Sunday, December 11, 2016

Samba de Amiga! (part 2)

Finally, here are those reviews I promised! Just a few notes: running Amiga games is a little different on an emulator than it would be on the actual computer. You don't have to swap floppies a half-dozen times, and trainers go a long way toward making the tougher games a lot more fun to play. There's also the option to map keyboard keys to the joypad, letting you play with more console-like controls. Okay, with that out of the way, let's begin!


Puff puff... pass.
Bubble Bobble clones are a staple of the Amiga owner's diet, but they're generally ports of obscure Japanese arcade games... Rodland and Snow Bros. to name just two. Super Methane Bros. is a peculiar break from that tradition, created exclusively for the Amiga by a Western design team. And when I say "peculiar," I'm not kidding! As the gas mask clad exterminators Puff and Blow, you must blast pests with noxious purple clouds, draw them into an oversized sprayer, then slam them into nearby walls. When one of the wandering creatures is killed, it explodes into a shower of goodies. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it would be, except the game is really picky about the process. You can't launch an enemy into a crowd of his buddies, and if you don't fire him directly into a wall, he shakes off the fumes and continues chasing you. Games like this one live and die by the versatility of the lead character's weapon, and the gas gun in Super Methane Bros. just doesn't do enough to keep the player entertained for long. It's a shame too, because the designers got everything else right, from the explosively colorful graphics to the tons of items to collect. C


Another fine conversion from the
ace programmers at Ocean France.
Now see, this is how you do a Bubble Bobble-alike. Snow Bros. not only looks and sounds great, it's got a genuinely useful play mechanic. The frosty hero Nick packs his foes into massive snow boulders which can be launched across the screen, frantically bouncing off walls and flattening anything in their path. Send one snowball into another and the chaos doubles, increasing the chances that you'll clear the screen of enemies and earn a hefty point bonus in the process. It's exciting, it's cathartic, and it offers plenty of opportunities for careful strategy... qualities that are sorely lacking from Super Methane Bros. Ocean's French division also gets plenty of credit for a quality conversion that's easily on par with the Genesis game, with larger characters and a smart use of the Amiga's limited color palette. There are just two problems... one, there's no two player option, and two, this game was never actually sold in stores due to a copyright dispute with Toaplan. Sure it's available now, but it would have mattered so much more in the 1990s when the Amiga was actively supported... B+


Would you believe it if I told you
this was the 256 color version...?
You've gotta be pretty hard up for Street Fighter if you're going to play it on an Amiga in this day and age. Nevertheless, this is as good a conversion as you're going to find on the system. While Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo pump up the visuals while skimping on the gameplay, Super Street Fighter II concentrates on the fundamentals, resulting in a surprisingly playable port. With a two button controller, special moves come off cleanly and combos flow nearly as well as they had in the original, even Ken's brutal punch-to-flaming-shoryuken. On the down side, it's not a pretty game, with tiny sprites and static backgrounds. Even the (slightly) more colorful AGA version doesn't compare favorably to its Genesis and Super NES counterparts, but when compared to other Amiga fighting games, Super Street Fighter II is hardly a disappointment. B-


Is it live, or is it Amiga-rex?
The Amiga isn't usually the place to go for faithful arcade conversions... that was more the specialty of the Sharp X68000, Japan's own multimedia computer. However, the Amiga could be coaxed into producing some really impressive ports with the right designers behind the wheel. Pang (aka Buster Bros.) is a perfect example, losing almost nothing in its migration from the corner of the bowling alley to the computer desk. The picturesque backgrounds inspired by world landmarks are here. The silly post-stage cut scenes seemingly drawn by Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama are here. The power-ups- even the ones you hate, like the dynamite- are all here. The balloons seem to drop a little too quickly after they've been split by your wire, but beyond that, the game is an almost pixel-perfect copy of the original. Ocean's French division took its job seriously when porting arcade games to the Amiga, leaving nothing out and taking no liberties with the source material, and that attention to detail makes a big difference. A-


How do I hate this game? Lord, where do I even start? The hero, a noodle-limbed ninja ant, is arguably the worst thing to have been spawned from the mascot game craze of the early 1990s. His enemies are even worse, respawning at the worst possible moments and unleashing a steady stream of obnoxious sound samples that will test your will to live. The graphics are loud and tacky, with colors that run the gamut from "please tone it down" to "my eyes, the goggles do nothing!" The constant ads for Chupa-Chups lollipops (mental note: never buy Chupa-Chups lollipops) is that extra touch of contempt Zool needs to be the most openly spiteful platformer on the Amiga. Sure, the gameplay borders on acceptable, but there are so many Sonic clones out there already! Why the hell would anyone torture themselves with this one?! D-


We've replaced John's copy of Mega Turrican with
Turrican 3. Let's see if he notices the difference!
Turrican is one of the big names in the Amiga library, a fast-paced shooter with loads of weapons and enormous levels. And oh yes, a lot of irritating flaws that didn't sit too well with the console crowd. Because there's no post-hit invulnerability, the hero's life bar drops like a stone whenever he touches enemies. Beyond that, there's a lack of polish in the presentation, especially the character designs which are either forgettable or too stupid to blot out of your mind. Fortunately, many of the game's rough edges were sanded off in the console-exclusive sequels, especially Mega Turrican, which traded some of the series' sprawl for a more professional, arcade-quality look. Some fans balked at the changes when the game was faithfully ported to the Amiga as Turrican 3, but personally, I think the new design was a step forward for the series. Sure, the levels are more linear than they were in the first two games, but with so much added polish and fewer cheap deaths, there's a lot more give than take. B


Captain Flynn gains his sea legs.
There's plenty to like about this platformer, which drops you in the tall boots of a pirate who's washed ashore on a mysterious island. It's got a strong sense of atmosphere, with the sound of crashing waves in the distance replaced with an eerie aquatic soundtrack whenever Captain Flynn dives for sunken treasure. Add charming cartoon artwork, and Traps 'n Treasures feels like a high-class console release... something that would have been more at home on the Turbografx-16 or Genesis than the Amiga. The only problem- and it could be a deal breaker if you're easily frustrated- is that the game is punishing, even cheap at times. Flynn can't defend himself underwater, where his most dangerous enemies live, and overly generous collision detection means even close calls with schools of fish and clams could cost him some health. There are passwords for each level, but they're pretty long levels, and there's no option to continue if you die halfway through one of them. You best not make too many mistakes, matey. B

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