If there’s one thing Nintendo has absolutely always been good at, it’s sequels.
How do you follow up a big hit like Donkey Kong? More of the same? Some lesser companies might think that is a good way of doing things, but not Nintendo — even back in the ’80s. Instead, they chose to take a very interesting approach: they’d take the formula of Donkey Kong and flip it on its head, placing the previous game’s hero in the role of the villain, and tasking you with rescuing the titular big ape.
Donkey Kong Jr. was born, and Nintendo’s rapidly establishing reputation for creating simple to understand, difficult to master and highly addictive games was further cemented.
Continue reading NES Essentials: Donkey Kong Jr.
One of the nice things about revisiting old games from a modern perspective is the fact that you can see how certain genres have evolved over time… and sometimes seemingly morphed into different things altogether.
The original Castlevania is a great example of this. Far from being your common-or-garden everyday mascot platformer that we saw a fair bit throughout the 8- and 16-bit home console eras, Castlevania provided an experience that was altogether its own thing, immediately recognisable and immensely influential.
Atmospheric, idiosyncratic and consistently challenging, it’s a game that still holds its own today — just don’t expect an easy ride!
Continue reading Delving Into Castlevania – #1
SNK is primarily known for its fighting games these days, but in its earlier years it was known for a number of solid (and influential) shoot ’em ups.
While Alpha Mission (also known as ASO: Armored Scrum Object in Japan) isn’t the company’s first shoot ’em up by any means, it is an important one and forms the first in a loose “trilogy” of titles that we’ll explore over the course of the next few articles.
Drawing inspiration from Western RPGs, of all things, this is a fun but challenging vertically scrolling shoot ’em up that any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to become intimately acquainted with.
Continue reading SNK Essentials: Alpha Mission
As the years advance and old gaming hardware and media gets more expensive, harder to find and even more difficult to maintain, the matter of gaming preservation is of increasing importance.
I’ve previously talked about how emulation and ROM archives have an important role to play in all this — in spite of interference from certain quarters — but of arguably greater importance are companies’ own efforts to preserve their respective histories and portfolios.
I picked up the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for Nintendo Switch recently, and I’ll be covering the individual games in it over the next indefinite period of time in an “SNK Essentials” column (and perhaps some videos) — but today, I wanted to talk about this package as a whole, what it gets right, and what I wish it had done slightly better.
Continue reading SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: (Almost) Perfect Preservation
I’ve always enjoyed games that subvert your expectations in one way or another — be it narratively, mechanically or both. And Tecmo’s Mighty Bomb Jack from 1987 is nothing if not charmingly fast and loose with the definition of what you might expect from a NES-era platform game.
I wasn’t familiar with Mighty Bomb Jack back when it was “current”, but I did have a soft spot for Elite’s solid Atari ST port of the 1984 original arcade game. That was a much simpler game; what Mighty Bomb Jack does is take the base mechanics from its predecessor and apply them in an interesting and unusual new way.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Continue reading NES Essentials: Mighty Bomb Jack
The game I’d like to talk about today is a prime example of why emulation and game preservation is important.
I’d never heard of it prior to my first encounter with it yesterday, when I was attracted by the box art I saw in my Launchbox library. No-one I’ve spoken to about it today has ever heard of it. I’ve found very little information about or discussion of it online, save for a few YouTube commenters on gameplay videos reminiscing about how much they enjoyed playing this game back in the day. And I’ve never seen it come up in articles about retro collections or “hidden gems of the NES library”.
The game I’m talking about is Arkista’s Ring, developed by Nihon Micom Kaihatsu (aka NMK), published by the American arm of Sammy Corporation (without crediting NMK) and released exclusively in North America in 1990.
Continue reading NES Essentials: Arkista’s Ring
Dragon Quest is a great example of what I like to think of as a “comfy game”. That is, the kind of game you can pick up and play, and immediately feel like you’re welcome in its world.
There are certain series that do this very well. Gust’s Atelier games — particularly from the PS3 era onwards — are especially well-known for it, and my journey through Chapters of the Chosen on Nintendo DS is making me feel like Dragon Quest as a whole is very likely to be the same way.
As controversial as it might be to say these days, I feel a big part of the pleasant atmosphere the later English versions succeed in creating is down to the efforts of the localisation team and how they made some significant changes to how the original scripts were presented. So let’s take a look at that aspect today.
Continue reading Delving Into Dragon Quest: Chapters of the Chosen – #2