Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Golden Axe (Mega Drive)

Released: 2 August 1991
Developer: SEGA
Also Available For: Arcade, GameCube, Game Gear, Master System, Mobile, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Sega CD, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X

A Brief Background:
Back in the mid-nineties, sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups and hack-and-slash adventures could often be found in arcades since they demanded little more from players than to hold right, mash buttons, and continually pump in their hard-earned pocket money. High fantasy was also a popular genre at the time; sword and sorcery settings were a recurring theme in movies, comic books, and action figures, so it made sense for there to be an influx of similarly themed videogames. Titles like Gauntlet (Atari Games, 1985), Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (Palace Software, 1987), and Dungeon Master (FTL Games, 1987) may have led the way but it was the two Conan movies (Milius 1982; Fleisher 1984) that most directly influenced lead designer and producer Makoto Uchida, who sought to create a beat-‘em-up that could stand out from ultra popular genre hit Double Dragon (Technōs Japan, 1987). Golden Axe was a hit in arcades and became incredibly influential to the beat-‘em-up genre; when it released on the Mega Drive, Golden Axe was one of the system’s premier titles and, while the home version didn’t quite match up to the arcade release, it still did a commendable job of pushing SEGA’s machine as an arcade-quality product. Although Golden Axe led to a number of sequels and spin-offs, and was ported to many other consoles over the years, the series has largely laid dormant; Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Secret Level, 2008) all but killed the franchise with its poor reception, and a 2.5D reboot/remake was ultimately scrapped before it could be properly developed, meaning fans have had to make do with the hack-and-slash games being represented in SEGA’s racing games.

First Impressions:
Golden Axe is set in the fictional land of Yuria, a high fantasy medieval world where the evil Death Adder has secured the mythical and titular Golden Axe and captured the King and his daughter, and threatens to destroy them all unless the people of Yuria accept him as their ruler. Players must pick between Ax Battler, Gilius Thunderhead, and Tyris Flare to set out on a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up quest to liberate Yuria and avenge their losses at the hands of Death Adder, with each of them having an added personal grudge against Death Adder and wielding a different weapon. No matter which character you pick, the default controls remain the same: A lets you perform a screen-clearing magic attack, B sees you attack with your weapon, and C lets you jump to avoid attacks and perform a jumping attack. Thankfully, these controls can be customised (I much prefer mapping attack to A and magic to C), and you can also rush ahead and perform a running attack and even limited combos that see you kicking, throwing, and beating down opponents, or press attack and jump together to perform a special twirling strike to quickly hit enemies that are behind you (or a rolling axe attack for Gilius). At first glance, it didn’t seem like there was much difference between which character you pick: Ax Battler was my pick and he seems slow and clunky compared to Gilius and Tyris, with Gilius being shorter and potentially having a smaller hit box as a result and Tyris seeming to have a faster dash attack. During and between stages, little Elves will wander about the screen; blue ones drop Magic Pots and green ones drop a chunk of meat to restore your life bar (though these only seem to appear in the interlude sections). Each character’s magic bar is a different length, and each one performs different elemental magic (Ax Battler’s are earth-based, Gilius’s are lightning, and Tyris’s are fire), with more powerful magic attacks performed when you have more Magic Pots. Unlike many beat-‘em-ups, Golden Axe lacks a time limit, which is a relief, and it also lacks a traditional difficulty system; you can pick between “Arcade” and “Beginner” mode, with the latter cutting the game short at Stage 3 for an easier challenge. In the “Options” menu, you can also increase your life bar, but you’ll be stuck with the default three lives and four credits to last you throughout the game.

You’ll need all the animals and magic you can get to endure the enemy’s tenacious attacks.

While there aren’t any power-ups to pick up, you can knock or throw enemies off the edge of some stages (and the enemy A.I. is dumb enough to walk right off, in some cases) and ride three different beasts that can really help turn the tide: there’s a weird little bird/lizard hybrid known as a “Chicken Leg” that performs a tail swipe and two dragons, a blue one that breathes fire and a red one that spits fireballs. You can jump and perform dash attacks on these creatures, but enemies can also ride them and, if you’re knocked off or don’t get on one fast enough, the beasts will run away. Gameplay is as simple as you could want; dialogue boxes and map screens between stages give you a quick overview of the game’s story, and you’ll occasionally see screaming non-payable characters running past as enemies attack, but your goal is to go from the left side of the screen to the right, taking out enemies and liberating towns and areas from Death Adder’s lieutenants. While enemies are sometimes dumb, they’re smart enough to flank you and can charge at you, perform jump attacks, and you’re basically screwed once they land their first hit; when caught between two or more, it’s frustratingly easy to get constantly beaten and knocked down, which can feel very cheap. The game is pretty slow by default, but runs fairly consistently; there’s only ever about four enemies on screen at once, which helps, and the only time I saw any kind of slowdown was when the game loaded the day to dusk transition that indicates a boss battle or gauntlet. Golden Axe has you travelling to eight different stages, each one sporting some fun and visually interesting details, such as a village being on the back of a giant turtle or eagle, with feathers blowing in the wind, enemies emerging from the ground or behind doors. The game is bolstered by an extremely catchy soundtrack that’s fittingly reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian (Milius, 1982) and everyone gets a little death scream when they’re defeated. Unfortunately, while the sprites and environments are very big and reasonably detailed, they’re also a bit blurry and indistinct and the game can be a bit of a struggle to play; characters plod along, barely able to avoid attacks, and land their blows with a lackadaisical enthusiasm. However, I liked the variety in the stages; you need to jump over broken bridges, hop up steps, and can take the high ground at times, and there’s even some interesting screen transitions between and at the end of stages.

My Progression:
I’ve played Golden Axe before; I used to have it on the Amiga, I’ve played it on various compilations, and I believe I’ve finished it before but always with conveniences like cracked cheats or replays and save states. I was thus surprised at how well I was able to progress through the game without any of these aides (apparently, there is a code for extra lives but I couldn’t get it to work). Although you’d never guess it from playing the game, there is a scoring system in place, but you only see it and receive a letter rank upon getting a game over, meaning there’s no way to accumulate more lives to see you through to the end. At the end of each stage, you’ll either face one or more larger boss enemies accompanied by some minions, or a short wave of enemies, and the bigger villains you face will then crop up as regular enemies in subsequent stages. The first boss you face is actually two, the hulking, hammer-wielded Bad Brothers, who stomp around the place swinging their giant warhammers, kicking at you, or charging at you. While their attacks can deal massive damage, it’s not too hard to stay out of reach and spam your running charge or jump attack, though you need to be careful as your running attacks won’t connect if enemies are a little too far to the edge of the screen.

While Death Adder Jr. bested me, there’s still The Duel and the game’s true ending to experience.

After clearing Death Adder’s minions from Turtle Village and crossing the bridge, you’ll face Lieutenant Bitter, a huge knight in silver armour who makes a nasty habit of slashing you out of the air or charging with his massive sword and bashing you with his shield. Tougher enemies will soon appear to cause you troubles, as indicated by their differing colour palettes, and this includes fighting variants of the Bad Brothers and Lt. Bitter prior to facing Death Adder Jr., who also doubles as the final boss of “Beginner” mode. When I faced him in “Arcade” mode, however, he was the death of me thanks to his massive axe swings and ability to fire a magical bolt across the ground. However, this isn’t necessarily where the game ends; you can play alongside a friend, for example, if player two presses start on the title screen (not the character select screen, as you might expect) but be careful as you can inflict damage on each other in this mode. You can also take on “The Duel”, which pits you against a number of the game’s enemies in a more traditional 2D fighter. Here, you get thirty seconds to defeat your opponent/s and they actually have a health bar (which would’ve been useful against bosses in the main game). Unfortunately, you can’t use your magic here and any damage you take carries over to the next round, though you are again given a class ranking for your efforts and you can also battle a friend in a one-on-one fight using this mode.

There’s no doubt that Golden Axe is a classic arcade and SEGA Mega Drive title; it’s a very visually appealing and enjoyable experience thanks to a pretty basic premise and control scheme, and it can be fun to charge at enemies, sword swinging, and toss them to their doom while humming one of the many catchy tunes. Unfortunately, it’s a very barebones and clunky experience; Tyris and Gilius were a bit faster and more responsive to play as, but the default speed is very slow, control can feel sluggish and lagging, and enemies are far too cheap at times. While the first few stages aren’t too difficult, it’s not long before the game’s arcade roots rear their head and see your health whittled down, your lives exhausted, and face you with that dreaded “Game Over” screen. Unlike many other beat-‘em-ups, especially ones on consoles, there’s hardly any opportunities to refill your health and no way to earn more lives or continues, meaning that the default difficult level is quite high compared to others in its genre. Had it included infinite continues to help balance these issues, this would’ve helped a lot; sure, you can probably finish “Beginner” mode without too much difficulty but that’s not the same as defeating the real Death Adder and his bigger, badder mentor, Death Bringer and getting the game’s true ending. Overall, it’s a fun arcade style beat-‘em-up, one that definitely set a standard for its genre and for the Mega Drive’s promise of offering arcade-style action, but there’s definitely better games of this type out there, even in the Golden Axe series, and some players might find the steep difficulty curve difficult to manage. Still, have you ever beaten Golden Axe? Do you think it’s worth me giving it another go to try and get to the end? Which of the characters or games in the franchise is your favourite? I’d love to hear your memories of Golden Axe, so leave them down below or drop a comment on my social media to share your thoughts on Golden Axe.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Chuck Rock (Mega Drive)

Released: 1991
Developer: Core Design
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Archimedes, Commodore 64, Game Gear, Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Game Boy, Mega-CD, CD32

A Brief Background:
Founded in 1988 by former employees of Gremlin Graphics, Core Design was a Derby-based videogame developer who produced a slew of Amiga titles back in the late-eighties and early-nineties in a variety of genres, from shooters to adventure games and, of course, platformers. Years before taking the gaming world by storm with the voluptuous Lara Croft, Core Design crafted their own slapstick platforming franchise in the form of Chuck Rock, which aimed to standout from the ever-growing number of platform titles by focusing on zany, cartoonish humour and graphics and taking place in prehistoric times. At the time, Chuck Rock was lauded for its colourful graphics, humour, and unique rock-throwing mechanics; while contemporary reviews aren’t quite as forgiving regarding the game’s pace and appeal, it did spawn a sequel and even a spin-off back in the day. For my part, I remember playing the Master System version and have always considered Chuck Rock a must-have game for my Mega Drive library so I was keen to see if it delivered under close scrutiny.

First Impressions:
So, as I mentioned, I first played Chuck Rock on the master System; it was one of the first home console games I ever played in that regard, and I’ve longed to add the 16-bit version to my gaming library simply because it’s one of those early Mega Drive titles that I consider synonymous with the system. The game is a pretty straightforward platformer; you’re placed into the Cro-Magnon role of the titular Chuck, an ape-like prehistoric man who can send enemies flying with a thrust of his considerable belly. You perform this “belly butt” by pressing B, though its range is pretty limited and some enemies move quite quickly or erratically, meaning you often take a hit when using it. Thankfully, Chuck can also jump with C; it’s not especially high, just like Chuck isn’t especially fast or nimble, but you can perform a mid-air kick by pressing B in the air. Oddly, the A button does absolutely nothing and there are not options to switch around the controls, which means you have to press down and B to pick up rocks; these can be flung as projectiles or held overhead to protect from enemy bombardments but are primarily used to help you reach higher ledges and areas or safely cross thorny obstacles and acid/lava pits. Chuck can also swim, in the loosest sense of the word; he kind of flails about when underwater, with his offense limited to his kick and the toss of a rock.

Bash enemies with your belly or squash them witth rocks in this colourful slapstick platformer.

The game is comprised of five levels, each with three to five “Zones” in each; this is an elaborate way of saying five levels with three to five screens as, when you reach the end of a Zone, you spawn in a new area and continue on to the right as normally. There’s a strong emphasis on platforming and exploration is often awarded with a cache of goodies to increase your score and bring you closer to the 100,000 points needed for an extra life or hearts to refill your health. Chuck can take quite a bit of damage, but there’s very little invincibility frames so it’s easy to get spam-hurt to death from hazards; he’ll also drown if you stay underwater too long, as helpfully indicated by his face on the heads-up display turning blue when submerged, though thankfully there’s no arbitrary time limit to complete the stages. While a variety of dinosaurs and cavemen will dog your progress, some will actually help you; you can use bat-like Pteranodons to cross gaps and you can cross acid and lava pits on the backs of Brachiosaurus’and water on whales. Your only real in-game options are to turn the music and sound effects off, but you should leave both on as Chuck’s battle cry of “Unga-Bunga!” is quite adorable and the game is bolstered by a catchy soundtrack that works well with the cartoonish visuals. Unfortunately, the game is pretty slow going; Chuck has a weight to him that makes avoiding enemies or precision platforming difficult to nigh-on frustrating, and your progress is restricted not just by a paltry three lives but also limited continues and no password or push-button codes to help you get further into the game.

My Progression:
My memories of the Master system version of the game are limited but I know I never finished it, and I don’t recall getting much further past the first boss. When I fired up Chuck Rock, I was ready for a fun, quirky little platformer and was sure that the thirty-odd years of experience would serve me well. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the game having limited continues; this is a trope of this era of gaming that never fails to irk me, and I don’t really understand the logic behind it, but it absolutely derailed my progress. Things started off pretty well; I made it through the jungle stage marvelling at the detailed backgrounds and the fun use of foreground elements and using rocks to protect myself from thorns, boulders, and toss at crocodiles to spring myself up to higher levels. As I progressed into the cave level, I was happy to see the pick-ups change with each stage, with meat featuring in the first stage, root vegetables in the second, and starfish and the like in the third. The cave also introduced extendable snake platforms, fireball-spitting lava pits, and invincible mud monsters; the water stage proved to be quite hectic, with the waters teeming with enemies to whittle away your health, though you can make use of frogs to ascend to the slightly safer coral platforms.

While bosses start out pretty easy, it’s not long before the hit boxes prove an issue.

As is to be expected of any platformer worth its salt, Chuck Rock includes a number of enemies to contend with; there’s mallet-swinging caveman, coconut-tossing enemies hiding in trees, and a range of dinosaur and prehistoric baddies, from little Triceratops’ who split into smaller enemies when attacked, to mud-spitting lizards, to jellyfish and swordfish. Each stage ends with a boss battle against a far bigger prehistoric enemy, though these often look more intimidating than they actually are. The first one you face is a massive Triceratops that mindlessly charges across a small, enclosed arena trying to trample you; however, you can safely stay out of range on the raised platform and it’s not especially difficult to dash into the area, grab the rock, jump to safety, and toss it at the charging dinosaur. The second stage ends with a fight against a far faster and more versatile sabretooth tiger; however, while this furry, sharp-toothed cat dashes around the arena at speed, I was easily able to accidentally trap it in a corner and beat it to death with Chuck’s belly without taking a single hit! Sadly, the same wasn’t true for the third stage boss, the Loch Ness Monster herself, Nessy (complete with diving headgear!) Nessy not only spits bubbles at you and is accompanied by some annoying little crab minions, but she’s so big that he hit box is massive, meaning it’s pretty hard to land a hit without taking one yourself and, as the bosses take quite a few hits to defeat, this was where I exhausted my lives, continues, and patience. It’s a shame, too, as there was only two more levels to go and a battle with a woolly mammoth and a Tyrannosaurus rex wearing boxing gloves to look forward to!

There’s a lot to like about Chuck Rock; the game looks really good, especially for an early Mega Drive title, has a fun, slapstick presentation, and the music and overall presentation are really great. I enjoy the gameplay mechanics or smacking enemies with your belly and tossing rocks as projectiles and boosts, but the execution is a little clunky. Chuck is so slow, his hit box so big, that he’s often at a disadvantage against his more nimble and versatile foes; he can take a few hits, but it’s far too easy to get repeatedly hit by attacks or hazards and lose a life since Chuck has little recovery time and there are no power-ups to help even the odds. The game is somewhat relenting in that it will respawn you at the start of the last stage you played, or in the boss room, when you die, but the limited continues really hurts the replay value and makes it unnecessarily more difficult than it needs to be. I do think it’s beatable, to be fair, though I get the sense that later levels would ramp up the frustration with more, far cheaper enemies and obstacles. I definitely think it’s a must-have game for your Mega Drive library, but it’s a bit disappointing that the Mega Drive version is apparently the only version of the game not to have any push-button codes to help make things easier. Regardless, I’d love to know if you’ve ever played, and beaten, Chuck Rock and your thoughts on the Neanderthal’s rock-tossing adventure so feel free to share these down in the comments or on my social media.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Urban Strike: The Sequel to Jungle Strike (Mega Drive)

Released: 4 March 1994
Developer: Granite Bay Software
Also Available For: Game Gear, Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Brief Background:
After the conclusion of the the Gulf War, Mike Posehn took the air rescue mechanics of Choplifter (Dan Gorlin, 1982) and expanded upon them to create Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, a nonlinear, mission-based military title that placed players in a sandbox environment and did away with typical videogame mechanics like bosses and power-ups. When Desert Strike proved successful, producer Scott Berfield, game director John Manley, and associate producer Tony Barnes created a sequel that built upon the core mechanics of the original with new locations and vehicles. Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike (High Score Productions/Granite Bay Software, 1993) was also was well received, despite criticisms of its difficulty curve, and a third entry was produced for the following year. Moving away from real-world conflicts and taking a slightly more futuristic slant, Urban Strike continued to refine the gameplay mechanics of the series while also mixing things up with sections that took place on foot, however many reviews reportedly found that the gameplay wasn’t innovative or different enough to be as interesting or engaging as it once was. Contemporary reviews echo this sentiment, criticising the game’s difficulty though none of this kept the series from continuing on for a couple more entries.

First Impressions:
Like the first two games, Urban Strike is a top-down, isometric shooter, now set in the far-flung future of 2001 and primarily playing in control of a Mohican helicopter to undertake some familiar missions across a variety of maps now exclusively based in the United States of America. As ever, you can customise your control scheme to your liking – the default settings see A fire your Hellfire missiles, B fire your Hydra Rockets, and C fire your chain gun – but the game now supports the Mega Drive’s six-button controller, which is super useful for the new drop feature that lets you dispose of cargo or smart bombs at the touch of a button. You can again choose to control your helicopter either with or without momentum to increase or decrease the realism of the gameplay, and select from various co-pilots, with some being more accurate or trigger happy and some missing in action and in need of rescue. So far, it’s all very familiar but, like Jungle Strike, you now have the option of taking the controls of two other vehicles: the much larger Blackhawk helicopter (which lakes Hellfire missiles and seems a bit slower but can hold twenty passengers rather than the usual six, making it perfect for the game’s many rescue missions) and the Ground Assault Vehicle (GAV), a heavily armoured transport that might be slow as all Hell but it can take a beating and deliver massive damage. While the game technically only has five campaigns, this number is increased by the newest gameplay feature, which sees you abandoning your vehicle and exploring labyrinthine facilities on foot!

The developers attempted to spice things up with new vehicles and even some on-foot sections.

Unfortunately, the grid-like control pattern makes these sections rather awkward; you’re also limited to your MX9 machine gun and have far less armour since your only protection is a flack vest, and the zoomed in isometric perspective causes the game’s otherwise impressive presentation to suffer in these rare sections. Luckily, opportunities to switch to other vehicles are much more frequent than in Jungle Strike, though I can’t say I was too impressed by the new vehicles on offer here. Similarly, your missions in each campaign are painfully similar to what’s come before; you start off in Hawaii (with three lives by default and again without any in-game music accompanying the action) and are tasked with destroying radar sites and stealth ships, rescuing Green Berets, and blowing up a bridge. Objectives also include transporting telescope mirrors to a barge, which means your winch is taken up carrying the object; if you press a button to drop your cargo, it’ll be lost, so I’m not really sure why this function was included (if you could drop it, pick up an ally, and then grab the object again it would make much more sense). The first map is pretty open and linear, with an abundance of fuel, armour, and ammo crates to be found; those you rescue will also repair some of your armour when you drop them off, which is helpful, though it’s still advised that you plan on optimal route to avoid running out of ammo or blowing up from lack of fuel. If you’re down in this manner, you’ll respawn with twenty-five units of fuel and full armour but you’ll get full fuel if you’re destroyed be enemy fire (though your weapons can only be replenished by ammo crates, so be careful not to accidentally destroy them!)

Graphically, the game impresses, but it’s gameplay has become quite repetitive by now.

From the pause menu, you can again see a pretty useful map of the area and cycle between mission objectives, notable highlights, and review your mission and current status. If you destroy the wrong targets or fail to rescue or secure others in time, you’ll be forced to return to base to restart from the beginning, so there’s again a fair amount of trial and error required to properly progress. Campaigns also include some hidden side missions, such as rescuing innocents from shark attacks and such, which will net you bonus points. While the first campaign is pretty simple stuff even without the helpful ten lives cheat code, campaign two takes its queue from the final level of Desert Strike and has you securing heavily-defended oil rigs, rescuing survivors from a sinking cruise ship (you’ll definitely need the Blackhawk for that one!), and securing a friendly Russian submarine. It’s a slightly tougher mission, made all the more challenging by the fact that some of your missions won’t appear on the game map until you complete earlier ones; you can’t swing by the cruise ship or fend off the gunboats by the submarine, for example, until you’ve secured the drilling platforms. Things get a bit tougher when you head inside an aircraft hanger and must navigate the maze, taking out turret columns and destroying fighter jets before activating a beacon. You’re then given 120 seconds to escape, but there’s no onscreen countdown, which is super annoying, and additional enemies pop up to obstruct you as you race for the exit ladder.

My Progression:
I believe this is my first time playing Urban Strike, but I went into it with a pretty fair idea of what to expect based on the last two games. Sadly, while the title screen is much improved and the explosion effects look a lot better this time around, things haven’t really progressed all that much; the graphics still have a fun, pseudo-3D feel but the cutscenes contain less animations than before and it feels like a bit of a step back from Jungle Strike in terms of variety and accessibility. Once again, there are no real bosses to speak of but you’ll counter more formidable and tougher enemy ships and helicopters as you progress; later missions have you commandeering a GAV to take out the heavily-armed militia or targeting bad guy Malone’s henchman as they speed away in cars, but you’ll face a similar assortment of turrets, jeeps, soldiers, and tank-like enemies as in the previous games.

Despite what the reviews said, I found to be just as tough as the first game!

While the on-foot sections are a bit ugly, the environments continue to be a vast improvement over Desert Strike, overall; the desert still crops up, naturally, but Urban Strike boasts cities, jungles, and even a pretty fun recreation of Las Vegas. Rendered in the black of night, the city is lit up by gunfire and explosions as much as the garish neon signs and let down only by the tedious objective of flying all over, avoiding enemy fire, to destroy a whole bunch of radar sites. After that, you’ll be struggling with your ammo as you’re forced to clear the Las Vegas Strip of enemies, and this mission proved to be too much for me in the end. But, truthfully, I’d tapped out in the previous mission; after destroying a bunch of guard towers and rescuing a bunch of prisoners of war in Mexico, the game required me to hack into the Gav to take control of one but, no matter what I tried, I kept picking the wrong fuse and was forced to abandon the mission. As before, the game is password-based; you get passwords to jump ahead to later campaigns, which is how I played the Las Vegas campaign, but you can’t input the ten lives code and then jump to a later level, and in-game extra lives are pretty scarce, so the difficulty curve was noticeably more like Desert Strike than Jungle Strike for me. It’s interesting for me, then, to learn that many reviews thought Urban Strike the easiest of the series so far; the missions are a little more tedious, often requiring you to rescue multiple targets, fend off waves of soldiers, or carry multiple objects from one point of the map to the other, which can be a drain on your resources. As ever, it’s thus important to plan your route and conserve your better weapons for when needed, but the shift towards more monotonous missions and the unsightly and awkward on-foot missions seems to have made the admittedly repetitive gameplay loop less exciting rather than injecting some variety to the formula.

So, again, I wasn’t quite able to finish Urban Strike; I did a lot better than with Desert Strike but I found the game to be a bit tougher than Jungle Strike, though I was surprised that I was even able to clear the second game. Although it’s just more of the same, with little in the way of gameplay or graphical progress or innovation, Urban Strike is still a really good game; the game is probably the smoothest of the three classics and the maps are all very distinct and much more interesting than being stuck in the desert but feel less visually interesting than in Jungle Strike. The two new vehicles area bit easier to control than those in the second game, but the Blackhawk is a bit too similar to the Mohican to really stand out and I really didn’t enjoy the on-foot sections, which were clunky and relied too much on maxes. Combat and gameplay are largely as exciting as ever, with lots to blow up and discover in each campaign; enemy fire can still destroy buildings and such, which is great, and it can be fun planning an optimal route to complete missions faster but, overall, this was just more of the same with little to really make it stand out from or surpass Jungle Strike.Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Urban Strike down in the comments or on my social media so please feel free to share your memories and opinions and check back in next Saturday for my thoughts on the fourth game in the franchise.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (Mega Drive)

Released: March 1992
Developer: Electronic Arts
Also Available For: Amiga, MS-DOS, Mac OS, Master System, Lynx, Game Gear, Game Boy, SEGA Mega Drive Mini II, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), PlayStation Portable

A Brief Background:
By 15 March 1991, the Gulf War came to an end; after about six months of conflict and thousands left dead, the atrocities of the war would be felt for years to come and, naturally, this meant that Desert Strike caused some controversy when it was released due to the Gulf War being fresh in people’s minds. Desert Strike was spearheaded by Mike Posehn, who built off the air rescue mechanics of Choplifter (Dan Gorlin, 1982) by incorporating nonlinear, mission-based gameplay in a sandbox environment that eschewed typical videogame mechanics like bosses and power-ups. Inspired by Matchbox toys, Posehn designed the 3D models to resemble toys and programmed the game in such a way that players would be forced to restart if they went off-mission. Several months were spent perfecting the game’s physics and controls, all of which served it well upon release and Desert Strike has been highly praised as one of the Mega Drive’s top titles; reviews praised the graphics, the mission variety, and the strategy involved in tackling missions, though the difficulty curve and its more frustrating moments proved to be a cause of contention. Though many may have forgotten the series in recent years, Desert Strike kicked off a slew of similarlythemed sequels that built and improved upon the original’s formula; I used to play the Amiga version all the time back in the day and knew that the series was a must-buy once I really started collecting for the Mega Drive.

First Impressions:
Desert Strike is a top-down, isometric shooter in which players take the controls of an Apache helicopter and undertake a number of missions in a sandbox-like map in the middle of the Gulf Desert. At the start of the game, you can pick from a variety of control and gameplay options: by default, A fires your Hellfire missiles, B fires your Hydra missiles, and C fires your chain gun, but you can customise these to your liking. You can also choose to control the helicopter either from the cockpit (which makes movement a lot easier) from above (which leaves less room for error), or “with momentum” (the default setting, which has the helicopter move more realistically). I chose “from cockpit” and never had any issues with the control scheme; the helicopter is surprisingly manoeuvrable considering you’re essentially flying over a grid, and you can easily reverse away and bank out of firing range if need be. Once you’re happy with your controls, you can pick a co-pilot; while you’ll control the helicopter’s flying and weapons, the co-pilot you choose can greatly impact your gameplay as some cause the winch to jam while others are a bit more trigger happy. From there, you can either start from the game’s first campaign or enter a password to skip ahead to a later level, and you’ll be awarded with one of these codes after successfully completing each campaign. Sadly, despite some pumping tunes blaring during the title sequence and cutscenes, Desert Strike is devoid of in-game music, leaving only the sounds of your helicopter blades and weapons to hold your attention. Each of the campaigns also takes place on the exact same map, though the sand colour changes to indicate a different time of day and you’ll find different buildings, vehicles, and enemy placements in each campaign.

Check your map to identify mission objectives and targets to destroy or POWs to rescue.

While you need to press C on the title screen to view the game’s story, mission debriefing and cutscenes will take place before each campaign (and during the mission when you rescue prisoners of war (POWs) or capture enemy commanders) using large, detailed, and partially animated sprite art and onscreen text. Once you start the campaign, you’ll need to fly from the frigate and to the desert, and right away you’ll see just how large the game map is. You can view the map from the pause menu and use the directional pad to switch between different mission objectives and points of interest on the map, which allows you to easily see where your next target is and what resources you can acquire along the way. You can also view the status of your missions, and get additional information about each one (this tells you how many POWs you need to rescue, or how many targets you need to destroy, in order to clear the mission). The instruction manual stresses that you complete each mission in order; if you don’t destroy the radar dishes first, you’ll encounter greater enemy resistance throughout the campaign, but it’s also advisable to clear out enemies or do some prep work on your way to your next objective (for example, if you’re going to fly past where an enemy spy is hiding, break them out and pick them up before destroying the power plant, then loop past the fuel on your way to taking out a SCUD Launcher). Since onscreen text is limited to warning you when you’re in a danger zone or low on fuel and armour and other situational notifications, you’ll only be able to keep track of your ammo, armour, fuel, lives, current load, and current score from the pause menu. Your helicopter’s chain gun is your weakest weapon, but also holds around a thousand rounds, meaning it’s sometimes better to hang back, angle yourself just right, and use the gun to blow open buildings rather than waste your more powerful missiles. Ammo crates are scattered all over the map, but ammunition is scarce; if you’re too trigger happy, you’ll have a hard (or almost impossible) time destroying the campaign’s bigger targets or tackling more formidable enemy units, like tanks and Rapiers.

Campaigns quickly get very challenging as you’re given a variety of missions to complete.

Your helicopter can take a decent amount of damage, but you’ll be reduced to smouldering wreckage under sustained heavy fire or if you’re not careful and bash into rocks or buildings. You start the game with three lives and, when they’re exhausted, you have to restart the entire campaign over. You can, however, earn additional lives by accumulating a high score or hop back into the later missions using the password system. If you die mid-campaign, you’ll respawn right where you failed but your weapons won’t be replenished after each death. You’ll get a bit of extra fuel, though, but it’s usually not enough to get to one of the handful of fuel drums also scattered across the map. As a result, you really have to think about the best routes and the most efficient way of tackling the missions; fuel, ammo, and armour all need to be considered so you can’t just fly in all guns blazing, and you can only carry six passengers at a time so you’ll need to be mindful of where the nearest landing zone is, too. Resources and passengers are automatically picked up by flying over them, which drops a winch for you to latch onto them. Your helicopter will also land so your co-pilot can get out and rescue targets, which leaves you flying about fending of heavily-armed enemy forces before recovering them, and you also won’t lose fuel when flying over the sea, which is useful in the game’s later campaigns. Missions are generally grouped into two categories: destroying targets and recovering targets. Radar dishes, power stations, airfields, and chemical weapons facilities all need taking out and you’ll need to recover both POWs and enemy commanders to learn the exact location of things like SCUD Launchers or bomb shelters. You’ll be orchestrating jail breaks, rescuing United Nations ambassadors, uncovering and destroying missile silos (before they launch their ordinance), airlifting soldiers from life rafts out in the ocean, and angling yourself just right to stop oil spills as you progress through the game. Practically every target is either defended by or soon reinforced by enemy forces, ranging from soldiers packing both machine guns and rocket launchers to tanks, AAA turrets, mobile Rapier launchers, and even an enemy helicopter in one of the later missions. There are no traditional bosses to speak of, but the more heavy-duty enemy vehicles can easily catch you in a crossfire, especially if you’ve wasted all your best ammo blasting buildings. Things would be a lot easier if you could restock your weapons, fuel, and armour at the frigate but this isn’t an option; rescuinf missing soldiers can restock your armour but resources are so scarce that you’re easily left with no better option than to completely start over since you won’t have the necessary weapons or fuel to continue, making for a challenging gameplay experience

My Progression:
I’ve played Desert Strike, and its sequel, before; as mentioned, I had it on the Amiga and I remember borrowing both from friends back in the day, but my memories are a little vague on the specifics. After replaying it on the Mega Drive, though, I can only conclude that my version must have been one of the many Amiga games I had that was cracked, allowing me to play with such benefits as infinite fuel, armour, and ammo as Desert Strike really is one of the most challenging Mega Drive titles I’ve played. Thankfully, it’s not unfair, exactly, just extremely frugal with its fuel, armour, and ammo and you really need to have a plan of attack in mind before taking on your objectives. If you run out of missiles destroying enemy vehicles or targets, you’ll never be able to destroy five out of the six SCUD Launchers before they fire their missiles, for example, so you shouldn’t just blast away willy-nilly or pick up ammo crates unless you need them, and while you do get extra points for destroying other targets and picking up soldiers, it’s best to stay on-task and only attack and rescue those that you need to. All of this is to say that I couldn’t get past the second campaign, and it was only through a great deal of trial and error that I was even able to beat the first campaign (!), which requires you to destroy three radar dishes, take out a power station, destroy some heavily-defended airfields, and then rescue a secret agent from a bunker while fending off enemy forces.

You’ll be hard pressed to take on the game’s later missions even with the level skip passwords.

Campaign two starts out with much of the same, asking you to destroy radar dishes, a power station, and a chemical weapons facility, but the resources are far scarcer are there are a lot more passengers that need picking up between the jail break and SCUD commanders, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of back and forth between landing zones. I was able to achieve all of these objectives except for destroying the SCUD Launchers as I was completely out of missiles by the time they appeared on my map and thus unable to destroy them before they launched their load. Even using the ten lives code didn’t really help here as I kept running out of the resources I needed to complete the campaign, so I used a password to jump ahead to the other campaigns and see how they fared. As you progress, not only do the number and aggression of the enemy forces increase, but so do your mission objectives: Campaign three has you rescuing U.N. ambassadors, destroying a chemical weapons complex, locating and destroying missile silos before they can launch, destroying a power station, blowing a hole in the Madman’s yacht and rescuing his hostages while fending off speedboats, and then protecting your co-pilot as he drives a bus to safety. I believe I died trying to locate the enemy ambassadors, so I tried the final campaign and was similarly met with failure. At first, you only get two objectives: destroy the tanks attacking an oil field and drop some commandos off to take the complex over and stop oil pumping into the sea with well-timed shots, but additional missions pop up soon after, including locating bomb shelters and destroying specific garbage trucks carrying bomb parts, but I was all out of ammo, fuel, and lives before I really got a chance to go any further than that.

Despite the fact that I couldn’t actually complete the game, and barely managed to clear even one campaign, I still really enjoy Desert Strike. While enemies and the game’s speed aren’t exactly action-packed or at a breakneck speed, combat is exhilarating as you need to try and circle around or stay out of firing range to quickly take out enemies or blow open buildings, without catching their attention and to conserve your more powerful weapons. The controls are surprisingly slick, and there’s a lot of little things to see and do in each campaign, from vehicles idling down the road, security checkpoints, POWs fighting with the enemy, enemy fire damaging buildings, and the amount of objectives crammed into each mission is staggering. In fact, there may be almost too much to do, certainly too much for the limited resources available; thus, Desert Strike is a game that involves a lot of strategy and asks that you plan out your route and how you tackle objectives and then restock your weapons, though the developers were really stingy with the fuel, ammo, and armour, which means that this isn’t really a game you can just casually playthrough. Still, it remains an under-rated Mega Drive classic and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Desert Strike down in the comments or on my social media so please feel free to share your memories and opinions and check back in next Saturday for my thoughts on the sequel.

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)

GameCornerBite-Size

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.