The Backlog Diary – Entry #1

I’m not expecting to post full reviews of the games I play over the next few years, but I do feel like I need to vent about some of them – some in a good way, some maybe not so much.  For a chunk of these, it’s a good opportunity to play through them again and see if they truly are as good as I remembered, and if they are indeed Top 100 material.

In this first entry, I’ll talk about the first batch of games I’ve played through.

Let’s get to it…

Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox One)

*That* Battle of Jakku!

The first Battlefront game of the new era was released in the prime of the Disney Star Wars hype train – that is to say, the month before The Force Awakens came out.  Although the game was a bit lacking on the single player side (no campaign, aw), I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing online with my good friend Josh.

With Battlefront II, we got a decent and well-put together campaign (yay!), but everything else was just lacking that little something special.  After all the hours I had put in with the first one, I was disappointed with the little things – the way you level up, the way you unlock abilities and cards, the way the multiplayer maps were laid out, and even the menu screens… none of it felt like it “gelled” nearly as well as the first one.

I put this one at the top of my playlist because I had an Xbox Live Gold account I needed to make the most of.

Verdict: Not bad overall, but really makes me long for the old days.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (Xbox 360)

Think this game looks fun?
Think again!

I won’t go over how fantastic Turtles in Time was on Super NES, because everyone should know that by now.  Re-Shelled is unfortunately not nearly as good.

There’s quite a difference between moving flat sprites left/right and up/down in a given space, versus having a 3D-modeled character that is able to move 360 degrees.  In a beat ’em up that requires you to hit moving things, it makes it a little trickier to make sure you’re facing in the right direction so you can actually connect with something.  Because of this, it just feels like a button-mashing fest without much strategy involved.

Two more things stand out to me about this game.  First, the colors seem washed out, making everything look rather plain and uninteresting to look at.  Second, the music didn’t incorporate anything whatsoever from the original’s amazing soundtrack.  Here were these great tunes that sounded amazing back in the day (and still hold up quite well), but didn’t get the remixes they deserved.

Verdict:  Shame.  Could’ve been something fun, but… it wasn’t.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid (NES)

Don’t remember this from the movie…but I also really don’t remember anything from the movie.

There are only five very short stages in this game, and it took me a little over 20 minutes to beat.  Its reputation for being a little on the easy side is well-deserved, but I still somehow managed to die a few times during this play-through.

The only other thing I can think of commenting on is the plot and whether or not it’s actually the same as the movie – I don’t think it is, but then again it might be.  I’m too lazy to Google it, which is pretty bad… I know Katie next door made me watch it with her a time or two when we were kids, but I must have mentally tuned out.

Anyhow, not much to say about this one, but only because it’s so short!

Verdict:  Good music, tight controls, decent game!

The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (Super NES)

*hums Chappelle’s Show R Kelly tune*

This one was in my Top 100, and while it’s still a great game, it might get knocked down a few notches.  Not that it hasn’t aged well – it actually has!  It’s just that I didn’t realize it suffers from the same problem as The Little Mermaid in that it’s quite short.

Not only that, but the system the game has for upgrading Mickey’s outfits throughout the game (which I once thought was a cool thing to be able to do) doesn’t really work.  There are lots of branching paths and you can explore quite a bit to find all kinds of coins to try and pay for these upgrades, but the moment you get to the first shop, you realize that they cost way more than the amount you’ve found so far.  You might be able to upgrade one of your suits later in the game, but that’s about it.

Stage 3 shop – still not enough coins for anything useful.

Other than that, I encourage you to at least give the game a try.  It borrows a bit from other Capcom games, the controls are great, and (although unrelated to the game itself) the issue of Nintendo Power with this game on the cover is probably my favourite issue of any magazine, ever.

Mega Man boss design contest FTW!

Verdict:  Still enjoyable!

Vs. Excitebike (Wii U Virtual Console – Famicom Disk System)

One of the few different-looking things from the first game – the title screen.

I was looking forward to trying this one out, even though I knew it was just a version of Excitebike that had multiplayer added into it.  I loved the original, so I was interested in seeing what other gameplay elements they changed for this quasi-sequel.

There’s a solo qualifying session before each “main” multi-competitor event – too slow, and you’ll miss the big race – so that’s pretty neat.  The music is completely different than the original’s, which is fine I suppose.  Oddly enough, there’s music playing during the races this time around, and while it’s not all that bad, it’s nothing special either.

There’s also a decently fun mini-game between events that breaks up the monotony a bit.  As interesting as it is, it feels cheap.  Not sure what other word to describe it…  it just…  well, look at it.

See what I mean?

Overall, the main portion of the game feels a bit more difficult than the original.  While still fun, I enjoyed the first one’s “pick up and play” feel as opposed to this one’s slightly more hardcore and less forgiving nature.

Verdict:  Only for Excitebike super-fans… which I am, but even then, it’s nothing overly spectacular.

LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3)

Ahhhhh!!! Run!!!!

I was already in the process of recording Battlefront II when I decided to do this whole “play all my games” thing, so LittleBigPlanet is technically the first “big” game to show up on my list.

I got to the second set of levels when my recording issues popped up again.  They’ve been the source of many headaches since I’ve owned my elgato GameCapture HD, but for the most part it has worked pretty well.  It all boils down to how powerful my laptop is versus what my recording quality settings are, so I had to scale things down a bit… but it still looks pretty good.

Ugly.  Thankfully, it’s (mostly) been figured out.

This is still an extremely fun game, but the physics have a way of kicking you in the nuts.  For instance, this car you’re supposed to zigzag through narrow hallways with bounced wildly, and it took me a few minutes to un-wedge it from this position…

…which sucked, considering the vehicle is needed to progress to the next part of the stage.

These sumo-wrestling boss guys at the end of one of the game’s later stages bounce high in the air, and the intent is for you to pop the ball on top of their heads.  Well, one of them happened to bounce wildly enough to knock the other one upside-down – if this happens, there’s no way to flip him back upright, because he doesn’t have anything for you to grab onto (like the above-mentioned car does).

There was literally no way for me to defeat the one on the right in order to move on, and the level had to be restarted.

So yeah, although I still greatly enjoy the game’s aesthetic, controls and overall gameplay, it was the little things like that that had a tendency of souring the experience a bit for me.

Verdict:  Still Top 100 material!

The Simpsons: Hit & Run (Xbox)

Showing a retired character some love…

This is actually the first time I’ve ever made use of the Xbox 360’s ability to play original Xbox games.  Backwards compatibility has always been one of my favourite features on modern consoles, so it’s somewhat surprising that it has taken me this long to take advantage of it with one of my favourite consoles of all time.

Although this game is basically a GTA-inspired Simpsons game, the gameplay is (rightfully) a lot more arcade-like – cars handle quite easily, characters have the ability to jump quite high, and the game generally doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s a bunch of stuff to collect and places to explore and interact with, but by the end of the game, it’ll all start feeling a bit repetitive.

Things usually consist of driving from point A to point B, talking to someone, racing someone, etc.  As the game progresses, things get more challenging in a frustrating way; timers are set shorter and shorter and the room for error decreases… traffic also has a way of screwing you up, even when you think you’ve planned ahead enough to detour.

Verdict: The free-roaming aspect is fun, and there are tons of references to old episodes… I just wish the missions were a bit more varied.

South Park (Nintendo 64)

Les Claypool in 64 bits – the best part of the game!

Of all the games in my list, this is definitely the one I was looking forward to the least.  When I started playing it, I realized that maybe it wasn’t as downright terrible as I once thought.

Sure, the graphics were foggy as hell and the amount of pop-up was insane.  The turkeys’ non-stop gobbling and evil clones’ derping was pretty hard on the brain, and the Turok-like controls are clunky to go back to after all these years… but hey, at least it was playable!

Then I got to the second half of the game.

Fumbling with the controls well enough to beat enemies that moved mindlessly in a straight line didn’t cut it anymore.  I had to run, gun and be extra precise with increasingly limited ammo.  I had to do some tricky platforming to reach more powerful weapons and health drops, and I’d often just give up after constantly failing to jump a gap to get to them.

Just getting to the final boss was painful – I ran out of ammo for my big guns on the penultimate stage, meaning I only had the drops the final stage had to offer (not many). I died so many times, and my head just couldn’t handle the extreme concentration it took to beat the fast-moving enemies…  so I cheated.

I felt dirty doing it, but really, it was the only possible outcome.

Verdict: So glad that’s over with.

That’s it for now – I won’t post the upcoming list of games, simply because I like being surprised by what comes next.  Posting it here would ruin that, I think.

Until next time!

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