Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Classic Games You Might Not Remember

There are too many excellent classic console games to even begin writing about, so I tried to think back to what I played the most as a kid for only the Nintendo Entertainment System. I only got a new video game once or twice a year on special occasions, so there was plenty of opportunity to completely master those few games. There are several that I spent most of my time on, most of them being on the old NES. I'll also throw in some honorable mentions after I'm done with the main list of games.

As per the usual for my blog, this list I'm about to write is in no way in any order at all. These are just the first games that came to mind. Although, if I forgot any classic console games that I might have missed out on, let me know in the comments. Please. I'll give just about anything a try at least once so let me know what I might of skipped.

Crystalis - NES

I actually owned two copies of this game for a short time. I believe my parents bought it for me as well as my uncle. I believe it was somewhere around my 9th birthday, just a guess though. I ended up giving my second copy to my best friend at the time, Randy. The one who introduced me to gaming.

Crystalis is a fantastic Action/RPG and definitely stood out visually from most other NES games. Even in this screenshot here you can see how great it looks compared to most games back then. It also had great controls where you could move anywhere you wanted instead of like most RPG's back then where you just move one square at a time.

It had some incredibly catchy tunes that I can actually still play out in my head right now. Followed by top notch sound effects, which was pretty rare for the NES actually. Usually it's just simple beeps and silly cartoon-esque noises, but Crystalis seemed to have a higher production value than even big name games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. Actually, when I think more about it, just about all the games on my list have surprising production values for games that never even saw proper sequels or became all that well known. At least, I don't hear anybody talking about these games anymore.

Crystalis is a straight-up Action/RPG where you control a single character, while leveling up and collecting new items and equipment as you move through the story. Crystalis isn't very heavy on story actually, it's mostly filled with your usual type of quests involving the killing of bosses and finding new more powerful spells and items. Someone asks you for a key, you go find it, then they'll give you another item in return, etc. Back then though, especially to someone under the age of 10, this game was new and exciting. I was never a fan of the Zelda games though, I needed true RPG elements. I needed to level up and increase my stats, I needed spells to cast and quests to complete.

If you have access to an emulator I would suggest trying this game out, at least go as far as the giant bug boss in the swamp. The memory of the music alone during that fight (and the area leading up to it) is enough to bring back strong feelings of fright as a kid just trying to survive the fight. Check it out. I wouldn't normally tell anyone to go out and download a game, but it's not like you'll find an original copy, or a properly working one even. Let alone a functional and reliable NES. Crystalis was released for the Gameboy Color I remember, but I've heard it wasn't a good port from ... somewhere. Maybe I should give it a try and see for myself.

Blaster Master - NES

When I used to live with my mom in grade 5, way up in North Bay here in Canada, I'd play this for hours. Without the internet, or strategy guides, I somehow figured out the quickest route (or at least I was sure it was back then) through the game. I saw the ending sequence so many times during my year up there.

When I moved back with my dad at the end of the school year, I had taken out a novel from the school library with the same name, Blaster Master. It was basically the same story as the game and was probably the first book I ever read. I really wish I still had that book, I should try to find a copy online or something.

Blaster Master is basically a straight up action game with similar progress systems that we see all the time today. Start the game with basic abilities and as you progress you get stronger. You begin the game with your tank and traverse the varied environments trying to chase down your missing frog. Yup, your pet frog got loose and ran down a hole in your yard. You went down to chase it and found a crazy-ass tank. If I remember right, I think your frog also grew extra huge somehow. Toxic waste or something maybe? Perhaps it was something similar to what infected those turtle ninjas I used to watch ;)

Anyways, extremely weird story aside... your tank has awesomely animated wheels and you can aim up or straight ahead, which was pretty cool. When you move forward or backwards, your wheels looked like they actually had traction, or something. When you pressed up on the d-pad you can see how the tank's main turret shifts upwards to shoot objects from above. I always felt like I was in complete control of my vehicle.

You could also hop out of your vehicle at any time to traverse the area on foot. Although this is definitely not recommended unless all you're doing is exiting so you can crawl through a tiny space, or climb a ladder. You were pretty vulnerable when running out as the little guy with the big head, but it was necessary in order to enter the games many dungeons.

This part was freakin' awesome! You drive around shooting things up in your vehicle, then drive up to an entrance and hop out of your tank so you could enter a tiny dungeon door. Then the game completely shifted to a top down shooter type game.

While in the top down mode you navigate through the dungeon, collecting power-ups for your blaster gun, and eventually fighting your way to an end level boss. After the boss you'd obtain an upgrade for your vehicle. Some of the upgrades included a stronger main canon blast and hover capabilities. Both of which would allow you to reach new areas and plow through more bosses. This is a system that is extremely familiar to even today's games I find. Back then though it was new to me so I was into this kind of game. Today though, I hardly play any straight up action games because they just haven't changed enough to keep me interested.

Princess Tomato In The Salad Kingdom

Now here's a weird entry on this list. My dad spent a lot of time away from home when I was a kid and so he'd give me money to go rent NES games. There must of been nothing left to rent because there was this bright pink NES box on the shelf, Princess Tomato. Seriously? No idea why I decided to rent it but I'm glad I did. I doubt I finished it in a single night (which was the maximum duration you could keep it for) so I probably continued to rent it any chance I got.

There aren't many games that use the same formula and game-play as Princess Tomato In The Salad Kingdom. I guess it could be compared to Heavy Rain for PS3 in some ways. It's just something we don't see anymore.

In Princess Tomato you take the role of Sir Cucumber in his quest to find out what happened to Princess Tomato. It isn't far into the adventure that you meet your apple pal, Percy, who can give you hints during your adventure if you so choose.

In order to make your choices in the game, you select from several different words that are placed around the edges of the screen. It's very important to figure out when you can use certain command words, and when you cannot. There are times when you need to fight your way out of a situation, and times when you just simply need to give the correct gift to get what you need. The way you fight in this game is pretty clever actually, you play a fun little mini-game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine the victor.

The entire game was basically one giant puzzle to solve. You had to collect as many items as you could, buy whatever you thought would be useful for later, and talk to absolutely everyone, sometimes multiple times. I watched my step-brother play through the entire game on his laptop last year and despite the fact that I remembered a lot of the details of the game, we ended up stuck a few times and so we had to ask google for some serious assistance.

Honorable Mentions!

Maniac Mansion. I never owned it, but my cousin did. I wonder how he got a hold of it? Hmm... One thing is absolutely for sure though, this game totally creeped me out. It still does to this day. Just hearing that opening tune right after you select your starting characters gives me the creeps. This was one freaky game that for some reason my cousin and I just couldn't stop playing. He even named his dog after one of the main characters, Razor. The rocker chick.

Ultima: Quest of the Avatar. Wouldn't it be something if we suddenly got a brand new Ultima game? Honestly though, I doubt many of today's gamers would even know about this old series. It was even turned into one of the worlds first MMO's, which I totally missed out on. Quest of the Avatar though, I played quite a bit on my buddies NES. Can't remember if we ever actually finished the game though.

The Guardian Legend. With this classic game we got a shooter, much like the old R-Type and Gradius games, but between shooting stages it would turn into an Action/RPG. Very innovative for an old game. I've tried playing it in the past few years though on emulators, but it's extremely difficult. How the hell did I keep playing all these old games when I was around 10 years old? It's quite Amazing.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master. Something tells me I've written about this game before somewhere on this blog, not really sure though, just a feeling. In The Dream Master you take control of a little boy who's thrown into a far away land. You throw candy at animals and you can then ride them!

Super Mario Brothers 2. Probably my favorite of the classic Mario games, which I was never really a big fan of. For some reason I fell in love with Mario 2. I somehow was always able to finish the game within 30 minutes. I was so proud of that when I was a kid.

Startropics. This game should of actually been included in my core list of favorite NES games, but I never did own it or play it much. It has extremely high production values and it shows. The music is very memorable, the gameplay is a perfect balance of role playing and action, and Star Tropics has some of the best story you can find on the NES. If you haven't played this, go ...play it now! It gets very hard though I find once you start battling the robots and stuff later on. Again, how did I ever beat this game? I would love to actually be able to get past that dual robot fight late in the game, but I just can't seem to do it.

Bubble Bobble. Best co-op game ever. I remember those levels going on forever.

Final Fantasy. Does anybody else remember that giant bestiary you'd get with the game? I think on the other side of it was a map or something, I just always remember being the kid that held it so I could look up the monster info when my buddy needed it.

There are plenty of games I've left off the list, but those mostly didn't leave all that much of a memorable impression on me over time. All the games I've listed here I've put a lot of hours into. Some games I've owned while others were played at my childhood buddies place (which is where I spent most of my time actually) A good chunk of my life was spent playing video games, I'm proud to say that the hours I've put in were with excellent (albeit mostly forgotten) video games.

The games that the majority of gamers are playing today have a good chance of being completely forgotten in about 20 years. Look at all the Call of Duty's that are released each year, or the music rhythm game genre. We just don't see the same quality of unique and original games that we used to. When we do see something truly awesome, it's immediately jumped on and squeezed for every cent it's worth until the fanbase can't stand it anymore. It's pretty sad really.