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Posted on Oct 14th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under Atari 2600, pitfall, Yars Revenge, retro, HERO, H.E.R.O.

As we inch closer to the end of 2020, it's time to take a look at one of the earliest mainstream home consoles.



Released in 1977, the Atari 2600 library featured hundreds of titles, both 1st party and 3rd party. But it was also notorius for it's lack of quality control, which contributed to the video game market crashing in the early 80's. That doesn't tell the whole story, as there were many fun and memorable experiences to be had on the system, with several games inspiring whole genres in future game generations.

So what were some of the best the system had to offer? We had six participants weigh in, with some very interesting results.

Participants:

shaggy
MetalFro
Crabmaster2000
Fokakis79
Normatron
singlebanana


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games Atari 2600 Edition



Posted on Sep 12th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under top 20, sega, saturn, turbografx, tg16, splatterhouse, guardian heroes

So it's time for September's list after a short hiatus in August, but instead of looking at just one system, we looked two systems that didn't quite reach the mainstream sales of their competitors, but had some excellent titles nonetheless.



The TurboGrafx 16 was ahead of its time with some of the innovations it brought to the gaming world, and several titles have become "cult classics" at the very least. Produced by NEC alongside Hudson Soft, it was marketed as a 16-bit console (though it was more of a hybrid between 8-bit and 16-bit technology) to compete with Sega's Genesis, and later Nintendo's Super NES.



The Saturn was Sega's fifth generation console, set to compete Sony's debut console, the Playstation, and eventually the Nintendo 64.


Continue reading RFGen's Top 20 Sega Saturn and Turbo Grafx 16 games



Posted on Aug 11th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under top 20, snes, nes, ps1, mario, zelda, metroid, sega, nintendo



Usually, this spot is a list of the best games on a particular system as voted on by the members of RFGen. It was a project I had hoped would get members of the site talking about their favorite games, and the support it has received has been everything I hoped for.

This month, because of some major personal changes in my life, I knew I wouldn't be able to put the proper time into compiling a list. So I thought it would be fun to reflect on the experience for me, as well as share the surprises that I encountered through making it so far.

The lists will continue next month as we look at Sega Saturn and TurboGrafx 16. Join us here: http://www.rfgeneration.c...m/index.php?topic=19360.0

Participation has really influenced certain lists, causing major swings at the last moment. That became apparent with the first list, the NES, when the last member to submit a list put TMNT II at #1. Before that vote, the game was looking to destined for an honorable mention, but with the #1 vote it climbed all the way to #11. But that's been one of the awesome parts of doing these lists for me. With a few lists submitted, it seems like things are starting to fall into place, and a few times they have, but other times it seems like the list flips on itself. A fun example of this is Blast Corps place on the N64 list. After the first three lists were in, that was sitting at #1 overall. Obviously it didn't hold, but it did make it fascinating to watch its movement for the rest of that month. It also shows how important the votes are.


Continue reading Top 20 Takeaways



Posted on Jul 12th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under Playstation, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, RPG, Horror



The Playstation might not have the flagship franchises the way the Nintendo consoles do, but that doesn't mean it didn't have a vast library of excellent games, and that truly came through in the voting for this month's top 20.

While there were a few games that garnered near universal praise, among 9 participants there were over 100 games that received at least one vote.

Participants for this list:

EZ Racer
Misto
singlebanana
bombatomba
shaggy
Crabmaster2000
Disposed Hero
MetalFro
Normatron


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games PS1 Edition



Posted on Jun 11th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under Game Boy, nintendo, mario, zelda, tetris, game, portable



While not the first portable gaming systems, Nintendo's Game Boy was one of the first to reach massive audiences. It's library consists of hundreds of games, many of which are quick, simplistic but fun experiences designed both around the system's limitations and its purpose of gaming on the go.

So it's interesting that for this Top 20, there were several games that came in as "must owns" as out of 7 voters, four games made every voter's list, and eight made at least five lists.

And yet, the final results also showed the variety of the Game Boy, as only 14 games were on three or more lists.


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games- Game Boy Edition



Posted on May 12th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under N64, N64, zelda, mario, rare, goldeneye, mario kart, pokemon, nintendo



Nintendo in 3D! Some games took advantage of the new graphic capabilities, many of which you'll find below. Like all systems, it had its clunkers (hello Superman), but it was interesting to put this list together because it was similar to the Super NES; at the top were some mainstays that received near universal praise.

Speaking of the top, the ranks definitely came into play, which you'll see when we hit the top 2...


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games- N64 Edition



Posted on Apr 12th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under genesis, sega, sonic, streets of rage, shining force, top 20



"Genesis Does what Nintendon't!"

But let's get more specific, what are the games that best show what the Genesis does?


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games- Sega Genesis Edition



Posted on Mar 12th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under SNES, games, zelda, mario, nintendo, rpg


The Super Nintendo had an array of great titles, many of which are considered some of the best across all platforms. So when it came to figuring out the best games for the system, it's no surprise that it was a little top heavy. In fact out of 11 lists submitted, there were a whopping 5 games that were absent from only two lists or less. Compare that with the NES list, where with less lists, only SMB3 could stake the claim.

Comments accompany games whenever possible, reflecting the thoughts of those who submitted them. A big thank you to everyone who participated and left thoughts:

EZ Racer
singlebanana
Crabmaster2000
bickman2k
Misto
shaggy
Focusricerocket
EngineerMike
Mr_Stubbes
Normatron
Disposed Hero

Don't forget to check the submissions page for all the great SNES titles that didn't quite make the cut- http://www.rfgeneration.c...m/index.php?topic=19263.0


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games- Super NES Edition



Posted on Feb 15th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under nes, retro, video game, super mario, zelda, contra, top 20



As something fun for 2020, I will be looking at the best 20 games from a variety of systems, with the lists being the culmulative votes from RFGen members. In January, we looked at the NES, and the end result showed just how ecclectic that system's library is. Nine lists were submitted (including my own, made before any votes were taken), and on those lists a whopping 98 games received at least one vote, and 6 different games got a 1st place vote.

Thanks to all who participated, and hopefully we'll get even more submissions for next month's list: SNES.

Lists submitted:

EZ Racer
Singlebanana
MetalFro
Lendelin
Crabmaster2000
Disposed Hero
Normatron
Mr_Stubbes
Douglie007


Continue reading RFGen Top 20 Games for the NES



Posted on Dec 28th 2019 at 12:39:22 PM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under SNES, retro, super nintendo, guide, contri, mario, reference, book, NES, super

"Now you're playing with power...Super Power!"



Anyone who grew up in the Super Nintendo era remembers that slogan, a spin on Nintendos highly effective marketing campaign for their 1st system, the NES.  And while the NES is littered with titles that would set the standard for what video games could potentially be, the Super NES showed us what the pinnacle of 2D gaming could be, with games like Zelda: Link to the Past and Super Metroid often considered among the greatest games ever. Of course, like its predecessor, it had its share of clunkers as well.

In 2016, Pat Contri, with the help of others, produced a reference guide that looked at each game in the vast NES library. Each review had an overview, screenshots, developer and publisher info, a grade from 0 to 5 stars, as well as random and often comical thoughts the reviewer associated with the particular title being reviewed.

Fast forward to 2019, Contri took on the Super NES library in similar fashion, looking at each game individually. After enjoying my copy of the "Ultimate Guide to the NES" I had little doubt I would enjoy the Super NES iteration, and eagerly awaited its arrival. But I wondered what differences I would find, what improvements had been made, and what, if any, changes were made in the way its writers approached their reviews.

I'll get this out of the way right off the bat. While expensive ($60 plus tax/shipping), if you enjoy the Super NES and want brief info on the hundreds of titles for it, this book will fulfill your needs and then some. Most of the reviews run from about 250-350 words. Like the NES book, the reviews are meant as short overviews of the games features, not necessarily deep, comprehensive looks. Because of this, many of reviews can be a little dry at times, and the reader may find themselves looking at the Reflections section first, then the actual review.

This is also where I noticed the first subtle change from the NES guide. Each reviewer in the book has their own distinctive writing style, and conforms those to the books needs. But Ian Ferguson, a heavy contributor to the NES guide, is missed. While he has publicly stated his indifference to the Super NES, his writing seemed to strike the perfect balance between charm and information, the way a friend might describe the game over a beverage of choice. While all are skilled, none of the current set of writers quite hits that note of charm. Though to be fair, all demonstrate solid writing ability and appreciation for games they review. Its more of a "seems to be missing the cherry on top" feeling with Ferguson not present.

However, there are several subtle changes in the Super NES book that when taken in as a whole add so much to the book's quality. One nice addition is the inclusion of all PAL released games having full reviews. As someone who admittedly is not that knowledgeable of the PAL exclusive titles, I was able to find several games that fit my gaming interests, many of which I would have had no idea existed without the book.



One less obvious but terrific change was one to the layout of the pages. The reviews in this book just look sharp. This is due some small but extremely effective changes. One of these is a different placement of screenshots. The first book included four with each review, set on a 2x2 grid at the bottom of the page. While it worked, the end result made the pages a little clunky, with the pics feeling more like an add-on than a cohesive part of the review. Here, 2 shots are placed directly under the cartridge pic and info, and 2 more are placed between the review and reflections section. This makes for better page organization and more emphasis on the pics. The other change to the layout was to make the cartridge pic a close up of the label, set at a dynamic angle, and placed on a background of either the primary or secondary color from the label. And boy does that little detail make the pages pop.

The book also does a good job of covering the accessories of the system, and contains several articles about relevant issues associated with the Super NES at the time.

Like many who will pick up the book for the first time, I found myself looking up several games I was familiar with, to see if the star rating matched my rating. Where I give the book a lot of credit is that the reviewers were critics, not cynics. They would approach each title wanting to like it, but not afraid to point out the flaws. For me personally, I wanted to see how F1 ROC II rated, because its a game in which my personal opinion differs from the limited reviews I have seen that have covered it. Without giving away too much information, I have a lot of respect for reviewer Jim Evans' thoughts and approach on that particular title.

So what's missing? That depends on what you are looking for. What this book provides is a great introductory look at every game in the Super NES library, giving you both a sense of each games merits as well as covering the lesser known titles most casual gamers have never heard of. Want an in depth look at the history behind some of your favorite games? That's not the vision behind this book. But like the NES book, it is a great reference book for those who may not know the systems library of games inside and out, and still worthwhile for those who do.



One last note: the few complaints I have with the book are of a nitpicky variety, with one glaring exception. The binding of both books does not hold up well to the weight of the pages, which are of nice, heavy gloss-type paper. Unfortunately, if storing the book standing up, on a bookshelf for instance, eventually the binding will begin to fail. This hamstrings the storage options for the book, for to keep it in good condition means always having it sitting flat.

With that said, I have been very pleased overall with both books, and am looking forward to whatever the next addition to the Ultimate Guides is.



Posted on Sep 27th 2019 at 03:41:49 PM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under Wreckfest, PS4, XBox One, racing, driving, cars, wreck



Back in March, I had been looking to add a modern console racer to my collection. Stopped at a local game store, where the clerk recommended that I watch for the console release of Wreckfest, a demolition derby racer by THQ Nordic that had already been released on Steam. Intrigued, I anticipated its release, and immediately picked up a copy when it came out last month, and it's been money well spent.

From first glance, and a name like wreckfest, you'd think that this was purely an arcade racer. Just hit-the-gas and run-into-stuff type of action. But the reality is that it plays almost like a hybrid, crossing the lines between what to expect from a sim racer, and what to expect from an arcade racer. It really does feel like a simulation of driving a derby car, complete with physics and one of the best damage engines I've ever seen in a game. But then putting that realistic feel into unrealistic, and sometimes absurd, situations.

In terms of presentation, the game hits all the notes you'd want it to. While it doesn't have the photorealism of games like Gran Turismo and Forza, the game is gorgeous in its own right, with environments that complement the gritty feel the game is aiming for. Many environmental objects are fully interactive as well, meaning you can plow through billboards, bend guardrails, and explode tire barriers at your delight.



This game is NOT about speed or sleek driving machines. It's about willing your rustbucket car around the track while forcing your will on your opponents, all the while keeping them from doing the same to you. That's the essence of this game, and in that respect, it comes down to driving skill, with the occassional bit of luck mixed in.

Some tracks are more circuit loops that resemble a traditional racing experience, while others are figure eights in which you have to cross through traffic, and still others in which the track is literally one-lane with turn-around sections at each end, and you find yourself navigating constant head on traffic as the race progresses. There are also Last Man Standing stadium challenges in which 24 vehicles are placed in an arena with the goal of trying to wreck all other vehicles while keeping yours running. After all, it is a demolition derby game.

This variety of course and race types keeps the game fresh, and adds to its replay value. While the selection of vehicles isn't massive, it is enough that players can find cars that best suit their skills. Another welcome aspect is the ability to customize tuning on the car as well try some wicked paint scheme combinations.

On the track, while the AI is aggresive and there is slight rubber-banding when cars get behind, it never feels unfair or out of place. One positive note I noticed early on was that it never felt like a 1 vs all game. Each race feels like a free-for-all, with computer opponents trying to take out each other as well as the human player. I can't think of a title that does a better job of this racing aspect, and it's just one of many instances I was impressed by Wreckfest's game engine.



The game isn't perfect, however. While I know it's a thing of the past, this game would've lent itself well to local multiplayer, but only an online multiplayer is available. Get ready to sit through some long load times, sometimes from 30 to 60 seconds for a race.

Also, it's not the kind of game where you can just hit the gas and steer. There is constant braking and strategy involved, and while its driving mechanics are executed well, there is a learning curve to mastering the controls, and this may turn off some casual players looking for a quick pick-up-and-play option.

Nevertheless, this game does so many things well that any gamer who enjoys good racing action will find something they enjoy. It's all about driving, be it surviving mayhem or sideswiping opponents to help you cut corners tighter. It's crazy racing situations only add to its continuous adrenaline pumping excitement. It's a modern classic that always lives up to its name.



Posted on Mar 30th 2019 at 11:10:39 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under Ninja Gaiden 3, Ninja Gaiden, NG3, Ancient ship of doom, NES

Ninja Gaiden III: Ancient Ship of Doom is the third entry in the classic Ninja Gaiden series for NES, a series known for its unforgiving difficulty, and on the surface, NG3 pushes this over the line when you compare it to its predecessors. Unlike the first two games, there are no 1-ups for points, all enemies do multiple points of damage (and they come in swarms!), any death sends you back to the very beginning of the level (instead of segmenting the levels), and youre limited to 5 continues.

But heres the catch:  the more I played NG3, the more I came to appreciate its game design, which is nothing short of ingenious throughout the experience. It also, somewhat surprisingly, might be the most balanced and fair game in the series.

Full disclosure- Growing up, I was a huge fan of the first two games in the series, and still consider NG2 to be one of my favorite games of all time. I rented NG3, and it just felt different. Ryus jumps were floaty instead of quick and crisp, and he now made noise whenever he slashed his sword. On top of that, the story seemed to have nothing to do with the first two games. Suffice to say I was disappointed. Later, as a teen, I discovered Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, and was pumped. At the time, I only owned NG2, so here was a way to play any Ninja Gaiden I wanted, without having to change over any hookups.

I bring this up, because my earliest in depth experience with NG3 was on NG Trilogy, playing it a ton as a freshman in college on the dorms (and boy am I glad nobody knew its potential value back then). It does feel more like the first two, with unlimited continues and taking less damage on hits. I made it deep into the game, and I appreciated NG3 more, but only to the point of it being a good game, but nothing special.

Fast forward to 2019, when I was finally able to acquire NG3 for NES through a friends generosity. I also felt like I kind of owed it to my friend to go through and complete the game, since he knew how much of a Ninja Gaiden fan I was. And boy, did I ever sell this game short over the years.

Lets get the obvious out of the way. Yes, this is a difficult game. But part of that difficulty comes from looking at the game through a misrepresented lens. If you go into the game expecting a platformer based on exploration, similar to Mario Bros or Metroid, the game will seem overly difficult. But likewise, going at this game from a run and gun (or hack and slash in this case) survival style, as was the case for the previous two Ninja Gaiden games, makes the gameplay seem overly unbalanced.

The problem is you have to look at this game as more of a puzzle platformer, akin to Super Ghouls and Ghosts, only about 10 times faster and more fluid. Its about learning how to get through each section taking minimal damage, while still offering high adrenaline action. You have to learn when to wait and when to run, when to take out enemies and when to just move on.

A great example of this element is level 5-1. If you rush over the 1st jump, and enemy will trigger that runs in and likely knocks you back into the pit. Clear that, and a few jumps later you're on a platform with enemies coming from four directions diagonally above and below you. Stay and try to fight off the swarm, you'll probably take a bit of damage. Kill the enemy to the upper right of you and get to a safer spot, you won't take any damage. It's more like finding the right path through a platforming maze, but once you find the right path, it's often fluid and fun, and the difficulty sort melts away.

And when looking at it that way, all those negative difficulty spikes I mentioned earlier become positives, in that the game makes you master each level before youll be able to progress. I can see where this could be a turn-off for newbies, but the payoff for getting good at it is immensely worth it, as it is extremely satisfying to get into a rhythm and just start dominating the levels that had kicked your butt initially.

Recently, in the Shoot the Core-Cast for Zanac, the guys and guests briefly got into why people play video games in the 1st place, and Im paraphrasing but the consensus opinion was how good it feels to be on a power fantasy and plow through everything that stands in your way. As you get good at it, this is a great representation of that type of experience.  A great example from my personal experience with it was one of the later levels, which throws swarms of enemies at you while you navigate several perilous jumps from platform to platform, while those platforms start slowly disappearing once you touch them. Didnt have a clue initially how Id get through it, but once I figured it out, its an awesome level to play. As you gain consistency, the more the game throws at you, the more you find yourself grinning at the game wanting to say aloud, What else you got?!

Thats where NG3 is a masterstroke in game design. For all the game throws at you from a difficulty perspective, it also in many ways sets you up to succeed. I could go level through level with examples of this, but theres also several general examples of it. Earlier I discussed how I was turned off by the floaty jump mechanics when I first played it as a child. Now that Im through it, this was a necessary change, as levels like 4-1 and 7-2 would be impossible without that change.

It also sets you up beautifully for the boss battles. In almost every level, the last weapon you receive is also the most effective against the boss. Tecmo even throws some other subtle assistance at you, as Act 7 is by far longest level, nearly impossible to complete on one life because of the timer (yeah, theres another element to add to the difficulty), you can pick up two different 1ups in level 7-2. It shouldnt go unnoticed that its the only time in the entire game there is more than one 1up in an Act.

Also, a few things set it apart in the platforming itself. First, a much needed fix from earlier games is the handling of respawning enemies, of which NG1 was infamous for. Respawning is handled in a very fair manner. If you kill an enemy, and trigger its spawn point again, nothing happens. If you avoid an enemy, and it de-spawns by going off screen, then it will respawn if you go over its trigger point. Completely fair.

It also should be noted that this game never asks the impossible. There are no precise, nearly pixel perfect jumps to make, just many that have to be deliberate. Go through technical sections with conviction and a plan, theres very few difficult spots. Go in wildly, or get in a panic, and you wont last long.

Needlessly to say, in terms of game design, this is one of the best games Ive ever played, period. The only downside is that you have to start mastering it before youll realize everything its doing right. And that brings me back to a point about what sets it apart as a great game.

If the difficulty was anything less, it ultimately undermines the overall experience (hence my initial experience with NG Trilogy)

You wont fully appreciate this game until youre good enough to overpower it, and without the difficulty set up exactly how it is, there would be no reason to get to that level of mastery. For how difficult the levels are, theres only two spots in the entire game where you take what seems like unavoidable damage: One of the last screens in Act 5, and the Act 6 boss because of a somewhat random attack. Thatsit. The rest of the time its just about taking the correct route through the game.

This far into the review and I havent mentioned graphics, music, and controls, so lets briefly run through them-

Controls- As fluid and responsive as any game Ive ever played on the NES

Graphics- fantastic looks to the levels and backgrounds, with plenty of variety mixed in. Nicely done cutscenes (though late in the game it incorporates a strobe light effect that may negatively affect some players)

Sound- Absolutely fantastic, plenty of high adrenaline tunes for the levels, mixed with mystery for the cutscenes.

All this isnt to say the game is flawless. From a story perspective, the game does jump the shark. Its by far the weakest story of the three NES NGs, with the only really interesting point coming about midway through the game (dont worry, no spoilers). The environments arent nearly as connected to the story as they were in the first two games.

Also, there is one spot in which the difficulty doesnt seem right: the boss order. While none of the bosses have overly difficult patterns, the Act 3 boss is probably the toughest, next to the final boss rush, while the Act 5 boss is the easiest. None of the bosses, including the final boss rush are anywhere near the difficulty of Jaquio, from earlier in the series.

I went into this having defeated both NG1 and NG2, and Ive played both semi-regularly for nearly 30 years. Ill just throw this out there- for all that is said about NG3s difficulty, its the first in the series that Ive beaten start to finish without using a continue.

In the end, Ill take a soapbox moment and say its sad that NG1 is the game recognized by casual fans, because its the 2nd and 3rd entries that are among the best games on the system. But thats in a way what truly works against it. The more time you put into this, the more youll get out of it, so it hinders it from being a casual gaming experience.

But once you do put the time into it, you find that it wouldnt be as special to overcome its challenge. Ultimately, its because of its difficulty and near perfect game design that its a unique and fun game to play, and the deeper you get into it, the more it becomes one of the most satisfying and rewarding gaming experiences ever made. Period.




Posted on Jan 26th 2019 at 01:24:11 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under dragon warrior, NES, erdrick, DW4

When the NES challenge was announced, it was a way for to check out games that each of us wanted to experience, but always needed that little extra motivation to sit down and playthrough, and for me personally, Dragon Warrior IV had always been that type of title.

Quick backstory- Like many, I grew up with the first Dragon Warrior due to the Nintendo Power giveaway, but I also paid a lot of attention to news about the 2nd and 3rd installments, as those were both part of the same storyline. Rarely did I get to play the sequels, once seeing DW2 at a family friend's house, and renting DW3 a few times. Because of this, I craved to be able to dive into all 3 in the Erdrick line, and since there was a 4th game, go for it, too, even though it wasn't related in story to the 1st three. Quite literally, this became my first collecting goal, and while I acquired the first 3 relatively quickly, it was several years before I purchased the 4th. Even then, it just sat alongside the others in relative obscruity. Sure, I had heard it was good, but I always waited for the excuse to put time into it, partially fearing it would be a grindfest in the same vein as DW2 and to an extent DW3.

Enter January 2019 and that excuse I had been waiting for...

And my goodness, was it ever worth it.

As some may know, Dragon Warrior IV starts out by developing the back stories of all the members that will eventually form your party. You first meet Ragnar, and are tasked with finding and saving the children of Izmit village, as monsters have kidnapped them in hopes of finding and destroying the prophesized Legendary Hero before he/she can grow old enough to fulfill that destiny. Once you complete Ragnar's chapter, you are introduced to Alena, a tom-boy princess and her companions, Christo and Brey, as they set out to live their own adventure by seeing all parts of the world. Then comes Taloon, a merchant who dreams of becoming the greatest weapons seller in the world. Next, you play as Mara and Nara, two sisters bent on revenge after the murder of their alchemist father. Only after all of these backstories do you finally meet the hero and begin a massive quest.

All this backstory could get tedious if not for a few things done very well. First, while there is occassional grinding for money or levels, it's never for more than 30-45 min at a time, unlike some of the earlier games of the series. Second, each character is unique enough to keep things fresh and interesting. Taloon's chapter is an especially good example, as the first thing that happens is your wife gives you a kiss goodbye, hands you your lunch and wishes you a good day as you head to the local weapons shop to work for the day. After so many sales, the shop owner pays you your commission for your sales, and you head home for the night to see your wife and sleeping child, who dreams of someday following in his father's footsteps.

Where DW4 really shines though, is how immersive the world and its inhabitants feel. Things that happen in chapter 2 are referenced in all the following chapters. Secondary charcters abound, each having there own motivation in the events of the story; it's very satisfying when you see these characters go through some personality development as well. And nearly all the towns and castles are unique from each other in some form, not just layout or item choices, but each having a distinguishing feature to make it memorable.

The music and enemy sprites are probably the finest in the series, and the tune that plays when you first enter Aktemto may be the best in the NES library at setting a somber tone. It gave me chills the first time I heard it. (I do wonder if the developers knew just how good the song was, as they give you a way to trigger that tune yourself on demand later in the game.)

Before this turns into a total gushfest, I do have a few nitpicks. One, once you start chapter 5, the only controllable character in battles is your lead hero. The rest of the party is controlled through the AI in a "Tactics" system, where you preset a basic strategy for the computer to follow during each round of actions. I had fears that this would ruin the game for me, but instead it's executed about as well as you could expect, and it streamlines the battles in a way. Still, I can't help but wish this was an optional setting, instead of it being the only choice.

Secondly, while 80% of game involves a deep, detailed and engaging story, the last 20% feels a bit incomplete. Without using spoilers, there are several questions that remain unanswered, and some plot points that could have used more expostion, even upon completion of the game. (From doing a little research, the DS remake attempts to address both these complaints, but as of this writing I've only played the NES version.)

Still, it's amazing how deep of a game this is considering the limitations of the NES, and shows that by the time DW4 was released developer Chunsoft and publisher Enix were at the top of their games. They maximized the NES's capabilities in a way that few, if any, games at the time did, and produced one of the truly great JRPG's of the era.

It's sad that this game didn't get a better following from North American audiences, and one can only wonder if that would have changed at all with some fan service (maybe slip the name Erdrick into an item or two?). But the reality is any fan of 2D JRPG's needs to try this game, as although it's a long game, it's worth every minute spent.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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