A Virtual Bounty Years In The Making – Super Nintendo – Super Metroid – 1994

Super Metroid (Japan, USA) (En,Ja)000Super Metroid
Super Nintendo
Nintendo / Intelligent Systems
Genre: Adventure Platformer
1994

All right.  Confession time.

Up until recently, I’ve never played through a Metroid title.  I’ve honestly only ever even picked up two of the games in my life- the original for the NES and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo.  Fairly recently, I mentioned this on Twitter and after a few exchanges with some folks there, I resolved to finally play through the most vocally revered entry to Samus Aran’s adventures: Super Metroid.

I can pinpoint why it’s taken me so long to get to the series in a few ways.  In its prime, Super Metroid didn’t appeal to me as a gamer on most levels.  It’s taken me a while to embrace the science fiction gaming genre.  The general mechanics of exploration- now dubbed as an entire genre called “Metroidvania”- didn’t appeal to me in the slightest when I was younger, either.  By the time I started becoming intrigued by the Metroid games, the series already had a bunch of titles under its belt.

Since then, though, I’ve become endeared to a number of sci-fi flavored games and have played through a number of recent Castlevania games that play in a similar fashion to what I had been avoiding due to years.  Given my mission statement to experience and learn about as much gaming as I can, it felt like it was time to fill in this gap in my digital past.

One might ask “how did I feel finally having played Super Metroid”?  I’m more than happy to share my impressions about the experience with you folks!

(As a quick aside, I’m toying around a bit with the format of the reviews so you may notice some shifting of sections in the next few before I settle on the best format for what I’m going for.  Any and all feedback is welcome, as I want these reviews to be as reader-friendly as possible, too!)
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Do We Reap What We Sow? – PC – Harvester – 1996


TitleHarvester
PC
DigiFX Interactive / Merit Studios
Genre: Horror Adventure
1996

There are plenty of gaming discussions and topics that grab my attention and engage me, but few really stoke my fires like video game controversy and censorship.  I’ve definitely hinted as to how much I love exploring the how and why of a lot of these actions (see my article on Night Trap for a sample taste of that) come to be.  Even better, I love hearing the voices of the creators on these matters.

Once again, I dip my toe into a game that fought censorship and bred controversy in its day with Harvester.  When Harvester released back in 1996, it shocked plenty of people with its claims of being ‘the most violent adventure game of all time’.  Given its place in electronic history, I could maybe see where its claim could be valid. There was a lot of competition to push boundaries while balancing interesting gameplay not only to ‘stick it to the man’ but to also promote commentary on what was acceptable in video games and film at the time.  According to Wikipedia, Gilbert P. Austin who wrote and directed the game said that he wanted to use Harvester to explore whether violence in the media created violence in real life.  Sounds oddly familiar, yeah?

This brings a few questions to the table then: did Harvester achieve what Austin was looking for?  Were the shock and awe worth it? Above all else- is Harvester even a good game?

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Dabble If You Dare – Nintendo Entertainment System – Taboo: The Sixth Sense – 1989

Taboo Title
Taboo: The Sixth Sense
Nintendo Entertainment System
Rare/Tradewest
Genre: Simulation
1989

Do you believe in the spiritual and the supernatural?  What if there is some kind of force that guides your fate?  The nature of the mystical and magical has permeated the history of the world for as long as the written record has existed and then some.  Whether you believe in it or not, it’s difficult to avoid those that feel there is something “more”- and that there are those who can sense those elements through some kind of attunement to them.

Taboo: The Sixth Sense isn’t a game in the classical sense, though it is meant strictly for entertainment purposes.  Much like arcade novelties like love testers and penny presses, the game is more of an experience than anything else, and it takes about five minutes or so to make a run through.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really much else to write about Taboo without taking away from the rest of what I have to write as a result- so on with the show!

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No Kick to This Routine – Super Nintendo – 3 Ninjas Kick Back – 1994

3 Ninjas Kick Back0013 Ninjas Kick Back
Super Nintendo
Malibu Interactive/Sony Imagesoft
Genre: Action Platformer
1994

Movies aimed at kids can do a multitude of things.  When you’re young, they can inspire you to try out new hobbies or interests you might not have before.  I can still remember when Rookie of the Year came out and I immediately wanted to join a T-ball league.  That’s a positive, right?

When you’re older, you tend to look back on them with fondness- even if it’s a cringe-inducing fondness that makes you realize that maybe you shouldn’t have quoted everything those kids said at recess, and now you understand why you were kept inside that one time you quoted Mouth from The Goonies.

They can also spawn a wide range of merchandise, the most important of which in the 1990s was the video game.  Films have been the basis for video games for as long as most can remember. If there’s an opportunity to turn a few extra bucks by using interactive electronic media- well, why not?  I still vividly remember the feeling that the 3 Ninjas movies left me with.  I wanted to get out there and try karate.  I wanted to fight off thugs and save the day with some friends; I’m an only child so I didn’t have two brothers to team up with.  Honestly, though, I can’t say I remember too much about the actual movies.

While I never played 3 Ninjas Kick Back growing up, I figured I could give it a swing now.  Of course with it being a licensed game, my reservations were high.  In the back of my mind, I just kept thinking that there had to be some design ideas in there that could be interesting.  At no point did I try to convince myself that it would be a good game, though.

Allow me to share my experience with you, o fellow game fan.


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The Challenge From Beyond – MS-DOS – Alone in the Dark – 1992

1

Alone in the Dark
PC
Infogrames
Genre: Survival Horror
1992

Back in the 1990s, horror aficionado and computer programmer Frederick Reynal was given the privilege of sitting at the helm of a horror project for Infogrames.  As a fan of George Romero and Dario Argento, he and his team wanted to create a game that placed a character into a foreign environment and required them to puzzle out a way to survive.  At the time, it was a concept that hadn’t been done in this particular manner. It would use 3D graphics and strive to create the fear that even a small gesture like opening a door or reading a book could end up with your character’s untimely demise.

Alone in the Dark was the product of that effort.  Billed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first 3D survival horror game, its influence can be found throughout the genre to this day in games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and various other games that has since leaned into action-horror; a move that this series would take itself much later in its lifespan.  To say that Alone in the Dark is responsible for the majority of the mechanics and efforts in the horror genre as we know it would be an apt, if not understated, conclusion to make.

Time has done a number of a variety of the trailblazers in video game history, however, and given how Alone in the Dark looks based on screenshots alone, it might be worth it to wonder how it holds up now and which influences- innovative or not- are just as novel now or may have needed some improvement from the get-go.
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