Neo Geo Pocket & SNK Vs Capcom Compilation (Steam) Review

One of the things most (if not all) young adults today believe is that their parents were never gamers when they were younger. Their parents were, kids today would acknowledge, children once, but gamers? No way.

But SNK is hopeful in bringing facts to that myth: It argues that you can travel back in time to the years when your parents were teenagers and young adults, and capture the games and systems that were available to them. The NEOGEO Pocket / SNK vs Capcom Compilations proves to all the millenniums out there that, yes, before we were parents, we were gamers too.

But there's a bigger investment here than just playing games. The entire premise of these compilations isn't to ask which games should we play, but to choose a moment in our gaming lives that we treasure the most.

Compromising a handful of NeoGeo Pocket games and a version of SNK vs Capcom games, each one can be played via a virtual NG pocket console on a true monochrome display screen just like the original. The games themselves are great-looking and are exactly how I remembered them. SNK has done a convincing job of replicating each sprite even in extreme closeups. And every game, even the mediocre ones, sparkle with personality and presence.

Some of the better games of the bunch include Samurai Showdown 2, Metal Slug 1&2, Fatal Fury, King of the Fighters, Dark Stalkers, and of course, Street Fighter vs. Capcom, amongst others bring all the classics back to life better than ever.

Keep in mind that I am reviewing two (2) separate entities together although you can purchase the NEO GEO Pocket and the SNK VS Capcom: Fight of the Millennium separately.

One of the things most (if not all) young adults today believe is that their parents were never gamers when they were younger. Their parents were, kids today would acknowledge, children once, but gamers? No way.

While the compilation itself isn't new (the Switch version has been out since the start of the year), the Steam version is just coming to fruition. Because this is a brand new conceptualized way of bringing past games to the eyes of present-day Steam players, each game has a reference description page as well as a pictorial so you can show your kids how games were manufactured in cartridge form before the introduction of CDs and digital downloads.

Once in, customization is at your fingertips. You can change skin colors, add/remove scan lines, and zoom in or out to play the game however way you want. All these options are of course, arbitrary as the real focus is on the games themselves. And here, SNK does a phenomenal job of recreating these classics to fit our modern-day needs.

But there's a bigger investment here than just playing games. The entire premise of these compilations isn't to ask which games should we play, but to choose a moment in our gaming lives that we treasure the most. I sit attentively browsing at the game selection screen as fond memories play through my mind as if I'm moving the dials of my own personal time machine.

It has value, re-playability, and talking points to start a conversation over; especially to the younger crowd who never got a chance to own, let alone experience, a NEO GEO pocket. This is one purchase you'll definitely be happy with.

The games, in fact, resemble the who's who in the SNK library more than any other throwback compilations that tug at the human need to relive some of our past memories. SNK promises additional games and modules will be available as regular downloads and upgrades. So the audience SNK is targeting is out there, but the big question is there enough of us out there for this type of business model to succeed?

This question places SNK in a unique position but on quality to dollar value, this compilation is worth the investment if you, like me, grew up with these classics. It has value, re-playability, and talking points to start a conversation over; especially to the younger crowd who never got a chance to own, let alone experience, a NEO GEO pocket. This is one purchase you'll definitely be happy with.

Unlike Anything You've Played - UnMetal (Steam) Review

UnMetal, a parody of the Metal Gear series, begins like Rambo, plays like Escape from New York, and ends like Alien, and in today's gaming industry, that's creativity as most games are inspired by only one gameplay element. The game stars a gruff and grizzled Jesse Fox, an American who was shot down while piloting a Russian plane. Yes, you read that right.

Captured and subsequently interrogated by faceless operatives, Fox starts to reveal his fantastic tales of his harrowing adventures through cut scenes and humor. Some will say that this kind of storytelling idea is old, but if it's done well, as it is here, then who cares?

UnMetal is a first-rate, slam-bang action thriller with a lot of style and heaps of witty one-liners. It's made out of pieces of other games, yes, and not much in it is really new, but each element has been lovingly polished to a shiny gloss.

Games like this develop and progress over time from one action sequence to another so one really has to invest time with the title to get the most impact from it. Sometimes it doesn't even matter much how they fit together, just as long as it flows cohesively. Consider, for example, in the beginning scene where Fox explains that he had to write a note using a broken wire as a pen and his blood for ink on a piece of toilet paper. But to obtain the toilet paper, Fox had to demolish the entire toilet. Pretty strange if you ask me. But in the world of UnMetal, it makes sense.

Afterward, Fox ends up having to escape the prison complex he's been sent to. Level by level, he tip-toes, cowers and shields himself from guards who take a shoot first-ask-questions-later mentality. The game is viewed from the top-down perspective and it works well since many of the game's stealth and interaction elements require a full 360-degree view of the surrounding.

But without a doubt, UnMetal's greatest strength is one of spirit. I live in a corner of a vast world, and what makes me human is my ability to wonder about other real-life adventures happening outside my realm of imagination.

The retro-pixel look was a good choice since it frees up the developers, @unepic_fran, to focus on gameplay mechanics rather than on technical 3D jargon. The game does a rather good job of visually conveying its message through convincing cut scenes that eerily display much of the narration in shadowy darkness.

Item drops are placed strategically around each level and after successful completion, you'll be faced with the obligatory end-boss. Some of these encounters can be brutal. Luckily, Fox will have access to bandages early on which can be used routinely as bleeding is one of the main injuries that will take down even someone as hardcore as Fox.

There's also a nifty RPG-lite component to the game in which you can decide which abilities you want to endow on. This decision-making aspect of the game impacts certain scenarios and changes the gameplay environment while adding a deeper layer of re-playability to the game.

UnMetal, to my surprise, is a game whose dreams go beyond the boundaries of traditional gaming. And for a title that literally came out of nowhere, that's saying a lot.

Despite all the Metal Gear parodies you'll find here, UnMetal provides more humor compared to Gears' more serious overtones. Is this a mere copycat? Not a copycat so much as a salute. Personally, I like all this ridiculous stuff, at least when it's done well.

But without a doubt, UnMetal's greatest strength is one of spirit. I live in a corner of a vast world, and what makes me human is my ability to wonder about other real-life adventures happening outside my realm of imagination.

Since I do not know what goes on beyond the horizon, the stories that are created serve only to inspire my dreams. UnMetal, to my surprise, is a game whose dreams go beyond the boundaries of traditional gaming. And for a title that literally came out of nowhere, that's saying a lot.

Let's Go Clubbing! Jet Kave Adventure Review

Jet Kave Adventure by indie developer 7Levels, pays tribute to the classic gameplay, casting you in the role of a caveman chief named Kave, who has been banished from his village after discovering a crashed alien ship.

Through 30+ interconnecting levels, you'll venture on a prehistoric quest to unlock the secrets of the strange alien ship, bring honor back to your village, and of course, snatch some hidden treasures along the way.

Jet Kave Adventures has that Donkey Kong Country look, doesn't it?

The Fate of Humanity is in your Jetpack

Running and jumping is still at the core of the gameplay, but plenty of new tricks add diversity, including momentarily being able to hover with the use of a jet pack. Along the way, you'll be doing battle in caves, jungle, and lava molten areas.

We especially applaud 7Levels for injecting some special care into the graphics, making every waterfall, temple, and jungle foliage look more beautiful than those in a traditional platformer. In fact, Jet Kave Adventure has a very similar look to Donkey Kong Country in terms of colorful and vibrant visuals.

7Levels injected some special care into the graphics, making every waterfall, temple, and jungle foliage look more beautiful than those in a traditional platformer.

Jet Kave Adventure
TIP: Use the jetpack without hesitation.

What sells the game, however, is its personality and high nostalgia factor. Jet Kave has enough charm to win gamers over, and it kept me playing all the way to the end.

Short but Sweet

Like most traditional platformers, the levels are on the short side, and the maps are still linear and constrained which means you're not free to explore everywhere you'd like to. Keyboard controls are acceptable, but you will benefit more from using a gamepad controller.

On the whole, there's nothing really unique that separates this title from other platformers out there. What sells the game, however, is its personality and high nostalgia factor. Jet Kave has enough charm to win gamers over, and it kept me playing all the way to the end. The genre is a bit dated, but the gameplay is still ridiculously fun even in today's age of over-the-top gameplay mechanics and graphics.

Thanks, 7Levels. Thank you very much.

Redout: Space Assault Review - Lock and Loaded

TL;DR: I know I've been playing this game too long when I tried barrel-rolling my Subaru down the street.

Game: Redout: Space Assault
Developer: 34 Big Things Studios
Platform: PC
Description: Redout: Space Assault puts you in control of a Super Orbital Recon Fighter during the 2395 Colonization of Mars: dive in the fastest, most epic, and exciting arcade space battle you can experience. Outsmart, outmaneuver, overpower, outclass your opponents in lightning-fast, adrenaline-inducing single-player space combat.

Redout Space Assault 1
TIP: Use your thrusters and barrel rolls often to get past even the most harrowing levels.

Seeing RED

Redout: Space Assault is as intense physically and mentally, as it is graphically. It's amazing how much destruction is packed on screen at once. At times, your greatest foe isn't the gigantic asteroids that are trying to take you out, but rather the onscreen confusion. Yes, this game is loaded with amazing effects, gorgeously rendered backgrounds, and endless swarms of enemies. But because this is a 'rail shooter' at its core, you can usually get through the most ardent levels unharmed if you concentrate enough.

Redout: Space Assault is as intense physically and mentally, as it is graphically.

The controls are accessible and easy to pick-up. Since the game literally guides you through each stage, most of your shooting will be done in a Y and X-axis plane which means you can focus more on the action rather than on the controls. If you loved games like Star Fox and Panzer Dragoon, the nostalgic feeling will kick in almost immediately as you roll out of danger and unleash a barrage of fire from your ship's blasters.

As with most shooters of this type, holding down the fire button will charge up more powerful shots that will lock on to multiple targets within range. This is especially helpful since enemy threats will come at you from all sides. Fortunately, the game provides a generous amount of continues which makes the game easier and faster to complete.

Since the game is a rail shooter, always stay in the center so you roll out the way!

hop aboard the red eye

While most players might be let down by the different approaches the developers have taken with this title, it's still a fun little arcade blaster that packs a punch. If you're even remotely interested in shooters, you should give this one a whirl.

If you're even remotely interested in shooters, you should give this one a whirl.

I've got some good news and bad news. The good news is that if you enjoy pretty space shooters, this game will have you drooling like cops at a donut shop.

The bad news is that if you've played previous versions of Redout, you might be disappointed to find out this isn't the game you remembered playing.

If there's a complaint I can voice about Redout: Space Assault, it's that you often don't know how much danger you're in. From your point of view, you'll see a missile coming at you, but it's not very clear whether you're going to get hit or not. An enemy missile may seemingly curve into you or, worse yet, be off the screen for most of its trip, then pop in at the last instant to hit you. It's frustrating and affects your ability to survive essentially making the game harder to beat ? but your enemies will have a hard time getting a bead on you if you constantly move around, so barrel-rolling is often the key to surviving.

The game just looks amazing!

Similarly, it's not easy to shoot with precision, even when you have an aiming cursor on-screen. In a nutshell, Redout: Space Assault is a good game that will occasionally frustrate and confuse you but usually titillates, with moments of "ooh" and "ahs" built-in.

In a nutshell, Redout is a great game that will occasionally frustrate and confuse you but usually titillates, with moments of "ooh" and 'ahs' built-in.

Whether you're a grizzled veteran gamer who remembers the old school shoot'em ups fondly or a tenderfoot rookie new to the world of shooters you'll find a lot to like here. All in all, Redout: Space Assault won't win any awards for originality, but it does deliver lots of action and fun. And that my friend, is where it counts.

Super Mario 3D World Switch Review

It was only a matter of time before Super Mario 3D World would make its way to the Nintendo Switch. It's the last of the iconic Mario games from the Wii U to make the leap.

While some may complain about Nintendo porting yet another old game to the Switch, you have to remember that not many played the game when it launched. The Wii U was not a successful console. It barely hit over 13 million units sold.

The Switch, on the other hand, already surpassed the 3DS in sales, with over 80 million units out. That's a much bigger audience, and it's paid off so far, with this port topping the sales in 2021.

Of course, it's not a one-to-one port. There are a few improvements and changes to make up for the lack of the Wii U gamepad (a con or a pro, depending on who you ask). There's also a brand new campaign, Bowser's Fury, which single-handedly presents what Nintendo might do with future Mario games.

Podcast-426-Super-Mario-3D-World
Super Mario 3D World is back with the impressive level design.

Gameplay

Super Mario 3D World is the epitome of mixing 3D Mario gameplay with 2D Mario-level design. This means stages focus on a single theme or obstacle type. Every level presents the hurdles in a relatively safe environment before ramping up the difficulty and mixing things up.

Unlike the New Super Mario series, Super Mario 3D World does an amazing job in providing a new experience with each new level. Sure, there are still traditional themes like desert levels, snow levels, and ghost houses, but even those play around with their enemy placements and design. Take the Van Gogh level from New Super Mario U Deluxe and then spread that creativity across the whole game.

Unlike the New Super Mario series, Super Mario 3D World does an amazing job in providing a new experience with each new level.

Yes, you can play the game co-operatively, up to four players at a time. Playing alone is great, playing with one more person is chaotic fun, and playing with three-to-four people is pure insanity. This is great because it means the game never loses its luster, regardless of how many people play it at a given time.

As for Bowser's Fury, it feels like a minor evolution from Mario Odyssey. You drop into an open sandbox area and it's up to you to explore and tackle objectives as you please. The twist is that you're not alone; In this mode, you have Bowser Jr. helping you out. When in handheld mode, you can simply tap the screen to interact with things you'd use the Wii U gamepad for. When docked, tap the R button to pull up a pointer which you can move via motion controls. This system works for both the normal game and for Bowser's Fury.

As for Bowser's Fury, it feels like a minor evolution from Mario Odyssey.

Let's not forget that the game also includes special Captain Toad stages, which later became the inspiration for the full Captain Toad video game. In these special stages, you play as Toad and must collect stars spread out across a small square level. Toad, however, carries treasure hunting equipment and can't jump.

This means you'll have to rotate the stage around and find new pathways to reach your destination. The Captain Toad levels might seem like a practice in tedium at the beginning but they become truly engaging headscratchers as you go on. None of the levels are as extravagant as the ones from the main Captain Toad game but you still get a nice bite-size here.

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Same story, same Mario, same fun.

Story

In Super Mario 3D World, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and it's up to Mario oh, wait, no, that's not the story this time around. Instead, Bowser kidnaps several Sprixies and intends on using them in his new amusement park. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad must now journey together to save the day.

It's a minor change to the usual plot but it's refreshing and funny all the same. In some ways, it brings back memories of Super Mario 2 (the American one) on the NES, given how you can play one of four main characters.

Bowser's Fury, on the other hand, introduces the strange black sludge that corrupted Bowser and turned the villain into Fury Bowser. Mario and Bowser Jr. team up to gather the resources to drive off the sludge and bring Bowser back to his normal self. Again, it's nothing revolutionary but it's a fresh story compared to the tired trope of saving Princess Peach. It's not the first game to depict Bowser going over the edge a bit but it's definitely one of the most engaging.

Again, it's nothing revolutionary but it's a fresh story compared to the tired trope of saving Princess Peach.

Graphics

Other than Mario Odyssey, this remains one of the most beautiful games in the plumber's long line of entries. It also sports an amazing art style that is instantly recognizable but also distinctly a step above the New Super Mario games.

In terms of resolution and framerate, you will notice a minor difference between the main campaign and Bowser's Fury. For the main game, it goes from 720p in handheld mode to 1080p when docked. The game runs at a smooth 60fps in both modes. For Bowser's Fury, the game switches to 30fps and 720p in handheld but bumps up to 60fps and 1080p when docked.

No matter which mode you play in, however, the game is a feast for your eyes. The colors pop and there's a certain sharpness that didn't glimmer in the original Wii U release.

Switch_SM3DWBowsersFury_screenshot_02
You can practically hear this image.

Audio

Super Mario 3D World, hands down, has one of the best soundtracks in the whole franchise. That's saying something, considering the amazing tracks from Mario Galaxy, Mario Odyssey, and others. The highlight is the music whenever you face off against Bowser.

Of course, the sound effects also deserve special mention. Everything from the sound of cascading water to the pop-up boops when attacking a Goomba sound just right.

Everything from the sound of cascading water to the pop-up boops when attacking a Goomba sound just right.

Final Thoughts

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury isn't going to set the world on fire but it still shines as a perfect example of what refining a working formula can achieve. The main game still remains one of the best examples of classic Mario gameplay while the new Bowser's Fury mode highlights what Nintendo could do in the future.

Any Nintendo Switch owner should grab the game. It's a perfect companion piece to both New Super Mario U Deluxe and Mario Odyssey.

You're Out! R.B.I. Baseball 21 PC Review

Few games on the market today have name recognition-much less the staying power of the R.B.I. Baseball series. I still remember those times when I would rush home just to play a whole nine innings on the NES before going to bed. It was for me at least, the finest baseball game that I have ever owned. Now we have RBI Baseball 21 released on Steam, and the big question is:

Does it play better than the previous version? Read on and find out.

RBI Baseball 2021 2
Swing batter! Batter!

The Boys of Summer are Back. Almost

If you're looking for a baseball game on the PC that will match the graphical fidelity of MLB The Show, RBI Baseball ain't it. Granted, the graphics have never been a strong suit of the series, and even with the enhanced graphical capabilities of the PC, the game still pales in comparison to The Show and even to the now-defunct MLB 2K series.

RBI Baseball 21 has been given a slight facelift, however, and the addition of new camera angles and improved player animations help make this version a little bit more polished

RBI Baseball 21 has been given a slight facelift, however, and the addition of new camera angles and improved player animations help make this version a little bit more polished. But where the game scores most of its runs is in the area of gameplay. The controls are very simple and responsive, which is crucial since the game is a true arcade game and not a simulation.

Beyond the graphics and gameplay, there are subtle improvements as well. For example, you have three modes in which to play: the customary Exhibition, Franchise, and a Home Run Derby. The franchise mode isn't as robust as I would have liked. And without the ability to draft players, the depth of trying to build a dynasty becomes incredibly paper-thin.

RBI Baseball 2021
Look at that view!

Pennant Possibilities

The good news is that the game is fully licensed by the MLB so all the teams and players are there for your choosing along with their real-life stadiums. Other added features include a create a player mode, dynamic day-to-night cycles, and the ability to play legendary players and ball clubs. These elements really help with the immersion.

Other than those additions, RBI Baseball 21 is just a slight improvement over last year's version, and anyone thinking they would be getting a completely new game hasn't followed the history of the RBI series.

RBI Baseball 21 is just a slight improvement over last year's version, and anyone thinking they would be getting a completely new game hasn't followed the history of the RBI series.

If it's hardcore stats and realism you're looking for, RBI Baseball 21 won't be your cup of tea. But if you've been looking for a fun little arcade baseball game that's fun to play in between watching real games on Fox Sports, then drink up because this one is for you.

Retro Review: Hover Strike on the Atari Jaguar

TL;DR: Some games can stand the test of time. Some games, however, are best left where they are.

Hover Strike is a futuristic semi-open 3D shooter game similar to Battlezone and T-MEK in which players pilot an armed hovercraft vehicle in order to complete a series of 30 missions, each one taking place across on different terrain types, as attempts to overthrow the Terrakian Pirates from a colonized foreign planet and rescue the remaining captured colonists before the Federation's armada arrives into the location to decimate the invading alien forces.

Hover Strike 2
It's a bit like Battlezone and T-MEK.

When Joel asked for volunteers to do a retro review on Hover Strike, I had no idea why I raised my hand. Maybe I was itching to play a few classic games or maybe I was just afraid that he would take away my bathroom privileges at the office. Anywho, here I am, writing a paragraph or two about Hover Strike and for the first time, I don't know where to begin.

My English teacher used to tell me that whenever I had writer's block, the best way to overcome it was to simply write down the first sentences that come to mind. Ok then, here it goes. What the hell happened to this game? I mean, wasn't this title suppose to showcase the strengths of the Jaguar? Instead, it validated what we all knew about it — that it was a slow piece of hardware disguised as a 64-bit machine and none of Atari's fancy marketing lingo would convince games otherwise.

This title was supposed to showcase the strengths of the Jaguar. Instead, it validated what we all knew about it — that it was a slow piece of hardware disguised as a 64-bit machine and none of Atari's fancy marketing lingo would convince games otherwise.

Where do I even start? The controls aren't responsive, the graphics are worse than any title on the old NES, and the slowdown is mind-numbingly aggravating like driving a semi-truck with four flat tires. I couldn't even force myself to finish the first few levels. With games like this representing the Jaguar back in the day, I can see why the system died a miserable and quick death.

Yeah, well, the game isn't -that- bad especially when you consider it was released roughly 26+ years ago. But it does have some serious gameplay flaws. The graphics are ok (at least for its time) and the sound effects range from tiny beep bop bops to muffled explosions that sound a lot like taking a plunger to the toilet. There's a subtle female voice that guides you throughout the game, but after a while, it starts to sound like your little sister nagging you to take her to the mall.

My biggest complaint is with the God-awful controls in which you have to select a weapon then press a number on the keypad to fire it. Whomever at Atari thought this control scheme would work should be strung upside down.

If you were a Jaguar owner back in the day, then you most likely owned this game. But reading the history of the game, it's safe to wager that it did not sell well at all, given that the development of the sequel (Hover Strike 2) was quickly canceled just mere weeks after it was announced. Even for a retro lover like me, Hover Strike....strikes out.