698 Reviews liked by rj_gunner

The Orochi Saga - Chapter 1
After KOF made its series debut in 1994, the first game would receive a sequel the next year with The King of Fighters '95. This was a game I've changed my opinion on multiple times. Originally I liked it, then I played the other games and I hated it, but now I like it again... sort of. This was my first KOF game actually, as it was the game Sakurai had recommended way back when during the Terry in smash direct. So what are my "final" thoughts on The King of Fighters '95? Let's begin, shall we?
So first things first, this game is a very solid improvement over 94. The controls are much more fluid and moves overall feel better to perform. Mechanically this game is about the same as the last game, but damn you can get absolutely crazy with some characters in this game if you actually toy around with the moves. Kyo especially has seen some improvement, he's still very much shoto-style, but now he has the double forward kick move which is so fun to play with. KOF '95 is definitely fun to play, just not when you're against the computer.
Ok, but once again I have to shill the presentation here. This game looks absolutely amazing. The character sprites are still in that weird pre-96 style, but the actual animations and details are splendid. For example, Terry is in much better shape this time around, with his animations being more accurate to the Fatal Fury series. The stages, however... good lord. These are some of my favorite stages in the entire series, with Neo Geo Land possibly being one of my favorites in fighting games. An issue some of the later 2D KOFs would have was the sprites looking inconsistent with the backgrounds, but here everything is a consistent art style that flows together perfectly. An eye catching arcade game for sure.
The music is undoubtedly fantastic. That being said, I absolutely adore the arranged soundtrack, every single song in the AST is an improvement, using high quality instruments and naturally adding more to the original melodies. One of the few pros of the PS1 version I played! Even if you don't play this game, definitely listen to the arranged music, it's worth checking out.
So this is actually the first KOF game where the story starts to matter. Rugal is back and meaner then ever, brainwashing Kyo's father while starting another King of Fighters tournament. This game is also the introduction of Kyo's rival Iori Yagami, iconic for his laughing victory animation. It's still a fairly simple plot all things considered, but I'll leave it to you to experience the story yourself.
Once again, the final boss is an asshole. Or should I say, two bosses. Yes, in this game you must face TWO bosses in a row with the same health bar, they are not separate stages. Yes, it is as nightmarish as it sounds. Like last time, I played rather cheap and just used a time out victory to win, I have no shame cheesing an SNK boss. Without a doubt the aspect that makes me rarely want to revisit this game, luckily the AI nor the bosses after this are as difficult... mostly.
And so that is KOF 95. A very solid sequel that I'm glad I gave another chance after playing many games in the series. If you're interested in KOF for the story, I wouldn't exactly recommend PLAYING this one first, but this is where the plot actually begins. Things are definitely looking up from here, as we will be entering the 1996 King of Fighters tournament soon. See ya all again next time for KOF 96.

The shining beacon of the PC Engine CD. Whether you prefer Gate of Thunder or Lords of Thunder is a matter of opinion but man this game is just so TIGHT.

An early 16-bit action RPG with actually functional hit detection and physics? Where using items and magic (with the exception of the medallions) doesn't pause the screen and bring the action to a screeching halt?! Yes please - I wish Secret of Mana / Secret of Evermore took notes from this!
The sense of exploration and discovery is fantastic too - the game drops you in the literal middle of an open world and then nudges you to complete tasks in a somewhat linear order, but it almost always manages to straddle the line between "obvious railroading" and "guide dang it". Supplement this with the large number of minor secrets that don't have anything to do with your main quest but are just waiting to be found, and you have a winner. The world of Hyrule is the perfect size too - sprawling but not overwhelming. The near-perfect sense of exploration plus the decent action elements are enough to make me love this game sans nostalgia goggles, despite its flaws - of which there are quite a few!
I get that it's to be expected from games of this era, but some boss fights and dungeon rooms must have been designed by sadists. Icy floors, moving conveyor belts, darkened rooms, and graphical layers that obscure your view of the action are all present, sometimes in conjunction with each other. And of course Moldorm exists. And while the game is generally forgiving with giving you opportunities to heal, I think having your attacks get stronger as you lose health rather than having a ranged attack that you can only use at full health would make for more compelling gameplay.
Also, the open world works both for and against the game experience. Exploring and discovering new things is a dopamine hit, but backtracking through familiar places fighting the same enemies starts to feel like a chore - not easy enough to switch your brain off (powering through a dungeon you're overleveled for in a JRPG), but not tense enough to feel engaging (Resident Evil remake). I feel like the sense of tedium I sometimes felt when wandering around was linked somewhat to the plot's pacing - the extreme paucity of story beats made me lose momentum at some points, particularly in the game's second act.
As negative as some of the above points sound though, they can be seen as the game being a victim of its own polish. I'd been judging it against other mid-90s RPGs because it looks and feels and sounds like a mid-90s RPG. The fact that this was made so early in the SNES's life cycle blows my mind. This is the first Zelda game I've completed and I'm planning to follow it up with more - and while my impression of this game may evolve once I can view it in the larger context of the series, I can't imagine thinking of this game as anything other than excellent.

Horizontal shooter. Varied stages with unique enemies and hazards, some of the stages involve manipulating the environment or your enemies doing so and a big point in the game's favor is this is one of the few shooters that I've played where enemies and their bullets don't typically go through solid objects that you can't pass or shoot through. Good music. Limited weapons of a homing shot, laser, and bomb but before you can edit each by assigning five points into the two other weapon slots (max of five points to each) to give them properties of other weapons. Can shoot in front and behind you. Select toggles ship speed. Can pick up two pods that shoot in the direction you are shooting, can block shots, and you can cycle between two formations with an edit option that allows you to alter their placement in those formations before the game starts. For a better offense or defense choice depending on the situation.
An alternate graphics code done on the menu changes your ship to a samurai and your option pods to two horses.
Easily of one the best shooters on the NES.

My love for NES action-platformers is no secret, and anyone who has followed me for really any length of time should already have me pegged as a Ninja Gaiden fan. It may then be a bit surprising that I only played it for the first time just a few years ago, sitting on it for years after the Castlevania series turned me on to the genre.
Platforming is as precise as I like it, with controls that are so tightly designed every input feels like a full body commitment to the outcome. Power-ups have specific use cases, and finding the balance of when to use one and when to abstain feels every bit as good as developing mastery over the subweapons in Castlevania. Repeat playthroughs feel more and more rewarding as you build your skill and familiarity with the game. It's a game made just for me, so much so that I wound up playing all three NES Ninja Gaidens back-to-back, completely forgetting to feed myself in the process. Having to drag your ass to a McDonalds at 3am because you were too caught up playing video games is just a sign that you're having a good time (or that you're possibly negligent about your personal health and well being. Either or!)
It's not a perfect game, however. Much like other games of its ilk the difficulty spikes harshly, though in this case it occurs in the last third of the game, and bosses become so frustrating that I wouldn't blame you for falling back on save states. The wall jumping gimmick is also a little hit-or-miss. Definitely ironed out in the sequels, but somewhat janky here. There's some sloppy enemy placements as well, and the level design is overall a bit less intentioned than Castlevania.
It's a surprisingly cinematic game, too. This was very much an era where a game's narrative was relegated to the first few pages of the manual and almost entirely superfluous to the actual software, but Ninja Gaiden takes pride in its story. It's campy as all hell, blending elements of espionage thrillers and Tokusatsu. Ninjas fighting against ancient magic, other worldly demonic entities, and the CIA... It's dumb as hell and shockingly complex for what it is, and I love it. It helps that the cutscenes look as impressive as they do, with the shot of Ryu looking out towards Jaquio's temple being a particular stand out.
Ninja Gaiden and its two NES sequels were remade and packed together on one cart for the SNES, so if you want to give this game a shot on better hardware, it might be worth checking that out. Either way, Ninja Gaiden definitely earns its legacy and should not be slept on by any fan of the genre.

"Ryu, be always brave...."
Ninja Gaiden is one of the best games on the NES and one of the best games period, but is undeniably one of the tougher entries to grace the original NES. Much of the game's infamous reputation for difficulty is owed to the final act. While the game has a steady and fair difficulty curve in the first five acts, Act VI ramps things up to insane levels, featuring two or three of the most difficult jumps/sections in the entire game, way more enemies than usual, and a three-form final boss that will boot you back to 6-1 if you fail. Moreover, while the final boss will start you on the form you died on upon return, your health from the stage will not be refilled upon reaching him. In this sense, its easy to say that you might as well reset the game if you can't beat him in one run, but like the rest of the game, with enough determination and focus you can beat each of his forms even separately. This aspect was not the only tough part of Ninja Gaiden, but it is easily the most difficult part for me.
Despite this, I still adore this game. Anyone who knows me knows that I love difficult games. Dancing on that razor's edge between adrenaline-pumping intensity and full-on, manic, seeing-red rage is one of my favorite feelings and is up there with eating extremely spicy food as my anti-drug. The best part of this game is that it really dances on that edge for me: its definitely really tough but its just tough enough where you still want to keep going. It dares you to finish it, just one more continue, just one more play, focus enough and you will make it! Ninja Gaiden boasts the ultimate concession and the best part of the best difficult games: unlimited continues! This prevents the game from delving into that horrible-hard territory with the likes of Silver Surfer. Ninja Gaiden with its unlimited continues, I would argue, wants you to finish it.
If you have the patience to withstand its tests of your will, then you will find one of the best NES games of all time. Boasting amazing cutscenes with some of the greatest shots I have seen in an NES game (or any game for that matter, the arrival at Jaquio's castle and the sunset ending come to mind), some of the best music on the system, and a legitimately compelling story for the time, this game is incredibly rewarding for anyone with the patience and determination to hone their ninja skills.

-This game is buggy as hell.
-Jump and Slash is by far the best sub-weapon in the game assuming you're decent at maintaining power, melting bosses in an instant and making difficult jumps safe.
-It is cheap and unforgiving, especially starting from stage 5.
-Wall cling is very clunky and is annoying at times especially when knocked back into them by enemies.
-Bosses have no middle ground, they're either braindead easy(Barbarian, Kelberos, etc.) or demand cheese strats or big gamer concentration(Malth and Jaquio).
But despite all of this, it is still one of my favorite NES Famicom games. Which I think can be attributed to just how strong its overall presentation is with both it's soundtrack, graphics and cutscenes along with it's tight controls(ignoring wall cling).
The sequel is probably better with its cleaner gameplay, but my nostalgia is stronger with this one.

If you didn't fear birds before playing this game, you will by Area 3-1.

Got to say, was pretty surprised with this one. I wasn't expecting it to be anything special considering the previous beat em up games aren't anything special (ignoring my biases towards two of the games.) It's nice as a Sailor Moon to experience this title though it does only go through some stuff of the first season. Which makes sense seeing as it probably was the season to do if you didn't want to make more assets.
The gameplay overall is your typical beat em up quarter muncher and man they really do want your money. They only give you 2 lives and it can be easy to lose a life if you're careless. The bosses are also huge damage sponges which can be annoying at times. I do like the enemy variety even if it could use a couple more to make it great but it's still good to me.
The game also looks pretty good and I like the little animations that happen when you do a special move. Though I feel like the music could have been better, it sounds rather odd to me and I can't explain why. Also the voice acting is of good quality for the characters seeing as they got the cast from the anime as per usual. Though only they have voices for some reason and Tuxedo Mask but none of the villains.
Overall it's a fun time and I wouldn't mind going through that with a friend someday or even trying to someday play it on an actual cabinet though sadly that'll probably never happen. Give it a try if you ever can, it's worth an hour or 2 of your time. Now if only they could make Sailor Moon games again...

It's so fucking beautiful, you can play the game for this only porpose if you want
But about the game itself, is cool, has cool variety on the enemy sprites and diferent supers are really cool to see on screen
The dificult in the later stages are a big pain in the ass, but playing with a friend quite helped to get through those stages
I wish the Sailor Moon fighting games was GORGEUS to look at like this one