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Mega Man: A rock-solid, if challenging, platformer

The original Mega Man gets a bad rap because its sequel is so much better. But if you can set that aside and appreciate Mega Man in the context of its late-1987 release, you'll find a top-notch platformer, if a little on the difficult side. Mega Man (called Rockman in Japan) is a blue, armored robot created by Dr. Light to destroy the evil robots created by Dr. Wily. He is not a cyborg, despite his human-looking face and hair. The game begins with a level-select screen. Mega Man can face the six robot masters in any order: Cut Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Fire Man, Ice Man, and Bomb Man. The hallmark of the Mega Man series is that, whenever he defeats a robot master, he acquires its weapon. You can change weapons at any time from the menu (press START). Mega Man can also pick up the Magnet Beam tool in Elec Man's stage. This lets him create temporary, magnetic platforms, which help him cross gaps. The longer you hold the button, the longer the platform. A criticism I've had s
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Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins: 30th anniversary

Three decades ago Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins brought the platforming brilliance of the Super Mario series to the handheld Nintendo Game Boy. Featuring 32 levels, it far surpassed Mario's first Game Boy outing. It also introduced the anti-hero Wario, who has locked Mario out of his mansion. To unlock it he must collect the eponymous Six Golden Coins. The dastardly and mysterious Wario The original Super Mario Land launched with the Game Boy in 1989. While that game succeeded in letting you play Super Mario on the go, it fell short of the series' high standards. The sprites were tiny and hard to see, especially when they were moving (due to the Game Boy's motion blur). The strange enemies and Egyptian setting made it feel like it was from another series entirely. And the game was too short with just twelve levels. Nintendo fixed all these problems with the sequel. The sprites are big, and the game has 32 levels—the same number as the original Super Mario Bros. This

Final Fantasy: Square's sword-and-sorcery series starter still slaps

Garland will knock you all down! Final Fantasy is the genre-defining classic of 8-bit Japanese RPGs. It also happens to be a personal favorite of mine. My nostalgia for it is strong enough to compensate for its outdated elements. The monsters and gameplay of Final Fantasy are taken straight from Dungeons & Dragons. You control a party of four characters, to whom you assign names and classes. The classes are Warrior [Fighter], Monk [Black Belt], Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. The Red Mage is a jack of all trades and master of none: he can cast white and black magic spells, but not the most powerful ones. Unlike other mages, he can also equip swords, armor, and shields. This makes him versatile. The Monk doesn't wear armor, which makes him vulnerable to physical attacks, but he can dish out huge damage with his bare hands. The Thief can't steal anything, because there are no class-specific commands in this game besides magic. Instead, he is a weaker fighter who

Super Mario Kart: 30th anniversary

Boy does time fly: Super Mario Kart is 30 years old! This was one of my favorite SNES games when I was a child. Featuring eight Mario characters riding go karts, twenty fun tracks, an assortment of items and weapons, and two different multiplayer modes, Super Mario Kart is a top-tier video game. Super Mario Kart laid down the basics of the popular franchise. You choose one of eight classic Mario characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Bowser, DK Junior, Koopa Troopa, or Yoshi), an engine speed (50 or 100 CC), then a circuit of five tracks (Mushroom, Fire Flower, or Star). Then you race! The characters belong to different weight classes: Junior and Bowser, being heavy, have the highest maximum speed but poor acceleration. New players should try a lightweight like Koopa Troopa or Toad. Driving over question tiles on the track gives your racer an item, such as a turbo Super Mushroom, Super Star, banana peel, red Koopa shell, green Koopa shell, lightning bolt (which briefly shrinks everyone

Super Mario Sunshine: 20th anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of Super Mario Sunshine, the Super Mario game of the Nintendo Game Cube. Super Mario Sunshine follows the formula laid down in Super Mario 64 . Mario's move set is largely unaltered, so if you've played that game, you'll be able to dive right in. Each level is a large play space in which Mario must find and collect Shine Sprites (the equivalent of Stars in Mario 64). Each stage contains eight "episodes." When Mario finds a Shine, he completes the episode. Each episode changes certain aspects of the level (same as in Mario 64). For example, in one level you are tasked with removing enemies from giant mirrors in order to dislodge an enormous Wriggler, then in the next episode you must defeat the rampaging Wriggler. The game also re-uses Mario 64's organizational mechanic by which Mario accesses the different levels through portals painted on walls. The central hub of Mario 64 was Peach's Castle. Here it is Is

Kirby's Dream Land: 30th anniversary

Today is the 30th anniversary of Kirby's Dream Land, the debut Game Boy adventure of everybody's favorite pink puffball! Kirby's beginnings were humble: this first handheld outing is short and lacks his trademark ability to copy enemy powers. He's white! Kirby's Dream Land is a short, simple, well executed platformer. Its strengths are easy to identify: Kirby handles beautifully, with a robust flying ability and projectile attack. The levels are fun, interesting, and perfect for young children. And, importantly, Kirby and his world are adorable. Apparently his character design began as a placeholder, but it was so good they kept it! Kirby's Dream Land reminds me of Super Mario Bros. in that it flawlessly fuses form and function. Kirby's smooth and powerful controls complement the beginner level designs. In addition to the standard analog jump (the harder you press A, the farther he jumps), Kirby can inhale a puff of air by pressing ↑. This inflates Kirby, g

Street Fighter II: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today Street Fighter II made the transition from arcade to living room on the Super NES. Although quickly eclipsed by its two successors, for one year it was the hotness. It would be hard to overstate how popular Street Fighter II was in the early 90's. Its predecessor was downright bad, but Street Fighter II invented the PVP fighting genre as we know it. Its roster of eight characters was a huge step-up from Street Fighter's two (Ken and Ryu, who returned for the sequel). The next iteration of the arcade game, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, which hit arcades just as the SNES port arrived, let you play as the bosses as well, increasing the roster to twelve. A false rumor said a secret code would let you play them at home. While that wasn't true, there was a code (↓, R, ↑, L, Y, B) to let both players choose the same character for a mirror match. A prime strength of the game is how interesting each character is: the American airman Guile (think Top Gun