Thursday, August 27, 2015

Video Game Successors/Sequels with Different Names: Part 2 Marvel Edition

Author: Zachary Latour

Successors/Sequels with Different Names: Part 1

Marvel has had a pretty nice run throughout their career. They’ve had great success with comics, toys, T.V. shows, movies and even video games. There are Marvel characters in games from as far back as Spider-Man on the Atari 2600, and they continue to be used in current generation consoles. Just name a console and more than likely there has been a game released on it that included a character from the gigantic Marvel Universe. Though some of the games have been lackluster, others were excellent and have become classics; my personal favorite being X-Men 2 on the Sega Genesis.

Some of these Marvel games are sequels to other Marvel games, but you wouldn't know it just by reading the title. Below are three Marvel sequels with different names.

Separation Anxiety (SNES/GEN) – Sequel to: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage is a Beat ‘Em Up released by L.J.N. in 1994. The first thing you notice is that this game nails the comic book appearance right from the start. With vibrant colors and hand drawn sprites, the stages and enemies look like part of the source material. The onomatopoeia is great too; there’s just something satisfying about seeing words like ‘THWAK’ and ‘SMASH’ popping out on the screen in large comic print while you’re beating down baddies. I’m not going to say this game pulls off the comic book look better than Comix Zone, but it does a very nice job with it.

Although this game allows you to play as both Spider-Man and Venom, it is actually only 1-player and the different stages dictate when you play as each of the characters. That said, the game provides a number of interesting abilities for the characters. You can button-mash punch and kick like normal, but you can also pick people or objects up and throw them at other enemies. Or, you can grab two nearby enemies at once and smash them into each other. Two different approaches to fighting, and both are very satisfying.

Apart from combat capabilities, the characters are also able to climb on and move freely about the walls. In fact, in some stages you must exclusively climb up or down walls while avoiding hazards. These segments do break up the repetitiveness, but there really isn’t much point to them and they could’ve easily been left out.

One thing I like about this game is that it doesn’t just scroll from left to right. When you reach the end of some of the stages, you actually have go back the way you came, beating up more enemies along the way. You can look at this as being lazy, as one only has to design half of a level and then repeat it to make the gameplay seem twice as long. To me, however, it really breaks up monotony of just walking to the right all the time.

In Separation Anxiety the game finally becomes a 2-player Beat ‘Em Up, with one person playing as Spider-Man and the second player as Venom. Despite this improvement, the game still has problems. One of the biggest nuisances with ‘Separation Anxiety’ is the constant occurrence of objects in the foreground that block part of the screen. Sometimes it’s something small like a lamppost being in the way, but there are times when over 50% of the screen is covered by objects in the foreground. I don’t recall any game with effective use of foreground objects, and this game is no exception.

Another annoyance is the continue system used in ‘Separation Anxiety’. During a 2-player game if one person loses all of their lives, they are done playing until the other character dies. Then both players will start again together. It would have been nice if you could use your continues on the spot, like in Turtles in Time, or at least steal lives from the other player so that both can continue playing the game together. The way it’s done here just seems prehistoric to me.

‘Separation Anxiety’ is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to being a co-op instead of a single player game, but it is still slightly off from being perfect.

One nice small feature in both of these games is that the enemy’s name is shown next to their life bar as your beat them up. Sometimes you might be fighting someone named ‘Andy’ or ‘Lizzie’, but when you’re fighting a boss, like ‘Doppelganger’ or ‘Shriek’, you learn the names of the villains who are a part of the Spider-Man universe.

The music in both of these games is excellent. Just listen to the theme songs on the title menus for both games to hear the outstanding quality. Although I could listen to both for hours, the Sega Genesis version of the ‘Separation Anxiety’ theme is just epic.

I also love the game over screen for ‘Separation Anxiety’. The four characters on it look particularly badass, and it’s much better than the bland game over screen from ‘Maximum Carnage’.

‘Maximum Carnage’ has no problem standing on its own, but the addition of the 2 player mode is the reason I would always pick ‘Separation Anxiety’ over ‘Maximum Carnage’.

Marvel Super Heroes (SAT/PS1) – Spiritual Successor to: X-Men: Children of the Atom

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 has become a staple in the Fighting game scene. The massive rosters, great sprite animation, and over-the-top 3 on 3 fights will definitely take you for a ride. Before the Marvel Vs. Capcom series there was a different series that included games like Street Fighter Vs. X-Men and Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter. But even before that we had two games that started the line: ‘X-Men: Children of the Atom’ and ‘Marvel Super Heroes’.

These games started in arcades before being ported to home consoles. One great thing about this series is that each new game incorporated not only brand new characters, but characters from the previous installments as well. This continued over the years, culminating with Marvel Vs. Capcom 2’s massive 56 character roster, which included pretty much every character from earlier games and then some.

X-Men: Children of the Atom is the first fighting game that focused on the X-men universe. The playable characters include Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, Psylocke, Storm, Wolverine, Omega Red, Sentinel, Silver Samurai, Spiral, Juggernaut, and Magneto. The roster might be small, but all of the characters look great and play smoothly. I also love that the matches don’t always take place in one environment. Like in multiple Mortal Kombat games, it is possible to break through the bottom of the screen into a different area, which can really keep matches fresh.

‘Marvel Super Heroes’ differs from ‘X-Men: Children of the Atom’ by having a roster that incorporates different groups in the Marvel Universe, not just the X-Men section. It includes characters like Captain America, Doctor Doom, The Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Shuma-Gorath, and Thanos. (Not so crazy to see where the inspiration for ‘Marvel Super Heroes Vs. X-Men’ came from now).

One nice addition to this game is the inclusion of the Infinity Gems. A player acquires one of the six gems (Power, Time, Space, Reality, Soul, and Mind) by walking over it, doing something special, or beating it out of the enemy. Then, the gems can be used as a power-up bonus for things like power increase, defense increase, quicker speed, health recovery, etc. This is a great addition to the game, providing boost in the fight and the entertainment value from beating the gems out of your opponent.

I’m not going to say either of these games is better that the other. Both of the games came out when Capcom was king, and it is definitely apparent in the games. The inclusion of the power-up mechanic from the Infinity Gems is a welcome addition to ‘Marvel Super Heroes’, but it doesn’t make ‘Marvel Super Heroes’ a better game than its precursor.

You can’t go wrong playing any game in the long running series of ‘Vs.’ games. The cool thing about mash ups games like these is that, like Super Smash Bros., they really create a means to settle arguments between fans pertaining to who would win in fictional character battles. Fights like Wolverine vs. Doctor Doom and Juggernaut Vs. Colossus can all be seen here. When you get into later titles you can see fights like Captain Commando Vs. Roll, Servbot Vs. Storm, and Jill Valentine Vs. Akuma. This is fan service done right. Play either of these games for the vibrant visuals, smooth controls, great characters, and tons of fun.

War of the Gems (SNES) - Spiritual Successor to: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a side scrolling Platformer/Beat ‘Em Up. The game focuses around five characters (Gambit, Psylocke, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Beast) as the group is infiltrating the island of Genosha in order to liberate mutants in captivity. You start the game with a choice of the five characters. Each has their own stages to be completed and you can play the stages in any order which is convenient, but unfortunately, the stages are tied to specific characters.

I understand that the different stages are supposed to be happening simultaneously, which is actually a cool plot design, but not being able to be your favorite character throughout the game just doesn’t sit well with me. Since one single character is tied to a specific stage, if that character loses all their lives then no other characters are able to play that level and the game is over.

The graphics, music, and control of ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’ are all top notch

War of the Gems is also a side-scrolling Platformer/Beat ‘Em Up, but this time the game focuses on Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and The Hulk attempting to recover all six of the Infinity Gems.

Just like the previous game you start with a choice of five characters, but this time the characters are not tied to specific stages. If Iron Man is your favorite character, you are able to use him through the entire game, or at least until he runs out of lives. The difference here is that even if a character dies, you can continue playing the game as one of the other four characters. Also, you can collect items that will allow you to heal, execute special moves, and even revive slain characters.

Although this game came out later, it doesn’t seem to have the same amount of care put into it as its predecessor: the stage selection screen is boring; the music isn’t up to par; cheap hits are in abundance; and for some reason when Spider-Man shoots his web at enemies, they just stand there frozen for a second, rather than showing an animation of them being wrapped in the web.

One thing I love about both of these games is that in addition to the normal action buttons there are button combinations to pull off other attacks. The button combinations are very similar to those of Street Fighter (the roll characters not the charge characters), which makes sense because Capcom was in charge of both games.

Since button combinations are used for special moves in these games, it would have been nice to have the move set inputs shown in the pause menu as an easy reference. Unfortunately, this is not a feature in the game. However, if you are one of the lucky people who still owns the manuals to these games, inside you can find lists of the characters’ special moves and how to pull them off.

When I was younger and I played ‘War of the Gems’, I liked it a lot more than ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’. After playing them again back to back just a few weeks ago, it is clear that ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’, despite its flaws, holds up much better.

Still, I deduct points from both of these games for being 1-Player Beat ‘Em Ups. Neither of these two games came out anywhere near the launch of the system they reside on, so there are no excuses for not allowing a second player. While both games allow you to play as at least one of your favorite mainstream superheroes, ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’ is the better game.

And, to the artist who drew the art for Psylocke’s butt animation when she’s doing a crouching leg sweep, you are my favorite superhero.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Video Game Successors/Sequels with Different Names: Part 1

Author: Zachary Latour

When it comes to video games, there are many things that are responsible for making us want to play them, especially if it's a game we are unfamiliar with. Cover artwork is probably the #1 thing that can make someone want to impulsively buy or rent a game; if you look at Contra (NES), Turtles in Time (SNES), or Alisia Dragoon (GEN) the artwork alone is great enough to make one pick it out for a weekend rental without knowing what the game is like.

Just like the cover art, the title should pop out, draw you in, and stick with you. The title of a game is what will be remembered the longest. However, a terrible game can also have an amazing title and beautiful cover art, and yet still be terrible. Would a game by any other name be as great? Well, yes in fact, it would be. 'Metroid' would be just as perfect even if it was titled, 'Samus Aran and the Planet of Zebes'. 'Chrono Trigger' would be just as epic if it was called 'Defeating Evil Through Time: Did I Remember to Feed My Cat?'. However, the perfect title of a game is like the proper punctuation at the end of a sentence: it ties everything together in a nice package.

One of the most important things a title is responsible for is being able to keep a series together. Through the use of subtitles and/or numbering, sequels are able to be clearly identified as a part of a set, making it easy to find other installments. Let’s take a title like ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ and pick it apart. The first thing we are told by the title is the franchise that the game comes from, ‘Call of Duty’. Second, it tells us the series that the game comes from, ‘Modern Warfare’. Third, it says the chronological number where this specific release resides in the series, 2. There is no doubt that ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ was released after 1 and before 3. There may be nothing special that stands out about this particular title, but it provides us with all the information we need to know.

Some series went in a different direction than the numerical naming pattern. Even though it was a sequel or a spiritual successor, the title was changed between games. This could be due to copyrights, being lost in translation, or the game diverging so the name didn’t quite fit. Let’s take a look at some sequels/spiritual successors that gamers might not know are part of more well-known series, because they used an unconventional naming scheme.

College Slam (SNES/GEN) – Spiritual Successor to: NBA Jam

NBA Jam T.E. took an already whacky amazing sports game, NBA Jam, and added an updated roster and new features to it. The new features included things like Hot Spots that would increase the points received for a shot made from a specific point on the court; Power-Up Icons that would power the player up when they collected them; and Juice Mode which sped the entire game up. All of these additions took a crazy look at basketball and brought it to a whole new level.

College Slam is the college basketball game equivalent of NBA Jam T.E., and it’s really the most refined game in the series. All the insanity of NBA Jam series, from the great announcer, the amazing dunks, and ‘being on fire’ carry over to the third installment. College Slam retains all the additions of NBA Jam T.E. and incorporates extras like being able to play an entire season, play only the final four, and being able to edit the team roster.

NBA Jam offers us the ability to play as most of our favorite players from the NBA during that era, but College Slam leaves player names out of the game completely, leaving position titles in place of them. I find this awkward as College Slam is an officially licensed college sports game. If it had to do with roster changes, well, there was no DLC in the 90s, so even NBA Jam rosters were only completely accurate during the time that the game was officially released. The names of the 5 positions on the team roster are able to be changed in College Slam as well as the stat points of said positions, including speed, dunk, pass, 3pt, etc. You are able to rename every position of every team in the game and adjust stats accordingly. Technically it is possible to make any roster, out of the 44 selectable teams, up to date even up to today in College Slam. (There is a maximum of how many points can be allocated in total to each position, so don’t think you can just max out your favorite team and completely wreck house every time you play.)

IMHO College Slam is the best game in the series and takes the already crazy NBA Jam T.E. to new heights of ridiculousness. What it comes down to is your preference between playing with NBA teams or college teams. Either way, these games are drenched with charm. NBA Jam will always be the household name that everyone remembers and loves, but that doesn’t mean that College Slam has to forever live in its shadow.

Total Carnage (SNES) – Spiritual Successor to: Smash TV

Smash TV is one of the best 90s arcade games that transferred perfectly to the SNES. Smash TV is a dual stick shooter about a game show where the contestants try to kill and blow up everything in separate linked rooms, while collecting VCRs, lifetime supplies of meat, and paid vacations. It’s loaded with different weapons and power ups that can be collected to help get you through the game. Beating the stage bosses, as well as trying to rack up a higher score than the other player, is the overall objective of Smash TV

Total Carnage takes Smash TV and brings it in a different direction while still keeping the same elements in play. Where Smash TV had divided rooms with a break in between killing waves of enemies, Total Carnage takes a more linear approach, with enemies coming at you with more of an even flow. Both games feature multiple ways you are able to progress through the game in order to get to the end of it; Smash TV has multiple exits from completed rooms which can bring you different ways each time you play, and Total Carnage has portals scattered all over it that will take you to different locations. One of the best things about the arcade version of Smash TV is that the graphically violent visuals are so well done, and unfortunately the SNES port loses a lot of the visuals due to hardware limitations. The death visuals in Total Carnage are pretty well done on the SNES port compared to its predecessor.

Comparing these two games is like asking, ‘Do you like your chaos organized or not?’. Super Smash TV is like having your dinner on a tray where the peas, potatoes, bread, and steak are all in their own separate sections where they can’t touch each other and you’re free to eat each section in whichever order you’d like. Total Carnage is like taking the same food, putting it on a plate, mixing all of it together, and having some of everything in each bite. Yes, both contain the same elements, but they will look and taste drastically different.

Smash TV understands that it is insane, and it really creates a perfect atmosphere where things like the funny game show host and all other quirky parts of the game just seem to work really well together. Total Carnage seems to throw its humor in your face so there's no way you can miss any of it. Unfortunately, the Total Carnage port suffers from slowdown whereas the Super Smash TV port does not. Also, the SNES version of Super Smash TV has a speed up code that makes the game double the speed and honestly about a million times more fun. Both games are very unique and at least deserve a try to find out which one you prefer, but the replay value, speed up mode, and zero slowdown of Super Smash TV make it unparalleled in comparison.

Super C / Operation C (Game Boy) - Sequel to: Contra

Given that the iconic ‘C’ is on the label of both games, this title isn’t the furthest stretch on a name change. Although, when I was a kid and I would go to Funcoland, they would have a newspaper that listed the game platforms, the game titles, and the game’s price. If I saw ‘Super C’ or ‘Operation C’ typed out on the paper with no screenshot or artwork, I would have had no clue that these two games had anything to do with Contra. Contra Force isn’t much like the core series, but due to its title, it would seem to me like that game has more right to the series than ‘Super C’ or ‘Operation C’ does. There’s no reason ‘Super C’ couldn’t have been titled ‘Super Contra’, and ‘Operation C’ couldn’t have been titled ‘Contra Operation’.

‘Operation C’ takes the formula that made Contra and ‘Super C’ excellent and applies it to the Gameboy. There are side scrolling and vertical scrolling levels in this game just like in the previous installments. Some of the power ups seen in this game are new, like the homing shot, and some have been left out that were introduced in prior games. The game is fast, fun, and feels exactly like a Contra game in every way; the downside is that it is only one player. Back in the day, if you wanted a portable version of Contra then ‘Operation C’ was pretty much all you could ever ask for.

It really is difficult to say which of these two games is better, because it’s like looking at a set of twins that have different hidden talents and choosing which one you like the most. One might make you laugh and one might make you cry, so either of these could be your favorite depending on what kind of mood you happen to be in. If you travel a lot, ‘Operation C’ might be your favorite. If you like hanging around the television, Contra might be more to your liking. I’m personally torn on which I think is better. Contra is a masterpiece, but ‘Operation C’ always blows my mind from the second I put it into my old brick Game Boy and slide the power switch to the right.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Download Gamestop Trade-in Prices in Price Guide

The internet meme isn't entirely accurate, but now you can find out how much Gamestop will really offer with a simple download from our custom price guides.

If you own a game store you can use the guide to make sure your trade prices are competitive with Gamestop's.

We regularly check Gamestop's Trade-in prices online and update the price guides daily with the most recent price.

Right now Gamestop offers trade prices online for all current generation consoles and the previous generation too. Xbox One and Xbox 360. Playstation 4 and Playstation 3. Etc.

To add the trade-in prices to a price guide check the "Trade Prices" box for Gamestop then complete payment.

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Spot a Fake (Pirated) Gameboy Advance Cartridge

Author: Zachary Latour

The Gameboy Advance (GBA) comes from the sixth generation of game consoles, and is home to around a thousand games in North America and many more in other regions around the world.

Sometime during the handheld’s life span, fake games also known as pirated carts or bootleg carts, slid their way into the market; now, years later they are knowingly or unknowingly in game stores, pawnshops, on auction sites, and even worse… in our collections.

You might be asking "What’s so wrong with having a bootleg game in your collection?" In the grand scheme of things I guess it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like your game collection is going to burst into flames because there’s a pirated cartridge among the masses of legitimate games, but the problem is that the games probably got to where they are right now without any knowledge of the cart being a fake. Wouldn’t it be nice to know which game is fake and which is real?

The biggest problem with these carts is that they are fake and deliberately being passed off as genuine. It’s not like pirated game carts have a bright orange casing with the word "Bootleg" engraved on the back, instead, these games are purposely made to look as close to the original as the company is able to make them so that gamers and collectors don’t notice a difference.

Bootleg GBA games are usually sold by stores or auction sites not knowing that what they are selling is fake. Since they believe it to be real they will sell it for the same price as a legitimate cartridge. I’ve run into fakes in many stores; sometimes I’ve informed the worker and they either didn’t believe me or didn’t care.

Another problem with pirated carts is the lower quality. We all hate when our NES and SNES batteries die and all of our saves get erased? Well, there are very few official GBA games that actually use a save battery, instead most use a memory chip of varying types to save the data. Bootleg GBA carts use save batteries. With a fake Gameboy Advance game, your batteries will eventually die whereas if you had a legitimate copy your saves stay until you decide you want to start the game over again.

5 Ways to Spot Fake Gameboy Advance Cartridges

Now that we know these games are out in the wild for us to waste our hard earned money on, and possibly in our own collection, let’s look at five different ways to tell the fakes from the real thing.

GBA Fake Method 1

First, the most common way to spot a fake. The ‘NINTENDO’ stamp on the circuit board directly above the pins on the cart is a great first step. This mark can actually be seen just by looking into the cart from the bottom. (I’ve disassembled the cart and underlined the stamp in yellow to make the stamp clearly visible.) Also, while we are on this picture take a second to notice the save battery in the fake cart vs. the memory chip in the real cart. (The save battery is circled in yellow.)

GBA Fake Method 2

Second, let’s flip the cart over and inspect the ‘NINTENDO’ logo on the back of it. What we have here is the same type of idea for both logos but the two look noticeably different. (For reference, the official Nintendo logo is in the top left hand corner of the picture.)

GBA Fake Method 3

Thirdly, on the front of the cartridge we have the ‘GAMEBOY ADVANCE’ logo at the top of the cart. Just like on the back of the game we have same type of idea for both logos, but again the two look noticeably different. (For reference, the official Gameboy Advance logo is in the top left hand corner of the picture.)

GBA Fake Method 4

Next, one other way to tell if a cart is fake is by using an individual GBA game case. The dimensions of bootleg GBA games are usually slightly different from legitimate GBA games. An official GBA game will fit nicely in this game case and come out easily, but since bootleg GBA carts are a hair bigger they will be harder to get in and out of the case.

GBA Fake Method 5

Lastly, the label artwork on bootleg GBA games are slightly different from their legitimate game counterpart. If you’re questioning the authenticity of label artwork you can always search for a picture of the cart on the internet. After searching, if there is a difference in label art between the picture and the cartridge in front of you then one of the two is fake. (This idea does not include double pack variants, best seller/greatest hits variants, or other official label variants) Remember, Misspellings on the label or cartridge, or poor printing on the label are dead giveaways that you are looking at a fake cart.

Pirated Gameboy Advance games are floating around everywhere these days so use this new knowledge to not get ripped off and to make sure you’re only buying official GBA cartridges. Take a minute to go through your own collection and weed out any fake carts that have snuck their way into it. Being able to spot a fake cart is only going to help you on your way to collection perfection, and maybe you can even impress a few people on the way.



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