Aaron's A-Z Game Challenge

This was a small challenge I noticed by one of my forum users so I joined in. I tried to a pick a game starting with each letter of the alphabet I had not beaten previously, and to vary the systems used as well as games. There were a few games I couldn't get to run properly and had to be put aside (e.g. Uniracers) and other games that I wanted to try (e.g. Jumpman for the Atari/C64 systems) but this was the end result of what I did end up playing and finishing. I have been repeating this cycle of A-Z, however, as I find it is an excellent excuse to try new and unusual games or ones I would have otherwise missed.

Aaron's Game Publisher Year System Completed 
Arkanoid Taito 1986 Arcade 8/15/12 
Impression : Classic, but repetitive

Although as entertaining as I remember when it was new, it was just as frustrating. Although it is possible to memorize patterns and angles to get the ball flying roughly were you want, after a while it just gets too fast to predict/react to, and the flying obstacles make it totally unpredictable when things sped up. There is definitely challenge here but it is more of the setup being unfair towards the player. The last stage with the Moai head was a cakewalk in comparison, however.
Blazing Lazers Hudson Soft 1989 TurboGrafx 16 8/16/12 
Impression : Fun and addictive, good length, wide variety of weapons.

For an early TurboGrafx 16 title, this was an amazing game. In the age when the NES and Sega Master System were getting on in age, this should have been pushed with the TG16 instead of "Keith Courage in Alpha Zones" (it was later a pack-in game I understand). It had a good length and there was a wide variety of weapons and powerups to always keep things interesting. One thing I liked was the fact even if you accidentally picked up a new weapon, it wasn't the end of the world since all of the weapons had their merits and there were plenty of opportunities to switch weapons with powerups anyway. It wasn't the hardest game our there but it was a fun challenge.
Cosmo Tank Atlus 1990 Gameboy 8/17/12 
Impression : Kind of cryptic to figure out what you are supposed to do and what is going on, though graphically impressive for an early GB title.

I remember seeing the box for this when it was new and was amazed it had a 3D perspective mode in it and the overworld 2D also looked really nice. The game plays well though your tank moves a bit stiff in the 2D overworld. There is plenty of variety in the gameplay between the 2D and 3D modes, though some modes like the 2D space fighter stage between worlds is way too easy and unneccesary. The game can be finished in under an hour and probably a whole lot faster if you know beforehand what order to visit which planets to get everything you need. The bosses in 3D mode all look very nice though are rarely much of a challenge, the final boss being slightly more of a challenge.
Demon's Crest Capcom 1994 Super Nintendo 8/25/12 
Impression : Amazing game. Some cryptic puzzles (figuring out where the hidden/alternate paths are). Impressive visuals and music.

I really loved the Gameboy title "Gargoyle's Quest" and only found out years later there was an SNES game featuring Firebrand. The presentation and production quality on this game is very nice and very atmospheric. There aren't so many levels and the bosses aren't necessarily difficult (in figuring out their patterns) though it is hard to dodge their attacks at some points so healing items are a must. The multiple endings is also a very nice touch.
Eidolon Lucasfilm Games 1985 Atari XL/XE 8/26/12 
Impression : Primitive by today's standards. The completely jerky action and low framerate make things hard to see and control at times. Very short levels.

For it's time (1985) the 3D gameplay was mind-blowing despite the fact the movement wasn't so fluid and it was a very simplistic game of "get keys, beat boss" 8 times on fairly small and symetrical mazes. The ending was a real WTF? kind of ending so that made it worthwhile but the challenge in this game can be largely beat by replaying each level until you get the pattern down and can beat it quickly. The energy meter you have carries over from level to level and you lose it constantly thoughout the game so if you don't stock up before the end of a level you can make the next one impossible to beat (read: annoying). I would have rated this much higher in 1985 than now. It isn't completely terrible but even that may be the nostalgia talking.
Flashback Delphine 1992 Sega Genesis 8/29/12 
Impression : Memorable presentation due to slick graphics and animation. Some frustrating sequences in the game but overall a good challenge, if not a bit short.

I saw this on my old Amiga computer first but I never finished it. There aren't so many levels but they are quite large. Even so, it doesn't take *that* long to beat. Your character (Conrad) has a good variety of moves to get around the game and it all adds to the presentation of the game. It reminds me of Prince of Persia, but with a gun. There is a story but it feels more like you are to play the game for the experience more so than the story.
Gradius V Konami 2004 Playstation 2 9/2/12 
Impression : Excellent shooter with challenging difficulty. Presentation is top-notch. Frustrating difficulty at times but addictive gameplay.

I only had a brief chance to play this when it was new at a friend's house but I loved it. The first Gradius game was classic but definitely shows its age now. This puts new life into the series. It is still the same basic game style but it is very fast paced and the presentation (graphics/music/sound) is amazing. There are some very tricky parts to the game and overall it was a difficult challenge but the controls were tight enough that the deaths rarely felt "cheap" and that they were clearly my fault. The game isn't that long but it took many runs to get to know what to expect in order to get through the game.
Hunt for Red October Beam Software 1990 Gameboy 9/7/12 
Impression : Not completely terrible. Proves less is more when comparing this to the NES title. Very basic and nothing too memorable about it. Controls a bit sluggish.

I didn't mind this game as a simple action game as long as I didn't get my hopes up that something more would happen. The only thing that I really hated was that the enemies can shoot away your powerups. It is incredibly annoying. The game itself rewards careful planning and patience over blasting through gung-ho but this does stretch out the time in-game just spend waiting or nudging your sub to lure one enemy sub instead of 2. Your sub controls a bit sluggish, but the enemies able to shoot away your powerups is far more annoying.
Ikaruga Treasure 2002 Dreamcast 9/9/12 
Impression : Gorgous visuals and fast, exciting action. Brutally hard, even on the easier difficulties.

I played with this a bit in Yokohama at the arcade when it was new there but I totally sucked at it and I'm not that much better now. I love the alternating white/black forms and how you can absorb one color while dying from the other. After the 3rd stage the game just gets unforgivingly difficult. This made victory over the final stage all the much better but I got a headache trying to dodge the billion and a half bullets flying at me every second (only a slight exaggeration).
JJ Squawkers Athena 1993 Arcade 9/11/12 
Impression : A bit silly and quirky with colorful graphics but just too easy and too short

I had trouble finding a game to do for "J" that I hadn't played and beat before. I thought about Jumpman for the C64/Atari and maybe in retrospect I should have done that. I found this by accident in MAME and liked the quirkiness from the outset. Once I started it was still a colorful game but the game is just too easy, even the boss fights, and all of the patterns are just too predictable. Decent for a quick quirky game but there isn't much to it.
Killer 7 Capcom 2005 Playstation 2 9/16/12 
Impression : The storyline may be confusing but it was a memorable experience with many experimental gameplay ideas and unique presentation.

I like adventure games and used to compare them to reading a book or watching a movie, only spread out longer and more interactive. Surprisingly, the story was the most confusing thing about the game. The mechanics and controls were very nice, though the interface did take some getting used to. The film-noire style of presentation was most welcome and set the mood beautifully. It is a rather violent game though it has moments of total WTF like the battle with the Handsome Men. I recommend this game but I warn that it is pretty weird.
Leander Psygnosis 1991 Amiga 9/21/12 
Impression : Satisfying action platormer. A fair number of levels though each is fairly short. Not so difficult but it will take a few tries to get down the enemy patterns and trap locations. Impressive visuals for the time.

As with many Psygnosis games on the Amiga, this one stands out graphically from other games of the time. I was annoyed that the Amiga version only allowed sound *or* music, but not both. The Genesis version (Legend of Gallahad) allowed for both but the graphics weren't quite as polished. The controls were pretty good though you have a weird forward momentum on the Amiga version that made precision jumping a bit awkward at times. The enemies aren't very difficult but it is hard to know when you hit something and if you are doing damage since there is little indication graphically. The interface to buy new weapons and armor is a bit clunky like this were an afterthought but it does help add some variety to the game a bit.
Mischief Makers Treasure 1997 Nintendo 64 9/22/12 
Impression : Goofy light hearted puzzle/action game. Not too much variety in the graphical department which leads to a feeling of repetition except for the boss fights.

I enjoyed this one but I did feel the difficulty was very low and the presentation seemed to grate after a while since it was the same set of icons and figures used again and again except for the boss fights, which were the highlight of the game for me. You can go back and master each stage by getting a gold star but the only reward is to be able to watch more of the text-heavy ending. If there were more storage available I would have liked to play this with updated and more varied visuals and environments.
Ninja Gaiden Tecmo 1998 Nintendo 9/25/12 
Impression : Lives up to the reputation of "Nintendo Hard". Very good game in playability and presentation (especially with the cutscenes) but it is just as hard as it is fun to play.

This was a pretty brutal game to finish, especially "the one jump" from level 6-2 (you know which one I'm talking about). The game looks good and the cutscenes add quite a lot to the game in terms of atmosphere since I don't think it would have been so memorable if it just jumped from stage to stage other than for the difficulty. Controls are good though I had to use a questionable move to sneak in more hits mid-jump to tackle some of the bosses (pressing down and attack at the same time multiple times during a jump to sqeeze in more hits)
Oddworld : Abe's Odyssey GT Interactive 1997 Playstation 9/29/12 
Impression : I loved the atmosphere of the game and the nice visuals as well as the nature of the game though some of the puzzles and hidden areas are very cryptic.

For some reason the Oddworld series always slipped under my radar. I wasn't such a fan of the character design or art style but I finally got around to playing it. I like the basic premise of saving as many of your kin as possible and the game played more like a puzzle than an action game. Some of the rooms and your friends are *very* well hidden, though. I think I would drive myself nuts trying to find every last one but you only need over half saved to see the good ending anyway. Very slick animation and the puzzles are tricky. I'm not a fan of the art style on the characters but it was a very polished look overall and a pleasure to look at.
PuLiRuLa Taito 1991 Arcade 9/30/12 
Impression : Totally messed up (crazy) game. Fairly simple but a lot of fun despite also being short.

I stumbled upon this by accident. It is a standard arcade beat'em up akin to something like Final Fight but the gimmick in this case is that the art staff were totally insane. The character designs and artwork down to the spells and scenery are all crazy and it gets borderline disturbing as the game goes on. This is a fairly easy game to beat (harder than JJ Squawkers, though) but is also a lot of fun. From what I understand it was released on various Taito collections in recent years.
Quackshot Sega 1991 Sega Genesis 10/2/12 
Impression : Fairly standard platformer with nice visuals and animation though the element of jumping between locations kept things interesting.

I was at a loss for a "Q" game but I found this. I usually don't think too much of TV and movie licensed games but this one wasn't bad despite the fact I'm still not the greatest fan of a plunger being your main weapon. The game isn't what I would call hard but it was a decent challenge taking into account you had to go back and forth between locations to get everything you needed to unlock more locations and get what you need. It looked good and played well; a decent albeit standard platformer.
River City Ransom EX Atlus 2004 Gameboy Advance 10/7/12 
Impression : Tons of variety in moves and equipment and nonstop enemy bashing, but it gets stale after a while.

It starts out very nice and colorful and a decent update to the original River City Ransom. You can buy food and clothes to help bump up your stats, play with a friend (in 1P mode, CPU friend), recruit gang members and get new weapons and moves to brawl your way around. Although you can bash on everyone again and again to build up your character, if you want to get on with the story, you will have to pay attention to what the characters say. The world isn't so large but certain events must be done in order and you will be running back and forth trying to get done what you need to in order to move on. This is fine in short bursts but does get stale. The enemies are challenging enough on normal difficulty though there are many difficulty settings. The final bosses can be quite a challenge but you can overcome them by leveling up enough. (Read : brute force). Graphically it is a very colorful game with clear and easy to distinguish sprites. I didn't think too much of the sound, however.
Shadow of the Ninja Natsume 1991 Nintendo 10/9/12 
Impression : Slick graphics for the NES on the first stage; average after that. Controls feel a bit stiff. Good music and SFX. Difficult at times but nowhere near the level of Ninja Gaiden. Pretty average overall but enjoyable for a short time.

This game came out at the tail end of the NES era so I was expecting the pinnacle of presentation and a game pushing the NES to the limits, but in the end I got a very decent though somewhat average game. The first stage starts and the initial impression was great (and the great music carried through the game), then it just seemed a bit average after that. It was difficult at spots but it could be overcome through memorization and knowing which weapons were most effective against which enemies. The controls did feel a bit stiff but it didn't cause so many frustrating moments. It was fun for the time I played it but I was kind of hoping it would have more to it. I also finished Ninja Gaiden in this challenge so I had already done a Ninja game so this felt a bit like "been there, done that", though.
Tomba! Whoopee Camp 1998 Playstation 10/13/12 
Impression : Addictive gameplay and beautifully presented. The puzzles and quests were fun to solve

This was another game that slipped my radar. On first viewing it looked like yet-another-platformer but I was soon proven wrong as the world expanded rapidly and there were many individual and unrelated quests given to me. The game is generous with extra lives though there are parts in the game where you just burn through them. There is a save system to ease things, though. Everything is colorful and and bright and the cutscenes are quite nice.
U.N. Squadron Capcom 1991 Super Nintendo 10/14/12 
Impression : Fast action and a lot of fun. Fun side-scrolling shooter that has a lot of variety in planes and weapons to keep things interesting.

I played this in the arcade many years ago but never got very far. The SNES version isn't so much easier but after playing through Gradius V and Ikaruga, I was better prepared to stomp all over this game. There are a series of missions that can be somewhat chosen in the order the player chooses (as opposed to the arcade which was totally linear). Each one is fairly short but some of them are pretty challenging until you have the patterns memorized. I think the only boss that really gave me trouble was one that was really only easily beatable with an upward-shooting weapon (if you didn't have one you were going to have a bad time). Action is smooth and there is a variety of planes and weapons to choose from which spices things up. This was a very fun game and one I'll probably play through when I get the urge.
Vagrant Story Square 2000 Playstation 10/20/12 
Impression : Incredible game. Visuals through ePSXe on par with early PS2 titles. Tons of variety in tactics, weapons, equipment. A hack and slash at heart (Rogue-like) played like it were Metal Gear Solid.

The first thing that stood out was the graphics and presentation. The cutscenes were excellent but that carried over to in-game and that was impressive. There is a lot of depth to the weapons and items you use. You will need to master a wide variety of weapons and tactics to beat the game, and I really liked how you could target specific parts of your enemies as well as chain your attacks. My only complaint is that this in essance a dungeon romp but the pacing isn't as fast paced as I expected sometimes; and obstacles like the box moving puzzles seem to make the game drag at times. With a New Game+ that lets you carry over your old stuff and acquire even more powerful stuff, there is lots of replay value as well.
Wardner Taito 1987 Arcade 10/22/12 
Impression : Simple but fun gameplay. Art style is a cross between cute and Ghosts & Goblins. Weapon upgrades and hidden bonuses add to the fun.

I'm not sure exactly why I was drawn to this game when I was younger but I had just as much fun recently as I did back then. Your character controls well albeit a bit slow and the presentation is very nice. The only problem I had was with some of the level design. There are parts with ladders that extend beyond what you can see and you have no way to know if it is a trap or not (boulder falls on you) unless you try them. Memorization and experience gets by these but it was a small annoyance I had with it. The final boss follows a fairly simple pattern but there is an even easier way to beat the boss if you find the 2 fairies in the game. Still fun, but the whole game can be beaten within 15 minutes if you know what you are doing.
X-Men Mutant Apocolypse Capcom 1994 Super Nintendo 10/24/12 
Impression : Standard though enjoyable platformer. Bosses may be easy or hard depending on which mutant you use. Beast is useless. Colorful graphics and good presentation

I had always been a fan of the X-men since high school (so I started late, yeah) but I had heard that the X-men games for other consoles were pretty terrible. This one was pretty good, however. I liked the look and feel of the whole game though some of the mutants were more useful than others. Depending on which mutant you take to which mission, the stages can be pretty easy or annoyingly tedious (or hard). I would have liked to see more of the characters from the TV series but that was just me. The game was sufficiently difficult but nothing extremely hard overall. Once you figured out the enemy movements it wasn't so bad.
Yume Penguin Monogatari Konami 1991 Nintendo 10/26/12 
Impression : The story is bizarre but the game looks and plays fairly well. The difficulty is a bit higher than average considering you don't have enough resources to start each level to finish it without picking up lots of random pickups.

This is a hard one to explain since it has such a messed up story. The game is essentially a side scroller and platformer but the goals are very weird. You are trying to win back your girlfriend (penguin) that is falling for another penguin because you were too fat so you have to meet her on time and not be fat when you meet her. Every enemy out there is trying to force feed you to fatness. There are energy drinks to slowly help you lose weight and your character gets more powerful and easier to control as you get thin. The challenge comes from having to rid the screen of as many enemies as possible as you will need every powerup you can get just to finish the level since you start out with very little. In that sense the game is quite challenging. Graphics are very good and clear for the time.
Zone of the Enders Konami 2001 Playstation 2 11/01/12 
Impression : Fast paced action that looks amazing, especially for the time. The voice acting detracts from the game and it is quite short but great while it lasts.

For an early PS2 release, I can see why this gained quite a following. It has extremely fast paced action with giant fighting robots. What is not to like? Well, the game is very short (5 or so hours with the cutscenes) and the voice acting is pretty laughable at times. The story is okay though nothing special. Still a fun blast while it lasts.
100 World Story ASK 1991 Nintendo 11/03/12 
Impression : A unique mix of turn-based board game and RPG. Constant variety means incredible replay value. Good graphics but annoying music.

I never knew about the existence of this game until recently. If I had known about this years ago I would have made this a regular play. You can pick one of three "quests" and play with 2 to 4 players (human or CPU) for up to a set number of turns (changeable up to 99). Wherever your character lands a random event will occur (depending on location). Your character levels up like an RPG and can even go down levels. Characters can work together to complete the quest or fight to get to the end first. Graphics are decent but the sound and music is incredibly grating. I like to play this one in silence.

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