Adventures of Lolo (NES)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog entry. You see, I met a Yiddish sailor… okay, I’ll stop being silly.

This week I had intended to play and do a write-up on an obscure NES shooter called The Adventures of Dino Riki, but the more I played, the more I found out why it was obscure. It might end up being the first game I have to just give up on. Frustrated with that game, and being tired of reflex-testers in general, I decided to play a brain-tester instead. So I popped in Adventures of Lolo.

Before Lolo and Lala were hanging around with Kirby, they starred in their own games where generally, Lala always got kidnapped by a being called “The Great Devil” who, I guess, just liked to kidnap her. So Lolo goes to the Great Devil’s castle where he has to fight through floors upon floors of… puzzles.

In every level, Lolo has to get all the hearts, and then get whatever’s in the treasure chest (I assume its a magic stone, so let’s call it that). Once you get the magic stone, all the enemies disappear and the gate to the next level opens. But this is sometimes easier said than done. As I said, Adventures of Lolo does not test your reflexes (except in some levels), it tests your brain. The challenge is often in finding a way to get all the hearts and get to the Magic Stone without getting stuck or killed. There’s actually a “suicide” button (pressing select) in case you fuck up and render a room unsolvable. Don’t worry: while you only get five lives, continues are unlimited and always take you back to the exact room you were in, and passwords are only four letters long and again, unique to each room.

Incidentally, Lolo’s death animation is kinda funny.

It’s really hard to describe everything about the game without just giving everything away, and without sounding like an instruction manual. Suffice to say, everything you need to know is gradually introduced to you over the first couple of stages, and the game depends on you familiarizing yourself with its mechanics. A lot of the puzzle solutions depend on you understanding some nuance about the game design, and prey on you overlooking a small detail.

This game WILL test your brain. I’ve owned my personal copy since I was eight years old, but I remember I used to find it frustrating. At that age I was more into games like Mario, where you ran around killing enemies. Stomping on Goombas made sense to me, and solving puzzles just didn’t. My first victory over Adventures of Lolo came when I was like twenty, and it was in a marathon session which really tried my brain. By the time I beat it, I needed a couple of tylenol. That’s right, Lolo made me think so hard it gave me a headache.

It’s 2013 now, and does Lolo still give me headaches? Well, no–this time, I needed to take a nap! I wound up having this strange dream, where I was on a ship at night, and Bowser saw me hiding under a floorboard and tried to crush me, but the floorboard was strong enough to hold, but he wasn’t really trying to kill me, it was some sort of workout and he stopped to ask me something, and then me and my dad were in this weird antique shop, and my cat kept nudging me to wake me up so I forgot some things, but… yeah, lets just talk about Lolo some more, okay?

So with all the headache-causing and nap-inducing, this must be a terrible game, right?

Bite me. Adventures of Lolo is awesome. There’s just this rush you get when you finally work out the solution to the room. It’s like an endless series of “EUREKA!” moments, that make you feel so smart and accomplished. And I never resorted to a FAQ or a walkthru or a Let’s Play video, I solved this one entirely on my own. Go me!

Some people might complain that every level takes place in a brown castle chamber, or that there’s only one song that plays throughout the game (not counting menus, continue screens, the ending etc), but honestly, that shit never bothered me. In fact, I’d actually call the brown castle aesthetic a good thing, since a lot of the puzzles depend on you being familiar with the quirks and limitations of every type of obstacle and terrain, which naturally would fall apart if the aesthetics weren’t so uniform.

Really, my biggest problem with Adventures of Lolo is that it’s too short. Yes, too short. It took me only two hours to beat it this time, according to my DVD recorder, and when it was over, I wanted more.

Fortunately, there was in fact a Lolo 2 and a Lolo 3, and there were even more in Japan, including computer games with custom campaign editors. Hopefully I won’t be starving for long…

A NOTE: When I play most games, I usually stick to a “no credit spamming” rule (for non-shmuppers: Credit spamming is when you just keep using continues until you beat the game). But that’s for arcade games, in which sticking to those kind of rules helps improve your skills and reflexes and makes you better at the game. Adventures of Lolo isn’t that type of game–its simply, either you know the solution or you don’t. I don’t see what I would be proving by forcing myself to play a perfect run. So for this game, I credit-spammed like a boss.

So anyway, here’s the final level and the ending. I had intended to run this video through Windows Movie Maker to trim some fat, but for some reason WMM kept screwing with the aspect ratio, so I just posted it as-is. I intentionally died just to record the password for the stage, and then completed it.

I gotta say, the “Great Devil” is actually kind of a wuss, isn’t he?

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Dragon Spirit: The New Legend (NES)

I thought about doing a few things differently this entry. Like for example, “Should I do this as just a short video?” Or “should I add text commentary?” The former was just too much work for a game that (while good) wasn’t one of my favorites. As for adding text commentary, I didn’t really see much need to do so except in some cases where it might explain my actions in-footage, but I could accomplish the same right here. Adding comments to a video brings the evil temptation to try and be “Funny,” and my sense of humor is notoriously pain-inducing, so I thought I’d spare you.

Now, about the game itself. Dragon Spirit: the New Legend is a pseudoport/pseudosequel to the arcade game Dragon Spirit (available on the PC-Engine and on some of the Namco Museum compilations). It’s an overhead shmup where you play as a prince who one day held up his magic sword and said “BY THE POWER OF NAMCO!” and became a dragon. He has the power, indeed.

Your dragon has two main attacks: a basic shot, and the ability to bomb the ground. There are, however, dozens of power-ups that do everything from give you more heads (awesome!) to make you maneuver or shoot faster, to changing your dragon’s color, and others in-between. In fact, part of the skill of this game is learning to configure your dragon the way you want and then AVOID power-ups, because a lot of them aren’t compatible and you don’t want to have an awesome setup like a three-headed Green Dragon and wind up losing it just because you picked up the one that turns you Red (the red dragon sucks). Most of my early practice was just memorizing all the power-up icons.

Unlike most shooters, you don’t die in one hit. You can take up to three (and there are no health refills, except some of the maidens). But getting hit also reduces your firepower and takes away one of your dragon’s heads (if it has more than one). The effect though, is that this is one of the less intimidating shooters out there. I’d recommend this for Shmup noobs.

Three things any potential Dragon Spirit: the New Legend player should keep in mind:

1. The opening battle against the “MONSTER ZAWEL” is actually the difficulty selection. If you lose, the rest of the game is in the much easier and shorter “Gold Dragon” mode. Otherwise, you get the regular “Blue Dragon” game.

2. In Area 3, you can actually shoot the boss’s bullets (I didn’t realize this, which is why I kept dodging his danmaku-like bullet pattern)

3. Two of the Maidens (areas 3 and 5) only appear lit if they want to, basically. The others only appear if you have less than three heads on your dragon. Personally I think trying to rescue them all is more pain than its worth, so don’t worry about it–it doesn’t affect the ending or anything. They just heal you or give you extra lives and shit.

So, here’s the video:

Later on, I want to post a compilation of all the maiden rescued and un-rescued footage.

Contra (NES)

Even though I’m writing this entry on the 27th of January, I actually conquered Contra on May 15th of last year. I decided it should be my inaugeral entry because as part of my resolution, I have a requirement that “it only counts if I have pictures or video.” In this case, I recorded the entire game… two and a half loops of it, actually. And my entire session is already up on Youtube, since I showed it to my buddies at Digitpress, long before I decided to do this blog. (The Videos are at the end, by the way).

Now, I think every gamer knows what Contra is, but just to make sure we’re on the same page, it’s an NES Platformer-slash-Shooter where Not-Rambo and Not-Arnold are sent to an island fortress to kill terrorists who are actually Giger Aliens. The commandos have a severe weakness–one hit kills them. It doesn’t matter if its from a bullet or from a crab giving them a love tap. One hit, they fall. On the plus side though, the commandos get a nice selection of weapons, including lasers, a swirly fireball, and my all-time favorite, the Spread Gun.

It’s funny how this session went. I had only gotten my copy of Contra two weeks before the recorded playthru, and by no means was I finding it easy. In fact, on this particular playthru I wasn’t even really trying to beat it, nor did I expect to–especially when I got to one part where it seemed like I was just throwing my lives and continues away (and no, I was not using the Konami Code–I’m no cheater). But I figured, “I’m gonna keep playing until I get a Game Over.”

Then the game decided it was gonna hold me to that.

All the sudden, I got past the part I was having trouble with, and to my own surprise, I got to the last level. I thought for sure that any minute I would bite the dust… and then I won. The credits rolled, and… a second loop started.

“I’m gonna keep playing until I get a Game Over.” And after all, this was the second loop, it had to be harder than the first, and I had died so many times the first time around. I didn’t think I would last long.

Minutes later I was at the last level, again, and by this point I felt like the game was fucking with me. I was literally telling the game “Please, kill me!” and it was saying, “No.” I beat it again, and… a third loop started.

This time, I basically became suicidal, and tried to die… as much as I could, anyway. Sadly, my gamer instincts inhibit my ability to suicide–I’m programmed to survive–so I only managed it by chance. There, finally, the lonely soldier found some rest.

I look back on that session with a smile. But I have not played Contra since then.

It’s sequel Super C, on the other hand…

Anyway, videos: