Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 33 - Gran Tourismo 2!

Gran Tourismo 2
Released on: Sony Playstation
Played on: Sony Playstation 2 (Because otherwise I'd have had to dig out and plug in the Playstation, and since our PS2 has complete backward compatibility, it would have been silly to do that...)
Release date: 2000

Going back to GT2 was a big unknown for me. I remembered very little about it, although I do know that some of my friends at the time insisted it was the greatest game ever, which I was unsure would be the case, but I fired it up, expecting some fun driving times.

And then?

Well there was driving, but not a lot of fun...

Let me backtrack a little. On the front cover of the game it states "The Real Driving Simulator". Well, it's not real is it. It's a computer game, that you are controlling with a D-Pad. Yes, it looks very impressive for the time it is from, but it just didn't grasp me as fun.

My biggest fundamental issue with the game was the controls. If I wanted to attempt to drive around a racetrack in something that steers with all the precision of a shopping trolley then I'd buy myself a Sinclair C5 and head off to Silverstone! The problem is that the steering is erratic and, because this is a game from the pre-Analog controller era, there's no gradual steering, meaning that it's very hard to tell how much or little you need...

Well, it is for me anyway. And then there's the other thing. The first race I played, I lost. Therefore the game only gave me the options to retry the race, or quit out of the whole thing and start again. OK, I thought, maybe it doesn't let you proceed without ranking. The second race, I also lost - and fairly obviously the same thing happened again. The third race, I came second! (God knows how!) And guess what? Same options again... now come on GT2. I know I'm playing the Arcade version rather than the massively in-depth and hugely complicated GT Version, but let me proceed track by track won't you?

And then there's my pettiest complaint of all. When you finish the race, before it lets you choose whether to replay or not? It automatically shows you a full replay of the race. Er, why? I played the race, I lost the race, I don't need an instant reminder of it!

So to sum it all up, I didn't really enjoy Gran Tourismo 2. It's one of those games that started the trend of bringing "realism" to computer games - Realistic driving games, realistic sports games, realistic war games.. where does it end? The whole reason I play video games is to AVOID realism, why on earth would I want to play something that has a passing similarity to the dull rules that affect our everyday life? I guess some people must do, and for those people I proudly announce my new game:

"Call Centre Simulator 2012", for all major platforms, in which you get to answer complaints from angry customers for 8 hours at a time. And you can't stop it. Once you load the game you have to play for eight hours, to provide that realistic environment. Play every day and then, in several years, you might get a promotion! - Only £40!

But in all seriousness, Gran Tourismo 2 was not the best game played in this playthrough so far. Maybe I'm just still bitter that I can't play Outrun 2. Now there was a driving game..

Rating: 3/10
Time played: 15 Minutes
Would I play it again?: Nope.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Great Playthrough: Game 31 - Super Mario Bros and Game 32 - Super Mario Bros 2!

Statistics are a funny thing.

(I appreciate that this is a strange sentence to open a gaming blog with, and it seems that it doesn't have any relevance to the topic at hand, but bear with me and see where it goes.)

When I arranged my 140+ games into their random order when I started this playthrough, the last thing I expected was a game to be followed on the list by it's direct sequel. But guess what? It happened - and that means that this blog is a double dose of Mario Madness!

Super Mario Bros
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1985

So, let's look at the first of these two classics. Super Mario Bros - the original. But is it the best?

Before I even try to answer that question, a bit of history. Super Mario Bros is one of the most famous games ever. It has been released, re-released, ported, pirated, ripped off and homaged more often than any other Nintendo game ever.

(NOTE - This information is based on the information within that great research depository that is my brain. It may or may not be true, but I can't be bothered to do the research to justify the statement, so just agree with me, yeah?)

I own two different versions of this game - one on my 3DS, which is a direct port of the original NES classic
(which I obtained through the oft-mentioned 3DS Ambassador program), and the Super Mario All-Stars version on the SNES, which has updated graphics and sound. (I say updated, they were updated in the early 90's, so it's not an ultra-realistic mo-capped Mario, simply some pretty 16-bit sprites). After a long internal debate, I decided that the version I would play was the SNES version, as the game was designed for a TV rather than the small screen on the handheld.

And for the first ten minutes I had a blast. I played through the way I usually play the game - zoomed through to the warp zone in 1-2, warped to zone 4, then hit the warp zone in 4-2 to world 5, before dying in world 5-3.

So far, so standard. Then, I decided to play without use of warp zones (but still using the save game function that comes with the Super Mario All-Stars version), and spent the rest of my hour happily playing through.

Of course the game has flaws. A lot of levels are very similar to each other, the Hammer Brothers are still rather difficult to kill if they happen to spawn on the same level as you, and the underwater levels are still as irritating as they have ever been. But of course, it's a classic game, and unlike some of the others I've played in this playthrough, it deserves it's classic status.

Is it the best of all the Mario games? No. It's not even the best 2D one. But it is the original, and it does deserve some credit for starting off Nintendo's mascot on a high. It can get boring (mostly due to the repetitive nature of certain levels), and I tended to find that it works in short 10-15 minute chunks much better than a long play in one go, but still, it's fun.

Rating: 8/10
Would I play it again?: Of course.
Time played: 1 Hour.

So from Super Mario Bros, onto the surprisingly titled... Super Mario Bros 2.

Super Mario Bros 2.
Released on: NES, SNES and then many, many others.
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1988

A quick piece of history. The game that we in the west know as Super Mario Bros 2 was not originally a Mario game. The game released in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2 was an extension of the original, and deemed too difficult for Western gamers, so Nintendo of America then took a game called Doki Doki Panic, (which itself was a Japanese game featuring Japanese TV characters that was never likely to be localised to the west) and replaced the characters with Mario characters and tweaked it to suit. This was then so popular that it was eventually released in Japan as Super Mario USA, and eventually (on the Super Mario All-Stars cartridge), the west finally got Japan's version of Super Mario Bros 2, except it was renamed Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.


Everybody caught up? Good.

The reason I felt the urge to explain the complex backstory of the game is because it is very different to the original, and indeed, it's very different to the Mario series as a whole. Because of that association, it's the game on the All-Stars cartridge I have played least, and consequentially I was both looking forward to it and slightly dreading it in equal measure.

The good news? It's a very playable game. While some changes take a bit of getting used to (you can choose a character at the start, and each has different abilities, jumping on enemies doesn't kill them, you have a set of hearts for health rather than growing/shrinking), I found myself quickly getting into the game and enjoying the bizarreness of it all.

And yes, I warn you now, it is bizarre. It's set in Mario's dream (which must mean that he sometimes dreams of being his brother, his girlfriend and ... well.. Toad), and this seems to have given them carte blanche to be weird with the whole atmosphere. You can climb inside vases, you pull up radishes and throw them at enemies to kill them, and if that wasn't enough, this game is the debut of not only Bob-ombs and Shy Guys (who are a little bit weird), it also introduces the greatest transvestite pink dinosaur who spits his own eggs.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's Birdo!

Birdo appears as a sub-boss a lot, and you throw his own eggs at him to defeat him. Which is fine, but still...

All in all, this game has a lot going for it. Unlike my primary criticism of the original, Super Mario Bros 2 has long levels, with restart points all over the place (thankfully). It also has puzzley moments (mostly just figuring out where to move blocks to and how to blow up walls (Hint - find bombs...) ) and so it gives a very different experience to the pure platforming of the original.

Maybe it was my relative unfamiliarity with the game, but I enjoyed this just as much as the original, but for different reasons. I don't think it's going to be my number 1 2D Mario game in this playthrough, but it's certainly not the worst either.

Rating: 8/10
Would I play it again?: Definitely.
Time played: 1 hour.

Next time - A complete change of genre, generation and console. It's Gran Tourismo 2 on the Playstation...