Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Top 50 Favorite SNES/SFC Games T1 Part 5

Part 5
Year: 1994 | Developer/Publisher: Konami | Played on: SNES
Sparkster started his adventures back in the early '90s on the MegaDrive with games such as Rocket Knight Adventures and Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 (both of which I want to play badly, but sadly I do not as of yet own a MegaDrive console).  Sparkster on the SNES is not at all a follow-up to the previous two games, but a spin-off as far as I looked up.  Regardless, the opossum rocket knight's one and only venture in Nintendo's 16-bit console is an incredibly fun game.  The visuals are gorgeous, the controls are solid, and the music is amazing.  Each stage is action-packed, neatly-designed, plus the boss fights are enjoyable.  Sparkster is packed with so much charm, the areas are memorable (one takes place on a location adorned with instruments), and there is even one that plays like a shoot'em up.  Awesome!  There are different endings depending on what difficulty setting you play under, and inputting passwords whenever you wish to continue your progress has never been more fun.  The game's challenge levels are great, and I love it; it's a great game!
Super Mario All-Stars [NA/EU] / Super Mario Collection [JP]
Year: 1993 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES
If I'm asked what the first ever SNES game I played was, it'd be the same thing like asking me what the first Mario game I ever played was; it would either have be Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart or Super Mario All-Stars, even.  But, this is my earliest memory of experiencing not only a compilation game, but being introduced to Mario's NES adventures as well, except with highly expanded visuals and remixed sound with the gameplay still left intact.  Now I just want to point out that I like Super Mario World more than all four of the games in this package, but there's a reason Super Mario All-Stars is held into such a high account by me.  Playing four games in one cartridge is nice, and all four of Mario's adventures are timeless and fun.  The original Super Mario Bros. is simple and fun, with a variety of stages and secrets galore.  Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, often referred to as the true sequel to the game, is basically the same, only much more challenging and brimming with incredulous stage design and even includes poison mushrooms to keep you honest (this complilation was also the first time the 1986 Famicom Disk System title was released overseas).  Super Mario Bros. 2 (the Mario reimaging of the 1987 Famicom Disk System Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic) is my favorite game out of the four presented here, with a vastly different play control, incredible and imaginitive worlds to explore, the debut of ShyGuys and Snifits, and even the ability to play as one of four main characters (including Princess Toadstool), and the boss fights are fun, too.  And then we've got Super Mario Bros. 3, often touted as the best 8-bit Mario game released on the NES, which is very understandable.  There are variety of areas and locations, an inventory system used while on the map screen, fun stages, good amount of fun and challenge, marked the debut of the Boo enemies, Koopalings, and especially the leaf power-up.  The amount of variety is huge, and there is even one stage where the enemies are huge in comparison, and thorough inspection on the map may even lead to a secret stage, leading to a secret item.  I'll even give the game credit for having great stage designs.  Overall, Super Mario All-Stars is a great package, and an incredibly fun one at that.  It was such a classic, in fact, that Nintendo decided to rerelease it for the Nintendo Wii in 2010 for the current generation to experience it as a 25th Mario anniversary gift, much to a mixed to negative reception from gamers and critics alike for being exactly the same as the SNES original (the port was unaltered--dude, that's rare!), as far as I heard and looked up.  Either way, this Mario collection is a timeless classic, and one of those games that will always hold a special place in my heart.  Also, you've got to dig that title sequence.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [NA/EU] / The Legend of Zelda: The Triforce of the Gods [JP]
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Game Boy Advance [The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords]
I mostly play it on the Game Boy Advance, but I managed to play it on the big screen a few times, so that's why it made the list.  The third Zelda reverted back to the top-down perspective after the sidescrolling Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and it was also the first Zelda game I ever played, and years later when I got far in it (after getting unstuck due to a moment that had me confused) and beat it, it quickly became one of my favorites.  Hyrule's atmosphere is incredible this time around, and the plot is very great, for Link gets to travel to both the Light World and the Dark World throughout the adventure.  The pastel-toned visuals are wonderful, the dungeon designs are superb, and the soundtrack is beautiful.  The controls are versatile, there's an abundance of items to find and use, and the open-world exploration is huge!  The bosses are fun, and the secret items that are hidden in Hyrule give it a bit of replay value, as well everything else that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past offers.  Not only is it the best Zelda game, in my opinion, but it's also the best game in the series.  It's charmingly excellent!
Secret of Mana
Year: 1993 | Developer/Publisher: SquareSoft | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
The second Mana in the series is one of my top favorite action-RPGs ever, with colorfully gorgeous visuals, one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard, and great gameplay.  The plot is great, and it's a shame that it wasn't 100% fully translated, for the adventure has me feel invested and involved.  The locations all range from memorable (i.e. Matango, Upper Land, Lofty Mountains) to unforgettable (i.e. the Great Forest adorned with all four seaons, Crystal Forest, Pure Land).  Attacking enemies is fun, and using the magic with the Mana spirits is equally fun.  Like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Secret of Mana is critically praised while the gaming public either enjoy it or they don't, though that fact doesn't bother me as much as the aforementioned game.  While I love this game to bits, I do attest that it has some flaws; for one, it's a little glitchy, which depending on the situation can be either really minimal or very annoying.  Most of the bosses, with some exceptions, look exactly the same, and the four per each item count in the inventory feels a little restricted.  The companion AI is not exactly bright, but luckily you can press the Select button whenever you wish to change characters, especially since there are a couple enemies that'll attack one party member with an unfair advantage.  What makes Secret of Mana stand out, however, is the innovative ring menu system and the fact that it could be played up to three players.  Even though I get lost in the sky whenever I fly with Flammie, viewing the world while soaring up above is breathtaking.  The final boss encounter with the Mana Beast is dramatic, and the ending I felt was both emotional and rather poignant.  The challenge level is normal, and the overall length is decent.  I love it!  It's very special.
Super Metroid
Year: 1994 | Developers: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES
Yet another third entry in the series that garners incredible adulation from critics and gamers alike, and for good reason.  Samus controls very well this time around, and the areas found in Planet Zebes are so environmentally detailed that it's amazing.  There is so much to explore this time around, and by finding certain power-ups and different suits throughout, it will greatly augment your chances of survival.  The boss fights are fun (like the one with Crocomire and Ridley), and some of the atmosphere can be very haunting (like the Wrecked Ship and Maridia).  Super Metroid has moments where it can get really intense, also there are slightly different endings (depending on whether the animals were saved or not and/or how long it took to beat the game).  Trying to find every item scattered throughout the planet can be a fun challenge, adding to the replay value, and it really is a fantastic game.  Easily my vote for best Metroid game.
Pop'n TwinBee
Year: 1993 | Developer/Publisher: Konami | Played on: PlayStation Portable [TwinBee Portable]
Pop'n TwinBee singlehandedly edges out Star Parodier as my favorite cute'em up ever, which says a lot considering I think that game's equally great, too (there's also TwinBee Yahho!, but I digress).  The pastel-toned visuals are comforting to the eye, the controls are superb, the enemies and bosses are all around memorable, and the stage locations are magnificently well-crafted (the underwater and China stages come to mind).  From the beginning of the game you can choose one of three option variations for whenever you get an option around you, which adds to the replay value, but that's not all.  Depending on what color the bells are after you shoot them, you'll get a different power-up, but receive a blue speed bell more than you should, and you may end up slowing down.  TwinBee (and WinBee) can also throw punches this time around and even send chibi-sized clones of their ship in order to get rid of all enemies onscreen (it's also potent during boss fights).  What makes Pop'n TwinBee different from the rest of the series is that you have a health bar, meaning you have to beat each stage in one life, otherwise you'll have to start over from the beginning of said stage, which gives it a degree of challenge.  What gives it major replay value, however, is that there are seven difficulty settings to choose from, from easiest to hardest (me like).  The game also proves that it is possible to have a lot of activity happening onscreen without triggering slowdown.  Excellent, I love it!  Add in a wonderful soundtrack, seven stages of nonstop fun, cute cutscenes, high amount of charm, and some quirkiness here and there (like the avalanche of pandas in the third stage), and you've got what is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever created.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island [NA/EU] / Super Mario: Yoshi's Island [JP]
Year: 1995 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Game Boy Advance [Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island]
If I were to pick my favorite retro 2D Mario platformer (at least, as far as the 16-bit console is concerned), it would have to be Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.  Yeah, it's more of a Yoshi platformer, really, but Mario's in it, so it counts as far as I'm concerned.  Actually, Yoshi's Island really acts as a prequel to the Mario series as a whole, for a group of Yoshis have to take the infantile Mario with them after he falls out of the sky after evading Kamek's capture, for in the end they have to save Mario's infantile brother Luigi and help both sibling get to their home.  Each stage is elaborately designed with great visual scenery and very unforgettable music.  Yoshi has very responsive controls, for he can throw (at any distance) and/or create eggs, ground pound, flutter jump, and from time to time he can even transform into something in order to get across (like a helicopter or a submarine).  The ShyGuys from Super Mario Bros. 2 have made a return here and have come back with many variations, and these baddies have been a fan-favorite since then.  The bosses utilize a great detail and make great use of the Super FX2 chip, and the final boss with Baby Bowser is fantastic.  It's an easy game, but trying to get perfect 100s in each stage will prove to be a challenge, and getting all eight in a world will unleash a secret stage, which adds humongous replay value.  Many Yoshi titles have come and gone, but none (not even the portable follow-up Yoshi's Island DS) could reach its brilliance.  There's charm galore in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, for I have lots of fun with it every time I play it, and I feel sorry for those who don't.
SoulBlazer [NA/EU] / SoulBlader [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developer: Quintet | Publisher: Enix | Played on: SNES
I know this is a rather unusual choice for best action-oriented RPG, especially considering how fantastic Secret of Mana is, but there you have it.  It's not very challenging, true, but there's something about this game that I always found appealing.  Maybe it's the effective atmosphere, maybe it's the whole lighthearted feel throughout, maybe it's the great choice of areas to explore in the game (like the Lost Mountain of Souls).  Whatever the case, I love it!  SoulBlazer implemented some gameplay elements from ActRaiser and has great intuitive gameplay, with lots of charm and heart.  In fact, I would even go to say that it really feels like a perfect candidate to introduce to gamers first experiencing an A-RPG (makes me wish it was my first RPG, but I'm off-topic).  The dungeon designs are nice, even if simple, and the boss fights certainly are good.  There's a lot of character interaction, and it's always amazing to see the safe areas gradually grow the more creatures you save from the monster lairs.  Another thing that I find enthralling whenever I play it is when you tap into a creature's dream, giving an atmospheric feeling that you are in a dream.  I could say a lot about this game and still have not said it all.  Out of the five Quintet titles I played, this one's my number one favorite.
The Lost Vikings
Year: 1992 | Developer: Silicon & Synapse | Publisher: Interplay | Played on: SNES
You may or may not hear a lot of talk about this game, but let me just tell you that as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best games ever made.  For serious, it is!  The Lost Vikings is an action-platformer/puzzle hybrid, executed with flying colors.  The gameplay is solid, the stage designs are well-done (maybe a little too well-done, if you ask me), and getting three vikings to the end of each stage alive is a big part of the challenge, which makes it more fun.  Another thing I find fun is looking thoroughly in each stage in order to find vital items so you can make progress.  Erik, Baleog, and Olaf each have different abilities and capabilities which can be used in order to get to certain parts of the area; Erik can run and jump, Baleog shoots arrows and uses his sword, and Olaf can parachute down with his shield and use said shield to defend from projectiles.  The I love the banter between the three vikings, and the crude humor is just too great!  The dialogue and humor are two of the best parts of the experience, and the music can be pretty damn catchy at times.  There are various areas to traverse, various ways to get all three heroes to safety, and various ways to die (yes, die).  Despite the fact that The Lost Vikings is designed in such a comical, cartoony way, I can't help but cringe when I see a viking being squished, crumble after having fallen down with your last bit of health, or even punctured if you're not careful; I guess it's rather effective on me because it's a cartoon-like game that emulates reality in a weird way (i.e. fall down from such a high height, and you lose health).  Whenever it comes to exploring a different era, I like it when the lost vikings drift off to a Mode 7-induced transporter.  Getting through many of the stages will not be easy, for a lot of trial and error will have to be done in order to be successful.  Even more exciting, the final stage is a boss confrontation with Tomator, and considering there's puzzling to be involved, it's amazing!  It's crude, it's charming, it's animated, it's got a balanced challenge, and I could go on as to why it's so excellent, but that would take all day (if not all week).  The Lost Vikings is such a fun time, and a very underrated one.
DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibouken
Year: 1996 | Developer/Publisher: Hudson Soft | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Ladies and gentlemen, my number one favorite SNES/SFC title of all time is DoReMi Fantasy.  This charmingly cute 16-bit sequel to the rather okay Milon's Secret Castle on the NES is a perfectly well-crafted platformer, and a marvelous one at that, with great atmosphere that boost imaginitive pastel-toned worlds and versatile play control from the eponymous main character Milon.  There's also wacky Japanese quirkiness here and there that I can't help but be enamored with it, and the Japanese text during some moments makes me feel like I'm in an out of this world experience.  To read the full reason I love this game so much, read here.  In my book, it's that good!

Lone Runner-Up:
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

Games I Would've Included Had I Played Them on the Big Screen [SNES or Wii Virtual Console]:
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Breath of Fire
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading what my Top 50 SNES/SFC games were (first third of 2012), and I apologize if the descriptions were "tl;dr"; I just felt the need to explain the reason for my enjoying these games and putting them on my countdown.  As time goes on and I play more games, the list will be subject to change.  If you like the countdown, great; if a game you like did not turn up on my list, it's because I haven't played it (prior to April 31st) or I did play it but don't really consider it a favorite.  I know not everyone will agree with the games put on there, and that's fine, but hey: different strokes for different folks; to each their own.  Until next third (August 31st)!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Top 50 Favorite SNES/SFC Games T1 Part 4

Part 4

Super Mario World [NA/EU] / Super Mario World: Super Mario Bros. 4 [JP]
Year: 1990, 1991 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Game Boy Advance [Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World]
The first 16-bit Mario title was not only one of the first games I played on the SNES, but it was also one of the first Mario games I ever played as well.  This classic game has plenty of charm, fun levels, smooth visuals, secret exits (ninety-six in total) that lead to different areas, a nonlinear structure, high replay value, simple yet great play control, memorable music, plus it introduced the lovable companion Yoshi; and Super Mario World has held up so well after all these years, in my opinion.  Now, is it safe to say that I find it a little overrated?  It's not that I don't love it, I do (in fact, I think it's fantastically great), and it's not that I feel it isn't deserving of its classic status, I think it does.  I just feel that it more often than not garners the "best ever" rank from many gamers, not to mention it's often preferred to its excellent sequel Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, which I personally feel is superior.  The former I can understand since it revolutionized platforming for generations to come (and I respect that, even though I honestly feel there are better platformers available on the system), and the latter's just me being selfish, but that's just me.  Regardless, the areas are neatly designed, and there's a lot of variety to be found here.  The enemies are neat, Mario's cape ability is nice, the difficulty's easy and decent, and there are even a few exits that are slightly hard to access.  The Star and Special stages are amazing, and the Haunted House stages create a good amount of atmosphere.  Only flaws (nothing big) are that Luigi is around Mario's height and you can only save after beating the Fortress, Castle, Switch Palace, and Haunted House stages.  Super Mario World gets a lot of praise, and I agree with a lot of the praise it gets, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best.  Once again I digress; I love Super Mario World, but the sequel I adore (more on that later).
Illusion of Gaia [NA] / Illusion of Time [EU]
Year: 1993, 1994 | Developer: Quintet | Publishers: Enix/Nintendo | Played on: SNES
Having enjoyed SoulBlazer a lot prior to playing this game, I admit I was a little worried as to how I would feel about its spiritual follow-up Illusion of Gaia considering some of the lopsided opinions I heard about it beforehand.  But when I eventually played it for the first time (and finally quenched my longtime curiosity towards it), I was pleased to find that it's a really great game.  It's not perfect, for it has a few issues (which I'll get to in a little bit), but boy is it fun!  The soundtrack is mindblowing in both quality and style, and a lot of it can be quite effective at times depending on the situation, which is rather impressive; the score ranges from cheerful to ominous to mysterious to epic to foreign to emotional).  The play control is versatile, and I love how Will and his alter ego Freedan learn new moves from time to time which not only makes your attacks more powerful but are also put to use when it comes to working your way through a dungeon, which is very unique.  And speaking of unique, Illusion of Gaia has a cool leveling up system, where if you defeat all the enemies in the same room or floor, then you'll gain a stat increase (whether it be health, defense, or strength).  Love it!  Visually it's impressively colorful and detailed, and some of the puzzles are pretty good.  There are even a few moments where, if you pay very close attention, there are allusions made towards SoulBlazer (even a few sprites from that game appear in this action-oriented RPG).  I enjoy the dark tone, and each dungeon has a variety of designs and ideas (like the floating Sky Garden in the Nazca Plains, and the Lost underwater Continent of Mu), which I really enjoy.  The enemy designs are neat, and the boss fights are cool.  I admire the fact that Will can jump from cliff to cliff and fall down several stories without taking damage; now that's awesome!  The plot by itself is decent, but there are (nonsensical) moments throughout the game that may make gamers raise an eyebrow or two (like that Incan Gold Ship: what happened there?).  Another aspect that's not really at its strongest is the difficulty itself; though there are a few spikes along the way, Illusion of Gaia is not very hard.  Some of the complaints I notice whenever someone talks about the game is the plot and the difficulty, which some claim is hard.  By going at a steady pace, not to mention increasing your stats along the way, especially considering the expanded movement controls, I feel it's a little easier than SoulBlazer; I know not everyone will agree with that, but oh well.  The battle with Dark Gaia is simple once you know what to do, but everything else makes up for those points.  The atmosphere is intriguing, the locations are incredible, and the way that Will's hair is blowing in the wind is nice.  The ending and credits is the first time I've nearly cried while playing a video game, for the music was unbelievable and the impact was incredible.  Wanna know what makes Illusion of Gaia stand out from the rest of the Quintet games?  A secret dungeon and boss fight!  By collection all the red jewels scattered throughout the game, you'll be brought to a dungeon that cannot be accessed otherwise, and in the end you'll bout with a boss who previously appeared in SoulBlazer.  Fantastic!!  For all the flaws it has, I really enjoy playing this game, as I think it's great.  This game would eventually be followed by Terranigma (which is at the top my my wishlist), which is often considered one of the best games ever, but sadly it was solely released in Japan and Europe.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest [NA/EU] / Super Donkey Kong 2: Dixie & Diddy [JP]
Year: 1995 | Developer: Rareware | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Out of the three games in the Donkey Kong Country trilogy I haven't played in its original SNES format or even as a kid, this second one would be it.  I don't think I'll ever understand why that is, but it doesn't matter, because this is the best game in the trilogy as far as I'm concerned.  Donkey Kong has been kidnapped, so it's up to Diddy and his close kin Dixie to get him back from the evil King K. Rool, who for some reason had all his cronies decked out in pirate gear.  Donkey Kong Country 2 has an incredible atmosphere, and the amount of depth is just impressive.  The controls have significantly improved from the last one, and the stage designs are ingenious.  It's also the best-looking and best-sounding entry in the trilogy, for the ACM-rendered visuals are great as always, and David Wise really outdid himself this time by incorporating both melody and ambience at the same time (the "Stickerbrush Symphony" song is so haunting, for one).  The adventure is longer, and the game is more challenging than both the first and third game combined.  There are still secret areas to be found with closer inspectoin (including a secret map location), and trying to get the highest completion rate possible proves to be a huge challenge.  The animal helpers are great as always, and I love how Diddy or Dixie celebrate their end of stage victory.  Cranky Kong's still around and still possesses that charm that made gamers love him in the first game, and the dialogue is still nice.  If there's one thing many don't like about the second Donkey Kong Country iteration is the fact that most of the time, you'll need a few coins in order to save the game (you won't always save for free).  This is also one of those games that I feel fall under the category of sometimes being a little too challenging for its own good.  Even so, it's not impossible, and there's plenty of variety to be explored.  Donkey Kong Country 2 proves to be a great epic in the end.
Arcana [NA] / Card Master: Seal of Rimsalia [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developer/Publisher: HAL Laboratory | Played on: SNES
Shortly before Kirby would star in his own series of enjoyable platform games and spin-offs, HAL tried their hand at creating a turn-based RPG, one viewed in first-person perspective.  I think it's no secret how much I love this game.  A lot of gamers will either praise it for its submersive and enthralling feel, or despise it for being repetitive and "difficult".  Arcana is by no means a flawless game: a lot of the areas look the same, with the exception of Draven Pass, Forest of Doubt, and Bintel Castle, not to mention the fact that trying to fill up the map in each chapter can be a bit time-consuming (but it's worth it if it leads to several treasure chests).  Speaking of which, the map fills itself as you explore each area bit by bit, so you won't have to worry about getting lost, which is nice.  Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazu Ando's soundtrack is brilliant, for the songs create a good sense of atmosphere, and during some moments it can be really effective.  The gameplay is good, and the battles even go by quickly, which is very great.  The story's good to a point, and I love how pretty much every character, enemy, and treasure chest is represented by a Tarot card, which is quite unique.  I love how submersive this adventure is, and the epic final encounter with Rimsala is one that still makes me nervous to this day.  The reason most gamers find Arcana to be difficult is because random encounters are abundant, and losing just one human character will result in starting over from the last saving point.  Keeping all the characters alive are only a portion of the challenge, and being well-prepared, going at a steady pace, and leveling up enough are sufficient to ensure survival.  Apart from those aspects, I thought the difficulty was just normal, and never anything too hard for me (the only two times I ever lost was during my first playthrough of the game, and I never once got defeated by a boss).  The main letdown for me, besides the fact that the translation is slightly bad, is that the ending was just bad.  I acknowledge that this was HAL's first and only attempt at turn-based RPG storytelling, but couldn't they have made the ending a little more competent?  The rewarding ending music makes up for it, though.  In my eyes, Arcana is a great adventure game, and one that I personally feel is underrated.
The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie [NA/EU] / Mickey & Minnie: Magical Adventure 2 [JP]
Year: 1994 | Developer/Publisher: Capcom | Played on: SNES
Gasp!  Yes, it's true!  I like this game more than its predecessor The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, for several reasons.  First of all, I played this first, so I'm more fond of it.  Secondly, you get to take control of either Mickey Mouse or his girlfriend Minnie, which is nice.  Even though the first game's visuals were pleasing to the eye, The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie boasts more colorful and gorgeous visuals, plus the animation is fluid as always.  The new outfit power-ups are great, and I like the way the stages are designed, especially that one tower portion of the third stage.  Bosses are fun, and the gameplay is solidly polished.  The Magical Quest had charm, but The Great Circus Mystery has got twice the charm, in my opinion (even though admittedly it is easier).  This game really took me by surprise, and the final boss Baron Pete is enjoyable.  Quickly became one of my favorites!  I hope the third game in the series Mickey & Donald: Magical Adventure 3 is fun, because I really like these Disney-themed platformers.
Contra III: The Alien Wars [NA] / Super Probotector: Alien Rebels [EU] / Contra Spirits [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developer/Publisher: Konami | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Konami sure knows how to create memorable games.  This third installation in the Contra series boasts adrenaline-pumping action, energetic music, and vastly expanded play control.  The futuristic setting is grim, and the time has come for the heroes to take back their planet and fight off the alien horde.  I love the look of each, and there are even a couple top-down ones that implement the Mode 7 effect.  The action is epic, the (mid)bosses look monstrous, and the inclusion of using either one of two weapons is a very nice touch.  Like Axelay, it's a little on the short side at only six stages, except this time the game actually is challenging.  Running'n gunning at its finest.
Equinox [NA/EU] / Solstice II [JP]
Year: 1993 | Developer: Software Creations | Publisher: Sony Imagesoft | Played on: SNES
Now as much as I enjoy Software Creations' other overlooked gem Plok, I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed Equinox a lot less.  On the contrary, I find the game really fantastic in its own right.  I guess I have a thing about obscure games that I find very appealing.  The isometric viewpoint is ingenious, the ability to rotate the map which ends up giving a 3D effect is nice, not to mention the atmosphere is extravagant.  I love it when games make you feel like you're submersing into their own world; the locations are pretty and ominous (like the underwater dungeon of Atlena and the overly vegetated dungeon of Quagmire), plus Tim and Geoff Follin's outstanding soundtrack blends in to the surrounding of the area so perfectly thanks to the ambience throughout the middle of the song.  Glendaal controls very smoothly, and throughout the game you'll find different set of weapons and magic that'll help aid in your survival.  I like the challenge of this game, and several of the puzzles are rather clever, though it really could've used some shadows to tell whether the platform is above, below, or in front of you.  The boss fights are cool, especially the final fight with Sonia, though I really hate hearing Glendaal's shriek for whenever you lose a life.  Some of the reasons I prefer this game to Plok are that 1) it's challenging, but not to the point of being unfair (for the majority of it), 2) the ambience is really, really absorbing, for it can really make you feel like you're in a forgotten location, 3) the variety of weaponry and magic makes the experience fresh (from weakest to strongest), and 4) finally, you don't have to beat Equinox in one sitting.  [Plok fans: "Boooo!!!"]  I know it's an unfair comparison, but come on, the file saving in this game is what keeps this experience from being so strenuous.  Also, by feeling through certain rooms, you'll find an abundance of hidden rooms from the second dungeon onward that can lead to very useful rooms, and there is a lot.  Equinox is a game I enjoy playing every once in awhile, and I love persevering each time I play it.  Oh, and one more thing: this game is not RPG!
Super Mario Kart
Year: 1992 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES
Aside from being one of the first SNES games and Mario games that I played, Super Mario Kart was the first kart racer experience I've ever had.  Displaying well-done Mode 7 graphics throughout the game, the first in the Mario Kart lineup of games still proves to be a timeless classic.  Racing against other characters is very enjoyable, and what keeps things very fresh is how you (or the other characters) can use items throughout each race that will either help (or hinder) your progress.  The racing settings are memorable, too, like Ghost Valley, Vanilla Lake, and even Rainbow Road.  Another thing that's always fun is the battle mode where you compete against another player and must try to get all three of their balloons popped.  The game controls nicely, and it's really charming.  It's that great!
NCAA Basketball [NA] / World League Basketball [EU] / Super Dunk Shot [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developers: Sculptured Software/HAL Laboratory | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES
On the outside it's just your regular ol' basketball-based video game, but at its core it's something much more.   Choosing from a wide selection of teams from any of the five conferences of the I-A NCAA Division, NCAA Basketball plays very well, and it plays just like a regular basketball game (right down to the fouls and the two or three point shots), which is very nice.  What makes it great, however, is the Mode 7-driven gameplay throughout the court, making it the first 3D basketball game ever made.  Viewing the court from different angles and seeing it scale and rotate while playing it is very impressive.  I would've liked to have been able to make three-pointers during each game, but otherwise I think it's brilliant.
Prince of Persia
Originally on: Apple II, 1989 Brøderbund | Year: 1992 | Developers: Brøderbund/Masaya/Arsys | Publisher: Konami | Played on: SNES
Jordan Mechner's classic has an ever-so great Arabian setting, and the stages are well-crafted if not devilishly designed at times (not to mention highly improbable in terms of anyone getting around, but I digress).  The main character's rotoscoping animation is massively fluid and detailed, and the controls are great, though they'll take a bit of time to get used to.  Each area looks good, and the background music is fittingly appropriate during the many situations.  Throughout the game there are rooms to explore, fights to partake in, and traps to avoid; and the game must be beaten in below two hours if the princess is to be saved in time.  The game's got a great amount of challenge, and the fight against each enemy proves to be very intense.  Luckily there are five practice stages in order to get a very good idea of what the game's twenty regular stages have in store for you.  Prince of Persia has a lot to offer, and it's just fantastic.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Top 50 Favorite SNES/SFC Games T1 Part 3

Part 3

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.
Disney's Aladdin
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.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Top 50 Favorite SNES/SFC Games T1 Part 2

Part 2

The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse [NA/EU] / Mickey's Magical Adventure [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developer/Publisher: Capcom | Played on: SNES
Another game I just experienced a few weeks ago, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse is a fun platformer.  Basically Capcom's answer to Sega's Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse on the MegaDrive (a game I still wish to play) in a nutshell, Mickey Mouse's world this time around is beautiful, wonderfully designed, and I like how Mickey has the ability to change outfits throughout the game to meet certain conditions (if there's a fire, then you'll have to douse it with the firefighter power up).  Mari Yamaguchi's soundtrack is great, and the boss fights are nice.  I even like how there are moments that try to challenge you; for example, during the second stage there is a moment where you have to traverse by hopping on gradually falling leaves.  Considering it's the first SNES game starring Mickey Mouse, it's great fun.
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble [NA/EU] / Super Donkey Kong 3 [JP]
Year: 1996 | Developer: Rareware | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES and Game Boy Advance [Donkey Kong Country 3]
This third entry is often classified as the weakest out of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, and while that's sort of true, it's not a bad game by any means.  This is one of those games I have a strong fondness for, for it has great ACM-rendered graphics (of course, what do you expect from Rare?), memorable background music, and fun stages.  This time around you take control of either Dixie Kong or the not so little toddler Kiddy Kong, and from time to time there are secrets to be found, which adds to the replay value.  The animal helpers are decent, and a few boss fights are even challenging, not to mention that the interaction between the NPC characters in the cabins or shacks are quite good.  Also, seeing Wrinkly Kong play Super Mario 64 sometimes is pretty cool.  It might have some issues, but I still enjoy it.
Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow [NA] / Donald in Maui Mallard [EU/JP]
Originally on: MegaDrive, 1995 Disney Interactive | Year: 1996 | Developer: Eurocom | Publishers: Disney Interactive/Nintendo | Played on: SNES and PC
Maui Mallard is a game that will be etched in my memory forever.  The tropical island boosts some of the most atmospheric, dark settings I've seen in a '90s Disney-licensed game.  But that alone could not justify why it made the list; the animations displayed are some of the most fluidly over-the-top that I've seen, and alternating between detective and ninja from time to time is really exciting.  The music is enthralling, and the areas range from impressive (the mansion) to haunting (the Flying Duckman), plus the (optional) bonus stages rock.  The penultimate area is Disney's fascinating take on a hellish environment, right down to the giant eyeball in the backdrop.  The amount of challenge is one I find commendable, and the cutscenes add a mysterious feel to it all.  I only wish that its sequel that was promised in the ending was a reality.
Robotrek [NA] / Slapstick [JP]
Year: 1994 | Developers: Quintet/Ancient | Publisher: Enix | Played on: SNES
I shouldn't really include this in my countdown since I haven't beaten it yet (and I don't know how far I am in it), but I will anyway.  Robotrek is a cool strategy RPG with quirky humor and fun characters.  What makes this game different than others in the genre is how one of the three customisable robots fights for the hero, which is like a predecessor to Pokémon games (long before they came out).  The plot is cool, the areas are nice, some of the music is tolerable, and the boss fights are challenging.  The game's translation is hit and miss, but there's enough fun to be had here.
Mr. Nutz
Year: 1993, 1994 | Developer/Publisher: Ocean | Played on SNES
In my opinion, this European-developed platformer is a great classic, and a very underrated one at that.  Granted, the plot is nonsensical at times and is really a weak point of the game, but the full-blown atmosphere more than makes up for it.  The first SNES game I bought in cartridge format (I guess techincally you could say this was my first SNES game), Mr. Nutz has lovely visuals, smooth animation, very detailed locations, and a rather underappreciated soundtrack from little-known Raphael Gesqua.  The amount of challenge is good, and there are elements that I feel prevent the game from growing stale; in each location there are cleverly concealed secret rooms where you get a chance to get extra points.  Each area is imaginative, like the lush forest landscape and the soaring clouds in the sky, and the areas are nicely-designed.  Even though the jumping controls are loose, they work to the game's advantage because otherwise certain platforms could not be reached without them.  This game falls under scrutiny from some gamers because of its cute graphics and enemies, and because of that some will label it as mediocre or plain generic.  It's a shame, really, as I feel there's really more to this game than it often gets credit for.  Despite the lighthearted tone, the bosses themselves are really dark, one of them being Ograum Papas with his one infamous attack (I'm still wondering how that got across).  The problem I have with this game is that if all lives were lost on a certain part of the stage, then you have to start from the beginning of said stage over again, which can be really frustrating, particularly in the final stage.  But as far as challenge goes, there's enough to be had, and while Mr. Nutz is not the most challenging experience on the SNES (my vote goes to The Addams Family: Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt), it's definitely fun in its own right.  Well, to each their own (boy, I went on about this game longer then I expected to); next game!
ActRaiser [NA/EU] / Actraiser [JP]
Year: 1990, 1991 | Developer: Quintet | Publisher: Enix | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Apart from being one the first ever games released for the console, ActRaiser implemented well-done town micromanagement elements alongside decent action-platforming elements.  Sure enough, it's left quite an impact on gamers these past two decades, and some even regard as one of the best videogames ever made.  Well, I wouldn't go that far, but I do concede that it is a great classic.  The music is impressive considering the time this game came out, and I strongly feel Yuzo Koshiro did a really great job in this department.  The areas themselves are pretty to look at, like the pyramid of Kasandora and Northwall's snowy landscape.  The platforming segments are fine, but what I really enjoy whenever I play ActRaiser are the involving town simulation acts.  Surveying the premises and growing the populations is really fun, especially trying to fend off monsters and lead the town to seal their lairs.  As fun as this game is, the only two things that bring it down are the short length and the mostly easy difficulty in the story mode; the latter wouldn't be a problem so much if the challenge level gradually grew the more areas you traverse instead of just being so easy that it doesn't pose much of a challenge.  I remember having looked up that the Japanese version was more difficult, and supposedly that's what the all-action Professional Mode! is like, which actually makes up for the two flaws this game has.  One thing I like to do when I play that game mode is try to see how fast I can beat it (my fastest time is fifty-two minutes).  It's definitely one of a kind, but regardless of its issue, I still have fun with it every once in awhile.
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts
Year: 1991 | Developer/Publisher: Capcom | Played on: PlayStation Portable [Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded]
What can I say about this game that countless other gamers haven't already?  It is a fun classic, and this installment in the Ghosts'n Goblins series is my overall favorite.  So, this time around Princess Prin Prin has been kidnapped once again and it is up to the knight Arthur to save her from the bowels of Hades yet once more, only this time he will face Sardius, her new captor.  A much improved sequel to the original Ghouls'n Ghosts, the action is intense, the visuals are lovely, the level designs are sweet, and it has an amazing soundtrack.  This time around they'll try to throw every hazard they can towards Arthur, from tidal waves to sinking ships, to raft rides to climbing towers, to riding giant bowels to avalanches, and all the while there are enemies that are trying to do you in.  This game has got great ways of keeping you busy.  Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is a fun game, and even though many say it is difficult or near impossible, I presonally find the difficulty overrated.  I didn't use to think that, for at one point the game did seem impossible to me when I was younger.  But then, one day, I finally got past the second stage and managed to get past the subsequent stages, too, and when that happened, everything changed.  This is a game I enjoy playing through not once, but twice!  The weapon roster is okay, but I mostly settle with the arrows (best), knives, and spears, and I think it's cool how depending on what armor Arthur is donning the weapons will become more powerful.  That's fantastic!  I find it weird that if you open a chest with a court jester and get caught in its spell, one of the forms you'll temporarily take is that of a little girl (seriously, what the heck, Capcom?).  With all that going for it, what could possibly be wrong with this epic?  The bosses pose no challenge at all!  I find that disappointing considering the fact that the stages keep you busy, but the rewarding ending sequence makes for that.  But I digress; this is a timeless classic, and one of my all-time favorite 16-bit experiences.
Year: 1990, 1991 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
It's more of a showcase of the always impressive Mode 7 rotation and scaling effects, really, but this first racing title on the SNES is quite nice to play once in awhile.  Taking place in a futuristic world, this racer is fun to play, and I like how futuristic some of the settings look.  Each courses have their own set of races, and the four playable racing vehicles each have their distinct stats, though I mostly find myself playing as Captain Falcon.  The music's timeless, and some areas have an interesting way of challenging you; Death Wind, for one, will have you blown slightly to either the left or the right thanks to the wind, and there are even moments where you'll have to jump on futuristic jump-ramps.  Sweet!  The one thing that makes this different from the other F-Zero games is that it is one-player only, and I could understand how some gamers might not be okay with that fact, though I don't mind that so much.  As it stands, not only is this game great, but it's a fun time.
Year: 1990, 1991 | Developer/Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: SNES
Another Mode 7 showcase like F-Zero, this first generation SNES title is a childhood favorite of mine.  This flight/airborne simulation is memorable, and when I was little I remember enjoying some of the lessons.  The parachuting event is fun, the hanggliding event is amazing, the hovercraft event is impressive (the fact that you can shift point of views from third person to bird's eye is neat), and the airplane event is decent, although it's not my cup of tea.  There are even a few secret events that can be accessed should you manage to land in a certain target, such as the penguin diving event.  The playfield is highly detailed, and the visuals are awesome.  One of the things I remember enjoying the most are the cutscenes where the various instructors talk to you, and depending on how you performed they would make priceless reactions (say you did real good on Level 2's courses, then Shirley's eyes will be widely open).  There were also other moments that I thought were funny, and the island setting is nice.  After Level 4 is completed, the game shifts from lighthearted to action-packed from straight out of the nowhere as you guide a fighter-copter in order to rescue your first three instructors, which may easily catch some gamers offguard; I mean, where did that come from?  But, apart from that aspect, I like it; it's great fun.
Super Turrican 2
Year: 1995 | Developer: Factor 5 | Publisher: Ocean | Played on: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
I could never get past the third stage of the last game in the Turrican series, so I'll talk about the stuff I've experienced in this game up to that point.  As a big improvement over the first Super Turrican on the SNES, Super Turrican 2 displays atmospheric worlds, impressively well-done cutscenes, and epic background music (and thank goodness the sound effects don't obstruct the soundtrack here like the previous game did).  The turrican assualt suited hero has the same arsenal of moves from the last game, only this time you also have the ability to use the grappling hook a la Bionic Commando.  The boss fights are interesting, and I like how intricate the area designs are.  There were even moments where you shifted gameplay: one moment you would be in a run'n gun area, and the next you'd be in a third person Mode 7 cyber race.  The only downer for me is that this game only has a few continues, but even on Easy mode, this game can be very difficult for me, and I'm the type of gamer who perseveres when it comes to challenge (usually).  One day I hope to get a little farther in this game and beat it, so I'll form a proper opinion on it.  But what I played of is very decent, plus I find it a little enjoyable.