You know, I still remember checking out Castlevaniaon the NES in the early-to-mid 2000s, marveling at the foundations of the series that spawned one of my favorite games at the time, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. This had to have been late in my middle school years, perhaps even my first year of high school. I had already been turned onto video games for a year or so, and not too long before I had scored an incredible haul from a garage sale that furthered my interests in retro gaming. It was a NES with, like, all the heavy hitters. I’m talking multiple Super Mario Bros. and Zelda games, Metroid, Contra, the Zapper, and of course, Castlevania. What stuck with me most about checking out Castlevania was its difficulty. I could only get so far – maybe the second boss – before burning out and throwing in the towel.
Fast forward to Halloween afternoon, 2021 and I STILL hadn’t played a thematically appropriate game for the month of October. As one does with scary stories, horror movies, and the like, there’s just something fitting about consuming them in October. At least here in North America, fall is starting to FEEL like fall. It’s getting darker earlier and colder, which makes it harder to enjoy physical activities outdoors, and on top of that, everything’s dying. Why not revel or find solace in a piece of entertainment that mirrors the increasingly dire situation that surrounds oneself? Well after days of seeing Philip Summers – aka “The Hand-Drawn Game Guides guy” – post about his Castlevania exploits on Twitter, I decided I’d do the same!
2017 will go down as one of best years for game releases, I’m sure of it. Unfortunately for me, there’s still many games from this year that I have yet to play. I did get the opportunity to play some great games though, and coupled with the games of yesteryear, I’m quite content with this year’s list. Per usual, this list is in alphabetical order.
Considering Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions released on the Nintendo 3DS just two weeks ago, this review is coming at a pretty opportune time. Granted, I played through the original Game Boy Advance version and not the remake… but what I have to say should remain applicable. And, for the record, I purchased my copy before the 3DS remake was announced, like a week or two before actually. Needless to say the remake announcement surprised me and my uncle who works at Nintendo… Anyways, developed by AlphaDream and published by Nintendo, Superstar Saga was released for the Game Boy Advance in November 2003. A spiritual successor of sorts to Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, it similarly blended humor, platforming, and role-playing gameplay with great execution. Continue reading Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga [Game Boy Advance] – Review→
After obsessing over The Ninja, attempting to complete it and then doing just that, I found myself in a void, unsure what to play next on the Master System. I tried a few different games but nothing satisfied me the way that game did, nothing that I felt was worth devoting the same amount of effort. Wonder Boy finally got me out of that rut. Continue reading Wonder Boy [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
When I beat Super Mario Bros. for the first time last year, I felt I had marked an item off of a video game bucket list. It was a momentous achievement not just because it’s such an influential and important game to the medium, but because it was challenging as well. It took many, many failed attempts, progressing slightly farther each time before I was able to conquer Bowser and when I did, I felt like I accomplished something! For the same reasons, I’ve recently come to the Mega Man series.
For someone who fancies himself a collector and a knowledgebase of video games, it’s been hard for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve only played one Mega Man game; not even a core title in the series either but a spinoff: Mega Man Network Transmission. With compilations of both the classic and X series, I decided it was finally time to rectify this omission. With little deliberation, I shelved the Mega Man X Collection and decided to begin where the franchise did: with Mega Man. Granted, playing the Xbox version of Anniversary Collection on the Xbox 360.
It didn’t take long to dawn on me once I’d started, but this game and this series helped define the action-platformer. In a basic sense, Mega Man plays like Super Mario Bros. with guns. It retains the precision platforming of that game while featuring more frantic action, especially with the bosses. The stages are relatively brief affairs but each one hosts unique platforming challenges. Even with their brevity, it would always take multiple continues before I could reliably reach the boss; if I didn’t decide to halt that stage for the moment and move onto another after losing my stock of lives.
Another influential aspect of this game is the open-ended nature in completing it. Before Mega Man has the opportunity to settle his score with Dr. Wily, he first has to beat six of the mad scientist’s robot masters. Their stages could be selected in any order and what’s more, once beaten, Mega Man obtained their weapon. I could freely switch between the weapons Mega Man had acquired and was rewarded for doing so as each robot master was weak to another’s weapon. After obtaining a new weapon, I’d try a stage and make it to the boss to see if it was weak to the weapon just acquired and do so until I found my match.
Once the robot masters had been defeated and the path to Dr. Wily became available, the challenge really began. I went through a decent amount of continues before reaching the Yellow Devil. This iconic Mega Man boss was highlighted to me with his annoying inclusion in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U where he transfers chunks of his body horizontally from one side of the screen to the other rebuilding itself, a difficult attack to evade. Now I know where that originated. That exact same tactic is present here and was one of the hardest video game obstacles I’ve had to overcome in recent memory, maybe since beating Super Mario Bros. last year! It took me so much time and effort (multiple sessions across a couple of days even) that I naively thought this was the final boss. Because of course it wouldn’t be DR. WILY! Come on John, think about it!
So once I’d finally conquered the Yellow Devil (which literally made me exclaim WOOHOO!), I was crestfallen to realize there was more to do… much more. Dr. Wily’s stage was four sections long – each ending with a boss fight, or set of boss fights. Each of the robot masters that Mega Man had beaten previously had to be beaten again. Thankfully, the game allows unlimited continues and mercifully, when used in Dr. Wily’s stage, they restarted me in the current section and not at the very beginning of the stage – pre-Yellow Devil. With that ability, I was actually able to make it deep into the final section of Dr. Wily’s stage when that nightmare scenario we all have while playing video games happened – I lost power. ARGH!!!
With that, I was done with Mega Man. Not just for that night but for a long time. At least, that’s how I felt for the next fifteen minutes until I had a chance to cool down. This was something I still had on my video game bucket list, something I still felt I needed to do in order to broaden my gaming knowledge. A few days later I returned and with little resistance was right back where I was pre-power outage. Most thrilling of all was the rematch with the Yellow Devil. What had once taken me an eternity to overcome I could now topple in a few attempts!
With the robot masters bested again and these sections completed, there was one thing left to do: put Dr. Wily in his place. Like the Yellow Devil, this was another tough matchup. Dr. Wily had two forms, each with an eternity of a health bar. After a few attempts I knew what I had to do: I had to cheese him.
In the original Mega Man, there’s an exploit that allows Elec Man’s weapon to damage an enemy multiple times with one shot. This weapon’s projectile is long and branching like lightning. As soon as it made contact with Dr. Wily, I pressed the back button on my Xbox 360 controller – pausing the game. Upon unpausing the game, it damaged him again as if this was the first time the projectile made contact. This exploit wasn’t removed from the Anniversary Collection and I milked it across a half-dozen attempts before the mad scientist finally bowed to Mega Man.
Although I wound up cheesing the final boss, I have no regrets. I overcame so many obstacles while testing my reflexes, dexterity, and memorization that I still feel accomplished. Besides, literally every FAQ and forum commenter I came across suggested the same thing. I’m not sure anyone’s beaten Mega Man without utilizing that exploit! Nonetheless, I can cross beating Mega Man off my bucket list and can feel a little more confident in my gaming prowess and knowledge. Foremost of which is the fact that Mega Man is a precisely tuned action-platformer that’s tough but rewarding. Now, onto Mega Man 2!
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
Oscura: Second Shadow is a game I have yet to play. Like most of the games I have for Android or Steam, this one was acquired through a Humble Bundle, and remains untouched. Instead of personal experience then, I can only write about what I know of the game through quick research. Fortunately, the game’s website has a press kit that filled me in. The game takes inspiration from platformers from the 1990s, specifically the Super Mario and Rayman series of games. Stylistically, much inspiration is drawn from Tim Burton’s repertoire, and I’d also say Limbo. I’ll have to give it a shot sometime to see how it handles on a touch-based device, as I’ve not had much good things to say about platformers on such devices.
The game was developed by Ole Alfheim in conjunction with Chocolate Liberation Front. It was published by Surprise Attack Games, initially on iOS on June 26, 2014 and two months later (August 26, 2014) on Android. Per the game’s press kit, Ole appears to be an Australian and the brains behind this game and its predecessor.
In keeping with tradition, I’m going to forego writing a best-of list, just like I forgot to do in 2012. Scratch that, I mean I’m going to simply order these games alphabetically instead of ordering them. This list is very Wii U heavy, which makes sense as I purchased the system shortly after Mario Kart 8 released. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the sense that there were plenty of titles available and coming soon that I wanted to play. And of course, this list is diverse with older games as I usually don’t play many new titles. In that regard, this list is unlike any other I’ve constructed.
Bayonetta 2 – Now this is a video game. Platinum Games, Sega, and Nintendo expanded upon the formula of the original by blowing it out of the water. This was easily the most fun I had playing a game by myself this year.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – I’ve been a big fan of the series since playing Aria of Sorrow but this was my first foray into a 3D entry. I did’t think the game was outstanding, but the focus Koji Igarashi and his team had was. An enjoyable action game.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – The same can be said for this game – that I didn’t find it to be outstanding. It just hasn’t seemed to age super well. Still, this was a fun game to play through with a friend and I’m glad to finally check it off my backlog.
Gyruss– With this game, my friend and I had a great high-score competition going that stretched from late 2013 into early 2014. We had long breaks in between, but the rivalry was fierce. The game and our rivalry was a great example of the Golden Age of Arcade Games.
Mario Kart 8 – This was the game that pushed me over the edge on the Wii U and what a game! If it’s not my favorite in the series, it’s easily #2, right behind Double Dash. A great selection of courses, great DLC, and solid online wooed me in the early days with my new system.
New Super Luigi U – This was another early adoption title that wooed me. I played through the entirety of this in co-op, and it was such a pleasurable experience. A great blend of traditionally designed platforming stages, with super tough requirements, and fun implementation of the Wii U Gamepad.
Scribblenauts: Unlimited – My friend and I haven’t beaten this game. We’re maybe halfway through it. Still, the amount of fun we had brainstorming ridiculous creations was probably the most fun I had with a video game all year. Highly recommended.
Super Mario Bros. – I mean, come on. This game is legendary. I finally beat it this year after many attempts and the assistance of my friend. What a sense of accomplishment afterwards! Talk about checking something off of a backlog, this is more like a bucket list item!
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – What a stupid name. Still, this is such a highly refined, balanced game with enough content to keep me content for years. Rest assured, I will play this game until its successor comes out and it will be in the mulitplayer lineup that long too.
Within the first few seconds, Vs. Super Mario Bros. tricks you into thinking it’s simply an arcade port of the NES classic. By the end of World 1-1, it’s apparent that the stages have been altered. It starts when you can’t find the invisible block containing the stage’s 1UP after the first set of green warp pipes. You’ll no doubt second guess your memory throughout the game as the stages begin to grow more original. You have now entered The Twilight Zone Vs. Super Mario Bros.
Having played loads of Super Mario Bros. recently, I have its stage design burned into my memory. One subtle element of the original’s stage design is the way the developers mislead players in regards to the Warp Zones. Think about it. The first one, in World 1-2, is accessed by running across the top of the stage and avoiding the blatant exit. The remaining two are present in World 4-2.
Thinking you’re onto a formula, you run to the end of World 4-2 and sure enough, access another Warp Zone by running across the top of the stage and avoiding another blatant exit. That’s not the one you want though. Whereas the first Warp Zone transported you to Worlds 2, 3, or 4, this one merely progresses you a single world, to World 5. While this fooled me for me many sessions, I finally found the true second Warp Zone. Appearing much earlier in World 4-2, it allows travel to the remaining Worlds: 6, 7, or 8. That’s intentional.
I believe that sort of thinking was extracted to the entirety of Vs. Super Mario Bros. For anyone coming to it as I have, with the original, forefront in my mind, it’ll throw you for a loop. It appears to look and play the same from the first quarter, but that assumption is bucked within seconds. Because of the differences, it can be construed as tougher, at least for those who have played the original. Additionally, many of the changes are inclusions of stages from Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels – the original, much tougher, Super Mario Bros. 2. Plus, playing with a joystick just doesn’t feel right.
What can I say about Super Mario Bros.? I mean, it’s Super Mario Bros.Everyone knows about the 1985 classic. Everyone can recall Mario’s initial journey through the Mushroom Kingdom on his quest to rescue Princess Toadstool from the diabolical Bowser. Everyone has stomped on the heads of numerous Goombas, kicked several Koopa shells, and found the game shortening Warp Zones. Everyone has beaten it, ecstatic to see the princess instead of yet another Toad. Well, that is everyone but me.
After briefly playing Vs. Super Mario Bros. at PJ Gamers, one of my local arcades, I realized I had never beaten the Mario game that started it all. Never mind Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., or Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. really kicked off the career of Nintendo’s mascot. Thus, I’ve spent the last week or so playing the game in hours-long sessions attempting to beat it. Finally, after discovering secrets and honing my platforming skills, I’ve gotten good enough to reach the end.
Among other elements, I feel two of the most important are the game’s precise controls and simplicity. They tied together in an interesting way after spending hours learning stage layouts and adapting to the controls. I’d often get reckless and misjudge a jump or run into enemies enough times to deplete my stock of lives OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It could get frustrating, but it was psychological – I was getting too comfortable with my abilities. In many ways, overcoming my careless tendency to hold down the run button was the key to my success.
My experience with the game was enhanced by playing it with a friend, switching off when we’d lost all of our lives. Like most things, playing this game was improved with a partner. The kicker was discovering the hidden 1ups that were necessary to extending our sessions and devising strategies for dealing with tough sections. Accessing the Warp Zones was the most fruitful of our discoveries. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game without accessing the secrets we did and I wanted to be able to say I completed Super Mario Bros. so there, I said it.