Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap

 

WonderBoyIII

Password save? I am SO THERE!

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: West One

GENRE: Action/Adventure

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

Wonder Boy III, where have you been all the Master System’s life? This superb follow-up to Wonder Boy in Monster Land is one of the strongest cases for the console, a non-linear action/ adventure as epic as anything Nintendo gave us on the NES.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]000

“Mecha-Godzilla VS. Wonder Boy”

 

Beginning in the same castle where Monster Land ends, Wonder Boy finds himself back at Monster Land‘s final boss, the Meka Dragon. Thankfully, Wonder Boy is already beefed and the Meka Dragon is an easy kill. Right as you’re about to leave, however, the dragon’s spirit curses Wonder Boy and turns him into a mini dragon, otherwise known as Lizard Man. Your stats decrease significantly, and your only line of offense/defense is some fire-breath. Thus begins The Dragon’s Trap.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]001

Even Lizard Men get the low down desert blues.

 

Lizard Man is but one of the many creatures Wonder Boy morphs into over the course of the game. Every time you defeat a boss, a blue spirit chases you around the room and morphs you into a different being with their own unique powers. These transformations are at the heart of the game. Like any good Metroidvania, subsequent transformations give you new powers which unlock previously locked areas of the game. Lizard Man is the first of the creatures, and as previously mentioned, he breathes forth fire. Mouse Man is small, but he can also crawl upside down and around particular blocks (he also looks nothing like a mouse). Piranha Man can swim with ease. Lion/Tiger Man is incredibly powerful and has a formidable downward slice. Finally, Hawk Man can take to the skies and fly over and above the majority of the enemies (don’t get him wet). You can only inhabit the body of one creature at a time. As you progress further and accumulate more transformations, certain rooms will allow you to transform back to previous creatures.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]003

Blink and you’ll miss the so-called “Mouse Man.”

 

Unlike Wonder Land, which was a linear action game with RPG elements, The Dragon’s Trap favors a more open-world approach. While you always begin the game in a town centrally located between all the game’s areas, you’re free to explore anywhere your current form can take you. For example, to the left of the town is a bridge composed of golden bricks and a wall of blocks that prevents you from jumping over them. As the Lizard Man, you can’t destroy the bridge or climb the wall of blocks. You can, however, ascend up the nearby tower and wander through the desert. Later, when you have the Mouse Man transformation and the Thunder Saber that allows you to cut through golden bricks, both pathways will be open for exploration.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]006

Only Piranha Man can take you to the sunken ghost-filled pirate ship.

 

While you might initially be flummoxed as to where The Dragon’s Trap wishes you to go, once you unlock an area, the gameplay transforms into strict linear action similar to Monster Land. The enemies approach you with timing-based attacks. Snakes hop forward slowly. Sunflowers and gargoyle heads spew projectiles at you once a second. Ninjas throw stars, then leap into the air before landing and pausing on the ground. Because your sword is nearly as short as Link’s in Zelda II (that’s very short, for those who haven’t played the latter), combat is almost always an up-close affair, unless you’re reppin’ Lizard Man and his flame projectiles. This can be frustrating, particularly since the hit detection calls for precise attacks. Unless you’re right on top of an enemy hacking away at them, you will not touch them with your sword. You do collect limited secondary attacks from enemies, like tornadoes, boomerangs, and fireballs, but I found them weak in comparison to your trusty sword.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]008

Turns out, ninja aren’t Lion Man’s best friends.

 

As in Monster Land, enemies drop coins or money bags. It is vital that you collect them all. While money is not nearly as sparse as it was in Monster Land, you’ll still need every last copper for new weapons, shield, and armor. Better weapons upgrade your offense, stronger shields upgrade your defense, and bejeweled armor upgrades your Charm Points. Charm Points have one function only: to persuade the shopkeeper to show you his wares. If you enter a new shop and see only question marks where items should be, equip a piece of armor with more charm points (red stones obtained from enemies also add to your charm). The more charming you are, the quicker the shopkeeper will let you see his wares. While an interesting idea, all these charm points do is waste time and extend an already lengthy game. If you don’t have enough charm points to buy a much needed piece of equipment, you might have to grind to get the money/red stones needed.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]007

Worst boss in the game. Death to all Pirate Dragons.

 

Until you find the fabled Hades Armor and are able to regenerate health automatically every time your hearts run out, you must tread lightly as you progress through the game. The Dragon’s Trap is as hard as a kidney stone, unflinching in its ability to inflict sudden pain on the player; I saw my six full hearts be reduced to zero within three hits one time, and it shattered my self-confidence in Hawk Man. The game isn’t cheap, though. Much of the enjoyment I received from The Dragon’s Trap was learning how to be a better player within each character’s limitations. Amassing lots of money, buying new equipment, and getting stronger is extremely satisfying, particularly after you face a grueling series of battles.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]009

The final battle awaits…

 

While the combat in The Dragon’s Trap is rewarding, West One could have put more thought into the game’s level design. Monster Land feels less like a world one inhabits and more like a series of randomly connected, super long corridors that happen to have a bunch of monsters in them. Finding new areas to explore provides a brief moment of joy, quickly tempered by the emergence of similarly crafted rooms. Three hearty jeers to the password system, also. It’s the only way you can turn off the game and return (more or less) to where you were. The game doesn’t just provide you the password after you beat a boss, however. In order to get the password, you visit a certain room in town and the shopkeeper pig gives you one. This means that it’s up to you to remember to visit the room and write down the password if you’re going to turn off the game. Once you input it, you’ll be returned to where you were with your current form, equipment, and amount of gold, but no secondary weapons or life potions. It’s an imperfect and frustrating system, and for as large and challenging as The Dragon’s Trap is, saving via battery backup should have been a no brainer.

 

Wonder Boy III - The Dragon's Trap (UE) [!]011

Hawk Man is unamused.

 

Don’t let long, meaningless hallways and passwords bring you down on Wonder Boy. The Dragon’s Trap is brilliant. The designs for both the character transformations, the enemies, and the bosses are well-crafted and extremely memorable (shout-out to the shopkeeper pig, whose blindfolded visage and dangling cigarette make it appear that he’d rather be anywhere else). The graphics are sharp and colorful, nearly 16-bit quality. And unlocking the next area and experimenting with each creature’s powers will consume your waking thoughts. Truly one of the most rewarding experiences on the Master System.

 

A-

 

Turma de MonicaBR

Hijinx! Merriment! Mirth!

 

Turma da Monica em - O Resgate (B) [!]000

When children go to war…

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Tectoy

DEVELOPER: West One (“adaptation” by Tectoy)

GENRE: Action/Adventure

RELEASE DATE: 1993 (BR)

 

Turma da Monica em - O Resgate (B) [!]001

Wonder Boy isn’t quite as wondrous as I remember him being.

 

Turma da Monica em: O Resgate (Monica’s Gang: The Rescue) is one of Brazil’s infamous romhacks of an already released Sega game. In this case, Wonder Boy and his transformations have been replaced with Monica and his gang, a series of famous Brazilian comic book characters. With the exception of the Portuguese text and the main character sprite switches, the game plays and looks the same.

SegaDoes Episode 32: 2016-A-Go Go Baby!

 
Episode 32 is here, and with it, brief discussions on Rastan, Time Soldiers, Tennis Ace, Vigilante, and Scramble Spirits. Save for the surprisingly spunky Tennis Ace, a relatively mediocre crop. With this episode, however, we are almost completely caught up! By the time Episode 33 rolls around, I’ll have moved on to 1989 Mega Drive and a glorious 16-bit future.

Listen/Download the episode here.

The comments section is open, as always. Gorge yourself at the trough of opinions.

Sega Does Update, February 2016 Edition

 

Please-Understand

 

Good Saturday, friends. I wanted to give you a Sega Does update in light of the Kickstarter I launched two days ago.

Yes, I am busy promoting the Kickstarter, getting it to the proper channels, messaging folks, lamenting the fact that international shipping is a scam, etc., BUT I will still be keeping Sega Does alive for the next month.

To wit: Monday, Sam and I are recording the next episode of the Sega Does podcast. Expect it later Monday evening or Tuesday sometime.

I had also planned to rush my Wonder Boy III review out the door today, but turns out, that’s a big game (compared to most Master System titles) and I want to experience as much of it as I can. After Wonder Boy III and World Games, I start jumping into 1989 Mega Drive games, which will be great for my sanity. Alas, the first two Mega Drive games for 1989 are Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, a platformer of moderate length, and Phantasy Star II, a large, time-consuming RPG. In other words, with the Kickstarter running parallel to these large games, my review output could conceivably slow down to nil.

I’ll do my best not to let it, though. If nothing else, I’ll skip ahead and review some lighter games, then come back to the biggies at a later date. I know Sega Does is a journey, not a race, but I also don’t like going several days without some sort of content.

Anywho: this is the plan, which is subject to change because, alas, I can not predict the future. Thanks for your understanding.

 

– DC

My NES Book – A Love Story

 

I know, I know, posting about Nintendo on a site that covers pre-2002 Sega is akin to blasphemy. Hear me out.

Today, at long last, my book The NES Compendium is available to back via Kickstarter.

 

 

 

Check out the page here.

For those of you who have only been following my Sega adventures, prior to Sega Does, I reviewed every North American NES game on questicle.net. When I finished my NES journey in March 2014, I promised a book. A book is not an easy task to complete, however, and I didn’t just want to regurgitate all the reviews already on the blog onto paper and call it a day.

So, nearly two years later, the book is basically done. The NES Compendium features all 754 of my reviews edited, revised, and in some cases, completely rewritten. It also includes additional screenshots, box art, and a foreword by Jeremy Parish, editor-in-chief of USgamer.net and all-around champion of retro games.

Some of you might be asking, why a Kickstarter? Why not just put the book out on Amazon? A couple reasons: 1) a Kickstarter has the potential to draw more attention to the book. If I put it out on Amazon, some of my readers might buy it, but it loses any chance it has of reaching people outside the blog or my social media accounts. 2) I’d like to know if people are interested. It’s been almost two years since I finished my quest and had cries from people telling me to make a book. I firmly believe that there is a market for these niche gaming books – a market that is largely going unserved. This Kickstarter is a way of testing that notion.

If you could help donate or spread the word, I’d be greatly appreciative! Thanks so much for reading and for your continued interest in my work!

Wanted

 

Wanted

“I’ll give you $300 for Bon Jovi, take it or leave it.”

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sanritsu

GENRE: Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

In Wanted, you play an Old West sheriff, a pure lawman in a time of raging lawlessness. You roam through seven stages of sweaty hell – Tombstone, the Desert, the Saloon, the Hotel, and other seedy places of interest – shooting almost any and everyone you see. There are four types of folks: bandits with their guns drawn; pedestrians who may or may not shoot you, depending on their mood; ladies of the evening; and cowards with their hands up. If you shoot anyone who doesn’t have a gun pulled on you, some of your health will be taken away. If you shoot those who do have a gun (and dear Wayne, there are a lot of gunslingers), including the boss at the end who can sustain up to nine bullets, you’ll be rewarded with sacks of cash and a horse to take you to the next town. Keeping the peace doesn’t come cheap.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-01

Only fools drink at Bar Mary’s.

 

There are three types of stages: walking stages where you meander slowly through your environment and eliminate the troublemakers; riding stages, where you ride fast on your horse and shoot other riders; and challenge stages which allow you to hone your shooting and accuracy skills with a limited amount of time and bullets. Three difficulty levels are provided for you to test your mettle, but unless you fancy yourself an Eastwood-in-training, stick with Level 1. Yes, it’s the easiest setting, and it’s the only way you might make it through the riding stages, which are gul durn near impossible. The riding stage scrolls quickly and the riders ride by 2-3 at a time, shooting as they go. Enemy sprites are tiny, making them hard to shoot, yet it’s always easy to absorb their bullets. There’s also the occasional standing shooter who will take off an extra chunk of your lifebar if you don’t shoot him first. Thankfully, Wanted provides unlimited continues up until stage 6. Fail as much as you want, but get back on that horse, pilgrim. There’s sacks of money with your name on ’em.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-03

“Boys, boys, slow down. Can’t we work this out with our fists instead?”

 

Wanted has bombs that, once shot, will take out any outlaw within a certain radius. The more outlaws killed by the bomb, the more life you’ll recover. This is a nice feature, and it’s the only one of its kind you’ll find in Wanted. There are no other items, like life or better guns. You can shoot the occasional background object – barrels, windows, and the like – but that doesn’t provide anything other than a cheap thrill. Shoot the guilty folk, leave the innocent behind, and move on to the next station. It’s a lonely, depressing life.

 

Wanted (UE) [!]-02

Inevitability.

 

After the sun has set and hundreds of outlaws have been buried in unmarked graves somewhere in the desert, Wanted is just plain uneventful. You shoot lots of people and lots of people shoot at you, yet it feels like nothing really happens. The riding stages are the most energetic areas, but they’re hampered by skull-rattling difficulty made only marginally better by unlimited continues. The Old West deserves better. Saddle up, friend, and stay far, far away from these parts.

 

D

Vigilante

 

Vigilante

Nothing like a brawl and some yuks between bros.

 

PLAYERS1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Irem (port by Sega)

GENRE: Beat-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

Once 1990 hit, the beat-em-up genre expanded its horizons. Double Dragon II, River City Ransom, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game provided cooperative battling with a friend, move lists as opposed to a simple kick and punch, and in River City Ransom‘s case, light RPG elements like leveling up your abilities via reading books. Vigilante – originally released in 1988 for arcade – is part of the old guard, a straightforward hit-the-dudes-that-run-at-you excursion. And while this beat-em-up style isn’t necessarily bad (see: Kung Fu, Vigilante‘s spiritual predecessor), Vigilante‘s clumsy controls, overly aggressive enemies, and monotonous gameplay highlights the genre’s weaknesses.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]002

Not the junkyard! Also, “carring.”

 

The story is typical beat-em-up fare. Vigilante’s main squeeze, Maria (Madonna in the arcade version because 1988) has been kidnapped by the inner-city gang, the Rogues. Since your name is, in fact, Vigilante, you know your role: beat the crap out of anyone that runs at you in five seedy inner-city environments. You have a kick, a punch, a jump kick/punch, and nunchucks available on the ground in select areas for your beating pleasure. Get the nunchuks when you find them. Their attack range and overall power is far greater than your pitiful limbs.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]001

Vigilante and Bob Seger duke it out: “‘Like a Rock’ sucks!”

 

The Rogues have a limitless supply of thugs and are not put off by the failures of their fellow gang members. Regardless of if you walk forward, backwards, or stand perfectly still, you will be forced to fight two members of the gang at all times, and often from both directions. Each type of enemy has a different attack. Club Thug walks up to you, pauses, then clubs you. Rogue Rider rides his motorcycle into you. And Choke Hold runs towards you and chokes you. The bosses – Harly Hog, Macehead the Horrible, and Giant Defiant – all have unique attacks, “fancy footwork,” if you will. But get the nunchucks on them, attack their legs, and they’ll go down without much of a fight.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]003

Seger’s revenge: “Turn this page, you little punk!”

 

Choke Hold is the worst enemy in the game, and that includes the bosses. He might be the quickest type to take down – one hit will knock him off the screen every time – but he’s also the most abundant enemy and his choke will rapidly drain your life. The only way to shake him off once he’s on you is by pressing the D-pad left and right repeatedly. Keeping him away from you is not as easy as it sounds, either. Your punches don’t reach far beyond your body and, unless you’ve figured out the proper timing for your kicks, they can take too long to execute (more on this below). This means that you have to attack Choke Hold at just the right time/distance for him to go down. Otherwise, he’ll grab on to you and you won’t be able to attack. If you see a Choke Hold coming for you along with another enemy, always attack them first. If you don’t, Choke Hold will slow you down, drain your life, and allow stronger enemies to beat up on you.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]000

Ice cream shops were more eccentric in the ’80s.

 

As you progress further into Vigilante, your annoyance will turn from the numerous Choke Holds towards the controls. The game seems to read your command inputs about a millisecond late. Kicks, jumps, and jump attacks are the worst offenders. All three of these moves are slow to respond, while the latter two are compounded by awkward inputs (jump is button 1 and 2 together, while jump attacks are Button 1+2+Up/Down). Bottom line: use the nunchucks or punch whenever possible. Jump only if you have to.

 

Vigilante (UE) [!]006

I think it’s safe to say that smarts.

 

While Vigilante only has five short stages and the bosses are cake compared to the waves of thug templates, the game isn’t a rewarding one to suffer through. When your one and only task – beating ’em up – is made more difficult than necessary by obnoxious enemy types and laggy controls, you have to wonder why you went into the vigilante business at all. And if Madonna -er, Maria is worth the trouble.

 

D

Time Soldiers

 

TimeSoldiersUS

Dinosaurs riding tanks… what a time to be alive.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPERSNK (port by Alpha Denshi)

GENRE: Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (US, EU)

 

In Time Soldiers, you travel through different periods in history in order to save your war buddies from being eternally melted by a giant robot warlord from the future (sounds like a Iron Maiden concept album, eh?). Transporting between ages and places in history makes you feel invested in recovering the five captured POWs, but the top-down, run-and-gun gameplay is marred by bipolar difficulty and generic action.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [!]-01

C’mon Gylend, you’re better than this.

 

Before you even start a level, Time Soldiers will inform you where your buddy is located. Even if the text states that your buddy is in Ancient Rome, the game will start you in World Wars or Prehistoric Age – anywhere other than Ancient Rome. To get to the latter, you shoot/walk your way through a short piece of a level, defeat the mid-boss that appears after about 30-60 seconds of play, and go through a time tunnel that will transport you to the next time period. You have no say as to where the time tunnel will take you, so while you’d like to go straight to Ancient Rome from the World Wars, the tunnel might spit you out in the Prehistoric Age for kicks. Usually after a couple different levels in the wrong era, you’ll be taken to the correct era. Once here, continue forward until you run into the main boss. Defeat it, and you’ll get your buddy back. This roundabout progression continues until you’ve acquired all five lost warriors.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]004

You’d think Anubis would hang out in Egypt, but here he is in Ancient Rome.

 

The back-and-forth level hopping mostly serves to make Time Soldiers seem more in-depth than it actually is. Even so, the game’s non-linear framework is the only aspect that keeps you moving forward. You want to see where the next time tunnel will take you, even though you won’t care what happens when you get there.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]003

Why is that dinosaur eating a fruit leather?

 

In most run-and-gun shooters – Ikari Warriors, Guerilla War, heck, even the arcade Time Soldiers – you’re forced to take out as many enemies as you can, as quickly as you can. Not so here. Enemy placement is not only sporadic, but many of them don’t care whether the protagonist is there or not. As such, it’s completely possible (and recommended) to walk through the levels quickly without hitting more than a couple enemies. This doesn’t mean the levels are easy. Depending on the era you’re in, enemies can shoot up to four projectiles towards you at one time; yet another reason why it’s often wiser to walk past them. Yeah, you might miss the occasional power-up they drop, but you’ll have your health. Unfortunately, this makes for some boring levels where all you do is maneuver around rocks and buildings and shoot the occasional enemy. Admittedly, the further you progress into the game, the more you’ll have to actively participate in the war going on around you. But aside from the swarms of projectiles, you’ll rarely feel overwhelmed by your surroundings.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]002

Your finely coiffed hair infuriates the neanderfolk.

 

Time Soldiers is also a game where the mid-bosses can be harder than the main bosses. Main bosses are often slow, have a weapon or attack that can be easily avoided, and can be eliminated without much trouble. Mid-bosses zip around the screen, spew tons of projectiles, and will involve the loss of a life or two. In fact, unless you use a secondary weapon (missiles, energy guns, and tri-shot guns are all fantastic and necessary against mid-bosses), you will lose more lives on the mid-bosses than you will on the bosses or in the levels.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]000

Time-traveling is a lot like dropping acid. Both result in seeing whatever this is.

 

When I played the Time Soldiers arcade after the Master System version, I saw what the game was intended to be: a beautiful, chaotic onslaught of aggression that required more strategy in a minute of play than the Master System port as a whole. The enemies don’t just haphazardly meander through the level. They care that you’re in their territory and will do everything in their power to stop you. Also, the levels are gorgeous and feel like authentic worlds that you’re walking through. While I can’t fault the Master System port for having lesser graphics than the arcade, Alpha Denshi could have taken more care and interest in the port’s level design.

 

Time Soldiers (UE) [o1]001

Ancient Rome had crystal sidewalks and witches floating around everywhere, right?

 

Even with the port’s numerous flaws, I kept playing like a man possessed. I wanted to get further in the game to see the different time periods, even though I knew they would disappoint. They always disappointed and I never stopped playing. Time Soldiers for the Master System might not be a great example of the top-down run-and-gun shooter, but it does show that a unique concept can elevate otherwise generic action.

 

C+

SegaDoes Side Quest, Episode 2: Bring the Noise

 

Akira

 

Good Friday, friends. Today (or rather, yesterday – I’m a bit late), Sam posted a brand new SegaDoes Side Quest episode, chock full of great Sega music from yesteryear.

Download/Listen here.

Lots of solid tunes this week, including tracks from Virtua Fighter 2, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, and a live rendition of ToeJam & Earl‘s “ToeJammin.”

And if there’s a song you’d like to hear, throw out some requests in the comments section. I guarantee Sam will play at least one of them (no promises on multiple requests), so if there’s a specific track you want to hear, highlight it for him.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Time Soldiers. Girl, you know it’s true!

Tennis Ace

 

TennisAce

I’ll play your tennis game, Sega. Just as long as I don’t have to play against this guy.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sanritsu

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (EU)

 

Sega’s console options for tennis have been less than luvely thus far. Champion Tennis for the SG-1000 played like a colorized version of Pong with people in place of paddles; while Great Tennis for the Master System demanded perfection from all the youngsters who just wanted to hit a ball back and forth. Tennis Aces gets the underrated sport mostly right. Serving the ball can be tricky, but the high dollar racket action is always smooth and enjoyable.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]002

Double the Billie Jean King for your buck.

 

Rather than present bare-bones tennis seen in every home tennis game since, er, Tennis, Sanritsu makes it rain options on the player. Whether you want to get used to the controls with a Training Match, customize to your heart’s content in an Exhibition Match, or play 36 games in a row in the Tournament, you have the power. The Training Match is one-on-one gameplay that offers no perks other than learning how to play. The Exhibition Match allows you to choose everything before you play: the type of court you want to play on (Lawn, Hard, or Clay), how many sets (1 set match or 3 set match), and six types of background music (#5, with its mixture of melancholy and momentum, is my personal favorite). You can also choose to play Singles or Doubles with the computer or with a friend. Doubles with a friend is, of course, the preferred option, but I was surprised at how well the computer-controlled teammate kept up with me. Tournament is for the real tennis aces, the ones who sleep with their racket and dream of healthy yellow balls forever bouncing across lawn courts. 36 matches all across the world, several countries, a variety of courts, some single matches, some double. Thank Agassi that passwords are given after every open so you don’t pass out from exhaustion.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]003

Can’t get enough of your luv, babe (s)…

 

There are 16 (!) players to choose from, all with different attributes. Each player has numbers assigned to their technical skills, power and speed. The higher the number, the stronger the player is with that particular trait. After you win an Exhibition Match, you will be given two experience points to increase whichever trait you choose; if you win a Tournament, you’ll be given five experience points. In addition to these stats, players also have one of three different titles assigned to them: Net Player (one who plays best close to the net), Stroke Player (one who plays best in the back of the court), and All Rounder (one who plays best anywhere on the court). Unlike the skills, power, and speed, these titles don’t make a heap of difference in how the players hit the ball.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]000

This unfortunate soul looks a bit like the Cryptkeeper. But at least, he’s an All Rounder.

 

Whenever you start a match, whether Tournament, Training, or Exhibition, you always serve first. The camera will zoom in on the player from the side, you’ll press Button 1 or 2 to throw the ball in the air, then press the button again to hit it. Once the ball has been tossed in the air, you must time your hit just so. Too high and you’ll fault it on your opponent’s side of the court. Too low and you might hit the net, fault it in your side of the court or swing and miss altogether. Since the ball ascends and descends quickly, you’ll have little time to make a decision. If you find yourself biffing constantly, head over to Training until you get the hang of it.

 

Tennis Ace (E) [!]001

If the hot pants don’t make him choke, that eerie kid staring at him might.

 

Steep learning curve for serving aside, Tennis Ace is one of the better 8-bit tennis games up to this point. All the players control fluidly, the extensive in-game options ensure replayability, and the tennis itself is loose and engaging. Even the top-down camera angle – an angle I thought would detract from match play – doesn’t get in the way of the experience. Most importantly, Tennis Ace made me play more virtual tennis than I ever thought possible. Few football/baseball/basketball games can say as much for their respective sport.

 

B

SegaDoes Podcast Episode 31: 2016 Blowout

 

Yes, friends, the first SegaDoes Podcast of 2016 is here. We talk about California Games (I hate, Sam love), R-Type, and other Sam-picked games that we never got to during our hiatus. The show is rambly and messy and just a tad uncouth, but also amusing, in a “middle-school high jinks” sort of way. Next episode, we will be back to our own impossibly high standards.

Download/Listen here or, if not here, then on iTunes.

Like what you hear? Wonder why we’re not taking our work more seriously? Leave us a comment and we will probably* read it on air.

* “probably” equals “definitely.”