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Showing posts from March, 2023

Star Fox: 30th anniversary

Star Fox was a breakthrough on the Super Nintendo because it was a true 3D spaceship shooter. Every object was made of a few polygons, but it didn't matter: in just over a decade we had gone from Space Invaders to this! The breakthrough that allowed 3D on a video-game console was the Super FX chip, advertised prominently on the Star Fox box. The chip wasn't made by Nintendo but by Argonaut Games (now defunct). Some people say the game hasn't held up well because the 3D is so primitive. The enemy are flying patterns of polygons more than anything resembling a proper ship, and the frame rate is very low. It doesn't bother me, but it does look primitive compared even to Star Fox 64 , which came out four years later. Star Fox is a space-shooting game in which you control an anthropomorphic fox named . . . Fox. He and his three wingmen fly Arwings (an obvious ripoff of the X-wings from Star Wars ). The wingmen are Falco Lombardi (a blue bird), Slippy Toad, and Peppy Hare. Th

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: 20th anniversary

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is special to me because it was one of the first games I played on the Wii U. I hadn't owned a game console since the Super Nintendo until my wife bought me a Wii U for my 30th birthday. Since I missed the Game Cube and Wii eras, playing The Wind Waker was a revelation to me. It was as good as I remembered A Link to the Past being. I've read that, when it debuted, some people hated the cel-shaded art style. In retrospect that's hard to fathom, because the game is a visual delight. The cartoony style and feel is probably its strongest feature for me. Sailing the seas and exploring the game's many islands is a joyous process of discovery. There are all sorts of quirky citizens to meet and interact with, including an auction house, bird people (the Rito), pirates, a traveling merchant (Beedle), temples, and the long-lost, sunken kingdom of Hyrule. The mid-game twist delighted me: Link learns he's the reincarnation of a hero from an

Yoshi's Story: 25th anniversary

Yoshi's Story is the underrated sequel to Yoshi's Island. Originally to be named Yoshi's Island 64, the "story" in the title refers to the premise that the Yoshis have become trapped in a storybook by Baby Bowser. This happened when he stole the Super Happy Tree, which the Yoshis can recover by accumulating enough happiness points. Yeah, it doesn't make sense, but at least the wailing Baby Mario doesn't appear. Yoshi's Story has been underrated for two reasons. First, it compares unfavorably to its predecessor. Yoshi's Island was a late SNES release and one of the best games on the system. Yoshi's Story, in contrast, is merely good . Secondly, in 1998 2D platformers seemed obsolescent, if not moribund. The future was 3D. Especially with the cutesy visuals, Yoshi's Story seemed to many like a game suitable only for little children and doddering old fools. This was to their loss, for Yoshi's Story is a fun, unique, creative, beautiful, a

Contra: Run-and-gun fun

Contra exemplifies the classic run-and-gun genre of video games. The NES port is generally considered to be an improvement upon Konami's 1986 arcade game. It usually appears near the top of "best of NES" lists. I may be one of the few people who, despite owning an NES, never played Contra or either of its two sequels . I discovered Contra only after playing these sequels on the NES and SNES Classic. Truth be told, run-and-gun isn't my favorite genre, in part because I don't often play with a second player. Where Contra shines is in its simultaneous two-player action. Even Ikari Warriors , the NES version of which is bad, received plaudits merely for offering simultaneous two-player at a time when that was rare on home consoles. Contra blows that game out of the proverbial water. In Contra you control Bill (and Lance, if a second player joins). In the arcade and Famicom versions, the setting is an alien planet in the 27th century, but the NES port was rebranded su