Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble

That wish to be bigger and to stand out is certainly the hidden theme of Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. It is easy to understand why, back in 1996, the game was seen as a drop following two titles that left big marks in the minds of gamers all around the world. Hindsight, however, reveals an adventure that although not as excellent as that of Donkey Kong Country 2, for it boasts a lesser – yet excellent – soundtrack and fails to reach the same level-design excellence, shines pretty brightly in the hall of the best platformers of its generation. By understanding that its prequel did not leave much room for improvement, it spends a big amount of its running time trying to find ways to excel, and it comes out of it with an impressive overworld, a fantastic challenge, and a stunning collection of inventive stages that use all tools the franchise had established in magnificent and original ways. As a result, even if the timing of its release may have harmed it, the years that have passed ever since have allowed Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble to emerge as a giant of the platforming genre.

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Donkey Kong Country

That does not, obviously, mean Donkey Kong Country is a bad game. It is, actually, a major finding; a discovery of a universe of gameplay possibilities that, before it, simply did not exist. It transformed Donkey Kong from a usually mindless villain into a hero of his own vast and rich world, and it constructed an adventure that ranks among the Super Nintendo’s best platformers. The fact it comes out rather bruised from a comparison to all its sequels speaks more about their stunning quality than about Donkey Kong Country itself. Its gameplay has been improved; its visuals have been taken to higher heights; and its soundtrack, of very unique instrumentation and tone, has inspired much better ones. However, its birth paved the way to a historic franchise that is an integral part of the gaming vocabulary, and the resulting adventure is – by all means – still a fantastic and enjoyable gameplay experience, even if other Donkey Kong Country games end up amounting to packages that are more complete, well-balanced, and creative. It is, after all, only natural, because they have all had a pretty spectacular base upon which to build; and it was here that those original pillars were put in place.

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Kirby Super Star

In a chain of games that has spanned some decades, gone through many consoles, and birthed a horde of installments, no effort has captured that jubilant carefree feeling as well as Kirby Super Star, originally released for the Super Nintendo. And it is somewhat easy to see why. While most of the pink puffball’s titles center around one predetermined plot, hence giving them a serious stiff structural form that is similar to that of other platformers, Kirby Super Star is absurdly loose. It feels like a party; a celebration of Kirby’s sheer glory, one that was planned and created as an opportunity for him to display his ridiculously overpowered strength in whatever way he sees fit. Surely, the game is not aimless: it has purpose. There are, actually, quite a few of those and players are bound to be delighted by most, if not all, of them. Yet, amidst saving Dream Land’s produce or trying to punch the ground so hard Planet Popstar – his home – almost cracks in half, the final objective of it all seems to be giving Kirby a chance to show off; and the result is quite beautiful.

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Chrono Trigger

Both in the grand scheme of things and in the little details of its design, Chrono Trigger is an immaculate gaming experience. The quality of its plot and the way through which Square is able to materialize a complex web of alternate timelines, distinct eras with their own interconnected tales, and fate-altering actions into a story that is engaging, funny, emotional, and easy-to-follow is without parallel. And that achievement is coupled with more than thirty hours of content that is stunningly designed on all fronts, from effective visuals and a touching soundtrack, to an exciting battle system, and an effective approach to traveling long distances through space and time. Combined, these parts amount to a quest that exhales so much grandeur that it writes itself into the definition of the word epic, a term that may have been debased by how frequently it is employed, but that is the perfect adjective to define Chrono Trigger. After all, no other expression could describe an adventure that unfolds so perfectly across millions of years, that unites great characters from distinct eras, and that includes five time periods (each with its own mysteries), unforgettable moments, and challenges. Chrono Trigger is the bar against which all other games that strive to be epic should be measured.

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Earthbound

By setting its quest in the modern world and by approaching its universe with the total recklessness of a toddler, the game uncovers an impressive array of uncanny gameplay scenarios of unique tone, outlandish theme, and often unbelievable happenings. It is frequently surrealistic, it is always subversive, it is sometimes incomprehensible, it is occasionally hilarious, it is underlined by a very solid battle system, and it is carried by a story that holds far more feelings than it seems to. Earthbound may not be its generation’s most technically impressive RPG, and it is certainly not the best one there is when dissected into individual parts. However, sometimes heart, soul, humor, creativity, bold intentions, and disregard for expectations outweigh all the rest. And Earthbound has those to spare.

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The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past

In the few areas in which it falls short from sheer excellence, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past may have been improved upon by some of the installments that would follow it. Everywhere else, though, it is extremely hard to find an entry in the saga that is more well-rounded, has a better pace, and presents such a dazzling – and utterly flawless – balance between complete freedom and sensible guidance. A Link to the Past, after two irregular games that did not achieve everything they intended to, was the title that defined the franchise’s gameplay as the world would come to know it and, in turn, transformed it into one of gaming’s greatest properties. Yet, with its strengths in mind, it is easy to see its relevance and quality are not purely related to that fact. On the contrary, it is a game that must be thoroughly experienced by all players, because much of what it does is so utterly remarkable that Nintendo itself has been unable to consistently top it or even replicate it.

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Super Mario Kart

And, in a way, that statement nicely sums up playing Super Mario Kart from a modern perspective. It is clear the franchise has greatly and naturally advanced since its first installment: graphics have become better, songs and scenery have become more varied, races have included more competitors, tracks have grown to outstandingly insane levels of design, and the experience has become more polished. However, Super Mario Kart – as the game of the series that is truest to kart racing itself, thanks to its simplicity – packs an exciting challenge of a kind that cannot be found in any of the other installments. Surely, Super Mario Kart will not blow the minds of those who have gone through more recent entries of the series; yet, the game will likely be able to entertain and make one look rather fondly to the franchise’s very well-designed beginning.

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F-Zero

Yet, even when carrying such thin content, F-Zero is still greatly enjoyable. It is obvious that, thanks to 3-D gaming as well as consoles with increased power, the franchise has – since its inception – grown far beyond the completely flat tracks and fifteen-car races that its Super Nintendo version provides. Nonetheless, the title is worth a revisit for far more reasons than the fact it was the start of one of Nintendo’s greatest series. It is a fast, exciting, and challenging racing game that entertains with excellence while it lasts. Given there is not much to it, the time one will spend with F-Zero will strongly depend on how willing they are to take on the game’s highest difficulty settings; therefore, the decision of whether to acquire it or not heavily relies on that variable. Those who do decide to dive into the game, though, will quickly understand why F-Zero is mentioned as a major inspiration to all titles that involve high-speed futuristic races through circuits that defy the laws of gravity and star a level of brutality that challenges common sense.

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Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

It is pretty obvious, from everything it does, that a spectacular amount of work, dedication, and creativity went into the making of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Its addition of collectibles and its focus on more intricate levels showed the Mario 2-D games had the capacity to be far more than a straightforward race to the finish, and its artistic prowess created a visual masterpiece that succeeded in topping even the graphics of games that took the hardware of the era to the edge of their technical limits. It is true it carries some easily avoidable design issues that end up being the cause of some frustration, and it is arguable some of its worlds could have benefited from more of a thematic cohesion between levels, as sometimes it feels like backgrounds are used randomly rather than to form a uniform term. Nonetheless, Yoshi’s Island is by all means a spectacular achievement that still plays as well as it did when it was released and that retains its capacity to amaze. And those are the biggest statements that can be made about the brilliancy of the content within.

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The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie

Still, The Great Circus Mystery is able to carry enough redeeming features to keep it interesting. Playing it alongside others is fun; its soundtrack is filled with great tunes, even if the fact most of them are pretty brief means that they loop a little bit too frequently for their own good; its twelve boss encounters are creative; and its level of difficulty is good although its continue system, which takes players back to the mid-level checkpoint once all lives are lost instead of making them return to the stage’s start, comes off as not sufficiently punishing.

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