Mechwarrior (SNES)

It’s not a giant Galactus tiara so a grognard has assuredly written a sternly worded treatise about this image’s canonicity. The pilot better be wearing an 80s thong bikini bottom or else!

Game Name: Mechwarrior (SNES version, 1993)
Developer: Beam Software
Platform: SNES (reviewed on SNES emulator)
Categories: Remake of the 1989 release – Not a Port, Battletech Inspired, FPS Mech Sim, Merc Contracts, Objective Variety, 50+ Missions, Performance Rewards, Revenge Plot, Heavy Customization, Punishing Difficulty, Auditory Mess, Flashy Sprites/Effects, 3D Battles on a Flat Map, Open Arenas, Clunky Controls, RPG-Style Intermissions, Quirky Characters, Immersive World, Surprisingly Cyberpunk for this Universe

May Appeal To: Battletech diehards, Shadowrun junkies, just plain ol’ SNES owners
May Repulse: PC owners and people with discretionary gaming options

Comparable To: the hideous bot design and coloring found in Rise Of The Robots, the seedy bar sequences with mysterious characters like in various Shadowrun incarnations, “Tank! Tank! Tank!” without special abilities and you’re the sole target. But I found the largest similarities with the classic action of Battlezone – if you could blow off enemy limbs. This has less mission complexity than Mechwarrior 2, less everything than Mechwarrior 3, and more personality than Mechwarrior 4.

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Mechwarrior 3050

I half expect to see some scrawny farm kid run by with an anthropomorphic frog in his backpack.

Game Name: Mechwarrior 3050 (1994)
Developer: Tiburon Entertainment (Soviet Strike, Nuclear Strike, Madden NFL)
Platform: Sega Genesis, SNES (reviewed on a SNES emulator)
Categories: Stompy Mech Combat, One Man Army, 3/4 Isometric Perspective, Customized Loadouts, Nuanced Attack Patterns, Precision Bullet Counting, Bullet Hell, Hard as Hell, Hella Satisfying, Niche Gaming, Finicky Controls, Few Missions, Exceptional Animations/Graphics, Repeat Play Experimentation, Weird “Multiplayer”, Laudable Cheats, and Level Completion Codes

May Appeal To: Battletech grognards, practical mecha fans, battlebot audiences, spec ops military commandos, ammo conservationists, holistic enjoyment gamers
May Repulse: Battletech grognards, Gundam-style mecha fans, conventional military theorists, run-and-gunners, spray-and-prayers, nitpickers

Comparable To: …. Jungle Strike. This game is positively a mech-ridden, slow paced Jungle Strike but with varied loadouts and a hefty boost to the enemy count. The “authentic” ground-pounding feel of Armored Core is alive and well but with more numerous enemies. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is Dynasty Warriors: Gundam swarms of enemies and projectiles but there is a definable bullet hell element to the game at its pinnacle, up there with the entry levels to a classic alternative take on WWII like the 1945 arcade title. Strangely enough, I frequently remembered the ammunition conservation like the true “survival” games in the Resident Evil series. Finally, the lop-sided power in taking down so many tanks, helicopters, hovercraft, turrets, and a sprinkling of mechs is iconic to the Mechwarrior series, primarily MW3/MW4 and Mech Assault . Mechwarrior 3050 was the second game with “Mechwarrior” in the title but made huge improvements to the aesthetics, mechanics, pacing, and fun of the original.

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Castlevania

Contrary to Konami developers, this castle’s architects had no idea what they were doing.

Game Name: Castlevania (1986)
Developer: Konami (Gyrus, Gradius, Contra)
Platform: Family Computer Disk System (original), NES, Arcade, C64, Amiga, MS-DOS, Windows, Game Boy Advance, Mobile Phones, Nintendo DS, MSX2, Atari 2600  (reviewed on NES emulation)
Categories: NES Classic, Side Scrolling Platformer, Pitfalls, Power-Ups, Meticulous Level Design, Multi-Stage, Catchy Soundtrack, Medieval Castle Dungeon, Delayed Player Input, Life Bar, Hidden Items, One-Hit Minions, Vampires and Universal Movie Monsters, Overlapping Enemy Patterns, Infinite Tries, No Saves, Punishing Difficulty

May Appeal To: leather wearers, 17th century tailors, S&M enthusiasts, lion tamers, and those that chow down on pork chops discovered in the very walls of gothic castles.
May Repulse: sun shunners, neck biters, atheists, anti-reflectionists, those with a garlic allergy, and anyone requiring explicit permission to enter a domicile or who felt compelled to cart a coffin of dirt from their country of origin.

Comparable To: its descendants. Castlevania II has inferior design, pacing, art direction, music, and level layout. Symphony Of The Night empowers the player instead of crippling them, though it showcased a complex map and bestowed personality upon the very environment with attractive sprites and surprises. Castlevania 64 reeks of the early push to convert popular side-scrolling platformers into 3D, low-poly, shitty-camera shadows of their former selves. Lament Of Innocence and Curse Of Darkness successfully hone this newer perspective, added more to the strategic RPG experience with customizable summons or inventory management, and offer spatial reasoning challenges as well as a new focus on exploration. Portrait of Ruin was considerably easier for me, though the loads of maps and the dual-character system prove to be fun, diversionary mechanics in hindsight.

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Rampage

“Cut out that racket. I’m trying to FISH.” – Man with a mermaid  in his boat.

Game Name: Rampage (1986)
Developer: Bally Midway (Mortal Kombat, Cruis’n USA, Spy Hunter)
Platform: Arcade, Sega Master System, NES, Atari Lynx, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, C64, Amiga, Atari ST, Atari 260 (reviewed on an NES emulator)
Categories: Arcade Port, 2D Side View, No Scrolling, Giant Monsters, Button Masher, City Smasher, Tank Trasher, High Scores, Infinite Lives, Multiplayer (co-op/competitive hybrid), 100+ Levels, No Saves, Great Localization, Bad Ending

May Appeal To: Godzilla fans…. excuse me “Gojira” fans, King Kongers, social gamers, digital marathoners, Americana tourists, home-grown 80’s nostalgic terrorists.
May Repulse: PETA, irresponsible corporations, challenge seekers, soloists, arcade diehards, cartographers, city planners, and members of the organized armed forces.

Comparable To: an early proof-of-concept for Smash Brothers, baby’s first Primal Rage, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters but with expressive characterizations. Lastly, let’s throw in GTA’s wanton abandonment of social mores in a city setting. Continue reading

Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge

I don’t…. I mean….. How is…. Alright fine, whatever.

Game Name: Wizardy VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990)
Developer: Sir-Tech (Jagged Alliance 2, Wizardry 8, Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs)
Platform: AmigaOS, MS-DOS, SNES, Mac OS, NEC PC-9801 and FM Towns according to Wikipedia, whatever those are (reviewed on PC via DOSBox)
Categories: 1st Person Dungeon Crawler, Custom 6 Person Humanoid Team, Old Skool Fantasy RPG, Movement Grid, Turn-Based Battles, Vendors/NPCs, Deep Spell System, Sprawling Labyrinthine Locales, Dialogue via Word Parser, Traps and Loot, Punishing Difficulty, Archaic Presentation, DIY Mapping, DIY Quest Notes/Tracking, DIY Item Juggling and Stat Cataloguing, Multiple Classes, Multiple Endings (sort of)

May Appeal To: senior citizens, codgers, curators, dinosaurs, dotards, fogeys, fossils, geezers, grandfathers, greybeards, old timers, patriarchs, and those with an unusually severe computer budget. I’m kidding around but this game is really showing its age.
The cartography is quaint and amusing while epic completionists looking to export their party across the Dark Savant trilogy will want to start here.
May Repulse: anyone with eyeballs, ear holes, or sensibilities. Wizardry 6 lacks post-90s conventions and by no means should be played on its own without ulterior motive.

Comparable To: the overall feel of Wizardry 7, Bard’s Tale, and The Dark Spire. Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land, Strange Journey, and the Etrian Odyssey series are all superior versions of the same style of grid-based first-person dungeon crawling. Wizardry 8 and Legend of Grimrock take obvious cues from Wizardry 6 though have splintered off in considerably different directions. I couldn’t help but think of King’s Field and Shadow Tower as being inspired by this game despite a lack of similarities. Continue reading