Posts Tagged ‘nintendo 64’

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.

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Game 31: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Posted: February 20, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

Game 454/1001 according to the list


Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

There are certain gaming series that have a large number of games on the 1001 list. So far we have made a sizeable dent in the Mario games (although to be honest there is a hell of a lot more to go) and we have a Metroid and some Final Fantasies on the way but now is a time for the first in a long line of Zelda games.

Since we are still whittling away titles from the first batch of games Kat lent us we have decided to first play Majora’s Mask. Whilst I have played this game before the main thing I associate with it is this song. If you click the link and fail to see the link then I don’t blame you. When we first got Sky there was this channel called Game Network which had a program which consisted of clips of video games set to music. As you can now guess Majora’s Mask was paired with the Eurodance song To Be You by Kim Lukas. Strange combination really.

Our Thoughts

If you had 3 days to stop some masked entity from crashing a demonic moon into your hometown what would you do? Other than looking for someone else to fix it? Probably ask for a present for my spouse in exchange for the deed to my spot on the market. Well he does jump ship… well fly away in the way a Deku is accustomed to do. I do doubt he would be able to outrun the moon though at his usual speed and predicted trajectory though. Fair enough, I suppose, but it’s what happens.

Let me note here that I personally don’t like time limits in games as a way to make it more exciting, and I was quite worried until we got the method to reverse time in the game. I could feel you tensing up as the time ran out. You were really getting annoyed and (to be honest) it was beginning to bug me.

I actually think that although the 3 day cycle adds a heap of restrictions it is a fantastic idea that was able to make sure that Majora’s Mask was set apart from Ocarina of Time. When you are coming after a game that was hailed as the best ever made it is important to implement a true game changer. I know that it bugged Jeroen as he is a real dab hand at taking his time and exploring the worlds (probably why he is much fonder of point-and-click games and RPGs like the previously reviewed Planescape: Torment).

In contrast there is me who likes to do a bit of exploration (which is why I lost so much of my life to exploring the entire map of GTA: San Andreas) but if there is too much of that in a game it gets boring for me. Then there is Majora’s Mask which, as a Zelda game, had to strike the balance between the time constraint and the exploration, a tough tightrope indeed.

Many complaints about the game were centred on the shorter dungeons and that there are fewer of them compared with other games in the franchise. Contrary to that is a much larger focus on side-quests which embraces the 3 day cycle. With this you have to keep a notebook of side-quests based on the movement patterns of people within Clock Town. A feature that I have only seen repeated in a game of a completely different genre: the survival horror cult classic Gregory Horror Show. And you seem to need it, although I’ve not yet seen enough of that.

Aside from the time limit, which is indeed a personal preference (and one of those things I change early before playing other classics like Fallout, who were quick to fix it in their patches), the game is well done. You can tell that they’ve had more time to work out what they can do with the N64, which shows in graphics, gameplay, the amount of options and things you can do (28 masks? Lots of sidequests, lots of other stuff to do) and it makes it a very good game to play. And you need the shorter dungeons and such – having to go through larger parts again and again because you ran out of time or have a side area to explore would detract from the fun part of the game.

That’s the only downside of the game really. Like a fool I wanted to stop playing and I reset the clock. But before I could get back to the dungeon I had to do all the other mini-tasks in order to be able to reach that area. I am so thankful that they included an option to slow the passage of time meaning that you get an extra 20-30 minutes before the 3 day cycle is completed. You seem to need it – and yeah, that’s part of where my complaint comes from, really. There’s ways to make it easier, but had I have to go through any longer, the repetitiveness would have made this even more exhausting. But enough on that, time for the praise this game absolutely deserves. Well yes, the readers of GameFAQs apparently named this the best game of the last decade so we really should sing the praises. As you’ll see, obviously I won’t agree with them, but then again – that’s the opinion of the averages anyway, where it could work if it were everyone’s second favourite.

As I said, the graphics are nice. The characters are given character through it, putting on certain masks looks like it hurts, and most of the environment are quite pretty in their own way. How about the music? Just like the other games in the franchise Majora’s Mask has a beautiful soundtrack. Even the short repetitive tunes you play on the ocarina to change time or to open the doors to the temples sound beautiful; very simple yet very effective. And a number of them are familiar tunes associated with the series for some time longer especially the incidental music which is something that a long-running successful franchise is able to do.

Yeah, and I’m sure it fits in here – I’m honest, I’m looking forward to trying other games and put it in perspective too. That is the problem with us first tackling such a late game in the series. Something we had to do because we need to play though all the games Kat gave us before Easter. Later on we will be able to refer forward so I guess it will all balance out. Yeah, so keep looking out for that. We have two more to do from Kat’s pile (including the Gamecube port of Ocarina of Time which, when I think about it now, would have been probably been better to do before this one) so there will be come franchise comparisons coming rather soon.

So yeah, while the time system can have its doubts, in general the game is good fun and very well put together and certainly worth a try, if you can still get your hands on it. It’s available on the Virtual Console for the Wii so it’s very easy to find. Ah, I did not know that. Then that’s worth going for.

Final Thoughts

This marks our last venture in Nintendo 64 gaming for a few weeks until we play the port of Ocarina of Time that came with The Wind Waker. The last few weeks of gaming have really made me miss my own console and games.

I guess it’s one of those things with trade-ins. In my time I have sold off a lot of games that I am now beginning to regret and will now start to peruse eBay and Amazon Marketplace to find such lost games like Gregory Horror Show, Pikmin, Pikmin 2, Bully and Kingdom Hearts.

Game 30: Perfect Dark

Posted: February 17, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 431/1001 according to the list

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Okay we’re going for a bit of a Rare overdose but we promise that this is the last of their games which we will be covering for a while. Maybe…

Perfect Dark was originally released on May 2000 and is seen by many as being the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye 007 since it used an updated version of the same engine as well as utilising many of the same gameplay elements. The main difference is of course the plot where aliens take the place of the typical Bond villains… although considering they must be running out of plot ideas it is only a matter of time.

Our Playthrough

Thanks to Kat (hello again) we had access to most of the missions to have playthrough and gave a wide variety of them a go. Also, since this did take a lot from Goldeneye 007 we had to give the multiplayer a good going over since (as we will discuss when we play those games) it did inspire a lot in the Timesplitter series.

Our Thoughts

Where do you stand on James Bond one day fighting aliens? I was about to say something about realism, but James Bond already isn’t. All I can say is that our former prince consort wasn’t one, although he was apparently used as Bond villain in the past. I am more worried about suddenly representing James Bond as being a woman. When it comes down to the feel of the character and their missions there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Costume changes, silenced pistol, British accent I mean the list goes on. They even have similar first names. And even in the level designs, the endless corridors and enemies popping up out of nowhere are similar.

But when it comes to that, Perfect Dark does feel better. Better textures, more variation in looks so you know where you are and everything fitting together a little bit better. I would also argue that the variety and playability of the level-specific gadgets is vastly superior. On many levels it was far more player friendly. In the same way they also invested a lot more in the storytelling, I guess they felt they did not need to rely on people playing it having seen the film in order to get it. It may have helped that this had a more futuristic setting therefore meaning here would automatically be a greater level of intrigue rather than the obligatory ‘save the world by shooting the man with the fetish for gold paint’. There is actual motivation; something which is further elaborated on in the fantastic prequel Perfect Dark Zero as well as the novelizations which take place before this game. The latter of which you know better, but yeah, I agree, the game is easier to play, it’s easier to know what to do and where to go and it feels more like a story than a collection of separate scenes.

This begs the question though of why Goldeneye 007 is placed on a pedestal much higher than Perfect Dark. It must come down to personal taste but I am actually going to be playing more of Perfect Dark after this write-up but I was relieved that we had filled our 5 hour quota. So much is more relatable as a gamer whereas James Bond has always felt cold and aloof. I suspect it’s more that Goldeneye 007 was first, rather than it being the best.

Multiplayer is the one area this game really shines in comparison. As you may recall, we were negative about that in our Goldeneye 007 discussion, where it seemed tacked on at the last moment (and in fact, it was). Absolutely. This had a small element of character customisation which was appreciated (imagine a grey alien head on the body of a sexy woman wearing a red cocktail dress) as was the number of different modes. The best thing about the multiplayer, however, was the AI characters you could play against. This was a feature missing from Goldeneye 007 that could have made it a whole lot better. It means you’re playing together, adding some more fun elements to it.

And there’s nothing like being screamed at to stay in the zone because of the king of the hill. It did not help that you shot me to “see if you could”. We were on the same team! Aren’t we supposed to be testing this game? See what you can and can’t do and how it works? You deserved that stabbing you got later. Sure… That level sucked anyway, with all the rocket launchers. None of which I got to use.

Another great feature of this game was the sound. The voice-overs were very well executed during gameplay (although the common usage of “why me” when you shoot someone in the spleen got slightly tiresome). But the real kudos does belong to the music. It seemed to take a lot of inspiration from futuristic cinema and it changed in tempo and pitch depending on which area you entered and how likely you were to encounter danger. It’s a fairly boring thing to mention but for me it really stood out. It’s a good way of adding atmosphere without spelling it out – it’s something that often didn’t consciously get to me

The graphics, as mentioned, have been improved as well. Where in Goldeneye 007, they’re the well known slightly pixellated walls that get repetitive and look bad, Perfect Dark starts you out on a heli-pad, with a gorgeous city back drop, moon low in the sky, and even when you get it the environment keeps looking nice. Things are repeated, of course, but there’s a lot of variety at many points. There is also a great variety of stages you get to play in. During one level there is a wind turbine which dominated a portion of the sky whereas in another you are infiltrating Area 51 with obligatory aliens and scientific instruments.

Is there a dam to bungee jump off? Not exactly, but there is a floating computer you need to protect. That’s similar. Ah yes, the obligatory protect the headless chicken mission. There’s this computer that follows you at one point that holds a doctor’s brain (or something), with freaky eyes on its screen. You need to get this computer out without it being destroyed. Hard enough, considering how easy it dies, but then, like often happens in these games, this computer runs straight into the enemies to get shot, instead of hanging back so they can’t get to it. Those eyes did freak me out when I was trapped with it in an elevator. You could always put on your night-vision to blind yourself. I still know he’s there though… staring at my hot female physique as I shoot shotgun-wielding lady assassins in the head. Don’t worry; he left when you turned off the N64

Anyway, it’s a good game, certainly a step up from Goldeneye 007, its clear predecessor. Better multiplayer, the important thing for me here, better sound and graphics, tighter gameplay and a more involving story. Rare knew how to improve its game.

Final Thoughts

Having played this game so early it is likely that we will be referring back to this… a lot. I am really looking forward to all the upcoming first-person shooters since this has really whetted my appetite. Watch out Halo, Metroid Prime, Half-Life 2 and the rest of you. Pong and Beyond is coming.

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 27: Mario Kart 64

Posted: February 8, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 305/1001 according to the list


Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

As we know, Mario loves his racing, and he loves racing with his friends. After doing so for the first time on the SNES, he returns on the Nintendo 64 with full 3D tracks, more options and paths, different weapons, more variety, and detours that you didn’t think of before. It’s prettier, nicer, faster, better, more interesting. Right?

Our Playthrough

We did single player, we did multiplayer. Kat joined in for a bit to try three player gaming. In other words, we tried to see all there is to see – at easy and hard difficulty. With and without falling in random lakes, holes and other deep places.

Our Thoughts

This game explains why it’s important to have some sense of reliable, realistic physics even in a fantasy-based game. Only you could fall through the top of a wall (or find out such a physics glitch exists). It happens. Apparently, with the Bowser’s Castle barriers, only the sides are solid – you fall through the top. Then again it did annoy me no end that a carpet, dirt track and wooden bridge all have the same physics befitting polished marble. Yeah, and banana peels only make you slip ten seconds after you’ve raced past them. Don’t forget the snowmen filled with nitro glycerine. Ledges you can fall off from a few metres away. And the moment you even graze certain sections you tumble into a lake…

It looks nicer than the SNES game, there’s some improvement, but it just feels off at times, which makes the game a lot harder. It is true that with the later editions in the series like Mario Kart Wii and Double Dash we have become spoilt. Bear in mind this was the franchise’s first foray into 3D. True, and you can’t make the physics too complicated on the relatively limited hardware. So considering what they had to deal with… they did a lot with it, but you could find better physics on F-Zero X. Absolutely. It just gets frustrating to play at times,  an effect that increases exponentially as you get into the harder courses.  It matters little on the simple racing tracks, but when you reach places like the aforementioned Bowser’s Castle, it’s hard.

Then there is the total nightmare that is Yoshi Valley. Don’t even start.  I finished dead last, by a large margin. It was a good experiment in track construction. The idea of multiple pathways through it could have actually been a real boon of a track. In reality though, it didn’t turn our that great and is in fact an almighty mess that is a chore to play. The lack of barriers only makes it harder, as half the time, trying to pick a route means you just fall in between without any way of getting out. The extra bombs strewn about the place in Versus Mode doesn’t help much either.

Interesting note: if 3-4 players are playing at the same time it is unable to play the music so the only soundtrack is breathing and the occasional curse word. The latter is quite frequent and I’m sure with a nice beat, it could lead to a song that’ll top the charts. It looks nice, there’s nice ideas about multiple tracks, different routes, with areas of the track that are there to explore without it leading you anywhere, but as a whole, the game feels unpolished. Due to the limitations, it’s not as good as the later games, and that gets annoying. It’s a work in progress, and interesting in that sense.

Now for something completely different: positives. Sound, when it’s there, is good. The voicing makes it more alive. The sound effects are good. It’s nice. Although I did get a little bit tired of hearing Mario cheer every time he managed to overtake me. Because he’s better? Just because he was incredibly vocal about it. The music, as always, is really good too. This makes it more of a shame when it gets taken away in multiplayer.

Another good thing is the atmosphere of the track and how it impacts your races. One interesting example is the train in Kalimari Desert. One or two of them drive around on a track, and if you’re unlucky, they’ll pass just as you have to cross the railway. Then there are the penguins in Sherbert land which look adorable. The cuteness factor is multiplied threefold when you hit them and they make a little squeaky noise. Something we both loved to try out, of course. It was intentional when we did so. Which sort of leads us onto the graphics. The Mario style has always been beautifully rendered in the games and this is no exception. Yeah. The environments are beautiful and the creatures, where appropriate, cute. And the touches they’ve put in, both in the characters and on the outside, can be amazing. (who is also present in the Wii remake of the track) (Yeah.  Which is slightly more playable, as we discussed before.)
This may read a little bit one-sided in terms of thoughts but this really is a good racing game. It does strike a good balance between challenging and fun. It has a charming personality too. It just that the good sides of the game are all of the generic kind – looks good, sounds good – while there’s some specific issues with the downside of the game. It’s charming, it’s fun, but sometimes you need to be careful to avoid the tracks and areas where the game doesn’t work as well.

Final Thoughts

I would like to personally apologise for all the Mario games in the first 27 games, we’re going to steer clear of him for a while after this game. Then again there will be a lot of Final Fantasy and Zelda titles soon, just a fyi.

In terms of this game I do believe that we have been very harsh when judging Mario Kart 64 as we have done so in a more modern context. It is good, but there are a lot of racing games out there better than this one especially the Mario Kart games that followed this one.

Game 26: Super Mario 64

Posted: February 5, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 326/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platform
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Heads. I won. It’s time for a little bit of Super Mario 64. Yeah, and I don’t mind. The first real Mario 3D game. The game that moved it from a 2D platformer to a 3D action platformer that’s far more mission based and less linear. It also features far less mushrooms, so it’s a bit less interesting by default.

The Princess baked Mario a cake. Bowser was also hungry, and so he captured her and hid the stars you need to get to him to free the Princess in a number of paintings, inhabited by both the familiar old cast of friends of enemies and a number of new ones.

Our Playthrough

We had the fortune of being able to play a game with all 120 stars found on it (thanks Kat or one of Kat’s brothers), meaning that we had a chance to explore the castle and try out most of the levels and a couple of different missions.

Our Thoughts

I want cake, I wonder what sort of cake the Princess made for Mario. Why does Princess Peach bake cakes anyway? Doesn’t she have Toads to do that for her? It’s clearly more important than ruling a full Kingdom and that’s a proper kingdom, not just a figurehead position. Even though there’s no king we see either. In that way it appears to be more of a principality… like Monaco without the Formula 1. The Mario Kart series? Touché.

It’s a big country anyways. With its tennis courts, kart racing venues and whatever other sports facilities Peach builds in order to scratch that uncontrollable itch of hers to lose weight. Too much cake I venture.

And different lands in several different versions of the RPGs as well, in which she’s as often the damsel in distress as part-time hero. Still, this game keeps the world far more contained, by only taking place in Peach’s Castle and its environment even though there’s no way to get in or out of it except for one pipe that disappears immediately. Apart from the magical portraits; I do love the ripple effect as you jump through them. Are they portals to another worlds, or do you just jump into the painting?

It looks nice, yeah. It all looks nice to be honest. One amazing thing is that this is 15 years old and yet it does not look it quite yet. Maybe it helps that the graphics stayed the same in the DS port. You can tell there’s less polygons, it’s all not as complex as it could be and the environments are quite sparse – you can tell the difference between it and, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2 – but yeah, the graphics work great on the DS’s smaller screens.

Yes, there is definitely a difference I grant you but as a game it really has not aged too badly, especially when you compare it to the likes of Lylat Wars or Dune II. The bright and cartoony looks help a lot with that. True, but you have to admit that a lot of the things this game pioneered already feel very well perfected – the camera system especially.

The camera system bugged me at times. While you can set it yourself and make it better that way, it’s not yet smart enough to always do it automatically. I loved it when you saw the cameraman in the mirror. That’s a cute detail – there’s a Lakitu following your every move. It rarely shows – this and the introduction explanation of the camera are two of the few times – but it makes it a bit more… well, Mario. It does take a while to learn how to control it but once you do it’s actually really well done – even if the C-Buttons on the N64 controller do not feel that natural to use to move the camera. Yeah, you can tell it needed work, but once it works, it works well.

Same with the open world feel of each of the courses. It’s so much better in the Galaxy games, but it works very well here. It feels pretty open, but again, on having to develop it, the boundaries feel artificial at times. One of them is during the giant world, where the water just stops. There’s no real indication of where or why, you just can’t swim any further and the water is darker (similar in a way to Super Mario Sunshine.) I never understood why all the courses appears to be floating… that’s Mario’s world. From the start, there have been endless pits in the levels. Very true.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am deeply in love with the first Super Mario Galaxy I would happily say that this is the best of the Mario platformers that I’ve played. It’s just so iconic. Some things are done better by other games, and the Mario games have evolved, but this is a good, basic game, missions, open world, 3D… it all works together well here. And there’s a lost penguin! Which you threw away! It throws itself away every time you get hit, jump wrong, or anything like that. I didn’t want to throw it. Likely story.

Final Thoughts

Have we peaked too early? This is widely regarded as one of the best games ever released (if not the best platformer) and we are only 26 games in. Super Mario 64 really is a great game and I would suggest that anyone who is yet to play this to try the DS port. It’s a very good substitute for the N64 version.

Game 25: Goldeneye 007

Posted: February 2, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 345/1001 according to the list


Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release:1997
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

The latest in a long line of classics (thanks again Kat) that are covering in this blog. Goldeneye 007 is the first of a rather select few of movie tie-in games that we will be featuring and is by far the most successful. It has been often crowned the best computer game ever released and if it is not at the top it is definitely very high up.

At the time it received near perfect scores left, right and centre and since then has been the influence for every game since that involves either stealth or a gun-based multiplayer. Whether or not you like the game itself you are bound to have loved those which followed in it’s wake.

Our Playthrough

Since I had previously owned this game it was mostly left to Jeroen to play through most of the missions. We had a good bash at the multiplayer though, if they code it we will game.

Our Thoughts

James Bond it is. I think I’m rather like him. Handsome, smart, fast, and with a license to kill. Well, nearly like him then. I will not rise to the bait… I am strong and can avoid the obvious gag.

So let’s go beyond the simple choice of whether to flatter or shatter illusions and talk about Rare’s Goldeneye 007. One of many iconic games that we will see by this developer. And much-loved, one of the huge games of its day. It invented a lot of what we would commonly associated with shoot ’em ups. As well as most action games and some FPSs. And did a lot to move the genre to the console as well. It pioneered stealth and a truly revolutionary multi-player move.

Yet, even when I used to own it over 10 years ago, I hated it. It is almost forbidden for a gamer to say that, but I never liked it. Even now when I play it I can appreciate what it did for games on the whole, it is truly one of the landmark games in the industry’s history,  however, I was relieved when we actually stopped playing it. For me, it’s the controls that are the most frustrating. Partially this is probably because of the age of the game and where they started, but it is still annoying. They feel slightly counter-intuitive, but are also inaccurate – it’s hard to aim or even walk accurately somewhere. This isn’t helped by the lack of any sort of help – there’s no clue, for example, how to copy a key, you just have to keep looking for anything that helps, and then spend ten minutes trying to figure out how to use a ‘key analyser’, all of this while being set upon by infinitely respawning enemies. The upside to the infinitely respawning enemies is the ability to execute an infinite amount of crotch-shots. Something almost mesmerizing about watching them double over in pain. If you can manage it. Not helping is the thing that is a problem of all FPS games of its day – due to technical limitations, corridors look the same, and the reuse of textures and such can make it harder to find your way around – you get lost more easily, not knowing what’ll show up where. Due to the lack of hints on what to do or how to do it, it gets frustrating after some time.

This is overtly negative to be fair as the multiplayer mode is actually good fun. Oh yes, the multiplayer game is great. So is the single player mode, as those frustrations are really the only ones I had, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. It suffers from the problem that it can be hard to know where the other player is due to the radar but it’s great fun (much better than when I used to play it by myself). The radar is challenging at times, but helps (and I wished I could have it in single player).  And it’s fairly balanced, in part due to the complete lack of health regeneration. You want to avoid shots… and if you know you’re about to die, taking people with you, even if it doesn’t take off full health, is a worthwhile tactic – they’ll be easier to get next time. I did that to you with a rocket launcher in the face if I remember correctly.  For some reason I always prefered to play multiplayer as Jaws. (As in the guy from Moonraker not the shark, although that would be awesome) It’s hard to say why it does work, but multiplayer shines, and that’s the one thing you must try when playing the game.

One thing to note, which is quite interesting, is that the multiplayer mode was actually an afterthought. One programmer sat on his own for a few days to add it in, but it wasn’t originally part of the work done, which is why it’s even more amazing that it works so well, but possibly also shows how the simplicity makes it easier to pick up and have fun with it. I guess that does help to explain why some of the levels involved felt a little unfinished. Yeah, roughly build to provide a challenge, but not to be as visually attractive or expansive. Something that seems to afflict the game in general anyway – you get the feeling there should be more to see and do in some levels. Some of the levels do feel very small indeed with the actual objectives to be fairly limited.  I mean the first level tasks you with bungee jumping off of a dam… I guess that’s more explained if you know the film. And apparently, if you read up on cut stuff, the original goal was to get a speedboat and get supplies from another island before you can do the bungee jump to escape. That would make more sense.

One thing about this game I am thankful for is them not including that god awful theme song by Tina Turner. I liked that at the time. Seriously? I can only name a handful of Bond songs that I really liked and Goldeneye really is not one of them. I was ten, eleven? It was a huge hit back then.
Even though, Justin Bieber has huge hits. I still want to throw a paperweight into the TV screen whenever he comes on. DON’T! I just got a new one (this is the first game we played on it). Would make me very sad. WE just got a new one, once I get employed I am paying for my half of it. I will not have this argument with you again. Just load up the next game so we can forget we ever tried Goldeneye 007‘s single player. Sure dear. Perfect Dark? It’s pretty much the successor game, except that it doesn’t have James Bond in it. I’m more in the mood for Super Mario 64. Toss a coin? Sure

Final Thoughts

Once hailed as the perfect game of the time, and there’s no doubt that this game was great compared to what came before it. Good multiplayer, a nice single player story, something that ties together well. These days, the graphics are, of course, dated and the controls aren’t great, but this remains a good game. Although, as a PC gamer, I’m tempted to say that in part, this does follow trends set in the PC world earlier. Still, being able to apply this to the console, in its own way, is a revelation, and one often followed up on and improved.

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.

Game 23: Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars

Posted: January 27, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 352/1001 according to the list


Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

DO A BARREL ROLL! *cough* Ahem. Sorry but the temptation was overwhelming.

As I previously blogged on here we received a bumper crop of game from my good friend Kat (HI KAT!!!) so we are fast-tracking the games she gave us to make sure we can give them back to her in time. So there is no better time than the present to start.

What a better way to start with Star Fox 64 (released as Lylat Wars in Europe). Commonly listed in critics Top 100 as one of the best games ever released, as well as being the second highest seller in it’s year of release, this game was the first to offer the use of force feedback in the form of the Rumble Pack with which it was packaged. Something that we truly take for granted in this day and age.

Our Playthrough

We gave the single-player of this game a good going over and, since it was there, had a look at the Multiplayer Battles. The game itself is actually pretty short so there really was time to try everything a few times.

Our Thoughts

I am about ready to kill that blasted frog! You seemed to need him badly in that last level (penultimate one. Ouch, then, even more). Also, are we sure Slippy’s a boy-frog? I thought a young one, from the voice.  It’d fit, the annoying small wonder boy who’s crap in actual use.

I’ll look it up.

*3 minutes later*

Yea Slippy’s male but voiced in this game by a woman. My case is rested. Either way, I do believe that we may have an early contender for most annoying video game character ever. Absolutely, as useful as they may be sometimes…

That’s something that I despute about them. Slippy actually has some use (which therefore makes their screaming all the more annoying) but the others just complain at you whenever they’re in trouble. Yet when you have two ships on your tail with no ability to shake them they happily let you crash and burn.

I believe Falco was out to get me. I bet they think you’re supposed to be better… making them something you want to drag along. At the same time, the controls seem difficult enough to need to backup sometimes. During the more linear levels the controls are actually fantastic. You just need to memorise the combination for a somersault as it makes no real sense. However, when you are in all-range mode it feels very stiff and unresponsive.

Left, right, up and down are easier than full 3D movement with very large turning circles and only being able to fire in the same direction as you’re moving in. Such controls are now far easier to implement because of the standard dual-analog sticks on most consoles (minus the Wii but that’s an extreme exception). However, back in the day, no major console would offer that until the year after this is released when the Playstation’s Dual Shock Analog Controller changed the face of gaming as we know it. Absolutely true, but that makes it seem backwards right now. However, at the time the controls must have been quite workable, and I suspect even more part of the difficulty right now.

Maybe part of the difficulty is that we are a bit pampered with the current controllers but since this is the technology of the day then we do need to view this in both the context of its time and how it’s compared to the current gaming environment. Very true, and while the game is primitive right now in all aspects – including, in a way, gameplay, this was the big game in its genre and on the console at the time.

It’s still held in extremely high regard as a classic example of a shoot ’em up and you can really see why. If the graphics were gussied up and the controllers updated to current hardware it would still be released to a lot of phrase. So when Star Fox 3DS is released expect a lot more hailing. Absolutely, and those are the only two real downsides of the main game. That and the multiplayer, which was pants. (Which is not the main game, but that as an aside)

The multiplayer… doesn’t have much of a point.  It’s slow-paced due to the lack of other things happening – it’s two of you, with slow controls, in an arena with nobody else. The general feeling is that it was an afterthought; just tacked on at the last minute to tap an extra market.  If a game did that nowadays that would be a severe black mark against it’s name and I think developers now know better than to do so. The games themselves are tedious and even when there is only 2 players the screen is still split 4 ways which feels mightily excessive.

Had it been done properly, I’d expect it to be during the main missions as well. You replacing one of the wingmen would’ve made the game both more playable and more exciting. Ah yes, that would have been amazing. It’s surprising really that they didn’t re-release it in such a fashion for the Wii. As the same game or a sequel? Well there was a sequel; it was just not as well received so it fell underneath the radar. I mean a true sequel as well rather than the one on the Dinosaur Planet. Okay. One opportunity for the future then that will be interesting to try. Once the next 970+ games are out of the way that is, or unless Star Fox 3DS or any future releases from the franchise make a re-draft of the 1001 list.

I’ll be too busy catching up to all the other games that’ll have come out by then, but a good point. Still, we’ll undoubtedly find more such games in the future. Exactly, makes you wonder what the true successor to Lylat Wars will turn out to be.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to say this about a game that was as big as this. To us, the graphics look dated – something easily ignored considering we started off with Pong, two bars and a dot, but the controls are not as responsive as we’re used to these days. It’s a good game, and if you can get past those it can be quite immersive – just look at the memes this game spawned and the hatred for that stupid frog – but a proper (spiritual) successor would do a lot of good.

Do a barrel roll!

Game 18: Animal Crossing

Posted: January 12, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 460/1001 according to the list


Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: Nintendo 64 and Gamecube
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Something that every game wants to tap into is that addiction centre of the brain. As I mentioned/ranted about in a recent post the games that work best are those that reward at random intervals. Animal Crossing is able to carry this off by running in complete real time.

The lives of these cute little creatures follow a general schedule and there are events that only occur at certain times of the week, month or even year. You also feel incredibly responsible for the little town you create, with every day that passes it becomes more polluted and overgrown, talk about a guilt trip.

Our Playthrough

Since this took a long time to cross the Atlantic from the States the game I bought was actually an NTSC version. I played this on and off for the best part of the year so this is up to Jeroen to play. To do so he’ll create his own town and have fun with the animal villagers.

Our Thoughts

So, how did you get on in maintaining your delightful village of Drotimb? Not bad, although they seemed fairly pushy. I pay off my mortgage, and before I know it, they enlarge it for me and I have to pay back ten times as much. It happens so often though, but in the end you have a gloriously spacious abode filled with plenty of furniture. Indeed, plenty of weird and strange furniture, as well as more ordinary items.

It’s an interesting game, I’d say, although I’m not sure how it holds up long term. After a few hours, running around collecting shells, fishing and talking to people hoping they have a quest can get a bit tedious. I actually spent months playing this and managed to collect all the fossils and nearly all the insects (so much so that I managed to pay off the mortgage of the largest possible house).

I guess that I find it interesting that someone who happily spends a long time exploring every nook and cranny of an RPG world found this to be getting slightly tedious. I think what my worry here is that I don’t see much progress. Part of the thrill of an RPG can be to level-up, gain more powers, get better, and to find more stories. Here, you’re repeating the same thing. Sure, your house gets larger, and you can get more furniture, but your goal is to get a bigger house and get something nice… by doing the same things over and over. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but it was already starting to feel repetitive.

I always found it somewhat relaxing, a simple life where you can sell fish and plant trees to make your village as gorgeous as possible. That’s true, and it provides that experience, but it’s nothing too exciting, and from all that I’ve seen, it’s a coffee break game. Spend half an hour on each day, and it’s fun; spend five hours, and it’ll be boring after three days.

I disagree completely. I have been able to play Animal Crossing for hours at a time. So I guess this really is one for different temperaments. That sounds very true.

You cannot deny how cute the characters are, especially when your neighbours can be penguins and doggies. Most of them are, and they are mostly set up to be quite distinctive (until you get two who use the same set of phrases with only a word replaced). Plus their babbling is cute.

Then there is the weekly concert from canine troubadour Totakeke (KK Slider in the English translation). The whole reason I would turn on the game on a Saturday would be to hear those cute little animalese songs. Whom I haven’t met, of course, and due to the way the week was layed out, I couldn’t get to see. I think I was waiting in a freezing York station at the time. Remind me later to show you a clip on Youtube. Sure, that might show more of it.

What’s interesting is how the game interacts with the clock and calendar. The town changes as time passes. As we were playing it was constantly snowing. But there can be petals or falling leaves depending on the season. Plus annual festivals where you can get special items unavailable at other times of the year which try to suck you in so you keep you playing. As said, I haven’t seen that, but it sounds amazing.

I guess that to truly get the best out of this game (as I appear to have done) this needs a lot of your time over a prolonged period.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun game that can get quite addictiveif you give it time to become so. It looks good, bright and colourful, the sound’s nice, it’s cute, and there a couple of interesting subgoals to entertain yourself with. It does, however, seem to be a game where you have to be sucked in – if you’re not, it can get dull and you might give up sooner than the game warrants.