Sometimes I have to use the internet to piece together my own gaming history. Years easily blur together when you're thinking back to childhood. I vividly remember receiving Zelda II along with the Nintendo Player's Guide for my birthday one year - and going by release it would appear that this was actually the spring of 1989. So I must have gotten my NES for Christmas '88 then. Prior to then, I had played NES games plenty at friends' houses, and I'm sure I borrowed games from them once I got my own console. But Zelda II stands out in my mind as one of the first NEW games that I got for the system. I can't understate how regal that gold cartridge looked. The guy at the store had told my dad that I'd need the Player's Guide if I wanted to make any progress in the game. How right he was.
I never made much progress in the game, really. Although I did play it a lot. It's a pretty weird Zelda game to wrap your head around. Especially when you're eight years old. I mean it looks like an action game. And there's some pretty heavy combat. But the concept of leveling up and grinding and all those very clearly RPG elements made no sense to the mind of a kid who hadn't been properly introduced to RPG's yet. Again, some Googling tells me that it was sometimes later in 1990 before I'd actually play my first real RPG thanks to Nintendo Power's insanely awesome Dragon Quest promotion.
But it's fair to say that Zelda II made an impression on me. It was my first Zelda afterall. I didn't actually go back and play the first game until after I had played this one. And to my delight, the first game connected with me much better. It was easier by comparison. And I was able to actually see a whole hell of a lot more of the game. But Zelda II stood out as being a more advanced game. It felt like a more, I don't know... grown-up game, somehow? And the music was incredible. And as the years went on and the Zelda series grew, there was something I can of liked about rooting for the black sheep entry as well. Being a sidescrolling sore thumb somehow gave the game a little extra charm. What can I say? I am error.
I've gone back and taken a couple of runs at Zelda II again over the years. I've attempted it on the Gamecube Zelda collection as well as via the GBA re-release of the NES game. Each time I had varying levels of success. But I've never come close to beating the game. I thought this time could be different. This time I'm playing on the Switch Online service, which offers up save states on the NES games. I figured that'd make it easier. I mean it made it more convenient since I wouldn't have to necessarily return to the first palace everytime I got a game over. But still.
I made it through Death Mountain this time, which is still quite early in the game. I've grinding my Attack up to 4 and my Life and Magic up to 5. To put that in perspective, the cap on each is 8. And yet it doesn't feel like the game is getting any easier. I don't feel much advantage here. Being older and wiser it occurs to me that I could just grind up to max levels now, but think of how time consuming (and boring) that would be. And what if it doesn't even really help?
The truth is I can totally admire a game like Zelda II and not actually enjoy playing it right now. That's okay. I can look back on it fondly. I can be happy that it brought me such extreme joy as a kid, but I don't have to want to play it as an adult. This might be a perfect game for Nintendo to release one of their "SP" version ROM hacks for on Switch Online. Maybe start the player out with levels maxed, thus removing the overt RPG elements and turning the game into a more stereotypical Zelda adventure? I don't know.
Legacy-wise, there is something interesting about Zelda II's place in the history of the series. I feel like Breath Of The Wild draws more from any other game in the franchise. Both games are more RPG than pure action adventure games. Both games rely on combat perfection. Both are brutal games that introduce enemies to you very early in the game that will completely wreck you. It's interesting anyway.
Donkey Kong was released just a couple of months after I was born. As such, it might seem rather antiquated to me. But I do have a certain fondness for it. I didn't always though. I don't even really remember when I first introduced to the game. I feel like my first encounter with Mario was Super Mario Bros SOMETIME after the NES was released. I can't really remember quite when that was. Although I do tie in memories of first playing NES around the time the Ninja Turtles first aired, so let's say it was 1987 then. That sounds about right actually.
At any rate, I'm pretty sure I probably found out that Mario had originally been in previous games about a year later. So probably sometime in 1988 I was introduced to the original Mario Bros and Donkey Kong at a friend's house. And I don't think either really wowed me given that these games felt like steps back from Super Mario Bros.
But over the years I've developed an appreciation for Donkey Kong. It's history is definitely fascinating. And the documentary The King Of Kong did plenty to make the game feel like it had a sort of excitement surrounding it. Of course the even more recent Billy Mitchell drama has made that excitement something even bigger.
That being said, Donkey Kong is definitely one of those games that I fire up every few years and play for like... a half hour. And that's about it. Maybe less. It's a good old school arcade game in that it's fun to "pop a few quarters in" and see if you're still okay at it. Not that I'm great. But I'm alright.
Tonight I decided to play the NES version via the Switch Online app after perusing Nintendo Power's list of their top 285 games. It's fun and all but the NES version is even shorter than the original arcade game as its lacking a level. So I did the first loop on one life no problem. And therein lies the problem for me: it's just a three level platformer. So you just keep doing it over and over. I guess playing for score, but that's not what makes a platformer fun to me. It's not like I'll ever be good enough (or CARE to be good enough) to see a kill screen.
So eh, whatever. I just kind of jplay this every once in a while to see if I can do a quick one-life run of the three base levels and then I feel all set. Maybe I'd be more into it right now had I not just played through the NES Remix levels a couple of months ago which breathed some new life into the game for me as it is.
I love the Castlevania series dearly, but that doesn't make me good at the games. So while I've played a big majority of the entries, I've not actually beaten that many of them. I've been playing Castlevania II since it was first released on the NES. It was a bit of a revelation at the time - swapping out of the confines of the castle in the first game and giving us an 'open world' to explore. You could go anywhere - granted it was gated off because you needed a certain item. You could backtrack and find secret areas. Oh, and now it was an RPG as well with experience points and weapon upgrades and so on. If this sounds familiar, it's because Castlevania II is basically a blueprint for one of the greatest games of all time - Symphony Of The Night.
There's hyperbole there, sure. But it's not that far fetched. And really, looking back at Castlevania II, it's astounding just how ambitious a sequel this really was. I mean, Konami could have easily just made another linear level-based trek through another castle, right? Instead they basically changed the game's genre altogether. Of course this was the wild west days of the NES where many sequels strayed heavily from the originals. See: Zelda II, Super Mario Bros 2, etc.
Unfortunately Simon's Quest isn't always remembered for what it accomplished. Instead it's mainly remembered for being kind of an unfair and confusing jerk. So let's unpack that for a moment. Trying to play this game without some kind of walkthrough is a bit of a fool's errand. The NPC's in various towns are infamously liars. And that's when they tell you anything that isn't too cryptic to make sense of anyway. If you were playing this game "blind," I have no idea how you'd figure out that you need to drop garlic in certain graveyards to make an NPC appear to give you certain items; or that you'd need to equip specific items and then kneel down for more than a couple of seconds in specific spots to open up hidden areas; or that the ferryman will bring you to different areas if you have certain items equipped; or that there are invisible platforms in some castles!; or that you need to equip certain items just to SEE some platforms!
I mean yes, there's trial and error. But this feels more like "just try absolutely everything you can possibly think of until something happens and even then you'll probably be stumped on how to proceed at certain parts." I don't necessarily think it's part of a challenging game design so much as this was still the early days and developers were figuring out what really made a game work.
But if we can look past those hiccups - and we can, again with the help of a walkthrough - then there's so much to actually admire in Castlevania II. First of all there's the day/night cycles which actually matter. At night the enemies become more difficult; the town's close their doors and are no longer safe havens. It's interesting stuff, and the mechanic was surely at least partly inspiration for one of my absolute favorite (and vote for most slept-on) NES games of all time: A Nightmare On Elm Street by LJN. I'm being totally serious and completely devoid of irony or counter-culture hipsterism here.
The RPG elements are interesting, though not especially overt. It's definitely akin to The Adventures Of Link. The max level here is apparently six, but I was only level four when I finished the game. Speaking of finishing the game - the bosses are actually a bit of a joke. If memory serves, there were only three of them - the Grim Reaper, a floating mask and then Dracula himself. All of these were easily beaten with very little strategy. Honestly, it feels like the environment was the bigger enemy in this game. I'm pretty sure that any death I incurred was due to a missed jump rather than an actual enemy. I mean once you finally make it to the Demon Castle Dracula, you're greeted to some empty hallways. There's no final gauntlet to make your way through. You're just granted access to Dracula's tomb. It's funny because I had a much harder time making my way through Super Castlevania IV recently - a game considered much easier than this one. Huh.
Suffice to say that I'm pleased as punch to have finally conquered this game, though. It's always nice to beat a game that you've been playing for - OMG... like 30 years? Weird. It's also nice to revisit games and remind yourself just how much you enjoy them.
I should probably get this out of the way now: I don't particularly like 3D platformers. I don't hate them by any means. But I don't go gaga for them. I'd much rather play a 2D platformer. I'll take Super Mario World over Super Mario Galaxy any day of the week. I had a buddy in high school who was really into Mario 64. I'd always ask him if we could play Mario Kart instead. I thought Mario Sunshine was pretty fun, but I definitely preferred Luigi's Mansion.
A few years back I was binging 3DS games and played through New Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario 3D Land, back to back. I thought the former was pretty great and the latter was just okay. I tell you all this so you know where my head is at. I don't hate these 3D Mario games, but I don't love them either.
Anyway, just after Christmas this year I decided to use some gift cards and finally jump on that Wii U bandwagon. To my happy surprise, the refurb console that I got from Gamestop was apparently a bundle that came pre-installed with several games. One of them was Super Mario 3D World - a game that I most likely would not have bought on my own; but one I'd happily play if I were given a free copy. So, the planets had aligned.
I started playing Super Mario 3D World on New Year's Eve after we finished watching Blade Runner (hello, 2019!) and while we were waiting for Chrissy Teigen to start counting down the ball drop. Mostly, I wanted to test using the Wii U tablet as a portable console - which stupidly enough involves me lugging the actual Wii U console out of my game room and plugging it in to a spare electrical outlet close enough to where I actually want to use the tablet. It's not pretty, but it works. And the game was a fun enough way to kill some time. The little cat suit is cute, I guess.
I didn't think about the game again for weeks. But this past Saturday I found myself battling a nasty head cold and home alone one Saturday morning. What to do? Oh! I could actually play the Wii U on a TV for once! So I fired up Super Mario 3D World and poured myself some coffee. I was going along just fine. It was the usual 3D platformer experience. I didn't love it; I didn't hate it. But it was cute and everything and those Toad levels are their own little challenge and I was having a decent enough time.
And then it happened.
Y'know what I do hate in a platformer? Being blocked from starting the next level because I haven't collected enough THINGS. You see, you need to collect green stars in each level and eventually, there will be levels that you can't move on to because you don't have enough green stars. So now you've got to go back and replay older levels to find more green stars. It's stupid. I hate this kind of thing.
In fairness, maybe this was in 3D Land as well? I can't remember as it's been five or six years since I played that one. I did beat 3D Land, so if that was in it then maybe I was more patient or it wasn't as annoying or glarding? I don't know. But I wasn't in the mood for this shit. Especially given the head cold and all. So y'know what? I'm all set with 3D World. I've got a copy of New Super Mario Bros U on its way to me now... I'll probably enjoy that one a lot more.
Can I just say that I hate that the title of this game is "Super" Castlevania IV? It's dumb. There was no Super Castlevania 1-3. There was just Castlevania 1-3. Why add "Super"? Is it because it was meant as a sort of remake? Then why not just call it Super Castlevania? The IV makes it clearly the fourth game in a series. Make up your mind, Konami! Plus, I hate that alphabetically, this one wouldn't sit on a shelf next to the others in the series. It's dumb.
Actually, I'm carrying on. But I think in Japan there was no "IV" in the title. I think it was marketed as a remake. But really... it's not that. It's not, guys. Considering that the castle doesn't even show up until the third act, this is definitely a whole new game. And... I'm kind of mixed on it.
I've been a fan of the Castlevania series since the first title on NES. Although I've never considered myself to be especially good at the games, I still consider Castlevania to be within my short list of favorite franchises. Though I'm pretty sure that Castlevania: Chronicles is the only game in the series I've managed to actually beat, I still love these games and have poured plenty of time into the majority of titles released over the years.
I never did play Castlevania IV until just now though. Note, I'm dropping the "Super" from the title for the rest of this piece to give it parity with the rest of the series. Though I played the hell out of the original NES trilogy back in the day, along with Castlevania: The Adventure on Game Boy, I never managed to find a copy of Castlevania IV on SNES. But lately I've been going through this thing where I've been playing some old classics (and not-so-classics) that I've been meaning to play or replay. So with the help of the Wii U's Virtual Console I finally got into Castlevania IV.
I must declare my defense of the humble Wii U by the way. It's failure was partially my fault. While I did consider it a truly interesting and unique console during its brief lifetime, I never did pick one up back then. We came close one time. We were ready to grab one from Target and then... we just didn't. But I'm learning it was a great dry run for the Switch. And its Virtual Console alone has proven a perfect reason to own one now while you can still find them cheap.
As for Castlevania IV, let me start with a strong positive. This game has a fantastic soundtrack. And I say that as a fan of the series who has taken the time to explore the soundtracks released through the history of the series. Yes, this a series known for phenomenal music and this one in particular is a great mix of old NES-inspired tunes with some excellent atmospheric work. It really sets the mood.
But Simon... poor Simon doesn't quite move the way I want him to. As friends pointed out to me, Castlevania IV is unique enough that the original NES trilogy doesn't prepare you for it. You can't really play it the same way because the mechanics are just different. It took me a while to get used to flinging myself around via the whip. And I never did get used to the thing where you hold down the button to kind of flail your whip in a limp way around you. I don't know. So much felt weird to me.
A bigger problem is the difficulty. Now, it's sort of well "known" that this is one of the easier Castlevania games out there. Just not to ME. Nope. I really really struggled with this one. And it frustrated me. With other, harder games I at least felt like I was learning as I went. With this one I found myself cussing at the enemy placement. So many times I'd land a jump only to have some asshole pop out of nowhere and bump me backwards into a pit of spikes or whatever. It just seems unfair. Or like it revolves around rote memorization which I'm not into.
Thank goodness for Virtual Console save states which I abused the F out of. Clock tower? Save states. A race up disappearing stairs with a blade chasing me? Save states. Oh wait - another note about the difficulty... after I'd go through a stage infuriated at stupid deaths, the bosses would be a joke. Just stand there and whip rapidly and a winner is you.
Anyway, I spent three long nights playing this game. Sometimes I had a lot of fun. Other times I had no fun. Mostly I had fun. And even when I was mad, I felt a lot of reward for perseverance. But when I finally made it to the end of the game and into the boss rush I just felt all motivation leave my body. I beat the first two bosses easily enough but the Grim Reaper just made me rage quit. I tried a half-dozen times or so and decided it was best to walk away without the Victory, but still having positive things to say about the game.
See, Castlevania is like pizza. Even bad pizza is good. Same thing. I had a good time, I got frustrated, and I felt pride. But it's still toward the bottom tier of the Castlevania games I've played. I'd place most of them above this. Which doesn't mean it's a bad game, but rather that this is a vast and great series. Maybe someday I'll come back to this save state and try to finish it off. I just don't have it in me tonight.
Nowadays it's hard to think of SNK for anything other than the Neo Geo. But there was once a time before they were pumping out gloriously animated 2D fighting games and run-n-guns. And the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has been a lovely reminder of that time. The amount of love put into compiling this collection is staggering, and I hope it sets a new high water mark for other publishers to bring out their old games in lieu of a proper Virtual Console on Switch.
The love that I speak of comes in many shapes here. There are plenty of options on how you want to play the included games. You can stretch the screen or not. You can play with scanlines. You can choose between different regions or arcade and console versions where applicable. Beyond the usual save states you've also got the ability to easily rewind or fast-forward a game. Heck, there's even a mode that will play a game for you so you can see how to it's played.
But beyond all that is the extras. Y'know when you buy an overly expensive 3-disc version of a movie on Blu-Ray just to get all the extra stuff? It's like that. There's a timeline/gallery of all of SNK's output prior to the Neo Geo - which makes me wonder if we'll get all of these games eventually. There have been more games added as free DLC post-launch, so it could happen. I say totally unironically that I want Fighting Golf! Beyond that the collection is loaded with scans of magazine ads, strategy guides, promo artwork, arcade manuals and so on. And then there's a full audio collection of each game's soundtrack, which is something we're starting to see more and more of with the likes of Smash Bros Ultimate, and is appreciated.
Crystalis seems like the true standout in this collection, though. Certainly there are other games I remember from the NES era. I hate to say that I spent so much time playing Athena back then, but when you're young and have no money of your own, you play what you have. Crystalis was I game I was totally aware of when it was released on NES. A friend of mine had it and it looked awesome. But I never got to play it back then. Eventually I picked up the GBC port about a decade ago and gave up on it fairly quickly. It turns out the GBC version is much maligned for its zoomed in aspect ratio, so it's not just me.
So here I am playing Crystalis almost thirty years later. Does it actually live up to the expectations I've created in my head? Well, yeah. It turns out that Crystalis is fairly awesome. While it's easy to superficially dismiss this game as a Zelda clone, that's not quite fair. Considering its release late in the NES lifetime, it has a lot more in common with something like Link's Awakening, which often feels like a 16-bit RPG that's been magically programmed for 8-bit hardware. There's some truly impressive technical feats here - namely in the boss battles, or later on when you finally get the Flight spell.
Combat works well enough. You've got eight directions of attack, though I often found it more comfortable to just stick with the cardinal four. There are four main swords to find throughout the quest and each has two levels of power-ups to find. You'll be switching between these elemental swords often depending on enemy types as some are immune to each element. This can be slightly annoying but not rage-inducing. The same can be said about the grinding in this game. Surely it's important but it's not overbearing. The level cap is a mere 16 which can be hit easily enough. In fact, I eventually found a cave that I was able to continue through and level up from 14 to 16 in a pretty fast clip.
The setting really connects with me. Although it's mostly a sort of traditional Zelda-ish fantasy world, it actually takes place in a more technologically advanced world. In fact the story revolves around computers and AI and stuff like that. I don't really know, because I didn't pay close attention haha. But there's definitely computers and technology and in that sense, I'm reminded a bit of Phantasy Star with its mix of sci-fi and fantasy - which is good.
My only real complaint probably isn't even fair as it's one of the era: there's a lot of cryptic stuff that isn't properly explained to the player. There are key items you'll need to have obtained to beat the game (or even do certain battles) that can EASILY be missed. This means that if you're not using a walkthrough, you should expect a lot of blind backtracking. Also the last boss feels laughably easy compared to the one right before it. But whatever. Crystalis is an awesome game and everyone should check it out.
I've been a fan of the Bust-A-Move series for a while now. You may also know these games as Puzzle Bubble. Or maybe more likely now, as those mobile Bubble Witch games that ripped off the original Taito series wholesale. But to me, Puzzle Bobble was one of the big highlights of the Neo Geo Pocket Color library. And as such, I have some very fond memories of that cutesy little puzzle game on a tiny little screen.
Bust-A-Move Universe (or, Puzzle Bobble 3D) is yet another entry in the long running series and... I can't say it's perfect. I mean, Puzzle Bobble in general is always going to be fun. If you're not familiar, there's a bunch of bubbles up at the top of the screen in clusters, and you (or rather Bub or Bob from Bubble Bobble) are down below using a little cannon thingy to fire colored bubbles up above at them to burst them. It's just the right blend of SIMPLE and STRATEGY to zone out with. As such, the series has always been a go-to game for me to play while listening to the TV.
Universe does very little to differentiate itself from the rest of the series. Which is fine. But even as a standard Puzzle Bobble game, it's just kind of mediocre. My main plight is the lack of real content. There are eight worlds to beat in the main Puzzle mode - each with a handful of levels - but I blew through these and watched the credits roll in probably less than two hours. Sure there's sort of completionist achievements to attempt that MAY keep you playing, but truthfully, I'd rather just have a lot more levels to play once. And preferably more interesting, memorable and challenging ones. Especially when you consider that that's exactly what those mobile Bubble Witch games do indeed offer.
There are special powers you can use in each world, but I never found the game challenging enough to really bother using any of these. There are also boss battles at the end of each world but these are super yawn-worthy. You literally just fire bombs at a moving object boss and try to deplete its life in a short time limit. The weird thing is it doesn't even matter if you succeed or not - you still proceed to the next level. So again, replayability is handled horribly here.
And the controls are iffy as well. The dpad is too finicky, and using the L and R buttons to fine tune still isn't fine tuney enough. It honestly just feels like a thrown together attempt at a Puzzle Bobble entry. And while the formula is no doubt fun, I have to think that there's got to be a better option on DS or 3DS out there than Universe. I just don't have the interest in going for those extra achievements. I guess I could check out Challenge mode, but really I just wanted better (and more) levels in the base game and slightly more respect paid to the series on this one.
The new year (and Virtual Console) has me in a real retro mood lately. So I decided to revisit an old classic - Super Mario Bros 2. This is a game I loved upon release and continue to love to this day. Of course it wouldn't be until years later, with the release of Super Mario All-Stars that I'd learn this wasn't a Mario game to begin with. But back in '88, I just figured it was like Zelda II - a totally different and weird remake of a classic game.
It's weird that you jump on enemies but that doesn't kill them. It's weird that you can play as Toad (though you SHOULD play as Princess Peach). It's weird that Shy Guys replaced Goombas and Koopa Troopers. It's weird that bosses are birds that spit eggs, a mouse that throws bombs, a crab that throws rocks, and a hydra. It's weird that Wart replaced Bowser. But guess what? All this weird is awesome. I don't even care about the dreamland cop-out ending. This game rules.
Apparently Nintendo agreed with me since all this weird Doki Doki Panic stuff eventually became cannon. Shy Guy is still hanging out in Mario Kart to this day, and many other elements of Subcon have carried over and become part of the Mario universe.
Speaking of Subcon, this world is so much prettier and brighter than that of the Mushroom Kingdom of the first game. And the music straight ROCKS, you guys. So hummable. Super Mario Bros 2 remains a lovely game to look at to this day.
I've said before - and stand by this - Mario 2 is my favorite of the NES trilogy. It's the one I continue to replay the most. Though I'm playing the NES original today, I've played the SNES and GBA remakes in the past. It's the NES Mario game I've played the most. So you'd think I'd breeze through it as quickly as I recently did Super Mario World. Well, I did... I beat it over two nights. But that was after a proper game over screen and starting all over again. So it's definitely still a challenging game even when you're super familiar with it.
On my second attempt I got brash and used warps in 3-1 and 5-3 to jump straight to 7-1. But that was after playing all the way to 7-1 before my previous game over, so whatever. I appreciate the save states that the WiiU Virtual Console allows, though I tried to use them sparingly as saves between each level.
Anyway, bottom line is I love this game and it still rules. Hard.
When the Super Nintendo was announced I was interested... but the Genesis was my preference at the time. The next Christmas I thought about asking for a Super Nintendo, but there just weren't enough games that interested me to compete with the new hotness that was the Sega CD. So that's the one I asked for. And so I didn't actually get a Super Nintendo until the Christmas of 1993, at which point Super Mario World was now three years old. And yet it still was absolutely incredible. And y'know what? Here we are in 2019 and Super Mario World is STILL absolutely incredible.
I've long considered Super Mario World to be my favorite 2D Mario game (followed by Super Mario 2 "US" - come at me). Yes, there are many a gamer who will tell you that Super Mario Bros 3 is the clear winner. And while I have more nostalgia for SMB3, I've always said that Super Mario World is better. And having replayed SMB3 just a few months back after its launch on Switch, I can now say that I stand by my 1993-self. Super Mario World is the business.
After Christmas this year I decided to buy a WIi U - a bit late to the funeral of dying system, I admit. But the Wii U had been a system that I at least thought was interesting during its lifetime. I just could never find a reason to buy one - especially once the Switch hit last year and seemed to one-up the Wii U in every regard.
But since we found out my wife was pregnant at the beginning of October, my game habits have changed. I've been spending a lot more time outside of my game room just to be more accessible to her needs. So the vast majority of my gaming has been done on my Switch or 3DS since then. And it recently occurred to me that with a Wii U I could add to my library of 'portable' games, including our already existing library of Wii games. So I went out and got a new old console with Christmas gift cards.
I must say that I'm super pleased with the Wii U's virtual console, which I'm now convinced is superior to that of the 3DS. For one thing those SNES games look amazing on the Wii U's gamepad versus the 3DS's screen. And second, it gives me the option to play it as a handheld, or on my TV (just like the Switch! Woah!). You might say that the Wii U gamepad isn't a portable, but honestly my definition of portable generally means in the living room while the TV is on in the background, or on my back patio in the summer. I've got the 3DS for the handful of times I might play in a waiting room or while my oil is getting changed or something.
But I ramble! Super Mario World is still incredible, as I said above. Personally, I prefer the look of 16bit graphics to 8bit. That's just a personal preference. And the SMW sprites are so bright and colorful and full of charm. Not to mention that SMW's character designs seem to take a lot more inspiration from the rather anime appearance of a lot of that old Super Mario promo art that just didn't quite translate to Super Mario Bros 3.
The music is also fantastic. And there's little things like how jumping on Yoshi's back brings in an extra layer of percussion. I mean, damn!
But none of this would matter if the gameplay wasn't good. Super Mario World is a masterclass in game design when it comes to 2D platformers. The physics are spot on and I feel like I can control Mario down to a pixel whether that means just barely standing on a ledge, or jumping up and around a block to land on top. This is perhaps most obvious in the final Bowser battle which involves tossing objects up to land on top of his moving head. I was able to pull that off effortlessly via muscle memory.
Speaking of - I've probably played through this game every five years or so since launch. And it shows. I seem to have no problem speeding through levels and remembering what items are in which blocks, or where alternate exits exist. I guess it's a game I've explored so thoroughly in my formative gaming years that it's just in my DNA now. And yet it still feels compelling. I had times at the grocery store thinking "I can't wait to get home and finish this game," which I did in two sessions starting on New Year's Eve.
I didn't bother with much extra stuff this time around. I didn't open up Star Road or mess around with paths I didn't need to. I just dashed my way to the end credits in a fit of nostalgic joy. But I will say this - I will never tire of Super Mario World.
I did ask Santa for some Switch games this year, but under the tree was a surprise. My wife got me Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures which had released under the radar in December, and I was thrilled. I love relaxing sim type games that allow me to play a sort of virtual zen garden. In the past I've lost many many hours to games like Cities Skylines for example. So yeah, even though I had asked for some specific games, Rollercoaster Tycoon was the one that I popped into my Switch as soon as family holiday visiting was over.
My first impression was that it looks fantastic. And it's cool to see so many little animations happening on the Switch's little screen. Of course the hardware will show its limitations once you've unlocked a lot of the park and frame rates start to drop. But that was to be expected - at least to me. The Switch is an amazing game-player, but it's not a powerhouse. I'm just glad that games like this exist on it. I love seeing so much third party publisher support.
I have good things and bad things to say about this game. And the bad things aren't even really bad things. Basically, there's just not enough content here. The game isn't super deep. Which is to say, I'd love to see Planet Coaster ported to the Switch for instance. This just isn't quite Planet Coaster. The 'adventure mode' is the main campaign, and I'm not sure exactly how long it lasted me (too lazy to go look it up) but I'd guess under six hours. In fairness, there are a few different parks you can use as templates for the adventure mode so that might extend things, but ultimately it's the same game: try to get your park to be worth enough to unlock the tenth permit. That's it.
And that's where the lack of depth really shows up. There's a ton of rides and restaurants and so on to unlock, but outside of making sure that each section of the park is well stocked with janitors, bathrooms and maintenance and a good mix of the different things you can plunk down, you can be pretty mindless. It doesn't feel like it quite matters how well designed your park is. It doesn't seem to matter if you put all of your kiddie rides together or if the restaurants you choose make sense for each part of the park. The goal seems to just be to deck out every inch of the park in STUFF no matter what it is. That makes a challenge pretty non-existent and early on I was flooded with more income than I knew what to do with.
You can tweak things like ride prices but they tend to have more of an effect on monthly income than park worth so meh. You can design coasters, but I'm more into the management side of things than design. And I'd kill to import my own music. "Love Rollercoaster" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers needs to be in this game.
Now that I've aired my grievances I'll say that I did have a hell of a lot of fun with this game. Sure it's sort of busy work, but zen garden busy work. Which is good. I can't see replaying the adventure mode but I'm more likely to play around in the sandbox mode in the future than I am to revisit Minecraft again any time soon. So yeah, it's not super deep but there's definitely something to be said about peacefully zoning out. I'd still kill for a port of Planet Coaster, but this will do for now.