Posts Tagged ‘1998’

Game 63: Sonic Adventure

Posted: June 21, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 384/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platformer
Platform: Dreamcast
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega

Sonic. The second big mascot of the nineties, after Mario, and created to be its updated counterpart – blue, sleek and fast. Like Mario in Super Mario 64, Sonic too made a leap to 3D with this platformer – again a few years later. Mario’s leap was great – not perfect, but good, and it’s a question how Sonic kept up, in particular on the ill-fated Dreamcast.

Sonic makes it to 3D with some RPG elements. You need to get the chaos emeralds before Dr Robotnik (I refuse to use any other name) gets them to power some other monster. Can you do it?

Our Thoughts

This game is described in the book as a flawed master piece, which is quite obvious.

I remember playing it a year after it originally came out. I purchased a Dreamcast for £25 with both Sonic Adventure games and a number of others (including Crazy Taxi).  That sounds like it must have been a good deal at the time. And it must have been a good enough game at the time. It was the only thing I played for a long time where, in the end, I completed it with all six characters as well as raising a whole heap of specialised Chaos. (I only now get the name where the name Chao came from.)

I even carried a Chao with me on the Visual Memory Unit.  After all, it was like a sweet lil’ Tamagotchi type thing.  Often imitated, but I bet it beeped a lot less at the time. I had the sound switched off. I cannot count the hours I spent collecting special animals to endow my Chaos with specific powers.  That would have worked. The collectables do sound interesting that way, if you like that.

Before we go any further I would like to point out that Jeroen has been playing the Gamecube port of this game whereas I have played it on the original.  I do not know how accurate this is because it has been AGES since I played the original game… but the port does handle a little bit worse. So please bare that in mind when Jeroen starts to blame multiple deaths on the bad camera system. Performance is also still horrible, despite what you’d expect.

In the Gamecube port they actually made no attempt to improve anything which feels like a true rookie mistake. The same goes for the recent Xbox 360 release of this game… which seems a bit redundant if they weren’t even going to try to improve anything. At least the people behind Beyond Good & Evil tried to bring it into the realm of HD technology.

Yeah, the controls of this game seem off sometimes. The camera doesn’t follow you well, often keeping too zoomed in on Sonic (or the other main characters) and getting confusing when the game speeds up – unless you know what you’re doing already, you need a break to catch up. That really showed when I was playing a level compared to when you did so. Since I was more aware of the controls and the general layout of the areas I was far more able to complete the levels without losing a life. While I got to use several continues.

One thing that made this game so addictive was because of the large amount of variety displayed in level design. A personal favourite of mine is the third one (set in a casino) due to a rather cool Nights into Dreams… cameo in the form of a pinball machine. The variation is great, graphically as well. Colourful, with a few themes per level. It makes for a very fun sequence of going through… when you have the time to do so. This does bite them in the ass later on when it comes to Big The Cat. Dear God, how boring and pointless those levels are. “Froggy”… to hell with your froggy you idiotic obese purple cat thing. Yeah, there didn’t seem to be much of a point to him. And it’s that one step away from the point of Sonic games… speed and racing around; fast platforming, here with several characters that have different ways of playing.

Whilst gameplay is more on the hit side compared to miss this really cannot be said for the audio work. Sonic Adventure must contain some of the most lacklustre voice-acting in a major gaming release. Yeah. The characters sound kiddish and very much read out line-by-line with OVER pronounced WORDS for EMPHASIS. Making it sound ridiculous. The world will be DESTROYED if you DON’T HELP us. Also I sound like a FOUR YEAR old. Sonic sounds like he’s on drugs; like he is a California surfer who somehow ended up trapped in the body of a neutered blue anthropomorphic hedgehog. And Knuckles has the same voice actor as Sonic. I seriously couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

I think the only decent talent they got in for the voices were those for the Chaos and animals that you ‘feed’ to them, the elephants sound so cute! Not that they have much to say. But yeah, the elephants stood out. If you whistle, it trumpets back at you. So sweet!

We did not have time in the latest attempt to play with the Chaos a lot so this will be a lot of purple text. Have fun as I’ll update our bookkeeping lists.

The whole point of the Chao Garden (apart from wasting your time making cooing noises at cute winged blue things with a teardrop for a head) is to raise your little charges so that they can take part in Olympic-style events. The animals you give them changes their overall abilities. If you feed one plenty of parrots their wings grow larger and they are able to successfully glide. The temperament of the Chaos depends on how you hatch them (as well as the type of egg itself). As long as you allow the egg to hatch ‘naturally’ they will be generally good-natured; if you hatch them by throwing their egg… well you know where this is going. I really feel that if Super Mario Galaxy had tried to emulate this then all bets would be off… people would die of starvation through playing this game at the cost of nutrition and decent toilet etiquette.

Right, that’s that done. No platformers needed for a while. Oh, ehmm, yes, the chao are cute.

Flawed masterpiece works well as a description of the game. There are fun things here, a good potential gameplay. The voice-acting and controls and occasional performance issues make it a bit hard to keep going though.

Final Thoughts

This game is not as uniformly brilliant as its Mario counterpart. With that said, the game feels like there’s a lot of promise – lovely environments, fast gameplay areas, good potential moves. It just seems a bit too unpolished to be a great game, with awkward controls, performance issues and horrible voice acting. Play with sound off and be prepared for it to take some time.

Don’t avoid the game for sure, but don’t go too far out of your way looking for this game.

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Game 366/1001 according to the list


Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Trust me, it’s a wonder we got this out there. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is, in brief, Civilization… in space! What it does, though, aside from changing the graphics, technologies, units and texts to be more futuristic, is to modify the gameplay ever so subtly to make it a different game. Not just game mechanics – height of land played a role for the first time in the resources you could collect – but more so in the way the game was layed out, with a larger emphasis on a story (up from none) and its own consistent world that doesn’t (vaguely) try to mimic ours. Rather than having known civilizations with minor or no differences, you have seven factions of the original landing party, each with their own goals, objectives and strengths.

Even more so, it’s addictive, and Peter’s main session was a long one stretching up to 1AM at night. I didn’t need to… I had those sections years before when I was younger, and still remembered the game far too well for that.

Our Thoughts

Are you sure you don’t want to play a bit longer? Just because I had a bit of a marathon gaming session last night does not mean that my hand has melted onto the mouse.

I do have to admit that there are few games which can keep me occupied for such a long sitting… it wasn’t until I needed the bathroom until the truth of how long I had been playing truly hit me. Had I not mentioned it was 1AM and I was getting tired, then you’d still be playing now. I don’t think so… but I probably would have gone on for another hour or so. I believe the last game I played as the sun rose was GTA: San Andreas. To be fair that only happened because we were flying to Toronto later that day and I was too excited to sleep. As it so often happens. Still, it shows how well this game fits into the Civilization lineage – it too is a game that makes you forget time and keeps you thinking “Just one more turn… one more can’t hurt…”

In the interest of full disclosure the only Sid Meier’s game I have played were SimGolf and Civilisation IV. Neither of these saw me lose time in such an unusual fashion as Alpha Centauri. This prompts me to ask what is so special about this game when so many games have been released since which have built on the classic 4X formula. To be fair, other games in the series (part four never was my favourite) have a similar effect on most people. Part of this is possibly the easy gratification – there’s many small ‘wins’ in there, with each (often initially short) turn giving you or leading you to something small, combining to larger ‘victories’. A new tech is always a few turns away, your cities gain more improvements, your scouts discover more of the world and you beat more enemies.

It stands out a bit because they were able to interweave a rather interesting narrative yarn whilst you kick ten bells out of religious zealots. That’s probably the most interesting part of the game – it has a story, something I don’t think I’ve ever really seen in other 4X games (although I obviously haven’t played them all). One of your goals is to bring this story to its end, interacting with the planet and leading to becoming one with it… in a way I won’t spoil here. The other main goal is to achieve dominance over the seven factions as they attempt to extort money out of you the moment you show any sign of power. (You only need to complete one main goal. A third option is to be elected supreme leader of the planet). 

The variations between factions are interesting as instead of being united by nationality you are grouped by ideology. Yeah, this makes for each faction playing a bit differently, from starting technology to further abilities; setting each up for its own success story.

Those who are fans of the game will probably try each one out but for beginners it is fun to see which ideology suits your gameplay most. At first I started out playing as the peacekeepers but I found them a tad sanctimonious. Then I started a game as the Green faction (known as Gaia’s Stepdaughters) and that’s the one I stuck with. Those of you who are more war-mongering will probably prefer to play as the Spartans or possibly the Believers. The latter of the two had a portrait which game me the creeps.

At least their goals are not as creepy as the Hive – who want to make a literal hive, a dense network of overcrowded cities,slums and other such desperation. *coughBorgcough* The fact they made him Chinese may border on racist… without the cybernetics. But yeah, the origin was obvious. Making it interesting the scientist is Russian… and we don’t even need to explain the Spartans. Either way though, it is their individual strengths and weaknesses which does warrant multiple plays, especially since different maps will end up with the deployment of different tactics. Especially when you make it an ocean world populated with plenty of native nasties.

The native nasties are interesting too. In this game, we don’t have the Civilization barbarians – random weak units that wander around and attack you. Here you have mind worms, who grow in power as you do. Mindless, they are spawned from the fungus that covers the planet, and can be aggressive – unless your units have stronger willpower, in which case they can convert the mind worms to do your bidding and they are strong if they fight for you, whether they’re converted or you bred them. Same go for their aquatic equivalents known as ‘Isles of the Sea’ which are even more difficult to defeat unless you are properly armed. Later in the game you also get a flying version, based on a similar principle, called Locusts of Chiron. They sound scary. They can be.

The game’s atmosphere is interesting. Somewhat different, certainly, from other games, which is there in just about every aspect of the game. The tech tree is very much sci fi, the interface is change, all of that, but it’s almost made alien. The best example here is in the sound used, in particular the music. The music gave me the creeps, I had to play with the sound off. Obviously I turned it back on for the wonders’ movies and the story progression.

I really did enjoy the passages used in the game; they almost felt as if they were taken from contemporary texts rather than years in the future. I guess it makes sense as ideologies may evolve but some never really change. There’s some that are more out there, but it’s recognisable, helped by the texts mostly being taken from the seven faction leaders in the game – they are a part of it through the technologies they’ve helped discover… or actively dislike. They are used for technologies, the first time you build a city improvement and all the wonders that you can build (although that’s not what they’re called here).

The mystery is still kept, even as you progress – for example, what’s the source of the alien artefacts you can find around, that will give you a random technology when you connect them to one of your network nodes? So many questions are raised with many answers left wanting such as the thing which started it all… who killed Captain Garland (later answered in the official novels).

To be honest the only things which have come to date this game are the quality of sound and graphics. In terms of gameplay and how in-depth the mythology is… well I would not resent them re-making it with these elements completely intact. We are yet to play many titles from the Civilisation series but it will take something rather extraordinary to outdo it in my opinion. And in the end, the gameplay is what makes these games addictive. And really… what more could you want from a game?

Final Thoughts

And there we are, then. Addictive, with great gameplay. We played the game without the expansion – not yet owning it – but that’s something I hope to change soon. I’ve gotten Peter addicted to the game as well, as you can tell, and we’ll certainly be replaying it in the near future. There’s no way we couldn’t. So if you see us online again at 1AM, not responsive, saying we’ll go to bed after this turn… we promise… really… Then you’ll know why.

Game 391/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Upon it’s release The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was dubbed by the gaming industry as the greatest computer game ever made. It was one of those gaming landmarks that only comes around one or two times in every console generation.

Previous to this the Zelda games was already one of the most respected franchises in the gaming world with titles such as Link’s Awakening and A Link to The Past made giant steps for Nintendo. It took nearly five years to make and has been making waves ever since.

Our Thoughts

It’s strange. On one hand, this game took the Zelda series to 3D and introduced a lot of new concepts, including the songs we saw in a number of subsequent games. On the other hand, this game really sticks to the old concepts and feels like it fits in, just with a more flexible camera. It’s changed far less than, say, Mario‘s transition to 3D. I guess that’s because in the previous Zelda games you still moved in what could be thought of as three dimensions whereas Mario was classically a side-scroller. Therefore Mario needed a far larger overhaul when it was brought to the Nintendo 64 compared with what Legend of Zelda required.

In a sense true, but also in basic gameplay the game stays more true to its roots. While in Mario, you went from a level-based structure, one after the other, to the mission-based structure of Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time works the same as the similar games, exploring the world that gets progressively unlocked. Why mess with a formula that’s proven to work well? I mean Link’s Awakening pre-dated Ocarina of Time and is arguably their best outing on a handheld. Oh, it’s absolutely a good move and I’m glad they did it – the series does make the transition to 3D very well – but I still find the contrast between the two series interesting, and it rarely happens that a series makes the transitions while staying this close to the original. With the exception of fighting and sports games I know what you mean.

In a way they were able to change the game from being purely dungeon based to being based a lot around the sweeping scenery. I remember my first venture into Hyrule Field many years ago, I was truly taken aback. Mario became cartoony platform 3D fun, Zelda became breathtakingly cinematic. Absolutely, and while it felt part of that was already present, it integrated beautifully. It’s certainly not a 2D game made to be 3D, it makes the best use of it that it can; including plenty of puzzles making use of the 3D setting, from having to get around fences to crawling through small holes, and jumping down holes with precise aiming.

It also works with the stealth missions… which ranks as one of the most frustrating mini-games introduced to this long running series. Something we also touched on in our Majora’s Mask discussion. I understand that it breaks up gameplay but it feels unnecessary. That’s the main reason it’s in there, another reason to get through the game rather than constantly battling. But they’re simultaneously more frustrating than a dedicated stealth game like Metal Gear Solid, and simpler with less options to get through there. It makes good use of the time features since the guards have their own schedules more or less and it is easier to sneak around when it is night-time. Always a helpful, and something you’d expect. Not that you can just change the time around until you get through the first stealth part.

I always did enjoy the use of the songs in the game to unlock new features or to further the plot line. Something I guess I missed a little bit in Twilight Princess (where, if I remember correctly, they generally abandoned the use of magical music altogether). It could be, that’s of course one of the games I haven’t played yet.

Even the camera angles (something we have majorly quibbled about with its contemporaries) are well executed. That’s possibly the biggest compliment we can give here – we didn’t really have any trouble with the camera, so we had no reason to complain about it. And that’s the way that should be.

Now, we played the Gamecube port (available with the first release of The Wind Waker), so I’m not sure whether the graphics were upgraded there, but it felt not – they feel less detailed than Majora’s Mask, but at the same time the simplicity seems to have allowed for larger, more integrated areas of the world, making the game seem smoother and larger. I disagree completely. Granted the time constraint in Majora’s Mask mean less exploration was available but it was by far a larger and lusher world when compared to Ocarina of Time. Yeah, that’s true. My point is not that Ocarina of Time’s is larger, it’s that Majora’s Mask world is divided in more smaller areas (such as the main town having small sections), where Ocarina of Time’s are larger and more joined together – I get the feeling Ocarina of Time’s first town has one area the size of three sections of Majora’s Mask’s.

I guess that was helped by the restricted AI and graphics lent to the NPCs. It was interesting that in Link’s hometown you could see their fairy counterparts before the NPC themselves. I guess it saved a lot of loading time. Yeah, that’s one other odd thing that makes sense from that point of view – the characters themselves weren’t shown until you were quite close. It saved loading time… and probably allowed them to be more impressive elsewhere. Then they were able to improve this with Majora’s Mask by creating the large world outside of the city which leads to all the areas with randomly generating enemies as well as other Hyrulian style paraphernalia.

It’s pretty apt that these two games are usually compared to one another because there is such a kinship between the two (with Majora’s Mask being a direct sequel) but I guess that in terms of features I alway felt Majora to have the edge. Even if the three-day time limit can be brutal. Absolutely true, the three day limit is… somewhat annoying, but as the sequel, it’s clearly better in nearly every way.

Considering the 3D action/adventure was still very much in it’s infancy as Ocarina of Time burst onto the scene it is easy to see how it was dubbed by many as the greatest game ever released. There was nothing out there quite like it and it played a lot like your own personal fantasy movie. Even if the graphics have dated immensely the fundamentals still play like an absolute dream.

Final Thoughts

This is the penultimate game from the first batch of Kat’s games meaning that, as we decided after finishing our write-up, we will be targeting more obscure games (granted Quadradius and Drop7 are fairly unknown but that’s by the by) as well as some interesting looking arcade games like Lunar Lander. Personally I am really hoping that we get to Second Sight and The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis pretty soon as they have been resting in our to do pile since early December.

Game 39: Metal Gear Solid

Posted: March 17, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 381/1001 according to the list


Genre: Stealth
Platform: PS1
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Once upon a time, in a distant gaming past, there was a fairly well-known platformer called Metal Gear. It did well, but the series was only truely revived when it was brought to the PlayStation as as a proper 3D stealth game, a franchise that’s still alive now due to this game. You’re supposed to sneak around bases trying to prevent a nuclear war from starting, while interacting with your weirdly named allies and enemies, and use your weapon as little as possible.

Our Thoughts

And now for a game which incensed Jeroen utterly. You really did not like using cigarettes to uncover infra-red beams did you? Not when it feels almost impossible to figure out when you can step forward. But no, my bigger issue was that these guys have randomly placed trapdoors in corridors that call you from falling down then. There’s one for the health & safety crowd.

When you consider that these people are working for a company that are trying to make something which make nuclear arms look as dangerous as sherbet dabs I don’t think they care too much about the opinion of the health and safety officer. Also I think every guard is probably provided a cheat sheet upon their job orientation. One we never get to see…

As a character you sneak in with cigarettes concealed in your wazoo… Yeah, that is a bit weird. It’s a pretty ingenious way to aid gameplay though. The fact that it also detracts from your HP is also rather cool. It’s a clever trick, yeah. But it takes some time to get used to it. I took to it a lot quicker.

The game isn’t bad, it’s just not my sort of thing entirely, which makes it more complicated. Yeah, but you started off playing, I jumped in halfway through. To be fair, the actual stealth parts were rather easy so far. You need to figure out what to do, but it wasn’t that horrible when I played it.

I like that during the stealth mode you can take the route of snapping all the guards’ necks or just sneaking past them. It’s sad but it was fun to watch them fade away as they lie dead on the floor. It takes a different set of nerves from waiting and running past when you get the chance. It was the waiting that always ended up with you shot in the head after falling down a trapdoor, otherwise they were pretty easy to dodge. No, it got me everywhere. Being greedy and unclear on where to go caused me to fall down. Which, to be fair, wasn’t a criticism of the game – we just don’t pay enough attention. Who’s we? I think I needed to help you figure out where to go a few times as well.

The copy protection is not helping much more. That is something that was very impressive though. To get further in the game you need a transmitter frequency to speak to Meryl and this is concealed in a screenshot on the back of the CD case. For the sake of maintaining copy protection we will not be including this code in the blog… but it’s available in every FAQ and walkthrough made about this game.

To be fair… it’s something other games did, although often not integrated as well. It was common early on in the PC world, until the true advent of CD. However, this is far better integrated than most – rather than being dropped into a separate screen where you need to enter a code, you need to use the game itself. Of course, you do need to realise you need to look there – this is a free tip for you on that. I remember a few games where the code was on the CD itself… which really disrupts gameplay. That’s called “Not thinking about it” It’s also called buying a knock-off copy of Dogz 4 out of the trunk of someone’s car at a secondary school computer fair. Yeah, that’s a bit dodgy anyway and not something either of us condone.

An interesting thing about this game is that it really was the one that popularised the stealth genre. As the game begins you find yourself in a factory in Alaska with only a scope and an infinite pack of cigarettes. The weapons mechanics themselves are shockingly bad so you really do need to heavily rely on sneaking around… even if it means startling the mice in the ventilation ducts.

Since this was such a critical revelation it helped to carve out a new niche in gaming that later went on to inspire stealth gameplay in almost every action game made today. It also led to a shedload of sequels and prequels as well as the very successful Splinter Cell games. Yeah, when it comes to stealth, this game does it well – and mostly, it doesn’t require you to solve their one stealth puzzle, but also allows for multiple options; sometimes including weapons, but often not.

Life is always better with explosions. Those were fun. It’s also better with enemies with ridiculous names like Revolver Ocelot… I mean what the hell is that meant to be. Yes, and a Raven, and you’re of course a solid snake… whatever that means.

One interesting feature is the communications feature. This goes two ways (rather than the common someone poking you at random intervals) and provides hints when you need them. The characters get their own personality and while it is sometimes silly, it helps establish the atmosphere. The many different nationalities help as well. It was really like a giant Benetton ad… but as a stealth game. And I guess it works. In a weird way, it certainly makes it feel a bit more international… even if occasionally stereotypical.

Final Thoughts

It’s a good game – why else would it be in the list? Stealth games don’t really go my way, but this game does work. It’s not too complicated, and you get a lot of tools at your disposal to make it past the stealth areas to make it an easy enough thing. Still, despite that the difficulty is there, at a manageable level.

The graphics are good – with the usual for its time, but because the game does relatively little with zooming in and out or weird perspective changes, you don’t notice it as much. There is a repitition in textures, sure, but the desiners make it work well. All in all, it looks good, plays well, sounds good… but Revolver Ocelot remains ridiculous.

Game 29: Banjo-Kazooie

Posted: February 14, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 364/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platformer
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Whilst Goldeneye 007 may be Rare’s most famous and highly rated game I think it is fair to say that Banjo-Kazooie may be the epitome of what makes a Rare game. It’s cute cartoon visuals and wide array of collectables have somewhat become major features  of their later game such as the already-reviewed Viva Pinata.

Although we appear to have now dealt with most of the games on this developed by Rare we still have Perfect Dark (coming very soon!) and one of the Banjo-Kazooie sequels. It is also a fair bet that we may have to get our hands on Kinect Sports one day when there is an update of the list.

Our Thoughts

So for the past few days, we’ve been playing as a bear with a bird on his back. I cannot help but feel that’s telling. I still have no idea why Kazooie is in Banjo’s backpack. It’s like in the opening sequence… she’s hanging in the backpack on a hat stand and is unable to get out; PETA should be alerted.

To be honest, that bird seems like it’d get lost if you let it go out on its own. I think Banjo needs Kazooie more than the other way round. Well, he does need him for several manoeuvres, but mostly Kazooie seems to enjoy hiding in the backpack and making smart ass comments. As I said, it’s very familiar.

Anyway, this is one of those game mascots where you really do have to wonder how it worked so well. Also, what on earth were the guys at Rare smoking when they came up with it? When the game first came out I thought Banjo-Kazooie was a mutant.

Then there are the supporting characters which work so well. Like Gruntilda (the evil witch who kidnaps your sister) when she interjects random rhyming couplets as you trundle through the hub-world. Also there’s Gruntilda’s sister who also appears in corners and sewage pipes telling us about her sister’s habits. Who seems to have absolutely no other use? She looks pretty in the tutu? I’m glad to hear you lowered your standards even further.

Anyway, then there’s the mole who helps you out teaching you new moves, and over-exciting cauldrons who transport you between places. Bottles is such a sweetie, I do not understand why Kazooie hates him so… I don’t think Kazooie likes anyone all that much. She must love Banjo… despite earlier comments… that sounds wrong

Since this was the other major platformer released for the N64 the comparison really does need to be made. How do you feel this stood up next to Super Mario 64?

I think in a way it works better. It certainly has more character – nicer environments, more colourful and interesting characters, it’s a bit more fun. On the other hand, Super Mario 64 has the tighter gameplay – the mission structure helps you focus on what you should be doing, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses far more on exploration and almost luck to find what you need.

One way which I think this may work better is because of all the collectables. I think it does, it means you have to go out there and find anything. 5 birds, 100 notes, 2 honeycomb pieces in each level and 100 jigsaw pieces overall. As well as mumbo jumbos who appear to talk about bubblegum when you give them to the shaman. It’s weird when you turn into a termite. Yeah, but is of course necessary to solve the puzzle. (solve a few actually) But that’s where the difference lies – Super Mario 64 focuses on missions and completing tasks, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses on exploration.

I guess a lot of people focus on Super Mario 64 because it was one of the first to do most of the things used in Banjo-Kazooie. This game then found a way to update a lot of the things introduced in it. In their own way yeah. This is most obvious with the camera controls. Yeah, while occasionally a bit awkward, it’s far easier to move around and keep focused on where you want it. It’s only awkward when there is a wall in the way, something which afflicts camera controls to this very day. The other annoyance is that there are places where the camera ‘locks’ and you can’t move it at all. While it may help you not get the camera in an awkward position, it also makes it harder to get to an angle that feels better.

The graphics are also a point. They feel more detailed in this game, and while still retaining some cartoony edge, the worlds seem larger because of it. Not only do they feel larger but also lusher. This is helped by a group of interesting enemies that are as interesting as any friendly character. I was just about to mention them. The enemies all interact with you in their own way, even talking with you about how they are about to hurt you. The shark on the second level is a perfect example of this, and he is incredibly annoying as it is hard to kill him. You have to poop eggs on him but he disappears before you can land the final blow. While he is of course guarding one important collectable, one of the dinosaur birds who keep managing to get stuck in a place where they need rescue. I think it’s because Gruntilda had their wings pulled off. And put arms on instead? Ok, she had them plucked. Whatever, either way it’s mean. The way they scream for help makes my heart melt. I know.

This really is one of the games that I was most looking forward to having a go with. I do believe there was a good reason for that. It’s a lovely game with a lot of character and all of it works well together.

Final Thoughts

As said, this is a lovely platformer, at what’s probably the highlight of the genre. It’s funny and cute at times, there’s a lot of character, the collectibles allow for a lot of replay value and finishing the game will, quite simply, take you a long, long time. And those collectibles being required to go on makes it even more interesting. It’s a good game, and thanks to its roots, more interesting and charming than many of its competitors on the list. More games in the series are forthcoming – stay tuned for more!

Game 24: F-Zero X

Posted: January 30, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 374/1001 according to the list


Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

The best way to explain this game is as a fast futuristic racer where you need to be careful not to crash and burn, or fall down from the road. In other words, a faster, deadlier Mario Kart, with its own futuristic style.

The game looks bad, but there’s a reason for it – they had to keep the frame rate up, that was more important.

Our Playthrough

We played through some of the GP mode, some deathmatches and some VS matches. In other words, we tried some parts of everything.

Our Thoughts

I think I’ve now officially travelled at over 1000km/h. No, I don’t think you ever actually made it to that top speed. In that case, I was very close. I think the safest thing we can say is that we have now both straddled a very thick pole using a plasma powered vehicle.

Oh yes, and then we were ejected from it at high speed to proceed on our course to victory. Well I did – you somehow flew off of the edge of a rounded edge and crashed. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t fly straight though, I remember a few embarrassing falls you made.

Only in the VS Mode though, when I was racing with the AI I never fell off. Also, you were the only one who exploded. Stop ruining my double entendres. Also, I saw you fall off during at least one death match game. That was because I got bored with it and hoped for some flaming wreckage. As a gaming mode… it was exceedingly dull. Yeah, it was. Waiting for others to crash and burn, even when you can nudge them, seemed to take ages. It doesn’t help that they can easily restore their health so a lot of bumping went to waste. Yeah. So can you, to be fair, but the AI do not try anything to get each other killed.

Where the deathmatch mode is a dud the Grand Prix is a lot of fun, even considering the very poor graphics (for the time) which Jeroen will now explain:

Yes, as I’ve referenced before, the game looks relatively simplistic. It’s 3D, that’s for sure, and it doesn’t look horrible, but we see better in many other N64 games. The reason for this has to do with the required frame rate for the game. It has to show the track and up to 30 racers at a time, together with assorted other decorations. The game also moves fast (the km/h above are actual figures, although I’m sure it wouldn’t match in real life). Because of the speed of gameplay, it was important they kept the frame rate high – keep it constant as 60 frames per second. To make sure they could, Nintendo used simplistic graphics in this game, so the CPU didn’t need to spend that much time on rendering the models. So it needed to look simple and relatively bad to make sure the game stays playable.

Do you understand now, dear? I understood it but knew you would be able to explain it better… and don’t call me dear. Even on the blog it sounds condescending.

ANYWAY! The point I think that needs to be made is that despite the lacklustre graphics are in fact the biggest boon that this game possesses. True, it is not always pretty to look at but it allowed greater focus on the overall experience of a high-octane racer with an amazing rock soundtrack. It also allowed the construction of some fantastical gravity-defying courses that it would take until the next generation of consoles to be able to render perfectly (Sickness bags not included) It is to the credit of this series that the sequel F-Zero GX is seen to have the best graphics of a Gamecube game.

The fact that one of these games in this series has not been made for the last 6-7 years is a real pity as people are now growing up in gaming without the F-Zero series. Realistic racers are all well and good, to be honest, but sometimes you need a good futuristic racer. The current champion of this title will be the Wipeout series, but that would not have been made if not for the original F-Zero on the SNES.

It fits in brilliantly with the legacy of Mario Kart as well, and while it’s not as quirky fun and cute, it has the same casual gameplay in a more futuristic, raw setting. The only thing that’s missing is weapons, something that both Mario Kart and Wipeout do brilliantly.

Yeah, but I think that this is a game where it’s fair enough. True, it doesn’t work with the deathmatch mode, where they’re badly missed. But during the proper racing modes, it means that you can focus on the actual racing and bashing them out of the way, rather than weapons coming in – making this far more dependent on racing skills instead of weapon luck or skills.

Strategy also plays a large role in this. Before each race you have the opportunity to weigh up top speed against acceleration. If you have enough knowledge of the race track to come you can actually stack the deck in your favour a little bit. Yeah, which is one of the two bits of customizations – the other being the obligatory ‘pick your player and cart with its own handling and grip’ – which is more so compared to the original where there were only 4 playable vehicles. Fair enough – it’s a new version after all. It also allows for adding in a little bit of characters – 30 different models and drivers, all of which race normally (of course).

As for the last feature, did we mention the music yet? Briefly I think, but it definitely needs more of a focus. Yeah, it does. It’s a rock soundtrack, ‘sounding’ fast (does that make sense?) and certainly adding to the experience of a speedy game. It sets your heart racing, blood pumping and sets you up for having to be fast, using your reflexes, and keep racing. Some of the music, especially the one used for the Big Blue track, is very familiar. Mostly because of it’s use for one of the stages in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Which shows the legacy of this game – it is an important racer, one you don’t want to miss out on even if it just a chance to play as Captain Falcon without him repeatedly saying his name as he punches Pikachu in the face.

Final Thoughts

Seeing how more of my formative gaming years was in the company of Wipeout 2097 compared with the F-Zero franchise it is interesting to see the huge influence one had on the other. In that way F-Zero X is a really important title in the racing genre, even if it is not the most stunning. Somehow over 12 years later the simple gameplay can still induce an adrenaline rush; mightily impressive if you ask me.