Air Buster (1991 - Genesis)

I only beat this on Easy and Normal, but I'm writing a capsule because I'm not sure how much more I'm willing to play it on the Hard mode. Air Buster is a typical Genesis space shooter that's similar to Thunder Force and feels rather lackluster in many regards. While it doesn't start off too badly, you'll soon discover that when you die, you lose all of your powerups (fair enough), but then your regular gun is too weak to kill most enemies within a reasonable number of hits (not fair!). It's so weak, it's hard to even destroy the powerup capsules before they leave the screen, so you're pretty much screwed. The reason I stopped playing the Hard mode was because I got to a boss that I ended up fighting for over 5 minutes, due to how weak my weapon was.

As if that wasn't enough, someone thought it would be a cute idea in Levels 4 and 5 to represent zero gravity by having your spaceship's controls become more "floaty". In other words, pressing a direction on the control pad causes the ship to move in that direction until it hits the edge of the screen, hits an enemy, or you press another direction. You can compensate somewhat by constantly holding left, but it's still awkward as hell.

Some of the level designs, graphics, and music are okay, but it feels like even the best efforts in these areas were only half-hearted. And what is with those bizarre loading delays between stages? We're shown a picture of five anime-style characters, but nowhere is it explained who they are. I'm suspicious this game was designed for a CD-based system, which was meant to have cinema scenes featuring these characters, but the game ended up on a cartridge system and they omitted the cutscenes, but sloppily left the loading screens in.
Rating: 2/5


Crash Bandicoot (1996 - PS1)

I decided to play this game because I wanted to see how one of the Playstation's flagship 3D platformers compared to the N64 platformers I've finished (Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64). I was quite shocked to find out that Crash Bandicoot is completely on rails and even has sidescrolling stages, and really isn't all that comparable to them. But don't get me wrong, it was a rather pleasant surprise, as the game often felt to me like a merger of the best aspects of platform action games with 3D environments. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous and the level designs contain some of the toughest platform jumping and enemy-dodging I've seen. The game owes a lot to the Donkey Kong Country series, right down to the island settings and the similar style of action, but that's not a bad thing.

If there's any dark cloud beneath all this silver lining it's that the boss fights are rather lame and feel like they were just placed here and there out of some arbitrary commitment. All of them are piss-easy, including the final boss, but I'm not going to complain about that too much because Crash has a lot more going for it in the stage designs than a lot of other games do. (I also may not have minded if the control had been fine-tuned a bit, too, but it's adequate.)
Rating: 4/5


Heavy Barrel (1987 - Arcade)

Crawl and I credit-fed through this game at a local arcade place. I don't honestly remember a whole lot about it now, except that the game was glitching out a lot (with the text all being unreadable) and there was some kind of special weapon that basically acted like a mace that was really useful. I think we assembled the Heavy Barrel once or twice, too.

The game is a rather monotonous Ikari Warriors clone (even down to the twisty controls), but there's nothing as weird as the corpse boss in that game and I don't really fancy the idea of playing through it ever again. I honestly had more fun winning prizes out of the claw machines.
Rating: 2/5


Kid Icarus (1987 - NES)

I replayed this game for the first time in years and also (for the first time ever) beat the Japanese version, too. Both my shrine and my original review were written back when I didn't write very well, and thus I feel that neither really explained exactly what makes this game so much fun for me. It's all about the tension of being over top of a bottomless pit for much of it. The stages tend to be long and meticulously designed, so one slip-up can spell disaster. There is something satisfying about finally making it to the end of a stage without falling or succumbing to the enemy onslaught. The maze-like dungeon levels are also fun and challenging to navigate, thanks in part to those infamous Eggplant Wizards that can turn you into a functionless squash.

Yes, the last level is a complete throwaway, but I don't really mind that too much since the game offers enough thrills beforehand (and a New Game + so you can try for better endings afterwards!)

Note: I revised my complete review in July 2010, after writing this capsule. The original version was too terrible to leave as it was.
Rating: 3.5/5


Knights of the Round (1992 - Arcade)

Crawl and I also credit-fed through this game at a local arcade place. It's a typical beat-em-up with its major draws being the medieval setting and the ability to occasionally ride on horses. Otherwise, it's pretty dull and straight-forward. However, I did end up laughing hysterically at Arthur's really gay jumping animation, and the fact that Lanceleot looks nearly identical to Charlotte from Samurai Shodown, so that's gotta count for something. Methinks this game may have been made on the cheap since Perceval's sprite is very obviously a modified Mike Haggar sprite from Final Fight. There is so much happening on the screen most of the time that I often had a hard time following it, and I think it made me a little physically ill. By the time we were done, I felt very woozy and light on my feet.
Rating: 1.5/5


Pac-Man Arrangement (1996 - Arcade)

This was the best of the games Crawl and I credit-fed through at the arcade place, and it's one of six games on Namco Classics Vol 2. It's an updated version of Pac-Man that allows two players to play simultaneously, but there are a lot more changes than just that. There's a fifth ghost that appears every so often and bestows special powers on the other ghosts when he collides with them. For example, the purple ghost will turn into a bunny that can hop over the maze walls. The mazes change and the items change, and it can get pretty fast and intense in the later stages. Unlimited credits and having two players pretty much guarantees getting to the end (and it has a final boss fight!), but I can imagine this being a good challenging game if the credits were limited and if I only played it by myself (unfortunately, it doesn't work properly on MAME). As such, this rating is just kind of tentative, but I have to rate it something.
Rating: 3/5


Arrested Development, Season Two (2004 - DVD)

This is the season where things really pick up on this show. The episode "Good Grief" (which parodies the Peanuts cartoons), is one of my all-time favorites, including great lines of dialogue such as:

Michael Bluth: I think George-Michael is hiding Ann in the attic.
Lindsay Bluth FŁnke: From who, the Nazis?

Michael Bluth: Itís as Ann as the nose on Plainís face.

George Michael Bluth: I have Pop Pop in the attic.
Michael Bluth: The mere fact that you call making love "Pop Pop" tells me that you're not ready.

"Sad Sack" and "Afternoon Delight" are awesome episodes, too, and so are many others, but if I talked about every one, this would end up being a full review instead of a capsule. I almost feel like it's not a bad idea to recommend watching some Season 2 episodes to someone who may have seen Season 1 and wasn't too impressed by it. There's a lot more of GOB's hapless and hilarious attempts at being a professional magician, Tobias's further descent into his closeted realm of homosexuality, and Buster loses his hand to a seal. What more could you possibly want?
Rating: 5/5

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