To be honest, the NES never had much of an impact on me.
I mean, yes, I've played some damn good games on it. I can't deny that there's examples of solid gold in the NES library.
I just... Never had the same connection with the NES as I did with the Master System. Maybe it's because I didn't appreciate the truly good games I had when I first got it. Maybe I didn't really pay attention to it until a family friend gave me his (quite a bit larger) collection of NES games about a year after I'd been given my NES. I should really thank that guy properly...
So in essence, despite the impact the NES had on the market and on the individual, it just didn't have quite the sway on me as it had on most.
I can still appreciate it, though.
10. V.I.C.E.: Project Doom
So Ninja Gaiden.
It happened, and people loved it. It pushed the medium forward in many ways. (At least in ways that caught on with the mass public; obscure PC games obviously weren't in the common mindset. I mean, how many people had heard of Karateka back then?) Stories in most games just wouldn't be all that involving or interesting, save for some RPG's. Ninja Gaiden popularized the cutscene for the console generation.
And so VICE aped that style with a furious fervor.
The best way to summarize this game would be: Ninja Gaiden set in the future.
VICE is often faulted for that. But let me ask you: How is this a bad thing? It's a very competently made game, it's a GREAT deal less frustrating than the first Ninja Gaiden, yet it still presents a good challenge.
So yeah, it's good.
9. Section Z
Ahh, what an awkward beast.
But such a fun one! It's hard for me to not play this game and not feel exhilerated. It controls well, quite a bit better than the original arcade version (in my opinion), with great music, good graphics, and excellent game-feel to it.
But what seperates this game from the rest for me: The thrill of the unknown.
I wouldn't call this a game of exploration, per se. You can't easily backtrack, it's difficult to really map out a good path from start to boss, and all the levels scroll in a straight line.
However, when you float into a new level that you've never been to before, and there's that brief pause at the start of the level with no enemies around, several thoughts and emotions run through your mind. If you're low on health and just barely made it through the last level, something akin to panic can set in. Sometimes, that pause bolsters your morale, having blown through a tough level with skillful shooting and dodging. If the last level scrolled at a super-fast pace, throwing things at you from all angles, then suddenly shifting to a slow-scrolling level can be a welcome breath of fresh air.
It's amazing what a well-placed pause of a couple seconds can do for a game.
8. Megaman III
I think this game isn't higher on my list just because I've played it to damn much. Not quite to the point of perfection as with Contra III, but damn near.
It's my favourite Megaman game, by far. I mean, X is damn near perfect, and I know it ALMOST as well as Megaman 3, but there's much less of that precious resource known as Nostalgia Blur.
Also keeping in mind; it was my first Megaman game. So after beating the robot masters and needing to go through the nasty-fied stages, with the bosses that copy the Megaman 2 bosses, I was all "WOW NEW BOSSES THAT WORK LIKE ROBOT MASTER THIS IS SWEET"
And then, years later, I played Megaman 2.
How about that.
Man, that was awesome.
7. G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero
Despite my nationality, and having never seen the early 90's cartoon, I kinda like G.I. Joe. I had some toys of them when I was little, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. I had no idea of the dynasty the name had until much later.
But before I knew the history of the brand, I had played the game.
What hooked me to this game wasn't the brand or name. The toys I had as a little'un had their stickers worn off, so I didn't know they were G.I. Joe.
So when the boss of the first stage appears, and it's exactly the same thing as one of my favourite toys, imagine my shock.
So I kept playing. The gameplay felt great, the music was catchy, the characters were fun, and the upgrade system was neat.
There isn't much this game does wrong, and the good far outweighs the less-than-stellar. (I hesitate to call anything bad about this game) However much of that is nostalgia blur at this point, I don't know.
6. Zelda II
As explained last week in my Top 5 Master System games, I'm no fan of the first Zelda game.
I had, however, extensively played Zelda II.
I had heard of other Zelda games, but I hadn't seen them. So I thought the overworld + sidescrolling stages was how they all played! I really liked the formula, so it didn't occur to me that there would be a different way of doing a Zelda game.
Well, years later, when I tried out Link to the Past, I was... Surprised. And disappointed. Where was the flow of the game? The fun jumping? The strategy in attacking? The spells you gradually accumulated? The level up system? Why was this tepid top-down thing so repetative?
Sacriligeous though those words are, that's what I said back then. And, well, I don't regret saying them. I still feel this way. Maybe Link to the Past and Zelda I pick up the pace later on, but I'd never been able to get past the beginning parts of them. Compared to the quick and satisfying pace of Zelda II, why were these legendary pre and sequels supposed to be better?
Well, I'll give that question the attention it deserves later.
5. Contra + Super C
Given how similar these games are, and how near-exact my feelings for them are, I decided to lump them together.
Which is an interesting point to think about. Yes, Super C is a new game. Yes, the mechanics are nearly exactly the same. Sure, some ideas are reused, and the music isn't quiiiite as catchy as before (though that's very subjective), and nor are the alternate-perspective stages as fun to me. (another subjective opinion)
What makes it arguably better? Simple: Weapon balance. There isn't a single weapon in Super C I'm not okay with. In the first Contra, picking up the Flame when you had the Spread was annoying as piss! Whereas in Super C, the Flame is just the ticket for taking out a hard boss and clearing through a stage.
So it's really a case of which you prefer; better overall balance or little niche things that you enjoy more.
I'll take both, honestly.
Remember how I mentioned last week how everyone had their favourite Zelda clone/knockoff/copycat? Well, here's another one for me.
Aaaaaand it deserves its own look.
3. Final Fantasy
It's odd that I like the battle system in this game so damn much.
When one character kills a monster, and other characters were aiming at the same monster, then that character attacks air.
People call this a flaw. I, personally, call it a master stroke.
This means that you have to pay attention in battle. You can't just hold down the A button until the enemies all fall down; you have to pick your targets according to what you know of their HP and your own attack power. Even the simplest of fights becomes engaging due to this, let alone a myriad mix of different kinds of strong enemies.
Sure, there's powerful black magic spells that allow you to mow down everything in front of you, but those spells need to be carefully managed.. If you're just going around killing and grinding for a spot of cash, then that's fine. It's very effective to do so; just rest at an inn and the spells are back. But in a deep dungeon crawl, those spells are a precious resource, essential to your survival and success.
It still remains my favourite dungeon crawler, so to say, to date.
2. River City Ransom
I've never even played this game with anyone. I've only ever played it by myself.
And it's still fucking amazing.
I dare anyone to play this game and not enjoy it. Even just haphazardly mashing the buttons at things elicits joy. And surprisingly effective! And yet, you can still become a master of the game with time and practice.
And it'll always be fun. I take breaks from the game just to savour it better.
But I'll always come back to it. It has that addicting thing about it that's hard to place, but oh man does it hook you in.
1. Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
Yes, this game is a port of a DOS game. Do I care? Nah. Should you? Definitely not.
See, the problem with Ultima IV, as it was on DOS, was the interface. It was kind of an archaic design, half-video-game and half-text-adventure that I'm sure made perfect sense in the mid-80's. Nowadays, though, it takes a lot of practice, trial, and error to get the hang of. It's not exactly the most intuitive. On top of that, magic takes a ton of preparation and time to do, some things were just too obtuse to enhance the experience, and conversations felt stilted.
Which is where the NES version comes in.
While I can't say that the NES version has a flawless interface, it's definitely much improved on the original. It follows the easy-to-get JRPG mechanics of the time, and perhaps some bits might get obtuse (Magic takes some getting used to, but my god it's simpler here than in the original) but every small upgrade goes towards making the grand experience more enjoyable.
And THIS is where the game shines, both old and new.
To this day, I firmly believe Ultima IV, or Ultima: Quest of the Avatar in this case, to be the best RPG ever made.
Graphics? Combat? Story? Characters? Nah man. That ain't it.
The game is all about self-improvement. It's what Lord British, the king of the realm of Britannia, has tasked for you to accomplish. To be pure of heart, soul and spirit. To never falter before evil and to always live to your best. The realm is plagued with darkness, not through any deliberate malevelance, and the people want and need someone who sets such an example that the world, so inspired by your deeds, will follow in your footsteps to a kinder, more gentle life.
Your task is to become a Jesus Christ-like figure for a religion. But not a religion of worship. In fact, religion is a poor choice of words here. It's more... A school of thought. A way of thinking. A set of morals that are simple to live by, yet bring benefits to everyone.
Eight simple virtues. They can be detailed and specific, but above all else, all of them can be summarized as 'Don't be a dick'.
And so your task is to become the examplar of these virtues. How do you do that? BY PLAYIN' THE FUCKIN' GAME. But, playing in a kind manner. Those who enjoy being the evil dick in moral-choice games will not progress well. Yes, you can slaughter whole towns once you're sufficiently powerful, but that's an extremely bad thing to do if you want to beat the game. Hell, to progress in any way beyond blind EXP and money.
So there's no antagonist. Sure, there's monsters you can beat up, but there's no Big Bad. Does this impact the game? Very much so. Does it make it less fun? Hell no! The game is you going around and doing good deeds. There's bigger, more long-term goals than that, but none of them have to do with an antagonist. Just goals of self-improvement.
It's just the kind of well-done twist that I so heartily enjoy. The fact that it did so before the formula had been truly established to begin with is amazing.
The NES version just plays better than the original DOS version without detracting from the experience as a whole. And thus, it gets my vote.
Hope you all had fun reading, and see what I got going for next week.