Power Blade NES Review

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Here’s a question for you – what do you get when cross an Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike with the makers of Chase HQ? No, unfortunately it isn’t a new version of Chase HQ featuring good ol’ Arnie released on the Playstation Network or Nintendo eShop, but something that many would resemble closest to Mega Man. Unlike Mega Man, today’s game isn’t set in the year 200X where X is an integer that could in fact be a letter and a date that is all futuristic-looking, but set in a specific year namely 2191. Quite why it was so late in the 22nd Century I have no idea but it’s refreshing to see game developers honing in on their attention to detail, but regardless of the year, does it play like a Conan-esque Mega Man or is it another platforming action game consigned to the bargain bins of retro history?

"I'll be back" - not with this game you won't

“I’ll be back” – not with this game you won’t

Power Blade is an action platforming game set in the remarkably accurate year of 2191, which in typical action platforming style, you have to get your character from one part of the stage to the other, however it is not a simple case of going from left to right. The direction of the level can take you up and down ladders over multiple floors, without the cool screen realignment that Mega Man 2 had. You have to retrieve data tapes which were stolen by aliens (what else) from each of the six levels and restore the master computer by defeating the alien master overlord. Of course. In order to do this, you’re equipped with a boomerang which is your weapon of choice (and also the weapon naturally to destroy alien overlords – it’s what I would naturally think of) and is used to destroy the enemies through the stages. During the stages you can get the “Power Suit” which when gotten, your character shoots energy blasts in any of the 8 directions of your d-pad and that can go through most surfaces.

Reminiscent of Seattle, 2191 looks pretty good from here

Reminiscent of Seattle, 2191 looks pretty good from here

So when you start up the game, you get the option of starting the game from the beginning or carrying on from a position using a password system, that curiously using all 10 numbers and only the letters B D F G J and K. Quite why those letters were made who knows, there’s only so much fun that can be had from typing rude words into a password system that has a full alphabet…actually no, on some games typing rude words in is more fun than playing the game. After you choose the start game option you then provided with a normal or expert mode to play the levels – expert mode has more levels on screen and ramps up the challenge, not as intense as something like Contra but still something that will make you throw your controller on the floor.

Similar to Mega Man, you get to choose which sector you start out in, and with 6 to choose from you can pick any to play when you first you’re spoilt for choice. However this is where things start to go south, as you realise when you work your way through the level that at parts, it’s not clear where you should be headed – there’s ladders going up and down, and each way brings you to a new part of the stage. You hope that when your getting lost you can press the select or start button to bring up a map, but no, there’s nothign to suggest where you should be going. What makes it worse is that unlike Mega Man, you can be going down the ladder and to save time, drop off the ladder or not even use the ladder to go to the screen below however with Power Blade, if you don’t use the ladder you lose a life, what kind of nonsense is that? If you need to get to the screen below why not jump down rather than rigidly have to use a ladder?  On the screen you have a health bar which is always good rather than one hit kills a la Contra, and also an enemy meter when you get to the boss of the stage. You also have a power bar meter which doesn’t help but show you how powerful your weapon is, no matter how tempted you are to hold the button down to charge your weapon up or for it to fly further, it still gets thrown the same amount of distance.

6 stages? Gamer's choice? Where has this been seen before...

6 stages? Gamer’s choice? Where has this been seen before…

The gameplay is smooth and responsive, when you press the d-pad your character moves instantaneously, or when you choose to attack and/or jump, there are no delays like in Dragon’s Lair. The A button in typical action platforming makes your character jump whilst the B button makes your character attack with his boomerang. What is good is that your boomerang can be launched in 8 different directions – it’s common place nowadays to have multi-directional shooting but if you grew up playing the NES then you know how frustrating it can be to only be able to attack in two or four different directions. The colours are bold and defined, and from the pixels of your character, it looks like your controlling an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type character down to his bulging biceps and not some generic plain-jane character who doesn’t resemble what is on the main screen. The music and sound effects, well they’re standard fare for a platforming game, but why worry about the audio when your gripped in an intense battle using a wooden stick that returns??

Johnny Bravo rebuilding Berlin/Seattle? What a game that would be!

Johnny Bravo rebuilding Berlin/Seattle? What a game that would be!

Power Blade is a typical action platforming game that graced the NES console in a similar fashion that the other hundreds of action platforming games graced the console. If the SNES was a console for RPG’s then certainly the NES was the console for action platforming. Using a boomerang is a novel idea, however there is nothing better than using guns and projectiles to attack enemies in a manly way – from far away. The best word to describe Power Blade is “average” – there are aspects to the game that make it good, such as the password system and the multi-directional attack however the lack of direction in the level’s themselves and the resemblance to Mega Man, and not in a good way, ensures that Power Blade is a game that apart from the Arnold Schwarzenegger image at the start, is forgettable. If you like the action platforming series it is one to pick up for the collection, but there are better games out there worthy of your frustration and destruction of enemies, so by all means pick up that copy of Contra, and if you see the Taito logo, let’s hope you will be driving a car alongside beaches in the sun…

Rating – 3 out of 5

Adventure Island II NES Review

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They say never to judge a book by it’s cover, and to not always rely on your first impressions. Although it’s not clear at this stage who “they” are, or who “they” refer to in these matters, “they” do have a point. When looking at the back of the box of the gam being reviewed today, it is easy to write it off as another Super Mario clone. It’s not hard to see why game companies in the late 80’s and early 90’s would copy the tried and tested formula of Mario, the whole franchise of Mario games on the NES were popular, had colourful graphics and the gameplay was second to none. However, although it shares similarities with said Mario games, Adventure Island is not a game to easily be written off as a Mario 3 clone. Let’s take a look and see why it’s Adventure Island more than Celebrity Love Island (that was a bad reference – click here for info).

If only we could laze under a palm tree on a tropical island

If only we could laze under a palm tree on a tropical island

Adventure Island II was released in Europe in 1992, and is a side-scrolling platform game that resembles, erm, Mario 3. It was released by Hudson Soft who also developed titles such as Milon’s Secret Castle, but thankfully, is not as secret as being set on a castle. You control Master Higgins, who embarks on saving his favourite lady’s sister from the evil clutches of the Evil Witch Doctor and it’s persistent followers. Like a lot of titles on the NES at the time, when you pop the cartridge in your console, you have the option to start the game, or continue from where you left off. It is not a password based system however which is a shame, instead it is a game in which when you die, you can press continue to pick up from the stage you were at.

So you arrive on the different island’s on your raft and away you go. The idea like all side-scrolling platform games is to get from one side of the stage to the other, defeating nightmare-inducing monsters such as snails and birds and collecting not coins a la Mario but fruit. It is nice for kids playing the game not to worship currency but to worship fruit instead which gives you points. Before the level starts, you can choose to bring any weapons or animal friends you find along the way – this could be in the form of a purple mini-dinosaur that in no way resembles Barney or other creatures. I guess Mario had Yoshi but that was later in the franchise so to use animals as a companion to attack enemies is a nice touch. If you do die, you have to start at the beginning of the level, which differs from Adventure Island I where there were checkpoints in the level so you started from there when you died. At the end of the stage as a bonus you can choose from a set of spinning eggs, choose one for a points bonus. And what do points make? Never mind don’t answer that.

Choosing an egg has never been more fun! No, seriously...

Choosing an egg has never been more fun! No, seriously…

The controls are firm and responsive, in essence the type of controls you would want with a side-scrolling platform game. Certainly not like the stiffness of Ice Climbers. The d-pad moves the character, the A button jumps and the B-button fires your weapon should you have collected one at this point, or to make the animal you ride on fire his weapon. I say weapon like it is a dangerous projectile, but it is in fact a tomahawk-type hammer object. It does the trick however, with the majority of the puny enemies taking one hit to kill. This is good as at times you travel on a skateboard that hurtles you through the level, the last thing you want is to hammer the B button to ensure the enemy is out of your way as you do your impression of Tony Hawk. The one disadvantage of killing enemies with one hit is that they can kill you with one hit too. The music is upbeat and jolly and suits the style of the game, and it’s lush tropical surroundings. The sound effects are crisp and there is a sound effect for everything you do which matches the style well, from the simplest things such as jumping to collecting fruit. So, in that respect, turn the volume up when playing the game and leave your cassette deck empty full of the joys of Now 5 or the like.

Tony Hawk he is not. However, he dresses better than Tony

Tony Hawk he is not. However, he dresses better than Tony

As mentioned at the start of the game, it is very easy to write the game off as a Super Mario 3 clone, just set on a tropical island and rather than wearing overalls, the character wears nothing but a green leafy thing to cover his modesty and to wrap himself in. However, it seems clear the developers took a lot of time to craft the game, from the bold colourful graphics to the music and sound effects that compliments the game perfectly. The controls are responsive and simplistic (none of this, up button to jump and down+B button to perform a certain attack) and from a side-scrolling platform game, that’s all anyone can ask. It really is a game worthy in your collection as an alternative to the more popular mainstream games. Although not always a testament to a game’s popularity or how well it was developed, the game has been released on Virtual Console, firstly on the Wii back in April 2011 and then on the 3DS Virtual Console in November 2011. There are copies available on your favourite auction website or even perhaps at your local retro gaming store, however they are not overly cheap, they are not as frequently found as, once again Mario or Mario 3 however as always would recommend playing it on the console rather than downloading it for the Virtual Console. Not that there is anything wrong with the Virtual Console, it is a great way of playing old games you may not have access to or remember the first time round, however, there is nothing more satisfying than playing a genuinely quality game such as this on your couch with your NES controller in your hand. So get some Malibu and that tropical granola you pretend is healthy for you, pull on some safari shorts and go help Master Higgins rescue his lady’s sister on tropical islands with the heating right up – because isn’t that we all want to do? Save your partner’s sibling whilst your wearing beige safari shorts?…

Rating – 5 out of 5