Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Great Playthrough: Game 53 - Pokemon Silver

Pokemon Silver
Released on: Game Boy Colour
Played on: Super Game Boy (aka the Game Boy adaptor for the SNES)
Release date: 2000

When you live with someone else who loves games, you end up with games that are yours, games that are the other persons, and games that you both play that no-one remembers who originally bought.

The Pokemon games in our house all belong exclusively to Neety, and as such I had decided that they would not feature in this playthrough. This wasn't just because they were not "my" games, but for another reason as well.

Nintendo in their infinite wisdom (in order for households to buy a copy of each Pokemon game for each child who wishes to play) only allow one save slot per game on Pokemon, and as one of my rules for the playthrough consist of starting a game from scratch, if I had played the three or four Pokemon games we have, then I'd have erased Neety's progress on all of them - which as you can imagine, would not have gone down well.

Then Neety pointed out that we own a copy of Pokemon silver where the internal battery is buggered - so it doesn't remember save games. (Well sometimes it does, but not for long). So with her blessing I (reluctantly) put Pokemon on my list.

"But Brawny, why were you reluctant to play Pokemon, when it's a famous Nintendo franchise, and you are a lover of all things Nintendo?"

Much as I hate to admit it, I was prejudiced. When Pokemon was released, my younger brother was very into them, whereas teenage me declared them "kids stuff" and never picked one of the games up.

Until now....

So I sat down with the control pad in my hand, Neety watching with interest, and powered up the game.

Before I get into the game itself, let me just say a quick word about the Super Game Boy.

If, like me, you own Game Boy games and a SNES, then you should have one of these wonderful converters - because it does make playing those game boy games a more social thing (plus you don't have to go searching for the "right" light to play a Game Boy under, because we all know they're a pain to play in normal light!)

But anyway, back to Pokemon Silver. I would tell you what the plot of the game is, but it's the same plot as that in every Pokemon game (from what I understand) - take your fluffy animal out to battle other fluffy animals. Defeat everyone. Capture all Pokemon. Be great.

But the point is, it's an RPG, (And no, I don't mean a Rocket Propelled Grenade...) and I may have mentioned before what my problems with RPGs are. But I approached it with an open mind, and do you know what?

I really enjoyed it.

Now I'm not necessarily saying that I would play every Pokemon game to completion - but certainly for the hour and a half I was playing, I didn't get bored and the time flew past. The battles are engaging, and the tutorials are subtle - with you learning things as you progress instead of the modern trend of spending the first half hour of the game on a tutorial mission with no real point and that explains everything as if you had the brainpower of a ZX81.

The graphics are well done, with nice big sprites and the few colours used adding to the atmosphere. The music, on the other hand, is more than well done - it is irritatingly catchy! (And, as a side note, apparently my wife can sing every piece of Pokemon incidental music, as I discovered!)

But the biggest thing I can praise this game for, is the wonder of exploration. I am sure that later on in the game you have to backtrack and you get fed up with fighting Rattatta's for the 9 billionth time, but I was forever excited to press onwards and play just to see what I would come across next!

Yes the random encounters get annoying, and there's a lot of walking that goes on - but there's nothing worse about this game than that!

There's not a lot more I can say really - I thought I'd hate it, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Who saw that coming?

Rating: 8.5/10
Time Played: 1 and a half hours
Would I play it again? I probably would - although I might have to bust the cartridge open and replace the battery first!

Next time - It's time to encounter a game my teenage self DID play, featuring a blond chauvinist pig who smokes cigars and damages everything in sight....

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Great Playthough: Game 52 - Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

I would like to start this blog with an apology for the lack of updates. I know I have done this before here, and here, and here... but this time I have a real excuse for the quiet time - Neety and I moved house! And I've only just got my computer back up and running! (And yes, I still use a desktop computer - you know why? Because they are better. Accept it all you laptop-luvvies!)

So without further ado, let me introduce our next game....

Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
Released on: Nintendo Gamecube
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2002

Yes, it's a Sonic game. I am aware that I've already reviewed quite a few of these, but I have a soft spot for the speedy blue hedgehog - it's not my fault!

(Disclaimer - It may actually be my fault. Sorry.)

This is the second game that Sonic appeared in which was in 3D. The first was Sonic Adventure, which I shall be covering on another blog. Interestingly, the game "Sonic 3D" (which I shall also be reviewing later in this experiment) is not in what we now think of as 3D, as it is an isometric game based around 2D sprites. Confused? I'm sure you are. I am, and I understand what the hell I'm talking about!

Sonic Adventure 2, meanwhile, started life on the Dreamcast, before being hurredly ported to the Gamecube when Sega threw all of it's stocks of Dreamcasts into the sea and pretended it had only ever made games, rather than consoles. (Which is a shame, as I like the Dreamcast!) The gamecube port simply added "Battle" to the end of the title and faffed about with Chao gardens and extra multiplayer modes.

But multiplayer isn't what we play Sonic games for.... Single player high-speed adventure is!


Sorry, for a moment there I thought I was talking about a 2D Sonic game.

Sonic Adventure 2 Battle has some of the best moments of Sonic games, and an awful lot of moments that - if they are not the worst, are certainly down at the bottom of the barrel with the mouldy apples and the broken spoons that have previously been used to scrape the bottom of said barrel.

(Again, I must apologise for my metaphors for being so tortured in this article - and I must also give a big shout out to Neety, who was able to remind me of the word metaphor when I couldn't remember it!)

Firstly, I must state that I always have a problem with Sonic games that appear vaguely set in the real world. The original Sonic 2D games have Sonic, other animal friends and Dr Robotnik, (I shall NEVER call him Eggman!) and in my mind, that seems to be a reasonable (if slightly strange) population of the world. Then, when they start to have other humans, and police chasing Sonic, for some reason it stretches the credibility of that world to breaking point for me.

I'm not sure that paragraph made sense - but I'm not rewriting damnit! Now is not the time for re-writing!

But ignoring that, the problems with this game are many. And the big one is that you only play as Sonic for a third of the game! Or if you choose the Dark side, you get to play as Shadow instead. Isn't that what we all wanted?

..... *watches tumbleweed roll past*.....

Anyway, you spend a third of the game as Tails - who for some unfathomable reason has a plane. Even though he has two tails which means he can FLY UNAIDED!! Oh, and sometimes the plane turns into a giant mech. Just, you know, because.

Then you spend a third of the game as Knuckles. Now I have nothing against Knuckles as a character, but his sections are basically a kind of giant treasure hunt for pieces of.. something or other, I forget... using the worlds crappiest radar as your only hope. Seriously, if the navy used that radar, they'd shoot torpedoes at Grimsby thinking that it was a hidden Russian submarine! And even if you can deduce roughly where the stupid thing is, half the time they are buried in the ground, so you just keep randomly sidestepping and digging again until you find it!

So I'm not a fan of these two sections, but what about the Sonic sections themselves?

There are absolutley brilliant moments in them. When you are zooming down a hill, and Sonic is responsive, and you don't have to try and perform any pixel-perfect movements then it's great fun. But then you turn a corner, and the camera fails to do so. Or you have to inch your way onto a pixel-thin bridge, while still running, and the controls are so twitchy it's impossible to keep him running in a damn straight line!

And the difficulty level... oh dear Sega. Have you never heard of a balanced game? One second you are rushing through, the next you are battling for your life! And then, suddenly, you're running through an easy level again...

It's such a divided game - divided within itself. The graphics and sound are up there with others of its generation, and the music in particular is still often catchy (with the occasional monotonous annoying piece thrown in), but it's just a case of too many ideas, not enough game, and a serious lack of polish.

Sorry Sonic, but you go to the bottom of the class...

Rating: 5/10
Time played: 1 hour 
Will I play it again?: Maybe - although the 3D bits of Generations are better, so I might just stick with that...

Next time, I tackle a famous video game franchise that I have NEVER played before - which one? Come back and find out!