Championship Pro-AM for the Sega Genesis

If you were a fan of RC Pro-AM for the NES and wanted to see how amazing it would be on the Super Nintendo, well you were completely out of luck. There is a Super R.C. Pro-AM, but don’t be fooled because it’s just a Gameboy version. However, there was a 16-bit version of the game for the Sega Genesis.

That’s right, Rare Ltd. and Tradewest, both of which are well known for their NES titles, teamed up (again) to bring the classic over to the Sega Genesis. Why only the Sega Genesis and not the Super Nintendo as well? Your guess is as good as any, but regardless that’s all in the past.

Your goal in Championship Pro-AM is to control your tiny radio controlled vehicle and finish no lower than third place in each race to continue advancing. Along the way you’ll need to collection parts upgrades, as well as letters to spell out the word Champion, while avoiding track hazards and staying ahead of the competition. If you do happen to place lower than third you’ll be given a total of three continues, but once those are used up it’s game over for good. Also, if you need to use a continue, you’ll not only retain your upgrades and letters from the previously lost race, but you’ll be able to collection additional ones once you restart the race.

Collecting tires, gears and motors helps your RC car handle better as well as makes it go faster. It’s important to collect these whenever possible as the competition gradually gets better, regardless of whether you’ve collected the upgrades or not. Collecting letters (one per track unless you use a continue) spells out the word Champion, much like RC Pro-AM spells out Nintendo. Once all the letters are collected your radio controlled vehicle will be upgraded, as will the competition’s, and your parts upgrades will be reset to none. Both upgrades and letters are strewn about the tracks and usually tend to be in fairly easily obtainable places, very rarely will you have to go out of your way to drive over one and pick it up.

Another thing the player can collect are weapons, which are activated by using the horn button. You’ll be given the choice of two weapons: rockets or bombs. Rockets can be fired directly at the competition or blind fired, in hopes to hit competition which may be off the screen. Bombs will be released with a short time delay, unless the competition makes direct contact with the bomb. Weapons affect the competition only for a short time, but if used thoughtfully it can give you a good lead. If you run out of ammo collecting stars on the track will replenish your stock, but as soon as ammo runs out hitting the fire button will simply activate the horn again, denoting you’re out of ammo.

If you thought racing an RC car around a track was going to be a cakewalk, think again. Not only does the competition get increasingly difficult, but the track is your enemy too. Anything from rain clouds and water puddles slowing you down to oil slicks that will send your car spinning out of control. There are even elevating walls that will pop up in front of you and cause you to crash like a Crash Test Dummie. All hope is not yet lost, as you will sometimes find a roll cage on the track, temporarily making your vehicle impervious to damage. Sadly this too goes for the competition and renders them impervious too, even to your rockets and bombs.

Learning to race each track is essential. Learning to drift the corners, collect the upgrades and letters, and avoiding all the hazards are all important. In terms of difficulty Championship Pro-AM isn’t much more difficult than good old RC Pro-AM, if at all. Other than holding a different controller, the obvious graphics and sound changes, it feels pretty much the exact same. They even kept the trophy room between races, but added shelves and made it look more organized. RC Pro-AM is a nostalgic blast from the past and always will be, but it would have been great to see Championship Pro-AM for the Super Nintendo. Regardless of why it’s only on the Sega Genesis it’s still very much a fun game to play.

Posted August 31st, 2018

DragonHeart for the Nintendo Game Boy

When it comes to sheerly for profit movie themed video games the Nintendo Game Boy wasn’t without its own abysmal versions. Of all the films released in 1996 someone thought Dragonheart was the most viable option for a video game adaptation. Though I’ve never seen the film I have seen enough to assume an amazing Dragonheart RPG could have easily been born, but alas Torus Games developed a competent, time wasting action adventure game that Acclaim published.

The player takes the role of Sir Bowen, Dragonslayer extraordinaire, who was the sworn guardian of Einon, son of King Freyne. Einon was wounded while trying to save his father’s life while battling rebelling villagers. In order to save Einon’s life his mother, Queen Aislinn, took him to Draco, an evil dragon, who gave the prince half of his own heart. Although Einon’s life was restored, his heart, being half a dragon’s heart, was filled with evil that overcome Einon. Sir Bowen vowed from that day forth to slay all dragons until he found the one that turned Einon evil.

In each of the eight stages the player will start in an open field with a first-person view, much like Swords and Serpents, and have to navigate blindly until they find the map. To use the map you must press Select and move the sword cursor over to the map icon on the bottom right of the screen, this will open a screen showing the whole stage. At first the map will be essentially blank, but as you find towns and points of interest they will be displayed upon the map for you to find easily.

Within each stage the player will find towns with people who you may need to speak with, as well as random wanderers who may also have important information. The player must interact with people and will sometimes be given dialogue choices that seem to make no difference to the overall goal. To add a little depth to the game the player will be given small tasks to accomplish which will ultimately unlock the final destination of each given stage. Upon entrance to the final destination you’ll once again need to navigate the maze and find the map. Once the map has been found simply open the map, follow it to the end and prepare for the final stage battle.

For the final battle of each stage the game switches to a side view of Sir Bowen and the final stage boss. Controlling the battle isn’t exactly difficult, but it does feel overall clunky. In battle Sir Bowen can either attack with the A button or use his shield to block with the B button, with the added bonus of being able to direct his shield high and low with up and down on the D pad. You can also move closer or farther away from the battle with left or right.

Final bosses are mainly dragons, as Sir Bowen is a Dragonslayer out to slay dragons, but in the last stage you’ll be fighting soldiers and major story characters. Personally I found the dragons to be far more difficult as their fireballs are more difficult to predict, even though you can block them with the shield. Fighting human enemies is almost laughable. All you need to do is land one good blow and just keep spamming the attack button. With each hit they will get knocked back but still continue to mindlessly move forward into your attack. This isn’t to say they’ll never attack, but as long as you spam the attack button you should easily defeat them.

To save your progress Dragonheart offers a password system that is super easy to remember. Simply six characters, absolutely none of which are confusing like the letter O and the number 0. A password will be given after each stage, although the time given to write the password down seemed to me to be a bit too short, but the passwords are readily available online these days.

A few things that I found to be odd about Dragonheart was that when pausing the game you are presented with the option to quit by pressing B. I find this a bit dangerous because during my first time playing the game I was confused by even seeing the option to quit the game and accidentally hit it anyway. Another oddity, at least to me, was that inventory seems to be strictly for story items. The player isn’t given any chance to purchase usable items such as potions to regain health, and pressing any button while in the inventory simply takes you back to the gameplay.

At best Dragonheart is a single play through time waster, nothing exceptional or spectacular about it. The music is annoying, the battles aren’t very satisfying and the gameplay is a string of unrewarding tasks. With a little more work it could have probably been a fun RPG or maybe a decent Legend of Zelda clone. The only good thing I can say about this game is that is seems they worked very hard on making the pictures of the characters look very close to the actors portraying them from the movie, which was nice to see.

Posted August 14th, 2018

Sports Car GT for the Playstation

While Sony and Polyphony were pushing the racing video game genre to a whole new level with Gran Turismo, Electronic Arts was trying to get a piece of the action with Sports Car GT. Released for both PC and the original Playstation, Sports Car GT takes a little bit of EA’s Need for Speed and gears it more toward Gran Turismo territory. Even though I would personally say they didn’t quite pull it off, I would also say they did create a fairly good racing game that kept me busy for so many hours when I was younger.

Sports Car GT offers the player three main gameplay options: Season, Arcade and Time Trial. In Arcade the player can pick from any of the currently unlocked cars and tracks to engage in a one-off race against CPU opponents, with selectable opponent strength of any other available GT Class. Time Trial allows the player to hone their skills with the cars they currently own in Season mode and shave down those times on any given track.

Season mode is the main draw to the game, where the player has to work their way up through four GT classes. The player will start out in the GT qualifying class and progress through the GT3, GT2 and GT1 classes as well. An initial $50,000 will be given to the player to purchase and modify your first car; finishing third or higher in each given race will give the player additional money for more upgrades or additional cars. If you’ve done well enough during each given class the option of an additional race will become available to unlock and win a new car as well as an additional cash prize.

Sure, it may sound exciting to be able to upgrade vehicles, but the execution is very simplistic. The player simply goes into the store menu and purchases one of the available components to upgrade: brakes, suspension, exhaust, engine, gearbox, aero kit or tires. Once parts are purchased, the player may also adjust some of the parts to fine tune their car to their personal liking. Adjustments are limited to strictly parts that are essential for racing such as: brakes, suspension, ride height, transmission, gearbox, downforce and tires for a handful of situations.

Races take place across a few different tracks, with more being unlockable throughout Season mode, all of them being real life tracks such as Seabring, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca; most of these tracks are now staples in simulation style racing games. At the beginning only the base tracks are available, with variants becoming unlocked as you progress through the game with options such as reverse courses, night time racing or racing in the rain.

The handling of the cars is fair, if a bit sticky, as long as you stay on the track. Crashing into anything isn’t much of an event as it just kind of sticks you into place and becomes slightly annoying to get back onto the track. If you have a good enough car the CPU opponents won’t be much of a challenge, which some may see as a flaw and some may see as an easy way to win.

Although the back of the game says 40 cars and teams included, I can only unlock 20 cars and most of them are just color variants of the same car. I’m not sure whether I’m missing something, but this is my old, original save from 1999, and I remember fondly beating the game completely so I just feel cheated. Again, Sports Car GT isn’t Gran Turismo strong, but I did have quite a lot of fun with it as a kid. Throughout the years the handling has become a bit wonky, the graphics are still fairly decent and to play a fresh save brought back memories. If you’re looking for a deep racing simulator you’re not going to be happy, but if you’re looking for a pick up and play GT car racing game with an arcade feel and upgradeable parts, Sports Car GT may just be what you’re looking for.

Posted August 6th, 2018