Nano Assault (3DS, E)

Nano Assault is a sequel to Nanostray on the original DS which, strangely enough, was the first DS game I ever owned and yet I still haven't played it. While Nanostray was a shmup, the only way to summarize most of Nano Assault is R-Type crossed with Super Mario Galaxy, if that makes any kind of sense, with the planetoids replaced with mutated cells and the stars replaced with DNA strands.

Then there's the rail shooter segments that end each of the cell clusters (the "worlds" basically), and I almost dumped the game at the first one. You're essentially controlling the crosshair instead of the ship, so when you press the button the ship might move right away or have a second's delay depending on where the crosshair already is. And the only way to have any sense of depth and know how far bullets are from you in this mode is to turn the 3D on, but even if it didn't cause headaches the crosshair splits in 3D mode.

And yet, I finished this the day I started it and according to the 3DS system log it took me just over two hours to complete it. Pretty weak.


Brain Lord (SNES)

For all it ripped of the Jade system with its animals, I will say one thing about Crusader of Centy: it was a lot less shit than Brain Lord. Brain Lord is an action RPG in the vein of of Soul Blazer, if most of Soul Blazer was spent backtracking through the levels trying to figure out which door the key you just got goes to and jumping across floating platforms that might have been tolerable of they'd timed the platforms' movements properly so you don't spend half a minute waiting for them to line up in a way that allows the jump, only to fall off because you were partway off the platform. Platforming malarkey aside, it was just a dull game until I got to the final castle with those blacked out rooms. There's no item to light them up, you either keep checking your location with your map that takes several second to get to or meander around through an invisible maze, or do what I did and get a map online. As if invisible mazes weren't bad enough, the final and largest one has fucking conveyor belts. And I really hate the way the main character looks like a fat kid wearing a diaper.

And fucking hell, the slowdown. Working any block puzzle with more than two objects was hell, and the final boss is fought entirely in slowmo. I'm not exaggerating when I say Brain Lord has the worst slowdown I've seen in years. I'd say it's even worse than Shadow of the Colossus, which some people might justify the terrible framerate in because of the size of the bosses it was rendering, but I don't buy that because the PS2 handles the first boss of MDK2: Armageddon just fine and SotC chugs even on that lion-sized boss. But I suppose even I have to admit choking on a 200-foot boss is more acceptable than choking on six sprites.

About the nicest thing I'll say about this game is I really dig the music for the Platinum Shrine, but the game kind of ruins it by making you listen to it for two hours straight.


Super Mario World (SNES via Flash Cart)

The only reason I played this on my flash cart is because I got an itch for it, but my real copy of the game was on the other side of the country. Way back when I was a kid and the family got a Super Nintendo, I was really disappointed that it came with Link to the Past instead of this. The adult me now realizes I got the better end of the deal. Don't get me wrong, Mario World isn't a bad game, it's just easy. Nothing shows how far I've come than the final boss, who was a right pain in the ass as a kid, but this time around I beat him on my first try and he never even hit me, and the only thing I remembered about about the fight was how to damage him. Aside from some of the doors in the final level (which can be skipped in favor of the easier ones) the only remotely daunting moments in the game are finding the hidden exits. But I guess it's not so easy even a child could blow through it like Kirby's Epic Yarn, and the cartoony graphics are nice and it introduced Yoshi.

As a kid, I could never get past the second Special level. And even now, I was confused by it until I found a trick to get through (which might not have been the right method to clear it, but I couldn't find the third balloon). And then I blew through the next six. And I found the hidden exit to Soda Lake for the first time, and all 96 exits for that matter.


Mario is Missing! (SNES via Flash Cart)

Mario is Missing! gets a lot of rap as one of the worst games ever made alongside Action 52 and E.T., but like the latter I think its awfulness is exaggerated. It's not a good game by any means, and I can totally understand how infuriating it would be if you paid full price for this thinking you were getting to play as Luigi in a legitimate Mario game and wound up with a game about Luigi talking to the same five people in different cities around the world and answering historical trivia. But by now everyone should know what they're getting when they fire up their ROM, and if you go in understanding it's just a dumb edutainment game, it's completely harmless. And really, it's kind of funny to wonder how the Koopa Troopas made off with the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, pillars from ancient Greek temples, and King Kong.

Of course, that presents the problem of how to review this - as a video game, or as edutainment? Well, before I played through this, I didn't know Big Ben was actually the tower's bell instead of the clock, so I guess I learned something from it. But I think there might be too much reading involved for a kid's game, and if kids want to learn history from reading that's what textbooks are for. For an adult, it presents too much information too quickly, and numbers and facts get jumbled. What was the opera house in Moscow? Where was that angel people use as a landmark to get around town? What were the Argentinian cowboys with the Y-shaped whips called? There's really no reason for anyone play this except for shits and giggles, but it's not the soul defiling experience everyone makes it out to be if you do.


Wacky Races (NES via Flash Cart)

I know this game was released domestically, but I don't own an actual copy and fuck this noise. I'm not familiar with the cartoon so it doesn't win any points with me there, and I'm just playing some piss easy mascot platformer with a horribly imbalanced projectile attack and a health meter you can refill basically whenever you want to knock out any teeth it might have had. At least I didn't pay $70 for it.


I'm Kid Dracula! (NES via Flash Cart)

I played the Game Boy game a long time ago and remember it being better than this, and I hope it still is because the NES game is really boring and easy, except for the elevator in Level 7 which was an infuriating pain the ass. Other moments are more idiotic than challenging, like that robot boss that takes forever to kill and the bonus games you have to slog through because there's no way to skip them, aside from not picking up any coins, maybe. The elevator aside, it's basically Baby's First Castlevania.


Haze (PS3, M)

It's rare that I find a game I regretted playing not because it was completely terrible (although Haze also isn't very good), but because it made me feel so dirty at the end. But before that, yes, it's a Halo knockoff. It's a first person shooter about marines in power armor, broken up by vehicle sections with hideous steering. But at least your Halo mates had the sense to stay out of your way (usually by not being there at all, but whatever). Your Haze squadmates have an annoying habit of running in front of you while you're lining up your ironsight, and then acting like it's your fault when you shoot them in the back. That was even worse when you're on the Mantel missions, because I tended to accidentally shoot them in their Nectar administrators which is a OHKO. And I kept having to turn on the subtitles because there'd be so much background noise I couldn't hear what people were saying or what orders they were giving me, but then I'd have to turn them off because the NPCs keep shouting the same taunts over and over, which are also subtitled.

The message of the game is that both sides of a war are really mirror images of each other, who are just killing human beings instead of whatever they think they're fighting while intoxicated on something to make them blind to what they're really doing (Nectar for Mantel, revenge and the promise of freedom for the rebels), and neither one is the right side. And oh boy, the way it hammers this home is with some of the creepiest set pieces I've seen in a game, including but not limited to:

- Standing in an elevator while your psychotic colleagues in the neighboring one cut a guy's finger off;
- A former squadmate showing you the skeletons in Mantel's closet, by which I mean the piles of dead soldiers killed by Nectar intoxication crammed like sardines into Mantel's shipping containers;
- A couple soldiers coming off their Nectar high freaking out over the atrocities they commited under its influence and shooting themselves in the head;
- The final level that takes place on what's essentially Mantel's Death Star, only half the soldiers on the thing are so fucked up they're more interested in trying to keep their balance or huddling in corners in the fetal position than attacking you;

It's entirely possible that I'm just touchy about this kind of shit, and all the Mantel soldiers struck me as having an Oedipus complex, but when I was done with this game, I was not proud. I was sick to my stomach.


Blaster reMaster (NES ROM Hack, via Flash Cart)

This is a ROM hack of Blaster Master that mixes up the tank levels, but going through this just made me wish my copy of Enemy Below wasn't on the other side of the country. Instead of taking everything Blaster Master had to offer and completely turning the game on its head, the hackers just ape the broad concepts - there's still a shortcut connecting the end and beginning of Area 3 you can only get to with the Hover, there's still a maze in Area 4, you still jump along platforms floating high above floating spikes in Area 6, and you still have to get around a maze of spike blocks in the second room of Area 8. It's not even a super difficult hack - I beat this on my second attempt while only dying twice, and it only took me two attempts because my first ended when I got trapped by what was either a game-breaking glitch or a massive dick move on the hackers' part; I entered a Jason dungeon in Area 6 that started me out about halfway through the dungeon instead of over the door, and when I tried to leave it would just fade out, then fade back in, still in the dungeon. Actually, there were quite a few bugs, like once when I was jumping around a hallway and the background misaligned, but I don't know if that was an issue with the hacking job or the PowerPak.

It's only when you get to the final level that the hackers finally start trying new things (one of which was actually the second place I got killed, the first being against Neo Gizarra), but it's too little, too late, especially when the level progresses pretty much the same anyway. And since they didn't change the Jason dungeons, you step into one, take one look around, and leave if it doesn't look right. In the end, it's like reading a version of your favorite book where somebody went through and replaced half the word with synonyms - the words may be different, but it's the same series of events making up the same story.

By the way, if any ROM hackers are reading this, here's an idea I'm giving away for free because I don't have the hacking skills to do it myself: a Blaster Master hack where you play as Jason most of the time. Basically, every area would begin with SOPHIA stuck between one or two rooms, and you'd have to get out as Jason and swim across a pool, or climb a ladder, or something to access the rest of the level. Come on, I'd give it a shot. And as a note on playing it with the Powerpak, every ROM I downloaded of the original game had a bad header, and if it happens to you you'll need to fix it with Nestopia before the Powerpak will accept it.

Rating: ???

LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias (WiiWare, E)

Despite the cliffhanger LostWinds ended on, this game didn't seem to resolve anything and aside from a character at the beginning, seems entirely disconnected from the first game. Or else this was meant to be a trilogy, and lack of interest is going to leave it unfinished. I mean, isn't that evil fire spirit still around? I guess it's more of the wind-based puzzles from the first game that's over in two hours, plus a few additional spells and abilities, but if going for episodic gaming, you might want to be sure you'll actually finish the series.


Kirby Mass Attack (DS, E)

Kirby games are fairly reliable at being creative, but it's like Nintendo doesn't know what to do with the adventures they come up with for their pink puffball, and the games are always brought down by how easy they are; I only Game Overed twice, and both of those were instant death scenarios - once I was carrying a bunch of little birds through a level and dropped one, and once I drowned in toxic water.

Although the touch screen controls work better than I expected them to, the game manages to show off both the touch screen's potentials and limitations at the same time. The game desperately needed the ability to only select some Kirbies. As is, there's only two ways to control them; fling them one at a time, or lead the entire group around. As you get more Kirbies it becomes easier to take down tougher enemies, but they get harder to control as they push each other off platforms, and when you're trying to get the straggler Kirbies back to the group in a scrolling level, it's like trying to lure out the cat that needs its medicine by shaking the treat bag around the house. The inability to split them up also means there's little combat strategy beyond "dogpile everything you don't like", and every once in a while, my stylus and finger would be in the way of the screen.

Petty annoyance: I keep calling this "Kirby Mass Effect"


Dragonslayer (PG-13)

FO covered this about as well as I could in her capsule review, but I'd like to add something - this is the second movie involving a dragon I've seen where somebody was clearly a woman, but apparently was supposed to be disguised as a man because another character is surprised to find out she isn't a dude, and I was all "Seriously?" Was Dragonheart 2 paying homage to this, or does it just take one to know one?