Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Little Nemo: The Dream Master (NES) Review





                I played many video games during my childhood. Some of them I have vivid memories of; games that I owned or rented constantly and have many fond memories of playing. But there are other games, ones that I may have only glimpsed while at a playmate’s house, or in any number of other unknown scenarios. These are games that I have tiny snapshots of in my mind, games that I remember as I remember my dreams. I’m often not sure if some of these games ever even existed and were in fact only a dream I had, some fantasy adventure that never was.

                One of these snapshots, one of these mysterious video games that had stuck in my memory, involved a boy jumping into his bed and going to sleep and a bizarre scene in a dark forest, with giant pink snail creatures slithering around. This mystery game lodged in my memory is one those games that I’d think of sometimes and I’d be fascinated by the fleeting memory. Just what the heck was that game? Did it ever really exist? Where did I play it? I’m still incredulous at the thought, but I think I’ve finally found my surreal pink snail game. 

The stuff of dreams

                Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a NES game based on the Japanese animated film, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (which also saw a US release two years after the game came out in the US), which is a film based on the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay. The game follows a little boy named Nemo living in New York City in 1905. One night, a colorful zeppelin arrives at Nemo’s window and an emissary from Slumberland invites Nemo to come to the kingdom of dreams to be Princess Camille’s playmate. Nemo is weary of playing with a girl but when the messenger offers Nemo candy, the boy climbs aboard the zeppelin and is whisked away to Slumberland.

                Little Nemo is somewhat of a surrealist masterpiece. The game perfectly captures the imagination of a little boy and the wonder and mystique of his dreams. The game is a 2D side-scroller that follows Nemo as he journeys through a series of non-linear “dreams” and collects keys to progress. The first dream is a forest of giant mushrooms populated by the aforementioned giant pink snails and other creatures, and subsequent dreams take Nemo through a giant toy train-ride, a serene nighttime sea, a super-sized version of his own house, and to a ruined city in the clouds. Each level is large and non-linear, full of branching paths and hidden areas. Nemo has to collect a certain number of keys in each world to open a door at the stage’s end. Nemo has no way of defending himself (until the final level where he finally gets a weapon) and has to rely on his never-ending supply of candy to enlist the help of a wide variety of animals that he finds in his dreamscape. By feeding these animals candy, Nemo can take on their powers to help him progress. While he merely rides a few of these animals, others he seems to wear as a suit. Unlike Mario, who also wears animal suits, Nemo seems to drug animals with "candy" until they fall asleep and then wears them like a costume and uses their abilities. This is quite disturbing when you think about it, but it's a little boy's dream world so I guess it's o.k..... Nemo can don a frog-suit to gain super-jumping abilities, ride a lizard that can climb up vertical walls, use a mole-suit to dig underground, use a bee-suit to fly at high altitudes, and is aided by many more creatures throughout his journey. The large worlds coupled with a wide variety of abilities makes for a very intriguing and fun game design. 


                On paper, Little Nemo’s concept and aesthetics are a recipe for a fantastical, imaginative, riotously fun adventure, but there’s a problem with this game: it’s incredibly frustrating. I hesitate to say that the game is properly difficult, but rather several issues combine to create an oftentimes tedious experience. The first dream Nemo visits is well-designed and shouldn’t pose too many problems, but as soon as the second world in the game the frustration begins. For starters, as I mentioned, Nemo himself is pretty much helpless for most of the game, and even when he’s riding or using an animal’s powers, only some of these animals have ways of defending themselves. I also want to mention that one animal buddy in particular, the mouse, has a hammer ability that is used to break certain blocks. This ability doesn't work properly as smashing these blocks head on will often do nothing and only by hitting these blocks at some obscure angle will they break. This is a minor issue and this ability is needed very infrequently, but this issue is still an odd design oversight. Nemo and his animal friends' limited defense and offense coupled with a relentless, infinite onslaught of enemies in the game leads to a lot of raging. 

                I feel like I have to give a special mention to one of the game’s many annoying enemies in particular: in the second world, I first encountered one of the most aggravating enemies I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in a video game. I’m talking about these small critters that look like dandelion seeds with skulls attached to them that mercilessly and endlessly float down from the sky towards Nemo. You can’t outrun them, you can’t hide from them, no matter where you go they will follow you. The player is first introduced to this menace when they are trying to climb a tree in the second world and these nuisances just keep coming, constantly knocking the player around and draining their health and lives. These things show up in almost every world at some point and until you figure out how they work, they are almost game-breaking, such a colossal frustration that the player might just give up after first trying to deal with them in the second world. They are seriously that annoying. The trick to them is that they home in on Nemo, so to bypass them, a player has to stand in one spot until they “lock-on” to Nemo and then move forward as they safely drift down off-screen. But the player has to be careful and quick, because another one immediately appears after the first one disappears.

Pure evil

                In addition to annoying enemies, and limited defenses, while some levels have checkpoints, others don’t seem to have any at all. These levels are huge too and I can’t tell you have tedious and frustrating it is to die and have to start back at the beginning of a stage and have to get all the way back to the point one was at. One level requires Nemo to acquire the “bee-suit” to progress. The bee happens to be located in an out-of-the-way location and since there are no check-points, every time I died I had to go through the tedious process of simply re-acquiring the bee-suit to get back to where I was. This game wastes the player’s time a lot in this way.

                The last world, the appropriately named “Nightmare Land”, is a three-part patience-tester full of the previously-mentioned dandelion skull things, flamethrowers, moving spiked-ceilings, and the game’s only three boss fights. I was very close to giving up while trying and retrying this world. Little Nemo involves a lot of trial and error. The game luckily has infinite continues, but upon losing all of one’s lives, all of a certain level’s keys must be recollected (although this isn’t an issue in the final world, which is more linear than the others and has no keys to collect). The game as a whole will definitely test any gamer’s patience and it’s a shame that the game can be so annoying to get through sometimes because the overall experience ultimately is one worth having.


                  As I said earlier, this game wonderfully encapsulates to dream land of a little boy and playing it feels like not only taking a trip back to my childhood but also a journey through my own subconscious world of dreams. The visuals are vibrant, colorful, and detailed, and the various dream worlds in the game are imaginative and unique. The music is also pretty catchy and the game as a whole has a delightfully offbeat and surreal atmosphere. Despite its frustration, I’d still recommend Little Nemo because overall it’s such a unique experience that succeeds in transporting the player into a world of childhood imagination and wondrous places. The act of playing the game feels like having a wonderful surrealist dream, and that accomplishment alone says something about the brilliance of the game. I suppose the game’s high frustration-level can also be partially praised because completing the game felt very rewarding, and the ending screen, with Nemo rising from bed to a sunny morning, felt very appropriate and I felt as though I had just awoke from a fabulous dream adventure just like Nemo had.

 

                It’s an odd thing to finally discover the identity of a snapshot memory that has for years perplexed me. To finally travel through that dark forest full of pink snails was a deeply rewarding experience for me. Little Nemo is an experience that highlights my fascination and love of dreams, nostalgia, and imagination. For these reasons, despite the game making me want to tear my hair out and snap my controller in half at times, Little Nemo is still an experience I’ll always cherish and would recommend to anyone who has a desire to reconnect with their inner childhood dreams.





Saturday, April 27, 2013

DuckTales (NES) Review



I never played DuckTales for the NES as a kid, so consider this review completely unclouded by nostalgia! …Unless of course you count nostalgia for old NES games in general, which I am certainly a victim of! I’d heard all the hype surrounding the game watching many retro video game shows on Youtube and the game’s popularity is also evidenced in the recently announced DuckTales: Remastered. I somewhat remember the cartoon and the Scottish-accented Scrooge McDuck, but my memory is foggy. Anyway, I found the game on ebay and popped it in my NES to give it a try. And then I took it out again and blew on it for while. But then I found out that the whole “blowing” technique is actually bad for game cartridges in the long run and there are better methods of getting one’s NES games to work. I think cleaning your cartridges and console are still the best method though! Anyway, after some initial troubles with the game repeatedly freezing on me, I finally managed to play through the whole game unhindered. Four times.

What can I say? DuckTales is great. Right off the bat, I was surprised by its non-linearity and that I could choose any stage that I wanted to. You mean I can go to “The Moon” first? Awesome! I was a bit confused about how to control Scrooge McDuck when starting out. I’d seen videos online of him bouncing all over the place with his cane before, but couldn’t figure out how to perform this trick or how to do much of anything except jump. Before long though, I was using Mr. McD’s cane as a pogo-stick and down-thrusting baddies left and right. It was really all a matter of figuring out that to use the pogo-cane, the player has to jump and then press down on the D-pad and the A button to active the action. My experience with Zelda II had me thinking  that I just had to hold down and press nothing else (which isn’t necessarily superior design; Zelda II’s controls work great for that game’s needs and DuckTales’ work great for its design). After I’d mastered the controls, the game was a treasure trove of fun. Bouncing around on Uncle Scrooge’s cane is seriously one of the funnest things I’ve ever done in any video game, and the game is highly unique in that it’s designed almost entirely around this maneuver and the player’s mastery of it. I can’t really accurately describe the pure joy this action brings when you really get the controls down and learn how to bounce off foes to reach treasure chests floating in the sky and bounce across rows of brambles and spikes unharmed. The cane-thrust is also very versatile as you can choose to hold the A button for maximum bounce, or quickly cancel the bouncing action by letting go of A and then re-pressing it to bounce at lower altitudes. The only other major action Scrooge can perform in the game besides walking and regular jumping is using his cane as a golf club to punt objects like rocks into the air at enemies or treasure chests. This technique can also be used to move small platforms for some minor problem solving. This action is simple, but very satisfying.


                That’s mainly how I’d sum DuckTales up as a whole: simple, but oh so satisfying. Besides its great gameplay, another aspect I love about the game is its plot. It’s sort of refreshing in a way for a retro game to feature a plot that doesn’t revolve around saving a princess or saving the world or even defeating a defined bad guy. Nope. Scrooge is simply out to be the filthiest stinkin’ rich duck in the world! This game’s simply about adventure: traveling to exotic locations all around the globe to score legendary treasures that bosses guard (and some hidden ones) and gems that magically fall out of the sky! The game really put me in Scrooge McDuck’s shoes as I just couldn’t help but go out of my way to nab every last little gemstone and jewel that I could get my hands on. I felt compelled to get the “best ending” in which *SPOILER* the player scores over $10,000,000 in precious riches as well the game's two hidden treasures in addition to the normal ones and Scrooge sits atop a massive pile of gold with a crown on his head and plays with his loot.

Above: Not actually a scene from the game

                Just about every aspect of DuckTales is polished. The game is a beautiful NES game and the colorful, vibrant art direction reminds me of the NES Mega Man games, which isn’t surprising considering it’s a Capcom game and Keiji Inafune, Mega Man’s original character illustrator and co-designer and one of the artists who worked on all the NES Mega Man games, was the artist for this game. The level design is great too with many branching paths and lots of territory to explore in each level, complete with classically NES-era hidden areas accessed by doing things like jumping to places an average player wouldn’t normally think to jump, or pogo, to. All this classic NESsy gaming goodness is coupled with a fantassstic soundtrack composed by Hiroshige Tonomura. You all know this themeAnd this insanely catchy tune wouldn’t get out of my head for days after I first heard it in the game. But I think my personal favorite track in the game might be this one (and the African Mines also happens to be my favorite level in the game…I have a thing for caves, especially in classic games). The overall sound design for the game is great, including all the sound effects like the satisfying little squeal when Scrooge defeats an enemy. 

                If you’ve never played DuckTales, I highly recommend it. It also helps that the game is very accessible with three difficulty levels, so just about anyone can see the game through to the end. Also, the more the player explores in the game, the more they find extra lives and permanently upgrade their life bar. Sure, the bosses are mostly pushovers (except for that damn giant rat on the moon!) and the game lazily recycles the Transylvania stage as its final level, just adding a new boss at the end, but these issues are trivial in regards to the overall experience. Besides, I sort of like the easy boss patterns; they just work for this game somehow, which isn’t a game about combat, but one about exploring, platforming, and bouncing!

                Bless me bagpipes! If you haven’t played DuckTales, and have a functional NES, go out and grab a copy in good condition on ebay and help Uncle Scrooge to really become the richest duck in the world!

I just can't get this theme song out of my head now!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Did a Speed Run of the Original Super Mario Bros. for the Hell of It

And as much as I'm sick of Nintendo milking the plumber dry today, I will just never get tired of this game. No matter how many times I go back and play it, no matter how old I am, where I am, who I am, Super Mario Bros. for the NES will never, ever get old. Every time I pick up a controller and play it, something just clicks and I'm whisked away to gaming bliss. And nothing beats playing on the original NES with that wonderful square gamepad.

I didn't plan on playing the whole game. I was just testing out the cartridge to see if it worked fine because a recent DuckTales cart I picked up has been disappointingly glitching all over the place. I wanted to make sure my other games worked fine and that the problem was not the NES console itself. But before I knew it I was on world 3, finally getting that 1-up trick right! Then I was blazing through world 4,5, and 6. And after painfully losing my fire flower in that damnable underwater section of King Koopa's final castle, I managed to dash under an utterly evilly-placed Hammer Bro. and took the axe to Bowser's bridge to dunk the king in a hot lava bath. And so I'd done it again. I'd rescued the princess and was feeling that immense sense of satisfaction that only a true video game masterpiece can bring.

So for as much as I sometimes grumble at the big N today, nothing will ever change my gratitude for all the happiness Nintendo has brought me over the years.

Thanks for the memories, Miyamoto.




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nintendo Rant: Too Much Mario (and thoughts on today’s Nintendo Direct)



Nintendo is one of my favorite video game developers. Like many others, I grew up with Nintendo. I played Mario and Kirby games feverishly when I was a little kid and even though I didn’t get into many of Nintendo’s other popular series like Zelda and Metroid until I was a teenager, they have still been an integral part of my upbringing. Zelda even went on to become my most beloved series of all time. Almost half of my recent list of my top 100 favorite video games of all time were Nintendo-developed games. This rant is born out of love and admiration, and not hate.

I’ve been becoming increasingly frustrated with Nintendo over the past couple of years. A developer that had once offered a wide variety of unique and creative experiences seems to be turning into nothing more than a Mario machine. What do I mean? The end of 2011 saw the release of two new games in the Mario series, Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. This was fine. Off the top of my head, I don’t think we’d had a big Mario release since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in mid-2010, and we were due for a shiny new Mario platformer on a handheld system. Usually Nintendo spaces out their main franchise entries and has traditionally offered a fair variety in releases this way. So I was surprised the see Nintendo release four more new Mario games in 2012 (again, these numbers are all off the top of my head, but while there could be even more Mario games, I know there are at least as many as I say), two of these being New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U. Another of these releases was Paper Mario: Sticker Star. We hadn’t had a Paper Mario game in a while, and Mario’s RPG outings are usually stellar experiences, so this release was at least fairly exciting. So after all these games, I was sure that Nintendo would finally give Mario a break in 2013 and we’d start seeing some variety. Well, I guess I was right in one way, as Nintendo is putting the spotlight on Mario’s brother Luigi this year, billing 2013 as “The Year of Luigi.” Now, when I talk about “Mario” games, I’m including all games in the core Mario universe (I'm excluding Donkey Kong and WarioWare games as I feel they're distinct enough). So far this year, Nintendo has released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and announced: New Super Luigi U (downloadable content for New Super Mario Bros. U that Nintendo is billing as almost like a completely new game), Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, Mario Party for 3DS, a new Yoshi’s Island game for 3DS, a new Yoshi platformer for Wii U, a new Mario platformer for Wii U, a new Mario Kart for Wii U, and has plans to release a new Mario vs. Donkey Kong title. Oh wait, I forgot Mario Golf: World Tour for 3DS. That’s TEN new Mario universe games. In the midst of this massive milking of the mustachioed Mario, Nintendo is releasing a few other notable first-party games that I’ll get to later, but by and large Nintendo is lately less about offering a nice variety of unique content, but rather a nice variety of Mario content. I realize that Nintendo is a business and that Mario games sell, but it’s almost like Nintendo is just saying: “Screw it, let’s just stick with Mario and make billions.” If nothing else, I can safely say I’m sick of Mario at this point.


TOO. MUCH. MARIO.


Yes, Nintendo has been recycling the same franchises for years, but the thing is Nintendo has traditionally reinvented these games over and over again and by my estimation has generally provided unique new experiences with each new iteration of its popular franchises. Also, these iterations have traditionally been spaced out and have had a lot of thought and effort put into them. Remember how the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (in USA at least), Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and really every main Mario platformer up to and including the Galaxy games offered a brand new, unique experience? Think of how wild and creative Super Mario Bros. 3 was when it first came out, or how Super Mario 64 revolutionized 3D gaming, or the different flavor Super Mario Sunshine offered, or how Galaxy sent Mario into space and all the crazy levels we got along with it. Remember how exciting it was when the original New Super Mario Bros. came out? Finally, after all these years, a brand new 2D-style Mario that offered a fresh take on a familiar formula. Then New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out and it was pretty good, and it offered multiplayer, but it was strikingly similar to the DS original. Then remember when New Super Mario Bros. 2 came out and it was…the same thing? Then remember when New Super Mario Bros. U came out a couple months after that and, while it offered the most unique world aesthetics in the New series to date and some new abilities, it was basically the same experience again? Yeah…. Even Super Mario 3D Land, while vastly more original than the New Super Mario Bros. games, seemed to offer very familiar aesthetics, enemies, world themes, etc. and seemed to pull familiar elements from the Galaxy games while throwing in some Super Mario Bros. 3 nostalgia to boot. Speaking of Super Mario Bros. 3 nostalgia…yes Nintendo, that game is brilliant, and yes, I remember it. In fact, it’s my favorite Mario game, but that does not mean that I want to keep playing rehashes of its aesthetics and presentation for the rest of time. The return of the raccoon tail in 3D Land was nice, but its inclusion in New Super Mario Bros. 2 was just redundant. You see, the raccoon tail in the latter game isn’t even that useful as most levels aren’t even designed around its flight capabilities. The raccoon tail was cool in Mario 3 because every level was designed in such a way that using the raccoon tail to fly around almost always led to secrets and rewards. This trend of including elements in games for the sake of nostalgia is one of Nintendo’s current design philosophies. Yoshi was cool is Super Mario World because the game was designed around him, with every level taking advantage of his many abilities. Yoshi was not cool in New Super Mario Bros. Wii because he was only playable in like four levels. Nintendo is just throwing these elements in the games as if to say: “Hey, you love Yoshi, right? Guess what, here’s Yoshi! Buy this game!” Other elements that seem randomly tossed into the newer games like the Reznor bosses from Super Mario World being in New Super Mario Bros. 2 and areas being named after food in New Super Mario Bros. U are just pointless callbacks to Super Mario World, but where as these elements made sense in that game’s context (Reznors are dinosaur enemies in Mario World’s Dinosaur Land and the areas are named after food in World because the game is designed around a dinosaur that eats everything), they just don’t make any sense in the context of the new games and are clearly just there for fan-service. Besides all this, the New Super Mario Bros. series recycles the same music, enemies, world themes (and even world order as it seems like it’s part of Nintendo’s religion to always have the second world be a desert world), and overall design of: level, level, mid-world tower, level, level, end of world castle, fight with Koopa Kid from game to game. It seems with New Super Luigi U, Nintendo has decided to not even both creating a “new” game in the series at all, but is simply just doing a DLC thing by changing all the levels on New Super Mario Bros. U’s map into new ones. Maybe this approach is best, as the series is basically just a bunch of DLC sold as new games anyway. Stepping away from the Mario platformer games, a new Mario and Luigi RPG is cool and those games are usually very creative, but the thing is this is the fourth game in that series and it’s coming right on the heels of another Mario RPG: Paper Mario: Sticker Star. I love the Mario RPG games, and these games are usually much more open to trying surprising new things with Mario’s world than the core series, but releasing these games so close together, and in the midst of so many other Mario games has weakened my interest in them as well.


New Super Mario Bros.: Bonus points if you can tell me which game is which

So saying all this, after sitting through the now expected line-up of Mario games during today’s Nintendo Direct, I was naturally a bit disappointed by its content, but its later portions actually picked my interest up a bit. Hands down the most unexpected announcement from the presentation for me was that Nintendo is finally, finally releasing EarthBound on their virtual console service in North America. After years of hearing about this quirky and acclaimed classic, I’m finally going to get to play it without having to pay 300$ for a SNES cartridge on ebay (and yes the cartridge alone can go for that much, although perhaps now it will drop in price). So bravo on that end Nintendo. Next, getting a North American release date for the 3DS eShop release of the Zelda Oracle games, two criminally overlooked classics and two of my favorite games in the series, was nice. Next up, hearing that Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, the unfortunately-named, yet gorgeous-looking 3DS RPG from Square Enix is also coming to the States was also exciting news for me. So darn it Nintendo, if you aren’t severely disappointing me with all the Mario, you ended up getting me excited by the end (granted, by some old games coming to the VC and another game getting localized, but still). And this all leads to of course the reveal of a new Zelda game for 3DS.


FINALLY.


I’ve been waiting for this one, and I knew we were due for an original handheld Zelda title soon since we haven’t seen one since 2009’s Spirit Tracks. There have been a lot of rumors about Majora’s Mask getting the remake treatment, but there was also talk a while back about Shigeru Miyamoto wanting to revisit A Link to the Past with a remake. Ultimately, we were told that Zelda’s developers wanted to tackle an original Zelda adventure on 3DS first before any more remakes. Well, I guess that was kind of true. Sort of. Reggie revealed that the new game for 3DS is not quite a remake, but doesn’t seem like an entirely original game either. It’s this odd pseudo-remake of A Link to the Past, that features a familiar overhead view and art design, but with new 3D graphics, and even the same world from A Link to the Past. Now, I don’t just mean the game takes place in Hyrule again, but it literally appears to be taking place in the same map from the SNES classic. To say my feelings on this new game are “mixed” is the absolute best way to put it. On the one hand, the game looks beautiful and the 3D depth effect looks fantastic for this bird’s-eye-view type of game (if not a little gimmicky in some parts of the trailer, like Link leaping up out of the screen when he changes dungeon floors and bone projectiles flying up at the screen when Link blocks them). Speaking of the “bird’s-eye-view”, I’m thrilled that Nintendo is not abandoning this classic design, as I was a bit worried we’d seen the last of it after Ocarina of Time 3D made a stunning debut on 3DS. The overhead-view style of Zelda is still a design that I greatly enjoy and I’m glad it’s not dying just yet. The purist in me is also loving the retro look of Link, as I’ve always preferred the older designs of the character (not to mention Link as a child) to the newer ones seen in games like Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. The new “Link turning into a drawing on the wall” gimmick looks cool and the dungeon design looks nice too. But…I can’t help but be disappointed. You see, I had high hopes for Zelda 3DS because while the console Zelda games always seem to feel the need (with exceptions of course) to dredge Hyrule back up with Master Sword, Ganon, Kakariko Village and Death Mountain in tow, the series’ handheld entries have traditionally been more focused on taking Link to exciting new lands to face off against exciting new enemies. But this new game seems to be the complete opposite of that. For the first time in the series, it seems that Link will be exploring the same map from a previous title, which, while it remains to be seen just how similar it all will be, is very disappointing for me because one of the most exciting aspects of any new Zelda game, and adventure game in general, is exploring a brand new world. Sure, we’ve been to Hyrule countless times before (personally, I feel Hyrule needs a break and part of me wishes The Wind Waker permanently retired it), but at least it’s always a new version of Hyrule with a new map layout. Even Twilight Princess’s Hyrule, which was basically “Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule, but let’s make everything bigger!”, was at least still a new map to explore. I’m extremely familiar with A Link to the Past’s overworld, in fact, I’ve been exploring it for the past ten or so years since I first played the game and in the many, many times I’ve revisited it. The dungeons in the game, we are told, will at least be brand new…but the dungeon shown in the trailer reminds me greatly of the Tower of Hera in ALttP and also seems to share the same boss. So maybe the game is going to feature similar dungeons as well, just with drastic redesigns. A Link to the Past is a classic, it’s a wonderful game, but as I said with Mario 3 above, that doesn’t mean I want to return to its world in a new game. I’d prefer something new and equally as special. Now, it’s worth saying that unlike the New Super Mario Bros. series and their constant Mario 3/Mario World referencing, I don’t think this new Zelda game is fan-service. Most fans seemed to be clamoring more for a Majora’s Mask 3DS remake (a title which would be nice, but isn’t necessary and I’d still prefer an original game) and I think that Miyamoto basically just wanted to do a ALttP remake, and the Zelda team wanted to make something new, and this game is sort of compromise or the result of all this. But instead of this odd pseudo-remake/sequel hybrid, I’d rather have either a straight-up remake of A Link to the Past or what I really wanted, a brand new adventure. In a straight remake, obviously the recycled world and game concepts wouldn’t bother me for obvious reasons, and a fresh, completely new game is always great, but to have a sort of new experience with the same world and presentation as a previous game is just sort of half-exciting for me. I’m still going to get the game, and I have no doubt that it’ll be another polished, well-designed Zelda game, but I have to say…I’ve never been more mixed about a Zelda reveal. Regardless of how I felt about the end products, I was incredibly stoked for Twilight Princess, thrilled to have a sequel to The Wind Waker in Phantom Hourglass, intrigued and amused by Spirit Tracks’ train, and elated to see the vibrant and ambitious reveal of Skyward Sword…but like with the upcoming The Wind Waker HD remake, I’m cautiously excited for this new 3DS Zelda.




Looks good, but how original will it be?


                But maybe Nintendo doesn’t care that I have the overworld in A Link to the Past memorized, maybe they don’t care that I’ve played Super Mario Bros. 3 a gajillion times and the New Super Mario Bros. games will just never be as special to me, because maybe Nintendo isn’t making games for me anymore. Maybe they’re making these games for a new generation that’s never played the classics, and New Super Mario Bros. U is their first Mario game. But the thing is, even if that’s true, I’m still allowed to be disappointed in Nintendo and expect more of them. Here’s why: the main reason Nintendo’s current foray into endless Mario milking is so disappointing to me is because I know they can do so much better. I just recently got around to playing through the original Pikmin and Pikmin 2, and I’m currently playing through Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS. Kid Icarus: Uprising is so full of personality and features such a charming, unique world that hasn’t been seen for the last 25 years, and the game is such a genre-shift from its predecessors that it’s basically a new IP, and it just reminds me that when Nintendo really puts their heart into it, they are one of the most creative and talented developers in the industry. The Pikmin games are also fiercely unique and creative and unlike anything I’ve ever played or experienced. The best moments in the latest Zelda game for Wii, Skyward Sword, also demonstrate a developer that is no stranger to creative and imaginative new game design. And I know it’s part of the Mario parade I criticized earlier, but it’s nice to see Luigi’s Mansion get a new game as the original was another one of Nintendo’s most creative and unexpected experiences. And although I haven’t played it myself yet, I hear Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a pretty great display of Nintendo’s charm and creativity. Nintendo also released a new addition to Fire Emblem recently which I hear is brilliant and we’re also getting Pikmin 3 later this year. And while these games are sequels, they are sequels to rare Nintendo franchises, and great ones might I add, and they add some much-needed variety to Nintendo’s line-up. So with all this said, it’s clear that Nintendo still has it in them to harness that creativity that put them on the map in the old days and create wonderfully-designed new games. They have the potential to do so much more. But it seems like these days, they are more focused on offering up unique ways to control games than focusing their attention on the game experiences themselves and are also mostly interested in making new Mario games. Now, even though I praised some of Nintendo’s newer games above, there are still problems I have with Nintendo’s current design philosophies, mainly in the way of not-so-subtle hand-holding, and I also have more to say about Nintendo’s focus on new controls and the like instead of focusing on what really matters: the content of the games themselves. I’ve ranted long enough though, so maybe these will be the topics of another rant.
 



Above: Creativity


                For now, I just want to end by saying that Nintendo has created some of the most memorable, atmospheric, fun, and well-designed video games I’ve ever played. Super Mario Bros. 3. Super Metroid. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Pikmin. Kirby’s Dream Land. The list goes on. Nintendo still has the potential to make new fantastic memories. It just greatly disappoints me to see them squandering this potential.



Monday, April 8, 2013

My Top 100 Favorite Video Games of All Time (2013)


This list was very difficult to create and is by no means final. New games can of course be added to this list and the ordering of the current games may also change around in the future. Also, there are even more games that I’m quite fond of that missed the cut and maybe I’ll change my mind and include them in the future. This is my personal list of my 100 favorite video games of all time (and is ranked accordingly) and not necessarily a list of the 100 “best” video games of all time, although I obviously feel all of these games are worthy of praise to some degree. 

Compiling this list and reflecting on all of the wonderful experiences therein has brought back some amazing memories and has reminded me just how important this medium is to me. Every single one of these video games is special to me and all of them have had an enormous impact on my life and have contributed to who I am in some way. I hope that as you peruse this list you will reflect on your own unique experiences with your own most-beloved video games and maybe you'll even see some or many of those personal favorites here.

            And if you’re wondering where the likes of Uncharted, Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, Ni no Kuni, etc. are, I haven’t played them yet. In fact, there are many modern classics I have yet to get around to playing (even though I actually own many of them, such as the four listed above), and I’m sure they’ll sit somewhere on this list when I finally do play them (granted they’re as special as I hear they are).

Note: These games are labeled with the first console they appeared on, to the best of my knowledge. In cases where games were released on multiple platforms simultaneously, I labeled the game with the console that I first played it on.

Key: NES=Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES=Super Nintendo Entertainment System, N64=Nintendo 64, GCN=Nintendo GameCube, Wii=Nintendo Wii, SG=Sega Genesis, DC=Sega Dreamcast, PS1=Sony PlayStation, PS2=Sony PlayStation 2, PS3=Sony PlayStation 3, PC=Personal Computer, GB=Nintendo Game Boy, GBC=Nintendo Game Boy Color, GBA=Nintendo Game Boy Advance, DS=Nintendo DS

The List

100. Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)

 

99. Sonic Colors (Wii)














98. Half-Life (PC)

















97. Soul Calibur II (GCN)

















 96. Portal 2 (PS3)














 95. Lunar Legend (GBA)

















94. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) 














93. Heavy Rain (PS3)














92. Pikmin 2 (GCN)

















91. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (GCN)

















90. God of War II (PS2)

















89. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)



















88. Gunstar Heroes (SG)

















87. Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA (N64)

















86. Beyond Good and Evil (GCN)














85. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
















84. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (PS2)














83. Super Paper Mario (Wii)


















82. Mega Man 2 (NES)


 











81. Pokemon: Sapphire Version (GBA)
















80. God of War (PS2)



















79. Resident Evil 4 (GCN)















78. Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

















77. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)














76. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)


















75. Metroid Fusion (GBA)

















74. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (GB)




















73. Golden Sun (GBA)














72. Chrono Cross (PS1)

















71. Tales of Symphonia (GCN)
















70. The Legend of Zelda (NES)



















69. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)

















68. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)

















67. Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)
















66. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
















65. Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)





















64. Kirby’s Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA)
















63. Kirby’s Dream Land (GB)




















62. Sonic Adventure 2 (DC)

















61. Sonic Adventure (DC)















60. Sonic the Hedgehog (SG)
















59. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)


















58. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA)
















57. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)


















56. Super Mario World (SNES)





















55. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)



 




 








54. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)














53. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

















52. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)

















51. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GCN)

















50. Resident Evil (GCN)


















49. Silent Hill 3 (PS2)

















48. BioShock (PC)














47. Viewtiful Joe (GCN)
















 46. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

















45. Jet Grind Radio (DC)

















44. Pokemon: Silver Version (GBC)
















43. Pokemon: Blue Version (GB)

















42. Metal Gear Solid (PS1)

















41. Silent Hill (PS1)

















40. Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

















39. Streets of Rage 2 (SG)

















 38. Portal (PC)


















37. Super Metroid (SNES)



















36. Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (GB)




















35. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)




















34. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

















33. Animal Crossing (GCN)

















32. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)


















31. Journey (PS3)

 












30. Paper Mario (N64)

















29. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GCN)


















28. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)
















27. Cave Story (PC)

















26. World of Goo (Wii)












25. GoldenEye 007 (N64)

















24. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)

















23. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GCN)
















22. Super Mario 64 (N64)

















21. Super Mario Bros. (NES)

















20. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SG)




19. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2)


















18. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)














17. Metroid Prime (GCN)

















16. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

















15. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC)

















14. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC)



















13. Okami (PS2)
















12. Half-Life 2 (PC)


















11. Shenmue (DC)















10. Silent Hill 2 (PS2)
















9. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
















8. Chrono Trigger (SNES)

















7. Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA)
















6. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles (SG)

















5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)














4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (GBC)














3. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)



















2. Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) 

















1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)