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.
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 Chroniclesseries. 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.
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 Gameis 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 Heroesmixes the game engine and visuals of its Nintendo 3DS predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worldswith 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.
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.
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:
(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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?