Avenging Spirit

Finished Avenging Spirit about 5 weeks ago, kinda. Never got all the keys to unlock the happy ending and I used save states fairly extensively. I don’t know if that qualifies as finishing a game but I did play through the whole thing so I guess it’s enough to have a good impression of the game.

Avenging Spirit is a fairly hard platformer by Jaleco, a company who made tons of GB titles, this being one of their best known games for the system. It’s a port from an arcade game and if the arcade version is as difficult as this one, you’ll need a lot of coins to reach the ending.

The plot is this: Your girlfriend is kidnapped by gangsters. In the process of kidnapping her, you’re shot and killed. Apparently you’re just collateral damage because the real reason the gangsters want the girl is just so her dad disclose some ghost research he’s been doing. So the dad sums you up back from the dead and send you off to save the girl. He can’t bring your body back though, so you’ll have to get possess one. Several, in fact. That constitutes the main gameplay aspect of the whole thing; each stage you’ll wander around, possess the body of an enemy and use its powers to finish the stage.

It’s a nice idea and it works fairly well. The thing is, most enemies are completely worthless and quickly you’ll learn just one or two in each stage is worth possessing. It’s all about 3 things; how good its projectile weapon is, how far it can jump and the amount of life. Usually all 3 things will be very good in one or two guys and complete trash in all the others populating the stage.

My only problem with this game is how superficial the difficulty is sometimes. The enemies and the platforming is not hard in themselves. Thing is, enemies respawn insanely quickly. You can’t move 3 steps away from the screen where the enemy is located, it will instantly reappear. This often cause troubles since they’ll just respawn at the exact location you just cleared to make that jump or in order to climb that stairs. It can get a bit frustrating at times. I’m sure you can solve this problem by getting actually good at the game but I was not engaged enough to do that.

Now, once you possess an enemy, the novelty of the game is pretty much over, it becomes your basic platformer (not to say that’s a bad thing, this game is tight). I wish sometimes you could do more as a ghost though. In ghost form you have this quickly depleting bar and if you can’t find any body to possess, you’ll die. The idea of using several bodies throughout the stage is also not feasible; you die too fast as a ghost to be able to wander around looking for a decent body to take. Plus, if you lose that decent body (in most cases, the robot) it’s very likely you’ll be killed anyways since the rest of the enemies are pretty weak and useless.

The game is really nice to look at, there’s plenty of interesting looking enemies, from robots to half naked vampires who shoot bats at you. Music is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s really good and engaging, sometimes you wonder what the hell were they thinking.

All in all, I liked it and I plan to revisit soon to get that happy ending and defeat the last boss without save stating every 10 seconds.

Super Mario Land

Just finished Super Mario Land for the Game Boy. First time ever playing it, it took me a couple of days to “finish it”. I put it in quotes because to actually finish the game you need to beat it twice. Second time around is expert mode and the stages are now crawling with enemies. Graphics look great, with minimalist line art for the backgrounds and the enemies. Mario himself looks quite plain, almost like a character from those early LCD handheld games like Game & Watch. I quite like the way the game looks and actually prefer it over the more detailed designs of the sequel. The result of this simplicity is that the game looks more serious and the enemies more menacing, at least to me.

The game is divided in 4 different worlds and each world has 3 stages. You don’t have an overview map here so after beating one stage or world you’re immediately sent to the next. Plot is minimal, even for a Mario game. You’re after Daisy but it’s never clear who the main enemy is (not Bowser by the way) or why is she’s even in danger (or why it isn’t Peach). You can read the manual if you want and then you’ll find out the baddie this time is Tatanga https://www.mariowiki.com/Tatanga, an alien invader. He captures Daisy and sends his minions to guard the 4 kingdoms. The worlds are quite fun to look at thanks to the simple but aptly made backgrounds. Music is quite good too and improves the whole experience. Two of the levels are shooters where Mario pilots a vehicle.

I found the platforming very challenging, specially because of how Mario behaves while midair. The guy is not graceful at all, once he’s falling, he’s falls fast and you can barely maneuver it to reach that gap or avoid an enemy. Because of it, you’ll need to plan your jumps carefully. I failed killing simple goombas quite often in the beginning before getting used to the way Mario moves in this game. Once you get the feeling of how jumping works the game becomes fairly easy and only a couple of stages will give you real trouble. You’ll have plenty of lives anyways, thanks to the abundance of coins to collect and the bonus stages after the end of each level (if you manage to finish it through the top door instead of the bottom one.)

Overall I quite like it, in fact I like it a lot. It feels a lot more focused than your average Mario title. The whole point here is the platforming, exploration is kept to a minimum. Levels are shorter, you can’t go back (once you moved the screen forward that’s it, there’s no going back) and the game is shorter as well. You’ll have to finish it in a single sitting because there’s no saving on this one. If it so happens that you like the Game Boy system and/or Mario games and haven’t tried this one yet I really recommend it. It’s a lovely game with nice looking pixels and really cute music to boot.

Heiankyo Alien

Just finished Heiankyo Alien for GB. A 20 seconds intro explains everything you need to know to start playing it; Aliens invade medieval Japan and a solitary police office armed with his trusty shovel must defeat the invaders. You would expect something more appropriate than a shovel but then you would ruin the strongest point of this title, and that is its mechanics. In a top down perspective, you control the officer as he runs around the town of Kyoto digging holes in the ground hoping for inattentive aliens to fall inside. Then, once you have one trapped, proceed to bury it alive.

It’s not that easy of a task as the aliens move fairly quickly, some of them will actively pursue you and they can also help each other, pulling their fallen comrades out of your ditches. Plus, of course they eat you in a split second if you’re not fast enough or if you get cornered against a wall.

You can fill the entire city with holes if you find that a better, safer strategy (it’s likely not, as you can’t jump over holes yourself, the more holes there is, more opportunities for you to get cornered and eaten) but if you’re paying attention to the score you’ll soon realize aliens caught on a freshly dug hole is worth way more than one caught in one you dug minutes ago. So you soon find yourself digging more strategically. Quality over quantity is the motto of this Japanese police officer.

This game could be incredibly difficult if it wasn’t for how lenient it is with the number of lives you start with (5) plus the ones you get after a certain number of points. It’s not too lenient though since if you get eaten, all the aliens on the stage reappears and you have to bury them all over again. One interesting thing about the GB version is how you can play the original arcade version of the game by selecting [old] on the menu. It’s the very bare bones version of 1980.

Music is very nice and engaging and the graphics are sharp and cute. A couple of cut scenes will keep you entertained between levels. The only thing I disliked is how short it is. It felt like just as I was starting to get really good with my shovel the Aliens throw the towel and fly away. Then all you have left is to replay the game trying to get a better score. I finished a little under 100k points myself and got killed 4 times. There’s a lot of room for improvement there. Of course you can always play the arcade version but I don’t think I’m going to do that.

Overall I really enjoy it. It’s one of those title where the mechanics is the entire point of the game, pretty much like Pac man, Tetris or boulder dash (the last one been the next game I’ll try). I recommend to play this on an actual handheld, If you have a PSP or maybe a DS lying around, install an emulator on it and give it a shot. GB/GBC titles emulate perfectly these days and there’s plenty of interesting stuff to explore, including Heiankyo Alien.


Wario Land

Just finished a great game: Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, which is the first Wario Land and the first game you can play as Wario. What a nice game this is. I much prefer Wario over Mario as a character. Mario is this endearing but gullible individual while Wario is a classic villain. All he cares about is accumulating wealth. It’s interesting he looks a little like a jewish stereotype (actually more like the evil Italian stereotype but whatever). It’s quite fitting that when you get hit and he goes into his smaller form, he pretty much looks like a leprechaun or a gnome and these creatures are also related to amassing gold like Wario.

If you played any Mario game, you know how levels work, how the platforming works and how the enemies and bosses work. The thing is, Wario plays very differently and more interestingly than Mario does. He’s much more violent and his main attack is slamming into enemies who will fly off the screen. Several levels also allows you to sacrifice enemies to gather more coins (for example if you throw an enemy into a lighting bolt you’ll get a decimal coin. You can also feed enemies to chickens and they will also drop decimal coins for your efforts).

Graphics are tight for a Gameboy title and it’s quite interesting to see the differences between how the environment and objects react to Wario contrasted to how it reacts to Mario. In Mario the blocks don’t seem to care when you hit them. In Wario they get this angry face afterwards like they don’t want to give you any money. In Mario there’s a small party when you reach the end of a level and you get the chance get more coins by jumping into a pole or ringing a bell. In Wario they make you pay to finish the stage. All these little things really come together to give you a sense of this character. It really works and you’ll come to consider this a genuine game with a genuine character more so than just a spinoff from the Mario series.

It’s not a difficult game and it’s very forgiving in its platforming and boss fights. There’s a lot of rewards to have for thoroughly exploring the levels though. There are secret levels and a lot of treasure for those willing to look for it, which is always nice.

Music is good and the only technical problem I got is when there’s too much happening on the screen the sprites go a little hectic. It’s not really a problem though and it’s a rare occurrence. The last boss was a nice surprise.

One interesting thing about the cover art. The Us version is actually better this time. The Japanese box really chopped the art and I don’t understand why they would do this. Chopped and framed in cold grey. Also, an interesting thing about his hat. You can see how originally he had this round explorer hat which I really like. Nowadays he wears a cap like Mario and I feel this wasn’t a good decision. Hopefully they will bring the old hat again some day.

Overall I really enjoyed and I’m definitely going for the sequels now. If you care about these types of games I really recommend giving it a chance to this one (in case you haven’t, I think most people who owned a Gameboy have played this at one point).

Bonk’s Revenge


Finished Bonk’s Revenge. The mechanics is pretty much the same as the previous game: You attack your enemy either with a short headbutt or by jumping and diving headfirst towards you target. The platforming element is also identical. You dash your dive to jump farther.

I think the developers felt the same way I did about Bonk’s powers when he eats a rib. In the first game all it did really was adding another hit point and changing your physical appearance. Here though, they added a couple of elements. You have an alien form which allows you to jump way higher than regular Bonk. There’s a monster form that gives your head attack a huge boost and the last and most interesting is the prisoner form that allows you to open sealed doors you will find throughout the levels. These rooms usually will have health or hearts allowing you to increase your hit points. The smiley coins also make a come back and you collect them for lives.

Another thing they did with the sequel was making it a lot easier. Like I said about the first game, Bonk is not the easier character to control midair. Apparently the developers felt the same and now Bonk is a lot more floaty in the air, giving you a lot of time to aim where you going to land. This is not exactly an improvement but since it’s a game for kids I guess it makes sense. It also makes sense story-wise as now most of the levels are located in space or spaceships where gravity doesn’t work the same way, giving Bonk a lot less weight.

The regular enemies you will find through the levels are a lot cooler now, looking more fierce and menacing (in appearance only, really). The bosses got ridiculously easy. You fight each boss twice, except the last one. Since the boss fights are basically diving into their soft spots, Bonk floating like a feather will give you little room to actually miss a dive. A couple of bosses are so easy you’ll think it’s bugged.

Plot-wise, Bonk goes into space, chasing after King Drool, the main enemy of the series. The enemies now are not dinosaurs but robots and androids, though several of them are dino-themed robots. Music is good and the levels are interesting for the most part.

An interesting thing happened to the box art. I guess they realized how in the box for the first Bonk game, Bonk looks like a douche while he should look endearing. So in the second game all they did was reusing the drawing of the japanese box, but changing the background. I agree with this approach. See the original box at the images.

And that’s it of Bonk for me. He only has two games for Gameboy.

Bonk’s Adventure


Finished Bonk’s Adventure yesterday. Bonk was a very famous series with several games released to multiple systems. This one for Gameboy is the only one I played it.

You attack your enemies using your humongous head to either headbutting or by jumping and diving head first into your target. The mechanics involved in making the perfect dive can be quite fun and interesting to master, even though Bonk is not the easiest character to control while midair. There’s also a lot of platforming elements using your dive, since dashing it allows Bonk’s jumps to have a wider reach.

The music is really catchy and sharp for a gameboy title and levels are interesting to look at and varied. Most of your enemies are humanoid dinosaurs (apparently you’re fighting your way through this dino civilization to rescue a dragon-princess who rules over the moon.) Enemies are a little bland to look at in my opinion but the bosses make up for it most of the time. Also some later enemies have technological enhancements to their bodies. As if dragons on the moon, humanoid dinosaurs and a human caveboy wasn’t enough for you.

There’s a couple of minigames and smiley coins to collect along the way if you’re interested in doing that. You can also collect a chop rib that changes your physical appearance but do little to change gameplay other than allowing you an extra hit point.

Overall I really enjoyed it. It’s a solid game from the golden age of platforming games. Bonk is really charismatic (even though the Us box art do a disservice in that regard. Look at the original box at the images.
Since I’m planning to play every Gameboy/Gameboy Color game out there, I’ll soon be playing the sequel, Bonk’s Revenge. Hopefully it’s at least as good as this one.

Momotaro Thunderbolt 2


Just finished the sequel. They improved on pretty much everything compared to the first game. Music and levels are less repetitive, you have world maps like Mario which gives you a better idea of where you are and where you’re going, and Momotaro feels way less stiff to control. There are new mini-games and also a new outfit (besides the usual cat/monkey/bird) allowing you to swim faster. My only complaint about this new outfit is just how unimaginative it is. It’s pretty much just a white speedo. They should’ve followed with the animal theme for the outfits and made it as a fish or something. Overall is a much more solid game than the first one.

Monster design is not as good imo though. Here they took animals and made into enemies, so you have birds, wolves, bears and sharks as enemies for the majority of the game, with skeletons and demons only at the later levels. That said, the enemies from the last map are really cool to look at.

Some levels really push the GB hardware and you get some lag (when you have 3 enemies on screen or when 2 projectiles flies across screen). It just happens a couple of times on later levels so it’s not a big deal. It’s also a much easier game than the first, thanks to the possibility of getting your powers back. It’s pretty much like when an enemy hits Racoon Mario and you have the chance of getting your leaf back if you’re quick enough. Same deal here and it’s really easy to get it back, making you close to invincible most of the time.

The biggest problem I feel is how this game aggravates the problem of Momotaro’s powers. He can use 3 different outfits (the 4th one, the white speedo, you only use in specific water levels so I’m not including it here) which gives you different powers. Cat, monkey and bird. Cat makes you run fast, monkey makes you jump higher and bird makes you glide. The problem is the way the levels are designed, there’s absolutely no reason to not pick bird every time. I know they realized this and tried to fix it by making some levels where you can do cool stuff as monkey or cat. At a certain point you go through a bamboo forest and as a monkey you can climb bamboos for example. Still, even in those levels, bird is the best option.

While I was writing this post I checked to see if there’s a wikipedia article for this series. There is and apparently there’s a rumor Nintendo acquired the rights for Momotaro last year. I hope this is true, I feel Momotaro is perfect for a Nintendo game. It’s cute, endearing, you can come up with interesting gameplay for the animal forms, etc. Let’s hope it’s not just a rumor.

I think I’ll be playing Super Bikkuriman next.