Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures: High Seas Havoc

High Seas Havoc is a shockingly great Sonic clone

In the early to mid-90s, it was impossible for any gamer to escape the plague of terrible “animals with ‘tude” craze. From Awesome Possum to Rocky Rodent to the shockingly-revived Bubsy (author’s note: THE FIRST BUBSY IS NOT A BAD GAME!) there was a glut of mediocre Sonic knock-offs. However, there are some genuinely good exceptions to this subgenre.

In 1993, the always-dependable Data East released High Seas Havoc. High Seas Havoc plays very much like a Sonic clone, but it at least has an identity of its own by being about anthropomorphic pirates. It also contains some generally great level and character design and is just a fun, little platformer.

Unfortunately, the game’s similarities to Sonic may have overshadowed High Seas Havoc’s quality. Gamers are not too kind to games that look like rip-offs. Sales of the game, according to VGChartz, are unknown but one can figure the game wasn’t drawing huge sales.

Try not to think too hard about it, but in terms of just being a fun platformer for the Genesis, gamers can do a hell of a lot worse than High Seas Havoc.

YO-HO, YO-HO, A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR MEEEE!

Taking place in a world where pirates run amok, our game’s hero is a pirate seal named Havoc. In the game’s surprisingly engaging opening, Havoc finds a girl named Bridget who is carrying a treasure map. However, our villain, a pirate lizard/dragon-thing named Bernardo (great name…no, seriously!) kidnaps the fair maiden. In typical platformer hero fashion, it’s up to Havoc to rescue her and find the treasure.

Looking at the first level of High Seas Havoc, there is no way one can’t think Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s Emerald Hill Zone.

Yeah…it’s a bit of clone here…

However, pushing right on the control pad, gamers will feel something different; the game is less about speed and more about jumping. Sure, Havoc does move fast, but gamers aren’t trying to break the sound barrier. His speed is there in the same way Mario’s speed is; to help out with jumps. There are also little gameplay tweaks that set it apart from the Blue Blur’s series. Havoc has a life bar as opposed to collecting rings giving the player more of a chance to survive.

Levels all have a (fittingly) nautical theme to them. High Seas Havoc’s graphics really shine in this department. Each is packed will tricky jumps, creative enemies, and an abundance of color. Havoc himself really stands out against the big blue oceans or massive wooden ships he’s jumping around on.

The colors really stand out in the earlier levels.

Finally, the boss fights. This is one feature High Seas Havoc does quite well. Granted, it’s still the same old “hit-them-three-time-to-win” most platformers use, but from an art standpoint, they are well designed. There’s evil pirate dogs, ghosts, and finally Bernardo himself. Most importantly, they are fun to play.

BERNARDO V HAVOC!!!

 One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures

High Seas Havoc is a standout amongst the surplus of Sonic copies. The game’s aesthetics and solid gameplay alone are worth checking out High Seas Havoc just once. Not every platformer needs to reinvent the wheel for it to be a fun game, and High Seas Havoc fits that description appropriately.

Sadly, since the game wasn’t a big seller, High Seas Havoc has become a relatively expensive collector’s item. Used copies on Amazon run more than 50 bucks a pop.

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Kirby Super Star, the 20th Anniversary

 

Image courtesy of Game FAQ

Kirby Super Star is one of many classic games celebrating a milestone this year. Along with Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot, Kirby Super Star is now 20 years old.

Released on the SNES in 1996, Kirby Super Star set itself apart from previous entries in the series. The game still had the series’ trademarked copy ability gameplay, colorful graphics and upbeat, addictive music.

However, to quote the 80s classic This is Spinal Tap, “It goes to eleven.”

Kirby Super Star offers players 25 unique copy abilities, eight creative sub-games to play and some of the best music on the SNES. It also contains one of the more distinct and entertaining two player modes in any platformer. The game also contains top notch controls.

Many other Kirby games borrowed ideas and elements from Super Star, and is often considered to be the best overall game in the franchise, as well as many fans’ favorite.

After two decades and several legitimately fantastic entries in the series later, is Kirby Super Star still great? Are gamers looking through pink tinted glasses? Does its remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra, overshadow it? Or does Kirby Super Star still stand on its own and deserve to be put into every SNES owner’s collection?

What makes Kirby Super Star so great? Variety of course!
Similar to any work of art, there are several factors that make Kirby Super Star great and it’s strongest trait is its variety. Each of the sub-games are all creative and worth checking out at least once. However, a player should play them all in a row to get a true one-of-a-kind Kirby experience.

The variety in Super Star feels more concise and straight to the point than its remake. There is just enough sub-games where none of them feel tacked on and the copy abilities are a perfect assortment. The game is also not terribly long and overly stuffed.

Super Star Ultra adds a lot of mini-games and special modes, on top of the enhanced graphics and sound. However, Super Star Ultra is spread a little bit too thin. The extra stuff is just there. Getting the chance to throw down as Meta Knight is fun and the online multiplayer is great, but they aren’t particularly needed additions.

Copy Abilities are EVERYWHERE!

Along with the sub-games come the copy abilities. With 25 unique ways to defeat enemies, Kirby Super Star also introduces the Kirby Hats. Kirby will change color and wear a different hat or hairstyle to coincide with the ability. It’s a nice graphical change that keeps the variety up.

There is also not one copy ability that is not useless. The classic abilities of Fire, Sword and Stone are there. However, the more creative ones, Yo-Yo, Suplex and Ninja make appearances in Kirby Super Star. Fighter Kirby makes his first appearance in the game as well!

The game allows for experimentation, as it does not penalize you for not having a particular copy ability. If someone wants to play through only using Fire, they can! If they feel like switching out every few seconds, players can!

It’s strange to think about, there is a significant amount of freedom and choice in a Kirby game.

Twice the Fun with Two Players!
Playing the game as just Kirby is a fun time. Using the abilities to create a second player makes Kirby Super Star more of an unadulterated blast. Player twos will take control of one many cartoonish enemies Kirby copies abilities from. For example, if Kirby gets rid of his ability, than Player Two will become that enemy. It makes for some real fun gameplay combinations and silly, but fun, moments.

The  “8  9 Games in 1!”

 

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/kirby/images/f/f3/Superstar2.gif/revision/latest?cb=20110817185823&path-prefix=en
The whole game available on a corkboard. Image courtesy of Kirby Wiki.

Kirby Super Star boasts the “eight games in one” slogan right on the box. The games are all interesting and remarkable in their own right. The “eight games in one” schtick may appear gimmicky. It is technically nine, counting the mini-games. However, each sub-game contains its own story, challenge and even graphical aesthetics, along with slight positive updates to the gameplay.

Kirby Super Star SNES The tree throws apples on you: you have to inhale them and then to spit on the tree to defeat it
Whispy Woods in 16-bit! Image courtesy of Game FAQs.

Spring Breeze is a loose remake of Kirby’s Dream Land, but now with the copy abilities. It’s a fantastic start to the game and hooks players in with its colorful graphics. Level design and bosses are all great, but it’s just an appetizer to the main course.

Image result for kirby vs dyna blade
Fighting off Dyna Blade with two players! Image courtesy of VG Museum.

Dyna Blade is the first original game on deck. It’s up to Kirby to defeat the title character, who has been terrorizing Dream Land. The map system is a lot like Super Mario World, and is an extended version of Spring Breeze. It just happens to have better level design, boss fights and a memorable final one with Dyna Blade herself.

 

Kirby Super Star SNES Finding a treasure in the Cave Offensive
Finding treasures of all worth! Image courtesy of Moby Games.

The Great Cave Offensive is the Kirby series attempt at a Metroid style game. Kirby has fallen into a massive cave and find his way out, while spelunking for treasure. Also, Kirby must fight off several unique bosses, including one that is a hysterical parody of Final Fantasy’s turn based combat. The Great Cave Offensive is definitely the most difficult for players and it is a MASSIVE part of the game. However, there are players who don’t want to leave the caves and just keep exploring.

 

Gourmet Race has Kirby and the nefarious and hilarious King Dedede competing in a foot race to see who can eat the most food. The music is beyond memorable and has been remixed more than a few times. This is also a blast  because of how competitive it is.

 

Revenge of Meta Knight, arguably the darkest of the eight games, has Kirby stopping his rival from conquering Dream Land. Meta Knight and his cronies send just about everything after Kirby, including a combat lobster and a MASSIVE gun. The speed run nature of the gameplay, appearance of the fan favorite Meta Knight and pulse pounding music make Revenge of Meta Knight one of the more memorable sub-games in Kirby Super Star. The dialogue between Meta Knight and his army is also enjoyable.

 

Image result for kirby super star milky way wishes
Kirby in the final battle of Milky Way Wishes! Image courtesy of VG Museum.

Finally, after blowing through each game, the player unlocks the penultimate sub-game, Milky Way Wishes. The Sun and Moon are fighting caused by an unknown entity. Kirby’s friend Marx shows up to help. Milky Way Wishes has Kirby traveling throughout the galaxy. Stopping from planet to planet, Kirby notices the damage the Sun and Moon are doing, which results in some unique level design and steep challenge. Milky Way Wishes is also the only game in the franchise to have the Copy Ability Deluxe feature, where Kirby must find the abilities and stock them. It also contains one of the best final bosses in any Kirby game.

Image result for kirby super star the arena meta knight
Facing off against Meta Knight in the Arena! Image courtesy of https://happyhibisci.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/kirbys-super-star/

The Arena is Kirby Super Star’s boss rush mode and is easily the most difficult of all the sub-games. The Arena only gives the player five Maximum Tomatoes to recharge on health to fight all of the game’s bosses.

Rounding out Kirby Super Star are two mini-games. Megaton Punch and Samurai Kirby are quick games involving timing. Megaton has Kirby facing off against strong enemies by testing his strength. Samurai is stylish like a classic samurai film and has Kirby taking out enemies similar to the quick draw mini-game in Kirby’s Adventure. The two mini-games are fun to play around with when you need a break from the actual game.

Everything Else Fires on All Cylinders
Kirby Super Star’s other features like its graphics, controls and sound are about as flawless as a 2D platformer can be. No one will ever feel like they are out of control or they won’t brush off the graphics as being “just another SNES game.” And no one will be able to not hum the theme to “Gourmet Race” after playing it. It goes without saying the features that make up video games (controls, graphics, etc..) are phenomenal in Kirby Super Star.

 

Kirby Super Star SNES Nice exotic setting
The Great Cave Offensive is perfect for showing off the graphical capabilities of the SNES. Image courtesy of Moby Games.

There are many SNES games that are as colorful and full of energy and take full advantage of the superior sound capabilities. Kirby Super Star absolutely deserves to be on the list of SNES greats like Super Metroid or Chrono Trigger in terms of using the hardware to its full potential.

My personal experience with the game…
I first played Kirby Super Star back in 1999. One of my childhood friends had an elusive SNES still kicking and owned a copy of Kirby Super Star. Now, I had only played Kirby’s Dream Land 2 on the Game Boy, so to say my experience with the Kirby franchise was limited is accurate. On my friend’s birthday, we all decided to head over in his basement and start playing away.

Within the next few hours, I don’t remember playing anything else but Kirby Super Star. All I wanted to do was conquer the Halberd as Kuckel Joe one more time. I wanted give back the food to Dream Land from Dyna Blade or just race King Dedede. I wanted to play as every enemy who had Kirby’s abilities. I just wanted to play this game!

As the years went by and several “edgy/mer-I-hate-Nintendo” phases later, I bought a Wii. Mostly to play games on the Virtual Console.

One summer, I downloaded Kirby Super Star from the Virtual Console on a whim. The same feelings I had when I played the game back in 1999 came flooding back nearly 11 years later. The gameplay still held up after all these years and I couldn’t believe it. I even found myself enjoying it more than the other Kirby games I downloaded.

Not counting RPGs, it’s the most played game on the Virtual Console for me.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Kirby franchise and will always love Kirby Super Star. It’s one of the few video games where I can play for five minutes or five hours and still be happy. To me, it’s the only Kirby game that feels fresh every single time I boot it up. Kirby Super Star is just simply fun. It doesn’t tell a deep story, it does not completely reinvent platforming. Kirby Super Star just does everything right and keeps players entertained, no matter what.

For those who are curious, Revenge of Meta Knight is my personal favorite sub-game and the Yo-Yo ability is my favorite Kirby copy ability of all time.

Image result for yo yo kirby snes

Kirby Super Star is still great even after two decades and a remake
Ask any Kirby fan what their personal favorite is in the series and it will usually differ. However, one game in the series all fans can agree is legitimately great is Kirby Super Star. The perfect graphics, sound and control build up the experience. It is the gameplay that is chock full of diversity and choices that sets it apart.

Kirby Super Star does its job so well that it is the measuring stick for many Kirby games have copied it. It’s also a game many gamers have fond memories of.

Happy 20th, Kirby Super Star! A game this legitimately great after all these years deserves to be played by anyone. It truly is one of the best SNES games and an honest classic.

Hoshi no Kirby Super Deluxe Screenshot
Happy 20th Kirby Super Star and a happy 24th to you too, Kirby! Image courtesy of Game FAQs.

 

Mighty No. 9 Review

With its constant delays and the horrible business practices surrounding it, people thought the elusive Mighty No. 9 would never actually come out. Especially if you’re like me and have been following it since the Kickstarter was announced, three years ago. And hey, there’s good reason to lose hope. It seemed like this game just could never get away from delays. Hell, even the survey for the backers got delayed. But then, on June 21st, 2016, it happened. The magical day, it finally released.

Except the 360 version. Even after this game releases it still can’t get away from being delayed.

The general consensus of the reviews for Mighty No. 9 has been that it’s mediocre at best. Is this the case, or are these reviews overstating it? Is it as poor an excuse of a Mega Man successor as everyone is saying, or is there at least something there? Let’s take a look at it without keeping in mind the context around it, and just as what it was intended to be: A platformer intended to succeed Mega Man. Hopefully it doesn’t make me cry like an anime fan on prom night.

Gameplay

Out of all the things Mega Man is known for, the franchise’s biggest claim to fame is its genius level design and control. Seeing as how Mega Man is a golden standard of platforming for many, myself included, Mighty No. 9 has a huge legacy to live up to. But here’s the thing, drawing comparison to Mega Man OR Mega Man X is just not a good idea, because Mighty No. 9 is more or less its own thing. Of course it still tries to pull off a Mega Man kind of feeling, but the style in which you move around, how you fight enemies, and even the level design itself are like its own part. Try not to think of it as trying to bring back an older Mega Man style, but to try and create a different one. Drawing direct comparisons to Mega Man games won’t work, because its style is just too different. That said, you can still create a feeling of Mega Man while creating a new style of play, and that’s what I’m going to be looking at for Mighty No. 9.

Now, onto the big question: Does this newer style work? Well… Kinda. Mechanically speaking, Mighty No 9 feels great. Beck controls like a dream, firing his buster and landing hits is insanely satisfying, and the dash mechanic feels so good to use. He feels a little light, which is perfect for making you want to dash through levels and collect points, and some of his alternate weapons are pretty cool in concept. It feels like a style of Mega Man, for sure. And in a good way.

This is one of the big things, though. It’s great mechanically. From a level design aspect, it’s nowhere near a Mega Man standard of quality. Remember how I mentioned that you can retain a Mega Man style while not being comparable to any form of Mega Man? Well, this is where it fails. The level design in Mighty No. 9 is very basic, and the variety in levels isn’t as, well, various as it should be. For the eight stages at the start of the game, 4 of them felt unique, and the other 4 just felt like the same okay level over and over. They all did somewhat different things, but they were all executed in the same way, and no new concepts were really introduced; just new obstacles. Like, twice. That’s something that Mega Man in general, regardless of which one you’re looking at, just doesn’t do. Mega Man is about showing the player a new concept in each different stage, and then asking them to execute it. It’s about providing obstacles that take at least some form of tact or execution to get over, while still giving the player the resources to figure out a way to get through it without feeling cheated, and making these obstacles varied and new in each area to keep you on your toes. Mighty No. 9 does none of this. Everything you do just feels like you’re moving in a straight line, rushing to get to the boss and move on. No new concepts, no new ideas, no keeping you on your toes.

Air Stage
Image courtesy of VIDEOGAMER

And it’s not like making the player get through as fast as possible is something Mega Man doesn’t do; look at Mega Man Zero. It encourages speedrunning and going for higher scores, but it does so while also introducing new challenges consistently, and makes the stages so that to get the best score, you have to actually try. Unlike the cakewalk of level design that is Mighty No. 9.

That said, Mighty No. 9 does have some fun stages in it. They’re not all bad. I quite enjoyed the stages for Mighty Numbers 5, 6, and 7 (or as I like to call him, “totally not Proto Man”), along with that stealth-ish stage where you play as Call, and the final two stages of getting into the robot factory, and then the final boss.  And on a few more stages, there are some fun segments. Objectively speaking, the level design isn’t bad, it’s just… Way too simple; too basic. For the number of fun stages you get, along with the good controls, I’d say that there’s just enough of good things to make it worth the $20 price tag it’s asking for. Not much more than that, though.

Looks and Sound

Now onto graphics and–

mighty_no_9.0.0

Okay yeah it’s not the best. That said, the trailer looks much worse than how the game does. Unlike many, I don’t really think Mighty No. 9 looks bad. It doesn’t look good, don’t get me wrong. But it’s… Fine. Granted with an almost $4 million budget, you’d expect much more, but it gets the job done. Characters look okay, environments are okay. Quality of the models is… Okay.

Aside from the pizza explosions. Those are actually real and they look exactly like that.

As for music… What music? You mean those incredibly soft tracks underneath everything going on that can barely be heard? I mean I guess it’s not bad music, but it doesn’t do much. There are a few songs I thought were pretty catchy, but it’s nothing I’m going to listen to outside of the game. A meh soundtrack that you can hardly hear to begin with.

Content

And now onto something surprising: Mighty No. 9 has a surprising amount of content. You’ve got the main story, which consists of 12 stages, and will run you about 5 hours. Then, you have challenge mode, which can be done in either solo or co-op. which contains numerous missions that can actually be quite challenging at times, and can actually get pretty fun, and the Ray DLC, which was free for backers and people who purchased the retail version, and is buyable for those who didn’t. This actually makes the game take up quite a bit of time, and definitely offers enough content for its price tag.

Conclusion: Should you buy Mighty No. 9?

For those of you who don’t care about the situation surrounding Mighty No. 9, it’s a decent game that’s worth its asking price. It’s not a spectacular game, and it needed a lot more work to live up to what it was made out to be, but I wouldn’t say it’s as mediocre as everyone else has been saying. There is definitely something there, and it’s trying to do something. It just needed better direction. It’s more good than bad, and it’s definitely worth the $20, but I wouldn’t pay much more than that.