Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 3DS)

Released: 7 March 2012
Originally Released: 4 December October 1997
Developer: Konami
Original Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment
Also Available For: Game Boy

A Brief Background:
In the hierarchy of videogame characters, you would be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Goemon, the spiky-haired protagonist of Konami’s Ganbare Goemon series of adventure games. Loosely based on the legendary Robin Hood figure of Ishikawa Goemon, Goemon was first introduced to gamers back in 1986 as “Mr. Goemon” and was best known outside of Japan for his critically acclaimed Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) title, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Konami, 1991). While the world was waiting with baited breath for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo EAD, 1998), 3D adventure fans were treated to Goemon’s bizarre Nintendo 64 jaunt, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka, 1997), my first exposure to the character and the franchise and still one of my favourite N64 games of all time. Mystical Ninja was accompanied by this release for the original Game Boy, a divisive adventure title that was criticised for its high difficulty and for being a poor knock-off of The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo R&D4, 1986). Regardless, Mystical Ninja made its was to the 3DS Virtual Console in 2012 and, based on my enjoyment with the N64 title and desire to play something akin to the SNES game, I snapped it up before the service was shut down.

First Impressions:
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is a top-down action/adventure game far more in the style of The Legend of Zelda than its sidescrolling SNES predecessor and third-person N64 jaunt. The game’s story is split into chapters, with story text, dialogue boxes, and map screens depicting the efforts of Goemon, Ebisumaru, and Sasuke to rescue their friend Yae from the malevolent Black Ship Gang. Before each chapter, you can pick from one of the three protagonists, who all essentially control the same way and have the same abilities; each character has a weapon to attack with by pressing B and can jump by pressing A, though each has slightly different attributes. Goemon is an all-rounder, for example, while Ebisumaru’s jump isn’t quite as good as Sasuke’s. Like Link, you character will fire a projectile from their weapon when at full health, though you still have access to a projectile in the form of a limited supply of shurikens, which you can switch to by pressing ‘Select’ and each character has a different range to their shot. The pause screen brings up a rudimentary grid-like map that gives you some idea of where you are, where you’ve been, and where you need to go, though the game is pretty linear and it’s not especially difficult to find your way around. Each chapter starts you out in a town of some sort, one either ruined by enemies or that’s a port for the Black Ship Gang, and you can explore, chat to non-playable characters (NPCs) for some vague hints and lore, and visit shops and inns to replenish your health and ammo. This is the only way to refill your strength gauge outside of collecting Crystal of Life items from chests, which add an extra hit point to your bar and, as you only get one life and the game’s passwords make you start from the beginning of the chapter, this can make for an incredibly difficult gameplay experience.

Limited graphics and gameplay options make this a disappointing Game Boy title.

You’ll wander through the town, taking out enemies (who don’t drop anything useful and respawn when you return, making backtracking a chore), and finding stairs down to underground passages, ant hills, castles, and through the Black Ship Gang’s ship. Exploration generally amounts to finding chests that contain a life or weapon power-up, extra shurikens, and coins to spend, but you’ll occasionally find shops and inns in here too and you’ll pretty much always be tasked with finding an NPC with a story-specific item (bamboo, a bomb, the symbol of the Black Ship Gang) that you need to progress further.  Graphically, the game really isn’t anything to shout about; considering we were seven years into the Game Boy’s life span by this point and we’d seen an incredibly detailed and layered adventure game in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Nintendo EAD, 1993) about four years prior, it’s hard to not judge Mystical Ninja, which more resembles Super Mario Land (Nintendo R&D1, 1989) than Link’s Awakening. The sound is pretty good, but the sprites are small, lacking in detail, and the environments all become very samey very quickly. Add in the fact that some locations are veritable mazes and include hazards like pits, water, and lava that take a whole chunk off your health and send you back to the beginning and you have a game that just looks dated and lacks all of the visual charm I associate with the Mystical Ninja franchise. By taking advantage of the 3DS’s save state system, you don’t really need to explore all that much as you can just reload if you make a mistake, but that won’t help you when you come across the various mini games that accompany the game’s bosses!

My Progression:
Mystical Ninja’s enemies aren’t really all the difficult to get past; you’ve got samurais, ghosts, giant ants, bats, and pirates scattered throughout but also some trickier enemies, like teleporting ninjas, ink-spitting squids, and these weird…I dunno…golems? Walking tree-things? Most enemies can be defeated in one hit, but some take more, and it can be tricky lining up your shot or blow because of the game’s rigid grid system and the character’s weapons not having a wide arc like Link’s sword. The hardest thing about the enemies, though, is that they all respawn when you return to where they were meaning that it’s usually easier and faster to just jump around and avoid them, especially as you don’t get any health or coins or anything for beating them. Some areas include mini bosses, like a sumo, a flying queen ant, a hook-handed pirate captain, and a large octopus, but most of these are pretty easy to pummel into defeat from afar. When you explore Skeleton Island, defeating the club-wielding ogre-things opens up a new part of the area to explore and brings you one step closer to the final boss, but it’s actually highly unlikely you’ll even get past the first boss without using the password system. My playthrough was going pretty well; I was disappointed by the graphics, lack of power-ups, and the inability to switch characters on the fly, but the game wasn’t too much of a challenge to figure out. I beat the sumo, got the bamboo, and used it to cross the water to a castle, where I eventually reached this rocket boss…thing.

Sadly, while bosses are easy to beat, the mini games that accompany them are hard as balls!

It was a little sporadic but I managed to defeat it but Baron Skull, leader of the Black Ship Gang, challenges you to a 100-meter race afterwards that is, frankly, impossible. You need to tap A as fast as possible to beat him but, no matter how fast I was, I couldn’t even get close so, technically, my run ended there. I used the password to jump to the next chapter, though, to see what else was on offer; here, you battle this big stone boss in a cave that constantly throws boulders and its extending arms at you and, when you beat it, you have another impossible tapping game to complete, this time a tug of war! I couldn’t beat that either, so I jumped to chapter three; here, you need to answer five out of ten questions right in a timed quiz to board the Black Ship Gang’s ship, which isn’t too hard, and the big octopus has you quickly select which lantern doesn’t match to finish the chapter, so I was actually able to beat this one! Things properly broke down in chapter four, where you cross a bridge to another ship and are challenged to a number of mini games; the first isn’t too bad (especially with save states) and simply has you matching pairs of cards, but the second was, again, impossible as no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get all of the images to match the main picture. I skipped ahead to the final chapter, where you easily defeat Baron Skull’s ogres and rescue Yae, then hop over some lava and battle him to the finish in a first-person mech fight. This sees you summoning the giant robot Impact (though you only see him from inside his cockpit) and punching Baron Skull when he pops up, following the helpful arrows to prepare your attack. Unfortunately, you can’t block or fire projectiles and I couldn’t even see what or when Baron Skull was firing at me, and this is a multi-stage fight, with Baron Skull getting faster and harder to hit, so this was where I officially gave up.

To say I was disappointed by Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon would be a massive understatement. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting it to be anything like the Nintendo 64 game of the same name that’d so massively captured my attention and imagination, but something more akin to the SNES game or even more in line with Link’s Awakening would’ve been fine. I was expecting the game to be hard because it was a long and involved role-playing adventure game that had you going from town to town, exploring dungeons and castles, and acquiring new weapons and items…not because of nigh-impossible button mashing mini games with absolutely no margin for error! The game is stupidly simple 99% of the time, coming across as a kiddified version of the original Legend of Zelda and barely presenting much of a challenge as long as you remember where you’ve gone in the maze-like areas. The bosses are pretty simple to beat as well, but those mini games, while quirky and in keeping with the series’ bizarre sense of humour, are such a brick wall that I honestly have no idea how you’d get past even the first one! Add to that the dated the graphics, the lack of variety between the playable characters, and the disappointingly bland locations and you are basically left with a forgettable Game Boy experience that I can’t say I’ll be motivated to try and finish any time soon. But maybe you think I’m being too harsh? Maybe you’ve beaten this game without issue? If so, I’d love to hear about it, and your thoughts on the Ganbare Goemon series, down in the comments or on my social media.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare (Xbox One)

Released: 14 July 2021
Developer: Dotemu/Lizardcube/Guard Crush Games
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4

A Brief Background:
After an absence of almost twenty-five years, the Streets of Rage series (SEGA, 1991 to 1994) finally made a long-awaited comeback in 2020. As a massive fan of the series, and sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups in general, I was very surprised, and excited, to see Streets of Rage make a reappearance; Streets of Rage 4 sold extremely well and was received generally positively but even I could never had guessed that it would do well enough to gain any kind of downloadable content (DLC). Yet, surprisingly, that’s exactly what we got as some additional character, gameplay modes, and difficulty settings were made available for the game and a physical Anniversary Edition was even released (for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch only but still…)

The Review
Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare adds some additional features to the original game, which was a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up that saw you attacking enemies with X, busting out a life-draining special attack with Y, jumping with A, and clearing out large groups of enemies with a screen-clearing special move if you have enough Stars in your quest to clean up the streets of Wood Oak City. The first thing you’ll notice when playing Mr. X Nightmare is the addition of three playable boss characters: Estel Aguirre, Max Thunder, and Shiva. Two of these (Max and Shiva) were previously playable but only in their 16-bit variants and all three are ripped straight from their boss battles in the base game. When playing as each of them through the story mode, however, none of these characters have any real impact on the narrative; the cutscenes don’t change or acknowledge them and the only thing that’s different is that when you fight the character’ boss variants, the boss’s taken on a neon, shadowy colour scheme.

Mr. X Nightmare adds Estel, Max, and Shiva as playable characters.

Like the game’s other playable characters, each of these new characters plays slightly different. Of the three, only Shiva can dash towards enemies, for example, but unlike the other two, Shiva cannot pick up weapons (instead, he dramatically flips them up and kicks them at enemies). Estel and Shiva also attack much faster than Max, utilising kicks and fast combos where Max uses slower, more powerful wrestling moves and grapples. Each of them also has Y-based special attacks that will slightly drain their health unless they attack enemies soon after; these seen Estel toss grenades and pounce on opponents with a beatdown, Max charge or slam down on enemies, and Shiva teleport across the screen or out of the air. Each of them also has their own special moves that are executed by pressing Y and B when you have at least one Star. Estel’s is very similar to her boss’s special and sees her call in a bombardment of rockets; Max unleashes a big axe-handle smash and also sees enemies by struck by lightning, and Shiva blasts enemies away with a purple, wing-like aura. The best thing about playing as these new characters is how over-powered a lot of their attacks are; Max, for example, has a super useful Power Slide attack that is easily spammed while Shiva can perform a nifty mid-air kicking combo for decent damage.

Play as Roo and/or test your skills in the new ‘Survival’ mode!

It’s been a while since I played Streets of Rage 4 so I may be forgetting some things but Mr. X Nightmare appears to add a few new weapons into the game’s stages (such as a golf club, an umbrella, and a branch) and the ability to select different colour palettes for every character. The DLC also adds a new difficulty to the game, Mania+, if you fancy taking on an additional challenge and, best of all, the inclusion of a hidden fighter. By highlighting ‘Story on the main menu screen and  pressing up and X and then pressing Start, you’ll get to play as a 16-bit version of Roo the boxing kangaroo, which is pretty cool but it’s a bit of a shame that Roo doesn’t have an alternative skin to match his cameo from the base game. Another addition appears to be that whenever you fight on the hidden, or new, 16-bit stages, every character, even the new ones and altered ones, is rendered as a classic 16-bit sprite. While there isn’t any new story-based content to the game, Mr. X Nightmare does add a new ‘Survival’ mode. Here, you pick a character and play through a series of simulations in a variety of brand new arenas, including new 16-bit levels, and fighting increasingly-difficult waves of enemies. Enemies and destructible boxes will spawn into each area, giving you access to health-restoring good, Stars, and weapons, which you’ll need as you only get one life to play through this mode; when you clear each level, you can pick from one of two perks that stack up and carry over to each level. These can up your attack or defence, add an additional jump, add elemental effects to your strikes or weapon attacks, spawn in Stars, award you more powerful weapons, spawn in an ally, or dramatically increase your attack power and the cost of your durability, among other effects.

The addition of more 16-bit stages, random buffs, and a Training mode add replayability to the game.

The levels and enemies get tougher and tougher as you go but you can make use of environmental hazards to damage enemies; meteors will fall from the sky, lasers and flames will spew up in some levels, wind will blow you about, electrified walls and crushers can harm you and your enemies, and you’ll be able to toss them over edges and such. While you’ll earn Stars instead of lives in this mode, it also includes a whole bunch of new weapons to use and, as you clear levels, you’ll unlock enemies to battle in the new Training mode (essentially a traditional one-on-one fighter), concept art and artwork, and also additional alternative modes for each playable character to customise them to your specifications. Even better, the DLC adds not only some new music tracks but also eight new Achievements to earn that are specifically tied to you completing the story mode as the three new characters, performing Roo’s special move and spawning in clowns, and mastering the new Survival mode, all of which is a great incentive to return to the game.

The Summary:
I was super happy with how Streets of Rage 4 turned out; it was everything I could have asked for from a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up and had a decent amount of features and replayability to it. it could be a little unforgiving at times but it was a blast to play through and I was very surprised and excited to hear that the game would be expanded upon with some DLC. The addition of new characters was very welcome, though it is a little disappointing that they don’t factor into the story more; like, maybe they could have played through slightly altered versions of the stages and fought against the existing protagonists rather than shadow versions of themselves. The addition of new Achievements was very much appreciated and the ‘Survival’ mode is pretty great, though, and sees you battling against every character and boss from not only this game but also the others in the series. Again, it can be tough but playing alongside a friend should make it quite the entertaining time and, overall, I’d say it’s well worth picking this DLC up to add a few more hours onto an already enjoyable title.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you pick up the Mr. X Nightmare DLC? If so, what did you think to it? Which of the new playable characters was your favourite? Did you manage to unlock Roo? How far did you get in ‘Survival’ mode? What is your favourite piece of DLC for a videogame? Whatever you think about Streets of Rage 4 drop a comment below.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: The Terminator (Mega Drive)

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Released: 1992
Developer: Probe Software
Also Available For: DOS, Game Gear, Master System, Mega-CD, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Brief Background:
The Terminator (Cameron, 1984) was a massive box office hit, catapulting star Arnold Schwarzenegger to superstardom, and making nearly $80 million at the box office against a paltry $6.4 million budget and quickly becoming a cult classic. Its incredible success not only led to numerous sequels and spin-offs at the cinema and in comic books but also a number of videogame adaptations, despite the film’s violence and mature content, released for virtually every home console available at the time. The Terminator was generally well-regarded at the time, with critics praising its digitised graphics and catchy music, although the game’s length and difficulty have drawn criticism.

First Impressions:
The Terminator begins hopefully enough; it features the opening text of the movie alongside a pretty decent recreation of the iconic Terminator theme and opening credits. It even includes a further piece of introductory text and dialogue between main character Kyle Reese and his commanding officer that gives the player the rundown on the game’s first mission. Once you move past these opening sections (and choose from a range of difficulty options in the game’s main menu), you’re dropping into the role of Reese in the middle of the war-ravaged Los Angeles of 2029.

Mere seconds are being given your mission, you’re attacked by HKs in a post-apocalyptic landscape!

The controls are just about what you would expect from a run-and-gun title like this; the directional pad moves Reese around and allows him to duck to avoid incoming fire and scale ladders, the A button has you drop and detonate one of your few smart bombs to break down certain walls, B will cause you to either toss an infinite number of grenades or fire your weapon, and C performs a jump. You can alter these controls in the game’s options but, sadly, the controls aren’t the issue here; it’s the game’s literal immediate difficulty spike as, after a few steps to the right, you’ll immediately be fired upon by a Hunter Killer (HK) Tank! Touch its treadmills or get hit by its diagonal blasts and Reese will lose health; since you don’t have a gun, your only option is to lob grenades and it takes a shit load to finally put it down. Then, a couple of steps after this, a HK Aerial will fly overhead dropping bombs on you! This one can’t be taken out so you’ll have to desperately try to avoid its bombs to make it down the ladder and into the Terminator base.

Once you enter the complex, you’re beset by an endless swarm of Terminators.

Once in the underground base, you’ll be faced with an endless swarm of what appear to be T-600 model Terminators who blast at you with Plasma Rifles. Luckily, they’re quite slow and you can generally duck beneath their shots but they’ll also duck and shoot at you, which can be tricky to avoid as the ceiling’s quite low and stunts your jump. The main issue is the fact that the Terminators just. keep. coming without end; add to that the little mini tanks that are also in the area and that fact that you only get one life to complete the entire game and you’re in for a troublesome time right off the bat.

Fight through the maze to plant a bomb and get yourself off to the past.

The absolute worst thing, though, is that this opening stage is a bloody maze! It’s almost impossible to figure out where you’re supposed to go as everything looks the same. Sometimes you’ll reach a wall you can’t pass and will need to blow it up but if you waste your smart bombs, you can’t progress; other times, you’ll run around in circles being whittled down by the endless onslaught of Terminators desperately trying to find some health and ammo only to be gunned down. Eventually, you may stumble upon an orange section of the environment (the “Time Displacement Reactor” according to the manual) where you’re supposed to place a smart bomb to blow the facility but there’s no indication that you have to do this and, once you do, you’ll have to run out of the complex before it explodes! If you try to run to the right on the top level before doing this, you’ll be immediately killed by Skynet’s defence systems but you can just as easily be killed trying to escape.

My Progression:
If you’ve read some of my Bite-Size features before, and the text above, then you know where this is going. I couldn’t even get past the first damn mission! A longplay I watched actually made this first mission seem pretty simple but, when trying to figure it out for myself on “Easy”, I kept getting turned around, running out of smart bombs, and trapped in the underground complex.

Get past the first mission (if you can…) to recreate more iconic scenes from the film.

From what I can gather, The Terminator isn’t an especially long game and can be beaten fairly quickly; sadly, I cannot comment on this as the developers sought to artificially extend the playtime of the game by making it a right ball-ache just trying to get through the first mission. Seems to me that they could have just as easily taken inspiration from the likes of Contra (Konami, 1987) and other run-and-game games available at the time. Endless swarms of enemies and a bit of a puzzle/maze layout aren’t necessarily bad gameplay mechanics in-and-of themselves but, here, they made the game needlessly frustrating and, even worse, the PAL version of the game doesn’t even include any cheat codes to help bypass these issues, meaning I’ll have to actually get good in order to progress!

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I was super excited to play The Terminator and pretty damn disappointed to find that the first mission is all-but impassable without knowing exactly what you have to do, where you need to go, and was full of endlessly spawning enemies. Add to that the fact that you only get one life for the whole game and it was a pretty dissatisfying experience. Still, have you ever played The Terminator on the Mega Drive? If so, were you able to get past the first mission and complete the game? Do you think I need to suck it up and give it another go or would you recommend playing a different version of the game, perhaps the Mega-CD version? Have you ever played a videogame where everything about it was really good and appealing but you just kept hitting a wall and couldn’t progress? What is your favourite Terminator or run-and-gun game? Are you excited for Judgment Day later this month? I have a few more Terminator articles coming to celebrate it so be sure to check back in next Sunday for more Terminator content.

Game Corner [Bite-Size / Mario Day]: Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo Wii)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


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Released: 21 October 2010
Originally Released: 14 July 1993
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console), Nintendo Switch (Online), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Brief Background:
After debuting in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983) and receiving his own arcade title (alongside his brother, Luigi), Shigeru Miyamoto’s overalls-clad plumber Mario was all set to star in a new game exclusively for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that would be everything Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D1, 1983) was not: where Mario Bros. was limited and sparse and lacking in colour and variety, Super Mario Bros. would be colourful, with bigger characters and more dynamic gameplay mechanics. Perhaps the most famous platformer in videogame history, Super Mario Bros. taught players everything they needed to know in its first iconic World, allowed for two players to play together (in turns, of course, given the nature of the title), and introduced pretty much every single popular mechanic and feature that the series is still known for today and set the standard for 2D platformers for an entire generation. Having sold over 40 million copies worldwide, the game was later given a 16-bit makeover for the SNES compilation title Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) that brought the graphics, sound, and gameplay up to the standards set by Super Mario World (ibid, 1990). To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario All-Stars was re-released on the Nintendo Wii on 21 October 2010. Although a bare-bones release that didn’t even include Super Mario World, the special anniversary edition of this game sold out extremely quickly and, even now, the base version of the game can set you back a high price on eBay and Amazon (though it is, thankfully, available through Nintendo Switch Online if you pay their surprisingly reasonable subscription fees).

First Impressions:
I’ve played Super Mario Bros. before, both the NES original and the 16-bit remake for the SNES. However, since I grew up with the Mega Drive and ploughing through robot-infested landscapes with their supersonic mascot, I am by no means a competent Mario player. I played a lot of the Game Boy titles and a couple for the Nintendo DS but I didn’t really sit down and play a Mario game from start to finish until a bought a Nintendo 64. As a result, my opinion on Super Mario Bros. is one that is likely to cause some amount of controversy because…I hate this game. The music is great, don’t get me wrong; it’s peppy and full of life and the Worlds are bright and colourful and full of unique enemies and iconic characters and items but Goddamn is this a bitch to play!

Watch your step as it’s super easy to run head-first into danger or death.

Seriously, Mario slips and slides all over the place and controls like he’s constantly running on ice; it’s ironic to me that Yuji Naka was inspired to make Sonic move so fast due to him constantly trying to beat World 1-1 faster and faster as Super Mario Bros. feels far more faster and out of control than Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) thanks to its slippery and awkward controls. Mario (or Luigi, if you prefer) will jog along at a snail’s pace until you hold down the B button, which breaks him out into a run. Running builds momentum which, in combination with holding down the jump button, allows you to jump higher and faster but while Mario’s jumping abilities have been vastly improved over those in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (there’s no fall damage/death and it’s much easier to jump to where you intend without gravity weighing you down), it’s stupidly easy to run face-first into enemies (and no, not the first Goomba you encounter) or fall head-first down one of the game’s many (many) bottomless pits (seriously, this game alone has more bottomless pits than Sonic has ever seen!). The good news is, though, that you no longer die in one hit…as long as you grab a Super Mushroom or a Fire Flower. Either one will allow you to take one hit but the Fire Flower is recommended as it allows you to be a little more proactive at dispatching enemies other than just jumping on their heads.

There’s certainly a fair amount of World variety on offer…if you can get that far…

Sadly, though, Super Mushrooms and 1-Up Mushrooms often appear out of nowhere and you may find yourself careening down one of those pits trying to grab it, killing yourself in a desperate attempt to stave off death. The game’s World’s are divided up nicely, though, and have a lot of variety to them; one minute you’ll be hopping through the Mushroom Kingdom, the next descending through a pipe to the underground or desperately trying to navigate Blooper-infested waters, before you finally make it to one of Bowser’s castles and are faced with a gruelling test of your skills as you dodge fireballs, jump over pits of lava, and finally send the King of the Koopas to a fiery end…only to be told that the Princess is in another castle!

My Progression:
Okay, this is going to sound really bad but just remember that I flat-out admitted up top that I am not a consummate Mario player…

I couldn’t even beat World 1-1.

I know.

I know!

But, in my defence, I was rushing quite a bit as I bought the game as a gift and was just trying it out for size. Still, imagine my shame when I couldn’t even get through the first World when I know that I have beaten it at least once before and I’ve beaten far harder games (some of them even Mario titles) in the past.

The Warp Zone was not as much help as I anticipated…

Still, I did discover the secret Warp Zone, which allowed me to skip ahead to World 4 and…I couldn’t beat that World, either. I then found another Warp Zone that took me to World 8 and I promptly exhausted my remaining lives before I even got within sniffing distance of Bowser’s Castle. It’s at that point that I shut the game off, wrapped it up for my friend, and promptly decided to wallow in indescribable self-pity and shame.

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I don’t even want to beat Super Mario Bros. anyway. I don’t have to. Why should I? I don’t have to prove anything…Oh God, I suck so hard! I am so ashamed that I couldn’t do better; I wanted to and I am sure I will revisit the title some day in some way, shape, or form but, as of right now, I am too ashamed and too unimpressed with the game’s slippery, alien controls and physics to want to continue. It’s a classic, addictive, and entertaining title that is well deserving of its reputation but I just struggle to get to grips with Mario’s 2D offerings even after all these years. Have you ever beaten Super Mario Bros.? How highly do you rate it in the pantheon of all-time greatest videogames? Do you, perhaps, agree with my thoughts and experiences and find it to be a difficult game to get the hang of or do you think I just suck at Mario, Nintendo, and life in general? Perhaps you’d like to insult my inability to clear even the first damn World, let alone the entire game! If so, no matter what you think or have to say, do please leave a comment and pop back next Wednesday as Mario Month continues.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Grim Fandango Remastered (Xbox One)

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Released: 29 October 2020
Originally Released: 30 October 1998
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Original Developer: LucasArts
Also Available For: Mobile, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

A Brief Background:
Grim Fandango was the brainchild of noted creator Tim Schafer, whose success with Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995) allowed him to pitch a surreal, Day of the Dead-inspired concept that LucasArts hoped would revitalise the declining graphic adventure game genre. Despite initially being a PC-excusive title, Grim Fandango received widespread critical acclaim. For my part, I had been aware of the game thanks to gaming magazines and its enduring reputation as a much-loved title but it wasn’t until the Remastered version of the game became available on Xbox One that I actually got the chance to play, and finish, it for myself.

First Impressions:
Grim Fandango Remastered is a truly unique videogame with an equally unique concept; taking place in the Land of the Dead, players control a Grim Reaper, Manuel “Manny” Calavera, who is actually more like a corporate travel agent who inhabits a very film noir­-style version of the afterlife. The game takes a very bare-bones approach to its mechanics and interface; with no heads-up display (HUD) clogging up the screen, the game’s unique graphical style gets a chance to shine front and centre. Like the early Resident Evil titles (Capcom, 1996 to 2000), Grim Fandango utilises 3D models over static, pre-rendered backgrounds that must be interacted with to find objects, acquire clues, or advance the story. Unlike in those games, though, there’s very little in the way of onscreen prompts to point you in the direction you need to go, meaning that you have to interact with non-playable characters (NPCs) to figure out what’s going on.

Dialogue and character interactions are an important part of the game.

The world of Grim Fandango is populated by a wide variety of 1940/1950-inspired clichés, such as molls, femme fatales, gangsters, and the like, all of whom are skeletons within the Land of the Dead. When you talk to them, you are given a wide variety of dialogue options and conversations can drag on (…and on) for some time, fleshing out the world and the characters and delivering important exposition that you need to pay attention to or else you’ll end up wandering in circles. Helpfully, you can skip these dialogue sequences with the push of a button to speed things up, which is very useful on replays or if you make a mistake but can easily mean you miss out on vital information (as I did).

Manny’s scythe is easily his most versatile, if sparingly-used, item.

Perhaps fittingly, there’s no danger of losing, dying, or getting a game over here; there’s only a handful of moments where Manny takes any kind of damage or gets into a fight so you don’t need to worry about searching for health, power-ups, or extra lives. Unfortunately, a great deal of the game’s focus is on obtuse puzzles, which are solved either by acquiring and using certain items and bringing them to NPCs, performing frustrating time-sensitive tasks, and a lot of experimentation and trial-and-error puzzle. Manny can hold a wide variety of objects in his suit or cloak but the most useful and versatile of these is his scythe, which can be used to hook out of reach objects and interact with the environment. However, I found that, a lot of the time, I was holding objects with no idea of how to use them and questioning whether I would actually have been able to figure out how to progress without a guide.

My Progression:
To be fair, I did complete the game but, to be brutally honest, I didn’t enjoy it all that much and I was forced to turn to a guide soon into my play time. I managed to recruit the demon Glottis as my driver, visit the living world (which was a surrealist nightmare), and get into the office of Manny’s boss using the window but then found myself running around in the lobby and the few rooms available to me trying to figure out what to do with the assortment of balloon animals I had on me. As a result, I turned to a guide and, following it, proceeded to skip and rush though all of the game’s dialogue, story, and sequences in order to earn all of its Achievements. When I first started the game and saw that it was much different to what I expected (I thought it was a noir-style murder mystery but it turned out to be much more about Manny’s existential crisis and misadventures), I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy or finish the game but, thanks to this approach, was able to blast through it in a day or so.

As great as the game looks, its puzzles can be needlessly frustratingly and vague.

Of course, the downside was that I largely missed out on the story and the more immersive aspects of the game but I found that it wasn’t really gripping me from the start, to be honest. As impressive as the game looks and as unique as its aesthetic style and concept is, I found the story a bit more convoluted than I expected and I was incredibly put off by some of the more frustrating puzzles. As I mentioned, there are times when it seems impossible to figure out what to do, like when you’re running around in a desolate forest trying to place a road sign in a pixel-perfect spot, or the puzzles were just needlessly annoying, such as lugging a giant axe around in a bathroom or desperately trying to move locks on a safe door or sing along with some literal worker bees.

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I went into Grim Fandango Remastered excited to experience this cult classic of a game, was impressed by is visuals and unique concept, but quickly became overwhelmed by the lack of direction and confusing elements. I’m all for being given a lot of leeway with exploration and experimentation but Grim Fandango was a little outside of my comfort zone. I can definitely see what people liked about it and I’m sure that fans of this genre of game were probably well in their element but, for all its impressive voice acting, innovation, and imagination, I can’t say that I was inspired to come back to the game after earning all of the Achievements. Are you a fan of Grim Fandango? How do you feel the Remastered version holds up to the original? What did you think to the game’s unique visual style and concept? Did you also struggle with the puzzles and figuring out what to do or were you fully immersed in the experience? Would you recommend that I revisit the game someday and play it properly to actually get a better idea of the story and characters or did you, too, simply blast through it to grab some easy Achievements? Whatever your thoughts on Grim Fandango, feel free to leave a comment down below.  

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Devil May Cry 4 (Xbox 360)

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Released: January 2008
Developer: Capcom
Also Available For: Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Remaster), Xbox One (Remaster)

A Brief Background:
Long before the God of War franchise (Various, 2005 to present) cornered the market when it came to hack and slash videogames, Capcom released a trilogy of titles that saw you cutting demons and angels alike into pieces with a giant sword and blasting them apart with pistols. After the success of Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998), famed Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) director Hideki Kamiya began development on a new Resident Evil title for the PlayStation 2.

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Devil May Cry is one of the quintessential hack and slash videogame franchises.

However, when the game’s development began to veer further and further away from Resident Evil’s survival-horror aesthetics, Kamiya embraced this new direction and created an entirely new franchise with Devil May Cry (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2001). I’d been aware of the series for some time and, being a fan of hack and slash videogames, was eager to experience the games once I bought a PlayStation 3. I remember enjoying the title but ultimately being turned off by the repetitive nature of the game’s missions and boss battles, which are basically identically for both of the game’s playable characters. When I bought my Xbox 360 earlier this year, it coincidentally came with a copy of Devil May Cry 4 so, eager to snag a few additional Achievements, I attempted to rush through it again and see if it was still as enjoyable as before.

First Impressions:
Unlike previous games in the Devil May Cry series, Devil May Cry 4 begins with you not assuming the role of iconic series protagonist Dante but that of newcomer Nero. Functionally, Nero looks, acts, and even controls very similar to Dante (kind of making you question why Capcom bothered to make a new character in the first place…); Nero can attack enemies with his impossibly-large sword, the Red Queen, or stun them with his revolver, the Blue Rose. The more you mash the attack buttons, the higher a combo you’ll begin to build up; the better your combo, the better your grade. Additionally, if you successfully manage to complete missions and puzzles without using healing or recovery items, in a decent time, and with a consistently high style grade, you’ll receive better mission grades and therefore better rewards.

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Nero’s demonic arm separates him from Dante.

What separates Nero from Dante is his Devil Bringer; a demonic arm that stretches out and allows him to cover large distances and grab, grapple, slam, and throw enemies and objects at his enemies. Eventually, he also gains access to the Devil Trigger, a state that allows him to charge his sword to unleash more powerful, flaming attacks, or explode into a demonic state for a short time to unleash stronger attacks.

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Power up before and after missions and go for an S ranking!

As you destroy enemies and certain parts of your environment, you’ll collect a bevy of Red Orbs; destroying enemies, bosses, and clearing missions also earns you Proud Souls, both of which can be used in the game’s Power Up menu. Here, you can trade Red Orbs for healing and recovery items to help you in the game’s more difficult missions or spend Proud Souls upgrading Nero’s abilities, unlocking new combos, faster moving speeds (a definite must), more powerful charged shots, and other similar power-ups. Unfortunately, every time you buy a recovery item, that item’s price shoots up, meaning you can’t just stockpile healing items as you’ll run out of Red Orbs pretty fast; occasionally, though, you can find these items hidden in the game’s missions. Devil May Cry 4’s story is told through in-game and pre-rendered cutscenes; these are pretty decent and full of frenetic, over-the-top action and dialogue and the story is pretty out there, with both Nero and Dante appearing to be infallible and superhuman in cutscenes which, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to their gameplay.

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Bosses are big and impressive but often more frustrating than fun..

The in-game action is fast and frantic but if you don’t properly lock-on and focus on your enemies, or dodge and switch up your attack style accordingly, you can be pummelled into oblivion pretty easily, which can be frustrating. Fortunately, the game’s bosses are large and complex; they’re actually quite fun, despite some of them being frustrating and cumbersome. Bael and Dagon stand out as one of the game’s tougher bosses, for me; this horrific cross between a toad and an anglerfish hides in the snowy shadows, bursting out and swallowing you up to deal massive damage, and its tendency to enter an aggressive final stage is a theme you’ll find from all of the game’s bosses. You’ll hack away, draining their stupidly long health bar and desperately trying to avoid damage, and then they just freak out and throw everything they have at you, making already annoying and difficult battles like the one against Angelo Credo extremely aggravating.

My Progression:
I was quite enjoying Devil May Cry 4 for the most part; I chose to play on “Devil Hunter” mode (which is basically the game’s Hard mode) and the game’s difficulty increases steadily as you play. Initially, enemies aren’t much of an issue; there can be a lot of them and they take quite a beating before actually going down but, generally, they weren’t much of an issue. Then I noticed that they were respawning and that I was encountering far tougher enemies, such as the cloaked Mephisto, the ice-plated Frosts, and the always infuriating Angelos.

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Devil May Cry 4 has a map…it’s just not that great and it’s easy to get lost.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s map leaves a lot to be desired; it’s functional and shows you where areas of interest, doors, and your last exit are and can be expanded similar to the maps in Resident Evil but, quite often, I would clear a room, solve a puzzle, or defeat a boss and then be left clueless as to where I was supposed to be going and what I was supposed to be doing. Just having an area light up on the map and a directional arrow appear would have been super helpful, or even a brief objective in the pause screen.

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Mission 10 culminates in a battle against Dante but I’m not sure I’ll reach this fight.

Anyway, I was fully expecting to clear the game with only a few annoying roadblocks; however, once I limped through a particularly trying boss battle against Angelo Agnus (a hovering, insect like monstrosity that spawns fireballs, flies into a razor-sharp whirlwind, and drains your health to replenish its own), I found myself faced with an exasperating trek back through the suitably gothic and nightmarish environment. Here I was faced with Faust, a more powerful form of the Mephisto enemies, and way too many armoured Angelo enemies; considering I was trying to be mindful of saving my recovery items for the game’s increasingly challenging boss battles and the game’s restrictive checkpoint and save system, I found myself basically rage quitting (though it was more like annoyed quitting) after a few failed attempts. I am so very close to the end of Nero’s story, though, and I know I have done it before so I am tempted to try and push through but, the moment the game becomes more annoying than fun, I know it’s time to take a bit of a break.

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Mission 10. Mission 10 out of 11 missions. Once I clear the eleventh mission, the game begins over from Dante’s perspective but getting there is proving more frustrating than enjoyable; plus, I still remember enough of the game’s massive, Lovecraftian final boss to know that things don’t get any easier. I haven’t checked if it’s possible but it might be better to notch the game’s difficulty down, or simply use a recovery item and hope that I earn enough Red Orbs to buy new ones for later use.

What did you think about Devil May Cry 4? Where do you rate it in the hierarchy of the Devil May Cry series? What do you think of newcomer Nero and the direction the game took? Whatever you think about Devil May Cry 4, or Devil May Cry in general, feel free to leave a comment.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Castlevania Anniversary Collection (Xbox One)

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Released: May 2019
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment/Konami Industry Co. Ltd
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4

A Brief Background:
First announced back in March 2019, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is just one of three bundles of old school Konami goodness cobbled together to celebrate the game publisher’s fiftieth anniversary.

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Castlevania has a rich history across the 8-bit and 16-bit era.

First released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) all the way back in 1986, the Castlevania series has gone on to become one of the most lauded and well-received videogame franchises. As I grew up mostly playing SEGA consoles, my Castlevania experience has been understandably limited outside of the abysmal Nintendo 64 Castlevania (Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe, 1999) and the franchise’s spiritual successors, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Inti Creates, 2018) and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (ArtPlay, 2019).

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I had a good time with Symphony of the Night and the Bloodstained titles.

After playing these, and one of Castlevania’s most celebrated titles, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, 1997), I leapt at the opportunity to buy the Castlevania Anniversary Collection for Xbox One when it was on sale earlier this year and to finally put some proper time and effort into these classic titles.

First Impressions:
Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings together all of the classic Castlevania titles of the 8-bit and 16-bit era; it’s got everything from the ground-breaking original, the much-appalled sequel, the obscure title published on the Mega Drive, and even a handful of Game Boy titles.

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The collection features a few bonus materials.

Each game comes with a substantial piece of text detailing the story, a manual explaining the controls, and the ability to save your progress whenever you wish using save states. This is how I will be playing these games; understandably, a lot of people decry save states but the feature is there and it makes my life easier so I don’t really care.

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There are a few cosmetic options available here.

Additionally, you can set different frames and display options (though there is no HD filter, so you’ll mostly just increase the pixilation of these classic titles) and there are two books (one for the Japanese releases and one for the US) filled with art work, development details, concept art, and other helpful hints As you might expect, you can also unlock Achievements for beating each game; unfortunately, only a few of the titles contained in the collection have more than one Achievement assigned to them, which is a shame as Konami really could have stacked in a bunch of fun Achievements alongside the generic ones for completing the games.

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With Halloween right around the corner, I figured that there is no better time to review these games and this is, undoubtedly, the definitive way to experience these classic titles. As a result, every Saturday for the next few weeks, I will be uploading a review of each of the games as they are listed in the collection, so be sure to come back and see what I have to say and leave your thoughts on this series in the comments.

Are you a fan of Castlevania? If so, how would you rank this collection, and the series overall? If not, would you be tempted to pick up the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and give them a try? Either way, please leave a comment and pop back every Saturday to read my reviews of these Castlevania titles.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: SEGASonic the Hedgehog (Arcade)

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Released: 1993
Developer: SEGA AM3

A Brief Background:
I may have mentioned this before but, back in the early-nineties, SEGA’s super-speedy blue hedgehog of a mascot was on something of a roll; Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) had finally swayed videogame fans away from the Nintendo Entertainment System then, after the unforgettable and highly marketed release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic’s status as a cultural icon was cemented.

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I briefly played SEGASonic at SEGA World.

It was amidst the wave of Sonic’s incredible popularity that SEGA decided to develop a Sonic title for the arcades, most likely as the arcade scene was still a popular way of enjoying videogames even with the Console War right on the horizon. Although it wasn’t the first time SEGA tried to get a Sonic arcade game off the ground, SEGASonic the Hedgehog is, perhaps, the most infamous. Featuring the debut of Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel (two characters that were long-forgotten by SEGA until very recently) and forgoing Sonic’s trademark speed, SEGASonic used a trackball to control its three playable characters and was pretty much exclusively released in Japan. I actually got to play the game at SEGA World in London years and years ago, back when that was a thing, but the game has never been officially released or ported to other consoles since quietly disappearing from the arcade scene.

First Impressions:
SEGASonic makes an immediate impression simply through its bright, colourful graphics; the game features a charming cartoon-like aesthetic, featuring some extremely expressive and amusing animations and facial expressions from Sonic and his two friends.

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Sonic, Mighty, and Ray must escape Eggman’s island.

Captured by Doctor Eggman and forced to escape from his hazardous island, players are tasked with battling the game’s awkward trackball controls and navigating seven isometric levels. Generally, players are chased by some kind of hazard (a wall of fire or a drilling machine, for example), must dodge past some kind of blockage (a cage, crumbling paths, or spiked walls and the like), and clamber across monkey bars to escape danger.

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There’s not much difference between Sonic, Mighty, or Ray.

Sonic, Mighty, and Ray all pretty much control exactly the same; no one character is faster than the other, they all have a Spin Attack, and the only real difference between them is the way they animate when performing certain actions (Ray uses his prehensile tail to climb, for example). Each character has a health bar, in a change for the series, which can be refilled by collecting the familiar Golden Rings generously scattered across the game’s maps, all while being chased by Doctor Eggman.

My Progression:
Unfortunately, as SEGASonic hasn’t been re-released or ported to home consoles, the only way to play the game now is using a ROM and an emulator. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the ROM I have for this game is very finicky and prone to crashing; as a result, I didn’t manage to get too far in the game before the emulator crashed and kicked me out of the game.

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My ROM crashed shortly after this boss.

I’m pretty certain that I managed to clear at least one level when I played the game at SEGA World but, on this playthrough, my ROM conked out on me shortly after clearing Trap Tower. I probably will reload my save state and go back to the game at some point to try and get a bit more playtime out of it but, as much as I love the obscurity and visual presentation of the game, the controls make it quite difficult to play (or, at least, play well).

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I love SEGASonic the Hedgehog; I would be so happy is SEGA got off their asses and made a real effort to put together a real, HD-quality port of the title that integrates modern analogue controls in place of the trackball. It, like Knuckles’ Chaotix (SEGA, 1995), is criminally under-rated, under-looked, and under-valued for its appeal and, considering SEGA loves to port and re-release their classic titles, it literally boggles my mind that we haven’t seen anything from this game in decades. The only thing holding it back from a full-blown replay is the dodgy controls (well, that and that unreliability of the ROM I have…); even when using a trackball, the game is difficult to control but, with analogue controls better and more sensitive than ever, I could see this game being a nice distracting for an hour or so if SEGA were to spruce it up and re-release it.

What do you think of SEGASonic the Hedgehog? What was your favourite of Sonic’s short-lived arcade games? Did you ever go to SEGA World in London? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Mortal Kombat (Master System)

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Released: 1994
Originally Released: 1992
Developer: Arena Entertainment/Probe Development/Midway
Original Developer: Midway
Also Available For: Arcade, Mega Drive, Mega-CD, Game Gear, Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), PC, Amiga, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360

A Brief Background:
You’ve all heard of Mortal Kombat, right? The violent fighting game series that revolutionarily used digitised sprites instead of traditional 2D sprite art and was filled with all kinds of controversial violence and blood? These days, the blood and brutal Fatalities the series is known for don’t cause nearly as much outrage as they did back in the day but, in the early-nineties, parents and organisations alike were fuming at the levels of violence Mortal Kombat depicted. As you might expect, this meant that Mortal Kombat was massively successful; kids finally turned away from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) and wasted their hard-earned pocket money trying to tear their opponent’s spines from their bloodied bodies. Given its level of popularity, Mortal Kombat received numerous ports to home consoles; the Mega Drive version reigned supreme thanks to SEGA including the game’s trademark blood and Fatalities (albeit after a code was entered), while Nintendo lagged behind with heavily edited “Finishing Moves” and substituting blood for “sweat”. While the Mega Drive version is sluggish and hasn’t really aged very well, it’s got nothing on this Master System port!

First Impressions:
After slotting Mortal Kombat into the Master System, you’re treated with a long diatribe about “codes”, which was the developer’s sneaky way of telling you that you need to enter a code to enable blood in the game. I skipped this, however, and, as always, selected Sub-Zero to take on the game’s arcade ladder.

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Kano dodged a bullet with this atrocity!

The first thing you’ll notice is that Kano is missing from the game’s roster; the second thing you’ll notice is how absolutely God-awful the game’s graphics are! I grew up playing the Amiga version of Mortal Kombat but, mostly, was playing either Mortal Kombat 3 (Midway, 1995) on PC or Mega Drive (except for that odd period were I happened to have a copy of Mortal Kombat II (Acclaim Entertainment/Probe Development, 1994) for the Master System) so maybe I was a little spoiled but…my God, the graphics here are terrible! The downgrade to 8-bit has left the already-questionable digitised sprites looking blocky and blurry. Sprites seem to float or merge with the foreground and background, and so many frames of animation have been lost that there seems to be a delay in every button press!

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Backgrounds are okay and everyone has their special moves…but still

It’s not all bad, though; the backgrounds are okay, for the most part, those there’s a noticeable lack of stages here. Each character also has their signature moves but, thanks to the Master System’s two button setup, I couldn’t throw even one Ice Ball for the life of me. None of this changes the fact that the game plays like absolute garbage, though. One of the things I love about Mortal Kombat (especially the early titles) is how the game is easy to pick up and play and gets deeper the more you master its controls; unlike Street Fighter II and its sequels and spin-offs, you don’t have to stress yourself with worrying about “frame cancels” or whatever. Every Mortal Kombat character basically plays the same, with only their special abilities separating them, meaning it comes down to how good you are at getting through the opponent’s offense and landing your own.

My Progression:
In this version of Mortal Kombat, you can technically wipe the floor with the computer without any real problem; if you select the “Easy” difficulty, you can pretty much trounce every opponent with just flying kicks, rapid punches, and leg sweeps no matter how much better they are at throwing their projectiles at you. The issue is, though, that you have to battle against some really dodgy hit detection and slow-down; it’s like the game is taxing the Master System to its very limit, as you’ll slowly stutter through the air and punch through the opponent more often than not.

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At first, it’s not too difficult to get the win, especially on “Easy”.

When I fired the game up to have a quick playthrough, I selected the “Easy” difficulty, picked Sub-Zero (because…obviously…!), and played through the arcade ladder. I managed to get all the way to the Mirror Match without losing more than one round (Rayden turned out to be a cheap spam-artist) and was promptly, soundly defeated by my doppelgänger. Truthfully, I’m not too bothered about this as the one thing I always hated about Mortal Kombat was those damn annoying Endurance Matches, where you have to take on two opponents with two health bars while you only get one. That probably wouldn’t be so bad but you need to fight your way through three of these bloody things before you can take on Goro and, eventually, the game’s final boss, Shang Tsung.

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Honestly, the original Mortal Kombat has not aged well at all. The only version worth anyone’s time is the arcade version, and even that is slow and graphically sub-par to its later sequels. This 8-bit port of the game is a joke from top to bottom; it’s literally the poor man’s version of Mortal Kombat, made for those kids unfortunate enough to not be able to upgrade to the Mega Drive, and should be avoided at all costs. Am I being too harsh on the Master System port of Mortal Kombat? Which was your favourite version or sequel to Mortal Kombat? Do you have any fond memories of wasting your childhood away in arcades trying to set your opponent on fire? Write a comment below and let me know.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (Xbox One)

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Released: May 2015
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch

A Brief Background:
So, I’d heard of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt for a while now; my Twitter feed was full of praise for the game for some time and, even now, it crops up as being a really good, immersive combat/role-playing experience. Similarly, I’ve heard nothing but praise for the Netflix series, The Witcher (2019 to present), particularly for its portrayal of main character Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), its violence, and its sex scenes. Given that I’m currently in lockdown due to the fact that the world has gone mad, I’ve started watching The Witcher and, while I’m only about six episodes in, I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. With all that in mind, and at the urging of many of my peers, I decided to download The Witcher III: Wild Hunt as it’s currently on Xbox Game Pass. However, because I have a massive backlog at the moment and still have work to do at home, I can’t devote my entire focus to the game so I’m just going to briefly talk though my initial impressions of the game and leave it up to you guys to decide if I should make the time to continue playing.

First Impressions:
One of the reasons I hesitated to play The Witcher III: Wild Hunt sooner was simply that fact that I hadn’t played the previous games, am not familiar with The Witcher (Sapkowski, 1993 to 2013) series of fantasy novels, and I don’t really have the time to immerse myself fully into a layered role-playing experience. I should stress that I have only played about an hour or so of the game, and was skipping through the impressively-realised cutscenes in order to get straight to the gameplay but, from what I pieced together Geralt is a mutated monster-hunter, a Witcher, who is on a quest to located his adopted daughter, Ciri. From what I experienced, it seems the narrative jumps from a time in Geralt’s past (which acts as a convenient tutorial for the game’s mechanics) and a more tumultuous time in the present, where Geralt is far more cold and stoic.

The Witcher III has some impressive aesthetics, and Geralt certainly has a lot of options in combat.

Geralt can use his enhanced senses to scan his environment and interact with other characters and objects, this is necessary to find loot and other useful items that can be used to heal Geralt or crafted in what I am assuming is quite a layered crafting system. Combat is a simple, yet surprisingly complex affair; Geralt can target an enemy and attack with his sword using light and strong swipes. He can block and, with successful timing, parry incoming attacks and also use both throwing weapons (like bombs) and a range of magic (known as Signs) to protect himself or attack his enemies. Soon after completing the tutorial (which involved a bit of free-running around a town, where I accidentally leapt off too high a ledge and died…), you skip ahead in time and take control of a more seasoned Geralt, who is accompanied by his fellow Witcher, Vesemir. This is where you learn how to control Geralt’s horse, Roach, which looks to be your primary mode of transport, and battle monsters that roam the world map on your way to the first town, White Orchard, where you can visit a shop to sell and purchase items, take on various side quests, and interact with other characters using the game’s intricate dialogue wheel.

My Progression:
As I said, I only played for about an hour and, even then, I was rushing a bit as I was pushed for time. I literally made it to White Orchard, popped into a tavern, saved my game, and had to stop playing. However, even in that brief bit of time, it is clear how large and sprawling the scope of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is; not only do you have multiple options to pick from when talking to other characters, but there are many side quests and additional concerns that crop up as you pursue the main story mode and also a lot to occupy yourself with in terms of crafting and item management. One thing I did like was the non-playable characters will react differently to you whether your sword is sheathed or not; during the tutorial, it was a sign that I wanted to spar and, in White Orchard, townsfolk would flee as I slaughtered their chickens and cows. Clearly, there’s a lot to get to grips with in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and it’s not really a videogame geared towards a casual player or a quick run-through, as I did here. I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what the game has to offer and I’m already intimidated and, considering I have quite a backlog to work through, I’m not sure that I’ll be returning to Geralt’s adventures any time soon.

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What do you think of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and The Witcher series? Would you recommend putting the hours into mastering everything this game has to offer or do you feel that it was a bit over-rated? Whatever you think let me know in the comments.