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PHRASE OF THE WEEK: DIE JOB DEATH CAR? (Daijobu desu ka - Are you OK?) (C) Sodom

Monday, August 2, 2010

[ZX] Doctor Mario

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Doctor Mario

Genre: puzzle game
NES/developer/publisher: Nintendo
ZX/developer: Romantic Warriors
Year of release: 199?
Players: 1
Media: 5-inch floppy disk
Additional peripheral supported: Kempston joystick, Sinclair joystick, Sinclair II joystick

Today, we're gonna do a thing which is an opposite to our regular program. I previously reviewed the computer-to-console games, but for this run, I'll do a console-to-computer port. What's really nice, however, is that this port is obscure (and this actually follows the rules) - that's one, and that the computer is not your regular PC that every teenager owns at home, but something that an ordinary guy used to own long ago, ZX Spectrum - that's two. Just imagine: a little keyboard box which is supposed to be an 8-bit computer working with regular cassette tapes as a method of data storage got such a large and smart fanbase that it actually has more quality homebrew software than NES does. Possibly, that may be because of the usage of BASIC rather than assembler for writing the code and stuff, but that's not the topic of our today's discussion, no.
The fanbase was SO freaking huge that some guys did excellent ports and remakes (NOT romhacks) of their faved games. So there, we've got Dizzy X, Battle City, numerous Mortal Kombat games, demos of Dune and Warcraft, a newly-released Wolfenstein... I sure would keep listing all of this stuff but I definetly know you haven't actually seen this one!
And I know why you haven't. No words about it on Wikipedia (obviously), not even a symbol on it on any ZX Spectrum community I've ever seen (which IS unexpected now) and no proper results when googling for this thing. The only site that owns the floppy image of this game I know is (latest version of UMKT may be downloaded there as well, just make sure you have someone or something that knows Russian), under the name 'Doctor Mario' (not Dr.!). But, since it's mine and Indy's (my mate) deed to introduce you to old forgotten (without being deserved it) stuff that may make your eyes pop. Shall we start dancing?
So, the title says everything. It's a NES classic (sometimes noobishly considered to be just a mere clone of Columns which is itself a clone of Tetris) ported to ZX by one person entirely (except for the music, we'll talk about it later). Apparently, this recreation was made by a Belorussian dude nicknamed Brodyaga (may be translated as 'roamer') who was a member of a little ZX programming team called Romantic Warriors. Judging by the intro text he left, he does some mistakes in his Russian, and doesn't know English that good (i.e. writes 'Buy!' instead of 'Bye!'), but his recreation of Doctor Mario is just excellent... and ZXish at it's best, I think.
So meet a fresh new game of Doc Sigma... Brrrrrrr, I mean DOCTOR MARIO! Woohoo!


Not really much is required for such a game to run, just a mere 128K ZX machine, a floppy disk driver and, if possible, a Kempston or Sinclair pad, that's it! Why 128K? Well, because you won't be able to hear that gorgeous music, of course! It sure has nothing to do with the original BUT there are three completely new themes to choose from (I said 'themes', not 'tracks' because the NES game had victory/game over jingles while the port plays the 'overworld' music all the time). And don't be scared at these tracks' weird names, because these are... these are not track names, these are the names of artists who done them. Brodyaga himself made a tranquilizing tune in the loader screen while KSA, KLAV and KENT made music for the gameplay process itself. I know very little, a'mean, NOTHING about the last two guys, but KSA... oooh... From all what I know, he replaced the original Treasure Island Dizzy's soundtrack with Castlevania's, when this game game was translated to Russian and even did a little tetris game himself (we'll take a look at it A LOT later, guys). So here's the proof that these are not track names.
Every tune in this game is just overstacked with awesomeness and nostalgia, so they may get boring after a loooooong while, I swear. Seriously, every time I hear these tracks, I recall those silent evenings I spent at my grandma's as a kid (she still lives at the same place, but I visit her without enjoying Dennis the Menace and other stuff I don't want to list here, sadly)... Okay, why am I telling all that to you? Go listen them and judge yourself.
OH and the gameplay. The gameplay remains pretty much the same as in the original, there's only one little problem... The controls. No, they're pretty easy to get over with, but, pretty much like in 99% percent of ZX games, they are laggy. No matter if you're a wannabe spectrumer or if you've beaten Dizzy, like, 9000 times, ALWAYS set the lowest speed. The ending won't change anyway.
There's one new mode, however. If you think of Dr. Mario as a really easy game or if you're a real masochist, then this will be for you. Instead of killing viruses with regular three colors... you'll have seven. You'll be messing with five useless microbes like there would be thirty of them. There would be even more useless pill garbage which you'll be barely able to clean up, so this mode is recommended for REAL VETERANS.
Aside from Spectrum control syndrome, this game is not that hard to beat. Especially on final levels where viruses get COMPLETELY random placement in the jar... which means that there will be a couple or two self-destructing rows.
Another slight difference is that Chill, Fever and Weird won't get hit or even disappear, but who really gives it a shit.
Talking about additional stuff. You also gotta love Dr. Mario when the level is finished. 'YESSSSS!' And the flashing Locks LEDs, through it has been an old tradition for a game to have the LEDs flashing in rhythm with the music, heh?

That is the port that truly has the 'overlooked' status. Why? No idea. In any case, you have to give this little game a shot. The graphics are too simple, but that's Spectrum. The controls are not always responsive, but that's Spectrum again (in fact, I know games on this computer that have even more sticky keys than there). There are custom chiptunes instead of Hirokazu Tanaka's NES music classics, but that may be a nice break from the soundtrack that everyone knows, counting that ZX chiptunes tend to be awesome. So, all in all, it may be simply treated like a new superfresh look on Dr. Mario. No more, no less.

Crash Nicker


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Shiny new intro screen.
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Whatever happens, ALWAYS pick the lowest speed.
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Wait... That's NOT LEVEL 000001! I started on level 10, for sure...
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7-color mode in all its' masochistic glory.
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Mario says 'No.' while Dr. Mario says 'YEEEEES!'
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Ending. 'You have beaten all the viruses. The Romantic Warriors team congratulates you with this. See you in our next games!' To be honest, this is the ONLY game I've seen from them.


The footage is done by Indy Starry, Mr. Pantless Alien, yay! Glad he liked this game too. And yes, I asked him to make a footage. Of course, it's not that really informative (plus, a bit glitchy, our team has crappy comps, yay), but you'll get the idea of what it looks like.

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