Update

Sorry for the lack of any new articles, but some things happened.

First, I was planning on continuing the Guild Wars Game Opinion Summaries series for a while longer, but after the rape and allegation about Guild Wars music composer Jeremy Soule, I decided to put that off for a while.  He denies the allegations, but they sound quite credible. I will get back to my Guild Wars screenshots series — the soundtrack is only one component to that incredible game — but I think I’ll wait a bit longer before doing so.  I wish that they could remove that soundtrack and replace it with something  not written by someone evidently a total creep, but that’s not going to happen unfortunately I am sure.  Separating art from artist is sometimes difficult, and this is one of those times; Soule has never been one of my favorite game composers, but he did good work in a lot of prominent soundtracks.  It’s really too bad he seems to have abused that power.  This allegation is from after he completed work on Guild Wars 1’s soundtrack, but it’s still really bad, particularly in the context of other slightly less awful but also bad allegations that have surfaced about him.

So with that off the table for now, I tried to come up with something else but don’t have anything anywhere near postable yet.  I think I will do another Game Opinion Summaries list or update, probably a Genesis update covering all the games I’ve gotten since I finished the Genesis list.  I thought this was a good idea since the Genesis Mini is just about to release, so why not cover that fantastic console a bit more?  The other Game Opinion Summaries lists that I plan to do are a Colecovision one, following up my past Atari, Odyssey 2, and Intellivision lists with one for the other pre-crash console I have, and a TurboGrafx/PC Engine HuCards list.  I will do the Colecovision list this year, perhaps soon, and the TG16 one perhaps early next year, since that’s when the TurboGrafx Mini releases so why not?

As for what games I am playing other than classics, it’s mostly still random handheld puzzle games, Mario Maker 2 and They are Billions, which I got back into after its final release.  I have covered both of those games and they are what they are, extremely addictive games I love… or love to hate, depending.  Both can be quite hard and frustrating, in their own ways.  Mario Maker 2 is one of the best games ever, with an endless supply of Mario levels on all skill and competency levels, from extremely easy and basic to impossibly difficult.  My skill is probably somewhere in the middle, so I can’t handle the ones which require the super high-end skills but greatly enjoy the game anyway.  It’s perfect for anyone who likes Mario gameplay!  I still have not finished any levels in Mario Maker 2, but if I do I’ll write a post about it.  As for They are Billions, I love the strategy, but find the randomness very frustrating.  I’ve beaten several maps and am at the desert one now, which is quite hard.  I like the additional things they added to the game over the course of its time in Early Access, and it is a bit easier than it was when I first played it, but it’s still a very difficult game.  When you finally complete a map and survive that final wave it’s an amazing feeling, though!

So that’s the state of the site right now.  I’ll get something finished for posting this month.

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 13: April 2007 – November 2008

In early 2007, I got a new computer.  While my old one was a 1.5Ghz Pentium 4 with 384MB of RAM, a 32MB GeForce2 GTS graphics card, and Windows Millenium (which I still love! But anyway.), the new one was a Core 2 Duo E6600 with a brand new 320MB GeForce 8800 graphics card,  the new OS Windows Vista (which I also like a lot), and lots of RAM.  It was a huge upgrade, and I’d end up having the computer, with a few upgrades, for ten years.

When I got it, I remember thinking that maybe now I’d play PC games more again, like I used to.  By this point I already noticed that I was playing them less than I had before, in favor of classic console games mostly.  Well… that didn’t change.  The computer was a lot better than the old one in many ways, but I mostly kept playing older console games, only playing games on the PC here and there.  I started playing more modern games again in maybe 2016 and would say that now I play a mixture of older and newer games, but that’s well in the future here.

So, when the new PC arrived, I made sure to try out Guild Wars, still one of my favorite PC games, and I immediately noticed how much better the game looked!  These screenshots are the same exact game as before, it’s just running on a better computer actually able to get the most out of the game.  The difference is dramatic and looks great, and it ran at a stable 60fps almost all of the time too!  Despite this I still played a lot less of the game than I had in the previous few years, but the repetitive nature of the almost entirely clicking-a-skillbar gameplay had kind of gotten old so I wanted a break.  Still, enjoy the nicer-looking screenshots.  This article has 45 screenshots in four parts, ten from for April ’07, four from the August ’07 Guild Wars Eye of the North Sneak Peak event, 11 from November ’07, and 20 from January to October ’08.

Please note, the first images here are from April and then it skips to August because that’s what my screenshots do, they go from February to April to August.  From this point on long gaps like this between screenshot batches will be normal.

Additionally, with these larger, higher-resolution screenshots, please remember to click, or center-click, on the images to open full-size versions of the images, instead of the small thumbnails.

A. April 2007:  Heroes

In the world of Guild Wars, while the game was still fairly recent, 2007 was the last year with new paid content released.  Ten months after Factions, Guild Wars: Eye of the North released in August 2007.  Unlike Factions and Nightfall from 2006, which are technically stand-alone and do not require owning Prophecies, you can only play EotN after finishing one of the previous three campaigns.  The campaign is set in new parts of the Prophecies area of the continent, but you don’t need to own Prophecies, any of them will do.  Before EotN released, though, GW went quite some time with few updates.   Arena.net was having some problems deciding what they wanted to do next — did they want to make another full stand-alone campaign, an add-on, or what?  How will it work?  One campaign in progress got cancelled before Eye of the North was finally approved.  The resulting game was fantastic, but for paid content that was it for the game.  I’ve always been disappointed that the game was abandoned so quickly for a successful game of this kind, it deserved so much better!

So, while Factions had been followed with Nightfall only six months later, most of a year went by between Nightfall and Eye of the North.  I did not capitalize, however, and continued barely touching Nightfall.  It’s a good campaign and I like a lot of things about it, but somehow I kept stopping for long periods of time, sometimes because it was hard and I was playing it all solo and sometimes because, while great, I just didn’t enjoy the campaign quite as much as Prophecies or Factions.  Still, having FINALLY finished it much more recently, Nightfall is a fantastic campaign I should have played a lot more of earlier.  I didn’t, oh well.

Now, Nightfall released in the previous article, but I did not discuss the following issue that I have mentioned here and there at length then, so I will now.  Nightfall, beyond having a large and quite difficult new campaign, added one other major new feature to Guild Wars, which I have mentioned here and there and is both essential and unfortunate: Heroes.  Heroes are AI allies that you have much greater control over than the Henchmen that were the only thing available previously.  Where Henchies each have a specific build you cannot change, Heroes are fully customizable.  Indeed, you set Heroes’ skillbars up yourself, working from the skills you have unlocked on your account.  You can also buy skills for Heroes only, if you want some more skills for classes you don’t really play.  The AI won’t necessarily be as effective with some skills and builds as a human would, so reading up online about what kind of Hero builds work better is very useful, and Heroes are much better if they are in classes you have played extensively with other characters, but even so the ability to fully set your AI companions’ skillbars was fantastic.

The other major addition ANet made with Nightfall is giving players greater control of AI movements.  Nightffall added some new buttons to the minimap which you can direct your AI allies with.  Four buttons appear during gameplay when you’re in a mission or explorable area with AI allies.  The first three AI allies can be individually controlled, and the rest of your AI allies can be all moved together with a fourth button.  Where before they would just follow you around and could not be controlled beyond that, STRONGLY disadvantaging them versus human allies and encouraging the random-player-groups gameplay that I loved so much in the PvE (humans vs. AIs) part of the game, with these two additions that quickly started to break down.  To be fair, the sheer volume of content that had been added to the game, and people like me starting to play the game less, didn’t help either; where before everyone was playing the same campaign, now there were three and people were scattered through all three, without as many people in each of them.  As the years progressed, having AI allies became essential, as finding player groups for any number of PvE tasks rapidly became nearly impossible where it used to be easy, pre-Nightfall.  I still very much miss this element of the game, it was one of the things I loved about Guild Wars and Nightfall took it away.  My dislike of this is an important part of why I didn’t play much Nightfall for a long time.  However, how playable would Guild Wars be now without these additions?  A lot of the game would be even more impossible solo!

So, on the one hand, I greatly miss the Guild Wars of 2004-2006, where mostly randomly collected player groups did missions, quests, and explored together.  But on the other hand, Heroes and, perhaps even more, being able to give your AI allies direct ‘move here’ orders are essential things in a game with a lower and more spread-out playerbase.  You would never be able to always find human allies in every mission of this game at any time even if they had never added these things, so they are good.

It’s just a shame they had to add them, because it probably did more harm to the game than good — people really noticed how much better AI allies had become, and looking for player groups dropped off dramatically in very short order. Even when the playerbase was still high, while it was certainly still possible to find player groups sometimes, a whole lot of people who previously would have looked for players to group with moved over to Heroes instead because they’re almost as good and are always available.  It’s a very understandable choice that I would eventually do as well, because it makes the PvE game playable at any time, but as a result the game lost a lot of the sense of community that it had before.  Where in 2004 I had preferred Guild Wars over World of Warcraft in part because GW emphasizes grouping with other players you aren’t in a guild with much more, by ’07 that differential had surely gotten closer.  But, again, these changes also made the PvE game possible to play today in a way it would not be otherwise.  Late-game Guild Wars PvE is crushingly difficult as it is, without Heroes it’d be too hard to bear!  These changes really go both ways.  So, for both good and ill, the addition of Heroes is quite possibly the biggest change Guild Wars would have in its life so far.

Even if I was not playing a lot of Guild Wars anymore like I had been in 2004-2006, however, it was still a game I went back to with at least some regularity.  Including my estimates for beta playtime, in early ’07, as I say in this conversation with some random person, I was at maybe 900 hours played since the first beta.  I would only add a couple hundred hours to that over the next ten years.

Yup, I’m still playing more Factions than Nightfall.

Hey, it’s Nightfall! I’ve finally finished the first post-starter-island mission and gotten onto Kourna proper.

The Sunspear Sanctuary is kind of your base of operations during the campaign.

Kamadan, meanwhile, is the campaigns’ main city for interaction with other players. It has since become Guild Wars’ main social hub and trading place.

The random arenas.  And yup, this weird water-surface bug still works. Everything looks so much better now though, it’s all smooth and great looking!

In battle in the Random Arena.

… That didn’t end well. Too bad, but it’s almost always fun anyway.

I always like to go back to seared Ascalon every once in a while, it’s the first area I saw in this game and still is probably my favorite.


B. August 22-24, 2007 – Guild Wars: Eye of the North Sneak Peek Weekend (Beta Event)

A week before the game released, Arena.net held a very late promotional access weekend event, allowing anyone who owned a Guild Wars campaign to try out the beginning of the soon-upcoming new expansion.  I may not have played the game much in months, but was back for this event, I wanted to see how this new campaign would turn out.  I only have four screenshots from the event, but from the dates on the files they do show that I was once again here for a Guild Wars “beta”.  I don’t think I missed any public test events for the first Guild Wars.

My first impression of EotN was that I was impressed.  The first area is a beautiful snowy forest, like the South Shiverpeaks but more detailed and better looking.  It’s a pretty stunning looking area and one of the best in the game.  And in terms of gameplay, by starting from max level, EotN allowed for harder, more focused play.  I liked what I saw in the beta and wanted to play more.  And indeed, EotN would end up having a fantastic campaign loaded with interesting features and challenges.

Both in the beta and in the final game, you start EotN with a mission through a pretty great looking cave, fleeing from a threatening invasion…

Time is running out, will I make it?

And here we have maybe the first screenshot to really, really show off how much better the graphics are in Guild Wars in my ’07 PC than my ’01 one. From the anti-aliasing to the shiny lighting effects, this looks fantastic!  Indeed, the visuals in this shot still hold up extremely, extremely well.  Guild Wars’ graphics are some of the best ever.

The moon in the sky over this snowy mountainscape looks pretty nice too. I like this shot quite a bit.

 

C. November ’07 – Gameplay After the Guild Wars: Eye of the North Release

I believe I bought Eye of the North shortly after its release, digitally, but did not take any screenshots for a while.  So, this next screenshot batch is from November, when I took 11.  Many are quite similar, but I’m going to post all of them anyway.

Eye of the North is a great campaign, but it is quite different from past Guild Wars releases in important ways.  The difficulty is higher, as ANet cut back on lower-level content and started moving towards adding more high-level options to the game; the new skills and abilities are fewer and more focused, with far less of the bloated overlap of the skillsets that the two 2006 releases have; ANet started experimenting with having things go on in the world as you explored, something they would do a great deal more of in Guild Wars 2; missions do not have dedicated outposts before them like they used to, so you gather in towns for them; and more.  The previously mentioned uncertainty about what ANet should do with Guild Wars shows in the game, as they tried many new things in each of the four retail Guild Wars releases, but somehow they all work well together despite that, and perhaps in part because of it — the unique touches to each of the four campaigns keep them all interesting and worth revisiting!

As far as the story goes, there will be some very minor spoilers here, so I will block out this paragraph for anyone who wants none. Highlight the text to read it. EotN, as an expansion pack, was the first thing which actually continued the plot after the end of Prophecies, instead of telling other stories set elsewhere.  So, the plot returns to the issue of the Charr, among other things.  The game introduces several new friendly races, too, including the techie little Asura and the giant, warlike Norns.  You still can only play as a human, but the new races add some variety and both fit in the setting pretty well.  The expansions’ attempt to show different factions in the Charr and create a friendly, less evil Charr faction kind of works too, though even the “better” ones are still quite violent… though of course, so are humans.  That kind of equivocation would be the direction Guild Wars 2 would go in, but thanks to the way Guild Wars began, with the Searing, I don’t want to forgive the Charr.  On a related note, that GW:EN brings back the character Gwen is a clever touch, naming-wise.  Gwen’s position on the Charr’s a good one.  Anyway though, ignoring what they would do in GW2, EotN’s story is well-done, following up on the first game in some interesting ways.

I remember enjoying EotN and steadily playing through it, but looking back, I would not finish the campaign until late June 2009, almost two years after its release.  I don’t seem to have any screenshots from then, sadly — the screenshots I have from ’09, which I will start posting next time, do not show any of the ending parts of EotN — but did post about it online, so I know the date.  The basic structure of this game is that it has a main campaign of moderate to high-ish difficulty to go through, and optional side dungeons if you want some intensely challenging dungeons designed for human groups.  With AI companions most of the dungeons are too difficult for me and I did not have many people to play with anymore by this point, so unfortunately, though adding dungeons to the game was a fantastic idea, I still have not gone through most of them.

The new ice caves might look even better than the ones from Prophecies, which is definitely saying something.

Unfortunately, it’s not all shiny ice, there are monsters to deal with as well, in the dirt…

What, is this cave also a mine? Those are some oddly evenly-broken formations…

That little tree would probably look better with the camera a little farther away… but this was a ‘lots of first person shots’ set, so instead I got maybe too close for it to look ideal. Oh well. Anyway, we’re running through the wilderness, on the way to our next destination. As always.

At this point in the earlier parts of the EotN campaign, you compete in a tournament, facing off against a series of opponents, many of whom are familiar to people who have played the other campaigns. Here is Warmaster Tydus of Ascalon, a story character.

And LIttle Thom, from Kryta. He’s a henchman.

Melonni, a Hero from Nightfall.

Kisai, from Factions. She was a Henchman, but only in the starter island.

Sure you will…

This guy is from Ascalon as well… heh.

And last, of the ones I took screenshots of anyway, Cynn, one of the main story and henchman characters. Cynn’s “I want to kill as many Charr as possible” probably goes too far, but is not too far off base given what they did to Ascalon… Charr are the enemy!

D. 2008, January to October

These 20 images are all of the screenshots I took in the year of 2008.  Yeah, it’s not very many for a whole year; I may not have had many from ’07, but this is even lower.  Still, I was playing the game here and there, mostly focusing on slowly working my way through Eye of the North.  I may have been only sporadically playing the game, but was making slow progress through EotN, and was definitely enjoying it along the way.  This game has some fantastic looking areas, as this image set shows!  And the better computer better shows off just how good the game looks, too.

Yes, character models can take a while to load sometimes even on a better PC.

This place is creepy, look at the size of those cobwebs up on the ceiling… great sense of atmosphere!

Meanwhile, however, what the party, of me and Heroes as usual now, is doing is fighting some monsters.

I often use only two melee characters in my party, so Zenmai here has a tough job…

What an interesting, and ominous, building this is! What is that, spike-filled openings in the roof revealing a burning sky? With all of its dungeons, EotN very much makes up for previous Guild Wars campaigns having quite limited numbers of indoor areas, that’s for sure.

I know Guild Wars architecture is often hugely oversized, presumably to work well in a game, but this fireplace is kind of ridiculous if you think about it…

This hazy cave has a nice sense of atmosphere.

What is going on here, something is opening…

I don’t remember what this is at all, but it’s very cool looking!

And now it’s traveling up towards the flames above…

The amount of flowing lava here reminds me a bit of the Fire Islands, but this is somewhere else for sure. It’s also somewhere impressively dangerous-looking, though.

I know I say it all the time, but this game has truly spectacular art design. This scene here is yet another example of that.  The dark cave contrasts with the bright lava, surrounded with those tooth-like rocks…

Yes, it’s more dungeon traversal in EotN. These places are often really tough, particularly solo with heroes. I never have beaten most of them.

And unsurprisingly, given the firey theme, we see that this area is populated with Charr.

Hey, I didn’t turn the interface off!  It looks like things are going reasonably, my death penalty isn’t too high.  Warband of Brothers is one of the dungeons, and a quest, in EotN. You’re helping your Charr allies defeat some of the really evil Charr. Not that many of them are really all that good…

The way everything is on fire may make for neat scenery here, but the Charr’s addiction for burning things is horrible, as the Searing showed!

Same scene, interface off.

This area is pretty dark, I hope we’re getting out of the cave soon…

And indeed, I did! For a nice change of pace, here’s a bright, reflective ice cave.

Ah, it’s a mission. EotN’s missions were consistently very well designed and fun.

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My Thoughts on E3 2019 – Well, Nintendo Had a Good Show!

So, E3 was six weeks ago, and I’m finally getting around to posting something about what I thought. This will be a bit article than the ones I wrote for the last few years, but I do have some things to say. I put off posting something earlier because it wasn’t as exciting a show as other recent years.

As usual, I watched a lot of E3 coverage, focusing on watching the press conferences before the show floor opened, Nintendo’s Treehouse streams during the show, and Giant Bomb’s night shows each night.  I won’t have too much to say about that last one though, they were entertaining but not too newsworthy here I think, apart from a few things from the Xbox head Phil Spencer interview.

Here are my main thoughts on this E3.

So it’s E3 time again, and the game industry is excited!

… Well, they’re excited to tell you to come back in a year and a half, because Nintendo excepted, that is the main takeaway I took from E3 2019: come back in late 2020, when the next generation Sony and Microsoft consoles release. Before then? Well, there are a few games here and there, but it’s clear that a lot of developers have moved on to next-generation development.

Sunday: Microsoft and Bethesda

My main takeaway from Microsoft and Bethesda’s shows is that they showed games, but are focusing more, internally, on their next-gen projects.

On the positive side, Microsoft showed the most PC games that they have shown at their E3 show in a long time, for PC gaming it was Microsoft’s best show in years! The announcements include a new title in the classic Microsoft Flight Simulator series; a modern remake of Age of Empires II, Microsoft’s best real-time strategy game; that all of the Halo games are coming to PC; and an announcement beforehand that FINALLY Win32 executables will be allowed on the Windows Store. That last one is big, it means that the Microsoft Store is not, anymore, exclusively a walled garden for locked-down software, separate from the regular PC ecosystem. That’s fantastic news. So, this was a pretty good show for the PC from Microsoft. That was the main positive from Microsoft this year, though; on the console side, I was disappointed.

One reason for that disappointment is that some rumored projects, like a new Fable game, were not announced. A bigger deal, though, is how little gameplay Microsoft showed. At both the Microsoft and Bethesda conferences particularly, finding actual footage of actual gameplay seemed to be in short supply! I mean, pre-rendered CGI trailers look nice, but they aren’t gameplay. Why are they spending so much time on CG, and so little on gameplay? Even games that are supposed to release this year, like MS’s big holiday title Gears of War 5, showed very little gameplay. I’d much rather see gameplay than CGI, sorry. I kept hoping for Gears 5 to have some actual gameplay shown; I’m no Gears fan, but it’s always interesting to see where the big series are going. But no, it was all CG. CG is not gameplay, Microsoft. I don’t really care much how nice a CG trailer you can make, I want to see the actual games. There was gameplay of some indie titles and such, and a few others, but not enough.

One other project that was finally shown is the new Battletoads game. It looks like it could be fun, but has very basic Flash animation-style graphics, which aren’t too impressive. I’ve never liked Flash graphics as much as more detailed styles. Still, it could be alright, we’ll see.

Beyond that, Microsoft did hint at their next console. Details were scarce, but Microsoft announced more details about their next upcoming console, including that it will indeed release in late 2020, and that it seems like there will only be one model, down from the two models they were talking about a year ago. As for the details of its system power and such, though, Microsoft and Sony are in a high-stakes game right now, both not quite willing to announce their system’s specs so that the other one can’t boost their hardware power and one-up them, so we’ll have to wait. There is still some time until the releases, so that’s fine. Microsoft at least beats Sony so far for sure, Sony didn’t show up for E3 at all this year after all! I may greatly dislike Sony, but seeing one of the big three hardware makers skip E3 entirely really says that the show is declining. I hope the people running E3 can think of ways to improve the situation, I still think E3 is important.

On to Bethesda. First, they tried to apologize for the very unpopular game they released last year, Fallout 76. It’s good they mentioned it I guess, as opposed to just pretending that nothing was wrong as some publishers would. Bethesda is not exactly one of my preferred publishers, and as usual they didn’t show much I care much about; their main focus was on their Doom 2 remake, called Doom Eternal. I’m sure Doom Eternal will be a great game, but while it seems good the last one didn’t keep me interested for all that long, so I’m not planning on getting the sequel anytime soon.

And then… ughhh, well, and then… they announced… a Commander Keen cellphone game. I am, of course, a big fan of the Keen series; they’re fantastic platformers which I loved in the early ’90s and still think are great, great games, which are still some of my favorite platformers ever. It’s been frustrating to see id and then Bethesda do nothing with it for so long. So on one level, seeing this announcement was cool. The trailer for the game is amusing, with some dumb and some amusing comedy. The art style is simple, in that modern animation way, but works, and the characters and creatures and such are recognizable — Yorps are in this game as you would hope, and more. They’ve added a twin sister character in addition to the original Keen, too, which is a nice addition. Apogee and id games rarely had playable female characters in the ’90s, so it’s good to see them doing better now. It’s sad that this is coming back as a mobile game, though. Too bad. I like the trailer as a trailer, but not as a game. So yeah, it was nice to see but also awful to see, because seriously, Commander Keen returns… as a cellphone game?? Argh!

Monday: Ubisoft, Square-Enix, and Limited Run

There was a lot less to watch on Monday than usual, as Microsoft moved to Sunday and EA and Sony didn’t have conferences at all, as E3 shrinks. So, this left only two major conferences that day. Ubisoft and Square-Enix had stuff to show, but neither one particularly excited me. Ubisoft has some great and interesting games, but for me at least they didn’t show them this year. They focused strongly this year on their modern-military shooters and such, including The Division 2 and various other Tom Clancy games, not games I play much of. Ubisoft makes games I like, but they got less attention this year. The new Gods & Heroes game looks potentially cool, though it was just yet ANOTHER prerendered trailer with no gameplay, first. It looks quite Assassin’s Creed inspired, but hopefully will be more fun than those games — I have always wanted to like the AC games due to their interesting settings, but the gameplay has never held my interest. We’ll see with this not-AC title. Additionally, it is amusing that the original Wii lives another year thanks to Just Dance 2020, which was announced for the current systems and the Wii. Sadly the Wii U isn’t getting it, so I guess that great console is dead now, as far as retail games go. Limited Run’s release of Axiom Vergea few months ago seems to be the last Wii U release on a disc… ugh. But more on that soon. As for Ubisoft, otherwise it was a pretty forgettable show for them. Oh well. Hopefully we see games I am more interested in like Beyond Good & Evil 2, Skull & Bones, TrackMania, Rayman, Rabbids, and such in the future. Maybe they will even make a Rayman 4 someday… that would be amazing, Rayman 2 is still one of the best platformers ever made.

Square-Enix had a solid show. I don’t have too much to say about it, though; most of their games are remakes and remasters, with only a few really new games shown. And their two big games aren’t ones that interest me all that much, Marvel’s Avengers and the FFVII remake. They have done some recent remakes and re-releases that are pretty cool, like the enhanced ports of Final Fantasy XII, but the VII remake isn’t interesting me too much; the gameplay looks okay but not really like something I’d really want to stick with, and the story has infamously been spoiled to everyone on the internet for a long time. It will be a bit interesting to see if they change anything, though. As for the Avengers game, I don’t know, it looks fine I guess. I’m no superhero fan though, but I see the trailer has gotten a very mixed reception. I’m not sure how much of it was gameplay either, versus CG.

Limited Run had a little video presentation Monday as well, and I watched it. I am not a Limited Run fan, though; if you want to be a real publisher make enough copies of your games to satisfy demand! The show was partially amusing and partially groan-inducingly bad, but what it really did is once again remind me of why I do not like their business model. I mean, it’s fantastic that there are physical copies of these games being made, don’t get me wrong. And some of these games would have no chance of selling enough copies to justify a full retail run. Others, however, would… but then they get stuck with Limited Run’s minuscule-printrun nonsense anyway. It’s sad stuff. This whole ‘we’ll make a few copies, sometimes of good games and sometimes of bad ones, and get collectors to buy them up immediately regardless of quality just to have the full set’ business model is obnoxious, and bad when it sticks some actual good games’ physical releases behind these rare Limited Run releases. For one example of that, see what is apparently going to be the final disc release for the Wii U, since Just Dance 2019 was not announced for the system, Axiom Verge for Wii U. I’d like to own that since it is the best version of the game, but not “how you get a Limited Run game” like, so oh well.

So uh, yeah, I hope Nintendo’s show is good, since unlike the rest of the industry they probably aren’t prepping for an all-new console next year…

Tuesday: Nintendo’s Show Begins

Nintendo always has its show last, Tuesday at 9am Pacific, or noon here. And it didn’t take long before it was clear that Nintendo won E3 again. I know I’ve almost always said that, but it was an easy runaway win this time, not close at all. With a sizable lineup of mostly good-looking games releasing this year, including many from the next few months, Nintendo had a lot to show and they did well with it. Nintendo has the advantage of supporting a current platform instead of moving towards a new one that will not be out for some time and it showed. There is really only one disappointment from Nintendo, that once again nothing was seen of Metroid. We know Metroid Prime 3 was recently rebooted with Retro making the game, but what about the rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy port that Retro supposedly made? I guess if it is real Nintendo doesn’t want to release it this year. That’s too bad. Otherwise, though, this was a great show with some nice surprises. Perhaps foremost among the surprises, we finally got — and saw released on the same day as its announcement, digitally at least — a translated, English-language version of the SNES classic Seiken Densetsu 3! It’s called “Trials of Mana” now, so I guess that’s now SD3’s official English name. It’s expensive at $40 for a digital collection of Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana, but… probably worth it anyway. Square also announced a full 3d remake of Trials of Mana, coming to Switch, PC, and PS4 next year. It looks a lot more ambitious than the apparently-poor 3d remake of Secret of Mana, which would be nice.

Also, Nintendo closed the conference by announcing that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in development. That’s cool I guess, though it’s definitely not really my kind of game. The trailer teases us once again with Zelda having a significant role, but they’ve done this too many times now for me to believe it. No, probably either she gets kidnapped right after that cutscene and you have to rescue her, or she’ll follow you around as your AI companion. Playable Zelda? “But then what would Link do?” … I hope I’m wrong this time, but sadly probably won’t be…

Other than that, Link’s Awakening’s remake was also shown at length, as expected. And… well, it has great graphics with its unique ‘toy’ artstyle, but in terms of gameplay and design it’s clear that it’s a very, VERY faithful remake of the original. It looks like everything is in the exact same places it was before, so someone like me who has played the original many times probably won’t get too much out of this apart from seeing the redone graphics. Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite games ever, so it’s fantastic that it will be getting more attention again, but I kind of would like to see something a bit more new than this is looking like it will be, I guess. For new content, beyond the removal of screen transitions and freer movement, Nintendo has only shown one thing: the photo hut from DX has been removed, and the photo collection element as well presumable, and a new customizable dungeon has been added there. Here you can use rooms from dungeons you’ve beaten, placing them into a dungeon to form your own custom dungeons. It’s a pretty cool idea that might be fun to play around with for a while, though it’s limited to just placing whole rooms, you aren’t designing anything more detailed than that so this is not a Legend of Zelda Maker. And other than that, it looks like LA again. Again, LA is one of my favorite games, but I love the original, it doesn’t need this remake for me to love the game! I will play this eventually, but the original black and white release will probably always be my favorite.

They showed a lot of other games as well. First, Daemon x Machina appeared again. This mech shooting action game that had a demo a few months ago; the demo wasn’t amazing, but was fun and I am kind of looking forward to this game. No More Heroes III was announced as well. I don’t care at all, I STRONGLY dislike some elements of what I have seen of the story of this franchise and don’t think I would like the gameplay either. Other games shown include Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, bringing back this long-running franchise after an olympics off; Pokemon Sword and Shield, which is sure to be the year’s big hit but isn’t something I care about; Mario Maker 2, which released a few weeks ago and as my last article shows is my Game of the Year for sure, despite some faults; Animal Crossing showed, though it has been delayed to 2020 and is a series I’ve never played or really wanted to play, but I do like that this time the female villager is getting the main focus in the trailers and gameplay and not the male one; Astral Chain, which sure looks like a Platinum action game, which is praise for some but not for me, I’ve never liked that kind of game much at all; and more. However, of course, F-Zero was not present, because that amazing series never will come back. Truly unfortunate. It needs to!

I watched a lot of the Nintendo Treehouse streams during E3, and they showed lots of footage of all these games and more. The Switch port of Dragon Quest XI looks to be the definitive version of that game for example. I might get it sometime. It was a good, fun show from Nintendo, packed with games and stuff to look forward to. Their World Championships stream on Saturday, before E3 began, was quite entertaining too. I particularly liked the Mario Maker 2 portion of that show, watching speedrunners compete to complete new Mario Maker levels as fast as possible was great, I would definitely watch competitions like that again.

Conclusion

Overall, Nintendo had a good show loaded wtih good games. Animal Crossing’s delay to next year leaves only Pokemon and the Link’s Awakening remakes to be the big holiday titles for the Switch this Christmas, but Pokemon is big enough that that should be fine for most. For me their big game is out already, Mario Maker 2.

As for everyone else, there were a few bright spots here and there, with some interesting indie games I mostly didn’t mention here and the promise of some great upcoming projects, but it is clear that a lot of developer attention is focusing on the still mmore than one year away PlayStation 5 and next Xbox. That’s okay, game development takes a long time, but it leaves somewhat sparse lineups of major titles on those platforms in the interim. Fortunately a lot of top modern games have very good replay value and Nintendo’s releasing games at a good pace, though, so things are fine for now. The industry will need to figure out what to do with E3, though — shows like this, with so many major publishers saying nothing, are not as exciting or important as the shows of years past. At what point does it collapse, with publishers tired of spending so much money for reduced returns? Or alternately, does it become another convention like a PAX, instead of the more industry-focused event that it was? That is a likely outcome, but we will have to see.

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First Impressions: Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) – The 2019 Game of the Year is here!

First, one little site update — I just noticed that my Ever Oasis First Impressions article was missing from the Table of Contents page, so that error is now fixed!  For anyone who missed out on that great 3DS title pick it up, it’s very very good.  But anyway, on to the article.

Yes, I know I haven’t yet done a post on this years’ E3 last month.  I should write at least something, but… for now, how about something even more recent: a First Impressions article on this month’s biggest release, Super Mario Maker 12 for the Nintendo Switch.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U / 3DS) was Exceptional!

Super Mario Maker on the Wii U was amazingly fun to play levels in, make levels in, and watch people make or play levels in on the internet. I didn’t have a Wii U when the first game released because I was foolish and didn’t get one until very late, but had a lot of fun watching videos online of people playing it, then I played a fair amount on 3DS once that version released, and on Wii U after I got one.  I only published one Mario Maker 1 level on the Wii U, though, and it was just a few months ago so almost no one played it, Mario Maker 1 activity is well down.  I’ll probably remake it (with some changes) on the Switch, and make new levels too I hope, but for anyone interested, here’s the level code, presuming it’s still there: 64C7-0000-03DC-1903  The game is the best game on the Wii U and probably the best of the generation.  That’s no easy statement, since Splatoon is also exceptional and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while not really my thing, is also very very good, but Mario Maker comes out on top, I think.

As for that 3DS version, while the missing features — no online level trading, no way to type in codes to follow creators or play specific levels, and such — are crippling, the long single player campaign made up for it and made it a great purchase.  It’s also a very funway to play random 100 Mario Challenge levels.


The Positives

But now, the sequel is out! As I said in the title, I’m pretty confident that this will be my game of the year. I certainly can’t think of anything that will challenge it for that; Link’s Awakening is sure to be amazing but isn’t a new game, and nothing else I can think of is really in contention.

When discussing the first game above, I said that the three things I love about it are playing levels, making levels, and watching people play the game online in videos.  And while it’s early, I’m already having fun with all three of those things in this fantastic sequel! Well, I haven’t made levels yet though I will, but playing and watching are both fantastic. And i will make levels, particularly once I get a good stylus for my Switch. For playing levels, Mario Maker 2 is like the first game but better. It has almost everything from the first game, but with more visual themes for the four game styles from the first game, a full new game style I will discuss in a later paragraph, and a whole bunch of new things added to the four main styles from the last game.  The biggest addition is sloped surfaces, aka slopes, and they are a really nice inclusion.  There are also new enemies, several new powerups in various modes, on/off switches which enable and disable blocks, snake blocks which follow a programmable track, the Angry Sun, and more. The new visual themes are also great, there are a full ten now! It’s pretty awesome stuff. As a Game Boy fan, I particularly like the inclusion of the Mario Land 1 Superball powerup, which turns your character grey, plays Mario Land 1-1 music, and gives you the Superball just as it was there, a bouncy ball which picks up items. This items’ use in Mario Maker is pretty obvious and great. The other new powerups are a hammer you can destroy some blocks with and giant pixel Mario. 

Other new additions include some theme-specific ones — the new Forest visual theme has water and land, just like it did in Mario World, and you can program how the water raises and lowers.  You can do the same for lava in the Castle theme as well.  Of course there is new music for the new themes in games which previously did not have those themes, just like the new music from MM1 such as SMB1 Airship music, and it’s great stuff.  One other very interesting addition is Night mode.  When you go into Night mode, each level theme changes dramatically — the forest’s water turns to poison, another goes into super-low-gravity mode like the Moon level in Mario Land 2, and more.  These allow for some fascinating changes to the regular Mario Maker formula.  The list of additions is substantial and fantastic. Super Mario Maker 2 is amazing, and Nintendo says that two MILLION levels have already been uploaded, which is pretty amazing. No Mario Maker 1 levels are playable in this version, but there are so many levels that that isn’t an issue.  Creators are picking up right where they left off in the first game, and it’s great.

One other major new addition is that you can now make requirements that you’ll need to complete in order to finish a stage.  In levels with a finishing requirement, you will NEED to do that thing to finish; if you get to the end of the stage without it, the goal will just be a black outline, you won’t be able to complete the stage until or unless you do that thing.  These rules include things such as ‘you must kill all enemies of type X’ to ‘you must get all the red keys’, and more.  They make levels a lot harder, and so far I’m not sure what I think of them; they do require you to play levels quite differently, but it’s not something that I’ve ever seen in a 2d Mario game before, and I like being able to finish a level when you manage to get to the end.  And given how many people are making extremely difficult levels in Mario Maker, these just allow people to make even HARDER insane ultra-difficult stages, which is sure to frustrate many.  Still, it’s an overall positive as an inclusion since it allows for some potentially cool stuff in levels that don’t abuse it.

The game adds one major new gameplay mode, based on a 2.5d take on the Wii U classic Mario 3D World.  It is kind of ironic that the major new theme is from a game not available on the Switch, but 3D World’s gameplay fits well in 2d in a way that an open-levels 3d game like Mario Odyssey would not, so the choice makes sense.  This new level style is great and has many unique elements which only exist in 3D World mode.  These include clear pipes you can travel through within areas, the cat suit, grille areas you can grab on to,  cannon things that shoot into the screen, blocks which alternate between two sets (red and blue disappearing blocks, that is), giant question mark blocks which make a row of blocks appear out of them, you now have a butt stomp attack, and a bunch more.  The cat suit is particularly worth mentioning, as they are not just kind of cute, they give you more moves and really open up movement, as the cat suited characters can freely climb walls, do a diagonal pounce attack when in the air, and more.  It’s just as great as it was in 3D World.  Level themes are 3D World-inspired as well, with very different looks from the others in the game.  3D World style is awesome and I am really liking how levels set there play, they are a refreshing change from the standard gameplay of the rest of the styles.  3D World style is one of the best things about Mario Maker 2 so far.  A lot of stuff from the other four modes is missing, but the new stuff more than makes up for it. When creating you can’t transfer from the main four styles (the same ones from the first game) to the new 3D World one, it resets your stage, but they’re very different so that’s fine.  Mario 3D World really was an amazing game, I like it just as much or more than Mario Odyssey.  Nintendo still really should make a Switch port of the game, way too many people missed it because of how sadly poorly the Wii U sold!  Many of the Wii U games that have not been ported to Switch make sense, but this is the biggest one that does not.

One other new change adds more playable characters throughout all modes apart for Story mode.  This time you can play as not only Mario online and in level creation, but also Luigi, Toad, or Toadette. This is a great addition.  It’s too bad that Toadette is now Nintendo’s female character in Mario games and not the Princess or Rosalina as they had before, but it’s better than having no actual female characters as was the case in the first one, even if it does continue Nintendo’s strange, and somewhat inexplicable, love for Toads — also see the 3DS and Wii U Paper Mario games for a lot more of that. Anyway, you choose which character you want in the pause menu, so it’s not set by level creators. 

Additionally, on a more neutral node, in the first game all new levels went into the 100 Marios mode, where you had 100 lives to try to beat 15 levels (or 6 levels, in Super Expert difficulty). Well, 100 Marios mode has been replaced with an endless mode, where you have only a few lives and see how far you can get. With only 5 lives at the start instead of 100, getting far is a lot harder this time; yes, you can get extra lives in levels, but it’s tough. I also miss the goal of trying to finish 15 levels and beat the game; instead you now just play until you lose. There are online leaderboards, but still I don’t know that it’s an improvement.   On the other hand though, story-wise there is a major improvement here — Mario Maker 1 presented the usual sexist trash of “Bowser kidnapped the princesses, beat these levels to rescue her” at the beginning of each 100 Marios run.  This time, though, it is an endless mode, and story-wise it just says ‘Mario is going on a journey’,and off he  sets.  Oddly, this animation is the same no matter which of the four characters you’re playing as, but they will appear ingame.  Gameplay-wise the endless mode is not as fun as 100 Marios mode because you start with a sparse five lives so getting much of anywhere is extremely difficult on the higher settings and also because they changed the algorythm so unplayed levels never appear in endless mode, but more on that later; storyline-wise, Mario Maker 2 is a great improvement over the original as it thankfully ditches the sexist “rescue the princess again” plot of that game.  It does make it pretty confusing about why the Princess isn’t playable in this game though, only Toadette.  I don’t understand Nintendo’s love for Toads.  Oh well.

There is also a multiplayer mode, though I’ve heard very bad things about the online play’s quality. I haven’t tried it for myself yet though, and it’s online only — oddly, unlike NSMBU, this game doesn’t have four player co-op on a single system, so far at least.  At least there is a multiplayer mode though, the first one didn’t have anything, so it’s great to see the addition.   Also there is a new local two player creation mode option, but it requires Joycons for some bizarre reason. I mean, the game supports the pro controller in creation and regular play, it’s what I use to play the game with single player! Why require both players in the two player creation mode to use joycons? Nintendo does very strange, poorly thought through things sometimes… but again, that they added multiplayer at all is good, it wasn’t in the first game.

The game has a single player story mode as well, and it’s pretty well done. It has about as many levels as the one in the 3DS game, but has a lot higher production values this time, with a world map, stuff to collect, choice about what order you play the levels in, and more. And some amusing conversations are here too, like the ones with Mary O. and Yamamura the pigeon in that game. Yamamura does return in this game in the tutorial mode, check it out if you need help learning how to play and create levels.  But in Story mode, you play as Mario, rebuilding the Princess’s castle after Undo Dog accidentally undid it. Each level has a different challenge to overcome, and introduces you to a new element of the design. It’s pretty good, though it’s not what I play Mario Maker for, really; the weird, always mixed in quality fanmade levels are.  I also find it a little odd how you have a little bit of 3d control in the hub world, making me want to use the analog stick, but then all levels are of course on a flat plane as all Mario Maker levels are.  Why does the hub have that depth, it’s kind of strange.  I know some platformers do have 3d hubs with 2.5d levels, and it can work great, but it’s better when both are intended to be controlled with the same thing; that’s not the case here, you really want a d-pad in levels.  This is pretty minor though, and Story mode’s great fun.  It’s not the same in challenge and length as a NSMB game campaign, but there’s more than enough here to keep you playing for a good while, and hopefully learning about good Mario stage design as well.  That tutorial mode has lots more on that line available for anyone who wants it.

Negatives

So the game is mostly amazing, but it does have a few issues. First, some little touches from the first game, like the skinny Mario and the weird sounds Mario sometimes made while falling into pits are gone. The mostly Nintendo-focused Youtube channel GameXplain did a great video explaining a bunch of the more significant things removed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-Y3vvHvKCk.  Some of these things are minor, but others I do miss.  One other important thing removed, with one exception, are the numerous costumes that Mario used to be able to wear in the first game which made you appear to be numerous other characters.  These only existed in the Super Mario Bros. 1 graphical style, but allowed for a huge variety of character looks to play the game, and for themed levels with the character to match the design of the stage.  It was too bad that they were only in the SMB1 style, but still were pretty cool, and they added more costumes over time.  That’s all gone here; you can only play as the four characters and nothing else, and you can’t theme a stage for one of the four characters because the player chooses who they are, not the level creator.  That’s good — otherwise a lot of levels would surely require everyone to be Mario — but it is worth mentioning.  Oh, that one old costume that returns?  It’s the giant pixel Mario, which is now a new powerup you can get.  It’s a nice addition.  It’s too bad that the costumes are gone, but I don’t mind all that much because the restriction to only being able to use them in Mario 1 was quite limiting anyway, they either needed to be in all of the modes or none this time, and they chose none.  Oh well.

Additionally, creation is a lot worse than it was before because in my opinion, capacative touch screens are awful compared to reactive for serious gaming purpose. I’ve been saying this for years, but still believe it, and this shows it very clearly! Fingers are horrible for precise touch, so you can’t do much of use with just your hands. So, you’ll need a capacitive stylus that works with the system and allows for precision, which is an additional expense and will have trouble matching the precision of a reactive stylus if they even CAN do that — those awful mushy tips are the worst for precision to say the least!  With a good capacitive stylus you can get close to Mario Maker 1’s level of control, but I doubt it’ll ever match it because of the precision limitations of capacitive touch methods.  And since the Switch doesn’t come with a stylus or have a place to store a stylus in the system, it’s not nearly as convenient to use either.  This is a pretty big limitation.  Alternately, you will need to learn the button controls, which I haven’t tried much yet but won’t be as good as direct touch control is.  Nintendo put some effort into making button controls that work, with circular item-selection menus which make choosing what you want to place fairly easy, but it’s no match for the speed and precision of a stylus.  Considering that creation is half of the game, this is a pretty big problem.  The millions of posted stages show that people are overcoming these limitations, but it is a downgrade.

Nintendo’s awful online services are also a problem.  Friend codes are a thing in this game, and you can’t bring your Switch friends list, if you have one, into the game; oh no, that would actually make sense, and Nintendo isn’t about making sense when it comes to online anything. So no, you’ve got to trade friends codes outside of the game, and add them manually in Mario Maker. Alternately, if you have a level code you can follow creators that way, but still, they make it a lot harder than it should be. That’s to be expected from Nintendo, but still, it’s annoying.  Every player makes a Mario Maker character for online level trading this time too, and unlike Mario Maker 1, this time everyone needs a unique username.  Unfortunately, Nintendo has a ten character limit on their usernames, so almost anything reasonably legible was taken immediately. For a game requiring everyone to have a unique username and a large playerbase, you need more than a paltry ten characters for names.    There are also horrible lag problems in the simultaneous 4-player multiplayer online mode that are not fixed yet.  You can’t save or view replays of good runs within the game, either.  Times, yes; replays, no.  And Nintendo Online is a paid service?

And last, I’ve referenced this earlier, but in the new endless mode that replaced 100 Marios mode, unplayed levels will never appear this time! Now only levels with a like will. Instead, new levels ONLY go into the New Levels tab in the single-level selection option, so the only ways to get your level played and liked, so it appears in the endless queue, is either to know people who will play your level, beg people online to play your level like everyone else, or hope people play it in the new levels queue, that’s it. I’m sure they were trying to fix the “lots of terrible levels in the 100 Marios mode” problem the first one had sometimes, but this isn’t good either. Also it can take several days for levels to even get into the queue, at the moment… not great. This issue does seem to be getting better, but the basic design of how new levels are handled is not good. I’ve seen the idea of a new levels mode, like the endless mode, but just for new, unplayed/unfinished stages, and that’s a good idea, I think.  Having Endless mode start you with only five lives was a mistake as well I think, it’s not nearly enough to get very far.  The challenge of seeing whether you could beat 15 stages (or 6 stages, in Super Expert mode) with 100 lives is gone; now I’m lucky to get even a few stages in on Hard.  As a result of all this I’ve been playing a lot more single levels from the level browser, often ones from the New (unplayed) Levels tab, instead of lots of 100 Marios mode like I did in the last game.  It works well so I don’t mind too much, but it probably is a downgrade overall.

Conclusion


Overall, though, despite some issues, Super Mario Maker 2 is absolutely amazing.  I’ve been playing a lot of this game, and for playing levels, it’s everything the first game was but better thanks to all the new stuff!  What is here is pretty amazing,  and there’s a lot here.  It is fantastic that Mario Maker is back and on a more popular system this time, because while the Switch is a lot less perfect for this game than the Wii U was, it’s still fantastic stuff and an all-time great.  Mario Maker is one of Nintendo’s best ideas ever and it’s really great that it’s now on the Switch.  If I had to choose which of the two games is better overall, right now, I might lean towards the first one because creation is so much better in ways this game can’t match, but it’s close, and that says a lot given the limitations of the capacitive screen.  It’s really a case of which is better, better play thanks to all the added options in Mario Maker 2, or better creation thanks to the better screen of Mario Maker 1?  Different people will have different opinions there. 

Really though, the best answer is ‘they’re both amazing!’.  This is an exceptional, must-play game which anyone with a Switch should definitely buy.  And it will just get better with time, too, as updates are coming, such as one that will add the ability to play against friends online.  I hope to see a second new graphics mode get added eventually as well, in the conspicuously empty space next to 3D World’s; either one of the Game Boy games’ styles or Super Mario Bros. 2 would be perfect additions to this game!  They have already added the Superball, so how about the rest of Super Mario Land’s gameplay as a theme, Nintendo? That would be pretty awesome.  Regardless, though, this is a game that I, and a lot of other people, will surely be playing on and off for years.  It’s outstanding and provides endless hours of incredible fun, and aggravating frustration, as you play the near-endless variety of levels people have created.  Seeing what people can create in this game, with its familiar mechanics juxtaposed with levels that may be good and well balanced, or absurdly easy, or absurdly hard to the point of near-impossibility for most, or anything in between, is fascinating and one of the most interesting things in gaming.

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Mattel Intellivision – Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 2

Finally, part two of this two-part series is complete!  There are 24 summaries this time, which added to the 19 (really 17) from the first list, completes my Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries list so far.

Before I begin though, I got two new games, one from the part of the alphabet covered last time, and also got an IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon, so I will begin with the two IntelliVoice game summaries from part one redone because I can play the games now, then the new game, and then the second half of the summaries.  The IntelliVoice is a nice unit because it outputs the speech through your TV, not from a speaker on the box like some synthesizers then did such as the Odyssey 2 one, and can do multiple different voices, which is a nice touch in the games.  Unfortunately, only four games plus one Intellivision Computer Module game support it at all, which is disappointing.  Why didn’t any of the later titles optionally support the IntelliVoice, with voices added here and there if you have one, like a bunch of O2 games do with the O2 The Voice?  But no, games either require it or don’t support it at all, unfortunately.  So, it’s a $20 addon for four games, which isn’t great but is probably worth it for the low cost.

Table of Contents

B-17 Bomber
Bomb Squad
Frogger
Microsurgeon
Mission X
Motocross (aka Moto-Cross)
Night Stalker
Pinball (1983)
Safecracker
Sea Battle
Sharp Shot
Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing)
Snafu
Space Armada
Space Battle
Space Hawk
Space Spartans
Star Strike
Tennis
Triple Action
Tron: Deadly Discs
Vectron
Venture
Zaxxon

The Summaries

 


B-17 Bomber – One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early ’80s game. In probably the first attempt at a “realistic” flight simulator on a console, you control a B-17 bomber during World War II. Your mission is to choose a target in occupied Europe, fly to your destination, bomb the site, and return alive. This will be pretty hard, though! With many different jobs to control all at once, including four gunners, pilot, navigator, and bomber, challenging enemies which can very easily permanently knock out your gun turrets, tricky bombing, and limited fuel, finishing even a short-range run in this game is tough indeed. This is yet another game that’s extremely impressive for the time, but may be hard to go back to today.

To start, you choose a target on a map. There are different kinds of targets, including airfields, factories, and more. Closer targets will be easier to deal with, ones deeper into Europe harder, of course. Then, you set the acceleration up and then switch to the pilot’s seat and take off. The whole map is rendered in 3d, impressively. The framerate is very low of course, but that’s to be expected, this game is a fully 3d flight game, on the Intellivision! The manual is invaluable here, by the way, you need it to know what to do. I don’t have an overlay for this game, but fortunately do have a manual. Once you reach Europe, enemy fighters will come at you, and a voice sample will tell you which direction they’re coming from. It’s quite useful. Then, you switch to that gun, and will need to try to shoot them down before they hit your turrets, which you have one of on each side of the plane. Finally, a pre-crash flight combat game where the turret-style flight combat actually makes sense! I found hitting the enemy fighters frustratingly hard, though, and you have no margin for error: if you miss the enemy fighters will shoot your turret in notime, and if a turret gets hit even once that’s it, you lose it for the rest of the run. That’s maybe too harsh, but oh well. You’ll need to navigate by looking at the map every so often, there aren’t on-screen indicators telling you where to go to get to your target, by the way. Once you get there, you can switch to bombing view, and try to drop bombs with the right timing so you hit the target. Bombing is not too hard, but you only have a short window over the target. Then, you’ll need to try to turn around and fly back, though good luck with that, in my tries I didn’t have even close to enough fuel to get back.

With practice you’ll get better, of course, but while this is a pretty cool game for the time, with complex gameplay and the IntelliVoice for very helpful voice samples in different voices for enemy warnings, various stations, and more, the core gameplay is simple and challenging. The turret-shooting sequences are more frustrating than fun, I think. Still, if you have the hardware and a manual take a look, B-17 Bomber’s interesting. Hard and dated, but interesting for sure. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bomb Squad – One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb. In this somewhat imposingly difficult game, you’ve got a lot to do to defuse the bomb. First you choose a difficulty, with three speeds and up to three numbers to find available. Even on the slowest speed and only needing one number, though, at first this game is tough! I’m sure that it gets easier with experience, but good memorization skills will be required to be good at this game. Once you choose the difficulty, a grid of numbers appears, with each number broken up into an 8×4 grid of spaces, fitting with the number of LEDs used to display the numbers. You then choose a space that you want to know the status of, hit the correct button, and you go into a puzzle.

Next, you’ll see a screen with a lot of wires and circuitry on it, and some objects on the board that you can interact with. Then the Intellivoice will tell you the order you need to replace or remove some of those pieces in. You’ll need to memorize this order and what you need to do in each one; you can press a button to have it repeat the instructions, but this uses time, of course. Having a voice tell you this is a great use of the voice unit, it works very well. Next, you use your tools to remove those chips and replace them with what’s needed. Accessed with face buttons, you’ve got cutting scissors, grabber pliers, a soldering iron, and a fire extinguisher. First you cut out the object you’re removing. Voice instructions will helpfully tell you to move up, left, right, and such, to get your object correctly centered to make the cut. Again, that is great use of the voice unit here; this game wouldn’t work well without it. Next you switch to the pliers, grab the chip, take it out, and drop it off the field on the right. Now, you interact with side buttons, and while most Intellivision games duplicate the buttons on the left and right sides of the controller for left or right handed players, this game doesn’t do that; grab is on the left and drop on the right. It’s a bit odd, but the game is slow-paced enough that I guess it works. Before you drop it make note of the shape and color of the object, though, because when replacing, you need to replace each part with one that matches its color or shape. Next, put the right part in, solder in the wires connecting it to the board — don’t forget this step! — and then move on to the next part that needs dealing with. Once all parts on a board are fixed, you hit a number button to return to the main screen, and choose another space. It’s a slow process. You can move the cursor faster by holding the upper button, but still this is a slow-paced and very memorization-heavy game.

All this time, a timer is counting down. On the slowest setting you have a half hour. Once you think that you know the number code, or are almost out of time and have to try anyway, you can try to guess the code to disarm the bomb. If you get the code right, you win and save the day, but if you’re wrong the bomb goes off and blows up the city. There’s a little animation to end the game showing those results. Overall, Bomb Squad is a pretty interesting and experimental puzzle game, but I don’t find it very fun, so far anyway; the ticking timer makes the game very tense, and I find it hard to keep everything memorized. I’ve watched a video of a good player playing the hardest mode of this game well, and it’s quite impressive but I doubt I ever could be that good. The gameplay is all rote memorization and repetition, too. You go through the same steps with every part, slowly removing and replacing it, and it gets repetitive. Bomb Squad is very interesting and is definitely worth a look, but some will like the gameplay loop more than others and I’m not sure that I will play this game a lot more. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Frogger – One player. Frogger is one of the more popular arcade games of the early ’80s. In this simple but quite fun game, you play as a frog, trying to get across a road and dangerous river to the safe ground on the other side. You move left and right, dodging cars and trying to not fall in the water in your quest to get all of the frogs across the road. Originally by Konami, the early home ports of Frogger were made by Parker Bros., this version included. Parker Bros. released many more games on Atari 2600 and 5200 than Intellivision, but did have six Intellivision releases, including this one. And very much like the Atari 5200 version, this game is a tale of contrasts. In particular, the contrast between the reasonably nice-looking representation of this arcade classic on the one hand, and the frustratingly poor, imprecise controls on the other. The graphics here are probably closer to the Atari 2600 version than the 5200, but still, they look good. However, the circle pad, like the Atari 5200 joystick, is kind of awful for arcade games like this that demand precision! Sure, most of the time I make the move I intended to make in this game, but I’m sure to accidentally make a wrong move sometimes, and the controller is more at fault than me, I think. Getting into the far-left top spot is particularly difficult in this version, it seems, more so than it probably should be. Frogger is a great game and this is mostly a good version of the game, with nice graphics and accurate audio, but the barely serviceable to bad controls really bring it down. Overall Frogger for Intellivision is not recommended because of the controls. Stick to versions on platforms with accurate digital controls.  Frogger is an arcade port of a game that has been released on dozens of platforms over the years, most with controls better than you’ll find here.


Microsurgeon – One player. Microsurgeon is a fascinating, but extremely slow-paced, early twinstick shooter from Imagic. Yes, this is a twin-stick shooter! This game has a very interesting concept: you control a miniscule robotic drone, and fly around inside a human body to destroy ailments. You can choose different patients, which all look identical but vary in difficulty, as the number of illnesses increases with each difficulty level. Oddly, you do not continue to fix multiple patients in each game; instead, once a patient is saved or dies that’s it, the game ends. You will need to start a new game with a different patient to challenge the harder levels. It works. The controls are done pretty well, though they take some getting used to. You use two controllers, and move with one disc while shooting with the other. Buttons on one of the pads switch between your three different weapons… that is, I mean medicines, that you can shoot. You need to select the correct type of medicine for each different ailment. Which one to use for each illness is listed in the manual. Another button lists the health status of all body parts on screen, so you know where to go, presuming you know where in the body each of those parts is that is.

This game may seem like a lot at first, but Microsurgeon is actually a somewhat simple game once you get used to it. Using your little drone, you move around the body, going to the damaged organs and fixing them by shooting the bad cells with the correct kinds of medicines until the organ is healed. While you do this, the body will try to destroy the intruder by sending white blood cells and such at you; try not to kill too many of those, if you can. Microsurgeon is an interesting game, but you move excruciatingly slowly. You move more quickly in blood vessels or other passages, and very slowly if going through organ walls and the like, but either way you move very slow. This helps keep the tension up, and makes games last a reasonable amount of time, which is important for a game where the whole body only takes a couple of screens, but can make it feel boring, as you slowly edge around towards those damaged organs so you can shoot the bad things in them. This game has a great idea and it is good, and is definitely innovative for the time, but the slow pacing keeps it from staying fun, I think. Microsurgeon was only also released on one other platform, the TI 99/4A computer. That version is better, with higher-res graphics and on-screen patient status and minimap displays, but the core gameplay is the same.


Mission X – This is another port of a Data East arcade game, along with Burger Time and Lock ‘n Chase. For some reason Data East was the only arcade company Mattel got rights to at the time, I wonder why; I guess Atari and Coleco locked down all the other big ones? Anyway, this game is a vertical scrolling shmup, but it has a height component, you can fly up and down… which naturally makes hitting flying enemies in front of you nearly impossible, since judging height is not going to happen. Fortunately, most targets are on the ground; you spend most of this game bombing Xevious-style, at a target in front of your ship which moves forward or back depending on your altitude. It’s neat to see a scrolling shmup from ’82, but this game gets old fast. The height component is a real issue too, one which makes this game much harder to deal with than regular shmups, when you’re fighting planes and not only ground targets.

That most of the targets are on the ground isn’t the greatest either though, as you need to be very precise to hit them with your bombs, making hitting them frustratingly difficult. I never have really liked this style of bombing in shmups, either here, in Xevious, or elsewhere; the close, and unchangeably set, forward distance you can bomb at is no fun! This game tries to deal with that by letting you bomb closer when you’re at lower altitude and farther forwards when you’re at higher altitude, and that does work, but you still need to be very precise to hit your often small little targets. And while it’s helpful for bombing, again the height component makes fighting those initially few airborne foes very hard to hit as there is no indicator of when you are lined up with them, so this kind of design has issues either way. Anyway, though, Mission X is an okay game, but with sometimes frustrating gameplay and almost no variety, it has some issues. I like shmups, but these very early scrolling shooters often aren’t my thing; I don’t love most Atari 2600 scrolling shooters either, Vanguard and such. Mission X is an interesting and perhaps influential game for the time, but ultimately is average, I think. Arcade port.  This is the only home console port of the game I know of, as unlike many other Data East games Mission X hasn’t been re-released on newer formats.   The only other version I can find mention of is a homebrew Atari ST port made in the early ’90s.  So if you have an Intellivision, pick this up.


Motocross (aka Moto-Cross) – One or two player simultaneous. Motocross is a slightly newer overhead racing game than Auto Racing. And like Auto Racing, the controls are a bit tricky. Motocross takes what Auto Racing did and makes a more complex experience out of it, with rolling hilly terrain, an AI opponent to race against if you want, and a track editor. The game also has both car-relative or camera-relative control options, so anyone should find one they prefer. Whether it’s better than Auto Racing or not is a matter of opinion, though, because this is another game which may have tried to do too much for its hardware, as the framerate is excruciatingly low, and figuring out the terrain undulations can be pretty difficult at this resolution! Additionally, the method this game uses to make both bikes visible is problematic. In this game, there is no split screen. Instead, both bikers are on a single screen together, and if one person gets too far ahead they stop, and will not be able to move forwards again until the other person has caught up a bit. This can lead to incredibly annoying games of tug-of-war, as the person behind tries to catch up, gets a little forwards, then instantly is pushed back thanks to the person in first now being able to move again, leading to both stopping and starting repeatedly unless the one ahead slows down to let the other person catch up… which means you might get passed, of course, since you can’t take a real lead. When this happens it’s not much fun. I have played newer racing games that use a similar method to this, such as Moto Roader on the Turbografx, and it’s frustrating there as well, though it is not quite as bad as this; that game doesn’t have the stop-start issue. Micro Machines’ solution, with a points system, is a far better one.

Despite the issues, though, I do appreciate the AI opponent option. The AI tries to stick to a good line so they are a reasonable challenge, and having someone to race against adds quite a bit to this game over Auto Racing, even with the issue I outlined above. I have always much preferred racing against opponents, rather than pure time-trials. But with its extremely low framerate, choppy gameplay, simple track-layout design that struggles to hold your interest through the relatively long laps of each race, and sometimes annoying way leads are handled, Motocross is at best only slightly better than Auto Racing. I’m not constantly going off the track in this game like I do in Auto Racing so the controls feel better, and again I like racing against someone, but while it’s an interesting early take on motorcycle racing which does things I haven’t seen in any other pre-crash racing games, Motocross is a bit below average. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Night Stalker – One player. Night Stalker is a slow-paced single screen topdown shooter. This game plays a bit like a slower-paced and deliberate, and slightly stealthy, take on Berzerk or Wizard of Wor, except sort of like in some other games like Turtles, before you can fire you need to get ammo by picking up gun powerups. Yes, you start out with none, and they will randomly spawn around the maze as you go. You play as a little guy in the classic Intellivision style, and move around a single-screen maze, collecting ammo and shooting bats, spiders, and robots. The graphics are nicely drawn, with creepy enemies and an environment made of black walls and a blue background, with some nice touches like a large spider-web in one corner. There is only one screen, unfortunately, though; multiple screens would have been nice. The gameplay is good, but extremely repetitive. This may be a maze game, but unlike Pac-Man and most other games in the genre, not only is the game endless like most such games, but there aren’t even discreet levels. Instead, you just go around the screen, collecting ammo and shooting things, as the game slowly gets tougher as more and harder enemies appear, until you die too many times and get Game Over.

So, your little guy will explore the one-screen maze, get gun powerups, shoot enemies, and repeat. You get points for killing enemies, and that is the only way to score here; there are no pickups that get you points, unlike most maze games, but like Berzerk, this is a pure shooter. Your movement speed is somewhat slow, so you will need to think ahead to avoid the shots the robot will shoot at you, giving this game a different feel from Wizard of Wor or Berzerk. The challenge level is fairly well-balanced, as it starts easy but gets hard as you go, but the very simple gameplay and lack of any alternate screens makes this game very repetitive. Sure, it has nice creepy graphics and okay to good gameplay, but the gameplay loop doesn’t have enough to it, I think. I’m not a big fan of Berzerk either, it’s just a bit too simplistic and makes me wish that there was a point to your quest beyond just playing until you lose, but at least there the maze changed on each screen. Here it’s always the same, and having to go pick up ammo all the time is both bad and good; it does add complexity, but running out of ammo can be frustrating. Overall Night Stalker is a fairly highly-regarded game on the Intellivision, but I don’t think I will be going back very often; it’s too repetitive and just killing things for points until you die isn’t enough of a purpose to keep me playing this long-term. Still, it is good, if you don’t mind the slow pace. There is also an Atari 2600 version of the game, under the title Dark Cavern. It’s not quite the same as the Intellivision game, with worse graphics and less complex enemies and such, so while it’s an okay, average game, the Intellivision version is a bit better. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Pinball (1983) – One player. I had pretty low expectations for this game because the other pinball games I have played on consoles from the ’70s are pretty bad, particularly in their physics, but Pinball surprised me. Going far beyond pinball games on the 2600 or Odyssey 2, not only does this game have multiple screens and some solidly good table design, but for the time the ball physics are actually decent. And yes, there are even multiple different screens in the table, instead of just one! The table here even kind of looks like a pinball table, too, except stretched horizontally of course. The graphics aren’t amazing, but looks alright, and having multiple screens is a big advantage over other pinball console games of the time. The game controls well, with the expected controls with a flipper on each side and tilt buttons, and is reasonably fun to play. Figuring out the scoring options, how to get to the second screen, and such are fun and will keep you coming back for a while. Pinball is a pretty limited game from a modern pinball game standpoint, but for the pre-crash era it is probably the best pinball console game I have played. The game usually is not as cheap as a lot of Intellivision games are, but it’s a pretty good game and released later in the system’s initial run, so perhaps not as many copies sold as did for earlier games. Pinball for Intellivision is well worth playing if you like pinball, to see a console pinball game that does about as much as one could in this era. That isn’t saying all that much, pinball physics were not properly possible yet and this holds this game back for sure, but it’s something. Do try Pinball if you can. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Safecracker – One player. Safecracker is an interesting, but strange, Intellivision-exclusive Imagic game where you play as a spy, breaking into safes all over a city. This pretty good-looking game has two elements, driving and safecracking. You start the game with 7, 8, or 9, for Easy, Medium, or Hard. Once you begin, first you drive around the city, going to a building the game directs you to. The directions are obtuse, as the game has a colored border that changes colors based on which direction you need to go at each intersection, so you’d better have that manual to know which color means which direction. This is definitely confusing until you get used to it, and after more than a few games I still can’t; even after looking up the manual online, the whole colors-for-directions thing is very confusing, and figuring out which buildings you’re actually going to is quite annoyingly difficult. At first you’re looking for Embassies, which have diamond-shaped windows. You need to pull over by the diamond windows, stop, and hit Enter to go in and try to take on the safe. It’s easy to miss the buildings and wander around lost, though; these directions are hard to follow and don’t make much sense.

Additionally, the turning controls are odd — you don’t turn with the circle, but by holding the lower button and then hitting left or right on the circle to turn. You cycle between directions as you tap left or right while holding the button, or turn around by hitting down while hitting the button. This is also confusing and poorly thought through. Using the circle on its own moves you around in the lane, to avoid oncoming civilian traffic or the police. The controls work, awkwardly, but could be better. The graphics are nice, though, and the large city scrolls well, better than in Auto Racing or Motocross I would say. It’s a little jerky and there are only a handful of buildings that repeat, but it looks great. You’re just driving at first, but as you progress, the police will try to stop your car. You can shoot back at them to get them out of your way. I only wish this nice graphics engine was running a driving game that’s fun to play… oh well.

If you manage to find your next target building and stop at it, your spy will enter, and you’re faced with the other part of the game: the titular safe-cracking. Here, you need to figure out what number will open the safe, giving you its contents. You hit one side button to quickly make numbers scroll by, and when it passes the target number it’ll beep. Get close and then get to the number by increasing the count by one with the other button, and you’ll unlock the safe. There is a tight time limit, so this can be tricky. If you want, there is a TNT button (on the overlay, it’s 4 I think) that will destroy regular safes, giving you the contents but alerting the police and not giving you a Treasury number. Either way, you return to your car and follow the directions to drive to your hideout in town, where you see your score and such. You then move on to the next target building, using the same process, but with more numbers to guess and police to avoid. Your goal is to get four numbers from other safes that unlock the safe in the Treasury building in the city. Crack that safe and the game probably ends. I haven’t gotten anywhere remotely near that far though, sadly. Safecracker has a good concept and engine, but the bad driving controls and very confusing directions make this a game to probably avoid, unfortunately, unless you have a lot of patience for this kind of thing.


Sea Battle – Two players required. This is a sadly two-player-only naval strategy game. It looks pretty interesting and is way above anything like this on Atari, so it’s really unfortunate that they didn’t make any AI for the game. The game plays on a single screen, and two players, each with a fleet, move ships around in an effort to defeat the other player’s fleet and take their base. The map is well-drawn and looks good. This game is a strategy game much more so than it is action, so it takes some learning to figure out how to play, but if you have someone to play against and know how, it looks like it could be fun. Unfortunately, I won’t have many opportunities to play this one because it’s multiplayer only. Oh well… This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Sharp Shot – Two player simultaneous (or one player with no opponent). This very simple minigame collection looks like it was for kids based on the box, and it’s pretty simplistic — it’s a one-button game where you just need to hit the button at the right time to do something. There are four minigames on the cart. One minigame is football passing. You control the quarterback, and hit the button at the right moment to throw the ball straight ahead to an open player. In the next one, you shoot enemies in space when they fly through your target sight. Hit the button with the right timing. In the third, you are an archer, and shoot enemies with arrows. You move back and forth automatically, and have to shoot with the right timing to hit the enemies. And in the last minigame, you are a ship, shooting enemy ships with torpedoes as they move into your path. The game has okay, average graphics for the console and the four minigames give it some variety, but they are all extremely, extremely simplistic one-button affairs. If you hit the button at the right times you get points, if you don’t you won’t. It gets boring in minutes. This is meant as a two player only game, so the two players compete to see who got a better score, so there isn’t any AI opponent. You can play solo though, if you record your best scores on paper or such. Either way it’s not that good really; Sharp Shot had an idea, but is too simple and boring to be any good. It may be amusing for a couple of minutes, but even back then I’m sure you can find much better kids’ games than this. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing) – One or two player alternating. Skiing is another game which shows Mattel’s focus on making the Intellivision the home for more realistic and complex games, when compared to the Atari 2600. So, where skiing games for Atari or the Odyssey 2 are very simple ski-straight-down affairs where you just move left and right to stay in the gates, Intellivision Skiing has much trickier controls and much improved graphics. Does that make for better gameplay, though? Well, maybe, or maybe not. First, like those games, there is no AI opponent here; either you take turns with another human, or you’re only competing against yourself to see what best times you can get in each of the several ski racing modes available. The game does have those more realistic controls, though, and while that makes it different, it also means that turning is a lot harder than in those other skiing games. You’ll need to turn hard and accurately to make the turns, and will slow down to a crawl if you don’t turn correctly. You can jump and slow down with the side buttons, and will need to do both at the right times, but correctly angling your skiier with the disc is the most important challenge. You will need to memorize each course in order to do well at all, as you do need to have some sense of where the gates are to be able to make them in good time.

The game is okay, but this is another game where the disc controller makes for tougher controls than you’d have on a d-pad, as it’s just not precise at all. You need to be exactly lined up with the gates in order to make them and not have to stop and lose all your speed, but turn just a little too much and oops, you stopped anyway. Once you get used to it the game plays okay, but where Activision’s Skiing for Atari 2600 is a very simple but fun little game, the slightly more simmish style here has probably aged worse; it’s not actually realistic, it’s just enough so to be a lot less fun until you put more time into it. The game looks alright though, with nicely drawn trees and such. In gameplay, however, this is another average game for this system. Seeing a slightly more realistic take on skiing from 1980 is interesting, but the controls can be frustrating and the pace slow. The game does have speed options, but it always feels a little slow due to the turning. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Snafu – One or two player simultaneous. Snafu is Mattel’s take on the classic game Snake, except in multiplayer, against human and/or computer opposition. The game has a bunch of diffent modes, and is somewhat impressive. In fact, this game is my favorite Intellivision game that I’ve played so far. So, being a Snake-inspired multiplayer game, Snafu is a lot like Surround on Atari 2600 — think Tron’s Light Cycles, but before that, and with up to four players on screen instead of Surround’s two. Yes, four. You can compete against three AIs at a time too, and indeed that is the default, which is pretty awesome. No “multiplayer only” disappointment here! There is also a two human and two AI mode, for multiplayer play. As in the games that inspired it, in Snafu each player controls a moving dot which represents a vehicle, and which leaves a trail behind it. Everyone is always moving, and if a vehicle runs into any players’ trails, or another player, they are destroyed and their trails are removed from the board. So, as players lose the board opens up, though whether the remaining players can capitalize on that depends on their situation.

The core gameplay here is always the same, try to be the last one alive, but Snafu has many variations on that basic theme present that you can play. The modes include simpler ones with only the regular four-direction movement of most games in this genre, and some with eight-direction movement, which is a lot to get used to in a snake game; I’ve never used eight-direction movement in a snake or lightcycle game before, I don’t think! But it’s here, and it’s pretty interesting. There are also variations for how many obstacles are on the screen from the start, from none to quite a few. Once you select a mode, you select how many wins it will take to get an overall winner. Then, you play that mode, with each player, or computer, getting a point for each win until one reaches the target number. With that the game is over and that competitor wins. There is sadly no championship or anything, only single games that end once a player wins after which you select a new mode to play, but still, for a game this early Snafu is pretty feature-rich; that kind of thing became more common later on.

The game controls fairly well, and the Intellivision disc gives you good control of your direction, but eight directions in this genre is more than I’ve seen before and it is hard to get used to at first. It is probably advisable to stick to the more traditional four-direction modes at first to get used to the game. They are also a lot of fun, and play like you’d expect. Then, after a while, try the weirder stuff like 8-direction mode. You can pass through a diagonal trail if you’re heading on the right diagonal angle to it, so this adds a lot of strategy to the game. I like Snake and Tron lightcycle games quite a bit, and this is a very good one, with features I haven’t seen elsewhere and some good competitive gameplay. Once you get used to the 8-direction movement on the disc, the additional movement options it opens up make for some fun and challenging gameplay, which allows you to escape from certain death… or run into even more walls, depending. The other gameplay options are interesting to play around with also, to have a simpler or more obstacle-filled screen for example. Snafu is a very good game, and it is definitely recommended. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Armada – One player. Space Armada is Mattel’s take on Space Invaders, one of the most popular games of the time. It’s not as good as Space Invaders, though — there are fewer aliens, very few modes, and a big programming problem here, unfortunately. The game plays well enough at first, just like Space Invaders: you move left and right, and shoot upwards with a button. However, perhaps due to the system’s low resolution, there may only be a few rows of aliens, but they start pretty close to you so it gets hard quickly. The game mixes things up as you go on with invisible enemies sometimes, too. You’ll need to kill all of the invisible enemies before they reach the bottom or you lose. You have a bunch of lives, but if an enemy reaches the bottom it’s an instant game over, as with Space Invaders. Space Armada is fun, but the difficulty balance is very poor, as the game gets almost impossibly hard very quickly — not too far into the game, the enemies start so low on the screen that it becomes effectively impossible to win. I’d recommend playing the versions of Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 or 5200 instead, the 2600 version’s graphics aren’t as good but the gameplay is much better and there are a lot more modes and options there. The enemies in Space Invaders don’t start as close to the ground as they do here, either. Space Armada is a very cheap game maybe worth having if you have the system and see it for a dollar like I did, but don’t expect much; it’s average to bad, due to the difficulty and somewhat broken design. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Battle – One or two player alternating. Space Battle is a first-person space shooting game with a simpler strategic component that separates it from other games like this on other platforms. The first-person space shooting game was a relatively popular one, and this is Mattel’s take on it. First, you choose a difficulty, from several available. This game has two screens, the map view and battles. On the map view, you are defending a starbase in the center of the screen that is under attack. You have three fleets of fighters to send at the enemies that approach from the edges of the screen, and your controller buttons will order fleets to head towards different enemy groups. The controls are a little tricky, but eventually kind of make sense. I had trouble at first figuring out how to get your fleets to go where I want, but the way it works is that some keypad buttons select the fleet you’re controlling, then other buttons change targets and tell them to head towards the currently-selected enemy. You can’t send fleets to specific points, unfortunately, only towards enemies. Once one of your fleets and an enemy one collide, a battle begins. You fight the battle yourself by hitting another keypad button; it isn’t automatic. Again, the controls are clumsy.

Once you do take command, you’ll find a fairly standard for the time first-person space shooting game. Like many Intellivision space games there is a nice starfield background, but the gameplay is familiar Atari-like stuff. As per usual for space combat games from the pre-crash era, this game may look like you’re in a space fighter, but really it’s just a target-shooting game, you don’t move your ship around. Instead, just move the cursor and fire when you think you will hit an enemy, as the enemy ships zoom around in front of you. It’s simple stuff, but works. While you fight, it is important to note, the rest of the game is still progressing, so other fleets will advance. You can return to the map screen at any time with the press of a key, and may need to if another fleet is getting close to the center and you need to try to stop them more than the one you are currently fighting. It’s a solid concept for the time and can be fun.

However, this is one of those 2nd-gen games that’s over in minutes. Either you’ll win and defeat all the enemy fleets, or lose and die, but either way there’s only one level then the game ends. Again the game does have multiple difficulty options to add some playtime, thankfully, but still this game is very short, and the default difficulty is very easy, I won in only a few tries. The higher settings are tougher, but still this is not a challenging game. Most 2nd-gen games that aren’t endless are like this, second gen games usually either never end or are absurdly short. Oh well; the industry was young and people didn’t know what would work yet, and making games in the tiny amounts of memory they were allowed is difficult. The strategy bit about aiming fleets around is interesting, though the controls are a bit confusing, and the shooting works fine, but it’s nothing special. Overall Space Battle can be fun, but is average. Also on Atari 2600 under the title Space Attack, though as usual the graphics are better and controls more complex here. The starfield background looks nice on this version, and it’s a better game on Intellivision. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Hawk – One player. Space Hawk is another game inspired by Asteroids, but unlike Astrosmash, this game takes its inspiration in gameplay and not just graphics. In Space Hawk, you’re a person in a space suit with a jetpack, and fly around in search for the Space Hawks. You can fly around endlessly in any direction, looking at the Intellivision-style starfield scrolling behind you, but don’t actually go anywhere, really; the Space Hawks will come at you regardless of which direction you go, so the movement element is just for avoiding their fire and such and not for exploring a level. You will be attacked by one Space Hawk at a time, and it will fly around, on and off the screen, shooting expanding shots that look a whole lot like rocks at you. Huh, I wonder where they got that idea from… heh. And like Asteroids you do have a momentum system, though here you can turn it off with the press of a keypad button, if you prefer the much simpler default game. It’s probably a better game with momentum on, as I found the game too simple otherwise. I’ve never loved Asteroids’ momentum system, but it is better than the alternative, as this shows.

Unfortunately, what this game also shows is that it’s hard to make a good Asteroids game, and they didn’t quite manage it here. The rocks that the Space Hawk is shooting get in the way between you and them, so you will need to choose between shooting the rocks and thus protecting yourself, or trying to fly around to get a shot a the Hawk itself. It’s a decent mechanic, but sadly you will only ever face one Space Hawk at a time. This makes for a very simplistic game which feels slow, and slow-paced, even in its highest speed setting. It does get harder as you survive longer, but you’re only ever fighting the same Space Hawks, shooting the same things at you, throughout. Once you shoot a Space Hawk enough to kill it, another one will come at you, in an endless loop until you eventually die. That may sound simple, but the game has tricky and somewhat original controls, for good and ill.  You aim your astronaut with the disc, thrust with one side button, and fire with the other button.  A keypad button uses hyperspace, Asteroids or Defender-style, to randomly warp out of danger, hopefully.  The controls work, but are slow.  I often wish I could use thrust and fire at the same time, but you really can’t, it’s one or the other it seems.  And having to aim with the disc while using side buttons for thrust feels awkward.  With very slow, one-enemy-at-a-time design, Space Hawk looked cool at first glance and I was looking forward to trying it, but I got tired of it very quickly and don’t find it very fun. This is another average-at-best Intellivision game with flawed, and somewhat slow, gameplay that is okay, but does not hold up to the better shooting games on other consoles. Space Hawk is not bad, but is not good either. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Spartans – One player. IntelliVoice Required. Space Spartans is essentially Mattel’s take on Star Raiders, or, also, a more complex version of Space Battle. As in Space Battle and Star Raiders, your goal here is to defend starbases on a single-screen map. When you begin a game you place three starbases, and choose a difficulty to start from in this endless game. In each level, you need to defeat all enemy fleets without losing your starbases. Like in Space Battle but with a grid, the enemy fleets will move around the map screen, heading towards your starbases. Using a keypad combination — the overlay is highly recommended here — you can warp, and once you warp onto a square with enemies in it, and then hit a button to switch to battle view, you’ll start that fight.

Battles work like all of the first-person space shooter battles I’ve seen on pre-crash systems, so again just like Space Battle this is a target-shooting game. Unlike Star Raiders on the 5200, you can’t actually fly anywhere within each sector, either; once warped in, instead you just sit there, rotating around and firing at the enemies coming at you. Controlling your aim is slow and somewhat frustrating in this game, though; I started to get used to it with time, but faster, more precise controls would do wonders here, aiming accurately is harder than it should be. Oddly, in this game the cursor stands for your ship, because if enemy shots hit the cursor you take damage. Some other games do this, but it is a little strange; I’d expect shots in the center of the screen or such to hit me, but no, the cursor sight is their target. I find this game pretty hard. Where some other space shooting games of the time are easy enough to hit enemies in, this one’s a lot tougher; the enemies move quickly, and zoom into and out of the screen as they go. You will learn their patterns with time, but this game is a lot harder than Space Battle, that’s for sure! That’s a good thing overall though, a harder and more complex game like that was a good idea. Also like Space Battle though, the rest of the game is progressing while you’re in a battle, so you may want to warp to a different sector before defeating the enemies in one sector in order to protect a more threatened starbase. Enemy fleets will regenerate over time though, so battles can drag on if you’re not good enough at hitting the enemies, as they respawn as fast as you hit them.

Interestingly, as you take damage you don’t just fill up a damage meter, but will lose systems on your ship.  The IntelliVoice will tell you what damage you’ve taken and what you are repairing.  Hits will eventually take out your targeting computer, warp drive, movement thrusters, and more, leaving you a motionless lump in space once all of them pile up. I don’t know that letting your ship movement get even WORSE was a good idea in a game that’s as hard to control from the beginning as this one is, but it does that. Oh well. If you do manage to warp to a starbase that isn’t under attack, though, you can fully heal all damage on the map screen. This requires keypad buttons, to select Repair and then the systems, followed by some time for the repairs, but is invaluable. So, protect those starbases! You’re done if they are all destroyed. If you blow up all enemy ships in a level, you’ll move on to a new, harder one, until eventually you lose. The game claims to be re-creating the Battle of Thermopylae in space, which makes absolutely no sense in any way other than that it’s an endless hopeless fight, but… okay. Oh, as for the voice component, it’s useful but not as central here as it is in B-17 Bomber or Bomb Squad. Voices will say things to you such as how many ships are left in enemy fleets, describe ship damage, and such, so it adds some nice flavor to the game, but this game would work without voice I’d think. Overall, Space Spartans is a fun game, but the frustrating controls really hold it back. Space Spartans is no competition for Solaris on the 2600, but it’s is an okay game. Get it if you have an IntelliVoice, but it’s probably only a bit above average overall. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Star Strike – One player. Star Strike is a simple, early rail shooter. More than just a little inspired by the original Star Wars movie, this game is essentially a game based around the Death Star trench run scene from that great classic. You fly a spaceship, flying down a trench on some artificial planet. The trench graphics are pretty cool and are this games’ main selling point. You need to bomb five ships before they take off, while avoiding fire from enemy fighters which look very much like TIE Fighters and which come up behind you and shoot at you. Separate buttons shoot and bomb. The game is extremely short and simple. Two enemy fighters come up from behind you, fire three or four times, and then zoom ahead. You can shoot them if you want more points, or let them go. Either way, pairs of fighters will keep coming at you. When an audio chime sounds, the next enemy ship is coming up, and you need to hit the bomb button… from the exact right altitude to hit it. There is no in-game indication of this, so you’ll just need to memorize how high off the ground you should be to hit it. At about the center of the screen you pretty much need to hit the bomb button right when the sound plays, which is before the port comes on screen, to hit. The timing is a lot tighter than that in the Atari Star Wars game.

As you go, your planet slowly comes into view on the top of the screen. Once it’s reached the center, if any of the ships are still alive and get past you once more it will take off and destroy your planet in the distance. That’s Game Over. If you do bomb them all, a short audio bit plays with a little animation and the game ends. So yes, this is another one of those very short 2nd-gen games that is over in minutes, either successfully or otherwise. The scoring system is simple too, the score slowly decreases over time and hitting enemy fighters increases it a bit. So, there is a maximum score. The game present some challenge, since you need to learn the height to be at when bombing, and there are five difficulty levels to make the game harder than the pretty easy default setting, but it’s a very simple game with no variety and only okay controls and gameplay. This game is average stuff; Atari’s take on it in the Star Wars arcade game, or the Parker Bros. home ports of that game on the 2600, 5200, and Colecovision, are better than this. That game has more variety, more stages than just one, and better controls and gameplay. Still, Mattel’s take on the Death Star trench run is okay enough to be worth playing a few times, before the repetition sets in. Also available on Atari 2600, with worse graphics there of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tennis (for Intellivision) – Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required. This game is a good, but sadly two player only, take on tennis. Tennis has nice visuals with a side-view perspective, good controls, and a reasonably accurate take on Tennis for the time. Going far beyond Pong, in this game you’ll need to serve accurately and hit a button to hit the ball, it won’t automatically hit balls near your player. If you have two people who learn the game, I’m sure it would make for some exciting games, but the absence of a computer opponent means I’ll almost never be touching it, unfortunately. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Triple Action – One player (the racing game) and two player only (the tank and plane games). This three-in-one cart contains three small games, two two player only and one one player only. First, there’s another Combat knockoff, which like Armor Battle is two player only and plays a lot like Combat but once again not as good as the Atari original. The graphics are better than Combat, but it can’t match it in options, and it is still two player only. Next, there’s a pretty decent little vertically-scrolling straight-road racing game where you try to get as far as you can, scoring a point for each car you pass successfully. You move left or right to dodge oncoming cars on a two-lane road. This kind of game was popular and games like this appear on many formats, though the one I’ve played the most is probably Speedway! on Odyssey 2. I like that game more, but this is also fun. And last, there is a two player only biplane flight combat game, where you get a point for each time you shoot down the other plane or they crash. For some reason in the flying game, up on the disc makes you fly upwards and down flies you downwards, so the game doesn’t use flight controls unfortunately. I’m used to flying games having flight controls so this is confusing. You can shoot and change your speed, and have to be careful because stalling and crashing is very easy. This mode seems like it’d be fun with two people, for a few minutes here and there.

On the whole this cart is not great for one player, but the one single player game, the racing one, is kind of fun so it’s alright I guess if you get it for a really low price like I did. The other two also look decent, particularly the flying one, if you have two players. This feels like a game that should have been a pack-in with the system, but it wasn’t, and indeed it didn’t release until several years into the systems’ life. I’m not sure what the point of this was, then. There already was a Combat knockoff on the system, and the other two are pretty simple little games which are amusingly fun but hardly essential. This is another average Intellivision release. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tron: Deadly Discs – One player. Tron Deadly Discs is one of three, yes three, Tron games that Mattel released on their console. This is the only one of the three I have, though I would like to get the other two. Tron: Solar Sailer, particularly, is interesting as it’s the fourth of the IntelliVoice games. As for Deadly Discs, though, it is inspired by the disc arena section from the film. You play as Tron, and defend free programs by defeating an endless succession of evil programs coming at you in this single-screen arena, or something like that. Or in gameplay terms, you move around the screen, which looks a bit like an arena, and try to hit the enemy programs with your disc while not taking too many hits from theirs. The concept of an action game based on the disc battle is a good one, but this game has some issues and is, unfortunately, kind of boring, particularly on lower difficulty settings. The character graphics are nice enough and the Recognizers that come on screen every so often look like they should, but I find the game boring.

The game does some interesting things for the time, though — it’s another early twin-stick game, as you move with the stick and fire with the keypad — but these controls are far from Robotron. Because, again, the Intellivision only supports one input from a controller at a time, you have to stop to fire, and then can only shoot one disc at a time, in eight directions, and have to wait quite a while for it to return to you. You can call back your disc, but Microsurgeon’s two-controller free firing feels better. Regardless though, this game is too slow to be fun for long. And not only that, but the disc will only hurt enemies on the way out, but always goes all the way to the other edge of the screen! So, after every shot, hit or miss, you’ve got to wait a long time for the disc to hit a wall or stop once you let go of the button and get all the way back to you before you can finally try to hit them again. Also, this is another Intellivision game which runs slowly. At least as far as I’ve gotten so far, everything about this game is a bit slow-moving. I’m sure it eventually gets hard, but aiming shots with the keypad is kind of frustrating because of how long you have to wait if you miss. The slow pace of the combat isn’t great. This game was also released on the Atari 2600. That version is similar but a bit worse, as shot aiming is better here and the Recognizer boss isn’t in that version. I have the 2600 version and thought it was pretty average, and unfortunately the improvements here don’t make it much better. That’s too bad, Tron is a great movie. Also released on Atari 2600.


Vectron – One or two player alternating. Vectron has a really cool name and look, but also has a reputation for inscrutably confusing controls and gameplay. And indeed, yes, well, the controls are very confusing. In this action-strategy game, you move an indicator left and right along a curving path through the screen with the lower side buttons on each side of the controller, and place things on squares you so highlight with a button on the keypad. Yes, you move the cursor with the side buttons, not the circle. Instead, pressing directions on the circle will fire in the direction you press from a cannon in the top center, to take out enemies. Your goal in the game is to build up a base and defend it, but it’s pretty hard to do and the controls are difficult. Even once I started to get a handle on them, having to press buttons on both sides is bad even by Intellivision controller standards; in most games you only need to use the buttons on one side of the controller and they are duplicated on both sides for left or right handed players, but not this one, you’ve got to use both sides, and quickly too. It’s not good.

Anyway, in Vectron, once again you move that cursor, which the game manual calls the “energy block”, building energy base sections, or orb things, in the four spaces within by shooting at the cursor and hitting it, while also shooting at enemies trying to destroy the buildings. One enemy type is invincible, so you need to shoot around it to hit the other ones trying to destroy your cursor. If you let too many base sections get destroyed or if too many enemies hit the cursor and you run out of energy, you lose a life, and three deaths and it’s Game Over. You’ll get Game Over quickly, because the game is very hard, and I often lose lives without knowing why. There aren’t any difficulty options, either, only the one too-hard one. The game seems to probably be endless, but I haven’t managed to beat a single level of the game yet so I doubt I’ll know. From what I read online, getting to level five or ten is quite an accomplishment, and I believe it. Vectron has a really cool look and interestingly original gameplay, and despite the weird controls and insane difficulty I still want to like this game. I probably will play it more, but it’s too flawed to be great, unfortunately; this is a decent game with issues. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Venture – One player. Venture is an arcade game from the early ’80s, originally by Exidy. The home console ports were made by Coleco, this one included. Coleco’s Intellivision games are often poor, but this is one of the better ones, as it contains all the content from the arcade and Colecovision versions of the game. Venture is a top-down action-adventure game, perhaps an early step towards action-adventure games like Zelda. You control a red smilie face with a bow, and go around finding treasures. Each of the three levels has an overworld screen, where you control a dot moving around between rooms while avoiding giant enemies, and four rooms, where you control the smilie face closer up, shooting at enemies before they can kill you and grabbing those treasures. Watch out though, touching a dead enemy will kill you, so stay away until after they finally dissolve fully! That’s a weird quirk in this game. The enemies dissolve one pixel at a time in this version, which is cool; on Colecovision they just have a ‘death’ sprite that vanishes after a while, so there is one way that this is the better version. The game plays well, though the controls feel a bit less precise here than on the 2600 or Colecovision because of the Intellivision circle, I find myself walking into walls or miss enemies sometimes because of the disc. I’m sure you get used to it eventually though.

This is a fun game for a while, as you go around each level, killing baddies and getting treasures. There are 36 treasures to collect, as between levels the game shows your treasures through the first three loops through the game. After that the game infinitely loops stage nine, which is kind of disappointing; it means you only see one of the three levels, over and over, if you’re good enough to finish the nine stages. Some classic games do things like that, but it is odd. On a related note, Venture controls well enough and plays great, but like with other games like Berzerk, it makes me wish for a goal beyond just points; I like this kind of game better when you can actually win. Unfortunately, that last level loops forever. So, Venture is fun but isn’t something I’ll be likely to play a lot of. Visually, Venture is simple looking but the look works well. It looks like the other versions, just with a bit of a visual downgrade compared to the Colecovision, as, as is expected.  It does still have music though, which is pretty cool.  It is very simple, but not many Intellivision games have background music.  I like that it contains all of the levels too, the Atari 2600 version doesn’t and Coleco usually just ported their 2600 games over to Intellivision for their games on this system. Fortunately they did better here. Arcade port, also on Colecovision and (with only two levels) on Atari 2600. The Colecovision version is best, but this is also good.


Zaxxon – One player. From Coleco, this game is a worse port of the bad Atari 2600 version of Zaxxon. Sega’s arcade version of Zaxxon was a big hit and helped popularize the isometric shooter. This Atari 2600/Intellivision version of the game isn’t isometric like the arcade game or its more accurate ports, but instead is a behind-the-ship rail shooter with poor graphics and worse gameplay. The perspective has some advantages, in theory, though. The behind-the-ship view should give you a much better ability to see where the other ships are so you can hit them more accurately, and indeed it does. It’s a lot easier to hit your target here than it is in regular Zaxxon. Unfortunately, it’s not much of an improvement and everything else about this version of the game is a lot worse than the original. The graphics are poor, with extremely blocky visuals straight out of the Atari 2600.

The gameplay is slow, even slower than the Atari version. The game is also extremely simplistic. Zaxxon is a simple game, but this one’s even simpler — you just fly through the bases, avoiding walls while shooting turret enemies on the ground, and then fly through space, shooting space fighters. Rinse and repeat once you get to the next base. The game seriously lacks challenge too, as enemies are easy to avoid or shoot. Coleco has a reputation for making shoddy Atari 2600 and Intellivision games that are far worse than their Colecovision games, and this one backs that up, that’s for sure. While the Intellivision may not be able to match Colecovision Zaxxon, I’m sure it can do a lot better than this boring, ugly, slow, not fun game. Skip this one. The original Zaxxon arcade game has been released on a great many platforms, but this particular behind-the-ship version is only on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. They are both bad, but the 2600 version is probably slightly better thanks to it playing a little more quickly. Play almost any version of real Zaxxon instead of this.

 

And that is all the games I have so far.  Games I have seen for Intellivision but not purchased: Several more of the two player only sports games (Football, Basketball, Soccer), and two more Coleco games (Donkey Kong, Carnival).  I got everything at all interesting.

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Mattel Intellivision – Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 1

I got this console a couple of months ago… and quickly decided I wanted to make a Game Opinion Summaries list for it, because why not?  I have not done a list like this yet for the Colecovision, which I got last year, or for Atari 2600 or 5200 games I’ve gotten since the lists I did years ago. I am thinking about writing all of those. Anyway, after some long delays, here it finally is, part one of this two-part series! In this article I cover 19 of the 40 games I have for the Intellivision. Yes, 19; game 20 is Microsurgeon, and I haven’t played it enough yet.

Table of Contents

 

Introduction and System Overview

The Mattel Intellivision released in 1979 as a test market product, then 1980 in full nationwide release in the US. This console was heavily marketed, and ended up selling three million systems, which is the second most of any console that generation. That’s less impressive as it sounds, as the Atari 2600 sold tens of millions of systems while the next top four — the Intellivision, Colecovision, Odyssey 2, and Atari 5200 — sold one to three million each, but it’s something. I’d never played an Intellivision before this year, however. I have known people who owned them though, and they never had much of anything positive to say about the system. I’ve heard that the controller is horrible, that the games aren’t as good as Atari games, and more. So, I went into this not expecting the best… and unfortunately it lives down to expectations. There are some things to like about the Intellivision, but my first impression is that it’s my least favorite of the five pre-crash consoles that I have, the ones listed in this paragraph. It’s probably better than most of the other, lesser-known platforms that generation, though, I just don’t have those.

Anyway, the Mattel Intellivision is an interesting system. It uses a 16-bit CPU, which was a first for the industry. However, while it’s got a wider bus, the CPU has a slow clock speed when compared to the 2600. Indeed, many 2600-to-Intellivision ports end up running more slowly on this system than they do on the Atari, which is not great for a newer system. Graphics are almost always improved, but game speed is not. What is the Intellivision good at, then? Well, graphics for one; the Intellivision can draw much more complex and detailed visuals than prior consoles. In terms of overall graphics, the system sits right where its release date suggests, a bit above the 2600 but well behind the newer Atari 5200 and Colecovision, which released 2 1/2 to three years after this system to effectively start a new console generation. I wasn’t expecting Colecovision-caliber graphics from this system, and it doesn’t have them, but games often have nicely detailed sprites and environments that you’d certainly never see on Atari 2600. Audio is decent as well, for the time. The standard audio is fairly typical stuff, but like the Odyssey 2, the Intellivision has a speech synthesizer addon. This addon is fairly cheap, but while I have three of the four games that support it, I don’t have one yet, unfortunately. Once I get one I will report on how the three games play, though I mention them below with little placeholder articles for now.

So, the Intellivision has some good and bad points in its graphics. In terms of controls, though, the system is infamously awful, and unfortunately I have to agree with the critics here. I may like the Atari 5200 controller, and I really do apart from a few things (durability, the side buttons), but this thing is awful! The Intellivision controller is terrible for several reasons, but the ergonomics are the biggest. The controller has two buttons on each side, a 12-key keypad set down behind little plastic dividers, and at the bottom a round disc that controls movement. The disc, which has a full 16 directions it can identify versus the average stick’s four or maybe eight with diagonals, was an important innovation that presaged the creation of the d-pad. It is also, however, horribly uncomfortable. Perhaps the biggest problem is this plastic ridge around the disc. It’s hard to not get your finger painfully rubbing against the hard edge of the ridge! The side buttons are uncomfortable to use as well, the idea of putting the main action buttons on the side of a controller was a bad one. I’ll never understand why Atari and Coleco both copied this controller, of all things, in their next consoles! This vertically-oriented controller with side fire buttons concept was not a good one, and all three of the resulting controllers show why that is. Of the three, though, this is the most painfully uncomfortable to hold and use, it’s not close. The controllers do look nice when set in the console, though. As with many consoles of the day, there are indentations in the console itself to store the controllers in, and when in there the flat top of the console has a pretty nice look to it.

Overlays – Overlays are something that I think the Intellivision did first. These plastic sheets go over the 12-button keypad part of the controller, and tell you what the buttons do. As with many other things about the controller, this questionable idea would go on to also appear in the Atari 5200 and Colecovision controllers, as well as the Atari Jaguar later on. The concept is good, and for some games these overlays are helpful. Games did not have large enough memory sizes yet to be able to have on-screen button indicators for everything like a modern game might, so having something physical, attached to the controller, is a good idea. Some of the overlays have nice artwork on them as well. I don’t have overlays for all of the games I have, not even close, but I do have some overlays and they’re helpful, because a lot of Intellivision games pretty much require them. However, if you don’t have the overlay, some games are pretty much unplayable unless you look one up online or buy one, because the buttons are not at all intuitive, they could be anywhere. Those other systems with overlays make far less use of them than the Intellivision. Indeed, most 5200 and Colecoivsion games either don’t come with an overlay, or they have one but it serves no purpose because all that’s on it is like ‘press numbers for difficulty or number of players’, and those are in consistent places on the number pads so you won’t need to always look at the overlay like you to on Intellivision. And on top of that, despite their overlays usually being less necessary, both of those systems have overlay storage built right into their cartridges, which is great. With the Intellivision you just need to try to not lose them, or only buy complete in box games and store them in the boxes. That’s inconvenient.

My biggest issue with overlays isn’t any of those things, though, it’s that the concept of having a keypad on a game controller didn’t prove to be a good one. A modern controller has a lot of buttons, but they are all in different places on the pad, so you can remember, through memorization and such, which are which. On a keypad, however, good luck with that! With 12 buttons so close together, that overlay is pretty much your only hope of knowing which button is which, a lot of the time. There’s a good reason why only two systems released since 1983 have had keypads on them, and both failed — the Jaguar and N-Gage. It just isn’t a very good idea. I can understand what they were going for, it gives you a bunch of buttons for settings and such, but the alternate directions the industry would go in later, towards on-screen menus instead of lots of buttons and controllers with buttons in more notably different places, is, I think, overall better than this. I have an N-Gage, and trying to play a game like Tomb Raider or Tony Hawk with 15 buttons all right next to eachother is FAR more difficult than it is on a Playstation controller! It’s kind of a nightmare really… the Intellivision isn’t as bad as that, because of how its keypad is used and because it supports only pressing one button at a time, but it is still an issue.

And of course, that’s not even getting into the ergonomics of the thing, which are poor. There’s no way to make a 12+ button keypad ergonomically friendly, I don’t think. So, overlays are an interesting idea and I like having them, and they definitely make playing games a lot easier than regular numbered buttons in these same games would — see Gateway to Apshai (Colecovision) for an example of that, they didn’t make an overlay for it so instead you need to reference the manual all the time to remember what each of the nine numbers does, it’s not great — but I do think that the keypad is one of several decisions, along with the vertically-oriented controller, painful ridge around the disc, total absence of ergonomics, and side-mounted, mushy fire buttons, that are why Intellivision are so disliked. That the Colecovision, and Atari 5200 controllers do many of the same things wrong is a lot of why their reputation is very nearly as bad.

And plus, since some models of Intellivision have hardwired controllers, they couldn’t even do something to give it a better controller, like the trackballs do for the 5200 and Colecovision. Oh well. I know there are stick-replacement options out there, and some modern controller options as well, but controller ports would have made that a lot easier. Oh well.

Beyond the very flat-topped controllers, to fit with its flat, sleek look, the Intellivision, uniquely, has its cartridge port on the side of the console. This is good for aesthetics, but bad for everyday use, because you need to press fairly hard to get a game to lock in to the system! I find that I need to hold the console with one hand on the left side while pressing the cart in on the right in order to insert a game, so don’t put this console somewhere where you don’t have access to both sides of the system, it won’t end up well. Of course, with how short Intellivision controllers are you won’t be putting it far from your chair, anyway. All the pre-crash consoles have very short controller cords, and this is no exception. Some models do have controller ports, though. The model 1 and 3 Intellivision have hard-wired controllers, while the Sears Super Video Arcade and model 2 have controller ports.  Sears Super Video Arcade controllers also have regular straight cords, while model 1 Intellivisions have a coiled cable like a phone does.  The straight wire gets you some more length, and when cords are this short you take anything you can get!  I have perhaps the best overall model of Intellivision according to some Atari Age threads I read, the Sears Super Video Arcade. It’s a nice looking console with controller ports, and I’m glad to have this one. It still works perfectly, even after almost forty years.  I may get controller extension cords for it at some point, if I want to move it farther away.

As far as its game library went, the Intellivision’s main life lasted from 1979 to 1983. Most of the games are from Mattel, and they are mostly original titles, not ports of arcade games. Atari had most of the best arcade games themselves, after all, and Mattel, like Magnavox, decided to mostly make their own games. Mattel did get one companies’ arcade game rights, though: Data East. This led to one of the system’s best games, and several others as well.  That’s it, though.  Coleco would take a different path.  Once they entered Coleco would be much more aggressive at getting arcade game rights, and between Coleco and Atari, Mattel and the others didn’t get many arcade ports. The quality of Mattel’s own games is uneven, too, as my summaries below will detail.  I found a lot of games for this system locally in a short time, but the game quality is iffy in too many cases.

And then, in late 1983, with the great videogame crash of ’83 destroying the console industry, Mattel gave up on videogames and discontinued the system. Others, including the Magnavox Odyssey 2, were also discontinued around the same time. However, some people at Mattel thought that the system had a future as a low-cost system, and bought the rights to the Intellivision sometime later. In 1985, the first two new games released in Europe. Those two games, plus some other new ones, released in the US as well in 1986, and the new Intv Corporation kept the system alive with new game releases until 1989. This is a fairly similar story to the Atari 2600, which was effectively discontinued in 1984, only to be resurrected in 1986, so it saw releases from 1977-1984 and 1986-1990 (’92 in Europe thanks to one or two late third-party releases there). However, at least around here, I regularly see some of those late Atari 2600 games. I have not seen any post-1983 Intellivision games locally yet, only these 40 games from ’83 or earlier, so clearly the Intellivision wasn’t as popular a post-crash console as the Atari. That makes sense, but it’s still interesting that it was brought back, and there are some good-looking games among those later releases that I would like to get eventually.

Overall though, my first impression of the Intellivision is that it’s okay. This system isn’t awful or anything, but I don’t really like it either. I can understand how people who played it as a kid would still like the system, but as someone who didn’t play any pre-crash console games until decades later, as I said earlier it probably does rank fifth of the five pre-crash systems I have. (For the record, based purely on ‘how much I like them’ and not their overall game library quality or such, right now that ranking would be: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 5200;3. Atari 2600; 4. Colecovision; 5. Intellivision.) The poor controller is definitely a part of that, though the games are also a part; they’re alright, but I haven’t found many I really love. Right now I don’t know if I have yet played an Intellivision game that I’d give an A rating to. Some of the games are good, though, certainly. That said, though, here are the first 20 Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries. The second 20 shouldn’t take as long as these did to finish.

My favorite Intellivision games so far

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Microsurgeon
5. Loco-Motion
6. Atlantis

I like these six more than the rest of the games I have for sure, so far.

 

The Summaries

Formatting: As usual for my Game Opinion Summary lists, the title is first.  Following that, in italics is the number of players, and any accessories supported or required.  Next is the summary.  At the end, again in italics, I list any other platforms the game has been released on as of this posting, as far as I know.


ABPA Backgammon One or two players alternating. Backgammon is a typical Intellivision game in some ways. The Intellivision sold itself on being more complex than the Atari 2600, and indeed this game is more complex than Atari Backgammon. The graphics are better, game much more accurate to the boardgame it is a conversion of, and controls more complex as well thanks to the systems’ 12-key keypad. Getting used to the controls takes a little while, as it uses the keypad heavily, but this is a solid Backgammon game, if you actually want to play such a thing on an old console; I don’t really. On a positive note though, there is an AI opponent here, a somewhat uncommon thing for a boardgame console game from 1978! However, I’ve never cared much for backgammon as a board game. I have played it before, and it’s alright, but it has been a very long time since I last played the game, and while I don’t remember a lot of the rules, and doubt I’ll play it anytime soon either; far better games are available now. Backgammon has dice, so it has a random component not present in the timeless classic that is chess. Random elements in board games are common, and can work great, but I do think that the best games are probably less random. So, while this game definitely looks the part, with a clearly drawn backgammon board and dice, if I really wanted to play backgammon today I’m sure far better games are available on newer systems than this one. I don’t play old consoles for games like this, for the most part. But if you want a solid 2nd-gen backgammon game, well, here it is.  This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title Backgammon.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (aka AD&D Cloudy Mountain Adventure or Crown of Kings) – One player. This game has the D&D license, but it isn’t really an RPG. Instead, this is a maze exploration action-adventure game, building off of games like Adventure (Atari 2600), Hunt the Wumpus (TI-99/4A), and Quest for the Rings (Odyssey 2). Your goal here is to reach the Cloudy Mountain across the main world map and find the treasures within. You start on the let side of the screen, and at certain points enter dungeons. Each of these dungeons is a randomly laid out maze you will need to explore. Now, sort of like Hunt the Wumpus, your character here is an archer, so you’ll be shooting enemies from a distance if you want to stay alive. This is a much more action-heavy game than that one, though. You will see monsters as you explore, and need to decide how to deal with them. In each maze, you need to collect arrows, kill or run away from monsters, and look for both exits and key items that you will need to progress. You’ll want to avoid enemies some of the time because ammo is very limited, and you can’t just go pick up used arrows. This definitely serves to increase the tension as you explore. Unfortunately, I find the game quite frustrating, as these random mazes, while not huge, are just large enough to get lost in. You need to find those exits and key items, but wandering around, looking for things while often not being certain if I’ve been through this area five times already because it all looks pretty similar, isn’t much fun.

Now, some people like this kind of game design, and I recommend you play this game! I, however, don’t really. There is a run button for faster movement, and that’s great. Even, but still, this game aimed high for a game from 1982, and for the time is a quite advanced game despite not being what we would today call an RPG of any kind since there is no experience points system present, but I think I’d prefer something either simpler or more complex than this. AD&D is a good game, but while I probably do like it more than Adventure on the Atari 2600, I’d rather play Quest for the Rings or Hunt the Wumpus than this, their simplicity is a positive for games from this time. Still, AD&D is a solid evolution of the still-early action-adventure genre, as it headed towards better things. The Intellivision sold itself as a more complex console with better-looking and more complicated games than other consoles, and you see that here. That doesn’t make the game better, but still it is an interesting game worth playing. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title ” Crown of Kings”.


Armor Battle – Two players simultaneous. Two Player Only Game.   The Intellivision does Combat! Yes, this is one of several Combat knockoffs on the Intellivision. Like Combat it, unfortunately, requires two players, so I haven’t really been able to play it. Most people agree it’s not as good as Combat, though. It’s got better graphics but apparently lesser gameplay, though I haven’t really played much Combat either so I can’t really compare. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Astrosmash – One or two player alternating. Astrosmash is a very simple single-screen shooting game that kind of crosses Astroids and Space Invaders, though without the greatness of either. This popular game is also on Atari 2600 and it’s very simple: move left and right and shoot the asteroids as they descend. That’s about it. Move left, move right, shoot as many rocks as you can. There are also a few ships to shoot, but it’s mostly falling rocks. This game was made for overlong play sessions, by second gen standards — you start with quite a few lives, and will not lose them easily for a long time. And on top of that, the game gives you extra lives so quickly that games will go on and on. You get lives faster than you lose them for probably at least a half hour or more. I find the game gets boring long before that, unfortunately; the core concept is solid and the game plays well enough, apart from the usual issues with how uncomfortable this controller is, but the difficulty balance and challenge are way off. The game looks alright, with some decently nice asteroids and an alright backdrop, but is very repetitive and simplistic. So, overall, this game is another average to below average Intellivision game. This system is definitely living down to its mostly not-great reputation, I think… too bad. There is something here, later in the game, but is it worth the tedium to get there? Also on Atari 2600 under the title Astroblast. That version is quite similar, apart from a graphical downgrade of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


AtlantisOne player. Atlantis is a Missile Command-inspired defense game from Imagic, a third party who released a lot of games on the Intellivision in 1982-1983. Taking control of gun turrets, you try to protect the city of Atlantis from an endless horde of enemy spacecraft. It’s a doomed effort of course, but try to survive as long as you can anyway! The Intellivision version of Atlantis has a reputation for being the best version of the game and one of the better games on this console, and after playing it I can see why. Now, in Missile Command, you control a cursor. In the original Atari version of this game, however, instead you just controlled three gun cannons which each shot across the screen at a different angle. On the Intellivision, however, Imagic went for a much more directly Missile Command-inspired game, as you move a cursor around the screen and fire from your two guns with the two buttons on each side of the controller.

So yes, it’s pretty much straight Missile Command, but with Atlantis graphics. And indeed, the game looks pretty good, with a detailed cityscape, a day and night cycle with a tougher challenge at night in the dark, and good enemy sprites. The game adds one signficant control feature that separates it from Issile Command, though: by hitting one of the keypad buttons, you can take off in a little plane usually kept docked in the center tower on the screen and, controlling it directly, shoot the enemies down, Defender style! This is a single-screen game, but flying the little ship around, shooting in both directions to take out the enemies, is pretty fun. Indeed, both the cursor and flying elements of this game are fun. The game does take a while to get challenging on the default setting so games are not short, however; yes, this is another game with difficulty balance that may not be ideal. However, it’s more than fun enough to be worth playing anyway, every once in a while at least. Atlantis is, like most games of the era, very repetitive and does not match Missile Command’s genius, but it is a good game for sure, and this is a great version. It may not be worth getting an Intellivision just for this game, but if you have one definitely get the game, it’s one of the best ones here. Also on Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2, though each version is quite different.


Auto RacingOne or two player simultaneous.  Single player is a time-trial only race. This is an overhead racing game. It has decently nice graphics with some nice looking roads and houses. It scrolls decently too, it’s not single screen. There are even a bunch of different tracks to race! They are all made up of a set of components, but still it is impressive. Graphically, it’s pretty good for the time — the Atari doesn’t have any top-down racing games that look anywhere near as good. However, gameplay is a problem. The controls are hard to get used to, it takes practice and perhaps also a look at the manual before you will figure out how to actually make the turns and not just go off the side at every corner. Looking at impressions people have of this game online, this seems to be a common complaint about this game: the controls are confusing and not that good. With some practice I did eventually manage to start making turns, but even then this is a slow-paced game with limited gameplay. The turns feel hard because of the bad handling, not because they really should be. Additionally, as with many Intellivision games, this one is mostly designed for two players — all you can do in this game is play a two player versus mode race, or play solo in a time-trial mode, that’s it. There isn’t an AI opponent car, unfortunately. For 1980 this is probably a good effort at a more realistic racing game, but the controls, with the Intellivision disc, are a problem. I didn’t find Auto Racing very fun, but it isn’t a bad game, just a flawed one. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


B-17 Bomber – One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early ’80s game. With complex controls, where you can switch between different stations on your World War II bomber to change between shooting enemy planes, bombing, choosing where you’re going, and such, it’s an advanced game for the time. Unfortunately, it requires the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon. The game will run without it, but it has voice lines telling you vital info, so the game isn’t very playable without one, and I don’t have an IntelliVoice yet. However, even if I had one, I can’t see myself getting into this game much at all; it may be impressive for the time, but in retrospect this kind of game quickly becomes horribly dated, and I’m not a flight sim fan regardless. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Beauty & The Beast – One player. One of Imagic’s more popular Intellivision games, this game is Intellivision exclusive and not a port from another system. Imagic supported the Intellivision pretty well for a couple of years. However, I don’t like it nearly as much as I was hoping. The game looks nice, but the gameplay is lacking, I think. Anyway, Beauty & The Beast is one of the many games heavily inspired by Nintendo’s hit Donkey Kong. Thanks to Coleco the Intellivision version of Donkey Kong is no good, but this somewhat similar game is probably better. Unfortunately, I think it has problems as well. The game is no match for arcade Donkey Kong. My biggest problem with this game is its jumping controls. So, in the game, your goal is to get to the top of each screen. Each screen is a couple of floors tall, and you want to get to the top of each screen, which helps you climb the building to try to save the girl (the beauty) from the beast (an ape as expected). Unfortunately you’re facing an endless series of buildings here, so you can never really win. You can climb from one floor to the next by hitting Up on the circle when one of the windows on each floor is open. If you’re still climbing when the window closes, you’ll fall and die, so be careful. I don’t know why you can climb up when windows are open but not when they are closed, but that’s how it works here. Your movement controls feel fast, as you zip around the screen, trying to avoid obstacles and go up open windows. However, when you need to jump over something, as I said the controls are very stiff and bad. I really don’t like the jumping controls here, and they don’t feel good at all; when I have to jump I often die. The jumping here feels somewhat like it does in Dragonfire, except here it’s even more central to the game. The simplistic and repetitious gameplay is expected from this time, but that’s fine if a game is good. Sadly, only part of Beauty & The Beast is fun. I know this game has fans, but I’m not one, so far at least; I think that this game is below average, and I can only really recommend it for the graphics, which are admittedly pretty nice and detailed.


Bomb Squad – One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb by cutting the correct wires and installing the correct parts in places on the circuit. Naturally, without an IntelliVoice it’s quite impossible, though it looks very difficult on the higher difficulty settings even with one. The game has a good concept though, so when I get an IntelliVoice I’ll definitely want to give it a try. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bowling (aka PBA Bowling) – One to four players alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI. Bowling is a pretty good bowling game for the early ’80s. Showing off all of those buttons that the Intellivision controller has, Bowling has more commands than the simplistic Atari 2600 Bowling game. You can move up and down, aim and curve your shot, and adjust power. You even can select your ball weight at the start, and that does affect the game. Visually, this is a fairly standard effort, with okay but not amazing visuals of the lane and pins. It’s an okay-looking game with a lot more depth than bowling on the 2600, so it fits in with the general ‘more complex games’ theme the Intellivision went for, and it does seem to be good. Of course there is no AI so if you’re playing by yourself it’s a solo affair, but oh well. Bowling plays well and is fun, so it is a good game. Once you get used to the controls it’s a simple little game, and much better bowling games are out there on newer systems, but this one’s fun enough to play once in a while. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


BurgerTimeOne player. BurgerTime was an arcade hit in the early ’80s. Mattel wasn’t able to get the rights to many popular arcade games, as Atari had the best ones and Coleco got the rights to most of the better remaining arcade games of note, but Mattel did get the rights to one arcade company’s arcade games, Data East. The somewhat strange single-screen platformer BurgerTime was probably their biggest hit, so it was ported to the Intellivision. This game is highly regarded on Intellivision, but I wasn’t sure how worth it this would be since I do have the even better NES version. Well, it was worth getting, because yes this is a pretty good version of this game. The somewhat slow Intellivision CPU isn’t known for being great at fast action games, but this somewhat unique platformer runs very well. For anyone who dosn’t know it, in BurgerTime you play as chef Peter Pepper, and try to make giant hamburgers before living ingredients get you! Yeah, it’s weird. So, you go around, dodging enemies on the maze of platforms, while trying to walk over all burger parts. When you walk over a part, it’ll fall down to the next floor below, dropping other parts below it if there is another one on the next level. Each burger has several parts to drop, including the top bun, lettuce, and burger. Once you make all burgers on a stage you go on to the next one. You also have pepper spray, which will temporarily stun an enemy. The only other way to defeat enemies is that when you drop a burger part, any enemies also standing on that part when you drop it will die. They respawn elsewhere on screen quickly, though, so you can’t get rid of enemies for good, you just need to learn to avoid them. BurgerTime is a fun and challenging game, and it’s easy to see why it was so successful. BurgerTime is, indeed, one of the best games I’ve played on Intellivision. There are better versions of the game so don’t get an Intellivision for this game, but if you have one, get it. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600, NES, and many other platforms, though none are ports of this specific version.


Demon Attack One player. Demon Attack is another game from Imagic, and it’s one of their most popular games. This single-screen shmup sees you moving left and right on a screen, shooting up at enemies moving around above. It was inspired by the arcade game Phoenix which Atari had the rights to, enough so that Atari sued Imagic over this game and Imagic settled out of court, so they probably paid Atari something. I think that Demon Attack isn’t quite as great as the arcade or Atari 2600 versions of Phoenix, but it is also good and is on a lot more platforms. Demon Attack for the Intellivision has the same basic gameplay as the original Atari 2600 version of the game, but it has enhanced graphics and more gameplay, much like the TI 99/4A version but, by all accounts, better. Like that version, the game has two screens, one on a planet or moon where you do most of the shooting, and a boss stage in space against a giant ship. The planet is nicely detailed, so the background looks a lot better than the very simple Atari version.

The core gameplay is the same, though, apart from that added boss screen. Demon Attack plays well, as you move left and right and try to time your shots to hit the quickly-moving demons. It presents a good challenge, and there is nice variety as there are quite a few different types of demons on the regular screen. The boss stage mixes things up as well; here you need to hit a single point to destroy the giant demon ship, but hitting that point will be hard, as it’s protected by a moving shield and lots of small demons that are sent at you. This game is well paced and fun, and keeps you coming back. Of course the Intellivision circle disc thing makes playing the game a little harder than it should be, but you kind of get used to it eventually. I don’t know if it’s the best version of this game, but it is good. However, whenever I play this game, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be playing Phoenix, because that game is a bit better. Still, Demon Attack is a good game well worth playing on any format it was released for. Also on Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey 2, TI 99/4A, Atari 8-bit computers, PC, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color Computer. Each version is different, but this is one of the best.


DragonfireOne player.  Dragonfire is another Imagic game.  This one’s much less impressive, though, as it is pretty much just a straight, only graphically enhanced port of the Atari 2600 game of the same name.  Dragonfire is a good Atari game, though, so that could work well.  In this two-screen game, you first run across a bridge as a little guy, dodging fireballs as you go platformer-style, and then run around a large overhead-view space, collecting treasures while avoiding more fireballs that the dragon, now on screen, shoots at you.  It’s a fast-paced game, all about dodging and jumping and then avoiding and collecting, and it’s okay to good on the 2600.  Here, however, it feels worse.  The graphics are improved, as the drawbridge and castle towers on the sidescroller stage look nicer and the dragon and its treasures are drawn with more detail, but the difference isn’t enough to matter much.

Much more important are the controls, and they’re not good. Yes, the controls are a whole lot worse because you need to try to make these tricky, timing-sensitive jumps with the Intellivision disc! This controller is hard to deal with even in ideal circumstances, and this games’ jumping is, like Beauty & The Beast above, far from ideal. So, while I do find this game fun on the 2600 as the avoid-and-collect gameplay is somewhat addictive and fun, I’d recommend sticking to that version. It’s the same thing, but better. The Intellivision version is too hard thanks to its controller to be worth the hassle, and has no additions to counteract that, unlike the better Imagic Intellivision games. Also on Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Apple II, and TRS-80 Color Computer. The 2600 version is the original. This is nowhere near that level.


Frog Bog – One or two player simultaneous. Also known as Frogs and Flies on 2600, Frog Bog is one of Mattel’s more popular games, and Mattel did release it on Atari 2600 as well as Intellivision under the name Frogs and Flies. This is an extremely simple arcade-style game where you play as a frog, jumping between two lily pads to eat flies as they go by. You cannot move around on the ground; for some reason, these frogs can only move in the air, not on the ground. So, you press on the disc to jump in the direction you press. The disc gives you better control than the Atari 2600 version of the game. You can control your jump, so try to aim and time it so that you’re in the air while flies are passing by. While in the air, hit a side button to extend your tongue, hopefully catching flies in the process. That’s all there is to it. There is even an automatic tongue option, for somewhat easier play. You just jump back and forth, eating flies, for a while. As the game progresses time passes, from morning to afternoon to night, and once full night falls the game ends. So, Frog Bog games are time-limited and might last ten minutes at most. That’s good, though, because by the time a game ends I’m ready to play something else, there isn’t much to this one. Even so, the time progression is a nice touch you only infrequently saw at the time. The background graphics are pretty nice as well, with a detailed pond environment. The game also does have an AI opponent, so it’s not two player only, and there are two difficulty settings. On the default setting the AI is extremely easy, but the harder setting presents a slightly higher challenge. The AI really is a very weak opponent though, so if you want to lose this game much at all you’ll need to play it against another human. I like that they included a computer opponent, but I wish it was a bit tougher.

In comparison to the Atari 2600 version, the graphics are much more detailed on Intellivision, as expected. The Atari version looks okay for the console, but everything is a lot blockier. The core gameplay is identical, and the controls are good on Atari too — it compensates for the loss of a 16-direction stick by having you hold the stick to change your angle. This control scheme is simple and works well. It’s probably easier to control your frog on Atari than Intellivision as a result, so despite the better graphics in this version, Mattel might actually have made a better game on the competing console. On either platform, though, overall Frog Bog is an average game. It’s probably worth getting on one system or another because it is quite cheap and can be fun, particularly for two players, but don’t expect too much from this one. Also on Atari 2600 under the name Frogs and Flies. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Golf (Tele-Games ver. of PGA Golf) – One or two player alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI.  This golf game is a bit like Golf for the Atari 2600, but with a lot more simmish elements. Where the 2600 or Odyssey 2’s golf games are pretty much minigolf games by another name, Intellivision Golf plays more like the real thing, with different clubs to switch between, a more complex meter for hitting your ball, and such. The graphical look is similar to those games but a better, as just like them each hole is shown in a single-screen overhead view. The graphics are definitely better than those games, as trees are identifiable and there are angled greens and everything, but it’s still a single-screen game. The animating ball, which gets larger at the height of its flight, does look nice though. The more simmish controls make this game much more challenging than those golf games, however, and for someone like me who does not like golf, that’s not really a good thing. This is probably a better game objectively than Atari or O2 Golf, but I find myself getting bored extremely quickly here and would probably rather play either of those games. I much prefer mini-golf to regular golf, myself. Golf fans might want to try this game out though, as it’s quite possibly the first semi-realistic take on the sport. You will need to choose the correct club for each hit and such. It’s a challenging game for sure. There is only one 18-hole course here, as usual for the time, but each hole is unique. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Tele-Games ver.) – Two players only (Poker); One or two players (Blackjack). For some reason I do not understand, this card game was the pack-in title with the Intellivision for its first few years. It’s not a game I have much of any interest in playing, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that, so it’s a somewhat strange choice for a pack-in. The games are fairly complex for the time, with three different poker variants and blackjack all on the cart, playable in 1 or 2 player for blackjack and 2 player only for poker, but I don’t like this kind of game at all and don’t want to play enough of this to learn how to play it, so even though I do have a complete copy with its detailed instruction book I don’t know that I will ever play this again. It’s fine, and probably even impressive, for the genre for the time, but I do not know how to play or want to learn poker. Plus, poker here requires two players, so even if I did want to try, I can’t really. While I do know blackjack, and this is a totally acceptible blackjack game, it’s not that much better than similar games on the Atari 2600 or Odyssey 2, and today there are a great many far better ways to play electronic blackjack than here, not that I want to do that almost ever. Overall, for me at least, this has to be one of the weakest and least interesting pack-in games ever to come with a console. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Lock ‘n ChaseOne player. Most Intellivision games are exclusive to the console. However, Mattel did get the rights to one companies’ arcade games, Data East, and made several home ports of their games. The good Pac-Man clone Lock ‘n Chase is one of those games, so it is one of the few arcade to Intellivision conversions. Most of the others are also Data East games. In this game you are a thief, trying to steal as much as you can before the police catch you. So, Lock ‘n Chase is like Pac-Man, but with the new component of doors that you can close. At certain choke points in the maze, if you hit a button a door will close off that path for a set amount of time. You’ll need to strategically use this ability to try to get all of the dots in each stage. As usual on the Intellivision, the graphics are low resolution, so everything is near eachother, and keeping away from your enemies is hard. Like the original Pac-Man, the maze is always the same, but unlike that game the difficulty here is steep from the beginning! Indeed, getting far into Lock ‘n Chase will take practice, this game is tough. This is probably a good port of the arcade game, but while it is good enough, this game is no Pac-Man, and isn’t as good as games like K.C. Munchkin or Turtles on Odyssey 2 either. This is a quality game worth playing if you like maze games, but between the high difficulty, mediocre graphics, and sometimes tricky controls for using the locks, I doubt I’ll be playing a huge amount of it. Still, it is a decently good game I guess. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600. The Atari version has much worse graphics as you would expect, but plays similarly. I like the later Game Boy sequel, also called Lock ‘n Chase, a lot more; that game is pretty good. I covered it in my Game Boy Game Opinion Summaries article.


Loco-MotionOne player. Loco-Motion is a puzzle game with gameplay inspired by sliding tile puzzles. The game screen is simple, a 5 by 5 grid of tiles with various train track layouts on them fills most of the screen, and curving loop pieces go off of the sides of the grid around the edges. You move pieces into the blank space in the grid, so you effectively move a black square around with reversed controls. On this grid, a single train car is always moving around. Your goal on each stage is to get it to go around all of the loops on the edges of the screen, beyond the bounds of the 5×5 grid you have control over. In order to do this, you need to move the tiles around so that the car goes around all of the edges. That’s not all, though, that alone would be far too simple! No, you also have a time limit. If you take too long to go around some loops, they will lock off and send an enemy train at you. This removes the loop from the stage without you getting points for it, while also adding a major obstacle to avoid, another train moving around the stage that you’ll need to keep away from the main one!

Yes, Loco-Motion has a simple concept, but it quickly gets very difficult. This game has a great concept and it’s mostly well executed; Loco-Motion is one of the best games I have for Intellivision. It does have some issues, however. First and foremost, the game is very slow paced. The train you’re leading around moves slowly, and the only speed-adjustment button isn’t very useful. You will spend a lot of time in this game waiting, as you watch the train slowly move along its route. Additionally, those reversed controls take getting used to. I get the idea, instead of moving the black square around you are moving the tiles into or out of it, but the game almost makes more sense if you hold your controller upside down, which is a little weird. I kind of wish they let you choose between regular and reversed control options. Still, despite the very slow gameplay, with challenging puzzles and a unique concept, Loco-Motion is a pretty good game and definitely is a game that any Intellivision owner should get. It’s one of the better Intellivision exclusives, the system does this kind of slower, more strategic game well.


Major League Baseball (1980) – Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required.  Major League Baseball is one of the early Intellivision games, and it is a title that Mattel advertised heavily as a part of their campaign to convince people to buy an Intellivision instead of an Atari. Like all baseball games at the time, it is a single-screen game which fits a downsized version of a baseball field onto one screen, and is two player only, there is no AI opponent. Later Intellivision baseball titles would add AI opponents, but this first one, which is by far the most common, doesn’t have one. That’s too bad, because as a result I won’t have many chances to play this game. I like baseball, but don’t have many opportunities for local multiplayer anymore. This is a simple game, but it has more depth than 2600 Baseball for sure. There are actually nine players on screen, for one. You can also switch which player you are controlling with the keypad, which is nice. Additionally, while pitching you can try to pick off runners. When fielding it can be hard to tell where a ball is going to land though, there is no ball shadow or arc, it just moves in a straight line until it stops somewhere, hopefully with your fielder nearby. There is a sound giving you a hint at when it’s stopping, but good luck. When pitching you pretty much can just aim it left or right, so batting isn’t anywhere near as hard as in a newer baseball game. You do have multiple pitches, but still batting isn’t too hard. Overall, I can’t really say much about what I think about this game because I haven’t played it much, but sure, for a 1979 release this is somewhat impressive. Looking back flaws like the absence of fly balls and single player are pretty significant, though. This isn’t a game I’ll play much but I am glad to have it. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback Special Edition unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

Part two will be next time, once I finish it.

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I discovered two “new” Genesis EEPROM games!

I know I said that I wouldn’t post updates to the Console Save Types list as threads this soon, but this one is far too interesting, and important, to leave as just an update in that thread.  I have also added this information to the article itself, which again can be found here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=147 but here is the update.

4/30/2019: After reading a review of Accolade’s Genesis game Summer Challenge, I noticed that the reviewer didn’t mention that the game saves. I know it does though, so this made me interested in how — is it a battery, or an EEPROM chip? Now, the two Accolade games previously mentioned here as having EEPROM chips now are “unconfirmed” at best, as the update to my source removed those two games, Barkley: Shut Up and Jam 2 and Unnecessary Roughness ’95. Unfortunately I don’t have those games to check, though I might get them to be sure. I know some Accolade games do have batteries, though; the Genesis Hardball games that save have batteries onboard. However, to my moderate surprise, Summer Challenge and Winter Challenge do not! No, they have EEPROM chips. To be precise, the chip is a KM28C16, apparently a Samsung EEPROM chip by what I can find about it online. Summer Challenge has a KM28C16-15, and Winter Challenge a KM28C16-20. (I have two copies of Winter Challenge and they both have the same chip in them.) Doing some searching I see nowhere online that mentions that either of these games use an EEPROM, so this is very interesting stuff to learn! The games save your settings and best times or scores in the events. I actually quite like these games, unlike most people, and this is one more reason why they’re interesting. Oh, and I removed Populous from the list of Turbografx/PC Engine games with a battery, because it doesn’t have one, that is an old rumor. I didn’t realize that was still on the list or I would have removed it long ago.

 

So yeah, I found two new Genesis games that save to EEPROMs, hiding in plain sight in my collection!  Accolade’s Genesis games requires a special security screwdriver bit to open, essentially a star bit with a pinhole in the center since there is a pin sticking out of the center of the screw, but i have one of those screwdrivers so I can open up the carts, and I finally did so recently. I had previously assumed that Summer and Winter Challenge both used battery save, like the rest of Accolade’s Genesis games that save, but nope, they have EEPROMs instead.  That’s very cool!  I like these games, and this makes me like them even more; these won’t have their batteries die like so many other classic cartridge games have.  Once I manage to take a clear picture, I will update this post with a photo of the board.  Unfortunately all the ones I’ve tried to take so far have been blurry.

Update (5/5/19): Sorry for the delay, but here’s a picture of the board for one of the two games, Winter Challenge.  Hopefully it’s legible.  The EEPROM chip is the one in the upper left.

 

As for other updates on this site, I’m sorry that my still-upcoming new Game Opinion Summaries list isn’t done yet.  I really should be working on that a lot more to get it finished up…

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Major Console Save Types List Update

I spent quite a while today working on some updates to one of my more important works on this site and elsewhere, my Console Save Types list article that you can find here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=147

Here is a copy of the complete changelog for the new update to the article.  I will probably continue to look up some thing for this article, but may not make new home-page articles for those updates if they happen soon.  See this page or the original article for what’s new, I will continue to keep a thorough changelog.

4/19/2019: It’s been a while, but here are a bunch of updates and fixes.  Expect more in the future.  First, I found a newer (fall 2010) revision of the Genesis EEPROM games guide that I had previously missed.  The guide is offline on its original site, but I found a backup on the Internet Archive and link that now.  Both the older and newer revisions of the guide are there, and both are linked.   The main changes are that the second version removes three games, Unnecessary Roughness ’95, Barkley: Shut Up and Jam! 2, and Blockbuster World Championship 2, which probably actually use battery-backed SRAM; and adds four games, John Madden Football ’93, John Madden Football ’93 Championship Edition, Ninja Burai Densetsu, and Honoo no Toukyuuji Dodge Danpei, along with the Meganet Modem cartridge.  I know there are other dead links in the Links section, but sadly that is the way of the internet. I fixed some, but I recommend trying web.archive.org to look for any now-dead pages. Additionally, I found two old updates to this list from 2010 and 2012 that I had forgotten about and only posted on the NeoGAF version of this list, which otherwise is very out of date and won’t be updated.  They have been added to the list, so the Virtual Boy is now on the list, and there is a little more PC-FX info as well.  See 9/24/10 and 7/24/12 above for more.  I also added bullet points to the table of contents.  Additionally, I just discovered that four Game Gear baseball games use 128 byte EEPROM chips.  This has been added to the list, with source links.  I also added the Nintendo Switch to the list.  It has a trickle charge clock and flash memory cards.  Also, I worked on and improved many sections, particularly the TurboGrafx-16/ PC Engine, PC-FX, Genesis, CD-i, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.  The CD-i changes are particularly noteworthy — I added in some missing details for battery types and save sizes that I know, with new links at the bottom to match.  The details I know on the batteries in non-NVRAM CD-i consoles are now on the list.  Some of the more important new links go to internal board images of one of those, the DVS VE-200 CD-i, and the board inside the PC-FX BMP.  Unfortunately I cannot identify either battery based just on these images, but they are very valuable nonetheless.  And finally for this update, I was wrong in my previous update (2014) when I said that the Wii U was the first Nintendo system with a user-replaceable clock battery.  In fact the Wii is.  This has been added, along with a link showing it.

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Screenshots and Memories Sidestory: My Few World of Warcraft and Phantasy Star Online Screenshots

I am working on a game opinion summaries / first impressions article for my newest (old) console, the Intellivision.  It shouldn’t take too long, but in the interim, though, how about this thing?  Working on my Guild Wars screenshot series has made me look for old screenshots I’ve taken of other games, but unfortunately I took almost none.  I’ve never filmed myself playing games, and I only have a small handful of images of high scores and such I’ve taken, my many hundreds of Guild Wars images, and a few others, including the ones in this post and some from the Guild Wars 2 betas.  Those latter ones are for another time.

Online RPGs have been around for decades.  Apart from a few games such as Cavequest, Castle of the Winds, and Quest for Glory I, however, for the most part I did not play RPGs in the ’90s on our PCs; I mostly stuck to platformers, strategy games, shmups, racing games, adventure games, and such.  As for console RPGs, I wouldn’t be at all interested in those until the ’00s.  I love Quest for Glory, but it didn’t get me to play other RPGs; that is a somewhat unique  game series, being a hybrid of RPG and adventure.   When Baldur’s Gate released in 1998, however, this changed.  I had an interest in Dungeons & Dragons, though I hadn’t played much of the pen and paper game, but the mid ’90s were not a good time for D&D games; there had been good ones earlier on, SSI’s Gold Box series particularly, but I didn’t play those in the early ’90s, and they probably would have been too much for me anyway.  Anyway, Baldur’s Gate interested me in a way that RPGs hadn’t before, so I wanted to play it, but not so badly that I was going to spend $50 for the game.  Unfortunately it didn’t have a free demo, so, I bought the retail expanded demo version, Baldur’s Gate Chapters I & II.  I liked that, so I bought the full game in ’99.  I loved the game a lot and it’s still a favorite of mine, but I must admit I never finished it; it’s pretty non-linear, and after wandering around in the forests a lot I eventually lost interest.  It’s a great game I mean to play someday, though.  I usually have preferred a somewhat more linear, directed experience over a very open-ended one.  I also don’t care much at all about loot and don’t play games a game just to get better items or “collect them all”, and I do not like grinding experience either.  I also quite dislike crafting unless it’s very simple.  I love history and the middle ages has always been my favorite historical period, but while I like some RPGs, I’ve never loved the genre as much as some do.

And that gets us to MMORPGs.  Right from when I first heard of them, I wasn’t all that interested in actually playing online RPGs myself not only because I wasn’t a big RPG fan but also because the kinds of games they are run directly against what I like in games — they are all open-ended, with an endgame where loot is often your main draw, after all.  So, for years I did not play them.  By 2004, however, I was interested enough that I wanted to try some… and then there was that Guild Wars alpha test in May 2004, with a no-monthly-fee game made by former Blizzard developers, my favorite game studio then thanks to their amazing RTSes!  I had to try it, and the rest was history, as the Guild Wars Screenshots and Memories series shows.  In a lot of ways Guild Wars is exactly the kind of online RPG I’d love!  It has very little to no required grinding and a low level cap, loot is heavily de-emphasized except as a visual thing, the game has a main path that follows a series of linear missions, there is a very satisfying mapping component as you reveal the map, and gameplay is complex and strategic in some level, and isn’t just mindless button-mashing.  It also looks great, has no monthly fees, and ran relatively well on my computer’s then-aging GeForce 2 GTS graphics card.

However, Guild Wars was not out yet, and the public tests were sporadic.  So, in the interim, I tried a bit of a few other mostly free online RPGs, including Saga of Ryzom, ArchLord, a very small amount of Anarchy Online, and, at the end of 2004, the open beta for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.  A little later, in 2006, I would also try Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, the PC version of the Dreamcast classic Phantasy Star Online.  All these games reinforced all of the reasons why regular MMORPGs do not interest me all that much; they’re fine games, but just aren’t for me.  I would continue trying them every once in a while, however.  Unfortunately I can’t find any screenshots I took in any of them, not from 2004-2005 at least.  I do, however, have some shots from a little later, from when I bought World of Warcraft when it was on sale in 2006 and played it for a month.

Of those games, the most successful is of course World of Warcraft.  Because I was a huge Blizzard fan at the time, particularly of their RTSes  — though the game would prove to be the end of that — I did try World of Warcraft when Blizzard had an open beta for the game in late 2004 just before its release.  Comparing it to the Guild Wars betas I was playing so much of at that time, WoW had worse graphics, worse art design, significantly worse performance and framerates, and much less interesting, much more solo-focused gameplay.  And on top of all that, Blizzard wanted users to pay a $15 monthly fee to play their game, while Guild Wars had no fees beyond buying the box!  I liked pretty much everything about Guild Wars a lot better and never considered buying WoW when it released soon afterwards.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I took any screenshots during that beta, but I remember making a couple of characters and wandering around and such.  So, this article starts later, in 2006, when I played the game again and did take some screenshots.  The article has three parts, in chronological order based on when the screenshots were taken.  First, Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst screenshots from summer 2006.  Second, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm screenshots also from summer 2006.  And last, my three screenshots from a PSO Blue Burst fan server from 2008.

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst (June 2006)

 

Guild Wars aside, PC online RPGs formed a consistent formula by the late ’90s, typified by the influential classic EverQuest and, following it, World of Warcraft.  On consoles, however, a different online RPG was popular — Phantasy Star Online, first released on the Dreamcast, and its’ more action-heavy form of online RPG.  I did not have a Dreamcast during its life so I could not play it then, but when a demo of the PC version released some time later I did try that out.  I’d also tried a bit of a relatives’ copy of the Dreamcast game.  It seemed fun, but not quite enough so to buy for PC when the full PC version, PSO Blue Burst, released in Japan in 2004 and the US in 2005.  I did play Blue Burst in 2006, however, but didn’t stick with it.  Most of the screenshots below are from when I started a few characters in ’06.   The game is fun but very grindey.  The grind is part of my issue with it, but that it also had a monthly fee was definitely a part of why I didn’t play PSO more, I did not want to pay every month just for the privilege of playing a game I had already bought!  The game was shut down after a few years, but fan servers kept it running.

Compared to regular MMORPGs, PSO does some things I like more, and others less.  On the one hand, PSO follows a clear game progression path.  Each episode is made up of areas, and each area has a map to fight through, a bunch of quests to do in variations of that map, and eventually a boss at the end of each of the four parts of the game.  Unlike an MMORPG, PSO areas are very small in size, particularly in the first game; you fight in a series of rooms, essentially, defeating the monsters in each room before you move on to the next one.  It works, but you’ll go through each area over and over and over as you level up, and that gets old.  The game also very much rewards playing with other human players, as a solo player is at a definite disadvantage against the enemies and especially bosses while team have a much better shot. Your reward for all this?  Loot.  That’s not really what I want from a game.  I mean, I do like PSO, but the repetitious nature of its grind hasn’t kept me coming back, though I might someday; there are still fan servers for the game, after all.  Anyway, these are my screenshots from when I first tried PSO Blue Burst in 2006.  I played the game for a bit but stopped, again, in part because of the whole monthly fee thing.  So, this is all lower-level gameplay, but I took a decent number of screenshots.  This set has 19 images.

This sure looks familiar; like most of these shots, it’s from the first of PSO’s four areas. You’ll go through each area a lot, fighting the same handful of enemies over and over. Fortunately the core gameplay’s pretty good.

This character, like most of my PSO characters, is a FOnewearl, a mage type since that’s one of my favorite classes in games. The graphics are low poly, but it is a port of a Dreamcast game for 2000, so for that time it looks nice enough. It was dated looking by the time this PC version released in the West in 2005, though.

Because it was originally a console game, PSO Blue Burst still has a mostly gamepad-friendly interface, though you can of course play it with a keyboard and mouse. The ten numbers at the bottom are a customizable set of hotkeys, giving you quicker access to a bunch of abilities and items than you would have on console. Meanwhile, the larger set of four icons on the right is the console-style action interface, where you choose an action with one of a gamepads’ four action buttons, or equivalent keyboard keys, and can switch between two sets of four with another button or key. You also can see blue, red, and green arrows over some of the enemies. This shows which enemy you have targeted at the moment and with what. This game has fairly simple controls, but they work well, particularly on a computer where you have easy access to a keyboard; this game relies primarily on text chat, not voice, for talking to other human players. The on-screen interface looks like something designed for a console and the look of the text has an unmistakable ‘this game was not originally made for English characters’ look, but it’s a nice enough interface and works well.

And here I have pressed a key to activate one of those abilities, so the arrows over enemies have disappeared and the burning flames are there instead.

Here I’m attempting to fight the first area’s boss. Alone, at only level 8, it’s probably not going to go well…

PSO is divided into rooms. Once you kill all the enemies in a room, you are allowed to go to the next one. At a rooms’ entrance you can see enemies in the next room sometimes, but can’t fight them until you go in.

I should probably heal up if I can before moving on…

It looks like I survived! That’s always satisfying.

After an expedition, a trip to the medical center is advisable. After a death, well, this is where you end up…

Here is the games’ lobby area. This is the only part of PSO where you will see other human players — much like Guild Wars, the game has a massively-multiplayer component in the town(s), but once you go out of town and take on a mission, you’re either playing solo or with human party members. Unfortunately, unlike Guild Wars, as far as I know PSO does not have AI companions like Henchmen or Heroes. That’s too bad, it’d be great.

This part of the little town area has the shops in it where you can buy and sell items. You won’t necessarily get the best items and abilities from here, but as your source for healing items and basic skills they are invaluable. Guild Wars came up with a better plan, though, in how it makes consumable item use entirely optional; in a game like this you’re constantly spending money on healing items.

This low-poly but sharp look is distinctive of the Dreamcast and has held up fairly well. Of course this PC version has some visual enhancements over the original, but still, it’s a somewhat nice looking game. Anyway, here we’re looking at a portal that will warp us to the level’s boss, I believe.

You think? Anyway, this is the mission counter where you get important story quests.

Enrich your life? What is this, advertising for a cult or subscription service or something? Heh…

This cave area is a little farther into the game, beyond the green first level. This firey cavern is nice to see because after hours of that one green forest over and over, it’s great to finally see something different.

Here’s another part of the lobby, with human players clustering around the mission counter.

I tried a second character for a little while as well. This class uses guns, its more of a ranger type. Fun stuff. This enemy is annoying though, insect enemies keep coming out of the hive until you kill it…

… Leaving the medical center again, probably after a death? Yeah, you do that a lot in this game, particularly when playing solo…

And last, I took another shot of an attempt at the second level, the cave. Some time after this I decided to not pay the monthly fee to keep playing. It’s a good game but not monthly fee good, particularly for a college student with limited funds, which I was then…

 

World of Warcraft (from somewhere between late 2005 and July 2006)

 

I had played WoW, again, in the pre-release beta in late 2004, but as with the Guild Wars betas, characters were wiped before launch.  However, In November 2005 I got a 10-day key for WoW.  However, I don’t have screenshots or memories of playing the game then.  Instead, what I do have is a batch of screenshots dated to July 2006.  The dates on those files are probably wrong, but I’m not sure when these shots are from between those two dates.  These screenshots are almost certainly from that 10-day trial somewhere in this timeframe, probably actually November 2005 when I got that trial key, but perhaps as late as the date on the files.  I was never very interested in playing WoW, but because of its success and my past love for Blizzard, I gave it multiple tries, and these screenshots are from my second such attempt.   I did not buy the game anytime soon afterwards, but in 2010, when after the release of the Cataclysm expansion Blizzard sold the original WoW and its first few expansions for $5 each, I did buy the game.  I don’t think I have any screenshots from that month, however.  If I do, I haven’t found them.  I played the game for the month that came with the games, but did not subscribe, so I have not played WoW since 2010.  I am fine with that.

Unlike that first pre-release test, however, I did take a handful of screenshots of WoW this time.  They are all from the starter areas and aren’t very interesting, but here are 15 screenshots anyway.

World of Warcraft looks better than this now since it has had visual overhauls, but this is how the game originally looked. I’m running it at only 800×600, lower than the rez I was using in Guild Wars by this point, because of the worse performance. I know I said it already, but framerates in this game were bad for me, despite the blocky and mediocre graphics. I mean, it has some solid art design, though not as great as Guild Wars’, but technically it’s not close to that game. Having to have a huge open world full of players must be holding this game back visually. That’s yet another reason that Guild Wars is better than WoW! Yes, sorry, I know WoW has a lot of fans, and I love Warcraft RPGs, but this game always seemed somewhat average to me… it was fine, but not compelling. If I could play it for only regular retail price I’d play it, but not for something requiring a monthly fee payment.

WoW NPCs don’t come close to GW ones either in art design, environment background design, or costume design. Well, to be fair, Guild Wars can be fairly accused of pretty much exclusively having supermodels for player characters. WoW’s characters are also sexualized and exaggerated, but it might be less so than GW. But is it actually less so, or is it just that I so prefer GW’s art design? I think it might be as much of the latter as the former; I remember a controversy about how at some point early on WoW male Elves were changed to make them much buffer than they were originally planned, for example, in order to make them more like what the audience wanted — more attractive characters. Of course any discussion of art is purely subjective though, so there is no right answer here.

I made a couple of characters in the one month I played this game, and here’s one, a human mage. WoW, like most MMOs, has a very busy interface loaded with icons, lots of consumable items to buy and use, and lots of skills to equip. The game has been simplified over time, I’ve heard, as far as how much choice you have in selecting skills within each class, but it never had Guild Wars’ level of depth, not even close.

Looking at these screenshots doesn’t really make me want to play this game again even if I could, honestly… though that it still has monthly fees is definitely a part of that. Still, though, it is nice that the game has some building interiors, that’s something Guild Wars doesn’t have much of.

Combat. As with most MMOs, Guild Wars included, the game uses a skillbar-based system where you activate skills in your taskbar with your mouse or keyboard shortcuts. The more limited customization is less interesting than Guild Wars, though. Sure, it’s much harder to mess up a build here so there is less risk, but the lacking reward is worse. Unfortunately, Guild Wars 2 is much more inspired by games like this one or Phantasy Star Universe than it is Guild Wars, when it comes to how equipping skills works. It’s one of the great shames of that game.

I like the Night Elf character look better than the Human… but that might not be a surprise, in Warcraft III I mostly played as the Night Elves in multiplayer, after all.

And here we have the second of four screenshots, each with this character in a different costume.

Nah, I don’t want to stick with this one, if that is my character.

This one is an NPC, not my character. They are somewhat similar looking, though. She’s got starter-tier stuff to sell.

Oh joy, I got junky equipment… but don’t you want to play thousands of more hours of the game so you can get good stuff? … I don’t, really…

This shot reminds me of some of the things I liked about this game.  To be more positive about WoW, exploring the games’ large areas and fighting monsters is fun, though. And for people who do have friends in the game, a guild to play with, and such, I definitely see how this kind of game is appealing. I didn’t have that though, and didn’t think I ever would. As a solo game Guild Wars appealed to me more, in part because back then it had much better random grouping options. But even comparing this to GW as it is now, I still like GW’s core gameplay more than the traditional MMO gameplay you see here. Both are good designs that work well though, certainly; I just have somewhat unique tastes for what I like in games, I guess.

Also, with a better computer more able to handle the load of these graphics, it’d be more fun as well. If there was a framerate counter, it’d surely be lower than the averages you see in the Guild Wars screenshots.  I probably did like the game a little more when I played it again in 2010 on the newer computer I had by that point, but not enough so that I wanted to keep paying Blizzard money for the privilege…

Blizzard’s signature cartoony art design looks pretty good, too. I may prefer Guild Wars’ style, but this does look good, the environments in particular.  These original WoW character models don’t come very close to the GW characters in detail.

This is probably just a weird perspective and not a tiny person with huge bookshelves, but I’m not sure… but anyway, that’s all I’ve got for WoW.

As I said previously, four years after this 10-day trial in 2006, I bought WoW in 2010 and played for a month then.  It was the same game you see here, just better looking since I had a newer computer, and I had some fun but did not take any screenshots or subscribe after the free month ended, and have not played it again since.  Overall, World of Warcraft was okay.  Running around, getting skills and items, exploring, and doing quests was kind of fun.  Some things about the graphics are good, also.  It was a totally solo experience for me, though, and I don’t know how I would ever have met other people to play the game with, either.  And the core gameplay, all based around grinding and getting items, is not the kind of goal I keep playing a game for.  Still, it’s good.  I don’t at all agree with the popular pronouncement that WoW is the best MMO ever, but it’s not bad I guess, based on my memories of playing it years ago.

 

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst – Fan Server (2008)

 

In 2008, along with some people from the then-great (and now quite the opposite!  Use Reset Era now, instead) gaming forum NeoGAF, I played PSO Blue Burst on one of the fan-run servers for a while.  Sega shut down the Western PSOBB servers in March 2008, so this would have been from some time after that, as fan servers sprang up and gained popularity in lieu of the official one.  Unfortunately the server we used deletes characters if you don’t use them for a few months, Diablo 2 style, so my character, like the ones from the official server above, is long gone.  Before that happened, though, I played the game with them enough to finish PSO Episode I, which was a nice accomplishment.  I really wanted to beat the original PSO game, and I did!  It was worth the repetition, I think.  I didn’t like it quite enough to keep going in episode 2, but if I start a new character on a server which doesn’t delete characters so often maybe I will, someday… though it would be harder solo than when playing with some other people as I was here.  Oh well.

Unfortunately, I only took three screenshots in this period, for some reason.  More interesting are the chat logs — this version of PSO allows you to log all chat when you’re logged in, and I had that on for a while.  The old chatlogs are pretty interesting for me to read, but I don’t think I want to share them, at least not now.  So, these three images will have to do.  They are higher rez than the previous PSO screenshots because I had that better computer by this point.

I remembered about the screenshot function fairly well into episode one, clearly — I’m already a lot farther into the game than I was at the end of the first PSO set above. This is the third or fourth area.

The game gets tougher as you go along, but the different enemy types are interesting, and when working with other humans it’s more fun than the game is solo. PSO is an alright solo game, but it is a better team one.

And here’s the last one. I wish I’d taken shots of the ending… oh well. Still, playing through this was a fun experience.

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More corrections to part 11 of GW Memories

While working on the forum version of part 11 (http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=1043) of Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, I realized that the corrections I made yesterday were inaccurate — I misidentified a few screenshots of the second Guild Wars Nightfall beta as being from release, and forgot about a folder with five more images of said beta. So, after further edits to that article, it now is an overlong one with a full 73 images in five sections. It is complete now, though!

Additionally, I fixed the new Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots Table of Contents page; the links all work now. Check it out in the top bar.

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