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Super Mario Bros. 3 Review

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Super Mario Bros. 3 Review

Super Mario Bros. 3 is the final Mario game in the NES trilogy and definitely the best. This game takes what made  Super Mario Bros. fun and not only improves it, but also adds elements that can still be found in the series today.

Bowser is back and he’s trying to rule the Mushroom Kingdom once again. Instead of just kidnapping Princess Peach, Bowser instructs his Koopa Kids to steal magic wands from every king in the Mushroom Kingdom. Not only do they steal their magic wands, but they transform the kings into a variety of animals. Now it’s up to Mario and Luigi to save the land… again.

Super Mario Bros. 3 plays a lot like Super Mario Bros; however, this time around, Mario can don a variety of different suits, each with their own power. Mushrooms and Fire Flowers are still present, but it’s the new suits that take center stage. Some of the suits include a Frog Suit that increases swimming ability, and a Super Leaf that transforms Mario into a raccoon, giving him the ability to fly for a limited time. Mario can also find the Hammer Brother Suit, and of course, the magical Tanooki suit.

Other than for visual appeal, these suits – particularly Racoon and Tanooki Mario – changed the way levels were designed. Flying allowed the developers to include secret areas in the sky that can only be accessed by using one of the aforementioned flight suits. Flying into the sky for the first time is an incredible feeling and was certainly a game changing experience for the Mario series.

There are 8 worlds in this game including: Grass Land, Desert Land, Water Land, Giant Land, Sky Land, Ice Land, Pipe Land, and Dark Land, home of Bowser himself. Each world is represented by an overworld map, a first, but consistent feature for the series. Players move Mario around the map and choose which level (or Mini Fortress) they want to enter. Also, on the map, players can access an item menu that lets them store and use items found in Mushroom Houses. The overworld map is a fantastic addition to the series and sometimes hold secret areas of their own.

At the end of each world, players will have to conquer the dreaded airship. Airships are intense levels accompanied by heart pounding music and dangerous level design. Getting to the end is a feat in itself, but a battle with one of seven Koopa Kids still waits. These levels are awesome in design, and its theme song is one of the best in the series. Airship levels aren’t the only new level additions in Super Mario Bros. 3 either, also, for the first time, players can venture through many fortress levels.

Fortress levels are castle-like levels that feature many ghostly enemies, some of which make their first appearance in the Mario series. Enemies such as Boos, Thwomps, and Dry Bones instantly come to mind. Also, at the end of each fortress, players will fight Boom Boom. Boom Boom doesn’t offer much of a challenge, but he does serve his role as a mid-world boss quite well.

Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best looking NES games, and definitely the best looking game in the NES trilogy. Sprites in general are not only highly detailed and colorful, but also varied. Having such variety creates a feeling that there is much more to discover; in fact, there is quite a bit discover in this game.

Secrets are around every corner in SMB3: one of the most famous secrets of all time are Super Mario Bros. 3′s warp whistles. Warp whistles are located at various hidden spots throughout the game and give players the ability to warp to a world of their choosing. Scouring the game for secrets is quite fun, plus there are plenty others to find, such as secret coin boats and white mushroom houses.

 

5/5 D-Pads: Overall, Super Mario Bros. 3 is an example of game design at its finest. Level design is among the greatest in the series (rivaled only by Super Mario World), as well as having some of the catchiest theme songs. Suits are a lot of fun to use and add some variety to the gameplay. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a classic game and definitely one of my favourite games. Anyone who hasn’t played this game should download it on the Wii U or 3DS Virtual Console as it’s only $4.99.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages Review

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The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages Review

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The Legend of Zelda series has seen many handheld entries over the year, but none were as fascinating and interesting as the pair of Oracle games. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is part of a story told over two games – the other being The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons – that could be linked together to create a more immersive experience. These games could be played in any order, but both offered significantly different experiences with different worlds, dungeons, items, and scenarios. I have never played The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages all the way through… until now.

TheLegendofZelda_Oracle of Ages_ss1The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages takes place in a land called Labrynna, where the goddess Nayru resides. Early in the game, Link is tricked into helping Veran -the Sorceress of Shadows – gain access to Nayru. Veran proceeds to possess Nayru, which causes a disruption to the flow of time in the land of Labrynna. Seeking guidance from the Maku Tree, Link is tasked with adventuring through time to find the eight Essences of Time, which will help combat the villainous Veran.

Oracle of Ages was co-developed by Nintendo and Capcom and resembles the overhead Zelda games, specifically The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Everything in the game is connected by an overworld map consisting of towns, secrets, and many enemies. What makes Oracle of Ages different from many Zelda games is the ability to travel between the past and present. Similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, travelling between eras can have a significant effect on the overworld map, essentially giving you two worlds to explore. Travelling through time is done by finding Time Portals –similar to A Link to the Past’s Dark World portals – or using an item called the Harp of Ages. As a whole, this element lends itself to the puzzle heavy Oracle of Ages.

As with most Zelda games, dungeons are a main focus of Oracle of Ages, some of which are affected by the game’s time travelling mechanic. The standard Zelda formula of finding the map and compass, multiple keys, and puzzle solving are all present, but puzzles are not only larger in number, but also more obtuse and fun to solve than previous puzzles from Zelda games. Oracle of Ages also borrows the sidescrolling elements from Link’s Awakening, but has been fleshed out to create a slightly deeper experience this time around.

One particular dungeon element that is hard to ignore are the theme songs that accompany them. These theme songs are some of the most enjoyable from any Zelda game. Standout tracks include the themes for Moonlit Grotto, Skull Dungeon and the Mermaid Cave.

Of course, The Legend of Zelda games put a lot of emphasis on the equipment and items that Link can utilize to solve puzzles and fight enemies; Oracle of Ages is no different in this regard. Plenty of great items make their first appearance in the series, including some underrated Zelda items. My favourite is the Switch Hook, possibly the most innovative item in the Zelda series. With the Switch Hook, Link can magically trade places with an item, making for some really interesting puzzles.

TheLegendofZelda_Oracle of Ages_ss2Both Oracle games also introduce Magic Rings, and while rings did play a role in The Legend of Zelda, here they add more depth. Wearing rings will change Link’s attributes in some way. Some rings will allow Link to recover lost hearts, while another increase the damage inflicted with a bomb. There are over 60 rings to collect across both games, an element that encourages you to take advantage of the ability to link your adventures together to form one gigantic journey.

While I can’t fully discuss the ability to link both games together in this review – keep an eye out for our Oracle of Seasons review for that – I will say that I absolutely love the idea. I do know that a different ending and additional boss fights await the player in a linked game, no matter which game is played first.

As mentioned above, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages has a fantastic soundtrack, which includes the aforementioned dungeon themes, but the game is also visually impressive. While it isn’t the prettiest Game Boy Color game, it takes advantage of the hardware’s strengths, including some great color-based puzzles and detailed sprites.

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4.5/5 D-Pads: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is a must play game for all Zelda fans, and one of a few excellent Game Boy Color titles. It introduces many brilliant items to the series, has a number of brilliantly crafted dungeons and puzzles, and has many memorable dungeon themes. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is $5.99 on the Nintendo eShop and should take gamers nearly 16 hours to complete. Pair the game with The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and you get an epic, handheld adventure for $12, a worthy investment for any Zelda fan.

Silent Hill Review – Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

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Silent Hill Review – Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

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That above quote, for the readers not familiar with it, is from the poem Dante’s Inferno, which is from the book the Divine Comedy. Why am I explaining this in a game review? Simple really, that quote sums up the experience of Silent Hill. So sit down, buckle up, and get ready for a trip through hell.

In the winter of year 1999 (yes, I know I’m old), Konami published a little game by the developer, Team Silent, for the PS1 (now on PSN). Little did they know, this game would go on to spawn eight sequels over the years, and a handful of games on handheld consoles. Silent Hill, like any great story, is about loss. Harry Mason, while driving with his young daughter Cheryl, accidently drives off a country road to avoid what looks like a person. When he wakes up, it is day, foggy and snowing; I must add that it isn’t winter. Harry has to search what – at first glance – looks like an abandoned town to find his daughter, while trying to survive demonic creatures and suspicious people. To explain any more of the story would just spoil it, and to be honest, I would just do it an injustice. So stop reading, and go play it, go ahead, I can wait.

silenthillss1Oh, you’re back already? Good game right, reader? So, was I right, or was I right? Since you played it – and why would you lie if you didn’t – you will notice one thing right away, the controls. It’s not a game breaker, but a reminder of how far games have come in the past 14 years. You see readers, back when survival horror started to find itself, developers – being the mad people that they are – thought it would be a good idea to have the player’s character move like a tank; I’m looking at you too, Resident Evil.

Back in 1999, when a lot of the games controlled like this, it seemed fine and easy to adjust to; however, in 2013 it’s painful, especially for the people who never experienced that generation of gaming. It won’t ruin your experience, but it may take a bit of time to get used to, and you may find it annoying at times, due to there being fixed camera angles at times. What’s that mean? Well, to put it simply, if you are holding up on the d-pad (or analog stick) and the camera cuts to a fixed angle, to go down you must keep pressing up, not down. You will get used to it, just be prepared.

Silent Hill takes the survival horror aspect and throws it on its head. How does it manage to do that? Simple, psychology. By adding this element, it makes the player subconsciously dwell on their own fears and insecurities.

Sure, there are monsters that you have to either attack or flee from, but the worst fear is derived from what you can’t see, and when you can’t see something, your brain goes into overdrive to make sense of it, making it a whole lot scarier.

The items, for the most part, are similar to any game of that nature. However, unlike the Resident Evil games, you don’t carry a machine gun and mow down countless enemies. No, you have a pistol, which doesn’t always hit its mark, so be careful when you aim. Bullets are few and far between, and trust me, fighting off a Grey Child or Mumbler is not fun with just a kitchen knife. You will cry, and people will point and laugh, wondering why you’re having a breakdown in Walmart, in your underwear… so I’ve heard.

The other items you receive are the flashlight and radio. The Radio becomes distorted, blaring static whenever an enemy is near, which makes the tension worse because a lot of the time you won’t see what’s setting it off. The flashlight is a life saver whenever you go to the Other World, and when you’re surrounded by darkness; basically, it allows you to see enemies – in the distance – a little easier.

As for the puzzles, I won’t lie, I’m horrible at puzzles but if you enjoy them, you will love this game. One of the first puzzles you encounter in Silent Hill is a clock tower at the school. There are 3 slots you have to fill with the only clues being a time, and riddle written for each slot in the admin office of the school. The slots are for medallions you find around the school by solving smaller puzzles. Once you have 3, you put them in the right spot, matching them up with the times. I’m biased when it comes to puzzles in the genre; the fact is that I hate them with a passion. I don’t hate puzzles in games in general, just the survival horror medium. Why? Because 95% of the time they make no sense to the plot and aren’t realistic. Yeah, I know complaining about lack of realism in a game with monsters and bad dialog, sue me.

silenthillss3Now, this is for the readers who grew up on the PS2, GameCube, and the Dreamcast (you are missed). Graphics in 1999 aren’t going to be nearly as good as today’s graphics, or even the PS2 or GameCube for that matter. For example, my wife who is not a gamer – aside from the iPad, which lets admit, doesn’t count – asked me why my character was blocky and pixelated. All I could do was look at her like she killed a bag of puppies with a chainsaw… ah, I take that back, but you get the point. But she was right, in today’s era of gaming, the graphics don’t hold up. Kind of like that bag of puppies afterwards… where was I? Right, they kind of suck now, but back in 1999 they blew my mind, back then that was considered lifelike; now, however, those blocky graphics scare that hamburger I had for supper right out of me.

How, you might ask, bewildered by that horrible image, were the graphics lifelike? Easy, it’s the atmosphere. Atmosphere is the key ingredient in survival horror. The fog in the game is a result of bad draw distance, due to the technology at the time. But does it add to the experience? When your radio squeals and you can’t see ahead of you? You’re damn right it does. Throw in “creeptastic” music by video game legend, Akira Yamaoka, and you got yourself a good excuse to buy new boxers. Especially when the day becomes the night of the Other World, where all you have is a flashlight and the distant noises of something horrifying to keep you company. Excuse me while I go turn my light back on.

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5/5 D-Pads: Play this game, just do it. Silent Hill is the true beginning of survival horror in video games, containing substance over action. You come for the thrills and chills, but stay for the story. Silent Hill is a true horror experience and should not be missed by any fan of the genre, old or new.

Donkey Kong (Game Boy) Review

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Donkey Kong was released in 1994 for the Game Boy and packs quite a punch. At first glance, it appears to be another port of the Donkey Kong arcade game, but no, Nintendo delivers a brand new Donkey Kong experience in this puzzling platformer.

The game starts by throwing you back into the four levels from the Donkey Kong arcade game. Here, the goal remains the same as you jump over barrels, climb ladders, and dodge bouncing springs to rescue Pauline. However, when you complete the final stage, Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and flees the scene, forcing Mario to chase him; this is where the game truly begins.

donkeykonggameboy_ss2This brilliant twist sets up the next 97 levels – over nine worlds – that follow a new set of mechanics. Instead of reaching the goal platform, in the majority of these levels, you must find and carry a key to the locked door to complete the level. Every fourth level will feature Donkey Kong, and sometimes DK Jr., throwing barrels, flipping switches, and a variety of tactics to keep Mario from reaching Pauline; essentially, similar to the format of the arcade game. The very last level in every stage will be a battle against Donkey Kong in which you need to grab and hit him with a barrel three times.

Over the course of the game’s 97 levels, you must use all of Mario’s abilities to grab the key and reach the exit. Mario can pick up and throw objects, back flips, handstand jumping, and lastly, swing on ropes; in fact, you could probably mistake Mario for a gymnast. There are other mechanics at play as well, and include the ability to flip switches (to open doors and bridges), and of course, the ability to create ladders and platforms. To create an object, you must grab their respective icon in the levels that feature this mechanic. This particular gameplay mechanic is pretty cool and adds an extra dimension to some of the more puzzling levels.

One really neat aspect of Donkey Kong can be found in the cut-scenes that play each time you manage to overcome Donkey Kong. These brief – and often comical – cut-scenes often showcase new gameplay mechanics that you haven’t used at that point in the game. These clever clues are an awesome touch to the game’s overall presentation.

Most of the game’s levels are extremely easy and don’t require the use of any additional techniques, but quite a few are built to test your ability to manipulate Mario. Some of these levels can be excruciatingly frustrating because you have to be 100% perfect in everything you do, but thankfully, these levels are few in number. Also, each stage has three items for you to recover, and these can be quite challenging to reach. If you do recover all three items, you will be sent to one of two bonus stages to try to win some 1-UPs.

donkeykonggameboy_ss3Donkey Kong is a hard game to put down once you start playing, simply because the game is a lot of fun. I love the level design in each level and never grew bored of the game’s mechanics. I also enjoyed practicing and mastering Mario’s abilities to see if I could finish levels faster.

For a Game Boy game, Donkey Kong is impressive in every area, and that stands for its visuals and soundtrack, as well. This game surprised me with its detailed visuals, especially with its many different backgrounds. Donkey Kong also has a great soundtrack, with different themes for each world, including some classic sounds and themes from the arcade game.

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5/5 D-Pads: If you own a Game Boy or Nintendo 3DS (only $3.99 on the Virtual Console), Donkey Kong is a must own game. It has 101 levels –including the four intro stages – which have plenty of variety, and lots of cool abilities to master. It can be challenging at times, but never becomes too frustrating. The game takes around five hours to complete, but it’s also the kind of game that welcomes a second play.

Metroid II: Return of Samus Review

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I never owned a Game Boy of my own until 1999, and even then it was a Lime Green Game Boy Color, not the brick-like Game Boy. However, Metroid II is a game that I remember fondly. You might find that quite odd at first glance, but picture waking up every Saturday during the nostalgic year of 1991 to watch cartoons, and this Metroid II: Return of Samus TV commercial plays during every commercial break. I always wanted Metroid II because of that TV spot, but never took the time to seek out a cartridge. Well, fast forward 22 years – I do feel my age – and I’ve finally wiped out every Metroid on Planet SR388.

As alluded to above, Metroid II: Return of Samus takes place on Planet SR388 and the objective is to find and defeat every Metroid within its devious caverns. This is the plot of Metroid II, a simple seek and destroy mission that ends with a confrontation with the Metroid Queen. Don’t let the simplicity of Metroid II’s plot fool you; this is the kind of Metroid game you’ve come to love.

metroidII1Like every other Metroid game, you play as Samus Aran, a galactic bounty hunter who kicks a whole lot of Metroid ass. Samus has received a lot of upgrades which make controlling her much more enjoyable than in the debut Metroid game. Samus can now shoot in all eight directions, plus she can duck, both of which are brilliant additions to the overall gameplay experience. Also, Samus feels much lighter when she jumps, giving you more control of its direction.

Familiar power-ups, such as the Ice Beam and Screw Attack, make their return from Metroid, but a few notable ones make their first appearance. These new power-ups give the player more options when exploring SR388. The most innovative of these new power-ups is the Spider Ball. The Spider Ball lets Samus climb any surface while the Morph Ball is activated, and believe me, you’ll be using this to uncover a lot of new areas on the Planet SR388.

Exploration still plays a major role in Metroid II: Return of Samus, and for the most part, the gameplay is largely the same. Certain areas can only be travelled after retrieving the power-up needed to access said area, and energy tanks and missile tanks are hidden in nooks and crannies throughout the game. While there are also plenty of non-threatening enemies to defeat as you travel between areas, the Metroids you must find and extinguish can be considered boss battles, and there are a total of 39 (plus a few regular Metroids) to defeat.

Lava can be found around nearly every turn on Planet SR388 and it acts as a barrier to other areas of the planet. Defeating a specific number of Metroids in an area will cause an earthquake to occur, which will drain some lava and open a new path. You will encounter a variety of Metroid evolutions (Metroids, Alpha Metroids, Gamma Metroids, Zeta Metroids,   and Omega Metroids) that vary in behaviour and strength. While Metroid II: Return of Samus feels like other Metroid games, this particular mechanic gives Metroid II a unique feeling.

metroidII2Metroid II: Return of Samus is an enjoyable game, but it isn’t without faults, all of which drag the overall gameplay down. The lack of a map makes Metroid II frustrating to navigate. I often found myself travelling back and forth between areas – mostly during the beginning portions of the game – until finally finding a way forward. I’m not asking for a map that gives me the locations of every Metroid, instead, I would have liked it to show me areas I previously visited. Another small element that could have been tweaked is something that was brought forward from Metroid. Upon obtaining a new beam, Samus will lose the previous beam she held to use the new beam. I would have preferred the option to select the beam I wanted to use.

Graphically, I feel Metroid II: Return of Samus is superior to Metroid. The sprites are impressive in size and detail, which is surprising given the Game Boy’s limitations. Atmosphere is achieved especially well in Metroid II using a combination of dark backgrounds and ambient music. There are only a handful of theme songs in Metroid II, but the ambient music that is used is better for creating frightening and isolated environments.

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3.5/5 D-Pads: I don’t often experience that unexplainable feeling of mystery I used to feel when I gamed as a kid, but Metroid II: Return of Samus hammered me with that feeling. Metroid II is a fun entry in the Metroid series with only a few slight flaws bringing it down. It’s slightly better than the original Metroid, but not nearly as epic as Super Metroid. Metroid II: Return of Samus is an above average Game Boy title, and one worthy of sitting in any collection.

Super Adventure Island Review

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Super Adventure Island Review

Super Adventure Island was first released in 1992 and is now on the Virtual Console. Developed by Hudson Soft, Super Adventure Island is a continuation of the series, which follows its lovable hero, Master Higgins. The adventure begins with Master Higgins and Tina hanging out and enjoying life. Moments later, an evil sorcerer appears and turns his girlfriend, Tina, into a stone statue. Motivated by love, Master Higgins sets off to save Tina from the clutches of evil, and to reverse the spell’s effect. A feat he accomplishes without wearing a shirt.

Gameplay wise, Super Adventure Island is very much like its predecessors. Adventure Island games – up to this point – have been simple platformers in which the main objective is to find the end level goal while avoiding, and killing enemies. Super Adventure Island also retains one hit deaths and its famous – and sometimes frustrating – diminishing timer mechanic. Once this bar is empty you will die; however, you can add time back on by collecting fruits.

All of the elements from the original titles are here, except for one of my favorites: Master Higgins is no longer able to ride dinosaurs. I realize that this feature isn’t present in the first game, but this was an element that I thoroughly enjoyed; however, Master Higgins can upgrade his basic weaponry this time. Tomahawks and boomerangs will be your main sources of attack, and after collecting multiple tomahawks (or boomerangs), you will be given an extra to throw at the enemy. After collecting four of the same item, you will acquire a powered up version of said weapon. At this stage, the weapon takes on a fireball-like appearance and does much more damage. Fully powered up weapons make boss fights a complete joke.

There are five worlds in Super Adventure Island, each consisting of three stages a piece. Stage themes range from a jungle setting, to the belly of a whale and more. Also, at the end of each world you must fight a boss. Level design varies greatly and offers much more than just scrolling to the right. Some levels have you swimming inside the belly of a whale, another sees you climbing a large tree, plus, there’s even a mine cart level. All of this variety will no doubt fulfill your platforming desires. Its challenge, however, isn’t in the variety, but in the actual level design itself.

Levels are built to challenge your platforming skills and this is evident with the placements of enemies and bottomless pits. Enemies are placed to stall your progress, which forces you to take them down; otherwise you will fall to a one hit death. Pits on the other hand will test your jumping skills.

Master Higgins uses three different jumping techniques with one of them being a basic jump. Jumping higher can be done by pressing jump while moving. Lastly, Master Higgins can also utilize a super jump. To perform the super jump you need to duck then press the jump button; it is important that you master this jump as it will save you many lives. Also, making the levels challenging is the way that Master Higgins handles. He has a heavy feeling, which makes accuracy very important to your survival. More than a few deaths happened because of this heavy feeling, which forces you to compensate with precise timing of your jumps. It can be frustrating because even if you’re sure you landed the jump, the game may disagree. If his movement was tightened, the game would be easier and more enjoyable to play.

Graphically, Super Adventure Island is superior to the NES titles. Sprites are extremely detailed, colorful, and well-animated. In fact, the entire game takes advantage of Super Nintendo’s graphical capabilities by creating a ton of awesome looking environments, and huge bosses. The levels have colorful, detailed backgrounds and in some cases are even animated.

Mode 7 is also used, albeit sparingly. Its uses are effective because of this; you will first encounter Mode 7 as Master Higgins falls from the sky before the first level, and it looks pretty darn cool. On another note, I personally don’t dig the soundtrack for Super Adventure Island. Technically speaking, the music is superior to earlier games in the series, but ultimately, I felt that it didn’t carry the same spirit of the NES Adventure Island games.

3 out of 5 D-Pads3/5 D-Pads: Overall, fans of the Adventure Island series will really enjoy this journey with Master Higgins. It brings forth everything you love about the series to the Super Nintendo, including secret bonus stages and the skateboard. One hit deaths and well-designed stages will keep you involved, even if it is a tad challenging. Now that the game is on the Virtual Console, I recommend that Adventure Island fans check it out for only 800 points. Fans of platformers may also be interested, that is, if they are up for the challenge.

Final Fantasy VI Review

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Final Fantasy VI Review

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Most gamers know the Super Nintendo wasn’t lacking in the RPG department. It was home to many great RPGs including the innovative, time travelling adventure known as Chrono Trigger, and the quirky, unconventional Earthbound. A little game known as Final Fantasy VI also happened to find its home on the SNES. It is without a doubt among the best of the best even today. It didn’t do much to evolve the genre, but it executed everything with excellence, and set the standard for many RPGs to follow.

Final Fantasy VI has a deep and engaging story that follows several characters on their journey to take down the Gestahlian Empire. The game doesn’t point out a particular main character – some may argue that it’s Terra because of her significance to the plot – but I think that’s what makes this journey feel so epic. Every character has a rich background with each carrying a motive to fight the opposition. Each character comes from a different walk of life, which brings a lot of variety to the story. From the magical and mysterious Terra, to the brothers of royalty – Edgar and Sabin – living completely separate lives, and of course Shadow, the ominous assassin who comes and goes like the wind.

Throughout the journey, the story continuously unfolds with twists and secrets waiting around every corner. You will learn about the Espers’ significance, and watch as Kefka – mad with power – spirals out of control. Kefka Palazzo plays a supporting role to Emperor Gestahl in the beginning, but is following through with a plan to overthrow him and become the God of Magic. Kefka is not only a great Final Fantasy villain, but quite possibly the best villain of all time. He is a maniacal nihilist determined to achieve ultimate power. His rise to power is a gradual one, but he eventually becomes the most feared person in existence.

Final Fantasy VI is a standard RPG in terms of gameplay; gain experience and level up, buy and find new items and equipment, travel to towns and dungeons while enduring random enemy encounters. However, Final Fantasy VI does bring a few unique elements to the series.

First, I’d like to mention that Final Fantasy VI can actually be adjusted to support two players. In the game’s menu you are able to assign characters to each player. Of course, this is after you activate the multiple controller option. This configuration only plays out in battle, but it adds a neat co-operative spin on the game, which makes it necessary to work as a team.

Each character holds a special ability in battle; two great examples are Sabin’s Blitz and Edgar’s Tools. Whatever the special ability may be, it is usually character specific and matches their characteristics. These techniques are powerful, and quite useful in battle. I predict that you will be using Sabin’s Bum Rush more than once.

Another unique aspect of the gameplay is found in the Esper system. Espers can be equipped to your party and will let your party members learn magic. Espers also serve as summons in the game, but that isn’t all they offer as Espers play another important role. Espers, when equipped, will boost certain stats when you level up. Some will raise your vigor (strength) and some will raise your magic attack, while other Espers will increase the amount of HP gained when you level up. You will find yourself grinding a lot to build your stats as you see fit, and of course, to learn magic. Grinding will help you get out of some tough spots, but if you grind too much the game will become really easy. For reference, at level 70 you are overpowered for the final stretch of the game and Kefka becomes a pushover.

Overall, the gameplay is well-balanced and its gradual difficulty curve shouldn’t discourage newcomers to the genre.

Graphics wise, Final Fantasy VI is gorgeous. It contains some of the best sprite art on the SNES, in my opinion. While a certain Mode 7 section looks dull (mine cart ride), everything else is nicely detailed and unique, which is always a plus. It is especially fun to fly around the world map in the airship, which is nicely done with Mode 7. Final Fantasy VI also excels in the soundtrack department. It has some of the most recognizable themes in the series, and they are definitely some of the best 16-bit chiptunes in existence. Kefka himself even sports a chilling signature laugh, which adds another layer of evil to his character.

4.5/5 D-Pads: Final Fantasy VI is pretty much one of the best RPGs in existence. It lacks a little in the gameplay department, but it’s easy to see past because the Esper system offers a unique spin on the genre. Final Fantasy VI combats its weakness by adding a truly epic story, and well-crafted characters, not to mention gorgeous sprites and a classic video game soundtrack. There are secret characters and items to find, which adds to the replay value of the game. It will take roughly 20-30 hours to complete your first time, but I can see that decreasing during a second run. While there is a lot more to talk about, I feel I have covered the most important aspects; I need to leave some surprises for you to discover. Overall, Final Fantasy VI is a fantastic experience and anyone that calls themselves a gamer absolutely needs to play this game.

Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link Review

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Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link Review

zelda2_theadventureoflink_boxartThe Adventure of Link is the second game in the Zelda series, and sequel to the NES classic, The Legend of Zelda. However, Zelda II isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the original like most sequels tend to be; in fact, it changes up the formula quite a bit. Zelda II is widely known to be the black sheep of the Legend of Zelda series. Its gameplay style differs the most from other Zelda games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a bad game. 

As a direct sequel, Zelda II takes place a few years after the defeat of Ganon. Even though the king of evil was defeated, his presence is still felt throughout Hyrule. Seeking to revive their master, Ganon’s minions cast a spell on Zelda, one that puts her in an eternal slumber. With Zelda out of the way, the minions seek the three pieces of the Triforce to resurrect Ganon. It becomes necessary for them to annihilate Link and steal the Triforce that he bears. Link learns of Zelda’s misfortune and sets out to break the spell and wake her from her slumber.

Already possessing two pieces of the Triforce, Link has to find the third piece to help the princess. The last piece, Courage, resides inside the Great Palace, which is blocked by a mysterious energy. Gaining entrance isn’t an easy task as Link has to set crystals in six statues, each overlooked by one of Ganon’s guardians. It is only after defeating the guardians and setting the crystals that Link can venture inside the Great Palace.

Upon starting the game you will notice right away that Zelda II plays much differently from its predecessor. Zelda II begins without pulling any punches by throwing you directly into the sidescrolling perspective. This is something that you will have to get used to quickly because this is how the majority of the game is played. Link does navigate an overworld with an overhead perspective, but this only occurs when traveling between towns, palaces, caves, etc. Link can not battle enemies or collect items in the overworld as it’s mainly used to connect the world.

The majority of this adventure will take place in the sidescrolling view. When touching enemies, caves or palaces, Link will enter a sidescrolling action stage, but more on that in a little bit. Towns also play their first big role in a Zelda game. They are explored in the sidescrolling perspective, much like the action stages, but contain depth that you wouldn’t normally expect in a sidescroller. Link can talk to the villagers, heal, and learn new magic: things you would expect to experience in a town from an RPG. Link may also get hints to help him throughout his journey, making it worthwhile to chat with everyone.

Let’s get back to the action stages. Link fights much differently in this game because of the sidescrolling perspective. He can stab high with his sword, or low while ducking, and even jump – helpful when using new sword techniques. There is an upwards stab and a downwards stab that can be learned, both can only be done after pressing the jump button. Combat is varied as there are a number of different enemies and bosses each with their own pattern. Without mastering these techniques you may have trouble defeating some enemies.

Aside from sword combat, Link can also utilize magic for the first time in the series. There are a total of eight spells including: Life to refill your health, Shield to halve damage, and Thunder to destroy all on-screen enemies. There is a magic meter which will limit the amount of spells you can cast, an element seen in many Zelda games since. It’s also noteworthy to mention that Magic pretty much replaces the item mechanic of the first game, which is severly missed. Regardless, all of the above elements make for a deep, different, and enjoyable combat experience.

Zelda II can be a hard game and it boils down to certain design elements chosen for the game. I think Link controls well in both combat and jumping, so I wouldn’t necessarily blame the controls. However, the game can become frustrating when learning enemy patterns, platforming sections, or when there are multiple enemies on-screen. In these situations it’s best to be patient and advance wisely. Link can also utilize 1UPs for the first time, which can give you a second crack at the obstacle you are trying to overcome. However, this next design choice will have you throwing your controller around quite a bit.

If you lose all of your lives and get the dreaded Game Over screen, you must start again from Zelda’s chamber. This forces you to navigate through the dangers you previously had to overcome, to get back to the area that took all of your lives. Luckily, Zelda II also introduced an experience system which can be used to level up your life, magic, and attack stats. You will even endure grinding similar to that found in RPGs. Using this experience to level up your stats will lend a helping hand, and I think that this is something future Zelda games could expand upon.

Overall, the gameplay is well-designed, save for a few complaints above. Palaces are similar to the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda in that they are mazes that are gradually uncovered by exploring each room, finding keys for locked doors, and culminating in a boss battle. Other familiar elements such as fairies and sword beams can be found, as well. New elements introduced in Zelda II – including the magic meter and towns – even carry forward in the series. So, if you were told this game isn’t like Zelda, somebody lied. Yes, the sidescrolling stages are quite different, but this is a Zelda game at heart.

Visually, I feel that The Adventures of Link does lack a little bit. Sprites are nicely design with great animations, but other aspects lack originality. Most of the game will look almost entirely the same, save for some palette swapping. Maybe I’m picking on this aspect a little too much, but I feel more could have been accomplished. Regardless, there is no doubt a unique atmosphere created in Zelda II, one that is consistent. Musically, Zelda II is better than The Legend of Zelda. There are extremely catchy tunes in the Town Theme and Palace Themes, as well as a beautifully crafted opening and overworld theme. The Palace Theme happens to be one of my personal favourite Zelda tracks, of all time.

3 out of 5 D-Pads3/5 D-Pads: Zelda II isn’t the game you’d expect to play upon insertion of the cartridge, or booting up the Virtual Console, but it’s a satisfying experience. Sword combat is varied and perhaps influential behind Nintendo’s decision to make combat a more complete experience in Skyward Sword. Also, Zelda II carries forward elements that have become staples in the Zelda franchise. Add in a touch of great music and you have a complete Zelda experience, despite what you may have heard. If you’re one of those Zelda fans that has completely ignored this game, please give it a chance, you may be surprised.

DuckTales Review

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DuckTales Review

During its reign in the 1980s, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was home to many influential video games, including a large list of titles from Capcom. Among these Capcom titles include a respectable amount of games based on Disney franchises. While licensed properties are usually rushed and crappy today, Capcom could touch anything and turn it into pure gold, which is definitely what happened when they created DuckTales.

In the DuckTales NES game, Uncle Scrooge embarks on an adventure to find five of the world’s lost treasures. Each of these lost treasures is being guarded in five locations around the world: the Amazon, Himalayas, African Mines, Transylvania, and even the Moon. Uncle Scrooge receives help from Huey, Dewey, Louie, and many other close friends during his expedition; a simple plot, but one that is appropriate for Uncle Scrooge and friends.

Upon starting DuckTales, you can choose which level you’d like to play, not unlike the Mega Man games – actually, DuckTales was developed using the Mega Man engine. Each level is a masterfully crafted sidescrolling, platforming affair that is inspired by a different location; the Amazon is home to a jungle theme, while Transylvania is a large, maze-like haunted mansion. Many elements are level specific and can include things like warp mirrors in Transylvania, or the icy floors of the Himalayas; this variety makes every level feel fresh. Each level is also built to encourage exploration, most notably because of their many branching paths, and hidden nooks and crannies that store treasure. There are even a few instances where you need to visit a level twice.

ducktales1DuckTales isn’t an easy game, but it isn’t exactly hard either. There are plenty of frustrating moments thanks to some brutally placed pitfalls and enemies. Uncle Scrooge also has a health meter with 3 hit points. Scrooge’s HP will deplete by one after being colliding with an enemy, and refilling his health is done by finding ice cream cones and cake.

Controlling Uncle Scrooge is easy, once you get used to pogo-jumping with his cane. If you press B and down while jumping, Scrooge will use his cane like a pogo stick, a move that is necessary to beat DuckTales. You can’t damage enemies or bosses unless you pogo-jump on them, plus there are certain hazards that can only be crossed while using this move. It’s a little tricky at first, but it becomes easier and less frustrating when you figure out that you can hold B to keep the pogo cane active. Scrooge can also use his cane like a golf club to hit objects, which is definitely as fun as it sounds.

Another huge element of the DuckTales video game is collecting treasure. Collecting treasure will add more money to Scrooge’s bank, which is basically the game’s score. Treasure can be found by opening treasure chests, defeating enemies, and even from thin air, accessed by colliding with specific spots hidden throughout each level. Finding treasure is important if you want to see the game’s hidden ending, which is unlocked after reaching $10,000,000. In fact, there are three different endings to see, and three different difficulties which give DuckTales a tiny bit of replay value.

ducktales2DuckTales is also well known for having colorful, detailed graphics and an amazing soundtrack, most notably the Moon theme. However, the moon theme isn’t my favourite, nor does it carry any nostalgic value for me. I always enjoyed listening to the Amazon, Himalayas, and Transylvania themes more. Strong feelings of nostalgia also surface whenever the level select theme plays.

 

 

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5/5 D-Pads: DuckTales is up there with the best platformers on the NES. It is a little on the short side, but its level variety, challenging platforming, and unique pogo cane gameplay make it stand out when compared to the rest. Also, few games seem to hit every element out of the park, but DuckTales does with fun gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and a rocking soundtrack. A must own for anyone’s NES collection, and a must play for fans of platformers in general.

Castlevania Review

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It’s hard to believe that any video game series has been around for 26 years, but Castlevania is one of them, and the series is still going strong today. Castlevania was released on many consoles back in the eighties including the Famicom Disk System, Amiga, and of course, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game follows Simon Belmont on his adventure to vanquish Dracula with his trusty Vampire Killer whip. Read more

Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon Review (Game Boy)

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MYSTICAL NINJA starring GOEMON was originally released in 1998 for the Game Boy. Mystical Ninja is an action adventure game that follows Goemon, Ebisumaru, and Sasuke as they fight against a band of pirates known as The Black Ship Gang. This mysterious band of pirates travels between towns to steal and terrorize the people of ancient Japan. Their leader, the Skull Baron, has also kidnapped Yae, whom normally fights alongside the trio of ninjas. After learning of Yae’s fate, Goemon and friends set out to rescue her and defeat The Black Ship Gang. Read more

Splatterhouse Review (TurboGrafx-16)

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Splatterhouse was originally released in the arcade, but later ported to the TurboGrafx-16. In the arcade, Splatterhouse was a bit more gruesome and violent than its TurboGrafx-16 counterpart, but there is still plenty of horror and gore left to please fans of the series. Read more

Kirby’s Adventure Review

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Kirby’s Adventure is not only one of my favourite NES games, but also the Kirby game I adore the most. It was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993 and is the second game in the Kirby series. Kirby’s Adventure upholds most of the elements introduced in Kirby’s Dream Land, however, it adds quite a bit that scales the adventure to new heights.

Much like Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby’s Adventure tells a simple story of trouble in Dream Land. This time, however, King Dedede isn’t after their food. Kirby and fellow Dream Land residents wake to find that none of them had a dream the night before. Kirby suspects that something is wrong at the Dream Spring and sets out to investigate. Upon arriving, Kirby discovers King Dedede bathing in the spring. King Dedede tells Kirby that he broke the Star Rod into seven pieces and gave them to seven of his friends. Kirby is furious with King Dedede’s actions and takes it upon himself to restore the Star Rod. Kirby doesn’t know it, but something much more sinister is waiting. Read more

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