This week things get a little crazy as I play my first Japanese only title on the list. I’m not going to lie to you people, it didn’t go well. Read on and you’ll see just what I’m talking about.
Doraemon: Nobita to Mittsu no Seireiseki
Okay, so needless to say this game is strange, and not just because it’s based on a Japanese manga series about a robotic blue cat who travelled back in time from the 22nd century…but I mean, that obviously helps.
I had to get the story for the game from the Wikipedia entry and various forum posts, partially because the game is in Japanese and my understanding of the language is basic at best, but mostly because I had to emulate this Japanese only title, and therefore there was no text during cutscenes thanks to a rendering issue. Said story revolves around a devil who was kept in place by three special gems, however, they break and he escapes, leaving it to you and your friends to attempt to collect the pieces so you can put him back in his place.
I did not get far into this game, all in all my playtime was about 30 minutes, including having to skip through conversations and figure out how to leave the starting area with no clues at all. The game has basically no graphics, and although games like Bubsy 3D had basically no texturing, this game does it worse. Everything is a single flat colour, and even then everything tends to be a plain flat surface with no bumps or contours to it.
The characters just look ugly, even for the N64 era. They are very blocky, and most of them are incredibly indistinctive, although I suppose if I was a fan of the shows or books I might have an easier time getting to recognize them.
Easily the biggest flaw in the game is the gameplay itself. Everything feels slow and stiff. You do run quite fast, but when you jump you don’t seem to move too far, and it can make it really difficult to actually make it across pretty much any of the platforms. Not to mention the fact that the camera seems to completely hate you.
The final nail in the gameplay coffin is that there don’t seem to be any attacks or abilities, you can pick up items, but there doesn’t seem to a simple way to use them. Your only method of disposing of enemies is to jump on them, and although you can swap between several different characters, they don’t seem to function any differently.
Overall: A mediocre game that never made it out of Japan for some probably very good reasons. Even if you’re a fan of the show, this game has nothing to offer you.
Moving on from a weird game about cats, we now start on a game that features a scientist with a penchant for turning into a mouse.
Dr. Muto is a bit of on interesting title, it’s something that I remember seeing around on the shelves of my local game shop, but it was something that I never actually got around to trying out until now. Its biggest selling point is not its gameplay or style, both of which are a bit generic, but its visual design mixed with its humour.
The game goes out of its way to make you laugh, and for the most part will probably succeed. There are plenty of moments where the main character swears profusely, bleeped out to keep the age rating nice and low, and where suggestive words such as ‘splizz’ (I see what you did there) are used for different objects. The game’s humour is childish and gross, but that completely works for it.
The story concerns a crazy old mad scientist named Dr. Muto, think Dr. Neo Cortex without the nasty intentions, who has tried to help his home planet by creating a device capable of solving their energy crisis. As the machine is being switched on, however, Muto’s enemy Professor Burnital blows up the planet and shunts the blame onto Muto. Therefore, it is up to Muto and his amazing DNA stealing, form swapping powers to build and power a machine to restore his lost planet and clear his name.
The controls of the game are pretty decent, for the most part, the only issue I really encountered was when playing as the mouse who has a tendency to slip and slide around the level a little bit. The camera also causes a few issues and can get caught on some of the more complex scenery.
The game starts in the protagonist’s home, which acts as the hub world for you to return to between exploring the different planets that you encounter on your mission. You can teleport and save your game here, and it’s also a place where you unlock new equipment and different forms to turn into.
You start the game with a few basic abilities, the most important of which is a lightning gun that you use to capture weak creatures and steal monsters’ DNA, and the second is a blast used to finish off enemies you’ve stolen DNA from. Once you’ve stolen DNA, you eventually unlock the ability to turn into new creatures, although as previously stated you do start with the basic mouse form, which is useful for getting through hidden holes in walls and cracks in pipes.
The health pick-ups of the game are interesting, in that they are still useful once you already have all your current hearts filled. The more of them you pick up the more health you have in total, which is a nice feature that makes collecting the power ups feel a bit more worthwhile.
As you explore the planets, you come across the aforementioned health power ups as well as upgrade collectibles like Isotopes for your equipment and DNA for your transformations, as well as things like hidden areas, jumping challenges, the classic sliding segments, and many humorous situations usually stemming from your character’s stunning use of logic and poor use of swearing.
Graphically, the game looks pretty unappealing, although that is clearly intentional. Every environment uses a vast array of sickening greens, browns, and greys to give the feeling of rotten planets and industrial zones. Unlike the games of today that make this manage to feel routine and boring, it is easy to see that this game didn’t fall into a design trap but instead furnished itself with gross environments as a means to giving the game a disgusting theme throughout from the humour of the world itself.
Musically and sound wise in general, there is nothing special at work here, it is unlikely to make it onto anyone’s top 10 game soundtracks of all time. The music and sound effects are fine for what they are, but it is clear that they were not the focus of the development cycle. The voice actor for the main doctor is perfect for the character, and the only voice I can take issue with in the game is the central computer’s AI, who sounds incredibly dull and boring, however, this is clearly a reference to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I’m not sure that I can be that upset about it.
The whole game feels a little like another title from later on in this list, Whiplash, another game about science gone wrong and foul mouthed main characters. There’s something about the comedic edge of the game that endears me to it, despite the game having flaws in gameplay.
Overall: A fun experience hampered only by the few minor bugs present in its gameplay and design. Visually, it’s intentionally gross, and the music is nothing to write home about, but this title is standard platformer fare with some interesting ideas about humour that might make it worth playing through.
Duck Dodgers Starring Daffy Duck
This game has been an interesting experience for me. You may be surprised to learn that I am a huge fan of Duck Dodgers, partially because I love the Looney Tunes and partially because it’s a parody of the campy 1930s film serial that is just the best thing.
The story follows Marvin the Martian (the usual antagonist of Duck Dodgers cartoons) who has a new plan to destroy Earth. To do so, he sends his minions out to collect atoms which power his new doomsday machine, and it is up to you as Duck Dodgers (in the 24th and a Half CENTURY!!!!) to find them before he can.
The gameplay of the game is overall okay, but suffers from a few fatal flaws. The primary one is that the movement slips far too much, you’re more than likely to fall off of the platforms you’re jumping across instead of landing on them. The secondary issue is that the camera swings about wildly and easily gets caught up on the scenery, making exploring the world a chore at best. Finally, the only issue remaining is that the combat moves feel very ineffectual and rarely seem to damage the enemies you’re fighting.
Other than these issue,s the controls function well enough, although they do feel a little similar to some of the other Looney Tunes games. The main one it seems to ape is Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, although it somehow manages to not suffer too much for it, despite my opinion on that game. The world of the game is spread across many different planets that all have different styles and looks to them, and each world is filled with atoms and other collectibles to gather across your journey.
Finding all of the atoms is the main point of the game, as it is the only way to stop Marvin, but it also has a secondary function of opening up new areas in each world. Once you’ve made your way through each challenge in all of the areas, you can go on to the boss’s hideout and beat the snot out of them. Each of the bosses that you come across are characters from the Looney Tunes universe, like Hussan and Yosemite Sam, and each one is a faithful representation of their animated counterparts.
The bosses tend to be a little uninspired, but overall they’re not too bad, and they form a very small part of the overall gameplay. The dungeons that lead up to them, however, are a different story, they’re some of the trickiest sections in the game, but not always for good reasons. The first one in particular has issues, namely that there’s a section you must complete without falling into the water or you must start again, and because of the controls slipping all over the place you’re probably going to get incredibly frustrated doing it over and over again.
Visually, the game is okay, and clearly the intention was to make it look like the cartoons as much as possible. However, the graphics are not amazing and somehow manage to look worse than the PS1 Looney Tunes games despite the supposed benefits of being on a 64 bit console over a 32 bit one. Having said all that, everything is bright and colourful, and it is a simple matter to tell what everything is supposed to be.
The sound really shines in this game, everything sounds like it really comes from a Looney Tunes cartoon, something that even the other Looney Tunes games only partially managed to do. The sounds that accompany sneaking are amazing, and the noises made when you’re squashed by a giant mallet or run over by a car just actually make me giggle.
Overall: The game is a pretty mediocre one, but if you’re into the Looney Tunes license or at least the Duck Dodgers one, then you’re probably going to enjoy it for the style alone. Worth picking up if you’ve got an afternoon free and have run out of actual cartoons to watch.