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Granstream Saga – North American Cover

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Japanese Version (the Euro version just has more logos blocking the art)

      Grandstream Saga is an exciting action/adventure game with some RPG elements.

      In the world of Grandstream, there was a war between the Imperial Wizardry (evil) and Allied Spirit Army (good). The Imperial Wizardry used a weapon both sides had agreed not to use, but weapon was miscalculated, and it shifted the axis of the world, causing the ice caps to be on the equator, melt, and flood the world. Before the world was destroyed, 4 Wise Men created 4 gems and created 4 flying continents. Every few decades, these gems must be recharged or the continents slowly sink toward the water below.

      It is now 100 years later, and the wise men’s descendants are missing. Your home continent of Shilf is slowing descending toward the water. Your father is cutting off parts of the flying island to slow its decent. However, Eon (you) spots a bird’s nest on the falling piece of land and risks his life to save it.

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I was busy risking my life to save baby birds so the player knows I’m pure of heart.

      What later starts out as a search for a missing boy leads you to discover your powers to recreate items from scraps with a magic bracelet you’ve had since you were born. It never displayed any magic until now. From there, you learn the Imperial Wizardry never truly died. They have kidnapped the wise man’s descendant, Arcia. You smuggle yourself about a pirate ship that’s going to trade with them to try and rescue her. It is there you meet Laramee and her spirit bird Korby. Laramee helps you board the Imperial ship, as she is inspired by your heroism to save someone you’ve never even met. It is on this mission the stakes are raised, as you learn you must seek out a magic verse for Arcia to sing at each continent to recharge the magic of the continents to keep them afloat before all of humanity is extinguished forever.

      But first, in the middle of that story, something rare happen (for American video games of this time). You are smuggled into a treasure chest placed in Laramee’s room, and you open it up to see this:

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There is no nipple, so it’s not nudity.

      I don’t know how this was approved during translation. But, the game is really G rated, with only some serious themes popping up at the very end, but they made sure you knew this scene was there; it’s even on the back of the game box.

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      The characters have fun interactions together. Kobry the spirit has a fun antagonist relationship with Laramee, and he has many comedic conversations with Eon (especially if you try to search through a bonfire for secret items). The tone is very good at mixing a light-hearted feel between the characters with serious disastrous events going on (the storyline about the religious cult on the 2nd island being my favorite story). The last dungeon quickly gets very serious, and not every character walks away from this game alive.

      You have an overhead map screen. You can rotate the map in any of the 8 compass directions. I usually just keep it pointing straight North. Your character actually walks relatively fast, so I already like that I don’t have to take forever to get anywhere.

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      You can wander around towns and talk to people, and sometimes you need to talk to a particular person to progress the plot. In addition, there are items shops which you can use to buy herbs to heal your Life Points, and Magic to increase your Magic Points (both are always slightly random, but you learn to figure out the average the more you use them). You heal and save games in churches, and healing yourself is free. There are weapon shops, but for some reason, something always prevents you from buying items at them in each town. The reason for this is because you have to find all the weapons in the game yourself, so they pretty much just exist to screw with you and your RPG expectations.

      The is an action game. When you run into an enemy on screen, you quickly go into a battle screen (it is only 1 second by the way—-no long loading times). The screen expands for battle, but it adds some black barriers to prevent you from going too far away (you can never run away from battles; one of you has to die). You hit Circle to block, and you can block attacks and take no damage. However, if an enemy’s weapon starts to glow purple, they can break through your block; you need to dodge or attack them quickly to interrupt them.

      Another fun and helpful ability is that when you block, your character automatically faces the villain no matter where he goes on the screen. If you aren’t blocking, the enemy can move left and you will still be staring at a wall unless you turn around.

      Your movements are slower now in battle compared to when you were walking. Luckily, you can tap the control stick in any direction to make a fast dash out of the way. Sometimes you can dash a few times to get behind an enemy who is blocking to attack them where they are unprotected.

      You hit Square to cast magic and X to attack with your weapon. You can chose between a dagger (low damage, fast speed), a sword (average damage, average speed), and an axe (high damage, slow speed). Along the way, each weapon will obtain 3 different secret buttom move combinations that must be input with 3 button input on the control stick followed by the attack button (but enemies can still block it). It makes your sword glow purple followed by a 2 or 3 prong attack. It is really useful to use these to save time when fighting enemies with really large heath bars, as each enemy (and you) have multiple EP bars, which each represent a full Life Bar. When one life bar is gone, you lose one EP and another full Life Bar appears. Luckily, if you only have 5 hit points left in your life bar, and are dealt 100 hit points of damage, you will only lose 5 Hit Points; the damage doesn’t carry over to the next EP bar. The only exception to this when you attack the enemy with YOUR super move (so, a trade-off for them being able to block your super-moves).

      Some enemies have a shield like you do, preventing all damage with a block (they even block your super moves, which you can’t do). Luckily, after a few swings, you can knock an enemies’ shield off, but you have to be quick to stand between them and the shield. If the enemy is near the border of the screen, the shield will just fall right under them and they will pick it up immediately, so it’s best to lure them near the center of the battlefield.

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You really start to hate all enemies with shields (yes, I know he doesn’t have one).

      You have to learn each enemies’ weakness. For instance, in the first dungeon, the metal guards should be attacked with the dagger, because you can kill them without getting hit because you’re too fast for them. But with later guards in that level, you should never use an axe because they are too fast to ever land in a hit.

      You can also run…at the enemy. If you run directly at the enemy, you can temporarily stun him, even if they have their shields up. However, you have to back up quite a bit, which will prompt them to use their long range attack. You have to study their movements and wait for the right opportunity to use this. This is the most useful skill in the game in my opinion.

      The game is very challenging, too. I was always low on healing herbs and magic replenishment. It felt tense not knowing when the end was, and if you had enough energy or herbs for the enemy battles. Each battle is a risk, especially when you don’t know their movements and weaknesses for the weapons or how big the dungeon is. Money is also scarce, so you can’t go battling creatures for money because money is rare (which makes you struggle with what to buy at the shops)

      However, one thing I hated was a dungeon you teleport to that you can never go back into. I forgot a sword there that I can never get again. I actually reset the game and replayed the first 3 hours to get it because it gave me 3 attacks at once instead of 2, and I didn’t feel like playing through the game on a harder difficulty.

      My most hated enemy (in the first dungeon, by the way) was the turtle-like creatures with blades for hands. Not only are they faster than you and anyone else in the game, they have twice the range, charge at you with spinning blades, and jump over you when you’re about to attack. They take a long time and are very annoying. Luckily, I can shoot them with fire three to kill them (when I actually have some magic power).

      You will get magic throughout the game, but you have to actively seek it out, and some are purchased at a shop by buying a mysterious stone. You have spells for outside battle such as teleporting back to the front of the dungeon, healing, and freezing an enemy so you can move by them. You also have battle magic, which is the normal fire, ice, and lighting type attacks, but you also get spells to temporarily increase your defense and attack power. However, some enemies later in the game block spells as easily as regular attacks, but luckily the early enemies can’t so well.

      Another odd departure from traditional RPGs is that you don’t level up after a certain number of battle victories, but at certain parts of the game. There is no need to fight everything in sight. The game can be much shorter if you do this.

      Interestingly, no one has faces. Their character models have really detailed clothes, but they have no facial features, those are left to the anime portraits that appear when some of them talk. This game was apparently one of the first video game to use fully polygonal backgrounds (instead of 2D backgrounds) Also, anime cutscenes are shown at many parts of the game. I really enjoyed these.

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Notice how no one has a face on their character models.

      The game rewards exploration. You must look everywhere to find better weapons. Usually, you’ll be fighting tough enemies, and finally, 75% of the way through the dungeon, you’ll find a fire sword that makes fighting the ice enemies in that dungeon much easier. Getting to defeat them in less time after taking a long time to defeat them previously feels very satisfying.

      Music: 10 out of 10

The music from the first level stuck in my head after the game. As I played further, I realized I actually wanted the soundtrack to this game. The music changes to match the tone of each level (for the towns and the dungeons).

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

It’s a medium challenging action adventure, and feels that way pretty much from beginning to end. It never really spikes to too easy or hard.

      Fun: 20 out of 20

I was pretty addicted to this game. The battles were fun and challenging, making every single enemies a challenge rather than a ‘Tap A To Attack And Win’ fight.

      Control: 10 out of 10

The controls are simple, and being able to use your dash in any direction really helps in battles. The three weapon types all have their own feel to them, as does each magic spell. I never had any problem with the controls interfere with my enjoyment.

      Graphics: 8 out of 10

The graphics are really bright and everything stands out very well. Everything is

      Extras: 0 out of 10

There are 2 secrets. One is finding the hidden shopkeeper who will only sell you things in Bronze, Silver, or Gold (items you get from treasure chests throughout the game), but he can give you better weapons when you need them. The 2nd secret is one I hated. You see, I forgot one important part of the game that I skipped in the actual game. When you defeat an enemy without getting hit and without using magic, you get a Specter Force. If you open it, it’s a weak item. But, if you chose to copy it, you then can try and defeat the next enemy without getting hit. Hidden this way are 6 Spirit Cards

I gave up on this after an hour or so of frustration. You have to do this 8 times to get the last card. However, getting any of the other 5 cards is random. If you unlock the 5th Scepter Force, for instance, you get one of 5 items, only one of which COULD contain the card for the 5th time. Most enemies are impossible to fight without getting hit at least once or twice, even with better weapons and armor. Luckily, you can skip this, and it does nothing to hinder you in the game.

      Replay Value: 2 out of 10

Unfortunately, this is where the game struggles. After you’ve beaten the game, you’ve played all there is and there are no real side quests. Granted, it’s about 30 – 35 hours, but this is one of those games you play once, and then maybe you’ll play it again in 5 years once you’ve forgotten how cool it was.


      +10 Anime Cut Scenes

I really liked the anime cutscenes. They brought more life into the characters and showed them with more emotions than the text could. Not to mention adding energy to some high-intensity scenes.

Total Score: 70 out of 90

      One thing I have to mention, though, is it’s focus on story. There is a lot of dialogue in the game. So much so that I felt that I only participated in battles about 50% of the game. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. The characters are interesting, but their interactions with each other are what is actually the fun part of the game. I thought the story was different than most RPG’s I had played before, and in the end, the game even takes a dramatic twist that you didn’t see coming (but it makes sense in retrospect given some of the plot and character backgrounds that have been spliced into the story up to that point). I was satisfied with both endings (but liked one better) once I finally defeated the boss and overall enjoyed the game enough that I would recommend it. It wasn’t very popular over here upon release, so it is very cheap (under $10.00) when you can find it.

Slayzer: The Stupid Brother Of Laramee

      I hate Slayzer. He is an idiot. He destroys 3 of the 4 orbs needed to power the flying islands because he thinks I’m going to use the power for control, even though he OVERHEARD OUR ENTIRE CONVERSATION about the continents falling into the sea and that the orbs are needed to kep them (and all humans everywhere) afloat. You find much later he wanted them destroyed so that the balance of the world could return to normal, but, seriously, there is no normal and it couldn’t be again; all 4 islands would go under the sea, everyone would die, and there would be no humanity or land. This is where I would put curse words if I could.

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      Sometimes a game jumps out on the shelf and into your eyes saying, “Look at me, don’t I look awesome?” This game was not one of them. However, this games’ cover was amusing. I mean, just look at it!

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North American Cover

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The disc, since I have no foreign cover to show you.

      So, despite by better judgment with the poor proportions and NO pictures of what the game even looked like, I bought it for $1.00 because…why not.

      Get Medieval is a PC Game from 1998 from Monolith. I put it in, not really expecting much of anything, and get a bad menu screen. The design isn’t bad, it’s just that whenever you leave a menu, the music from the previous menu is still playing even though it loads a new theme, resulting in 2 songs playing at once.

      Next, I watched the opening movie/cutscene. This wasn’t like any cutscene I’d seen before. Based on the video, a dragon burns a village , four heroes pose, then they go together into the dragon’s castle to stop him. However, if you listen to the audio, people are cracking jokes at what they see. At first (since the menu had problems) I thought that the game messed up and played a different audio track, or a gag reel. Then, it cuts to the four warriors, and one voice mentions what they are doing in that scene It was then I realized that the voices were trying to be regular people role-playing their characters in an RPG or video game. Maybe they thought the opening was too generic? The game tries for comedy, and in-game it works, but in the opening scene it does not. The actors constantly talk over each other on occasion, but it sounds like they were all recorded together, but they never actually talk to each other, so maybe the editor made it look like they were all playing together. Also, it sounds like it was all done in one take. It is really odd. See for yourself.

      I check the menu link to find that the link still works, and the company that made this game later created FEAR, the only game I’ve heard of, but never played. At the end of the game, when the credits role by, the screenplay for the opening and closing cutscenes role by in it’s entirely. That is pretty interesting.

      Ok, time to stop the anticipation and actually play the game, not knowing at all what I’m getting into. I start by choosing a warrior. There is a muscle-bound warrior with a helmet that talks like Arnold, a sexy mage, an elven archer, and a female knight. Each of them has little sound bites when you click on them, telling you why you should pick them. I chose the sexy mage to play as the magician.

      Then, the game starts on an overhead dungeon perspective. I am near monsters, treasure chests, gold on the ground, monster generators, and my health of 999 starts ticking down. I then realize I am playing an updated version of Gauntlet.

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Can you figure out what everything on the screen is just based on my review?

      I walk around and collect gold and attack some spiders. You can fire in any of the 8 directions, along with 2 types of barriers; those you can shoot through, and those you cannot (the same goes for the enemy). You also have a spell which turns every enemy into a rat which runs away (but you can still kill them). Spells are powered by scrolls, but these are rare. There is also a disc you can activate under your character, but it appears to do nothing.

      There are also weapon and shield upgrades. And you will need them. When I first got to the boss (bosses appear every 5 levels in the level itself) I was so underpowered I couldn’t win, but when I came back, I could beat him in 15 seconds with rapid fire. You must seek out the Shield icon to increase your defense, and a double Sword icon to increase your weapons power. However, they don’t work automatically; collecting 5 silver of each icon before your Defense and Strength levels up, but collect the gold icons to go to the next level instantly. You can only have a max of Level 5 for both Shield & Strength, but it will always be taken away from you at some point. There is a very fast thief hidden in various parts of different levels and in treasure chests. When he touches you, you revert back to level 1 for both Strength & Shield. You then have only a few seconds to kill the thief and get it all back or else he teleports away, never to return. In a way, this sucks because it punishes you for exploring, but it does keep the game balanced. I wonder why they just didn’t reset your power after every level, or have less of the power-ups around, for you keep all your massive power and defense from level to level, resulting in you finding many worthless power-ups.

      Also, you have to be careful where you aim. If you shoot and hit a power-up, health, key (yes, trapping yourself in the level), and treasure chest, it will flicker in and out for 2-3 seconds before disappearing. You can still get the items or open the chest if you run over to it quick enough. If you fail to get it, a voice will tell you “Destroyed” or your character will say, “That was a stupid thing to do.” The only thing you can’t accidentally destroy is the gold.

      There is gold everywhere in this game. You don’t buy anything with it. Instead, it’s your score that also plays into your actual Level (independent of the Strength and Shield levels). I don’t actually know what leveling up does, though, as the Shield & Sword have such a huge, noticeable impact on the game already, so at first I thought it might just be an arbitrary score level. The manual never mentions this, but the score does give you extra lives when you go beyond a certain amount, so that is the only reason to level up and get gold.

      You can also get many Cursed items. One makes pressing up move you down, and left move you right. There is a Mask of Evil item (the most common special item), in which all the enemies run away from you so you can kill them without worry. Invisibility make you unseen to enemies, but they can still hurt you if they touch you. Odder curses are “Player now moves like the Bishop / Pawn.” This means you can only move diagonally / vertical & horizontally. The game is really hard to play like this for the 2 minutes you have to endure it. There is also the obvious invincibility item late in the game where nothing that touches you can hurt you, but you still have to fire at the enemy to kill them. The worst curse, however, is the Timer Curse: if you don’t find a health powerup in 30 seconds, you die instantly.

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Flee, evil creatures, from my MASK OF EVIL!

      There are bronze, silver, & gold keys; with Gold keys opening most doors and treasure chests, and silver being reserved for more searchable keys and doors. There is also the Skeleton Key. The Skeleton key counts down from 45 seconds, and you must reach the door with the Skeleton lock before time runs out. However, in that time, you can also open every single treasure chest and door without using the keys you already have. The worst placement of these keys is after a boss. You have to collect it to walk through the passage after you kill the boss, and must navigate a maze to find where to use the key. If you don’t make it in time, you can see all the treasure and powers you could have had to start the next level (but you can still beat the level). You must also avoid traps; there are electric tiles that turn on and off you have to avoid, and most are usually everywhere in a boss fight to make it harder. Slime exists to slow you down to half speed.

      The hit detection is exact, meaning it can be bad when your weapon is small. It’s annoying when it flies right by them, only for them to get in range of you and throw their weapons. You can only ever move fast enough to dodge when they throw it from ¾ of the screen away or more. You had better not collect all the health and leave some for later, as items never disappear (unless you shoot them).

      The worst way to die is being overwhelmed. If you are touched by an enemy for about 3 seconds, you are dead. Each touch drains your health considerably. You and the enemy don’t move, flash, or bounce; you walk through each other and take damage. It’s getting away quickly that can be the problem. Also, touching a boss is an instant death. After playing an entire level, you fight the boss right after. If you die, you still have 2 lives left, and 4 continues (In a four player game, everyone has 3 lives and 1 continue—it’s the same number of lives and continues for each number of players).

      The enemies are challenging, too. I’ve had to play through many of the floors again. The enemies that throw things will hit you all the time unless you hide around corners, but good luck since as you wait, more come out of their generators. The last 5 levels have the fastest enemy generators (flying dragons), and you need to be quick to get through these final levels. The bosses are hard unless you have leveled up your Shield & Sword, so you normally have to go through the entire level not collecting them, then going back once you’ve cleared the whole floor so you can be sure no thief will steal your stats on the way to the boss, or just learn where they are and hope you kill them before they reach you. Don’t worry; you will die and have to repeat the level a lot, so I’m sure you will remember where the thieves are.

There are also terrain traps. There are electrical squares that hurt you when charged for 3 seconds, but they also have 3 seconds of deactivation where you can pass through them. However, it’s hard to maneuver through them sometimes when enemies are chasing after you, and they put these tiles everywhere on boss battles. There is also black sludge’s that slows your walking down, and red fire blobs; they are the only enemy that cannot be killed because they aren’t technically enemies (they don’t move), but each time you hit them, you lose 300 Hit Points.

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One of the early bosses. Run and only fire once before running again if you want to survive.

      You can also trap yourself in the level if you try to explore, as your health will lower as you do. There are no hidden walls, but there are hidden portals that are disguised as a regular floor in various places. You can also trap yourself from ever exiting the level if you go crazy with your keys and use them to open every single treasure chest without using them on doors (gold are used for doors and Treasure chests).

      You can save, but only at the beginning of each level. I had to replay a few levels trying not to die often since you only have a limited number of lives to beat the 40 levels of the game, as saving saves all your lives AND continues. So you will have to replay some levels to get better at them if you ever want to reach the end.

      One thing that is amusing is your character. They make comments on everything, and luckily they say a lot of different things so it doesn’t get repetitive and boring. My sorcerer complains if I go too long without killing something, and often gets exciting when killing multiple enemies at once in different ways. Also, it’s fun to get the enemies to kill each other. If you walk along a door without unlocking it, if they are ranged enemies, they will throw their weapon at you, killing the enemy next to them. You can do this until only 1 remains.

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Every blood splat here are all bodies killed by the enemy while I simply move up and down

      The game include Local & Online Co-op. I doubt there is anyone online playing it at all (as the game couldn’t connect to anything). You can play the game with two people in your living room, with each person using a different side of the keyboard. In addition, you can play a random, computer-made dungeon anytime you wish. The game says there is a Dungeon Creator, but I could never find it to make my own levels, and I tried searching through the entire CD’s files. I could not, oddly, find the options to create fan-made levels in the menu.

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      Story: 3 out of 10

Did Gauntlet have a story? This one doesn’t either. However, it does have a CG opening and intro, so there is that. Also, the dialogue it funny in the game, so I will give it a little bump.

      Controls: 10 out of 10

Everything is very simple. Press arrow buttons to move in any of the 8 directions. Press 1 button to shot forward. Press 1 button to ignite your magic bomb. Press a 3rd button to attack close range (but you will never use this).

      Graphics: 7 out of 10

After every 5 levels, the dungeon design changes (all doors, walls, and enemies get a new design, even though they mostly act the same way. The old enemies come back mixed with them, but it looks different and avoids looking at the same thing over and over again. All the bosses are gigantic, too. You can tell effort was put into this game.

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The blue circles are monster (blob) generators, whereas the golden circles are teleport pads.

      Fun: 13 out of 20

Despite the fact that the programmers are being a dick to you on many occasions, such as the skeleton maze key after a boss and placing multiple pathways where going the wrong way wastes the item you just got, I had fun playing it, but got frustrated a lot, enough so that I would quit the game and not come back for another month or so. It can also get repetitive if you try to play through the entire game in a few weeks.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The game is tough. You will die multiple times trying to figure out the design of each level, and having to learn where to backtrack so you won’t die instantly in a giant enemy rush.

      Music: 6 out of 10

The music is fun to listen to. It’s not memorable, but it does work with the game.

      Replay: 10 out of 10
I would play this game again with someone else, as it would be fun to try and tackle the game that way, though we would probably need to use some cheats to avoid getting agitated playing the same level over and over again.

      Extras: 10 out of 10

Included on the disc is a demo of Claw, a 2D platformer that looks like a cartoon. You are a pirate cat and it looks like your goal is to collect every single item in the level, for at the end, it tells you all the items you found out of how many. The sprites are very big in this game. There is also a trailer for Get Medieval, Claw, Rage of Mages, & Shogo (a mech game). However, the main bonus is the random dungeon generator and the level creator. You can play a new level all the time, and create your own, as well.

      Bonus Points:

+5 Design-Your-Own-Levels

Though I couldn’t find it, that fact that you can design your own levels and upload them anywhere for anyone to play through the main game itself is a really awesome idea, and very rare for a game made in 1998.

Total Points: 75 out of 90

Overall, an easy time waster. Plus, since the game saves at the beginning of each level, and there is nothing complicated to remember, you can easily play this game at your own pace by coming back to play it when it suits you. A fun diversion, and worth the $1.00 I spent on it.

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Oh no! Bats, Spiders, & Rat Creature! What will I do?

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Turn them all into rats!

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And watch your enemies flee in terror.

Donkey Kong Land

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US Cover (the Japan & European covers all use this image, but with different text).

      Donkey Kong County was a huge hit on the Super Nintendo. It utilized impressive graphics that made it appear 3 dimensional in its 2D world. With the success of that game, not only did sequels follow, but also a Game Boy spinoff.

      The Game Boy game, Donkey Kong Land, is an entirely new game built for the system. However, there isn’t really anything new in it. Everything from the previous game is here; all the backgrounds and enemies are taken from the Super Nintendo game. But, you will be impressed at the graphics, as it looks like they somehow got the 3D look for the characters on the game boy (well, 3D white, black, & green, but still 3D!).

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Super Nintendo on the left, the Game Boy (Super Game Boy version) on the right.

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Game Boy Color version (released after Land), and the Game Boy again (No Super Game Boy).

      You can play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong. When you die, the other character comes out to replace you (as both characters can’t be on the screen at once). Both characters can jump on enemies, run by holding the A button, and spin when pushing the B button. Luckily, like the Super Nintendo game, you can still roll off the ledge and then magically jump in mid-air to reach places further away. Donkey Kong doesn’t have his slapping-the-ground move, but it wasn’t really helpful in the regular game anyway.

      Each level is a 2D sidescrolling and platforming level where you must get to the Exit on the other end of the screen. You will find a few Checkpoints along the way. All the enemies from the previous game are here, such as running, jumping, and stationary lizards, dangerous bees, and chomping lizards that you can’t roll into. New enemies for this game include flying pigs that travel in horizontal lines, and a sea creature that moves vertically very quickly. The enemies that are most annoying are the rolling barrels that turn into stationary snake generators, as they can never be destroyed and caused me lots of deaths when trying to jump over them or jump across a platform. Once you destroy an enemy, they are gone for good (unless you die, of course) and no amount of running 4-5 screens over and back will resurrect them; you will just have to forget bouncing off of them to travel along the trees for now.

      The enemies aren’t the only thing that returns; all the backgrounds from the previous game– pyramids, jungle, factory, ships, caves, and more–return also, as if they were ported to the Game Boy and just had the color removed. Even many of the songs appears in Game Boy form and are still fun to listen to. There are some original songs, but they aren’t as engaging.

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Seen here is familiar territory–snow levels and underwater chase levels.

      Other things that return are barrel blasting levels, swimming away from a sea creature that’s chasing you, and rope levels where you magically go up or down quickly while holding onto them. There is no mine cart level, but it wouldn’t work here: the screen is very small, and you are a little large, so sometimes it can be hard to see that an enemy just entered on screen until it is too late when you are running. If you are walking, you will be fine. The new level type is a moving platform that moves a different direction ever time you jump on it. This level is the most annoying, as anytime you try to land, the thing has already moved, and you’re trying to calibrate your landing on the small platform to compensate for it’s movement, you sometimes walk off into death pits instead. Plus, if you try to jump on enemies that block your path, you will propel yourself upward so quickly, the screen quickly jerks with you, meaning you just lost where the platform went, as well as the entire screen you were just on. And then you fall back down and hope you know where the platform is.

      You start out on a map screen, and select the level you want to play. Once you beat the level, you return to the map to select the next one. Every level must be completed expect for 2-3 of them. At certain places you will get an explosive barrel at the end of the stage, and you can use it on 1 of 2 rocks, each leading to a different level.

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You can use an explosive at the end of a certain level to chose a path. Also, here’s Rambi.

      You will want to collect the letters K, O, N, & G that are in each level. Whereas in the original game, they were only an extra life, here you need to collect them to save your game after each level.

      You can also collect bananas, with every 100 giving you an extra life. There are also 1-up balloons. The new addition is Donkey Kong coins. Every so often, you will enter a secret room with a barrel in the sky moving left to right, and a button on the ground. You have to jump in the air and land on the button, which makes the barrel shoot out a coin in one of 5 directions. You have to collect it quickly before it goes through he walls or floor, and if you do, you get an extra life. Rambi the rhino returns for you to ride to charge into enemies. Espresso the ostrich returns to help you glide, but he is only available in bonus stages.

      There are 1 to 2 secrets in each level (though none in underwater stages). You will know if you entered every secret area when an exclamation mark appears near the stage on the map screen. Secrets are found by looking for secret barrels to jump into and jumping on holes in the ground to summon magic ropes. Oddly, there is only one secret where you destroy a wall like in the Super Nintendo game (in the first level).

      As with any game, there are 4 bosses that must be beaten, and all of them are original. The first is a flying manna ray that moves faster with each hit. The second is a clam that shoots pearls at you underwater, and you have to make sure he hits you where the reflecting item is. The third is a mole that comes out of 1 of 3 holes who throws his hat; simply jump over it and land on his head. Finally, King K. Rool returns, and you have to hit him 12 times. He throws his hat just like in the first game, but after 6 hits, he will start randomly throwing, running faster, and start bell-flopping, with rolling under him being the only safe options.

      After you beat the game, you only get the credits. There was no story in the beginning, so I wasn’t expecting anything, but I also got 100% of the game completed, and there was no reward for that either.

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The Super Game Boy version looks great, unfortunately,
the rest of the game doesn’t look like this and is only monochrome.

      Story: 3 out of 10

The story exists only in the manual. The game itself has nothing, not even after you beat the game. The game happens because Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong bet Cranky Kong they could still have a fun adventure without amazing graphics and sound. The story in a little amusing in the book.

      Sound: 10 out of 10

The Game Boy is playing the Super Nintendo music through it’s speakers. The songs are still addicting here.

      Graphics: 10 out of 10
The graphics all match the Super Nintendo, only they are black and white. Even with a black-and-white pseudo 3D look, you can normally see where you are going (unless you run at full speed), and nothing blends into the background

      Controls: 10 out of 10
I mentioned every control above. The controls are simple to use and never interfere with you enjoying the game.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The game is moderately challenging, but what makes it harder is having to collect the KONG letters in every level just so you can save. This forces you to try out areas that might be secrets (or death) and do more challenging things than you normally would. Luckily, every loaded game starts you out at 6 lives.

      Fun: 15 out of 20

This game was fun, as it was pretty much Donkey Kong Country on Game Boy; you can’t really go wrong here. I just had some problems with the quickly popping-up enemies and the annoying screen cut that happens when you jump off someone into the sky.

      Replay: 5 out of 10

The replay happens while you are playing the game. See, if you don’t collect all the KONG letters, you can’t save. And it’s usually easier to go into the level you know than to start an entirely new level where you don’t know what to expect. In addition, you will replay levels to find all the secret entrances. As such, you won’t want to replay it again, as you will already have done so.

      Extras: 2 out of 10

There are no extra features or special things in Donkey Kong. The only extra I count is the bonus game and the coins you collect for it to earn extra lives. The other is because it’s Super Game Boy compatible. The title screen is impressive, showing yellow, red, and brown all at once, but once you start playing, you can only play in monochrome. Annoying, every time you enter a special room, the color resets to the defaults, but luckily you can just hit X to turn it back to your preference.

      Bonus Points:


Total Points: 65 out of 90

This is definitely worth a play on your Game Boy. It’s a simple sidescroller where you just jump on people, jump over platforms, and occasionally do some more variety than just jump on enemies heads. That, combined with the fact you can save on every level (if you find the KONG letters) means you can pick it up and play anytime without having to defeat entire worlds before you can save.

Review Also At:
      VideoGameGeek / RetroWareTV / GameFAQS

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*This review won 2nd place in VideoGameGeek’s monthly video game contest for May 2013. The theme was Law*

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Shadowrun US & EU Cover

      My experience with Shadowrun is only through the Super Nintendo game. I’m not going to compare it to the Genesis version, but they are completely different games. I finally got a hold of this game and expected it to be entertaining, but it was not. It was not fun in the slightest.

      In 2058, technology and flesh bond. The Matrix is invented, which allows people to jack into cyberspace. Around the same time, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs returned to the world. Some were hiding in human guises, whereas others were normal humans who turned into them.

      A Shadowrunner is someone who steals data from corporations for their own profit by jacking into their Matrix systems (they occasionally break into buildings and steal packages or save lives, and occasionally do escort missions, such as walking an NPC from one house to the other house directly next to it). Your brother (a Shadowrunner) is killed, and you fly to Seattle to find out who killed him, by becoming a Shadowrunner yourself.

      The game is played in an Overhead perspective, along with a character portrait of yourself in the far right. It will show your current Mental Health and Physical Health; if either of these reaches 0, you die. Your current spell or weapon will also be displayed under it.

      Right off the bat you will die—all the time. You start walking and immediately get attacked by 1 or 2 people. You can’t fight them very well. So, you’ll have to get money to buy better weapons and protection. When fighting, you simply press A, and your character will attack with the gun or magic you have equipped. The enemy you attack will be surrounded by a either a Green, Yellow, Orange, or Red square to indicate how close to dying they are (in that order). Hit B to change the enemy you want to target. Hit C to control another Shadowrunner with you (if you have one).

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I’m attacking the guy on the other end of the screen
while I’m getting beaten up by the guy in front of me.

      One of the aspects I like is random encounters. Occasionally, you will be interrupted by your display screen with various different options to choose from. A Lone Star (police) will come at you, and if you just talk to him, he goes on his way (with a small percentage he will see your illegal weapons and shoot at you). However, if you try to run, he appears on the game map and starts shooting at you (though occasionally you might be able to get away). Many of these encounters are the same thing with a random outcome. In one instance, A sick man will ask for help, and if you help him, he gives you money. Sometimes, however, he will be an instant killing vampire.

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A random encounter like this will pop-up and stop your movement in the overhead world,
forcing you to make a decision.

      To raise money, I find a Johnson. They give you missions so you can earn money. When I first started, I was given simple escort missions and prayed that no one would run into me on the way to both locations (you have to walk to where the guy is, then take him to his destination). Whatever you do, you need to save immediately when coming out of the 2nd location for the escort mission. Many times, enemies will already be outside 2 seconds after you exit, giving you a limited opportunity to save because you can’t save during combat (you can’t enter buildings either). Nothing sucks more than accomplishing your mission and getting the money, only to be gunned down immediately after trying to simply walk one step.

      Fighting is at first frustrating, then boring. Every enemy will always come right up next to you and start shooting or punching; enemies cannot be stopped or slowed by guns or magic, they continue to walk right toward you as if the bullets or spells are not there. You end up having to run away a lot while fighting. Luckily, if you are far enough way (not office building levels) your other Shadowrunners won’t get hurt if they are way off-screen.

      The first few hours of the game, if you are caught with 2 enemies or more, you die in 3 seconds with all of them punching you. This game is really hard in the beginning and leads to many deaths simply from just trying to cross the street and find a building. Realizing that taking a taxi would be suicide if every level was harder than this one, I spent over 2 hours doing Shadowruns to afford the best gun and armor, and enough to pay off the gangs to stop attacking me. I was still not ready. In the next town, I died all the time just trying to move. I returned to the original city to earn enough money to get the highest level Zap spell and to hire another Shadowrunner full-time.

      When hiring another Shadowrunner, you can set them (and yourself) to 1 of 5 reaction levels since the AI will control the other ones, and each one affects their defense and attack (if you tell them to be totally offensive, their attack power goes up, but their defense is weaker). Just remember that spells bypass armor altogether.

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This is your character and his items. The Damage refers to how powerful the shot is.

      When you are injured, you can stay at a hospital to heal your Physical and Mental energy, and how much it costs is relative to how injured you are. Hotel heals your Mental energy only (but fully) but here you can also increase your Karma points.

      Doing a Johnson mission will give you Karma points, as will killing a certain number of people. You use these to increase your stats, and there are a lot of stats; around 20. You need to decide what to focus on (for each Shadowrunner). Charisma makes you drive the prices of gods down and get by guards in corporate buildings. Body increases your defense. There is a separate skills for Medkit. What your skill in it is depends on how much health you administer. Spell makes your spells more accurate and powerful. Guns make your guns more accurate and powerful. And, yes, accuracy is a problem. When using magic, you raise your hands and a small circle moves around you, but sometimes you can press the button, and your arms will raise, but nothing will happen (this is like a Miss in an RPG) and the same can happen for bullets. Lastly, all the Shadowrunners you hire also earn Karma points so you can make the ones you like more powerful, as their stats are permanent, no matter how often they leave the party.

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You can raise every stat here except Essense & Magic (and Sorcery for some). Also, each character has a different Max Limit, with the Orc only able to go to a 4 Intelligence, whereas you can go to an 8.

      I returned to the major part of Seattle, but I couldn’t do many of the Shadowrun missions; they were all too hard. Just going into a building to find something or someone sounds the alarm pretty quickly, for you see, you need a high Charisma to pretend that you work there, and it doesn’t work all the time. Also, once the alarm starts, the guards spawn indefinitely unless you turn off the alarm, but there is only 1 computer that will allow you to do this per floor. Escort missions would be in different towns, which cost a taxi, so you won’t end up making as much money. You could hack into the Matrix now, but the stuff you buy for it only has a limited number of uses, so occasionally I found my Attack or Deception powers just suddenly disappear and I realized I wasted my entire trip in here. Also, I was still not powerful enough to kill Ghouls for extra money (abandoned houses contain infinite spawning Ghouls, and you are sometimes hired to kill them with a price per Ghoul). All I did was find a wide place to run far ahead of the Ghouls, shoot a spell, repeat. But just screwing up once resulted in an instant death too many times.

      Matrix runs are really hard to describe. They are insanely boring. You are a metal avatar traveling from Node to Node looking for a download jack to find information you were hired to retrieve. You can chose 4 of the 12 items for the computer deck (you can never actually buy all 12 at max level, as even the best computer doesn’t have enough memory to fit them all). Your avatar appears before a node. Each node will continue doing what it’s doing or attack you. You can chose to attack it or try to get buy it. Sometimes trying to sneak by it makes it enter attack mode, then you have no choice. If you sneak by it, though, you will not be able to Transfer data if there was a data transfer jack there, so you will need to attack it. Luckily, there is a Matrix map that displays which areas are Data Transfer points. Your attack will miss all the time unless you upgrade your attack more, so yes, even more items to buy and upgrade. Where will you find the money for all this, and just how much time do you want to invest in this game? There are many other things you can buy, such as health, slowing down the Nodes attacks, confusing them; but for the most part, you can do pretty well just using attack and deception only and ignore everything else (and increase your Computer Stat) and explaining every single computer app you can buy might sound like there is depth to this game, but it is really just very dull.

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Here you stock up on your computer programs, like Attack and…well, you don’t really need anything else.

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You have 3 attack options, each doing more damage than the other. I assume using the strong one all the time is what led to my Attack option going away forever.

      You can hack into random low-level Matrix areas and steal anywhere from $50 – $200. But when most magic and upgrades cost 14,000 for the Level 4 upgrade (not counting the high price at level 8 and the massively expensive computer boards that are over 200,000) you realize grinding in a different way is all you are doing. To hack into specific locations, you need a password from a Johnson because it’s for your mission. To hack corporate buildings, you need to be in the actual building itself (but to do that, you have to have a mission reason to be there). It’s only later that you can discover a Johnson that will hire you for Matrix mission for the big corporations and give you passwords to hack from the outside. Hire him all the time, as the passwords are permanent even after the mission is over; this way you can go in and make more money on the side if you wish.

      After traveling to all the other cities and learning everything I could about the story, I eventually gave up on the game. Yes, I could do stupid little side missions only and gain money to get better stuff, but I already did 6-8 hours of this stuff; I was not wasting anymore time on this. I never give up on a game, but this game made me abandon it.

      I would have given up there, but a few days later I looked to see if there was a cheat code; and there was. I gave myself 250,000 to see if it would actually change the outcome of anything; it didn’t.

      I eventually gave in and did it 3 more times, making my stats (and my 2 other Shadowrunners’ stats) up a little and getting them the best armor (you can buy items, armors, weapons, magic, and cyberware for any of the Shadorunners you hire). And, if you dismiss them (or they run off after dying) they retain all their items and stat bonuses.

      I hired a 3rd Shadowrunner permanently, then we died really quickly. I then show up at the hospital with $350.00 taken from me. It takes forever to earn that much money. And if I try to hire the same Shadowrunner again, his prices goes up because you nearly got him killed before. You can hire Shadowrunners for the short or long term, but both prices go up if you let them die. Can you guess what you have to do? Yep, reset the game and reload your game.

      Still, the combat just gets worse. None of the enemies have any concept of anything but run right at you and attack, even people with guns. Only other wizards will stand afar and shoot at you. Even when I became powerful enough to stand a chance, fights just weren’t exciting or fun; they were all boring and not well constructed.

      An important thing you have on you is your Notebook. This keeps track of plot points so you know what or who you are looking for. It also includes a list of every Johnson that offers missions (and where they are located) and every Shadowunner you can hire (and where they are located). However, there is no Map; you will have to remember all the 50 buildings or so and what they are for. There is a map included in the manual which lists which doors you can go in, but you will have to write in what the buildings are yourself. In addition, the Notebook also keeps a list of contacts. You need to meet people and pay them for contacts. These people sometimes give you more contacts or help you out for a price (such as getting into you into a prison to break someone out, or selling you discount weapons). It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had missed the most important contact of the game; the guy who sells you keycards for corporate buildings so you can sneak around without being attacked on site if you fail your Charisma check. This finally made the corporate missions a little easier, but you can still screw up with the random co-worker that likes to talk to you all the time. Now, corporate raids were the best source of money as there are safes all over the place with money inside. Occasional you find grenades instead (?) but you can then sell those for money. This is when I started making more money to buy things. I could then afford to buy computer apps to infiltrate corporate computers to find even more money in Data Transfers in addition to money hidden in safes, making an average of $1,000.00 each mission, plus the $2,000 for completing the mission successfully.

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I’m a beefy, chest-exposing guy with a blade on my arm and this is my half-naked elven co-worker;
we totally work here.

      Random Mentions

It’s mentioned that you shouldn’t carry illegal weapons, but I never had a problem with it. My Orc Fighter carried an illegal shotgun the entire game without incident.

Everyone starts with 6.0 Essence. If you equip yourself with genetic modifications, you lose that Essence and spells are less effective. My elf Decker had an Essene of 1.6 because her focus was in computer hacking, not magic, so equipping her with things wouldn’t matter. Early in the game, it’s better to hire her to go into the Matrix rather than going yourself. These modifications are the weakest aspect of the game, as you never need anything that will drop your Essence detrimentally.

Item overload. There are over 100 unique items and every single item is available at the beginning of the game. You won’t know where to begin or what to spend your money on, let alone what’s worth buying. This is both a blessing and curse, as the exploration should be fun, but in the beginning you die way too easily to really enjoy it.

Spells. When using guns, you use ammo that you can run out of and have to buy replacement clips. But with spells, some drain your mental Energy. They can damage an enemy really quickly, but drain you a lot. Usually, you stick to the weaker, non-draining spells so you can attack indefinitely and save the big spells for when 4-5 enemies show up on-screen at once. You can buy items that absorb your drain a limited number of times, but that felt worthless and too costly to me when you can only hold 8 items and you really need to pay for a helicopter to bypass a half hour stage that is full of insanely powerful Weindigos.

Hilariously, if you max out your best computer with every application you can, you will no longer be able to download data in Matrix runs because you used up all your memory, which means you can’t make money this way the rest of the game. Luckily, you can still download plot relevant data.

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      Story: 10 out of 10

The story (for the time) is more involved that most. There are many twists in turns in solving your brothers murder. In addition, the personalities of some of the character are very interesting. Even the Contacts system, in which people join a contact system for money to help people do illegal things, is interesting and very fun to read and use. Also, the random story moments that pop up when just walking around lead to a feeling that anything could happen at anytime that could sometimes reward you, but for the most part leads to situations you will try to avoid and help develop some tension.

      Sound: 5 out of 10

I only remember the theme song from the title screen. I know there are other songs there, but I can’t remember any of them even after playing for over 20 hours. That comes to average in my book.

      Graphics: 5 out of 10

The graphics are very detailed when looking at faces and people. However, the sprites are very similar and small; making battles hard to maneuver and sometimes you forget where you are and which character you are controlling.

      Controls: 8 out of 10

The controls are very simple, as stated above. It is the stats of your characters and weapons that make it seem complicated, but otherwise, A is attack, B is focus on another target, and C is switch characters. The only odd thing is when you turn, your entire body turns along your shoulder, so sometime you make some awkward moves when traveling around the map and it can make you run into an enemy or go in a door you don’t want to go in.

      Challenge: 5 out of 10

This game is challenging, but the challenging isn’t alleviated by maxing out your character, unless you REALLY max out your character. The reason this isn’t a high score is because there is too much grinding and repetitive play, as well as an unusually high learning curve in the beginning. If you enjoy games that really change you, however, you might want to check this out.

      Fun: 3 out of 20

I really don’t know why I continued playing. It was fun the first 2 hours or so, then a little more fun once I cheated and gave myself money, but each only lasted briefly. I wanted to play to see what they did with the story, but eventually the story moments became fetch quests and even that lost its appeal. Looking at GameFAQs reviews, however, not liking this game seems pretty rare.

      Replay: 0 out of 10

I’m selling this game. That should tell you how much replay value I am giving it.

      Extra: 10 out of 10

I give a high score to it’s extras. It has lots of bonus side missions. And though they can get repetitive, they made many different buildings to infiltrate, along with many different escort and Matrix hacking missions. Though it will become a requirement to do almost all of them to earn money, you can tell they really enjoyed making their Shadowrun missions. Also, there is a cheat menu that does amazing things. Simply select A, B, B, A, C, A, B on the title screen, load your game, then go to the menu and scroll past the Save/Load option and select the blank space; you now have 8 cheats you can do to the game.

Bonus Points:

       +5 Random Encounters

The random encounters with individuals in distress, random animals you have to hide from, and even undercover cops pretending to sell illegal weapons to trick you so they can kill you (they never try to arrest) are really inventive. I haven’t really seen anything like it before and really believe something like this should be incorporated into other games.

      Total Score: 51 out of 90.

I still see a lot of positive points in the game, but the few major negatives I have with it seem to supersede all of it for me. I thought it would be fun the way the Super Nintendo game was. Alas, games with the same name for different systems back then really were completely different games.

See the review at:
      VideoGameGeek / RetroWareTV / GameFAQS