Saturday, June 27, 2009

Staying Home Sick with the Pile of Shame and my NES


Everyone has a pile of shame - that large, frequently growing pile of games you buy, but don't play right away that sit next to your gaming station like some poor, lost children waiting for the love of their parents to finally come.

When I get sick, which isn't all that frequently, I end up tackling some of the games in my pile of shame, trying to justify buying tons of stuff that I never seemingly play - until I have no choice to but to amuse myself whith what's in the house. I have been able to curb my prodigous video game spending to the point where I actually need to go buy something new at times, but neverethelless, I have a number of games collecting dust and years in my geeks' library.

So this last week when I was home sick for 5 straight days, I decided to go on an NES-centric blast of some titles I never got to.

First on the list was Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. I had seen the game plenty when I was a kid. I remember it being a pretty big deal when it came out as the original Zelda had garnered quite a hardcore audience by then. I saw it at a friends house and really didn't get it. It seemed like a combination of two very disperate things - namely platforming and rpg's. I passed on it as good NES games seemed to be comming out every other day back then.


I picked it up for the first time since I saw it last in the late 1980's and gave it a go. First thing I noticed, the music was bland and tried too hard to be as majestic and special feeling as that of the first game. The overworld maps were totally devoid of any personality or good design. The creators should have really looked at Dragon Quest to see how to set up a good overworld, one that invites you to explore rather than look for the shortcut every time.

The controls aren't too bad, but there are issues with collision detection from time to time, tying your opponent and both scoring hits, which can be frustrating, especially when your un-upgradable sword is so short.

I went back to the pen and paper for mapping out dungeons and it really brought me back. I can't tell you how many maps and notes I took for NES games and it felt good to be doing it again. I mapped all but the last dungeon, mostly becuse its so freaking huge and I knew the pattern - left, right, right, left at the intersections - which helps not waste as much time as the dungeon wants you to.

I played the game through until the last dungeon and just lost steam. It takes forever to transverse the set-piece battles to even get to the dungeon and the dungeon is needlessly long, with a ton of rooms with one or no enemies inside. But that doesn't matter as much as the fact that those few enemies are crazy powerful and will take you out very quickly. Most aren't even worth fighting - running is definately the best tactic, especially as most lack any patterned movement at all.

Once you get to the last boss, everything is pretty much cake, from what I understand, but I just don't care to finish it. It misses for me on a number of levels - visually, its pretty uninspired and gone are all the enemies you came to love/hate from the first Zelda, which kinda kills the nostalgia factor.

The platforming is actually prety good, especially when you get the downward and upward stab movements and can blast through most screens pretty quickly, even if you are just bouncing along the tops of your enemies heads to get through the random battles.

Not a bad game, but not one of the NES's best and certainly not for anyone but the vintage-ly curious.


Next on the list was a game I had absolutely no time with - and for good reason - it was never released here. Earthbound for the NES was a rare one - translated and finished, it never saw the light of day in the US until some fans found the rom data and dumped it for all of the world to enjoy. I had a reproduction cart made at (along with Summer Carnival '92 - Recca and Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan) and I have been waiting for a rainy day to play it. It wasn't raining, unless you count the massive ammounts of mucus I seemed to be producing in unlimited quantities.

If you read this blog from time to time, you'll know I love me some old-skool RPG action. I like to grind, I like overworld maps, I have played Final Fantasy 1 to conclusion at least five times - all on the NES - and I have played through all of the Dragon Warrior titles we ever got here. So I was pretty excited to play this, especially as the fans of the series are legend.

In short, I had a blast. Awesome music, great overworld maps, a really sprawling world to play in and a bit of necessary grinding makes for a very good NES game. I played the first five or so hours with a smile on my face and just dug the hell out of it. It's slow, but old-skool slow and it's graphics, gameplay and music are dated for sure, but it's a helluva lot of fun. When you get a chance to discover something like this, it's pretty rare and should be cherished and that's what I did in my couch-bound state - cherished the hell out of it.


I laughed the first time I had to fight a hippie, I buckled down when I needed to find the young girl in the cemetary and I marveled at the dream world Magicant, a place so rare for games - a dream world that feels like it.

That's about as far as I got while I was sick and I may return to it, but as my hours for gaming are not optimal when I am not home on the couch sick, we'll see. I may save it for another future day with nothing to do.

I also decided to give Bionic Commando another shot and just didn't click with it for like the tenth time. I know there's something there, but I'll be damned if I ever find it.

At one point, I did try out SMB 2 Japan, but holy hell its tough. Not for the faint of heart. I haven't played SMB 1 in years and I couldn't make it past the first level without dying a lot more than I should. I'll save that for another sick day.


gunbird18 said...

And after you play 5 days of old skuul rpgs (NES rpgs, no less), then you wake up on the 6th day to an epiphany!

I play shmups...I was born to play shmups...what was I thinking...I am drtoaplan...


drboom said...

:) I do play other things as well!

That being said, these days, I do need to be sick or have a lot of time alone at home to play RPG's and most of my DS/PSP gaming is done on the road (or at work...).

I imagine this is probably the same for most of us who play shmups - they fit into the lifestyle of the older, responsible guy better - short playing times, quick satisfaction. I'd be interested to hear from others if this is true. Maybe I'll ask on shmups, but feel free to post your thoughts here as well.