Top 100 NES Review: #37 – Willow (1989)

What A Rabbit Hole. 

Playing this led to the movie which led me to Ron Howard which then led to the universe. 

Title Screen Willow NESSydlexia’s Ranking: #25/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

It all started with the typo 36: Paperboy37.

Looking over my top 100 NES list for my next plaything, paperboy37 sounded odd and intriguing…until I learned that it was a mistake. 37 just didn’t carry to the next line with Willow. Wow — I’m an idiot. I knew what a paperboy was, but what the hell was a Willow? What the hell indeed. 

Willow is an adaptation of a George Lucas film of the same name for the NES. Capcom took this IP and made something akin to a Zelda game. It took me several days to realize that this wasn’t a stand alone product. I was in awe of this quirky game with a rich, albeit weird, story and music. The intro alone was overwhelming for an NES game and probably took up half the cartridge.

None of this prepared me for the movie. In one salient scene, Willow casts fire on a troll that then gets ripped apart by cerbellum-looking branches which turns into a big ball of brain tissues before two dragon heads rip through the film-covered gyrus to morph into Siskel and Ebert.

Here we go!

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #2 – Final Fantasy 7 (1997)

Story Telling Matters. 

The Remake with all the bells and whistles can’t compete with pure polygonal poetry. 

Final Fantasy 7 PS1 IntroApe’s Ranking: #2/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

There is a scene in the Final Fantasy 7: Remake where the line is clearly drawn in the sand between new and old. It’s in Shinra HQ where the president is making a lengthy speech about destiny, fate, environment, power, and money. It has the double sin of being lengthy WHILE not saying anything important. It’s like squeezing a dry lemon: lots of movement but no juice.

This is endemic to the entire Remake. More dialogue, more graphics, and more action that ends up being less emotional. It’s no different than when I watched the bloated Star Wars prequels and realized that just because you have “more” doesn’t mean it’s going to make things better. Meeting the president in the original is super impactful, and he doesn’t even bother saying a word (for those who know why – 🥰).

But, was I giving the original too much credit? Nostalgia is a helluva drug, and it must have been at least 15 years since I last heard the whir of a PS1 in the middle of the night as I roamed the streets of Midgar. Were things really better with those horrendously looking blocks?

Yes. Yes they were.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #76 – Quest 64 (1998)

Still A Disappointment.

At least its consistently bad no matter what decade you play it in.

Quest 64 Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#76/100
My Rating: StarStar

Being of elementary school age meant that I wasn’t in control of my discretionary spending. Whatever momma bought was what sonny was going to play. However, I could steer her in the right direction with a few not so subtle hints. Riding the hype from Nintendo Power, I knew I had to have Quest 64.

I was yearning for a new RPG  — I was still replaying FFVI for God’s sake! The previews looked like it was the right game for the first RPG entry into the N64 catalog. The vistas were chocked full of things to explore. The battle system intricate. The stat system innovative.

After playing for a very short time, I became frustrated. The game was a grind. The people and places hallow. The story non-existent. It was a nasty, brutish, and short experience. Soon after, I acquired a ps1 where my RPG gaming life was about to change for the better.

Revisiting this game now only brings up feelings of what could have been. There are plenty of bright spots (the combat system and stat system were intricate and innovative), however, everything else pulls it down. The grind really wears on you, and with no story to buoy your interest, the final stages are a test of perseverance.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: # 35 – Alundra (1997)

The Hidden Gem of the PS1.

AND NO. IT’S NOT A ZELDA CLONE!

Alundar Psone Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #35/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

Okay, maybe it is kind of a Zelda Clone. There are bombs, arrows, gloves that allow you to pick up boulders, and something called a “life vessel” that is nothing more than a heart piece. It’s easy to to confuse Inoa, the village in Alundra, with Kakariko or mistake the open world with the fields of Hyrule. However, what the game does within this framework is wholly unique…

… and hard as holy hell! This is quite possibly one of the hardest games I have ever played. Even considering this as something akin to Zelda is a sin after you experience the beatdown of the perfect this game requires. The game’s only downfall is how much it expects of you. The satisfaction of solving a hard and difficult puzzle is quickly extinguished when you realize that it’s only been replaced with an even harder challenge which is followed by another — it’s turtles all the way down.

The grind is worth it, though. Alundra has impeccable world building. Its mature themes are nestled in a world chocked full of unique of experiences. You’ll want to explore and talk to everything as it captures the spirit of adventure so well.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #24 – Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

Plays like an Arcade Game… But It’s Not One.

I thought for sure this game was designed to take my quarters. 

Zomebies Ate My Neighbors Title ScreenSydlexia’s Ranking: #24/100
My Rating: StarStar

There are only so many two-player games in the world. Sure, everyone knows about about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Contra III or Super Mario Kart for the SNES, but the pickings quickly get thin. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (or ZAMN) seemed to be a viable remedy: a self-aware and irreverent top-down adventure with B-grade movie tropes should be easy enough to enjoy.

Everyone was willing to give it a try, but no one was willing to stick around.

ZAMN isn’t a bad game per say, but it doesn’t do anything to earn your undivided attention. Every attempt with different people followed the same crescendos — immediate interest, followed by a lull, ending with a let’s move on. I attempted a one-player go through thinking it might have just been my company, but I found that I solitarily followed the same peaks and valleys.

The reason is mostly in the gameplay; it uses an arcade design with lots of repetitive levels that are disconnected and has steep difficulty curves. There is plenty of weird but not enough substance.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #18 – Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

So Conflicting.

A convoluted, mish-mashed story with amazing moments nestled in a beautiful world full of culture which has a completely broken fighting system that is also immensely addicting… this game is nothing but contradictions. 

Final Fantasy VIII Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #18/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

Final Fantasy VIII is such a hard game for me to unravel. It’s full of problems start to finish, but I can’t untangle that from the peaks of sweet experiences and nostalgia. The only way I felt like I could address this was by presenting all the problems alongside a twenty year perspective from three different vantage points: 2000, 2010, and 2020. These were the three times when I beat this game, and while Final Fantasy VIII might not have changed in those 20 years, I sure have.

There are amazing moments in this game, exquisite experiences where we feel it in our gut. It’s the reason we are willing to toil for a 40 hour adventures: the sense of wonder and connection that FF8 occasional provides. So no matter how silly and broken everything becomes, there are still pieces and parts that propel it forward.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #18 – Super Mario Kart (1992)

This Game Makes Me Dizzy.

And other musings from an out-dated racer.

Super Mario Kart SNES TItle ScreenSydlexia’s Ranking: #18/100
My Rating: Star.jpgStar.jpg

I’m exhausted.

Currently, I just finished off a 50 hour work week, but it doesn’t stop there: I have residency mid-terms in a couple of weeks; a paper that I’m trying to get published; research articles that needs to be read; and notes to be typed.

Needing to hit a restart, I decided to keep Friday night and all of Saturday completely to myself. I’m going to waste away laying around, playing video games, writing, guitaring, and whatever else fits my fancy.

I wanted something easy to kick it off. I preferred to avoid going through the hassle of learning something new, nor did I want to get pulled into a long adventure (here’s looking at you Final Fantasy). Mario Kart seemed to fit the bill. I could drink my Sam’s Club diet soda and do short three-minute races while taking breaks for instagram and self-reflection.

While having more content than F-Zero, Mario Kart SNES still seems pretty bare. The programming for certain situations also became very predictable (Need a star? Eighth place it is! About to pass Luigi? Guess who now has a star!). Not to mention the vertigo-inducing graphics where Donut Plains turns into a pixilated seizure of poop stains.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #92 – Secret of the Stars (1995)

A Ghetto Final Fantasy 2.

A game in 1995 should not look, feel, or play like this.

Secret of the Stars SNESSydlexia’s Ranking: #92/100
My Rating: Star

Secret of the Stars is the throwback game you would never want. Given a North America release of ’95, you would think it would boast some of those late system features. Instead, Secret of the Stars seems more apropos as an NES game.

It’s most readably comparable to Final Fantasy 2/4; it has a similar feel in art direction, gameplay, and horrible mistranslations. It just somehow does everything way worse than a game released four years prior.

I’m not sure there is anything good about this game. It’s massively slow in every facet including walking, battles, conversations, and menus. The music reminds me of Methodist church hymns. The one creative twist, controlling two separate parties, is a complete failure.

It’s actually quite impressive but not in a good kind of way.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #12 – Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)

One of the Most Engrossing Games Ever.

Possibly the greatest game of all-time — really!

Final Fantasy Tactics Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #12/100
My Rating:  StarStarStarStarStar

Square had a ten year period where they could do no wrong.

In an age before copious reviews online, buying games was mostly winging it with a dash of expert advice from the Electronics Boutique employee. The only thing that came close to a guarantee was seeing a Squaresoft logo. Starting with Final Fantasy VI in ’94, Squaresoft would go on to produce some of the best games of all-time and in rapid succession.

Known mostly for traditional RPGs, Square began to explore other genres with the playstation 1. It’s amazing the amount of side projects they juggled which even included a realistic, one-hit-kill sword fighting game that is well regarded. Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) is the company’s foreray into strategic gaming where they melded the genre’s typical elements with the Final Fantasy feel of chocobos, summons, and classes.

It might be their best game ever, and that’s saying something given their catalog which includes the ever popular Final Fantasy 7.

What makes FFT so good is the combat: the battles are intricate doses of choices, strategy, and chance where you become highly invested in the outcome. Even random battles become gripping as every decision you make has a ripple effect on the outcome. The learning curve is huge and the game mechanics are harsh, but as you get better, you start to unlock the beauty of the immensely customizable classes.

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Top 100 Xbox360 Review: Borderlands(#34) and Borderlands 2 (#10)

It’s pretty good.

An array of small things keep it from being great though.  

ee06cb7f671ebdee5eb71a4ed1f6d4ac64a4c8d8.jpgGame FAQs Ranking:  #10 & #34
My Rating: StarStarStar

Time for a first: a double game post!

Since I played Borderlands 1 and 2 back to back, it made little sense to try and create two different entries. It makes even less sense given both games are almost identical. Sure, there is a reddit thread for everything, but most of the “differences” are nerds talking about math and skags.

I spent most of my evenings for the past couple weeks co-oping Borderlands with my BF. Exploring Pandora is best done with someone else; I’ve attempted to finish the first installment since 2012 but never had the motivation to finish in single-player mode. I think that’s because while Borderlands is pretty good at world building (I consider Claptrap and Scooter muh friends) the game doesn’t exactly suck you. Everything seems tangential and nothing important, particularly the story.

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