Monthly Archives: June 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNTNESTitleIt’s hard to find a video game that is more actively hated than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. Ever since the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review of it (possibly his most popular one ever) in which he called it “cowa-f*ckin’-dog shit,” the Internet agrees: this is one of the worst games ever made.

Is it? It’s not a great or even good game, but I do think that it’s been judged rather unfairly.

Plot: 5 out of 10

This game kind of runs like a six-part episode of the show would. You start out saving April O’Neill from The Shredder’s Foot Clan. Then The Shredder kidnaps Splinter and you have to rescue him. The last three levels are about the Turtles chasing Shredder around, eventually entering his Technodrome (giant, futuristic tank) for the final battle.

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Splinter looks more like a detective dog than a karate rat, doesn’t he?

Despite how generic the story is, you have to give props for the twists and turns it takes. Back in the 1980s, a lot of games limited their plots to the manual and ending. although Splinter returning to his human form and being a rat again in the sequels that came over the next several years cost it some points. You might think that no Krang costs this category as well, but most who would bring it up think little of the fact that the 1990 film missed numerous characters itself.

Graphics: 6 out of 10

There’s a lot of competency here, but one big issue I’ve got is that the characters don’t fit in with the background quite right. Sometimes the little things can do a lot of damage.

If this image doesn't bring back ugly memories, you never played a water part of this game as a kid.

If this image doesn’t bring back ugly memories, you never played a water part of this game as a kid.

Sound: 8 out of 10

The music is quite good. It fits the action-comedy nature of the show. The sound effects are outstanding as well, as they are accurate sounds of combat.

Gameplay: 3 out of 10

At first glance, this game plays pretty well. There’s two main styles of play. The map screen allows you to enter areas. In later levels you have to find your way to the location of the boss.

The other style of play is in the areas you enter. Here the game becomes a platformer. Instead of having lives or checkpoints, you can switch between Turtles. Leo’s sword slashes are quick and travel in almost a half circle. Donnie’s staff is powerful but slow and travels in a straight line, making it less than ideal for attacking small and/or flying enemies. Mikey and Raph are… not very effective, so I usually have them equip throwing weapons that destroyed foes sometimes leave behind.

The Turtles entering their blimp. And you never get to fly it? What a rip!

The Turtles entering their blimp. And you never get to fly it? What a rip!

While the controls work well for jumping up, walking, fighting, and the map screen as a whole, landing from a jump is very clumsy. And you have to make some pretty precise landings, too.

Of course, I can’t end this review without pointing out what the game is best known for, and in a very hostile way: the water section in the second level. The swim controls are godawful. They are jerky and unresponsive. It doesn’t help that, appropriate to the theme of you disarming explosives intended to destroy a dam, it’s game over if you run out of time. Did I mention that you have limited continues?

This game would handle well if not for the two blunders I just mentioned. Instead, it plays badly.

Challenge: 8 out of 10

Even if not for the gameplay gaffes mentioned above, TMNT would still be challenging. Enemies are creative and come in a wide variety. And for those who complain that some didn’t appear in the cartoon, I think (bear in mind that I’m no all-encompassing Ninja Turtle expert) most had shown up in the comic books at one point or another. Back to the challenge factor, one issue is that almost all the bosses are fairly easy.

Believe it or not, I took decades before I knew you could hit Rocksteady from above his reach because it's easy enough to beat him the honest way.

Believe it or not, I took decades before I knew you could hit Rocksteady from above his reach because it’s easy enough to beat him the honest way.

You might think that I’d criticize Konami for making a game based on a children’s cartoon hard, but it sold four million copies. So never mind that.

Overall: 5 out of 10

Again, I just don’t see the hate. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t great by any means, but it’s OK. Not bad, let alone the plane crash some made it out to be.

But the sequels are far superior. Can’t argue with that.

Super Mario 3D World

Mario3dWorldTitleIt’s a Mario game. How much does whether it’s any good really matter? If you like this series, there’s a good chance that you have it already. If you think it’s kids stuff and/or that Nintendo should move on from this series and create a fresher mascot, you’ll avoid it. But should you? I think not! While it may not be the most original concept, Super Mario 3D World is an excellent game and everyone with a Wii U should have it.

Plot: 7 out of 10

When you create your save file, the story you see in a cutscene is surprising. For the first time since the Cold War, a Mario game that is neither a spinoff nor starring a “B”-lister but an uncompromised Mario Bros. title does not have the damsel in distress concept. Instead, Bowser has conquered the kingdom of fairy-like creatures known as sprixies. One of them escapes to inform Mario Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach of this and ask for their help. Being big-hearted (and knowing that Bowser’s koopa empire will expand into their lands), they agree.

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Unfortunately, Nintendo has now offended bug collectors.

The result is that instead of Peach being a victim waiting to be rescued, she’s one of four playable characters. In recent times, an increase in female gamers has created more criticism of sexism in video games. While I don’t agree with all of this criticism, Nintendo’s history of using damsels in distress as primary plots is a definite problem. But if this game is any indication, it may have become a thing of the past.

Other than that, though, this is a pretty generic Mario plot.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

The graphics are great for the Wii U. The familiar Nintendo look is here with the characters and environments looking nothing less than excellent.

Sound: 7 out of 10

The music is pretty good, but I think there’s a few too many remixes of classic songs from the past and not enough original ones. I like remixes but originality is never a bad thing.

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They even sneaked in a modified race track from the Mario Kart games, complete with a song from the SNES classic.

Gameplay: 10 out of 10

In a departure from past 3D titles in the series, Super Mario 3D World does not have a pie chart to measure your energy. No, this game uses Super Mario Bros. 3 rules. A Super Mushroom makes you normal-sized and able to take two hits. There are various power-ups beyond that to be found, each of which gives you a unique power, along with an extra hit to take.

As indicated previously, there are numerous characters to choose from: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, and after a little progress through the first of two hidden Worlds after Bowser is defeated, Rosalina from Super Mario Galaxy. These characters have their own unique abilities, adding quite a bit to the game. Additional characters also allows multiplayer with extra controllers.

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Given all the homages, I saw Peach’s talent being her floating from Super Mario Bros. 2 coming a mile away.

As for how the game handles, the controls are pretty much perfect! Even the camera issues of past games have been more or less ironed out.

Challenge: 8 out of 10

About average in difficulty, but unique game design helps compensate for this, adding a lot of fun factor. So does the need to get Green Stars to unlock the last two Worlds. Green Stars come in sets of three and are hidden in sub-Worlds. Oftentimes, finding the Stars proves much harder than completing the sub-World.

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Fire: science’s greatest accomplishment. Just ask any of Bowser’s goons.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Possibly one of the best games in this console generation, Super Mario 3D World adds a lot to the series. And the use of extra playable characters and multiplayer bring it all together! With the possible exceptions of Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, Super Mario 3D World is the best reason to pick up a Wii U.

How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans and More!!!

BeAVillainTitleVillains. The opposite of heroes. In theory they exist in stories only to give heroes someone to beat up. But there have been numerous hit stories in which the bad guy actually overshadowed the good guy, such as Darth Vader, Hannibal Lechter, at least two Final Fantasy antagonists (Kefka and Sephiroth to be exact), and The Joker… Hell, about half the Batman villains.

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“‘Cause let’s face it, we’re much more interesting than he is!”

Neil Zawacki’s contribution to this concept is a joke book that advises you on how to be an antagonist. Zawacki takes us through five chapters of evil:

Getting Started with the Forces of Darkness: this is introductory stuff. Basic personality, how you came to become evil, motivation, that sort of thing.

Discovering the Methods of Your Mayhem: this chapter begins with possibly the most important part: describing various villain archetypes you use as delightfully unhealthy role models. This determines a lot: what your ultimate goal is (besides being up to no good), what kind of nefarious strategy you employ, even what kind of heroes you face. Not that the section on what tools to use in your villainous career isn’t a big deal.

Thwarting the Forces of Good: of course, you can’t be a villain without encountering a hero. Just as the previous chapter presented villainous types to choose from, this one shows you the types of heroes, one of which will come after you! You’re also shown death to use. Don’t laugh. Heroes get knocked out by them all the time. It’s not confirming that he/she* is dead that eventually gets villains beat.

Or maybe they're just retarded.

Or maybe they’re just retarded.

*Yes, heroines have been popping up in recent decades. Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena the Warrior Princess, Katniss Everdeen and others. So don’t be prejudiced, just cold-hearted.

Tools of the Evil Trade: don’t have the talent to get the right type of lair, goons, weapons, and too cool by half attire? Why not copy what others have done instead? This chapter will give you a guide that enables you to escape the horror of hard work. Oh, I see not everybody is pleased by that concept. Please come with me.

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“I said come with me” (thanks to JunKarlo of Deviant Art for this pic).

OK, my pet monster has had his serving of undercover hero. Let’s move on.

Making an Evil Plan: This isn’t necessarily something you need help with, since many great villains’ plans are as simple as stickups and random killings. If you aim for more, though, this chapter’s for you!

The humor is really what drives this book. The way it describes evilness as a natural lifestyle is hilarious in a macabre sense. There are also humorous parodies of various cliches. “Even if you long to use your excruciatingly slow hourglass death device, resist the urge. Heroes typically escape this kind of situation.”

Got a Kindle? Then I would recommend this book. The humor and intriguing talk about villains are worth the price.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Jurassic Park

JurassicParkTitleSam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler
Richard Attenborough as John Hammond
Ariana Richards as Alexis “Lex” Murphy
Joseph Mazzello as Tim Murphy
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry
Samuel L. Jackson as Ray Arnold
Bob Peck as Robert Muldoon
Martin Ferrero as Donald Gennaro

Jurassic Park is viewed by many as a true classic. Is it? I think the scariness is too low for that, but otherwise, pretty much.

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Yesterday, The Odd Couple; today, the odd bunch.

As this was probably one of the top ten most popular movies of the ’90s and spawned sequels (that weren’t good at all, but that’s not the point), the odds are that you already know the plot, but what the Hell? John Hammond, a tycoon in the entertainment industry, has come up with a way to use dinosaur DNA to hatch preserved eggs and thus restart this group of giant animals. These dinosaurs will be the attractions of Hammond’s new amusement park, Jurassic Park. He brings in experts in various fields to test out Jurassic Park’s functionality and quality. Functionality turns out to be the problem. Of the dino pins, to be specific.

Performances are pretty good, particularly Richard Attenborough as a creator of entertainment who really wants to give people a good show, but whose best-laid plans to wow us lead to disaster. There are other solid portrayals of characters including a guy who dislikes children, a co-scientist who likes kids and thinks her colleague just needs to get to know them (and is proven right), and a very eccentric yet somehow insightful philosopher. I must say that convincing performances and interesting characters are underrated qualities of this film.

Of course, what people most remember about Jurassic Park are the dinosaurs. And let me tell you we had never seen dinosaurs, possibly monsters of any kind, that were as well done on film as in this movie. In particular, the tyrannosaurus looks and moves just like she should (all these dinosaurs are female).

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Nobody in the audience felt this shock. After all, the ads had all confirmed that there’d be dinos.

The one issue is that this movie isn’t all that scary. It has its moments here and there but mostly the attempts at scaring the viewer could be better. At least the scariest part (the one with the velociraptors) is at the end.

This movie would spawn three sequels. The first two had members of the same cast and were less than impressive. In fact, you should avoid them. The fourth, a recent semi-reboot because of the new cast and modern day feel, got good reviews. That’s all I can really say as I haven’t seen it.

Good thing there's bigger food than the humans or they'd be hamburger meat if you'll pardon the pun.

Good thing there’s bigger food than the humans or they’d be hamburger meat if you’ll pardon the pun.

But the original? Great. Not the perfect film some see it as but definitely one to remember.

Overall: 8 out of 10