Sunday, March 31, 2013

Final Fantasy 7... for the NES?

(Article originally posted at FPSX Games as a guest piece, so be sure to check them out.)

That's right, I said it. Final Fantasy 7 for the NES. Or the Chinese-made, knock-off system, the SUBOR rather. It's none-the-less playable on the NES through an adapter, but I digress..

We all know and love this monumentally epic gaming experience, first released on the Playstation by Square (back when they were just Square, as opposed to the Square Enix of today). It had everything; gorgeously beautiful polygons, an epic story with all the feels, and a fantastic battle-system and game play. It was and is to this day a great addition to anyone's gaming library. Since its release, more than 10 million copies have been sold, and it has been elevated to a high status as a paragon of games.

I'd laugh and say you were lying if you've never heard of Final Fantasy 7, assuming you the reader are at least minimally a gamer or just slightly nerdy. I dare say no game has had nearly as long lasting and significant an influence on all of Nerd-dom. You can see it in the games that succeeded it, in our conventions and cosplaying, in comics and mangas (and by extension, hentai.... (rule 34! :O)), the merch still comes in droves, and there have even been a number of spin-off movies and games!
Geez, what a bad-ass!
What is little known though, is that there was the unlicensed port of Final Fantasy 7 that I mentioned previously. Developed in the early 2000's, this was developed for the Chinese's SUBOR which was essentially an NES or Famicom gaming system. After this, an English patch was developed for this which is how I played and was able to follow along. But anyways, unlicensed or no, this was a huge feat for the team of developers.

Some liberties had to be taken, however, given the restrictions of the hardware involved. One of these liberties taken was the shedding of some of the optional missions and characters. Also, the battle system was changed to be more like the Final Fantasy's of old. Aside that, this was pretty much the whole kit and kaboodle, with the original story very faithfully followed.
You're so pretty, Miss Cloud!

I thoroughly enjoyed this and my criticisms are few. The biggest problem I had were with the battles themselves. I'm not sure if it was just me, but they seemed a lot longer and drawn out than say a typical old-school Final Fantasy battle, or also a battle in the Playstation Final Fantasy 7. I usually get some amount of satisfaction out of the battles provided I'm not just in grind-mode, but the battles got to be almost horrendous. Just trying to get to the next area, I wanted to pull out my hair!

The only other major problem I had was the mishaps that occurred translating the original Final Fantasy 7 story with all the cut-scenes and luscious visuals, over to the NES-esque format which had cut-scenes reduced to pure dialogue and sprites moving minimally. This is particularly apparent and egregious once you meet up with Aeris in the church. It was hard to follow what exactly was going on without the full visuals and the action of the original cut-scene. Especially if it's been literally years since picking up and playing the original game.

Aside from that, it was a pretty enjoyable experience, and it was really neat and impressive. I recommend tracking it down for yourself to at least try it out. If anything, it's quite a marvel of skill on the part of the Chinese development team, and deserves some pretty hefty kudos.
Below is a short video I made to complement this article visually and give you a brief look at the "NES Final Fantasy 7".

Happy Zombie-Jesus Day!!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Retro Challenge: Ghouls 'n Ghosts (#1)

So I'm sure a fair few of you are familiar with the classic Ghosts 'n Goblins series. This blisteringly difficult set of games has confounded and frustrated many a gamer in its day. I have been one of those many gamers never able to see the ending.
Now if you missed this (did you never set foot in an arcade?) or those too young, the original arcade Ghosts 'n Goblins featured Sir Arthur, a knight, in his quest to reclaim his princess from the clutches of the Demon King. With your trusty lance, you have to make your way six punishing levels, defeat the Demon King, and then play through the entire game on a harder difficulty in order to get to the real final battle and get the true ending. What makes all this even harder, you can only be hit twice and then you die, easy as that. THIS was one of a number of classic games that will forever be a true achievement in gaming, if completed. Think you're such a hot-shot with your easily obtained XBOX "achievements"? Play this game, I dare you!
Flying-ass, monkey-dude! I curse you!
Ghouls 'n Ghosts is much the same affair, not surprisingly as it's the direct sequel, but with gorgeous SNES-era visuals and effects, there's more weapons and items, and has some great tracks. Much like the previous one, you don't simply beat the game by going through the six levels. Once you get to the end of stage five, you're informed you need a specific weapon to defeat the Demon King, so you're sent back to level one and during your way back up to level five you are supposed to find the specified item which will be a random drop, then once you have that, you defeat the stage five boss and proceed to the end stage.
Those damned dogs!
Many years later, I've picked up Ghouls 'n Ghosts with the intentions of finally wiping that smirk off the Demon King's face. So far, I've seen lots of deaths and game overs, but I will persevere!
I challenge you readers to do this for yourselves as well, but remember! Pics or it didn't happen! Good luck! :]
Wish me luck too...? :S
You'll see that I in fact need it......

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Retro Classic: Ghost Chaser Densei

This particular title is probably one of the more obscure beat-em'-up titles released for the Super Famicom, but a worthy addition to its library of games. Though I cannot read Japanese or find anything at all about the plot, it really isn't all that necessary. It's a beat-em'-up after all. Story isn't all that necessary. I just wish I knew why the name? Playing through, there is an obvious and utter lack of ghosts, specters, and phantoms. But I digress...

As I said, it's a Japanese, "beat the tar out of everything" type affair that is a solid, competent title. In the game, you have your choice of three characters. The first I tried out was the robot character, Belva. He plays pretty decently, and packs a punch. The trade-off is that he's kind of sluggish as a character. Makai, the human male martial artist, is the middle ground character while Iyo, the cat-lady, is fast and agile. As you would expect a feline-esque character to be. They also all have their own special sets of moves and special techniques, blocks, and a power bar system that comes into play as well.
You play through some pretty typical sets of stages, with crates and semi-destructible environs, an end-stage boss, yada yada yada. The kind of stuff you'd expect from a brawler. There's also quite the cast of baddies to beat down, ranging from mermen, to obese cyborgs and robots, failed experiments, and so forth. While this wasn't a trend-setter, off-the-beaten path game, it was an enjoyable experience. Certainly with a try. :]
Below can be found some game play, so you can see its excellence. :P

Friday, March 22, 2013

Retro, 8-Bit Team Fortress!

Just recently I gave Pixel Force: Left 4 Dead a whirl, and I really liked it, despite moments of frustration because of my noobish-ness. Well, I liked it so much, I went and tried out Pixel Force: Team Fortress Arcade. Let me just say, it was excellent. It felt like a pretty well made side scrolling, classic shooter, much like Metal Slug and other "run-n'-gun" type affairs of yore. This is something that if you found it in an arcade, it wouldn't in the least look out of place. The visuals are well executed and has that nice, retro graphics look, excellent explosions and animations.. Me gusta!
I mean, just look at it!
Die, robot-scum!

It also feels and controls pretty well, despite the controls being a little goofy. You have access to the regular cast of characters like you'd find in Team Fortress 2, each with their own special guns and abilities and varying stats. In my run-through, I played as the scout, the spy, demo, and heavy. Naturally, scout is fast, maneuverable, and has a nice double jump, but low health. Conversely, heavy is rather slow, can't jump for crap, but a large amount of health. He also wields his mighty chain gun which decimates. The spy was interesting to play as also. Though he only wields a pistol, he can also turn invisible and "one-shot" most enemies with his trusty butterfly knife. Last and certainly not least, I played as the demolitionist. He was especially fun to play as. With his grenade launcher, he can shoot sticky mines which are detonated with the jump button and if you're on top of said mines, they'll launch you into the air for a kind of super jump. It's a really excellent way to both avoid enemy fire, and blow them up with. It felt pretty satisfying. Heh heh heh...
Definitely give this a whirl! If you haven't read the previous post for Pixel Force: Left 4 Dead, that and this were made by Eric Ruth games, a budding game developer. Check out his work. He deserves kudos for sure, so click the pic above. (It's secretly a link.)
Below is my video of myself playing this bad boy if you need some extra convincing to try it out. :]

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

RPG Maker and Story-Telling in Games

I'm sure by now a lot of you have at least heard about To The Moon. For those whom haven't, it is a game with SNES-era RPG style graphics by Freebird Games, and it puts many big studio games of today to shame. It puts them to shame not in terms of graphics of course, or gameplay (the little slide puzzles between memories was a little out of place, I thought), but in terms of it being a rich narrative in what is a very story-driven game. So good so, it outbeat bigger titles for Best Story from Gamespot in 2011. Others in the running were Portal 2, Xenoblade Chronicles, and others. Also worth mention, it was nominated for best music too!
Ah, so full of the feels..
What I'm getting at is that there seems to be an emergence of a movement towards better story-telling, albeit an underground one. Of late, some really great story-experiences have been coming out. One such experience was Journey, which is such a well-crafted experience. It is able to tell a whole story without a word of dialogue or text throughout the entire game, which built up to quite an ending. Also worth mention, the recent episodic game series that was The Walking Dead. It had such a rich and fantastic character development and delivery, it's able to make you give a rat's arse about them. It's games like these that give me hope for the continuing idea of video games being considered an art medium. Especially after story-telling travesties that was Gears of War and others. You played it, right? I pointed this bit out the other day to someone, but the section of the game where you find Dom's wife in the second game (spoilers!!)? That was horrendous. I laughed out loud, quite literally. The whole "lore" itself behind the games is just sloppily done, almost as if it were an after thought after all the graphics work, the character models and aliens, the game play (which is solid), the doses of ultra-testerone machismo, and so forth.
I won't ever say it was a bad game though. Just as everyone else did, I thoroughly enjoyed chain-sawing through my enemies, but the story is just ridiculous and full of cliches and piss-poor dialogue. If I were a professional reviewer I'd give the game play itself an arbitrary, numerical score of 4.75/5 and the story a "did you just complete a fiction writing course at your local community college"/5. (Granted, I realize that last rating is technically alpha-numerical, but shut up. :P)
I know not everyone will agree with me, but to me, a story is just as important as the game play feel. Not only do I want to enjoy what I'm doing whilst progressing through a game, but it's also important to me to have a well-crafted story that sucks me in and is able to get me to care about and emotionally invest in the characters. I absolutely adore a game that can do this as it sets a part a game from others that are merely entertaining diversions.
This is why I thoroughly enjoy the recent rash of games made through RPG Maker, like the afore-mentioned To The Moon. Despite the old-style JRPG type graphics, many of these games are very well done in terms of story. These games are often very thematic, ranging from the surreal to the sublime. To The Moon was a fantastic story about ambitions, personal tragedy, and the desire I think we all have to right things we've done in the past. Put simply, it was beautiful.
This relatively new medium for gaming are even capable of horror elements, with the right setting of mood. Don't believe me? Try One Night, by Dark Gaia. Mad Father is another good one. They do well to set that horror tone, even without the cutting edge graphics.
From the 3rd installment of One Night.
What many of them also do is to try and instill some sort of message and provoke thought. Misao, a popular one, has a very clear theme of the depths and horror of bullying that a victim and those around them can experience. I won't give away more than that, but it makes it worth at least a play through. Another that tries to tackle something bigger is Clock of Atonement. Quite honestly, it's kinda messed up but stirs up an internal discussion of morality and the ramifications of one's actions (or inaction).
Now I'm not gushing over any and all RPG Maker made game, as there are some that are less than good. However, seeing this indie and community driven push by passionate gamers and developers gives me hope that one day, many AAA titles will be, or strive to be, as rich and vivid and real as these grass-roots efforts.

Below are links to some of the games I mentioned as many are free, but worth checking out. :]

Clock of Atonement -
One Night -
To the Moon -     (Also on Steam.)
Misao -
Mad Father -

Not mentioned, but one's that look interesting that I would like to try.

Space Funeral -
Corpse Party -

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lone Survivor: First Impressions

I've begun to play Lone Survivor recently. I've been putting it off for ages, along with other games I often get on Steam-sale. A travesty, I know, but I'm sure loads of you Steam users do it as well. But that's beside the point. Let me just say, this is pretty excellent so far. I don't want to spoil too much for those whom I hope to convince to try it. First off though, it definitely has a very stylized, retro look to it, which I think is just fantastic. Despite the old-school graphic look, it's able to immerse you into the world and give you all kinds of goose-bumps and willies. The sounds and ambient music also add to the spine-tingling. It's all really well done.
I love the dialogue in this game.
Developed by a Jasper Byrne, it's a rather odd and often surreal type of experience. It even is able to go so far as to spook me at times. It plays pretty well as well, though the weapon mode is a touch awkward. You have to exit it and reenter in order to face your enemy if you happen to be facing the wrong way.. I may have had an issue with that once or twice playing it.. :S
Other than that, you're given lots of different kinds of items that you find scattered about that solve puzzles, satisfies your hunger (you'll find that the protagonist is a hungry bastard), keeps you from going loco, and a plethora of items to craft with. I think this scrounging and what-not adds to the overall mood of the game, which is one of a post-apocalyptic type event. But it's more than that. Lots of strange events, and things to mess with your head happen throughout your survival adventure. I've found that alot of things in this game are not as they appear, so be wary. One last thing of note is that apparently how you play has an effect on the path of the story you experience. I'm curious to see how my experience will turn out in the end, based on the choices I've made thus far. I love a game that'll do that as it makes it more a personalized experience, overall.
But enough of my blabbering. Be sure to check it out on Steam. It's just $10, so if you end up not liking it, no big loss I guess. I really think this is an interesting and unique title though that can be very enjoyable. Excellent for any into survival-horror type games.
If I haven't convinced you about it thus far, be sure to check out my video below.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Retro, 8-Bit Left 4 Dead!

Yeah, that's what I said! Let me just say, I love it. Made by Eric Ruth Games in 2010, the Left 4 Dead concept is repackaged into a glorious 8-bit dream of classic visuals, sound and game play. Not only that, but it's also free! What's not to like? Be sure to click the pic below to check out Eric Ruth's site, because this guy deserves some real kudos. Not only has he done this, but he's also made an 8-bit Team Fortress arcade-style shooter which is very nostalgic and reminiscent of similar classic games of the same vein, and also an 8-bit Halo, DJ Hero, an Angry Video Game Nerd-inspired game, and others. It's all really awesome, but I digress. Back to the topic at hand, Pixel Force: Left 4 Dead.
Look at those gorgeous pixels!
Pills here!
In the game, you get the choice of the classic four characters, just as you did in the original incarnation of Left 4 Dead. You have your various weapons and item pickups, but they're only semi-persistent. For example, if you have the shotgun and you pick up the sub-machine gun, you don't drop the shotgun as you would in the original game, but rather, it simply disappears. You have your regular zombie baddies you have to fight off, but then there are also special zombies as you would find in the original as well. Let me just say, LEAVE THE WITCH ALONE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! D:
And then there are also hunters and boomers in addition to witches (which is good because how could one reinvent Left 4 Dead, but not include a witch?). The game itself plays pretty well, but it can be pretty difficult. Either that, or I just was sucking it when I went and tried it out..? One annoyance is that if you have a zombie on top of your character, it's really hard to get away from them because there's no player-enemy collision and zombies follow you at or faster than the character's speed. This just sucks the life out of you and you can't shoot at it that close. Maybe there was a melee button that I missed though? You have to figure out the controls when you hop in as there is no tutorial. I still recommend trying this out. Despite it eventually getting frustrating, I enjoyed the game overall.
Below are highlights to a playing of the game I performed if you want a further taste of the awesomeness. But whatever you do today, go to the site and try it out for yourself. You won't regret it. Even if you get frustrated towards the end like I eventually do. :P
Let me know what you think! ;]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Retro - Meteor Mess 3D

So a while ago, I came across the project Meteor Mess 3D. For those whom did not read my previous post about it, Meteor Mess 3D is a re-imagining of the classic point and click Lucas Arts adventure game, Maniac Mansion. If you're also unfamiliar with Maniac Mansion, you ought to track it down as it has significance in gaming history. Essentially, Maniac Mansion tells the tale of Dave and his companions saving Sandy from the mad Dr Fred whom is under the influence of a maniacal meteor entity. As far as the game play, you select three of the unlikely cadre of heroes, all with their own special abilities and effect on the overall story/puzzle line, and you take every item not nailed down and use them to solve a number of classic adventure game style puzzles. Anyone who's played theses sorts of games knows what I mean. ;]
It's a great classic game, and one I highly recommend. It's because of this that I became excited for Meteor Mess 3D by German developers Vampyre Games. I may have given it a little crap in my video (albeit I gave the disclaimer that at that point in its development, it was pretty beta), but they've kicked it up a couple notches and it's looking pretty damn good, and sounding pretty damn good. As I've stated, I can't wait to play a final product (it's going to be free, but I'd pay for it if necessary). Especially a final product in which I can blow up the mansion. Mwahahahaha! Here's a quick gander of the latest incarnation:
Dave is starin' down that week-old roast..

Looking good, right? Especially the character models. Much improved. Click on the picture to check out the progress of the project, to check out the Vampyre Games group, and give 'em your kudos and support and so forth. I personally think that this undertaking is great. Maniac Mansion paved the way for many more similar point and click adventure games like Gabriel Knight, Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Clock Tower, and many others. I think it's especially important to preserve and keep alive classic games like these, and not just for the nostalgia. A game like Maniac Mansion had a huge impact with its original, innovative game play, the gorgeous animation (I think it was), and its sometimes dark humor. It was truly a unique experience, both then and now, and as such we gaming geezers need to pass it down, so to speak. Lest we condemn the whipper-snappers of today to naught but mediocre FPS's and city-planning simulators with god awful DRM-nonsense.

But anywho, below is the video of what is now the previous version of Meteor Mess 3D. It is my premier video on my youtube channel, and while it is a decent first attempt, I have some things to keep in mind for the next video shall we say. Input is welcome, as always.
Thanks all!