|I skipped the second game in this GBA compilation collection, but 3 looked interesting, at least because of the hockey game, so I got it, and here we are. The two games in volume 3 are something like "Nekketsu Koukou Hockey-bu" (Hot-Blooded High School Hockey, maybe?) and one GameFAQs calls "Downtown Special Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki Da Yo Zennin Shuugou."|
Hockey-Bu is a three-on-three affair where you spend most of your time smashing the other team, and some of it putting a hockey puck in the opponent's net. Rather similar to other Technos Japan Kunio sports titles, really, including Super Dodge Ball and Basketball (see entry 878) and Soccer (see entry 479). You can't actually kill off the other team members here, which makes me wonder why they even bother giving the characters health meters (and they get filled back up after each period), but, well, at least you can hit them with hockey sticks.
Not to mention kendo swords and baseball bats. As you play through match after match, you get to choose from different outfits to have the two sides wear. I'm not sure what the point is, really, but it's kind of funny, and at least adds some variety to what is otherwise a rather monotonous affair of beating people up with sluggish ice-skating controls. The teams lack the personality of the teams in Super Dodge Ball, unfortunately--they're really just guys with different haircuts.
Well, that's not entirely true. They get tougher as you go along, and they tend to have slightly different abilities--one may be faster at skating, or jump hitting, or something. Also, they have different supers. Yeah, like in Super Dodge Ball, you can do super attacks. Here, you just hold the shot button until your stick flashes. You can also do a sort of short-range fireball by pressing the shot button at the apex of a forward jump when you have the puck. This stuns the person in front of you momentarily.
Otherwise, you just press A to swing low or pass, and B to swing higher or shoot. Also, A+B to jump. I've seen the CPU to a jumping shot, but I haven't really been able to do that--the puck just slides along on the ice below me, and usually someone comes along and swipes it. So for me it's usually a matter of mashing A to knock the guy in front of me down, then trying to grab the puck and race off with it.
Passing is a little weird. For one thing, your teammates have this annoying habit of sending one guy ahead while another flanks you, and when you try to pass to the forward guy, it always passes to the side guy instead. And if no target is detected, for unknown reasons usually, you just flip the puck up into the air in front of you, where it hovers out of reach, no doubt while the enemy skates up and pummels you into the ice. You have to hold the pass button to make a decent pass, and usually you get hit while doing it.
Shooting is better. It's hard to get enough time unmolested to get off a charge power shot, which feels about right. I usually just settle for shooting from the side, because the CPU goalie doesn't seem to cover the corners well at all. That part isn't so great.
He's great from the front though, which is more than I can say for me. When the puck gets down to your own end, you suddenly control both the goalie and your other guy closest to the puck. This is pretty disorienting, to say the least.
In fact, what with the usual Technos Japan Famicom sprite flicker, slowdown, and ceaseless violence, it's often hard to tell just what the heck is happening. You just kind of have to go with it. Once you play with it for a while, you find that matches can have a real back and forth flow to them, where you have all-out high-sticking war for a minute or two before one team manages to stuff the puck into the opposing net.
So that's kind of fun. The matches seem a little long to me, though: three three minute periods, I think. I keep wishing they were over by about midway through the second period. Not really a great sign, I suppose; this is probably one of those games I'd have to kind of *make* myself sit down and play. Some of the action is fun, but the berzerk, repetitive action and squirrely control starts to get to even me after five minutes or so.
The Downtown Special game is something like a medieval Japan sequel to River City Ransom (see entry 529). And you can see where they got the idea for the AI wingmen in River City Ransom EX (see entry 538). You start out with one helper here, who follows you all over the place and helps beat people up (just don't pick the right option on the 1/2 P select screen, 'cause that turns on friendly fire, and you and your CPU buddy will waste each other in no time flat).
Fighting is the usual A punch, B kick, A+B jump affair, with uppercuts, jump kicks, and so forth available with certain button and pad combinations. There are a ton of things laying around that you can pick up to bash people with; you can even bash them with the bodies of their friends, if the mood strikes you. With a CPU sidekick fighting along with you, the fights can be pretty amusing.
But...I'm not sure how to finish them. There's some story, or so I've read elsewhere, about feuding clans going after each other, and I see guys marked on the map who seem to be following me around, but this just manifests in endlessly spawning guys coming into the screen two or three at a time. Presumably there's a boss somewhere, but I don't know how to find them. You get coins from dead baddies, which you can spend in an endless array of shops selling healing food and I have no idea what else.
Yeah, so, I'm missing a lot of this game. There are a ton of menus and in-game dialogs, almost all in kanji, and I'm pretty much clueless in them. I know how to navigate the shop listings, but only trial and error will tell me what I'm buying. And I have no idea what most of the pause screen menus really do, aside from that one might be showing your stats, another your items, another your sidekick AI options (maybe), etc.
Now, I might persevere despite all that if the layout was fairly straightforward like in River City Ransom, but I have to say, this game features some of the most hellish 2D level design I have ever seen. Let's see... For one, leaving a screen exiting, say, left, and coming up on the left side of the next screen is just wrong, really wrong. That happens a lot here. Not only that, but many screens are split into multiple vertical zones, separated by an ugly array of ramps and ledges. Exiting above can take you somewhere different that exiting below. The isometric view is hard to make out, and the constrast is usually garish and tough on the eyes. Navigating this mess is hellish, particularly since you have to factor in the constant, bad slowdown, the sprite flicker, the popping sound, and the endless streams of badguys.
Hm okay, I went back and figured a thing or two out. The baddies aren't actually endless: just keep killing them until their boss shows up (eventually), then take him out and that's it for the gang. I'm not really sure how to get them to hurry up and attack, though. There's a gang left stalking me on the map, but they don't actually seem to want come in and fight me when I'm on the map next to them.
According to the FAQ, you level up skills eventually, and you can buy buffing items. That would probably be nice if I could read them, I suppose. The FAQ also says there's a Save function, but I'm not quite grasping it. I suppose it probably just saves your stats.
Anyway, I'm pretty lost still, and the slowdown and level design is not exactly endearing itself to me. I should probably just go finish RCR EX for once.
As in the first Collection, the games have a very ugly multiplayer menu. Hockey appears to support 4 players, while Downtown Special shows 2. They're probably kind of fun multiplayer, particularly Downtown Special--relative to their single-player amusement factor, I should say. But don't get too excited; according to the manual's diagram, all players have to have their own cart in order to play. So I probably won't be experiencing multiplayer on these any time soon.