Saturday, July 31, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Ninja Spirit

Retro Game of the Day! Ninja Spirit

Ninja Spirit by Irem for the TurboGrafx-16, released in the arcade in 1988 and a year later to the console.

Ninja Spirit was an early TG-16 title, part of a very aggressive campaign to show the world what the next-generation systems were capable of. Another ninja platformer, of course, but this one was so well put-together and so fluidly executed, that it was hard to defend against their argument.

Very clearly designed to take on the likes of Sega's Revenge of Shinobi and Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden series, this game pulled no punches in its hardcore presentation and slick play control. The game wasn't perfect, but the aesthetic was spot-on and the powerful feeling you got from hacking, jumping, and slashing was unlike anything else available at the time. Ninja Spirit was a keeper.

The game deviated from it's rivals with a limited amount of powerups, small characters, and Feudal presentation (the other games tended to bleed more towards the sci-fi/fantastic). Ninja Spirit was by no means realistic, but it's world was a lot more "sepia-toned" and moody than its rivals.

The game scored quite well with critics and was a favorite for most players who got their hands on it - unfortunately, it came and went with little marketing fanfare (on an unsuccessful console, to boot) and the franchise was never given more of a chance to be flushed out. True to its source material, Ninja Spirit attacked stealthily and skillfully, leaving a dramatic impression but retreating silently into the night, no trace left behind.

The game is still challenging and remarkable to behold. It may be a shame that it has been lost to history, but that doesn't mean the game can't hold up to the best of today's side-scrolling action fare. Give this game a second look, you won't regret it!

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Free iPhone games!

There's tons of great, free games for your iPhone (temporarily) available today.
Go grab them while you can!

Brought to you by our iPhone game 180 ($0.99, Limited Time Sale). Pick it up now!

"180 is worth checking out for its cool flip gimmick and robust challenge" -

"Controls are both well balanced and extremely slick" -

"all iPhone owners should give 180 a try, 5/5" -

"For the price, I highly recommend this game" -

Hardcore Gameplay video (YouTube)

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Retro Game of the Day! Batman Returns (SNES)

Retro Game of the Day! Batman Returns (SNES)

Sigh. Another day, another Batman video game! Seems like every week I am reviewing another one. Today's fodder is Batman Returns for the Super Nintendo, 1993 release.

Batman Returns was a strange film. It was a followup to the breakthrough 1989 release (also a strange film), which re-invigorated/cemented the importance of Big Budget Superhero Flicks in American culture. Naturally, a tidal wave of merchandising followed suit, and so too with the sequel.
Japanese developer Sunsoft held the rights for the 1st round of Batman console games, and they did an admirable job with their efforts both in 8-bit and 16-bit incarnations. When it came time to divvy up the rights for the next film, WB decided it was Konami's turn (among other houses) to take up the Mantle of the Bat.

And so with this new heavy-duty license, Konami set out to make a Batman game which would not only be very beefed-up with some heavy tech (this is one of the more detailed, gorgeously rendered titles on the console), they also decided to make it very trendy. Many of the previous Batman games were side-scrolling platformer games. Konami decided to shoehorn the whole affair into the then-popular Final Fight playstyle. Large detailed characters, have it out with a few enemies at a time, deplete their health, knock out a couple of flashy supermoves, face down a boss, repeat until game over.

It came off very well. Even for an already-tired scheme, Batman Returns was a looker and clearly a labor of love. They did very good work with the subject matter and it seemed as if the SNES had another clear winner in their stable. Unfortunately, being trendy won't necessarily win you a spot in the history books. Looking back at the game now - aesthetics aside - it feels quite flat and empty, with some half-baked 3D driving sequences thrown in for good measure. Even today, BR is a nice beat'em-up and it's fun for a couple of rounds, but there's so many examples of this style of game (and enough of them which support multiple players) that it is hard to recommend this one as above average. A shame, as they clearly set out to make a game which should have dominated the legacy of this franchise from that period - but lazy design cuts it down at the end of the day. Stick with the platformers!

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Skate or Die: Bad 'N Rad

Retro Game of the Day! Skate or Die: Bad 'n Rad

Skate or Die: Bad 'N Rad by Konami for the GameBoy, released in 1991.

Skate or Die was a very popular skateboarding game for consoles and computers in the 1980s. Konami acquired the rights to port the EA original on the console - and when it proved to be a hit, they developed some of their own follow-up titles in-house, which had little to do with the original. Milking the name of the franchise essentially, which is something that has happened once or twice in the videogame industry.

And so, with that we have Bad 'n Rad. A memorable name is was probably devised to sound appealing to the punk skater culture, which would probably have eschewed it because of that if they'd ever acknowledged this game even existed. Bad 'n Rad was not really very true to skating just like it was not very true to the original Skate or Die. It's an action title, dressed up somewhat in skater clothing. Does this make for a good game?

A game like this will certainly polarize an audience for several reasons, but considering this plays something like "Skate or Die meets Castlevania GB,"it certainly makes for an interesting and enjoyable experience. To be honest, in some ways it feels like they took a theme and piped it through "generic platformer formula #37-B," but considering who was behind the wheel, the job turned out pretty decent. Unique in this game is that you are not merely walking to the right, you are continuously skating and must ride and dodge appropriately. Features such as stating-stage select, top-down platforming levels, and even boss fights help to solidify the experience.

Bad 'n Rad is a forgotten GameBoy title which is actually a nice little find. It's got some issues (short, controls are a bit funky) but the game holds up well considering.

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! BlazeOn

Retro Game of the Day! BlazeOn

BlaZeon by Atlus, released for the SNES in 1992.

BlaZeon was a horizontally scrolling shooter. This is where most reviews of this game end; it released during a time when a good hundred shooters would release inside of a month, still this one was special? Really?

It's true! Other than having a name that sounded like it was a rally cry for stoners, BlaZeon did have a rather fresh gimmick. Other games such as Gaiares and Zero Wing went to lengths to let the player steal the enemies' weapons systems. BlaZeon let you steal the actual enemy. That;s right.. your ship would actually morph into the captured enemy ship.

This was a neat trick, and especially considering the period, quiet novel. Added to the fresh publisher and sharp graphics, BlaZeon seemed like it should be due for some notice; however, the game leaned a little too heavily on its gimmick and never rose beyond the mediocrity and inexperience which spawned it.

Still, BlaZeon has some redeeming qualities, and for the seasoned "shmup" player, the ability to shift form so absolutely is something that's not really been done so much (perhaps for good reason!) A little on the bland side now, but when it was released, this game raised a couple of eyebrows. Those who are partial to the genre would do well to play around with this unusual concept!

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Snail Maze

Retro Game of the Day! Snail Maze

Snail Maze by Sega, released as a pack-in (as packed-in as you could get it!) with the Sega Master System, in 1986.

This was an unusual surprise for SMS owners. Back in the 80s, you didn't get much "out of the box" with a console purchase. Usually a pack-in game or two, and the game was usually fairly decent - still, any bonus was always a treat (and a "secret hidden bonus" was all the better!)

Snail Maze was actually coded right into the system BIOS. If you booted your SMS with no cartridge inside, held up on the D-Pad and buttons 1 and 2, then you'd launch a simple little maze game starring a (rather speedy) little snail. It was no-frills, kind of laughable to look at, but instantly a pickup of the game revealed that it was no pushover. There's likely a reason there haven't been many maze game releases on consoles, and for that reason this one stands apart.

A cute little extra, SMS owners felt special for having an added bonus built right into their console! It's somewhat surprising that this sort of thing hasn't been done more often. When Sega released the Mark II SMS, they removed snail and programmed Alex Kidd in there instead (and made sure to mention it right on the box).

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)