Retro Video Game Collecting

Because every game is eventually retro.

Zelda, E3, and Nintendo’s Last Stand

Posted on 3 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii U

Image of Link from The Legend of Zelda

Credit: Nintendo

 

This week, I was invited to join the awesome crew over at RadioFreeRadio for their live weekly pop culture show Popped!  We talked The Legend of Zelda, specifically its 30th anniversary and its frequently-delayed upcoming game, which Nintendo says will be the only playable title at its E3 area.

 

Enjoy the show, and be sure to check out RadioFreeRadio, available streaming live and free on the website or on their mobile app!

 

 

 

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The Good Old Days of Gaming Displays

Posted on 2 June, 2016  in Random

Video game kiosks are still around — visit any GameStop to see a demo station for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and, occasionally, Wii U).  But they’re not as pervasive as they once were, thanks to the availability of downloadable demos, and the fact that games are no longer a novelty to the general public.

 

That wasn’t always the case, as the video below demonstrates with its exhibition of an original Intellivision kiosk, in remarkable condition thanks to the efforts of collector and preservationist Jason Brassard.  Check out his YouTube channel for more great videos like this!

 

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Nintendo’s Lost IP, Part 1: Arcade Classified

Posted on 29 May, 2016  in Nintendo

 

As I write this shortly before E3 2016, Nintendo is having a rough year.  Production of major upcoming titles for the Wii U has all but ceased.  The 3DS is in a downturn of its own.  And Nintendo is unwilling to tell its clamoring fan base anything at all about its next platform, code named NX.  The gaming world essentially has no idea what Nintendo is doing — and, some might say, neither does Nintendo.

 

With the NX on the horizon, there is hope Nintendo can right its ship and start bringing more great games to the fray.  If there’s one thing Nintendo has always done right, it’s create and grow fantastic franchises and universes, based on its own ideas.  Many of the all-time best-selling series live in the Nintendo fold, from Super Mario to Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda.

 

That said, there are plenty of other Nintendo franchises that seem to have fallen by the wayside — a gold mine of gaming history just waiting to be exploited.  I thought it might be fun to look at some of their lesser-known and long-dormant IP, to see if there’s anything worth resurrecting.  We begin with Nintendo’s early arcade days, littered with now-extinct franchises.

 


 

A Wild Gunman electro-mechanical arcade light gun shooter cabinet, from 1974

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Wild Gunman
Introduced: 1974, Wild Gunman (arcade)
Latest entry: 1984, Wild Gunman (Famicom / NES)
The original was technically not really a video game as much as it was an electronic light gun target practice amusement device. But the NES adaptation was a legitimate NES Zapper game, limited as it was. The title made a cameo appearance of sorts in a Game Boy Advance WarioWaregame, but this doesn’t count. The Wii seemed like an ideal platform for a revival of target shooters like Wild Gunman’s spiritual descendants such as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, but in spite of the Wii Zapper accessory, that genre never really took off again.  That said, you can now play the NES version of Wild Gunman with a Wii Remote via the Wii U Virtual Console.

 


 

Banner logo for Space Fever

Credit: Nintendo / Before Mario

Space Fever

Introduced: 1979, Space Fever (arcade)
A shameless rip-off of Space Invaders and totally not worth revisiting. Apparently there was a “sequel” built into the Game Boy Camera, but we all know how popular that was.

 

 


 

A Sheriff arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / Giant Bomb

Sheriff
Introduced: 1979, Sheriff (arcade)
Latest entry: 1979, Sheriff 2 (arcade)
One of Miyamoto’s early projects as an artist, and mostly forgotten; basically a Robotron 2084 clone. Like many of the games listed here, it was featured as a mini-game in the WarioWare series decades later.

 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Detail of the Monkey Magic arcade cabinet marquee

Credit: Before Mario

Monkey Magic
Introduced: 1979, Monkey Magic (arcade)
A Breakout clone. For all the accusations against Sony and Microsoft of stealing Nintendo’s ideas, in its early days as a video game developer and publisher, the Big N was releasing plenty of unoriginal titles itself. Not really much more to say about this game; maybe it was folded into theDonkey Kong series?

 

 


 

Space Firebird arcade marquee

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Space Firebird
Introduced: 1980, Space Firebird (arcade)
Latest entry: 1981, Space Demon (arcade)
Another game designed by Miyamoto before he was famous, and highly derivative of Gaplus. I’m uncertain whether it was related in any way to the anime Space Firebird 2772, which released at around the same time, but the arcade title’s hard-to-find sequel would suggest otherwise. It seems like an open-ended space shooter could be fertile ground for a Nintendo revival, but Star Fox sort of fills that void and it probably needs a new title before any other spacey shooters come back.

 


 

Radar Scope U.S. arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / Kill Screen

Radar Scope
Introduced: 1979, Radar Scope (arcade)
Ahh yes, the failure that saved Nintendo. Miyamoto told Kotaku in 2013 that he was unsatisfied with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link when asked whether he’d ever made any “bad games”. However, by all accounts, Miyamoto’s much earlier arcade title Radar Scope was poorly received by American arcade gamers and it nearly led to financial ruin for Nintendo, or so the story goes. At any rate, Miyamoto’s great failure essentially launched his career; legend has it he was tasked with coming up with a new game to repurpose 2,000 or so unwanted Radar Scope cabinets, using the same hardware. The result: Donkey Kong. But what of the original game? Well, it’s nothing special — basically a Galaxian / Galaga clone, but given its unusual display angle, it seems ripe for a return on the 3DS.

 

 


 

Heli Fire cocktail and stand-up arcade cabinets

Credit: Nintendo / Game Room Junkies

Heli Fire
Introduced: 1980, Heli Fire (arcade)
Yet another clone, similar to the early arcade classic Sea Wolf, this is said to be an especially rare arcade cabinet. We already have Steel Diver as a decent submarine combat game, and it has a sequel, so a Heli Fire remake is probably unnecessary.

 

 


 

A Sky Skipper arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / The Arcade Blogger

Sky Skipper
Introduced: 1981, Sky Skipper (arcade)
I have absolutely no idea what is going on here.  The Arcade Blogger describes it thusly:

…the game sees the player controlling a bi-plane as ‘Mr. You’, on a mission to rescue various members of a royal family scattered around four levels, whilst avoiding gorillas (sound familiar?) along the way. The bi-plane has limited fuel, so tactics need to be at the forefront of the player’s mind. Think Robotron meets Time Pilot and you’re in the ballpark.

Sky Skipper happens to be of the most rare and valuable arcade games in the world.  If you ever come across a functioning cabinet, consider yourself lucky!

 


 

A Popeye arcade cabinet

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Popeye
Introduced: 1982, Popeye (arcade)
Latest entry: 1983, Popeye (NES)
Nintendo doesn’t really do licensed character games any more, and while this one isn’t terrible, neither the arcade game nor later NES port were especially memorable; nor do I reckon kids these days have any idea who Popeye is / was. It’s said King Features Syndicate rejected Nintendo’s original proposal for a Popeye arcade title, so Nintendo replaced the characters with its own: Popeye became Jumpman (later Mario); Olive Oyl became Pauline; Bluto, Donkey Kong.  It lives on in our pockets; the arcade title was re-made for iOS by Bandai Namco, though Nintendo was not involved.

 

 


 

Next week, I’ll take a look back at the forgotten franchises we saw first on the Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom platform.

 

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Retro Pro: Make Your NES Game Paks Like New

Posted on 25 May, 2016  in Nintendo Entertainment System

As a retro game collector, you may be put off by the appearance of used games found in thrift stores, trade shows, and other places.  Older games show signs of wear and tear, particularly as we get into the pre-disc era of gaming (1996 and earlier).  Cartridges are scuffed; corrosion is seen on connectors; labels are ripped or missing.  Boxes are typically in poor shape, if they are available at all; retro games found in their original packaging can be prohibitively expensive for the starting collector.

 

The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on well-preserved games just to have an attractive collection.  As console modder and retro gaming enthusiast Drumblanket shows us, a little effort and minimal expense can have even the worst-shape Nintendo Entertainment System Game Paks looking like new!

 

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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.

 

 

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Turn On, Tune In, Press Start

Posted on 18 May, 2016  in PC

Image from SKIPI by Timothy Leary

Psychedelic. (Credit: New York Public Library via The New York Times)

 

Plenty of video games are described as truly bizarre experiences, likened to an acid trip.  From Katamari Damacy to Seaman, the retro game collector will find no shortage of the unusual and strange, often from the fantasy playgrounds that emerged from Japanese developers’ minds in the 1990s.

 

But for a truly long, strange trip, one must venture to the New York Public Library, where there resides the recently rediscovered video game ventures by 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary.

 

As outlined in The New York Times in 2013, librarians rediscovered a trove of experimental PC games created and inspired by the famous psychologist and endorser of LSD.  The games are mostly incomplete, though at least one managed a small commercial release: Mind Mirror arrived on various home computer platforms in 1985 with the help of a little publisher known as Electronic Arts.

 

If you’re curious, you can try a modern incarnation of Mind Mirror for yourself right now on Facebook.  And if you’re in New York, be sure to pay a visit to the library for a unique peek into video game history from the most unlikely of sources.

 

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What’s Old is New Again

Posted on 16 May, 2016  in Random

Although I launched RetroVideoGameCollecting.com in May 2016, you may notice many posts dated earlier than that.  Over the years, I’ve written various items for the community forums on Kotaku, as well as a couple of posts for Never Daunted Radio Network.  I like them, so I’ve brought them here.

 

Some are obviously quite dated, but I hope readers will find them a worthwhile glimpse at my thoughts on gaming before this website got going.  For my part, I find them useful for improving what I’m writing about now.

 

Feedback is always welcome in the comments section below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Long Lost and (Deservedly) Forgotten NES Prototype Resurfaces

Posted on 14 May, 2016  in Nintendo Entertainment System

On the same Memorial Day 1993 weekend that saw the release of the Super Mario Bros. movie, an even bigger flop hit the big screen and led to the collapse of a beloved film studio. Incredibly, “Happily Ever After” also had an NES tie-in game in development at the time, one which was assumed lost forever — until a prototype cart was discovered in Texas last year.

 

From NintendoPlayer.com

From NintendoPlayer.com

This rare find was finally announced this week after months of thorough research by Nintendo Player.  Their fantastic post on this unreleased game and its history is a long read, but definitely worth your time.

 

 

The collector who found the Happily Ever After prototype did not disclose how much he paid for it, and I won’t hazard a guess.  Prototypes of unreleased games, if authentic, can easily fetch $1,000 or more depending on the title and rarity.  I’ll be writing much more about prototypes in the future.

 

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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

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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

 

 

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