Bucky O’Hare (NES) – Retro Game Reviews

Image result for bucky o hare nes

Bucky O’Hare is another great licensed game from the classic Konami library. You play as the titular Jazz Jackrabbit Bucky O’Hare who must rescue his crew from Toad Empire.  The game features many similarities to Capcom’s Mega Man. At the start of the game, you can choose between four planets that can be played in any order, each of which has a different member of Bucky’s crew. Once rescued, you can switch between different crew members at any time by pressing the Select button. After rescuing all four members, the crew takes on the Toad mothership, with an additional four levels.

The controls are very tight, which is a good thing since the levels can be very challenging, especially once you get on the Toad mothership. However, one very annoying thing about the game is that if you are hit while in midair, your jump is cancelled and you fall straight down. This wasn’t a huge problem for me and didn’t ruin my enjoyment, but it can be very frustrating at points.

Each of the five characters have different primary weapons and special moves that can be activated by holding down the B button. This can take some getting used to. Bucky’s special move is a high jump, so I always found myself wanting to hold down the jump button instead. Most of the characters also go into a crouch when charging their special moves, but if you are crouching while holding down the B button, they don’t work.

Each level has power-ups you can collect to upgrade your characters’ life bar and power meter to increase the strength of your special moves. Often these are found in out the way areas with trickier platforming, so there’s a nice risk/reward element. Each character shares the same life bar but have their own power meters that must be upgraded individually. However, upgrades carry over between levels, so it’s not too difficult to max out every character.

While you can select any of the four planets at the start of your game, the Blue Planet can’t actually be completed unless you rescue Blinky from the Green Planet first. The Blue Planet is also the game’s ice level and slipperiness is even worse here than it is in most platformers, making it one of the most frustrating levels in the game. It’s always great in Mega Man when your acquired weapons allow you to access additional areas or power-ups, but allowing players to choose the order of levels and then making one of them impossible if played in the wrong order is bad game design.

There is quite a bit of die-and-memorize gameplay on some levels, such as the Red Planet where you have to outrun one-hit death lava and you don’t have time to outrun it without memorizing the path ahead of time (and even then it’s still pretty hard). However, the graphics in Bucky O’Hare are really nice and soundtrack is great, so even when it gets frustrating, it’s still pretty enjoyable.

One area where Bucky beats Mega Man is in the boss battles. There is a lot of a variety and most of the bosses have pretty interesting designs. There’s one level where you have to cross lava by riding on giant green balls only for one of the balls to turn into a robot you have to have to fight to finish the level.

Bucky O’Hare certainly has its flaws, but for fans of NES platformers, particularly Mega Man, it’s still a lot of fun.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

The Adventures of Batman & Robin (SNES) – Retro Game Reviews

Image result for adventures of batman and robin snes

Given Konami’s current reputation, it’s hard to believe they used to be one of the most respected publishers in the industry, and one of the things they were most known for were their awesome licensed games. The Adventures of Batman & Robin lives up to that reputation and is without a doubt one of the best looking games on the Super Nintendo.

Based on Batman: The Animated Series, everything from the character sprites and backgrounds to the sound design and even the dialogue perfectly captures the feel of the cartoon. They even have the show’s signature title cards before each stage. There are eight stages in total, with each stage acting like mini-episodes of the TV series. The first seven focus on different villains, with the eighth stage being a boss rush, half of which are repeats and the other half being new villains.

But despite how good the game looks and sounds, there are two major drawbacks to the game: its length and its frustrating difficulty. If you’re good enough, the game can be completed in just over an hour, and while I don’t inherently mind hard games, in this case the crushing difficulty feels like its only there to artificially extend the length of the game. I’m not ashamed to admit I cheated my way through a lot of the game. On your first playthrough I recommend using an infinite lives cheat at the very least.

Each stage begins with a brief cutscene explaining your current mission and allowing Batman to select which gear to take with him, including his signature batarangs  and grappling gun (which can be used unlimitedly) as well as smoke bombs, shurikens, paralysis spray and plastic explosives (of which you have a limited supply). There is also a flashlight, gas mask, and infrared goggles, which you can take with you on every stage but are only useful in the Penguin, Scarecrow and Riddler stage respectively. It’s a nice gimmick, but since there’s no penalty for taking everything other than it taking longer to cycle through your weapons, it feels underutilized.

Despite the title, Robin isn’t playable and only has a very small role as a supporting character. If you’re a fan of the character, it’s a bit of let down, but given how small a role Robin played in the cartoon most of the time, I suppose it isn’t very surprising.

The combat system is decent. You can stun or disarm thugs by hitting them with a batarang or grab them by the collar and throw them into other enemies. It’s very well animated and a lot of fun. However, the same three henchmen are used over and over in every level, so by the end I just crouch-rolled past them most of the time.

The levels themselves for the most part aren’t too difficult. Most levels consist of beating up henchmen and some light platforming (sometimes assisted by your grappling gun ) before encountering the boss. There is some variation, like investigating a museum in the Penguin stage or the Riddler stage being a giant maze. The Catwoman stage featuring a rooftop chase lit by police searchlights was the high point of the game for me.

The fifth stage takes place entirely in the Batmobile, which sounds cool but the controls are incredibly clunky and you’re placed under an insanely strict time limit. The Batmobile is equipped with guns like in the Tim Burton movies and you can blow up civilian cars without any penalty. This is the only part of the game I consider outright bad and if you skip it, you won’t be missing anything.

All of the bosses are way too overpowered. Many of them are faster and have larger attack ranges than Batman with very little wind up to signal their attacks and some of them feature instant death via bottomless pits.One really frustrating thing is that in some boss fights if you get too close, Batman will auto-grab the villain and they will kick you away without any chance for you to avoid them. Even the bosses that aren’t too hard have so much health that the fights drag on forever. You end up feeling like a wimp after punching the villain a dozen or so times and them just getting back up for more, and that’s the last thing you want in a Batman game.

The Adventures of Batman & Robin is a bit of a mixed bag. If you are a fan of Batman: The Animated Series or just Batman in general, it’s definitely worth checking out, but the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. If you don’t mind grueling difficulty or aren’t opposed to using cheats, it’s a decent afternoon’s worth of entertaining.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

One Piece (Game Boy Advance) – Retro Game Reviews

Image result for one piece gbaI’m a big fan of the One Piece anime, but there sadly aren’t a lot of retro One Piece games that are accessible to English speakers. One Piece GBA is by no means an amazing game but there is still a lot here for fans of the anime to like. The game is a platformer/beat ’em up and retells the story from the beginning of the series through Luffy’s fight against Smoker.

You play as Luffy, and it’s a lot of fun to try out his signature moves in 16-bit glory. There’s a pretty wide moveset, including the Gum-Gum Pistol, Gatling Gun, Bell and Rocket. As you progress through the game you can also unlock the Gum-Gum Balloon and Spear. However, the game never explains how to use each move, so you’re going to want to consult a strategy guide. You have a special meter that can be charged by damaging enemies, and when filled be used to activate the Gum-Gum Bazooka or Axe. As the story progresses, you recruit the other members of the Straw Hat crew and can switch to having them jump in with their own special attacks instead. The other Straw Hats are scattered around each level and you need to find them each time to use their moves.

The combat is your standard repetitive beat ’em up fare, with you fighting the same enemies over and over again in each stage. The game totals how many of each enemy type you defeated in the stage and it’s not uncommon to defeat the same enemy more than 50 times in a single stage. Sometimes one of the major henchmen from the anime show up and you get a bonus for defeating them, but they just attack a few times and then jump off screen, so it’s very difficult to take them down before they leave and they end up just being annoying most of the time.

The platforming is very basic early on but gets better as the game progresses. One incredibly annoying thing is how many bottomless pits there are in this game. There are a lot of leaps of faith too, so I lost a ton of lives jumping into pits thinking there’d be a platform below. Enemy attacks can also knock you into pits, which everyone always loves. In addition to finding the other Straw Hats, there are also a number of coins scattered throughout each level. There isn’t any reward for collecting them, but they do add some replay value for completionists.

There are six acts in the game, matching the six story arcs of the East Blue Saga and each act is divided into three stages. The second stage of each act ends with a miniboss fight with the third act serving as the main boss fight. The bosses are a mixed bag. Some of them are pretty fun (particularly Jango and Don Krieg), but every single one of them is a damage sponge and the fights drag on for way too long.

Most of bosses are pretty tough too. Luffy gets can’t move when he attacks or cancel his attacks, so if you miss the boss, you’re a sitting duck while you wait for the attack animation to finish. If that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of the bosses become invincible during their attacks, so if you start attacking at the wrong time, it’s nearly impossible to avoid them.

The Buggy fight in this game is notoriously difficult. If you land a hit anywhere but his head, he breaks up and becomes invincible so the only move that works on him is the jump kick which causes hardly any damage. All of his attacks take huge chunks of your life and have a long range to boot. Despite only being the second boss in the game, he is by far the hardest. I ended up just cheating to get past him.

If there’s one reason to play One Piece GBA, it’s the impressive sprite work. Luffy’s attacks are all nicely animated and the game manages to capture the feel of the anime very well. There are a lot of nice little touches like how Luffy holds onto his hat to keep it from flying off when he runs or how his arm stretches when you jump down to grab a rope. Most of the major supporting characters get cameos, and it’s great to see 16-bit versions of Luffy and his pals.

The game is based on the 4Kids dub of the anime and was never released outside of North America, but apart from a couple name changes and Sanji’s cigarettes being replaced by lollipops, it’s pretty faithful to the original story. (Interestingly, Smoker’s cigars managed to slip past the censors.)

The music is pretty catchy in some stages, but don’t expect to hear any of the iconic music from the original anime. On the plus side, there’s no “Pirate Rap” either.

Whether or not One Piece GBA is worth playing all comes down to how big a fan you are of the anime. The gameplay certainly isn’t going to blow you away, but for a licensed game, it’s not half bad, and One Piece fans should definitely give it a shot.

Final Rating: 2.5/5