The NES Classic Mini!

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I am sure, if you are a gamer, that you have heard that Nintendo plans on marketing a plug-n-play NES Mini this fall. It is self contained having only a limited number of games, as all plug-n-play devices. 30 original Nintendo games crammed into a small little console no bigger than the controller makes it appealing. Even the price, if you hadn’t purchased any of these over virtual console, makes it a real deal.

I’m a retro gamer and I love gadgets. I think the NES Mini is out there for a niche market. I will get one just to place it in my collection of “things.” I wished Nintendo would have given us a cart port. That would have put it up there on top for me, the icing on the cake. I hope there is a younger generation that will not be so spoiled by modern graphics that they will be able to discover the fun of early 8-bit gaming. Even if it is nothing more than a taste. But then again, I can envision it as something that some unknowledgeable grandparents will give to that unsuspecting child wanting the Nintendo NX. Then again, I can see it as something that many will snatch up making it hard to get a hold of, scarce. Only to jack up the price and sell it over eBay, spoiling it for everyone seeing it as a trip down nostalgia lane.

Whether to recommend this to you brings mixed feelings. I am one who loves to handle my original hardware and games. Holding the original cart in my hand and pushing it down into the slot is part of the experience for me. But then again owning something like this that Nintendo is marketing makes me want it. If it was anyone else, I would not bother.

But if I was someone who knew the fun value of the old Nintendo 8-bits, and on a very limited budget, or in a dorm room with limited space, I’d say jump on it. And enjoy the revival.

A Review: Batman vs Superman

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(Just a word of caution. If you have not seen the “Batman VS Superman” movie, then there may be some spoilers that follow.)

Back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s we did not have video games. We had comic books. That was our time waster of my generation. DC comics experimented with a lot of different stories concerning their characters. There was the “what if” and “alternate universes” stories. Not sure I remember them all and the direction they took some of the heroes. The Batman VS Superman movie takes a lot of bits and pieces from various stories of that time period and meshes them together in a collage. If a modern audience is not familiar with those stories? Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing?

I did not go to the theater to watch Batman VS Superman. I just rarely go to the theater, period. I usually wait until it is released on, Vudu, DVD, or Blu-ray. I recently got the chance to view this movie, the ultimate edition, or extended version. (And I recommend this version whether you have or have not see the movie.) My first initial reaction was that I was totally baffled by the excessive criticism that this movie received. I found no justification whatsoever for people bashing this movie. I saw a hard gritty Frank Miller Batman who was seasoned with age. My thoughts were, “finally.” And seemingly a controversial Batman among movie goers, which is what vigilantism is, controversial. A vigilante is usually judge, jury, and executioner. Ben Affleck did a magnificent and outstanding job portraying this version of Batman. A winner in my book. I can overlook the obvious psychological problem that prevented him from killing Superman, hearing the name Martha. He seemed to have this obsession and need to save someone named Martha. If Superman can overlook that this man has some deep problems, so can I.

I saw a Superman who seemed oblivious to the hurt lives and damage caused by his heroism. This Superman is reckless? He seemed so out of touch with reality. After all the years of growing up in the previous movie, he still seemed to not have his head wrapped around who he was, or needed to be. He was detached from having any moral base in his life to make a clear cut decision. That is where I would focus my criticism. This is where Batman found a just cause in his own mind to oppose Superman with the need to take him out. Neither picked up on the fact that Lex was the one pitting them against each other.

Here is where I see an issue. The Superman and Batman of my childhood came from a different culture. Superman supposedly grew up on a farm in a rural small town. Small communities of that time period was heavily influenced by Christian values of the local Church. There was a conscience in our society that reflected those values coming out of the 40’s & 50’s. That is what influenced some of the ideas in the creation of the persona of Super Heroes of that time period. That is why Batman and Superman never killed anyone and had a passion to do good. Superman at the age reflected in this movie would have a moral foundation and be a responsible individual. He would have his head together. Lois would not have used profanity. There would be no debate as to what was right and what was wrong in that scenario. Instead, I guess we see Heroes reflecting the confusion and core values of modern culture?

Overall I felt the movie was well paced and the story unfolded in a way that kept my attention. I fully enjoyed this whole experience. Being an old comicbook fan from years gone by, many years ago I might add, I was not surprised by the ending of this movie. I expected it due to knowing where the story came from. This was a very good movie and did not deserve the heat it got from movie goers that seemingly did not understand the DC universe. Maybe the title got people in a negative mood before entering the theater. They could not enjoy it based on the perspective that they felt Batman and Superman shouldn’t be fighting each other. Really? They had a few disagreements in the comics. (And Batman whipped him there too.) Whatever. Maybe the movie, too much, assumed people were familiar with the story and comics? And many people’s problem with the humor aspect, this is not a Marvel flick, get over it. It is the DC universe. And why was it that you were not able to pick up on some of the humorous situations? I am now cringing with the thought that somehow they’re going to interject forced humor in the next one which will feel awkward and uncomfortable due to the outcry. Was it dark and gloomy? Seemingly it was for a lot of movie goers. I took no thought of it and throughly enjoyed myself.

Superman is still not wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants. I always liked the George Reeves Superman of the 60’s. And I really liked this Batman, for some reason. I would love to see more of him.

Why is it that Super Heroes can never keep their identities a secret in the movies?

My N64 Fighting Game Ratings!

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I know that modern fighters are HD and push the “realistic highly detailed” character design. Nothing wrong with that. And of the few fighters, that remain, can trace their roots right back to the 90’s arcade. They were franchises that were popular among the gaming community and has retained their place in our hearts as that community of gamers grew up. They have gained new fans over the years as new gamers embrace them. They are almost like ghosts that hang around, shadows of those early years. And really not much has changed in those games, improvements, yes. Back then everyone tried to get in on the popularity. Various companies tried to cash in on the craze with their fighter entry. They was what was on top, what was hot, and those who mastered them were demigods among the gaming crowd. We don’t have that craze anymore, that frenzy. Fighters are mostly lost in the large video gaming ocean.

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It was so different when we had to congregate at the local arcade. Anything news worthy came through game magazines, which was old news, there was no net. The arcade of the 90’s became a meeting place which created an atmosphere that birthed a community of gamers. Friendships were formed, built, and grew. Fighters were one of the genre that became the center of popularity. We didn’t have the HD realism. The games had a mood, atmosphere, demanded skilled gameplay, yet simple, and fun. And that is really what retro gaming is all about. It is going back and finding what “made” those games, and enjoying that simple fun. Dated? Well yes, that is what retro gaming is all about. (And I am so thankful we don’t have to deal with that bloodsucking DLC.) Those top franchises, due to their popularity, over shadowed anything that was introduced, be it arcade or home console. That is why I think that the fighting games on the N64 were tossed aside by reputable gaming magazines. Their minds were tainted with the rose colored glasses of popular franchise bias, prejudice. It feels so good to retro game. In going back and retro gaming, I believe you actually have a different perspective when approaching a game. You can enjoy the game for what it is. Kind of like playing and enjoying an Indi, or homebrew, game.

Here are my ratings for the fighters I own on the N64. Games are listed in the order of the rating. And I know that for a lot of these games I find it is either a love, or hate, with many gamers. Seemingly, there is no in between. But I have rated these games by fun factor and enjoyment. Only frustration, unfinished feel, and irritation in the game can work against, and unseat, or tone down, any fun. I have placed Fighter Destiny and Flying Dragon with their counter parts simply because they are really basically the same game with enhancements and improvements, both games worth owning, IMO. Not all are geared toward “the arcade genre” in their gameplay, but they have had the influence in their design.

My N64 Fighting game ratings.

  1. Super Smash Bros

2. RakugaKids

3. Fighter Destiny 2 / Fighters Destiny (3D)fight3

4. Flying Dragon 2 / Flying Dragon

5. Killer Instinct Gold

6. Mace the Dark Age (3D)

7. Super Robot Spirits

8. Mortal Kombat Trilogy

9. Xena Warrior Princess (3D)

10. Clay Fighters 63 1/3

11. Dark Rift (3D)

12. War Gods (3D) “Needs tweaking, unfinished feel.”

13. Transformers Beast Wars: Transmetals (3D) “Needs tweaking, unfinished feel.”

14. Deadly Arts (3D) “Needs tweaking, unfinished feel.”

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This fighting series of blogging has mainly been impressions, mini reviews, and certainly not full blown detailed reviews. This has been fun, especially the part where I added new games to my collection. I tried to spend a week with each game, with some exceptions. I had to switch controllers. The original N64 controller just wasn’t doing it for me. I used a “Performance Superpad 64.”

And in playing the Japanese imported games you have to do one of four things.

1. Switch out the back of the cart with the back of a US cart.

2. Cut the tonsils out of the US N64 console so you can insert your imported cart.

3. Purchase a Japanese N64.

4. Purchase a converter which allows you to play Japanese games on your US console.

I purchased a used N64 at an outdoor flea market for a small price ($10 for console, memory extension, controller, AC power pak, hook-ups, sweet) and cut the tonsils out. My original first N64 was untouched in that violence. It is only a cosmetic regional lockout on the console that matches the physical game cart. The round peg can’t go into the square hole idea, so to speak. This has not been an exhaustive look at the fighters of the N64, because there are some that I have missed. I just felt that they really did not fit in with these fighters. There are the wrestling and boxing games. And there are some that don’t fit a category. (I might just have to continue doing reviews with those games.) But it does answer the question, “Does the N64 have any fighting games?” The Nintendo 64 was the most powerful console of its generation and many of its games have stood the test of time.

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My Wife gave me a Japanese N64 as a gift during my Fighter reviews.

N64: Super Smash Bros.

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(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

If there is one thing that Nintendo has accomplished, it is, establishing likable familiar video game characters. Those characters are what has charted the pathway of Nintendo’s success as a video game company. Seemingly Nintendo has built their hardware around the games hosting these characters. Each and everyone of those franchises has their fan base that eagerly waits for the next big game with their beloved characters. It was pure genius on someone’s part to take those characters, group them all together, and place them into a fighting game. You have an instant seller.

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Yes I purchased the Japanese version. It was a lot cheaper than the US one.

Odd, I have had a difficult time getting into this fighter. One of the hindrances has been, I do not find it as appealing as the previous fighters. Maybe it is just me, but I enjoy these characters in their original gaming environment. Another hindrance has been the difficulty I am finding in learning to control my fighter. The control does not seem as tight as I am accustom to, nor find in other fighters. Maybe it is just the button configuration. Maybe there is an awkwardness in using the characters in a way that I am not familiar. I want to control Samus Aran. But I am becoming frustrated. At first I thought it was the controller, but no, even after changing out controllers I am still having what seems like a slight hesitation, or slugishness, even a floatiness. Maybe some of this is just the N64 controller itself. I end up feeling that I am getting a lot of “cheap shots” from my opponent. That rubs my fur the wrong way when I sit down to a game and this hits me in the face. (No pun intended.) Yes I know this is a beloved Nintendo fan’s dream game which has become a franchise in and of itself. But it just suddenly struck me that maybe this is not a game for everyone. I went into this thinking that it was, ……. surprise. It is fan based, but I see this game as one for the younger Nintendo audience, Family time, or a multiplayer party game. And I think that this is the target audience, and the intent, in the game design. I am not finding it satisfying as a single player experience. But, as in every other game, the key to success is learning to become one with your fighter.

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The graphics and stage designs are only as Nintendo can put together, awesome and excellent. The character animations are a joy. In each stage you have different platforms, at different heights, to fight from as well as ringouts to deal with. The stages are familiar as the concepts are taken from each fighter’s own games. The welcome powerups add to the fast pace chaotic fighting. You get a percentage marked against you, and increases, as you are hit. All of this, as a whole, adds to the depth of the gameplay. Making it a deeper game than it might first appear. This is a 2D fighter in a pseudo 3D environment.

This is a game that I personally did not find intuitive in the game’s controls. I think I went into it with expectations that this was just another fighting game with familiar controls. You really have to set back and strip away all of that from your thinking, especially if you are a fighting game fan. Nintendo does its best to maintain each character’s familiar signature moves. This changes the feel of the game as a traditional fighter. And pulling off some of the moves can prove to be difficult in the fast paced gameplay. It becomes a game in which you “learn to play” in order to succeed. And that is not a bad thing. Your approach is the same as with any other new game. You learn how to play it to get the most out of the experience. As a gamer, we do this without thinking all the time. It has a built in tutorial showing you how to play.

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Due to the nature of this game in its party design, and gameplay, it became a system seller. No other fighter offers a better simultaneous four player experience on this system. (It almost borderlines Bomberman status in my book.) And largely in part, because of the draw of familiar, and popular, characters from the Nintendo universe it has been another one of those instant Nintendo successes.

I did finally find my fighter and I had fun with this game. Please don’t interpret my review as being negative. I approached this from the perspective of a fan of the fighting genre. Personally I think that if this game had been introduced in the arcades during the 90’s this would have been up there with the best. I rate this game as “system seller.” This game goes to the top of my list of N64 fighters. And that is mainly due to the multiplayer madness.

Mario dressed as Wario with a light saber in the Star Fox stage, priceless.

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My “tuft & needle” experience!

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What is this? An infomercial? No. And no one has paid me or given me anything to write this. This is an honest look at this mattress from a satisfied customer. This is something that worked for us. Do not worry, I will return to game reviews with N64 Super Smash Bros next weekend.

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I just had my first night sleep on my new “tuft & needle” mattress. I replaced my old mattress on Saturday. This writing is my first experience and impressions. Do understand that when it comes to mattresses and individuals, experiences may vary.

My wife and I have slept on innerspring mattresses all our lives. Our old mattress was an extra firm. This worked well when we were younger. We are now in our sixties waking up feeling our bodies racked with pain and a desire for something softer. Granted that our old mattress was worn out, but we are needing something totally different.

I have been shopping for a new mattress all through May, entering stores, looking, laying on them, being overwhelmed by shocking sticker prices, checking the Internet for reviews and other people’s experiences. (You can’t really tell if you like a mattress by just laying on it for ten or fifteen minutes. Let’s be honest with ourselves.) Looking on the Internet I ran across a new interesting concept in mattresses. Since 2013 a new upstart company called “tuft & needle” has been shaking up the mattress industry, offering their product only over the Net, and have had many competitors crop up doing the same thing. They have developed a foam mattress which is compressed, placed in a vacuum bag, folded, rolled up, and shipped it in a small box. Reasonably priced for what you get, it comes with a 10 year warranty and you get to try it out for 100 days. If you do not like it, they will arrange for a local charity, like the Salvation Army, to pick it up and you are refunded. No risk, unlike your conventional way of shopping. The downside of this is that they produce only one type of mattress. They are trying to offer a mattress that would suit a majority of sleepers. Crazy concept. And it is according to where you sit on the sleep scale how you perceive this mattress. If you come from a squishy feel, you will perceive this mattress as being firm. If you come from an extra firm feel, you may perceive this mattress as soft. But then again it is totally up to each individual. The mattress is mostly considered as being medium firm. It is the number one selling mattress on Amazon and gets a top rating from Consumer Reports.

It has a 3” proprietary foam layer on top with 7inches of support foam on the bottom. Shipping is between 3 to 4 days by FedEx and it is free.

When setting up this mattress you need a good sense of humor. You will be amazed at the size of the box and the vacuum packed mattress. Once you tear a hole in the plastic packaging, breaking the vacuum seal, there is an “oh no” that escapes your lips. The mattress will quickly begin returning to its original size and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You need to have it on the bed, but even then you will be wrestling a greased pig to position it where you want it as it swells to a full, queen, or king. A lot of fun and laughter at this point. (My whole Family had fun with this.) The full height of the mattress is 10 inches.

When you first open it from the packaging there is a bit of what is called “off-gassing” as a result of the manufacturing process for this type of product. We did not find it objectionable or irritating. I know some people are sensitive to this odor. To us, it was more of a “new” smell. That odor quickly goes away within the first hour as we let it air out and fully expand before applying our mattress pad & sheets. It reaches 9 inches within a couple of minutes, but within an hour it is at its full height.

Just for reference, I am 192lbs. I would think that weight could effect your experience on a foam mattress. I am a side sleeper and do occasionally turn on my back. I woke up this morning with no pain and refreshed. (My Wife and I both felt more rested than we have felt in a long time.) I am usually a very sweaty sleeper. I was cozy, but I did not sweat as usual. The mattress has a firm feel and yet it has a softness, a plushy firm feel. You don’t sink down into it like memory foam but remain on top and yet it is like a cushion in that respect. I found no problem getting in and out of bed. I did some “tossing & turning” and found that the mattress quickly responded to my positions, unlike memory foam. So there is a bounciness present in its characteristics. There is no hard edge like a conventional mattress, and yet I personally did not miss that. Sitting on the bed, even though it is different, I still had no difficulty putting on a pair of socks. Even sleeping close to the edge was no problem, it still had a certain firmness. The foam is not spongy. I think we have come to depend on that hard edge with a feeling of security. Some may miss that feeling.

The mattress is 100% made in the USA. And the company goes out of its way to please it’s customers. They will work with you in a way that is very impressive in today’s market, setting a new standard. That gets straight “As” in my book. After only one nights sleep, we give it a big thumbs up and would highly recommend it. But I will strongly suggest that you deal directly with the “tuft & needle” company. That is the only way you will get the 100 day trial period.

I will never look at mattress shopping the same way again.

N64: Transformers Beast Wars

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(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

This is definitely a fan based game. I often got the impression many years ago, that gaming companies spent most of the money on the licensing of the characters, rather than on the game engine development for games of this sort. Only fans of the series would be able to get deeply in, and love this game, or appreciate it. And it might depend on the age group for that to happen. Fighting games, that are popular, are usually those in which the company has spent some time developing the fighting engine and creating their own fighters, such as the popular franchises.

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Rather than spend “real” money on the US version I opted for the Japanese game. It was a whole lot cheaper. And there is surprisingly a big difference in the gameplay. For some reason they made changes to the US release. The Japan version is so much different in feel and gameplay than its US counterpart, (My Daughter owns the US version). And I believe the Japan version to be the better game. The original version causes you to use strategy against your opponents. Having a very big playing field, something that the US version does not have, the need to maneuver your character, adds to this concept. I have stood back, or flew around, at an extreme distance and shot at my opponent until he was knocked out. Not very deep gameplay, I know. But this does not always work, and not with every character. Sometimes I have flew in, landed, and slugged the opponent. There are a few moves to be learned and as with the Super Robot Spirits game, certain moves spark that certain dramatic animation for the move. And of course you have three different modes to transform back and forth at will. Graphics are blocky for the Transformers and that works well. Each has the likeness and bears the colors of their respective Transformer character. All of the Transformers are the same size which can be an issue with some fans. The arenas are nothing but a flat plain with the background rotating around the outside rim. You tend to hit an invisible wall when you reach the end of the playing field. 3D gaming with everything kept simple.

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I had read many times that this is a bad fighting game. I have been playing it through using Cheetor. It was difficult at first, controls are just not intuitive. And it did seem that when fighting against certain characters I had to use a different strategy other than just shooting from a distance. The game does feel a bit unfinished, a lot of potential left undone. Needs to be tweaked very badly. (The thought, could have been awesome, comes into my mind.) But I did, sort of, enjoy the short trip through once I got the hang of it. I usually spend my time in the flying mode zig zagging and circling my opponent. While playing, there was that desire and want for more moves to each character’s mode, kept pushing different buttons & nothing, and I did not like the difficulty in aiming my weapon. You use the green and blue button for transforming. The directional pad is not used and the four yellow buttons are the attack, with the right shoulder being your special move. Depends on which mode you are in the Z button is jump. This is not an easy pick up and play game and that works against any enjoyment until you catch on. Once you wrap your head around understanding the control for your fighter, it can be an enjoyable gaming experience. That is why my conclusion is, one would need to be a diehard fan to press in and discover this detail. My recommendation is to search the net for button controls. I got the idea when playing that this was a quick push to market. A hopeful easy cash cow for any popularity to the Beast Wars TV series? It just feels that way.

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Overall I am glad to have Beast Wars in my N64 collection. And in spite of my negativity above, I might pull this one out occasionally. But my main problem with that idea is I easily forget the control scheme and need to relearn. I need to try different characters to find a favorite. Even though it is simple, limited as a fighter, and a far cry from the present day Transformer games, there will be some gamers that will really like this. I am thinking, if you are a fan of the series then this would be your game on the N64. Another one of those games on the N64 with a limited appeal and two player mode being the better experience than the single player. Non fans may pull this from the shelf occasionally, and that is a big maybe, hmmm… depends. With mixed feelings, I don’t think the game is that bad, but I must rate this game, “Glad I only paid $5 instead of $60.”

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And maybe that is because I saw potential. One example is, I wished that the direction pad could have been used when you was up in the face of your opponent. It could have been utilized for special moves in combination with the attack buttons. That would not have been hard to do. Just needed a little creativity. I wanted more from this game.

N64: Clay Fighter 63 1/3

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(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

The novelty of the humor wears thin very quickly for me. I do get it, the joke, but it is just that, it’s over after the first play through for some reason. Maybe it is only me. Now the only question is, is there really a fighting game underneath the surface?

The graphics are goofy, cartoony, and have the look of claymation. The animation matches that idea with a lack of smoothness reflecting a choppiness. Which is what you get with a clay animated cartoon, etc. The fighters do look good and the backgrounds are very detailed, well designed, and creates the proper mood. What you have is a 2D fighting game in a pseudo 3D environment. Some of the illusion of 3D is that you end up fighting behind an object in some of the environments. In some stages you also crash through doors and walls ending up in another room or place. Similar to a Final Fight or Streets of Rage game.

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I recommend running through the characters and find one that you can get into and enjoy playing. I found a good fighter that appealed to me, Earthworm Jim. It is always good to find a character that you can become one with in order to get the most out of any fighter. You start with 9 fighters to choose from with 3 unlockables. There are three punch buttons and three kick. That is weak, medium, and hard for both. From that, with the help of the direction button, you piece together combos. You won’t use any of the other buttons except for codes.

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There are five fighting game modes, cookie, normal, whoa, dude, and psycho. What bugs me about this game is that in cookie and normal modes there seems to be no challenge. I went through both modes without losing a fight. Then when entering whoa the difficulty level is turned up at a surprising notch. And I am not sure if it might not be the opponent which is making it hard. I easily pounded the clown in dude mode, but the bunny hit me like a freight train. A combo of 487 hits?! Come on! Then I just change to a different fighter (Earthworm Jim at this point) and learn a few of his combos and I blow through dude mode like it was nothing. But if your opponent gets the upper hand because you forget your combos, your toast. Once you have this knowledge of the game, it causes me to say that this game becomes too easy in the single player mode. At first, you will spend a lot of time in the normal mode, mainly learning to put together your combos. If you don’t, you will not get anywhere beyond the normal game mode. That makes the emphasis of this game totally on combos in single player. And there are throws and even claytalities to learn. The game really has more of a balance to it in two player gameplay.

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There are some frustrations I find with this game. I do not like the hopping that I find myself doing, just to get near my opponent. You both end up in a chase across the whole stage. With some of the combo hits you find yourself knocked across the area only with the need to hop back across. In the fighting you sometimes end up behind an object in which you cannot see either fighter. When you beat the game you are only treated to rolling credits. No points awarded, no name save, no nothing other than game over. Well, you are not totally empty handed. It does give you a code to use on the gamepad. I find the highlight of this game is Earthworm Jim as a controllable fighter. That alone makes the game for me. But when it comes to re-playability, once you open up the three fighters and get all the codes, there is no motivation for me, other than using my fighter. If it had the points for rating my fighting, that could have made the game a little deeper. Not sure if this game is for everyone though. And I am referring to the overall package. There is some fun here, but some gamers might not take it seriously as a fighter. What I am saying is that the game itself has a limited appeal. It is an easy pick up and play with no difficulty in learning combos and moves. But two player is where this game has its moments. Consider the single player mode as practice. With all its flaws, I am going to rate this game as, “good game.”

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