A Tragically Low Sum from a Number of Parts – Super Nintendo – Secret of the Stars – 1993

Image result for box art secret of the starsSecret of the Stars
Super Nintendo
Tecmo
Genre: Role-Playing Game
1993

Video games have a variety of ways that they can gain notoriety over time, but they tend to fall into one camp or another. One way is that the game is so well-made, fantastic, or charming that the general public can’t help but fall in love with it. There are a vast number of games from the golden age of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis days that I can think of off the top of my head when I think about the games that captured my attention and have stuck with me to this day.

Then, there is the other way; the way that may not be considered quite as positive as the first. There is a selection of games that miss the mark in such a grandiose way that they become cult classics, revered for the mess of positive and negative elements that they bring to the table. These are the games that are not so universally terrible that they can’t be played, but the ones that effort was put into to make into a game that could walk alongside its technological brethren and hold its head high as one of their equals- and managed to miss the point of why those games were so successful.

Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars is one of those games to me. Before I got the chance to play it, I had heard so much about how terrible the game was but hadn’t really heard exactly why it was awful. It wasn’t that I doubted the people saying these things about the game. Usually, when I haven’t heard of an RPG from the early 90s era by this point, I feel like there’s something off about it that has kept it in mind blind spot over the years. I felt like I would be letting myself down to not at least try to forge through Secret of the Stars and see exactly why it has been panned by so many people, though, and much like some other games I’ve reviewed here, I turned the game on with an open mind in an attempt to analyze it to the best of my abilities.

Let’s see how that went, shall we? Continue reading

A Victory Lap Years Later – Super Nintendo – Super Mario Kart – 1992

Super Mario Kart (U) [!]000Super Mario Kart
Super Nintendo
Nintendo
Genre: Racing
1992

There are a few genres in gaming that I don’t talk about a lot. I haven’t played many sports games since I was a kid. I’m not really into the ‘4X’ strategy games that some of my friends gush over. One type of game that I’ve regularly played, though, and haven’t brought up is the ‘racing’ genre.

Nearly all of the major franchises from the 1990s ended up with some kind of racing title. Sonic Drift, Crash Team Racing, and even Final Fantasy had Chocobo Racing. One of the forerunners of this trend, of course, was the Mario franchise. When Super Mario Kart came out on the Super Nintendo, its colorful and chaotic cover art promised some new adventures involving a variety of characters from the universe we had all come to know and love. Given the number of spinoff games the franchise would receive, one could argue that Super Mario Kart opened the gates for the dearth of games we would see later on like Mario Party and Mario (insert name of sport here).

Even as a kid getting this game, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Playing as Mario without jumping on enemies and trying to navigate perilous worlds to save something? It was such a strange concept to me back then. Now, it seems as natural as any other idea given how many games bear the Mario Kart moniker. With the amount of time and refinement the games have gotten over multiple consoles and years, heading back to the beginning worried me. It could easily have been an undertaking of frustration that could decimate my nostalgia for the game.

Needless to say, I popped it in recently and gave it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen? Continue reading

Muted Seething at Best – Super Nintendo – Kendo Rage – 1993

Kendo Rage (U) [!]002Kendo Rage
Super Nintendo
Seta U.S.A. / Affect
Genre: Action Platformer
1993

Plain and simple confession right up front before this article commences: I absolutely adore “magical girl” anime.  I think there’s something to be said for a genre that emphasizes friendship, inner strength, and over-the-top transformations and special powers.  I grew up watching Sailor Moon among other cartoons in the morning and when I started dabbling back into anime, I managed to find a few series that fit the tropes that still hooked me today.

When I was a kid, I visited one of the three rental places in town and came across a copy of Valis IV for the Sega Genesis. I popped it in and played it non-stop until I had to bring it back.  While I don’t remember renting it again, I do recall that it felt like the closest thing to a Sailor Moon game that I had seen, given the young girl protagonist transforming into a sword-swinging warrior fighting off grotesque enemies as she tried to save her world.  Given my fantasy-slanted role models growing up, it was no surprise that I would gravitate toward games and heroines like that.

This story is not about Valis, however.  This story is about Kendo Rage, a game that looked a lot like Valis on its cover- and turned into something a bit different once the game powered on.  I’ve turned the game on a few times since the first time I played it, but I finally completed it recently, once again finishing up a memory from my gaming past that was incomplete.  Given the twenty-five or so years of build-up it had gotten, I have more than a few thoughts to share on this little-known title from the Super Nintendo’s golden years.
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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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A Fun and Rockey Ride – Super Nintendo – DinoCity – 1992

Dino City (U) [t1]002

DinoCity
Super Nintendo
Irem
Genre: Action Platformer
1992

During the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, a number of games thrived on the idea of normal people- usually kids to identify with the target audience- being transported into fantasy worlds and situations.  In a meta-sense, this doubles down on the purpose of the game itself and proved to be effective in games like Comix Zone, Monster Party, and a variety of other works.  DinoCity was a lesser known work that hasn’t garnered the same cult status as the previous two titles, but it is a game I remember vividly from my personal collection.

Heading up the dinosaur craze set forth in the 1990s, DinoCity is based on the made-for-television movie, Adventures in Dinosaur City, another lesser known film that you may have run across on a cereal fueled Saturday morning.  As a rarely referenced video game based off of an obscure kids’ film, DinoCity doesn’t seem to have left the same impression as a number of other film adaptations, but that could be for the best given the reputation of games based on movies.  How does the game stand up in the general spectrum of the Super Nintendo’s library of adaptations and platforming innovators?

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