Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shall We Do It? (Alien Syndrome, City Connection, Mickey Mousecapade, Parodius Da! and Super Mario Bros. 2)

Some of you may be wondering why all of the games mentioned in this post's headline are decidedly retro" Well, that would be because the only current game I've played in the last few weeks is Pokémon Picross.

OK, so I've also put some time--and money--into Nintendo Badge Arcade during that same period, although I don't know if I'd call the latter a "game." (It's more of an app, if you ask me.)

What about The Legend of Legacy and Undertale? I haven't played either of them in about a month, sadly. And I haven't even started Yo-Kai Watch, despite the fact that a copy of that 3DS title has been in my hands since I got it as a birthday present right after Thanksgiving.

Given all of the above, it may seem strange that I decided to spend a good part of this past weekend playing the following bunch of golden oldies. The only response I can come up with to that charge is "I needed it." And don't we all sometimes?

Alien Syndrome (Game Gear)--Considering my nearly lifelong love of the first two Alien films, you’d think I would have at least tried this similarly themed game ages ago. Actually, I have plunked a bit of time into various versions of this Sega-made title (which originated in the arcades) over the years, but for whatever reason the aesthetics and gameplay never sat well with me. Something changed in that regard this weekend, though, as I raced through three of the Game Gear port’s stages on Saturday morning and only gave up after seeing a satisfactory portion of its fourth.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Alien Syndrome, by the way, the gist of it is it’s a run-and-gun action game that’s clearly inspired by the original Alien flick. You run around each level--most or all of which take place on some sort of spaceship--and rescue stranded crewmates while avoiding (or blowing away) a whole host of nightmarish baddies. Oh, and a clock is ticking away all the while, which adds a certain sense of urgency to both of those tasks.

As is the case with most of the games I booted up over the last few days, some (maybe many) modern gamers are sure to find the Game Gear version of Alien Syndrome painfully dated, especially in the graphics department. Still, if you’re a fan of tense gaming experiences and extraterrestrial settings, you’d do well to overlook this title’s superficial stumbling points and give it a bit of love.

City Connection (Famicom)--Looking back on it now, it seems strange that as a kid I had access to an arcade containing a City Connection cabinet. After all, I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin—not exactly a hotbed of obscure Japanese games of any sort.

At any rate, I'm glad my local arcade (bowling alley, really) was home to this Axes Art Amuse-made and Jaleco-published oddity--for a while, at least. I played it every chance I got. Who could blame me? It's a platformer--of sorts--that shoves players behind the wheel of an adorable red sports car and then forces them to race and leap around a handful of stages, all of which are set in real-life cities. The point: why, to cover their roadways in paint, of course. (You do this do you can prove you've fully experienced each locale.)

I wish I could tell you how accurate the Famicom port of City Connection is to the arcade original, but I can't. I can say the former is a lot of fun, though. It's colorful, it controls well enough, it's challenging (but not overly cheap, as is the case for too many games from this era) and it has a soundtrack that's better than it has any right to be.

Mickey Mousecapade (NES)--Here's another game from my childhood. For some weird reason, this is one of the 20 or so NES games I owned as a kid. I say it's weird because I've never really been a big Disney fan. As such, I'm not sure what prompted me to buy (or, more likely, ask for it as a birthday or Christmas gift) Mickey Mousecapade.

Regardless, I remember liking this classic platformer--which curiously puts players in control of both Mickey and Minnie at the same time--well enough. I also remember finding it more than a smidge frustrating beyond its first stage. Which is kind of hilarious, as I got all the way to the game's third stage on my second try this past weekend, and without a whole lot of fuss. Sadly, that's as far as I was able to get.

Oh, well, I'm glad I finally revisited Mickey Mousecapade after all these years. It's far from a great game, and it's downright ugly in spots (I'm looking at you, annoying forest level), but the background music is nice and the overall experience is enjoyable enough that I'll probably return to it again ... in a couple of years or so.

Parodius Da! (PC Engine)--Would you believe this was one of the first Japanese games I ever imported? Detana!! TwinBee was another, along with Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI and Tengai Makyou II. Oh, and Pop'n TwinBee, too.

At any rate, this was my favorite of the bunch. (OK, so I was pretty fond of the two Final Fantasy games as well.) Which makes sense, as it's hard to play this wackadoodle shmup, which parodies Konami's genre-defining Gradius series (hence the name), without a huge grin plastered across your face all the while.

I spend most of my time with the PC Engine port of Parodius Da! playing its "Special" mode, by the way. It's a single-level, high-score romp that's perfect for short bursts of play--which means it's perfect for my ever-diminishing attention span.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)--Do you have a favorite Famicom or NES cart? Well, this is one of mine. To me, this bastard child of Nintendo's decades-old Mario series is the gaming equivalent of chicken noodle soup. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy in a way that not too many titles from any era can match.

Anyway, I was prompted to return to this pastel-shellacked platformer by the recently released Nintendo Badge Arcade. For the last few days, that 3DS app has offered up a slew of Super Mario Bros. 2 pins--every single one of which caused my mouth to froth in nostalgia-flavored glee. (OK, so maybe that's overstating things a tad.)

Although I somehow stopped myself from dropping $5 more into the Nintendo Badge Arcade, I wasn't able to keep myself from spending a similar amount to buy Super Mario Bros. 2 via the eShop. Which is just as well, because every 3DS needs to have a copy of this game stuck to its main menu and at the ready at all times, don't you think?

Have you played any retro games in recent days or weeks? If so, which ones--and what pushed you to spend some quality time with them?

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