Category Archives: SNES

What I disliked about Chrono Trigger

I know that the previous post to this one was a game review haiku and for Chrono Trigger itself, meaning that that was going to be it in terms of “reviewing,” but I do want to talk about this powerful RPG from the SNES heydays a little more at length. I mean, I finished it up in early January 2012 a few days after GiantBomb completed their Endurance Run and have been rather silent since then, letting my thoughts and feelings about Crono, his friends, time, and Lavos stir and grow inside my mind. And don’t worry. While in this one I will be moaning and groaning about the parts I found disappointing, there will be another post devoted to what Chrono Trigger did right and why it is, many years later, still an amazing game.

Okay, let’s break this down for easy peasy squawking.

The writing (at times)

Chrono Trigger, despite all the destruction and malice that Lavos brings to the table, is actually a lighthearted tale. It opens with a festival, there’s a lot of bouncy music, and characters exaggerate in large and loud ways to get home their personalities. The writing also reflects this with Ayla, Robo, and Frog speaking with heavy dialects, which is not fun to digest. The biggest problem with the writing is that, when it came to quests and where to go next, nothing was clear. There’s no quest log, and so you just have to talk to everyone, and sometimes they will say something important, but it’s hard to decipher what is worth following and what carrot is not. I had to look up the solution to the Rainbow Shell quest because there was no way I’d ever figure it out on my own; I just can’t think that abstractly.

The old man at the End of Time could’ve been a bigger help, too.

Unclear stats

You can obtain a variety of accessories to put on your pals, but I never really changed them out too much as it was never clear what a lot of these things did. A MuscleRing gives its bearer Vigor +6, but in no way is it made known what Vigor means. Is that the same as Power? Stamina? Strike? Tickle? Your guess is as good as mine. I did not do a ton of weapon/armor switching, focusing only on whatever pumped up my people’s Power and Defense the most. Sometimes that meant everyone wearing Nova Armors and being boring clones.

Overpowered

The point after this one might seem contradicting, but about halfway through the  time-traveling adventure, fights became super easy. Like, just mashing the attack command for all three party members and never even glancing at dual techs or higher skills.

The final battle

Boss fight after boss fight after boss fight after boss fight. I had plenty of Elixirs and Full Elixirs and all my dudes leveled up, but man…it was grueling. No breaks or chances between to save and breath meant it was tense, and on my first real attempt to end it all I died midway through due to not paying attention intensely. My fault, but still…

DS bonus stuff

Yes, that’s right. I did not find a creepy pawn shop, sift through countless boxes of moth-ridden clothes and old VHS tapes to find a dusty–yet still workable–copy of Chrono Trigger for the SNES. Instead, I picked up the Nintendo DS version, which contains a translated version of the 1995 gem rainbow shell, as well as some bonus content. Namely, this:

  • Anime cutscenes from the PlayStation 1 port
  • The Lost Sanctum
  • The Dimensional Vortex
  • Arena of the Ages
  • A new ending (bringing the total to…17, ugh)
None of it is stellar. The anime cutscenes are a weird and kinda jarring, especially when you see Crono and his goofy hair in motion. The bonus areas…well, I didn’t even find them. Unless they only pop up in New Game+. So, good job there. I tried Arena of the Ages for a pinch, but it’s basically Pokemon diet, and not even near as gripping. Otherwise, it’s easy to not miss it, but at least I was able to have a copy of the game for portable purposes.

Multiple endings

I only toss this under the bus because I really don’t have time to play this game more than once, and I definitely don’t want to do that final battle again just to see a new ending. Maybe I’ll YouTube some of ’em…

And that’s it. I basically enjoyed everything else about Chrono Trigger, but I’ll call those aspects out in a separate post down the road. If you’re a Chrono Trigger fan, did any of these above points ring true for you as well or is it perfection from beginning to end? Let me know below in the comments. And don’t hate me too hard; I loved Chrono Trigger, but I’m still able to see its faults. That’s just one of the problems stemming from me playing the game as a 28-year-old man versus a young boyconstantly high on Mode 7 and Super Mario World.

Queen Zeal says I need to finish up some more sidequests

As per my last update on Chrono Trigger, I was feeling iffy over the remaining sidequests and decided to just bite the bullet and attempt to end the game via storming into The Black Omen, slicing and dicing and dual teching, and taking down Lavos for all of humanity. But after watching Crono, Marle, and Ayla fall to pieces three times in a row, I’m thinking that I’m not ready to beat the big baddie. Or rather, the smaller baddies before the big baddie. Well, I’m ready, truly, with all my heart and soul, but my characters are not despite all three being around level 45 or 46.

So, The Black Omen. It’s linear and draining, featuring normal enemies that could potentially be labeled mini-bosses, as well as Flyclops, which are these one-eyed flying monstrosities that can literally empty your character’s stock of MP in a few turns. I hate them deeply and have to take them down fast with Falcon Strike or all hope is lost. A number of save points are thankfully available, as there is a constant need to heal up prior and post the numerous boss fights. It’s not the most exciting push towards an ending; the bigger problem I’m having is with the boss fights in rapid succession near the end of The Black Omen and not being fast enough to heal up before Queen Zeal flicks everyone to death after lowering my team’s collective HP to a measly 1. Yup, you have to endure three fights, one after the other, with no time to recover. It’s a bummer when that “you have died” music plays, bringing you back to the main menu screen and showing you that you just lost 15 minutes of playtime.

So I talked to one of those weird Nu things and escaped from the floating ship of death and depression, getting back to fights I could handle. Namely, Retinite in the Sunken Desert, who went down with ease now that my team was significantly higher in power and gear than the last time they fought it. I then brought that forest back to life, save a sad moment in Lucca’s life, got a cool accessory that I don’t want to use as I have cooler accessories already equipped, and…that’s it.

Let’s update my list of sidequests then:

  • Ozzie’s Fort
  • Northern Ruins
  • The Sunken Desert
  • The Sun Stone
  • The Rainbow Shell
  • King Guardia’s Trial
  • Geno Dome
  • The Black Omen/The Final Battle

Four down! Three more to figure out.

Also, I have to come to terms with the fact that my team of Crono, Marle, and Ayla is not good enough for the final fight. Firstly, I know Marle could use a stronger weapon as she’s still rocking a Robin Bow, but her purpose in the group is for healing and adding on to some dual tech attacks; rarely does she go in shooting solo. My only group heal spell is the dual tech Aura Whirl between Crono and Marle, but I really don’t want to give up the princess. With a Gold Stud and a lot of Magic Tabs, I’ve made her a cheap healing beast. Which makes me think that maybe Ayla needs to go. Her Charm tech is nice, but she lacks an elemental aura, which can hurt in some fights. Maybe Frog? I don’t know. I like my girls so there’s also Lucca who, if I’m to be honest here, I’ve used minimally since beginning Chrono Trigger. I just find her…uninteresting.

I also have the option–I think–to skip The Black Omen entirely and just fight Lavos via the bucket at the End of Time.

Hmm. Decisions, decisions. I hope to have a more successful update next time.

The final sidequests in Chrono Trigger are deceptively tough

Yup, another progress report for Chrono Trigger. Last night, thanks to the excessive use of the Dual Tech called Ice Sword and by stocking up my team (Crono, Marle, and Ayla) with fire-resistant armor, I was able to kick Rust Tyrano’s rusty butt, discover the Rainbow Shell directly behind it, and bring said treasure back to Guardia Castle. I expected some kind of reward right there and then, but was surprised to learn that I’d have to do some time-traveling to see if anything was to come of the legendary shell. Ah, this sidequest was not over yet. Back in the future, the trial of the century is happening; I won’t spoil what happens next, but it was a nice moment for Marle and her father, and as a reward, I got Melchior to make her a new dress from the Rainbow Shell.

Again, just like last time, I’m now at some crossroads. Here’s the list of Chrono Trigger sidequests available to do before taking on big ol’ smelly, the it of the hour, the not-so-lovable Lavos:

  • Ozzie’s Fort – Finished this one and even found the secret room that housed all the best gear for Magus, a dude I am so not interested in using. I tossed him into my party once for a few fights and then got rid of him. No Dual Techs? Get outta here.
  • Northern Ruins – Thanks to Epoch, I found a ruined castle with the ghost of Cyrus in it. We fought, I did no damage to him, and the battle ended after a bit, with Frog trying to make contact with his old friend who was sadly having a case of the jimmy arms. That was it. Nothing else seemed to happen, and I’m not sure what it is we’re doing wrong–I figured having Frog in the party was the trick to getting this sidequest started. Guess not.
  • The Sunken Desert – I went into the quicksand hole, cleared out some enemies, grabbed all items from the treasure chests, and then died fighting the skeleton boss there, the infamous Retinite. He’s kind of a boney jerk. Couldn’t figure out a good pattern to beating him, as physical attacks raised his defense and water spells lowered it, but by the time I got something going there I had to call it quits in order to heal up my peeps. And then mass destruction was dropped on our heads. Dead, dead, and dead.
  • The Sun Stone – Haven’t even attempted this one yet. Not sure what exactly I’m supposed to do.
  • The Rainbow Shell – Just completed it last night.
  • King Guardia’s Trial – Same as above, which seem to go hand-in-hand with each other. I picked the Prism Dress over the three Prism Helms. Hope that was a good decision. Wait. Why can’t Melchior make all the items? It’s not like the Rainbow Shell got used up to craft the dress. It’s still in Guardia Castle’s basement. I can see it. It’s right there.
  • Geno Dome – I dropped Robo into my party, headed to that nasty vision of the future, and started this sidequest proper. Mother Brain–no, not that one–contacts Robo at the Geno Dome, curious about his human companions, and the gang begins exploring. I got pretty far into the factory, but then the game threw some switch puzzles at us, and I couldn’t really figure out where to go next. So I left and haven’t been back.
  • The Black Omen/The Final Battle – SO NOT READY YET. Though I think I did accidentally stumble into the final fight once already. I fought Lavos for a good twenty minutes or so, getting pretty far down his line of changing battle formations, but he got us in the end, destroying the world yet again. Kind of worried that my party is still not up to snuff in terms of equipment and experience for the finale. Ugh.

Not really sure what to do. I’m still itching to see this game come to a conclusion, but a few of these sidequests are strikingly unclear. I know in my heart of hearts that I’m missing a ton of items and story bits by not tracking down every place and puzzle to unravel, but I think I am just going to fly to The Black Omen next and see what my group can do. Now, the true question remains: should I take it on in 12,000 BC, 600 AD, or 1,000 AD?

30 Days of Gaming meme is now completed

It took me 287 days to complete the 30 Days of Gaming meme, which is a list of thirty topic trains meant to be derailed one after the other in thirty consecutive days. Another way to look at it is as so: 9 months and 12 days. Let’s go further down the rabbit hole and reduce the final count to these: 24,796,800 seconds or 413,280 minutes or 6,888 hours or 41 weeks. Fun with numbers, I know. It’s all the rage on blogs these days.

Yeah, I never promised I’d be fast with the meme, as it was meant to fill in the gaps at Grinding Down, but at some point, I just forgot about it for a good while and then later struggled with some of the tougher topics. But I have triumphed, and so here’s the roundup of all those posts. Clicky click, y’all.

Day 1 – Your first videogame (Super Mario World)
Day 2 – Your favorite character (Gremio from Suikoden)
Day 3 – A game that is underrated (Primal)
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game (Pokemon White)
Day 5 – Game character you feel you most like (Joker from Mass Effect)
Day 6 – Most annoying character (Tom Nook from Animal Crossing: Wild World)
Day 7 – Favorite game couple (Fran and Balthier from Final Fantasy XII)
Day 8 – Best soundtrack (Chrono Cross)
Day 9 – Saddest game scene (Nanami’s death in Suikoden II)
Day 10 – Best gameplay (Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves)
Day 11 – Gaming system of choice (Nintendo DS)
Day 12 – A game everyone should play (Limbo)
Day 13 – A game you’ve played more than five times (Super Metroid)
Day 14 – Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper
Day 15 – Post a screenshot from the game you’re playing right now (Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar)
Day 16 – Game with the best cut scenes (Jak 3)
Day 17 – Favorite antagonist
Day 18 – Favorite protagonist Craziest thing in a game (Zodiac Spear in Final Fantasy XII)
Day 19 – Picture of a game setting you wish you lived in (Fable II)
Day 20 – Favorite genre (RPGs)
Day 21 – Game with the best story (Suikoden II)
Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style (Aquaria)
Day 24 – Favorite classic game (Pac-Man)
Day 25 – A game you plan on playing (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Day 26 – Best voice acting (Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain)
Day 27 – Most epic scene ever (Mother Brain boss fight in Super Metroid)
Day 28 – Favorite game developer (Konami)
Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving (LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game)
Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

Whew. Lots to read. Or not, that’s your call. To speak nicely of my own writing for a moment–and trust me, this does not happen a lot, as self-deprecation is my main form of medication–I’m pretty proud of the posts for Day 2, Day 5, Day 9, and Day 11. These are more personal than traditional, the kind of writing where there’s a story before we get to the meat of things. I dunno. Overall, I’m kind of meh about how this meme went and turned out, and I suspect I won’t be doing another for a long while. I think I am better at videogame musing off the cuff, and I now never want to write about my favorite videogame ever again; it just can’t be done, folks. Unless you’re Jeremy Parish.

All right, moving on now…

30 Days of Gaming, #30 – Your favorite game of all time

Well, this has been a long-time coming, but here we are, the final topic. “Of what?” you ask, looking around with wide eyes, a dribble of drool leaking down your chin. Clearly you’ve forgotten. That 30 Days of Gaming meme that I started back in…oh gawd, March 2011. With the new year swinging on in, we’re almost at the 365 days mark for a meme meant to be completed in thirty days. Thirty topics for thirty days. Don’t label me a slacker just yet as I was totally honest about this meme in that it was going to be a slow crawl, a thing I went to here and there to fill in the gaps when all I could find inside my cranium were dustbowls and old photograph albums. In truth, the final few topics have been pretty tough to nail down, and I’ve been less interested in thinking about them discerningly.

And the final topic is the topic, the one that puts it all out there. The kicker: name your favorite game of all time. OF ALL TIME.

::inhale::

::exhale::

Right. It’s actually quite easy to name my favorite videogame of all time. That’d be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I mean, the image on Grinding Down since its very birth has been the Master Sword in all its forest-hidden glory. Should’ve seen it coming, people. The hard part comes with writing about it, as it’s a game so close to my shaping, a game so perfect in memory and nostalgia that I am scared if it’s even possible to express so with an ounce of success. Guess I’ll give it a shot. Maybe even a hook shot.

I don’t remember how A Link to the Past ended up in my SNES collection. I don’t remember saving up money as a kid from mowing the lawn or washing neighbors’ cars or my allowance in general to pay for it. I don’t remember trading with friends or borrowing it from a friend and then just keeping it like a horrible goblin. I don’t remember getting it as an older boy, a teenager, or a man, meaning it had to come into my hands around the time it came into many others’ hands, near its launch date of late 1992. I don’t remember how I got it, but I’ve had it ever since, as it’s one of the few SNES carts that did not get traded in when I was young and dumb. I do, however, remember playing it. And playing it again and again.

For those that don’t know, A Link to the Past is a coming-of-age tale where a young Link has to save a princess and defeat Agahnim not once, but twice and then slice Ganon apart for peace to return to the land of Hyrule. To do this, he has to travel between a Light and Dark World to collect the Master Sword and three mystical pendants, as well as uncover the Seven Sages. In between all that, you’ll explore villages and dungeons and rivers and forests for items and people to help you along the way.

There was a time when the Internet didn’t spoil videogames for everyone, and during that time I played A Link to the Past. I found my way into the castle during a rainstorm via a hole in the ground without anyone pointing it out to me. I attacked chickens until they attacked me without knowing that would happen. I made it through the Ice Palace dungeon without a walkthrough. I totally cried in frustration when I couldn’t figure out how to beat Moldorm, and it knocked Link off the screen for the umpteenth time. I helped the lost old man on Death Mountain without knowing whether it was a trick or not. I revealed a monster with sunlight, I blew apart cracks in walls, I dashed into a tree to unleash a swarm of bees…I…I…

This is a videogame stuffed to the brim of little moments, tiny secrets, and gleeful nods. And that’s a big part of why it’s so special to me. The “main quest” of stopping the evil overlord is by the books, but it’s all the little moments that make the adventure so spectacular. And the music. And the fact that there’s an entire second world to explore, which comes seemingly out of nowhere, and you can flip to and from it with ease, on the fly, giving you freedom to explore and try things out. And the graphics, the kind that are ever-lasting, the kind that evoke warm feelings upon seeing them today, tomorrow, and years down the road.

I love it immensely, though the last time I sat down to play it on my still working SNES was many moons ago. Maybe even in the early 2000s. I’m probably overdue for a trip down memory lane with a game that has still not been reproduced today. There is nothing else like it, not even other games from The Legend of Zelda. Though the DS ones come close in spirit.

So there ya go. My favorite videogame of all time. A Link to the Past. I probably didn’t do it enough justice, but whatever. This isn’t a college thesis here. Agree or disagree or move on silently to something else on the Internet. We’re done. Though there’ll be a roundup post on the 30 Days of Gaming meme soon, too. Until the next meme, I guess!

30 Days of Gaming, #27 – Most epic scene ever

Hey, remember this meme? Me too. Actually, I did forget about it for a bit, seeing as the last update to it was way back in early August 2011. My bad. I can’t wait to count up how long it’s taken me to blog about 30 days’ worth of topics. Probably in the triple digits by now. Grinding Down has truly earned its namesake. To be honest, these last few topics are a bit of a struggle, all of them seemingly heavy-hitters in terms of constant forum topics and debates. Hopefully I can do them justice, but truthfully–I’m a little worried about my choices.

This is Super Metroid‘s second time appearing in the 30 Days of Gaming meme. The first was for the topic of “a game I’ve played more than five times,” which you can read about by clicking this clickity part.

To start, the last Metroid is in captivity, the galaxy is at peace. Until it’s not. Super Metroid begins by tilting this utopian idea on its side, with the Metroid larvae Samus brought to the Ceres Space Colony for researching being stolen by her nemesis Ridley. As she hurries back, she finds all the scientists dead. And she’ll be soon too if she doesn’t escape before the planet explodes. Narrowly missing the chance to become space particles, Samus then tracks Ridley to the planet Zebes. Ridley is the second-to-last boss, and despite his involvement in this whole mess, he’s not the show-stealer. No, not by a mile. Leave that honor to Mother Brain.

Good job, bounty hunter. You’ve made it to Tourian. This is Mother Brain’s base of operations, and it’s been relocated and rebuilt. Tread carefully. As you make your way closer to the end, you’ll pass former victims of the life-sucking Metroids; they crumble and turn to dust as Samus hurries past, a haunting image. But that’s only the beginning. You find Mother Brain, all encased and hooked up to too many tubes, just like in Metroid, and you blow her to bits, watching with glee as the machinery around her explodes and drops her to the floor, defeated, nothing more than a brain without a body. And then she gets up.

Clearly, it makes no sense how a pinkish lump of brainstuffs is able to grow out an entire dinosaur-like body like that, but it took me by surprise the first time nonetheless. I remember my own brain squirming in my skull, trying to find its own “grow a T-Rex body” switch and make sure it was set to OFF. Frightened, you launch every single rocket and super missile you have in your arsenal, relentless in your attack. And Samus is putting up quite a fight, dodging mouth-fire and bombs–but then Mother Brain hits her with an eye beam of stunning. Down she goes, forced to endure Mother Brain’s attacks as her health depletes block by block. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to witness. Just before the end, when all seems hopeless and the final attack is being charged up, a Metroid swoops in to save Samus, sucking the life from Mother Brain. The Metroid then transfers her energy and powers to Samus, sacrificing herself in the cause. The remainder of the battle is a snap thanks to a kickass supercharged beam shot, and Mother Brain’s brain is disintegrating before you know it. No time to celebrate though; you have three minutes exactly to escape the planet before all is blown to bits.

What I love about this scene is how unexpected–and unpredicted–the Metroid’s saving swoop-in is. There’s no pausing, no jarring cutscene, no weird sounds like you’d get on a PlayStation when a FMV was readying to load; it’s all one fluid moment, filled with fluid movement, and the scene is nearly impossible to not watch. I remember thinking my controller was broken when I couldn’t get Samus to move after Mother Brain’s stun beam, and that sadness quickly turned to elation when I saw who had Samus’ back. One can only assume that this was the Metroid she had originally brought to the Ceres Space Colony.

This scene still resonates with me today, some fifteen-plus years later. That’s epic enough for me.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

Sadly, I can only imagine how terrifying RPGs must have seemed when they first came out on gaming consoles years–nay, decades–ago. In contrast to games like Super Mario Bros and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, here was a gaming genre that moved slowly, told a grandiose tale, reduced combat to a turn-by-turn basis, and asked the player to save frequently because there’s no way you’ll end up finishing this title off on a lazy Saturday afternoon. To ease gamers into this notion of quests of the epic nature and turn-based combat, Squaresoft released Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the SNES in 1992, a game that was, for all intents and purposes, a gateway drug to the realm of harder, more satisfying drugs. Drugs here being RPGs, people. Calm down.

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest‘s plot is guessable. It’s about a young boy named Benjamin who is out to save the world. He’ll accomplish this hefty goal by collecting stolen crystals that affect the world’s four elemental powers. Yup. If that sounds familiar, you’re an attested RPGer. By the way, this unnamed world is divided into four regions: Foresta, Aquaria, Fireburg, and Windia. Go ahead and guess what each one is like, I’ll wait.

Gameplay, for an RPG, was simplified. And this was before Mass Effect II did it. Random battles, equipment customization, save points, and a full party system were abandoned for a streamlined, cleaner presentation that did most of the work for you. Newly acquired armor simply replaces the previously worn. You explored towns and chatted with folk, and you could chop down trees, blow up walls, and use a grappling hook to cross wide gaps. Sounds a bit more like a Zelda game, right? Here’s another instance of Squaresoft making it easier for gamers: the heal spell not only recovered lost HP, but also removed status ailments, eliminating the need for other item types.

I bought a copy of this game for über cheap several years after its release, after it missed the mark of finding lovers in the hardcore Final Fantasy fans, as well as the general mass market. I remember playing it for a bit, but never completing it. My favorite aspect was always how gargantuan the monsters you fought against were in comparison to Ben. Also, the main town in Windia stands out in my mind, but I can’t pinpoint why…maybe there was a band there playing music and I thought that was pretty neat? Maybe. But at some point, this game was bundled up with a bunch of other SNES carts as I traded them all in for my chance at a PlayStation. Strangely, it wouldn’t be until the PlayStation that a Final Fantasy game hit both targets of hardcore RPG fans and those not in the know.

Easy, simple RPGs, such as Costume Quest, can still be awesome, be loved. A part of me wants to believe the same can be said about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, but that same part also thinks that new equipment replacing old equipment against my will is extremely obnoxious.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

30 Days of Gaming, #13 – A game you’ve played more than five times

This is kind of a weirdly phrased topic. I mean, it seems like it wants to ask about a game you’ve beaten more than five times because honestly, I’m pretty sure I’ve played every videogame ever more than five times–as have you–save for Epic Mickey (cue sound effect). If that’s the case, I had a number of choices for today’s 30 Days of Gaming meme topic, most of them coming from the great house of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Suikoden to name a few.

However, I’m going with Super Metroid, a game I can’t pinpoint on the number of times I’ve completed, but it’s one that I return to consistently every few years and love revisiting. I’m so proud to still have this cartridge in my SNES collection; thank the stars above and below that I didn’t trade it in with all those other games I now regret living without.

Super Metroid thrives on exploration and discovery; without it, Samus would just be some ho-hum bounty hunter that hopped up and down platforms, shot enemies to pieces, and took down crazily unique bosses. Those aspects of Super Metroid are great and certainly nothing to sneeze at, but its everything else around them, the unknown padding if you will, that makes this truly a game worth coming back to again and again. It’s landing on Zebes in the rain and heading to the right to discover that, no, really, you need to be heading to the left. It’s making your way through Crateria, which, as a young boy, I always misread as Cafeteria, and getting chills from the dreary, silent mood thickening in the air above. It’s getting even more freaked out when Samus first arrives at the Wrecked Ship to drips and statue-still enemies. It’s that final boss fight, and the frantic rush thereafter; it’s going back to where it all started.

Every time I play through Super Metroid, I discover something new. Last time, it was reaching new areas with the Shinespark technique that I had previously thought were unreachable. Another time it was sinking through some quicksand to…not die, but end up in a hidden room. Long before that it was learning all the secret, chargeable special attacks. I can’t even imagine what other hidden goodies remain for my next romp through, but I’ll be sure to x-ray scan every wall possible and bomb whatever gets in the way.

Truth be told, I’d love a new version to pop up on the Nintendo 3DS, and considering there’s a 3D upgrade to a title like Excitebike…well, my dream isn’t too far-fetched. Until then, I’m just gonna roll up into a ball and wait.

30 Days of Gaming, #1 – Your first videogame

 

This meme starts off with a doozy, and it’s a rather tricky doozy for me. See, while I’m going to talk about Super Mario World here as my first videogame, it most likely isn’t able to claim that title truthfully. Unfortunately, my gaming history from the early days is fairly foggy, and I know I played a lot of NES games over at the neighbors’, as well as bowling alley arcade machines and those weird solar-powered handheld things. I have very strong memories of a baseball one that traveled with me during long car rides. And I can’t quite place in the timeline when I got my GameBoy.

That said, Super Mario World–and the SNES is launched on–were truly my first, the very first console I ever opened on a Christmas morning, hugged, and called my own. It was the first videogame I could play, turn off, and turn back on an hour later, or the next morning, or whenever–because it was mine, and I was at home, not a friend’s place, and I could play it as much as I wanted. What we should also consider is that, having gotten no other games to play with the console for Christmas, I was extremely thankful the system came packaged with Super Mario World, which kept me busy for many snowy vacation days. And this trend of giving gamers a freebie is still somewhat followed by Nintendo (Wii Sports for the Nintendo Wii; those AR games for the Nintendo 3DS). It was a move that would ensure many would play it, burn it into their upbringing, never forget about it.

Two paragraphs in, and I’ve yet to really dig into Super Mario World. It’s that same ol’ story from previous Mario games, wherein the princess gets herself kidnapped by Bowser and it’s up to Mario Mario and Luigi Mario to save her. They’ll travel across themed lands to get her, too. However, a new savior joins the party, and it’s my personal fav…Yoshi the dinosaur. When ridden, Yoshi can eat enemies, spit fire, and allow Mario to reach new heights thanks to a higher jump. The saddest thing anyone can witness is when an enemy hits a ridden Yoshi; the dinosaur cries out in horror, tosses its rider off, and makes a bee-line run for the nearest deathpit. It’s sickening, I say.

As a youngling, getting to the next section was all that mattered. And this game taught me how to jump, to run, to move effectively from left to right more so than any other game. I remember barely squeezing by on extra lives when beating World 4: Forest of Illusion and skipping over to the dreaded World 5: Chocolate Island. As I got older and revisited the game, I discovered that it harbored a great number of secrets. Things like Warp Whistles and holding down for X number of seconds to hide in the level’s backgrounds, but these were mostly about alternate exits and unlocking colored blocks throughout the worlds. Such things as alternate exits blew my mind back then; stumbling upon one where I accidentally had Caped Mario fly too far over the end goal on to discover a second end goal was like–I can only assume here as I don’t eat such dredge–finding two toys in a box of cereal purporting only one plastic army guy.

Awesomely, the game still stands up on its own today. Sure, some of the levels feel very short, and large chunks can be skipped if you are able to fly high enough, but the challenge still sits around medium. Those chargin’ football players always give me trouble. The graphics are just as colorful, and the music invades your head in ways you’d never expect. Hearing the bwwwwoooo-oop at the end of the level as the screen circles in on Mario and then goes black is pure cocaine.

And if older games had Achievements, I’d have ’em all for Super Mario World. Yes, even the one for opening up the EXTRA mode, which changed the colors of the levels, as well as messed with in-game sprites. This was accomplished by completing Star Road, which is not the easiest of tasks. But I had much more free time then to devote to a game, and no secret sat unturned. It’s most definitely a legendary title, and the fact that I’m considering it my first makes it all the more special.

Anyways, here’s a moment in time. Me with my wife’s copy of Super Mario World, a game now 20 years old. Enjoy the nostalgia, dear readers:

Next up on 30 Days of Gaming…is my favorite character? Hmm. Spoiler: it’s not that jerkbag, Milich.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

The 1990s were a crazy time. I mean, two of the biggest mascots were a plumber and an anthromorphic hedgehog with super speed. And gaming companies left and right were vying for their own position in mascot mecca. Some faired better than others. Remember Rocky Rodent? Chester Cheetah? Boogerman? Cool Spot? For your sake, I surely hope you don’t.

Accolade, Inc. entered the mascot gauntlet in 1993 with Bubsy, a bobcat that…uh, was full of catchphrases and snark. Starring in the awkwardly titled Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, the bouncy bobcat is on a mission to stop a race of fabric-stealing aliens called “Woolies”; they have stolen the world’s yarn ball supply, but more vital is that they stole Bubsy’s personal collection, the largest yet to be seen. Yes, we all know cats love balls of yarn. However, Bubsy is a bobcat, and I think they like to maul small animals. Just a minor difference in the end.

Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind takes place over five unique worlds, each with three levels. The Woolies and accompanying enemies change their look with each world, but otherwise the gameplay remains the same: a lot of platforming. World 1 is sort of a generic homelands, focusing on houses and water slides and underground tunnels. World 2 is an amusement park. World 3 stars a train in the Wild West setting. World 4 is something akin to national wildlife park, with trees being chopped down and gysers spouting. And naturally, World 5 takes place in outer space.

My least fond, but most strongest memories from adventuring with Bubsy are  1) that he would just not shut up and 2) that the game’s soundtrack was a bit of mess. First, let’s talk about talking. At the beginning of every level, Bubsy made an attempt at being cute or catchy. Here, check ’em all out:

  • What could possibly go wrong? – Cheesewheels of Doom
  • Did I mention I don’t like heights? – Forbidden Plummet
  • More like a bridge too short. – A Bridge Too Fur
  • Hey, whatever blows your hair back! – Fair Conditioning
  • Hey, I thought I saw Elvis back there! – Night of the Bobcat
  • Shouldn’t that be ‘fearless’? Uh-oh… – Our Furless Leader
  • Well, it worked for Clint. – The Good, The Bad and the Woolies
  • Go ahead, make my day! – A Fistful of Yarn
  • My contract does not mention pain! – Dances with Woolies
  • Hey, I didn’t write this stuff!!! – Beavery Careful
  • Next time, I get a stunt-cat! – Rock around the Croc
  • Is there a veternarian in the audience? – Claws for Alarm
  • That’s it! I’m outta here! You can’t make me. – Eye of the Bobcat
  • What, and give up show business? – No Time for Paws
  • Somebody dial 911!!! – Lethal Woolie
  • Whoah, are you still playing this thing?! – A Farewell to Woolies

Man, look at all those puns. Really, I’m not against them. As a writer, I’m bound by an unwritten law to at least admire puns. However, hearing Bubsy constantly crank out these sayings can really drive one batty. Especially since, back then, I never got past the second world (at least that I can recall), that meant hearing the first five or six sayings over and over again. Go ahead and say “What could possibly go wrong?” in a really nasily voice ten times in a row and then tell me you love life.

Now for the music. It was bubbly and erratic, and suffered greatly from changing tones on the drop of a dime. For example, Bubsy is just bouncy along, collecting yarn to some chippy tunes when all of sudden he’s fallen into a waterslide part, and the soundtrack changes dramatically to the ilk often used to represent TOTAL DOOM. The strange thing is that hopping out of the waterslide does not deter the music, and it will continue to follow Bubsy until the game believes all is well in Woolieland.

That said, I really did love platforming with Bubsy. Bouncing really high into the air in any level and then floating down to the unknown was always thrilling. In fact, it’s one of the very first things you can do in the game, using a tree’s branch at the opening screen to shoot directly into the sky. Sometimes you’d land safely on the ground; sometimes you’d drift over to a secret area full of collectible yarn balls; and sometimes you’d fall into an open slice of water to drown. Bobcats can’t swim. It’s true, just ask Animal Planet. I also loved all the hidden areas and ways to move forward, like using the interlinked cave system or simply running forward. The graphics were extremely colorful and fun, offering a variety of enemies and items to go along with each world’s setting. It taught me a good amount about judging jumps and taking chances.

Alas, finding an actual SNES copy is probably pretty hard. And after the trainwreck that was Bubsy 3D, the franchise fizzled and was forcibly forgotten by all involved. There’s not even a downloadable version available via the Nintendo Wii. To answer Bubsy’s question from the very last level of the game, no. Sadly, I’m not.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.