Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 4


Hyper Dimension
I hated this game as a kid. But then, I also loved Final Fantasy Mystic Quest as a kid.
Hyper Dimension is, to me, unarguably the best of the Super Famicom Dragon Ball titles and easily one of the best Dragon Ball Z video games ever made. So, obviously, my opinion has changed drastically since I first played it.
Like Super Butouden 2, this game also introduced me to something: Emulator limitations. For a considerable amount of time, the most popular Super Nintendo emulator, ZSNES, could not run Hyper Dimension. That forced my brother and myself to seek out another emulator. We found Snes9x and, funnily enough, the site we found it on specifically claimed something like “Yes, this plays Hyper Dimension”.
The most current ZSNES runs the game no problem and it's been able to for a long time now. I'm just taking a bit of a stroll down Nostalgia Way.




 This game did so much to set it apart from the Super Butouden series while still maintaining the same basic control scheme to make it accessible for people who had played that series. Almost everything new Hyper Dimension introduced, it got it right. And here's where I feel like a hypocrite because Hyper Dimension is actually a considerably slower game than Butouden 3. However, it's a bit faster than Butouden 2 and the overall gameplay compliments the speed of the game.


 The new mechanics that bothered me in my youth are the fusion of health and energy, and the new flight system. Really, they only bothered me because at the time I was used to the Butouden games and just wanted more of the same.


 Health and energy/Ki are the same thing in this game. You actually hurt yourself when using energy-based attacks. You also heal yourself by charging. This is one mechanic that I think is very complimented by the somewhat slower speed of Hyper Dimension; it's something you really have to think about how you're timing. It is also true to the anime and manga where Ki/chi/energy/whatever is specifically defined as the 'life energy' of all living things; in fact, both Vegeta and Tien at some point die in the anime by expending all of the energy they had left into a final attack. Although, in Hyper Dimension, you can't KO yourself by using too much energy, once you reach 1 point of health, you're just no longer able to use energy-based attacks (except for basic fireballs which never cost any health/energy to use in these games).


 Hyper Dimension also introduces real-time control over the strength of your beams. In the Super Butouden trilogy, executing an energy wave while being near your opponent would result in a weak version of the attack; you needed to be further away to execute the full-power version. The typical main beam button input for all of these games is Down Back Forward A. Hyper Dimension instead lets you hold down A at the end of the input and shows the energy growing in the character's hand, reaching a max and then resetting; so you control the strength of your attack by letting off of the A button at the right time.

Sadly, Hyper Dimension does not feature beam battles; when energy waves of the same strength meet, they cancel each other out. When energy beams of variable strength meet, the weakest one is cancelled and the stronger one continues on.

 All of these games feature a secondary beam attack as well with the input Back Down Forward (or half circle down) A. In the Super Butoudens, this is just a somewhat weaker special that costs less energy. In Hyper Dimension, these attacks fire at an upward angle for an anti-air assault or to juggle an opponent who's been knocked into the air.

Since Hyper Dimension no longer uses the X button to toggle between the sky and the ground, it's now both the Throw button and the Swat button. Throwing is exactly what you expect it to be. Swatting works as a weak punch (if you're close enough to the opponent to hit but not close enough to throw them) but it can also be used to deflect weak energy attacks like simple fireballs.

Characters have unique signature moves and also have 'Desperation Moves', one of my favourite new mechanics in this game. Once you reach critically low health, your health bar will start blinking red. While in this state, you can execute your character's ultimate attack, or Desperation Move. Some of these have very tricky button combinations but they're nice to have all the same; Vegeta's being especially cool.

 The only new mechanic in Hyper Dimension that I think is outright bad is the inclusion of background attacks. Each character has a maneuver where they jump towards the background, leaving the usual playing field, and charge back to the field with a punch or kick. These are strong attacks and most, if not all, of them are guaranteed to knock down the opponent when they hit. However, they'll almost never hit. Because Hyper Dimension is a relatively slow game, responding to an attack with this kind of complex animation is extremely easy. These 'background depth attacks' telegraph themselves horribly and are really just useless.

 There are no secret characters in this game, the roster goes Goku (Super Saiyan 2), Majin Vegeta, Super Vegito, Gotenks (Super Saiyan 3), Piccolo, Perfect Cell, Frieza, Ultimate Gohan, Fat Buu, and Kid Buu.
The game, like the Butouden series (2 specifically), features a story mode, a versus mode, and a tournament mode. The story mode is a little strange because it attempts to cover the entirety of Dragon Ball Z while working around characters that aren't in the game. For instance, the Saiyan saga is plainly skipped only giving a passing mention to the fight with Vegeta, and the first battle is actually Piccolo versus Frieza. Later on, you play as Majin Vegeta against Perfect Cell which never happens in the anime but is meant to be the game's rendition of Super Vegeta versus Semi-Perfect Cell.













Also, did I mention that this game is downright gorgeous? Hyper Dimension is one of the best looking 16-bit era games there is. Speaking of which, if you're going to play it on ZSNES, do not use the Super Eagle Engine. That rounding filter may look nice on games like A Link to the Past and whatnot but Hyper Dimension has so many pixel-art gradients that it actually looks worse with the filter on.

Everything in the game is incredibly, meticulously detailed. The only fault I can find with the game's graphics is the fact that because everything is just so detailed, it's one of a small handful of games that shows that the Super Famicom/SNES does have a limit to its colour palette. Goku's Super Saiyan hair for instance looks to be mostly drawn with the same shades as his skin; both being a gold-ish tan.


The colours in the column on the left were 'pick-coloured' from his hair and the colours in the right column are from his face.  A couple were reused and a couple are unique.

The game is also flexible in whether or not you want a fight to span multiple stages, featuring a 'single-stage' mode where you don't have to select stages in full sets and Dimension Kicks no longer traverse the additional areas.

Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension feels very much like it was game built from the ground up to be a very good fighting game first, and a very good Dragon Ball game second. I have absolutely no complaints about that approach. This is the one standout of the Super Famicom titles that's worth playing no matter what your opinion on the franchise.  Honestly, there's still more I could say about the game and I might even try to do a more thorough dedicated review for it in the future.  But for now, I need to move on.

Unfortunately, unlike the Super Butouden trilogy, Hyper Dimension was never released outside of Japan.  However, if you're like me and own a device that can play Super Famicom games (a Retro Duo in my case), then you can actually find some pretty decently priced copies on eBay, ranging from $10-$50 depending on condition and whether or not there's a box.

Next Time:  Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Sony Playstation.




Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 3

Super Butouden
A-ha!  A fighting game!
 ...
Augh, my eyes!
OK, to be fair, Super Butouden is not an awful-looking game but it's very subpar. The graphics are very gaudy with extremely high-contrasting colours, over-detailed in many places (seriously, why is the sky drawn with pixelated noise?) and under-detailed in many more. I do have to give it credit for being the only of the fighting games for a very long time to include my favourite design of Gohan (i.e. his Super Saiyan 1 form; the vast majority of fighting games in the era only included his Super Saiyan 2 form).

This game was, to my knowledge, the very first Dragon Ball Z fighting game and with that in mind, it's an admirable first step. The physics lack polish and the game in general is very slow but it's actually an OK fighter.
However, it lacks a lot in variety; 3 of the 5 unlockable characters are alternate forms of characters in the default roster, several attacks make multiple appearances throughout character movelists, and the stage select is rather limited.



Truth be told, I had no idea this game was the first Super Butouden title when I first played it. I had played the 2nd and 3rd prior and was actually looking for Hyper Dimension. I downloaded this from a ROM site that incorrectly labelled it as being Hyper Dimension. And it's really no surprise that I couldn't tell it was the first of the Butouden series, it seems almost nothing like its 2 successors.
 First of the differences to note is the method of unlocking secret characters, the first Super Butouden has its own unique code for it while 2 and 3 share a code. In the first Butouden, you unlock the secret characters by holding the shoulder buttons (L and R) and doing circles on the D-Pad and the face buttons (A, B, X, Y) while the intro is playing until you hear Goku's voice say something (I don't speak Japanese so I have no idea what it is).
The roster is as follows:
Starting Roster: Goku (base form), Vegeta (base form), #20/Dr. Gero, #16, Piccolo, Frieza (100% Power), #18, Cell (first form).
Secret Characters: Super Saiyan Goku, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Super Saiyan Gohan, Perfect Cell, Super Saiyan Future Trunks
This is actually the most secret characters of the 3 Super Famicom Butouden titles, but again 3 of them are just alternate forms of characters who are already playable without the code.

Mr. Satan also makes an appearance as a joke character during the story mode (which spans the Piccolo Jr. saga to the Cell Games saga). When you reach Perfect Cell, you are given the option of choosing to fight him with Goku, Gohan or Mr. Satan. Choosing Mr. Satan the first time will display a somewhat crude rendition of the scene in the anime where he attempts to attack Cell and Cell just bats him away into a mountain; I say it's crude because it doesn't even show the characters making contact, Mr. Satan kicks and punches the air a few times, then Cell swats at the air and it sends Mr. Satan flying.
After that, you're returned to the character select and you can still choose Mr. Satan one more time. This time, he'll just hold his stomach and keel over, much like in the anime when he pretended to have a bad stomach ache that was stopping him from fighting. After that, you'll return to the character select and Mr. Satan won't be an option anymore.
You may also notice that Piccolo is named Satan in the screenshots.  This is due to it being the French release of the game.  Yes, the Super Butouden games were actually released outside of Japan, just not in North America.
Movesets, as said before, lack variety; in all of the Super Famicom fighters, every character has a basic fireball attack. That much is understandable. But for an example of something less acceptable, Goku, Piccolo and Gohan all have a move called Goku Kick; performed by pressing Forward Down Kick while jumping. The following titles gave Piccolo and Gohan a variation on this attack called the Levitation Kick where, rather than just zooming at their opponent with a fiery foot, they stopped in mid-air and kicked the opponent several times.
The overall physics and combat mechanics aren't very strong when compared with other fighting titles at the time (especially the likes of Street Fighter II). It's still not an awful game but you're much better off with its successors.
Other major differences with the following 2 sequels include graphics (totally re-done in Super Butouden 2 and 3 maintained that style while altering the sprites it takes directly from 2), music (although this actually favours the first game; none of the soundtracks are very memorable but, in my opinion, the first title's music is considerably better than what followed), the aforementioned physics and speed (both vastly improved upon in 2 and tweaked again in 3), and the method of building energy/Ki.
I want to set the record straight here because there's a bit of misinformation on this game that is far too common (I actually had to correct the Dragon Ball Wiki on this matter). You can charge in this game. Holding down while flying causes your Energy metre to build twice as fast. Considering just how slow it builds on its own, it's still extremely slow when charging but I just want to get it off my chest that it can be done. In the 2 sequels, as well as Hyper Dimension, building energy was performed by holding Punch and Kick (Y and B respectively) and could be done either on the ground or in the air.
On that note, the flying mechanic in the first Super Butouden was a very gimmicky and under-utilized inclusion and, sadly, one of the few things the sequels did not improve upon. In practice, all it really did was create a second ground for your characters to traverse. While in the air, your character would still control just as they would on the ground (yes, even jumping).
Final Bout, the PlayStation successor to Super Butouden 3 improved upon the flying, as did Hyper Dimension, but those are different stories.




Super Butouden 2 (or La L├ęgende Saien)
This game holds a very special place in my heart because it was my introduction to many things. It was my introduction to emulation. It was my introduction to Dragon Ball fighting games. It was my introduction to Super Saiyans. It was damn near my introduction to the Dragon Ball franchise. I had watched the 13-episode long '95 dub of Dragon Ball with very little interest and never gave Dragon Ball Z a second thought at the time. Super Butouden 2 enticed me to learn about the characters and, through a mix of that and the fact that there was nothing else on before school, I became obsessed with the anime.

 That said...it's OK. It is a vast improvement from the first game but it still does very little to make it stand out as a gem among the other fighters that were available at the time. On top of that, the music is some of the worst, most uninspired tracks I have ever heard in a 16-bit video game.
This game did introduce certain staples such as the standard secret character code (which was even used in the much more recent Ultimate Butouden on the DS): Up X Down B L Y R A.


In this case, the code unlocks Goku (oddly enough) and Broly. Incidentally, if you have the French version of this game, the code doesn't do anything as those two characters are unlocked by default. However, you still get confirmation that you entered the code correctly.
During the intro sequence, when you put in the code, you hear Broly's voice say “Kakarotto”. I think this is a very nice touch and a neat hint at the characters you just unlocked; one character's voice speaking the name of the other (Kakarotto/Kakarot being Goku's Saiyan name for anyone who didn't already know).


 The character roster this time goes Gohan (Super Saiyan 2), Piccolo, Super Vegeta, Future Trunks (Super Saiyan), Bojack (Second Form), Zangya, Perfect Cell, Cell Jr., and of course the unlockable Super Saiyan Goku and Legendary Super Saiyan Broly.
This is the first of the fighting games to feature Cell Jr. as well as not just 1 but 2 movie villains.



 It also features a joke appearance by Mr. Satan in the story mode again. This time around, it renders the scene of his attempt at fighting Cell much more accurately by showing him actually making contact with the villain. However, some accuracy is also lost in the lack of a Cell Games Arena stage.
The story mode in this game covers the Cell Games and then moves into entirely original plots involving Bojack and, as long as you don't play on Easy, Broly. The game does not follow the plots of the movies those characters were introduced in.

 Chief among the improvements from the first title are graphics. The game looks infinitely better than the first; it actually looks better than much of the third. In fact, I'd call it one of the best-looking fighting games on the console.


In addition, there are improved physics, and new gameplay mechanics were also included such as the famed “beam battles”. In the first game, when a character responded to an energy wave with one of their own, they just cancelled each other out. Now, they clash and the two players (or one player and the CPU) must compete to see who can mash the A button the fastest. The loser takes the full force of their enemy's attack.



 The game still suffers from being too slow. Walk speeds are damn near intolerable but, thankfully, every character has a dash maneuver mapped to the L and R buttons that doesn't use any Ki and can be used as long as the player wants (the first game also had dashing and it could even be used to knock your enemy down; that bit was removed in the sequels). Unfortunately, building Ki is also intolerably slow and, unlike walking speeds, there's no way around it in this game. It's only ever so slightly faster than the first game.
All in all, you'll probably enjoy this game if you're a fan and even if you're not, it's still an OK game. There are far worse titles you could spend your free time on.


Super Butouden 3 (or Ultime Menace)
The last of the 3 Butouden games to appear on the Super Famicom and arguably the best. This game finally brought the speed up considerably in both movement and charging energy. However, this iteration does have some of its own problems.
 There is a lack of variety once again; Saiyans make up a majority of the roster, there are less stages than in the second title and there's no story mode. An ending credits scene can still be accessed by completing a tournament in which the first player is crowned champion but it still feels a little hollow.
Once again, a secret character can be unlocked with the same code used in Super Butouden 2. Input it during the intro where you see a portrait of Goku and Majin Vegeta fade into each other and you'll hear a swishing sound effect. This unlocks Super Saiyan Future Trunks.


 The character roster goes Goku (Super Saiyan 2), Majin Vegeta, Goten (Super Saiyan), Kid Trunks (Super Saiyan), Future Trunks (Super Saiyan), Gohan (Super Saiyan) Supreme Kai/Kaioshin, Dabura, Fat Buu, and Android #18.
Note that over half of the roster is composed of Super Saiyans, adding to the feeling of minimal variety.
Goku's, Future Trunks's, and Vegeta's sprites are all lifted from Super Butouden 2 with modifications. Goku and Trunks both had their hair recoloured in a more orangey-gold palette. Vegeta's outfit was altered so it's accurate to his Buu arc appearance; you could argue that this makes it a new sprite entirely but his head remained completely unchanged (oddly leaving his Super Saiyan hair inconsistently coloured with some of the other characters) and all of his animations were the same. On that note, there is a colouring inconsistency with the hair as Gohan and Vegeta retain the shade of yellow from Super Butouden 2 (Goten's hair uses this shade as well), meanwhile Goku, Kid Trunks and Future Trunks all use a new, more gold-looking palette.

 For the most part, the sprites look on the same level of quality as in the second game if not slightly better, but the stages actually look worse being horribly under-detailed in comparison to the predecessor.


Additionally, beam battles also took a colossal hit in visuals. They look so lame this time around. In Super Butouden 2, clashing beams had a very detailed end sprite, complete with an animation of the beams struggling to dominate each other and even electricity effects flowing around them. That's all gone in the third title. Now beams just meat in the center of the screen, have a very dull, 'splash'-looking end sprite and don't move back and forth.


Aesthetics aside though, it is objectively a superior title to the second game, boasting much better speed and slightly better physics.




Next Time:  Hyper Dimesnion.  Awww yeah.  That one gets its own post to itself.










Friday, September 28, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 2

Super Famicom/SNES Games Part 1

On the Super Famicom (which is, of course, the Japanese Super Nintendo/SNES), we saw some decent Dragon Ball titles. We also saw a few not-so-decent ones as well. Let's have a look at them individually.

The Legend of the Super Saiyan
Another game that has poor graphics even by the hardware standards but not an absolutely awful game. It's not exactly a good game either. If you are a fan, this game can be a guilty pleasure. If you are not a fan, this doesn't provide anything special in the gameplay department so you may as well steer clear.
Legend of the Super Saiyan is a full Card Battle (ugh) RPG that covers the first arc of Dragon Ball Z's story (from Raditz's appearance to Goku defeating Frieza). While the game's visuals are very poor, the music can be very catchy; the overworld theme on Earth being the particular standout.


The game actually has some decent ideas that keep it from being a total waste of time. Firstly, you are not absolutely forced into following the anime's plot verbatim. It is possible in this game for Tenshinhan/Tien, Chiaotzu and Yamcha to survive the battle with Vegeta and Nappa (where they all died in the anime). Conversely, you can also let Krillin die in that battle and it won't result in a Game Over (game over's being dependant on when necessary characters die; the only necessary characters in this scenario being Gohan and Goku) even though Krillin survived in the anime.
Piccolo, on the other hand, if you manage to keep him alive during the actual battles, he'll die by way of cut-scene anyway.

This is not only useful in that you'll have a much larger team when you travel to Namek, it also provides a great pay-off. In the final battle with Frieza, to trigger Goku's Super Saiyan transformation, all you have to do is let any 1 character die (except Gohan which will be Game Over). This means that you can intentionally send your weakest party member (usually Chiaotzu) to be the sacrifice. So you end up still having a fairly large party for the final boss.


  Another clever mechanic used is the addition of 'fake bosses' as warnings. For instance, at the beginning of the game if you travel directly to Raditz without grinding any levels, you'll actually first have to face a fake Raditz who turns out to be a Saibamen in disguise. He's only there until you either defeat him or reach a certain level cap. I like this because it acts as a warning for when you are about to face a boss who you almost certainly cannot beat at your current level.
The following two paragraph contains spoilers.


 There is a secret final boss in the game as well. You can fight Super Saiyan Vegeta post-credits so long as you keep Vegeta alive during the battle with Frieza (another departure from the anime where Vegeta's death was a rather pivotal moment). Since I played a fan translation of the game I can't be sure if the dialogue is accurate, but if it is then what Vegeta says before transforming makes absolutely no sense. You see Goku flying over Namek during the credits (Namek having not been destroyed by Frieza in this version of the story) and, after the credits finish rolling, Vegeta appears in front of him and claims, “I killed Frieza!!”.
I really do not understand the point of the dialogue as a pre-battle message, nor do I understand why Vegeta is nonsensically lying to you. In any case, Vegeta then powers up to a Super Saiyan state and what follows is the strongest boss battle of the game.

 As mentioned before, this is another Card Battle game. This is probably the top reason why I simply cannot call it a good game; Card Battle systems are (in most cases) tedious, confusing, far too heavily based in chance, frustrating, and boring.



The game has many many quirks, especially in its graphics. One of the most notable is the lack of Goku's hairstyle changing when he becomes a Super Saiyan. Rather than the drastic upward flare seen in the manga and anime, in this title, the very tips of his spikes flare up ever so slightly and his hair gets re-coloured a flat yellow. When I first saw screenshots of this before I had actually played far enough, I was near certain they were faked; it really looked like somebody opened the game in MS Paint and used the fill bucket on Goku's hair. Nope. That's actually what it looks like in the game.

Additionally, if you thought beat'em-ups like Maximum Carnage and Final Fight were bad for palette-swapped enemies, just wait until you see all of the various technicoloured Saibamen and Ginyu Force member clones you'll be fighting in this game.


There are very few redeeming qualities to this game but, as a huge Dragon Ball fan, I saw it through to the end. It does have a couple of saving graces but it's absolutely a game for fans only. Gamers gaming for the sake of gaming are not going to find anything of value here.

Super Gokuden 1 & 2
Plain and simple, these games are extremely boring. I will not be surprised if I get flak for that statement as these seem like the exact kind of games that would garner cult classic status, but the fact is that they are just plain dull.
They do, however, have rather charming forms of presentation and very nice graphics. That's where the good stuff ends though.
Both of these titles are, in practice, slightly interactive motion comics in which the only actual gameplay comes in the form of battles.
I only got as far as Mt. Frying Pan/Fire Mountain in the first game so I cannot vouch for how much of Dragon Ball's story it covers (probably to the defeat of King Piccolo). I beat the second game though.
The first Super Gokuden begins, appropriately, at the very beginning of Dragon Ball with Goku living alone in the mountains. This game returns to the board game style overworld of some of the Famicom games but it, admittedly, does a much better job of it making travelling from one area to the next quick and usually uninterrupted.
The combat systems are what really hurts both of these games; they makes absolutely no god damned sense. In the first Super Gokuden, the battle system is an awkward form of quickdraw in which both characters slowly inch toward each other. Once one character reaches a certain point (which is not indicated by anything at all*) they can execute some sort of maneuver; be it a combo, a special attack, a counter, a block or whatever. It's never very clear what each button does normally or what they do in response to an enemy attack; none of the multiple fan translations I've tried of this game explain the battle system adequately. Even after reading a couple guides, I still had little to no idea what I was doing.
*I know the character's sprite will flash when they reach that point but I mean that there's nothing on-screen to indicate what the point is.
I didn't understood well either.

As I said, I actually did complete Super Gokuden 2; it had a vaguely similar but more straightforward combat system (a bit more akin to intricate Rock Paper Scissors than quickdraw) that made it a much more tolerable experience. This sequel covers the Piccolo Jr. saga of Dragon Ball up to (once again) Goku defeating Frieza.
Although I will give credit where credit is due. As I said, the games do have nice graphics, charming presentation and, in addition, they have some spectacular music.
Super Gokuden 2 is tolerable if you're a fan, but once again neither of these games offers a must-play experience to anybody. It would be really nice to see some fighting games...

Next Time: The Super Butouden Trilogy.






Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 1

Let's kick it off with some retro stuff.  Dragon Ball games on the Famicom/NES.




 They all suck. The one's that I've been able to play anyway. Some of the Famicom games utilized a card reader that never saw a western release and thus these games will not play properly on either a legitimate NES (regardless of whether or not you have a Famicom-to-NES adapter for the cartridge) or an emulator.





The only of the Famicom Dragon Ball games to see an English release was Shenron's Riddle/Mystery of Shen Long (depending on how you translate it), which was renamed Dragon Power with everything that made it identifiable as a Dragon Ball game altered. Considering Dragon Ball had yet to air in North America at the time (this was even before the 5-episode Harmony Gold dub of '89), this made sense. Unfortunately, as said before, the game sucks anyway.




Mystery of Shen Long/Dragon Power is honestly the best of the NES/Famicom Dragon Ball titles so that should give you fair warning if you're going to try any of the others. It's an overhead beat'em-up game that very loosely follows the plot of the anime. There is absolutely no polish in the game, it has dozens of glitches, poor graphics even by 8-bit standards, and next to no thought put into level design and difficulty curve.

The other, even worse, games are all 'Card Battle' games; with the absolute worst of the bunch blending in simulated board game mechanics. For the unfamiliar, Card Battle games use a combat system similar to turn based RPG's except instead of being able to command each of your characters to do absolutely anything you want, you have to choose from a hand of cards, each with their own meaning. It probably sounds dumb, and it kind of is, but the mechanic is not a totally lost cause (more on that in the Gameboy Color portion).
As a gamer, these games are not worth your time. As a Dragon Ball fan, these games are still not worth your time. Don't bother with any of them.

Next time:  Super Famicom Games Part 1.  Don't worry, it'll be a lot more positive.



Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective: Introduction

So I happened to be browsing eBay for some old game lots and came across an auction for a bundle of Dragon Ball Z Famicom titles.  At first, I was quite tempted.  But then I remembered that all of those games are terrible.  Some good came of that though; it gave me an idea.  For the next few posts, I'll be posting a retrospective of my personal experience with Dragon Ball video games, basically giving a mini-review to every one that I've played.
I actually have it all typed up sans a bit of proofreading already so I'll be breaking it up (as it is way too long for one post) and adding some images and screenshots for the sake of attaining more eye-pleasing formatting.
Beginning with the next post (which I'll probably have up before heading to bed tonight), let the retrospective begin!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nostalgiagasm

So, I've been on a big kick of retro-gaming love lately and was browsing through lists of top NES games.  I'm considering getting a Retro Duo (a third party console that plays both NES and SNES games) so I wanted to find some titles I might track down for it.  The only 2 NES games I still have are, well, awful awful games (Platoon and Ikari Warriors II) that we couldn't sell off at multiple garage sales.
The result of this search?  I am now filled with tremendous amounts of joy.  One of my favourite games as a child that I had totally forgotten about for nearly 20 years now appeared on one of the lists I found...
Make no mistake just because it's a "license title"; the Tiny Toon Adventures game for the NES is not only actually good but absolutely fantastic to boot.  It probably owes its quality to the fact that it emulates Super Mario Bros. 3 in several ways but it does a lot to set itself apart too.
Much like Mario 3, the game controls flawlessly; a sad rarity among 8-bit platformers.  The movement pacing, the jump arcs, the gravity, etc. is all exactly what you would want it to be.
The levels are relatively short when compared with Mario games and other platformers but they still entertain and enemy placement and bosses get progressively more difficult to deal with.
What really gives this game it's own identity is the way the character selection works.  You always start out as playing Buster but before each level, you choose a partner to take with you.  Your options are Plucky, Dizzy and Furrball.  Each of these partners have special abilities that Buster doesn't; my favourite is Furrball who can cling to and jump up walls.
When you grab a ball with a star on it, you change from Buster to your chosen partner.  To change back, you need to find another ball.
You also collect carrots much like coins in Mario and, again much like Mario, you can use the carrots to earn extra lives from Hamton.
You might wonder why you would ever want to return to playing as Buster after switching to a partner since he has no special abilities.  This might be one minor flaw with the game as the truth is, there are very few reasons.  The most major difference between the characters is their speed; all 3 of the partners move slower than Buster, Dizzy being the slowest while Plucky and Furrball move at the same speed, which is an OK balance when you consider that the game (once again, much like Mario) has a time limit on every level.  Even so, just the fact that the developers (Konami) actually even thought to balance a character roster in a 1991 platformer based on a cartoon series just blows me away.  Speaking of, one other factor that the game may owe its quality to is its date of release.
Released in December of 1991, this game came right at the very tail end of the NES's lifespan, the Super Famicom was already a year old and the SNES came out the same year (in fact, several months before this game).  In this respect, Tiny Toon Adventures is very similar to Metal Storm, another fantastic game that came out on the NES after the console was already on its way out.
So how come I'm not gushing over Metal Storm as well?  Because I never knew it existed until I saw footage from it in Egoraptor's Sequelitis video about Mega Man X.  Tiny Toon Adventures, on the other hand, was one of the most prominent video games of my early childhood, and it damn well deserved to be.
The fact that I forgot about this game entirely for nearly 2 decades is just unforgivable.  If you have any love for 8-bit games, especially platformers/sidescrollers, you owe it to yourself to play this one.