By lordofultima 2 Comments
Since I got back into classic/retro gaming late this year, I've had a ton of fun playing games that weren't from 2012, in the year 2012. Rather than make a confusing GOTY list that encompasses both old and new games, I figured I'd separate them. So the only criteria necessary for a game to go into this list, is for it not to be released in 2012. Here we go!
10. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Kirby's Adventure has lot of things going for it. Multiple saves, multiple worlds, multiple exits within stages, 25 abilities that can be absorbed from enemies with the copy ability...you could even absorb multiple enemies and get an ability lottery that could net you broken late-game powers early on. You'd think that Kirby's Adventure is ahead of its time, but in reality, it came out two years after Super Mario World. It explains a lot of things, as some of the late era NES games brought in renovations found in newer consoles. Sure it had a fair amount of slowdown, but it was such a beautiful game with tons of animation and a nice color palette, that you can forgive those things. Even if it's crippling slowdown at times. And besides, it has some of the best world names of all time. Orange Ocean? Vegetable Valley? Grape Gardens? Yogurt Yard? ICE CREAM ISLAND?! I'm not sure about "Butter Building" though, they could have called it "Margarine Mansion" after all. The game also had a ton of mini-games that were actually fun, like the quick draw, egg eating, and crane game (a crane game, fun? imagine that). The bosses all had an easy strategy if you had the right power when entering the fight, but you rarely did since you always lost it or absorbed something that looked cool and turned out to be crap.
09. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
I was tormented by this game as a child. I only ever beat two palaces, I could never reliably beat those knights or any palace bosses, and every time you died you just went back to the very beginning of the game! Even more tormented than myself was my Mother, she had beat the first Zelda and was determined to beat Zelda II. I have fond memories of her cursing those axe-throwing dudes in death mountain, and complaining that it's impossible to get the cross to travel through those areas with invisible eyeball enemies. I did a Rocky-montage playthrough of this game a while back, in the GameSpot days. It was on emulator, and I used a bunch of save states, so it wasn't much of a run. It wasn't until I watched some speed-runners play this game, that it finally clicked with me. The game's controls are incredibly intuitive, the side-scrolling combat is difficult but rewarding once you nail some of the more difficult strategies. The fairy glitch helps out a lot, letting you travel through locked doors when you run into one without having a key. There are some definite cryptic moments akin to Castlevania II, and all the townsfolk are either giving Link happy endings in their black market massage parlor, or feeding him useless dialog boxes like the famous "I am Error", or the fat lady that turns into a bat after she says "HI!". This game is brutal, but it's fucking fair, and the music is godlike. I love Zelda II.
08. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)
I played this in 2011 a fair bit, but got distracted by other things and never beat it. I finally got around to it again in the beginning of 2012, this time the actual Wii version. This game is a re-imagining of Silent Hill for the PS1, but it sort of combines themes from multiple Silent Hills, kind of like the first movie did. The most interesting part about Shattered Memories, is that it's mostly a choose-your-own-adventure novel, and a personal psyche evaluation, and not so much a game with gameplay challenges. You don't shoot or even fight any of the enemies in the game, when it goes all icy and Silent Hill world on you, you just run the fuck for your GODDAMN LIFE and hope you're going in the right direction. To aid you with your path-finding, Harry has a cellphone that shows you a map of the area, as well as takes photos and receives text messages and phone calls. The game tailors the events to your decisions you make in these scenes when talking to a psychiatrist. Depending on how exciting or dull your answers are in these tests and riddles, you will get an appropriate representation of people and events in the game, from the eyes of the persona you portrayed. I really can't say anything else about this game, other than that there is a twist, and BOY is it a good one. There are multiple endings and ways to manipulate the scenes you get, but I would recommend avoiding any guides or word of mouth, as it's best to go in fresh and not worry about that crap at all. This is an experience you should have, and I'm not going to be one to ruin that for you should you decide to pick it up.
07. Light Crusader (Genesis)
This is one of the few on this list that I hadn't actually heard of until this year. I purchased a grip of 50 Genesis games over Amazon's digital service, and Light Crusader was included in that package. It's made by treasure and is a Genesis game made in 1995, and man both of those things show. The game itself is a floor-by-floor dungeon crawling action RPG, with a hub town and the basic setup that everyone has been getting abducted or has otherwise gone missing, and it's up to Frederick the hero to get to the bottom of this, literally to the bottom...of a dungeon that lies under the town cemetery The music is excellent, and there's some tight isometric platforming and combat to keep you interested. You find and can purchase different elements of magic, and can combine two together for interesting spell results, which will play a key role in surviving some of the challenges you'll face down below. My favorite parts in the game are the silly parts. The off-brand humor in the game is great, and beyond the intentional humor there is plenty of unintentional humor (which is even better). The physics of people and objects in the world, allow your character model to push them around the area at will, including the king, his cat, his throne, some cows in a field...anything can be nudged around with no reaction from these people. There are voice samples whenever you enter a room with a group of enemies or a puzzle, and it sounds terribly muffled...but it makes me crack up every time I hear "ANSWER THE RIDDLE" or the simple "BEAT. THEM."
06. Shadowgate (NES)
The trio of ICOM Simulations adventure games were released for multiple platforms, but they are best on the NES. Featuring some of the best music I've ever heard on the NES, and some strange puzzle solutions that can only be figured out from trial and error, these games were silly and humorous, while also offering great challenge as a kid. I used to be quite scared of Shadowgate. The torch mechanic is terrifying, as you only have so many torches in the game, and you constantly have to keep one burning. I always feared that I would run out of torches while trying to solve some of the more cryptic puzzles, and sure enough...I died many times that way. The game was pretty dark and featured some creepy stuff for a child, and you could even kill your own character with basically every item in the game. Use > Sword > Self. HE PLUNGES THE SWORD INTO HIS CHEST. Holy shit. Then the grim reaper appears and welcomes you to an eternity of hell. But you could also plunge a hammer into your chest. That sounds either impossible or really, really, painful and time-consuming. I think what I loved most about these games, is all the movies and novels they basically ripped off everything from, all the horror tropes were accounted for between Shadowgate and Uninvited. Deja Vu wasn't about horror at all, that was more noire and old detective movies, but retained most of the same charm and puzzle-solving. Just replace death with BEING ARRESTED. I choose Shadowgate because it haunted my mind as a child, but all three of these ICOM games are bangers.
05. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2)
It's a darn shame that this never came out in America until 2006, when it came with MGS3: Subsistence on PS2. MG2 is pretty revolutionary, and it's easy to see where the original Metal Gear Solid got its groove from, as many of those MGS elements appear in less evolved form in MG2. In the original Metal Gear, guards could only see spaces directly in front of them, where in MG2, they get an actual peripheral vision. The guards also patrolled between multiple screens, making the handy 9-screen radar important to planning routes through areas. Alert phases persisted across multiple screens, punishing Snake more for his mistakes and making stealth more of a necessity. In addition to all this, you could crawl under fences and through air ducts, and the codec conversations were more integral to the experience, featuring plenty of contacts, and story exposition. The game fills a giant hole that would otherwise not be filled in the Metal Gear story arch, if you had only played MGS1 and onward. What's funny is how Kojima essentially steals his own gameplay and plot points over and over through the entire series of Metal Gear, as many of the boss fights and sequences from MGS, appear to have been homage to MG2 parts. Which in turn makes it weirder that MGS2 is basically a retelling/simulation of the events of MGS1 with Raiden instead of snake. Talk about a mindfuck, that's what Metal Gear is all about, and it's in tip top shape back on the MSX2 computer system. The best moment is when you kill Big Boss with an aerosol can and a lighter. Like seriously. THE END OF BIG BOSS as we know it, was due to some child prank you can do with a can of hairspray? What?
04. Arcus Odyssey (Genesis)
The other Genesis Game on this list that I knew nothing about until this year, Arcus Odyssey. This is a Renovation Products publication, so in that typical fashion, it's awesome, hard to find, full of anime cutscenes, and...awesome? This is a co-op isometric action RPG, that features four characters to choose from. Each character has different vitality and strength, and has a different base weapon to combat enemies with. The typical sword hero is the easiest to use as he shoots rapid fire (as fast as you can mash) wave beam things out of his sword, directly in front of him. The lady with the Chain is also pretty unique, she can lunge it out at a great distance, or whirl it around 360 degrees to hit enemies surrounding her. In addition to the base attack, you can find several power-ups or magics to use, such as orbs that whirl around the character, shielding you from attacks, and health pick-ups that are instant, upon death, or consumable at your leisure. In the second level you will pick up a computer controlled partner if you don't have a second player, and they will generally shoot in the direction you're facing/moving. Plenty of huge bosses to fight, and treasures to find, and it's at an arcade game style pace, with continues that bring you back to the beginning of the current stage...so it's not too discouraging should you die. The weirdest choice the developers made with this game, is that by holding down the attack button, you throw up a shield that deflects projectiles. But why the attack button? It makes it annoying to get through narrow corridors, as you have to release the shield then mash on the very same button, then hold it and wait for the shield to pop up again, before getting hit. Typically the best strategy is to move as quickly as you can to advance the screen while mashing the attack, as their attacks won't have time to animate and come out to hit you. It's a really cool game, that I expect to play a lot of in the coming year.
03. Harvest Moon 64 (N64)
I love Harvest Moon. And any farming simulation chill-out type game like it. It's just my kind of zen, a cathartic experience that I can return to infinitely. Harvest Moon 64 is definitely the best of them in my eyes, as it's not too complicated, but features all the charm of a Harvest Moon, and most of the features such as marriage, home renovations, affinity building for townsfolk and lady-friends, and festival participation. Harvest Moon: Back To Nature for the PS1 is very similar, but more complicated with a larger city, swapped-around personalities on the same characters, a deeper harvesting system with gnome helpers, and a time-consuming tool leveling progression. HM64 is essentially the same game, but with less of the crap you don't want to do, better controls (not weird hit down to go diagonally down-left), and no awful saving and loading sequences between days whenever you go to sleep. What's there to say? I like the pink-haired lady, she has pink hair and is easy to build affinity with, since she likes flowers. There is an affinity glitch with Karen, where you can get her to red heart in one day, but that's sort of unfulfilling and ruins most of the game. Rune Factory carries on the torch of Harvest Moon today, with a little bit more Action RPG stuff and dungeon crawling, but nothing will be as good as Harvest Moon 64 in my opinion.
02. Adventures of Lolo (NES)
The premise of Adventures of Lolo, is you're a blue gumball dude (Lolo), and your pink gumball ladyfriend (Lala) is captured by "The Great Devil", a.k.a. King Egger. You have to traverse 10 floors of puzzles (50 stages) to rescue your girl. The puzzles consist of pushing blocks around and grabbing hearts. When you grab all the hearts, a treasure chest opens and you grab a pearl which unlocks the next room. There are many things to stop you from doing this, including Medusas that will instantly kill you if you cross their path with no obstruction between you, armadillos which hunt you down and touch you to kill you, don Medusas which are essentially moving medusas, either horizontally or vertically, a walking stone face named Rocky who runs at you to back you into a wall or corner, impeding your progress, and various other POS enemies. There are also snakeys, who don't really do anything but sit there, and usually have something to do with a puzzle solution. You can obtain various things from picking up hearts, it varies from level to level. Usually grabbing certain hearts nets you some magic power, where you can shoot it at enemies and turn them into eggs, at which point you can push them around like blocks to manipulate puzzles. Shooting them while egged makes them de-spawn for a short period, before the appear in the same place they were initially. You can also float on egg'd enemies if you push them into a moving stream of water, which is essential to complete some puzzle rooms. This game is great. Lolo 2 and 3 became progressively harder, and introduced spawn manipulation to add to the difficulty. Nothing will be as good as the original Lolo, though.
01. Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Streets of Rage is a classic. It's technically a rip off of Final Fight for the Genesis, but I think it became better than the sum of its parts. Part 1 was ok, but pretty rudimentary visually. When Streets of Rage 2 came out, it blew my face off. I was stunned at how it looked just like an arcade game, but no...this was a GENESIS EXCLUSIVE. Each of the 4 characters plays pretty distinctively from one another. You have Axel, the well rounded brawler with an invincible flaming uppercut, as well as the easiest jab infinite in the game (yes you can infinitely jab enemies and bosses in this game if your timing is right). Skate is the agile and weak character, with lots of running moves, and his main exploit is the flip over grab throws that hurl the opponent across the screen. Blaze is the female of the group, and she is well rounded in the same way Axel is, but she has a Chun Li-like fireball for a special, and she's generally a bit faster and weaker than Axel. Max is the slow, high-vitality, grappler of the bunch. But in reality, he can advance the screen as quick as anyone with his command slide, and since he has grab setups that do BANANAS damage, he turns out to be one of the best characters. Max has a couple grab loops in certain areas with walls, and can do a meaty slide on an enemies wake-up and go right into an atomic drop. These are all fairly difficult moves compared to the easy Axel infinite, but they have much higher damage potential. The fact that I can learn all these techniques about a beatemup for the first time recently, shows that this game is not just a Final Fight clone. It is a complex brawler, and it's the best classic game I've played all year. Oh, did I mention the music? It goes without saying but...this is the best the Sega Genesis has to offer. Streets of Rage 3 on the other hand...well. Let's not harp on the negative!