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Gunstar Green
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Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by Gunstar Green Wed Sep 01, 2021 11:25 am

Wow it's September already.

This month's theme is "Inferior" Ports.

What is an inferior port? The simple definition we'll go with is any version of a game that is not thought to be the definitive version by the general consensus.

Generally this wouldn't count the original version of the game since we're talking about ports but if the original version is honestly one of the worse versions you can go ahead and play it to compare.

Why play inferior ports instead of playing the best version of a game? Well here are a few reasons!

-Sometimes ports can be unique in their graphics, music, gameplay, etc. and while the result might not be as good as other versions there may be silver linings to the differences that make it a worthwhile experience in its own right. Making comparisons can be fun.

-Occasionally ports to weaker systems have to do unique things to punch above their weight and while results may vary it can be very interesting to see what kind of hoops developers had to jump through to make a game resemble its bigger siblings on more powerful hardware.

-Maybe you just like poking fun at a disaster, Angry Video Game Nerd style? Ports that completely miss the mark can venture into so bad it's good territory.

So have at it, avoid the best versions of games and have fun with the runner-ups this month.
Last edited by Gunstar Green on Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by Ziggy587 Wed Sep 01, 2021 4:06 pm

I think a really good example would be the Sega Saturn port of Symphony of the Night.

Commonly blamed on being a quick and dirty port from a "B" team, and released as a budget title, this version has a lot of slowdown and longer load times compared to the original PS1 version. There are some other issues, such as transparencies being replaced as dithered messes or taking forever to get in and our of the map. But there's also additional content, including two new areas of the castle (four, if you include the inverted castle), new items and weapons, and 2 more familiars. The drawbacks aren't so bad that they would keep you from enjoying a playthrough of this version (although be warned, there's a resolution change when going in and out of the menu which may cause annoyances for those using external scalers like the Framemeister). And it's definitely worth a playthrough if you're a fan of the game. Heck, even with the drawbacks, it's still one of the better action/platformers for the Saturn.

Recently, there's two hacks that have been released for the Saturn version. One, from a Chinese hacker named YZB, adds some quality of life improvements (but requires a 4MB RAM cart). The other is an English translation by Knight0fDragon, which is currently playable but I believe more quality of life improvements are planned for future releases. For anyone that's interested, more info can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=53349
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Wed Sep 01, 2021 10:17 pm

This is a great topic, and I am so excited for this month’s TR…so excited, in fact, that I’ve already beaten two of the games on my list!

The first is Mega Man: The Wily Wars for the Sega Genesis, which contains ports of Mega Man, Mega Man 2, and Mega Man 3. Each port has updated graphics and sound, but the content of each game remains unchanged. Accordingly, you get three of the NES’s best action-platformers, with updated graphics and sound, in one package!

This should be great, and it should be a superior port, but a few things throw it off just a bit. First, the graphics aren’t updated that much, and while Mega Man looks a lot better, the rest of the sprites have only been touched up a little bit. The backgrounds are also “busier” in a way that distracts from the action. Secondly, the music isn’t quite ip to par with the NES chiptunes. You’d think that, with the Genesis’ legendary sound processor Capcom could have improved a bit on some of the NES’s catchiest music. Alas, however, none of the songs in The Wily Wars sound quite as good as they did on the NES. Finally, and worst of all, the controls are off just a few frames, making the game more difficult for series veterans. You have to factor in just a bit of a delay for everything, and navigating in and out of menus takes longer than it does in the NES games. There are also a few other quirks, that will be obvious to series veterans, that modify the gameplay a bit in weird ways (e.g., the pause trick doesn’t work anymore, the Yellow Devil is much slower, Wood Man is much taller, etc.).

None of these issues is game-breaking by any means, and the level design is as Rock solid as ever. (Pun intended.) Moreover, the game contains some cool bonus content, Wily’s Tower, that really makes the game worth purchasing. In it, you take on three new robot masters and fight your way through Wily’s Castle using any items you want from the first three Mega Man games. The levels look great and have good, original music. Moreover, they have have branching paths, and demonstrate what this game could have been if it weren’t just a collection of NES ports.

Despite some complaints, I ended up really enjoying The Wily Wars, and I am hard-pressed to think of better action-platformers on the Sega Genesis. (It is definitely way, way better than either of the Vectorman games.) Still, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed at what the game could have been if it had been an entirely original game rather than, mostly, a collection of ports. If that had been the case, then I think that, rather than comparing most of the game’s content to three really good NES games, we’d be talking about how one of the best classic Mega Man games was released exclusively on a Sega system.

Up next…8-bit Streets of Rage!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Sat Sep 04, 2021 11:38 pm

I’ll preface this post by noting, without hesitation, that the 16-bit versions of Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 are the best versions, and morbid curiosity is really the only reason to play the 8-bit Streets of Rage games. Those facts, however, make them perfect for this month’s TR!

Streets of Rage for the Game Gear is very much a Game Gear game. It has bright colors, decent sound, and big, chunky pixels. The music, as in the original, is particularly good, and it actually survived the 8-bit conversion relatively well. Like it’s 16-bit counterpart, the game is also a pretty basic belt-scrolling brawler, but it is missing a few of its predecessor’s features. First, Adam is MIA, and you can only play as Axel or Blaze. Second, it has only five levels. Third, and worst of all, the game’s hit detection is poor, and most of your character’s basic attacks do pitiful damage. Accordingly, the best strategy is to throw enemies until you get the incredibly overpowered pipe weapon, then hold onto that for the rest of the level. By the later levels, losing the pipe weapon is tantamount to a “game over” screen, but since the game has only five levels, you can still push through it without too much difficulty.

The Master System version, in contrast, is stellar. Developed by Sega and released late in the Master System’s lifetime, Streets of Rage is, hands down, the Master System’s best beat ‘em up, and a strong candidate for the best beat ‘em up on any 8-bit system. It looks great; it sounds great; and the music is stellar. (The character portraits, along with Adam’s sprites, are a little off putting, however. They’re like meme versions of the Streets of Rage cast.) Unlike the Game Gear port, you can play as Adam, Axel, and Blaze, and the game retains all eight of the original’s levels. It also features an exclusive boss - a short guy in a top hat with a rocket launcher on his back - not seen in any other Streets of Rage game. (That’s probably for the best since he’s really annoying.) The hit detection is good, and the game plays really well. The only area where the Game Gear version bests it is with regard to the number of enemies on screen. The Game Gear version can display up to three enemies on screen at a time, while the Master System version never features more that two.

…..

Streets of Rage 2 for the Game Gear is a technical marvel. It looks and sounds way better than the Game Gear port of the first game, and it is arguably one of the best looking and best sounding games on the system. It features three playable characters - Max is MIA this time - and although they’re remixed a bit, the Game Gear port features every level from the 16-bit version of Streets of Rage 2. More impressively, all the characters retain their special moves; the hit detection is solid; and the game still features up to three enemies on screen at the same time. The problem with the Game Gear Version of Streets of Rage 2 is that it is way, way too hard for all the wrong reasons. Even the lowliest enemies hit like trucks and, worse, they can lock you into patterns from which you can’t recover before losing a life. (If one of the motorcycle guys hits you, for example, you won’t be able to get back up, and you just have to wait until you die and respawn before you can play again.) This has the strange effect of making many of the normal enemies all way harder than the bosses, who are actually pushovers. I really, really wanted to like this game, but after a lot of frustration, I relied on save states to get me to the end.

Streets of Rage 2 for the Master System is, basically, a bad port of the Game Gear game. It retains everything bad about the Game Gear port, but lacks a few things that made the Game Gear port, almost, great. First, there are, at most, only two enemies on screen at a time, which means you’re less likely to get locked into a pattern from which you can’t recover. The hit detection, however, is awful, and frequently, enemies can hit you despite the fact you can’t hit them back. This makes a few of the bosses, particularly the jet-pack guy and the boxer, almost invincible. Worse, it renders every character, except Axel, almost completely useless. Playing through the Master System port of Streets of Rage 2 was an even more frustrating and grueling experience than the Game Gear version, and I pushed through this one with save states too.

So…in sum…I recommend the Master System version of Strerts of Rage to anyone looking for a new Streets of Rage experience. The other 8-bit ports, however, are best avoided.

Next up…Donkey Kong Country? Ninja Gaiden? Street Fighter II?
Last edited by prfsnl_gmr on Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by BoneSnapDeez Sun Sep 05, 2021 9:33 am

Great write-ups.

One thing I love about Sega is how they "ported down" like this. Imagine Super Mario World on NES and Game Boy!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by alienjesus Sun Sep 05, 2021 12:26 pm

Great write up prfsnl!

Just a quick note though - there is still a character missing from the 8 bit versions of streets of rage 2, as there are 4 characters in the Mega Drive game. Either max or skate is missing - id guess it’s the former as his giant sprite is probably too challenging for the hardware
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:21 pm

alienjesus wrote:Great write up prfsnl!

Just a quick note though - there is still a character missing from the 8 bit versions of streets of rage 2, as there are 4 characters in the Mega Drive game. Either max or skate is missing - id guess it’s the former as his giant sprite is probably too challenging for the hardware


You’re right! I never play as Max; so, I just completely forgot about him. I fixed my post.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by PartridgeSenpai Tue Sep 07, 2021 4:15 am

So this month I was stuck in the hospital for about a week after getting my appendix out, so I decided to try that new game on Switch Super Famicom Online: Bombuzal. Little did I know that it's actually a port of what was first a Commodore 64 game and then an Amiga game (as well as holding the honor of being the first third-party software released for the Super Famicom, way back in December 1990).

Now, Bombuzal isn't nearly the inferior port that its (strangely delayed and even stranger never released in its native Europe) American counterpart "Ka-Blooey" is. Bombuzal is a puzzle game where you go around a map and try to blow up all the bombs. There's a standard 2D top-down view, but also a weird, isometric "3D" view you can do that's way more awkward (albeit flashy). Ka-Blooey ONLY has that awful 3D view.

What SFC Bombuzal DOES have compared to its earlier versions is prettier graphics, prettier music (all like, 3 tracks of it, one of which is the ending theme, one is the winning theme, and one is the music for all 130 stages), larger sprites, and (most importantly) a password every level instead of every 4 levels. But the drawbacks it has are pretty significant for a puzzle game like this.

Played vanilla with no rewinds or save states (which I used heavily), you'd be spending a LOT of time on some of the larger levels just making up for one tiny mistake. The way that the SFC port makes this much worse is that the viewfield is WAY more zoomed in than it was on the C64 original. Your main character (whom I call Bombuzal, but who has no actual name) needs to get within one tile of the edge of the screen to scroll it, meaning hitting an enemy you couldn't see or falling off a ledge because you were going a bit too fast is all too common. Now, you CAN pause for a larger, more zoomed out view, but you still won't be able to see nearly the entire field doing this on larger stages, and you also can't move when you're doing this. I needed to look up the solution for four stages (I was trying to look up none, but I feel pretty good about only need to do four), and for at least half of those, my big hurdle would've been avoided in the C64 original because it involved switches whose effects you simply can't *see* because of how far away they are. This is especially bad for switches that have three or more effects (of which there are like, 2 in the entire game, so I didn't even realize they were a thing).

That viewing problem (along with level 80 having a large bomb where a normal one should be, making it impossible to complete in the intended fashion but technically possible if you abuse certain anti-idle mechanics a bit) makes this otherwise pretty darn fun puzzle game a decidedly inferior port. I still had fun going through it, and I'll eventually get to writing up a proper review in the Beaten thread about it (it was my 100th game beaten this year, in fact!), but I definitely wish it were better. Still, I'm glad I was able to participate in this month's theme so early and easily! (I hadn't even realized that this game qualified for the theme until I was more than halfway through it XD).

I'm still planning to play Splatterhouse on my PCE Mini, but I dunno when I'll get to that. Before October, hopefully (albeit ironically :lol: )!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by Note Tue Sep 07, 2021 10:43 pm

I'm also going to try out some 8-bit ports of beat 'em ups this month. The first I gave a shot was Konami's Batman Returns on the NES, which is mostly known for the SNES release. I think Konami did a great job of porting this game to the NES, especially for those who still only had access to the system during the 16-bit era. While the graphics and sound take a hit of course, the gameplay is still smooth and I've enjoyed the first few levels I played so far!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by PartridgeSenpai Wed Sep 08, 2021 6:14 pm

I played through Splatterhouse on the PCE Mini yesterday~. Definitely inferior to its arcade original, it's still really solid! The biggest issues (aside from sound) largely stem from it just not running super great. There are a few areas where the sprite limit of the PCE just can't handle the number of enemies on screen to the point both you and your enemies can start vanishing Xp

A very fun game! I used save states a fair bit to get easier retries at the last few bosses, but I think if I worked at it more I could actually beat it without using save states. Might give that a proper go someday ^w^
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