Connect with us

Games

Ranking the Nintendo Consoles

Published

on

Ranking Nintendo Consoles

What is the best Nintendo Console?

It was in 1985 that Nintendo launched the Nintendo Entertainment System on North American shores and forever changed the video gaming industry; decades later, the company is seeing great success with the newest member in their console library, the Nintendo Switch. Now that we’re in the midst of another generation of great gaming, Goomba Stomp has decided to update our ranking of every console Nintendo has released over the years. We believe that each console on the list has had a major influence on both the industry and gaming culture, and whether for better (Super NES) or worse (Virtual Boy), the industry as a whole is indebted to Nintendo.

Quick Note: We first published this article back in 2015 when we launched our website, but while we had more (and different) writers participate in the voting process this time around, the order surprisingly hasn’t changed much. In fact, the only difference is that we’ve added the Switch to the list.

Also worth noting: Prior to 1985, Nintendo already had insane success with the Famicom and Game & Watch in Japan. However, we’ve decided to rank the consoles dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System, since most of our writers reside in North America and Europe, and didn’t grow up playing any of the Japanese exclusives. With that out of the way, here is our list ranking all the Nintendo consoles over the years.

****

Ranking the Best Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #13: Virtual Boy

The Virtual Boy proved to be a dismal failure for Nintendo. It was an absolute, bonafide disaster, and supposedly forced the retirement of creator Gunpei Yokoi, the brilliant mind behind the once-successful Game & Watch (not to mention legendary producer of such games as Metroid, Donkey Kong, and Mario Bros.). It didn’t take long before Nintendo realized their mistake, and just months after its release, they decided to pull the plug.

The 32-bit system (powered by six AA batteries) was marketed as the first portable video game console capable of displaying “true 3D graphics.” Designed as a set of red-coloured VR goggles mounted on a tripod with a controller wired in, the Virtual Boy demanded users hunch over and cramp their back in order to play. It was weird, and perhaps too weird for its own good. In many ways, however, it was also ahead of its time.

The console featured sharp, high-resolution graphics, and was capable of some extraordinary gameplay. Unfortunately, the system was largely overshadowed by its controversial LED (Light Emitting Display) technology, which rendered the visuals in monochromatic red on black. Even worse, the system was not intended for use by children under the age of seven, and displayed warnings on the box and in the manual that cautioned users about long-term side effects, including permanent damage to the eyes. Those who did purchase the console complained about sickness, flashbacks, and painful migraines. Although the system was a huge failure, diehard fans still defend it to this day, praising the quality of games and the well-designed controller featuring asymmetrical button configuration, dual control pads, and comfortable handles. (Ricky D)

Ranking the Best Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #12: Game Boy Color

While mostly retaining the same hardware as the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Color’s primary competitors were the much more advanced Neo Geo Pocket and the WonderSwan by Bandai (released in Japan only). Though the Game Boy Color crushed the competition in sales, it had a very short lifespan. Nintendo chopped shipments in 2001, effectively making the era of GBC only three years long. While it features a pair of secondary Zelda games as well as a pair of Pokemon titles, there really isn’t a true classic to be found in the system’s entire repertoire. Games made specifically to take advantage of the system’s hardware were few and far between, and while the addition of color was a welcome change, Nintendo and gamers were getting ready to move on.

Ranking-the-Best-Nintendo-Consoles-GameBoy

Best Nintendo Consoles #11: Game Boy

The iconic 8-bit handheld video game device was created by Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo Research & Development 1 — the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series nearly a decade earlier. Redesigned versions were released in the form of Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Light (Japan only), but for the most part, each version contains the same hardware as the original. The Game Boy was the very first internationally successful handheld gaming system, and upon its release in the United States, it sold its entire shipment of one million units within a few weeks. It was a phenomenon, and the start of the popular handheld gaming trend.

On the design side of things, the Game Boy was made simple and devoid of any true styling. The plastic is light gray in color, and has a slight texture, but that’s about it. But where the Game Boy does stand out is in build quality. It might just be the toughest gaming console ever made, sturdy enough to survive a bomb, and it’s the first video game system to travel to space.

However, the big problem with the original Game Boy is the screen. It features four levels of gray to augment the lack of back-lighting, and while players could adjust the screen’s contrast with the slider on the device’s left side, the display quality isn’t very impressive, remaining extremely grainy and difficult to see in most lighting conditions. And of course, the original Game Boy didn’t display any bright, shiny colors; instead, we got a horrid green and grey screen — a decision Nintendo made in order to save on battery life (four AA batteries last for up to thirty hours of gaming on the system).

The library of Game Boy games includes deep entries into the Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy series, and in total there were 716 games released worldwide. These games also include classics like Mario Tennis, Shantae, Kid Dracula, Metal Gear Solid, and Mortal Kombat, to name a few. And lest we forget, the Game Boy is responsible for unleashing two of gaming’s greatest phenomenons: Tetris took the world by storm, and Pokemon Red and Blue launched an international craze. The games are classic — and more importantly, they are fun, which is what truly makes any console special. Unfortunately, it isn’t the pinnacle of handheld gaming, as some would like to claim. That system comes later in this list.

Ranking the Best Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #10: Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance was not as revolutionary as the Game Boy Color, but it proved very profitable, selling a whopping 81.51 million units worldwide. The handheld featured a 32-bit RISC processor and a sharp, colorful, reflective LCD screen. In other words, we’re talking about a portable system that performs at roughly the same level as a Super Nintendo. With hardware comparable to the home console, the Game Boy Advance also helped further advanced sprite-based technology. In terms of battery life, GBA did fairly well. You could play 14.5 hours using only two AA batteries. In addition, it was designed for maximum comfort, and was released with a dozen accessories, including a wireless Adapter, a link cable, an e-Reader, a cleaning cartridge, and so much more.

The major downside was the lack of original games. Being able to play your favourite SNES games on the go was a major selling point, but when it came to original content, there wasn’t much to be found. Instead, the library of Game Boy Advance games is comprised mostly of remakes and re-releases, many of which were sub-par to the original games. In fact, the GBA is the only major Nintendo console to not have its own original Super Mario title. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth the $70 — two great 2D Metroid titles and the first Fire Emblem game to hit stateside was reason enough to own one. Along with a fresh, updated entry in the Castlevania series, a few critically acclaimed entries in the Mario Kart and Zelda franchises, and backward compatibility, the Game Boy Advance was a worthy successor to the original Game Boy. (Ricky D)

Ranking-the-Best-Nintendo-Consoles-GameBoy

Best Nintendo Consoles #9: Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS came at the perfect time, long before mobile games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush sold millions to just about anyone who carried a cell phone. From 2004 to 2011, the Nintendo DS dominated mobile gaming by introducing distinct new features, including two LCD screens working in tandem (the bottom one featuring a touchscreen), a built-in microphone, and support for wireless connectivity. It was the also the first device of any kind to effectively introduce touch controls, something we now take it for granted. The DS is capable of displaying 260,000 colors, and both the screens are backlit — making them easy to see outside and indoors, something the Game Boy Color couldn’t get right. To date, it’s the second-best-selling platform on this list; in fact, all Nintendo DS models combined have sold 154.01 million units, making it the second-best-selling video game console of all time period (beaten out by the PlayStation 2, which sold 155 million units).

With the DS, Nintendo began to market to demographics beyond typical young-adult males. The DS featured a strong library, introduced online play, and catered to both the hardcore and casual gamers alike, giving them theProfessor Layton franchise, WarioWare, a new Animal Crossing game, a brand-new 2D Super Mario title, and even a Grand Theft Auto game. Add on three excellent Castlevania titles, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, as well as a ton of Pokemon games, and you’ve got a library that justified the cheap $150 price tag.

So why does it rank so low on our list? The DS era was sort of an experimental phase for Nintendo that would eventually bring us the much-improved 3DS. In truth, many DS games have not aged well, and although the system introduced some excellent new features, we simply prefer other consoles over this. (Ricky D)

Ranking-the-Best-Nintendo-Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #8: Wii U

Nintendo’s Wii U console has somewhat of a bad reputation, and with reason, since it is perhaps Nintendo’s greatest commercial failure.

That said, a console should never be judged by the number of units in sales. The Dreamcast is without a doubt one of the greatest consoles ever produced, and yet sales did not meet Sega’s expectations. Despite several price cuts, the Dreamcast sold only 10.6 million units worldwide. Of course, we all know what happened next: Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, and respectively withdrew from the console business. However, Nintendo isn’t Sega, and the company was never in any danger of closing shop. In fact, despite the low number of sales, Nintendo at least made back its money on the WiiU — and more importantly, one can argue that the Wii U’s gamepad served as inspiration for the Nintendo Switch.

In terms of computing power, the Wii U lags behind the field. It has practically no AAA 3rd party support, and its primary feature — the gamepad — has proven integral to only a handful of games. That said, despite the Switch poaching, the Wii U has a great library of exclusive games, such as Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3, that still has us going back to play it every so often. The Wii U is also home to amazing HD remakes like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and DuckTales, as well as surprise hits such as Hyrule Warriors and Captain Toad, not to mention the critically acclaimed Bayonetta 2.

And let’s not forget that Nintendo released an exciting new IP in Splatoon, a third-person shooter which went on to sell one million copies in less than a month, and Super Mario Maker, the company’s first robust level editor, with the option to download and play levels created by members of the online Wii U community. Furthermore, the Wii U library includes Yoshi’s Woolly World, Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade Chronicles X,and dozens of indie darlings like Shovel Knight, Adventures of Pip, and Guacamelee!. The WiiU is also compatible with most Wii games, and includes an online virtual store where you can download titles from previous Nintendo systems, including the NES, Super NES, N64, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance and more.

As someone who’s owned every Nintendo console, I’m not interested in Nintendo having the most powerful system. Once again, it all comes down to games, and the Wii U has all the above and more. (Ricky D)

Ranking-the-Best-Nintendo-Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #7: 3DS | New 3DS XL

The surest way to make a system’s greatness apparent isn’t hardware specs or a sleek, smooth design; it’s games, plain and simple. I bought the Wii U and 3DS at the same time, around the time the former released. Yet for all the dazzling HD tech behind the latest home console, it was the little portable that would take up all my gaming attention for a good long while, for one reason and one reason only: games. Nintendo’s 3DS may have had a slow start, but after a couple of sizeable hits, suddenly the dam burst.

The 3DS’ library wound down its life not only full of a vast multitude of titles, but a wallet-scaring number of absolutely fantastic ones. Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Resident Evil: Revelations, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Pokemon X/Y, Bravely Default, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Kid Icarus: Uprising and oh-my-god so many more. That’s not even counting the remakes of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Star Fox 64, or all the incredibly addicting eShop downloadables, Virtual Console hits, and the obsession-inducing StreetPass diversions.

Sure, it doesn’t have the power of Sony’s Vita (except in sales comparisons), a second analog stick would’ve been great (the New 3DS’ nub doesn’t quite do the trick), and the 3D is more of an interesting technology gimmick than a gameplay enhancer, but neither these nor any other niggling issues have mattered to me in the slightest. Nintendo’s 3DS quickly shot up my personal list of favourite consoles because of the sheer number of amazing experiences I’ve had, and with an amazingly massive back catalog, it looks to stay that way for quite a while. (Patrick Murphy)

Ranking Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #6: Wii

Released November 19th, 2006, the Wii was Nintendo’s seventh generation console. Competing against the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the Wii held the lead in the “console wars,” selling more than 101 million units in the first quarter of 2012. With the Wii, Nintendo revolutionized the way we play video games, focusing on innovation and gameplay over fancy graphics and multimedia. And with it came the Wii remote, a handheld controller that made us play games using movement. The Wii also focused on a broad target demographic, with an array of first-party and third-party games for everyone. It offered classic mainstays of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid titles, (most notably Super Mario Galaxy), but also introduced us to grittier and darker games like MadworldNo More Heroes, Silent Hills: Shattered Memory and Manhunt 2.

The Wii was also excellent for being fully backward compatible, with the ability to still play your GameCube games, as well as use the old controller as well. The Wii Virtual Console even had an extensive library of classic titles, where players were able to purchase games from the NES, Sega Genesis, N64, and even the Neo-Geo. The Wii maintained its dominance for several years, but slowly started to fade out as most customers transferred into high-definition televisions, and the Wii graphics started to pale next to the 360 and the PS3. However, the Wii still stands as one the great consoles today despite its lack of technological advancements in the console races. Innovative gameplay and design are what really made this model shine. (Aaron Santos)

Ranking Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #5: Nintendo Entertainment System

The Japanese video game giant Nintendo emerged as a global leader in the video game industry when it unveiled the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. The NES went on to become the best-selling gaming console of its time, and thirty years later, the NES still plays a major influence on the entire industry. Now, I’ve heard the argument that the admiration toward the NES is largely due to nostalgia, but one can make that very same argument towards anything we hold dear, including any one of the consoles appearing on this list. However, the Nintendo Entertainment System stands the test of time, proven by the simple fact that gamers still purchase and/or play NES titles to this day. And even though Nintendo stopped production of software for the NES, the aftermarket library keeps growing, with countless new titles made by many diehard game designers who’ve studied the nuts and bolts of the Ricoh 6502 processor and put their practice to good use. Some even go the extra mile and produce cartridges, boxes, and manuals, and sell their creations online.

This console helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983; it introduced a plethora of now iconic video game characters, a ton of accessories  and it forever changed the relationship of console manufacturers and third-party software developers. The NES was the first true must-have video game console, and if you couldn’t afford one, Nintendo also changed the rental market by allowing video stores to rent their systems and games. But put aside how it saved and changed the industry — what makes the console great is the library of games.

The NES boasts a grand total of 826 titles to choose from (713 licensed and 113 unlicensed games), including a number of groundbreaking hits. Super Mario Bros. pioneered side-scrollers, while The Legend of Zelda helped popularize battery-backed save functionality. Metroid was lauded for being one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is still regarded as one of the greatest sports games ever made. Has there been any other console that released hit after hit at the rate Nintendo did during the NES days? Along with these titles, there is also Castlevania, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Mother, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Contra, Kid Icarus, Ninja Gaiden, Kirby’s Adventure, DuckTales, and the many sequels that outdid their predecessors. Take for instance Super Mario Bros. 3, which was leaps and bounds beyond any other game released back in the day, not to mention the five Mega Man sequels, which are still considered the very best in the franchise.

Here’s a console that changed the industry as a whole, and continues to inspire and entertain to this day. For all these reasons and more, the NES is, in my opinion, the greatest video game console ever made — Nintendo or otherwise. (Ricky D)

Ranking Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #4: N64

The Nintendo 64 is probably Nintendo’s most polarizing console released to date. Ask someone about it, and they’ll most likely rank it either among the best consoles ever released, or way down at the bottom of the list with the likes of the Virtual Boy and the N-Gage. Some simply couldn’t get past its weirdly shaped controller, and many criticized Nintendo’s choice of sticking with cartridges when CD-ROM was already the norm, but no one can deny the console’s impact on the industry, in terms of both hardware and software.

Nintendo consoles have always been at the forefront of innovation, and the N64 was no exception. With a growing trend towards multiplayer games, the N64 was the first console to launch with four controller ports. The controllers, which plugged into said ports featured the first digital thumb-stick, allowed the player 360-degree control over their in-game avatar — and best of all, the stick could be controlled using just a thumb, unlike those huge analog joysticks from past consoles. Those three-pronged controllers were also the first on a home console to have a rumble feature, thanks to the Rumble Pak which debuted alongside Star Fox 64, and it also pioneered the use of trigger-style buttons with its Z-Trigger. Yes, the Nintendo 64 was behind on the times when it came to the use of CD-ROM technology, but it changed the industry none the less. Four controller ports, thumb-sticks, trigger buttons and the rumble feature all became industry standard moving forward.

Cool hardware innovations are always welcome, but consoles are remembered for their greatest games, and the Nintendo 64 had no shortage of industry-changing titles. GoldenEye 007 took the beloved genre of first-person shooters, which had previously only found true success on the PC platform, and made it viable on consoles. With its atmospheric single-player campaign and its wide array of competitive multiplayer options, GoldenEye paved the way for the Halos and Call of Duty games to come. Super Mario 64 was the first game to feature a camera that could be moved freely and independently of the character, giving the player freedom and control in a 3D space like never before, and changing 3D game development forever. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, to this day, is seen by many as the greatest video game of all time. And the list goes on: Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie, Super Smash Bros, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Perfect Dark, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and on and on. Almost every console released to date has some great games and a handful of true masterpieces to their credit, but the Nintendo 64 has dozens of genre-defining and awe-inspiring classics.

While the N64’s collection of games is its greatest strength, the lack of depth in its library is a glaring weak point to many. The mass majority of great N64 titles, including all those mentioned above, were developed by Nintendo or Rareware. There were great games from other developers (WWF No MercyStar Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Resident Evil 2 to name some), but they were few are far between. Due to the limitations of the cartridge format, and the difficulty of developing games for the N64 compared to the PS1, many 3rd party developers opted to simply ignore the console, which resulted in the N64’s game library topping out at about 500 games, whereas the PlayStation has over 3000 titles in its arsenal.

It’s very easy to draw parallels between the Nintendo 64 and the the Wii U; both systems launched with hardware that was not up to par when compared to their contemporaries, which resulted in them having a severe lack of 3rd-party support, and thus underwhelming game libraries. The difference is that while the Wii U has a handful of amazing first party games, the N64 has dozens. For those who look at sheer numbers, yes, the PlayStation undoubtedly has the larger library, but at the end of the day, it comes down to quality versus quantity, and I’d always take the former over the latter. It may not have been the technological marvel of its time, and it certainly didn’t get the 3rd-party love that Nintendo would have hoped for, but the Nintendo 64’s elite game library gives it just enough to stand tall amongst the greatest consoles ever made. (Matt De Azevedo)

Ranking-Nintendo-Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #3: GameCube

Charm can go a long way. Just ask the average-looking person dating someone out of their league, or the not-so-smart guy at work who somehow got the promotion you know you’d be more qualified for. Nintendo’s GameCube may have lacked some of the more obvious desirable video game console traits, but it more than made up for it with quirky appeal and some of the most offbeat and memorable risks of Nintendo’s long history. Right off the bat, you couldn’t help notice that this adorable little box was purple, with a handle on the end that made it seem more like a portable toy than a high-powered gaming machine. There was a choice immediately to be made, and you either walked away, or (like myself), not only rolled with it but cracked a big smile.

The GameCube may be the most “Nintendo” console the company has ever made, and those who stuck around were treated to the kind of fun magic not to be found anywhere else. Experimentation like a cel-shaded Zelda, Marios’s FLUDD, and the very idea of a 3D Metroid game not only working but blowing people away, cemented Nintendo’s desire to innovate. The mood was contagious, with companies like Capcom pushing the limits of weirdness with titles like Viewtiful Joe and Killer 7, and Resident Evil 4 took the series in an awesome direction that would shape the franchise for years to come. The Gamecube may not have had the packed library of its competitors, but what it did have were destined to become classics. Even the controller has garnered its share of fierce loyalty, with many Smash Bros. players (loads of whom still put Melee at the top of their list) preferring its eccentricities to a more standard device.

The GameCube didn’t try to be cool; it was comfortable with what it was, and from the moment the iconic startup screen sounds its familiar tones (unless you found one of several Easter eggs), one can’t help but be endeared all over again. (Patrick Murphy)

Switch

Best Nintendo Consoles #2: Switch

Nintendo’s latest addition to its illustrious history of gaming consoles can already be considered one of its finest. From its portability to its ever-growing collection of wonderful games, the Nintendo Switch offers an experience for everybody, something not many consoles can boast.

The secret to the Nintendo Switch’s success lies in the DNA of every past Nintendo console. Every time the Switch vibrates, it’s a reminder of the Nintendo 64’s rumble pack; every time the motion controls are activated, it’s a reminder of the Wii remote; every time the switch is removed from the dock and taken on a journey, it’s a reminder of every handheld console Nintendo has produced. Every piece that makes the Nintendo Switch is a nostalgic adventure back into the past.

But while that might sound rigidly static in its approach, it’s surprisingly innovative. The Nintendo Switch has a melody for every audience. There’s not a time nor place where the Switch can’t be played, whether it’s on the train to work or laying on the coach after a tiring day. It’s appeal to both the hardcore and the casual gamer allows it to sit in several different markets and create enjoyment for entirely different reasons. Its flexibility is perhaps the feature that the Nintendo Switch will inevitably be remembered for. (James Baker)

Ranking Nintendo Consoles

Best Nintendo Consoles #1: Super Nintendo

For many gamers in my generation, the first console that they learned to love was the NES. Not so for myself. Though I did enjoy that ugly flip-lidded machine for a year or so from kindergarten onward, it was the SNES that gave me my first real taste of what would become a life-long hobby. When my brother and I opened the SNES on Christmas morning all those years ago, it was pretty much an instant addiction. We started with Super Mario World and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, but it wasn’t long before we were moving on to the bevy of exciting titles that were constantly being released on the 16-bit juggernaut. While my brother started to drift away from video games, preferring more casual fare as the years went on, I only sunk deeper. Titles like Super MetroidThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastChrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI only further cemented my hardcore devotion to gaming in each of its facets and iterations.

A stellar step forward for consoles and arguably the finest machine Nintendo has ever produced, the SNES defined and refined what gaming could be for generations to come, all while launching a dozen franchises that continue even to this day. Unfortunately, a series of missteps from Nintendo over the years — from a failed collaboration with Sony, whose PlayStation would eventually topple Nintendo from the top of the heap, to the gimmicky consoles and handhelds which have defined the company of late — has caused the storied legend of the SNES and its insanely impressive line-up of genre-defining titles to be largely been relegated to the hope of glory days past rather than the expectations one might attach to a promising future. Nevertheless, I’ve owned a dozen consoles and handhelds since I first encountered this tiny box of joy, yet none have ever filled me with the charming warmth that this nostalgic contraption still holds.

Long live the SNES! (Mike Worby)

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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Cary

    May 17, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Ok, i agree with ,most of this, but the SNES, really? The switch has a port to contain all SNES games, and you still downgraded it for less than its worth. I understand, we all share opinions, but even the 64, that could have been number two. But my last complaint, some of these are not even consoles, technically there handhelds. But on the flip side, i agree with your notions on the first half, Gameboy’s do contain some classics, there’s just a few flaws that i couldn’t help but notice.

    • Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

      May 17, 2020 at 9:46 pm

      I am pretty sure if our staff ranked this again, the Switch would come out on top.

      However, the biggest thing the Switch has going against it is the joycons which keep breaking down. That is a huge flaw.

  2. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    May 17, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    Basically, I think it was too early to put the Switch at the top of the list but I am pretty sure it now deserves to be at the top of the list.

Leave a Reply

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

Games

‘Oracle of Seasons’: A Game Boy Color Classic

Published

on

Oracle of Seasons

“It is an endless cycle of life… the changing seasons!”

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons are very much two halves of the same grand adventure, but they’re both worth examining on their own merits. Seasons in particular brings with it quite an interesting history. The game that would eventually become Oracle of Seasons began life as a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. This remake would be accompanied by five other games– a remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and four original titles– all developed for the Game Boy Color. These games would not be developed by Nintendo themselves, but by Flagship– a subsidiary of Capcom that was also funded in part by Nintendo and Sega.

These six games would eventually be trimmed into a trilogy slated to release in the summer, autumn, & winter of 2000, before settling as a duology that would launch simultaneously in 2001. Where Oracle of Ages was the sole survivor of the four original games, Oracle of Seasons was a brand new game morphed out of the Zelda 1 remake. Considering director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s own reflection on Flagship’s Zelda proposal, much of what would define Seasons was always present;

 “The core of the game was pretty much decided. That is to say, the fact that it would be on the Game Boy Color, the use of the four seasons, and the decision to retain the feel of the 2D Zelda games. It was also decided that it would be a series.”

Not only was this remake never intended to be a standalone entry, it would kick start its own sub-series while featuring seasons at the forefront of the gameplay. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto likewise asked Fujibayashi to pen a new story for the original Legend of Zelda, suggesting a fairly comprehensive remake as the end goal. With so many inherent changes, however, The Hyrule Fantasy ended up leaving the region altogether. 

“I believe the Zelda series really only started to have scenarios after the hardware specifications improved. The original Zelda was a pure action-RPG and didn’t have much of a story to begin with. I wanted to combine both those aspects (action-RPG and an actual scenario) this time around. At first, we’d only planned on creating a game one-tenth the size of the final version. But it just kept growing as development progressed and gradually turned into an original game.” 
– Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Director/Planner/Scenario Writer

Oracle of Seasons takes after Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask by setting itself away from Hyrule– the kingdom only ever shown during the opening cinematic. Holodrum has one of the densest worlds in a 2D Zelda game, if not the densest after A Link to the Past & A Link Between Worlds. A kingdom geographically similar to Hyrule as seen in the original Legend of Zelda, Holodrum has its own northern mountainside, a final dungeon in the northwest corner, and dozens of old men hidden amongst the land. This all makes sense since Seasons is rooted in a remake of the first game, but it isn’t as if Holodrum is without its novelties. 

Holodrum is distinct from Hyrule where it counts. The kingdom itself is quite large, sprawling when compared directly to Koholint Island. Progression often feels like a puzzle, especially when working around roadblocks early on. Holodrum’s four seasons are out of order, with the weather changing on the fly between regions. Link has to work around snow banks, overgrown trees, flooded fields, and petrified flora to overcome Holodrum’s chaos. As easy as it is to get side tracked in the vast kingdom, it’s only because there always tends to be something around the corner. Getting lost isn’t a problem when the overworld is so secret heavy. 

Old men are frequently found hiding under trees, actually giving players a reason to burn them on sight now, but new systems are in place to make exploration even more rewarding. Link will come across patches of soft soil throughout Holodrum where he can plant Gasha Seeds. Owing their name to gashapon– Japanese capsule toys not too dissimilar to blind bag toys– Gasha Seeds grow into Gasha Trees which bear Gasha Nuts after Link has defeated 40 enemies. Gasha Nut contents are randomized, but they incentivize players to return to previously explored areas. 

Not everything a Gasha Nut drops is worth the effort of chopping down 40 enemies– the worst being five regular hearts and a sole fairy– but the best rewards make it all worthwhile. While the Heart Piece tied to the Nut is probably the best overall get, Gasha Seeds naturally feed into the Ring system. Rings add an inherent RPG layer to the Oracle duology’s gameplay, offering the earliest instance of genuine player customization in the Zelda franchise. Rings, like Gasha Nuts, are completely random. Link will find many in his travels, but he needs to appraise them at Vasu’s ring shop in Horon Village before they can be used. Except in a few rare instances, Vasu’s appraisals are randomized.

There are 64 rings altogether between Seasons and Ages, all with varying effects. Which rings Link obtains can influence how players go about their game. RNG also ensures that each new playthrough is unique from the last. While this poses an obvious frustration for any completionists, it’s a fantastic way of adding another layer of replay value to an already fairly replayable experience. The Expert’s Ring allows Link to punch enemies if he unequips his weapons, the Charge Ring speeds up the Spin Attack, and the Protection Ring makes it so Link always takes one Heart of damage when attacked.

With so many rings to choose from, the gameplay is kept in balance by Link’s Ring Box. Once appraised, Link can equip his rings into his box. While he can only equip one initially, players can find a Box upgrade on Goron Mountain. With RNG already influencing which rings Link has access to, it’s unlikely two players will have the exact same experience in Oracle of Seasons– rings offering more personalization than is still usual for Zelda. Besides Gasha Nuts, Rings can be found in the overworld and dropped by Maple, a young witch who makes further use of RNG. 

Maple is Syrup’s apprentice, the recurring witch who runs the potion shop in A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. Riding in on her broomstick, Maple will appear after Link has killed 30 enemies. Should players bump into her, both Link & Maple will drop their treasures, prompting Maple to race the player for them. It’s almost always worthwhile to focus on what Maple’s dropped rather than what Link lost. Not only does Maple drop her own unique set of rings, she’s a convenient way of getting potions early on and will eventually drop a Heart Piece. Maple also gets progressively faster, upgrading her flying broomstick to a vacuum after enough altercations.

So much RNG can be off-putting, but Holodrum is such an extensive overworld that randomness isn’t much of an issue. Gasha Seeds drive exploration and Maple’s appearances reward it. These systems also encourage players to fight enemies head-on rather than avoid them when it’s convenient. If gameplay ever feels more involved in Oracle of Seasons than the average Zelda game, that’s because it is. This goes double when taking the very seasons into account. 

The four seasons influence overworld progression significantly and most non-dungeon puzzles center on Link using the Rod of Seasons to restore seasonal order to whatever region he’s in. Most of these puzzles solve themselves since seasons can only be changed on stumps, but concessions need to be made when an overworld features four unique versions of every region. Incredible use of the Game Boy Color’s hardware helps in this regard as well. The handheld was designed with making in-game colors pop and Oracle of Seasons– as an extremely late-life GBC game– stands out as one of the most vibrant titles in the system’s library. 

Each season has its own defining color palette– blue for winter, red for summer, green for spring, yellow for autumn– but there is always a wide range of colors on-screen. Winter matches its light blue with shades of white & gray; spring features an almost pastel color tone where gold & pink flowers bloom against soft shades of green; summer deepens most colors for a bolder effect; and autumn offsets its yellow with orange, red, and in some instances purple. Oracle of Seasons might very well have the best atmosphere on the Game Boy Color, each season stylized & recognizable with their own distinct tones. It’s a phenomenal presentation that outdoes OoS’ contemporaries. Seasons outright has better art direction than most early GBA games. 

The fact Oracle of Seasons commits to its premise in such a large overworld as strictly as it does is praiseworthy, but it’s even more impressive that there’s another world lurking underneath Holodrum. Subrosia is a bizarre underworld, easily the most eclectic setting in the franchise other than Termina (and in many respects more so.) Subrosians are culturally impolite, bathe in lava, and deal in Ore instead of Rupees. The Subrosian Market undersells a Heart Piece, volcanic eruptions are a welcome norm, and Link will be moving between Holodrum & Subrosia multiple times over the course of his journey. Players can even go on a date with a Subrosian girl, Rosa, that’s a clear play on his date with Marin from Link’s Awakening. Subrosia is so alien that it’s hard not to love every moment beneath Holodrum.

Beyond the four seasons and the dichotomy between Holodrum & Subrosia, what differentiates Oracle of Seasons most from Oracle of Ages is its focus on action. Seasons is a puzzle heavy game, but it lets combat drive the gameplay more often than not with a very action-centric tool kit. The Slingshot makes its 2D debut, replacing the Bow in the process, but its 250 seed capacity outdoes any of Link’s quivers. Its upgraded version, the Hyper Slingshot, even fires in three directions at once. The Roc’s Feather returns from Link’s Awakening to once again make jumping an important part of Link’s mobility. Not only is platforming far more frequent this time around– with the Ancient Ruins featuring quite a bit of jumping for a 2D dungeon– it upgrades into the Roc’s Cape which allows Link to glide.

The Boomerang now upgrades into a guided Magical Boomerang which players can control themselves; the Magnetic Gloves are ostensibly a better version of the Hookshot which can pull Link to & from magnetic sources, along with magnetizing certain baddies; and most enemies are designed with a combination of the sword & shield in mind. Oracle of Ages has its fair share of action as well, but not with quite the same focus as Oracle of Seasons.

In general, Seasons is a focused video game in the best ways possible. OoS always gives players a general direction to go in, but otherwise leaves Link to his own devices. There are little to no interruptions, and the gameplay loop emphasizes freedom in spite of the game’s linearity. There’s always something to do and you’re always making progress, whether that be narratively or checking in on some Gasha Nuts. The pace is perfectly suited for handheld gaming and quick burst play sessions. Only have a few minutes to play? Kill some enemies to trigger Maple. Got some time? Scope out the next dungeon and work towards saving Holodrum. 

There are also a number of side quests to round off gameplay. The main trading sequence ends with Link finding the Noble Sword in Holodrum’s Lost Woods; players can forge an Iron Shield in Subrosia by smelting red and blue ore together & bringing the refined ore to the Subrosian smithy; and Golden Beasts roam Holodrum, each appearing during a different season & in a set region. Once all four are defeated, Link can find an old man north of Horon Village who will give him the Red Ring– a ring which doubles the Sword’s attack at no expense to the player. 

All these side quests are worthwhile, especially since Oracle of Seasons is a bit on the tougher side when it comes to difficulty. Dungeons are very fast-paced, full of puzzles that are often deceptively simple. Dungeon items are used in increasingly clever ways, from traversing over bottomless pits with strategic use of the Magnetic Gloves to using the Hyper Slingshot to activate three statues at once. Notably, most bosses in Seasons are actually remixes of boss fights from the first Legend of Zelda

Aquamentus, Dodongo, Gohma, Digdogger, Manhandla, and Gleeok all return with a vengeance. Gleeok in particular puts up a serious fight, forcing Link on the offensive. Not only do players need to be quick enough to slice off Gleeok’s two heads before they can attack themselves back on, the dragon will persist as a skeleton for round 2. Explorer’s Crypt is a difficult enough dungeon where getting to the boss room with full health isn’t a guarantee, so Gleeok offers a surprising but welcome challenge as a result. 

Oracle of Seasons deserves a bit of credit for having one of the harder final bosses in the series, as well. Onox doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but he’s a tough boss to put down. His second form requires Link to use the Spin Attack to deal damage while making sure he doesn’t hit Din in the process, and Onox’s dragon form is a gauntlet of dodging, jumping, & surviving long enough to finally kill the General of Darkness. Players are bound to die once or twice, but the final dungeon is short enough where getting back to Onox takes no time at all. 

If Oracle of Seasons has one glaring flaw, however, it’s the story. The script reads like a massive step back coming off the heels of Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and especially Majora’s Mask. Link is summoned to aid the Oracle Din, already a seasoned hero and implied to be the same Link from A Link to the Past, but very little time is spent fleshing out Din as a character & giving players a reason to care about her. Her role is more akin to Zelda in A Link to the Past than Marin in Link’s Awakening. Similarly, Onox is an undercooked villain who shows up to kidnap Din and does nothing for the rest of the story. Of course, this light story stems from Seasons’ origin as a remake of The Legend of Zelda

Early press of the game– when it was still going by the name Acorn of the Tree of Mystery– indicates that the story was originally set in Hyrule and the seasons went out of order when Ganon kidnapped Princess Zelda, the guardian of both the Triforce of Power & the four seasons. Hyrule was changed to Holodrum, Ganon became Onox, Zelda turned to Din, and the eight fragments of the Triforce presumably became the eight Essences of Nature. While underwhelming, the plot’s structure if nothing else makes sense. 

It’s worth pointing out that Oracle of Seasons seems to recognize that story is its weakness and lets the gameplay drive the experience. Unlike Oracle of Ages which takes its plot seriously and has a clear thematic arc, Seasons really is just a remix of Zelda 1’s plot. Which is perfect for the kind of game OoS ultimately is: a fast-paced, action-packed adventure through an ever-changing world. When played as a precursor to Ages instead of its ending, Seasons’ story comes off comparatively better. The stakes aren’t that high or defined, but that’s more than okay for the first half of an adventure that spans two full-length games. 

In a departure for the franchise, Oracle of Seasons actually features a proper post-game, marking the first time any Zelda acknowledges that the main threat is over. NPCs will comment on how they haven’t seen Link in a while, the weather has stabilized as spring has set in Holodrum, and you’re free to wrap up any side quests left unfinished. This is especially noteworthy because players can link their progress from Seasons over into Ages and transfer any rings they have on hand. 

An epilogue makes for a charming send-off to one of the most charming games on the Game Boy Color. Oracle of Seasons underwent a strange development, intended to be little more than a suped-up remake of the original Legend of Zelda. Instead, Flagship ended up developing one of the finest games on the GBC– a vibrant adventure filled with personality and some of the best action on the handheld. Oracle of Seasons isn’t just one half of a greater game; it’s a classic Zelda in its own right.

Continue Reading

Games

PAX Online: ’30XX’ and ‘Cris Tales’

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

Published

on

30XX and Cris Tales

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

30XX

30XX

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: TBA

I’ve already given some of my thoughts on 30XX back when I took it for a spin at PAX East. To catch those who didn’t see that report up to speed, 30XX is a 2D side-scrolling roguelike with a hi-bit art style and gameplay reminiscent of many Mega Man games. It’s generally more forgiving than Mega Man in the sense that there’s a distinct lack of instant-death spikes and pits, but the tradeoff is that when you do die that’s the end and you have to start the whole game over from the start. Classic roguelike rules for ya.

This PAX Online demo was very similar to the one I played at East. I chose between the blaster Nina or swordsman Ace then I went on my merry way throughout the two levels. One key difference is that I did not start out with any specials this time around and my maximum health was much lower. This is probably in-line with what it would be like to start a new game completely fresh as opposed to some upgrades as the East demo had. As a result, I actually failed my first attempt at this demo.

That’s where the first additional aspect of this build came into play, though, in the form of global character progression. Beating bosses in 30XX not only grants you a new weapon ability but also a currency called Memoria. Memoria can be spent at a shop in-between playthroughs to obtain permanent upgrades for Nina and Ace for every subsequent attempt. The pickings were rather slim for the demo, such as increased health and energy, but a wider variety is promised for the full release, and if anything it’s exceptionally clear how useful they’ll be to fully clear the game’s ten planned stages in one go. I also await the inevitable “no upgrade” runs that will assuredly come out of this, though.

30XX

The other neat addition to this demo is Entropy conditions, which are essentially modifiers. You can make it to where shop items cost more Nut currency to purchase per run, impose a time limit, and/or increase the amount of HP enemies have. Enabling these options also increases rewards gained from runs, adding a nice risk vs. reward factor that will probably keep things engaging even after you master the game’s earlier stages. More Entropy conditions are promised to be added into the full game that will allow you to fine-tune your experience even further.

The one concern I have for 30XX at this point is the number of dead ends I encountered with no reward to show for it. This is probably a result of the procedurally generated nature of the game, but the number of times I thought I was so clever for platforming up to a hard-to-reach area only to be greeted by a wall was more than I cared for. This is the “30XX Very Pre-Alpha Demo”, though, so it’s a flaw that can still be fixed in future development and with everything else that is being done right so far — the tight platforming, varied progression, and delightful aesthetics — it’s not hard to be hopeful for 30XX‘s future.

Cris Tales

Cris Tales

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Steam, and Stadia
Release: Nov 17th, 2020

I went into the Cris Tales demo after hearing nothing but its name in passing here and there. After finishing the demo, I’d recommend you do the same. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPG’s just download the demo and see it for yourself.

Cris Tales managed to constantly surprise and delight me throughout the entirety of its 45-minute long demo, firstly being the visuals. Playing through the game is like watching stained-glass art come to life with its hyper-stylized character designs that emphasize general shapes rather than specific details and environments chock-full of geometrical sharp edges. I was in awe from the word “Go”.

The story follows Crisbell, a chipper young orphan girl who spends her time happily doing chores for the orphanage and her dearest Mother Superior. After chasing a dapper young frog to a church, Crisbell inadvertently awakens the powers of Time Crystals hosed there and gains the power to see both the past and future at the same time. This manifests as the screen fractures into thirds with the left side showing the past, the middle the present, and the right the future at all times.

It was a trick that took a minute or two to register with me, but once it did I immediately set about traipsing all about the town I had just chased the frog through in order to see how it has and will change. It was a positively fascinating experience that put a big stupid grin on my face the entire time.

Crisbell can use this knowledge of that past and future to make decisions in the present such as locating a missing potion label or creating a concoction that will prevent wood from rotting and leading to dilapidated houses. Choosing which house to restore is also an irreversible choice that will lead to different outcomes depending.

Cris Tales

Time manipulation also plays a major part in Cris Tales‘ turn-based combat in extremely novel and creative ways. Enemies attack Crisbell and co from both the left and the right, and you can attack them with your standard RPG basic attacks and skills. Enemies on the left side, however, can be forcibly sent to the past while enemies on the right to the future by expending Crystal Points. This means reverting a big brawny goblin into a harmless little child or aging it into an elder that can barely move.

That’s not all, though. Douse an armored enemy in water then send them to the future to cause it to rust and shatter their defense. Poison an enemy that has already been sent to the past then brings them back to the present to force them to take all that poison damage at once. Plant a damaging mandragora that would normally take a few turns to sprout then send it to the future to cause it to sprout instantly. These are the examples demonstrated in the demo but it’s abundantly clear that this is only the tip of the creative iceberg. It’s genuinely thrilling to imagine all the possibilities such a system is capable of. The best part is that we won’t have to wait long to find out as Cris Tales launches on all major platforms in just two months.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

Published

on

AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

Continue Reading

We update daily. Support our site by simply following us on Twitter and Facebook

Facebook

Trending