I've been in this weird mode where I'm having trouble focusing on a game right now. I started Trials Of Mana, got distracted and started playing Final Fantasy Adventure instead. Both games were games I was into. Yet. I don't know. I couldn't stick with them right now. I THINK it's because I've been watching Splatoon 2 videos lately and in the mood to play that again, but I had to order a copy since I couldn't find any local so I'm just waiting on that to arrive.
In the meantime, I started ANOTHER game. I figured something light to just mess around with. So... I downloaded Toki Tori on 3DS. I remember this game from my hardcore GBC collecting days. But I don't remember spending much time with it. Go figure.
Anyway, in the years since GBC, Toki Tori has been remade on all kinds of hardware. I was going to grab it on the Switch eShop, but it was only $2 on the 3DS eShop. I had some eShop credit to burn, and let's be honest, I get bored of puzzle platformers fairly quickly, so why spend more than I have to?
So Toki Tori is a puzzle-platform thing. You're a little bird and you have to go around and collect all the eggs in each level. You're given some items to use, but they have limited uses. So there's a right way and wrong way to complete a level, and you can easily screw yourself over. For instance, you might have three bridges and one warp. If you use the warp in the wrong place, you're stuck. Luckily there's a rewind feature that I'm using a lot.
So far I'm into the third world, which means I've beaten 24 levels. It's pretty fun. More fun that Trine 4, although certainly not as good looking. More fun than Boxboy + Boxgirl... so far. We'll see. Like I said, I LIKE puzzle-platform games, but I don't love them, and I tend to burn out quick. Why do I do this to myself?
I changed my mind. Or, I got distracted. All this thinking about Final Fantasy Adventure made me want to play that instead of Trials Of Mana. Sure, sure, there's all the nostalgia for me. I loved this game as a kid. And as a teenager. I remember playing this at the beach when I was like twelve, and I remember playing it during a free period in high school. Final Fantasy Adventure is awesome.
But I wondered if the nostalgia was clouding my memories? NOPE. It's still awesome. In fact, I'll go on to make a couple of maybe bold statements. First off, I think Final Fantasy Adventure is way better than its GBA remake, Sword Of Mana. And now that I've played at least some of its two SNES sequels, I'll even say that I prefer this original Game Boy game over those as well. There's something really pure and great about this first game. The combat seems more streamlined. The plot and progression as well.
Case in point, I played maybe two hours and had no trouble figuring out where to go or what to do next. Combat was easy to get used to. Grinding felt fun. I'm around LVL 12 now I believe, and am working with the dwarves in the caves to help me make some silver armor. Good times.
When I was a kid, Final Fantasy Adventure was one of my favorite games. My Game Boy went everywhere with me, and FFA was one of the games that I just kept going back to. I can remember playing it upon release in 1991, and I remember still having it in my backpack when I was in high school in the late 90's.
Although Final Fantasy Adventure began life as a loose FF gaiden, it was actually super secretly the beginning of its own series - one that'd be known as the Mana series in the US. The second game showed up on SNES as Secret Of Mana, while the third game, Seiken Dentsetsu 3 - also on SNES - would never leave Japan.
In the early 2000's, Final Fantasy Adventure received a remake on the GBA under the new title Sword Of Mana, to further remove itself from the FF brand, and to really cement itself as the first Mana game. And Secret Of Mana went down in history as a SNES cult-classic. But Seiken Dentetsu 3 remained a Japan exclusive for nearly twenty-five years.
In fact, I was so convinced that SD3 would never come to the states that I actually imported the Collection Of Mana just so I could have a playable version of FF Adventure on Switch. And then the unthinkable happened: Collection Of Mana was released in the US. And along with it came the very first official English translation of SD3, now given the western title Trials Of Mana.
Around the same time it was also announced that Trials Of Mana would be getting a full on 3D remake on Switch. But WHO CARES? In my mind that remake would have been quasi-exciting if it was the only way to play a version of the game in English. But Dudes! The original game was now in English, and fans have been clamoring for such a thing for 24 years. I mean, c'mon!
So yeah. Now I have the US version of Collection Of Mana, and I'm finally delving into Trials Of Mana.
So far, it certainly looks and feels like a sequel to Secret Of Mana. It's got that same visual style; it's got the multiple party members, and so on. This time around you have six characters to choose from - one will be your main character, and two will be supports.
I decided to pick Charlotte as my starter because I like the name. And I've played about an hour of it, I guess. It's a cool game, though starts a little slow like many RPG's of its time. Although I vastly prefer turn-based battles in RPG's, it's a little refreshing when I mix up sub-genres and get a little variety in my gaming.
I wish I had more to say than just "I like it so far," but I like it so far.
Modern sports games are really good. I mean if you haven't noticed. They're super good. And at times, that makes going back to old ones really difficult. All the incremental improvements each year, it's a slow march toward perfection.
The most recent basketball game I played is NBA 2K18, and it was pretty great. There was a (kinda) interesting story mode, and realistic graphics, and smooth gameplay. So why go back to an old game like NCAA Basketball from 1992? Well, it's much easier to appreciate where we are if we remind ourselves where we were.
Admittedly, an old 16-bit basketball game like this is pretty easy to just pick up and play. There's not a lot of controls to learn. You just play. And I had a good time doing so.
The big thing with this game is the presentation. This one actually surprised me because it's not your basic horizontal court. Nope. Instead it's a rotating court with the camera always behind your players. In that sense, it feels fairly modern. Although the spritework (and digitized cheerleaders) certainly are reminders that this is still 1992. But I'm impressed. It ALMOST looks like it could have been an early N64 game. ALMOST.
Of course there are sacrifices to be made. There's no background whatsoever. The court is just kind of floating in an abyss. And the framerate does chug a fair amount. But hey, it was fun to go and play this game for a half-hour. I could appreciate the game for that.
I like the Kirby games quite a bit. I mean, I'm not a huge FAN, but I definitely gravitate towards these games than say the Yoshi series or definitely the Donkey Kong Country games or whatever. And the whole series started here, on my beloved Game Boy back in 1992.
The original Kirby's Dream Land is a quaint game. First of all, Kirby doesn't have the ability clone ability that he'd be known for, as that feature premiered a year later in Kirby's Adventure on NES. And second of all, Kirby's Dream Land is insanely short. I beat the whole thing in about an hour on my first attempt tonight. But it was a nice way to spend an hour.
The game only features four main levels, then a boss gauntlet, and then a final boss. That said, the four levels are decently varied. The four boss battles are fun! The battle against the tree is iconic. Then there's a sort of puzzle-platformer boss battle that seems to be a Lolo crossover. Then there's a SHMUP boss battle, which rules! Then a weird cloud thing that I can't describe, but it's a fun battle.
Once you beat the four stages, there's a gauntlet against those four bosses again and then you face King Dedede who's this penguin dude. And he's actually pretty tricky - it took me three or four tries to get his patterns down and be patient enough to beat him.
Anyway, apparently there's a New Game Plus, but I won't bother with that (yet). But yeah. I imagine I may have been let down back in '92 had I paid $30 or $40 for a game that lasted an hour. But at the same time it's such a super impressive game, both visually and in the unique controls. So it's hard to hate on it at all. It's cute and quaint and fun. So my $4 3DS Virtual Console purchase was worth it. I don't know why I sold that Wii Kirby Collection back in the day, but this series is really good.
I have some friends who are super into pinball video games. I've always been sort of whatever on them. Like for the most part, I tend to think pinball is pinball. If you've played one, you've played them all. There have been some exceptions for me, though. Like I can't help but have total nostalgia for the original NES Pinball. And I loved Aliens Vs Pinball, but mostly because I love Alien franchise.
But continuing on my quest to play the highest rated game in each issue of Nintendo Power/Nintendo Force, I recently picked up Star Wars Pinball as it was on sale rather cheap. I wasn't really frothing at the mouth to start playing, because again, pinball is pinball.
But I fired it up last night figuring I'd just see if it caught my attention. I ended up playing it all night.
Star Wars Pinball is awesome. MOSTLY. I say mostly because there are a couple of stages that aren't pinball tables at all. Like, one is a faux shmup stage and another is a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader. These feel really out of place to me, and trying to control these sections using the default pinball controls feels stupid.
But that's a small complaint, as those levels aren't the norm. The actual pinball tables are great, and super fun. The fact that there's a campaign mode where you play through tables, and each one has three goals to achieve makes the game feel super playable. Like, I'm not just aiming for "a high score," I'm aiming for specific goals. This makes me feel like I'm progressing, which keeps things fresh.
I'm having way more fun with this game than I expected. I finished Act I or whatever it's called. Though I didn't 100% those, as on some tables I got one of the three achievements, and on some I did get all three. So there's reason to go back later.
The amount of content in this release is staggering. I guess I was used to Aliens Vs Pinball which was three tables. Star Wars Pinball is its own gigantic thing. There's so many tables with so much variety, it's insane.
I doubt I'll focus exclusively on this for too long. But it's an awesome pinball game, and I'll be keeping it around so I can continue to come back to it when the pinball urge hits me. This is a quality Switch release, and I hope Zen makes more dedicated releases like this one in the future.
Back in the day, Game Boy was my jam. I had absolutely loved the original Final Fantasy Legend game. Even knowing now that the Legend games weren't actually FF games, but rather the "Saga" series, I don't care. TO ME, they were new Final Fantasy games on GB, and that meant a lot.
When I was in elementary school, this kid on the playground told me that he had Final Fantasy Legend II - which seemed impossible, because it didn't exist yet. Well, it just didn't exist in the US yet. See, his mom had gone to Japan for some reason and brought him back some GB carts - one of which was Final Fantasy Legend II. I somehow convinced him to trade me that cart, and though I was confused why it said "Saga 2," sure enough, it played and looked just like Final Fantasy Legend.
Of course I was a kid, and I couldn't read Japanese, so I had no idea what was going on. But the story sticks with me because it was my first import game. It was also the first time I realized that video games were global, and that most of the ones I liked were made in Japan, not where I lived. Interesting.
Anyway, I now possess a US cartridge, and I MIGHT be playing it for the first time in English. I know I replayed Final Fantasy Legend, and Legend III about a decade ago. But I'm not sure if I replayed the second one at the same time. Unfortunately, I don't have the cool manual/guide that came with it, but I do have my trusty issue #27 of Nintendo Power which has some maps and stuff.
This game, like the other "Legend" games is weird. For instance, your stats do increase as you grind, but I don't see a discernible level. So I don't know what level I am; I can only look at stats. So far I have found 15 Magi, out of 77 I believe, so I'm like a fifth of the way, progress-wise.
My party consists of a human (NOIS, because you can only name your party members with four characters); two mutants named Toxi and Jean (Grey); and a robot named Ash, because Alien rules. RIP Ian Holm.
Anyway, this game is fairly great - just like I remember the series. It's weird, and unique. But it's also massive and fun. It's amazing to me how we got such quality JRPG's on the GB, and how some of them - like this series - seems unloved, or at least rarely remembered. The Legend games did get DS remakes in Japan, but in the US they seem to remain curious lost to time.
I've made some more progress, but I'm feeling mixed on my experience playing Final Fantasy Legend II. On the positive, I think this is a truly impressive game, especially given the time period, and hardware. However, it's also a truly old school RPG. And it feels way more hardcore than its closest contemporary, Final Fantasy IV (AKA "Final Fantasy II") which was released on SNES the very same month as this game was in the US.
Even after the four or five hours I've put into Legend II, there's a lot of stuff I don't really get. A lot of stuff I'm not sure about. Like, the whole leveling thing is weird since it's just stat increases to individual stats. It's not truly gaining levels. So I'm never really sure if I'm grinding enough or way under-leveled. I got to Giant Town and the armor there is absurdly expensive. Is that because I SHOULD be grinding enough to afford it, or is it there to almost laugh at you because it's prohibitive? And what's the deal with upgrading the robot? And these weapons break, really? And why can't my human use the rapier? I mean he CAN, but it seems to miss 100% of the time? What's up with that?
I could have really benefited from a full strategy guide for this one, but alas none was ever made. The game did come with a starter guide, but I don't have that. All I have is my Nintendo Power #27, which helps a bit... with maps anyway.
I feel like the original Legend game was pretty hardcore too, but at least a bit more straightforward. Maybe because it wasn't as vast. This is the sort of old school RPG you're probably meant to spend A LOT of hours with. In that regard, it feels even meatier than Final Fantasy IV did to me. At least in FF IV it feels like there's a pretty linear path to follow.
I left off after I shrunk done and started exploring Ki's body, but I feel very under-leveled at the moment.
Overall, I feel like Legend II is not as good as the original or the third game in the trilogy. But it is an amazingly impressive game. And one I'm glad that I played a bit of. And in fairness to the game itself, I might just not be in the mood for a huge 8-bit RPG at the moment, which is certainly not the game's fault. But I like this game, and it further cements my love of Final Fantasy as a whole, including all the weird spin-offs like the Legend series.
The Trine series is one that I've always heard good things about in passing, but never really paid any mind to. To be honest, I didn't even really know what the games were. They looked like basic platformers to me - albeit with pretty graphics. But that's all I really knew. But after reading a very positive review in Nintendo Force, I added Trine 4 to my Amazon wishlist, and recently saw it at an especially low price and grabbed a copy.
It's kind of fun going into a game not really knowing what to expect. At this point all I knew was that it was a platformer with puzzle elements. Having now played for an hour or so, I can say that it's nothing mind-blowing, but it IS fun.
So Trine 4 reminds me a bit of a modernized take on like The Lost Vikings or something like that. Yes, it's a platformer. And yes, it has puzzle elements. But what's neat is that you constantly switch between three party members, each with their own skill set which will aid you in the puzzle solving.
I'll be honest, I don't care AT ALL about a story in a game like this. So I've skipped every cut scene. And I don't know the characters names. I don't care.
There's a wizard who can pick up objects and move them with telepathy, and he can create a box out of thin air. There's an archer who plays like she's in a 2D Assassin's Creed game who can shoot ropes. And there's a little warrior dude who can attack with a sword, or deflect objects with his shield. These are your tools. Now go solve puzzles.
It's too early to really tell, but it SEEMS to me that puzzles don't have a "right" solution, so much as just you need to figure out how to proceed using any of these skills. That's how it comes across to me right now anyway. And I'm having a good time with it. Few of the puzzles have been true brain busters, though some have taken me a few minutes rather than just breezing through. And it's interesting to have boss battles in a game like this.
So yeah, I'm not in love with the game or anything, but I'm having fun and it's been a nice surprise so far. A google search says this game is about twelve hours, so we'll see if it gets compelling or overstays its welcome. But so far, so good.
Trine 4 actually works well for what it is. Like I said, I skip all the cut scenes because I don't care. But as a pure puzzle platformer, I like it. It's a nice game to fire up for an hour before bed, make a little progress and then that's it.
As opposed to something like say Boxboy + Boxgirl which I played a while ago, this is a better fit for me. It's more interesting. It looks better. The puzzles are more interesting but less annoying.
There have been a couple spots where I felt stumped and it took me a little while to figure out how to proceed. But I've never been frustrated or annoyed. Again, this is nothing ground-breaking. I don't see myself delving further into the series or anything. But I like it for what it is.
The fatigue has set in. It's apparent to me that I LIKE puzzle-platformers, but I don't love them. They just tend to overstay their welcome with me. Like you're doing the same stuff over and over again. Sure some puzzles in Trine 4 have been tricky or satisfying. But sometimes it just feels like, how many times can I move a few boxes around to make a platform I can climb to get to the next screen?
Case in point: I got to a boss battle that involves a witch's cauldron. You need to rearrange mirror boxes to deflect light into the cauldron. Fine. I did it once. Then it rearranged and I did it twice. Then again. The fourth time it asked me to complete this same task but in a SLIGHTLY different way I just felt like giving the game the middle finger. I'm done with this.
Back when Super Mario Maker was released, it actually sold me on the Wii U. I remember listening to the Idle Thumbs podcast and being so interested in this game. Hearing those dudes who were all working in the game biz talk about the potential of this Mario engine just blew my mind. And finally I saw that the Wii U was unique and could offer experiences that other consoles couldn't.
I told my wife that I thought we should get a Wii U, and she was all aboard for Mario Kart 8, so we headed to Target and... realized we had some house upgrades we should pay for first, so we ended up doing that instead.
So all these years later, while everyone is talking about the latest update to Mario Maker 2, I finally popped in my copy of the first game and my wife and I messed around with it for a while over the weekend.
It certainly seems like a game with near endless replayability. First we spent a little time messing around with making short levels to get the hang of it. I found it really cool switching between the 8-bit look and the HD look. Very neat. But really, we'd need to spend a lot more time to make anything really interesting.
We seemed to have more fun running through some of the pre-made levels in the little 10 Challenge mode. Most of these levels were pretty short, but they were always interesting and actually reminded me a fair deal of NES Remix (which is a good thing!).
When I have the time, I mostly want to check out some of the user made levels to download. A big selling point for me on this game was that people like Derek Yu and Igarashi had made content for Mario Maker. So I'll get to that. Someday. But for now, I'm just glad to have this one in my collection and know that we can come back to it when we have time.
I guess Trine 4 is NOT keeping my interest because instead I pulled Mario Maker off of my shelf. It's funny because the original reason I was really interested in MM was because people like Derek Yu had created levels for it and I wanted to play those levels, made by developers I enjoyed. I figured I could view them as mini indie games or something.
So I finally downloaded Derek Yu's level and... my goodness. This "level" is beyond difficult. And here's the juxtaposition - as interested as I am in these levels made by actual developers... I hate this kind of sadistic level design. I just don't have the patience. And possibly I don't possess the skill. Oh well.
So then I messed around with the 100 Level Challenge, which gives you 100 lives to play through 100 random user levels. It was kind of fun, but the quality is all over the place of course. And after fifteen or so levels I realized that way too many people are interested in making the most chaotic experience possible. Not my cup of tea.
But alas, I found something I found truly interesting here. There are "Event" levels, which are officially sanctioned Nintendo promotions. And they are actually super cool. I like reading the little blurbs about each one and why they exist. And I like the deep dive into the Nintendo's history. For instance one level was a tribute to Super Mario Land - a game often kind of buried by Nintendo themselves. Another level was a promotion for Splatoon. It's neat.
So I've started playing through some of these levels, and I kind of have the goal of beating them all. We'll see how that goes. The Mario Land level was a cool throwback, but ultimately very short (and easy). Same goes for the Super Mario Bros 2 level, but appreciated the charm. The Splatoon level was awesome. And I've been trying to beat the 2017 NWC level, but it gets pretty tricky toward the end - a section involving jumping over some spinning blades via bopping a flying koopa.
Ultimately, Mario Maker just cements my belief that the Wii U is a paradise for modern-retro gaming. The Mario Maker toolkit along with releases like NES Remix or Nintendo Land and things like that are these awesome experiences that feel like they're perfect for solo or multiplayer and short bursts of gaming. In a way, it recalls he arcade experience. The Wii U is an awesome and misunderstood beast.
I think I (briefly) played Drill Dozer around 2009 or so, and I didn't really remember much about it. In fact, in my mind I thought it was developed by Treasure. Mostly because I remembered it being (A) a very graphically impressive game, and (B) a game structured around a gameplay gimmick that I wasn't overly fond of. That tends to sum up most Treasure games for me. And replaying Drill Dozer now, it seems to also sum that one up even though it was actually developed by Game Freak AKA The Pokemon People.
Over the years I've heard Drill Dozer mentioned numerous times on various hidden gems type lists. And most recently, I read a glowing review of it from an old Nintendo Power magazine, which I collect and tend to go through and play some of the highest rated games for the heck of it. Amazingly, Drill Dozer is on the Wii U Virtual Console, so I figured hey, why not?
It is a good looking game, by the way. While the GBA is often thought of as a portable SNES, I don't know - this looks way too good to be a SNES game. It's super impressive. And it's cute, like most Game Freak games would be.
That gimmick, though. Ugh. So you ride around in this tiny little mech thing with a drill on it. And you can - you guessed it - drill stuff. The R button drills forward, and the L button drills back. So yeah. You're basically playing the game as an electric screwdriver.
At first this seems interesting. Y'know, kind of solving logic puzzles with this device. But soon enough it became a total drag for me. How exciting is it to stand there and turn a crank to open a door? How exciting is it to then go through that door and turn another crank to shut that door? Wow.
Not to mention you start each level powered down. So you run around these maze-like levels, looking for doors and stuff to find a couple of parts to power your drill up and get to the end.
I finally gave up at the second boss battle when I realized that this truly would be the full game. Attacking bosses are all just variations on drilling either forward or back. I guess there's strategy to it, but it's not exactly thrilling for me. Oh well.