The Legend of Zelda : Oracle of the Ages

Date Completed : September 5th, 2015

I promised in my The Legend of Zelda : Oracle of Seasons (OoS) review that I’d be playing through the Oracle of Ages soon…and I was wrong.  It took nearly two years for me to finally get through it.  Why you ask?  I made it about 3/4 of the way through the game and came upon a particularly involved side-quest that was required to enter a dungeon.  I took a short break from the game and when I couldn’t remember any of the details about where I was or what I was doing.  I waited for two years in case my memory came back to me but I finally resorted to using a walkthrough off the Internet and finished the game.

The Oracle of Ages and The Oracle of Seasons were meant to be played together, as a way of tricking poor college students into buying two games instead of one.  The joke is on them though! Now I own two copies of EACH!  The main difference between the games is that Oracle of Seasons uses a season changing mechanic and Oracle of Ages uses a time travel mechanic.  When I originally played these games I thought Oracle of Ages was the slightly better game but this time though I think I slightly preferred Seasons.  This is probably due to the fact that I got burned out partway through Ages and took a two year hiatus.

OotA follows Link’s adventures through the land of Labrynna to save Nayru (The Oracle of the Ages) from the evil sorceress Veran.  If you happen to have started the game with the password given after beating The Oracle of the Seasons then periodically characters in Ages will give you a password that you can enter in your game in Seasons for some reward.  There is also a bonus mission at the end of the game that is not otherwise accessible.

Nayru_(Oracle_of_Ages)

Nayru – The Oracle of the Ages

I really liked how the two games were able to interoperate with each other.  Characters that you met in one game would be able to remember you in the second, and passwords could be used to exchange items back and forth.  The password system was the best option we had at the time for enabling this, but with the technology of today this could be implemented much more seamlessly.  I hope Nintendo considers doing something like this again.

Pros

  • Password System
  • Memorable Characters

Cons

  • Only two buttons for items.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  8 hours
System: 3DS (Virtual Console)
Genre: Action / Adventure
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Punch-Out

Date Completed : May 26, 2013

Punch OutI played the original Punch-Out years ago when Mike Tyson was still the star.  Way back then I was never able to make it past the first bout with Bald Bull.  Nintendo Power had published a code ( 007 373 5963 ) that skipped directly to the fight with Mr. Tyson but I was hopelessly able to make any progress in that fight at all.  I didn’t own a copy of the game so I was only able to play infrequently and I was never able to dedicate the time required to complete the game.

Thanks to the launch of Nintendo’s Virtual Console on the Wii U and their 30 cent game promotion I finally own a copy of Punch-Out.  The version on the Virtual Console is the updated version that replaced Mike Tyson with Mr. Dream but otherwise it’s exactly as I remembered it.  Anyone who has made any progress in Punch-Out knows that it as much a puzzle game as anything else.  The trick is to memorize your opponent’s patterns and to determine what the appropriate counter is.  For example, if your opponent winks his left eye it may indicate that you should dodge right, counter with a sock to the head and then follow up with a string of alternating body punches.  Determining these patterns can involve a lot of trial and error so I elected to use Gamefaqs to save some time.

Most of the early fighters don’t offer much challenge and I finished with them quickly.  Later enemies move a lot faster and I had to spend time to train myself to implement the appropriate series of counter punches without thinking.  I stubbornly refused to use state saves during fights but after getting to the last three fights I had to give up on this policy.  My children were not interested in watching me play this game so I frequently played it while they were using the TV to watch Fireman Sam.  This meant I often played without sound which made it hard to get into a rhythm against opponents.  My younger boy also has an irritating habit of sticking his toes into the various holes on my head if I happen to be sitting down which caused my concentration to suffer.

The final bout versus Mr. Dream is extremely difficult.  He can knock you out with a single punch, no matter how much health you have and he is much faster than previous opponents.  Fighting him with no sound and toddler toes in my ears is possibly the greatest video gaming challenge I have ever faced.  I resorted to creating a save state after every successful dodge and I STILL lost my first fight against him.  Losing to Mr. Dream knocks you back to the previous match versus Super Macho Man.  Getting knocked back a level after a loss is easily the worst part of 1980’s era video games.  After a second match versus Mr. Dream I was able to win by decision.

Punch-Out is hard.  The game itself is short but you’ll spend a lot of time losing matches while you memorize your opponents and determine their counters.  Gamefaqs and liberal use of state saving helped a lot but they could only get me so far.  Punch-Out still has a certain amount of retro charm but the difficulty ratchets up so quickly that only the truly dedicated will be able to complete it.

Pros

  • 30 cent promotion! (Which is sadly over now)

Cons

  • Very difficult.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length:  2 hours
System: Wii U (Virtual Console)
Genre: Sports / Puzzle

Castlevania

Date Completed: 4/11/2013

Castlevania Box ArtShortly after complaining that Castlevania wasn’t available in the 3DS eShop it suddenly appeared.  Either Nintendo is reading my blog, or their marketing wienies determined that the best way to drive sales was to release Castlevania games in order of their desirability.  Probably the latter.  Marketing wienies can be devious.

I never owned the original Castlevania but I had a friend who had a copy and we would play it regularly.  I remember thinking I was getting pretty good at the game and after one lengthy gaming session I thought I was close to the end.  Using the state save system of the 3DS I finally cheated my way to the finish and I found that young me couldn’t have made it much farther than level 3 of 6.  

Castlevania is HARD.  Enemies do progressively more damage to you as you progress through the game and they are difficult to avoid because of the slow, realistic physics.  Enemies (dang Medusa heads!) fly out of nowhere as you are making difficult jumps often knocking you into a bottomless pit of death, or knocking  you into another enemy.  Making any mistakes is a quick recipe for disaster.  The early bosses aren’t too bad but later bosses (especially the last two) are extremely difficult, even with state saves.  After finishing the game you unlock ‘hard mode’ and progress through the game again with MORE enemies that do MORE damage.  Like many old NES games the trick to success is memorizing movement patterns and locations.

Some old NES games translate well to portable consoles but this is one game where I don’t think the smaller form factor works well.  The 3DS game pad is too small and I often felt that I was making mistakes I wouldn’t have if I had a larger controller.  I think a larger screen would have enabled me to see the play area better and respond quicker.

Castlevania on the 3DS is fun and worth the time.  The controls and size of the console weren’t ideal but the state save system makes up for any issues with the console form factor itself.  I’m very happy to finally have completed the game.

Pros

  • Good old-fashioned classic console gaming.

Cons

  • Medusa Heads.
  • Not ideal on the small screen.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length: 4 hours
System: 3DS eShop
Genre: Action / Adventure

The Castlevania : Adventure

Date Completed : 4/4/2013

Game Boy Castlevania The Adventure Front Cover

One of the games I never completed back in the day was the original Castlevania.  I ventured into the 3DS eShop to see if I could correct that great wrong but I was unable to find a copy for purchase.  My search was not fruitless however, I was able to find ‘The Castlevania : Adventure’ so I grabbed it instead.

I owned the original back in the day and anyone who played the original may be surprised to hear that I actually did beat it.  This is one of the hardest games I have ever played through.  Your character walks as if moving through molasses which makes jumping and fighting frustrating.  If you fail to time a jump perfectly you’re probably going to fall to your immediate death.  I’m happy to say that with Virtual Console state saves worrying about failure is a thing of the past.  I beat the game without ever dying and then I beat the game a second time just to see what would happen (as it turns out, nothing).

Castlevania has always been known for great music.  The music on the game sounds crappy by today’s standards but it does have a catchy tune and I’ve been humming it for the last few days.  I had a feeling that it would make a good guitar cover so I checked into YouTube and found this.

The game played exactly as I remembered and with Virtual Console state saves and retries it’s a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating.  It’s one of the best games to come out on the original Game Boy and well worth a look for anyone interested in classic gaming.

Pros

  • Great Music (for a GB title)
  • Good design work.

Cons

  • Slow play control.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: 2 hours
System: 3DS Virtual Console
Genre: Action / Adventure

Metroid

Date Completed: November 12th, 2011

Metroid was the last great NES era game that I had never completed.  Today this grave injustice is finally put to rest.

Thanks to the 3DS Ambassador program conditions were finally perfect for me to play through this classic.  I had a free portable copy I could play while enjoying my ultra mobile lifestyle.  The half-assed state save system eliminated the need to use Metroid’s build in 12 random character password system which I always found too cumbersome to use.

Metroid is completely non-linear.  You can go (almost) anywhere right from the beginning and tackle the game in any way you choose.  I was following a speed walk through with the hope of getting the best ending (which I failed to do) but I have played the game in the past and spent more time that I’d care to remember wandering around planet Zebes trying to find out what I need to do next to beat the game.  There are no cut scenes, no NPC’s to guide you, you’re dropped on a planet and left to your own.  This is a complete contrast to most of the games of today that coddle you through the entire storyline.

Metroid is all about exploration and killing stuff

In addition to wandering around you also have to kill stuff.  You have the ability to shoot left, up and right as well as turn your character into a ball and drop bombs on the ground (After you find some in-game upgrades).  You can also switch from your primary gun to a missile attack by hitting ‘select’ which is extremely frustrating on the 3DS because of the crappy location and design of the select button.  You can collect several upgrades to your weapon systems throughout the game as well as energy (life point) upgrades.  Very few of these are actually required so insane individuals who want a challenge can play through the game and collect as little as possible.

The game is fun but suffers from many of the problems of the early NES games.  If too many objects get on screen the animation slows down, or some of the objects might become invisible.  This is particularly frustrating in the final area where you have several things flying while you’re trying to kill the final boss.

What this game is really missing is a MAP function.  The graphics are all based off of palette swapped tiles which can make telling the various rooms apart difficult.  With no indication where you are on planet Zebes you may spend a long time wandering around before you find a location your recognize.  I can remember a friend of mine drawing out maps of Metroid on graph paper in an attempt to help him find his way through the game.  I don’t think he ever finished.  Now of course, through the magic of the Internet you can just download the maps and it isn’t an issue anymore (but it would still be nice.)

I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys classic gaming and open exploration.  It doesn’t really hold up well to today’s standards but it can still be fun for the right audience.

Pros

  • Open exploration.
  • Non-linear game play.

Cons

  • Slow animation when things get busy.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS eShop
Genre: Action

The Legend of Zelda : Link’s Awakening

Date Completed: June 20th, 2011

When The Legend of Zelda came out for the original Gameboy the biggest surprise for many was how good the game actually was.  The update for the Gameboy color added an extra dungeon and small color palette, and now you can purchase the DX version as a digital download from the 3DS eShop.

Prior to writing this review I read another review that discussed how dated the graphics look, how the sound didn’t stand the test of time and how you should avoid this title at all costs.  I can’t agree.  It’s been decades since the original launched and I still find myself humming the songs after playing the game.  I find the graphics to be some of the best examples of pixel art from the 1990’s and the game is just as fun as it was for me when I purchased the original.

The 3DS doesn’t change anything from the Gameboy color version, except the 3DS virtual console has a save state feature so you’ll never need to die again.  Features such as the Gameboy printer integration don’t work at all but everything else has held up ( in my opinion ) amazingly well.

In this game Link finds himself shipwrecked on a small island and he is unable to escape without first waking the Wind Fish.  There are eight magical instruments that need to be collected to wake the fish up, each hidden in a different dungeon.  The game follows the traditional Zelda formula.  Each dungeon has a special item and a boss that can only be defeated with that item.  The items you acquire will also open up new areas of the island to explore.

Several optional side quests are included such as the standard search for heart container pieces as well as the search for secret sea-shell that will evenually unlock ‘something good’.  There is also an optional ‘color dungeon’ that was included new with the DX version of the game that will give you a user selectable upgrade (offense or defense)

This game is not without issues.  Only two buttons are available for using your items with so later in the game you’ll constantly have to pause to switch your currently active items.  All other issue such as the letter boxing and limited color palette I could pass off as relics from a simpler time but the two button thing was a constant source of minor amounts of irritation.  With 10 buttons available on the system I would have really liked to use a few more of them.Purchasing this game from the eShop represents the third time I have bought this particular title.  I keep coming back to it over and over and the experience has always been enjoyable. Thanks for the good work Nintendo.  Keep re-releasing this one and I promise to keep buying it.

Pros
  • Full-length Zelda game in portable form!
Cons
  • Only two buttons available to use items with.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: 3DS (eShop)
Genre: Action / Adventure
Update (7/11/2013) – Removed a link to a picture that was no longer available and fixed some formatting.

Super Mario Land

Date Completed: June 17th, 2011
In spite of already owning a physical copy of this game I went ahead and bought it on the 3DS eShop when it became available.

Super Mario Land has aged well.  The graphics are black and white and pixelated but they still have a sort of charm that makes you look past all of that.  The play control is still solid and many games of today could learn something from Super Mario Land.

My original impression of Super Mario Land in 1989 was that it was too short.  Instead of featuring 8 worlds of 4 levels each Super Mario Land features 4 worlds of 3 levels each.  You can beat this game quickly, and with the new 3DS save state feature you can do it without losing a single life.  None of this matters though because you get to pilot a Submarine AND an Airplane.

That’s right, in the final level of world 2 Mario will find himself piloting a submarine.  In the final level of world 4 Mario gets an Airplane.  The submarine and airplane levels are by far my favorite levels in the game and come and go too quickly.  The other levels in the game are good but the reason I play this game over and over is so I can pilot the submarine and airplane.

The Submarine and Airplane levels really make the game.
The 3DS version of this game doesn’t change anything, but if you’re used to playing this game on the old blurry LCD of the original Gameboy you’ll be happy to see crisper graphics and no motion blur.

I think the purchase of this game was well worth the price, and I plan to continue playing occasionally as I have been for the last 22 years.

Pros
* Mario in a Submarine and an Airplane!!!
Cons
* Short
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~1 hours
System: 3DS (eShop)
Genre: Platform