The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle Of Seasons

Similarly to its counterpart, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is a considerable step-up for the franchise’s handheld line of games following the impressive Link’s Awakening. And that is because even though it is built over the same framework as that game, which proved without a drop of doubt that the adventures of the hero in green could work in a smaller scale, it is not merely satisfied with achieving greatness through similar means. As such, it chooses to evolve and take risks by bringing puzzle-solving into its overworld via a remarkable mechanic that allows Link to control the seasons; by exploring new items that are smartly used in the creation of refreshing challenges; and by giving its impressively designed dungeons an action-focused touch in filling them up with rooms where killing enemies and avoiding traps work as the main course. And those pieces come together to form a unique and charming quest that still stands as one of the series’ strongest outings.

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The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle Of Ages

Perhaps understanding the stellar quality of the 2-D efforts that came before it, Oracle of Ages is – therefore – not satisfied with being just another The Legend of Zelda game that uses a top-down perspective to give players a glimpse into its world. Given that Link’s Awakening had already solidly proved that adventures as big as those of the hero in green could work on a handheld system, it is clear that Oracle of Ages sets out to expand upon that game’s achievements. And it does so marvelously well not only by utilizing its time-traveling mechanics to bring puzzle-solving out of the dungeons and into the overworld, but also by magnifying the testing nature of its mazes in shifting the focus of individual rooms from combats and switch-pressing to riddles of a more demanding nature. And through marrying this inclination for puzzles with the joy of exploring the colorful world of Labrynna and the pleasure of meeting the many amusing characters that are involved in its time-related conundrums, the greatness of Oracle of Ages is fully realized.

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The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Link’s Awakening has eight dungeons, a great overworld, an amusing tone that fits its simplicity like a glove, a plot that can be mysterious and touching, and a good amount of extra content. Therefore, it is unquestionably a worthy portable reproduction – one that cannot be missed – of The Legend of Zelda experience found on consoles. And it achieves such while sporting visuals and music that, easily ranking among the system’s best, are worthy of the franchise. In fact, Link’s Awakening is so impressive in its handling of the constraints of the system it was made for that the hardware limitations of the Game Boy are hardly felt at all. However, despite the resounding and undeniable conquest of marking the first time ever a Nintendo franchise was effectively and greatly translated to a handheld, Link’s Awakening fails to reach the same stature of the saga’s most remarkable installments for the simple reason that it lacks a truly defining trait.

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Undertale

Undertale is so outlandish that it is sometimes a bit hard to explain what it does; and it is able to pack loveliness, dread, and oddity together so neatly that it is occasionally tough to understand how it makes it. Nevertheless, if one were forced to point out what it is exactly that causes it to be so fantastic and original, it would be reasonable to single out its unrestrained wackiness and how it leaks into every area of the title; its incredible battle system, which doubles as a text-based puzzle and an action-packed mini-game of avoiding projectiles; the extent and quality of its script; and the way it takes advantages of players’ choices to build three adventures that are very distinct and that beg for multiple playthroughs. Undertale is a one-man achievement, and although its visuals do show that it was built under restricted circumstances, nothing else about it indicates that was the case, especially the density of its textual content and the abundance of ideas it sports. However, the game’s status a sole endeavor ends up making a lot of sense, because it takes a special kind of liberty – one only found in lonely journeys – for a product to be so authorial, artistically free, and consistent in its beautiful absence of consistency.

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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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Owlboy

Thanks to that emotional synergy between visuals, music, and writing, Owlboy tells its tale in a way that leaves robust marks. In spite of how it knows very well how to balance story and gameplay, with the latter being punctuated by the former rather than being squeezed by it, it is impossible not to walk away from the adventure of Otus and his friends without feeling that its plot overpowers everything else about it. To a point, it is true that such an impression is related to how its level design and mechanics are solid but never truly amazing. However, the fact is that the writing and character development of Owlboy are so spectacularly done, and its story of overcoming failure, ostracism, and one’s own limitations is so moving, that it is only natural all other components that make up the game’s fabric end up playing second fiddle to Otus and his arch. Certainly, it is not the first time the tale of an outcast that is looked down on by almost everyone else is told; however, in Owlboy, the learning through defeat and alongside friends is so vivid, the feelings experienced by its starring character are so visible, and the telling of that journey through gameplay is so nicely implemented, that the magnitude of its impact seems to exist in a scale of its own.

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Iconoclasts

In spite of how those issues are not numerous, it is easy to see why they hold Iconoclasts back from sheer excellence; after all, they act against two central aspects of its fabric: the exploration and the storytelling. Even with those problems in mind, though, the game stands out as one of the best indie efforts on the Nintendo Switch, as it succeeds in balancing a look, vibe, and controls that pay homage to classic action-centered sidescrollers of the 16-bit era with non-linear level design and smart puzzles. More importantly, it does so while developing a thick plot that, although not entirely clear, leaves behind not only an unforgettable cast of characters made up of flawed heroes and plausible villains, but also resounding proof that heavy topics and powerful scenes can be just as finely reproduced via colorful pixel art as they are by more realistic shades. In the end, Iconoclasts may not be a victory that comes without any caveats, but it is an achievement whose scratches, bruises, bloody wounds, and heart speak a whole lot about the tortuous process of its creation and the messy beautiful world it portrays.

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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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Super Mario Sunshine

As such, although Super Mario Sunshine is most of the times an excellent display of platforming greatness both in its open worlds and in its linear portions, it presents a few rough edges that can make it more frustrating than it should have been. Its controls, its camera (though not perfect), and the variety of its objectives show greater maturity in relation to Super Mario 64, but – at the same time – the excess of direction that its episodes possess takes away much of the joy that comes with the unexpected discoveries of unguided exploration. Nevertheless, the game is undeniably fun, often inventive, very challenging to those who want to fully complete it, and quite welcoming to anyone who just wishes to get to its end. Alongside those qualities, its brightest spot may be how even though it drinks heavily from Super Mario 64 in terms of structure, it is able to give its adventure a completely unique tone and feel within the franchise’s canon due to its great relaxed setting and F.L.U.D.D., its key gameplay component. Because of that, it is a must-play for absolutely everyone, as the well-designed experience found here cannot be had anywhere else.

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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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