[EXPRESSO] Congo’s Caper/Joe & Mac 2 SNES | Sun Wukong Upon A Star

Ah, yes, the three inescapable truths of life: death, taxes and SNES caveman platformers that somehow you didn’t play or knew existed, like todays’s Congo’s Caper, just recently rereleased on the NSW Online subscription/retro apps.

This one it’s a bit more recognizable than stuff like Prehistorik Man, as it’s basically a spin-off of the Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja series by Data East, but also the second game in the series, since it was actually sold as Joe & Mac 2 in Japan and PAL regions.

And i kinda get why, as Data East also recycled some characters from the mainline Joe & Mac series, like the devil or the first stage t-rex boss , and the controls are similar, as it retains the high jump, but not the weapons, as you use only a small club to attack.

The more distinctive feature is the player character turning back into a monkey if hit, and regaining your human form with a red crystal (Mario style), with the ability to enter a “super saiyan” invincibility state too, you’re a half-monkey man after all.

Controls are actually pretty smooth, arguably better than the original Joe & Mac, the new protagonist has some new abilities like hanging from vines, so it should be better…. and it arguably is, it’s definitely more polished, has a lot more levels, BUT it’s too easy for its own good, it’s fun, but it lacks challenge, and the level themselves are very short, while also not providing anything you haven’t seen (or heard, as some of the sound effects are pretty much “ripped off” of Super Mario World…. or its sound libraries) done better in terms of level design.

So it’s not a bad game, but a decent one that could have been potentially quite good.

Shame, really.

[EXPRESSO] Rival Turf SNES | Dashing Beat

So, Nintendo opened its maw again to spit out another meager assortment of old titles for the NES and SNES Online services, but this time it did add Rival Turf, as in the localized version of the first Rushing Beat, so i guess it’s time to complete my trifecta of reviews for the Rushing Beat trilogy, with the others being localized as Brawl Brothers and The Peacekeepers respectively.

Like The Peacekeepers the throwing and suplex moves are so overpowered that you’ll rely too much on those, especially since the enemies knows this as well, and can deal way too much damage even without using throws, made worse by the fact this is the only beat ‘em up i know that has “recovery damage”, as in you lose life even by getting up from getting knocked down.

At least it works for both you and the enemies, but still, weird.

Everything else is crappy bootleg Final Fight, from the bootleg enemies with smaller sprites, the iffy collision detection, the punches and moves lacking much “oomph”. The only difference being the “run” button which allows to also execute dash moves, despite the hilarity of the character not so much running (there’s no running animation per se) but “walking-gliding” at a faster pace.

It’s also such a blatant rip-off of Final Fight you really have to compare it to that game, and its own only reason of being was the 2 player co-op mode that the SNES release of Final Fight lacked, but nowadays means squat.

It’s aged crap from Jaleco, and while the sequels – mostly – improved gameplay…. there’s very little reason to bother with the original Rival Turf/Rushing Beat, unless you’re a beat em up buff on a mission to play them all for fun, education and/or profit. There’s worse.

[EXPRESSO] Prehistorik Man SNES | Accept Humanity

Played via Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES service.

So, i guess i was one of the few people mildly interested in some of the February 2012 NSO updates. Which is somehow managing to make me miss the original Virtual Console, somehow.

But i have a thing for caveman platformers, i do, so here we are.

To be fair, i didn’t expect much, especially since it comes from Titus (and if you know something about retrogaming, their name wasn’t exactly one welcomed with cheers), i wasn’t familiar with it and just figured it was gonna be a Joe & Mac clone, but this isn’t really the case. And while it’s easy to understand its existence being relegated to niche retrogaming obscurity, as the 90’s were obsessed with cavemen and dinosaurs and this one didn’t do much to stand out in the avalanche of cavemen themed movies or videogames… you might want to give this one a chance.

It’s not an unsung SNES classic by any means, no, it’s kinda generic and unremarkable, but it’s surprisingly nifty, pretty entertaining, and the while the plot see a caveman named Sam on a quest to feed his starving village, while searching for a bone graveyard so to make his tribe rich… it’s very cartoonish and fond of the usual caveman anachronism. It’s also not short, with a good variety to the levels, often putting you in control of a vehicle like a glider; and while the level design starts off fairly straighforward, more often than not it requires you to explore the levels and collect the required items, as it is still an “euro platformer”, and a pretty challenging one too.

I just wish your character’s standard attack was less crap, and the controls were a bit less slippery, but it’s a good retro platformer.

[EXPRESSO] Fox n Forests NNSWDDL | Wink Wink Nudge Nudge E.T. Atari Cartridges

One of the older “good children of Kickstarter”, a retro-styled 2D platformer made by nostalgic gaming enthusiast for the nostalgia crowd that loves 16-bit style platformers for the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.

And before you ask, yes, there are “Metroidvania” elements, Kinda. As in you’ll have to revisit levels when you get an upgrade allowing you to reach new paths and collect more of the items necessary to unlock the other batch of levels. The music does remind one of Castlevania, though, like a lot.

You play as Rick the Fox, tasked by the ancient talking tree to recover sacred bark and repel the mysterious “Fifth Season”. You’re given a bow with sword for close combat, but the main gimmick of Fox n Forests is the ability to change the season in the level to affect the level design: freezing rivers in winter to walk on the icy surfaces, changing to autumnmakes vines grow, creating extra platforms, and so on.

It’s a good game held back by how on-point it recreates the 16-bit platformer experience, despite otherwise finding good compromises to mesh old and new sensibilities, like retain checkpoints but having you fork over cash to activate them. The main problem is having the fodder (and sometimes stronger) enemies respawning ad infinitum, making exploration more difficult and grating than needed, in a game that wants you to explore (and revisit) the few big levels available as throughly as possible. And it’s pointless since enemies always drop coins, not the more useful health items.

Also, most boss battles are downright obtuse and become piss easy once you realize what you were supposed to do, and the videogame references… the less said the better.

I really wanted to like this more, but it’s still slighly above just being “decent”.

[EXPRESSO] Brawl Brothers SNES | OH, Maize!

Played via the SNES – Nintendo Switch Online’s service.

Since i reviewed the last game in the Rushing Beat trilogy (as in, what became of it when Jaleco brought it over as The Peace Keepers), might as well do the second one, or – more appropriately – the western release of Rushing Beat Ran. But since it’s an emulated game, the old code for playing the japanese version works here as well.

And if you go to The Peace Keepers back to Brawl Brothers, you’ll find it hard to believe this one came before, because it’s noticeably the better game, right away it’s obvious, as absurd as it is.

That said, while the gameplay is decent, it apes Final Fight , yes, it also has 4 stages, each being twice as long than usual, long for the sake of it, without the enemy variety to fully sustain it (even for the era)… AND if the pacing wasn’t hampered by the maze-like sections. On paper they should spice things up, make the game less mindless, but they are just obtuse and stupid, as the level design doesn’t comunicate or hints at the “right way”, but its quite happy to still tell you to “GO=>” even when it will lead you into looping into the same ¾ nearly identical corridors.

So 15 minutes in and you will have to either keep trying to access the sewer’s doors in random order or go look up a guide if you wanna save some time. More baffling, this “maze crap”, while it bogs down an other decent – if flawed – game for the time, isn’t even a complete deal breaker, as it applies to just 2 specific sections of the whole game … and it wasn’t even in the Japanese version to begin with.

[EXPRESSO] The Peace Keepers SNES | The Suplexing Complex

Played via the SNES- Nintendo Switch Online’s service.

And i gotta say, despite Nintendo handling this service.. in a totally Nintendo way, sometimes there are surprises, like this forgotten SNES beat em up by Jaleco, actually the third of the Rushing Beat trilogy (which also includes Rival Turf and Brawl Brothers, the latter already released on the service), at least it was originally. I’d say this is a fairly obscure release, as i never even heard of its existence, even by name.

Playing it, i realized why it slipped into obscurity so easily. Just plain ol’ crap in a market – at the time – saturated with tons of titles like that, often better.

It’s hard to say The Peace Keepers is “bad”, as it pretty much plays like Final Fight (aside from a plot that throws movie clichès AND literary references into the pot, with mutants, villains named Iago and places called Ozymandias Island), but it’s not a fast paced affair. Also, the combination of slightly stiff controls and the screen never scrolling properly to the right leads to you dashing into enemies’ fists, not that the game really ever throws tons of foes at you. Which is “good” because each takes more hits than it should to go down in a game like this, making the throws (already a bit too efficient than punches, in a brawler) pretty much mandatory to get anywhere.

Branching paths leading to different bosses and endings are nice but aren’t enough to make the story seems more than a jumbled sequence of scenes. And for some stupid reason the game by default just has the sound effects and ambient noises, i almost went the whole game wondering if the game had no actual music. It does, but you have to change a setting in the options.

[EXPRESSO] Blazing Chrome NSWDDL | Olympus Has Fallen

21XX A.D.

Capitalization of vaguely remembered decades run rampant in the dystopian future where a war against “ze machines” is unfolding. As humanity last stand, the last survivors of a suicide mission, with the main characters designs clearly – “just because we like it” – made to evoke Appleseed’s Dunen and Briareos, you’ll have to attack the enemy HQ in a desperate, last bout of run n gun action.

From the developers of Oniken and Odallus comes a surprisingly good retro 2D run n gun, one that not only evokes the 16 bits days of yore via the usual (but also quite crisp) retro aesthetic, but also because it’s basically Contra III (the weapons will make it even more obvious), with an evasive roll manouver and a Metal Slug-style close quarters knife attack added for good measure. But still, a very good recreation of Contra with enough in it to not just make it a “clone”, made by people that know what to keep from the classics, and where concede to modernity in order to avoid fidelity over quality.

It’s a 6 missions/level affair, but they’re well designed, quite packed and keep the tradition of changing things up with motorcycle sequences, mechsuits, faux-3D shooting sequences, etc. It’s the kind of game that is by design not particularly long, but it’s also very challenging, hard but never soulcrushing difficult, you always feel you can win if you try again, learn and improve. It also gets the arcade type of replayability perfectly, and you’re given various difficuly settings that add or remove “comodities” suck as saving or extra lives. Add in extra playable characters, boss rush mode, and even options for speedrun, and i really can’t recommend this enough.

Shoutout to my buddy Chaosknight69 on Backloggery for recommending this one.

Loved it!