Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Formation Soccer Human Cup '90


I considered the '92 episode of FSHC to be the weak link of the otherwise enjoyable Human Sports Festival, so I wasn't expecting great things when I worked my way backwards and visited its predecessor. Well, said predecessor is pretty much the same game; and while it isn't a train wreck and doesn't look terrible, it doesn't offer the greatest playability either (as the cumbersome control scheme has you press Run to switch players and select teammates to pass to), and its music is incredibly annoying and repetitive.

This is one of those games that make me wonder how people felt after actually paying full price for them back in the day, as there's very little that goes on in it. Even the most rabid of soccer fans were probably hard pressed to find much to like about the effort. Thank goodness the 16-bit era eventually delivered superior alternatives (like FIFA).

Select your team and decide on your "strategy." Choose carefully, for the Human Cup is at stake!

Scoring a goal is neither a small feat nor a common occurrence. You'll be spending most of your time involved in scrums for the ball.

Flip through television channels and view an assortment of fascinating programs during halftime.

Typical penalty-kick battles decide games that end in ties.

Devil's Crush

Naxat Soft / Red / NEC

Most people will tell you that Devil's Crush wipes the floor with its awesome predecessor, Alien Crush. After all, DC boasts faster gameplay, more bonus rounds, a larger main playfield, and a higher level of challenge. Unlike AC, which requires players to put in marathon sessions to earn extremely high scores, DC allows for the saving of play data. Its main musical track is much longer and more intricate than any of AC's numbers. It stars charismatic creatures--including a fire-breathing dragon, a grinning skull with a creepy roving eyeball, and a monstrous face-shifting lizard woman--who certainly outdo AC's critters, brains, and mutants. There's just a lot more to be aware of, a lot more going on at any given moment, in DC. In fact, in comparison, AC's playfields seem vacuous, and its monsters, static.

All of that being said, I'm a bigger fan of AC, myself. My allegiance to DC's older, simpler sibling is no doubt buoyed by nostalgia and a personal preference for its tunes. But the scrolling playfield that so many players laud DC for is an "improvement" I could have lived without, as I like AC's "blinking" system for the simple fact that it allows me to see my flippers at all times. Of course, regardless of which Crush brother you end up devoting your loyalty and game time to, you'll likely consider both to be excellent pinball titles. I myself consider them TG-16 must-buys.

Demons, sorcerers, and other strange beings are constantly hustling and bustling about the playfield.

Witness the famous Lady Lizard transformation sequence.

Just a few of Devil's many bonus rounds.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ys Book I & II

~ YS BOOK I & II ~
Falcom / Hudson Soft / NEC

Ys Book I & II, a thrilling two-chapter action-RPG featuring fast-paced bump-and-run combat, is by far the most captivating, awe-inspiring, involving video game I have ever played. And since the title is so special to me, I decided to do something different with this piece: I've noted the aspects of the adventure that have proven to be indelible elements of my recollections of it. Some of them are goofy little happenings, while others are unquestionably among the most dramatic scenes in Turbo history. So here we have IvaNEC's list of the most memorable moments from the greatest game available for the system:

I must start off with the duo of opening cinemas. The first one lays intriguing groundwork for the proceedings and is accompanied by enthralling audio that segues perfectly into the brilliant title-screen number. The second impresses to an extreme with its rockin' rendition of Adol's stirring theme and the stylish way it augments awesome imagery with cast-member names, making the affair seem like a grand production right off the bat. I always tell people to return to this cinema after they've completed the game so that they can connect names and plot points with the artwork. I particularly love the image of Lair playing her harmonica in the rain.

Engaging atmosphere is established within the Book I shrine thanks to an enchanting yet somewhat chilling tune that eerily incorporates the sounds of falling water droplets into its rhythms and concludes with beautiful piano lines. The game effectively switches gears by replacing that number with another cool (and more upbeat) tune when you delve deeper into the structure.

The mine boss gave me problems when I was a kid. I had no trouble figuring out the correct approach to utilize for the fight, but I hadn't reached an adequate level by the time I encountered the creature, so I had to stumble around the tunnels and power up for a bit. It seems like a lot of other folks find themselves in the same predicament.

I dig the spot in Darm Tower where the statues surrounding a chest come to life and charge at you as you attempt to nab the treasure, if for no other reason than the previously (and subsequently) worthless Timer Ring actually comes in handy.

While pretty Feena whines about headaches and the frightfulness of the shrine she was imprisoned in, cool, cunning Lair actually goes ahead and gets herself captured on purpose to gain entry to Darm Tower and aid Adol in his endeavors. Lair's VA had a very appropriate voice for the part and did a wonderful job.

One of the greatest scenes in video-game history is Adol's encounter with Dark Fact. The villain's cool voice, awesome speech, and chilling violin theme make the confrontation absolutely unforgettable.

The cinematic intermission that follows the Fact fight is nothing short of stunning. The cool exchange between Darm and Dalles and Adol's fiery trip to Ys (which is accompanied by one hell of a rockin' number) make for a dynamic and amazingly dramatic beginning to Book II. The first time I viewed this sequence (from the meeting with Fact through the subsequent cinema) was when I truly began to feel I was experiencing something special.

Want to hear some fantastic music that isn't of the red book sort? Take a moment to stroll around Rance Village and listen to the tune that accompanies your jaunt. It's incredibly beautiful and has a very soft and melodic hook.

The worst sentries ever have to be the two immobile dudes guarding a chest in the Ruins. You can alternate between hitting them and healing up until the path to the treasure is clear. It's such a goofy sequence, and I like goofy stuff, so of course this ridiculously obscure moment has stuck with me through the ages.

Adol's trek through the Divine Area is one of the game's most memorable stretches. You get to listen to a rockin' guitar-driven track while you're navigating the corridors (the first few bars in particular are incredible), and a majestic, ethereal tune inside the priests' chambers. The latter is so enchanting that it makes you feel like you really are uncovering the hidden secrets of a lost land. The events it accompanies seem extremely significant because of it.

Jira's basement, where loads of monsters come bursting through a wall, is quite simply the neatest "leveling-up spot" in any RPG.

One of the coolest things about the game is that you can actually talk to any beast you want once you possess the capability to transform yourself into a monster. During my very first playthrough, I spent ages simply going around and conversing with my enemies. Some of them are quite the comedians!

Keith is probably my favorite Ys good guy. A cool-looking friendly green monster--what better ally could one ask for? Quite memorable are his famous "Adol, this way!" line and his bashful costume dropping during the end credits.

My favorite puzzle in the game concerns Adol's attempt to eavesdrop on a monster meeting in Solomon Shrine. He must not only put on special earrings to hear what's being said but also turn himself into a beast to understand the language being used. Awesome stuff. When I was a kid, I felt so cool upon figuring it all out. ^_^

Dark Fact and Darm are the "household names," but Dalles is the villain who actually wreaks the most havoc. One of his coolest acts is changing Adol into a monster (who's topped by a little tuft of red hair, of course).

The boss guarding the Belfry, whom you have to fight by nailing his projectiles with fire magic, gave me fits back in the day.

The Belfry sequence was crazily intense the first time I experienced it. Adol must charge up the steeple with urgent music cranked, bells ringing ominously, and the threat of an ally's death looming large. Awaiting him at the top is the despicable Dalles. The whole sequence is extremely exciting and suspenseful.

The entire last stretch (from the glowing red tunnels on) might be my favorite part of all, with the "goddesses in flames" scene providing more excitement for me than any sequence in any other game I can think of. Darm's speeches, Feena and Lair's revelation (even though we all knew it was coming), Goban's "YOU ANIMAL!" outburst, the playing of the silver harmonica, Adol's sword beginning to glow as the music rocks more than it ever had before, the bridge to the core of the structure being struck by lightning and collapsing, Darm's promise to "crush and consume"... nope, I can't think of a more amazing string of events. I was wide eyed all the way through it the first time I beat the game.

It all culminates with the greatest Turbo ending. Cute stuff involving Lilia and Adol is followed by the most entertaining credit roll I've ever witnessed, and the music rules right through to the end.