Category Archives: Essentials

A collection of articles highlighting noteworthy or interesting games from the libraries of lesser-appreciated, rarer or retro systems, and in specific genres.

SNES Essentials: Yoshi’s Island

Super Mario World marked the point at which “Mario games” were no longer really one series, though this didn’t become obvious until much later in retrospect.

Still, the fact that its sequel was called Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island rather than Super Mario Bros. 5: Yoshi’s Island should have tipped you off a bit… and if that didn’t work, then the fact that you didn’t actually play Super Mario would definitely do the job.

The “rebranding” that Yoshi’s Island ultimately underwent was a good idea though, because although having elements in common with its predecessor, it’s a distinct type of experience in its own right. And one of the best platformers on the SNES.

Continue reading SNES Essentials: Yoshi’s Island

Advertisements

Shmuzzler Essentials: Every Extend Extra

Every Extend Extra is a game that defies easy description. Is it a shoot ’em up? Is it a puzzle game? Yes. And no. And… uh…

For those familiar with the work of Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Q Entertainment, it is somewhat par for the course in that it is developed around the concept of “synaesthesia” — the subconscious connections that some people make between different sensory inputs, in this case sound, visuals and “touch” of sorts through gameplay.

But for everyone else, it’s an initially baffling experience that, before long, becomes utterly compelling and fiendishly addictive.

Continue reading Shmuzzler Essentials: Every Extend Extra

Puzzler Essentials: Gunpey

There’s something about handheld systems that just makes puzzle games feel right.

The PlayStation Portable was no stranger to games of this type, of course, what with the excellent Lumines being a launch title for the system and a wide variety of other brainteasers making solid appearances on the platform over the subsequent years.

One of the most interesting and unusual titles on the platform is 2006’s Gunpey, actually the latest installment in a series that got its start on the Japan-only WonderSwan system.

Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Gunpey

SNES Essentials: Super Mario World

One of the biggest sources of playground arguments in my youth was whether Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog was “better”.

I owned a SNES, so I should have been firmly in the Team Mario camp, but at the same time my brother was working on games magazines and regularly brought consoles home with him for us to try out — including a Mega Drive with Sonic the Hedgehog. And as such I learned to appreciate both on their own merits.

While less outright “impressive” in terms of spectacle than Sega’s classic — a fact that Team Sonic liked to rely on in aforementioned arguments — Super Mario World was certainly a game that kept me coming back for more. And for my money it remains one of the best Mario games — perhaps one of the best platformers — of all time.

Continue reading SNES Essentials: Super Mario World

SNES Essentials: Star Fox 2

Nintendo’s new miniature SNES Classic system is here, and it’s a historically significant release for one big reason: Star Fox 2.

Fully developed but never released due to its completion near the end of the SNES’ lifespan (and the subsequent birth of the Nintendo 64), Star Fox 2 has existed in limbo for a long time now. A few times over the years, ROMs claiming to be the full game have shown up, but they’ve generally been early alpha or beta builds, not offering quite the full experience that Nintendo originally intended for the game.

Now, in 2017, we can finally play Star Fox 2 in its original form as it was always intended to be played. Was it worth the wait?

Continue reading SNES Essentials: Star Fox 2

Puzzler Essentials: Puchi Carat

I’ve always had a soft spot for block-breakers, ever since Arkanoid on the Atari 8-bit, and Puchi Carat makes me happy in all the right ways.

Combining elements of traditional classic block-breakers with mechanics from puzzle games such as the Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move series, it’s an enormously addictive, highly unusual game that is simultaneously unique and absolutely representative of the time in which it came out.

In short, if you like adorable late ’90s anime style characters, coloured things going “pop” and gameplay that is as much about skill as it is about intelligence, Puchi Carat is definitely a game that you should check out.

Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Puchi Carat

Taito Essentials: Zoo Keeper

The technological constraints of old video games often led to some highly creative experiences.

In logical or narrative terms, these games would often make very little sense whatsoever, but taken from a strictly abstract, mechanical perspective, they had the potential to provide extremely compelling, addictive experiences.

One such example was 1983’s Zoo Keeper, a game developed by Keith Egging and John Morgan from Taito’s American division. This game clearly drew influences from a number of popular Eastern and Western games such as Qix, Donkey Kong and Frogger, ultimately leaving it as a rather intriguing and underappreciated title with a strong sense of its own identity.

Continue reading Taito Essentials: Zoo Keeper