The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Therefore, it is unfortunate that The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is so frequently overlooked. Unquestionably, the reasons behind that obscure character are perfectly understandable. After all, it is a relatively straightforward and low-key 2-D adventure released on the same console, and right in between, two excellent tridimensional giants of the franchise; and it is a game whose very best state – that is, its multiplayer action – can only be experienced through very complicated means, which involve finding four Gameboy Advance systems and the cables that connect them to the Gamecube. However, below that simplicity and those marginal complications lies a quest that is still a lot of fun even if tackled as a single-player campaign. It is true some of its production values are a bit lackluster when put under a comparative light alongside other The Legend of Zelda installments; and it is equally clear its gameplay stumbles in a couple of areas. Yet, its surprisingly varied stages and, especially, the way it uses the availability of four different Links to uncover unique cooperative puzzles and frantic battles make The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures very enjoyable.

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Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow

Thanks to localized improvements that work towards reducing both frustration and excessive backtracking, and due to a team of developers that knew how to look at the past in order to learn from mistakes that had been previously made, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow guarantees its place as the finest entry of the franchise for the Game Boy Advance. In addition, by implementing a very creative system of spells and magic that turn the soul of its many enemies into collectible and usable assets, the game carves out not only a personality of its own, but also a very noble place inside the long-running franchise of vampire hunters. Through those means, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is recommendable without reservation, for even though it does hold a few points that could have been smoothed out, it is a haunting quest that is fun and engaging through the entirety of its run, and a culmination of a three-year cycle that produced a trio of appealing Castlevania games.

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Castlevania: Harmony Of Dissonance

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance does have a couple of issues that make the size and complexity of its scope, which are undeniably its biggest qualities, not be as thoroughly delightful as they could have been. Still, by implementing punctual improvements in areas where Circle of the Moon was lackluster, and by embracing the intimidating value of its twin castles and turning the navigation of its map into its biggest source of challenge, the game succeeds in presenting a very satisfying and somewhat original take on the non-linear facet of the Castlevania franchise. Due to that trait, Harmony of Dissonance is bound to enchant anyone with a love for meticulously exploring a large map and using their wits to figure out a world that is itself one massive puzzle. To anyone else, though, its abundant intricacy, its frequent backtracking, and the long distances it sometimes forces players to traverse may be a bit too much.

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Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon

The punctual flaws that it displays in the main components of its fabric turn Circle of the Moon into a Castlevania installment that is good, but not great. The transplant of the Symphony of the Night formula into a portable is, in a way, a success, because the marriage of non-linear exploration and RPG elements makes traversing Dracula’s fiend-infested castle an appealing experience filled with discoveries, secrets, challenge, and unguided progression. However, the game could have certainly been more careful with the way it handled its elevated level of difficulty, its visual presentation, and the implementation of the central gameplay mechanic that it builds to call its own. With those problems in mind, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon cannot be universally recommended, as the Game Boy Advance itself holds a couple of entries of the franchise that are easily superior to it. Nevertheless, there is great enjoyment to be found in its imperfect Gothic quest if one has fondness for lack of linearity, is able to ignore its shortcomings, and can deal with some moments of grinding.

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Rayman 2: The Great Escape

As such, Rayman 2: The Great Escape is a flooring oddity of the Nintendo 64 days. During a time when most platformers and adventure games had their sights so deeply set on taking advantage of the grand environments supported by cutting-edge hardware that they ended up, positively, straying away from the genres’ origins, Ubisoft went the other way. With The Great Escape, the company opted to build, in the recently discovered 3-D realm, a quest that was open to the new opportunities unearthed by the latest technological developments, but whose main concern lay in being simple and old-school. In that regard, Rayman’s second adventure was certainly not alone, for many were the games and studios that tried to explore that interesting middle ground; however, arguably, none of them did so as well as the limbless hero, because the variety, quality, level of polish, and production values contained here are nothing but extremely rare. And propelled by those attributes, The Great Escape feels gigantic, blasting into the pantheon of the best games of its era and standing out among them for using the full extent of its energy towards being straightforward and fun rather than employing its ambitions in matters of size and scope.

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Mega Man X

Mega Man X is the particular kind of game that, at the same time, succeeds because it is too similar to what came before it while also struggling for that same reason. Its levels are finely designed and its bosses are utterly memorable, supporting a gameplay experience that is undeniably enjoyable; however, as the franchise was leaping between generations, it is partially disappointing to see it remained strongly attached to its 8-bit roots. While many major gaming properties took advantage of the arrival of a new era to expand their reach, try out new ideas, or simply mature, Mega Man stood pat. With a decreased level of difficulty when compared to its NES counterparts, the value of the package of eight robot bosses it offered grew shorter; and although it does try some new tricks to give more depth to its content, a couple of them are not fully realized. Regardless of those shortcomings, though, Mega Man X is one of the Super Nintendo’s best combinations of action and platforming. Even if for those who are familiar with what came before it, the game may wind up feeling like it is too safe for its own good.

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Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars

Consequently, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a game that excels in countless areas. In materializing the rather unlikely marriage between the platforming world of Super Mario and the role-playing greatness of the classics produced by Square during the nineties, it ended up creating a sub-genre of its own: a class of games where thick scripts and turn-based battles meet exploration segments that marry the walking usually done in RPGs with external elements such as action and puzzle-solving. With that combination as its basis, the game assembles a quest that – more than any other Mario game before it – gives life to the Mushroom Kingdom while miraculously succeeding in embracing RPG fans and newcomers to the genre that are naturally attracted to games starring the popular plumber. And even if some of the role-playing quests undertaken by the character ever since have presented more alluring scripts and a wider deck of options, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars retains its position not just as a major pioneer, but as a classic due to how nowhere else in the usually fantastic sagas that were heavily inspired by it can one find such a pure balance between RPG traditions and the quirks of Mario’s universe.

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South Park Rally

South Park Rally, differently from most games that jump into the kart racing genre with the goal of dressing it up with a famous franchise and quickly extracting a good deal of money out of it, does try to tackle the gameplay style with a unique approach. Sadly, all the efforts that it makes in that regard end up being not only disastrous but also incredibly frustrating. Perhaps, if handled by a company that wanted something other than to get it out into the market as fast as possible in order to cash in, those ideas could have flourished into a likable experience. As it stands, though, playing South Park Rally is a miserable journey through thematic races that seem to have been designed to generate anger rather than joy. At least, however, its presence in the Nintendo 64 library serves the useful purpose of proving that good intentions can be smothered quite brutally by sheer greed; so much, in fact, that one has to look really hard to find traces of their existence amidst the mess.

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Golden Sun

As it infused a traditional RPG with a brand of cartoonish cuteness that is usually exclusive to products made within Nintendo’s own walls, it is clear Camelot did not forget to back up those fireworks in presentation with deep strategic layers and opportunities for gamers to toy around with characters and their skills. Therefore, Golden Sun is a balanced game that knows how to appeal to the two audiences it could possibly reach: those that are experts in the genre and want to experience a competent and large handheld adventure; and those that, lured in by its charm, will fall into the grasp of a compelling role-playing quest they would have probably stayed away from had it lacked the Nintendo seal. And in both cases, Golden Sun will please, because its polished mechanics, lovable characters, and gameplay experiments are successful enough that it is clear they were created by a company that had spent a good portion of the decade that preceded its release fine-tuning their skills as RPG creators.

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A Fond Farewell

As such, even if How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World could indeed have been a better film, it plays its role as the final chapter of the franchise very well. The arches that it started to build in its debut are concluded sweetly and in a satisfying manner; the themes and ideas it always relied on evolve alongside its likable cast of characters; and the enchanting universe that served as its home reaches the end of its finely developed cycle. The fact the movie’s brisk pace undermines the impact of some of its conflicts and threats, then, winds up being just a small – yet certainly disappointing – dent on an armor of scales that is still shiny enough to make How to Train Your Dragon be a very rare sight not just in the animation niche, but in the movie industry as a whole; that is, a trilogy that was able to maintain a high level of quality from its glorious beginning until its lovable ending.

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