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thegoldenband last won the day on January 4 2019

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  1. My times for the week: Master System: Altered Beast - 193 min. Phantasy Star - 93 min. Beat Altered Beast legitimately -- got a 1CC, in fact -- and, against my better judgment, started working on Phantasy Star. (No slight to Phantasy Star, it just doesn't feel like a "take advantage of those waning days of summer" game. With the amount of grinding it requires, it begs to be played while multitasking.)
  2. Oh, I'd look a bit further east for my oblast needs if I were you...
  3. That picture is somehow both beautiful and obscene!
  4. 62. Ghostbusters (Master System) Far superior to the disastrous NES game, and in many ways, this is a textbook example of how to do a computer-to-console port right. And the feature allowing you to keep your extra money after a failed run? Love it. But I still remember an old Electronic Games feature on Ghostbusters, ca. 1985 or so. Though supportive, it noted that the gameplay was ultimately a bit "cut-and-dried". Unfortunately that's true here as well: once you've got the routine down, there's not much left but a middling endgame. C+. 63. Altered Beast (Master System) Meanwhile, this arcade-to-console port plays like a computer game, in the worst sense: the graphics chug horribly, almost as though the SMS had no hardware sprites and was doing everything via framebuffer. (Maybe the whole thing is done with background tiles, like Golden Axe?) Meanwhile the controls are laggy and eat inputs constantly, especially when the action gets hectic. Plus, despite the system's vaunted color palette, you get a lot of the same pink-and-green graphics that plague too many Master System titles. And remember, this is all based on one of the most unforgiving games of its kind, with no health pickups, no way to earn extra lives, and level design that expects memorization. Yet the porting process only made it more unforgiving, as you can easily burn through an entire health bar by getting hit once and being juggled by crowds of enemies. Oh, and the special wolves that give you those crucial power-up balls? Yeah, sometimes they don't bother to spawn if the screen's too crowded. So Altered Beast is kind of an abomination, really, and probably it should never have been released. The choppy gameplay indicates that they wanted something that would look good in screenshots, gameplay be damned, but why this game (or Golden Axe for that matter)? It could only have undercut the Genesis and disappointed Master System owners. All that said...after a day's worth of trying (and a whole lot of swearing), I gradually went from getting my butt handed to me, to 1CC'ing the game and feeling like I'd overcome a real challenge in doing so. And that experience is the epitome of Altered Beast -- so I guess this port can't be quite as bad as I wanted to think it is, since it really is Altered Beast on the Master System. D.
  5. My times for the week: Sega Master System: Altered Beast - 100 min. Ghostbusters - 90 min. Ys: The Vanished Omens - 577 min. Beat Ys and Ghostbusters, and "beat" Altered Beast with the codes that give you extra continues and health. I'll admit the recent Ys discussion here inspired my playthrough! But I'd been meaning to replay it, since it was one of only two Master System games left that I needed to replay without savestates (Phantasy Star is the other). Nice to log some SMS times on real hardware.
  6. 60. Wagyan Land (Famicom) Not going to grade this because the word game that serves as the closing boss battle may have been messed up in translation, making it almost unwinnable (I used savestates to help me do so, after playing the rest of the game legit). I've always liked the crisp, simplistic graphics, though. n/a 61. Ys: The Vanished Omens (Master System) The first half of this game is grindy, but kind of fun and relatively straightforward. The second half is a long slog through a huge tower, but the game designers didn't bother to use any visual cues to differentiate between the different floors, and the level cap is so low that all combat has already become pointless by this point. It's an irritating slog, complete with obscure triggers and lengthy backtracking, that nearly ruins the game -- but one thing helps mitigate the damage: you can save anywhere, anytime, and there are five slots. That's what you call "class". C.
  7. Does this mean that we're one game short of a full conversion set?
  8. Was really blown away when I randomly stumbled on a video of this -- it's simply astonishing and far beyond anything I imagined possible. Regarding controls, has the possibility been floated of supporting two Master System or Genesis gamepads turned 90°? That was the control scheme used by Smash TV on the NES, and I thought it worked quite well (I beat the game that way).
  9. My times for the week: NES: Final Fantasy II (Demiforce translation) - 6 min. Genesis: M-1 Abrams Battle Tank - 677 min. Beat every individual mission in M-1 Abrams Battle Tank on Novice difficulty. Once the game clicked with me, it became reasonably fun (and kind of hypnotic). Unfortunately Campaign mode (in which you tackle all the missions consecutively, in random order) requires a long, single-sitting playthrough, and one of my eyes is giving me trouble. So I may have to take a break before tackling it -- which makes me wish I'd taken notes along the way.
  10. My times for the week: NES: Journey to Silius - 161 min. Kid Kool - 37 min. Wagyan Land - 827 min. Genesis: Earnest Evans - 123 min. M1 Abrams Battle Tank - 55 min. Romance of the Three Kingdoms III - 10 min. First, I beat Journey to Silius and Earnest Evans. Then I decided to fire up Wagyan Land, a simple platformer I'd messed around with about 20 years ago, early in my emulation days. Back in 2000-ish, I'd enjoyed the game until I ran into a language barrier: the second boss wanted to play a timed tile-matching game based on shiritori, in which you supply a noun whose first kana is the last kana of the previous player's noun. Without Japanese language skills, no can do -- but now, with a fan translation in hand, I thought it'd be a kind of light refreshment and expected a quick, easy win. Well, 99% of the game is quick and easy, and I made it to the final boss in about 90 minutes. However, the final boss also plays shiritori, and adds a horrible new condition: not only do you have to win, you have to keep him from losing until you accumulate a certain number of points. It's like playing tandem solitaire with a partner who's trying to screw you over at every turn. Maybe it's OK in Japanese, but the fan translator either didn't supply enough synonyms for certain tiles (you use tiles to pick words), or just needed to replace some of them, as there aren't nearly enough words that start with E on the board to make up for all the English nouns that end with E. Plus there are typos in the translation, e.g. "Ramb" for "Ram"; tiles whose identity is ambiguous or unclear, like a "Racket" that looks more like a wooden spoon (and can also be a Ladle, but not a spoon); and some non-obvious synonyms, like WhiteBear for PolarBear, while other obvious synonyms like "feline" for Cat don't work. The difficulty spike is positively ridiculous. I spent over 10 hours systematically trying every letter with every tile -- mercifully, while watching TV or listening to music in the background -- until I got a list of all the synonyms I could find (no luck finding anything for Lighthouse, Safe, or Telescope, though). Then I just replayed the final boss battle until I miraculously found a win. This was done with the aid of savestates, though the game has infinite continues and no real penalty for dying beyond having to replay a short, easy segue into the boss battle. I've avoided using savestates for the past decade, but given that the issue here is very likely an artifact of an imperfect fan translation, I think my conscience is clear. Finally, I played some more Genesis. I gave up after my usual 10 minutes when trying to play a Koei game solo, but I did manage to stick with M-1 Abrams Battle Tank long enough to clear the first mission on the lowest difficulty.
  11. 59. Earnest Evans (Genesis) This game is a giant pile of jank, but I have a certain amount of affection for it. Earnest is an awkward marionette, the stage design is all over the place, and the controls are out of their mind (why does jumping while lying down make you go into an unstoppable full-screen roll?!). Yet it's got the same kind of sprawling, loopy ambition and flashes of inspiration that typify Wolf Team games at their best. And that's why I'm going to give it a slightly higher grade than Journey to Silius (blasphemy!), because Earnest Evans is trying to be something special, while Journey to Silius didn't make that effort on any level except presentation. C-.
  12. 58. Journey to Silius (NES) This game's reputation is something like "hidden gem, really difficult, great soundtrack". Right? Except I don't agree with any of these, as Journey to Silius is no hidden gem, but a short and deeply flawed game whose difficulty is strictly a question of memorizing the locations (and consequences) of cheap enemy placement, leaps of faith, and unforeseeable death traps. The gameplay itself is strictly meat-and-potatoes: if you approach it methodically, it can be beaten in under three hours of practice, as the levels are 100% linear and offer nothing particularly challenging or clever. The boss fights are simplistic, and often easier than the minibosses that come right before them: at least 2-3 bosses can be defeated without taking a hit by using extremely obvious patterns, while a couple of the preceding minibosses are a "cross your fingers and hope for the best" affair with forced hits and questionable hit detection. The challenge in Journey to Silius, such as it is, comes instead from the cheap shots mentioned earlier. For example, you can ride an elevator into a new screen, only to get shot by the occupants while you're still trapped in the elevator animation, unable to move. Worse, you can get shot and killed by a boss after you've killed it off: fair enough, except that as soon as the boss goes into its death animation, the game paralyzes you. It's one thing to get sloppy after you've fired the killing shot and then get stung by a dead bee, but another thing to be forced into the role of a sitting duck. Worst of all, there's a serious bug in the controls, one that I'm not sure anyone has described before and is 100% reproducible. If you turn around quickly and simultaneously try to jump, your character won't respond to the jump input if it happens during the turning animation. This has frequently led me, and countless others no doubt, straight off a cliff or into a charging enemy. In a game with this much platforming, that's basically unforgivable. I could go on with the flaws in Journey to Silius, e.g. how having one energy meter for all your guns robs the game of the strategic weapon usage that makes the Mega Man series so rewarding, or how the final level is essentially cheap-shot garbage ne plus ultra, designed to prolong a game with little content. Or I could note that the pumpin' soundtrack may be impressive on a technical level, but not one tune from it has stuck with me or caught my attention. People who rave about Journey to Silius may be responding to its technical prowess, but have they really tried to play the damn thing, start to finish? It's just not much fun, and yet doesn't have much meat on the bone either. Who cares if it looks and sounds sexy, if it can't perform? D+.
  13. My times for the week: NES: Bucky O’Hare - 187 min. Castle of Dragon - 68 min. Rescue: The Embassy Mission - 214 min. Ultimate Stuntman - 6 min. Beat Castle of Dragon, Rescue: The Embassy Mission (withathe best ending on the hardest mission & highest difficulty), and Bucky O'Hare. Three entries from my "beaten with savestates in the past" list, all beaten legitimately. The list is shrinking!
  14. 57. Bucky O'Hare (NES) Bucky O'Hare is basically Konami's version of Mega Man -- I'm not sure why this reviewer insists it isn't, as the resemblances border on plagiarism at times. Someone wisely noted that most "hidden gem" games usually have major flaws that kept them from peak status. Bucky's biggest issue is that it's an easy game with a few hair-pullingly frustrating spots. At least one of those requires prior memorization (i.e. it can't be beaten even with perfect reflexes), something I've come to really dislike. So they give you unlimited continues and a very generous checkpoint and password system -- but that can't really replace good stage design. Then again, I suppose you can regard those stretches as a precursor of modern indie games that throw out "lives" in favor of unlimited attempts and brutal difficulty. It's also got one of the most tedious boss fights I've experienced in recent memory (and no, it's not the giant ship fight, how could anyone spend a week on that?!). That said, the game is quite good, even excellent, in almost every other way. (And that's a very deliberate "almost", as it commits at least one other serious sin: the number of typos in the game's script is atrocious!) B.
  15. I've played Parachute a bit! One of the more interesting PAL exclusive or exclusive-ish games in the VCS library, I think.
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