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.
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.
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.
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.
Suikoden harkens back to a time when characters and charm were more important than a silly sandbox game with a thousand permutations. An early scene puts the main characters around the dinner table with an impactful guitar solo that sets the mood for the rest of the game:
While the story might be pretty standard fair, the game boasts 108 characters for you to recruit for your rebellion army. Each one is unique in their own way and mostly avoids the pitfall of Chrono Cross where no one matters. Home base isn’t a static structure but rather a thriving community. This game builds a sense of connection with the world; you can’t wait to return home to see what your friends are up to. Continue reading “Top 100 PS1 Review: #60 – Suikoden (1996)”
Gaming in the early 90s was compartmentalized to your immediate sphere of influence. Outside of Nintendo Power, there was no media access for new releases or reviews. Your choice of games were influenced by whatever your parents brought home, the blockbuster employee’s suggestions, or what your friends owned. Due to this randomness, Mega Man completely bypassed me.
I see the allure of Mega Man: having to figure out which bosses to defeat first to get the right weapons that then let you defeat other bosses. This made the repetition of going through the same eight stages at least worthwhile. After that, I’m not sure there is any reason to play Mega Man X.
A quick change in the options menu makes the difference.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #67/100 Developer: Capcom My Rating:
Life can be harsh. This current clinical rotation I’m at is pretty hard for me: I’m treating patients I’m not used to with a very strict clinical instructor while working lots of hours. When Friday night rolls around, I don’t want to have to deal with “Very Hard” or “Normal.” I just want to have some mindless fun, an easy excursion for the mind, body and soul.
Thankfully, Knights of the Round makes that a real possibility. Grabbing an extra controller, a friend, and setting difficulty the to “Easy” was the perfect way to start my weekend.
How much stimulus can the human mind handle? Exactly enough to juggle and dodge 1300 sprites of doom.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #52/100 Developer: Konami My Rating:
One theory for general anxiety disorder is that it’s due to some lowering of neuron-firing threshold. The entire nervous system is more excitable, and it takes very little stimulus to get widespread action potentials promulgating through your central nervous system.
If you don’t have this problem, Gradius III will surely give it to you: one-hit death, complicated bosses, tricky navigation, a hundred projectiles. While some might view beating the game as an accomplishment, I believe getting through it without increased cortisol levels more of a feat.
Like a group project in college where two people do all the work and the rest are worthless, Secret of Mana is a reminder that you can still get things done on your own.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #12/100 Developer: Square My Rating:
Early games gave you only four letters for the protagonist’s name, and in keeping with the spirit of the role playing genre, I wanted to insert myself into the story as much as possible. Thus began Bear — short for Barrett, but far more intimidating (my Spanish, intimidation name is Oso Peligroso, but I only use that when I’m really in a bind).
Secret of Mana was another chance for me to live out my fantasies of being a youthful adventurer that leaves his small town to end up saving the world, so Bear was naturally the only name that made sense. This time I did not have to go it alone though: I had Diego (played by the really-real human Tanner) and Louise (played by an algorithm of 0s and 1s). How would the three of us fare?
An electric-blue, phallic symbol of power is all that matters in this beat-em up adventure.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #60/100 Developer: Technos My Rating:
The Lee brothers are at it again. The last time I got familiar with Billy and Jimmy, they taught me that life is not fair. In this reincarnation, they really don’t teach me much of anything: there is no plot, no story, no instructions. You are just dropped off in a world of baddies, smashing your way without a care in the world…