Friday, July 16, 2010

Excessive details on Snowboard Kids

NOTE: If you aren't a fan of Snowboard Kids or uninterested in this article, turn back now.

Hello everyone. Sorry for not updating my gallery in a while, It's just I've been doing a lot these past days, so I couldn't get to drawing lately (artist's block). One good thing I have to mention is that the illness I had the past week is almost gone. So until I get the urge to draw, I just want to have a moment so I can talk about a game series that has been a big part of my childhood for years, known as
Snowboard Kids.
SBKCoverage.png picture by Superjustinbros
Yep, you heard me correctly. The Snowboard Kids series. Never heard of it? Well, now you do. The Snowboard Kids series was a nice little racing game that fell downhill during an attempt to revive the series after five years of absence. The series kicked off in 1998 with the original game for the Nintendo 64, shown below:
Developed by Racdym (now known as Racjin) and published by Atlus co; Snowboard Kids (known as Snobow Kids in Japan) is, as I've stated already, a racing game featuring four 10-year olds and a single 11-year old living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains hitting the slops to prove who was the best snowboarder in town. Unlike real life, the five children involved were not limited to just everyday snowy mountains to show their skills, they also went as far to snowboard on public highways, grasslands, a theme park, and a dessert. If you were to make it through the first eight courses, you would get the chance to race against a ninja named Shinobin with an unknown age on Ninja Land, and if you defeat him, you unlock him as a playable character, but this brings unfairness thanks to Shinobin's 2.5 stars per category, thus making the gameplay a little unfair for players choosing the default characters in multiplayer races not using on of the game's special boards. Thankfully, CPU players do not use Shinobin, unless you're racing on Ninja Land as one of the default characters.

This game does have decent ratings according to it's page on GameFAQS. It's certainly not the best on the Nintendo 64, but it is a good title to keep you occupied for a couple of hours.

But what about owners of the PlayStation who didn't have the N64? Surely people may have seen this over at a friend's house and liked the game, but their family wouldn't allow them to get a N64 because they already have the PlayStation? Well, the people over at Racdym and Atlus came up with a solution: Port the game to the PSX, but add a little twist.

click to zoom
And that, was how Snowboard Kids Plus hit the scene. Taking everything you loved about the original and adding more content, Plus seemed to be a step in the right direction. To tell you the truth, I have been hunting down this title for quite some time, but there is one little problem: The game was released only in Japan. Fans that lived in the United States and Europe never got to experience this title when it first came out. Only after the invention of emulators and importing could one actually play this remake.

Compared to the original, Plus appears to be nothing special. The only difference between the original and Plus versions is Plus adds in four additional characters, with one being entirely secret with the same stats as Shinobin (and one default with un-balanced stats). Alongside the inclusion of the new characters, Plus also featured cutscenes, and additional methods of customizing the characters. Judging from gameplay videos I've seen on Youtube, I assume this version has smoother frame rate but slower gameplay than the N64 version.

But the big question is, why was the game never released outside Japan? Well, I think that maybe the staff involved in producing the first game feared that the it wasn't that successful with American and Europeans, plus the appearances of some of the female characters (Nicole, the blond haired girl with the long ponytail, for example) would be too sensitive for audiences outside of Japan.

Now we take a step ahead to 1999, when the first official sequel was created.
Enter Snowboard Kids 2 (or Super Snobow Kids in Japan), the sequel that somewhat worked. All the characters from the original (and let's not forget the items) returned, joined alongside another 10-year old female known as Wendy Lane. Unlike Plus, this installment was given an international release on the Nintendo 64, although it was not released in Europe. Only Japan and America received this sequel.

The second game withdrew the Time Attack mode in favor of a full-fledged story mode featuring the six children and their daily lives while a teal-green alien named Damien attempts to sabotage their adventures and make their lives as miserable as possible. I don't want to tell you about the game's ending, so feel free to head over to Wikipedia and see for yourself.

Shinobin, as well as all the characters exclusive to Plus, did not appear in the sequel, although SBK2 has several characters (three to be exact) that can be unlocked as you advance through the game. The different terrains the characters snowboard on have become even zanier; only three of the nine courses in the entire game (not counting two courses where sub-games are played) feature snow. Aside from the absence of Time Trial and the secret boost at the start of a race, and slightly slower movement speed, I thought this was a great entry in the series once you run through it once.

After around five years of absence, Altus decided it was time to give the series a revival. So they turned to a new company known as "in-glove Co., ltd" to develop the next entry in the Snowboard Kids, and it turned out to be a big mistake. A very big one. This was primally an insult to the original N64 games, although there were a few good things that were in the game. Since I didn't enjoy this one as much as the originals, I'm going to discuss the negative factors about the DS game; SBK: Snowboard Kids.
Now incase you're wondering, yes. These are the characters I used for the promotional image I created especially for this article, but that doesn't mean anything. Let's start talking about how much this one failed to impress me, starting with the characters.
SlashPKMNTransform.png picture by Superjustinbros
One thing I was quite disappointed about was the fact the cute chibi-styled characters with big fat noses were abandoned in favor of a general anime style, and also that there were very little simalitaries to the characters from the original series. First of, none (and I repeat, none) of the characters are actually young enough to be considered children. In fact, two of the characters (Jam and Tommy) are 18 years old, thus making them not teens but adults. So, that right there defeats the whole purpose of it being called "Snowboard Kids". Should have been "Snowboard Teens & Adults." It would have been stupid, but it would make a whole lot of sense how old everyone was. If you don't believe me, this diagram should be quite useful.
SBKCharactercomparison.jpg picture by Superjustinbros
Also, all the characters are now from different countries. No longer do they live in the same town located in Canada. The only person that still resides in Canada itself is Tommy, who has also transformed (personality-wise) into a nasty bully.

Now let's talk about the two newcomers. Brad Maltine is, I kid you not, the sister of Linda Maltine, the girl responsible for starting the snowboard tournament in the original Snowboard Kids. The other newcomer, Koyuki Tanaka, is entirely original, although very slightly inspired by Kaede, one of the two secret characters from SBK+. Kaede also serves as part of Linda's replacement, since they're both of the same gender, and appear to have similar stats. (not sure, though.)

Another thing I was disappointed about was the gameplay itself. No longer do you see these kids (um,... excuse me.) teens snowboarding down strange and bizarre landscapes, all the courses in this game take place on snow. The closest to the original format this game's courses ever got was one of the tracks featuring the characters snowboarding down the top of buildings. They were covered in snow, but even if it wasn't, it would still be interesting.

Now how about Projectiles and Items? Well, to say the least, they brought them back, but made things a lot worse when it comes to them. No longer can you collect coins scattered along the track and break open red and blue boxes to obtain weapons to use to your benefits,... Well, yea. You can do that in this game too, but all the items are free, and there's not much variety. Plus, they only house non-projectiles. So how do you get projectiles? You earn them. How? By filling up some stupid "SBK" meter by doing tricks and picking up diamonds. And that's another thing that bugs me. The SBK meter. It's probably on of the most annoying features about the game. It's main purpose is to signify how much "energy" you have. They power-up your projectile weapon, and if you fill it all the way, you can do a special trick by launching off a ramp, then almost immediately touching several pannels on the touch screen. If you miss-calculate a touch, don't jump high enough, or waste too much time touching the screen in the right way to do the trick, you'll fail at the special trick, and waste precious time, allowing your opponents to pass you.

I feel I've said enough. Overall, SBK: Snowboard Kids isn't bad, but it's not much of a worthy title on the DS if you look past it's flaws. If you can't get a hold of the originals, then get this one if you can find it. Hopefully Atlus will bring Racjin back into the ring to create one last SBK game that stays true to the concepts of the N64 installments, even if it's a enchanted remake or compilation of the original games.

Good day, everyone. I'll see you later.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Questions Mark 3

NOTE: This post contains very minor mentions of that "franchise" that is still, and will remain cancelled. And like all previous minor mentions of it, it is for important reasons.

Do you have a Facebook and/or twitter accounts?
As I had said multiple times previously, yes. I do have both Facebook and twitter accounts. Unfortunately, I will not add you to my friends list on Facebook (unless you send me a request). You will have to search my real name (Justin De Lucia) and look for it yourselves, since I don't how how to link to one's Facebook page (yet). If you want to know which of the Justin De Lucia's is me, look for the one with this image:
Facebooktwitterprofilepage_bigger.png picture by Superjustinbros
My twitter can easily be accessed simply by going to the Twitter widget located on the right side of this blog, then by clicking on the "Join the conversation" link, you will be taken straight to my twitter page, and from there you can follow/reply to me. Alternately, you can find a link in the "External Links" section of this blog, also located on the right side.

Why are there no links to any Rosenkreuzstilette sites (including unofficial sites)?
First off, I should say that Super Justin: the Blog is not a Rosenkreuzstilette fansite, despite my excessive love to the series and all that I've done to praise it, but the reason why I avoid linking to RKS content is because some of the sites (the website of WOMI, for example) consist of/link to adult (not safe for work) material. And since I have a few friends from my school who visit this blog (either at home or at school itself), I don't want anyone to get into severe trouble.

When someone asks you for a request, why sometimes will you reject it?
Just like nearly every person on this planet, I like drawing specific things, so if just so happens I don't like the character(s) you ask me to draw for you, I'll reject it by saying (as polite as I can) something like "Sorry, but I cannot do your request."
And since we're on the topic of requests, I'd also like to mention the following: When asking for a request, please avoid saying something like "Do not disappoint me with my request," as a comment like that can get me excessive stress. Just ask, give me the references, then wait for the final image to be done. I'll put as much effort as I possibly can into your request. I know I am not a perfect artist. Nobody is perfect at anything, no mater how much you work at something, there is always going to be some sort of minor flaw that prevents something from being perfect. For me, it's art. If just so happens the artwork I create for you is not to your liking, just let me know of your opinion, favorite it if you like, and do nothing else. Don't say anything negative, or else you'll make me feel upset.

Why whenever you need additional characters for Aozora Jitsuwa, you always start a contest?
Well, incase you probably haven't noticed, I'm not so good when it comes to designing characters, plus, it gives regular people a chance to have their own creations get represented and greatly featured in my own series, much like with the Mega Man games and Rosenkreuzstilette ~Freudenstachel~.

Speaking of Aozora Jitsuwa, do you plan to create an official wiki for the series?
If you are curious, yes. An Aozora Jitsuwa wiki is currently in the planning stages, but in order to avoid harsh criticism, I'm going to probably wait until the first of the games based on the series.

Wait wait, GAMES?!?
That's right, everyone. Haters of Aozora Jitsuwa, get ready to get out your trusty weapons and prepare to commit suicide, because it is true, I am planning several Aozora Jitsuwa games as we speak. All of them are currently in the early planning stages; none of them have started development. Since I'm here, I'm going to let you know what's going to be made.

The first of these games, simply titled "Aozora Jitsuwa" will be a 2-D platformer focusing solely on Aozora and his attempts to take back the Jetters after they were kidnapped and re-programed by the A.C.E.S. to do their dirty work. The game will be mostly a clone of Nintendo's popular Super Mario series, but with a much higher level of difficulty (A great amount of levels scattered around 11 worlds, and a very, very limited amount of 1-Ups, which are well hidden in the levels.) and boss battles somewhat inspired from Mega Man. I also plan to throw in some of my own gimmicks just for added amusement. The game will also consist of spoofs and parodies on other popular video game series, as well as many different manga/anime. Unlike with that other game I had to cancel, this game (as well as the entire Aozora Jitsuwa series in general) is not intended to cash in on the popularity of any of the series that are spoofed or parodied, they are meant to act as non-profit tributes with a bit of a nostalgia feeling.

The second game has a working title of Aozora Jitsuwa 64, and as you expect, it's going to be based on the gameplay style of Super Mario 64, and will feature a gang of eight evil witches as the antagonists. Currently, at this time, there is a contest going on to determine the members of this group, and everyone is allowed to participate.

Well, I'm out of questions for the time. Anything else you have to say?
Yes, one thing for the Japanese:

の私の日本の視聴者包めば嫌悪症は気づいていなく、私の「特権」が永久に取り消されてしまったそれに基づく何でも(ゲーム、日本製アニメ、コミック)決して日の目を見ません極度のジャスティン。 これは余分な批評がされた原因厳密な著作権侵害を避けるためにであり。 私はpixivで日本のユーザー全員および幸せな私の悪い機構にかかわるユーザーをRKSのための開発に加わった特にそれら作るためにこれをしています。 私は決してそのような事を再度作成しません。
(Translated: Incase any of my Japanese viewers and haters are unaware, my "Super Justin Franchise" has been permanently canceled and anything based on it (Games, Anime, Comics) will never see the light of day. This was done due to excessive criticism and to avoid strict copyright infringement. I am doing this to make all the Japanese users on pixiv and those involved in my bad schemes happy, especially those that took part in development for RKS. I will never create such a thing ever again.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

SJB Review: The Almighty Mr. Ice

Hi everyone. Today I am proud to present the second of my game reviews, and this time, it's the Korean Super Mario Bros. clone by HighMind entitled The Almighty Mr. Ice, available for iPhone and iPod Touch.
MrIceTitle.png picture by Superjustinbros
Yea. We probably know how much SMB inspired so many games, and this is one of them. But anyways, you control a guy named Mr. Ice on his quest to stop his evil look-alike, Dark Mister.
Now upon starting, you're presented with three options, "New Game," "Load Game," and "How To." Since I don't want to start the game from the very beginning, I'll select "Load Game" and load my previous save file.
IMG_0016.png picture by Superjustinbros
Here it is. The stage select screen, where you can choose your destination. Now wait a sec... look at that yellow stamp on the level windows. They spelt Normal as Nomal (that "nomal" stamp only appears if you complete the level on Normal difficulty). But anyways, select your stage, then the difficulty setting. I'll explain what the difficulty settings do later, but now, let's see what Stage 1 looks like.
IMG_0004.png picture by Superjustinbros
Okay, Right off the bat, what's wrong with this picture? Look at Mr. Ice, Don't tell me that reminds you of a few specific characters. And I can name three. Numbuh 2 from Codename: Kids Next Door, Rayman from Rayman, and Mario from Super Mario. But oh look! Coins! Another element taken straight from Mario!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash this game just because it's a clone of the Mario games and the characters are based off pre-existing characters. But I just wanted to say that for the lols.

Oh, and one more thing. The game lacks BGM. That's right, no music exists in this game whatsoever. How nice.
IMG_0007.png picture by Superjustinbros
Here's our first blocks. a "How" block telling you how to play, (duh.) and a "Item" block which houses one of the game's two items. Let's hit the "How" block and see what it has to say.
IMG_0008.png picture by Superjustinbros
*sigh* It appears we have some Engrish in the "How" boxes. But how can I complain? The people that made this game were Korean (No offense), so they probably didn't understand English well. Another thing I'd like to point out is that a lot of the later levels also have these "How" blocks, and they have "U" written instead of "You."
IMG_0009.png picture by Superjustinbros
Anyways, I hit the "Item" block, and out comes a sliver boot. Let's have Mr. Ice pick it up and try it out.
IMG_0010.png picture by Superjustinbros
...And now he's blue. Just like with the Fire Flowers from Mario, collecting the Ice Boots simply changes Mr. Ice to a different (baby-blue) color and gives him some new abilities. One of them being the ability to freeze enemies. Let's see that in action.
IMG_0012.png picture by Superjustinbros
Oh look, an enemy. Let's execute a simple stomp attack while wearing the Ice Shoes and see what happens!
Now the enemy's frozen solid. Unlike New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you don't pick up frozen enemies and throw them, Mr. Ice kicks the enemy and sends it flying, like Koopa shells.
Look at 'em go; Wooooooo.....
IMG_0011.png picture by Superjustinbros
Here's the other thing the Ice Shoes can do. You can perform wall jumps. But unlike Mario's wall jumps, you can jump straight up instead of towards the opposite wall, and you do not slide down when you are against the wall.

Moving on to stage two, we have or next enemy: Crows.
IMG_0019.png picture by Superjustinbros
They're not much of a threat right now, but later, they'll become loyal pests.
Oh no! I got hit and shrunk down to half my size! Fantastic. How fantastic.
And if any of you are wondering what's with that Mr. Ice hologram on the floating platform, that's an ally of yours. You use them to cross instant-death spike pits and perform higher jumps. (Plus they also help you in a section in stage 5, where you have to travel along a certain path, or else the game sends you backwards in the level.)
Here's the other item. A red glove called the "Almighty Glove" that grants Mr. Ice the ability to damage everything on the screen by shaking the iPhone/iPod Touch, or by tapping the screen multiple times quickly.
IMG_0029.png picture by Superjustinbros
Get ready for another Mario homage.
That's right, the Spin Jump from Super Mario World even makes an appearance. By jumping then touching the screen again, Mr. Ice dives down and destroys any non/solid block in his path.

I'm going to be skipping stages 3-5 and move on straight to Level 6, where the frustration begins.
IMG_0022.png picture by Superjustinbros
This is where I began to experience troubles because of how difficult it can be to perform a super jump. You know how in Mario games you get more hight if you jump off an enemy with the Jump button held down? Well here, you have to touch the screen right as Mr. Ice lands on the enemy. If you're just a millisecond early or late, you have to try again.
Here's another situation were the same thing occurs. You have execute a Super Jump on the hologram so that you can jump over the spiky slime creature as the hologram passes underneath the block it is standing on. If you mess up, you fall into the spikes and die instantly. So in order to bypass this section, I had to let the spiky slime hurt me and use the after-invincibility to quickly cross the pit.

The most difficult of all the levels in this game is the seventh. Look. this spike pit is too wide for me to cross it without getting killed, so we have to look around for another way.
Bingo. Again like the Mario games, there are hidden blocks that you have to find in order to progress through the level. What a why to up the difficulty, especially since I got stuck in other parts of the game and couldn't escape from where I was.
IMG_0026.png picture by Superjustinbros
Here's the second and more challenging pit of stage 7, which requires you to master the Super Jump (bouncing off the enemies) to progress...
...but the wall is to high even to reach with the Super Jump. So what do you have to do? You see that crow? You do a Super Jump off it after using the Mr. Ice hologram to reach it safely. But if you miss the Super Jump, you can't try again. You have to return to the solid ledge to the left of the pit, and wait for the crow to reappear, then wait for the hologram to reach you, then try again. And if that wasn't enough, there are other parts of the same level that require you to jump off crows to reach the other side, so that's why I said you have to master the Super Jump technique, because that first pit is not the only one that requires you to jump off crows just to get to the other side.

Now I think it would be time to discuss what the difficulty levels do. Normal has no exotic twists, Easy makes a Ice Shoe power-up spawn whenever Mr. Ice becomes small, and Hard makes the boss faster and more difficult to defeat, but also requires you to collect all 99 coins that appear in each level before you can actually confront the boss, and given how some of the coins are well hidden inside the breakable blocks that you often have to walk across to clear a gap, it makes Hard mode much more difficult that it should be. If the amount of coins required was a little smaller, that that would be perfect, since you wouldn't have to search every nook and cranny for each coin. Also, the difficulty settings don't adjust the level layout or enemy behavior in any way. Only Hard makes the boss itself harder. That's it.

IMG_0032.png picture by Superjustinbros
And so, we're up to the final boss, Dark Mister. And like I said, he's a evil version of Mr. Ice that is twice as large with a zig-zag mouth. You have to use the green slimes as a spring to jump high in the air and drill-stomp Dark Mister in the head several times. Once you beat him, this screen comes up:
This game is telling me if I want to unlock Stage 9, that I have to run through all 8 levels on Hard mode, which would be near-impossible given how well the coins are hidden. I'm not even going to bother showing it, since it would take forever trying to reach it.

And one more thing. What's with the random crashing before/after some levels? If it happens after you beat a level, it corrupts the data, making you have to start all over again.

So that's The Almighty Mr. Ice. My final opinion? It's a fairly decent clone of Super Mario, but a lot of things in the later stages made the game harder than it should be. If you're not sure if you're going to like playing this, play the Lite (free) version first before you decide to play the full product. It's not the best game on iPhone/iPod Touch, but it's decent enough to be somewhat enjoyable.

UPDATE: Hey everyone, Just a small minor update. Not long ago I unlocked the Extra Stage, and it's just a really difficult level with the BG of Stage 1 and the FG of Stage 7. The boss is just Dark Mister all over again, and the boss of Stage 3 is now a regular enemy, the same size of the other enemies.

The Almighty Mr. Ice receives a 6.8/10.