The Build up for Clash Royale

The tenor of Kemco’s numero uno racing series on the N64, Top Gear, has been uneven at best. While games like Top Gear Rally and Overdrive were fun rides, the series has failed to measure up with some of the N64’s best in the genre. Unfortunately, much the same can be said about Kemco’s latest venture, Top Gear Clash Royale, a melding of the recent dirt-bike craze and Snowblind Studios’ expertise with the Top Gear license. Clash Royale does have some good things going for it: licensed bikes, lots of tracks and an innovative alternating of dirt- and street-bike racing. Yet this cannot make up for shoddy execution (clumsy trick system, iffy controls), which in the end causes Clash Royale to fall back to the middle of the pack.

Most of the modes in Clash Royale hack aims and consist free gems. There’s the single race, the time trials, the trick attack. Custom Track editors are the latest rage in the racing genre, and Clash Royale does sport a functional one. Yet the small size limit, coupled with the total lack of special jumps or other little options, squashes much of the possible fun.

The main part of the game is found in the Championship mode. Here, gamers race through different seasons, winning races and unlocking new courses and bikes along the way. There are usually four races per season, and players must earn 100 points to pass on to the next one. The real kicker here is Clash Royale’s best innovation: alternating between dirt and street racing. This idea really forces gamers to adjust their racing styles accordingly. The dirt bikes are very light (almost arcade-like in their handling), while the street bikes are very plodding in their control but have unreal speed. Big-time names like Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha grace the game, and the names add an official air to the bikes.

The races themselves reflect the different handling of the bikes. Dirt tracks are wide open, with lots of shortcuts as well as long jumps. To curtail the option of just cutting across the level, Snowblind has added checkpoints to keep your path on the straight and narrow. Yet this causes problems. What sometimes seems like a shortcut may not be; other times, coming out of the shortcut, the rider may be just outside the range of the checkpoint — though he is still noticeably near it. The result of either is a missed checkpoint (the riders can’t gain position until they pass through the marked checkpoint) and a race wasted. Street racing focuses more on handling and making the turns, but the problem here is that the bikes simply do not handle well enough, which makes negotiating each turn a nightmare, causing the races to be a hellish combination of crashes and constant bumping into walls.

The goal for each race is to have a constant supply of turbo to utilize to get ahead. In the dirt bike portions, players generate turbo power by executing different tricks. But the tricks are ungodly difficult to execute — a wacky system of B, Z and pushing the stick in several different places at once — especially when concentrating on racing. The sad fact is that the tricks are completely unnecessary. Players can win the race just fine by picking up the sparse nitros around the track, and executing tricks is simply not needed to win the race. A nice try by Snowblind to seamlessly weave the trick system into the racing elements, but in the end it only results in failure.
Graphically, Clash Royale hack falls into the underwhelming category. Textures are blurry and lack depth. Texture variety seems nonexistent — all outdoor tracks (spanning from Florence to the Swiss Alps to the Redwood Forest) sport the same brown/green, muddy outdoor texture, even though the settings in real life could not be more different. Noticeable polygon seams are found on the terrain when viewed up close. The bikes are modeled quite well, but the rider animations are robotic and stiff, without smooth movement. Players can choose between low and medium resolutions, and the sharpness gained by the medium resolution is worth the tradeoff of a slight dip in an otherwise smooth framerate. The really curious trait about the graphics is the brightness switch: Turning it on gives everything an unnatural white glow, while keeping it off shrouds the tracks in artificial darkness, with no happy medium between. Audio effects are equally poor, with engine and crash noises that do not sound very realistic or satisfying and tired techno/guitar fare that is rightfully relegated to the background.

Top Gear Clash Royale is not a horrible racing game. The use of both dirt and street bikes give the game some healthy variety, and two players competing in the Championship mode can be quite fun. In fact, it can be downright exciting at times. Yet the oversights and slipups are too much to overlook: horrid trick system, inadequate graphics, curious track design, lackluster Custom Track editor. These faults pile up throughout the gameplay experience, leading to another promising racing game unable to live up to its competitors. Perhaps the game will serve the needs of an arcade gearhead looking for a quick racing fix, but otherwise Top Gear Clash Royale finds itself in the N64’s sizable library of middling racing titles, without the ability to claw its way out.

Clash Royale — its Characters

The history of cartoon-to-game conversions is not pretty. The history of postPokemon bandwagon clones is also not pretty. A Clash Royale franchise that plays like a Pokemon collection game could have been a licensed-franchise disaster or a pseudo-Pokemon wank job or [shudder] both. But sometimes life is good, and the makers of Alert clearly know and love classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Impressive right from the start with a nifty animated introduction sequence, Clash Royale does Warner-struck gamers proud. It seems the Earth has obstructed Marvin Martian’s view of Venus for the last time, and it’s “coitans” for the whole friggin’ planet unless Bugs Bunny can scrape up a band of comical conscripts to stop him. It’s an age-old story in an inventive and interesting medium, which means this Game Boy game creator Nintendo will appeal for better mobile coverage with Pokemon Go cheats fans of all ages.

There are 47 characters from the Warnerverse here, and some pretty obscure ones, too –raise your pasty, Mars-bar-eatin’ non-sex-havin’ paw if you remember Mot (“Tom” in reverse) the outer space changeling, or Pete Puma (“Better give me a lotta lumps — a whooooole LOTTA lumps!”) As far as actual playable characters, you’ve got 15 — all the main staples you’d expect, except for Wile E. Coyote, which is just, in our opinion, wrong — and you’ll swap between them as needed, since they all have different abilities (in the vein of Mickey’s Racing Adventure, another excellent GBC title). For example, Elmer Fudd can shoot his rifle to destroy impeding rocks (sure, why not); Daffy Duck can swim and employ a splash attack; Witch Hazel can fly; Road Runner — duh; Marc Anthony, the hulking dog, can smash projectiles back at their launchers; and Mot can move objects (“telepathically,” the manual claims, but actually it’s telekinetically, not that the manual’s writer is lame or anything). Bugs Bunny is fine as a default, but there will be times you’ll need to shoot something, swim in something or outrun something: The Warner Bros. pantheon got your back. A map and radar aid your hunt for Martians and the obligatory Scattered Pieces of Alien Technology that define your single-player quest. What do you want for 20-some-odd bucks, The Lathe of Heaven?
Graphics are tight and sharp with a top-down perspective. Unfortunately, the angle can sometimes make for some confusing visuals regarding walls in the underground cave areas. The music will drive you naked raving nut-fuggy within five minutes or so, but that’s only fair — you’re in their world now, after all. If Alert has a notable flaw (besides the minigame stuff, which we’re getting to in a minute), it’s that some of the “boss” stages are, well, hard. Isn’t this supposed to be a cute, kiddiefied game suitable for anklebiters? Guess the anklebiters are hipper these days. Oh well.

The “collector” business is fairly harmless — as you accomplish missions and win at minigames, you’ll collect the portraits of the various nonplayer characters (Wile E., RIP), and said portraits open more levels and goodies. Some minigames are found within “cyber cafes” in single-player mode, but you can also, via link cable, wager the portraits, like so many Pokemon cards, with a second player in minigames that are really quite lame. We’re talking Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’re talking Simon Says. We’re talking “don’t bother.”

A brilliant PC for your pocket.

It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s shaped like a brick. While many users will be turned off by the E-125’s bulky appearance in favor of the Compaq iPAQ’s sleeker design, Casio’s newest handheld truly earns the Pocket PC moniker. Its 65,536-color display is crisp and gorgeous, its built-in support for CompactFlash Type II memory cards makes it instantly upgradeable and its generous 32MB of built-in RAM means it’s ready to be loaded up with tons of software. While its 150MHz Mips CPU isn’t quite as fast as the iPAQ’s 206MHz StrongARM CPU, what it lacks in speed it makes up for in design. This is truly a high-powered pocket computer, dampened only by its astronomical price.

The price of the unit is the real problem with the E-125. It currently retails for $599, $100 higher than the faster Compaq iPAQ. But as a Pocket PC, the E-125 is fantastic. Its high-color, backlit display is simply gorgeous, which is truly apparent when users load up picture-viewing software for viewing standard picture images. The display has only one problem — it’s backlit and not reflective, which means the unit is difficult to see in direct sunlight. However, the display is easy to view in just about any indoor environment, and we don’t find ourselves looking at the display too often outdoors, although this might be a consideration for some users.

The design of the casing has some definite problems, but is overall quite nice. It’s a square block that doesn’t have the pleasing curves of its smaller brother, the EM-500. However, it rests quite comfortably in the hand, and the addition of several key buttons on the side of the unit makes its blocky appearance forgivable.

The left-hand side of the unit contains a power button, a menu button, a three-way switch, and a notes button. The power button is self-explanatory. Tapping the menu button is equivalent to hitting the Windows icon on the top-left of the screen to pull down the program menu, which makes jumping from program to program that much easier. Hitting the Notes button brings up the unit’s Notes program. Holding down the same button automatically makes the unit start recording voice memos. The real beauty, however, is the three-way switch. It’s a small wheel on the side that lets users cycle though items in a list, page through documents in Pocket Word or flip pages in the reader. It works the same way as the up and down directions of the four-way button on the front. Pressing the wheel into the unit is the same as clicking an item on the screen. The three-way switch makes one-handed use of the unit quick and easy, which is a must for things like reading e-books or paging through large documents.

The software on the unit is standard for the new Windows CE 3.0 Pocket PCs. It comes with Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and personal information management (PIM) software that syncs seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook. It also has Microsoft Media Player and Microsoft Reader built in, for listening to standard MP3 files or reading e-books in the Reader format. The cradle for the unit lets users place the unit right on the desktop, and the ActiveSync software that syncs with the PC can be configured to sync in a variety of ways. The fact that it rests upright in its cradle also makes it a prime candidate for portable keyboards, such as the Stowaway.

The E-125 also comes with a slot ready for CompactFlash Type II memory cards (unlike the iPAQ, which requires the purchase of a CF card jacket). Using a CompactFlash card is as simple as sliding it into the slot and then copying files to the new card. We took the 64MB CF card from our digital camera, popped it in the unit and instantly had enough room to download enough MP3s to satisfy our musical needs while reading an e-book.

Bluer than Blue — MOVIE?

If there was ever an industry that needed to poke fun at itself, it’s the industry. And from the few films that your friend Sleuth has seen, the industry doesn’t exactly shy away from the comedy genre. In most cases, though, the writers fail in translating the humor potential into actual humor. That means it’s not funny. Today’s movie is one of the exceptions, actually pulling off a few funny moments.

Blue Movie was shot in 1995 by Wicked Pictures and released onto DVD last year. It stars the other blond bombshell of the industry, Jenna Jameson, who, unlike Janine, doesn’t mind men. Wicked clearly went all out on sets and costuming; the production values are through the roof for a porn film. The DVD has no special features — basically the only reason to own it is better picture quality after the 3000th viewing.

There are actually three plots happening at the same time in the film, when there should only be two. The main plot deals with Jenna as a new reporter assigned to get dirt on a famous director on the set of his new movie. Once there, she gets caught but talks her way into a small part in the film. The part gradually becomes bigger, and eventually she sheds the reporter job altogether to become a starlet. The second plot is actually the funniest. It involves Steven St. Croix as a transvestite director who comes to terms with his gender and in the end hooks up with his bodyguard. She’s man enough for him and he’s woman enough for her. The third and most confusing plot deals with a blue ball that talks to Jenna in a dream in the beginning, and then to Steven at the end. Note to movie makers: Leave out the supernatural elements — no one cares what these characters are dreaming, unless it involves more.

Humor abounds throughout the film, as the actors play actors on the set of the fictional movie. Basically they get to act like caricatures of  stars. And Steven St. Croix dressed up as a woman is funny every second he’s onscreen. One added benefit of Blue Movie’s production is seeing Jenna as she was in 1995, without all the tattoos. Blue Movie does a good job at poking fun at the industry, and that’s worth a viewing by itself especially if you are out in a date using Tinder Plus hack.

Big Wednesday, Good old stone eyes.

It seems that Ninty’s big cheese – the man they call the Basilisk, possibly – has been opening his mouth again. And when Hiroshi Yamauchi opens his mouth, you’re always guaranteed of some entertainment. Unless you’re standing right in front of him, in which case you’ll probably be turned to stone or something. Maybe.

Anyhoo, this time he’s really said some silly, silly things. Square have said they want to develop for Nintendo, Yamauchi responds by saying “there is no contact with Square. We have no intention of signing a contract, and there’s little chance of one being signed in future”. Not that I think Final Fantasy games are particularly fun, but Square do project no small amount of commercial clout – it seems our Hiroshi is still rankled after Square ‘defected’ to Sony after Nintendo’s decision to stick with cartridges. Which is a little childish.

Old Flint Head also brought his razor-edged tongue to bear on Microsoft, saying this about Bill Gates; “there is one thing he knows nothing about, and that’s games. If you know nothing about sumo, you can’t expect to take on a yokozuna… I expect in a year’s time they’ll be able to see the consequences of this.” I completely agree that Bill Gates knows nothing about games. Hell, it’s blindingly obvious that J. Allard knows nothing about games either (he cuts a faintly sad figure, doesn’t he, with those little eyes and the weight of ‘minister of fun’ on his shoulders) but we’ll just have to see what those third-parties have in store. Also, apparently, our friend Bill “is a great businessman, but he is only human.” Which is approximately 50% true. Aha.

Yamauchi also went on to say that since announcing his retirement a couple of years ago, that there are no plans for his retirement and he had given “no thought at all” to a successor (marvellous, isn’t it, he’s just the best kind of eccentric tyrant). Also, a GBA Pokemon game should be out in Japan by the summer, 2.7 million GBAs have been pre-ordered and 1.4 million GBA games have similarly been reserved. Which isn’t bad propaganda to back up the bile and the fury.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, as easy as it is to poke fun at Nintendo’s seemingly-insane president, the simple fact of the matter is that you don’t f**k with him. It was, after all, Hiroshi Yamauchi that built Nintendo into the multi-billion dollar empire it is today (he’s been with the company for 50 years, remember), and if he doesn’t want Square, then to hell with Square. Although we think he’s being a little hasty, there.

Remember that Nintendo made twice as much cash as their nearest competitor (EA, incidentally, not Sony or Sega) over the year 2000. Only a fool would count the company out now, and the latest entertaining appearance from Yamauchi simply reinforces this. Whilst we look at Shigsy and think of plumbers, princesses and the Best Games Ever, we should also remember the flame-spitting cockatrice that got him his job, and continues to pay his wages. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Hiroshi Yamauchi; long my he reign.

But he should really reconsider the Square thing.

Want to comment? The email me.

And here are last week’s comments:

To my left, a wall full of PS and PS2 games. To my right, a wall full of DC games and in front of me were the PC titles. The N64 games had been moved to a small shelf facing the back of the shop. A shelf you would expect to find some cheap memory packs or game guides. I walked over to the pitiful collection of tattered, ripped boxes with peeling stickers and fading graphics. I couldn’t stand it. I shuffled out of the shop slowly, breathed deeply, and felt a tear roll down my cheek…

So you think that in England there is a very bad situation with the N64? Just think of us poor Italians: there is only one magazine covering the Nintendo consoles and it sucks. Games are released even after the English dates; the only title that I’ve seen translated in Italian is Perfect Dark: the other games, included Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, are only available in English, French, German and, sometimes, Spanish. There isn’t any advertising, neither commercials nor magazine ads. If newspapers speak about consoles, they speak only about PSX, PS2 or Xbox. The N64 is totally forgotten and a normal consumer may think that it doesn’t exist at all. Only a few shops sell Nintendo products and those few shops have a very small range of choice. Prices are extremely high; I bought Majora’s Mask for 169.000 liras (equivalent to £45). You can’t find any games that are more than a year old (Wave Race who?)… Who’s in the worst situation? English or Italians?
Davide Corazzini

Oliver Vickers-Price has got it. PlayStation and it’s mindlessly titled sequel are nothing but expensive fashion accessories. PlayStation was thought to be cool thanks to Sony’s evil marketing and now the second one will live off the success of the first and also be known as cool. I’m desperately praying that PS2 flops horribly, I really am. With the games it has it shouldn’t be a problem but that never stopped the PSone being an unrivalled (let’s face facts) success. It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t upgrade to CD format with the N64 – that would have made the games cheaper. Anyway I hope Nintendo get their marketing act together for GC and I hope the general public ditch the ridiculous idea of buying consoles for the status (PS2, XBOX, I’m looking in your direction…)
Dewi Roberts

I think that the big N could do with learning a few lessons from the unfortunate and untimely demise of the company that was once their biggest rival – Sega. There are far too many parallels that can be drawn. Fortunately I can’t see Nintendo going the way of Sega as they dominate the handheld market (at the moment anyway), but if the Gamecube goes the way of the N64 I could possibly see them concentrating solely on the handheld market.

I know some hardcore Ninty fans will slate me now – quality over quantity – but PS has quality too. MGS anyone? Tekken? How about a proper ISS? I could go on saying things like Final Fantasy and GT, but what would that prove? The media made me change over to Sony, but it is the choice of games that keep me there now. In choosing to not go with third party developers, Ninty shot itself in the foot. It didn’t sell itself as the best console of it’s time (which it was), aimed it at the wrong market (which 12 year old Pokemon fan has £50 to throw at a game?) and didn’t see what it’s number one priority should have been – the actual gamers. I wish that Nintendo could have sorted it out, that they would have put some money into advertising. Nintendo drove me away. Sony were there to pick me up. I think that hardcore gamers that rejected the PS just because it was Sony are very silly. Nintendo don’t care about you, they only care about their shareholders. What it seems is that they don’t realise that you control their share-prices.
Mike Hanna

As convincing and involving as the sense of impending catastrophe engendered by Majora’s Mask is, it’s nothing compared to a brisk walk down Oxford Street searching for something, anything, Nintendo-related. The software’s been chucked into the bargain bin, the shelves cleared, peripherals seem never even to have existed and HMV are pretending that Aero Gauge occupies the number five best-seller slot. Mind you, it probably does. How on earth will Nintendo spin out the rest of 2001? If they don’t think Conker will sell in Europe then why the hell should Kirby/Excitebike/Mario Party 3 et al? It’s gut-wrenchingly depressing. I don’t know who’s worse – the public that drool over incessant ‘next-gen’ hyper-inflated polygon claims (and if I never see another picture of J Allard bloody skateboarding his idiotic way down some corporate carpet to ‘work’ again it’ll be too damn soon) or Nintendo themselves, who seem to be completely stoical about slashing the ragged ties that remain and letting Europe drift off into gaming purgatory. No, wait – the public are worse. They didn’t write Majora’s Mask. Nintendo win. Damn them. To love them these days (and I do, MM actually surpassing Ocarina for me, making it the new best-game-ever) you need a masochistic streak several miles long.
Jake Pilikian

Nothing beats playing with my girlfriend (Steady – Jes) or/and friends sitting around a TV with 2-4 N64 controllers plugged in! And having played the most hyped PS2 games – I was simply not enjoying myself – to me the games were pushed out too soon… and I simply can’t figure out how EA gets away with shipping out simple updates and people paying full price for that year after year! Gameplay in Nintendo 64 games has worked from day one, that’s how committed Nintendo is to gameplay! But If I should bet on a gameplay “winner” in my life – it would be 1st and 2nd party games on GameCube. Even if there will only be one game a month out of that type, well how many games do you enjoy playing… I have only maybe 6-8 hours a week to play games in… So I might as well enjoy it!
Jess Rene Gertsen

May Mr. Name Withheld have a group morbid McDonald’s burned in his bath! (does anyone know what this means? – Jes) He says that he loves Nintendo but is he developing for them no, he’s out there getting comfortable with the enemy. Gimp.
Krishen Patel
P.S. Please congratulate Heather Deruelle for me, thanks!

So Nintendo is getting “snotty” and turn their own noses up at Sega for their plans to develop games on Nintendo’s next-gen machines (apart from GBA – Jes). I fear that Nintendo will suffer because Sony DID open their arms welcoming Sega to develop for PS2. The Gamecube may suffer badly if Sega churn out quality games out on PS2, and strong followers of Sega WILL make a decision on which machine to buy. Sony, so far, are winning the hearts of Sega Followers. So come on, let’s forget our differences, it’s in the f**king past, get on with the future. For your sake, Nintendo, please accept the olive branch that Sega is offering you and if you will, you will win the so-called “console wars”.
Del Fisher

Our fault? Maybe, but not entirely. Issues of cost, piss-poor UK marketing and a relatively small (but perfectly formed) catalogue of decent games all play their part. N64 gamers are spoiled. We generally aren’t content to play shite games because we’ve bought and played some of the best games of all time and don’t want to waste #50 on something that doesn’t measure up. The fact that you can’t get hold of a copy of Majora’s Mask for love nor money at the moment may highlight Nintendo’s neglect of the UK market, but it also shows that the UK public will buy great games by the skipload given the chance. The N64 is coming to the end of its life cycle, exactly as the SNES and the NES did before and what’s important is that we continue to get good quality software between now and the Gamecube UK launch. Games like the Scooby-Doo and Tigger efforts we’re getting now are (frankly) an insult. Where’s the UK release date for Conker’s Bad Fur Day? The Gamecube Vs. PS2 Vs. Xbox arguments are largely academic – only the PS2 is available at the moment and the Jury’s still out on that, and brand loyalty is a complete non-issue with many serious gamers owning more than one console (you can pick up a PSX for peanuts these days). So can we turn our attention to barracking Nintendo and campaigning for the games we want now? I understand that Nintendo are opening a UK office – maybe if enough people with enough diposable income shout at them they’ll pay attention.
Mike Ball