River City Ransom

The highlight of River City Ransom is undoubtedly how the game grabs the well-established beat ‘em up formula that was prevalent in consoles and arcades of the time and manages to transform it quite boldly. The replacement of guided linear progression with a simple but effective open world is a radical departure that yields an adventure where punching and kicking are accompanied by exploration and even some backtracking. Meanwhile, its RPG elements turn the repeated beating of enemies into a far more engaging activity, since fighting leads to the upgrade of stats that are much needed for the heroes to be strong enough to rescue the damsel in distress. Therefore, while the fun fighting mechanics of River City Ransom guarantee its position among the best beat ‘em ups of the NES, the game’s successful experiments put it in a level of its own inside the genre when it comes to uniqueness and innovation.

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StarTropics

As a hybrid between the adventure and RPG genres, StarTropics was a pretty unique concept for the time, and the fact it uses a greater focus on story and more advanced dungeon design concepts to expand upon a few areas of The Legend of Zelda formula makes it easy to see why some fans often point to it as a franchise that was undeservingly left behind by Nintendo on the NES days. Contrarily, its punctual annoying design quirks, its irregular controls, its big gameplay overlap with a more popular property, and its birth towards the end of the system’s lifespan as a somewhat dated product might explain the reason why it was abandoned. Yet, when it is all said and done, there is some quality and fun to be found in the package, and although those may not come in large enough doses to make one desperately wish Nintendo had kept the property rolling, they should be sufficient to allow players to appreciate StarTropics for what it is: a charming quest with some nice ideas that still has its place as a legacy title.

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EarthBound Beginnings

As it stands, however, EarthBound Beginnings is merely average. In its best moments, it comes off as a rougher – yet charming – outline of a concept that would find its full maturity in the Super Nintendo; at its worst, though, it is badly hurt by spikes in difficulty that make a lot of its combats seem unfair and by an absence of direction that can easily cause one to get lost in its pleasantly vast and open world. Due to those shortcomings, the game becomes worth it only to those who are huge fans of the saga or to RPG lovers who can take the constant grinding without being overcome by frustration or boredom. Without those thorns, EarthBound Beginnings could have been thoroughly lovable in its strangeness and heart; with them, it becomes a quirky and moving tale that is obscured by a lack of much needed polish.

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Kid Icarus

Without so many sources of overwhelming frustration and points that reveal technical inconsistence, Kid Icarus could have been hailed as a classic upon its original release and still hold that status until the present day. As it stands, however, it is a game that, albeit good, has to be tackled with patience and willingness to overlook its rough edges. Its mixture of platforming and shooting is remarkable, and it is even more engaging due to how the adventure offers rewards to those who are efficient in the killing of enemies. Additionally, its gameplay variations, which include dungeons of The Legend of Zelda inspiration as well as stages that scroll sideways and upwards, keep it fresh and entertaining all the way through. Because of that, although it is understandable the franchise was kept for so long in a limbo, it is also slightly sad Nintendo temporarily abandoned the unique formula, in both gameplay and mythological theme, they uncovered with the title. Just like it deserved a shot at modern stardom with a new installment, Kid Icarus also deserves to be played by a contemporary audience; even if not everyone will make it to its end, the game has enough quality and flexibility to hold some value to a wide and varied public.

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Metroid

Given it has a remake that gets rid of nearly all its frustrating issues and that makes its adventure, which is in essence quite good, accessible and fun to modern gamers, revisiting the original Metroid is only really justified by the curiosity to catch a glimpse of the franchise’s start in its pure state. Those who choose to do so, will be able to witness how an NES game was able to succeed in creating an astoundingly immersive atmosphere inside a technically limited scope, and they are bound to find the game’s mixture of action and non-linear exploration to be engaging to a certain point. Nevertheless, they are also likely to come across a myriad of issues in presentation and design that severely harm the overall experience. Metroid is a strong game, and it is certainly one of the system’s most alluring efforts, whether one takes into consideration the franchise it spawned or not; however, time has not been too kind to it, as it has amplified the problems that existed on the day of its release and brought new shortcomings to light.

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Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link

The Adventure of Link is a game with some good intentions, as it actively tries to correct some of the faults of its predecessor while attempting to – and to a point succeeding in – taking the franchise to grounds that considerably expand its gameplay. It is, however, a pretty big shame that its heart is so thoroughly corroded by a myriad of design problems that at times act against the joy of exploration that is such an integral part of the series and that, in other occasions, make frustration emerge from every single corner. Those used to the brutal difficulty featured in many titles of the NES era may be able to see through the fog and catch a glimpse of value in Link’s second quest. Everyone else, though, will be tremendously disappointed by what they find. And given Nintendo itself has opted not to revisit some of the good ideas carried by the game, which in turn transformed it into a major oddity within the saga, following suit and staying away from it might indeed be the wisest choice.

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Mega Man 2

Mega Man 2, therefore, stands as a point of reference not because it is the best game in the saga; as such a ranking is especially subjective in a series whose entries are similar to one another. It achieves that status because it marked the first point in time when all of the franchise’s qualities – its untouchable and uncannily perfect soundtrack, its great 8-bit visuals, its signature structure, its brutal difficulty, its constant sense of progress, and its balance of platforming and action – came together to form one spectacular product. Future installments, such as Mega Man 3, may have polished up a few edges to a finer degree, but it was in Mega Man 2 that these delightful pieces first formed a complete and compelling picture.

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Super Mario Bros. 3

To a whole lot of people, then, Super Mario Bros. 3 had the sound of a door being blasted open right inside their brains and revealing the vast, colorful, and enchanting universe that lied within the realm of gaming. It rises so far above its predecessors, which were great games in their own right, and surpasses pretty much everything else that called the NES its home, that it is hard to even imagine they came out for the same console. It is one of those rare instances when a game can be called both an evolution and a revolution; Super Mario Bros. 3 has served as the basis upon which all Mario sidescrollers have been built, and the fact they remain undeniably successful and astonishingly fun should give anyone that was either not alive or not playing games back in 1988 an idea of how gigantic it was, and it still is.

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Super Mario Bros. 2

In all fairness, though, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a good game. Most of its flaws are only unearthed when it is directly compared with its predecessor, which is not fair considering it is actually an entry from another franchise dressed up as a Mario title. Although its gameplay is not as entertaining as the one featured in Super Mario Bros., it is a game that – thanks to a long gap between releases – has a number of resources at its disposal, either purely technical or related to level design, that did not exist back when Super Mario Bros. was being produced.

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Super Mario Bros.

Hindsight, especially the one that is offered by the masterpieces that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are, reveals that Super Mario Bros. is off the mark on some of its features. However, for a platformer that was released in 1985 – when much of the NES’ power was still untapped – it still stands up shockingly well; certainly much better than other games of the kind that were released either before it or shortly after. Super Mario Bros. may not have invented a genre, but its quality and cultural weight changed the gaming landscape, essentially becoming the lighthouse that would guide the development of various games that followed it. The fluidity of its adventure and the excellency of its level design still make the ripples of its impact be felt by most who play it.

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