keskiviikko 10. huhtikuuta 2013

REVIEW - The Amazing Spider-Man | GB | 1990

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: July 1990

Now that I think of it, the NES had a minimal share of games based on Marvel Comics; a total of six by my count. Even Marvel's most popular stalwart Spider-Man made his Nintendo debut on the Game Boy instead of the NES, on which his first and only lead appearance was still a couple of years away. The first Game Boy game was called The Amazing Spider-Man; it had nothing to do with the home computer game released the same year, it spawned a couple of sequels, and it was brought to us by LJN. I was going to say it sucked, but hey - same difference.

My spider sense tingles - it seems I have to take a dump

One of Spider-Man's large host of arch enemies has figured out his true identity and allied him-/herself with five others to expose and destroy him, by the always sure-fire way of kidnapping Mary Jane Watson.

Oh, so you do work, that's
great. How about working
when I need you to?
Before you start blasting me about how great last year's The Amazing Spider-Man film was, I have to say: I know, all right? But, 'til that film came out, and 'til I saw it - you can't imagine how prejudiced I was, hell, I pretty much went for it 'cause of Denis Leary and a well-placed six-pack of beer - the title always reminded me of the old 70's TV show The Amazing Spider-Man, which was fucking horrible. Not all the way the laughable-kind-of-horrible either, just abysmal. I never liked the title, it sounds so immature - couldn't they just call it "Spider-Man"? Same goes for The Incredible Hulk - just "Hulk" would've sufficed. This went well below, beyond and besides the point, so let's just get to it: The Amazing Spider-Man for the Nintendo Game Boy. Honestly, I have to say it could be worse.

The graphics are quite OK, and just enough to fool kids into believing they'll have a real marvellous time (no pun intended) in the boots of the almighty webslinger here. The boss sprites are well crafted and the presentation in general is very close to the boldest expectations you could have about a Spider-Man game at the time. What most LJN-produced games lacked - among everything else - meaning their countless movie "adaptations", was authenticity and atmosphere. When it came to their other games such as this comic book title, they had a good grip on how to deliver a commercially viable product - it's no wonder, really, since they were a toy company to begin with; not to say their toys were any better than their games, but through the production of boys' toys, they apparently had some sense of what those kids would like to see in a Spider-Man game. This is exactly why I kinda liked the SNES games - but those are still a little far off, and I think time's left a scar or two on 'em. I'm once again missing my target, so let's get on with it...

It's the heebee-jeebie!
I almost choked on my morning joe when I realized David Wise made the music. Of course he did; I mean, how many other composers did Rare have at the time? Correct answer: none. Well, these TWO tunes - the main theme and the boss theme - are credited to Dave, but I'll go out on a limb and claim that he was taking a five-minute break, when some other guy broke into his desk drawer and stole some sheets to give the game a final touch before sending it out. It ain't bad, it especially ain't bad for a Game Boy title, but it's incredibly repetitive even on this scale, and definitely not what you'd come to expect from a guy who went on to become one of the most distinguished and influential video game composers of the early 90's with games like Battletoads and Donkey Kong Country... and whose compositions heavily influenced the Game Boy-exclusive Donkey Kong Land games, at that.

Game Boy games are tough to review, 'cause by far the only thing that matters about original, black and white Game Boy games is their playability - and playability sure seems to be a foreign concept in this case. Not totally odd, though - the authenticity of the game alone makes it interesting on some level, and seeing who's pulling the strings in the next level raises the bar of wanting to try just a little. If you're a Spidey fan, you might even enjoy the game once you get used to its less responsive controls, and learn to accept the fact that your each step is one of trial and error. Spider-Man moves as stiff as RoboCop, there are huge gaps to cross and the game itself often decides whether or not it's a proper spot to let Spidey sling the vertical web to get across (which he slings to nothingness, by the way; strange) or execute the high/wide jump, which is supposed to be a running jump, but doesn't register nearly all of the time, or just simply fall down to his death. Why I didn't call that high/wide jump a running jump is because Spidey sure as shit cannot run.

There's a human rhino running
amok in Central Park. Nothing
out of the ordinary.
Well, Spidey's slow movement has its privileges, such as sometimes being able to spot enemies more than from a virtual inch away - they seriously can fall straight on top of you, from the very same nothingness you sling your web to - and perhaps to avoid damage. The latter part's the true bitch. Your health bar looks reasonable at first sight, but be warned that every single slight bump drains nearly a quarter of it. It's continual damage, as if you were on fire in any other game, and it makes one dastardly sound effect, too. After discovering out of the purest blue that you have a limited amount of continues, you might think of the game as utterly unbeatable, but it's not. It's very short - you'll be done in less than half an hour if you're quick and lucky about it - you always respawn at the same spot, whether it's just a loss of life or a solid continue, and everything's tied to a pattern, discovered through trial and error. Of course, combination of these two words is always a red cloth in itself.

One more thing I despise about the game is the limitation to the use of webbing, since you absolutely need that shit to simply get forward, and certain types of enemies are nearly impossible to defeat with close-range attacks. Usually, when these types of enemies appear, you are given a chance to pick up some web power-ups, but very often that chance is once again one of trial and error, mostly of the latter half of that Satanic equation. The Amazing Spider-Man might not be that hard, but it can be very frustrating.

After blowing off some light steam in the beginning of this review, I decided to focus on the game's less negative qualities and give it a little credit for at least being - capacity noted - "cooler" and more playable than 90% of LJN-produced games I've ever played. That's not much, and it still sucks pretty bad, but at least Spider-Man fans have a decent presentation to gawk at. By the way, Venom's the final boss - that's always a plus.

+ Venom
+ A somewhat authentic atmosphere that reflects on vintage, family friendly Spider-Man, complete with bone-dry verbal humour and a good rogues gallery (Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, and once again, Venom)
+ The graphics are quite good

- Slow, shitty, only semi-responsive controls
- The enemies' attack patterns are easily tracked, the patterns in their appearances are not
- Damage control, or lack thereof
- Limited webbing
- All of the above result in a whole game full of trial and error by some degree

< 5.2 >

tiistai 9. huhtikuuta 2013

Maybe I'm in the wrong business...

...Just a brief one, check this out. In October, I wrote an article on some upcoming games I was rooting for at the moment. I also mentioned something about games that hadn't been formally announced, and the following was there somewhere. Pay attention to the underlined part.

"Although I could carry on and on about Batman 3 (I bet you a fifty they're gonna call it Arkham Origins or something just as common) or Fallout 4, not to mention the new, mysterious BioWare installment set in the Mass Effect universe, it'll save a lot of space and time to just talk about titles that have been formally introduced to us on some level bigger than terms of considered plot outlines."


It seems I'm in the wrong business. It also seems some of you owe me a fifty.

"V has come to."


It's been a while, but rest assured, the Marvel marathon will continue soon enough. It's obvious I've been doing something else for these ten days of perfect silence, and to any fan or good friend it should be obvious what it is, as far as it concerns the world of gaming.

To those that have been living under a rock for the last few weeks... Last year, Hideo Kojima revealed the next installment in his legendary, bigger-than-life stealth action franchise; an open-world military tactics game called Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, which would run on the whole new FOX engine. At the Spike Video Game Awards, a trailer was shown for a supposedly wholly unrelated game called The Phantom Pain, which featured a protagonist extremely reminiscent of the Metal Gear series' secondary protagonist - or should I say main protagonist, after appearing in more games than his son Solid Snake - and once main antagonist, Big Boss. This game was being developed by a completely unknown Swedish developer, Moby Dick Studios.

Well, on March 27th, 2013, after countless speculations of Hideo Kojima, a sworn advocate of misleading his audience, once again pulling the whole world's chains, he came clean with it: The Phantom Pain IS Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes IS The Phantom Pain. And finally, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain will ultimately unite as one in a game called:


Bandage, or rather, a blindfold? Knowing Kojima, that
might be a metaphor.
All of us Metal Gear fans who had half a brain knew the game had something to do with Metal Gear from the very start, but as soon as the connection to Ground Zeroes was revealed and especially when they named it something as ominous as Metal Gear Solid V, we were in a world of uproar. Peace Walker wasn't worth the title, Revengeance sure as shit wasn't worth the title - being a numerical entry in this series means something. Something big. Metal Gear Solid, Sons of Liberty, Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots are ALL in the VGMania Top 40 of all time, close to the top at that - marking Metal Gear Solid as the only series to have all of its main entries on that fabled list. The main reason I didn't do my best to promote the upcoming game as soon as it was announced, was that I'm not sure if Metal Gear Solid V has what it takes to rise to the same ranks. And also, I was in such a positive shock that I finally decided to give the whole series yet another go - that's what I've been doing lately. I finally started Peace Walker so that I could some day finish up my HD Collection review that's been under construction for months - the game is so big that I'm going to have to review it separately, it seems - and since it also seems that Metal Gear Solid V is going to be a direct sequel to that game, it wouldn't hurt to bring myself up to speed with what went down in the 70's. With that, let's take a look at some downs of the game at this stage of development - the ups are obvious, it's Metal fuckin' Gear.

Don't believe it. I certainly don't.
I didn't like the trailer. I certainly wasn't apeshit about David Hayter being ousted of the equation - of course, this could be another ploy by Kojima, just to see how much people truly appreciate Hayter's voiceover work as both Big Boss and Solid Snake, something he's been doing for 15 years. Well, there are even a few guys gathering signatures to bring Hayter back. I predict Hayter's involvement will be announced in a few months and credited to the people - just like Kojima's work as co-director in the case of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots back in the day. Seeing to what lengths he has went to in the last few years, to conceal important information concerning Metal Gear and even Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on which he worked as a mere advisor, that age-old "bomb threat" story's begun to crumble; I firmly believe he always knew he would be at the helm when they sang Solid Snake's swansong. He had to know.

As I said, I didn't like the trailer, but the funny thing is that I wasn't that positive about Snake Eater or Guns of the Patriots' trailers back in the day, either. Hideo Kojima knows how to direct a kick-ass full-length story, but apparently he has no clue how to make a real trailer instead of an introductory video - one that carries on way too long at a completely awkward tempo. Also, since he's, again, very strict when it comes to misleading the audience, the trailer lacks shocks and specific indications of what is truly going on. There are just familiar flashes, left to the audience to interpret and draw conclusions from - such as the appearance of Miller, Volgin, and a guy that looks very much like Ocelot.

What we CAN gather from the trailer, and all of the plot information given to us - which, once more, can all be a joke - is that The Phantom Pain stars Big Boss, in yet another prequel, the last one before the events of the very original 8-bit classic Metal Gear. Like Sons of Liberty, the game is divided in two parts; Ground Zeroes, which takes place right after Peace Walker in 1974, and The Phantom Pain, which takes place nine years later in 1983, after Big Boss wakes up from a coma, with his arm missing and a huge piece of metal sticking out from his skull, and at the helm of a whole new military organization known as the Diamond Dogs. ...Stop. THIS is exactly why I find myself theorizing that the protagonist of the later half of the game might not be Big Boss at all, but actually one of his sons, or successors, or clones, or whatever you call them. Metal Gear is silly enough to have people grafting other people's arms onto their own stubs - "I LIVE ON... THROUGH THIS ARM!" - but it's even weirder that there's never been a mention or an indication that Big Boss had his left arm severed at some point of his career. There's never been anything about Diamond Dogs, and finally, you'd think that a piece of debris of that size would've left at least some kind of scar. Well, like I said, Metal Gear is the Japanese b-movie type of silly (that's silly), and extremely unrealistic, that's why we love it, but still these might be clues of yet another clone. I read one guy's theory of a clone called "V" being bred during Big Boss' absence, that he would actually star in The Phantom Pain, and that he would be the reason why Metal Gear has suddenly taken a turn to Roman numerals, with the "V" standing for a pseudo-reboot of the series instead (or in addition) of the number five. It would make a lot of sense, in a Metal Gear way of course, and it would also justify David Hayter's absence to some extent. And, having a fresh backstory healthily apart from the previous games would help the new open-world FOX engine to land safely. For now, we'll just have to go with the assumption that this game is really a sequel to Peace Walker, and a prequel to Metal Gear - there's no use in making bold predictions of a new Snake just yet. What would they call him anyway? V? Like "Vapor Snake"?

In the light of these "news" and regardless of whether Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will live up to its predecessors or not, there'll be a lot of Metal Gear-related stuff coming after the Marvel marathon. I've already begun work on it, and it goes beyond reviewing games. As a compensation for those who are not into the series - either because they never experienced it, or just don't like the cinematic style which is apparently smoothed out in the upcoming game - I've got names for a new Monster Mash line-up written down (never had a chat with anyone who didn't like 'em), and a PS1/PS2 retrospect coming up, to celebrate the PlayStation's 20th birthday early, and in turn, the halt of PlayStation 2 production a little late. So, I have a lot of things booked up - there are still a lot of superhero games to run my sword through, let's hope (and at the same time, doubt) we'll find something truly great before moving back on to one of my favourite franchises of all time. I'll leave you with two things: first, a brief summary of the canonical Metal Gear story for the confused, and second, an inspiring song that I hope to have some reflection on what we can expect from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Big Boss in 1964, post-eye "accident".
1964 ... Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
CIA's secret agent, codenamed Naked Snake, is sent to a Soviet jungle to rescue a scientist working on a doomsday device known as the Shagohod. He ends up face to face with a defector who also happens to be his former mentor, The Boss. To prevent any further hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union, the U.S. Government orders Snake to assassinate The Boss. By accomplishing this mission, Snake gains the title of Big Boss, but loses faith in a lot of things once important to him. The FOX unit is established.

1970 ... Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)
FOX breaks away from the CIA and goes rogue with a genetically enhanced soldier named Gene as the new leader, and their former leaders as their targets. Big Boss assembles a team to take FOX down, and to truly start over, he forms FOXHOUND.

1974 ... Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
Disgusted with his former superior officer and friend Zero's Patriots and especially the Les Enfants Terribles project which gave birth to his two "sons", Big Boss - who seems to prefer the codename Snake - has settled in South America as one of the two leaders of a mercenary group named Militaires Sans Frontieres (Soldiers Without Borders), the other one being Kazuhira Miller. A potential client approaches the group to put an end to an armed invasion in Costa Rica. The MSF initially refuses to help, since the invaders seem to be CIA, which means the successful outcome of the mission would result in the MSF being branded an enemy of the United States. However, Big Boss changes his mind once he is assured that The Boss is still alive and somehow involved in the invasion.

1974-1983 ... Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2013?)
Very likely due to MSF's actions in Costa Rica, their Mother Base is destroyed by a mysterious military organization known as XOF, and the severely wounded Big Boss falls into a coma, marking the end of MSF. Nine years later, Big Boss comes to and together with Miller, they form Diamond Dogs, a faction solely dedicated to investigating and neutralizing XOF. (Once again, we'll have to see how the plot REALLY turns out, and how it will tie in to the overarching storyline - as in how much the game's got to do with the Patriots and the Les Enfants Terribles, if anything, and all that.)

Solid Snake in the
golden age of NES
instruction manuals.
1995 ... Metal Gear (1987)
FOXHOUND agent Grey Fox goes missing in Outer Heaven, a military state in South Africa. His final message relates to a weapon only known as "Metal Gear". FOXHOUND commander Big Boss sends his newest recruit, Solid Snake, to investigate. Snake takes out Metal Gear, which turns out to be a bipedal tank designed for nuclear war, before discovering the true identity of the enemy commander to be Big Boss. Snake burns Outer Heaven down, and seemingly Big Boss with it.

1999 ... Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990)
On Christmas Eve, 1999, Solid Snake is pulled out of retirement by FOXHOUND's new commander, Col. Roy Campbell, to investigate the kidnapping of a Dr. Kio Marv, whose latest invention could solve the oil crisis that has taken the world by storm. Snake travels to Zanzibarland, another fortified state in Asia, and finds his arch nemesis Big Boss to be in charge of the operation. In addition to attempting to gain a monopoly in the oil business, Big Boss has also ordered the mass production of another Metal Gear model, and recruited the former FOXHOUND agent and Snake's best friend Grey Fox for his cause. Snake defeats Grey Fox, piloting the new Metal Gear D, and finally, burns Big Boss alive with a makeshift flamethrower. (What is actually never told in the original MSX2 game, but in the intro sequence of Metal Gear Solid, is that in his dying moments Big Boss tells Snake he's his father. With his mind in complete shambles, Snake disappears under the radar and retreats to Alaska.)

2005 ... Metal Gear Solid (1998)
A group of renegade FOXHOUND agents takes over a weapons facility on Shadow Moses Island, threatening the world with a nuclear strike over the greatest treasure of the U.S. Government - the remains of Big Boss. Col. Roy Campbell seeks out the only man capable of infiltrating the facility - Solid Snake - and manages to convince the initially reluctant drunkard to take part in the operation by telling them of their agenda, and of their leader, who calls himself Liquid Snake. Plagued with a deadly virus known as FOXDIE, Snake defeats the rogue agents one by one, overcomes the challenge posed by the latest Metal Gear model REX with the help of its creator Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, and finally his genetic twin brother Liquid, somehow surviving the effects of the virus himself.

A new render of the the very
original Raiden, who we all
hated - admit it or not.
2007-2009 ... Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
After the Shadow Moses incident, Snake and Otacon have dedicated their talents to an anti-Metal Gear group known as Philanthropy. Receiving mysterious intel on a new Metal Gear model, the amphibious RAY, Snake infiltrates a tanker on the Hudson River, only to fall for the scam of Ocelot, the former right-hand man of Liquid, who now ironically has Liquid's right arm grafted onto his own to manipulate his mind. Ocelot manages to steal RAY and sink the tanker, Snake along with it. Two years later, a rookie operative by the codename of Raiden is sent to investigate and neutralize a nuclear threat by a former U.S. military faction led by Solidus Snake, who have made Big Shell, a water cleansing facility built after the tanker incident, their base of operations. The whole chain of events is revealed to be a re-enactment of Shadow Moses, a program set up by the Patriots to prove that given the certain circumstances, any soldier can be molded into Solid Snake. What the Patriots do not predict is the intervention of the real Solid Snake, who survived the tanker incident and helps Raiden to succeed in his cryptic "mission". Raiden defeats Solidus, who is actually working against the Patriots by his own terms, while Ocelot, who seems to be one of the mysterious Patriots, once again escapes with RAY. Snake and Otacon use the information they accumulated from the experience to track down Ocelot, and through him, the Patriots, only to find that the last registered members of the Patriots have been dead for nearly a hundred years.

One of those scenes that make you weep.
2014 ... Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
The world has engulfed in war. Solid Snake is suffering from heavily accelerated aging, which relates to him being a genetically created clone - although he is only 42 years old, he has the body of a 70-year old man. Despite his condition, Snake is determined to see his mission to the end like a true soldier, and sets out to flush out his brother Liquid, who has now completely devoured Ocelot's mind, and is also given the chance to tie up many loose ends with the people he's met along the way and who've made an impact on his career or life in one way or the other, before his imminent demise. In the end, he finds everything he has ever done since the death of Big Boss to be a carefully calculated plan to destroy the Patriots. Even Ocelot, who appears to be in Liquid's control and the main conduit for the Patriots, actually isn't - he's rather volunteered to play a role, sacrificed his life for Big Boss and his ultimate plan to destroy the organization which ruined him, and take down its leader Zero, who lives on in suspended animation. After Snake's failed attempt at suicide, Big Boss himself comes to greet his son, with his body reconstructed for the purpose of personally pulling the plug on Zero, and to bid farewell to Snake. As Big Boss dies from the second FOXDIE virus injected into Snake, the latter makes a vow to see his life as a monster and puppet to the end with honour, and retires with Otacon on his side.

2018 ... Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013)
Raiden works an officer for the PMC Maverick Securities, who are on a mission to protect an African prime minister when their group is attacked by Desperado, a PMC of terrorists. The client is killed and Raiden severely wounded. Just a few weeks later, the miraculous survivor sets out for revenge. (Haven't played the game, and don't plan to in the very near future, so that's all I have.)