Monday, June 14, 2010

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTICON: The Transformers Generation 2 handheld game by Tiger

When I was a kid in the early 80s playing with action figures was a lot more interesting than playing video games. The limited graphics of the Atari 2600 or Intellivision just didn't deliver the same punch as He-Man could (literally). Then the Transformers arrived at a time when console gaming was totally dead, a year after the big video game crash of '83. Consoles would eventually make a comeback but not before Hasbro offed Optimus Prime in 1986. Consequently the original lineup of '84-'85 Autobots led by Optimus Prime only ever got one video game during Generation One-the 1985 Commodore 64 title "Transformers". I never got to play it when I was 11 years old because a) I never had a Commodore 64 and b) even if I did have a C64 and you gave me 30 bucks to buy the game I was so robotarded I would probably spend all the money on more Dinobots.


And so I would have to wait almost ten years after 1985 for Tiger to release their Transformers: Generation 2 electronic handheld game, which was pretty much the Generation One game I always wanted. I bought it at Botcon 2006 instead of getting more actual Transformers. This did not mean I grew out of my robotardation. All it meant was that a) I didn't know about the game until 2006 and b) in the twenty years since 1985 I still could not figure out a good use for 30 dollars that did not involve toy robots. So I thought it would be cool to do a video of myself playing this game like the guys on YouTube have done for other Tiger handhelds like Metal Gear and Street Fighter. At first I wanted my video to be in the same sterile documentary style like those other videos were and just play the game and let it speak for itself. Then I turned on the camera and just started blabbing away-not because this game play is so complex that the overwhelming action needed narration, but because I talk too much all the time.


Unfortunately in all my excitement I didn't get around to making a couple of important observations crucial to understanding why this is indeed the greatest Generation 1 game that never came out in Generation 1. This is because the levels are rather short and I didn't have enough time to say everything I wanted to say, but luckily for the universe there is the Roboplastic Apocalypse. One notable difference between this Transformers game and other Tiger handhelds is the lack of music or digitized voices in the game. There is no Transformer theme song playing or Optimus Prime talking but it doesn't really detract from the fun. What is a little annoying is how short the boss battles are. I had barely said Long Haul's name after he showed up at the end of level 1 to start the boss fight and then I beat him. I'm just glad he showed up-the biggest problem I had with level 1 is the game timer would kick in and end everything before I got a chance to kill everything. A lot of times what would happen is I'd run out of time before I got to Long Haul or I'd barely get to him and I'd run out of time. I can't figure out what triggers Long Haul showing up. I don't think it's dependent on going a certain distance down the road. I think it depends on the number of enemies I destroy. Either way level 1 is the shortest of the game and thankfully the only one where the game timer adds an element of tension and excitement to a battle against Long Haul. This is no small accomplishment considering it makes you tense and excited to be in a battle with Long Haul.


Level 2 is a lot of fun because your Autobot partner is Jazz, who is actually useful and doesn't die immediately because he's in a bad spot on the screen like Inferno. Jazz doesn't just pop up when you call him, either. There's actually a quick appearance made by his vehicle mode and then his robot shows up and starts lobbing missiles at the Decepticons. I don't remember any Jazz appearance in comics or cartoons when he's used that missile launcher but I'm glad he does it here. It's fun to see his missiles travel across the screen and pop Devastator on the head. Watching Optimus move his arm up and down to fire his gun in different directions is also pretty cool. There's actually a decent amount of character animation in this game, like when Optimus transforms he doesn't go straight to robot-there's an intermediate stage where his head pops out of the truck first. And when Devastator appears for the boss fight at the end of level 2 it's preceded by Long Haul transforming into his torso and then the other Constructicons appear all around him. The game is limited by what an LCD can do but I think Tiger did some pretty cool things here. Again the boss battle is a little too short but at least I've never run out of time getting to it.


They could have made Devastator the final boss of the entire game but that would mean we wouldn't get to see him much. By making him an end boss in level 2 it was assured his liquid crystal sprite (or whatever they call it) appeared a lot throughout the game. This is probably why I love level three. It's chock full of Devastator battles! Unfortunately the cool animation of Long Haul transforming into his torso and the other Constructicons piling on doesn't happen here. When Devastator shows up after level 2 it's always sudden and instantaneous. His death is also pretty sudden and instantaneous because unlike his first appearance he only takes one shot to kill. The end boss of level 3 is Ramjet, who is an enemy that appears throughout the game in every level but this time he's got more hit points and a little bit of a flashier entrance. Like all the other bosses he goes down after way too short of a fight. Ramjet being used as a boss was probably just Tiger padding out the game a bit. Level three does seem a bit unnecessary but it's worth it just to have a little more Optimus vs. Devastator time.


Man I just noticed there's a gigantic piece of lint on the screen in all these videos. It's right on top of where Optimus in robot mode goes when he jumps in the air. Man, that's annoying. Well level 4 is pretty much level 3 all over again except the call partner is Grimlock. Usually Grimlock sticks around and is highly effective but of course when I need him to stick around for my YouTube video he goes out almost immediately after Ramjet throws him a missile. The little animation of Grimlock swinging his sword is really neat especially when you see him use it against a nearby Constructicon but you're just going to have to take my word for it. The final battle against Starscream is not unlike battling Ramjet at the end of level 3, but this time through some clever LCD wing patterning you do at least get a different looking robot to fight. As usual the boss battle is way too short, especially since the instructions tout Starscream as being the most powerful of all the Decepticons in the game. But it's cool. I am kind of glad they didn't use G2 tank Megatron to finish the game off because this way I can sort of squint and pretend it's the G1 game I always wanted. With all the shortcomings of LCD technology it may not deliver the same Transformers experience as a game like Mystery of Convoy but on the plus side it doesn't deliver the same Transformers experience as Mystery of Convoy.


Unfortunately the game allows no continues so if you die in any level you always start again at the beginning of level 1, making it a hassle if I wanted to reshoot these videos because of a linty screen or to get a longer cameo by any of the other Autobots. But I think what I've got here is good enough to give most people a representative idea of what goes on in the game. It's pretty much Optimus Prime vs. a whole bunch of Constructicons for ten minutes and while that might be boring to some people, I can't get enough of it. I hear there's another really great Optimus vs. Devastator battle in the Revenge of the Fallen game I just got for PS3. Hopefully it won't take 17 years for me to play that one but I'm sure I'll be all over it soon because in the twenty years since 1985 I still can't figure out a good use for 30 minutes that doesn't involve toy robots.


Heavyarms said...

I think I figured out what makes this game so great. You can reenact that scene from The Movie (not the "Bay" movie, but THE The Movie) during the Battle of Autobot City where Optimus shows up and transformerizes and then flies through the air pwning a bunch of Deceptichumps.

And you can reenact it literally thousands of times.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

In the Transformers Generation 2 movie Optimus almost sends the Dinobots after Devastator but then he's all, "No, hold on dudes. I can handle this." Because G2 Optimus is EXTREEEEME!

Then after seeing Inferno, Jazz and Sideswipe get blown away fighting alongside Optimus against unending waves of Constructicons, Grimlock jumps in and says "Me thought you said you could handle this!"


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