Connect with us

Games

200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 4) Change the System

Published

on

GreatestNintendoGames

In its own way, the Nintendo GameCube was the first portable home-console, as it had a handle at the back and was designed to be carried to different places. Mini-discs became a short-term phenomenon at the time and Nintendo pre-maturely jumped at them, but this doesn’t take away from the ingenuity and influence the GameCube would later have on the later generations of Nintendo consoles. The Game Boy Advance would also be released as the upgrade to the Game Boy Color, with further in-game features when connected to the GameCube via a link cable. This era would become the interlude between different Nintendo approaches, and by the end Nintendo would decide not to compete directly with its competitors.

****

Part Four: 2000 – 2005

96) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: April 27, 2000 / NA: October 26, 2000
Genre(s) Action-adventure

How do you follow-up The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, debatably the best N64 game and perhaps even the greatest game of our time? Nintendo’s answer was to make the next Zelda entry emphatically different. That’s not to say that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask doesn’t provide everything a Zelda game should. The core gameplay and mechanics from Ocarina are all present, the superb combat, mind-bending puzzles, magnificent dungeons, and of course, memorable locales and characters, all brilliantly designed and gorgeously rendered in shadowy tones. What makes Majora’s Mask so unique and so sensational is its rich and lively world, perhaps still the most animated world in all of Zelda.

Absent from Majora’s Mask are Hyrule, the castle, and the princess. Instead, the game follows Link as he arrives at the nearby land of Termina. While dungeons are still a major aspect of Majora’s Mask, far more time is spent in Termina, fulfilling bizarre fetch quests, engaging some unforgettable, strange characters, and weaving through a complex, intricate world that is genuinely the game’s central puzzle. Oh yeah, and that rich world is going to end in three days. In this Zelda game, the player doesn’t battle against Ganon, and while the game’s antagonist, Majora, is one of the best-designed villains in franchise history, the true battle is against the clock while trying to complete as much of the world puzzle as possible until having to reset it before the Moon crashes into Termina. No pressure. While many of the weapons and tools at Link’s disposal are much the same as Ocarina of Time, unique to Majora’s Mask is a large, unique array of masks that alter Link’s abilities. Those required to complete each dungeon are most notable, as they change Link into the familiar species from the series — Dekus, Gorons, and Zoras — and completely change how the game is played. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a game unlike any other, and one that is a must play not only for fans of the series, but gaming enthusiasts in general. (Tim Maison)

97) Perfect Dark
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Rare
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: 22 May 2000
Genre(s) First-person shooter

One of the most eagerly anticipated games released for the Nintendo 64 was none other than Rare’s spiritual successor to GoldenEye. After Rare and Nintendo lost the rights to the James Bond license in a bidding war with EA, the masterminds at Rare decided to flex their creative muscles with a completely new concept. Without the restrictions of a 007 license, Rare was able to implement whatever crazy ideas they had in the shooter genre. That game was Perfect Dark, and in my opinion, it is bigger and better than its groundbreaking predecessor. Yes, Goldeneye is a classic, and without it Perfect Dark would never exist; Goldeneye set the bar, and it was hugely important for the genre, especially for console gaming. But just because it came first, doesn’t make it the better game.

Goldeneye may have set a standard, but Perfect Dark improves upon it in every way possible. Yes, Perfect Dark borrows many functions from GoldenEye 007, the most obvious being the control scheme and general gameplay, but Perfect Dark also has more weapons, better production value, an original story, slick graphics, a killer soundtrack, tons of cheats, a trove of hidden secrets, a co-op mode, a counter-op mode, and an anti-hero who just so happens to be a highly skilled marksman, a lethal hand-to-hand combat fighter, an expert pilot, and an eager bounty hunter with a wicked sense of humor. (Ricky D)

98) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: March 24, 2000 / NA: June 26, 2000
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Another Kirby debut, this time on the much loved N64. This time, former foe King Dedede becomes an ally to help save the planet Ripple Star from Dark Matter. Ribbon, one of the fairies that lives on the planet, flees from her home with a sacred treasure, the Great Crystal. Unfortunately, Dark Matter pursue and smash the sacred crystal into pieces throughout the galaxy, beginning Kirby’s quest to find the pieces.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is so typically Kirby that the game is a bit of an easy stroll for a series veteran. There are seven basic abilities: burn, stone, bomb, ice, needle, cutter, and spark. These elements give Kirby an extra attack to inflict more damage on his foes. The power becomes more intense when you merge abilities together. For example, burn and bomb will produce a firework, while burn and needle will produce a fire arrow. This merging of abilities not only pushes Kirby through enemies like a snow plow, but also creates a lot of fun in finding out how each ability reacts with each other.

The 2.5-dimensional graphics created the illusion of three dimensions, but playing as your standard left to right platform game. The adorable art-style and the openness of the background perform this illusion spectacularly, often confusing the player into thinking some levels are open world, only to find most of the galaxy cannot be explored. In many ways, it’s the missing link, the Archaeopteryx if you will. It’s Nintendo’s evolution from the two dimensional SNES into the three dimensional Nintendo 64. (James Baker)

99) Banjo-Tooie
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, Xbox 360
Release:  NA: 20 November 2000
Genre(s) Platforming, Action-adventure

Once upon a time, a bear and a bird traveled through many strange and varied worlds in their quest to stop an evil witch. Their adventure became legend, and Rareware’s platformer collect-a-thon prowess was once again beyond doubt. Two years later, they were back with an equally beloved sequel, Banjo-Tooie, a game whose reputation has soured a bit since 2000. Reviews of the Xbox 360 re-release were not as kind as the Nintendo 64 original, citing its monstrous size and an unwieldy number of collectibles. But rather than dwell on negatives, why not nail down why Banjo-Tooie actually deserves another look?

Let’s face it: Super Mario 64 will always be a hard game to beat, and the first Banjo performed admirably to even come close. Banjo-Tooie, however, deserves to be considered in another genre altogether. Like Metroid PrimeDark Souls or Tomb Raider, the sprawling, interconnected levels of Tooie betray Rare’s true intentions: to create an adventure game like no other — simply in the guise of a 3D platformer.

Viewed today as a semi-open-world Metroidvania, Banjo-Tooie can go toe-to-toe with any other adventure game. The controls are tighter than Banjo-Kazooie, the graphics are second only to other Rare games, and the art (though much kookier) rivals the Zelda games for best fantasy designs on the console. And that’s all without mentioning Rare’s signature British weirdness, only a few notches below the adults-only Conker’s Bad Fur Day in terms of humor (or in the UK, humour).

Banjo-Tooie is an ambitious action-adventure that also happens to be a sequel to a 3D platformer, and played on its own terms it is a massive and rewardingly-twisted fairytale world to explore. (Mitchell Akhurst)

100) Paper Mario
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release: JP: August 11, 2000 / NA: February 5, 2001
Genre(s) Role-playing

Even in the N64 era, folks were nostalgic about 2D Mario games, and since Nintendo was essentially at war with Square at the time, Paper Mario wasn’t just the easiest way to revisit some Super Mario World nostalgia — it was also the closest thing fans were getting to a Super Mario RPG sequel. Borrowing the button-tapping, action-RPG mechanics from Super Mario RPGPaper Mario traded in the rest of the package, probably to avoid tricky legal ground over their former joint venture with Square. Luckily, the game turned out great, not just in spite of these obstacles, but in some ways because of them.

The 2D perspective meant that the developers could make the game look gorgeous (for the time), since they didn’t have to design and animate entire free-roaming environments. It also helped matters that the button-tapping mechanics of the previous game actually better fit the platformer style perspective, rather than the isometric point of view of its forebearer. Add in a cast of almost totally new characters, and you have an essential classic for the N64 era, the first in a self-referential series that is still ongoing even today, both in handheld and console form. (Mike Worby)

101) WWF No Mercy
Developer(s) Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation
Publisher(s) THQ
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: NA: November 17, 2000
Genre(s) Fighting, Sports

In my opinion, there are three wrestling games released on the N64 that belong on this list: WCW NOW Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy. Unfortunately, only one made the cut, but at least our staff voted for the best of the three.

Hot on the heels of WWF Wrestlemania 2000, THQ’s WWF No Mercy may just be the King of all wrestling games. Decades later, there still hasn’t been a wrestling game that tops No Mercy, and for many wrestling fans it’s still the game they play to this day, thanks to a ton of mods that include current WWE and NXT superstars on the roster. No Mercy may seem immensely familiar to fans of Wrestlemania 2000, but THQ added quite a bit to the fray, including 65 WWF superstars, all-new matches (Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, Guest Referee, Iron Man, Ladder, Tables,  Survival), double team moves, eight arenas, several pay-per-views, and the deepest create-a-wrestler mode ever made, not to mention a complex career mode. It had everything you could possibly wish for in a wrestling game and then some. (Ricky D)

102) Mario Party 3
Developer(s) Hudson Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: JP: December 7, 2000 / NA: May 7, 2001
Genre(s) Party

Ask me what my favourite Super Mario game is and I can answer without any hesitation. Ask me what my favourite Zelda game is and I’ll reply right away. But if you ask me what my favourite Mario Party title is, I’ll not only think twice about my decision, but I’ll often go back and forth between several installments in the series. That said, the N64-era of Mario Party games will always be the best of the series in my eyes, and if I had to choose the best of those, Mario Party 3 would get my vote.

Mario Party 3 was the last installment on the Nintendo 64, and it stands above the previous two games for several reasons. Not only does the game feature 70 fun-filled mini-games, but it also features 12 different game boards, not to mention the unique Duel Mode and one of the most memorable series storylines to date. More importantly, Mario Party 3 understands the balance between luck and skill.

Of course, the best Mario Party game is likely the one you’ve played most with your friends, so chances are not everyone will agree that this is the best. For some of us here at Goomba Stomp, the N64 was the console that offered the best couch co-op games, and the console we spent more time playing alongside our friends. (Ricky D)

103) The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Color
Release: JP: February 27, 2001 / NA: May 14, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is the sister game to Oracle of Seasons, both of which are the portable successors to Link’s Awakening DX. Both games share a lot in common with Link’s Awakening, but each takes a different route in how it presents its gameplay. Oracle of Ages focuses on puzzles, and tries to find interesting ways to get the player to think about their surroundings and their inventory, as well as giving them a lot of items that interact with the environment rather than with enemies.

On a personal level, Oracle of Ages resonates with me a lot, as it’s the version I had when the two games originally came out. I remember being thoroughly surprised by the boss of the second dungeon, Head Thwomp, as it was a battle based around timing (something I wasn’t very good at when I was ten years old) and did not require the use of the sword, instead making use of bombs. Many of the boss battles in Oracle of Ages followed this trend of not using the sword as your main damage-dealing item. While today that’s not much of an accomplishment for a Zelda title, when the Oracle games were coming out, the series was still establishing its footing in 3D, and many bosses in the top-down games were still focused primarily on sword-based combat. Oracle of Ages also has one of my personal favorite items, the Seed Shooter. Intended to be Ages’ version of the staple bow/slingshot, the Seed Shooter is able to ricochet various types of ammo off walls to hit targets. While this is implemented in some puzzles, it’s not carried throughout the game, and ultimately you can still just stand in front of something and spam seeds like rapid-fire arrows.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is an interesting example of how to experiment with an IP, even if some of its most interesting ideas are not fully realized. (Taylor Smith)

nintendo_gamecube_hd-wallpaper-1075316

104) Animal Crossing
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, GameCube
Release: JP: April 14, 2001 /NA: September 15, 2002
Genre(s) Life simulation, Role-playing

It’s tough to coherently convey why Animal Crossing is so fun. As a human who moves in to the midst of a village of friendly animals, you wander around, chat with animals, decorate your house, and try to pay off a mortgage. Contentedness with the size of your avatar’s home is an impossibility, and continually you’ll find yourself in the pitfall that is an expansion and a brand new mortgage. You can never have enough stuff, you want a new look, and you need more money for it all. In short, Animal Crossing is one of the most true-to-life, microcosmic experiences ever captured in a video game, all wrapped up in a charming, cute, animal-themed bow. Perhaps the true charm of Animal Crossing is in its clever characters, funny AI animals who act all on their own, share with the player, ask for help, advice, or a new catchphrase, and can even adopt a catchphrase from a neighbor. Perhaps those seemingly living animals feel even more real existing in a world that persists even when the player isn’t present.

The most fun might be seeing that persistent world change with the seasons, bringing new things to do and collect on top of shaping the look of the town. Perhaps it’s the variety of things to do — fishing, digging up fossils, bug hunting, and redecorating — that’s the most enjoyable. Hell, there are even classic NES games to play inside the game itself. Or maybe the variety of collectibles, including clothing, decorations, and furniture sets make Animal Crossing so enticing. There’s certainly no end to the things achievable in game, like completing the museum’s collection, finishing a furniture set, or paying off that last mortgage, and whether in a period of ten minutes or ten hours, there is always something entertaining to do. Then again, perhaps Animal Crossing is so addictive and so amusing because it allows you to do virtually whatever you want within your tiny, life-like town, be that absent-mindedly chase butterflies or conscientiously work toward that next payment. Animal Crossing can be whatever you want it to be. But I’m of course being facetious with all of this. The most fun thing to do is hit your neighbor with your net. (Tim Maison)

105) The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Color
Release: JP: February 27, 2001 / NA: May 14, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is the action game antithesis to Ages‘ puzzle-focused gimmicks. Many of the bosses in Oracle of Seasons are reworks or recycles of bosses from the original The Legend of Zelda or other titles, probably because when Capcom made their original pitch to Nintendo about working on a Zelda game, it was meant to be a Game Boy remake of the original. Rather than rely on a lot of gimmicks, bosses were more about recognizing cycles and patterns, then punishing accordingly. This focus is reflected in the gear Link can acquire. In Ages, the Seed Shooter allows for new creative ways to solve projectile based puzzles, but the Slingshot in Seasons serves roughly the same purpose as the Bow and Arrow in any other top-down Zelda.

In order to obtain the true ending in either Oracle of Seasons or Oracle of Ages, you would need to link the two games together via a password. If you were lucky enough to own both copies of the Oracles titles, it was as simple as completing one game, writing it down, and starting the next, but for the not so lucky it required you to have a friend who had the opposite title. Thankfully, this problem has sort of been remedied with the two games being put on the 3DS Virtual Console. While Oracle of Seasons was the preferred version here at Goomba Stomp, both titles are great in their own ways. If you’ve yet to play them, I highly recommend checking both out. (Taylor Smith)

gREATESTNintendoGames

106) Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release: March 2001
Genre(s) Platforming

If this were the Baseball Hall of Fame, then Conker’s Bad Fur Day would be our lovable Ty Cobb: filthy, lewd, violent, and often completely hammered. Forget actual talent; these qualities are enough to make Conker stand out from the giant sea of poo called mediocrity, and it’s that initially shocking and completely hilarious crude personality that makes Conker’s Bad Fur Day one of the most entertaining experiences on the N64 or anywhere else.

Where else can you help a lascivious bee make it with a large-breasted sunflower, fight a terminator haystack, storm the beaches in a war with fascist teddy bears, defeat an operatic pile of corn-riddled feces, and take on a xenomorph with the help of the game’s developers? All this and much more awaits the hungover squirrel on his journey to first get home, then rescue his buxom bunny girlfriend. British voice actors bring indelible wit and variety to the smartly-written script (especially those lines involving a bevy of curse words more creative than sailors could dream of), and the world of Conker’s Bad Fur Day feels alive, with nearly every object anthropomorphized, down to cheese that screams and sobs for its life or wads of mafia-accented cash scattered about that taunt the player from nooks and ledges.

So much is packed into Conker that the game almost demands multiple playthroughs in order to catch all the jokes. Luckily, the platforming that gets the besotted hero from movie spoof level to movie spoof level isn’t nearly as crude as its sense of humor, and ends up being quite serviceable. The gameplay won’t be winning any design showdown’s with a certain upstanding plumber’s franchise, but that isn’t the point of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Each stage serves as a gateway to Rare’s delightful debauchery, and the laughs keep coming all the way to the sobering end, a tonally perfect finish to an epic quest filled with lust, greed, and urination.

For fans who think Nintendo consoles were or are simply for kids, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is not to be missed; for everyone else, it’s simply one of the best. (Patrick Murphy)

107) Golden Sun
Developer(s) Camelot Software Planning
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: August 1, 2001 / NA: November 11, 2001
Genre(s) Role-playing

Though the Game Boy Advance is not generally known for its hefty supply of RPGs, games like Golden Sun remind us that platform was not starving for them either. Focusing on a set of magically adept teens (surprise!), Golden Sun sees main character Isaac and friends attempting to seal the power of alchemy away from the world of Weyard, while learning about its history along the way. Players will engage in battles that portray a surprisingly robust array of visual effects, while collecting and summoning Pokemon-like creatures called Djinn along the way. The ways this mechanic effects the gameplay of Golden Sun are similar to something like Final Fantasy VIII, with summons both affecting character stats in addition to being available for attacks in battle.

Finally, magic can be used outside of battle in order to solve puzzles in dungeons and villages. For example, a player might freeze a set of puddles into platforms that they could use to cross a gap, or melt ice in order to create a river to float across. A truly one-of-a-kind 2D JRPGGolden Sun stands as not only one of the best RPGs on the Game Boy Advance, but one of the best games on the platform period. (Mike Worby)

108) Advance Wars
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: NA: September 10, 2001
Genre(s) Strategy

Advance Wars is another game from Nintendo’s Western Strategy Renaissance. Like with the Fire Emblem series, Wars games had been coming out in Japan since the days of the Famicom; they just never made their way outside of the country. Advance Wars feels much closer to a traditional strategy game than a tactics game. You have to micromanage armies, gather resources, and actively deploy troops that are at an advantage, rather than pray to RNG gods for stat increases or critical hits. Strategy and victory comes more from outwitting the AI rather than rolling a pair of invisible dice.

Advance Wars’ visuals are also great. Its super-simplified sprites give the game a feeling of playing with toy soldiers on little city playmats. The C.O. system the game employs makes it feel even more like a kid’s version of war, with different factions having weird and unique bonuses based on their general. The real icing on the cake is the game’s level builder and multiplayer. It wasn’t easy finding people to play with in the days before online gaming was standardized, but for the time there really wasn’t much like it on the Game Boy. Advance Wars is a great starting place for strategy enthusiasts, and it has since blossomed into a sprawling franchise across multiple Nintendo platforms. (Taylor Smith)

Nintendo109) Luigi’s Mansion
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: September 14, 2001 / NA: November 18, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure

After being Mario’s sidekick for more than a decade, Luigi was finally given the chance to once again star in his own game. Luigi’s Mansion features some refreshing ideas, a unique and atmospheric experience, an entire cast of new characters to populate the Nintendo universe, and one of the best examples of sound design found on the GameCube. It was an extreme departure from what Mario Bros. games are known to be, and a virtual textbook of video game special effects.

The game features a rather simplistic premise for sure, and one obviously inspired by Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters, but what makes Luigi’s Mansion a great launch title is how technologically impressive it was for the time. Luigi’s Mansion is not an entirely straightforward 3D adventure; it’s both an action-adventure game and a puzzler, and it requires a lot of patience and exploration. Gone are the spacious and whimsical environments of the Mushroom Kingdom — instead you’re given one dark, claustrophobic and creepy mansion that Luigi must cautiously explore, and a handful of suddenly executed surprises make this as fresh and vital as the day it was made.

What makes the game so effective is not so much the slightly sinister characterisation of the generally neurotic protagonist, but the fact that Hideki Konno made the house itself the central character, a beautifully designed, highly atmospheric entity. The mansion itself is huge and incredibly detailed. The pseudo-3D world is laid out across several floors and dozens of rooms and secret passageways, all of which house ectoplasmic manifestations and things that go bump in the night. Beyond everything else, Luigi’s Mansion is a virtual textbook of level design and video game special effects. The real-time lighting, shadow effects, physics, and character animations are astounding, rendering Luigi and the cast of poltergeists with distinctive characteristics similar to those seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Luigi’s first solo excursion isn’t perfect, but what is? It may be a little stiff in the joints by now, but it’s still a remarkable feat of imagination, a spooky old ghost story with a genuinely sinister edge. (Ricky D)

Olimar;_Pikmin_&_Olimar(Clear)110) Pikmin
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: October 26, 2001 / NA: December 2, 2001
Genre(s) Real-time strategy

Whether a gentle allegory about environmentalism or a twisted tale of an elitist spaceman who subjugates an entire plant/animal hybrid species and sacrifices them for his own personal agenda without batting an eye, Nintendo’s Pikmin is irresistible, charming fun. The mix of puzzle-solving and exploration with some light real-time strategy proved the perfect fit for console gamers, accessible in its simple controls, yet deep enough for experienced players to sink their teeth into. The pleasure of playing as the giant-headed Captain Olimar comes from (believe it or not) time management, as planning out moves to maximize the efficiency of a day’s work turns out to be immensely satisfying. Breeding Pikmin like the Matrix robots bred humans takes precious minutes away from important spaceship parts-hunting wall-breaking, so when the spirit one of those little guys floats up into the sky and dissipates into thin air with a painful squeak, the player really feels the hit his or her resources just took.

The solid gameplay is also supported by crisp visuals depicting the world as the ants in Miyamoto’s garden must see it, with giant forests formed from blades of grass, and mutant predatory bugs that rule the night. Though the 30-day time limit before Olimar suffers oxygen poisoning and a horrific death may turn some off who just want a relaxing adventure on a not-so-alien planet, this is still a Nintendo game after all, and most shouldn’t have a problem finding most of what they need for the spaceman to escape alive. A quirky little system deserves quirky little games, and that’s exactly what the GameCube got when Nintendo made one of their best with Pikmin. (Patrick Murphy)

111) Warioland 4
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: August 21, 2001 / NA: November 19, 2001
Genre(s) Platforming

Wario Land 4 is simply one of the most stylistic games ever made. Past Wario games were certainly strange, but Wario Land 4 pushes past that to a deliver a surreal platforming experience brimming with gorgeous sights and sounds. The platforming gameplay feels similar to past entries in the series, but it’s the environments and sounds that really make the game feel unique. It gives off a vibe that’s dark in nature, while simultaneously feeling like a dream. Strange CDs are collected in each stage that contain a kaleidoscope of sounds and rhythms. None of it really makes sense, but it’s certainly fascinating. In terms of style, there’s really nothing quite like it.

However, it holds up as a gameplay experience all the same. Exploring the stages in a non-linear fashion leads to all sorts of secrets, such as diamonds and the aforementioned sound CDs. Each stage has also been designed as a speed-running course; once the player reaches the end, they must jump on a frog statue and race to the opening portal before the time expires. It’s a stressful yet fun experience that becomes heightened by the intense music blaring through the Game Boy Advance’s tiny speakers.

Even though it’s not one of the most popular games on the GBA, it’s easily one of the best. Wario Land 4 is an excellent combination of style and substance that any Nintendo fan could appreciate. (Zack Rezak)

112) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance
Release: October 12, 2001
Genre(s) Visual novel adventure

Ace Attorney was one of my first visual novels, and it continues to be one of my favorites. You play as Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney — a defense lawyer who’s alternatingly skilled and bumbling. Each chapter of the game follows a single case, where Phoenix takes on a client and seeks to clear their name. Ace Attorney follows the same basic visual novel format of text-driven gameplay. Where it stands out in particular are the endearingly campy characters and sense of reward you get from working through a case. Make no mistake — Ace Attorney is a linear game. You can certainly lose in a number of different ways, but there’s only one set way to win. The game’s genius is how it obfuscates that linearity.

The translation team behind Ace Attorney did a stellar job. Not only did they create memorable side characters and a wonderful protagonist, but they made the cases interesting to solve. In a heavy text and language-based game, that’s no small feat. Accurately capturing character dialogue, item descriptions, and court cases require writing that is both accessible and nuanced. Ace Attorney treads the line between joke and serious to surprising effect. It takes its time to develop its characters and give everybody a chance in the spotlight. You grow to naturally like the characters because of all their faults, quirks, and personality.

The story and characters are so interesting that you eagerly await for the story to unfold, rather than get frustrated at the blatant linearity of it all. Ace Attorney is all about the journey, from investigating the case to proving your client’s innocence. Once the pieces start falling into place, you really do start to feel like an ace attorney. (Kyle Rogacion)

Nintendo

113) Super Smash Bros. Melee
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: November 21, 2001 / NA: December 3, 2001
Genre(s) Fighting

The original Super Smash Bros. for the N64 is uncannily fun to play, and is as entertaining now as it was when it released in 1999, but two years after its release the game was outdone in almost every capacity by its successor, the ever-popular and still-played Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee offers everything the original does (a clash of lovable Nintendo mascots), but significantly expanded. From the outset there are fifteen playable characters in Melee (three more than the original), with ten more to be unlocked with progression through the game. What’s more, those fighters are almost perfectly balanced. Consequently, Melee allows every player to truly play to their preference. On top of that, there are twenty more brilliantly crafted stages on which to play, adding a lot more variety in the locales than ever before.

Melee is also responsible for the series’ tournament mode, not to mention the increased number of items and modes to boot. It also introduced new single-player modes that would become staples of the franchise: Adventure mode and All-Star mode, which allow players to push their skills to new and unexpected limits. Melee also debuted trophies — collectible statues that provide interesting bios for characters both in the game and non-playable characters, providing fun context for the larger wealth of material the game derives its characters and stages from. With graphics that truly demonstrated the strengths of the GameCube, fun single-player and multiplayer gameplay, well-designed stages, impeccable character design and control schemes, and beautiful balance, Super Smash Bros. Melee is correctly considered one of the best fighting games of all time. (Tim Maison)

114) Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

Developer(s) Factor 5 / LucasArts

Publisher(s) LucasArts
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: NA: November 18, 2001
Genre(s) Action, shooter

The GameCube hosted more Star Wars games than any other Nintendo home console, but none (including the sequel to this gem) could come close to delivering the kind of magical moments that abound in Factor 5’s amazing launch title, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Hardly a more whiz-bang introduction to what sensory feats the little purple box was capable of could be found at the time, and not many have bettered it since. From the very first stage players are bombarded with seemingly hundreds of enemies firing a chaotic swarm of lasers, from pesky TIEs to the lumbering AT-ATs, the action rushing by at an arcade speed to the spot-on John Williams themes and familiar sound effects.

Though the initial onslaught might overwhelm rookie pilots for a moment, tight controls make sure that dogfighting comes off fluid and natural; locking S-foils in attack position never felt so good. From the ubiquitous Hoth level to the epic fleet assault on the second Death Star, Rogue Leader covers all the classic moments from the first trilogy, but the plenty of new missions also retain that Star Wars feel, expanding the universe and giving players another look at how an insignificant rebellion tackled a mighty empire. By honing in on exactly what the N64 original did best — vehicular combat — then enveloping the gameplay in the rich trappings of a beloved universe, Star Wars Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leader did what no other truly had before on a Nintendo console: it transported fans to that galaxy far, far away. (Patrick Murphy)

115) Resident Evil (REmake)
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Director(s) Shinji Mikami
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: March 22, 2002
Genre(s) Survival horror

There were a lot of sour grapes for Nintendo fans during the reign of the N64. While Nintendo’s first-party products kept players from starving completely, exciting new franchises like Resident Evil by passed the console almost entirely. Luckily, Capcom rectified this with a smorgasbord of RE titles on the GameCube, beginning with one of the best remakes in gaming history. Resident Evil, often called the REmake to distinguish it from the original, is a remake so successful that it actually renders the original nearly unplayable by comparison.

The REmake took everything that worked about Resident Evil and improved upon on it, while excising all of the refuse along the way. With new additions to the plot, sharper graphics, tighter gameplay, and a notable lack of terrible dialogue, the REmake is rightly touted as one of the all-time great remakes in an industry that’s now full of them. To boot, it still looks great today, even if certain gameplay elements don’t necessarily hold up so well. If you have PS Plus, then hopefully you grabbed the HD remaster for free, as it’s well worth a playthrough, both as a time capsule and as a genuinely great survival horror title. (Mike Worby)

mario-sunshine116) Super Mario Sunshine
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: July 19, 2002 / USA: August 26, 2002
Genre(s) Platforming

The year was 2001, and Nintendo had just released its lovable purple lunchbox, the Nintendo GameCube. While the innovative Luigi’s Mansion had just come out, the console lacked what it truly needed: a 3D Super Mario game. Super Mario Sunshine provided just that, sending Mario on a vacation that he would not soon forget. Sunshine is a tough, but rewarding game (my 8-year-old self-found it positively infuriating) that still holds up well today, despite being the weakest of the 3D Super Mario games. Mario’s jetpack/water gun, named F.L.U.D.D., is an incredibly interesting addition, augmenting Mario’s move set in a way unheard of until Super Mario Odyssey, and paving the way for a great experience. While the story is horrendous (even for a Mario platformer) and a 30fps framerate cap looks really strange in a Mario title, Super Mario Sunshine is still a good game that has, for the most part, stood the test of time.  (Izak Barnette)

117) Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Developer(s) Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
Release: JP: June 6, 2002 / NA: September 16, 2002
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

As mentioned before, with the growing prevalence of 3D titles, the GBA became the last haven for 2D games in the early 2000s. Since Konami had scored a huge critical success with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the natural place to take their series was the Game Boy Advance. Their first effort, Circle of the Moon, was a solid proving ground for the series in its new home but it wasn’t until the sequel that they really hammered out how to make the strengths and restrictions of the platform work for them. Harmony of Dissonance told the tale of Juste Belmont, Simon’s grandson, who sets out to rescue his childhood friend from becoming part of a blood ritual to resurrect Dracula once again. The plot, as usual, is sort of beside the point, as the reason everyone generally shows up is for a lot of whip-swinging, demon-slaying action. Even if the iconic series music wasn’t quite up to snuff with HoD, the gameplay and design grew by leaps and bounds over CotM, with the dual-magic system being a standout feature. Even if no portable installment has even touched the crown as held by Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance is surely one of the finest efforts to at least reach for it. (Mike Worby)

118) Resident Evil 0
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: November 12, 2002
Genre(s) Survival horror

After the success of the Resident Evil remake showed that there was indeed an audience for more mature and violent gaming on a Nintendo console, the stage was set for another GameCube-exclusive RE title in the form of a prequel. Resident Evil 0 centers its narrative around Rebecca Chambers, a minor character in the original game. She is joined by Billy Coen, a marine with a mysterious criminal background who normally would have just been another character to choose from at the outset of the game. RE0 changes up the formula though: instead of using one character or the other, you actually used both in tandem as a means to accomplish your goals. It was an inspired choice for the series, and had RE4 not taken off so dramatically, perhaps it might have become a franchise norm. Featuring a metric ton of RE lore and some of the creepiest enemies the series ever produced (Leech Man anyone?), Resident Evil 0 was the last traditional effort before survival-horror moved on and changed forever. (Mike Worby)

MetroidPrime

119) Metroid Prime
Developer(s) Retro Studios/Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: November 17, 2002
Genre(s) Action-adventure, First-person shooter

When Metroid Prime was first announced, amid several reinventions of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, it was met with an understandable level of backlash and skepticism. The notion that one of the most beloved side-scrolling series of all time would be forcibly morphed into a first-person shooter was not a popular one. Luckily for fans, they turned out to be dead wrong. With a little help from Texas-based Retro Studios, Nintendo was able to deliver arguably the best Metroid game yet, while simultaneously changing the game on what people could expect from the FPS genre.

All of the key mechanics from the series made the jump from 2D to 3D without missing a beat, and new ideas like alternate visors and physics-based morph ball puzzles make the game a unique challenge, even for longtime fans. Without a doubt the finest game on the GameCube, and one that still sits in my personal Top 10, Metroid Prime was the best reason to pick up a Nintendo’s little purple box, and remains an undisputed classic that still holds up today. (Mike Worby)

zelda-wind-waker-featured-1

120) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) GameCube
Release: JP: December 13, 2002 / NA: March 24, 2003
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Director Eiji Aonuma’s swashbuckling adventure The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, set 100 years after the events in Ocarina of Time, stands as one of three best games released in the series thus far. Along with the N64 classic and A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker masterfully baits and hooks players with its perfect blend of polished design, tightly crafted controls, and beautiful presentation. Utilizing a completely new look with cel-shaded graphics, the game casts players in the role of a familiar young Link, who sets out on a long voyage across troubled seas, into dark dangerous dungeons and against ruthless foes to save his kidnapped sister. At the time of its release, it was immediately evident that Wind Waker was going to be different from the previous Zelda titles, yet it’s surprising that the grandeur of The Wind Waker‘s bold, thick strokes, lusciously saturated palette, and notably boyish protagonist with his humongous, expressive eyes ever caused so much controversy back in 2003. Over a decade later, the game’s legacy remains defined by its visuals.

Players with keen eyes and an appreciation for art will know that Nintendo doesn’t just do things for the sake of pure experimentation. When developing The Wind Waker, Nintendo not only created a hugely stylistic world down to every last detail, but also pushed the power of Gamecube to do so. Upon closer inspection, cel-shading clearly was the right choice. This is a game that emphasizes the vastness of the open ocean and the open sky, and with the application of cel-shading, every wave, every gust of wind is beautifully pronounced against a backdrop of colorful hillsides, small villages, and coastal locales. And like all previous titles in the series, the dungeons prove to be the most enjoyable aspect of this game, despite having so few. It is in these dungeons that Wind Waker shines. The true beauty of the visuals stands out, as each dungeon is brought to life with an astounding amount of detail. It’s ultimately not difficult to see why The Wind Waker has become something of a classic in the years since its release. Overall it is a huge achievement in every way, with a classic mix of sword-swinging action, perplexing puzzles, stirring storylines, vibrant art, evocative soundtrack, a cast of colorful characters, beautiful melodies, and a fantastic battle system that propels the adventure and exploration. For many, the Zelda brand represents the pinnacle of gaming, and The Wind Waker stands tall, side by side with the very best. (Ricky D)

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Joanna

    December 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Banjo-Tooie is still one of my all-time fav games on every console ever created.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

Games

From ‘dnd’ to ‘Death Stranding’: Good Old Fashioned Boss Fights

If Death Stranding proves anything, and it does, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

Published

on

Death Stranding Higgs Boss Fights

There’s nothing quite like a good boss fight. With the creation of dnd in 1975– a Dungeons & Dragons inspired RPG for the PLATO system– video games would be introduced to bosses. It’s hard to imagine the medium without bosses, those perpetual protectors of progress. For dnd, an incredibly primitive RPG, a boss allowed the game to feature these miniature climaxes — memorable events independent of the core gameplay loop. Bosses demand players pay attention or die, and beating one is a triumph in and of itself. Looking back, dnd’s concept of what a boss is amounts to little more than the average random battle, but video games could now build towards emotional highs like any other medium. 

A good boss can make or break a game, but they’re almost always a given. dnd essentially set an inherent basic of game design: video games have bosses. As the seventh generation of gaming ushered in more narrative driven and “cinematic” titles, however, boss design fundamentally changed. Where bosses had evolved from dnd to often serve as explicit rewards or a means to thoughtfully challenge a player’s grasp of the core mechanics, developers started to primarily embrace the “spectacle” of fighting a boss. 

Spectacle and boss fights naturally go hand in hand, though. After all, a boss is spectacle in nature. dnd’s spectacle is comparatively primitive, but it’s there and bosses do feel like events. Boss fights have always demanded our attention as an audience, isolating the world of a game into a singular objective. Some of the best bosses in gaming are almost pure spectacle: Baby Bowser in Yoshi’s Island, Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear REX in Metal Gear Solid. None of these bosses are particularly hard, but they make up for their lack of challenge with scale, scope, and gravitas. Spectacle. 

At the same time, they engage with the mechanics of the game even if they don’t outright challenge them. Of course, it would be disingenuous to go on without mentioning that all of these bosses appear near the end of their respective games. They’re easier and focus on spectacle as a means of rewarding the audience for coming so far. Anyone who’s played A Link to the Past in full will likely remember Moldorm as vividly as Ganon, but it’s the latter who fans will remember. Ganon is a spectacular duel to the death inside of a pyramid where the environment changes over the course of the fight. The former is just a good old fashioned boss fight. Who wants that?

As it turns out, a good chunk of AAA developers. BioWare director Casey Hudson infamously spoke out about boss fights after the release of Mass Effect 3, criticizing them for being “too video gamey.” While, contextually, Hudson’s comment refers to narratively convenient bosses specifically, it’s a sentiment that clearly rang true with developers throughout the late oughts & teens. This isn’t to say games with amazing bosses didn’t release over the course of the decade -– very far from it -– but boss design has changed, to the point where the Iggy Koopas and Revolver Ocelots of the world seem almost out of place. 

That’s just a consequence of consuming only AAA content, though. The indie scene has been thriving, and Japanese game development is the best it’s been in quite a while. In a generation where gaming is more mature and grounded than it’s ever been, the medium needed to end the decade with a reminder of video games in their purest form. Death Stranding is anything but, but its core philosophies play to the strengths of the medium with an evident passion. Death Stranding demands that audiences slow down and play by the game’s rules. 

In a generation where holding a player’s hand is the norm, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s not only appropriately old-school, it’s a step back in the right direction. Like any facet of game design, bosses need to be thoughtfully considered. Being “too video gamey” can indeed be a bad thing depending on a titles tone, but swinging in the wrong direction and playing it too safe is never a good idea. Especially since Death Stranding proves mature, grounded AAA titles can absolutely still have the same over the top, pattern-based boss fights of yore — and comfortably, at that. 

“No BTs. No Voidouts. No bullshit. Just a good-old fashioned boss fight.”
– Higgs, Death Stranding (2019)

What’s interesting to note about Death Stranding’s boss fights is that they all play up the spectacle. Now, given the context that’s been established, that might seem like a step in the wrong direction, but any medium has to evolve with time. AAA developers haven’t historically used spectacle well, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Not every boss should be Ganon, but they should always be memorable. The problem with modern spectacle is that it doesn’t go beyond the surface level. It often carries little to no weight or context. Players are expected to care for the spectacle of the spectacle, but that’s simply not where the medium shines. Games are inherently about interconnectivity, and nothing demands more interconnection than a boss fight. 

From the moment players formally meet Higgs and he floods Port Knot City, it’s clear that Death Stranding’s boss fights are more Snake Eater than they are Peace Walker. They’re all incredibly meaty with tons of health, typical of a modern Hideo Kojima boss, but they’re not bullet sponges, and Sam’s limited inventory means that players will constantly be cycling through different weapons over the course of a fight. Couple this with bosses having identifiable patterns and Death Stranding’s boss loops end up being real highlights. 

As expected of a first boss, the Squid BT is on the simple side. At this point in the game, Sam really only has hematic grenades to fight back with. Anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn how to use the grenades are now forced to do so as it becomes the only means of making progress. Since Higgs also ambushes Sam, players won’t be prepared for a fight on their first playthrough, forced to scavenge the flooded environment for gear. Most bosses strip Sam of his gear, but this approach only results in tense, well crafted battles that offer plenty of variety. Should Sam already have grenades on him, players can rush in to fight the Squid. Should they not, however, they’re going to have to search while staying alive. 

Starting with the next boss, the first fight against Cliff, Death Stranding begins allowing players to choose exactly how they approach a fight. Much like in Metal Gear, there’s no right or wrong way to tackle a boss. Where bosses in MGS2 onwards could be tackled lethally or non-lethally, Death Stranding’s bosses are more about action versus stealth. Both approaches are totally viable, and they lead into their own isolated boss loops. As Cliff Unger hunts Sam through World War I era trenches, players can stealth their way around him or just dive in guns blazing. 

It’s an incredibly tense battle, but it doesn’t let the spectacle of the situation outdo the actual fight. Cliff isn’t a set piece even if he looks it. He’s a genuine boss and players have to play well to beat him. Stealthing around to hit him from behind is safer, but it means players will be fighting Cliff for much longer, requiring more mental stamina. On the flip side, cutting to the chase and unloading the moment he rears his head will end the fight sooner, but only for players who know how to get in & out of combat fast. Otherwise, Cliff’s personal army will slaughter Sam. 

Cliff is fought twice more over the course of Death Stranding, and each encounter builds off the last. The World War I trenches provided plenty of cover for players regardless of which approach they chose, so naturally the second fight takes place in a World War II city. There’s still plenty of hiding spots, but Sam is now out in the open. Just as easily as Sam can see Cliff, so can he be seen. Getting to Cliff is harder in general. Stealthing towards him means taking advantage of any and all blind spots, no matter how brief. Starting a gunfight either requires some pre-established course of action or quick reflexes. 

Death Stranding

By the third and final fight, Sam is taking on Cliff in an open Vietnamese jungle. Stealthing through and fighting back are both harder, but players will have built up the proper skills over their past two fights to adequately stand a chance. The fights against Cliff are the most video gamey Death Stranding ever gets, with each one sharing the same definable patterns, but they’re ultimately a net positive for the game. Having to learn a pattern, finding a way to fight back, and reveling in the scope of a great boss fight makes Death Stranding better on a whole. 

Honestly, the final fight against Cliff isn’t going to be a challenge for most players, but it’ll still stand out as a highlight. Each boss fight is a playground in and of itself. If Sam’s not being transported to a secluded battlefield, areas will be flooded with tar so that they can be molded into proper boss arenas. Even Dark Souls, a modern series that rightfully prides itself on its bosses, often won’t give the same level of care toward boss arenas. Good bosses need good level design just as much as they need good patterns. 

Perhaps more important than anything else, Death Stranding’s boss fights are long. Even if players know what they’re doing, they still have to endure an endurance match of sorts. Boss fights aren’t just about overcoming a challenge, they’re about surviving and making progress. Cliff’s not particularly difficult, but one mistake can result in Sam getting torn into. The majority of BT boss fights will try to overwhelm the player in the second half, the final one even featuring a nasty one-hit-kill that can easily sneak up on players wading through tar. Bosses should feel like events, from how players can engage mechanically, to how they’re presented narratively. 

No discussion of Death Stranding’s good old fashioned boss fights would be complete without mentioning the boss fight: Higgs. After serving as the game’s main villain for dozens upon dozens of hours, Sam finally gets his chance to fight back in a three phase boss fight that could have (very) prematurely ended the game on a high. Unlike the fights against Cliff, Sam really does have nothinghere, no matter what. He’s stripped of his gear, his weapons, and even BB. “Stick versus rope. Gun versus strand.” It’s a great way not only to wrap up Higgs’ arc, but it also challenges a player’s mastery of the most basic mechanics. 

Death Stranding

Phase 1 of the fight requires players understand not only Sam’s hand to hand combat capabilities, but his ability to throw packages. Throw a package at Higgs, beat him up, rinse, repeat. All the while he’s hunting Sam in one of the most constricted boss arenas in the game. Popping up too early means taking a few shots courtesy of Higgs. Popping up too late means needing to find him all over again. 

Phase 2 puts Sam on the offensive, and expects players to fight back with his strand. Higgs needs to be countered, hog-tied, and then kicked into oblivion. On-screen button prompts make the ordeal easier than it would otherwise be, but it’s thrilling to fight a boss who requires players to pull off reflex-based inputs that go beyond the typical QTE flare. Players need to set themselves up accordingly to counter Higgs, actively taking him head on. 

By the time fighting game health bars pop up for the third phase, it’s fairly obvious Higgs’ boss fight is a love letter to the very concept of the boss fight. It’s over the top, almost nonsensical, but it has the right narrative and emotional context to stand out as one of the best moments in an already spectacular game. The fight against Higgs is a miniature climax in a massive story that spans half a hundred hours, and is about to keep on keeping on for half a dozen more. 

Death Stranding

When it really comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong way to conceive a boss fight. Those spectacle bosses have their place, and this generation has seen a lot of amazing ones. What’s important is that developers build and contextualize spectacle accordingly. Boss fights aren’t just an inherent part of gaming, they’re a tool that can make a title better. Opportunities to shine light on the core mechanics, or an interesting aspect of game design. Death Stranding’s penultimate mission essentially pits Sam against a boss gauntlet across the entire UCA, a last chance for players to really indulge in everything at their disposal before the grand finale. 

Death Stranding would still be good without its boss fights, but it certainly wouldn’t be great. Each one elevates the game, not only by presenting a visually memorable and mechanically engaging challenge, but by existing as natural consequences of the story. Each boss is contextualized properly with enough weight where each victory has a considerable amount of impact. Boss fights have come a long way since dnd, but they’re recognizable for what they are: a reminder that games are games, and the medium should be embracing those video gamey elements. It’s through this “video gameyness” that the most memorable titles are made. If Death Stranding proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

Published

on

Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

Published

on

Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending