Updates! Updates! Everywhere!

Hey RGB fans! There has been lots of activitiy on the RGB site now that I am done with my Masters. I am still busily working at my review of Chrono Trigger and hope to be finished soon. But here are some other things that you might like to know!

1. A New Domain

After a lot of thought, I decided to move this site out of the darkseas subdomain and give it its own domain. Within the next few days, you can reach this site by going to http://www.RetroGamerBoy.com. You can still access it by the old URL but giving the site its own domain will make it more of a standalone blog instead of just a hobby blog. Hope you all meet me there!

2. Ask RGB

You guys will notice that I mentioned having a  request from Ask RGB about what my favorite game is. Well, that was from a different website that a friend of mine mentioned my site on. However, I have made it much easier to do that now! You can go to the Interactive menu at the top and select Ask RGB to ask a question.  You might see your question become a full blog post!

3. Get Social

Another thing you will find under the Interactive menu is the “Find RGB” page. This is pretty simple right now but will eventually get more detailed. This site has a link to follow my personal twitter account (might make a new twitter later). It has an email and some other things. Check it out.

4. The List

The last thing to check out is the “Hit List” under the Interactive menu. This shows you a list of games I am currently playing and whether or not I want to review them. If you asked me to review the game I will usually play it fresh so I have a fresh idea of the game in my mind. If you see it on my Currently Playing section or my Queue, that means I will get to it.

That’s all for now! RGB is outta here!

Chrono Triggered (Updated)

At the request of a fan, I have been asked to review Chrono Trigger for the SNES. I have always thought it is a great game, I just think it got a bit more hype than it was really due. I started the game from scratch about three weeks ago and will hopefully be done with it in a few more days. When I am finished with it, I am going to review it on here.

This time around, I am trying to review it as though I have never played it before. Should have some interesting information for you soon. Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  I have finished Chrono Trigger as of tonight. I have to finish my final tomorrow (and perhaps Sunday). Once the final is over, I will post my review!

RGB Question – My Favorite RPG

A question that I am asked frequently as a Retro Gamer is what is my favorite RPG. Honestly, if you travel or work with any nerdist culture, this question is vitally important and may truly cause you to win or lose friends. Lucky for me, I am secure enough in my social capabilities that I am not afraid to share it. So without further ado, here you go.

My favorite RPG is Final Fantasy II. Yes, I know it is FF4 in Japan but we live in America so deal with it! 🙂 This game was a great creation that came to life early in the Super Nintendo haze. Prior to the release of FF2, I had never actually played too much in the RPG world as most RPG’s on NES were far too difficult. Of course, when you consider that I was only 10 when this game came out and I would have been 9 or younger when NES RPG’s were released, it makes sense that FF2 would have been my first real exposure to the world of RPG’s.

ff2I could give an extensive review of the game but that is best saved for later. For a quick summary, the game was released for SNES as FFII and was the first major RPG available for the console. It follows the dramatic story of Cecil Harvey, a Dark Knight and orphan who gives his life to serve the city of Baron – the capitol city of the world. He leads the Baronian Air Force known as ‘The Red Wings’ and we find him as he attacks the defenseless people of Mysidia to steal the Water Crystal (one of the elemental power sources of the world). When he returns to Baron, he expresses his disdain for the actions and is relieved from his leadership post and sent on a quest to the village of Mist where he is supposed to deliver a package. His best friend, Kain, follows him and the two reach Mist only to have the package explode and burn down the village of defenseless summoners save the sole survivor, Rydia a young girl whose mother died after a battle with Cecil and Kain. Cecil realizes that Baron is evil and he is supporting the evil so he decides to rebel against the king. The king hires a dark man named Golbez to run the Red Wings and he ultimately is revealed to be Cecil’s brother Theodore who has been controlled by the ultimate evil. As the story goes, Cecil returns to Mysidia after a near-death experience as a dark knight where the people LOATHE him and try to find ways to hurt or kill him. He agrees to climb Mount Ordeals, face his darkness, and he is transformed into a Holy Paladin. From that point on, Cecil becomes a holy warrior and makes an amazing group of friends. In the end, he and his friends face off against the ultimate evil, a lunar monster named Zemus (later transformed into a being of pure hatred, Zeromus). Cecil and his team return to Earth as heroes, he marries Rosa, his childhood friend and the two become the new king and queen of Baron.

Why is it my favorite? Let me count the ways! – Reason One – A True Redemption Story

Cecil, Dark Knight and Paladin

So why is this game my favorite? Well there are many reasons. The first reason is that I love the idea of the central storyline which is that darkness can be transformed to light and that strength alone is not enough to win every time. The transformation of Cecil from Dark Knight to Paladin is a terrific and personal thing to me later in my life. In my early teens and even some of my early 20’s, I was a very dark person with many issues. I didn’t mind hurting people if I would gain from it and I didn’t believe much in any kind of moral or spiritual good. However, when I was 24 (circa 2005), I faced my own darkness when I risked losing my wife and many friends due to my own selfish behavior. I released the darkness and gave myself to God and let Christ change me through and through. Much as Cecil was a creature of darkness who gave up his darkness because he realized his life was on the wrong track, so did I. Very few RPG’s even now have truly done a good job at showing a true redemptive story like the one in FF2. The guy who willingly killed people and did bad things realized the error of his ways, repented, went through a major change and become the ultimate good guy. That’s a story that I can relate to and so can many other people.

Reason Two – The Amazing Storyline

If you didn’t grasp this with the first heading, let me re-iterate. The storyline of this game is amazing! Not just the main storyline of darkness being replaced by light. Every one of the twelve characters you can have in your party at various points have a great back story. They don’t just appear out of NPC Land and help you. You at least understand some of their stories as you meet them. As the game goes on, ALL of them grow and mature as people and their actions have a significant impact on the storyline and the player’s perception of the world. If one of the characters dies (which they do in this one) you actually feel genuinely sorry for them. When the game ends you will feel sad that you didn’t get to see how they all ended up in the future (though there are a few additional game ‘sequels’ that lets you catch up with your favorites). The world itself is a living, breathing story that you feel as you play the game and it makes me, as a player, genuinely care about the world my hero is trying to save. Before I played FF2, I didn’t even think video games really cared about a story and this one really changed that perspective for me. If the story of FF2 was made into a book or movie, I would read/watch it often. In fact, I loved the story so much that I actually wrote my own comic books with the characters in other stories (what is now known as Fanfiction) because I didn’t want it to end. Even now after I have played the game literally hundreds of times from start to finish, I still feel my old love for the story and characters with each play through. In fact, I usually play through it at least once a year even now.

Reason Three – The World is NOT Black and White

Rubicant, the Lord of Fire

Prior to the release of FF2, most of the video games I had played had a very black and white storyline. These people are the good guys, these people are the bad guys. The bad guys do bad things and the good guys win. You really never questioned the motives of the bad guys or even the good guys in the story of most games. But that all changed for me when I played FF2. Sure, the story does have a clear duality in that good and evil both coexist and one tempers the other, but the world is NOT black and white. I might face a villain in the game and my first impression is HAH! I am going to get you bad guy! Then they speak to you before the fight and tell you why they are doing things and I actually have to stop and think… wait… that’s not such a bad idea. The most prime example of this was the Lord of Fire named Rubicant (Fiend of Fire in the original English translation). Rubicant is the leader of the 4 elemental lords and is the right hand man to Golbez (the main bad guy for most of the game). He is vicious and is really hard to beat when you face him. But when you hear him talk you realize he has better morals than most of the ‘good guys’ Cecil encounters throughout the game. He expresses he is very sorry for what happened to one of the main character’s (Edge) parents and that he did not approve for them to be harmed. He talks about how he believes that the world is full of bad people and he has simply chosen to side with the “Least” bad person he can find. Did I mention that he even heals you before you fight him? After you defeat him, he ends up giving a pep talk to the character whose parents were recently killed and tries to teach him that rage and anger are dangerous and will lead to harming others – wait… isn’t he a “Fire” guy? That’s my point! The example I gave is one of the MANY examples found in the game. In fact, the reason the ultimate bad guy, Zeums, wants to destroy earth is that he believes that the people of the Earth are too weak and impressionable and he had been opposed to the people of the moon (Lunarians) having any allegiance with them. I mean it’s still a bad motive but you have have to pause and think about it.

Reason Four – Travel in Style!

The Big Whale Airship

Okay, so this reason is kind of petty but I don’t care. FF2 has a million different cool ways to get around in the game. When the game begins, your character is on an airship – one of my favorite RPG vehicles bar none (ask my IRL friends how many of my tabletop games DO NOT feature an airship. LOL). As the game goes on, you drive a hovercraft, you ride a boat, you can take a Chocobo anywhere (even flying black ones), etc. This game also has THE MOST airship choices in any FF game that I know of. Your first airship that you actually control is called ‘The Enterprise’ (Too bad it isn’t a starship) and you can fly it around for a good while. Then, you later acquire the Falcon (If they called it the Millennium Falcon I would KNOW something is up). When the Falcon crashes, you have to get it repaired and later you must use it to fly int the underground portion of the world. Later on you actually use a hook ON the Enterprise to pick up the the hovercraft. How cool is that? But the grandaddy of them all is the final airship – The Big Whale. Sure, the name is kind of weird but this airship is ACTUALLY a starship. Yup, you HAVE to use it to get to the moon to face the ultimate evil (TM) but you can actually pilot the thing around on Earth which is crazy because it is bigger than most of the cities (at least as far as map tiles go). This ship comes with a sleeping quarters and even a Big Chocobo on board. You can’t get much more Final Fantasy than that! I also love that the ultimate airship even has its own theme song that just oozes awesomeness. Sometimes I would just cruise around in the Big Whale to listen to its BGM.

Reason Five – Music!

Speaking of BGM, another great reason why FF2 is the best is the music scoring for the game. Yes, it is still MIDI as that was all that the SNES was capable of producing but the MIDIs were legendary. Let’s start with the title screen which features the “Final Fantasy Crystal Theme”. Words can’t describe the way this song is made but it is a pretty, harp-driven song which serves as the main theme for many of the future FF games, listen to the main themes of even FFVII and you will hear it! Then there is the Red Wings theme which you hear at the beginning of a new game – it is a pompous song with a ‘marching’ feel to it that will remind you somewhat of the Imperial March from Star Wars. At various points in the game, a main character or main supporting character may suffer an intense tragedy or even die. The music that is played is so haunting and painful that it still hurts me to hear it. Not sold yet? Well the Paladin theme that plays when Cecil transforms features this solitary tonal ‘gong’ sound in the early measures and eventually builds to this deep and emotional song with many different layers and you can feel the tension as Cecil turns back on the life he knew and starts a new one. Did I mention the awesome Big Whale song? What about the ‘Chocobo’ theme? All of these are awesome too. Golbez’s theme is one that strikes terror into your heart with this scary organ-sounding melody and minor chords. I could go on and on. The bottom line is the the music in a game or movie sets the tone for the scenes as the movie plays. Every BGM from the game is perfect for the time it is used. Don’t believe me? Check out OverClocked.org, the famous BGM remixing site. The remake gallery of FF2 music is one of the biggest ones on the site!

Reason Six-Paradigm Shifting of Gameplay

This reason is one that also encompasses most of the other items mentioned above but will tie this all together. FF2 hosts a MOTHERLODE of gameplay revolutions that were virtually unheard of prior to the game and became staples in the RPG video game world for years. The game had the ability to change the organization of your party members both on the battle field and on the  map. Your battle field allowed for two rows of heroes and many of them could not do their best work if they weren’t in the proper place (archers, for instance could not shoot unless they were on the back row). If you changed the position of the person in the ‘center’ of your party list, that person actually appeared to be walking around on the map. So if you got tired of looking at Cecil, put Rydia up front. The game also featured the first known use of ‘Monster Summoning’ which became a staple of the Final Fantasy series (and many others). The game was the first RPG of its time to feature the Active Timing Battle (ATB) system which made it so that faster characters (and enemies) attacked more often than their slower counterparts and allowed for the battles to play out more like they might in real time. Some of the enemies are impossible to beat if you don’t use the ‘Slow’ spell on the enemy or use Haste on yourself – they may attack 4 times per your team’s one time. The control interface made great use of the D-Pad, all 6 buttons (A, B, X, Y, L, R) and even start and select.

All in all, the game was an amazing accomplishment in gaming that has set more standards than any other game of its time and even since its time. Sure, the new games out there may have flashier graphics, full stereo music, 3D worlds, etc. But they just don’t have the same ‘soul’ as FF2. That is why I will forever consider FF2 as my favorite game and the best RPG I have ever played.  RGB is outta here!

 

Megaman 3 and the Rise of Rush

Despite my classes starting back up, I have been able to do a couple of retro game replays. I decided to continue on my Megaman kick by replaying Megaman 3 and 4. I may get to 5 before I get too busy but we’ll see. So here’s a nice little review of Megaman 3 for you all.

Story

The story is pretty much the same as it was before – Dr. Light has something good, Dr. Wiley steals it, Megaman has to go save the world. This time, the story focused on Dr. Light creating a new cyborg construct known as Gamma which would supposedly help fight Dr. Wiley’s robot masters in the future. As soon as Dr. Wiley got wind of this, he launched a technique to steal Gamma (how he steals something that big without anyone noticing, I don’t know). Once again, Dr. Light calls Roll to don the blue helmet and become Mega Man to battle the monsters and restore order. Of course, Megaman happily accepts the requests and dashes off to face 8 robot masters and retrieve Gamma.

Gameplay

Much like the other Megaman series’ games, Megaman 3 features exactly what you would expect. You face the robot masters in a series of themed worlds. Once you beat them, Megaman acquires their power and uses it to face off against other robot masters. One interesting change that occurred in this game that has stuck with the rest of the series (even up to the MMZ era) is the introduction of the ‘slide’ technique. A player can press down and the jump button and Megaman will turn sideways and slide through small crevices in the game. In some cases, the player cannot even pass a section of the level without using the technique.

This game also features the first appearance of Protoman (named Breakman for some reason) who is later revealed to be Megaman’s brother. For some reason, Protoman will randomly show up in the game at various points in the game when Megaman lands in certain rooms. You will know he is coming when you hear a high-pitched whistle melody and the screen seems to freeze temporarily. Protoman will leap down dressed in purple with a scarf and shield and begin attacking you. At some point, presumably when he has taken enough damage, he will disappear, usually breaking a hole in the room so that you can continue on.

Another new addition that remained within the Megaman world until Megaman X was the famous mechanical canine, Rush. Rush is used to replace the previously strange named Item-1, Item-2 and Item-3 from Megaman 2 and takes one one of three forms: Rush Coil which is basically a giant spring, Rush Marine – a literal doggy submarine, and Rush Jet  – one of the most useful (and easily abused) tools in the game – a rocket platform that you can ride around on. When using Rush, Megaman will change into the Red/White motif from Megaman 2’s Item-1/2/3 library but when you click the attack button, rush will teleport down as whatever function you chose much like Megaman teleports upwards when leaving a stage. Just like the other weapons Megaman accquires, using Rush will deplete your energy and you will need to grab power-ups to restore it. Also, like the Items from Megaman 2, Megaman does not start with all of Rush’s forms, they are added to your inventory after beating various robot bosses. Speaking of which…

Robot Masters

Following the recipe of the other successful Megaman series, MM3 features 8 robot masters, each with the eponymous ‘Man’ at the end of their element: Magnet Man, Gemini Man, Spark Man, Hard Man, Shadow Man, Top Man, Needle Man, and Snake Man. Once you complete the Robot Master’s stage, you face the robot master himself. As in other installments, certain bosses are weak against the weapon of another boss even though one could conceivably beat them with the Mega Buster, Mega man’s default blaster weapon. One interesting change this time around is that once Megaman beats the robot boss, he leaps to the center of the room and several energy orbs encircle him before they are absorbed into his body – the first time we see him ‘gaining’ the ability of his foe.

Upon completing the battles with all 8 bosses, the player would assume that they would be taken to Dr. Wiley’s castle but this is not the case. The four corners of the ‘boss grid’ are replaced with darkened images of robots replacing the portrait of the original robot master. When you select that stage, the fanfare screen that usually presents the picture of the robot master is replaced with an orange question mark. These stages are known as the ‘Dark Robot Master’ stages which are essentially harder versions of the original stages (Spark Man, Gemini Man, Needle Man and Shadow Man). At the halfway point and the end of these stages, you face a ‘Dark Robot Master’ which is basically a doppelganger robot that takes on the powers of the robot bosses from Megaman 2. The sprite of the old robot will float down into the body of the dark robot master and you will have to fight them as they were in MM2.

Once you vanquish all the Dark Robot Masters, the “Stage Select” screen changes again and now you see a picture of Protoman (Break Man) and you must face him again. The battle with Protoman is short lived and as usual, he runs away after a certain amount of damage is taken. FINALLY you are able to move on to Wiley’s castle. Just like the other games, you have to beat various challenges that are essentially harder versions of various robot masters stages and a range of weird bosses that must be vanquished. You have to face off against all the old Robot Masters from earlier in the standard ‘teleport tube’ room. You also have to face off against a weird three-copy Megaman clone. Finally, you face Wiley himself.

Dr. Wiley and the End Sequence

The fight with Wiley is much like many other fights with him. You first encounter a HUGE robot with a platform to climb and face. Once can guess by the symbol on the robot, this is Gamma which Dr. Light claimed was stolen. After you beat Gamma, Wiley’s UFO lands inside of Gamma’s body and you face a more powerful version of Wiley. After the battle is over, Wiley falls to the ground and appears to be begging for mercy. When you approach, however, his head pops off like a jack-in-the-box and you realize you have been duped. The stage ends and you have one more level of Wiley’s castle to beat before you face the real madman.

After another longish battle, Wiley finally gives up and throws himself on the floor to beg for mercy. This time it is legit. However, as you approach, giant debris fall on both Megaman and Wiley and you see a weird cloaked robot leap down and bust the blocks. The screen fades to black and Megaman wakes up to find himself in Dr. Light’s office. Dr. Light explains that Wiley’s castle was destroyed but nobody could find Megaman. Suddenly he appeared asleep at Light’s lab. I wonder who did this? I will give you two guesses but you will only need one.

At this point the credits roll in the now standard ‘asteroid belt’ fashion with a stripe in the middle of the screen as the various pen names of the MM3 creators are scrolling. Finally you reach the famous ‘Presented by Capcom’ screen and the credits are over. End Game.

Review

Megaman 3 is a fun game and is a solid addition to the Megaman lineup. Each of the robot masters is unique and different and their stages require some good finger punching skills. This is easily one of the hardest games in the series thus far and is also one of the longest in the history of the game. I found that many of the platforms and challenges felt overly hard and you literally were just panting for breath hoping you could get through to the next level without dying. There are several jumps that will not work unless you stand PERFECTLY before you go. There are some areas where you really can’t get around without your various Rush accessories and even then it can be very hard.

I did find, however, that if you were to use the Rush Jet frequently in the various platforms of death that you could pretty much avoid all trouble. I guess that is why the usage of this ability is highly limited. As a play test, I turned on the code to allow me to have unlimited use of the Rush jet and I found that the game became pitifully easy. Of course, once I tested this, I turned off the cheat and started various stages over. The mechanic of the Rush Jet can be great but can also be heavily abused. I also felt sad that you don’t use a majority of the weapons you acquire other than for one or two bosses. Even then, you only use a limited amount of abilities, most often the Shadow Star (from Shadow Man) and the Magnet Missiles (from Magnet Man).

I think that the introduction of Rush was a great way to unify the support items from the series but I wonder if it caused the game to become unbalanced. Throughout the rest of the Megaman series (up to Megaman X), Rush remains a very critical character even though the methods used to summon him change but to what end? I think Capcom tried their best to balance the challenges of the game with the unique usage of tools/items but sometimes it seems a little extreme – why can’t I find a different way to get through this one stage without using the Rush Marine? (for example). But all in all, the game’s challenge was well worth the effort.

In conclusion, Megaman 3 was definitely a turning point in the NES franchise and added several new features that were eventually added to the ‘recipe’ for the next 4 games. You will find the game quite challenging not only from a navigation perspective but also from a sheer volume of effort it will require to stick it out to the end. Unfortunately, the end is not uplifting enough to make up for the effort required but it will certainly be a badge of effort to run this one from start to conclusion.

 

Faxanadu – Dwarves Elves and Evil Oh My!

I told you all that I was digging into the barrel of NES games that I wanted to complete now that my JNES emulator is working. I just finished off another one of them last night. The platform-RP (picking up on a trend yet?) Faxanadu by Hudson Soft.

Story

Faxanadu centers around an unnamed hero who evidently did something great for the land of Faxanadu many years ago and then he just left and journeyed the world. Well, when the game starts, he has come back to his hometown to find that it is overrun by monsters and there is evidently a war going on between the elves and the dwarves (I think the hero is considered an Elf but you can’t tell). This guy is so well known that the King of the Elves calls him to his throne immediately. He tells the hero that the wells of life that keep the Elves alive have started to dry up and now all the dwarves have become monsters. Man! It’s a good thing the hero came home! Evidently there is some meteorite that fell from space and has corrupted the Dwarves and you have to fix it.

So as the adventure goes on, your hero travels throughout the world of Faxanadu setting right what is wrong. He must restore the water flowing to the wells of life and also figure out just what’s got the dwarves so mad. You adventure through a series of ‘towns’ where you gather information and items and then you travel to various towers (dungeons), the completion of which will either restore a fountain, provide a powerful item needed to restore order or simply give you more clues about what happened.

Game-play

Faxanadu is light years ahead of its time (common for HudsonSoft games) and features a great gameplay, an extensible item system, magic and weapons. The music is pretty good for an 8bit 1988 game. The world features several different environments and color palettes and a wide variety of interesting puzzles. One thing that REALLY jumped out to me is that the store owners you meet have FULL MOTION ‘portrait’ screens when you speak to them. The tools owner is a portly man with a beard who reminds me of Bill Dautrieve from King of the Hill whose mouth and belly moves as he talks. The key shop owner reminds me of Billy Idol and has a moving cigarette in his mouth. The ‘guru’ in each of the town’s churches looks like an elf from the Hobbit (sans ears of course) with curly hair and the meat salesman reminds me of an older Ned Flanders with a bald spot. At the time that this game was created, there were NO portraits that I can recall and certainly not portraits that moved as you talked.

Your hero can choose from a finite but useful set of actions. He can attack with his various swords (the looks of which actually changed based off the sword you have), he can cast one of 5 spells (you must buy these over time) by pushing the Up arrow and attack, and you can jump. Certain special items such as the keys have no visible change when equipped, you will either receive a messages that the door has a keyhole with the words “Jack” or “King” etc. above the keyhole or (if you have equipped the correct key) you will simply see a message that says “I used the key” and it is removed from your inventory. There are 5 different keys you can acquire through various means: The most common key is the Jack Key (listed as Key J in inventory), the Joker Key (listed as Key JO in inventory), the Queen Key (listed as Key Q), the King Key (listed as Key K) and the super-special Ace key (listed as Key A). Each door will only accept ONE key, you cannot use a higher ranking key (aka King Key to open a Jack door) on a lower ranking door and vice versa. You can acquire a J Key, Q Key, and K Key from the various key makers (different towns have different keys) but you can only acquire the Joker key and the Ace key from special people at certain points in the game.

Outside of these things, you basically jump, hack, blast (magic), and climb (ladders) your way around the game. You face enemies such as Duckmen, Death Angels, Hornets, Frogmen, Gladiators, and my personal favorite for messed up names – the Bone Demon Dog… yes… that is what he is called. Your character can collect golds (that’s actually what they are called) which he uses to buy armor, spells, potions, keys, etc. He also can collect ointments which will restore his HP and make him auto-heal for a brief period of time, he can collect a power glove that will make his attacks stronger for a short period of time, and a few other things. You can also purchase a unique item called the Wing Boots (I usually buy a few pair when I find them in a store) which will allow you to float around for a brief period of time and are required to use in one particular event in the game (flying to restore the water to the sky fountain). There are various rings you are given that allow you to enter certain doors and will also be required to speak to certain people.

As you progress, your hero can purchase stronger weapons and stronger magic and eventually acquire 3 pieces of magical equipment (The Battle suit, the Battle Helm and the Dragonslayer sword) which are required to beat the final boss. When you equip new armor or weapons, the character’s appearance changes accordingly which was rare in those days. You start out looking like some sort of Roman man in a toga and end up looking like a true knight. Once you have restored all the fountains and acquired the Battle Suit and Battle Helm, you must square off against the King Dwarf (who is later revealed to be named Grieve) who has hidden the Dragonslayer sword in his body to protect it from the Evil One. You defeat King Dwarf and receive the Dragonslayer and now you can pound on the Evil One.

So after getting a magic ring from the last guru, you enter the confusing, though relatively short, final dungeon. You make your way to the core of the Evil One’s palace and defeat him. Once he is defeated, the dwarves are no longer possessed and order is restored. What does the hero do now? Easy! He just leaves again after getting a gracious thank you from the King of the Elves. The hero is seen walking away from the Tree of Life and Faxanadu and the game ends.

Review

As I  mentioned earlier, Faxanadu was a game that was well ahead of its time. It did an amazing job at using the full graphic power of the 8-Bit NES system and its sound processor. The world is relatively lush for 8-bit and contains a wide variety of enemies and puzzles. If you haven’t understood how awesome it is to see a full character portrait when you speak to shop-keepers, let me remind you that this is NINTENDO, this is 1988. Sure, you might see a full screen graphic for the title screen of a game and maybe a fancy full screen for a major scene or the end sequence but that’s it. Faxanadu did it. Granted, the shopkeepers ALL look the same based on the shop they run but it’s’ still cool.

Much like Castlevania 2, the world of Faxanadu is relatively open. Granted, you will eventually be blocked by a door or other barricades at the end of certain areas but otherwise you can pretty much cruise around the world in no particular order. You could use the J key on a different door, for instance, and go to a different part of the game. Overall, you can explore a large part of the game map without any issue at all.

The fact that the game features in-game menus to allow you switch between different items, armor, and magic makes it more similar to an RPG than a platformer even though the battles always occur in real-time instead of turns. The equipment and spells, though limited, offer a great variety to the game play and make it easy to try multiple different ways to defeat a bad guy until you find the way that you prefer. The more enemies you beat, the gurus will provide you different titles which become more unique as the game progresses until you reach the class of “Champion” which can be considered as a character advancement (though it doesn’t actually impact play). Overall, the game features many RPG elements that became the staple of the genre even to modern day games.

All in all, Faxanadu is a fun game. It is well translated with virtually no “Engrish” found within the script. The story is a bit strange and leaves some to be desired in the motivational department but not enough to bore the player. The platforms and puzzles of the game are just challenging enough to require precision but not so much so that the games seems overly difficult. I found that the range of enemies was decent enough for a game of the era and the different environments are also interesting to the player. The game may not offer too much in replay value for high-end gamers or those seeking a mind bending challenge but for a retro gamer boy just wanting to relive the old world of games, it won’t disappoint.

Until next time, this is Retro Gamer Boy signing off!

 

Castlevania 2 – A Game Ahead of Its Time

One of the most prominent games in the Castlevania line of games is the famous “Symphony of the Night” for the Playstation. If you look at the original Castlevania game that started its life as an arcade game (which I easily spent hundreds of dollars in quarters playing in my hometown’s skating rink/arcade) and compare it to SOTN, you might say that you have no idea how the game progressed from here to there.  Believe it or not, it all started with the NES title Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest.

The Story

The premise of the game seems pretty simple. After Simon Belmont battled the famous Count Dracula at the end of the original game, he managed to beat Dracula but it left a curse on the land. Now, when night falls, people in the area become zombies and werewolves and all kinds of wonderfully nasty things. Simon decides that if he collects all of the pieces of Dracula (his rib, his heart, his eye, and his ring) and resurrects him, then kills him again, the curse will end. Sounds logical right? Well that’s what he does. Unlike the original game, this game takes place in a world that allows you to travel all over the ‘world’ to collect Dracula’s pieces. There is some logical order as you need certain things to get certain other things that will be needed to complete the game but otherwise the world is pretty open.

A game that features an ‘open world’ concept is pretty much standard fare for most modern games but back in 1988, such things were unheard of. The game also has a timer feature that makes the game fade from day to night and then back again – also rather rare in the time this game was created. If you take out those elements, the game plays very similar to the original games. You play Simon Belmont who looks mostly the same as he did in the original. You still have the Vampire Killer, the famous expanding whip of the Belmont clan even though you have to locate characters throughout the game to expand it (leather, chain, long chain, morning star and finally flame whip) instead of picking up power-ups. You still have the list of ‘thrown weapons’ which is familiar to the original and you still break through walls with the holy water as in the first game. A majority of the world is still in platforms as the game is famous for and many of the enemies remain there and are largely unchanged. However, it is at this point that the similarities end.

Trying New Things

The first new things one will find is the use of ‘towns’ which look just like regular levels (ripe with platforms and stairs) but with people and different music. You can find townspeople who will either lie to you or offer you very cryptic hints about the game (which may also be lies). You will find ‘cloaked men’ scattered around towns that will sell you items for ‘hearts’ (the same ones you use to fire your weapons). Often these guys will be hiding in buildings that appear empty until you drop some holy water on the floor and break through. Sometimes they will even appear in mansions (which are like the dungeons of the game but will be discussed later) and may not appear at all until you do a certain thing (such as dropping some garlic on the ground). They always sell you items that you must use to complete the game and sometimes they will offer you refills of perishable items such as laurels. The game also features colored crystals of varying degrees that do everything from open secret doors to create platforms in mansions that would otherwise make the stage impassible.

Another feature that is new are the ‘mansions’ which are essentially the dungeons of the game. The owners of these mansions must be creepy as they tend to hide pieces of Dracula in their mansions and hire monsters to guard them. I mean, really, would you just like to have Dracula’s eye chilling in a vase at your house? It would likely be a freaky conversation piece. So within these mansions, you basically hack and slash your way through countless monsters and occasionally a boss or two. Somewhere in the mansion is one of those cloak-covered merchants who will sell you an Oak Stake. You use this oak stake when you finally reach the blinking orb that contains the piece of Dracula in that mansion. Shatter the orb and take the part and move on. That’s what you do with each mansion.

The Final Boss

After you have completed all of the mansions in the game and have collected all pieces of Dracula, you can start the end game. In the end game portion, you will navigate to the ruins of Dracula’s castle (which is disturbingly close to the original starting city in the game). Despite the insanity of the mansions and the tendency for end game stages to be nightmarish, Dracula’s keep is actually quite short and has NO enemies. I am not kidding, you walk right in, go around a few platform mazes and there is the last room. Kind of anti-climatic if you ask me. Anyway, you will eventually make your way to a pedestal in the keep and the various parts of Dracula will fly off Simon and land in a torch base. The torch lights on fire and old Dracula appears and is ready to fight. Much like the stage that leads to him, Dracula’s battle is very anti-climatic. He basically flies around the room throwing boomerangs or ribs at you. If you hide in the bottom right corner of the screen he usually doesn’t hit you very much. When you land enough hits on the Prince of Darkness, he bursts into flames and disappears. Yay! You have won!

Endings

Now here is one of the other areas that is unique to this game and the series at this point – multiple endings. If you complete the game in 8 game days or less (remember the whole day and night thing based off time) you will receive the best ending. If you complete the game in 9-12 game days you get a slightly better ending. Lastly, if you take longer than that, you get the bad ending. In the ‘best’ ending (see my gallery for a screenshot), Simon is kneeling at Dracula’s grave and places a rose on it. The game tells you that the reign of terror is finally over and that peace has been restored. It also tells you that by some creepy magic, the blood and sweat of Simon on the earth will be turned into magic which can be used to defend Transylvania (eww!). After the screen cuts, you see the grave by itself and suddenly an earthquake happens and Dracula’s hand rises from the grave (did you really think they would end this cash cow that easily?). In the ‘okay’ ending, you see the same grave as before but no Simon. We are told that although Simon beat Dracula, he was mortally wounded and soon passes away and that soon enough Dracula will rise again and a new hero will be needed. The last ending tells you that the curse is not broken and now Simon is dead (Gee thanks! That’s reassuring).

Evaluation of the Game

All in all the game was miles ahead of its time and was pulled off quite well given the capability of the NES and the many new methods used in this game. Unfortunately there were some bad issues as well. One glaring thing I noticed is the presence of good Ol’ Engrish. When you shatter each orb to retrieve each Dracula relic, the screen prompts you “You now PROSESS Dracula’s… (insert part).” Prosess? Eh? I have no idea what that word means. Strangely, when you acquire other things such as the red crystal, the game tells you that you “Possess” that item. Looks like the right hand was not talking to the left at this studio. Also, one of the most infamous hints you receive in the game is “You can break a hole in Deborah’s cliff with your head.” What? Is that a sexual innuendo? Truth be told, what you actually do is use crystal at the base of the Debra Cliff to summon a whirlwind to carry you to another mansion. What on earth this has to do with a hole in the cliff I have NO idea. That also explains why few people figured out this trick without some sort of hint or FAQ.

Another common complaint is that the various people Simon encounters in towns (who are supposed to help him solve the riddles) were too cryptic and thus made the game more confusing. There is certainly some merit to that. When I first played this game, I clearly remember being confused constantly and never knowing what to do next (this was back before the internet and GameFAQs). I did call the Nintendo Power hotline a few times but that only served to get me past some of the easier (yet strange) puzzles such as the requirement of kneeling near a lake with a certain crystal to cause the map to scroll down and reveal a secret path to the next area. But I still couldn’t beat it. I finally rented a VHS tape that was the Nintendo Power walk through for Simon’s Quest until I finally found the way to beat the game. Nowadays I could probably find hundreds of guides and videos on YouTube and of course, GameFAQs but that was not the case in those days. You cannot imagine the excitement I had when I finally found Dracula and beat him.

So in summary, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest is an amazing game for the time and place in which it occurred. It essentially set the stage for many other open-world adventures including paving the way to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which included an open world, RP elements, many different endings based on performance of the player in the game, riddles and confusion to make the quest more difficult and so on. If you want to rack your brain for a bit in a fun and entertaining game of the NES era, definitely pick this one up!

Megaman 2 Is Still Awesome

Hello readers, I am sure that many of you get upset with my lack of updates to this blog. The truth is that I usually enjoy retro things but rarely give myself time to post about them. However, today is an exception. I am on a brief break before my final Master’s class in February and have been trying to fill it with awesome retro goodness. I dug way down into the retro barrel until I reached my NES games. The first one I picked up? Megaman 2.

Megaman 2 may be 25 years old and legally allowed to drink and smoke but it is still awesome. It was one of the defining moments in the platform genre and easily one of the first NES games after Mario Bros that I became inhumanly obsessed with. Although there is an original Megaman game, it does not have as many of the hallmarks that came with MM2. For instance, MM2 is the first MM game to feature 8 robot masters (the standard for the other games). It also was the first game to feature the ‘look’ of the main character that stayed with the series until it gave way to the Megaman X series. It also featured the use of specialized items that were not obtained from beating a robot master – the humorously vague Item-1, Item-2, and Item-3. In later installments of the game these items because more common and were eventually merged into the Megadog Rush. The original game did not have such items. It also introduced the amazing Energy tank (E Tank) that helped us all survive some of those crazy levels.

I re-played the game over the weekend and found that I still had almost a muscle memory of the levels, jumps and moves that I developed playing the game for 100s of hours as a kid. I still cringed as I ran away from the giant flying dragon that you face during the first level of Wiley’s castle, yelled loudly when I missed a jump by a half of a nanometer and hearing the famous (bloop bloop bloop) noise and rippling circles, and so on. This allowed me to come to the conclusion that even 25 years after it was made, Mega Man 2 is still awesome.

I also want to take a moment to note the awesomeness that is the latest installment of JNES, my flagship emulator. I had been using the 0.82 version for many years but due to some annoying graphical glitches in MM2, I downloaded the 1.1 version. It has a few issues ‘remembering’ some of my settings but it is much more stable than the other version. Also – Game Genie codes are hard coded into the system now. Granted, I only use those codes if I am trying to speed-run something or test a weird hypothesis but rather than digging around on the internet (GameFAQs appears to have discontinued posting Game Genie codes) for hours to find what might not even work in the game, you simply click on the Cheats tab and it will display the list of codes for the specific game you are playing and you simply check or un-check the cheat you wish to use and the gameplay is changed accordingly. How awesome is that?

It only took me about 5 hours of hard playing to get through the MM2 game in its entirety. I failed jumps frequently in the beginning but as my muscle memory warmed back up I noticed that my ability to plan my jumps and motions increased exponentially. Sure, the 8-bit sound effects are deafening even at low volume in high-def headphones and the graphics are nothing compared to even the visual effects on an older cellphone but the challenge and the joy was still there.

I have an extensive library of old school games on the NES that I now wish to play since the graphic glitches appear to have vanished in this JNES install and hope to knock out a few prior to starting my final class. I am certain that I won’t be able to get to all of them but here are a few that I plan to get through:

1. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
2. Wizards and Warriors 3: Kuros’ Visions of Power
3. Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link
4. Adventures of Lolo

That’s all for now but perhaps more will follow. This is the RetroGamerBoy saying “Your Princess is in another castle.”

Runsaber – Fun but a Letdown

I recently got all of my old ROMS and various tools moved from my old HD to a new HD and it occurred to me that although I managed to capture a screen cap of the End sequence of the ridiculously catchy Runsaber, I had never captured an image of the last boss. Come to think of it, I couldn’t even remember what the last boss of Runsaber looked like. So, I decided I needed to run back through the game again and capture this image. In fact, I realized that very little information is published about RunSaber and yet it is a pretty fun game.

The Story

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Runsaber was created in 1993 by Hori Electronic but published to Nintendo by Atlus Studios. The premise of the game is this… many years in the future the planet Earth is so polluted that no one can really live here and many people have moved to space stations (Elysium anyone?). Into this void, an unnamed scientist has created a revolutionary chemical that is designed to destroy all pollution on the planet and return life to normal. Unfortunately, when areas of the country are doused with the chemical, it doesn’t actually get rid of pollution, instead, it causes people and things to mutate and go out of control. The new super mutants basically spread across the world and cause so much havoc because normal people cannot hurt them. It seems as though the scientist knew about this ‘side effect’ before the chemical was released but he kept it a secret so that he could create his own army of super mutant killers. Into this darkness, a light is found when super human cyborgs known as “Sabers” under “Project Saber” are created to combat the menace. The first saber, Kurtz, is a fire saber but malfunctions and vanishes. This leaves the beta and gamma models… Allen, the lightning saber and Sheena the Ice saber. You take control of one of these two Sabers and go about ridding the world of the evil scientist’s mutant army.

The Sabers

So what is a saber? Well they look like a person but have – well – light sabers that look cooler than the ones Lucas invented. They also can generate energy to their feet as they kick which has presumably the same effect as the light saber. Lastly, each Saber can call out their ability and launch a full screen attack. Allen yells the word “Light!” and generates a lightning dragon and Sheena yells something and generates a rainstorm of ice. Allen appears to consist of greenish yellow energy as that is what his saber, kick and special attack appear as on the screen. Sheena’s is a purple/red colored energy of the same type. As you go about the game, you actually meet and subsequently fight Kurtz. He yells “Fire!” with his attack  but oddly, his energy appears to be white. They move pretty quickly and look downright awesome as they chop and kick their way through enemies. The game occasionally lags when you call out one of their special attacks because it does some pretty awesome stuff with the graphics of the time. I love that these guys are like ninjas. They literally climb all over walls, ceilings, scaffolds, you name it, they climb on it. You can actually crab walk in an entire circle around a scaffold and go from under it, to sideways, to walking on it without even moving the D Pad much. They move so fluidly that I often randomly grabbed things that I didn’t intend to grab and sometimes found specials that way.

The World

Man… this game was WAY ahead of its time. The music is this awesome techno driven music that sounds pretty cool on an SNES console. Think beats that sort of “splat” crescendos much like the 90’s techno music of the day and highly techno sounding guitars. In fact, DJ6i’s first song, HeadAsplode would probably fit right in with the Run Saber soundtrack. The levels are pretty cool too… very polished and remind me of something like an SNES rendering of the world in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ (my favorite movie of all time). The enemies are creepy and somewhat comical. The average soldier looks kind of like a human with a squid head that randomly turns into a machine gun (no… that’s not a typo). There are flying creatures that really have no description that do them justice. There are rolling cannon looking monsters that often cruise around the area you are in and blast you. Some monsters appear out of the walls while others are randomly walking around. There are countless pitfalls, spike roofs, changing terrain, invincible blasting machines shooting fire or electricity. The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately the world only has 5 levels… yup… 5. The first four are on your map when you begin the game (Taj Gate – kind of like West Coast USA, Tong City – Reminds me of Shanghai meets Blade Runner, Jod Valley – South American rain-forest with dinosaurs even, Grey Fac – Umm.. Greece and Paris?) and after you have beaten all of these, the scientist’s hideout, Bruford (looks like the island of Dr. Moreau on the outside) rises from the sea. Yeah… I guess all of those awesome soundtrack songs and the crazy graphics use didn’t leave much room on the cartridge for a fully immersed story and large world map.

Game Play

This is one of the things that sets this game apart from many of the other games of its time. I have already talked about how easy it is to control your saber and how quickly you can move about the platforms like a ninja. In the center of the character screen is a little square with a purple arrow that points you to the direction you need to head. When you consider how HUGE a single level is in this game, this is an amazingly useful tool. Also, the further you get from the intended target, the more incessant the blinking and ringing noises from the arrow get. Sure, you can see the place the map wants you to go but it is up to you to use ninja skills to reach your destination.

Each stage has a series of mini-bosses that prevent you from getting to your destination. They range from the unusual to freaking bizarre. The first mini boss is a mutant who busts out of an old missile casing and commences to shoot you with a bazooka and otherwise try to injure you. Then there is a boss that is basically tentacles or wiring (hard to tell based off the graphics) that shoots missiles out of the wall. Seem tame? Okay… at the beginning of the Jod Valley stage, you fight an Andean Condor – no big deal. But when you kill it, it’s head remains on the grass moving about as if talking and a random gray monster who utters a sound like the famous “Toasty!” from Mortal Kombat comes by and STEALS the head. Later on in the series, the same freaky monster drops the head of the condor on the ground and you faces a mutant zombie with a bird head… yeah… kind of an acid trip. As you approach the mini boss sections of the game, the guiding arrow mentioned earlier changes to blinking the word “Alert!!” and it will stay active the whole time you are fighting the boss because sometimes it is actually hard to tell when the fight is over.

Now the next game play item of note are the actual bosses. The first boss fight in the game has got to be one of the most interesting fights I have seen in a while. Your character has to jump on to a USAF jet (Harrier or F-16, hard to tell) and fight on the outside of the jet WHILE it is flying! Basically the jet has been ‘possessed’ by the mutants and you have to kill three of them. The first one is a creature who morphs out of the middle of the jet between the cockpit and the back fin. The next one morphs out of the tail wing. The final one is this floating head looking thing that busts out of the cockpit. The first two guys are easy enough but the last one fights you WHILE THE JET IS SPINNING around. If you fall, you die. When you finally kill the monsters, your character leaps from the jet like a boss and it blows up. How cool is that?

Boss number 2 actually created a fuss with Nintendo. She is a statue of a lady who waits for you on top of the highest point in Taj City. She is sitting on her side as if laying down and looking at you sideways. I guess the censorship rules were such that having a women laying in this pose even slightly seductively was against the rules at the time. Now, the woman’s head has been replaced with something like a corpse’s head which add to the further creepiness of this boss. The third boss is forgettable, it is basically a floating cyber head that spits fire at you and it growls angrily when you hit it. Even though it wasn’t a tough boss, the developers liked it enough that you see it again in the last stage. The fourth boss is certainly one of the weirder ones, it basically looks like a worm/slug thing that rises out of the floor and hurls fireballs at you but imagine that the snake/worm thing looks partially decayed and has a bulbous and vein covered head. When you beat him, this guy turns all 2D and falls off the screen.

Now, the map suddenly changes and you see a fifth location, Bruford, that emerges from the ocean and this is the hideout of Mr. Scientist. This stage is just funky and long. There are lots of long drops where you must kick at things as you go to kill them followed by climbing up an almost identical screen on a series of elevators and then going down again. Finally you must face Kurtz for the last time and then you drop through a hole and face the Scientist.

The Scientist – Last Boss

Easily one of the greatest let downs in Run Saber is the last boss… the Scientist. The story of the game doesn’t much talk about him other than mention that he created the mutant toxin and is trying to turn the world into zombies in his control. Do we get some crazy scene where the scientist explains why he did what he did then hops into some mutant contraption to fight you? Nope. The only way you even know this guy is the bad buy is because he has this eerie laugh that you start to hear at each boss fight and in this scene he does it aloud and you know it is him.

So what does he look like? Well… he’s a two story boss meaning you have two separate platforms at different levels which you must use to fight him. You only see him from the torso up and looks like he is basically a giant body with a skeleton and muscle layer but no skin. Honestly, he reminds me of what Freddy Krueger might look like if he took off his shirt and had no knife glove. Yeah… he looks like this:

The Scientist

So what does this dude do? Well… not a whole lot. He basically has three attacks. The first attack is that he spits these energy maggot looking things out of his mouth from both sides – nothing like having Freddy vomit maggots all over you. The other attack is to use either his right or left hand which hover on and off from their respective sides of the screen but they are large enough that you can see them a mile away. The other attack is more of a creative use of the environment. You have to hit his head to drop the protection on his stomach (presumably his weak spot) and then attack before the shield goes back up. Unfortunately, if you jump to avoid a flying fist or energy maggots then you may fall to your doom.

After hitting this dude several times and not knowing whether or not he is even feeling it, he will finally die. The screen basically goes bright and then you see several fireballs explode on his body and The Scientist is no more. That’s it! There’s no complicated death scene, you don’t even have to fight a second stage boss – the golden egg of console gaming. Nope… it’s just over.

The End

Okay, so maybe the let down of the boss fight is saved by a cool end scene. Maybe we get to see the amazing rebirth of our home planet as the pollution suddenly heals itself!  Maybe there is a cool scene that shows the player what good they did. Well??? NOPE. Unfortunately, there is no real closure in the end. Basically, the end scene shows the credits rolling in the foreground while the background features what appears to be a little girl running across the field. As the girl makes her way closer to the end of the scene, we see the forms of our two sabers watching on. The little girl is embraced by the parents that she has been running to throughout the entire end sequence and then it’s over. That’s it. You get nothing else!

Final Words

So now we have come to the end of Run Saber. I will call it my Final Words so Jerry Springer doesn’t come after me. The game is beautiful in design and has a totally awesome soundtrack that was way ahead of its time. The characters are awesome and fluid but have no real story behind them. You can attack with awesome light sabers and beat up mutants but in the end, the game leaves the player feeling somewhat let down. The story does not engage the player at the beginning and the progress of the game doesn’t really add to that engagement. Some of the worlds are very unique and interesting and it truly has some cool parts that make it fun to play. But in the end, you will find that you don’t really care about saving the Earth, the final boss makes it obvious why he failed at taking over the world and the end sequence is less than stellar. So if you want a fun and quick romp with characters that are a mix of ninja and Jedi and don’t really care if the story will interest you then Run Saber is a great game for you. If nothing else, play it once to see how awesome the characters are but don’t feel surprised if you are ultimately let down in the end.

RGB out!

Unintentional Delays

Hello retro gamer folks. I do sincerely apologize for the amount of time that it has taken to update. On Feb. 15, my wife and I began fostering a newborn baby boy a then on March 25, we took in a second foster baby (slightly older) boy. Since then, my life has revolved around bottles, diapers, feeding, burping, and all the other things that babies require has zapped most of my time to make posts.

On the plus side, I did manage to squeeze a few hours out of my Saturday to replay the classic Beat-Em-Up Capcom game “Knights of the Round”. I sliced and chopped my way through it and faced the final boss Garibaldi. I have beaten him many times but I never remembered to snap a photo of him. However, this time I managed to do a screen cap and he has been added to the final boss gallery. I am not entirely sure if it warrants a review but I will consider it later on after I complete some other posts (namely the rest of my Captain N posts).

In the meantime, stay tuned, we’re not dead… just resting!

Check out the Galleries!

I am in the process of writing my blog post over the bad guys of the Captain N series but in the meantime I figured out how to make a gallery in WordPress. That being said, please take a look at the new Retro Galleries to see the Final Bosses and End Screens of various retro games that I have beaten. I hope you enjoy!