F Zero: Maximum Velocity Review

Gamestyle Archive intro: F-Zero makes the jump onto the handheld GBA with great results. Published July 2001, writer JJ.

Version: Pal
Developer:
Publisher: Nintendo
Accessories: Link Cable
Players: 1-4
Release: Out Now
Link: www.gameboyadvance.com
 
Presentation: 7 
Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Lastability: 8

fzero

One of the incentives for purchasing a GBA was the fact that many of the classic SNES titles would be coming to the handheld marvel.   F-Zero: Maximum Velocity is the first in what promises to be a long line of conversions.

For those who haven’t played one of Nintendo’s greatest games the aim is simple, be fast and more importantly be first.   This is very much a dangerous futuristic sport where the pilots risk their lives in order to become rich and famous.   There are several grand prix events split into a series of tracks and you cannot afford to finish far down the field in anyone event.   The screen will display where you need to finish i.e. top three and you must otherwise its game over.   This highlights one of the problems with the game, there is no league chart or points system.  At times you will wonder where you stand in the league and if you win overall because there is no champion celebration segment.   Becoming a champion is well worth the effort as it opens up new extreme tracks and other options but its not easy. The computer controlled craft do cheat to say the least and the later tracks are very hard to put in good times for.

The beauty of any F Zero game is the variety of tracks on offer and at first some may seem impossible to complete in any reasonable position.   You must tackle extreme corners, jumps, and oil or ice obstacles without loosing much speed – if at all.   The trick apart from being damn good and knowing the layout of each track is pumping the accelerator button while in a corner.   This improves your grip, which is something that all the craft in F Zero lack in abundance.   The manual will offer the suggestion of using the brake or shoulder buttons, trust us don’t.

You automatically have three boosts which cannot be used until the 2nd lap there are more displayed on the track.   The real skill is linking all the available boosts on the track and on your craft together to set an excellent lap time.   The GBA version handles acceleration easily and to onlookers it’s a very impressive experience.   Shame there isn’t a mode to customise your craft or name which would have been welcome.

The series is known for its speed as anyone who played the N64 version will testify to an electric multi-player mode and here the GBA version does not disappoint.   You can link up with three others to engage in races.   It’s a great experience and a welcome break from cheating computer controlled craft – although your mates cheat as well!

Overall it’s a great game that offers a challenge to all fans of the series, a must for any GBA owner.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Kuri Kuri Kururin Review

Gamestyle Archive intro: a very overlooked GBA classic and addictive, if not extremely difficult and well worth tracking down even today. Writer JJ, published July 2001

 

Version: Pal
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Accessories: Link Cable
Players: 1-4
Release: Out Now
Presentation: 7
Graphics:6
Sound:5
Gameplay: 9
Lastability: 9

kuru

Sometimes the simplest concepts make the best games as Pong, Tetris or Asteriods have shown, yet make you wonder why no one thought of it before. Of course such simplistic yet addictive and time consuming games often annoy or take over your whole life, so much the better, we’re used to that at Gamestyle. Kuri Kuri is such as game, very much a Japanese take on that old game involving a metal tube + electric current going through it and a buzzer if you touch the tube – start again! Plus some originality thrown in for good measure. Just like the original game, Kuri Kuri involves timing, patience, planning, skill and just a bit of luck.

The concept is fairly simple and we don’t even need to mention the cute (for the kids) characters or story that Nintendo no doubt included to make the game universally appealing. Once anyone gets their hands on this cart you can kiss your life goodbye because it just won’t let go. Of course not everyone likes puzzle games but they do tend to appeal to the female sex more than most genres, so perhaps a safe bet with the girlfriend?

You have to navigate Kuri Kuri in his helicopter through a series of mazes and corridors that become more difficult as you progress. To put it simply, you start at A and must reach B as quickly as possible – if at all! The beauty of it is when the corridors become too small to fit through and you must use the rotation of the blades and speed to squeeze past. Adding to depth is the ability to change the direction of the rotation by using springs, very useful for some curved passageways. Later levels offer some insane designs that really make you think but do provoke console rage. Other joys such as doors, pistons, metal balls and cannons will be put in your way making completion even more difficult.

There are several modes on offer giving this title the depth that Tony Hawks lacked, you have  – Adventure, Practice, Challenge, Versus and Make Up. The Adventure mode is based on the story of Kuri Kuri travelling through ten worlds trying to find your missing brothers and sisters. The challenge mode offers 50 levels that you must complete, can you achieve perfect scores? The unusual Make Up mode allows you to customise your helicopter once you have collected various bonus items on the Adventure mode.

In previous handheld games you were solely up against the clock or a high score but with the power of the GBA you can now compete with up to three other Kuri Kuri fanatics if you so chose. With only one cart being required amongst four its so accessible and great fun. For those not so good at the game, a handicap option is available but it does become very competitive soon after your first multi-player experience.

The graphics are cute and bright with the music fitting into that category as well, perhaps too cheesy for some? If I was critical (which I always am) then apart from the audio I cannot see why this game wasn’t released on the Gameboy Colour.   Just like Tetris its one of those games which could appear on any format easily, perhaps Nintendo had put Kuri Kuri aside for the GBA. Surely not so they could charge another £10 to the consumer? As with other GBA releases its going to set you back £34.99 and Gamestyle thinks that’s just too much for a little cart no matter how good.

Nintendo have created their first classic for the GBA and we hate them for it!

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Game Boy Advance Why should I bother?

Gamestyle Archive intro: written on the eve of the GBA release, Gamestyle considered whether it was worth picking up Nintendo’s new handheld. Did we? Yes.  Writer JJ, published June 2001.

It’s under a week to go before the replacement for the longest serving piece of hardware becomes available in Europe.   The Game Boy has been with us now for a decade and yet continues to sell either in colour or monotone.   The handheld console has seen off challenges from Atari, Bandai, Neo Geo, Sega and many more during its long history and only now does the bell toll.      Although some of the recent software for the Game Boy has been exceptional for instance recent examples such as Grand Theft Auto, Alone In The Dark, Perfect Dark and Pokemon, the general feeling is that no more could be done on the system.   We can only take so many platform, puzzle or poor license releases.   The arrival of its 32bit successor should be a day to remember in Europe but this seems not to be the case.  In fact the general public seem more anxious to experience the new look Gamestyle website that launches on the same day.

Consumer apathy is pretty widespread when it comes to the GBA and it’s all down to the price.  The price point of £89.99 has been widely adopted by retailers which seems fine until you compare that the same machine in Japan costs 9800 yen (£58) or in America $99 (£73).   No discounts either for buying several titles or link cables.  That makes us easily the most expensive place on earth to buy the next generation handheld.   Yet the reason for this isn’t solely down to Nintendo, Gamestyle point the finger of blame at the retailers.   The reason is quite simply Nintendo have recommended a retail price of £73 to £79 for launch day but no one is listening, why?   The fact of the matter is all the main high street retailers are experiencing lower revenues from videogames in general.   The N64 is frankly dead, the Dreamcast has almost joined it and the PS2 continues to disappoint with its lack of quality software.  The GBA is seen very much as a cash cow and therefore we’re going to have to pay a bit more for it.   Of course Nintendo aren’t entirely free from blame, almost all of the titles will retail for £29.99 with the exceptions being Nintendo titles that will come in at £34.99.   If anything the Nintendo games should be cheaper as all the royalties go to the Japanese firm unlike 3rd party titles where they take a percentage.

Even with the price issues high in our mind Gamestyle would still buy the GBA on day one, not because we’re millionaires or Nintendo are giving us freebies, no we’ll be down in that queue with you come Friday 22nd June.  One of our team already has the machine on import and hasn’t been seen since its purchase.   Not only do we have to buy the latest bit of kit with the excitement and thrill of it all in our minds – it’s an essential purchase.   What many have overlooked is that the GBA represents the first piece of Gamecube hardware to become available.   Not only are you buying a handheld but also a controller with extra qualities for the home console.  The inbuilt ability to link up to three other GBA’s and play certain games from only one cart should lighten the blow to your pocket.   The thoughts of hammering the rest of the Gamestyle staff at F Zero will soon become reality, then Mario Kart, then the world!

We all moan about the various formats and exclusive games across many systems.  In order to play the best you need to buy several systems and the argument for a single format has been with us for sometime.   The Game Boy and of course the GBA are the only format to own when it comes the handheld market.  If your favourite game developer is going to release a spin off handheld version chances are it’ll be on Nintendo’s machine.   Unless you’re Squaresoft that is, who are still paying for their allegiance to Sony after the SNES, you’ll have to import a Wonderswan for their games.  By buying a GBA you’re almost guaranteed hundreds of forthcoming handheld games from all the developers across the globe.   Added to this is the backwards compatibility with the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour games so no need to lose that Tetris cart.

Sega are now on board and from day one you’ll be able to buy Chu Chu Rocket, a fantastic game that any Dreamcast owner should be familiar with and a Sonic game to follow.   Only Microsoft and Sony are missing out on the party, rumours do persist that both are working on handhelds of their own.   Most think that Sony are untouchable when it comes to the number one position in the console market, compared to Nintendo and the handheld market they’re in weak position.   Such is the domination of Nintendo and its number one brand.   Mobile phones and Palm handhelds are often projected as being the future of the handheld market but are so far behind its not worth even mentioning them.   Another game of Snake or Tony Hawks 2, that is all we need to say.

At the end of the day we all make our own decisions but after you’ve seen the GBA in action it will prove hard to resist.   Gamestyle will be covering the system in our usual way with news, previous and reviews shortly.

Sonic Advance

Gamestyle Archive intro: well, this is an old Game Boy Advance review from Chris Parker dating from around March 2002. Sonic and his Sega pals are now like a rampaging virus across all formats. Reading this review again it brings back memories of the bizarre nature of his early Nintendo appearance and the general outrage from some quarters. Classic gameplay though.

The only other thing about this review is it comes from an old GBA excel file confirming it was the 18th review for that format on Gamestyle. The punctuation contained various error messages due to this file so I’ve hopefully cleared up all of those making the text a pleasure to follow in this archived version.

Writer: Chris Parker

Published: March 2002

Sonic_Advance_Coverart

Some things are meant to happen. The leaves fall from the trees every autumn, a cinema always waters down their soft drinks, and the BBC always resurrect Only Fools and Horses every Christmas for the final airing. These things are meant to happen. Life wouldn’t be as good, or the same without these little things happening in a way that makes everyone sit back and feel jolly happy that the world is indeed how it should be.

Sonic on a Nintendo console does not follow this sentiment in any kind of way. At first anyway; you see, there is something altogether eerie about seeing his blue spikes, scarlet trainers and trademarked V-sign salute on a machine emblazoned with Nintendo logos. It doesn’t feel right. Until that is, you start to play; Stories have never been the Sonic games’ strong points, and this is certainly still the case in the latest instalment. Just to fill you all in; Robotnik wants some chaos emeralds, Sonic and co have to stop him otherwise the whole world will go up in pixels. Ok, so its hardly likely to win any awards for story telling genius, but at least it sets the somewhat familiar scene without using half of the cartridge for cut scenes. A welcome change in this day and age.

The game itself is structured almost exactly like the Mega Drive and Game Gear Sonic games with their being two acts to every setting; the second act being the one with the boss showdown at the end. Of course there are various pseudo 3D bonus segments to be found throughout the acts, encouraging you to stop pressing right on the d-pad and do a bit of exploring in order to find them. All told though, these parts aren’t particularly endearing, and while not hindering the rate of play; they certainly don’t add as much as the bonus segments seen in the 16 bit versions. The acts themselves though are absolutely brilliant. Their design is perfect for any type of play. Want to blast through like an amphetamine-guzzling cheetah? No sooner said than done; why not grind some rails skateboard style, and loop the loop a few times whilst you’re at it? Slow paced jumping and collecting your thing? Sonic Advance may be less accommodating for this style of play, but it is still possible.

Of course brilliant design is one thing, the holy grail of games in this modern age is whether or not their graphics jump out from the screen, and slap us in the face with a large lump of proverbial low fat spreadable cheese or not. Sonic Advance may at first appear to be in the same graphical bracket as the third rate platformers that so frequent this platform, but upon closer inspection the graphics are truly some of the best drawn, rendered and animated on any handheld game so far. The flora and fauna of Sonic’s world is positively bouncing, with flowers spinning their petals in time to the music, water cascading over jagged cliffs and clouds floating their fluffy way through the sky; Sonic Advance’s surroundings are a true delight to the retinas.

Sonic and the other playable characters (Knuckles, Amy and Tails) are also brilliantly rendered. Each one is far more cartoony and in keeping with the feel of the game than the Mega Drive versions of their characters, and although the new look Sonic with his self imposed street cred may not appear at first to be as loveable as the original, within time he certainly fits right in. The game itself also plays magnificently. Each character has a certain set of individual moves, ranging from Sonic’s flash (don’t get any ideas) to Amy’s hammer smash. Control of each of these characters is precise and for the most part responsive, although every now and then the d-pad is prone to not responding brilliantly unless you truly hammer it down with your thumb: usually when the action gets corona damagingly fast.

Acoustically Sonic Advance is a thing to behold. When the Sonic games originally surfaced in the early nineties naff synth rock was considered rather;with it, and over the years Sonic Team haven’t really seen fit to change it. More power to them. It works brilliantly with Sonic games, and to hear reworked catchy ditties from the time when the Gulf War was grabbing the headlines and Blur dominated the charts, certainly rawks. The sound effects are also spot on with each leap, spin and punch nicely accommodated for with a variety of bings, bongs and thwocks. Superb.

As said earlier, the game is structurally almost the same as the MD versions. Almost you see, because what differentiates this from those earlier versions is the inclusion of a level select and auto save. This means that lives won from popping various television screens found in the levels is pointless and the challenge found in the previous Sonic 2D outings is somewhat lost. A shame, but with the frustration and instant death properties of some level sections it is often a welcome addition. But that minor frustration is a problem. The playable characters and backgrounds may be meticulously rendered, but the enemies are a poorly done bunch of goons. Gone are the larger than life enemies of the series past, now there are the poorly animated and oddly placed obscure clowns and other such mechanical monstrosities. Their placement in levels is often ludicrous and unfair; and the odd one nearly always pops up in a point in a level where you are inevitably going to knock into them.

I challenge anyone or anything now to create a greater sense of annoyance and anger than that created by speeding through a level at enormous speeds, dashing through loops, jumping on trampolines and then finally pegging it through the final length of the level; a grind-able spiral, and onto the home stretch with a not too shabby 253 rings in tow; when suddenly out of nowhere a fucking metal wriggly thing blends its brown way out of the tree trunk it was lurking in front of and then; diiiiiiiiiing! Sonic leaps up with a surprised grin on his erinaceous and all 253 of your rigorously collected rings go bouncing across the screen. I’m not normally one for swear words, but often the GameStyle games room, or even the bus for that matter, in a heavy bout of Sonic Advance, is turned blue with the kind of expletives usually reserved for muggers and Tony Blair. This happens far too many times and isn’t down to the inept skills of the player but rather the enemies; chameleon qualities and the fact that sometimes the game is running just too fast for you to do anything about it.

The small GBA screen often doesn’t help either. If there is one down side to the game, then this is it. There you go, we’ve said, we’ve had therapy about it and now we’ve moved on. But does Sonic offer much in the way of lifespan? The single player may not last too long if you hammer your way through it, but its certainly one of those games that begs to be played again and again; if not to simply sample some of your favourite segments for old times sake. There are a few other modes of play thrown in, such as a VS mode where you can race through the levels head to head or hunt for chaos, and it does support one cart play; which whilst limited, is still rather entertaining stuff.

And in the end that’s probably the best way to sum Sonic Advance up. Rather entertaining stuff. Whilst flawed in some areas, it is none the less the best platformer available for Nintendo’s handheld, at least until that plump plumber’s second Advanced outing gets released over here. And it really does feel like it was always meant to be.

Gamestyle Score 8/10

Super Mario Advance 2: Mario World

Gamestyle Archive intro: This review comes from a zip file where the reviewer (Chris Parker) kindly enclosed the text and bitmaps and a jpeg screenshot. It is also a rare example of a Gamestyle Ten score. Also note the various scoring categories – these were dispensed with in later versions of the site as we preferred an overall score.

Writer: CP

Format: Game Boy Advance

Published: January 2002

supermarioadvance2

As has been said many times by many a reviewer, Gamecube was the first Nintendo console to launch without a Mario killer-app. Obviously, with the GBA coming a six months previous to the N64’s cubic heir (well, in most countries) this must mean that the GBA had a Mario game on launch.

Didn’t it? Well…..yes. Yes, in that there was a game on the shelves with Mario’s iconoclastic tash and name plastered on it, but alas – the gameplay was not the quintessential Italian plumbing joy that most prospective buyers assumed it to be.

A confused mix-match between turnip-chucking and multi character hopping through shy-guy infested levels, never really set the world alight with innovation or general class. But one thing it did do was shift an awful lot of copies.

Thankfully Nintendo, in their ever generous mood of late, have seen fit to give us an update of what some might call the ultimate Mario game. None of that Mario Bros 2/Doki Doki Panic malarkey anymore. This is Mario World. Undoubtedly one of Nintendo’s greatest titles ever commited to cartridge.

As with all Miyamoto epics it starts off small. The very first level settles you in to the perfectly balanced left-to-right formula of collecting coins and squashing goombas. From then on, the large for it’s time and still nicely endowed game map, sprawls out across the title’s name sake: Mario World. Encompassing the rich green hills and blocks and snowy moving platforms that gamers have loved for years, is no mean feat for Nintendo’s handheld and although the 32-bit processor is capable of so much more – one thing made perfectly clear by this title, is that Nintendo meant it when they said the GBA was the ultimate 2D console. The scenery glides by seamlessly, Mario moves on a precise 2D plain with his trademark pixelised grace, and the game even switches into Mode 7 for some of the scaling boss battles.

The gameplay mechanics throughout are classic Mario, and the whole thing handles wonderfully on the tiny machine. Levels consist of pleasing cerebral challenges as you progress and as ever you really feel that Miyamoto (or Shiggy as he is annoyingly referred to on your typical Nintendo forum) has created a labour of love. Each level has it’s own, distinctive tune composed by the greatly talented composers up at NCL over ten years ago.

Note-worthy additions to the SNES original though, are rare. You do, however get the slightly pointless opportunity to play as Luigi by tapping one of the shoulder buttons before entering a level, although beyond a slight variation in handling this makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Secondly, Nintendo have bewilderingly tagged on the Mario Bros mini-game that was seen in the first Mario Advance. Now, don’t get me wrong here. But surely there must have been something else slightly more suitable than a mini-game that has seen it’s day already more than twice now. Perhaps a race style duel like that seen in Mario Bros DX on the GBC? Well maybe with the inevitable Mario Advance 3.

Luckily, they have also left the wonderful aural side of Mario World well alone, with the only real addition to the games acoustics being the inclusion of Mario Advance 1’s tinny Mario speech, so now you can hear the immortal “Lets-a-go” when you fire up for a quick game.

But then, it never is a quick game with Mario World. Sure, you could blast through a favourite level of yours. You could take a five-minute whirl at the seemingly pointless Mario Bros add-on. But Mario World always spirals into a heavy, yet joyous gaming session where Mario and the ever-vigilant enemies hold your attention and your thumbs for the longest time since Mario 64.

In fact, it’s been 6 years since a brand new Mario game in the normal jump and collect vein has graced a console. Sure there’s been several Wario Lands, and the odd Party here and there, but Sunshine in the summer of this year will be the first genuinely original Brooklyn-based plumber platformer since the flabber-gasting roller coaster of Mario 64.

The thing is, after re-experiencing Mario World and the 40 hours+ of gold plated gameplay that entailed. Sunshine and the surrounding rumours of cel-shading and backpacking, all pale in comparison.

Miyamoto could give Peach a tash, make Mario an uber-realistic BT salesman, cel-shade every darned game on the Gamecube; and we wouldn’t give a stuff. Simply because, what we have here is beyond doubt the GBA’s best game along with Advance Wars; and a heart-warming reminder of by-gone days where Link and the Moomins were never mentioned in the same sentence.

 

Graphics 10/10- sprite based, and still a damn fine looker.

Gameplay 10/10 – vintage, classic and most importantly – nigh on perfect

Sound 9/10 – tinny in places, but catchy all the same. Voices may grate if you aren’t Charles Martinet’s biggest fan.

Mastery 9/10 – doesn’t suck the juice from the GBA as much as, say Ecks vs Sever – but it does a fine job all the same.

Longevity 10/10 – 112 levels, and an okay multiplayer. Buy it, spend 40 hours+ completing it, then play it again. And again. And again…

Total (not an average) 10/10 – Words almost defy me. This is the game to convince young whipper-snappers that 2D is king, or the title to make SNES fans like us weep. An incredibly ambitious, well rounded and superb game. And most importantly – now playable on the toilet.