I have a love and hate relationship with Capcom. For every game they develop and publish that will be a smash hit by being more creative and sticking to the basics, they churn out five or six copies of the same game without breaking any new ground (i.e. Street Fighter V). I won’t even mention how they studied the Konami code of disposing of one of their greatest game series and its leader. With this view of Capcom off my chest, let’s look at a game that is original and has become a successor to the classic games Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Adventure Island: Maximo: Ghosts to Glory.
You take the role of said character, Maximo, who, after returning from a battle to protect his kingdom, finds out that his main lady Queen Sophia is captured by his once-trusted adviser, Achille. To make matters worse, Achille has developed a drill that has pierced the underworld, allowing him to create an army of undead monsters to terrorize the kingdom. All is not lost as is seems that as Maximo was free-falling, the Grim Reaper makes a deal for him to return to the living world in exchange for returning the lost souls to the underworld. Maximo accepts and begins his quest to free Sophia and restore the peace taken by Achille. Maximo retains the elements from Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Adventure Island but allows freedom to explore all of the stages thanks to its 3D design. Maximo has the ability to run, jump and crouch to avoid enemies and is easily controlled with use of the analog control stick. Maximo is also ready for battle with his trusty sword and shield, which can be thrown at approaching enemies and capable of wiping out all enemies on the screen if the right power-ups are applied. In addition to his sword and shield, Maximo has his armor which, if all the parts are gathered, he becomes invincible for a brief period.
A heads up: Make sure that Maximo keeps his armor as long as possible since like Arthur in Ghosts ‘N Goblins, if Maximo takes too many hits, he would be down to his boxers, which would lead to his death if he takes another hit. Also, controlling Maximo is not difficult, but some practice is recommended to get adjusted to moving around.
The stages are excellently designed and guaranteed to make you feel that you’re in Maximo’s world. The game’s music is an enjoyable mix of original and remastered tracks from the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins. The challenge level is ridiculously high, guaranteeing great replay value.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is one of those type of games that will please fans of old-school adventure gaming who want to play the genre with the latest technology. In my opinion, Maximo is also a example of what Capcom can do when they allow creativity to flourish instead of always milking their golden franchises to death.
Well done, Capcom. Well done.
Messing with an old and universally loved favorite such as Tetris is a risky proposition. You can get it right or mess it up horribly, where it is forever known as the “messed up version of Tetris.” Luckily, Magical Tetris Challenge by Capcom manages to dodge that label and add a few elements to the main game to refresh an older title.
Magical Tetris is, at its core, a fun game with lots of charm to spread around. There are multiple modes to choose from and the variety helps the replay factor long after the novelty of comboing wears off. The story mode is the other mode most played at GI, and is based off the new Magical Tetris mode. While I’m not fond of the cliffhanger by difficulty level method, the story is serviceable and moves the action forward with a nice added Disney touch. Mainstays such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy fill out the cast, though you can only play as these four.
Magical Tetris earns its bread and butter in the way it builds on the Tetris formula. With Tetris in the name and designed to appeal to a mass audience using that, Magical Tetris starts out with the basics: Create and clear lines using seven letter-shaped pieces. Clear four lines and you get a Tetris.
Ah, but herein lies the additions to Magical Tetris and where the basics end and advanced play begins: For every line cleared, a small amount of energy is added to a magic meter. Fill up the magic meter and you get what we’ve termed at GI as a breakdown: All pieces restructure to create a neat space and a large portion of the well where your pieces fall is wiped clean. Also, clearing lines creates combos, which can be countered until a piece is shaped 10 by 10. Combos and counters creates a back and forth, during which oddly shaped pieces are created and fall into the play field. By setting up the pieces in a decent shape in your well, you can achieve what is called a pentris, or five lines cleared
simultaneously. Comboing and countering makes the gameplay fun and adds an increasing level of competitiveness and urgency to every match. Even if you’re not the most Tetris-competent gamer, Magical Tetris does an excellent job inviting all skill levels in to learn and get better. The basics are quickly explained and the advanced techniques are made plain as you go along. That helps in the frantic atmosphere of a spirited two-player human match, where anything and usually everything can happen.
The game shines in its visuals, which benefit from that Disney touch. The game is bright and colorful and designed in the way of Disney games and animation, meaning it’s top-notch through and through. The graphics are still good for an N64-era game and haven’t aged badly. The soundtrack has aged well, too, and is still one of the best of the era. Each character’s stage is memorably themed and stands out enough for you to remember it well after your game is over.
Having played the majority of the Tetris spinoffs and creations out on the market for the past 30 years, I need to have something that pushes me to play. Magical Tetris succeeds in adding to the Tetris formula just enough to buy its way in to my library and stick around through charm and ability. This is an excellent Tetris spin job.
When I finally got my own copy of Devil May Cry 3, I read that it brought back the melee action that made the first game awesome to play, but it raised the bar for future installments of Capcom’s demon-slaying series. Was the praise heaped upon DMC3 well deserved or was this another way of Capcom milking a great game series dry for more cash? I got my answer in Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, Special Edition.
Set as a prequel to the original DMC, we find our fearless demon hunter Dante beginning to set up shop when a mysterious man named Arkham arrives with a invitation from Dante’s brother, Vergil. This “invitation” turns into a demon-style, revealing that Vergil has not only helped in resurrecting a ancient demonic tower, but also he wants Dante’s amulet to open a portal to connect the human and with the demon worlds. Dante, of course, is not pleased and sets off to stop Vergil and his plans of world domination.
DMC3 starts from the beginning as an explosive nonstop melee with brief but important tutorials for players to master Dante’s moves and his signature weapons. In addition to the tutorials, four different combative arts called “styles” are available to Dante, giving him various abilities to increase the power of various guns, striking weapons, dodge attacks, and unleashing hand-to-hand combat with devastating results. Once Dante defeats a certain boss, he will be able to use them in the form of unique, various weapons. There is a lock-on feature to directly target enemies that, with practice, will be a valuable tool to rip enemies apart. Also in the special edition, there are two modes of play: Normal, which is basic DMC speed; or, Turbo, where EVERYTHING is clocked up 20 times the normal speed of the game to test your skills. Also, you can play the game not only as Dante, but also as Vergil, who has some serious weaponry and moves that would make Jubei Yagyu be in awe. The game music fits each level with a Phantom of the Opera type of feel while the battle scenes uses an electronic/heavy metal beat that heats up the battles. My only issue is that it’s repetitive every time I fight enemies, but it’s well done nonetheless. The voice acting in DMC is top-notch thanks to Reuben Langdon as Dante and Daniel Southworth (Power Rangers: Time Force) as Vergil. Both actors did the motion capture and voice work for their respective characters.
With the good comes the bad, however. While I appreciate the use of analog control in addition to moving the screen camera around, the controls are tank-like. That is frustrating because if I’m surrounded by enemies, I’m easy pickings. Also, the automatic firing ability of Ebony and Ivory is still in DMC3 but it requires rapid pressing instead of the fluid ease found in the first game. I also had to stock up (and I mean STOCK UP) on red orbs to purchase power ups for Dante and his weapons or learn new moves since the game was trying to do a stick-up job every time I need to make some upgrades. Fortunately, I could replay each mission to get more orbs or level up.
DMC3 lives up to its high praise guaranteeing plenty of challenge and replay value when you just want to get medieval on things but legally. This Special Edition is a no-holds barred adventure in demon-slaying with the best in the business. If Capcom wants to do a movie for Devil May Cry, I’m for it, but do it right; in other words Capcom, stick to the story and the payday bonanza will take care of itself.
Bubble Bobble isn’t super famous last I checked, but I learned who Bub and Bob were by the time I finished their first puzzle effort for the Super NES, the mid-90s appropriately named Bust-A-Move.
There’s much fun and mirth to be had in the bubble-popping title. There’s not much story other than Bub and Bob are popping bubbles to save a friend, who is trapped at the end (level 100). Once their friend is saved, that’s it. But, that’s assuming you can make it that far.
Bust-A-Move is incredibly simple to play but hard to master. The concept is easy to understand: aim a launcher and match three like-colored bubbles. The bubbles will fall off the playing field, clearing space and rows so that you can work toward clearing further bubbles. After a certain number are cleared, the ceiling of the well lowers, inching closer to a visible line. Once the line is crossed with a bubble, the game is over. Basically, it’s reverse Tetris with bubbles instead of lines. The trickiness in mastering the game comes in popping the bubbles. There are different techniques to achieving the results that you want, but it really comes down to knowing how to aim and learning the fabled bankshot off the side of the well. With its simplicity in learning, Bust-A-Move quickly distinguishes itself as fun to play. I requested the game for my 14th birthday and I’ve had a blast playing the original since. There are other games in the series, but this one is the best out of all of the sequels and spinoffs of the series. The controls aren’t too stiff, though sometimes I have complaints about the particular way a bubble bounces or sticks a little too easily to the first bubble it comes close to. Yet, the controls aren’t horrible.
The simple theme also shows in the graphics. Bust-A-Move is one of the brightest and cutest games I’ve ever played. The colors pop and while you’re using colored bubbles, they don’t necessarily interfere with the background graphics, which could make for a confusing play field.
Bust-A-Move also gets a nod for its attention paid to other modes such as Challenge and the two-player bubble popping. Challenge is fun and a good test of skills: You’re tasked with popping as many bubbles as you can before it’s game over. It’s hard to pop a lot if you’re new to the game, but as your skills progress, you can and will see a difference in how long you manage to last. The two-player mode is fun also, because you can either play against the computer or against another human player. Any game that gives me the option to play two-player against the computer automatically gets a nod because that injects longevity into a title immediately.
There’s a decent amount of depth to Bust-A-Move and it certainly makes for an interesting puzzle distraction on the SNES. It’s worth exploring the bubble-popping world with the original bubble eliminator.
The best thing I can possibly say about Balloon Fight is that it’s innovative for its concepts at the time. Other than that, this isn’t a game I’d recommend to anyone beyond the age of 10 and even that’s pushing it.
The premise is simple: You play as the “Balloon Fighter,” who is tasked with staying alive and defeating enemies in increasingly difficult stages. Two balloons are attached to the Fighter and to the enemies, and the Fighter must pop their balloons while avoiding his own being popped and other obstacles such as a large piranha, water and lightning strikes. The Balloon Fighter is fairly stout and sturdy, seeing as though he can take a lot of bumping and pushing, but if he loses his balloons, it’s a lost life. There are bonus games and a different mode, Balloon Trip, that takes the Fighter through an obstacle course to improve your rank and score. This is all fine and well, but the controls turn what should be a fun and simple game into a nightmare and a chore to actually control. The Fighter flaps his arms to stay afloat and even with both balloons still present, this is extra hard to do and maintain. More often than not, I don’t lose balloons because an enemy popped them; it’s because I landed in the water, was eaten by the large fish or steered myself unwittingly into the lightning I was desperately trying to avoid. Precision flying this is not. To get a sense of what it’s like to control the Fighter, imagine if the horrible Ice Climbers were flying instead of jumping terribly up a mountain.
And while the game is barely playable, the soundtrack also manages to squeak by in presentation. It is a sad day when I declare that a soundtrack from Metroid sound director Hip Tanaka is irredeemable. There is nothing that makes me want to listen to this, and nearly everything that Tanaka has created gets high marks from me. The songs aren’t memorable, there are few songs there anyway, and the lack of varied sound effects is disconcerting. Add the soundtrack woes to an underwhelming graphical palette and the game overall is a mess.
Despite the pedigree of folks who worked on the game (i.e. Shigeru Miyamoto as producer, Metroid designer/director Yoshio Sakamoto and Tanaka), Balloon Fight couldn’t be further away from the quality of Nintendo classics I want to play. Balloon Fight is representative of an older era of games that required a Herculean amount of patience, which I am not prepared to give in this day and age where better games are available.
Judging from the standpoint of an avid Animal Crossing player and enthusiast, the concept of new games coming into my beloved franchise is not always welcome. There have been particularly good games (i.e. Wild World, the original game) and mediocre offerings (Happy Home Designer and City Folk). Amiibo Festival is a little bit of both: It’s a fun take on the Animal Crossing universe, but it needs a little bit of polish and more things to do to keep the concept of a board game based on the franchise interesting.
I’ve always referred to Animal Crossing as the series about doing nothing. Amiibo Festival takes that concept and turns it on its head. With Festival, you’re tasked with moving around a typical Animal Crossing town in the form of a large board game. The town is transformed by spaces that can be events, Stalk Market sale stops and visits from the usual assortment of guests that visit a normal town in the franchise.
What makes the game fun is the usage of all things Animal Crossing. Game time is determined by a calendar that utilizes events commonly found throughout the series, and villagers that you would encounter in town show up to help out player characters. The player characters themselves are Amiibo figurines that you purchase and input into the game. For example, GI has about 25 Amiibo, eight of which are Animal Crossing related (Digby, Celeste, Isabelle, Villager, Tom Nook, Mable, Rover and K.K. Slider) that can be used to play through a session. These characters can collect points to unlock new outfits and modes in the plaza based on game performance. The tie-in to the series benefits the otherwise-tired Mario Party formula and enhances the charm of what would probably be a tiresome exercise in board game management. Using some of that inherent charm of Animal Crossing, Amiibo Festival plays well and looks great. There is a notable pastel sheen over everything in-game, but it still looks just like you’d expect Animal Crossing to look: Bright, colorful and smooth. Because we’re long past the janky block graphics of the original game, Amiibo Festival is closer in style to the latest game in the series, New Leaf, and it works in its favor. The soundtrack is also in line with the New Leaf era and it’s servicable. It’s not the main feature of the game, so I’m not expecting it to reach the realm of New Leaf’s great tracks, but it’s not unpleasant so it works just fine for what it’s asked to do.
My main complaint about Amiibo Festival, however, has more to do with the polish of the final product and some of the additions. It feels as though there isn’t enough to do in-game, quite honestly. While the board game is fun, it’s not enough to keep me interested long-term. The additions in the plaza — mini-games that use Animal Crossing ideas — are cute but get old quickly, and some are outright frustrating, even for a longtime player like myself.
The trivia section, for example, tests your knowledge of the series. Setting aside the fact that there shouldn’t be a time limit to answer questions that test your prowess of a series that has at least seven games, the questions are incredibly obscure most of the time and require that you have encyclopedic memory and understanding of how the series works. Most people just looking for a fun board game aren’t going to know the answers, let alone know them quickly. I have been playing Animal Crossing since the “Population growing!” days of 2003, and I had trouble with quite a few of the questions asked. There should be more to do, more interaction with the town that you play in and more of an attempt to dig deep into that well of seven games.
Amiibo Festival is a unique take on a series that has managed to endure and improve over the past 15 years with new concepts and innovation. If there is some consolation prize for staying on this board, it’s knowing that while it could use some polish and fleshing out, Amiibo Festival is a good roll of the dice and gamble that paid off for the Animal Crossing franchise.