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Played in 2023
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The AI on higher levels takes SO LONG to make a move! Why did it take over two minutes to choose a basic by the book move for a Queen's Pawn opening? I know it's the Nintendo 64, but come on, that's just unreasonable. Couldn't finish my game against the max level computer because it was so frustrating to wait minutes for book moves, can't imagine what the endgame is like with it. Computer's level is actually quite good for 1998 consoles, but the animations have an ugly stink on them that makes me feel like they'd be from some unfunny early-2000s animated show or something. They are also pretty herky-jerky. The fact you don't select your opponent's computer level or anything until after a game starts is...bizarre, to say the least.
By the way, how do you fuck up the camera controls of a CHESS GAME? Get this, you can rotate the board left/right and flip it up/down. Makes sense, right? Guess the buttons, go on. Guess. You see, C Button left is up/down, while C Button right is left/right, rather than just making left and right be...left and right and up/down be up and down. Combined with a surprising lack of visual clarity (in a CHESS. GAME.) and the controls being super jumpy, you want to rotate the board to an upwards angle if you play in 3D a lot which when the controls of all things work against it is frustrating. You'll pretty much want to swap to the 2D board ASAP, which ends up turning off all the battle animations and at that point you're left with a really barebones-featured but good-for-the-time AI chess game with ugly menus.
A rather bizarre game, honestly! I think the difficulty is what throws me off, as there's basically two ways to play: For score, which for the absolutely maximum rank requires the player to not die once while getting a ridiculous number of points, or for speed / pure completion in which case you have INFINITE continues (you only get one life, so every death is a continue) that also does not refill health and gives you back your kinda broken Boost ability at the same time. This means it teeters between something more challenging or something very easy. While I know a lot of people think they're archaic, a lives system feels like it may have been beneficial for a more smooth difficulty curve, or at least being a little bit more demanding with the checkpointing. Note that while you need to never die for the highest rank, you CAN still get high ranks by only dying a few times, so it isn't some totally hit-or-miss thing here.
Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed this game much more than the original Strider. Hiryu feels smooth to control here (for the most part), and in particular the addition of juuuust a little bit of aerial drift on his jumps makes it a lot smoother to run through and makes you feel more like the futuristic ninja you're supposed to be rather than the lost cosplaying Belmont brother. While the cool options are (sadly) gone, Hiryu gets some secret moves like a backwards flip or a bunch of spinny slashes that add a little dynamicism to the gameplay. I will admit I didn't find THAT much use for them, mostly because Strider just cutting up enemies is so strong, but they have potential and the fact the multi-slashes give you more points encourages you to not just spam the slash button in score runs. Wall jumping and climbing feels niiice in this game, with the only exception being going around corners on a D-Pad sometimes being finicky. I did also have trouble getting the dash out a few times, but I suspect that is more of a Me issue. But with how buttery smooth his jumps and dashes are, it feels gooooood to just slice through hordes of enemies, jumping wildly and doin' some wall climbin' fun.
What's up with the fact enemies seem to just...mostly lack collision damage, though? There's multiple bosses where running into them and spamming the attack button led to easy wins, sometimes dodging their attack patterns, and it felt really weird. The game's entire difficulty curve is mostly low, outside of the end I'd say most stages are pretty easy, but then spiking pretty hard in only a few sections or bosses. Most didn't feel too challenging (I was shocked how easy Meio was!), but there was definitely some that kicked my ass. The game's difficulty only really starts to ramp up in the last level or two, with the final levels feeling particularly harsh (and swapping the game's usual dichotomy of easier stages but harder bosses).
Frankly, my favorite part of the game was probably the vibes and the art. The game for the most part looks goooood, an excellent PS1 spritework combined with some beautiful anime cutscene art. Seriously, look at these! and, uh, ignore the screenshotting making them look kinda worse fsr. Even when the game isn't being mechanically dense, the vibes and control make it a Fun experience. I do think the length is a major downside, being defeatable in under an hour pretty easily and with the end result being that it DOES feel a bit shallow. The game doesn't really expand on its concepts a lot in that runtime and it even ends up re-using some elements within that timeframe in a bit of a lazy way. It also felt disappointing how often the right option felt like just moving right and mashing the attack button, the Scientists miniboss in particular felt actively harder when I was trying to dodge them rather than just spamming. Also while I am going to bet Auto Fire makes the game easier, I think I should have used it because by god does it hurt your thumb to mash attack the way you should in this! They put it in the game, so I'll take advantage of it.
Honestly, I might go for a second playthrough with Hien later since it was short and enjoyable. Totally recommend trying it out of you want some fast-paced, low commitment 2D ninja action in your life!
So, my birthday is February 10th. Of course I posted about this in various online chats I was in, which led to someone I know on the How Long to Beat discord posted a single image and a joke that "here's a game you should play! ;)"
So once I looked at How Long to beat and saw it was like a 2 hour game I had to do it. And that's why I downloaded and played The Bugs Bunny Birthdat Blowout in 2023 of all things. So, what are my thoughts? Well, it isn't a horrible game, just one with some critical flaws that make it wear thin despite the modest playtime. The ol' Bugs Birthday Bashorama is pretty much what you'd expect from the NES in that it is a sidescrolling platformer, with one button to attack and another to jump. Six levels with four stages each. Basic stuff. Bugs controls...fine enough, not the tightest platformer ever but far from the worst, although the game's low framerate makes it sometimes feel less responsive than you'd like. I think the bigger issue comes from Bugs' hammer attack, which simply has too little range, and a bit of a windup to it. The end result is that trying to hit enemies WITHOUT getting hit yourself is frustrating, fortunately the only enemies you usually need to kill basically don't attack except by moving. But it does get pretty silly when you hammer a frog and its sprite just teleports forward and then it keeps jumping and hits you. Or lands in front of you and you're back to square one.
This game's difficulty is at war with itself, although it lands squarely in the "very easy" category. The way it gets there is mildly frustrating, in that the game is full of a lot of "Gotcha!" trickery (platforms that disappear under you being the biggest ones, with at least one required blind drop into a pit area that lands you on one and means you WILL die if you don't know to jump instantly, but also hidden enemies or the like), but when you aren't getting had the jumps are fairly reasonable and the game is mostly timing based and very easy. This is especially true because the game showers you with extra lives via the (pretty random, admittedly) bonus games (I even got a +50 lives near the end!), so you get some serious trial-and-error gameplay going on! It's far from the worst you'll get on the NES, but it does get tiring by the end of the game.
Let's talk about something good, if not fully utilized given it is a random liscensed game from 1990. I think the idea of this game's collectible, the carrots, turning into platforms for you to use after collecting them is an interesting design space. You do get some tricky jumps where you have to jump to collect them, land back onto the main stage and then use them, but they're rather few and far in between. I could totally see some modern 2D platformer use them well though, like hidden secret paths only done by backtracking after grabbing collectibles, or mix and matching it with stuff like crumbling platforms (I was shocked this game never did it) or moving platforms or whatever. It did make me think about the level design in a different way than a lot of games, so good on it. Also while the gotchas wear thin, they DO feel like they really fit the tone of Looney Tunes and Bugs in specific.
Why does this game have so many bosses when it reuses them so much? Daffy is a boss in EVERY world and like every time he is PATHETICALLY easy that's actually hilarious but also not good gameplay. You fight Elmer Fudd like three times. The fight does not change any time. The final boss is the only one who uses a truly different strategy, although Pepe le Pew is at least a bit unique. If you can't make unique bosses, at least scale them back a little bit to avoid the endless repition.
Anyway this game's plot is David Fincher's The Game so that obviously gives it an extra half star-