Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for November, 2008

Character File: Doctor Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik

Posted by ptcgaming on November 18, 2008

Hey, aren’t you one of the Rough Riders?

First appearance: “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Sega Genesis/Master System, 1991)

For almost 20 years now, Dr. Robotnik has seen the fall of many of his machines at the hands (and feet) of one Sonic the Hedgehog. But despite his many feeble attempts to destroy Sega’s blue mascot, the guy who turned cute little fuzzy animals into robots never seems to give up.

Robotnik, who was in part based on our 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (a more pudgy version, at least), is actually who made Sonic fast (and blue). And the pair were friends until an accident embedded the doc with chaos energy, transforming him into the antagonist we all know of today. Since then he’s acquired the “Pinky and the Brain” syndrome, where he tries to take over the world no matter how many times he’s unsuccessful in the process. He also apparently has a “Star Wars” fascination, based on the creation of his outer space-floating “Death Egg” in “Sonic 2.”

But this robust fellow hasn’t spent all of his time being trampled by Sonic and his friends. He was the central character in 1993’s “Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine,” a game more in the style of “Tetris” and “Dr. Mario” than a 2D platformer. He’s also been a playable character over the years while starring in animated shows and comics.

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Posted in Characters, Sega | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Metal Slug: Super Vehicle-001

Posted by ptcgaming on November 17, 2008

Everything in “Metal Slug” is bigger and badder. And that’s a really good thing.

Platform: Neo Geo
Released: 1996
Developer: Nazca Corporation

Background: “Metal Slug” is “Contra” on ‘roids. That’s about the best way I can put it. The guns are bigger, the explosions are bigger and the bosses are bigger in this game, which retained all its arcade glory on SNK’s Neo Geo home console. Most of us couldn’t afford to fork out 600 bucks-plus for a Neo Geo, let alone the 200 bucks or so each game cost, but Nintendo Wii owners can download this piece of gaming glory for just 900 Nintendo Points (9 bucks!) – and, it’s compatible with the Wii Remote, so no additional hardware is necessary! The storyline in a nutshell is you and another player (in 2-player mode) have to mow down General Morden’s Rebellion army and recapture the Metal Slug tanks (which yes, you get to drive). But the storyline won’t grab you anywhere near the game itself.

Graphics: 5/5

There’s a reason the Neo Geo was so expensive: It was the guts of an arcade cabinet inside a home console. This game features hand-drawn elements (You heard me) with vivid backgrounds that feature little to no empty space. Even though this a a 2D side-scrolling game, it still has sort of a 3D feel.

Sound: 5/5

The background music is very well-done. It’s clear and doesn’t feel like a drill into the head after five minutes. The voices are done perfectly, which can also be attributed to the Neo Geo’s technology.

Controls: 4/5

You use three face buttons – one each for jumping, shooting and grenades/cannon. The joystick/D-pad movements are fluid. However, I knocked a point off for how difficult it is to shoot straight down or on an angle.

Gameplay: 4.5/5

This is a run ‘n gun, just like “Contra.” However, like I said before, everything is bigger – much bigger. And the weapons surpass everything “Contra” has to offer (with the exception of the Spread gun, of course). You start with a single-shot pea-shooter, but you can upgrade to such weapons as a heavy machine gun, flame thrower or even a rocket launcher (You rescue POWs for weapon power-ups). If an enemy gets too close, you can slash him with a knife. And most of the scenery can be destroyed, too. You mow through cities, forests, mountains and military bases, so the game never gets old.

Overall: 4.625/5

This game has just as much replay value as “Contra,” the run ‘n gun game I’ve measured all others against. In fact, this is probably the only one I feel is better than “Contra,” which is saying a lot. One thing I forgot to mention to all the parents and censors out there is “Metal Slug” is bloody – both you and your enemies bleed when hit – but the cartoony look and humor in the game (like shooting enemy soldiers while they’re camping) makes this game tons of fun but not all that serious. I can’t stress enough how much I think you should play this one.

Posted in Neo Geo, Reviews | 1 Comment »

One Sonic, three consoles

Posted by ptcgaming on November 13, 2008

Most people remember Sonic’s maiden voyage on the 16-bit Sega Genesis (left). But the blue blur also staked his claim on the 8-bit Sega Master System and handheld Sega Game Gear (right). There are several differences between the two, but both are solid in their own right.

The year 1991 could be labeled the “Year of Sonic.” It was that we saw the debut of Sega’s new “spokesperson” on not just one console, not two, but three different Sega consoles. After first dipping his toe in the pool that was the Sega Genesis, Sonic took a step back to the 8-bit era with releases for the Sega Master System and portable Game Gear. Although Sonic lost some power in the process, the 8-bit incarnation is still a solid game to play and doesn’t lose much in translation.
Today, I’m going to give a side-by-side comparison of the Genesis and Master System versions of “Sonic the Hedgehog” (the Game Gear version is very similar to the Master System version with a few exceptions). Before I begin, you have to understand that even though they bear the same name, the two titles are quite different. Other than obvious differences in graphics and sound, level designs and bonus stages are different, creating an all-new Sonic experience.
Graphics: The Genesis version features some of the best graphics of the 16-bit era (Sonic 2 pushed the envelope even farther). The 3D effect of running behind trees and posts, coupled with outstanding surface textures creates a great gaming experience. However, the Master System version features graphics I’d put up against any NES game any day of the week. Though not nearly as detailed as its counterpart, the game moves fluidly, and enemies are easily recognizable from the 16-bit version.
Sound: The music and sound effects on the Genesis are fantastic, some of the most classic in video game history. The Master System version features good sound as well (even though it’s in mono), but the console’s technology produces sounds that are at times tinny.
Gameplay: Sonic on the Genesis is fast, especially in some of the more straightforward zones. He’s pretty fast in 8 bits as well, although the game doesn’t feel it’s moving quite as fast. Eight-bit Sonic does share many of his 16-bit counterpart’s mannerisms, like when he starts staring you down because you haven’t moved in awhile. Also, in the 8-bit version, when you hit an enemy, you can’t retrieve the rings you lost. And though they share names with a few zones from the Genesis version, the entire 8-bit game was retooled so it isn’t a direct port. Bonus stages are different, too, and Chaos Emeralds are found within the zones. There is also a map in the 8-bit version that shows you what zone you’re on, and I think that’s because the text at the beginning and end of the zones isn’t superimposed over the game screen like on the Genesis. Overall control of Sonic is fluid on both consoles, though I think the Master System version of the game is more difficult to complete.
So there you have it, a short but concise comparison of the Sega Genesis and Master System versions of the original “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I could go on and on with more about the two, but you can get the idea by just checking out the screenshots above (By the way, those are two different zones from each of the games). Now don’t be deceived by the 8-bit version, as Sega thought it was good enough to build into some late versions of the Master System console. It’s available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console for just 500 points ($5), so it’s definitely worth a try if you’re able to get it.

Posted in Retro Gaming, Sega | 1 Comment »

Character File: Pit

Posted by ptcgaming on November 5, 2008

The cover for the Japanese Famicom Disk System version of “Kid Icarus.”

First appearance: “Kid Icarus” (Famicom Disk System/NES, 1986/87)

For many of us gamers in the 1980s, “Kid Icarus” played second fiddle to “Metroid,” which featured Nintendo’s bounty-hunting heroine Samus Aran. But “KI” was actually similar to “Metroid” in gameplay, with the hero being an Icarus/Cupid hybrid named Pit (and I’ll bet you thought his name was actually “Kid Icarus”). In his gaming debut, the “little angel” used his magical bow to defeat Medusa in the Underworld. Pit’s first adventure can be found in several “best game” lists.

But then he disappeared. Where did he go?

Well those of you (like me) who remember the cartoon “Captain N: The Game Master” remember Pit was a character on the show, and in fact named – you guessed it – Kid Icarus! He also appeared in the Captain N comic book series. Then after a long hiatus as a major playable character, Pit made his triumphant return in 2008’s “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Nintendo Wii. The original “Kid Icarus” is also available through the Wii Virtual Console.

Otherwise, he’s made cameos in other games such as “Tetris,” “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” “WarioWare: Twisted!” and “WarioWare: Smooth Moves.”

Posted in Characters, NES | 2 Comments »

Wanted: New ideas

Posted by ptcgaming on November 4, 2008

Here at Pacing the Cage, our staff of one is reaching out to you, the gaming community, for ideas on some new things we can feature in this blog. While we try offer a well-rounded lesson on the history of video games of the past, chances are we’re forgetting something. That’s where you come in! Feel free to offer up any suggestions you might have on either 1) Ideas for new features or 2) Ways to improve what’s already being offered. Don’t be shy, as every idea will be taken into consideration! Thanks in advance for your opinions!

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »