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> WarioMan's Review Station, My own set of reviews
WarioMan
 Posted: Oct 16 2011, 08:15 AM
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Good evening, fellas. I know I should've done this topic long ago, but anyway...here's my very own "review station" -- kinda similar to that of Love4Yumi's, only with my own reviews. Anyway, since it's October, that means I'll start things off by listing my top 10 favorite Castlevania games...both in the classic and "Metroid-vania" formats. Don't get me wrong, though: while I'm fully aware that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is considered by tons of gamers all over the world to be the greatest in the entire Castlevania franchise -- and that none dare defy its sheer awesomeness -- I have favored certain others more than I favor SotN this day, so don't be surprised. I'll list my favorites from 10 to 1, with 1 obviously listing the top favorite like always. I will try my best to explain exactly, why I favor said Castlevania game (although when it comes to Konami, I personally prefer Contra, but I'll get to that in a future DA journal). As a sidenote, while I'm okay with Lords of Shadow on X-Box 360, I haven't gotten back into finishing it since I planned to clear SotN like I should've done long ago, firsthand. This list may lack pictures of the games' cover arts, but you can still look on certain sites like GameFAQs or Wikipedia if you're intent on finding out for sure what they really look like.

10: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
For a 3D Castlevania title, I guess you could say I love it the most...although, I have favored the other Castlevania titles more than I favor LoI. It does tell a good story within the cutscenes, such as why Leon Belmont's betrothed, Sara Trantoul, was held captive inside Castlevania itself, how the "Vampire Killer" came into existence, etc. On top of that, I thought the voiceovers were decent.

Alright, so maybe the level design isn't as awesome as with the other Castlevania games within the "Metroid-vania" genre, much less the almighty Symphony of the Night...but still, I thought it defined a good 3D Castlevania game.

9: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)
One of the best games on the Sega Genesis, and one of my favorite Castlevania titles. There are two characters to choose from, each with his own weapon of choice and special way of getting around (i.e. Eric Lecarde can do a super jump with the help of Alucard's Spear). Some might say this game happens to connect to the storyline of Bram Stoker's Dracula, since John Morris (who wields the Vampire Killer whip in this Castlevania game) is the son of Quincy Morris...I'm just saying.

For a Castlevania game that was released about 3 years since Super Castlevania IV, it kinda lacked a couple awesome ways you could use the Vampire Killer whip, and the jumping was once again kinda awkward like from the NES games themselves. Still, it's not bad itself. Oh, and did you know one of the bosses in this game consisted of a bunch of possessed gears, that make one weird-looking tough boss, via evil magic?

8: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
The well-known sequel to the GBA title itself -- Aria of Sorrow. Dawn of Sorrow, on the other hand, picks up one year after the events of AoS in the year 2036 (and I'd be like 48 by then, if Dracula's castle were to show up from out of nowhere in Japan in real life!). Anyway, enough about the details...well, while I still like DoS out of all the three Castlevania games on the DS, I've favored the other two more. You see, it was the very first Castlevania game I've ever owned in my whole life, but only because I wasn't into Castlevania at the time. However, by the time I got DoS on the DS and played through most of it, that's when I got the opportunity to look back on all the other Castlevania games that I missed out on, especially Super Castlevania IV.

The visuals and gameplay were pretty good, although looking back, I did find a couple parts that were rather unnecessary, such as having to use the Touch Screen just to truly finish the bosses off whenever I've depleted all their HP. That, and I don't like having to do level-grinding a whole lot just so I can be a lot stronger than the bosses. I usually try to defeat them as I go. Oh, and I've heard on the Internet that some people out there hated it for its anime-style layout in the cutscenes, but it didn't bother me whenever I'm playing the game...although, I'm not largely into anime these days.

7: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Turbo CD)
Ah, yes...the one Castlevania game that was originally never released outside of Japan, much less the "Turbo CD" itself. Nowadays, it's on the PSP as Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles...and on the Wii's Virtual Console as an import title. I liked that Richter Belmont had some special moves, along with the "Item Crash" ability. On top of that, you can even choose to play as Maria Renard, provided you already freed her near the end of the second level. I've yet to truly finish the game, so I'm afraid I can't say much more about it. Still, I favor it.

6: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)
One of the hardest Castlevania games ever, if not the toughest in the world. Still, it does define a good classic -- just gotta cope with the awkward jumping (save for Grant DaNasty). In fact, I like it more than the first Castlevania on NES because there are different paths to take at the end of certain levels, and you can switch between Trevor Belmont and any one of the three allies that you've freed (Grant DaNasty, Sypha Belnades, and even Alucard), although both share the same health bar. I've heard that the Japanese version has better music because of a special chip that Konami used to make the game's audio sound really good. However, I don't care which version I'm playing (obviously, I have the US version on the Virtual Console); either one, the music's still epic.

5: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)
What? You didn't expect me to place this game on the #1 spot just because it was deemed by many to be the greatest Castlevania game of all time, did you? I have my own taste, y'know. Don't worry, I still love this game -- it's just like I said before, there are other Castlevania games in which I've favored more than I favor SotN. I do have to bear with its cheesy acting during the cutscenes, though...

Now that I've fully played through SotN, I gotta say: I really missed out on one of the greatest classics of all time. But thanks to XBLA on my X-Box 360, I got my chance to play said game. The bosses were epic, although some were downright easy when I've got stronger weapons and the right sub-weapon for the job. Oh, and it was a shame that the only items you could sell were the gems, and nothing more. It would've been cool to be able to sell the equipment you didn't need anymore to free up space (and make the inventory look a lot less cluttered), but I can vouch for that since SotN was among the first in the "Metroid-vania" format. At least the selling system was fixed in later Castlevania games. One more thing: even when you've explored the entire castle, you must still traverse the upside-down version itself in order to truly beat the game...

4: Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS)
Now this is one of the Castlevania games I love. A little simple for a "Metroid-vania" one, but none too difficult. I liked its tag-team system, and the way it functioned. Although I usually have both Jonathan Morris (son of John Morris since this game takes place during World War II in 1944) and Charlotte Aulin onscreen at once, I kinda learned the hard way during the boss fight against Astarte (a Cleopatra-like boss), that sometimes it's best if you let the guy sit out the battle while the girl takes care of business. Believe me, when I first fought her, I didn't expect Jonathan to get charmed, thus leading me to a Game Over screen in just seconds when he decimated poor Charlotte against his will.

The game does have a good number of stuff to offer besides playing through normally, such as being able to play as Richter Belmont and Maria Renard (the younger one), going through a boss rush course, etc. Like all the other good Castlevania games, the music's awesome, especially the "Iron Blue Intention" song that plays during the 13th Street area. As for the English voiceovers, while I'm aware that some people prefer the Japanese voices upon doing a code at the main menu, I thought the English voiceovers were good. Oh, and the final battle differs greatly from all the other Castlevania games by the fact that Dracula and Death do team up against Jonathan and Charlotte in a 2-on-2 battle. Timeline-wise, it's the very first time that's ever happened; according to Charlotte, it wasn't even mentioned in the books she's ever read in her life. That's why she and Jonathan were surprised.

3: Castlevania the Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
Now here's a good Castlevania game in classic format, and boy, it's helluva lot better than the original Castlevania the Adventure on Game Boy (and for good reason...although, it's a long story)! It's all standard like from the retro Castlevania games, in which you get from point A to point B, but not without fighting the bosses halfway and at the end of each level. If you have a key in tow, you can open certain doors to either get bonus items, or take a different path. In some levels, taking the other path might let you skip the miniboss, but all paths lead to the main boss at the end. On top of that, you have better control of your jump like from Super Castlevania IV -- by that, I mean you can change your direction while you're jumping. All the sub-weapons are present, the levels were good, and Dracula has a third and final form, which can only be seen on Normal or Hard. This game may not be too difficult on Easy or Normal, but try playing on Hard...its difficulty matches that of Castlevania III, for some parts of the levels were changed (as far as I've seen) to make things tougher.

Not the best Castlevania game ever, but still decent and one of my top favorites nonetheless. I recommend downloading this on WiiWare.

2: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)
Another of my top favorite Castlevania games, and for good reason. Despite ditching the tag-team feature that was utilized in Portrait of Ruin, it compensates by the use of the "glyph" system. Each time a glyph is used, even in the form of a weapon, your MP decreases (especially since Shanoa, the female protagonist, can't physically equip weapons) -- don't worry, it slowly recovers like always. On top of that, it tells a great story, and the English voiceovers were good to me. Half the time, your adventure is spent outside Dracula's castle, but you STILL have to explore his castle afterwards. That's what makes its in-game world HUGE. One more thing: this game is tough, especially the bosses -- if you're not prepared, you'll be dead meat in seconds. Believe me, I've had a tough time with some of the bosses, especially the one who utilizes shadow puppetry to attack. At times like this, whether you're greatly leveled up or not, you gotta enter the fight with proper status-altering accessories and certain weapon glyphs needed to inflict good damage to the boss.

1: Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Yup, you heard me correctly: Super Castlevania IV is my top favorite Castlevania game of all time. I don't know exactly why; I kinda just love it the most. Well, there is one good reason: you feel like you're Simon Belmont, capable of handling the Vampire Killer whip very well in a few certain ways. You can attack in 8 different directions (especially in midair), flail the whip around while holding the "Y" button, and even grapple onto hooks. At the time, the visuals were great, for plenty of levels showed what the SNES could do. You even feel like you're in the game! And finally, you have better control of your jumping. I guess you could say it's no wonder why James Rolfe favors this game out of all the other Castlevania games in the series.

Well...that's about it for now! As with the other review topics, don't hesitate to comment.

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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Zillaman
 Posted: Oct 16 2011, 01:31 PM
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Great start to your review topic!

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Jetblackheartgirl92
 Posted: Oct 24 2011, 08:42 AM
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Great review!

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WarioMan
 Posted: May 27 2012, 06:35 PM
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Hoo, boy! I must've completely forgotten about my new review topic I started last October! But...well, crap happens. What I'll review next, is the Bejeweled franchise (by PopCap Games). I will review each and every one of those games within said franchise (currently, there are five in all).

Bejeweled
The very first game in the Bejeweled franchise, on the PC. Originally, it was called "Diamond Mine" on the Internet browser, until Microsoft suggested renaming it Bejeweled, due to its name being too similar to one other game called "Diamond Mines."

As far as I know, it was released way back in 2001...but anyway, it was defined by many as one of the most addicting games since Tetris. In addition to a couple good songs, its gameplay was pretty good. All you gotta do is match three of the same-colored gems (getting four or five earns more points). There is a catch, however: it only works if said gems are adjacent to each other.

There were two modes of play: Normal, and Time Trial. Normal, which is recommended for starters, lets you take all the time you need in order to find the right move(s). If you're lucky and/or skillful enough, you might even last a lot of levels and get a higher score...but once you run out of moves, it's game over. Time Trial differs a little from Normal, in which your "progress bar" acts as a timer. Running out of moves doesn't end your game, but rather resets the entire playing field with new gems. The farther you get, the faster the timer gets...
MY RATING: 8/10

Bejeweled 2
Earlier known as "Bejeweled 2 Deluxe," this game was successful for a sequel. Released in late 2004, it had two extra game modes in addition to both the Classic and Action modes its predecessor had. First off, Puzzle mode is made up of several different scenarios. Each scenario can be solved by clearing the level of gems by using a certain combination of moves. There are also several unique gems, including Bombs and Rocks. Next up, Endless mode is just like Classic, only it behaves more as a "zen mode," if you catch my drift. The player can make moves at whatever pace they wish, without the worry of running out of moves. The scores for various gem combinations stay constant, regardless of the level. This game is intended to be relaxing or for beginners.

New to the series, in addition to its own soundtrack, are special gems to make use of. Matching 4 gems at once gives you a Power gem -- later known in subsequent titles as the Flame Gem -- from which you can use (but has to match the other gems of the same color) to blow up 8 surrounding gems. Matching 5 gems, however, nets you a Hypercube. Swapping it takes out all of the gems of the same color you swapped it with. Only by making careful use of those two special gems can help you last longer, and attain a higher score. For me, I thought it was better than the first game.
MY RATING: 8/10

That's about it for now, but I shall return for a second part with three other Bejeweled games: Bejeweled Twist, Bejeweled Blitz, and even Bejeweled 3.

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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Zillaman
 Posted: May 29 2012, 09:10 PM
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Glad to see you back to reviewing.

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WarioMan
 Posted: Jun 18 2012, 05:31 AM
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We now return to my review on the Bejeweled franchise. First up on Part 2, is none other than:

Bejeweled Twist
At first, I thought it was the sequel to Bejeweled 2 as mentioned in the credits at the end of "Puzzle mode." Eventually, I realized that this game was more of a spinoff than an actual sequel (as in, it ain't "Bejeweled 3"). Aside from all that, this game literally had a twist, in a good way. Instead of swapping gems normally like you could, you're rotating (clockwise-only; keep that in mind) a set of 4 gems your circular cursor is on, freely -- with no "invalid move" restriction, much less the the usual "No More Moves" penalty that ends the game. Just like with the first two Bejeweled games, all you gotta do is match enough gems (3 or more at once, every time) so that once the progress bar fills up, you move on the the next level. Simple enough, no?

Simple, yes. But challenging as you get farther? Definitely. Because during the course of the "normal mode," you'll have to deal with certain obstacles that will either impede your attempt to match more gems properly (i.e. locked gems), or threaten to end your game early. The only two obstacles that can end your game are Bomb Gems (normal gems encased within sea mines), and later on, the dreaded "Doom Gems." Each of those dangerous gems have a timer on it, which tick down every time you make a move. Doom Gems, however, only tick down if you do a non-matching move (and can't be rotated, either!). Fortunately, if you have made big matches, you'll earn helpful gems that can and will destroy the evil gems if the match is adjacent. Lastly, there are coals, which -- if blasted by any of the power-up gems -- can burst apart to give you extra points. Oh, and there are "Fruit Gems," which you can get (and use to either free the locked gems, and even increase the timer on the Bomb and/or Doom Gems) if you've filled up the "multiplier bar" all the way from x1, to past x10...

Oh, and finally, if the Bomb Gem ticks down to 0, you have one last chance to "defuse" it in a roulette fashion. The chance to complete it decreases overtime, but never goes below 25% afterwards. And yes, all the impeding gems are also in Blitz mode, a 5-minute score attack. Puzzle mode is present, in which you have plenty of challenges the game has to offer (i.e. make 3 consecutive matches of the red gems); Zen mode is just like the normal game, only without playfield-nuking Bomb Gems or Doom Gems to worry about.

Bejeweled Twist, while available on the PC, is also out on the Nintendo DS if by chance you feel like playing it on the go. It is, beyond the shadow of doubt, probably my favorite in the series (on par with Bejeweled 3).
MY RATING: 9/10

Bejeweled Blitz
You've probably already seen this game on Facebook (or on X-Box LIVE Arcade, as of last year). It plays like Bejeweled 2; only now, it's a 1-minute score attack. Match as many gems as you can, and as fast as you can -- especially with the help of the power-up gems you can acquire. The Flame Gem returns, whereas the "Star Gem" takes the Lightning Gem's place. Then there's the rare Hypercube, which can destroy all gems of the one color you swapped it with. When 60 seconds expire, you can then compare your highest score possible with every other player on the online leaderboards.

Later, this game was expanded into a downloadable title (based on the then-in-development "Bejeweled 3" engine), especially on the 360's X-Box LIVE Arcade as Bejeweled Blitz Live. Like its Facebook incarnation, it's a 1-minute score attack...now in either Classic or Twist. You can play it either by yourself, or compete against someone online in a VS mode.

Not exactly my favorite Bejeweled game, but at least there's a reason for it being a 1-minute score attack. Well, not that I'm great at getting that large amount of points within 60 seconds, anyway...
MY RATING: 6/10

For right now, I'll end the second part of my Bejeweled series review at this point, and save the best for last, which is Bejeweled 3 (available on plenty of consoles and not just the PC or MAC OS X).

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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Zillaman
 Posted: Jun 18 2012, 06:58 PM
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Great reviews.

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WarioMan
 Posted: Aug 12 2012, 11:38 PM
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Whoa, it sure has been about two months already -- the third part of my Bejeweled franchise is overdue! I must have forgotten my promise due to my vacation in Hong Kong from last month...but anyhow, it's high-time I wrapped this up once and for all.

Bejeweled 3
This, my friends, is really the sequel that was mentioned by the ending credits back in Bejeweled 2. I'd give this game a high rating since I like it the best amongst the other Bejeweled games, but let's take a peek first off before the conclusion.

Aside from its great soundtrack, the classic gameplay is as good as ever, despite the absence of the "Time Trial" mode. Classic mode remains the same, only now, you can continuously swap the gems while the action is still going. Back in the first two games, you normally had to wait until after the matched gems disappeared (or the special gems you used, went off) before you can swap another set of gems again. Now, you can just keep going -- and if you're fast enough, you can acquire a special bonus called "Blazing Speed" (you can tell how close you are to attaining it by the sound of flames crackling). Oh, and as anyone would expect, however, run out of moves and the game's over.

There are many other game modes to try out, most of which are new (and four -- out of eight -- which you have to unlock first), but for now, I'll list a few. There's the Lightning mode, which is similar to that of Bejeweled Blitz. You have 60 seconds to get the highest score possible, but now, you can recover your time limit by either lining up special gems carrying additional seconds, or creating chains at a fast pace -- that's where "Blazing Speed" comes into play. That way, when 60 seconds are up, you're not licked yet; you've met either one or both of these requirements to keep on going!

Zen mode functions the same; only this time, with relaxing aural tones, ambient sounds and breath modulation. The modulation itself has a tracking line which moves back and forth, it produces several breathing patterns which players are encouraged to match the breathing pattern. The overall objective of this is to slow the breathing rate of the player so as to allow the player to calm down and de-stress. This mode was created by PopCap in conjunction with scientists which uses biofeedback to help players relax.

Let's cut to the end with Quest mode; I will let you discover the rest of the game's different modes on your own -- the ones I haven't listed are locked at first. Anyway, you might recognize Quest mode from the "Challenge mode" in Bejeweled Twist. The only difference is that the series of 40 puzzles consist of 11 minigames (about three or four of which are unlockable when meeting certain conditions in the other game modes...and Quest mode). They either involve rescuing Butterfly gems, turning all tiles of the playing field into solid gold a-la Alchemy, etc. Each specifically tailored puzzles have an objective other than the standard Bejeweled gameplay.

Well, that's about it for my review on the Bejeweled series! I'm just glad I got back to finishing things up, but before I go, I will give my final score on Bejeweled 3.
MY RATING: 9/10

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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WarioMan
 Posted: Feb 9 2013, 12:21 AM
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Hoo, boy! I've been caught up on both my fanfic-writing and occasional job search for so long, I completely forgot about my "Review Station" topic! Well, I guess I can make up by doing a short review on the Madden NFL franchise. Do take note, however, that I haven't played, let alone rented, every Madden NFL game that was released once per year. The obvious reason, as far as EA Sports' standards go, is that every year, a "new" sports game is released. Madden NFL, NCAA Football, FIFA, and even Tiger Woods PGA Tour are such popular examples. Aside from updated rosters, there's not that much to have missed out on rather than fancier-looking graphics, and a couple other features like creating your own football player or team.

The later editions included online play, but I won't go into detail seeing that I suck at sports in general. Well, I can hold my ground against a computer-controlled team, but still.

Personally, I kinda like the older Madden NFL games from before the franchise took a step into the 3D era. I mean, sure, there were also Tecmo Bowl and NFL Blitz (both of which had an arcade feel), but I'm just saying. If I were to pick one that I like the most, I'd go with John Madden Football '93 on SNES. I remember coming across it a long, long time ago at a playtime center when I was a kid.

Nowadays, I have two favorite NFL teams: the Houston Texans (formerly the "Oilers" back in the pre-2000 era), and the Seattle Seahawks. Now at the time, however, the Houston Oilers were weak, compared to the Dallas Cowboys -- which used to be among the best of the best. And I think the Seahawks weren't powerful back then, either, as far as I've seen on their stats in the earlier Madden NFL games.

Well, sorry if this wasn't much of a review, but since the Super Bowl had come and gone earlier this week, I thought I'd bring up some thoughts of my own, regarding the Madden NFL franchise. I'm okay with it, but I am not a big fan since I'm not great at American football in general. In short, the final score will only be for the one football game I like the most, out of said franchise.
JOHN MADDEN FOOTBALL '93 (SNES): 7/10

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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WarioMan
 Posted: Aug 25 2013, 10:19 PM
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Aye, it be a long time since my last review, but surprise surprise: it's 'cause of my fanfic and gaming activities alike, aside from my personal life. I probably haven't mentioned it anywhere on this forum before, but I've actually seen Transformers Prime on Netflix, in addition to having bought the episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. Now that I have watched all the episodes, including the ones from Season 3 (under the subtitle: "Beast Hunters"), I think it's time I posted my thoughts on the entire show overall...

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[A/N: This image courtesy of the Transformers wiki site, which I go to sometimes - even today.]

Though I know for a fact that it began in November 2010 with a 5-part pilot episode, Darkness Rising, I never had a chance or the time to see it back then...at least not until I came across it sometime late in Spring 2012 on Netflix (only the Season 1 episodes were available at the time). That's mostly because I didn't even tune in to the Hub, nor did I bother knowing my cable had that channel to begin with. Now, despite the show being made with CGI, it was actually pretty good in my opinion. Sure feels great to look back at some interesting shows I missed out on, doesn't it?

Anyway, the plot of the show, like with all the other Transformers cartoon series I've seen in my life (including Transformers: Armada, concerns the Autobots waging battles on Earth to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. Only now, the Autobots' base is located in a hidden missile silo in Jasper, Nevada, which was provided for them by the US Government. Meanwhile, three human teens -- Jack Darby, Miko Nakadai, and Raf Esquivel -- are eventually taken under Autobot protection after their association with Team Prime puts them in danger from the Decepticons. Afterwards, the rest of the series has the Decepticons mining for Energon on Earth, while the Autobots stop them. Occasionally, though, the Autobots deal with a human terrorist organization known as MECH, whose leader, Silas, has an unhealthy obsession with siphoning Cybertronian biology to give "man and machine" a whole new meaning.

Later in Season 2, the Decepticons take a different step in world domination: finding and stealing all the ancient Cybertronian artifacts, eventually including the Omega Keys, which become essential to the revival of the ruined planet Cybertron. Despite Team Prime's efforts, Megatron eventually succeeds in restoring Cybertron...but then all of a sudden, he also decided why rule only one planet when he could have two?

And thus began the third season, also known as the Beast Hunters saga. Having managed to cyberform Jack, Miko, and Raf's hometown, the Decepticons begin their next step by holding the United States prisoner from the confines of Megatron's personal citadel. With the Autobots and their three human friends separated for safety just before Team Prime's compromised base was destroyed, they eventually regroup and with added assistance from Optimus Prime's second-in-command, Ultra Magnus, they take the home country back and drive out the Decepticons...but this was not to be the last, as they also had the PredaKing, cloned from Predacon fossils and rejuvenated by Shockwave's science intellect, to deal with. Megatron tries one more time to restore Cybertron and cyberform Earth at the same time, to which the Autobots stop by defeating him once and for all.

Now that the synopsis is over with, let's talk about the characters, the CGI art design, and even the action in store. First of all, Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprise the voices of their respective characters (Optimus Prime and Megatron) in a Transformers series, not counting the three live-action films by Michael Bay, 25+ years since the very first cartoon series. There were some other VAs I recognize, such as Kevin Michael Richardson (who voiced Bulkhead, one of my favorite Autobots along with Bumblebee) and Steven Jay Blum (who voiced Starscream, and is without a doubt the same guy who did Master Contra's voice in Neo Contra).

But beyond that, the characters did their own roles right, and each had interesting backstories continuity-wise. On top of that, I actually liked Jack, Miko, and Raf, although if you think back to Transformers: Armada, one might believe Miko to be the "anti-Alexis" of the trio at first glance... Oh well, at least she's tolerable in my opinion. In fact, I personally think Jack's better off with her instead of the other girl (a cheerleader named Sierra) whom he is friends with in high school.

Speaking of CGI art, the animators did an excellent job on the character and background design alike, with the animation movement fitting in well throughout the series. CGI in general is commonly "eye candy" at first, but in this case, Hasbro Studios knew what they were doing in addition to the plot setting. Overall, they did excellent, plus the action-packed fights that occur in just about every episode. Sometimes the good guys win; other times the bad guys succeed in their own agenda, win or lose.

I highly recommend checking out Transformers Prime, whether on Netflix (assuming you live in a country that has access to its services), DVD, or on the Hub channel. I enjoyed the story overall, and I am looking forward to the upcoming TV film, Predacons Rising, which is said to officially conclude the Prime series.
MY RATING: 10/10

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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WarioMan
 Posted: Sep 28 2013, 05:26 AM
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Good evening, and yeah, I know my review topic doesn't have as much activity as everyone else's, let alone i_love_ami's. So...I thought about posting my reviews on the Contra games from certain eras (as in, one era per post) so as to help keep my topic afloat. Alrighty, let's begin by comparing the well-known arcade and NES versions of the first two Contra games. The first part's gonna be real long, but I'm certain you can bear with me on that.

THE OLDEN 80s
Contra (arcade) - 1987

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GAMEPLAY
The game that started it all. It's a typical 2D side-scrolling shooter, and you could play it solo or with a partner. One hit, and you lose one of your remaining lives (and a power-up you were equipped with), but you respawn on the spot. Simple as that, right? In a sense, yes. However, a couple things I didn't like were the time limit you have to put up with during the two pseudo-3D base stages. One other thing: while the item pillboxes show up occasionally (and in the NES version as well), the power-up pods that float through the screen occasionally appeared only if you're stuck with the default peashooter. Finally - and at the time for an arcade game - you're only given 3 continues regardless of how many coins you inserted. Despite these three flaws, it didn't stop me from enjoying the short but sweet arcade classic itself...and the fun levels it had to offer.

GRAPHICS
The graphics were pretty good for its time, along with the animation on the characters and weapons alike.

AUDIO
The stereo sounds were actually good, especially the soundtrack, the sounds of your guns, and the explosions. In fact, I liked the songs used for both the Jungle and Waterfall levels!

REPLAYABILITY
Like I said before, this game is short, but it is an enjoyable classic. Nowadays, you can play it on an emulator or through your X-Box 360 as a downloadable "X-Box LIVE Arcade" title. Personally, I kinda like it more than the arcade Super Contra, simply because the jumping isn't as awkward(more on that later).

ARCADE VERSION RATING: 8/10

Contra (NES) - 1988

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GAMEPLAY
While it plays just like the original arcade version from 1987, the stages were extended a little bit to be longer, whereas the final level was split into four separate stages. Of course, you pretty much know the difference by now that there's 8 stages in all. But onto the gameplay: the controls and gameplay are superb. You also are no longer restricted with a time limit in the pseudo-3D base stages you come across throughout the game, which I think is good. I also liked the fact that the power-up pods floating across the screen occasionally would always appear (which is later common in pretty much the entire Contra series), whether you're currently equipped with a power-up or not, unlike the arcade version.

GRAPHICS
As anyone would expect, the graphics were a tad inferior in comparison to the arcade version. But as a rule of thumb, that's because of technological limitation. Either way, the layout for the NES version is still as passable - and colorful - as ever, much less the level design.

AUDIO
When it comes to Konami, especially from yesteryear, the audio was well-done for the most part. The whole soundtrack, in my opinion, was truly memorable, even if the songs didn't sound as awesome like in the arcade version. In addition, it gives you the feeling of an action hero (and a buddy, in 2 player mode) fighting intergalactic bad guys to save the Earth. And I still love the Jungle and Waterfall levels' theme songs.

REPLAYABILITY
Overall, I'm real glad I went back to this game and all the other Contra titles I've missed out on (sans Contra III: The Alien Wars) back in my younger days. While it's still short at about 20 minutes long for an average "no-continues-used" playthrough despite it being twice as long as the arcade version, it's still a sweet game to play - whether solo or alongside a partner. It's a tough game to master, but fairly hard nonetheless.

NES VERSION RATING: 9/10

Super Contra (arcade) - 1988

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GAMEPLAY
Aside from the pseudo-3D levels being replaced with top-down vertical-scrolling stages, I liked the idea that you could upgrade whatever power-up you're equipped with into its "super" level. However, I have heard that even getting the same weapon twice for the upgrade doesn't always guarantee a victory; as in, having the upgraded Spread Gun around kinda makes things tougher than if you had an upgraded Machine Gun in your possession. Another thing I'd like to take into account is your character's jumping. It's kinda awkward; like you have to hold the "up" direction while you're in midair just to jump higher.

GRAPHICS
The level design and character sprites were pretty good at the time, and I think they still are today (and not distracting either). A couple things I found odd (not that it matters) were the Machine Gun's bullets looking like missiles, and the second-player guy (Lance Bean) sporting a long hair rather than Sylvester Stallone's hairstyle.

AUDIO
The audio system was upgraded from the original Contra arcade. In other words, the soundtrack was superb. I actually enjoyed just about every different song on each stage. The sounds of your weapons being fired, along with the explosions, were neatly done as well, in my opinion.

REPLAYABILITY
Well, it's not as enjoyable as the first Contra on the arcade, but I still consider it a good classic either way. Just take note that you still have a strict continue system to contend with (depending on the DIP settings, you'll have 3 or 5 shared continues altogether), regardless of how many coins you inserted. I mean, sure, it's no big deal if you're playing on an emulator or your X-Box 360 (via X-Box LIVE Arcade), but still.

ARCADE VERSION RATING: 7/10

Super C (NES) - 1990

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GAMEPLAY
It's pretty much the same as with Contra (NES), only now, the Flame Gun was modified into an explosive fireball that goes straight, thus making it a useful weapon.

GRAPHICS
Like with the NES version of Contra, the graphics were obviously a little inferior compared to the arcade version of Super Contra. But this does not mean we can't enjoy Super C on NES. Speaking of which, the stages (and the power-ups you can get) had good detail for the most part. Plus, you can now tell from the palette-swapped running grunts, which one will fire at you. This later became common in some other Contra games to date, in which red-colored enemy grunts will stop to fire a shot or two at you.

AUDIO
Pretty much the same deal as with Contra on NES, except the audio was toned up throughout the entire game. In other words, it was truly inspiring, given this game's action theme.

REPLAYABILITY
It's no secret that the Contra games are typically short, and Super C is no exception. Whether you're going solo or playing alongside a buddy, or just wanna show off your skills by doing a peashooter-only run (which I did once, and without using a continue), you'll have a blast in one of Konami's finest 8-bit classics. Sure, it ain't as excellent as Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) or Contra 4 (DS) in my opinion, due to it being easier than the first Contra on NES, but still enjoyable nonetheless.

NES VERSION RATING: 8/10

That about wraps up the 80s era, and I will see you next time. smile.gif

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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WarioMan
 Posted: Oct 1 2013, 09:29 PM
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With the Contra games from the late 80s covered, let's move on to the early 90s. However, I won't be covering Contra Force not just because it's non-canon; it simply did not feel much like Contra, to be honest.

THE RISING 90s
Operation C (Game Boy) - 1991

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GAMEPLAY
Despite the lack of the traditional 2-player co-op feature (I presume it might've been too difficult to tell Bill Rizer and Lance Bean apart because of the monochrome layout), it's an enjoyable classic. In fact, all of your weapons are autofire, including your default one: a machine gun. Your arsenal consists of the Spread Gun, the only weapon to be upgraded, as well as the Super C-style Flame Gun. New to the series, on the other hand, are the Homing Missiles. All in all, the weapons are just about equally powerful, including the default machine gun.

GRAPHICS
For a Game Boy game, the monochrome layout isn't bad. In fact, it's actually pretty good.

AUDIO
Obviously, the songs from the first Contra were reused, although a couple new songs were added for this game. It may be a bit toned down, but it's still passable in an action theme-like sense.

REPLAYABILITY
It's only 5 levels long, but they're creative in my opinion. You could say this game is slightly easier than Super C, given the fact that your whole arsenal of power-ups are equally powerful alongside your default gun. To sum the game up in 3 words: short, but sweet.

MY RATING: 8/10

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) - 1992

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GAMEPLAY
Now this, my friends, is one of the best in the Contra series in my opinion, second to Contra 4 (more on that in the "Nintendo DS era and beyond" section)! All the power-ups are autofire once again (a couple of which were modified, like the Flame Gun being an actual Flamethrower) which is now common in most of the series, even though the default machine gun's firepower is weak. Secondly, another interesting feature which also became common over the years was you could hold up to two weapons at once. These, along with the boss fights that take up just about half the screen, are the reasons why I love Contra III.

GRAPHICS
Konami took a big step into the 16-bit era by putting detail into the character sprites, your arsenal of weapons, the level design, the explosions, and even the big bosses you face at the end of each level. Kinda gives you the feeling as if it were a movie, doesn't it? I'm just saying, but hey, it's your call.

AUDIO
The audio was real awesome, including the songs being played during the game. I especially enjoyed some of my favorite songs, such as the one for the first level ("It's Time for Revenge"), the boss battle theme ("Bloody Storm")...just to name a few.

REPLAYABILITY
A true classic indeed. The stuff I talked about in the gameplay part of this review are all the reasons why Contra III has great replayability. Whether you're practicing on Easy or by starting off with 7 lives instead of the usual 3, or even going all out on Normal or Hard with 3 lives, you'll love this game. It's tougher than the first two Contra games from NES, but enjoyable nonetheless. Remember: when you're playing solo or with a friend, practice makes perfect!

MY RATING: 9/10

Contra: Hard Corps (Sega Genesis) - 1994

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GAMEPLAY
One of the first games (aside from Contra Force, but I'm not gonna cover it since it didn't feel much like Contra in my opinion) to have four different characters to choose from. Each of them has a different arsenal of four weapons, including his or her own style of an upgraded default machine gun, to utilize. It's no walk in the park, given the subtitle "Hard Corps", but what makes this game exciting is that you'll be facing plenty of bosses as the plot unfolds. Occasionally, you'll be given a choice of which of the two paths you wish to take. It is crucial, as the ending you'll get depends on the paths you took. In fact, Contra: Hard Corps was the first game to have multiple endings.

GRAPHICS
The graphics were the definition of "blast processing", being a Sega Genesis title. By that, I mean they, along with level creativity, were well-detailed like with Contra III on SNES.

AUDIO
The sound effects were awesome, despite the voice clips sounding a bit awkward (I think). The soundtrack, on the other hand, was the definition of great metal music. That is what also makes this game worthwhile, let alone worthy of being in your collection of Sega Genesis games.

REPLAYABILITY
Boy, I really missed out on that Sega Genesis game back in the day, didn't I? Well, not anymore, because I'm proud to have looked back to see what I've missed when I was but a Nintendo fan (though I did grow up with certain non-Nintendo franchises, like Bomberman, Mega Man, and yes, even Contra). In my opinion, having your character's entire arsenal of weapons in possession and fighting tons of bosses makes it all worthwhile.

MY RATING: 9/10

Contra: The Alien Wars (Game Boy) - 1994

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GAMEPLAY
Developed by Factor 5 (well known for the Star Wars Rogue Squadron series, in addition to Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo), the level structure was altered in order to fit the GB screen. They removed most enemy bosses you'd face in the original SNES version, along with the level that had you ride a motorbike throughout the first half. Since the Game Boy obviously isn't as equally powerful as the SNES is, Factor 5 replaced the rotation movement with the ability to strafe for the two top-down stages. But aside from that, the core gameplay remains the same, except you're restricted to holding only one weapon at a time - however, you can still use super bombs to clear the screen of enemies. With the Laser Beam absent, you're likely better off sticking with the Spread Gun or the Flamethrower if you can. The Crash Missiles are just as equally powerful, but given the slow rate of fire, it may not guarantee your survival on Hard or Maniac. The Homing Missiles seek out enemies, but are practically useless in this version because of the slow rate of fire in addition to their weak power.

GRAPHICS
Like with Operation C, I'll be as fair as possible. The monochrome layout wasn't too bad, even if the five levels were rather inferior in comparison to the original Contra III. In fact, Factor 5 did alright with the sprites and level design.

AUDIO
Though not as badass as in the original Contra III, the songs were still decent enough. This version does have a different boss theme, which I sorta found a bit tolerable. Either way, I'll be bringing this up into comparison during the review on the GBA version another time, so keep that in mind...

REPLAYABILITY
Despite the limits that were built-in to the GB version, it's passable overall. Just like Operation C, it's 1-player only, but that's fine by me since it's a GB game. A seasoned gamer will likely finish this in about 15-20 minutes, and there's a password feature (only 4 characters long, as in much much shorter than in the GBA version -- more on that later) in case you want to pick up where you left off another time, especially if you're playing on Maniac. 2 lives, no continues, and no bonus lives; that's where the 4-character password truly comes into play unless you don't care if you get a Game Over. It's just that the physics take getting used to since it feels slightly different from the original SNES version.

MY RATING: 7/10

That pretty much covers the early 90s era, but ohhh boy, did things turn rather bleak for the series in the PS1's heyday... ph34r.gif

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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 Posted: Oct 4 2013, 04:09 AM
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Welcome to part 3 of my Contra series review. Tonight, I cover the two Contra titles released for the PlayStation. Remember when I said things turned rather bleak? Well, here are my personal thoughts...

FALL FROM GRACE
Contra: Legacy of War (PS1 and Sega Saturn) - 1996

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GAMEPLAY
You may or may not have known this by now, but this game was designed and developed by an Eastern-European company known as Appaloosa Interactive. However, this was a disappointment, in my opinion. All the stages are top-down, isometric 3D-scrolling action, but given the way the game was implemented, it's often hard to tell if you're dodging an enemy shot properly or bound to be hit by one. Plus, the controls were kinda awkward, including a button that manually toggles between locking your aim and shooting as normal. Finally, the life system was altered a bit, in which your lives act as your character's actual HP.

GRAPHICS
I'll be as fair as possible on this: at the time, 3D gaming was still in its early stages, so of course the graphics were gonna look like crap at first glance. However, I've seen and played some mediocre early-3D games (i.e. Bomberman World on PS1) even to this day, that at least had some good detail. The levels and bosses may be 3D, but the character and weapon sprites were more like...well, 2D-ish cardboard cut-outs, I suppose. Speaking of level design, some parts of the game were just horrendous. I mean, take for example on one thing: sometimes, when you're jumping (which is awkward) across the platforms in midair, it's hard to tell whether you'll land safely or just fall through and lose a life. As for the playable characters themselves, I find it nonsensical that when your "HP" hits zero and you die again, he/she explodes like a time bomb (even if the character you're playing as isn't a robot).

AUDIO
The sounds were pretty mediocre in my opinion, but I'll give credit on one thing: the music wasn't bad. I actually found some songs to be tolerable, mainly the first level's music (Urban Warfare) being a remix of the city theme from Contra III.

REPLAYABILITY
Unless you're a masochist (even though I doubt beating the game on Hard is worth it), you're probably better off avoiding this game. I'll be honest, though: it was indeed the second Contra game I ever played, but at the time when I was a kid (and before I went to high school in 2002), I never really knew the difference between a good game and a bad one. Now that I do, Contra: Legacy of War sucks, in my opinion. Do not play it, even with a friend in 2-player mode.

MY RATING: 3/10

C: The Contra Adventure (PS1) - 1998

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GAMEPLAY
Well, this is gonna be a bit long, so bear with me. Alright, ready? Here we go...

Despite the lack of two player co-op (as with both Operation C and the Game Boy port of Contra III), they ditched the isometric layout of the levels - and instead, returned the game to its roots...but only for the first and final levels of the game. Between said levels, you'll be spending the majority of your time in 3D; in other words, third-person shooter levels. On top of that, while the "basic training" covers what you'll see in a 3D level, it doesn't really prepare you much for all of them due to, and I quote the in-game briefing: "our limited knowledge on the aliens." On account of 3D levels, you often have to move your view upwards or downwards with the L1 and L2 buttons not only to aim, but also to see whatever's been trying to hit you. At other times, you'll be hit from behind; you'd then have to turn around then attack before the enemy attacks eat up more of your health. Strafing with the R1 button ain't too much of a problem, but going prone requires you to hold R2 to do so.

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Overall, the controls for the 3D levels felt...well, clunky, if not completely awkward. And here, I thought the controls for Legacy of War were bad enough. Well, this (on account of the 3D levels in C: The Contra Adventure) is worse. Speaking of Legacy of War, C: The Contra Adventure ends after the first 5 levels on Easy with a debriefing message telling you that you passed the "advanced training", and are ready to try Normal or Hard. Why am I comparing this, you ask? That's because the game also has a level select code, in which you can use to bypass the limit and still play through the rest of the game on Easy.

GRAPHICS
The character sprites were slightly better, but like with Legacy of War, I've seen some mediocre early-3D games having at least a bit of good detail. I know this is a short description, but then again, the graphics look like crap by today's standards.

AUDIO
Same deal as with the previous Contra game developed by Appaloosa Interactive. Some of the songs are tolerable in my opinion (perhaps the one from the first level at least), though. Oh, and have fun trying to tolerate Ray Poward's corny one-liners, especially throughout the 3D levels, in the game. Seriously.

REPLAYABILITY
I could say this game is slightly better than Contra: Legacy of War...but not by much. Unless you're a masochist or a die-hard Contra fan, I strongly recommend against playing this game and/or Legacy of War. Dismissed!

MY RATING: 4/10

Due to the way Appaloosa Interactive "handled" the development business, the Contra series bit the big one for a while...at least, until 2002 when the PlayStation 2 came out. From what I've read on Wikipedia, Konami once had plans for a Nintendo 64 installment in the series titled "Contra Spirits 64", that would have been handled directly by them, but instead they scrapped it in favor of awaiting the next console generation. Thus, they started the project anew as Contra: Shattered Soldier.

The next part of my review on the whole series will focus on both PS2 titles in the series, along with the GBA version of Contra III. Till next time...

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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 Posted: Oct 8 2013, 06:44 AM
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Part 4 of my Contra series review (though needless to say at this point) will be covering the Contra games from early 2000, prior to the official release of the Nintendo DS. But before I get to the PS2 titles I mentioned, let's take a look at the GBA port of Contra III first. Remember when I said the password feature in the GB version was shorter than in the latter? I'm bringing it up now, because apparently Konami didn't learn their lesson from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES), in which its password was 16 characters long with letters and numbers to boot. I kid you not, but I digress.

REVIVAL, POST 2000
Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX (GBA) - 2002

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GAMEPLAY
Despite the removal of both the super bombs and the ability to hold two weapons at once, the gameplay and challenge are still as good as ever. In fact, you do get to lock your shooting angle with the L Button, while still moving. Then again, an online friend of mine, Iniche, mentioned how the two levels from Contra: Hard Corps (which replaced the overhead levels from the original Contra III) appeared to unbalance the difficulty to some. Another thing I forgot to bring up in my Contra Advance playthrough, which I posted one time on GameAnyone, was the fact that (according to Iniche, again) this game uses an engine which isn't completely capable of reproducing Contra III's gameplay in GBA form.

For instance, some boss attacks were either slowed down a bit or removed (though the bosses themselves still present a decent challenge), while the Flamethrower power-up sucks now. Even the lesser enemies aren't safe from the game engine's technological limitations. Seriously, I once challenged myself to beat the game on Normal without getting any power-ups, and I had little to no trouble at all due to the default machine gun's slightly toned-up firepower. In short, compared to both SNES and GB versions, a seasoned gamer - and not just me - would feel as if they're fighting an evil army of incompetent boobs from space (sans the bosses) half the time.

GRAPHICS
The layout of the level backgrounds appeared to be a bit more "painted" than their original selves, but not too bad. As for the sprites, Bill (Player 1), Lance (Player 2), and all the enemy characters are represented at their best; however some bosses did look a little squished to fit the GBA screen.

AUDIO
While the sounds are decent, the quality for the game's music was lowered, if not badly, compared to the original SNES version. It's still passable even on the GBA speaker, just not that great.

REPLAYABILITY
Even though Contra Advance isn't as awesome as the original Contra III, it's still fun to play, whether by yourself or with a buddy (via GBA Link Cable). Speaking of going solo - and get ready to hear this now - it's best if you play through the game in one sitting, since its password feature isn't really necessary at all. Seriously, you're better off overlooking it altogether, because the password is over 18 characters long, and you have to toggle each of them up or down just to get the password right. See, I told you Konami didn't learn their lesson from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Simply ignore the password, and you're good to go solo. The game's already short enough as it is anyway, even if you run out of continues.

MY RATING: 6.5/10

Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2) - 2002

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GAMEPLAY
Now back in Konami's hands, Contra: Shattered Soldier takes the franchise back to its 2D roots. Only now, you have three different weapons at your disposal from the start, each having its own charge shot. As Bill Rizer or Lucia (his new partner), you have lots of bosses to fight throughout the levels, but here's the catch: everything you do (sans killing the enemy grunts running across the screen) counts towards your "Hit Rate." Losing a spare life or continuing from a checkpoint after getting a Game Over, however, penalizes you. Honestly, I didn't like that feature much, especially since it apparently affects the second half of the game, and the ending you'll get. So unless you're good enough to destroy every enemy target on sight and avoid dying so much, expect to see the bad ending often (if not too much).

GRAPHICS
Another step taken into 3D, but in a 2.5D kind of way. I thought Konami got it right for the most part, especially the level design and the big bosses you fight.

AUDIO
Honestly, I thought the soundtrack was alright, despite that most songs didn't seem to fit the Contra theme all that much. The sound effects, however, were decent.

REPLAYABILITY
Due to the "Hit Rate" system, this game is no walk in the park. But, while it isn't for every gamer because of that, it's still passable whether you're solo or with someone. Just don't expect the 30 lives code to save you from getting the bad ending, because losing lives still penalizes your percentage at the end of each level.

MY RATING: 8/10

Neo Contra (PS2) - 2004

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GAMEPLAY
Taking place in a better isometric perspective, this game now has a "weapon type" system. Each one consists of its own standard, fire, and homing weapons. Honestly, I kinda liked Types A (Machine Gun, Grenade Bomb, and Lock-on Missile), D (Lightning, G Bazooka, and Heaven's Laser), and F (Ripple Laser, 6V Laser, and Variable Weapon) the best. Anyway, the "Hit Rate" system is still present, only its penalization isn't as harsh like in Contra: Shattered Soldier.

GRAPHICS
The levels, enemy characters, bosses, and the playable characters (Bill Rizer and his new partner, Jaguar) are detailed. However, when there's so many enemies during a 2-player co-op session, the game goes through slow-down. Fortunately, it doesn't detract from the game too much as it lasts a few seconds.

AUDIO
Heavy metal/techno music at its best, although I didn't find all the songs as fitting to the Contra theme. The sound effects of your guns and the enemies you blast are neat. As for the voice-acting, I thought it was kinda decent. And yes, I'm aware some of you might find it intolerable (which is pretty much the reason you prefer to skip the dialogue cutscenes). It's your call, though.

REPLAYABILITY
Not as enjoyable as all the other good Contra games I've ever played, but hey, at least it's more competent than Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure will ever be, in terms of gameplay.

MY RATING: 7/10

Four parts down, and only one more to go! I've said it before, but I'll say it again: see you next time!

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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WarioMan
 Posted: Oct 12 2013, 05:07 AM
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It's time for the grand finale, because like the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end (well, for the most part). In other words, I've saved the best for last...

NINTENDO DS ERA AND BEYOND
Contra 4 (DS) - 2007

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GAMEPLAY
Now that...is...AWESOME! And I have good reasons for saying it: Contra 4 takes the franchise back to its 2D roots for real, even though some might say it's more of a fangame than a true sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars. The gameplay is at its best, and like with said prequel to the game, you can hold up to two weapons at once. New to the series is the grappling hook, which can get you out of a jam at times (although some levels disable its use). The returning feature from the arcade Super Contra is the ability to upgrade whichever weapons you're using by acquiring the same power-up twice (for example, the Flame Gun behaves like the exploding fireball weapon from Super C when upgraded), which adds greatly to the replay value aside from the grappling hook. Finally, the 9 enjoyable yet challenging levels it has in store via Arcade mode makes it a must-have in your DS collection.

GRAPHICS
Y'know, I gotta say: for a small-time American company like WayForward, they've outdone themselves with the level design and fluid character animation. Like so...

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Then again, they are big fans of the series. From what I recall reading in an interview with WayForward through a Nintendo Power magazine from 2007 (I forget which month it was; it's been a while), they actually played some of the best Contra games so they would get an idea on where to go when they worked on Contra 4. One of their premises, as far as I remember, was to "make it familiar but do not copy."

AUDIO
The sound effects (and voice clips) are pretty decent, but here's the best part: famed composer Jake Kaufman did an excellent job with the soundtrack, which consisted of remixed songs from past Contra titles in addition to some new ones. Very creative indeed, especially my favorites such as Jungle 1, Waterfall, Base, Ocean, and even Neo City.

REPLAYABILITY
Overall, this is the best game, as well as a homage, in the Contra series, in my humble opinion. You'll be enjoying this for years to come, whether by yourself or with a buddy. In addition, there's the Challenge mode (unlocked after beating the game in Arcade mode once on any difficulty level) which gives you up to 40 different challenges to complete; for example, some involve hunting down 8 Man-Faced Mutts throughout the stage. Every four challenges you clear will unlock something cool, like secret characters (including the 16-bit versions of Bill and Lance, renamed Jimbo and Sully respectively like in the US version of Contra III), Contra and Super C from the NES, etc. I know some of you may find Contra III: The Alien Wars or Contra: Hard Corps to be the best in the series today, and others might declare Contra 4 as the best instead of the former two, but hey, it's your call.

MY RATING: 10/10

Contra ReBirth (WiiWare) - 2009

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GAMEPLAY
Classic Contra III gameplay at its best, typically with an arcade feel. I mean, sure, the only weapons you have at your disposal (aside from your default machine gun) are the Spread Gun, Laser Beam, and Homing Missiles, but as long as this short yet sweet game is enjoyable, I'm not complaining. The only two downsides, albeit minor, are that you can't earn extra lives like you normally do when you score a certain amount of points, and during a two player co-op session, you can't borrow one of his/her spare lives whenever you've lost your last one.

GRAPHICS
The level design and character sprite animation were fluid for a downloadable WiiWare game. As they say, graphics can only make a game good so much, because gameplay mostly counts. Regardless, I think its visuals are as great as they can get.

AUDIO
I absolutely enjoyed the songs that were remixed from past Contra games. They even reused the "Player Select" song from Contra Force, which was a surprise at the time!

REPLAYABILITY
Despite the lack of online co-op and the fact that this game apparently wasn't for every Contra fan at first glance (though I doubt it to be completely true), you'll love what Contra ReBirth has to offer. It may be only five levels long in comparison to Contra 4 - or six you count the true final boss seen only on Normal or higher but the extras it has to offer (two unlockable characters aside from Bill Rizer and Genbei "Jaguar" Yagyu to play as, in addition to the Nightmare difficulty) makes it all worthwhile.

MY RATING: 9/10

Hard Corps: Uprising (PSN/XBLA) - 2011

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GAMEPLAY
While the run-'n-gun gameplay is as good as ever, you could say it's more of a spinoff than an actual Contra game...although there were some changes. For one, your arsenal of weapons now have two level upgrades rather than just one at a time. There's Arcade mode, suited for old-school gamers, as well as Rising mode, which you might count as an "easy setting" due to a character-upgrading system. Most of all, you now have a health bar (originally implemented in the Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps on Sega Genesis/MegaDrive) - how many hits you take before losing a life depends on which character you use. For example, Bahamut can take three normal hits before dying, but Krystal can only take two.

GRAPHICS
I must say, the graphics were well-done and fluid for an anime-style downloadable game, if not too distracting. Then again, it was developed by none other than Arc System Works, well-known for its arcade 2D fighting game franchises, Guilty Gear and Blazblue. I've only heard of them, though I admittedly never got the chance to play either one. But back to the subject: I do agree on one thing in which it kinda lacks the "post-apocalyptic alien-infested world" theme that all the other Contra games have had over the years.

AUDIO
The sound and music are top-notch with the soundtrack being composed by Daisuke Ishiwatari, well-known for composing musical scores in the Guilty Gear series. Speaking of top-notch songs, they really do pay a homage to past Contra games, even though it's still more of a spinoff as I mentioned. It's just my opinion. But the voice-acting was laughable, especially the way Leviathan (one of the boss characters you face) cackles at you during a boss fight.

REPLAYABILITY
With all that said, Hard Corps: Uprising is still decent. Although I've yet to try and play it online with someone, I think the co-op mode is still fun even if you're stuck with doing it locally (depending on your Internet connection). If you're going for 100% completion on the Achievements/Trophies, expect to spend a lot of time on the more difficult ones, such as clearing the whole game without dying once or the one that requires going through Arcade mode without killing more than 50 enemy Privates. Either way, I'd say this game is recommended for those who enjoy run-'n-gun side-scrollers.

MY RATING: 8/10

Well, that's about it! I hope you enjoyed my series of reviews on all the Contra games to date, and don't hesitate to post your thoughts if you want. smile.gif

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"Faster than a donut! Stronger than cardboard! I am Wario-Man!!" ~Wario (from WarioWare: Touched!)

"What is Bill Rizer? It is just the name of a single entity who has been gone for centuries." ~Master Contra (from Neo Contra)

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