GravityWell, another year has come and gone and I’ve been playing a little bit of Team Fortress 2 to celebrate a prolific and productive year. Here at AS Movies & Games HQ, we hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. Don’t forget to let us know what you’ve been playing and watching in the comments section below!

In the gaming world, 2013 saw the release of games like Dead Rising 3, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Payday 2, Arma III, Shadow Warrior, Wasteland 2, Crysis 3, Planetary Annihilation, and SimCity among others.

Despite this amazing lineup, I can’t say that I’ve played many new games recently. This year, I completed Bastion and Ys Chronicles. I’ve also been playing a bit of VVVVVV, and during the holidays I’ve been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Team Fortress 2 like I already mentioned. You can’t blame me for wanting to play “older” games, especially when I haven’t even touched them yet.

In the movie world, 2013 saw the release of titles like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Conjuring, Kill Your Darlings, Robot & Frank, World War Z, The Place Beyond the Pines, Saving Mr. Banks, Star Trek Into Darkness, About Time, Philomena, Man of Steel, Trance, All is Lost, Upstream Colour, Cloud Atlas, Blackfish, Blue Jasmine, Django Unchained, The World’s End, Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Beauty, Before Midnight, Iron Man 3, Lincoln, Captain Phillips, and Gravity.

I have watched quite a few movies this year, but not many of them were new. I did see Django Unchained, and I would like to see Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues as well as Lincoln and Iron Man 3 as well. There isn’t any rush, but if things go my way I will have the chance to go and see Anchorman 2 in short order.

As for the site itself, it has been a fairly eventful year, with numerous site design revisions and malicious hacking. We’ve gone back and thickened up old content, and there is definitely more to do in that regard. Many of the older posts didn’t even have photos yet, and that matter had to be taken care of.

Looking forward, we intend to bring on more writers to create more fun and engaging content. We intend to start our own podcast, and we intend to create more videos as well. Stay tuned, because there are definitely some exciting things on the way!

Oh, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Final Mission
Are you ready for a challenge?

Final Mission (a.k.a. S.C.A.T. Special Cybernetic Attack Team) is a side-scrolling shooter developed by Natsume and was released in 1990 in Japan (1991 in the United States).

It’s a hard game. Seriously. My understanding is that there are subtle differences between the Japanese and American version, namely the Japanese version is a lot harder, and guess what I played? The Japanese version.

This shooter closely resembles Contra in many respects. The heroes look similar, the weapon upgrades are similar, even the sound effects are similar. The main difference is that the heroes use jetpacks to float around the level, and have orbital cannons. These cannons circle around the heroes as they move around, but they can also be locked in place in order to target enemies in harder-to-reach areas (i.e. top or bottom of the screen).

The hero only has three bars of health to begin with – although you gain another bar of health every 10,000 points – once you’ve been hit three times the game is over. I would suspect that the average player wouldn’t be able to beat the first level on their first six tries, so that’s some indication of how difficult it is. Stage 4 and 5 are particularly difficult, with laser beam cannons, indestructible ships that take up 3/8 of the screen, and enemies that scatter multiple bullets across the screen.

On the up side, there are only 5 stages and 5 bosses in the entire game (although there are some mid-level encounters as well). This makes it a relatively short game. On the one hand, such a difficult game shouldn’t go on any longer than that, but on the other hand, it’s just lazy. I mean, why not have 12 stages that gradually increase in difficulty rather than 5 stages that weed out all but the serious gamers. I kind of saw it as a personal challenge, so I went ahead and beat the stupid game (though not without the help of an emulator).

Gameplay

Okay, I do have to admit this is a pretty fun game. It’s a bit of a button masher, because one button is used to fire and the other to lock your orbital cannons, so really you’re only using one button 95% of the time. The overall difficulty is a bit ridiculous, and I still think it would have been better with more stages.

Graphics

Not very good. Again, slight differences here in the American release vs. the Japanese release, but the original game’s graphics aren’t good even by NES standards. Backgrounds are primitive, and the heroes and enemies look even worse. The gameplay certainly matters more to me than the graphics, but it does seem a little lazy, like other aspects of the game.

Sound & Music

All the sound effects could very well be direct rip-offs of Contra and I would be none the wiser. However, I liked the Contra sound effects so that’s not saying much. The music was anything but memorable. It was kind of just there. The only thing that could redeem a game like this is really intense music, but again there was nothing overly memorable there.

Overall 5/10

Okay, so it probably sounds like I didn’t really like this game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun shooter if you have a lot of patience and time to kill. It has its moments, but there are definitely better games out there. The reason I couldn’t give it less than a 5 is because it’s actually a fully developed (well, sort of), functional game. I don’t think I would play it again now that I’ve finished it, but maybe I would try the 2 player co-op mode. Check it out for yourself!

This video demonstrates some of the differences between the Japanese version and North American version:

Wagan Land 2
If you’re looking for a classic platformer, this is a good game. It’s altogether too Japanese for a non-speaking audience though.
Wagan Land is essentially Namco’s answer to Super Mario Bros. It’s basically a side-scrolling platformer game involving jumping over obstacles and stunning enemies (or propelling them off-screen) using sound waves. The main difference is that all boss battles are made up of mini games of Memory or other hard-to-describe Japanese games like “Shiritori” (click on this link for the Wiki).

I didn’t find the game to be overly difficult, but there are a few challenging levels along the way, and the final boss battle can be a bit of an annoyance. He will challenge you to two games, and will require you to meet a high quota in the final battle of Shiritori. Since it had been awhile since I last played a game of Shiritori this proved to be a bit of a challenge, but it didn’t take me too long to get my Japanese back.

There are some levels that involve going from left-to-right or from bottom-to-top, and that’s another area where this game displayed a bit of originality. This wasn’t completely unusual at the time, but it added some variety to the game.

Gameplay

The controls are simple enough, and relatively easy to figure out. A to jump, B to attack. There are a few items you can collect along the way that allow you to become invisible (and essentially invincible), release a charged shot, or stay in the air longer by mashing the A button.

Some of these items are vital to your success, especially in levels that involve staying in the air for prolonged periods in order to survive. You may also be offered special items along the way. It’s not always to your advantage to take them, but the choice is up to you. One of the special items allows you to fly in the air indefinitely by holding the A button (Wagan basically becomes a helicopter). All in all, the stages leading up to the bosses are relatively short and easy to beat. There are some alternate routes leading up to the final stage, which gives the game some replay value.

Graphics

The graphics are fairly primitive, but they are sufficient in conveying different elements like backgrounds, enemy characters, and items. The bare necessities are here.

Sound & Music

I found the music in this game to be fairly enjoyable. Most of the soundtrack is made up of island-feel themes. Wagan Land is basically a kid’s game, so there aren’t really any haunting, ominous themes here.

Overall 7/10

It’s a fun and nostalgic game for me, but there really isn’t much to it. It’s less of a challenge than Mario, that is, if you understand Japanese. Otherwise, you might be in trouble. It took me roughly 2 hours to finish it, and it’s obviously possible to finish it in less (especially using warps).

Here’s some excellent gameplay footage:

SimCity
I’ve been obsessed with this game… Many times over.
Recently I decided to start over and build a Megalopolis in SimCity from scratch again. I managed to accomplish this feat using Map No. 61 again, but even with every space filled, I was not able to reach a population of 600,000 (despite the fact that I was able to do it previously). That’s when I decided to take advantage of the Freedom map, which you gain access to after completing the 6 (original) scenarios. The map contains absolutely no water so you can make the most out of the land available to you, but there is one catch: you don’t get any presents. Presents go a long way in increasing the land value of your city, and without them you have to do your best with parks.

I didn’t have too much trouble building a Megalopolis, although it did take a significant amount of time. I left plenty of space for industrial zones, as they are the only zone type that grows later on in the game. Residential zones on the outskirts tend to turn into slums, and commercial zones only grow so much before quitting on you. Of course, industrial zones also tend to produce a lot of crime so you have to place a significant number of police stations around them.

SimCity - The Road to Megalopolis
Plane crash. Not AGAIN.
I still had a fair bit of green space left once I reached the Megalopolis status, but I had to fill in most of the space I left for the additional industrial zones. I also left a fair bit of green space in between residential zones as they tend to develop best this way, but to reach a population of 600,000 you have to start filling in that space as well. Unfortunately, this also tends to turn some of the residential zones into slums.

Once you build a Megalopolis, there tend be a lot more plane crashes. It’s a minor annoyance, but even minor annoyances can turn into bigger irritations when it happens frequently enough. When your city reaches a certain size, you can’t avoid planes hitting (usually) residential zones. It would be a frightening world indeed if planes came down on houses as frequently as they do in SimCity. Nevertheless, as far as disasters go, it’s probably the easiest to deal with. Other than that, there weren’t too many challenges in reaching 600,000 people, and I still have some space left to develop if I so desire. Technically population 600,000 is the ultimate goal in the game, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any rewards left after that. I might develop the rest of the space anyway, just to see how far I can get.

In conclusion, I’m pretty much tired of SimCity now, and don’t think I will be revisiting it for awhile. I forgot to mention this earlier, but I played through practiced mode and finished all the scenarios again, and had trouble with Detroit and Las Vegas again (:P). I hope you enjoyed this series.

Saiyuuki World 2: Tenjoukai No Majin (Whomp 'Em)
I much prefer the Japanese cover art to the North American… As is usually the case.

Saiyuuki World 2 Tenjoukai No Majin (aka Whomp ‘Em) is basically a game in the style of Mega Man. It was developed and published by Jaleco on December 7, 1990 in Japan and March 1991 in North America.

There are 6 main stages in Majin, each containing a boss from whom you gain abilities when you beat them. Of course, certain abilities are more effective against certain bosses, but some abilities aren’t made for attacking at all. The main difference from Mega Man is that Goku (the character you control, not to be confused with the protagonist from Dragon Ball) doesn’t have a projectile weapon. Instead, he has a Nyoibo (aka power pole).

The game is comprised of 8 levels in total and 7 bosses. The first stage is merely an introduction, and the final stage – as you would expect – leads to the last boss. It almost feels as though they went deliberately out of their way to make this game difficult because in-game content is sparse.

I remember playing this game as a kid, and even though I was able to reach the final stage, I was never able to finish it. One of the reasons for this is that frankly it’s a very difficult game. The stages are relatively short, but the bosses get more difficult as you go. It appears that the bosses gain more health as you gain more health, and they can steal your Kintans (basically the equivalent of an energy tank) as well. You can only hold up to 3 Kintans at any given time, so you have to keep an eye on your health.

You start with 4 health bars (hearts) in-game, and you can gain up to 12 by collecting gourds (now there’s a word I never thought I would use). Collecting gourds (aka Hyoutan) can prove very time-consuming, but you’ll want to get at least 10 hearts by the end of the game (if you intend to finish it). It takes 99 gourds to get your final heart, but I never made it that far.

Even if you make it to the final stage, you’re probably all out of Kintans (which doesn’t bid well for you), and to add insult to injury, you can drop back to the base level from the second level of the stage. Fortunately, you can keep killing enemies in the stage and wait for them to drop Kintans. To beat this stage, you have to take advantage of all the abilities you’ve gained, including the Kintoun (flying cloud you can ride on aka Flying Nimbus).

After you beat the initial 6 bosses, you gain an additional ability which is basically a dragon shot. This is the only weapon that seems to be effective against the final boss (a disgruntled Buddha?). The only catch is that this ability eats away at your health, so you have to be careful. The disgruntled Buddha starts by summoning a few minions before he starts attacking you. As long as you have 3 Kintans, close to full health (at least 10 hearts), and take advantage of your dragon shot, you should be able to beat him.

Gameplay

The controls are simple and well thought out. Goku is able to pull off a surprising variety of moves, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

Graphics

Fairly average for a Famicom game. The backgrounds certainly aren’t as well-developed as the Mega Man games (3 and onwards).

Sound & Music

The music is quirky, creepy, and fairly repetitive. A lot of it has Oriental undertones to it, which seems to work for the game. The music has a way of sticking in your brain after you’ve spent a lot of time collecting gourds in a particular level, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Overall 6.5/10

All in all it was a pretty fun game. It’s definitely not up there with Mega Man or Super Mario Bros. in my mind, but it still provided some entertainment. If you’re up for a challenge, then you might want to try it out.

Here’s a little gameplay footage: