Monday, 19 November 2012

Magical Pop'n (SNES)

Magical Pop'n title sceen animated gif
I've been meaning to take a proper look at Magical Pop'n for a while now, but I keep getting distracted five minutes in and turning it off. This time though I'm determined to at least get up to a boss fight or two.

The title screen makes it look sweet enough to dissolve tooth enamel, but it'll have to try harder than that to scare me off.

The intro starts with a picture of old wizard chasing some poor girl around a castle in his pyjamas, yelling and waving a book. I'm sure it'd make perfect sense if I could read the narration, but the game was never released in English so I'm stuck with undecipherable Japanese text.

I'm getting the feeling this isn't going to be a Pop'n Twinbee spin-off though.

I'm can't be sure, but I think he's yelling "Pika!" No, seriously. Or maybe it's coming from the magic ball, I don't know. The poor girl looks as lost as I am.

The glowing orb seems to be the cue for a penguin army to assemble with cutlasses drawn to march on the castle. Ain't they the cutest little marauders you ever saw?

The invaders manage to make it all the way into the castle throne room. Fortunately Princess Pop'n (you and I both know that probably isn't her name, but whatever) dives in to scare them away with a hadouken, and it actually works. The villain hovers off and the King is safe. He didn't even get kidnapped to spark off an epic and perilous adventure across several distinctively themed 'worlds' to bring him back!

But Pop'n is determined to turn this into a platformer game, and dives out a window after them. The poor girl forgot she couldn't fly though, and ends up falling to the rooftops below.

Whoa! I thought I'd hit some buttons to test if I could make her do that hadouken move in game, and... there you go. All I need to do is press 'Select'. It ate up a lot of my stars though, so I think I'll save it until I really need it from now on.

I've got a pretty effective energy bullet attack I can use instead, which seems to only eat up 2 stars. Just like it says underneath its icon in fact. (I'm so used to PC games I thought it was the hotkey for a second).

Magical Pop'n leaning over an edge animation gif
Our protagonist is definitely a well animated little heroine. A little TOO well animated perhaps. I mean come on, who needs three different balancing animations, huh? That's just showing off.

Her outfit reminds me a little of the guy from Do Re Mi Fantasy (also on the Super Famicom), but the two games play very differently. In fact I'm only mentioning it because I remember it being a decent game, and I felt like reminding people it exists. Don't read the post though, my writing there sickens me... don't know what I was thinking.

Pop'n is the sword swinging type of platformer hero, though she can safely jump onto enemies using a downwards stab move. I was just about to demonstrate on this guy's head, but then Burny here had to pop up and ruin my plan.

To be fair he was pretty easy to spot, so it was my own dumb mistake that got me cooked. Also he's a bit like the Piranha Plant from the Mario games, and won't spring up to attack me if I'm standing too close to dodge.


SOON.


Hey it's the villain from the intro! Actually no, I think that guy's outfit was more indigo rather than violet. Whatever, this asshole's TK'ing furniture at me and it's starting to get annoying. Mostly because I'm doing a terrible job of dodging it.

We took turns beating the crap out of each other for a while, but fortunately I was knocking off his health skulls faster than he could throw chairs, so he exploded before did. In fact he went out with an explosion big enough to take the side of the building off. Which is lucky for me because this would have been a dead end otherwise.

Oh, I guess he was just a mid-boss as the level's still going.

This is a really slick game with great controls, so they've compensated by making some of the enemies a pain in the ass to hit. It only takes a single hit to kill most enemies, it's getting that hit in that's the hard bit. I tried shooting some energy bolts his way as well, but he just dodged them.

Quit jumping out of the way of my sword you bastard werewolf! Come back here and throw yourself on my blade already!

HAH! Not so smug with a sword up your ass are you? Well that achieved absolutely nothing, but it made me happier.

Sometimes the enemies can drop a star, or even a slice of delicious healthy cake. Yep, when your protagonist has had seven shades of shit kicked out of them by an army of vicious animals, nothing can heal their gaping wounds quite like a big slice of cake.


SOON, BENEATH THE STREETS.


Well that way's blocked by lollipop bricks, so I suppose I have to go inside the door then.

Wow, this just got very Castlevania all of a sudden. I suppose a basement is as good a place as any to hide an ancient temple containing powerful lollipop magic. It's convenient at least, as it's given me exactly what I needed to get through those bricks.

Well the lollipop grenades worked, but the next room was a dead end. It seems that the game has multiple paths around the levels, and I can backtrack to open up new areas with the latest magic I've picked up. It's way more linear than something like the Metroid games, but I still wish I had a map right about now.


LATER, I REACH A SECOND BOSS FIGHT!


Oh shit, I've reached a second boss fight! I'm trying to get him with grenades but my aim's a little off. Still, as long as he stays way up there I should be fine.

I'm so bad at boss battles.

I can't even complain about it, because the fight seemed reasonable enough. I couldn't dodge the thing's attacks, but I'm sure someone halfway competent could have figured out his routine already. Nope, this was a fair fight and I lost.

Fortunately I didn't have far to travel to get back into the fight. The game seems very reasonable with its restart points.



LATER, AFTER I FINALLY KICK THAT BOSS'S ASS.


Awesome, he was the stage's final boss and I'm finally through to Stage 2. I've reached the forest level, yay! Look at that woodland wildlife frolicking around without a care in the world. I bet those butterflies turn out to be my most dangerous opponent yet.

Turns out that it was the level rather than the wildlife that beat me in the end. I just can't jump this gap. Though somehow I get the feeling I'm missing something here. The floating cog was my first clue.

That reminds me, I haven't found one insta-kill spike pit in this game so far. No bottomless pits, no deadly water puddles, nothing. The game's given me plenty of chances to screw up, but the penalty has never been overly harsh. I just had to try again until I got it right. That's good game design in my humble opinion.

Look at this, even the plants can dodge my energy bolts. He jumped straight out of the ground! It's not that the magic's useless, I just have to be smart about when I use it.

Oh damn... it's a Metroid! Hey there little guy, come float down here so I can stab you.

By the way, the character controls so well that this room was no effort at all to get through. People looking for a real challenge would probably be disappointed with these levels, but I'm glad for the chance to pretend I'm good at platformers for once.


ONE PAIN IN THE ASS MID-BOSS FIGHT LATER.


Yeah, I knew there was something up with that floating cog. They're the attach points for my new grappling hook magic. The game was smart enough to use a semi-circle of star pick-ups here to give players a hint about how the power works, which is nice. For a game based around getting stars to fuel magic, it really hasn't been using them to mark paths much at all.


BUT THEN, AFTER GRAPPLING ACROSS THE GAP OUTSIDE...


Agh, I slipped into a fucking insta-kill pit!

Actually no, it only took off half a heart of damage, I just lost all my health earlier by being bad at games. Yet again I've still got nothing to complain about. Well I suppose I could whine about how that block of ground on the right looks boring. Man, look at how boring the art is on that block of ground! I'm deducting 15 points just for that.

Oh crap, that was my last life? Shit, that means I have to reply the entire stage again from the start, including the mid-boss. I hated these boss fights enough the first time around, the last thing I want is an encore.

On the bright side, it doesn't tell me how many continues I have, so maybe I have infinite. Passwords or saves would have been nice though. Maybe even a level select or world map, everyone loves a world map.



LATER, AFTER REPLAYING THE ENTIRE STAGE AND REACHING THE NEXT BOSS.


Okay, that guy looks awesome. Like a giant bug-eyed spiky orange.

I managed to beat him effortlessly just by standing on the left of the screen and shooting bolts at him every now and again, so he is now my favourite boss in the game.

Well I think I've seen enough of this game to get what it's about. It's a cute platformer with a lot of character, great controls, and good game design. No point playing it any further really so I guess I'll turn it off now.


LATER, ON STAGE 4.


Hmm, nice painting. Though it's given me a sudden craving for Pringles for some reason.

Hey, I think I've just figured out what these two dragon-penguins are up to here. A Dracula-style resurrection of their dark master.

My foreknowledge didn't save me though. I see now that this boss is going to require a bit of strategy. Perhaps I could try using my new flamethrower magic on him, assuming I collect enough stars to power it on the way back here for the rematch. I think fire woud make a lot of sense against an enemy made of snow.

Actually I'll just run to the edge of the screen and shoot blue magic bullets at him again, and hope his skulls run out before my stars do. Like I do in every boss fight.


LATER.


Oh I see how it is. The game's starting to show its true colours now. Those other levels were just a warm up for Icy Spiky World. Shit is officially starting to get real.

Oh come on, I'm running in a stream of water against the current, trying to jump over boulders, while enemies shoot at me from above... and now they've started dropping icicles on me too from off screen. I think this might be the first time in the game I've come across something I could honestly call 'bullshit'.

Well, at least there's no slippery ice ramps. Yet.


SOON.


This room is a fantastic argument against the need for harsh failure penalties in games.

All there is in here is two rows of these grappling hook points, and a ledge on either side. One with a chest sitting on it, the other with a door to exit the room. A switch on the floor underneath opens the door, but it only stays open a short time. The only penalty for screwing this up is having to press the switch and start grappling from the bottom point again.

And holy shit is it difficult. For me anyway. I've grappled left to right to left to right then fallen on my ass so many times now. Man this is pissing me off. I mean I'm pissing me off, by not being good enough to do it. The game's playing absolutely fair.

Still, at least it's easier than grappling onto stuff in Earthworm Jim...


EVENTUALLY, I REACH WHAT I PRESUME TO BE THE FINAL BOSS OF STAGE 4, AND KICK HIS ASS.


Wow, I'm kicking this guy's ass. Or at least I was until he turned red and started jumping out of the water at me. Still, it'll only take me two hits to kill him, and I've got 91 stars. I'd have to be a real idiot to screw this up now, and fortunately I am more than up to the task.

I chained together an incredible run of stupid mistakes and snatched ultimate defeat from the jaws of almost certain victory, finishing off by falling into the water and dying. No clue how I managed that. I could continue from the start of the stage, but somehow the idea of replaying the last 50 minutes of gameplay doesn't really appeal to me much. So I'm done with it.


I don't know how well known this game is, but even if it's not a hidden gem in the SNES's game library, it's definitely a gem. Don't let the over-cuteness put you off, it's one of the best SNES platformers I've played, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes jumping around ledges with a sword. It's just a shame they couldn't have added a save system and some kind of level select. Maybe even one that split the stages into sub levels so I'd never need to kill a boss more than once, and other people would be free to go back and fight their favourite nemesis as often as they liked.

8 comments:

  1. Hmm... Looks good. I'll have to try this one out.

    Thanks for the great review!

    ...In the vein of 'Pop' games, how about reviewing Popful Mail for the PC Engine and/or Super Famicom/SNES? It looks like an interesting platformerish game that needs a Super Adventures in Gaming review.

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    1. Good idea, I'll check it out sometime.

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  2. Yes...! Finally! I've been searching this game for three years!!! It's one of my favourite games ever, thank you so much forthe images provided, coz i had forgotten the name of this game :))

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    1. Glad the post was useful in some way to someone :)

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  3. Is there anywhere that you can download for free? My gameboy needs a format call J.nes, but i can't find...I'll appreciate if you know

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    1. Sorry man, even if I had the faintest clue about this I wouldn't want to discuss it here.

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  4. I just recently got this game and beat it. I can tell you this, this game has one of the cheapest bosses towards the very end, a wizard with a force field that can nullify ALL of your attacks. The only way to beat him is to wait for him to attack, then use grapple magic to get to him and slash him. And later you fight a blue palette swap of the same guy who has a cheap lightning spell and the same cheap force field. And then you fight the final boss, who is a pushover.
    But yes, dont let the cuteness fool you, this game is a challenge!

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  5. Yeah, I played it. And I found it to be quite impossible to beat normally. I just used my emulator's Pro Action Replay cheat code engine to get infinite health, lives, and magic (the number by the star in the upper right corner of the screen). Absolutely impossible levels, and insane bosses. I hate to cheat, but using cheats was the only way to win.

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