I came down with an unconfirmed fever last Tuesday. I was sweating up a storm, feeling febrile and achey, but every temperature recorded was below <100 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless, I was sent home to self-isolate and await the results of my COVID test. Since then, I’ve fully recovered but still no test results. Waiting this out has been a monastic experience and makes me appreciate those who truly self-isolated for all these many weeks as I have continued to work.
Prior, I was pounding away on 5th generation games (PS1 and N64). Even more specifically, it’s been a lot of Final Fantasy, which also means it’s been a lot of time. SO. MUCH. TIME. Playing a backlog of RPGs is a Sisyphean task, and every time I got that boulder to the top of the hill, it would roll right back down with the next entry.
I decided to take this new found idleness to blast through some NES games. I didn’t want to allot the same amount of copious time spent on FF7 or FF8. The original Nintendo should be perfect for quick in-and-out games… until Ninja Gaiden hit me with a shuriken to the forehead.
This game is something else. Every ledge is perfectly placed near an avian threat more than willing to hit you into the abyss. Making things harder, trying to share these tiny footholds with sword throwing ruffians makes it almost impossible.
While excruciatingly hard, it does come with a caveat. Dying only means you restart at your current level. This means you only have to complete three stages of impossible tasks and defeat a boss before your starting point resets. And just like the lottery, this is where Ninja Gaiden gets you: you always think “I just need ONE more try”. Instead of being hopelessly out of reach, Ninja Gaiden is forever crushing your soul in a tantalizing, different way than most NES games.
I want to know how I was able to achieve so much more at 9 than 31. The snow covered hills of Hoth and cloudy city of Bespin were impenetrable. What made it worse was how tedious it all was. Instead of reliving the best moments of the movie, you get to explore…caves. Then, you are rewarded with…more caves.
I don’t understand what took so long for archaic RPGs to catch on to what worked. Final Fantasy 3/6 came out in 1994 and was successful due to two core ideas: less grinding, more story. J-RPGs aren’t rocket science. A little bit of emotional attachment goes a long way.
Breath of Fire II seems 5 years behind its peers. Its only interesting character is locked away for too long due to plot purposes (a dog named Bow who uses a Bow – Bow w/ dah Bow!) Funny and endearing, Bow is an archetypal screw-up that makes things light and interesting. After that, dull characters join for tacky reasons. People in this world have nothing better to do than become an itinerant band of vagabonds.
It was bearable until it was paired with quests that provided no emotional attachment. Here I am, spending my precious time on Earth, fighting witches for people I do not know and getting into cooking contests to prove the lineage of a frog prince because the main character has the attention span of a bird.
There is a VHS somewhere at my parent’s house of me playing this game for the first time. I wear an expressionless face as I have difficulty processing the vibrant colors. When the friendly dinosaur hatches, my mom is heard off camera going “It’s Yoshi!” as I silently mouth the same words in total shock.
I wore a similar expressionless face this time around, but not because of being blown away: Super Mario World is auto-pilot easy. There are some hidden levels that really challenge your skill, but the other 95% of the game barely requires participation. With 47 lives to spare, I unlocked the ending sequence wondering “why is this so easy?”
The first two games I wanted to review for the N64 were Mario and GoldenEye, but for completely different reasons. Super Mario 64 was the first time I played a game in a true 3D environment. I was so shell shocked that I couldn’t even figure out how to move Mario, smashing down on the analog D-pad while ignoring that round stick in the middle.
GoldenEye, however, is when my friends and I grew up. We weren’t going around finding stars and collecting coins but unloading entire clips into polygonal bodies as they squirmed in dramatic death sequences. Cafeteria time was dedicated to discussing tactics while trash talking about death match: those who dared to play as Jaws revered while those who copped out as Oddjob were belittled.
It became a cultural revolution. Everyone was playing this game, even your little sister who didn’t even know about Yoshi. And guess what: it’s still amazing.
A knock-off of another cold-blooded, reptilian franchise, they decided not to imitate their best feature: fun.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #55/100 My Rating:
Imagine, for a moment, that you are about to enjoy breakfast with your favorite cereal. To your chagrin, you see that someone accidentally bought you the Great Value version. When you finally pour it, it’s actually been replaced with cockroaches.
This is Battletoads for the SNES. It’s not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game. It’s not even a video game like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hell, it isn’t even a video game. It’s a reaction time test where a series of impossible tasks have been curated for no one’s enjoyment.
If you value hoarding world treasures to enrich one’s net/self-worth, it’s time to start living out your dreams in this side-scrolling adventure!
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #28/100 Developer: Capcom My Rating:
There once was a cartoon called Ducktales that had a very catchy intro, and I guess it was so popular, it needed to be formatted into a video game — Uncle Scrooge wasn’t the only one trying to cash in, obviously.
This game is a rather unsettling experience: be prepared to have your idea of reality challenged. This game is a perfect blend of authenticity and phantasmagorical adventure, sometimes leaving me wondering how I am supposed to check the consistency of my conscious perceptions after having the veil pulled back by the McDuck family.
For a game consisting of only a few maneuvers (pogo-cane-jump and cane slap), the thrill of reaching new financial heights will keep you more than entertained as you travel in a world eerily similar to our own finding lucrative treasure such as the lost crown of Ghengis Khan, Scepter of the Incan King, and the Green Cheese of Longevity.