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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

Legend of the Seven Stars--Been There, Done That

Some may find the new Mario for Super Nintendo captivating. But for this player, it was all too familiar.

May 16, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let's get one thing straight: I am not a big fan of role-playing adventure games. Most fail to hold my interest for the hours and hours and hours they take to play. Most of the puzzles are lame. And most of the fighting action is limited and boring.

With that proviso, I can say I didn't care much for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for Super Nintendo. I'm sure lots of people will love it to pieces and even I acknowledge the technical grace the game displays, but in the end it just wasn't my thing.

Maybe it was just too familiar. Princess Toadstool has been captured--again--by Bowser--again--and Mario must rescue her--again. The environments looked just as you would expect a Mario side-scroller to look, except at a three-quarters view.

The fighting sequences were far too tedious for my taste. And some of the story just took too long to tell. That's fine if you're reading Tolstoy or Hugo, but this is a video game.

All that aside, the rendered graphics are exceptional for a 16-bit game, and even the soundtrack is less annoying than most Mario adventures. Like I said, many will think this game great. I'm just not one of them.

Congo: Movies--even good ones--rarely translate very well into video games. So imagine my surprise when a movie I thought was pretty bad--Congo--actually made a pretty good video game.

Based loosely on the movie, the game takes players into the heart of the jungle for a Doom-like first-person trek through some of the most impressive environments around. Along the way, players battle a host of giant spiders, mosquitoes and other nasty critters.

Much of the action is pretty standard first-person shooting stuff. Pick up big weapons. Find health bonuses. Look for ammo. But some of the design elements excel. For instance, the first stage requires players to find an antidote to cure a virus they've contracted. So the screen bobs, weaves and fades in and out, much as it would look if someone was feverish.

Nice touch.

Even the cinematics, which I usually skip, were pretty good. The video quality was exceptional, and the information was actually helpful in getting through levels.

Available only on Saturn, the game suffered at times from Sega's controller, which I personally don't think is designed very well. Nor does is offer sufficient refinement of movement.

In the end, though, I enjoyed playing Congo a lot more than I did sitting through it at the theater.

Cool Stuff: The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo opens today at the Los Angeles Convention Center--a chance for all the video- and computer-game companies to trot out their hottest products.

Among the hottest: demonstrations of Nintendo's much delayed 64-bit machine. Nintendo promises to have playable games on display, as well as more solid information about when the rig will start hitting shelves.

The show won't be open to the public, but look for a full report next week about what's cool and what sucked.

* Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games regularly. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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