Top ten N64 games: revisited

7830_front

Many moons ago, when blogging was still relatively new to me, I did what I imagine most games bloggers above a certain age have done and wrote a to ten N64 games list. It was a pretty indulgent thing to do but I nevertheless enjoyed it immensely.

Looking back on this now, I didn’t do the best job, not really justifying my picks in any detailed sort of way. Also, I have played a few other games since then which very much need to be taken into account. Therefore I give to you my latest attempt at singling out ten games, out of a plethora of good N64, as the ‘best.’

Naturally I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree, for that nice feeling of shared experience, or passionately and pointlessly arguing against someone else’s perfectly valid opinion.

  1. Super Smash Brothers

The game that launched a franchise which was destined to become one of Nintendo’s most profitable of all time, this game does not need much in the way of introduction. The success of this game was purely down to its simple concept of throwing together the most iconic characters that Nintendo could find and making them beat the crap out of each other. Not only did this settle some childhood arguments about the relative strengths of different characters, but it also allowed a whole generation to fall out with each other and sulk for days. Satisfying gameplay, simple controls and an addictive re-playability, combined with Nintendo’s triple A intellectual properties made this a smash hit paving the way for later instalments. Unlike most of the games on this list however, it doesn’t hold up so well now. Playing it after being used to its more polished, lightning fast successors really does feel both slow and clunky. Or maybe I’m just not playing it properly. Either way, Link for the win!

  1. Jet Force Gemini

jfg-cover

Perhaps one of the few on this list which could possibly be described as underrated (or maybe not, I just don’t know anyone else personally who owned it.) Nevertheless, this game really did show off the huge amount of talent that Rare had at its disposal. Not to mention that the concept of the game is so good. Space heroes, including a flying dog, out to save small bear-like creatures from the predations of giant ants? Yes please! Add buckets of ant-gore, satisfying action and that dark humour which become so synonymous with Rare, and the result is a really excellent third person action/adventure. The only issue with this is that in order to finish the game an incredibly long and arduous process of saving every tribal and finding all of the scattered space ship parts  has to be overcome and completely de-rails the flow of the game. Still an excellent experience though.

  1. Snowboard Kids

Snowboard_Kids_Box

Possibly a game doomed to fade away into obscurity, this game deserves to be on this list and it really was a coinflip between having this game at seven or eight in this list. This polished snowboard racer really does have everything; chaotic items and weaponry, excellent course design, a reward system for pulling off complex tricks, and one of the best soundtracks to feature in any game, ever. Seriously, neighbours could be forgiven for thinking that you were mid-way through a pretty good rave once this game gets dusted off. Really wouldn’t bother with the sequel though…

  1. MarioKart 64

Mario_Kart_64box

Does this game really need its merits explained? Well, lets go over them anyway, if only for the sake of thoroughness. Building on the huge success of the first instalment on the SNES, this game has to go down as one of the best MarioKarts to date. Fantastic track design, which really brings out all of the character of the Mario universe, coupled with frantic races, cheating computers and a battle mode, (not to mention the utilising of a number of Nintendo’s best characters) combined to not only create a good game, but ensured the long term success of the franchise. This remains one of my favourite entries to date despite some slight issues with the somewhat slippery handling. It would be reasonably safe to say that this game was a triumph for multi-player gaming, and has created fond memories and excessive combativeness for a whole generation.

  1. Donkey Kong 64

donkeykong64

Another piece of Rare magic, and another IP which made the transition from 2D to 3D seamlessly, this game took a classic and re-made it into a fantastic 3D platform adventure game. The inclusion of 5 playable Kong’s, the innovative and breath-taking worlds to explore, hilarious special powers, and fruit based weapons, and overall feeling of quality, made this an unforgettable experience. The bright levels, unbelievably good level soundtracks, and awesome boss fights ensured that this game was played over and over again (despite the part of the game which demands beating the original Donkey Kong to get to the final boss being SO FRUSTRATING!)

  1. Banjo Tooie

Banjo_tooie_montage

Seriously, what was Rare on in the late nineties/early noughties and where can I get some? I agonised for a long time between putting this at the 5 or 4 slot on this list. This is definitely one of my favourite games of all time. As an adventure platforming game, this pretty much has everything. Great level design (particularly like Hailfire Peaks) most amazing, kick ass soundtrack (every tune will have you humming for days after), having a character that can split in two and or travel as a pair assisting each other with their respective skills was pretty refreshing for the time, the narrative was smart and, of course, that wickedly dark Rare humour just oozed out of the dialogue. Banjo and Kazooie have some hilarious and dark dialogue which still makes me laugh every time. This game misses out on being my favourite adventure/platforming game only due to the next entry…

  1. Super Mario 64

Super-Mario-64-U-snap0031-440x330

For many, this is game that really launched 3-D platform gaming. On a personal level I will never forget the feeling of watching 3-D Mario leaping out of the pipe and then seeing Peach’s castle looming in all its glory. That’s all before you get inside; greeted by Bowser’s sinister laugh to see all the rooms and corridors sprawling off into the distance. This game, more successfully than others of the time, managed to make every world and course completely unique and engaging, including hidden secrets and stars to find and outrageous world bosses. Rather than go on, suffice to say that this game is pretty close to perfect and is held back only by the limitations of its hardware. Then again, would this really be improved with more technical power behind it? Not really, I didn’t like the DS version of the game anywhere near as much (mostly because trying to play a 3-D game on a D-pad is just dump, and don’t get me started on trying to control with the touch screen.) This game still features in many people’s lists of best games of all time, and deservedly so.

  1. Goldeneye/Perfect Dark

GoldenEye-Vs-Perfect-Dark-Masthead

To some, it may appear heretical to lump these two games together, particularly as they are both such outstandingly good titles. However, I really couldn’t call between the two in terms of my own preference, and they largely provide the same sort of thrills. Perhaps more than any of the others, these two Rare titles are the ones which have become synonymous with N64 quality. It is very difficult to say which the better game is. Technically Perfect Dark has the edge, utilising the expansion pack to give a more polished and graphically superior game. By all other standards though, they both are too close to call. Both offer superb and engrossing storylines and excellent FPS action. Goldeneye has all of the Bond charm of the movie; Perfect Dark captures the essence of futuristic government conspiracy. Both have great multiplayers (possibly slightly better in PD due to the ability to have extra NPC combatants.) The only clear difference between the two games is that the enemy intelligence is far better in Perfect Dark.

  1. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

Link_vs._Ganon_(Ocarina_of_Time)

This is the game that really launched my obsession with games and remains one of my favourites to this day. I’m sure there is no need to explain why this game is good; you almost certainly already know why (and if you don’t what was up with your childhood?) This game has literally almost everything. So why is it at second? Well…

1. The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask

39909-Legend_of_Zelda,_The_-_Majora's_Mask_(USA)-5

Building on what made Ocarina so good, this game delivers in spades. I know that putting this ahead of Ocarina might be an unpopular choice, but out of the two I really do prefer Majora’s Mask. Sure, it doesn’t have as many temples and the boss fights are a little easy in places, but apart from that I think Mask has the edge. The sheer overwhelmingly large amount of challenges and quests to complete, coupled with the darker, more mature content (dealing largely with loss, regret, fear and death) create a far more immersive world as you get so heavily involved in the lives of the denizens of Termina. The use of masks to give Link different skills and forms adds further depth to an already winning formula. Pure magic.

Advertisements

I’ll Show You Who’s Boss! Top Ten Boss Fights

 Image

Whether you love them or hate them bosses are an integral part of many genres of video games. There are many different ways to make a boss fight entertaining, climatic atmosphere, dramatic music, stunning visual effects or even just straight up difficulty (I’m looking at you Dark Souls.) In order to celebrate the art of boss battles, I have out together a list of the top ten boss battles from games that I have played. These are not necessarily the most challenging bosses that I have faced (although some are), but many are included in the list for their sense of drama, narrative qualities, visuals or, in some cases, out and out hilarity. Obviously, there will be many great boss battles from games I have not played that I can’t include in this list, but if you have any that you think rival or beat the ones in my list then let me know so I can give them a go!

10. Taurus Demon (Dark Souls)

As most of you know, this game is terrifying and unforgiving in equal measure, the slightest mistake resulting in swift death. This is doubly so at the beginning of the game when you are just getting used to the controls and the combat system and just the kind of combat technique that Dark Souls requires in order to be successful. So you fight your way through the first level (of sorts) dying many times until finally you reach the pinnacle of the keep with a bridge leading to sweet, sweet freedom. NO! Out pops a huge demon boss ready to smash your face in. And smash your face in he does. This boss fight is terrifying for those just starting out in the game. Not only is your foe huge and powerful, but the confined space makes it so hard to stay out of its way. The damn thing is as wide as the bridge and there is nowhere to run. Suffice to say on my first run through I died several times to this. It really is a hard boss considering how close to the start of the game it is. Very few gaming experiences will equal the triumph of defeating this boss though. You really do feel like a hero.

Image

9. Trevelyan (Goldeneye)

Trevelyan himself is not that hard to face down, but when combined with the rest of the level on the hardest difficulty, this can be a real pain. Trevelyan essentially runs around the cradle as his endlessly spawning minions shoot the crap out of you. They wear armour. They re-spawn. Their guns are powerful. It is actually all too easy to run out of ammo just trying to get near enough to Trevelyan to wear him down. Eventually, (assuming you live that long) he makes a break for the final showdown at the base of the level. There is a pretty good chance you will get shot in the back by minions on one of the narrow sections were dodging is impossible and distance makes no difference to enemy accuracy. Still, once you have him cornered its a simple enough task to shoot him off the satellite to his painful death. Unless your foolish enough to try and use the ladder to get to him. Then you die 100% of the time as one hit will see you off the edge. Beware.

Image

8. Krauser (Resident Evil 4)

This is one of my favourite games of all time, and Krauser is just a pretty entertaining, hilarious friend turned enemy. This battle is not especially difficult, but it is a lot of fun. The first encounter is done entirely through cut-scenes and quick time events, which at the time was very innovative, and is incredibly tense, one wrong move seeing Leon stabbed viciously to death. The dialogue between these two former friends is great and full of emotion. The second encounter sees Krauser morph into a powerful and quick mutant with a huge claw. Going toe-to-toe with Krauser at this point is great, using quick time events and doges to avoid his powerful strikes before catching him off guard and putting a few rounds into him. His attack patterns are varied and quick enough to catch you off guard many times. This is by far one of my favourite parts of this game.

Image

7. Fyrus the Fire Demon (Twilight Princess)

I think that this game is underrated generally, the visuals are great, the music is fantastic and the dungeon design is some of the best that I have seen. Yet people seem to have a real downer on this game and I can’t understand why. Sure it doesn’t have the same charm as Ocarina or the absorbing weirdness of Majora’s Mask, but it is still a well designed and entertaining game. The dungeons are fantastic and the bosses are very well done. My favourite though is the Fire Temple boss. A huge, possessed Goron elder this boss just looks so menacing and beautiful that it really deserves a place in this list. It also has more than a whiff of a Balrog about it which for me only adds to the overall awesomeness of this boss fight.

Image

6. Mr Patch (Banjo Tooie)

If i had to try and list my top 5 favourite video games ever, this game would almost certainly make the cut. I love it that much. Its one of the best adventure platformer games out there. The boss fights are all good, but I have chosen the fight with Mr Patch as the best of them. The witty dialogue between our heroes and a self-important, smug inflatable dinosaur is hilarious and there is something inherently fun about flying around inside a big top circus tent shooting egg grenades at a dinosaur. There is also a certain degree of satisfaction in watching the boss slowly deflating to a humorous paaarrrp noise before exploding.

Image

5. The Bounty Hunters (Metroid Prime 3 Corruption)

This game is brilliant but, way, way too short. That being said the boss battles are beautifully designed, a visual feast and always challenging. My favourites though are the battles against your former bounty hunter allies. I absolutely love seeing the way that their Phazon corruption has altered their forms into twisted, energy charged versions of their former selves. The friends you knew are gone, time to take them out and give them peace.

Image

4. Ganon (Ocarina of Time)

So, you have fought your way through Ganondorf’s keep, killed his minions, climbed his tower and beaten the crap out of the evil sorcerer and freed the princess. You are feeling good at this point, just starting to relax after a job well done when suddenly a huge monster erupts out of the wreckage of your enemie’s ruined castle, wielding two enormous swords and angry as hell. Oh, and he takes your sword away and traps you in a ring of fire. Great. This boss battle looks fantastic. The figure of Ganon was designed so well, he looks evil as anything and really is huge and threatening. More than that, though, is the feeling of pressure which comes along with this boss, the feeling of being suddenly put upon and attacked is very real at that point. When you finally retrieve your Master Sword and drive it into the King of Evil’s face…..priceless.

Image

3. The Star Magician (Golden Sun 2 GBA)

In my opinion, this is one of the best RPG’s ever made, I love it so much. I may do a separate post about this game so I won’t say too much here, but suffice to say that it does so many essential RPG elements well creating an absolutely fabulous game. It was a toss up between the final boss and the Star Magician for this spot on the list. The final boss certainly feels dramatic and climatic, but I have gone for the Star Magician because it really is just so challenging. He possesses numerous attacks and spells that can wipe out most of your party’s health in one go, but he can also summon familiars to aid him. Some of these attack you with magic, others just straight up explode for huge damage; but worse than these are the healers. They can heal almost all the bosses health back in just a few turns of combat, making all your work up to that point useless and essentially restarts the combat. This means that you have to really fight tactically and oh so carefully. You need to strike the right balance between attacking the boss, killing the familiars (he can summon these many times) and not leaving yourself vulnerable to counter attack. You definitely need to have at least one party member spamming party heals every turn just to stay alive. This sounds frustrating; it isn’t. it’s very fun, and the sense of reward is proportionate to the difficulty of the task.

Image

2. Bowser (Super Mario 64)

Earning enough stars to climb the endless staircase and confront Bowser for the last time is a hugely fun journey. It was, and remains, one of the best games ever. The level leading up to Bowser with its dramatic and tension building music is just perfect. It really creates the atmosphere of a reckoning, an evil doer about to face justice through a final confrontation. It manages to successfully impart the feeling that every action in the game so far has been leading to the pivotal moment, this final clash. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Image

1. Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)

This is probably the most intense moment in a video game that I have experienced so far. Cliche as it sounds, this boss battle really will have you on the edge of your seat as you desperately try and stay alive. Either one of the two enemies alone would be manageable, but together they are a brutal and remorseless boss fight. One huge and powerful, the other quick and deadly. Focusing your efforts on one of them while avoiding the other is the only way to go if you want to survive. You kill one of them and think “Success! One down, this is going to be easier now!” Wrong. The surviving boss pulverises the body of its former ally and absorbs its energy, mutating into a massive version of itself. It’s debatable which one is worse to face as a mega boss, but I always ended up with Smough, and it was hard. Its so nerve wracking, knowing that if you fail (chances of that are pretty good) then you will have to do the whole thing all over again. Even killing one of these foes can be health sapping. Then there is just mega Smough to deal with. Already big and powerful, he becomes only more so, and is quicker than you would expect, with a huge reach using that giant hammer of his. A tough battle then, but its hard to get anymore enjoyment out of a video game than this boss battle offers.

Image

Honourable mention: All the bosses from Jet Force Gemini (N64) they are all just hilariously fun.

Top 5 Video Game Soundtracks

Image

When we talk about video games that we love, we invariably find ourselves often praising elements such as graphics, gameplay, re-playability, addictiveness and so on. These factors are, of course, very important and without some or all of these factors being done well, a game may well end up dead on its feet and relegated to the 3 for £10 section of used game stores. One element that I seem to remember most about many of my favourite games is the strength of their soundtracks. For me, this can either make or break a video game. In recognition of this fact I’ve put together a list of my top 5 video game soundtracks and in game music.

 

Pokémon (All generations)

Ok, we all know that this was going to feature on my list somewhere, but its place on the list is well warranted. The original Pokémon theme is a classic in its own right and the very sound of it summarises childhood for many video game fans. Not only are the main themes for the Pokémon games extremely iconic and catchy, but the in game wild/trainer/gym leader battle music is incredibly emotive and addictive. Even in the earlier generations when sound quality from those tiny speakers was pretty dodgy at best, the music still managed to worm its way into your brain to be regurgitated at the most socially inconvenient times. Humming the Pokémon theme tune on the bus is guaranteed to get you a seat by yourself and earn you reproachful looks from all and sundry.

 

Banjo-Tooie:

This is one of my favourite games of all time. People who have read my posts before will probably be tired of me talking about this game but it really is that good. The gameplay, level design, characters and atmosphere are all phenomenal, and the soundtrack is no less than brilliant. From the jolly opening sequence theme, which creates immediate happiness to all familiar with the game, to the in-game music the quality is outstanding. Noteworthy mentions include the melancholy spiral mountain soundtrack, Mayahem Temple, Witchyworld, Terrydactyland levels and, my personal favourite, Hailfire Peaks (both Icy and Fire sides) which never fails to blow me away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cws3qjFU94

 

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask:

To be honest, almost any Zelda game could feature on this list, Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess in particular have some cracking soundtracks to their levels which are incredibly memorable and emotive. However, Majora’s Mask just edges it for me. The music to most of their levels and the ocarina melodies are just so incredibly moving, melancholy and just downright weird. The song of healing, Clock Town’s main theme and the music for the Stone Tower stand out in my mind but there are many other examples of stunning musical composition in this game (I’m looking at you Elegy of Emptiness.) The audio effects for Zelda have always been spot on. I would recommend, if you have not already done so, to pick up a copy of the special orchestral soundtrack CD which was released with Skyward Sword, the 7 or 8 tracks included on the CD are all beautifully performed by a full orchestra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNDLoncWz30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDX4ZwUeOok

 

Donkey Kong 64

Jazz. Bongo drums. Singing Simians. This game literally has it all. The music for the in-game levels is exceptional from the joyous Jungle Japes to the dank Gloomy Galleon. Each level’s music perfectly mirrors the intended atmosphere of the level in question. My personal favourite is the classic Angry Aztec level but there are many others of an equally high quality. Except the DK rap. Never the DK rap. That can go straight to hell. (As a side-note, I never actually got to finish this game; the stupid mini game was too hard.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Smx_2U6I5_A&list=PLF089B4078C19D358

 

Super Mario 64:

Where to start with this game? Super Mario 64 is one of the best games of all time with a soundtrack to match. This game features some of the best level design on a 3D platformer ever and the music only helps to enhance the gameplay. Each tune complements the level perfectly and creates a distinct atmosphere, making each level a hugely memorable experience. I defy anyone who has prior experience of this game to hear any of the level themes on this game without being transported into a state of childhood delight. Honourable mentions include Lethal Larva Land, Shifting Sand Land, Cool, Cool Mountain and Bowser: In the Dark World. The music on the run-up to the Bowser confrontations is epic and really ramps up the tension. It’s hard to believe that anyone could not have played this game, but if you haven’t do so, but make sure it’s the N64 version rather than the DS, its way better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vthq62tj5XI&list=PLB4DC2508C4D0076D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSonGBpRMrI

The Ghost of Christmas Past- Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Image

‘Wait a minute- Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon was released ages ago, why review it now?’ I hear you say. Well, despite the fact that I have had the game for a while now, I didn’t want to write anything about it until I could spend more time playing through it, which I have now managed to do.

Diving right into the game, the premise is as uncomplicated and straightforward as that of its predecessor. You are given a Poltergust (ghost vacuum) and pointed in the direction of a series of locations which need to be rid of a slew of ghosts ranging from the mildly pesky to the down-right deranged. It sounds simple, and it is. This is a game which you really can just pick up and play right off the bat; no lengthy tutorials or back story break up the pace of the game. The mechanics are simple; stun ghosts with a burst from your flashlight and then use your Poltergust to hoover them up and trap them in a miniature ghost prison. The bigger and more powerful the ghost, the longer and more difficult this process becomes, with some requiring upgrades to both the torch and hoover to defeat. Upgrades are bought via treasure collected throughout the various levels, adding an incentive to flash and hoover literally anything that might contain treasure.

Image
Sounds simple? Yes, it is. Is it boring? Actually, no it isn’t. Despite the fact that you are essentially wandering around scooping up ghosts and treasure, the game manages to keep this feeling fresh and engaging. This is in part down to the visuals. The game looks great, with wonderful animations on both Luigi and the ghosts, and beautifully rendered environments which have a charmingly haunting, macabre look to them. The spectral effects on the ghosts is impressive, enabling them to act as you would expect a ghost to. In places they almost appear to be fluid, phasing through objects, hiding in vases and turning invisible to try and trick the eye. In addition to this, the game actually makes a good use of the 3D option. The game looks beautiful to begin with but the 3D really does bring the game to life (metaphorically speaking.)

Image
The musical composition for this game is also very good and contributes well to creating a haunting atmosphere which enables you to become fully immersed in the act of ghost hunting. Each level has its own theme music which I can guaranteed you will end up humming to yourself for days after playing. The manic cackling and gibbering of the ghosts as they go about their nefarious deeds is a nice touch which helps to add a bit of character to the games’ main enemies.

Potentially my fvourite thing about this game are the nice little Nintendo in-jokes and references scattered throughout the game such as the professor’s constant jibes at Luigi’s expense and the fact that Luigi’s mobile phone is an old DS with the Luigi’s Mansion theme tune as its ring tone. The quirky humour and simple, addictive gameplay combine to make a highly enjoyable game which you can pick up and play at any time without suddenly losing hours of your day. The levels come in short enough bursts to allow this while still retaining an air of substance. The main criticism of this games predecessor on the GameCube was that it was far too short, and i’m happy to say that this has been heeded, there are now plenty of levels to play through, but not so many that it becomes stale.

Any downsides? Well, there is no denying that the game is pretty easy overall. The game can be beat without too much difficulty. However, the main difficulty is found in trying to find all the Boo’s hidden within each level and scoring the highest level grades for capturing all ghosts and treasure without taking too much damage or losing too much time. Despite some problems with difficulty levels this game is well worth a look and is yet another example of quality 3DS gaming.

Super Paper Mario

Image

 

I was thwarted in my efforts to settle down and play some GameCube classics (I was hankering to play some Super Mario Sunshine, it was really cold that day) by my memory card disappearing. This was tragic, even more so due to the hours and hours of Timesplitters 2 data that would now be lost. Instead, I decided to crank out my old Wii and play a game that I had hitherto not got around to doing so; Super Paper Mario. I got this game a few years back and never seemed to find the time to play it. It turns out that I had been missing out. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series it is a part platformer, part RPG where the landscape and characters are rendered in 2D out of paper. The main catch of this game is that you can flip the 2D level around to defeat monsters or move through areas which would otherwise be impossible. Mario and co can turns sideways to slip through the tiniest of gaps, and turning the level into the 3D perspective can reveal previously hidden items and pathways.

Image

This makes the gameplay sound gimmicky, but it isn’t. Once you get used to the concept you find yourself seamlessly switching between dimensions to progress through levels and find hidden treasures. The level of detail and complexity in the level design is staggering, and when you play through the levels you really get a sense that this is a game that has had a huge amount of passion and skill gone into its design. Obviously, being a Mario platformer (sort of) the gameplay itself feels great. Mario feels sharp and responsive, the platforming element is enormous fun and the dialogue between the characters is hilarious. This is another great example of a Nintendo game that does not take itself too seriously and is full of Nintendo in-jokes, poking fun at itself and the genre in general. What of the RPG element? Well, its pretty simple. Points earned in the levels by killing enemies and so on are used to level up your party giving them increased health and attack strength and so on. The great thing about it is that it does not involve any serious stat crunching and your whole party levels up rather than the individual characters avoiding the problem of some characters being overpower or neglected. This keeps the game flowing along at a brisk pace rather than being bogged down by the RPG element. It is a nice addition that keeps the game feeling fresh but does not intrude too much.

However, it is the visuals of the game that truly stand out. This is a great example of a game where pre-rendered, hand drawn visuals can look far more detailed and beautiful than any super realistic game. The characters and backdrops and beautifully designed and detailed, comprised of astonishing textures and colours. The animations are handled very well and add a great level of depth to the game. Its the little things that seem to make all the difference; the way that new levels are drawn in front of you in an etch-a-sketch style before being coloured in and detailed, or the way that between scenes the world gets crumpled up and crunched together before the new scene opens up. I love the way that in some parts of the game you can warp between the levels and the backgrounds of the levels to press hidden switches or collect items. The boss fights look spectacular, with huge creatures made from paper leaping out to waylay Mario and his party in the pursuit of their quest; they never fail to look stunning and a treat for the eyes.

Image
This is definitely a game I would recommend, even to those who are not usually keen on platforming games in general. The way it is presented is so clever and visually stunning that you may find yourself enjoying the game anyway even if platforming isn’t your thing. The N64 and GameCube both had Paper Mario games released on them which were better received by critics, and focused more onthe RPG side of things. I haven’t played them (they are too pricey to pick up at the moment) so I can’t comment on which game is best. I can however, say that this game as a stand-alone title is fantastic and well worth picking up second hand. This is also the kind of game that I could see working really well on the WiiU’s HD format…..

Nintendo Adventure Books

Image

 

Does anyone else remember the Nintendo Adventure books? I had completely forgotten about them until I stumbled across them by chance on another blog. Looking back on it these books formed a fairly large part of my reading roster as a child. For those who haven’t read them, the Nintendo Adventure books are a great series based around stories set in the Mario and Zelda universes. In a style similar to that of the Goosebumps books (another childhood favourite) the majority of the stories incorporate an element of choice into the story telling. Each decision leads you to different pages and ultimately to different endings. The choices that you make can literally make the difference between character’s living and dying. If they die its game over and you have to go back to an earlier point of the book and try again. I really loved them because literature was a love of mine long before video-gaming was, so it was great to read books which contained my favourite video game stars. The element of choice in the books was also entertaining and allowed you to feel more involved in the story, and as such made you feel more immersed in the gaming universes. My particular favourite in the Mario series involves a story where Mario needs to be shrunk so that he can rescue Luigi from Yoshi’s stomach. As far as I can remember Yoshi had eaten Luigi at his birthday party, possibly mistaking him for cake.

Image

Thinking about these books has made me realise that I very much enjoy reading stories or comics about gaming characters. They add an extra element of depth to many of the characters, and this helps to bring them to life. A good example of this would be the Sonic comics that I used to collect as a child. I honestly have no idea if they are still in print (I suspect not) but they were fantastic. They not only had great story lines and lovely artistic style, but they also managed to give more life to many of Sonic’s supporting cast, many of whom remain pretty anonymous in the games themselves. If you can manage to get your hands on either the books of the comics, do so. Obviously they will be a tad too simplistic for an adult audience but are nevertheless worth a read, at the very least any kids/nieces and nephews you have will love them.

Image

Top Ten Video-Gaming Moments

Image

Several weeks have now passed since the chaotic releases of the now current-gen consoles, to rather mixed receptions, some glowing, others less so. The main gripe that people have had so far revolves around the lack of hard hitting exclusive games on each platform. This is not terribly surprising since launch titles are never usually the best a console will offer. As we head towards the New Year and a 2014 filled with brand new gaming experiences I’m sure that both platforms will step up with a whole host of games filled with exquisite gaming moments. In honour of the occasion I have compiled my top ten gaming moments, moments which remind you why you love gaming in the first place. This list is obviously only my opinion based on the games I have played but I would love to know which moments make your top ten.

10. First exploration of Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64

This is one of the first games that I owned on the excellent N64 and remains a favourite to this day. The game is filled with many great moments but for me, the most stand-out moment is entering Peach’s Castle for the first time. This is one of the first games to use a 3D explorable hub as a means of moving from level to level and, I must say, did it beautifully. The sense of space and scale was incredible. Seemingly infinite rooms branching off in all directions, massive gardens (filled with Boos) and basements to work through, and huge Mario themed artworks festooning the walls, all enjoyed to the backdrop of a regal musical accompaniment. The levels themselves are perfectly designed, but the addition of the hub lends a wonderful cohesiveness to the game.

9. Arrival in Oblivion/Skyrim

I have put these two together because the positives that they have are identical. As you emerge from the sewers (damn sewers) or dragon ravaged towns to emerge on the main world map, the feeling of freedom within the game is brilliant. You are given vague directions towards a main goal but equally you are free to just wander off wherever you like. Not many games have done this as well as the Elder Scrolls games. In Oblivion you are faced with a vast beautiful expanse full of colour and burgeoning possibilities that just demand to be explored. It is the same for Skyrim although, of course, the world seems harsher and starker, but no less beautiful. Both games offer a huge and, at first, seemingly overwhelming amount of freedom and choice, and this is most apparent when you first venture out into the vast wilderness.

8. Finding the last mask in Majora’s Mask

This game was slated by many fans of the series for being too small as it only contains 4 traditional Zelda dungeons. However, this game was far from small. Every mask that you had to collect involved the telling of a mini story, which gave a real depth to the world of Termina and its inhabitants. They became real people with real problems and not just irrelevant NPCs to interact with. By the time that you have found the last mask out of 20, you have completed 20 mini side quests, helped dozens of people, performed a complex array of tasks, and travelled back and forwards in time more times that you could possible count. You have changed the world of Termina for the better. The attainment of the last mask is the end of a long and immersive journey, and never fails to feel well earned.

7. Defeating the Elite 4 and Lance the Dragon Master in Pokémon HeartGold

Defeating these opponents feels hugely satisfying. You started out with one weak level 5 starter Pokémon, but through innumerable battles and showdowns you have raised it and at least 5 other Pokémon from humble beginnings to fully evolved and strong Pokémon. As such you really care about the Pokemon under your command and the sense of achievement is strong as you face down and defeat the very toughest trainers that Johto and Kanto have to offer to take your place in the Hall of Fame.

6. Defeating the first boss in Dark Souls

This game is littered with amazing moments so picking just one is particularly hard. I initially thought that the showdown with Lord Gwyn at the end of the game, but after reflection settled on the killing of the first boss. At this point you are new to the game, still finding your feet, cutting down hollows and knights, but still dying a lot. At first the demon boss occupying the bridge seems to be an unbeatable foe, but after many attempts you learn the skills to take him down and kill him in a furious and hair-raising struggle that leaves you out of breath and exhausted but full of triumph. If you haven’t played this, go do so, you’ll see what I mean. The sense of victory against impossible odds is great.

5. Becoming adult Link in Ocarina of Time

After opening the Door of Time Link steps forward and grasps the Master Sword, and makes videogame history. The moment that Link awakens and realises his adult self is stunning as you transform from a child to the Hero of Time, Master Sword in hand, is one that I, and many others I’m sure, will never forget.

4. Defeating Bowser for the final time in Super Mario 64

After climbing the previously infinite stairway, the final confrontation with Bowser awaits. You have explored numerous worlds, collected 120 stars, and defeated countless numbers of Bowser’s minions. The moment when Bowser starts moving towards you to attack sent a thrill down my spine. You have chased him across worlds to this point, but you both know that there is no escape for either of you at this point, it’s the final confrontation. The feeling of elation when you throw Bowser into a bomb for the last time is huge; the last act in an amazing game against the most iconic villain in video-game history.

3. The village scene in Resident Evil 4

Like Dark Souls, this is a game which is crammed full of great moments, but for me the best moment has to be Leon’s first trip into the village. So far only a handful of Ganados at a time have been attacking you and you’re thinking, this OK, nothing I can’t handle. Then you go through the gate and suddenly a whole village is after you, your safe refuge being broken into by a huge maniac with a chainsaw and a bag over his head, intent on beheading you. This was shit scary the first time. It feels as if there is nowhere to hide from a whole village full of pitchfork wielding locals all trying their very best to kill you. This scene exemplifies the qualities that make this game great, it’s fast paced, action packed, scary, brutal, and makes you feel terribly alone against overwhelming odds. Surviving it makes you feel like a hero. Only 900 more Ganados to go, eh?

2. Killing Trevelyan in Goldeneye

This is the climax to one of the best games ever and really feels that way. You have finally cornered this shadow, this phantom that you have been pursuing for the whole game. The race through the cradle is brilliant, and, is actually still tricky on the higher difficulties. The enemies are numerous with powerful weapons, infinitely respawning. You have little ammo and limited health, and all the while you have to keep pace with the fleeing figure of Trevelyan, trying to damage him enough to make him take his final stand and trying to keep yourself alive. It’s not easy. Hence the elation when you finally blast him off the satellite. How many times did you die before figuring out not to use the ladder?

1. Ganon Attacks! (Ocarina of Time)

So, you have freed all the sages, cleared all the temples, stormed Ganondorf’s castle and tower and defeated the man himself. So its over now, yes? No. Just as you go to make your escape the figure of Ganondorf emerges from the ruins of his castle and uses the power of the Triforce to transform into the monstrous Ganon, revealing the actual final showdown of the game. It’s a huge moment in video-gaming and was actually surprising the first time through, his appearance enough to quash the triumph that you were feeling at defeating Ganondorf. The Master Sword is knocked out of Link’s hand making you feel utterly defenceless against this huge monster. Perfect.