Invader's Game Blog

Posted on Jan 4th 2013 at 11:34:24 AM by (InvadErGII)
Posted under Statistics, NES, N64

A little while ago, I made a blog post called NES Collecting By The Numbers, where I explored NES collecting as sorted by rarity. This was to assist in narrowing down my missing titles by how easy it would be to find them, which has been a HUGE help.

I recently decided to go for a complete N64 set and figured this would be a good tool for that as well. I made a similar tool for N64 stuff, and added more formulas so it can calculate more information automatically. I'm happy with the results, so I've set up base versions of these files as shared Google docs so you can do this yourself! You'll need to make a duplicate copy of these on your Google Drive to edit it. Here are the links:

NES Stat Machine

N64 Stat Machine

Here's how it works. Each spreadsheet has 2 tabs: one called 'Totals' and one called 'Game List'. The former spits out all the numbers based on what games you have. To indicate those, all you need to do is go the 'Game List' tab and put the word 'Yes' in the 'Owned?' column next to each game. Once it's done, go back to the 'Totals' tab and you'll see something like this:



You can also use filters in the 'Game List' tab to see which games of a certain rarity you're missing:



Seriously, how have I never picked up All-Pro Basketball? Oh well.

Anyway, that's about all there is to it. I'm interested in making more of these for different systems (assuming there's a generally agreeable checklist with rarities on it), and to expand the stats to sort by other things (such as year, publisher, etc.) Stay tuned for more updates, and feel free to leave suggestions!



Posted on Dec 2nd 2012 at 10:28:36 PM by (InvadErGII)
Posted under NES, Pointless Calculations

I enjoy messing around with numbers and stats, and I recently found a great new project that would combine doing that with game collecting. I had a lot of fun doing it, so I decided to share the results.

Not long ago, I passed the 500-cart mark in my NES collection. As of this writing, I am currently up to 526. This is about the point where it's said that NES collecting gets a lot more difficult. Hard-to-find, expensive titles become all that's left, and while that's rather exciting in its own right, it's an interesting and sometimes frustrating turning point.  In my case, I couldn't help but wonder - is that really the case? Are there really just expensive games from here on out? Did I miss some common titles without realizing it? I came up with a good way to find out.

I somewhat arbitrarily decided to go with the list and rarity guide on NintendoAge for this, though any thorough list would certainly work just fine. That list puts the 'complete' NES set at 768 games and rates each game's rarity on a scale from 1 to 10. The 'complete set' total doesn't seem to be universally agreed upon, but this list seems to be as good as any to me. I then split NintendoAge's list up by rarity and counted the number of games at each level. I then checked my collection against each of those to determine where the games I'm missing fall within the different rarities. The results weren't too far from what I expected but still quite interesting:



I knew I didn't have much (any, really) of the really high-end rarities but a decent number of semi-rare titles. As expected, the percentage keeps going up as the rarity goes down, including no missing titles in the 2 or 1 range. Not a lot of surprises, really.

It wasn't a total waste, though. The most interesting information I found was the higher-than-expected totals of 3's and 4's I didn't have. There are 43 games between the two, including quite a few games I've seen and passed on dozens of times. I've somehow never picked up Rocket Ranger, All-Pro Basketball, Yo Noid or Digger T Rock after all these years. In those instances, I think that I simply assumed I'd bought them a long time ago and never gave it a second thought.

Thanks to all this number-crunching, I've learned that I can likely reach 550 without as much trouble as I'd feared. 600 and beyond will be quite the challenge, but I'm feeling up for it. If your NES collection is in this range, I recommend taking stock by rarity to see what easy finds you may have missed.



Posted on Nov 10th 2012 at 09:20:34 PM by (InvadErGII)
Posted under Playing the Classics, SNES, Donkey Kong Country

It's time for another entry in my "Playing The Classics" series, where I play through some of the greatest games of all time and talk about the experience. In some instances, these are games I've never really delved into, and in other cases I've played them many times over. The choices are not an indication of rank, and it's actually quite random. Oh, and spoilers and stuff.

This time around, the game of choice was the 1994 SNES classic "Donkey Kong Country".

Past Experience

I've played through this a few times, including once on the GBA port from ~2003. I always really enjoyed it but distinctly remember hating a level or two, largely for difficulty reasons. What I (and everyone else) remembered most is the graphics. For 1994, they look incredible. They're not sprites! Amazing!

220px-Donkey_Kong_Country_Shot_2.png

This is a small pic, but you get the idea.

The Playthrough

I'll get this out of the way - it's not as good as I remembered. At its best, the platforming is really exciting but at other times it's really just baffling. The same goes for the level design. A tip for all designers out there - a level whose theme is that it's really dark so you can't always tell where you're going is bad level design.

For some reason, I could have sworn that the industrial themed world, "Kremkroc Industries, Inc.", was the last one. I was stunned when there was a whole other world to go through. I have no idea how I got this impression. So, that was weird. It doesn't help that a lot of the levels in "Kremkroc" are frustratingly tricky, and any sense of relief I might've had was quickly squashed.

Having said that, the good outweighs the bad. Graphically, it's still very charming and neat looking, even if it doesn't look 'new' anymore. More often than not the levels provide a reasonable amount of challenge and secret stuff to find (seriously, there is a TON of secret stuff). The bosses are standard fare for this era, which isn't a bad thing at all. Find the pattern, exploit the weak spot, etc.

Summary

Donkey Kong Country is a flawed but still great game, one definitely worthy of being called a classic. If you enjoy 2D platformers and somehow haven't given this a spin, I suggest you do so. Prepare to be frustrated by a few later levels, but also to be won over by its charm. The sequels (which I hope to get to in this series eventually) are great as well, so if you enjoy this one there's no need to stop here.





Posted on Nov 3rd 2012 at 11:18:47 AM by (InvadErGII)
Posted under Playing the Classics, Zelda, SNES

A little while ago, my wife and I decided it would be fun to play through a bunch of the greatest video games of all time, one by one, and see how many we could get through and enjoy them together. In a lot of instances, it was the first time completing the game for either of us, and sometimes it was even the first time playing the game at all. We didn't come up with any particular order to do these in and are just kinda making it up as we go along. Here's a summary of our first game playthrough, which was "The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past" for the SNES.

Before going further, I should mention that while these games are classics and youve probably played them, this article does contain spoilers. Just fair warning.

Past Experience

I've played Link to the Past a handful of times over the years but I've never made it all the way to the end. I'm not really sure why, exactly. It just never worked out that way, I guess. I remember being frustrated and confused by the light/dark world mechanic, especially when I was much younger. For whatever reason I didn't fully get the relationship between the two worlds, which is pretty critical for a large part of the game.

As a quick aside, one of my favorite things about this game was (and still is) the opening title sequence. The music and visuals leading up to the game's title are so unique and were awfully mindblowing back in the early 90's. It still holds up pretty well, too. Just look at this and tell me it doesn't give you great memories:



Just awesome.

The Playthrough

While I'd never beaten A Link To The Past, I'd started it enough times to know how to get the ball rolling when starting it this time around. I know the first few stages practically by heart by now, and they set the tone very well. The game actually starts with Link rescuing Zelda! Fear not, though - she gets kidnapped again and the game plays out a lot like the rest of them do.

After the prologue, you have to complete three dungeons. After that you can unlock the ubiquitous Master Sword and the second set of dungeons. The second set is 7 dungeons, which leads to one massive final dungeon and final showdown with Ganon. The dungeons need to be done in a specific order and each dungeon unlocks an item that helps you finish that and/or the next one. I'll leave it at that because all Zeldas basically follow the above path. So, let's go over what makes Link to the Past unique.

The biggest 'tweak' to the formula in Link to the Past is that the game takes place in two different worlds - a 'light world' and a 'dark world'. The worlds overlay and are very similar to each other, but are different in just enough ways to make travelling between the two a strategic thing. The player can travel from the dark world to the light world at any time but can only go the other way around at the same point where they entered the light world or from a few hidden portals. This leads to certain places being inaccessible at certain times, which keeps the game fairly linear. This particular 'tweak' is a very good one, and does a great job of combining puzzle-type elements with action ones. This balance is what makes this such a beloved title.

I did have a couple of gripes on this playthrough, though. While the game does a pretty good job of pointing you in the right direction at any given time without holding your hand too much, there are a few places where it doesn't do that enough. A few dungeons can't be reached at all without the use of items that are completely missable. This happens very early on, in fact, where the Book of Mudora is required to unlock the game's second dungeon. Had I not played the first part of the game so many times, I'm really not sure how easily I would have figured this out. Each instance of this sort of thing is countered by varying degrees of hints given by nearby NPC's and other clues.

The most egregious of these to me was when trying to access the 6th dungeon in the dark world. This requires an item that is in a treasure chest on the opposite end of the map, and is one that I was not aware even existed until I saw the symbol at the dungeon entrance implying it was what I needed. I'm conficted on this because I do think that it's great that the game encourages exploration and excessive hand-holding could have ruined the game. However, this felt unintuitive. It may be a testament to the rest of the game's greatness, but this little flaw bugged the crap out of me.

Summary

After completing the game, I had little looking past the nitpicks I'd had. This is truly a masterpiece and has the distinction of being the only 16-bit Zelda, giving it sound and visuals entirely unique to the extensive series (except maybe the Oracle duology, I guess). In addition to the engaging two-worlds gameplay, that uniqueness is a big part of what makes this game so great. In many ways, it's a refined take on the original NES Legend of Zelda, but the upgraded hardware allows it to be a lot more than that. I am unwilling to call it the greatest Zelda (not because I think something else is better, but because I just plain can't pick one), but it is absoutely up there. It's an absolute classic from start to finish.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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I keep a Tumblr blog where I write about a bunch of things. Here, I'm crossposting my various writings on gaming.
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