A Personal Video Game Retrospective (1986-2015) 1997

I wanted to say something other than welcome back to another week of gaming history but that works so well. Just to quickly recap if you haven’t see one of these yet I’m playing my entire collection of games again and writing a bit about how they play. After proofreading this blog for another week it became apparent that every game isn’t created equal and that I don’t always do a great job of explaining them. So even if the dialogue isn’t super interesting I hope you enjoy seeing the box art along with a screenshot of each game every week.

1997

You would think this would be reversed but my N64 games required more cleaning than the rest. Not sure why since I stored them all the same way.
You would think this would be reversed but my N64 games required more cleaning than the rest. Not sure why since I stored them all the same way.

The SNES decides to go out swinging with the power of a pink puffball. Just like the NES Kirby gets to be the last Nintendo release on this console. Meanwhile the N64 starts to form its narrative. Mostly that Nintendo started to rely on Rare to put out extra games on their hardware to fill out the year. On the other side the PS1 had one of its biggest releases ever. But other than that no other game really stands out as a big release on the Playstation. Then we have Sega which sorta just fades into the background till the release of the Dreamcast.

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At least in screenshot form this looks like a well made fighter jet game.
At least in screenshot form this looks like a well made fighter jet game.

I do think someone can make a good game out of this idea of transferring what was a side scrolling plane game into a 3D one. Outrageous battles against giant enemy planes or fortresses is what makes boss encounters so fun in shooters like UN Squadron. Transferring those ideas to 3D was a bit harder than expected. At least in making the battles not feel unfair. Each boss can auto lock on to the player making it near impossible to beat them without dying at least once. Air control wise something felt off with how the plane flew as well. I guess it didn’t feel very maneuverable but that could have just been the one I picked. The final nail in this games coffin was that the frame rate looks bad as well.

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This may not look that appealing visually anymore but I rather enjoyed the slow pace of each encounter.
This may not look that appealing visually anymore but I rather enjoyed the slow pace of each encounter.

Who doesn’t like giant mechs? The shiny nature of early CG goes with giant robots a lot better than whenever a developer tries to recreate a person early on. The future this game seems to take place in is one where corporations hire out the best mercenary AC pilot to do their dirty work. Like blowing up workers that seem to be rioting because of bad work conditions. Not really the toughest targets to take down with a souped up mech. Armored Core has never been known as a fast paced mech game. It has always been more about circle strafing around a target and slowly blowing them up. Using the different weapons correctly and minimizing damage is key to beating this game. Any damage your AC takes will be deducted from your pay. Thus leading to a fail state if you don’t have the right tools to take on later challenges. Fits in with From Software's pedigree more than you might have thought huh?

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Make all your dreams come true. Like the one where a aircraft carrier rams into a battleship.
Make all your dreams come true. Like the one where a aircraft carrier rams into a battleship.

EA apparently made a fighting game starting battleships. At least going by the arcade mode that is kinda what this seems to be going for. It does have a campaign mode where the player moves ships around a tactical screen and fight enemy ships till eventually blowing up the HQ. No real finesse other than knowing the rock paper scissors nature of how one ship could take down another one. Once the game goes into battle mode the face buttons will send out different attacks. Like a lock on missile or even some planes if you're controlling an aircraft carrier. Simple and to the point but hey the ship's do blow up good.

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I know why they did it but the Decepticons being Dinosaurs automatically made them cooler than a bunch of animals.
I know why they did it but the Decepticons being Dinosaurs automatically made them cooler than a bunch of animals.

I should have took better care of my PS1 discs. Some of them are a bit too scratched up to play in a PS1. I did get it working on my PC by running the disc in a emulator. I’m not missing much since Beast Wars Transformers is a bad action game. The platforming can be annoying and if you do fall into a pit it is instant death. Shooting other generic decepticons is fine I guess but the bland nature of the environments didn’t do much for me in the past or now.

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Woo I just saved everyone by blowing them up.
Woo I just saved everyone by blowing them up.

Break stuff the video game. Demolishing a bunch of buildings to prevent a nuclear bomb from going off is exciting. Not sure who decided to send a nuke to the demo site using a truck but that causes a lot of issues since so many buildings are in the way. A wide selection of vehicles will be needed to wipe out a city’s worth of buildings. Depending on what the player has control of the ways you take down each building is different. Maybe you’ll smash through it with a robot or slide swipe it with a dump truck. After the intro levels it becomes apparent that some of the later levels are puzzle like with what you need to do. Along with just all out destruction within a reasonable time limit. Going all the way through the solar system will be your reward if you manage to complete everything in this game. A daunting task that I never competed.

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A ice level, Bomberman's greatest weakness.
A ice level, Bomberman's greatest weakness.

The N64 was my system of choice for any and all Bomberman games. This introduction of Bomberman on the 64 doesn’t create a interesting adventure mode. From the small amount of time I spent playing the story mode the levels seemed to be made to confuse the player. Vs battle is still good with a wide selection of maps to play on. The CPU opponents did seem rather dumb. At least it still fun to blast my way through a few multiplayer sets.

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Yup flying on a giant preying mantis is something you could do in this game.
Yup flying on a giant preying mantis is something you could do in this game.

For a game that I bought because it was cheap I was surprised to find a neat little racing game. Plus it is about flying giant bugs which isn’t something you see often. The best analog to real racing is that this plays a lot like a horse racing game. You have to keep wiping the bug to keep its speed up but not enough to make the meter go into red. Although sometimes it is just about getting first most races have power ups to disable opponents. Although I couldn’t figure out what they all did. For the time this came out I’m surprised to see no fog in a PS1 game to cover up for the fact it couldn’t render objects very far. Very little penalty for hitting walls makes it pretty easy to win all the races unless you end up getting hit by power ups a lot.

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That little tiny balloon may not look like much but if it touches one of the BB bros it will kill them.
That little tiny balloon may not look like much but if it touches one of the BB bros it will kill them.

A collection of 3 arcade games where the player must bust all the balloons without getting hit. Every game is exactly the same with different motifs in the background from across the world. Different power ups give the player different chains to fire like double shot or a laser. In the first game Akira Toyama must have gotten lazy since Gohan from Dragon Ball is apparently a buster bro. In Super Buster Bros they added in random flying fish and new types of balloons that had different patterns. Finally in Buster Buddies the goal is to steal a bunch of famous artworks from around the world. The main addition with this last one is that they added in new playable characters and a DKC art style makeover.

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A long tongue is a vital component for any good chameleon.
A long tongue is a vital component for any good chameleon.

Chameleon Twist was a fun little 3D platformer with one big mechanic that made it different from the rest and that is a tongue. The basic setup is that one of 4 Chameleons wanders into a Alice In Wonderland scenario and must fight their way back to the real world. By eating all the enemies and spitting them out. Spinning around poles to reach far away platforms is another skill the player will need to learn to win. The only real downside is that this is a easy and short game to play through. You might even say that it is a unfinished game.

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This looks like a really generic platformer challenge.
This looks like a really generic platformer challenge.

Croc was most likely my first game that used the Dualshock 2. Without them it would be a pretty poor 3D platformer. But luckily it uses them to make it easier to jump around and rescue all the gobbos. As a 3rd party mascot platformer it does its job well. Instead of complaining about the controls when I fell into pit it was always my fault if I made a mistake. As for the first few bosses they seemed a bit easy but it is the beginning of the game.

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I didn't get a chance to check out the hover boats but I kinda remember them being hard to control.
I didn't get a chance to check out the hover boats but I kinda remember them being hard to control.

Huh for some reason I didn’t expect this to age so well. But it really is a well made kart racer that is still playable today. Diddy and company must collect balloons from a elephant wizard because Rare liked to add a bunch of collectibles in their games at this point. I assume to extend the game a bit each area has more than one type of race. With the second one being able collecting silver coins while you are also required to get 1st place. Having 3 types of vehicles give some variety to different tracks with them being a kart, hovercar and a plane. Mastering everything will take some time giving most players plenty of reason to keep coming back.

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Fighting in a bathroom with a anti tank rifle. That's so Die Hard?
Fighting in a bathroom with a anti tank rifle. That's so Die Hard?

Other than the name and the action movie plot this has absolutely nothing to do with Die Hard. But I don’t mind since it is a good beat em up. Nothing too fancy here with the usual set of pickups to aid the player with beating every enemy down. They must have spent a good amount of time on animations since they look well made and painful whenever Fake Mcclain decides to do a suplex. Also an old Sega arcade game named Deep Scan is apart of this package. Just a simple game about blowing up submarines. Playing this game also gives you extra credits in DHA.

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Extreme G has a great sense of speed.
Extreme G has a great sense of speed.

Who needs Wipeout when I have this off brand title named Extreme G. At least comparing this to the first Wipeout game this one actually controls better. Along with the ever useful frame rate that can change a so-so racer into a good one. This really is just a clone but on future bikes instead of future F1 cars. At least the weapons are really good at locking onto opponents. As for the actual racing part it is fine. Nothing really stands out but it does have a assortment of different level designs.

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Doesn't this just look like a giant mess of pixel art mixed with some 3D models?
Doesn't this just look like a giant mess of pixel art mixed with some 3D models?

When I think Fantastic Four I think of slow jazz music. Well that is apparently what the developers of this game thought when they were putting together the intro. The FF must take down the molemen in the form of a beat em up. Too bad after every beat em up section the game randomly pits the player against some random villain in 1v1 format. Since every load time is around 15 seconds it adds about 10 seconds of gameplay before it has to load up another section of the game. It is a ok but the artstyle is attroish. Whatever bad sprite work they decided to put into 3D environments made it look even worse than if it didn’t have them. Oh well at least it has a racing mini game in between loads.

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Like any good evil executive Zeng has a hidden helicopter port so he can quickly escape.
Like any good evil executive Zeng has a hidden helicopter port so he can quickly escape.

It is odd how Sega kept trying to bring Streets of Rage back but then pulling out at the last moment twice. Between this game and a previous game in this list Die Hard Arcade. This one feels even more like what it was going to be a new Streets of Rage with the main goal of the game being to take down an evil crime boss. Even the two button special attack is the same. If only this had a lock on system then it would have been a much better brawler. Otherwise it does what it aimed to do well with a few hiccups like a few annoying bosses.

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Here we are the game that turned a lot of people into RPG fans. This was thanks to the cinematic presentation and CGI cutscenes. Along with the ATB system that sped up the encounters requring you to react to enemy attacks. It also does a great job of setting up the world of Midgard and the characters you meet along the way. It doesn’t hurt that the intro starts off hectic with Avalanche breaking in and blowing up a mako reactor. Even made my job easier of writing this paragraph about it since they don’t spend too much time explaining everything till after the first mini dungeon. After this I would be hooked onto Final Fantasy all the way to the present day. RPG’s tend to be something you’ll see a lot of from now on too.

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This may look better but this is still Frogger.
This may look better but this is still Frogger.

This feels like a XBLA release of a old game. This is a direct remake of the atari classic Frogger. You play as the titular frog and must cross the road and the river. You keep doing that till you run out of lives. THE END They do end up trying to do a fully reimaged game based on this IP in a few years.

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Crossing a bridge supported by a Yoshi's tongue seems like a horrible idea.
Crossing a bridge supported by a Yoshi's tongue seems like a horrible idea.

I wonder if this came out today if people would complain about the fact it was only 4 mini games. Still remastering old Game & Watch games wasn’t a bad idea. After all you couldn’t really buy them in stores at this point. Every one of these is all about survival. Collect coins while avoiding a octopus. Stop people from hitting the pavement while getting them across the street with a trampoline. Don’t let oil hit the ground. Make sure people can cross the road by filling in manholes. No story just go for maximum points. I wasn’t able to beat any of my scores so I must have done a pretty good job. Along with the original graphical style they also included a remix mode starring Mario and his pals.

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I never used explosives to much since half the time I would blow myself up. Looks like I missed out on some silly animations.
I never used explosives to much since half the time I would blow myself up. Looks like I missed out on some silly animations.

The evolution of the FPS on consoles starts here. For a lot of kids that didn’t have PC’s or just didn’t play any of the notable FPS on PC this was the game that got them interested in FPS. Rare decided the best way to deal with how unreliable shooting on the console would be was to give the player generous auto lock on if you aim close to a enemy. This works well and it makes sense why a lot of people would enjoy this in its day. These days it is dated even if I can easily play all the way through it today. Adding in objectives gave me a reason to explore each stage a bit more since they don’t just expect the player to go in a straight line to the end of the game.

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When it rains it pours.
When it rains it pours.

Harvest Moon doesn’t click for everyone that plays it but for those that like it is a delightful game. Going around watering plants isn’t something you would think would be enjoyable but it is. Most likely thanks to getting paid after growing them. After all who doesn’t like creating a profitable business after a lot of hard work. Getting to that payoff takes a while so I could see why a lot of players would give up after one year. Being this is the first game it has a lot of what made it great. Along with crops you can raise animals and it even has dating sim elements with the girls in town. Some of it feels unpolished like not giving the player different tone when cutting logs or a heart meter for the girls. Although this was the start of this series it didn’t quite click for me till the sequel.

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You remember that time when Herc fought a giant laser firing boar right?
You remember that time when Herc fought a giant laser firing boar right?

In a lot of ways this is a spiritual sequel to Zombies Ate My Neighbors but set in ancient greece. The main difference is that instead of separate levels Herc’s Adventures has one big open world. The entirely of this game is played from a top down view with a selection of items useable to damage enemies. Depending on who the player decides to pick each fighting style is a bit different depending on if you're brawling with Herc or shooting rocks/arrows with Jason/Atlanta. The main goal is to save Personpany from Hades and to do this you will need to explore the landscape to obtain the necessary keys from a assortment of bosses. I always meant to play through this game at some point but I usually end up stopping a bit after fighting the first boss.

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Nago will remember that.
Nago will remember that.

My memories lied to me or I just wasn’t in the mood to collect everything in a game at this point. I remember it being a chore to get some of these hearts in each level but at least early on it seems reasonable. I most likely wasn’t up to playing more after finishing this game in the past. Mostly thanks to how much I enjoyed Kirby Super Star that going back to land was a downgrade in my eyes. No more dash attacks and the variation on how you can use Kirby’s power was given to his animal buddies. The coloring book art style at least makes it a joy to look at. Plus this was the last hurrah for the SNES.

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A bunch of blood doesn't mean its a good game.
A bunch of blood doesn't mean its a good game.

After Mortal Kombat Atari wanted to exploit that fan base with another bloody game this time in 3D. This port to N64 seems like a solid port job of the arcade game. To bad it is a slow bland fighter. Playing part of the way through the arcade ladder with Lord Demos made it seem rather boring. I didn’t really try to figure out special moves on the N64 pad since I still think it is the worse controller to use for a fighting game. It may have everything you would expect but it never does anything noteworthy to make anyone like it. Other than if this happened to be one of the few games you got to play every year.

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Wily needs to work on his giant robot designs. A giant shellfish doesn't seem that threatening.
Wily needs to work on his giant robot designs. A giant shellfish doesn't seem that threatening.

The Mega Man power hour starts here with Mega Man 8. Someone decided to add anime to both of these next games. I know a of complaints will always come up with voice acting in games from this period and even now. But unless the voice quality is bad or it doesn’t fit the character it I’ve never hated hearing someone's voice act a line of dialogue. Just thought I would bring that up since Both MM8 and X4 are notable for having terrible voice acting. As for the game this is another Mega Man game. Fight robot masters and beat Dr Wily. I just wish that Capcom didn’t add in the annoying auto scrolling levels. Pretty sure one of the final Wily stages with one of those was the reason I never beat this game in the past.

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If a level ever takes place near a volcano always expect flaming rock showers.
If a level ever takes place near a volcano always expect flaming rock showers.

Well the biggest thing Capcom added to X4 was to make Zero a fully playable character. At the time I didn’t enjoy using him much thanks to the amount of damage he could take by the fact Zero had to be right up on a boss to damage him. I’ve gotten better at using Zero over time especially after the GBA games. Still I tend to prefer X when given a choice. Playing these one after another made me realize this had a annoying side scrolling level too but it never stopped me from finishing it. I wonder is this the only game that lets the player take one of the power suits you can find in a level into the fight with a maverik. Fighting Dragoon with a power suit is a lot easier than going in without it.

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Shake Shake!
Shake Shake!

This is one of those unique games that you won’t see very often. As Marina a super robot that must rescue a Professor who has been captured by the evil clancer army. The comical tone kept me interested in seeing what silly moment would happen next along with the grapple ability. Enix uses it in a few ways that made it fun to beat down a boss with his own fist or just picking something up and throwing it. Overall this is a game about speed with some of the requirements for getting S rank on a mission are quite tough. Since Marina can boost her way through the entire level you’ll really need to book it. Luckily that isn’t required to get a ending but getting all the gold crystals would unlock the full ending. Even without ever seeing the full ending this game was always worth playing through.

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This screenshot shows off the ability to shoot in the foreground.
This screenshot shows off the ability to shoot in the foreground.

Mobile Suit Gundam follows the plot of the first anime where Amuro goes from a clueless young boy and turns into a veteran Gundam pilot. I may not be able to understand them but the developers did a good job of recreating each noteable plot point in the anime within this game. Rather than going with an animated look they decided to go with Donkey Kong Country style graphics although they a look a lot better when you're looking at giant robots. Even the gameplay is effective at making the Gundam seem like an unstoppable machine. Even if it feels a lot faster than what it should be. Being able to use the beam rifle to blast down foes is still fun. Oh this is mainly a side scrolling shooter but they play with the perspective a bit so it is possible to shoot at enemies in the background.

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Why does a tiger look like a wolf?
Why does a tiger look like a wolf?

I don’t think I ever spent much time raising monsters. I was much more interested in seeing the next type of monsters to pop out of my modest collection of CDs. Most of the time it wasn’t anything special but sometimes I found a awesome monster. The ranching part of the game is just picking options in a menu and then seeing if you get a success event. If it fails you get no reward for your effort. At my best I managed to beat a D level tournament. When in battle they decided to go with a semi active turn based battles. A bar seems to go back and forth between different attacks. I assume I needed to time my button presses with the bar. But that was just me guessing after not playing this for over 10 years.

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At least this starts off on a good note with a traditional MK fight.
At least this starts off on a good note with a traditional MK fight.

Huh the way fights play out in this turned out much better than I was expecting. Unlike Batman Forever it looks like they balanced battles a lot better. But that isn’t why this is a bad game. The 2nd level is when it becomes apparent that they didn’t spend much time on the platforming sections. Why did they make falling platforms that fall without any warning signs? Why add in air currents that seem to take forever to pop back up? Both those facts make the air elemental temple a more annoying level than it should be. Plus Mortal Kombat characters were never meant to be in a platformer. At least Sub Zero gets his usual set of moves once he levels up by beating up enemies. RPG elements could have made this a reasonable beat em up but instead it is a bad mix of 1v1 battles along with some subpar platformer elements.

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Failing a objective in any Strike game automatically forced you to repeat the entire level. I never liked that part of this series.
Failing a objective in any Strike game automatically forced you to repeat the entire level. I never liked that part of this series.

The threat has been escalated to nuclear proportions. I don’t remember the ending of Soviet Strike but this appears to be a direct follow up. At least the actors they used for the last one are back again and some crazy guy is once again threatening the world with a nuke. For one more time the Strike team must blow up a bunch of objectives with a apache helicopter. I guess you could say this is the first franchise EA decided to run into the ground with yearly releases. I was going to say something about why didn’t they go into the future for some space helicopter action but they actually did that.

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This really isn't the best looking ground texture ever huh.
This really isn't the best looking ground texture ever huh.

Arcade racers may have been easy to get into but some are tough to get good at. Like MRC that has both standard street courses mixed in with off road paths. Depending on if the player chooses to use a car or a truck puts you down the path of using one or the other. Trucks are faster off road while cars have a much higher top speed but suck if they aren’t on the pavement. This must be a port of a arcade game since it follows the time limit rule almost every arcade racing game has. Going past checkpoints will give the player more time but if they are too slow and the time runs out they lose. I don’t have much time to get good at this game so I never quite figured out how the drifting worked. Leading to me running into every wall possible.

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Fighting a giant robot is almost a requirement in any top down shooter like Raystorm.
Fighting a giant robot is almost a requirement in any top down shooter like Raystorm.

Most likely one of the first full 3D top down shooters. This has the usual set of gameplay elements you would expect. Shoot stuff with your spaceship and a lock on to attack enemies on a lower layer of the screen. Plus the every useful bomb button that blows up everything on screen. Taito doesn’t want you to be able to spam bombs so after using one the player will need to slowly charge up a meter to launch another special attack. Two different types of ships let you shoot more missiles instead of a standard spread shot.

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The amount of effort needed to play through this game blind is a bit to much for me.
The amount of effort needed to play through this game blind is a bit to much for me.

When I decided to buy this import randomly I assumed it would be a side scrolling action game. Turns out I was wrong and it is instead a turn based RPG. Not a great game to play if you don’t know Japanese. But hey I can let the AI do all my moves which seems to do okay in the first real battle. I doubt that’ll remain the same later on. They don’t use sprites and instead go with the early 3D look although it has been improved and they actually look good now. Not much else I can say about the game other than it is based on the anime Slayers.

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All terrain mode gives the player full 360 degree movement.
All terrain mode gives the player full 360 degree movement.

Star Fox 64 takes what Nintendo started with the first game on SNES and adds some cinematic flair to the game along with a great frame rate. Controlling the Arwing is a lot easier with it being upgraded with much more maneuverability. Unlike the first game where you chose one of 3 paths through the solar system it depends on if you either find a secret exit or successfuly defend a base. Giving the player much more of a reason to replay the game especially since the first time you beat it you’ll most likely face fake Andross instead of the real deal. They also added in new gameplay styles in the form of a tank and a submarine. The arwing is still the main attraction but it is never a bad thing to add in some variety.

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Play one of these
Play one of these "fantastic" mini games.

Wow Tamagotchi kinda sucks when directly translated to a game boy. It certainly has been a while since I tried to raise one but the mini games are so simple that it is boring. Especially when it seems like two of the mini games are left up to chance. Will you hit left or right and will your Tamagotchi choose the right one? If not you have to keep playing it till you end up filling his fun meter. Without the mini games all you need to do is feed and keep the area clean. Repeat this process till you have a fully grown Tamagotchi.

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A constantly ticking down timer seems like a good way to induce panic and cause players to make mistakes. Leading to more quarters ahhhhhh.
A constantly ticking down timer seems like a good way to induce panic and cause players to make mistakes. Leading to more quarters ahhhhhh.

I didn’t actually get my Guncon with Time Crisis and instead bought it with Point Blank 3 later on. Ended up picking this up later since I figured I should be able to play more than just one game with it. This port of the arcade game has a a entirely new special mode that takes place a few weeks after the plot in Time Crisis. I’ve always liked that Namco was willing to go the extra mile to add new modes to all their home releases of arcade games. As for the game this is “Shoot that Guy” the video game. Be accurate and take down Wild Dog because no matter how many times you shoot him he always comes back.

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Most of my old matches ended with wrestlers giving up after somehow living through 20 submission holds.
Most of my old matches ended with wrestlers giving up after somehow living through 20 submission holds.

As I mentioned before I’ve never watched any wrestling. At the time I most likely assumed this played exactly like what they were doing on TV. That wasn’t true but I’ve always appreciated that the developers decided to make something enjoyable to play instead of emulating the real thing a bit more. Grappling opponents and sending them mashing into the mat is really satisfying. I never quite got how to do reversals or special moves. This was the pinnacle of my mash buttons to win attitude. Pretty much the only way I know how to play this game today. After I won the WCW title belt it unlocked Diamond Dallas Page and whoever did his artwork must have really wanted him to look like he was nuts.

Conclusion

The Nintendo exodus starts here with a few notable developers focusing more on the Playstation. The most notable being the release of Final Fantasy VII on a Sony device. Squaresoft went in a direction that wouldn’t be possible on the N64. Heavy use of FMV required the extra storage of a CD. At this point developers just wanted more room to do new things and the cartridge format hindered their progress. To counter this somewhat Nintendo kinda has a similar setup with each new console. Around this time they partnered with Rare and then with Capcom on the Gamecube. This line of thought breaks for the Wii since they didn’t need any extra partners thanks to its success. Yet brought back up once again for the Wii U with the assortment of Platinum games coming out only on a Nintendo device.

The back and forth nature of the video game industry is why it has grown so big today. The next game is always trying to top the last one leading to a lot of creative games. Along with a bunch of similar games too but you have to take the good with the bad. I’m looking at next year and wow 1998 had an insane amount of memorable games come out. Tune in next time to infiltrate Shadow Moses island and to roam the land of Hyrule once again. If you missed my last blog post on 1996 click on this link.

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