Super Mario Replay: Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 is without question one of the most influential games ever made. It was a trailblazer; the first game to prove that you could make a fun game in 3D. It is, however, still an early 3D game and it plays like.  Super Mario 64 kind of holds up perfectly and it kind of doesn’t hold up at all.

This was my first time playing Mario 64 in years. I was one of those oddities that owned an N64 but never owned Mario 64.  By the time I got my system, I had already played most of the game at friend’s houses and I could borrow it from any number of them at any given time.  I lived in some sort of anomalous bubble where everyone owned an N64 and the PS1 was something of a rare breed.  So I played my fair share of Mario 64, but it wasn’t a game I could easily revisit. Playing it now was surprising in how much of the game held up perfectly, but other parts had aged as badly as any game of the era did.  

Super Mario 64 is a wonderfully crafted game.  Each of its 20 or so stages are dense little environments to explore in.  They provide the perfect playgrounds in which to utilize Mario’s expansive move set.  There is an array of challenges, with stars alternately hidden and sitting in plain sight in hard to access areas.  It is a game the drops you there and just lets you explore.  Wonderfully, almost none of it is mandatory.  I don’t think you have to collect a single red coin to beat the game,  so long as you are not going for all 120 stars. Super Mario 64 is very much the proof of concept for what a 3D game could be.

Unfortunately, some things on the technical side let the game down. The camera is the big offender.  Getting it to show the needed angle is a significant battle and makes portions of the game much harder than they have any business being.  The controls also feel primitive.  Mario is fun enough to move around, but trying to read a sign is an exercise in frustration, as is lining up a punch.  It is really any of the fine controls that really hold things up.  Running and jumping feel great, but anytime you have to slow down and be precise the frustration mounts. Swimming manages to combine the worst of the camera and the controls into one awful experience.

A lot of the later stages were somewhat unfamiliar to me.  I know the first handful very well and with the exception of [water stage] can relieve them of their stars pretty quickly.  But the back half of the game, while not new territory, was much less known. Having that somewhat new experience helped me sort out how much of my affection for this game is nostalgia and how much due to it being actually good.  As I mentioned above, there are frustrations, but even in 2017 there is a lot to love about Mario 64.  Most later 3D Marios returned to more of level structure.  A wise decision in my opinion, as that gave us the Mario Galaxy games, but there is certainly something to be said for the greater freedom and exploration to be found in Mario 64.  It is a different kind of Mario game than those that Nintendo has made in the last decade, and that at least makes it interesting. The relatively small size of the stages, at least by today’s standards, also allows Nintendo make it feel open while still being pretty tightly designed.  It doesn’t have the formlessness that often afflicted N64 action games.

In many ways Super Mario 64 is a lot like Super Mario Brothers. There is something timeless about it, despite its primitive graphics, which held up much better than expected, and its imperfect controls, it still come together for something tirelessly fun and endlessly replayable.  It is the first of its kind and established paradigms that later games would improve upon.  It showed other games the way, but other games did it better.  Though not many, if any, on the N64. It might be more important than good, but it is plenty of both.

Now Playing in April 2017

Beaten

Bye Bye BoxBoy! – 

I want to have a lot to say about this game, but I don’t think I do. This is the third and apparently final go around for this deceptively simple puzzle platform series. You play as a box that makes more boxes. You must use those boxes to solve increasing complex puzzles. It is not complex, but it does get wonderfully difficult. I think they’ve finally fully explored this concept. Each of the three games has been great, and this one is no exception. I love these games. We might not get anymore, but I hope Nintendo keeps them around with ports and remakes.

Wonder Boy and the Dragon’s Trap – read about it here.

Super Mario World – read about it here.

Ongoing

Persona 5 – I haven’t played this near as much as I would like, but through the first week or so of game time, which is all I’ve managed to play, it is very good.  It is Persona.  The third and fourth games in the series as some of my favorite JRPGs on the PS2 and this seems to be following in their footsteps in most of the ways that matter.  Whether I like it more than those games comes down to how well it executes this near perfect formula.

Dragon Quest 8 – read about it here.  I’m still not done with it, there have just been too many other things to pull me away from what is essentially replaying a game.  Still, I have greatly enjoyed all the time I’ve spent with this game so far.

Disney Afternoon Collection –

The Disney Afternoon Collection_20170211015520

The second release from Digital Eclipse, the first being the Mega Man Legacy Collection, they are quickly establishing themselves as the go to makers of classic game compilations. MMLC was a near perfect collection of the 6 NES Mega Man games, this one is a similarly accurate and loving collection of 6 of Capcom’s Disney NES games.  I see how they choose the 6 they did, basing it around the Disney Afternoon cartoons, but it does leave two of Capcom’s NES games on the outside looking in; no The Little Mermaid or Adventures in the Magical Kingdom in this collection.  The latter is better left forgotten, but The Little Mermaid is a better game than Talespin at the very least.  There is no real sense in complaining about what is not here when the 6 games included are more than enough to be worth the price of admission.  DuckTales is regarded as the crown jewel here, but I’ve also heard that the sequel is actually better. Talespin is a bit of a stinker, though it is an interesting experiment and Darkwing Duck should be a lot more fun than it is, but the other four are a blast.  I’ll probably have more to say after I spend some more time with these games.

Mercenaries Saga 3 – This is a solid looking tactics game, but through the first 10 chapters there is little more to it than brute force.  It doesn’t feel like there are a lot of decisions being made.  It all feels kind of rote.  This could be overcome with a worthwhile story to keep the player’s attention, but that is a no go here. I guess that’s not fair, maybe the story here is really good.  It is impossible to tell through the all but incomprehensible localization. It feels like a first pass, with most of the sentences are sensible, but they don’t really follow each other in logical ways.  It is probably worth the price of admission, but only because it is so low.

Super Mario 64 – I have never gotten 120 stars in this game, and I don’t think I will on this replay either.  I am one of the few N64 owners who didn’t own this game back in the day. I did borrow it a few times and have gotten most of the stars a time or two.  I don’t want to say too much about it before I write about it, but it mostly holds up.

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows – I’ve only played through two stages of this, but it is a great take on the already great Shovel Knight.  The amount of work that are being put into these free updates is just amazing.  Once I get a Switch, I’ll likely double dip just for the opportunity to pay Yacht Club Games again.

Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals – I’ve started on this. It is a solid SNES jrpg through the first few hours.

Upcoming

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – I am not 100% in favor of what I’ve seen of this remake of the series’ black sheep, but I like Fire Emblem enough to pick it up anyway.

The Last Guardian – My brother handed me his copy of this when he heard I bought a PS4.  I’m getting pretty involved in Persona 5 right now, but if I need a break or somehow finish it, I think I’ll give this a play before I really get invested in Yakuza 0.

Yoshi’s Island – I’ll be playing the GBA port, since that is the one I own on WiiU.  I’ve already started, having cleared the first world sometime last year and I don’t feel like starting from scratch.  Hopefully this will be the time that this game clicks for me.

Super Mario Sunshine – After I finish with Super Mario 64, I’ll be splitting my Mario time between this and Yoshi’s Island.

Summer Movie Preview 2017

This year, instead of going through my anticipated summer movie releases by date, I have selected 15 movies coming out from May through August and ranked them from my least anticipated to frothing demand.

16. Transformers: The Last Knight – Okay, I picked 16, but Transformers is only on here so I can beat the dead horse of complaining about how terrible the Transformers movies are.  Some of the reactions I’ve heard to the trailers for this one have been somewhat positive, since it has a lot of elements that could make for a fun movie, but it mostly makes me wonder if people have memories like goldfish.  You’ve seen what Michael Bay will do with these movies: nothing is going to change. The other have ranged from merely bad to unwatchably putrid. This one will fall in that range somewhere.  Please don’t pay money to see it.

15. Baywatch – This looks like a bad idea, but occasionally taking an old TV show and turning it into a movie has worked.  I mean, 21 Jump Street exists. This looks to ride that movies coattails and while the trailers haven’t been great, they have had The Rock in them, which will always get my attention, if not my money.

14. Cars 3 – I love Pixar, but there was barely enough to Cars for one movie. Even in their sequels they have managed to find new ground to cover, but I can’t say I am remotely excited for the return of this franchise.

13. Alien: Covenant – I kind of feel like maybe this should be higher, but for all that it sounds good, it also sounds like something I won’t like.  For starters, it is heading back towards horror, a genre I don’t like at all.

12. The Mummy – Tom Cruise is a great action star.  But it is being directed by Alex Kurtzman, on half of the writing duo responsible for some of the absolute shittiest blockbusters of the last decade.  Maybe it won’t be terrible.

11. The Dark Tower – Once upon a time I loved this series. Then I read the last couple books (ie 6 & 7, I realize stuff has been published since) and they really didn’t connect with me.  This film has been gestating so long that it is hard to say how it will turn out, but I do like Idris Elba and cowboys in unconventional settings, so I’ll likely give it a shot.

10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – I outright skipped the fourth movie, but I still have a lot of affection for those first three.  Mostly the first one, though the next two didn’t really hurt that.  I more missed the fourth than intentionally skipped it.  I don’t know what to make of this, other than to note that do I like Javier Bardem.

9. Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets – I know it is based on a comic and I know it is directed by Luc Besson, but otherwise this is something of a mystery. Still, it is an original seeming sci-fi movie coming out in the heart of summer.  I’m all for it.

8. War For the Planet of the Apes – The last Planet of the Apes movie was surprisingly good. This one looks like it should solid as well.  I don’t know what else to say.

7. Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron as a spy at the end of the Cold War, directed by one of the pair of directors of John Wick sounds good to me. I don’t know enough about it to put it higher on the list, although there has been some good early buzz.

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming – Sometimes I feel like the only person that doesn’t go crazy for Spider-Man, or the only one who felt nothing when he showed up in Captain America Civil War.  It should be fine, but I’m not especially excited for it.  There have been a lot of Spider-Man movies, and it has been quite a while since one of them was actually good.

5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – I think I might be the only one still on the Guy Ritchie train.  I wasn’t crazy about the Sherlock Holmes movies, but I loved Man from UNCLE.  I know this production has been troubled, but I am a big fan of fantasy movies and I am holding onto hope for this one.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – This feels like the surest bet of this summer’s superhero movies, and all the trailers have looked really good.  While the first one had surprise on its side, this one is expected to be good and I hope it lives up to those expectations.

3. Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan doing a WWII movie.  I am all about that.  The first trailer looked really good and I trust Nolan.

2. Wonder Woman – The trailers have been great, I am on the near the upper extreme of enjoyment from previous DC movies; this looks really good to me.  It seems to be taking cues from the first Captain America movie, which is pretty good. I hope this turns out as good as it could be.

1. Baby Driver – This Summer has a Edgar Wright movie, which makes immediately better than any year without.  There are a lot of cool people in the cast and a lot of cool music in the trailer. Everything about this sounds great and I can’t wait to see it.

Did I miss anything?  Are there any other movies on the horizon that I should be excited for?  Is there anything else in August worth even considering other than The Dark Tower in the first week?

Mario Replay: Super Mario World

Super Mario World doesn’t change things a whole lot from Super Mario Bros 3. It is the closest any of these sequels has looked to the game before it, even taking into account SMW’s new SNES paint job. Yes, the series has made the jump to 16-bits, but the look of the series has started to solidify.  They aren’t going back to the drawing board every time now, or massaging an unrelated game to make it look like a Mario one.  This feeling is probably increased by my having most recently played the All-Stars versions of the NES games, were are designed to look as much like Super Mario World as possible.

In a few ways, Super Mario World reins things in from Super Mario Bros 3.  There are fewer power ups, the plethora from Mario 3 reduced to just the fire flower and the cape.  That is offset by making Mario himself more innately capable, with a new spin jump and the ability to climb on certain walls. That and the major addition of supporting character/power up Yoshi. While there  are fewer power ups, the levels are much larger. That facilitates the game’s change of focus from from speedy completion to more sedate exploration.  SMW’s levels, especially compared to its predecessor’s, are expansive.  It plays somewhat slower, but encourages a more thoughtful approach.  It helps that these larger levels are mostly very well designed.

Despite the fact that the games don’t play all that differently, there is a fundamental change to the Mario series that happens with Super Mario World.  Before that the games were all still arcade influenced action games, designed to be beaten in one sitting.  Super Mario World introduces saving and the game becomes much more exploration focused. While there are secrets in all of the games, compare what finding a secret area in Super Mario Bros or Super Mario Bros 3 gets the player with Super Mario World.  In SMB you can warp rooms, which let you skip large portions of the game.  The same is true in SMB3, where you find warp whistles that transport the player later in the game.  There secrets there are designed to help facilitate the experienced player beat the game by skipping it.  The games are designed to be beaten in one sitting, and jumping almost straight to world 4 really helps with that. Just knowing about the warp is not enough, an inexperienced player will be quickly stymied by the increased difficulty, but those who have seen it before can quickly get to the meat of the game.  In Super Mario World, though, the secrets are not there to let the player skip the game, but to open up more game to beat.  You can unlock star roads and alternate routes, but still you have to beat the vast majority of the game before you can have your showdown with Bowser.

That Super Mario World makes this change without dramatically changing how the game is played is rather remarkable. In many ways, Super Mario World is the last of the original run of Super Mario games.  After this we got Yoshi’s Island, which changes things up significantly, and then the 3D evolution with Super Mario 64. By the time the series came back to 2D with New Super Mario Bros it wasn’t really the same thing.  I’m not sure this is a bad thing.  I’m playing through the series as fast as possible, one after the other (while still taking time out for Zelda, Persona and Dragon Quest) and I would be overjoyed if there were another handful of 2D Mario games before the series went 3D.  Hell, we got 10 Mega Man games in that same time frame, and most of them are more than worthwhile.  But each of the console Mario games has a distinctive feel.  Mario World and Mario 3 might the be the closest any of the games feel to each other, with the exclusion of the glorified expansion pack The Lost Levels, and even between those two there are significant differences.  I don’t see how Nintendo could have fit in any more games without repeating themselves.  Super Mario World is the perfect end point for this vein of the series.

Super Mario World remains one of my favorite games.  In the eternal, pointless argument between Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World, I am strongly in favor of the SNES game. This playthrough did nothing to change that.  I love Super Mario World, even if I usually peter out about three worlds in. Now it is on to relatively unexplored territory.

Dragon Quest VIII 3DS

I think I had kind of forgotten how important Dragon Quest VIII was to me until I played the 3DS remake.  I always remembered liking the game well enough, slotting it somewhere in the middle of the series when rating my enjoyment of them.  I liked it better than the primitive DQ1 or the grindy DQ2 or DQ6, which I just don’t much care for, but I didn’t consider it a favorite like DQ 4 or 5 or even 9.  It just wasn’t a game I thought much about. Playing the 3DS port/remake, which improves the game in several ways but is also hampered enough by technical issues to not be strictly the definitive version, really brought back how much I liked that game.

During what in hindsight appears to be something of a Golden Age during the heart of the PS2/GC/XBOX days, I largely drifted out of gaming.  I owned a GameCube, but despite a steady stream of solid games, between Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker near the start of 2003 and Resident Evil 4 in early 2005, which was the last new GameCube game I bought before I got a PS2, I played maybe 5 new games. I bought Viewtiful Joe and Tales of Symphonia for myself, got Skies of Arcadia Legends and Lord of The Rings: Return of the King for Christmas, and my brother and I went in together to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Most of those are great games.  Viewtiful Joe and Skies of Arcadia Legends are among my all-time favorites. Return of the King was a great co-op experience during Winter Break, but I have neither the time nor inclination to revisit it and see if it holds up.  Tales of Symphonia was the right game at the right time in the summer of 2004. And Crystal Chronicles is at the very least interesting.  While those were some great games, and there were plenty of great games hitting the GC and other systems, I found myself less and less interested. While the RPGs in that list took some time to play, none of the others are all that lengthy. Some of my disinterest is could be down to the GC not really having the RPGs that really interested me at the time, but I didn’t really feel a pull to get a PS2, where those games could be found. At least, I didn’t until I saw FFXII on the horizon.

The inexorable pull of Final Fantasy XII was enough to get me to finally take the plunge on a PS2. Since that game was the primary pull for me to get the system, before it was released late in 2006, I picked up a copy of Dragon Quest VIII, which came with a FFXII demo disc. I was interested, though not exactly excited, to play Dragon Quest VIII. The only game in the series I had played was Dragon Warrior on NES and while I had fond memories of it, I hadn’t played it in a decade or so.  Dragon Quest 8 was a JRPG, which I like, with an appealing graphical style not unlike that in Wind Waker.  I wasn’t ready for how much I would enjoy it.

The essence of the 3DS remake of DQ8 is the same as the PS2 original.  That game charmed me with its aesthetics and is back to basics approach to the JRPG.  Most of the games of that genre that I love emphasize a sense of adventure over strictly mechanical or storytelling concerns.  That is why I love Skies of Arcadia and Lunar.  While no Dragon Quest games are strictly complex, DQ8 rolls its mechanics back to the basics.  There is a tiny amount of character customization, but otherwise the game is very simple.  Neither is the story particularly innovative or original.  It has a silent protagonist on a quest to save a princess, join by a trio of like-minded companions. That shouldn’t be the recipe for a beloved classic, but DQ8 shines in the execution of its very simple adventure.  

One thing the game did better than any game before it how well it realized a world.  Other PS2 games, like Final Fantasy X, eliminated the overworld in favor of linear pathways to follow.  Dragon Quest 8 went the other way, creating a full sized world for the player to explore.  Better than any other jrpg I had ever played, Dragon Quest 8 made me feel like I was in the world of the game.  That feeling is greatly helped by its excellent graphics, which helps create a cohesive world.

 

The simple story, the impetuous for exploring the game’s excellent world, doesn’t work without solid characters and that is another area where the game shines. Both its playable and non-playable characters a delightful and memorable.  Jessica and Angelo are simply well executed stock genre characters. Like the game itself, they break little new ground, but are perfect for what they are.  Yangus, though, is the real star, with his cockney accent and general scruffiness.  His interactions with King Trode are a constant delight. The 3DS adds his sometimes paramour Red as a playable characters, and she is likewise a lot of fun. Then there are the characters that make up the casts in each town the player visits.  There are too many to mention.

Something about this game’s back to basics approach, stripping the genre down to its essence and concentrating on the presentation just worked for me, both in 2007 and in 2017. Back then, I was hoping that the forward thinking, groundbreaking Final Fantasy XII would be the game to make me love playing video games again. But Dragon Quest VIII isn’t the most complex game or the most original, but it is a perfectly executed take on the genre.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

I wrote several years ago, when I was thinking of getting into the youtube game with a series of videos about Sega Genesis games (a desire that hasn’t really went away), about the best Genesis game that was not released, at least not on that console, in America: Monster World IV. That game was something of a revelation.  It is a near perfect 16-bit action platformer, as good as anything on the Genesis or SNES.  Recently, the previous game in that series’ convoluted lineage got a remake.  Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (Alternatively Monster World II: The Dragon’s Trap) is one of the absolute best Master System games, and this very faithful remake proves that it mostly holds up.

While Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – or Wonder Girl if you so choose – is most striking for its marvelous new visuals, it is a very faithful to the original in how it plays.  Despite featuring some of the most impressive 2D visuals I’ve ever seen, the game still plays almost identically to its original version. In fact, with the press of a button you can switch from the new graphics to the old and nothing else changes. It is astounding that they managed to get it to look so good with compromising in regards to controls or animation.  There is usually some sort of trade off there, but here it is seamless. I have praised Wayforward, the best in current 2D games, for their efforts in games like Shantae ½ Genie Hero and DuckTales Remastered, but this game both looks and plays better than either of those two games.  It is really just an astounding achievement.

It isn’t a perfect package, though.  Sometimes a game from 1989 plays like a game from 1989.  It can be obtuse at times, with unclued secret doors, as well difficult in ways that feel unfair.  There is no way to square this circle. The game likely would have been improved for modern audiences if it was friendlier with checkpoints and respawns, but I can’t fault them for sticking closely to the original.

As for what it is, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a sort of metroidvania exploration focused platformer.  It really is mostly straightforward, with each level largely being a straight line to the end, followed by a trip back to the hub town to follow the next level to the end of its line. You collect subweapons, live extenders and gold to buy new weapons and armor.  It isn’t anything you can’t find in a dozen other games, but it was something of a trailblazer in its day and it is all around really well executed.  The game’s gimmick is that at the beginning the protagonist is cursed and turned into a dragon.  As the game progresses, similar curses turn the player character into several other forms, like a mouse and a lion.  Each form has different abilities and eventually you can use each of them to traverse the stages.

Really, it is a great game that has aged better than many of its vintage given a wonderful fresh coat of paint and presented with love and care that is all but unmatched.  Any fans of 8 and 16-bit games owe it to themselves to pick this game up.

25 Years 25 Games 23: Robotrek

I hate to do this again, but I’ve got to tap out on Robotrek.  I’ve tried to play through, but I am getting nothing out of forcing my way through it.  Robotrek – its Japanese title of Slapstick is much more fitting – is interesting in theory, but I didn’t find it so to actually play.

Robotrek was developed by prolific SNES developer Quintet, which alone makes it worth remembering.  They are responsible for classics, or near classics, like Actraiser, Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. (Many people would list Terranigma with those, I’ll find out as soon as I finish with Lufia 2.)  Despite some novel ideas, this one doesn’t stand with those. But while I didn’t have much patience for it after a year glutting myself on 16-bit games, I do think it worthwhile.

It feels something like a proto-Pokemon.  It is a jrpg where the player character doesn’t actually do the fighting.  You build robots that do your fighting for you.  Much of the game is based around the protagonist finding junk and inventing new weapons and armors for the robots.  This either requires some trial and error, which I don’t currently have the time or patience for, or use a guide, which saps all the fun out of playing.

My problem with the game is really that it is toothless.  It is clearly designed for a slightly younger set than some other classic SNES games; more for the 10 year old rather than 12. That isn’t a problem when it comes to the clean, pleasant but not particularly detailed graphics or the jaunty music, but it turns the gameplay into something tedious. There is little difficulty, so it all starts to feel like wasting your time.

I am sounding more negative about this game than I feel.  It is interesting, but playing it it just hasn’t grabbed me.  And the more I force myself to keep playing it, the less like it and the less I want to play.  That is why I am abandoning it and getting on with the last couple of entries in this project.  I don’t want to hate this game.  Maybe if I come back in a year or two it will grab me, but it just isn’t grabbing me now.

Now Playing March 2017

Beaten

Zelda Picross – My excitement for Breath of the Wild prompted me to use come My Nintendo points to get this 3DS game. Picross is great in general, and this is a solid little freebie. Picross is Picross; it is pretty hard to do it badly. This is kind of a no frills themed Picross game, but there are some good puzzles here. It is much less meaty than the technically free Pokémon Picross, but all of its puzzles are available from the beginning. If you have the My Nintendo points you should definitely pick this up.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – read about it here. And here.

Super Mario Bros 3 – read about it here.

Blaster Master 0 –

This prequel/remake of Blaster Master captures what was great about the NES game while providing numerous quality of life improvements that make it a delightful, breezy play. There are still flaws, the out of tank gameplay is passable at best rather than actually very good, but exploring in a jumping tank remains a ton of fun. The original Blaster Master was a near classic, a really good game doomed by a few flaws, but each sequel got further and further away from what made the first game great. Blaster Master 0 captures that perfectly.

Ongoing

Dragon Quest VIII –

I am a little over halfway through this game and I am surprised at how much I am enjoying it. I liked this game a lot when I first played it on PS2, but it isn’t a very complex game, with perfectly fine but straightforward story and somewhat basic gameplay. But there is some kind of magic in this game’s simplified approach and well realized world. Even with the somewhat compromised graphics there is just something comforting about this game. It is a throwback, but it play like you remember games playing instead of how they actually played. Plus, Yangus remains a top 10 JRPG party member. I should have a full post ready as soon as I beat this.

Super Mario 64 – This is one of the most important games ever made and despite showing its age it is still a lot of fun to play. It suffers a little from being the first to get 3D action even remotely right, but that also means that we have 20 years of using this game a baseline when making 3D action games, so there are certainly plenty that have done it better. Still, despite its primitive graphics and occasionally wonky controls, few games can compete with the sheer variety and inventiveness found in this game’s level design.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber – I played through the first chapter of this after downloading it on a whim. I still love this game, and once I’m free from Breath of the Wild/Persona 5 I’ve got something big planned to celebrate my love for this very underrated game.

Yakuza 0 – I barely played this game, but I’m not abandoning it. It just fell by the wayside for Breath of the Wild. I didn’t play enough to actually have much to say.

Robotrek – a full article will be coming soon. I didn’t finish this game, but I am more than ready to move on from it.

Upcoming

Persona 5 – I recently both purchased a PS4 with my income tax return and switched my Persona 5 preorder from PS3 to PS4. It is now going to be my first game on a new console instead of my farewell to an old one. While Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was decent stopgap, it has been nearly 10 years since Persona 4 hit. I can’t get my hands on this soon enough.

Super Mario World – Mario 64 comes first, but this is on the docket just after. I’ve played this game a lot and could probably write it up right now, but that is kind of beside the point when replaying the whole series.

Yoshi’s Island – I’ve already got this started and I am going to continue from the middle of the second world, but it will wait until after Super Mario World at least. I might actually play Mario Sunshine first, since I think I’ll tackle the 3D entries as almost a separate series.

Lufia 2 – With Robotrek out of the way, I intend to move on to the last couple of games in my 25 SNES games project. I am going to finish this, I swear.

Legend of Zelda Games Ranked

Instead of coming up with something real to post, since I am too busy still playing Breath of the Wild, and I want to stick to my thrice weekly posting schedule, I decided to rank the Zelda series from best to worst.  It was a surprisingly hard list to toss together in 30 minutes, because there are so many games that might be called the best and so few that are easy to call the worst.  I decided to go ahead and put Breath of the Wild on the list, even though that game is still hasn’t had time to settle.  I don’t see it moving far when it does, though.  It isn’t dropping much and there isn’t a lot of space for it to go up.  

  1. A Link to the Past – This is one of my favorite all-time games; it is just about perfect in every way.
  2. Breath of the Wild – Yep, I’ve got it in the second slot.  It is an amazing experience that captures a sense of pure adventure like few other games have.
  3. Wind Waker – The HD version fixed almost all of this game’s flaws and helped the best version of Hyrule be even more fun to remember.
  4. Ocarina of Time – The first 3D outing still holds up 20 years later and might have the best balance of dungeons and overworld in the series.
  5. Link Between Worlds – A return to A Link to the Past that still manages to advance the series in many ways.
  6. Skyward Sword – The whole world is a dungeon and Skyloft is the best Zelda town.  There is a lot to love for people who don’t dismiss it for its motion controls.
  7. Legend of Zelda – The original is still unique and still excellent.
  8. Twilight Princess – It does the big Ocarina style epic as big as it can and delights even as it almost collapses under the bulk.
  9. Majora’s Mask – An interesting experiment, but it can be a bit of chore to play.  Still worth it for the nightmare like take on familiar elements
  10. Oracle of Ages – I think this was the better of the two Oracle games, with less world switching and more just playing.  I might have them backwards.
  11. Link’s Awakening – A much loved entry in the series that has always felt held back by its hardware.
  12. Spirit Tracks – I like this game a lot more than its predecessor, though it being literally on rails stops it from going higher.
  13. Oracle of Seasons – I hope I got the Oracle games straight.  One of them was slightly better than the other, but both are solid games.
  14. Four Swords Adventure – Nintendo’s best attempt at multiplayer Zelda, but the barrier of entry to the ideal experience is too high.
  15. Minish Cap – Small in many ways, this GBA outing is fine, but forgettable. As in I forgot to put it on the list at first.
  16. Triforce Heroes – I wanted to put this higher, but I just couldn’t.  Multiplayer Zelda is a great idea that I don’t think Nintendo has quite cracked.
  17. Phantom Hourglass – There is honestly a lot to like in this game, but repeating that central dungeon is enough of a misstep to land it this low on a top heavy list.
  18. Four Swords – It is only barely a game and an impossible one to play as intended.
  19. Zelda 2: Link’s Adventure – The easiest choice, I kind of hate this game.

A Farewell to a Console Gone Too Soon

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appears to be the WiiU’s last breath. It is far from unexpected, but still sad. The WiiU was a marketing misfire from the start, and Nintendo was unable or willing to make the adjustments that could have turned things around for it. Still, while it is impossible to consider it anything other than a failed console, but it is one that I hold near and dear.

The WiiU only lived at all for a little over 4 years, and for the last year or more of that it was only life support. For about three years though, Nintendo put out a run of games as good as they ever have. The WiiU doesn’t have the biggest library, but it definitely has more than its fair share of absolute gems. It’s got Mario games, with the trio of New Super Mario Bros U, Super Luigi U and Super Mario 3D World. Plus, it has the make it yourself magic of Super Mario Maker. All of them are excellent games, evident of Nintendo at the top of their powers as developers. They made nearly every Zelda game playable on the system (I think it only lacks the Gameboy games) and put out strong entries in most of their long running series.

I don’t want to make this just a list of all of the excellent WiiU games, though there are quite a few, but a more general look at why I love this system. The tablet controller might be the albatross that sunk the system, but being able to play games like Wind Waker HD and Assassin’s Creed 3 while other people in the room watched TV was a Godsend. Then there were asymmetrical multiplayer experiences, like those found in NintendoLand and Affordable Space Adventures. The tablet really added a lot of ways to play games that didn’t exist before, if only more developers were able to take advantage of it. Nintendo Land specifically is an overlooked gem. Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros and Super Mario 3D World may be the obvious multiplayer go to games, but playing Mario Chase and Animal Crossing Sweet Day with my brothers are definitely highlights of my time with the system.

I think I’ve captured my thoughts of the games on this system on this blog over the last few years. The ones I found most memorable, outside of the obvious Mario and Zelda choices, were The Wonderful 101 and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. The first is a game unlike any other. It has some shades of other Clover/Platinum game’s like Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta mixed with some Pikmin and just a touch of Star Fox. It is a singular experience and is reason enough to own the console. It was also kind of divisive upon release, but I would call it a masterpiece. Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, on the other hand, is a game like many others. It is a fairly standard 2.5D platformer, albeit one done with uncanny precision. It can be hard, but it is never unfair, it looks and sounds great and it perfectly nails that easy to play hard to master balance. It is one of my favorite platformers of all-time.

Even though the WiiU is officially dead at this point, I am far from done with it. I have a couple dozen more hours of Breath of the Wild ahead of me for starters. Plus, I got Paper Mario Color Splash for Christmas and have barely started on it. The same goes for Twilight Princess HD and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, both of which I bought last year and have barely started. Finally there’s Hyrule Warriors and Pokken Tournament, one of which I plan to buy and the other I’ll borrow from my brother, but both of them will be played.

I said I didn’t want to make this a list, but I’m about out of things to share about this much loved, by me at least, console and I haven’t mentioned games like Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Fox 0, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Pikmin 3, Smash Bros 4, Mario Kart 8 or even breakout hit Splatoon. Other than Affordable Space Adventures I haven’t touched on any of the excellent downloadable games. The WiiU failed, and I can accept that, but it did not fail for lack of quality games. Most consoles would love to have a three year period of output like the WiiU had almost exclusively from Nintendo. The WiiU’s failure is a failure of marketing and a failure by gamers, the system and its games were great.