Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Zero Wing - Arcade

Someone set us up the bomb!

All your base are belong to us, Gentlemen make your time and a whole host of other such bad translations are what plagued the Megadrive/genesis version of this game, but now we have just the arcade version which features solely the gameplay and no shoehorned plots and cut scenes that the console version has.

In AD 2101, War was beginning

With that, what we have is a solid, if a little long, scrolling spaceship shooter. Bright and colourful graphics adorn the gameplay while you're zipping through space collecting powerups, speedups and massive bombs while negating around weapons, enemies, projectiles and some VERY large bosses.

CATS: How are you gentlemen!!!

For plot, there's little to realise in Zerowing beyond you leaving an exploding space station and... That's it, you're off! Into the large black abyss that is "The Space" and you're flying from left to right and taking on all comers in a massive battle royal of you vs. everyone else. On your way you have the lovely little ability to shoot and use a sort of tractor beam that lets you capture small and medium sized enemies and then launch them at others or use them as a shield.

Operator: We get signal

Zerowing's powerups come in several flavours of primary light colours, red for spread shooting, blue for lasers and green for homing shots. Get enough of the same colour and you'll power up through levels of 3 shot, to 5 shot and then 7 shot (except for lasers, they just get fatter) while your 2 pods will also stop most attacks and even destroy smaller enemies for you. You can be seriously kitted out in a short amount of time.

You are on the way to destruction!

Which you'll need for Zerowing as the levels can be extensively long and it's not until you destroy the 2nd boss-looking monster that you're actually told it's the next level. Bosses are not introduced with any fanfare, the music doesn't change, they just turn up and you're fighting them while usually the normal enemies are still trying to swarm you. It's almost as if someone added bosses and then forgot to recognise them as bosses.

Take off every 'ZIG'

The controls in Zerowing are fairly responsive though you do have that issue of trying to control a spacecraft that's going too fast if you're not careful in picking up those bonus items. However, there's the issue also of the dying and being grossly underpowered as a result of not having the firepower needed to take on the onslaught of multiple weapons from a myriad of opponents.

CATS: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

The music for Zerowing is a little simplistic and repeats throughout each level but has the good sense and grace to change with the levels. Sadly some of those levels are EXTREMELY long, take up 2-3 bosses before being defeated or can be won out within a single simple boss. There's an inconsistent pattern about the design and it shows.

Captain: ... For great justice

There's flaws in the game, there's great aspects too with the level design and the fairly constant difficulty curve that's in place. There's plenty of challenge and given the age of the game, quite an extensive set of levels and gameplay on offer for the studious and hardworking gamer. Certainly worth a play just to see some of the bigger bosses and inventive designs for them.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Konami 88

It's Konami, in 1988... No really, it is.

Following from the success of Track and Field and Hyper Olympics, Konami came back in 1988 with the originally named, Konami '88. 88 minutes of pure Konami goodness... No it's just Track and Field with a graphical overhaul and was released in 1988. Having said that however, it's quite the overhaul and makes for an entertaining game.

So many toys!

For those in the know, you can skip this paragraph. For those that don't, Konami '88 hails from the world of "Wiggle Joystick" controls. You wiggle the joystick (or tap buttons) to build up speed and then hit an action button to determine a function whether it's the angle of jump in Long Jump, or the angle of throw in Javelin, or passing on the baton in the relay. As such, there's a multitude of various events including 100m Dash, Long Jump, 400m Relay, Skeet Shooting, Archery, 110m Hurdles, Javelin, and a replay of the 400m Relay as a final event of the round.

I prefer the original Track N Field

Each round in Konami '88 has a qualifying quota, in that you must get at least that time/distance/score in order to progress to the next event. Getting further/faster/higher gives you more points in case you're in competition with other players or playing for the big score. As such, the game gets harder if you beat every round by starting over and raising the bar (sometimes literally) and having the player require a higher amount of points, faster time, long distance etc.

Celebrate, with your multi-ethinic rainbow of groupies!

Timing is key in Konami '88, whether it's hitting the takeoff and getting the angle for the jumps, or the throws, or the hand over in the relay, or even the loosening off a bow from the string, timing is essential to getting a good score but even consistent timing will not guarantee things. There's more than a few niggling issues with the game.

Similar events to earlier games, just boosted up the graphics a bit

In particular, the run up and take off for the high jump isn't clear because of the game's insistence on using sprite transformation in a pseudo-3D manner, which results in over complicating issues. Archery is a bitch if only because your very first shot will be a range finder as you'll have no idea when to time the shot based upon the almost utter random cross wind and while the game also forces that 45 degrees is optimum for most events, around 25 degrees is your best shot in Archery for Konami '88. The worst is that the controls for the Skeet Shooting do not match up with any other control in the game and the buttons will force you to quickly forget and form new muscle memories just for this one event.

Regardless, it's wiggle joystick and hit buttons.

The game is certainly a huge improvement over Track 'n' Field and Hyper Sports though, the game is a lot more friendly to users, it has clearer objectives and uses of controls (except in Skeet Shooting...) and while it showcases a higher bit level of graphics, makes use of the potential with clear, colourful and clever use of sprites. What it falls short on, is that the game doesn't really convey distance and speed all that well with the rate of change in sizes during the additional scenes. It's a minor point really but the game does stand well as a competitive game assuming both players have a rudimentary grasp of control and timing.

It's like Darts, you're not really an athlete.

Sounds within Konami '88 are quite crisp, while the synthesised voices are a little easier to understand compared to the original and are a markedly nice nod back to the original/source of the series. The music however is few and far between and little of value to really comment upon, it serves its purpose and moves onto the next event with little to no issue or memorable composition while actual events are silent save for the effects and to be honest, it needs to be in order to prevent players reacting to the rhythm of the music rather than the pace of the game.


With all said and done on Konami '88, I find that it's a worthy game for a play around but there's something missing in its delivery that the original has, whether the pace or the overall presentation is up for debate but on its own it is an OK game but nothing truly wonderful that sets it aside within its own series.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Quartet 2 - Arcade

Let the poncy title games, begin!

For an old game there's a little bit of charm still left in this one. Quartet 2, in which we adopt the Gauntlet model of gaming and having several colour coded players running around the levels but instead we drop it to a 2D platformer, throw in some guns and weapons, some physical powerups and so on.

As opposed to a chicken, that would be original at least.

From the off, in Quartet 2, you get to choose from Caucasian guy 1, Caucasian guy 2, Caucasian Girl and Complimentary Black Guy, running by the names of Lee, Joe, Mary and Edgar and their photos looking like some offcut designs from the original Dragonball series of anime. I'm guessing this line up was done for the thinking "White Male most popular demographic so let's have two of those, then throw in some others 'just in case' someone wants to use them". Though having said that, they all do have slightly different weapons and slightly different weapons during upgrades.

Lots of enemies, lots of action and fairly smoothe too!

The premise is simple enough in Quartet 2, start the level, travel to the end and kill the boss that holds the key, then leave via the door. On the way you may find various power ups in the guise of jetpacks, higher jumping, more points, weapon upgrades and such. Also found within the levels are bouncing orbs that can be shot to cycle through colours, giving rise to the possibility of gaining weapon upgrades if you collect it with your characters main colour being selected, or just more points. However, upgrading your weapon too many times resets it back to the first point, which may or may not be a boon or hindrance depending upon your character, but gives you an incentive to hunt for more orbs.

Special weapons for each person, but who really cares?

However, you also have a limit on health and while the game plays, your health drops steadily. Getting hit, shot, or just collided with by the enemies will plummet your health to dangerously low levels and dropping to zero is the end game situation for your character unless you want to pump in another credit and keep playing.

Joe will win the day, with his stupid quiff

Given the time and technology available, Quartet 2 is proudly holding the "Cartoony" appearance because it really can't be doing anything else with such limited capacity. However you can expect the rooms and levels to be flooded with enemies from time to time with no slow-down happening in the game. Monsters, as cartoony as one can make them, spawn periodically and endlessly from key spawn doorways and trapdoors to hamper our characters progress while the boss will take multiple hits before going down, increasing in speed and threat until that point.

Mary in red, dancing with me... Cheek to cheek...

The sounds within Quartet 2 are quite chirpy and cheerful for the music, tripping along to an almost easy-going set of musical scores while the blippy noises and beepy squeakies give the game a certain charm that improves to the overall experience in that this is rather innocent little game before the times of blood, guts, gore and games taking that "dark" and "edgy" approach, it's cute and cheerful and for all intents and purposes could be a game show of the future.

It looks complicated, most of it can be ignored and just gun it for the key.

Overall, Quartet isn't a bad game but it's not a great game. There's too many times that you'll find your character dropping all of their items after colliding with an enemy (including the door key) and having to backtrack to get them and then dropping it again when you arrive back to the same enemy now that it has respawned and sits awaiting to fuck up your day the same way it already has done so. Give it a try however if you see it around, the responsive controls may let you feel for the days when playable games were all that a game really needed to be without relying on gimmicks and sexualisation.