Retro Games I (Cleanly) Finished
Finished on original hardware (except where otherwise noted,) default difficulty/settings, without any cheats, save states, patches, or exploits.
Finished on original hardware (except where otherwise noted,) default difficulty/settings, without any cheats, save states, patches, or exploits.
Arcade version. I am not completely sure what the settings were on the cabinet I was playing on, but I can say it took me going back to that arcade every day for a week until I could finish it (at which point I could do so somewhat reliably.)
My obsession with this machine is what triggered me to pick up a Genesis again, along with a Super Hang-On cart. I know there are seemingly arcade-perfect versions on 360 and PS3, but I actually think the d-pad oriented Genesis version plays the best of any console port. This is just the best solution until my inevitable midlife crisis, during which I will bring an upright Super Hang-On machine into my home.
As a kid I found myself returning to this over and over again after being disappointed with (and confused by) Super Mario 2. This continued even after the excellent Super Mario 3, which was too sprawling and complex to replace the original as a pick-up-and-play experience once you finished it a couple times.
Super Mario Bros. is for sure my favorite pre-Galaxy Mario game, but I would always rather play the Vs. version (which will separately join this list someday once I manage to 1CC it.)
3/28/2016 (NES version): This was a favorite of mine as a kid, but I could never even get to the last level without cheating. I was surprised to find that as an adult I could get to the last level pretty easily after puzzling my way through certain tricky encounters, and only hit a hard wall on 5-1 and the following Joker fight. 5-1 has two parts where it's nearly impossible to avoid taking damage, resulting in you going to the Joker fight without full health.
This is frustrating until you realize that one life will be a total waste against Joker anyway because you only have enough ammo to give him two good tries. The Joker fight itself is the biggest reason for me not to recommend this game. It's not the absolute hardest fight I've dealt with, but it's entirely unintuitive. Without being able to watch other people beat him on YouTube, I would not have finished this game. It still felt great to finish it despite this, but I'd tell anyone without nostalgia for the game to not feel bad walking away once they reach 5-1.
Master System version (loops after ~28 races.)
The Game Gear version of this, which is the Master System version with a tight panning camera instead of a full screen view, is one of my favorite and most played games ever. It is the reason the Game Gear is the only system from my childhood that I never sold, and still have today. As late as 2005 I would still bring a Game Gear on road trips with a car adapter, and only bring this game. It's that good!
What is the secret to this game's success as a home game, where you can't keep putting in quarters? It becomes a roguelike. I love finding the delicate balance of buying just enough nitros to survive the next race so I have money to get the next permanent upgrade I need to keep up with the Joneses (or Stewarts, perhaps.)
5/11/2016: Once you know what weapons to use in what situations, this game becomes surprisingly doable. Timeless classic.
I'm skipping Simon's Quest (2), but looking forward to playing Dracula's Curse (3) with the FDS music.
5/10/2016: Completely solid game, but not quite at an elite level in any category (other than box art.) This is one of the first games you should start with on the NES if you're trying to build up your skills and tolerance for games of this era, as it sits on the easier side and is rarely confusing.
3/18/2016: This is the kind of game I revisited the original Game Boy to find. Delightful, challenging, and doesn't outstay its welcome. I only found it frustrating initially because I didn't realize you could repeatedly press down to fill up new balloons.
Although the packed-in Tetris ended up getting more playtime, there is no question that Super Mario Land was a better demonstration of how close this system was to being a portable NES in all of the ways that count. The only aspect of this that holds up 100% today is the music, but the whole experience is still charming.
6/19/2016 (via Super Game Boy 2): More than anything else, I couldn't stop thinking about how incredible it was that a game with this scope and variety could fit on a Game Boy cartridge and run on a Game Boy. It beats the vast majority of NES games in those categories, and even surpasses most of its 16-bit competition that was out by its 1992 release. Playing this helps me better understand how people could be frustrated with the barebones simplicity of early Genesis releases. Those games did not throw new elements at you every level the way this does, and it had to work within much tighter constraints.
I also feel the save system is perfectly designed. When you run out of lives you lose all of your golden coins, which just means you have to go and finish each boss stage again. With how short these stages are, and how fair the boss fights are, this provides a large enough setback to make the game tense without being overly punishing or asking you to repeat something from scratch that can't be accomplished within the battery life of the system.
My only criticisms of this game are that the music falls short of the original Super Mario Land, and that the controls are not anywhere near the quality of a traditional Mario game. I suspect they could not implement the controls exactly as they should be due to the fact that Mario is huge relative to the screen size, making his traditional speed and agility a poor fit for the game.
What they invented in place of traditional Mario controls felt sluggish and a bit unresponsive in places. Thankfully this is a non-issue due to the difficulty level of the game being designed around this, at least until the final Wario stage where you'll need a few practice runs to fight through the controls.
5/9/2016: Best game on the TG16/PCE for me. The gameplay has precision, clarity, and a relentless tempo balanced by an unwavering stream of bubbly and refreshing art and music. A perfect game that alone justifies ownership of the console.
The only disappointment with this game is when you try to branch out to other games in the series. None live up to this game's controls, style, and disarming simplicity.
The character is nowhere near as cool as Bonk, but as a game this would have been a much stronger counterpunch against Mario and Sonic than any of the Bonk games were. I suppose having the original Adventure Island already on NES would have dampened the effectiveness of that.
I was fortunate enough to receive the Genesis as a Christmas gift at the precise time where you got both Altered Beast and Sonic as pack-ins. Unfortunately I had not yet developed the skills and patience required to really enjoy it at that point, and mostly dismissed it as a bad game.
Recently, however, I have discovered that this game is really damn fun when you enter into it understanding that it's pure trial-and-error/memorization. Once I learned it well, cheesing my way through as a quick 20-minute distraction became a unique delight.
When I was young and had no money of my own, I would avoid asking for the same games for home consoles and handhelds because I felt like doing so would give me a less than optimal variety in my tiny collection. Castle of Illusion is an example of a game where I very much fell on the wrong side of this. The Game Gear/Master System version of this, while solid in the context of those system libraries, does not hold a candle to the Genesis game.
Once I finished the 2013 remaster, I went back to discover that the original is damn near perfect. I play through this in the same mindset one would sit and listen through a record in.
I don't know why this became a boring version of Shadow Dancer along the way to home systems. It was enjoyable enough to go through once, but I won't be revisiting it.
3/8/16 (Genesis version): The middle phase of the final boss is rough in that it forces you to use the unintuitive melee combat system extensively for the first time. Earlier in the game you can just use grenades to push the bosses off of you and take pot shots at them while they get up and re-approach. The melee stage of this boss disables your primary ranged attack entirely so that you either have to fight him straight up, or spend through your grenades. I just swooped under him and started hitting one of the three melee buttons to find one that was making contact, at which time I'd button mash it until it didn't work anymore. I am not sure if it's possible to read-and-react Punch-Out style. It came down to a bit of luck for me.
The third and final phase of the boss is easy if you keep the grenade button charged while firing at him, and then release the grenade as his flames are approaching you. This clears the screen, does a lot of direct damage to him, and gives you more time to shoot him while dodging only his regular bullets.
This game is solid rental quality, but not something I see myself returning to. If I wanted to play something like this, I'd sooner go towards Wild Guns on SNES due to the general sloppiness of this game. This style of games relies heavily on having a competent defensive maneuver that produces a consistent result, and the duck-and-slide maneuver you have here falls short of that.
On Christmas morning, 1991, my brother and I unwrapped a shiny new Sega Genesis and I quickly perused the back of the box and the included promotional pamphlets to see what other games were made for it. This is when we had Nintendo Power as the only gaming news source, so I am not even sure I knew the Genesis existed, let alone have any concept of what games were available.
On a grid of screenshots I spotted what was, to me, clearly the most beautiful looking game: QuackShot. I didn't care at all about Donald Duck, so it was purely the art style and extraordinary level of detail that drew me in.
At this time my oldest brother revealed a final, previously unseen gift, which of course was QuackShot.
While Sonic 1 immediately smashed your face in with the "YOUR NES CANNOT DO THIS" message, QuackShot was superior as an actual game.
11/4/2015: Moved from my trying list, as I completed it today! Yay! I was happy that I managed to do it on a run where the boss actually shot a decent number of fireballs, which sometimes he completely neglects to do. I'm not sure if that's a bug or severe randomization, but beating him when he's not shooting back would be a bit of a hollow victory.
I feel like I have revenge on this game for the times I rented it as a kid and couldn't get past the first level. I have now retroactively squeezed my rental money's worth out of it.
Original text from when it was on the "trying" list:
"This game is immediately unforgiving, but you can grind through it with memorization. I am drawn to it because it looks so damn good, and in later levels really ties together its varying gameplay styles in an ambitious way. As of now I can only finish it with infinite continues, which still don't make this even remotely easy. I think my wall with finishing this cleanly will be the final stage of the final level which I'll probably never consistently be able to complete going in cold.
11/4/2015: Now am able to get the final boss to 50% on a clean run. The problem is less making mistakes on him, and more making tons of mistakes along the way to him resulting in me starting the fight with 10% health."
I would have ached for a Super Nintendo years earlier if not for this game. It lacks the memorable set pieces of Turtles in Time, but left me wanting nothing.
I was surprised when revisiting this that it has no quarter-munching aspects at all. There's a reasonably discernible trick to dealing with everything the game throws at you. Also, that box art is still incredible.
4/28/2017: Still one of my favorite 16-bit games, but the shine came off it a little bit when I actually pushed to finish it. The thrill of exploration and discovery holds up well, as does the presentation, but ultimately the game comes down to burning through a bunch of hoarded lives and items when the game becomes unfair at the end. If you don't try to take it too seriously and just fire it up to see how far you can get, it can remain a classic.
Finished on the US default difficulty per my criteria for the list, but that isn't the default difficulty anywhere else. I might try it on Hard in the future just for an excuse to play it a bunch more.
3/7/2016 (Genesis version): Finished all paths on Normal difficulty, which is surprisingly easy when you sit down and really focus on it. I have the Saturn version arriving in the mail soon and won't play this again after I get it. I am very much looking forward to 60fps with analog controls.
11/5/2015: Finished on the same day I started, which means this is by far the easiest of the Genesis Sonics (despite 3 having a save system.) It only gets really fussy at the end. I feel like that's why so many people consider this their favorite.
After revisiting these, I now have a deeper appreciation for Sonic 2. While I still think the presentation takes a step back from the original, it didn't repeat that game's mistakes of wildly uneven pacing and jagged difficulty curve.
I'd say there's a 50/50 shot of me revisiting this. The fundamental issue is forgettable level design. You just bang around the levels until you reach the end. The only sense of accomplishment comes when you finish the game as a whole. Despite that, it's still a top tier Genesis game for sure.
To quote my past Twitter self:
"Aesthetics of a Sonic game were figured out in Sonic 1, character control in 2, level design in 3." That is to say: this is when it finally all came together.
I finished this by itself, but then again with the Knuckles add-on which doubles the size of the game. If you are going to play any Sonic game at all, the Sonic 3 & Knuckles combo is the way to go. It becomes a masterpiece that makes it hard to understand how there was never a great game in this series again. Every Sonic game after this point either has disastrously bad controls and pacing (Sonic Adventure series) or try to essentially restart the series on the premise that Green Hill Zone was the only time the gameplay was fun (Sonic Advance series.)
11/3/2015: Finished on Normal difficulty even though Beginner is the default, because this is a strange case where my criteria doesn't make the choice obvious.
First: Don't judge me, this game is made by Treasure! OK, now on to the actual game. The presentation is incredible, although I wish the music was slightly less repetitive. Overall it's a great demonstration that Genesis games can have gorgeous color palettes and beautiful sounding music when development is entrusted to the right people.
I have two issues with the gameplay that will likely stop me from replaying it: strange collision detection with certain platforms, and way too much poorly executed autoscrolling.
The common complaint with autoscrolling levels is that it's less fun to be rushed, but that is the opposite of the problem here. These autoscrolling levels are ones where you are forced to wait for the camera to catch up with what you want to do, or else you will be making blind jumps into enemies. While this is acceptable for a single playthrough, as would be appropriate for a rental, it strips much of the fun out of replaying it. I'll never be a speedrunner, but I still enjoy gradual mastery of a game that enables you to glide through faster each time. I wish the pace of the game was more consistently in the player's hands.
1/26/2017: This certainly has some of the nicest visual design on the Genesis. The color palette of the system was used in ways I haven't seen to create remarkably mature visual moods that continuously surprised me to the end. The suggestions of flat shading sprinkled throughout also helped to strongly differentiate this from the earlier 16-bit Disney games.
Although the music was very good, it started looping a little too quickly even on earlier stages that were quick. The looping issue became significantly worse on later stages that required repeated retries. It didn't ever quite reach the point of making me want to turn the game off, but it came close.
There are a handful of situations where the sluggish character controls clash with a level requiring precise platforming, and cases where you have to trial and error your body position to figure out where you have to stand to climb up on to a ledge. In my case, the game ended right as I had figured out how to work around these situations.
Given that you can play through the entire game in two hours, on your first attempt with no prior knowledge of the game, I recommend this as a one-time play. Due to the controls I don't expect to revisit it, but enjoyed myself more than enough to justify the single trip.
The one important note I would tell someone before playing the game is that you can double tap A to go into a double speed sprint, which I don't believe the game tells you but requires you to know at the very end.
Remembering how to deal with the ghost houses and the required secret exit off one section of the world map has eliminated my interest in re-playing this, but I did finish it a couple times in the 90s.
5/15/2016: I hated this game when it came out because I never had enough access to it to reach its minimum required skill level for enjoyment. It came off to me as a flashy yet broken tech demo that SNES owners were convincing themselves to like.
I have finally invested myself in it and feel completely different about the game now. It presents a terrific sense of speed, sufficiently tight controls when you grasp them, and a fittingly futuristic soundtrack.
2/22/2018 (FPGA, Japanese ver.): Return of/Super Double Dragon feels like a small milestone in the game design path to the Arkham combat system. Other beat-em-ups used the 16-bit leap to enlarge character sprites, where as RoDD instead added animation in an attempt to build a combat system that would not be well executed for another decade.
The combat is designed to be much slower and more tactical than its contemporaries, but even after finishing the game I felt like it failed to establish the clear rock-paper-scissors that allowed Arkham games to flow so smoothly. I still am not sure why sometimes an enemy will block or counter an attack that it later will fall victim to repeatedly. It gives the game an organic and realistic feel, but also leaves you scratching your head trying to figure out how or why you came out on top. Mercifully, they give you plenty of continues to absorb the inexplicable failures.
If you cut together a highlight reel, you could convince someone that this game has Fire Pro-like depth. However, you'll spend the majority of the final stage just charging up hurricane kicks, sweeping over a boss with it, then running away as you charge another. As with so many games, the perceived depth melts away when the challenge becomes sufficiently demanding.
I still recommend this not just as a historical curiosity, but also as a genuinely entertaining game to experiment with on its own.
2/16/2018 (FPGA): Mechanically solid game with completely forgettable stage designs and music. The speed and collision detection improved from the original, but the moveset would not evolve until Final Fight 3. Bonus points for having no quarter-munching, unavoidable damage. Just good enough that I expect to revisit it in the future whenever I have the arcade stick hooked up.
2/17/2018 (FPGA): Possibly the best beat-em-up on SNES, which far outperforms the direct-to-console sequel expectations set by games like Golden Axe II and this game's own predecessor, Final Fight 2. It feels like it was made by a Capcom A-team which tried to make a sequel that could hurdle the new bar of quality they had set with Super Street Fighter II. The moveset expanded to include multiple grapples, dashes, and supers, all of which allow you to vary the gameplay even when the actual challenge in front of you does not require it.
My only complaints are how rapidly the stage 5 boss chews through lives, and that the game overstays its welcome a little bit. Even with the ideal circumstances I was playing under (nice arcade stick, good speakers, etc.) I was wishing for it to end around 15 minutes before it did. When I revisit it, I will be sure to take a long break somewhere in the middle.
This is the game that made me trade in my Genesis towards a Super Nintendo in 1994, and I did not regret it (though now, with access to every good game for both systems, I strongly prefer the Genesis.)
This game isn't notably difficult until the final boss, who takes an astounding amount of practice to defeat compared to everything prior.
1/25/2016: Finished the middle path. I want to try the harder paths soon because I feel like I finally understand how to play this game. It also has one hell of a last level that is the best demonstration of what the first SuperFX chip could do.
It was a smart move by Nintendo making the first level use the third person camera instead of the cockpit view to conceal the fact that this was mostly just a StarBlade clone.
SNES version, which is a parkour delight. I strongly prefer it over the Genesis version due to my distaste for David Perry's trademark sloppy level design.
PC version. If you are trying to play the GOG version, cut the mouse sensitivity down in the settings before launching. I went to 50%, and it made a huge difference on the levels where you have to evade walls. At any higher difficulty level you'd probably have to quit out to crank the sensitivity back up for the cover-based/whack-a-mole levels, but on Normal I was able to leave it alone.
I recently had a friend visit for a while and for whatever reason we marathoned this game, despite neither of us having known what it was. It took the pair of us hours to finish Oyster Harbor, the game's grand finale, and doing so was one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've had. If you are sure you will never play this game, at least watch a playthrough of Oyster Harbor to see how absurd it is.
I later played through the entire thing on Rare Replay by myself, hence its inclusion on this list.
I cannot recommend this game. I don't know why I like it so much. Getting through this game involves doing as many cheap tactics as possible to take advantage of the AI being limited, because otherwise you'll just get wiped off the map in certain spots. I feel like someone could simply adjust damage values on some bosses and immediately open this game to many more people. Until then, it's going to be a game that people only pop in to play the opening Hoth level.
If you loved Doom 1 and 2, and have already gone through the Final Doom campaigns, this needs to be on your list. It's a sequel running mostly on the original engine that is completely unknown to most PC gamers who dismissed it as a port at the time (which all of the other id games on N64 really were.)
If you don't want to play on an N64, there is a flawless PC port of this called Doom 64 EX.
Warning: Before you start playing this game, look up the locations of the Unmaker upgrades. If you don't have this weapon complete for the final level, it's nearly impossible to finish.
5/23/2016 (AES mode on CMVS): I loved NBA Jam as a kid, but when revisiting it recently I found it to be about as shallow of an experience as you'd expect for something designed to earn on location. As with all Neo-Geo games, Street Hoop was designed from the ground up to work as a home game and an arcade game.
It has no rubberbanding that I can detect, but at default difficulty pushes you to the point where you need constant focus after the first four cities or so.
The strange secret to success in this game is picking the team with the worst dunk rating. The very simple dunks you perform with the worst rating are too quick to ever get blocked, and that same team has quite capable speed, defense, and three point ratings in exchange for what is inadvertently a strength in "bad" dunking.
5/24/2016 (AES mode on CMVS): If you consider the camera perspective to be essential to Ikari Warriors, Shock Troopers is the closest thing the Neo-Geo has to a continuation of that legacy. Definitely in the top 5 of single player games on the platform (and can be played co-op as well, of course.)
5/22/2016: Finished on Normal difficulty on AES (which limits you to three continues.)
This game was important in making me understand that by self-enforcing limited continues (as the home version of this does,) you can unearth some wonderful experiences from certain arcade games. This applies to many Neo-Geo games due to the fact that nearly all of them were sold simultaneously as arcade and home carts, using the exact same code. This meant they couldn't put quarter-munching sections into their games the way Konami would in their beat-em-ups, but instead had to present a rapidly escalating, yet fair, challenge.
I previously managed to 1CC this on MVS, but only on Level 1 difficulty.
Finished on PC, then Dreamcast, then 3DS. I am probably going to play it on N64 next, though I have no idea why.
2/9/2016: I have only ever "finished" this (#1 on all tracks, unlocked the black car) using the bonus Galaga car that you unlock by clearing all enemies in the loading minigame. I have always wanted to try again using the basic red stock car, but it's pretty hopeless with the max speed you get on that driving automatic.
2/2/2016: I adore the Model 1-era look of this game. It's a spiritual successor to the Chase H.Q. games, but surpasses those games with seriously fun car controls.
6/22/2016: Just as high quality as I remember, but easy and short. Perhaps my memory of this series being tough stems from the DS game.
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