Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
When the Super Nintendo Classic Mini was announced back in June 2017, there were notable omissions from the system’s 21-game list. No room for Pilotwings, Super Bomberman and Chrono Trigger, and despite the presence of the original Donkey Kong Country, the most glaring omission was its magnificent 1995 sequel Diddy’s Kong Quest. The Super Nintendo (Snes) is home to some of the best video games of the 16but era. Rare’s Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is widely regarded as the finest of the three SNES adventures in the series, so let’s strip the game down and explore just why it’s such a satisfying experience. Here are 6 reasons why Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is a masterpiece.
The game is enriched by the appearance of various colourful allies, all of whom may help the player during their adventure.
Animal buddies include the return of favourites Rambi the rhino, Squawks the parrot and Enguarde the swordfish, with Rattly the rattlesnake and Squitter the spider making their debuts. The player can ride these creatures and even transform into them at certain points in order to overcome obstacles and reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Four members of the Kong family appear, each of whom help the player in return for banana coins while offering a fun break from the main quest.
Interactions with Monkey Museum curator Cranky Kong deliver a helping of Rare’s famous humour, with the old curmudgeon offering players hints. Cranky refers to the game as an “unnecessary sequel,” a “ridiculous quest” and a “ludicrous adventure,” while warning the player about “the limited fun you’re trying to get out of this shoddy product.”
Ghetto blaster-wielding Funky helps players travel between already-visited levels and areas via his barrel plane, which comes into its own when trying to find those last few DK coins and bonus stages.
Found at Kong Kollege, headmistress Wrinkly offers information on the game’s controls and items, although she’s most handy for allowing you to save your progress.
Game-show host Swanky’s Bonus Bonanza rewards players with extra lives for answering trivia questions about the game itself. However, with in-level bananas and extra life balloons plentiful, not to mention the fact that extra lives reset when the game is turned off, Swanky is the game’s least-useful Kong.
2 - Level design
DKC2 is simply a masterpiece of level design. Most of the stages, particularly during the first two-thirds of the game, are set out so the player can speed through them, with generally a single route to follow. However, it’s when you re-enter a level in order to seek out its secrets that the game’s genius makes itself apparent.
A problem with Donkey Kong Country was that its secrets did not seem designed to be found, with players having to randomly launch TNT barrels at walls in order to find a hidden cave, or jump blindly down pits in the hope that there may be an unseen barrel.
Clearly, the tedious trial and error required to discover these secrets deters the player from looking for them. This was remedied perfectly in DKC2, with stray bananas and subtle camera movements encouraging the player to head off the beaten track, with a reward such as a bonus stage or DK coin granted.
In some cases, a secret area is tantalisingly revealed just after it’s too late to reach it (especially in the brilliant rollercoaster stages), compelling players to re-enter the level and access it.
The game also cleverly plays on platform game conventions and the player’s expectations. For example, the left-to-right nature of 2D platform games means the player will immediately head right from the word go. And that’s the way DKC2 works 99% of the time, except for the single occasion that a pair of Zingers just out of shot to the player’s left at the beginning of a level lead to a DK coin. This all adds to the challenge and replay value of the game and makes discovery of its secrets difficult but not to the point of frustration.
From the moment that gorgeous title screen appears, with Diddy and Dixie opening a chest of the game’s treasures, DKC2 offers a gorgeous visual treat. The pre-rendered 3D images, courtesy of Silicon Graphics, are used once again after they helped make the original game such a success. However, everything seems more refined this time round, with beautiful pseudo-3D backgrounds and colourful sprites that aren’t as grainy as those in DKC.
4 - Controls
Something that isn’t always mentioned when the SNES’s greatness is discussed is how its finest games all have such brilliant controls. Super Mario World takes some beating in this respect, with the ultra-tight controls of Super Mario Kart not far behind. Smooth and sleek, DKC2’s controls - once mastered - make the player feel in complete command. And crucially, the game never feels unfair. If you leap into an enemy or misjudge a jump and fall down a pit, you know it’s your own mistake.
5 - Music
Great game music should fit the action perfectly, and on this score DKC2 delivers in spades. From jaunty pirate-ship sea shanties to the ominous hornet’s nest music, composer David Wise completely immerses the player in the adventure with some unforgettable tunes. ‘Stickerbush Symphony’, from Bramble Blast, is inspirational.
6 - Collectables
While the original DKC saw the introduction of the KONG letters and animal tokens to be collected, these merely offered extra lives and the opportunity to enter bonus stages for… more extra lives.
But with DKC2, Rare embarked upon an era of collectathon platformers that gained pace with DKC3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, peaked with Banjo Kazooie and jumped the shark with Donkey Kong Country 64.
The trusty bananas return, of course, with a hundred gleaned giving players an extra life. Then there are the banana coins, scattered through the levels, which can be used to play bonus games, save progress, revisit areas and receive hints (see ‘Characters’).
Secret bonus stages reward players with Kremkoins, currency which can be used to pay tolls and gain access to the Lost World and its five tough-as-nails levels. However, without all 75 Kremkoins, players are unable to visit Krocodile Kore and face King K. Rool one final time, offering a substantial challenge beyond the main adventure.
With many of the bonus areas ingeniously hidden (one can even be found within another bonus stage), completionists can enjoy revisiting levels to claim the Kremkoins they missed. A handy exclamation mark after the level’s title on the map screen signifies that all have been discovered there.
Then there’s the magnificent DK coins – huge spinning golden discs of wonder that appear in tantalisingly difficult-to-reach areas and encourage the player to go off the beaten track in order to claim them. It’s amazing how satisfying grabbing these treasures is, particularly the one in Web Woods that appears for a split second in the end-of-level target. Get it wrong and you’ll have to negotiate the entire stage again for another shot.
Each stage contains a single DK coin and collecting all 40 puts Diddy atop Cranky’s Video Game Hero list above Mario, Zelda and Yoshi, ramming the old geezer’s taunts back down his throat and perfectly capping a wonderful game.
Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
Spider-Man has always been my favourite Marvel Comics character and with Spider-Man Homecoming just getting a release it seemed fitting to talk about 4 Spider-Man video games you must play. It was Marvel UK’s US Spider-Man reprint comics that led to my love of the character 25 years ago. Spider-Man is of course one of Marvel’s most beloved creations. Over the years, Spider-Man has become more of a marketable figure outside of comic lore; the new movie Spider-Man Homecoming will be the 6th in just 15 years. The same can be said for video games, with 30+ releases across almost every platform in the last 35 years. Here I recommend 4 of Peter Parker’s best single player releases; heavy on the mythos, and not a Marvel vs Capcom game in sight.
Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage:-
The early 1990’s gave birth to two major new villains for both Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Venom and Carnage. Venom (aka disgraced journalist Eddie Brock) quickly became a fan favourite. After terrorising Peter and wife Mary-Jane Watson in some of the comic’s most haunting scenes, he was even given his own series for a time. Once the murderous offspring Carnage (aka serial killer Kletus Cassidy) came on the scene, Venom became a good guy of sorts. Determined to stop this symbiotic progeny, a truce was called with Spider-Man in order to stop Carnage. And so began the huge comic book crossover that was Maximum Carnage, and the SNES/Sega Mega Drive title it inspired.
Despite this Final Fight clone not holding up so well more than 20 years on, it’s devotion to its source material is still commendable. Panels from the actual comic are used to tell the story as you progress through simple yet challenging waves of bad guys and bosses. Despite being a Spider-Man comic, Maximum Carnage did feature a strong supporting cast of heroes such as Captain America and Iron Fist. These can be called upon as special moves should you feel overwhelmed in combat.
The stages, scenes and characters all appear as if taken direct from a comic book. This gives Maximum Carnage a sense of authenticity and respect to its continuity, despite its gameplay frustrations.
Imagine your perfect Super Nintendo games. Your ideal lineup of Snes games that you’d happily have sitting on your gaming shelves. What would they be? Super Mario Kart is my favourite video game of all time. A timeless classic of a packed Nintendo lineup of familiar faces like Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong & more. Though perhaps you would prefer to play the classic Super Probotector (Contra III The Alien Wars in North America). Battling your way through the levels collecting flamethrowers, bombs and other deadly weapons! I could sit here all day and talk about how important the 16bit era was to me as I am sure you can to. The Super Nintendo, for me, is the most pivotal console of all time bit just in terms of game lineup but in terms of cultural influences too.
Back in school there were two groups of geeks: those that had a Sega Mega Drive and those that had a Super Nintendo. I had the Super Mario All-Stars Super Nintendo action set. We’d joke and banter all day long at which console was superior and which had the best games. Sonic Vs. Mario was another angle to approach it from. Luckily today I adore both but the Super Nintendo will always hold a sacred place in my heart.
Here we are in 2017 with the upcoming Snes Classic Mini. Simply a mini build of the Super Nintendo (PAL and NTSC design) packed with 21 of the best Super Nintendo games of all times. Let us pause and hail the fact that Starfox 2 will be among the classic ones games. The unreleased title that was completely finished by never got a release. I was lucky enough to interview Dylan Cuthbert; one of the lead designers behind the original Starwing/Starfox and Super FX Chip. You can catch the video below in which I interviewed him about his work on Starfox 2 but be warned it’s a few years old.
Guest Blog Post by Stingray Games @Stingray_Games
Little did people know that in 1984 a simple game would be released out of Russia that had a monstrous impact on gaming, create its own genre, and end up being the most ported game ever. This game, of course, was Tetris. The aftermath of this game would be a decade (or more) of games trying to capitalize on the Tetris fever that was sweeping the world. While Nintendo did release Tetris for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this review will cover three tetris-like games that added their own spin to the game.
One of these games was Yoshi, or Mario and Yoshi as it is known outside of North America, and was originally released in 1992 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Yoshi is a fun little tetris-like game in which you control Mario as he swaps stacks to match two familiar Mario enemies (Piranha Plants, Bloopers, Goombas, and Boos) in an effort to keep them from reaching the top of the screen. But unlike Tetris, you can only make vertical matches by stacking two enemies on top of each other. Mario is at the bottom of the screen ready to swap two adjacent stacks at your command.
Besides the enemies, two halves (top and bottom) of a Yoshi egg also drops. The bottom half sits on top of the stack in a similar way to the enemies. If another bottom half is stacked on top, both are removed with no reward. A top half will also disappear if placed on an enemy. Creating a Yoshi egg from these two halves eliminates the egg and all enemies between the two halves. A baby Yoshi hatches out of the completed egg and Yoshi is off to the side, counting each completed egg. There is a single-player mode and competitive two-player modes.
The single-player mode has two types: A & B. Type A is an endless mode in which you play until the blocks reach the top of the screen. Type B is a level mode in which each level is pre-populated with enemies and you beat the level you must clear the play area. In the two-player competitive mode, the screen is split into two boards with each player controlling one board.
Overall this is an enjoyable game that despite myself, I played a lot longer than I thought I would. It is a different take on the standard tetris-like game. Instead of controlling the falling blocks, you control the stacks. I appreciate the out-of-the-box approach this game takes. Most reviews I've seen rate this game poorly. While the music or graphics are nothing spectacular, I find the gameplay to be fun and engaging. It does start out slow on the lower levels, but cranking the speed and level up will create a faster paced game in which you will need fast thinking and reflexes.
What would have been deemed impossible for both the anime and movie industry 20 years ago, a Hollywood adaption of Ghost in the Shell was released. Masamune Shirow’s original manga of nearly 30 years ago is philosophical, sociological, psychological and essential reading, a feat echoed by the 1995 anime classic. Following its success on both eastern and western shores, and with the Playstation in full flight, Sony released a Shirow-designed video game just 2 years later.
Ghost in the Shell is an action-packed yet simple first/third person shooter on the PS1 and a great entry for fans of the franchise as a whole. Retaining the excellent animation and voice acting from the English dubbing, the highlights of this now-collectable PS1 title are most definitely the original cut-scenes that give the impression of an interactive movie of sorts. You play as the ‘Rookie’, a new recruit to Public Security Section 9 alongside Major Kusanagi, Batou, etc., as a new terrorist threat, the Human Liberation Front, claims to be responsible for the bombing of the Megatech Body Corporation building, but all is not as it seems.
Guest Blog post by Stingray Games @ Stingray_Gaming
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was originally released in North America in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The 80's was a great year for the NES what with the birth of Super Mario Bros and the classic Duck Hunt. Who didn't love the NES Zapper too? That was a classy piece of kit back in the 80's. It's just a shame about that Nintendo Power glove!
Simon's Quest picks up some time after the original Castlevania as you control Simon Belmont on his journey to find Dracula's body parts, resurrect him, and defeat him once again to remove the curse that was placed on you and the surrounding cities at the end of the first Castlevania.
Simon's Quest differs greatly from the linear play style that was introduced in Castlevania. The open world design will have you traveling across the land in search of five castles, which house the five different body parts, and then head to Dracula's castle.
Besides the five body parts that are required to finish the game, there are several items that you can pick up along the way. The items can either be bought from the townfolk or found somewhere in the countryside. The bought items cost hearts to buy, but can be used freely. The found items are free, but like the original Castlevania consume a heart on each use.
The Game Boy Advance (GBA) was Nintendo’s fourth major handheld gaming device following the Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Colour. Released in 2001 (firstly in Japan) the Game Boy Advance went on to sell a monumental 81.51 millions units worldwide. Despite the Game Boy Advance not being backlit the device had a powerful impact on gamers across the world including myself with solid titles like Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. The Game Bay Advance evolved in to the the Game Boy Advance SP (a front and backlit model) and later again in the Game Boy Micro. Overall the Game Boy Advance family had a production life of six years with the final Micro produced in 2007.
Nintendo seemed to have a monopoly on the handheld gaming market unlike Sony who clearly didn’t give the PSP or Vita enough love. It comes as no surprise that there are a plethora of clone devices on the market that attempt to thrust the Nintendo handheld games to the next level. Boasting things like crisper sound, sharper picture quality and so on. The Revo K101 Plus falls right in line with that current ethos. It is a GBA clone device (in varying colours and transparencies) that packs an immense punch when it comes to picture quality and sound. Not only does it run original Game Boy Advance games but there’s a Revo cartridge that allows you to insert a micro SD card in to the device. Original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance roms can all be played from the micro SD card. Original Game Boy and GBC carts will not work with the device.
Guest blog post by Todd M @The_Top Loader
Get over here -----> Welcome to the 90's baby because I'm having fun n' games playing Mortal Kombat (released in 1992), but what version? That has been the topic of my childhood. Who had the best version, who could beat their chest the loudest in this primal rage that surprisingly escalated over just a few drops of blood? It came out on everything you could possibly think of, Master System, Gameboy, Game Gear, PC... you get the idea I literally could go on and on (until I run out of consoles to name) but the real test of might came down to just two consoles - the mighty Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo. The simpler time's of the 80's were gone with our Commodore 64's and their, 8's with their ,1's and don't forget to press play on tape as I watch the true fanboys get all fired up like a Scorpion fatality as they enter the console tournament looking for blood (which is truly where the battle begins) and where the movie version of Shang Tsung would famously say - "it has begun" - while Ed Boon's literal voice as the original game announcer now tells us to "Fight!!" The 90's were Excellent if not a little Dan Forden Toasty as I ripped out hearts and gave the kiss of death as my opponent went up in flames in the face of a burning skeleton's defeat as they dropped down to ashes because didn't you know you weak pathetic fools - I've come for your souls ! .. and so forth. That was Mortal Kombat, the gameplay was decent but let's be realistic here it's the gore that people came for. There were violent videos games before Mortal Kombat but they weren't in the mainstream and were never as popular because - lets face it - everybody pays more attention to the cool kids. Its funny being a parent now and thinking I don't think I would want my kid playing Mortal Kombat X .. but back when I was at that wise old age of ten I knew it all. I knew what was right and I knew what was wrong, hey I may have not bought Super Castlevania IV when I had the chance ..but in my defence I didn't now I was wrong at the time. My brother liked Excalibur with capes and crap like that but one thing we both loved was ninja's and the whole Eastern Kung-Fu scene because guess what? We both loved - Mortal Kombat - finally, we agreed on something.
Throw in a coin, select a player, choose your destiny while watching this klassic character line up that includes my personal favourite Sub Zero as he swings back and forth with his cold blue hands to the perfectly selected music beat while waiting patiently to controversially rip off your head right before we "Fight!!" Kano throws knifes and spins on a dime but what do you expect from a guy that lives for a life of crime because he won't hold back when ripping out someone's heart straight from their chest as it would Finish Him!! ..or her. No time to pause for a moment in this game (which can be frustrating) so you will have to use one of the other klassic digitized characters to release more effective green screen effects if you end up on the wrong side of Scorpion's famous harpoon attack, just don't teleport past Sonja Blade and panic while she flexes her reversed matrix style scissor kick as they both can burn you aliveafter they input the the right button combination before the fatality timer finally runs out. Liu Kang still kicks around while throwing projectiles in your face until Wham Bam! Van Damme .. hey he wasn't in the game, well he was supposed to be but he pulled out to do something else so here's Johnny.. Cage ! What a cool name, he's the complete package and this movie star has a secret weapon that's a real ball breaker and not the kind that you would find in his pants which does not work on Sonja Blade because of what's not in her pants - ironic - but with all this flippin' and floppin' all over the place I forgot to mention Raiden the God of Thunder who looks like he just come off the set of Big Trouble in Little China. You may think I'm going off track here but have you ever have wondered where the inspiration for Raiden came from? Watch the Three Storms in this movie because as I played Mortal Kombat for the first time it hit me like a bolt of lightning needed for the 1.21 gigawatts .. what the hell is a Giga.. wait, what? - wrong movie - sheesh now I'm really getting off track here so let's get back in the DeLorean to take me back to where I was before I made this alternate typing time line. Raiden is a parody verified by the words of Ed Boon himself from one of my all time favourite movies, hey.. who else thinks John Carpenter would have been a perfect match to direct and write a MK movie? It's a perfect blend of East meets West with western digitized character sprites and oriental backgrounds that felt like they were lifted straight out of a Kung-Fu scene with Eastern mystical mythologies including a four armed general monster Goro and shape shifting Lo Pan .. I mean Shang Tsung.. as the final bad guy with a story so far left out of Outworld about Elder Gods and Earth realm Sacred tournaments I can hear the words of Jack Burton echoing "I feel like a little bit of an outsider here"...because we are and I don't care because we all know that all he wants to do is go get his truck back.
Guest post by Ben @Capture Way
You probably don’t need me to tell you that gaming is going in some intriguing new directions, from Virtual Reality to unprecedented artificial intelligence to graphics almost indistinguishable from reality. Somehow, in a landscape where the technology that drives our gaming is thousands of times better than 20 or 30 years ago, it is fascinating that people are still playing retro games. So is this all a flash in the pan? Or, like wearing flared jeans, will this trend quickly fall back into obscurity?
When I was a teenager, YoYos made a comeback. Little plastic discs which spin on the end of a string, and if you really master the art, come back to you. They were back on the playground for all of about two weeks, and everyone was bored again. Who knows where the comeback came from, but it was quickly gone again, and time and time again I have been told that the same thing will happen with retro gaming, but it won’t.
Crawling around in the attic and finding your old Nintendo 64, dusting it off and loading up your favourite games is a great experience, mainly for one reason; nostalgia. Just like we do with movies, albums and other forms of media, we tie games to memories of times in our lives. For me, N64 and other 90s consoles remind me of weekends with friends arguing over Super Mario Kart, drooling over who got the next turn on Goldeneye (N64) or even trying our best to work out what on earth was going on in Pokemon stadium. However, nostalgia alone isn’t enough, so why do people stick to it? At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, it is because the games are amazing!
The YoYo fad came and went because after you’ve had the initial shiny object syndrome and fulfilled your human curiosity, you realise that hanging a ball off a bit of string isn’t that fulfilling, but with a retro game, you quickly remember what drew you in in the first place. There are reasons we could play Zelda, Pokemon or Super Mario for days at a time. Other technology from the time wasn’t necessarily fit for purpose, a Nokia 3310 phone quickly became redundant, and it is unlikely that we will ever want to use them again as they were replaced by something much better. Better is the operative word here, and in gaming, as with film and music, more tech doesn’t necessarily mean better.
One of my favourite podcasts, Final Games, is to video games what BBC’s Desert Island Discs is to music. Each episode a different guest details their 8 video game choices they would take with them to a hypothetical deserted location for the rest of their days. If you're a gamer then you may be able to relate to this; thinking about what video games you would pick to take to your desert island. Which games would you choose to play for the rest of your life. Which classic consoles would they be for? Here are my 8 desert island video games.
Tetris (Gameboy, 1990)
There are many iterations of Tetris, but for me all pale in comparison in quality, simplicity, and sheer importance to video games than the Gameboy version. The tile-matching puzzle titan was the original mobile gaming phenomenon that brought gaming to the masses. It helped launch videogames into the mainstream and many of its derivatives appeal to those who even don’t consider themselves a gamer.
Back in 1989/90 when physical console multiplayer connections were a must, I often challenged a friend who lived around the corner, visiting each other’s homes to spend hours on linked battle mode.
Tetris is the perfect pickup and play game, whether it’s a bus journey, your lunch break at work, or simply the need to engage your brain for any amount of time.
Discover reviews for the Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more in the Retro Blog
Welcome to Retro Corner
As my Youtube Channel was built around my love for retro gaming I decided that it was time to honour that passion through blogging. Here I review anything from the retro gaming world.
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