Controllers – Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad

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The Honey Bee Control Pad for use with the Sega Master System

My Brief Sega Master System Controller HuntIf you’re new to the Sega Master System, as I was until recently, you’ll not find a multitude of options outside of the original controller readily available.  As far as hunting on eBay, I’ve found the somewhat uncommon Ultimate Beeshu Control Stick (arcade style joystick), which looks like it would be awesome if you wanted a joystick, the odd left-handed-only Master System joystick, and of course you can use Sega Genesis/Mega Drive controllers for your Master System, with buttons B and C taking the role of buttons 1 and 2.

Not having used the arcade joysticks, I cannot speak to how well they function for playing Master System games, but I was not entirely pleased with the original model controller nor a Sega Genesis controller.  The main problem with the original controller  is with the D-pad – it’s a flat pad rather than the more traditional ‘cross’ you find on D-pads of other older consoles.  While in some games, I found that the pad worked perfectly, but in others, my on-screen character didn’t consistently crouch/climb/move when/where I needed him to.  I found a Sega Genesis controller to be preferable (particularly ones that had a built in turbo feature), yet even that was not as enjoyable, and I didn’t like the mapping of the buttons to B and C rather than A and B.

The Honey Bee ControllerAs far as I could tell, the Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad was not released in the U.S.  I ordered mine new from Greece, and it was one of only a couple I could locate online.  According to the excellent website smstributes, a nearly identical controller called the ‘Competition Pro’ was released in the UK.

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The original Master System controller really isn’t such a bad controller – it’s just not a fair fight by any stretch when compared to the Honey Bee.

Comparison to the original Master System Control Pad:   Compared to the original controller, the Honey Bee is far superior, and for multiple reasons.  First, and most obviously, the Honey Bee includes a traditional ‘cross’ D-pad.  The difference between the consistent accuracy between the Honey Bee D-pad and the original Master System D-pad  is night and day.  I noticed this immediately when playing Mortal Kombat – for example, to do a ‘leg sweep’ in the game, you must hold Down/Away plus button 2.  With an original controller (and even using a Sega Genesis controller), I could NEVER, say, execute multiple leg sweeps in a row – I might do just one then execute a regular kick despite not having done anything different on the controller.  With the Honey Bee, I could leg sweep one hundred times in a row if I wanted because the D-pad worked perfectly.  In the overhead action RPG, Gollvellius: Valley of Doom, my onscreen character would sometimes not turn exactly when I needed him to when using the original controller – with the Honey Bee, this never happened, and the game subsequently became more enjoyable.

Next, the buttons on the Honey Bee are concave, rather than convex, much like the original NES controller most of us grew up on.  Here, I actually preferred the original Master System buttons, but that’s really only personal preference, because using buttons 1 and 2 works perfectly on either controller.  Also, the buttons appear to be the same size, so it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to take an original controller apart and put its buttons into the Honey Bee if I wanted to.

Next is the addition of built-in turbo features on the Honey Bee.  Much like the Turbografx-16 controller, the Honey Bee lets you set Turbo or Auto fire features without the need of the cumbersome ‘Rapid Fire’ attachment piece that was originally released for the Master System.  This built-in feature is amazing, as games like Vigilante become vastly easier when you don’t have to pound a button over and over, but instead can simply hold down said button.

Finally, the Honey Bee is slightly thinner and slightly shorter than the original Master System controller, and it’s edges are slightly smoother as well, making it, ergonomically  speaking, a bit more comfortable to hold for extended periods (the original model controller is far from uncomfortable to hold, mind you, as compared to say, the pointy edged original NES controller).

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Compared to the NES Dog Bone and Turbografx-16 TurboPad, the Honey Bee is still behind a bit from a comfortability standpoint, yet it’s smoother edges still keep it ahead of both the original rectangular NES controller and the slightly less comfortable original Master System pad.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeA+ The Sega Master System Honey Bee controller is the controller that should have been released with the Master System.  It’s highly reminiscent of the original NES controller, yet more comfortable.  The build-in turbo features are outstanding and convenient, and the D-pad works exactly as you need it to in video games – accurately.  Of course, none of this resolves the lack of a Pause button on any of the controllers (the ‘Pause’ button is located on the console itself). *As a side note, I know there is a website online that will mod your console and sell you a controller that is a hybrid/modded NES controller that will allow you to pause from the controller.  Personally, I have come to love the 2 button-only setup of the Master System, and have gotten quite used to just getting up when I need to pause a game.  I didn’t truly appreciate the Master System until I used the Honey Bee – true enjoyment of many of the games hinges on the accuracy a controller like this gives you.  If you can find one, I highly recommend getting it.  

 

Sega Master System – Double Hawk

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Double Hawk for the Sega Master System

Note 1: This review was done using an original model Sega Master System.  The Master System was connected to a 55-inch HD-tv.  I used the HD Retrovision Model 2 Genesis component cable (with a small adapter piece to allow the Master System to be connected).  I then ran the 240p signal through the Retrotink box, which converted the signal to 480p, a signal my Vizio could detect and output through an HDMI input.  It really all sounds complicated, but works flawlessly if you have the right devices, and the picture is magnificent.

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Use an HD Retrovision Genesis Model 2 component cable (with adapter for a Master System)  combined with a Retrotink device to display your Master System in beautiful 480p on your modern HD-tv!

Players: 1 or 2 co-op

Brief HistoryDouble Hawk was released only in Europe for the Sega Master System (it is fully compatible with a U.S. Master System, however).  It never saw a release in the U.S.

Story(back of the box) You control the action as John and Jack, two warriors hand-picked by the United Nations – attempt to bring down a terrorist organization which is responsible for a worldwide wave of violence!  The terrorists are capable of launching attacks from the sky, the sea, and by land.  Are you the one person who can end this reign of terror?

Gameplay: Through 5 Missions, you have to gun down the enemy terrorists and take down their machines of war.  As John or Jack (who bare an uncanny resemblance to some 1980’s action movie heroes), you move along the bottom of the screen, dodging enemy fire.  By holding down Button I, you can fire an unlimited number of bullets at approaching soldiers, tanks, choppers, and other enemies (an onscreen reticule is present to show where you’re firing).  You can’t move while firing in this manner however, so you have to stop to move away from bullets and then open fire again from a different spot.

Each Mission contains four scenes – the first three have you blowing away (or evading) the bad guys until a timer expires and you move on to the next scene.  In the final scene of each mission, you battle a Boss – a military base or armored vehicle of some kind, typically.

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The game’s best feature is, by far, the five Boss fights against heavy artillery.

Power-Ups: As you shoot the enemy, occasionally, Power-Ups will appear and float down in a straight line from the top of the screen.  If you move Jack or John underneath them, they’ll temporarily give your soldier a boost in one of these categories – F (speeds up your movement), R (faster bullets to eradicate the enemy quicker), S (wider reticule for shooting targets), or B (bombs that can be lobbed with Button II to finish the enemy faster than bullets – they come in supplies of 10).

Lives: You get three lives, and unlimited continues.  You also get points for taking out the enemy, but high point totals don’t add any extra lives.  If you lose all 3 lives, you simply have to repeat that particular scene if you elect to Continue – this is nice as you don’t have to go all the way back to the first scene of every Mission each time you die.  One unusual program decision, however, regards the 2-player mode.  Each character gets 3 lives, yet when one player loses all of his, he automatically steals any remaining lives from the other player.  So basically, what you have to do to enjoy co-op is to tell yourself (if playing with someone who may be less than skilled) that you have only 1 life and your friend gets 5 because that’s basically what it amounts to.

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The co-op mode is fun, but know from the start that you will automatically give any remaining lives you have to your partner should he or she lose their own!

MusicThere is a nice little ‘You beat the scene!’ jingle that plays at the end of each scenario, but in game, there’s nothing but the sound of your gun and bombs, plus a few other sound effects.  This is unfortunate, as even a decent tune would have added to the ‘war’ atmosphere or the imposing threat of a Boss fight.

Difficulty: There are two levels of difficulty – Easy and Difficult.  In the Difficult mode, there are more enemies and they fire more bullets.  In Easy mode, you’ll get through most of the scenes outside of the Boss fights easily, as shooting and dodging the enemy isn’t too tough.  The Boss fights typically take multiple tries as you figure out which part of an enemy base to take out first, or how best to position your soldier onscreen.  Boss fights generally involve dodging far more bullets than you do in the scenarios that precede them.  The only one that gave me fits was the last one in Mission Five.  After about 100 tries (seriously), I finally, by luck, discovered that if I took out the two lower left cannons and one upper left base first, then there was a ‘safe spot’ on the left side of the screen I could position my soldier to safely pick off the rest of the guns on the base.

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Double Hawk breaks the formula for an 8-bit shoot ’em up, and it does a decent job at at.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: B  I wasn’t overly impressed with Double Hawk at first, but I came back to it and came around.  The control is absolutely perfect, and I like the strategy of firing, moving, and firing.  The Power-Ups add a nice mix-up, as your soldier becomes much stronger with them, and if you have them for Boss fights, you’ll win quicker.  The absence of music is really disappointing, but it’s not a major problem since the gameplay is good.  The two difficulty levels add some replay value, although those soldiers fire much more quickly on the higher of the two!  Also, there’s great replay value if you’re going for a high score – your score resets to zero every time you continue, so seeing how high you can get on 3 lives is a fun challenge.

*A neat feature of Master System manuals, I have found, is the presence of ‘High Score’ tables in them for you to write in your scores.  While I don’t do this with any manuals that don’t previously have writing in them, and I always rely on notebooks or printed tables for high score keeping so as not to mar old manuals, Double Hawk has one of these such tables, and I just thought I’d mention it – I wish more manuals would have included these back in the day, as trying for a high score always adds replayability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turbografx-16 – Blue Blink

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English-translated version of Blue Blink for the Turbografx-16

Note:  This game was played on a Turbografx-16 console that has been modified to output in 240p component video.  It was connected to a 32-inch HD-tv.

Note 2: This game is an English-translated reproduction.

Brief HistoryReleased in 1990 for the PC Engine in Japan, Blue Blink is based on a Japanese animated series.

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The Emperor has kidnapped your father in Blue Blink.

StoryAccording to the story that will scroll down the screen after you watch the game’s demo, a boy named Kakeru saved a blue horse named Blink who fell from the sky.  Kakeru took Blink home, only to find that Kakeru’s father, Hiruhiko, was missing.  They hop onto a bus along with two thieves and are told by the driver that the Emperor has captured Hiruhiko.  Accompanied by the two Thieves, a Sailor, and a princess named Kirara, Kakeru and Blink set out to defeat the Emperor and rescue Kakeru’s father.

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An unlikely band hop in a bus and challenge the power of the Emperor.

Gameplay: Blue Blink is composed of 5 Stages located on 5 map screens.  You drive the bus to a location (Level) on the map screen and must beat it before moving on.  Not every Level in a Stage needs to be beaten, however; your main objective is to locate a hidden Red Key in one of the Levels that will unlock a Boss door in the stage’s final Level.  You can replay any Level (except after winning a Boss fight in each last level) as many times as you want in order to find the Red Key or collect other items.  Some Levels autoscroll, while others are your traditional platforming Levels.  The 5 Stages are called: Rose Town, Ivory Tower, Yellow Town, Rainbow Town, and Gurosu Castle.

When you begin a Level, Button II fires a projectile, and Button I jumps.  For every Level you play, you will have a pre-selected arrangement of the game’s 5 protagonists (non-including Blink the horse, who is only available for Boss fights): the boy Kakeru, the princess Kirara, the Tall Thief, the Short Thief, and the Sailor. You will have a party of 3 of the aforementioned, and each plays differently in terms of the projectiles they toss or in how high they can jump.  You can rotate between each of these three characters by pressing Select.

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5 Stages have multiple Levels to beat

Items: In addition to finding the necessary Red Key in each of the game’s 5 Stages, you can also collect gold by slaying enemies, Speed Boosts good for one Level, Hearts that replenish your energy, Poison that drains your energy, extra lives, or Blue Keys that are used to open chests that may contain any of the aforementioned items.

‘Leveling Up’: You can increase the number of Heart Containers you have by collecting gold.  You accumulate gold by slaying enemies or opening chests, and you can have up to eleven Heart Containers.  Because you can replay Levels as many times as you want, it’s a good idea to spend some time ‘gold grinding’ in order to increase your life bar.  For every 100 coins you collect (which come in 1s, 5s, and 20s), you’ll add a Heart Container OR an extra life (more on this immediately below).

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Citizens often offer useful advice…or not.

Blink: Blink the horse serves as your ‘lives’ in Blue Blink.  If you run out of hearts (die), or fall in a hole (die), Blink will fly on screen and revive you, restoring a small portion of your hearts.  You can accumulate extra lives (Blinks) by collecting money or by finding items (small blue orbs) that count as extra lives.  Pay attention to how many lives you have – once again, it’s smart to ‘gold grind’ to accumulate Heart Containers and extra lives.

**Important note on Blink:  A character mentions this at the beginning of the game, but leaves out a crucial step.  Instead of dying and waiting for Blink to fly on screen and restore a portion of your life, Pause the game when you’re about to die (this is useless if you fall in a hole, but awesome if you know you’re about to die from being hit by an enemy).  While the game is paused, hold Button I – your ENTIRE life bar will be refilled!  This is why it is important to ‘gold grind’ so you have as many Heart Containers as possible – they will all be completely refilled every time and the game becomes much, much easier.

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The five Bosses are the game’s highlights – duck, dip, dive, and fire Stars from the saddle of Blink the horse!

Bosses: There are 5 Bosses in the game.  When you unlock the Boss door, the game immediately switches to Kakeru riding Blink and firing Star projectiles at the Boss.  Score enough hits, and the Boss will explode and leave you some gold, Blue Keys, and health replenishment items.

Saving?  Unfortunately, no.  No save file using the Turbobooster-Plus, passwords, or even a level select code that I could find.  Still, it’s not an overly long game.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: C+ Blue Blink is not an overly amazing game by any stretch of the imagination – it’s average, in terms of fun and replayability.  The English translation is amazing, as finding the Red Keys to advance to the next Stage would be more difficult without it – as it is, citizens you meet tell you almost exactly where to look.  The difficulty is medium – using the tips I mentioned helps tremendously.  The Boss fights are probably the best part of the game, as each boss has a unique look and pattern, that, while not entirely predictable, makes for a decent challenge.  The ‘switching’ characters concept is executed decently, although after awhile you may end up preferring the game had just stuck with one character only as the switching can become tedious and even frustrating at a few points.   

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Do you have what it takes to save your Pop?

 

 

 

Top 15 Turbografx-16 Games

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For awhile now, I’ve wanted to create a ‘Top [insert number]’ list for the Turbografx-16 console.  Since I started this website/blog several years ago and subsequently began collecting and playing various console games, the ones that I’ve come back to the most are the ones for the TG-16.

The TG-16 that I use has been modded to output in 240p component video; it’s difficult to find an HD-tv these days that accepts that signal, and I’ve recently ordered a device known as the ‘Retrotink’ that should allow me to connect this particular console to  larger, more modern HD-tvs other than my older, Symphonic 32-inch one.  If you’re interested in the TG-16/PC Engine (the name of the console in Japan), I highly recommend you have it modded for component video or SCART because the picture is absoultey outstanding.

Additionally, I have a Turbobooster-Plus attached to my console for saving high scores/files on applicable games – this is a necessary accessory for full enjoyment of the console, in my opinion.

Finally, the only games I play are Hu-cards/Turbochips.  I’ve twice owned CD-attachments for the TG-16, even reviewing Double Dragon II, but I’ve had too many problems with keeping the CD attachments running – I NEVER have problems with the Hu-cards.

There’s something about the games for this console that, for me, are particularly enjoyable – more so than the Neo Geo, NES, SNES, Genesis, FM Towns Marty, or any other of the consoles I own or have owned.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never owned this console when I was younger, and nearly all of the games were/are completely new to me.  There’s also something else about it – I think it’s that the graphics are somewhere, generally speaking, between the NES and SNES.  As great as the NES is, I don’t play it often because the games and the graphics seem a bit too simplistic; the SNES, which I do enjoy, often seems too busy.  The TG-16, on the other hand, falls right between them.  I like the standard two button controller paired with beautiful, colorful graphics in games that are not overly complex.  That may not make a lot of sense, but that’s how I can best describe it.

What is a ‘Top 15′ list, anyway, and how can such a thing even be created on something so subjective?  I love reading others’ ‘Top [insert number]’ list when it comes to games, and of course, it’s all based on the opinion of the writer.  I don’t play games on emulators, so clearly I have not played every TG-16/PC Engine game in existence.  I own roughly 50 games, and these are my Top 15 based on what I’ve played.  The criteria for me essentially boils down to a few factors, not all of which need apply to a single game: (1) Is it fun? (2) Can it be played in short increments? (3) Do I play it often?  (4) Is there any type of save/password feature? I hope you enjoy reading this, even if you completely disagree!  I’ve provided some basic information about each game.

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15.  Chew-Man-Fu

Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15: Chew-Man-Fu is a deceptively entertaining game.  The basic premise requires you to defeat monsters by pushing four giant, colored balls onto their respective colored-platforms to complete single screen stages.  The game becomes addictive quickly as you learn the mechanics of rolling, kicking, and blocking monsters with the balls.  The best part?  If you have the Turbobooster-Plus, the game will save your progress, and the game has over 550 levels!  I beat the first 50, and then it was on to Round 2!  The game has that just one more game factor to it, and it has two-player co-op.  The difficulty eases upwards slowly and strategy and luck sometimes play crucial roles in whether or not you beat a stage.  Additionally, this game allows you to access the data banks on your Turbobooster-Plus to see what games you have saved, and delete any old files as needed.

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14. Legend of Valkyrie

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15I’ve reviewed Legend of Valkyrie, but in short, this game is a fantastic hybrid RPG/Shooter/Adventure game.  It also has a short password system to prevent you from having to beat it in a single setting.  You’ll need to get the English translation to really appreciate this gem.

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13. Vigilante

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15Vigilante is a game that you can literally beat in 12-15 minutes.  It’s an arcade port that is amazingly accurate (I own the jamma pcb, and can attest to that – it is only missing short cutscenes).  What makes the game so fun is its amazingly simple control – walk right and kick, punch, jump-kick or nunchuck the bad guys.  Playing the game enjoyably absolutely depends on using the TG-16’s turbo switches.  If you have them turned on, then you’ll have no trouble pummeling the bad guys – have them turned off, and the game becomes overly difficult and not much fun.

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12. Magical Chase

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15This side-scrolling shooter has fantastic control, bizarre characters, and great replayability.  Blasting your way through several stages successfully requires learning where to place your ‘Star Maidens,’ two stars that accompany your witch protagonist.  Stopping at shops mid-level allows you to ‘level up’ your character by adding hearts or buying more powerful projectiles.  Beating the game on the Medium and Hard levels will require multiple playthroughs, yet the game never enters into the ‘impossible’ realm.

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11.  Bonk’s Adventure

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Bonk’s Adventure is probably the most well-known game for the console, and it’s a fantastic simple Platformer.  The game is not overly difficult as you run over, around, and through the bad guys using Bonk’s giant head as a weapon.  This game represents the best in the series, in my opinion, as its two sequels were overly long and a bit more convoluted.

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10. Super Dodge Ball

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Players: 2, competitive

Why it’s in my Top 15: Super Dodge Ball is another port of an arcade game, but it is actually an improvement (see my review).  The game proper can be beaten in approximately 15 minutes once you learn the controls, and there’s just something innately satisfying about smacking the other team with dodge balls.  Hopefully, someone will translate the names and the short ‘story mode’ one day, but the Japanese language that is present does not prevent the game from being outstanding.

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9. Devil’s Crush

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Players: 2, Alternating

Why it’s in my Top 15Devil’s Crush might be the best pinball game on any console, as I’ve yet to play one that I would qualify as even being close to this one.  That graphics on the board are suitably dark, the control and music are great, there are multiple bonus stages, and there are two ‘speeds’ for the ball that essentially allow the game to have an Easy and a Normal mode.  The game also saves your high scores on a ‘Top 5’ table if you have a Turbobooster-Plus!  Although I should note, it does not automatically save your score.  First, you’ll need to set a score that makes it on the table and enter your initials, then start a new game.  Pause the game, then press Select.  Then press Button I to save to one of the files.  Then reset the game, and Load the save file.  This makes for additional replayability as you try to beat your previous high scores without having to write them down somewhere!

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8. Cadash

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Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15: Cadash is probably the game I come back to the most often to beat.  Once you understand the simple nature of the game, it can be beaten in just over an hour.  With four distinct characters to choose from, the replayablity, while not outstanding, is present as each character has strengths and weaknesses.  You can ‘level up’ your character by defeating monsters and buy new equipment in shops.  You only get one life (although you can find elixirs that fully restore your life when you’re killed), so you’ll need to spend about 15 minutes in the first area grinding and strengthening your character.  The one thing I would have added to this game would have been a save file or password feature, but since the game isn’t overly long, that aspect isn’t missed too sorely.   I’m not sure why this game is so addictive – I think it’s the Dungeons & Dragons type characters and setting, the ‘leveling up’ aspect, and the simplistic ‘defeat the evil bad guy who is destroying the kingdom’ story.

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7. Neutopia

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: I’ve previously reviewed the sequel to this game and provided some additional ‘tips’ on beating this one (see my reviews).  I love Neutopia because of its insanely simple RPG/adventure nature.  There is absolutely nothing complex about the game’s setup.  You are tasked with defeating the evil Dirth and acquring ‘medallions’ in labyrinths, which are being held by bosses whom you must defeat.  The Overworld and labyrinths are easy to navigate, but the game is not a complete cakewalk as you will need to learn to manage your character’s health and try a few different strategies to defeat some labyrinth bosses.  Your are able to save your game using passwords or the Turbobooster-Plus save files, making this a great ‘pick up and play in short increments’ RPG.

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6. Splatterhouse

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Splatterhouse, aside from Bonk’s Adventure, is probably the most well-known game for the Turbografx-16.  It’s a port of an arcade game, and one that was done quite well.  The game’s creepy atmosphere and excellent play control are what make it fun to come back to again and again, even after you’ve already mastered it.  The game’s soundtrack is also incredible and adds to the already spooky nature of the game.  Punching, kicking, bashing, and blasting your way through the monsters in the game on your way to save your girlfriend in Dr. West’s mansion is fantastic entertainment.

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5. Parasol Stars

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Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15Parasol Stars is an amazingly addictive single screen platforming game, and it’s really all about getting High Scores.  Using your magical parasol, you’ll catch, blast, and block various bizarre bad guys and bosses as you attempt to save various planets.  The control is great, and learning how to maximize your points by mastering the parasol is crucial to setting a high score.  Best of all, if you have a Turbobooster-Plus, this game will automatically save your Top 5 high scores!

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4. Rastan Saga II

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15In other reviews I’ve read, almost no one thinks this game is any good.  It’s a port of an arcade game as well.  I think my initial reaction to it was, “Nope, too hard.” But after playing it a few times, and getting a bit further each time, I loved it.  The music isn’t great, but the spites are huge and the enemies suitably ‘evil looking.’  The game gives you 15 lives (2 continues) to beat 5 stages.  Mastering the game, which can be beaten in about 20 minutes, means finding which weapons work best (short sword & shield, claws, or broad sword), learning how and when to block, and memorizing the short stages and their hazards.  Boss fights also require several tries until you figure out how to defeat them while minimizing the energy or lives you lose.

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3. Soldier Blade

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Soldier Blade is one of many Shooters for the Turbografx-16 – and it’s the best one I’ve played.  Unlike others, it’s a cinch to jump right in and feel like you’re a master of the genre.  The graphics are vibrant and the control is spot on.  Best of all, the game will save your Top Five high scores in the Normal Mode, AND it will save your high scores in 2-minute and 4-minute ‘Challenge’ mode.

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2. Gekisha Boy

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15There’s no other game quite like Gekisha Boy.  Essentially, your job is to take pictures of bizarre things that occur in 9 stages, or ‘Takes.’  Your character slowly strolls to the right in each stage, and you have a limited amount of film.  While you can control your character, you also control an onscreen reticule, or cursor, to snap pictures.  Snapping different pictures depends on timing, and you may be rewarded with more film, a speed increase for your reticule, or an increased size of your reticule, making it easier to snap pictures.  Each stage requires you to hit a certain score in order to advance to the next stage.  The game is amazingly addictive, and can even be a high score game once you learn to blaze through all stages after memorizing patterns.  I recommend the English translation version.  Additionally, the game does have some very inappropriate stereotypical images of people in a couple of the stages – had the game every been officially released in the U.S., these certainly would have been removed.

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  1. Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition

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Players: 2, competitive

Why it’s in my Top 15: I’ve reviewed this game previously, but this is an amazing port of the arcade game.  While there are no shortage of consoles to play this game on, I particularly like this version, if for no other reason than the challenge of playing it with the Turbografx-16 two-button controller.  While most would find this far less than ideal, I found it a fun challenge, and learned how to master the game using this unorthodox setup.  To me, this was always the best version because of it’s inclusion of the ‘boss characters’ (while still keeping a ‘small’ roster) and the absence of the turbo speed feature.

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Arcade – Capcom Sports Club: Dunk Stars Review

The CPS2 arcade game Capcom Sports Club attached to an HDMI-supergun

Note 1: This arcade game is a Japanese CPS2 arcade board. CPS2 boards are made with a battery that, if not replaced before it dies, will cause the arcade board to no longer function.  This game’s dead battery was removed and, to my knowledge, repaired with something called the avalaunch code, which no longer makes the CPS2 board require a battery at all.  *This is not the same as a ‘phoenixed’ CPS2 board. There is a lot of great information on the internet about CPS2 arcade boards and the issues with their ‘suicide’ batteries and ways to repair them or have them repaired.

Note 2: This arcade board was connected to a HDMI-supergun (a device that allows you to play arcade games/boards on your television).  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv.  The supergun device has 2 controller ports for Neo Geo arcade sticks.  I could probably do a review on the HDMI-supergun itself, which is an incredible device in its own right.

Note 3: I do apologize for the quality of the ‘action’ pictures of the game.  You cannot pause an arcade game, so getting a great picture, using my simple methods, is tough.  The game itself, especially played through a HDMI-supergun, looks spectacular, as I hope you can see from the pictures I have included.

Dunk Stars is one of three sports games in Capcom Sports Club.

Note 4: Capcom Sports Club includes 3 games: Dunk Stars (Basketball), Smash Stars (Tennis), and Kick Stars (Soccer).  This review is only for Dunk Stars, although I do have this to write about the other two games.

Dunk Stars and Smash Stars are incredible winners.  Kick Stars? Not so much.

Smash Stars – Amazing tennis game where you choose a woman from among multiple countries and play in a tournament.  Win 3 games, and you’ll be the champion!  Fantastic control, awesome gameplay, and a great variety of women to choose among, each with her own strengths and weaknesses.  A great game that I intend to play more often and discover its nuances.

Kick Stars – The worst game of the bunch.  A mini-soccer game that also plays in a tournament style, with 3 games-to-the-championship.  Oddly, unlike Dunk Stars, the players are very ‘clunky’ in their movements and the game lacks the fluidity of the basketball game.  Passing is often difficult to accurately execute, and a weird ‘jump’ button is included that is mostly unneeded, and would have better served being a ‘turbo’ or ‘air pass’ button.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to enjoy it or find something redeeming about it, but it’s just not that great, and certainly not compared to the other two outstanding games included on Capcom Sports Club.

You’ll get ‘hints’ following wins or losses from the ‘Coach.’  You’re not missing much by not understanding the language, and this is the only in-game Japanese you’ll find.

Brief History: Capcom Sports Club was released in 1997.  The game was released in various regions, but the version I am reviewing is the Japanese version (Japanese CPS2 boards came in the green shells, while U.S. and Europe CPS2 games came in blue shells).  The only parts of the game that include Japanese are little messages the female ‘coach’ character gives you after you win or lose a match.  While it seems like these are supposed to be some helpful hints, they in no way impact your ability to figure out how to play any of the games.  Additionally, CPS2 arcade boards have a ‘Test’ button on the side that allows you to alter certain game options, like difficulty level, how many coins to enter for a play, etc.  All of these directions are in Japanese as well, but with a little bit of common sense I was very easily able to figure out how to set the game to ‘Free Play’ (meaning you don’t have to press the ‘insert coin’ button at all) and set the difficulty (‘1’ is the easiest and ‘4’ is the hardest).  The board will save your settings for next time, too (unless you play another CPS2 game, or ‘B’ Board). *Later, I actually used ‘Google Translate’ to screen shot the Japanese Test menus for even more clarity on what options were available.

The CPS2 ‘Test’ menu is in Japanese, but it’s not tough to figure out how to set things like ‘Free Play’ and difficulty level.

Gameplay: There are two play options in Dunk Stars: 1 Player Tournament and 2 Player VS.  In the Tournament mode, you’ll choose from among 8 international teams: Japan, Korea, China, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and the USA.  Each team is composed of 3 players.  After choosing your team, you’ll play an 8-team bracket tournament.  You start in a quarterfinal, then move to a semifinal, and ultimately the championship game.  Each game lasts for 2 minutes, and there are no “halves” like in other basketball games.  Win the 3 games, and you’ll be the champ!

Pass, shoot, block, steal, use turbo speed – simple and fun gameplay!

Controls: Dunk Stars uses 3 buttons, aside from the joystick.  Since my supergun uses a Neo Geo controller, that’s how I’ll be describing each button’s function.  On offense, Button A shoots, Button B passes, and Button C uses your ‘turbo,’ (makes your player run faster, and is unlimited).  Additionally, you can perform an ‘alley-oop’ (complete with an incredibly bad English “AH-REE-OOP!” soundbite by pressing A + B).  In order for this to work, you’ll need to use it when you have one of your teammates near the basket to grab and dunk the ball – otherwise, the ball will fall pitifully short of the basket and your shooter will hang his head in shame – it’s hilarious.  Wait for a player under the basket to ‘signal’ the shooter by waving his hand – then immediately hit A + B to throw it up for him.  On defense, Button A blocks (used when an offensive player shoots – you’ll jump up and attempt to block the shot – if done correctly, you’ll literally snatch the ball out of the air), Button B steals (used when an offensive player is dribbling the ball – you’ll swat or throw an elbow to dislodge the ball and take possession of it), and Button C uses your turbo.

Find a team with the kind of players you think make champions!

Teams: The 8 teams in Dunk Stars are all different, although it’s not so obvious just how different until you play a few games.  Each team is composed of 3 players, and each player falls into 1 of 4 cateorgies:

1. Guard – The fastest players on the court (they can move as fast as Forwards without even pressing the ‘turbo’ button!), but the absolute worst shooters.  You can count on them for dunking and close-range jump shots, but FORGET about taking three-pointers with them.

2.  Forward – The 2nd fastest players on the court.  Average shooter, but not a high percentage 3-point shooter.

3.  Center – The 3rd fastest players on the court.  Good shooter from nearly anywhere and can make 3’s more consistently than a Forward, but it’s never guaranteed.

4.  Shooter – The absolute SLOWEST players on the court.  Really, really slow compared to the others.  But they can BURY 3-pointers consistently if you can give them a good look.

Some teams have 3 different types of players, while others have 2 of the same types of players (China, for example, has 2 Shooters), so it’s really fun to explore the game and find a team that works best for you. On the court, a letter (G, F, C, or S) appears above the head of whoever you’re controlling for convenience.

Courts: A few different courts are available, including a traditional blacktop, seaside court, and a court that is made on top of a skyscraper construction site!

Win the Tournament and accrue over $200,000 and you’ll be challenged by the Golden USA Team.

Golden USA: Based on how badly you beat your opponents, you are given “money” after each of your 3 games in the Tournament.  If that sum total goes over $200,000, you will be challenged by the Golden USA team following your third game.  They are TOUGH and AGGRESSIVE.  You play them on a special ‘street’ court at night, and it’s by far the best court in the game.

Golden USA is TOUGH, and they play on an awesome looking street court.

2 Player VS: 2 Player games vary a bit from the 1 Player Tournament.  Instead of being only 2 minutes, VS. games are 3 minutes long.  Before the game begins, you can choose to ‘handicap’ one team by giving them a set number of points before the game even starts.  So, for example, if you’re playing with someone who’s never played before you can start the game with them already having 6 points and you having zero.  The game also keeps track of your win streak in 2 Player VS.

You’ll get brief stats after games.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeA+ Dunk Stars is an incredible arcade basketball game.  It’s fast, the controls are outstanding, the graphics are cartoony and ‘loud’ (all kinds of explosions go off when you dunk, or ‘fans’ jump in front of the screen when you make a good shot).  There are some outstanding ‘bad English’ voiceovers during gameplay that add to the charming nature of the game.  You can set the difficulty if it gets too easy, although even on the lowest difficulty Golden USA is a beast to beat.  It’s a shame this game has never gotten any attention, seemingly from anywhere, because it’s that good (in the amazingly simple way arcade games should be).  Recommended.

Dunks and great shots result in explosive celebrations.

SNES – Ball Bullet Gun Review

B.B.Gun for the Super Nintendo

Note 1: This game is an SNES reproduction.  It was played on the Analogue Super NT console.  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv through an HDMI cable.

Note 2: This will be a mini review, and a rather simplistic overview of the game. There is an excellent FAQ online with more great info on this game.

Creating your own mini army adds to the immediate appeal of B.B. Gun.

Brief History: Ball Bullet Gun: Survival Game Simulation was released for the Super Famicom in Japan in 1995.  It was never officially translated and did not receive an official U.S. release.  Today, however, the game has been (wonderfully) translated into English, and can now be played on the SNES.

Genre: Strategy RPG

Players: 1 or 2 Player VS. *This review, for now, solely focuses on the 1P campaign.

Saving: The game saves automatically after every Mission you complete.  You can also save in the middle of a Mission and come back later; this is useful as some Missions can last close to an hour, depending on how you play and the size of the Map for an individual Mission.

Gameplay:  In B.B. Gun, you must first create a team of soldiers for your own personal army.  You must give your team/army a name, and then select 8 soldiers from a large pool of combatants.  Your first choice is your Leader – this soldier is always in on every Mission.  You are able to select other soldiers based on specific criteria, including Attack Power, Defense Ability, number of HP (Hit Points), and ‘Search’ Ability (field of vision range).  You are able to name your soldiers as well, or simply use their given ‘code names.’

You’ll face several different Enemy Teams in the game’s 24 Missions.

Next, you’re ready to begin your Missions.  You select between 2 and 6 soldiers (each Mission has a set number of soldiers you can use) in individual ‘simulated battle’ scenarios.  Your team faces off against the Enemy Team, and both teams have an objective to complete in order to win the battle.  There are 24 different Missions to complete in the game, sectioned off into Easy, Normal, and Hard (8 Missions each).

Letters, between A-E, indicate how likely you are to score a hit on an Enemy in your field of vision.

Some of the Missions include: Flag Battle, where the first team to touch their enemy’s flag wins; Rescue the Hostage, where your team must secure a hostage, keep him from then getting gunned down by the Enemy Team, and take him safely back to your base; No Man Left Standing, where you must take out every member of the opposing team, as well as others!

Carefully choose how to use each of your soldiers’ Action Points (AP) on each turn; for your first few turns, you will mostly use AP to move your soldiers across the Map.

This is a Strategy game, so each team takes turns.  The settings of the Missions vary from offices, to jungles, to snow fields.  Your team always goes first, and each of your soldiers has a set number of Action Points (AP) per turn.  Action Points allow your soldier to Move, Attack, Charge (Reload), Search (look for enemies in a specific cardinal direction), or use a Special (a character specific move like Replenish Health or using Grenades).

You typically begin each Mission by moving your soldiers across the Map, searching for or being on the lookout for Enemy Team soldiers.  B.B. Gun is a ‘fog of war’ game, so you won’t be able to see any enemy soldiers until they enter one of your soldiers field of vision (or, his ‘Search’ screen, which is indicated by illuminated squares on screen – some soldiers have bigger fields of visions than others).

Learn to evaluate guns based on their range, capacity, and charge (reload) AP requirement.

Once you see an enemy, you’ll often want to try to attack him or her IF you have enough AP (Action Points) on that turn to finish him off with Attacks, or if you have another one of your soldiers nearby to help.  If you choose to Attack, you can use a ‘Main’ Arm (big gun, like a machine gun or shotgun) or a ‘Side’ Arm (like a pistol or a knife).  All soldiers, both on your team and the Enemy Team, have a set number of HP (Hit Points), typically between 4 and 7.  You must attack Enemy Team soldiers until their HP reaches 0 to eliminate them from the Mission!

Different soldiers in your army are more or less effective when it comes to long and short range attacks.  When you attack an Enemy, depending on how close you are once he’s in your field of vision, you’ll see a letter between A-E on screen if you’re able to reach him with a gunshot.  ‘A’ indicates a high probability of a hit, while ‘E’ indicates a low probability.  Additionally, before Missions begin, you can select from a pool of Main Arms and Side Arms, all of which vary in their range and capacity – some guns have great range, but a small capacity or magazine, meaning you’ll need to reload, or charge, them more frequently after firing them.

When it’s the Enemy Team’s turn, you can’t see them on the Map (that would make the game too easy), but you’ll know when they’ve seen you, as they usually don’t hesitate to open fire!

When it’s the Enemy Team’s ‘turn,’ you won’t be able to see where his soldiers are moving on the main Map; instead, the screen swaps to a ‘stage’ scene, where you can view each Enemy Team members’ turn and how they’re using their Action Points.  *You CAN listen to the sounds the Enemy Team soldiers make when they’re walking – this may indicate if they’re treading through tall grass or crossing a river, which can give you an indication of where they may be on the map. *Note – you can also view the entire map, minus the locations of the Enemy Team, at any time when it’s your team’s turn.

New soldiers will join your army periodically.  Additionally, scoring 3,500 or more in a Mission increases one of your soldier’s abilities!

After completing certain missions, you’ll ‘win’ new guns that will be added to your gun pool, or, on a few occasions, former Enemy Team soldiers will join your squad – these soldiers often have better abilities than your own original selections, and you’ll use them often!

Each Mission has a set number of Turns before the Mission ends.  If you don’t complete your objective in the given number of turns, you lose.

The ‘Challenge’ label in the screen above indicates how many ‘Tries’ you’ve had on a Mission.

Scores: After completing a Mission, you’ll be given a score based on how many ‘turns’ it took you to complete the Mission, how many of your own soldiers were killed, and how many of the Enemy Team soldiers you killed.  If you manage to get a score totaling 3,500 or more, you’ll receive a ‘Star’ medal, and one of your soldier’s abilities will increase by a point (ex. Accuracy, Evasion, Hit Points, etc.).  Scores lower than 3,500 receive gold, silver, or bronze medals.  Once I got what I think was a ‘Kitty Face’ sticker for a score that was around 1,500.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:  A+ Ball Bullet Gun: Survival Simulation Game took hold of me like few ‘old’ games have.  I’d never played Strategy games before, but I liked the look of this one, so I wanted to give it a try.  The first few tries, I thought, “Wow, this is boring,” and I got frustrated when I’d lose a Mission because my last soldier couldn’t finish off the enemy from one space away.  But I stuck with it.  I figured out how to equip my soldiers with the right guns, how to pair off certain soldiers together, how to make use of Special abilities – and I LOVED this game.  It requires, to some extent, some luck, in addition to your careful planning – the Enemy Team is no slouch on many of the Missions, and the game often handicaps you, giving your team one less man or woman than the Enemy Team (or 3 or 4 less on the Hard Missions).  But it is FUN, and the thrill of finally beating a Mission (particularly one you’ve lost multiple times on) is awesome.

The soldiers themselves have an incredible charm to them as well.  They’re huge and full of life.  The game has excellent replay value as well, as there are incentives to replay Missions in order to get a score over 3,500 in order to ‘Level Up’ your soldiers.  The translation is perfect (although there is some type of language glitch on the ‘Shoot the Cans‘ mission that doesn’t affect gameplay).  Highly, highly recommended game that is one of the best SNES games I’ve ever played!  

Get a ‘win’ however you can – that sometimes means sacrificing a solider or three!

SNES – Terranigma Review

Revive the World in Terranigma for the SNES.

Note 1: This game was played on the Analogue Super NT.  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv through an HDMI cable.

Note 2: This game is an SNES reproduction; the game was translated into English, but never officially released in North America.

Note 3: This will be a ‘mini’ review of Terranigma.  There are absolutely more informative websites on the internet with info on this game.  However, this is one gamer’s experience with Terranigma.  I completed the game in around 20 hours.

Note 4: The name of this game is quite intriguing; I look at the two words – Terra – land or earth (I always think of ‘Tara,’ or the land owned by the O’Hara’s in Gone with the Wind) and ‘Enigma,’ as the proper spelling would be – a puzzle or a riddle or a mystery – and find this an amazing and extremely appropriate title for this game, even if it’s one that, I wonder, left and leaves gamers in the past, present, and future wondering, “Wait, what?” One of the best video game names, if not the best, that I’ve ever read or seen.

If you’re not playing SNES games on the Analogue Super NT in (non-emulated) HD, well, I would recommend it!

Genre: Action-adventure RPG

Players: 1

Brief History: Terranigma, or Tenchi Sozo (The Creation of Heaven and Earth) was originally released in Japan in 1995.  The game is part of the Soul Blazer Trilogy, with Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia preceding Terranigma, both of which received a U.S. release.  The former two games are not a pre-requisite to enjoying Terranigma.

As you revive the World (Planet Earth), you’ll traverse it by ship, by plane, and even by seagull!

Very Brief Story Synopsis : The main character in Terranigma is Ark (you can change his name).  After opening a mysterious (and forbidden) box in a locked room in your village, you must undertake the task of RESURRECTING THE WORLD, which, at the beginning of the game, doesn’t appear to actually exist beyond your underground village.     Throughout the course of the game, you will revive plants, animals, and ultimately, the human race, which will consequently “develop” or “evolve” as a civilization.  It’s a neat idea, and one I had not seen in an SNES game before.

The game, despite it’s sometimes aloof and comical protagonist, has a serious story.

Very Brief Gameplay Synopsis: You control Ark throughout the adventure.  Ark attacks almost exclusively with a spear, and as you play, you’ll find or buy spear upgrades to strengthen your attack.  You have a variety of spear attacks, such as dash attacks and jumping attacks.  One unique addition to this game that I don’t recall seeing before, is the ability to BLOCK. By pressing button R, you can use a shield to block most projectile attacks – it’s quite useful against most enemies, including bosses, and one of my favorite features of the game!

The other “weapon” you have in the game is your magic.  As you play, you’ll often find “Magirocks” that, when in town shops, can be (combined with a few gold pieces) traded for “rings” that cast different spells.  Also, in the “magic” department, you can also buy, find, or are given “Pins” that serve purposes like taking you back to the entrance of a dungeon or castle.  Honestly, during my entire playthrough, I probably used the magic system 5 times; it just isn’t needed – almost at all.  As long as you leveled up and strengthend Ark, there was no need for anything except your current spear/rod/stabbing device on regular enemies or bosses, and the Pins went equally unused.

You’ll acquire Armor and Weapons as the game progresses – it’s a simple and effective process to know if they’re needed, as an arrow will pop up to show you if something is worth equipping.

Saving: During your playthrough, you can save the game at open books, initially located in the wilderness as you resurrect the world, and subsequently located in Inns as humans come into the picture.  There are often times when finding a save book is sorely needed, yet finding one is difficult.  Rarely, if ever, was a save book found in a dungeon/castle/hostile environment, so save when you can!

Leveling Up: Strengthening Ark is quite easy; every enemy you defeat gives you experience points (EXP), and you shouldn’t face too many deaths in the game if you spend a bit of time grinding on the constantly re-spawing enemies.  A few of the bosses are tough if you haven’t gained significant levels.  *Regular enemies will also often drop gold, which you can use in shops for Armor and health items.

Level up Ark, and nothing presents any real danger to you, even the final boss!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: I was expecting great things from Terranigma after reading other information on the Internet – and therein lies the danger, I suppose, in letting others influence you (the same way I’m doing, ironically and hypocritically, of course!).  However, I can only say Terranigma was “pretty good.”  It was fun most of the time, but there were points where I simply had no clue where to go next or how to advance – not uncommon with SNES RPGs, but other games in the genre provide better clarity and better pacing than this one.

   Additionally, the last 3rd of the game REALLY slowed down – too much.  Without spoiling too much, it was fun reviving plants and animals, but by the time the human race was revived, the game became bogged down in mundane fetch quests and the dungeon exploring and boss fighting lessened significantly.  Had the back end of the game tightened up in it’s crescendo towards the climax rather than stalling, I might have enjoyed it more.

   That said, the story IS amazing.  The resurrection of the world?  Crazy, and awesome.  The story in the final events (in spite of the human civilization fetch quests preceding them) is enrapturing, bizarre, and ambiguous to an extent, leaving you thinking about what the whole game meant, almost like a novel – I haven’t encountered this too often in video games, and only ever in a handful of RPGs.  *As a side note, I’m not sure how well the whole “resurrection of the world/being a god” would have gone over had this game been released in the U.S. (also, there are some things that wouldn’t have gone over well with Nintendo of America, including an image of a crucified Jesus in a church and a smoking merchant – but that makes playing it, as a U.S. player, more fun).  

   There are some beautiful images of the evolving world and some excellent musical tracks, and those really added to the experience.  

    All things considered, I had, as mentioned, a “pretty good” time with Terranigma.  Was it a Chrono Trigger (if you’re familiar with that excellent SNES game)? No, definitely not.  Better than Illusion of Gaia or Secret of Evermore?  Yes, a bit, probably.  As good as A Link to the Past or Secret of Mana?  No, but close. 

Letter Grade: B 

Final version of Dark Gaia – BLOCK his major attack in order to take less damage, and back up so he’ll come in close so you can attack his stomach.