Pacing the Cage

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

Archive for May, 2009

Retro Game Review: Super Mario Bros.

Posted by ptcgaming on May 30, 2009

It's amazing how well this game has stood up to the test of time. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

It's amazing how well this game has stood up to the test of time. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Released: 1986 (in North America)
Developer: Nintendo EAD

Background: For more than 20 years, “Super Mario Bros.” has stood up against the test of time as a pioneer of platform gaming. Although it wasn’t the first platforming game, the sequel to 1983’s “Mario Bros.” catapaulted the genre’s popularity. This side-scroller set the precedent for Mario games to come, eventually evolving from 2D to 3D in the 1990s. In the meantime, Mario’s adventures against Bowser and his band of bad guys spanned the likes of not only the NES, but also the Super NES and Game Boy systems. Though other games, even on the NES itself, eventually surpassed SMB’s graphics and simplistic gameplay, the original remains a classic still enjoyed today. If you own a Wii, it’s definitely worth the $5 download.

Graphics: 3/5
I remember the very first time I set my eyes on this game back in the 1980s. I was still a gamer of the classic Atari age and had never seen a game quite as complex. The NES brought top-notch graphics (for the time) to the home console market, and this was eye-candy for gamers. This game’s visuals surprisingly held up well throughout the NES’ lifespan. This game was greatly detailed for its time.

Sound: 3/5
Aside from the several sound effects throughout Mario and Luigi’s adventure, there are five man songs that play during the game. And when the timer falls below 100, the tempo picks up. The main theme is still popular, so much I know people who have it in their list of cell phone ring tones.

Controls: 4/5
Like I said earlier, I was an Atari gamer until this time. So the concept of a D-pad and two face buttons was quite complex to me. But this dynamic (at the time) control scheme was an awesome discovery. Even today, the NES’ now-simplistic controls make this game easy to enjoy.

Gameplay: 4/5
I’d like to say this game is difficult for me, but it really isn’t. I’ve completed the first quest and others that follow on several occasions. But this game is still fun, and the fact this one can be quickly completed makes it ideal for those times when I only have a small window for gaming. Gameplay is simple: run right, jump on enemies, jump on the flag. Yet somehow it’s still fun.

Overall: 3.5/5
Anyone who has ever played SMB knows why this game’s a classic and why it has stood up for so many years. With its simplistic gameplay but perfect level of difficulty for the casual gamer, SMB remains a staple in the classic gaming world.


Posted in NES, Reviews | 2 Comments »

Retro Game Review: Final Soldier

Posted by ptcgaming on May 12, 2009

If you like scrolling space shooters, I'd certainly give this one a try. Until recently, you couldn't find it in North America.

If you like scrolling space shooters, I'd certainly give this one a try. Until recently, you couldn't find it in North America.

Platform: PC Engine
Released: 1991
Developer: Hudson Soft

Background:“Final Soldier” was the third game in the series that originated with the classic “Star Soldier” but wasn’t the final game in the series. It was only released for the PC Engine, the Japanese version of NEC’s TurboGrafx-16. However, it was released as an “import” title on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console in North America in 2008. It follows the same vertically-scrolling formula other shooters in the series have.

Graphics: 3.75/5
This game looks sharp overall, but the overlapping in-game text looks blurry. Also, your ship doesn’t look nearly as good as some of the larger enemies you confront, as you can see from the screenshot above.

Sound: 2/5
While the in-game music is catchy, it and the common sound effects you hear sound quite generic. You could pretty much lay them on top of any space shooter and not be able to tell the difference.

Controls: 3.5/5
Nothing special to it, really, since the PC Engine controller only featured a D-pad and two fire buttons. If you have this downloaded to your Wii, though, I’d recommend using the Classic Controller. The left analog stick is ideal for games like this and much better than using the D-pad.

Gameplay: 3.5/5
One of the great things about this game is you can customize how your weapon upgrades work. Most upgrades (flame, laser, etc.) have multiple ways they can work, which can be accessed from the title screen. There is nonstop action throughout, and this game is pretty challenging, at least to me. The biggest challenge comes after you’ve been killed and have to upgrade your weapons again. Losing a life can throw you off-track and make it more difficult to complete a level.

Overall: 3.2/5
This game’s score is severely hurt by the sound factor, but overall it’s a decent play. It’s definitely a step above the original “Star Soldier,” even though that one’s still a classic to this day. I don’t think “Final Soldier” will ever be held in that high regard, but it’s good to finally be able to play it on this side of the Pacific.

Posted in Japanese games, PC Engine, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Five quick-hit reviews

Posted by ptcgaming on May 4, 2009


“River Raid” (Atari 2600/1982/Activision)
Overall score: 3.5
“River Raid” to this day is one of my favorite Atari 2600 games. The graphics are outstanding for that console, the sound is exceptional and having to worry about refueling adds an extra challenge. Too bad that challenge gets a bit repetitive after awhile.


“Bases Loaded” (NES/1988/Jaleco-TOSE)
Overall score: 4
“Tecmo Baseball” and “RBI Baseball” might come close, but this was the best baseball franchise on the NES. The TV-camera batter/pitcher screen and great animation (including the “phantom glove” catcher) were great, as was the speech (any spoken dialogue was a gift on the NES). But am I the only one who thought this game was pretty tough?


“Keith Courage in Alpha Zones” (TurboGrafx-16/1989/Hudson Soft)
Overall score: 2

Even fantastic 16-bit graphics couldn’t prevent this from being the worst pack-in game for any console – ever. While the graphics are great, the music on this Mario/Zelda/Gundam hybrid is too repetitive, and the gameplay is boring. There are some really good titles for the unappreciated (in North America) TG-16, but this sure isn’t one of them.


“F-Zero” (Super NES/1991/Nintendo EAD)
Overall score: 3.5
How they get the screen to keep up while racing that fast is beyond me. Nevertheless, “F-Zero” is fun and challenging at the same time. Of course, it’s best when played with a friend. The controls take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of them you’ll enjoy this one a lot.


“John Madden Football ’93” (Sega Genesis/1992/Looking Glass Technologies)
Overall score: 4.5

This is by far my favorite “Madden” ever. I remember the days before passing cones and football IQ, when passing windows ruled the world. I recall some intense Thurman Thomas vs. Barry Sanders battles, diving catches and cheesy touchdown dances. This game even looks great, and the players move and act like real football players do. This is the one game I wish I had held on to over the years. Sadly, I did not.

Posted in Atari, Genesis, Madden, NES, Reviews, SNES, TG16 | Leave a Comment »

The Evolution of Donkey Kong

Posted by ptcgaming on May 1, 2009

Clockwise, from top left: "Donkey Kong" (arcade, 1981); "Donkey Kong Junior" (arcade, 1982); "Donkey Kong 64" (N64, 1999); and "Donkey Kong Country" (SNES, 1994)
Clockwise, from top left: “Donkey Kong” (arcade, 1981); “Donkey Kong Junior” (arcade, 1982); “Donkey Kong 64” (N64, 1999); and “Donkey Kong Country” (SNES, 1994)


For the man responsible for such series as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Star Fox,” it all started with a carpenter, a damsel in distress and a very large ape. “Donkey Kong” (1981) was Shigeru Miyamoto’s first video game creation, one that has spawned several sequels and remains a Nintendo staple even today.
The premise of the original “Donkey Kong” was simple: Donkey Kong kidnapped a woman (now known as Pauline), and it was up to a carpenter named Jumpman (now known as a plumber named Mario) to save her. Two sequels were spun off the original: 1982’s “Donkey Kong Junior,” still to this day the only video game where Mario plays the villain, and 1983’s “Donkey Kong 3,” a game more practice for the Orkin Man than a platformer (You actually have to spray bugs with bug spray).
There was then a lull in new DK video game production until 1994, when “Donkey Kong Country” was released for the Super NES. DKC was the first game in the series not produced or directed by Miyamoto (it was developed by video game developer Rare), but was still revolutionary in its use of pre-rendered 3D graphics. Also, the series took on a new format by switching from a static-screen design to side-scrolling levels, more along the lines of the “Super Mario Bros.” series.
In 1999, Rare released “Donkey Kong 64” for the Nintendo 64, a full-3D platformer similar to “Super Mario 64.” This was the first game to require the N64’s Expansion Pak, which provided more RAM for enhanced graphics and environments.
In between DKC and DK64, several other titles in the series were released for both consoles and handhelds, including: “Donkey Kong Country 2” (1995); “Donkey Kong Land” (1995); “Donkey Kong Country 3” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 2” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 3” (1997); and “Diddy Kong Racing” (1997).

Posted in Arcade, Evolution, Game Boy, N64, SNES | 1 Comment »