Review: Castlevania

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When I was a kid, no other game had cooler monsters and a scarier atmosphere than Castlevania. It’s creepy, but just campy enough to keep you from getting scared. For those that are not familiar, here’s the set up: Transylvania, a place we all know and love. Filled with gypsies and creepy things. But, every 100 years the land is plagued by the ghostly return of the legendary vampire, Count Dracula. Throughout history, a family of warriors known as the Belmont Clan have always stepped forward to eliminate the threat.

The year is 1691 and Dracula has risen again, this time the hero is a young man named Simon Belmont. He must enter the fortress of Castlevania and make his way through the haunted castle, fighting armies of skeletons, zombies, and other monsters. His ultimate goal: hunt down and slay the evil Count Dracula.

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Simon Belmont is armed with an enchanted whip: The Vampire Killer. Throughout the game, this is main form of attack. Although, he will eventually find various other weapons to help him out. The first level begins in the courtyard of the haunted castle, and takes Simon into the lobby. As the game progresses, Simon continues to infiltrate deeper into the castle. Each level is guarded by a “boss monster”. These bosses start easy and get progressively harder. Below is a list of the areas and the bosses that protect them.

Castle Courtyard and Entrance: Giant Vampire Bat

Castle Tower: Medusa

Castle Roof and Turrets: Mummies

Castle Catacombs and Lab: Frankenstein’s Monster and Igor.

The Dungeons: The Grim Reaper (Death)

The Clock Tower and Dracula’s Chamber: Count Dracula

The game starts off fairly easy but get harder as it goes on. By the time you’re to the mid-way point, you’re ready to pull your hair out. The fight with Death, is so difficult its maddening. Very few casual players ever make it past the reaper… Compared to Death, Dracula (who is the final boss) is easy.

Once Dracula is defeated, you’re treated to scene of Castlevania crumbling into ash and there is a really corny credit scroll filled with various puns. In my opinion, it really ruins the actual “horror feel” of the game. Konami, the publisher of Castlevania, was infamous for inserting these terrible jokes into games during the localization process.

Overall the best thing about this game is the music. WOW. This is some good stuff, you’ll be humming it for hours afterwards. Not to mention, anytime you hear it, you’ll have whip flashbacks…

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Difficulty: Very Difficult –  For many players, Castlevania consists of only two or three levels. Because for most, that’s as far as they get before walking away from the game in disgust. After that point, the game is brutal. That being said, those willing invest a little time and patience should eventually manage to get through. The boss fights seems a bit out of balance. For me, the Grim Reaper was always the hardest boss in the game. Much harder than the final boss, Dracula.

Story: The story is a bit strange. Here, we have taken Dracula, an iconic figure, and inserted him into a game with a different hero. It seems a bit unusual, but it works. The game itself is basically a tour classic horror movie monsters, set within the confines of creepy castle walls.

Originality: Castlevania was unlike many of the platformers that were popular at the time. Giving the hero a whip seemed a bit refreshing for some reason. The idea of making a showcase for various horror movie icons is a campy, but very fun.

Soundtrack: While I’ve heard better 8bit soundtracks, the music of Castlevania is catchy and very well crafted. This game introduces some iconic themes that still last into today’s Castlevania releases. Great stuff here.

Fun: If you like cheesy horror movies, and creepy environments, this is a fun stroll. However, for younger players and those that get frustrated easily, your enjoyment will often be ruined by the intense difficulty some parts of the game have to offer.

Graphics: The NES version of the game lacks a bit compared to some of the arcade cabinets. But I tend to forgive this as this was one of Konami’s first big titles on the NES. Everything on the screen is pretty much discernible, and still manages to capture that “creepy castle” feel.

Playcontrol: Overall, no big complaints. The jumping in the game can be a little stiff at times, and some jumps require you to be pretty precise. What little quirks the game does have with the controls, are easy to get used to after a while.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Another 8bit classic. For many, this little is something once visited and remembered. However, it is notable for launching a truly iconic series. Opinions on this game are all over the spectrum. Personally, I can easily look past it’s faults and enjoy it for what it is.

Available now on: Wii/WiiU Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Zelda II – The Adventure of Link

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As one would suspect, after the smashing success of The Legend of Zelda, a sequel was not too far behind. For the follow-up, Nintendo made the bold move to creating an entirely different game. Unlike it’s predecessor, Zelda II is not presented entirely in a top-down, bird’s-eye view. Instead, this game consists of two different modes: travel mode and action mode. Travel mode resembles the familiar top-down view from the previous game. This is what you see as Link makes his way across the vast world map. However, when he encounters monsters, enters a town, or enters a palace, the game switches to a side scrolling action mode.

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Link earns experience points from enemy kills that allows him to get stronger as you progress through the game. Link can also learn magic spells and combat techniques from various NPCs hidden throughout the game.

Zelda II begins not long after the end of the first title. On Link’s 16th birthday a mysterious crest resembling the triforce appears on his hand. Link visits the royal palace to inquire about its meaning. It is there that he learns not long after his victory against Ganon, princess Zelda was cursed by a sleeping spell. The only cure is the recovery of the third Triforce artifact, the Triforce of Courage. It is kept locked away in a great palace. To gain entry, Link must venture to the six lesser palaces, defeat their guardians and place a magic crystal into a hidden statue.

Zelda II is a good game in its own right, but it suffers when compared to the original. It simply doesn’t retain the magic that made the first game special. The sidescrolling action just doesn’t feel like it belongs here and the overhead view features graphics that are actually a downgrade from those in the original game. That being said, some parts of the game are indeed memorable and it still manages to maintain its status as a classic NES title.

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Difficulty: Difficult –  In my opinion, this title is a bit harder than the original. The side scrolling battles can be a bit awkward and clunky. Some of the bosses are pretty tough without a specific strategy in mind.This game is extremely frustrating for my 8 year old son.

Story: I’m impressed by the fact that this is not simply a “Ganon has returned from the dead!” scenario. It seems that Nintendo put a lot of thought into creating something different. When considering the Zelda series as a whole, you can really see that a rich storyline is beginning to develop for the world of Hyrule.

Originality: Nintendo definitely gets marks for trying something new with this title. Unfortunately, I feel that their efforts fell a little flat. The sidescrolling play didn’t seem to fit in well, in my opinion. But despite missing the mark a bit, it is still pretty refreshing to see a game company not afraid to try some new things.

Soundtrack: The music is quirky and catchy, but it doesn’t hold the same aura of mystique and epicness that original game did.

Fun: This game has it’s moments but overall it’s definitely not a favorite of mine. Some of the last dungeons are pretty brutal and the game has a very repetitive feel after awhile. I feel that the game overall had a lot of potential, but I think it would have benefited with a little more time and tweaking before release. Despite these criticisms, playing the game today, I find it quite enjoyable mainly for nostalgic reasons. So, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Graphics: This is weird one. The sidescrolling parts of the game a fairly well done, but still not as good as many other games that were released at the time. The overworld map, however, looks dismal. The graphics actually feel like a step backwards.

Playcontrol: The sidescrolling combat seems clunky and at times, inaccurate. As usual, it’s even worse on the virtual console. In my opinion, the game suffers in the category.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Make no mistake, this is a classic title and I recommend it for its historical value, but I feel that overall it’s a fairly mediocre game. Which is sad being that is the sequel to one of the Nintendo’s most legendary titles.

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: The Legend of Zelda

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It didn’t matter if you were a fan of “sword and sorcery” games or not. When you saw the shiny gold cartridge that contained The Legend of Zelda, you were intrigued. At least, this was true for me. Until Zelda came along, I never gave much thought to things like wizards and dragons. I was all about spaceships and robots. But the lure of that glittering gold cart enticed me. Yes, the game cartridges for The Legend of Zelda were not grey in color like most others, but instead,as mentioned above, they were golden.

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I may have been initially lured by the physical box the game has housed in, but I was hooked by the game itself as soon as I pressed the power button. Instantly, I was hypnotized by a haunting lovely melody and the slow pulse of a the glowing title screen. It was digital crack.

The Legend of Zelda takes place in the far away land of Hyrule.  Zelda, the princess of Hyrule has been kidnapped by the evil Ganon. Ganon came into possession of an ancient artifact known as the Triforce of Power. Using it, he has taken over the kingdom with his terrible monsters. Our hero is a young man named, Link. Link must explore the kingdom in search of a similar artifact called the Triforce of Wisdom. However, for protection it has been cut into the eight separate pieces. Once the artifact is assembled, Link will have the power he needs to challenge Ganon and free princess Zelda.

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Link begins the game with no weapons or items at his disposal. But almost immediately he is given a wooden sword. Other items drop from defeating enemies and conquering various dungeons found through the game. These dungeons also hold pieces of the Triforce Link needs to complete his quest. They are scattered across the kingdom and Link must find them and defeat the monsters that reside in each and collect the Triforce piece and progress further.

Eventually, link makes his way to the final dungeon at Spectacle Rock. However, be warned, only a hero with the right weapons will be able to deal that final blow to Ganon! Once the game is complete, you unlock the ability to play the “2nd Quest” – the same game, but with a newly designed set of challenges.

The Legend of Zelda was the first of its kind and it spawned many sequels. It stands as one of Nintendo’s greatest successes – right up there with Mario. These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find many people between the ages of 25-40 that are not familiar with Link and his epic search for the Triforce.

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Difficulty: Medium –  For the most part, things are pretty easy going. In the beginning there’s a bit of a challenge until Link gets some decent equipment. However, players who are willing to exercise a little patience, and take the time time to locate many of the hidden power ups won’t have much of a problem until the last few levels. At that point, things get a little tough again.

Story: Originally, the story seemed a bit shallow. However, this was largely due to very poor in-game translation and a thoughtless game manual. Being the first title in the series, this game lays the groundwork for what will eventually become a mythology all it’s own.

Originality: Good marks here. The formula for the game, in a small way, is a bit like Metroid. You have a whole world before you. You can explore it as you wish. However, there are many roadblocks along the way that will become passable as you progress. The overhead view is nice change in a a world that was typically dominated by sidescrolling games. This was one of the first games I remember with a stash of collectible equipment the player could swap out and select as needed.

Soundtrack: Haunting, ambient, and adventurous! Great stuff here. Timeless themes.

Fun: This is classic game with hours of fun. There’s no telling how many times I’ve played through this game from start to finish. It never gets old.

Graphics: The graphics in this game are a little hard to define. I get impression that the art direction in the game is supposed to have a “cartoonish” feel to them. Colorwise- it succeeds. The biggest problem is that with such a wide view, there’s not a lot of detail. Regardless, everything on the screen is clear. There’s really no question what various on-screen objects are supposed to be. For an overhead game, the graphics were good enough.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This applies to both the original release as well as the modern-day ports available. The overhead view of the game, and simple controls lead to an all-around precise experience.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is classic 8-bit Nintendo at it’s finest. For all the reasons listed above, this is one title that I have to recommend to every player regardless of age.

Available now on: Wii Viritual Console, Nintendo eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: Metroid

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I love looking back at the these old games. When I think of classic NES titles, Metroid is one that immediately comes to mind. I received my first NES as a Christmas present and Metroid is one of the games I received along with it. It has captivated me ever since.

In Metroid, you play the galactic bounty hunter, Samus Aran. Samus is sent on a mission to infiltrate a secret base of Space Pirates on the world of Zebes. The pirates have stolen a batch of organisms known as Metroids from a research lab, and are illegally breeding the creatures for warfare. Samus’s mission is to sneak into their stronghold, exterminate the Metroid, and destroy the pirate’s base.metroid_nes-5B1-5D

Samus begins the game equipped only with an upgrade-able suit of armor and an arm cannon for defense. As you explore the planet, new weapons and enhancements are added to the arsenal, thus unlocking new areas to explore. The planet is home to two “mini-bosses” known as Kraid and Ridley. But, the whole space pirate operation is actually controlled by a cybernetic organism known as “The Mother Brain”. After much exploring and problem-solving, Samus eventually defeats the Mother Brain only to a planetary self-destruct sequence. If Samus manages to escape, the game is won.

The challenge of Metroid lies in search and discovery the various items needed to progress further into the title. As you continue to dive deeper into the mysterious planet, you uncover various areas, each with their own unique atmosphere. As you continue play the game, you will constantly move back and forth between these various environments.

The game uses a password-based system to allow players to save their progress. This method seems antiquated by today’s standards, but worked very well at the time.

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If you manage to complete the game in a certain period of time, it will be revealed that Samus Aran is actually a female. These days, that may not seem like a very big deal, at the time of the game’s release a female bounty hunter was something that surprised many players.

Many games have since been released that have copied the Metroid formula for success. What makes Metroid truly stand out is the fact that it was the first and arguably, the best. The developers did an amazing job of creating a truly alien environment for the player to explore. Everything from the strange creatures, to the unearthly soundtrack make for a great experience. This is one title that I certainly recommend for any gamer. It’s makes for a great latenight play-a-thon.

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Difficulty: Medium –  In early parts of the game, before Samus is equipped with a decent arsenal of weapons and energy tanks, things can be dicey. Patience is key. If you take your time, and don’t rush headfirst into a room of aliens you will be ok. The players that takes the time to explore and uncover a good amount of loot won’t have too much of a problem. Most the minibosses have their own tips and tricks that make them easier to defeat. Weapon selection is key.

Story: At first, the story seems just a little bit shallow. It’s good backdrop to the game, but provides little else at first glance. However, as the series developed later, the story behind Metroid is expanded and becomes quite a complex tale.

Originality: At the time it was released, Metroid was hands down a new experience. Nothing like it had ever been seen. The formula behind the gameplay proved to be so popular that many titles in the future would imitate it.

Soundtrack: Weird, alien, fitting. Again, another first. The music in the game is so unlike anything I had encountered before. Very ambient, with strange reverberated notes and mechanical noises. The tunes are still catchy today. I love it.

Fun: By now it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the game. I never fail to have a good time when I put it in.

Graphics: This was a launch title for the NES and in a way, it shows. The graphics are clear and the characters are distinguishable. But there’s not much going on in the background of the levels. Most of the backdrop is just solid black. That is my only real complaint.

Playcontrol: Spot on with the original release. After a few hours with the game, you really get a feel for what Samus is capable of. The Virtual Console version suffers from minor imprecision, but this, as usual, is due to the difference in the controller and not the emulation. I have never experienced this on my 3DS version

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Metroid is a classic NES title and one that I feel everyone should experience. I introduced my son to it when he was about 6 years old and he’s loved it since day one. If you have never played it, you’re really missing out. It stands the test of time well.

Available now on: Wii Virtual Console, 3DS eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

MetroidMetroid IISuper Metroid – Fusion – Zero Mission – Prime – Prime II – Prime III – Other M

Review: Super Mario Bros 3

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Oh, Super Mario Bros. 3. How I longed to get my hands on this game as a child… I remember my first encounter with this title. I was at an arcade machine in a Japanese shopping mall and immediately became re-obsessed (Is that even a word?). It was Mario as I’d never seen him before. This time instead of just stomping turtles and mushrooms, Mario could fly! He could throw hammers, swim like a frog, it was glorious for a young child like me. But alas, I did not get to spend the time I wanted with the machine before being torn away by my parents. The travesty!

A few months later, the game was officially unveiled to the western audience thanks two a 2 hour long Nintendo commercial – err… motion picture – called The Wizard. When the game was unveiled in that movie, there was an audible gasp heard across the theater. It sent kids into a fever pitch. Of course, I had encountered the game in the wilds of Japan, but I cannot described how excited I was to know I would finally get my hands on this game at home.

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Mario 3 was the game to have at the time. It represented Nintendo at their finest. Everything that was loved and cherished by Mario fans was cranked up a notch with this this title. Exotic locales, strange and quirky power ups. The new overhead map system, complete with secret areas was an innovative and welcome touch. It was, and still is, a magical title.

This time, Bowser and his children had turned the various rulers of the Mushroom World into animals and stolen the throne from under them. It is up to Mario to defeat them and transform the mushroom royalty back into their proper form!

Playing through this game again as part of  the Mario 25th Anniversary collection reminded what a classic title this was. This cartridge is a fine example of the what the original NES was capable of. Its hard to say this, because the first two entries in the series are classics in their own right, but if you had to choose one of the original 8-bit Mario titles as best representative of the original trilogy, I’d have to give this one the honor.

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Difficulty: Medium– Probably the most difficult of the original trilogy (not counting Lost Levels). Some of those floating ship levels can be a real pain. But nothing too difficult without a little practice.

Story: Same old basic plot, but with a few new twists. But hey, it’s Mario.

Originality: While it’s obvious to see the progression of the series, there’s enough original ideas here to really make the game shine on it’s own. The mini games, map system, and diverse levels really make this game a breath of fresh air for the series.

Soundtrack: More fun, silly tunes! A classic soundtrack. Nothing else to say.

Fun: This is a great buddy game. The two player system makes for a lot of fun more so than in SMB 1. The color level design and quirky enemies add a lot of fun to this game.

Graphics: This is pretty much the original 8 bit Nintendo at it’s best. Nothing was on par with this at the time it was released.

Playcontrol : By this stage in it’s development, Nintendo had perfected the control scheme. On the original hardware, it’s a nearly flawless execution. The Virtual Console versions suffers many of the same issues that often come up with VC games. You’re playing on a control not originally designed for the game. There are some minor quirks, but nothing too bad.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars –  If somehow you’ve missed this title. You owe it to yourself to check it out. This is classic Mario at it’s prime.

Available today on: Wii, Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

Review: Super Mario Bros. 2

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I still remember the day I got my first issue of Nintendo Power magazine. Not only was it MY first issue, but it was also THE first issue. Featured on the front cover was a colorful clay sculpture of Mario and the words “Super Mario Bros. 2“. I had never been more excited.

When I finally got my hands on the game, I was a bit perplexed. Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Little did I know at the time, but our Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually another game changed up and turned into a sequel for American audiences. (Well, actually it was a Mario game, turned into another game, turned BACK into a Mario game… but that’s another story..) Instead of Gombas and Koopas, there were little midgets wearing masks, and strange bird-ladies shooting eggs out of their noses…  HUH? Also, jumping on an enemy does not kill them. WHAT?! We we not in the Mushroom Kingdom anymore, that much is for certain….

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Once again, for the sake of this playthrough, I chose to play the All-Stars version of the game, due to the improved graphics. In Mario 2, you get to choose your character at the beginning of every level. You can pick from Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Princess Toadstool. Each character has their own advantages. So the common strategy for me is to choose whichever person is best suited for the level you’re about to play.

This time playing through, I actually found the game to be a lot more likable than I remember as a kid. This was another one of those titles that everybody and their grandmother owned, so I had played through it countless times and eventually it got bored with it. I guess all the years away from it have done some good, because I actually had a blast playing it again.

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I was pleased with my ability to remember many of the secret rooms and power-ups even after all these years. One ability I seem to have lost with time, however, is the bonus game at the end of each level. In Mario 2, after each level is completed, you get to spend any coins that you’ve earned on a slot machine style mini-game that rewards extra lives. Back in the day I had a knack for scoring triple cherries almost every time, thus earning a ton of 1ups. It seems I have lost my touch.

In an odd turn of events, this title does not feature Bowser, instead the final boss is an evil frog wizard known as Wart. Upon completion of the title, you discover that the whole thing was dream created by a sleeping Mario. Well gee… that always seemed a like a cop-out to me. However, looking back in retrospect, I am able to forgive this silliness.

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Difficulty: Medium –  Overall, I find this game to be much easier than the first two titles in the series. Most the really tough spots don’t manifest until the later levels. Some of the boss fights are tricky, especially when you have to catch projectiles in mid-air and toss them at the monsters.

Story: Completely different than the original, Mario finds a door that takes him to a strange land filled with odd creatures. No rescuing the princess this time! Still sparse on the plot line, but definitely fresher than we’ve seen in the series.

Originality: I have to give this title a pretty good score here. This is very different from it’s predecessors. It’s quirky and fun, and was unlike anything us Mario fans were expecting at the time.

Soundtrack: Fun, silly tunes! Who could forget that opening theme for world 1-1? Good stuff here.

Fun:  I find this game to be one I recommend often for family game nights. It’s just right children around age 8+. My family has a lot of fun passing the controller back and forth between levels and turns. Despite the challenge in later levels, it never gets exceeding frustrating.

Graphics: Colorful, fun. An improvement over the original in terms of graphics. Again, this is based on the game at the time of release. I apply the same rating to both the original 8bit and the 16bit remake.

Playcontrol: The Wii version of the games suffers the same issues as many NES platformers do. Sometimes the controls feel a bit laggy, or imprecise. However, it seems to be a bit better than Super Mario or The Lost Levels. No sure why.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 Stars –  Another classic from my youth. It doesn’t matter which version you might play. This is a must have for any video game collection.

Available today on: Wii, Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

Review: Super Mario Bros – The Lost Levels

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Continuing on with my Super Mario series playthrough, I’m brought to the next installment in the series, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.  This title was released in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2 – For Super Players. It was the original sequel to SMB and was designed with a much higher degree of difficulty.

This game is hardcore beyond all human reasoning. The premise is the same as the original Super Mario Bros, but with the added option of playing either Mario or Luigi  in single-player mode. (Luigi has different jump physics, thus making the experience drastically different). The levels in this game are extremely difficult. Sometimes laughably-so. There are pits the span 1/4th of the entire stage that can only be crossed by bouncing off the backs of flying turtles. If you manage that, you’re likely to find an arm of fireballs waiting for you on the other side. One of more popular upgrades to the game is the introduction the poisonous mushroom, a trap disguised as a power up. Touching it will either weaken Super Mario or kill regular Mario. There are also trampolines that will launch Mario completely off of the screen leaving the player to guess where he might land. It is sheer terror, but in a good way.

I did it once back in 2003 and I said I would never do it again. But, yesterday, I played through this title all the way to the end, and I managed to do so without warping. World 1-9 and A-D. If you’ve ever played this title, you’ll probably agree that that is quite a feat.

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The game was rejected for release in the US by Nintendo of America due to high degree of difficulty. It didn’t see a  western-release until the Super Mario All-Stars collection, many years later. That being said, the All-Stars version is actually EASIER than the original 8-bit release. In the original release, you must play through the game a total of EIGHT TIMES to unlock the secret “A-D” levels. In the re-release, playing through it once without warping is enough. The JP audience also had the slap-in-the-face of starting back on the first level of whichever world they were on if they had to use a “continue”. The updated version allows players continue on the same level in which they die. If you are a Mario fan, and you have the patience, I do recommend playing through this title at least once in your life. There’s a lot of cute Easter egg-type of content in the game if you have the willingness to play all the way through.

Other than the ramped up difficulty, and the new challenges listed above, it’s very similar to the original classic. After clearing this game, I felt like I could handle just about anything Nintendo could throw at me. Finishing this game was a proud accomplishment.

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Difficulty: ExtremeThis game makes the original SMB look like a cake walk. I’m not exaggerating this one bit. As far as twitch/platformers go, this is probably the most difficult I have ever played.

Story: The exact same plot as the original. But If you look at this as a harder version of the first title, it’s easy to forgive.

Originality: While this title really doesn’t bring anything original to the series, its intention was to be nothing more than a challenge for people who fancied themselves to be SMB experts. While many aspects of the game are the same, there are several new twists and tricks that will throw many veteran players off.

Soundtrack: Identical soundtrack to the first release, but classic tunes nonetheless.

Fun: This game is so difficult that after a certain point, playing it is almost a chore. Many points in the game make you ask yourself “Why am I doing this? This is not fun.” However, finally finishing the game, does seem to make it all worth it. Again, it is what it is, an extreme challenge.

Graphics: Both 8bit and 16bit versions were pretty much state of the art at the time of release. The original NES version actually offers a slight improvement over the original.

Playcontrol : The Wii version of the games suffers the same issues as many NES platformers do on the virtual console; sometimes the controls feel a bit laggy, or imprecise.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 Stars – This is a classic title, and I do recommend it to any Mario fan. However, due to the extreme level of difficulty and the lack of any real innovation, I cannot rate it as high as the original SMB. This is not a title for a the casual player. Young children will more than likely be turned off by it. But if you’re wanting to prove to the world that you are a Mario Master, than look no further.

Available today on: Wii, Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

Review: Super Mario Bros.

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Working on this blog and waxing nostalgic about old games really got me hankering to play some. So tonight I decided to have a little quality time with my son by breaking out some old school Mario. A couple years ago, I picked up the Mario 25th Anniversary disc on Wii. This is essentially nothing more than Super Mario All-Stars on a disc, but having the updated version or the first four Mario games all in one collection is a really a great value. If you can still find a copy, I definitely recommend it.

Re-living this old classic was a lot of fun. My son and I played old-fashioned 2-player mode for an hour or more. I’m proud to admit, I still remember all the old tips and tricks, hidden blocks, etc. I’ve still got it!

Playing this game again gave me a brilliant idea; a playthrough/review of the entire Mario series. Why not? It could be fun… So after everyone went to bed, I settled back down in my armchair with the lights down low, slid the disc in the Wii and started my journey.

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Before I begin, I’d like to note that while I do have the actual 8-bit virtual-console version, I decided to go ahead and go with the All-Stars update. I did so simply for the better graphics and upgraded audio. Since the gameplay is exactly the same, I don’t feel like I’m really compromising the experience.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-five years, Super Mario Bros. is the story of Mario and Luigi, two Italian plumbers who find themselves in the weird fantasy world of “The Mushroom Kingdom”. Their goal is rescue a kidnapped princess from the evil turtle-bully, Bowser. The game is a side-scrolling platformer consisting of eight, four-level worlds. The fourth level of each world features a castle that might potentially house the missing princess. Of course, you don’t actually find her until you’ve reached the very last castle.

I decided to play through the entire game without warping and I’m glad I did. Over the years I had forgotten just how quirky and wonderful many of the levels were. Giant colorful toadstools, flying fish, sneaky swimming squids…  I even enjoyed how grumpy some of the later levels could be. Remember the little “mazes” in some of the later castles? I’m referring to the levels where you must travel in a certain pattern (bottom of the screen, or top of the screen) in order to progress, otherwise the level just continues with no end until the timer runs out. Good stuff.

Sitting down and playing through this title again was a lot of fun, and I’m very glad I did it. Despite the age of the game, there’s still something satisfying about finally rescuing the princess and getting that kiss on the cheek.

Below is my breakdown of the game. Please understand it is simply my opinion.

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Difficulty: Hard – Some levels can be quite challenging even today, but tricks and enemy placement stays the same. There’s nothing that you cannot overcome after several attempts and using good memorization.

Story: Little to no real story. Evil Bowser, the King Koopa kidnaps Princess Peach. Mario and Luigi come to the rescue… Kind of shallow I suppose, but on the other hand, do we really need much of a story for a game like this?

Originality: At the time of release there was nothing like it. Imaginative worlds, fresh ideas for the time.

Soundtrack: Despite the limited resources of the NES and SNES, the music in this game is timeless. SMB contains what is arguably some of the most recognizable game tunes around.

Fun: I had a BLAST playing this with my son. The game is a bit dated nowadays, but that does not detract from it in any way.

Graphics: This is true for both the NES version and SNES. At the time of release everything about this game looked state of the art. Today, both versions still carry the cartoon vibe extremely well.

Playcontrol: Perfect on the original version. The Wii version of the games suffers a bit in the play control area. The classic controller and classic controller pro are great, but the cross pad and control stick feel a little loose. I had several character deaths that were the direct result of the control not responding the way they would have on the original hardware. It’s not horrid, but it is noticeable.

Overall Rating (out of four stars):  4 Stars

Available today on: Wii, Virtual Console, eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

The Nintendo Era

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The world of gaming changed forever in October of 1985. That is the month that the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America.

I still remember getting mine. It was Christmas morning, at my grandmother’s house. I tore the wrapping paper from the corner and my eyes caught sight of the golden Nintendo Seal. I knew immediately what it was before the rest of the paper was even off the box. I had stared at the NES boxes on the shelf at Toys ‘R Us long enough that even a little peek of what lie underneath the wrapping gave it away.

The NES came with a copy of Super Mario Bros., but I also received a copy of Metroid that year. Metroid sat on the shelf for a few weeks, however. I was completely hooked on SMB… I clearly remember sitting in front of the TV for the next two days playing Mario almost non-stop. It was snowing outside and much too cold to go out and play (thankfully), so I had a convenient excuse.

As time went on, my game collection grew and grew. I had most of the classic titles:

SMB, Kid Icarus, Zelda, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Double Dragon, Skate or Die…  You name it. And what I didn’t own, I rented from the video store.

At one point, I subscribed to the official Nintendo magazine: The Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter.

The first issue I received featured the newly released Mike Tyson’s Punchout. The next issue was the intro for The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The following one featured some hockey game, I don’t recall which. There were no further issues of the newsletter, because that next month, it was changed into the magazine we all know and love: Nintendo Power.

The first issue of Nintendo Power was a real jaw-dropper. On the cover, they premiered Super Mario Bros. 2. Seeing those words in print, virtually caused time to stop.

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I was a total fanboy, as were most of my fellow third-grade classmates. Not only did we collect games, but we had various controllers, the NES MAX, the NES Advantage… years later I was even the owner of the notorious Power Glove. If it wasn’t accessories we were buying, it was literature. Hint guides and code books were all the rage. Our school book fair sold them in droves. It was easy money for publishers.

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But even the mighty fall to some extent. Nintendo has had many competitors since the NES debuted in the 80’s. I think it’s fair to say that as time has gone by, Nintendo has lost a bit of their audience to competitors like Sony and Microsoft. These days, Nintendo seems to focus more on casual and family gaming, leaving them as a bit of a niche taste. Perhaps this will change with the release of the new console the Wii U, who knows. But I will say this, I still don’t think that any future console will ever cause the revolution that the original NES started. I would probably not be a gamer if it wasn’t for this big grey toaster.

Keep puffing on those carts.