Welcome to the seventh instalment of The Portable Project, a feature devoted to handheld gaming that gives critics a chance to comment on titles that aren't quite in-depth enough to merit a full-length review at the site.
Why does the Game Boy Advance library continue to expand with revisits of old "classics" that really weren't all that classic to begin with? Brad Gallaway takes one for the team with a review of Pocky & Rocky with Becky, and also tackles Mega Man Battle Network 2. Also this month, Erin Bell takes a look at Davis Cup Tennis in the very first sports game review for the Portable Project.
Mega Man Battle Network 2
by Brad Gallaway
As a big fan of Mega Man Battle Network, I had been looking forward to the series' second instalment with great anticipation. This remolding of the classic action hero was a big departure from the traditional action the series was built on, and stood as a highly enjoyable, solid, and creative game worth getting into. It's clear that Capcom agreed… but perhaps too much so.
In some ways, Mega Man Battle Network 2 gives the impression that the series is just hitting its stride. The battle chip combat system is as smooth as silk, the dungeons are less tedious and less confusing than the first adventure, and there are fewer "what the heck am I supposed to do now?" moments to jam up the game's flow. Several other minor rough edges have been ironed out, and there are a greater number of side-quests to keep you playing. Theoretically it should be perfect, but like many other Capcom games, it's a great example of why "the same, but better" is not always such a good thing.
Simply put, after just a few hours the feeling of "been there, done that" was too strong to reasonably ignore. Like I mentioned above, the game has undoubtedly received some tweaks, but overall Mega Man Battle Network 2 is identical to its predecessor in every way that counts. You'll do the same kind of backtracking hunts for items, many of the enemies were lifted directly from the last game, and the town and characters were recycled as well. In fact, if you had the two games running side by side, I doubt that you'd be able to tell them apart. I couldn't come up with any significant justification for why I should play the sequel since the first one was just as good, and so precious little was added to the mix.
If you're absolutely dying for more, or if you haven't jumped into the Battle Network games yet, add two points to the score. Mega Man Battle Network 2 would clearly be a very desirable addition to anybody's Game Boy library. (Although you might want to go straight to the third-it's already on shelves in two different versions. Or, just wait for the fourth. It's already in the works.) Otherwise, you might want to think twice and consider whether reliving the same experience (however pleasant) is worth your time and money.
Art Gallery: Mega Man Battle Network 2
Pocky & Rocky with Becky
by Brad Gallaway
Not being a very high-profile game, I tracked down Pocky & Rocky with Becky because I heard it had old-school shooter elements in it, and I figured it was worth a look. That information was technically correct, but it was old-school in the sense meaning it had all of the old, obsolete characteristics of days gone by and none of the sophistication I've come to expect since then.
Featuring three characters (a raccoon and two girls which are palette swaps of each other) your goal is to trot at a leisurely pace through seven levels while destroying ghosts, kappas, and other Japanese-themed baddies. You attack either by whipping a stick (or raccoon's tail) and throwing cards, which is where the "shooter" part comes in. Similar in concept to Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) classics Commando or Ikari Warriors in a very loose sense, the core concept is good. But the final project falls fails to come anywhere near the gameplay offered in those two moldy oldies.
Really, I'm puzzled as to why the game is "only on the Game Boy Advance" since it actually displays sub-NES levels of quality. Characters and enemies have almost no animation, there was flash ( ! ) present during certain areas and, in a slightly embarrassing homage to days of yesteryear, enemy shots are displayed as chunky, floating diamond shapes.
Technical issues aside, there's no entertainment value here to speak of. Each level lasts approximately ninety seconds, and it works to simply walk forward and constantly swing your stick (or tail, as the case may be). Engaging, complex strategy this is not. Even the bosses are complete pushovers, with only the final one putting up even a modicum of resistance. I wish I could say that there was some charming, redeeming feature that made my time with Pocky & Rocky with Becky worthwhile, but there isn't. The box art sure was cute, though.
Davis Cup Tennis
by Erin Bell
Tennis isn't the most accessible sport to begin with, and this title certainly won't be breaking down any boundaries. The Davis Cup championship is structured differently from any of the four "Grand Slam" pro tour tournaments usually represented in tennis videogames. Aside from being only open to men, the Davis Cup is also a team-based competition where players of the same nationality compete against teams from other countries.
The game is accurate as far as observing Davis Cup rules, and avid followers of tennis may appreciate this. The player can choose a team from any of the three world regions (America, Euro/Africa, and Oceania/Asia), and then manage the pool of players by subbing out the injured and distributing experience points to improve stats.
Two countries square off in a "tie," which consists of four singles matches and a doubles match. The winner moves on into the next round, and the loser is dumped back into the pool of countries to try and re-qualify. Though it's possible to toggle the number of games per set and the number of sets per match, Davis Cup Tennis still has what I consider to be a fatal flaw in a handheld game: the option of saving one's game only comes up after completing an entire tie of five matches. Therefore for those interested in actually advancing through the ranks, the game is only practical during long interrupted trips of over an hour, or for play at home.
Though the graphics are life-like, they're marred by unrealistic hit-detection during return shots (the player can return the ball without his racket even appearing to make contact). There is very little control over the return itself, and no opportunity to do specialty shots like lobs or slices, making for some very tedious baseline tennis.
While singles tennis is dull though tolerable, doubles mode is completely frustrating due to the computer-controlled partner's complete lack of intelligence. With depressing consistency, the fool will either not react to a ball as it passes easily within reach, or cut in front of the other player leaving the his end of the court wide open.
The game does offer a 4-way link for both singles and doubles matches, though finding four people with a copy of Davis Cup Tennis is likely to be the biggest challenge.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway