Retro Video Game Collecting

Because every game is eventually retro.

Category Archives: "Wii"

Wii-Vaporware: The Uncertain Future of Nintendo’s Motion Control Games

Posted on 28 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii, Wii U

Credit: Nintendo

 

It’s hard to imagine a world in which Super Mario Bros. was lost and forgotten a few years after its release.  Even if Nintendo had failed to re-release it in some form on nearly every subsequent platform it produced, there are still perfectly functional SMB cartridges and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and NES clones to allow for continued enjoyment of this landmark game.  Plenty of PC emulators exist to offer this and other classic games in a dubiously-legal format.  We don’t have to worry about losing Super Mario Bros. forever.

 

Incredibly, we may face a situation in the not-too-distant future wherein the best-selling home console game of all time is essentially unplayable, remaining only in the memories of players and YouTube videos.

 

Wii Sports and hundreds of other motion-controlled games for Wii and Wii U have an uncertain future.  The NX, Nintendo’s replacement for the not-quite-good-enough Wii U, arrives next year.  At some point around that platform’s arrival, Nintendo will cease manufacture of Wii and Wii U consoles.  Unless the NX maintains full backwards compatibility with both of those systems and, crucially, the Wii Remote controllers, it will effectively trigger a time bomb that will effectively kill all Nintendo games that depend on motion controls.

 

This is purely speculative, but it is a point worth considering, as Justin Davis writes for IGN: what happens if these games are trapped forever on the Wii and Wii U?  Within 30 years, it’s likely most of the original Wii and Wii U consoles will have been junked, no longer functioning properly, or completely incompatible with whatever video display / TV format is in use by then.  Optical drives will almost certainly have been a relic for decades at that point.  Will there be enough demand in the retro / classic gaming hobby to maintain them?  And what of Wii remotes and sensor bars?  Will a manufacturer continue to make them available?

 

The pre-CD era of gaming is well suited for the retro collector, as the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles from Nintendo, SEGA, Atari, and others were solid-state.  They have no moving parts, aside from the odd power or eject buttons, and they are easily renovated or recreated.  Disc-based systems, on the other hand, are innately more complex.  So far, we haven’t seen a market for cloned PlayStation 1 or SEGA Saturn systems, though many of the original consoles remain in use.  More importantly, a significant number of games for those systems have been re-released over the years and can be easily emulated on modern platforms, with ordinary controllers.

 

Motion controls are a different beast, and thus the concern for the longevity of Wii and Wii U software.  As Davis notes, VR may hold the key to preserving the gems of those generations, assuming Nintendo has any interest.  But it’s still very early to worry about this problem; if nothing else, the history of gaming has shown us that eventually, technology provides a solution.

 

That being said, I plan to keep my Wii and Wii U consoles in pristine shape for many years to come.

 

 


, , ,

[Top]

SimFanta-City | Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King

Posted on 23 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii

Credit: Square Enix / GamersGlobal.de

 

The Final Fantasy series has taken on many forms in its myriad releases and spin-offs over the years.  Included are action RPGS (Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest); tactical RPGs (Final Fantasy Tactics); rhythm and music games (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy); collectible card battlers (Final Fantasy Trading Card Game); kart racers (Chocobo Racing); dungeon crawlers (Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon); party board games (Chocobo Land: A Game of Dice); MMORPGs (Final Fantasy XIV); fighters (Dissidia Final Fantasy); and in-app purchase generators (Final Fantasy: All the Bravest).  The results have been… mixed, at best.

 

Among all these side-stories, half-sequels, and shameless cash-ins, we find Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King.  Unique not merely by virtue of being a spin-off of a spin-off, it is the only city builder title in the entire series, offering players a bit of role reversal and digging a bit into the meta-core of RPGs in general.

 

To oversimplify a bit, My Life as a King places the player in the role of an NPC from the Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles series.  No prior experience with the Crystal Chronicles games is needed, nor need one be familiar with Final Fantasy at all.  This is a simple map planning / resource allocation game, with dashes of RPG and RTS elements tossed in to create a surprising and fun experience.

 

Let me back up a bit.  The Crystal Chronicles games, exclusive to Nintendo platforms, are Final Fantasy in name only.  They have little to do with the mainline FF series, though they are tied together with an arcing storyline taking place in the same world.  Many races, enemies, and items familiar to Final Fantasy can be found here, such as Moogles, malboros, adamantoises, and so on.  The similarities more or less end there, with the games mostly taking an action-RPG approach, distinct from the classic FF battle sequences.

 

Credit: Square Enix / Nintendo

My Life as a King takes place some time after the events of the Crystal Chronicles series, focusing on the aftermath of those games’ good-vs.-evil showdown.  There is a simple story here: Leo, the prince of an unnamed kingdom, finds himself in charge after his father’s apparent death.  Surrounded by his retinue and a handful of loyal subjects, you take the role of Leo and attempt to rebuild his kingdom from the ground up.  Conveniently, Leo and company begin the game having found an abandoned castle and surrounding fortress, at the center of which is a giant cluster of the titular crystals.  The crystal unexpectedly grants Leo the magic of architek, giving him the ability to instantly create buildings around the new castle town.

 

As the game progresses, Leo develops the ability to summon more complex and useful structures — all of which should be familiar to longtime Final Fantasy fans.  Just as in most towns and cities in the main series, your castle town can include a weapons shop, an armory, a potion shop, and an inn, along with citizen shops and bakeries.  Also available as your city grows are academies for white and dark mages, and training halls for warriors and thieves.

 

These four archetype classes reflect the series’ long-running jobs system, and that’s where the proto-RPG meta-game kicks in.  As you build houses, more subjects return to your growing kingdom, and some of them want to join your small army.  As such, you assign them jobs and issue daily edicts, here known as behests.  Essentially, in this role, you’re sending these adventurers out to do Final Fantasy while you stay behind and run the kingdom.  Their quests include gathering crystals and other raw materials; clearing roads and landmarks of monsters; fighting bosses; and ultimately defeating the game’s antagonist.

 

None of this is shown in anything other than the most abstract manner possible: a daily briefing prepared by Chime, your adorable young chancellor.  As each in-game day passes — about five minutes in real time — your adventurers either successfully complete behests or fail at them, and the game progresses accordingly.  This is where resource management and some very light strategy come in, as you decide which adventurers are best-prepared for the needed quests.  By providing funding to your town’s shops, you enable the shopkeepers to develop progressively stronger weapons, armor, and items; likewise, the mage academies and battle hall desire funding for improved spells and fighting techniques which are taught to your adventurers.

 

Credit: Square Enix / GamersGlobal.de

The game is easy to learn and doesn’t do too much holding in the opening days, which serve as a built-in tutorial and establish the story.  I found building my kingdom (which I named Midgar) to be enjoyable and relaxing, with interesting things to do in each in-game day.  It does get repetitive in later phases, and once your town is built out, with the maximum number of structures in each genre, there’s not much left except grinding your adventurers until they are strong enough to take down the final boss.

 

This is where the game’s biggest weakness lies.  In order to build beyond the standard limits, players were invited to purchase DLC through the in-game store.  It is not at all invasive and in fact I didn’t even know this was possible until much later in the game, so I appreciate Square Enix not hitting me over the head with it.  But I don’t like having what amounts to not-very-meaningful content locked behind a paywall.  DLC can only be purchased by using Wii Points, another reason I didn’t get to experience everything the game has to offer.

 

If any of the above interests you, act fast.  Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King is an endangered game.  The only way to play legally is to download it from the Wii Shop Channel, either on a Wii or a Wii U via Wii Mode.  While the Wii Shop is still functional as of  this writing in June 2016, it will undoubtedly be shut down by Nintendo at some point, and the fate of WiiWare titles after that remains uncertain.  Unless Square Enix decided to re-issue an HD version of the game in another digital storefront, My Life as a King will be lost forever.

 

Considering how much fun I had with it, that would be a real shame.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King

  • PLATFORMS: Wii; Wii U (via Wii Mode)
  • PUBLISHER: Square Enix
  • DEVELOPER: Square Enix
  • RELEASED: May 12, 2008
  • ESRB RATING: E
  • FRANCHISE: Final Fantasy
  • DESCRIPTION: City builder with light tactical RPG and strategy elements
  • WHO WILL ENJOY THIS: Final Fantasy fans; anyone looking for a unique sim-type experience
  • WHO WON’T ENJOY THIS: RPG fans looking for a challenge
  • SIMILAR TITLES: SimCity 2000; Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – The Crystal Bearers

 

 


 

,

[Top]

Quick Picks | Simpsons on Wii; Multiplayer Zelda

Posted on 24 May, 2016  in Nintendo 3DS, Wii

A Photo of The Simpsons Game for Wii and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes for Nintendo 3DS

 

As a collector, I find it valuable to visit game shops whenever I travel, so as to hunt for titles I might not spot otherwise in my usual rotation of retailers and re-sellers in my home market of Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas.  Being on a tight budget at the moment, I have significantly cut back on my new and used game purchases, so the collection is not growing much these days.  But a recent visit to Washington gave me the opportunity to grab these two titles at a GameStop in nearby Kensington, Maryland.

 

The Simpsons Game is not exactly rare, but I hadn’t yet seen it in my regular visits to game stores in search of titles to build my ever-expanding Wii library.  Now is the best time ever to collect Wii titles, as chains like GameStop are paying just pennies for the discs while trying to eliminate their existing inventories.  Wii U backward compatibility ensures functioning consoles will be available for years to come.  At any rate, I paid about $8 for this 2007 release, a third-person 3D action / platformer with mixed critical reviews.  I was once a huge Simpsons fan, so I expect I’ll get a bit of enjoyment out of this when I get around to trying it.

 

For my current-gen purchase, I picked up another major release that received so-so scores from critics.  The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes mixes the game engine and visuals of its Nintendo 3DS predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds with the multiplayer aspects of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.  The result didn’t go over too spectacularly with Zelda fans, but many reviewers agree there’s a decent game to be found in here.  I need to check it out soon, before online interest dries up completely and I’m stuck with AI-assisted Link clones.

 

 

, , , , ,

[Top]

The Game That Beat Me | Donkey Kong Country Returns

Posted on 31 March, 2016  in Retro Reviews, Wii

Game over screen in Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii

I saw this a LOT. (Credit: Nintendo)

Editor’s note: I originally wrote this review in 2013, but with today’s release of Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii U eShop, it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit one of the most challenging platformer games Nintendo ever released.

 

If you held a gun to my head and demanded, at the risk of losing my life, that I name my favorite video game ever, I would quickly say, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” The matter would be settled.

 

But what defines a “favorite” game, anyway? I certainly have played Ocarina of Time a lot. I was blown away the first time I played it on my Nintendo 64 as a teenager, and played from start to finish at least three times on that console. I played through it twice more many years later on the Wii Virtual Console, and again a couple years ago when I made The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D my very first Nintendo 3DS purchase.

 

I enjoyed it on every play-through. But does that really make it my favorite game?

 

If frequency of play is your metric, then certainly not. I haven’t played OoT more than a half-dozen times. Compare that to Ridge Racer 3D, which, according to my 3DS play time log, is my most-played title on that system, at 55 hours or so. But that’s not even in my top five favorite games on that system, let alone ever. I just played it a lot right after I got it, since it was one of the only games I had for a while.

 

I’ve probably logged several hundred hours at Tetris, and that’s definitely one of my all-time favorites. But the favorite? I dunno. It’s certainly my favorite Game Boy title. And Super Mario Bros. 3 is my favorite NES game, hands-down. You can guess my most-treasured N64 game.

 

I don’t have a favorite Wii game, really; I bought the system in 2009 primarily for its Virtual Console, and I used it for that pretty much exclusively for about three years. The first actual Wii game I ever bought on disc was the Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary collection, and that doesn’t even count, because it’s just a Super NES emulation. The first “real” Wii game I bought was New Super Mario Bros. Wii — in 2011, two years after its release.

 

My favorite Wii U game? Please.

 

That brings me to the Super NES, which was my personal “golden age” console. I didn’t have a ton of games growing up, being in a lower-middle-class family with a brother and two step-siblings competing for gifts at Christmas and on birthdays. But! My parents were divorced, so I parlayed that split into maximizing my gaming gifts from each parent, observing two Christmases and birthdays a year, as it were. I remained highly selective, relying primarily on my annual birthday subscription renewal to Nintendo Power magazine as my source of advertorials and propaganda in the guise of game reviews and “news”.

 

As you might expect, this led to my gaming library being rather heavily tilted in favor of Nintendo first-party titles, but by the same token it meant I had a very high-quality selection of games. I ended up with very few genuinely bad games on my NES and Super NES, with the worst of those being the unlicensed Bible Adventures games my well-meaning Christian family would purchase.

 

For me, the Super NES arrived at the perfect time: just before I hit my teenage years, with a solid amount of experience playing NES games and yet as I was continuing to grow my skills and interests. And the games for it were AMAZING. I honestly can’t think of any Super NES titles I owned that I didn’t like. It’s much harder for me to decide which one I love the most; I can’t do it.

 

Super Mario World came with my console, so I played it the most, at first. I beat it in less than two weeks of playing for the first time, then spent the better part of a year exploring all its secrets and unlocking the Star World, Special stages and the bizarre “Mario mask mode” that changes the backgrounds to autumnal colors and the enemies to walking Mario heads.

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the first Zelda game I was able to beat, though it took a LONG time. But I never gave up, because I enjoyed the ride so much.

 

Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is easily the game I played the most. I probably completed nine or ten full, 162-game seasons, plus playoffs, not including the hours I spent pouring over newspaper box scores to get the player rosters matched to their real-world counterparts. There was nothing I loved more than leading Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, Ivan Rodriguez and the rest of the Fake 1994 Texas Rangers to a World Series that would never be played, thanks to the player strike.

 

Then there was Donkey Kong Country.

 

Like a lot of gamers at the time, I learned about DKC through Nintendo Power. As a subscriber, I also got a little something extra: a VHS tape came in the mail one day, in a green box with jungle leaf patterns:

 

A Donkey Kong Country promotional VHS videocasette from Nintendo Power

Remember these?

 

(That’s not my tape, by the way. Mine has been lost for many years now.)

 

I popped it in the VCR and was transfixed / annoyed for 13 minutes:

 

 

Terrible acting aside, I was floored. I HAD to have this game. And so, I started saving my allowance.

 

Finally, Donkey Kong Country hit store shelves, and I raced down to Walmart to pick up my copy. It exceeded all my expectations the first time I played through it. It was, to my teenage mind, the most incredible-looking 16-bit game ever created. I had no idea games could look so lush; so alive! The environments — the challenges — it was everything I had really hoped for in a future Mario game, here and now.

 

So yeah, Donkey Kong Country is the fourth pillar in my quartet of favorite Super NES games.

 

A screen shot of Donkey Kong and his banana horde, from Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Who really needs this many bananas? (Credit: Nintendo)

 

Fast forward 16 years, and Donkey Kong Country Returns is released. I was aware of it, and I owned a Wii at the time, but for whatever reason, checking it out was not a big priority for me. I was happy with the original! When a new copy turned up cheap at the employee store where I work, I picked it up, took it home, and set it aside. I figured I’d get to it later.

 

“Later” turned into nearly two years. I had played and beaten Donkey Kong Country on the Wii Virtual Console, and it was still a ton of fun, though of course not *quite* as great as I had remembered. (Still very good, though.) I never previously owned the other two Donkey Kong Countrygames on Super NES. You’d think I’d be first in line for those titles, considering how much I loved DKC, but they came out at a time my family was going through a very difficult period, and money for such things was hard to come by. At the time, I went a couple of years without getting any new games at all, and once things had improved, I was off to college, with a new Nintendo 64 in tow. My Super NES days were behind me.

 

At any rate, I decided I should play the other two DKC Super NES titles first, and eventually I got around to starting Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest via the Wii Virtual Console. It was good, I guess; and yes, fun, but not even close to my memories of DKC.

 

Also, I got stuck on a volcano level and basically gave up.

 

“To hell with it,” I said, and I fired up Donkey Kong Country Returns for the first time.

 

I felt that DKC feeling again.

 

It was great! I loved this game. Loved playing through it so much. Loved the look; loved the level design; loved the attention to detail that brought this game to life. It was incredible.

 

Then it started to get hard.

 

REALLY hard.

 

I fought through it. I kept on playing. Hour after hour, week after week. Because of my job and other responsibilities, I could only devote any time to playing it on Saturdays.

 

There were a couple of levels that stymied me so greatly that I was forced to let the Super Guide play through them for me. How embarrassing. I went back to each later and finished it myself. But oh, after I died for the umpteenth time on a later level, there he was again, that stupid pig, smirking at me as he waved his little flag and jumped up and down, mocking me, screaming HEY LOSER! YOU SUCK AND YOU CAN’T DO THIS YOURSELF SO LET THE GAME DO IT FOR YOU!

 

One of the checkpoint pigs from Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii

I wanted to kill that pig.

 

This game was really, REALLY testing me. I loved it so much, yet I could not remember a game that had vexed me so. Yes, there are other games I have given up on: three, to be exact. ActRaiser, whereupon I am still stuck on the final level and keep telling myself I’ll get to it later; Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which is an awful, practically broken mess and which I will cheat my way through by using the Wii U Virtual Console’s save states once it releases there; and Ninja Gaiden for NES, because, well, that game is freaking impossible. (I can’t beat the final boss, and no amount of YouTube tutorials have helped.)

 

I didn’t love any of those games, though. Not like DKC Returns. This game had won me over, only to crush my spirit.

 

And yet, I pressed on, and finally made it to the final boss.

 

Well, the final boss stage, to be precise. Because of course, you have to navigate a rocket barrel course — the kind that I found nearly impossible to complete elsewhere in the game — before you can even fight the last boss, and if the boss kills you, you have to start all over and go through the rocket barrel course again.

 

And again.

 

And again.

 

I would try until I nearly depleted my supply of lives; then I’d go back and play through a bunch of the easiest levels, accruing banana coins and lives, then using the banana coins to buy more lives from Cranky’s shop, then try again.

 

I used every “cheat” item available, especially the “invincibility” banana juice.

 

I couldn’t do it.

 

I can’t do it.

 

I gave up.

 

For the first time, I let a game beat me.

 

I don’t know how I feel about DKCR now. I can’t even look Donkey Kong in the eye on the game’s cover. It’s like a bad breakup or something. And I am filled with shame because of it.

 

None of this, of course, will stop me from trying again at some point on my 3DS in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.  And for that matter, I eventually did acquire and, after much trial and error, finish Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on my Wii U.  (That review, I’ll save for another time.)

 


 

AT A GLANCEDonkey Kong Country Returns for Wii

Donkey Kong Country Returns

PLATFORM: Wii, Wii U

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPERRetro Studios

RELEASE DATES: November 10, 2010 (Wii); March 31, 2016 (Wii U)

ESRB RATING: E

FRANCHISE: Donkey Kong

DESCRIPTION: A challenging 2.5-D action platformer in the mold of the classic Super NES DKC series, featuring gorgeous visuals and a brilliant re-imagining of the original soundtrack.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Fans of Donkey Kong Country; gamers who enjoy platformers but find Super Mario to be too easy

WHO WON’T LIKE THIS: Anyone with a paralyzing fear of failure; easily frustrated players with poor hand-eye coordination

SIMILAR TITLES: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical FreezeRayman LegendsSuper Meat Boy

, , , , ,

[Top]

Zelda Redux: The Reinvention of Link

Posted on 16 February, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom, Wii, Wii U

Seeing Double: GameXplain compares the HD remake (left) and Wii original (right) of Twilight Princess. (Credit: GameXplain)

 

On November 23, 1998, what is commonly described as one of the greatest video games ever created was released to an eager North American audience.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on to sell more than 7 million copies worldwide, and continues to capture the imaginations of gamers to this day.

 

In its shadow, just over three weeks later, another revolutionary Legend of Zelda game made its debut, for a second time.  The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX was, of course, the definitive version of what had already become a classic Game Boy title, now available for the first time in color.

 

Link’s Awakening DX was also the very first true remake of a Zelda title, setting a trend that culminates in next month’s release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD.  Nintendo has issued more remakes in the Zelda series than any of its other acclaimed franchises — even Super Mario and Pokémon.  With Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo will have recreated, repackaged, and remastered every major home console title in the legendary series, save the newest original game, 2011’s Skyward Sword, and, curiously, the first two games originally released for Famicom and the NES.

It’s total BS this LoZ remake never left Japan. (Credit: VideoGameConsoleLibrary.com)

The original The Legend of Zelda did get a remake of sorts, but it was never released outside of Japan, and crucially it can no longer be played in any conventional or authorized manner.  In 1995, Nintendo and publishing partner St.GIGA created BS Zeruda no Densetsu, a downloadable game for the then-cutting-edge BS-X Satellaview, a Super Famicom peripheral that allowed players to download games via a satellite receiver.  Twenty-five years before digital-only titles would become an industry standard, Nintendo made this curious time-challenge version of the 1986 classic available only via download.

 

While BS Zelda survives in the ROM-swapping community thanks to the efforts of a few far-sighted Satellaview owners, Nintendo would wait another three years to issue its first “official” remake of a Zelda title, Link’s Awakening DX.  More than just a colorized version of its Game Boy source, LA-DX featured an entirely-new dungeon and what felt like a much more interesting world to explore thanks to its now-vibrant color palette.

 

From there, Nintendo recognized the long-term play value and resaleability offered by the deep, lavishly-produced Zelda games, and subsequently every “main” game has gotten the enhancement treatment.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which also saw a BS-X Satellaview broadcast in 1997) returned via Game Boy Advance in late 2002, nearly unchanged save a smaller screen resolution and with the welcome addition of Four Swords, which itself was remade in 2011 for the Nintendo DS in a 25th Anniversary Edition.  Ocarina of Time was remade not once but twice: first as a lightly-tweaked GameCube port, the Master Quest limited-edition bonus for The Wind Waker pre-orders; and then again for Nintendo 3DS as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a more ambitious and visually-pleasing true remaster.  The Wind Waker HD debuted two years later as the first Zelda release for Wii U.  The Zelda remake renaissance continued in 2015, with the brilliant enhanced remaster The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for Nintendo 3DS.  (Lest we forget, Majora’s Mask also saw a straight port on the GameCube in 2003’s Collector’s Edition disc.)

 

 

Twilight Princess was sort of remade right out the gate, if you consider its GameCube release to be the true original and the simultaneous Wii version to be an enhanced port, with 16:9 visuals and motion controls.  (Complicating matters further: the Wii version was published weeks before the GameCube release.)  And now what’s old is new again, as TP makes its HD return on March 4.

 

A Skyward Sword remake seems inevitable at this point, especially given the Wii release’s somewhat muddy visuals, divisive control scheme, and laborious “tutorial” in its opening hours.  If there’s one thing the numerous Zelda remakes have done well, it’s improve upon the originals and fix whatever flaws they had.  Wind Waker HD is the best example of this, with the much-improved sailing mechanics and abbreviated Triforce shard quest; likewise, Majora’s Mask 3D made many changes to address complaints gamers had about the Nintendo 64 original.  I remember that version as frustratingly difficult by Zelda standards, particularly its arcane save system.  I attempted a replay when it arrived on the Wii Virtual Console nine years later, and I gave up pretty quickly.  Majora’s Mask 3D rectified all of my complaints about the original, making it just a bit more accessible while greatly improving the graphics and speeding things up a touch.

 

Yes. Yes, you are. (Credit: Zeldapedia)

So it seems strange, then, that Nintendo never bothered to take another crack at Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, generally considered the worst title in the series.  Yes, Zelda II has its fans and defenders, but this is the game that even Shigeru Miyamoto hinted was likely his biggest regret.  Zelda II took some big risks and introduced interesting new mechanics and gameplay, but it is badly hindered by poor localization, severe difficulty, and critical situations (like finding Bagu’s house) that are nigh impossible without the help of a player’s guide or walkthrough.  As a nine-year-old, I spent hours of severe frustration trying to find Parapa Palace in the western area of the map, since an NPC had told me to “GO WEST” in search of it.  Parapa Palace is, of course, in the east.  But I do go on — if any Zelda game needs a remake for redemption, it’s the unloved second in the series.

 

And what of the first, original, 1986 Famicom Disk System release that gave the franchise its name and propelled Miyamoto-San even further into video game history?  As it is, the original is very good: a memorable soundtrack; crisp, clean, vintage 8-bit visuals; clever map design; challenging boss fights; and a great all-around experience.  Yes, it suffers a bit from the “I have no idea what to do next” that was MUCH worse in its sequel, but it was really revolutionary at the time and still holds up well.  A FAQ or walkthrough is essential for the first-time player even today, but I’m not certain adding modern visuals or even a Link Between Worlds sort of aesthetic would be an improvement.  If anything, I’m hopeful the upcoming Wii U title will be a sort of spiritual reboot, simply called The Legend of Zelda and serving as a total reinterpretation and fleshing-out of that classic’s sparse storyline.

 

Until then — and I’m not certain it will come out in 2016, or only on Wii U for that matter — I have high hopes for Twilight Princess HD.  The original is the only other “main” Zelda game besides Zelda II which I haven’t finished, owing to my dissatisfaction with the Wii control scheme (and just meaning to get back to it later, then never making time).  Nintendo has proven they can and do listen to fans and critics when it comes to remastering their most-beloved property not named Mario, and the long list of successful Zelda ports gives plenty of reason for optimism.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

PLATFORM: Wii U

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016

ESRB RATING: T

FRANCHISE: The Legend of Zelda

DESCRIPTION: High-definition remake of the 2006 GameCube and Wii title, a linear action-adventure with an emphasis on sword combat, puzzle-solving, side quests, and boss fights in a high fantasy setting.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Fans of the Legend of Zelda series

WHO WON’T LIKE THIS: Players who absolutely hated the original Twilight Princess and refuse to give it another shot

SIMILAR TITLES: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Darksiders II; Okami; Beyond Good & Evil HD

 

 

, , , , ,

[Top]

No MLB2K? No Problem. (Sort of)

Posted on 23 April, 2014  in Android, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox One

Cover image for R.B.I. Baseball '14, featuring Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles

Credit: Major League Baseball Advanced Media

 

I love arcade-style baseball. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is one of my all-time favorite Super NES games.  I probably played a dozen complete seasons before the battery died.

 

I have a couple releases of the MLB2K series for Wii and DS, and they are terrible. I really want a great MLB sim (the last one I played at any length was All-Star Baseball ’99) or arcade-type game. Today, as a non-PlayStation owner, my options for a true MLB sim are nonexistent, and Take-Two has dropped its MLB2K series, so it’s Sony or nothing for fans.

 

Then along comes Major League Baseball, becoming the first North American professional sports league to publish its own video game. I would be eager to try R.B.I. Baseball ’14, but I don’t own a PlayStation or an Xbox… or an iPhone / iPad. Strike three!

 

An Android release is forthcoming, so I may check it out then, but a Wii U or 3DS version would be nice. (Not happening.) But I wonder: should pro sports leagues be in the business of publishing their own titles? Would NFL sims be better if the league decided to hire its own dev team and leave EA out in the cold? The NFL already has to approve everything that goes into Madden, so it’s not like we’d suddenly see a bunch of great features removed… or would we? Would an NFL-produced game have no injuries or concussions? Would the league exaggerate the abilities of certain marketable stars at the expense of lesser-known players and teams?

 

Would an NBA-created game cover player jerseys with advertisements (or, will they require future NBA2K installments to do so, once real jerseys start bearing ads in 2015)?

 

Would a FIFA-built game include options for accepting bribes, match-fixing and a “flop” button?

 

It’s very disappointing to me that there are so few options for an MLB-licensed game now.  Baseball feels like it lends itself very well to video games and can be easily picked up by even those without any prior knowledge of the sport, if an “easy mode” is provided.  I suppose this is just the latest symptom of an ongoing decline in the sports genre, brought about in no small part by what amount to $60 annual installments that sometimes amount to little more than roster updates.

 

, , ,

[Top]

Dreamcast Outsells Wii U, By at Least One Metric

Posted on 20 April, 2014  in Dreamcast, Saturn, Wii, Wii U

A Wii U GamePad with a SEGA Dreamcast logo in its display

 

Here’s a thought that should have set stomachs turning at NCL in Kyoto: the Wii U is now at the same point in its lifespan (in North America, at least) as the SEGA Dreamcast was when official support ended… and over that time period, Dreamcast outsold Wii U by nearly two-to-one.

As gaming writer Patrick O’Rourke reports for Canada.com, there are some pretty major differences between the SEGA of 2001 and Nintendo of today, particularly financial. Nintendo didn’t have a string of failed or below-expectations consoles and add-ons leading up to Wii U; and the Wii was a blockbuster compared to the middling Saturn.

 

But even for a Wii U owner and supporter like me, this is a bit troubling. In about 18 months, Nintendo has only sold two-thirds as many units as it planned to sell in the console’s entire second year. If Dreamcast was no longer viable with about 10 million consoles sold in that time span, how much longer can Nintendo afford to market a system that’s sold barely 6 million worldwide?

 

More concerning is that once again, Nintendo has seemingly forgotten games are required to sell consoles. After Reggie Fils-Aime promised us in several interviews last year that there wouldn’t be another Wii U games drought… we’re in another Wii U games drought. Here are your platform-exclusive (literally, all games that are not LEGO, movie tie-ins or Cabella’s hunting games) retail title offerings so far in 2014:

 

And here are all announced 2014 release dates to come for retail Wii U releases, again excluding the interminable LEGO series and multi-platform movie tie-ins:

 

That’s it. Two new Wii U-only retail listings in five months, both sequels.

 

Now, granted there are quite a few download-only titles coming to the eShop, mostly indie games and a few bigger games like NES Remix 2. But most are not exclusives, and none are what I would call system-sellers.

Reggie was either misinformed or being disingenuous when he said there’d be no drought in 2014.

 

Ah! But there are some big releases to come, right? Bayonetta 2, X, Hyrule Warriors, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and of course some unannounced Zelda and Mario titles we may or may not learn about at E3.

 

Anticipation doesn’t sell consoles a year-and-a-half out of release. Gamers are notoriously demanding and impatient. Nintendo hasn’t convinced very many to adopt by now, and I suspect they may not do much better than double total lifetime sales by the end of this year.

 

Failing that, this could be the final E3 for the Wii U before Nintendo pulls the plug.

 

, , ,

[Top]

A Xenoblade Chronicle

Posted on 10 August, 2013  in Wii

A copy of Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii superimposed over a GameStop logo

The first game I ever purchased at GameStop.

 

About 30 minutes ago, I made my first-ever GameStop purchase: a copy of the hard-to-find Wii title Xenoblade Chronicles, pictured here. This came about after a post on GoNintendo alerted me to a new thread on NeoGAF reporting copies of this rare game were showing up at GameStops across the country and even available on their website.

I was dubious, as I have visited GameStop locations in five states trying to find this game, and frequently checked online, without success. Used copies could be found on eBay and Amazon for $100 and up; unopened copies, where available, were asking up to $250. I really wanted this game, but not THAT much.

 

I happen to live across the street from a small GameStop, so I called them and yes, they had “one” copy left. I ran over there and picked it up. It was $90, and labeled “Pre-Owned”.

 

I think this claim is bunk.

 

For one thing, the clerk told me GameStop had “suddenly come across thousands of copies” and was making them available, and he didn’t specifically say they were raking these in from gamers who no longer want them.

 

Then I got it home and inspected it carefully. The box shows no signs of wear and tear, nor does the disc. The instruction manual snapped open and still has that “new glossy paper” smell; it may never have been opened.

 

Most damning, though, was the card with a Club Nintendo PIN. I went to the Club Nintendo site, logged in and entered my PIN — sure enough, it gave me the little first-time buyer survey and credited my account with 50 coins.

 

I suppose it’s possible Nintendo and GameStop have some agreement that has GS slipping Club Nintendo inserts into these copies of Xenoblade. But what seems more likely to me is that GameStop came across unsold stock somewhere, realized they could fetch a premium, and cashed in. Heck, they got me in the door.

 

In spite of all that, I don’t mind too much that I paid a nearly 100 percent mark-up for a new game. I do regret that I didn’t pick it up when it first became available; at the time, it was a GameStop exclusive (which might explain its relative rarity) and I just assumed it would eventually be available elsewhere, and probably cheaper. I made the same mistake with the Metroid Prime Trilogy, so now I’ll probably shell out too much for that game as well.

 

Looking at my exhaustive “wish list”, which includes more than 350 games I hope to purchase someday, there are several other titles fetching top dollar for new, unopened copies:

 

  • Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube, $199)
  • Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (GameCube, $170)
  • Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (DS, $165)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Wii, $160)
  • Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube, $140)

 

To my fellow collectors, what’s the most you’ve ever paid for a hard-to-find game, console or accessory?

 

, , ,

[Top]

Clef two-factor authentication