Super Mario 64

The transplant of an established and highly popular gameplay format from the world of two dimensions in which it had so greatly thrived to the then mostly unexplored universe of three dimensions had no blueprint, no instruction booklet, and no materialized result of considerable value. The company headed into uncharted territory and rather than coming out of it with an experience that was enjoyable yet immature, as it would have been expected, they emerged out of the fog of the unknown with a gem so polished and fully developed that its controls, structure, and content would, more than serve as the base to everything that was to come, be copied and pasted multiple times across more than a decade. It is one of those grand feats that at the time when it was performed already seemed to be a pretty big deal, but that in hindsight looks a whole lot like the material of some sort of legend that is too absurd to be true. Yet, Super Mario 64 exists as proof that it happened, and, to top it all off, it remains as purely fun as it was upon release.

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Super Mario World

Super Mario World may not be as groundbreaking as its immediate predecessor; after all, Super Mario Bros. 3 marked the moment when the franchise’s gameplay reached its fully matured state, and moments such as those are very hard to come by. Nevertheless, the game succeeds in taking massive steps towards further developing the framework that was already in place. The Super Nintendo’s superior hardware allowed the creation of more intricate levels that pushed the boundaries of what a stage of the franchise could contain; the introduction of Yoshi not only brought forth a new charming character, but also expanded the series’ gameplay considerably; and the complex construction of the title’s overworld, greatly aided by the various secret exits that its courses held, gave the adventure a level of freedom and exploration that had yet to be touched upon by the platforming genre. Through those means, Super Mario World succeeds in giving muscle to a structure that had apparently already reached its peak, proving that unlikely improvements that are made to products that seemingly cannot be further polished are sometimes just as impressive as the discovery of new territory.

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Kid Icarus: Of Myths And Monsters

That mixture of failed attempts at improvements, lackluster technical enhancements, missed opportunities, and blatant copying makes Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters be notably unremarkable. Perhaps, to those who did not go through the original, there is some fun to found in how the game combines platforming and shooting while underlining those elements with an RPG component that works in nice synergy with the title’s core gameplay. However, even to those players, the NES debut of Pit’s saga is far more recommendable, for – regardless of its higher difficulty – it feels more full-fledged. There is little that Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters does better than its older brother, and the adventure does not show a lot of effort when it comes to growing past its predecessor. The result is underwhelming, as the game lands on a weird ledge that stands between the land of uninspired sequels and the realm of unimproved remakes.

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Ori And The Will Of The Wisps

Many of the shortcomings displayed by Ori and the Will of the Wisps can be traced back to its predecessor. Much like its successes, the game’s little failures come from the fact it has naturally inherited a good slice of the soul of its progenitor. However, given that connection is, especially in the storyline department, a little too close to comfort, this second effort by Moon Studios does not generate the same level of impact delivered by its prequel. It is not that Ori and the Will of the Wisps is devoid of improvements. In fact, the additional degree of freedom given to players thanks to its looser structure goes a long way towards making its adventure more enjoyable, and other marginal tweaks also make it display solid evolution. But the bottom line is that extreme familiarity ends up slightly clouding those advances, and even if the game is still firmly in the upper echelon of its genre due to its beauty, heart, cleverness, and smoothness, its force is somewhat diminished.

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Metroid II: Return Of Samus

Metroid II: Return of Samus is, quite obviously, not the point when the property matured into the gaming juggernaut it is today, for that moment was still in its future. Nevertheless, the progress it achieves in relation to its prequel is noticeable. The adventure carries an overall design that is much smoother; introduces abilities that would go on to become major staples; puts together a larger world of equally intricate setup; and implements small improvements that, when added up, create an experience that is more pleasant and fun to go through. Consequently, although it is hard to deny the Game Boy’s limitations and the lack of a map considerably hold the quest back, the title also represents a weird instance when the translation of gameplay from a console to a portable resulted in a superior product. And thanks to its distinct premise and ultimate goal, which give birth to a different sort of progression, Return of Samus stands as a somewhat unique take on the Metroid franchise, and its position as an overlooked entry in the series ends up being unfortunate not just to the game itself, but also to those who miss out on playing it.

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Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy is joy and enchantment in gaming form. It has no commitment to sense; no concerns about logic; and no regard for the mundane. Its sole pledge is to fun, and by taking the elements of the plumber’s universe towards the vastness and insanity of space, Nintendo gave its developers total freedom regarding what kinds of levels to build and what sorts of mechanics to explore. Consequently, in the arms of gravity and aboard weirdly shaped planetoids, the Super Mario franchise reaches for interactive entertainment at its purest form. It may not be perfect, but even the most avid players will have a hard time coming upon an adventure that produces surprises and moments of genuine awe with such uncanny consistency. Super Mario Galaxy succeeds in embracing all audiences and taking them into an outer space journey that feels epic, controls spectacularly, looks stunning, sounds like a grand symphony, and holds more gameplay ingenuity in its dozens of stages than many companies will ever get to put together in a lifetime.

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Mario Vs. Donkey Kong

The overall charming simplicity and the generally competent level design of Mario vs. Donkey Kong make it easy to notice that the game was never meant as a grand statement or as a fierce competitor for the crown of best Game Boy Advance title, but was – instead – planned from the get go as a kind of effort that is ideal to a handheld setting. The abundance of content found in it is delightful and the way its brief puzzle-platforming stages were made to be cleared within a handful of minutes turn it into an ideal portable experience. Consequently, although it is not technically impressive, for its lovable visuals lack in scenario details and its audio leaves something to be desired in terms of quality, it is very enjoyable to play through. Furthermore, it rescued, from almost total obscurity, a gameplay idea that was tucked away in an overlooked Game Boy title and made it available to a new generation of gamers, who were able to – through it – revisit, in fresher colors and in a new expanded format, the historic duel that, from inside an arcade cabinet, put Nintendo on the map.

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Star Fox: Assault

It is, however, a major shame that all that very well-presented and pleasantly deep content is hampered by numerous technical issues that affect about half of the gameplay presented in Star Fox: Assault. Had the same amount of care and thought that is showcased in its flying portions been employed in the making of the segments that try to push the franchise towards new directions, fans of the saga could have – in their hands – an excellent product of the same caliber as Star Fox 64. Yet, as it stands, Star Fox: Assault has ground missions that are just way too clumsy, and given they share space with flying objectives that are absolutely stellar, rather than coming off as satisfying additions to the formula they appear as blocks in the middle of the way that must be overcome so the game’s truly great moments can be reached. Consequently, instead of being praised for its inventions, Star Fox: Assault is defined by its irregularity, and most of the worthy new steps it tries to implement end up being disappointing.

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CrossCode

For that reason, CrossCode is more of a charming and notably inventive homage to 16-bit RPGs – especially those with a knack for action – than a game that walks the same halls as other giants of the genre. Even though its gameplay is a magical combination of fast-paced and flashy combats with audacious puzzle-design, the innovative value of its setting ends up doing it more harm than good, as the title punctually struggles to make Lea’s journey in the fictional MMO of CrossWorlds feel as special and meaningful as it actually is. As such, even if easy to applaud, CrossCode does not carry enough of the elusive magical luster that takes the best tales of the gaming medium to the hard-to-reach level of greatness.

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Wario Land: Shake It!

As a consequence of that characteristic, Wario Land: Shake It puts itself in a somewhat tough position. Its quest is undeniably fun; its visuals are unquestionably beautiful; and its smart level design is true to the high quality of the saga. Still, the fact a good deal of its extra content can be the source of some frustration is disappointing because a great portion of the game’s value lies in exploring its levels looking for its treasure chests and trying to achieve perfect runs as a way to clear its challenging missions. Therefore, while to newcomers looking for a solid platformer Wario Land: Shake It is recommended with the caveat that its quest may be a bit too short for those who simply want to go through it, to gamers going after full completion it is a great package as long as they are able to tolerate the frustrating edges that its additional corners can sometimes display. In both cases, though, there is fun and smartness to be found in yet another sidescroller that shows the Nintendo Wii was the perfect home for the reemergence of the genre.

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