Tag Archives: zelda

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

BreathoftheWildFinalCoverIt has taken me quite a few months, but I’m finally ready to offer up my full thoughts on the latest entry in The Legend of Zelda series:  Breath of the Wild. I first wrote about it as part of my initial thoughts on the Nintendo Switch. I was able to secure a unit at launch and naturally Zelda was the title I paired with it. Since its release, Breath of the Wild has been almost universally praised as not just one of the best titles in the series but as one of the greatest video games ever made. Currently it ranks fourth all time on game rankings.com, right in between Grand Theft Auto IV and Super Mario Galaxy 2 with an aggregate score of 97.28%. On metaritic.com, the game is in a massive tie for 6th all-time with a score of 97. The highest score of all time just happens to be 99, held by The Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time.

The Zelda series is accustomed to tremendous accolades upon release. In some ways it’s Nintendo’s most pure franchise. While Mario will dabble in virtually every genre imaginable, the Zelda franchise is content to largely remain the same with some tweaks here and there. I’ve argued the franchise was starting become stale because of its reliance on its classic formula. The last main entry on a home console, Skyward Sword, was the tipping point for me as I found the game to be an un-fun chore that drew out the worst in the franchise. Perhaps Nintendo felt some of that as well as Breath of the Wild is the first Zelda title on a home console since maybe Zelda II to really try and break the mold.

As some have pointed out, part of what makes Breath of the Wild feel so fresh for the franchise in 2017 is an approach to the gameplay that’s reminiscent of the very first title in the series. In The Legend of Zelda, the player is dropped into the world with very little direction on what to do. There’s a cave immediately in front of the player’s character inhabited by the famous old man who bestows upon the player the sword they’ll most likely need to get their quest underway. After that, it’s basically figure it out, kid. Breath of the Wild begins with Link awakening in a cave. He’s an amnesiac with no knowledge of why he’s there. He’s immediately given the Skeikah Slate, a device that bares an uncanny resembled to the Wii U’s Gamepad that will play a pivotal role in the journey to come. Aside from that, Link merely possesses some ragged clothes and a voice in his head. That voice belongs to the princess Zelda, and she’ll urge Link to leave the cave and stop Calamity Ganon, who has overrun Hyrule Castle and imprisoned the princess 100 years ago.

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If the world looks big it’s because it is.

As is the case with most Zelda titles, plot isn’t always important. When Link emerges from that cave the game’s primary objective is clear, but overcoming it is not. An old man emerges to act as a bit of a guide in the game’s earliest portion. He’ll introduce Link to the towers that dot the landscape. Climbing them allows Link to download a map of the surrounding area to his Sheikah Slate (similar to the map function of Assassin’s Creed) and survey the land for shrines. The first part of the game takes place on a giant plateau that Link cannot leave. There are four shrines on this plateau Link must visit before departing. Each shrine contains a new function for his slate, and these new powers are what Link will rely on to complete his quest.

The shrines are not quite the dungeon replacement some though they would be. The shrines are mostly small areas that are puzzle driven and each one typically utilizes one of the powers of the Sheikah Slate. Those powers are:  remote bombs, cryonis, stasis, and magnesis. The remote bombs are straight-forward and reminiscent of the bombs in virtually all Zelda games. There are two shapes for the bombs:  rectangular and spherical. These bombs can be placed one each at a time and then detonated remotely. There’s a cool-down meter after each detonation to prevent spamming of the bombs and they’re about as useful as bombs usually are. The cryonis ability is mostly limited to being useful in the game’s early going. The ability allows Link to create up to three ice pillars on the surface of the water. Early in the game when Link’s stamina is low, this ability comes in handy to traverse large bodies of water he wouldn’t have the stamina to swim across. It also can be used to lift floating objects, such as a wooden treasure chest, out of the water by creating a pillar beneath the item. Stasis allows Link to freeze an object in time. When the object is frozen, Link can smash it repeatedly which stores potential energy in the object that will be unleashed all at once as kinetic energy once the stasis wares off. This allows Link to move heavy objects he can’t pick up. Later, it can even be upgraded to work on organic objects like enemies, which comes in handy for really tough enemies like the Lynels. Magnesis basically turns Link into a lesser version of Marvel’s Magneto as he can magnetically move and manipulate metal objects. He can’t, unfortunately, use the ability on himself or something he’s directly standing on for flight (though if you stack two metal objects on each other you can kind of create a rudimentary flying machine). This ability has pretty obvious uses and is probably overall the most useful ability Link acquires.

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The game tries to inject some true emotion into the plot, but it’s not all that successful.

Unlike past Zelda games, those core four abilities are pretty much it for Link as far as acquiring new abilities is concerned. There are no main dungeons to conquer containing a new permanent item, which is probably the most radical departure. Instead, Link can acquire equipment constantly throughout his journey. Armor is the only permanent equipment Link can acquire and he does so through conventional means such as buying it or by finding it in hidden treasures and shrines. Armor typically comes in sets with a head, torso, and leg component. Often these bestow abilities upon Link aside from just damage resistance and they can be upgraded at Great Fairy Fountains a maximum of four times each. Typically an armor set allows Link to resist elemental damage or move stealthily. Some of it is also just to look neat. Link’s offensive equipment, and shields, all have a durability score and will eventually break. Link is not a blacksmith and cannot repair his equipment, nor can seemingly anyone in all of Hyrule so once it breaks it’s gone. There’s basically no point in getting attached to anything. In addition to swords, Link can wield poles, axes, hammers, great swords, wands, and bows offering up some distinct combat style approaches. The only problem with that is that most gamers will naturally prefer one over the other, but sometimes all you have is one weapon type. Basically every enemy will drop whatever weapon they were using and Link can claim it, so weapons are easy to find, but good ones are not. There is, of course, a version of the Master Sword in this game. It too can break, but unlike the other items, once it breaks it just needs to recharge so at least you don’t have to go back and find it.

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The lumbering Hinox has one very obvious weak point.

As I mentioned before, the shrines are a main focus of this game though completing them all is not necessary to beat it. Once you leave the game’s first area, The Great Plateau, you’re actually free to beat the game whenever you wish. Completing all 120 shrines obviously is a help as each one gives Link a shrine sphere and those spheres are how Link expands both his maximum health and stamina. Health is self-explanatory, but stamina is just as vital as it allows Link to run, climb, and glide. Climbing is a huge part of Breath of the Wild as exploration is the name of the game with such a vast map. Link can climb almost any surface, as long as it isn’t raining, and the player is often rewarded for doing so. The map is gigantic, so crossing it on foot would take an extremely long time. When Link completes a shrine, it becomes a fast travel point adding even more of a necessity to find them all. Many are hidden in plain sight from the several great towers dotting the landscape, but several others are well-hidden, some even behind a side quest.  Most are fun, if not all  that challenging. They tend to be puzzle-like in nature, but the kind of puzzle where the objective is clear, but pulling it off is tricky. Some of them are strictly combat shrines where Link has to defeat a certain enemy to clear it. These were my least favorite as the combat never changes, it’s always the same enemy, and there are way too many combat shrines. Three shrines are hidden in large labyrinths which is kind of fun, and one great one exists on an island that setting foot on causes Link to lose all of his equipment. It’s definitely the most inventive out of all 120 of them.

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The spider-like guardians are probably the best of the new additions to Link’s cast of foes.

Separate from the shrines are the guardian beasts. These four beings are the closest things to dungeons the game has, aside from Hyrule Castle where Ganon resides. They’re colossal mechanical beasts that Link must first gain entry to in some cinematic fashion. Once inside, Link can manipulate the movements of the beast to make certain areas accessible. This is necessary to not only find treasure, but also activate nodes inside the beast to gain entry to the boss. As you may have guessed, these beasts are more puzzling than anything and it’s a test of mind more than a test of strength. Clearing each one gives Link a special ability, some more useful than others, and also weakens Calamity Ganon for Link’s final confrontation. As such, they’re optional, but only by clearing them will you experience the full story. And they’re fun, so why not?

Breath of the Wild’s defining feature is clearly its size. The world is vast and rewarding to explore, even if it’s not as exciting as some other open worlds from other games. There isn’t much civilization for Link to find outside of a few towns, it’s just mostly vast emptiness. Link will encounter a lot of the same enemies throughout his journey, but there are always some super-powered beings lurking here and there. These include the centaur-like Lynels, probably the most challenging foe Link will cross paths with. There’s also large ogre-like beings called a Hinox, and the very durable stone-beasts known as the Talus. While it does get tiring fighting moblins over and over, those three at least liven things up when they’re around. There’s also the guardians which can be pretty challenging at first, though like basically every enemy, once you figure them out they’re not as bad. Combat is largely the same as it has been in all of the 3D Zelda adventures. The notable distinction is that locking onto an enemy doesn’t protect Link from being attacked by other enemies anymore. Well-timed dodges allow for a special follow-up attack which is very useful against tougher enemies, though not essential for clearing the game. All in all, the combat is fine, but it’s definitely one area where Breath of the Wild feels perhaps too familiar as combat sometimes feels like an obstacle to exploration, and not just as a fun game mechanic.

 

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Look at me; I’m Link:  home owner!

Breath of the Wild is unquestionably a great game, but I can’t help but feel that Zelda sometimes gets too much credit for the changes it makes. The open world format is a great addition, but it really shows that this is Nintendo’s first real stab at this type of game. The land is huge, but lacking in variety. Sure there’s your typical layout of snowy landscapes, deserts, and lush forests, but the NPCs don’t bring much life to the scenery. There are not scores of diversions as there are with a Grand Theft Auto game, nor is there the wonder of encountering something really special like there is with an Elder Scrolls game. The game has numerous side quests like most open world games, but they’re painfully boring fetch quests with little or no pay-off. The crafting system is also cumbersome requiring Link to hold the components and then drop them into a pot. The end results aren’t particularly worthwhile either, and I know many people who basically ignored the cooking component in the game all together. Once I saw everything the game had to offer, I basically busied myself farming resources to better my equipment. This meant chasing down the mystical dragons (not as cool as that sounds) and hunting Lynels, the latter of which appear in only certain spots and once killed you need to wait for them to respawn. The whole map gets reset by the moon cycle, a red moon will rise and all defeated enemies rise with it. The sequence is particularly annoying since a cinematic comes along with it that also brings load times.

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The great fairies allow Link to upgrade his armor, as long as he has the necessary components to do so.

The game does boast weather affects and a day/night cycle, like Zelda titles before it. At night is when the skeletal stalfos emerge from the ground and serve as more annoyance than anything. The weather in most parts of the game means very little, but in the desert the nights get extremely cold necessitating Link to wear appropriate clothing or use an elixir to keep warm. And during the day it naturally gets quite hot requiring Link to do the opposite. Lightning storms can pose a problem if Link is wearing anything metallic, and rain is the biggest obstacle of all as slick surfaces are essentially impossible to climb. I mostly like the inclusion of these effects, but the rain one is extremely annoying as if you’re in the middle of scaling a mountain or tower you either have to give up or wait it out, and who plays a video game just to stare at the screen and wait for the rain to go away? In that sense, the rain is a lot like the weapon durability. It’s kind of neat and certainly adds realism, but does it make the game more fun? I don’t think so, and I hope the weapon durability in place here is never repeated. Same for the more realistic approach to horses. In past games Link had Epona who could be summoned when needed, in Breath of the Wild Link has to capture and train horses and stable them at one of the many stables. He can’t though, just call on his horse whenever he wants which, for me, resulted in me basically ignoring the horse component of the game. On the plus side, Link can ride bears and deer, which is kind of fun.

Technically, this version of Breath of the Wild is essentially a port. The game was developed for the Wii U and ported to the Switch for a simultaneous release on both platforms. As a result, the game looks like a Wii U game and it even possesses a few relics of bygone eras. I can’t recall the last time I played a game with this much pop-in as the game sometimes struggles to populate areas, especially when gliding. Frame-rate drops are frequent, those most noticeable when the Switch is docked, and there are a lot of vast open areas to likely limit the strain on the processor. Artistically speaking, the game is nice to look at and is similar in style to Skyward Sword. Voice acting has been introduced, but only sparingly and Link is still mute. What’s there seems fine to me, but I know some have been very critical of the voice acting. The music, often a major component of Zelda games, has been de-emphaiszed as well. I assume it was a style choice to emphasize how large the world is and how alone Link is, but I’ve also seen a few complaints in this regard. I for one was fine with that aspect of the game. As for the final dungeon and battle with Ganon, I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s thankfully not a re-tread battle. While not the best, I found it satisfactory, if a bit on the easy side. Hyrule Castle, on the other hand, is pretty fun to explore. The only drawback is that it does make me wish the game had more dungeons like it, instead of just the one.

On the Switch, I mostly played the game in portable form. Playing it docked with a pro controller is probably a slightly better experience, but being able to just play it off TV is too convenient for me at this stage of my life. As a portable, it’s not the greatest as open world games tend to want to demand at least an hour, if not more, per session so playing in 20-30 minute bursts during a commute isn’t very rewarding. The game does allow you to save whenever you want and the Switch seems pretty good at conserving battery life when in sleep mode. I could basically get a little over 2 hours out of the console in handheld mode before needing to charge it. The back of the system does get pretty hot though after just a half hour, but so far I’ve seen no signs of over-heating. The game does offer gyro-scoping controls for aiming the bow and looking through a scope, which I find cumbersome in handheld mode. Disengaging the two joycons does minimize this, and even comes in handy for a couple of gyro-puzzles as you can move the controller while keeping the screen stationary. Doing those puzzles any other way is practically impossible.

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Cooking is part of the game, though not a particularly fun or essential part.

Criticisms aside, Breath of the Wild is one of the best Zelda games made and it feels like the most important since Ocarina of Time. Many reviewers rushed to give it a perfect score when it was released alongside the Switch, but I think the extra months have given me some clarity. It’s by no means a perfect game, and some of the changes made to the old Zelda formula are not for the better, but the overall product is still excellent. After playing Breath of the Wild I can say i never want Zelda to not be an open world experience. I never want a map to be smaller than what is here. What I do want though is more dungeons, refined combat that is actually fun, and for some of those old items to return. This game badly misses the hookshot which could have made mountain climbing more tolerable, especially in the rain, and some more inventive enemies would really add to the wonder of the experience. And while I never expect much from the storyline of a Nintendo game, I do still want the ultimate goal to be something more imaginative than simply saving the princess from the bad guy. Calamity Ganon is a step back for the Ganon character as he’s just an ancient evil in this world who exists to cause destruction. Though really, all he did was take over the castle and unleash his incompetent minions across Hyrule. The towns and villages seem fine, and I bet they don’t miss those expensive Hylian taxes! Seriously though, this is a game that’s not to be missed. If you have a Switch, you don’t need me to tell you to buy it because you already have. If you have a Wii U, but no Switch, I don’t think you need to wait for a Switch to experience it since it’s a port. And if you’re on the fence about getting either of those consoles, I can say this game is probably worth it, but it’s totally understandable to wait for the Switch’s library to expand or for the Wii U’s price to come crashing down further. I’ve also updated my Zelda rankings to include this game, and I do think it’s one of the best in the series, just don’t expect perfection when you go to play it or else you may be setting yourself up for some mild disappointment. Hopefully Breath of the Wild is the game we look back on as Nintendo’s baby steps into the open world genre that was but a precursor of the greatness that was yet to come.

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Do We Really Want a Nintendo 64 Classic?

N64-20th-anniversary-625x352You’ve probably heard by now about the SNES Classic coming later this month. If you’re even remotely interested in owning one, you’re also either happy you have a pre-order, concerned your pre-order could be cancelled at any moment, or absolutely furious that you couldn’t secure a pre-order. The NES Classic released in 2016 was notoriously difficult to obtain before being abruptly cancelled all together after just a few months of shipments. As a result, demand for the SNES Classic is at an absurd level as fans who want one are worried about having to pay the ridiculous scalper rates on eBay or else risk never getting one.

Wal-Mart was the first to release pre-orders for the SNES Classic in late July, only for the company to pull an “oops” and say they didn’t mean to release them when they did. All of those happy gamers who secured one that evening (they went live online at around 11 PM EST) were crushed when the company cancelled all of the orders. Things were quiet until the wee morning hours on August 22nd when Best Buy released pre-orders on their website. Amazon followed, but rather than post them on the placeholder page for the product, the company created a new listing and anyone that had signed up for alerts through Amazon or third party sites weren’t notified. That didn’t stop them from selling out in mere minutes. Later that morning, the other retailers went live and they too sold out in minutes. GameStop opened up pre-orders for instore customers only setting off a mad dash to all of the retail outlets. Many secured their orders, and many more were turned away. Eventually GameStop, as well as its sister site Think Geek, offered up expensive bundles for pre-order. Even though they were loaded with crap no one likely wanted and were thus much more expensive, those too sold out. Lastly, Wal-Mart released a few more pre-orders in the evening hours of the 25th, since then it’s been dry with pre-orders likely done.

If you did not get a pre-order then you’re likely holding out hope for release date, but getting one then will likely require hours camped outside a store hoping there will be enough for everyone in line. Toys R Us elected not to do pre-orders of any kind so they’ll likely have the most supply on September 29th. The other big box retailers are expected to have some as well, but no one is releasing numbers at this time and likely won’t until the 28th, if at all. Wal-Mart recently cancelled several pre-orders made by people attempting to order more than one device, so there’s perhaps a sliver of hope they’ll release a few more pre-orders, or perhaps they’ll just include those items previously spoken for in the launch day release. Amazon will likely do what it did with the NES Classic and reserve the bulk of its units for its Prime Now delivery service. It’s few brick and mortar locations may have some as well. And if you’re in New York City, the Nintendo Store will have probably the most SNES Classics in one place. Like Toys R Us, the Nintendo Store did not do any pre-orders.

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This goofy three-handled controller is possibly the determining factor on if we get a N64 Classic.

And all of this madness is to secure a plug and play gaming device that has 21 games built into it, 20 of which have been available in various forms for 20 years. It’s easy to be dismissive of the device as a gimmick, but if you’re a gamer it’s hard to argue that the SNES Classic isn’t going to be a pretty great way to experience some of the best video games ever made, which makes it all the more frustrating that it’s a limited release. Simply put, this is Nintendo’s fault. They’re making a device that people want and there’s great demand for, but they’re creating this scarcity by intentionally only offering it for a limited time. They’re emboldening scalpers and retailers like GameStop that will jack up the price for their fans, and it’s not as if Nintendo profits off of any of that. Nintendo could likely manufacture twice the amount of SNES Classics it plans to release and still guarantee itself a sell-through. There’s no reason to have even stopped production on the NES Classic! People want it, so why won’t Nintendo make it?

Naturally, as consumers prepare for the launch of the SNES Classic many are wondering what will follow it. Does Nintendo continue along with these mini retro machines? One would assume a mini Nintendo 64 would be next. The technology in the NES Classic is rumored to be powerful enough to handle Gamecube titles, so it’s not a question of if it can be done, it’s will it? And more importantly, as consumers do we want it?

Nintendo could continue making retro machines that aren’t the N64. A retro GameBoy that is both portable but can plug into a television is possible. Perhaps the screen would be too expensive to keep the current price point, though if the screen were the equal of the original GameBoy I can’t imagine it would be that expensive. Nintendo could release a Super GameBoy edition of the SNES Mini to get around that. Still, the most likely is a mini N64, but it too presents challenges. The NES and SNES controller is pretty simple and cheap to produce, but the N64 controller is more complex and likely more expensive to manufacture, especially if one wants to include rumble. And the software is a bit murkier as well. Game development windows were growing wider come the era of the N64 and fewer first party titles were available. After all, there was only one Mario game made for the N64. Rare, at the time a second-party developer for Nintendo, made a lot of the most popular titles for the N64 and the royalties may be a bit complicated concerning sales of the N64 Mini. Still, I suppose we should speculate on what would be included before getting dismissive. The SNES Mini has 21 games, 20 of which were previously released. The N64 Classic would likely have fewer, so for the sake of simplicity let’s speculate on 15.

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  1. Super Mario 64 – obviously. A launch title and the one everyone was talking about in 1996.
  2. The Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time – one of the most beloved games of all time.
  3. The Legend of Zelda:  Majora’s Mask – the NES Classic included both Zelda and Zelda II, so it’s likely the N64 Classic would include its two Zelda titles as well.
  4. Mario Kart 64 – another no-brainer. Many people still consider this the best in the series. They’re crazy, but it’s certainly a beloved classic.
  5. Paper Mario – the unofficial sequel to Super Mario RPG, an underrated classic, by Mario standards.
  6. Mario Party – I don’t think much of this series, but it’s been a big seller for Nintendo and it all started on the N64.
  7. Donkey Kong 64 – a Rare developed titled, but it’s Donkey Kong so they kind of have to include it.
  8. Super Smash Bros. – the one that started it all
  9. Wave Race 64 – a Nintendo developed racing title. It’s fine, but it was pretty popular at the time so it likely gets included.
  10. Kirby 64 – it’s not a great game, like most Kirby titles, but it’s also not a bad one. Nintendo likes to push Kirby (the SNES Classic has two Kirby games!) so it probably gets included.
  11. Pokemon Snap – in case you haven’t heard, these pocket monsters are pretty popular. Snap is a better game than it has any right to be, though few would miss it if Nintendo left it off.
  12. 1080 Snowboarding – it’s a Nintendo produced title so that gives it a leg-up on other titles. It’s a fine snowboarding game, if you like snowboarding games.
  13. Excitebike 64 –  a call-back to an original NES game? Seems like it would be included for that reason alone.
  14. Star Fox 64 – another obvious one to include. Probably the best game in the series (unless Star Fox 2 is a lot better than the leaks make it out to be).
  15. F-Zero X – it’s not a particularly good game, in my opinion, but since F-Zero is included on the SNES Classic I would guess it would be included here.
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It’s worth mentioning, despite how unlikely it is to be included.

Other titles worthy of consideration:

Yoshi’s Story – it’s not a good game, but it stars a prominent Nintendo character.

Dr. Mario 64 – Dr. Mario was included on the NES Classic, that’s pretty much the only reason to include it here though.

Banjo-Kazooie – the Banjo games were really popular on the N64, so they feel like they should be included, but Rare owns the characters and DK 64 is essentially the same game.

Pokemon Puzzle League – it’s Tetris Attack but with Pokemon. It’s an excellent puzzle game, but Nintendo left Tetris Attack off of the SNES Classic so they may do it again here. The Super Famicom Classic will have Tetris Attack, so maybe Japanese gamers would get it. I’d personally take this over Pokemon Snap any day of the week, but it’s just my gut telling me that Snap is more likely.

Blast Corps –  a pretty fun Nintendo/Rare game that probably should be included, but probably won’t be.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day – I probably don’t need to explain why this won’t be included, but it’s the best thing Rare ever did with the 3D platformer genre.

GoldenEye – it’s a beloved game for the N64, and it recently turned 20, but licensing issues will keep it, and it’s spiritual sequel Perfect Dark, off of any N64 Classic (though if an exception were made this is the game Nintendo would make one for).

Pilotwings 64 – certainly worthy of inclusion, but Nintendo didn’t see fit to include the original on the SNES Classic so it doesn’t bode well for the sequel.

Mario Golf/Mario Tennis – these are solid games, and would stand a chance at inclusion if Nintendo felt it needed a sports title to round out the mix.

WWF No Mercy – I just felt it merited discussion since it and the other THQ wrestling games were so popular, but licensing issues would keep it out

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A N64 Classic would be a great excuse to revisit this little gem.

After running through the games, I’m actually slightly more optimistic at the prospect of it. Nintendo published a lot of worthwhile software, more than I remembered, to easily ignore the holes left by third parties on the N64. While it’s crazy to exclude Capcom and Konami after both had such a large presence on the NES and SNES Classic, neither company really did much on the N64 that warrants inclusion. If Nintendo wants to completely ignore the contributions of Rare it probably could, though it would feel a bit dishonest since Rare came up huge for the N64.

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You kind of need to be able to have 4-player play, right?

Still, it begs the question, do I want nintendo to put out a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition? It’s not just about the games, wanting one also means dealing with intentional scarcity likely to follow. It also probably means paying a higher price. The NES Classic was $60, and the SNES Classic is $80, the N64 Classic could command $100. And unlike the other two, the N64 Classic practically requires four controllers to truly replicate the experience and spare controllers for the NES Classic were the only things harder to find than the NES Classic itself! Could Nintendo package it with four controllers to help soften the $100 price point? Maybe, but if those controllers are expensive to produce then it may not be possible. And do we really want to spend $100 or more on a mini N64? An actual one with multiple controllers would run you about the same and those cartridges aren’t super scarce and quite durable. It’s certainly not the nostalgia boner the NES and SNES induce. So really – I don’t know. I look at that list of games, factor in the cost and aggravation, and I really don’t get the same sense of want that the SNES Classic gives me. Part of that is just that the games from the N64 era haven’t aged particularly well, so my desire to revisit them isn’t particularly strong. On the other hand, I know me and I tend to want what’s new and what’s popular where games are concerned so there’s a good chance I’d try to get one. Unlike with the SNES Classic though, I don’t think I’d go above and beyond to secure one. I need the SNES Classic (obviously I don’t, but the level of want I’m experiencing feels like need) and will get one no matter what, but I could probably go without a Nintendo 64 Classic and not feel too bad about it.


Ranking the Games of the SNES Classic

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It’s coming…

Nintendo dispatched with what little suspense there was relating to the SNES Classic this week by unveiling the plug and play device as well as just about everything we needed to know about it. Ever since the company shockingly pulled the plug on the NES Classic, the plug and play mini Nintendo Entertainment System that proved nearly impossible to find during the holiday season, the gaming community has been wondering when the company would show off its successor. It was basically a foregone conclusion that a SNES Classic Edition would be made, the only real questions concerning it would be when is it coming and did Nintendo learn anything following the NES Classic fiasco?

Well, yes and no to that last question. The biggest complaints, aside from availability, surrounding the NES Classic were in regards to the controller cord length and the selection of games. While most of the very best non-licensed games from that era were represented, there was also a lot of padding with games such as Balloon Fight and Ice Climber that most people were not eager to revisit, The controllers were wired, which in the age of wireless feels odd enough, but to make matters worse the cord length was only two and a a half feet. The SNES Classic seeks to improve on both by legitimately featuring a wealth of quality, classic games and by featuring longer cords. Unfortunately, the length was only extended to five feet which is shorter than what is featured with the original SNES controllers. There’s no word from Nintendo though on just how many units will be produced, only offering up that it will be significantly more than the NES Classic. Helping matters some is that each unit will come bundled with two controllers, as the only thing harder to find than the NES Classic last Christmas was a second controller to go with it. The SNES Classic will come in at $80, which is $20 more than the NES Classic, and will feature 21 games as opposed to 30.

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The UK edition which is identical to the Japanese Super Famicom. The actual Japanese version will include different titles.

I’ll review the device in time, when it’s actually available, but like I did with the NES Classic, I wanted to rank the games that are coming with it. Last fall, I speculated on what would be included on the device assuming it would include 30 games, so naturally I picked more than what was featured. I actually only missed on three games:  Kirby’s Dream Course, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and Star Fox 2. The latter of which I mentioned as thinking it would be asking too much since Star Fox 2 has never been officially released. It’s definitely the biggest surprise that came out of Nintendo on Monday, and I’m sure millions of Nintendo fans across the globe are eager for an official release. Kirby’s Dream Course, I just plain didn’t consider while I omitted Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts from my list mostly as wishful thinking. Given that its predecessor was featured on the NES Classic, I had a hunch it would be included, even though I don’t know anyone who wants it. The only game I’m surprised isn’t being included is Pilotwings, as being a first party title and SNES launch game, I had just assumed Nintendo would include it. Capcom naturally is including Street Fighter 2, and the only question around that game was what version would we get? The US is getting Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting, while curiously the Japanese market is getting Super Street Fighter 2. What did we do, Capcom, to deserve this slight?

I could go on and on about this product, but I’m going to cut myself off here and get to the meat of this post:  the games. The 21 US/UK games are below in order of how awesome I think they are starting with the worst of the bunch. This set, as a whole, is rather excellent with only a few titles I’m not too high on. And even though I’m starting with the lesser titles, the first one comes with an asterisk:

Star_Fox_2_2017#21 – Star Fox 2* (2017)

Star Fox 2 is obviously the most mysterious title of the bunch, but given that it has “leaked” to the internet it’s not as mysterious as it once was. And even though I think the finished game included on the SNES Classic is likely not much different from the ROM that’s been available for years, I don’t feel comfortable ranking it just yet without playing the completed game. So while I’m ranking this as #21, it’s basically unranked, and I don’t think it will be the worst game on the set. What it probably will be is the first game most people play after the plug this baby in.

 

250px-GhoulsSNES_boxart#20 – Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1991)

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a hard game, which is probably its defining feature. The SNES game is the sequel to the original, though it’s not much different. It certainly looks better, but as an early SNES title it’s not likely to impress in that respect. For those who really want to be challenged, this is probably a satisfying game. For me, I just don’t find it particularly enjoyable to play. It’s not cheap or anything, it just isn’t fun to control Arthur or particularly rewarding to complete his quest. I wish Capcom had opted to include the spin-off Demon’s Crest instead, but I did not expect that to happen.

snes_f-zero_boxart#19 – F-Zero (1990)

F-Zero is another early SNES title and when it first came out it was pretty impressive to behold. Playing it though? Eh. It’s basically a glorified tech demo for the SNES Mode 7 graphics which did a lot for the racing genre as you no longer needed to rely on onscreen prompts to know when to turn, you could just see the turns coming up ahead. It’s a hard game that strangely is strictly single player. Since it was a launch title, some fans might have a fondness for the game as it was one of the titles to turn to after finishing Super Mario World, but a lot of people would probably rather play another popular racing game from this collection.

dkc_snes_boxart#18 – Donkey Kong Country (1994)

I’m guessing most people will rank Rare’s resurrection of the Donkey Kong franchise higher than I am, but I was just never that into the game. Kind of like F-Zero, the game is a bit of tech demo sorts for the pre-rendered three-dimensional graphics that the game makes use of. With everything being pre-rendered, there’s a disconnect between the Kongs and the environment surrounding them. I, of course, didn’t know this when playing as a kid but I did feel the disconnect. It was impressive to look at, but not a lot of fun to play.

superpunchoutbox#17 – Super Punch-Out!! (1994)

The less popular sequel to one of the NES’s most popular games, Super Punch-Out!! is probably a more arcade perfect version of the original Punch-Out!!, though the NES version was so popular it became the definitive one. As a result, this game lacks its predecessor’s charm. Little Mac isn’t so little given the behind the back view of the game which really changes the feel of the game and undermines the underdog factor the game is supposed to possess. It is a game I haven’t played in years and I’m interested in resisting it to see if my opinion has changed.

contra_iii_game_cover#16 – Contra III: The Alien Wars (1993)

It’s Contra, I probably don’t need to go into any additional detail. You know what you’re getting here. It fills a nice void on this collection for its co-op play, and Contra is probably the premiere run and gun franchise. It serves a nice callback to Super C from the NES Classic, so it was a foregone conclusion it would be here. A lot of Contra fans consider either this or Hard Corps, which was released for the Genesis, as the best in the series so Contra fans should be happy this one is here.

250px-star_fox_snes#15 – Star Fox (1993)

I know we’re all really excited to be getting Star Fox 2 on this set, but I feel like it must be said that Star Fox is possibly Nintendo’s most overrated franchise. The original game is, and I’m sounding like a broken record already, a tech demo of sorts for the Super FX chip. And if you didn’t know, the Super FX chip was the SNES’s primitive way of introducing polygons to gamers. It looked dated from the moment it first showed up, but there was some charm to the game’s visuals. Those have been lost to time as the game is borderline ugly at this point, but it’s a solid behind the vehicle flight simulator. Star Fox 64 was much improved and the 3DS version of that game is probably the best game in the franchise. And pretty much all of the other games are either decent or bad, but at least the first one is still solid!

smk#14 – Super Mario Kart (1992)

The launching of a franchise juggernaut, Super Mario Kart was an instant crowd favorite due to the combat elements of the game. Battle Mode is still pretty fun, though the Mode 7 graphics do show their age at this point. It almost seems like Mario Kart 64 has taken over as the game most people feel the most nostalgic for, but I do feel the original game was actually better than that one. It probably wasn’t until Double Dash for the Gamecube that the original was finally surpassed and it has since been lapped a few times. It is dated, but still fun and challenging.

250px-Kirbydreamcourse#13 – Kirby’s Dream Course (1994)

This is probably the weirdest game included on this collection, and aside from Star Fox 2, the most unexpected. Kirby gets a lot of the spin-off, gimmick, treatment and most of those games are mediocre or worse with a few gems here and there. Dream Course is one such gem even though it probably sounds pretty stupid. The game is basically a cross of mini golf and billiards with Kirby serving as the ball. You shoot him into enemies with the last enemy on the screen serving as the goal of the stage. The objective of the game is to get Kirby into the goal in as few “strokes” as possible. He can still copy powers which introduces strategy into which enemy you take out first. The billiards element exists in your ability to apply spin to Kirby popping him up in the air or causing him take off in a given direction. It’s a fun game though it does depend a lot on trial and error, so once you figure out each hole, you’ll probably not come back.

earthbound_box#12 – EarthBound (1994)

The JRPG was really starting to take-off at this point in time so it’s no surprise that Nintendo sent its lone game in that genre west for the first time. EarthBound is a game fondly remembered for its setting and humor, being for the long time one of the only JRPGs to be set in a non-fantasy setting. This is another game that many people will probably rank higher than I am (I think IGN recently placed it in the top 10 RPGs of all time or something), but believe me when I say the game is very dated by today’s standards. About the only thing progressive EarthBound did at the time from a gameplay perspective was remove the random battles, but enemies are much faster than you which minimizes that advantage. The inventory management is easily the game’s biggest drag and everything moves at a glacial pace. As someone who loves JRPGs, I can find enjoyment in the game, but I don’t think it’s on the same level as the other SNES greats like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger, but that’s just my opinion.

kss_boxart#11 – Kirby Super Star (1996)

Kirby Super Star is your dose of traditional Kirby on this set, and Super Star is probably his best outing still to this day. It’s not particularly challenging, like his NES outing, but the copy powers of Kirby make the game a lot of fun and give you the ability to change things up with each play-through. You can also have a second player control an enemy character for 2-player co-op which is also a lot of fun. It’s quite possibly the best co-op platformer I’ve ever played as even Mario and Sonic have struggled in that area. And as a late entry to the SNES, a lot of people may not have be as familiar with this game which may make it feel new to a lot of people picking up this collection.

35497-Street_Fighter_II_Turbo_-_Hyper_Fighting_(USA)-1453510943#10 – Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1993)

Now we’re getting into the top 10, and the games that helped define the SNES as one of the greatest gaming devices of all time. Street Fighter II was a huge game and instrumental in the fighting-game craze of the early 90s. Without it, who knows where the fighting genre would be? It was also one of the first arcade ports to a console that felt almost perfect making Street Fighter II a game that both simultaneously prolonged the life of the arcade and helped to hasten its demise. The game is a classic and still holds up quite well, to the point that Capcom recently re-released a version of Super Street Fighter II on the Switch with updated visuals. Because of that game, it’s possible SNES Classic owners are getting short-changed with the Turbo edition of the game with Capcom hoping to not impact sales of their Switch title. At least, that was my assumption until I saw that Japanese gamers were getting Super Street Fighter II on their Super Famicom Classic Edition, so who knows why we’re getting Turbo? It’s still a great game, just not as good as Super.

250px-secret_of_mana_box#9 – Secret of Mana (1993)

Often considered Square’s answer to Zelda, Secret of Mana is very much its own thing and even does something it would take Zelda many years to introduce:  co-op play. Secret of Mana can be enjoyed by up to three gamers at a time, but I have no idea if the SNES Classic will be able to accommodate more than two players at any one time. It’s possible, but doesn’t feel likely. Even without that, Secret of Mana is a great game with a great soundtrack, look, and gameplay. I’ve actually been playing its sequel recently, so I’m eager to go back to the first SNES game (which is technically a sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure for the GameBoy) for comparison purposes as I’m undecided on which is my favorite. This one should be a nice, meaty, adventure for SNES Classic owners and its a nice alternative to both Zelda and Final Fantasy.

super_castlevania_iv_north_american_snes_box_art#8 – Super Castlevania IV (1991)

This a favorite of many in the Castlevania fanbase. In some ways, it’s the last classically designed game and is essentially the first three games perfected. It’s classic Castlevania with enhanced visuals and music and still looks great to this day. It might play a little slow for some, but the controls are tight and the difficulty is fair. There’s not much more to say about this one, if you’ve played any of the first three Castlevania titles you’re getting more of the same, just a better version.

supermariorpgsnescoverartus#7 – Super Mario RPG (1996)

The SNES Classic features three traditional JRPGs that all play about as different from one another as a JRPG could. Super Mario RPG was a Nintendo-Squaresoft collaboration with Square doing most of the heavy lifting. Kind of like Capcom’s collaboration with Square on Breath of Fire, Nintendo would take over the Mario RPG franchise going forward and it’s still debatable which title in the now long-running series is the best. The original is still a lot of fun with a lot of humor and charm throughout. The timed button commands in the battle system introduced a layer of interactivity not present in a lot of JRPGs at the time and the pseudo 3D visuals were pretty impressive at the time. They’ve aged a little better than the Super FX games though the title still looks a little dated by today’s standards and maybe a traditional sprite-based game would have aged better. That said, it’s a lot of fun with a solid amount of challenge and its running time will help give your SNES Classic a long shelf life.

yoshis_island_super_mario_world_2_box_art#6 – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995) 

Yoshi was the Super Nintendo’s break-out star, so it wasn’t surprising to see him assume a starring role in the Super Mario World sequel. What was a surprise, was to see baby Mario playing a supporting role, or maybe that should be an antagonist role? Baby Mario sucks and a lot has been said on that subject over the years, but beyond that Yoshi’s Island is a meaty platformer with a lot to see and do. The levels feel massive compared to its predecessor and Yoshi in some levels introduces a surprise element on a first play-through. How those vehicles handle is a bit of a mixed bag, but everyone agrees the game looks fantastic and it was the best application of the Super FX chip I ever saw (technically Super FX2 chip). Because of that though, the game has been hard to emulate properly so it has never been available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Hopefully it’s faithfully recreated on the SNES Classic as I found the GBA version available to 3DS Ambassadors underwhelming.

mega_man_x_coverart#5 – Mega Man X (1993)

Mega Man was probably the biggest third-party star on the NES, so it was expected he would make the jump to the SNES. What wasn’t certain was how he would do that. Mega Man 5 and 6 both released very late on the NES making it seem like that series would remain an 8-bit fixture while the SNES received Mega Man X. At first confusing the X for a roman numeral, I was perplexed how the franchise made it that far without my knowing, but once I played it I didn’t care because Mega Man X was the perfect evolution for the Mega Man franchise. Now referred to simply as X, Mega Man could dash and wall jump in addition to his other maneuvers. He had a cool sidekick in Zero, who would later become playable in the sequels, and a new enemy in Sigma. The game was a blast and it’s justifiably included here as one of the premier run and gun platformers. Eventually traditional Mega Man would come to the SNES in the form of Mega Man 7, a game not remembered fondly so Capcom was wise to lend X to the SNES Classic.

250px-smetroidbox#4 – Super Metroid (1994)

For a time, it seemed like Samus would miss the SNES as it took her a long time to arrive. Thankfully, her arrival on the console was definitely worth the wait as Super Metroid is still the best game in the series and a true 16-bit classic. The game isn’t that much different from its NES predecessor, but it’s a lot bigger and more impressive to behold. Samus handles better than ever and feels like a being truly equipped for the mission at hand capable of wall jumping, morph balling, dashing, directional shooting, and all that other jazz. The game opens up little by little with Samus finding new and better equipment that allow her to reach previously inaccessible areas. In that, Samus is very similar to Link though you would never confuse Zelda with Metroid. This is Nintendo’s best action franchise, so it’s a shame the company promotes it so little, but at least we’re getting a remake of Metroid II for the 3DS this fall. Enjoy this one though as it’s one of Nintendo’s best games.

510ahyhdidl-_sx300_#3 – Final Fantasy III (1994)

Possibly the greatest game in the long-running Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy III was the title that really put the JRPG on the map in the west. Of course, we all know it now by its real title, Final Fantasy VI, but for a long time American gamers thought it was the third game in the series. It features a huge cast of characters and one of gaming’s most memorable villains. Each of the playable characters does something no one else does which makes party construction a lot of fun. There’s also the “final” battle fake-out which leads to the World of Ruin, and I loved that there was an instance of permanent death for a certain character if you messed up. You may have passed on playing Final Fantasy on the NES Classic, but definitely don’t ignore this one.

250px-super_mario_world_coverart#2 – Super Mario World (1990)

Still the best Mario game! I love Super Mario World and you probably do too because it’s a game that’s hard not to like. It’s also a game most have played to death because it was the pack-in game with every SNES sold. Some are probably disappointed Nintendo is including this game and not Super Mario All-Stars & Super Mario World, as that would have essentially given us four additional games, but I wasn’t expecting Nintendo to be that generous so I’m not surprised, but I can’t disagree that it would have been awesome had they done so. Even though I’ve beaten this game many times, finding all of the gates in each stage, I’ll probably play through it again on the SNES Classic because the game is so fun and it will be a nice measuring stick to see how well the emulation is done.

attp#1 – The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past (1991)

It may be boring, but could any other game be #1 on this list? A Link to the Past isn’t just arguably the best Zelda title, it’s arguably the greatest game of all time. It looks great, handles well, sounds awesome, and the adventure is long and satisfying. This one introduced a lot of items and gear that would become staples of the franchise going forward, and the only reason to not play this game on the SNES Classic when it comes out is because you’ve already played it a million times. And even then, that’s still not a great excuse.


A Few Hours with Nintendo Switch

img_1005It’s Friday, March 3rd, the launch day for Nintendo Switch, and I’ve had mine since the clock changed over to mark the day. By now, you’ve probably seen the system, read numerous reviews of it and the software, and maybe even have your very own. There’s a lot of information out there, and I’m not going to try and match the coverage of the Switch by professional gaming outlets who’ve had access to the system all week. The early returns on the system seem to be mostly positive, though not glowing with praise. The early returns on Zelda:  Breath of the Wild however, have been almost universally warm with many perfect scores getting tossed around.

My Switch experience so far can be summed up simply as painless. I pre-ordered the console, a carrying case, and Zelda the day pre-orders went up at the local Gamestop near me. The only hitch thus far has been the carrying case, which is MIA. On the day pre-orders went up, I went to Gamestop and placed my pre-order without the need to wait outside for hours for the store to open. The store is within a mile of my house so I was there and back in about 15 minutes. Last night after work, I went down to get my number for the midnight release. Basically, they just confirmed my pre-order and bagged it up for me so it was ready to go. Those who pre-ordered were also given access to games and accessories. I was the 10th person with a pre-order to go in. The manager told me Nintendo didn’t send everything they expected which is why my case is still missing. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, or if the 9 people who went there before me bought them up. Regardless, I’m not sweating it and he told me if I don’t hear from them by Wednesday to give them a call, as they expect more to arrive. At the time I went in, I also added a Pro Controller to my bundle as early reviews have indicated there may be some syncing issues with the Joycons when not connected to the Switch, and I figured I’d get a Pro Controller eventually anyways (as much as I hate that I just spent 70 bucks plus tax on a controller). At midnight, I hopped in my car and got to the store as number 9 was called to the counter, so I was back home with my Switch by 12:15. Pretty cool.

Unboxing the Switch and holding it for the first time really drives home the fact that this is a console/portable hybrid. The box is easily the smallest box a new console has come in that I’ve purchased, but the largest any portable has as well. The same can be said for the hardware. It’s light, but not cheap feeling, and the whole boot process and day-one update (for both the hardware and Zelda) took maybe 15 minutes tops, and that also includes setting up the dock and attempting to use the Pro Controller as well as syncing the console with my Nintendo Network ID. That’s a far cry from the hours it took to get the Wii U up and running.

The dock for the Switch is kind of interesting. It’s very light and the only part of the console that feels cheap. It has a hinged door on the back that grants access to the various ports on the dock, which is nice as it forces all of the cords through one opening, keeping things tidy. I’m concerned there isn’t enough weight in the bottom of the dock preventing the Switch from sliding out as easy as it could. It also has one of those giant plugs on the AC wall plug, which feels like a blast from the past, in a bad way. In defense of it, I was able to fit it in-between two other plugs on a surge protector so it’s not too cumbersome, it’s just a pet peeve of mine.

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Fuck this thing.

The Zelda packaging is essentially the same as Vita packaging, right down to having little clips inside for an instruction manual that doesn’t exist. The game card is roughly the same size as well, just a touch bigger, and the door on the Switch for game card access is also very reminiscent of the Vita. It has a clipped-in door that should never pop open by accident.

My Switch arrived roughly 50% charged, so I got some gaming in last night before I went to bed before recommencing today. The Pro Controller had no charge, so I was forced to plug that in and leave it initially. I wasn’t certain what the charge level of the two Joycons was at, so I elected to just test drive the Switch as a portable, only testing the dock to see how quickly the image was transferred to the television (answer: fast). Handling the Switch felt like a new experience, more so than any other new console, save for the Wii. The button layout is different enough to not feel as familiar as most controllers, and I found myself feeling not as confident playing Zelda as I probably normally would on a first try. The small face buttons didn’t bother me as I’m so used to playing my Vita and 3DS, but the placement of the pseudo-D-pad on the left side as well as the analog on the right feels weird. In Zelda, the D-pad (D-buttons is probably more appropriate) is used to swap weapons and I was reluctant to do so in combat initially, not knowing what would happen. Hitting one of the buttons brings up Link’s weapons and pauses the action, which I was very happy for. Then you have to use the right analog to select the actual weapon you want. Having that analog so far below the left one is what kind of trips me up. It’s not that different from an Xbox controller or even the Gamecube, but perhaps it’s not quite as natural as either one. I’m not sure why Nintendo didn’t just keep the same layout as the Wii U. Actually, I do know why and it’s so each Joycon can function as a stand-alone controller. I’m pretty confident that I’ll get used to it, but it still feels odd on the first few play-throughs. Another aspect of the Switch’s input that feels a little odd are the shoulder buttons. The triggers are in a fine spot, but the front buttons are so small and thin that they’re a bit awkward. Perhaps this is why Sony didn’t try to squeeze more shoulder buttons/triggers onto the Vita, though again, I think it’s something I’ll get used to.

Since I only have Zelda, I can’t really test out the Joycon controllers. My reaction to them is that they’re probably okay in a pinch as individual controllers, but I wouldn’t want to use them in such a fashion unless it was a very simple game. I think they work with the upcoming Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but that strikes me as a pretty bad way to play that game, which is why I bit the bullet on a Pro for eventual 2-player games. I passed on 1-2 Switch as I just can’t view that as a full-priced game. If the game falls into the discount bin then I may take the plunge. In all likelihood, the next iteration of the Switch hardware will probably include it as a pack-in game.

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The Switch with the Wii U tablet behind it.

Zelda:  Breath of the Wild is so far pretty interesting. I’m way too early into the game to say anything definitive on it, but it’s definitely nice to have a more familiar Zelda experience than Skyward Sword and its forced motion controls. Visually, the game looks a lot like a combination of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. It has that softness to it Skyward Sword had, which is apparently Nintendo’s go-to technique to cover-up for subpar graphical power. It does have a technological component to the visuals, which you may have seen, which I think will help differentiate it from other games in the series. The depiction of which kind of reminds me of Twilight Princess’s Twilight Realm, though without the pervasive darkness.

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Now with the Vita in front of the Switch.

I must say, it’s awesome to finally have voice acting in a Zelda title. Link may not audibly speak, but you are able to respond in text to NPCs so he basically talks, he just doesn’t have a voice actor or say anything you don’t tell him to say. It’s also great to not have a stand-in for Navi as I think that type of character is often everyone’s least favorite part of modern Zelda games. I’m not sure how I feel about the destructible weapons, as weapon durability is often not something that’s fun in other games, but I’m withholding judgement for the time being. I do wish Nintendo didn’t take these half-measures with the hunting and combat. It’s kind of stupid to see Link shoot some fauna and have it evaporate into a puff of smoke, leaving behind an item for Link to consume. Something more visceral would have really helped with the setting and immersion. I know Nintendo doesn’t want to risk alienating younger players with violence, but I think they could have done a better job and it wouldn’t have required gratuitous blood and gore.

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With the Vita.

I look forward to spending more time with Zelda and the Switch. Thus far I’ve really only experienced the console as a portable and plan on getting some TV time in with it this weekend. I’ll make it a point to try both the Joycon controller grip and the Pro Controller. I expect both to work just fine, and if I have anything substantial to add to that I’ll add an update to this entry (especially if I experience sync issues with the Joycon). I’ll also have more to say on Zelda at a later date and how it fits in with the other games in the series. Until I get my carrying case, the Switch will reside in my home as I don’t want to risk getting any scratches on the screen. For now, my Vita need not worry about being replaced as my main portable, but I suspect the quality of Zelda will force my hand eventually. New consoles are always a fun time to be interested in gaming, and the Switch has done a good job of keeping my enthusiasm high. Hopefully, Zelda is good enough to keep myself and other early adopters happy until the next batch of software arrives. I’m confident that the hardware is good enough, the games will determine how successful the Switch is from here on out.


Nintendo Switch or Nintendo More of the Same?

636198636477072652-nintendo-switchSwitch. If you took a shot each time someone said that word during Nintendo’s press conference unveiling the latest device in console/mobile gaming you’re probably hung over right now. It’s obviously not just a name for the console/handheld hybrid, but also a marketing strategy. Nintendo is changing with the times, switching it up if you will, and making a commitment to something new and exciting. If that’s the main take-away from the Switch’s coming out party last night, then why did I feel like this was the Wii all over again?

Nintendo first gave the public a glimpse at its newest device back in October. Since then, the company has been virtually silent on the subject until last night’s big unveiling. Most of the pressing questions were answered either during the conference or shortly there-after. We know when the Switch is arriving at retail (March 3rd), we know how much it will cost ($299), and we know what games will be available (Zelda!) and have some idea of what we’ll be playing by the end of 2017 (Mario! Skyrim!). A lot of the other lingering questions from the Switch’s first public display were answered like that the system does indeed boast a touch screen, the joy con controllers do feature shoulder buttons, and Nintendo is going with a pay-t0-play online service in the fall.

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Hey, yo! Get a load of my colors.

The Switch’s initial unveiling had me cautiously excited. I expressed my interest in a true portable home gaming device and I was receptive to a lot of the software teased in that video. Last night’s conference, however, muted that excitement. I should get it out of the way, I still placed a pre-order on the device (actually two, with the first being an online one just in case I couldn’t land a pre-order at a brick and mortar) so obviously I wasn’t dissuaded from purchasing the Switch, but it was with significantly less enthusiasm.

Let’s get right to the price. Numbers had been thrown around leading up to the announcement last night with the consensus seeming to be for a $250 price point. On IGN’s pre-show, $199 was even floated as the “sweet spot” by one host which I thought was a pipe-dream. From the start, I had assumed $299 would be the price, but I still hoped for $250. I wasn’t really dismayed by the actual announcement on that front, but the price tags for the accessories is rather shocking. After the conference, Nintendo unveiled the price-point for many of these on its website. If you want a second set of joy con controllers, that will set you back $80! That’s the steepest investment of any standard controller I think I’ve ever seen. If for some reason you only desire a left or right joy con, that’s $50, but I can’t see much reason in doing that unless it’s to replace a broken unit. The two that come bundled with the system include wrist straps that have a plastic piece that thickens the controller itself and appears to make it more ergonomic. That’s not included with the stand-alone controllers so there’s another $20. If you prefer a traditional controller (what Nintendo refers to as its pro controllers) that will cost you $70. For comparison, a Dual Shock 4 costs $60, and Amazon routinely sells them for $50.

Extra docking stations, controller “shells,” and other such peripherals all carry pretty steep asking prices. Thankfully, the console supports standard memory cards since the included flash drive can only hold 32GB (purchasing the new Zelda title digitally will reportedly consume half of that), so I guess that’s one positive. All told though, you’re talking about having an entry price-point for the Switch at more than what it costs to get a PS4 or Xbox One, and those consoles both boast more robust software libraries and more raw processing power as well.

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Arms. Apparently we’re going back to the days of the NES when Nintendo titles were as bland as white bread. Can’t wait for Legs!

Nintendo unveiled two new IPs early in the conference: 1-2-Switch and Arms. Nintendo apparently felt the term “video” in “video games” was too burdensome so 1-2-Switch is a game designed to function without video input being a necessity. You basically waggle the joy con controllers amongst two-players in a Wii Sports sort of environment, just without the TV. They demonstrated two cowboys having a quick duel and I also saw people playing table tennis. The joy con controllers feature advanced rumble feedback and motion controls, and Nintendo is banking on those features being so intuitive that it can drive the fun factor for a game. 1-2-Switch sounds like a decent tech demo kind of game, like the previously referenced Wii Sports, but unlike its predecessor it’s not a pack-in title and is a full $60 MSRP game. I have zero interest in the game at that price point. Arms is essentially the next evolution of Wii Boxing, with more emphasis placed on being able to move the characters around with a more visually pleasing game. Each character has extendable, Inspector Gadget-like arms for punching. The input mechanics actually remind me more of Wii Bowling, with the twisting of the wrist to curve the punch being a central component, only now you’re striking an opponent instead of pins. Again though, this game would have made for an interesting pack-in game, but at full retail price it looks ludicrous. It’s also not available at launch and expected to arrive in April.

Nintendo also spent a considerable portion of the show bringing representatives from third party developers onto the stage to voice their support for the Switch. Unfortunately,  virtually none of them had anything interesting to say or even games to show. Bethesda was one of the few to actually show some gameplay, in this case for Skyrim. I’m excited to have a portable version of Skyrim, but an almost six year old game arriving in the fall isn’t going to move consoles or convince the consumer that third parties are all-in on the Switch. Right now, it very much resembled recent Nintendo launches where third parties are only willing to offer ports of previously released games, or in the case of EA, port an annual title to the Switch. And the sad part is, if these ports don’t sell then third party developers will use that as an excuse to continue the narrative that Nintendo consumers are only interested in Nintendo products, when really it could be that they just don’t want to re-buy games they already own!

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Sir, it’s not polite to stare.

Nintendo, for its part, showed some of its own games to a mostly positive reaction. We now have a title for the new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, and we know it’s coming at the end of the year. It’s a true 3D Mario adventure with some levels set in real-world settings. It also features a Minish Cap sort of gimmick where Mario’s hat is apparently sentient. Some of the visuals, like Mario interacting with reality-proportioned humans, were bizarre, but I have faith that Nintendo will deliver a special game with their mascot. Zelda: Breath of the Wild was also confirmed as a launch game and follows in the foot steps of Twilight Princess before it, being a game developed for the old hardware that is now debuting on the new hardware. It looks pretty great, and it’s the only title I reserved with my pre-order of the Switch.

The other games Nintendo unveiled either during the show or after were less impressive. I already mentioned 1-2-Switch and Arms, but Nintendo also unveiled Splatoon 2, which looked exactly like the first game. It’s coming in June. The Mario Kart game we saw in that first teaser back in October was confirmed to just be an enhanced version of Mario Kart 8. I suppose that’s great for those who skipped out on the Wii U, but not so great for those who already have it. Missing was the true knock-out punch from Nintendo, something to really wow gamers with either a new IP or an old classic. Outside of Mario, there isn’t much to look forward to after launch and I fear there will be a pretty long software drought just like there was for the Wii and Wii U.

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This pretty much sums up the third-party support issue quite nicely.

Truth be told, the Nintendo brand and the presence of Zelda are going to be enough for the Switch to have a successful launch, but let’s not forget that the Wii U did all right when it launched too. The holiday season will be a real barometer for what the public thinks of the Switch. The fact that the Wii U ended up fairing so poorly may help sell the Switch since a lot of people will want to play Zelda, and won’t already have a Wii U to play it on (it’s being released on both consoles). I think the mobile aspect of the console won’t be a big factor for most gamers, even if it’s something that I am really interested in. People already have their smart phones and most won’t want to haul the Switch around in a backpack, especially if the battery life comes in at the low end of Nintendo’s prediction of 2 1/2 to 6 hours (a pretty generous range, Nintendo). I think Nintendo will also find its online service to be a hard sell when gamers may already have an Xbox Live or PS Plus membership. As part of the Nintendo package, gamers will get access to free, classic games each month (I’m actually not sure on the plural aspect, it might be something like one NES game and one SNES game), which is smart of them because it leverages one of their strengths. I think they’re making a mistake though by making the free titles only playable for a month, after that it requires a purchase. They should follow their competitors leads and just make the games free for subscribers for as long as their membership is active. It also would have been nice to hear they’re making all of those Virtual Console purchases gamers made on the Wii U and other platforms will be carried over to the Switch. At least in the case of Wii U owners, it would have been a nice “thank you” to those fans who stuck with the company during its darkest period.

Last night’s conference ended up leaving me more concerned than before about the Switch’s prospects. That cautious optimism has mostly been replaced with cynicism and an expectation that the Switch will follow a similar path as the Wii U. The conference, more than anything, re-affirmed for me what Nintendo is which is becoming more of a niche product. I think it’s very possible that the Switch is Nintendo’s last console, or that it’s marking the start of an era where Nintendo only creates portable systems that can also plug into a television set. I hope I’m wrong, but at least I know I’m getting some Zelda and Mario action in the interim, because at the end of the day, that’s still Nintendo’s biggest asset for selling consoles. The Switch will answer whether or not that’s Nintendo’s only asset.


Forecasting the Eventual SNES Classic

snesWe’re now past Thanksgiving here in the US which means the holiday shopping season is already well underway. The recently released NES Classic continues to be a hot seller, perhaps the hottest of the season, though that seems to have more to do with product scarcity than true demand (after all, children by and large are not interested in a gaming device with 30 year old games on it). That said, no one would deny that even in limited quantities the NES Classic has been a commercial success for Nintendo, something that’s been hard to come by for the venerable game developer of late. Most analysts peg the NES Classic as being pretty cheap to manufacture, and the power under the hood is likely sufficient to support a comparable quantity of N64 games, so speculating on a potential SNES Classic seems like a waste of time:  it’s going to happen. And if we’re going to get an SNES Classic then immediately the mind next moves onto what games will Nintendo include on that collection?

The Super Nintendo has arguably the greatest library of games of any console ever released (not giving modern consoles credit for digital backwards compatibility, of course), so Nintendo has its work cut out for it when narrowing that library down to 30 titles. Why 30? Well, that’s what the NES Classic contains so might as well stick with it. This post is my prediction of what the SNES Classic will include, and isn’t a collection of games I would necessarily choose if given free reign to do so. In looking over the games of the NES Classic, it became rather obvious that Nintendo wanted to include as many Nintendo developed and published titles as possible, likely for licensing reasons. Also, games featuring licensed characters from outside gaming (Mickey Mouse, TMNT, etc.) weren’t included, so let’s assume the same will be true of the SNES Classic. I’m going to order this list by what titles I think are most likely to be included, starting with the most obvious. Before we get to that, let’s quick-hit a few games I think won’t be included, but probably should be.

Demon’s Crest – A spin-off of the Ghosts ‘N Goblins games, Demon’s Crest is a platform title with RPG elements, a genre almost always referred to as “unique” on a game-by-game basis even though it’s uncommon. The game is available on the virtual console, and if you never played it (and considering it was a late era release for the SNES you probably did not) you’d do well to check it out.

Fire Emblem:  Mystery of the Emblem – For many years, Fire Emblem was the series American audiences were left to wonder about. It was the rare Nintendo property kept in Japan, likely out of fear that American audiences wouldn’t enjoy the gameplay. Wrong! This one would have a shot of being included on the SNES Classic if it had been properly localized, but I’m guessing Nintendo won’t want to do that. It, or another Fire Emblem, is a virtual lock for the Super Famicom Classic though.

Mortal Kombat II – Mortal Kombat was a smash-hit in the arcades, and when it was released for consoles it was a huge hit for the Sega Genesis. That’s because Sega allowed Midway to include blood and gore as long as they put it behind a code. Nintendo did not, and when Mortal Kombat II came out they wisely reversed course. MKII was a huge hit, and while it hasn’t held up over the years as well as its chief rival Street Fighter, it feels like it should be included as it was just so oppressively popular. Nintendo has never had a great relationship though with the Mortal Kombat franchise, so it’s unlikely they see it as important enough to include.

Some other games I considered include TMNT IV: Turtles in Time but that won’t be included for licensing reasons. Sparkster was an awesome platform title and sequel to Rocket Knight Adventures, a Genesis exclusive. Mutant League Football, Shadowrun, and Harvest Moon are also deserving of consideration.

  1. 250px-super_mario_world_coverartSuper Mario World (Nintendo 1991) – The original pack-in title for the SNES and best Mario game to date, it’s a no-brainer. The more interesting thing to ponder is how will Nintendo pack the SNES Classic with Nintendo branded games as easily as they could the NES Classic since Mario, Link, and others had fewer outings on the SNES.
  2. yoshis_island_super_mario_world_2_box_artSuper Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Nintendo 1995) – I loved this game when it first came out, and for awhile after. More recently, I’ve found it hard to get into as a lot of the gameplay frustrates me. Not to mention the audio. Still, it will be included and it remains Yoshi’s best solo adventure.
  3. smkSuper Mario Kart (Nintendo 1992) – Arguably Nintendo’s most reliable franchise today, it seems every Nintendo console since has had at least one Mario Kart game. The only one that did not was the ill-fated Virtual Boy. For awhile, the original game was my favorite of the series. Those who grew up with its sequel on the N64 as their gateway of the series are probably surprised to hear that most people felt it was inferior to the SNES game when it first came out. It’s no longer the best, but it’s still playable and the battle mode is still a lot of fun.
  4. attpThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Nintendo 1992) – The best game of the series, and perhaps the best game ever? I suppose I could have said the same of Super Mario World, and I could say that about more SNES titles which further illustrates how awesome the system was. This game will be included, and it will be enjoyed by any who purchase it.
  5. 250px-star_fox_snesStar Fox (Nintendo 1993) – Nintendo’s flashy on-rails shooter, the Super FX powered Star Fox was a pretty big deal at the time, even if it’s one of Nintendo’s lesser franchises these days. The game was so good that Nintendo has essentially remade and released it several times with minor alterations. It’s probably too much to ask for Nintendo to include the never released Star Fox 2 on this set.
  6. 250px-smetroidboxSuper Metroid (Nintendo 1994) – If any of the games on the NES Classic had a “Super” version on the SNES, then it’s probably fair to assume they’ll make it to the SNES Classic. Not that Super Metroid needs to be included for that reason, it needs to be included because it too has a claim to greatest game ever made. It was very influential, especially for the Castlevania series, and the only downside to including it is that it might make people a little depressed when they think about how the franchise is treated by Nintendo today.
  7. kss_boxartKirby Super Star (Nintendo 1996) – Another late arrival for the SNES, Kirby Super Star takes what was good about the NES game and multiplies it tenfold. Easily Kirby’s best game, Super Star is a bit of a forgotten gem on the SNES and holds up quite well. It also features some fun 2-player action so be prepared to have to hunt down an additional controller.
  8. snes_f-zero_boxartF-Zero (Nintendo 1991) – Nintendo kind of ignored the racing genre with the NES, so it’s not surprising they rectified that with the SNES. Racing games were one of those genres that really benefitted with the move to the SNES as the hardware could finally keep up with the speed needed to make these type of games as fun as they could be. F-Zero was a flashy title with its futuristic visuals and also plenty difficult. Not one of my favorites, but I’d be shocked if it was left out.
  9. pilotwings_boxPilotwings (Nintendo 1991) – Pilotwings was kind of the debut of the Nintendo developed tech demo released with all of their future console launches to show off the new console’s capabilities. It was to the SNES what Wii Sports was to the Wii. It’s basically a collection of mini games, and personally I remember all of my friends looking down on this title. I haven’t played it in years so I can’t say if I’d enjoy it more now, but since Nintendo developed it they’ll likely include it on the SNES Classic.
  10. dkc_snes_boxartDonkey Kong Country (Nintendo 1994) – The title that reinvented and brought modern relevance to the Donkey Kong character, Donkey Kong Country was a visual wonder when it was first released and an instant hit. Some people love this franchise more than the 2D Mario one. I’m not one of them, but there’s no way Nintendo doesn’t include this one.
  11. 250px-dk_country_2Donkey Kong Country 2 (Nintendo 1995) – Nintendo had three main series Mario games to help pad the NES Classic, chances are they’ll look to DK to help do the same for the SNES Classic. Some think this one is the best of the SNES trilogy of DKC games, I have no real opinion on the matter as I don’t remember even playing this one.
  12. 250px-dkc3_snes_boxartDonkey Kong Country 3 (Nintendo 1996) – This game arrived really late for the SNES, though if memory serves it still sold all right. This one might not make the SNES Classic, it’s certainly the least likely of the three, but since Nintendo wants to put as many of their games on the system as possible it feels like a safe assumption to include it here.
  13. superpunchoutboxSuper Punch-Out!! (Nintendo 1994) – Punch-Out!! was immensely popular for the NES, Super Punch-Out!! was less so for the SNES. It wasn’t bad by any means, and it felt more like the arcade version of the original, but aside from a visual upgrade it didn’t really feel much improved. I think part of that was the new perspective of being behind Little Mac made him feel like more of an equal to his opponents as opposed to being a diminutive underdog.
  14. 2363827-snes_finalfantasyiiFinal Fantasy II (Square 1991) – Now we’re into the non-Nintendo games, and this is actually where the list really begins for me as far as ordering by most likely. The first 13 could be ordered however you want, aside from maybe DKC3, they’re all going to be included for sure. The SNES was the console where the JRPG really took off, and it’s kind of where Final Fantasy was truly born (at least in the West). Final Fantasy III is the better game, but for some reason I suspect that II is more likely to be included if only one is.
  15. chrono_triggerChrono Trigger (Square 1995) – Another one of those “best ever” contenders, Chrono Trigger is as beloved as any game in the Final Fantasy series, even if it never took off as a franchise on its own. The only thing that would keep it from being included is if Square-Enix wants to be protective of how often they re-release the game. Or if they want too much money in the form of royalties, which could be a problem since they made a lot of awesome SNES games…
  16. 250px-secret_of_mana_boxSecret of Mana (Square 1993) – …like Secret of Mana! Lazily referred to as a Zelda clone, Secret of Mana is a delightful action RPG and the type of game Square-Enix has seemingly forgotten how to make. The sequel was also excellent, but never released outside of Japan. Following that though, virtually every other game in the series has been a shallow hack n’ slash and a major disappointment. Thankfully, this one holds up so well we really don’t need another (though Square-Enix really should just finally localize the damn sequel for some kind of release).
  17. 250px-super-bomberman-box-art-snes-palSuper Bomberman (Hudson Soft 1993) – The ultimate party game for the SNES, Super Bomberman was probably my most rented title for sleepovers and such as the four-player mode rocked. If Nintendo does include this title, and it should, it needs to make sure the SNES Classic can handle four-players, even if it means messing with the aesthetics of the system by including four controller ports on the front.
  18. 35805c88363c1f2ef17b39288c11676f-650-80Street Fighter II (Capcom 1992)- Capcom’s fighting game is almost certain to make an appearance, it’s just a question of what version. They should probably just go with Super Street Fighter II, but maybe they think the importance of the original makes it the more worthy title.
  19. mega_man_x_coverartMega Man X (Capcom 1993) – Mega Man was huge for the NES, so he’ll be included on the SNES Classic even if he played a lesser role for the console. His one main entry, Mega Man 7, is regarded as one of the worst in the series so Capcom will probably push for Mega Man X, and it should. Mega Man X was what the character needed to remain relevant and remains an excellent Mega Man game to this day.
  20. super_castlevania_iv_north_american_snes_box_artSuper Castlevania IV (Konami 1991) – another NES tentpole franchise, Castlevania would see its stock plummet in the 16 bit era, even though Super Castlevania was an excellent game. It’s one of the last traditional Castlevania titles as Symphony of the Night would soon follow with its Metroidvania gameplay becoming the preferred style of future titles in the series.
  21. supermariorpgsnescoverartusSuper Mario RPG (Nintendo/Square 1996) – could Mario do RPGs as well as he could platformers? If Square is handling most of the game design, then yeah of course he can! Super Mario RPG was a surprise hit and remains a fun game to this day. In a way, it might be more likely to appear on this collection than the Final Fantasy games as at least Nintendo shares publishing rights with Square-Enix on this one.
  22. contra_iii_game_coverContra III (Konami 1992) – Probably the last relevant title in the Contra series, Contra III was more of the same which is what people were happy to have at the time. Being a sequel to an NES Classic game is what guarantees it a spot here.
  23. 1130115-snessimcityfSim City (Nintendo 1991) – Another Nintendo published title but with the royalties a little messy compared to a Mario or Zelda game. Sim City was another surprise hit in that there was skepticism the city builder simulation would find an audience on a home console. It did and it did well with its success leading to other sim games being released for the SNES, including “classics” like Sim Ant…
  24. 2363896-snes_killerinstinct_3Killer Instinct (Midway/Rareware/Nintendo 1995) – Nintendo, and Rare’s, answer to Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct was a perfectly acceptable fighter for the era. Rare, and now Microsoft, hold the publishing rights for the franchise and I don’t know how that affects the original game’s inclusion. If Nintendo needs to only split royalties with Microsoft/Rare then I think it will be included. Anything more and it probably won’t be.
  25. earthbound_boxEarthbound (Nintendo 1995) – Nintendo’s answer to Dragon Quest, Earthbound (known as Mother 2 outside the US) has never been real popular with Nintendo. It’s the only title in the series to be released outside Japan even though Nintendo fans seem to adore it for its quirky humor and real world setting. It’s a game that has amassed a cult following over the years, though personally I don’t think it’s one that really lives up to the reputation. It’s a Nintendo game though, so it will most likely find a way onto the SNES Classic.
  26. 510ahyhdidl-_sx300_Final Fantasy III (Square 1994) – You know it, I know it, and I bet even Nintendo knows that this game should definitely be included among the top SNES games released. Will it make it to the SNES Classic though is a harder question. If Final Fantasy II does, then it may not, even though it seems ludicrous to split those two games up.
  27. 250px-tetris_attack_box_artTetris Attack (Nintendo 1996) – Many have tried to improve upon the formula of Tetris, and few have succeeded. Tetris Attack found a way with a competitive two-player mode that’s a blast to play. It’s been ripped off for other puzzle games like Puzzle Fighter and Pokemon Puzzle League. And thankfully there’s no Super Dr. Mario to bump this one from the collection.
  28. actraiser_coverartActraiser (Enix 1991) – A legitimately unique game that combines the sim elements of a world builder with the action RPG gaming of Castlevania, Demon’s Crest, and so forth. Few games have tried to do what Actraiser did (Dark Cloud being the only one I can recall off the top of my head) and even though it wasn’t an immensely popular title, it feels like one that received its due in the years since so if Nintendo leaves it out I’d actually be pretty surprised.
  29. 2364727-snes_zombiesatemyneighborsZombies Ate My Neighbors (Konami 1993) – This game was so thematically outrageous at the time that it couldn’t be ignored. People remember it, even though it never turned into a bankable franchise or anything (though zombies in general certainly have). It’s extremely memorable as a Super Nintendo game, so much so that it seems like Nintendo won’t be able to ignore it.
  30. 250px-the_legend_of_the_mystical_ninja_coverartThe Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Konami 1992) – Our last title is from a franchise that was far more popular in Japan than the US, but worth including. The co-op play was some of the best on the system. I never owned the game, but I remember renting it multiple times as it was a lot of fun to have around when friends were over for the night.

So there you have it, my prediction of what Nintendo will do for the eventual SNES Classic. In addition to the games, hopefully Nintendo smartens up and doesn’t pull the intentional scarcity card again. It would also be nice to see Nintendo correct some of the issues the NES Classic has such as the lack of expandable software and absurdly short controller cords. My guess is that the NES Classic isn’t natively able to add additional games so that Nintendo doesn’t cut into its own Virtual Console market, but that just seems like a bad move on their part. If the NES Classic continues to sell as well as it has been then I suppose Nintendo will have no reason to change anything. And even though I feel pretty good about this list of games as a prediction, it still feels like Nintendo will try to cram more of their own games into the console than what I’ve included. I’ll put it on record though, if they include Mario is Missing then I’m not buying the damn thing.


The Games of the NES Classic

nes_classic_retro_blast_splashIf you’re into video games then you have probably heard by now about the NES Classic, the plug and play gaming device that resembles a mini Nintendo Entertainment System. You’ve also probably heard about how Nintendo shipped a minuscule amount of the units for the system’s launch date and now it’s impossible to find at retail. It’s a cute product that’s going to be popular due to the nostalgia factor and low price ($60), but if properly stocked it’s probably not flying off the shelves in mass quantities like the current shortage would indicate. It’s a particularly great device for those who do not still own, or never owned, an actual NES and want to get a retro gaming fix. The NES Classic comes pre-loaded with 30 games and each one has four save state slots making hard to beat classics like Zelda II that much more manageable.

This isn’t a post about the NES Classic on the whole though. If you want my opinion on it, it’s definitely a neat little device worthy of your hard-earned sixty dollars. It’s definitely not worth six times that amount which is what some people are paying on the secondary market right now for one. And I also expect the console will be re-stocked in the coming weeks in greater numbers, so if you want one just be patient. The only real knocks against the device are the much maligned short controller wires and the lack of a way to add to the game’s library. Which brings me to the topic of this post:  the 30 pre-loaded games of the NES Classic.

There were over 500 titles released for the NES. That number rises if you include Famicom games never released outside of Japan. A lot of those games are forgettable and not worth anyone’s time in the year 2016, but there’s enough quality on that console to make even narrowing things down to thirty a difficult endeavor. And when it comes to crafting that list, what takes precedent? The games the system was known for? The ones that were the most revolutionary? The ones that sold the most? There’s also a financial and legal component as well. Nintendo could load the thing with thirty games it self-published to save money on royalties, but then you would be missing out on the classics released by Konami, Capcom, and others. And if you want to include a Konami Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, well then you have to compensate Nickelodeon who holds the rights to TMNT in 2016. Obviously, that makes things messy and Nintendo had a lot of factors to weigh when selecting these thirty games. I’m not going to hold myself to those standards though as I’m going to rank all thirty for you, and where I deem it necessary, suggest an alternate title that should have been included instead. Let’s start with number 30:

250px-iceclimberboxartnes30. Ice Climber (Nintendo 1985) – Most probably know Ice Climber as that weird double-character controlled by a single player in the Super Smash Bros. series. Older folks remember it as an NES launch title that the unlucky ones received instead of one of the better games. Ice Climber represents the early, primitive NES games that were little more than better looking Atari 2600 games. Some of these games were worthwhile because they first existed in the arcade and were just now getting home versions on par with those arcade originals. Ice Climber is not one of those games though, but it costs Nintendo nothing to include it here. As a title for the NES Classic, the only thing it has going for it is that it features 2-player simultaneous play.

What Nintendo Should have included:  Blades of Steel, Konami’s excellent hockey game that was mostly known for its fighting mini-games ahead of its hockey. It features an ice element and simultaneous play for 2 players, and the simple game of hockey can be enjoyed by anyone when experiencing it via video games. If Nintendo wanted to stick with an ice motif but save money, they could have just gone with their own Ice Hockey, also a very good game.

220px-balloonfightnesboxart29. Balloon Fight (Nintendo 1986) – Another early Nintendo game, this one first appeared in arcades before making it home. It’s slightly more interesting than Ice Climber, but isn’t a game you will have much interest in returning to over and over. It’s been re-released a ton over the years, and including it here is just overkill.

What Nintendo Should have included:  Battle Toads, the relentlessly difficult brawler featuring TMNT knock-offs Rash and Zits (gross). With save states, the game might actually be beatable, though Turbo Tunnel would still be a nightmare.

mariobrothers28. Mario Bros. (Nintendo 1983) – Super Mario Bros. is the game most synonymous with the NES, the original Mario Bros. is not. If you had a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 (and you probably did) then you experienced all you needed to from this game. It was never a popular NES title and Nintendo is basically only including it because it has Mario in the title.

What Nintendo should have included:  DuckTales, one of the best platforming games released for the NES. There’s really not much debating that, and it’s likely not featured on this set because of licensing costs, or because Nintendo wants to save a few games for a second edition of the NES Classic.

1881188-578616_35495_front27. Donkey Kong Jr. (Nintendo 1982) – Donkey Kong Jr is another arcade classic (I’m using that term liberally here) that was never really all that popular on the NES, but Nintendo obviously felt the old arcade games needed (significant) representation on the NES Classic. Donkey Kong Jr. is most notable for putting Mario in the role of villain as the player takes control of Kid Kong and tries to save his old man, I mean, ape. It’s fine, but lack replay value outside of just shooting for a high score isn’t much of a home console experience.

What Nintendo should have included:  Bucky O’Hare, Konami’s unofficial take on the Mega Man franchise. My love affair with Bucky has been fairly well documented on this blog, but my opinion is not clouded by that affection. Bucky O’Hare is an awesome game, and I can’t imagine it would have cost Nintendo much of anything to include it.

nes_galaga_box_europe26. Galaga (Namco 1981) – a slightly younger generation maybe familiar with Galaga not as an arcade classic, but as a popular loading screen diversion of Playstation era Namco games. Galaga is another arcade great that never had much of a life on the NES. Tastes had moved on, and Galaga really doesn’t need to be included in a set of great NES games.

What Nintendo should have included:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game is what was most representative of the arcade scene when the NES was popular and would have made for a much better option within this set.

pac-man-box-art-front25. Pac-Man (Namco 1980) – Pac-Man was Mario before Mario. Unlike a lot of the other games on this list so far, there actually was some appetite for an arcade perfect version of Pac-Man on the NES. It’s a game almost everyone is familiar with, but still not really one that people are clamoring to play.

What Nintendo should have included:  Dragon Warrior II, or Dragon Quest II for you purists. It’s the classic RPG series that started it all, and not including at least one title from the series is pretty lame.

donkey_kong_throwing_barrels_on_mario24. Donkey Kong (Nintendo 1981) – Donkey Kong, like Pac-Man, is another game that consumers did have some appetite for when the NES made it to retail. And since DK is one of Nintendo’s most popular characters, it’s not surprising that he’s included. Still, there’s a lot of arcade games on this set, too many if you ask me.

What Nintendo should have included: How about Faxanadu, a relatively obscure game that still holds up really well. A device like the NES Classic should in part be utilized to give new life to games that were overlooked.

tecmobowlfront23. Tecmo Bowl (Tecmo 1987) – More known for how game-breaking Bo Jackson was, Tecmo Bowl was the first great football game of its kind. It’s pretty dated at this point, but is a top 50 NES title, and for diehard sports fans, probably a top 30 one too.

What Nintendo should have included: You could argue a game like Double Dribble has held up better than Tecmo Bowl, but for the most part, I have no issues with Nintendo including it here.

250px-ff1_usa_boxart22. Final Fantasy (Square 1987) – Few franchises are as synonymous with gaming as Final Fantasy. The first title is also known as the game that saved Square, now Square-Enix, hence why it was called Final Fantasy since there was a very real chance it was the publisher’s final title. It was a Dragon Quest clone that did a few interesting things on its own, but played today it’s quite clear that Father Time has not taken a liking to it. Only the truly dedicated NES Classic owners will see this title to the end.

What Nintendo should have included: I already mentioned Dragon Quest II, and this set doesn’t need another Dragon Quest title. Final Fantasy is pretty important, so it’s place is earned based on that, though if some people think it should have been passed over I won’t argue.

dr-_mario_box_art21. Dr. Mario (Nintendo 1990) – One of the first examples of Nintendo realizing it could just slap Mario on anything and boost sales, Dr. Mario is a Tetris clone that does enough to separate itself from its predecessor, but not enough to better it.

What Nintendo should have included: Tetris! Duh!

250px-excitebike_cover

 

20. Excitebike (Nintendo 1984) – Excitebike has been re-released so many times it hardly seems worth talking about anymore, let alone including it here. It’s an okay racing game, and the level editor was pretty cool, but dated by today’s standards. It’s not the best racer on the NES though, and if Nintendo was only going to include one racing game on the NES Classic it picked the wrong one.

What Nintendo should have included: R.C. Pro-Am, another Nintendo published title though one that was developed by Rare. It holds up as one of the best racing games for the system, and likely wouldn’t have affected Nintendo’s bottomline to include it.

4ca050f712700fd48cb4957af38a315219. Gradius (Konami, 1985) – Gradius is a classic on-rails shooter by Konami known for its difficulty. The on-rails shooter genre has actually aged really well, because there isn’t really much better technology can do for it aside from make it look better. So from that standpoint, it holds up.

What Nintendo should have included: I’m not really an on-rails shooter fan, and it feels like River City Ransom should have been included somewhere on this set, doesn’t it?

250px-zelda_ii_the_adventure_of_link_box18. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo 1987) – I’ve talked about this one a lot already, but to keep things short, I appreciate that Zelda II tries something different but the execution was lackluster. I rank it as high as a I do here because the longer gameplay experience offered by it will likely feel pretty rewarding among these other games. And the save state feature will make it a lot easier for players to actually beat the game.

What Nintendo should have included:  If you love Gradius, then kick this one out for River City Ransom. Otherwise, I really don’t see an issue with Nintendo including Zelda II.

nes_double_dragon_ii_packaging_front17. Double Dragon II (Acclaim 1989) – The arcade beat-em-up most synonymous with the NES. It was a good debate over which was superior, Double Dragon II or TMNT II, but both were fun games, particularly for two-players. Double Dragon II is also miles ahead of the original so good call by Nintendo for being able to recognize that including it over the original was the right move.

What Nintendo should have included:  Nothing, Double Dragon II belongs as the only knock against it is that the NES version wasn’t as good as the arcade one.

castlevania_ii_simons_quest16. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (Konami 1987) – The sequel to the smash-hit original, Castlevania II, like Zelda II, is known mostly for its big shift in gameplay. Simon Belmont still handles the same way, but the RPG mechanics make for a vastly different experience. Some people loved it, some people hated it, everyone was frustrated by it’s cryptic puzzles. That last part isn’t really an issue today thanks to the wonderful invention known as the internet, making this game actually more playable now than it was in 1987.

What Nintendo should have included: You could argue that Castlevania III is the better game, and I wouldn’t disagree, but it’s also really similar to the original Castlevania which is also included on this set. For that reason, I like Castlevania II being on here over that. If you think one Castlevania title is enough, then maybe Nintendo should have raided Konami’s library and selected Jackal in its place.

bubble-bobble-usa15. Bubble Bobble (Taito 1986) – A simple, but challenging, two-player experience is how I remember Bubble Bobble. It strangely holds up really well, and its timeless gameplay plus two-player simultaneous play makes for a worthy selection.

What Nintendo should have included:  I have an admitted soft spot for this title, and I’m not sure why. Naturally, I don’t see a reason to kick it out of the NES Classic.

2362264-nes_superc14. Super C (Konami 1988) – Also known as Super Contra, it’s the sequel to Contra and features the same basic run n’ gun gameplay. For whatever reason, no one seems to remember this game even though the first Contra was mega popular. As an aside, it’s pretty amazing how many Konami games made this release.

What Nintendo should have included:  Contra, obviously. I’m pretty sure everyone who picks up the NES Classic will wonder why Super C was included instead.

86c02e32ef3ea0deaa4bca99502e95ed13. Super Mario Bros (Nintendo 1985) – Obviously, this one was going to be included because it’s probably the most important game that Nintendo ever released, and it could be considered the most important and famous game of all time.

What Nintendo should have included:  All that being said, am I the only one who is just really sick of this game? I have no desire to play it again and would have preferred The Lost Levels for the simple reason that I’m less familiar with it.

ghosts-n-goblins-nes-box-art12. Ghosts ‘N Goblins (Capcom 1986) – Finally, a Capcom game! It surprised me how many Konami games made this release vs Capcom as I always viewed the two as equal during the NES days. Ghosts ‘N Goblins was a hard, but fun, game and gamers will really appreciate the save states on the NES Classic when they tackle this one. It’s another run n’ gun styled game, a genre that has held up really well.

What Nintendo should have included:  Nothing, this one belongs, as do all of the rest of the games to follow thus eliminating the need for this postscript on each release.

250px-castlevania_nes_box_art11. Castlevania (Konami 1986) – A no doubt classic. I don’t think I really need to say much about this one, right? It’s hard, but fair (mostly), and it’s style of play is still rewarding today. None of the NES sequels really did enough to warrant consideration over it either (and Nintendo included Castlevania II anyways) making this selection completely warranted.

 

metroid_boxart10. Metroid (Nintendo 1986) – It’s a good thing games were so expensive in the 80s, otherwise how would anyone have gotten anything done in ’86 and ’87 with so many killer releases on the NES? Metroid is a bit of a tough one to rank as it hasn’t aged too well, but the game’s mood is still so captivatingly barren and lonesome that I find it charming even today. Obviously, future games in the series were able to vastly improve upon the original formula, but since none of them were NES games it makes Metroid’s inclusion a no-(mother)brainer.

250px-kirbys_adventure_coverart9. Kirby’s Adventure (Nintendo 1993) – Kirby is a character who peaked early. Kirby’s Adventure, only his second outing, is probably second only to his outing on the SNES among all of the Kirby games. Kirby’s Adventure is a great inclusion here because not only is it a fun and unique platformer, but it was also a late release for the NES when a lot of gamers had moved onto the Genesis and SNES. The NES Classic gives those gamers who missed it the first time a second chance to experience it.

kid_icarus_nes_box_art8. Kid Icarus (Nintendo 1986) – Poor Pit has been mistreated for years by Nintendo, but at least he gets to be among the 3o games on the NES Classic. His original outing was a difficult platforming/RPG hybrid that may be more appreciated today than it was in 1986. The controls aren’t the best, but they work, and the save state feature gives this one new life. Since it is so often cited as a forgotten Nintendo classic it has probably ceased to be one, but many gamers will probably still get their first taste of Kid Icarus with this set.

220px-punch-out_mrdream_boxart7. Punch-Out!! (Nintendo 1990) – Obviously, this is the version featuring Mr. Dream and not Mike Tyson. It’s the same game though, and while one could argue that this one has been re-released too much, it’s harder still to argue it’s not one of the most fun games released for the NES. It’s timing based gameplay also means it’s held up well in the age department. It’s challenge has always been fair and rewarding, though people will still probably abuse save states to beat it.

250px-super_mario_bros_26. Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo 1988) – Ever notice how no one, and I mean no one, ever acknowledges the box art’s Mario Madness subtitle? What was that even supposed to mean? Anyways, you probably know all about Super Mario Bros. 2’s odd path to release, so I won’t bore you here. It’s a great game, even if it’s very different from its predecessor, and Nintendo wasn’t going to exclude it from this release.

 

250px-startropics_box5. StarTropics (Nintendo 1990) – StarTropics is an often overlooked game from the NES era that feels like the spiritual sequel to Zelda, since Zelda II felt so different. It improves on the original Legend of Zelda in some ways, and it’s use of contemporary items as weapons definitely feels a lot like Earthbound. It’s a really good game, and one you probably haven’t played, so go ahead and play this one first. You have my permission. Just be warned that you will need to consult the internet to make it through one particular part.

ninja_gaiden_nes4. Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo 1990) – Few characters on the NES are as fun to control as Ryu Hayabusa. It’s just too bad the world around our badass ninja Ryu makes him feel not so badass since everything can kill him. Ninja Gaiden is a brutal game, but it still manages to be a fun one. Some of the stuff it does seems unfair, but it always manages to bring gamers back after some rage-induced quiting. Just remember, the chord on that NES Classic controller is really short before you throw it.

250px-megaman2_box3. Mega Man 2 (Capcom 1988) – Naturally, you can’t have a collection of thirty of the best NES games ever created and not include Mega Man. And if Nintendo was limiting itself to just one Mega Man, then Mega Man 2 is probably the best option. Yeah, future games introduced elements like the slide and Rush, but Mega Man 2 is iconic for its boss selection, music, and stage setup. It’s considered the best in the franchise by many still to this day. The only real argument is why did Nintendo include one Mega Man game but two Castlevania titles? The easy answer is that Simon’s Quest is pretty different from its predecessor, while all of the Mega Man games are very similar. It still feels odd, though.

legend_of_zelda_cover_with_cartridge_gold2. The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo 1986) – It’s The Legend of Zelda.

 

Okay, and it’s a great game. Really though, there isn’t a whole lot more I can say about this one. If you’ve never played it because you were born after A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, or even later, then go back and play the original. Once you get accustomed to the visuals (which were never considered good, to be honest) you’ll likely find that the core Zelda gameplay is present here and it’s captivating even at its most primitive.

 

250px-super_mario_bros-_3_coverart-21.Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo 1990) – Super Mario Bros. 3 is among the greatest games ever made, and it’s the best game on the NES, so obviously it was going to be included. There’s no argument against it, other than maybe that everyone has already played it before. The only negative thing I can even say about it is that Mario has brown sideburns but a black mustache on the box art, which makes no sense. Then again, Nintendo really hasn’t mined the Mario back catalogue like it has some other games so it really doesn’t feel exploited. I may have suggested playing StarTropics first, but come on, you’ll play this one first. Just about everyone will.