Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jack Nicklaus' Turbo Golf CD


Accolade opted not to forsake the Jack Nicklaus HuCard's play system while designing the CD version of the game. Their decision sat well with me: Turbo Golf is a mechanically sound title on either medium. Unfortunately, they also stood pat with the revoltingly crude visual style "boasted" by the TurboChip...

...and elected to continue making players sit through slow, stupid course redrawings in between shots.

Thankfully, JNCD does not retain the card's in-game silence; in fact, it allows you to select from three different tunes during play, and surprisingly enough, all three are pretty good. You'll enjoy listening to them as you tour the disc's five different courses (the mute TurboChip offers but one).

Other additions come off as obligatory CD-version tack-ons. The opening cinema is a three-screen throwaway, and Jack's advice being read aloud isn't much of a "special feature."

If you consider the HuCard Jack Nicklaus a decent title (as I do), you'll probably want to upgrade to this version for the music and the extra courses. If you're just looking for a quality golf game for your Turbo, well, Fine Shot Golf on Human Sports Festival is far superior to this title. Should you crave more than a single representation of the sport, give Turbo Golf CD a try.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Power Golf 2: Golfer

Hudson Soft
Super CD-ROM

This is definitely a step up in quality from the original Power Golf, thank goodness. PG2 plays better than its predecessor and boasts superior course design.

It's more sophisticated in general, presenting much more in the way of course and play-mode selection.

There are some negatives to note, though: the action plays out slowly, as the game likes to switch views of the ball three or four times during long shots (and with each switch comes a slight delay)...

...and the CD unit's capabilities are largely wasted on horribly grainy "videos" and useless digitized pictures.

I prefer Fine Shot Golf (which can be found on the Human Sports Festival disc), as it's livelier, faster, and more fun overall. Still, golf fans and people who actually enjoy the first PG will probably be happy with this.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dekoboko Densetsu Hashiru Wagamanma

Renovation / Telenet

For those who aren't familiar with the legend, this Dekoboko is an overhead-perspective "combat racing" game that leans heavily towards the "cutesy" side of things. You drive through or leap over ponds, ice patches, lava streams, and snowy wastelands...

...while evading cows, snowmen, fish, birds, elephants, and flame-spitting dinosaur-things...

...and walloping your opponents with weapons bought at shop-screens in between stages.

The silly-in-theme courses should be the colorful highlights of Dekoboko, but they're actually rather dull. Some canvases are dominated by ugly yellows and browns, and a simple Lego-land can't exactly compete with Mario Kart's Rainbow Road.

The musical tracks are forgettable save for two vocal numbers (a goofy male vocal at the title screen and a decent female vocal at the end) and the Stage One theme, which is remarkably reminiscent of Basted's main in-game tune.

Superficial disappointments might have been forgivable if the gameplay were solid, but it isn't. Dekoboko was designed with five-player action in mind; hence, it insists that all of the cars be visible onscreen at all times. This means that if you're leading the pack, you'll be a mere centimeter or so away from the very top of the playfield and have no time to avoid obstacles that suddenly appear. On the other hand, if you hang back, you'll run the risk of being "hit" by the bottom of the screen, which will send you into a spinout. The spinouts constitute the most irritating aspect of the experience, as it can be very difficult to "right the ship," and you often end up caught in an inescapable chain of spins.

You pretty much have to hang out somewhere in the middle of the field, conserving your energy and keeping your vehicle on course until the very last stretch of a given track, where you can finally make your move and go for the win.

Ultimately, this is more of an obstacle-course run than it is a racing game, and there isn't much of a speed element anyway, as the cars basically just roll along. Give Dekoboko a try and you'll probably end up agreeing with me that the coolest thing about it is that Yuko and Megas briefly appear in the opening cinema.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Super CD-ROM Taiken Soft Shuu

Hudson Soft / Red / Falcom
Super CD-ROM

Duomazov friends and fans have been clamoring for us to cover this one for quite a while now, so here goes. This is essentially a two-demo product that allows you to "try out" Tengai Makyou II: Manji Maru and Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes.

We already have reviews posted for the full versions of the two titles, so I'm not gonna BS around with positives and negatives and all that as far as the games themselves go. But I will fill you in on how much "game" you can expect here.

Don't expect much from the Manji Maru sample. Visit a town, visit a cave, do a little grinding, and beat up a boss... it all amounts to a thirty-minute glimpse of a fifty-hour epic, and it isn't really a good indication of what the adventure has to offer, though the one boss fight will probably come off as being pretty darn cool.

You get a more substantive slice of LoH here, a full chapter of the six-chapter journey, which means a little over an hour of a quest that lasts for ten. You can visit a number of villages and even put together a full four-member party before the demo closes its doors and demands you check out the real game for more.

Speaking of the real games, since the full versions of Manji Maru and the Japanese Legend of Heroes can each be had for the five bucks or so it would cost to acquire this disc, well, who needs the demos anyway? This isn't some sort of elusive rarity either, and it boasts zero enticing "extras," making it an unnecessary item for all but the most devout PCE collectors.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes II

Falcom / Hudson Soft
Super CD-ROM

Fans of the first Legend of Heroes will feel very comfortable with this followup. Say hello again to a little playfield and littler sprites...

...and reacquaint yourself with an easy-to-use battle system that enables players to get through fights extremely quickly. On an unfortunate note, the enemy designs remain lackluster.

Not everything stayed the same. While the original can easily be conquered in under ten hours, this one might well require thirty your first time through it. That might sound like a good thing, but you have to spend so much of that extra time accumulating money and experience points that the adventure becomes a miserable grind at times. This didn't wreck the game for me, as I'm not one to mind some perfunctory leveling, but you'd better be sure that you won't mind it either before you get going here. Many obligatory, unexciting battles await you.

But the responsibility for maintaining the player's interest for a quest three times as long as the one that precedes it apparently encouraged LoH2's designers to step things up as far as storytelling goes. While LoH indulges in anime-style theatrics only during its opening and closing sequences, its sequel boasts numerous cinematic intermissions. This is mainly conversation-based material, though--nothing particularly exciting or mind blowing...

...and the greatest artistry and the most flair are still to be found at the beginning and end of the quest.

The sequences tell a tale intended to be a few-years-later continuation of the story we experienced the first chapter of in LoH. Since the crafters of this tale didn't want to have you traipse around the same old overworld locations for another full quest, they came up with an alternative primary setting: an incredibly intricate network of underground tunnels. Nope, you won't be retracing many of the steps you took in LoH; instead, you'll spend hours and hours and hours and hours trying to find your way around bleak, dark tunnel mazes. Needless to say, the "environments" are pretty dull.

One potentially enjoyable element of those tunnel journeys is the challenge of evading enemies. In the first LoH, you need to obtain special items to be able to see where hostile creatures are positioned on the map. Here, roving monster groups appear as black blobs without any item-utilizing required, and these blobs are often numerous and sometimes extremely aggressive. Pulling off your best Barry Sanders moves to dodge an undesirable encounter can actually be lots of fun.

Another interesting play element is the magic system. Instead of costing typical MP, each spell has its own "vial" displayed in the character-stats sidebar; a vial empties when the spell it represents is cast, and it gradually refills as you go about your business on the field screen, with certain powerful spells requiring more recharging time than others. It's definitely a neat system, perhaps not preferable when all is said and done to the traditional method but cool and effective enough for a one-game go.

Also effective is the music, which is flat-out exceptional at times. As is the case with the first game's tunes, LoH2's tracks are basically Ys-like arrangements that would be hard-pressed to make the final cut for an Ys adventure. Still, some of these town and cave numbers are absolutely fantastic.

Character design is also an LoH2 strength. You still have to tolerate a precocious blonde kid as the lead, but he has likable allies to travel with and heinous villains to confront.

LoH2 isn't great overall, failing even to measure up to its predecessor. But it boasts many of the solid gameplay elements that the successful first LoH relies on, introduces some cool new ideas, and delivers more good music. As long as you won't mind the tunnel treks and excessive grinding too much, you should find LoH2 to be a PCE RPG worth experiencing.