I rented a lot of games when I was younger. Video stores, rental shacks, and even supermarkets offered the chance to play games I had never read about in Nintendo Power or GamePro, and some of my all-time favorite games were discovered among their shelves. But I also rented a lot of bad games. In the time before the internet, and particularly before online video game criticism was readily available (N64.com aka IGN), the only sources gamers had to find out what was good were either magazines and friends. Money and time was wasted, as Sturgeon's Law was in effect even then.
And while I rented a lot of crap, none of it was as bad as Batman Forever, undoubtedly the most misspent $3 ever given to Video Spotlight. This was a game so unplayable it took me hours to get past its first stage. This was a Super Nintendo cartridge game that had a loading screen. Batman Forever was a crappily-made licensed game based on a crappy movie. Ugh.
Fifteen years later and Batman fans really have great things to cheer about. Arkham Asylum was a triumphant superhero game and this week's Arkham City may very well surpass it. We should have at least a first hour review of Arkham City from Nate this week, so look forward to that, but first, let's take a quick rewind to Batman's lowpoint.
I didn’t play a whole lot of Enix games growing up. I rented a few titles for the Super Nintendo, including E.V.O.: The Search for Eden, Ogre Battle, and 7th Saga, but it wasn’t until I beat Star Ocean 2 during college that I could poke out the Enix notch in my belt. Their merger with Squaresoft in 2003 blew my mind, but I had grown up in the world where publishers were like armies, constantly battling it out with each other for supremacy; but in the real world it was all business, and the merger made sense.
Illusion of Gaia was released during the time when Enix was in a heated battle (business and fanboy-wise) with Squaresoft on the Super Nintendo platform. In its six year lifespan, both publishers released over 30 games each, many competing directly in sub-genres that seem too similar to be considered a coincidence. One of these face-offs was Secret of Mana from Squaresoft against Illusion of Gaia from Enix. Released in 1993, both games were action RPGs that happily broke the mold of the Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests.
But in the end, Squaresoft easily won the action RPG battle and the Super Nintendo war. Secret of Mana was an engrossing, multiplayer tale with a huge variety of weapons and magic, Illusion of Gaia was a rather rote, singleplayer, cobbled-together adventure with little variety. Here’s its review.
It has been a long time since we covered a classic game here at the First Hour. Not since Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in March 2010 have we played the first hour of a game more than a decade old (not counting remakes, such as Dragon Quest IV). This used to be a pretty common occurrence, but that was back when it was just me writing and I didn’t have access to any of the newer systems.
Illusion of Gaia has been sitting on my game queue for quite a long time now, I had heard of the game during its initial release but never played it, and then my roommates in college loved it but I still didn’t give it a chance. I decided it was finally time to sit down with this action RPG Enix release on the Super Nintendo.
Released in 1994, Illusion of Gaia seems a bit like Enix’s response to Squaresoft’s Secret of Mana, with both having similar action-based gameplays with some stats playing in behind the scenes. Illusion of Gaia was actually developed by Quintet, who also created ActRaiser, Robotrek, and Soul Blazer. Hearing those names brings up a lot of nostalgia, so let’s get to the game’s first hour before we’re overwhelmed.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a game I knew very little about. When I was about eight years old, a few of my friends said it was "the destroyer of worlds." Not just difficult, but impossible. None of my friends could progress very far, and as an eight year old, I wanted to prove to them that I was superior. Unfortunately, none of them would lend it to me, and I never really had the money to buy it and every time I went to the video store to rent it, it was always out. I don't know if it was just that popular, or if they lost it. I'm guessing the latter.
Now, I understand that it was made in 1991 by Capcom. It’s been ported to a bunch of different gaming platforms including the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable and Virtual Console on the Wii.
It is the sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and also loosely related to Demon's Crest. I've played games like Contra and got pretty far before hitting a mark that was impassable for me, even at the wee ages of nine. So I figured… how hard can this game be? Here's the first hour of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.
Square's Final Fantasy IV was originally released in Japan on the Super Famicom in 1991 and was localized in the US as Final Fantasy II, since the previous two games weren't released in America.
Final Fantasy IV changed the face of RPGs and set the standard for the name final Fantasy for years to come. The storytelling was unparalleled in video games and the amount of detail lavished on the game was staggering.
For the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series, Square-Enix remade FFIV in full 3D and released it on the DS in 2008, this time with the proper number in the title.
I've never played the original Super NES version, so this will be my first encounter with Final Fantasy IV. Can it hold up in this day and age?
Note: I considered reviewing this as a Half-Hour Handheld, but since it was originally released as a console game, I will go ahead and play it for the full hour.
Shortly before they began squabbling about cartridges versus compact discs, and long before Square-Enix came crawling back for a suck at the Nintendo DS teat, Nintendo and SquareSoft got around quite nicely. One of the results of this relationship was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a Japanese style role-playing game set in the Super Mario Bros. universe. It's one of those games that no one would have ever thought to ask for, but was so successful, it spawned the Paper Mario series that landed on later Nintendo systems (with no help from Square) and the Mario and Luigi RPG series found on their handhelds.
The game itself was quite ambitious, even beyond the cooperation of two major developers. The cartridge had its own onboard CPU, not to be confused with the popular graphics Super FX chip, but simply a co-processor to the main CPU already in the Super Nintendo. The ability to include additional hardware on the actual game cartridge was one of the amazing design decisions that revealed the foresight the hardware team had and kept the console highly competitive through 1996 when Super Mario RPG was released.
Super Mario RPG ended up being one of the last, great Super Nintendo games, being released along with some of my other favorites including Harvest Moon and Kirby Super Star. It's the end of the classic era, in my opinion, but marks the beginning of some bold moves by Nintendo. Here's the first hour of Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo.
Demon's Crest is a platformer for the Super Nintendo released in 1994. It's part of the Ghosts 'n Goblins/Ghouls 'n Ghosts series that has me seriously worried about my health for the next first hour. A couple of years ago, I played Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts as part of a contest and it has left me scarred for life. The number of times I died in that game is unholy. My only hope is that the heritage of Demon's Crest sounds a little more friendly, just check out the box cover for Gargoyle's Quest, the first game in the Gargoyle/Demon Quest/Crest sub-series.
I have a pretty weird history with this game, back in 1998 I bought 20 Super Nintendo Games from a guy at school for $35. I hadn't even heard of most of the games but it seemed like a no brainer, 20 new games for the price of one? I gave every game I bought a shot - most sucked. The crappy games included Aaahhh!!! Real Monsters, Cybernator, Ballz, Metal Morph, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. There were a few gems, such as SimCity (which I lent to my cousin six years ago and never expect to see again) and Mega Man X. In the middle of all these was Demon's Crest. Well, I always assumed it was in the suck pile, but I found out a few months ago that the game was actually worth about $25 today, so I decided to sell it. I had only played it twice, each time I couldn't get out of the opening area. I'm honestly curious if the same will happen again today.
So here's the first hour of Demon's Crest, the game's last hurrah before I mail it off to some guy who can actually appreciate this game.
Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS is the second port of this classic Super Nintendo role-playing game. You guide a group of time-traveling heroes through different time periods to save the world from the alien parasite, Lavos. I'll get my biases out of the way right now and say that the Super Nintendo version is my favorite game of all time. Out of the hundreds of games I've played, Chrono Trigger stands as the undisputed number one. So I had very high expectations for the 2008 portable port of the 1995 original, so let's just get to my review to see if it lives up to the hype... and see if the game has stood the test of time.
ActRaiser is a 1990 platformer/simulator for the Super Nintendo. No, it doesn't simulate the platformer genre, there are two distinct (very distinct) modes of gameplay in this game. You essentially play God, and are attempting to win back control of the world from the Devil. Of course, this translation never made it outside of Japan, but it's pretty obvious when you play it. I never played ActRaiser before this review, and really had no idea what to expect. First you play a pretty typical platformer, and then all of sudden you're building an ancient city while shooting arrows at demons. It's weird, but as you'll find out, fun.
The game has been released on the Wii Virtual Console, so there's definitely an opportunity to play ActRaiser still today. Let's start playing the first hour of Actraiser for the Super Nintendo.