Frank's NES/FDS game reviews

8. Famicom Wars

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Released In: 1988
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo


Let's look at a Japan-exclusive game for a change.

As far as home console was concerned, strategy games were a rare breed. Strategy is a genre that had been dominant on PC for many years, but for the NES, it was close to being a complete stranger. Turn-based strategy games were scarce, and real-time strategy games were virtually non-existent. Perhaps the complexity was too much for home console, or the joypad wasn't as suitable as the keyboard. There were various reasons that didn't bode well for the future of strategy games on consoles. However, Intelligent Systems were going to see if they could make the difference.

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Those who own a Game Boy Advance must have heard or already played Advance Wars. Advance Wars is a military turn-based strategy game that sees various fictional countries waging war at one another. The game was released one day before the 9/11 incident, so its sale was damaged greatly. But this didn't prevent it from receiving critical acclaim. The gameplay is deep and addictive, the AI is challenging and the replayability is high. Apart from other successful series like Mario and Pokemon, it's easily one of the best portable games ever.

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Advance Wars isn't the first of its kind though, but just a game in the Nintendo Wars series. Even though Advance Wars is the first to reach America, there are already a few titles before it. These titles were Japan-exclusive as back then Nintendo deemed the series too complex and difficult for western gamers (sounds awfully familiar). All of the games were named after their respective platforms. The Nintendo Wars game on Game Boy was named Game Boy Wars, the one on Super Famicom was named Super Famicom Wars, and the one on the Famicom, also the first of the series, was named Famicom Wars.

While Advance Wars has been so successful, it might be hard to imagine how a strategy game could fare well on such a primitive platform like the Famicom. But why not take a look at it?

Controls:

A - Select/Confirm
B - Cancel/Bring up menu
D-pad - Move cursor
Select - Center map on HQ

There is no problem with the controls. Scroll speed is a little slow though. The frame in the bottom left of the screen is vacant. It would be nice to have some kind of minimap there.

Rating: 9/10

Gameplay:

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Famicom Wars is about two warring nations, Red Star and Blue Moon. There is no more story here, just two sides that hate and decide to kill each other, so let's just grab a gun and make some kills.

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Before you start, you have to set up the game first. Here, you can assign each side to either AI or human player. All animation except combat animation can be turned off. BGM can be changed. And there are two AI difficulty settings you can choose from. Player and difficulty settings can't be changed later, so watch out.

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Then you have to select a map. You can play the maps in any order. You can also come back to play them again even after you've cleared them. The best number of turns spent will be recorded.

And the game will start. Red Star and Blue Moon will take turn to move. Red Star will always moves first. You can bring up the menu anytime during your turn by pressing the B button.

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There are many types of units in Famicom Wars. To produce a unit, you have to move your cursor to a factory tile and choose the produce option. Aircrafts can only be produced at airports and ships can only be produced at shipyards. The maximum number of units a side can have is 48, not too high and not too low. You can generate more of your war funds by capturing cities. The more cities you have, the higher your income is.

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Different types of units have different strengths and weaknesses. Infantry units are weak but cheap, and can capture cities. Cavalry units are fast and strong, but they're more expensive and can't traverse mountains or get airlifted. Artillery units can attack from a distance, but can't move at the same time. Air units have excellent mobility, but they're very fragile. Sea units are usually the best support units, but they're very expensive and can only operate at sea. It's kind of like rock-paper-scissors, but with more depth. The developers have done very well in balancing them all. You can't ensure your victory by just pumping out the most expensive units. Air superiority isn't the answer to all questions, and big tanks can easily get blown to smithereens by a few artillery shells.

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In addition, your units can't stay in the battlefield for too long, because they'll run out of supply and ammunition. Ground units can get resupplied in any cities and factories. Air units and sea units have to be resupplied at airports and shipyards respectively. Supply costs money though, so you might want to think twice if it's really necessary. You can also bring some supply trucks to resupply you troops anywhere on the map for free, but they can only support ground units.

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The outcome of a battle is determined by a few factors. The first and the most obvious is unit type. Heavier units will always win against lighter units in equal quantity, and specialized units, like fighters, are greatly effective against their intended targets. Secondly, terrains also provide your units' defensive bonuses. Weak rifle infantry on mountains can be surprisingly hard to kill. Thirdly, your units' health determine their attack strength. The less HP they have, the less damage they inflict.

There's no way to replenish your units' HP in this game, but you can merge two units together by moving one into another to combine their HP. However, clustering units are easy target for artillery, so sometimes it's better to have cannon fodders in quantity to draw heavy units' fire.

There are many small details to take into account. How to scatter you forces, how to take control of strategic areas and how to manage your resources are all contributing factors to victory. There will be much strategy involved and micromanagement will be necessary.

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Speaking of micromanagement, yes, this game relies on a lot of micromanagement. You have to move each and every of your unit one by one. When you have dozens of units to control, it can take several minutes to finish just a single turn and it might bore you to death.

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Also, you can't check a unit's attack and movement range like in Advance Wars. You have to remember each unit's range and count number of tiles from it. If you're not careful enough, you might find your unsuspecting bombers ending up in the range of scrambling fighters. It is a small inconvenience you have to put up with.

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Because of time spent on thinking and micromanaging, sometimes you'll have to spend hours to clear a map. You'll find yourself locked in a stalemate pretty often, and you'll have to spend many turns amassing game changing units and even more turns sending them to the frontline. This slow-paced gameplay damages replayability greatly, because no one wants to go through the tediousness for a second time, and there is no merit or reward either. The multiplayer mode also suffers from it. Thankfully, you can save anytime during the game, but it doesn't work very well when you play with your friends. Taking two or three days to settle just one match makes players lose interest. It might be okay for two players, but imagine having a group of friends waiting to play in turn.

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Overall, Famicom Wars has great gameplay. The game's approachability is high. Even though it's all in Japanese, it won't take long to figure out which command does which, and you'll be able to learn how to play it in no time. However, while it's easy to learn, it's also difficult to master. The game is amazingly deep for a Famicom game. It's easy to move your soldiers around, but how to do it effectively is another story. People who like strategy and can overlook the game's slow pace will definitely love it.

Rating: 9/10

Difficulty:

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There are two ways to defeat your enemy. You can win by destroying all enemy units, or you can just capture the enemy's HQ with a rifle infantry unit (rocket infantry can't capture HQ). But it isn't as easy as it sounds.

There are two levels of AI's difficulty to choose from: IQ 100 and IQ 200. The IQ 100 difficulty isn't impossible to beat. Anyone should be able to beat it with some effort. On the other hand, the IQ 200 difficulty is significantly harder. The AI will be ruthless. It'll send units at you wave after wave. It's also smart enough not to charge blindly at you. It knows when to fight and when to retreat. In addition, it seems to gain additional combat bonus.

In order to win, you have to grab as many lands as possible from the start and take an early control of strategic points like mountains and bottlenecks. The trickiest part is figuring out the hole in enemy's defense and breaking through it. A war of attrition is almost unavoidable as a blitzkrieg at enemy's HQ is nearly impossible. Perhaps the only way is to push forward slowly and steadily, taking enemy's cities one by one cutting off their sources of money. Having counters against all types of units is also crucial. The AI will throw everything at you and hit you whenever you let your guard down. One wrong move could cost you the map.

In short, the game is pretty challenging and there is no shortcut to victory. Famicom Wars does what strategy games do best, testing your strategic thinking skills. The steep difficulty might not be appealing to everyone, but it's like a coin with two sides. If you love challenges then the higher difficulty setting is for you.

Rating: 8/10

Graphics:

At first, Famicom Wars's graphics look repetitive like all other tile-based games. But if you look closer you'll notice the subtle difference. The game doesn't use only one tile for each kind of terrain, but actually there are a few different tiles. It can be seen here that some mountains look different than others. The terrain are colorful and well-drawn and the shadow effects give dimensions to the surroundings.

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The amount of units on the battlefield doesn't pose any problem. Because it's a turn-based game, there is no flickering at all. The problem is with the sprites themselves though. Some units look almost the same and first time players will have trouble identifying them. And the sprites aren't transparent, but have green background. When there are many units on the screen, it's hard to see the terrains behind them.

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I've also found a problem while attempting to create units. The game isn't really clear where you can produce your units. Normally, only HQ and factory tiles can produce units, but some city tiles can produce units too. There's no way to know which tile works and which tile doesn't unless you try.

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Moreover, faraway airports and shipyards look the same as your starting ones, but they can't produce any units. they only serve to resupply your planes and ships. The game isn't clear on this either.

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There are some short animated cutscenes in the game when your units perform special actions, like boarding a vehicle or disembarking, which are nice. However, it's a shame that it doesn't go well with the game's slowness so people usually turn it off eventually.

Rating: 8/10

Sounds:

There aren't that many songs in Famicom Wars. The only themes you'll probably ever here are the two Red Star themes and the two Blue Moon themes. They aren't half bad actually. You'll be hearing them all the time but you won't feel the repetitiveness. They're far from being boring or annoying and they lift your mood well. But they aren't that particularly catchy either. Well, this doesn't mean they aren't good. They just don't stick into your mind that much, but they're still good.

The sound effects are done pretty well. The gunshot, the explosion, the siren, everything sounds good and realistic. Certainly no complaint here.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion:

Back when I was little, most of the games I had were on the NES. All I had were limited to NES releases. I was lucky enough to get a Famicom not long after I got the NES. Still, there were only a handful of Famicom-exclusive titles in my possession, and Famicom Wars wasn't one of them.

Famicom Wars didn't exist in my childhood memories.

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Now the problem with old strategy games is, if you didn't grow up with them, it'd be very unlikely to get hooked on them. Strategy games of today come with in-game tutorials and explanations. You have a step-by-step guide and you don't have to consult the manual every time you come across some weird term. They aren't painstaking to learn. Old strategy games are different. There are an array of cryptically abbreviated commands and a crapload of unknown variables, without any in-game help whatsoever. The game manual is like the plane's navigation system. Without it, you crash.

When I first picked up Famicom Wars, I was already used to modern strategy games and I feared it would be like one of those ancient games. But I was very surprised indeed, because it was absolutely nothing like that. It didn't make me give up during the learning phase, because everything on the screen could be understood instantly. The game mechanics were very newbie-friendly. It didn't force all of its intricacies upon me at once. Instead, it enticed me to go further with its simplicity. In addition, it also made itself presentable with great graphics and sounds, rather than being dull with walls of numbers in grayscale.

That's not all it has though. Although surprisingly simple and highly accessible, Famicom Wars still retains the depth of strategy game. While the game mechanics remain simple for easy learning, the complexities lie in how all the elements intermingle together. The units are excellently balanced. They have their own strengths and weaknesses and are suitable in different situations. Different maps require different tactics, logistics and funds management. You have to plan in accordance with enemy's movements. There is no apparent universal winning method, and you'll learn something new every time.

The only con of this game is its slow gameplay, but it's not much compared to the fun factor. It's like a chess game. It might look like an eternal struggle is ensuing, but seeing your plan works and everything clicks together will give you a rewarding satisfaction. The moment when you manage to outwit your opponent and your chess pieces finally make a breakthrough is truly incomparable.

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In conclusion, Famicom Wars proves that a strategy game can do well on home console. It's a classic that doesn't get dated. It's great even by today's standards. Impatient gamers will want to look elsewhere, but the rest of the world will definitely enjoy it. This game is intense yet simple and addictive. It isn't overly complicated as some people or Nintendo might have thought. Even though Super Mario Bros. 2 was a brilliant move, because Famicom Wars is so great and so approachable for everyone, Nintendo might have already made a mistake by underestimating western gamers, and Famicom Wars itself.

Overall rating (not an average): 9.5/10 | Classic
 
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9. Kirby's Adventure

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Released In: 1993
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo


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When I first saw this box art, I thought it was some spin-off of Super Mario Bros. 3, featuring Boo as the main character.

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Actually, it's another franchise altogether. This Game Boy title is Kirby's Dream Land, the first game of the Kirby series. The white round creature is the series protagonist, Kirby.

Originally, the character was to be named Popopo (in contrast with Dedede, the game's antagonist). And the Kirby you see is actually the placeholder design used during the game's development stage. The reason Kirby held on to his current simple appearance was because it was way better than later designs. If it's not broken, don't fix it. Kirby already looks cute and adorable. Why change? Kirby's Dream Land's box art is also cute and adorable. It almost suggests that this game is aimed at grade schoolers, which is, unfortunately, almost true.

Kirby's Dream Land is so awfully easy that its difficulty ultimately becomes its fault. This game is unbelievably short. There are only five straightforward levels in the games. There is no puzzle or secret. Kirby is seriously overpowering and the enemies are more of a nuisance than a threat. Even the hard mode isn't that hard. For experienced gamer, this game can be completed in less than half an hour. The game's challenge is very comparable to that of an educational game.

Still, Kirby's Dream Land has given a new style of gameplay to platformer. The surface might look elementary, but the core is solid. While it isn't critically acclaimed, it's good enough to spawn a sequel, strangely on the NES, titled Kirby's Adventure.

In Kirby's Adventure, you take the role of our pink and fluffy protagonist, Kirby. After he wakes up from his after-lunch nap without having a dream, he goes to investigate the Dream Spring and finds that King Dedede has stolen the Star Rod, the magical artifact that provides power to the Dream Spring, and broken it into seven pieces. Now it is up to Kirby to find all the pieces and put them together again, in the hope of returning dreams to all the Dream Landers once more.

Graphics:

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Kirby's Adventure is one of the games that push the NES to its very limit. Boasting 6 megabits of data, it's the largest officially licensed NES game ever released. This allows for the most stunning graphics that even put some SNES games to shame. The world of Kirby is full of vibrant colors. The backgrounds are abundant and gorgeous. There are many kinds of stage themes, waterfall, beach, cavern, auroral zone. The beauty of Dream Land is perfectly portrayed and expressed.

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The bright and lovely character design is the series's trademark, which this game also possesses. It greatly matches the game's environment. The iconic Whispy Woods, the chubby Dedede, even the serious Meta Knight, they're all adorable and impossible to hate.

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As far as graphics are concerned, the most outstanding aspect of this game is the animation. The animation in Kirby's Adventure is top-notch. Kirby's movement doesn't look stiff or awkward. He looks so natural when he throws his weight around squishing and bouncing here and there. Not only that, Kirby can do a lot of things other than jumping around. Seeing him interact with various in-game objects and enemies is a fun in itself.

At a glance, Kirby's Adventure looks like a game little kids would play. If you eyes have taste buds, your vision will be coated with sweet flavor. But what's so bad about being cartoonish? Kirby's Adventure isn't just a sack of pure sugar. It's a delicacy with a variety of ingredients. It's evident here that the developer were really attentive and the art wasn't done in a quick-and-dirty manner. It was crafted grain by grain and filled to the brim with fine details. It has the kinds of graphics that every 8-bit game dreams about, no exception. Kirby's Adventure is a real piece of art that steals the player's heart in an instant.

Rating: 10/10

Sounds:

Well, what can I say about the sounds? Kirby's Adventure's art is great, so great that sometimes you forget to use your ears to appreciate the game.

It's like the graphics were the developer's favorite child as the sounds didn't get as much attention. Kirby's Adventure's sounds don't stand out as much as the graphics. They're not bad though. The game's BGM is usually jovial and upbeat. And Even though it turns slow and sad when accompanying darker or more intense stages, it still retains some of its cheerfulness, which goes well with the light-hearted setting.

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Sadly, while the game has great themes, some of them are unbelievably short. There are a lot of songs to listen to but some last no more than 10 seconds. Not that it lacks quality but it looks like the music department is more focused on quantity. Ironically, the most memorable theme for me is the Green Greens theme, which is taken from Kirby's Dream Land.

The sound effects, like the Green Greens theme, are just recycled elements from Kirby's Dream Land, but they're already good in the first place. And since Kirby can do many more things, there are even more sounds here to go with all the actions. They do their best to try to match the non-serious comical atmosphere, so, instead of being realistic, they sound humorous. Even the sounds of impact and explosion are pleasing to hear.

Rating: 8/10

Gameplay:

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Kirby's Adventure is a platformer game. The goal of the game is simply to reach to end of each level. But Kirby is unlike any other ordinary platformer heroes. He has a unique ability to inhale things. It can be said that this game was built mainly on this ability because it's used in almost all situations.

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Kirby can suck in air to inflate himself and float like a blimp. This adds more dimension to the gameplay instead of using only the regular left-to-right side-scrolling. He is free to fly wherever he wants and explore every nook and cranny of the level. When in his hot-air balloon form, he can also attack enemies by blowing a puff of air at them.

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Kirby can also inhale an enemy and spew it at other enemy. If he chooses to eat it, he'll get its power. He can take the ability to breath fire, he can take the enemy's hammer, or he can turn himself into a wheel. Along with the graphics, the copy abilities are the main selling point of Kirby's Adventure. There are over 20 different copy abilities. This makes the game fun and interesting. It tempts the players to try out all the possibilities and see what each of them does.

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These copy abilities aren't only useful for dispatching enemies. They can also be used to gain access to secret items or secret locations. Precious items like 1UP are usually put behind walls or buried deep below the ground which can only be destroyed by some specific powers. There are also some secret doors that lead you to switches which open up new secret areas on the main map, but you won't be able to reach them without certain abilities.

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Apart from the mandatory levels you have to beat to win the game, there are also some bonus areas which can be very rewarding. You can gain some copy abilities from the enemies displayed in the museum, or you can get them by defeating those mini-bosses in the arena. You can also play some nice mini-games to earn some extra lives. These mini-games are nice and add more fun to the normal platforming.

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Kirby's Adventure is a great game that has many things to offer. It differs from other plain platformers in that there are many things to play with. You can try many different copy abilities, enjoy yourself with those mini-games and discover the game's secrets to get the 100% progress. However, you won't be able to savor the best part right away. The first few worlds can be too straightforward and boring. There aren't many copy abilities and there aren't many secrets to find. The game just leads you from start to finish with great linearity. Only after 2 or 3 worlds that you will find more interesting things to do. When it begins to get better, you'll start to taste the joy and realize what this great game is capable of.

Rating: 9/10

Controls:

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If you leave the game idle on the title screen, you'll be able to watch a nice tutorial on how to control Kirby.

B - Inhale/Spew objects/Spout water
A - Jump/Swim/Fly
D-pad - Move/Climb
Left or Right x 2 - Run
Up - Inhale air/Fly
Down - Squat/Swallow
Select - Drop power
Down and A or B - Slide

There are a lot of moves Kirby can perform, but they're pretty easy to memorize. Apart from his inhaling and copy abilities, there are a few moves he can use to attack enemies. He can slide to knock an enemy out, he can fall from above and crash into an enemy with momentum, and he can puff a waterspout at an enemy underwater.

The controls are overall great. Kirby is very responsive and easy to control. The only issue I have is that he isn't allowed to change direction while inhaling. You have to wait for the animation to end first. This can be annoying when you want to go after the power star you dropped.

Rating: 9/10

Difficulty:

While Kirby's Adventure isn't as ridiculously easy as Kirby's Dream Land, it still doesn't offer much challenge. There are many reasons why anyone is capable of clearing this game.

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The first and the most obvious reason is that Kirby is simply too overpowering. Being able to endure six attacks before he succumbs, he can withstand a lot of punishment, not to mention that health items are easy to come by. The only thing that can instantly kill him is the bottomless pit. However, he can avoid that with his ability to fly indefinitely. This ability also helps him get past all the obstacles on the ground effortlessly. Imagine Paratroopa Wings from Super Mario Bros. 3. It easily eliminates almost all platforming from the game.

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Secondly, common enemies are easy to kill. Every one of them will die in one hit. This greatly dampens the fun of obtaining copy abilities. You don't really need a strong power to fight them because any will do. In fact, it's even easier to go without any copy ability and just eat them. Special powers don't really make any big difference. The enemies don't pose much threat. They're so easy sometimes I feel it isn't worth using those powerful copy abilities on them. It's like bringing jet fighters to fight sticks and stones. It's enjoyable in a way, but hardly satisfying.

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The bosses aren't really that difficult either. If you have the right copy ability, the battle can be quickly decided. For example, you can go with Laser to hit a boss from a safe distance, or Tornado for a period of invincibility. If you don't have one, it will take some time to get used to their movements, but they're still nothing more than pushovers. Moreover, if you've already played Kirby's Dream Land then it'll be even easier, because the developers are very cheap about the bosses' attack patterns as some of them are just blatant rip-offs from the Game Boy game.

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Furthermore, the game is very generous when it comes to extra lives. It's pretty hard to get the right timing and receive one from the goal game though. However, you can easily snatch some of them from the mini games. There are also a lot of 1UPs lying around the world. You don't have to be an exceptional player and you might still find yourself having twenty or so lives by the time you finish the game.

With everything in Kirby's favor, it doesn't take long to finish this game. Even though this game is a huge improvement of Kirby's Dream Land, which has only five levels, there are some extremely short levels, each of which has only a few rooms, so the overall length is still not that long. An average player should be able to clear it in half a day. However, you can save the game whenever you feel like taking a rest. Kirby's Adventure features battery saves. The game saves automatically when you turn off the NES. You can come back and continue where you left off anytime.

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If you're looking for a more serious challenge, you can try the extra mode, which can be unlocked after finishing the game with 100% progress. In Extra Mode, Kirby only has half as much health, the mini games are much more difficult, and you have to beat the game in one sitting. In my opinion, the extra mode's difficulty is just right and not too easy, and provides a more proper challenge.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion:

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Kirby's Adventure was released in the year 1993, very close to the end of NES's life cycle. It was in the period of transition to the new and better SNES. The baton was being passed. The NES was a dying platform. The late-generation games were largely ignored and overlooked, and Kirby's Adventure was one of the victims. But if we look on the bright side, the NES's potential was already fully realized by that time, and Kirby's Adventure didn't fail to tap into every last ounce of it.

Kirby's Adventure lives up to it status of being the largest game on the NES. The cartridge is tightly packed with quality. It presents itself well with its astonishing visuals. The rich graphics give the player an everlasting impression. It's probably the most beautiful game ever released on the NES. And it's not just appealing on the surface. Undoubtedly, what makes Kirby's Adventure fun is Kirby's ability to assimilate enemies' powers. There are so many copy abilities in this game I'm amazed at how the developers managed to put it all in the game. The amount of work required to do this was close to what it needed to make several NES games, but somehow they succeeded and the result was very cool indeed. It's fun to try all the powers out, play with them, and try to hold on to the one you like. This great diversity is as attractive as the game's graphics. It beckons the player to come back for more.

Another thing that seems to be an established fact in Kirby series is that its games tend to lean on the easier side. Kirby's Adventure is highly approachable and very easy to pick up. It's simple enough for children of all ages and excellent for a family gathering. But that's like a coin with two sides. Hardcore gamers might not like it because it doesn't add that much spice to their lives. Playing it is more like reading a story than testing one's skills. I won't categorize Kirby's Adventure as a casual game, but it's the most casual hardcore game I've ever played.

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That's not to say gamers who long for challenge should avoid it like a plague, because challenge isn't the be all and end all of a video game. Kirby's Adventure is still an impressive game that shouldn't be missed. If you take it easy like a stroll, it can be one unique and wonderful gaming experience. Take the epic sword fight against Meta Knight or the nice twist ending after you defeat King Dedede for example. It might turn out to be a memorable journey that you'll never forget.

Overall rating (not an average): 8.5/10 | Outstanding
 
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Awesome. Thanks for that review sensei. Kirby has to be my favorite Nintendo character. Very in depth review. Kudo's
 
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10. Silkworm

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Released In: 1990
Developer: American Sammy
Publisher: American Sammy


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The AI designed to be the solution of war, MH-C2, has become too intelligent and gone rogue. It has taken control of all the world's weapons and turned them against humanity. Now it's up to the team from the top-secret defense program, codenamed Silkworm, to save the day. The story here is a typical cybernetic revolt scenario. I have no idea why they decided to use the name Silkworm though. It's neither imposing nor intimidating. It gives the impression of being easy to crush just by treading on. But here it is, Silkworm.

Silkworm is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up game first released as an arcade game in 1988 by Tecmo and ported to the NES in 1990 by American Sammy. Shooters were already flooding the market back then, not to mention that the genre is repetitive by nature. So, can Silkworm stand out from and compete with other products of its kinds?

Gameplay:

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Silkworm is no different than other normal shmup games. A lot of aircraft will be coming at you with a hail of bullets. You have to dodge them, destroy them, the usual stuff. There are many types of enemies in this game, but they're mostly similar. A huge boss will be waiting for you at the end of each stage. The strategy is always the same. It mostly involves waiting for the boss to expose its weakness and blasting it with all you have. Not much variation here.

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From time to time, you'll face a mini-boss enemy called Snakehead. Destroying it would yield one or two power-ups. There are only two types of power-ups. The Twin Sphere arms you with twin cannons and the Turbo Card grants you faster automatic fire. If you already have both of them, the subsequent Snakeheads will drop bonus pods, which only give you points. Normally, you lose these power-ups when you lose a life. However, your rank goes up every time you collect an item, and once your reach the highest rank, you'll never lose your power-ups ever again, even after a continue.

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Apart from the two power-ups, there is also a shield item which you can get by destroying a land mine. It grants you temporary invincibility. You can also destroy it by shooting at it or hitting it while you already have an active shield. It will explode and destroy all enemies on the screen.

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What makes Silkworm stand out from other traditional shooters is that, in addition to playing as a helicopter, you can also play as a jeep. While the jeep has limited movement, its ability to fire in all directions more than compensates for it. This gives the player a whole new shooting experience. The player can have two different playthroughs with totally different feels. Not only that, the two vehicles can also be played simultaneously in the cooperative mode. This is where the true fun of Silkworm lies. Each of the two players is given a different role. Teamwork is crucial as both have to support each other and cover each other's weakness. It turns what could have only been a mediocre shooter into something pleasurable and entertaining.

Rating: 7/10

Controls:

As the helicopter:
D-Pad - Move
B - Fire
A - Angle fire downward

As the jeep:
Left and Right - Move
Up and Down - Rotate cannon
B- Fire
A - Jump

There aren't any big issues about the controls. It might take some time to master them, but they're pretty easy to learn.

Rating: 9/10

Difficulty:

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Silkworm can be pretty challenging, despite having only 9 levels. Even though it's far from being a bullet hell, the enemies will still unleash a load of projectiles at you. Normal missiles can't be shot down while homing missiles can be destroyed, but it's still hard to do so because of their small size. Without some very accurate aim, you'll see your bullets just fly right through them. And you'll also have to dodge the Silkworm missiles, which are projectiles the boss periodically shoots at you, like Bowser's fire breath in Super Mario Bros. These missiles are fast, big, and also indestructible.

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At first, playing as the helicopter seems easier than playing as the jeep because of its mobility, but the jeep actually has a few big advantages over the helicopter. First, the surface is a relatively safe place. It is clear of all the intense dogfights. You only occasionally have to dodge the stray missiles or the ramming aircraft. Second, the jeep can rotate its cannon, which means it can dispatch threats in and from any directions. It doesn't have to align itself with its target like the helicopter. Finally, it's twin cannon is far superior to that of the helicopter. While the helicopter has its main gun aimed forward and the secondary one aimed toward the surface, the jeep can have both aimed toward the sky, where the firepower is more needed. This makes the jeep far better than the helicopter at crowd control, which is extremely important in a shmup. So, if you think the helicopter is the better choice, you might want to think twice.

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This game is very stingy with extra lives though. You can only get extra lives by getting certain scores. And there are only two continues. If you use they all up, you'll have to start over. The game's final boss is pretty nasty too. It doesn't matter how many continues you have left. If you lose this fight, it's an instant game over.

Rating: 8/10

Graphics:

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Being a home console port, Silkworm's graphics aren't as attractive as the arcade version. The background doesn't look bad at first, but there's the lack of bright colors and it gets repetitive as you play on. The vehicle design is generic and uninteresting, and the animation is almost non-existence. One good thing is that the game isn't plagued with excessive flickering. There's still some of it but, considering the number of enemies on the screen, they've done a decent job.

Rating: 6/10

Sounds:

It seems the developers didn't put much thought into Silkworm's sounds. They're as boring as the graphics. You'll hear only about a few different sound effects throughout the entire games. The bland gameplay is partly to blame for this though, because there aren't many things to make the sounds for. The game mostly consists of shooting and exploding sounds. Your vehicles don't have any special attacks or special moves, and, apart from the game's signature Silkworm missiles, neither do the enemies.

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The music doesn't seem to be done with much effort either. You'll be hearing only one tune from level 1 to 7. The theme is likable but there's no variation. Only in level 8 you'll start to hear a more ominous theme as a prelude to the final battle. And other themes are only short pieces used during the cutscenes, which are already scarce to begin with.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion:

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For a game released in 1990, Silkworm isn't very successful in exciting gamers' attention. It's a downgrade of an arcade game which was released as far back as two years prior. It feels like a very dated piece of work that has no more place in its era. It's just your average shooting game that doesn't have much to commend on. There are no flashy power-ups and the game is very short in length. Playing it will have your thirst for new shooter quenched, but only briefly. However, there is one redeeming feature of Silkworm, and that is the two-player mode. Silkworm is easily one of the go-to games when you want to play something with a friend. It's fun and well worth your time. This game is far from memorable when you do it alone, but the co-op game makes it one of the better side-scrolling shooters on the NES.

Overall rating (not an average): 6.5/10 | Decent
 
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11. Mega Man 2

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Released In: 1989
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom


Mega Man reviews trilogy part 2.

Dr. Wily has been defeated. His plan of world domination has been brought to an end and peace has finally ensued. The world can close their eyes with relief and sleep soundly once more. The soothing music of calm and tranquil night plays in the background. But suddenly, we are told his ambition isn't over yet. The camera pans up the towering skyscraper, away from the glowing city into the dark sky, and the uneasy tune starts to take over. Then the camera reaches the top of the building, revealing our protagonist standing there against the wind, looking at the uncertainty wrapping around the city as if he's telling the people that he'll be watching over them. Finally, the flourish kicks in, and the music explodes into a fast motivational beat, signalling the beginning of a new war.

This. Really. Is. An epic way to start a game.

Mega Man 2 is a game that almost never have been. The first Mega Man game barely met Capcom's expectations. Even though it was well-received, it did poorly commercially. Capcom wasn't sure that another Mega Man game would be a good idea. Only after a serious discussion with the development team that they agreed to give it a green light, under the condition that the team had to finish other projects on schedule, which meant they could only afford their spare time for the sequel.

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The project began with a clever nationwide publicity campaign. The development team offered the children all around Japan an opportunity to take part in the making of Mega Man 2 by holding a robot master design contest. The 8 best designers would have their robots and their names appear in the game. In the end, there were over 8000 robot masters submitted. Time constraint was the biggest issue, as the contest's deadline was at the end of July and release date was already set in December. This meant there were only about four months left to decide the winners and implement the idea into the game. The team had to work around the clock and beat it to make a bigger and better game.

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Mega Man 2 was released in Japan as Rockman 2 on the Christmas Eve of 1988, an excellent time for delivering presents, and graced American soil almost a year later. The Japanese version, Rockman 2, has a nice little subtitle "Dr. Wily no Nazo", translated as "The Mystery of Dr. Wily", "The Enigma Of Dr. Wily" or "The Secret Of Dr. Wily", which is left out in the North American version. This is quite a shame because the subtitle leaves a very subtle but strong question in the players' minds. What is Dr. Wily's secret? What is Dr.Wily real intention?

What is Dr.Wily?

Graphics:

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Mega Man 2 sees quite a visual improvement over the first game. At a glance, the graphics haven't undergone any real change. Mega Man's sprites are the same as those in the first game. He still looks and acts the same as he does in the first game. But look elsewhere and you'll spot the differences in detail.

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In fact, you'll see the first difference as soon as you start the game. The stage select screen now presents you with the bosses' mugshots instead of their actual in-game sprites. Seeing their faces in close-up is certainly different. They show you how intimidating they are and make your imagination run wild judging which bosses are tougher than others.

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The boss introduction now has a nice shooting star background instead of plain blue color. Great aesthetic.

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In contrast to the old still one, the ready signal now blinks, instilling alertness into the player. It's a small subtle change which makes a big difference.

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Another thing that was changed is the items. Energy pellets and weapon capsules now look much better than the old versions, which are like some weird light bulbs. The big circle makes the items feel more powerful and effective.

And now we move to the most conspicuous thing, the stages.

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There are very few instances in the first game where the background and level tiles are animated, and they're barely noticeable. Everything looks square and rigid. Take Guts Man's stage for example. The rock mountains are awkwardly lined and look unnatural.

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Mega Man 2, on the other hand, features stages that are much more interesting. The first game's level tiles try to mix some random polygons together to make themselves look like some futuristic structures of incomprehensible nature, which gives a repetitious feel. But Mega Man 2's stages are unique and greatly distinct from one another. It really feel like Mega Man is in for one great journey, rather than only patrolling an area in a big city. The themes are expressed and illustrated much clearer and the environments are more detailed and animated.

Bubble Man stage

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Bubble Man stage begins with a nice view of a big waterfall. And yes, it's fully animated. The heavy use of white color can make the player feel dizzy if he or she try to stare at the blinking ready signal, but that will be one of the very few downsides in the whole game. As you plunge down into the sea, you'll see that the level tiles have turned green, implying that light has a hard time penetrating the depth. And here you'll face your first huge enemy, the Anko. This game starts the trend of sub-bosses being tough and big, giving the player a strange satisfaction once they're fallen. The animation is impressive. You can see the fish flaps its fin and the shrimps curl their bodies to move through the water. The urchin-like spikes also suit the sea theme.

Air Man stage

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This stage uses a plain monochromatic sky blue background, but they've made a clever move by including the foreground. The white fluffy clouds are there to hinder your vision. Enemies will be lurking there waiting to ambush you, and the footing will look insecure. Platforms are scarce and mostly made of glass, not to mention that some of them are actually your enemies. It does well in inducing the fear of falling into the player, which is very appropriate for a sky-themed level.

Quick Man stage

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I like the colors used in this stage. The background is glowing red while the tiles are pale blue and gray, implying that Mega Man is in some kind of dimly lit underground tunnel. One part is a dark passageway barely illuminated by flaming cauldron enemies called Changkey Makers. If they're destroyed, the light will be gone, leaving Mega Man to feel his way toward the exit. That's some nice visual effect.

Heat Man stage

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Heat Man stage has an interesting background with a 3D look. The stage looks like one big circular sewer tunnel. The background gives the impression that the wall is caving in away from the player. The level tiles look pretty much the same as the background but it has a clearly distinct color so the player can easily tell the difference. Also, the glowing stream below is animated. This stage features some enemies with adorable designs, like Springer, an enemy resembling a jack-in-the-box, and Fly Boy, a pull-string propeller toy robot.

Wood Man stage

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Wood Man stage is unlike anything we've seen before in the first game. There are a lot of trees in the background, and even more trees and thick grass behind, implying that Mega Man isn't only walking along a line of trees, but he's walking through a dense forest. Not only that, the trees are robots. The fortress's interior and exterior have the texture of wood. There's a section that Mega Man has to climb up high and travel on tree branches above the forest, a nice change of view. The place is full of animal-themed enemies, most notably the Friender. It's another big sub-boss and from it we see some more great animation. It's wagging its tail and pawing the floor, and it opens its mouth while spewing fire.

Metal Man stage

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More animated background. Lots of activity going on here. The whole factory is composed of rotating gears, pumping pistons and moving conveyor belts. Don't know what it's for though, but it's one cool-looking level. The green level tiles seem a little out of place. Perhaps they wanted to make them contrast with the dark background and the gray enemies.

Flash Man stage

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Flash Man stage is some kind of cave. It is a framework made by putting beams of crystal together. The beams branch into a complex maze, a design that looks fun. The flashing blocks are a nice touch. The background is in deep blue and is quite detailed, but plain enough for you to distinguish Mega Man from it. Enemies and other objects are in contrast colors so there will be no confusion.

Crash Man stage

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Crash Man stage is a pipe station with, you guess it, lots of pipes. The design is quirky and original. The background is quite boring though, just color blue everywhere with only occasional clouds, but the transition from blue sky to black space is neat and can compensate for it. Our old bitter enemy Metall is back as Neo Metall, and looks livelier than before. It has turned from a black pile of goo in a hard hat into a cute little ball with legs, another small change with considerable impact.

However, even with this great visual diversity, the final stages are somewhat a letdown.

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For the first time, we get to see what Dr. Wily's castle looks like, which is cool.

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Sadly, the inside isn't that interesting. Some backgrounds and tiles are used for a few stages, making them look and feel just the same.

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They even recycled some backgrounds from the first game. What a shame.

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But the most serious problem you'll face is the slowdown and massive sprite flickering when your NES is overloaded. When there are many objects on the screen at once, this is inevitable. The frame rate drop isn't totally unacceptable, but the flickering can be so abysmal that it is a deciding factor, especially against a boss in Wily's castle. You won't see or realize what's happening at all until you kill off some sprites on the screen, which is difficult because your vision is greatly hindered in the first place.

Rating: 9/10

Controls:

B - Fire Mega Buster
A - Jump
D-pad - Move/Climb

The controls of Mega Man 2 are almost identical to that of Mega Man, but with a few improvements. The pausing function of the Select button has been removed, preventing the exploitation of the teleport animation glitch. Mega Man isn't apt to skid when walking like in the first game anymore. Slippery floors are far friendlier and far less annoying. All the bad in the first game has been eliminated. The controls are simple, and flawless.

Rating: 10/10

Gameplay:

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As stated before, Mega Man 2's stages are even more divergent than those of Mega Man. Not only in appearance but in gameplay as well. Each stage has its own gimmick and requires different approach and skill. For example, Flash Man stage has you navigate through a maze, Heat Man stage involves jumping puzzles, and Wood Man stage is combat intensive. Environment comes into play as well, like the water that lets you jump higher, or the conveyor belts that try to bring you toward the bottomless pit.

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But, after all, the lynchpin of Mega Man's fun is none other than the special weapons.

Mega Man 2 still utilizes the same formula that made Mega Man well-received among gamers, and that is the rock-paper-scissors mechanic. Now, instead of having only six, there are eight robot masters to defeat, which means there are even more weapons to play with. Finding which boss weak against which weapon is still fun.

The difference between killing the bosses with Mega Buster and their respective weaknesses is even smaller this time. The difficulty has been reduced greatly. No more do you have to struggle through such hardship toward the end of the stage, only to find out that the boss is simply unkillable (I'm looking at you, Elec Man). All robot masters here are pretty beatable with your starting Mega Buster (although some of them are a little unfair, more coverage on that later), as well as other enemies. The fact that now Mega Man isn't as reliant on special weapons as he is in the first game might diminishes the fun in using them a bit. But considering he doesn't have to struggle anymore even only with his Mega Buster, it is a reasonable exchange.

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However, even though the balance between the Mega Buster and the special weapons is great, I can't say the same for the balance between the special weapons themselves. Some weapons are far more powerful than the others, and some weapons are just worthless. Thus you'll find yourself using just a few of them and neglect all the others. The power distribution is very poor here. It dampens the enjoyment of switching weapons substantially. It makes you think if having those bad weapons is really worth killing the bosses.

The concept is still all good, but how well did they execute it?

If the development team want the players to have fun with the special weapons, there are a few things they have to keep in mind. All weapons have to be useful one way or another, all weapons have to act differently, and all weapons have to be balanced. The first game answers these requirements correctly. All six weapons are suitable for different circumstances, and they help you breeze through the hardest stages. Even though you can clear them all with only Mega Buster, enemies' placement and weaknesses encourage you to use the right weapon in the right situation. The game was designed to make the most of it. It is a good design.

With 8 weapons in Mega Man 2, it would be more difficult to design and balance them. After some experimentation, the player will stick to weapons he or she thinks are the best and ditch the worst ones. They will be greatly neglected unless they're needed for some very situational uses that are forced upon the player. This kind of design is not bad if used in moderation. If used excessively and unreasonably, it is a bad design.

Crash Bomber

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With that said, let's start with the most situational weapon in this game, the Crash Bomber.

The Crash Bomber moves in a straight line, damaging any enemies it hits. If there's a wall, it'll stick onto it and explode shortly after, dealing huge amount of damage to everything that gets caught in the blast radius. It can only be fired one at a time. With a full energy bar, it can be fired only seven times.

This could be perhaps the second most powerful weapon in the game, and it would be extremely good if only it didn't have such an impractical use. The only pro of Crash Bomber is its devastating explosion which hits the target multiple times, but if you fire it straight at the enemy, it won't detonate. To gain from it to the fullest, you have to fire at the wall and time it right so that the enemy is near it when it goes off. It takes about a few seconds to explode so the timing is hard. Even when you get it right, the explosion doesn't last that long and has quite a small hit box.

Crash Bomber can kill a few tough enemies in one hit, but that's about it. In general, this weapon is crappy. And perhaps the development team knew it too, so they included destructible walls which can only be destroyed by it into the game. This is like a last minute modification to ensure that the player will find the use of it, and makes it more like a transport item, which is needed to progress through certain parts, than an actual weapon. I don't know if that's really the case or not but, either way, I'm disappointed because Crash Bomber has so few shots that it's better to never use it in a fight, but rather saving it to blast through those obstacles.

Atomic Fire

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The Atomic Fire shoots fireballs straight forward at enemies. At a glance, it's no different than the Mega Buster, but it can be charged for a bigger and stronger shot. It is the game's most powerful weapon.

A fully charged Atomic Fire can down even the biggest enemy in one hit (not including bosses), but it eats away more than a third of weapon energy bar, so it should be kept well up the sleeve until the time is right. When all else fail, this will be Mega Man's final trump card. I really like the idea of a super move that can vaporize anything out of its existence but can only be performed limitedly. It's like possessing a weapon of mass destruction that is awaiting its worthy target. I can really feel the power in the palm of my hand with it.

Time Stopper

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Not to be confused with Flash Stopper. The Time Stopper, just as its name suggests, stops time. It completely freezes anything that moves.

The ability to manipulate time sounds like a godalmighty power, except that it drains even more power than the Atomic Fire. A shot of this will deplete all energy. You can use it only once before having to refill its energy again. So, if Atomic Fire is your trump card then this is supposed to be your super trump card, but sadly it's not. Time Stopper has one serious shortcoming. Unlike the Ice Slasher in the first game, you can't switch your weapon to dispose of your enemies while they're immobilized. If there's something blocking you and there's no way to get around it then it'll be a grand waste.

Even though using the Time Stopper proves too costly, it can be useful in some situations though. It can stop conveyor belts, it can easily help you get past moving traps, and it can prevent a group of enemies from swarming over you. Gameplay-wise, it's a nice and unique addition to Mega Man's arsenal.

Bubble Lead

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When equipped with this, Mega Man fires a heavy bubble that rolls forward, damaging anything it touches.

Clearly this weapon isn't much useful. It's mainly used to kill enemies that are lower than you. It can defeat some strong enemies in a few hits, but most others are immune to it. Generally it's a weak weapon. I feel that they should have balanced out the poor trajectory by packing some punch in it.

The Bubble Lead has another use. Since it can detect the floor's hitbox, it comes in handy when Mega Man needs to feel his way around. There's a part in the game that has many hidden pitfalls and Mega Man needs the Bubble Lead to detect them. Like in the Crash Bomber's case, I feel this is another instance that they tried to force the usefulness into a weapon. It is one of the very few chances you need the weapon, and you can safely ignore it for the rest of the game.

It seems Capcom realized this mistake though. When the Bubble Lead appears again in the Game Boy's Dr. Wily's Revenge, it's easily the best weapon in the game.

Quick Boomerang

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The successor of Mega Man's Rolling Cutter. The Quick Boomerang travels in an arc before returning to Mega Man. It can hit enemies slightly above or below. It is the game's only automatic weapon.

Quick Boomerang is a utility weapon that is suitable in all situations. Except Pipi's eggs, no normal enemies in this game are immune to it. It's a short-range weapon and an individual shot is weak, but the cheap energy consumption and the fast fire rate more than make up for it. While it doesn't stand out, it doesn't have any serious flaws either. This weapon is well balanced and I'd say it's another plus to the gameplay.

Air Shooter

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The Air Shooter creates three small tornados that spread diagonally upward.

Nothing much to say about it except that it's an anti-air weapon. It's good against enemies that hail from above. It helps deal with problems from another angle, which makes it different from other weapons. Another good addition to Mega Man's arsenal.

Leaf Shield

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The first barrier weapon in the series if you don't count Fire Storm, the Leaf Shield protects Mega Man from external harm. It can be fired in four directions.

Leaf Shield doesn't protects Mega Man from projectiles, but it can shield him from bodily contact. The shield is practically impenetrable by weak enemies. It's actually stronger than it looks as it can defeat some stronger enemies with ease. You can also fire it at targets in the distance. In my opinion, this weapon is a good idea, but it's a little overpowered and should be balanced, either by stripping of its ability to aim vertically (because air defense is already the Air Shooter's duty) or by increasing its energy consumption rate.

Metal Blade

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This is the most broken power in the entire game. This weapon simply ruins everything.

The Metal Blade is a big circular saw blade that travels in a straight line. It can be fired in eight directions.

Don't get me wrong, Metal Blade is a terrific weapon and there's no reason not to use it. But since I'm reviewing Mega Man 2's gameplay and not talking about how wonderful this weapon is, I'm going to point out the obvious flaw here.

The Metal Blade is the most overpowered weapon, ever. It's very economical (Four blades cost one weapon energy bar.), has quite a big hitbox, and can be fired at any direction, effectively overriding Quick Boomerang, Air Shooter and possibly Leaf Shield (all are the better weapons of this game). It's quite weak, but easy to spam. No place on the screen is out of Metal Blade's reach. It makes the Mega Buster obsolete. Only a few enemies are immuned to it. And three robot masters have it as their main weakness!

Mega Man 2 could have been a more challenging game but this, thing, shatters the game balance into a million pieces. It's the development team's biggest mistake. It rids the players of the joy they get from choosing the right weapon for the right situation, because Metal Blade is the answer to every problem. It trivializes everything. It shreds everything. And it dominates everything.

Splitting enemies' faces with Metal Blade is fun, but it's not the same kind of fun you get from the first game, where each weapon is good in its own area. It's the kind of fun that you get when you bully helpless animals. It's an empty kind of fun.

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Like the first game which has the Magnet Beam, Mega Man 2 also features transport items, namely Item-1, Item-2 and Item-3 (not very creative names). But, unlike the Magnet Beam, these items are forced upon the player, so Mega Man won't get stuck in rooms that require their service.

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Mega Man 2 introduces a new item called E-Tank, which can be kept in Mega Man's inventory. Mega Man can hold at most four tanks at a time. Upon using, it fully recovers his health. While not indispensable, this item can be of great assistance to novice players to beat some seemingly impossible bosses. Four tanks is more than enough to go through the game. But beware. If you continue after a game over, all the E-Tanks you have will be gone, so do not be afraid to use them when you're in need.

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And, finally, the new feature that brings deliverance to us all.

Mega Man 2 is longer than Mega Man, but the players don't need to go through the pain of finishing the game in one sitting anymore, because it introduces the password system to the series. You can note down the password, call it a day, and return to the point where you left off later. The password also records the number of E-Tanks you have so it's quite handy.

We've seen a lot of improvement over the previous game in gameplay. The E-Tank is a nice addition. The password system greatly helps. The game is now more newbie-friendly. Unfortunately, the only snag I see is in the place which should be the main selling point of Mega Man, the weapons. There are only a few weapons that shine and stand out from other pathetic ones, so choosing between them is a no-brainer, unless you want to give yourself a challenge. You won't find the fun in playing with all of them, because the worse ones will only serve to frustrate you. However, it's easy to criticize Mega Man 2 with this, because it's the most discernible aspect of the series. If you turn a blind eye to it a bit, you'll see it won't affect overall experience much. Mega Man 2 is still a good platformer that has a solid and unique gameplay that distinguishes it from other common games, and is still among the greatest in the NES library.

Rating: 9/10

Difficulty:

Now then, the difficulty. Mega Man 2 is notorious for its high difficulty. But is it really that difficult?

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This is Metal Man stage. Apart from the moving floors and some traps, there is nothing life-threatening. There aren't any difficult enemies. Everything is quite calm and serene from start to finish.

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This is Quick Man stage. As soon as you enter the fourth screen, all hell breaks loose.

What's going on here?

As you can see, Mega Man 2's difficulty seems to fluctuate a lot. At one instance, it's a walk in the park. At another, it's infernal. So how could we describe its difficulty? What's the central tendency that will represent the game's complication?

There are a few points in the game that are traumatizingly hard and will be indelibly imprinted in our mind as the image of the game as a whole. But if we look at all of the game's 14 stages, we'll see that only about three of them pose a real problem. Mega Man 2 is in fact an easy game with only a few difficulty spikes. Those spikes are hard, but not that annoying. It's possible for veteran gamers to get past them in one try. Beginners might be startled with the sudden rise of difficulty, but they can get used to it in a few tries. Even if they can't, they can quit the stage first and then come back later with an appropriate weapon that will help them.

When talking about the most infuriating parts in Mega Man 2, there are three that come to mind, the Force Beams in Quick Man stage, the disappearing blocks in Heat Man stage, and the Boobeam Trap fight.

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The Force Beams in Quick Man stage mainly test the players' reflexes. It sees how well the players react to the given obstacles and how well they race against time. Pausing the game to see the layout and plan the route ahead is forbidden. The screen will goes black if you do so. This part is difficult, but very doable. I've seen a few people get past it in their first try. If you can avoid unnecessary movement, you'll have plenty of time to dodge the beams. (With the Time Stopper, it's even easier. Just do you best first and activate it only when you think you won't make it.) Actually, once you get the hang of it, it can be quite fun.

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Another aggravating section is the disappearing blocks area. The most annoying trouble here is the block that appears directly above you. You have to time your jump so that you land on it just right after it appears. If you don't know in advance which block will appear above you, chances are you'll fall.

This can also be cleared without having to die. You have to memorize the pattern and determine when to jump up before the next block appears above you. The hardest part is the first part, but you can retry as often as you need. Once you're over the deadly water area, it's just a matter of jumping forward. The death below will pressure you into making mistake, but keep your cool and nothing will be able to harm you.

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The part in this picture is probably the most loathsome, as the next block will appear right above you while you're over the bottomless pit. Most players will panick at this point, but those who are calm enough will notice right away that it's just a distraction, because you can just jump onto the block to the right. Rather than being detestable, I think this is one very clever design.

Nevertheless, if you don't want to go through all this, Item-2 is the best solution.

Actually, these challenges aren't the real deal compared to the hassles which can slowly build up your frustration. Mega Man 2 has its fair share of unfair moments which are littered throughout the game, and unfair things are detestable because they're, well, unfair.

The definitions of unfair obstacles:
1. Forced weapon use without possible energy replenishment nearby.
2. Forced damage.

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There are some places in Mega Man 2 that fall into these two categories, which makes the game difficult, and not in a good way. Sometimes you'll see an enemy blocking a very narrow path, and there's no other choice but to just walk through them, or sometimes you go from one screen to the next, and the enemy just appears right on top of you. It doesn't allow players with low health any chances. It is the result of poor design.

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There are some instances in this game where damage is not avoidable, not without extreme luck. For example, this part where you're under attack by a swarm of Copipis while climbing a ladder. Mega Man is left defenseless in this position, and without a special weapon he's an easy prey.

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This is a section in the crystal maze. In this picture, we see two virtually unavoidable enemies while another route has no hazard. Picking course requires pure luck and no skill. The game should reward the player for guessing right, not punish the player for guessing wrong.

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An enemy in this screen is poorly placed. Since enemy sprites will appear only after the screen transition ends, you'll have no time to react to this one. If you don't know beforehand, there's about 50% chance you'll land on a Tanichi.

Let's move on to look at the boss fight. Most bosses in this game are beatable with Mega Buster without Mega Man taking damage, providing that you're good enough. There are a few exceptions however. These bosses usually have intimidating moves that will scare you into going defensive, but they themselves are lightly armored. The most effective approach is to clash with them head-on and fight in a damage race.

Again, I'm not a fan of forced damage. If they expect you to take damage, they should have put some energy pellets in front of the boss room.

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Quick Man is fast and jumps around in a frenzy. His movement is quite predictable, but his Quick Boomerangs come at random. They don't return to him but home in on you, which complicates the matter. If he throws them point-blank at you, there's no way to dodge. You need superhuman reflexes and a bit of luck to beat him unscathed.

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Air Man is pretty easy, but very annoying. His Air Shooter comes in a set of patterns. Some patterns are easier than the others, like in this picture. You can simply jump over the lowest tornado.

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This pattern is a little harder. You have to jump between two tornados.

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This one is next to impossible. It requires pixel perfect maneuver. You have to jump twice through the narrow space while the tornados are charging at you at breakneck speed. Better to just embrace them and fire away at Air Man himself.

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The Boobeam Trap fight is another example of Mega Man 2's ingenious idea. But this one has a serious design flaw. Mega Man needs all seven Crash Bomber shots to defeat it. If an unknowing player enter the boss room without full weapon energy then walking the plank and restarting is the only option.

If you get killed halfway, you have to grind for Crash Bomber's energy before you fight it again. And we all hate grinding, don't we?

I think some of the enemies should have been more thought out. Forced damage/death isn't a game of skills. It riles the players greatly, and it takes the fun away from the game. Fortunately, except the Boobeam Trap fight, these are more like an annoyance than a hindrance. Where damage is mandatory, the enemies don't hit you very hard. You can get past them by sacrificing just one or two health units.

All in all, Mega Man 2 isn't overly hard. The difficulty spikes and the forced damage stand out so much that we tend to overlook how the game really is. Apart from those, there's nothing to worry about. Tough enemies often come at you one by one. The stages aren't very tricky either. And recovery items come by quite often. If the game is still too much for you, you can even choose to play with the lower difficulty. You can play in either normal or difficult mode with the same password.

And we end this section with the remedy to all problem, the E-Tank.

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This is the most game-breaking item in Mega Man 2. I don't think I need to say how this help pull down the difficulty. It might not suit those who crave challenge, but, after all, the decision to use it is entirely in the player's hand.

Rating: 7/10

Sounds:


This is the wonder of Mega Man 2's music. Water-themed music usually sounds and feels inert, but this. This still retains that watery image while manages to make me go headbanging. I can listen to this all day.

If Kirby's Adventure is the pinnacle of NES's graphics, then undoubtedly Mega Man 2 occupies the throne of the music department. Every theme in this game is a must-listen. It's so great that it's almost a genre in itself. Modern video game music doesn't have hardware limitation like in the NES era. The composers are free to add as much as they want, using as many instruments as they see fit. The songs are grand and exaggerated, sometimes so excessive and convoluted that we don't know what they want to tell us. On the other hand, the NES's chiptune music has only a few channels to spare. They had to make the most out of them. They had to make it count. And the result is the most memorable tunes one could ever listen to. Mega Man 2 is the prime example of perfection that is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Its music is timeless. It conveys the right feeling, gives the right ambience and lifts the right mood. It simply does everything right.

We see a brilliant touch as soon as the console is turned on. The opening music is the continuation of the first game's ending music, indicating that the two games are connected. Then it's followed by the title song. A good build-up to get the adrenaline flowing.

And then it's time to take on the robot masters' stages.


Here are my favorite themes from the eight stages apart from Bubble Man's theme. Rather than writing paragraphs to glorify them, I think I better let the actual pieces do the talking. I especially love Metal Man theme for those clanky, high-pitch, high-tempo notes. It's truly made for his industrial plant stage. Heat Man theme might sound relatively plain, but the low and fast music gives off a hot and humid air, which suits his stage.


The boss battle theme is also superb. It has a nice forewarning intro that leads to a fast-paced score. The short loop doesn't get annoying and doesn't sound as depressing as the first game's Wily stage boss theme.

This is a colossal improvement over the bland, out of place music of the first game. Mega Man 2's music has that kind of gravitational attraction which makes you want to come back to the game again and again just to listen to it. It drags you into its world and robs you of all your attention. It has the magic to be the vehicle that imparts the idea behind the game's setting to your mind, and it does so even better than the visuals.

And since this is a Mega Man 2's music review, it would never be complete without taking a look at this theme.

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It's an apocalyptic scenario where the final battle between the forces of good and evil is imminent. Our hero looks up at the dark cloudy sky one last time, reminiscing about his past battles that led him to this point. Then he braces himself, readies his weapon and marches forward, to bring an end to this once and for all.


Wily's Castle theme 1 has been widely regarded as the best 8-bit song since the beginning of time. It's best used as a prelude to the final chapter of an epic, and there's no place more appropriate for it than Wily's Castle stage 1. With the evening sky background and the stage theme of scaling the fortress wall setting up the right atmosphere, this song sounds even more powerful. The beat and the rhythm makes your heart pound faster and pumps you up for the final battle. And it doesn't try to put the fear into you, but rather inspiring you with excitement, confidence, and joy. This is the most soul-stirring video game theme I've ever listened to, and maybe I'll never get to hear another one.

Rating: 10/10


Wily's Castle theme 2 isn't as impressive as Wily's Castle theme 1. Like, after we entered the scene with a blast, now we hear some slow, gloomy theme. But I think this is actually very fitting. As Mega Man ventures deeper inside the castle, uncertainty starts to crawl up our mind. At first, we're not sure what it is. But as soon as we destroy the Wily Machine and clear stage 5, which, according to the map, should be the last stage, the floor crumbles away and Mega Man starts to fall. A twist is revealed.

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There's yet another stage waiting for us, Wily's Castle stage 6.

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Then Mega Man arrives at an underground passage. There's no music this time, only disturbing silence accompanied with the sound of dripping liquid. Everything seems to be already over, but the suspense is still there.

I so love how Mega Man 2 builds up the tension for the closing chapter. If you still remember, the game asked you a question in the very beginning, and it's still left unanswered.

The game's subtitle is "The Mystery of Dr. Wily". It's just a subtitle. It doesn't have any meaning to us, because we've been focusing on the action, the running, the shooting, all this time, until now. Those who still remember will start to question. What is Dr. Wily's mystery?

And once the final shutter door opens, all are instantly made clear.

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For me, this is the most memorable confrontation in the whole series. There is no complex plot point, no majestic raveling and unraveling. Just one question asked and left to sink in our mind, picked up again after a while with the dust blown off, and, bang. Ironically, for a game whose story is almost non-existence, they've done the telling excellently.

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After a hard-fought victory, a beautiful emotional theme kicks in. Mega Man walks back home. The war is now over and we can close our eyes with relief again. It's now time to rest.

And finally, it's the credit roll coming in with an energetic theme, the very same theme used at the title screen, to put a grand finish to this long adventure. What a way to wrap it all up.

Conclusion:

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As of 2014, Mega Man 2 has sold over 1.5 million units since its release in 1988, being the highest selling game in the Mega Man series, a different story from the first game. The game itself has already seen many remakes in various platforms. Not only that, it's often cited as the best game in the series and the best NES game of all time. It's the game that brings the franchise to prominence thanks to its great graphics, music and interesting gameplay. It still plays the same as the first game, but it has many more things to offer. The art is wonderful and the music has become a legend. Its themes, especially Wily's Castle theme 1, have been the subject of many remixes, and video game bands today still play them regularly. Of course, the game isn't free of faults. Mega Man 2 is known for its insane difficulty spikes, but it's not as bad as people account. It's nothing compared to the fun you'll get from this game.

It's even more amazing how Mega Man 2 team could craft this beautiful gem over the course of four months. It was one strenuous task to look at all 8000 robot master designs, choose only the best 8 from them, think of the themes, create the stages, design the enemies, write the music, put everything together, in four months. Plus, it was only a side project. Without true devotion and dedication, this game would never have come into existence. In the end, their labor and effort paid off handsomely as the game won its rightful place in the pantheon of the greatest games of all time. The team had never given up on the Blue Bomber's potential, and they succeeded. However, they still hadn't explore all of it yet. Mega Man 2 wasn't the end of all matters, but just the beginning of many more wonderful things to come.

(To be continued.)

Overall rating (not an average): 10/10 | Timeless

I was torn between giving Mega Man 2 a perfect score and not, but after thinking about it for a week, I believe it deserves it.
 
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DarkSniper wrote on Shine's profile.
Hi Shine,

https://www.anime-sharing.com/threads/201010-なぎり屋-叔母を貪る夜-ver23-03-27-rj302585.1298225/

Can you please Reup this?
Thanks as always for the good work.
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神具姫ヒーローアンチド could you please reupload this? thanks
sswwwwss wrote on Ryzen111's profile.
Excuse me, do you happen to have any other works of the series 幻想生物図鑑?
It seems like everyone except you doesn't have the full version (html+cg).
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Dear Nihonjaki90, would you reupload the links to this old title?
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