Sunday, February 22, 2009

Super Turrican- SNES- Factor 5

I must admit that I wasn't a turrican fan in my youth. The whole of my experiences with the series prior to this involves one weekend with Mega Turrican where I spent more time swinging on the grappling beam than actually trying to advance through the game. So other than a replay here and there of Mega Turrican after its release on the Virtual Console and a little bit of message board chatter, I was pretty much going in blind for Super Turrican. I didn't have a manual for the game either as it was one of the first games I picked up at the Play N' Trade that had opened up nearby. Fortunately, I was prepared for this eventuality, having grown up in the time when rentals were popular and having or not having a manual was not a detriment as we expected to be able to figure a game out, at least enough to play, in five minutes.

And Super Turrican is no different. The buttons configurtion is simple. You can shoot, jump, fire off a green beam, and let loose with an explosive blast. Of course, there is more that you can do, but those are the moves one figures out by accident. Such as ducking and pressing jump turns our hero into an indestructible ball that rolls at high speeds and is cappable of laying mines or dropping bombs. The green beam can also be rotated to locate hidden platforms or stun enemies. The game plays like one part Metroid, one part Contra, one part shump, rolled into a ball of hell.

This game is definitive proof that a level designer can hate you. Sure, it starts off easily enough. The first level is pretty much a cake walk, but there are moments when the game shows signs of the evil that will soon befall you. In the first few minutes of game play, the player comes to a temple and a series of gaps, a storm begins to rage. In this storm, lightening can strike the player, and wind can blow hard enough to stop the player in their tracks. The player must contend with this, the enemies, and make the jumps required to advance.

Most of those that have played this are probably rolling your eyes right now. That trap might catch them once or twice, maybe more if you really weren't paying attention. But that is my point. Super Turrican does not need to surprise you to be difficult. It doesn't need random drop away floors or bullets that come from nowhere. No, every trap, every enemy, every bullet is clears placed in front of you. The signs for the traps are always there, but the elements of the level design make it so that does not matter. You will get hit; you will die.

But the game designers haven't hung you out to dry. The hero of Turrican isn't like the boys from Contra. He won't die in just one hit, he can roll into an invicible ball, and his weapons are useful. Taking a page from the book of shumps, our hero is able to collect different collored gems: Blue, Red, or yellow. These gems grant the hero the abilty to fire a powerful laser, a spread shot, or a richochet shot respectively. Each of these weapons powers up as the player collects more gems, and changing weapons does not reset the other weapons power levels to one. If you have a fully powered up spread shot and pick up the laser beam, it will still be a fully powered up spread shot when you go back.

Lives are also plentiful, but you could go the whole level and not find a single one. That's because the levels are built like a tree. Your ultimate goal is to climb the tree as fast as you can (yes, there is is a time limit), but if you take the time to go out on the branches and beat those challenges, the game rewards you with an extra life. In total, there are about tweleve extra lives in the first level alone. And you will need them, you will bo going through them like Rambo goes through bullets, especially your first time through.

Speeking of 80's action movies, that's what this game reminds me of, especially the music. The pumping, upbeat rhythms are drum heavy, and of the ones I survived to hear, many would fit as an action movie's theme. They're a bit more upbeat than one would expect to hear in the heat of the action, but they mesh well with the space theme and the vibrant colors of the game.

It took me a long time to actually get into Super Turrican. Many things are not obvious, but if you stick with the game, you will discover a shooter with a surprising amount of depth, challenge, and that zany fairness that all evil masterminds have because they want to prolong the suffering of their prey. But if you stick with it, and out wit that mastermind, you will find that it's definitely a worthy addition to any collection of Retro Treasures.

I'm the Retro Gamer, and I'm on the hunt.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is one of those games that needs no introduction. It is hailed by many as being one of, if not, the greatest jRPG of all time.

The game was the creation of three of the biggest names in the industry: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama. If you are unaware, that is the creator of Final Fantasy, the screen writer of Dragon Quest, and the creator of Dragon Ball. With such big names attached to the game, expectations must have been astronomical. But I'm sure you already have your own opinions about how it fared.

The story of Chrono Trigger is about a group of young teens who, while enjoying the fair, find themselves lost in time. Unlike most jRPGs, this does not require the deaths of everyone the main character knew or the burning of his home village. It is an event that happens merely by chance as the main character, Crono, watches a science experiment performed by his childhood friend, Lucca. Marle, whom Crono had met just minutes prior, had volunteered to be the second subject to be transported across the plaza by a scientific device. Unfortunately, during the course of the experiment, the energies created by the device interacted with Marle's pendent, tearing a hole in time and sending her tumbling into the past. Picking up the dropped pendant, Crono ventured alone into time to save her, beginning his adventure.

In all honesty, it is not the most grandious of beginnings, but it sucks you in all the more for it. You are just a normal person in a peaceful time, enjoying life. And for the most part, the game remains at that same light-hearted and funny level. This serves to make the saddening and or terrifying moments all the more powerful. The story is simple, and not drug out, leaving the player to make connections and determine what needs to be done. It does a good job of making the player feel not only as if they are Crono but also as if they are actually plotting the course for their own adventure.

The battle system is one of the games many strong suits. The Active Time system forces players to react quickly and speeds up the battles, which shortens the grind that many jRPGs suffer from. There was a moment late in the game, where I decided I was just going to grind for a bit to raise my level and learn new techs. The speed at which I was able to do this was impressive. Battles were over quickly, and the fact that there was not a separate screen for them meant that I did not have to wait for the screen to change. In about two hours, I was able to gain five or six levels and max out most of my characters techniques. And other than that one time, I was not forced to grind to beat any of the games challenges.

As I sit here, looking at the ending screen, I am reminded of just how good the games music is. Scored by Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, the game is a classic example of memorable tunes. From the upbeat battle theme to the haunting music box ending, the music will will carve a place into your heart. It may not be my favorite soundtrack ever, but it is one of the best.

All in all, Chrono Trigger has earned its place as one of gamings gems.It is a well told story, with endearing characters, a fun battle system, and good music. It's short and sweet like those summer afternoons where you sat inside playing games rather than going outside like your mom said. If you haven't already played it, you should go track it down. It's a worth addition to any collection of retro treasures.

This is the Retro Gamer, and I'm on the hunt.


Hiya, folks. Welcome to the Retro Gamer's Treasure Trove. I'm not sure how you actually managed to stumble across this blog but welcome.

The purpose of this blog, like many others out there, is to catalog the various retro games I have played over the years. All the games I write about must have been played recently and enough to form a proper and concise opinion on the subject. Keep in mind that these are not to be taken as reviews, but rambling discussions of a game. That of course will include whether the game is playable or enjoyable, but other things may come in as well.

Many of the games I play, I will endeavor to experience on the original system that they were designed for, but if that is not possible and they are available, I will not hesitate to play the game on Nintendo's Virtual Console. My personal goal is to use this as a way to refine my writing and to discover rare gems that I overlooked in years past. However, that does not mean I will skip the big titles, as will be evident by the first game I discuss.

I hope you enjoy your stay. This is the Retro Gamer, and I'm on the hunt.