Monday, June 2, 2014

Tonight, on Wings! (Kid Icarus and four Super NES finds)

I just watched an episode of Kill La Kill. Boy, that sure was an anime. It sure was...

Anyway! I thought I'd bring a few things to your attention. Firsties, Yumi's Odd Odyssey, the very first Umihara Kawase game to hit the United States, is now just twenty dollars on Nintendo's eShop. You'd better bite quickly, though, because the price will shoot back up to its usual thirty clams after June 15th. Thanks to the always awesome Tiny Cartridge for that news.

Your eyes in the sky.
(image provided by The Guardian)
Speaking of the 3DS, I snagged a copy of Kid Icarus Uprising on clearance from K(rap)-Mart a few days ago. Reviewers have made a fuss about the awkward control, and it is a bit of a kludge, but I can still say without a moment's hesitation that it's a hundred times better and more polished than the original game on the NES. Frankly, you'd have a hard time noticing the family resemblance if it weren't for the familiar characters, including an older, more likeable Pit. Rather than a confused platformer with an instantly fatal bottomless pit swallowing up the scenery (GRR!), Kid Icarus Uprising is split evenly between on-rails shooting (think Panzer Dragoon but without all the welts from the ugly stick) and a free-roaming action game with ranged and melee attacks. The closest comparison I could make is to Treasure's oft-ignored Sin and Punishment series, but even that's not quite accurate because you've got a lot more control over where Pit goes after he lands. 

One thing I can say with confidence is that the game is the prettiest thing you're likely to find on the 3DS. The aerial scenes bring back fond memories of the panoramic skylines in the laserdisc game M.A.C.H. 3, except these are rendered in real time. And on a handheld, no less! I haven't played much of Uprising yet, but what I've seen so far has me thinking that twenty bucks was well-spent.

Okay, there's one other thing before I go. I managed to find four Super NES games at a local pawn shop. Only one of them was valuable from a collector's standpoint, but they're all precious to me because 16-bit games without chubby sportscasters on the front have gotten incredibly tough to find. Here now for your reading pleasure are brief reviews of all four of these titles...


You shall buy this stationary plastic
demon, or I will curse thee to the end
of time!
Released later in the life of the Super NES but nevertheless worth about a handful of magic beans online, Super Pinball is the first in KAZe's series of slavishly realistic pinball simulations. Don't expect dragons or aliens to come to life here... Super Pinball is according to Hoyle all the way, with authentic ball physics, an angled perspective, and a simulated LED display. There are three tables available, with Wizard being the most attractive and entertaining of the lot. However, no matter how you play it, Super Pinball is pretty dull next to more adventurous pinball games like Devil's Crush. It's also hobbled by the relatively low resolution of the Super NES, a situation that would later be rectified in the sequels on the Sega Saturn. Digital Pinball: Necronomicon in particular used a special, often neglected high-res mode, making the graphics incredibly sharp compared to other Saturn games.


There's so much nostalgia attached to this one! I used to play it at a bowling alley with a similarly game-obsessed friend, then played it at his house when the Super NES was launched in the United States. However, when you strip away those fond memories and some beautiful, vibrantly colored visuals, and Joe and Mac is just an ordinary platformer with a prehistoric setting. You collect stone-aged weapons, ride pterodactyls, and club screen-filling, meat-eating dinosaurs into submission, all while hoping nobody notices the anachronism of ancient man living with creatures from the Jurassic period. A teensy bit of depth was added in the form of a world map and bonus stages, but past that it's the same brainless action game you dropped quarters into at the arcade. There was also a Genesis version which was technically more faithful to the original, but you should probably skip it, unless you like the thought of punching a hole through a concrete wall because the game dragged you back to a checkpoint for the seventeenth time.


You're gonna need a much bigger
explosion to stop Jax.
This game is tied to one of my greatest regrets as a collector. Years ago, a neighbor was selling their Super NES and a handful of games for around twenty dollars. Their collection included the Donkey Kong Country trilogy and several fighters, including this one. Guess who passed on the sale of the century because he already had a Super NES and didn't like Donkey Kong Country? Yep, this dope right here. I just hope the guy smart enough to jump on this deal is having a grand old time with his bounty. (Hmf.)

Well, I did finally get Mortal Kombat 3, at least. A few months ago, I reviewed the Genesis version of this game, warning readers that the Super NES was better suited to its unique brand of digitized carnage. Playing this reinforces that opinion, but I've also noticed that Mortal Kombat 3 isn't just better on Nintendo's machine; it's harder. Even on the lowest difficulty setting and when choosing the "novice" ladder, the CPU managed to thoroughly humiliate me by the second stage. Er, maybe I should find something that's a little more my speed...


It's much more fun to blow
the Lip Syncher. You're
going back to Funkytown, baby!
...and here it is! Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition is, as the title clearly states, a versus fighting game with the cast of everyone's favorite spandex-clad superheroes. Except you're not playing as the Power Rangers themselves, but rather their Zords, towering robots built from slightly less enormous animal-droids. Alternately, you can play as the Lip Syncher, who looks like a background singer from a Robert Palmer video after a terrible cosmetics accident, but who'd want to do that?

The massive scale of the characters aside, MMPR isn't too much different from the dozens of games on the Super NES hoping to capitalize on Street Fighter II's success. However, the graphics and sound are so incredible, you may not care. The Zords are every bit as massive as they are on the show, and bursting with color and detail. A little research reveals why... the game was ghost-written by Natsume, one of the Super NES's most consistently brilliant third-party developers. The engine built for MMPR would eventually be used as the foundation for Gundam Wing: Endless Duel, a much-improved mech battle game released only in Japan.

Forget the teenagers with attitude;
maybe you ought to recruit some
fitness trainers.
There's one other thing worth mentioning... the power gauge in MMPR: The Fighting Edition is some kind of nuts. It fills (and empties) on its own, and you'll have to time your special moves perfectly to take advantage of it. If you manage to pull off a special when the meter is at its max, the gauge changes color... do it a couple more times and the bar crackles with energy, letting you scrap your opponent with a devastating super move. I can't think of another fighting game that does this, and although I totally understand why other fighting games wouldn't want to do this, Natsume gets a lot of credit for taking that risk and trying something new.

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