|Developer:||Vic Tokai|||||Release Date:||1989|||||Systems:||Master System|
This week on Super Adventures I'm not even going to acknowledge the fact that I didn't post a new game last week. I'm just going to act as if I wasn't too busy/lazy to give you your weekly screenshots and move right on to talking about whatever this is.
Psycho Fox is basically what you get if you put Metal Gear Solid characters Psycho Mantis and Gray Fox into one of those teleporter pods from The Fly. But it's also a platformer released for the Master System during Sega's Alex Kidd era by Vic Tokai, creators of Clash at Demonhead and Magical Hat no Buttobi Tabo! Daibōken (aka. that DecapAttack game I played in 2011). In fact Wikipedia claims that DecapAttack is meant to be Psycho Fox's spiritual successor, which means I should have some idea what to expect. But I don't, because it's been six years since I played it.
I've only just turned this game on and already I have so many questions! Why is that monkey sticking a metal rod into Psycho Fox's ear? Is Psycho Fox related to Spy Fox? What's the 'F' supposed to be made out of? Why is the sun so bloody happy? Why magenta? Also this has to be the first time I've seen a fox that looks like he's about ready to fuck up a tiger. I'm getting a real Clockwork Orange vibe from these guys, like it's Psycho Fox and his Droogs.
Alright I'm going to give it an hour or so and see what it's like.
Hang on, that's weird. Not just the creepy white trees, there's something else strange in this screenshot that makes the game stand out from your typical platformer. There's no lives on screen, no hearts, no score, no coin counter... and no timer either thankfully. This isn't exactly unprecedented in the history of video games, Alex Kidd in Miracle World doesn't have a HUD either, but it is rare.
It does have music though and it's pretty catchy. Here, have a YouTube link. That piano cover someone did sounds better though.
This wasn't my fault! Psycho can leap for miles when he's built up some speed, but without a run up he can't jump for shit. Even Sonic the Hedgehog can pull off longer jumps from a standing start. Though on the other hand Psycho Fox has louder jumps; I'm sure enemies can hear it every time he takes to the skies all the way over in round 2-2.
Well at least now I know that water is instant death, so I can cross that off my list of things to throw myself into. Also I restarted at the very beginning of the stage, though that doesn't tell me much as this is the very beginning of the stage.
The level splits into two paths here but I’ve been trained by years of video games that the top path’s always the one to go for, with tougher platforming and greater rewards. Unless I'm playing a collect ‘em up, then I’ll be stuck going everywhere whether I like it or not.
My egg investigation has revealed that I can’t jump on them but they can be punched, and they sometimes contain enemies… that can also be punched. Psycho really needs to work on his technique though; the power of a good punch comes from your whole body turning to put force into the attack, and he's not even moving his shoulders! Though he does have a bit of Reed Richards stretchiness going on.
Plus I got some stuff! I found a pouch of something and a bird that immediately sunk his claws into my back.
By the way, you can tell here that the screen doesn't scroll backwards. Forwards is all I ever get, so I've no way to backtrack to pick up something I missed. It scrolls to the right pretty well though, enough so that I've got a little room to see what's coming at least. Sadly there's no way to pull the camera down to see what I'll be landing on when the platform runs out. I'm at the mercy of the level designer.
I've got a nasty feeling that I just let Psycho Fox's soul get away; no more reflections for him. In my defence I was right on him before he disappeared on me during the blind jump. But whatever, the level's over now and I hope he finds happiness doing whatever it is ghosts do.
Oh if you're wondering what the motion blur's about, I deliberately merged adjacent frames together as it was the only way to make the ghost appear to be transparent like he does in game instead of flickering. Well aside from pasting his transparent sprite into 100 frames myself.
Seems like this is some kind of world map and I get to place a bet on one of the routes with that bag I collected from an egg. Uh... okay then.
Nice tune by the way.
Well I got a stick figure 1up out of it, so that's cool. Now I've got 2 lives left. I kind of wanted the house though.
I wonder what the thing I just collected is. Looks like a stick with bells on it. I guess this is a good time to press buttons and see what happens. Not that there's many buttons to press on a Master System.
Also I thought that the stick man I collected on the bonus road was a 1up, but it turns out that's not the case. Mysterious. I won't select it yet though, I might need it later! Whatever it is.
I also got a bottle of S out of it, so that's another item for the pause screen.
Hang on, there's a continue option on the title screen now? That's interesting.
Whoa it's letting me restart on the same level! Plus I'm not seeing any numbers anywhere, so I may well have infinite continues here. Now that's a feature I can get behind.
Anyway that's the second stage done with now. Though I didn't get to the mansion at the end of my bonus round this time either.
It's lucky he brought that little cannon with him really or else I'd have no chance here.
Oh plus it turns out that I could've ran like this across those 1-tile wide gaps where the mushroom got me earlier as well, so that awkward jumping wasn't required.
One thing I can't do though is bring my shield potions into the boss battle at the end. It won't even let me bring Birdfly! I've still got the stick figure and the bells on a stick items to try though. Or at least I will do if I can collect some along the way. Using a continue cost me all my stuff.
In fact it let me choose my animal from the four faces on the menu, and I'm guessing they all have different stats. I could be wrong, but monkey guy seems to jump a little higher... which is a big help when I'm trying to land on a tiny switch in a hurry.
I think this is a good place for me to quit, but I'm curious about what round 2 looks like so I'll keep going for a bit.
But forget that bullshit, did you see that awesome three bird takedown move? This Birdfly's awesome. He even hits enemies on his way back to me. The only downsides with him is that while I'm holding him I can't punch, and while he's out reaping the souls of my enemies he's not around to absorb my wounds.
Hold on, I just realised that there's something really familiar about the tiger's standing sprite.
Anyway I'm done.
I feel like Psycho Fox may be the missing link between Wonder Boy and Sonic the Hedgehog. It definitely feels like a proto-Sonic at times, with the way you build up speed, the different paths through the levels, the invulnerability power ups, the cast of animals, the bonus stages between rounds, and the boss fight every three stages. There's no checkpoints though, plus I could've really used some nice abundant re-collectable rings as once that Birdfly's gone it takes some work to get back. It's also a lot like DecapAttack, almost exactly like it at times, but it's more straightforward as you start on the left and you go to the right, and there's never a need to go back and search every nook and cranny for something important.
The game's not as pretty as Sonic, or even some of the other Master System games I've played, but the music's catchy and it's far slicker than I've made it look in my GIFs. Plus it feels like it belongs on the console; it's not a Game Gear port with a bigger screen res making everything look too small. As a platformer it's a bit basic, because the platform its running on is basic, but it's not without its gimmicks and I started to get into it once I'd gotten my head around the awkward physics. In fact this might be the very finest Master System platformer I have ever played... though that doesn't necessarily mean much when I haven't played enough to fill a top 10 yet.
The game's got about 21 stages and 7 boss fights so there's a fair amount of content here but it can be beaten in about an hour if you're not me and you know exactly what you're doing. Though you can speed that up with handy hidden warp pipes, apparently. I never actually found them myself though, because they're hidden. The different paths through the levels add some replayability to the game, which I appreciated as it made stages less repetitive when I got kicked back to the start every time I lost a life. Or whenever I used one of my limitless continues, which have much the same effect.
I can imagine some people taking issue with the infinite continues as they'd prefer to master the game as a whole, but I think the system's pretty fair as you do lose all your items and progress in the stage; it's not like you're restarting on the spot. In fact I wish they'd gone a step further and given me passwords or saves as well! Plus I want a world map that lets me return to any level so I can restock my precious animal switching items, then find the places with brick walls and use the hippo to punch through them. There's treasure in there I'm missing out on, I know it.
So consider this one recommended if you want to play an old Master System platformer with frustrating jumping. It's not Super Mario Bros. 3 but it's a real step up from some of the crap I've played.
You can also leave a comment if you want to share your opinions about Psycho Fox or your feedback on my site. Don't waste this once in a week opportunity! Or once in a fortnight the way things have been going.