ron, Jun-27 2008

Outpouring VC Friday

A new rhythm has settled in. After last week's pause Europe gets another burst of five new Virtual Console games this Friday.


This C64 classic is not quite a shmup. It's somewhat of an action puzzle. Exploration adventure in a space ship. With gravity. Defying my feeble attempts at classification.
So you fly your craft through a strictly linear series of screens (which flip over, no scrolling here). In some rooms, there are just (waves of) enemies you can either dodge or shoot down, in some rooms there are various obstacles, narrow passageways guarded by stationary turrets, invincible moving enemies that you must fly around with the right timing, that sort of thing. Some rooms inevitably feature both.
Besides the main gun, your ship comes equipped with some special-interest weapons, with strictly limited ammo. Some rooms contain obstacles that require the use of certain weapons, such as breakable blocks sealing off a passage under the ship, which can only be solved with your diagonally bouncing blobs of green destruction. Some rooms are in fact impossible to pass without engaging your handy (but limited-use) invincibility shield at the right moment.
The goal is to reach the end of the level before the time limit runs out, so lingering and careful planning is not a viable option. The game forces players to be quick.

King Of The Monsters

A fighting game for the NeoGeo. It's all one-on-one, but like many other Godzilla-inspired games, and in fact most wrestling games, combat takes place on a plane and is presented in an isometric view.
You control your pick of favourite super monstrosity from the gallant King Kong to the rough-skinned Godzilla, and all those others in between which I never heard of, and beat, shoot, pummel and squeeze the living daylights out of an opponent. The bouts take place in various cities, so you'll get your chance to break down entire blocks of buildings as well, or you'll dish out extra hurting by pinning your enemy down in front of an approaching train.

Pac Attack

A stacking puzzle for the Super NES. Line up falling pieces to fill entire lines of blocks, which then disappear, which gives you points. The twist is that instead of just consisting of blockiness, ghosts can be embedded into the falling stuff, and a line "polluted" with ghosts won't count as a candidate for scorific disappearance. You can only clear ghosts away if you happen to have a piece with an embedded Pac Man, and your ghosts happen to be blue at the time.
The game features single-player high-score hunting, two-player competitive play and a puzzle mode.

Summer Games II

Another feather in Epyx's sports mini-game collection cap, again for the Commodore 64. Nintendo seems to carefully release them in a worst-to-best ordering, that is to say they still tip-toe around the games I'd really want to see, namely Summer Games I and Winter Games.
Nevertheless, Summer Games II is a package of eight sports events that are each controlled through rhythmic or otherwise precisely timed motions. At a time when sports games invariably required players to rattle their input devices as fast and as hard as possible, this was a kind of miniature revolution, hence the multitude of games in this series.
When you have your timing for each event down pat, you can either continue playing by yourself, or compete in the robust local multiplayer mode.

Super Fantasy Zone

We already have the original Fantasy Zone, and this Megadrive sequel continues with only slight changes. You still fly your cute little ship through colorful landscapes, and might confuse the game with a traditional horizontal shmup, right until you press left and then notice that your ship can actually turn around and fly back.
In good old Attack Of The Mutant Camels style, you can venture back and forth in the wrap-around stages with your goal being to take down a set of capital enemies which also show up on a handy map display. Swarms of respawning smaller enemies show up regularly as well. When you've cleared all the bigger enemies, a boss fight comes up, and then you get to play yet another stage.
The other strange twist of the game is that enemies drop coins which then bounce around (very much resembling Wonderboy In Moster World actually), and collecting them allows you to buy ship upgrades at your friendly shopping balloon.

Cybernoid is difficult. At the same time, Cybernoid is awesome. It's unique, substantial, varied and held up relatively well. Recommended. You have already been warned about the difficulty after all.

Super Fantasy Zone is much better than its predecessor. There's not just a wider variety of ship upgrades and greatly improved presentation, but the general balance is much improved. The unpredictable waves of lesser enemies provide enough interference with your main goal to keep things interesting for a while. There still isn't much content by modern standards, but it's certainly worth playing.
Summer Games II is almost great. Local multiplayer is its greatest strength, but it's not quite good enough for solitary play. The events are all too simple, and if you know how they work, the magic fades away. The entire challenge lies in doing them precisely, and more so than your opponent.

King Of Monsters is a mindless mash fest that may at best satisfy the need for something "cool", and by that I mean the kind of cool prebubescent boys would speak of, but it actually gets boring really fast. As a fighting game, it's not to be taken seriously anyway. Avoid.
Pac Attack is another one for the pile of Tetris-wannabees with just a small, ill-conceived quirk to make for a distinct appearance. You don't have a reason to care.

Summary: oh grand Cybernoid, thou shinest bright and sparklish! Oh Super Fantasy Zone, and Summer Games II, thou mayest sit at the kitchen table, maybe, for a while. Oh lowly King Of Monsters, oh Pac Attack, begone please.


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