SNES – The Combatribes

Note 1: The SNES version of The Combatribes was played on an original model SNES console that has been modified to output in component video.  It was connected to a 32-inch HD tv that is capable of outputting the 240p component signal required for the game to display properly. *Upon looking at my SNES pictures, you may think, “That’s component video output?  It doesn’t look that great, especially compared to the HD output of the other game.”  You’re right, and it’s odd – I have a toploader NES component modded – it looks awesome, as good if not better than any HDMI modded NES.  I have a Turbografx-16 component modded – the picture looks absolutely spectacular.  But for some reason, this component modded SNES just doesn’t look that great.  Maybe it’s the tv, maybe it’s the mod.  My S-video cable honestly makes the picture look way better than my component video cables, which shouldn’t be the case, but is.  So, the moral of the story is, invest in an S-video cable for your original model SNES (if your tv accepts it), rather than having it component modded (my experience only, mind you!), or, wait for an HDMI-modded SNES console that runs original cartridges, as I’m sure we’ll see in the near future.  **Starting with the Stage 4 SNES pictures, I swapped back to S-video cables, and I think that improved the picture.  

Note 2: The arcade version of this game was played on the Retro-bit Retrocade system.  The Retrocade contains 90 arcade and console roms, including The Combatribes.  The console was connected to a 32-inch HD tv through HDMI.  As noted in my ‘About’ section, I don’t typically play through emulation; however, I loved The Combatribes for the SNES, and I wanted to see how it differed from the arcade version.

Note 3: This ‘review’ will be much less of a review than what I typically write.  My brief ‘review’ is just below.  This will, moreover, be a comparison between the SNES version and the arcade version, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.  So far, these are only some of the differences from the first 3 stages of the game, and I just did it for fun for anyone who might be interested. Enjoy!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade of both the SNES and the arcade versions of The Combatribes B+ This is one excellent, underrated Beat ‘Em Up.  I suppose it’s relatively obscure, as far as name recognition.  Double DragonFinal Fight?  Most have heard of them, but I wasn’t familiar with The Combatribes until recently.  The action is a bit slow, but the stages are short, the sound effects are awesome in terms of feeling like you’re really pummeling someone, and the sprites are huge.  A gem among Beat ‘Em Ups.

Contrasts between the two versions

General:  In the arcade version, your health is represented by a score that decreases as you take damage.  In the SNES version, you have a standard ‘life bar.’  Also, the arcade version has no story whatsoever.  It’s unclear why you’re beating up all of these gangs.  The SNES version welcomingly adds a story, where (in short) you’re a cyborg tasked with discovering why the gangs of New York have united, and to take them out. There is blood in the arcade version when you slam a punk’s head into the pavement or bash two punks’ heads together.  Blood was removed from the SNES version.  The arcade version has a few additional moves that the SNES cut – kicking your opponent while he’s down (you can still do the ‘backbreaker’ jumping stomp in the SNES version though), walking around with a bad guy before you throw him, and, when a bad guy grabs you around the waste, dropping elbow smashes on his back to get him off.

STAGE 1: In the arcade version, you can lift and throw various objects at enemies (motorcycles, go-carts, pinball machines). These are removed from the SNES version.  

ARCADE

STAGE 1:  In the SNES version, you can’t throw bad guys down the nearby stairwell, try though you may.  Also note, there are less bad guys to pummel in the SNES version, with one generic punk missing altogether, and check out how the name of the restaurant was altered for the SNES release.   

SNES

STAGE 1: In the arcade version, you’ll have no trouble sending the motorcycle gang members head first down the stairs.  They won’t be coming back, either.  

ARCADE

STAGE 1: This occurs before and after all boss battles, but the SNES version has cutscenes to give this Beat ‘Em Up a story.  

img_5322

SNES

STAGE 1:  The arcade version simply gives you the screen below.  

ARCADE

STAGE 2: The barrier on the left side of the screen prevents you from walking any further left, making this stage much more confined (the game in general has stages that take place in confined areas, at least as compared to other Beat ‘Em Ups).  

SNES

STAGE 2: In the arcade version, there is no barrier, and you’ll get to pursue the boss up some scaffolding before you fight him.  In the SNES version, you just fight him on the screen you see above.  

ARCADE

STAGE 2: In the arcade version, in the background, you’ll see a cart with three dancing cats.  

ARCADE

STAGE 2: In the SNES version, you’ll see the cart with 3 Kunio-things dancing.  This is a nod to Technos’ beloved Kunio-kun character.  

SNES

STAGE 3: The arcade version has two areas – the first one, seen below, is not present at all in the SNES version.  After beating all the punks on the top floor, your character descends a set of stairs to the second area in the arcade.  The SNES version simply starts in the second area.  Perhaps one reason why the first area was removed was because of the bar that is pictured in the arcade version would violate the SNES standards of ‘no alcohol references.’

ARCADE

STAGE 3: In the SNES version, Stage 3, as mentioned, starts off in the area you see below.  The background screen alternates between stars and the Technos logo.

SNES

STAGE 3: The arcade version has the same screens, but they alternate between a creepy looking woman and another odd image, before finally the boss’ face appears right before he shows up.  None of these are present in the SNES version.  

STAGE 4: The Native American boss of stage 4, in the arcade, does a jumping elbow drop once you disarm him of his tomahawk.  He does not do this move in the SNES version, and is subsequently easier to beat.  

ARCADE

STAGE 5: The name of Stage 5 is ‘The Demolition Troops’ in the SNES version, and ‘The Slaughter Troops’ in the arcade.  The layout of the stage is the same – you fight bad guys on several floors while intermittently hopping on an elevator to move on to the next floor – but in the SNES version, you will fight all of the previous bosses (and a few punks) in a boss rush until you get to the roof for ‘Stage 6 – The Final Battle’ with Martha Splatterhead, whom you’ve already discovered (from a cutscene) is the ‘big boss’ who united all the gangs.  

SNES – Stage 6: The Final Battle

STAGE 5: In the arcade, Stage 5 is a normal stage with a new gang of soldiers with guns and knives (you’ll fight just a couple of these enemy types on the last floor in the SNES version, and only the ones with guns).  In the arcade, you’ll encounter a man in a suit whom you assume is the ‘big boss,’ but he flees in a helicopter before you fight ‘Master Blaster,’ the Stage 5 boss.  In the SNES version, you fought Master Blaster on the last floor BEFORE heading up to the roof for ‘Stage 6.’  

ARCADE – Stage 5 boss, Master Blaster

STAGE 6: As mentioned, Stage 6 in the SNES version is simply the rooftop battle with Martha Splatterhead.  In the arcade, however, you battle on a dock with NYC in the background.  This stage is the boss rush – you’ll fight all the previous bosses before approaching the man in the suit.  Before you can fight him, however, he looks behind him into his limo, and suddenly is eviscerated from behind!  Out of the limo steps a woman (or TWO women if you’re playing with two players – this is not the case in the SNES version).  There is no explanation whatsoever as to who this woman is, unlike in the SNES version.  But evidently she is some type of associate of the suit guy and decided it was time for him to go.  You’ll fight her on the dock, just like the other bosses you just defeated.  

ARCADE

ARCADE

ENDING: In the arcade, you just leave Martha Splatterhead on the dock, and that’s it.  The SNES version actually has a slightly drawn out ending, where the Combatribes won’t leave her behind, since she is a fellow cyborg.  

SNES

SNES

SNES

So, which version is better?  It would be great if you could combine the ‘life bar’ and story elements of the SNES version with the slightly longer stages, additional moves, blood, and weapons of the arcade.  The addition of the story is an awesome addition for the console version.  It’s really an apples and oranges comparison, however, because obviously the SNES is not as powerful as an arcade.  Based purely on the graphics, the arcade has a slight edge.  The SNES version is also easier than the arcade.  It’s not ‘easy,’ mind you, just easier than the arcade.  The SNES game will take you less time to beat than the arcade version.  There are less bad guys, and generally speaking, they’re not quite as aggressive in the SNES version – except Martha Splatterhead – she’s relentless in both versions.  You can’t lose with either version, but I’d stick with the SNES version if I had to choose.

Advertisements

Turbografx-16 – War of the Dead

Previously only available for the PC Engine, the game was wonderfully translated to English for play on the American Turbografx-16.

Note 1Shiryo Sensen: War of the Dead was played on a Turbografx-16 game console that has been modified to output in component video.  It was connected to a 32-inch HD-tv that is capable of outputting the required 240p component video signal.

Note 2This game is a Turbografx-16 reproduction.  The game was originally only released in Japan, but today, some fantastic people have translated the game to English, fixed a couple of the original game’s ‘*bugs,’ and it is now possible to play the game as a Turbochip/Hu-card on your Turbografx-16 console! *This version of the game doesn’t delete all your inventory items if you acquire too many, nor does it re-set your experience and life bar to zero if you level up your character to the highest point, 9,999.

The excellent English translators also fixed the ‘back to zero’ glitch if you topped 9,999.

Note 3There are other versions of this game released for other consoles/computers, as well as a sequel.  However, this particular review focuses only on the English-translated Turbochip for the Turbografx-16.  There are some other great websites with information on this game, and comparisons to versions on other systems.

War of the Dead for the Turbografx-16 shares many similarities with Zelda II for the NES.

Overview: Shiryo Sensen: War of the Dead was originally released for the PC Engine (Japanese version of the Turbografx-16) in 1989.  It is an adventure-RPG, not too dissimilar from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.  The game, like Zelda II, is split between an overworld exploration/map component and a side-view action component, where the player can battle monsters and acquire experience to ‘level up’ his or her character over the course of the story.  Having received Zelda II for Christmas 29 years or so ago, War of the Dead took me back to the feel of that NES classic, albeit with a darker story.

The Church is your central hub; your objective is to find survivors and bring them there.

Story: From the back cover of the game: Due to a series of mysterious events, the town of Chaney’s Hill has been cut off from the rest of the world.  People have suddenly gone missing and cannibalistic monsters now roam the land, killing all who cross their path.  The protagonist of the game is Laila Arufon, the youngest female member of the S-SWAT (Supernatural and Special Weapon Attack Team).  She was born in the small town of Chaney’s Hill and has developed strange psychic abilities.  Her Psychic Seal (PS) and Mind Force (MF) powers allow her to increase any weapon’s destructive power and increase her defensive capability greatly.  Her mission is twofold – she must investigate the mysterious and supernatural incident in Chaney’s Hill, and rescue all the remaining survivors she can find and lead them to the town’s Church.  

Talking to everyone, often multiple times, is the key to advancing in the game.

Gameplay: Your character, Laila, begins in the Church, which is a safe refuge from the monsters killing people in the town.  In the beginning, only Laila, Carrie, and the Reverend Carpenter are in the church, but it soon fills up as you rescue the townspeople.  Carrie, or other survivors, will give you hints or outright tell you where you should investigate next in order to find survivors – usually buildings around town.  For example, your first destination is City Hall, and your next one is the School.  As you venture outside the Church and explore the mountainous landscape of the town of Chaney’s Hill, you will randomly encounter battles with the monsters terrorizing the town.  At this point, the action becomes side-scrolling, and Laila can either flee to the left or right to exit the battle, or attack the monsters with her knife or gun (the gun has a limited amount of ammo).  Choosing to fight results in monsters dropping a blue orb (gives experience points to slowly ‘level up’ Laila), a red orb (replenishes Laila’s life bar), a green orb (replenishes her ‘Mind Force’ – the ability to cast spells/enchantments that increase the power of her weapons and strengthen her defense), or an ammunition box, which increases the total number of bullets for your gun(s) (up to 999).

The raft, which you get early in the game, allows for faster travel and exploration of new parts of Chaney’s Hill.

Items and weapons: On your inventory screen (press Select), you can use items to replenish your health or Mind Force (magic).  You sometimes find these items in chests inside buildings . You can also change your weapon.  You start out with only the knife and a pistol, but will soon acquire alternate firearms.  You will also acquire other items, usually from the game’s characters, that help you advance the story.  *You cannot access the inventory screen during the side-scrolling battle sections of the game, so make sure you’re prepared with the correct weapon and health items before you encounter tough enemies. Additionally, you have an option for ‘PS REM,’ which allows you to cast your Mind Force (magic) on any of your selected weapons in order to strengthen their attack power. Different weapons use different amounts of MF – for example, the knife uses 8 MF points while the rifle uses 15.

Using your ‘Mind Force’ power increases the power of your weapons, so use it often!

Enemy Encounters: These are random, and certain parts of the town (or map) seem to be ‘hot spots’ for encounters.  For example, I had to travel a good bit south of the Church to first encounter enemies.  Walking around in a particular area near a forest allowed me to constantly fight enemies and level up my character.  However, in other spots of the town, I rarely, if ever, encountered enemies.  Having the ability to flee battles is a nice touch as well, although sometimes enemies may approach from both sides, making fleeing without at least some fighting difficult.  In the beginning of the game, Laila is quite weak, but it doesn’t take too long to grind her levels up and increase her life bar significantly by collecting the blue orbs that enemies drop.  *Her Mind Force bar (think ‘MP’ or Magic Power) increases after certain objectives (rescuing particular citizens) have been completed.  When you encounter enemies in buildings rather than the town/overworld, the enemies tend to be stronger, so first spending significant time leveling up Laila in the town is crucial to your survival inside buildings.

Enemies and bosses inside buildings are a tough challenge that require you to have appropriately strengthened Laila through leveling up.

Music: The soundtrack for War of the Dead is wonderful – an upbeat but creepy mix welcomingly accompanies you along your journey.

Not the most ideal option for game saving, the password for War of the Dead is a bit long.  This, however, is only a minor nuance in an excellent gaming experience.

Passwords: To save your game, when in the Church, touch the Cross on the left side of the screen.  The saving system for War of the Dead is a password system.  It would have been great if this game would have utilized the TurboBooster-Plus save system that games like Neutopia take advantage of, but for some reason, it is password only.  The password system for War of the Dead is the longest one I’ve ever seen in the multitude of password games I’ve played, but it’s nothing to deter you from playing the game.  The wonderful translators of this game, in addition to translating the dialogue, also changed the password screen – which originally was a mix of alphabet letters, numbers, and Japanese characters – to alphabet letters, numbers, and other random symbols (no Japanese characters), which for me, with zero knowledge of Japanese, is far easier to identify and input.  After a little practice, I’m able to accurately input the password in approximately 3-4 minutes.  I’d recommend taking a clear picture of the password with your smart phone, or simply take the time to be precise if you’re recording it in a notebook.  Because of the long password, I’d also recommend playing this game when you have half an hour or more to devote to playing time, since you can’t just pop right in and start playing.

One by one, you must save everyone you can and return them to the Church.

Conclusion: War of the Dead is a welcome addition to the TurboChip library of the Turbografx-16, which is sorely lacking without English translations like this one (thank you again, translators!!!).  The combination of the overworld/town exploration and side-scrolling battles works well, and is reminiscent of the well-known NES classic, Zelda II.  *It’s better, however, at least in terms of being less difficult and more clear about what to do next, than Zelda II was, in my opinion.  The story is wonderfully creepy and horror-esque, something unlike what I’ve ever found in other Turbografx games, other than Splatterhouse.

Enemies that drop blue orbs are the most beneficial – these orbs increase your experience, which, at certain totals, will increase your life bar.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter grade:  C+ War of the Dead has some good things going for it – a captivating story, fun (and simple) battles for leveling up your character, great music, and great control.  However, there may be more than a few a few times when you’re confused about where to go next (just keep talking to people!), the town/map is rather large to explore while having to bring survivors back to the church (meaning you’ll do a lot of walking) and the password system is a bit long if you don’t have the patience for it, but overall, this is a fun experience, and different enough to set it apart from other adventure-RPGs. I did beat the game, and I would estimate a good 15-20 hours I spent on it. It can be tedious with all of the walking and while the English translation itself is perfect, the game is designed around you, the player, picking up on the clues other characters tell you and knowing where to go next, which may not be the most fun for every type of player.

War of the Dead is an engaging, creepy adventure-RPG.

I found this map online that may help if you’re playing War of the Dead; I added in where the major buildings are located

Above is the password to get you with all items and everything out of the way to go to the Ruins for the two boss fights at the end of the game.

Sammy Atomiswave – Dirty Pigskin Football

The loan football game for the Atomiswave

Note: This game was played in a consolized Sammy Atomiswave that has been modified to output via an HDMI port.  The game was played in a 39-inch HD tv using a Neo Geo controller.

Overview: Dirty Pigskin Football was released for the Sammy Atomiswave arcade cabinet in 2004.  Evidently, some of the dedicated arcade cabinets had their own unique ‘football’ styled joysticks, making for a unique playing experience.

Players: *2, co-op or competitive.  In the system menu, under Game Settings, the game can be set up for 4 players. Originally, depending on the arcade cabinet the Atomiswave motherboard was set up in, arcade owners had the option to select 2 or 4 players based on how many players their machine could accommodate.  My consolized Atomiswave only has 2 controller ports; therefore, I keep the setting for 2 players only.


Rules: 5 on 5 Football. Each game is 3:00 minutes long. Ties are possible, and there is no overtime. There is no kicking of any kind in the game – each team starts their possession on their own 20 yard line, and has 4 downs to score a touchdown, or the ball is turned over on downs. There are no penalties of any kind.


Season: Play a 5 game season. The first 4 games are the regular season. Depending on your record, you’ll get a championship game against one of four possible opponents: a Mirror Match vs. your own team, the Hall of Fame (a mix of players from several of the teams), HardKor (a cyborg team), and the Dark Horde (a demonic football team).


Scoring: 7 points for a passing touchdown, 6 points for a rushing touchdown. 2 points for a safety. 7 points for an interception returned for a touchdown (Pick 7?!). Remember, there is no kicking PATs or field goals.


Controls: 3 action buttons are used. They are color-coded on the playscreen. Essentially, on your controller, red is button 1, blue is button 2, and yellow is button 3. On offense, you press button 1, 2, or 3 to select a play (9 to choose from for each team, although only 3 appear onscreen at a time – scroll right or left to see the other plays) and button 1 also snaps the ball. Once snapped, you can press button 1 or button 2 to pass to the red or blue highlighted receiver. Button 3 activates your ‘turbo’ – your QB (or receiver if you passed) will speed up if held until your meter is depleted.  On defense, button 1 tackles the ball carrier, and button 2 switches which of the 5 players in your team you are. Will you cover a receiver as a Corner or go for the sack as a Linebacker?

Advanced Defense Controls: On defense, wiggling the joystick will help you get off blocks to try and sack the QB or pursue a ball carrier. Pressing button 1+ button 3 executes a ‘Super Tackle’ if you are close to the ball carrier.  This is a special move that has its own animation and stops the ball carrier right in his or her tracks. You can only execute a Super Tackle if your meter is completely full and reads SUPER and you’re near the ball carrier.

Advanced Offense Controls: Button 1 + Button 2 spins your runner. Button 2 + button 3 delivers a stiff arm. As the QB, if your meter reads SUPER, you can throw an incrediblely quick pass by pressing the button of your receiver plus button 3.


Teams: 8 teams are available. As far as I can tell, they all play similarly; however, each has their own unique playbook of nine offensive plays and nine defensive plays, giving some reason to try different teams. Each team has their own unique personality and stadium. My favorite has to be the Gridiron Ghouls, who play in what appears to be a haunted college campus with a ‘Class of 1903’ banner hanging from a building.


Sound Effects: Excellent!  Hits are bone crunching! The sound effect for taking off by hitting the turbo button is an exhilarating 0-60 whirr. Music is also unique to each teams’ stadium and awesome.

Gameplay & Control: Outstanding. Controlling your character is easy and effective.  He or she does exactly what you want. On defense, positioning your player directly in front of receivers is key to getting interceptions or knocking the ball away. It takes a game or two to get things down, particularly learning to use the ‘advanced’ controls, but it’s all really quite simple as an arcade game should be.


Options:  In the Atomiswave test menu, you can adjust the timer to run Slow, Normal, or Fast.  You can set the game to Free Play so you don’t have to pump in Credits, which is great for a game like this. There’s also an option to remove the Bad Girls, the loan female team (I suppose they didn’t want to run into trouble by depicting violence against women?).


Saving:  The Atomiswave console (motherboard) will save your high scores on high score screens, even if you turn the system off!  There are multiple high score screens, including Most Yards Per Game, Most Yards Per Season, and Current Champion if you beat the 5th team. The scores will delete, however, if you insert a new game into the console and turn it on.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A+. I love football games (see all my other football game reviews!), but I’ve never really been into 3D style ‘modern’ football games.  This one, however, is awesome.  Sure, the graphics are a bit blocky.  But games are quick (in fact, the whole 5 game season only takes about 20 minutes) co-op is available (something too many arcade football games never allowed) and the action is hard-hitting. The game has an easy learning curve, but even on Easy, getting to 5-0 will take some practice!

Sammy Atomiswave – Knights of Valour: The Seven Spirits

IMG_4381

Note: This game was played on a Sammy Atomiswave that has been ‘consolized’  (made to play on a television like a regular home game console), rather than in an arcade cabinet.  This console version of the Atomiswave has an HDMI port, two ports for connecting Neo Geo controllers, and buttons for adding Credits (Coins) and accessing the System Menu, where things like adjusting the language or number of lives can be done.  *Atomiswave cartridges are roughly the size of Super Nintendo cartridges, and they could easily be taken out of the motherboard for convenience to arcade owners and replaced with other Atomiswave games; this easy cartridge switching made the Atomiswave a good candidate for consolization, in my opinion, as it truly feels like a game console.

IMG_4386

Two Neo Geo ports are included on this consolized Atomiswave motherboard.

Genre: Beat ‘Em Up

Players: 2

History: Knights of Valour: The Seven Spirits was released for the Sammy Atomiswave arcade cabinet in 2003.  It is one in a series of games in the Knights of Valour series.  As far as I can discern from the limited information on the Internet, the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms serves as a foundation for some of the game’s characters and battles.

IMG_4436

There are 8 chapters of Beat ‘Em Up action in KoV: The Seven Spirits.

Overview: Despite it’s release being long after the general decline of the Beat ‘Em Up genre, KoV: The Seven Spirits is, at its core, a classic Beat ‘Em Up.  You choose your character, walk right, and pummel any and everything in sight.  Boss fights await at the end of each ‘chapter.’  Special moves, health & magic pick ups, and treasure pick ups (points) – all general staples of the genre, are found here.

IMG_4400

6 unique characters, each with his or her own story, are available for selection.

Characters: *6 characters are available at the start of the game (a 7th ‘hidden’ character, who I have not uncovered yet, appears to be available, according to the sticker that arrived with the game).  Megrez, Alioth (female), Merak, Phecda, Mizer (female), and Alkaid comprise the fighters in KoV: The Seven Sprits.  As one might expect, each has his or her own speed and strength levels and special attacks.

IMG_4409

Screen-filling, bad-guy killing specials are common.

Control: KoV: The Seven Spirits uses the control stick and 3 action buttons.  Button A serves as a regular attack, Button B as a ‘hard attack’ or secondary attack, and Button C is jump.  Combination hits are easily chained when pressing A multiple times, and often when mixing in Button B.  Dashing is achieved by pressing Toward, Toward.  Each character also has unique ‘Arts,’ or special attacks achieved by pressing button combinations (often when prompted onscreen).  For example, Mizer’s Arts are ‘Hail of Bolts from a Clear Blue Sky,’ activated by pressing A+B, or her ‘Double Fang Flash,’ activated by pressing B+C.  Additionally, if playing with 2 players, ‘Summon Beast’ specials can be activated if BOTH players press combinations at the same time.  For example, if both players press A+B at the same time, the ‘Retribution Summon Beast’ special is activated, or if Player 1 presses A+B and Player 2 presses B+C, the ‘Original Sin Summon Beast’ special is activated.’  These deal tremendous damage to enemies.

IMG_4412

Outstanding, poorly translated (oxymoron!) dialogue adds to the game experience.

Gauges:  The characters have a Life Gauge and a Samsara Gauge (called the ‘Reincarnation Gauge’ in the User Manual).  The Life Gauge can be replenished by finding health pick ups (hearts).  The Samsara Gauge is accompanied by a number from 0 to 7.  This refers to the number of Star Balls (Baraka Spheres) you have.  Pressing A+B or A+C uses one of the balls and activates a special attack.  The Samsara Gauge fills slowly through fighting – when it fills, you’ll be prompted to press A+C – now the bar will slowly decrease, and during this time you can use unlimited special attacks.

Story: Between the onslaught of soldiers you encounter, the story is advanced through dialogue between the selected characters and boss characters.  Many of the dialogue exchanges seem to have political undertones or larger, more war-related overtones.  I found most of the dialogue (which is brief – this an arcade Beat ‘Em Up, after all) amusing, if for no other reason than the fact that the English translation was about on par with Neo Geo English translations – that is to say, the translation isn’t all that great, most of the time.

IMG_4391

Two-player only special attacks give an added reason to team up with a friend.

Chapters:  Battle through 8 chapters to complete the game.  Each character has his or her own unique Chapter 1 (this will be Player 1’s stage if there are 2 Players).  After that, choices are presented to the player – you can choose which village to save or which oppressive empire to topple through single-handedly destroying an entire army.  It adds great replay to the game, and I haven’t seen this type of structure in a Beat ‘Em Up on this scale in a game before, other than the two Dungeons and Dragons games (see my reviews).

IMG_4389

Manage the game difficulty to your own taste in the System Menu.

Options: In the System Menu, under Game Settings, you can adjust the difficulty level.  Under Easy, you definitely have a chance to One Credit Clear the game if you learn to master combat (not difficult).  You can also increase the total number of lives from 1-5.  Playing with 1 credit on 5 lives, on Easy (for now) is my favorite choice.

IMG_4415

The Sammy Atomiswave will save your high scores!  At least, until you put in a new cartridge.

High Scores: If you achieve a high score, you will have the chance to save your initials on a high score screen – and each character has his or her own screen.  Now, if you lose all of your lives and continue, the score counter keeps running BUT the last two digits will reflect the fact that you had to continue to get your high score.  For example, if you simply play on 1 credit and achieve a score of 600,000 before losing your last life, that’s exactly how your score will read on the High Score screen for your character – 600,000.  However, if you used 2 credits (you chose to continue after losing your last life) and achieved a score of 1,000,000, your score on the High Score screen would read 1,000,001 to reflect the number of times you continued.  Several Neo Geo games do this as well, and I love it as a way to distinguish single-credit scores from multiple-credit scores.  Note – The high scores DO save, even if you turn the system off.  I don’t know if this happens on original non-modded systems, but when I removed the cartridge and later re-inserted it, my high scores were still saved!  However, when I put in a different Atomiswave game, ‘Backup Data Cleared’ appeared on the screen.  When I put Knights of Valour back in, all of the pre-set defaults (Japanese language, Normal difficulty, etc.) were back in place, and high scores were gone.  So basically, high scores are saved even if you turn off the system and remove the cartridge, but not if you insert another game and turn on the system.  The motherboard can only remember high scores and settings for one game at a time.

No Pausing: Remember, this is an arcade game, so there’s no pausing.  *If you press the System Menu button on the console, it will pull up, but if you exit from there, the game resets.  A timer will appear onscreen if you are in danger of not completing a stage in time.  Occasionally, however, if you need to take a quick break, you’ll find that if you stop advancing forward, no enemies will attack you, and your only danger will be the clock, which runs slowly and only actually appears when you have 10 seconds to reach the next ‘checkpoint’ onscreen.

IMG_4417

Similar to a scene in Warriors of Fate (see my review), a rather disturbing scene plays out if you don’t save this woman and her child in Phecda’s opening chapter.

The Southern Gentleman’s Letter Grade and Opinion: Knights of Valour: The Seven Spirits is an amazing Beat ‘Em Up.  The controls are a cinch, the fighting is fast and addictive, and the dialogue, while meant to be serious, is made humorous due to the translation.  Even with 8 chapters, one can blaze through the game in about 40 minutes.  The different stories associated with each character and different routes give the game excellent replay value.  I’ve not come close to fully exploring each character’s arc, but look forward to doing so. The music is great, and the graphics, which do look somewhat modern-ish compared to 1980’s and 1990’s Beat ‘Em Ups, are all excellent.  One thing I like is how the game ‘scales’ the characters – if the characters move closer to the screen, they get larger, if they push back, they get smaller – this adds a sense of depth.  I love the high score screens for each character, and trying to clear the game on 1 Credit is my personal goal.  A+

Turbografx-16 – Neutopia


Note:  I’ve previously reviewed Neutopia II, which aside from some differences that I noted in the review, is a strikingly similar game to the first Neutopia.  The following are some playing tips I’ve created that may help anyone in playing this excellent Turbografx-16 game.  While there is a great FAQ Walkthrough I’ve found online, these are some tips that will simply help you have a better understanding of how to be successful at the game without giving away where to go and what to do.

Neutopia Playing Tips:


1. HEALTH – A quick way to regain your health if your meter is low: When asked if you want a password, say “Yes.” When asked if you want to continue playing, say “No.” On the title screen, select ‘Continue.’  Using either the Password option or File Cabinet option, the password will already be entered for you (the File Cabinet really just ‘saves’ your password so you never have to write it down), so simply move the cursor to END. You’ll start back right where you left off with a full health meter!

2. COMPASS & CHIME – Use the compass on the map screen often to (generally) point you in the right direction.  Also, when on the menu screen, listen for a ‘chime’ that will sometimes let you know that there is a bombable wall nearby.  DO NOT FORGET THIS.

3. DISCOVERING SECRETS – To find secret passages, either in the Overworld or in one of the eight labyrinths, try defeating all of the enemies on screen, THEN burning everything in sight with the Fire Wand, or pushing every stone. If you’re lost, don’t forget this tactic.

4. CANCELING CONVERSATIONS – To cancel talking to the residents of Neutopia, press the II button when they begin speaking. This saves time when you’ve already spoken to someone once.

5. AVOIDING GOLD REDUCTION – Try not to die, as dying reduces the gold you’ve collected by HALF.  When in doubt, use the Wings of Return item to go back to the Save Lady to avoid getting killed.


6. MEDICINE – You can carry up to two medicines, (red when the bottle holds two doses, green when it holds one), and DON’T HESITATE TO USE IT WHEN YOUR HEALTH IS LOW.  If you already have two potions, and you (for some reason) pick up another from a shop or find one in a chest, you won’t be able to carry more than the two, and the one you tried to collect will disappear.  So don’t hesitate to use a potion, as you’ll likely find another one again soon.


7. INCREASING BOMB CAPACITY AND LIFE CAPACITY –  You begin the quest with the capacity to carry only 8 bombs.  You can increase your capacity by 4 bombs exactly three times in the game, for a maximum of 20 bombs.  Search every screen of the over world: Some residents just give you advice, but you’ll occasionally find monks to increase your bomb-carrying capacity, residents who will give you gold, or wise men to increase the length of your health meter.  Seek them out.


8. GOLD COLLECTION – Collect as much gold as possible! You’ll need it for medicine and bombs, especially in the back half of the game.  Also, bombs and medicine get more expensive in each of the 4 spheres you visit (Earth, Subterranean, Water, and Sky). It’s often a good idea to return to the Earth Sphere to buy at cheaper rates. *Also, don’t BUY the ring – enemies will drop it often in labyrinths.

9. ITEMS & WEAPONS – Never leave any of the eight labyrinths without finding the treasure! Whether it’s armor, a shield, or another item, you’ll need every item to have the best chance to complete your quest. Also, some important items aren’t in labyrinths, but in bombable caves or hidden stairwells in the Overworld (ex. Steel Shield, Falcon Shoes in the Sea Sphere).  *The Bell of the Sky in Labyrinth 8 opens doors and reveals stairways!

10. LABYRINTHS – Always bring a full stock of bombs and two medicines into every labyrinth!  In the final four labyrinths, use the Wings of Return after you find the compass, key, or special item.  If you’re low on health, this is a good way to keep the items you’ve already collected. Get healthy, re-stock, and return!

11. USE THE FIREWAND ON BOSSES Seriously, a powered-up firewand works wonders on almost every boss. Think the Crab Boss and that Fake Dirth (Labyrinth 8) are too tough?  Nope, they, and others, can easily be decimated by shooting walls and walls of fire across the screen continuously.

12. PASSWORDS – Write down the password carefully (or use the file cabinet save system if you have a Turbobooster Plus accessory) and don’t get discouraged! Keep at it!

 

Turbografx-16 – Legend of Valkyrie

Note: This game is an English-translated (extremely well done, I might add!) Turbografx-16 reproduction hu-card that was played on a component video-modded TG-16.

IMG_3676

Legend of Valkyrie is a beautiful action-RPG to behold in component video.

Note 2: This game may be relatively ‘obscure’ to the casual gamer, but there are numerous websites that have terrific information on it, as well as the other games in the series.  However, most of the websites I discovered primarily concerned themselves with the arcade version of the game, not the PC Engine (or Turbografx-16 in the U.S.) version.  I wanted to create a review that also, perhaps, adds some additional information that I could not find elsewhere about this console version.  As far as the story of the game goes, this review will not be as detailed as what you might find elsewhere, but I hope, if you’re interested in this version, this review may be of some use to you.

VersionsValkyrie no Densetsu, or Legend of Valkyrie, was released for the arcades in Japan in 1989; the only home console to receive a port at the time was the Japanese PC Engine (re-named the Turbografx-16 in the U.S.).  The U.S. never received the game, and it was only fairly recently that the game was translated into English (thank you, translators!!!)  While the PC Engine version of the game shares many similarities with its arcade counterpart, it is not a direct port.  Other websites do outstanding jobs of describing some of the basic differences between the arcade and PC Engine versions, but this particular review will focus solely on the PC Engine version, or, to be incredibly specific, the English-translated version that was made to be played on the U.S. console, the Turbografx-16.

IMG_3681

Valkyrie and Sandra’s adventure on the PC Engine is not an exact replication of the arcade experience.

Players: 1.  The arcade version had two players, with Player 2 controlling Sandra, but the PC Engine had not the horse power of an arcade machine, for all its positives.

Genre: Legend of Valkyrie is an interesting game to categorize.  It’s probably best described as a hybrid of genres; however, having completed it, I would best describe it as an adventure-RPG, not so dissimilar from Zelda or other Turbografx classics, Neutopia and Neutopia II.  It has an overhead perspective, which clearly gives it the appearance of an adventure-RPG, but it also adds platforming elements through the protagonist’s ability to jump from platform to platform at particular times.  Also, Valkyire fires a projectile almost constantly, making the game feel reminiscent of a run ‘n gun shooter.  The addition of a basic item screen, Experience Points, the accumulation of gold to buy items in shops, the ability to learn and use magic spells, and the ability to lightly ‘level up’ your character (by adding heart and magic containers) as the Stages progress, however, in my opinion, cement this game into the adventure-RPG genre.

IMG_3677

Legend of Valkyrie is an adventure-RPG with shooter and platforming elements thrown in.

Story: The following appears on the back cover of the game case, and is basically in line with what I have found elsewhere, as well as confirmed from a playthrough of the game: “A cute and courageous young Valkyrie is sent from Heaven to save the country of Marvel Land.  She is accompanied by Sandora, a green looking creature from the Sandora clan who is on a long journey in search of the Golden Seed, a magical artifact capable of granting wishes.  But the seed has only brought chaos and disaster to the world and Valkyrie is given the mission to find it and to destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands.  With her sword and magic powers, she travels through 7 large areas – from swamps to rocky hills, deep caves and creepy dungeons.”

Additionally, the antagonist of the game is Kamuz, who seeks to have his evil wishes granted by the Golden Seed.  Valkyrie, with help from her friends along the way, must vanquish the underlings of Kamuz before confronting him herself.

IMG_3660

Cutscenes advance the story after each Stage.

ControlButton I swings your sword, and your sword fires whatever weapon you have equipped.  Your basic attack, if no stronger weapon is equipped, is a straight, short-range blue fireball.  With whatever weapon you have equipped, you can switch on the turbo-fire and fire quickly.  With the turbo-switch turned off, if you hold down Button I, your magic spells can be cycled through for you to pick.  More on magic below.  Button II makes Valkyrie jump.  Tapping it lightly makes her hop, while holding the button causes her to make a long leap.  Useful in the game is hopping or leaping across the screen – she moves much faster this way than by walking.  Start pulls up your item screen.  Select has no function.

IMG_3661

A number of NPCs will give you clues or other assistance as the story progresses.  

Item ScreenYour item screen shows your current Experience Points, Gold, Magic Spells you’ve learned, how many lives you have remaining, and any items you’ve accumulated, from different types of weapons to items unique to the game’s 7 stages.  Important to note about Experience Points (earned through killing enemies):  You will earn extra lives at 10,000, 60,000, 120,000, and 200,000 EXP (possibly at higher levels as well, but I finished the game with a bit over 260,000).  This is the main purpose of Experience Points.

IMG_3662

The item screen comes in handy, particularly when you need to know what weapons you have left.

Hearts & MagicYou begin the game with 4 hearts and 4 magic containers.  Every time you take a hit, from any enemy, you lose half of a heart.  In order to learn magic, you must seek out the old wise man, Babasama.  Babasama is located in different, often out-of-the-way or hidden places throughout the game.  Sometimes you have to achieve a certain short objective in order to get him to appear.  If you miss finding him and don’t acquire a spell in a particular stage, you can’t go back – so seek him out by fully exploring each stage.

As I played the game, I gained additional heart containers and magic containers after beating particular stages – for example, after beating the boss ‘Treant’ from Stage 2, I began Stage 3 with five heart containers from there on out.

IMG_3659

Babasama the Wise Man bestows Magic spells…if you can find him!

Using MagicHolding Button I will pull up a small display cloud beside your character and pressing Left or Right will cycle through the spells you’ve acquired.  Releasing the button while on a particular spell will use it.  However, if you realize you don’t want to use a spell after pulling up the display cloud, all you have to do is scroll through the spells until you reach the blank cloud and release, and you’ll cancel any spell casting.  Of note, Valkyrie cannot be harmed while preparing to cast a spell.  Use that to your advantage.

IMG_3680

You can’t be harmed while scrolling through your spells – The BIG spell is INCREDIBLY useful against bosses.  

Weapons: Valkyrie will find weapons in treasure chests scattered throughout the 7 stages, or she can buy them from Zoul, the merchant whose shop can be found (usually multiple times) in each stage.  These weapons range from homing beams to bombs to 3-way shots.  Each weapon has a certain amount of ‘ammo’ to it – you’ll run out after firing around 160 shots with most weapons, although, unfortunately, there’s no on-screen indicator of how many shots you have left for each weapon.  Weapons are automatically equipped when they’re next up in your weapons que, and there’s no way to manually select a particular weapon at a particular time.  It took me a few minutes to figure out why I couldn’t immediately start firing my 3-way shot after I bought it from a shop – I had to wait until the ammo from my previous weapon was exhausted before the 3-way shot became automatically equipped.  *Also, note that Valkyrie carries a shield at all times, but she can’t use it at all!  It would have been great if there would have been a block button – I’m looking at you, un-used Select button.

IMG_3658

Zoul the merchant sells weapons, health items, or occasionally, a dress for the heroine.  

GoldYou accumulate gold by killing enemies.  All enemies drop gold coins, or, in later stages, gold bags.  They come in increments of 5, 20, or 50 gold pieces.  Accumulating gold is important to being successful in the game.  Zoul the merchant sells weapons or heart re-fills in his tent, often at exorbitant prices, and you will need these things on your quest.

Items: There are other items that you’ll collect in the game’s 7 stages.  In Stage 3, I collected the Red Dust and Blue Dust, although I absolutely could not figure out what good they did me.  In Stage 4, I bought the Exquisite Dress for 3,000 gold from Zoul in his shop – it let Valkyrie wear a pink dress that replenished a little life and magic until I got hit.  There are other items as well, some that are obviously useful and others that are a bit more confounding.

IMG_3672

You’ll find a range of items on your quest to stop Kamuz.  

Stages7 stages comprise Legend of Valkyrie.  Each one is unique, colorful, and dangerous!  Swarms of enemies, obstacles, and (sometimes slightly) difficult jumps await in each stage.  The main objective of each stage, in addition to furthering the plot with cutscenes at the end of each one, is to find Babasama the wise man and learn a new magic spell, collect gold and weapons, and beat the boss.  *Note, also, you will sometimes have optional mini-objectives within stages that have an impact later in the game – in Stage 4 you have to find Landa to get the Pepper to give to Babasama in Stage 6 in order to learn the Chameleon spell.  Every stage, with the exception of Stage 6, ends with a boss fight.  Stage 6 has an Elephant that asks you if you want a test of Knowledge or Strength – the Strength test lets you play a little Galaga-esque shooting screen with Valkyrie while the Knowledge Test lets you try to put together puzzle pieces in a set amount of time – being either good or terrible at these games doesn’t matter, as you’ll advance to the final stage regardless.

IMG_3673

The bosses in Legend of Valkyrie range from pushovers to powerhouses.

StrategyLegend of Valkyrie will lull you to sleep with its easy first couple of stages, before you realize that this game is actually a good deal deeper in terms of how you approach it if your aim is to beat it.  It is paramount that you collect gold, collect gold, collect gold.  Also, remember the extra lives I mentioned (that you earn for hitting certain Experience Point totals)?  It is crucial that you try not to use them and let them carry over into the later stages of the game.  In each of the 7 stages, if you die and do not have an extra life (or two) in reserve, you are given the option to re-start the Stage from the beginning (any gold or experience you accumulated will be re-set to what it was when you first began the Stage).  Beyond the first couple (easy) stages, you’ll often need multiple playthroughs of each stage to memorize the locations of enemies, treasure chests, Zoul’s shops, and hidden locations, as well as a few encounters with bosses to figure out how best to handle them.

IMG_3674

The Tornado spell, followed by the BIG spell, will help vanquish the Ice Stage boss.  

PasswordLegend of Valkyrie has a great password system.  You get a password from Babasama after the completion of each Stage.  The password perfectly records all your stats – Experience Points, Gold, Weapons, and Lives Remaining.  While the game could be completed in one sitting, I certainly did not, and I used the handy password system to save my progress along the way.

IMG_3656

Passwords, given by Babasama, are short and handy for advancing the quest.

ConclusionLegend of Valkyrie blew me away with how addictive it was.  After Neutopia and Neutopia II, I was eager to discover any additional overhead adventure-RPG hu-cards (or Turbochips), and this one was the ticket.  Valkyrie is a perfect difficulty – far from a cake-walk, but it has that je ne sais quoi that kept me coming back until I beat it.  Some stages were frustrating before I realized I couldn’t just blaze right through them.  While each stage is basically linear, there are secrets to be found that help you succeed if found.  I love the simplicity of the RPG elements with just the right amount of story-telling to make the plot interesting without being anywhere close to complex.

IMG_3663

Legend of Valkyrie is a gem for the PC Engine and Turbografx-16, and finally it has an English translation!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A+  Outstanding game!  Also, I highly recommend the English-translated version of this game.  While there’s not a ton of dialogue, I could easily see one getting confused without the hints given by the NPCs in the game.  Also, some characters ask you questions with multiple choice answers – getting them right often gives you bonus health or magic.

IMG_3684

You can even make Legend of Valkyrie a high score game, if you’re shooting to get the most Experience Points possible by end of the game.  

FM Towns Marty – The Console


Note: I bought an FM Towns Marty console from Italy a few years ago, and although I can find bits of information on it and the games for it here and there on the internet, it’s been frustrating at times, so I’m making this post for others who want to know about the system.  I am not a ‘tech spec’ guy, so this is an ‘every-man’s’ guide to the system.  This probably won’t answer every question and someone who knows more than me about this system will probably think, “No, he’s wrong about X,” but hey, this is the best I can do!


Console:  The FM Towns Marty is a consolized version of the FM Towns computer, both of which were only released in Japan. There were two versions of the Marty.  I have version 1, but the consensus from what I can find on the internet suggests there are no internal differences, only the external color differences between the versions. The Marty plays both floppy disk games and CD games. Some CD games require a floppy disk as well. Not all games that work for the FM Towns computer will work for the Marty, basically because the Marty is not powerful enough for some bigger games. The internet consensus is that no game over 2MB will run on the Marty.  You can search online for a compatibility list.  Some games were designed with the limitations of the Marty in mind, while others were made with the intention of being played on the proper FM Towns home computer.


Inputs and Controller Ports. The Marty has composite and S-video outputs. The S-video looks great. There’s also a switch that you can flip in the back that in some way appears to impact the clarity of the picture, although it’s minimal.


There are two controller ports on the front. The 2nd one is labeled ‘mouse,’ as some games can only be played with a mouse. A 2nd controller can still be used on this port of course for 2p games. On the right of the console is a port for a keyboard. Remember, the system was created as a console version of a computer. Also, apparently some games that WILL run on a Marty REQUIRE a keyboard to be connected to the Marty. Not that the CD won’t run, I believe, but because you need to press a button on the keyboard to advance and you are stuck on a screen without one.  I don’t have a keyboard, and all of the games I’ll be talking about only require a controller only  (actually two require a mouse only).

Also, there’s a headphone port and a volume dial on the front of the console. This console would be great on a desk by the way (just like a proper PC!)


Controllers:  The older I get, the more I love OLD video games, but the less I like a bunch of buttons on a controller – even the SNES controller is becoming too busy for me.  I love the limited buttons of the Marty controllers. Similar to the NES in that regard. Anymore might have made me rethink buying this console!  Yeah, I’m a simple man, I guess. As you hopefully can see in the picture, you can find two different versions of the controllers.  Both work great. Notice the Marty one has an extra shoulder button that, from what I’ve read elsewhere, ‘changes the resolution’ in some games. I haven’t found that it does anything at all in the 7 games I’ve played, but it’s kind of cool. The controller cords are REALLY short, so buy (they’re called D9 extension cords on eBay, I THINK) extensions unless perhaps you plan to set up your Marty on your desk with your tv or monitor nearby.

Mouse:  I bought an Elecom mouse, but there are Fujitsu ones as well that pop up on eBay sometimes. You’ll want a mouse pad (remember those?) and a coffee table or desk top because it has the old “rolley ball” underneath, and occasionally you’ll need to clean it (very easy).


Games:  I own 6 games (previously 7) for this console, and here’s some basic info about each one.  A lot of these were ports of arcade games and available on other consoles. Also, I play games a lot now for the purposes of fun at beating my high scores. Except for LOOM, all of these games have that option (meaning there’s a score counter). While it would seem like you should be able to save high scores seeing as there is a floppy drive, for these games, I cannot figure any way to turn on the floppy drive (and mine does work after I got a new band) while a CD game is playing.  Thus, I believe it’s not possible to save high scores, at least in these games. I did own the game LOOM for awhile prior to having my floppy drive fixed, and it had a location to ‘Save,’ leading me to believe, for that game, that had I hit Save, it would have accessed the floppy drive to save my progress. Anyway, I prefer my old High Score notebook anyway.


*all games have menus in English and are not hindered by any Japanese language barriers, if they have Japanese at all.


Chase HQ: 1p.   Only requires a controller. Story and voiceover in Japanese. Really fun racer where you chase down bad guys. FAST.

LOOM:  1p. Point and Click game. I couldn’t fully describe the story, which was awesome, so look elsewhere for better detail. The music was BEAUTIFULLY done. I used to own LOOM before I sold it. It was a wonderful game that required a mouse only.  Controllers wouldn’t work and a keyboard wasn’t needed.  I would recommend that you ensure that your floppy drive works on your Marty because trying to beat it in 1 sitting is asking a lot. I played for 3 hours one day and don’t think I was close to beating it.


Muscle Bomber: 1p or 2p competition. I reviewed the game previously, check it out. Fun wrestling game.


Operation Wolf:  1p. Awesome shooter that requires the mouse.  Would have been cool if there was an option for a controller as an alternative, but the mouse works great. Voiceover for story is in English.


Raiden Trad: 1p or 2p co-op.  Awesome shooter with seriously the most exciting opening stage music I’ve ever heard. Wasn’t a huge fan of shooters until I got addicted to this one. Limits your credits with 3 difficulties, great for training yourself to beat it based on skill.


Splatterhouse: 1p. See my review, but this game is one of the reasons to own a Marty!


Turbo Outrun:  1p. Great racing game where you race the clock across the U.S.!  Option to control using the mouse, but the controller is best.


Final Info:  Finding a Marty, controllers, possibly a mouse, possibly a keyboard, extensions, and games can be quite difficult.  I ordered almost everything from Japan or Europe. I’ve read that some Marty’s have had problems and the CD drives no longer work. I had to replace the band on my floppy drive for it to work, although for the games I mentioned, except LOOM, the floppy drive isn’t needed. It may be frustrating trying to find which games work and which don’t. I’ve also read that some games run so much faster on the FM Towns computer and slower (even if they DO work) on the Marty.

BUT, I LOVE this console!  I like a limited selection of games, a simple controller, and there are some gems out there from what I’ve found so far!  Happy hunting for this one!  I hope this helps someone interested in the console.