As a kid growing up in the early to mid-90s, videogames were a huge part of my childhood. Like many kids from that time, I had a Game Boy and played it most often while away from home. However, there was one game I owned for the Game Boy that kept me playing whether I was at home or on the go: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Link's Awakening was an important game for me growing up, taking the formula of A Link to the Past, one of my all-time favorite games, and condensing it to Game Boy form meant it was an automatic hit in my book. It also helped that a good friend of mine at that time was also playing the game, so we would often compare notes and help each other along throughout the game.
But wait! This isn't an article about Link's Awakening, so why am I spending so much time talking about it? Well, it has come to my attention recently that the topic of this article, a game by the name of For the Frog the Bell Tolls, and Link's Awakening have a lot in common. Specifically, both games share the same engine, so the aesthetic as well as certain gameplay mechanics are nearly identical between these two games. With Link's Awakening being a game that is so near and dear to me, I knew I had to check out For the Frog the Bell Tolls, so I bought an original Japanese Game Boy cartridge of the game and popped it into my Retron 5 complete with an English language translation patch so I could enjoy this adventure firsthand!
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I have never considered myself to be primarily a PC gamer, but there was a time back in the late '90s and early 2000s when I did a considerable amount of gaming on the PC. During this time, I played such revered classics as Half-Life, Max Payne, and Deus Ex, all of which I would consider to be among my all-time favorites. Many excellent games were being released exclusively on PC, and when these titles were later ported to consoles, the results were often lackluster.
One such game from this era that I have always remembered fondly is Mafia. Releasing less than a year after the immensely popular Grand Theft Auto III, it may be easy to dismiss Mafia as a cheap knockoff. While Mafia may resemble the Grand Theft Auto series at first glance, I have always felt that it was the "anti-GTA" game. Although both games share similarities with their open-world environments, crime-based stories, and emphasis on driving and shooting gameplay mechanics, Mafia's more serious and less satirical tone, focus on realism, and larger emphasis on narrative rather than free roaming sandbox gameplay sets it apart from Rockstar's juggernaut.
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The original Doom that was released back in 1993 was an extremely important landmark title in gaming. While not necessarily the first first-person-shooter to hit the market, it was definitely the game that popularized the genre. I have fond memories of playing Doom sometime back in the mid-90s on PC when I was less than the age of 10, with its gameplay and (at the time) mature content being unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Although the version I had only contained the first episode, I played through it multiple times, and it is still a game that I find myself going back to even today. After the Wolfenstein series got a great new entry with MachineGames' excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order, I was confident that id's other classic franchise would receive the same treatment when a new game in the Doom series, simply titled Doom, was shown at E3 2015. I was not disappointed. In fact, even after playing other highly acclaimed games from 2016 such as Uncharted 4 and Final Fantasy XV, I still feel like I enjoyed Doom enough to call it my Game of the Year for 2016.
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Many longtime fans of the Final Fantasy series have lamented the direction Square has taken with their beloved franchise, forgoing the classic turn-based battle system (or rather the active-time battle system) in favor of a more action-oriented approach featuring real-time combat. While this rapid evolution of the series is no doubt an attempt by Square to garner new fans and compete with other AAA titles currently on the market, it has left some diehard fans feeling alienated and disinterested with the series. Enter World of Final Fantasy, a new title in the Final Fantasy series that harkens back to the games of old, featuring a slew of familiar characters and mechanics that should make any old-school fan of the series feel right at home.
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Most people know that I am a huge fan of the survival-horror genre, particularly the Resident Evil series, so I was immediately intrigued when The Evil Within was announced back in 2013. This was a brand new survival-horror IP directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, and it promised to bring the genre back to its survival roots rather than the action-oriented approach of more recent horror games. While I still enjoyed more recent horror titles that have been given the label of 'action-horror,' the prospect of a modern title that recaptures what made the old-school games so unique and interesting was exactly what survival-horror fans had been hoping for.
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Alundra is a game that I think I would have really liked as a kid. Unfortunately, I don't recall ever hearing about this game at the time, so I must have never crossed paths with it through friends, magazines, or rental stores. It is usually labeled as either an action-RPG and/or a Zelda clone, and, being a huge fan of both of these types of games, this seems like a title that would have been right up my alley. I have owned a copy for a few years, and it has been on my mind for a while as something I should really get around to playing, so I've finally decided to pop the disc in and see how it holds up.
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The Ys name, while notorious for its confusing pronunciation, carries a lot of weight in the JRPG world. Ys has been around since the 8-bit era, and new iterations are still being made today. Most games in the series are critically well-received, and the series as a whole has a large cult following. Despite all of this, I had never played a Ys game until very recently.
My first exposure to the series was the original Ys Books I & II. There are many different versions of the original Ys, sporting many ports and remakes across almost every console, but I played the TurboCD version, which is often considered the definitive release of the game. What I found was a unique "old-school" RPG adventure that I highly enjoyed despite being somewhat primitive and its sometimes awkward combat system. Ever since completing Ys Books I & II, I have wanted to dive into the rest of the series but have been confused about where to start next. Cue Ys: The Oath in Felghana.
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