Category Archives: retrogaming

Final Fantasy II

Is this really a Final Fantasy game?

Sure, we’re introduced to such FF staples as Cid, chocobos, and dragoons, but where’s the confusing plot? Where’s the XP system? A very different feel from the first.

And then there’s the trick ending. Last night I spent altogether too much time running the the final double-dungeon only to find that defeating the undead emperor is impossible. I’m doing 200 damage a turn and he’s healing in the thousands with a move that both heals him and one-shots one of my guys.

Over to gamefaqs for some guidance, only to find that a sword which is otherwise completely useless is pretty much the only thing that can kill him. No indication given in-game that you’re supposed to hold on to this thing. Jeepers.

I whomped every baddie on my way to the boss, so grinding wasn’t the problem. So, what were the devs going for here? Keep every weapon, then try them one at a time as you die over and over again without being able to save. Or switch weapons midfight. Is that really the experience they wanted the player to have?

So, yeah, I watched the end on youtube. Screw that nonsense.

This game is grinder’s delight. Any character can learn anything you want — just keep ’em using axes, for example, and they’ll get good at axes. Since I was going for a plot play-through, this forced me to focus my guys on specific skills early on so they could keep doing damage at higher levels. But, if you like a lot of flexibility to customize your guys, you could make some fun combos.

On to III!

On The 7th Guest

A lot of folks read books during vacation. I played The 7th Guest.

I missed this game when it came out in ’93. This was the midst of the dark time of my gaming experience from late high school through college. Fortunately, the cash-printing iOS machines are bringing all kinds of old games out of the drawer.

So how does it hold up?

This game is essentially a series of puzzles strung together by a loose plotline. I don’t think anyone would claim that The 7th Guest revolutionized puzzle gaming, but the chess moves and mazes aren’t really the point. This game is creepy.

The reward for solving the puzzles is movement through the world of the house. Not trophies or harder enemies. Weird, disturbing sights and sounds conveying the story of a group of people trapped by a madman and set to a dark task. From this standpoint, assuming that the intent of the game was to present an interactive experience which put the player in the central role of a horror plotline and scare the hell out of him or her, The 7th Guest holds up better than I would have expected.

Retrogaming – Super Mario Bros. Crossover

By all that is holy, go and play this game. It’s Super Mario Brothers, but featuring a cast of NES greats. Play as Samus, Simon Belmont, Mega Man, the dudes from Contra etc.

Cool idea, right? Run around the Mushroom Kingdom as various characters. Maybe a ten minute thing, right? Once the nostalgia is over?

Nope. I settled in and played this thing to death over several nights. Here’s what keeps you coming back:

  • Choose. Will the screw attack work better than the spread gun here? What if I just scale the wall and get above everything? The characters have their strengths, and picking the right hero for the task makes for some cool gameplay.
  • Gear Up. Forget the Fire Flower. In place of the existing powerups have been left the various weapons of each character for your discovery and use. Double boomerang? Yes please.
  • Cheat. Nevermind the whole ‘achievements to show off to your friends’ thing. How abotu achievements which unlock new ways to play? Cheats which can be used to make the game easier, and unlock more cheats?

This game was definitely built by people who love games and know how to make them replayable. So go check it.

Revolution ’76 for the Apple IIGS

And while we’re on the topic of interactive fiction set in the American Revolution, let’s not forget Revolution ’76.

I would love to see the code for this old Apple IIGS game. The number of variables tracked must be of the mind-boggling variety. Patriotism level by region. Foreign support by country based on military successes, the skill of the diplomat, and general lovel of diplomacy. Combat success based on the general’s leadership, skill, and popularity mixed with supply level, morale, and who knows what else.

Revolution ’76 needs the App treatment. It’s one-button gaming, and would do well with the coffee-break gamer.

But we’ve got to do something about the difficulty. Sure, you want to get across that it was pretty hard to unshackle the US from the UK, but come on. 15K to 30K more troops sent across the pond every turn? How am I supposed to combat that? Like most IF, you’ve got to go back and try different approaches, but you’ve got to give me more to go on here. 

For example. Britain atacks Boston with 5,000 troops.

  • Which general do I use to defend it? Lets’s go with the capable Benedict Arnold. 
  • How many Regulars can I get there? Well, that depends on how many you recruited in the last phase. And remember, if you set quotas, the people might riot.
  • How many militia will be there? See above.
  • How we doin’ on supplies? Guess that depends on your tax rate, and whether or not you sent the right diplomat to the right country to ask for support.

And after all that, there appears to be an element of the random built in. WHY DO YOU HATE ME, BRITANNIA SOFTWARE?

Play it here, if you’ve got the minerals.

Simon’s Quest – Retrogame Review

I found myself in a debate recently about which of the NES Castlevania series is the best. Yes, it gets like that sometimes. One person insisted that 2 was superior to the others. The last time I had played that game was when it was first released, and I had finished it in less than a day. My memories of it were of the “meh” variety.

Worth a replay, yes?

Now, I’m guessing that I had the Nintendo Power mag (pictured right), because I just don’t see how I could have beaten this beast without some tips. What the hell are these crystals for? How do I know when to use the garlic to reveal hidden helpers? And just where am I, anyway?

Simon’s Quest took the action RPG genre several steps forward. The linear whip-and-slash of the first was gone, replaced by an open world approach. Feel free to gad about talking to people as much as you like, searching for clues about how to break this curse you’ve gone and gotten all over yourself. If you’re up for a little retrogame action, aren’t ashamed to use gamefaqs,com, and have a few hours, load ‘er up.

The Thing for the PS2

Yes, the obsession continues.

I played through the majority of the PS2 The Thing, which set itself up as a sequel to the movie. Two things worth mention:

From a plot standpoint, this game went the route of Aliens and gave the government/some corporation/some mad scientist dude the brilliant idea of taking this highly-dangerous being and studying it for purposes of evil war stuff. So, once again we have the ‘better not let this thing get to the mainland’ conflict. In truth, it just gave an excuse to blow shit up. Which is fine, I guess.

The gameplay is more-or-less Goldeneye, but with the addition of some basic squad management with a decidedly Thing twist. As you come across fellow survivors, you have no idea if they are actually human or not. Same goes for them – and if they don’t trust you you can forget about getting any help.  Or, you know, they might explode into gory creepos and kill you. The NPCs will also become more and more freaked out as they witness crazy alien stuff, eventually collapsing into breakdowns if you don’t keep their spirits up. Fear and trust – two of the main emotional elements of the movie. So, good job there — though I would have preferred more of it.

And at the end, MacReady’s still alive.  What?