Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Girl on Girl Games: Style Savvy

Once upon a time, your humble contributor (me) was just a little girl. Actually, I was this girl:

Adorable, yes?
But, as time went on, and my mom stopped doing my hair and picking my clothes, I turned into this girl:

I'm the one on the left.
And now I'm reviewing a fashion game.

All jests aside, I really do enjoy fashion. I read InStyle on airplanes just like anyone else; I have whiled away many a rainy Saturday watching marathons of What Not To Wear. When the occasion arises, I have no problem putting together an outfit that doesn't make me look like a mental patient. Now, I don't have a ton of money to blow on clothing, so I don't get a lot of practice at looking fantastic.

Luckily for me, there's Style Savvy.

 The game is simple. You are a young fashionista on the go, and you've taken a sales job at one of the hottest boutiques in town. You work your way up to the top, get your own store, and the rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is just serving customers, managing inventory, and competing in fashion contests.

You start in your apartment, your launchpad to fashion stardom. You apparently get to keep all the vendor samples (and you apparently fit into vendor samples ...ahem...) and so you are able to make outfits for yourself out of anything you've bought for your store. You can do your make up, also. And, like all apartments, it is from here that you can adjust your identity and volume level.

A very metro-girl apartment. I feel like I'm in Ikea...
 In case you're wondering, here's me:

(keep reading, fools!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Closer Look at the Karate Kid for the NES

 It has been far too long since I have sat down and written a good ol' Closer Look on a NES game.  Long time masochists will recall that is how this whole thing got started.  However, a few weeks ago I broke down and bought the Karate Kid for the NES.  With LJN's reputation for crap games (some of it earned and some of it unjust, but that is a tale for another time) and my fear of ruining a childhood admiration for the Pat Morita classic film, I have passed over this game many, many times in the past.  However, like the daft fool I am, I have the delusion that I can one day own all of the NES games made (for North America anyway...), so it is inevitable that this was going to be in my collection at some point anyway, so much like Ezal, I saw an open window...

To be honest, I expected the six dollars I chucked down for Karate Kid to have gone the way of the six dollars I spent on Total Recall, Wayne's World, and so many other movie-based games in the past.  But damn it, I just keep playing it!  And it's not like the game is exceedingly long or difficult, but I keep playing it!  I beat it like last week and yet I keep playing it.  I checked, it was released by LJN.  So what is going on?  How is this possible?  This, my friends is why the Karate Kid for the NES is getting a Closer Look (and now that I think about it, Back to the Future, the first game to get a Closer Look is also an LJN title, I think someone is spiking my Shasta...).

So what is is about this game that makes me keep playing it?  Is it the adaptation of the story?  Not even close.  And by "not even close" I mean the adaptation is not even close.  One might go so far as to say that this game has been entirely mis-titled, and not in that "tossing bowling balls and Guidos" kind of way that Back to the Future is mis-titled, but in that "hey, this game is actually the sequel" kind of way.  You know the type.  I'm not kidding.  The "plot" for the NES Karate Kid game is actually the plot of the film, the Karate Kid Part II!!  What the what?  Exactly.  And here's the kicker, it is actually very, very faithful to that plot.
You start the game at the pivotal tournament from the climax of the first film.  From there you travel to Okinawa where you do battle with Sato's thugs outside the Miyagi dojo.  Then the typhoon hits and you must battle your way through the storm to save the child atop the bell post (shocking level of detail!).  Finally, you must make your way to the festival where your new girlfriend is being menaced by Chozen.  Defeat Chozen and keep Kumiko from killing herself (more on this in a minute), and Miyagi will honor you with great praise (perhaps too great?).  See, pretty much just like the second film.

So why is this game, for all intents and purposes the Karate Kid Part II, in a Karate Kid case?  I have no idea.  Logic says maybe they felt odd about releasing a "sequel game" for something that had no foundational title, but that didn't stop Konami for hitting us with Goonies II.  Maybe there was a Japanese release of a game based on the original film and this was the sequel game, but we only get the sequel game because back then America only got a portion of the kick ass games from Japan?  Honestly, I have no idea, and the research that could confirm that last one really stretches outside the scope of this article, so I am happy to chock this one up to a mystery. Either way, the curious mismatch of title and game content is not the reason I keep playing this game.  It is however a really nice bit of icing on an otherwise unexpectedly moist and delicious cake.

Perhaps what makes this game so much fun is its sheer simplicity.  As previously stated the game isn't terribly long.  Four total levels and only three of those are actual platforming levels.  The first part of the game is the tournament where you face off against four opponents in single elimination bouts.  Four fights, that's it, and to top it off they are easy, really really easy.  The remaining levels are of moderate length, but all in all the game only takes about 20 minutes to complete.  Yet I keep playing it, and here's the biggest shocker, particularly for you younger audience members for whom the next statement may have little meaning at all:  I'm playing for score!  Yeah, that's right.  If you have ever asked yourself who the loser is who has been beating Karate Kid for the NES at least once a day for score, the answer is this guy:

Now the question to ask is why?  Why would anyone do such a thing?  I own a shameful amount of NES games, and this is how I spend my time?  Something must be wrong with me or very right with the Karate Kid.  The answer might be a little of column A and a little of column B (see picture above).
My personal idiosyncrasies aside, there are some very right things about the Karate Kid.  It's not without its faults: comparatively short levels, unfair stuck points where the enemies can drain your health to zero in seconds, fairly uninspired level design, but it manages to overcome those things with an almost ridiculously simple formula of uncomplicated game play, short play time, charming theming, and just enough challenge to keep things interesting. Not surprisingly, this is the exact same formula that makes Jackie Chan's Action Kung-Fu a sleeper hit of the Konami library (the only real difference in the games is the theming and game length, JCAKU takes almost an hour to beat).
(Dude, I go on FOREVER about this game, but keep reading, I promise it is worth it...)