Archive for August, 2012

System: Super Nintendo

Release Date: September 17th, 1996

Rarity: 53%

Price/Location: $4.99/Epic Electronics & Gaming

(Note: As I’m typing this, I’m watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on Netflix for inspiration. Hoping it works!)

As a mid-1990’s elementary school kid, I was all about the Power Rangers. When my friends and I wanted to play Power Rangers at recess or in the backyard, it was always a battle to see who was the Red Ranger (a scenario made easier when Rocky was introduced as the new Red Ranger). I remember the pure elation I felt when getting the Power Rangers Game Boy game for Christmas. This was sensory overload for a kid my age. Power Rangers + video game = HOLY BALLS THIS IS AWESOME!

I couldn’t mash the Start button fast enough at this screen.

By the time middle school came around, there were a completely new set of Rangers in Power Rangers Turbo (one of which was a kid who looked younger than me, which was somehow uncool in my mind) with new stories and enemies. Power Rangers Zeo was the beginning of the end for me as far as my Power Rangers fandom was concerned. Zeo came between MMPR and Turbo. I not unfamiliar with the Zeo characters, (they’re made up of characters that came about in later MMPR seasons) but by this time, I was more a casual fan than the rabid fan I was as a younger child.

You’re just not the same!

I am not surprised to realize I didn’t know about a Power Rangers Zeo video game. As stated before, my fandom was slowly dying and the hype for the Nintendo 64 was ramping up (the 64 would be released about a week after this game was released). Before I jumped into the game, I feared what this game would be: likely a Mario Kart clone. Well… it is. Power Rangers Zeo: Battle Racers plays almost exactly like Mario Kart. Just like Mario Kart you can choose from a number of racers made up of good guys and bad guys alike.

In this race, the three primary color Rangers take on The Rocketeer and C-3PO’s bastard offspring.

The thing about most Mario Kart clones is that they tend to suck more often than not. This was my initial thought here. But after a few races with a bit more twists and turns (the 1st track is just a rectangle) I was warmly greeted with tight controls and strategic gameplay. You see, your vehicle comes equipped with some kind of cannon blaster. You get 5 shots per race, but you cannot refill them during the course of the race. Figuring out when to use them is key. Do you use it at the beginning to get an early lead? Or do you hold off until the end as a safeguard to any final lap slip-ups?

Clearly the strategy here was the former. It… didn’t always work out so well for me. Using all five shots on the first lap is akin to *insert premature ejaculation joke here.*

So far, so good. The early tracks have a nice balance of challenge and strategy. The challenge factor ramps up rather evenly over the course of the game eventually climaxing with some brutally difficult tracks towards the end. I did a lot of losing towards the end of the game. It felt a lot like the Special Cup courses on Super Mario Kart. Your timing on cornering and when to use weapons needs to be spot on. The big problem with this game lies within the fact that all the race series are linked together. It’s not like Mario Kart where you select a cup with 4 tracks. Once you complete a series you are immediately ushered into a new one and all the points you earn in each series are totaled up at the very end to declare a winner. Also, depending on your character’s turning ability, the timing of the automatic drift kicking in can seriously throw you off, especially in later tracks with longer, wider turns.

I often felt like that kid from Tokyo Drift. I crashed A LOT.

Verdict: HIGH FIVE

I am very surprised by this game! I ended up really enjoying it. It’s got almost next to nothing to do with the actual Power Rangers (meaning nothing would feel out of place if the Rangers were replaced with other characters), but if you’re going to do a Super Mario Kart clone, you gotta do it right, and I feel they did a decent job here. It’s not a perfect game, not at all, but I feel I could have done worse with a Mario Kart clone.

Case in point. F*** this game.

Episode 20 has morphed into completion! I have a Facebook where I post some stuff sometimes. I also have a Twitter where I read things from people I follow. Join me on both! Let’s communicate, k?

Thanks for reading!

OK, so I’m going to take a break from the norm of talking about old cheap games and talk real quick about the new 3DS XL. I had my original 3DS since launch day and it quickly became my favorite Nintendo handheld.

Sorry, toots. Found a new love. You’re old news.

When the 3DS XL was announced, I was skeptical at first. Nintendo had burned me before with an XL revision of their hardware. When I upgraded from the DS Lite to the DSi XL, I upgraded the day it was released. The very next day Nintendo announced the 3DS. I actually didn’t upgrade from the 3DS to the XL until about 3 days after it was released, but thankfully Nintendo didn’t announce like… the 4DS or the DS Phone or something.

Nintendo Phone, you are doing it wrong.

So yeah, the 3DS XL, it’s pretty amazing. Everyone is going to talk about the bigger screen and they should. It looks amazing. I first tried Pilotwings Resort on it and it looked pretty good. I still can’t play Pilotwings in 3D though. It’s too much side-to-side movement for me. I then tried Super Mario 3D Land. This was a game I liked playing in both 3D and not 3D on my old system. It looked just as good as before. But what really made me fall in love with this system was playing Mario Kart 7 on it. Mario Kart 7 was already my favorite 3DS release so far, but I didn’t like playing it in 3D. That changes with the XL. Mario Kart 7 looks stunning in 3D on the XL. It’s stunning to the point where I can’t play it without 3D on anymore. It’s that good. If you want to see the difference between the 3DS and 3DS XL play Mario Kart 7 on it. If you are showcasing the XL to someone, show them Mario Kart 7.

Don’t really have a caption for this… paragraph was getting kinda long… wanted to put a relevant picture to break it up… WAHOO! MARIO!

Another thing about the XL is the size in regards to pockets. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a bigger guy with bigger pants and therefore bigger pockets, but the XL fits in my pocket just fine. In fact, I think it fits better because of its slimmer profile. It doesn’t bulge in your pocket as far. If you have the means, get one! Being the cheap-ass I am, I traded in my old 3DS and a bunch of games and scored mine for $35 out of pocket.

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Welcome to another entry in the dreaded Landfill series! The Landfill is where I categorize a game that I once considered for entry into the regular episodes of Five Dollar Gamer, but I felt deserve a worse fate than the bargain bin. Today, we lay to rest a 1998 Nintendo 64 fighting game, Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.

Why?: I played this game for a bit to see if the gameplay was as stupid as the concept behind it. Something about how America has fallen and corporations have risen to power, blah, blah, blah. These corporations built these monsters or robots or something and make them fight? I don’t know, it’s really stupid. The only character I actually thought looked cool was the giant minotaur robot (named Minotek, because why not). Unfortunately, he controls just as crappy as the rest of the lot. The controls were the biggest issue I had with the game, even more so than the lame story. The controls themselves technically work, but it’s the controller mapping that gave me a headache. There are SO MANY BUTTONS on the N64 controller. The developer decided to make sure every button had a function except Z had a function (keep that in mind for a second). L and R move back and forth around the 3D plane. It’d be cool if you moved fast enough to make it useful to avoid enemy attacks. B is a rocket boost jump. It’s not real useful and doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay. Here’s where my real issues with the mapping start. So each of the C buttons corresponds to a right/left punch/kick. Fine, OK. It’s useful with some characters like Minotek who wields a ball and chain in one hand, but for many others the difference in right and left punch is non-existent. My big issue is the A button. Pressing A by itself launches a projectile attack. But pressing any direction and the A button activates your shield. This is a big pain in the ass when in the heat of battle. If you’re trying to launch a projectile attack while trying to put some distance on your opponent, you’ll instead activate your shield. It’s rather annoying. So why not move either the projectile attack or the shield to the unused Z button so you can move and shoot at the same time? Or, why do we need separate buttons for right and left punches and kicks? If you’re going to make them distinct moves for certain characters, then do something different for the other characters. Just everything about this game is a mess. Avoid.

System: Super Nintendo

Release Date: October 1991

Rarity: 36%

Price/Location: $0.99/Gaming Warehouse (Grandville)

I know next to nothing about Ultraman. I know of Ultraman. I know Ultraman is ultra popular in Japan. But I don’t know if he has a lot of appeal outside of Japan, namely America. I don’t know anyone who would call themselves a fan of Ultraman (and if I do know someone, they certainly haven’t mentioned it). After playing this game and looking up a bit on what Ultraman was all about I can’t help but think that he would have fit in alongside several live-action Japanese shows (dubbed and re-done for American audiences), and ones inspired by them, that were popular in the mid-1990’s.

It also would have lead to several 9-year-old kids calling him a Power Rangers rip-off.

Unfortunately the timing was poor for both this game and a show based on this incarnation of Ultraman as far as a U.S. audience goes. Ultraman for the SNES was released in 1991 and an Ultraman TV series ran in the U.S. for about 3 months in early 1992. Both of these came out before the Power Rangers took the U.S. by storm in 1993. It could be reasonable to think that because of the relative obscurity of Ultraman in America today and this Super Nintendo game for that matter, that this game was not exactly a classic. But I’ve discovered some great games so far that weren’t exactly popular. Could Ultraman be any different? Will America ever learn to love Ultraman?!

Probably not! (2 people will get this joke)

Ultraman plays like your typical fighting game like a Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. But there’s no character select or 2-player mode. You play as Ultraman and you must defeat each monster in a 1-0n-1 battler to move on to the next level. Sounds pretty simple, and it is at first. The first two enemies are practically a cakewalk once you get the controls down. To defeat your enemy, you must deplete their health bar until it reads “Finish.” That’s when you hit them with a Level 4 laser blast! Level 4 laser blast?! What’s that?!

This is the “Glass Joe” fight.

You see that meter in the middle there? That meter will charge up as the fight goes on. You can use your laser at any point during the fight, but it resets the charge. Only a level 4 will finish your enemy off, however, so you won’t want to use it late in a fight when his health is low, rather than reading “Finish.” One thing that got me a couple times is your health and your enemy’s health will both slowly recharge if neither get hit for a while. During my playthrough, my enemy would have a meter reading “Finish” only for my Level 4 laser blast to reach him just as he recovered a sliver of health. This caused him to not die, but merely get knocked back down to “Finish.” It was quite frustrating.

I saw something similar to the above quite often because of it.

This game strangely has more in common with Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out than another side-view fighting game. The timing and strategy required to avoid enemy attacks and get hits in requires you to be focused quite a bit. Mashing buttons will get you nowhere fast, especially after the first two guys. The problem with this though is sometimes your timing needs to be somewhere in the neighborhood of perfect.

I don’t see what nice houses has to do with this game’s controls.

Example: When your enemy fires a laser of their own (because that’s what giant Japanese lizard monsters do) you cannot avoid it by jumping or ducking. You will get hit and you will get laughed at. You must perform AN ACTION BACKFLIP or AN ACTION SOMERSAULT! This is done by pressing down and left or down and right depending on the direction you are facing. Sounds easy enough, right? Like I said, timing on this is everything. More often than not, you will dodge most of the laser, then get hit by the tail end of it when you snap back up. It was quite frustrating.

I saw something similar to the above quite often because of it.

Whoa, deja vu.

Verdict: BARGAIN BIN

The game gets progressively harder as you go on, as it should. The problem is how difficult it gets. It is not an easy game. Perfect timing, the flawed laser/finish system, and the fact that some enemies move WAY faster than you do keep it from feeling fair. I’ve said many times in the past about other games that I felt that the difficulty of a game was because of my lack of skill and that I could become better with practice. Here I feel it’s because of how imbalanced some fights can be. I can’t describe the anger I felt when I finally got an enemy down to “Finish” in a close fight where I’m almost finished myself, only for my L4 laser blast tink off the sliver of health he’d recovered as the blast traveled towards him. This was a game I really wanted to like because it showed so much promise early on, but later levels proved to be an exercise in frustration.

Again, what do difficult workouts have to do with this game?

Ultraman is getting deported back to Japan! Migrate on over to the land of Facebook and Twitter and tell me how lame the jokes in this article were!

Folks, I ran into a bit of a problem a few months ago. You see, during one trip out looking for games for the blog, I ended up buying several Game Boy games. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but this was after I had already done a few Game Boy articles. I couldn’t help it! I love Game Boy games! Since I already had a backlog of other games as it was, I decided to lump these games together into a GAAAAAAAAMMME BOYYYYYYYYY SPECIALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
(If I knew Photoshop, I’d put a fancy “Game Boy Special” logo here. But I don’t so… pretend?)

So, for each one of these, I’ll do the usual Release Date, Rarity, Price, and Location Purchased (not System because… well… Game Boy Special) and I won’t go too in depth with them for the sake of brevity. I got like 5 of these. It would take forever. People don’t read this because they got a lot of time on their hands. They read it because I bug them about it until they do.

Anyway…

Mole Mania (now available on the 3DS eShop)

Release Date: February 1997

Rarity: 28%

Price/Location: $2.99/Play-N-Trade

I actually purchased this about 2 or 3 weeks before it was released on the eShop. I was very surprised to find out who made this game. Judging by the cartridge, I could tell this was at least published by Nintendo, hence why I picked it up. I had never heard of this game. BUT! This game was developed by Nintendo. As in… SHIGERU MIYAMOTO HIMSELF WORKED ON THIS GAME! The guy who created Mario! How in the heck did I never hear of this game? It’s a pretty interesting action-puzzle game. You go in and out of the ground to avoid obstacles and enemies while moving from room-to-room. It’s a fun game, some solutions will make you scratch your head, and if you don’t have a Game Boy, it’s available for download on the eShop!

Verdict: HIGH FIVE

WWF Betrayal

Release Date: August 7th, 2001

Rarity: 19%

Price/Location: $2.99/Play-N-Trade

This game sucks.

Verdict: BARGAIN BIN

TMNT II: Back From the Sewer

Release Date: December 1st, 1991

Rarity: 34%

Price/Location: $2.99/Play-N-Trade

This is the sequel to the TMNT game I did wayyyyyy back in Episode 6. Remember that? Remember how awesome I said it was? This one is just as good! This one doesn’t have the level select like the 1st one did, but it does have a similar character select to the original NES “classic.” You can’t switch turtles on the fly, but you can switch after each level with their current amount of health remaining intact. So if you switch out Mike for Donatello, and he only has 1 bar of health, he’ll have 1 bar of health when you use him later. My only complaint about this game is the walking animations for the turtles. They walk like a little kid who has to pee walking on his tip-toes to the bathroom so he doesn’t wake his parents. Otherwise, the game is just as good as the 1st one, maybe slightly better because of the slightly varied levels (auto-scrolling skateboard level!).

Verdict: HIGH FIVE

Mercenary Force

Release Date: October 1990

Rarity: 22%

Price/Location: $0.99/Gaming Warehouse (Grandville)

This was an interesting looking game. I had never heard of the developer (Meldac) or the developer (Live Planning), but they came together to create a pretty fun game. You start by purchasing from a selection of 5 characters with your starting pool of money. Some mercenaries cost more than others, so you’ll have to spend wisely. Then you go out into the field. It plays similar to a side-scrolling shooter like R-Type. Each merc has their own shooting pattern. Some shoot straight, some shoot diagonally, some shoot straight up-and-down. You’ll have to strategies your hiring of these guys to maximize your bullet spread. You can collect money throughout the level to re-purchase a merc, should you lose any. This game can be quite difficult, but it doesn’t come from cheapness. I felt this game could be winnable with skill building. A very surprisingly good game.

Verdict: HIGH FIVE

Power Quest

Release Date: December 1998

Rarity: 26%

Price/Location: $4.99/Play-N-Trade

I thought this was a cool looking game, so I took a chance on it. Kinda glad I did. It’s a fighting/RPG hybrid. It takes place in the near future (I guess) where “modelling” is all the rage. “Models” are what they call these R/C robots they fight with, so “modelling” is what they call the act of fighting with them. Kinda weird, but whatever, the fighting is really not bad for a Game Boy game. The controls are simple, but hard to master. It’s kind of like the Othello of Game Boy robot fighting games. BUT! It’s got a crappy password system. It’s not quite as bad as the one in Guardian Legend, but for a game released at the end of 1998, there’s no reason why it couldn’t have battery backup.

Verdict: HIGH FIVE

Yay! That clears out my backlog of Game Boy games! Like the page at Facebook or follow on Twitter! Thanks for reading!

There are many moments as gamers where we look back on our gaming achievements and say “That was awesome!” I looked back at my past and came up with 5 moments (because I’m the Five Dollar Gamer and Top 5 just seemed right) that I felt were defining moments in my gaming life. Numbers 2-5 are in no definite order, but #1 is there for a reason. So with that said:

#5- Getting My 1st Game Boy

We had an NES in the house since before I was born, but the Game Boy, along with Home Alone and Wheel of Fortune, were the 1st video game presents I requested. This was for my 4th birthday. This was the first video game anything that I could call my very own. This Game Boy, moreso than the NES we already had, sent me down a path of spending most of my waking moments as a youth in front of a TV screen gaming, that would eventually spill into adulthood and I would never recover from.

#4- The Halo 2 LAN Party

This was a night to remember. 4 Xboxes, 4 copies of Halo 2, 16 friends, 1 house. I had only played Halo 2 a few times before this particular night and I didn’t have an Xbox of my own, but I included this on my list because of the pure fun I had on that night. This wasn’t a “get drunk and play video games” kind of LAN party. This was a soda, chips, yelling, and laughing kind of night. We wired all of the Xboxes to each other in different rooms of a friend’s house and huddled 4 people together on each TV. I remember vividly our gracious host shouting obscenities from the other room, his little brother going into the negative point totals for teamkilling, only to come back and win the match, and the prank phone calls we made during one break. My friends may not look back on this one as fondly as I do, but for me, this was probably the last pure, innocent night of gaming goodness before we hit legal drinking age.

#3- When I First Stayed Up Late To Play Video Games

Oh boy, this was a fun night. I’m almost certain this was the summer of 1996. I was 9… probably… (Let’s see… May 1987… summer of ’96… yeah, 9-years-old). The person who would eventually become my stepbrother and I stayed up until 5 AM playing NES games, including a 4-hour Blades of Steel marathon. As a sign of things to come later in life, I had to be up at 7 AM that morning to leave for vacation. Yes, a 2-hour turnaround between between falling asleep and getting up to travel 6 hours in a car. Not good news for a 9-year-old. Although my gaming sessions these days don’t reach near what they did that night or what they did the following years, there was something about this night that prepared me for what was to come.

#2- Playing Super Mario 64

Holy cow, did this game blow my mind! I remember the first time I played it was the 1st day of 5th Grade. I finally got my Nintendo 64 hooked up for the 1st time that morning before catching my bus. I managed to get the 1st star before having to rush out the door, but I was enthralled. On this particular start of the school year, I was starting at a completely different school and I didn’t know a single person. But making friends was not on my mind that day. Getting back home and playing more Super Mario 64 was priority numero uno. The reason this is on this list is because just how different it was from any other game I have ever played. I was exclusively a Nintendo gamer at this time and Super Mario 64 was my introduction to 3D graphics and gameplay. This huge jump in the way I played games was almost magical to my 10-year-old brain. I’m sure everyone felt somewhat similar to how I did when playing this game for the first time, but for me, it was my introduction to a whole new world of gaming.

#1- Getting Over My Fear of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

“Oh hey, Five Dollar Gamer, that’s an awesome choice for your number… wait, what?!”

Yes, it is true. For the longest time, I was deathly afraid of the picture of Mike Tyson at the beginning of Punch-Out!! It scared me s***less and gave me nightmares. The white, soulless eyes. The evil grin. AAAAAAGH! My friend’s older brother was well aware of my fear of it and would use it as a tool to prank me. It was not fun times for me. I avoided the game like the plague until I was a bit older. When I was in 8th Grade I found the game in my closet. It was the only game to survive the Great “Holy Cow, All My NES Games Got Stolen” Caper of 2000. I decided to take a chance and see if I was still scared of Mr. Tyson’s 8-bit digitized image. Could I handle at 14, what I couldn’t since age 4? Well, not only did I find the picture of Tyson HILARIOUS because of his missing teeth, I discovered what would eventually become one of my favorite games of all-time. We sat there for hours discovering the deep strategies and patterns for each boxer and working our way up the WVBA rankings. The reason I put this at #1 is the sheer turnaround in regards to the esteem in which I held this game. In mere minutes I went from thinking this game was the spawn of Satan to becoming a classic. It remains as the only NES game I still have in my collection that I had as a youth. The very same cart. It has never left my possession. I have re-purchased most of the games that were stolen from me, but I still have the same exact cartridge that I had when I was deathly afraid of it. For that reason, I have some sort of weird bond with it, and it’s why getting over my fear of it and my subsequent adoration for it, is my #1 personal gaming moment.

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System: Nintendo 64

Release Date: February 10th, 1999

Rarity: 47%

Price/Location: $3.99/Gaming Warehouse (Grandville)

I love racing games. Whether it’s more of a simulation like Forza Motorsport or more cartoony like Mario Kart, the racing genre has been one I’ve always held near and dear to my heart. It’s also the genre I tend to be the most picky with. Why do I like Forza over Gran Turismo when they’re essentially the same game? I don’t know, because… ummmm… ahhh…

Here’s hoping your ADD kicks in right now and you forget about that question.

So Penny Racers is one of those games I always looked at and went “Huh. I like racing games. This is a racing game. It’s even got ‘Racers’ in the title! And those cars are so cute! How bad can this game be?” As with every other game, I bought this one used and it caused me a little trouble at the start. You see, as I started playing the game, I noticed a distinct lack of music. The sound effects, although slightly annoying, were perfectly functional. My first thought was “What kind of cheap-ass game is this with no music? Was there seriously no money in the budget for a sound composer?” Where was the music?!

 

Listen, it’s not like I’m asking for this guy. Just get me SOME music.

Well, I found my music… in the options menu… that I failed to go through… like I normally do with a new game. Looks like the previous owner didn’t like the music in this game. I don’t see why. While it’s no Mario Kart, it’s hardly grating. If anything, the sound effects should have been turned off. So enough about the music, what of the game? Well, for starters, the game… certainly looks like a Nintendo 64 game: a slightly fuzzy, colorful, polygonal assortment of graphics. The controls aren’t bad. It’s certainly playable. There are a few issues I have with the gameplay though. Bumping into another car, is like running into this:

It’s like you’re racing against 5 of these.

It seems almost unavoidable when rounding corners. Merely bumping another racer can send you from 1st to last. Equally as frustrating was navigating the menus. When you come in the top 3, you get to steal a part from someone in the bottom 3. A fine idea that you don’t really see much in games today. The problem comes when trying to equip your new item. The menu system is just so confusing and item installation is located in the settings menu. Just imagine you’re playing Call of Duty and to equip your new weapon you just unlocked, you had to back out of your game, go into the options menu, select settings, and all of a sudden you’re presented with the option to equip your gun. This is like if you had a frozen pizza and you had to walk through your bathroom to put it in the oven located in your garage.

GET OUT! YOU DON’T BELONG THERE!

Unfortunately it appears a memory card is required to save any parts you earn. Weird, because it appears track times are saved on the game cart itself. I lost what little progress I made by turning the system off. Ahh well.

Verdict: BARGAIN BIN

Maybe it’s because I really am picky, but I had a hard time getting into this game. The environments, while colorful, also manage to be quite bland. What a feat. The game is kind of easy, but as stated before, one bump into another racer is the difference between winning and finishing dead last. The part swapping is cool, but the odd placement of the menu to do so lessens the coolness by a significant factor. Why part swapping had to be buried in the settings menu instead of being given its own menu is beyond me. I can’t really recommend this game, but it’s not completely terrible. Enjoy at your own risk.

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