QUByte Classics: Jim Power in the Lost Dimension by PIKO (Xbox Series X)- Review

Thanks to QUByte for the review code

Title: QUByte Classics: Jim Power in the Lost Dimension by PIKO
System: Xbox One
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 06/02/2022


Story

In this third volume of QUByte Classics, you take control of Jim Power, as he sets out to defeat the evil of the Mutant Planet in this frantic action game! Originally released on the Amiga and SNES, the versions here are… Neither?!? New versions from 2021, wait what?

Yes, indeed, this is an oddity: rather than the original versions, both ports in this compilation are newer versions, one of which is a finished version of a Genesis prototype that leaked out ages ago, and the other is a ground-up NES demake, both finally getting a public release in 2021. Let’s see how these hold up!

Presentation

Right off the bat, this compilation has a bonus the other QUbyte games did not: an animated intro! Yeah, a pretty impressive animated intro, made solely for this compilation. It’s nothing mindblowing, but an extra effort that I appreciate. Afterward, you get treated to the same general menu that the prior entries included, including the same general option menus you can mess with, including the various filters that don’t do much for me, and yes, the slow and clunky save/load state menus.

For the actual games, you have both the new NES version of Jim Power, and the finished up Genesis version, both coming out last year in 2021. The Genesis version maintains a lot of the same aspects as the infamous Super Nintendo version, but is overall in a much more presentable state than that wreck. The scrolling no longer hurts your eyes, the music renditions sound really good on the Genesis sound chip, (even if the stage one track sounding like a bootleg of the Ys III Fire Dungeon theme will never stop being funny to me) and the sprites look nice and polished, even if the enemy variety is weird and doesn’t make much sense, and the backgrounds are honestly pretty ugly, having an Amiga style to them that just doesn’t age all that well.

However, the true shocker is that NES port. See, rather than just being the SNES game thrown in a NES filter, this is a complete reimagining of sorts, with a brand new set of sprites and cutscenes, all of which look really damn impressive for the NES. Hell, the walk cycle is disturbingly smooth for the console, and it even has some twists and turns that show off what the 8-bit machine can do! Yet again, the music is outstanding, and honestly might just be my favorite rendition of the Jim Power soundtrack out of all the versions of this game.

Gameplay

Being that this compilation includes two versions of the same game, there is a core concept that applies to both: You are Jim Power, off to enter the Lost Dimension in order to rescue a maiden in need and get the heck out of there. Both games alternate between run and gun shooting and side-scrolling shooting sections, and both games are pretty janky and incredibly tough. In fact, the SNES version is often considered to be one of the hardest games on the console, solely due to just how unbalanced, brutal, and unfun the whole experience is, and even the original Amiga version isn’t considered much better.

So, how does this compilation handle that? Well, we get the Genesis version, as I noted before, and a brand new NES demake, so the SNES trainwreck is not here, thankfully. In terms of features though, there still isn’t much of substance here besides the two games and that intro movie. No archival material, no cool behind the scenes on the restoration of the Genesis version, or how the NES port came to be, just the same old, clunky UI that the prior QuByte classics came with, only with two very tough games. Oh boy… Let’s see how they stack up.


Jim Power (Genesis)- Originally planned as the title “Jim Power: The Arcade Game”, this is not an arcade port, nor was the game ever for Arcades. Odd title aside, it was a prototype found after the publisher declared bankruptcy, and somehow they decided it would be worth the effort to properly finish it and bring it to the masses, so here it is, a game that is the closest representation of the original game in this set, and… It’s still not a good game at all.

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For positives, there are three difficulty modes, and both Easy and Normal settings give you a much needed extra life point, which is critical to getting anywhere in this game. The action platforming sections have a decent amount of iframes to abuse when you take that extra hit, which you’ll definitely need as immediately you’ll realize that this game has abhorrent hitboxes. Sometimes you could be standing perfectly still next to a hazard, only to have your standing jump extend Jim’s body wide enough that he gets hit, pretty much making the hard difficulty option next to impossible to survive in.

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Hell, the easy mode is next to impossible to survive in at point, since enemies move stupidly fast, platforms can move in all sorts of weird directions, and enemies are very, very spongey here. Nevertheless, once you reach the end of a platforming section, Jim grabs a jetpack and heads to fight the stage boss, and this is a decent change of pace, with just you and the boss duking it out as you fly in the air. The hitboxes are still jank here, but with memorization the game is at least somewhat fun in these segments, only for that fun to quickly end as you beat the boss and enter a tunnel segment, where the game becomes a horizontal shooter. Those extra hit points I mentioned earlier? Get used to them doing next to nothing, as their iframes don’t exist here, leading to many, many, many, many times where I died due to being hit by an obstacle and the iframe immediately wearing out and causing a death, pretty much making these stages one hit death zones.

Of all examples for this lineup of compilations to desperately improve their slow menu wrapper, it’s this particular version of this particular game: the sheer amount of time I wasted endlessly making and loading states in these stupid shooting stages is enough that I could have watched a full episode of a cartoon, it’s that bad, and rewind would have significantly made this game a billion times more bearable, even if it doesn’t fix the core issue that the main game is not good at all. The second boss even had a nasty trick where he moved diagonally in such a cruel way, and if it wasn’t for my save state abuse, it would be next to impossible for me to have avoided damage, since it’s one of those R-Type battleship homages, only bad. To make things even more abhorrent, you don’t have many continues to speak of, and they only seem to be available after you reach the first boss, so even with save states, this version is demonically evil and unbalanced beyond belief.

Yet it doesn’t stop there! You beat the second boss, and the gameplay shifts yet again, to a format that’s thankfully a little better. In the SNES version, you had these garbage top-down shooting stages, but here on Genesis, they’re a redux of the horizontal shooting stages, only without the ability to fire, and instead the focus is to collect as many coins as possible, grab keys, and avoid hitting the obstacles as you fly on out. These are still stupidly tough, but a lot more manageable and far better than what the SNES version offered, before it guides you to the next batch of three stages to go through.

Jim Power (NES)- So with how hellish and brutal the Genesis version was, and how not even quality of life and polish could save the game from being bad, the NES version has gotta be worse, right? A weaker system with way tougher and cheaper games means this is probably among the worst up there, like Micronics level. Believe it or not… No! Jim Power on NES remixes the original game’s idea, and leads to a game that’s shockingly fun and fair to play, at least compared to the 16 bit one.

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For starters, you don’t have those worthless smart bombs anymore, but instead, a charge shot akin to Mega Man. You also have multiple hit points instead of just two (though again, the difficulty level can change this), multiple gun upgrades to obtain, and most importantly, redesigned levels! Now instead of one huge level, a boss, and then a huge, painful shooting stage, you have three smaller levels, a small, pleasant shooting stage, and then the boss of the world. Rinse and repeat twice more, and you beat the game!

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Would you believe it, the hitboxes are far better too! They aren’t perfect by any means, but after suffering through the Genesis version, it was a miracle to be making progress on the NES without having to abuse saves. Even better, you have infinite continues, so you can just keep trying again and again until you nail a stage, which actually feels more attainable this time around. The charge shot helps tremendously as well, almost to the point the normal gun upgrades feel pointless, but also prevents you from getting stuck in a Gradius/R-Type recovery run situation where you’re pretty much screwed without max power. The game even offers an awesome twist at the end I didn’t see coming, and while it does do the irritating “the true ending is on the hard mode” nonsense, it actually feels possible here due to the infinite tries and better level design, which is a true feat for Jim Power. Sadly, I did notice some minor input delay, which while I did get used to, is something that probably should have been polished up. Still, the fact I’m able to get far and have fun even with this, just goes to show how well this demake turned out!

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It’s just pure run & gun action with only a tiny smidge of the shooting stages, and that’s what I feel is the better outcome for this game. The only real downside I had is that the midbosses like to repeat a lot due to the new structure, and the smooth animation here can be a bit to the game’s detriment, since there were a few times I messed up a shot or jump due to underestimating the length of the windup these animations have. Still not an outstanding game by any means, but definitely the best version of Jim Power without a doubt!

Conclusion

In conclusion, we finally have a QUByte Classics set that I can somewhat give a recommendation. While the wrapper is still clunky and could use a ton of work, and is in desperate, desperate need of a rewind feature, there’s at least some sort of decency here, especially through that damn impressive NES demake, which I argue is even worth the price of the compilation alone. Add some minor quality of life additions in the ports themselves, and you have two decent versions of a poor game that provide a look into a European oddity.

While some may lament the lack of a SNES version, especially since there is a quality of life hacked version from Piko, I honestly feel the Genesis version is vastly superior in every fashion to that wreck, and to be blunt, this wrapper would just not be fun to deal with for that SNES port, especially without a rewind mechanic and how it made the already infuriating Genesis port pure hell. If you’ve always been intrigued by this game, but hated the horrendous nature of the SNES version, fret not, as the NES demake is a legitimate hidden gem of an action platformer, and the Genesis version is a reminder as to how even polishing the original can’t save it. Still, more could have definitely been done to make this compilation as a whole more content-rich and improve the quality of life all around.

I give QUByte Classics: Jim Power in the Lost Dimension by PIKO a 6 out of 10.

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