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#225 - Nobunaga's Ambition

#224 - Lord of Darkness

The Koei brand had always been one that I was super curious to check out, even dating back to one of my very first experiences with the Super Nintendo. You see, when I was little, my mother lived in a student apartment complex, so I was surrounded by tons of other very young children. At one end of my building, on the same floor, was a single dad who had a young son named Preston. Preston was fortunate enough to own a Super Nintendo. There were a couple other kids near us that had regular old NES consoles, where if I was played my cards right I could watch in awe as they played Mega Man 2 or Super Mario Bros. (I never got to do it myself). But Preston was the only kid in the area lucky enough to have the new-fangled SNES.

So I would hang out with him as much as I possibly could, mostly so I could watch him play whatever games his dad rented for him. Shameless, I know. But I was like 6 years old, so how can you blame me?

I remember one day when his stack of rentals included a copy of Romance of the Three Kingdoms II. Iím always drawn to provocative artwork, so I asked him about it.

ďThatís for my dad.Ē

My mind was blown. Parents playing video games? Video games that were too complicated for kids? Who knew either of those things actually existed. I had to know more.

So I watched his dad play for a few minutes, with absolutely no idea what was going on. It was so far removed from what I was familiar with, that I couldnít even begin to fathom any of the things that were happening onscreen.

As the years went by in my childhood and as a young adult, I still hadn't gotten around to trying out any Koei games. But they were always in the back of my mind. Iíd still contemplate renting copies of P.T.O. and P.T.O. II, even if I was too intimidated to ever actually bring them home. I briefly considered buying Warship Gunner or Naval Commander for PS2; scared off only by price tags that never seemed to dip.

And Koei was in the forefront of my mind when I started getting serious about putting together a complete set of SNES games. So when my collection started to build, and the idea for this project started to formulate in my mind, I knew it was time to finally dig in.

And yet, I was still too intimidated to start one. Which is funny because itís not like I hadnít played complex games before. Hell, Iíve owned MANY different wargames throughout the years; everything from Close Combat II, to Peopleís General, and Combat Mission. Complexity doesnít drive me away.

But the thought of playing a complex game with a controller, with limited onscreen information, no manual on hand, and a severe lack of online helpÖ it took some time to muster the energy to do it.

Cut to 2017 or so. I had run out of time to stall with the Koei library, because I needed to finalize the rough general order for every game in the library, and I needed to start getting through them so that I could actually write about them.

So I chose Nobunagaís Ambition to be the lead title.

I have no idea why. Perhaps because itís the oldest - and least likely to be complex - Koei game in the lot. Or perhaps because it was the first one I purchased. I just know I pulled it off the shelf, pushed it into the console, saw the in-game menus, and then immediately opened up a web browser, downloaded a PDF of the manual, and opened any and all guides or FAQs I could find.

Getting up to speed was a little trying, but not terrible. If I hadn't had the manual, I would have had to resort to a lot of trial and error. And even using the included tips, I had to restart my campaign a number of times.

Eventually, I was able to get into a groove, survive the initial onslaught(s), and make my way through the game.

And you know what? I really dug the experience. Plus it was great to be finally able to get the Koei monkey off my back, and have fun while I was at it. It only took me a couple nights to conquer all of Japan, but it was a genuine thrill the entire time.

I didnít quite have the same experience with Lord of Darkness (you never forget your first time?), but I will acknowledge that it makes a number of small improvements to the gameplay, while adding enough new (small) wrinkles that it probably is the better game. I personally enjoy the original game slightly more, but I could see it going either way for most people.

Did I beat NA?
Yes.
Did I beat LoD?
No, but I'm working on it.


#223 - Fatal Fury 2

#222 - Fatal Fury Special

Hey, remember everything I just said a little while ago about Samurai Shodown? Well it all applies here too!

To reiterate, Iíve never played a Neo Geo MVS. Iíve never played on a Neo Geo arcade cab (or almost any cab for that matter). I donít know shit about fighting games. If there are any games in this library that Iím barely qualified to cover, itís these things. But Iím the only one dumb enough to run a project like this, so weíre stuck with me. And here goes.

Of all of the direct Street Fighter II clones and/or competitors on the Super Nintendo, Fatal Fury 2 (and its pseudo sequel) get it the most right*. They have the best fighting engine (as if I would have any idea), the best spritework, the best roster of characters, and the most satisfying gameplay. Other people are probably more partial to World Heroes 2, or Fighter's History, or TMNT Tournament Fighters, or God knows what else. But this is my pick for the best of the rest.

Are they subpar ports? I have no idea. Is Fatal Fury 2 considered the red-headed stepchild of the series? Also no idea. Was Fatal Fury 3 an immeasurable step up that blows away its predecessors? It very well could have been. Is Fatal Fury Special considered a huge step up from FF2? Seemed pretty similar to me. Do fighting purists hate these games for some reason? Youíve got me.

But Iím sure Iíll hear about it in the comments. I mean, the comments on other websites.


*Obviously I have yet to cover several other fighting games. I donít consider any of them to be direct copycats of SFII.

Did I beat FF2?
Yes. Wolfgang can suck a big one.
Did I beat FFS?
Yes. Wolfgang can suck a big one.


#221 - Extra Innings

Extra Innings, brought to us by Sony, is what Iím calling the final game in a loose baseball trilogy. Loose as in the three games have absolutely nothing to do with one another, with completely different titles, developers, and publishers. But I call it a trilogy because of how similar I find their gameplay to be.

The first two games, Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 and Nolan Ryan Baseball, are two games I dig. Theyíre both flawed video games, but theyíre also two of the more fun baseball games to play on the Super Nintendo. And they both could have been even more fun if the AI wasnít so predictable, severely dimming their challenge and replay value.

Well, Extra Innings plays almost the same as both of those games, but I give it the nod (by nearly a whole hundred spots) because I find the AI is a lot more unpredictable and challenging. Which gave the game a lot longer legs with me.

I also find the action more unpredictable. There arenít many baseball games where you can hit triples and in-the-park home runs because you happened to hit the ball into just the right area, but that sorta stuff happens here. Quite regularly. And thatís because putting the ball into play feels a lot more organic here than it does in many other baseball games. Instead of falling to patterns where your hits feel very similar to one another, it feels like the ball is naturally reacting to your swing. It cannot be overstated how important that is to a baseball game.

So, yeah, I have three baseball games left, but you could certainly put this game in any of their leagues. Itís a fun time, it has lots of charm, and it is never boring or frustrating.

Did I beat it?
I have not... yet.


#220 - Spindizzy Worlds

As I move into the libraryís top 250 titles, youíre going to notice that I have more and more puzzle games in the top ranks. And I donít mean Tetris-like ďdrop or match blocksĒ puzzlers, but the sort of games where you need to clear levels by solving brain-bending puzzles or displaying superhuman levels of dexterity. In fact, I might have too many of these types of games in the upper echelons of the rankings. Perhaps Iím biased for some reason, or perhaps they have just aged incredibly well. But when the gameplay is focused on problem solving, things seem to have a remarkable ability to stay fresh.

Spindizzy Worlds is basically a deluxe version of Marble Madness. Take the seminal 1984 arcade marbleÖ uh, rolling game, and make it about a hundred times bigger, and a hundred times more challenging. Thatís this game in a nutshell. If that idea nauseates you, go ahead and move on to the next review; youíre not gonna find anything here to your liking.

However, if you are the kind of person that finds MM to hold some sort of sublime mix of challenge and luck, requiring demanding dexterity and memorization, then you need to stop what you are doing and order a copy of this game right now.

A few notes on the game:
  • Instead of a marble you are a top (not that it makes any difference in the way you move).
  • You can select from many different ďworldsĒ (levels), which gives the game a nice sense of nonlinearity.
  • Some levels are time-based, just like they were in MM. For these youíll need to get through a group of them in one run, with failure sending you back to the beginning. The better you do on earlier stages, the more time you have left to complete the later ones.
  • There are also levels where the timer is gone and you have to basically just survive until the end. By that I mean there is also a ďhealth barĒ of sorts, which depletes whenever you fall into the ether or run into an enemy. I generally find these levels to be much easier, and also more fun. Possibly because Iím a wuss who sucks under pressure.
  • Some of the levels get HARD. Especially when the perspective starts to really mess with your eyes.
  • Luckily you can rotate the camera. Though I almost find this more disorienting than anything.
I wasnít ever able to complete Spindizzy Worlds (at least, not yet), mostly because I suck at it, but I did put a lot of time into it. And thatís because itís a fun game. The controls are great (if not tricky), the balancing is tight, and the gameplay is very addictive. And there really isnít anything else like it on the Super Nintendo.

Did I beat it?
Nope.


#219 - Troddlers

Troddlers is Lemmings, but slightly different. The end.





Sorry. I know I keep making that joke, and I know I promised to stop. Sometimes I canít help it. But this time I seriously, seriously, SERIOUSLY mean it when I say that will be the last time. Honest to godís truth.

Anyway, Troddlers is an Amiga port (real shocker there) which has you starring as some sort of grotesque muppet, trying to save a bunch of Lemmin-I mean, different tiny muppets, while collecting thingies and killing baddies. Itís a simple formula. But simple formulas can be great, as the success of the aforementioned Lemmings can attest.

Of course a game like this has to try and do something to separate itself from its main source of inspiration. And for Troddlers that means...

The game is meant to be played cooperatively. The way the levels are designed and (often) divided into halves means you are doing yourself a major disservice if you try to tackle it solo.

...which of course is exactly what I had to do, because my wife only lasted 20 minutes with me. Not optimal, but it is what it is.

The other big difference is that you are not controlling a cursor as you do in Lemmings. Instead, you are the aforementioned creature, and you can run around with him like you would in a platformer. And what do you do with him?...

Pick up and drop boulders, mainly. Or perhaps theyíre blocks. Whatever they are, itís your main source of manipulating the level so that you reach the exit.

Thereís also some occasional combat, multiple factions of not-lemmings that you need to crowd control so that they donít kill each other, collectable gems, andÖ well, you get the point.

So, did I have fun with Troddlers? Very much so. Enough fun to finish it? No. I mean, I did, but it was too hard, and I ended up wussing out. Several times. Itís also not as good as the game itís a copycat of, but it is a worthy imitation, and a title that is well worth your time if youíre a puzzle fanatic.

Did I beat it?
No... damn, I've covered a lot of games recently that got the better of me.


#218 - Breath of Fire

One thing you may have noticed over the last thirty reviews or so, is a steady increase in the amount of time I have spent going off on different tangents, rambling on about my history with certain games, or blathering endlessly about my thoughts on gaming in general. In other words, thereís been less discussion of each gameís specific mechanics, or deep dives into my thoughts on how they play.

Thatís no accident.

For one, my family just completed a lengthy and drawn-out move, which then led to spending months renovating various parts of the new house, including building a brand new game room (something I have wanted to do my entire life). This of course has left my already busy schedule with less and less time to devote to this project. So I was able to sneak in additional playthroughs of a few games, like X-Kalibur 2097. But I wasnít able to boot up the system every night, which is the sort of thing I need to do to reaffirm things like controls, features, musical quality, the difficulty curve, etc. Thatís my normal process. But I wasnít able to have a completely normal process this summer.

The second thing that played a part in this change wasÖ well, it was a conscious choice. Iím tired of talking about how ďfloatyĒ the controls are in every game. Iím tired of doing a laundry list of gameplay modes. Iím tired of doing the same thing over and over again. I mean, how many times can someone be expected to read my thoughts on the specifics of how a football or soccer game plays? At some point, I need a change of pace to keep things fresh.

So Iím taking things in a different direction for a little bit. Mostly, Iím sitting down in front of my computer, and just letting stream-of-consciousness take over with a lot of these write-ups. Iím doing it right now as a matter of fact. Ten minutes ago I had no idea that the Breath of Fire review was gonna go this way. It just sorta happened.

In fact, the BoF review is the perfect time to explain all of this, because, honestly, itís a game I played through back in 2003. Which, as of this writing, is seventeen years ago. Half of my life ago. So the details have gotten real hazy. And thatís fine, because I do still remember the gist of my overarching thoughts when I reached the end:
  • An okay-ish storyline, that is lucid enough, but canít really hold its weight against the systemís heavies.
  • Rigid, oldschool JRPG design. You know the drill. Go to the next town, trigger the next dungeon, beat a boss, rinse and repeat.
  • Simplistic and repetitive combat. Hope you like encounters.
  • A roster of characters that I mostly donít care about. But the art and sprite design are top notch.
  • A cool ďtransformationsĒ system that unfortunately seems rather half-baked.
  • An excellent soundtrack.
So where does that mean BoF stands in regards to the ďthree tenets of JRPGs?Ē Well, that is gonna be hard to say, because Iím going by memory here. So hereís my best shot:

A Coherent Storyline and Characters with Depth
Iíll give it a passing mark. Burned down villages, gigantic stone golems, late-game plot twists, Street Fighter II cameos: if I can remember all of that decades later, it must have done its job.

A Fun Battle System That Stays Engaging
EhÖ Iíll give it a passing grade as wellÖ barely. This is as vanilla as these sorta things get, but the variety in your party members keeps things at least moderately engaging. And if you like transforming into dragons? Well, thatís here too I guess.

Challenging Yet Fair Gameplay
Yeah, I dunno. I donít remember ever wanting to throw my controller. It suffers from the same sort of nebulous progression that a lot of these old games do, but thatís what FAQs are for.

Not an optimal write-up, but luckily this is the only RPG on the system that I havenít played through (or replayed through again) in the last decade. Sorry, Breath of Fire, I just ran out of time.

Now an interesting dilemma was presented to me when I played through Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, because I kinda had a similar reaction to my playthrough of Breath of Fire. It was a good enough game, but the formulaic gameplay, and somewhat generic overall experience kinda left me feeling unsatisfied.

The main difference? I just played through Lufia a few years ago, so Iím basing these thoughts on much fresher memories.

Which I guess brings me to my final thought. How the hell do I compare two moderately similar games, when the playthroughs happened fifteen years apart? Itís impossible. The idea of it is so flawed, that it doesnít even begin to make sense.

Well, the answer is you do the best you can.

Did I beat it?
Yes, long ago.


#217 - Super Valis IV

Let me say right up front that I have never played any of the other games in the Valis series. So whether Super Valis IV is better or worse than Valis, Valis III, Syd of Valis (is that Valis II?) or whatever other games there may be, I can't say. And it doesnít matter. Iím only ranking these games against the rest of the SNES library. So if SV4 is the odd duck of the series, well... I donít know anything about it, and it doesnít matter anyway.

And what exactly is a Valis game? Evidently, itís a very Sega Genesis-y (is that a term?) action platformer, where you have some sort of magic Amazon warrior princess, who is tasked with vanquishing legions of anime foes with a giant sword. The closest thing on the Super Nintendo that I can think of, is Kendo Rage. As in, get through a level, fight a boss, get through another level, fight another boss, get slaughtered by the boss rush, then get slaughtered by the final boss. Rinse and repeat. The two games are basically mirror images of one another in that regard.

Unlike that game, however, this one offers unlimited continues. And you WILL need them, because shit gets hairy in the later levels. And that boss rush I mentioned? Fuggataboutit (Iíll never use that word again, promise).

Graphics are good, controls are solid, the bosses look pretty cool, etc. etc. Itís a good game, so if youíre into this sorta thing, or if you want some Sega-styled action on the Super Nintendo, and you thought X-Kalibur 2097 was a little too rough around the edges, then check out this bad boy. Er, girl.

...that ďbad girlĒ pun is straight out of a mid-90s EGM review. I apologize.

Did I beat it?
Yes. The first time I stayed up late into the night to conquer that boss rush. Totally worth it.


#216 - Q*Bert 3

Itís QBert. You donít know how tempted I am to leave it at that. I mean, if you donít know what makes a QBert game tick, Iím not even gonna bother explaining it. You just need to play it to understand it.

If you do have experience with QBert, then you donít need to know anything else. Whatever you think of the original game is what you will think of this third one. Theyíre basically the same exact thing. A few slight alterations and additions notwithstanding.

So, if you dig the gameplay, and the unorthodox controls, and the arcade-like action that this series is known for, youíll dig this. If you donít, this wonít make you a believer.

Shortest. Review. Ever.

Did I beat it?
No. God no. You'd have to be some type of savant.


#215 - Joe & Mac

Joe & Mac (and I) have a long history together. You see, J&M was one of the absolutely first Super Nintendo games I ever played. Long before I had my very own console. And though I normally pride myself with how well I can remember very specific things from my childhood, I cannot recall exactly where and how I played this. I just know two things:
  • I played it multiple times at multiple peoplesí houses.
  • It was always cooperative play.
For the few people who may not know, Joe and Mac are cavemen ninjas. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Except that they battle their way across a dozen or two prehistoric levels filled to the brim with evil cavemen and dinosaurs. So if you are thinking ďNinja Caveman GaidenĒ, you are way off. Itís more like ďCaveman ContraĒ. In fact, Iíll say Contra must have been a major influence on this game.

Oh, and the game is an absolute blast in multiplayer. Maybe one of the best cooperative action platformers on the system. Lives are plentiful, the bosses are satisfying to beat down, and the game is long enough to be challenging, without ever overstaying its welcome.

Of course, if this game is so great, why do I have it outside of the top 200? Well, because it turns out that nostalgia is a bitch.

When I was sorting out my rankings I sat down with the game for the first time in over twenty years, and did a couple playthroughs for old timeís sake. And, for the most part, the game still holds up. The multiplayer is great, the bosses are fun to beat, and most people will have a good time with it.

However, my more experienced adult mind can now see the game in a much broader context. Which means the gameís flaws are much more evident.

For one, the difficulty curve is pretty fucked up. As in, most of the game is extremely easy, while other parts are frustratingly cheap. That seems to be a trend with this series.

The hit detection is also rather horrid. That alone is usually enough to severely penalize a game in my rankings.

Finally, the controls just arenít very tight. Another thing I generally cannot stand.

Collectively, those detriments were enough to force me to drop J&M by over one hundred spots from where I had it in the preliminary stages of this project. Which is rather disappointing. But that shouldnít take away from it still being a good game.

So, in 1993, I probably would have called this one of the best 25 games on the Super Nintendo (not that I would have had any idea what I was talking about). In 2010, I was predicting it would still be in the top 100. In 2020, itís at #215. Good, but not great.

Did I beat it?
Many times, throughout many decades.


#214 - Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures

Take everything I just said about the Super Star Wars trilogy, pretend an Indiana Jones skin has been applied on top of it, and youíve got this game.

Actually, thatís not really true at all. While all four of the games do appear to share the same engine, and there are a lot of surface-level similarities between them, I would have to say that Indiana Jonesí Greatest Adventures is a much different beast than any of its three predecessors. A better beast too.

If there are three things that come to mind when I think about the Super Star Wars games, they are...
  • A heaping amount of fan service.
  • Birds, bats and all sorts of other shit constantly dive-bombing your head.
  • Ridiculously uneven difficulty curves, ridiculously uneven boss fights, and ridiculously uneven vehicle levels.
Luckily for us, Indiana Jonesí game keeps the spirit of that first bullet point alive and well. This game is loaded with all sorts of references and callbacks to the motion picture trilogy. Thatís what these games do best.

Iíd even say that the third bullet is also still sorta going on. While this game is far easier than any of the individual Star Wars games, it still features punishing levels and boss fights mixed throughout that really have me questioning the skills (or existence) of LucasArtsí QA department.

Number two is where things really diverge, because this game has almost NONE of that bullshit. Enemies are much less common now, and far less likely to be spawning above you. This is the primary reason that I have this thing higher than the Star Wars trilogy.

Not to say that it isnít a frustrating game, because it definitely is in some ways. Especially the mine cart level and the final boss. But it never approaches the controller-throwing madness that can be found throughout the Star Wars games.

Oh, and I have to give the game bonus points for making Julian Gloverís skeletal Nazi corpse the final boss. I meanÖ I can appreciate artistic license as much as anybody. Itís usually pretty dumb, but itís the sort of thing that kinda comes with the territory when youíre discussing video game adaptations of movies. This probably takes the cake for being the most ridiculous example that I can think of. Truly. My hat is off to whoever decided to add it to the game.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times.


#213 - Weaponlord

Hey, remember when I put Mortal Kombat II in the last batch of games? Instead ofÖ oh, I dunno, the top 10 or 20 or wherever you expected it to be. And I knew Iíd get some angry messages about it. Thatís fine. I knew that day would come when I first started this project up. Everyone thinks they know best, including me, and it just kinda comes with the territory with these things.

One guy in particular had noticed that I hadnít gotten to this game yet, and he was not amused. Weaponlord over Mortal Kombat II? He even gave me a bullet point list of why I was WRONG.

Imagine being that passionate about something like this. Or emotional. I guess I should be flattered. Of course instead of engaging him, I told him the standard ďthanks for readingĒ and moved on. But sometimes I imagine that guy, stewing around his house, pissed at something or other he read on the internet.

Anyway, Weaponlord is a Namco fighter, and though I have never played Soul Blade, and Iíve barely played one of the Soul Calibur games, I have to wonder if this isnít some sort of spiritual predecessor. The weapon-based combat seems to be exceedingly deep, requiring a very thorough understanding of the movesets and how to link your attacks together. If nothing else, this thing had to have a hand in inspiring its much more famous brethren.

Of course I am TERRIBLE at fighting games, so it goes without saying that Iím extra-spectacularly bad at this game. I struggle to beat the earliest opponents on the easiest difficulties. And I have put hours into this game. Alas, it is what it is. Whatever part of my brain that controls fighting game strategies is clearly incapable of learning how to get better at it.

So, if you want a very different fighting game from everything else on the Super Nintendo, this is your guy. If you want something that will take awhile to master, this is your guy. If you want to experience the game that I think is better than Mortal Kombat II, this is your guy.

Did I beat it?
No, it's a miracle when I beat the first guy. On the easiest difficulty.


#212 - Arkanoid: Doh it Again

Ugh, this is the write-up I put off until the very end (of this batch). The one I really didnít want to do. Not because I donít like the game - I do - but because I have absolutely no idea what to write about for it.

I guess I could point out that even if you have never played or heard of Arkanoid: Doh It Again (is that a Simpsons joke?), youíve probably played a game of this ilk at some point in your life. You know the games Iím talking about: the ones where you have to slide some sort of horizontal platform/paddle around, trying to use it to bounce a ball into a bunch of colored rectangles, which in turn makes them disappear. Clear them all and you complete the level, but the ball is also gradually picking up speed, making your job exponentially harder the longer you take. Itís basically a glorified Pong. Most of us probably experienced this type of game in a Pizza Hut, or an Atari 2600 or something. Unless of course youíre under the age of 25, in which case you probably donít know what either of those things are.

Now, I donít know the history of the series, but I assume the very first game was Breakout. Or at least my memory is telling me thatís the most basic version of this formula. And I donít know if the Arkanoid games are official sequels to that game, or rival series or what. But the core gameplay always seemed to stay the same. Clear out the things, move to the next level, clear out more things, move to the next level, and so forth.

The few added wrinkles with this game (or this series, whatever the case might be) are the powerups that make your platform longer, faster, sticky, etc., and the boss battles that youíll occasionally fight. And by boss battles, I mean boss battle. Every boss is the same Easter Island/Gradius statue head. Why? I have no idea.

And, ummÖ yeah, thatís kinda it. Iíve run out of things to say about this game. Now you know why I was dreading writing this review. This is the best I could come up with: a dry explanation of the game that sounds like the sort of thing youíd read on Wikipedia. And I apologize for it. I didnít know what else to do. I donít have any sort of personal history with the game. I donít have any pop culture tangents to explore. Just this boring runthrough of the mechanics. I hope it never happens again.

Did I beat it?
Yes, two or three times throughout the years.


#211 - The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

This might be another unpopular placement. Maybe. Is The Magical Quest a beloved game? How many people out there actually hold high expectations over where this would land? A few? A lot? None?

So far most of the flak Iíve caught has been for my placement of NBA Jam (completely expected), Maximum Carnage (also expected), Mortal Kombat II (anyone could see that coming), and the WWF games (how people can be into that shit is still beyond me). But does The Magical Quest actually have fanboys? I guess weíll find out soon enough.

Not long ago I wrote up The Great Circus Mystery, the follow-up to TMQ. Itís one of those polished Capcom games that certainly has charm, and solid mechanics, but resulted in a merely ďokay-to-goodĒ game. Its predecessor can basically be summarized the same way.

The game certainly looks great. The colors pop, the animations are smooth, and the levels are imaginative. Capcom never seems to let us down in that department. The mechanics and controls are also totally bulletproof. Thatís another thing that Capcom was completely at the top of their game with in 1991, and they wouldn't show any signs of stopping for at least another decade (someone check my math on that last one).

But the actual game itself? Merely pretty good. Not among Capcomís better efforts. And I realize how easily that could be totally misconstrued.

ďThat Super Nintendo ranking nerd hates The Magical Quest! What an idiot!Ē

Which of course is silly. Clearly I like every game Iím writing about on this page. Theyíre all good games. But the competition for the top 100 or 200 spots in the library is pretty fierce, and the Capcom library itself is so freakiní formidable, that a game like this being on the outside looking in isnít a slight against the game itself. Itís merely a commentary on the state of its peers.

So anyway, the game itself has you donning costumes, and fighting Pete and collecting coins and stuff, and yadda yadda yadda. It doesnít matter, you already know what makes this game tick. If you like Capcom Disney stuff, youíll like this. If you like the other Capcom Mickey games, youíll definitely like this. If you like solid platformers that control well, look good, and donít take too long to play through, youíll like this.

Did I beat it?
Yep. Pretty sure it was in one try too.


#210 - Strike Gunner STG

Man, this is another one where I could have sworn I had already written something up. I think the reason that happens is that I come up with a summary or rough direction that Iím gonna take a reviewÖ in my head. And then I never actually get around to putting those thoughts down on paper (or I should say, on the electronic document). So then when I go back to polish up the review a few months later, Iím shocked to find that it doesnít actually exist. I guess thatís one of the pitfalls of doing 500+ of these things.

Strike Gunner STG, on the surface, is one of the most nondescript shooters on the system. You pilot some sort of futuristic F-15-styled jet fighter thing, you blow away billions of enemy jets and choppers, and you destroy a bunch of unimaginative mechanical bosses. Roll credits. Hell, even the name and cover art are generic. Plus, maybe itís just me, but if there isnít some sort of H.R. Giger-esque monstrosity to kill, or a massive enemy space battleship that takes up an entire level, my interest meter is going down a notch or five.

What this game does have going for it though, is a cool subweapon system, and a secretly fiendish difficulty. But Iíll get to that in a second.

So whatís so cool about the subweapons? Well, thereís a lot of them, for one. Thereís a spread shot, homing missilesÖ actually you know what, Iím not gonna go through all of them. Instead, Iím gonna go ahead and change one of the pics up above, so that you can see them all.

Now, I love the variety of these weapons, and different utilities they offer. Each one is great in a specific type of situation, which means you really have to learn the game and figure out which one youíll want equipped for specific areas. Mostly because, after you select one, itís yours for an entire level. But then youíre locked out of it for the rest of the run. Itís a brilliant system, because it forces you to be strategic about your selections. Want the nuke that obliterates everything in one shot? Youíd better save it for one of the harder bosses. Want the shield? Use it on the craziest level. The whole setup works well.

Back to the difficulty. On the default setting (easy), the game is mostly a breeze, and a far cry from something like Super R-Type. But start turning that meter up, and it becomes a whole new (ball)game. Enemy speed is jacked up, enemy projectile speed is jacked up, and things become way, way more frantic. Turn it up to the max setting, and you have what may be the single hardest shmup on the system. Harder than Super R-Type. Harder than R-Type III. Harder than Super Nova. Harder thanÖ well, all of them. Whether thatís a good or bad thing, I can't say. Iíll just leave it hanging out there.

So yeah, I havenít covered a lot of the shmups yet, but Iím gonna start getting to a lot of them. STG isnít among the top tier(s), but it is a good game, and it does a few things differently enough to set itself apart. Donít expect anything amazing, but you can expect a fun time and a fair challenge.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but never on the hardest difficulty, regardless of how much I've tried.


#209 - Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

In case you forgot, I already talked about Lufia in the Breath of Fire review just up above this one. So if you want my vaguely presented ideas on why itís an okayish JRPG that sits in the middle of the SNES pack, then there you go. Or maybe you are reading this list backwards, and have no idea what Iím talking about. Either way, go ahead and scroll up. Those are my thoughts.

So what do I talk about down here? I dunno. The ďthree tenets of JRPGs,Ē that thing I totally made up a few years ago, spur of the moment?

Nah. Just take what I said about BoF, and apply it here too.

Maybe Iíll talk about what separates a good JRPG, from a great JRPG. Or in the SNESís case, what separates a good one from one of the all-time GOATs of the genre.

And the thought that keeps coming into my head is the opening of Final Fantasy III (VI).

Now, this may be a bit of a spoiler, but I consider FF3 to be a pretty good game. I did back in the day, and I do now. Itís one of the high points of the genre, and you can be sure that it is gonna land somewhere in my top 25 SNES games. It should be in everyone's top 25. Period.

But why is that? What separates a Final Fantasy III, from a Paladinís Quest? Or a Secret of the Stars? Or a Robotrek? Or a Breath of Fire? Or a Lufia? Or almost any other game? And the answer is... not a simple or short one. Because really itís a lot of things. Itís characters that you grow attached to. Itís a storyline that is both epic, and touching. Itís a great soundtrack. Itís great art design. Itís great boss battles. Itís great dungeons. Itís great mechanics.

Itís also great setpieces.

Now, think about that scene I linked up above. I donít want to dissect it too much, because I think you can lose something in the process if you do. But I will say there are a great many things about it that make it work. That make it stick in your mind.

Final Fantasy III, and other games like it, have many moments like that. Games like Lufia, do not have them.

And that is why a game like Lufia sits at #209, and a game like Final Fantasy III sits much, much higher.

Itís why a game like FF3 will show up in lists of the greatest games of all time.

It's why FF3 will see re-releases, again and again.

Itís why games like FF3 are forever immortalized.

It's why games like Lufia - as good as they may be - become forgotten.

Did I beat it?
Yep.


#208 - Prince of Persia

Okay, I know I did that whole silly thing with my write-up of Prince of Persia 2 not long ago, but this time I swear Iíll talk for real about my experience playing the game.

Or at least I will in a secondÖ

I have a long history with this franchise. And by that I mean I played through two of the Sands of Time trilogy, and one of those reboot games that followed in their stead. The first post-Sands reboot game I mean. Or was it the second? Whatever it was, I think it was called Prince of Persia...

What a confusing-ass franchise.

Anyway, Iím a big fan of the series, so I was eager to jump into the games that started it all. Not to imply that I hadnít played the OG Prince of Persia before, because I had. Sort of.

Back when my dad had an ancient IBM sitting in our basement, my grandfather liked to mail us hundreds upon hundred of miscellaneous programs. Iím pretty sure I kinda already wrote about that at some point in the past, though I have absolutely no idea which write-up it was in. But the point is, one of the games he sent us was Prince of Persia. I had never seen anything like it.

Of course I never got to see much of it either for that matter, because I couldnít figure out how to play it. Iíd die in pits. Iíd die on spikes. Iíd die to the one enemy I managed to come across. It was a very confusing and unforgiving game for a child. Iím fairly sure I got far enough to acquire the sword, but if I did, I never could figure out how to use it. That was the extent of my original PoP experience. A portion of the first level.

Many years later, as a (slightly) smarter adult, I have access to things like manuals and longplays, and felt I was ready to give this game another shot. And you know what?

Itís pretty good. And (still) really fucking hard.

Seriously, if you can beat this game, my hat is off to you. I managed to beat the sequel, but it took me a LONG time, and I used a lot of outside help. Whereas this game beats my ass down.

And itís not because Iím a stranger to this sort of thing. Iíve played through a ton of the Out of this Worlds and Oddworlds and Blackthornes and whatnot throughout the years. I dig this sorta stuff. But Prince of Persia pulls no punches. Iíll probably come crawling back at some point because itís such a seminal game, and I do like playing it. But I harbor no illusions of having success with it.

Did I beat it?
No. This game be really, really, really, really hard.


#207 - Liberty or Death

Unbelievable. It seems that I have also misplaced my Liberty or Death review. Whatís going on with my brain, right? Well, this is what happens when you are too unorganized, things take too long, and your process is too convoluted.

How convoluted? Here are the steps I go through to get one of these things finished:
  • Play the game.
  • Place the game in a rough general area for where it will end up.
  • Attempt a full playthrough of the game if necessary, and finalize the gameís rank.
  • Create a google doc and write up a rough draft of the review.
  • Make note of any clarifications I might need.
  • Revisit the game and refresh myself on a few things.
  • Polish up the review and submit it to my editor.
  • Add the html markup.
  • Save the results to my web project.
  • Update my spreadsheet with the status of the game.
  • Get pics and links ready
  • Render the webpages on my local machine and look for mistakes.
  • Commit my web code to my repository.
  • Update Amazon web services.
  • Check the site for problems.
ďFinishing a gameĒ generally takes years from beginning to end, which, evidently, allows me way too much opportunity to misplace stuff. By the time I get to step number six, more and more, I seem to be unable to locate any of the crap I wrote. And I have no idea why that is. I mean, besides the obvious bloat and lack of streamlining to my process.

So, I will be forced to rewrite this whole guy off the top of my head, without being refreshed on any of the game's mechanics or details. Wish me luck.

Liberty or Death is one of the token Koei strategy games that takes place in the West. America specifically, in case it wasnít too obvious. Itís an American Revolutionary War game (hence the portrait of George Washington front and center), where you get to play as the Colonial rebels, or the hated Redcoats. Conquer all of the colonies and victory is yours.

As far as gameplay goes, picture any other Koei game like Nobunagaís Ambition or Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Except, uh, in America. Obviously.

Like usual, thereís several different scenarios to choose from. Or maybe there wasnítÖ I honestly canít remember. There usually is, so letís go with that.

Once the game has started, you will do the usual Koei thing: spend ďturn resourcesĒ by deciding what actions you want your territories to perform. That can be anything from forming up military units, buying weapons, and raising money, to printing and distributing propaganda in order to rally the common people to your cause.

If you decide to march on an enemy territory, you are taken to a battle map similar to the one in Nobunagaís Ambition. From there you try to position your units across the grid so that they can gang up on the enemy, at which point they shoot each other and then a number flashes on the screen that tells you how many troops from each side survived. No separate screen for the skirmish like youíd see in Genghis Khan II, which is nice because it keeps things moving at a faster clip.

Thereís also options to woo the French, train up the skill of your troops, build up your stashes of (gun)powder and... well, you get the point. Itís a Koei game. You do Koei things.

And I dig it. I dig Koei games. Plus it moves at a relatively fast pace, where slowness is always one of the main drawbacks for these games. So even though it is not my favorite of the bunch (not by a long shot), itís still a good game that deserves peopleís attention. And it gets bonus points for having some of my favorite box art across the entire library.

Did I beat it?
Not yet.


#206 - NHLPA Hockey 93

I have an admission to make. Several years ago, when I knew I had to tackle the NHL series, I realized I was on the precipice of a major predicament. After all, people adore these games. They really adore NHL 94 in particular. And hardcore hockey fans? Donít even get me started on how much those guys love these games.

What if I played all six games, and they all played exactly the same? Iíd have to group all six together. How well would that hold up under close scrutiny?

Even worseÖ

What if I loved them all as much as some other people do? Would they be in danger of cracking my top 100? Would I have to put all six in the top 100? That would make it significantly less interesting to read.

So therein lies one of the complications with this project. You see, with any normal (sane) ďTop 100Ē list, there would most likely be some sort of stipulation that only one title from each sports franchise gets included. So for this series, weíd probably only include NHL 94 or NHL 95. The reasoning behind that being something along the lines of ďwe selected the single best entry in the franchise to represent the rest of the series.Ē

Which totally makes sense to do. Instead of monopolizing a sizable portion of your list with a bunch of the same game, you get one writeup for one game where you can extol the virtues of all of them. It works, and itís why basically everyone does it.

I of course would not be able to do that, as it wouldnít be consistent with how I have handled every single other game in this project.

So I did something desperate.

I invited over several diehard fans of hockey (and hockey games), and we had a Super Nintendo NHL marathon. We played all six games late into the night. And I took notes. Lots of notes. So that I would know exactly how to rank these games, Iíd have expert opinions I could lean into, and could rest easy knowing that I handled it the best way I possibly could.

Well, as it turns out, my worries were in vain anyway. The NHL games donít all play exactly like one another. Similar to Madden, I was able to break them up into several groups. I wouldnít have to do one giant six-game entry. Crisis averted.

Not only that, it turns out that none of them will be getting into my top 100 either. Spoiler alert by the way.

And yes, I am very, very aware of how many people that is gonna rankle, and I can already tell how many snide comments Iím gonna get about leaving NHL 94 out of the elite ranks. In many peopleís minds Iím gonna be the stupid idiot that doesnít like hockey, or hockey games, and all this is proving is how stupid my list is, and how subjective everything is, and I should probably go die in a fire or something.

Which is silly. Because these are great games. They have aged very well, and theyíre fun to play with friends. Obviously theyíre the only hockey titles I have left to write about at this point, so you know that I think theyíre the systemís best.

I just donít think theyíre among the systemís very best overall games. It doesnít matter how many mental gymnastics I try to convince myself to do: Iím never gonna prefer an NHL game over Ogre Battle, Metal Warriors, Knights of the Round, New Horizons, Earthbound, Mega Man X2, and so forth. I simply wonít. Thatís not a slight on the series. Itís not to say that some people wonít have it higher. Itís just an indication of my specific tastes, and an indication of just how tough the competition is at the top.

So, bitch me out. Write off this whole thing. Do what you gotta do. But Iím at peace with it.

Did I beat it?
No. I'm bad at hockey games.


#205 - Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike

In case you donít remember my whole little diatribe about Desert Strike (or maybe you never read it), Iíll give you the short version:

The Strike games are sweet, and they got better with every installment.

Now, to be fair, I grew up with this game, so a lot of these opinions are shaped (spoiled?) by nostalgia and an affinity for this type of game (isometric-overhead action...dealies). Consider it fair warning.

Casting away the monotone desert campaigns of its predecessor, Jungle Strike unleashes a game that is vastly increased in scope. Featuring over twice as many maps/missions, a brand new assortment of vehicles to fly or drive around in, a much larger cast of enemy planes, choppers, boats, tanks, vehicles, and lone gunmen to destroy, a more varied set of mission objectives, and, again, an escape from the boring confines of the drab brown tileset that dominated Desert Strike. Now you get to explore the jungle, the, uh, other jungles, a night jungleÖ okay, so itís mostly jungles now. But there is a brief stop or two in Washington D.C. this time. Itís good stuff.

Now, this is the only game in the trilogy that I have yet to beat, so that should tell you one of the things that I hold against it: an unrelenting difficulty. Actually, thatís not fair. It does relent on occasion. But make no mistake, this is a hard game. And not the sort of hard that is always fun. Iím talking about the ďoh, I accidently let some dumbass get shot once and now I have to redo the entire missionĒ type of hard.

Though itís still probably an easier game than its predecessor. Just the fact that it is also significantly longer means beating it is much more of a challenging endeavour this time around.

Really thatís my one and only major complaint. They still hadnít ironed out the kinks in the difficulty curve, and the game suffers because of it.

Theyíd solve this with the next game.

Did I beat it?
I am most of the way through it but had to put it on pause (again) to finish up all of this writing!


#204 - Ultima Runes of Virtue II

Picture this. Itís 1992. Youíre 11 years old. Your older brother is constantly hogging the family Sega Genesis. Worse, your mom gave away your old NES. All you are left with is your beat up old Game Boy. The original model, with the crappy black and sickly-green display. With a bunch of blurry games where you can barely tell whatís going on. But none of that matters to you. After all, itís 1992; you donít know any better. So you spend hundreds of hours playing portable versions of RoboCop 2 and James Pond. I mean, whatís the alternative? Going outside? Reading? Doing homework? As if!

Then one day your weird old uncle gives you a gift out of the blue. Itís a brand new Game Boy game. Ultima: Runes of Virtue II. What the hell is Ultima? What the hell was the first Runes of Virtue? You donít know, and you donít care. The only thing that matters is you have a new game, and you will dedicate every waking hour to mastering it. After all, youíre a kid. You have all the time in the world.

After popping it in, your first thought is ďthis is like Zelda!Ē You know because your spoiled-rotten cousin is constantly talking about that franchise and just so happens to own every single one of them. Something with which he never misses an opportunity to rub in your face. While youíve always been stuck with boring old games like Tetris and Baseball, heís boasting of epic adventures with hidden dungeons, massive overworlds, missing princesses, and gigantic eggs.

But now, you have Zelda too. Well, a Zelda-like.

You start a new game, and everything about it is befuddling. You have no idea what to do or where to go. The mechanics are also a bit clunky, and the graphics are extremely basic. But you donít care, you have the imagination of a child, and the persistence to figure out what to do, and you end up playing late into the night. And then you do the same thing the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that. Occasionally you get stuck, and bang your head against the wall until you happen across the solution, again and again.

And finally, weeks later, you emerge victorious. Every dungeon has fallen. Every cave has been explored. You have defeated that fat bastard Black Knight, rescued the maidens fair (well, the crochety old townspeople, but close enough), and saved the world. The world of Britannia that is.

And then a short time later you find out that FCI upscaled Ultima: Runes of Virtue II, and ported it to the Super Nintendo. And the only thought that enters your mind isÖ

ďWho the fuck thought that was a good idea? A Game Boy game on Super Nintendo? Did they port F-1 Race and Solar Striker while they were at it? Maybe they could release an ďenhancedĒ version of Super Mario Land on the SNES, and charge $60 for it.Ē

But then you realize it doesnít matter. The absurdity of the whole thing doesnít matter. You had a great time with the game, and thatís all that really counts in the end.

Did I beat it?
I totally did.


#203 - Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

So when I wrote up the first Mighty Morphin Power Rangers game not long ago, I covered the bulk of the stuff that matters. Mostly, that itís a reworking of the single-plane beat-em-up action from Ninja Warriors, that it has a ridiculously easy difficulty level, and that the main drawback to the gameplay (aside from the lack of challenge) is the endless hordes of samey-feeling enemies.

Well, the follow-up game - based on the hit (?) movie - is more of the same. The same gameplay, the same types of levels, and the same ridiculous premise of teenagers in leotards battling against rubber monsters and other guys in leotards. But it does address some of the problems.

Namely, the gameplay is much more challenging now (but still pretty easy for a brawler). You can actually expect to die now. Whatís more, you will probably see a game over or two (or three). Unheard of, right?

And there is some legitimate variety to the action this time around. Not a ton of it - that was never this genreís strongpoint - but enough to keep things fresh. Sure, it loses theÖ uh, ďVoltronĒ boss fights that were featured in the original, but overall itís not nearly as repetitive of a playthrough.

So, if you were into this sorta crap when you were a kid (or you still are), and you like beatemups, or you love Ninja Warriors and want a different take on the gameplay, check out the two Power Ranger games. Theyíre nothing amazing, but theyíre a fun distraction.

Did I beat it?
Three or four times.


#202 - Congo's Caper

Three Joe & Mac games in the same batch of game write-ups? What is this laziness?

Well, it wasnít something that was planned, I can assure you that. Hell, it wasnít even the case until very late in the process, which is when I tend to finalize where everything is ranked (I always find myself moving games around when writing, up until the very last minute).

And really, thatís a major contributor as to why it takes me so long to crank some of these things out. Not because I need to finish playing through any of the games (Iíve already done that for the vast majority of them well ahead of time). No, itís because I get paranoid at the last second and start second-guessing myself.

ďIs Phantom 2040 really better than Big Sky Trooper

ďAm I overlooking something by putting Super Valis IV higher than Kendo Rage? Is someone gonna call me out on this because Iíve made a grievous mistake somehow?Ē

It happens with basically every single game I get to, so I have to constantly revisit, reassess, and then re-rank. Even my top 100, which I put together YEARS ago, is still in a constant state of flux. It will most likely stay that way until the very end too.

And that makes sense. After all, the American Film Institute changes up its ď100 Years 100 MoviesĒ all the time. IGN redoes all of its lists every few years, including the SNES one just last year. Iíll probably look at this thing when Iím finally done and see a few things I want to change. After all, things arenít static, and people and thoughts change. And (hopefully) grow.

So, I have all three Joe & Mac games right next to each other in here, because it just seemed to organically develop that way. Joe & Mac 2 slowly slid up, Congoís Caper slid down a bit. This is where they settled. And my thoughts might change in a few years.

Did I beat it?
I did, recently.


#201 - Shien's Revenge

Oh man, how do I even begin to explain this one?

Itís a light gun gameÖ without the light gun?

Itís a ninja simulator, played from a first person perspective?

Itís a game where the boss fights appear to be set in locations such as the Rainbow Road or a Star Fox corridor?

It features some of the laziest/dumbest artwork in the history of video games?

It features Nazis AND dragons?

Itís one of those ball-bustingly hard games that will have you wussing out and contemplating the easy mode?

Itís one of those games that seems ball-bustingly hard until you figure out the patterns and secrets, and start doing well?

Itís one of those games that seems like youíre getting the hang of it, and then no, it turns out itís still ball-bustingly hard?

How about this oneÖ Shienís Revenge can basically be summarized as playing a Super Nintendo game where youíre playing as a person who is playing Fruit Ninja for the Wii.

I guess any of those will work.

Anyway, Iím not gonna try and explain it anymore. Iím just gonna say I dig it. I really dig it. And if you want to swing a dismembered ninja arm around the screen, this is the game for you.

ManÖ fuck those Nazi levels though. That shit is ridiculous.

Did I beat it?
Just on easy. It's pretty difficult.