New Ghostbusters II
(Completed on 30 Oct 2022)

  • This is the Ghostbusters II game which was made by HAL Laboratories, and never released in America due to licensing problems. America got the Activision ones, which are in no way like this game
  • Pretty short game, especially if you know what you’re doing. I did not know what I was doing at first, and kept hitting a wall at the next-to-last boss. The continue system is pretty brutal: If you lose 3 lives, 3 times, you have to start the entire game over. There is no form of checkpoints, saving, or password system. Fighting all the way back to the boss where I was stuck did get pretty annoying, but I have persevered.
  • Note for posterity: There are 3 game modes for Easy/Normal/Hard, and I just played this one on Normal.
  • The soundtrack to this game is WAY better than it has any right to be. I had to look up who was responsible, and of course it’s Jun Ishikawa. It looks like this was one of his earliest jobs at HAL. He’s also still making Kirby soundtracks today, which is pretty cool. If not for the great music in this game, grinding back to the last place I got Game Over would have been a real chore.
  • It’s a shame there were no other Ghostbusters games made in this style, because it has a LOT of potential. Would have been nice to be able to collect items or powerups or flesh out the ‘exploration’ aspect more. The only thing really to ‘collect’ is points (there is a system where you get an extra life at certain points milestones). You do get bonus points for meeting certain conditions like clearing rooms fast though.
  • Interesting footnote of history: When you clear a room, a giant white arrow appears onscreen telling you which direction to go next. Very forward-looking of the developers to include things like ‘affordances’ and ‘ux design’ way back when this came out.

(Completed on 23 Aug 2022)

  • If you are predisposed to be a fan of older sci-fi (Neuromancer, Blade Runner, etc), this game is extremely for you.
  • Seriously, you will know within the first 45 minutes or so whether this game is “for you.”
  • Everyone knows there are TONS of massive, sprawling, story-driven RPG’s on the SNES; this one is especially ambitious, and I think it really works. In general, I like this setting more than, say, a high-fantasy type setting.
  • When you first sit down to play this game, the first thing you will notice is how wonky the controls are. There is no papering over this. They are not good. However, stick with the game for an hour or so until you get used to the controls. The payoff is worth it.
  • It’s a good thing that story and exploration (and even a little grinding) is there to keep you going, because the pacing of this game is very strange. There is a ‘Magic’ mechanic that you don’t get at all until the end game
  • There is also a “computer hacking” mechanic which is absolutely core to the end game, but which you aren’t even able to do until you’re halfway there.
  • Artwork, setting, and aesthetic are just perfect once you’ve been playing for a while and you give yourself over to it.
  • The named enemies (bosses etc) are all interesting, but other than that, there is not much enemy variety. In fact, this describes pretty much everything about the combat. Other than the last 2 levels, combat is never difficult, but that doesn’t really matter because that isn’t what this game is about. The only reason to grind for cash to get more armor and guns is because you want to go to new places to move the story along and find more information.

Sweet Home
(Completed on 20 Jun 2022)

  • Before I got started on this game, it was one of those things that I was always brushing up against, but never made direct contact with. A great many posts about the history of horror games cite this as one of the best early ones (predecessor to Resident Evil, etc etc)
  • In addition, prior to getting started on the game, I was afraid (possibly due to the point above) that it would be kinda boring, or not hold up, or that the earlier-mentioned writers and youtubers and self-appointed ‘historians’ were just wrong.
  • As it turns out, those people are not wrong. This game is not just one of the great horror games. It’s one of the best games on the platform, full stop. Someday, maybe I’ll go through and somehow tag these reviews to say which games legitimately, fully hold up today, and are not dragged down by the low tech consoles. This is without question one of those titles.
  • The setting, style, music, colors & aesthetics are all completely successful in what they’re setting out to do. I don’t know whether the music came from the movie that the game is based on, but it works extremely well.
  • Sweet Home is, however, asking a lot of you the player, in terms of learning curve. Not that the game itself is hard; the game play is completely fair, unlike a lot of these early games. But it is asking a lot in terms of learning the interface, how to control characters, inventory management, etc.
  • Most of this is down to the fact that you are playing as 5 characters at once. You can move items around between them all, and group them up in different ways, because they each have a tool exclusive to them. Different groups of tools are needed for different puzzles. I was also ready to believe that this is a ridiculous gimmick which can’t possibly work, but it becomes more and more important as the game goes on, until it’s something that (A) you can do fluidly without thinking about the controls and (B) you are strategizing for, all the time, in every little room you walk into.
  • Some of the puzzles are definitely designed such that you can put the game in an unwinnable state. Character death is also permanent. But, you are allowed to save anywhere, and there’s even a menu item for resetting to your last save, right there in the interface. You don’t have to reset the console at all. I’m assuming this means they plan for you to save before going in to a questionable situation, try a lot of different things, and reset if you fail. I like the system and it makes it feel fair; you’re never afraid to touch the wrong thing or go exploring in the wrong area just because the game expected you to “know” something that you in reality had no way of knowing.
  • There are several English translation patches for this, and I don’t know which one is considered the “best.” I used the one which refers to the Amulet as “Tool,” though I have seen versions which call it the “Amulet.” All translations seem to have their own advantages and disadvanteges; it doesn’t look to me like there’s a canonical one.
  • You would think that an unofficial translation, and not having access to the manual, and the complicated interface would drag the whole experience down a peg or two, but it really just doesn’t. Every little shortcoming (all of these old games have some obvious ones) is more than compensated for by the pure fun of it. This is one of the rare titles that I can see myself coming back to and playing through again (maybe I’ll put together some big Halloween bonanza this October?)

Metroid II: Return of Samus
(Completed on 15 Jun 2022)

  • This one took some getting used to at first. It has roughly all the same problems as the NES version (limited controls, and therefore odd ways of accessing your weapons), no map screen, etc, and in addition to those problems feels very “cramped”
  • I would have guessed that the lack of color would make the world disorienting and make it hard to get around, but that actually isn’t the case. Each area has a distinctive visual style, even in grayscale, and the music changes work well and communicate a sense of place.
  • After you get used to that stuff though, this game absolutely rules. There are no real “bosses,” except the final boss. You just go from area to area clearing out all Metroids. Only when you’ve wiped out all the metroids in one area, does the next area open.
  • It seems like the creators knew that this was a portable game first and foremost, so this was an early attempt at making it easy to “pick up and play.” That is, if the areas you can access are limited, you can play the game in short bursts and not have to memorize some giant world and hold it in your head between play sessions.
  • Apparently sub-3-hours is the time required to get the “good” ending. Wish there was some sort of indicator you could check in-game that said total time spent; I probably could have worked a little harder and achieved that.

Kirby's Dream Land 2
(Completed on 29 Mar 2022)

  • When I started this game, I wouldn’t have thought that I remembered very much, but that is totally wrong. Every level I struggled with as a child came instantly rushing back when I got there, it was a nice little nostalgia trip.
  • I don’t remember whether I beat this game back when I originally had it, but as an adult, I thought it was extremely difficult for a Kirby game.
  • There might be some kind of New Game+ stashed in here somewhere, but I think I would need an entirely new file to get at it. I did something really dumb with this save file:
    • Bonus content is unlocked at 100% completion and up.
    • I am missing a total of 7% completion.
    • 6 of that 7 % comes from the “Bonus Stage” challenges you can do in each boss room after you beat the boss itself.
    • Trouble is, in order to get % credit for each one, you have to beat those bonus stages BEFORE you complete the mainline game.
    • I did not know this; I thought I could finish the game (including the “real” final boss, from getting every rainbow shard) then come back and tackle the Bonus Stages later.
    • WRONG. The bonus stages seem not to increase % completion at all any more. I beat one of them and the number didn’t go up.
  • Since there is no Bonus Stage on lv.7, the remaining 1 of 7 % comes from finding Girl Gooey in an Animal Friend bag.
  • Anyway, my only complaint about this game is that the controls are a little wonky. I think it’s way too easy to accidentally push 🔼 on the d-pad and end up in ‘flying’ mode, which causes this whole cascade of problems:
    • You move much slower than a jump
    • To get out of it, you spit out air, which can damage the star containing the power you just lost (if you were trying to jump away from damage)
    • The in/out animation takes forever to complete, so if you do it while trying to dodge something, you almost always get hit again
  • I don’t think that problem is due to the Analogue; I remember thinking the same thing about my original GB Pocket back in the day.
  • Everything else about the game is really awesome. It has aged incredibly well; I would even hook this up to the Pocket Dock and play it on the big screen if I had the rest of the hardware.

Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
(Completed on 19 Mar 2022)

  • I began this game from the Linked Game of OoS (completed 22 Feb, see note). It also spit out a Link code at the end, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read that the only way to 100% everything is to play both games, both with and without Linked Game enabled. I doubt I will be doing this, but if I come back to these games in a few years, as I do periodically with Link’s Awakening, I should play them in reverse order.
  • Most reviewers seem to think that OoA is the better of the two games in this series, but I’m not entirely convinced. This game has real problems; it’s hard to get around, the worlds of ‘past’ and ‘present’ don’t feel related to each other enough to form a coherent picture, and there is a lot of puzzle design which doesn’t really boil down to “it’s hard,” but more “extremely inconvenient.” Jab-Jabu’s Belly is a great example of this last point. Unlike the OoT Water Temple, where the trick is knowing what to switch and when, the trick here instead is to not make a SINGLE wrong move with regard to a door that will close and lock behind you. If you do accidentally do this, your punishment is a shit load of backtracking. Zelda puzzles shouldn’t feel frustrating in that way. When you get it right, you’re meant to feel like you solved something because you have a big brain, not that you got it right because you’re the best at obeying rote procedures.
  • The passwords feature is really, really awesome. I was amazed over and over again at just how future-proof these games were. Plus, stashing away a few secrets and then revisiting Holodrum to go find them is a nice, relaxing way to break up some of the more grueling parts of the game.
  • All things considered, the right way to do a Linked game is almost certainly to play Ages first, which I have not done here. Around halfway through the game, after having got the Master Sword and Red Ring, it starts to feel like you have this amazing arsenal of weapons, but nothing to use them on. It’s not combat-oriented enough. Even most bosses can’t be killed from slashing the sword, but rather by some ‘puzzle’ that ends with “X hits,” where X is always the same regardless of weapon.
  • I remember learning this 10+ years ago when I first owned these games, but I had forgotten it, and was again amazed: BOTH games offer access to ALL 3 animal friends, but the flute you get is locked in depending on which one of the animals you use to cross their respective areas. The areas also change based on which animal you’re riding, so really each game has 3 different potential world maps. In a linked game, you are locked in to whichever animal friend you got in the first game. Back in the Old Times, I played Seasons first, and ended up with Ricky because that was most obvious. Didn’t have a clue that any other flutes were possible. Apparently, not much has changed, because I did that exact thing this time around, and was again surprised when I was reading a guide and was reminded that Ricky was an option, and getting a flute for a different animal was possible.
  • Another example of strange design choices: I did not completely “fill out” either map, in the Past or Present. It seems odd that this wouldn’t be a requirement. My OoS file for sure has all of the real world, and all of Subrosia filled out. I assumed that was because it was required; there’s lots of content, so they had to ‘use the whole map.’ I suppose my OoA file could have some gasha seeds or other small secrets stashed away in these blank squares, but it feels more like the reason for this is that everything is so dense. They could have spread it all out more, and forced players to cover the map in order to complete the game.

Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
(Completed on 22 Feb 2022)

  • This was the first game I beat on my Analogue Pocket. I should probably also write a review of the Pocket before I forget, but that isn’t what this is about.
  • It was surprising how much of this game I remembered from having it 20 years ago when it originally released. I do not, however, remember ever trying the ‘secrets’ system at all. I do intend to use this one to play through Oracle of Ages though.
  • I probably couldn’t have ever fully appreciated this fact without having played so many other, earlier Zelda games (especially the original on NES) but the combat of this game is absolutely brutal. There are some bosses, and some rooms in some dungeons which are every bit as awful as the original. It’s of course possible to again hang this on old man, boomer reflexes, but I absolutely died on several occasions and had to walk all the way back through a dungeon to retry some horrible room.
  • But, in spite of all that, the final dungeon and final boss aren’t hard at all. Granted, I carried in a L-2 upgraded sword AND the Ring given as a prize for killing all golden beasts AND a potion. But I still got it 1st try and this still surprised me.
  • Not really sure how much of this game was Capcom’s responsibility vs Nintendo, but the soundtrack is incredible.
  • From a technical standpoint, this game seems really advanced and must have been fairly late in the GBC’s life span. There are even rooms where enemies move so fast and are so numerous, that the frame rate starts slowing down. Hard to believe that was even possible back in the day.
  • It’s hard to write much else about the sounds and technical stuff because I’m past the point on the curve where any of it feels like a ‘new observation’ — I’ve played through Link’s Awakening DX several times, and OoS runs on the exact same engine. It feels like walking around doing a different set of jobs in an extremely familiar world. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but it’s hard to put into words.


(Completed on 21 Nov 2021)

  • The date stamp on this entry isn’t a mistake. I played it from start to finish on the same day I finished Castlevania. Castlevania took several sessions over several days, but Strider was complete in a day.
  • I was surprised that this came out in 89, because the graphics are really, really good. Even at that time, Capcom probably had the money to spend on such things; I just thought it looked beyond what the console was capable of.
  • Like Kirby though, the good graphics come at a price. This game is really choppy, long loading times, etc. There are places inside the middle of levels, in the heat of the action, where the game just freezes completely while it loads something onto the screen.
  • The combat of this game feels good and smooth, but the platforming is a real mess. There’s no sense at all of when you will or won’t land on something, you’re constantly “clipping” uphill or sideways, there are these giant slopes up and down where you never really feel in control, it honestly just looks like bad programming all around (but, this also could be a consequence of choosing to sacrifice absolutely everything for “good graphics”).
  • Nothing about the music stood out, except maybe the Africa level. I remember thinking “this is different.”
  • I didn’t really do any research into this game before playing it, pretty sure I just saw it featured on GCCX or something. That said, it “feels” to me like one of those arcade ports. There are certain sections of certain levels (such as the last train car on the Egypt level) where it is literally impossible not to take damage. There can’t be any reason for this, other than the house advantage you’d need if you were designed to eat quarters.
  • Using a walkthrough, the first 95% of this game is really easy. The final level, though, is long and excruciating and the last boss gauntlet is very brutal. I wouldn’t put it quite at Megaman-level but still pretty bad. Due to the reasons explained in the above bullet, you can’t just git gud and take no damage. There are also very few Health and Energy powerups in the level, and every time you die once (there is no “check point” system) you have to do the entire level over again. Each individual attempt at the final boss takes ~20-25 mins.

(Completed on 21 Nov 2021)

  • After The Sword of Hope, I wrote that I needed a victory because I had used emulator features on both that and Fire Emblem Gaiden. Thankfully, this was that victory. It was brutal as all hell, but I did not use any emulator features.
  • The “Continue” system here is actually fairly forgiving compared to a lot of other NES games. Castlevania also falls into the category of “it doesn’t matter at all how many guides you use, you still have to input the commands.”
  • Having the right items is always the key to success. If you git gud at the actual levels leading up to the boss, to the point that you can walk into the boss fight with whatever item you want, you will have a MUCH EASIER time.
  • This goes for pretty much every boss other than The Count. Obviously there was no way around this; it’s the final boss, of course it’s gonna be brutal.
  • This feels like a sentence I write about everything but I’m writing it again because it’s true: The music absolutely is all it’s cracked up to be. It really is incredible, and it’s one of the things that keeps the levels from feeling monotonous while you’re grinding them thousands of times trying to learn how the hell to get through.

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