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NES Obscurity Quicky!

So, while I was haiku-ing about a goodly portion of Data East's NES endeavours over the past few weeks, I also ended up writing some longer reflections about a few of their games on Tumblr. So this week, I'll be taking those reflections, spiffing them up with some extra words and pictures, and passing this slightly-used content off as a new article!
Let's begin with the cosmos's doofiest store-brand Buck Rogers,
Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum — TOPIC: Winners Don't Must Use FAQs:
It's sad, you know...I really tried to get into winning this game without a FAQ one time; got over the shallow box-pushing-puzzle level-hubs and the horrible play control in the slow-motion platformer levels, even managed to rise above the fact that almost all those platformer levels seem optional (you only need to go in a few to get keys to unlock access to the elevators)...then I basically came to a dead end.
I look in FAQs, and [SPOILER ALERT], it turns out playing the box levels AND playing the platformer levels are just a sucker's move; even MORE of them are optional/pointless than it first appears. All the really vital rooms/doors are triggered doing random things which cause BONUS PLATFORM LEVELS or HIDDEN WARP ZONES to open. These warp zones secretly let you get to the floors that you need to use to move from NORMALLY-ACCESSIBLE floors to the IMPORTANT floors in the space ship...which eventually lead you out of the rocket, at which point you win the game (I'm told).
Dash drives up to the rocket ship. (Not pictured: him eventually escaping, because HE DOESN'T HAVE A FAQ.
What the blue smouldering vulture pellets is that!? Should a game with so many disjointed, seemingly optional and badly-built parts really have its actual victory conditions FURTHER hidden? Sorry, Mr. Galaxy, but the aliens are truly running the asylum.
You can't be bothered to design logical victory conditions, I can't be bothered to get a non-glitched picture of your game.
Cobra Command - TOPIC: get to the choppa...but don't bump it into the wall.
My haiku complained about how your ultra-powerful attack helicopter will end up brushing a wall or floor and exploding like a juice box. Alert reader The Critical Failure pointed out that, yeah, that would actually destroy a whirlybird.
While that's absolutely true, it got me thinking about why I chose to commemorate the easy-crash helicopter problem in haiku. Even though the game has a dozen serious problems, the "touch any surface and explode immediately" thing is the biggest deal...because it's the way you burn through most of your lives.
In my/game-balance's defense about this problem: this isn't your standard auto-scrolling shoot-em-up, where dozens of bullets, enemies and the occasional jutting wall will destroy you; it's more of an 'exploration' shooting game (you can scroll the screen backwards, for cryin' out loud), and even at the beginning you can survive 3-4 enemy shots before you die.
Alternately, you can slowly ease your helicopter downwards so that the ..uh, skis/running boards/whatever the metal thingies that are the helicopter equivalent for landing gear touch the ground, and BOOM, insta-kill!
Also, the 'exploration' aspect means a lot of the heavy duty work takes place in friggin' DUNGEONS:
You blow the roof off a building/cliff/whatever, fly downwards for a whole screen, and end up in 2-layered cave hallways, jerkily moving up and down, forward and back, trying to get a bead on the enemies while not brushing the (indistinct) ceilings/floors/stalacti, which is x4 worse than enemy fire.
I guess I'm saying, "helicopters and/or helicopter realism are not a good match for what you do in this game." If half of the game is in twisty cramped corridors, they should have gone "vehicle / roaming pilot"-style, like Blaster Master, DynoWarz or Metal Mech and made your dude eject and go in on foot.
Werewolf: the Last Warrior - TOPIC: the Last, Best Hope for a good Data East game.
When my haiku compared the Werewolf's mighty blades to banana-swords, Kjoreto expressed some concern that I might overly run down the merits of Werewolf: The Last Warrior, but I'll readily admit it's a pretty good game -- definitely head-and-shoulders above some of Data East's earlier offerings:
It's in the mid-to-upper range of Ninja Gaiden-inspired platformer/cutscene genre. It's definitely a more polished/nuanced game than Dynowarz, which is a game I enjoy a lot more than I should, given its dubious quality. Sadly, Dynowarz is basically one level over and over again...and this is almost literally the case for its pilot-gets-out-of-the-dino levels.
However my data east is not good tag really only seems to apply to their first few years of lack-of-effort arcade ports. It's hard to believe the same company that gave us the NES versions of Karate Champ, BreakThru, Rampage and RoboCop also made Werewolf: the Last Warrior and Heavy Barrel.
Some of these things are not like the others,
Some of these things do not belong...
(Then there's weird cases like Cobra Command, where, it's ambitious but highly flawed; but that's a separate conversation).
As far as problems with Werewolf, I think the biggest one is the non-fluidness of the wall/ceiling climb ability: the other day when I was getting screen-prints, it was hard as hell for me to nail the 'ceiling grab', and too easy to end up in wall-climb mode when you just walk up against a wall.
Beyond that, my gripes are mostly relatively small/personal preference: I forget why I gave up on it back in the day, but I'd imagine one of those "I'm not good enough to beat this boss", or "this level is such a pain I don't want to re-play it after I lose on [part x or the boss]".
Also, I never understand games that revert you to a LESS powerful form when you're down to your last 20%-10% health. This game, NES Superman, SNES Incredible Hulk, even SNES Addam's Family Values (which has what I think of as the "inverse Zelda-Sword syndrome"...while they have a little of Legend of Zelda's of FULL HEALTH = EXTRA ATTACK RANGE, in this game Fester's attack range gets REALLY low when your health gets near the end).
Why not just kill your character off, rather than saying, "You're MOSTLY dead, so now the game is much harder and you must spend all your time scrambling for power-ups or else you die altogether." Just lose a life, don't torment the player! Ok, I guess this complaint is not so small, but I forget how applicable it is in this game. (I forget how easy is it to "wolf back up" after you get pummeled back to human form via low health or...POWER-DOWNS).
Ok, I take that back, that complaint is NOT small: Power-Downs are cruel and shouldn't be in games ever. ESPECIALLY if they use unconventional colors schemes (if I remember right, this game's power up/down good/bad coloring is flipped from the expected: Blue = Bad, Red = Good).
Power-Up, or devastating Power-Down? CHOOSE WISELY!
Well, that's about all I can withstand for this week. Tune in next week for more (and/or possibly first-run) content!
— carlmarksguy, 2016-03-14
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