When I was a senior in high school, some of friends got super into Pokemon Red & Blue. This was the late 90's, and by this point I felt like this new Pokemon game was for kids. Hey man, I was driving now and had other things on my mind like girls and parties and jamming with my friends. I had no time for cutesie little monster collecting.
Then when I got to college I dated this girl who was super into the Pokemon cartoon show, and kept wanting to go to Burger King or McDonald's (I forget which) to get Pokemon toys from the kids meals. So then in my mind Pokemon was for kids and girls. Got it.
But around 2009 or so I was really deep into Game Boy collecting, and those Pokemon games were so popular that I decided I'd give Yellow a go. It seemed like a good jumping on point as it was a refinement of the first game, and gave you Pikachu (undoubtedly the most well-known character) as a starter. I figured it would be the ultimate Pokemon intro. And I was pretty much right. I remember I opted to play the game via the Gamecube's Game Boy Player, so as to get a sort of console experience out of it. As it happens, I even had a strategy guide to ease me in, and y'know what? I had a lot of fun with the game.
But for some reason I felt almost embarrassed to be playing (and enjoying) a Pokemon game back then. I was 28 years old. I should NOT be playing this stupid kids game!
And so I pushed my Pokemon interest way down deep until last year when I decided that WHO CARES and I grabbed a copy of Alpha Sapphire. And guess what? I LOVED that game. I spent most of December going through Sapphire at a leisurely pace. And 'leisurely' is the perfect word. Look, it's no secret that the Pokemon games aren't the most challenging RPG's. But for me, these are super chill, super zen sort of games. They are straight up relaxing.
So now the secret is out. I am a proud 38 year old Pokemon fan. Whatevs.
Anyway, I had intended to pick up Let's Go Pikachu at launch. If you're not aware, this is full-on remake of Yellow, which really made me excited. I mean, this is that Game Boy renaissance I'm talking about right now. A 2019 console with a complete overhaul of a 90's Game Boy game? Awesome. However, once the changes started leaking like removal of random encounters, or catching inspired by the Pokemon Go mobile game, or MOTION CONTROLS - I was out. I cancelled my pre-order.
But the reviews of Let's Go have been solid. And my wife and I had planned to spend Labor Day just relaxing in the back yard. She wanted to pick up a book to read at Target, so I tagged along and had the store do a price match, which ultimately let me grab Let's Go Pikachu for $30 out of pocket. I figured a relaxing day off would be the perfect time for such a game.
It turns out that all those details I thought would be a detriment to this remake totally work in its favor. I absolutely adore this game. I don't know, you guys. I could actually now prefer it over Yellow. Seriously.
First of all it looks gorgeous on the Switch. Everything looks fantastic. I love the way all the Pokemon have been rendered in this version. And I also love that when you bring them to be healed up, it shows original GBC sprites for each one. This is such a charming throwback.
The removal of random encounters is actually fine. It has given me the ability to pace the game however I choose. Sometimes I want to hang out in one area and grind. Sometimes it makes sense to keep going after one monster over and over to build up a combo in an attempt to get rarer Pokes to show up. Sometimes I want to coast thru a section without any catching at all. And I can do all of this as I please.
As for the mobile-style catching... well, it turns out that it actually gives the game a bit of variety really. I thought I'd hate this. But it works. Gym battles and encounters against other trainers still use the old turn-based gameplay, but then catching Pokemon is mixed up with this new kind of aiming-and-throwing-Pokeballs formula. It actually makes the two sections feel like separate things. I oddly like it.
As for motion controls, I mean, they're there. Yeah. I don't love it, but it's not that bad. Especially in handheld mode. And really it's only for the catching sections referenced above, so it's not crazy intrusive. Would I prefer if there was a straight up option to just play with a Pro Controller? Of course. But frankly, in the seven hours I've been playing it was never once in docked console mode. So I guess not that a huge a deal. Would just be a nice optional feature in my mind.
So yeah, here we are. I love this game. I've been working on trying to find a perfect party of truly classic and iconic first generation Pokemon. Pikachu remains my captain of course, because this is truly me revisiting Yellow. I also got Charmander and Baulbasaur. And last night I caught a Jigglypuff which made me way happier than I want to admit. But like I said. Yup. I'm 38 and I'm a proud Pokemon fan.
My wife and I were drawn to the Wii U back when it was still a thing that existed on store shelves. I can remember listening to episodes of the Idle Thumbs podcast and hearing them discuss games on the system and feeling like it was a really interesting piece of hardware that could offer some unique experiences. Yet, by the time the list of actual games we wanted to buy seemed to justify the purchase, the Switch had already been announced. And thus, we were a household who the Wii U was definitely for, but only added to the low sales that ultimately killed the console prematurely.
One game that neither of us seemed to notice back then was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. I'll be honest, I didn't know much about this game was until it was re-released on the Switch. But the nice thing about collecting for the Wii U now is that we can get this sort of history lesson when the games are super cheap. There were definitely reasons why we might choose to get the game on 3DS (when my wife games alone, it's always on her 3DS) or Switch (the added co-op mode), but I've been in a bit of a Wii U collecting phase lately, and something about that original (cheaper) version of the game felt appealing in that it was the original release, and I've been having a blast exploring the Wii U catalog to see all the innovations we missed out on at the time.
It turns out that this was a good call. The game works great on the gamepad for one thing. And it's neat how what's displayed on the gamepad isn't always what's on the TV, so playing the game together by passing the gamepad back and forth between runs still feels unique.
Just a few months back I had played Super Mario 3D World, so I was at least a bit familiar with how the game worked from those mini-levels. Truth told, I enjoyed the Toad levels more than the 3D World game proper.
If you haven't played it, Captain Toad is a sort of 3D action/adventure thing where you can rotate the entire level in any direction. This allows you to kind of solve puzzles as you see fit, and also uncover secrets obstructed by the environment. Toad can't jump. He can't really do anything to be honest. But somehow this turns into a really compelling little puzzle adventure.
We're having a lot of fun with it. The ultimate goal of each level is simply to reach the star somehow. But there are secondary goals... one is to find three hidden jewels in each level, and the other thing is a bigger challenge that's unique to each level. One might be to get through the level without destroying a certain bridge, another might be to get through without letting any Shy Guys detect you. So yeah, some are much harder than others.
However, this makes the game an excellent co-op pass-the-controller game. My wife might attempt to just make it through and find the jewels (she's a definite collect-everything gamer, which I am not) and I might then attempt the more difficult challenge - some are fun, and others... well, I hate stealth so I'm not doing that Shy Guy one.
Anyway, we played I guess ten levels and beat the first major boss battle and we are having a total blast. This is a really great game and we'll definitely be spending more time with it when we can.
Y'know how you read reviews that call games "love letters" to other games? As cliched as that may be, NES Remix is a real deal love letter to the NES. It's crazy because given the immense commercial failure of the Wii U, Nintendo at the time was putting out some truly interesting games. And like Mario Maker, NES Remix is a game that manages to both celebrate the history and nostalgia of Nintendo, while managing to take these old games and push them forward into the future at the same time. What may come off as just a collection of Nintendo themed mini games is instead a truly incredible package that should be played by any and all NES fans.
I originally played Ultimate NES Remix on the 3DS, which had come bundled with my New 2DS XL system. At the time I had assumed that the 'Ultimate' in the title meant it had everything (and more?) from the Wii U release, but man, I was dead wrong. The 3DS version is apparently more of a greatest hits version of the NES Remix I & II releases that are bundled together in the Wii U collection. Turns out, I was missing out on some seriously cool stuff, so I'm thrilled to now be playing through this version.
If you're not aware, the basis of NES Remix is that you're given short mini-game sort of challenges to complete from a variety of classic NES games. Simple. You're graded on a scale of 1-3 stars, and the more stars you accumulate will unlock more NES games to play challenges from, as well as actual Remix challenges which are where the real forward thinking stuff comes in. This is stuff like turning Mario into an endless-runner kind of game (pre-Mario Run), or having you play through Donkey Kong as Link who can't jump. Some truly cool stuff.
Anyway, let's go nuts and I'll talk about all of the games included in NES Remix Pack as I play them...
Balloon Fight - Here's a game I never played back in the NES days. But when I did finally get around to playing it in recent years, I've enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Of course it's basically Nintendo's own Joust clone, but I find that I actually vastly prefer it to Joust. The scrolling stages make a huge difference.
Donkey Kong - Of course DK is a classic. And I definitely enjoy it. I actually blogged about this game recently and how I do like it, but I get bored with it rather quickly. Thus, it lends itself perfectly to the micro challenges of NES Remix. It doesn't overstay its welcome with me here.
Donkey Kong Jr - This game kind of sucks. I've never been able to really get into this one. I don't care for the climbing mechanic.
Excitebike - This is an example of a game that I loved as a kid, but don't really like all that much now. I mean it's alright. But it feels pretty clunky to me. I'm pretty sure this was the first NES game I ever played. Maybe. I'm fuzzy. It was either this or SMB or Ice Hockey. Definitely those three were the first I was exposed to. Maybe all in the same day.
Golf - I'm kind of mixed on this one. I'm a longtime fan of golf games, from as far back as I can remember. We used to have Pebble Beach on our Tandy computer when I was a kid, and ever since I've found a relaxing joy in video golf. That said, I find this Golf a little too... I don't know if "touchy" is the right word? Maybe my plight is that I'm just not very good at it. Maybe the controls just feel too old school and demanding. It's kind of fun, but I find it tough to control (or get good at).
Ice Climber - Kind of like Golf above, this one is pretty fun but also very frustrating for me. I never played Ice Climber prior to NES Remix, so I have no nostalgic connection to it. The premise is fine, but I kind of hate the slippery controls. Jumping is a nightmare for me.
The Legend Of Zelda - The best. I love having Zelda as mini-challenges. It's awesome. Playing through all the challenges here turns Zelda into a kind of condensed micro-version of the game. So awesome.
Mario Bros - Meh. I've talked before about how I was exposed to Super Mario Bros and SMB2 before the original Mario Bros, and so it always felt so archaic to me. I could never really get into it.
Pinball - Wow, I played this game a lot as kid. A lot! It was one of the small stack of games that was at the summer cottage that my step-dad's family would meet up at, so it got a lot of summertime play. I used to be pretty good at this one, but now I'm struggling to do much of anything. I still have love for this game though.
Super Mario Bros - I mean this is a straight classic. Of course. It's still not my favorite SMB game. Even among the NES trilogy it'd be my least favorite unless you count Lost Levels. But it's still a great game and a lot of fun. And it fits the NES Remix thing so well because it's a game we've presumably all played a million times so turning it into bite-sized challenges just makes sense.
Wrecking Crew - Meh. It's weird but I really have a hard time getting into these super early single-screen style NES arcade type games. I say weird because I had an Atari 2600 before I had a NES and played lots of games like that, but I think once I got a NES I wanted everything to be Super Mario Bros or Zelda, so I just don't connect with these kind of games as much.
So back in 2006 I was just getting back into gaming again after taking a bit of a hiatus while I was in college. Remember those commercials for the PSP where Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" showed a hip 20-something dude using all the cool media functions of the new device? It had sold me. I was like yeah - this new gaming system isn't just for games! It's for playing music and watching videos and being a hip 20-something dude! So after my wife and I had a rather successful yard sale I set out to Gamestop to pick up a PSP. Except, when I got there and looked at the game selection, I instead bought a Nintendo DS... because there were Castlevania games on DS. I think I made the right decision, right?
But that was just the beginning of my reinvigorated love of gaming. And at some point not too much later, I picked up a PSP as well. And to be honest, in those days before I had a smart phone, the media functions were pretty cool. I seriously lugged that thing with me to work to use as an MP3 player in my car. So whatever. But let's be real: the PSP library was never close to the quality or quantify of the DS. It was just no contest. And yet there were a small (seriously small) handful of PSP games that I loved and couldn't play on DS.
Puzzle games and portable systems go hand-in-hand. Ever since Tetris was bundled with the original Game Boy, it just seemed like a natural fit. And sadly there was no Tetris on PSP, so I had to seek out other replacements. I remember playing Klax on PSP a lot and really trying to force myself into having a good time. It didn't really work, though. But eventually I found Lumines.
If there's one word I'd use to describe Lumines, it's "zen." It's the sort of puzzle game I play to zone out and relax. It's almost meditative. Because it was developed by Mizuguchi - creator of such cult classics as Space Channel 5, Rez, and so on - there's a strong rhythm element to it. Basically, there's dropping blocks and you're trying to match them up to make squares of colors (pretty typical falling-block puzzler stuff), except the hook here is that there's essentially a metronome crossing the screen horizontally and the squares only clear when it reaches them. This sets up the potential for some crazy combos and creates the peril of needing to keep to a certain rhythm so as not to overload the screen. It's good stuff.
Anyway, when Lumines Remastered was announced on Switch last year I said I'm totally gonna buy this... when it inevitably gets a physical release. So here we are. And I'm thrilled to have a new version of Lumines to play on hardware better than the PSP. There's a bunch of modes and stuff to unlock but I'm really paying it no mind. All I want is that simple zen mode. Nothing fancy. I just zone out. A typical round for me now is around seventeen minutes, but back when I was 'good' at this game, I'd play for well over a half-hour per round.
It's totally the opposite of say, Tetris 99 which I've been super into lately. Rather than competing against others and playing really competitive minded, I'm just spacing out and losing myself in the colors and sounds. Though I did turn the vibration off because frankly it's just too loud for my taste when playing late at night. Anyway. Great game. Super glad it's on Switch now.
Over the weekend I decided to pop in Shantae: 1/2-Genie Hero, because, well, I've been all over the place lately and seem to be having trouble focusing on one game for too long (with the exception of Tetris 99). Anyway, I've been in a bit of a Wii U mood lately and I had the "Risky Beats Edition" box sitting there on the shelf calling my name. The last time I played a Shantae game it was the original GBC game well over a decade ago. I remember liking it. I'm generally a fan of WayForward's platformers. And I do respect that they've managed to turn Shantae into a full fledged franchise now.
I'll tell you this: 1/2-Genie Hero looks fantastic. Really, what a great looking game. We can talk all day about how sprite-based games will always hold a special place in our nostalgic hearts, but when done right - like this - 2D HD is just gorgeous. And WayForward certainly has a great track record for these kinds of games. I totally adore their remake of Ducktales for instance. The music is also top notch. Did Vert do this soundtrack as well? He must have. I should google that but I'm lazy. I'll have to open up the soundtrack which came bundled with the game. It's got a really good sort of jazzy score which I wasn't quite expecting. Like... smooth jazz. It was almost jarring for a minute there, but once you ease into the game it does fit.
The game itself I'm sort of mixed on. The pure platforming is wonderful. Shantae is responsive and the jumping and attacking is tightly performed. I also dug the upgrades which let you turn into other creatures. The monkey rules with his super high jumps and ability to wall-climb. The levels are fun and well designed and the boss battles are awesome. The boss battles are really where the graphics are a total treat.
HOWEVER, I was sort of instantly put off by the hub world. You have to talk to NPC's to figure out quests or whatever, and that's all fine and good I guess. It gives you a chance to buy upgrades and stuff. But... man, I hate that quests involve you replaying certain levels over again with different objectives. I just don't really care for this set up. It makes it feel a bit like forced padding the game out. I'd much rather just play a level, go back to the hub, play the next level, in a more linear fashion. I don't know. So while the actual gameplay was fun, I felt it was kind of a drag to then go back and play a level over again. I would have preferred a shorter game with less repeat assets. So something more akin to the Ducktales remake which I can beat quickly, but it never outstays its welcome.
Oh well. It's a good game, but because of the forcd deja vu, I'll probably take it slower and in pieces instead of just running through all at once.
Admission time: I've never played Super Metroid prior to this week. Which is weird. I had dabbled in the original Metroid as a kid (and later absolutely LOVED the Zero Mission remake on GBA). I adored Metroid II on Game Boy back in the day (and somewhat ironically, found the Samus Returns remake kind of meh on 3DS). I thought Metroid Fusion ruled. And yet somehow I had managed to never play the one that general consensus calls the best of the 2D series. So this week I decided to rectify that and grabbed Super Metroid on the WiiU Virtual Console thanks to a birthday gift card.
The first thing that grabbed me was that opening. Not the gameplay opening, I'm talking abut the cutscene before you even start playing which briefly retells the story of Metroid and Metroid II. It's just so... cool. The stark red lettering on the black screen simply stating "1994... Metroid 3." Oh and that's another thing - METROID 3. I love that in the opening credits that's what this game is referred to. I don't know why, but I feel like that's a lot cooler title than "Super" Metroid. For whatever reason it bugged me when ongoing series had games that just plunked the word "Super" before their new SNES entries. See: Castlevania IV. Anyway, I digress. That opening cutscene is so badass with its reimagining of the Mother Brain encounter or the black and white palette of Metroid II.
Then there's the actual playable intro which is fantastic. And I like how Super Metroid really does kind of pick up where Metroid II left off. There's a brief battle with Ridley before you have to flee the planet before it self-destructs. There's plenty of time, but that countdown clock doesn't let you feel like there is. Great stuff.
I'm enjoying the game proper now. I'm only two or three hours in, I'd reckon. But it's good. I don't really need to tell anybody that Super Metroid is good. You see it so often near those big lists of best games of all time. A part of me wishes I had played it back in 1994, as back then it must have felt earth-shattering. I mean this was before Symphony Of The Night. In a way it's hard for me to put myself in a mindset where I haven't played SOTN to death; or where I haven't played Zero Mission and Fusion. So as much as I can enjoy and appreciate Super Metroid right now, it's just not going to hit me with the same level of 'wow' as it would have in 1994. That is what it is.
But this is classic Metroid... I'm feeling lost and finding little secret areas and upgrades and stumbling upon unexpected boss battles. The music is excellent, naturally. It does a great job of giving off that isolation feeling - for better or worse. As a thirteen year old in 1994 I would have had so much more time to explore and experiment for hours on end. Obviously the inclusion of a map is helpful, though the game can still feel plenty confusing even with it at times.
Whenever I play Metroid games I get tinges of the Alien franchise - which is incidentally, a huge huge franchise for me. And that's by design of course. There's no denying the nods to Alien in these games. If I had unlimited time and resources, I'd love to try to write a book about the influence the Alien films have had on video games. But I don't. So somebody else should write it so I can read it, haha.
Back when I was heavily collecting Game Boy carts - about a decade ago now - I remember somehow getting hold of a copy of Pokemon Puzzle Challenge on GBC. I knew nothing about it at the time. I was a pretty casual fan of the Pokemon brand at the time. But I've always been fond of puzzle games, so I gave it a try. And I remember not really caring for it back then. Now what I didn't realize was that this was a game that has many titles. It's actually the portable version of Pokemon Puzzle League on N64, which is part of the Puzzle League series... also known as Panel De Pon outside of the US. And those games have been localized under other titles such as Tetris Attacks on SNES. Anyway, I vividly remember what my complaint was at the time: I didn't really like that the blocks rose up from the floor rather than dropped from the ceiling. Pretty basic stuff.
I've been super into puzzle games again lately. When I first picked up a Switch in 2017 it was with Breath Of The Wild. But I'm pretty sure the second game I bought was Puyo Puyo Tetris, and for a while there, I referred to the Switch as "my Puyo Tetris player." But things got way more ridiculous when Tetris 99 launched earlier this year. I'm closing in on a hundred hours now. So while perusing the 3DS eShop, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge caught my eye. Here was a nice little GBC puzzler I could pick up for easy portable play for just $4. Seemed like a good deal. And hey, if I still didn't like it... $4 is like what it costs to rent a movie through Amazon. Not a giant loss.
So I fired it up, and yeah this is a good time. I have a buddy who says this is still one of the most played N64 games in his household. I can kind of see that - at least with multiplayer involved. It took me a little while to wrap my head around the whole "swap two gems" thing using the little onscreen cursor. But it does start to feel okay after a bit of play. I mostly messed around in the Marathon mode to get myself situated. Then I switched over to Challenge mode which seems to be the main 'campaign' mode if you will. I was able to clear the Easy mode with no problem on my first attempt. (And Easy is the default). But bumping it up to Normal seemed like a pretty sizeable jump in difficulty. Luckily, you can save your progress so I can keep coming back to it.
I don't think that I'm some new Puzzle League convert or anything. It doesn't quite grab me the way something like Tetris or Puzzle Fighter does. But it's definitely a fun little puzzle game. I actually think my wife might like it more than I do, so it was at least worth grabbing a copy. Sort of a bummer that the Game Boy and GBC games weren't realeased on the Wii U's Virtual Console, as I kind of prefer having digital games there (for the ability to play on TV or the Gamepad), but really something like this game is kind of perfect to have on the 3DS that I can throw in a pocket or bag and take with me.
I feel like I can be pretty fickle with Mega Man games. I almost can't explain what makes me like one and not another. But I move in mysterious ways.
I recently replayed Mega Man X for the umpteenth time and talked about how it remains a top tier game for me. It's easily my favorite Mega Man game of all time. It must be in my list of top ten SNES games (if I took the time to draft such a thing). It is pretty much a perfect game to me. And yet oddly, I missed out on the majority of the other X games. I did play X4 - and I loved that game to pieces. Not as many pieces as X1, mind. But still. That's a fantastic sequel. And then, I don't know. I played one of the bad PS2 games and it was bad.
But y'know, these Legacy Collections on Switch have had me jumping back into old favorites, and also finally getting around to experiencing some of the games I've missed. And so it seemed like X2 should make me happy. Reviews I've read from around the time the game was published all seem positive, with the consensus being that it's a lot like the first X game. And that might be the case on a superficial level. The graphics are great. Seriously great. Capcom was really pushing the hardware with these crazy vector things thrown in. And the music is good. But... something feels pretty off to me. I don't mean the controls, because those are just as tight as the first game. It's something less obvious.
Something - or rather, some little THINGS - seem to just not sit well with me on this one. It's like there's some great steps forward with the visuals, and the bosses here are pretty cool. Not quite as cool as in the first game, but there's good ones like that gator dude who hides in the water. But there's also some steps back. Some may praise this new abundance of story, but not me. I don't need a lot of story in my Mega Man games. I've been a fan of the series since the late 80's and never once have I cared about reading Mega Man comics or watching the anime. I just don't care. I actually think it's cooler to leave a lot of it up to the visual clues in the game. IE: how the original robot bosses were all functional worker units. But I don't need a bunch of dialogue.
Having said that, there was plenty of dialogue and story in X4, and I really enjoyed that one. But really, I enjoyed the GAME more than X2. The level design, the platforming and so on. X2 has so many sections that are instadeath and it bugs me. It starts to make the game less fun for me because it becomes about level memorization rather than adapting to the situation. At the beginning of the um... wire-robot-thing's stage there's a part where you need to keep jumping to these vertical platforms in a wind storm and they're over... SPIKES. So yeah, lots of instadeath. Then later in the centipede-robot-dude's stage there's these large blocks that can crush you. Then there's a stage with lava... eh, it's all blurring in my mind as a bunch of un-fun stages. They just don't have the same kind of stage design as in the first game where I had fun going back to them to look for secrets and upgrades.
I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting Mega Manned out right now so I'm being overly harsh. But yeah. I'm not into this one.
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved my Game Boy. I got it for Christmas in 1989, and that thing was a reliable little gaming paradise for a good decade. I suppose it made sense as a kid who went between two homes. Though I had different consoles at each house, the Game Boy could come with me wherever I went. I never had to stop playing whatever game I was into based on a schedule. And the reason I bring this up here is because one of my top tier Game Boy games was Final Fantasy Adventure, which stood as the best Zelda game on Game Boy until Link's Awakening finally rolled around.
It wasn't until I was much much older that I realized that Final Fantasy Adventure wasn't a Final Fantasy game at all. In Japan it was the first game in the Mana series. And it would be a long time before I knew that Secret Of Mana on SNES was actually the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure. I had certainly heard of that game back in the day, but never did play it. Those SNES RPG's were generally pricey. But what made them more prohibitive was just local availability. I don't remember ever seeing Secret Of Mana in a store. So even if I thought magazine screenshots were pretty, I never had the chance to play it at the time.
When the Seiken Densetsu collection was released on Switch, I knew I had to get it. You see, I had played the Final Fantasy Adventure remake on GBA when it was released (and re-localized as Sword Of Mana), but it just felt kind of 'off' to me. It didn't quite FEEL like FF Adventure. There was something so perfect about that original Game Boy version. And while Densetsu collection would be in Japanese, well, at least I'd be able to re-play FF Adventure the way I (mostly) remembered it. I knew the game itself enough that the language barrier shouldn't be a problem.
The other reason I wanted the collection was so that I could FINALLY play Secret Of Mana. I mean, beautiful 16-bit sequel to one of my favorite GB games. C'mon! Of course in this case the language thing will be a bigger barrier. So obviously I knew I'd need to follow a walkthrough. Which... is fine. But it does kind of take away some of the fun of the game as it strips out some of the natural discovery and so on. But whatever. At this point, I guess I'd say it was more about EXPERIENCING the game rather than really PLAYING it properly.
And so I did that. I got to experience Secret Of Mana, at least for a few hours. And just superficially, I was sort of mixed. Graphically, the game is pretty stunning. There's some crazy Mode 7 stuff going on, and the color palette is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is excellent. But the combat itself... kind of clunky. It's funny because I had this same complaint with the Sword Of Mana remake on GBA. So it must be a series thing. Though I never had that problem with FF Adventure. So I don't know. I also found it kind of annoying that things would continue to attack you even if you were going through the animation of opening an item chest, or talking to a NPC. But that's minor, since if you're aware of it you can plan for it.
I played long enough to recruit Primm and had a good time with a second attacker to help out. The strategy planning menu is pretty cool actually. And since all of the menus are in minimal English, and mostly use pictures, it's not too bad to figure out. But the NPC conversions were rough. I mean, you can figure out how to stay at an inn or buy some stuff. But at one point I met a guy with a cannon and I thought I said "no, I don't want to ride in your cannon," but apparently I said, "sure, fire me someplace far away and since I'm following a walkthrough I'll have no idea where you just sent me and now I'm confused, thanks." Yeah, that happened. And then I got sort of bogged down with this needing a walkthrough to play the game and I didn't really feel like figuring out where the hell I was. So I just kind of stopped playing out of frustration. Oh well.
I remember a bunch of my friends were really into the NBA Jam remake back when it came out, but I never gave it a spin. I'm not sure why. I was super into the original game back in the day. I can't even guess how many hours I put into the vanilla SNES version or its Tournament Edition upgrade. I think back fondly to finding all those hidden characters. Great stuff. So I'm glad to finally be trying this one... nearly a decade after release.
My wife and I played some co-op, opting to be the Celtics naturally. It's cool because of the time it came out, we got to relive the glory years of the Pierce, Rondo, KG, and Ray Allen era. So nostalgia on top of nostalgia. We did however find that this game plays a hell of a lot like the arcade original - which has some pretty aggressive AI. It turns out that I am OUT OF PRACICE. And my wife had never played NBA Jam at all shockingly, so this was an uphill climb.
We started out playing against the Lakers and Kobe did not make things easy on us. It was embarrassing. So we thought we'd try against some less legendary teams. But it turns out that, no, we're just not that good right now. We need practice. But it's still a blast even when you're losing. We seriously were discussing some defense strategies before bed, which is no doubt a sign of a good game. Right?
For me, I was thrilled to find that despite the visual upgrade and newer rosters, this game is classic NBA Jam through and through. It plays the same. Feels the same. It has some new commentary, but really, it's a total nostalgia bomb. I did find that I really needed to use a Pro Controller instead of the sideways Wii remote. But once I did that, the controls felt really good. We'll definitely be spending more time with this one.