Comix Zone – Review

By 1995, the lives of the 16-bit consoles such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were coming to an end. However, Sega still had a few tricks up their sleeve before ceasing production of Mega Drive games.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Comix Zone is a single-player beat ‘em up developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive and PC (North America) in 1995, and for the PC (Europe) in 1996. Later releases include:

Game Boy Advance (2002)

PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable as part of the Sega Mega Drive Collection (2007)

Wii Virtual Console (2009)

Xbox Live Arcade (2009)

PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009)

iOS as part of the Sega Forever collection (2017)

Android as part of the Sega Forever collection (2017)

The manual contains a black and white comic strip offering a more in-depth backstory the game:

General Alissa Cyan and Topol are fighting an army of monsters abs in dire need of rescuing. Sadly, Topol is killed before they can be rescued. Later, back in HQ, Cyan is arguing with the emperor, urging him to provide her with back-up to help take down the evil Mortus and his renegade army. As the emperor explains his reluctance to agree to her request, messengers inform them that another army of mutants is attacking Tibet City and that a “Doomsday Device” has been located near New Zealand. General Cyan decides that enough is enough. They need a “special operative” to help them defeat Mortus.

Sketch Turner is a comic strip artist (and freelance rock musician) who lives in New York City with his pet rat, Roadkill. One evening, whilst working hard at his desk, he is drawn into his comic strip where General Cyan explains that if they cannot stop Mortus, his form will become real, and he will be able to conquer the Earth.

Speech bubbles appear regularly throughout the game (Screenshot taken by the author)

The array of attacks and movements you can perform is quite impressive for a Mega Drive beat ‘em up. However, even though there are multiple punches, kicks, jump attacks and even throws, there is very little finesse to the fighting. It quickly becomes a button masher.

Along the way, you are joined by your pet rat, Roadkill who can help attack the baddies, assist in solving puzzles (I use this term very lightly), and can even sniff out power-ups.

One nice innovation is that there are occasions in the game where you need to decide which direction to go next. Once you decide, you cannot backtrack. One of the paths is more difficult than the other and can offer better power-ups.

However, one gripe I have with this game is how easy it is to lose energy. Punching crates, doors etc. that you need to break for power-ups or to progress makes you lose energy, which I think is a bit dumb considering the lack of ways there are to regain your health.

Tip:

Don’t be afraid to use your power-ups because when you finish the level, you will lose them anyway.

I use the term “puzzle” lightly, but there are occasions when you need to use your loaf (Screenshot taken by the author)

The levels are designed in a the style of a comic strip which I thought was ingenious when it was released. The graphics are fantastic, and the game blew me away when I first saw it all those years ago. The sprites and backgrounds are very detailed and colourful, and sprite animations look fab. I love how the baddies are drawn by and artists hand rather than just appear on the screen, adding to the authenticity that you are in a comic strip.

Throughout the game, there is a running commentary. Either General Cyan gives you instructions, or speech bubbles appear as your character and the baddies engage in repartee. When engaging in fighting, “wacks” and “pows” appear again adding to the comic strip feel. Another nice touch, comes when there are times that you can kick you enemies through the comic border into the next scene. It look quite dramatic!

The music lets this game down. I found it dull and easily forgettable.

The above mentioned ‘choose your path’ feature and the fact that there are two endings, adds some replay value to the game. Sadly, there is only one difficulty setting.

Did I Complete the Game?

No, I could not get past the boss at the end of Episode 2. This game is very hard!

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is a very original game. Sure, it’s basically a side-scroller, but the comic look and frame concept works very well. Also, the graphics are very colorfuI, especially for the Genesis. There isn’t any exceptional fighting, but the look of the game carries it. The only drawback is the fact that you can get hit a lot, so you die a bit too often. Still, it has a fresh look to it, with a very original way of traversing to the next level. Comix Zone is a definite must-try. Overall 7.875/10.[1]

Next Generation: “A very cool idea for a game that wasn’t executed properly, Comix Zone is better than most. Overall 3/5.”[2]

My Verdict: “A fun concept for a game that still looks very cool today. Let down by the music and the repetitive nature of the fighting, this game just falls short of what could have potentially been a legendary game. It is also incredibly difficult.”

My Rating:

What are your memories of Comix Zone? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review Crew – Comix Zone’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (August 1995). Issue 73:35. (https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_073_August_1995_U/page/n33/mode/2up Accessed 15th April 2021).

[2] ‘Rating Genesis – Comix Zone’. Next Generation. (August 1995). Issue 8:75. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-008/page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 15th April 2021).

Mighty Final Fight – Review

Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups were huge in arcades in the 80s. However, home consoles of the 80s struggled to replicate the arcade versions, which were far superior. Although the NES and Master System produced some good quality beat ‘em ups, it wouldn’t be until the late 80s that “arcade quality” beat ‘em ups could be found on home consoles like the Sega Mega Drive.

titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Mighty Final Fight is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up developed and published by Capcom in 1993 for the NES. It is a spin-off of the 1989 arcade classic Final Fight. It was later released on the Game Boy Advance (2006) and Wii Virtual Console (2014). I chose to review the NES version.

The Mad Gear Gang, the most notorious crime gang in Metro City, have kidnapped Jessica, the daughter of Haggar, mayor of the city. Along with Cody, Jessica’s boyfriend, and Cody’s training partner, Guy, they attempt to rescue her from the gang.

Sadly, the game can only be played in single-player mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

You can choose to be either:

Haggar – City Mayor and former professional wrestler

Cody – A street fighter who has developed his own unique fighting style by fusing boxing and karate

Guy – A master of Ninjutsu

Each with their own strengths and fighting styles. As the game progresses, you gain experience points which increase the strength of your character and unlock more fighting moves. Weapons can be found throughout the levels but they are dependant on the character your are playing as (Cody – knife, Guy – shuriken, Haggar – oversized mallet).

The graphics have been adapted in the Chibi art style (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game has been redesigned in the Chibi art style which gives  the characters and overall game a more childlike look. The graphics and backgrounds are a great improvement on previous games such as Double Dragon and Renegade, even if Haggar does look like he has a huge double chin. However, by 1993, the SNES and Mega Drive were already producing far superior titles such as Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. There is also a limited number of sprites allowed on the screen at any one time, and there is a fair bit of flicker when fighting. This game is clearly pushing the NES to its limits.

The gameplay is pretty good. The controls are responsive, and the hit detection is spot on. The introduction of new moves keeps the fighting interesting too.

What really let’s this game down is that it is a single-player game and there is only one difficulty setting. This is a real shame, as side-scrolling fighters are always better in two-player mode. Without a two-player mode and the chance to increase the game’s difficulty, this game will never become a staple for late night gaming with buddies. However, it is slightly redeemed by having three distinct characters does add to the replay value of the game a little.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, my go to character is Cody. My older brother’s choice was always Guy.

What the critics said:

At present, I have been unable to locate a contemporary review.

My verdict:

“A fun little beat ‘em up which looks great, for a NES game, and plays very well. Good differentiation between the characters but a lack of two-player mode severely limits its replay value.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Mighty Final Fight? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @Nicklovestogame.

Hudson’s Adventure Island – Review

As a married man with a full time job, I find that I have less and less time to devote to videogames. I love modern games like the Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed series and thoroughly enjoy playing and immersing myself into these worlds. Sadly, I don’t have 40 extra hours a week to devote to such in-depth games on a regular basis. It is for this reason that I have embraced the retrogaming world. Games that one can simply pick up, mess around with for 20 minutes and put down again very much have their place in the gaming world. Simpler games should not be sniffed at!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Hudson’s Adventure Island is a side-scrolling platform game adapted from the arcade game Wonder Boy. It was developed and published by Hudson Soft, released in Japan in 1986, North America in 1987, and Europe in 1992 under the title of Adventure Island Classic. Versions can be found on the NES, MSX, Game Boy, Gamate, Game Boy Advance, Game Cube and PlayStation 2. For this review, I played the NES version.

You play as Master Higgins (Master Wigins in the UK and Takahashi Meijin in Japan), who has travelled to an island in the South Pacific to rescue Princess Leilani (sometimes known as Tina) from the Evil Witch Doctor. Along the way you need to eat fruit that appear out of the ether in order to keep your energy levels up. However, if you get touched by an enemy, you instantly die.

Whilst traversing through forests, mountains and caves, you will find eggs that contain bonus items to help you on your way. These items include:

Stone axes – Which can be used to throw at the enemies

Skateboard – Helps you travel faster

A flower – Double the points you get from collecting fruit

Milk – Fills up your energy bar

Honeygirl – Make syou invincible for a limited period of time

However, beware of the:

Eggplant – Takes energy away from you.

There are 32 stages in total spread out over 8 worlds. These are further divided up with checkpoints. Once the fourth stage of an area is completed, you must fight and defeat an end of level boss.

It’s easy to look at these videogames nowadays and compare them to modern games, where they will always be found wanting. It is very unfair to do so. So let us compare it to a game that is still revered and remember fondly today: Super Mario Bros (1985). Intially, I don’t think the background graphics are any better or worse than Super Mario Bros, but I do think it’s the sprite design and colours that separate the two here. From what I have seen so far from Adventure Island, the enemy sprites have little to no animation, a stark contrast to Super Mario Bros. Also, unlike Super Mario Bros., Adventure Island’s music is very forgettable.

So what of gameplay? Adventure’s Island’s controls are very slip/slidey (seemingly even more so than in similar games), meaning lots of sliding off the edges of platforms and it takes a while to get used to. It is also very unforgiving. You only have three lives, with little chance of gaining more and no continues.

Did I complete the game?

No, at present, I can only get to the third level of world one.

What the critics said:

At present, I cannot find any comptemorary reviews.

My verdict:

“I just didn’t enjoy playing this game and had little desire to put too much time and energy into it. The graphics are good and it is diverting if you have a spare 15 minutes on your hands, but it just lacks charm and for me, the game just feels cheap.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Hudson’s Adventure Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island – Review

Every game from the Super Mario franchise has been hotly anticipated by fans of the series. After the success of Super Mario World, the bar was set extremely high for the sequel. The creators not only succeeded in producing a fantastic sequel (although it’s actually a prequel), but a game that proved so popular that its success spawned a series of spin-offs and sequels in itself. It really does seem like there is no stopping the Super Mario franchise!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SMW2) is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released for the SNES in 1995, the Game Boy Advance in 2002, the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.

The overworld map is different from Super Mario World, but does allow you to track your progress in each level (Screenshot taken by the author)

SMW2 is a prequel to Super Mario World (SMW), and what a prequel it is! Magikoopa and the Koopalings intercept a stork that is carrying Baby Mario and Luigi. During the attack, Baby Mario is dropped but safely caught by Yoshi. Many Yoshies assist in bringing Baby Mario back to the stalk through a number of challenging levels and bosses. Oddly, it doesn’t explain why Magikoopa and the Koopalings are trying to intercept the brothers, or what they will do with them once they have captured them. Does Bowser know that they will grow up to be a thorn in his side?

Yoshi must carry Baby Mario through some dangerous levels whilst collecting gold coins, red coins, stars and flowers (Screenshot taken by the author)

Keeping with the Super Mario traditions, the game mostly consists of running and jumping through the levels whilst collecting coins and tokens, although this game involves more puzzle-solving and item collecting than other platforms. There is no time limit which allows deeper exploration into each level and enables you to take your time. As well as simply playing through the levels, there is an added challenge of collecting 100% of the flowers, stars and red coins from over 40 levels (plus several different bonus levels and games). This greatly extends the game’s life and adds replay value.

Yoshi has the ability to eat most of his enemies, spit and throw objects at his enemies, and jump or stamp on them (as long as they don’t have spikes). He can also briefly levitate which greatly helps whilst jumping larger gaps.

Yoshi also collects eggs which he can use to fire at enemies and obstacles. These can be found by either hitting a white and green coloured block from below (red and yellow ones also occur), or by eating certain enemies and laying them as eggs. Green eggs can simply be used as a projectile to either kill enemies or aimed to collect coins and flowers. Red eggs produce stars for you to collect when thrown, and yellow eggs produce coins when they are thrown. Yoshi can also eat green and red watermelons and then spit the seeds and fire at his enemies.

There are several areas where Yoshi can touch an icon and be transformed into either a helicopter, car, drill or submarine where applicable. This enables Yoshi to reach bonus coins and flowers etc. that were previously inaccessible. A flashing star power-up is also available which makes Mario invincible for a limited amount of time.

Although Yoshi is basically invincible, he will die if he falls onto spikes and into lava etc. When he does get hit by an enemy, Baby Mario becomes encased in a bubble and begins to fly away. A countdown will begin and you need to retrieve him before the time runs out. Once caught, the timer will increase again to ensure that you have at least 10 seconds on the timer. Throughout the game you can also collect little stars that increase the amount of time you have to retrieve Baby Mario. Two things are incredibly annoying about his feature. Firstly, Baby Mario’s crying makes you want to leave him and turn the game off. Another is that sometimes the bubble Baby Mario is in, floats to areas of the screen that Yoshi cannot reach.

The game’s illustration style is reminiscent of a colouring book coloured by crayons. The levels, backgrounds, sprites and animations look great, but I personally prefer the illustration and colour scheme of SMW. Alas, the music isn’t as memorable as SMW or Super Mario Kart for that matter.

Like Super Mario World, Yoshi can eat most of the enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

Yoshi’s Island is a very good prequel and I enjoyed playing through it. There are plenty of new features and designs that clearly distinguish this from SMW, but it is easy to learn and familiar enough to not seem too different from other Mario games. However, I feel this game lacks the charm of SMW, and although it is challenging, I found the game too frustrating in places, making me not want to bother trying to achieve 100%.

Did I complete the game?:

I have completed the main storyline, but am yet to achieve 100% throughout.

What the critics thought:

Edge: “…Yoshi’s Island is a welcome addition to the series – as playable, challenging and entertaining as the best of the other Mario games. Overall 9/10.[1]

Gamefan: “One word immediately springs to mind – perfect. Perfect gameplay, perfect graphics, perfect music.  Overall 9.7/10.[2]

Next Generation: “The most impressive features of Yoshi’s Island are its size and playability. Strewn with bonus levels of all kinds, much like the original, this game will keep your dinosaur friend hopping in several different directions. You’ll find yourself baffled at the task of completing this gargantuan game, but you’ll definitely enjoy trying. Overall 5/5.[3]

Nintendo Life: “Yoshi’s Island isn’t just a great platformer: it’s a reminder of why this silly little hobby of ours is so wonderful. Sure, the game contains no political satire, no poetic justice, no character development. But if what Miyamoto and Tezuka crafted isn’t a work of art, then the definition of “art” needs to be amended. Overall 10/10.[4]

Awards:

Action Platform Game of the Year – 1995 Game Fans Mega Awards

SNES Game of the Year – 1995 Game Fans Mega Awards

16-Bit Game of the Year – 1995 Game Fans Mega Awards[5]

My verdict:

“A great and worthy prequel which I feel lacks a bit of the charm of Super Mario World. However, the graphics are gorgeous, and there is plenty to learn and find, differentiating it from its predecessors and most of its contemporaries. Don’t be fooled, this game is much tougher than Super Mario World and although there is plenty here to keep you coming back, rage quits will be frequent!”

My rating:

What are your memories of Yoshi’s Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Testscreen: SNES – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island’. Edge. (November 1995). Issue 26:62-65. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/af/Edge_UK_026.pdf Accessed 10th March 2020).

[2] ‘Viewpoint: SNES – Yoshi’s Island’. Gamefan. (October 1995). Volume 3 Issue 10:18. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue10October1995ALT/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed 10th March 2020).

[3] Rating: SNES – Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2’. Next Generation. (February 1996). Issue 14:178. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-014/page/n177/mode/2up Accessed 10th March 2020).

[4] Delgrego, K., (23rd July 2009). ‘Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island Review’. Nintendolife.com. (http://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2009/07/super_mario_world_2_yoshis_island_retro Accessed 11th on March 2020).

[5] ‘1995 Mega Awards’ Gamefan. (January 1996). Volume 4 Issue 1:106. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume4Issue01/page/n105/mode/2up accessed 22nd October 2020).

Super Mario World – Review

The Super Mario Bros. franchise is one of the most popular series of games ever to grace the planet. The brothers, who are plumbers by trade, seem to be regularly called upon to defeat the evil Bowser, and rescue Princess Toadstool (Super Mario 2 is different, as it was originally intended to be a different game). So get ready for a whole new adventure, of sliding down drain pipes, squashing Goombas, dodging Bullet Bills, discovering the secrets of the Ghost Houses, and the introduction of a new ally named Yoshi.  

Title Screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Mario World is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo, and released for the SNES in Japan in 1990, North America in 1991, and Europe in 1992. It would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 1991/2. The version I chose to review can be found on the SNES Mini.

In Super Mario 3, Mario and Luigi saved the Mushroom Kingdom from King Bowser. In need of a vacation, they visit Dinosaur Land for some much needed R&R. During their vacation, Princess Toadstool disappears…again! While searching for her, the brothers find a dinosaur egg which soon hatches, and they are introduced to Yoshi.

The Overworld Map at the beginining of the game (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game begins on a map of the Dinosaur Land where yellow and red dots indicate the levels that need to be traversed before you can progress. If the dot is red, it means that there is a secret area or alternative route that once found, will open up another secret area. Ghost Houses also tend to have secret areas too.

One of the early levels (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game follows the standard Mario gameplay of running from left to right and jumping over obstacles and either evading or killing a variety of enemies. Power-Ups include the standard Super Mushroom, Star of Invincibility, Fire Flower that allows you to throw fireballs, and a cape that allows Mario to fly and/or descend slowly. Mario and Luigi can also perform a new spin and jump move which allows you to destroy blocks you are standing on or next to.

Yoshi has his uses too. He can eat pretty much anything. Some of the enemies he eats will stay in his mouth and can be spat out at other enemies. Depending on what he eats will depend on what he spits out. If he eats a Koopa Troopa (green shelled turtle), he will simply spit out a green shell, but if he eats a Koopa Paratroopa (red shelled turtle), he will spit out fire balls.

There are several underwater levels to challenge you but, unlike Sonic, Mario doesn’t need to find air bubbles to survive (Screenshot taken by the author)

Another new feature means you can now store a power-up in a blue box at the top of the screen. You can make the power-up drop down manually to change your ability, or it will automatically drop when you are struck by an enemy.

Evading ghosts in the one of the many Ghost Houses (Screenshot taken by the author)

Coins and Yoshi tokens can be collected as usual to increase points. Every 100 coins found will give you an extra life. Each level contains five Yoshi tokens. If you collect all five in one level, you gain an extra life.

More of the Overworld Map (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once a level is completed, you can still play it again, but with an addition that if you wish to exit the level before making it to the end, you simply pause the game and press select. You will then be taken back to the Overworld Map.

Super Mario World can be played in one- and two-player modes which allow you to take it in turns to complete levels. As you progress through the game you will be given a percentage of how much the game is completed. However, you don’t need to have played all the levels and/or found all the secret areas to complete the game. For those of us that simply must find every secret of a game, this will add to the replay value, as you will be replaying levels trying to find alternative routes and secret areas.

Brightly coloured levels with beautifully illustrated and animated sprites. The levels are challenging but fun, and look great. The music will get stuck on a loop in your head. Interestingly, when riding Yoshi, extra drum beats are added to the music which is a cool little addition. The game is easy to learn and fun for all ages to play. You will be drawn back to revisit the game time and again.

Did I complete the game?

I have completed the story but have yet to achieve 100% on the game.

What the Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “What a truly terrific game! With seven worlds and over a hundred sub-levels, Mario IV has incredible depth of gameplay. Overall 96%.”[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The ultimate Mario adventure! Super Mario World is a perfect subtitle, with 96 areas to explore. Everything just plain blew me away! Overall 9/10.”[2]

Super Play: “An amazingly deep and playable platform game, and a credit to Nintendo. Unmissable. Overall 94%.”[3]

Awards:

Best Graphics and Sound (SNES) – Nintendo Power Awards 1991[4]

My Verdict:

“I had so much fun revisiting this game. It holds up very well. Beautifully illustrated and animated, and I love the music! There are loads of fun new features, and the game has great replay value. A true landmark of a game in the side-scrolling platform genre.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario World? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Glancey, P., ‘Review: Super Mario World’. Computer & Video Games. (March 1991). Issue 112:48-50. (https://archive.org/stream/computer-video-games-magazine-112/CVG112_Mar_1991#page/n49/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew – Super Mario 4’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (August 1991). 25:18. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_Issue_025_August_1991#page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[3] Brookes, J., ‘UK Review – Super Mario World’. Superplay. (December 1992). 2:84. (https://archive.org/stream/Superplay_Issue_02_1992-12_Future_Publishing_GB#page/n83/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[4] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ’91 – For Graphics and Sound (SNES)’. Nintendo Power. (May 1992). 36:58. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20036%20May%201992#page/n59/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).