Monday, February 10, 2014

Diary Entry #7: Tons of GBA Action Games and Ignoring Beyond: Two Souls Indefinitely

                Whoo-ee! I beat Beyond: Two Souls, but I really don't want to get into that until I have more time on my hands. Instead, I'll focus on the Game Boy-a-thon I had last night after I made my previous post. My hypothesis going into this: there are tons of great action titles for the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance that everyone ignores.

                First up is Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Bad Dream. This is a game I've been dying to play for years, but ignored it in favor of Treasure's more touted handheld games like Gunstar Super Heroes and Astro Boy: The Omega Factor. Buster's Bad Dream is a spiritual forefather of the latter, featuring the same beat-up-the-sprites-and-knock-them-all-around-the-screen, except dumber. Buster punches the crap out of everything and has no special skills whatsoever, though he can quickly call upon the aide of a friend. I liked Fifi, who shot a powerful skunk cloud that froze enemies.

                Treasure always adds little interesting features to the gameplay, and Buster's Bad Dream has one of the more interesting ones: when enemies are overlapping, any punch drains all of their health equally. So, if you get attacked by two jaguars and an over-sized snake, just make sure they're all on top of each other before you get those fists-a-flyin'.

Buster, just like in the TV show,
punches the hell out of two jaguars
and a giant snake.

                I got burnt out after two levels. All Buster does is punch the crap out of everything, and each level features two distinct enemies each. I spent five plus minutes beating up jaguars and snakes only to spend five plus minutes beating up bats. While the game must get harder as it goes on, these monotonous battles vary so little that I couldn't find any challenge here.

                I just had to move on, so I tried out Turok: Battle of the Bionosaurs. For a later era Game Boy cartridge, this is much better than you'd expect. The levels, like the N64 classic, are appropriately maze-like, offering up several areas for you to search and a lot of dinosaurs for you to slice. I'm definitely going to return to it, but this game just sparked an interest in the other Turok handheld titles.

                Turok 2 for Game Boy Color starts with a very strange scene where Turok is unarmed. Tons of strange mutant humans line the streets, and you have to walk past twenty of them before you reach a warehouse. Definitely weird and sorta cool for an action game, but I couldn't get over Turok's stupid pompadour. Again, I'll return to this very soon.

                Turok 3 starts with a sweet tank sequence that leads to an Ikari Warriors style level. I love old-school action games that adapt multiple genres like Golgo 13 and Wurm, so I absolutely need to play this. These have got to be better than the N64 games.

                In a total 180 from the deathmatch-oriented N64 version, Turok: Rage Wars is more single-player action. The first level alone actually out shined all of the previous titles discussed here. Now all I want to do is play Turok handheld games. My one fear: I'll play through the first two and get burnt out. I absolutely need to be focused on beating all of the handheld Turok games before I jump into them.

                Actually, forget all the aforementioned games. Turok: Evolution for the Game Boy Advance is like Dino-Contra on intramuscular steroids. Run to the right and shoot every person and dinosaur that gets in your way. Could anything be more awesome? Of the FIVE(!!!) Game Boy Turoks, this one is guaranteed to blow my mind.

                Another Contra/Metal Slug clone. CT Special Forces gets a lot of hype, so I gave it a shot. Unfortunately, it's no Turok: Evolution. It plays slow, enemies rarely shoot at you, and mini-bosses are very repetitive. You also get a lot of health and lives, giving it little of the immediacy and difficulty its influences have. 

                Expectations were low heading into CT Special Forces 2, which totally blew me away. The game starts out in this awesome overhead shooter section...

...moving into the Metal Slug clone gameplay. The game has a quicker pace, more enemies on screen, and a ton of new features. Like the tank portion. And the skydiving sequence. And these sniper section.

In general, just a lot more cool stuff. Below is the only screenshot I took from CT Special Forces 3, which didn't seem to introduce any new features. The first level feels like a real slog, just blasting through tons of enemies and jumping about a train.

                I was not expecting to enjoy Action Man for Game Boy Advance. More run-to-the-right-and-blow-stuff-up action marks this game. It's no Contra killer, but I couldn't put it down until I finished. Like CT Special Forces 2, it has a lot of novelty. There are radical 3D snowboarding sections akin to the Cliffhanger Sega CD game, but my favorite part is where I'm randomly a Gorilla that punches everything to death. 
                There are just so many boring, hackneyed games, ranging from Lemony Snicket to Tom and Jerry's Infurrnal Escape, that are virtually broken platformers that have no real value, why not just turn everything into Contra? Or Mario? The best handheld licensed games recall classics of 2Ds past. Wendy: Every Witch Way for the Game Boy Color harnesses the classic gravity-reversal mechanics of Metal Storm into something that might not breathe new life into a style, but it revives it long enough to keep you playing.

                Another solid example of this design mentality is TMNT. It channels the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games with finesse, but I didn't really dig it at first blush.  A lot of people have touted this game as the best GBA title ever. It's alright. Why the other Ninja Turtle games for GBA aren't also arcade-style beat-em-ups is baffling, though they're fun in their own right.

                I played Super Army War, but it was a boring Choplifter game. Why I can't find any satisfaction in any Choplifter game is strange to me, since I generally enjoy most games. I'll play games designed for five year old girls and have more fun than I would here. Crystal's Pony Tales > Super Army War.

                Batman Begins is a pretty interesting stealth-action game. Unfortunately, a handheld stealth game doesn't add up to much. Just push up near a shadow passage or grab a random beam and you'll never get caught. There is a Splinter Cell game for the GBA that Nintendo Power seemed to adore, but if Batman Begins is any indicator, I'll stick with Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Actually, I love bad stealth games like Spy Fiction for PS2 and Vampire Rain for PS3/360, although those are more "so bad it's good" experiences.

                Casper sucked. Maybe if I waded through the intro dialogue I could have got a handle on what to do. I took a stupid screenshot that will hopefully dissaude you from trying it without a manual. I really love the Casper 3DO/PS1/GBC game, so this abomination cheesed me off.

                That was exhausting. No energy to discuss Beyond: Two Souls at all. Actually, I don't know if I'm going to discuss it at all. It sucked worse than Casper. We'll see how I feel about the idea tomorrow.

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