Just in time for Christmas it’s our annual Holiday Podcast! After a Zobek filled introduction, the crew talks about their favorite Christmas moments to get into the holiday spirit. Though there are probably more stories about my Dad than actual Christmas memories, sorry about that folks. Afterward we move onto our Shocker News segment with such amazing stories about a dude that made a pot Christmas tree, an Xbox thief, and a guy that got caught choking the chicken in the WalMart toy isle. We hit a bit of Shamoozal news and talk about the delay of the new Nerdlog, and the future of the shorts. Finally, a bunch of final thoughts from the crew, mostly Christmas related.
Also, big thanks to Joe on getting this done before Christmas. In addition to his recording, he works full time, goes to school part time, and is also a Dad, so he’s really busy these days. With that, enjoy the show.
Considering how much complaining I’ve done in the past about Konami bringing back the barbarians, I felt that I should take some time out and reflect on Lords of Shadow, the recently released Castlevania game in which the barbarians have been… uhh… broughten.
Lords is the very definition of an ambitious game. This classically designed single player experience borrows from many different genres and introduces so many new mechanics and ideas that the first few hours leave the player confused and frustrated. The God of War inspired combat feels natural enough at first, but it isn’t before long where the player will discover that pounding the attack buttons will get them nowhere. Once players finally get a feel for that, they’re asked to conquer Shadow of the Colosuss inspired Titan battles, which once again introduce a new set of rules. Factor in the increasingly complex battle mechanics (the game slowly introduces different magic types, new items, and plenty of useful combats and gadgets) and Uncharted style platforming and players will find themselves in over their heads. Let us not forget the many different puzzles also sprinkled throughout the game to break up the fighting and the jumping (each of which can be bypassed by the player if they chose, though the player will miss out on valuable experience points for skipping them).
Thankfully the long length of the game (which is impressive for a single player campaign these days) allows the player enough time to adjust to everything the game tries to teach them in those first few levels. By the mid point most players that haven’t given up will be one with the deep combat system and they’ll be experts at dodging, making use of well timed blocks, balancing between dark and light magic, and have no problem spamming monsters with holy water and fairies. The game demands a lot from the player, but patient and persistent players will be rewarded with a really well thought out combat system.
Outside of the extremely steep learning curve, Lords of Shadows suffers from some of the typical issues of other 3D games. Sometimes platforming is tricky leading to many unintentional deaths (makes me respect the nearly perfect platforming in a game like Mario Galaxy even more), and while I mostly appreciate the fixed camera (I hate dealing with a camera these days. Seriously, mapping a camera to the second stick is lazy game design these days) it occasionally has a few moments where it’s not placed well. Some other technical issues, like the inconsistent frame rate, are blemishes on what would be a stunning game in the graphics department (and don’t get me wrong, some scenes look fabulous).
The pacing picks up around half way through the game as well, though I’m not so sure if it’s that the pacing became better or that was the moment where the game clicked with me and I found myself enjoying it more. Having gone back to previous stages to find items I missed, I found I actually enjoyed the stages more the second time around now that I knew what I was doing. Regardless, once players find their way into the castle, the game comes into its own and has its fair share of unique stage design and incredible boss battles.
But is it Castlevania? There are conflicting reports that this game was never supposed to be a Castlevania game (a teaser from 2008 suggests it was originally called “Lords of Shadow” but Konami employees have stated that was a test, so we won’t know for sure), but the fact of the matter is that if it’s titled Castlevania, then it’s Castlevania. And really, was Symphony of the Night a Castlevania game? Not really, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the highlights in the series and changing the direction of the series forever. From my perspective, someone that has grown up with and owns nearly every single game in the series, I would undoubtedly say this is a Castlevania game. It has enough Castlevania elements in there to warrant it being part of the series. It’s just sort of the Batman Begins of the series, taking 25 years of history and essentially flushing it down the toilet. As a fan, I have zero problem with that. The timeline is a tangled mess only rivaled by that of the Zelda series, so it’s about time for a fresh start.
Speaking of the story, Lords of Shadow easily has the best plot of the entire series. Sure, it has plenty of poorly written moments (please name me games that don’t) but as a whole it works well. Between each stage Patrick Stewart, as his character Zobek, gives us some understanding as to what Gabriel is doing and how he might be feeling. These pages can sometimes add to the plot development, but you can practically see Patrict Stewart rolling his eyes while reading some of this stuff. Outside of the normal cut scenes and the narrated segments, the game has tons of optional details about the world for the player to uncover. Every monster and character Gabriel meets get an entry into the player’s journal, and their are scrolls littered throughout the game that offer both hints and insight into the overall lore. There is some really cool stuff in here, particularly where the developers put their own unique spin on classic Castlevania staples (I seriously loved the history of the castle they share here and there).
I could probably write another five or so paragraphs on this game but I should probably wrap this up before it gets too long winded. Just know that despite suffering some technical issues and having a rough learning curve that Lords of Shadow absolutely delivers a grand adventure. It’s the sort of 3D Castlevania adventure I’ve wanted to play since Castlevania 64, and as someone that has grown slightly tired of the Metroidvania line of recent Castlevania games I’m glad to see the franchise manage to go back to its roots and also reinvent itself at the same time.
Also, count me in for the (hopefully) inevitable Lords of Shadow 2, where developers MercurySteam can perfect what they implemented here, and also bring the series into what appears to be their daring new direction for the franchise.
So the idea for Simon’s Supper obviously stems from the fact that in Castlevania games the protagonists usually find food stashed away in walls. Old monster walls. In a castle that’s been around for centuries. Thought I’d have a little fun with that idea and play with it some. For Simon, I really like the “barbarian” style old school Castlevania characters and decided that was the best route to take for him. I like to think of Simon as something of a brute and I had some fun making him that way. In fact, the way he acts almost reminds me of our very own Frankensteiner. Also, my love affair for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has shown through in this one. I hope you enjoyed the second episode of Read Only Memory. Oh and don’t forget you can watch it in HD. See you in a month!
I’m tired of the fact that Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Genesis gets about zero love in not just the gaming community but the ever so tight Castlevania community as well. It’s always Symphony of the Night this, Dracula X that, praise for the portable releases, love for the classics like Dracula’s Curse and Super IV, but never praise for Bloodlines. The few people I’ve mentioned Bloodlines to lately also pooh poohed it, like it was a Castlevania game that doesn’t count or matter much.
Having just finished it for the first time on an actual Genesis I can say that Bloodlines is one of the finest Genesis games around, and a great Castlevania game in its own right. Sure it might not have the most beautiful art style, especially compared to Dracula X, but it does plenty of things right. The level design in particular is fantastic, especially around the half way point through the game. The third stage is around the point when Konami pulls out all sorts of cool little tricks that no one thought the Genesis was capable of, like a tilting tower ala Super Metroid’s first escape sequence, and cool suedo-3D and perspective tricks. The game also sprinkles in plenty of cool boss fights throughout stages, all of them creative, and most of them making use of neat workarounds Konami figured out to make big animated characters jump around the screen smoothly.
While the game is linear like a traditional Castlevania game, being able to choose between the two leads (John Morris and Eric Lecarde) sometimes opens alternate routes through stages to help encourage additional play throughs. It’s nothing along the lines of alternate routes like in Dracula’s Curse or Dracula X, but it’s a nice touch regardless. It doesn’t matter to me though, because linear, balls to the wall difficult Castlevania games are the kind of thing I really like to dive into and the game delivers.
Sure the game only consist of six stages, but the stages are long and varied with enough unique ideas to make it feel like we’re traversing something much greater. Factor in tight control, memorable music from Michiru Yamane (her first Castlevania game actually), and it’s pretty clear that Bloodlines delivers the goods. Don’t believe the crap and lies people spew about this game, it’s awesome.
If you often frequent video game websites, you’re probably well aware that the Gameboy turned 20 earlier this month. I’m not going to go into the history of the little portable that could, because chances are all you already know how awesome it was, how Tetris did this and that, and how Pokemon literally pulled Gameboy out of a coma in the late 90s. Instead, I’m going to go the more personal route and run over a handful of the games that I felt really defined my experience with the Gameboy.
Super Mario Land Series
An easy way to get people to buy a Gameboy was to make a Mario game that played on it. Enter the original Super Mario Land, likely one of the top two reasons to buy a Gameboy at launch. This somewhat oddball Mario title, complete with shooter-like stages, was the first game I personally ever played on Gameboy and needless to say, it was love at first sight. Although Super Mario Land may have been the first true Gameboy experience for many people, mine was actually Super Mario Land 2.
I actually didn’t have a Gameboy for the first few years it was out. I would always beg for one, but it was more money than my family could afford at the time. When Mario Land 2 was released it killed me I couldn’t play it. I wanted to know who this Wario guy was, and I wanted to explore more Mario worlds, especially being hot off Super Mario World. Thankfully, that Christmas I was blessed with my big beautiful Gameboy along with Super Mario Land 2. Being that this was the first game I was really able to sit down and play on the Gameboy (and not bumming it off a friend for a few minutes to get my fix) Mario Land 2 will always be the first game I think of when thinking back to the Gameboy. I seriously remember playing it Christmas day huddled under a light at around 4 in the morning until god knows when… great memories right there.
Super Mario Land 2 is still a rather fun game these days, and again, shares some of the strange quirks that made the original Land feel slightly alien. Eventually, the series morphed into what we now know as the Wario Land games. In fact, the first Wario Land game was called Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, heck of a subtitle, I know. The game shared a lot of similar visual design ideas from previous Wario games, but added the unique Wario flavor of being the “bad guy” and going around bashing through enemies with Wario’s trademark dash. It was an interesting twist on the Mario formula that was successful enough to launch Wario into a career of his own. I played my fair share of Wario Land as well, and to this day, it’s still the only Wario title I’ve played through.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Proof that a Zelda game on the small screen could be just as good as it’s big 16-bit brother, Link’s Awakening is in many ways the perfect Zelda game. Sure it’s not quite as long as some of his other adventures, but the brevity of the title is what helped make it such a great portable adventure. One thing I personally loved about Link’s Awakening were the mini-bosses of each dungeon, now a Zelda standard, but here they acted as a means to open up a warp gate at the start of the dungeons. Not only did this make it easier to jump back into dungeons when you only had a few minutes to spare, but it also made for twice the amount of boss battles through out the game. Can never have too many clever Zelda boss battles now can we? I also liked the side scrolling segments that made use of Link’s new jumping ability. Several fun cameos, like goombas, King Wart, and an evil Kirby character, were also fun touches that were not really seen in previous Zelda games.
Speaking of Kirby, how can we talk about Gameboy and not mention him? I remember a friend of mine got the first Kirby game for his birthday and we were able to blow through it in a single sitting. Sure the game was a piece of cake, but it sure was a good time. The unfortunate thing with a Kirby game is that if you played one, you kind of played them all. It is hard to say if it’s actually worth going back and revisiting the original if you played the countless follow ups, but there is no denying the little guys charm.
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge
Before the Castlevania found its true home on portables in the form of various high quality GBA and DS games, the first few outings on the Gameboy weren’t exactly the greatest. Castlevania Adventure, the first of three portable titles, is likely the worst Castlevania in the history of the franchise (well, maybe aside from Judgement). It’s a slow paced, slow moving, and frustrating game.
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge on the other hand, while still a little slow moving, was like a small masterpiece compared to the original. Belmont’s Revenge felt like a true Casltevania game with a more balanced difficulty, and better level design. It’s also the only Casltevania game with a Mega Man like stage select from the outset. The variety of different castles was welcomed, and the music is freaking fantastic. It’s a bummer that Castlevania Legends, the third and final of the original Gameboy Castlevania games, was such a let down. So while Belmont’s Revenge isn’t the best Castlevania game, it’s still decent enough in it’s own right. Did I mention the music is awesome?
Donkey Kong ’94
I have sung the praises of Donkey Kong ’94 somewhat recently, and I still believe it’s possibly the greatest Gameboy game ever created. It relaunched the Donkey Kong character, the pacing is perfect for a portable game, the game plays flawlessly and the whole package is polished like nearly nothing else on the platform. If there is a game on this list worth playing to this day, then this is the one.
Metroid II is another game I’ve sung praises about before here on the Shamoozal, so I won’t dedicate much space to it. Still, it’s the only game on the Gameboy that I think I’d classify as a piece of art. Don’t listen to what anyone says, R&D1 did the most they could with the hardware, crafting a game that actually worked around the Gameboy’s weaknesses. The fact that they were able to create an eerie atmosphere on the Gameboy should prove that these guys knew what they were doing. Not only did the team best what they did on the NES, but they made one of the few Gameboy games worth revisiting today. Also worth noting is that R&D1 included a secret “color” mode in the game that wouldn’t be discovered until the debut of the Gameboy Color.
Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, is actually a bit of a let down. The NES original is one of my favorite games, even if it does have some flaws. The Gameboy version feels like a cheap soulless version of its big brother, with bad music (the dungeon music is catchy though), somewhat sloppy control, and lacking anything that makes it feel genuinely new. I figured it was worth a nod since there are a ton of people out there clamoring for a new Kid Icarus, yet chances are they probably never played this follow up that went largely unnoticed. For people curious enough, it’s worth looking into it just to see it (and can easily be blown through in an afternoon), but beyond that it lacks the magic of the first game.
This is all just a small fraction of the games that really defined this system for me. I could go on and on about games like TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan, Bubble Ghost, Final Fantasy Adventure, and Operation C, but I’ve rattled on long enough. The Gameboy may have been built on some of the oldest technology at the time, but it sure did make the most of it. I’ll always love the little guy.
Feel free to share some of your Gameboy memories in the comments section.
This kind of falls into the obvious category, but I always wondered why the NES Ninja Gaiden is so similar to the original Castlevania in design. In a sense, Ninja Gaiden is to Castlevania what Onimusha is to Resident Evil. What makes sense there is that Capcom developed those two games, and they purposely set out to make a samurai game that played similar to their survival horror franchise. With Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, one is obviously made by Konami and the other Tecmo. So just how the hell did Tecmo get away with totally aping Castlevania? Was there a team member that was involved with both games? Was Tecmo inspired by Castlevania to the point where they wanted to make a ninja version of the game?
For those that don’t know the similarities, or can’t see them as clear as day in those screen shots, the two games have much in common. The glaring similarity is the HUD in both games. Ninja Gaiden steals every single element that is on display in Castlevania’s HUD. Both HUDs display the stage, score, time, lives, item boxes, and a nearly identical health bar (right down to 16 blocks) for both the player and the stage boss. Both characters are also capable of finding sub weapons throughout the stages through means of attacking “tokens” (candles in Castlevania, various stage related objects in Ninja Gaiden) that drop said items. These tokens are also where the player can grab items that refill their ability to use sub weapons.
Digging slightly deeper, the games are also similar in design. While Ninja Gaiden differs greatly from Castlevania in the fact that it’s much faster paced and has a strong focus on wall jumping, they’re both action platformers that demand extremely precise control in order to actually make it anywhere. Both games are notorious for ridiculously well timed jumps, plenty of cheap hits, and a heavy focus on extremely tight close combat. They’re both some of the most unforgiving games ever created, although both titles are kind enough to offer infinite continues.
It’s plain as day that Tecmo loved Castlevania enough to make their own version of it. Though I’ll always wonder if the similarities are an homage, or because both products had the same key members.
Oh, and one final thing both of these games have in common, they’re both damn awesome.
I recently watched the The Wizard again for the first time in over a decade. Coming out of it as an adult, I feel like a have a stronger appreciation for the movie. This movie is by no means good, and it suffers from some of the most blatant product placement I‘ve seen. On the flip side, this film is absolutely amazing in that it has captured an era so perfectly. For a child who grew up in the NES era of gaming, this isn’t a commercial to sell video games. The creators weren’t selling Simon’s Quest and Ninja Gaiden to us because we already knew those games inside and out. This was simply something we could relate to as children. As corny as it is to see Fred Savage compare Jenny Lewis’ life to The Adventure of Link, we understood what he was trying to say, even if he did describe The Legend of Zelda. Watching the movie again is like taking a look back on a childhood that we once had. The discussions of video games on the play ground, talk in the lunch room, and salivating over the pages of Nintendo Power magazine. A life that was heavily influenced by the culture that Nintendo helped create. In this way, the movie succeeds where it didn’t intend to, but that’s part of the charm. This movie was created for generation NES, and no one else. Everyone who watches this movie today will see it for the crap that it is, but the rest of us will see yesterday.
Considering the subject matter, The Wizard actually had a decent cast. Fred Savage and Christian Slater? Come on, this movie was created when they were at their prime, how can we not want to know where these guys are now? Oh you don’t care? That’s okay, I’ll tell you anyway. Let us take a look at not just the actors all these years later, but also the games that defined the movie. So flip up your collar and get ready to learn a few things you didn‘t want to. It’s going to be rad.
Luke Edwards – Jimmy Woods / The Wizard
California. One of the only words that Edwards needed to mutter in The Wizard, and he couldn’t even deliver it properly. Maybe it was better that little Jimmy Woods didn’t have much to say during the film. Okay, so Edwards wasn’t the greatest child actor, where does this leave him these days? Edwards has appeared in a variety of roles in movies and shows that I actually never really heard of. His highest profile movie is Jeepers Creepers 2, but I’ve never seen it, so who knows if he is even a main character. It doesn’t matter what he’s in, he’ll always be that kid that wanted to see the dinosaur’s from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to me.
Fred Savage – Corey Woods
Savage played the lead role and was the middle brother of the Woods family. If not for Corey Woods, Jimmy would never have embarked on his journey to Video Armageddon. Savage was one of the few kid actors that was actually good, so it’s sad to see his career fade after The Wonder Years. These days, Savage mainly directs children’s shows. In particular, he’s responsible for episodes of Zoey 101, That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana, and Drake and Josh. He has also directed a handful of episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his feature film directorial debut was the box office bomb Daddy Day Camp. He might not be an A-list actor, but Savage has been keeping himself busy over the years. Good for him.
Jenny Lewis – Haley Brookes
Lewis is the spunky red headed girl who managed to worm her way into Jimmy and Corey’s life, and was also responsible for pointing out Corey’s natural gaming talent. The character Haley was what every 11 year old boy was looking for in a girl, and that’s the fact that she apparently loved video games. The term girl gamer didn’t exactly exist then, so this made up character is the first mainstream one ever. Lewis actually had a short lived career, but mostly because she chose things to be that way. After acting for several years, she decided to take a break and form the band Rilo Kiley with a few of her friends. Rilo Kiley’s latest album, Under the Black Light, was 8th in Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Albums of 2007.
Christian Slater – Nick Woods
Nick Woods is the eldest Woods brother, and helps his father in trying to track down Jimmy and Corey throughout the movie. Nick Woods is mainly remembered for having the magical ability to turn off the NES by unplugging the controller. Slater went from staring in a movie about video games, to staring in a movie based on a video game. That movie is none other than the terrible Alone in the Dark which has a 1% on RottenTomatoes.com. For some reason when I was a kid, I always got Slater confused with Kevin Bacon, which is why I find his role in the direct to DVD sequel, Hallow Man II, even more hilarious. But hey, I’m sure Slater is more than comfortable and banging hot girls on a regular basis.
Beau Bridges – Sam Woods
Sam is the father of our hero The Wizard. During the movie Sam is not only trying to find his son, but also piece his family back together. Beau is actually the older brother of Jeff Bridges, and since The Wizard he has only seen a string of minor roles. However, he has found success in the hit sci-fi series Stargate-SG1 as General Landry, as well as the TV comedy My Name Is Earl.
Jackey Vinson – Lucas
“I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad.” When Jackey Vinson shot that scene, there was no way he could have predicted that the internet was going to make him into a star nearly 20 years later. Lucas is Jimmy’s rival gamer in the movie. We all know that the Power Glove is actually a big giant piece of shit, which is what makes this scene all the better. Lucas is basically saying to Jimmy “Listen kid, if I can beat Rad Racer with this piece of shit on my hand, then I’m going to mop the god damned floor with you when I’m using a standard controller.” He handicapped himself in an effort to show off just how awesome he is. No wonder Jimmy bitched out and ran out of the house. Of course, Lucas loses against The Wizard in the end. As for Jackey Vinson? No one really knows. He was only in a handful of episodes of some TV series and one other movie back in ’92. Aside from that, you can’t even find a Wikipedia page on the guy. Maybe he really did see into the future, saw what was coming and ducked out of the publics’ eye. Jackey Vinson, where are you?
Well we now know where Jackey Vinson is, and boy it isn’t pretty. Reader “King1501″ provided us with a link as to what he’s been doing. Say it aint so Jackey. He should have took Fred Savage’s advice and just kept his Power Gloves to himself.
Lee Arenberg – The “NINJA GAI-DAN! HAI!” Guy
My favorite part of The Wizard is when the kids finally make it to Video Armaggedon and sign up for the tournament. There they meet Lee Arenberg, who shouts and screams his three lines with more enthusiasm than anyone in the movie. It was hilarious then, and it’s hilarious now. What you don’t know about Lee Arenberg is that he’s a secret great bit actor, and has shown up in more movies and television shows than anyone on this list. He has been in episodes of Star Trek, Friends, Walker Texas Ranger, and Scrubs. Most people would probably know him as Pintel from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Tobey Maguire – Lucas’ henchman
Who would have guessed that the person who made it big from The Wizard was the little kid that was cast as Lucas’ thug friend? No one. Yup, our friendly neighborhood spider had an uncredited role in The Wizard. It’s a cool easter egg that fits in with the movie quite well.
The Games of The Wizard
Contrary to the 97 games that this movie claims to have existed at the time, the NES actually had something closer to 1 bazillion games, and the producers made sure to pick the games they knew kids loved at the time. I imagine that back in that time it was a little harder to pick the most popular games, though I’m sure Nintendo probably helped point them in the right direction. Many games were mentioned during the movie, but few actually had long moments of screen time. So, which series of games mentioned in this movie stood the test of time?
Strangely enough, the first game showcased in The Wizard is the original Double Dragon. Double Dragon is one of those series that didn‘t quite graduate from the 8-bit era. The height of Double Dragon was with it’s NES sequal, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, though the SNES’ Super Double Dragon was a decent game as well. Double Dragon became popular enough to get its own feature film and Saturday morning cartoon series, but it’s popularity died not long after. The game series basically ended in the mid 90s, though there were some spin off fighting games on the Neo Geo. In 2003 the original Double Dragon was recreated for the Gameboy Advance, but no new titles were developed for the platform. In May of ’07, a port of the arcade original was released for Xbox Live. This series is a shell of what it used to be, and these new releases are likely only purchased by people who have loving memories of the early games.
This game was done by Square before they created (and milked to death) the Final Fantasy series. It’s really interesting to see people like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu have their names attached to a title like this. As for the Rad Racer series, Square did an exclusive sequel for North America but sadly the series has passed on with the 8-bit era of video games.
This game is actually featured twice in the movie. We get a glimpse of Jimmy playing it earlier in the film, and again at the competition. Ninja Gaiden went on to become a successful trilogy on the NES, and even had a Gameboy iteration. Several ports of Ninja Gaiden were available on a variety of consoles, but none of them had the success of the NES titles. For nearly 10 years the Ninja Gaiden games remained dormant, until 2004 when Tecmo revived the series for Xbox. The new game did extremely well both commercially and critically, and new titles for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS are right around the corner.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This game was likely spotlighted because not only was the NES the talk of the town in ’89, but so was TMNT. As we know TMNT has never really gone away, though the franchise never quite hit the stride it once had. TMNT on the NES isn’t really a good game, but the fact of the matter is that everyone was playing it. Because the game was so damn hard, people were no doubt trying to give tips to each other on how to get through the thing. It was only fitting to see it in The Wizard. For years Konami made TMNT titles that appeared on nearly every console, skipping only the 32-bit generation. Last year with the release of the TMNT movie, Ubisoft released new titles across all major platforms, as well as the arcade original for XBox 360, and this very game on the Wii Virtual console.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
For whatever reason, this movie never mentions the original Zelda game. The Zelda series has held in tight, and the overall quality of the entire series has never truly faltered. Zelda II in particular is somewhat of the black sheep of the family, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from packaging it in the Zelda Collector’s Edition for Gamecube, as a Gameboy Advance game, and as a Wii Virtual Console title for download. Not only has the Zelda series survived the times, but so has this game in particular.
Super Mario Brothers 3
Perhaps the reason every child begged their parents to see this movie. The Wizard promised us the first real look at Super Mario Brothers 3, and it delivered. Though it likely would have become a hit regardless, Super Mario Brothers 3 not only went on to become the best selling NES game, but the best selling game of all time. Super Mario Brothers 3 has since been rereleased through Super Mario All Stars on the SNES, ported to the Gameboy Advance, and available for download on the Nintendo Wii. The Mario brand is still as strong today as it was in ’89 both commercially and critically. The recently released Super Mario Galaxy has once again solidified Mario’s place in gaming, and New Super Mario Brothers for Nintendo DS is the second highest selling Mario title to date, proving that the world still loves Mario the best when he’s running from left to right.
The only game mentioned in The Wizard that didn’t deserve a mention is Dr. Chaos. Oddly enough, even though Dr. Chaos was released in ’88, ads for the game weren’t created until ’90. Considering the fact The Wizard came out at the end of ’89, these ads were likely the result of Haley’s shout out of the game towards the end of the movie. Not sure if it did the title much good because Dr. Chaos began and ended with this game.
Other popular titles and series mentioned in The Wizard include Metroid, R.C. Pro-Am, Simon’s Quest, Mega Man 2, Contra, Rampage, and Super Mario Brothers 2. Aside from the Rare developed R.C. Pro-Am, all of those series are still relevant to this day.
The Power Glove
The device that couldn’t deserves a nod as well. Always at the butt of an internet joke, the Power Glove is remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s worth mentioning though that Nintendo never gave up on the idea of motion controls, and we can all see a bit of the Power Glove in the Wii controller.
For anyone who grew up during the height of the NES, it’s worth watching The Wizard for reliving the moment. For everyone else? It’s a terrible movie that serves as a good reference to what was popular in ’89.
The Super NES is home to some of the most memorable video game sound tracks of all time. Much of this is thanks to the then incredible sound processor inside of the SNES. See, unlike nearly all video game consoles before it, the SNES had a dedicated sound processor called the SONY SPC700, which was designed by none other than Ken Kutaragi. The SPC700 worked in conjunction with a digital signal processor or DSP, and together they made the most amazing game music possible. One thing that impresses me even today is how much better SNES music sounded even compared to arcade games that were released during the same period. For example, the music in Street Fighter II for the SNES outclasses the arcade original by a long shot.
Some game music composers were able to do really incredible things with the sound card, making many of the most memorable soundtracks in gaming.
The following are a handful of games, in no particular order that made the most of the SNES sound chip, and pushed the hardware to its limits.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
The DKC series may not have aged with grace (though they still have the tightest controls you could hope for), but the music in the series is really quite good. Diddy’s Kong Quest in particular, really pushed the limits of what an SNES game could sound like. From the windy tops of a pirate ship, to the murky sounds of a swamp, Diddy’s Kong Quest made ambient sounds in gaming an art form by mixing these elements and making them part of the music. The DKC series trademark atmospheric music is in full swing, with themes that blow away what you’ve heard in the original and even the series finale. The variety of samples used to create a distinct feel for each environment is really impressive, with tracks ranging from disco, something that sounds like rushing honey in a bee hive, trippy techno/new age stuff, and sweeping epics within castle walls. Also cool is that the short melodies like Diddy and Dixie’s victory dance, stage goal, and death sequences sound different depending on the stage.
Final Fantasy VI
I was so tempted to write “Final Fantasy III” up there but I guess I have to get with the times. Simply put, Final Fantasy VI probably has one of the greatest game sound tracks ever produced. The themes are as memorable as I remembered them back in the day, and have withstood the test of time. When you look at what Uematsu tried to accomplish with this game it’s really quite amazing. The opera scene alone is an achievement in its own right. While most would probably laugh at it these days, the fact that he tried to get these characters to sing is impressive. Uematsu treated this whole scene much how a Hollywood composer would a score for a film. The final boss music, ‘Dancing Mad’, is remarkable in the fact that its 15 minutes long in length. Considering most SNES tracks fall below the 2 minute mark, it’s ridiculously impressive how long it goes on for. Seriously, I don’t understand how Sephiroth’s theme became the big series highlight when it obviously belongs to Dancing Mad. Where are all my Kefka cameos with Dancing Mad in all its orchestrated glory? To be honest, we don’t need that. If there is anything that sucks about this soundtrack is that it seems Uematsu used up all his creativity crafting this masterpiece, because I personally don’t feel any of the Final Fantasy games he worked on after this title have been in the same league.
Super Castlevania IV
The music in Super Castlevania was seriously ahead of its time. Unlike previous and current Castlevania games in the series, the music in Castlevania IV was much more ominous, oppressive, and creepy. It’s amazing to see what Konami did with the SNES sound chip so early in the consoles life. The variety and complexity of some of the tracks in this game are still impressive even by today’s standards. The compositions add so much mood to this game, that when you finally hit the remixed classic tracks, they strangely feel out of place. This sound track was an amazing technical feat, and still my favorite Castlevania soundtrack of all time.
Super Adventure Island
This one might sound questionable, but once I tell you that famed game composer Yuzo Koshiro is involved, you’ll understand why. Koshiro was able to push the Sega Genesis to its absolute limit with Streets of Rage 2. If you’d ever wonder what that music would sound like on the SNES, it would probably be something along the lines of Super Adventure Island. What Koshiro did with Super Adventure Island was ahead of its time in terms of game sound tracks. Instead of just making a bunch of bouncy and fun themes, Koshiro decided on a style and ran with it. All of the music has a 90’s R&B/hip hop influence but with a real strong tropical style emphasis on it. It’s actually really out there; try to imagine the music from Streets of Rage 2, only more laid back. The compositions might come off dated, but the sound quality is leagues above your standard SNES title.
Secret of Evermore
This is the first game that composer Jeremy Soul has ever scored, but the way this game sounds you’d think he was doing it for years. Say what you will about the game, but you cannot deny how simply amazing the music is in this title. Secret of Evermore, Square’s one and only game built from the ground up in the USA, certainly has a unique flavor of its own. The music here is more ambient and natural than any of Square’s titles from Japan. Not only does it feature some really cool ambient tracks like rain falling, rough ocean waves, jungles, forests, and even a lively market place, but it also has some beautiful compositions overall. If ever there was a score that perfectly complimented and helped shape a game world, that honor would belong to Evermore. The introduction/credits music (provided above) still blows me away even today.
Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Super Metroid, Actraiser, Demon’s Crest, Killer Instinct
It’s worth noting that you can download all of these soundtracks in their original form as an .spc file. For more information visit chipamp.org and snesmusic.org.
So what do you think? Agree or disagree with these choices?