June 17, 2013



Yoshi came out for the NES in 1992 (N. America). It's a basic puzzle game where enemies fall into four columns, and Mario is forced to keep swapping columns in order to prevent the stacks from reaching the top. Like enemies will cancel each other out. The main way to score points is to use a Yoshi egg. The bottom half falls, you get a bunch of enemies inside, then drop the top half of the egg. More enemies equals more points.

There are two modes: A is endless (a la Tetris), B requires you to clear the stage entirely. Settings include speed and initial enemy pile. There's also a competitive mode. Same deal as single player. Whoever hits the top first loses.

That's pretty much it. I was surprised that Nintendo included this game on their "30 Years, 30 Cents, 30 Days" promotion. The game isn't that renowned (or good, for that matter). It gets old really fast, and the limited settings don't offer much variety. The visuals are mostly frozen, and the gameplay is repetitive and unexciting.

Notably, the game was developed by Game Freak (before their Pokemon brilliance), and the music was composed by Junichi Masuda (before his Pokemon brilliance). Although I never would have guessed Masuda's involvement in a million years, because this music is rather bland. This was Game Freak's first partnership with Nintendo, and Yoshi had just been introduced in Super Mario World one year earlier as an exciting new character, so maybe the big N was playing it super safe. Unfortunately, the result was a boring game. Even the title and victory screens are lifeless.

So much solid color. Keep in mind the NES had been out for 7 years, and the SNES for 1, so there's no excuse.

I am sure that Nintendo's main focus was on the newly released SNES, but I don't feel that's an excuse for a subpar game on any front. If Nintendo wanted to release a Yoshi-themed puzzle game for the NES on the Wii U Virtual Console, why not Yoshi's Cookie? That game is so much better, in terms of multiplayer, music, visuals, and just plain having a personality. The game in general has more substance, not to mention a less static look.

If Nintendo wanted to go all out awesome though, they would have put Dr. Mario up there. Talk about one of the best puzzle games of an era. I was just playing earlier today, in fact. Everything about it (visuals, music, challenge factor, intensity, etc.) is near flawless.

Hmm. I guess it takes more than just a checkered background after all.

But I guess the big N felt that Yoshi would be a good choice for whatever reason. As it is the penultimate release for their "30 Year" campaign, I am very disappointed.


June 15, 2013

Resident Evil: Revelations

Console version.

I found this game to be pretty enjoyable. The people that that trumpet this game "finally feels like a classic Resident Evil" are mistaken. I wonder if they've ever really played/remember 1, 2, and 3. Yes, there were some tense moments, and I jumped in my seat once or twice. But I never really felt the real urgency of needing to stay alive, or of being afraid to venture onwards. Revelations is quite forgiving. Auto-saves occur frequently, often before an intense battle unfolds. This lessens the impact of the "survival" part of survival-horror.

Example: I am aware a grotesque monster waits behind a nearby door because it keeps slamming against it, dying to feast on my corpse. It bursts out, and I do my best to stun, evade, and kill the beast, but it catches me and grinds me to death in its jaws of terror. The game mirthfully informs me that "YOU ARE DEAD." Damn! Except...upon selecting "Continue", I start right back in front of the room where the monster breaks out, with all equipment/items ready to go. The apprehension and fear of having to go back to a way earlier point, potentially losing equipment, and having to survive all the way up until that fight again is totally lost. There's no real danger.

The beginning of the game felt much more horror-oriented. Both visuals and sound were used beautifully to create an environment of overall tension. The best part was you didn't actually have to fight anything, but the game kept leading you to believe that something terrible was just around the next corner. Having limited weapons/ammo without any upgrades also added to the mentality of "I'd better be careful, or I'm going to die pretty fast." Far too quickly, though, the game takes a turn towards a more action-oriented approach. Monsters busting out in droves, only to be slaughtered by your overly-upgraded machine gun. None of them even make it close to you. While I appreciated certain events had a timer associated with them (giving a feeling of deadly urgency), most of the action parts did not. And the tentacle battle(s) with the gargantuan miniguns? Give me a break. I thought this had a "Resident Evil" label on it.

I'm pretty sure this exact scenario happens in at least two House of the Dead games.

The weapon customization is a nice idea, letting you interchange which weapons will do more damage, have a faster firing rate, reload times, and the like. I say "idea" because it becomes a game-breaking mechanic so fast. Weapons have too many slots for upgrades, and the upgrades themselves are far too powerful. My pistol was shoved into the weapon box never to be seen again before the game had really even begun. And having a knife isn't even worth talking about. The whole thing was depressing. The knife and pistol are typically my most-used weapons in other Resident Evil games, because ammo is incredibly scarce. In Revelations, I found myself walking through huge portions of the game bursting to the seams with ammunition, forced to leave droves of it behind untouched. It made combat more of a chore and not really an experience. I remember when seeing two monsters at once was a chilling scene, because it would take a good level of skill to fend them both off. In this game, having six or more enemies pop up at once didn't even faze me, because I knew I could plow through them like a pile of leaves.

This also affected the overall difficulty. That is to say, there really wasn't any. I never found myself turning around to escape enemies because it was too much. Even bosses posed no real threat. The thing that scared me the most was not reaching an air pocket during the parts when the ship flooded. Yes, the part that scared me the most was "no air". You are given ratings at the end of each section of gameplay. A separate grade is given for accuracy, death count (your own), and time. I had nothing below an A ranking for the entire game in terms of accuracy and deaths. I did spend a lot of time exploring, because I felt it took away from the experience to just run from point A to B without looking around. Resident Evils are very exploratory and backtracking by nature, and often the player must figure out what to do on their own. Revelations led the player along, pointing out where they needed to go, what they needed to do, and how they needed to do it. Although the menu map was the most awkward and terrible thing in the world.

No lines between rooms, no markings for doors/items, only 10 degrees of rotation allowed, no rhyme or reason.

There were a few classic-feeling puzzles here and there (the casino coin tray immediately comes to mind), but they were far too few, instead replaced by many crossed-circuit puzzles to open adjacent doors. I'm sure there were at least six, all of them pretty much identical. Again, this made the game feel as if it wanted you to rush through it full speed, which does not feel like Resident Evil.


The enemy design was pretty good. The standard grunts have a few variations in terms of appearance and attacks. I did enjoy how the lowest challenge enemies (also the first encountered) lurch and stumble, making it more difficult to hit the part of the body you're aiming for. The game informed me that hitting certain parts did more damage, but I didn't really notice any difference. You can also stun enemies, which allows you to run up to them and perform a physical attack. This is funny, simply because I'm shooting an enemy with a high-impact rifle (which doesn't kill them), but then running up to them and kicking them in the face, as if that can realistically do a similar amount of damage. Since you're pretty much secluded to a giant boat, enemy variety isn't huge, but I think it's big enough. I did want to see some varieties a little more often though, and I craved for a part where I would be forced to avoid enemies because I was low on ammo or something. But alas, my unlimited ammo said otherwise. Bosses were designed differently enough, and I did enjoy the fights (as easy as they were). Although the first boss (a unique mutation) appears later as a regular enemy somehow. My favorite enemy by far was Rachael, mainly because she kept showing up at the most inopportune times without warning.

An overlooked highlight, I feel, was the inclusion of notes/journals/etc. scattered throughout the entire ship by crew and passengers. They added a lot of backstory to the game, as well as the subtle level of humor I expected to show up. These notes were not mandatory, and you didn't have to read them to forward the game, but I really liked searching them out. I felt like there should have been more stuff like that across the board. Non-mandatory extra stuff. I also missed the old practice of hearing things that turn out to be nothing. Sounds to keep you on your toes. But in Revelations, when you hear a monster, you know that a monster will be right in front of you, no question. The only exception was Rachael. Again, she was probably the best enemy in the whole game. A big part of it was because you'd hear her playful/chilling laughter on the other side of a door, but when you walked in, she wouldn't be there, and you realized you'd been holding your breath waiting for her to jump in your face. It's called tension, Capcom. You used to know how to have it permeate an entire game, not just be present for a boss or two.

For the record, she was showing just as much skin before being infected.

The story was slightly confusing (I'm saying that as a good thing), and really didn't all come together until near the end. Unfortunately, instead of letting the player figure it out, one of the characters spells it out in black and white (in case the player hasn't been playing the game, I guess). It didn't help the confusion that characters seemingly switched sides multiple times. I'm looking at you, Raymond. The guy went from being bad to good to bad to good to bad to good to ambiguous. The story itself involves a big conspiracy about a bio-terrorist organization (Veltro) unleashing a virus, and it turns out the counter-terrorists (FBC) were supplying the terrorists with the virus in order to boost their importance and budget. One year later, the good-guy organization (BSAA) leader concocts this elaborate scheme to make it seem like Veltro is back in order to lure out the FBC commissioner's true motives. The extent he goes to is ridiculous. At the end, Jill and Chris end up fighting the real leader of Veltro, who was trapped in a sunken ship for a year. Make sense? After finishing the game, the story was very clear, and I did appreciate not knowing what the hell was really going on until pretty late in the game. The fact that sequences jump between times, locations, and characters made it that much more confusing.

The characters themselves (outside of Jill and Chris) are pretty weird, which I expected and enjoyed. I don't know if Capcom ever intends for them to be realistic or even semi-realistic. But they always take themselves so seriously, it has a certain charm to it regardless. You play through most of the game as Jill (who has changed so much since the first installment).

Sadly, these are the top search results.

She's partners with Parker, a pretty dumb character. With his goofy accent, terrible jokes, and overall uselessness, I'm not sure how he was let on the team.

"Hey Jeeel, what the hell eez that monster? It looks like my ex-girlfriend! Haha, just keeding. Let's do theees!"

Chris is teamed up with Jessica, who is even worse than Parker. Her dialogue sounds like it's out of a bad porno, and her outfits are the most ridiculous things I have ever seen, especially considering where the game takes place. I could not stop laughing.

The left one is to avoid getting wet. The right one is to avoid getting cold.

Chris himself has apparently been working out and pumping steroids for a while, and has strong unspoken (yet nowhere near subtle) feelings for Jill.

"JILL! JILL! JILL! JILL! WE HAVE TO FIND JILL! Oh, and that partner she's with. I guess."

Raymond shows up a little ways through. He has a permanent scowl on, and his head got into a fight with a pitcher of Kool-Aid.

He lost.

The head of the BSAA is O'Brien, who presumably got his position by having the biggest hands in the world.

In addition to the most awkwardly placed frame on the wall.

The big bad guy is Morgan Lansdale, who apparently survived and eluded authorities after his initial plans failed in Die Hard Arcade.


I won't waste any time on Keith and Quint, two of the most annoying characters in any game I have ever played, not just this series. They are stupid. There are other secondary characters too, that aren't really worth going into.

Naturally, the dialogue is amusing and often states the obvious, but I enjoy/expect that in a Resident Evil game. The game is split into "episodes," and at the start of each, you'll get a, "Previously on Resident Evil Revelations," followed by a TV-style episode recap. As silly as it was, I liked this feature, because I usually only had time for one episode. When I sat down the next time, I got a nice recap of what had just happened. But again, the editing of the recaps made it seem like a crazy action show.

The controls took a bit to get used to, mainly because the right stick was the most sensitive thing in the world, with no adjustment possible. This was doubly frustrating, because you were able to adjust your speed while in aiming mode, just not when you're simply walking around. Outside of sensitivity, the camera itself wasn't bad, and I liked that it stayed so close to the player character, in order to hide certain things far away. You also have a scanner-type machine that can be used to locate hidden items and ammunition. I was hoping for something like ZombiU, where you can actually move the GamePad around in real time. Unfortunately, you can only change your view with a joystick. It felt like a missed opportunity. Scanning enemies adds to a tracked percentage, which gives you an herb upon reaching 100%.

"Sensors indicate that this creature may not be alive."

I wasn't really a huge fan of being able to carry everything I wanted to all at once. I liked the older mentality of "take what's most important, sacrifice everything else." There was no lack of space for any items, yet I could only carry a total of five herbs at a time. I found myself trekking past many, many health restoring items as well as ammo. I feel like if Capcom put less items lying around, it would have made the game more challenging as well as eliminated an unnecessary crutch. Classic Resident Evil means that the game is challenging as well as good, and Revelations didn't really deliver on that front.

There is a semi-champion among us, however. It is called "Infernal Mode." The difficulty setting puts way more enemies in your path, and changes item placement as well. This level of difficulty should have been "Normal" in my eyes, but at least it's there at all, so I'm grateful. It has a certain 1990's arcade A.I. mentality, in that instead of making the enemies smarter/harder, they just shove as many as they can at you constantly. It also, however, detracts from the "horror" aspect of survival-horror. Survival takes top bidding here. If they had just found a balance between Normal and Infernal, it would have made a much better experience in the long run.

I cannot even imagine how lame Casual would be.

There is Miiverse compatibility, and I did like the options it gives you in addition to the standard Miiverse community. You can leave "Death Messages" throughout the game. When you die, you have to option to leave a message at that point. When another player dies at that point, your message will pop up along with others. You can also post "Creature Messages" and name the monsters in Raid Mode, which leads itself to humorous conclusions. I admit I turned all Miiverse stuff off on the first playthrough, because I didn't want to be immersed in the atmosphere of the game to be suddenly interrupted by "OMG! BOSS ATE MY FACE LOL!!!!"

"u Are Dea?" I don't understand. Is that Latin?

"Raid Mode" is basically a rail shooter, except you control your rate of movement. You go through a small section of the campaign, point A to B style. Objectives are laid out, and you've got to make it in one piece. There are over 20 Raid missions, each having three different difficulty settings. This is the one mode you can choose to do solo or with another player (local or online). You can set up your weapons, equipment, and character before you enter a stage. You're given a ranking (like the campaign), but you can also earn bonuses for killing all enemies, not getting hit, completing a mission on a lower character level, and getting all three prior bonuses at once. You gain EXP, which raises your character level and allows you to purchase more powerful weapons and upgrades.

When you attack enemies in Raid Mode, you can see a damage number and health bar. This made the whole "different areas do different damage" element much more applicable. There are also enemies with increased defense/attack/etc., denoted by an icon next to their health bar. All in all, Raid Mode was fun, and felt like its own separate experience. It definitely does not scream Resident Evil, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

Summing up the whole experience, it's not classic Resident Evil, plain and simple. The demo fooled a lot of people (because that felt very classic). It's more of a hybrid between classic and modern, I'd say a 20 : 80 ratio. But that doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable. I liked it quite a bit, and I find myself going back to Raid Mode pretty often. It was worth playing through the campaign at least once, given that I had not played the 3DS version.

June 2, 2013

Pixel Painting - Explosive Icons (Super Bomberman)

I am a huge fan of the Super Bomberman era. I loved how much it took from the initial, simple idea presented nearly ten years beforehand and just ran with it.

Super Bomberman was the tenth installment in the series (and it was only 1993). The already-iconic symbols were given a splash of color and a very detailed look, and they are really impressive for only being 16x16 pixels each.

There are definitely more icons than the sixteen I chose, and it was hard to decide which ones I wanted to use. The orientation was also a tough call, but I am really pleased with the result.

16-bit sprites are definitely more time-consuming, mainly due to the fact that there's way more colors, and less blobs of it all in one place.

But in the end, the shading effect the original artists created is insanely good.

I didn't replicate the sprites exactly. They actually have a border around each square. In the game, it quickly flashes for a very cool effect. But in a static setting, it looked bad. So I just blocked off each one in its solid-color background (without the border) instead.

The whole thing measures 20"x 20".

Love that rice ball.

Obligatory artistic shot.

Next commission lined up is from Chrono Trigger. Pretty excited about it.

Commissions are always welcome. Price varies based on the size and complexity of the sprite/scene. I moderate comments, so leave one with your contact email and request.