Gaming Progress - February 2019
February 18, 2019

It's gonna look like I didn't learn from my lesson as my latest list of games recently played is enormous again; but, I'm trying to do the financially responsible thing, and shop at home. Apparently, some 40% of Steam purchases go unplayed. That's right: we're all addicted to shopping for cheap games that we'll never play. So of my 260 some odd games, I add a handful to my favourites each week and give them a shot, before de-listing them and grabbing another group. (In addition, I played around with my Sega Fusion emulator a little.)

Here's how it all turned out:

Ninja Gaiden (SMS) - This game was bad. Looked decent, but had boring sequences, iffy controls and lots of insta-death spike traps -- in the first level! Also missing were the amazing tunes we've come to expect from NG games.

Sagaia (SMS) - I don't know why I bothered: perhaps to say that I've played all the shmups on the system? It's a bland version of a bland shooter. Barebones, unremarkable Darius experience.

Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (SMS) - I've heard it said that this game is better than Castle of Illusion. I don't see it. It's a decent entry in the SMS Mickey series, but Castle looks to be better in all categories.

Contra (NES) - The champ. Contra is still the near flawless run and gunner it always was. Even the behind-the-back levels have aged okay. And how good is this soundtrack?

Super C (NES) - More of the same, Super C was never memorable because it required more rote memorization and had more cheap enemy interactions and an uninspired soundtrack. Still, I kind of liked how the top down levels replaced the pseudo FPS ones.

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) - Amazing sidescrolling shooting action with fantastic tunes, broken up some much slower, much easier, overhead stages that are a bit clunky but get much more flak then they perhaps should.

Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) - Speed and variety are the names of the game here. More weapons and characters, and everything just MOVES. It seems to rely on memorization more than the others in the series (which is saying something), and the colours and tunes are washed out in comparison to the SNES game, but this is still a classic.

Axelay - Still looks amazing, with tremendous tunes and excellent side scrolling levels. Still has dodgy, pointless vertical stages, which have aged poorly.

Alone in the Dark 2 - I used to love this game. I was actually puzzled at how its critics bashed the opening garden maze bit. But I get it now. You have to literally play perfectly, and save after each successful kill to eke out progression. Not fun. The score though, is wonderful, and the writing excellent.

Commander Keen: Secret of the Oracle - The Keen games are still fun kids fare; lots of collectibles hung about, light bouncy tunes, pojo stick jumping on the heads of some enemies, zapping others with your ray gun. You'll get bored fast though.

Mushroom Heroes - A low rent The Lost Vikings featuring three mushroom-headed friends with unique abilities. Not a bad time waster.

Dragonia - Pervy fly-in-any-direction dragon shoot-em-up. Not worth your time.

Dragon Knight - Pervy Double Dragon time brawler with lots of bad translations of the various pointless character interactions.

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Another good Shantae game. This one has very dated visuals, but the canon's signature flair and humour is intact and makes for a reliably good time.

Blossom Tales - Zelda III clone that looks great, but it's slow, boring and it's easy to lose track of what your mission is. Link was single-minded in his goal.

Cally's Trials - A rogue-lite version of the Cally games. The quality seems lower than usual, and the die and start over angle, but with some stuff earned as 'legacy items' is awfully weak sauce.

The Waste Land - Very rough Metroidvania that tries to be funny. This one is tough to play for more than a few minutes.

Duke Nukem - I have this as part of my Apogee collection of 'classics.' It's decent old school shareware shooting. One level will likely be your limit.

Cursed Castilla EX - Fantastic Ghouls 'n Ghosts homage. I finally beat it and had a blast the whole way through. Highly recommended title from the makers of Super Hydorah, another gem.

Super Cyborg - Just like Contra, only with an ugly colour palette, and levels that are about two to three times too long making for an authentic feel but generally miserable time.

Ikaruga - The game that popularized the polarity shmup sub-genre. I hate it. It should be noted that I am terrible at it. Which is odd, because there are other polarity shooters to come down the pike which I am great at. I blame this game. Classic, my ass!

Anodyne - Haunting, spare little Zelda clone that is worth your time. I'm going to go back and try to finish it after I finish having my way with Shantae.

So all of that just to unearth Castilla. That's a pretty bad success rate.

Most recent blog posts from Marc Golding...

EmP EmP - February 18, 2019 (12:59 PM)
I've never been a big Axelay guy. I think the game looks amazing -- and it has a style that never seems to age. They absolutely should have just stuck to just Horizontal scrolling.
Masters Masters - February 18, 2019 (04:43 PM)
That's it.

I think in nearly every old school game I can think of where they tried to flip flop between vantage points, one of the styles sucked in comparison to the other.

Thunder Force II is a bad culprit. Almost every Contra game. Life Force.

What ends up happening is you just wanna rush through the crummy part to get back to the good bits. Like in Thunder Force II, you SUFFER through the vert stages.
EmP EmP - February 19, 2019 (10:24 AM)
TFII is the most unfortunate use of this I can imagine. The Hori sections are among the genre's best. But the overhead sections are bloody torture!
Masters Masters - February 19, 2019 (10:47 AM)
Yeah, I've yet to meet someone, shmup fanatic or not, who enjoys those overhead sections.

With regards to the list, I'm gonna try to beat Shantae tonight and then tinker with Anodyne again. Then it'll be time to look for new stuff.
overdrive overdrive - February 19, 2019 (12:11 PM)
Yeah, I remember liking a couple of the regular stages in TF II a lot, but then I'd have to do another overhead one and those good feelings would be forgotten by the time I'd gotten through that stuff. The Guardian Legend isn't bad in an "unfortunate use of this" way, but the shooter stages were a lot of fun and the Zelda-esque parts were mostly these easy mazes you went through to get items and power up weapons. Where they sort of existed as these things you did between each shooter stage.

I remember really liking Kega Fusion as an emulator, since it single-handedly emulated every retro Sega system. And then Mac changed their OS and that one doesn't work on my computer any more. I'd be more upset about it if not for (a) how a decent percent of Genesis games I'd want to play are on my Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (doesn't help for shooters, but most other genres, I'm good) and (b) I have so many long games to play through that it's gotten to where I only really use the old-school stuff for quick reviews when I'm in the middle of really long games AND I find myself almost feeling resentful about doing so in that "I could be playing this 80 hour game I'm into and only halfway through...but instead, I'm churning through a shooter to get up a review for something this month!" way.
overdrive overdrive - February 19, 2019 (12:14 PM)
Oh, personally, I don't know that I think Life Force has a vantage point that sucks compared to the other. I'd say that the horizontal levels were more intricate and that the pyramid one might be my favorite of its six levels, but I tended to like the vertical ones enough that they were maybe one step behind, but it wasn't "these three are great and these three kind of stink" or anything with nearly that big of a difference, at least for me.
Masters Masters - February 19, 2019 (02:13 PM)
I've always heard great things about Guardian Legend but I've never played it. It reminds me a bit of Zillion 2: The Triformation, a game I'm almost certain nobody except me has played. Anyway, in Z2, you had side(auto)scrolling levels piloting your transforming mech thing, and then between those levels, stages that were simple run and gun affairs played out after presumably exiting your mech.

You're right about Life Force re the verts vs the horis not leaving us with the impression that one was way better than the other. But really, the horizontal levels were better, it seemed clear to me. (Maybe I just like horizontal shooters better.)
overdrive overdrive - February 19, 2019 (10:37 PM)
Oh, I agree the horizontal ones were better. They were more intricately designed and I think Gradius/Life Force/Salamander games in general are better suited to that style than the more action-oriented and open vertical stages. But the difference in quality between the two in this game didn't leave me in a situation where I was alternating between fun levels and levels I just wanted to end quickly. Both kinds had a lot of fun areas, I'd just say the verticals didn't reach "memorable" and the horizontal ones did at times.
Masters Masters - February 20, 2019 (08:39 AM)
Salamander is fantastic for the PC Engine -- have you tried that version? Give it a whirl, if not. It might be my favourite Gradius game. For something a little different, the Nemesis games for GameBoy are surprisingly solid, too.

So I went back to Shantae last night and I was bored as hell, so I'm done with that. It's hard playing Risky's Revenge after Pirate's Curse when the latter was so good, and the former is just meh. And I played Half-Genie Hero first, so it feels like I'm in a downward slide with my approach to the series.

I'll have to do some Steam shopping tonight.
overdrive overdrive - February 20, 2019 (01:19 PM)
Yeah, I did play that version. With Life Force being one of my favorite NES shooters (possibly my favorite, at least it gets the nostalgia points since it was the ONLY one for that system I owned for a LONG time), I was really interested in it. Had to go back to my review to remember what I thought of it...and I am not as positive as you were. Mainly because it seemed like it didn't hit the nostalgia buttons all that well. No pyramid level, for one thing! And I must not have liked the alteration of power-ups to what apparently was a more traditional "non-Gradius" style, since I used that as my tagline-paragraph.
Masters Masters - February 21, 2019 (07:56 AM)
Okay, so I realized that I actually already reviewed Life Force. And I rather liked it at the time (as did you!). While tracking that down, I checked out your Salamander review, which revealed that no, you did not like that version.

So I went back and played Salamander last night. And I get what you mean about the power up system. And bland versions of better Life Force levels. And it IS way faster and harder as a result. I had forgotten!

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