Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
03 April 2007
Virtual Console Curmudgeon: Starfox 64, TMNT, Dragon's Curse
I usually end up reviewing new Virtual Console releases on whatever random website I read about them first, so I figured I'd just go ahead and start discussing them here, in a suitably curmudgeony style if the game merits it. Which is to say, often.

Starfox 64
Released by Nintendo. Originally for the Nintendo 64.

Notable differences: Likely does not support controller rumble. Ordinarily this would be a minor point, except, if you'll think back, you'll remember that Starfox 64 was the original "Rumble Pak" game. Its exclusion seems very odd because of that, although not as bad as Ocarina of Time, in which arguably rumble is an important feature.

Hard to believe there's only really been two "real" StarFox games, isn't it? This is the second of the two, also only the second Starfox game ever, so it seems strange that they rebooted the story right off.

For an on-rails shooter, this is about as cool as you can get. While not as controller-smashing difficult as the original (which I never did finish on its hardest route) it is quite challenging, there is a nice variety of areas to visit, as well as secret missions to complete, branching paths to explore, hidden warp levels to find, "all range" areas where you can fly freely, dogfights with enemy fighters, a tank level and an underwater level, and a blisteringly-difficult gold medal to earn in each and every stage. And once you've done it all: Expert Mode! Argh! (I know all this because I've done all those things. Yeah, I be bad at N64 Starfox. I challenge you guys to beat my high score BTW, just shy of 1,800 points.)

For all these reasons, Starfox 64 is arguably the high point in the series. The SNES game was challenging but looks primitive now, and its framerate is difficult to put up with now. The less said about the first Gamecube game the better, and both Armada (GC) and Assault (DS) mix up the formula too much to seem really Starfoxy.

A great moment from the N64 game: Played properly, you can get an instant win against the boss on the tank level, worth an absurd point bonus. Once done the first time, it never feels "right" beating the boss the normal way again.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Released by Konami. Originally for the NES.

It's back in the news for two reasons. First, there seems to be a movie floating around somewhere about its title characters. Second, it was the focus of an unusually rancorous Angry Nintendo Nerd video where he soundly trashed the game.

Folks, I'm hear to tell you he's 100% correct. For all his hyperbole and (probably facetious) posturing, the Nerd usually knows his games. The game has a lot of features, is very long, and a very very high level of challenge, but ultimately it's just not worth it. The turtles jump like they're underwater, the actual underwater level is frustrating beyond the realm of mere obnoxiousness, and if Donatello buys the farm, good luck getting anywhere else in the game.
But for the record I have beaten this one. I will save you all the trouble of fighting through these six levels of young, genetically-flawed, amphibious Eastern hell by spoiling the ending: Turtlephile April O'Neil, in a text box, offers to take the shelled warriors out for pizza. Ho! Ha! Ho!

But, if you do want to smash your head against something unforgivably unyielding, the game is here for you. I did beat it once upon a time, so there must be something there. If you happen to be an obsessive-compulsive, socially awkward teenager like I was, maybe you can find whatever it was that compelled me to finish it. If you are not, please, please, pass.

Dragon's Curse
Released by NEC (probably developed by Hudson Soft). Originally for the Turbo-Grafx 16.
Rating (provisional):

Notable differences: The Wii's reputedly-inaccurate TG-16 sound emulation would apply to this game.

Being a TG16 game, I didn't get the chance to try this at all when it came out. The lore around the game is that it's actually a port of a later sequel to Wonder Boy, a game of which the licensing issues surrounding it are the stuff of fanboy legend. (For more on the games, and the issues check out the excellent Hardcore Gaming 101 article.) Suffice to say the game is extremely similar, as in containing the same levels, to the Genesis game Wonder Boy in Monster Land. Similar enough that, if you've played one, apparently you need not play the other.

But oddly, it doesn't turn out to be a bad game, at least from a first-gen Genesis perspective.
You can see that Metroid's lessons were learned well, although they take rather a different form than usual. In Metroid games, you explore and beat bosses to find powerups, which you then use to explore new areas. In Dragon's Curse, when you beat a boss you get turned into a new form with an entirely different set of movement options, advantages and disadvantages as before. So it seems that you actually lose the ability to go to some places as you proceed (if I undertand correctly), which may make it important to search a well as you can for secret stuff before fighting bosses.

I'm finding it to be an interesting, inoffensive game, with simple graphics but decent challenge. It's not really non-linear, since while technically you can go wherever you can, that is arranged, your characters exploration ability, like in Metroid games, is strictly limited to stop you from going where you're not supposed to be. Since this is the TG16 version, it costs only $6 to get, instead of $8 as the Genesis version would, and that may be a better deal.

According to the Hardcore Gaming 101 article linked-to above, this game actually pulls off a Symphony of the Night at the start: the first level of this game is the last level of the previous game, with a character so powerful that he has no real chance of losing. Nice to see where that little idea got its start.

EDIT: Fixed formatting, added whitespace. (Also, last night I fixed the ANN link.)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

--John Harris at 02:57
Comment [ 11 ]

Comments on this post:

Panzer Dragoon is far cooler than Star Fox.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 April, 2007 04:51  

Hm, I will admit, that may be.

By Blogger JohnH, at 03 April, 2007 04:52  

Good work, but you forgot Baby Moses.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 April, 2007 06:48  

I love Dragon's Curse. And Symphony of the Night was apeing it, along with a dozen other groundbreaking games that should have at least gotten homages instead of just ripped off.

Isn't the NES rom of TMNT on Wii also six bucks? I seem to recall paying five bucks for the arcade game with online co-op play on the Xbox 360 recently.

Who sets that pricing?

By Blogger Jeremy, at 03 April, 2007 10:26  

Shouldn't less curmudgeon heads be better than more curmudgeon heads? That would seem to indicate there is less to be curmudgeony about.

By Blogger Mordrak, at 03 April, 2007 14:16  

A valid point Mordrak. Hmm.

(Honestly, I just wanted to use the little underbite guy for something.)

By Blogger JohnH, at 03 April, 2007 14:22  

Maybe the number of curmudgeon heads is a reflection of the number of curmudgeons (I assume out of five) that would complete the game after an initial impression.

By Blogger cgm, at 03 April, 2007 20:19  

"The less said about the first Gamecube game the better, and both Armada (GC) and Assault (DS) mix up the formula too much to seem really Starfoxy."

Wasn't it Starfox Assault on the GC and Starfox Command on the DS?

And Starfox Adventures wasn't a HORRIBLE game, it was a good game, just not a good Starfox game.

By Blogger Bigelow, at 03 April, 2007 21:48  

Hmmm... you might have the names right there bigelow. Dammit, I actually OWNED the DS Starfox and I got it wrong. Time for a nap I think.

By Blogger JohnH, at 03 April, 2007 21:50  

CGM, way to ruin my curmudgeoning!

By Blogger Mordrak, at 05 April, 2007 11:41  

Someone had to play the foil to Matt's curmudgeonness when we were growing up.

By Blogger cgm, at 05 April, 2007 20:58  

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