Saturday, November 20, 2010

Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

Oh Street Fighter. You just can't stop coming out with new versions of yourself, can you? It'd be one thing if we were talking about actual sequels, but we're not are we? No, you just keep making Street Fighter II all over again in slightly different forms. While the first "remake" had some notable improvements, its followup was just damaging a good thing. So what could you possibly offer now, another year later?

Selection screen.Well, the game is called "New Challengers" for a reason: there are four new fighters here to check out, which gave Capcom excuse enough I suppose to put Street Fighter II back on the shelves. So I'll bite. Let's take a look at 'em. You've got Thunder Hawk (in the game referred to as T. Hawk to save precious text space), a native Mexican who nonetheless sits down and says "hao" when he wins a match. Totally Native American, dude. There's Dee Jay, a Jamaican kickboxer who wants to launch a rap career on the side. Great. There's Fei Long, a complete Bruce Lee ripoff who's there because Bruce Lee is awesome. And finally you've got Cammy, an English special forces member with a shady past somehow relating to M. Bison. But let's be real - she's actually there because Chun-Li needed some female companionship on the roster, and no other reason.

Now at first the thought is "Cool, new characters, that's neat." But once you pick one up to play one I guarantee you'll just go "Ugh, this guy sucks," and return to an old favorite. That's not because the new fighters actually do suck, but because they're new. It'll take some playing and practice to get used to them, and after you play single player and watch them destroy you I think you're going to be willing to check them out. Fei Long is the most useful out of them though, based on his speed and moves, for what it's worth. But no surprise there; it's Bruce Lee. Seriously.

Not so cool runnings.I think maybe I'm still a little averse to them though because they just don't feel right (Fei Long being an exception). Look at this picture. I'm sorry, but that's just not Street Fighter to me. Capcom would keep pushing Cammy on us in later games, and I admit eventually I was won over...but these two clowns can go and I wouldn't miss them at all. Which is why it's good to know that Super Street Fighter II does more than simply adding a few new bodies and calling it a day.

For one thing, the graphics and sound are noticeably improved over previous versions. Not that graphics are the be-all and end-all by a long shot, but the game certainly is nicer to look at. Also along those lines, all fighters now have eight different colors to choose from instead of just one or two. While a lot of these colors remain ugly, options never hurt anyone. And some days maybe I'm in the mood for a lavender Balrog. Don't judge me man. You don't know me. Oh, and speaking of Balrog - he's no longer Mike Tyson. I know, it's equal parts relief and heartbreak. They let him keep a tooth chipped, but otherwise the resemblance is gone. Had to happen sooner or later I guess. And part of improved sound means new voices for some of the characters, like Guile. Problem is they didn't complete the vocal makeover; when he suplexes someone he still makes his old deep grunt, but when he says "sonic boom" it's in the most non-threatening, casual tenor possible. In fact, it's obvious they just got the same guy who does the announcer work for the game to double as Guile's voice, and it's laughable. I suppose now at least we know why those guys at his army base just let him get beat up, so there's a silver lining.

Of course, there are gameplay changes as well. The first thing to catch your eye will be the game speed. The "Street Fighter on cocaine" speed from Hyper Fighting has been mercifully removed, and the game now runs at its normal tempo again. Speed junkies might be a little upset, but don't worry - it's not like Capcom won't update the game again, right? Moves have also been almost entirely rebalanced, with some glitches fixed along the way. There are occasional anomalies (like Ryu's arms getting about 25% longer whenever he shoots a hadouken), but they don't really drastically affect matches at all.

Certain moves have been tweaked in a number of ways. Ryu can launch a flaming hadouken now and Ken can do a flaming dragon punch. Chun-Li's fireball has a different size and shape. Vega can now punch in mid-air. E. Honda can't infinitely hand-slap you in a corner anymore (thank God!). Zangief has a new slam. M. Bison has a follow-up attack to his Head Stomp. Throws have had their damage reduced so that they're no longer match-winners in and of themselves...though they're still stronger than anything else you've got in your arsenal.

Sash.And hey, since they needed to make new endings for the four new characters, why not address the others as well? Sagat, Vega, Balrog, and M. Bison never really had proper endings anyhow before, so they've fleshed that out appropriately. There are some little changes to some of the other characters too, all for the better (though the endings in general remained the same for all of them). Vega's ending actually says he "returns to his mansion to praise himself." Hilarious. And credit where credit's due - Fei Long's ending has him at least acknowledging that he's a Bruce Lee ripoff, and the ending revolves around honoring Bruce. Makes you a little more comfortable that they're not just trying to pass him off as original. Strangely, if his ending is any indication, Dhalsim is a pretty lousy Hindu. First off, he's chilling at home eating and talking to his kid. I didn't think ascetics were allowed to do any of the above. Moreover, when his kid asks him about a picture of Dhalsim as champion of the tournament, Dhalsim goes "Oh that's just your dad in his past life." Dude, I don't think that's what it means. I'm pretty sure you have to legit die and be reborn to call something a past life. You are basically the worst Hindu holy man ever.

Oh right, the game. Where was I? Yeah, the difficulty. It's up, my friends. Definitely up. The computer still has no qualms whatsoever about chaining a bunch of moves together that have no business being chained. Of course this still includes charge moves that don't require any actual charge time on the part of the CPU. Beyond that though, the computer will cross you up (attacking you in quick succession from both left and right so as to negate the ability to block) regularly, it'll break sustained grabs right away while for your part you just get stuck in them, and it'll spam fireballs all freaking day with Ryu or Sagat. Sagat's AI had been shouting nothing but "Tiger" since Hyper Fighting, but now he's clever enough as well to bait you with his projectiles until you try to jump over them - at which point he'll say his awkward "Tiger!...uppercut!" that sounds like two separate sound clips hastily merged together, and knock you out of the sky. Lesson learned: don't jump in toward Sagat. Ever.

Flaming psycho.At least this time around they've given you your own brand of cheese to beat the CPU at its own game. Yes my friends, the Psycho Crusher is back in full force and this time around it's just unstoppable. Remember the all-powerful leg sweep from Mortal Kombat? Yeah, it's that good. With proper timing you can just launch back and forth across the screen, hitting every single time, getting perfects against any opponent you might face. Even the boss, himself also M. Bison, is helpless against the fury. I don't know if it was an oversight or if Capcom intentionally made the move a world-killer for testing or something, but whatever. I'll take it. It's not nearly so invincible in multiplayer of course, and it's not like the computer's going to complain that I'm being cheap.

Really, compared to Hyper Fighting, this game is a huge improvement. But considering Hyper Fighting was a big step backward, that means Super Street Fighter II is only a minor improvement over the last really solid version of the game, Champion Edition. Some of the old gripes never went away (charge moves still don't command reliably, despite having three incarnations to fix it), but there's enough new here to like, and enough done right that it's heartily recommended. You probably won't like T. Hawk or Dee Jay, but that's okay - nobody does, and nobody's forcing you to be them. So I can safely say that Super Street Fighter II was the best version of the game yet at its release, and you know what that means. It means it's time for us to celebrate in the appropriate Russian fashion.

Zangief bites.

Oh....oh dear.

Bottom Line: 16/20

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tecmo Bowl

In 1987 Tecmo released their take on football into the arcades and dubbed it Tecmo Bowl. The game had promise but didn't really deliver, and was limited in a number of ways. Two years later Tecmo decided the best way to improve on the game was to actually attach the NFL brand to it and make it more accessible. And thus we have the NES version of the game, featuring actual NFL players of the time. The result was a raging success, and the phenomenon of console sports games began in earnest.

Bratkowski's Best.Of course, Tecmo Bowl couldn't hope to deliver NFL action with all its bells and whistles, what with the technology limitations of the time. As a result only 12 teams of the NFL's then 28 are represented in any fashion here. Additionally, the game consists entirely of 9 on 9 play, which I guess meant there were some unhappy starters in the NFL who saw themselves get axed for Tecmo Bowl. Ouch. It was like complaining about your Madden score before such a thing even existed, really. The other major fundamental drawback was the play selection, or lack thereof. Every team got four plays and four plays only. Usually this is broken evenly with two runs and two passes, but a couple teams have three pass plays instead (and only the one run). And defense doesn't have plays - in fact, defense in Tecmo Bowl largely consists of just guessing which play the offense is going to run next. If you guess right, your team gets a huge speed and strength boost for the play as though they were the 1970s Steelers on steroids marching their way towards another Super Bowl and eventual medical complications.

Yet the lack of plays is as much a charm as it is a drawback. The simplicity of the game makes it immediately accessible (of course, mastery of its various quirks takes more time). As a player, you only get control of one player on the field at any given time. On offense it's the quarterback to start, and then the ball-carrier after you hand it off or throw it. On defense though, you choose your player before the snap, and you're stuck with him through the entirety of the play. Such a choice might require some deliberation, which is why it's nice that the game has no play clock. As such, the offense can happily use an infinite snap count, complete with sounds, at will. Of course, the game clock stops after every play as well, rendering this unusable as an exploit (and also incidentally rendering timeouts unnecessary - they aren't in the game).

Joe Cool.Choosing your defensive player can be a nice crutch in case you guessed the wrong play, because at that point it's all you. Your teammates will even just stand around idle on many plays for little to no reason. And when you're up against guys like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, even Lawrence Taylor is going to need a little help once in a while. The game is pretty stacked for the offense, after all. Fumbles don't exist in Tecmo Bowl, so ball security is never an issue. Incomplete passes are even rare, thanks to how the game handles every toss. See, when you throw to a receiver, instead of leading them in stride, the ball launches toward their current position. This means that except in the rare instance the random number generator deems your pass to be errant, the ball is heading directly at a receiver at all times, and receivers don't drop passes. Passes also can't be deflected by defenders, so the scoreboard is likely to light up every contest.

So it's worth noting that the game gives the defense some advantages. For one, interceptions occur all the freaking time. If a guy is even lightly covered with a defender a step or two away, there's about an 80% chance of an interception. You might see a guy break free of the defense and streak ahead, and launch that deep ball - but once you do your receiver will simply stop and wait for the ball, giving guys ample time to catch up and get the easy pick. So it stands to reason that you'll want to run more than you pass in most cases, or at least toss short routes that are tougher to defend. But even if you do get deep and beat your guy, the defenders have a trick up the old sleeve: cheat speed. Cheat speed occurs only when a defender is chasing down a breakaway, and is exactly as it sounds - for no good reason, the defender accelerates at an alarming rate until he is faster than should be possible and can make the tackle to save a touchdown. You'll love it when you're the beneficiary, but otherwise,'s called cheat speed for a reason.

VV.Thankfully Tecmo Bowl also recognized the importance of halftime ceremony. After the second quarter, some cheery music plays while still images of various kinds of awesomeness cycle. They've got balloons, a marching band, and all kinds of burning hot cheerleaders. But as you can see, sometimes they go overboard. Too far, guys. Too far. Halftime can also be skipped if you want to get right back to the bone crunching action. And if you think "bone crunching" is extreme, you've never seen the kinds of blocks guys level in this game. It's pretty common to watch a dude get launched 15 yards before hitting the ground. There's just no real reason for it, but it's great. When it gets annoying is when your opponent figures out that there are no penalties in the game, and therefore blocks in the back are perfectly legal. You'll get blindsided so often you'll feel like a redshirt on Star Trek.

On that note, tackling can be a tricky affair in Tecmo Bowl. You can tackle a player just by running into him and mashing buttons (and he can break tackles by mashing buttons more quickly), but you can also press a button to dive toward the ball carrier. If you make contact, the tackle is instant and can't be broken. Should you miss though, you'll take a few seconds to pull yourself back up, and run noticeably slower when you are on your feet again. It's total risk-reward, which puts a bit of strategy into it - do you give up 4 yards to ensure contact (and risk getting blocked in the back) or dive for the quick stop but risk getting juked?

I admit I use the term "juke" pretty lightly here. Really it consists of zig-zagging, which is the be-all and end-all of Tecmo Bowl open field moves. When running against a computer defense, they will dive at your ankles every chance they get. By zig-zagging constantly up and down, you ensure that these diving tackles miss, and so can run the length of the field, barring a cheat-speeder who refuses to dive. Occasionally a dive can extend for 10 yards (ten yards) which is hard to deal with, but it doesn't happen often. Trust in the zig-zag and victory shall be yours.

Death by linebacking.Special teams in Tecmo Bowl are straight crazy. First off, every kick for a field goal or extra point is always 100% accurate. That doesn't mean you'll always make it though, since you do have a power meter to determine your kick distance. Just know that if it's long enough, it will always go in. There's just one little catch. See the dude marked with a number 2 in that picture? HE IS THE BANE OF YOUR KICKING EXISTENCE. That guy will always, and I mean always get free run to the kicker on every attempt. The reason is that the six blockers flanking the long snapper will automatically engage the guys right across from them, and nobody can block two guys at once in Tecmo Bowl. The long snapper himself just stands idle after he snaps it. Unless you run straight into him, you can blast between the other blockers with ease and tackle the holder before the kick is taken. On extra points you don't really have enough time unless the kicker is dilly-dallying, but otherwise it's a gimme. Especially on a team like New York, which puts Taylor in that position. It's evil.

Even punts get way up there on the "Okay, this is really nuts" scale. They use the same basic power meter, and at higher ends of the spectrum we're talking 80 the air. 80 yards of hangtime on a punt? I'm not sure that's even remotely possible. If you get stopped at your own 10 and punt it, you can very well expect to pin the opponent inside his own 20. Football announcers always say a good punter is a weapon, and Tecmo Bowl will make you believe it. Also, try your best not to be down multiple scores with under a minute left, as there are no onside kicks in Tecmo Bowl. You can do a short kickoff, but the other team still gets it 100% of the time, again with no chance of fumbling. If you're down, you're done. One last oddity here: during kicks and even throws from the QB, the players doing the kicking or throwing are invincible. You may have John Elway lined up and about to take a sack only to dive straight through him because his arm was moving. On the one hand it ensures there's never going to be a Tuck Rule fiasco in Tecmo Bowl as there was in real life...but on the other....come on.

Bo Knows.And "come on" is the mantra you're going to hear yourself violently screaming the second you find yourself up against this guy. Bo Jackson is Tecmo God. He's the fastest player in the game, and in Tecmo Bowl where speed is everything, that's a huge deal. Let me give an example: Once, as Bo Jackson, I found that the defense had correctly predicted my play, and so had double speed and strength for the play. I ran 20 yards back behind the line of scrimmage to draw the entire defense to me, then swept around them and ran back upfield for 25 yards before the cheat speed (which had brought them up to quad speed) finally caught me. Folks, that's a 5 yard gain on a play the game specifically programmed to lose 2. Bo Jackson is so unfair that most people have to ban the use of his team when buddies are playing. San Francisco is occasionally banned too because Joe Montana to Jerry Rice is relatively unstoppable as well, but, well, Bo knows Tecmo. A typical "Tecmo Bo" stat sheet in a single six minute game: 7 carries for 485 yards and 7 TDs. No, I'm not kidding. He's so good that when people meet the real Bo Jackson they spend less time talking about what a fantastic athlete he was in real life, and more time regaling him with stories about how they used him in Tecmo Bowl to dominate. No, I'm still not kidding.

Should we be surprised though? I mean, we're talking about a guy who, when he got a career-ending hip dislocation, popped it back into its socket on his own, without assistance, while lying on the football field. If you're going to make anyone the king of Tecmo kings, I guess he's your guy. The Raiders aren't even the best team in the game, but because of Bo's one play they're magically elite. But oops, I probably shouldn't say "Raiders" here. You see, while Tecmo was able to get the player names for their game and therefore the cooperation of the NFL Players Association, the NFL itself refused to let them use actual team names and franchises. So instead of the Minnesota Vikings, you just get "Minnesota," a team clad in purple and white with the 1989 Vikings roster. Wink wink, right Tecmo Bowl?

Going postal.There are things about this game that don't really have bearing directly on the gameplay yet are funny in themselves. For instance, after a QB throws an interception he doesn't move. At all. He stands there with his arm forward in ball-release position, stupefied that his inability to lead a receiver resulted in a turnover. The intercepting player can even run right at the QB and elicit no reaction. Less funny though and more "Oh my gosh don't make me look at that" is the stadium crowd. They only appear behind the endzones, but that's MORE than enough. They turn their heads back and forth in unison, wearing creepy blank smiles on their creepy blank faces, undoubtedly longing to massacre everything you hold near and dear to your heart. You'll be so terrified of them that you'll be thanking Captain Field-Goal-Death-Man for annihilating your holder before you can get the kick off; it saves you from watching them in their creepy evil head turning ritual. On a lighter note, you can actually "magic eye" them and they'll turn 3D. Really! Go ahead and enlarge that picture and try it out. I like to think that was the intent all along; "Oh, they're not trying to murder me, they just want to turn into a penguin* when I go cross-eyed!"

Tecmo Bowl is, frankly, awesome. It's at its best, as many games of this ilk are, when played against a human opponent of similar skill. It's even got a nifty "coach mode" for people who don't want to take full control or just want something to make bets on. In coach mode you just choose the play you want to run (or defend) and the results are simulated. It takes away a lot of the nuance and removes skill, but at the same time better emphasizes mind-games. A good option, whether you use it or not. The game isn't scored as high as it could be still, thanks to the many exploitable things to be found therein. A friendly game between two skilled Tecmo Bowlers can quickly degenerate into a zig-zagging, cheat-speeding, kick-murdering fest of unfairness on both sides.

Actually, I guess that actually makes it fair in the end, doesn't it? Hum.

Bottom Line: 14/20

*crowd does not actually turn into penguin when viewed as a "magic eye"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Star Wars

Remember when it was cool to like Star Wars? Boba Fett was basically the most awesome thing you or any of your friends had ever seen, fake sword fights were replaced by fake lightsaber fights, you could have a bunch of action figures without being called a nerd, and as you matured you could even reflect publicly on the directorial prowess of Irvin Kershner without anyone so much as batting an eye.

What happened? Where did it all go wrong? Some people like to take Jar Jar Binks and make a scapegoat out of him (which I admit brings him closer to a recognizable species than the movies), but I want to argue here that the damage was being done before the prequel trilogy. Before even the Special Editions and their inexcusable omission of the Ewok celebration song. No, for Star Wars to remain cool, it had to be cool to a new generation of people. And you know what's not cool? Bad video games.

Can't no be.Star Wars on the Game Boy opens with what you'd expect: the big title logo and a midi synth of John Williams' iconic theme. Then it goes nuts and flings you from a landspeeder into a cave before you even realize that the game's begun. And just like that, you take control of Luke Skywalker and have to roam the deserts of Tatooine to find the missing R2-D2. Along the way you encounter one of the aliens from M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, who calls himself "Obi-Wan Kenobi." Come on guys! Really? Really?! I was at such a loss here I really debated turning off the game and calling it quits. They only sucked me in more because Obi-Wan gives you your lightsaber, which is too promising to leave alone.

Wait, you know what? Why do you find him in the bottom of some bug-infested cave? There aren't even sandpeople about, though it wouldn't really matter if there were, since in this game all they do is pace back and forth harmlessly while you shoot them. They're incapable of changing heights too, just like every other non-flying enemy in the game. Just stand on a nearby ledge and fire away. Actually, while I'm on the subject, why are there caves anywhere here? I feel like there was enough going on in Star Wars that they could have just developed gameplay out of crap that actually happened in the film without having to generate a bunch of caves and requiring you to explore them all.

Jawa filet.The Mos Eisley section is ridiculous. You just go through town slaughtering everything you see. Yeah, that's how you lay low. And the whole time you're trying to collect shields for the Millennium Falcon, or in other words a ship you don't even know exists. And you know what? If you collect every possible shield before you board the Falcon, you'll still be two away from max. You have to redo whole areas if you want full shielding. And considering the totally unacceptable number of blind jumps in the caves (most of them going into spikes), you'd rather just not bother and make do with less shielding.

And hey, that works out nicely, because when you actually get into the Falcon, you have to navigate the asteroid field, or as I like to think of it, Neo-Alderaan. It's supposed to be a game of reaction and your shielding is supposed to be important, but guess what? You can just tell the ship to fly straight down and you will never get hit. It becomes impossible for an asteroid to make contact with the ship, and after a minute or so of cheesing the system, you'll arrive at the Death Star without so much as a scratch. It's a joke. Also a joke: the vehicles share health with the humans. This means if you're riding around in a landspeeder and it takes a few hits, Luke will get out of the landspeeder nearly dead. And vice versa.

Blade monster.The enemies are all equally stupid, though they manage to attain their stupidity in different ways. Womp rats die in one hit but are too short to shoot with a blaster, even if you duck. And they come out of little throbbing nests, which is just nasty. I already talked about the sandpeople. You get these dudes at right, who launch blades out of their guts. Beats me. The Jawas in Mos Eisley come out of nowhere. They literally rain from the sky. And they love to hit you with chain-knockback wherein every hit sets you back in their path for another hit until you die. Lovely. There are also a bunch of Mandalorians wandering about with seeker blasters, because that's just like the movie. The Death Star is full of droids, all of which happen to be totally invincible. You just have to avoid them. And I'm not even talking interrogation droids, or even protocol droids. Nothing so sensible. Trash droids, them's the ones who will take your life.

And speaking of the Death Star, I was under the impression it would be a big facility with plenty to do and see. Instead it's just a maze of elevators. First you have to navigate the big elevator maze to find the tractor beam controls and disable them (which you do by jumping off ladders and firing at it while turrets shoot at you...have they no respect for the source material?), but you'll quickly hit a dead end while you're trying. You'll have gone through every elevator and reached nothing new, while there are several platforms that you can just walk off into the nothingness. And naturally, you'll die if you do, except for one. That one lands you where you need to go. So to be clear, the game forces you to take a leap off a cliff in order to proceed, and if you don't leap correctly or from the right cliff, you'll die. Even if you choose the correct one you'll take a bunch of fall damage. Learn to design a game properly.

TIE fight.After the tractor beam you navigate a second maze of elevators to find Leia and eventually escape. When you do you get to fight a bunch of TIE fighters, and let me tell you, this is one of the most welcome sights of the game. Maybe because it's the only part of the game they didn't appear to screw up. Nevermind that the Falcon's guns are apparently just twin cannons that fire Kix cereal. Shooting TIEs is a merciful break from everything else. Of course, once you clean them out it shows you manning an X-Wing on Yavin and then you get to go fight more. And of course, that fight is bugged. One TIE is indestructible because it flies in a pattern such that your shots can't hit it. You have to keep shooting down its missiles (I thought they had green lasers?) and just stay alive. It's so simple, yet so poorly done. Get used to it.

One of the ways the game tries to market itself as cool is that Han Solo and Princess Leia are playable. As Luke you can go into the Mos Eisley cantina and recruit Han, and/or rescue Leia from torture and death at the hands of the Empire in the Death Star. Let me emphasize that both of these guys are optional. You can choose to let Leia die; you can leave Han on Mos Eisley and hijack his ship; heck, you can even refuse to talk to alien Obi-Wan and go through the game with no lightsaber. But in the former two cases you wouldn't be missing much. Han has a stronger blaster than Luke so there are times he's useful, but Leia is all-around worthless. She's got a weak blaster and no other beneficial qualities. And here's the kicker: if Luke dies, you lose a life and get to keep going. If Han or Leia dies, they're dead. You lose a life still, but they are permanently deceased. You can talk to Obi-Wan if you got him to join you and he'll use the Force to resurrect one of them (what?!), but he can only do that a few times the whole game. So you'll never even use Han or Leia for fear of losing them.

Turn around!Of course, there's a bug to exploit there as well. Han and Leia can't use the lightsaber for obvious reasons, but if you go to the menu and select Luke with lightsaber, then change characters to one of the others, pressing attack will cause them to morph into Luke, swing the saber, and morph back into themselves. In many ways this is preferable to using Luke, because while you risk killing Han or Leia, you don't have to watch Luke do his little pimp walk constantly. Yeah, don't ask me why, but for whatever reason they animated Luke walking with a pimp limp. Who knows. Besides, the extra life display is blacked out half the time anyhow so you'll never actually be aware of how many more lives you've got till you die. Might as well live on the edge, right?

One of the strange mechanics throughout the game is air tunnels. You'll see this column of up arrows, clearly marked. Jumping into it launches you up along the "air current" to higher ground. Sometimes instead of higher ground it's just ceiling spikes, because this game wants you to despise your life. And speaking of heights, this game has probably the weirdest and dumbest glitch I've encountered to date. There are ladders in the game for ascending heights in normal fashions. Well, if you fall off a ladder you can grab back on before hitting the ground. Pretty routine. However, if you do this and climb back up, stepping off the ladder will kill you (even on level ground that isn't a "fall"). The game I guess calculates fall damage as you're falling, and when you grab the ladder it doesn't reset that number. So the moment you touch ground afterward, no matter what, you explode. And it's not like I sat there experimenting with the game to discover this glitch - you'll probably die at least twice from it in the course of normal play. How does that get through testing?

Trench warfare.The game ends, naturally, with the Death Star trench run. The trench is huge, only defended by a few turrets and the odd wandering TIE fighter, and features an exhaust port roughly three times the size of your X-Wing in diameter. Who needs to use the Force when it takes up the whole screen? In fact, the game's other "boss encounter" is also ridiculously easy. It's the garbage monster in the Death Star, but it's a two second fight, if that. See, when the level begins you hit attack, because by that point in the game you've realized that they love putting crap right in front of you with no warning. So pressing the button causes Luke to swing his saber (or Han/Leia to transform into Luke and do likewise). And the garbage monster will just run its head into the lightsaber and kill itself. Seriously. One hit, it does the work for you, level's over. Unbelievable.

"So," you might be wondering, "does this game have any positives?" Yes, it does. It's got a sweet 8-bit remix of the cantina theme. And that's about it. Even the menu is ugly and pointless. You can select characters there, but you can also talk to Obi-Wan, C-3PO, and R2-D2. Obi-Wan just says "May the Force be with you," C-3PO just tells you it's not his fault and don't deactivate him, and R2-D2 gets you a narration stating "This is R2-D2." Derrrrr. Don't touch this game. Because it's Star Wars, you'll think about it. And because there is a bit of variety in the different levels, you'll think about it. And because if you picked it up as a kid not knowing any better you'd probably like it a little, you'll think about it.

But don't. Don't think about it. Move along. Move along.

Bottom Line: 7/20