(Completed on 2 Jan 2024)

  • This had been on my list for a while, and since I got a pretty long uninterrupted Christmas Break this year, I figured now is the time. Nothing about it is particularly “wintery” — no season would be an inappropriate time for Earthbound
  • Another one to file under “deserves the hype it gets.” It’s not perfect, and it’s not a ‘mystery’ why it didn’t sell very good in its day, but it still holds up really really well.
  • I will keep the commentary about the ‘art style’ and ‘aesthetics’ and ‘setting’ to a minimum, however, I have to make mention that the soundtrack is like nothing you have ever heard. At times, it’s not even ‘music.’ Maybe I should say “sound design?” While there are real songs, some of which are great, there are also areas where the audio is designed to be grating/scary/nerve-racking. It really, really works.
  • For an RPG, the game loop is very tight. Rather than feeling like you’re constantly grinding for levels, you can save outside of the next place you want to clear, and keep reloading and throwing yourself at it until you come up with a good strategy.
  • One of the most satisfying battle systems of all time. The sounds are perfect, the attack animations are exciting, and every win feels earned. There is also a mechanic where if you run into an enemy who is way too weak for you, you automatically win instead of having to waste your time going in and out of the battle screen.
  • 1990’s Japan’s vision of 1990’s America is completely unmatched, aesthetically. It is so hopeful, and so beautiful, it’s enough to bring you to tears if you’re a boomer like me who actually did live in that America and has memories of it.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
(Completed on 5 Dec 2023)

  • Like a lot of the other mega-hits on this list, there’s really not much to say about this one. It’s all been said already.
  • It plays just like you remember!
  • I have only done a little bit of the post-game content— no spoilers!— but so far it is actually fun and surprising.

River City Ransom
(Completed on 25 Nov 2023)

  • Pretty good example of one of the early “open world” games, and still a lot of fun. This is another one which isn’t just a historical curiosity; I would actually recommend it to people
  • I only played 1P, but it’s easy to see how playing this with another person would be awesome.
  • I really hate to say a game has “RPG elements,” but that’s the best description for the leveling system. Raising your stats is done by buying and consuming items, which really means the thing that makes it work is money, which you have to farm from enemies. To get going early, you have to do this loop where you beat up the enemies worth the most, walk back to town and spend the money you got, then go back and beat them up again (which gets easier and easier).
  • You can also spend your money on Books (to learn techniques) rather than stat improvements. Some of the karate moves you can learn are very rewarding
  • Like an RPG, you can grind this loop until you’re an invincible freak of nature and nobody in the game can beat you.
  • Didn’t care much for the soundtrack on this one; it felt samey and got old quick.
  • Considering how this game has a much more well-developed plot and characters than other games of the time, I expected more out of the ending screen. The story itself is a little bit cinematic, why not have a cinematic end screen too?

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
(Completed on 29 Oct 2023)

  • I started this play-through back in the summer and for whatever reason it dragged out WAY too long. Guess there wasn’t any rush; under no circumstances do any more words need to be written about this game, by anyone.
  • It’s incredible, it does still hold up today, and the only real issue is playing on the Switch Virtual Console if you don’t have an N64 controller.
  • The right way to have done this, would be to play the Nintendo DS port, since that version has all the console’s buttons mapped to the right things.
  • Stray observation: When you get to the top of Ganon’s castle, and you’re about to fight Ganon for the first time, the cutscene shows you walking in on him playing a giant organ. I wonder if Bowser playing the piano in the Super Mario Bros. movie was a reference to this?

Demon's Crest
(Completed on 6 Oct 2023)

  • Has for sure earned its’ status as “hidden gem.” I have tried (though never finished) Gargoyle’s Quest (GB) and Gargoyle’s Quest II (NES) and this is the best one of the bunch.
  • Collecting the power ups, exploring the world, slowly getting further and further into each level, is very rewarding. It’s a little bit of a Metroidvania except for the fact that Demon’s Crest has an overworld.
  • Kinda short, but this is way more than compensated by the difficulty curve. 90% of the game is easy-medium challenge, and the last 2 bosses (Phalanx and the secret final boss) are brutally hard.
  • Getting to the real final boss is sort of a pain because you’re required to collect every Life increase (i.e. max out your health), and the final Life increase is hidden behind a mini game that is EXTREMELY annoying. In general, I played this game for maybe 1-2 hours /night for a few days. There was one day when I did nothing other than work on that mini game.
  • The music is shockingly good, and perfect for comfy late nights here in October. It always puts you in the mood of the level; I wish there was a lot more music in the game.
  • Level design is good, monster/boss design is GREAT, though I did notice a lot of slowdown when there are tons of sprites on the screen.
  • If you play this game, do not bother with any potions other than Ginseng, and do not bother with any spells at all. Every spell which seems like it might not be worthless, has a bug which makes it not work.
  • The password system is a little annoying, since restoring from password does NOT save any of your gold (it does save the rest of your items) but I guess this is offset by a pretty generous Continue system (you can restart from not just the level you’re in, but the section of the level where you died)



Dragon Warrior I&II
(Completed on 24 Aug 2023)

  • This review only applies to Dragon Warrior I - have not yet played DWII on this cartridge
  • It’s interesting to go back to the very, very beginning of the JRPG, considering what the term “JRPG” means today. This game is not that long, not that hard, and not too annoying and grindy.
  • I don’t play that many ports or remakes of existing games, but this is another one where I made an exception out of pure curiosity. I did not know, going in, that the art style had been totally changed to look more like the Dragon Warrior Monsters style. DWM was my first ever Dragon Warrior game, so I enjoyed this change a lot and thought it was very nostalgic.
  • There isn’t much replay value, and the story is pretty linear, but if you are interested in playing DWI as a historical artifact, this is a pretty good version. The music sounds awesome, the colors look good, and if you’ve played just about any other DW game then you have seen references to this one without knowing it.

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