November 28, 2011

Famicom Wars - Ranking

Yeah, I know, I know.  Putting a strategy game through the VIPS is a terrible idea.  What else can I do though?  Have a separate system for strats?  *scoff*

Story & World

Imbued with a deep and rich back story, Famicom Wars keeps on adding incredibly deep layers to the game world as each map unfolds.  Nah, I'm just pullin' yer leg.  There's shit all.  0/20

Character Development

You can be the red dude or the blue one.  Let the good times roll with another zero.  0/20

Combat & Monsters

In addition to the aforementioned strengths and weaknesses, precise tactical considerations must be made.  Unit placement and terrain analysis are key to victory.  If tanks are harassing your infantry units, why not have them enter the mountains where the tanks can't follow?  A single bridge over a wide river is a perfect bottle-necked spot to set up some artillery and anti-aircraft missiles.  As units take damage, they may have to retreat to a city in order to heal and there better be units available to replace their spot at the front line.  These are just a few of the examples of the considerations that must always be made during each round.

There is a good mix of unit types and no one unit could be considered the best one.  Every type has strengths and weaknesses against other types.  For example, artillery is quite strong against most ground units but cannot target air units or any unit that is within two squares of it (strictly for long distance attacks).  Tanks will absolutely rape exposed infantry units while being quite weak against bombers and battleships themselves.  An army that relies on just a few unit types is an army that will find itself in ruins.  16/20

Graphics & Sound

Unit graphics are decent enough.  It's more important that they stand out from one another than to look nice and Famicom Wars does an admirable job.  The two army colour choices are bold, distinctive and maybe even a little bit sassy.  Terrain tiles and colours were wisely made simple and unobtrusive so as to not distract too much.  The soundtrack suffers from too much repetition although there are two equally boring tracks to choose from.  8/20


Economy absolutely drives the entire game.  Unit costs vary considerably from the ultra cheap standard infantry units for 1,000 Golds to the massive battleships for 28,800 Golds.  These costs also come into play when trying to determine what will be an "acceptable loss".  Losing an infantry unit is no big deal when it is soaking up the damage that would otherwise be applied to a more expensive unit.  The balance between unit cost and unit usefulness is well done.  For example, air units are quite expensive as you are paying for their superior movement rate as well as the ability to ignore terrain restrictions.  As in the real world, the side with the superior resources will eventually win out in the end through attrition.

The controls lacked the quick response I would expect from a strategy game.  It's not like such a game requires a large amount of CPUsage.  Pinning it at 4x Transmorgification made it a lot more playable.

A second playthrough could be done as the other force but the only difference would be in the starting position.  Plus, who would ever not want to play the communists?  It provided a fair challenge on some maps with a good amount of back and forth.  Most times, however, the Red Stars were able to capture 60-70% of the available resources before serious conflict started.  This left the outcome of the battle in no doubt but there were still a good number of satisfying smaller skirmishes.  15/20

Final Ranking:  39/100

November 27, 2011

Famicom Wars - End Game

It's been a long and arduous war but the Red Star army has finally proven their mettle and have been rewarded with total domination.  The peasants rejoice as they are liberated from their decaying and decadent lifestyle.  Now they are happily toiling away 16 hours per day in the Red Star factories and farms.  Red Star Army is best army!  Agree or be destroyed!

Eh, you'll be destroyed anyway.

The trend of strange general characters viewable at the end of the round continued.  Most were variants on different animals but the oddest one had someone we are all very familiar with.

I am, of course, referring to Carrot Head Kid.

The maps in the later parts of the game proved to be sufficiently varied in layout and required different approaches to gain the largest number of cities in the shortest time.  Small maps ensured that conflict would start soon and borders would be quickly drawn.  Larger maps required careful planning on how to spilt up available forces and where to send them with a lot more give and take in regards to boundaries.  Later maps were also sometimes missing air fields or ship docks, ensuring that one could not be too dependent on such units.  By and large, the initial tactic of the Red Star army to mass produce infantry units and use helicopters (if available) to reach the far unclaimed cities, establish a border of sorts there, and then claim the inner cities later worked very well.  Even if the Blue Moons attacked with their tanks and APCs (which are strong versus infantry), an infantry unit stationed within a city was able to take quite a pounding while also able to heal partially at the beginning of each round.

"Quick, hide behind the civilians!"

The final map had a very challenging start.  In addition to the Blue Moons having initial control of more cities, they were also gifted with about ten units (mostly tougher units) that started in the middle of the map.  In the early turns it was all the Red Star general could do to keep the few cities he managed to acquire.  After a very long stalemate, the Reds slowly (so very slowly) started making progress back against the Blues.  Both armies at this point had reached the 48 unit maximum imposed by the game which meant that the Blue general's turn was even longer than was previously bitched about.  The progression picked up speed after a flotilla of long-ranged battleships frightened most of the enemy units away from their posts.  This had the effect of herding them all into the center of the map away from the coastlines, leaving coastal cities ripe for the picking. After the final victory, a parade was held showcasing all the units to the civilians who'll see them again soon enough after the inevitable uprising.

"Strafe ya later!"

November 21, 2011

Famicom Wars - Call Me A Tip-top Tic-tactician

The crimson tide continues to swell o'er the puny forces of the democratic pig-dogs.  Too busy playing with their vidja games and listening to tha Biebz to know that the Red Army is coming to annihilate their toxic society and replace it with glorius communism (also toxic).  All things considered equal, the Blue Moons dawdle around too much in the early game to snag enough cities by the time conflict starts.

On some maps, that doesn't matter. *cough*

In addition to this waste of movement, the enemy general takes forever to make decisions.  Go on, go ahead and brew yourself a cup of tea or have a quick trip to the loo or reshingle your bloody roof.  Why is a computer taking so long to make these decisions?  I'm probably about half computer and I was easily on par with General Blue time-wise.  Thank goodness for my ever present Time Dilation Transmorgifier (also known as button 8).

Normally it's the more expensive units that are the stars of the show.  Jet fighters, medium tanks, and battleships are the big ticket items that a general generally generals after.  So far though it's been the cheap as borscht infantry that have shone the most.  They very rarely get taken out in a single attack and make excellent meatshields to hold newly captured cities until heavier reinforcements can arrive.  Add in the ability to combine damaged units together (which all units can do) and you've got an unstoppable wall of killing that can hold its own against tanks, copters, artillery, or whatever else you care to throw against it.

We've also got hot Tank-on-APC
action as well.

At the conclusion of each map, the game displays a short summary screen detailing things like gold spent and how many cities were taken over.  Oddly enough, it also has a picture of each general and that general's age.  These pictures do not show up at any time during the actual battle and they are different for each map.  In a desperate and, ultimately, futile attempt to inject some role play into this character-lacking game, here is a transcript of the post-battle dialogue between the generals Topper and Kakefu.

T:  Well met, old chap.  The battle was well fought but ultimately my sweet stovepipe hat has won the day.
K:  Kakefu thought that part of head!
T:  Maybe your ridiculous eyebrows got in your way.
K:  Kakefu feelings hurt!
T:  *sigh* This is the worst RP ever.
K:  Concur!

November 15, 2011

[Game 008] Famicom Wars (NES - 1988)

Translation by aka

Granddaddy to the excellent Advance Wars series, Famicom Wars is a testament to getting a formula right the first time and sticking with it for the sequels.  The initial release is the formula at its most pure and uncut.  There's no teen-aged commanders or abilities that let you specialize in certain units or rechargeable special attacks.  It's just Red vs Blue in all-out warfare.

Gameplay consists of buying various units of three types: land, air, and sea.  Cash money is acquired by capturing and holding onto cities spread across the map.  Various terrain types offer different amounts of protection everything you would expect in a strategy game.  Winning is accomplished by either wiping out all enemy forces or capturing the opponent's capital.

I usually elect to do the former. *giggle*

The two factions within the game are the Red Star and the Blue Moon.  The obvious choice here is to take control of the Red Star armies because I'm a big communist.  Not sure what the Blue Moons would be.  I'll default to democracy, I guess.  Not that it matters much as both sides start with the same resources (at least in the beginning maps).

Unit selection is surprisingly vast for such an early game.  I was expecting the choices to be more limited but it's on par with the later releases.  Every unit has strengths and weaknesses to other units and this ensures that armies must be heterogeneous.  There hasn't been a map yet where a unit type wasn't used at least once.

Pvt. Reynolds taking the APC for a quick spin.

The first two maps were introductory maps in that the unit selection was limited.  Map 1 had land-based only and Map 2 introduced air units.  As such, they were fairly easy.  Map 3 was much harder.  This map consists of each side holding an island nation cut by a narrow channel of sea in between.  The channel is the line of symmetry between the two land masses.  Though it was sorely needed for the map, sea units were not introduced here but rather in Map 4.  Without carriers for the heavy units like tanks and artillery, the only option to get land troops across is via helicopter and they can only carry a single infantry unit.  These units do not do well against tanks (which the opponent can build to defend).  This led to a stalemate where neither side could do much of anything to the other.

Hmm, indeed.

Sending expensive bombers to hit the tanks usually results in them getting shot down before taking a single tank out.  Even if one managed to take a tank out before being destroyed, it would still result in a negative cost-to-damage ratio.  The solution ended up being to stockpile fleets of helicopters while the Blue Moons continued to throw the occasional unit at my impenetrable defences.  By launching a smaller attempt at the northern tip of the enemy's island, we succeeded in distracting the Blues while our major attack commenced at the southern tip.  After taking one of the cities, the funding balance was finally tipped in favour of the glorious communists.  From then on, it was just pouring resources into helicopters and infantry in order to replenish the massive loss of units on the other side.  Slowly but surely we spread to take over other cities as well.  As the funding gap got bigger and bigger, the Red Stars were able to build some costly bombers and fighter jets, fully expecting that their trip would be one way.  Eventually the Blue Moons could not support any more units and were crushed.

Still, gold star for perseverance.

Though the cost in life and war machines was high and the streets must just be running red with blood, this didn't stop the remaining soldiers from having a shindig on the rooftop of the enemy headquarters.  Let it not be said that communists don't know how to party.

*hic* Pashta da vodak, komrade.

November 08, 2011

Dragon Ball - Ranking

Story & World

The alternate Earth in the Dragon Ball universe is certainly an unique setting to say the least.  The energy and feeling of the show carries over well into the game.  Why, I'd sometimes just stay at the beginning of a fight, just trash talking and gaping in bewilderment for minutes at a time.  The sheer amount of cameos in it will keep any fan happy though don't expect anyone to hang around too long.  The game moves at an extremely fast pace and if knowledge of the characters and setting isn't known beforehand, I could see it being quite forgettable.

NPCs are numerous throughout the adventure areas though most only offer one liners of no import.  Some have to be visited and revisited in order to progress through the area while others will lead to fights (the fight ones are pretty obvious though).  There's no flexibility in the dialogues; you either have or haven't talked with an NPC.

Completing quests is the only way to advance the linear plot but there are a lot of them along the way.  A good mixture of quests harking from the show and new ones keeps Goku on his toes.  Quest areas are usually a combination of finding key objects, searching in the right spot, and fighting certain foes.  Two of the areas are maze-like but fairly small and doable without making a map.  10/20

Character Development

The leveling for Goku is a basic experience-based system.  Levels come fairly quickly and tops out at level 14.  Goku occasionally gains a new ki attack or an upgrade to an existing one (e.g. Zanzoken technique progressed from x1 to x3).  The quick pace of the game made it feel not so much the development of a character but just guiding one along to new encounters.  Perhaps it also suffers in that Goku is already an established character and there was no room for input from Nung.

Items gained during play are used only to further the plot and do not affect combat mechanics in any way.  Goku does gain the ability to use his Nyoi-bo in the form of an additional card type but that's it.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

A critical component for any Dragon Ball game, combat never reaches a stale point.  The replenishing card system is quite unique and a refreshing change from the standard formula.  Having each card's chance for success based on the Dragon Ball numbers 1-7 is a stroke of genius.  Sure, you could use that 7 star ball to ensure your victory on this puny minion but perhaps it should be saved for a tougher foe?  Will a 3 star ball get the job done or should a 5 star be deployed?  Even better, the card types are broken down into different attacks.  A 7 star kick card will certainly hit but this 4 star ki attack will do more damage if it hits.  All of this means card management must be strategized and this is prevalent throughout the entire game.

Movement on the world map is accomplished via the same cards used in combat and strategy must also be applied here.  Using all the lower numbered cards will mean more random encounters which could cause the loss of the higher power cards.  The very cards you were trying to save.  Hopefully this system will also be adopted by later Dragon Ball games as well.

The limited number of foes is forgivable considering each has multiple sprites representing it.  There are sprites for when the showdown begins, when they attack (and what they attack with), and when they get hit.  All foes had multiple types of attack with boss types having upwards of five variations (on par with Goku).  Enemies from the show are faithfully represented with a handful of new monsters to keep things fresh.  Matches tended to be very one-sided.  If one of the combatants had even a single level over the other, it would almost certainly end in his favour.  14/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics are pretty decent for the fights and mediocre for the quest areas.  All the character's attacks are graphically represented differently from each other.  A kick that connects shows the foe's head snapping to the side and energy attacks are shown blazing across the screen before detonating.  The quests areas mainly suffered from a small active display window when it really had room to be at least twice as large.  The intro song was a nifty little rendition of the Dragon Ball theme.  Although the music became a little more bland later into the game, it mostly seemed appropriate for the area it was in.  10/20


Pretty much has all elements working against it here.  Completely linear.  No replay value.  Way, WAY too short.  Beginning had some difficult parts but after level 4 was pretty easy.  Controls were fine for the combat segments but a little slow in moving around the quest areas.  Not too terrible for regular quest areas but a nightmare for wandering around in the maze-like segments.  1/20

Final Ranking:  38/100

November 07, 2011

Dragon Ball - End Game

I wish it wasn't end game.  I was hoping to get a few posts out of this game but it ended far too soon.  The entire playthrough took five hours.  Is that even legal?  Can a game that can be completed in an afternoon really be called a RPG?  Son Goku, I am disappoint.  Why couldn't they do it like the show?  Drag it out for freakin' ever!  Geez, I'm going to spend more time writing about this game than I did playing it!  But I digress.

I did manage to get the favourite
ball from that little puke, Pilaf.

After ruining Pilaf's day, it was off to Karin Tower to get another ball and have Karin direct the party to the location of the last ball located in Penguin Village.  The village is another maze-like area with a lot of aimless wandering, gathering items, and wandering around until something different happens.  One of the items Goku had to gather was rather strange and even stranger in that a twig needed to be obtained before gathering the item.  It's not so strange that the twig is needed.  No, it's that it shows that a lot of thought went into this whole encounter.  The smiley face is the final WTF?.

Any craption I can think of is too
below my already low standards.

If you must know (and I know you must), the faeces is used against a giant carrot person who is turning all the villagers into carrots (of course!).  Then there was some deal with a spaceship and some two headed cyborg or something.  I dunno.  The details are fuzzy since I vipped through the area so quickly.

Anyway, after that unfortunate business, all your balls are belong to us and Goku heads back to Karin Tower.  Karin tells Goku to use the Dragon Balls to summon Shenlong and access the secret Konpei area.

Wouldn't feel right without a
pic of my homie, Shenlong!

This area is a little different from previous ones in that the boss for the area, King Konpei, pops up at various times and fights Goku.  He then leaves an item which is needed to unlock the next bit.  Goku had no problems cleaning his clock every single time.

BAM!  The Double Deuce!

Completing this area unlocks the path to Piccolo's Mansion (though he's not there).  The spirit of Kuririn is freed by Goku smashing a red orb and then the mansion comes crashing down for some reason.  Piccolo is actually at the Dark Castle (I guess the mansion is his summer home?) and Goku heads there next.

The Dark Castle is large maze area in which Goku has to defeat some minions before being able to fight Piccolo.  A level 13 Goku had no problems with any of the minions.  After all, he's fought them all before in countless random encounters.  The final fight with the Dark Lord Piccolo was anticlimactic as Goku used his 7 star ki attack card, hit Piccolo with the reversed kamehameha and utterly demolished him.

If Dragon Ball - Revival of the Dark Lord was a game that was as sucky as Spooky Kitaro, the shortness wouldn't be such a big deal.  Perhaps a little more fight padding since there are plenty of story areas already.  In any case, it's a great romp through a decent RPG with interesting and unique game mechanics.  Fans of Dragon Ball can add x10 Kaio-ken to the enjoyment factor.

November 02, 2011

[Game 007] Dragon Ball: Revival of the Dark Lord (NES -1988)

Translation by Stardust Crusaders

Dragon, dragon, dragon ball.... DRAGON BALL Z!!!  Er, I mean just regular DRAGON BALL!!!  Dragon Ball has always been, in my mind, ripe for RPGs.  Imagine my disappointment as a young lad when nothing was served up for any of my favourite systems.  Come on then, IMAGINE IT!...  Yes, it was that heartbreaking.  When I was first able to access the final games list that the Cyber Police had generated, I had to hide the semi I got from all the Dragon Ball games that were on it.  It wouldn't do well for them to think I actually enjoy any of this (but I'm totally going to).

The game begins with Goku coming back to Kame house to find his friend Kuririn dead and the four star dragon ball gone!  The sinister Piccolo is gathering the balls in order to wish himself young again!  One of his minions must have taken the dragon ball!  He has also ordered that all the powerful martial artists in the world must be destroyed!  Heavy.  Gathering his Nyoi-bo (a magic extending staff) and the dragon ball radar, Goku jumps on his faithful Kinto Un (a flying cloud) and heads off after the perpetrator.

Goku, this isn't an appropriate
time to be smirking.

True to the series, Goku promptly takes a beating and has to recover back at Kame house.  Now the adventure starts in earnest!  Let's gather dragon balls! First Goku must gather his posse.  After rescuing the kidnapped Bulma from Ukelele (one of Piccolo's henchcreatures), Goku heads to the Henshin School to meet Yamcha, Puar, and Oolong.

Oolong!  You've... lost a lot of weight.

At these encounter scenes, the game plays out like an adventure game, with options to talk, search, and move from area to area.  Sometimes fights are to be had within these areas and other times instant death awaits.  For example, at the Henshin school, Goku meets a couple of teachers along with Oolong and Puar (Yamcha is indisposed).  The options are limited in this area and most choices result in dead ends.  One of the teachers assaults Goku with offers of an apple and since all the other paths lead to dead ends, he accepts it.  Big mistake.  It's a "Goodbye Apple" which explodes and kills Goku.  Wasn't quite expecting to die in a non-fight situation but lesson learnt.  It turns out it was all a trap set by that darn Ukelele using some illusion or something to appear as Oolong.  After the real Oolong and Puar are rescued, Goku travels north to find Yamcha.

Travel from location to location is done by using one of five cards that Goku has at all times.  The number of the dragon ball determines how far Goku can move.  At the end of his movement, a screen with five cards appears and he must choose one.  These can contain anything from a fight to healing to having cards swapped around and so on.

No, I'm pretty sure that's Burt Reynolds.

These are the same cards that are used in battle as well.  Here the dragon ball number determines whose card effect will succeed.  Punches, kicks, combos and ki attacks make for the bulk of the cards received.  There's also a flee card but we all know Goku isn't bright enough to flee when he should so it will never willingly be used.  Ki attacks are further randomized by having to draw from a pool of five cards so no picking the Kamehameha every time.  :(

Yeah! Yeah!  Kick that face right in its face!

Upon arriving at Jingle Village, it surprises no one that Yamcha has been captured and is being kept in Muscle Tower.  Now, the story has been deviating more and more from the original series, probably in order to cram as many cameos in as possible.  That is not necessarily a bad thing as it keeps the number of surprises up.  And reallywho would want to rescue some crummy old village chief when you can rescue a gorgeous heartthrob?

Hey, Yamcha, how YOU doin'?

After returning to Kame house, the gang use a Hoi-Poi Capsule to get a submarine to explore an old underwater pirate base.  The robot guardian from the show was present and fun to fight.  All of his attacks were represented here and I was almost wishing that just one machine gun burst would end up hitting Goku (sick dodge skillz).  The end boss for this area was a shock as it was no other than Tao Pai Pai (who should be half blown to bits at this point)!  The toughest fight so far but luckily Goku had saved some high priority cards.

Heh.  Never get sick of that expression.

With another dragon ball under our belts, Goku must enlist the help of Fortuneteller Baba to locate the next one.  The ball is located in nowhere other than New Pilaf Castle!  Can Goku penetrate the castle's defenses?  What dangerous foes await him there?  Will he find the next dragon ball?  How did Oolong lose so much fucking weight?  Stay tuned!

Aww, cute.  He thinks he's threatening.