Pac-Man game, and scooped up this deluxe installment the week of its release. But could Pac-Man CE DX live up to its predecessor and provide the same awesome replayability and dangerous addictiveness?

The goal, much like every good Pac-Man game ever made, is to score as many points as possible in the time/lives alotted. However, the twist in Pac-Man CE DX is that there are sleeping ghosts scattered around the board. When Pac-Man gets too close to the sleeping ghosts, they wake up and start to chase Pac-Man, forming what Greg Leahy of Nintendo World Report referred to as "a conga line of ghosts" that follows Pac-Man around the board. Navigating the board with 200 ghosts on your tail is risky business, of course, but if you can nab a power pellet and consume those 200 ghosts, it means huge points, and presents the perfect excuse for the player to obsessively plan and strategize and (repeatedly) test the best routes for picking up as many ghosts as the player can handle before snapping up a power pellet and devouring them all in one swift wakka-wakka.

At first, I was skeptical of this new dynamic. I thought it was a gimmicky addition that took too much away from Pac-Man CE's intense, arcade-style gameplay. It introduced too much emphasis on simply getting an outrageous high score by eating an absurd number of mindless, easy to manipulate, drone-like ghosts, taking away the focus and challenge of outwitting just four extremely cunning ghosts that made Pac-Man CE so wretchedly difficulty for me to pry myself away from. It does succeed in giving the player the means to really rack up the points--while world record scores on Pac-Man CE have never gotten higher than around 620,000, scores in DX can easily eclipse one million. Not only that, the game actually slows down when a ghost gets too close to you, giving you precious extra time to analyze the situation and escape by either changing direction or using a bomb (another addition to DX), which blasts all of the ghosts back to the ghost hole in the middle of the board. (The official nomenclature escapes me.) In short, I was afraid the game might be too easy, or at least give the player too many advantages.

Well, I ended up being partially right to question the changes to the formula. DX has never quite captured my attention in the way Pac-Man CE has, but that in no way means it's a bad game, and I should have known better than to think the detractions might give me reason not to play the game. In fact, as an avid Pac-Man fan, DX has been a welcome addition to my library. It just took me a little while to accept that this game is NOT Pac-Man CE, and requires its own strategies and frame of mind to enjoy. On top of that, it's not too easy--you're going to be thanking the heavens for those bombs and slowdown when you're a few thousand points away from topping your high score with six seconds left on the clock.

As far as the conga lines of ghosts go, they're not as much of a distraction as I thought they'd be, and the science of building as long of a conga line as possible before giving in and eating them all is like a game within the game. According to my XBLA rankings, proper ghost comboing is a skill I have yet to master.

In addition to being a fun and challenging game, DX also features a variety of play modes and themes, each with its own high score leaderboard to keep you coming back. Each theme has its own music and graphical style (ranging from Atari 2600-style graphics to the smooth, glasslike mazes of the modern day), as well as a set of challenges that include time trials, score attack, and ghost combo (a test to see how many ghosts you can eat before your power pellet expires). There are leaderboards and rankings for each challenge, as well as an overall ranking for each theme, and an overall ranking for the entire game. With such a wide range of challenges, there is always some means, some area where I can improve, that will benefit my rankings, which helps the game's replayability skyrocket. The only downside is that with so many play options, it can at times be difficult to focus on what I actually want to accomplish in the game on a given day. Although, that may be a good problem for a game to have.

While Pac-Man CE DX has never quite felt as pure and consuming and right as the original Pac-Man CE, it has its perks, and is just as guilty of consuming whole evenings as its predecessor. (Though perhaps with more conga lines.) Fans of Pac-Man or infuriating arcade games will have a blast with this one. Recommended.

Brian's Rating: 8/10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 17

Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 10:58 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Assault Heroes
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Year: 2006

This was one of the first games I ever played on XBox Live Arcade, along with Geometry Wars and Pac-Man: CE, on that fateful weekend at my brother's house that prompted me to go out and buy my own XBox 360 as soon as funds possibly allowed. It was the first trip I took to Chicago on my own, and it had in fact been so long since my last visit that my brother and sister-in-law had actually spent several years in an apartment that I never saw. However, when I finally drove the long and unforgiving 6 hours up Interstate 55 and had one of the best times I'd had in recent memory, the trek to Chicago to visit my brother and sister-in-law became an annual tradition, forged in the same vein as mine and Craig's new tradition of meeting once a week to trounce enemies on Xbox Live. (Except when we play Smash TV, in which case we get trounced.)

In the case of Assault Heroes, the trouncing is frequent and plentiful, and we found that a conservative playstyle kept us alive for a very long time. Assault Heroes is a twin-stick shooter (left stick moves, right stick shoots, in the same style as Robotron: 2084 or the aforementioned Smash TV) in which you command an all-terrain vehicle with a mini gun, flak cannon, and flamethrower mounted to the top. The ATV can toggle between all three guns at any given time, and also has access to grenades (which can bust bunkers and quickly dispatch armored enemies) and nukes (screen-clearing bombs that can help the player out of a tight spot). You can also pick up upgrades for your three main guns, as well as a missile launcher, a temporary invincibility shield, repair kits, and score bonuses. Each gun deals tons of damage, but each has its specific purpose: the flamethrower takes down infantry fast, but does little damage to armored units; the flak cannon blasts through armor, but is slow and difficult to use against small, fast-moving targets; and the minigun is a good all-around weapon, but does not excel in any capacity except delivering small amounts of damage to a lot of targets quickly.

The majority of Level 2 forces you to outrun a giant walker with twin mini guns.

The end boss of Level 1 is a wall. Yes, a wall. With lots of guns on it. It's far less dull than you might think.

I don't really remember the plot, but it's pretty thin. I think it was something about an experimental weapons program gone haywire, so the government sends in two 4-wheelers to clean up--a more than reasonable premise to build a video game around, don't you think? Standing in the way of the core of the weapons program are standard infantry, suicide bomber infantry (which run blindly toward you screaming a Xena-like battle cry), tanks, planes, helicopters, walkers, guys with rocket launchers, mine-layers, motorcycles, and a variety of bosses that look like something Cobra themselves might contrive--a giant mechanical spider, a giant mechanical crab, a train bristling with lasers and rocket launchers, a massive walking tank, a big wall with guns all over it, and others. The adventure culminates in a final battle with the brain core, a big robot wired to a central computer that boasts a variety of attacks ranging from summoning mechanical bees to transforming into a big bowling ball that tries to roll you over. The bosses are proof that this game is all about fun, sacrificing realism for absurd and colorful machinations that make for memorable combat experiences.

In addition to the 4-wheelers, Assault Heroes also features on-foot sequences. Your vehicle can be destroyed, leaving you to take on the enemy with just a machine gun and basically no armor when compared to your ATV. You can only take a few hits on foot before losing a life. Fortunately, if you can hold out long enough, headquarters will reinforce you with a replacement 4-wheeler. There are also some items in tight spots that can only be reached if you disembark from your vehicle, and the game also features a number of underground facilities that can only be traversed on foot. If you can survive these facilities, you are rewarded with a 1-up before returning to the surface. There's also a level in which you pilot a boat instead of an ATV, which is a nice touch and adds a little bit of variety.

The core gameplay of Assault Heroes focuses simply on blowing lots of stuff up, which is undeniably satisfying. However, the game leaves something to be desired as far as difficulty is concerned. On normal difficulty, Craig and I were able to plow through the entire game with only one "Game Over" until we reached the end, which has a timed escape sequence that took us a couple of tries to complete. Aside from that hiccup, we were able to breeze through all opposition simply by taking it slow, letting enemies come to us, and properly managing our weapons. The game itself has a pretty casual pace, as well--the screen does scroll on its own, but typically gave us plenty of time to lay waste to the enemy legions. In fact, there are many cases in each level in which the scrolling stops altogether, usually to accommodate an event like enemy tanks crashing through the undergrowth to ambush you, or giving you time to destroy enough helicopters to cause a big metal gate to open up. Your health also regenerates on its own if you go long enough without taking damage, which makes things that much easier. Not to say that playing a sort-of easy game every now and then isn't welcome--it's just not what I was expecting from an arcade-style shooter like this. On the other hand, I've also played this game with my nephews, and the lesser difficulty does make for a very fun experience for them, so it's certainly not all bad.

Most importantly, and regardless of difficulty, Assault Heroes does have the fun factor overall. Because of the casual pace, however, it does seem to drag from time to time between action sequences. You'll be spending a lot more time in frantic firefights, blowing up tanks and enemy gun towers, and dodging the bosses' death rays than you will just driving along peacefully, but there are some noticeable lulls in activity.

If you're a fan of overhead, arcade-style shooters, Assault Heroes is worth a look. Aside from some pacing and balance issues, I have no big complaints. Plus, you can't deny the fun of fighting a big robot spider or taking a fully upgraded flamethrower to a swarm of screaming suicide bombers. You'll have a good time with it, and younger kids will probably appreciate it, as well. Not an epic video game experience, but a nice aside to break out from time to time. Mildly recommended.

Brian's Rating: 6.5/10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 16

Friday, July 22, 2011 - 11:40 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Platform: Arcade (by way of XBox Live Arcade)
Year: 1989

Man, I've reviewed a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. Out of sixteen total reviews, this is the third TMNT game. I guess I know a quality franchise when I see one.

This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, however, holds special significance. When I was six years old, this game was the arcade, this legendary Ninja Turtles video game in which all four turtles could be in action at the same time (something my NES and Atari 2600 certainly couldn't do), in which the turtles had to fight Bebop and Rocksteady at the same time, in which apparently Shredder was at the end, but nobody knew for sure because nobody had made it that far yet.

One satisfying element of this game? Chucking foot soldiers across the screen.

Right about here, you know that you're in for one hell of a fight.

Not surprisingly, it is not uncommon for General Traag to treat the Turtles much in the same way he just treated that door.

A subtle, but comical detail I never noticed while playing: Krang is mimicking the motion of his robot body. What great attention to detail by the game designers!

Yes, this game was the Holy Grail of the arcade. Forget Pac-Man, forget Double Dragon, THIS was the reason people were going to the arcade, to the movie theater, and to Pizza Hut to play video games. Unfortunately, I could not--I was six. I didn't have any money. My parents didn't have any money. The best I could do was watch my brother play.

No, seriously, that was the best I could do. I was too short to see the screen, so I just had to watch him as the memorable boss battle tune raged on.

Luckily, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was eventually ported to the NES, so I had a chance to play it for myself. It was everything I had hoped it would be--tons of action, the choice of all four turtles, destroying legions of foot soldiers, a jump kick you can literally ride throughout the entire game, and it had a code for 10 lives!

However, when I again encountered the arcade game at the Jackson bowling lanes (this time with the necessary height to play), I found that the arcade version differed from the NES version in many ways. While the games are similar, each has its own feel and requires its own approach to playing. Combat and hit detection function a little differently, the enemy selection is not quite the same, and the NES game has two additional levels not in the arcade version. Truly, the original arcade game felt like a completely different game from the NES version I had previously encountered--not better or worse, just different.

The truth of the matter was that it was an arcade game, an inherently less forgiving beast than a mere console game. It was designed to obliterate and humiliate the player, gorging on quarters while subjecting the Ninja Turtles to overwhelming, and at times nearly unstoppable, odds. It seems as though the more quarters you feed into the glowing slot, the tougher the opposition becomes. It wasn't until several years later, at Chuck E. Cheese, I believe, that I beat the arcade version of the game with three of my friends in tow as the other three turtles, providing a major assist. Although, my memory of this is vague, and it's possible that I was just watching four of my friends beat it.

Anyway, years went by without playing the actual arcade version, except maybe once or twice, on the off chance that I found the cabinet in a hotel game room on vacation. And in those cases, I came nowhere near beating it.

Luckily, the game appeared on XBox Live Arcade a few years ago, and as my brother and I continue to uphold our new tradition of joining forces once a week to take on the forces of evil via XBox Live arcade, it was only a matter of time before we set our sights on sending Krang and Shredder back to Dimension X.

I must say, I thought our combined strength would make the game a breeze. It did not, and we were in for quite a number of attempts.

Why, you ask? Well, the co-op mode on XBLA gives you 20 lives each to beat the game. You might say to yourself, "20 lives? That many? No problem!" That's what I thought, too. However, we came to find that no matter how good we got at the game, we burned through lives at an alarming rate. Perhaps teamwork is something we need to work on. While we didn't really have an issue with managing who should get the health-restoring pizzas at the proper times (except in cases in which a bad guy would knock the healthier turtle into the pizza, drawing groans from each of us), I think I occasionally get too kill-happy and worry about killing as many bad guys as possible when I should be bailing Craig out of a jam. Instead, I take on the regular unarmed foot soldiers on one end of the screen while Craig gets slaughtered by four or five spear-wielding foot soldiers (by far the worst of all foot soldier varieties) on the other end of the screen. Good job, Brian.

Speaking of spear-wielding foot soldiers, there are four or five varieties of enemies in this game that will take you from full health to dead in about five seconds. There are the aforementioned spear-wielding foot soldiers, who just stick you over and over again, and their spear seems to have priority over any attack the Turtles can muster. There are machine-gun foot soldiers, who pretty much do the same thing as the spear-wielders, except with a machine gun. There are fan-wielding foot soldiers who emit a hard-to-dodge ring-laser when they wave their fan at you. Lastly, during the skateboarding segment, there are foot soldiers in helicopters that either blast you with machine-guns, or drop bombs on you. The helicopters are very difficult to hit (even when you are lined up properly with them), and they fire so quickly that you can't get close enough to them to attack without getting shredded by their suppressive fire. Craig and I were probably losing four or five lives a piece on the skateboarding level alone, as you're up against the helicopters, machine-gun foot soldiers, and fan-waving foot soldiers. At the end of the level, the Turtle Van picks you up. Gee, it would have been nice if the Turtle Van had shown up about three minutes earlier and just ran over all of those stupid foot soldiers.

And if those bad guys weren't bad enough, the bosses in this game are murder. Most of them follow the classic arcade beat-em-up pattern of being able to utterly decimate the players so that they have to spend more money to beat the game. The only boss that we found a definite pattern for is Bebop. You hit him once, move out of the way while he swings at you, and then hit him again. Repeat until defeated. All of the other bosses, however, seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, defying any pattern or strategy for beating them. I'm sure there is a pattern or strategy for all of them, but Craig and I were too bad at the game to figure them out. Krang, Shredder, and the Rock Men from Dimension X will grind you into turtle soup just like they said they would!

So, it's safe to say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a very hard game, hard enough to make you yell and scream and cuss and throw things. But if you've never played this original arcade outing from the Turtles, stop everything and play it RIGHT NOW. Despite its difficulty, you will not find a purer, more colorful, and fun arcade experience. There are a lot of beat-em-ups out there, but this is one of the earlier, genre-defining installments, and there are few greater feelings out there than teaming up with friends or family and beating the living daylights out of tons and tons of foot soldiers. There are later beat-em-ups by Konami, Capcom and other companies that perfect the beat-em-up formula. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn't quite match up to something like X-Men or Knights of the Round in a technical sense, but the fun factor is still most certainly there, and that's all that matters.

A variety of attacks, locations, and enemies (regardless of how difficult they are to defeat), memorable Konami-at-its-best arcade music, faithful representation of the TMNT license, characters you know and love...this game has it all.

Oh, and when we finally did beat it, it felt great, as if we truly accomplished something. Personally, I don't think it's any small feat to beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even when you have unlimited credits. To do so with a limited number of lives makes the experience of winning that much more satisfying.

As I said earlier, a genre-defining game. Get it, play it, love it. Turtle power!

Brian's Rating: 8/10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 15

Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 11:00 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Aegis Wing
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Year: 2007

My brother and I have been upholding a new tradition of playing co-op games together on Xbox Live Arcade every Wednesday night. We were geared up to take on Smash TV this week, but Craig's internet connection that night was lacking certain important characteristics, most notably connectivity. As such, we had to abandon our gruesome, yet entertaining competition for cash and fabulous new 1999 Roadsters because the gameplay was just too laggy and choppy. Also, the tank men killed us.

We browsed our game libraries for an alternate adventure to take Smash TV's place for the rest of the night and decided on Aegis Wing, a charming, horizontally scrolling space shooter (henceforth referred to as a "shmup," for simplicity's sake) that would test our mettle and finger reflexes. The game is also free on XBox Live, so naturally both of us had it. For whatever reason, Aegis Wing did not have the lag issues that plagued our shortlived Smash TV session, so we got to work.

The plot and gameplay of Aegis Wing are simple. In the year 2105, humans have left Earth to find a new home, and settle for the planet Europa. However, the Earthlings are attacked by space-faring aliens called the Araxians, but develop their own space fighter based on Araxian technology. The fighter (or fighters, if you're playing co-op) must take on endless swarms of Araxian ships to save the human race from destruction.

Our hero takes on one of the Araxian boss ships. I bet the giant red spot on the nose of the ship is the weak spot!

Aegis Wing is a typical shmup--just make it to the end of each level, gunning down legions of enemies along the way. Your ship gets some shielding, so you can take a few hits before being shot down. You also get four lives per level (or one life per level if you play on "Insane" mode, which is...well, insane). There are also four sub-weapons (death ray, homing missiles, force field, and an energy field-thing that can stop enemy fire and freeze enemies in place) that will put you and your allies at slightly less of a disadvantage against the nigh-infinite Araxian fleet. The game supports 1-4 players, and half of the fun is playing the game with friends. It also makes the game much easier--trying to take on the Araxians by yourself and coming back alive is like me walking into a McDonald's and not walking out with six McChickens in hand--it never happens. Not only can multiple good guys cover each other, it also gives you the opportunity to keep a couple of different sub-weapons available for different situations. For instance, one guy can carry homing missiles to quickly eliminate the swarms of small enemy ships pinning your partner to the top of the screen, while another guy carrying a death ray can instantly reduce larger, more durable enemies to smoldering wreckage. The players' ships can also link together to form one Voltron-esque super ship, in which one player controls the movement of the ship, while the other players' ships act as gun turrets that can fire in 360 degrees. The more ships connected, the slower the movement speed, but the stronger the firepower.

While Aegis Wing does have some unique gameplay features, it is, for the most part, somewhat lacking for a shmup. The enemy variety is limited, and while the backgrounds of each level are pretty and detailed, there are no obstacles or distinct level designs beyond the standard enemies and groups of floating asteroid/mine-like objects that must either be dodged or blasted with the death ray. The ending is also substandard. However, keep in mind that the game is free, so one cannot complain too much. Plus, the replay value is high thanks to the "Insane" mode and some achievements involving high scores.

Despite its shortcomings, Aegis Wing is still absolutely worth your time, especially with friends. Check it out.

Brian's Rating: 6/10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian's Video Game Manifesto

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 12:50 AM

[Update by Brian]

I've started writing this piece about three or four times now, and I can't figure out how to do it. I keep going into these long-winded introductions that summarize why I was disappointed in E3, why I'm not excited about the next 50 first-person shooters being released this year, and why I don't want to pay for a Wii U. None of that has worked, so I'm cutting right to it.

I think I'm going to swear off new video games for awhile. Well, most of them, anyway.

I'm honestly not really that excited about where the industry is going. Everything is a first-person shooter, an MMO, or an iPhone/social network-style casual game. Many, many people like these games, and that's fine. I won't discount them as being "bad" games, nor will I begrudge anybody's enjoyment of them. They're probably very good games, technically speaking. They're just not for me.

However, I'm finding the problem is that I'm no longer sure what is for me. No games blow me away anymore. And new games in long-running franchises that I like (such as Mario, Metroid, and Castlevania), are way out of my price range when they come out, and then either never go down in price (Mario), get extremely bad reviews (Metroid), or aren't complete without spending more money on downloadable content (Castlevania). Many games are so long and involving that I fear ever starting them. But at the same time, I don't want to just tend to my farm on Facebook, either--that's not involving enough.

I'm going to focus on my collection for awhile. I have probably a hundred or more games that deserve more of my attention. They've either never been played, or were started, but never completed. I'm actually excited about these games, unlike the modern new releases that, while tempting, are too much of a departure from what I really enjoy.

If, by chance, I find a deal on something newer that's too good to pass up, I'll take it. Or, if a new game comes out that's in the style of the retro games of old that I enjoy so much, I'll probably take a chance on it, too. The truth is that I'm finding myself taking refuge among the sidescrollers, old-school rpgs, shmups, and arcade games of my youth more and more. These are the games that I like.

These are the games I will play.

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 14

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 10:13 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Robotron: 2084
Platform: Arcade (by way of XBox Live Arcade)
Year: 1982

The original title of this game was Too Much %&$# on the Screen, but that didn't work out, for obvious reasons. However, as many times as I find myself saying this during the gameplay experience, the meaning is certainly not lost.

If I'm ever looking for a reason to no longer be in a good mood, or a reason to hate video games forever, Robotron: 2084 usually takes care of that in short order. Published and distributed by Williams in a gaming era known for mind-blowing difficulty and insatiable hunger for quarters, Robotron: 2084 is programmed to dismantle and dissolve every last bit of self-confidence within your shaken and withered husk of humanity, as you try again and again to no avail to achieve some sort of mastery over its simple, yet challenging gameplay.

Robotron takes place in the year 2084, in the midst of a robot apocalypse. Robots have predictably turned against humanity, leaving the protagonist (the one non-evil robot left on the planet) to eliminate endless waves of mechanical terrors while saving as many humans as possible along the way. You advance to the next wave by destroying all of the robots on the screen (with the exception of the indestructible Hulk robots), and receive bonus points by rescuing the human survivors. (Not that it matters--they're all gonna die, and so are you.) Robotron is a 2-stick shooter--the left stick moves your robot around a fixed screen, while the right stick rapidly fires lasers in the direction the stick is pressed.

Keep in mind, this is only Wave 3--once you get to Wave 9 and up, there are so many enemies on the screen, you'll think it's actually some kind of graphical glitch. Well, think again, Soon-To-Be-Dead.

Except for the one lunatic at the top of the leaderboard on XBox Live Arcade, nobody on the planet is good at this game. Its difficulty will make you angry enough to punt your cat across the street and try to bite your controller in half. Or, if you're playing in the traditional arcade format, the rage from failure after miserable failure will give you the super strength necessary to lift the Robotron arcade cabinet over your head and slam dunk it into the game where you shoot baskets for tickets.

The difficulty factor of Robotron is legendary. Somebody made a terrible mistake charging a robot that dies in one hit to be the savior of humanity--you might as well be defending Earth with a paper bag. There is no escape or sound strategy to long-term survival. The robots are everywhere. If you try to rescue the humans to build up enough points to get extra lives, the robots kill you. If you ignore the humans and just try to clear all of the robots on the screen, some other robots will kill you. If you turn your attention to the other robots, the robots you were trying to kill in the first place will kill you. The Grunts overwhelm you. The Hulks plow over you while you're paying attention to something else. The Enforcers dead-eye you clear across the screen with one bullet (or if that fails, a massive volley of bullets). The Brainbots run you down with homing missiles. The Tankbots out-maneuver you with ricocheting bullets. If you happen to find yourself doing really well, the difficulty seems to dynamically ratchet itself up, as the computer will suddenly find a way to kill you four or five times on the same screen. It never ends, and you'll never be able to pay attention to enough things at one time to avoid everything necessary to make it past the first 20 waves. I used to be kind of good at this game, but I apparently can't even make it past Wave 9 anymore.

I couldn't make it past Wave 9 twenty times Saturday afternoon.

Yes, in addition to being unyielding in difficulty, Robotron: 2084 is also highly addictive. Each defeat is so humiliating that you can't help but try again. You'll be scooting around, kicking the crap out of a bunch of robots and inadvertently run into a Hulk or an electrode (an obstacle on the screen that doesn't even move) and die a miserable death when it finally looked like maybe you were getting the hang of things. So you'll get really mad and try again. You'll have cleared the screen of just about everything and have a clear shot at rescuing five or six humans, and the one Enforcer left will shoot one bullet and nail you. So you'll get really, REALLY mad and try again. By now, you'll be so blinded by hate and tears that you'll think the humans are the robots and the robots are the humans, and die when you try to make your next rescue. You just want to win! You'll continue to play until the line between video game and reality starts to blur, and you begin to wonder if the game itself isn't a harbinger of the robot revolution to come.

You'll realize it must be stopped, and you won't stop playing until Robotron: 2084 is defeated.

Except there's no ending.

Don't play Robotron: 2084, unless you really enjoy not being able to save Earth from destruction.

Brian's Rating: 7/10 (It would have been 8/10, but it loses a point for excessive addictiveness and causing too much anger.)

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 13

Sunday, March 6, 2011 - 9:40 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
Platform: PC Engine/Turbo Duo (by way of Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console)
Year: 1993

I've mentioned before at some point what a huge fan I am of the Castlevania series and the whip-wielding, vampire-killing Belmont family. Castlevania is 2D sidescrolling bliss--great control, great atmosphere, great concept, great challenge, and great soundtracks. But as a teenage fan of the Castlevania franchise, I didn't know what I was missing. At the time, the U.S. audience had the three original Castlevanias on NES, Super Castlevania IV on Super NES, Castlevania Bloodlines on Sega Genesis, and Castlevania Adventure 1 and 2 on Game Boy. It wasn't until I had access to the internet and innocently typed "Castlevania" into a Yahoo! search back in the mid-1990s that I discovered the true Castlevania library.

It turns out that Castlevania went well beyond the American consoles. I was fascinated to discover that there was a Castlevania arcade game called Haunted Castle, an MSX computer game called Vampire Killer, and a Castlevania installment exclusive to Japan for the Sharp X68000 home computer.

However, that wasn't all. Upon discovering an excellent website called The Castlevania Dungeon (maintained by hardcore gaming guru Kurt Kalata), I learned of a Castlevania game widely considered to be the best Castlevania of all time--Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, the pinnacle of the franchise.

Ain't nothin' like seeing a Belmont smash a bunch of skeletons in a rocking, letter-boxed, action-packed anime cutscene.

Naturally, Rondo of Blood was a Japan exclusive. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from acquiring the greatest of the Castlevanias. I started to keep an eye on eBay and other online outlets in the hopes that I might be able to snag a copy, despite the fact that I didn't even have a console to play it on. Copies of the game would pop up every now and then, but were usually bringing in at least $85, and Turbo Duos were going for around $200 at the time. My brother and I even saw a Turbo Duo and a copy of Rondo of Blood at the 2002 Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, but the only way we could have afforded them would have been to sell the car and abandon our previous lives, becoming hotel bell boys at the Plaza and having wacky adventures in which we lose celebrities' luggage and get beat up by wedding chapel ministers who are also Elvis impersonators.

I sort of gave up on the idea of ever owning or playing Rondo of Blood. I did eventually discover that there was a port of the game on Super NES. Well, I tried it, and wasn't very impressed. It was slow, stiff, and unresponsive. Shortly thereafter, I learned that the Super NES version is a sad, underwhelming abomination compared to the original.

In the meantime, I had the soundtrack to tide me over until the day I could actually play the game. Yes, I actually did import the soundtrack from Japan, and have never regretted what I paid for it. (And the other two Castlevania soundtracks I imported along with it. Don't judge me.)

Finally, Rondo of Blood had a U.S. release...on the PSP, a handheld I didn't own and had absolutely no interest in ever owning. Foiled yet again!

Believe it or not, my patience eventually did pay off when the U.S. was blessed with another release of Rondo of Blood, this time on the Wii's Virtual Console. I snagged it, let it simmer for a few months while I finished Faxanadu and whatever other games I was playing at the time, then went straight to work engaging the best Castlevania ever made.

In 1993, vanquishing the undead never looked so pretty.

It would not disappoint. And it's a good thing, considering I had been looking forward to playing it for some 13 years. It has that patented Castlevania atmosphere, a great soundtrack, beautiful visuals, and even a little bit of anime influence to give it that extra oomph.

The plot is pretty typical for a Castlevania game. Dracula rises prematurely from his 100-year slumber thanks to an assist from some crazy cultists, led by a sorcerer named Shaft. (No. Not that Shaft.) Seeking revenge on the Belmont family, Dracula kidnaps Richter Belmont's girlfriend, luring Richter to the castle to do battle with the Count and his evil legions to rescue his girlfriend and three other hostages.

Fortunately, Richter has some smooth moves compared to his predecessors. He has the standard jump, whip attack, and sub-weapons (dagger, axe, cross, holy water, etc.), but also has a backflip that allows him to jump higher, which I usually forgot about whenever I needed to reach a high place. He also has an "item crash," which allows Richter to unleash a massive attack with his sub-weapon (such as a flurry of daggers, holy water rain, and the like.)

If you don't feel like playing as Richter, if you rescue Maria Renard (one of the hostages), she becomes a playable character. There's apparently some debate on her ties to the Castlevania universe--she is either Richter's girlfriend's little sister, or a distant relative of the Belmont family. Either way, for a 12-year old, she kicks butt in this game. She can't take as many hits as Richter, but she has a double-jump, and her weapons, while extremely unorthodox, seem to do more damage and usually have more range. Maria employs a number of animal friends as her attacks. She throws boomerang doves as her standard attack, and her sub-weapons include a cat, a turtle, a dragon, a bird, and perhaps a few others that I'm forgetting. Maria definitely wields the anime influence, as well--she's a big-eyed, seemingly innocent, precotious little scamp. Naturally, she's very good at fighting vampires.

With his tremendous height advantage, Count Dracula may have been better suited playing center for the Romanian basketball team than trying to take over the world.

The biggest disadvantage to playing Rondo of Blood is that none of the dialogue is in English. The opening sequence is in German, and the rest of the game is in Japanese. The menus are all in English, so it's easy to navigate the game options. However, with the exception of a few German words in the prologue, I couldn't understand any of the cutscenes. It would have been nice to see some subtitles added to the Virtual Console release, but the cutscenes aren't vital to the game experience.

Other than that, Rondo of Blood is an absolute blast. Konami took the very best of all of the game's predecessors and mashed them into a wonderful, immersive gameplay experience. Something big is always happening around you--the town is on fire, you're being chased by a giant bull creature, the bridge you're crossing is collapsing, etc. Plus, most levels have branching paths and multiple exits, which give the impression of finding more than one way out of Dracula's traps. I played through the game twice--once as Richter and once as Maria--just to make certain to see everything there is to see. It also has that classic Castlevania difficulty, but it isn't the hardest one I've played. There are some bosses that are a pain (the sequence in which you have to face the first four bosses from the original Castlevania all in a row without dying comes to mind), but none of them are particulary cheap or overpowered--each boss has a particular pattern or style that can be analyzed and overcome with a little bit of patience and cunning. There are also multiple endings to the game, and I don't believe I've seen all of them yet, so I'd say there's a decent amount of replayability to it, as well. The CD-quality soundtrack doesn't hurt it, either.

All Castlevania fans should play Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. All 2D sidescroller fans in general should play it. It takes everything good about Castlevania and perfects the formula. Highly recommended.

Brian's Rating: 9 crosses out of 10

[Images courtesy of GameFAQs.]

Brian Plays Old (Sometimes Bad) Games, Entry 12

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 10:13 PM

[Update by Brian]

Game: Sword of Vermilion
Platform: Sega Genesis (by way of Sega Genesis Collection on Playstation 2)
Year: 1990

I gotta stop playing these bad roleplaying games. I've been on a serious RPG kick lately because, unlike the action games of old, RPGs always have a password or save function. (Most of today's action games do, as well, but they are all so long that they might as well be RPGs, themselves.) This is really handy because it's a rare occasion that I can just sit down and marathon a game, or plow through a difficult action game that has limited continues. Usually I have to work or go to the store or sleep or something ridiculous like that, so it's hard to sit down and play Blaster Master knowing that it's going to take three hours just to get to level seven and die in a pathetic heap. The only problem is that none of the RPGs I've played over the last several months have been any good. I'm trying to expand my palette instead of just playing Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 1 and 6 over and over again, but I'm not getting much help from the newcomers.

Enter: Sword of Vermilion, which I have badly wanted to spell with two "Ls" ever since the first time I typed the name into a GameFAQs search. Don't judge me--the game box says it came with a 106-page hint book. I, having acquired the game on the Sega Genesis Collection for Playstation 2, didn't have the luxury of a hint book, or even an instruction manual. If you picked up some of these crazy items like Ruby Brooches, Gnome Stones, or Rafael's Stick, you would look them up before using them, too.

Anyway, Sword of Vermilion is your typical revenge/save the world story. My father, King Erik, and has pal Tsarkon find a bunch of rings. Eight rings are good, and eight rings are evil, but if you unite all sixteen rings, they're supposed to bring balance to the universe or something along those lines--I dunno. I wasn't really paying attention when the guy on his deathbed told me about the important quest I was to undertake. But from what little I remember, the rings turned Tsarkon evil, and he murdered my father and started building an empire to take over the world. I was put into the care of a man named Blade, who I thought was my father. But, as Blade lay dying, he told me the truth about my lineage, and that I had to set out to destroy Tsarkon, assemble the rings, NOT turn evil, and bring balance to the universe. Tsarkon has the eight evil rings, and the eight good rings are scattered throughout the land in very inconveniently placed caves. As the life left Blade's eyes, I set out on my quest. we go again.

Not much strategy involved here--they come to you, and you stab them. Repeat as necessary until nothing on the screen moves.

Boss battles are awesome in appearance, but about as thrilling as a Stephen Wright comedy routine. Not as funny, either.

At first glance, it seemed this was going to be what I consider a typical roleplaying game. You buy weapons and items in town from the usual overhead view, go out to the overworld, have chance encounters with a limitless army of evil creatures, fight a few bosses, complete the quest, and live happily ever after. Sword of Vermilion's formula does follow this pattern, but it wasn't quite what I expected.

First, you travel the world map in first person perspective. Almost every town also has at least one denizen who will give you a map of the surrounding countryside, which is also displayed on the screen. To be honest, I found myself paying more attention to the overhead map than I did the first person view of the road ahead, as it also features a tiny version of you that reflects your current position.

You do experience random encounters with wandering bad guys, which shifts the action to a third person, overhead battlefield where you fight, dodge, and get beat up by monsters in real time combat. You can fight with your sword, which is a strong attack, but has no range whatsover--the trick is to hit the "swing sword" button and run into the enemy at the exact same moment, making for some pretty clumsy combat. You can also use offensive magic spells, but I found it to be more effective to just stab everything and save my magic for post-combat healing spells--I died a lot less when I adopted this formula. By the way, this game is very guilty of re-coloring the same monster sprites over and over again. There are about seven or eight different types of monster, but about 6 colors of each. You're gonna be really sick of fighting slimes and mushrooms when you're through with this one.

On the other hand, boss battles are fought from a completely different perspective. These battles are fought in sidescrolling perspective. The fights look great, and the bosses are ghastly, horrifying creatures. But while the boss fights look really cool, the combat itself is far from impressive. You can move forward and backward, duck, and swing your sword. And while this is enough to handle most of the bosses in the game with ease, there are a handful that take great advantage of your immobility and lack of combat variety by shooting more fireballs than you can duck or deflect.

I must confess that I never would have finished this game without frequent use of the Sega Genesis Collection's Save Anywhere function, because this game goes out of its way to be as frustrating as possible. Not so much difficult, just frustrating. It appears to be one of those outlandishly infuriating "old school" roleplaying games that is just outright mean to you. Want some examples? Here we go:

  • Dungeons are dark, so you have to bring a candle or lantern with you, or use the Luminos spell.
  • You not only have to "open" treasure chests, but also "take" the treasure inside. Why is a 2-step process necessary for acquiring loot?
  • Doors re-lock. If you unlock a door, open the door, walk through, and realize you've gone the wrong way, you have to "use" your key again before you can "open" the door door again to walk back through. Yes, another 2-step process.
  • Later in the game, you don't get maps anymore. I frequently draw my own dungeon maps if I need to, so I understand the need to occasionally draw a map to get through a dungeon. But not providing an overworld map is just cruel. It's land. People walk places. Somebody out there is gonna have a map of the land!
  • Backtracking. Fortunately, there's a magic spell that will warp you to any previously visited town, so it could be a lot worse.
  • Jerk kings. The king of each town is a total jerk and a liar. They make you do a bunch of fetch quests and boss-killing for them in exchange for the ring they hold, and then they usually end up not delivering. They give you a fake ring because they're greedy, or it turns out they're really a monster or some such nonsense. Just stop, okay? I'm trying to save the world here. Give me the rings so the Cartehenans don't burn your hamlet.
  • When you beat the final boss, you have to walk back out of the dungeon and return to one of the towns. The final boss is dead, so there are no more monsters to fight. Any good game maker would have simply allowed time to pass, and would cut directly to you back in the town. Not Sword of Vermilion, which makes you walk all the way back, even though there are no monsters to fight or anything else to do between the dungeon and the town. What is the point of that?! I already beat your stupid game; just show me the ending already!

Sword of Vermilion isn't a bad game necessarily, but it is far surpassed even by other RPGs of its time. A good effort by Sega, but it didn't hold my attention, and the only reason I wanted to beat it by the end was so I wouldn't feel like I wasted my time playing it. It might worth a look to you for the variety of play styles and a pretty good soundtrack, but I hope you have a lot of patience to deal with the game's numerous downsides.

Brian's Rating: 5 rings out of 10

[Images courtesy of MobyGames.]