Q: So we’re back to this mine, huh?
Despite the graphical tricks that occurs in battles, Golden Sun is a fairly old-school JRPG at heart. The battle system isn’t particularly deep, the main character doesn’t say a thing (until the sequel, when he’s no longer the lead), and the summons are striking and occasionally a little winded. What it does differently is use magical abilities to solve environmental puzzles, creating something else to do in dungeons outside of fighting monsters. Sadly, with the third game come and gone without much fanfare, it seems developer Camelot is reduced to creating increasingly forgettable Mario Sports games for Nintendo.
If I’m being honest, I’d say that my closest childhood friends enjoyed Dragon Warrior III far more than I did. They both played the game for over 100 hours, and I loaned out the game, along with my Game Boy Color, for months at a time. It’s an old-school RPG (originally released on the NES) where grinding isn’t just advised, but necessary. For that reason, DQ3 on a handheld console makes perfect sense. It’s a shame that we’ll probably never see this remake on Virtual Console, but the original cart isn’t terribly expensive pm eBay.
It’s impressive to see Grand Theft Auto now considering how GTA looked when it became popular. GTA3 stars a mute anti-hero with bowl-like hands causing death and destruction in a city that barely resembles the location it’s inspired by (New York). Contrast any PS2-era GTA with Grand Theft Auto IV, and the difference is incredible. It’s difficult to imagine where similar open-world games might be without Grand Theft Auto III, a crazy adventure that never quite played as well as we’d hoped, and only plays worse with age. Even so, it’s a blast stealing a vehicle and taking the police on a pursuit across (an incredibly ugly) Liberty City.
I played the “Halo is overrated” card so quickly after first playing the original Halo, and I understand why my opinion differed so wildly from critics: multiplayer. I played through the story campaign with friends, but I never once experienced those incredible multiplayer LAN fights. My friends were too into Nintendo and PlayStation to care about Microsoft’s silly Xbox. I still had a great time with Halo, but without multiplayer, I basically played only half the game.
Otherwise known as that game competitive Smash Bros, players will never abandon, although I can’t relate. I find myself unable to adjust to Melee’s frenetic pace, so I’m happy with the more recent Smash on Wii U. Melee is still great — Smash has yet to surpass the Adventure mode — and I’ve had my share of epic multiplayer fights with friends, most ending with us slaughtered by that one friend who played little else. And we gotta give props to Melee for introducing Fire Emblem to the Western world.
With Paper Mario currently in a weird place where Nintendo wants to pretend that it’s not an RPG, it never hurts to look back at the original Paper Mario and be reminded what a quality game it is. Intelligent Systems brought action to a turn-based RPG, allowing players to avoid enemy attacks and add a little bit more damage to Mario’s moves, all with a simple button press. (I never played Super Mario RPG, but I understand it had a similar combat system.) 2D characters in a 3D world remains charming, even if the game doesn’t look anywhere as sharp as Wii U’s Paper Mario: Color Splash.
It’s not often that a game messes with me, but when the Colonel barked at me to turn off the game console, I obliged. I played Metal Gear Solid 2 fully aware of the “big twist” that saw Solid Snake swapped for newbie Raiden, yet remained unaware of everything after. From an obese nutcase obsessed with explosives to the United States president grabbing Raiden’s crotch (admit it, you just thought of Trump), I blindly traveled down MGS2’s rabbit hole. By the time that the Colonel ordered that I stop playing games and give him a tuning fork, my every expectation was out the window.
With Factor 5 deceased (RIP), any hope of seeing Rogue Leader remade on modern consoles dies with them. The developer crafted a visually stunning game that looked and sounded (thanks to dialogue ripped from the films) more faithful to Star Wars than any game released prior. It also remains plenty of fun thanks to the arcade-y flight combat Factor 5 established in the first Rogue Squadron. It was a hell of a launch title for the GameCube.
I understand why Fire Emblem took 13 years to leave Japan, but why didn’t we get Advance Wars sooner? Outside of the audio/visuals, Advance Wars doesn’t differ much from the original Famicom Wars, retaining the same simple-yet-addictive strategy gameplay. Naturally, Advance Wars benefits from being on a handheld console powerful enough to deliver charming visuals that helps us forget that real war is the complete opposite. I mean, how do you hate a tank tearing through infantry when it’s so cute and squat?
Too often, Oracle of Ages and Seasons are spoken of together, which I partially understand. Both were created by the same developer and released on the same console on the same date. They’re 2D Zelda adventures that look largely identical to Link’s Awakening, except with an extra splash of color thanks to being on the Game Boy Color, but Ages and Seasons are separate adventures in unique kingdoms. Each has their own gameplay mechanic and general feel (Ages focuses more on puzzles, Seasons on action). There’s an argument that focusing on both robs them of what makes each unique.
So let’s focus on Oracle of Ages, the second Zelda to prominently focus on time travel. Where Ocarina of Time sent Link into the future, Oracle of Ages delivers our hero into Labrynna’s past to save Nayru, the titular Oracle of Ages. Because this adventure is in 2D, jumping between times feels a bit more like going from the Light World to Dark World in A Link to the Past than child Link to adult Link in Ocarina of Time, although, like Ocarina, Oracle of Ages allows puzzles centered around time.
It’s impressive that Oracle of Ages (and Seasons) ended up being such a quality title given that it was developed by an external developer (Flagship) and suffered a bit of a weird development (three Oracle games were planned). The development team later created The Minish Cap for Game Boy Advance, a similarly overlooked Zelda game, although I’d sooner argue towards Oracle of Ages being the better game.
Both Oracle of Ages and Seasons (the latter being one of the few games I lost forever) are available on 3DS Virtual Console, so there’s little excuse not to play it.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Game Boy Advance | Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe / Konami
Circle of the Moon is one example of a game being released to critical acclaim, only for everyone to turn around and roast it only a year later (I recall critics grumbling about CotM around the time Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance hit GBA). Even Konami stopped caring as Koji Igarashi decided not to include Circle of the Moon in the official Castlevania timeline. Now all people talk about is how unfortunately unpredictable that card mechanic is.
PlayStation 2 | Team Ico / Sony
It’s not that I haven’t played Ico, but I rarely get an itch to return to that world once I turn off the console. I recognize that it’s a brilliant game that stands as a counter to the current gaming environment that values bombast over substance, and I expect that it’ll eventually *click* for me someday. Perhaps when I cave and buy the HD remaster, which I should do because I no longer have a working PS2 to play Ico on.
Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble
Game Boy Color | HAL Laboratory / Nintendo R&D2 / Nintendo
Nintendo experimented with motion controls long before Wii, and one result is Kirby’s Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, a game that takes advantage of the fact that Kirby is basically just a ball with stubby arms and legs. Altering the orientation of the Game Boy moves Kirby like a ball on a moving platform, forcing players to be careful with the imprecise mechanism while moving through the environment. Unfortunately, Tilt ‘n’ Tumble is basically unplayable on anything after the original Game Boy Advance due to the placement of the cartridge slot on later hardware.
Mega Man Xtreme
Game Boy | Capcom
A compilation of stages and bosses from past Mega Man X games, the stupidly named Mega Man Xtreme is sorely lacking in ambition. It’s a decent product that takes the 16-bit character and reduces them to Game Boy’s 8-bits, but the sequel is better. There’s enjoyment to be found, but it’s nothing special.