Tag Archives: Nes

Top 100 Games – 96 – Blast Corps

21 Feb

Blast Corps
Year: 1997
Genre: Puzzle

Rare became a household name during the latter days of the Super Nintendo’s lifespan after releasing hits like Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct. Their relationship with Nintendo over the previous years had been an odd one. Often Rare were willing to make lacklustre tie-ins, but the money they made presumably allowed them to create some inventive and interesting games, RC Pro-Am and Battletoads being some of the best. Now they are part of Microsoft’s pool of developers and continue to innovate with Kinect Sports. It was the N64 they’ll be remembered for though. During the lifespan of Nintendo’s last cartridge based console, Rare delivered a constant stream of quality games while others jumped ship to make games on CD. Even their sole tie-in, Goldeneye, was critically acclaimed and though now appears dated, it’s still beloved by most gamers of a certain age. Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini and Diddy Kong Racing, amongst others, cemented their reputation as the best developer, other than Nintendo themselves, for the console.

Their finest moment though, is a game that remains criminally overlooked. Blast Corps is one of the most creative, inventive and unique games ever made. Wildly imaginative, it makes the standard driving and shooting of their other games look pedestrian. Ditching the cutesy look of most of their N64 fare, Blast Corps still has a hugely appealing style. It’s colourful and cheerful, despite the extremely basic storyline being about a nuclear load-carrying truck about to crash and cause mass destruction. This bare-bones plot gave Rare free rein to make some extremely unique levels. Essentially, this is a puzzle game, but not in any traditional sense. It has more in common with Mech Warrior than Tetris, as well as pioneering destructive scenery before the likes of Red Faction were even conceived.

Wanton destruction is wonderfully cathartic

The gameplay has several different scenarios including driving, flying and some time trials, but the real joy is in the destruction levels. Given an ever-increasing set of bizarre vehicles, the player is tasked with clearing the way for the out-of-control truck. This is achieved by flying above buildings in a robot and crashing down upon them, rolling a robot into things, powersliding a truck, using the pneumatic sides of another to destroy things and many more besides. The sheer number of options available in terms of approaching each level is incredible, and there are medals to achieve based on time limits which add tremendous replay value. With a number of secrets to unlock, a globe dotted with missions for a map screen and some fiendishly clever puzzle elements, Blast Corps is like absolutely nothing else. While Rare imitated Mario 64 and Quake with aplomb, this was entirely their own creation, and it shows just how talented and creative the developers at Rare could be.

Advertisements

Super Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition Impressions

20 Jan

Nintendo are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their most famous character in style, with a special edition of both the Wii and DS already on store shelves, and now ‘Super Mario All Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition’ available. Being a sucker for all things Nintendo, I picked up a copy, to go with my 25th anniversary Wii. How could I go wrong, it’s four of my (and everyone’s) favourite games, in a collector’s edition box with a CD and a book. Sounds like a really nice package.
To be blunt, it’s a tremendous disappointment. I knew it probably would be by the time I ordered it, but went ahead anyway, as I’m sure a huge amount of Nintendo fans will. It is a very pretty box, vaguely reminiscent of an NES box, which is a nice touch, and it’ll look good on a shelf, but chances are it’s going to remain there, gathering dust. The problem is that the contents are negligible, there’s nothing to get excited about, even for the hardcore collector. It’s hard to justify paying the €30 price tag for something so lacklustre, and it’s disappointing to see Nintendo miss an opportunity to really offer something special to the fans who’ve followed them over the years.

The biggest issue is the dearth of new content, there is absolutely nothing new about the game. When this was originally announced I was expecting the NES games re-released with the graphics of New Super Mario Bros. What this is though, is the SNES edition of All Stars on a disc. That’s it. It’s not even the version that includes Super Mario World. Without a graphical update, and with games that can be bought for less on Nintendo’s similarly disenchanting Virtual Console, why bother to repackage them at all? The target market for this, I can only assume, is older fans of Nintendo, the younger audience have Galaxy and New Super Mario to keep them amused, but the older players who might want this probably have a copy of All Stars on the SNES already, or the NES cartridges. It would have been so easy to make the package something really great, one disc could easily hold Super Mario World and Mario 64 as well as the NES games, maybe even Sunshine too, which would have made for a more complete Mario collection. Even if Donkey Kong had been thrown in that would have been something to be happy about.

The booklet chronicles, very briefly, the history of Super Mario, and is actually quite nice, but severely lacking in content. It’s basically the size of a game manual, and fits in a game case the same way. It only serves to perplex that the Mario timeline is covered completely, yet only four games made the package. I can obviously see why the Wii Mario games aren’t there, but at least the games up to Mario 64 should be. There is some interesting artwork, and contributions from Shigeru Miyamoto, Koji Kondo and Takashi Tezuka, but they only have a sentence per game, and it would have been great to read more of their thoughts on the development of each title. A DVD featuring them and some additional discussion, or even a short documentary would have been even better. The book is nice enough, I suppose, and seeing pictures of level design blueprints and some watercolour versions of concept art is interesting, but it could have been so much more.

The last part of the package is a 20 track soundtrack CD, and this is where it gets really poor for me. There has been so much great music over the years in the Mario games, so many recognisable themes, but only 10 make it to the CD. That’s one from each game in the Mario canon, other than 2, if you’re counting. That really is a miserable effort on Nintendo’s part, especially with how easy it would have been to add a few more tracks. There isn’t even some profit to be made off what’s left out, as there would be with the games. Instead of more music there are 10 additional tracks of Mario sounds, including such classics as the coin sound, 1-up sound and Game Over music. Order now and we’ll throw in a free hotplate. Please allow… Sorry, lost track of things for a second, that’s how amazed I am by the absolutely bizarre soundtrack. I’ll give it some credit, the music is memorable, and it’s fun to put it on shuffle and hear songs punctuated by the sounds of the classic games, but that’s not really the point here.

In sum, it’s a fairly poor effort by Nintendo to commemorate the anniversary of one of popular cultures most enduring icons, amounting to little more than a shameless cash-in. Nintendo’s marketing department really do know the appeal of the plumber in red and blue, and this is pure profit for them. I’m not going to let it dispel the magic of Mario of course, once the game itself goes on all is forgiven, very little tops the NES Mario games, but I would be loathe to recommend this to anyone, no matter how big a Nintendo fan they may be. If it had been packed in with the red anniversary Wii then it would have been a great extra, but the two never should have been sold separately, there’s far too little here to justify the price, and long-time Nintendo fans deserve a lot better than this.

As an aside, there is one part of the package I adored, the photo on the cover of the soundtrack case (see below). It’s just an NES, with a copy of Super Mario Bros. running on screen in the background, out of focus, but its stark simplicity is a wonderful reminder of an era of simple, elegant and innocent games, far from the realistic depictions of violence and war we see today. It encapsulates everything great about classic games like Mario, and is by some distance the best thing about Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition.

D6ZZEX3WXH8B