Kirby's Dream Course [NA/EU] / Kirby Bowl [JP]
Year: 1994, 1995 | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
When I first played this game seven years ago, I fell madly in love with it. What initially started out as a regular mini-golf game (development-wise) turned into one of the most fun Kirby games ever, with the pink puffball himself being used as the ball. Kirby's first 16-bit outing has great control, good visuals, neatly-designed courses, and very fun music. I like the isometric structure used here, and getting to the end will prove to be quite a challenge later on, for the courses will gradually more and more harder the farther you go. If all the enemies (save for the last untouched one which turns into the hole) are defeated all at once and Kirby makes the hole in one, then an extra life will be gained, which is easier said than done. To keep things fresh, Kirby can also use certain power-ups should he land on a certain enemy (but only once per power-up). Strategizing and planning ahead are two vital keys towards success, and those are some of the things that gives this game an edge over other mini-golf titles. The only thing that drags Kirby's Dream Course back is the final encounter with King Dedede; granted, being the only boss in the entire game, I would've liked it better had there been more to it. But every other thing that this game offers more than makes up for that one detail. I like how you can customize your icons whenever you start a new game, and the two-player mode was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game (and a hysterical one, too). Oh, how I miss that! This is one of those games that'll always have a place in my heart.
Kirby Super Star [NA] / Kirby's Fun Pak [EU]
Year: 1995, 1996 | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Nintendo DS [Kirby Super Star Ultra]
I probably shouldn't include this game considering I mostly played the DS remake, but I managed to experience the SNES original at one point, so I will. As the first Kirby platformer to come out for the SNES, Kirby Super Star took gamers by storm as it featured colorfully gorgeous visuals, a memorable soundtrack all-around (some of the best in the series; seriously, much of the whole soundtrack is that good), greatly expanded play control, and a variety of different games to choose from. I must confess that back when I first played this game in 2005 (along with Kirby's Dream Course) during Hurricane Rita (at a friend's house) I didn't play it too much; from what I played of it back then I thought it was fun (oh, Kirby's Dream Course, I love you, but why were you so addicting?). Three years later I redeemed myself by purchasing the DS remake Kirby Super Star Ultra, and I got to catch up with it, which I'm glad I did. Each game had a different difficulty level, and each had different objectives, which added to the replay value. The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Meta Knight, and Milky Way Wishes are my favorite events in the package. The animations are good, and many of the bosses were memorable, like the quirky RPG battles and that showdown with Meta Knight. What amazes me about this game is how not only Kirby retains most of his moves and abilities from the previous games, but how some of his abilities are expanded, plus this was the game that allowed you to summon an ally (who once was your enemy) through your power-up. Me, I'm like, "That's awesome!!" Kirby can also guard via the shoulder buttons, and for the longest time it was the only game that allowed you to do that, until the perfectly excellent Kirby's Return to Dream Land came out on the Wii. The areas are marvelously designed, and the cutscenes are cute. When I fought Marx for the first time, the battle gave me the heebie-jeebies; I mean, holy crap, I didn't see that coming (add the fact that it was initially a difficult boss battle, and the fact that the epic music was playing in the background, and you can see how uneasy my first reaction was). For awhile Kirby Super Star has been lauded by gamers as the best Kirby game of all time, up until the heartwarming Kirby's Epic Yarn and the brilliant Kirby's Return to Dream Land came out for the Wii nearly a decade and a half later. Some still consider this to be the epitome of the series, and I don't blame them if they do, because it truly is a great package. Kirby Super Star proves to be a very enjoyable experience, either on the SNES or the DS, and a timeless one as well.
Donkey Kong Country [NA/EU] / Super Donkey Kong [JP]
Year: 1994 | Developer: Rareware | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Game Boy Color
One of the games I remember first playing on the SNES back when I was little was this one. A visual breakthrough with impressive ACM-rendered graphics, Donkey Kong Country blended 2D gameplay and wonderfully rendered scenery together, and it works so well. Donkey Kong and his companion Diddy Kong control really great and have equally great charm, and I like how you can switch between the two in any time (so long as both are still active). The stage designs are ingeniously creative, and former Rare composer David Wise did a fantastic job with creating a great atmosphere; the soundtrack may have been one of the first to have ever left an impact on me (that Aquatic Ambience score is both beautiful and haunting at the same time). Thorough inspection would lead you to certain secret rooms, and if you collect three of the same animal helper idols, then that animal helper will partake in a timed bonus room to get a chance to score some lives. And speaking of the animal helpers, this game in the trilogy has some of the best, including Rambi the rhino and Enguarde the swordfish (long-time favorite). I also love how whenever you meet up with Cranky Kong he'll be constantly ribbing on the game and talk about how the old days were better (talk about self-awareness); he's just a funny character. As great as this game is, it's a little on the short side, plus the bosses rarely pose much of a threat. Nevertheless, it's a classic, and a very appealing one at that.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
Originally on: NEC PC-8801, 1989 Nihon Falcom | Year: 1991 | Developed by: Tonkin House | Published by: American Sammy | Played on: SNES
This third adventure in the series starring the heroic crimson-haired warrior Adol Christin is one of the few adaptations that saw a Western release, and the only Ys title on the SNES to be released outside of Japan. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys is to the Ys series what Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is to the Zelda series; one some gamers may detest for the very same reason others may enjoy it, in my opinion: it's different. Straying from the top-down perspective and enemy-pushing attack that made the series so popular, Ys III reverted itself to a sidescrolling action-RPG with sword-swinging techniques instead. While some may find it a little awkward, I personally found it to be a nice change. The locations are detailed and incredible (like the Eldam Mountains and the Ballacetine Castle), the plot is well-crafted (of course, what do you expect from an Ys experience?), and the rock soundtrack that's been a trademark of the series rocks hard!! The controls are good, and much of the characters are likeable (including the ever persistent Ellena Stoddart). The only qualm I have with the former is that you won't be able to tell if a hit has registered until you get closer, and you have to be careful not to lose damage from very potent enemies (also, how is that wood-chopping sound appropriate whenever either you or an enemy take damage?), but otherwise the gameplay's good. Another issue regarding Ys III (and this is just a minor one, mind) is that it is possible (if you're really careful) to reach the level cap before you make it halfway through (particularly in the volcanic area, where it's absolutely mandatory to level grind); it's a good thing because you won't have to worry about leveling up anymore afterwards, and it's a bad thing due the fact that the game is at a decent length (but that's just me). The enemy roster is interesting, and the bosses are brimming with color and detail, and I love the way the latter disintegrates in a rainbow fashion (and the sound they make at that point is fun, too). The final boss encounter against Galbalan proves to be challenging at first, but in the end it's a rather great final boss fight that revolves around strategy (and the background music for when you fight against him is awesome). It's not perfect by any means, but it's got a lot going for it (including a rather sad ending, in my opinion), and even though I really enjoyed Ys Book I & II on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, I found myself enjoying Ys III a little more. Also, I always like how in the Ys series you view all the action taking place in a frame.
Mega Man X [NA/EU] / Rockman X [JP]
Year: 1993 | Developer/Publisher: Capcom | Played on: Nintendo GameCube [Mega Man X Collection]
Some will argue that the regular Mega Man series introduced on the NES is far superior, but as far I'm concerned, the Blue Bomber's very first 16-bit adventure trumps them all. Retaining some of the abilities from the other games, X controls great, and he even has the ability to wall jump and dash. The futuristic locale is amazing, and several areas have that polished, colorful look and feel you find from the other 16-bit Capcom games. The soundtrack is even memorable, with Chill Penguin, Launch Octopus, and Armored Armadillo's stages. The stage designs are great, and the challenge level's decent. To add to the replay value, there's a secret weapon that is found if you do a certain condition in a certain stage (a reference to a certain fighting series). Cool! Sigma's stages are nicely presented, and the final boss encounter with him is great, too (though the enemy respawning bit in the final part on the way to meet him may lessen a bit of the overall challenge, but that's alright). This was the first ever Mega Man game I've ever beaten, and one that will always have a place in my heart. Some may say that Mega Man X2 is the better game in the series (me personally, I thought that one was good, but nothing great); however, I strongly feel that the first one is the overall best, and a very fantastic game, too.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars [NA] / Super Mario RPG [JP]
Year: 1995, 1996 | Developer: SquareSoft | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Not only was this the first ever RPG starring Mario and company, but it was also the first ever RPG that I played. Sadly, because I wasn't yet decent enough to play RPGs back then, it wouldn't be until many years later that I would improve my RPG skills and get a lot farther in the game, which made me appreciate it even more. This turn-based RPG is viewed in an isometric perspective, with sweet ACM-rendered visuals, tons of charm, great gameplay, a good plot, and truly enjoyable music (most of which are remixes of classic Mario tunes, plus a few remixes of some Final Fantasy music, but the original compositions are fun, too, all done by the great Yoko Shimomura). Super Mario RPG was innovative at the time for implementing timed attacks, in which if you press a button during a certain attack or special move at the exact right time, then the attack will be more effective and potent (practice makes perfect). I love the way the areas are designed (like the Forest of Illusion), and there are even moments that take a break from the adventure aspect, like a mine cart ride. The bosses are great, and a few of them are actually pretty challenging, not to mention a lot of the characters are fun to interact with. Adding to the replay value are invisible chests that appear the moment you jump up (be sure to check everywhere), an optional boss fight that pays homage to the Final Fantasy series of games (right down to that one victory music), countless cameo appearances (like Samus and Link), and during the penultimate area there are six special rooms to choose from. I've always loved this game, and up until I've made an account on NintendoLife, I've always thought that everyone who played it loved it, too. From many critics' standpoint, it's an excellent game, but from many gamers' standpoint, opinions are heavily mixed (whenever I see someone say it's bad, for legitimate reasons or otherwise, it makes me a little sad). But I digress; in my opinion, Super Mario RPG is a timeless classic, and if you don't like it, then to each their own.
Year: 1993 | Developer: Software Creations | Publisher: Tradewest | Played on: SNES
I'll just get this out of the way first: had Plok implemented a continue or password system, then this game would be much more well-known today instead of being underrated and overlooked. Now onto the game: Plok displays some of the most impressively intricate animation you'll see on the SNES, and the stages are colorfully detailed with a bit of gel-shadedness in the mix. Tim and Geoff Follin's soundtrack is amazing (the boss, Creepy Crag, and Venge Thicket themes come to mind), the areas are nicely designed and atmospheric, there's charm galore, intuitive play control, and great humor. Plok's lines are absolutely priceless, and when it comes to point where you play as his grandfather, the stages are in monocromatic black and white, and the music sounds like something you'd hear from silent movies (and the great thing is that his lines are as equally priceless). Thorough inspection would lead to a box which contains a different temporary power-suit which is really potent. The boss fights are cool, and the music at those points is haunting. While I appreciate a little challenge, I personally feel this game can be a little too challenging at times (I only beat Child's Play mode a few times, and the farthest I could get on Normal mode is the Gohome Cavern, and believe me, that stage is ridiculous). Granted, Mr. Nutz had a few moments of unfair challenge, but give that game some credit, at least it has unlimited continues; in Plok, once you lost the few continues you earn, it's game over and you're brought back to the title screen. It's annoying to me, and I think it's a shame, really, because the game is really fun. I'm not the only one who's not cool with the lack of a password system; apparently, the staff behind it wished it had one, too, from what I've looked up. Plok was the first game where you took control of a character who attacks with his limbs, and despite its glaring flaws, it's well-done. Plok also plays one mean harmonica!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time [NA] / Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles IV: Turtles in Time [EU] / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time [JP]
Originally on: Arcade, 1991 Konami | Year: 1992 | Developer/Publisher: Konami | Played on: SNES
A childhood favorite of mine, this is a fun beat'em up starring the fun and memorable teenage mutant ninja turtles. It's a fun arcade style game, even though it's short, it's fun while it lasts. I like how you get to choose between the cartoon and the comic skin tone scheme (should you go to the options screen), and it's awesome how the four main characters each have different techniques and stats. Each area is neatly designed, and the music sounds great. The gameplay is good, and I love how you're able to throw the Foot Ninjas directly towards the screen (how many beat'em ups allowed you to do that?). Sewer Surfin' is a fun bonus-like stage, and the enemies are also fun. Halfway through the game, the turtles will be traversing through the prehistoric times, traverse through ships, travel trains, and ride in the future driven by neat Mode 7 effects (and it takes place in 2020; it's 2012, and still no futuristic type of transportation). I don't have much problems with this game...that is, except for the Prehistoric Turtlesaurus boss Slash (ugh, how I hate him!). The game proves to be difficult to beat on Hard mode; with two players it's very enjoyable, but try doing it by yourself! The latter's easier said than done. Turtles in Time is a fun romp, and one that never gets old.
Kirby's Dream Land 3
Year: 1997 | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
In retrospect, Kirby's Dream Land 3 could've worked as a first generation Nintendo 64 title and been more successful; but that's just me. Released very late towards the SNES console's lifespan, the follow-up to the first two Kirby's Dream Land games on the Game Boy has garned either extreme love or extreme hate from gamers and Kirby fans alike. I extremely love this game, even more than Kirby Super Star, and that says a lot. Pop Star is threatened once again by Dark Matter, so it's up to Kirby and his animal compatriots to save their planet once more. Retaining his moveset and abilities from Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby can now run, slide, and he even has a broom ability (no other game in the series has ever done that before and hasn't done since). Rick, Kine, and Coo are once again aiding Kirby to the rescue, and this time Kirby will also be joined by Nago the cat, Pitch the bird, and Chu Chu the octopus. The controls are great, but Kirby walks very slow this time, so you'll be spending the entire game going fast in order to increase speed. The animations are fluidly spectacular, and the visuals are incredibly unique. Many of the areas display smooth parallax scrolling, color-layering effects, and even moving foreground in some cases, giving the game atmospheric depth (seriously, how can anyone not like that?); and I like how they look like they're drawn with pastels and markers. The stages are designed in a nice matter, and the music is charming and a bit different in style compared to the other games, which is cool. The stages are fun to explore, and the boss fights are fun, as always. Some gamers feel that Kirby's Dream Land 3 is easier than most games in the series, but in each stage there are Heart Stars which can be acquired by doing certain actions in order to help a certain character, which adds to the replay value. Once all of them are gathered, you get to face off against Dark Matter in order to get the best ending. What's very interesting and disturbing at the same time is how the final form bleeds each time he takes damage (guess there's a reason you couldn't face him head on). Reaching the 100% completion status proves to be challenging (never again!), especially since three of the events in the menu will count, including the boss rush. Another thing I feel makes this game great are the cameo appearances from certain familiar characters; like Rocky of Lolo fame, Samus and the Metroids, and even R.O.B., et al (again, how can anyone not like that?). The enemies are cutely designed, and it's got its moments. Most gamers will find themselves prefering Kirby Super Star, but I enjoy this game so much more. In the end, Kirby's Dream Land 3 is my favorite 16-bit Kirby title.
Year: 1993 | Developer/Publisher: Capcom | Played on: SNES
I can guarantee you that many gamers have long debated whether Capcom's SNES version or Virgin Interactive's MegaDrive version are superior, and I can guarantee you that five to ten years from now, that's still going to be the case. I played both (sort of, the only Virgin versions I played were the two Game Boy versions and the PC port), and I can honestly say that I prefer Capcom's version. Based on the great 1992 Disney movie of the same name, Aladdin has versatile play control, the locations and music are faithful to that of the movie, the area designs are great, and the visuals are absolutely gorgeous. I like how Aladdin can run, grab on to ledges, throw apples, and even use a piece of paper as a parachute (should you find it). The enemies are fun, and there's so much going for it. The cutscenes are nice, the Genie's Lamp stages are incredible, the "A Whole New World" bonus stage is charming and beautiful, and each areas displays a good amount of depth. It's easy, but I don't mind that so much. There is even a small bit of replay value, for depending on how many red gems you collecct throughout the entire game, the ending will be slightly different. Some will argue that the MegaDrive version is the better adaptation, and that's understandable (since it's harder by comparison), but I honestly had more enjoyment with this one. The battle with Jafar also rocks.